HC Deb 25 July 1833 vol 19 cc1252-72

The House resolved into Committee on the Abolition of Slavery Bill.

Mr. Secretary Stanley

proposed to fill up the blank in the first clause, which reduced the compulsory labour of the slaves to ten hours in the day, or sixty hours in the week, with the date, November 1, 1833.

Mr. Marryat

thought, that the proposed date was too early a period for the clause to come into operation, and moved as an Amendment, that the "1st of June, 1834," be substituted for the 1st of November, 1833.

Mr. Secretary Stanley

said, the effect of the Amendment would be to continue to the slave-owner the power he now possessed for twelve months longer. He objected to the Amendment, but if it was persevered in, he thought it would be better to extend the term to the 1st of August, 1834, when the new system of apprenticeships would begin. The right hon. Gentleman also stated, that it was the intention of Government to send out stipendiary Magistrates as soon as possible, and, notwithstanding all that had been said about the difficulty of procuring persons competent to discharge the duty in consequence of the lowness of the salary, the Government had received numerous applications from persons well fitted by their education for the situaion,—he meant officers receiving half-pay in the army and navy.

Mr. Marryat

said, he would act upon the suggestion of the right hon. Secretary, and move the insertion of the words 1st of August, 1834, instead of the Amendment he had at first proposed.

Lord Howick

said, that though an enemy to slavery, and though much disgusted by the horrors of flogging, he could not for the sake of the slaves themselves, and for the sake of their masters, give his consent to take away that on which slavery alone could stand, before preparations were made for a new state of things. The right hon. Secretary's proposition was to continue slavery in a modified form, and yet to deprive the planters of that by which alone they could retain the slaves in subjection—namely, the whip. He was afraid that the abolition of the power of punishment would lead to much mischief. He contended, that the slaves being secured against the infliction of flogging, and not excited by any other motive, would neglect their work. To substantiate this argument, the noble Lord read an extract from the evidence of Captain Elliott given by a gentleman before the Committee of last year, to the effect that the labour done by the negroes in Demerara had decreased one-fifth, in consequence of the banishment of the whip from the field. When the House considered the extent of Jamaica, and the distance at which some of the plantations were from the Magistrates, he thought it would conclude that great danger would be likely to result from taking away the power of the master. To make the stimulus of the whip effective, it must be more severe and cruel than at present, and he could not contemplate such an increase of severity without horror. He would recommend the House to omit the clause.

Mr. Patrick Stewart

hoped, that the stipendiary Magistrates who were to be appointed would be ready to take their situations when the transfer of the powers of the Magistracy was to be made. It would be essential to the security of the colonies that it should be so. If the success of this measure depended on anything, it depended on the two first clauses. If the House persisted in retaining the 1st of November, 1833, as the day on which the new system, putting an end to the domestic authority of the owners, was to come into operation, he had considerable fear that the greatest confusion would ensue; for what was there between that day and the 1st of August, 1834, when the system of apprenticed labourers was to begin, that could be used to restrain them? The new Magistrates could not by that time have commenced the exercise of their functions. He urged the House not to put to hazard the whole plan by persevering in a part of it by which they could obtain nothing.

Mr. O'Connell

trusted, that every effort would be made by the Ministers to carry the clause in order that the next crop might be obtained under a mitigated system of slavery, to enable the emancipation to begin from the 1st of November.

Mr. Fowell Buxton

thought there was nothing that could compensate the use of the whip for a longer period than that at which it was determined it should cease. The West Indians, however, now proposed to retain it for six months longer. However, it was probably necessary that some sacrifices should be made. If the power of the whip was taken away, and the power of wages not brought into operation, there would no doubt be a diminution of industry, so that he should refuse a concession of the continuance of the domestic authority till May, provided a corresponding concession was granted in the shortening of the term of apprenticeship, which was but a system of half slavery and half freedom.

Mr. Evelyn Denison

thought it was not worth while, for the sake of a few months, to try any new experiment. He did not think the negroes were naturally cruel. On the contrary, he believed them to be docile; but at the same time he wished the officers to be ready to act when the change took place, and therefore he hoped that the changes now proposed to be effected on the 1st of November, 1833, should be postponed to August, 1834.

