§ The House went into a Committee on Colonial Slavery.
§ Mr. Godson
wished as briefly as he could, to bring the case of the West-India planters before the Committee, and he trusted the Committee would, on such a momentous subject, give him a patient hearing. He was most ready to admit that the time for emancipating the negroes had arrived—the only question was the manner and mode of doing it. This was a most important subject, implicating not only the property, but the lives of the white population of the West-India islands. Hon. Members ought to adjudicate 205 on the plan of the right hon. Secretary, as if they were the Judges and the Jury. He would not say, that the Jury had been packed by the accusers of the planters, but everybody knew that the most powerful exertions were made at the last election, to prevent planters having seats in that House; and it became the duty of independent Members to see that justice was done to the accused. It could not be denied that the people of England, who had poured in countless petitions, entertained a strong feeling on the subject of slavery: it had been urged on the attention of the Government, by the large, respectable, and powerful party, called the Anti-Slavery Society, composed principally of persons dissenting from the Church of England. The Government had thought proper to take nearly the same view of this national question as that very influential party. He was one of a body of men personally interested in the settlement of this question which deeply affected the property of persons resident in England, and the lives of the white inhabitants of the colonies. In his observations, however, he would carefully endeavour to pass by all irritating and unpleasant topics, and although he might feel excited, he would attempt to urge the rights of the planters in a tone as conciliatory as the slanders heaped upon them would permit. He would begin by denying the right of the Parliament of Great Britain to legislate for the internal regulation or taxation of the colonies which had Local Legislatures. The laws of Great Britain had ever recognised, and had never taken away, the right which Jamaica acquired by charter to an independent legislature. The inhabitants of that island would insist that the Legislature of England had no right to pass a law to bind them; and they would not receive it. If they were bound to submit to that jurisdiction, they ought to be convinced by reason and argument, and not by force. The right hon. Secretary for the Colonies endeavoured to convince the House that it had the right to pass this measure, on the ground that whenever a power had been delegated by a legislature it could be resumed at any time. The right hon. Gentleman assumed that the Parliament did delegate; whereas the House never had the opportunity of delegating such power to any of the colonies. The legislature of Jamaica sprang, 206 by charter, from the King, without the knowledge, consent, or approbation of the Parliament of England. He challenged any lawyer, in or out of the House, to show any act of delegation, or any authority for delegation. That the Parliament of Great Britain had the right to enforce this law on the Assembly of Jamaica, for the internal regulation of that island, had been supported by the right hon. Gentleman, on two Acts of Parliament; and the right hon. Gentleman said, that the Assembly of Jamaica had, by acting on those statutes, admitted the right. The right hon. Gentleman first referred the 11th and 12th William 3rd, chap. 7, for the more effectual suppression of piracy. But that Act never was admitted into the island of Jamaica, and never was attempted to be enforced there. It did not supersede any colonial tribunals in islands having legislative assemblies, nor apply to the colonies having charters in the nature of civil corporations. It would be a very good argument if a single instance could be quoted of an Act of Parliament acted upon in Jamaica, without having previously received the sanction of the local legislature. There was not one. The island of Jamaica had a Court of Admiralty before the time of that Act, and had continued that Court without ever recognizing the statute. The other Act the right hon. Gentleman referred to, was 5th Geo. 2nd c. 7., by which persons resident in England were quieted as to the fears which were entertained, whether their mortgages on property in the colony were legal on ac-count of the high rate of interest taken by them. The right hon. Gentleman forgot to say, that this Act of Parliament had been repealed as to the negroes; and he should have observed, that it was not passed for the purpose of interfering with property in Jamaica, but to protect the British merchants from the effect of the usury laws of this country. The legal rate of interest in Jamaica was six per cent, and the only object of that Act was to protect the merchants in advancing money at the legal rate of interest in Jamaica. Before that Act of the English Parliament there was a law of Jamaica, making negroes assets for the payment of debts, and they continued to be assets after that Act was repealed. "But, then," said the right hon. Gentleman, "I will give you the opinion of a distinguished authority on this subject," and the right hon Gentleman 207 referred to Mr. Otis an American gentleman, but he (Mr. Godson) could show by the conduct of that gentleman, during the whole of his political life, that the right hon. Gentleman had been mistaken as to his opinions. He would read to the House an extract from an account of some proceedings at Boston, dated the 8th of May, 1770. Mr. Otis having retired to the country for the recovery of his health, it was voted—" That the thanks of the town be given to the hon. James Otis, for the great and important services which, as a representative in the General Assembly through a course of years, he has rendered to this town and province; particularly for his undaunted exertions in the common cause of the colonies, from the beginning of the present glorious struggle for the rights of the British Constitution, &c." In 1764, Mr. Otis said, "When the Parliament of Great Britain shall think fit to allow the colonists a representation in the House of Commons, the equity of their taxing the colonists will be as clear as their power is, at present, of doing it if they please." Did the right hon. Gentleman think, that by defending the rights conferred by the British Constitution, Mr. Otis meant that this Parliament possessed the right to make laws for the state of Massachusetts? All the acts of Mr. Otis's life, showed that he exerted himself to the utmost, in defence of the independence of the Colonial legislatures. He began public life by a speech