§ On the Motion of Lord Althorp, the Order of the Day for the House going into Committee on the Sugar Duties was read.
§ Lord Althorp
Before moving, Sir, that you leave the Chair, I think that it may be convenient to the House, if I preface my Motion with one or two observations. It is not my intention to detain the House long; but, having been pressed on the subject by Gentlemen connected with the West-India interests, it seems desirable for me to make a short statement on the subject. I have been told by those Gentlemen, that it is necessary that I should state specifically what is the nature of those measures of relief to which I alluded on the last evening that this question was debated. On that occasion I stated, that I did not think that it would be advisable for me to make that statement at the present period, or before I was able to propose the measure to the House for adoption. In consequence, however, of the Suggestions that have been thrown out, I have since given my best consideration to the 808 subject; and I am now bound to state, that the more I have considered it, the more clear does it appear to me, that it would not be consistent with my duty to state now what is the specific object of the mode of relief I mean to propose. I am, however, prepared to repeat what I before stated, that it will be a relief proffered to such of the West-India colonies as shall have shown themselves disposed to accede to the wishes of the Government; and, indeed, it must be evident to all, that, by moving for the renewal of the sugar duties for the short period only of six months, I am quite willing still to leave the door open to discussion. But, besides these measures, the House is, of course, perfectly aware, that, in different parts of the West-India colonies, severe recent calamities have taken place, which have given rise to great destruction of property; I allude, of course, to the hurricane in Barbadoes, and the insurrection in Jamaica, which calamities have necessarily greatly aggravated the local suffering in those colonies where they have occurred. Looking at this distress, we have felt that it would be perfectly consistent with that sympathy which the mother country ought to feel towards the colonies for us to call on this House to grant temporary relief to them, without encumbering that relief with any of those conditions which I have alluded to in speaking of the other more permanent plan of relief. I am aware of the difficulty attending this sort of proposition, but I trust that the extreme exigency of the case may well form an apology for our intention; and I have therefore to state to the House, that it is the purpose of the Government to afford assistance to the sufferers under these two calamities by way of loan. The House has already agreed to give aid to the poorer classes who suffered by the hurricane in Barbadoes; but there still remains a large number of those who suffered not belonging to that class, and who, from their superior station, can give security for any assistance afforded them; and, therefore, by taking care, that that security was given, and that the Government should have a prior claim over all other charges on the property, I trust that the Ministers may safely propose that this measure shall be carried into effect. I hope that, in adopting this course, we shall be able to prove to the colonists that we have a feeling of sympathy for their mis- 809 fortunes, and that the effect will be such as to induce them to indulge a kindly feeling towards the mother country, and give them an inclination towards yielding that which we have so much at heart. Having said thus much, I will not detain the House further, but move, Sir, that you now leave the Chair.
§ Mr. Burge
thought that the noble Lord should state at once what was the nature of the relief which he intended to propose; because he could hardly expect that the colonists were to surrender all their rights, without even so much as knowing what they were to have in exchange. But Ministers seemed inclined to promulgate the doctrine that, notwithstanding all the difficulties under which the colonies laboured, all relief was to be withheld, unless they pledged themselves to comply with unknown conditions—a practice which every man of British feeling, and with British habits, would denounce as unjust. There was no principle in the Constitution which implied that those who were entitled to legislate for themselves should submit to act upon peremptory instructions directing them what they were to do. It must have been well known to the Government, that the colonists could never consent to accept relief on any such condition as that proposed. That was sufficiently manifest from the feeling that had been excited throughout the colonies when the sweeping plan of the Government was communicated to them, accompanied with the not very judicious commentary of the noble Lord who was particularly connected with that department of the State. That plan had excited throughout all the islands a degree of discontent which had never before been known there—so much as even to attract the notice of all those Powers who had possessions in the same quarter of the globe; and indeed, he might say, that so strong was the feeling which the colonists entertained with regard to that plan, that, however ardent their attachment for the mother country, they were convinced that the period was at length arrived when there existed in 'this country a Government that had forgotten that the colonies were the children of the state, from which they had a right to look for the most complete protection. He could not give a greater proof of the tremendous nature of the experiments which the Government was aware they were about to try in the West Indies than 810 by adducing one fact, namely, that almost immediately after the receipt in the colonies of the despatches, accompanied by the debates in that House, particularly the speech of the noble Lord, the Undersecretary for the Colonies, intimating the intentions of Government, there was also received, a proclamation for removing the delusions into which the colonists were likely to fall, when they found it was the intention of Government to carry all their opinions into execution—opinions which would effect all the mischief which the colonists had ever dreaded. That the Government should have sent such a proclamation was a complete proof that it anticipated, as the consequence of its own actions, discontent among the colonists. Another proof of the existence of this feeling on the part of the Government might be found in the circumstance, that, in the more distant Crown colonies, it was feared a similar impression might have been produced, and, accordingly, the Order in Council had never been forwarded to the Mauritius; and he believed, that, even at the present moment, it had not yet been sent. He would unscrupulously declare it to be his opinion, that if there was any circumstance which more strongly than another would mark the incompetency and the unfitness of the colonial part of the Administration to occupy their offices in Downing-street, it was to be found in the circular despatch sent by Lord Goderich to the respective Governors of the West-Indian colonies. There were passages in that letter, which, if the document did not bear the name of Lord Goderich, he never could have believed had been written by him. There had been a time when that noble Lord had received the thanks of the colonies for his prudence and caution; but, in that despatch, there were expressions so little consonant with the noble Lord's usual urbanity and high-minded feelings, that he felt himself utterly at a loss to account for the spirit in which it had been drawn up. It seemed to be an attempt studiously to depreciate the colonies, by representing the society there as possessing neither education nor information. It might have been naturally supposed, that every set of men, however adverse to the colonial interests when in opposition, would, on coming into office, have so far felt the responsibility of their situation as to have been extremely careful how they committed them- 811 selves hastily upon so vital a question. He begged to remind the House that, when the present Government came into office, they found the colonies, it was true, in a state of great financial distress; but they also found, with respect to Jamaica, at least, that the two subjects which had so long been matter of controversy between the legislature in that island, and the preceding Government at home, were at length happily adjusted—he meant the payment of the troops, and the depositing of the large sum annually voted by the Jamaica legislature in the hands of the commanding-officer; and also the passing a clause in the consolidated slave law, admitting the evidence of a slave against the white. He should have thought that the long dispute and settlement of these two questions would have suggested to the Government, that a little more time was necessary for looking at these great interests, before they ventured to propose any plan for the internal regulation of the colonies. Instead of that, however, on almost the very first occasion on which the Government avowed its policy—on the Motion of the hon. member for Weymouth—that took place which had excited so much feeling in the West Indies, and which, he was afraid, would lead to the most disastrous consequences. He should purposely abstain from adverting in any way to the slavery question, because he did not think that was a proper time for its discussion; and he should also abstain from expressing any opinion on the recent insurrection in Jamaica, lest it should be thought that he was casting imputations on any particular parties; but it was impossible for him to refrain from expressing his conviction, that those dreadful results to which he had adverted, were occasioned by the delusion arising out of the unfortunate propositions of the present Government. From the year 1760 to 1817, no insurrection took place in Jamaica. There was, indeed, the Maroon war in 1797, but so far from the negroes taking any part with the insurgents, they all along showed their willingness to support the white population. The insurrection in 1817 followed close on the discussion in that House—a discussion conducted without either prudence or temper. The next convulsion that shook Jamaica was in the latter end of 1823, which also happened shortly after another discussion in that House; and now there was another insurrection, 812 arising out of discussions which obtained fresh force and power of mischief on the accession of the present Government to office. On the effects of that insurrection he would not enlarge; but he must say, that the ill-matured plans of the Ministry had led to misconception on the part of the negroes. It was impossible to exonerate his Majesty's Ministers; for never before had any Government declared to the colonies—"Your own legislatures must cease their influence, and yield to the Legislature of Downing-street; for we will not allow you the privilege of even a verbal alteration." Was this wise, or was it prudent? Could the noble Viscount be so confident in himself, or in the Government to which he belonged, to say that he was sufficiently acquainted with the colonial interests as to impose on the colonies such onerous conditions? No Government before this ever thought of imposing such a penalty for not obeying the legislation of Downing-street; for two-thirds of the people who would suffer had no choice. What could be said of a Government which excluded two-thirds of the people from relief, because those over them would not adopt the regulations of his Majesty's Government? It was new in government and in finance, to punish men for what they could not control or avoid. If the legislation was most perfect—and that it was he denied—yet the mode of enforcing it would destroy all the merit of the scheme itself. Whatever might be the feelings of the House as to soundness of the principle, he was sure it would join him in opinion against the mode of enforcing the scheme, though they agreed in the scheme itself. It was the first act of the present Government. It