Mr. Secretary Stanley

was pleased with the mode in which the clauses of this Bill were now discussed. He thought it was impossible to retain the two dates of November and August, and to fix any middle period for the date of the commencement of the apprenticeship, but he thought he had something to propose which might satisfy all parties. When he went into office, he found that it had been for twenty-five years a matter of dispute with the colony of Jamaica whether their House of Assembly there had or had not a right to send bills over to this country without the suspending clause. The difficulty could be met by instructing the Governors not to assent to Bills, except under particular restrictions; but he was prepared on this particular occasion to waive the suspending clause, and then the colonial Acts passed to carry this Bill into effect might come into operation as they were passed. The object now was to effect the emancipation under circumstances the most beneficial possible to all parties. He thought it might be a question whether they might not anticipate the 1st of August, 1834, now fixed for the commencement of the apprenticeship, and fix, instead of it, the 1st of June, and suspend till that time the operation of the first stage of the Bill. He did not propose that without some apprehension; but it seemed to him the easiest and least objectionable mode of getting out of the difficulty, He hoped, therefore, that he should not be blamed, under such circumstances, for adopting it. The term of apprenticeship, which was now fixed to terminate on the 1st of November, 1840, would then terminate on the 1st of June in that year. By this change they would obtain the advantage of having Magistrates on the spot; and as an additional inducement to agree to it, he might say, that they should have the acquiescence of gentlemen of opposing interests and parties who would unite to carry the system into operation, and by that means they should double the effect of the authority of Parliament, and add to the safety of the measure itself.

Dr. Lushington

assented to the proposition of his right hon. friend, and assured the Committee that his only wish was to see this measure carried into full effect in the best manner possible. It was quite true, that in the interval between the end of the domestic authority of the master, and the commencement of the apprenticeship, it was probable that the negro would not work, partly from excitement at the anticipated change of his condition, partly from the absence of the old terror, and partly from the fact that the new and modified terror had not come into operation. Against that danger it was proposed to provide, by leaving in the hands of persons on the spot, the power of inflicting punishment. The plan of the right hon. Gentleman was good, as it would give further time to the Local Legislatures to make new regulations. He hoped there would not be a single dissentient voice on the subject, in order that the plan might have the greater effect in the colonies.

Mr. Robinson

was pleased with these mutual concessions of the two extremes of opinion. He approved of the plan of the right hon. Gentleman. He did not think that in the meantime the power of punishment would be used with severity.

Mr. Young

expressed his gratification at the modification of the plan, and at the spirit in which it had been received. He wished, however, that the period fixed had been the 1st of August, instead of the 1st of June. On a balance of the loss and gain of time by the change, the planters would certainly be the losers.

Mr. Fowell Buxton

would consent to the plan now proposed, in the hope of shortening the term of apprenticeship.

Mr. Stanley

trusted there would be unanimity on this subject, and that the Committee would not be divided about quibbles as to comparative loss or gain of time.

Lord Howick

preferred the original Motion to the Amendment, and objected to the compromise now proposed. He had a great objection to flogging, but as long as slavery existed, it could not be dispensed with.

Lord Althorp

thought there would be no great difference as to the time between the two periods, but the fixing the two changes on the 1st of June would be more likely to lead to an accommodation of opinion. Besides that, by the 1st of June the instructions could be sent out to the Governors so as to enable them to notify fully the intentions of the Government.

Mr. Baldwin

should have no objection to give his consent to the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman, if the effect was likely to be what was anticipated, but he objected to it because he thought the change would not induce the Colonial Legislatures to give their assent to the measure, but they would look upon it as showing a vacillation of purpose. The sooner the House took away the power of punishment the better. The intermediate state would prepare both master and negro for the change, and enable the negro to become accustomed to the habit of working without punishment. The power of punishment should be in the hands of Magistrates, and not in the hands of planters.

The Amendment proposed by Mr. Secretary Stanley was agreed to, and the clause was agreed to.

On the 6th clause being read, enacting that the apprenticeship of predial slaves should terminate,

Mr. Bernal

said, that it was now proposed to fill up those blanks with the words "1st of June, 1840"

Mr. Fowell Buxton

said, that he was sorry to be under the necessity of addressing the House once more upon this subject. He had hoped that the Government in consequence of the division of last night would have consented to make such an alteration in this clause as would have given general satisfaction. No man could be more convinced than he was that the catastrophe to which the noble Lord had alluded—namely, that the Ministry would be compelled to resign, if further essential alterations were made in the Bill—would be a great calamity. It was only justice to the members of the present Administration to say, that he had received from them support a thousand times stronger than any which he had ever received from their predecessors in office; and the very fact of their having come forward to propose a grant of 20,000,000l., knowing the obloquy to which such a proposal was certain to expose them, was the best proof of their sincerity in this cause. He was satisfied that, if they determined upon having a protracted period of apprenticeship—and seven years was, in his opinion, a very protracted period—they would have all those melancholy results produced which he had described on a former night. This proposition of apprenticeship was founded on delusion. Supposing that negroes were different from the rest of mankind, some people complained that they would not work without wages. Now, he thought that no man would work long without wages. But, he would ask, had it ever been tried whether the negro would work with wages? To explain the apathy with which it was said, that negroes worked in the fields in Jamaica, he would quote an extract from the evidence given before the Committee by a Mr. Simpson, who had been for twenty-four years the manager of considerable estates in that country. He was asked, "Did you ever try the system of reward for laborious exertion among the negroes on your estate?" His answer was, "No." He was then asked, "Do you know what would be the effect of offering them 6d. a day as wages?" He replied, "I never tried it." He was then asked, "Did you ever know it tried in Jamaica?" And his reply was, "No, never to my knowledge." And this gentleman was acknowledged to be one of the best-informed and most intelligent of the witnesses who had been examined. Now he must say, that it was not fair to pronounce such a summary sentence upon the disposition of the negroes without having any proof of the fact before them, and yet here was a broad declaration from a practical man that the system of reward for labour had never been tried upon the negro character, and this alone was the stimulus which would induce man to work in a state of freedom. The real question was, "will the negro work for wages?" And it was no answer to tell him that the negro would not work when he had no wages. Now, if it were really to be put to the test, he would answer for it that it would be found to be all idle talk to say that the negro would not work for wages. He had one fact to prove the contrary, and it was valuable. A gentleman in one of the colonies had occasion to make a real on his estate, and he offered to pay for the making of it, to the owner of a gang of negro labourers, the sum of 30l. This sum was refused, and the next offer was to pay for them at so much a day, which was accepted. The gentleman who had the road to make, then called the negroes together, and offered them 5d. a day extra if they would work heartily. Their answer was, "Oh yes, massa, 5d. a day will make de stone break easy;" and they worked with such will that the road was finished in a very few days, and at an expense of 13l. He did not mean to underrate the apathy which prevailed among the negroes in the West Indies; but he thought that the following definition of the effects of slavery, which was given by a person who had lived long in a slave country, might perhaps explain it. This person said that "the slaves appeared lost to reason and to feeling; that their spirit was broken,' and that their faculties were sunk in a stupor, which he could not describe. Every spring of hope was destroyed in their breasts; they appeared indifferent to all around them—abject, servile, brutish." This, he was aware, might be turned against him, and it might be said, that such men were unfit for freedom; but he would beg to say, that the statement applied not to negroes, but to men with British blood in their veins, to men who were Christians, and the account was given by the British Consul at Mogadore. The effects of long slavery were nearly the same in all men, whether Europeans or negroes. The case of Adams, who was a long time detained captive in Africa, was a strong illustration of this; in fact, Europeans as well as Africans, placed under similar circumstances, would soon appear as abject, as brutish, and as servile, as those parties whom they had been describing. Nearly the same thing might, have been said of the Christian slaves who were long in captivity at Algiers. "Thief and liar" were almost proverbial epithets, as applied to the christian dogs, as the captives in Algiers were called. The Mussulmans looked upon them as a set of brutish and sottish men, who would not work without strong coercion, and some of them went so far as to express their surprise that Providence should have created such a set of drones. The only solution of the difficulty which they could make was, that the Christian dogs had been created solely for the purpose of serving the Mussulmans. It was not a little curious to find that the Africans entertained nearly the same opinions of Europeans who got into captivity amongst them as some of the Europeans of the present day entertained of the Africans. In the account given of the wreck of the Oswego, there was a statement of the opinions entertained by Africans of the Europeans, or white men; they considered them a set of wretched, abject beings, too lazy to work, so that they were obliged to send to Africa for slaves to help them to cultivate their soil, which they were too idle and too ignorant to do themselves. Now, it so happened that Mr. Shand, in his address to some Scotch farmers on the subject of the negro population, and the very words which he applied to the Africans, had been applied by the Africans, in the case he had mentioned, to the Europeans. In both cases the colour of the skin was taken as a test of the capacity of the individual, and in each case that colour was considered a sufficient reason why the party should remain perpetually a slave. The hon. Member then contended against the principle of compulsory labour, and expressed a hope that Ministers would consent under all the circumstances, greatly to reduce the period of apprenticeship. He should feel disposed to suggest that it should be limited to two years from June last; but out of deference to the opinions of others, he would consent to a longer period, and would therefore move, as an amendment, that the apprenticeship should expire in the year 1836, instead of 1840, as now proposed by Government.

