§ Mr. Fowell Buxton
then rose, and spoke to the following effect:—Sir, in rising to submit to the House my Motion respecting the Abolition of Negro Slavery, I beg, in the first instance, most sincerely to declare, that I do so without the slightest feeling of hostility towards the West-India interest, and without the slightest disposition to cast reproach upon them, or indeed upon any other persons. The West-India planters are involuntarily entangled in the existing 1409 system. They are engaged in it, not by choice, but by inheritance. Far be it from me to charge them with being destitute of the ordinary feelings of humanity I know among them many gentlemen of as high honour, of as great integrity, of as warm humanity, as any of those whom I address. There are many of these gentle-men who see the existing evils as clearly as any man; and who are anxious to remedy those evils as far as they can be remedied without inflicting personal ruin upon themselves, and beggary upon their families. In what I have to say, then, I do not wish to make one observation painful or reproachful to the individuals to whom I allude. I complain of the system to which they belong; and on that point I have no alternative but to speak fairly out. Sir, the complaint of the West-India proprietors is, that we take a single act, and that we infer from that a general and almost a universal system of oppression and cruelty towards the slaves. That, however, is not the argument which I mean to use. I utterly disclaim all reference to individual cases of atrocity. If it were necessary, I might cite an abundance of cases which would excite the astonishment and call down the loud disapprobation of the House. But this I disclaim. Nor will I allude to the painful fact, that when any act of enormity has been committed, it has seldom happened that the West-India proprietors have not adopted the cause of the criminal, and made his case their own. Those who have attended to this subject well know how prolific the West-India islands have been of the most enormous abuses. But it is not on those—it is not on the fact that those abuses have been vindicated and approved by the West-India proprietors, that I rest my case. My case is, that the whole slave-population of the West Indies are in a miserable condition. My case is, that the whole system pursued in the West Indies with respect to the slave-population is so destructive of their moral and physical welfare, that it ought to be abolished. I repeat, that it is not on those particular cases of cruelty which we all know do exist, that I ground my Motion, but on the general condition of the negro. Sir, it cannot be concealed, that there is considerable difficulty in arriving at the truth with respect to the real condition of the negro in the West Indies. One class of witnesses on the subject declare that the 1410 negroes in the West Indies are in a state of surpassing happiness; and that although, theoretically speaking, they may be subject to some inconveniences, those inconveniences are of no great amount, and are amply compensated by the positive and practical blessings which they enjoy. On the other hand it is stated, by witnesses of the highest character, that the compensation is nothing, and that the slave, even in his present improved state, is in the lowest state of moral debasement, and of physical wretchedness. Under this conflicting evidence, it would be extremely desirable if we could obtain any test on the subject; if we could obtain any full, fair, and unequivocal proof of the real state of the negro-population of the West Indies. There is such a test—the rate at which that population has increased or decreased. It is a doctrine admitted by all parties that, under all circumstances, except those of extreme misery, population must increase. Such is the law of nature, and it is conformable to the experience of all mankind. That law of increase maybe interrupted, but it can be interrupted only by causes of extreme misery. Now, I beg the attention of the House to this test. I presume it will be a satisfactory criterion to the hon. Gentlemen opposite. They complain of the difficulty of obtaining a hearing of their case. It must be advantageous to them, therefore, to have a test applied, the value of which cannot be comprehended by the unthinking, and can be estimated only by the thoughtful. It is, besides, a test, not applicable to the West Indies alone, but one of invariable reference. Sir, it has been said, that the strength of our case depends on popular feeling. I deny this. I appeal to reason alone. I will attempt no excitement; I will use no ad captandum topics; I will refer myself to no popular impressions. On facts, and on facts only I rely. Sir, we have in the West Indies twenty colonies. They are not all, however, sugar colonies. Four of them produce no sugar; and another a very small quantity. Whether or not the mortality in those four colonies was greater or smaller, I will not inquire. Fourteen colonies, however, remained. The question is, whether in those colonies the slave-population has increased, has been stationary, or has decreased? The answer is, it has not increased, it has not been stationary, it has decreased. Not only has it decreased, 1411 but it has decreased at a rate so rapid, that I confess it surprises me, and I am sure will astonish the House. In the last ten years the slave-population in our fourteen colonies has decreased by the number of 45,800 persons. The hon. Gentleman opposite shakes his head. I only wish he would investigate the fact. I will let him see the documents from the West Indies, on which I rely for my declaration, that, during the last ten years, fourteen colonies have lost 45,800 of their slave-population. If I do not prove, that there has been a great decrease, and that the decrease has been what I have stated, I shall prove nothing. In the first place I will in- stance the Island of Tobago—I cannot take a better example. It is a colony exceedingly well circumstanced. Ten years ago the female part of the slave-population in the Island of Tobago exceeded the male. It is a colony in which the hon. Gentleman opposite himself assumes, that the treatment of the slave has been merciful in the highest degree. In the year 1819, the slave-population of Tobago was 15,470; to which must be added during, the subsequent ten years the importation, to the number of 177, and from which must be deducted the exportation, to the number of twenty-seven, and the manumissions, to the number of 172—leaving the population, supposing no decrease had taken place in 1829, at 15,415. By the returns of that year, however, it appears that the slave-population of Tobago at that time amounted only to 12,556; being a decrease, in the ten years, of 2,892, or a sixth of the whole. I challenge inquiry into the exact accuracy of this statement. That is the fact: I make no appeal to the passions or to the feelings of the House; but I simply describe the destruction occasioned by the slave-system. What I have stated is a rate of destruction, which, if it be permitted to continue, will soon sweep away the whole of the black inhabitants of Tobago, and exterminate the whole negro-population of that Island. Sir, I believe the proprietors in the Island of Tobago are as respectable a body of men as any body of proprietors in the West Indies. I believe, that they arc as merciful in the treatment of their slaves as the difficulties of their situation permit them to be. In support of that opinion, I refer to the authority of the Governor of that Island, who in the year 1829, stated officially, "that there existed a liberal feeling 1412 with respect to the slaves, towards whom no motive existed for unnecessary-cruelty." I do not believe, that there have been any instances of unnecessary cruelty towards slaves in Tobago. I admit all that the hon. Gentlemen opposite maybe ready to say on that subject, and I acquit the planters of any disposition to treat the slaves with unnecessary cruelty. But, Sir, the more you raise the character of the planters, the more you must deprecate the system which, notwithstanding that character, has been productive of such pernicious effects. It appears that in spite of all the merciful disposition of the planters of Tobago, in ten years one-sixth of the slave-population of that island has perished. Although, therefore, there may have been no unnecessary oppression, it is clear that there has been a necessary oppression, extensively destructive of human life, and which ought to be put an end to. I repeat, that I do not appeal to the feelings or to the passions of the House, but to stubborn facts, incapable of contradiction. I will now refer to Demerara. The slave-population of Demerara in 1817 was 83,372; and taking into the calculation the exportation, the importation, and the manumissions, it should have been an equal number in 1829, but it was only 69,466; so that 13,906 had perished in the interval. At Trinidad there were, in 1816, 25,000 slaves, out of which number 6,000 died in twelve years. Why, Sir, this is a rate of mortality which, in a few years, would render the crowded city of London—would render the whole world —desolate. In one of these three colonies they were so well aware of the rapid diminution of the slave-population—the fact is the same in all three—but in one of them, Trinidad, the planters are so well aware of it, that, as the noble Lord opposite well knows, the planters of that island have endeavoured to repair the evil by a considerable illicit importation. The fact is, that in that island the slaves, as the late Mr. Marry at said, "die off like rotten sheep." Sir, if we allow this system to proceed, we are consenting to the extinction of the whole negro-population of the West Indies. In the three islands to which I have particularly alluded, a reduction has taken place in less than ten years of 22,000 out of 100,000. The whole slave-population of the West Indies is at present 45,800 less in number than it was ten years ago. Such are the facts. 1413 Unless I have forged the documents, which I presume will not be imputed to me, such are the facts. I proceed to state facts with respect to the Colonies generally, on which I am not able to detail numbers with so much precision as with respect to the three particular colonies to which I have already adverted. The main fact is, that since the abolition of the Slave Trade, 100,000, that is to say, a seventh part of the slave-population of the West Indies, has been destroyed. At that period the number was upwards of 700,000: ten years afterwards it was 650,000; it is now less than 600,000. If this be permitted to go on—if the House allow the continuance of such a system, I beg leave humbly to represent to them that they will sign the death-warrant of many hundreds of human beings. If there were no other prospect of the extinction of slavery, it would be found in the rapid extinction of the negro race. Sir, I have hitherto argued this question most unfairly towards my own case. I have argued it as if a population ought only to maintain its numbers. I have said nothing of the increase which ought to have taken place in the population. The law of nature is, that a population should increase—not that it should decrease, not that it should be stationary, but that it should increase. In all countries, except those in which the population are drained off by extraordinary circumstances, that law in variably operates. To avoid all possibility of confutation on the ground that I am comparing blacks with whites, that I am comparing the poor with the rich, that I am comparing the inhabitants of one soil and climate with the inhabitants of another, I will again refer to the colonies of Demerara and Trinidad. The free black and coloured population of Demerara, in 1811, amounted to 2,980; in 1825, to 4,700, being an increase of 1,720, or deducting the manumissions, of 1,282. While the black free-population thus increased at the rate of from 1,000 to 2,000, the black slave-population decreased at the rate of from 1,000 to 500. I might illustrate this position further by a reference to the Maroons of Jamaica; but I prefer an instance more conclusive in showing the uniform increase of free blacks, and the uniform decrease of blacks in a state of slavery. I allude to the Island of Hayti. While the population in the slave colonies has been unable to maintain its numbers, in the free colonies 1414 it has increased. It appears by official documents, that in the course of the last few years, that the French held the Island of St. Domingo, 100,000 negroes were imported into that colony, shewing that as slaves the population did not keep up its numbers, while the free-black population of Hayti, which in 1804 was only 423,000, was found twenty years afterwards to have increased to 935,000. Those are the two facts on which I mainly dwell. In slavery the blacks have not been able to maintain their numbers—in freedom they have doubled their numbers. In Demerara, blacks in slavery have decreased rapidly, —in Hayti blacks in freedom have increased rapidly. I ask the hon. Gentleman opposite for a satisfactory explanation why, in the Island of Trinidad, the free blacks increase in number two and a half per cent per annum, while the other blacks decrease in a similar proportion? and why in Hayti the free blacks more than doubled their numbers in twenty years, while all the negroes who are slaves are in a progress of extirpation? ["Look at Barbadoes."] The hon. Gentleman desires me to look at Barbadoes. Sir, there is a great difference between the two islands. Although the population of Barbadoes, as compared with the population of Trinidad, is 78,000 to 25,000, yet there is not a quarter of the sugar grown at the former island that there is at the latter. I do not mean to allude to the colonies which are small sugar-growers. One Trinidad merchant does as much business in the article of sugar, as four or five in Barbadoes. If the hon. Gentleman is anxious for more particular information on this fact I will give it him. The population of Barbadoes is 81,000—the population of Trinidad is 24,000: being only about a third. The average quantity of sugar exported annually from Trinidad is 394,000 hogsheads, while the average quantity of sugar exported annually from Barbadoes is only 298,000 hogsheads. These, Sir, are facts on which I defy contradiction. I have shown, in the first place, that in the fourteen West-India colonies to which I have alluded, there has been a decrease of population where there ought to have been an increase. I have shown, in the second place, that in the same colonies the free-black population has greatly increased. In the third place, I have instanced the case of Hayti in support of my argument. And with respect to Hayti, let it be remembered 1415 that the black inhabitants of that island are said to be in a state of great demoralization—that in that island there is no commerce, no cultivation of sugar, no civilization. The population is admitted to be slothful, sensual, and improvident. Vices such as these are inimical to population. It is, therefore, an additional fact, of great importance to my argument, that even under such disadvantageous circumstances the population of Hayti has greatly increased. If slavery, therefore, be not justly chargeable both for the decrease in population which it causes, and for the increase in population which it prevents, I wish to know with what any system is chargeable? The slave-population of the colonies ten years ago was 650,000, in round numbers. If the blacks in slavery had increased as the free blacks have increased, that population should have added 200,000 to its numbers; whereas that number has been diminished by 45,000. To keep pari passu with the free blacks, the blacks in slavery should have increased 20,000 a year; whereas they have decreased 4,000 a year. They should have increased fifty a day, whereas they have decreased ten a day. For this effect, this striking exception to the universal law of nature, there must be a cause. It could not occur by accident. What is the cause? I will tell the House what it is not. It is not, as it has been said to be, any disproportion between the sexes; any deficiency in the number of females. In 1814 the number of male slaves was 295,909; the number of female slaves, 300,930. The cause, therefore, of this decrease in the slave-population is not any disproportion between the sexes; it is not war, sweeping away its thousands, it is not climate, it is not soil. If any one thinks that the two last circumstances may operate injuriously upon the slave-population, I ask him why, under the same circumstances, the free-black population has so much increased? Sir, the real cause is the forced labour in the sugar colonies, and nothing else. The law of nature would be too strong for any other cause. It is too strong for climate, witness Bencoolen. It is too strong for war, witness Africa. It is too strong for savage life, witness the Maroons of Jamaica. It is too strong for vice and misery, witness Hayti. All such impediments yield to the law of nature; but the law of nature yields to the cultivation of sugar 1416 in the sugar colonies. Where the blacks are free they increase. Climate, soil, war, vice, misery, are too feeble to stem the current of nature. But let there be a change in only one circumstance; let the population be the same in every respect, only let them be slaves instead of freemen, and the current is immediately stopped. It is forced labour in the sugar colonies, and nothing else that has so destructive an influence on the population. That influence, so fatal to human life, is confined to the field slaves—it does not affect the domestic slaves. It is a remarkable fact that the children