had made no communication to the colonial legislature before it ordered this scheme to be executed. It was, however, said, that the preceding Government made various applications to the colonies, and failed; and this was the excuse made for the extraordinary course pursued by the present Government. He wished that the Ministers had been actuated by the principles of that great statesman, who had been, with regard to that subject, so repeatedly referred to. There was nothing in Mr. Canning's speeches inconsistent with his own proposition, namely, that every thing to be done with respect to the colonies, was to be done through their own legislative bodies. He also most 813 heartily wished that the Ministers had adopted the principles of the Duke of Wellington; for he distinctly refused to sanction that species of menace which was to be found in the language of the present Government. In his opinion, the statement of the noble Chancellor of the Exchequer should not have been made, unless he was prepared distinctly to state his plan, in order that it might be known, whether it would receive the consent of the parties interested. The time selected made it still more objectionable. Was the unfortunate colony of Jamaica in any condition to meet this new pressure? And what an impulse would be added to the lawless spirit that existed there, when it was known, that although the Government had received intelligence of the rebellion, and had sent out an additional force, yet it persevered in the measures which had led to the mischief. Ministers though they had given assistance to the island, still persevered in that plan which only to announce six months before had excited the greatest degree of alarm. Adhering to this plan under such circumstances, was sufficient to place that society in a situation which would destroy all confidence. The knowledge of the proceeding of that House would, by to-morrow's mail, be conveyed to that island. It would be then known that his Majesty's Government would give no relief but on these conditions. There, however, forty or fifty miles of land was already a perfect waste. The negro population were thrown adrift on the rest of society. How was that event to be met? It would be unsafe for men to live there, much less to advance their property; and without that, how was prosperity to be restored? The loan advanced by the Government would be of no use, unless a line of conduct were adopted which would restore confidence. To satisfy the claims of sympathy and the claims of justice, it was necessary for the Government to avoid that policy which would lead to the destruction of these colonies. Similar discontent had existed in other islands, and it was not yet known what would be the effect of the knowledge of the insurrection in Jamaica, on the negroes of those islands. It was known, indeed, that the negroes had in some places refused to obey their masters. Expenditure, to improve any of the colonies, could not be incurred while property in all the islands was exposed to 814 jeopardy. The hon. and learned Gentleman again referred to Jamaica, and said, that it was in such a state that the taxes could not be raised for the support of the public establishment. Instead of irritating these colonies, a prudent Government would endeavour to win their affections by a course of wise concession and conciliation. These colonies wished to continue united with Great Britain—their natural affections as well as their interests led them to desire British connexion. But were Government aware of the language in which the rulers of other countries were addressing these colonies? Had they seen, for instance, the language in which the government of the United States spoke to them through the North American Review? To conciliate them was, therefore, no less a matter of duty than of policy. They had contributed largely to the aid of England in her hour of danger, and their importance was seen in the eagerness of Government to raise these sugar duties upon their produce. If the Government continued to press upon them by harsh fiscal regulations, it might produce their ruin; but when their ruin was effected, the merchants and manufacturers of England would find themselves deprived of one of their principal markets, and one of their main sources of wealth. The colonies might pass away from us, and our manufacturing prosperity would pass away also, and then our empire would be limited to narrow bounds of local interests. The policy of his Majesty's Government was calculated to nourish petty interests but was unworthy of the mighty interests of a great empire like this. Under all the circumstances of the case, he could not consent to the Speaker leaving the Chair. If the noble Lord had abstained from his coercive proceedings for the present, and had granted a Committee to inquire into the whole state of these colonies as he had suggested, and measures founded on those inquiries had been brought forward, that would have restored confidence, and given value to property. He begged that nothing which had fallen from him respecting the general policy of the Government, could be supposed to detract from the deep sense of obligation he felt towards the noble Lord, for the vote of assistance he had proposed for Jamaica. He begged, also, that his anxiety for the welfare of the colonies might not cause it to be supposed that he did not desire to see the 815 gradual extinction of slavery. All he wished was, that that object should be accomplished without injury either to the planter or the slave. In conclusion, he had only to express a hope that Government would evince such a disposition on the present question, as would preclude the necessity of his opposing the Motion.
§ Lord Howick
had heard with great pain the inflammatory speech of the hon. and learned Member who had just sat down, for the speedy and satisfactory settlement of this question was of great importance, and if it were longer delayed it might lead to great disasters. It could only, however, be brought to a satisfactory conclusion by mutual concessions, and he regretted that a gentleman who stood so high in the confidence of the legislature of Jamaica, should have so misconceived the policy which the Government had for some years pursued. Aggravated as the charges were which the hon. Member had brought, not only against the policy of Government, but also against those who had acted upon it, he had no doubt that the House would mark their conduct with approbation when hon. Members fairly considered what was the nature of their policy and the grounds on which it was justified. He begged hon. Gentlemen to consider what was the position of this question when the present Government first came into office. Every one was aware that, by the Resolutions of 1823, the House was pledged to promote the immediate mitigation, and to aim at the ultimate extinction of slavery. Every one was also aware that successive Governments, acting upon the policy of Mr. Canning, had introduced into the colonies of the Crown, regulations which had produced a marked effect in improving the condition of the slaves, and in promoting the hopes of the extinction of slavery. He would not on that occasion discuss the nature of those regulations, neither would he stop to inquire whether they had gone as far as the advocates for the abolition of slavery expected. He would only say that, so far as they went, they were in his, opinion, calculated to benefit the slave without being at all injurious to the master. In the colonies which did not belong to the Crown, but which enjoyed legislative assemblies of their own, the examples which had been set in the Crown colonies had not been followed. He would not contrast the laws made by the different colonial assemblies, with the order of 816 council which was carried into execution in Trinidad in 1824, and which was recommended as a model of imitation for the other colonies. He would only say, that in none of them had that order been fully carried into effect; on the contrary, in most of them it had been perfectly and completely evaded. Under such circumstances, he would ask the House to say what conduct the Administration ought to have followed? Were they to leave slavery as they found it in Jamaica, and to let the planters triumph over the British Legislature? Since the Resolutions of that House were agreed to in 1823, a correspondence had been carried on by three successive Secretaries of State, for the colonies, who had earnestly endeavoured to impress upon their attention the propriety of adopting the views of Parliament. The language of admonition and remonstrance had been exhausted in vain, and nothing further could be done to give additional weight to remonstrances which had been already slighted. Was the Government then to allow the Assembly of Jamaica, and of the other legislative colonies, to persist in neglecting these recommendations? If their own sense of what was due to justice and humanity would have allowed Ministers to follow such a course, the universal feeling of the people of England would have rendered it impossible. They could not remain where they then were. Compliance with the wishes of Parliament was, therefore, urged upon the colonial legislatures. Some years ago it was stated by Mr. Canning that the first course which the Government ought to pursue to bring the colonial legislatures to reason, was to try the language of exhortation and remonstrance. But that language was now exhausted, it was impossible to add anything either to the weight or urgency of the expostulations which had been repeatedly made by preceding Governments. In the eight years which had elapsed since the Resolutions of 1823, a correspondence which was anything but satisfactory, had been carried on between the British Government and the legislature of Jamaica. In that correspondence successive Secretaries of State had endeavoured to impress upon the legislature of Jamaica the necessity of adopting the views of Parliament. Gentlemen must see that there must come a time when it was fitting that the language of exhortation should cease. That time had now arrived; 817 and in consequence of the speech of the hon. Member, it became necessary for him, though unprepared for the task that evening, to enter into a consideration of the conduct of the Government. On the 28th of May, 1823, shortly after the Resolutions, already referred to, had been adopted by the House, a circular was sent out by Lord Bathurst containing a copy of the Resolutions which Parliament had sanctioned. A second circular was sent out by the same nobleman on the 9th of July in the same year, in which the strongest exhortations to adopt those Resolutions were addressed to the legislature of Jamaica. The conclusion of that despatch was couched in the following terms: "In conclusion, I have most earnestly to impress upon you the necessity of proceeding to carry these improvements into effect, not only with all possible despatch, but in the spirit of perfect and cordial co-operation with the efforts of his Majesty's Government. More particularly you will be attentive to have the necessary laws framed with such precaution and foresight as, if possible, to provide an effectual security for the faithful observance of them. To this end you will consult with the legal advisers of the Crown on the frame of the necessary Bills, and you will, from time to time, communicate with me upon the progress you make in this work, or upon the difficulties which may obstruct its completion, and if (what I am unwilling to imagine) you should meet with serious opposition, you will lose no time in transmitting to me the necessary communication, in order that I may take the earliest opportunity of laying the matter before Parliament, and submitting for their consideration such measures as it may be tit to adopt in consequence." In reply to this document a Resolution was passed by the House of Assembly, stating that they had observed with surprise and regret that Parliament had sanctioned the principles of their enemies in the mother country; and declaring their determination not to entertain the notion of the ultimate extinction of slavery in their colony.