Mr. Hardy

, in seconding the Motion, said, that he considered the period proposed by the hon. Member to be sufficiently liberal. It was a gross anomaly to say, that a boy of six years old should become free at thirteen, while a man who had spent sixty years of his life in captivity, should have seven years more of that dreadful state to undergo before he could be declared free. The only way to get rid of the anomaly would be to emancipate both in the shortest possible period. He saw nothing but continued confusion, continued anxiety, and irritation, in a protracted period of apprenticeship, in a state which was neither freedom nor slavery—in a state where a slave would have one-fourth of his time each day, but in such a way as could render it of very little use to him. Looking at the circumstances under which the slave became a captive, and considering that he never received any part of the price which had been paid for him, he thought it extremely unjust that the slave should be called on to repay to the master any portion of that price, or that his slavery should be protracted one day for that purpose. The hon. Member entered into a series of calculations to show that the planters under the arrangement proposed by the hon. member for Weymouth, would get more than the value of their slaves. He therefore considered the proposition of the hon. member for Weymouth to be extremely liberal, and gave it his most cordial support.

Lord Allhorp

repeated what he had said in the early sitting of the House, that Ministers, in reducing the term of apprenticeship to seven years, or rather in fact to six years, for it would be only six from the time the measure was to take effect, had gone quite as far as they were prepared lo go. In point of fact, saying that the apprenticeship should be limited to two years (for in effect his hon. friend's amendment would make it two years only) from the commencement of the Act, would be nearly equivalent to no apprenticeship at all. His hon. friend would therefore do much better to reject all apprenticeship. He did not dispute the fact for which his hon. friend had contended, that slaves would work if inducement were given to them; and one object of this Bill was to hold out such inducement. He was glad to hear from his hon. friend the admission that Ministers were disposed to do some good lo the negroes. After the language which had been used that evening, comparing them to freebooters, it was satisfactory to hear from such good authority as his hon. friend, that the great object of this Bill was to benefit the negro. Looking at his hon friend's Amendment as totally destructive of one great principle of the Bill (for they might as well have no apprenticeship at all as the short interval which he had proposed), he would give it his decided opposition.

Dr. Lushington

expressed the great pain and the deep regret he felt at being obliged to differ from the arguments urged by his noble friend, and from the conclusions to which he had come. He deeply regretted to see his noble friend departing from that straightforward course, and falling into miserable inconsistencies, and into a violation of the eternal principles of justice, He looked upon this anomaly of apprenticeship as the most unjust und impracticable which could be conceived. The principle was defensible only on two grounds; either as compensation to the planters, or as an act of justice to the negroes themselves, to put them into a slate preparatory to freedom. Ministers had yesterday insisted that a duration of apprenticeship for twelve years was necessary for the purpose; to-day they reduced that period by five years. Now he would ask would his noble or his right hon. friend, in the face of the British public, repeat the preamble of the Bill, declaring it to be just and expedient that all persons holden in slavery should be manumitted and set free, and that reasonable compensation should be made to the persons hitherto entitled to the services of such slaves—would they, he repeated, admit this, and at the same time assert that these slaves should be continued for a still longer period in captivity? A long course of injustice to the slaves was already admitted; but what was there, he would ask, that had been urged by his noble friend or the right hon. Secretary for the Colonies which could be dignified with the name of an argument, that could justify this principle of heaping injustice upon injustice? What argument was there to show the right of one man to take from another that freedom which God bad given him? It might be said, that he was ungrateful in not acknowledging the good which Ministers had done, and in not giving up abstract theories in order to promote the great object in view. He was grateful to Ministers for what they had done, for the great risk they ran in promoting a measure which, he fully admitted, was intended to benefit the slave he was willing to admit the pecuniary terms, and to consent that 20,000,000l. should he given from a distressed people for this great object, but he would not consent to a violation of the principles of justice. Calling upon him to give up theoretic views, was only asking him to go a certain length in the path of injustice, for the sake of expediency. After an eulogy on the general conduct of Government, and an expression of confidence in their general measures, the hon. and learned Gentleman stated that he was really to concur with them in most of those measures; but he would not go with them in what he considered a violation of the principles of right. Though he thought that there ought to be no apprenticeship, he would consent to a small term, as he could not get a better arrangement. The slave, he observed, was ready and willing to work and support himself if he obtained his freedom. In conclusion, he expressed his hope, that Ministers finding themselves unable to carry this measure for seven years, the question of apprenticeship might be given up as impracticable. This was his hope: he wished he could say it was his expectation. He should regret, if anything he had said was calculated to give pain to his hon. friends below him, which he assured them would be greatly painful to himself, as it must be painful to differ from those for whom he had so much respect.

