Изображения страниц

The Fugitive-Slave Circulars.


That the public feeling of the country and the current interpretation of the Constitution are still able to present a vigorous and effective reaction against the reintroduction of slavery, or the patronage of the system of slavery in any form, was manifested in the course of the years 1875 and 1876, on the occasion of the Admiralty attempting, through the medium of what became known as the “Fugitive Slave Circulars,' to deny to slaves escaping on board one of Her Majesty's ships within the territorial waters of a slave-holding Power so much as even a temporary right of asylum. The first of these Circulars was issued on August 21, 1875, and among other things, it peremptorily directed officers in command of Her Majesty's ships that a fugitive slave, in the case alluded to, 'must not be allowed to

remain on board after it has been proved to the satis'faction of the officer in command that he is legally a

slave.' Another Circular, modifying the severe terms of the first, was subsequently issued, in deference to the strong expression of public opinion which had been elicited. A Royal Commission was then appointed to ascertain the state of the law, and the consequence was the final substitution of a Circular of a wholly different and innocuous kind. It is to be noticed that the public objection was not grounded on any supposed moral or legal duty binding on all officers in command of Her Majesty's ships to recognise an absolute right of asylum in all slaves taking refuge from their masters on the adjoining territory, but on the generality of the direction that in no case was the officer to grant an asylum, and the implication in the presence of foreign Powers to the effect that for the purpose of retaining fugitive slaves Her Majesty's ships in foreign ports had no

[ocr errors]

longer, as they were believed to have, all the privileges of British territory. The inconvenience also of imparting to naval officers a judicial character, for the purpose of determining the legality' of a condition which both the English Constitution and English traditions of the most unmistakable sort combine to abhor, was too obvious to stand a few moments' popular criticism, and still less the searching ordeal of a Royal Commission.

The principle of extending the authority of the British Government beyond the territorial limits of the British dominions has been recognised in the case of India by the Acts of 1861, 1865, and 1869. The Act of 1861 enables the Governor-General in Council to make laws and regulations for all persons, whether • British or native, foreigners or others, and for all • Courts of Justice whatever, and for all places and

things whatever, within the Indian territories now under the dominion of Her Majesty, and for all servants of the Government of India within the dominions of Princes and States in alliance with Her • Majesty. The Act of 1865 enables the GovernorGeneral of India in Council to make laws and regulations for all British subjects of Her Majesty within the dominions of Princes and States in India in alliance with Her Majesty, whether in the service of the Government of India or otherwise. The Act of 1869 enables the Governor-General in Council to make laws and * regulations for all persons, being native Indian subjects

of Her Majesty, without and beyond, as well as within - the Indian territories of Her Majesty.'






1 24 and 25 Vict. cap. 67; 28 Vict. cap. 17; 32 and 33 Vict. cap. 97.

The Kidnapping Act. 197 A remarkable instance of an extension of jurisdiction by Act of Parliament over places outside the British dominions is supplied by what is known as the Kidnapping Act of 1872. The Act recites that

criminal outrages by British subjects upon natives of “islands in the Pacific Ocean, not being in Her • Majesty's dominions, nor within the jurisdiction of • any civilised Power, have of late much prevailed and

increased, and it is expedient to make further pro• vision for the prevention and punishment of such

outrages.' The offences punishable under the Act are such as carrying native labourers from islands in the Pacific Ocean without complying with the formal requirements of any of the Australasian Colonies in respect of vessels sailing from the ports of such colony; decoying natives for the purpose of importing or removing them without their consent; shipping, embarking, or confining them on board any vessel, either on the high seas or elsewhere, without their consent; contracting for such shipping, embarking, receiving, detaining, or confining of natives; and fitting out, manning, equipping, or hiring vessels, or commanding or even being on board vessels, with intent to commit, “or

that anyone on board such vessel should commit,' such offences. The offence is to be felony; and the accused may be tried in any Supreme Court of Justice in any of the Australasian Colonies, and upon conviction be liable, at the discretion of the Court, to the highest punishment other than capital punishment, or to any less punishment awarded for any felony by the law of the Colony in which such offender shall be tried. The

35 and 36 Vict. cap. 19.

Act further gives considerable powers of detaining, seizing, and bringing in for adjudication before the Vice-Admiralty Court any British vessel which upon reasonable grounds is suspected of being or having been employed in the commission of any of the offences enumerated in the Act, or of having been fitted out for such employment. If the charge is established, the vessel may be forfeited to Her Majesty.

The pertinacious continuance of slavery as an institution in Africa and the Turkish dominions, and especially on the shores of the Persian Gulf, has lately led to renewed efforts on the part of Parliament to supplement and consolidate the older Statutes for the suppression of the Slave Trade, and to give increased powers and jurisdiction to Vice-Admiralty Courts for the purpose of giving effect to those Acts. By the “Slave Trade Jurisdiction (Zanzibar) Act, 1869,'' special provision was made for the exercise of a limited Vice-Admiralty jurisdiction, in matters relating to the Slave Trade, by Her Majesty's Consul within the dominions of the Sultan of Zanzibar. A similar Act was passed in 1873, by which all jurisdiction which is by any Act conferred

on the Vice-Admiralty Courts in Her Majesty's posses“sions abroad in regard to British vessels seized by the 6 commander or officer of any of Her Majesty's ships,

on suspicion of being engaged in or fitted out for the • Slave Trade, and in regard to the persons, goods, and • effects on board thereof,' was, in certain specified cases, conferred on the “ East African Courts.' "The East • African Courts' was interpreted to mean the ViceSlave-Trade Suppression Treaties. 199 Admiralty Court at Aden, and any of Her Majesty's Consuls within the dominions of the Sovereigns of Zanzibar, Muscat, and Madagascar, when exercising jurisdiction in pursuance of certain recited Orders in Council.

| 32 and 33 Vict. cap. 75.

? 36 and 37 Vict. cap. 59.

The Consolidation Act of the same year (1873)', which bas for its purpose the carrying into effect 'treaties for the more effectual suppression of the Slave • Trade, and for other purposes connected with the * Slave Trade,' is far more comprehensive in its objects than any previous Act. It makes provision for carrying into effect not only all existing treaties for the more effectual suppression of the Slave Trade, but any • Treaty which may hereafter be made by or on behalf

of Her Majesty with any foreign State,' for the same purpose. The general principle of all these Acts is, to treat any vessel belonging to the citizens of contracting Powers, engaged in or fitted out for the Slave Trade, or suspected of being so, in exactly the same way as an enemy's ship is treated in time of war; and to give all the necessary powers to the commanders and officers of Her Majesty's ships to visit, seize, and detain suspected vessels, and to carry them away, with those on board, to a Vice-Admiralty Court for adjudication. The Acts provide in detail for all the subsequent proceedings, and for giving bounties, estimated on the value of every slave released, to the commanders who effect the capture.

An interesting case of the extension of jurisdiction by the mere fiat of an Act of Parliament is presented by the passing of the Territorial Waters Jurisdiction

| 36 and 37 Vict. cap. 88.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »