§ The House resolved itself into a Committee upon the Resolutions on Colonial Slavery.
§ The Chairman read the second Resolution as follows:—" That it be expedient that all children born after the passing of any Act, or who shall be under the age of six years at the time of passing any Act of Parliament for this purpose, be declared free—subject, nevertheless, to such temporary restrictions as may be deemed necessary for their support and maintenance."
§ Mr. Hume
said, that he had to intrude himself upon the attention of the House for a very short time. He had listened with very great attention to all the discussions upon this question, with a view to see whether the plan submitted to their consideration was one likely to be productive of practical benefit, before he offered 459 any opinion upon this subject. The Committee had already agreed to one Resolution, in which he fully concurred, and which marked an important progress beyond the Resolutions of 1823. Then the question went to that of the preparation of the negroes for a state of freedom; whereas in the present instance the House had permitted itself to enter upon a measure for the immediate abolition of slavery. He had never agreed in the opinion that the moment they could see their way to secure the liberty of the negroes they were to do so in violation of the rights of the West-India planters. He considered it to be the duty of the country to look fairly at the facts of the case. The state of slavery of the blacks was a system which was acquiesced in and had long been sanctioned by the country, and therefore he thought the nation should know precisely what they were now called upon to do; they ought not to rush headlong into an abyss. In the present state of the country, when he found vast classes of the community struggling against the most appalling difficulties, he could not agree to drawing away many millions of money from the country, checking industry, and perhaps paralysing trade, unless he knew that by so doing, the object which was sought for would be effected. They had no evidence to prove what could be done by free labour in the colonies; nor had they any evidence to show that the slaves could be brought so to labour as to secure to themselves by that labour the means of existence. They had no evidence how the colonies in which the slaves were now placed, would be kept up. The West Indies were to be regarded as a vast emporium of a peculiar manufacture, and they were bound to consider the circumstances under which British capital had been there embarked, and what were the interests involved in this vast question. He put to himself this question, "When I vote for the outlay of twenty or thirty millions, or whatever the amount may be, shall I be destroying those institutions and rights which now exist? Shall I add to the misery or the happiness of the black and the white population?" Had they any proof that while they granted immediate abolition of slavery the colonies could be preserved? He would say, that the effect of what had been already done, had been to withhold from these colonies, one-fourth of the capital which had been hitherto employed there; 460 and he was of opinion, that if the masters were in distress, it followed as a matter of course, that the slaves could not be in a state of comfort. Again, the effect of one-fourth of the capital being withheld must be, that one-fourth of the crop must be wanting next season, because he considered that in proportion as the capital was diminished so must the produce. Were the people of England, who were already heavily taxed, prepared to pay 1s. per lb., or, if the supply were sufficient, even double that amount, for sugar, instead of 6d.? Again, were they to extend the monopoly of the supply to the West-India planters, whatever the supply might be? But he must say, that no paltry parish question was ever treated with so much lightness as this had been. The right hon. Secretary appeared to him in the character, not of a mediator between the two parties, but the violent partisan of one party, addressing himself to the passions of the community at large. He might be mistaken; but if ever he had heard defiance hurled forth, it was in the tone which had been assumed by the right hon. Secretary in respect to the colonial legislature. This was not, however, a mere question of pounds, shillings, and pence; it was their duty not to attempt a hasty experiment, and therefore he called upon the House to pause before they proceeded to legislate in this question. For a mighty experiment, none had ever been marked by so little consideration in that or any other House of Representatives. He quite agreed in the opinion that emancipation must take place; but the House ought not to enter upon a crude measure. He admitted the philanthropy and humanity of the British people, who were naturally anxious to see liberty extended to all races. But would they so malign the English people as to suppose they would force the House to adopt an ill-digested measure? He did not believe that one single sentence in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman was founded on any tangible data. If the hon. member for Dublin (Mr. O'Connell) was now in the House, he would tell him that his speech the other night upon this question, was a mere address to the passions, and not to the common sense or cool judgment of mankind. It was a tissue of errors from the first to the last; and he handed down at the time to the hon. and learned Gentleman, some facts, to prove, that he was 461 entirely erroneous in his statements. It was but justice, however, to say, that the hon. and learned Gentleman had the authority of a pamphlet for much of what he stated. The fact, however, was, the experiment of free labour (it was on record and in evidence) had been tried on a small scale, and had totally failed. The settlement formed, in 1821, at Trinidad, of liberated slaves, was that experiment. He at that moment held in his hand however extracts of evidence taken in 1821, upon oath before the council of Trinidad. It was a public document, and signed R. J. Wilmot Horton. It appeared that in 1821, two public officers were appointed to overlook and attend to a number of slaves, men, women, and children, amounting to 1,832. They consisted of disbanded negro soldiers from the West-India regiments, liberated American negroes, and refugees; they were all free, and received every assistance and encouragement. They were placed under the management of officers appointed by the Crown, and supplied with all necessaries for a year. The expense of this experiment up to 1825, was 34,000l.; each slave got sixteen acres of land free from taxes, with a supply of implements necessary for cultivation. That was an experiment for trying free labour, and a fair experiment. What was the result? Why, Mr. Robert Mitchell, one of the superintendents, said, that they were averse to labour, addicted to drinking, to thieving, promiscuous intercourse with the sexes, and in a worse and more immoral state than that of common slaves. With the greatest difficulty he could get most of them to work the land for their support; they were found lying asleep in their houses in the working hours, and often he had to punish them before he could force them to their labour. In 1824, they were in such a condition that they could not be safely left even then to themselves. They were much addicted to drinking, and fatal broils must be the result, possibly murder, if not controlled by some authority. That they would not work he believed, unless they were overlooked, and that he knew of no instance of their hiring themselves out as they had opportunities of doing. Another superintendent (Mr. Peschier) said in his evidence, that these emancipated slaves would squander away in rum whatever they could get; that he could not get them to work if left to themselves and uncontrolled by 462 law; that they did not live, as to diet or dress, better than the very lowest class of slaves. When asked whether they might not be got to work by a system of tines, he said it would be useless, that he could find no property to levy fines upon except the growing produce, and that levying a fine upon that must have the effect of diminishing cultivation. He did not consider them fit to be left to their own management. The conclusion to be drawn from this was, that the experiment failed, and that these negroes by being set free, were not rendered sober, moral, industrious, or religious. He could not but express his surprise at the manner in which the right hon. Secretary had taken up, and without further inquiry, drew most important conclusions from assertions made by a gentleman now in this country, a native of Venezuela, as to the cultivation of sugar by free blacks. Even if all that was stated were true, it by no means followed that an experiment which was successful at Venezuela, where the number of blacks was small as compared to the whole population, would succeed in Jamaica, where the great mass of the population were negroes. But in fact, however, the statements of the right hon. Secretary were not correct. The whole of the rum made in Trinidad for example, was sent to Venezuela, though the right hon. Secretary told them that Venezuela supplied Trinidad with rum. This could not be the case. By law not a single gallon of rum could be imported into Trinidad from Venezuela or any other place. There was no proof therefore to be found in that statement, that rum was produced by the labour of the free negroes in Venezuela. Moreover it must be remembered, that the emancipation of the slaves in the Caraccas proceeded in a way quite different from that now proposed, for they took twelve years there to emancipate one hundred thousand slaves, being only one-tenth of the whole population. They did not give them freedom all at once, as was now proposed. They emancipated the best behaved, and paid to the owner the full price for them; and not the one-fourth, as proposed ill the plan of Government. The right hon. Secretary told them that sugar was never cultivated in the Caraccas until the slaves were emancipated and the principle of free labour acted upon. Now in the evidence from which he had read extracts before, it was staled by Dr. 463 Garcia, a Judge in Trinidad, a native of the Caraccas, that sugar was always cultivated there by slaves, and not by free labour. In place of two-thirds of the sugar produced there being cultivated, as the right hon. Secretary said, by free labour, he could prove upon the best authority that the very contrary was the fact. Mr. St. Hillaire Begorrat in his evidence said, that sugar and cocoa were cultivated entirely by slaves in the Caraccas in 1781. The same fact, or rather a similar fact, was stated by Don Joze Zepero a native of the Havannah, who had known sugar and coffee to be cultivated at the Caraccas by slaves in 1809, and from that time up to 1815. It was true indeed that some of the slaves in the Caraccas were now amalgamated with the rest of the population, and many of them were good and industrious labourers. Another experiment, similar to the one he before alluded to, had been made, and what was the result? He would state it to the House. In the year 1811, many hundred slaves were given up to this country by the Dutch. They were all placed in the island of Demerara under the management of Commissioners, at the head of whom were Mr. Wilberforce and Mr. Stephen, with Mr. Zachary Macaulay for Secretary. In the first year there was a reduction of seventy-five in their number, being one-fourth per cent of the whole; and in three years, not less than 9,000l. were drawn from the Treasury for their support. Commissioners were sent out for the purpose of making efforts to encourage them to the cultivation of sugar. Unfortunately, however, these Commissioners made no report, and they had no means of ascertaining the result of the experiment. He proposed moving for the necessary documents, but Lord Goderich expressed some unwillingness to produce them, and his mind was drawn away from the subject by other business. He should, however, take a future opportunity of moving for the information communicated by these Commissioners. The right hon. Secretary would have done better, and enabled the House to come to a more correct judgment, by producing this information, than by sending post haste all the way to Edinburgh, and bringing up to London a gentleman, a native of South America, for the purpose of putting questions to him on the subject of sugar cultivation in Venezuela. The right 464 hon. Secretary informed them, upon the authority of this gentleman, whom he represented as Vice-President of Venezuela, that the rum of Venezuela, the produce of free labour, was exported to Trinidad. Now, in a letter written to this gentleman, who came to this country for the purpose of making himself acquainted with British institutions, the question was put to him from what ports of Venezuela, and in what vessels, rum, the produce of that country, was sent to Trinidad? The hon. Member read the answer of this gentleman, a Senhor Alejo Forteque, which stated, that he had been requested to come to London from Edinburgh for the purpose of answering some questions relative to sugar cultivation in Venezuela. He declined, in this letter entering again into the details; but stated that he was not now, and never had been Vice-President of Venezuela. Now, was it upon such vague information as had been supplied by that gentleman to the right hon. Secretary, that the House was to legislate without further inquiry upon such a momentous question? Ministers were proceeding in utter ignorance, in a total absence of the necessary information, to enable themselves or Parliament or the country to form a correct judgment. This was not the first time they showed their ignorance and injudicious haste in their proceedings as regarded this question. The former Order in Council, which had been discussed in that House, was characterised by the same haste, and equally proved their ignorance of the real state of affairs in the colonies. He foretold them in October last, that their Order in Council could not and would not be carried into effect in the colonies. It was filled with the most gross and ridiculous absurdities. He before alluded to that part of it which provided that a new razor should be given every year to each slave. What was the consequence? Why, Ministers were soon after obliged to suspend their own order, seeing that it could not possibly be acted upon. It was utterly unfounded to say, that the colonists disregarded the Resolutions of that House. They did no such thing, but they wisely and properly disregarded the Order in Council. They proved themselves right by the succeeding conduct of Government, who withdrew their own insane order. In the communication made by Lord Goderich to the colonists there was a very long article, the object of which 465 was to show, that the Government was much better acquainted with all matters connected with their Order in Council, with every thing connected either with slave or master, than the colonists themselves, and that they did not stand in need of any advice or suggestions upon the subject from the Colonial Legislatures. What was the result of all this boasting? Why, they withdrew their own order, as prejudicial alike both to slave and owner. This, however, was not all. A Committee of the Lords was appointed last Session to inquire into the subject, and to report. Nothing more than ex-parte evidence came before this Committee, and it ended without their coming to any final conclusion. They met in April, and the inquiry, so far as it went, was confined to Jamaica. Even as regarded Jamaica, for want of sufficient time, they were obliged entirely to omit many important points of inquiry. They said, however, that they expected from Jamaica many witnesses of respectability and intelligence, from whom they hoped in the following Session to obtain important information. Now, he would ask, was it fair or candid in the noble Lord (Lord Althorp) under such circumstances to call upon the House to legislate before this information was obtained? Was it acting justly towards the colonies or the country, to refuse further inquiry? A Committee of the House of Commons was appointed to go into a similar inquiry, but they made only a partial report. This Committee also confined the inquiry to Jamaica, and did not investigate at all that part of the subject which related to property. The public functionaries against whom charges were brought in the evidence before this Committee had no opportunity given them of answering these charges. The Government, instead of precipitating their measures, ought to have sought and obtained information from the public functionaries and other persons connected with the West-India colonies; and their having declined to do so was the more inexcusable when such testimony had been offered by those who represented the West-India interests. But instead of adopting that safe and necessary course, Ministers rushed headlong into experiments, and they did this not only in opposition to the wishes and opinions of those who were best informed on the subject, but in almost total ignorance of the nature or bearings of the interests with which they 466 thus needlessly and imprudently meddled. Let the House consider the importance of the great and vital interests which were involved in this new experiment of Ministers; but above all, they should bear in mind the frightful consequences which must inevitably follow a failure of this plan. If such experiments were tolerated no species of property would be safe from the interference of Parliament. For his own part he would not run on with Ministers in that heedless and reckless course, which, as it was adopted without sufficient inquiry or consideration, could not but lead to confusion and ruin. The plan of the Government was proposed to that House in violation of a pledge to the colonists that no such measures should be adopted until the termination of the Reports of the Committees of both Houses of Parliament. It had been repeatedly and formally announced to the Colonial Legislatures, that Ministers would not propose any legislative measure to Parliament for the abolition of slavery until the fullest inquiry had been instituted, or, at all events, until the imperfect reports which had been presented to both Houses of Parliament should be terminated. What then was it but a breach of faith to introduce this new plan without even the revival of cither of the parliamentary Committees? It was not alone the interests and welfare of the negroes and of the colonists which were at stake, but also the most important interests of the British empire. He would again openly accuse Ministers of a breach of faith towards the colonies, and if he were a member of the legislature of Jamaica (one of the colonies to which the pledge was made), he would at once say to his colleagues that they ought not again to trust Ministers, or put their faith in such councils. Did not Lord Goderich, in his letter of the 15th of June, 1832, to the Governor of Dominica, say that the Government were resolved to abstain from all further interference with the colonies until the Committees of both Houses of Parliament brought their labours to a close? The hon. Member quoted the words of the despatch, which expressly stated, that "the Government would abstain from taking any measure whatever till the labours of the two parliamentary Committees had been brought to a close." And in the December following, the Governor of Jamaica repeated the same declaration to the legislature of that 467 colony, adding the assurance, that the proceedings of the two Committees would be resumed at the next Session of Parliament. No such Committees had been appointed, no such inquiries were in any way resumed, and he was therefore justified in saying, that there was not only a breach of faith, but a want of information, and, he might add, a total ignorance of the subject on the part of the Government. Under these circumstances it was most strange, it was most alarming, to see Ministers, in the absence of all information, bringing forward hastily a measure which was necessarily crude, undigested, and imperfect. But the Government did not stop here. They put forward the most erroneous statements; and a gallant Admiral opposite, in his anxiety to sweep away the Colonial Legislatures, had asserted, that, out of forty-five members of the Jamaica Legislature, there were not ten who had any landed property, and that the most of them were not solvent, and that ten of them were bankrupt attornies and slave-managers. This certainly was a sweeping declaration, but he was in a condition to disprove the allegation, for he held in his hand an authentic document which showed clearly, that out of the forty-five members alluded to there were not five who were not men of property. That document, he was ready to show to the gallant Officer, or to any other Member of the House, but he would not go through its details, as he had already, he feared, exhausted the patience of the House; but he could not refrain from mentioning three or four of the names of the gentlemen referred to, for the purpose of showing the accuracy of the statements which had been put into his hands. [The hon. Member read over three of the names, together with statements of their landed property, and the particular localities in which those properties were situated]. The House, he was sure, would feel that he was justified in designating the aspersions which had been cast upon these gentlemen as slanderous and unfounded. Here, then, was discovered a material error in the statements which came from the supporters of this new scheme; and in the absence of information, he was justified in assuming that inquiry would discover other similar misstatements. But Ministers seemed indifferent to the detection of these errors. They were already humiliated by the failure of their first ex- 468 periments with regard to the colonies; but they had scarcely suggested a plan when it was shown to be impracticable. That was withdrawn, and another, in his opinion, equally absurd, was substituted; and this change of plans, affecting some of the most important interests of the country, took place within a few days. How, he would ask, could such plans be sufficiently matured, or rendered even practicable? On the 7th of February, a memorial was presented on the part of the colonists, praying the Government to reappoint the Committees of Inquiry into the state of the colonies, and calling upon Ministers to do something in redemption of their pledge. The colonists were asked not to press their claims, and, for his own part, he must say, that the colonists were wrong in yielding to such solicitations. He, for one, never thought that much good arose from ceasing to press just claims. However that was, the Government, in the same month, proposed a plan of emancipation to the colonists, which embraced eight bills, two of which were to be passed by Parliament, and the other six were to be passed by the Colonial Legislatures. This measure, in itself, showed the inconsistency of the Government, which had, by their orders in council, declared that it was the people of England alone who could carry the measure of emancipation. This measure was abandoned, and in ten days afterwards, another, one of diametrically opposite principles, was proposed to the colonists. How such a change of opinions could have been effected in so short a time, or how, within such a short period, so extensive and sweeping a measure could be devised, was more than he could conjecture. It was, he would venture to say, such a measure as could not be beneficially applied to the colonies. It embraced such vast interests, and contained such a variety of detail, as required more time, more care, and more investigation, than had been applied to it. Yet Ministers appeared determined to persevere in their attempt to adopt it. For his own part, he should, of the two, prefer the first plan, which had been devised by the Government; but he could not consent to the hasty adoption of either. He submitted to the House, and he submitted to the country, whether they would tolerate the headlong proceeding which was taken without consideration, and submitted to a House of Com- 469 mons, which was not in a proper condition to adopt, or even discuss, such important resolutions. He had never yet known or heard of the like attempt to force a mea-sure through Parliament. He would never consent to impose an annual charge of 1,000,000l. on the people of England, without first seeing that the emancipation of the slaves would be effected by it; and, even on that ground alone, he would oppose those Resolutions, because he was convinced that they would not attain the objects which the supporters of those Resolutions professed. Were they, then, to try this dreadful experiment without the consent of the Colonial Legislatures? They, at least, ought to be consulted and heard. He had said, that this measure would entail a permanent expense of 1,000,000l. a-year on this country. In the first place, there would be the 600,000l. a-year, and the expense of a police would be 150,000l.; then there would be the charge for education, which, with other expenses, would amount to 1,000,000l. a-year. The hon. member for Weymouth had, in the course of a former speech, quoted Mr. Burnley as an authority upon the subject of slavery, and yet it was rather strange that the hon. Member should refuse to hear Mr. Burnley before a Committee. The hon. member for Weymouth had every year changed his opinions on this subject; but Mr. Burnley was, though perhaps erroneous in some of his opinions, at least consistent throughout. He was likewise a gentleman who had paid great attention to this subject, and was at all events entitled to be heard. Why should his opinions be quoted, and his examination refused? Mr. Burnley was ready to submit himself to the examination of the House, or of a Committee. With such opportunities of acquiring information, it was most unjustifiable on the part of Ministers to proceed in their hasty career, in total ignorance of the subject upon which they attempted to legislate. Again he repeated, that their ignorance was proved by the fact of their having changed their opinions in the short space of ten days. Holding the opinions to which his mind had been brought by mature reflection, and considering, as he conscientiously did, that the measures of Government would be productive of great evils both to the colonies and to the British empire, he felt himself called upon to state explicitly 470 what those opinions were. That man was not a true friend to the negro, or to England, who, in discussing this subject, appealed to the passions of his hearers.—It was a subject surrounded with difficulties, and required the calm application of reason and truth; and, knowing us he did the necessity of avoiding all irritation, he could not help deprecating the too frequent allusions which had been made to the "lash". The "lash" was admitted by the noble Lord opposite to form a part of the new system. He would ask those who tolerated the "lash" in the British army and navy to look at home; and if they made proper inquiries they would find that the "lash" was more frequently used in the British army than in the colonies. He held in his hand a return showing the numbers of the British army in each year from 1825 to 1831, both years inclusive. The establishment of the army in 1827 consisted of 111,107 men. The number tried by Courts-martial in that year was 5,340; of these 2,541 were sentenced to various punishments other than corporal; 2,632 were sentenced to corporal punishments, and of these 2,291 actually received corporal punishment. This showed, that one in forty-eight received corporal punishment, and that taking 300 lashes as the average punishment, there had in that year been 687,000 lashes inflicted on British soldiers. [No, no] Well, then, supposing the average to be 200, it would appear that there had been 458,200 lashes inflicted during that year. In 1831 the establishment of the army consisted of 103,374 men. There were tried that year 7,370 men; 5,497 were sentenced to various punishments other than corporal, 1,611 were sentenced to corporal punishment, and 1,477 received corporal punishment; showing, that one man in seventy had been subjected to corporal punishment, and, according to his former averages, the amount of lashes inflicted would be 443,100. In referring to those returns he was glad to perceive that there was a decrease of corporal punishment in the army. But he must, at the same time, observe, that the severity of such punishment was far greater in this country than in the colonies. Some punishment was absolutely necessary to keep negroes in order, and in his opinion order was mercy. Those who talked so much about the use of the lash in the colonies ought first to recollect how much more severe was its applic- 471 ation when inflicted upon freemen, in the midst of civil tribunals, before they complained of its use in preserving order amongst the negroes. Let no person misunderstand him as advocating such a system. He was, and had been, all through life, opposed to that species of punishment, but he could not overlook the fact that some of those who were most clamorous for its abolition in the colonies tolerated it at home. He had to apologise for having occupied so much time of the House, but, though personally disinterested in the matter, he could not avoid expressing his disapprobation of this new system which was introduced by his Majesty's Government.—He then moved—"That it is the opinion of this Committee that further information is required relative to the efficiency of free labour and other points, upon which the future beneficial cultivation of the colonies materially depends. And for this object, without which neither the welfare of the negroes nor the interests of the planters can be secured, it is desirable that the inquiry commenced by Committees of both Houses of Parliament in the last Session should be immediately renewed, with the view of examining certain eminent persons recently arrived from various colonies, as well as others practically acquainted with colonial affairs, and especially deputed for the purpose of affording information touching the various points on which so many discordant opinions have been stated in this Committee."