of slaves do not feel this influence until after a certain time of life. Up to ten years of age the number of deaths is not larger than a just proportion; they then enter on the cultivation of sugar, and the consequence which I have described ensues. These, Sir, are my proofs that forced labour is the cause of the evil. There now comes another important consideration. Why is the cultivation of sugar by the slaves so destructive to them? A West-Indian of no mean authority—a merchant of twenty-eight years' standing in the Island of Trinidad— in giving his evidence before the West- India Committee, let out the secret. It is the intensity of their labour. He was asked if free labourers could not cultivate sugar? His answer was, no, if they were expected to work sixteen or eighteen hours in the day, like the slaves; but if they were expected to work only ten hours in the day, they could. According to Mr. Mitchell, a degree of physical exertion is required from the slaves which the human constitution cannot endure. Mortal diseases are the necessary consequences in those countries of such intense and unrequited toil. Sir, I am dealing fairly with this question. I do not say, that the destruction which takes place among the slaves is attributable to the whip. I have heard some good friends to abolition out of doors talk of the whip as the cause. I do not believe that it is the whip; but I believe that it is oppressive labour. Terrible accounts have been received within the last day or two of the mortality among the slave-population. But, Sir, although I do not say that the cause of the decrease of the slave-population is flogging, the case is bad enough with out that, yet I must observe, that punishments take place in the West Indies with a frequency which it is painful to notice. In Trinidad, which was an 1417 ameliorated colony, and in which a check has been given to severity, there were 11,131 plantation punishments in two years. In Demerara there were in that time 21,000 cases of punishment. Notwithstanding all the Orders in Council, such are the facts. I do not mention them to excite horror at the extent of torture which is thus inflicted; although it might justly be a subject of consideration whether we ought to tolerate a system under which 21,000 punishments, averaging twenty lashes each, have been inflicted in two years in one colony; but I mention them to show what the system of slavery is under its best and most mitigated form. If such severity be necessary, in what a degraded condition must the unfortunate negroes be placed! if not necessary, words cannot express, or the art of man conceive, the wickedness of those by whom it is inflicted. I must say, however, that from all the accounts which have reached me, I believe that such is the present condition and character of the slave-population of the West Indies, that punishment is found but too frequently necessary. I will not adduce any instances of individual cruelty, although it will be admitted there is at this moment some temptation—nor will I refer to any particular murder, because I think our cause has rather been injured than served by bringing such things forward in too prominent a manner. But, Sir, I take my stand upon the fact, that there has been an immense destruction of human life in our sugar colonies. It is a melancholy fact, that 45,000 innocent persons were found to have perished at the end of ten years. Having now briefly and temperately, but I fear, feebly explained my views of the subject, it only remains for me to say, that I have not brought forward this Motion from any feeling of hostility to the West-Indian interests, or from any party or personal motives, but from the conviction that there is a destruction of human life going on, which demands the attention of the Government. I hope the Resolutions I intend to submit will appear temperate, although I declare myself no friend to ameliorating measures, in which I have no faith. I do not think that by such measures the mortality can be repressed. Besides, I must tell hon. Gentlemen that I look upon the enslaving of our fellow-men as a crime of the deepest dye; and I therefore consider that it should be dealt 1418 with, not by palliatives, but by destroying it altogether. I accordingly felt it my duty, in spite of painful obstacles, to bring the question broadly before the House. That there are many obstacles I have said, and amongst the most considerable of these is to be found the argument so frequently and strongly urged—that property should be held sacred and left untouched. But have we not already acted too long in obedience to this principle? Have we not, within the last ten years, sacrificed 45,000 innocent men to the respect for property and to vested rights? Are we to go on in this course till the whole race of slaves is exterminated? No, Sir, however cautious we may be in dealing with property, I say it is not to be protected at all hazards, and at the expense of all crime. There is a greater consideration than the protection of property—that is, the preservation of the lives of innocent men. The men exposed to perish are British subjects, and we are bound to save them, however useful the system that would destroy them may be to individuals. The hon. Member concluded by moving the following Resolution:—"That in the Resolutions of the 15th of May, 3823, the House distinctly recognized if. to be their solemn duty to take measures for the abolition of Slavery in the British Colonies; that in the eight years which have since elapsed, the Colonial Assemblies have not taken measures to carry the Resolutions of the House into effect; that deeply impressed with a sense of the impropriety, inhumanity, and injustice, of Colonial Slavery, this House will proceed to consider of and adopt the best means of effecting its abolition throughout the British dominions."
§ Lord Morpeth
, after saying, that, in seconding the Motion, he would imitate the moderation of his hon. friend who brought it forward, proceeded to observe, that being so closely connected with a Cabinet Minister, it might be supposed he was acquainted with the course which Government proposed to pursue upon this question; but the fact was, that he came forward without the authority or knowledge of the Administration. He had even abstained from inquiring how they intended to deal with his hon. friend's proposition, in order to leave his independence and separateness still more indisputable. But he had another and more close connexion in the House than the one to which he 1419 alluded, and which qualified him to come forward on this occasion—his connexion with the county he had the honour to represent. The 500 petitions he had presented, the general and ardent feeling, the uplifted voice, of the county of York, urged him forward—that county which selected and still referred to Mr. Wilber-force as its favourite Representative. That feeling he shared, and he adopted the Resolutions of his hon. friend—Resolutions which he considered eminently deserving the consideration of the House; for while they did not abandon the high ground, or give up any principle, they did not rush with a blind and uncalculating zeal to a decision which in its suddenness might be ruinous. The principle was upheld, but the steps by which it was to be carried into effect were consigned to the responsibility of Government and the careful wisdom of Parliament. The Resolution invited deliberation; but proclaimed it to be the duty of the House to do something, and pledged it in the face of mankind to perform that duty. There was not, he considered, any difference between the state of things at present and in 1823; if, therefore, they commanded then, they should execute now. Although he admitted the question was involved in much embarrassment and difficulty, yet the system was founded on a principle of such intolerable wrong that they were compelled to meet it. The difficulties and embarrassments he had said were great, but by their faintheartedness they had increased them. If they would, on the contrary, only grapple with them boldly, they would be assuredly reduced. In a letter addressed to the right hon. member for Tamworth (for the contents of which he was not of course answerable), many difficulties of a strange nature were pointed out. Mr. Gladstone, a Liverpool merchant, said in this, "Do not emancipate the children, because, if you do, you will excite dissatisfaction in the minds of the adult slaves." But he (Lord Morpeth) asked how it was possible to get rid of that as long as negroes were permitted to get children? Mr. Gladstone again said, "Do not fix a period for emancipating the negroes, for if you do, they will be impatient, and you have no reason to give for not emancipating them immediately." How could this ever be got rid of until the slaves were convinced that liberty was not more advantageous than slavery? Again it was argued, that their 1420 African constitution and tropical climate were a great obstacle to their emancipation; but he never would admit, that the want of qualifications which slavery could not engender, should be urged as an argument against these unfortunate persons. And as to climate, he asked did it affect the energies of Toussaint or Bolivar? He would say with the poet—Unmanly thought! what seasons can controul,What fancied zone can circumscribe the soul,Which, conscious of the source from whence she springs,By Reason led—on Resolution's wings,Spite of her frail companion, dauntless goesO'er Libya's deserts and through Zembla's snows?Mr. Gladstone farther said, in respect to slavery, that it was not for him to attempt to determine the system of Almighty God, but it appeared He had permitted slavery in certain climates since the origin of society. Yes, and Almighty God permitted the Inquisition, and permitted Pagan darkness, and Mahommedan fanaticism, and Christian bigotry, and the scourge of tyrants, and the rage of multitudes, and the horrors of war; but far be from him the philosophy which inferred from the fact of the permission the possibility of the sanction. Touching the question of property and vested rights, he stated that he had no objection to a rational compensation. But he wished to see the present system abolished as speedily as possible, for he considered it alike injurious to both parties interested—to the slave in his unrewarded toil and unrequited wrongs, and to the planter, because it confers upon him a power, of the merciful and discreet administration of which human nature is not capable. This made him despair of ameliorating measures flowing from the spontaneous bounty of the local legislatures. Their modes of thinking on these subjects were different from ours—they partook of the same nature, and shared the same passions and sympathies with ourselves; but he knew that if even we, ourselves, were free from the operation of law, and custom, and opinion, with the spirit of society, running in one direction, we could not fail to be affected by it. The planters, in fact, had their eyes not averted, but blinded; and their hearts not hardened, but deadened to the system which they saw pursued around them. For his part, he considered the system laboured under the displeasure of the Omnipotent. He therefore exhorted them to undertake, in a sober spirit, the great work 1421 of national reparation, and in the spirit of Holy Writ, given under both dispensations, he would say, let us bind up the broken heart — let us proclaim liberty to the captive, and open the doors of the prison of him who is confined. Let us strive that from those who live under our rule no sigh should reach us. Let us give them that liberty which is their birth-right here, and endeavour to bestow upon them that religion which may be their blessing hereafter. Let us make to rise around us the anthems of the free in the confident hope that we shall be conferring a blessing on both portions of the empire—the colonies and the mother country—and that we shall receive an abiding and abounding reward. And that, at last, happen what may, we shall enjoy the proud consolation of having done that which seemed to be our duty and we may trust the event elsewhere.
Mr. Keith Douglas
said, he was glad that, on the present occasion, the subject was treated with more temper than in former instances, and he hoped the same tone would continue to mark the discussion and the determination of the House; for, unless they were actuated by principles of reason and justice, it was impossible that the result to which they should come could be regulated by that proper spirit which ought to distinguish their measures. The hon. Member now pursued a new course in treating this question. He said he would not cite any particular instances of cruelty or oppression. This was certainly a new mode, for on former occasions he had made those points form a prominent part of the statement by which he had endeavoured to induce the House to enter into his views of the subject. He said that the lives which had been lost by the cruel use of the whip should not form part of the statement which he laid before the House. With regard to the amelioration of the condition of the slave-population, as proposed by the Resolutions of 1823, the hon. member for Weymouth said, he would throw that object and those resolutions out of view altogether, and come at once to the question of the immediate emancipation of the slaves; and that proposition he grounded upon the one general point, that the state of slave labour in the sugar colonies was such as to risk the lives of the slaves. Upon the general assumption of the cruelty practised by the proprietors towards the slaves, the hon. Member 1422 founded the case upon which he called upon the House to take measures for the immediate emancipation of the whole slave-population. He was prepared to meet the hon. Gentleman upon these grounds. He should have considered, that the most consistent course would have been, to move for a Committee to inquire into the circumstances upon which he grounded the inferences which he drew. That would be the true means of ascertaining their correctness. But the hon. Member had contented himself with the authority of his own assertions. He had mentioned that in Demerara, Trinidad, and Tobago, a great decrease had taken place in the numbers of slaves; but the hon. Member, to make that argument of any avail, ought to have produced returns of the number of births, and the relative number of the sexes, as well as of the ages of the different populations, at the two periods he had referred to. In some colonies, he believed that there was an excess of females above males, but he also believed that, in a great number of estates in the colonies, the hon. Member would find a gradual progress taking place towards the balance which a settled state of society would produce. He could give one instance of an estate, where the numbers, having been 189 four years ago, had now increased to 204, and he believed wherever the population consisted of nearly an equal number of the sexes the same increase was taking place, and that the population was rising towards a regular state. Looking at Demerara at this moment, there were 37,000 males to 32,000 females. It could not be expected that the population should maintain the regular proportion of a settled state of society. In Trinidad the proportion was pretty much the same; in the more lately settled colony of the Mauritius there were 47,000 males to 29,000 females. At the Cape of Good Hope the numbers were 21,000 males, and 14,000 females. [Mr. F. Buxton intimated, that he had excluded the Mauritius and the Cape of Good Hope altogether from his calculation.] The references which he had already made were sufficient for his purpose. But if they were to look to those places where society had attained a more settled basis, they would find the relative proportions somewhat different. Let him look at Barbadoes for example. How did the case stand there? 37,000 males, and 44,000 females, was the population. It should be remarked 1423 that that was one of our oldest-settled colonies, where the population had attained the proportion of a regular state of society. By the returns made in the year 1826, the population was 78,000; and by the last returns, up to 1829, it amounted to 81,000. Thus in that colony there had been in three years an increase of 3,500. If he went to St. Christopher's, which was an old settled colony, he should find an increase of the same description;—from J 8,000 the population had risen to nearly 19,500. In the Island of St. Lucia an increase had taken place in a similar proportion. He wished the hon. Gentleman had moved for a Committee to inquire into the intricacies of this part of the question. It would be the means of ascertaining the true state of the facts, and of doing away with those horrid statements which Were so distressing, not only to persons here, but also in the colonies. So far from opposing such a motion, he should have been happy to second it. The hon. Gentleman asked how it was to be accounted for that so great a decrease took place in the numbers of the field slaves, while it was not the case amongst the domestic slaves? He (Mr. K. Douglas) would observe, that the domestic slaves were constantly receiving increase from other quarters. But upon what authority did the hon. Gentleman assume, that there was that difference in the proportions of the population between the field slaves and domestic slaves? How did he attempt to prove this? He offered no other authority or proof than his own assertion. He thought the Resolutions of the hon. Gentleman by no means in accordance with his speech; and, although he should most willingly have supported a motion for a Committee, he could not approve of the Resolutions now before the House.
