§ The House went 516 into a Committee on the Resolutions for abolishing slavery. The third Resolution was read as follows:—"That all persons, now slaves, be entitled to be registered as apprenticed labourers, and to acquire thereby all the rights and privileges of freemen, subject to the restriction of labouring under conditions, and for a time to be fixed by Parliament, for their present owners."
§ Mr. Fowell Buxton
hoped, that it would be needless for him to disclaim any feeling of hostility towards his Majesty's Government in the course which he was about to pursue; on the contrary, he declared that no Gentleman felt more sincerely the obligations which he and those who took the same view of the question which he did, owed to his Majesty's present Government, who had placed the case of the slaves in a new position, and who had, he frankly declared, done more towards the advancement of the cause of the slaves, than any Administration which had preceded them. The hon. member for Essex (Mr. Baring), had thought it his duty to tell them on the preceding evening, that this was a subject of great importance. He was glad to have received the admonition of the hon. Gentleman on all subjects, but on this least of all, because it spoke for itself. The hon. Member had threatened the House with a revulsion in the public feeling, and that his name, with those of his friends, would be hereafter held up to execration, for having exerted themselves on this question. Now, it was to him a matter of very little importance, as to what light he might be held up in, provided that object were effected which applied to so many hundreds of thousands of his fellow men. They were told, that the consequence of the emancipation of the slaves must be to inflict an injury upon the West-India planters; and, of course, that it would occasion a great loss to the revenue. He admitted, that these were important considerations; but he was by no means sure that such reasonings would be conclusive with him, even if he were convinced of the result. He admitted the importance of these considerations, but was compelled to view the case as deeply injuring the cause of humanity. That was, in his mind, a much more important consideration than any that could be urged on the opposite side. But the hon. member for Essex, also, told the House, that if those who advocated immediate emancipation succeeded in their object, they would promote insurrections in the West Indies. No man in the House could dread insurrection 517 more than he did; but nothing could Le more certain than that such an event would take place, provided the Legislature did not immediately interfere. Again, they had been told they would lose the colonies. Now his conviction was, that the colonies would be lost if the question were left any longer undecided; and his honest conviction was, that if a Tory Government were to come in upon the express condition of protecting the West-Indian proprietors, not one of the slave colonies would remain six months in our undisturbed possession. If he could not attract the attention of the House, he would rather postpone the observations which he had to make for a future occasion; but he thought that in a case where the welfare of hundreds of thousands of their fellow-men was concerned, the subject was deserving of every attention, though he did not mean to trespass at any length on the patience of the House. His hon. friend, the member for Essex, had made it a matter of complaint against the learned Civilian and himself, that they had not stated the plans which they had discovered for emancipating the negroes. Now, he would frankly say, that they had discovered no plans, and that they distrusted any and all plans which did not go to immediate emancipation. It was asked, what, in case of emancipation, was to make these negroes work? He would ask, what made other people work? and he would say, wages and free labour. Then the hon. member for Middlesex brought another case before the House, and the hon. Member had said they were foolish philanthropists; that they were attending to a minor case (a case in which only 800,000 persons were concerned though); whereas, said that hon. Member, "tell you of the soldiers of this country, and the punishment which they receive." Now he would say, that of all exaggerations which he had heard, even from the hon. Gentleman himself, the greatest was that in which he stated that 458,000 lashes had been inflicted in one year.
§ Mr. Fowell Buxton
said, if the hon. Gentleman asserted this fact, he could not question his authority, and therefore he (Mr. Buxton) must be wrong, and the hon. member for Middlesex must be right. That hon. Gentleman, however, thought he was proceeding upon a general principle when he contended for the abolition of flogging 518 in the army, stating, that one in seventy-nine soldiers were flogged. Even allowing that average calculation of flogging in the army to be correct, what would the hon. member for Middlesex say when he was told that on an average one in three of the negro slaves was flogged, not by law, but often capriciously and always arbitrarily? Yet the hon. Gentleman had said, that they were "straining at gnats and swallowing camels." Then the hon. member for Essex brought forward his proposition, and told them, that they had a great deal of well-meant zeal amongst them, but that those who advocated the abolition of slavery wanted understanding; and the hon. Member told them that if they had gone to him he would have advised them to have had a sprinkled system of slavery and freedom throughout the West Indies; that he would have in fact slavery in Jamaica, and free labour in Trinidad.
had said, that, as it was admitted, that this was an experiment and a doubtful one, he thought it would be advisable to try its success partially; but he had never contemplated leaving a permanent state of slavery in any one of the islands.
§ Mr. Fowell Buxton
had never supposed that the hon. Member could imagine a state of permanent slavery. But he had told them they were well meaning but foolish men, and he had told them to begin their plan at Trinidad, and then to try its success upon Jamaica. But Jamaica, it was clear, was on the eve of an insurrection, and the House were to decide whether the slaves there should be emancipated by the ordinary course of the law or otherwise. The hon. member for Lancaster had told the House that one great objection to emancipating the slaves was, that when they should be emancipated they would not work. Now he would proceed to show, that the slaves, on the contrary, when free, would maintain themselves and their families. The reason why they did not work now was, because they were not to he paid. The hon. member for Essex, he believed said, free labour was cheaper than slave labour; at least the member for Lancaster laid down that principle broadly, and said, free labour would be a source of its much advantage to the master as to the slave. He would, therefore, take this for granted. They said, however, that the negro was incorrigible; that he could not be induced to work. Now in answer to this he would mention a few cases. The first he should take was that alluded to the other night by the hon. member for Mid- 519 dlesex, of the negroes on the Winkle estate, who were placed under the directions of Mr. Wilberforce and Mr. Stephen. He admitted that these negroes had been in the worst state, and that Mr. Smith and Mr. Macaulay did everything in their power for their amelioration. And here he must say, that if the negro should be emancipated he would be more indebted to Mr. Macaulay than to any man living. He recollected the member for Middlesex coming down to the House and proposing that these very slaves should be sold to defray part of what was expended uselessly upon them, and also because they were considered a nuisance, and that they set a bad example to the non-liberated negroes of the island. He admitted one portion of the statement, that they cost the Government 15,000l; but this expense was incurred between the years 1820 and 1825, when the value of their labour was so much less. Now what he complained of was, that the hon. Member should have confined himself to this exact period, and not have gone further, and inquired what had become of these slaves after 1825? If he had made such an inquiry, the answer would have been, that they were in the highest state of every species of improvement. After the year 1825, these negroes were placed under the management of an officer of the Crown, Captain Gibbs. That officer tried the experiment of task-work upon the negroes. What was the effect of that experiment The effect, according to Captain Gibbs, was, that the negroes, working by task-work, performed more labour in six hours than they did before in twelve. But this was not all. Another experiment was tried upon them, and he wished hon. Gentlemen to pay attention to what was the result of it. Captain Gibbs said to these negroes, "You shall have wages for half your time—for the time you labour above your six hours' task-work." This experiment of wages completely succeeded, and Captain Gibbs says, that a more industrious body of men never existed than these negroes since they were liberated by his Majesty's present Government. He said, moreover, and he said the truth, that all the bad prognostics with respect to the liberated negroes were completely belied in the present instance. He would also quote the reverend Mr. Wray as an authority, to show that these negroes, who were formerly upon the point of being sold on account of their incorrigible indolence, became most Indus- 520 trious, and still dwelt in the same houses, and cultivated the same land as before; and that they were remarkable but for one thing—for their extraordinary industry. He would now come to the evidence of a gentleman employed in the West-Indies—to that of a manager of estates in those islands. That gentleman (Mr. Taylor) says, in his evidence before the Commons' and Lords' West-India Committees of Inquiry, that he gave the negroes, on one occasion, a remarkably hard piece of work to perform, which, at first, either they would not, or could not accomplish. In the ordinary way he found that it was impossible to get that important piece of work accomplished by them. He then said to the negroes: "When you have accomplished this work, you shall go and work for wages in the field." The very next morning, before the dawn of day, they were in the field, and they accomplished the task imposed upon them, and which it was impossible before to get them to do. They accomplished it before two o'clock in the afternoon, and then they went into the fields and worked for wages, and this they continued to do every day until the whole of the difficult work was accomplished. This was a fair case of the distinction between slave and free labour. The first day slave labour was tried, and but little work was done; the next day free labour was had recourse to, and then the task was speedily accomplished. He would quote another instance: it was taken from the copy of a despatch from Sir John Carmichael Smith to Lord Goderich. The despatch stated that 165 liberated American negroes were wrecked and landed at the Bahamas. The Council at first feared that so large a body of freed negroes thrown and let loose upon those islands would, from their supposed character, set a had example to the other slaves on those islands. It was scarcely necessary for him to trouble the House with details to show that those fears were not realised, particularly as the House seemed impatient, and as the point did not seem to merit the right hon. Secretary's attention.