Mr. Ward

said, that some of the expressions which had fallen from the hon. and learned Member who had just sat down, who had called himself the friend of the noble Lord, and the right hon. Gentleman near him, showed at least that Ministers were very unfortunate in their friends. With all the hon. and learned Gentleman's friendly feelings towards them, he had applied to them the terms of miserable inconsistency, and a violation of the principles of justice. The hon. and learned Gentleman must have admitted the necessity of apprenticeship when he assented to the resolutions to which the House had agreed, he (Mr. Ward) admitted that the right hon. Secretary for the Colonies was wise and prudent in reducing the term of apprenticeship to seven years, but he hoped that there would be no further reduction, for he considered it necessary for the slaves themselves, preparatory to their entering into a state of freedom.

Lord Morpeth

wished to make a single remark. He voted last night for the Resolution of the hon. member for Weymouth, because, although he had voted for the Resolutions proposed by his right hon. friend, and it was superfluous for him therefore to say that he considered himself bound by that vote, yet he was unwilling to doom a creature to what was in fact a long life of servitude. Iris right hon. friend, however, having that morning discreetly and fairly proposed a considerable diminution of the term of apprenticeship, he was not prepared, for a comparatively small period of time, to risk the entire loss of the measure in the present Session. To curry the best measure which it was possible to curry—to obtain the greatest amount, of good within his reach—that was his understanding of the doctrine of expediency. All great measures, on which differences of opinion existed, could be carried into effect only by some compromise between the contending parties; and it was on that ground that he should vote for the reduced term of apprenticeship proposed by his Majesty's Ministers.

