§ The Question was, that the blank in clause 25 (giving power to the Treasury from time to time to make grants for the 197 compensation of the planters) should be filled up by the insertion of the words "twenty millions."
§ Mr. Herries
said, the time was now come when the noble Lord (Althorp) was bound to redeem his pledge, by affording to the House an explanation of the reasons which induced Government to propose so peculiar and novel an enactment as that of vesting the Lords of the Treasury with the power of making grants from time to time, to the amount of 20,000,000l., without any application whatever to Parliament. In no Act of Parliament that he had examined could he discover a precedent for such a proceeding; and, such being the case, Government was bound to give satisfactory reasons why the ordinary, and unquestionably more secure, course of regulating grants of the public money, should in the present particular instance be departed from.
§ Lord Althorp
admitted the course proposed to be adopted was unusual; but, taking into consideration the peculiarity of the arrangements under which the grant was to be claimed, no better, if indeed any other, course could be proposed. The House had already agreed, that a sum of 20,000,000l. should be raised, to be divided, according to a certain standard, among the several colonies, contingently on the adoption of certain regulations and laws for the ultimate abolition of negro slavery in such colonies. Now, the contingency which he had mentioned formed the ground for departing from the ordinary practice in cases of grants of public money. When that contingency might occur, or in fact whether it would occur at all or not, it was wholly impossible to foresee, and for that reason he could not conceive any other mode for advancing the money than by giving the Treasury the power to raise it from time to time, and as occasion might require, by way of loan. It was certainly an unusual course, and one for which he did not know a precedent; but it was to be recollected, that the circumstances it was proposed to meet were also unusual and without precedent. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Herries) had thrown out a hint that the money should be advanced in Exchequer bills; but he put it to the right hon. Gentleman, as well as to the House, whether an issue of Exchequer bills to the amount of 20,000,000l. could, under any circumstances, be either wise or expedient.
§ Mr. Herries
was not satisfied as to the expediency, much less as to the necessity, of the proposed course. Under any circumstances, until the next Session, and, in all probability, for a much longer period, it was impossible any case could occur in which it would be necessary to make payments on account of the proposed grant; and he thought the more prudent course to adopt would be merely to give the maximum sum of compensation, and leave the arrangements by which that sum from time to time should be issued to the future consideration and decision of Parliament. Unquestionably, the proposed course was contrary to all usage. and, in his opinion, it was opposed to all propriety. Then, with regard to the means by which the proposed grant was to be raised. Notwithstanding all that had fallen from the noble Lord, he was of opinion that the proper constitutional means of levying the grant was by the issue of Exchequer Bills; and he recommended the noble Lord, before bringing up the Report, to reconsider the subject. All the difficulty in the granting of a power to the Lords of the Treasury to raise money at their own discretion, and without coming to Parliament, could be obviated, if, instead of the present, a clause was substituted, empowering the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury to raise such sums as might be required for the purposes of the Bill, not exceeding in the whole the sum of 20,000,000l., in such manner and by such means as they shall be authorised and directed by any Acts of Parliament for that purpose. If such a clause were substituted, the money would be raised only when the contingencies to which the noble Lord alluded required it, and thus the responsibility likely to be occasioned by granting unlimited powers to the Treasury, as well as the danger of having large sums unnecessarily in hand, obviated. When the contingency occurred, all the Ministers of the day would have to do, would be to come down to Parliament and demand whatever sums they might require, to meet it; their right peremptorily to demand it being established by the present Bill. Not wishing at present to detain the House, he would content him-self with throwing out his suggestion, in the hope that before bringing up the Report, the noble Lord would see the propriety of adopting it.
§ Lord Althorp
admitted there was a good 199 deal of judgment in the suggestion; and, without pledging himself to adopt it, he would promise, before bringing up the Report, to give it his best consideration. Perhaps, the strongest argument in its favour was, that it would take much unnecessary responsibility from those whom the Bill vested with the raising and disbursing of the money.
bad intended offering a suggestion very similar to that of his right hon. friend, and must therefore join in expressing a hope that the noble Lord would adopt it. As long as the noble Lord held his present office, the public had every requisite guarantee that no improper use would be made of the extraordinary powers with which the clause as it stood proposed to vest the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury; but it could not be expected the noble Lord would always hold office, and it was the duty of Parliament so to regulate the disposition of the public property, that no man could hazard it. He fully agreed with his right hon. friend, that every bargain of the same character as the present, should be conducted in the ordinary and long-established way—namely, by the Minister of the Crown coming down from time to time to Parliament, and applying for such powers as the actual necessity, not the contingent necessity, of the case demanded. It was by no means usual for Parliament to vest the Treasury with powers to conclude a bargain; and he was sorry, in the case of another Bill then before the House, relating to an application on the part of the city of London, to see Ministers attempting to violate the ordinary Parliamentary and constitutional usage, which was, for the Treasury to make the bargain, and then bring it to Parliament for ratification. In the course of the last war, on many occasions, it would have been most desirable for the Government of the day to conclude bargains without the consent of Parliament, but in no one single instance had the attempt been made. With respect to the best means for raising the money to be granted for compensation, he had also a suggestion to offer to the noble Lord, namely, that instead of borrowing money in the market accordingly as the contingency might occur, the most suitable mode of giving the slave-proprietors their settlement would be, grants in the shape of stock, bearing a moderate degree of 200 interest. As in the case of the purchase of property, the purchase of the liberty of a slave could not be finally completed until the title of the master had undergone a full investigation; and as in that process a vast deal of time must of necessity be consumed, or else a very hasty inquiry take place, the most suitable mode of arranging the matter would be to give the planter stock at the rate of three and a-half per cent for each 100l. of his claim; the effect of which would be the locking up of the principal sum to meet any contingent claims that might arise. If the present arrangement was persisted in, what would be the state of the case? Supposing the contingency which the noble Lord alluded to as forming the condition for the grant to arise, the Lords of the Treasury would go into the market, and raise at once five or ten millions of money as the case might be; and if then they were to proceed paying 100l. of money for every 100l. of claims, pending the making out of titles, and the settling of contingent claims, a great many millions of the money so raised would be vested in their hands—a responsibility as disagreeable to the individuals who might fill the office, as it might be dangerous to the public. By his plan he was satisfied all parties would be suited, while the frequent borrowing of millions of money (which, independent of the jobbing it would cause, would keep the market in a perpetually feverish condition) would be avoided; and he confidently recommended it, or some modification of it, to the consideration of the noble Lord.
§ Mr. Aglionby
, on his own behalf, and on behalf of his constituents and the people of England, must say, that there was no clause in the whole Bill which he should see carried with so little pleasure as the one under discussion. He was one who had always been of opinion, that no man's property should be taken away without an equivalent. If compensation were due, give it at once, but not under a delusion. Property, in his opinion, was held for the good of the public; and, being so held, could be taken away. In regard to land—the most sacred of all property—it was frequently taken away for the making of roads, canals, and other national advantages. But an equivalent was given. And how was it assessed? He was convinced that the planters must derive considerable advantage from free 201 labour, and therefore there was the less reason to give them so large a sum as that now proposed. There were two classes of persons in the West Indies who were entitled to compensation; but from their relative situation entitled to it in a different degree. The first were those who had slaves without land, and who obtained a profit on the labour of the slaves they let out to hire to the other class—namely, those persons who had lands, and cultivated them by the labour of these slaves. He thought, that before such a sum as 20,000,000l. was granted, there should be some inquiry, to ascertain in what degree these different classes were injured. If 20,000,000l. could be proved to be a reasonable sum for the compensation of the planters, he had no objection to grant it; but he must say, that before it was definitively granted, it should be fairly assessed. If it were not, he must resist the grant of so enormous a sum. He did not know how such a sum of money would be raised. This country was already taxed almost to sinking; its industry was borne down by the load upon it, and, excepting the use of the lash, many of its lower classes were worse off than the negroes in the West Indies.
§ Sir Robert Peel
said, his vote would be given on one single ground, a very simple one, but on that account not the less binding. The House of Commons had come to three deliberate Resolutions; the two first declaring that slavery should be abolished in the colonies; and the third that a sum of 20,000,000l. sterling should be appropriated as compensation to the planters, whose rights such abolition tended to affect. Those Resolutions having been agreed to, were communicated to the House of Lords, and being by them affirmed, were transmitted to the several West India deputations. He had not voted on the last Resolution, but as it had been agreed to by the majority of the House, he felt himself as much concluded by it as if he had. Now, was the House prepared, under such circumstances, to say, that their solemn Resolution respecting the compensation should go for naught, and that, although slavery might be abolished, the planters should not receive that compensation which was promised them? The question they had to decide was, whether they could recede from their former vote. If they could recede from the Resolution that slavery should be abolish- 202 ed, and could replace the planters in the situation they were in before the Resolutions were discussed, then they might shrink from granting twenty millions as a compensation; but if it was impossible for them so to recede—after announcing that slavery should no longer exist in the colonies—he did not see how they could recal the solemn and deliberate pledge given by both Houses of Parliament, that the sum for compensation should be 20,000,000l. To say to the planter that a nice distinction about a mill and a stream, or a farmer and his horses, had so satisfied the minds of the House against the propriety of compensation, that although slavery should be abolished, he should receive nothing, would be little pleasing to him, be he however pleased with metaphorical or ingenious arguments. He was free to admit that 20,000,000l. was an enormous sum in the present situation of the country; but as it had been agreed to by two branches of the Legislature, with the authority of the Crown, that such a sum should be granted, without saying whether it were more or less than the planters were entitled to, he considered himself concluded from diminishing it. There were many questions on which the first announcement of the King's Government, founded on the authority of the King, was decisive; and the present was one of them. The authority which the announcement that slavery was to be abolished had shaken, could not now be restored, unless the Resolutions to which the House had come were carried into effect; and, acting on that ground, he considered himself precluded from retracting from any one of them.
§ Sir Eardley Wilmot
wished to know from the right hon. Baronet if Parliament was precluded from reconsidering a Resolution to which it had come. Did the right hon. Baronet mean to say, that after agreeing to a Resolution that a sum not exceeding 20,000,000l. should be granted as compensation, the planter was precluded from subsequently declaring that a lesser sum would be sufficient? The Resolution fixed the maximum; but he was quite sure it was competent for the House to reconsider that Resolution, and take any lesser sum.
§ Sir Robert Peel
.—Technically speaking, undoubtedly the House could reconsider and retract from any Resolution; but at the same time it was a question 203 whether by doing so the House would not be guilty of a breach of good faith.
Mr. Secretary Stanley
begged to remind the House it had already on a division decided that the amount of compensation to the planters should be 20,000,000l. and not 15,000,000l.
should not vote for the 20,000,000l.; he had not before agreed to it, and he did not do so now. It was a mere resolution of the House. If it had been an Act of Parliament, the House of course would be bound, but they were not by an inchoate proceeding of this kind. Those who had opposed the grant before could oppose it now; and this sum of 20,000,000l. was no laughing matter to the people of England.
Mr. Secretary Stanley
observed, that the question had been taken whether any sum of money should be granted; and those who then thought that there should not be any compensation, could consistently say the same thing now; but those who had voted for the grant of 15,000,000l. had no right to object to that sum at least. It would not be an act of justice to take away the master's right to the labour of his slaves, and then refuse him compensation for the loss, so as to be able to hire the labour of those same men when they became free.
said, that those who acted with him had not voted for the 15,000,000l. On the question that 15,000,000l. should be substituted for 20,000,000l. they had not voted, for that would have been to affirm the grant of the 15,000,000l. As to the right hon. Gentleman's observations about justice, it should be recollected, that when he first proposed his plan there was no talk of compensation. Where was his justice then? Justice was asleep then.
Mr. Secretary Stanley
answered, that the hon. and learned Member was in the constant habit of making assertions which, so often as they were refuted, he made again and again, till, by force of repetition, he believed them to be true. He (Mr. Secretary Stanley) had before told the hon. and learned Member, that when the amount proposed to be raised was to be a loan, it was also proposed that that loan should be repaid by the negroes; but the House decided that the negroes should not be taxed, and therefore the vote of the 20,000,00l. became necessary, to raise the compensation in another way.
§ Mr. Cobbett
observed, that it seemed they had not power to rescind a vote which was to give away the money of the people; but they had a competent power to rescind a vote which went to relieve the people from a part of their burthens. With regard to the money to be voted for this West-India property, he should not vote for one farthing of it. Either these slaves were property, or they were not. If they were we had no right to meddle with that properly; if they were not property, we were not bound to give compensation for them. It was not like the case of the horses, to which they had once been compared, for they were not taken away, they were left on the farm. Aye, and his Majesty's Ministers had repeatedly said, and the right hon. Gentleman, who sat on a seat which seemed to inspire cheers of itself, that there would not be a smaller production of sugar after the emancipation than now. If the right hon. Gentleman had not said the slaves would work as well after emancipation as before, it certainly had been contended by others that free labour would be of advantage. He believed that to be a mistake. They would not work to any considerable extent but by compulsion. It was notorious that in parts of America, where the freedom of the negroes had been established, that when they were put on their own hands their numbers materially diminished. In the state of New York there had been fifty or sixty thousand of them when slavery was put an end to, but they had been diminishing from that time to this, and when he was in America the prospect was, that the race would be extinct in a few years. So that those who thought that after this measure the colonies would remain as they were, deceived themselves. He wished that they might, but he did not wish that this country should pay 20,000,000l. for a mere speculative good. It had been laid down in that House, that man could not have a property in his fellow man. Now, however, it was found out that the negroes were property, and the estates and the labour of Englishmen, even the labour of those who had not sufficient to eat and drink, on account of the weight of taxation, were to be further taxed to give 20,000,000l. to those who were accused of having been guilty of great cruelties towards their fellow-men, and who were said to have been, by being slave-holders, offenders against the laws 205 both of God and man. However, he should not object to the vole if the noble Lord would complete his proposition of making paper a legal tender. Let the noble Lord set the paper-mill to work, and they might have the cash in hand. There would then be no difficulty in raising the money. If the noble Lord would promise to do that, he would vote for the grant.
Mr. Henry Hundley
thought, that if the Resolutions passed on this subject bound them so completely as the right hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Peel) seemed to imagine, he could only say, that the introduction of these Resolutions was a most ingenious net to catch country gentlemen. He might be making a display of his own ignorance, but he must state what had made him vote as he had done. He had always intended that the amount of compensation should equal the loss by emancipation. Now, however, the apprenticeship clause was introduced, and the emancipation was not as complete as he had expected, nor the loss to the planters much. It was now a question whether the negro would work for free wages? If he would do so, then the same amount of compensation would not be required. Under these circumstances he should vote for the smaller sum; and in doing so he did not think he was acting contrary to the spirit of good faith.
§ Lord Norreys
said, as it was his intention to oppose the grant, he wished distinctly to state he was not one of those who were prepared to support the rest of the Bill. He would not consent to vote away the 20,000,000l.; but he had no hesitation in saying, if that clause were thrown out, he should consider it just and fair to the proprietors to vote against the third reading of the Bill.
§ Sir Eardley Wilmot
presumed that the whole of this money would be paid, and for the very reason assigned by the hon. member for Cricklade, who said that the salaries of persons holding public appointments were granted in the same terms. It was known that they always took the maximum, and he had no doubt that the same course would be pursued with regard to the purchase of West-Indian property. He thought the sum originally proposed as a loan amply sufficient as" a gift. When people talked of the prevailing distress, and of the burthens of taxation, as a ground for giving the smaller sum, the answer had been, that the honour of the 206 country required that the larger amount should be inserted in the Bill. Now, he knew that thousands of his constituents were, if not actually starving, in a state of great destitution, and when he returned to them he should have to tell them, that they must continue to starve and be destitute for the honour of their country. On a former day, he had used a strong expression regarding an individual: he was happy to take this opportunity of saying publicly, as, indeed, he had said privately, that on inquiry he found it was not deserved, and that he was, therefore, very sorry for it.
§ The Committee divided on the Amendment—Ayes 27; Noes 152: Majority 125.
§ The Committee also divided on the question that the words twenty millions be inserted on the original clause—Ayes 132; Noes 51: Majority 81.
§ Clause agreed to
|List of the NOES.|
|Aglionby, H. A.||Pease, J.|
|Bish, T.||Philips, M.|
|Blamire, W.||Potter, R.|
|Bruce, Lord E.||Roebuck, A.|
|Briggs, M.||Romilly, J.|
|Cobbett, W.||Strutt, E.|
|Cornish, J.||Thicknesse, R.|
|Dillwyn, L. W.||Todd, J. R.|
|Ewart, W.||Torrens, Colonel|
|Faithfull, G.||Turner, W.|
|Fenton, J.||Trelawny, W. L. S.|
|Gaskell, D.||Tynte, C. J. K.|
|Handley, Major||Wason, R.|
|Handley, H.||Whalley, Sir S.|
|Hall, B.||Wilmot, Sir E.|
|Harland, W. C.||Wigney, J. N.|
|Hudson, T.||O'Connell, D.|
|Hutt, W.||O'Connell, M.|
|Ingilby, Sir W.||O'Dwyer, A. C.|
|Knatchbull, E.||Ruthven, E. S.|
|Laugton, G.||Ruthven, E.|
|Marshall, J.||Sullivan, R.|
|Methuen, P.||Briscoe, J. I.|
|Evans, Colonel||Codrington, Sir E.|
|Mills, J.||Howard, P. H.|
|O'Connell, J.||Villiers, Lord|
|Seale, Colonel||Watson, Hon. R.|
|Walker, R.||Whitbread, W. H.|
§ On Clause 40 being read which provides that no part of the compensation fund 207 shall be applicable, unless his Majesty in Council shall have first declared that adequate provision has been made by the Legislature thereof for giving effect to this Act,
§ Mr. Fowell Buxton
rose to submit a proposition that half the sum agreed to be voted to the West-India proprietors by way of compensation, should be reserved until the period of apprenticeship expired. He trusted it was not necessary for him to take up the time of the House in arguing at any length in support of this proposition. The argument in favour of it was founded in the caution and prudence which men of the world displayed in the bargains made by them in ordinary transactions. The ordinary practice was to withhold the purchase-money until the commodity was delivered. He remembered one instance, in which there had been a deviation from that rule, and the consequence should operate as a warning. He knew not how many millions had been voted to Spain and Portugal for the abolition of the slave trade, but the money was paid before the condition was performed, and the consequence was that the money was kept, and the slave trade continued. In the present instance he could not contemplate any objection to his Motion. What he proposed was, that they should pay 10,000,000l., the largest deposit perhaps, ever offered for the performance of a contract, and to put it beyond all question that they would perform the other part faithfully, he proposed that the residue of the sum voted to the West-India proprietors should be placed in the hands of trustees, to be paid to the West-India proprietors, as soon as the measure of emancipation was completed. He did not mean to disguise from the Committee that he doubted the ability and the intention of the West-India proprietors to perform their part of the contract. He doubted much whether they had the power. If they had any such power, would they have suffered his Majesty's Representative in Jamaica, to be insulted? Would they have suffered the unoffending missionaries to be abused and imprisoned, and would they have suffered the helpless slaves to be oppressed and ill-treated as they had been, for wishing to have the power of worshipping God according to the dictates of conscience? But if the West-India proprietors had the power, he doubted if they had the inclination. If the inclina- 208 tions of the West Indians were to be ascertained, let them look at the conduct of those who represented the West Indians. All those he addressed had read, and many of them heard the speeches of Mr. Burge. Were they to judge of the feelings of the West-India proprietors by those speeches? [No, no.] Well, but was not Mr. Burge the Representative of the West Indians? Before the money was voted, Mr. Burge distinctly stated his determined hostility to the measure now under consideration. Many other gentlemen who stood in the character of Representatives had also declared their hostility to the measure. He admitted that he knew little of what was going on in Jamaica, but he had reason to believe that the proposition was met there with a spirit of decided hostility. Without pressing this point, however, he would ask, whether the people of England were not entitled to the fullest security that the contract for the purchase of which they were about to pay, would be fulfilled? The people of England, by their Representatives in that House, had set an example of generosity which he believed had never been equalled. Though the people of England were in great distress, they came forward upon principles of humanity and Christian charity, to vote this ample and enormous grant for the emancipation of the slaves. The last words of Mr. Wilberforce, uttered only a short time before his dissolution, were—" Have I lived to hear that the people of England have voted 20,000,000l. for the emancipation of the negroes?" When such a sum was generously granted, he repeated that the people of England were entitled to have the measure complete. For his own part he would be willing to give more than 20,000,000l. or 40,000,000l. if the measure was complete. It was not the question of money, which would stop him, if the right measure was to be accomplished; but he considered the measure imperfect, and that there was no sufficient security for the performance of the conditions. They had, in the course of the discussions on that Bill, heard a great deal about moral courage, but he would contend, that in the line of conduct which his Majesty's Government pursued, they had, in an eminent degree, evinced moral courage. It would have been easy for them to have gained a cheap popularity by yielding at once to the declared wishes of the country, 209 and to have said, on coming into power, you shall have emancipation, and, what is more, you shall have that emancipation, at the expense of others. No; the language which the present Government held was this; you shall have emancipation, but you must pay for it. During the whole of the struggles in which he, as an humble individual, had been engaged for the attainment of the object then in view, he at least possessed the consolation of knowing that he had sought for emancipation, and for emancipation in peace. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving an Amendment to the effect, "That not more than one moiety of the 20,000,000l. should be paid to the owners of the slaves until the term of apprenticeship of all classes of slaves should have expired, either by the effluxion of time or by the voluntary act of their masters; and in all cases where the master, in any of the colonies, shall put an end to the term of apprenticeship before its natural termination, he shall, from the moment he does so, become entitled to his share of the remaining unpaid 10,000,000l. compensation,"
Mr. Secretary Stanley
said, that the Amendment was somewhat obscure, but he supposed the hon. Member meant that one-half of the twenty millions compensation should remain unpaid until the term of apprenticeship of the negro should have expired. Now, he must say, that if the 20,000,000l. were justly claimed by the owners of the slaves, and according to the calculations the sum was not too great, it would be very unjust to limit its payment in such a manner as to render its amount not more than 16,000,000l. or 17,000,000l.; for, on a rough calculation, the delay in paying the 10,000,000l., as proposed by the hon. Member, would, taking it at an interest of eight per cent, cause that sum to be reduced to 6,000,000l. or 7,000,000l. But did he rightly understand the hon. Member to mean, that he wished the whole sum to be raised now, and the interest of the moiety to acccumulate for the benefit of the country?