§ Mr. Buxton
In the beginning, the planters said a great deal about what was to be feared from having a body of free and reckless negroes mixed up with those that were not freed. But what was the next account of them? It was given in 521 the following year in the dispatch before mentioned, dated February 5th, 1832, and addressed to Lord Goderich. It said: Your Lordship will be glad to hear, that the 165 American slaves wrecked recently upon the island of Abaco, and about whom such apprehensions were expressed by the House of Assembly of these islands, are a most quiet, industrious, and orderly race of people. It might have been reasonably anticipated, that in such a number of labouring people some bad characters were to have been found. It is, however, a fact highly to their credit, that not one of them has been brought before the police Magistrate, or been committed to the gaol or workhouse. They are all gaining their own livelihood by honest industry, and upon all occasions appear contented and grateful' Lord Goderich, in his answer to the above despatch, said, I have perused with particular satisfaction your account of the 165 Americans who are settled upon the island of Abaco. The success which has attended this measure is most creditable to your exertions in forming the settlement, and to the settlers whose subsequent conduct you have so highly extolled.' Now, he maintained that all this was what would follow generally the immediate liberation of the slaves. There was another case he would mention. It was one founded on the best West-India evidence—that the slave, however he might work or not work for his master, was very industrious when he worked for himself. Evidence of the same description was given forty years ago, in answer to questions from Government, that the slave, when he was allowed to work in the afternoon for himself, would do more work in that portion of the day, than he would during the whole day, if he laboured for his master. He considered this a point of great importance, and one that should be attended to by Commissioners sent out to the colonies to inquire into the character of the negro. The slave, on the Saturday morning, when he worked for his master, would be found by him idle; but on the Saturday evening, when he worked for himself, he would be found very different. He would be found extremely industrious, and that he extended his labours far into the night; for no sooner was the sun gone down, than he would be found carrying the produce of his toil to market, and this, too, after a week of tropical labour. The load he would carry on 522 his head to market, would be heavier than that which any planter would ask of him to bear. He stated these facts on the authority of Mr. Wildman and Mr. Scott, both West-India planters. How far would the House suppose the negro on the Saturday night carried those heavy loads? Why, ten, twenty, and sometimes thirty miles. This last fact he stated on the authority of Mr. Simpson, a West-India planter. Were this the result, as some supposed, of necessity, or from hunger? No such thing. This was distinctly denied by the witness. The slave, then, it appeared, laboured thus hard to procure, not food, but the gratification of artificial wants. The load that no force, no fear of the extremest severity could induce him to lift, the hope of gain, that powerful stimulus to men even in civilised life, and the desire to procure for themselves comforts and luxuries, made them cheerfully lift and carry, to the astonishment of their employers, many miles. Nay, more, it was in evidence stated by Mr. Smith, that to procure these luxuries through the medium of task work they wrought so hard that even in some cases their health was impaired and their life endangered. "But (said the anti-abolitionists) the negroes are too careless, too wasteful, and don know the value of money enough to be trusted to their own guidance." What, said Mr. Shaw? No one was more aware of that value than the negroes." Another alleged, "Oh, the negro is so extremely stupid." What said the witnesses one and all, Captain Williams, Mr. Shand, and Mr. Wildman? Why this—that the negro can generally drive a better bargain than his master. But was any of all this evidence new? Was it not in evidence forty years ago, that the negroes were most alarmingly given to luxurious living and showy dress? The answer of the House of Representatives of Grenada to the queries sent out by the Privy Council was, that they were so much given to excess in these particulars, as to create often alarm in the white population as to the consequences. But to return to later times. On an examination by a Committee, when the brother-in-law of the hon. member for Middlesex was present, the evidence laid before it was, that the practice of giving balls on all the estates prevailed, when they regaled themselves with roast pig, roast fowl, and caper sauce, fruit, rum, claret, sugar candy, syrups, as much as they chose to consume; that they danced and enjoyed themselves till morning, during 523 fifteen or seventeen hours; and the women changed their dress as often sometimes as thrice in the course of the night, wearing ear-rings, bracelets, necklaces, and made a multiplied use, no doubt to show their taste for elegant life, of the articles, shoes and stockings. If they were so disposed, why ought we to despair of the negro having enough desire to acquire now not only necessary articles, but luxuries and ornaments by his labour, if free? As well might it be questioned that an engineer who could calculate the force of one engine and of another separately, would not be able to tell the sum of both forces put together, as that the negro's industry should not be valuable in proportion to the new stimulant thus given to his exertion. When the man would thus work till night and through the dead of night, so as to endanger his life sometimes from his exertion, was it improbable that if they gave him hope, that stimulus with which he was now so little acquainted, that they must restrain the stupid negro lest he should work himself to death. Observe the effect of the present motive—the power of fear; under its impulse, the load described by the witness alluded to, was too heavy to lift, and more extraordinary, too heavy for his master to think he ought to bear; under the new power, or new motive—that of hope—he lifts it without complaint—nay, carries it for miles! Thus all the week working for the master, he is a sluggard, because without wages—whilst on Saturday afternoon he is quite active, and performs giant feats of strength. Why because he toils for recompense. It was the wondrous power, the enlivening influence of hope which carried the efforts of the body along with the yearnings of the mind. So thought the great authority on these subjects (Mr. Burke) who said "Not only will you command, by the slave's emancipation, the sinews and bodily strength of the man, but you will have an influence over the mind, which, believe me, goes a great way in things of this kind." But he would quote, in corroboration of his opinion, the statement of a statesman as high as the last mentioned light of the Senate, he meant Mr. Pitt, who stated his conviction that "the condition of the slave deprived him of the motives, and degraded him from the high and independent feelings of mankind, and, by placing him in the order of brutes, rendered him the lowest of the human species." It was, therefore, upon the whole, clear that, in proportion as 524 the negro felt he was to receive his equivalent personally for his labour, that labour was the more productive. As to the question of the slave being appointed for twelve years, or even a shorter period, he felt the greatest objection to it, because he considered it nothing more than a continuation of slavery for so long. This the Government, however, denied. If it were not, what was it, or why not abolish the continuance of this subjugation altogether? The cart-whip, he could understand as a power—as a stimulus to labour—so could be comprehend the inducement of wages. But if he understood the principle of the right hon. Gentleman's measure, it was neither whip nor wages. What was to become of the negro in his new state—who had neither fear nor hope as his motive? How was the master to obtain his labour, when both these strong inducements were put out of sight. This was a principle, he confessed, after the evidence they had had, he could not understand. If he could, it would, he assured the right hon. Gentleman, have given him pleasure, as it was not his wish to thwart unnecessarily the objects of Government in the proposed change of system. As he was thoroughly convinced that there would be plenty of labour when there were wages and fair remuneration for it, he was disposed to show his sense of the third resolution at once; and, without manifesting thereby any fixed opposition to Government in this instance, he should attempt by his vote to put a negative upon this resolution.
