HC Deb 15 June 1824 vol 11 cc1406-27
Mr. Wilberforce,

in rising to present a petition for the Abolition of West-India Slavery, from the town and vicinity of Carlow, said:

I am naturally prompted to express the sincere pleasure with which I witness the deep interest that is taken by that generous people, our fellow-countrymen of Ireland, in the fate of that most wretched and degraded portion of mankind, the negro slaves in the West-Indies. I cannot, however, forbear availing myself of the opportunity which the presenting of this petition affords me, of communicating to the House the sentiments and feelings with which my mind is most powerfully impressed; more especially, I cannot suffer the House to separate for the ensuing recess, without entering my solemn protest against a course of proceeding relative to the black population of the West-Indies, of the consequences of which I cannot but entertain the most serious apprehensions.

I scarcely need require to be read to you the resolutions which were passed unanimously on this subject in the last session of parliament: they will, I doubt not, be fresh in the recollection of every one who is at all interested in this question. They declared, that the House was anxious for the arrival of that happy moment, when, by ameliorating the condition of the slave population in his majesty's colonies, and by a progressive improvement in their character, they might be equitably and safely admitted to the enjoyment of civil rights and privileges; and a degraded population of slaves be converted into a free peasantry. Such, Sir, was the unanimous declaration of this House; and, though directly contrary to the judgment and wishes of my friends and myself, my right hon. friend opposite to me (Mr. Canning) proposed, that the execution of these resolutions should be left to the colonial legislatures, in those settlements in which the Crown was not accustomed to act without their intervention; he nevertheless declared that if any resistance to the express wishes of parliament should be made, which should partake not of reason but of contumacy, his majesty's government would not hesitate to come down to parliament for counsel. How the resolutions have, in fact, been received, it cannot be necessary for me to state to you. As it is unnecessary, it would be invidious to recite the heated and violent resolutions, which the legislatures of almost all the islands have ordered to be openly proclaimed in all our public newspapers, as their determined and unalterable opinions. I should have thought that contumacy was a mild term by which to characterize such insulting and menacing resolves. Yet, what has been the conduct pursued by his majesty's government? Not asserting the rights of the mother country, still less taking any measures for enforcing the resolutions of the House, they have satisfied themselves with issuing an order in council, whereby, in the island of Trinidad, a model is formed, to exhibit a specimen of the amelioration recommended to the other colonies; and it is hoped that, by degrees, their prejudices will be overcome, and they will become so enamoured of this fair model of civil and social improvement, that they will adopt the same regulations for the government of their own slaves.

Now, Sir, I must remark, that in trying any new experiment which we wish to recommend to the adoption of others, we should naturally select the field which would be the most favourable, and in which we might most confidently hope for success. But, though I grant it was natural to my right hon. friend to think of Trinidad on this occasion, in consequence of a measure he formerly proposed to parliament concerning that island, yet I must observe, that the ameliorating principles will there be tried under less favourable circumstances than in most of our other West-India settlements. There, the disproportion of the sexes is far greater than in most of our West-India colonies: for strange to say, in 1816, an actual enumeration of the slaves in the West-Indies having taken place, it was found, contrary to the reiterated and unanimous declarations of the West-Indians, that the number of female slaves was, in all the old islands, at least equal to that of the males. Again, there is in Trinidad a larger proportion than common of African negroes to the Creoles. Nor ought I entirely to omit, that the prevalence of the Roman Catholic religion in that colony, is of itself unfavourable and inimical to the growth of that moral and social improvement of which the spirit of liberty is to be an elementary and vital principle.