§ Admiral Fleming
regretted, that he had not been present when the hon. member for Middlesex had thought proper to open his fire upon him (Admiral Fleming). He, however, could now only state, that he adhered to the evidence which he had formerly given before Committees of the Houses of Parliament, and which was founded upon what he had himself seen in Venezuela. In support of what he had then stated he could produce the late President of Venezuela, who was then under the gallery, and who would bear him out in every word he had uttered. He had not come forward either a willing or a volunteer witness, and he could also say that he could be directly corroborated in other respects by General Herman, Governor of Bogota. He was also prepared to repeat all he had stated with reference to the Colonial Assembly of Jamaica, for, though his information was not derived 472 from what he had himself witnessed, yet it was derived from members of that assembly, one of whom, (Mr. Lynch,) had declared to him (Admiral Fleming) that he was a bankrupt. Of that assembly, he could say, that there was not one who, if all his debts were paid, could raise half-a-crown in the pound. He was unconnected with any party in the slave question; but when his own evidence had been attacked, he had felt it due to himself to make this statement to the House. He could only add, that if hon. Members on the other side of the House would contend for that which was false in principle, nothing but bloodshed, insurrection, and misery would ensue; and to them he would say as a caution, "do not drive your plans too far." The moment the proposition of the right hon. gentleman, the Secretary for the Colonies, was received in Jamaica, he felt satisfied that the Government could not retract an inch from that proposition.
§ Mr. Buckingham
said, in rising to offer a few observations on the subject before the House, he could not refrain from expressing his surprise and regret at the course pursued by his hon. friend, the member for Middlesex, whose objections came too late, for his proposition was to delay that declaration of Emancipation which the House had solemnly pronounced by the unanimous vote on the first Resolution, which had already passed; it was perfectly useless, therefore, now to propose a Committee for further evidence, as the fiat had gone forth, to declare that slavery should be abolished, and our only remaining task now was to determine the when and the how. The hon. Member had deprecated our legislating in ignorance of the actual circumstances of the colonies, of which he assumed that we knew nothing, compared with the individuals who resided in them, and he asked whether the inhabitants of Japan were not likely to understand what was passing in their own country better than the people of England. The illustration was not a happy one, for the cases were not parallel. There was no intercourse whatever between the people of England and the people of Japan, and there was not a single Japanese to be found, perhaps, in all the British islands; whereas the intercourse between England and the West Indies was frequent and extensive. Hundreds of persons who had passed the greatest por- 473 tion of their lives in the colonies, resided among us, and some were even members of that House. He had visited the West Indies, twenty-five years ago, commencing with the island of Trinidad; he had subsequently visited many other islands in a maritime capacity; he had afterwards passed some time in Virginia, the greatest slave-holding state in America; and since then he had seen slavery in all its varied modifications, in the Eastern world, from the severest to the mildest form in which it existed or was known. He might be considered, therefore, as not altogether destitute of experience on this head; and if this experience could give any weight to the testimony he should bear on the subject, he should rejoice in having the present opportunity of declaring that, from the first moment he ever saw a slave, until the present time, his conviction had been, not merely that slavery was sinful, cruel, impolitic, and unprofitable, but that it might be abolished with perfect ease and entire safety, not gradually, but immediately—not in one spot only, but throughout the globe; and that all parties would be ultimately benefited by such a step. He would now advert to the principal objections that had been urged against his view of the case, by those who thought the immediate emancipation of the slaves would be attended with danger, or difficulty, or loss; and as briefly as he possibly could, he would pass in review what had fallen from those hon. Members who had opposed his Amendment on the last evening of the debate; in doing which, he might find it practicable also to convince the hon. member for Middlesex, that a much larger body of evidence than he seemed to contemplate, could be cited, to prove the superiority of free labour over slave labour, in every experiment that had yet been tried. He would begin, then, with the objections to immediate emancipation, which were raised by the noble Lord, the member for Stirling (Lord Dalmeny), which embraced the three following assertions:—That the slaves were too ignorant to be admitted at once to the enjoyment of freedom. That they had treasured up vindictive feelings for all the cruelties inflicted on them, and could not be made free with safety. That it therefore required the greatest caution and prudence to release them gradually, and above all, to prepare them for their freedom before that blessing was conferred upon 474 them. He would advert to each of these in succession. First—as to ignorance. If it were intended to confer at once upon the negro the enjoyment of political rights, the trust of the elective franchise, or elevation to judicial or other stations of civil or political authority, he confessed, that with ail his love of liberty, and advocacy of extended rights, he should pause before he assented to such a measure. But all that was intended by the freedom of the negro, in the present instance, was to give him the liberty to take his labour, the only property he had, to the best market, to select his own employer, to negociate for his own wages, to earn his own bread, and to enjoy the fruits of his labour unmolested. Surely the most ignorant people in existence might be safely in trusted with so much freedom as this, and this was all that was asked for the slaves. If ignorance were a disqualification for that extent of freedom, then ought the great bulk of the population in every country upon earth to be kept in a state of slavery. But if, as was undoubtedly the case at present, the most ignorant inhabitants of every nation in Europe were as free in this particular as the wisest, and no inconvenience was felt from that equality of rights in this respect—the right to dispose of their labour freely, (and no more was asked)—it must be equally safe to admit the full enjoyment of the right contended for to every slave, whatever the degree of ignorance in which it might be his misfortune to be found. Secondly—as to vindictiveness. It might be true, and none could wonder at the fact, that the severe and continued oppressions which these unhappy beings had so long suffered, might inspire them with feelings of anger, and even of revenge towards their oppressors. But what was the best remedy for this?—to keep them still longer enslaved, or to let them go free? By the former course, every cause for vindictiveness would be aggravated and prolonged; and whenever the moment for executing the long treasured purpose of revenge should arrive, the arrear to be wiped off by this terrible process would be the heavier, and the vengeance the more signal and complete. But, by releasing them from bondage, we should at least prevent any addition to their reasons for vindictiveness; and before the load became intolerable, they might be relieved of their burthen with greater ease than at any deferred or protracted period. 475 He had himself witnessed the arrival of ships from foreign stations, at the close of the last war, when many thousands of seamen were paid off, discharged, and sent forth into a state of freedom, suddenly and without previous preparation, though, from the severe restraint under which they had been kept, and the punishment of the lash to which they had been subjected, their feelings towards their officers were such, that any favourable moment for mutiny would have been seized, had they been kept longer in the bondage in which they were. But from the moment they were let loose from their floating prisons, they were far too happy to think of anything but the delights of freedom; whatever feelings of vindictiveness they might have cherished, instantly disappeared; and no further cause for anger and ill-will existing, the feeling became extinguished, and they would have hastened to shower blessings on the very heads that they would have loaded with curses but a day or two before. Thirdly—as to caution in proceeding, and preparation of the slave. The first had been exercised to so great an extent already, that it was unreasonable to ask for more, unless its exercise was to be eternal. We had been proceeding with so much caution, and had taken our steps so very gradually, that after thirty years of continued efforts for the abolition of slavery up to the present time, the slaves were no more free now than they were then, and any improvement in their condition was so slight as to be scarcely perceptible. We never could prepare them for freedom, but by making them partake of its enjoyment. Until the first step, of admitting them to the rights of free labourers, should be taken, they never could be prepared to take the second, or be qualified to enjoy the rights of free citizens, or free men. Emancipation, therefore, must precede improvement, or it would never come at all: and if prudence and caution were requisite, as he admitted with the noble Lord it was, those qualities would be best evinced, by beginning the work of abolition at once, and effecting it by legal and peaceful means; to avert the otherwise certain catastrophe of the slaves themselves achieving their own deliverance, and wresting their freedom by violence, as a right, from those who might have bestowed it with gentleness, as a boon. He would now venture to trouble the House with the proofs, 476 which were ample and authentic, of the perfect practicability and entire safety of the immediate transition from slavery to freedom, and of the superior productiveness and efficiency of free labour over slave labour wherever it had been tried. The hon. Member quoted several passages from the pamphlet written by Mr. Josiah Conder, entitled, "Wages or the Whip," to establish the fact, that free labour was cheaper than slave labour. The hon. Member then continued—Let him, however, advert to what had fallen from the noble Lord, the member for Liverpool (Lord Sandon), who spoke on a former evening in the debate. That noble Lord had given an enumeration of the various classes interested in this issue of the great question—the West-India planters, the British merchants, the ship-owners, the manufacturers, and the labourers of every kind now employed in supplying materials for the West-India trade: assuming, as it were, that by the emancipation of the slaves, the colonies would either become independent, or extinct, or pass into other hands, and that in either case all those great interests would suffer a total loss of all the occupation and the profit which our present relations afford them. Should this be the case, it would undoubtedly be felt as a great calamity, and might well make us pause. Not only, however, did the ordinary application of principles, and the exercise of reason and reflection, go to show the probability of a different issue—but the whole testimony of history and experience pointed to an entirely opposite result. If free labour were more productive than slave labour (as by the evidence read he had abundantly shown), it must then follow, that both masters and slaves would be enriched thereby—and the desire for increased enjoyments naturally following, we should no longer be engaged in sending out to the West Indies the miserable and scanty supply of salt herrings for the negroes' food, a few shirts and caps for their raiment, and an occasional addition to the implements and machinery of husbandry and manufacture for their use; but the freed men, having accumulated means of purchase and payment, increased supplies of necessaries, comforts, and luxuries of every kind, would be required; and all the arts and elegances of life would progressively be substituted for the rude materials now in use among them. America furnished a 477 striking illustration of the effects of such a change. While appended to England as a mere colonial possession, the cost of governing her was great, and her returns in trade were few. But, once emancipated and independent, her demands for the manufactures of this country progressively increased; augmented supplies were sent from that country in payment for such supplies; and it was far within the limits of truth to say, that, at the present moment, the commerce between free America and England was twenty times as great as it ever had been between those countries previous to her Emancipation, and the improvements consequent thereon. So would it be with the West Indies. Whether they remained as appendages of England after they were cultivated by free men instead of slaves, whether they became independent, or passed into other hands, so long as their tropical produce could not be grown in England, we should be disposed to resort for it there; so long as we were consumers of this, we should pay for it in British goods; and therefore, in either case, the West-India proprietors would be enriched by a larger demand for their produce; the merchant would have larger gains from the increased amounts over which his connexions would extend—the manufacturer would have increased vent for his articles of every kind; the ship-owner would have freights for an increased number of vessels to convey the interchanging products of each; and the seamen and artizans of the country would find increased employment in the augmentation of reciprocally beneficial trade. The fears, therefore, of the noble Lord, were perfectly groundless; and the very reverse of what he seemed to anticipate would be likely to follow from the change. He would now pass to the speech of the hon. member for Newark—a speech to which it was impossible to allude but in terms of eulogy, for the tone, temper, manner, and matter, by which it was characterized, and which occasioned it to be listened to with pleasure by all parties, whether they concurred in the views it advocated or not. That hon. Member had contended, that sugar cultivation, which was said to destroy so many lives annually, was not so destructive an occupation as many trades practised in England, among which he enumerated the steel-grinders, who were subject to diseases occasioned by their occupation, most fatal to life, and 478 destroying the constitution in comparatively a few years. The hon. Member had overlooked the fact, however, that it was not so much the mere cultivation of sugar which led to excessive destruction of life, as its cultivation on a system of forced labour, which exacted continued work, with too great severity, and for too scanty a reward. In every community there must be occupations more or less dangerous, and more or less disagreeable. But, provided the labourers were free to choose whichever they preferred, it would happen that the timid and the indolent would choose the easiest and the pleasantest, and the number of applicants for this would reduce the wages to a low scale; while the boldest and the most reckless would choose the dangerous and the difficult, not for the danger and the difficulties, but for the high rewards attached to their performance; for the very destructiveness of their nature would narrow the circle of competitors, and the wages would accordingly be high. It was thus in the instance of the steel-grinders, to which the hon. Member had adverted. There were many of these employed at Sheffield (the town he had the honor to represent), and he believed that the wages of this class of artizans was so high, as that with three or four days' labour in the week, as much might