Colonel Torrens

, though he did not yield either to the hon. member for Weymouth, or to the hon. and learned civilian, the member for the Tower Hamlets, in a sincere and ardent desire for the total and immediate abolition of slavery throughout the British colonies, yet he could not, on the question now before the House, come to the conclusion at which they had arrived. In a densely peopled island like Barbadoes, where all the land was already occupied, and where, in consequence, the means of supplying subsistence were deficient, there could be no doubt but that labour could be obtained for hire. There the pressure of necessity, the absolute want of food, would compel the negro to work for wages; and therefore, in the old colonies circumstanced like Barbadoes, instantaneous emancipation, without intermediate apprenticeship or preparation, might take place. But the case was widely different with respect to the colonies of Trinidad, Berbice, and Demerara. In these there were immense tracts of the most fertile land still unoccupied; and, as every individual could with little labour raise abundance of subsistence for himself as an independent cultivator, labour could not be procured for wages. The error of the hon. member for Weymouth, therefore, amounted to this. He adopted general principles, and applied them to practice without regard to the varying circumstances by which, in different cases, the operation of general principles was modified and controlled. It was a general principle, that men were willing to work for wages, because, in general, men could not obtain a living unless they worked for wages. But this general principle was not applicable to those particular circumstances in which men could obtain sufficient subsistence by "working for themselves and not for another." The principle so forcibly contended for by the hon. member for Weymouth was true with respect to the old and thickly peopled colonies, but was not true with respect to the new and thinly peopled colonies. It was true with respect to Barbadoes, but was not true with respect to Trinidad. The hon. member for Weymouth said, and said most truly, that the negro partook of the same common nature with ourselves, and that the African and European races were alike actuated by human feelings and human motives. He would entreat that hon. Member to deal with this question, not by abstractions and hasty generalizations, but by careful inductions from experience and from fact. He would entreat him to consider, what was the actual conduct of the men of the British race when placed in circumstances similar to those in which, as he contends, the African would work for wages:—when Englishmen go out to new colonies, where fertile land can be obtained for nothing, they almost immediately cease to work for wages, and cultivate small patches of soil on their own account. It was a well established fact, which could not be confuted, that, in our new colonies, and in the back settlements of the United States, a sufficient supply of labour could not be obtained for hire; and that the independent cultivation of land, which could be procured for little or nothing, was preferred to working for wages. Upon what principle, and for what motive, then, could it be supposed, that emancipated slaves in Jamaica, Trinidad, Berbice, and Demerara, would work for wages? When we knew from ample experience that, under similar circumstances, a civilized and Christian people fall back to the semi-barbarism of squatters and woodsmen, was it rational to suppose that the negro would advance to civilization? That instantaneous emancipation without a previous preparatory state, which might be attended by the happiest effects in the old and densely-peopled colonies, might perpetuate barbarism in the new and thinly peopled colonies. To apply the same general rule to these different cases, would be pernicious and absurd. But the hon. and learned civilian, the member for the Tower Hamlets, went far beyond the hon. member for Weymouth in the vehement and unmitigated assertion of general principles. The learned civilian affirmed, that he would not give up one iota of principle for any living man. He (Colonel Torrens) would venture to ask the hon. Member to explain what he meant by a principle? Was not a principle a general rule, the application of which prod need good to living man? General principles, considered as naked abstractions, went for nothing—their value could not be separated from their utility. In legislation, to adopt general principles for their own sake, and to enforce them when their application would occasion evil and not good, was fanaticism and quackery. But whence arose the new-born and vehement zeal of the learned civilian in the assertion of general principles? Where were his principles when Ministers first propounded their plan of emancipation to the House? For a long period the learned civilian and the hon. member for Weymouth gave no opposition to the ministerial plan—nay, they appeared to acquiesce in it, if not to approve of it. On the first division, the hon. member for Weymouth left the House without voting, and thus disappointed and misled those who were pledged to follow him on this important question. Why was not the ministerial project of emancipation opposed in the first instance? and wherefore was the unmitigated assertion of abstract justice delayed until after the Government was committed and Parliament pledged, and the glad tidings conveyed to the colonies? Why was the ministerial project acquiesced in on its first announcement, while there was yet time and opportunity to frame a better measure? and wherefore was the vehement denunciation of the learned civilian delayed until the eleventh hour, until the Government had become so committed that they could not consistently recede, and until the throwing out of this measure might lead to the resignation of Ministers, might throw all into confusion, and postpone emancipation to an indefinite period? Was this done because the learned civilian would not give up one iota of principle for any living man? He was somewhat surprised when he heard that assertion. Did the memory of the hon. and learned civilian furnish him with no instance in which an advocate, in the discharge of his professional duties, found it expedient to yield up some small iota of principle in defending a weak and doubtful cause? There was no principle more binding than that men should adhere to truth; and yet it would not be denied by the learned civilian, that in the actual business of life an eminent lawyer might feel himself justified in employing long and vehement pleadings to make the worse appear the better reason. He was not one of those who objected to legislate upon general principles. He had endeavoured to make himself acquainted with general principles. But he felt bound to say, that he believed the confusion and mischief, which resulted from legislating in absolute ignorance of general principles, was scarcely less extreme than the confusion and mischief produced by that half knowledge which applied general principles indiscriminately, and without regard to the varying circumstances which modified their operation. He repeated, that he did not yield to the hon. member for Weymouth, or to the hon. member for the Tower Hamlets, in a sincere and ardent desire for the total and immediate abolition of negro slavery. Instantaneous emancipation might be effected without danger in Barbadoes, because there the negro population would become free labourers compelled to earn subsistence by working for wages, and would be concentrated within the limits of civilization and moral and religious instruction. But emancipation without a due period of preparation could not be accomplished in Trinidad, and the other new colonies, without producing the most injurious consequences; because we know, from the conduct even of Europeans when placed in similar circumstances, that if the negroes in these colonics were at once let loose, they would not work for wages, but would become dispersed throughout the fertile forests, withdrawn from communication, from cooperation, and from all the means of intellectual improvement and religious instruction. Why did an enlightened and religious people demand the abolition of slavery in the colonies? Was it for the sake of an abstract principle? No. It was, that in these colonies the negro race might be formed into civilized and Christian communities, and not into tribes of squatters and bushmen relapsing into their original heathen barbarism. For these reasons he believed that, in all the new colonies, a sufficient period of probation should precede complete freedom from the master's control; and, accordingly, he must vote against the Amendment, which went to apply the same general rule to the old and to the new colonies.