against the "writs of assistance," which drew forth an eulogium from President Adams, in which Mr. Otis observed, that neither" King James nor King Charles could be supposed to intend that Parliament, which they both hated more than they did the Pope or the French king, should share with them in the government of colonies instituted by their royal prerogative." Mr. Otis was the first to resist the principles now attributed to him. He resisted, not only by state papers, but by bayonets; and such was the authority upon which the right hon. Gentleman relied, to justify an interference in the internal affairs of Jamaica. The right hon. Gentleman also referred to what Mr. Canning bad said, namely—" that the interference of this country might be imperiously called for; and that it required the greatest possible case of necessity to justify such an exertion of power—that there was an ultimate power in the parent 208 state, which was an arcanum imperii not to be disclosed, but when strong necessity required." But that was a gratuitous assertion of Mr. Canning, unsupported by authority or practice. It was the tyrant's plea; and would justify the exercise of uncontrolled and irresponsible power. The right hon. Secretary called on those who supported the proposition that the Parliament had not the power and the right, to point out the laws which prevented such interference. He would show, both by the charters granted to the colonies, by Acts of Parliament, and by an opinion of the Judges, that the view which he had taken of the case was correct. He would confine himself to the island of Jamaica, as he was anxious not to distract the attention of hon. Gentlemen. Jamaica was taken from the Spaniards in the time of Oliver Cromwell, who never condescended to ask Parliament for a constitution for that colony. By the 7th article of the treaty signed at Madrid in June, 1670, the king of Spain ceded that island to the King of Great Britain, his heirs and successors, for ever, with full right of sovereignty. Charles 2nd had not such love for Parliaments, as to induce him to come down with a request of the kind. By a proclamation in 1661, he made all the inhabitants of Jamaica free denizens of England; and he afterwards granted his royal charter to Jamaica, which was framed upon the report of Lord Chief Justice North. By that charter an authority was granted "to the governor of the island to summon general assemblies of the freeholders and planters within the island, to be called the General Assembly of Jamaica, who should have power with the advice of the Governor and his Council, to make, constitute, and ordain laws, statutes, and ordinances for the public peace, welfare, and good government of the island, and of the people and inhabitants thereof, and such other as shall resort thereto, and for the benefit of our heirs and successors;" which laws, statutes, and ordinances were to be "(as near as convenient may be) agreeable to the laws and statutes of the kingdom of England." It was provided that the acts of the Assembly should be sent to England for the approval of the King; and the Governor had the power of a veto. The approval of the acts of the General Assembly of Jamaica, was to be signified, not by the English 209 Parliament, but by the King alone. Like all other legislative assemblies, the Assembly of Jamaica emanated from the King's prerogative, and flowed from the same fountain as the Parliament of England. Hon. Gentlemen were too well acquainted with the character of Charles 2nd, not to know that be attempted to obtain money in all sorts of ways. He made an experiment upon Jamaica, but failed. A similar attempt, equally unsuccessful, was renewed in the reign of Queen Anne, to obtain a fixed revenue from the Assembly of Jamaica. This body resisted; and although laws were sent out for their adoption, the Legislature of Jamaica would not yield. The Earl of Carlisle desired that the Assembly should give their consent to the laws which he had brought with him, without the power of objecting to, or the liberty of examining, any part of them. No threat was left untried, no persuasion neglected, no art omitted, which might induce the members to bend their necks beneath the yoke. They successfully resisted, and thus established their Magna Charta. The men of Jamaica know their rights now as well as they did then. In 1703, the Governor of the island renewed the demand for a permanent revenue, but the Assembly stoutly resisted the attempt, and carried their opposition so far as to prevent the landing of troops, and they refused to yield or to grant supplies, till the Governor admitted that the English Parliament had no power to enforce bills in Jamaica. This admission he was compelled to make. During the struggle, the Legislature of Jamaica was several times prorogued and dissolved; but they continued firm to their purpose. On one occasion, the opinion of the Judges was requested by the King, whether, by his Majesty's letter, proclamation, or commission, his Majesty had excluded himself from the power of establishing laws in Jamaica; and the Judges returned an answer establishing the independence of Jamaica. This colony then, had long been in the possession of a charter, and the inhabitants had resisted the attempts of the Crown to infringe on their rights. There was an opinion of the Judges in favour of the charter, which hitherto had been respected by this country. The King, by means of the Governor, had his veto; and such was the similarity of the Constitution of Jamaica to that of England, that the House of Assembly at 210 Jamaica would not allow a Money Bill to pass which had not originated in their House. He had examined the question as if it were some general internal regulation, but he was prepared to show that it was in truth, a tax on the West-India planters. It was proposed that the master should employ his slave for seven hours and a half a day, and for which he should provide him with food, clothing, and lodging. That was fixing the rate of wages. The act of 18th George 3rd applied to that case, by which the Government of Great Britain gave up all right and power to tax her colonies. He was anxious not to be misunderstood—he did not urge this argument with a wish to hinder or prevent emancipation; but he placed these facts and reasons before the House, because it was fitting the House should know in what light the question would be received in Jamaica. The Assembly of that island would not tamely resign its rights. He wished to point out to the House the consequences of adopting the plan of Government, and to show that the power which they were called upon to exercise they did not possess. Did the House not having the right, intend to exercise the power, and raise up the opposition of the Assembly of Jamaica? He came to the plain question whether the slaves were property or not?