§ The House resolved itself into a Committee on the subject of Colonial Slavery.
commenced by assuring the Committee of his desire to state his sentiments with as much brevity as possible. The subject, however, on which he was about to address the Committee, was one, the importance of which it was difficult to describe, and perhaps impossible to exaggerate. They were called upon to decide between the freedom, or the continued slavery of 800,000 of their fellow-creatures. The question also embraced, in a greater or less degree, the pecuniary interests of at least 2,000,000 of the King's subjects. The House was now called upon to act under a most awful responsibility, and it therefore became a matter of the highest importance, that they should understand the precise position in which they stood, and in which the question stood at the present moment. One feature of the present state of the question was, the abolition of slavery was demanded by the almost unanimous voice of the whole country. The annals of Parliament scarcely furnished an instance in which so many petitions were presented from so many different petitioners. By the last Report of the Committee on Public Petitions, it appeared that 1,200,000 signatures had been affixed to petitions against slavery; and since that Report was made, he had no doubt that the number had been increased to a million and a half—yes, a million and 309 a half of their fellow-subjects in this quarter of the world had called upon them to liberate their brethren at the other side of the Atlantic, and to put an end to negro slavery for ever. There could not be a more complete expression of public opinion than those petitions presented—they were signed by persons in every grade, and of every age, and of every class; und both sexes united in demanding, that slavery should be put an end to throughout the territories of this nation. Some persons had been found to attempt to east ridicule upon the petitions to which he had been alluding, on the score of their having been signed chiefly by females. He would say—and he cared not who the person was of whom he said it—he would say, that that person had had the audacity to taunt the maids and matrons of England with the offence of demanding that their fellow-subjects in another clime should be emancipated. He would say nothing of the bad taste and the bad feeling which such a taunt betrayed—he would merely confine himself to the expression of an opinion, in which be was sure that every Member of that House would concur with him, namely, that if ever the females had a right to interfere, it was upon that occasion. Assuredly, the crying grievance of slavery must have sunk deep into the hearts, and strongly excited the feelings of the British nation, before the females of this country could have laid aside the re-tiredness of their character to come forward and interfere in political matters. Novel-had there been so much reason for their doing so—had there been no instance but that one case, in which thirty-nine lashes were inflicted upon a naked female for an offence of no very aggravated nature, if she were guilty at all, and those thirty-nine lashes repeated, merely because she presumed to say that she had not deserved such treatment. That was the wanton cruelty of a ruffian at the other side of the Atlantic; and he hesitated not to say, that the man, whoever he might be, who had taunted the females of Great Britain with having petitioned Parliament—the man who could do that, was almost as great a ruffian as the wielder of the cart-whip, which gave occasion to that interference. He would again call their attention to the position in which the question stood. The first fact was, that the people of England desired the emancipation of the negroes. The second of these important facts was, that the Government had agreed 310 to emancipation. And the third was, (and of all it was the most important) that even those who had hitherto been opposed to emancipation, now acknowledged its necessity. The Committee had listened to the speeches, on the first night of the pre sent debate, of the right hon. Secretary for the Colonies, and the late Under Secretary for the Colonies. He had subsequently read the report of the right hon. Secretary's speech, and he was glad to trace there the identical words used by him in the House. The noble Lord, he was happy to see, had published his speech under his own sanction. Now, the statements of both right hon. persons proved indubitably the case of the anti-slavery advocates, of whom he was proud to acknowledge himself a humble supporter, and thus the satisfactory truth would now appear on the records of Parliament, that the Secretaries for the Colonies were witnesses to the truth of that cause to which the slavery abolitionists were devoted. The way in which he came at the evidence on the subject of slavery was this: here on the one side was the testimony before the Committee of that House relative to the condition of the slave population; and then, on the other hand, the owners of what was alleged to be 165 millions of money, were pledged to disprove that evidence. Had they done so? They had certainly contradicted the most flagrant of the statements made against the planters; but had they disproved them? The statements—founded on evidence, as he could not but believe, for the Committee had elicited evidence—the statements of the right hon. Secretary for the Colonies, had been assailed, as was believed, by the assailants, in three of their most vulnerable points. The first attack was upon his assertion relative to the peremptory power of the planter to give his slave thirty-nine lashes without reference to any authority than that of his overseer. The next was a denial that the Colonial Legislature had done nothing since 1823, when Mr. Canning's resolutions passed a Committee of that House. And the other ground of attack was the total repudiation of his assertion with respect to the mortality of the negroes in the sugar plantations. How stood the first? The case of Henry Williams would be a full and sufficient proof of the fact, that the horrible and tyrannical power possessed by the planters, of inflicting at once thirty-nine lashes, was yet in full fort-C The slave, Henry Williams, was convicted, in his owner's mind, of attending an Inde- 311 pendent meeting-house, and he was punished by thirty-nine articles [Immense laughter.] He had been happy and unhappy in his mistake; he meant thirty-nine lashes were inflicted upon this human being, because he attended an establishment not countenanced by that which was based on the thirty-nine articles. Well, he was laid down, tied fast, and lashed, and his sister, with true fraternal affection, sighed to see a man, her brother, thus degraded. Her sigh reached the ear of the planter, her owner, and he instantly exercised the power of brute force with which he was endowed, and exposed her naked back to the same number of lashes. Did any one ask for proofs? Let him refer them to Lord Goderich's despatch. There the circumstances were stated, and from that official document were his assertions drawn. So much for the first attack on the right hon. Secretary's statement. And now for the second. It was denied that the Colonial Legislature had done nothing towards bettering the condition of the negroes since 1823. He need do no more than refer the Committee to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman for a triumphant refutation of this assertion; and as for the declaration, that the negro population was under an extraordinary ratio of decrease compared with that of other countries, he would only state the fact, that, taking the average of deaths in England and the West Indies, he found, that in every 1,720 persons, there were sixty-five deaths in the West Indies to thirty-one in England. Those were facts which no man would deny, and every Member who seemed to advocate the views of what were called the West-India body, from the hon. Baronet, the member for Bristol, to the member for Kidderminster, all agreed that not only must slavery be abolished, but that the time had arrived for that abolition. The negroes, no doubt, would be made aware of the fact, that such had been the unanimous decision of the British Parliament, and of the British nation, and the only real danger in the matter would be to palter with their feelings, and trifle with death and destruction. For himself, if the House sat till Christmas, he was ready to go through with it, because the Parliament was required to wash the stain of slavery away. Indeed he was willing to postpone all other business whatever, in order to get through this most momentous struggle. The case of St. Domingo presented an awful example of the danger of 312 delay. He would not detain the House by going into the details of that case, which had been already touched upon by more than one speaker, but he could not avoid referring to it as one which presented to them an awful warning. The first step which led to some of the calamitous events in that colony was the declaration of the National Assembly, that the slave population was free, and then the attempt to palter and go back from that declaration. There were three conflicting parties on the island, the Catholics, the Royalists, and the Republicans. The Catholic priesthood were so incensed against the infidel Republicans, that they, one and all, roused up a spirit of insurrection, and led the slaves forth to fight against their masters. That was a curious historical fact. It was, in fact, the whites alone who caused the dreadful scenes which subsequently occurred in the island. The British Government sent over an army, and there were three years of bloody war, of which the British army were the greatest victims. Who put an end to that war? A slave, Toussaint, one of the greatest and most humane men that ever lived, who restored as many whites as possible to their estates. Napoleon, in his madness for colonies, sent an army of 18,000 men to reconquer St. Domingo, and that army devastated the country. In 1826 the French government acknowledged their independence, and they have since doubled in population, and fast increased in civilization. He had heard some hint thrown out, that if the slaves were emancipated, they would spend their time in lascivious idleness. Every thing which experience had shown went to prove, that this imputation was unfounded; they had shown as much disposition to industrious exertion as any other set of men. Need he go beyond St. Domingo for proofs? The leader of the opposition there was a pure negro, a practising barrister, and a man of considerable ability. Some of the most important offices in that colony were ably filled by pure negroes, or men of colour; and he might add, that the best work on botany was written in that colony by a pure negro. They should not judge of the negro by what they found him in a state of slavery; let them look at what he was capable of doing, and what he had done, when in the full enjoyment of freedom. When such was the negro character, why should he be hampered with the unnecessary restrictions of the right hon. Secretary for the colonies? He was fit for freedom, or he 313 was not, and he considered that the main question was, and the reason why he should oppose the Resolution of the right hon. Secretary was, that he thought the House ought to divide on the grand point of slavery or no slavery. The time for tempo rising was too late, and this probationary period, now at length proposed, ought to have begun ten years ago, when Mr. Canning's Resolutions were passed. It was his opinion that the men who showed that they could bear slavery, most assuredly afforded a very strong presumption that they could bear freedom. With respect to three-fourths of the negro's time being given to the planter, and one-fourth allowed to the negro, it was in human nature probable that the planter would make as much use of the time allowed to him as possible, that he would make every effort to make it valuable, and endeavour that the period of one-fourth allowed to the negro should be of as little use to the negro as possible. There was certainly a novelty in the right hon. Gentleman's plan—it introduced a new state of society. There had been nations of hunters, and of shepherds, and of agriculturists, and of masters and slaves; but never before had they heard of a nation of masters and apprentices. An old woman of eighty was to become an apprentice, and she was to be told that if she lived till ninety-two, she would be out of her time, and might commence a life of gaiety and jollity on her own account. They were to send out stipendiary Magistrates to compel the negroes to work—it would be more wise to call in the police to scold and punish the servants in every house in London. It could not be even tried without ridicule, or something worse. It would do nothing more than cause continued irritation and quarrelling between the negro and the master; it would mitigate no single evil; but, on the contrary, would increase ten-fold the difficulties of the planter. What would be the feeling of the slave during his period of absence from labour? What would he say when he understood that he was free for one-fourth of his time, and that he was compelled to labour three-fourths of the day for his master? In what way would he be compelled to labour for his master three-fourths of the day? Not by the lash, surely, for that was no longer to be used. The plan was, that stipendiary Magistrates were to be sent out, and these Magistrates were to watch over the working of 325,000 negroes, in Jamaica for example, where there 314 was more than that number during five days of the week! Nothing could be more ridiculous than such a plan. In every point—in point of theory and of operation, it was decidedly bad. There was but one scheme to be pursued—the only one that could succeed—and that was, first the liberation of the negro, and then, when that was done, let the planter's case be taken into consideration. He would call, therefore, on Ministers to abandon their impracticable scheme of apprenticeship—a scheme as yet untried by experience—the consequence of which would be ridicule, if it were not attended by something worse and more serious. What could be intended by that part of the measure—was it for the sake of economy? If so, it would fail, for he maintained that in every state and clime free labour was proved to be in the end cheaper than forced or slave labour. When he proposed the entire liberation of the negro, he did not seek to take away from the planter any one thing that was his legitimate property—he did not seek to take away his plantations, his lands, his houses or anything that was his—what he proposed to take away was the negro, as he was not the property of the planter. He said emancipate the slave first, and then if the planter had a claim for compensation hear him. He thought he had no claim, because the abolition would be a great benefit to him, by giving him security. With respect to a provision for the old age of the negro, he would not advise exactly Poor-laws, though what he was disposed to advise was something like them, since he thought, that the aged slave should be recompensed for the amount of labour performed when he was capable of working. If the negro became an idler, let him share the fate of the idler—let him perish. His own opinions were fortified by the statements of Mr. Jeremie, who, in his work, showed that negroes would work without compulsion when freed and left to themselves. It was proved by Dr. Clarke who was an unwilling witness, that Sir Charles Price, by emancipating the best negro on his estate every year, greatly increased the value of his property, so great was the effect of the hope of procuring emancipation. And that was in Jamaica. In several instances when emancipated, they had established manufactories and worked for themselves, actuated by the same motives as European artizans. In Antigua, no less than 407 captured negroes had been liberated in 1827, and the result was, that they turned out the most useful part of the population 315 there. If Trinidad were taken, a similar instance would be found. In that island 774 negroes, the property of the Crown, were emancipated, and the result was, that in eight years their population increased to 973. what was more, the officers of the Crown reported of those negroes that they had not only increased in population, but that they had become industrious, fulfilled every moral duty, and had become extremely religious. What was the cause of this amelioration in their condition? All that was done for them was, that liberty was granted to them—but that was everything, and all they required. Now, let the slaves in the sugar colonies be compared with those liberated negroes. It would be found that in the sugar colonies they were decreasing in numbers in consequence of their treatment; that under the lash their number diminished, and that their sufferings and sorrows ascended to Heaven in cries of blood. He would again take the two free settlements at Surinam, and he would show, according to Mr. Austin, that, notwithstanding the unhealthiness of that climate, the free negroes there were increasing in population and in wealth. It would be the same if the condition of the free negroes of Demerara and Mexico were considered. He begged to mention a fact relative to 1,500 negroes apprenticed at the Cape of Good Hope. So long as they were in a state of apprenticeship they were perfectly useless to those for whom they worked; but when they were liberated things changed, and they became most useful and industrious. How did the liberated negroes of the Caraccas behave? Why, it was they who fought the fight of freedom against the veteran troops of Spain—against those troops who had distinguished themselves against the French, who had fought side by side with the English, and must have profited by their example. Yes, those liberated Cacadores under Bolivar fought with great bravery, and better troops than they, were, perhaps, never known. All these facts he considered fully sufficient to prove, that the Negro deserved his freedom, and that compulsion was not necessary to make him useful and industrious. In the troubles of the South American contest did the negroes avail themselves of any single opportunity to show their rancour against the Whites? They did not—they showed themselves throughout those troubles excellent and peaceable citizens. The Negro, then, might be emancipated with security, 316 and with advantage to the planters. Enough had been said about their working under the lash. But had anybody as yet brought forward any evidence to show that the negroes would not work if they were set free? No such evidence had been adduced—no such fact had been proved. They were beings of the same flesh, bone, and muscle as ourselves—they were imbued with the same immortal spirit—they were rendered heirs, by the same blood, to the same glorious eternity as we—and was it to become in these days a question and a doubt whether they were entitled to the first birthright of mankind—freedom? He would put a case: suppose that the hon. member for Lancaster who had so ably and eloquently defended the cause of the West Indians, was taken prisoner on his way out to the West Indies, by a corsair, and sold for a slave, should he remonstrate and say he had primitive as well as rational rights which interdicted his being considered as a slave, he would doubtless be told there was a law in that country making him a slave, and thirty-nine lashes would be his least reward for talking reason to his master. There was no doubt it was law perhaps in his mind, and that of every Mufti in Algiers; but in defence of the natural rights to liberty of British subjects our fleets had been commissioned, and justly and heroically, to blow up the batteries, and huge mounds, and the proud Goletta of the Barbarian, and teach him there were rights which no law of any nation under Heaven could wrest from human beings. The hon. member for Kidderminster had contended for the claim of property in the slave. He said if he purchased a slave, it was his property, as much as a steam-engine or any other property, either in England or Jamaica. That was true; if he purchased an engine in England, it was his property in Jamaica; but let him purchase a slave in Jamaica, and bring him to England, and then claim his property. One half-minute in the King's Bench would set aside his claim of property, and set the negro free. In the case of the slave Somerset, Lord Mansfield said, that a slave was property by custom, and not by law; and that Custom was bad, and would not be pleaded when it related to the liberty of the individual. A Judge of the land had condemned the custom as bad in law. Blackstone had laid it down as a principle that the English Constitution protected all those to whom it extended. It afforded its protection to the slave, and if a 317 writ of Habeas Corpus was given to the West Indies, the moment the negro appeared in the Court of King's Bench he would be emancipated, as in the case of the slave Somerset. Political rights were intended only to protect natural rights: they did not precede natural rights. Liberty was a natural right, and no one untainted with crime could be deprived of it. Slavery continued to the present day a crime on the annals of mankind. The first filching of the man from his home in Africa was a crime, but the crime was doubled in retaining the man's son as a slave. Every step of the proof of property was more deeply dyed in iniquity. The story of the Wolf and the Lamb was not its parallel in guilt as to the principle it comprised. It was a fact, not a nuisance to be abated, but an abomination to be trampled by us Christians in the dust. Let this Legislature avoid the example of the political hypocrites of America, who, when in rebellion against this country, adopted the famous maxim—"That all men were born equal and free," but who even yet unblushingly continued the hateful system of negro slavery in its must hateful form. He hoped that this country would set the Americans an example of true freedom, and stigmatise their conduct in continuing slavery, as tyranny and robbery. He called on the House to extinguish the hateful system—not only in justice to their own country, but to the world. He would not then enter into the question of compensation; but he hoped that in considering that, and the whole question, all jealousy, and all hankering after a system which was tolerable to its advocates only from its long standing, would be laid aside, as was well recommended by the hon member for Lancaster, in his beautiful and eloquent speech on a former evening. He hoped that fear would not prevent the House from doing justice to that large portion of their fellow-men, but that, on the contrary, they would be just, and fear not.
§ Lord Dalmeny
said, that much as he admired the eloquence of the hon. and learned member for Dublin, he could not agree with him in opinion, that immediate emancipation would be a safe or proper measure in the present state of the slaves. The hon. and learned Gentleman argued as if immediate emancipation were synonymous with the happiness and comfort of the slaves themselves, and with the prosperity of the colonies. He should as soon think of removing the shackles from all the in- 318 mates of a madhouse, and letting them loose upon society. The negro population of the colonies were not yet in such a state of moral or intellectual advancement as to be capable of profiting by freedom. Whatever might be their natural faculties and powers, they were hitherto allowed to run waste, and without gradual preparation for a state of freedom, in place of being a blessing, it would only be a curse to them. The hon. and learned Gentleman argued as if the mere circumstance of emancipation would be sufficient of itself to fit them immediately for all the duties and enjoyments of civilised society. This was contrary to the principles of human nature, which proved that some degree of previous preparation and education were necessary to fit men for freedom. He was apprehensive of that burning desire for vengeance which had been more nourished than repressed by long ages of tyranny. Revenge was in their bosoms only a cold and sleeping serpent; let it be only warmed into life by the day of liberty, and it would spring upon its victim. Immediate emancipation would only deliver the slaves up to the dominion of their own bad passions, which would be found far worse even for the slaves themselves than the dominion of the planters.
§ Lord Sandon
said, he had never defended the system of slavery; but, on the contrary, had always been inclined to consider the best means of getting rid of it livery Gentleman connected with the West Indies, who had spoken on the question, admitted the necessity of the emancipation of the slaves, and he thought it hardly fair, therefore, that the odium should be thrown upon them, of being entirely opposed to it. If that debate on the question had happened last year, it might perhaps be excusable that some Members should make an appeal to popular feeling; but it being now admitted that slavery must be abolished, it was not right to bring odium upon the West-India proprietors, without whose concurrence emancipation could not be effected. He believed that the cruelties and tyranny exercised towards the slaves had been much exaggerated, at the same time that he would admit that slavery was one of the deepest sources of moral degradation. He even believed that it was worse in its moral effects on the master than on the slave. That, however, was not now the question. The question was, how it could be abolished with least injury to individuals, and least danger to the State. He believed 319 also, that the statement made of the decrease of the number of the slaves from overworking and bad usage had been much overrated. He would rest the truth of his doubts upon that subject, upon the arguments made use of by one of the greatest advocates of emancipation—the hon. member for Weymouth—who said, that if wages were given to the negroes, they would work more than they did at present, without doing themselves any injury. If that were true, what became of the argument that overworking and over-labour caused the decrease? Among other evidence which corroborated him in his views, was that of Mr. Taylor, who said in his evidence before the Committee, that he had seen slaves go to market in coats which he would not himself be ashamed to wear, and that they were fully fed all the year round. But even those who most strongly advocated the effect of overworking on the state of the population, were obliged to admit that much of the decrease was attributable to the inequality in the sexes. In stating his views on this question, he would consider it in regard to the many numerous classes interested in its settlement. He would consider it, first, as regarded the West-India planters; secondly, as regarded the manufacturers of this country; then as regarded the shipping interest, and the interest of all the industrious classes of this country, who obtained much of their subsistence from labour paid for by the West-India capital; and, lastly, as regarded our finances, which derived eight millions from the same source. And he would ask, after stating that so many interests were concerned, what question could be more important or more deserving of strict and careful inquiry, before they proceeded to make experiments concerning it? With regard to the interest of the planters, he found that the total value of the sugar, molasses, &c. raised in our West-India plantations, amounted to 7,857,000l.; the exports from Great Britain to the West Indies in the shape of stores, was 2,500,000l.; and that the freight and sailing charges upon those stores, amounted to 1,600,000l. This made the total amount of exports to the West-India colonies 4,600,000l., which being deducted from the imports, left a balance of 3,257,000l.; and this balance being the difference between what was sent from the colonies to this country, and what was sent from this country to the colonies, he considered about the income of the West-India proprietors. Now, it should be recollected that that three millions were almost wholly 320 spent in this country—its effect was found in this and every town in the kingdom, and there was not a town in the kingdom but would feel the bad effect of any diminution in our revenue from the colonies. Then, with regard to our manufacturers, he would beg to ask if they, in their already depressed and struggling situation, could afford to lose such a market as the colonies opened to them? With regard to our shipping interest, he found that 250,000 tons of British shipping were engaged in carrying produce from, and stores to, the West-India colonies, besides 80,000 tons employed in the West Indies themselves, in carrying provisions from the neighbouring shores of America, but which still were British shipping. This was the great interest which the British shipping had in the preservation of the colonies; and suppose the proposed experiment did not succeed, what would be the consequence? That 250,000 additional tons would be thrown into the market. They should likewise recollect the immense capital invested in our refineries and warehouses in this country, all of which would suffer seriously should produce cease to arrive from the colonies. He knew that in Liverpool alone the loss in warehouses would be enormous. Nor should they leave the interest of the colonists and of the slaves out of view. Looking to all those important interests, and looking also to the effect which the loss of the colonies would have upon our monetary system, the House would see, that as the question was no longer the continuance or non-continuance of the slavery system, they ought carefully to consider in what manner emancipation might be effected so as to do the least possible injury to all concerned. It ought to be recollected, too, that there was humanity on the one side as well as on the other, and that thousands, nay millions, were dependent on the colonies for support who had as good a claim to the humanity of the House as the slaves. They ought to look to the question, then, not with a view of getting rid of it, but with the view of so settling it, that not only the slaves should be free, but the colonies productive. What, then, was the first element of such a settlement to be considered? It would be easy to abolish slavery, but how were they to create a wholesome state of society, fit for the reception of freedom? In his opinion the passing of the slaves from a state of slavery to one of freedom was an experiment, the success of which was very problematical, and they had no instances of its success in any other country. They 321 were indeed told of Mexico and Venezuela, where the slaves had been emancipated without subsequently murdering all the white population; but was the experiment ever tried with success in countries where the black population bore such a large proportion to the number of whites, as it did in our West-India colonies. It should be recollected, that in Venezuela, where the transition was said to be from slavery, even from black slavery, to happiness and content, the slaves were not more than one tenth of the whole population, scattered, too, over the face of the country, and in so small a proportion to the whites as to remove all apprehension of danger. The same might be said of the other parts of South America. But was there any analogy in these cases to that now under consideration? It should be remembered, besides, that the experiment was made in South America when the country was under the excitement of a civil war, and when the minds of the slave population, as well as others, were absorbed by other considerations. They had no safe experiment to guide their conduct, no precedent upon which they could securely rely, either in ancient or modern times. There was nothing to guide them safely, even in the experiments made in modern times of a transition from mere political slavery to liberty. The experiments made in Italy, in Greece, in South America, even the great experiment of the French revolution, proved that a sudden transition from political slavery to freedom was not very safe. In effecting the great object proposed they must seek the assistance of the planters themselves and proprietors, who must be brought, not merely to acquiesce in the plan, but co-operate in it. An experiment proceeding upon any other grounds must fail, or perhaps end in a civil war of extermination. It should be recollected, that they had to deal with men who were in a state of excitement and irritation. They must not say to them: "If you resist, our forces are sufficient to put you down." It was true 16,000 whites, among a population of 300,000 slaves, might be easily put down; but here it was not a question of war, but of a peaceable transaction. The planters had a claim on their justice to carry the object into effect in the least objectionable way. He would not go into the abstract question—was slavery lawful? The question the House had to consider was, whether it had not been recognized as such by this country, and considered as lawful by the parties interested? The responsibility of Parliament in this measure involved the wel- 322 fare of 800,000 human beings at present dependent upon their will. But it did not end there; for, if the experiment succeeded, the example would, no doubt, be followed by all other slave-holding countries. If it failed, the slaves in the hands of other countries would be subjected to new rigours. How important then was it that every means of securing the success of the experiment should be adopted? Within the last twenty-four hours he had become enabled to make to the Government a proposal which, if acceded to, would go far towards rendering the experiment safe and practicable; for it would ensure the co-operation of the planters. A number of Members of that House, in the interest of the West-India body, had that morning mot at his house, for the purpose of discussing the means of securing their co-operation. They had agreed to certain Resolutions on the measure of the right hon. Secretary, and having submitted those Resolutions to the Acting Committee of the body of West-Indian merchants and proprietors, they had received their entire concurrence. In these Resolutions they had begun by adopting the first Resolution of the right hon. Secretary, for the immediate abolition of slavery in the British colonies. They had next resolved, that a sum of twenty millions should be appropriated by Parliament as compensation to the planters and slave-owners. Upon the next Resolution he entreated the Committee to suspend their judgment until he had stated the grounds upon which it had been adopted. It was to the effect, "That in order to secure the co-operation of the colonial assemblies, his Majesty should be enabled further to advance as a loan upon colonial securities the sum of ten millions." With respect to the twenty millions as compensation, it was important to observe, that the planters were called upon by the Government measure to pay full wages in lodging, clothing, food, and other allowances to the slave for a term of years, and at the same time they were required to give up one-fourth of the time of the slave; in other words, of the consideration for which the wages were given. It was no more than just, in the opinion of the West-India body, to estimate the value of the sacrifice, and make compensation for it. The question, then, was, what was the worth of this and other sacrifices which the planter was called upon to make? It was to be considered that, at the end of the term of years, the planter lost what he might term the fee-simple of his property, and many of the proprietors of slaves in the West Indies 323 possessed nothing else. In order to estimate the value of a fourth, they must look at the value of the whole of the produce of the West Indies. That would be found to be about 6,100,000l. annually, including what was consumed in the colonies with what was exported. One-fourth of that was 1,500,000l., the sum which was annually to be taken out of the pocket of the slave proprietors. Twelve years' loss of 1,500,000l. gave 18,000,000l. Then, allowing a couple of millions for the compensation of those who lost every thing by the emancipation of their slaves, the sum of 20,000,000l. would be made out, which the West-India body thought would be no more than a fair compensation, and upon which being granted they would be willing to give their co-operation to the plan of the right hon. Secretary. This was clearly a great desideratum, and the House ought not to be too niggardly in the means of securing an advantage by which so much of the danger of this dangerous measure would be averted. He would next advert to the proposed loan of ten millions. This loan was proposed as a means of alleviating the distresses of those who had heavy mortgages on their property. To set them from their embarrassments would operate as a stimulus, and give them not only heart and encouragement, but the means of aiding the new system of cultivation which the proposed change would render necessary. A loan was strongly recommended by the Committee which Mat last year; and it would have the advantage of embarking this country in the same boat with the colonists. It might be said that the loan would not be repaid. If, however, the hopes held out by this measure should be realised, there could be no doubt that property to the amount of 100,000,000l. would be good security for a loan of ten. The produce shipped to this country might first be taken to repay the loan. If, however, the colonists were to lose all their property by this experiment, surely ten millions would be but a moderate compensation for this country to pay, for the ruin it was resolved to inflict. If, on the other hand, they were to throw the colonies out of cultivation by being niggardly towards them, the result would be, that the country would be more heavily taxed By the increased price of sugar and colonial produce consequent upon a diminished supply. He thought he had at least laid strong grounds for a consideration of these proposals which he made on behalf of the West-India body, and upon the 324 adoption of which they were prepared to give their co-operation to the plan of his Majesty's Government. It was not intended to put the House to the trouble of a division on the part of those whom he represented. They were but a small fraction of the House, and could hope nothing but in the Justice of the House. If they should be able to make any impression upon the sense of justice and of policy of the majority of the Members of that House and the Government it would be all well; but if they failed in that, he felt that for fifty or sixty Members to struggle against the great majority of the House and the sense of the country, urged on in this cause he firmly believed by religious principle, would be worse than useless. If he failed in convincing the House of the justice of these proposals, then the responsibility of miscarriage, in a cause in which the interests of justice, humanity, and civilization were more deeply involved than in any other now pending, would rest upon that House, not upon the West-India body. They, at least, would have the consolation of knowing that they had discharged their duty according to the dictates of their conscience. [The noble Lord sat down without proposing any Resolutions.]
§ Mr. Fitzgerald
observed, that the question at the outset was whether there could or could not be property in slaves. If there was no such thing as property in man, there could be no doubt that the House was bound at once to go the length of the right hon. Secretary's Resolutions. If, on the contrary, property could exist in the labour of the negroes, the question assumed a more complex shape. It was, however, clear to him from the Statute-law, from the time of Elizabeth downwards, that the slave-trade and the right of property in slaves, were recognized by various Acts of Parliament. Such being the case, it was impossible, with any pretence of justice, to take away a species of property recognized by the Legislature, unless we consented to compensate the owners. Whatever measures were finally adopted, it was of the utmost importance that the colonists and the colonial Legislatures should cordially concur in it, otherwise it never could be rendered satisfactory and effectual.
§ Lord Sandon
said, that he had forgot at the conclusion of his speech to read the Resolutions which he intended to propose as an amendment for the adoption of the Committee, and he would now take the opportunity of doing so. The noble Lord, 325 accordingly, read the following Resolutions.
- "1. That it is the opinion of this Committee, that immediate and effectual measures he taken for the entire abolition of slavery throughout the colonies, under such provisions for regulating the condition of the negroes, as may combine their welfare with the interests of the proprietors. That towards the compensation of the proprietors in his Majesty's colonial possessions, his Majesty be enabled to grant to them a sum not exceeding 20,000,000l., to be appropriated as Parliament shall direct. That in order to secure the success of this object, and the co-operation of the colonial Legislatures and authorities, his Majesty be enabled to advance, by way of loan, on colonial security, a further sum, not exceeding 10,000,000l. sterling; these payments to be made to the colonies, upon their respective authorities passing laws in conformity with this and the following Resolutions.
- "2. That it is expedient that all children born after the passing of any Act of Parliament for this purpose, shall be declared free, and be subject to such temporary restrictions as may be deemed necessary and equitable, in consideration of their support and maintenance.
- "3. That all other persons, now slaves, be registered as apprenticed labourers, and acquire thereby all rights and privileges of freemen, subject to the restriction of labouring, under conditions, and for a time to be fixed by Parliament, for their owners.
- "4. That his Majesty be enabled to defray any such expense as he may incur in establishing an efficient stipendiary Magistracy and police in the colonies, and in aiding the local authorities in providing further religious and moral education of the negro population to be emancipated."
intimated to the noble Lord that, as there was another Amendment already before the Committee, the noble Lord Could not move his Amendment until it was first disposed of.
§ Lord Sandon
said, that after that Amendment was disposed of, he should move his Resolutions, for the purpose of having them inserted on the journals.
§ Admiral Fleming
spoke as follows: Having been alluded to by the right hon. Secretary for the Colonies, when he so ably and clearly explained the plan now under consideration, I feel it a duty to the House to express my most perfect concurrence in the correctness of the statement the right hon. 326 Gentleman has made, of the condition of the negro slaves in the British colonies; an opinion which I am enabled to give without fear of misleading anyone. From a knowledge of the West-India colonies for more than thirty-five years, from having visited almost every one of them—resided in some of them, and having held the chief naval command there; it was not only my duty, but I had opportunities of informing myself of the real state of the coloured population; and it is with pain and sorrow I am bound to declare, that from the first time I visited those countries in 1796, until I last left them in 1830, no material amelioration in the treatment of the negro slaves had taken place; for, although many proprietors, treat them with mildness and humanity, and their condition is materially altered, from their being almost all creoles, speaking the English language, and generally professing the Christian religion, it is a matter of great doubt with me whether they are not more unhappy now that they feel the degradation of their situation—those insults and injuries inseparable from their unfortunate state—than when in ignorance, and little removed from savages. There are few things more difficult than to come at a knowledge of the real state of the West-India slave; and I must confess, that although I very early in life became convinced of the necessity of abolishing negro slavery, not only as an act of justice, but one of true policy, and for the best interests of the colonists, I was very far from believing that this country would have permitted it to continue to the present hour: for it must have been visible to all who would or could see, that it was drawing-fast to a close, and that the horrid system would either blow up, as it has done, or end in insurrection, or the total extinction of the negro race. Sir, I did expect that the Resolution entered into by this House in 1822, would have had the effect intended; and when I returned to the West Indies in 1827, I did expect to find the negro slaves on a much better footing than they really are—a delusion which was continued by my first landing on the Bahamas, where I had never been before, and where slavery is as light as it can be. The very day I arrived in Jamaica the curtain was drawn up, and exposed the dreadful scene still existing in that island; on the very beach I saw a chain gang, which I will not attempt to describe, because I have not the power of