§ Lord Althorp
said, I feel it will be convenient that at this early period of the discussion, I should state the line which his Majesty's Government propose to adopt upon the present occasion. I need not say for myself, that I have always been a friend to the Abolition of Slavery, —that I have always voted for the Abolition of Slavery—and have always felt the greatest anxiety that the period should arrive when the emancipation of the slave might be safely undertaken. The hon. member for Weymouth says, he will have nothing to do with ameliorating measures —measures for the improvement of the 1424 slave-population; and if they were indeed intended to effect nothing but amelioration, I should be inclined to agree with him. But the object in view is, first to place the slaves in an improved condition —and the ultimate object is, to set them in that state of freedom to which we always desired to raise them. It is superfluous to say, that the question is of a most delicate and important nature. The hon. member for Weymouth has chosen the right mode in which to bring forward this question. He has made his statement with great moderation, and in the most temperate manner. This is the mode in which it should be discussed. It is not enough that the question should be brought forward in a temperate manner, and that the Resolution proposed should be temperate; but we should also take care not to do or say anything which might cause the danger we are anxious to avoid, and which intemperance in discussion might produce. I confess I have an objection to the hon. Gentleman's Motion. The last Resolution expresses the intention of the House forthwith to adopt measures for the emancipation of the slaves. Certainly, I am not prepared to go this length. From all that I know of the slave-population, they are not in a fit state for emancipation. And, Sir, another objection of mine to the hon. Member's Motion is, that I consider it too vague. It is not sufficiently specific, and is therefore liable to misconstruction. If we were now to say forthwith, it would be impossible to avoid raising expectations which would be injurious to the West-India interests. On the other side, I admit that great delay has taken place. Eight years ago a Resolution was passed, declaring that the slave-population should be ultimately emancipated. In consequence of this Resolution, Orders in Council were issued to carry its spirit into effect; but, up to this time, in none of the Colonial Legislatures have the recommendations sent out been adopted. It is impossible, in my opinion, consequently, that the House can stand still; I think, however, my hon. friend ought not to ask us to go farther than in 1823; we then determined to take measures to ameliorate the condition of the slaves, with a view to their ultimate emancipation. We are nearly in the same situation now that we were in then, be- cause the recommendations contained in the Resolution have not been tried. Some 1425 new regulations, it is true, have been made by the local legislatures, but the vital recommendations have not been adopted, except in those colonies which are under the immediate control of the Crown. Sir, we cannot stand still; I admit we must adopt some measures, but, I contend that they ought not to be adopted, without due notice. Often have I heard Mr. Canning say from this bench, that fair notice had been given to the colonists, that unless they voluntarily adopted the Resolutions, it would be necessary for the Government and this House to take some strong measures to enforce their determination. The time, Sir, I think, is come, to give notice to the colonists by other measures than those of mere recommendation. We must adopt some means to convince them we are in earnest, and will persevere in the steps we have re- commended, and satisfy the country that the Resolutions we passed were not intended to be a dead letter on our Table. On the other hand, I do not think the West-Indian interests should be surprised, after so long an interval, if Parliament should at length take steps to carry its will into effect. There are two modes by which this may be done; it may be done by direct legislative interference in colonial affairs—we may pass laws in the Imperial Parliament to impose regulations on the colonies. But, I admit, this is a step which I should wish very much to delay, although, ultimately, if the colonies persevere, it will be the bounden duty of Parliament to act on this principle. The best mode in which I can express myself is, to state to the House certain Resolutions which I shall- propose for the adoption of the House; for, after what has passed, I think it will be admitted, that I have said enough to show, I do not agree with the Resolution proposed by the hon. Member. I agree with the object which the hon. Member has in view, but not with the Resolution by which he proposes to effect it. I shall feel it my duty, therefore, to negative that Resolution; but, after having done so, I shall move others to the following purport—"That this House, in its Resolutions of the 15th of May, 1823, distinctly recapitulated the evils under which the slaves in the colonies laboured, and the duty of the colonies to take such decisive measures to relieve the slave-population, and to prepare the negroes for participating in the 1426 privileges enjoyed by the other subjects of those colonies. That in those colonies in which there are no Legislative Assemblies, laws have been promulgated for ameliorating and improving the condition of the slave population, but in those which have Legislative Assemblies, though eight years have elapsed since this House passed the Resolutions referred to, and though these colonies have been repeatedly urged to enact similar laws, no such laws have been enacted, nor have any measures been adopted to give effect to the Resolutions of this House, to the urgent opinions of the Government, or to the wishes of the British nation." And then, Sir, I shall propose a mode in which the colonies will find, that they have an interest to adopt the proposition before made by the House. I do not wish to interfere directly with their proceedings by a legislative enactment, but I think we ought to make it their interest to do what we require, and to show them that we will take active steps to enforce obedience to the wishes of the British nation. The Resolution I shall propose for this purpose is as follows:—" That in the rate of duties levied on the produce of the labour of slaves, such a distinction shall be made as will operate in favour of those colonies in which the Resolutions of this House have been adopted, and the wishes of the Government complied with." This is a proposition which will make it the interest of the colonies to adopt the measures that have been recommended by the Legislature; it is a proposition that calls on them for a compliance with our wishes, by making an appeal to their interests. This appeal, I admit, would not be a fair or justifiable proceeding, if we asked from the colonies anything that was unreasonable; but we ask nothing of the sort—nothing which it has not already been proved might be safely adopted—nothing which has not already been carried into effect with the utmost degree of security in the Crown colonies, and which, indeed, has worked so well at St. Lucia, that that colony has sent up an address to the Government, expressing their warm approbation of the measures which the Government has adopted, though it states at the same time, that on the first appearance of these measures, they were viewed with some degree of prejudice. I know it may be objected to the measure which I; have just had the honour of stating to 1427 the House, that it will bear more upon those West-India proprietors who are resident here, than on those who are settled in the colonies; and that the proprietors here are most anxious to adopt the recommendations of this House, but have no power of compelling the adoption of those recommendations by the colonial assemblies. I cannot conceive that the West-India proprietors resident in this country are so totally without power and influence over the colonists themselves, as that objection seems to imply. But even if I could suppose this to be true, the course I propose must operate upon the residents in colonies themselves; and by giving a worse market to those who will not adopt our Resolutions, we shall be sure to affect both the proprietors in this country and in the colonies. I am ready to say at once, that I regret much to be obliged to press upon the West-India proprietors in this country, but. we must resolve on some measure of this kind; and the course I propose will only injuriously affect those who refuse to adopt the measure we have recommended; for, with respect to others, it would be an ad- vantage, and the colonies that are determined to resist the expressed wishes of this House, will alone be affected by the pressure of the regulations I propose to adopt. It will be said, perhaps, that these Resolutions, like those we have before passed, will have no effect. If so, then we must take other steps; but I wish to try them in the first instance, as the milder course, as a measure that may be put in advance of others of a stronger kind, to see at least what we can do by the simple intimation of our resolution to carry our wishes into effect; and if this measure does not pro- duce the desired end, we must proceed further. I prefer this proposition to that of my hon. friend, for to a certain extent it has a different object in view, and at the present moment I think we ought to urge nothing more than an amelioration of the condition of the slaves, with a view to their ultimate emancipation. The propositions which have been pressed upon all the colonies have not been adopted, except in those belonging to the Crown, and some of the most important of them— such as the compulsory emancipation, and the institution of the office of Protector of Slaves—have not been adopted in any of the colonies having a Legislature of their own, and not being dependent on the Crown. 1428 The creation of the office of Protector of Slaves is a measure of a most important kind, and the adoption of it. is one great step towards a practical amelioration of the condition of the slaves. Allusion has been made by the hon. member for Dumfriesshire to the appointment of a Committee to inquire into the state of the negroes in the colonies. If I rested my case upon the argument of their condition, and on that alone, I should say, that a Committee might be a fit and proper mode for attaining the object in view; j but I do not rest my case on that argument alone. I think it is impossible to say, that a state of slavery, whether productive of a diminution in the amount of population, or of whatever other evil it may be productive, is not to be regretted, and there is no man in this House, who will stand up and say, that it is a state which it is not desirable to get rid of. Every exertion ought to be made to rid us of its presence. Of the evils of its existence we are assured, and I do not, therefore, see the advantage of appointing a Committee of Inquiry. The point on which I put the case is, that these Resolutions to which I have referred, were unanimously agreed to eight years ago—I put it on the Orders in Council, and on the adoption of those Orders in the Crown colonies—an adoption which has been followed by nothing but the most benefacial effects — and finally, on the fact that these Resolutions have been pressed upon the other colonies; but in them they have not been adopted. These are facts, Sir, which we do not require a Committee of inquiry to make out. We know what are the laws that have been adopted in the Crown colonies, and what are those that are in force in those which possess Legislative Assemblies; and I, therefore, think, that a Committee of Inquiry would be useless, and that this House, if it consults its own dignity, and the wishes of the country, will do nothing but insist on the enforcement of the measures which they have desired should be adopted.
§ Mr. Burge
observed, that this was a question surrounded with difficulties, and one to the consideration of which that House came under no circumstances of advantage, since they knew nothing of the state of society in colonies at a distance of 4,000 miles from the place at which they were debating. The importance of the question must be manifest, 1429 when it was considered that the colonial produce equalled an amount of sixteen millions, and all the property there was at stake when it was proposed to be effected by legislative enactments in this country. The hon. Member who opened the discussion wished for immediate emancipation, but the noble Lord opposite differed from him on that point, and desired to proceed with greater caution, proposing to effect the ultimate object of emancipation by the means of gradual improvement. A great many charges had been made against the colonists, but he denied that they took pleasure in cruelty, or that they administered the rules of justice by punishing crimes only when they were committed by particular persons. He insisted that some inquiry was necessary before that House could pretend to legislate on this subject, for they knew absolutely nothing of the real condition of the slaves at the present moment. There had been no real inquiry since 1799, and, therefore, the House was not in a state to pronounce judgment on the subject. How was it possible to pretend, that in the short space of twenty-two years, a change of the most extensive kind had taken place in the condition and character of the negroes, for twenty-two years only had elapsed since their civilization had really begun, by the abolition of that infamous slave-trade, which had so long disgraced this country, and which the colonists never wished to be continued? He repeated, that it had never been the wish of the colonists that that trade should be continued: it was the trade, not of the colonists, but of those merchants who had embarked their capital in the traffic of slaves. The colonists of Jamaica were particularly anxious for the abolition of the slave-trade; and if they had succeeded in obtaining their wish some years earlier, the condition of the slaves would have been by this time much more ameliorated. He begged to remind the hon. Gentleman who had introduced this discussion, that the Resolution he had proposed went much farther than those of Mr. Canning, in 1823; for that right hon. Gentleman had never looked forward to anything like an immediate emancipation, and he referred the question of compulsory emancipation to the decision of the colonial legislature. Had the wise efforts of the colonial legislatures—he more particularly alluded to Jamaica, with which he was best acquainted 1430 —been permitted to be carried into effect, the condition of the slave-population would have been far different from the present, and far other than the rash propositions of the hon. Member and his party could possibly lead to. Only the Colonial legislature could superintend with advantage the workings of any plan intended to improve the negro-population; for they were not only best acquainted with the condition and habits of that population, but had the deepest interest in its well-being. The hon. Member and the noble Lord opposite had told them what had been done in the Crown colonies, but the House ought to recollect that these colonies could not be properly compared with the others, on account of the peculiar differences of their extent, and the amount of their population. He must say, that no fallacy could be more mischievous and unjust to the slaves themselves, than to argue, because certain experiments had been tried in Trinidad and other small islands with success, therefore, they might with equal ease and advantage be extended to Jamaica, and the other large independent colonies. For instance, in Trinidad, where slave manumission had been successfully carried into effect under certain regulations, the slaves were familiarized with the principle and conditions of manumission — for such manumission was a part of the old Spanish law, which had obtained in the island before it came into our possession. Therefore such an experiment would not be attended with all that tumultuous excitement which might rationally be expected from abruptly announcing to the slave a compulsory right of manumission. Besides, the island was so small, it could, so to speak, be compassed in a morning's ride, that there would be little difficulty in applying a prompt remedy to any evil that might arise from the attempt to effect a great change in the habits of the slave-population, as there would exist little difficulty in superintending the operations of any plan to which it might be expedient to give a trial. But the case was very different with a large and populous colony like Jamaica,—an island 150 miles long, and containing upwards of 4,000,000 of acres. In such a place there could not possibly exist an equal facility to arrest the evils which the numbers and character of the population would tend to multiply. The matter, then, evidently, had better be intrusted to the local legislatures, 1431 who not only eagerly acted upon every suggestion of Parliament and the Government to improve the condition of the negro-population, but actually went beyond their instructions, in extending the benefits of freedom to the slaves in the different islands. It had been said, he was aware, that such was not the case,—that the local legislatures had neglected the admonitions of the colonial authorities resident in the mother country: but what was the fact? Did Mr. Canning's celebrated Resolutions of 1823 insist upon compulsory manumission? Did Lord Bathurst's subsequent circular point it out to immediate adoption by the Colonial legislatures? By no means; both wisely placed a discretionary power in the hands of those legislatures which had never been used, let the hon. Member and his party assert what they would, but for the benefit of the negro; and he would ask, were the rights of the people of Jamaica to be sacrificed to comply with the wishes of pseudo-zealots? Was the property of the West-Indian planters to be the only one which the law could not protect? And was not the slave a species of freehold property? [marks of dissent.] He defied any man to deny the fact, and he, therefore, would again ask, was the owner to give up his freehold right in the slave without compensation? ["hear" and "Oh! oh. "] Hon. Members might exclaim, but if the law of the land, and usage, and statute upon statute, bestowed and guaranteed a right of property, the West-India planter had a freehold right in the negro slave. This law and usage might, if they liked be bad, and ought to be altered, but it was law and usage; and though it might answer the purposes of the moment of those who trafficked in public clamour to assert a contrary doctrine on the public hustings, he would appeal to the deliberate judgments of the impartial and enlightened, whether, so far as statutes and law conferred a right of property, the owner of a slave did not possess such a freehold right in his services? They might say, that such a law and such statutes should be no longer permitted to exist—that they were based in injustice—but they