Mr. Buckingham

said, he had listened with great attention to all the arguments that had been adduced in favour of the protracted servitude of the slaves; but the progress of the whole discussion had only proved to him how inextricable were the embarrassments that were sure to surround those who set out on a wrong principle. It was in this way alone that he could account for the fallacies, absurdities, and self-contradictions, by which the plans of the Ministers were characterized. He was glad, however, to find, that as they proceeded, gleams of light were occasionally breaking in on the darkness in which the great question was sought to be enshrouded; and that every step they advanced, the injustice of slavery became more and more apparent. Of all the plans that he had yet heard proposed by any one on the Ministerial side, that of the Chairman of the Committee (Mr. Bernal) appeared to him the simplest and the wisest—namely, that the House should merely pass two resolutions—the one declaring that slavery should be immediately and entirely abolished throughout all parts of the British dominions; the other, that compensation should be granted to the full extent of loss proved to have arisen from such abolition; and that, in the event of the Colonial Government, completing the first, the British Government would guarantee the second. He had no doubt whatever, that had the whole question been put on this simple footing, slavery would have been entirely abolished within a single year; and all parties would have been satisfied. Now, however, the question was so complicated and confused, and such perpetual changes were demanded by both parties, in the shape of reciprocal concession, that many years must elapse before the abolition could be effected, unless, indeed, which was extremely probable, the slaves should take the matter into their own hands, and speedily emancipate themselves. As to the immediate question before the House, it was merely this, whether any further time of servitude beyond the short period requisite for organizing the change, was either necessary or desirable; and if both, what was the exact space of time that should be fixed. The House had already pledged itself, by a preceding clause, that there should be some term of apprenticeship; and it was now called upon to determine its best limits. He must say, for himself, that he thought the decision of this question would depend entirely on the view taken by Members as to the reason for enacting any period of apprenticeship at all. If the restraint were intended to prepare the slave for freedom, then he should say that a single year for the agricultural labourers would be quite sufficient; particularly if, during that period the slaves were carefully made acquainted with the obligations that would be imposed on them by their new condition, and should have explained to them, by daily teachers, the great advantages which would result to themselves from sobriety, industry, prudence, and subordination. But for the artisans and artificers, who in large numbers maintained themselves by their own labour, and paid over weekly a surplus as tribute to their respective owners, not a single hour of apprenticeship would be necessary—they were already fit for freedom; they needed no probation; and therefore they could be safely emancipated without a moment's delay. If, however, the apprenticeship were intended as a part of the compensation to be paid to the planters, by prolonging to them the profits of the servitude of their slaves, he would say, that it would be far better to let the whole compensation be paid in money, and set the unhappy slaves free. He would rather, if he were compelled to choose, have the twenty millions made thirty, and the emancipation pronounced at once, than pay twenty millions for emancipation now, and have to wait seven years for its completion after all. He was one of those who contended that no compensation should be paid till loss could be proved; and the only cases in which it was certain that loss would accrue, was in that of the artizans and artificers, whose release from their bondage would occasion to their masters the loss of the weekly tribute which they received from their labour. But for the cultivators, he believed no compensation would ever be required, as it had been proved, by evidence the most unimpeachable, that free labour was in the end more profitable than slave labour; and, therefore, the proprietors of estates would be rather gainers than losers by the transition from one to the other. Let the House but once acknowledge the true principle, of the right of the slaves to their freedom, without delay and without price, and then all those difficulties would vanish. They would then find that some might be emancipated immediately, others in six months, others in a year, and the whole in two or three years at the furthest, with benefit to themselves, and safety to all concerned. He regretted that he had heard of no provision being made, during this state of probation or apprenticeship, for the education or religious instruction of any class of the slaves; and yet it must be evident to all, that if no steps were taken to ensure these blessings to the negroes, they would be just as unfit for the enjoyment of freedom at the end of the seven years as at the present moment; and as far as preparation was concerned, it would then, instead of being completed, be to be begun. He contended, then, that as no further period of slavery could be justified on the ground of further compensation, and as no probation could be useful without the aid of that moral and religious instruction for which provision was made, he was an advocate for the immediate emancipation of the negroes; and would not, if he were free to choose, vote for any delay whatever. As, however, the House had decided on some period of apprenticeship, and two terms were now submitted to their choice, he should prefer the shortest; and on these grounds he would give the Motion of Mr. Buxton his cordial and hearty support.

Mr. Pease

contended that wages were the only proper stimulus of labour; and though he was sorry to vote against his Majesty's Government, he would support the shorter term of apprenticeship.

Admiral Fleming

would not vote for the proposition of the hon. member for Weymouth, because he felt that its adoption would be injurious to the negroes themselves; for care must be taken that they and their families were not driven from the estate on which they were born and bred. When they became free the planters would pick out the best to employ and drive away all the old and infirm.

Mr. Strickland

felt bound, in consistency with the opinion which he had expressed on a former occasion, to vote for the shorter period of apprenticeship. The sum of twenty millions given to the planters was a large one; and his Majesty's Government ought, in return, to meet the voice of the people, and make the term of apprenticeship as short as possible.