conveying the slightest idea of its horrors. I soon found, that 327 Councils of Protection, and all their boasted laws in favour of the slave, were a hitter mockery, and that there was not only no real protection for the negro, but that the same excess of forced labour, the same scarcity of food, scantiness of clothing, and inattention to healthy lodging, produced the same melancholy waste of human life. I have heard many express their surprise that the right hon. Secretary should have mentioned what fell from a witness before the Committee last year—namely, that a slave might be punished by his master for looking at him; but as a proof of how little regard is paid to such punishments, I will mention a circumstance which took place while I was in Jamaica. The road leading to the house where I resided passed through a coffee plantation, and the naval officers coming and going from my house soon became acquainted with the negroes employed in its cultivation, and used frequently to give them cigars and snuff, of which the negroes are very fond—sometimes they threw them small pieces of money—thus the negroes were encouraged to put themselves in their way instead of avoiding them, as they generally do whites. One of them, whose name was "Sampson," used to amuse the young men in singing negro songs and dancing in mimicry; one day he met two officers on their way to me, and asked them for cigars; out of mere joke they called to the driver to give him thirty-nine, throwing him at the same time tobacco; they were soon out of sight, and little dreamt that an order so carelessly given, would be obeyed; nor did the poor wretch complain, supposing it no doubt a common occurrence; and it was not until next day that the fact was communicated to the officers, who immediately informed me of it, expressed their infinite sorrow, and requested me to explain to the owner how it had taken place. I did so, and was answered, "Oh, curse his blood, it will do him good." The negro driver never thought of inquiring as to the propriety of the punishment, but when I spoke to him, answered, "What can poor negro do? Massa Buckra tell him give him fum fum." Sir, it is not possible to convince the great majority of the managers and overseers of estates, that any other means but the whip will induce the negroes to work—the mere mention of it generally produces the reply, that you are humbugged by the saints, or misled by Brougham's canting and hypocritical harangues. I never in my life attended an Anti-slavery Meet- 328 ing; indeed, with the exception of the Lord Chancellor and the learned Doctor (Lushington), I am not known to any of those who have so distinguished themselves in favour of Emancipation, and to whom the country in a great measure owes the tranquillity of the colonies, by keeping alive that hope, which is now, thank God, shortly to be realised. In 1796 I first saw a slave ship—I had seen Turkish slaves before—slaves in the galleys at Genoa, and slaves in Algiers, but I had not the slightest notion of what the cupidity of man could inflict on his fellow man, until that period; believing the ship I saw to be the worst of her kind, I visited another, and found her no better; I never could persuade myself to go to a third; and I can truly say, that when I was elected, a few years afterwards, to a seat in this House, the highest gratification I felt was, that I should be able to lift my voice against this beastly and inhuman traffic; whenever I heard Mr. Fox declare that it was to cease, I felt as relieved from a burthen that oppressed me. I did not require the eloquence of my noble friend; he had not been admitted to the House, and only just commenced his distinguished career; neither had I access to the papers in the Colonial Office to convince me of the absolute necessity of the abolition of slavery. I had even stronger excitements to become an advocate for that most desirable event. I saw slavery—I saw its degrading effects on the negro—I saw its pernicious effects on white men, ay, and women too—I saw the pollution of all connected with it; but I will not tire the House with a further description of it, nor is it necessary. It is of little consequence now whether my hon. friend, the member for Lancaster is correct in the statement he makes, or the slaves are as I saw them. Are they contented? No. Look to the insurrections in Jamaica, Demerara, and Barbadoes; can you keep them any longer in their present state? No. Then the only question is, which is the best mode to emancipate them? My opinion is, the plan now proposed by the Government, although it goes further than I should have been inclined to go, will I am sure be received with unbounded joy—and it will bind the negroes to this country by their interest, and rivet them to it by gratitude and affection; but its success depends on the co-operation of those who have been so long its advocates; a false step taken by them now might tarnish all their glory, and involve the unhappy negro 329 in ruin and bloodshed produced by despair. I, therefore, most earnestly entreat them to weigh well their words here—they do not know their power—they will be received as oracles on the other side of the Atlantic, where all eyes are turned to them and all ears pen to them. With respect to the negroes working after they are free, I have not the slightest doubt of it, although much depends on the conduct of the colonists. St. Domingo has always been held up as a proof to the contrary, but I think most erroneously; I do not judge from hearsay, but from what I saw: true, they do not produce sugar, but they import it, and so does Jamaica refined sugar, and that is, I think, a pretty good proof of their civilization. I saw no poverty in the island; I saw no naked men; I saw people working in their fields; I saw them clad and well fed, being the happiest negroes I saw in the West Indies; but I am told they are idle and will not work—that they will not cut down wood to load vessels. Now it happens, when I was in the West Indies, two complaints were made to me of vessels cutting down the wood by their crews, and carrying it off—in fact stealing it; and thus they blame the negro for not cutting-it. Again, it is said, that they have no enterprize; they are indolent, and fast going back to a savage state. I will give the House a proof to the contrary. In the month of April, 1829, I left It a Guyra, in the Barbara, intending to touch at Curaçoa, to inquire into some captures (said to be made by pirates), on my way to Jamaica: in consequence of a current which was generally felt over that part of the West Indies, and which occasioned the French Admiral and two English ships of war to get aground, the Barham was run ashore on the weather part of Buenos Ayres; after great exertion by her crew, she was got off and conducted into Curaçoa by the assistance of two Dutch ships of war. At that time there had been no rain for two years, the cattle had all died, and as I had supplied all the ships with provisions, reserving only a week's, it became a matter of great importance to procure sufficient provision for the crew. I despatched a schooner to Antigua; on her way she touched at St. Thomas's, where there happened to be a Haytian vessel; she immediately sailed for the city of St. Domingo, and soon appeared at Curaçoa with a cargo of timber for repairing the ship, and forty-seven live bullocks. There was not a white man on board of her, all were black, and yet these are 330 the people who are falling back into barbarism. But let us pass the Caribbean sea. My hon. friend, the member for Lancaster, told the House the other night that there were only five or six sugar estates working in Venezuela, and these by slaves. I cannot tell where he got his information, but I myself saw upwards of thirty sugar estates worked by free negroes, and it is an absolute fact, that slaves are seldom used in making sugar in Venezuela, the proprietors finding it to be cheaper and better done by freemen. Sir, I resided on many of these estates and saw the people at work; I saw them refining sugar, cultivating indigo, and I was assured by many of the overseers that work was better done now, and cheaper by freemen than slaves. Formerly it was customary to have a slave for every 1,000 plants of cocoa; now, a free man can manage 6,000 or 8,000, and everything else in proportion. Many of the proprietors, who are obliged by law to keep their slaves, found it more beneficial to pay them; in fact, a more complete proof of the success of free labour cannot be given. I know the fact of rum being carried into Trinidad, and the estate from which it went. I know more: Venezuelian rum has been sent from Curaçoa, a free port, to Jamaica; and there is very little doubt when that country has a few years peace, the free labour will drive slave labour out of the market.
§ Mr. William E. Gladstone
said, that he had to complain of the reference which the noble Lord opposite (Lord Howick) had made to an estate of his (Mr. Gladstone's) father in Demerara, called Vreeden's Hoop, in proof of a position laid down by that noble Lord, that the increase in sugar cultivation was indirect ratio with overworking and loss of life on the part of the slave population. He thought he had a right to complain of the noble Lord's bringing forward a charge of that description without any previous communication to the parties interested, while two members of the family to which it referred had seats in that House. It was a charge affecting moral character, for what man's character would not be affected if he should see, from the reports from his estate, that while the sugar cultivation was increasing his slaves were dying off in equal proportion; and if, under such circumstances, he should continue the same system of management? But he denied, that the noble Lord's statement, with regard to his father's estate, was correct. The noble Lord stated, that 331 the mortality generally amongst the slaves had been fourteen, per cent., while, in fact, it had only been about two per cent. But he could mention an estate where, with a decrease in the slave population, there had been a small, almost amounting to nothing, increase in the sugar cultivation. He alluded to that of Mon Repos. Upon that estate there were 470 persons, and from 1817 to 1822, they produced from 600 to 900 hogsheads of sugar a-year; and during the whole of that period the diminution of life as compared to previous periods was only one-and-a quarter per cent, on that estate. The estate to which the noble Lord had alluded, had come into his (Mr. Gladstone's) father's possession about five years ago. There were 560 slaves on it then, 140 of whom were ailing and infirm persons. Perhaps the noble Lord would say, that that fact only proved that their previous treatment had been harsh and severe, and that his position, that the increase in the cultivation of sugar was attended by the overworking and mortality of the slave population, remained untouched. Now, what was the fact?—that in 1825 this estate produced only 1,200 pounds of sugar for every person employed in it, which was, according to the noble Lord's own admission, the lowest average for any estate. In fact, on the purchase of the estate, from the necessary decrease that was apprehended in the number of the slaves, owing to the infirm state of some of them, 250 were immediately added to the gang. As to the punishment inflicted on this estate, he would Just mention, that he had a letter in his pocket from the estate, dated the 20th of April; and it appeared from it that the number of punishments inflicted there from the 1st of January up to that date amounted exactly to one. He was sorry to trouble the Committee, but these details were necessary to show that, while honourable and respectable branches of his family had held West-India property, they were not inattentive to the wants, the wishes, the feelings, and the interests, of the negro population connected with their plantations. He need not remind the House that the proposition of the noble Lord, adopted by the right hon. Secretary, as to the threefold connexion between increase of sugar cultivation, increase of labour, and decrease of human life, was of immense and vital importance, not only to West-India proprietors, but to the country generally; for if the cultivation of sugar were an occupation of the murderous kind described 332 by the right hon. Gentleman; and if, as the hon. and learned member for Dublin said, "the blood of the negro cries to God from the ground" then the title of the West Indians to their property would be materially affected; because the fact of their persisting in the cultivation of sugar with such results involved such a degree of inhumanity—and recklessness of human life—as would deprive them of the right to appeal to justice. He would contend, however, that the calculations of the hon. member for Lancaster had not been shaken. They were made with reference to Demerara only; but the hon. Member took Demerara because it was the worst case. It was true that his statement did not refute the whole theory of the right hon. Gentleman. The hon. member for Weymouth (Mr. F. Buxton) had said, that in every case, the number of males and females was almost equal. But in Demerara, according to the census of 1829 the creole males were 20,000, creole females 21,000; whereas, the African females were 10,000, and the African males 16,000? If the hon. member for Weymouth would, in the teeth of that fact. undertake to prove, that the number of males, and the number of females were anything like equal, his power must surpass that of arithmetic. The hon. member for Weymouth said, "Give me the quantity of sugar, and I will give you the decrease of life." He (Mr. Gladstone) would apply this theorem to a particular case. In St. Vincent's there was an increase of 122 persons in twelve years; in Santa Lucia there was a decrease of 1,962. In Santa Lucia, the produce of sugar had been 6 cwt. per man: how much ought that in St. Vincent's to be? He had not worked out the problem, but the answer, he was aware, according to the rule, would be very different indeed from the fact, which gave no less than 10 cwt. per man. He could not answer for the correctness of these statements; but taking them as he found them, and as they were admitted, they certainly overthrew the argument of the hon. Gentleman. With regard to the connexion between the decrease of life and amount of punishment—In Trinidad, the decrease had been much greater than in any other colony of the British West Indies. It amounted, according to the hon. member for Weymouth, to twenty-five per cent in thirteen years; and according to other calculations—those of Mr. Macdonnell—to twenty per cent, for the same period of thirteen years, in Jamaica, for the same 333 period, the decrease was only five or six per cent; consequently, by the rule which the right hon. Secretary was pleased to adopt, the treatment of the slaves in Trinidad ought to have been far more cruel than in Jamaica; but, on the contrary, it appeared from the evidence of the hon. and gallant Admiral who spoke last, that the slave in Trinidad was better protected than the slave in Jamaica, for in Trinidad, he was