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while that greatest of curses, the slave-trade, is suffered to continue on the sea-coast. That pestiferous charnel-house of Sierra Leone, which the original speculators, under the specious name of philanthropists, pretended would effect so much for the civilization of the native Africans, has, in fact, been productive only of disease and death; the experiment of free negro labour and negro instruction has here wholly failed. This detestable spot has no one good quality to recommend it: as a naval station, it is perfectly useless; as a commercial depôt, utterly worthless; and to the poor negroes, it is more destructive than the slave-trade itself, about a third part of the many thousands captured and sent thither from that slave-dealing hive in the bight of Benin, to be adjudged and liberated, being indeed liberated from all their sufferings by death on the long passage, or after being landed.* It was to remedy those evils that an establishment has recently been formed on that most beautiful, fertile, and magnificent of islands, Fernando Po; it is the favourable prospect that these evils will be remedied, that has caused so much jealousy, and so many false reports as to its unhealthiness, from the free negro-dealers of Sierra Leone. Instead of listening to them, let us hear what Captain Owen says, after a residence of ten months. We have before us a letter of the 23d September last, in which he writes thus :—
'The health of our settlement has been as good as it would have been in any part of the world. There has not been a single death for nearly four months, out of a population of six hundred and fifty souls; and I have only to add, that nothing can exceed the good order and good disposition of my little colony, and that no spot in Africa is so eminently suited for a naval and commercial station.'
The deaths that occurred in the first five or six months were occasioned by ulcered legs got in clearing away the jungle, and, by the imprudent artificers, while in a state of fever, indulging to excess in ardent spirits; but the causes, and with them the melancholy effects, have ceased. The four months in which there were no deaths were those in the very midst of the rainy season, during which, it appears, the fall of rain did not average more than one hour in four and twenty, while, on the opposite shore of the continent, they were deluged with constant heavy rain. As a naval
*Take, as a specimen of this mortiferous paradise, an abstract from the Report of the Commissioners of Inquiry into the State of the Colony of Sierra Leone,' ordered by the House of Commons to be printed, in May, 1827. From that Report it appears that, from the original settlement, in 1787, to the 23d February, 1826, the total number, of different descriptions, arrived as settlers in the colony was 21,944.
Of these, in April, 1826, there were remaining of the several classes as follows:Nova Scotians
station, this island has an excellent roadstead, and a convenient place for careening ships; plenty of wood, clear water, and refreshments. Fruits of various kinds are found in a wild state in the woods, as are also the two valuable spices, the nutmeg and the clove; its yams are the finest in the world, and a native potatoe is no bad substitute for the common one; its forests abound with several species of trees, that are admirably adapted for naval purposes, and, among others, two or three of such magnificent dimensions as to serve for lower masts of ships of war, from first-rates down to sloops. The North Star frigate came to Fernando Po with her main and fore-mast rotten; they were replaced in twelve days with two that were growing in the woods on her arrival. A transport had also been supplied with a lower mast, and several merchants trading to the coast had touched for refreshments. In fact, Sierra Leone has already been abandoned as a naval station; and our cruisers on the coast would not look at it, if the commissioners for the liberated Africans were removed, as we trust they speedily will be, to Fernando Po, where it appears houses are ready for their reception.
As a commercial station, its advantages are already felt. Our trade to the bight of Benin is at all times subject to the caprice and extortions of the native black chiefs, at whose mercy the ships and their crews are placed, from the moment they enter any of the large rivers which discharge themselves nto this gulf. By making Fernando Po the rendezvous for their ships, and a depôt for their goods, and visiting the rivers in small craft, or decked boats, their commerce may be carried on, not only without risk, but with great advantage, both as to profit and the preservation of life. When a road, now in progress, has been opened to the summit of the peaked mountain, which is ten thousand feet high, and every where clothed with verdure, any kind of climate may be had, from the equatorial to the temperate range of the thermometer, and every kind of fruit and vegetables raised, whether tropical or European.
Nor is this all. If it be considered as a matter which really interests the government and the people of England, (and who can doubt this?) that an efficient check should be put to the slavetrade in the very focus of that infamous traffic, (for stopping it altogether is out of the question,) the possession of Fernando Po, we do not hesitate to affirm, will do it more effectually than the whole squadron of men of war now employed on the station, and at a third part of the expense. We entirely concur with Captain Owen in opinion, that a couple of small steamers, armed with a few swivels, to run up the rivers and disperse any slaves that may be collected for embarkation, would soon drive away, also, the whole gang of negro-traffickers. In short, the whole line of coast
forming the bight of Benin can be so effectually watched from Fernando Po, that no slave-vessel could well escape. Captain Owen, with his boats, has captured no less than five vessels and eight hundred slaves within a twelvemonth. It will be said, perhaps, that this efficient interruption would only drive the trade to some other part of the coast; admitting it to be so, the atrocious system could only be re-established at an enormous expense, and under increased difficulties; while our cruizers, being freed from watching the bight of Benin, would be enabled so much the more effectually to annoy the ruffians in their new haunts.
The destruction of the trade in this quarter could not fail to have the best possible effect in promoting the civilization of the most populous and fertile portion of northern Africa, to which the access, as we have now seen, is most easy. It is clear that
foreign slavery would cease were there no longer a demand for its victims; and about as certain that the people would then turn their attention to the pursuit of agriculture, for which the country is so well adapted. Trade would extend itself to the coast, a constant intercourse would be established with the natives, and civilization go hand in hand, as it always has done, with commerce. The discovery of new countries and peoples would follow, and we should not much longer be ignorant of those regions of Africa, which are watered by so many immense rivers, whose streams are discharged into the bight of Biafra, immediately opposite to, and overlooked by, Fernando Po; such as the old and new Calabar, the Bonny, the Cameroons, and the Rio del Rey, whose sources are most undoubtedly not in Soudan, whatever may be the case with regard to the Formosa of Benin.