—whether the possessions in the West-India islands were property or not? The right hon. Secretary spoke as if he considered the slaves to be property, but an influential party, who had many able advocates in that House, had stated that slaves were not property. The planters and inhabitants of Jamaica considered that they were property. Some parts of the possessions were, undoubtedly, property. Steam-engines, buildings, houses, were still property in Jamaica; and had the House a right to take away those adjuncts which it had forced upon the inhabitants of Jamaica, and which now alone made those things, admitted to be property in England, valuable as property in Jamaica? If so, the Jamaica man had a right to say, "If you take from me that which makes my property valuable, you ought, at least, to give me compensation." The planters of Jamaica could say that the evil complained of did not originate with them; that, from the time of the first monopoly of the slave-trade, in 1662, down to the present period, the Parliament had by its own 211 acts, admitted that there had been something attached to an estate in the West-Indies, considered to have all the attributes of property. But, independently of Acts of Parliament, he would also refer to the opinions which had been expressed by the Judges upon the subject. In 1689, ten of the Judges, in reply to a demand from the King in Council, said, "In pursuance of your Majesty's Order in Council, we do most humbly certify our opinion to be, that negroes are merchandize." Here, then, was the opinion of the Judges of the land, deliberately expressed by Chief Justice Holt, and nine other Judges of that day, and the Committee could not come to a right conclusion upon this question, unless it took into consideration what the people of Jamaica might think of it. In 1760, the planters wished to stop the importation of slaves, and were proceeding to take measures to obtain that end; but Great Britain interfered, declaring that she would not suffer the colonies to put aside a traffic which was so generally lucrative to the empire. The mother country had by her acts forced upon the colonies that species of possession which it was now said to be a crime for them to retain. If it were a crime, those who forced the colonists to commit it must be as guilty as the colonists themselves. The Statute, too, of 5th George 2nd, so confidently referred to by the right hon. Secretary, as showing that Great Britain had the right to interfere in the internal legislature of the colonies, declared, that the negro might be made the subject of mortgage. If that Act of Parliament, then, were good for any thing it went to prove the validity of his case. The right hon. Gentleman would not surely contend that an Act of Parliament, good for one purpose, must, necessarily, be bad for another. The right hon. Secretary could not say, that this Statute proved the right of the British Legislature to interfere in the internal government of the colonies, without at the same time, admitting that it proved, that in the estimation of the Parliament at home, the negro had been considered the property of the planter, and made a legitimate subject of mortgage. He would refer to only one more Act of Parliament from among the many which supported his view of the question, and this was the 46th George 3rd, c. 157, in which it was enacted "that the slaves, and negroes, and stock, and 212 cattle, and plantation tools which have been in the Crown before, shall be given to the Lords Commissioners of his Majesty's Treasury for the time being, or to any three or more of them as he should be pleased to appoint, to be held in trust for his Majesty, his heirs, and successors." In this Act of Parliament, then, slaves were placed in trust under the King himself. Thus the slave-trade began with a monopoly to one of the Queens; and finally, this Act of Parliament invested the King himself with a property in negroes. And was not that an excuse for the people in Jamaica to consider the negroes upon their estates as a part of their property? Was it not an excuse for the comparatively illiterate planter considering that property which the United Parliament of England declared should be vested in the Commissioners of the Treasury for the benefit of his Majesty? Although this argument might, perhaps, convince the minds of persons who were not determined to prejudge the question—he did not expect that his or any other person's arguments would draw such an admission from the House. One hon. Gentleman who had spoken last night, in favour of the proposition of the right hon. Secretary, said: "Prove to me by all the laws of the world—prove to me by all the Acts of Parliament—by all the opinions of the Judges—that slavery has hitherto existed, and hitherto been sanctioned—still I contend, that it was wrong in the beginning, wrong in the continuance, and will be wrong lo the end." He was ready to adopt that sentiment; but he would ask them as men of sense—as men of intelligence—as men acquainted with the affairs of human nature—to say whether, having given to this species of possession every attribute—every essential quality by which other property was surrounded—it did not become them, in removing it from its present possessors, to effect that removal with honour and honesty? He had no objection to their retracing their steps, but he must maintain that they, who had inflicted a wrong upon one part of their fellow-creatures, had no right to call upon others to expiate their offence. Supposing it true the slave was not accurately the property of the master—still in depriving the planter of what he had originally paid for, and, therefore, considered his legitimate property, it was only just in them who deprived hit" of it to grant him 213 a reasonable compensation. In the case of Dominica, where the Crown was actually paid for the land, a petition had been presented in the other House of Parliament in which the purchasers expressed their determination to resign the whole, if measures of this kind were to be put into force. Let them see the benefit this country had derived from the existence of the present system. The annual amount of the Custom-duties imposed upon the West-India produce imported was between 5,000,000l. and 6,000,000l. The annual amount of the exports of home manufactures to the West-India colonies, was between 4,000,000l. and 5,000,000l. Besides this, the ships employed in the trade between England and the West-Indies amounted to 9,500; the aggregate amount of their tonnage being no less than 260,000 tons. These were the profits which