§ Lord Howick
had not the whole Report with him. What he had read showed 818 that there was a spirit in the Assembly of Jamaica which would render remonstrance after nine years' of remonstrance, worse than childish. On the 30th of July, 1825, another despatch was written by Lord Bathurst, in which he complained that the only measure proposed in the House of Assembly for the admission of slave evidence had been rejected, only one person voting for it. On the 18th of March, 1826, Lord Bathurst sent a draught of two bills, which the House of Assembly refused even to consider; stating that such bills were a breach of their privileges. On the 22nd of September, 1827, another despatch was written by Mr. Huskisson, representing to the House of Assembly how unsatisfactory was the progress which they had made, and the spirit which they had manifested. In that despatch Mr. Huskisson disallowed the act passed by the Colonial Assembly in 1826, because it contained several clauses contrary to the principle of toleration asserted by Parliament. A long and voluminous despatch, in answer to that of Mr. Huskisson, was drawn up by a Committee of the House of Assembly; and upon that despatch Mr. Huskisson wrote a letter in March 18, 1828, in which he informed the House of Assembly, that a continued Resolution on their part not to act as Parliament had wished, would compel Parliament to act for them. Sir George Murray wrote two despatches to the House of Assembly, one dated the 3rd, and the other the 15th of September, 1828. He begged leave to call the attention of the House to the language of the last of these documents. Sir George Murray informed the House of Assembly that some amelioration of the laws regarding slaves was to them a matter of necessary policy, which was every day becoming more and more urgent. Such an amelioration, he said, would give the best security they could have for the continuance of their property. Unless they made such amelioration, he assured them that it would be impossible to stem the impatience of the people of England, for some legislative interference of the imperial Parliament on the subject. In another despatch, dated the 8th of April, 1830, Sir George Murray adopted all the sentiments which had been previously expressed by Mr. Huskisson. Such was the history of the negotiation with the colonial legislature of Jamaica; and after such a proof of its not leading to a satis- 819 factory result, would it have been to the honour either of Parliament or of the Crown, again to offer the House of Assembly the advice which had been so often contemptuously rejected before? There was a still stronger reason for not continuing these remonstrances, and that was, a regard to the welfare of the West-India interest. The correspondence to which he had just alluded was always laid regularly before Parliament and the country; and the remonstrances which had failed to produce the desired effect upon the House of assembly of Jamaica, had necessarily increased the general impatience of the public in this country, for the accomplishment of an object to which they attached so much importance. To have gone on, therefore, addressing exhortations and admonitions to the assembly, when there was no longer a hope that such language would be attended to, would have been merely to increase the excitement and irritability which existed at home. He was willing to make every allowance for the conduct of the Assembly of Jamaica, suffering as the people were under the severe pressure of distress, and irritated by constant attacks. However much he might regret the matter, it became absolutely necessary (if for no other reason, with a view to the interest of the planters themselves) to take measures for putting an end to the controversy which was going on between the executive government and the local Legislature. Nor, was this his opinion only, for he had heard his hon. friend, the member for Thetford, more than once declare, that it was the duty of the Government to take the matter into its own hands, to come forward with some specific plan, and propose some means for carrying it into execution. He thought his hon. friend had taken a correct view of the case, and it was greatly to be lamented that this course was not earlier adopted. It was only one among many instances of that miserable and temporizing policy, to which the present difficulties were to be attributed, which, never looking at dangers while at a distance—never seeking to deal with great questions while they could be easily and satisfactorily arranged, merely attempted to get through from day to day the ordinary routine of business, with no other object than that of not increasing the pressure to which the Government was exposed, without considering the ultimate consequence of such ill-advised 820 and impolitic delay. This temporizing policy, which had been too long persevered in, could no longer be maintained, and the present Government was compelled to choose between abandoning the object to which Parliament and the country stood pledged, submitting to the resistance of the assemblies, or taking measures by which that resistance might be overcome. It was necessary that some step should be taken; and, agreeing with Mr. Canning, that coercion ought to be had recourse to only in the last extremity, the Government was anxious to avoid making an appeal to the direct legislative authority of the Imperial Parliament, hoping that the obedience of the colonial legislatures would be secured by measures which would at once have the effect of manifesting the determination of this country not to recede from her just demands, and afford them an inducement to yield, holding out as the reward of compliance, the prospect of relief from that distress which the Government acknowledged and deplored. Acting upon these views, when the hon. member for Weymouth last year brought forward his Motion, and it became necessary to explain to the House and to the country, what was the policy intended to be pursued on this subject, his noble friend moved, as an amendment, resolutions, the effect of which would have been, to pledge the House to afford advantages, in the shape of a remission of duties to those colonies which should consent to adopt the recommendations of Government; at the same time that an intimation was given, that an order in Council would be drawn up, completing that which had been passed the year before, and which Sir George Murray had at the time expressly stated he had left imperfect, for want of further information; the adoption of the contemplated order in Council would, it was announced, be the condition of giving the indulgence proposed. This course had been the subject of loud and vehement attack. It was said, that the imposition of discriminating duties was only a mode of evading the privileges of the colonial legislatures. The hon. and learned Gentleman who had addressed the House, asked whether any Government had ever before thought of adopting such a course, and stated that, in not one of Mr. Canning's speeches, was it intimated that it was desirable to do anything, except through the colonial legislatures themselves. No doubt, Mr. Canning 821 thought it desirable, as every man must that the wished-for reformation should be the work of the colonial legislatures themselves; but, in case of necessity, he contemplated taking a different course. They had heard much of the effect produced in the colonies by the debates upon this subject, and he should have thought that the speech of Mr. Canning, in moving the resolutions of 1823, would have been eagerly read in Jamaica, but no accurate report of what passed on that occasion could have reached the colony, or the inhabitants could not have forgotten what Mr. Canning said, in the splendid and masterly speech with which he introduced his amendment to the Motion of the hon. member for Weymouth:—'We have a right,' said the right hon. Gentleman, 'to expect from the colonial legislatures, a full and fair co-operation. And, being as much averse by habit, as I am at this moment precluded by duty, from mooting imaginary points, and looking to the solution of extreme, though not impossible questions I must add, that any resistance which might be manifested to the express and declared wishes of Parliament—any resistance, I mean, which should partake, not of reason, but of contumacy, would create a case (a case, however, which, I sincerely trust, will never occur) upon which his Majesty's Government would not hesitate to come down to Parliament for counsel.'* He thought it was sufficiently clear from this that Mr. Canning contemplated other measures, in case of resistance on the part of the colonial legislatures. But, on the 16th of March, 1824, his language was still stronger: he said—'There are 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 may pursue the slow and silent course of temperate, but authoritative admonition. Now, Mr. Speaker, If I am asked 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 question-Hansard's Parl. Debates, (new series), vol. ix. p. 286.822 able 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.;* Such was the language of Mr. Canning in 1824; in 1826, he proposed that the resolution which had been agreed to three years previously by the House of Commons should be sent up to the Lords for their concurrence. He would, with the permission of the House, read a part of the speech he made on that occasion. The right hon. Gentleman said, 'He would not, however, deny, but that, from the spirit which the colonies had already displayed on this subject, it was more than probable that the time might arrive when it would be necessary for that House to interfere more directly, but as he saw that such an interference would be pregnant with evil, both to the country and to the colonies, he was loth to have recourse to it as long as there was any possibility that it might be avoided.'† He was desirous,' the right hon. Gentleman afterwards said, 'of giving to the colonial legislatures another chance of bringing about, by their own agency, all that the British Parliament wished, without the disturbance of the established system, or the agitation of the question, from which, though he should not hesitate to enter into it when the occasion demanded considerable difficulties which he wished to avoid, if possible, would of necessity ensue, when it was once mooted. He would give them space and respite for a further trial. He agreed with the hon. member for Weymouth, that, after the time of that space and respite had expired, the period might come, when it would be the duty of the Parliament, to take the matter out of the hands of the colonial legislatures, and when it would be the duty of the Government to come forward and ask Parliament for additional powers, which would be requisite to entrust to it for the accomplishment of objects which the colonial assemblies had refused to effect by their own exertions.'‡ Here, then, was a clear exposition of Mr. Canning's views, and the views of the Government of which he was the organ. He proposed to first try exhortation, then fiscal† Hansard's Parl. Debates (new series), vol. x. p. 1106.† Ibid. vol. xiv. p. 974.