could not deny the fact. They might repeal those statutes,—they had it in their power to destroy the institutions of centuries,— they might deprive the West-Indian colonists of their property; but if they did so, where, he asked, would be their boasted 1432 justice? But he did not anticipate such results,—the rather, as the Jamaica legislature had given the most unquestionable proof of the perfect good faith and earnest sincerity of its efforts to improve the condition of the negro-population so as to admit them, with permanent advantage to themselves, and the colonists, and the empire, to the entire possession of the privileges of British subjects. This, that legislature had done by removing in the first instance all those obstacles which were in the way of the emancipation of the slave-population. In the United States, for example, the distinction of colour was found to be almost insurmountable in the way of raising the negro to a civil equality with the white. But this obstacle had been removed altogether by the Jamaica legislature; and in doing so, it had contributed more to ameliorate the condition of the negro-population than all the Orders in Council and Acts of Parliament which had ever received the sanction of that House. It was in evidence in the Colonial Office, that he was no friend to slavery, for he had zealously applied himself, when filling an official situation in Jamaica, to ameliorating the condition of the slaves in that island, and the local legislature was, and still is, actuated by the same beneficent spirit. It had been a question as to the best mode of effecting the freedom of the slave, and it had been determined on by the Jamaica legislature, that to hold a small portion of property, (and they were aware how easy a bit of paper or parchment-right of property was bestowed,) entitled the holder of a slave to demand his freedom,—thus opening the door to his obtaining that freedom, as he was prepared to appreciate its fruits. Besides this, great exertions had been made to extend the means of religious instruction to all classes of the negro-population; the number of clergymen had been increased, and several houses of worship had been built to effect this desirable object. Another great benefit, in the conferring of which the Jamaica Legislature had not only acted in obedience to the resolutions of that House, but had actually gone beyond them in favour of the negro-population,—this was the admissibility of the slave to give evidence even against his employer. It might be recollected that Mr. Canning's resolution had made the owner an exception to the evidence of a slave; but, as he had stated, the local 1433 legislature bad extended the right of giving evidence without any exception whatever. In addition to these excellent arrangements, a bill, now on its way to this country, had passed the Jamaica legislature, for facilitating as much as possible the admission of the slaves to a state of freedom. And after these facts, corroborated as they were by the statements of respectable clergymen of the Established Church, was it too much to ask that House to repose confidence in the local legislatures—the persons best accquainted with the wants of the colony, and most interested in their properties? He asked, were not clergymen of the Church of England as trustworthy, as much to be depended upon for zeal in the cause of truth and justice, as the Missionaries of a body who had arrayed themselves in black hostility to the West-India planters —of a body proverbially unscrupulous in misrepresentations and even in calumny, to effect any object they proposed to themselves, and which had left untried no means by which they could poison the public mind against the holders of West-Indian property, as men bereft of the best feelings of humanity? He must observe too, that sufficient time had not been afforded for the operation of the Order in Council of April, 1830, in Demerara and Berbice, to warrant their extending them to Jamaica and the other larger Islands. The circumstances of the places were so different, that it did not follow, that because a plan succeeded in Demerara, or Berbice, or St. Lucia, or some other small place with a comparatively small population, that therefore it might with equal ease and advantage be tried in a large and populous country like Jamaica. He repeated over and over—and he appealed to the resident clergy of the Established Church for the fact—that the local legislature had left untried no measure for the amelioration of the negro-population, compatible with the interests of the colony; and would promote, as far and as soon as was in its power, their admission to a state of perfect civil freedom. "But," said the hon. member for Weymouth, "don't trust to the local Legislatures, emancipate the slaves yourselves at once; for if you wait for them, the negro is condemned to eternal slavery." But why this declamatory appeal to the mere prejudices of his hearers? Were they, in obedience to such a wild proposition, to shut their eyes to history, 1434 and, contrary to the uniform succession of cause and effect, and the very principles of the social Union, expect a great miracle in the case of the negro slave? The same hon. Member had dwelt much on the diminution within the last few years of the numbers of the negroes, as a physiological proof of the evils of slavery; but the hon. Member should recollect that the problem of the ratio of increase of the negro-population of our West-Indian colonies, had not had a fair trial; for that in which the diminution had taken place was not born in those colonies, but had been brought there through the channel of the now-exploded slave traffic; and that they must wait till a negro generation, born in the West-Indies and thereby inured to its climate and habits, should have grown up and had time to multiply, before they should hazard any assertions as to the tendency of the condition of the slaves to abridge the duration of life. In this and other points connected with the improvement of the condition of our negro-population, the best course was, to co-operate with the local Legislatures, and not to be influenced by the misstatements of a party not very precise in their assertions. He could assure his Majesty's Government that whatever information they might have received to the contrary was erroneous, and likely to deceive them. He felt himself bound to complain of the very extraordinary manner in which the hon. Gentleman had blended together the population of the colonies, calculating one portion of it at one time at the highest, and another portion of it at another time at the lowest possible rate. He believed that the lowest rate gave the slave-population at 700,000; whereas the hon. Gentleman had taken it at 600,000 for the whole fourteen colonies. He denied, that the decrease in the slave-population had been any thing like that which the hon. Gentleman had represented it, or that the increase of the free-population had reached any thing like the amount to which the hon. Gentleman had raised it. Besides, there were several reasons why the free-population should increase faster than the slave-population besides those which the hon. Gentleman had stated. The free-population was habituated to the climate, the slave-population was not; and that circumstance was sufficient in itself to account for the comparative increase of the free beyond that of the slave-population. If the population 1435 returns were accurate, the difference of the rate of increase between the two classes of the population might be accounted for; but he doubted the accuracy of the population returns, for he knew that in the more populous colonies it was matter of extreme difficulty to get a correct census of the population taken. Having made these remarks on the speech of the hon. Gentleman, he would proceed to state the objections which he felt to the resolutions proposed by the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He thought that no one would deny, that the colonists, as the subjects of his Majesty, were entitled to the protection of his Majesty's Government. But, when he saw the resolutions which were now proposed by Ministers,—resolutions which asserted that the colonial Legislatures had done nothing at all to ameliorate the condition of the slave,— he thought that the colonists had reasonable grounds to complain that the resolutions did not set forth how far they had carried into effect the instructions contained in the Order in Council of 1823. He had also another objection to these resolutions. There was a strong likelihood on the face of them that the noble Lord was preparing to abandon the policy which had received the unanimous approval of both Houses of Parliament in 1823,— which had received confirmation from them both in 1824,—and which had again been sanctioned by them in 1826. When he saw so much of the resolutions of 1823 taken up on the present occasion as was calculated to throw odium on the colonial Legislatures, and so much of them omitted as recognised the rights of property and the consideration due to the well-being of the slave, he felt himself justified in asking, first, whether the policy of 1823 was to be departed from; and next, if it was not, why was such a sacrifice to be made to public clamour as was shown in the present resolutions? He apprehended that, from the observations which had already fallen from him, the House would feel, that it could not, consistently with the resolutions of 1823, consent to the resolutions proposed either by the hon. member for Weymouth, or by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, inasmuch as the resolutions proposed by both of them involved an abandonment of the policy of 1823, and gave a decisive opinion on the measures of the colonial Legislatures, without even knowing what those measures 1436 were. The House was called upon to come per saltum to a decision against the colonial assemblies, and to say that the laws which they had passed for the amelioration of their slave-population were not adequate for their professed object, without knowing what the laws were which those assemblies had enacted. There was also another provision in these resolutions to which he must object. The noble Lord, standing upon those broad constitutional principles which it was only natural to expect from him, had said, "that he would not pretend to legislate in the House of Commons for the internal condition of the colonies; but that he would by a fiscal regulation compel the colonial Legislatures to adopt these resolutions." What, would the noble Lord impose upon them external taxation, in order to enforce an internal regulation? If the noble Lord felt that, acting upon sound constitutional principles, he could not call on the House of Commons to legislate at once for the internal regulations of the colonies, would he condescend to apply external taxation to their trade, their revenues, and their importations, not for the sake of raising a fund for his Exchequer, but for the sake of imposing on them an internal regulation which he not only openly avowed that he had no right to force upon them, but also declined to embody into any act emanating from the Imperial Parliament of these realms? He considered this as one of the most peculiar features of the resolution of the noble Lord. But the House must also look upon it in another point of view. If the House were to pass such resolutions as were now proposed to them, and if the colonial Legislatures, consulting the interests and the personal safety of their constituents, and acting on much more extensive and certain local information than the Parliament of the mother country could possibly accquire, should refuse to give their assent to them, what would be the consequence? Why, that the tax, which the Imperial Parliament of these realms would impose on colonial produce, would operate as a tax, not on the real delinquents, supposing for the sake of argument delinquency to exist, but on those to whom even the suspicion of delinquency had never attached. For he had the right to put the question upon this point thus— planters, who were not in debt to this country, would not send their produce to England, but would send it to the Continent, 1437 and thus would escape the operations of the tax. Those who were compelled by circumstances to consign their produce to this country, would continue to send it here, and they who would have to receive it namely, the planters who resided in this country, would be punished by the tax, though they were not delinquent, and though they might even be doing every thing in their power through their agents to stop the delinquency. But did the House suppose that the colonial assemblies consisted of the attornies, or overseers, or managers for non-resident planters, and not of local proprietors? Did they suppose that any members of those assemblies, for the paltry commission which they received, would expose the colony in which they resided, and in which they held their property, to the probable chance of ruin and destruction? If the House supposed that the state of society was thus low in the colonies, it was egregiously deceived. He had endeavoured to bring before the House the important changes which had been made by the colonial legislatures for the benefit of the slave-population. If the House at present attempted to do more, it would find that with all its desire to emancipate, it would only defeat and retard the accomplishment of its own wishes. The fact was, that the slave-population was not yet in a fit condition for emancipation. That, in itself, was a sufficient answer to the Resolutions proposed by the hon. member for Weymouth. To the Resolutions proposed by the noble Lord his answer was, that he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) proceeded upon an unjust representation of the policy which had been observed towards the colonies since the ear 1823, and which up to this time had never been abandoned. It. was too much to call upon the House of Commons to say that the legislative measures passed by the Colonial Assemblies were inefficient for their purpose, when the House did not know what they were, and to form the Order in Council into a law when time had not been given to have it fairly tried. He called upon the House, in justice to its own character, and in justice to the colonies, to pause before it gave its consent to a measure, which would retard the period when emancipation could be granted beneficially to all parties. The proposition which he had intended to have laid before the House, and which he would take the liberty of moving when the amendment was disposed of, was, first of all, to 1438 re-affirm the Resolutions of 1823; and next, to place the House in a situation to know how the instructions contained in the Order in Council of the same year had been complied with by the colonial legislatures, by appointing a Committee to inquire into the subject. The hon. and learned Gentleman, in conclusion, thanked the House for the patient attention with which it had listened to the observations which he had ventured to obtrude upon its consideration.
§ Lord Howick
said, that he would not follow the hon. and learned Gentleman through the long detail into which he had entered of the Acts passed by the colonial legislatures, although he must say, that there were some of those Acts which the hon. and learned Gentleman had most unaccountably overlooked. He thought that the objections which the hon. and learned Gentleman had made to the Resolutions proposed by his noble friend near him were very slight, and that the House was bound in vindication of its own dignity and consistency to take some additional measures to compel the colonies to ameliorate the condition of their slave-population. The difficult task of framing laws to control the despotic power of the master over his slave had been undertaken by legislatures in the colonies, not anxious to discharge that duty fairly and honestly, but driven and goaded on by public opinion here to adopt measures which they detested in their hearts. In looking over the debates on the slave-law, which had recently taken place in the Colonial Assembly of Jamaica, he had found a passage which illustrated so strongly the spirit in which their Acts were passed, that he could not refrain from reading it to the House. The subject under discussion was, whether the Slave Act should be passed with a suspending clause. In the course of the debate one gentleman objected to the insertion of a suspending clause as a violation of the local Constitution of Jamaica. A Mr. Davis, in answering the objection, used this extraordinary language:—"So far am I from thinking that a clause suspending this law in certain cases would overturn the Constitution, that I can even imagine cases in which we may turn such a clause to our great advantage. We may, for instance, be obliged to pass bills which we may wish to have an opportunity to revise, and about which we may be indifferent and careless—nay, even wishful that they may not be confirmed." From 1439 a Legislature which avowed that it might be wishful that its bills might not be confirmed, he, knowing its prejudices on the slave question, could not expect any serious interference between the master and the slave. The slave bill, however, passed that Assembly with the two clauses to which Mr. Huskisson had so justly objected, and which had of course prevented it from being confirmed. It had since been passed in a shape which had been approved, and it was curious to observe the nature of the amendments which had been proposed by the Colonial Assembly. In every clause which inflicted a penalty on the master for an abuse of power over his slave, the amendment made was in mitigation of the penalty inflicted on the master; but in every clause where a slave was to be punished, the penalty was not mitigated, but increased. For in one instance the penalty imposed on the owner for not allowing his slave a proper portion of land to cultivate was 50l.; and that had been mitigated from 50l. to 20l.: and in another the punishment on the slave was increased from three days to a month's imprisonment. It was a singular fact, that in no colony had a Protector of Slaves been appointed in compliance with the instructions contained in the Order in Council. The hon. and learned Gentleman who had just sat down said, "Oh, that is no matter, for the Attorney-general of the Colony acts as the Protector of Slaves." He was surprised that the hon. and learned Gentleman should have ventured to institute a comparison between two officers so dissimilar. The Protector of Slaves, though appointed by the Assembly, was to be paid by the Crown, was to have no property in slaves, and his duty was not merely to examine into all cases of grievance which might be brought before him by slaves, but even to look about him, and to discover them. Now the Attorney-general of the colonies, though he was appointed by the Crown, was paid by the Assemblies. [Mr. Burge, "No."] He was paid by fees arising out of the prosecutions which he conducted; and he (Lord Howick) asked the hon. and learned Gentleman, whether those prosecution? must not meet with the approbation of the Colonial Assemblies before the expenses of them could be defrayed by the local Treasurers?