§ Mr. Frankland Lewis
said, that the high tone, a tone by no means becoming on such a subject, which pervaded the hon. Member's speech, was calculated to discourage other hon. Members from expressing their individual opinions with regard to it. His Majesty's Government justly spoke with authority upon the matter, but the hon. Member with an ex-cathedra tone which only accident had given him, said "We think so and so; his Majesty's Government may hold one opinion, but we hold another," and he lectured the hon. member for Essex for presuming to give them his advice, and he also lectured the hon. member for Middlesex, whose labours he honoured, though he could not often agree with him in his objects. He would not thus early have solicited the attention of the Committee, but for the purpose of showing the hon. member for Weymouth, that even so humble an individual as he was, was not to be deterred by the tone which that hon. Member held from 525 stating fearlessly und openly his sentiments upon this subject. He was anxions, then, to state, that having listened with attention to the speech of that hon. Member, from the beginning to the end of it, he must say, that the hon. Member had altogether failed to remove those doubts which, in his mind, surrounded this gigantic question. He was one of those who had listened with anxiety and with the early dawnings of hope to the celebrated speech delivered by the late Mr. Canning on this subject. He had then hoped, that by perseverance and prudence the great object might have been accomplished of establishing under the dominion of the King of Britain, that which the history of the world did not as yet record—a civilized community of a negro population. The hon. member for Weymouth could not produce the records of the existence of any such community throughout the whole of Africa, and it was a remarkable fact, demonstrated from the remains left to us of the early temples of the Egyptians, that the civilized inhabitants there were long-haired, while the woolly-headed negroes were a degraded caste, he had listened to the speech of the hon. Member with great attention to perceive what degree of ultimate civilization it would be possible, in his opinion, to give to the negroes, with a view to the accomplishment of the great end he had already mentioned—namely, the establishment of a civilized community of negroes, but he had heard nothing satisfactory on that point from the hon. Member. He certainly came to the conclusion which the hon. Member seemed to have come to, that the cultivation of sugar would not be continued under a system of free labour. The great difficulty, in his mind, under such a system would be, how they could get the negroes to work with the hoe digging in the fields for wages, or how they would ever hope to have an amount of sugar produced sufficient to meet the enormous demand of this country. That was the great point of difficulty—a difficulty, by the way, which the hon. Member had not got over. When Mr. Canning first decided on the emancipation of the slaves, that had inspired him with hopes, that in a certain time that great object would be effected; and when his Majesty's Ministers now proposed that emancipation, he was ready to give his support to the principle of the plan. He was not one of those who placed implicit confidence in Ministers; he supported them with pleasure when he could; but when he found 526 it his duty, he had never any hesitation in opposing them. As the slaves must now be emancipated, the responsibility must rest with his Majesty's Ministers of carrying the details of the measure info effect. He therefore gave them his support as a matter of confidence, for though he had many faults to find in detail with the mode of bringing about that important object—the emancipation of the slave—he did not think that they were sufficient to justify any man in placing difficulties in the way of Ministers in carrying them into effect. He feared, that the plan would fail in its details, but he, for one, would throw no impediments in the way of its success. It was said by the hon. member for Weymouth and others, that if the consequence of the emancipation of the slaves should be, that sugar would not be cultivated, the slaves, at all events, would be placed in a happier and better state. But they should not confine their views solely to the slaves in the colonies connected with this country—they should look a little further, and at any rate they should not conceal from themselves this plain fact, that if, under a system of free labour and wages, a supply of sugar should not be raised in our colonies sufficient to meet the demand of this country, the effect would be the extension of slavery in colonies where the British Legislature could not step in with their humane regulations to alleviate its evils. There would, undoubtedly, be a supply of sugar raised proportionate to the demand for it in this country, and if our own colonies did not produce sufficient, it would be supplied from the colonies or dominions of some other state, at the expense of the negro population employed there. If the cultivation of sugar could be ensured under a system of free labour, he did not see the necessity of the system of apprenticeship; and if apprenticeship was necessary, he did not see how they would be able to get the planters to carry the thing into effect. If, for instance, a planter should get 20,000l. as compensation for an estate valued at 40,000l., was he not very likely to bid goodbye to the plantation altogether? And then let the House see the state in which the colonies and the country would be placed. He bad stated these difficulties in the way of carrying into effect the details of the measure, but at the same time he would vote for the principle of it.
said, that as to the immediate emancipation of the negroes, he would honestly avow, that he had felt the great- 527 est difficulty in the consideration of that subject, for though he had approached it under the impression that, as slavery left its marks not only on the body but on the mind, some preliminary steps were required previous to the complete emancipation of the negroes, yet, on further consideration, he found that gradual emancipation had to the full extent its dangers as well as immediate emancipation, and that, in fact, the subject was surrounded with dangers on all sides. The only way, then, that they had of extricating themselves from the difficulties with which they were surrounded was to go into some unknown and untried path. He thought, that the hon. member for Weymouth had shown satisfactorily that steps might be taken for the immediate emancipation of the negroes. He did not see how the plan proposed in the present Resolution of the right hon. Gentleman could be carried into effect. Under it the negroes would be too much freemen to be coerced as slaves, and they would be too much slaves to be actuated by the motives that actuated freemen. If his learned friend Sir Charles Wetherell were then in the House, he was sure that he would characterize the plan of the right hon. Gentleman as a tertium quid between slavery and freedom, and for his part he feared, that there would be more of slavery than freedom in it. The lessons furnished by the revolutions in St. Domingo and Guadaloupe, he contended, in opposition to the right hon. Baronet, who had referred to those cases on a preceding evening, should be lessons to the whites, not to the blacks, they should be lessons also to the colonists, by which he trusted they would profit. All the writers on the subject agreed, that all the disasters which arose in St. Domingo had their origin in the suspicions, prejudices, and cruelty of the whites. The same was the case at Guadaloupe. Referring to the question before the House, he observed, that the slave-owners in his opinion, had no right to claim compensation for what they called their property in their slaves, and if this country happened to be in a situation which rendered it unable to give them a farthing in the way of compensation, it would be still a great and imperative duty to emancipate the slaves. If slaves could be considered as property, the slave owner would be entitled not to some compensation, but to complete compensation for their utmost value. He would maintain, however, that slaves could not be considered as property. The slave-owner's 528 argument was, "These men are my property. I have reared them as I have my horses and my cattle, and I bought their parents." In other words, "I have paid those who stole them from their native soil." The argument of the slave, on the other hand, was this, "I claim a property in my own labour, while this man, with the produce of my toil in his purse, still seeks for further compensation." He was not, however, altogether opposed to compensation, for when any class of his Majesty's subjects were overtaken by calamity, he thought the other classes were bound to step forward in their behalf; and as a principle of charity, therefore, rather than as a principle of justice, he would consent to compensation, although he thought it would be better to wait and see if the predicated misfortunes would fall upon the planters before that compensation was afforded. The amount of the distress should at least be ascertained before the amount of compensation could be determined. Though he disagreed with some parts of the plan of his Majesty's Ministers, he could not but think, that they honestly and fearlessly grappled with the difficulties in their way; and if they did not exactly meet his views on the subject, still he thought that too much praise could not be given to men who had rendered it impossible for slavery any longer to exist in our colonies. He thanked his Majesty's Ministers from the bottom of his heart, for the great service they had rendered to the cause of emancipation.
