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|Mixed Court report on seized Maria Rosario|
|► The West African Squadron and slave trade|
Her Majestys Commissioners to Viscount Palmerston.
Sierra Leone, July l, 1840.
(Received November 11.)
We have the honour to acquaint your Lordship that the Spanish schooner "Maria Rosaria," alias "Traga Millas," Antonio Gonzales, master, was detained on the 9th June, off Cape Mount, in a voyage from Havana to the Malaguetta Coast, for being equipped for the Slave Trade, by Her Majestys sloop "Wanderer," the Honourable Joseph Denman, commander.
The detained vessel arrived in this harbour for adjudication by the British and Spanish Mixed Court on the 14th ultimo, and on the following 24th a sentence of condemnation was passed upon her.
Herewith we beg leave to lay before your Lordship our Report of this case.
From all that we could learn from the papers and evidence in this case, it appeared the schooner left Havana in every respect equipped for a slaving voyage.
We have, &c.,
|(Signed)||WALTER W. LEWIS,|
The Right Hon. Viscount Palmerston, G.C.B.,
&c. &c. &c.
Report of the case of the Spanish schooner "Maria Rosaria," alias "Traga Milhas," Antonio Gonzales, master.
Sierra Leone, July 1, 1840.
THE "Maria Rosaria" was found sailing under a royal Spanish passport, No. 429, which was issued at Havana on the 20th of March, 1840, and was to continue effective for the term of one year. In this document José Maria Perez was described as being both master and owner of the vessel, whose burthen was stated to be 68 tons. There was the usual prohibition against engaging in the Slave Trade contained in a note to the passport; and by an endorsement of the 2nd of April last it appeared the owner Perez gave up the command of his vessel to Antonio Gonzales, who was found in charge of her.
The muster-roll shewed the crew to consist of 16 persons, and the vessel bound to the Malagueta coast. It was dated at Havana the 2nd of April last. By an endorsement thereon made at the Cape Verd Islands on the 27th of May last, it appeared one seaman had been landed there, and another embarked in his place.
The manifest shewed that the cargo from Havana consisted of 90 barrels of rice, 36 packages of meal, and 6 barrels of rum.
The schooner had the usual fort-pass for leaving the port of Havana.
The log-book showed that the vessel left Havana on the 4th of April last, and that she arrived off Cape Mount, on this coast, on the 8th of June; having on the voyage thither touched at St. Jago, Cape Verd Islands. Preparatory to this visit to the Cape Verds, we find a formal protest entered in the schooners log on the 24th of May last, and signed by the master and his officers, in which they state that from several accidents which have from time to time been duly noted in the log-book, the vessel had become in that state that she was "quite unfit to proceed to her destination until put into proper repair," and in consequence that it was necessary to bear up for the nearest port. The harbour of Porto Praya was accordingly the next morning entered, and the schooner remained at anchor there two clear days. The entries in the log for these two days relate entirely to the weather, and say nothing whatever of the repairs which had been considered so essential for the schooners safety, nor of the embarkation of any articles for this object. The schooner sailed from St. Jago on the third morning; and her Custom-house receipt contained charges only for entry and departure.
On getting clear of the land the log states that the vessel carried all possible sail with a favourable wind, although she had not received those repairs which it had been alleged were required to make her seaworthy. What object was contemplated in framing this excuse for the schooners visit to the Cape Verds we have failed in discovering; and have alluded to it chiefly as an illustration of the manner in which even unimportant proceedings connected with Slave Trade expeditions are attempted to be disguised.
The detained vessel anchored in this harbour on the 14th of June ultimo, and on the following morning was visited and reported by the Marshal of the Courts, to the Commissioners.
On the same day, the 15th ultimo, the papers of the captured vessel were brought into Court and filed, having been first properly authenticated by the prize-officer; the captors declaration was received; the usual monition issued; and the witnesses ordered for examination.
The declaration of Commander Denman of Her Majestys sloop "Wanderer," stated, that on the 9th of June, being off Cape Mount, he had detained the schooner "Maria Rosaria," sailing under Spanish colours, for being in all respects equipped for the Slave Trade.
On the 17th ultimo the master of the vessel, Antonio Gonzales, was examined by the Registrar on the standing interrogatories, and deposed as follows: - "That he was born at Seville, where he has since lived; is a subject of Spain, and has never been a subject of any other state; that he was appointed to the command by José Peres, a subject of Spain residing at Carthagena in that country, from whom he also received possession at Havana on the 1st of April last; first saw the vessel there and then; thinks she is Baltimore built; that he was present at the capture; does not know why it took place; the vessel sailed under Spanish colours, and there were no others on board; that the vessel is called "Maria del Rosario," she never to witness's knowledge bore another name; she is of 67 tons burthen; there were 18 officers and mariners exclusive of witness, two of them Portuguese, and the remainder Spaniards, all hired and shipped at Havana in April last, before witness took possession, by José Peres; neither he nor any of the officers or mariners had any interest in the vessel or her lading; was master on board; there was one passenger, Juan Milanes, a Spaniard and merchants clerk, taken on board at Havana when the vessel sailed from thence; and destined to Cape Monserrado; witness does not know on what business; he had no concern or authority in or over the vessel or her cargo; that the voyage began and was to end at Havana; the last port of clearance was Porto Praia, Cape Verd Islands, where alone the vessel touched during the voyage, and where she was carried in order to stop a leak and buy provisions, both of which things were done; that the capturing-ship was first seen about eight miles off Cape Mount, on the 9th of the month instant, at break of day; capture took place at two oclock afternoon; was steering for New Sesters at the time; the course was altered as much as possible, and all sail made; the course prescribed by the papers was not deviated from, except in calling at Cape Verds, for reasons already given; no guns are mounted on board, but there were 10 cutlasses, 10 muskets, and 100 musket-cartridges, for defence against boats and canoes; José Peres, from whom witness received command and possession, was the sole owner of the vessel; he is a native of Carthagena, where his relations live, as well as himself; a bill of sale was made, witness does not know by whom, nor in whose presence; saw, without reading it, at Havana; does not know the price, but it was paid, and he believes was a fair equivalent; the transfer was a true one, and there was no private agreement; the owner of the vessel was the sole owner, lader, and consignee of the cargo; he knows nothing of the lading of the last voyage; the present cargo consists of rice, and of rice only; after capture, the vessel was brought direct to Sierra Leone; the passports and other papers were all entirely true and fair; none of the papers were destroyed, concealed, or made away with; there are no writings relating to the vessel or her cargo in any other country; there was no charter-party; he does not know if the vessel and goods were insured; with regard to her employment in trade, the vessel was under the management of witness; corresponds with no one."
The master, in replying to the questions respecting the equipment of the vessel, freely admitted that she was provided with a slave-deck, boiler, water, provisions, and mess-kits, all of which were intended for a return cargo of slaves.
Pablo Hernandez, the cook of the detained schooner, gave evidence generally corroborative of that of the master, except as to the use to which the slave equipment, provisions, and water were to be applied, on which point he declared his ignorance.
Publication was granted on the 17th ultimo.
The monition which was issued on the 15th, was returned into Court on the 22nd ultimo, certified to have been duly served; and on the 24th the British and Spanish Court met for the adjudication of the case, when a sentence of confiscation of the vessel and cargo was declared.
|(Signed)||WALTER W. LEWIS,|