be earned as at any of the less destructive occupations in six. But this made all the difference. Let the sugar-cultivators of the colonies be as free to choose their occupations as the steel-grinders of Sheffield, and there would be no just ground of complaint: high wages would follow dangerous and difficult employments, and low wages safe and easy trades. The source of discontent was, that the negroes were compelled to labour excessively, by coercion and terror of the whip, and were badly fed and badly clothed, though they laboured in crop-time eighteen hours out of the twenty-four: while the grinders of Sheffield were not compelled to labour, and, with eight hours' work per day throughout the whole week, could secure their being well fed, well clothed, and have some surplus left for enjoyment besides. The army, it was well known, was, in war time especially, a service abundantly destructive of human life; the navy still more so, for, in addition to the risks of battle, the risks of shipwreck must be incurred. Certain stations of service in both were also more dangerous than 479 others, from climate and other causes. But these were often preferred to more healthy and more pacific spots; because, in these the chances of gain, honour, promotion, and prize-money, were increased; and he (Mr. Buckingham) had himself heard drunk as a toast, in the gun-room mess of a man-of-war in the West Indies, "a destructive war and a sickly season;" the proposer justifying his wish, by the observation, that promotion was the desire of all, that this could not be quickened without vacancies, and the consolation of all was, that when these vacancies were occasioned by the two causes named, all parties were satisfied, as those who lived obtained speedy promotion, and those who died did not require any. Where perfect freedom of choice was allowed, every man would suit his own disposition or his own taste in the selection of the labour or the service in which he proposed to engage: and when the slaves in the colonies should be allowed that freedom of choice, he thought all complaints as to the destructiveness of any branch of labour would be at an end. The last speaker, whose arguments he felt called upon to notice, was the right hon. Baronet, the member for Tamworth (Sir R. Peel), and he thought it the more necessary to do this, from the powerful impression they had made in the House at the time of their delivery on the last night of the debate. Knowing as he did the great importance attached to the opinions of the right hon. Baronet, as the acknowledged and distinguished leader of a political section or party in the State—aware as he was of the talent and skill with which his views were always developed and enforced—and witnessing as he had done the impression made by him upon the House, and, through it, no doubt, upon a large portion of the country, he (Mr. Buckingham) thought it of the utmost importance to notice those portions of the right hon. Baronet's speech which enumerated his objections to immediate Emancipation. The first of these was, the observation that, in addition to the moral causes which were in operation in the West Indies, there were physical causes equally powerful, to prevent the due amalgamation of the European and African races, and these causes being permanent in their nature, could not be overcome by any legislation. Now, in answer to this, he (Mr. Buckingham) would observe, that the only reason 480 why the African race was looked upon with such feelings of contempt for its inferiority by the European race, both in the West Indies and in America, was the constant association of the condition of slavery with the sight of men of colour; and the actual inferiority of their condition led to the constant assumption of their inferiority of blood or nature. But the testimony of all history, whether ancient or modern, and the evidence of all experience, went to show, that in countries where no such idea of slavery was associated with darkness of colour, these physical causes were not at all in operation, and consequently these obstacles to amalgamation did not exist. Were it not likely to be thought pedantic, he might cite particular instances in proof of this; but he would content himself with saying generally—that in Egypt, and throughout Turkey and Persia, as well as in India, persons of African origin mingled freely with persons of European and Asiatic nativity:* and that many of the civil and military officers of rank in the State were held by absolute negroes of pure African birth, without the slightest objection being taken to their fitness, on account of their complexion or blood: and after the lapse of a short time subsequent to the emancipation of slaves in our colonies, he doubted not but that the existing prejudices in America and the West Indies, would all disappear. It was said, also, by the right hon. Baronet, that the love of* The reference here was to the alliance of Solomon with one of the daughters of Pharaoh, whose language in the Canticles is expressive of her colour and her race. "I am black, but comely, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, as the tents of Kedar, as the curtains of Solomon." The testimony of Herodotus is decisive as to the colour of the old Egyptians. In describing a colony at Colchis, he expresses his belief that they were of Egyptian origin, because, like the Egyptians, they had thick lips, black complexions, and crisped hair—an exact description of the negroes of the present day. The history of Sheba, the queen of Abyssinia—of Cleopatra, the queen of Egypt—as well as of the Carthaginians, Numidians, and other African nations, prove incontestibly the power of their easy amalgamation with the other races of mankind; while the varied shades of complexion in India, and the intermarriages from which they spring, must convince every reflecting person, that the difference in condition, rather than in the colour of these races, is the cause of the feeling or prejudice alluded to, wherever it exists.—Note by Mr. Buckingham.481 repose, arising from the warmth of the climate, and the abundance of food, which could be procured with great ease by very little labour, would indispose the negroes to work; and that we should, therefore, lose the benefit of their labour. Now, suppose the fact were so (though the evidence he had already cited, proved quite the reverse) surely we had no right to interfere for the purpose of making them labour beyond that limit of necessity for the supply of their own wants. The only legitimate object of Government was the happiness of the people:—suppose, then, a whole nation, or any number of individuals in it, were so fortunately circumstanced by locality, or by any other cause, as to be enabled to procure, with very little labour, or with none at all, a full supply of all their physical wants—should we be justified in compelling them to labour over and above the amount necessary for this purpose? He must say, that he should regard this as a tyranny of the most unjustifiable kind. Why, how many persons were there in England, who were able, without labour, to procure all they desired, from having other sources of income, which rendered labour on their parts unnecessary: and would it be borne that such persons should be forced to labour for their subsistence, when they could obtain all they needed without such occupation? The State was, undoubtedly, bound to see, that idlers were not pensioned on the public purse, and that paupers were not maintained by the nation, when they did nothing to support themselves: but beyond this, the State had no right to interfere; and if skilful persons in this country, could, by one day's labour, acquire the means of subsistence for a month, or an easily contented negro in the West Indies could, by one day's labour, obtain food enough for himself and children for all the rest of the week—why should we compel either of these happy and fortunate parties to labour more than would suit their own pleasure, after the purpose of their own subsistence, independently of any public aid, should be secured? But, what was the real fact? Why, invariably this: that in both cases, the desire of gain was so much more powerful than the love of repose, that neither party slopped short in their exertions when their necessities were satisfied, but all pursued the same career of accumulation, adding as much as possible to that which they already pos- 482 sessed; love of accumulation generally becoming more and more intense in proportion to the amount of the property possessed. As a proof, however, of the great activity of which the negroes were capable, and of the powerful influence of rewards to stimulate and quicken their exertions, he would mention a single fact which fell within his own observation. Some years ago, being stationed on board a ship in the Chesapeake, an occasion arose in which it became necessary for the despatch of outfit, to employ a gang of riggers from the port in which the ship lay. On inquiry, it was ascertained that there was a negro gang of this description at Norfolk, who were all slaves, belonging to a Virginian proprietor, to whom they paid half the amount of their earnings, as his profit or interest of the capital sunk in their purchase, and lived upon the remainder. Their average earnings, when employed in time-work, was about a Spanish dollar each, per day. The foreman of the gang was sent for, and the quantity of labour to be done was pointed out: it was then asked, in what period of time, the gang, about twenty-five in number, would be able to accomplish the work, and it was said, in about a week, which all parties agreed in thinking to be a reasonable period: it was observed, however, that if the job should be given as a task, and the same amount of remuneration paid, in whatever time it might be accomplished, it could probably be finished sooner. This was assented to, as despatch was a most important object; and the consequence was, that by great exertions, working by spells, day and night, the good week's labour was completed in three days and a-half, and all parties were abundantly satisfied. The negroes made each nearly two dollars a-day; and paying one to their master, had still ample wages for themselves: but had they not been allowed to receive these wages, or had they been stimulated only by the whip, they would not have accomplished in a fortnight, what they here executed, in the best as well as most expeditious manner, in the short period of less than four days. This fact was a striking-illustration of the truth of the sentiment expressed by Burke; and, as the right hon. Baronet had quoted the language of that celebrated statesman to show the difficulties of immediate emancipation, it would be perfectly fair to quote the 483 same authority in favour of the superiority of free industry over slave labour. In his "Treatise on European Settlements," Burke expressly said, "I am the more convinced of the necessity of those indulgences, as slaves certainly cannot go through so much work as free men. The mind goes a great way in every thing; and when a man knows that his labour is for himself, and that the more he labours the more he is to acquire, this consciousness carries him through, and supports him beneath fatigues under which he would otherwise have sunk." The right hon. Baronet had dwelt with great force on the position, that if we emancipated the slaves, the sugar cultivation in our own colonies would cease; in which case, we should be driven to the necessity of adopting either the one or the other of these alternatives; namely, that we must do without sugar altogether, to which he thought the people of England would not consent; or we must obtain it from foreign colonies, and thereby increase the labours of the slaves in these, and give new activity to the slave-trade by which these colonies would be still supplied. It was impossible that a person of such extensive information on all topics of public interest as the right hon. Baronet could be ignorant of the fact that sugar was a production of the East Indies as well as of the West; but it was very remarkable that he should not advert to that fact. It became, then, the more necessary, that he (Mr. Buckingham) should offer evidence to prove, not only that this article could be had in any quantity required, from our possessions in the East, but that it could be had much cheaper than from the West. The proof was this—' In the work on East-India sugar, from which this is taken, extracts are given from a letter addressed to the hon. the Court of Directors, by W. Fitzmaurice, Esq. dated Calcutta, Feb. 6,1793. This gentleman, having lived in Jamaica sixteen years, during which he had been employed in the cultivation and management of sugar estates on both sides of the island, must be regarded as thoroughly competent to form a decisive opinion respecting the comparative advantages of the two countries; and he expresses that opinion in the following terms—"From the luxuriant fertility of the country, I think it is amply competent (o the supply of all Europe with sugars; and 484 that even the West-Indian planters themselves might import them from thence on much easier terms than they can afford to sell sugars in the curing-houses upon the plantations. The cultivation of the cane will employ thousands of poor people that are to be seen in all parts of this country in real want; and inasmuch as the cultivation of the sugar-cane destroys annually, in the West, thousands of men, women, and children, by incessant toil, it will save the lives of thousands in the East, by giving them employment and sustenance."' Again, Bryan Edwards, the well known author of the History of the West-Indies, and the apologist for the slave-system, admitted that the price of growing sugar in Jamaica was 18s. 9d. per cwt., which, compared with the price of growing sugar in Java, was just 125 per cent dearer than the same article might be grown for in the East. He conceived, therefore, that if the whole of the West-India islands were to be submerged beneath the sea and utterly annihilated, we need not resort to slave colonies for our supplies, for that our own possessions in the East were capable of furnishing an adequate supply of sugar, not merely for the consumption of Great Britain, but for all Europe if required. He had now, he hoped, disposed of all the most important objections raised by the several speakers who had preceded him, against immediate emancipation, and shown that this was not only just, but practicable and safe. Indeed, he concurred with the hon. and gallant Admiral opposite (Admiral Fleming), that the greatest danger lay in procrastination or delay. The decree had gone forth, that slavery was to be abolished; the slaves, therefore, would not be content to wait long before their bonds should be broken, even if we were disposed to do so; and unless we followed up our declaration, by giving them actual freedom at the earliest possible period, they would do the work for themselves, and leave us to repentance when it was too late. In conclusion, therefore, he would conjure the House not to accede to the motion of the hon. member for Middlesex (Mr. Hume), who wished for delay; nor to be moved by the arguments of the right hon. member for Tamworth (Sir Robert Peel), which he had shown to be groundless; nor to yield to the demand of the Government for twelve years of further bondage—but, for the sake of religion, 485 of justice, of humanity, and of sound policy, to concur with him in the Amendment he should now move, to follow immediately after the first which had already been passed by a unanimous vote. It was this:—"That as the only delay required for the safe and satisfactory commencement of this great act of national justice, will be such a period of time as may admit the due preparation of measures for the preservation of order and peace, it is the opinion of this Committee that, at the termination of one year, from the date on which the first Act of Parliament for the entire Abolition of Colonial Slavery may receive the Royal Assent, every slave in the British dominions should be declared free, and become entitled to the legal protection of person and property as an emancipated British subject, without the exaction of any payment, either in labour or money, as the price of such restoration to the enjoyment of natural rights."