§ Mr. Marryatt
, being connected with the West-Indies, heartily wished for emancipation, if it could be accomplished. The question had formerly been taken up by a party careless and even reckless of what evils they might inflict. It had now assumed a different aspect. It was in the hands of a Government responsible for its consequences. The previous vote of the Committee had narrowed the question to the best means of accomplishing the object which must be kept in view—namely the welfare of the slave, joined with the continuation of sugar cultivation. By that alone could the interests of the proprietors, and the safety of the colonies, be effectually secured. Immediate emancipation, with a system of wages as proposed by the hon. member for Weymouth, was not calculated to promote the welfare of the slave; it was indispensable, also, for the success of the measure, that he should be for a time attached to the soil, and placed under restraint. He put it to the House whether 529 the slothful and degraded state of the population in St. Domingo was desirable, or one to which it would wish to reduce our slave colonies by immediate emancipation. The hon. member for St. Alban's had said much of the happy state of the slaves in the Spanish colonies, and the circumstance of sugar being cultivated by free labour; but he had omitted to speak of their moral and religious state, the result of the absence of all restraint; and he would supply the deficiency by a quotation from the hon. Gentleman's work on Mexico. He said: But whether freedom will have the effect of raising the labourer in the scale of civilization, is a question which I cannot pretend to decide. It is much to be desired certainly; for a more debauched, ignorant, and barbarous race than the present inhabitants of the sugar districts, it is impossible to conceive. They seem to have engrafted the wild passions of the negro upon the cunning and suspicious character of the Indian, and are noted for their ferocity, vindictiveness, and attachment to spirituous liquors. When not at work they are constantly drunk, and as they have little or no sense of religious and moral duties, there is but a slender chance of amendment.' The examples of Gaudaloupe and Hayti had been adduced in the course of this debate, by Gentlemen holding opposite opinions, for the purpose of enforcing their respective arguments. That of Cayenne, where the experiment of immediate emancipation had been tried under very favourable circumstances, he would cite to the House; and this would clearly prove the necessity of preparing the negro for freedom, by an intermediate state of constraint. He would quote a passage on the authority of Mr. Haffey, who went to Cayenne after the peace of Amiens. He said:—'In the year 1799; the slaves in the French colony of Cayenne were declared free by a decree of the National Convention, and instructions were sent out to Victor Hugo, the governor, for their immediate emancipation. The whole number of slaves then amounted to about 11,000, of whom between 4,000 and 5,000 were persuaded to continue on the plantations on which they had belonged as hired labourers; the remainder refused to work, and the greater part of them resorted to the town. Those who remained on the estates worked by fits and starts, according to the dictates of their own caprices; so that the planter, after having been at the expense of holing and weeding 530 his canes, had no certainty of being able to take off his crop. Each negro was paid wages for his labour every decade. When any of them fell sick, they were left to live or die as they might; medical aid was not to be procured; for the professional men, who had been in the habit of attending the estates, being no longer paid by the proprietors, under this new system, left the colony to seek their bread elsewhere. The aged and inform negroes had no resources but the charity of their former masters, whose distress soon became so great, as to deprive them of the means of relieving the wants of others, and they, consequently, perished in great numbers. Those who resorted to the town lived in a most disorderly and dissolute manner; more than forty billiard-tables were set up, together with grog-shops in abundance; gaming, drunk-enness, robbery, housebreaking, and all kinds of enormities, were practised to such an extent, that Courts-martial—the only tribunals then in force—were held almost every day, and executions were continually taking place. Nothing but the strength of the French garrison, and the system of terror maintained by Victor Hugo, kept the negroes so far in awe, as to save the white inhabitants from extermination. After the colony had remained in this state for nearly two years, the old order of things was restored by the French consular government, and the negroes were remanded back as slaves to their respective estates. A new census was then taken, by which it appeared that the negro population was reduced to 8,700, 2,300 of them having actually perished in that short space of time.' In arguing against immediate and unconditional emancipation, as proposed by the hon. member for Weymouth, he was not giving his concurrence to the plan of apprenticeship proposed by the Government. He was not prepared to commit himself, or the Legislature of Grenada, to any specific plan. He conceived that every detail ought to be settled by the colonists, who possessed the necessary local experience, and were best qualified to judge of the means of carrying the Resolutions into effect. He regretted, that the right hon. Secretary had, unadvisedly, by a former speech, raised up difficulties in those quarters which he would find it difficult to overcome. Regarding compensation, though he conceived it might be a question, whether, as between master and slave, there existed an equitable claim; 531 yet no doubt could exist that, as between the British nation and the planter, full indemnity was justly duo for any loss which might be occasioned by this measure. Compensation was the key-stone of the plan; without it the measure must be a complete failure without it the concurrence, neither of the West-Indian here, nor the Legislatures in the colonies, could be expected; and if the West-India merchants refused to incur the risk of sending out the usual supplies, and chartering the vessels, the whole of the colonies would be thrown into a state of embarrassment and distress which must prevent the plan from working well.
§ Mr. Rigby Wason
began by referring to the question of compensation, to which he declared himself opposed, because, if money were given to the planters, it would be lost, without the object in view being attained. It was useless to disguise the fact; but he and every man knew, that the great mass of the West-India estates were mortgaged for more than they were worth; and if they gave money to the planters, it would only go to redeem their estates.
§ Lord Althorp
rose to order. The hon. Member was speaking to the question of compensation, which was not the subject before the Committee, and would be discussed hereafter.
§ Mr. Rigby Wason
would not then pursue that topic; and would confine himself to the Resolution before the Committee. He would declare himself decidedly in favour of gradual emancipation. He conceived it possible to confine the negroes to the estates, and give them adequate wages and food. How that was to be done was the principal question; and if that could be done, it would get rid of many objections. There must be, he admitted, some stimulus to labour, after the use of the whip was done away; and what could that be but adequate wages? It could not be expected that the negroes should labour without wages; and the point of difficulty was, whether the planters would have the means of paying them, and it had been said they would not, because the planters at present had no profits, and wages must be in proportion to profits. This he denied. Wages were not regulated by profits in the manufactures of this country, nor in any part of the world. They were regulated by another principle. The test or rule for wages was, he was sorry to say, in all cases, and in all countries, the maintenance of the labourer; and what would support 532 him determined his money wages. The planter would only have to pay what was necessary to support the negroes. The wages of labour would be regulated after that by the demand; and the next question to be answered was, whether the supply of labour was equal to the demand? But it was a fact, well known to every man, that the islands were now cultivated; and though the slaves were maintained through the whole year, they did not labour above four months; at least four months labour sufficed for the cultivation. Labour then was abundant in the West-Indies. If more than what was now in demand were not required, there was in the islands at least double the quantity of labour required. The planters, he must admit, would require assistance to pay their labourers, because money, particularly silver money, was extremely scarce in the islands. Not to give them assistance while they were exposed to all the risk, would be unfair and unjust. The plan he had suggested would obviate this difficulty. He would make the negro a party to his own emancipation. He would tell him that he should be free at the end of a certain period, if he would apply himself to the cultivation of the estate, for which he should get good and adequate wages, and should afterwards be set entirely free. The rate of wages to which they were to be entitled, should be determined by an officer sent from this country, who should have an unlimited control on this subject, and who could have no motives for doing other than justice between the two parties. He should then be disposed to give the planters an annual assistance, and he believed they would require that. He had not before broached his views on the subject, because he had waited for the returns, and he now saw that the Government had proposed such a plan to the West-Indians, and the West-Indians had decidedly and strongly objected to it. Before sitting down he must say, that he thought the hon. member for Weymouth extremely wrong in opposing the Resolution of the Government without taking on himself the risk and responsibility of suggesting any other plan. He thought that the hon. member for Weymouth should have proposed a scheme of his own, and as that hon. Member had not done so, he thought it right to throw out his suggestion for the consideration of the House.
§ Mr. Slaney
observed, that he had never in his parliamentary experience approached the discussion of a question of such extreme 533 importance as the present. He was happy to acknowledge that they were all now agreed that slavery must be abolition; they only differed as to the mode of carrying the abolition into effect. He was of opinion that they ought to look at the mode chiefly as it would affect the welfare of the slave, not disregarding, however, the welfare of the planters, nor disregarding the welfare of the manufacturers and shipping interest of this country connected with the colonies, which were of great importance. He was for emancipation, but emancipation to be successful for the negroes themselves, must not be carried into effect without previous preparation. If they attemped to accomplish it without preparation, they would not succeed in the noble object they had in view. It was proper, in considering such a question, to remember what were the motives which operated on the labourers of civilized countries. They laboured in order to obtain, first the necessaries, then the comforts, and afterwards the luxuries of life. They were stimulated to greater labour than was necessary for the support of life, in order to enjoy those luxuries which the habits and customs of the country required. What customs and habits prevailed in that class of men whose condition was under discussion, which should induce them to labour to obtain the luxuries the people of Europe required? If, indeed, there was a difference of condition among the negroes—if there were degrees of condition which might be called steps toward civilization, there might be some hopes that the experiment of a speedy emancipation might be tried with success. Among the negroes there was nothing of that kind. All these were clothed alike—all were fed alike, and among them there was none of that distinction which was the stimulus to exertion in civilized society. The negroes were not, however, destitute of that spring of ambition which belonged to other people. They were desirous, like other people, of rising in the world. To make them labour, and give them a taste for luxuries and comforts, they must be gradually emancipated, and gradually taught to desire those objects which could be attained by human labour. There was a regular progress from the possession of necessaries to the desire for luxuries; and what once were luxuries, gradually came, among all classes and conditions of men, to be necessaries. This was the sort of progress the negroes had to go through, and this was the sort of education to which they ought 534 to be subject in their period of probation. They must be educated to habits of industry by increasing their wants. If they were to be suddenly let loose without that sort of education, he was afraid they would only indulge their love for pernicious beverage—that they would be morally degraded, and Would destroy their health, rendering them a burthen both to themselves and society. A gradual emancipation, combined with means to elevate and improve their character, was the only safe course. He would compare them to children; and no rational being, after subjecting children to a strict rule, would at once indulge them with unlimited freedom. Of all other things, however, it was necessary to proceed with caution, because great interests were at stake. The plan, however, of emancipation having been proposed, he fully agreed with the hon. member for Weymouth that the Legislature of this country could not retrace its steps; but, at the same time, he thought that the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary for the Colonies was susceptible of improvement. It, however, might be found to work well, and by the permission of its trial in some of the islands, it might be found the work of emancipation would go quicker on than at present seemed to be contemplated, as many of the Local Legislatures, instead of procrastinating slave emancipation to twelve years, might be willing, upon seeing the manner in which the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary for the Colonies, worked, to effect it in eight, seven, or even six years. The House, however, in dealing with this interesting and important question, ought to bear in mind, that if a mistake was now made, it would not merely affect the great body of persons, whose future comfort and happiness was the object of the present measure, and which influenced the motives of many hon. Gentleman, but might lead to much evil. It was on these grounds—namely, that it was now impossible for the Legislature to retrace its steps, and following the principles embraced in the proposition submitted by the Government, that he was induced to support the Resolutions now before the House. He would say, that when the momentary politics of the day were forgotten—when factious opposition had passed away, the attempt to abolish slavery would stand out in the front of history as a generous exertion worthy of the Legislature of a free and enlightened people.