England had derived from her colonists possessing the "shameless property." Did not the British Government, too, in all its contracts with the United States of America, force Jamaica to take all her supplies, either directly from this country, or from some of its colonial possessions? If Jamaica wished to procure timber or corn from the United States, where it might be obtained with great advantage—did not England say, "No; we must support Canada—you must go to Canada for your timber or corn? If Jamaica wanted fish, was she not compelled to resort to Newfoundland? If she wanted salt provisions, could she obtain them unless from Ireland, although the United States of America would have supplied her at a cheaper rate. She must have her herrings from Scotland, and her hardware from England. Jamaica dared not refine her sugar in the island, because the freight would be less, and the refiners at home injured. Her rum was not allowed to disturb the profits on whiskey, and her molasses must not interfere with the breweries. In short both abroad and at home, Britain had always taken advantage of this shameless property to procure a benefit to herself. The two great principles developed in the plan of the right hon. Secretary were first, that the labour of the negro should be limited to seven hours and a-half a day, for which he was to receive the usual allowances of food and raiment, and be entitled to his house and land; and, secondly, that at the end of twelve years from the present period he 214 should be free. He would declare, that he was ready to vote for immediate emancipation, and indeed that part of the right hon. Secretary's plan which proposed only a complete emancipation after the lapse of twelve years, met with the approbation of very few Members of this House. By the proposed plan, no class of negroes would be really free, not even the newborn infant. As long as the mother, who was to take care of her child, continued to labour for seven hours and a-half a-day, she could not attend to it after the first two years of its existence. As long as the mother was nursing it, of course care would be taken of it, but the child being free who was to provide for it afterwards? The mother for twelve years to come would continue to work as a slave for seven hours and a-half a day; who, then, was to take care of the child during those hours, after it was two years old? By the Resolutions which the right hon. Gentleman had moved, all negroes for the future were to be called apprentices; but, though free in name—they would, in point of fact, for the next twelve years, be slaves. This was one of the worst parts of the plan; and it would be much better to declare that, at some certain time—as short as possible—negroes of all descriptions, the old, the young, the active, and the infirm should be free. Fix some definite period—say Christmas-day next year—only so distant as to enable the colonists to prepare for the change. Every person who had any knowledge on the subject had declared that it would be impossible to retain the negro in a situation partially free, and partially in the nature of slavery; and that it would be much better for Government at once to emancipate him, but under such regulations as should seem best calculated to render him a good member of society. He had very strong objections to the stipendiary Magistrates, whom it was proposed to appoint with the view of enforcing the regulations contained in these Resolutions. They were to be sent out from this country, and have no connexion with the colonies. In that case, at least 4,000 would be necessary. A little court of session would be required in every parish in the colonies. Or if it were said, that it was only intended to send out a few stipendiary Magistrates, then for what purpose was every obloquy heaped upon the present Magistrates of Jamaica? Why was their conduct described in 215 terms which would prevent every man of honour from acting in the capacity of a Magistrate? First Ministers induced the House to believe that the Magistrates of the colonies were not to be trusted; and then because they were not prepared to send out 4,000 stipendiary Magistrates—they said they believed the resident Magistrates would enforce their views. That part of the plan could never be acted upon. It was proposed that 15,000,000l. should be advanced to the colonies to compensate them for trying this (as the right hon. Secretary called it)" mighty experiment." That sum was not sufficient to produce the effect desired. It would not afford a compensation for the difference in the cost of cultivating an unencumbered estate; and in the case of estates which were heavily encumbered with mortgages and other charges, it could not be considered any compensation at all. As a national question in which light Ministers seemed anxious to regard it—it would establish a principle which it would be impossible not to have applied in other circumstances. When the full grown negro was told "Seven hours and a half a-day is the whole time that you ought to labour," a principle was established which might be applied to the free labourers of this country. In point of fact, every mechanic, every weaver, every spinner, was thus told, that for seven hours and a-half labour per day, he was entitled to a house and garden rent-free, and to food and raiment, and this at the time when it was in contemplation to make ten hours a-day the maximum of the labour of infants! It was also proposed, that the negro, when raised to a state of freedom, should sit upon Juries, and serve in the militia. After the late rebellion in Jamaica, the wisdom or the policy of giving him the latter privilege seemed doubtful. By placing arms in the hands of those who had so recently escaped from bondage, the safety and peace of the colonies would be endangered. One class of persons had not been contemplated in this plan, and for their losses no provision was made. What was to become of the white population of the colonies, who were not the owners of slaves, but who derived the means of existence from superintending or managing them upon the different estates. It might, perhaps, be said, that these persons must take their chance, as they were not the actual possessors of any of this species of property; but 216 still, ill a plan of this kind, Ministers ought to consider the effect that would be produced upon them. The principal part of the revenue of Jamaica was derived from a poll-tax levied upon the negroes. If they were all to be made free, in what manner was this tax to be raised? The moment that these Resolutions became an Act of Parliament, that tax would cease. What must be the consequence? Had Ministers considered that there was such a thing as