§ Dr. Lushington
said, that the deep interest which he had felt in this question, during the number of years which he had advocated it, and its vast importance to a great number of our fellow-creatures, rendered it necessary, that he should make a few observations upon it. In all the speeches he had hitherto made, however, he had endeavoured to recommend measures of conciliation; and if he departed from that course now, the fault must not be attributed to him, but to the hon. member for Middlesex, whose speech that night had certainly surprised him. In what he (Dr. Lushington) had to state, he grieved to say, that he had not to answer any avowed colonial agent; not one of whom, he would venture to say, but would be ashamed to give utterance to the opinions of the hon. member for Middlesex, who had during the whole of his political life advocated the rights of the slave, and the removal of his chains. That hon. Member, throughout the whole of his life, had, of all men, professed himself to be the friend of the negro—he, of all men, had professed himself desirous to break the negro's chains. What, however, was his conduct on every question in which it was involved? In theory, an abolitionist; in practice, whether it was an Order in Council to be discussed, an act of cruelty to be perpetrated, any little benefit to be conferred upon the colonies, any Committee to be appointed for the 486 purpose of delaying the moment of emancipation, or any Bill to be brought forward in Parliament—on each and all of these occasions, he repeated, that whilst in theory he was a professed abolitionist, the whole course of his parliamentary life gave the lie direct to his assertions and professions. He knew, that the hon. member for Middlesex gained the support of several influential members of the Society of Friends, solely by his general professions on this subject; and he would forfeit his existence, that if the hon. Member had declared the specific course which he intended to pursue, he would have found them amongst the most determined enemies to his election. The hon. Member had confined himself to general professions against slavery, but now—in a speech of two hours and three-quarters, (a speech not certainly arranged in the most lucid order)—he combated the opinions he had before avowed. He did not wish to detain the House, but there were two or three points of the hon. Member's speech which he wished to reply to. The great question was, whether the slaves were in a state to receive their freedom, with advantage to themselves; and the hon. member for Middlesex, in order to show that such was not the case, referred to Trinidad, and, with a fortitude amounting to magnanimity, entered the lists with and ventured to contradict the gallant Admiral (Fleming) near him. He (Dr. Lushington) was in a condition to cope with the hon. member for Middlesex, and prove the contrary of all his conclusions. What evidence did that hon. Member quote? Not the evidence of the House of Assembly, but statements made by the planters of Trinidad, and upon those statements ventured to assert, doubtless from his great West-India experience, that the evidence before the House of Assembly was falsified. The hon. member for Middlesex had quoted that evidence, but he had quoted it partially—he had read only as much as suited his own purpose. He (Dr. Lushington) would read those other parts which had been kept back by the hon. member for Middlesex. The hon. Member then proceeded to read extracts of the evidence in question, with a view to show, that free labour could be rendered more effective in producing sugar than the labour of slaves. It was certainly asserted, and asserted truly, that no free labourer would be found willing to work 487 eighteen hours out of twenty-four. But, good God! what man could expect another to labour for such a period? But the writer of that opinion went on to add, that by labouring from sun-rise to sun-set, the cultivation of sugar might be carried on profitably. His hon. and gallant friend (Admiral Fleming) had stated, that in every case where slaves were emancipated, they were found to increase in numbers, and also to produce a greater quantity of sugar. A Mr. Adams, who had been called on the part of the planters to contradict, if he could, the statements of Admiral Fleming, when questioned, said: "I know, that Admiral Fleming has studied this question deeply, and has taken great pains to make him-self acquainted with it; and if anything which I say should have the appearance of contradicting his testimony, I beg to say that his statements are entitled to more credit than mine." The evidence of Admiral Fleming was corroborated by that of other gentlemen; and yet they were to be supposed to be in such a state of ignorance upon the subject, that they were going to have a new Committee, forsooth! they knew nothing of the state of the Caraccas; and they could not proceed without further evidence, further data, on which to found an opinion upon the subject. Could there be a stronger proof—a more perfect example—of a cursory perusal of evidence, than that which the hon. Gentleman had given to the House upon this occasion? With regard to the first witness, to whom the hon. Gentleman referred, as contradicting the fact of the growth of sugar in the Caraccas, it was only necessary to say, that he had not been in the Caraccas since 1813. The next gentleman had not been in the colonies since 1783. The hon. Gentleman had consumed a great deal of valuable time, which would have been much better expended upon these proofs, had he only taken the trouble to refer to the beginning of the evidence, instead of looking, as he probably did, only to that part of it to which his colonial friends entreated him to direct his attention. On these points the hon. Member's arguments were totally unsupported and inefficient. With respect to the labour of emancipated slaves in Trinidad and Caraccas, the House must feel perfectly satisfied, that these labourers had conducted themselves with ability and industry. The hon. Gentle- 488 man had taken very considerable pains to calculate the expense which they were of to the country; but he forgot to tell the House this important fact—that, from the period of their emancipation, they had ceased to cost us one farthing—he forgot to tell us that, from the moment when their degrading chains were struck off, from the moment when they were made free men, and permitted to exercise those faculties which Providence had bestowed upon them, they had maintained themselves, by their own unassisted industry, independent. Did not the hon. Member know, that many instances of the emancipation of slaves, to a certain extent, had taken place in the different colonies?—and he called upon the hon. Member to show him a single instance in which emancipation, attempted on a just, wise, and deliberate principle, had failed. He spoke not of emancipation by the bloody revolution of St. Domingo—not of emancipation commenced at a time when the principles of revolutionary France were spread over that ill-fated colony—not of emancipation attempted under such auspices, and promoted by such means. Emancipation had never failed when the experiment had been properly conducted. Be that, however, as it might, the experiment must be tried. If there were an instance in which the experiment had failed, he could mention to the House instances where the attempt had been most successful; and not in cases where a deliberate plan had been laid down, and acted upon, but instances in which the object had been effected by mere accident. About three years ago, an American vessel was wrecked on the Bahamas, conveying a number of slaves from Venezuela to Carolina: they were set on shore without friends and without assistance of any kind; these slaves had contrived to exist from the time they were wrecked to the present hour, and the last account he had heard from the Governor was, that they were improving in civilization, and maintaining themselves without any assistance. Could he ask for a stronger instance than this? But when hon. Gentlemen talked of the difficulty of governing a black population, he would ask, had any man ever thought of the case of Sierra Leone? There was abundant proof of the good conduct and the industry of the slaves. At Sierra Leone, where there were many thousand negroes, when had any man ever heard of an 489 insurrection or disturbance amongst them? In the year 1797, several Maroons were landed in that colony, and the year before last two of them landed in this country, having realised a handsome competency. It was well known, that many of the slaves in the West-Indies were possessed of mahogany sideboards and glass decanters. If then the negro had sufficient energy to devote the short time which he had at his own command to such labours as enabled him to obtain luxuries, could any man say why he, who could thus employ himself, after the fatigues of the day, for the purpose of indulging artificial wants, should not be at least equally industrious when he had to depend upon his industry for his subsistence and support? The fact was, that the system had been suffered to continue centuries too long; and we had now a deep debt to pay off. The more widely we departed from right and justice, the more difficult it was to retrace our steps. He admitted the difficulty in which we were placed; but what was to be done? Were we to continue in the same path of iniquity? Certainly not: or if we continued the same system, as surely as effect followed cause, so surely would the consequences be destructive to the State. Although there was danger in emancipation, the danger of the contrary system—of exciting the hopes of slaves, of holding out to them the expectation of emancipation, and then voting for a Committee of the House of Commons in the month of June: the danger of such a course as this was infinitely greater. Let it go out to the island of Jamaica, or to the settlement of Demerara, that the great advocate for freedom, the member for Middlesex, did, in the exuberance of his zeal, in the month of June, offer the slaves a Committee of the House of Lords and a Committee of the House of Commons for their satisfaction and comfort, and to induce them to be quiet and peaceable for two years to come; and what feeling would be produced? There never were charges more destitute of foundation than the charge made against Government by the hon. member for Middlesex, as to a breach of their pledges by not appointing a Committee. He did not suppose, that any person professing to be at all acquainted with the subject, could be ignorant, that his Majesty's Government had offered to the West-India body a renewal of the 490 Committee if they were desirous of it. [Mr. Hume observed, that this was on condition that the Bill should go on at the same time]. If, after the circumstances which had occurred, after the excitement and agitation on the subject, both in this country and in the colonics, his Majesty's Government had not taken upon themselves the settlement of the question, they would have incurred a heavier responsibility than ever attached to any Government. The hon. member for Middlesex said: "What matter for the 200,000 lashes inflicted at Demerara—look at the flogging in the army at home." So melancholy an argument he (Dr. Lushington) had never heard. If barbarity was allowed to be perpetrated in one quarter, he asked how one state of cruelty could by any possibility justify another? The hon. Member said, that the statements of the right hon. Gentleman, the Colonial Secretary, were incorrect. Now he, on the contrary, affirmed that the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, as remarkable for its eloquence as any that had ever been heard within the walls of that House, was not less singular for its accuracy and fidelity to facts, as the hon. Gentleman would find if he looked at the papers on the Table, and turned a deaf ear for a short space to the West-India agents by whom he seemed to be influenced. The hon. Gentleman would find, that the local Legislatures had departed from the wishes of the mother country, not only with respect to the flogging of women, but also in the mock protectorate of slaves, which they had instituted, the Government having been obliged to dismiss four Magistrates for misconduct in their office. When he urged this question upon the House twenty six years ago, all that was then said, was, "Give us time for inquiry, or hear us at the bar." When he considered that the subject had never since been withdrawn from consideration—when he recollected the many proceedings which had been taken in reference to it, and particularly the inquiry moved for by Sir Samuel Romilly, and the number of documents that were before the House, he thought the pretences for delay could have no better foundation now, than those which were urged twenty-six years ago. He trusted that the example of the people of England, willing, even in their distress and difficulty, to sacrifice a portion of their resources for the cause of liberty, and call- 491 ing, in a voice which no Government would dare to resist, for the extinction of slavery, would produce a beneficial effect upon foreign nations, and that the result of their combined efforts would be the vindication of the rights of humanity, the promotion of commerce, and the establishment of eternal liberty over the whole earth.