ART. VI.-1. Observations upon the Power exercised by the Court of Chancery of depriving a Father of the Custody of his Children. London. Miller. 1828.
2. Observations on the Natural Right of a Father to the Custody of his Children, and to direct their Education. By James Ram, Esq., Barrister at Law. Maxwell. 1828.
HE late decision in the Wellesley case, by the House of Lords, has finally settled a question in jurisprudence of the most interesting and important character, whether regarded in a legal or in a moral point of view. In both these respects we think its principles well worthy of being brought distinctly before our reader In the Court of Chancery, and in the House of Lords, the important principles involved in it were necessarily much overlaid by the complicated details of evidence which formed the groundwork of the case, while the case once proved in point
of fact-the analogy of previous precedents was too close to leave much room for the discussion of the first principles of the jurisdiction, and still less of the great moral considerations with which it is connected. A few pages may, we conceive, be well occupied in presenting to the public, stripped of barren details, and, as far as possible, of technical learning, a view of the origin, principles, and tendency of a jurisdiction coming so home to the bosoms of men, and pressing so closely on the affections of nature, and the nearest ties of social life.
The legality of the jurisdiction exercised by the Court of Chancery as to guardianship over infants to any extent, and still more to the extent of depriving, for any cause, a living father of the custody of his children, having been impugned, we shall first lay before our readers a short view of the legal question; and we shall then offer some observations on the policy and wisdom of such a jurisdiction, supposing it to be, as it now unquestionably is, fully sanctioned by the existing law of the land.
The earliest notice of any jurisdiction of the kind is to be found in some legal authors, who speak of the power and the duty of the crown, as parens patriæ, to take care of those who cannot take care of themselves,-infants, idiots, and lunatics. Staundford (a Judge of the Common Pleas, in the reign of Elizabeth, whom Lord Bacon calls the best expositor of a statute that hath been in our law,') says, 'the king has the protection of all his subjects, and of all their lands, goods, and tenements: and so of such as cannot govern themselves, nor order their lands and tenements, his grace, as a father, must take upon him to provide for them, that they themselves, and their things, may be preserved.'* Fitzherbert (a learned Judge of the Common Pleas, in the reign of Henry VIII., who is quoted by Staundford) says, 'the king is bound, of right, to defend his subjects, their goods and chattels, lands and tenements; and that every one is in protection of the king, who has not forfeited it by some offence.' This jurisdiction, it is to be observed, could not fall within the province of either of the three great courts of common law, established in separate jurisdictions, since the reign of Edward I.; the King's Bench, in its original constitution, being confined to criminal matters the Common Pleas to suits between subject and subject, and the Court of Exchequer to suits between the king and his debtors and accountants, and between one crown debtor and another. That this species of protective authority should not, in early, or in any times, be frequently put in requisition, is not surprising, when we consider the various other modes afforded by the law of providing guardians, in ordinary cases, for chil* Staundford's Exposition of the King's Prerogative, c. x., fo. 37. Fitzherbert's Natura Brevium, fo. 232.
dren, and the extreme rarity of those circumstances which could call for the crown's extraordinary interposition. The principal mode of guardianship, from the conquest to the seventeenth century, was 'guardianship in chivalry,' which vested in the lord of the fee, when the feudal tenant was a minor, and in virtue of which such lord had the custody of the person of the tenant, and the enjoyment of his lands, till the age of sixteen, if a female,-or of twenty-one, if the tenant were a male. Besides this guardianship applying to all tenants of lands held by military service, the law also provided a 'guardianship in soccage,' in virtue of which every orphan tenant of land held in soccage, who was under fourteen, fell under the guardianship of his next relation, not being his heir, the guardianship enduring only till fourteen. A third species of guardianship was that of 'guardianship by nature,' which belonged only to the father or mother; and which, singularly enough, applied only to the heir apparent, (as a female, in strictness, can only be heir presumptive, it is doubtful whether it extended to any but males,) to the custody of whose person the father was, by the common law, entitled till twenty-one; while the younger children, inheriting nothing from the father, the law did not vest in him their guardianship during their minority. In virtue of this right, as guardian, the father could keep his eldest son against the guardian in chivalry, the latter having no right to the custody of the heir while the father was living; but, on the father's death, the lord of the fee was entitled to the custody of the successor till twenty-one, and he could not be detained from him by the mother or any other relation. There was also a right of guardianship by nurture,' applying only when there was no other guardian, and which belonged to the father or mother, and was independent of landed inheritance; whereas the guardianship in soccage only exists where the infant is tenant of lands in soccage.* *
Thus, during the existence of military tenures, (that is, till the restoration of Charles II.,) every infant heir of a tenant by knight's service found a personal guardian in the lord of whom he held, if the father was dead, or lived till twenty-one under his father's protection, if the father lived. Infant heirs, in soccage, were protected till fourteen by their nearest relation, who could not inherit; while younger children, and those without lands, male and female, fell under the guardianship by nurture of their parents, till the age of fourteen, at which age the protection ceased. We are aware, indeed, that before guardianship in chivalry was swept away by the 12th Car. II., its application was frequently eluded by the various modes of preventing a descent from the ancestor to the heir-the lord, it is to
* Harg. Co. Litt. 88, ib. Bacon's Ab, tit, Guardian,