But, waiving this consideration, I must frankly state, that the plan of my right hon. friend, which depends for its success on the members of the West-India legislatures gradually laying aside their prejudices, and adopting the reformation they witness in Trinidad, is fundamentally hopeless: the expectation appears to me utterly vain. We might be assured of the truth of this position, by reason: it is confirmed to us by experience. The West-Indians abhor alike the end we have in view, and the means by which we hope to arrive at it. They frankly tell us, that the emancipation of their slaves would be their inevitable destruction; and their prejudices make them disapprove of the various measures we recommend for the improvement of the negroes condition. If they agreed with us as to our ultimate object, we might hope that, by degrees, their aversion would lessen to the measures by which we propose to accomplish it. Were those measures at all acceptable to them, we might hope, gradually and almost insensibly, to lead them forward to our end, by pursuing the course which should conduct to it. But when both means and end are alike obnoxious to them, the hope does appear to me to be far too sanguine which looks to their giving up their opposition, and at length adopting the principles we recommend. But, I say, this experiment has been already tried, and tried too under the most favourable circumstances; and yet it has utterly failed. They who were in parliament in 1797 cannot but remember the plan which a most respectable West-Indian proprietor, still in the House (Mr. C. R. Ellis) proposed to the House of Commons for the improvement, of the condition of the negroes.* Supported by all the West-Indian interest in and out of parliament in this country, it was communicated to the different governors through the medium of a secretary of state who was known to be highly favourable to the colonists, the late duke of Portland. And, above all, it was enforced by what was likely to be the most efficient and powerful of all *The plan will be found in the Parliamentary History, vol. xxxiii, p. 251. considerations, distinctly stated to them by one of their own body, that if some such measures for the improvement of the condition of slaves should not be adopted, there was great reason to fear lest the much-dreaded law for abolishing the slave trade, should receive the sanction of parliament. This intimation was doubtless meant to be kept secret, but it was discovered by an accidental inadvertency. Nevertheless, Mr. Ellis's resolutions, though coming forward under circumstances naturally calculated to obtain for them the most favourable consideration, were scarcely noticed in the colonies; and, I believe, not a single legislature adopted any part of his proposed reforms. Again, Bryan Edwards, the warm partizan of the West-Indians, and their acknowledged and most able parliamentary advocate, recommended several most important reforms: yet he also addressed his countrymen in vain. And, if the amelioration of the condition of the slaves, when proposed to the colonial assemblies under such favourable auspices, and when there was no reason to fear that it would be urged as the ground of still further concessions, but with the directly opposite hope, was proposed in vain, how can we presume to believe that this system of amelioration will gradually overcome their prejudices and obtain their favour when recommended to them, as they will bear in mind, at the instance of those advocates for the rights of negroes whom they so much abhor; and when they foresee that the adoption of it is avowedly to lead to their conceding to their slaves the further boon of social and civil privileges?

But, Sir, the West-Indian legislatures are less likely to accede to our wishes, because they manifestly appear to conceive, that the stout and even menacing language which they have returned to the representations of the sense of parliament, communicated to them through the king's ministers, will have the effect of deterring government from its purpose. We appear to them at least to pause upon it, and we no longer express the desire we before declared, to see the effectual and decisive measure for ameliorating the slaves conditions adopted without any unreasonable delay. This persuasion, suggested by the language of almost all the colonial legislatures, is confirmed by subsequent events, and, as time proceeds, instead of becoming more temperate, they appear to speak and act with augmented irritation. When lord Bathurst's dispatch, enclosing the ref solutions recommended for the immediate adoption of the government of Demerara, was first laid by governor Murray before the court of policy, which consists of the principal proprietors of the settlement, it was received not merely with decorum, but with favour. Governor Murray's reply of August 11th, 1823, which will be found in the papers on the table, contains no expression of disapprobation, and in the Minutes of the court of policy it is stated by the senior colonial member, that he had no doubt that the views of his majesty's governors, with regard to every practicable amelioration of the state of the slaves, would meet with a most ready acquiescence, both from the court itself and from the inhabitants of the colony generally. How little, then, was it to be expected, that at a public meeting of the inhabitants of the colony of Demerara, at which governor Murray is stated to have presided, not only the most determined hostility to the ameliorating measure? recommended by parliament should be declared, but that the most inflammatory, and even what may be justly called seditious, nay, almost treasonable language, should be used, as to the right of the sovereign empire of the British legislature to command their obedience.

But, it is not in Demerara only, that we find a growing rather than a diminishing disposition to oppose the system of reform. All who know any thing of the West Indies must be but too well aware, that the great governing principle of the system is the depression of the black and coloured, and comparatively speaking, the exaltation, the almost deified superiority of the European race. This, indeed, as we have long contended, is the main spring of the whole machine. This it is, which extinguishes that sympathy which would otherwise excite in the white colonists kinder feelings towards their sable brethren; and therefore the augmenting or diminishing intensity of this prejudice, furnishes a test by which we may judge of the dispositions to promote or oppose the moral improvement or civil reformation of the colonial system. In Jamaica, a most gratifying symptom of the decline of this prejudice, appeared, about twelve years ago, when the privilege of giving evidence in courts of justice was granted to the free coloured inhabitant; but, when the free coloured inhabitants of Jamaica, now no less than 35,000, many of them possess- ed of considerable properly, and constituting the bulk of the insular militia, lately proceeded to raise their heads so high as to petition the colonial legislature to be admitted to the enjoyment of the privilege of freeholders, the proposal excited the highest indignation among the whites; and I cannot but ascribe to this source the extraordinary conduct which was laid before the House not long ago in the petition of Messrs. Le Cesne and Escoffery. I can scarcely conceive any possible excuse for such an act of violence: and I am sure that some strange deception must have been practised on the duke of Manchester to induce him to consent to such oppression. These men, it will be remembered, having been arrested with the intention of sending them out of the Island, on the ground of their being aliens, had obtained a writ of Habeas Corpus, and by proving in open court their being natives of the Island had been delivered from their oppressors. Being again seized, they were not allowed the opportunity of delivering themselves by recourse to the law, but were hurried away to Hayti; and there they would have been consigned, by the Haytian government, to a dungeon, but for their happening to have brought away with them the Jamaica Gazette, which contained the account of their former seizure and deliverance. By the way, their being taken to Hayti, is, of itself, a proof how little credit the Jamaica government gave to the excuse alleged for seizing them, that they were secret agents of Boyer, the present chieftain of Hayti; for had this been really so, would they have been guilty of the folly of sending Boyer men, who, having lived long in Jamaica, must have been able to give him the most particular information he could desire, about the island. I need not recapitulate the rest of the cruel treatment these men experienced. I only urge it as a proof of the growing hostility entertained in the West Indies towards the African race.