said, that although he thought that the House was in want of information, and believed that the Government had rashly undertaken the measure which they had brought forward; yet, now that the storm was raised, he doubted the wisdom of adopting the proposition of the hon. member for Middlesex. He considered the question of the emancipation of the negroes to be settled. The course which Government had pursued put it beyond the power of any party, be they planters in the West Indies or merchants in England, to prevent emancipation. Opposition to that measure could attain no practical end, and would only render impossible any favourable result to the experiment about to be tried. The complaint which he had to make against those who had hitherto advocated the question of emancipation—for instance, the hon. member for Weymouth—was, that emancipation being now certain, they did not apply themselves to endeavour to effect their object in the safest manner. It behoved them to pause in their career: the change they proposed to effect was one of gigantic character—extending to all the great commercial and shipping interests of the country; and they could not too carefully guard themselves against being led away by praiseworthy feelings into precipitate legislation. The country, in its natural and humane anxiety, to get rid of the ills of slavery, was little aware of the great sacrifice it was now called upon to make of the national interests for the attainment of its object; but it would soon learn the amount of that sacrifice: ere twelve months had elapsed from the passing of the present measure, he was convinced there would be a great re-action in the public mind; and that Parliament and the public would be called upon to inquire into the mischievous consequences of its hasty proceedings; and to inquire whether and how the colonies might be preserved, or were worth to the nation the cost of being retained as national properly? The whole question, after all, 492 turned on this fact or principle—could sugar and the other produce of the West Indies be raised by other than negro labour, and would the negro work as much and as well in a state of freedom as in his present condition of slavery? All were agreed as to the first proposition; but a great difference of opinion prevailed with respect to the latter. To believe the assertions of the hon. member for Weymouth and his party, the slave was so alive to the blessings of freedom, and so eager to prove his claims to it, that he would actually labour more if free than he did at present. But experience told a very different story. It showed that so few were the wants of the negro, and so easy his means of obtaining food in the West-India colonies, that if set free he would cease to labour almost altogether, and pass his hours basking in the scorching sunshine of a luxurious but languid climate. To expect that he would labour patiently for the gratification of wants and sentiments to which he was an utter stranger, was to suppose that an Act of Parliament could reverse the order of human nature. Why, freedom was associated in his mind with images of idleness and neglect of labour; and though he hoped, and indeed on the whole believed, that blood would not be shed by the negroes if the present measure passed into a law, yet he was convinced that labour they would shun as the great burthen of human existence. Was, therefore, the House and the country aware of the extent of the ill consequence of such a neglect of work by the negro population of the colonies? Was it not right that both should be made to see clearly the gigantic sacrifice they were called upon to make for the cause of humanity? Were they so sure that the cause of humanity would be essentially promoted by the present extensive experiment? The negro at present was joyous and contented; to be so indeed was part, so to speak, of the natural habits of the animal. Was he prepared to make a salutary use of the privileges of freedom? If he refused to work, of course the produce of sugar in the colonies would be stopped. Pray, were the hundreds of thousands of petitioners for the "total and immediate abolition "of slavery prepared to compensate—not the planters, for that he held to be the least important element of compensating consideration—but the great shipping and commercial 493 property now embarked in our colonial trade or connected with our colonial interests? Then, again, if they abolished slavery, and with it the cultivation of sugar in the West Indies, were they prepared for the consequences of thereby stimulating the produce of sugar in those other stales in which slave labour would still obtain, and by that means stimulating the very trade in slaves? It was no answer to say that we might be supplied from the East Indies, for, besides that the sugar of the East Indies was much inferior to that of the West Indies, the cost of freight would raise the price very considerably to the home consumer; indeed, he was confident that the effect of the proposed measure would be to double, nay to treble the price of sugar in the home market. Pray, were they prepared to treble the price of sugar to the people of England? Was the country prepared to pay some 6,000,000l. annually per annum, for the pleasure of performing costly experiments in humanity. It was an admitted principle, that as prices were raised, consumption was diminished, and with consumption the revenue, and vice versa. If, therefore, the price of sugar were thus double or treble, its consumption and revenue would be so much diminished. Was the Chancellor of the Exchequer prepared, in such a falling-off of the revenue, to make good the 6,000,000l. a-year deficit, 3,000,000l. falling-off of duty, and 3,000,000l. the tax of increased price, by the imposition of new taxes; and yet he must do so if the scheme of Ministers passed into a law? Had not the noble Lord, therefore, better pause in time, and, at least till he had settled the China and East-India questions, give himself something of a margin for providing a revenue from the produce of the West Indies? He repeated, the country was blind to the enormous price which the present scheme would cost them; and sure he was, when they saw their shipping rotting in their out-ports, and our great colonial commerce almost destroyed, that they would bitterly lament their hasty legislation. He repeated, it was not on account of the planter that he called upon them to pause—but on account of the other great interests involved in the prosperity of our West-India colonies. He had always regarded the planters' claim to compensation, though important, the least entitled to notice—not that he did not cordially subscribe to its fair- 494 ness; it was but 1,500,000l. per annum, while the shipping and commercial interest had some 6,000,000l. annually embarked in, and dependent upon, our colonial produce. The country was entirely ignorant of the amount of the sacrifice it was called upon to make. He trusted he might prove a false prophet of the bitter experience that would disabuse it of its pleasing delusion. The attempt to treat the present as a party question was, he thought, unpardonably wicked. He must, however, say that Ministers had erred very much in proposing to apply the emancipation principle of their measure simultaneously and at once. It would have been much more prudent in them to have proceeded gradually and by piecemeal—to have, for example, taken the colonies by classes, according to their relative fitness for the experiment of free labour—to have tried the experiment in the first instance, in Guiana and Trinidad, and then extended it by degrees, and after profiting by the experience of the first workings of their machinery to all I he other colonies. It would be impossible for this country to hope to continue to retain her North-American colonies after the working of the present measure in the West-India colonies should be seen; for the former, like the latter, were retained only by a sense of their own interest, and that being destroyed, of course, so would be their allegiance. If prudential considerations, and the immense interest at stake, would not induce the House to proceed with caution, for the sake of humanity, for the sake of 700,000 or 800,000 people, the best treated slaves in the world, they should consider the hazards incurred, and the danger of riveting their chains, and the chains of others, for years, perhaps for centuries. Unless he heard more stringent arguments in its favour, he could not vote for the proposition of the hon. member for Middlesex; and he would be no party to force upon the Government a measure of compensation beyond what strict justice required.
§ Mr. Patrick Stewart
, as a West Indian, could not support the Amendment of the hon. member for Middlesex; and with regard to that of the hon. member for Sheffield, no person at all conversant with the difficulties of the case could for an instant entertain the proposition. The first step being now taken, by the principle of the necessity of abolishing slavery having been established, he must as a 495 West-Indian, congratulate the House and the country on that, and only express a hope that it would be safely carried into effect. He had always been a most zealous friend to such a principle. He had only waited to see a safe and practicable plan of emancipation proposed, calculated to secure the welfare of the poor negro, as well as the interest of the country. He wished he had been permitted to propose a suggestion like that thrown out by the right hon. member for Tamworth, that the wisest plan would be at once to attach to the Resolution something in the shape of compensation, and to leave the colonial authorities to fill up the outline. With regard to the second Resolution, in order to make the new arrangement more simple and secure for the children, he thought that the registrations should include young and old. The hon. Member proposed an Amendment that "it is expedient that all children born in the West-India colonies after the Act for that purpose shall be promulgated, shall be declared free, subject to temporary restrictions for their support and maintenance." The hon. Member likewise suggested an Amendment to the third Resolution, the object of which was, to compel all those who were now slaves to register, and so to free the colonies at once from the name of slavery. With reference to the fourth Resolution, he read certain Resolutions of a meeting of the West-India body, suggesting a loan of money on colonial security, in addition to the sum mentioned in the Resolution, which would be nearly absorbed by its appropriation to property on which there were settlements. His noble friend the member for Liverpool had named 10,000,000l. He proposed, "that the House should advance, on colonial security, a further sum not exceeding——, say 8,000,000l. or 5,000,000l., "merely for supporting colonial credit."