Mr. Rigby Wason

recommended that they should combine apprenticeship with adequate wages. From the closest calculations, taken from the average price of negroes, he found that 20,000,000l. would buy the fee-simple of all the estates in the West Indies; but the value of the slaves at 25l. a-head might be 22,000,000l. For 20,000,000l. therefore, he thought the planters might at once give up all property in their slaves. He should say seven years in preference to a larger-period, provided wages could be combined with apprenticeship, but as that was not to be the case he would vote though in opposition to Ministers for the Amendment.

The House divided on the Original Motion, Ayes 206; Noes 89—Majority

The Clause was agreed to.

Lid of the NOES.
ENGLAND. Lister, C.
Aglionby, H. A. Lushington, Dr.
Attwood, T. Marjoribanks, S.
Bainbridge, E. T. Martin, J.
Barnett, C. J. Methuen, P.
Beauclerk, Major Parrott, J.
Bish, T. Pease, J.
Blake, Sir F. Plumtre, J. P.
Brigstock, W. P. Richards, J.
Briscoe, J. I. Russell, C. J. F.
Brocklehurst, J Strickland, G.
Buckingham J. S. Tayleur, W.
Buller, C. Tennyson, Rt. Un. C.
Calley, T. Tooke, W.
Cayley, E. S. Thicknesse, R.
Chandos, Marquess of Thompson, Alderman
Chichester, J. P. B. Trelawny, W. L. S.
Darlington, Earl of Turner, W.
Dashwood, G. H. Tynte, C. J. K.
Etwall, R. Wason, R.
Ewart, W. Wigney, J. R.
Evans, W. Wilks, f.
Faithfull, G. Winington, Captain
Fancourt, Major Yelverton, Hon. W. H.
Fielden, J. SCOTLAND.
Gaskell, D. Agnew, Sir A.
Gisborne, T. Gillon, W. D.
Gore, M. Johnston, A.
Gully, J. Sinclair, G.
Halcomb, J. IRELAND.
Handley, H. Baldwin, Dr.
Handley, W. F. Blake, M.
Hardy, J. Finn, W. F.
Harland, W. C. Grattan, J.
Hawes, B. Lynch, A. H.
Howick, Lord O'Connell, D.
Hudson, T. O'Connell, M.
Humphery, J. O'Connell, J.
Hutt, W. O'Dwyer, A. C.
Ingilby, Sir W. Ruthven, E.
Kemp, T. Ruthven, E. S.
Knatchbull, Sir E. Sheil, R. L.
Lennox, Lord W. Sullivan, R.
Lament, M. Vigors, N. A.
Langdale, C. Wallace, T.
Langton, G. TELLER.
Leech, J. Buxton, T. F.
Lowther, Colonel
Paired off.
Beauclerk, Major Guest, J. J.
Lennox, Lord W. Handley, Major

On Clause 6 being proposed,

Mr. Halcombe

rose to move an Amendment, which, he said, had for its object the enabling the negro to shorten the term of his apprenticeship, and to be the arbiter of his future fortunes. He thought it would be advisable, however, not to free all the slaves at once; and this object would be attained by making some difference in the length of notice which slaves should be called upon to give their masters of their wish to cease their apprenticeship. The hon. Gentleman then read his Amendment; which was, that it should be added as a proviso to the Clause, that it should be lawful for any apprentice to cease his apprenticeship any time before 1840, by giving, if above the age of eighteen, and under thirty, two years' notice to his master: if above thirty and under forty, eighteen months' notice: and if above forty, one year's notice only.

Mr. Secretary Stanley

said, the Committee having decided that the apprenticeship should be terminated at a given period it could not be left to either party to alter that period.

Amendment withdrawn, and the clause agreed to.

Clause 7 being proposed,

Lord Howick moved, as an Amendment, that, "The term of apprenticeship should be reduced from June, 1838, to August, 1834.' The object was, of course, to do away with the apprenticeship altogether of non-predial labourers. He did not expect the Amendment would be carried, from the recent result of another Amendment, but he wished to have his opinions recorded.

Mr. Patrick Stewart

did not see why this distinction should be made in favour of the non-predial labourers. For his part, he thought it best to amalgamate all the three clauses, and Fix one term for all sorts of slaves, and that term six years.

Mr. Fowell Buxton

agreed with the hon. Member that such an amalgamation would be a good method, and he would heartily support the hon. Member if he would propose the same term for predial slaves which the Bill fixed for household slaves.

Mr. Secretary Stanley

said, the Committee should recollect that they had already decided that a distinction should be drawn, and he thought very fair grounds had been shown for such distinction.

The Amendment was negatived, and the Clause agreed to.—The 8th Clause was passed.

The House resumed, the Committee to sit again.