§ Mr. Burge
again interrupted the noble Lord. He had himself been Attorney- 1440 general for the colony of Jamaica, and he could say that he had never been paid by fees upon prosecutions. He was paid a fixed salary, by warrant from the Governor-general, and he had always been perfectly independent of the Colonial Assembly.
§ Lord Howick
said, that he had not been speaking of Jamaica specifically. Whatever might be the case in Jamaica, he knew that in the smaller colonies the Attorney-generals were remunerated by the Assemblies. The offices of Protector of Slaves and of Attorney-general were as distinct as two offices could possibly be. "But," said the hon. and learned Gentleman, "we have in Jamaica a Council of Protection, which answers the same purpose." Now it so happened, that in the year 1826, Lord Bathurst had sent out draughts of certain bills, formed on the Order in Council, which he wished to have proposed to the different Colonial Assemblies. They were referred to the different colonial Attornies-general, with orders that they should report their opinion upon them. In the Report received from the Attorney-general of Jamaica was this sentence,—"The Council of Protection has a very different duty to discharge from that assigned to the Protector of Slaves." That Report was signed, "William Burge, Attorney-general for Jamaica." He fully agreed with that learned personage in that opinion. For there was this objection to a Council of Protection, that it divided among a number of individuals a responsibility, which was more strongly felt when it rested upon a single individual only. He believed, that in the case of Kitty Hilton—a case of which he had laid a history on the Table of the House, with mingled feelings of regret, and shame, and horror, not one of the twenty individuals who had voted in a body against prosecuting the reverend tyrant who had so cruelly maltreated her, would have given such a vote, had they had each to incur an undivided responsibility. So much as to the hon. and learned Gentleman's contradiction of his noble friend's assertion as to the Council of Protection.' He would now call upon the House to examine how far this law, of which the hon. and learned Gentleman boasted so much, carried into effect the principle which Mr. Canning-laid down in his celebrated Resolutions of May, 1823. In the eloquent and memorable speech which Mr. Canning made upon that occasion in 1823, he used this 1441 language:—"In raising any class of persons from a servile to a civil condition, one of the first principles of improvement is in the observance paid to the difference of sexes. I would therefore abolish, with respect to females, the use of the whip, not only as a stimulant to labour in the field—I would abolish it altogether as an instrument of punishment, thus saving the weaker sex from indecency and degradation."✶ Where was the Englishman who would not agree with Mr. Canning in these sentiments? Where was the Englishman who would not reject with contempt as a measure of amelioration any measure which would not carry into effect that principle? And yet the amended law of the Colonial Assembly of Jamaica did not abolish the punishment of the whip for females. The next point to which he wished to call the attention of the House, was the separation of families. On that point Mr. Canning had said, that he thought that the process of the writ by which the slaves were sold separately from the estate on which they were located ought to be abolished. It was clear that if they wished civilization to make any progress among the slave-population, they must inculcate and observe a respect for their domestic situation, and must regard those sacred ties which formed the strength and comfort and happiness of private families. Now what had the Assembly of Jamaica done upon this point? They had done this — they had directed the Provost Marshal, in making levies, not to separate the members of a family from each other, unless they could not avoid making that separation without exposing themselves to an action for an excessive levy. Thus the Provost Marshal could still divide the husband from the wife, and the mother from her child [Mr. Burge.—"No, no."] The hon. and learned Gentleman again contradicted him; but he would ask the hon. and learned Gentleman, whether he could point out to him any clause in any law in the whole Statute-book of Jamaica in which this practice was denounced and prohibited as contrary to law? He knew the excuse which the hon. and learned Gentleman would offer: he would say, "True it is, that the law is faulty there, but the moral feeling is excellent." [Mr. Burge.—"The Courts of law would set such a sale aside."] The hon. and learned Gentleman said more✶ Hansard's Parliamentary Debates, New Series, Vol. ix. p. 283.1442 than he had anticipated. He said, that the Courts of law would annul any sale which separated the members of the same family. If a Court would set aside such a sale as this, he could only say, that it was most extraordinary that the Assembly at Jamaica should have refused to agree to a clause prohibiting such sales. The hon. and learned Gentleman had complained that these Resolutions were couched in terms more inculpatory of the colonists than the other Resolutions. This complaint, however, appeared to him to be most unfounded; indeed, he had heard it with the greatest surprise; for the fact was, they had taken care to soften the terms of the Resolutions. Thus, in the former Resolutions, there was the expression, "no adequate measures have been adopted," which expression they had changed to "adequate measures have not been adopted." It was true, they said, in the Resolutions, that enough had not been done, and what Gentleman would doubt the propriety of saying this, when he was told that women might still be flogged. The hon. and learned Gentleman had also told them, that the slaves were not yet prepared for the amelioration proposed; and yet the hon. and learned Gentleman had, in another part of his speech, entered into a long argument, the object of which, was, to show how much the Assemblies had done with the view of ameliorating the condition of the slaves, and how successful the Assemblies had been. Could it be supposed that the exertions of the Assemblies—if they had made any—could have been attended with success, if the slaves were in the state of brutality which the hon. and learned Gentleman had described? [Mr. Burge did not say they were in a state of brutality.] The hon. and learned Gentleman had not, perhaps, used the word "brutality," but his (Lord Howick's) observation was only a fair inference from the description which the learned Gentleman had given of the slaves, and especially from the retention of the whip as a means of punishment for women; because, if that were necessary, the slaves must be in a state of brutality, and if it were not necessary, the brutality rested somewhere else. The hon. and learned Gentleman asked them if they meant to abandon the policy of 1823, and to sacrifice property? For himself, he had no hesitation in answering in the negative. He would unquestionably preserve the rights 1443 of property, but he would not preserve them at the expense of the rights of the slaves. He thought that property ought to be considered and respected, for the sake of the slaves themselves; but he was not prepared to say, with all his respect for the rights of property, that they who had been partners in the guilt must not be partners also in the suffering. He considered the whole system of slavery as one of such deep oppression and iniquity and cruelty, that, if he could be satisfied that it was safe to emancipate the slaves now, he would say, "Do so, and do it at once; and we will settle scores among ourselves afterwards, and determine in what proportion the penalty of our guilt is to be paid: but the victims of that guilt must continue to suffer, while we are haggling about pounds, shillings, and pence." On mature consideration, however, he had seen that it would not be safe to the colonists, nor advantageous to the slaves themselves, that slavery should be abolished immediately and at once; and he believed that the course which his hon. friend the member for Weymouth proposed for their adoption would be attended with many dangers to the slaves themselves. If, too, he were prepared to agree to actual emancipation at once, he should consider that the only wise mode of carrying it into effect would be, by a full and detailed measure; and, until some safe and practical plan of emancipation were laid before the House, he should protest against the adoption of Resolutions which could only have the effect of irritating the master, and of exciting in the breast of the slave expectations which must be disappointed. He perfectly concurred in the observations of the late Mr. Canning on this subject,— namely, that emancipation must be gradual, and through the planter, and that, if it were not, it would raise a flame which could only be extinguished by blood. He believed that emancipation must not only be gradual, but that it must be gradual by removing suffering', by abridging labour, and by lessening dependence. The fetters of the slave must, in his opinion, be loosened by degrees, and not struck off at once. He should not propose to emancipate a large number of slaves, if he had the power of doing so, but rather to take off a part of the weight of slavery, and he rejoiced to say, that they had the means of doing that. To lighten the weight of slavery was a project perfectly feasible— 1444 a project which, with the support and sanction of that House, the exertions of the Government would, he was persuaded, be fully equal to. The Government had in contemplation measures for such an amelioration in the condition of the slave?, as might fairly be called a practical good, and a real progress in the course to which the Legislature were pledged by the Resolutions to which it had agreed. There was in the course of preparation an amended Order in Council, the adoption of which, word for word, it was proposed to render imperative upon every colony which sought for the indulgence it held out. ["Hear, hear," from Mr. Burge.] He understood the cheer of the hon. and learned Gentleman. The hon. and learned Gentleman meant, that although this was rot a direct interference in the internal affairs of the colonies, yet that it would in effect act in a compulsory manner upon the colonies. It would so. This Order in Council would include many points of amelioration. In the first place it recommended the adoption in every colony of such regulations for improving the condition of the slaves, as had been tried and found to answer in other colonies. It would be recollected that Mr. Canning had observed—and, in his opinion, with great truth and propriety—that regulations which had been found productive of benefit in one colony, could not, with reason, be rejected by another colony. He believed that much progress had been made in some colonies towards raising the character and the condition of the slaves, by abolishing the whip as an instrument of punishing women; and it was proposed that the use of the whip with regard to women should be abolished in all the colonies. It was proposed, too, that in cases of punishing men, not more than fifteen lashes should be inflicted in the space of twenty-four hours, and that this punishment should not take place until six hours after the commission of the offence. With regard to labour, it was proposed to suggest a modification of it, so that labour should not be so exacted to the extreme point of man's strength. He knew that it was not to be hoped, at present, that the master would give his slave wages: that, he knew, must come by and by: but if the master did not compel his slave to work by hours, but gave him task work to a reasonable amount, much good would be effected. By this change they would reduce the whip to an instrument of punishment, 1445 and it would be no longer used, as it was now, as a stimulus to labour. The slave would no longer be like a horse in a team, who worked through fear of blows, but like a rational animal. They would appeal to the reason and the hopes of the slave, and not to his instinct and his fears. The next point was the separation of families, which would be effectually guarded against. In the same manner the right of compulsory manumission would be fully established. And here he could not refrain from alluding to what had fallen from the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Burge) on the subject of compulsory manumission. The hon. and learned Gentleman had contended that it was unjust to compel a master to dispose of his own slave against his will. Did the hon. and learned Gentleman mean to say, that it was unfair to make a man part with his slave for the value of that slave, when they every day compelled a man to part with his property for the mere convenience of the public? When, for the purpose of constructing a rail-road or a turnpike-road, they compelled, by an Act of the Legislature, any man to sell property which he had neither acquired nor held by guilt; and this, too, upon the mere ground of public convenience; was it to be said, that they were to be barred from pursuing the same course where the subject of the compulsory sale was that which no man could have acquired, or could retain, innocently —the power over another man, that freedom which is the birthright of every human being? He confessed, that he had heard this doctrine of the hon. and learned Gentleman with the utmost astonishment. But it was the intention of the Government to go farther, and to give to the slave the power of purchasing his freedom, not only in the gross, but, if he might be allowed to use the expression, in the retail also. It was their intention to revive and enforce in our colonies an old law which had formerly obtained in Cuba, and which enabled the slave to purchase one day in the week. He was sure the House would see the great and valuable utility of such an arrangement. A negro could hardly be expected to struggle on through his condition of slavery, and to persevere rigidly until he had acquired the whole 50l. or 80l.—in some cases he believed it was 100l. that was requisite for the purchase of his freedom; but this arrangement would enable him to acquire the first 1446 step—a step which would inspire him with better hopes, and excite him to renewed exertions, thus rendering the other steps comparatively easy, and certainly effecting a vast amelioration in his condition. By this means, too, freedom would come upon the slave by degrees, he would be fully prepared for it, and it could not, therefore, be attended with any of those dangers which were to be apprehended from an abrupt transition from slavery to freedom. Again, slaves would not only have the power of thus purchasing their own freedom, but the power of purchasing the freedom of their children also. From this part of the arrangement he anticipated very beneficial results. A child when first born was of very little value to the master, and a small sum might, perhaps, induce the master to give up his claim to the child, while the parents would doubtless be anxious to relieve their offspring from the miseries of the condition in which they had the misfortune to be placed. The regulations with regard to Sunday would be, that no manner of labour should be required of the slaves on that day, and, which was of more importance, that every care should be taken that the slaves might have free access to places of public worship. The hours of labour and the quantity of food would be carefully looked to, in order to prevent the slaves being ill-fed or too hardly worked. He believed, that he had then stated to the House the principal points of the Order in Council which the Government had in contemplation. He trusted the House would see that these arrangements tended to a practical and substantial good, and that they were not a mere device to enable the Government to extricate themselves from a popular question, but that they constituted an important step in that course to which the Legislature was pledged. He entirely concurred with his hon. friend, the member for Weymouth, in his view as to the necessity of putting an end to the abominable system, but he differed from his hon. friend as to the mode in which he would carry his views into effect. He was disposed to recommend greater caution than his hon. friend. Under these circumstances, he hoped that his hon. friend, would not press his Motion, but allow the Resolutions proposed by his noble friend to come under the consideration of the House. He begged to thank the House for the indulgence with which they had 1447 listened to a statement which he was afraid had been very tedious, and which he could not help feeling that he had very imperfectly expressed.