§ Mr. Fowell Buxton
said, that the interest of the 10,000,000l. would of course, accumulate for the benefit of the planter.
Mr. Secretary Stanley
Then the Motion was made with no economical view towards the country, but, on the contrary, with a detrimental view to the planters' interests. The real question was, whether the House would hold out an inducement 210 to the planters to terminate the apprenticeship sooner than the period at which it had been fixed by Parliament? He did not think it would be a desirable thing, or a thing consistent with the safety of the colonies, to hold out to the proprietors such an inducement—such an unnatural stimulus to put an early termination to the period of apprenticeship—a period which, as even fixed by the Bill, was rather short. Besides the mode of doing so, by assenting to the Amendment of the hon. Member, would have this bad effect, that it would prolong the duration of the Commissioners who were to distribute the compensation money, and thus add greatly to the expense of the proceeding, at the same time that it would greatly increase the difficulties in the way of litigation, arising from the changes of ownership, deaths of slaves, and other incidental causes, which the prolongation of the settlement of this matter for six years would naturally occasion. If the planters were at all entitled to the compensation, they were as much, and more so now, than they would be at any future period; and he therefore must oppose any delay in paying any portion of it.
§ Dr. Lushington
, after complimenting the right hon. Secretary for the Colonies for the great parliamentary skill and tactique which he had displayed in the management of this measure from its first introduction, proceeded to observe that undoubtedly the resolutions when carried, solely specified the amount of compensation (20,000,000l.) to be paid, leaving the term of apprenticeship and all the other objects of the measure to be determined upon afterwards by the House. The right hon. Gentleman had thus, certainly, with considerable adroitness bound the House down to the money contract, and had it thus in his power to deal with them after as regarded the other objects stated in the Resolutions in such a manner as best suited his views. They had fixed the term of apprenticeship for a much longer period than he (Dr. Lushington) would have wished, but he would now say, for God's sake let them have some guarantee—some security for the full emancipation of the slaves. He was ready to admit, that he for one was bound by his vote to the amount of compensation, but he was anxious to get as good security as he could for the carrying of the measure into full effect on the part 211 of the colonies. It was quite useless to say that they could rely even upon the acts of the colonial assemblies, though on the face of them they might have the appearance of being intended to carry into effect the objects for which they were ostensibly passed. He did not see the force of the arguments urged by his right hon. friend, as to the reduction of the sum to 6,000,000l., by deferring its payment for six years, as the Amendment left it at the option of the Colonial Legislatures and proprietors to place themselves in a situation that would entitle them to receive the whole amount at once. He was of opinion that the proposition of the hon. member for Weymouth would secure the attainment of the object all had in view, and afford a much more speedy prospect of the complete freedom to the slave population of the West-India colonies; or at least would alleviate their condition before such prospects were completely carried into effect. He trusted the House would not be deceived on this point, but he hoped (with great deference to his right hon. friend below him) that the House would feel that they would best satisfy the great majority of the constituents of this country, and would discharge their duty in the manner best calculated to entitle them to the gratitude of those who sent them there, by adopting those measures which, with the greatest certainty and expedition, would effect the entire and complete abolition of slavery in the whole of his Majesty's dominions.