But, a still more shocking instance has been exhibited lately in the Island of Barbadoes. It may be necessary to state to the House, that the circumstances of that Island are peculiar. It contains a much larger number than any other, of white men of small property; and the consequence is, that though one of the earliest of all our West-Indian settlements, and though it contains many men of liberal feelings as well as of good education, there prevails among the lower whites, the bulk of the white population, a most bigotted and vulgar prejudice against the African race. It was the influence of the low whites on the assembly of Barbadoes, that so long rendered the law of that island different from those of all the other colonies, by punishing the wilful murder of a slave with a small fine, instead of making it a capital crime; and the very proposal by the governor, lord Seaforth, himself a West-Indian proprietor, that the wilful murder of a slave should be made capital, stirred up the anti-African spirit, the consequence of which was, the perpetration of several barbarous murders of slaves, with circumstances of the most detestable cruelty. The well-educated and right-minded inhabitants of Barbadoes, felt, I doubt not, as we should do, on this-occasion: several of them expressed their warmest condemnation of such atrocious outrages. Nevertheless, all that could be effected by the influence of the governor and of the higher classes was, to obtain a law in 1805, that the wilful murder of a slave should be a capital crime if it should be committed without provocation. And it was not till the year 1818, that the wilful murder of a slave in Barbadoes became, as it had previously been in all our other colonies a capital crime. Lord Seaforth himself, in writing to lord Camden that he had proposed bills to both Houses, rendering the murder of a slave capital, foretold, that though the Council, he doubted not, would be unanimous, on the side of humanity, the Assembly would throw out his bill; and for many years I believed that his prediction had been literally verified. Nor was it till lately, that I learned, that a compromise had been made, which, however, altogether defeated his lordship's benevolent purpose, by providing, that the murder of a slave should be a capital offence if, beside being malicious and cruel, it should be without provocation. Such, however, was the law until 1818, when at length the punishment of death was enacted for the wilful murder of a slave even in Barbadoes. In that Island the House of Assembly is too much under the influence of the low whites; and thence it is, I presume, that the free coloured people are still in the lowest state of degradation. They are no more allowed to give evidence in a court of justice than slaves: while the evidence of slaves is received against them. In short, except in not being constantly subject to the lash of the driver, their situation is not better than that of slaves, and, inasmuch as they have no one to look up to, as in some sort their natural protector, their condition may even be said to be worse. Thus circumstanced, it was not unnatural that they should wish for some amendment of their condition.

Again, the hostility towards the religious improvement of the slaves, though I am truly glad to know, not universal, is yet, in some colonies, augmented of late. For of this we have a proof in the resolutions in Demerara of the 24th February last, that all missionaries of every kind should be excluded from the colony; not, observe, the missionaries of the London society only, to whom it was urged by some of their advocates that their hostility was confined, but all missionaries, of every kind and description. The same truth has been established more strikingly in Barbadoes, by the destruction of the methodist chapel, attended with circumstances that appear to imply that the passions of men are excited to such a state as to effect almost a dissolution of all civil government, when the religious instruction of the slaves by the missionaries comes in question. And surely, Sir, I might urge the unmeasured abuse with which the advocates of the slaves are treated, as a proof how little the moral improvement of the negroes can be safely committed to such hands. There are no terms of gross abuse which are not poured out upon us. We are not only termed innovators, visionaries, counterfeit philanthropists and fanatics; we are likened to tygers and hyænas—language, not escaping from a hot-blooded individual, in the earnestness of extemporary speaking, but contained in an address from the two Houses of Assembly to the governor of St. Vincent's. When these gentlemen and our other West-Indian opponents thus vilify us, and especially when they exclaim against us as innovators and fanatics, do they remember, that we are only contending for changes to be effected by gradual means, which were not merely contemplated, but in one case actually brought forward, by men the most highly respected for their statesman-like wisdom and acknowledged political sobriety—by the late Mr. Edmund Burke, by the late lord Melville; the latter also, at the very time, the advocate of the West-Indians, on whose proposal for emancipating all who should be born after the year 1800 I never can reflect, without bitter concern, except for the probability I cannot but see there would have been, that he would have shrunk back from the execution of his own measure; but the names of these men might at least scare us from being thus stigmatized as the wildest as well as most mischievous of projectors.