Government paper-money in the colonies—that public credit had to be supported there as well as at home? If the negroes were to be paid in money, there must be a very extensive silver coinage; for all the silver at present in Jamaica would not be sufficient to pay two weeks' wages to the emancipated negroes. Unless the planters themselves, as the parties interested, were consulted, and induced to support the Government plan, it would be impossible that it could be carried into execution. It would have been prudent, therefore, in the right hon. Secretary, not to have heaped so much obloquy upon the planters and the local authorities in the West Indies. It was true the right hon. Gentleman had a difficult task to perform; because, on the one hand, he had to prove that the planters had behaved in such a manner towards their slaves as to render it necessary for the Legislature at home to interfere for their protection; and, on the other hand, it was necessary that he should so carefully express himself as not to offend the prejudices of the planters. However well the right hon. Gentleman might have acquitted himself of the first part of his task, he had completely failed in the second—for his manner must irritate the resident planters of the colonies; and without their concurrence, mere passive resistance on their parts would be sufficient to prevent any plan from being carried into effect. The right hon. Secretary had not made out his case against the West-India planters in that candid manner which was to be expected from him. He appeared rather as the counsel of the prosecutor, than the calm, impartial, and unprejudiced Secretary of State. The West-India planters having been brought before the public, and the Bar of that House, by the vehement speech of the right hon. Secretary, it became necessary, before a decision be given, that some defence of their conduct 217 should be made. The hon. member for Lancaster had, last evening, read several extracts from the communications of different Secretaries for the Colonies, with the Local Assemblies of the West-India islands. He (Mr. Godson) would read one of later date than any which were cited by that hon. Member. It was contained in a communication made by Sir George Murray to the Governor of Jamaica in 1830; in these terms:—" Your Lordship will convey to the Council and Assembly of Jamaica, the reiterated assurance of the most anxious desire on the part of his Majesty to co-operate with them in effecting those improvements in the slave code, which they have so repeatedly sanctioned by their recent enactments." Yet, with that document in his possession, the right hon. Secretary asserted in his speech, that, since the year 1823, the planters had done nothing to promote the views of the Legislature at home. On the contrary, every Colonial Secretary, from the very period that the right hon. Gentleman alluded to, down to the present time, had mentioned in his despatches to the several West-India islands, the satisfaction of the Government at the progress which the local legislatures of the islands were making in the advancement of the views of the mother country! It was true the colonies had not gone so far as was wished with respect to religious instruction. The Legislative Assembly of Jamaica, in 1802, had passed, an Act, by which they confined the ministry of the Gospel to the Church of England. He condemned that Act as much as any man could do. The colonists had omitted to grant religious liberty; but that was their only wrong. As far as regarded the improvement of the negro, and the modification of his condition as a slave, the colonists had acted up to the instructions and wishes of the mother country. The hon. Baronet, the member for Bristol, had gone through a number of cases, and must have convinced the House that the right hon. Gentleman was completely mistaken. In Jamaica, a great number of manumissions had, of late years, taken place. They amounted to 14,000 at least, for many occurred of which no register was kept. And was it to be made a charge against Jamaica, that its law with respect to evidence was not perfect? At the present moment there lay upon the Table of that House various 218 Acts of Parliament to amend and improve the laws, and among them, one to improve the law of evidence in England. Could it, then, be made a serious charge against Jamaica, that she had not perfected that which had engaged the wisdom of the British senate for ages? He did not believe that there had been such instances as those mentioned or insinuated by the right hon. Secretary, of the separation of slaves. Every planter—every gentleman connected with the colonies—uniformly denied, that the practice had ever been put in force, except by legal process; and the nature of that process was such as to confine the possibility of the separation of a negro family to a very few particular instances. Savings' banks, he must mention, had been instituted in Jamaica. One was established at Montego shortly after the recommendation from the British Government was received; but not a negro would deposit anything in it. They were not accustomed to the institution, and did not know, that money, lent out, would produce them money again. The planters, then, had been calumniated and misrepresented. A Savings' bank had been instituted in Jamaica; and it failed from no fault of its founders. The most serious charge made by the right hon. Secretary against the planters, was, that the decrease in the number of the negroes in the several colonies was always in proportion to the increase of the quantity of sugar. The hon. member for Lancaster, in his able speech of last evening, had clearly and distinctly proved, that with respect to Demerara, the right hon. Secretary's calculations were founded on erroneous data, and were totally incorrect. In a pamphlet published by a very able accountant, who took as the basis of his calculations all the figures previously published by the hon. member for Weymouth, it appeared to be very satisfactorily proved—that the decrease in the number of negroes upon an estate always continued as long as there was a certain excess of the male over the female population; and that, when that excess became small in proportion to the whole population, a certain increase in the population was the result. It was clear, therefore, that the decrease in the black population of the colonies was not consequent upon the increase of labour. The charge which the right hon. Secretary had made against the colonies upon this point was one 219 which every person in England must have heard with pain; and he was sure every planter in the West Indies would receive with indignation. Was it true that the planters of Jamaica had