§ Lord Howick
said, that the Committee were placed in some embarrassment by the various amendments before it. If the question was put according to form, "that the words proposed to be left out stand part of the question," the supporters of all the four amendments must vote against the Resolution of his right hon. friend, which was not fair. But, according to the forms of the House, if the second and third Resolutions were not carried, the Bill need not be altered in a single line. The noble Lord shortly recapitulated his 496 objections to the Resolutions. With respect to the apprenticeship plan, no necessity for it now existed. The original principle of the measure was, that, taking the whole value of the slave population at 15,000,000l., the House should advance that sum by loan to the planters, as an equivalent for one-fourth of the labour of the slave, and at the end of twelve years the principal would be discharged by the labour of the slave. But this was now altered; the slave was not to pay anything to the planter, nor the planter anything to the country. The sum originally intended as a loan, was to be a free gift. If so, and we were to pay for the liberty of the slave, let us have it at once, and not wait for twelve years. There was another alteration equally fatal to the whole notion of apprenticeship. His right hon. friend now proposed to leave the filling up of the plan to the Colonial Legislatures. But the effect of the apprenticeship system depended altogether upon the details; and could he leave to the Colonial Legislatures the task of regulating the manner in which compulsory labour should be exercised? If that principle were observed, he should object to no system of discipline, however strict, which might be enforced by the colonies. He only asked his right hon. friend not to call upon the House to pledge itself to adopt this part of the plan until it knew how it was to be carried into effect. He did not say: "Give up the plan of apprenticeship," but he did say: "Do not ask us at present to pledge ourselves to it." To two of his right hon. friend's Resolutions he felt an insurmountable objection. He was most anxious to avoid coming to a vote opposed to the plan of his right hon. friend. He was afraid, however, that it would come to that at last; but he hoped that that unfortunate moment would be deferred as long as possible. He therefore asked his right hon. friend not to take a vote on those two Resolutions at present. He did not, as his right hon. friend well knew, altogether approve either of the amount of the compensation, or of the manner of granting it. He would waive, however, his opposition on those points, and would support his right hon. friend's other Resolutions, if he were sure that they would effect the great object which the House had in view. He likewise expressed his hope, that the hon. member for Sheffield 497 would not press his Amendment. The hon. Member on a former night had acceded to his suggestion, and he would now tell him, that when the proper time arrived he would not object to vote for the hon. Member's measure, which he considered to be a measure of justice to the slave. The noble Lord concluded by expressing a hope, that when his right hon. friend introduced his Bill, with the necessary details for the protection of the master and the slave, he would see the necessity of making a still greater change than that which he (Lord Howick) had now proposed.
Mr. Secretary Stanley
assured the Committee, that at that late hour of the night (one o'clock) he would only trespass upon its attention with a few observations, and those not so much in the way of answer to, as comment upon, the different shades of opinion which had been brought out in the course of the debate by the different Gentlemen who had taken part in it. His reason for pursuing this course was, that though almost all of them agreed in differing from the plan of Government, they differed so much more widely from each other, that he did not despair of gaining the support of many of those speakers, by showing that Government, in steering between the extreme opinions on each side, had acted a wise, and prudent, and politic part. He could not, in the outset of his remarks, refrain from expressing his surprise that at this time, after the Resolution to which the House came the other night, after its unanimous vote, in which, if the hon. member for Middlesex had not joined, he had we fully disappointed the hopes and wishes of his constituents "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," he could not, he said, refrain from expressing his surprise, that as that point was settled, and as the question now was, that "it is expedient that all children born after the passing of any Act, or who shall be under the age of six years at the time of passing any Act of Parliament for this purpose be declared free," that the hon. member for Middlesex should think it a good opportunity in the middle of June, after he had suspended his opposition to the total abolition of slavery, and after he had beard the dis- 498 cussion of that night, in which it was shown that there was a mass of multifarious business to be got through, for which there was scarcely now sufficient lime, he could not, he again repeated, refrain from expressing his surprise that in the very middle of the dog days the hon. member for Middlesex should propose, that a Committee of that House should resume the consideration of a question on which two Committees—one in the House of Lords, the other in the House of Commons—had been occupied nearly the whole of last year. If we had not sufficient information to legislate upon this question at the commencement of the present Session, why had not the hon. Member come forward and moved for the appointment of another Committee in February last? Why did he not say then to the House, "You are about to legislate in the dark, but the Session is before you, and you may obtain sufficient information before you bring in your Bill;" instead of saying now, when the Resolutions were brought in, and the abolition of slavery was carried by acclamation, "Pause and inquire before yon give practical effect to your avowed Resolution?" Why did the hon. Member tamper in this manner with the interests of the planters—with the feelings of the negroes—with various kinds of dangers, to which he had declared himself not insensible? Why did he propose a Committee which his ingenuity would doubtless employ with interminable discussions? The hon. Member said, that the House wanted information, and that this Resolution ought not to pass, because they had not investigated how far it would affect the interests of private property. Now, into that point he (Mr. Stanley) contended that there had been full investigation. But then the hon. member for Middlesex said, that he wanted an inquiry into the practicability of establishing free labour in the West Indies. Now, on that very point a great mass of evidence had been collected by the Committee of last Session. But he would ask the hon. Member, why, if he thought it impossible to obtain free labour in our colonies, had he consented to the abolition of slavery? He would not say, that the investigation already instituted had brought the question of the practicability of establishing free labour to a certainty, for it must, till extensively effected, be a matter of some doubt and 499 speculation; but he did mean to assert that there was sufficient evidence now before Parliament to enable it to form an opinion on that subject. They had on one side the evidence of planters, who said, "You cannot get free labour in the West Indies," and they had on the other the evidence of the missionaries—men, certainly, with warm feelings and a strong bias—who told them that there was no indisposition to labour on the part of the negroes, and that there would be no difficulty in getting free labour. On that evidence the matter might be considered subject to doubt. There had been, however, some experiments as to its practicability tried upon a small scale, and yet, upon his own unsupported assertion, the hon. member for Middlesex had ventured to contradict facts to which an hon. and gallant Admiral behind him had said in his speech he could speak from his own knowledge—namely, that free labour was employed in Caraccas, and that sugar was cultivated there by free labour in great abundance. The hon. member for Middlesex, who claimed to be heard as an impartial witness, because he had no interest in the West Indies, no tie nor connexion with those colonies, had challenged him to bring forward facts to substantiate the existence of free labour in the Caraccas. The hon. Member had questioned the evidence of a Gentleman who had excellent means of information with regard to everything which occurred in the Caraccas, and to whose authority he (Mr. Stanley) had appealed as deserving the most implicit credence. The hon. member for Middlesex did not deny that the gentleman whose evidence he had cited had been the protector of slaves in Venezuela—he did not deny that the gentleman had been Vice-President, and subsequently President of the Congress of Venezuela—he did not deny that the gentleman in question from his official knowledge, must be conversant with all the details of slavery in that colony, but the hon. Member found fault with him for having called him President of Venezuela, when, in point of fact, he was only President of the Congress of Venezuela. The hon. member for Middlesex had come down to the House with extracts ready prepared from letters, but had not ventured to read those letters entire though challenged to do so. And who was the writer of these letters from which these extracts were selected? He would 500 not mince the matter. It was the brother-in-law of the hon. Member, the deputy from the island of Trinidad, the holder of a considerable estate there. It was singular that the hon. Member disavowing as he did every tie and connexion with the West Indies—
Well, it was singular enough that all the statements which the hon. Member had made against the practicability of free labour—all the extracts which he had read from letters—came from the island of Trinidad, and from the island of Trinidad only. Now, the statement made by the President of the Congress of Venezuela was, that since the introduction of free labour into that country, not only had free labour been found practicable there, but the free labourers had also been found working readily with their former slave associates, and the cultivation of sugar had increased considerably. He (Mr. Stanley) had also stated, but only incidentally, that rum manufactured from Venezuelan sugar had found its way even into Trinidad as Jamaica rum. Upon this the relative of the hon. member for Middlesex had come boldly forward and had wished to be informed how this importation had taken place. Now, he admitted that we had fiscal laws and regulations prohibiting such importation; but surely it was not necessary for him to tell the House that prohibition was not always prevention. Mr. Burnley asked from what ports, in what vessels, under whose agency, from whose office, did this importation proceed; and added, "I request this information from you, because, coming from you, I know it may be relied on." Now, he thought that this was not dealing altogether fairly with the evidence of the gentleman to whom he had referred, and the consequence had been, that the gentleman had replied, "I readily gave to the Secretary of State such information as was in my power; but on points like these I will not submit to be cross-examined by you." "Oh, then!" said Mr. Burnley, "no sugar is grown in Venezuela, and none exported from it, the produce of free labour." Now the hon. and gallant Admiral had told the House that he not only saw sugar growing there, the produce 501 of free labour, but that he also saw it afterwards exported. The gentleman whose evidence he had quoted, and who had lived for many years in the country, said that he had seen this sugar trade carried on; but the hon. member for Middlesex, who had never been an hour in the country took upon himself to affirm, that he knew much better even than an eye witness what was going on there. He (Mr. Stanley) understood, that in the Committee last year, the evidence of the hon. and gallant Officer behind him was to be thrown overboard, and for that purpose a witness of the name of Bryan Adams was produced. He was asked, "Are you aware of any exportation of sugar from the Caraccas?" He replied in the affirmative. He was next asked as to its extent. He replied, that it was increasing. "Can you state the quantity?" His reply was, "I don't know, but I saw myself 2,000 barrels at Laguyra, ready for exportation to the United States, each barrel holding about 8 cwt." He also added, that that was not the total amount of the quantity exported. "Oh! but," said the gentlemen on the other side, "that was all the produce of slave labour, and there are no such things as free labourers in Venezuela." Well, Mr. Adams was asked: "Is there any such thing as free labour in Venezuela?" And he replied: "I never saw it." He was then asked, "do you know what means Admiral Fleming had of obtaining information upon that point?" And his reply was "the very best moans of information, for he mixed with all the first society of the country; and if he says that there was sugar grown there by free labour, I give up my authority at once, for I admit his evidence to be better than mine." He was then asked if he knew whether there had been any emancipation of slaves in the Caraccas? And he replied that he did not believe that there had been. He likewise stated, that he did not know whether any price had been fixed at which the slaves there could purchase their manumission: that he had had Bolivar's articles upon that point; but that he had not paid much attention to them, only reading them at his leisure, when he found them lying about his parlour. And it was upon this loose evidence that the hon. member for Middlesex ventured to impeach the testimony of the hon. Admiral—it was upon this imperfect authority that he ventured to 502 deny the existence and practicability of free labour. He admitted, however, that the question of the practicability of free labour was yet a question to be solved; and, admitting that, he now came to the consideration of the Amendment proposed by the hon. member for Sheffield. Believing that the practicability of free labour was a problem still to be solved—feeling certain that if you fling off at once all the restraints of slavery, and leave to the slave the choice of labouring from morning to night, or of labouring only to obtain the mere necessaries of life, he would prefer a life of idleness to a life of industry—he was bound to say, that he could not acquiesce in the hon. member for Sheffield's Amendment, which tended at once to convert the slave into an unrestricted free labourer. The hon. Member, in defending his Amendment, had laid down many principles which were valuable in the abstract, but which were not at all applicable to such a state of society as existed at present in Jamaica. The question is not whether you can obtain free labour at all, but whether you can obtain it so as to keep up the same state of society as exists at Dresent in our West-India colonies. For himself he had no hesitation in saying that he thought that the effect of emancipation, without any restriction, would be attended with the complete and certain ruin of the planter. The hon. member for Essex, in arguing against the Amendment of the hon. member for Sheffield, seemed to think that he was arguing at the same time against the plan of Government. He would not detain the Committee by pointing out the absurdity and inconsistency of that notion. The hon. member for Essex al o said, that whatever the hon. member for Weymouth required the Government to do, that the Government was found most anxious to perform. Now, upon this very question the Government was at issue with his hon. friend the member for Weymouth; for his hon. friend wanted the Government to give the negroes that which the Government could not consent to give them—namely, immediate and unrestricted emancipation. The hon. Member also protested against the rashness of Government in proposing a plan which must throw the West Indies into a state of confusion, and called upon the Administration to adopt a moderate and gradual scheme of emancipation. The hon. member for Essex had also accused 503 him of presumption in bringing forward this question. He had brought it forward, he could assert, under a full knowledge of his own inability to deal with it as its importance merited, from want of information on colonial subjects; but he would ask, was not the consideration of the question forced upon the Government by the almost unanimous voice of the people of England? And, being so forced upon it, was he from mock-humility to shrink from coming forward as the organ of Government to support a plan which was not his plan so much as the plan of Government? But then the hon. member for Essex had taunted him with the financial difficulties which his rashness must cause to his noble colleague the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Now, he appealed to the House whether he was a man likely to lead his noble friend into difficulties of that kind? Rash as he was, he had never been rash enough, when there was only a surplus of 500,000l. to vote for the reduction of 5,000,000l. of taxes. Talk of rashness and precipitation indeed! But he begged pardon—there was no rashness, no precipitation in the proposition to which he had alluded—it was a proposition long considered and often deliberated upon. Rash as he was he had never come down to the House and stated that the time was now come for a scramble, and that every man should now make the best bargain that he could for himself.