All the arguments and statements I have been urging, prove, but too decisively, that it is utterly in vain to hope that the colonial legislatures will be gradually led to imitate the reformation to be exhibited to them in the island of Trinidad. In fact, it is clear, that the colonists misunderstood us: that they conceive that we are not acting up to our own resolutions, in consequence of the sturdy front with which they have opposed us: that we are pausing on the execution of our purpose; and that they have only therefore to maintain the same tone of resistance, to secure them from our further annoyance. I am disposed to think, that my right hon. friend deceives himself as to the probable conduct of the West-Indian assemblies, by insensibly admitting the persuasion, that the West-Indian proprietors in this country, many of whom, his own personal friends, are men of the most humane and liberal minds, are a counterpart of the opinions and feelings of the colonists actually in the islands. Nothing, alas! can be more different, nor can any conclusions more fatally mislead him, than those which should proceed on the supposition, that the latter class is in any degree to be considered as a resemblance of the former. But whether from this or any other cause, I am but too sure that my right hon. friend's expectations—that the colonial assemblies will ere long adopt our views—are altogether illusory. But, were it only for my persuasion, that my right hon. friend is indulging expectations that never will be realized, I should not probably have now intruded myself upon the House. It is not so much that his plan is hopeless; but it is in the highest degree dangerous. I will not go into particulars, only let the circumstances of the western hemisphere be fairly taken into account; consider the number of emancipated negroes all around our own islands, both in Hayti and on the continent of South America: consider the immense disproportion between the blacks and the whites in our own islands; and the indiscriminate and contemptuous hostility which is too commonly manifesting itself in the handful of white men that are immersed in such a mass of African origin; and then remember, that you have been exciting the hopes and tantalizing the feelings of the great body of the population, who, as all accounts testify, are continually looking to your resolves, with anxious anticipations. It is not from us they hear or nave heard of this; it is from the meetings that are held in the islands themselves, where, in every parish, resolutions are formed, that tell the whole tale, and at least suggest all its grievances. It is from the conversation at the table of the whites, as in the case of Demerara, from that of the governor himself, that these reports are circulated. And then call to mind, how, in all instances, it is most dangerous thus to trifle with the hopes and fears of human nature. I may refer to the effect of this vacillating policy on the population of Paris in the year 1792; and still more on that of St. Domingo. My mind is seriously apprehensive of the consequences of this hesitating at least, if not fluctuating policy. Had we thus acted in the instance of the abolition of the slave trade, we should still have been carrying on that disgraceful traffic. We know but too well that it is now carried on to an immense extent by our neighbour nation, which is basely seeking for gain in the blood and ordure with which we would no longer be defiled. We English were considered to be actuated by a love of commercial profit, while they were high-minded and heroic—a nation of cavaliers. But, I repeat it, had we acted thus in the instance of the abolition, we should still have been carrying on the slave trade; for then the language of the West-Indian legislatures was the same as now. I can recall it to the recollection of the House in the instance of Jamaica, by reminding those who were then members, on its being urged that if we should pass our abolition law, Jamaica would transfer its allegiance to some other power, Mr. Fox exclaimed, "If that be the condition of our connection with them, let them go." They then declared, they never would submit to the law of abolition, and that it would be impossible to force it. This declaration of the impossibility of preventing the universal importation of negroes, was not made merely by individuals, but by the colonial legislatures themselves; and yet, scarcely had the law of abolition passed, than, although one set of resolutions against it had been voted by the assembly of Jamaica, after the law had re- ceived the royal assent, but before the tidings of its having passed reached that island, than the language was altogether changed, and in a few short years, it was an affront to a West-Indian to suppose that he was not as decided an abolitionist as myself. And so, Sir, it would be in the present instance. Let but the imperial legislature assume its proper tone, and maintain its just authority, and all will go on quietly; and you will soon witness with delight the accomplishment of your benevolent purposes. It is under the influence of this persuasion, and of the apprehensions I have already rather hinted at than expressed, that I have felt it my imperious and indispensable duty to disavow for myself, and I believe for those in general who concur with me on these subjects, the system of conduct which government is now pursuing respecting the West-Indian colonies. It is with reluctance and pain that I have come forward, but I believe it my absolute duty to protest against the policy on which we are now acting, "liberavi animam meam"—May it please God to disappoint my expectations, and to render the result more favourable than I anticipate!