§ Mr. M. P. Stewart
felt himself impelled from a sense of duty to explain the vote he intended to give—from a sense of duty, connected as he was, by property, with the West-India proprietary — and also from a sense of duty to slave labourers, for whose happiness and safety every West-India proprietor was responsible. In common with every West-India proprietor, he was anxious for a full and fair adjustment of this question. He was quite willing to attribute unsullied purity to the motives of those who were anxious for the immediate abolition of slavery; but he claimed that the same charitable construction should be put on the motives of those who were opposed to the immediate abolition. He did not so far wrong the hon. member for Weymouth (Mr. F. Buxton) as to suppose that he wished for the settlement of this momentous question upon any thing else but fair and equitable principles, and, assuming that he was right in that supposition, he did not hesitate to say, that the hon. Member would find no enemy in the West-India body. One great difficulty which beset this question was, the necessity of guarding against the feeling, so natural, but dangerous to the fair and equitable adjustment of this question—he meant the abhorrence to the name of slavery. He could not compliment the hon. member for Weymouth on the time he had chosen for bringing forward this question. The attention of his Majesty's Ministers, of the House, and the country, was absorbed by another great question; and it was impossible to give this question that calm and dispassionate consideration which was necessary for its proper and final adjustment. But that the time was unfavourable and unfair was not the only objection he had to the hon. member for Wey-mouth's motion. The hon. Member's Resolution was founded on an assertion which he (Mr. Stewart) might be permitted to deny. The assertion which he denied was, that the colonial legislature had done nothing in favour of the slaves, and in conformity with the Resolutions of the House. Nothing could be more erroneous than that assertion, which would be immediately and inevitably refuted if an inquiry took place. That it was erroneous was with him a reason for objecting 1448 to the proposition of the noble Lord, which rested also upon the erroneous assumption that these legislatures had done nothing. So far from this being the fact, all the propositions of the hon. member for Weymouth, fourteen in number, with the exception of three, were at this moment in force in our colonies. The three exceptions embraced subjects of so questionable a nature, that the colonial legislatures wished for time to consider them. One was compulsory manumission, another the non-removal of negroes from the island, the third the emancipation of children born after a certain date. The other eleven propositions had been enacted by the colonies; yet our West-Indian fellow-subjects was to be disturbed and distressed, and their property was to be placed in jeopardy, on mere unsupported allegations. He asked for previous inquiry, which was an act of simple justice even to the negroes themselves, of whose real condition neither the House nor the country was properly informed. The hon. member for Weymouth, and other sanguine and worthy individuals, were opposed to inquiry; but if the result of such inquiry showed, that the state of the negroes in our colonies justified those who asserted that the colonial legislatures had done much, and were willing to do more, then the most ardent abolitionists would stop or hesitate before they proceeded. Nobody, either in the House or out of the House, either in England or in the West Indies, was an advocate for slavery; every rational man was desirous of getting rid of it, but he was also desirous in doing that not to inflict a greater evil than slavery itself. With respect to the substitution of free labour, look at St. Domingo, once a garden, now reduced to the cultivation of a single product—coffee, and that was in a declining state. When the Americans sent cargoes to that island, and were to receive timber in exchange, with which the island abounds, they were obliged to send men to cut it down and bring it to their ships. Such were the fruits of free labour in St. Domingo. In Trinidad, it appeared by a despatch from Governor Woodford, in 1826, that 400 free negroes had been employed-for no less than five years in building a barrack, which Government had been anxious should be completed in a short time. In Berbice there was a class of free negroes, who were left to seek their living; they were eighty in 1449 number, and their annual cost to Government was l,500l. He mentioned these details, to justify the opinion he entertained', that it was impossible at the present moment to substitute free for slave labour. It would be a benefit to the colonists if it could be accomplished consistently with the rights of property. But in the present circumstances of the colonies, the House should pause before it broke up a state of society which was not sufficiently known to the House to enable it to create something much better. It should be recollected that one cause of pauperism in Europe was the emancipation of slaves. It began by the Christians emancipating-slaves for the good of their souls, and by the Mohammedans doing that for the increase of their religion. "This disorder," said Gibbon, "of giving liberty to great numbers of slaves upon their profession of Christianity, grew to such a height, even in the time of Constantine the Great, that the cities of the empire found themselves burthened with an infinite number of men, who had no other estate but their liberty, of whom the greatest part would not work, and the rest had been bred to no profession. This obliged Constantine to make edicts in favour of beggars; and from that time hospitals and almshouses, not formerly known in the world, began to be established. But, upon the rise of the Mahometan religion, which was chiefly advanced by giving liberty to all their slaves, the Christians were so molested by the continual rebellion of theirs, that they were at length forced to give liberty to them all; and this is the rise of that great mischief, under which, to the undoing of the poor, all the nations of Europe have ever since groaned." The principle of compensation, it appeared, was now yielded, and well it might. There could be no doubt of the right of property existing in slaves. Lord Stowell had declared this. "There has been no Act whatever (he said) that could even formally destroy those various powers of property which the owner possessed over his slave by the most solemn assurances of law. If slavery be a sin, it is a sin in which this country has had its full share of the guilt, and ought to bear its proportion of the redemption. How this country can decline to perform the act of justice, in performing the act of charity, men of great wisdom and integrity have not been able to discover." He felt, and he expressed the 1450 feelings of the colonists when he said, that there was a spirit adverse to the colonies abroad in this country. This revived a warning which had been addressed to the House of Commons by Mr. Burke, previous to the separation of the American colonies, and which applied most appositely to the last of the Resolutions proposed to the House. Burke said—"When I consider that we have colonies for no purpose but to be serviceable to us, it seems to my poor understanding a little preposterous to make them unserviceable, in order to keep them obedient. But, remember, when you have completed your system of impoverishment, that nature still proceeds in her ordinary course; that discontent will increase with misery; and that there are critical moments in the fortunes of all States, when they who were too weak to contribute to your prosperity, may be strong enough to complete your ruin"—a prophecy which he prayed might not be fulfilled. All he asked, all the colonial interest wanted, was inquiry — unflinching inquiry.
§ Mr. Sykes
wished to record his opinion, that no compromise should take place on the subject. Since the plan of Government detailed by the noble Lord (Howick) contained a large measure of relief, he hoped that his hon. friend, the member for Weymouth, would not persist in pressing his Motion to a division. The abhorrence to negro slavery had become a settled religious feeling, and as long as slavery existed, that feeling would strengthen and increase.
§ Mr. Horace Twiss
said, there were various difficulties connected with this important question. He had hoped, that his hon. friend, the member for Weymouth, would have found a way to relieve the measure from some of those difficulties, by adhering to the principles contained in the Resolutions of 1823. It appeared, however, that there was now a disposition to abandon those Resolutions. By them, however, that and the other House of Parliament were pledged to the final extinction of slavery, as soon as it was compatible with the well-being of the slaves themselves, with the safety of the colonies, and with the equitable consideration of private property. Such was the language of the Resolutions, and therefore the question was not now whether slavery was to be abolished, for that had been already decided, but whether the Resolutions were to be 1451 broken through, and violated by hurrying on the emancipation of the slaves? Hon. Members who had taken a part in that discussion had accused those with whom he thought and acted, of abandoning the Resolutions of 1823; on the contrary, he was satisfied that a calm and impartial estimate of all that they had said and done upon that most momentous occasion, would lead to an entirely opposite conclusion. According to the course which certain advocates of abolition would recommend them to adopt, for the purpose, as it was said, of adhering to the Resolutions of 1823, they would urge them now to break through the most solemn parliamentary resolutions by hurrying them on into precipitate measures, a like inconsistent with the well-being of the slaves themselves, and with that respect for private property and vested rights which Parliament had hitherto shown, and from which, he trusted, no such considerations as had been urged that night would induce them to depart. He felt the more disposed to resist the Motion of the hon. member for Weymouth, and even to charge him with inconsistency, when he remembered that that hon. Member was a party to those Resolutions—not only a party to them in the sense in which every Member of that House was mixed up with its proceedings, not merely as voting for those Resolutions, but more stringently did he make himself a party to them by accepting them in lieu and in full compensation of his own, which he had then submitted to the House. He thought himself also justified in complaining that the hon. Member had found fault with the Resolutions of 1823, for not working out all the objects which were expected from them, in the short space of seven years. It was hardly fair or reasonable to expect that the work of two or three generations could be accomplished in the short space of one apprenticeship. He was sure the House could not but regard such expectations as purely visionary. He entreated the House to remember that, by the Resolutions of the hon. Member himself, proposed antecedently to those of 1823, the abolition of slavery was postponed to an indefinite period. His object, as distinctly stated, was the most gradual extinction of slavery; from the language used by him in 1823, that principle evidently appeared. He would quote the hon. Member's words, not to taunt him with having professed 1452 such sentiments, but to hold them up to the admiration of the House, and as worthy of its adoption. "The object," said he, "at which we aim, is the extinction of slavery—nothing less than the extinction of slavery—in nothing less than the whole of the British dominions; not, however, the rapid termination of that state—not the sudden emancipation of the negro— but such preparatory steps—such measures and precaution as, by slow degrees, and in a course of years, first fitting and qualifying the slave for the enjoyment of freedom, shall gently conduct us to the annihilation of slavery. Nothing can more clearly shew that we mean nothing rash— nothing rapid—nothing abrupt—nothing bearing any feature of violence, than this— that if I succeed to the fullest extent of my desires, confessedly sanguine, no man will be able to say, I even shall be unable to predict, that at such a time, or in such a year, slavery will be abolished. We are far from "meaning to attempt to cut down slavery in the full maturity of its vigour. We rather should leave it gently to decay — slowly, silently, almost imperceptibly, to die away, and to be forgotten."✶ Those were the sentiments of the hon. Gentleman years ago; and let the House now ' compare them with the language they had that night heard from him; and let them at the same time look to the general effect of what had been done on the suggestions of the late Government. He had also, he conceived, a right to complain of the tone and manner in which the legislature of Jamaica had been spoken of by the noble Lord opposite. That noble Lord had taken advantage of an indiscreet expression of a single member of the legislature of Jamaica, for the purpose of imputing mala fides to that Assembly. He sincerely hoped that the observation of the noble Lord would not go forth to the public as the opinion of the House of Commons; for it was as little the opinion of the House, as was the indiscreet expression alluded to, the general feeling of the House of Assembly in Jamaica. In making that remark in reference to a colonial Legislature, he begged it to be distinctly understood, that nothing could be further from his mind than to say that the colonial Legislatures had done all that might be done for that degree of amelioration which✶Hansard's Parl. Deb., Vol ix, New Series, p. 265.1453 all were agreed upon as practicable, and all were anxious to see accomplished. But though he was willing to admit, that enough had not been done, he would gladly learn with what consistency the hon. member for Weymouth inveighed against the faith of the colonial Legislatures. In making that observation, he was, however, perfectly willing to admit, that, up to the year 1827, nothing had been done except in the Island of Tobago; since then, however, every one of them had been proceeding gradually and regularly in a course of amelioration. He did not stand up to say he was satisfied with what had been done by the colonies; but with what justice were they acting towards those colonial Legislatures, which were to be the instruments by which this House was to work out its object, when they denied that those Assemblies had done anything. He regretted as cordially as the hon. Member, that the application of the whip in the punishment of females had not been universally abolished; but England was hardly entitled to take a very high tone of moral indignation on this subject, when it was remembered that it was only a very few years ago, in 1822, that even in this country of humanity, civilization, and freedom, the whipping of females was finally abolished. Since 1827 the progress of improvement in the colonies had been gradual and effectual, and in that year despatches had been sent out from the Government, eulogizing the colonies of Dominica and Barbadoes for what they had done. In 1828, the ameliorations had been extended to Bahama and Bermuda; in 1829, to Grenada. In 1829, Tobago had passed a law for the admission of slave evidence.' Then there was the consolidated slave-law of Jamaica, which was not to be considered as now existing, merely because it had not been formally laid upon the Table of the House. The ameliorations which had taken place in the Crown colonies, containing one-third of the whole number of slaves in the British colonies, and which ameliorations were now going on, were such as ought to satisfy the most sanguine. The House could not, however, have failed to notice, in the course of the hon. Member's speech, that he thought nothing of all that had been done in the Crown colonies—a portion of the West Indies which, included a full third of the slave-population. The noble Lord opposite affirmed that no compensation 1454 ought to be given—that not a moment was to be lost—and yet he admitted that some time was required for the purpose of preparing the slaves for the freedom which they were not yet capable of enjoying. Time was confessedly necessary, and he would maintain that that time ought to be occupied in estimating those claims, and the amount of that compensation, and of those claims which, according to acknowledged principle ought to be admitted. He altogether denied the necessity for that precipitancy which the noble Lord so earnestly pressed, and he entreated the House to remember the blood that had been shed in St. Domingo, though he did not mean to assert that similar scenes must necessarily take place in Jamaica or in British Guiana; but he entreated the House to remember the weighty obligation under which they lay, not to risk the repetition of such scenes, by incurring the risk of rash liberation. There was not the least doubt, that any man having the slightest knowledge of the above population must admit, that they ought to be ripe for freedom before it should be conferred upon them, and that they were not yet in that state of ripeness, which qualified them for emancipation, he would quote another passage from the speech he had already quoted, to prove. "If we could clothe them, not only with the rights and privileges, but with the virtuous restraints of social life; if I did not know that the same system which has reduced them to the condition of brutes, has brutalized their minds; if, in fact I deemed them ripe for deliverance, my moderation, I confess it, would be but small. I should say, the sooner you cease from doing injustice, and they from enduring it, the better: but, alas, Sir, the slave is not ripe for liberty."✶ All this while, however, he was perfectly ready to admit, that the proposition of the Government had something plausible in it, at least apparently so, to such as were practically unacquainted with the working of colonial affairs. But, from his experience while in office, he was enabled to say, that, practically, the proposition of the Government would prove a measure of coercion which nothing but extreme force could carry into effect; for so independent had the colony of Jamaica, for example, become, owing to the union between the✶ Hansard's Parl. Deb., Vol. ix. p. 271.1455 free people of colour and the whites, that, as he had already said, nothing short of the extremity of force could coerce that alienated colony. He hoped, therefore, sincerely hoped, that the noble Lord would pause before he brought the mother country by a fiscal regulation into conflict with a large colony all the inhabitants of which were united by one common interest. It was in that view of the subject, and recollecting the wide difference which subsisted between the proposition of the hon. member for Weymouth, and that which had the support of his Majesty's Government, he could not refrain from expressing a hope that the House would not unite with them in an attempt to pursue such a dangerous course as that which they proposed on the subject of Colonial Slavery. He thought it also especially unwise and mischievous to have such discussions brought under the consideration of Parliament at a juncture like the present; and supposing that the House could be induced to agree to the proposition of the noble Lord, if the Government failed—as fail they must in the execution of the measure—he put it to the House, must not such failure be attended with infinite disadvantage to the negroes themselves, and the utmost danger to the white population and to British interests in the colonies?