obtained an increased production of sugar, by working the negro to death? That was the charge made against them; and either it was true, or it was not true. That argument, if not used by the right hon. Secretary, had been used by some others who had taken part in the debate. The West-India proprietors denied the charge. They admitted, that there had been a decrease in the amount of the population; but that circumstance was accounted for by the disproportionate number of the male and female population. By the pamphlet he had just referred to, it would be found that in all the different colonies, the increase in the population had taken place, as the number of females had preponderated over that of the males; and, on the contrary, the decrease in the population had been proportionate to the excess of males. In 1823, the excess of females above males, at Barbadoes, amounted to 6,498, and in 1829, it amounted to 6,520; and the population, from 1823 to 1829, increased from 78,816 to 81,902. In the parish of Portland, in Jamaica, at first there was a great excess of males, but afterwards of females. In the island of Jamaica, in 1829, there was an excess of females of 5,913 above the males; a number so great, that the time must be at hand when there would be an increase of the whole population. The right hon. Secretary had also stated, that the diminished value of West-India property was not owing to the agitation of the slave question in this country. The right hon. Gentleman endeavoured to prove, that the West-India colonies had been in a state of equal distress at former periods. He stated, that in the year 1804, there was presented to this House a petition from Jamaica, showing, that great distress existed at that time, and declaring, that unless some immediate relief were extended to the colonies, the ruin of the planters must irretrievably follow. "This," said the right hon. Gentleman, with an air of triumph,—" this was in the palmy days of the slave-trade. At that time the planters, he said, declared, that their estates were good for nothing; and therefore, if they were good for nothing in 1833, there could be no reason for attributing the loss in 220 their value to the agitation of the slave question. But the right hon. Secretary omitted this fact, that the Parliament of England, at the time that the colonists complained in 1804, had recently interdicted the intercourse between Jamaica and the United States of America. The inhabitants were alarmed lest that interdiction should bring a famine similar to that which had swept away 15,000 negroes; and an intercourse so beneficial to the colonists having been interdicted by the British Legislature, was it not natural that they should petition, and say, we are ruined—it is impossible that we can go on—your measures of foreign policy oppress us; we, therefore, call upon you for assistance. It may be good for the community at home that you should cut off the communication between us and the United States, but it occasions to us great injury, and we therefore pray for assistance." By the omission of that fact, the right hon. Gentleman obtained an applause from the House which would have been withheld had he stated the whole case. But the right hon. Gentleman's argument upon this point was shallow and inconclusive; because there was distress without any agitation of the slave-trade in 1804, he jumped to the conclusion, that, after a ten years' agitation of the slave question in 1833, the former was in no respect, and in no degree, to be attributed to the latter. Without dwelling upon the various causes by which the value of land was affected, this was the fact upon which he relied for a complete refutation of the argument advanced by the right hon. Secretary—namely, that since the year 1823, estates in the West-Indies had not been saleable; the produce of the estate had found a market, but the estate itself had been as if it were without a title. In 1804, the value of the produce of those estates was destroyed; but, in 1823, agitation made the estates themselves valueless. He had hitherto referred to Jamaica; but he would now call the attention of the House to the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, in reference to some of the other islands;—and first with respect to Barbadoes. The right hon. Gentleman asserted, that in no one island had the law of evidence been placed upon the same footing as in England. He had been requested by the agent from Barbadoes to deny the correctness of that assertion, as far as regarded the island with which he 221 was connected. The Legislative Assembly of Barbadoes, in pursuance of the recommendations which were sent out from the Government of this country, passed an Act, by which they provided, that the evidence of negroes should from that time be taken in the same form, and be subject only to the same rules and regulations as all other classes of his Majesty's subjects in that island. Another of the charges against the colonies was, that they had refused to appoint protectors of slaves. This, again, was incorrect with regard to Barbadoes; for in that island, the Local Legislature enacted, that the Speaker of the Assembly, the Chief Baron of the Exchequer, and the Attorney General, should be considered as constituting a Committee for the protection of slaves. It was further provided, that those three functionaries should have the power of appointing a secretary, who should be considered as the acting protector of slaves. The right hon. Gentleman would have acted more candidly, if he had not invariably taken extreme eases as a test and sample of the system. While he pointed out delinquencies, he entirely overlooked the meritorious exertions of those colonies which had done their duty. For the sake of producing an effect, and of gaining the applause of the House, he collected together all the faults of the worst colonies, and spoke of them as common occurrences, even in the best. That was most unfair. As to compensation, he would assert that the 15,000,000l. which had been mentioned would not be sufficient to compensate the planters for giving up all their rights. The right hon. Gentleman had spoken of the colonies as if it were almost a matter of indifference whether we retained them or not; and it had been urged, again and again, that if the whole of our West-India colonies were taken from us, we should still get a sufficient supply of sugar. But this country wished to have the market here supplied with sugar, the produce of free labour. If, after losing the West Indies, we depended for our supply of sugar upon the produce of other countries, would the object so anxiously desired be accomplished? Where were we to obtain sugar, the produce of free