under what the hon. Admiral termed, "the excellent laws of old Spain," which were the mildest among all the codes of the slave-holding nations. He begged not to be misunderstood. He did not say, that the cultivation of sugar was as favourable to life as the cultivation of cotton or coffee, but the extent of that had been much exaggerated. It should be recollected, that no two professions or trades in this country were in the same degree favourable to human life; it was entirely a question of degree—but the pursuit of no particular trade or profession was relinquished because it was less favourable to human life than another. If, indeed, the statements which they had heard were true, to their full extent—nothing could be said on behalf of sugar cultivation; but, if the manufacture of sugar were so essentially and necessarily destructive, they ought not to stop till they had passed a law prohibiting its importation altogether. The hon. member for Lancaster had made some statements as to the effects of particular trades in this country upon human life, which were astounding; and certainly the accounts of a similar description published by Mr. Thackrah, showed, that the extent of injury to life from many even of the most ordinary trades in this country, was almost beyond belief, and far exceeded the effects of the cultivation of sugar. He would mention one case: that of the grinders. Those who were called dry grinders lived only from twenty-eight to thirty-two years; while those who were called wet grinders, survived to between forty and fifty! No man who had investigated this subject could deny, that the charges against the West-Indian planters, were wholly untenable; and admitting the sugar cultivation to be less favourable than that of cotton and coffee, be would deny that it was injurious to the extent supposed, or caused the decrease, which had been stated to result from it. Sugar was best grown in damp soils: and in such, of course, more decomposition and putrefaction took place under a tropical sun; and it was 334 consequently less favourable to life. But he would take the case of Barbadoes, to show how little comparatively this had to do with the decrease. In Barbadoes, forty years back, when the average annual produce of sugar was 12,000 hogsheads, there was a very large decrease in the population; but at present, when 25,000 hogsheads annually were produced, that population was in the increase. Now, how could that be accounted for, upon the principles of the noble Lord, the right hon. Secretary, and the hon. member for Weymouth? True, they might produce cases in accordance with their rule; but then he could produce cases which contravened it. He could also account for the cases they adduced from other causes, arising often from the habits of the Africans themselves; but could they account, in like manner, for those cases which be produced against them? If they could not, their rule fell to the ground, for unless it included all cases, it was valueless. It was well known, that manufacturing processes, as a general rule, were less favourable to life than those which were agricultural. The hon. member for Weymouth compared the case of sugar with the cases of cotton and coffee, but forgot to remind the House that the production of sugar in the colonies involved a manufacturing process, while the production of cotton and coffee were purely agricultural. They ought, therefore, to advert to the importance of these considerations upon sugar cultivation. Cases of cruelty had often been brought forward against the colonists; and with shame and pain he confessed that cases of wanton cruelty had occurred; and they always would exist, particularly under the system of slavery; and unquestionably this was a substantial reason why the British Legislature and public should set themselves in good earnest to provide for its extinction; but these cases of cruelty could easily be explained by the West Indians, who represented them as rare and isolated cases, and who maintained that the ordinary relation of master and slave was one of kindliness and not of hostility. They had, however, been upheld by the calculations of the hon. member for Weymouth, upon the decrease of the population—which he had persuaded people was owing to general excessive labour and ill treatment, connected with I the cultivation of sugar. Thus those calculations now formed the basis and the gravamen of all charges against the West Indians, because they appeared to prove, that cruelty must be the 335 general rule, and not the exception. He deprecated cruelty—he deprecated slavery; it was abhorrent to the nature of Englishmen; but, conceding all these things, were not Englishmen to retain a right to their own honestly and legally acquired property. If cruelty had existed, he was sorry for it; he did not believe in its existence. It was not, however, alleged against the present colonists, that they practised it; and thence he really saw no reason for the attack which had recently been made upon the West-Indian interest. He put it to the House to consider whether the country had not falsified its obligations to communicate the Christian religion to the slaves. He thought, however, that it was extremely cruel at the present period to hold up the West-Indian planters as an isolated class, instead of taking them as what they really were, one example among many of a general system. He trusted, that the House would make a point to adopt the principle of compensation, and to stimulate the slave to genuine and spontaneous industry. If this were not done, and if moral instructions were not imparted to the slaves, liberty would prove a curse instead of a blessing to them. The right hon. Secretary seemed not aware of the extent of the claims of the West-Indian interests. The estimate of 1,500,000l. annually was not near the mark. He had omitted in his calculation the incomes of resident proprietors, the interests of the owners of job-gangs, and, lastly, the interests of the owners of provision estates. The West-Indian property he held was created by the Legislature, and might be destroyed by the Legislature. It was not an abstract, but a conventional property. The question was, whether it was property within the limits of the power of the House to deal with it. The House never did or could do anything with respect to abstract nature, but he was satisfied that the property was within the power of the Legislature. The Legislature had done all in its power to make this property, and by its own acts it must be guided. He for one deprecated the entertaining of abstract questions. The point of property in this measure was a point proper to be discussed here. What was the ground of the grant proposed to be made in this case? The West Indians asked the House whether it ought not to take on itself to a moderate extent the risk of a total 336 stoppage of their plantations. What could be more reasonable; for if the measure worked well, the House would be repaid the money it advanced; and if it should work ill the consequence would be that the country would lose only ten millions, whilst the West Indians would lose sixty millions. He knew the opinions entertained of the omnipotence of Parliament, and that it could crush the West Indian Legislatures, This, he trusted, was not the object of any man. He was convinced that it would be in the power of the local Legislatures to prevent the plan, at least as a satisfactory plan. Whilst the competition of foreign manufacturers was daily becoming more formidable, it might be by the colonies, and by the colonies alone, that the country might yet flourish. For passive resistance and for the production of evil the power of the local Legislature was immense. The House might consume its time and exert its wisdom in devising plans of emancipation; but without the concurrence of the Colonial Legislatures, success would be hopeless. He thought that there was excessive wickedness in any violent interference under the present circumstances. What were these circumstances? Ministers commenced an inquiry into the West-Indian interests, and by their own organs of the Press, declared that that inquiry was not finished; and even the Governor of Jamaica had pledged his Majesty's Ministers that nothing should be done definitively till the Report of the Committee should be made. Ministers were still in the midst of that inquiry; and having given that pledge, they had no right to take the wayward course they were now pursuing. The Legislature of Jamaica had pledged itself to enter into the negotiation on the bonâ fide principle of emancipation; and whilst Ministers were in the state of inquiry it did appear to him that to pursue the measure proposed at the present moment was to commit an act of great and unnecessary hostility against the island. It was the duty of the House to place as broad a distinction as possible between the idle and the industrious slaves, and nothing could be too strong to secure the freedom of the latter; but, with respect to the idle slaves, no period of emancipation could hasten their improvement. If the labours of the House should be conducted to a satisfactory issue, it would redound to the 337 honour of the nation and to the reputation of his Majesty's Ministers, whilst it would be delightful to the West-India planters themselves, for they must always feel, that to hold in bondage their fellow men must always involve the greatest responsibility. But let not any man think of carrying this measure by force. England rested not her power upon physical force, but upon her principles, her intellect, and virtue; and if this great measure were not placed on a fair basis, or were conducted by violence, he should lament it, as a signal for the ruin of the colonies, and the downfal of the empire.
§ Lord Howick
wished to say a few words in explanation, after what had fallen from the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down. If the slaves to which the hon. Gentleman had alluded were in a weak state of health, how came it that they produced double the quantity of sugar produced in other islands. The Hon. Gentleman had quoted the cases of St. Lucia and St. Vincent's, but he had taken periods when great hurricanes had occurred. In the three years, between 1826 and 1829, when natural causes only were in operation, there was a small increase in the population. All that he had argued was, that the manner of cultivating sugar was destructive of human life. In Demerara there was a great temptation to exact an undue quantity of labour, and slaves were fast perishing. In Barbadoes labour was less valuable, and there was not the same temptation to encroach upon the slave. He saw nothing in the statements of the hon. Member who had just sat down, that could shake his former arguments upon that point. Before he sat down, he would shortly state the course he intended to pursue with respect to the Resolutions before the Committee. He would not support any of the Amendments which had been already proposed on these Resolutions. He considered, that those who were for liberating the negro would follow the example of the noble Lord, the member for Liverpool, and not force the House to a division at that early stage of the proceedings. He trusted, that all those who were for the emancipation of the slaves would agree with him, that the Amendments should not be supported, and that there was nothing in the first Resolution inconsistent with the opinion that liberty should be granted to the slaves. That Resolution, therefore, 338 might be allowed to pass, in order to show, by a unanimous vote of the House, that the necessity of granting emancipation to the slave was allowed. After that principle was established by such a unanimous vote, it would be then time enough to consider the two other Resolutions. He rusted that his right hon. friend would not force those Resolutions upon the House, nor require that they should be passed, since they were not essential for his measure, and might endanger its success. If those Resolutions were forced upon the House, it would prevent future modifications, and would not leave to the Colonial Legislatures that latitude that ought to be left to them.
§ Mr. Powell Buxton
proceeded to say, that he rose to refute a charge that had been made against him by the hon. Gentleman who had spoken a few minutes since (Mr. Gladstone). He was astonished that the hon. Gentleman should have so far mistaken what he (Mr. Buxton) had said, when it was already published in three different forms. He was moreover astonished at the cheers that accompanied the hon. Gentleman's misconception. The charge was, that in his evidence he had stated that the females in Demerara equalled the number of males. He could not understand how such a charge could be brought against him. He never did say that, for what he said was, that the males in that island amounted to 37,000, and that the females amounted to 32,000. He was stating conjecturally the number of females, it was a general statement, and what he said was, that according to the last returns, the whole female population of the colonies was about 340,000, and that the male population amounted to 330,000. With respect to the decrease of population in Demerara and Trinidad, what he had said was, that taking the average decrease for the last twelve years, it would be found that such decrease would destroy the whole population of the former place in a century, and in the latter place in about a quarter of that period. There was also another point upon which he had been misconceived. What he had stated was, that he would support the noble Lord at the present stage of the proceeding, but that he could not support the Resolutions throughout. It would be impossible for him to do so, for he could never support a resolution that proposed an apprenticeship which was to last twelve years. He might have supported some shorter appren- 339 ticeship, perhaps, but for the sake of the negro, it should be as short as possible. He really did not understand this part of the plan, for he did not see how it could be expected that the negro would work for twelve years without compulsion or without receiving any wages. The slave would do no work unless he were paid for it. That part of the plan he would resist. He begged to remind the noble Lord, the member for Liverpool, not to be too extravagant in his demands for the West-India proprietors—not to ask too ranch—lest he should get nothing. For his own part he did not think the planters were, on principle, entitled to any indemnification. The noble Lord should bear in mind the resolutions of Mr. Canning in 1823, and that if the planters had agreed to them, the question might have been almost settled, at least the agreeing to those resolutions would have prevented the exaggerated demands of the public, which had arisen since. What he would say, in the way of cautious advice, to the West-India planters, would be, not to exaggerate their claims to compensation; for if the question was not settled during the present Session, the consequence would be, that the people would come forward with increased zeal, and that emancipation of the negroes would be obtained without limit or compensation.