could not give his support to the third Resolution now under the consideration of the House, which entitled all the slave population to be registered as apprenticed labourers, subject to the service for a period now left indefinite with their present masters. Apprenticeship was not freedom. They talked of emancipation, but the slave would still be confined to one estate, and one master. He would not be allowed to choose his place of abode, nor his service. He had not yet heard any adequate explanation of this difficulty. They were at once declaring that the slave should be free, and they were continuing him in bondage. The slave, under these circumstances, would have no stimulus to labour. He would suggest the propriety of giving emancipation accompanied with regulations that should place the parties interested not in the relative condition of owner and slave, but in that of master and servant. He would also have it provided that either party should be empowered to put an end to the contract under certain conditions, as, for instance, on two years' notice being given to the masters by able bodied negroes of from twenty to thirty years of age, one year and a half's notice from those between thirty and forty years of age, and one year's notice from all exceeding the ago of forty years. By these means the colonies would be relieved from the dangers to be dreaded from an immediate and extensive change. He would also suggest, with reference to the children of the slaves, the propriety of a regulation that all slave children of six years of age and upwards should continue to be the apprenticed labourers of the planters until such time only as they became of full age, when they should be entitled to the same privilege of giving notice as he had before suggested. This plan would secure to the master the complete inclination and desire on the part of the negroes to continue to labour in the same plantations in which they were now employed. He was not one of those who lost sight of the claims of slave owners to compensation, but he was equally of opinion that a provision in the shape of a poor-law or otherwise should be made for the maintenance in their old age of the superannuated slave population, which so long contributed to the fortunes and benefited their owners. A charge had been made that the slaves would not labour if placed upon the footing of free labourers; but he was convinced, from the evidence upon the subject, that the charge was totally destitute of 536 foundation. There were good authorities to show that in St. Domingo and Guadaloupe, in 1801, when Buonaparte contemplated re-establishing slavery in these islands, the plantations were cultivated by free labourers in a manner which rendered a return to slave labour unadvisable. A deputation was at that period sent to remonstrate with the authorities in France, and to represent to them that any such measure was perfectly unnecessary. Everything in the colonies, it was stated, went on under the system of free labour with the most perfect regularity, and with the greatest advantage to all parties. Not only were the negroes of St. Domingo industrious and active in striving to secure private advantages, but they exerted themselves with the greatest efficacy for the preservation of public order. The condition of Guadaloupe was the same in this respect in 1801, as that of St. Domingo. That island contained, in 1801, 390 sugar plantations, 1,345 coffee plantations, and 328 cotton plantations, which were all in the best state of cultivation. The hon. Member then referred to the work of Mr. Ward, the Mexican envoy, to prove that sugar, as well as the tropical production, could be raised by free labour as well as by slave labour. In the Chartered colonies, as distinguished from the Crown colonies, it was found that the free labourers were the most industrious of the inhabitants. He, therefore, thought that immediate emancipation could take place with the greatest safety, accompanied by those precautions he had suggested. He did not perfectly understand the position in which the proposed measure would place the slaves—whether they were to be on the same footing as that of the free coloured population, or that of the white inhabitants of the colonies. He had no intention of finding fault with the Government plan. On the contrary, he thought that it was deserving of general approbation. His only object was, to suggest an improvement on a point upon which he thought improvement was practicable. The question after all ought not to be a mere question of compensation, although he was willing to grant the planters every compensation which might be required for the loss which would arise from the measure. He hoped they would soon see freedom established on the shores of the West-India islands as fully as on those of Great Britain. The hon. Member concluded by moving as an Amendment upon the third Resolution, "That it was expedient that all persons now slaves, 537 and their children hereafter to be born, he declared free, subject nevertheless to such restrictions as might be deemed necessary for their support and maintenance, and for the future cultivation of the soil.
said, that he was sorry to see such a departure from the satisfactory state in which the question stood on the former night. Then a general disposition was manifested to lay aside all extreme opinions; and when the success of this, as the right hon. Secretary had himself, and very properly, called it, great experiment, so entirely depended, upon unanimity, the necessity of discarding extreme opinions, and uniting to render the plan as perfect as possible, must be obvious to every hon. Gentleman who gave the matter the least consideration. The Amendment of the hon. member for Weymouth would negative the Resolution of the right hon. Secretary, and thinking such a course to be most unwise he (Mr. Strickland) treated and implored his hon. friend not to press his Motion to a division. Those interested in the West Indies had set a laudable example of forbearance; and if they wished the planters and Colonial Assemblies to co-operate with Parliament, and without unanimity between all parties, the measure would be altogether impracticable, they must abandon their own peculiar views, and support the Government in carrying this mighty experiment into effect. He should support the Resolution because they would have the opportunity in Committee of limiting the duration of the apprenticeship to the shortest possible period; and he thought that gradual was preferable to immediate emancipation. The situation of the slaves throughout the colonies was by no means uniform; and although some might be prepared to receive their liberty, others were not in that condition. With respect to the hired gangs it was, he believed, absolutely necessary for the welfare of the negro to keep up the existing connexion between master and servant some few years longer, and hence it was, that he so strongly recommended unanimity in carrying this work of mercy which the Government had brought forward into effect.
Mr. Secretary Stanley
observed, that if any one thought his Majesty's Ministers had approached this subject without a perfect conviction that it was as awful a question as could possibly be touched upon, that man knew little of the deep anxiety which they had experienced. Whatever difficulties might present themselves to the minds 538 of those who looked even superficially on the question, they were not a tenth of the difficulties which presented themselves to the minds of those who examined it closely. The most trifling regulation might be pregnant with the most important consequences. The hon. and learned member for Hull had thanked his Majesty's Ministers for bringing the subject forward. He owed them no thanks. They were compelled to act; for they felt, that take what course they might, it could not be attended with greater evil than any attempt to uphold the existing state of things. But the responsibility which they felt they were incurring would have been greatly increased, indeed, if the violence of the one party or the fears of the other, had driven them from the course which they believed to be that most conducive to the general interest. If the House negatived the proposition for temporary apprenticeships—if they declared that as soon as the Bill became law, instant emancipation should ensue—it would be difficult to conjecture what might be the consequences. They would plunge into a state from which there could be no return. If he were prepared, like the hon. member for Weymouth, to declare that it was of no importance whether or not sugar continued to be cultivated in the West-India islands—
§ Mr. Buxton
had not made any such statement. What he had said was, that if justice were incompatible with the cultivation of sugar, he should prefer justice to sugar.
Mr. Secretary Stanley
proceeded. Admitting that the hon. member for Weymouth did not contemplate such an alternative as the destruction of the cultivation of sugar, he at least contended that in a state of freedom the negro would be physically and morally better than he was at present. He certainly was not prepared to adopt that opinion to its fullest extent. He readily admitted, that if the alternative was whether we should now enter on a system of cultivation which could be maintained only by barbarous and inhuman treatment, or abandon the commercial advantages of the undertaking, it would be a great stain upon the country to accept the former branch of that alternative. But in the present critical state of the West Indies, when interests so important were at stake, it would be perfectly indefensible upon mere abstract principles, to take a course which might derange the whole relations of society in the colonies, and hastily throw away all the advantages 539 now existing. It had been stated, that the question was, whether emancipation should be immediate or gradual. That was not the question. From the moment of the passing of the Act, all the offensive features of slavery would at once be at an end. The right to possess property on the part of the negro would be recognised; he would be free from capricious punishment; he would be allowed to enjoy the fruits of his labour. It would be impossible to call that a state of slavery. His Majesty's Ministers had never contended that immediate and unrestricted freedom was desirable. On the contrary, it would be attended by numerous dangers. The hon. member for Radnor had expressed his doubt whether any compensation ought to be made to the planters. If the House were to determine that no compensation should be granted to the planters, they would in effect throw out the whole measure. Without proposing compensation, he could not, as an honest man, have brought the subject under the consideration of the House. The great object in view was to make the basis of the proposed change a mixture of compulsory and free labour. Nothing could be more rash than at once to let loose the whole slave population. Ask the West-India planters, and they would one and all declare, that without adstriction to the soil the negroes would be wholly unavailable. If, therefore, the House were not disposed to proceed headlong, and throw everything into confusion, by making an experiment from which there would be no possibility of return, they would adopt the more prudent course recommended by his Majesty's Ministers; not doing away all the dependence of the negroes upon their employers for protection, but depriving slavery of its most offensive characteristics. By adopting the course proposed, they would render the slave all but free—they would render him absolutely free within a limited period, the arrival of which he might hasten by his own exertions; and at the same time they would not endanger all the mighty interests which were at stake; and would diminish the great, practical, and almost overwhelming difficulties which stood in the way of arrangement. He implored all parties, therefore, to make mutual concessions and to co-operate in agreeing to the proposed plan, the details of which might be most advantageously tilled up by the Colonial Legislatures.