labour? From Brazil? No. From Cuba? No. From the French colonies? No. Slavery existed in them all. Those, therefore, who were anxious to have sugar produced by free labour, must have a strong interest in keeping up our own 222 colonies, because it was to them alone that they could look for the accomplishment of that great and desirable object. [Question! question!] He requested the House to listen, at least with the semblance of a decent attention, to his statements, after they had paid so much attention to the arguments on the other side. He was about to state, that the colonies of this country ought to be kept in such a state, that, by being worked, they might be of value; and it was impossible they could be made of value, unless there were in them a number of resident planters, which the new plan certainly would not encourage. The plan itself did not contain that "executory principle" of which the right hon. Gentleman spoke, and which, he said, was so essential to it. Ministers had injured their plan, by excluding the Legislative Assembly, and the Magistrates of the islands, from any participation in its execution, and, in his opinion, a little addition of money would have the effect of procuring their concurrence. His proposition for the expenditure of a considerable sum of money could certainly not be very palatable to the House at the present moment. The right hon. Secretary had stated, that the decrease of the duty on sugar, from 27s. to 24s. per cent, had not benefited the consumer, and that, if the 3s. per cwt. were again put on, the consumer would not suffer. This additional 3s. would produce to the country a revenue of 600,000l.; and 1d. a pound in coffee, would produce 100,000l. more. If the consumer did not suffer by thus raising the revenue upon the production of the West Indies, could there be any harm, anything wrong, in endeavouring to conciliate all the parties, by giving such a sum of money, as the additional 700,000l. should be the interest of? If the taxation upon the West Indies were increased to the amount of 700,000l., Government might afford to give them a sum, of which the 700,000l. should be the interest, at three per cent. That sum would be 20,000,000l.; and it ought to be given to the West-India planters, as a compensation for the loss which they would sustain, and as an inducement to them not to resist a law, which, but for some aid of this kind, must involve them in utter ruin. The resolution with which he would conclude, embraced four distinct propositions—first, it would grant immediate emancipation to the negro; secondly, it would enable the resolutions 223 of Ministers to work in practice, by conciliating the prejudices of the planters; thirdly, it would provide a fund for the raising of a capital of 20,000,000l., which ought to be paid to the colonists as a compensation; and, fourthly, it would pledge the House to lend 10,000,000l. to the planters, on the security of the colonies themselves. Those who had been so anxious for emancipation, who desired that the slave should be immediately free, should vote for his resolution, because, by it, emancipation would be given at once. In the midst of all the difficulties, all the troubles, and all the dangers of this subject, would the House, for a comparatively inconsiderable sum of money, sell, not only the honour of Great Britain (as far as the West Indies were concerned), but teach a lesson to the other colonies, that no reliance was to be placed on the faith of the Mother Country? He should base the resolution which would contain the four propositions he had stated, upon the two plans which had been laid before the House—the one by the right hon. Secretary, the other by the noble Lord, the member for Northumberland. He, therefore, begged leave to move an amendment to the first resolution. It followed the Resolution verbatim to the end, and then introduced an addition to it. He would move, 'that it is the opinion of this Committee, that immediate measures be taken for the entire abolition of slavery throughout the colonies, with the concurrence and assistance of the local legislatures and authorities; and that, in consideration thereof, his Majesty be enabled to grant the sum of 20,000,000l. sterling to the proprietors in his colonial possessions, according to the number of slaves belonging to each proprietor; and that his Majesty be further enabled to advance, by way of loan, the sum of 10,000,000l. sterling to the local legislatures of each colony for that purpose; such loan to be repaid in such manner, and at such rate of interest, as shall be prescribed by Parliament.'
§ Mr. Tancred
said, that it was with no small degree of surprise he had heard the right of the British Legislature to legislate on this subject for the colonies questioned in that House. The right of the British Legislature had repeatedly been asserted in different Statutes of the British Parliament, had been repeatedly recognized by the Colonial Legislatures, and uniformly 224 admitted by all the great lawyers who had ever discussed the subject. The rights of the British Legislature had never been abandoned by any act of their own, except in the case of internal taxation. Both in Acts of Parliament and in Acts of the Colonial Legislature, the right of the English Parliament to legislate for the colonies had been directly asserted, and indirectly admitted. The opinion even of Mr. Burge supported this doctrine; for that gentleman, with no view to diminish the authority of Colonial Legislatures, had distinctly admitted the right of the British Parliament. In his evidence upon the right of the Colonial Assemblies, he said, "the common law of England prevails in this colony, except in those cases in which it has been altered by the Acts of Assembly here. But British Statutes, passed since the acquisition of the island, are not in force in this colony, unless in express terms they have been extended to the colony"—a statement which distinctly admitted, that if these Statutes were expressly extended to the colonies they would be in force there. The right to legislate seemed to him most clearly established. The next point to be considered, therefore, was—upon whom the expense of this emancipation of the slaves was to fall. He thought that the guilt of the origin and continuance of the odious system of slavery was divided between the Legislature and the planters. As there had been a common guilt, he thought there ought to be a common reparation. He despised that cheap humanity which was willing to do justice at the expense of others, but was unwilling to do it if it cost anything. He therefore supported the plan for the gradual abolition of slavery; but he must say, that he was opposed to that total change