§ Sir Robert Peel
said, that in the whole course of his parliamentary experience he had never approached the discussion of any question in which the interests involved appeared to him to be of equal magnitude to those connected with the subject then under discussion. He never recollected any question in which the difficulties to be surmounted were so appalling; he never recollected any one in which a single false step increased the hazards of the consequences so immensely, or which would make them more lamentable or more irreparable. He admitted the just claims of the West Indians to a compensation—to a compensation on fair and equitable terms—for the losses to which their property might be exposed in consequence of this measure of emancipation; but he did not rise to discuss the question as a partisan of the West-Indian interests. The least part of the difficulties which the question involved was, in his opinion; that of the quantity of compensation for losses to be sustained. It was certainly no consolation to him to learn, that the property of the West Indians amounted to 30,000,000l., 340 or to understand that such was the extent of the claim which the West-Indians could prefer for compensation. The country could very well settle that amount of payment. Whether the claim to be liquidated were 15,000,000l. or 20,000,000l., or whether it were 30,000,000l., it would not exceed the means of the country to provide the pecuniary compensation; but there were other and higher interests involved than this, for which, if they were sacrificed, no powers on earth could devise a compensation. There were interests of a still higher magnitude than any interests of property merely, which could be involved in the present measure. When he looked at the extent of the revenue raised from the West-India trade—when he looked at the general state of the revenue, and when he considered the existing, the long, progressive, and hourly increasing, impatience of the country with reference to fiscal impositions—when he looked at the amount of the revenue that the Government were putting to hazard—an amount at least of 5,000,000l. a-year he could not but confess, that the question in this respect alone involved consequences that ought to make the House most anxious to come to a conclusion, as little as possible productive of evil. When he recollected all those interests which were involved in the question—the interests of property and the claims of the West-India planters—he considered it one of immense importance. He assumed, that he was addressing a House of Commons prepared to run the hazard of every sacrifice to ensure the emancipation of the negroes. He would put aside the importance of that determination to those interests which he had just mentioned, however strongly he felt the consequences which it must produce upon the happiness and welfare of society, upon the commercial industry and financial prosperity of the country; and he would address himself to the House upon that ground on which his address would be for the most part founded, namely, the degree in which the interests of humanity would be affected by it; he meant that large, enlightened, and comprehensive humanity which was alone worthy the consideration of a statesman. He was confident, that in the decision to which the Committee was about to come, hon. Members would not look to the mere redemption of any hasty and inconsiderate pledges which they might have given to their constituents upon the hustings. He was confident that they would not look to the 341 achievement of any triumph over the West-Indian assemblies. The object of that House would not be to punish the colonial legislatures, but to lay the foundation of future prosperity and tranquillity in those countries of which they formed a constituent and important part. Their object would not be to pass a hasty vote recognizing the expediency and justice of negro emancipation, but to alter safely and prudently the state of society in a hemisphere different from that in which they themselves lived;—to amalgamate two distinct and separate races and supply a better stimulus to negro labour, than the old base and degrading stimulus of the whip. The object would be, not to create a dominion of free blacks content with the mere necessaries of life, but to train the present slaves into a taste for the comforts and even for the luxuries of existence, to accustom them in that manner to the habits of honest industry, and to place them in that state of moral discipline which would enable the House, in unloosing their fetters, to feel that it was not acting inconsistently with the safety of the whites, or the happiness of the negroes themselves. Was that the object of parliament or was it not? If it were the object of Parliament, then he was bound to say, that this question was encompassed with greater difficulties than either the majority of the petitioners to that House, or the majority of the House itself were prepared to anticipate. He was not about to state the difficulties which encompassed the question for the purpose of proposing an indefinite delay. It was now in such a state, that some step in advance must be taken. Greater evil would arise from leaving it in its present condition, and from attempting to get rid of it by an indefinite postponement, than by meeting the difficulties of it fairly, and by endeavouring to lay the foundation of a better and more stable condition of society. The mere circumstance of the King's Government having recommended emancipation constituted a new era in the history of this question. That recommendation essentially affected the interests of all West-India proprietors, and ought to make them sensible of the danger likely to accrue from further delay, and indeed from any part taken by the House of Commons which looked like shrinking from the difficulties by which they were surrounded. At the same time that he said this, he felt that in settling this question it was important that the Committee should not be insensible of 342 the difficulties of another description by which it was environed. In the West Indies the great majority of numbers, and the great superiority of physical strength were on the side of those who were in bondage. There were physical as well as moral causes, which would, he was afraid, present obstacles to either a speedy or a satisfactory settlement of the question. The circumstances under which slavery was extinguished in Europe were very different from those which existed at present in the West Indies. Slavery was gradually extinguished in most of the countries of Europe, and also in the East, because it was found more profitable to the master to employ the slave as a free labourer than as a slave. He could not agree with the hon. Gentleman near him, that the sole difficulty of this question arose out of the operation of moral causes. Hon. Gentlemen might argue, that because the slave was in a state of degradation, therefore he was unfit for freedom; but then the answer to that argument was easy—"You have placed the slave in that state of degradation, and it is not just that you should take advantage of the wrong which you have done him, to say, that because he is degraded he shall therefore remain degraded for ever; on the contrary, you ought to raise him yourselves from that degradation by instilling into his mind moral habits and principles, and so qualify him for that freedom from which you now debar him, on account, not of his misconduct, but of yours." He repeated that this view was at least imperfect if not incorrect, for there were physical as well as moral causes which obstructed the settlement of the question, and made it one of great embarrassment. There was the distinction of colour. He did not allude to that as implying any inferiority between the black and the white—he merely alluded to it as a circumstance which threw a difficulty in amalgamating the slave population with the free, which did not exist either in any country of Europe, or in any country of the East where slavery was extinguished. If hon. Gentlemen looked to the United States, or to any other of the democratic States now existing, which recognized the equality of all classes, they would find, that long after slavery was nominally abolished, the amalgamation between the slave and the free population, which all must admit to be desirable, did not take place in a full or a satisfactory manner. In the West-Indies also the climate, the aversion to labour, and facility of obtaining subsist- 343 ence were perpetual obstacles to success, which consisted in substituting a stimulus for forced labour in a country where all labour must be forced. In other countries the stimulus to labour arose from the necessity of procuring the articles necessary to subsistence. In the West-Indies, after you abolish the stimulus of labour from coercion, you cannot substitute the stimulus to labour from the necessity of procuring subsistence. The labour of a few days is all that is necessary in those countries to procure not merely the necessaries of life, but also articles of luxury. The evidence was conclusive, that so fertile is the land in most of the West-Indies, that a slave, by a very small portion of corporal exertion indeed, can obtain all that is sufficient to support existence. When you say, that the slave has already a motive which will induce him to better his condition, you say that which to a certain extent is undoubtedly true. He has got a taste for finery, and thus he has within him the seeds of habits, from which, with care and attention, you may perhaps extract hereafter the stimulus to labour. But at present the elysium of his existence is repose. In the climate which he inhabits, the great bless-sing of life is the absence of labour—that labour for which you are now attempting to create in his mind a stimulus. These were some of the difficulties which beset the settlement of this question—difficulties which ought not to induce the House to abandon the attempt to settle it, but which ought to induce us to have a salutary distrust in our own powers, and to take every step which we were now about to take with great precautions against failure. The question really came to this—"Is it safe to rest where we now are? Is it safe to trust to the colonial legislature for the fulfilment of the Resolutions to which this House came almost unanimously in the year 1823?" Now he admitted, that we had arrived at a state in which standing still would be more dangerous to the safety of the West Indies than proceeding onwards. He thought that the step recently taken by his Majesty's Government in compliance with the almost unanimous wish of the people precluded the House from staying where it now was. To leave the slaves under the influence of zealots, who would be daily dunning into their cars that for a certain number of years emancipation was not to take place in deference to the wishes of their white proprietors, to add that new subject of agitation to those which 344 already existed, would, in his opinion, be to expose the colonies to dangers more aggravated than any of those in which they were involved at present. Did he deny the competency of Parliament to deal with this question? If he did, that would at once be a fatal objection to these Resolutions. But he who had voted for the Resolutions of 1823 and that too upon due deliberation, was not prepared to dispute the constitutional right of the Imperial Legislature to deal with this question—"Shall the negro population of the West Indies amounting to 800,000 remain longer in a state of slavery or not?" He readily admitted that there was a difference between the question of abolishing the slave trade, and that of abolishing the existence of slavery. The slave trade was carried on upon the open sea—the slaves were the inhabitants of the mainland; and yet the course taken by Parliament on the slave trade did certainly affect the interests of the proprietors of slaves quite as much as the present Resolutions. The establishment also of a system of slave registration, by the authority of the Imperial Parliament affected the internal regulations of the colonies. It did not, in point of fact, affect them directly; but in regulating, that it should be necessary, to give validity to any encumbrance upon an estate, that all the slaves upon it should be registered, the Legislature unquestionably interfered with the domestic economy of every estate in every colony in which a slave existed. Indeed, it appeared not only reasonable, but natural, that in a case affecting 800,000 of the King's subjects, there should be a power in the King and in the Parliament to make regulations for their safety and well-being. If that power did not exist in the King and in the Parliament, what would be the result? That each colony would have to decide for itself whether it would abolish slavery or not within its confines. The right to abolish it or not being, then, vested in each colony would lead to such a variety of regulations so pregnant with danger of every description that all of them would be glad to fly for refuge to the Imperial Parliament from the conflicting decisions of each other. Besides, if the House of Commons were not competent to decide this question, all its present discussions were vain—for there was undoubtedly power in each colony, if it disputed the authority of Parliament to obstruct its designs. He therefore admitted the right and the competency of the Imperial Legislature to 345 dispose of this question; but still no man could feel more strongly than he did, the indispensable necessity for our success that we should dispose of it with the assistance of the Colonial Legislatures; and with the concurrence of the great body of the West-India proprietors. Now, the first Resolution of the right hon. Secretary opposite was, "that it is the opinion of this Committee that immediate and effectual measures be taken for the entire abolition of slavery throughout the colonies, under such provisions for regulating the condition of the negroes, as may combine their welfare with the interests of the proprietors." Now, upon the practical course necessary to carry this Resolution into effect, he should express his opinions fairly, as he was no partisan. He would at once frankly say, that nothing could be more fatal to the proper settlement of this question, than to connect it with party considerations. His opinions were, he believed, the opinions but of a small minority in that House; but even if he were told that the unanimous voice of the people of England demanded immediate emancipation, and that a great majority of that House would be contented with nothing less, he would say, that such a fact would not release him from what he considered to be his duty—namely, to state his opinion of what was the fittest course to be pursued in the present emergency. Two plans had been proposed to the Committee as the consequences of this first Resolution. Each of them was proposed by high authority. One was proposed by the present right hon. Secretary for the Colonies; the other by a noble Lord, who, though he had held a subordinate office, had acquired much greater experience as to colonial affairs than the right hon. Secretary. One of them advised immediate emancipation; the other proposed ultimate emancipation, with a system of coerced labour for the next twelve years. Now, if the plan of the right hon. Secretary were adopted, he doubted the policy of passing his Resolution in the words in which it was couched at present. He doubted the policy of using the words "immediate and effectual measures shall be taken for the entire abolition of slavery throughout the colonies." Those words were calculated to raise expectations which the plan of the right hon. Secretary by no means warranted, and that was a great evil in establishing a preliminary Resolution. He admitted that this objection was an objection of terms rather than of substance; but still he contended that the first 346 impression, of any man upon reading this Resolution, and especially the first impression of an illiterate and ignorant man, would be this—" You never meant to subject me to coerced labour for twelve years." He thought that measures must be taken on this subject without delay, and that slavery must be ultimately abolished throughout the King's dominions; but if he were inclined to accede to the plan of the right hon. Secretary (which he was not), he should say, that the terms in which the right hon. Secretary had couched his Resolution were impolitic. He thought that the practical liberty secured by the subsequent Resolutions should exceed rather than fall short of the expectations raised by the Resolutions which went foremost. In the words of that Resolution he should like to see an alteration, but he would not move any Amendment; he would not even suggest any form of words; but he would merely say, that in his opinion a distinct and unanimous assurance should be given by the House of Commons, that it would support his Majesty in maintaining the public tranquillity, and in resisting to the utmost any opposition which