had much pleasure in finding himself able to congratulate the House on the fact, that all who took a part in the present discussion shrunk from the task of defending- slavery in the abstract. He remembered when they used to come to the discussion of that question under very different circumstances,—when the system of slavery used to be regarded as a something so closely interwoven with the frame of colonial society, that it could not be put an end to without the utmost danger to the existence of the colonies. It was looked on as a source of national wealth, and as one of the elements of national prosperity, which could not be meddled with except at the risk of overwhelming ruin. Happily, however, that condition of parliamentary and public opinion was now at an end; and ceasing to be a question of abstract principle, it had now become one of time and manner; and the only point upon which a difference of opinion could arise was, the ripeness or unripeness of the slaves for emancipation. The hon. and learned Gentleman who spoke last had threatened them with a 1456 union between the free people of colour and the whites. He was authorized to state, that the free people of colour in Jamaica were perfectly ready to give up their own slaves if the Government required such a sacrifice. But he was sure that threats, of the nature to which he alluded, could have no weight with that House. If the 24,000 whites in that colony dared to breathe one word of sedition, they might rest assured, that did the authority of the King need such support, the free people of colour would put down by a single effort any such pitiful attempt. The 2,000 troops on that Island were under the command of the King; and though they were maintained there, at a frightful expenditure of human life, for the protection of the white-population against their own slaves, yet still they were troops under the command of the King, who would not passively see his authority insulted. He must deny, that the proposition that night brought forward was a violation of the Resolutions of 1823; but that, on the contrary, its operation would be, to carry those Resolutions into effect. Could it be said, that any one of the colonial Legislatures had acted upon the Resolutions of 1823? The hon. and learned Member then referred to a great variety of instances, implicating the character of several individuals, to prove that the slaves derived no protection from the Attorney-general, who was stated by the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite to be the protector of the slaves. That hon. and learned Gentleman had thrown doubts on the statements of the hon. member for Weymouth as to the mortality among the slaves, but he could confirm those statements by an unexceptionable authority. The hon. and learned Member accordingly referred to the work of a clergyman of the Church of England, and the Rector of St. Thomas, to show that those sentiments were correct, and that the mortality among the slaves was much greater in the sugar plantations than in the coffee plantations. There was one class of men who had been much censured, whom he was ready to defend. The Wesleyan Methodists had risked their lives, and submitted to live on the smallest possible pittance, in order to carry the truths of Christianity among the slaves. Than the Wesleyan Methodists there was no more meritorious body of men in the colonies, and they were the first and real 1457 promoters of all improvement. They were the causes of that progress which had been made. He was sorry that he could not bear the same testimony in favour of the Bishop of Jamaica; but truth compelled him to declare, that that Prelate had not done his duty, and had not merited the approbation of that House and the country. He would not then enter into the particulars, but the time would come when he might bring the subject under the notice of the House. They had heard a great deal, of the distress of the colonies, but he was prepared to prove, that all that distress arose from the injustice of the colonists. Several years ago he was member of a Committee appointed to investigate this subject, and several West-India proprietors gave evidence before that Committee, that for the preceding thirty years they had not received more than four per cent on their capital. That was the punishment ordained, he believed, by Providence, for trampling on the laws of humanity and justice; for never was injustice unpunished here, as well as elsewhere, and never did justice go without its reward, it being attended even with pecuniary blessings. In his opinion, no time was to be lost in bringing forward measures of emancipation, though he did not advocate the propriety of immediately passing a law to give the slaves their freedom; but he did desire to see measures immediately brought in now and adopted, which might lead to the gradual extinction of slavery. He expected even, that good would result from bringing forward the Resolutions of that night, and he implored the House not to stultify itself, after it had passed the Resolutions in 1823, by now consenting to inquire whether what yet remained to be executed of those Resolutions should be carried into effect. To them all parties were pledged, and they must be executed. Emancipation, indeed, he believed was much nearer at hand than his hon. friend and his noble friend seemed to suppose; it could not be for ever delayed, the great danger was in postponing it, and it could not with safety be much longer withheld.
§ Sir Robert Peel
said, that if there were any prospect of carrying into effect the Resolutions of the hon. member for Weymouth, he could understand the speech of the hon. and learned Member who had just sat down. But when the Ministers said that the Colonial Assemblies must 1458 carry the measures of emancipation into effect, he could not understand how the hon. and learned Gentleman could make a speech so full of vituperation, nor how such a speech could promote the object he had in view. He did not mean to vindicate the conduct of the Colonial Assemblies; he was not satisfied with the course they had pursued; but if it was true, that the time was not come when we could interfere, it was not prudent to indulge in such language, and to censure so heavily those who must continue the masters and legislators of the slaves. He thought that the noble Lord (Althorp), whose moderation on this question had always been conspicuous, must have been much disappointed by the speech of the hon. and learned Member, and still more disappointed by the speech of the noble Lord who was the Representative of the Colonial Government in that House. He certainly felt as much indignation at the atrocities which had been adverted to as any man, but he hoped that no feeling of compassion for the slaves would be suffered to pervert the cool and deliberate judgment of the House, and hurry it into actions that might be equally injurious to the interests of the slaves, the interests of humanity, and the interests of the planters. He entreated the House not to be too hasty in coming to any Resolutions. Already they had experienced the inconvenience of pledging themselves as to some course in relation to the Abolition of Slavery to be pursued hereafter. He trusted the House would be careful not to imitate the former plan, and would not adopt another Resolution to be hereafter carried into effect. He called, therefore, on the House to refuse to express any opinion that night on either of the Resolutions which had been proposed; one of which—that moved by the noble Lord— a great many of the Members had not heard read. It was impossible, indeed, that the House should with propriety express an opinion on those Resolutions. He again conjured the House not. to pledge themselves. He remembered, that last year he had refused to pledge himself upon a Motion which had been made by the present Lord Chancellor, calling on the House to pledge itself to take the situation of the slaves into its consideration at an early period of this Session, with a view to their speedy emancipation. But now the Government, of which that 1459 noble Lord was a Member, declined to deal with the question, and proposed that it should be left to the House of Representatives in the Colonies. Nothing was so unwise as for the House to pledge itself to any course to be adopted hereafter, and he conjured the House to pause before it assented either to the Resolutions moved by the hon. member for Weymouth or by the noble Lord. He would ask, was the proposition of the noble Lord even consistent with justice? The learned Gentleman who last addressed the House (Dr. Lushington) had intimated to them, that the free civilized population were ready to use their utmost efforts to compel the refractory whites to obey the orders of the Government. He had told them that 70,000 persons—for such is said to be the number of the free-coloured population— were ready, with the aid of the army, to accomplish what was desired. Oh! he lamented to hear such arguments made use of in that House. He lamented to hear the appeal to mere brute force brought forward as one of the arguments to induce the House to give its assent to the proposition now before it. He asked again, was it consistent with justice to subject the sugar cultivated by the free-coloured population to additional duty, because the white legislature, over which they could have no control, refused to obey the Resolutions of the Government? Again, did the noble Lord fully estimate the difficulties which stood in the way of his carrying the Resolution into effect? The noble Lord might subject the estates of particular refractory proprietors to the duties of which he had spoken. That he (Sir Robert Peel) could understand. But was he sure that the legislatures which refused to obey the Orders in Council, were really so much under the control of the proprietors of estates who were disposed themselves to obedience? He had heard much of the iniquity of punishing the inhabitants of certain town-lands in Ireland, by compelling all to pay the fines which were incurred by the offences of a few; but certainly that iniquity would be fully equalled by the execution of the project of the noble Lord with respect to the planters of the West Indies. The noble Lord believed that he held a sufficient control over the planters, through the means of their avarice, when he threatened them with additional duties; but he might find there were more serious and 1460 more powerful passions to be conquered. He might find there was pride to be overcome. He might find there was a spirit of resistance to what they believed to be oppression, which would prove too powerful for their legislative enactments, and which would hamper the working of the most energetic Resolutions. There was another absurdity connected with these Resolutions, which the noble Lord did not seem to have taken into consideration. Sugar was said to be the most profitable article of cultivation, as well as the most destructive to the life of the slave. What, then, would be the consequence of the duties which the noble Lord proposed to place on that article? The noble Lord laid a duty which amounted to prohibition on the refractory colonies, and therefore encouraged those which consented to comply with the orders of the Government. What, he asked, would be the consequence of this? Why that the increase of the consumption would increase the labour for the purposes of supply, and the noble Lord would give a premium which benefited the obedient planter, but inflicted additional labour, and, therefore, additional injury, on the innocent slave. Did the House know the ease with which the cultivation of particular crops was changed in the West Indies, and land which grew coffee could be converted into plantations for the produce of sugar? He would give them an instance of it. In the year 1817 the Isle of Mauritius produced only 96,000 cwt. of sugar; but in consequence of certain regulations, passed with respect to the admission of the produce of that colony, in three years afterwards that quantity was quadrupled, being, in the year 1820, near 400,000 cwt. Again, there was another objection to the Resolutions. Every one knew there were certain commercial reasons, advantages and regulations, which made this country the depot for all the sugar supplied to the continent of Europe. Had the noble Lord considered well the consequence of depriving this country of all that carrying trade, and making America the storehouse, and its shipping the means of transit, of all the sugar consumed throughout the world? These would be some of the effects of agreeing to the Resolutions; and he therefore asked the House to ponder upon and consider them before they decided. Even if it should be considered just, to deal with the colonies in this manner, 1461 he thought that they should not pass the Resolutions immediately, but give notice, on the contrary, to the colonists, that at some future time to be named they would impose such regulations on those which continued refractory. The noble Lord, the Under Secretary for the Colonies, said, however, there were other plans behind this, and he had explained to it the terms of a document which was yet in the archives of the Colonial Office, but which was to be sent out to the colonies, and which their legislatures were to adopt, not in substance, but in every letter, not abating even one. His ears were still ringing with the declarations of the Government on another great and important question? his ears were still ringing with the declaration that the House must take the Bill—the whole Bill, and nothing but the Bill. And yet schedule A had been altered, and schedule B had been altered, and other parts of the Bill would doubtless also be altered; and were they then to be told that there was something behind these Resolutions;—that in agreeing to them they were also agreeing to a document which they had not seen, of the contents of which they knew nothing, except from the noble Lord's statement and which might be doomed to similar alterations? Were they, he would ask, on such a statement, to adopt such resolutions? The noble Lord said in substance, "I feel entire confidence that the document, which the House has not seen, but which is to be sent to the West Indies, and which the Colonial Assemblies are to be told they must adopt, under the penalty of having the Sugar Duties increased—I feel entire confidence, said the noble Lord, that this document/will have every support in the House of Commons." He must however say, that if there was any spirit in the House of Commons, they would reject that Resolution, which was but the taking the first step in a course of proceeding of which the issue was to be the sending such a document to an independent legislature. He would say no more, but he would repeat, that, if the House of Commons had any spirit, it would refuse to adopt a Resolution which was to be carried to such an extremity.