Mr. Bernal

could not but complain, that at the close of the session, and after so many discussions on the subject had taken place, the hon. member should have thought proper to introduce it again to the House in this manner. He thought it a little hard that the hon. member should not have afforded to those who were connected with the colonies, the means of replying to the statements now brought forward. He could not but complain of the manner in which the colonies of Jamaica and Demerara had been blended together, when, in fact, no connexion existed between them. Did the hon. member think it consistent with his duty as a christian senator to charge the whole of the white population of Jamaica with acting severely towards the slaves, because, in a moment of distress and irritation, they had acted with apparent severity towards two individuals? If he did—if on that single act he chose to make a general sweeping charge against the whole population—he (Mr. B.) was fully prepared to deny the charge, and to assert, that every means had been adopted in that island to improve the condition of the slaves. The hon. member had spoken of delay, and seemed to wish that something should be accomplished in a few weeks, which all history must have informed him required almost centuries to be brought to perfection. He expected that to be accomplished by a miracle in a short time, which could never be accomplished but by years of attention and perseverance. Lord Melville had been referred to; but surely the hon. member did not mean to say that he had aimed at emancipation. If the people in Barbadoes were suffering under the hardships stated, it was much to be regretted; but that was not the case with the slaves in Jamaica. The spirit of invective, he might say of insult, exhibited in these reiterated complaints, was not calculated to allay the stormy spirit which the hon. member had said existed among the colonists. If that hon. member wished the colonists to meet him cordially, let him act towards them in the spirit of christian charity and brotherly temper, but not with insult, invective, and threat.

Mr. Secretary Canning

said, he rose, in the hope of bringing this discussion to an end. It was well known, that after frequent deliberation, the House had last year decided, that it was expedient to pursue a certain line of conduct towards the colonies, which line of conduct they afterwards embodied in certain resolutions, and recommended it to be adopted by his majesty's government. The government acquiesced in the recommendation so made to them, and this year announced to parliament their intention to carry the plan into effect. His hon. friend knew too well the sincere respect he entertained for him, to believe that it was his intention to say any thing unkind towards him; but he felt compelled to tell his hon. friend, and those who entertained similar opinions, that they must make up their minds either to let the government pursue the course which parliament had chalked out for them, or else to propose some other plan, and bring it fairly before the House. But, of all the proceedings that could have been adopted, he thought that which his hon. friend had made choice of was the most unfortunate. He had taken that opportunity, at the end of the session, to express his dissatisfaction at the course which had been pursued, and to regret that some other had not been preferred. His hon. friend thought the government was slow in carrying into execution measures for ameliorating the condition of the slaves. To this objection, he would answer, that the evil which it was their ob- ject to remedy was the growth of ages and that it would be impossible to pursue, in accomplishing that object, a course which should be at once rapid and wise. But, whether it were wise or not, it was that which parliament had laid down; and, willing as the government was to obey it, he for one would throw from himself the responsibility of its failure, if fail it should, upon those who now sought to interfere with and to thwart its operation. When it had been resolved to adopt that course, he was not insensible that, in order to make it efficient, it would be necessary to pass by all the demonstrations of ill-temper which might be manifested on the part of the colonies. He regretted therefore the more, that, upon the present occasion, all those topics which he had wished to see thrown aside had been brought forward with no other view that he could discover, but to aggravate the ill-temper and insult the feelings of the colonists, and to interfere with the progress of that plan which, he repeated, had not been invented by the government, but adopted, in compliance with the wishes of the House. That plan must, he was convinced, be pursued with temper on one side at least; and if the colonies should appear to be deficient in that valuable quality, there was so much the stronger reason that it should not be lost sight of by the government. If the operation of the plan was really too slow, he deeply regretted it; but he was by no means convinced of the fact. If his hon. friend thought it advisable to assert the supremacy of the mother country, and to support that supremacy by an armed force, let that question be discussed; but let it not be brought forward in the manner attempted that night. Government would not shrink from any task, however painful, which the true interests of the country might impose; but his hon. friend was quite mistaken if he thought they did not see, when they entered upon the course they were now following, that, while on the one hand it required great resolution, energy, and perseverance, it demanded on the other, no less temper, forbearance, and allowance. His hon. friend seemed to regret that the experiment, as it was called, had been tried first in Trinidad. He must say, that he saw no grounds for that regret. With respect to Demerara, the same policy would be pursued; and with regard to the other colonies, no time would be lost in carrying the most effec- tive measures into operation. But hon. gentlemen should not measure by weeks and days, that work which would require the laborious exertions of months and years. If, at the end of that time, any impression should be made upon an evil, the magnitude of which he contemplated with as much horror as his hon. friend, no reasonable person could have cause to complain.