‡ Ibid p. 978.823 regulation, and, lastly, direct legislation; and, so long ago as the year 1826, he considered that the first had almost failed; his forbearance was then nearly exhausted, and he was desirous of giving to the colonies only "space and respite for one further trial." To warn the local legislatures how nearly the season of indulgence had expired—to convey to them the clearest intimation of the determination of Parliament, he then made a motion to send the resolutions of 1823 up to the House of Lords for their concurrence. Was it possible to deny, then, that the conduct of the present Government had been the most lenient, which, consistently with its duties, it could adopt? Exhortation having failed, the principle of the course recommended by his noble friend in the resolutions he moved last year was distinctly pointed out by Mr. Canning, in his advice to harass the colonies by fiscal regulations and enactments, restraining their navigation. The hon. and learned Gentleman seemed to imagine, that he was not correct in saying that there was an exact agreement between the course proposed by his noble friend, and that recommended by Mr. Canning. The hon. and learned Gentleman was right; there was a distinction between them, and it was this—Mr. Canning held out a threat to the disobedient; his noble friend, a promise of reward to the obedient. His noble friend did not threaten to stop up the ports of the contumacious colonies, to harass their trade, and compel them, by dire necessity, to give way; but he said, "We will not, in the first instance, at least, adopt any measure to punish and coerce those colonies which resist, but we will promise to those which yield to our just and reasonable demand such assistance and relief as it is in our power to bestow." The distinction in point of leniency, then, was not in favour of Mr. Canning's Administration, but in favour of the Government of 1831. The Resolutions moved by his noble friend last year were not formally assented to; but there could not be the slightest doubt that, upon a division, they would have been carried; and the only reason why they were not was, that the hon. member for Preston moved an adjournment of the House, and a few days afterwards Parliament was dissolved. They were not again brought forward, for this simple reason—that there could not be a rational doubt on the mind of any man of what were the senti- 824 ments of Parliament and of the country; and it was thought most desirable, from the danger of such discussions in the House, to avoid unnecessarily agitating the question. It was the anxiety of the Ministers to bring on such a debate, which induced them not to ask for the mere formal expression of an opinion, which could not be doubted, and to postpone coming to Parliament until acting upon that opinion, its concurrence in the measures to be adopted was actually to be required. It was not, however, in disguise or concealment that they took their course; for, after the debate in April last, not a day was lost in collecting the materials for the Order in Council, which had been so much criticized. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman, the late Secretary of State for the Colonial Department, in the despatch which accompanied the former Order in Council, had stated to the Governors of the different colonies, that certain points were omitted in it, on which he was not then prepared to legislate, but to which it was intended to revert at a future opportunity. Now, all must agree that, if we were to make a specific offer to the Assemblies at all, it was most desirable that the whole plan, with which it was connected should be laid before them altogether. For this reason, a new Order in Council was drawn up to supply the omissions of the former. The draught was printed, and transmitted to the hon. and learned Gentleman the member for Eye, to the agents of the different colonies, and to all who were thought particularly interested in the subject; they were, at the same time, invited to make any objections or remarks, which they thought could be of service, and contribute to render the Order in Council as complete and perfect as possible. They accepted the invitation; remarks were sent in, which were carefully considered; and considerable alterations were, in consequence, made in the original draft. The Order in Council, so framed, was transmitted to the Crown colonies in the first instance, and afterwards to the Legislative colonies, in a circular despatch, in which, Lord Coderich explained the intentions of the Government, and stated his anxiety that the Colonial Legislatures should understand that the only object of the Government was to promote the true interest of all parties, and the noble Lord endeavoured to convince them that this course was not 825 adopted in a spirit of hostility towards the colonies; but, on the contrary, in a sincere belief that it was absolutely necessary for their own safety, that some decided step should at length be taken. The hon. and learned Gentleman had stated it as the gravamen of the charge against the Government, that the Order in Council was required to be adopted without alteration or amendment. The hon. and learned Gentleman, in making that charge, had not stated what other course it was possible to pursue. When certain advantages were to be granted, or withheld, according to the compliance of a party, with particular conditions, was it not indispensably necessary that those conditions should be precise and definite? They all knew, from daily experience in this country, that, by some unexpected construction of the expressions made use of, and by verbal inaccuracies, the intended objects of Acts of Parliament were not unfrequently, in a great measure, defeated. Could the Government, then, leave the framing of Acts, upon the wording of which, their whole efficiency must depend, to the Colonial Legislature, which were not anxious to accomplish the objects intended to be promoted, and which, only yielded a reluctant assent in the hope of participating in the advantages which were conditional upon doing so. If the task of framing the Acts had been committed to the Colonial Legislatures, how would it have been possible for the Government to say, that any one colony was or was not entitled to the advantages held out to those which consented to the adoption of the measures recommended to them? Was it so easy to pronounce, positively, how far any given law carried into effect its professed object? The agents of the West-Indian colonies circulated last year an abstract of the laws passed by the different local legislatures intended to show that those assemblies had, in many particulars, adopted the suggestions made to them; whilst, on the other hand, their opponents entered into a long argument to show that the supposed compliances with those suggestions had been perfectly nugatory. He did not say which was right or which was wrong, but he stated the fact to show how great a difference of opinion might exist as to the effect of a law, and to prove the utter impossibility of the Government undertaking to decide between the opposite constructions put by different parties upon 826 the Acts passed by so many separate Legislatures. He should not have troubled the House with any further vindication of the course taken by the Government subsequent to the debate of April last, or with any further reference to that debate, had not the hon. and learned Gentleman brought a charge against the Government, which it was absolutely necessary to answer. He said, that, what passed on that occasion was the direct and exciting cause of those calamities in Jamaica, which they had now to deplore, and, in proof of that assertion, he stated, that, soon after the despatches intimating the intention of the Government accompanied by the debates in that House, arrived in the West Indies, Government issued a proclamation, in order to undeceive the negroes as to what was intended to be done. The hon. and learned Member had particularly referred to the speech he had formerly made, as calculated to excite delusion in the minds of the slaves, and of apprehensions on the part of the planters; he, therefore, felt himself called upon totally to deny entertaining the slightest feeling of bitterness or animosity against the West Indies. It was most unjust to say, that in consequence of that speech, it became necessary to issue the proclamation in question. That proclamation was sent out at the instance of the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite, of the agent for St. Vincent, and others interested in the West-Indian Colonies, not in consequence of what passed in that House in April last, but in consequence of what passed in the same month in the island of Antigua. It was impossible that the debate on the intentions of the Government could have been surmised in the West Indies in April; but some slight disturbances having occurred in Antigua in that month, and reports having reached this country that an erroneous impression had been created in the minds of the slaves, the proclamation alluded to was drawn, up and sent out by Lord Goderich, with a circular despatch, dated the 3rd of June (more than two months after the delivery), in which the different governors were directed to issue the proclamation in case of its being found necessary to do so. Lord Belmore's answer to that despatch was dated the 20th of July, and was among the papers which were now printing, and which he was sorry were not in the hands of hon. Members. Lord Belmore, in this communication, informed Lord Goderich 827 that the appearance of tranquillity among the slave population was such that he had not thought it necessary to publish the proclamation; and his Lordship added the following observations:—Accounts in the public papers will inform your Lordships of various parochial meetings which have already assembled, and the resolutions they have adopted. The transactions certainly manifest considerable excitement and alarm 'but, in my apprehension, are more calculated to disturb the minds of the slaves, than any report they may casually have heard of something being intended for their benefit, which their owners endeavour to withhold from them. My own opinion of the slave population is, that, collectively, they are sound and well-disposed.This was written full two months after the speech, which it was said, did so much mischief, had arrived in Jamaica. But, although Lord Belmore did not think it necessary to issue the proclamation, he thought it right, in consequence of Lord Goderich's communication, to put the magistrates of the different parishes upon their guard. He was sure that the hon. and learned Gentleman must be aware of the two circulars written by Mr. Bullock, under Lord Belmore's direction, to the custodes of the different parishes. In the first of these circulars he told them, that Lord Goderich "had disclaimed, in the most distinct manner, any intention on the part of his Majesty's Government to adopt any measure which might have the effect of interfering with the spirit of the resolutions of the House of Commons of 1823, relative to the ultimate extinction of slavery in his Majesty's colonies." Further on, a hope was expressed, "that this explicit declaration of his Majesty's Government would remove any alarm or apprehension which some of the parochial resolutions might have excited in the minds of the community at large;" and Mr. Bullock concluded, by requesting the custodes to give the greatest publicity to his communication. The hon. and learned Gentleman would find this letter in the correspondence published in the Gazette, and he would see that the concluding sentence was intended to warn the planters of the danger of the course which they were pursuing, and to point out to them that mischief was to be apprehended, not so much from the debate which had taken place in this House, as from the intemperate resolutions come to by the colonists themselves. The se- 828 cond circular to which he had referred, and which was also in the Gazette, was dated a few days after the former—on the 30th of July: it was marked confidential, and was addressed, like the former, to the custodes. In this letter, Mr. Bullock desired "the earliest information of any circumstance which might arise to require the adoption of further measures, in order to remove any erroneous impression which the slaves might have received of the designs of his Majesty's Government;" and observed, "that vigilance is more necessary, when discussions had taken place which were liable to misconstruction or misrepresentation." This was six months before the insurrection broke out. On the 4th of August, Lord Belmore wrote word, "that nothing had occurred to manifest the least uneasiness or excitement among the slaves." Afterwards, on the 6th of September, Lord Belmore transmitted home various resolutions of the parochial meetings, terming them "violent and intemperate," and observed that committees had been appointed in some parishes to correspond with other districts, and had nominated delegates. In a private letter, of the 21st of November, Lord Belmore gave a similar account; and he was sure the hon. and learned Gentlemen's attention must have been attracted to the despatch of Lord Belmore, dated the 6th of January, printed in the Gazette, in which he observed, 'The delegates had sent forth an ambiguous declaration deprecating, as they expressed themselves, the insidious attempts to undermine