Skip to Content

Colonial Cases

Slavery, 1846



Magistrates Court, London


Source: Morning Chronicle (Sydney), 24 June 1846

ALLEGED MURDER AND SLAVERY ONBOARD SHIP. On Monday Sir George Stephen, solicitor to the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, made an application to Mr. Broderip on behalf of twenty individuals, who were kept in the London Dock in a state of slavery. Some time ago a ship, called the Caroline, came to this port from Zanzibar, on the east coast of Africa, now subject to the Imaum of Muscat, with presents from the Imaum to our Queen. The crew of the Caroline consisted wholly of slaves, who were compelled to navigate the ship to England, and were used with much cruelty during the voyage, and one of them had been murdered at sea when about three days' sail from the Island of Ascension, and two from St. Helena.--Mr. Broderip: Murdered ! That is a very strong term.-Sir George Stephen said" he was assured such was the fact. The boatswain's mate happened to insult the slave, who retaliated by striking him. The boatswain reported him to the supercargo of the ship, who flogged the slave with a rope's end, and as the slave was obdurate, he set three other slaves upon him, who beat him to death with their knees and elbows as he lay stretched on deck. He was informed that the other, slaves had endures great privations, and were now governed by a system of terror, and had no will of their own. They were anxious, he understood, to quit the service,  in which they were now employed, and were forbidden, to do so. The ship Caroline -belonged to the son of the Imanm of Muscat, and was undergoing repair, in consequence of which: the slaves were transferred to the Ann. He thought it desirable the magistrate should grant a summons for the master of the ship to show cause why he should not be compelled to liberate the men who were now in a free country and entitled to their liberty-Abraham Grant,a native of Liverpool, stated that he saw the men shipped at Zanzibar. They were slaves and to his knowledge they were now in a state of slavery. Mr. Broderip.: Did they sign the ship's articles. Grant: They did, Sir.-Mr Broderip said that virtually the men formed part of the crew of the ship which brought them here. He directed Inspector Maddox, of the Thames Police, to go on board the Ann, and give the men an opportunity of coming before him. If they were slaves before the moment they touched British soil, they  were free, and no one had any property in them.[Loud, cheers,. while a. constable whistled 'RuleBritannia'!]-On Wednesday the case came on again, and it was-shown that only four of the crew had accepted the offer made to them to return home. Mr Clarkson complained that the public mind had been prejudiced against respectable men by a most extravagant and unfounded statement, The Caroline was a ship of 600 tons burthen, and belonged to the Imaum of Muscat, a wise and benevolent prince, whose relations with this country were of a most friendly nature. The Imaum had executed treaties with this country to repress slavery, and all his engagements had been executed with the greatest sincerity." The Caroline sailed from Zanzibar in March last, with a valuable cargo and numerous presents for her Majesty the Queen of England, and the crew were shipped under articles of agreement in the ordinary manner. On the arrival of the vesse lin London, it was necessary for her to undergo extensive repairs, and the crew were transferred to the Anne. He was in a condition to prove that the whole of the crew had received their wages, that they had experienced the most humane treatment, and had been supplied by the agents with money and clothes beyond what they were entitled to by the articles. He could find nothing to justify Sir George Stephen in the extraordinary course he had pursued. There had been no ill-usage whatever except that two of the men had been flogged for pawning their clothes, and procuring spirits with the money, and that punishment was necessary for the maintenance of proper discipline. Sir George Stephen had erroneously stated that murder had been committed. If murder had been committed and Sir George was in possession of matter to prove his case, it was a glaring absurdity for him to come before an English magistrate and tell him he had no jurisdiction ; but there had not been a single death on board the Caroline during the whole voyage, either from accident, violence, or any other cause. The men were, moreover, free agents, at liberty to go where they pleased. Mr. Broderip said he had heard Mr. Clarkson with much pleasure and satisfaction, and that he would not after this suffer the Court to be made the arena of such discussion any more. The parties then left the court.

Published by Centre for Comparative Law, History and Governance at Macquarie Law School