Dr. Lushington

called the attention of the House to the statement he had made on a former evening, on presenting a petition relative to the case of Le Cesne and Escoffery. Now, to show the spirit which existed against the coloured people, he found, that after they had been deported to St. Domingo, one witness had accused Le Cesne of having himself sold arms to the conspirators, at the very time he was in custody. He trusted the hon. secretary would furnish the House with all the documents, to prove that it was proper that two individuals released by the court of King's-bench at Jamaica, should be taken up within six hours afterwards and sent off to St. Domingo.

Mr. Huskisson

wished to set the House right on one point, namely, that the insurrection at Demerara had not arisen in consequence of the cruel treatment of the negroes on the plantation "Success." Having been aware that his hon. friend, was the proprietor of a plantation there, he had asked him for some explanation of the transaction, and his answer was, that he was quite at a loss to know in what manner the statement could have originated. His hon. friend had transmitted positive instructions, that every measure should be adopted for the amelioration of the condition of the slaves on his property.

Mr. W. Smith

said, if his hon. friend had proposed that the extirpation of this enormous evil should take place in days or months, or in less than a course of years, long as he had acted with him, he should decline going further with him: but, there was a great difference between proceeding rapidly to a point, and receding from it. He thought there existed too little disposition in the colonies to afford protection to the free people of colour, and contended, that such a neglect on the part of the colonial governments could only have the dangerous effect of disposing those people to make common cause with the negroes, a circumstance which, if it ever did occur, would be productive of most fatal consequences. When he looked to the slave population of the several colonies, and found it decreasing from year to year, he must believe that there was something radically bad in the system by which they were governed.

Mr. F. Buxton

said, he did not rise to protract the discussion by any lengthened observations, but rather for the purpose of asking two or three important questions of the hon. secretary opposite. With regard to the charge against his hon. friend, who had been guilty of the grave offence of taking the present opportunity of expressing his feelings and delivering his conscience, he must say, that he thought it most desirable that there should have been some discussion. He thought it most fit and proper that the House and the country should know how far be and his friends were responsible for any irritation that prevailed. He admitted that to a certain extent they were responsible. They had used all their endeavours to advance that great and important question, the result of which would be, to raise seven hundred thousand of our fellow-beings from the lowest state of degradation. For himself he could say that he did not lament any part he had ever taken in these discussions. He considered that he and those gentlemen who acted with him were responsible for the measure until they had succeeded in bringing about a full and entire amelioration of the condition of the slaves. He did not expect that this was a result to which their exertions could hastily be brought; for neither he nor his friends had any other expectation than that those unhappy beings who were now slaves must continue so until the end of their lives; but he did think that, by a proper and timely application of the requisite means, the children of those slaves might be made capable of enjoying their freedom; that when so capable they should be allowed to enjoy it; and that the right should not be delayed beyond the time that they were capable of enjoying it. This he thought might be effected by his majesty's government; and so far they were answerable. For such efforts as were likely to bring about this desirable result, he and his friends were responsible. They were not however answerable for the violent language which had been recently held in the colonies. When they talked of flinging off their allegiance, and throwing their weight into the scale of a hostile nation, he would ask, whether they were not themselves the chief cause of the irritation. With respect to the free people of colour, he concurred with his hon. friend in thinking that too little protection had been extended to them by the colonial governments; If they were to have an extension of privileges granted to them, he was persuaded they would be as loyal to the Crown and constitution as any class of subjects in the world; but if, on the contrary, this extension were denied, it might lead to dangers which he would almost dread to mention in that House. As to the recent insurrections at Demerara he thought it was a most unwarrantable assertion to say that they were in any degree produced by what had passed in that House. He would contend, that they arose from the silence and secresy which were observed with respect to the letter of government sent out to that colony. Rumours had gone abroad in the colony respecting it, which were increased and exaggerated in proportion as there appeared a desire to conceal the truth. It was a singular thing that, while the contents of that letter were carefully concealed from those to whom it was of importance that they should be known, they were partially told to the slaves and domestics of the governor. It was to this culpable silence on one side, and partial communication on the other, that the disturbances of Demerara were to be attributed; and not to any thing which had passed in that House, or any thing which had been said or done by the missionary Mr. Smith. But there was another point on which he would say one word, as it had been but slightly alluded to in the former debate —he meant the outrageous proceedings against the missionary at Barbadoes, whose chapel was destroyed, and he himself forced to fly to another island. Of these disgraceful scenes, the House were as yet but partially informed—ofthepun-nishment of any of the offenders, they had not heard a word. This was not the time, nor this the opportunity, for going into all the details of that atrocious transaction; but he now gave notice, that if the culprits should not be previously brought to justice, he would, early in the next session, without being deterred by the apprehension of danger or of censure, use every endeavour in his power to drag to justice the authors of that most foul and cruel act of oppression that ever was committed. The questions which he had to ask the hon. secretary were, first, whether government had made any declaration or sent any instructions, with respect to the treatment of the free people of colour? The second was, whether all the colonies were to be placed in the same situation as Demerara and Trinidad, with respect to the instructions sent from government in the letter to the former place? The third was, whether any, and what steps had been taken, and with what success, to bring to justice the persons guilty of the gross outrage on the missionary at Bridge-town, Barbadoes.