and render valueless what little remains of their property; but the brink of danger on which they stood, formed no part of their deliberations.' The notions in the minds of the slaves, which might be looked upon as the proximate causes of the insurrection were, first, that the Government had sent out their freedom, which their masters withheld; and next, that, if they attempted to gain it by force, the King's naval force and regular troops would not act against them. The overseer, who was in the power of the slaves, stated, in his deposition, that some of the ringleaders asserted, that the King's ships were landing gunpowder, or black dust as they called it, to help the slaves in their resistance. He would not trouble the House with reading the resolutions of the planters, as it was better that the violent language which had been used should be 829 forgotten, though it was, undoubtedly, calculated to bring about the catastrophe which ensued. Nor did he mean to quote what passed at the parish meetings in Jamaica during the last summer and autumn, to reproach the planters; they were, perhaps, not unnaturally excited by the distress they suffered and the attacks to which they were exposed; he only wished to show the danger occasioned by their giving way to their feelings, and by allowing an impression to be produced on the minds of the slaves that a serious difference existed between their masters and the Government. He thought these remarks had sufficiently proved that it was not the policy pursued by the Government that had caused the insurrection of the slaves in Jamaica; but he had a still stronger and almost satisfactory proof to adduce, that the tendency of that policy, when fully acted upon, was, to avert, not produce disturbance. During the last autumn notions similar to those which had led to such a melancholy catastrophe in Jamaica, obtained admittance into the minds of the slaves in British Guiana; but, instead of leading to a similar result, the Governor was apprised of the fact by the slave protectors—in whom the negroes knew they could confide—and he was consequently enabled to take measures to avert the threatened mischief. Sir Benjamin D'Urban not being kept in the same state of ignorance as he (Lord Howick) regretted to say, it would appear the noble Earl (the Earl of Belmore) at the head of the government of Jamaica unfortunately laboured, went a tour round the colony, met the most intelligent of the slave population, remonstrated with them, and represented to them the evils to arise from their opposition. What was the consequence? The governor (Sir Benjamin d'Urban) in his last despatches stated that he never saw the Christmas holidays pass off so happily. Thus, on the very Wednesday that Jamaica was in a blaze, in Demerara the slave population were happily enjoying their festivities. This, he would maintain, was a proof of the soundness of the policy of his Majesty's Government. The same course had been pursued by Sir Lewis Grant, the governor of Trinidad, with the same good effect; and in St. Lucia, notwithstanding that state of confusion which might naturally be supposed to arise from the death of the governor, and notwithstanding the violent 830 and intemperate resolutions adopted by the planters, nothing approaching to insurrection took place. These were proofs of the beneficial tendency of the policy pursued by the Government, and he, therefore, entertained a hope that the lesson which had been taught by the catastrophe in one colony, and the escape which the other three had had, would not be lost on the proprietors and planters of the island of Jamaica, and the other colonies. He trusted they would think that the Government were doing all in their power for their interests. The discussions on these subjects he felt to be full of danger; and that the colonies stood on a fearful precipice. The hon. and learned Gentleman must know that there was in this country a large and powerful party, sincerely anxious to overthrow the system of slavery in the West Indies, but who, at the same time, were not disposed to adopt at once the extreme opinions of the hon. member for Weymouth. Those opinions could not be acted upon if the interests of the proprietors in the colonies were for one moment to be endangered; nay, the discussion of those opinions, particularly with such warmth as had characterised the debate of this evening, could not be attended with other than the most dangerous consequences. For five-and-twenty years the slave-trade in the British colonies had been abolished. In the course of that time a coloured population had grown up, acquainted with our language, converted to our religious faith, and imbued with some of the principles of liberty. Thus they began to entertain a sense of the degradation of their situation, and to be impatient to shake off the bond of slavery in which they were retained. This could not be done at once, but this the Government was anxious gradually and progressively to effect. But, when the slave population were daily becoming more enlightened—when every means were resorted to to impress them, if possible, with a deeper sense of the degradation of slavery, was not the safety and the well-being of the colonies frightfully endangered by intemperate discussions in that House—discussions which could only add to the flame of discontent which already too much prevailed? Formerly, in the colonies at least, the discussions upon this subject were all on one side. No one there ever dreamt of breathing a word in favour of emancipation. But what was 831 the case now? A large and influential class of free persons had grown up in the colonies, whose religious opinions induced them, upon the subject of slavery, to adopt to the full the opinions of the hon. member for Weymouth. Among the conductors of the colonial Press, powerful advocates of these opinions were not wanting. There was now a newspaper published in the town of Kingston, in Jamaica, conducted, undoubtedly, with considerable talent and ability; but by no means with equal temper or moderation. He did not blame the editors for the spirit in which it was written; when he considered the example which was set by their opponents, it was not to be expected that they should abstain from violent language. He mentioned the circumstance as a fact too important to be lost sight of—that the controversy relative to the abolition of slavery was now raging with greater violence in Jamaica than at home. The Watchman on the one side, and the Jamaica Courant on the other, urged in the most violent language, the extreme doctrines of either party. That such a dispute, so maintained, must produce a powerful effect on the minds of the slaves, and that it must make the existing state of things full of danger, it was impossible to doubt. It had become, then, urgently and vitally important to determine by what course the fatal catastrophe which this state of things threatened, could be avoided. After the most mature deliberation on the subject, it appeared to Government that the only course left open was, steadily, temperately, but, at the same time, firmly, and determinedly, to enforce a full compliance with the Resolutions of 1823. This was the course which the present Government had pursued—and which, he trusted, Parliament would continue to support; and, however much they had hitherto been disappointed, he trusted that the Legislature of Jamaica would at length be prevailed upon to adopt the plan recommended. They had admitted the free people of colour to the enjoyment of civil rights, and he hoped that the same feeling which induced them to yield in that instance, would induce them also to abandon their opposition to the measures recommended by Parliament and Government. In putting an end to the distinctions of colour, they had evinced much liberality, which was the more to be praised, when it was considered how powerfully the minds of 832 men were affected by long-cherished prejudices. He trusted that an equal liberality would soon be exhibited by them, in the far more dangerous and difficult question of slavery. He hoped that the determination of Government in coming forward to afford assistance to the sufferers by the insurrection and by the hurricane, without coupling their assistance with any conditions, would be accepted by the colonists as a proof that no ill-will or animosity had been excited towards them by their long resistance to the measures which they had been urged to adopt; but that, on the contrary, the House and the Government sympathised in their distress, and pitied their misfortunes. He also hoped that by attaching the proposed conditions to the general measure of relief which was to be brought forward, Parliament would manifest that resolute adherence to its declared purpose of effecting a real improvement in the condition of the slaves, which was no less necessary than a conciliatory spirit for the satisfactory settlement of the question.
Mr. Robert Gordon
thought, that not one word had fallen from his noble friend (Lord Althorp) to which any reasonable person could object. He only hoped that the noble Lord had not given expression solely to the good feeling of his own kind heart, but that the opinions to which he had given utterance were those of the united Government of which he was a member. Believing it to have been the intention of his noble friend so to have expressed himself, he (Mr. Gordon) confessed that he much regretted to hear the hon. Gentleman on the other side of the House take the opportunity of entering so much at large into this question, because it was impossible to do so without introducing topics which were necessarily calculated to produce an excitement in the minds of persons whose tranquillity and good conduct were so necessary to the safety and well-being of the colonists. The hon. Gentleman's speech had, in some way, obliged the noble Lord, the Under Secretary for the Colonies, to follow the same course, and the noble Lord had, consequently, in his opinion, entered too much into a history of the transactions of the past. In every discussion upon this subject, he (Mr. Gordon) would advise the Government and Parliament to look to the future, and, as far as possible, to forget what was past. He would recommend that there should be no reproach—no ex- 833 pression of disgust or dissatisfaction towards the colonies for what was past. He would entreat the House to consider that the colonies were now in a suffering state, and, instead of complaining of their past conduct, to adopt, with as little delay as possible, such measures as should convince them that they had some sympathy for their distress—some desire to alleviate their difficulties; and thus, by a line of good policy and good feeling on our own part, to incite them to better conduct on theirs. The noble Lord, in one part of his speech, expressed a hope that what he had stated on a former occasion would not be construed into anything offensive to the colonies. Unfortunately, whenever this question was discussed, an unusual degree of heat seemed to arise; and even that night his noble friend had not been so guarded in some of his expressions as he (Mr. Gordon) could have wished. The noble Lord, however, concluded by expressing a hope that the grant which it was intended to propose would be received as a pledge of the intentions of the Government for the future. Taking it in that sense, he (Mr. Gordon) could not but hope that his noble friends would reconsider the whole state of the colonies, with the view of adopting, with the least possible delay, the best means of ameliorating their condition. In one part of his speech his noble friend had alluded to an expression which had fallen from Mr. Canning, and seemed to make it a pretext for what had been done. He did not think that any such expression, even from that distinguished Statesman, could justify any particular conduct on the part of the Government now. He would not detain the House at any greater length on the present occasion. He thanked the Government for what they had done, and hoped that they would go further. He was convinced that it must be for the interest of the country to have grateful and confiding colonies, and not a number of dependencies, anxious as he was afraid the West-India colonies had lately been, to throw off the allegiance of the mother country.
