§ Mr. Burge
wished to know whether the Government had taken pains to obtain full information on the subject before they sent out the order to emancipate the Crown Slaves; and whether they had adopted measures to provide for the future maintenance of those Slaves who were to be emancipated 161 before these orders were despatched, or they might become chargeable to the several parishes in which they resided; and the Islands were already so much burthened, that any additions ought to have been avoided.
§ Lord Howick
said, that before the orders were sent out to emancipate these slaves, the Government had sought the best information on the subject; and these orders were not sent out till that information was fully considered. Besides this, he could assure the hon. Gentleman, that all the necessary precautions had been taken by the Government to provide for these slaves. He could not let this opportunity pass without reading an extract from a letter written by the Governor of Antigua. That letter stated, that during the five months since the crown slaves had been set at liberty, there had been no complaint of their conduct, not a single charge had been brought against any one before a Magistrate, none had made application for relief on account of poverty, but they were all industriously occupied in providing for themselves. That was the report made by the Governor of Antigua concerning 371 slaves who were suddenly emancipated. There were now to be emancipated only thirty-six in number, and they were Creoles, who were supported at an annual expense of 430l., which would be saved. He asked the House whether there was any danger that these thirty-six Creoles would create any embarrassment when the 371 negroes had occasioned none whatever? He wished to make some few observations with regard to the numbers and expenses of the Creole slaves in the other Islands. In Jamaica there were 372, maintained at an annual expense of 1,700l.; in the Mauritius, there were 300 who cost about 4000l per annum. Of course it was desirable this money should be saved, and he thought from what he had stated, he had shewn this could be done safely, and with a benefit to the parties themselves. They had received excellent accounts of the conduct of the crown slaves in the various colonies; some of them were good tradesmen, and could maintain themselves and families well, and most of them had received some education. From all these facts, he thought, Government had pursued a proper and prudent course.
§ Mr. Burge
hoped, that the Government, before it adopted any decisive measures, 162 would have some communications with those who possessed the best means of information on the subject, and those who had the deepest interest in the welfare of the colonies. Hitherto, the crown slaves when they had become old and infirm, had been maintained at the expense of the Government, but by emancipating them, they must be otherwise provided for. He had not understood, that any measure had been taken to provide a fund for their relief, and the expense of maintaining them would be thrown upon the colonies.
§ Lord Howick
assured the hon. Member that there was no chance of these slaves becoming a burthen on the colonies, for there was a special provision made for their support, by the Collector of the Customs having been ordered to defray the expenses.
said, that the noble Lord had made a statement, the substance of which he had himself placed before the House about ten years ago, when he had clearly shown, that the mismanagement of the crown estates cost the public 3,000l. or 4,000l. a year, and that those slaves, when emancipated, would provide for themselves. He was glad that the Government was at last convinced of this fact, and he hoped it would act upon the knowledge derived from its own servants. He offered the Ministers his best thanks for what they had done, and he hoped they would persevere in the same course they had now adopted, taking due precautions to observe how the general emancipation of the slaves in the crown colonies affected the other slave population of the islands.