Mr. Wilmot Horton

began by answering the last question of the hon. gentleman, and for this purpose read a copy of the letter which had been sent out to the government of Barbadoes, on the subject of the outrages committed there. In that letter, his majesty's high displeasure was conveyed, at the occurrence of such a violent breach of the laws, and the most positive orders were given, that every possible step should be taken to bring all persons guilty on that occasion to punishment. The result of that communication could not yet be known to the government here. With respect to the first question, as to the treatment of the free people of colour, he would say, that a legal commission was now in operation in the West Indies, for the purpose of making inquiries respecting the laws and institutions of some of the islands, and? one object of that commission was, to examine into and report upon the condition and situation of the free people of colour there. With respect to the other question, he would answer, that it was the intention of government to make the order in council applicable to all those colonies which had not a local legislature. He would not enter into the general question. He was only anxious to point out the bad effect of any and every word of discussion on this subject, and to say how much the re-action was felt in the office to which he had the honour to belong.

Mr. Brougham

said, he could not agree with those who censured his hon. friend for taking that opportunity, evidently the last which could occur in the session for expressing his opinion upon a series of measures which had never been discussed and upon some extraordinary incidents which had only recently come to his knowledge. But, were he and his friends to be accused of having too constantly raised this question, and of having produced irritating feelings amongst the slaves? How often had they brought it forward? An hon. friend behind him said three times, but he would beg leave to deduct one; for the case of Mr. Smith, the missionary, was a case of individual oppression. Then what became of the three discussions on the same subject? Twice only had this subject been discussed, and once of that twice was the present occasion. Notwithstanding the almost unexampled interest which the subject had excited, the question had been only once the subject of discussion before the present evening, and on that occasion, too, it was introduced by the hon. secretary himself. Was it, then, too much in his hon. friend now to wish to bring it forward, particularly as the important information had arrived in the country only the other day? With respect to that most scandalous outrage at Barbadoes, not committed under the cloud of night, nor by a few individuals, nor by the mere rabble, but by many persons, calling themselves respectable, carried on for several days, with manifestoes issued, boasting of what they had already done, and declaring their intentions for the future, was it not strange to learn, that all the vigilance of the Barbadoes police had not been yet able to seize upon one of the criminals, and drag him to justice. However, after they should learn in Barbadoes what had fallen from his majesty's ministers respecting it, he trusted they would begin to bestir themselves in the affair, and that in a short time we should hear of some of the guilty parties being brought to justice. The learned gentleman went on to contend that no mischief could arise in the West-Indies from any discussions of the question here; for the subject had been debated year after year, for the last five-and-twenty years, without producing any such effect. The question, which had been discussed by the warmest advocates of freedom, was not the immediate abolition of slavery. The object of those repeated discussions was, not to break the slave's chains and arm him with the fragments, but by a gradual improvement of his condition, by timely and proper instruction, to lay such a foundation for his future emancipation, as would make such a measure uninjurious to himself and safe for the master. No real friend to the measure ever expected to arrive at so desirable a result by hasty steps. But, there was a great distinction between proceeding too rapidly in the course, and not moving at all. After having made the advance, were we now to retrograde? Were we not to persevere in that course of preparation and progressive instruction, which would eventually make emancipation beneficial to the slave and safe to the master; and which consummation would alone make freedom a boon to that unhappy class of persons? In his conscience, he believed no greater evil could happen to those unhappy regions where slavery existed, than what would be produced from the violence of those who resisted the emancipation, and the vacillation of those who advocated it [hear].

Mr. Butterworth

defended the missionaries from any disposition to interfere with the political concerns of the colonies; Their instructions were most positive against any such interference, and he believed that they were all disposed to adhere to such instructions.

Colonel Bagwell

observed, that cause and effect had never been more clearly connected in any case than they were in the resolutions which the House adopted in the last session of parliament, and in the recent insurrection of the blacks in Demerara.

Sir G. Rose

observed, that, under the present constitution of society in the West-Indies, with a population of 600,000 negroes, standing in need of religious instruction, and under the difficulty that existed, of getting clergymen of the church of England to go there, we should be grateful to those missionaries, who, under a sense of religious duty, devoted themselves to such a labour. As to the people of the West-Indies, the House was bound to look with great indulgence to their conduct, when it recollected how remiss this country had been in providing them with spiritual instruction.