observed, that the question was, whether we were to retain our colonies in such a way as might be beneficial to us, or in such a way as should continue them the blot which they now were upon our policy. On a subject of so much importance, he trusted the House would allow him to make a few observations. For 834 years past he had been complaining of the evils which had arisen from the negligence of this country, and its misgovernment of the colonies in all parts of the world. The principle of attempting to govern the colonies in Downing-street, had been productive of an ever-varying system, pregnant with the greatest evils. The frequent change of Administrations, and the consequent change of policy of the Colonial Department, by each in succession, had led to a succession of changes in the mode of governing our colonies, which had been attended with the worst consequences. How was it possible that the colonies could be satisfied or prosperous, under such circumstances? The natural consequence of such a system was, that whether at the Cape of Good Hope, Canada, or the West Indies, there was nothing but discontent. He did not impute to any of the successive Administrations of this country a disposition to do anything injurious to the colonies; but the result of the system to which he had alluded was, that orders had been sent out to the colonial governments, which orders were subsequently revoked, and then again enforced. In that view it was that he regretted that the Government of this country had not many years ago taken the whole colonial system into consideration, in order to ascertain whether the colonies were not fit to manage their own affairs, instead of being kept in leading-strings and subjected to the fluctuating management of Downing-street. He repeated that he did not attribute the evils which existed in the colonies to any intention on the part of the Government of this country, but to the mistaken system which had been pursued. He regretted, therefore, that his Majesty's present Ministers, on coming into office, had not made an attempt to frame some general system for the administration of the colonies of a more satisfactory nature. He also regretted that every Administration in this country for a long period of time had shown a great distrust of all our colonies; and this want of confidence had led them to adopt measures and regulations not consonant to the feelings of the colonists, and which, therefore, were not received with the cordiality and attention that might otherwise have been expected. This was more particularly the case with respect to the regulations respecting the slave-population. As he was of opinion, that it was never worth 835 our while to retain any colony that was expensive to the mother country, he had always been anxious to see some system adopted by which the colonies might be enabled to support themselves, and be no longer under the government of individuals with whom they had no immediate connection. He would proceed to make a few remarks on what had fallen from the noble Lord (Lord Howick). The noble Lord had, with great propriety, commenced his observations by a reference to the Resolutions of the 15th of May, 1823, and had stated, that he and his colleagues were anxious to carry those Resolutions into effect. No man who possessed the common feelings of humanity could refuse his assent to those Resolutions. But what were they? The noble Lord had made a great mistake. He supposed those Resolutions to contain what they did not contain; and, in consequence of similar errors on the part of others, the whole of the disputes and calamities in the colonies had resulted. In this, as in all other agreements, there were two parties concerned. In this, in fact, there were three. One party was the House of Commons, who were bound to discharge the duties prescribed to them by humanity; another party was the proprietors of slaves in the colonies, who were justified in defending their rights, to which rights the greatest attention ought to be paid; and the third party was the slaves, to whom they were bound to afford every protection compatible with the undeniable rights of the planters. This country seemed to have been led away by feelings of humanity (which no man was less disposed to blame than himself), and, by a wish to remove the blot off our present colonial system, to forget that that blot was not the creation of the present period, and that it was not created by the present proprietors in the West Indies. To do justice we should not visit on individuals acts which were not theirs, but the acts of their fathers, to whom they had succeeded. That seemed to be forgotten by many persons. The hon. member for Weymouth was one of those mistaken persons who seemed to have entirely forgotten that those acts were not the acts of the present proprietors, but the acts of their predecessors. What was the first of the Resolutions agreed to by the House of Commons on the 15th of May, 1823? "That it is expedient to adopt effectual 836 and decisive measures for the ameliorating the condition of the slave-population in his Majesty's colonies." Had the proprietors in the West Indies ever denied this expediency? He had never met with a single man who did so. On the contrary, they all concurred in assenting to it. What was the second Resolution? "That through a determined and persevering, but, at the same time, judicious and temperate enforcement of such measures, this House looks forward to a progressive improvement in the character of the slave-population, such as may prepare them for a participation in those civil rights and privileges which are enjoyed by other classes of his Majesty's subjects." Did any one differ from the opinion expressed in this Resolution? No one that he was aware of. The only difference of opinion respected the rate of proceeding. The hon. member for Weymouth would have immediate emancipation. He (Mr. Hume) would not. For what must be the consequence of immediate emancipation, unprepared as the slaves were for the sudden enjoyment of the blessings of freedom? Let the slave be first put in a condition to enjoy the blessings of freedom before freedom was conferred upon him. He admitted that successive Administrations had pressed on the colonies measures which, in the view of those Administrations, were calculated to effect the improvement of the character of the slave-population? But he did not think that the noble Lord was warranted in saying that nothing had been done by the colonies themselves having that tendency. Such an assertion was not consistent with the papers which had been laid on the Table, and which proved that in different colonies means had been taken to ameliorate the condition and improve the character of the slaves. The noble Lord might think as he (Mr. Hume) did, that more ought to be done; but it was not fair in the noble Lord to state, or at least to leave it to be understood, that no progress whatever had been made by the planters to effect that which the House of Commons in this Resolution intended to effect. Now what was the third Resolution?" That this House is anxious for the accomplishment of this purpose, at the earliest period that shall be compatible with the well-being of the slaves themselves, with the safety of the colonies, and with a fair and equitable consideration of the interests of private property. He 837 asked the noble Lord whether the last condition mentioned in this Resolution had ever been attended to? Had any Administration, in proposing emancipation, proposed it in such a manner as would have respected the interests of private property? If not, was it surprising that the colonies should have opposed propositions which did not include that attention to the interests of private property which the Resolution of the House of Commons had declared ought to be inseparable from such propositions? It would be only manly were the House now at once to come forward and state in what precise relation the master and the slave were to consider themselves. At present, the colonies, believing that it was intended by the Government of this country, in the proposition which they had made, to refuse all that fair and equitable consideration of their right of property in their slaves which the Resolution of the House of Commons prescribed, rejected the principles laid down in that proposition. If his Majesty's Ministers were desirous of carrying into effect that complete emancipation which was undoubtedly so desirable, they must hold out the fulfilment of this Resolution; and while, on the one hand, they proposed emancipation—on the other hand, they must show how, in effecting that emancipation, the rights of property possessed by the planter would be respected. He would venture to say, that the moment his Majesty's Government held out to the West-India proprietors any hope, or showed them the means by which their property would be protected, so as to give them a fair consideration and compensation for the loss of the labour of their slaves, they would find them ready to meet their wishes. The noble Lord said we were on a frightful precipice. He was ready to admit it. Were his Majesty's Government prepared with measures to avert the impending calamity? Were they prepared with measures consistent with the conditions prescribed in the third Resolution passed by the House of Commons in 1823? Protests against the Order in Council of October last had been made by Trinidad, St. Lucia, Demerara, and almost every other West-India colony. It was not surprising that that Order, interpreted as the colonies naturally interpreted it, should lead to the rancour which had been manifested. He hoped, 838 therefore, that his Majesty's Government would distinctly state to what extent they intended to afford protection to property in the colonies; and he was quite sure the people in this country were not so unjust as to wish to destroy that property which the colonists had derived from their fathers, without granting them that compensation to which they were entitled. He thought the measure which had been adopted by his Majesty's Government in October last a rash one; and he regretted that they had not paused until a Committee of that House had examined the subject. He was further convinced, that if the system of dealing with the colonies by Orders in Council were changed, and the measures to be adopted were brought under discussion in that House, much evil would be avoided, and the rancour and ill-will which were produced by ill-timed Orders, such as that of October last, would no longer be generated.