§ Mr. Patrick Stewart
observed, that the real question before the House was the apprenticeship question, which, though it had already been disposed of, was brought into discussion for the third time, and he felt it his duty to state, that it had been intimated to those who represented, or endeavoured, like himself, feebly to represent the West-India interest, that if they would consent to the term of apprenticeship being fixed at six years, the subject would not have been mooted this evening in the House. His answer to this intimation had been, that if the grant was raised to 50,000,000l. he would not give his consent to such an alteration of the plan. Five years had also then been proposed, but he conceived that for any such a difference in the plans supported by the several parties, the security of the plan now proposed ought not to be hazarded, He protested against the 212 opinions which had been promulgated by Mr. Burge and Mr. Barrett, as being considered as those entertained by the colonists in Jamaica; he could not think they were so demented as to foster such opinions. If even such violent expressions had emanated from Jamaica, then he would say, let that colony suffer for itself. But this amendment would effect this—that in consequence of the resistance of one colony out of nineteen, the remaining eighteeen should suffer on the footing of compensation. He, however, could say, from the information he had received, and particularly with reference to those colonies with which he was connected, that the most sincere, and efficient, and effectual co-operation had been recommended, and after such a co-operation he would ask the House to pause before it broke the bargain into which the Legislature had entered. He could say, that the colonies looked to this Government and to the House, for bringing this question (a question which formerly had been hastening them to destruction) to that point to which it had at last arrived. If the Amendment should prevail, and there should be a further postponement for six years, the consternation on the other side of the Atlantic would be such, that he would rather give up the bargain than that, so altered, it should go on. He could not but refer hon. Members to the speeches on this subject in the year 1824, of the hon. member for Weymouth, and of Mr. (now Lord) Brougham; but in particular he must call their attention to the speech delivered in 1831 by the noble Viscount opposite (Lord Howick) on the occasion of the subject of slavery being introduced. Before doing so, however, he (Mr. Stewart could not help expressing his regret that the noble Lord should refuse to co-operate in the plan now proposed, and he must say that the colonists ought not, in common fairness, to have been exposed to the attacks of the noble Lord with the advantages possessed by him, and acquired by him from the accident of having held office. To such information it was somewhat hard that the colonists should be exposed. On the occasion to which he had alluded, the noble Lord had said, "That on mature consideration, he felt that it would not be safe to the colonists, that slavery should be abolished immediately and at once, and the course then proposed by the hon. member for Wey- 213 mouth (Mr. Buxton) would be attended with many disasters."* The noble Lord had also proceeded to say, "That he concurred with Mr. Canning in thinking that emancipation should be gradual, and through the planters; if not, a flame would be raised, only to be quenched by blood."† The noble Lord had proceeded further to say, "That emancipation ought to be gradual, diminishing at once the sufferings, the coercion, and the labours of the slaves, and must proceed link by link in removing the fetters which confined and oppressed them."‡ Now, if the present Bill was framed with such a disposition (and he must say it did not go beyond it), it was for the noble Lord to show the grounds upon which he now changed his opinions. The two great causes of a change in opinion were time and place; time in the present case could not be the cause, and but one other remained. On the whole, he would beseech the hon. member for Weymouth not to press his amendment; but if the hon. Member should do so, he (Mr. Stewart) would conjure the House not to give its assent to a proposition so fraught with mischief.
§ Lord Howick
said, that he had observed ever since he had a seat in the House that those who had to struggle against the cause of justice and reason were ever ready to support the weakness of their arguments by a personal imputation against those to whom they might be opposed. Such had been the case in the present instance. It had ever been the practice to apply selfish motives to those in opposition to their assailants, and he well remembered that his noble friend, the member for Devonshire had been attacked in the same manner during the discussions on the Reform Bill. It had been then imputed to his noble friend, that he had exempted Tavistock, Calne, and other places from the provisions of that measure from selfish motives; and when such attacks were made on him, they produced no other feeling in his mind than those of the most ineffable contempt, pity, and compassion for any hon. Gentleman who had no better arguments to advance than the imputation of selfish motives to others. [Mr. Patrick Stewart had never mentioned the noble Lord's motives, he had merely quoted his* Hansard (third series) vol. iii. p. 1443.† Ibid.‡ Ibid.214 speech.] The hon. Gentleman bad certainly quoted his speech, but when the hon. Member had said, that the only two reasons which could be assigned for a change of opinion were time and place, he had also added, that time could not now be the cause, and had suggested an imputation on him, to which the hon. Member durst not adhere, and which he treated with the most perfect scorn. He would not deny that a great change of opinion had taken place in his mind upon this question. He had stated to the House already how that change had been produced in his mind, and he was sure the House would not think him capable of pursuing such a line of conduct as had been suggested. While he had the honour to hold office, he had urged his views upon the members of the Government in the hope they would be convinced of their policy. He had, however, failed in effecting that conviction in the minds of the Government, and before he knew one word that his right hon. friend was to succeed to the Colonial Office, he had resigned his place. He would appeal to his hon. friend to say whether, on the decision of the Government against him (Lord Howick), he did not resign some days before his right hon. friend was appointed? He could also say, that if he had chosen to make use of the information he had derived when in office, as had been suggested, he could assure the hon. Gentleman opposite, that he could have made it much more difficult for this scheme to be carried forward; but he thought, that having resigned on the ground, that the Government would not go so far as he considered necessary, it was due to the House, when the question should come forward, that he should state his real opinions upon it. It had been said, that the House was obliged to grant 20,000,000l. as an equivalent for the freedom of the slaves. He had not voted for this grant, because he could not concur in it before he knew what was the consideration he was to receive. That consideration, it appeared, was not complete freedom; and he could not assent to the grant. He contended, that 20,000,000l. was ample compensation for full and complete emancipation, and if this was not given, certainly a portion of the compensation should be withheld. He was further of opinion, that too much power would be left under this Bill in the hands of the colonists themselves, in having it 215 reserved to their legislatures to define what should constitute insolence, refusal to work, or passive resistance on the part of the slave population; there was, in fact, no assurance that the measure would be fully carried into effect by the colonists; and again he was satisfied, that divested of political feeling, a portion of the grant should be deferred on financial grounds; for if the grant were all at once made, he believed the expenses of the colonies would be increased rather than diminished. When freedom existed, these expenses could only be diminished, but while apprenticeship was in force, instead of a diminution, he had strong reason to believe, that an accession to the force already employed in the colonies would be required. Upon these grounds he should give his hearty support to the Amendment proposed by the hon. member for Weymouth.