Mr. Baring

observed, that if there had recently been a persecution of missionaries in the West-Indies, it had arisen from a sincere conviction in the minds of the planters, that they were not conducting themselves in the mild and gentle spirit of that religion of which they professed to preach the doctrines. He defied any person to point out any rational cause for the late insurrection at Demerara; which, if it had not been originally instigated, had certainly been much promoted by the proceedings of Smith. He complained, in strong terms, of the exertions made by various societies at home to delude the population of this country, and to irritate the slave population in the West Indies. If those societies should ever succeed in carrying their notions into effect, they would ruin the colonies by the perpetual riots and insurrections to which they would give rise. The government at home, instead of balancing itself between the two parties, should speak out in a manly and decided tone. By so doing it would allay the fears of the planters abroad, and put a stop to the unworthy manœuvres which had been played off in parliament against them, both during the last and the present session. He considered the presentation of this petition as the last of the manœuvres which were to be played off this session, and he therefore felt it his duty to denounce it accordingly.

Mr. Hutchinson

expressed great indignation at the term "manœuvres" being applied to the efforts made in that House to ameliorate the state of slavery in our colonies.

Sir F. Blake

was of opinion, that the House ought to enjoin the colonial legislatures to do what was right; and if they did not obey the injunction willingly, compel them to obey it. He was sorry to observe that the right hon. secretary of state could not abandon, even upon this subject, his darling scheme of neutrality: he meant, that he allowed both parties to do what they liked, without interfering to check the excesses of either. The right hon. secretary thought he could satisfy the people of England by saying, that slavery should be abolished. Now, he would tell the minister, that he for one was not satisfied with this declaration. He must know not only the year, but the month, the week, nay, the very day, when slavery was to be abolished, before he could be satisfied. The resolutions of the last session had neutralized expectation; and those of the present session had extinguished the last rays of expiring hope. It was the insertion of three little words that had doneall the mischief—those three words were, "the earliest period." It was clear that by those words, either something was meant or nothing. Now he thought that nothing was meant by them, and he would tell the House why. The words "the earliest period" were no better than the words "some time or other;" and every body knew that "some time or other" meant no time at all. The right hon. secretary, in not fixing a time when slavery was to be abolished, had omitted the primary point in his resolutions. His conduct reminded him of a person who built a very fine house, and discovered, after it was finished, that a material part of it was wanting. What, do you think it was, Mr. Speaker? Nothing less than the staircase.

Mr. Evans

justified the conduct of the missionary society, and said it was highly improper to charge them with promoting schemes which were likely to end in insurrection, bloodshed, and death.

Sir C. Forbes

said, that the missionaries, if not narrowly watched, would cause our expulsion, not only from the West, but from the East Indies. In that opinion he knew he was not singular: nay, he would venture to say, that the majority of the House were of the same sentiments, if they had only the candour to avow them.

Mr. Baring,

in explanation, said, that he had never charged the missionary society with fostering schemes that were likely to end in insurrection and murder. On the contrary, he thought that the missionaries were likely to effect much good, supposing them to steer clear of all projects of ameliorating the political condition of the slave.

On the question, that the petition be printed,

Mr. Wilberforce

said, he had not thrown out any reflections upon the collective population of the island of Barbadoes. He well knew that the sentiments entertained by the higher orders of the planters in Barbadoes with respect to the treatment of their slaves differed very materially from those entertained by the lower orders; but, unfortunately, the assembly of the island was so constituted, that the sentiments of the lower orders generally prevailed in it, and there by prevented any great improvement in the state of the slave population. He likewise said, that he was only performing an act of justice to lord C. Somerset, the governor at the Cape of Good Hope, in observing, that he had exerted himself in looking at the religious education of the slaves in that colony, even before the subject was placed under his consideration by the vote of that House. The charges which had been brought against the missionary society were supported by no proof. From the bottom of his soul he believed that no person connected with the missionary so ciety had been instrumental in exciting discontent amongst the negroes.

Mr. Baring

expressed his opinion that the minds of the members of the missionary society had become heated with respect to the subject of negro emancipation. They had organized establishments in every town in the kingdom, for the purpose of preparing petitions to parliament. The society viewed the West-India proprietors with the most deadly hostility, and had made up their minds to attain the object they aimed at, at the risk of creating a convulsion in the colonies. These were his opinions, and he would not shrink from declaring them. He imputed no improper motives to any gentleman in that House; but he could not help thinking that the hon. member for Bramber and some of his friends were incited to bring the question of slavery so frequently before the House, by some persons behind their backs.

Mr. Brougham

said, that so far from his hon. friend having brought forward motion after motion with respect to the question of slavery, this was the first time during the session, that he had introduced the subject. Neither had there been any petitions presented on the subject until the latter end of last session.

Ordered to be printed.