§ Colonel Conolly
should not have offered 540 himself to the attention of the House, if, in serving his Majesty in the West-Indies, he had not had some opportunity of judging as to the evils of slavery and the best mode of relieving and exterminating it. He was as anxious as any one to see slavery abolished, but he fully concurred with the right hon. Gentleman opposite in thinking that a gradual manumission was much preferable to an immediate emancipation of the negroes. It was enough to make the human mind shrink with horror and dismay to contemplate the setting 800,000 men free from the state in which the negro population of the West-Indies now were—a condition so debased in morals and in mind that it was impossible for any one living in a country like this to conceive such a state of demoralization. There were gentlemen in this House, he knew, who, in a generous and blind zeal in the cause of freedom, were prepared at once to release from all their bonds this immense population, existing as they were in a mere animal state, with no religious restraint and no moral obligations to make them fit and responsible members of society. If the advice of these gentlemen were followed by the House he warned them that they would be blindly committing one of the rashest acts that ever would have been perpetrated by any deliberative assembly. The party who called themselves abolitionists he knew were pressing on the Government in that direction by every means in their power. The right hon. Secretary professed to inscribe upon his standard, religion, humanity, and justice. In supporting those principles, when made subservient to reason, he would yield to no man. But the abolitionists made all other considerations subservient to their own views of religion, in which he believed them to be mistaken; and to those views they would sacrifice all the best interests of the country, and inflict the foulest wrongs upon a portion of their fellow-subjects. He asserted that the principle of justice had degenerated into a mere question of compensation—an account between the planters and the state, and that the security and protection of the white and coloured population had been wholly overlooked; and that the dreadful consequences which were to be apprehended would cast a terrible responsibility upon the Government if they acted in accordance with the wishes of that party. There could be no shifting or escape from the weight of that responsibility here- 541 after; for he warned them now, as so many others who were well acquainted with the state of the colonies had done, that the white and coloured population, who had alway shown themselves so loyal to the Throne and so devoted to the British Empire, would be placed, both as regarded their property and their lives, in a state of the greatest danger by any simultaneous and unrestricted liberation of the blacks. He thought that the success of any project for giving freedom to the slave must depend upon having his manumission effected as gradually as possible; and, therefore, considering this scheme of apprenticeship as a protraction of the dependence of the slave upon the master for some further time, during which he might be rendered more fit to undertake the duties of a free subject, he should agree to the Resolution. He would adopt it as the least precipitate course—as fraught with the smallest degree of risk; though he was afraid it could never be carried into that successful operation which the right hon. Secretary anticipated from it. Viewing, as he did, with the utmost alarm, the course of measures about to be adopted, he implored his Majesty's Ministers at least to consider, and, if possible, to introduce, some cautionary regulation, by which the slaves should be suffered to go free upon arriving at different periods of life—and not to have them all set at liberty together. He was certain that the latter course must be attended with all the evils of massacre and conflagration—of loss of property and life.
§ Lord Howick
said, he was one of those who thought it desirable that persons holding various opinions upon this question should, as far as possible, proceed together. With these views he bad on a former evening advised the hon. member for Sheffield to withdraw his amendment, although be entirely concurred in its principle, and in the same manner he would not now support the Amendment moved by the hon. member for Dover, although he thought it preferable to the third Resolution. Beyond that, however, he could not go; and he regretted that his right hon. friend bad not felt it in his power to comply with the suggestion which he (Lord Howick) threw out on Friday, to abstain from pressing the third Resolution. Some hon. Members had objected to the course which the hon. member for Weymouth had pursued in resisting the Resolution without proposing any 542 Amendment; but he thought, that by so doing he had done that which afforded the greatest opportunity for concession. The Resolution was in no degree necessary as a ground-work for future proceedings; but, on the other hand, if the House agreed to it, they would pledge themselves to a system of apprenticeship of which they did not yet know the full effect. This was dealing rather hardly by the House. His right hon. friend might avoid calling upon the House at this stage of the proceeding distinctly to pledge themselves to do that of which they had not yet heard anything like a satisfactory account. The only reason which his right hon. friend had urged against making the concession which he desired was, that if the other Resolutions should go out to the colonies unaccompanied with the third, and the House should hereafter resolve that the system of apprenticeship should be adopted, it would create great disappointment and dissatisfaction amongst the negroes. He confessed, however, that he did not see the force of that objection, for the first Resolution distinctly implied that the liberation of the negroes was to be accompanied by considerable restrictions, and it should also he recollected that the debate would accompany the Resolutions to the colonies, and the intentions of the Government and the House would be as well known there as in this country. It was very easy to talk of apprenticing negroes, but the plan was neither more nor less than entirely subverting the existing relations of society in the colonies, and organizing a system which had never been tried in any age or country, and the adoption of which must, therefore, be attended with great difficulties. The House as yet knew nothing of the details by which those difficulties were to be obviated; for his right hon. friend had at present only shadowed out his plan. He would not object to place the emancipated negro under any restrictions, however severe, which should be necessary to make the new system work; but his objection to the plan of his right hon. friend was this—the distinguishing feature, that the labour of the negro was for the greater part of his lime to be obtained by direct compulsion. He feared that the colonial assemblies, who were, according to the Government plan, to regulate the manner in which the time of the apprenticed negro should be apportioned between his master and himself, would attend only to the interests of the master. His right hon. friend had utterly failed to 543 show in what manner the proposed system of apprenticeship would improve the character of the negroes, so as to render them more fit for the enjoyment of perfect liberty at the expiration of twelve years than at the present period. His (Lord Howick's) opinion was, that the negroes would be in a worse condition at the termination of the experiment than they were now. The noble Lord concluded by advising the right hon. Secretary for the Colonies to withdraw the Resolution.
§ Lord Althorp
said, that the great advantage which would result from the system of apprenticeship he conceived to be this—that as the amount of compulsory labour which the master would obtain from the slave would be insufficient for the cultivation of his estate, he would be compelled to bargain with him for the time which was at his own disposal, and thus the negro would gradually be taught habits of industry, and would learn to appreciate the advantages which would result from his engaging in labour. His noble friend was right in stating, that the Government entertained a strong objection to the other Resolutions being sent out to the colonies without that which pledged the House to establish a system of apprenticeship. There would, however, be no danger in failing to carry the Resolution into effect, if, upon subsequent consideration, the House should determine upon that course, although he confessed he should be very sorry that they should do so. There was one consideration which did not appear to have struck the advocates of unconditional emancipation. In some of the islands the slaves were supported entirely by the provision-grounds, which by law belonged to the masters; though from long usage he believed the slaves thought that they were their property. In the event of emancipation the proprietors would endeavour to regain possession of these grounds, and the danger which would arise from such a proceeding would be far greater than any which could result from the plan Government had proposed. By the present plan there would be not merely the inducement of freedom at the end of a certain period, but also the power of shortening this time by their own earnings. It had been said in the course of the debate that negroes would not work for wages; but he would ask, what proof had there been given that negroes so far differed from every other human creature? And when the hon. member for Weymouth so convincingly argued 544 this point, he took an unnecessary trouble, at least so far as Government were concerned, for if they had not the same conviction, they would have been insane to bring forward the present measure. He should, however, be extremely sorry that the House should decide upon involving themselves in the question of the immediate and entire freedom of the negroes. This, he thought would be productive of great mischief, and instead of deriving a great benefit from the instant abolition of slavery, he was apprehensive that the result would be ruin.