might be made in any quarter to carrying this law into full effect. Such an accompaniment to the words of the original Resolution he thought would be productive of good. If the House of Commons should determine, first, that it has the power to decide this question, and that it will authorize the King's Government to apply itself to the adjustment of it; and should determine next to recognize the principle of compensation to the West-Indian proprietors; then it would have taken a great step in advance, and would have armed the Government with satisfactory powers to settle this question. By the Resolutions passed in May, 1823, the House merely pledged itself to take preliminary measures to qualify the slave for the possession of freedom. The second Resolution which Mr. Canning proposed was to this effect:—'That, through a determined and persevering, but at the same time judicious and temperate, enforcement of such measures, this House looks forward to a progressive improvement in the character of the slave population, such as may prepare them for a participation in those civil rights and privileges which are enjoyed by other classes of his Majesty's subjects. That this House is anxious for the accomplishment of this purpose, at the earliest period that shall be compatible with the well-being of the slaves them- 347 selves, with the safety of the colonies, and with a fair and equitable consideration of the interests of private property'. By laying down these principles we had obtained the means of settling this question, and by attending to the progressive improvement of the slave we had taken a great step in advance of the resolutions of 1823, and, in point of fact, the only step which we could have taken with safety. He had heard that it was the intention of some hon. Members to propose, as an amendment, the appointment of a Committee to examine into the details of this plan. Such an amendment, if proposed, he could not support. He thought that it was much better to leave the details of this plan in the hands of Government, than to encumber them with useless support in explaining and amending it. He could not vote for either proposition then before the Committee. He could not vote for the noble Lord's proposition for immediate nor for the right hon. Secretary's plan for ultimate emancipation. He felt himself to be so ignorant of all local circumstances, so unacquainted with the affairs of the colonies, as to be unprepared on the first hearing of these Resolutions to say, whether the plan of the right hon. Secretary was or was not the best for the gradual but ultimate abolition of slavery. He would turn to the plan of the noble Lord, which was a plan for effecting the immediate abolition of slavery. Though the noble Lord was ready to support four or five of the Resolutions of the right hon. Secretary, he differed from him on others, for the noble Lord was a friend to immediate emancipation. Now, there were great authorities opposed to the noble Lord on that very point. The right hon. Secretary had referred to the authority of Mr. Burke, and had quoted the language which Mr. Burke had used respecting the confidence to be placed in the benevolent designs of the West India proprietors. The right hon. Secretary had reminded the House of that part of Mr. Burke's letter, in which he said that "he had looked to all that the West Indian legislatures had done; that he had found that they had done little; and that that little was good for nothing—in short, that it was arrant trilling." Mr. Burke stated, that he had no confidence whatever in the Colonial Assemblies; he asserted the competence of Parliament to legislate on these subjects, and contended that the question of the abolition could only be decided by the Imperial Legislature. To the opinion 348 thus given by Mr. Burke he would now oppose another opinion of Mr. Burke given on this question in the spirit of enlarged humanity. Mr. Burke said—'Whenever, in my proposed reformation, we take our point of departure from a state of slavery, we must precede the donation of freedom by disposing the minds of the objects to a disposition to receive it without danger to themselves or to us. The process of bringing free savages to order and civilization is very different. When a state of slavery is that upon which we are to work, the very means which lead to liberty must partake of compulsion. The minds of men being crippled with that restraint, can do nothing for themselves; every thing must be done for them. The regulations can owe little to consent. Every tiling must be the creature of power. Hence it it is that regulations must be multiplied, particularly as you have two parties to deal with. The planter you must at once restrain and support, and you must control, at the same time that you ease, the servant'. These remarks appeared to him dictated by great wisdom. Many years had elapsed since Mr. Burke first advanced those doctrines: but could any man say that the slave was then better qualified than he is now for the possession of freedom That was a question not as to the convenience of the white proprietor, but as to the interests of the slave himself; for the interests of the slave were as much involved as those of the master in the satisfactory solution of this matter. In the course of the discussion, allusion had been made to the opinion of dissatisfaction entertained by Mr. Canning with regard to the proceedings of the West-Indian legislatures. He was compelled to express his full concurrence in the feelings of dissatisfaction entertained by Mr. Canning. He thought that the legislative bodies in the West Indies had not done either all they ought, or all they might. He thought that much of the difficulty of our present situation arose from their reluctance to take measures to satisfy the public mind in this country, and to ameliorate the condition of the slaves in their respective islands. He never could see any objection to qualifying the slave to give evidence in all cases in courts of justice; for he believed that the chief security against falsehood was in the cross-examination to which the slave was exposed; and he could not convince himself that the slave was at present possessed of that skill, and talent, and ingenuity, which would enable 349 him to baffle the efforts of a skilful examiner to sift out the truth before a jury of whites. The question was not, however, whether the legislatures of the West Indies had neglected their duty to the slaves, but whether the slaves, in point of moral improvement, were fit for freedom. It would be no answer to him to say, that the legislatures had neglected their duty, for he should reply, "It matters not; prove only to me that the slave is fit for freedom, and I will confer it on him; but I will not confer it on him, merely because you tell me that the Colonial Assemblies have neglected their duty." Whilst on this subject, he wished the House to recollect the eloquent language of Mr. Canning, who described the negro as a being with the form and strength of a man, but with the intellect only of a child. 'To turn him loose;' said Mr. Canning, 'in the manhood of his physical strength, in the maturity of his physical passions, but in the infancy of his uninstructed reason, would be to raise up a creature resembling the splendid fiction of a recent romance; the hero of which constructs a human form, with all the corporeal capabilities of man, and with the thews and sinews of a giant; but being unable to impart to the work of his hands a perception of right and wrong, he finds, too late, that he has only created a more than mortal power of doing mischief, and himself recoils from the monster which he has made'. On that occasion, what said the hon. member for Weymouth? He was not going to quote now what the hon. Member said then, for the purpose of taunting him with inconsistency; but when the hon. Member told the House the other night, that he had not asked for more for the slave in 1823, because in his opinion the public mind at that time was not prepared for more, he took credit to himself for moderation to which it might be proved from the hon. Member's own mouth that he was not entitled. He would prove that to the hon. Member's own satisfaction, or, if not to his satisfaction, at least to his conviction. The hon. Member did not refrain from asking more for the slave, because he thought that the slave would not benefit from having more—quite the reverse. He said, in as many distinct words, "I think the slave is not qualified at present for freedom—if he were, I would demand it for him at once." The very words the hon. Member used were as follow:—'I now come to tell gentlemen the course we mean to pursue: and I hope I shall not be deemed impru- 350 dent if I throw off all disguise, and state frankly, and without reserve, the object at which we aim. The object at which we aim is the extinction of slavery—nothing less than the extinction of slavery—in nothing less than the whole of the British dominions: not, however, the rapid termination of that state—not the sudden emancipation of the negro—but such preparatory steps, such measures of precaution, as, by slow degrees, and in a course of years, first fitting and qualifying the slave for the enjoyment of freedom, shall gently conduct us to the annihilation of slavery. Nothing can more clearly show that we mean nothing rash—nothing rapid—nothing abrupt—nothing bearing any feature of violence, than this—that it I succeed to the fullest extent of my de sires, confessedly sanguine, no man will be able to say, I even shall be unable to predict, that at such a time, or in such a year, slavery will be abolished. In point of tact, it will never be abolished: it will never be destroyed. It will subside; it will decline; it will expire; it will, as it were, burn itself down into its socket and go out. We are far from meaning to attempt to cut down slavery in the full maturity of its vigour. We rather shall leave it gently to decay—slowly, silently, almost imperceptibly, to die away, and to be forgotten.'* The hon. member for Weymouth said expressly, "I insist on the right of the slave to freedom. I deny that you either have, or ought to have, any property in him. It is from no deference to your wishes, but because I think him yet unqualified for the donation of freedom, that I now decline on his behalf to ask you for it." If such were the opinions of the hon. Member then, was it not necessary now that the hon. Member should prove that the slave is now qualified for freedom? He (Sir Robert Peel) admitted, that the progressive improvement of the slave since that time might impose upon us the necessity of granting him freedom, but if he had not made that progressive improvement, if he remained still unqualified, then it was against the interest of the slave that freedom should be conferred upon him. If there were; any force in this argument in 1823, surely there was as much force in it in the year 1833 as at the former time. He had looked through the evidence which had been collected upon this subject, and he was peculiarly struck with the evidence of* Hansard (new series), ix. p. 265.351 Captain Elliot, the protector of slaves at Demerara, who wrote with singular terseness and ability. The leaning of his mind was decidedly against immediate emancipation. He would not detain the House by looking for that Gentleman's evidence; but his opinion was, that the slave was not in a condition to be trusted with the power of labouring for his own subsistence. Instances had been mentioned in which freedom had been conferred upon the slave without any danger to the society in which he lived. A gallant Admiral had stated facts which fell within his own observation, to justify the inference that freedom might be safely granted to the slave. He had mentioned the case of the Caraccas; but there were circumstances which made that not a case in point. The gallant Admiral said, that freedom was then conferred upon the slaves who were labouring in the sugar-plantations; but he added, that the country was then divided by conflicting factions,—that each manumitted their slaves—that the slaves entered the army, and after serving some time in it, returned to their plantations, and were content to work as free labourers. In this case the severe discipline of the army qualified them for free labourers, and supplied the place of their former coercion. No safe deduction could, however, be drawn from what happened in the Caraccas as to what would happen in the West Indies. In Venezuela, the physical distinctions were not so great as in our colonies, and, as was well observed by the noble Lord, the member for Liverpool, the slaves did not constitute more than an eighth of the whole population. Now it might be safe to confer freedom on the slaves, where they formed only a small minority of the community, and yet there might be no safety in conferring it upon them where they constituted the great majority. He was not convinced by what he had heard from the hon. member for Weymouth on the present occasion, he would rather be guided by what he had said in 1823. He would now come to the plan of the right hon. Secretary, who proposed that the slave should be apprenticed for twelve years to his master, but that the slave should be entitled to demand his freedom at any intermediate time on tendering a certain fixed value; but suppose that some slaves should not wish to demand their freedom at any time, but should prefer remaining as they were, what would follow? Why, that there would still be two classes—one of slaves and one of 352 apprentices, and for the one the whole slave code would have still to be continued: would not that be a great and inconvenient anomaly? But it was proposed that they in the present Session should, by an Act of the Imperial Legislature, make a law which was to apply equally to all the colonies, differing, as they did, in so many things in their internal government, some of them being peopled by English, some by Dutch, and others by French or Spaniards. Was this law to be equally applicable to the Mauritius, to Demerara, and to Jamaica? And were they to pass this general Act, applying thus equally to all the colonies, without further inquiry as to whether this plan should be adopted in preference to any other? See how different was the system with respect to the mode of supporting the slave in some of the colonies. In Barbadoes the slave was paid by a sort of truck system,—in Jamaica, he had a certain allowance of provisions given to him, but in each of the colonies there was some peculiar difference. How, he would ask, could they during the present Session arrange all the details necessary for the application of the principle of this resolution to all these colonies? But how was it possible they could do so without the co-operation of the colonists? The House could have no interest in creating angry feelings amongst them, and their co-operation was indispensable to success. The ground which the slave cultivated belonged to his master, as did the house which he inhabited. Was he not to continue in the occupation of both? If he were, was it not of immense importance to the success of the scheme, to have the assistance of the planters? Do not trust to them for granting the principle. Take that from Parliament; but, in carrying it into execution, do Your utmost to secure the good-will of the planters. It might be said, that the Colonial Legislatures would refuse their assistance, and that colonial proprietors would throw obstacles in the way. But armed as his Majesty's Government would be, with the authority of Parliament, it would be for the interest of the Colonial Legislatures and proprietors to co-operate with it; and the House might rely upon their doing so. It was an important part of the noble Lord's plan, that it gave the Colonial Legislatures the choice of the mode in which they would emancipate their slaves. But the plan of the right hon. Secretary took away from them the power of performing this act of grace; and might 353 not the right hon. Gentleman advantageously borrow, if time were given him to consider of it, that part of the noble Lord's plan? At present, you propose to give slaves almost all the privileges of freemen, but have taken no precautions against their abuse of those privileges. It was said that the Government was to have the power of appointing stipendiary magistrates; but none were yet appointed. It was proposed at once to confer freedom upon 800,000 slaves, but as yet no precautions were taken to ensure success. If the people of this country, not satisfied with laying the foundations of ultimate liberty, insisted upon immediately granting it, even to the prejudice of the slave; if they were mad enough to force such a project upon the Government, they assumed a responsibility which not only no sane man, but no philanthropist, no real friend to the slave, would be willing to adopt. It was a part of the plan, that all children hereafter born, and all now six years of age, should be free; but would it not be desirable, even for the safety of those children themselves, that preparatory