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AN INCIDENT OF THE SLAVE-TRADE.
with the slave-trade are frequently of the most painful interest. The following is a sample of the deep atrocity which but too often accompanies this degrading traffic.
In the year 1820, the boats of the “Iphigenia” were sent into the Bonny river to capture a Spanish schooner, which had on board no fewer than four hundred slaves. Owing to a tide-way of at least three miles an hour, the boats were exposed to a galling fire from the slaver, which killed some and wounded others of the boats' crews. When nearing the schooner, however, the crews ceased firing, and betook themselves to a boat which was concealed under the bows, and in which they effected a landing on the banks of the river, not far distant. On taking possession of the prize, the coxswain of one of the cutters observed a lighted match hanging on the bar at the top of the magazine, from which the scuttle, or cover, had been removed. The match-made of tow, saturated with saltpetre-would have continued to burn, the slaver's crew thought, just long enough to enable them to effect their escape ; and then, possession having been taken by the captors, would have fallen over, and alighted on several barrels of gunpowder-one of which had been opened, and the contents strewed on the floor of the magazine—and thus, by an awful explosion, at least six hundred human beings would have been consigned to an untimely grave. The catastrophe, however, was averted, in
the good providence of God, by the presence of mind of the coxswain, who very coolly turned the lighted match into his hat, and threw it overboard. There are no doubt, at this very time, many Africans living in Sierra Leone, who, through this interposition of God, were rescued from the atrocious wickedness of the slave-dealer.
The great design of our Society is, to instruct and train these liberated slaves, that they may live in endless and blissful immortality. But it designs even greater things than these ; for in pushing our Missions into the Yoruba country, our object is to leaven the natives with the gospel of Jesus Christ, that they may no longer make those predatory excursions in which slaves are made, and life sacrificed ; but apply themselves to the peaceful employments of agriculture and commerce; so that, when the slave-dealer shall come to the coast, he shall be driven from it by the indignation of a Christian people. Through the vigilance of the British cruisers, the slave-trade be said to be now almost extinct. This, therefore, is the time for British Christians to come forward “ to the help of the Lord against the mighty;" and to send heroic bands of Missionaries to a region which has been blighted and defiled by the avarice and cruelty of those who possess no other characteristic of the Christian than the mere name. May the Lord prosper them in their benevolent and holy enterprise !
It does not at all follow, that, because an accused party in China is condemned and subjected to punishment, he is in reality guilty. Justice in that country is continually turned out of its proper course, and becomes injustice ; and not unfrequently the magistrate—instead of carefully investigating, and, in a spirit of strict impartiality, applying himself to ascertain the truth-decides the case according to the weight
of the bribe, and the guilty person who is rich escapes, while the poor person who is innocent becomes a sufferer. The practice of “covering the eyes,” that is, wilfully blinding oneself to the exact merits of a case, is so customary, that the people seldom think of approaching those in authority without a gift to procure them acceptance. The primary cause of all this extortion is to be found in the purchase and sale of offices which the Chinese government, when its exchequer is low, does not hesitate to resort to. The functionary who has paid for his office thinks himself at liberty to make it as profitable as possible. No doubt there are many amongst them who desire to act uprightly, but we fear that they are cxceptions to the usual character of Chinese magistracy; and that, generally, the whole of the functionaries engaged in the administration of justice agree in regarding the people as the source of their profits, and the sponge which they may unmercifully squeeze.
There is a great show of justice. Permanent laws are very beautifully carved on black marble, and placed in the streets, that no one may be ignorant. Orders of a more incidental nature are printed in large characters, and posted up in public places. They generally conclude with sentences such as these—“Hasten, hasten! a special edict !" “ Tremble hereat intensely!" “I will by no means eat my words !" &c. Officers of government are supposed to be at all times accessible, and the doors of justice open to such as wish to be heard. At the door of the gover
nor's palace six tablets are placed, on which aggrieved persons may inscribe their appeals. When an officer of high rank assumes the seals of office, he generally issues a proclamation, exhorting all subordinates to embody the kindness of the high emperor, and faithfully discharge their duties. Unless, however, there be more kindness in the emperor towards his subjects than in his official underlings, there is not much paternity in the system. When a serious accusation is brought against a party, the clerks not only summon the accused party, but all persons likely to be implicated in the transaction ; and, when their innocence has been proved, demand a fee for their liberation.