§ Mr. Ronayne
thought very much extraneous matter had crept into the debate, as the real question was whether or not there should be immediate emancipation. Upon this point the arguments of the noble member for Northumberland appeared to him irrefragable, and the noble Lord's proposition was far better than the mongrel state which would be the result of the Resolution of the right hon. Secretary for the Colonies.
§ Mr. Macaulay
stated, that he would not go at length into the great question of slavery at present, but would reserve to himself the right, on a future occasion, of stating his opinions fully. He rose solely for the purpose of stating how far he felt himself bound by the assent he should give to the Resolution before the House. He would vote for the Resolution as it now stood, which went to hold the negroes under the obligation of labouring for their present masters, subject to certain restrictions. The question of the period of twelve years, or of any other period, or of remuneration, was not before them at present. All these questions were out of this Resolution, which he believed was so worded as to unite as many votes as possible in its favour. He, therefore, could not vote on this point against the Resolution, and he wondered that the hon. member for Weymouth should oppose it, when he had within this very week given notice of a Resolution almost in the terms of this motion—namely, that the liberated negroes should work for the space of one year for their masters. If that Motion were passed, then there was a Resolution as to a certain time during which the negroes should continue to give their labour. Seeing, therefore, that there was now no question either of time or of labour, or of remuneration, in the present Resolution, highly as he valued the authority of his hon. friend, he could not decide on this occasion in conformity to it.
§ Mr. Fowell Buxton
was as desirous as his hon. friend could be for unanimity, but He would ask whether he understood the right hon. Secretary correctly in supposing that the question of time was left open? "Yes," from Mr. Stanley Then his proposition would be, that in the Resolution the words "for wages" should be inserted. He hoped that the negroes would be induced to labour, and his desire was, that they should be solely induced to do so for wages. It was of consequence that this should be known and understood by the planters.
Mr. Secretary Stanley
said, as to the first point mentioned, that of time, no one who voted for this Resolution would bind himself to the time mentioned by Government. Indeed, no one supposed that they could wish to bind the local Legislatures to this time, for he hoped that many of them would, for their own benefit, shorten the period. But looking to the eighteen colonies, placed as they were under different circumstances, he only wished that a time should be fixed beyond which they could not go. With respect to the inducement of wages, he was not quite so sanguine as the hon. member for Weymouth, but the principle that must be followed in this respect was, that if labour was given for wages, then that labour would be voluntary. Government, however, said, that the negroes should give a certain portion of time to their master, he finding them food, clothing, lodging, and medicine. It would, therefore, be inconsistent with the Government plan to give wages, as, if so, then Parliament might have to regulate their amount.
§ Lord Howick
said, it was quite plain that Government could not agree to the proposition of the hon. member for Weymouth, consistently with the plan which had been developed to the House. He was glad to find, that his right hon. friend who spoke last, had clearly shown the difference between the proposition of the on, member for Weymouth and the plan of his Majesty's Ministers, than which no two things could be more dissimilar. Nothing could be more obvious than that the plan of the Government was a modified continuance of slavery. He was anxious to impress this particularly on the House, that they were then called upon to vote whether they would or would not keep the negroes three parts slaves, for compulsory labour in consideration of food, clothing, and lodging; was neither more nor less than slavery?
§ Lord Althorp
said, that he could not be a party to slavery, though he had no objection to being a party to apprenticeship.
§ Mr. Herries
said, that he meant to follow the example of the hon. member for Leeds (Mr. Macaulay), and would take another opportunity of stating his opinions more fully; but his great object in rising was, to state that, under all the circumstances, he felt himself unable to decide upon giving a vote at all. If hon. Members had listened to the debate they would have heard such conflicting testimonies respecting this Resolution, and they would have perceived that such were the difficulties with which the subject was surrounded, even in the minds of those whose duty it was to pay the most attention to it, that they were not in a condition to come to a just conclusion. At least he felt those difficulties so strongly, that he could not make up his mind to vote for the Resolution either in its original or mended shape.
said, it was partial slavery disguised under the name of apprentice-ships. It was an enormous practical blunder to suppose, that the proposed apprentices under that arrangement, could be anything else than slaves. The question simply resolved itself into one of freedom or slavery.
Mr. Secretary Stanley
said, that before the Committee divided, he was anxious to make an alteration in the Resolution, in accordance with the suggestion of the hon. member for Lancashire. According to the Resolution as it stood, it would be optional with the negro to get himself registered, and merely become entitled to his freedom, or he might omit to claim this privilege, and deprive himself of the right to become free. He (Mr. Stanley) saw no objection to a total abrogation of the slave code, and he was therefore willing to word the Resolution in such a way as to compel all negroes to be registered, and thus to have them all put upon an equal footing. The right hon. Secretary then moved a verbal alteration to that effect, which was agreed to.
§ Mr. Buxton
said, he felt great difficulty in abandoning his Amendment, but at the same time he felt equal reluctance in dividing the Committee. He did not like to put himself in opposition to a Government which had done so much, particularly as it was understood that he was not to be pledged as to the period of apprenticeship. Although he was not satisfied that it was right, he should not call for a division.
§ On the Amendment the Committee divided—Ayes 42; Noes 324: Majority 282.
§ Resolution agreed to.
|List of the AYES.|
|Aglionby, H.||Harland, W. C.|
|Attwood, T.||Hutt, W.|
|Baldwin, Dr.||Ingilby, Sir W. A.|
|Barry, G. S.||Langton, Colonel|
|Bayntun, Captain||Mills, J.|
|Beauclerk, Major||Nagle, Sir R.|
|Bellew, R. M.||O'Brien, C.|
|Blake, Sir F.||O'Connell, D.|
|Bowes, J.||O'Connell, M.|
|Briscoe, J. I.||Pease, J.|
|Buckingham, J. S.||Rippon, C.|
|Butler, Colonel||Roche, W.|
|Dalrymple, Sir J. H.||Ronayne, D.|
|Dashwood, G. H.||Ruthven, E.|
|Donkin, Sir R.||Stewart, R.|
|Faithfull, G.||Talmash, Hon. A. G.|
|Finn, W. F.||Tennyson, Rt. Hn. C.|
|Fitzsimon, C.||Tooke, W.|
|Fitzsimon, N.||Tynte, C. K. J.|
|Gaskell, D.||Vigors, N. A.|
|Gully, J.||Vincent, Sir F.|
Mr. Secretary Stanley
said, that the main principle of the plan having now been agreed to, it remained for him to propose that which was a necessary consideration in the introduction of this measure, and without a preliminary vote for which it would be impossible for them to proceed another step towards the abolition of negro slavery—he meant the compensation which, in justice and equity, that House was bound, and which he was confident the country would be ready cheerfully to pay, to those on whom they were entailing a necessary loss. In saying this he was well aware that there were many gentlemen who would be willing enough to pay to the present proprietors of West-Indian property such an amount of compensation as would cover the loss which they should ultimately be able to prove resulted from this measure; but in dealing with a question of such importance as the present, when they were taking away that which, (without entering into the question of abstract right, which he was unwilling to discuss), by the law of this country, had been recognized as property, and had been made the matter of sale and purchase, of incumbrance, mortgage, and family settlement—when they were dealing with this species of property, which was subject to the most complicated claims, the amount of which it was almost impossible to calcu- 548 late —he did not think they would be acting with that liberality which it was incumbent on the House to exhibit in the consideration of a question of such magnitude; or, that they would be successful in doing what it was so essential they should do during the trial of this great experiment—inspiring confidence in the owners of West-India property and those who had claims upon them—if they left the maximum amount of compensation as a subject for future discussion and subsequent arrangement. At the same time, he confessed, that it was a matter of extreme difficulty to ascertain what the amount of that compensation ought to be; but this point was quite clear, that they were, by the Act they were about to pass, taking away from the present proprietors of slaves one-fourth of the value of those slaves immediately, and at the expiration of a limited period the whole of the property which the owners at present possessed in them. In the mean time the proprietors would be in no way relieved from the necessity of maintaining and supporting their slaves. At the same time, the value of this property ought to be calculated, not simply by the value of that which was actually taken away. There were other circumstances connected with it which it was but fair to take into consideration; such, for instance, as the value of the land, which value was principally created and maintained by slave labour attached to the soil. If this were a simple question, they might deal with it differently; but it was not; and considering the very small numerical amount of representation which the West-India interest had in that House (though it must be admitted, that they had at least one able and gifted supporter)—considering, also, the number of claimants on this property, some of whom were among the most helpless and unprotected class of the community—he could not but regard it as a circumstance of great importance—he did not mean to say of indispensable necessity—to secure, in the execution of the proposed measure, the concurrence, the active co-operation, and the cordial consent, of those who were connected with that property; for without that concurrence and consent, it would be a matter of difficulty—not to put the plan upon paper, but to carry it into