§ Lord Althorp
said, that the hon. and learned member for the Tower Hamlets had argued on the presumption that the opinion of the House was in favour of immediate emancipation, without any apprenticeship. Now that was not the case. The opinion of the House was shown to be, that the intervening apprenticeship should take place. It was absurd to suppose, that slavery could be postponed beyond the time prescribed. The Imperial Legislature having declared, that slavery should cease at a certain time, it was utterly impossible that the Colonial Legislatures should keep the slaves longer in slavery. There was, therefore, no danger to be apprehended on that account. He (Lord Althorp) thought, that in a case of such great importance as the present, such financial arguments as had been brought forward by the noble Lord ought to have no force. He thought, that nothing would be so unwise and impolitic as to make an alteration which would give the greatest dissatisfaction. It was true, that the noble Lord (Lord Howick) had resigned his office before this measure was brought forward, and as far as his opposition to this measure went, it was certainly much more persevering than he (Lord Althorp) could wish. He hoped, that the House would not assent to the Amendment proposed by the hon. member for Weymouth.
could have no confidence in the West-Indian body, if the Amendment of the hon. Member were lost. He 216 did not wish to defeat that Bill. His opposition extended only to parts of it. At first it had been proposed, that 15,000000l. should be given to the West-Indians as a lean, and that that sum should be paid by the negroes; that loan had now changed into a gift of 20,000,000l., which was to be paid by this country. Was there ever an instance of such bountiful liberality as this towards the West-Indians? Was there ever anything so miraculous, as that a loan of 15,000,000l. should all at once spring up into a gift of 20,000,000l.; and that for this gift of 20,000,000l. they were only to take two hours and a-half per day of the labour of the negro from his master? They had cut off two hours and a half a day of the negroe's labour, and for that they were about to give the planters 20,000,000l. The enormity of such a proceeding was stunning. But as the West-Indians were to get these 20,000,000l., the House of Commons had reason, at all events, to expect some symptoms of humanity on their part. Nonesuch, however, appeared. But, on the contrary, all the delegates of the different West-India colonies were protesting against the measure. They had bought no co-operation on the part of the West-Indians; and if they found them fighting for the last half pound of negro flesh in that House, what were they to expect of the Colonial Legislatures in the West Indies? Now, the nation had only a mere hope of co-operation from that quarter, for it had received no promise to that effect. He thought, then, that only one half of the 20,000,000l. ought to be paid at present, and that they should keep the other half till they had an opportunity of seeing if the West-Indians would keep their promise. This was the most important part of the Bill; and the people of England would see, by the decision upon it, whether they were to be deluded or not.
§ Mr. James
said, that being no lawyer, he could not follow the system of special pleading which had been observed, neither could he compete with lawyers in the debate. He had formerly said, and he still maintained, that, in spite of slavery, the slaves in the West Indies were better off than the labourers of this country. If the peasants of Ireland were as well off as the negroes of the West Indies, the hon. and learned member for Dublin might indeed give up his agitation, for it would 217 be useless. It might well then be said: "Othello's occupation's gone." The hon. and learned Member would truly find, that the effect of his agitation had disappeared—And, like the baseless fabric of a vision,Left not "the rent" behind.
§ Mr. Robert Gordon
would beg to say a few words, as a person much interested in the measure. He said, that from the moment the Resolutions proposed by the right hon. Secretary for the Colonies were adopted by the House, and sent out to the colonies, slavery was virtually abolished. But these Resolutions had been agreed to on the distinct understanding, that 20,000,000l. should be given as compensation to the slave proprietors. Was the House then, he would ask, determined to enforce the first part of that implied contract, while they were disposed to depart from the latter part of it. It was evident, that without the aid and concurrence of the Colonial Legislatures, it would be impossible to carry this measure into execution; but was it likely, that the Colonial Legislatures would feel the more inclined to lend their aid if they saw symptoms of the House breaking faith with them? He knew, that the West-Indians looked with the greatest alarm to any change in this part of the measure, and he earnestly hoped, that the House would not diminish a sum which was not more than equivalent to the purpose for which it was intended.
§ Lord Sandon
said, that this was not a mere question of economy; the question was, how they could procure the object so much wished for—namely, the abolition of slavery. He thought, that they were more likely to accomplish that object by having the assistance of the Colonial Legislatures, than if those Legislatures worked against them. He hoped, that the House would not take a lesson of conciliation from the hon. and learned member for Dublin. He had never seen or heard of a single act of that hon. and learned Gentleman which tended to lead to that conclusion. He hoped, that they would not embarrass the question by raking up the recriminating matters of former years, but would join in endeavouring to abolish slavery in the safest manner possible; and that they would really endeavour to conciliate the West-India Legislatures, and not merely speak about reconciliation, like the hon. and learned member for 218 Dublin, who had it always on his tongue, but never followed it.
had never supported—but the noble Lord had—the foulest bribery and corruption. If he had, the noble Lord might indeed reproach him; but it was not likely that he should. If the noble Lord had been able to have his way, the foul corruption of that ancient borough he represented would have been preserved. Let the noble Lord take his conciliation out of that. The Committee were ready enough to call him to order; why did they not call the noble Lord to order, when the noble Lord was assailing the whole of his political life; and why did the Committee call him to order, when he referred only to one small chapter in the noble Lord's political history? He would say, by way of parenthesis, that when the noble Lord had done as much for his country, as he (Mr. O'Connell) had done for his—[Laughter drowned the conclusion of the hon. Member sentence]. He would then turn to the hon. member for Carlisle, and he did so the more readily, as that hon. Member was a Radical brother of long standing. And when that hon. Member told the House, that the negroes had some of them saved 200l., and that they did not care for the whip, he could tell the hon. Member, that there was not one peasant in Ireland, who, for his 200l., would forego his privilege of looking the man in the face—be he who he might—who raised his hand against him. He had heard the hon. Member's doctrine; and he must say, that he repudiated it with the utmost respect. They were asked to give away their money, without being assured of receiving any value for it. They were told to pay and confide. That was not the English method of doing business, and he was against voting the money till they had value for it.