But let us look into the courts, and we shall see that there is not only extortion, but cruelty. The officer, as our engraving respresents, sits behind a desk. Before him are his writing materials, and around him his secretaries, interpreters-who are necessary in China, on account of the diversity of dialects—and lictors, with their instruments of punishment and torture. Before him, on the table, his official seal is placed, and cups containing tallies to indicate the number of blows the culprits are to receive, and behind him, on the wall, is depicted a kulin, or unicorn. Around the wall inscriptions are hung, which exhort him to be merciful. They fail, however, to remind him of his duty in this respect. In this country, the individual who comes forward to give testimony is placed under the remembrance of God; and by the administration of an oath, which brings him into the presence of the Searcher of hearts, is brought under that influence which we consider most powerful to elicit truth. In China, God is not recognised.
There is therefore no truthfulness among the people; and the application of torture is the mode by which a true testimony is sought to be extracted. We may mention some of the instruments of torture. They consist of three boards, with proper grooves for compressing the ankles, and five round sticks for squeezing the fingers; flogging by the bambu, rattan, cudgel, and whip. Besides these, “ the pulling or twisting the cars with roughened fingers, and keeping them in a bent position, while the prisoner kneels on chains;" "striking the lips with sticks until they are nearly jellied ; putting the hands in stocks before or behind the back; suspending the body by the thumbs and fingers; tying the hands to a bar under the knees, so as to bend the body double; and chaining the neck close by a stone."* A late Missionary in China mentions the piteous spectacle which met his eyes, of a poor wretch under torture; and when, with quivering lips and tremulous voice, he prayed for relief, he was answered with the stern words, “Suffer, or confess."
The criminal in our engraving wears the kia, or cangue. It is a frame of wood, weighing between twenty and thirty pounds, which rests on the shoulders without
chafing the neck, but which, from its breadth, disables the person from feeding himself. In this, as in a kind of pillory, criminals are publicly exposed. It entails, however, no disgrace, and little bodily suffering, provided there are some to feed the sufferer, and screen him from the sun. “The name, residence, and offence of the delinquent are written upon it, for the information of every passer by."
Death is frequently inflicted, sometimes by strangulation and decapita
* "The Middle Kingdom,” vol. i. p. 409, 410.
tion, or by torture and privation in prison. Two Chinese tradesmen, having engaged with our Missionary, the Rev. W. Welton, at Fuh-chau, to repair his dwelling-house, were seized by the authorities, thrown into prison, and so cruelly tortured, that when, on the representation of the British Vice-Consul, they were brought forward to be identified by Mr. Welton, with a view to the mitigation of their punishment, one of them was so changed, by the sufferings he had endured, that Mr. Welton scarcely knew him. Such are justice and mercy in China !
As might be supposed, there is nothing of which the Chinese people stand more in terror than courts of justice. The officers of the government are their especial dread, and they carefully avoid them, so far as they can do so. There is no greater misfortune to a Chinese than to fall into their hands. This dread of being implicated in legal trouble increases their selfishness and inhumanity. They are often afraid of doing that to which their natural feelings would prompt them--such as quenching a fire at its commencement, or assisting a man who has fallen down from sickness in the street—from the fear of being involved in trouble ; and they seek protection from government in secret clans and associations, which sometimes, when much provoked, break forth in pow. erful insurrectionary movements, which the rapacious and cruel, yet weak officials are altogether unable to resist.