measures should be taken before effecting so great a change? The news that a bill had passed for the emancipation of the slaves in the colonies would reach its destination in September or October, without any preliminary police regulations to ensure the continuance of good order. The master would then have no direct interest in providing for the children of slaves, and the House would have made no provision for their custody, and maintenance. Even in foundling hospitals, no sudden accession of children to be provided for could be met, without previous preparation. How could any man propose such a change as this, then, without changing the laws which govern the support of children? Was it quite certain that this was the best mode by which slavery could be abolished? In other cases a gradual abolition had taken place. In South America, Bolivar gave freedom to certain classes of slaves. Slavery had been abolished in some of the United States, but the slaves were liberated in small bodies. In the State of New York, it had been decreed that slavery should expire in ten years from a certain date. In the Spanish colonies a principle was acted upon which did not apply to the present plan. In the Spanish colonies the slave had a greater number of free days allowed him to work. All the Saints-days were holidays. In Cuba, too, various regulations were made in respect to 354 the time which they had allowed to themselves. They had every Sunday besides, and they were paid for their labour on these days. They might demand their freedom by purchase, or, if they had not sufficient money for this, they might purchase another day, so as to have three days to themselves. He knew not whether such a principle was applicable to their own colonies, but it had the great advantage of holding out a stimulus to exertion while it provided for the gradual extinction of the evil. He was sorry that the hon. member for Weymouth objected to the slave paying any thing. It would act as a stimulus to exertion and industry. He would say, by all means treat the slave with humanity; do not use the whip to force him to work; but could the permanent benefit of the slave be secured without some stimulus to labour? Look at the consequences of emancipation in some of the Eastern States of America, where slavery had been abolished for some time. In those the price of labour was high; the emancipated slaves had every encouragement to labour; no prejudices existed against them as in other parts of the United States, wages were high; yet in these very States, such was the degradation and misery to which the emancipated slaves were reduced, that philanthropists saw no other remedy for the evil but sending them to a colony on the coast of Africa. Mr. Deway, who was represented as one of the warmest advocates for the abolition of slavery in America, said, that so strong was the feeling of the people with respect to men of colour, that it was utterly impossible to raise them in the scale of society, and that the gift of freedom had only tended to diminish their numbers and means of support, without giving them any real advantage in their moral and civil condition. He mentioned this circumstance, not for the purpose of throwing any difficulties in the way of emancipation, but to show that the regulations with which it ought to be attended required the utmost consideration. The same results would follow in the colonies as in the Eastern States of America if these measures were conducted without due caution. It was not their wish or their object to give domination to the blacks over the whites, but to produce an industrious class of cultivators, willing to labour and to reap the profits of their industry. This they might effect if they acted so as to conciliate the good-will and co-operation of the colonists. If the experiment now proposed should fail, it 355 might have the effect of retarding the progress of emancipation in other states, and materially affect the situation of their slave population. Unless they proceeded with great caution, they might, in fact, instead of advancing the liberty only confirm the slavery and do irreparable mischief to the black population. The hon. and gallant Admiral (Fleming), in the course of this debate, told them that the blacks in St. Domingo would not work on sugar plantations, but that they were willing enough to perform work of a different kind; that they raised plenty of subsistence for themselves; that they were not in rags or in distress, but had plenty of food and seemed happy. These observations of the hon. and gallant Admiral might be applicable enough to the question, if the object proposed by them was to raise up twenty St. Domingos, but their object was not to abandon, but to continue, the cultivation of sugar, to enable the white population to remain in the colonies, and to set the example of order and industry to the blacks. If the; plan should fail, what would then be the consequence. There were 4,000,000 cwt. of sugar consumed in this country, the produce of our own colonies. Suppose this cultivation to fail in consequence of this measure, did they think the use of sugar would cease here? Impossible. It had become a necessary of life, and would still continue in as much demand as ever. Now, let those who opposed slavery, who were ready to run any risk for the abolition of it, to endanger life and property for that object, to risk a revenue of 5,000,000l let them consider what might be the effects on slaves of other states if this experiment did not succeed. The Gallant Admiral informed them that free blacks would not labour on sugar plantations. Well, then, let some stimulus be provided to induce them to labour in the cultivation of sugar, in lieu of coercion; or otherwise, while they emancipated their own slaves, they must aggravate the miseries of the slaves of other colonies. Our colonies might become wildernesses, to morrow they might be all reduced to the same state as Saint Domingo, but sugar would continue to be used. It had become a necessary of life, and no revenue regulations could possibly prevent the introduction of it into the country. What, then, must follow? If the cultivation ceased in our own colonies, other colonies would "supply the demand. In many colonies the traffic in slaves still continued. Would it not still continue when the demand for sugar, the produce of these colonies, would 356 be increased by the demand from this country? Even if the slave trade should be abolished as regarded other states, would not the existing slave population be more hardly worked to supply the increased demand? It might be said, they had nothing to do with the slaves of other states, that their business was only to emancipate those of their own colonies. It might be so legally speaking; but was there no moral responsibility? Would it not be an aggravation of th evil which it was the object of those benevolent individuals to prevent? If our experiment should fail, would not the failure deter other states from following our example? It had been said by the hon. and learned member for Dublin, that no pecuniary consideration should prevent their adoption of the principle of emancipation. The question, he said, was one of humanity. That was exactly the language held by the National Convention of France. On the 4th of February, 1794, the National Convention determined on the abolition of slavery. The Assembly was just as impatient to come to a division on the question, as some hon. Members then appeared to be. Two deputies from St. Domingo were presented to the representatives of the nation, and were received with the warmest expressions of interest and fraternity. Several Members spoke of the right of the coloured people to immediate emancipation, and one called upon the Assembly not to dishonour itself by further discussion. The Assembly rose, and voted by acclamation; and the President pronounced the abolition of slavery, amidst cries of "Vive la Republique!"—"Vive la Convention Nationale!" The Deputies were conducted to the President, who gave them the fraternal kiss, which was also given them by the whole Assembly. Tears of joy were in all eyes,—"Vive la Liberté!" in all mouths—and Danton made a speech, in which he proclaimed the triumph of liberty, and the downfal of England. He would abstain from detailing the atrocities which followed in St. Domingo—the House was well acquainted with them. He would only observe, that all the disorders which had been described as occurring there, also occurred in the French colony of Guadaloupe. A general officer, reporting upon the state of that island shortly after the emancipation of the slaves, described all the habitations as ruined, all the proprietors reduced to a state of beggary, and the slaves as having turned pirates to attack neutrals and the English, 357 by whom many of them were taken and sold as slaves. Seeing this wretched state of things, the French governor attempted to enforce in Guadaloupe the regulations adopted by Toussaint in St. Domingo; but he being a white, they resisted the imposition of those regulations. Torrents of blood were shed; and, finally, slaver)-was again established in Guadaloupe, as a less evil than liberty indiscriminately given. With these warnings before them, he implored the House, for the sake of the slaves themselves, to come to no precipitate decision on the question. He implored it, after recognising the principle embodied in the first Resolution, to apply it with discretion, and to take care that they did not, by legislation, increase the hardships of slaves in the Brazils and Spanish colonies, instead of obtaining any mitigation of their lot. Let them not lay themselves open to the taunts—"Had you tried your experiment with more caution, we might have been free." If they proceeded cautiously, they might, probably, have the satisfaction—the highest which a Christian Legislature—which human being—scould enjoy—of setting an example of such wisely-regulated humanity, that it was worthy of being followed by all the world. But if they refused of liberty, to accommodate that principle to the state of society in the colonies—if they proved that the emancipation of the slaves was not accompanied with increased security to life and property—if they induced the United States, with two millions of slaves, to persevere in refusing to them religious education and knowledge of all kinds, for fear of the vise they might make of it, they would sacrifice the interests of England, and would incur, if not the guilt, the grave responsibility of having, by a precipitate attempt to ameliorate the condition of our own slaves, aggravated the hardships of those who were exposed to a more bitter fate in other parts of the world.
§ Lord Althorp
said, be concurred almost entirely in the observations made by the right hon. Gentleman. He concurred in the great importance of the measure, not only as it might affect the interests of this country, but also the slave population of other countries; but still he must say, that the danger of remaining as we were was still greater. The only difference between the course recommended by the right hon. Gentleman, and that proposed by the Government, was in the point of time. The 358 right hon. Gentleman thought the House should agree to resolutions for the abolition of slavery, but put off the execution of the plan to some future time. He could not at all agree to such a proposition. Indeed he believed the worst possible consequences would follow from agreeing to resolutions without any practical effect. Different plans had been proposed by hon. Members; put there were none to which he did not see great objections. The right hon. Gentleman had recommended, that coercion should still be resorted to, till the slaves could be brought to such a condition as would fit them for free labour. Now, there was no great difference between that plan and the plan proposed by Government, which still continued, to a certain extent, coercive measures, and at the same time held out an inducement to work. The cases of St. Domingo and Guadaloupe had been quoted, but these were not at all in point; and he would appeal to the House, whether the situation of the slaves in these colonies at the time of the disturbances, were not very different from the situation of the slaves in the British West-India islands now. At the former period, the great proportion of the slaves had been lately imported from Africa, and were in the most barbarous state; whereas the slaves in our possessions, though not civilized, were comparatively so, and had acquired habits of industry which those of Saint Domingo did not possess. Much had been said about the indolence of the slave population, and instances had been cited to prove this; but though some slaves might have exhibited such a disposition, surely it was not to be taken for granted that all were equally destitute of habits of industry. The right hon. Gentleman had laid a good deal of stress on the first Resolution, and had blamed the Government for calling on the House to agree at once to resolutions which would emancipate the slaves immediately. Now, that was not the import of the Resolution. It did not say, that emancipation was to be immediate, but that measures ought to be taken to carry it into effect. His noble friend (the late Under-Secretary for the Colonies) objected to the amount of compensation, and thought 20,000,000l should be granted, instead of 15,000,000l. For his part he considered 15,000,000l. quite sufficient. The whole West-India property had been estimated at 45,000,000l. sterling, and he thought a third of that sum the fill amount 359 to which the West-India planters were entitled, for taking away one-fourth of the labour of the slaves—that he thought was not an unfair proposition; but he was not at all prejudiced in favour of one sum more than another. The hon. member for Dublin, said the time had now passed, as emancipation had been agreed to by the resolutions of 1823; but it ought to be remembered that though the resolutions were agreed to at that period, the colonial Legislatures had done nothing, and the slaves remained in the same state as in 1823. Looking at the Resolutions in every point of view, he thought them the most desirable for the Committee to adopt, and he trusted that such was the view taken of them by the great majority of Members.
§ Mr. Godson consented to that course.
Mr. Secretary Stanley
said, that, as it was not the intention of the hon. Member to divide upon the Amendment, he should observe that, in the future course of prosecuting this measure, it would be necessary for them to have the Colonial Legislatures assisting them; for, without their concurrence, there would be but a faint chance of carrying it into successful execution. It was, however, absolutely necessary, that the British Parliament should take the initiative step, and declare at once explicitly that there was no longer the smallest chance of avoiding emancipation. The first steps taken, the details might be filled up by the Colonial Legislatures; for he was willing to admit, that at this period of the Session, Parliament could not enter into all the various details of a measure of such magnitude. Though he so far agreed with the right hon. Baronet, yet he could not agree with him in thinking that Parliament should only indicate what it wished to be done. He would go a step further, and make a beginning at once, and leave the details to be filled up by the Colonial Legislatures; but he would have even a provisional execution of those measures, that was, that if the Colonial Legislatures did not fill up the outline which we drew by a day to be named, we should, in the next Session, however much time it might take up, or with whatever trouble or dan- 360 ger it might be attended, go through the whole of the details, and take immediate measures for carrying them into execution. In conclusion, and now that the principal Resolution was about to be adopted, he could not but congratulate the House and the country, and the friends of humanity in general, that the fiat of emancipation was gone forth from the British House of Commons, and that all that now remained to be settled was a question of pounds, shillings, and pence.
§ Sir Robert Peel moved, in order to mark his opinion of the impolicy of any hasty measure, that the word "immediate" be expunged, and the word "effectual" should be substituted. Also that the word "ultimate" should be introduced; so that the resolution should run, "that effectual measures should be taken to secure the ultimate abolition of slavery"—["No, no!"] He should not press it to a division, but as immediate abolition could not take place, he thought the Resolution thus amended would be more consistent with the acknowledged intentions of the Government.
§ Sir Robert Inglis
was of opinion that the right hon. Secretary, would find himself as unfortunate in the use of the words "immediate abolition," as he had already found himself in the words "extinction of tithes."
§ Amendment negatived.
§ The first Resolution put and agreed to.
§ The House resumed, the Committee to sit again.