practical effect, without deranging and embarrassing the mercantile speculations of this country. A strong necessity was imposed on that House, to look at this question of money compensation, not in a grudging and 549 niggardly, but in a liberal and comprehensive point of view; and if he knew anything of the feeling of the people of this country, he was sure they would not care whether they paid a little more than the value of the property in the way of compensation; but they would take into their consideration the importance of gaining the co-operation of the West-India body, and the risk which, without such co-operation, must attend the execution of any plan for the abolition of slavery. He had consulted persons well acquainted with the value of this kind of property; and after the most minute calculation which they had been enabled to make with reference to the extent of human life, and the portion of the slave's time taken away from the planter's control; and taking the value of the slaves at the low calculation of 40l. per head, they had arrived at the conclusion, that the slave property in all the colonies was worth 30,000,000l. sterling. The value of the slave's time which was taken from the proprietor he could not value at a lower sum than very nearly 15,000,000l. sterling. Admitting for a deterioration in the value of the slaves during a period of twelve years, and not allowing, on the other hand, for the value of the children hereafter to be born, who, by the proposed plan, would be free—taking this most unfavourable view of slave property, he could not reduce the amount of compensation which the proprietors were entitled to demand to a lower sum than that he had just mentioned. But in a question of this kind it was necessary for the House to consider whether there might not be reasons for not restricting the compensation precisely to the value of the property; and whether, even in an economical point of view, it might not be wise to give such an amount of compensation as would prevent scenes occurring in the West Indies that might entail on this country great and serious expense. He thought it best to deal frankly with the House, and state, that the reason which induced him and the Government to propose a larger sum than that which he had just now mentioned, 15,000,000l., was this—that all those connected with West-Indian property, without a single exception, had declared, that, however anxious they might be, that the mercantile transactions should not be deranged, they considered the sum of 15,000,000l. perfectly insufficient for the purpose of compensation; and that, in the event of 550 such a sum being proposed, they should feel bound, for the protection of their own property and interests, to abstain from lending their concurrence and assistance in carrying on those mercantile transactions on which the very existence of the West Indies depended. On the other hand, he had been assured by that body, whose importance it was impossible to rate too high, that if Parliament would consent to vote 20,000,000l. to the proprietors as compensation for the loss of their property, to be subsequently distributed according to such regulations as Parliament might think fit, that great interest would give its full concurrence to the Government plan, and would use any influence it might possess over the Colonial Legislatures in order to induce them to cooperate in the extinction of slavery. He thought it better to affect no disguise on this subject, but to state frankly and fairly the grounds on which Government proceeded. It was possible that 20,000,000l. might be more than an equivalent for the loss sustained by the proprietors; but with respect to a question of such magnitude, where a diffierence of 5l. only in the average of the value of the slaves would make a difference on the whole of between 3,000,000l. and 4,000,000l., it was impossible for the House to come to any very close calculation. This, however, was certain, that it was a point of great importance to secure the concurrence of all parties; and he believed, that the people of this country would not object to the grant of a larger sum than he originally suggested in the way of compensation, if by it the plan for the abolition of slavery could be safely and peaceably carried into effect. The right hon. Gentleman concluded by moving, that "towards the compensation of the West-Indian proprietors his Majesty be enabled to grant a sum not exceeding 20,000,000l., to be appropriated as Parliament may hereafter think fit."
§ Colonel Davies
thought it was too late an hour for a question of such magnitude to be discussed. He felt as much as any one the hardship upon the West-India planters, but, at the same time, he must recollect the people of this country. He must remember the burthens which they were weighed down with—he must recollect the manifestations of distress now unhappily too prevalent. Were they not only to refuse any remission of taxes, but even to lay fresh burthens upon the shoulders of the people? He must say, that he thought the system now proposed 551 the most ill-judged that could have been brought before the House. The twenty millions now asked for would not relieve the distresses of the West-India interest. They might as well be thrown into the sea. He should not now go into the question, but he was convinced that some other means must be taken to relieve them. He, therefore, gave notice, that, at the proper period, he should move, "that it be an instruction to the Committee to reduce the duties on sugar to 17s per cwt." That would be a real advantage to the colonists, by increasing the consumption of sugar, and, at the same time, it would be a benefit to the people of this country, by giving them at a cheaper rate an article of necessary consumption. He should certainly, if the right hon. Gentle-man now pressed his Motion, take the sense of the House upon it, especially as it was coupled with a proposed increase of the duty on sugar, which he thought would be as disadvantageous to the colonists as it would be vexatious to the people of this country.
Mr. John Smith
said, that no man in that House had taken a deeper interest in the present question than he had done. He had been in business as a banker in this city for the last forty years, and he had an opportunity of observing and judging of the extent and importance of the West-India trade, and of its effects on our manufactures and commerce; and he must own, that he had never felt half the anxiety on any question that he had felt on this. He was, and always had been, an enemy to slavery in all forms, mental or personal; but he could not vote for the abolition of slavery in the West-Indies, if its abolition were to be coupled with the commission of an injustice. It would be unjust and base to liberate the slave with one hand, and with the other to condemn his friends and acquaintances to poverty, destitution, and misery. In this country there were many West-India proprietors whose children had now no means of acquiring education but in parish schools, and he himself had known a most amiable and virtuous lady of high rank reduced to utter distress. He could not condemn his fellow-subjects to this misery. He should, therefore, most readily vote in favour of the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman. He should do this, not only for the reason he had just stated, but, also, because it was absolutely necessary to have the assistance of the West-Indians. Hon. Members 552 might rely upon it no measure of emancipation could be happily carried that did not meet the concurrence of the West-India proprietors; and if a measure were forced, although it did not meet that concurrence, the consequence would be a serious and a dangerous loss to the revenue. Indeed he felt convinced, that the loss would be so great that it would shake the national credit. He knew it was said, that if the British West Indies ceased, sugar in sufficient quantities would be supplied from Cuba and the Brazils. He, however, denied that statement. He was of opinion, that a general insurrection in Jamaica would occasion so great a deficiency in the quantity of sugar, that it would be felt throughout the world. The vacuum might be partially filled up by Brazil, Cuba, and other parts; but there would be, and for a considerable time, a large vacuum. No part of the community had been more anxious for the abolition of slavery than his constituents; but he thought they would find great fault with him if he supported any scheme for emancipation which was followed by a dearth of sugar. He held, that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Stanley) had proposed a safe and practicable plan, and it should have his support. After all the glory the country had achieved—after it had contributed to the happiness of the whole world by its improvements—after it had saved Europe in the late war, it would be melancholy indeed if it were now to proclaim to the world, that while it gave freedom it perpetuated spoliation. They had been told, indeed, that there was great and universal distress in the country. He must say, though he knew it would expose him to obloquy, that he did not believe one word of it. Distress, of course, there must and would be in a country like this; but still it was not general nor universal; and, he believed, that the country would consent, in order to see the emancipation of the slaves safely effected, to pay the sum proposed by the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Gisborne
must say, that he did not think it fair in the right hon. Gentleman to call on the House to come to a vote on this question now. The House had no means of judging of the question now. The right hon. Gentleman had three times changed his course. At first he proposed to lend the West-Indians fifteen millions. He (Mr. Gisborne) must say, that he thought it a pretty strong step when the right hon. Gentleman came down and 553 changed that proposition, and said, I do not mean to lend, but absolutely to give the fifteen millions; but now this night, with-out the slightest preparation, he changed again, and proposed to make the gift, not fifteen merely, but twenty millions, for such, said the right hon. Gentleman, is what I now discover to be the right amount of compensation. He had always been in favour of a fair compensation to the West-Indians—the people of this country were so; but the amount of that compensation could not be agreed to in that hasty way. The question ought not to be pressed on tonight, the more so, as, if the House now voted this Resolution for the maximum, they would, in fact, pledge themselves to that amount.
, under these circumstances consented not to press the question to a division then. He wished only to add, that whatever might be the amount of compensation, the money would not be paid till the details of the measure had been carried into effect by the Colonial Legislatures.
§ The House resumed, Committee to sit again.