How much China needs the gospel! This alone can remedy the social evils which exist. The want of the gospel is not at first so apparent as amongst nations of a more ferocious character; but a careful investigation of the existing state of things shows that, although under a different aspect, the necessity that exists for it is equally great. China is a stagnant pool. It needs only to stir it, to be convinced how foul it is.
The Psalmist said of old, “Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept Thy word.” Many there have been, from time to time, whose experience has been similar to his, and who, under the chastening hand of God, when laid upon the bed of sickness, or otherwise in sorrow, have been brought seriously to consider their position before God, and learned to find their chief delight in those gospel promises and blessed truths which previously had no value in their eyes. The individual mentioned in the following extracts is one of these. In our Number for January we gave an account of a believing Indian, David Henderson, at Cumberland Station, Rupert's Land, who was sick and died. We now introduce the case of another at the same Station, Thomas Bell, who was sick, and lives to bless God for his sickness.
The following extracts, as well as the account of David Henderson, are from the journal of the Rev. H. Budd
Sept. 9, 1851–When the evening prayer was over, an old woman caine into my house, saying that her son Thomas had desired her to ask me to come over to their house, as he wanted much to see me. When I had come into the house, I saw Thomas lying on his bed. He had been lying there now a long time, and was in a very weak state, but quite desirous
to converse with me on subjects of the highest importance. He began the conversation by saying, “ I am glad to see you come in. I have been a long time wishing you to come and see me. I wish you to tell me something for the good of my soul. As for this world, and all things in it, I don't think much of them. I am glad only when I think of God, and of His great mercy.
What I am troubled most about is my sins. To know that I have committed such grievous sins against God grieves me much. I see my sins so plainly, though committed long ago, as if they had been committed only yesterday. But when I think of the Holy Spirit, then I am happy-so happy, that I cannot tell you in
I need not say how glad I was to hear him speak in this manner, when I had never known him to be serious before about his soul. Having conversed with him for some time, and endeavoured to give him every encouragement in this way of thinking, and prayed with him, I went home.
Sept. 13—In the evening I went over to see Thomas Bell, taking bim a little medicine and some books. He was very glad of the medicine; but he appeared to be most glad to get the books. He was one of our first scholars when we established this school. He was quite a little boy when his parents first gave him up to be taught. A few years ago, when he was grown up, he left the school to do for himself. 'He could read his Bible well when he left the school. Sept. 25–I went over to see Thomas, to give him some more
I found him sitting up on his bed, with his books at his side. Finding him somewhat stronger than he used to be, I entered into conversation with him at once. “Thomas," I said, "are you tired of lying here from morning till night, and from night till morning ?" He said “No, I am used to lying here now. At first I found it very severe to have to lie here all the day long, and thought that I could never be reconciled to it; but now I don't mind it so much. When I was able to run about I did only mischief, and scarcely ever thought about God or my soul; but since I have been here, I have been enabled to turn my thoughts to a more profitable account.”—I said again, “Do you read those little books alongside of you?” “Yes."_“Do you understand any part of them?” “I understand some parts of each of them, and those parts which I do not understand on first reading, I read over and over again, until I can understand a good deal of the meaning.”—“Will you have some more of these tracts to read ?” “Yes : they are my coinpanions night and day.” I read one of the tracts with him, and endeavoured to explain it, promising, when I left, to bring him some more soon, of which he was very glad. I do sincerely hope that God is teaching him the evil of sin, the vanity of the world, and the deceitfulness of his own heart. He spoke much on these particulars. I pray God to send him the Holy Spirit, and teach him more and more the great importance of seeking the salvation of his soul.
Sept. 28: Lord's-day-This evening, when both the services were over, I went to Thomas, to give him the tracts I had promised. He was lying quite still, having just left off reading one of the books at his side. He had a Bible, a Prayer-book, a Catechism, and some tracts, lying close within his reach. I asked him, “ Are you better, Thomas ? Do you feel any stronger now ?". He said, “No, I am not better,