§ Mr. A. Baring
said, that the question was one necessarily of vital importance to the maritime and commercial interests of the country, and ought not to be looked at with any narrow views. Our naval 1462 greatness and our general prosperity depended on preserving all our colonies. At present, too, there was a great want of employment for our people, which made the preservation of them more than ever necessary. Under these circumstances he was sensible of the position which the House had been brought into, by the power exercised by one Association, which, through what he must call a misapplication and gross exaggeration of facts with regard to the colonists, had excited a strong feeling from one end of the country to the other against them. He did not think the enthusiasm of that Association ought to dictate the conduct of the Legislature. He was a disinterested party, never having owned a slave, and therefore considered the subject dispassionately. It was impossible, then, looking at the population of these countries, and their means of living, not to be convinced that we wanted the continuance of every relation with all our colonies, both of America and the East and West Indies; and that none of them could be destroyed without a loss, of which many persons could form no adequate notion. He was not, therefore, one of those to undervalue colonies, as was the habit of some; and if we threw them into the sea, the consequence must be destruction. If it were true, that the whole population of our West-India Islands were truly depicted in the representation, published by the body he alluded to, he would admit that no consideration of national power or wealth could allow any Christian to tolerate such a system. But we should consider whether extirpation were the proper remedy, or whether the end desired could not be better effected by more prudent regulations. The hon. Mover of the Resolution was neither acrimonious himself, nor was his speech; on the contrary, his statements were fair and candid; he reserved all his force for the end; and the Resolution with which he concluded was most violent. He wished the hon. Mover to consider the consequences of that Resolution. That hon. Gentleman admitted that the cultivation of sugar was most onerous; and if the slaves were liberated, it would be impossible that the negro and the white man could live together, because it was out of the question that the whites could possess their property while the others possessed greater force, both from their congeniality to the climate, and their immensely greater 1463 numbers. Would the black man then cultivate sugar, which the advocate of his cause contended was the cause of the loss of human life? If the negroes were liberated, where were we then to get sugar? The consequence would be, that we should not only lose the capital already sunk, but our money must go to foreigners for sugar, and we should have no other sugar than that produced by slave labour; for let it be relied on, there would not be one slave the less, and we should lose that power of ameliorating the condition of the negroes we now possessed, which would be totally out of our power with respect to Cuba, the Brazils, and other colonies belonging to foreign nations. He would go still farther, and say, that by this we should renew the slave-trade; because these foreign colonies, in order to keep up the supply, would, in spite of all our treaties with Spain, and Portugal, and France, and all our pestilential establishments on the Coast of Africa, still carry on that trade, viewed with so much horror. Taking away the Jamaica sugar would double its price all over Europe, and the increase of that cultivation would cause the importation of 600,000 or 800,000 Africans, which, from the dangers run, and the loss of lives, would certainly cause three times the number to be, in the first instance, taken away from Africa. In case of the success of the present proposition, it would be better at once to make the slave-trade free, unless you could hermetically seal the ports of that Continent. Philanthropists here were greatly mistaken as to what would be the result of their own measure. It was of extreme importance that this subject should, be fully understood, because the people of England were misled by gentlemen, no doubt, pure in their intentions, and through whom, he admitted, great amelioration had been effected. The state of the West Indies ought, no doubt, to be open to inspection; but he much doubted the present sources of what he must call exaggeration, and he, therefore, hoped the House would now, or in another Session, appoint a Committee to satisfy the country, from which 6,000 petitions had come, and to inquire whether these cases of cruelty so much dwelt on were isolated, or really of daily occurrence. It was undoubtedly true that there were cases of cruelty by masters in the colonies, but so was it of masters in England; but could any one 1464 say that these cases presented a true picture of English habits. It was a deception to paint these extraordinary acts as the daily habits of life. The whip, it was true, was used, but those who regulated the number of lashes to be given admitted that some discipline was necessary. It would be worth while, he thought, to inquire into that fact and into the possibility of rendering the labour of the slaves lighter in the cultivation of sugar. There was another point upon which he wished for inquiry, and that was, to what the decrease of the slave-population was owing, and its origin. If it were attributable to the sugar culture, some regulations might be adopted as to the hours of labour which would prevent such a waste of life. Another subject of the Committee of Inquiry ought to be whether, supposing they came to the conclusion that slavery ought to be put an end to, free labour could be had; and whether 300,000 or 400,000 negroes, strong and healthy, would not speedily extinguish a few thousand poor emaciated whites. Caution, however, abundant caution was very necessary. A rash step would ruin the colonies and sacrifice all their inhabitants. Nothing, in his opinion, could be more rash or more likely to produce bloodshed; and nothing could be more imprudent than a Resolution of this House, that slavery should he put an end to; for the moment that such intelligence reached the colonies, these poor men would at once act upon it, and they could not be retained in subjection even for one week. All the 5,600 petitions which had been presented on the subject came, like those on another great subject, from one shop. The delusions practised, too, in order to work upon the people, and excite their sympathy, were of a ridiculous nature; and when his noble friend (the Lord Chancellor) stood for Yorkshire, there were persons led about in chains, with blackened faces, in order to rouse the feelings of the people. Of course his noble friend was no party to this—for at most popular elections things of this kind were done. The gentlemen who took up this cause, too, were, of all others, least anxious for information and inquiry; they were satisfied with the impulse of their benevolent feelings, and if any disinterested persons, such as officers of the army and navy, having no connexion with the colonies, gave evidence, as they generally did, favourable to the West-Indians, no pains 1465 were spared to show that they must be interested parties. The Bishop of Jamaica had been exposed to the attacks of these zealots because he grave an opinion as to slavery different from theirs. He was sorry that his hon. friend (Doctor Lushington) had contributed to strengthen that charge, though it was, he was persuaded, wholly unfounded, by his observations. That respectable Prelate ought to have an opportunity of rebutting the charge made against him, and the whole subject ought to be inquired into, so as not to leave it at all in doubt. As to the question of tonight, however; he meant to vote for the motion of the noble Lord. The opposition given by the right hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Peel) to the amendment of the Government rather astonished him, for he could not see what difficulty there should be in voting for it. There could be no difference of opinion as to the propriety of enforcing the principle of amelioration in the West Indies. He desired that as earnestly as the most strenuous advocates of the negroes; and if it could not be accomplished by any other means, he would go all the lengths of those Gentlemen. He would wish the right hon. Baronet, then, to say how they could do better than proceed on the principle of the Resolutions of 1823. He was aware of the difficulties to be encountered; but the more he reflected, the less able he was to see how the object of the House could be otherwise attained. It must be attained either by direct legislation or by coercion; and this effect would attend direct legislation, that, if we were to supersede, in one instance, the local legislature, it would appear so degraded in the eyes of the blacks as to lose all respect; and, therefore, the measure ought to be effected through and by the colonial legislatures. The best way, he thought, to enforce obedience to the Resolutions of 1823 was, to threaten them with discriminating duties, and to communicate to the Jamaica Legislature that, if it did not act according to the Resolutions of 1893, the threat would be carried into effect.
had endeavoured to catch the Speaker's eye after the right hon. Baronet had sat down, but he was not sorry that precedence was given to the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken, for the latter speech had completely demolished the positions of the former. The question before the House was best explained 1466 by what had been said in reply to the right hon. Baronet—namely, "What were we to do if we were not to abide by the Resolutions of 1823?" The right hon. Baronet had said, that the House was hampered by these Resolutions; but this was the first time he (the Attorney General) had ever heard that asserted. The right hon. Gentleman had himself supported these Resolutions, which were proposed as an amendment to a motion of the hon. member for Weymouth; and if there was any faith in pledges, the right hon. Gentleman ought to feel bound, for he had actually spoken in favour of Mr. Canning's Motion, who had declared himself to be compelled by what he termed a trinoda necessitas. Mr. Canning then said, that "there were three possible modes in which Parliament might deal with the people of Jamaica. First, as I have said, it might crush them by the application of direct force; secondly, it might harass them by fiscal regulations and enactments restraining their navigation; and thirdly, it might pursue the slow and silent course of temperate but authoritative admonition. Now, if I am asked, Mr. Speaker, which course I would advise, I am for first trying that which I have last mentioned. I trust we shall never be driven to the second; and with respect to the first, I will only now say, that no feeling of wounded pride, no motive of questionable expediency, nothing short of real and demonstrable necessity shall induce me to moot the awful question of the transcendental power of Parliament over every dependency of the British Crown."✶ The course Government now wished to pursue was that recommended by Mr. Canning. The right hon. Baronet, too, had astonished him by expressing a feeling of being taken by surprise by these Resolutions; but certainly had not displeased him by wishing that those who had not heard the Resolutions should not vote upon them. He (the Attorney General) was the last person to wish any man to vote who had not heard a subject discussed; and if hon. Gentlemen were accustomed to leave the House, as perhaps might have occurred on the Timber Duties, and if they did not find the debate interesting enough to attend to it, God forbid that he should wish to coerce their consciences by forcing them to vote.✶ Hansard's Parliamentary Debates, New Series, Vol. x. p. 116.1467 The course of admonition having, then, failed, unless the House were prepared to abandon the Resolutions of 1823, force being out of the question, the matter to be considered was, whether the time was not come for this country to act in the other way pointed out by Mr. Canning. He certainly was surprised at one part of the speech of the hon. Member who had last spoken—the proposition for a Commission of Inquiry, which he considered absurd; for to suppose that there was any well-informed man or woman in England that did not possess a sufficient knowledge of West-India affairs, was a thing not to be imagined. Was the House to go to the West Indies in a body and converse with the slaves; and unless it did that, he did not know what sort of inquiries could add to its present information. The case of Kitty Hylton, which had already been alluded to, was one of the most atrocious cases that had come under the public eye, and committed by one in a station of life whose duty it was to protect and cherish the helpless, was alone decisive of the merits of that system of which it was a perfect sample. It made the blood run cold and the heart writhe with agony. It was not, however, the fault of the local authorities that the crime was not punished, for it appeared that the Attorney-General instituted a prosecution, but the Grand Jury, to do justice, ignored the Bill; and this, if any other proof were wanting, showed the necessity of adopting some coercive measures. The hon. member for Callington, indeed, seemed disposed to ridicule these tales, and treated the House like a terrified woman who had "supped full of horrors." That had generally been the policy of the hon. Member; and on a former occasion, when some frightful stories were brought before the House, the hon. Member said, "Tell me no more of these oft-repeated tales; I am sick of the worn-out names of Hodges and Huggins." The hon. Member then threw doubts on those horrid tales; but even while he was expressing his disbelief, the official accounts of the cruelties committed at Berbice arrived in England, and startled the credulity of the most eager advocates for slavery. Still, however, men's avarice conquered their humanity, and all sorts of pretexts were invented as an apology for not doing justice. It was said, that if the slave-population was set free, we should lose the colonies. But 1468 was Mexico lost? And was it not possible for emancipated slaves to live in the same country with their former masters? Mexico, Jamaica itself, and other countries furnished a proof that it was. The government of the blacks in Hayti, too, gave protection to all white residents who conducted themselves properly. Such examples might relieve the House from all alarm, and might convince it that emancipation might be granted with perfect safety to all the inhabitants of the colonies. The alarm afterwards, however, took a different form, and assumed an apprehension for the slaves themselves. If, it was said, you grant peculiar advantages to one island, in that island the people will be worked to death to keep possession of your markets. The apprehension was, that lowering the duties on sugar would, in some places, increase its growth, and harass the people by excessive labour. That fear was purely chimerical, for there could be no doubt, if the country shewed itself in earnest, that the refractory colonies would immediately give way. The fear, too, was inconsistent, for one part of the regulations by which these advantages were to be obtained, consisted in abridging the hours of labour. Gentlemen who threatened the House with resistance from the sugar islands, could hardly be serious, but if they were, it might be some consolation to them to know, that such treasonable schemes would be put down by the free men of colour, who had now the enjoyment of personal freedom, and a share of political rights. The loyalty of the people of colour would be a bridle on the disaffection of the planters. The present proposition exposed its movers to none of the dangers which had been implied, for it gave no pledge; it redeemed one; it performed the promise given long ago, and kept the word the House had sent forth in 1823. The right hon. Baronet, who appealed to the spirit of the House to oppose the Motion, did not inform the House what he himself proposed to do. He had devised no remedy for the disobedience of the colonies, and proposed no other alternative than the three brought forward in 1823. Not a word did he say of the tardy and lingering inquiry which the hon. and learned Gentleman wished to interpose, feeling, probably, that the object of delay was too apparent to be kept out of sight by his ingenuity. He had not adverted either to the ultima ratio of Mr. Canning, the crushing the colonies. 1469 The friends of the right hon. Baronet must themselves yet be in the dark as to the course he meant to pursue on the vote he appealed to them to give. For his part he appealed, like the right hon. Baronet, to the spirit of the House; not to the spirit of false pride and wounded self-importance, still less to the spirit of animosity excited, perhaps, by other measures, but gratified by opposing this; but to the spirit of justice, of mercy, of real and honourable consistency; he would not appeal to the spirit of deference to public opinion, though that ought to be cherished in a representative body, but he laid it as a charge to the conscience and honour of every Member to bear his part as an Englishman in wiping off the foulest stain that ever rested on the character of the country.
§ Sir R. Peel
explained, that he had appealed to the spirit of the House, because he understood the Under Secretary for the Colonies to require the House to adopt a certain course, on the faith of a document that was yet incomplete in the Colonial Office.
§ Lord Howick
had only referred to that order as an illustration of what the Government was disposed to do.
§ Lord Althorp
did not rise to oppose an adjournment if any hon. Member, had yet to speak; but, owing to the Reform Question coming on next week, he was afraid there would not be an open day that week.
§ Debate adjourned till Tuesday week.