§ Lord Sandon
did not complain of the observations of the hon. and learned Gentleman, as he had made an attack upon the hon. and learned Gentleman; but he wished to remind the Committee, that the hon. and learned Gentleman had before been attacking all the persons connected with the West-Indies, and he (Lord San-don) therefore, was not the person to cast the first stone. He was convinced, that the inquiries into the borough of Liverpool had substantiated all that he had ever contended for. He had never denied, that there had been, in former 219 times, corruption in Liverpool; but he had contended, that the three last elections were as pure as those of any other borough.
Mr. Secretary Stanley
wished to call the attention of the Committee to the question under discussion; for the hon. and learned member for Dublin, who had been absent from the House in the early part of the debate, and had since made two or three speeches, had not, with the exception of repeating very often the words twenty millions, said one word which bore upon the question then under discussion. The hon. and learned Member had gone into all sorts of collateral topics which were likely to create irritation in the West-India body. He had adorned them with that eloquence which he could so well employ, but on the question before the Committee the hon. Member had not said one word. He put it to the House to recollect, that by their Resolutions which had gone out to the West Indies, they were pledged, if to anything, to pay the 20,000,000l. If there were one thing fixed, it was that; if there were one thing indefinite, it was the term of apprenticeship. They had altered the term of apprenticeship by one-half in favour of those who thought like his hon. and learned friend (Dr. Lushington); and how could they, therefore, now turn round and refuse the 20,000,000l.? They had bound themselves by a majority of two to one to adopt the Resolutions, and he called upon them, as they valued their consistency, to fulfil their promises. Would they now try, by a side wind, to diminish that sum one-half, by postponing the payment? He considered the Amendment to be of that nature that they could not, as men of honour, agree to it, and it would be so important in its effects that the Government could not adopt it. If the House, therefore, adopted it, they would certainly endanger the Bill, unless the hon. member for Weymouth was prepared to take it out of the Minister's hand, and carry it forward to a successful termination. That course the Government and the hon. Member would be bound to follow. He had witnessed with much satisfaction the gradual disappearance of obstacles and difficulties; he had a hope that he should conduct the Bill to a successful termination; and he entreated the Committee to consider well before they adopted a decision which would reverse a decision already sanctioned by a majority of two to one.
§ The Committee divided on the Amendment—Ayes 93; Noes 144—Majority 51.
§ Clause agreed to.
|List of the AYES.|
|Aglionby, H. A.||Ord, W. H.|
|Attwood, T.||Palmer, R.|
|Bewes, T.||Pease, J.|
|Berkely, Hon. C. F.||Penleaze, T. F.|
|Bish, T.||Philips, M.|
|Blake, Sir F.||Petre, Hon. E.|
|Bouverie, Captain||Potter, R.|
|Briggs, R.||Poulter, J.|
|Briscoe, J. I.||Pryse, P.|
|Brocklehurst, J.||Romilly, J.|
|Brotherton, J.||Romilly, E.|
|Brougham, J.||Sanford, E. L.|
|Cayley, Sir G.||Scrope, P.|
|Cayley, E. S.||Strutt, E.|
|Chandos, Marquess of||Tayleure, W.|
|Clay, W.||Thicknesse, R.|
|Collier, John||Tooke, W.|
|Curties, H. B.||Torrens, Colonel|
|Curteis, Captain||Trelawny, W.|
|Dashwood, G. H.||Turner, W.|
|Dykes, F. L. B.||Tynte, C. J. K.|
|Evans, W.||Vernon, G. J.|
|Ewart, W.||Wason, R.|
|Faithfull, G.||Whalley, Sir S.|
|Fenton, J.||Wigney, J. N.|
|Forrester, Hn. G. C. W.||Wilks, J.|
|Gaskell, D.||Williams, Colonel|
|Grote, G.||Winnington, Sir T.|
|Handley, Major||Winnington, Captain|
|Handley, W. F.||Agnew, Sir A.|
|Harand, W. C.||Johnston, A.|
|Hawkins, J. H.||IRELAND.|
|Howard, Hon. G. F.||Blake, M.|
|Howick, Lord||Evans, G.|
|Hudson, T.||Finn, W. F.|
|Hutt, W.||Mullins, F. W.|
|Hyett, W. H.||O'Connell, D.|
|Ingilby, Sir W.||O'Connell, M.|
|Jerningham, Hon. H. V. S.||O'Connell, J.|
|O'Dwyer, A. C.|
|Lambton, H.||O'Reilly, W.|
|Lamont, Captain||Ruthven, E. S.|
|Langdale, Hon. C.||Ruthven, E.|
|Lushington, Dr.||Sullivan, R.|
|Locke, W.||Vigors, N. A.|
|Marjoribanks, S.||Grattan, J.|
|Martin, J.||Buxton, T. F.|
|Parrott, J.||Russell, Lord J.|
|Seale, W.||Codrington, Sir E.|
|Paget, Captain||Bulwer, H. L.|
|Bulwer, E. L.|
proposed that in the preamble the words "service of" be substituted for the words "right of;" upon 221 which the House divided—Ayes 103; Noes 22—Majority 81.
§ The Preamble agreed to.
§ The House resumed—the Report as amended was brought up.