§ Mr. Fowell Buxton
said, the hon. member for Middlesex had complained of the conduct of all parties except one. He accused him (Mr. Buxton) as being rash and hasty; he spoke of the Order in Council as dangerous to the colonies; but there was one set of men in whose conduct he could see nothing wrong, and that was the planters. The hon. Member said he had not met one of the planters that had objected to any of these Resolutions. But he would come to a plain matter of fact—he would come to their actions—and he would ask, had they ever shown themselves ready to carry into effect the feelings expressed by that House and by the country? They had been told of the convulsions in Jamaica. But, he demanded, what was the subject recently debated in the House of Assembly there? It was, whether women should or should not be flogged in public. He asserted that that subject was introduced twice in the colonial assembly, that obedient assembly, and the proposition for doing away with the custom of flogging women in public negatived. Yes, that point which Mr. Canning urged more than any other as necessary for the moral advancement of the slave, that the disgusting practice of the flogging of women in public should be abandoned, was, in 1831, rejected twice. First, by a majority of thirty-five to two; and next, by a majority of somewhat the same number. And yet his hon. friend, the member for Middlesex, saw nothing 839 to condemn in the conduct of that assembly. Would his hon. friend tell the House what advances the colonists had made towards the extinction of slavery or the amelioration of the slaves? If he had seen any disposition on the part of the colonies to prepare the slaves, by religious instruction, for emancipation, it would have given him great joy; but the policy of the whole of the colonial assemblies was to reject religious instruction. That was the direct charge which he made. Let the House recall one name to their recollection when they reflected on this subject. Let them remember Mr. Smith of Demerara. When the colonial authorities had persecuted that martyr to death, what did they then do? They banished the missionaries from that colony, and passed a law to prevent their admission in future. At Trinidad, a public meeting was held, and superintended by a public functionary—and what was the resolution that meeting came to? Why, "that any attempt to instil religious instruction or education into the minds of slaves, is incompatible with the existence of slavery." Here the fact was plainly broached, that Christianity and slavery were incompatible, and these parties determined to reject the minor principle of Christianity, and to continue their beloved slavery. Need he remind the House of the disposition not to foster religion evinced by the inhabitants of Barbadoes in the scandalous proceedings of 1823, when the colonists assembled publicly demolished the chapel and hunted the missionary through the island with the avowed purpose of taking his life, and afterwards published a proclamation exulting in what they had done, they said the transaction was "as glorious to true Barbadians as Trafalgar was to Britain;" and they concluded with warning every missionary from the island on pain of death. Could hon. Members forget the memorable words once used, in a resolution of that House on a subject of the same nature, they were; "That this House deem it their duty to declare, that they view with the utmost indignation that daring and scandalous violation of the law." He now came to Jamaica; and in no colony had the spirit of persecution been more unequivocally manifested than in that island. He need hardly advert to the colonial newspapers, when they spoke of "the hanging woods of Trelawney" the clamour against the too indul- 840 gent governor who refused to hang the missionaries before trial, he would let them pass, and look to the acts of the legislature. Could the House forget what had been done by the assembly of Jamaica in 1826? They boasted of the Act they then passed as a miracle of liberality that was for ever to silence their enemies; but that Act was rejected by Mr. Huskisson, and the Government to which he belonged—by the right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir George Murray) and the Government to which he belonged—and by the noble Lord and the Government to which he belonged. By Mr. Huskisson it had been rejected because it was a violation of that toleration which was due to all his Majesty's subjects. This Act, which, in Jamaica had been considered as one of superfluous liberality, had been rejected in this country as one of unbearable bigotry. Its object was to do that by legislative means which had been done by violence at Barbadoes, and by murder at Demerara. The House of Assembly at Jamaica put down the schools, shut up the meeting-houses, and abolished religious instruction altogether. But no general statement would so clearly illustrate the temper of the planters on the subject of the religious instruction of their slaves as one or two case he would quote. The first case he would mention was that of Henry Williams; and if the hon. member for Middlesex knew it, he would not shock the House with a statement of it. He ask the hon. Member, whether he was acquainted with the case?—["No," from Mr. Hume.] Then he would state it. In 1829 a most respectable negro—more than ordinarily respectable, and, in fact, so free of blame that his only fault was going to church—was punished because he attended prayers. His first master allowed him to go to church; but, on his being transferred to a new master—to a Mr. Betty—he was summoned before him, and informed that if he went again to church he would send him to Rodney-hole workhouse. The sister of this Williams, on hearing this, sighed; and for that offence she was stretched naked on the ground, and flogged. Williams, it appeared, went to church, was afterwards sent to Rodney-hole, and was flogged so severely that for a long time he had to lie on his stomach, his back being one mass of corruption. Yet such an act was perfectly legal, for, on the question being submitted to the Law 841 Officers of the Crown, it was the opinion of those authorities that there was no law to prevent a planter from flogging a female slave for sighing, or her brother for worshipping God. Mr. Betty took still higher grounds, and said, he was ready to submit his conduct to a Jury of twelve planters, because he was fully convinced that he had done nothing but what a West-India planter was by law entitled to do. He did not, however, complain so much of Mr. Betty as he complained of the state of the law which allowed such cruelty. That was not a solitary case, and let the House only recollect how such conduct must influence the slaves on certain occasions. Suppose that the riot which had lately occurred at Jamaica—it might have been more—it might have been an insurrection—although if so, he could show who were the insurgents, and that it was the planters by whom it had been caused—suppose that riot had occurred on the occasion which he had alluded to, who could have lamented it? If the miscreant who had committed the atrocity had been put to death, who could have lamented it? The next case he had to mention was that of George Atkins, who had been found guilty, in 1830, merely of attending at the House of his pastor, and of being seen in the act of prayer. There was no other charge against him except that of praying, yet that person was convicted, and sent to prison for six months.
§ Mr. Buxton
said, he was strictly in order, and in spite of the hon. Gentleman, unless he was told to desist by the Speaker, he would proceed. He would go to another point: Mr. Nibbs, a Dissenting clergyman, being ill, had the people at his house on Easter monday, 1830. There was nothing illegal in this—all was closed before eight o'clock, and for this monstrous act of being at prayer, a slave ["Oh, oh!"] Gentleman might exclaim "Oh!" and be astonished at what he related, but he was so certain of the fact, that, if the Under Secretary of the colonies would deny the circumstance, he would at once sit down; or if the gallant Officer would deny it, he would sit down: but till it was contradicted he would say what he had to say. Well, that negro, whose name he had forgotten, and which the noble Lord would, perhaps, have the goodness to 842 recall to his memory—that negro Swiney, he now recollected the name, was tried for the offence. One man proved that he saw his lips move, and that he was in the attitude of prayer, and for that he was convicted, sent to hard labour and flogged. Another negro was convicted of a similar offence, and sentenced to six months confinement; while a white for the murder of a slave was sentenced by the same tribunal, to only five months' imprisonment. So different was the guilt of worshipping God and killing mankind! The truth was, nothing had been done for the religious instruction of these unhappy people. The slaves were in utter darkness. They had no knowledge of Divine truth, and the planters, for their own sakes, were the causes of it. He meant to say, that the planters were the cause of all this ignorance, and the insurrection and rebellion that ensued. He wished his words to be taken down. For the last six months what had they heard of in these Colonial Assemblies but seditious and inflammatory language? They talked only of throwing off the yoke, and joining Americ. They spoke of arming—of shaking off their allegiance—and going to war with the mother country. To be convinced of this, it was necessary only to refer to some of their public proceedings. He found the following Resolutions in the Port-Royal Gazette of the 13th August: 'At a very numerous and respectable meeting of the inhabitants of the parish of St. Ann, convened by his honour the Custos, this 6th day of August 1831, and held at the Court House, St. Ann's Bay, his honour the Custos having been called to the chair, the following Resolutions were unanimously agreed to: Resolved—That we, the inhabitants of the parish of St. Ann, have repeatedly expressed our warmest indignation at, and abhorence of, the oppressive measures pursued by the British Government towards the West-India colonies.
Resolved—That while there was a hope of conciliating our implacable foes we acquiesced cheerfully in the conduct of our Legislature; but it is now evident that the concessions yielded by that body have been successively obtained under pledges and promises on the part of Ministers, "to abstain from all future interference in our local concerns;" which pledges have been violated in every instance; giving us thereby convincing proof that perfidy and determined op- 843 pression, as far as regards the colonies, are the ruling principles of the British Cabinet.
Resolved—That hitherto, under the most marked infractions of our rights and privileges, we have been loyal; the attachment to the mother country has indeed long, very long, outlived her justice; and it would now be with grief that we should divest ourselves of a feeling "which has grown with our growth, and has strengthened with our strength;" but when we see ourselves scorned, betrayed, devoted to ruin and slaughter, delivered over to the enemies of our country, we consider that we are bound, by every principle, human and divine, to resist.'
The two last words were printed in capitals. Again he would call the attention of the House to an advertisement, which appeared in The Jamaica Courant of the 16th of July last.
'Shortly will be published, The Signal, Carpe Diem, a periodical work, written for the express purpose of rousing the latent energies of the inhabitants of Jamaica: to lay open the perils which await them; to point out the means of avoiding them; to stimulate all classes to a close and unanimous effort in defence and preservation of their just rights and privileges, their altars, their homes, their families, their properties, and their lives; to show the necessity of throwing off the yoke of a tyrannical Government; and, finally to lead to that independence of which local advantages promise the attainment.
'The Government which arbitrarily or capriciously invades the right of private property, releases the oppressed sufferer from obedience and allegiance.' 'To your tents O Israel!'
