Further progress to the middle of May—Petitions begin to be sent to parliament—The king orders the privy council to inquire into the Slave-trade—Author called up to town—his interviews with Mr. Pitt—and with Mr. (now Lord) Grenville—Liverpool delegates examined first—these prejudice the council—this prejudice at length counteracted—Labours of the commitee in the interim—Public anxious for the introduction of the question into parliament—Message of Mr. Pitt to the commitee concerning it—Day fixed for the motion—Substance of the debate which followed—discussion of the general question deferred till the next sessions.
By this time the nature of the Slave-trade had, in consequence of the labours of the commitee and of their several correspondents, become generally known throughout the kingdom. It had excited a general attention, and there was among people a general feeling in behalf of the wrongs of Africa. This feeling had also, as may be collected from what has been already mentioned, broken out into language: for not only had the traffic become the general subject of conversation, but public meetings had taken place, in which it had been discussed, and of which the result was, that an application to parliament had been resolved upon in many places concerning it. By the middle of February not fewer than thirty-five petitions had been delivered to the commons, and it was known that others were on their way to the same house.
This ferment in the public mind, which had shown itself in the public prints even before the petitions had been resolved upon, had excited the attention of government. To coincide with the wishes of the people on this subject, appeared to those in authority to be a desirable thing. To abolish the trade, replete as it was with misery, was desirable also: but it was so connected with the interest of individuals, and so interwoven with the commerce and revenue of the country, that an hasty abolition of it without a previous inquiry appeared to them to be likely to be productive of as much misery as good. The king, therefore, by an order of council, dated February the eleventh, 1788,