This sudden refusal of the House of Commons to renew their own vote of the former year, gave great uneasiness to the friends of the cause. Mr. Wilberforce, however, resolved that the session should not pass without an attempt to promote it in another form; and accordingly, on the 14th of May, he moved for leave to bring in a bill to abolish that part of the Slave Trade, by which the British merchants supplied foreigners with slaves. This motion was opposed like the former; but was carried by a majority of seven. The bill was then brought in; and it passed its first and second reading with little opposition; but on the 5th of June, notwithstanding the eloquence of Mr. Pitt and of Mr. Fox, and the very able speeches of Mr. Francis, Mr. Courtenay, and others, it was lost by a majority of thirty-one to twenty-nine.
In the interval between these motions, the question experienced in the Lords considerable opposition. The Duke of Clarence moved that the House should not proceed in the consideration of the Slave Trade till after the Easter recess. The Earl of Abingdon was still more hostile afterwards. He deprecated the new philosophy. It was as full of mischief as the Box of Pandora. The doctrine of the abolition of the Slave Trade was a species of it; and he concluded by moving, that all further consideration of the subject be postponed. To the epithets, then bestowed upon the abolitionists by this nobleman, the Duke of Clarence added those of fanatics and hypocrites, among whom he included Mr. Wilberforce by name. All the other Lords, however, who were present, manifested such a dislike to the sentiments of the Earl of Abingdon, that he withdrew his motion.
After this, the hearing of evidence on the resolution of the House of Commons was resumed; and seven persons were examined before the close of the session.
[Sidenote:—Continuation from July 1793 to July 1794.—Author travels round the kingdom again.—Motion to abolish the foreign Slave Trade renewed in the Commons; and carried; but lost in the Lords; further proceedings there.—Author, on account of his declining health, obliged to retire from the cause.]
The committee for the abolition could not view the proceedings of both Houses of Parliament on this subject during the year 1793, without being alarmed for the fate of their question. The only two sources of hope, which they could discover, were in the disposition then manifested by the Peers, as to the conduct of the Earl of Abingdon, and in their determination to proceed in the hearing of evidence. The latter circumstance indeed was the more favourable, as the resolution, upon which the witnesses were to be examined, had not been renewed by the Commons. These considerations, however, afforded no solid ground for the mind to rest upon. They only broke in upon it, like faint gleams of sunshine, for a moment, and then were gone.