Such was the language used in their newspapers, as well as at the public meetings. He knew that nothing was to be feared from such language as it was rather ridiculous than dangerous, as far as England was concerned. He knew well, that they could not think seriously of throwing themselves into the arms of America. As for resistance, that would be quite out of the question. How could the whites of Jamaica think seriously of throwing off the yoke, when the whole male white inhabitants of that colony capable of bearing arms, between the age of sixteen and sixty, did not exceed 4,000. He did not dispute the valour of these 844 4,000 heroes, but they would have something upon their hands; they would have, first, to conquer his Majesty's troops—no doubt an easy task; secondly, they would have to overthrow the free people of colour; and, having accomplished these two exploits, they would have to subdue, and to keep in subjection, 330,000 slaves. He acquitted them, then, of seriously meaning to punish Great Britain; they only meant to frighten her; they supposed that timid persons would imagine that men so terrible in word, would be as terrible in deed. They talked of transferring their allegiance to America. Would the free people and the negroes consent to that? He held in his hand an Act of the legislature of Carolina, which he begged leave to quote, for the purpose of showing whether there was likely to be a junction between the colonies and America. It was called an Act for the better Government of the Free People of Colour. It stated, that, if any vessel arrived at any port in that state containing a crew of free blacks, they should be immediately taken to gaol, there to remain for a given time. The clause contains these words, to which he wished to direct the attention of the House—"and such free people, or persons of colour, shall be deemed and taken as absolute slaves, and sold, in conformity with the provisions of the Act passed for that purpose." Why, this was a positive decision upon the subject, a clear answer to the argument to which he had just referred. There was not a government on the face of the earth which had expressed such disaffection to, and contempt of, persons of colour, as the American government. Here was the olive branch. This was the temptation held out by America to seduce away the affections of the people of colour. England need fear no dangerous rival in that quarter. He had done; he had no intention of speaking to-night, and if he had spoken warmly, the learned member for Eye, and the hon. member for Middlesex imposed upon him the necessity of doing so.
deprecated the introduction of subjects which could not benefit any individual whatever, and which were wholly foreign to the matter in hand, he therefore, trusted the hon. Member would not think he was treating him with any disrespect, if he took no further notice of the extraneous matter which had fallen from him, but at once addressed himself 845 to the subject before the House, which was, whether they should go into Committee for the purpose of considering the Bill for the regulation of the sugar duties. He had expected, on this occasion, to have heard from the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Exchequer, some justification for the course he had adopted—some statement of the grounds on which he had departed from the course usually pursued in respect of these duties, by legislating for the limited period of six months. The noble Lord must be sensible that great inconvenience would be sustained by every individual concerned in the sugar trade from the uncertainty in which he had left it. Under the circumstances in which that trade was now placed, it was hardly necessary to say, that very few sales would be effected, as both buyer and seller would be desirous of waiting as long as possible in the expectation that at the end of the six months, the duty would be taken off. The noble Lord, if it were only in charity to these suffering interests, might have made some statement which would tend to remove the difficulties in which they were involved. The noble Lord told the House that he was not prepared, on the present occasion, to enter into a financial discussion of this question. That certainly would be a perfectly fair and just argument, if they now called upon the noble Lord suddenly, or if the arrangement he proposed to make were one on which he had recently determined; but nearly a year had elapsed since the noble Lord contemplated the very arrangement to which he now proposed to give effect; and if he had consulted what is due to these suffering interests, and what is due to the public service as regarded the collection of the revenue, he would not have allowed so long a period to have elapsed without maturing the plan he intended to adopt so far as to be enabled, whenever the sugar duties were proposed, to accompany that proposition with a definitive statement of the course he intended to pursue. This would have been but fair, open, and just to those who were interested in the consumption, and to the planters, who were at least as fully interested in the matter. He did not at all enter into the question whether the noble Lord's ultimate arrangement was one which ought to be adopted, but he asserted that the House had a right to know, at the earliest possible period, what the measures of Government were, 846 in order to prevent speculations and fluctuations in the market, which an uncertainty regarding the duties must inevitably give rise to. In making these observations, he begged to say, that he was not in the slightest degree disposed to undervalue the consideration which the noble Lord had professed himself ready to give to the cases of those who had unfortunately been sufferers by the recent occurrences in the West Indies, though the relief that he was now about to afford would have been received with greater gratitude if it had been given at once, when it would have been considered as the spontaneous effusion of the liberality of his Majesty's Government on hearing of the enormous losses which had been sustained by the West-India proprietors; still the measure recommended by the noble Lord although rather tardy, was liberal on the part of Government, and deserved to meet with gratitude and approbation. On this part of the subject he spoke quite disinterestedly, because he thanked God, he himself had not been a sufferer by the recent insurrections; though he was interested in the welfare of the colonies, he did feel most strongly that if his Majesty's Government had not given assistance to those persons whose property had been destroyed, the necessary effect would have been that a large body of the slaves, in a state of excitement and irritation, would have been let loose upon the remaining property of the island, and a scene of universal destruction and devastation must have ensued. He wished that he could also have expressed his gratitude to the noble Lord for the introduction of some general measure, but he feared that, even when these six months had passed away for which the duties were now to be granted, he should not even then have an opportunity of expressing his opinions upon any such Bill. Although he thought the measure they were now going to advance a step would aggravate every difficulty in which they were involved, he should not, like some of his hon. friends, avail himself of this opportunity of entering into a discussion on the general question, but would content himself with saying that he deeply deplored the losses and sufferings of the colonies, and felt anxiety to afford them relief.
said, he must join the right hon. Gentleman in deprecating the discussion of the slave question on such an occasion as the present. His chief 847 object in rising, however, was, to ask the noble Lord whether the terms of the Order in Council, which the colonies were bound to obey, were definitely fixed, or whether it was proposed to reconsider the question at some future period? He could not sit down without calling the attention of the House to the difficulty of the question of slaves, which had been introduced by two hon. Members. When the House saw two Members take such different views of the question, and display such extreme and opposite feelings, need they wonder at the strong feelings which had been displayed by some of the planters? He regretted that such strong expressions had been used by the hon. member for Weymouth, because those sentiments would go forth to the colonies, and would tend to sow discord among all classes in the islands. While hon. Members were so reckless of the consequences of strong language, could they be surprised that the planters were not more reasonable than themselves? He did not stand there to defend the colonists—he believed they were guilty of great indiscretion, of great violence and injustice; but he must at the same time say, that allowance ought to be made for their situation—that they believed their affairs had been neglected by the Government—that they had been reviled by certain parties in this country, and the worst construction put on their conduct; and, looking at these circumstances, could the House be surprised that they had not conducted themselves with all the coolness of disinterested speculators? He disapproved of the strong language used by the hon. member for Weymouth, and must say, that the interruption the hon. Member received was deserved.
§ Lord Althorp
said, that the Order in Council, which had been sent out to the colonies, was the order upon the compliance with which the relief to the colonies was to depend. If Gentlemen could point out anything in the details, the operation of which would be unfitted to the management of the slaves, his Majesty's Government would be quite ready to attend to such suggestions; but to the principle of the Order in Council they were determined to adhere. When his noble friend laid the whole blame of the irregularity of the discussion upon his hon. friend, the member for Weymouth, he thought he scarcely did him justice; for the discussion into 848 which his hon. friend had been led, had been introduced by others; and it was impossible for a Gentleman—feeling as his hon. friend was known to feel—not to answer the observations which had been made. He concurred in regretting the introduction of such topics, and was always sorry when they were adverted to. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Goulburn) said, that he was disappointed at his (the Chancellor of the Exchequer's) not having stated in detail the course of proceeding which his Majesty's Government proposed to follow, and said, that he ought to have done so, if only to justify his proposition of moving the sugar duties for six months, instead of the usual time. The grounds upon which he abstained from doing so were, first, that up to the present moment the Committee upon West-India affairs had not made a Report; and, secondly, as the measures of relief were to be conditional, he wished to give time to the colonial legislatures to consider the Orders in Council, before the measures of relief were brought forward. But then it would be asked why he had alluded to those measures of relief at all? He confessed that the ground upon which he had done so was, one which was personal to himself—it was lest it should be thought that he did not intend to redeem the pledge which he had given last Session. He could not imagine that his moving the sugar duties for six months was likely to create that degree of embarrassment, which the right hon. Gentleman supposed, because within the six months the question must come on to be finally settled, and he did not think that the course he had taken was likely to affect the sales. It could not have interfered with them up to the present time, for the prices of sugar had risen. He was aware that the rise of price was owing to the loss which had occurred in Jamaica, and the apprehension of a short supply; but still it could not be said, that his moving the duties for six months had produced embarrassment.
Mr. Keith Douglas
said, that the great difficulty in the way of the Order in Council had been, that it was not adapted to some colonies; but as Government was prepared to adapt the details of the measures to circumstances, that altered the whole question, and the explanation of the noble Lord might lead to an adjustment.
§ The House went into a Committee on the Bill.849
Mr. Keith Douglas
proposed a clause for the purpose of altering the mode of charging the duty on bonded sugars—namely, to charge it on the quantity taken out of the warehouse, thereby relieving the importer from paying duty on the wastage.
§ Mr. Poulett Thomson
said, that if this regulation was adopted in respect to sugar, it should be extended to other articles; and the proposition would be better deferred till the consideration of the Customs' Bill.
§ Lord Althorp
said, that the only way in which this alteration could afford relief was in the amount of duty. Now the average loss of each hogshead of sugar was 20lb., which, if allowed, would be a trifle to the importer, but would produce a loss to the revenue of 90,000l. a-year.
said, he had intended to submit a proposition that the duty should be laid on sugars in proportion to their quality, but he should not bring it forward at present.
§ Clause negatived. The House resumed.