I must insist on not being thus misrepresented. I never said one word about a scramble. I should have been ashamed of myself if I had. It was no proposition of mine to reduce the Malt-tax, but seeing that there was, as it were, a sort of scramble to get rid of taxes, I felt that if it was my duty to stand forward in behalf of my constituents, and to protect them from those taxes which pressed most heavily upon them.
I am happy, that the hon. Gentleman has corrected the impression which, in common with many of the Gentlemen around me, I had conceived of what fell from the hon. Member on a former occasion. I think, however, that the expressions which he then used were as liable to misconstruction as those of mine, which have been so shamelessly misconstrued. The hon. Gentleman's 504 words were "Now the scramble has begun." I am glad that he has explained them by telling us that he meant a scramble for the repeal of taxes, and that he only intended to signify that he felt it to be his bounden duty to get rid of those taxes which pressed most heavily upon himself and his constituents. But even this will not get him out of the scrape into which his vote on that occasion has plunged him—even this will not rescue him from the imputation of having attempted to destroy the credit of the country; for if he and his friends had succeeded in their project, we should not have seen his favourite barometer of public prosperity, the three per cents, up at ninety-one, as they now are? Though the hon. member for Essex, (the right hon. Secretary proceeded), thought that a gradual emancipation of the negroes would be better than the plan now proposed by the Government, he was glad to find, that hon. Members did not think their plan altogether desperate. The hon. Member admitted, that the effect of the Government plan upon the negroe would be, that he would be well-fed and prosperous, and happy and contented. That was some consideration; but the hon. Member added: "I don't think that this plan will produce bloodshed; but if you take away from the planters the compulsory growth of sugar, you will produce diminution in the revenue, distress in the shipping interest, distress in the manufacturing interest, and so on." Now, in this part of his argument, the hon. Member assumed the great point in dispute, namely, that the plan would destroy the growth of sugar, for if it had no such effect what became of all his long and terrible train of national misfortunes? "But," said the hon. Member, "in your opening speech, you only considered the loss which this plan of yours would inflict upon the planters." Now, the very first sentence which he had uttered was intended to call the attention of Parliament to the various interests implicated in this question. If the growth of sugar were destroyed, he admitted that all the evil consequences which the hon. Member had predicted might ensue. It had been remarked, that your "if" was a great peacemaker, but in this instance it was the maker of all the difference. The growth of sugar would not be destroyed, for the Government plan was, that every planter besides receiving pecuniary compensation, 505 should, for twelve years, have the compulsory labour of his slaves for seven hours and a-half in every day. Now, this was not the abolition of slave labour. He admitted, that on some estates it would be an increase of expense, but it was for that very increase of expense that the compensation was given, for if the planter received the same income as before from his estate he would have no right to compensation. However melancholy the lamentations had been respecting the West-Indies having no Representatives in that House, owing to the late change in its constitution, he must say, that they had no reason to complain of the manner in which their interests had been defended on this occasion within those walls. He had never listened with greater pleasure to any speech than he had to the speech of his hon. friend, the member for Newark (Mr. Gladstone), who had stated in his first address to that House, his views of this question, with a calmness, a clearness, and a precision, which might operate as an example to older Members. He had never seen greater ability and ingenuity than that with which his hon. friend insinuated that we ought to make a gift of 20,000,000l., and a loan of 10,000,000l., to the colonies. Letting that pass for the present, he was happy to have his testimony to this point—that from bloodshed, from turbulence, from the cessation of the cultivation of sugar estates, from the ruin of the shipping interest, from the ruin of the manufacturing interest, we had nothing to fear in consequence of this measure. "The measure," said his hon. friend, "is a great experiment, but I come here to carry it into effect as laid down in the first Resolution." It then appeared that the parties most interested were willing to run the risk, on certain pecuniary considerations, of carrying this great an dimportant experiment into effect. But, as men were not, generally, disposed to forward any measure by which their lives would be endangered, their property risked, and the whole country plunged in blood, it was only fair to conclude that the present propositions, if properly followed up, might be carried into safe and satisfactory execution, and that there was a possibility—nay, a probability—of the successful conversion of the labour now obtained from slaves into the labour of freemen. The Amendment proposed by the hon. member for Lancaster did not appear to him to be very im- 506 portant; but if pressed to a division he should vote against it, inasmuch as it went to curtail the freedom of all children under six years of age, whose freedom it was impossible could be accompanied with any danger. The noble Lord, the member for the county of Northumberland, had expressed a wish that the third Resolution might not be pressed at present, because he could not assent to its principle. He fear-ed, however, that delay would not have the effect of removing the noble Lord's objection, at the same time it was desirable, both as regarded the interest of the planters and the negroes, that Parliament, while it declared its intention of taking the bonds off the slaves, should fix a period within which their own improvidence or indolence should not debar them from subsistence. He, therefore, did not think, that the principle of apprenticeship could advantageously be abandoned; and he was surprised to find the hon. member for Weymouth in the rank of the opponents to this part of the measure. In 1824, that hon. Member thus expressed himself: "The people of England, if I have any knowledge of their character, will see, that something effective is done in fulfilment of the pledge so publicly and so sacredly given by Parliament. They will not ask for immediate emancipation; we have never contended for that; for we know that immediate emancipation would be ruinous, not only to the master, but to the slave; but they will insist on such steps being taken as shall at some period—and that not a very remote one—lead to the extinction of slavery.* The plan proposed by Government was entirely in accordance with these sentiments. It did not propose entire and immediate emancipation, but emancipation under certain restrictions and regulations; and his Majesty's Government were taking those steps, called for by the people, which would prevent ruin to the slave and to the master, and tend to the extinction of slavery at no distant period. His noble friend had argued, that the original reason for proposing the system of apprenticeship no longer existed, inasmuch as it was not now intended that the negro should be compelled to purchase his freedom by his labour during a period of twelve years. So far the noble Lord was right; but he begged leave to remind him that there was another* Hansard, (new series) x. p. 1133.507 very important reason for the provision respecting apprenticeship—namely, to secure a probationary interval between absolute slavery and absolute freedom; during which, his absolute necessities being supplied, a large portion of time was left him to better his condition and improve his situation in life; and during which the great experiment might be tried, whether they could trust safely and satisfactorily to the free labour of any large body of negroes? He was ready to admit, that there was nothing magical in the precise term of twelve years; and in the Act of Parliament founded on those Resolutions he should not attempt to fix twelve years as the minimum, but as the maximum of the period of probation. He would gladly consent to a shorter period if it should be the opinion of the colonial Legislatures, to whose management he wished to leave as much of the details as he could, without endangering the success of the plan, that a shorter period might advantageously be fixed upon. He could not subscribe to the wisdom of the suggestion which had been thrown out, that the best course would have been to have abolished slavery bit by bit. Nothing could be more fraught with danger, or more certain to lead to insurrection, than raising Demerara, Berbice, and other colonies to a state of freedom, while Jamaica was continued in a state of slavery. The right hon. Gentleman, in conclusion, stated that he entertained considerable hopes, more especially after the expression of the opinion of those most immediately connected with the West-Indian interest, that the predictions of the hon. member for Essex would prove as false with regard to the present great experiment as they had turned out to be with regard to another important measure; and he had no doubt, that he should have an opportunity of congratulating the hon. member upon seeing this plan safely and satisfactorily carried into effect, with credit to the country and with security to the colonies.
§ Mr. Fowell Buxton
wished to declare his opinion, that if once they abolished the despotism of the whip, they must supply its place by a system of encouragement, or they would fail in their object. If they did not hold out an inducement to labour, they would have no labour: there was no medium between the system of the whip and a system of wages. He should undoubtedly feel it to be his duty to oppose 508 that part of the plan which established apprenticeship. He would cheerfully vote for any sum of money as compensation, provided he obtained for it substantial freedom for the slave; but he would not vote a single farthing if it was determined to enact that the slave should be bound to an apprenticeship of twelve years.
§ Mr. Hume
denied, that he was influenced by any desire to delay the emancipation of the slave; nor was it fair to charge him with neglecting to call for inquiry on this subject. He had proposed an inquiry, and it was at the request of the Government itself, that he consented to withdraw the proposition. The hon. and learned member for the Tower Hamlets had said, that he had pledged himself against slavery in general, but that he objected to abolition in detail. But what had the hon. and learned Member himself done? He had made promises to his constituents in detail, and now that he was in Parliament he endeavoured to escape from them by general declarations. He had as good a right to attack the hon. and learned Gentleman as the hon. and learned Gentleman had to attack him. The right hon. Secretary for the Colonies, he would repeat, had been guilty of an error in stating, that the sugar-cane was not cultivated in Venezuela until after the abolition of slavery: it was extensively grown as long back as 1809.
§ Sir Robert Peel
was, on the whole, inclined to give his assent to the second Resolution, because he considered, that the safest step to the ultimate abolition of slavery would be to declare that the children of slaves hereafter born should be free. He had no objection to that part of the plan which gave freedom to the children of the slave at a certain age, for he admitted that it would be a great consolation to the slave to find that his children were not to share his slavery. Therefore, having passed the first Resolution, he was ready to adopt the principle of the second. All that he doubted with respect to it was the risk incurred in the immediate emancipation of the child. It would take away the interest of the master in the child; and though the attachment of the parent would still remain, it was doubtful whether that would in every case be found sufficient for the due protection of the child. He would rather leave this as a matter of regulation for the Colonial Legislatures. He would, there- 509 fore, give his support to the second Resolution, and negative all the amendments which had been moved to it; but he would not do so if the third were to be joined with the second. He thought that the third ought to be a matter of separate discussion. He would also suggest that the Resolution respecting the emancipation of the children should run thus:—" All children born after a time to be named in this act." This would not tie down the House but would leave the matter open for future consideration.
§ Mr. Hume's Amendment negatived without a division.
§ Mr. Buckingham's Amendment was withdrawn.
§ Mr. Patrick Stewart's Amendment was negatived.
§ Sir Robert Peel moved, that all children born after a time to be named should be free, which was also negatived.
§ The Original (second) Resolution was carried; the House resumed;—the Committee to sit again.