which was recommended by those who advocated the immediate abolition of slavery. There was no pressing occasion for it; and there was every reason to shun it, on account of the danger which must inevitably ensue from the adoption of such a measure. He feared, if the Parliament did not agree with the proposition for making a change in the condition of the negro, that we should have to regret the loss of our colonies. Let the House take warning by the case of St. Domingo, which, in 1789, produced a revenue of 6,000,000l. a-year to France. Not only was emancipation refused, but the most rigorous decrees 225 were made, and attempted to be enforced against the negroes; and the result was, that the island was lost. A Society called Les Amis des Noirs had, in the first instance, with the purest motives, instilled into the negroes feelings that made them desire freedom. Among that Society were men of the highest prudence, as well as virtue and honour, and they would carefully have avoided doing anything that might be likely to drive the negroes into rebellion. But the general members of that Society acted differently, and then, what with the passing of severe decrees, and the revocation of them, the effort to oppress, and the contempt excited by the futility of that effort, the colonists were driven into rebellion, and the colony was lost. Any plan for making a decided, but gradual, alteration in the condition of the slaves, should have his support; and he again warned the House, that the example of St. Domingo was an instance of what might be expected if the amelioration of the condition of the slave, and the means of making him free were longer refused. The great object of all parties seemed to him to be, to stimulate the labour of the slave. Having that object in view, he could not but admire that part of the right hon. Gentleman's proposition, which not only allowed, but would induce, the slave to work out, day by day, his own emancipation. Under these circumstances, he should give his support to the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Buckingham
rose amidst confusion, and said, that if he had been in the habit of frequently addressing the House, or when addressing it, of trespassing on its time at any great length, there might be some reason for those symptoms of impatience; but the House, he was sure, would do him the justice to recollect, that he was the only Member who had yet proposed to limit the length of hon. Gentlemen's speeches, and bring them all within a moderate compass: and though his proposition had not been adopted, and a great waste of the public time had consequently been allowed to take place, yet he considered himself under a tacit pledge to enforce his precept by example, and to prove the sincerity of his advice by practising himself the conduct he would recommend to others. In the lateness of the hour, he should feel an additional reason for condensation and brevity; but, as he intended to touch on a branch of 226 the question hitherto undebated, and to show the preference of an immediate, over a gradual, abolition of slavery, he trusted that he might have the ear of the House for the short period to which he would confine his claims on their attention. When the Government plan was so ably and fully developed by the right hon. the Secretary for the Colonies, he felt that there were many parts of it extremely objectionable; and, if he had had an opportunity, at an earlier period of the debate, to have explained the grounds of this feeling, he would have done so at some length. But, for the present, he would content himself with saying, that the two principal features to which he should object were these—namely, the protraction of the period of emancipation to twelve years, and the making the negro pay, by a portion of his daily labour, during that time, for a liberty which ought never to have been taken from him, and which should be restored to him instantly and without cost. The latter part of the plan, he rejoiced to find, was to be given up; and seeing that the Ministers had thus yielded to the popular opinion, in abandoning that part of their scheme, he confidently hoped that, by the Amendment he should propose, and the discussion to which it would give rise, they might also be induced to relinquish the other part of the plan, and give freedom to the slave in the shortest possible period of time, instead of continuing his bondage for so long a period as that originally contemplated. It was in this hope, at least, that he had framed his Amendment; and in this hope he would persevere with it to the end. He would not go over the ground already so fully occupied by the hon. member for Bristol (Sir R. Vyvyan), on a former evening, and by the hon. members for Kidderminster and Banbury (Mr. Godson and Mr. Tancred), on the present, as to the right of the Parliament to legislate for the colonies at all. Neither would he advert to the evils or the horrors of slavery in general; because, as all parties had now admitted, that the system was bad, and that it must be abolished, he should deem it a waste of time, and an unnecessary irritation of the feelings of opposing parties, to say one word on the subject. The past should be now forgiven and forgotten, if we could only secure the blessings of freedom for the future: and to the attainment of this he would therefore strongly 227 recommend that the exertions of all parties should be exclusively devoted. The motives which had led to the almost universal demand throughout this country for the abolition of slavery were three-fold. There were, first, those—by far the largest number, and the most zealous and uncompromising—who demanded it as enjoined by religion; who deemed slavery sinful in the eyes of God, and contrary to the spirit of the Gospel. There were, secondly, those who contended for freedom as a claim of justice, and who held slavery to be inconsistent with the rights of man, as proclaimed and protected by the British Constitution. There were, thirdly, those who saw in slavery a most degrading, impoverishing, unsafe, and costly system of subjection—and who, on grounds of policy alone, demanded its abolition. Now, every one of these three classes advocated immediate, rather than gradual, abolition. The religious class, because whatever was sinful ought, they contended, to be abandoned without a moment's hesitation or delay; the philanthropical class, because they equally contended, that injustice ought to be remedied at the earliest possible moment of time; and the political and commercial class, because they conceived that the longer the system of slavery lasted, the greater would be the amount of evil to be redressed; and the greater the difficulty of restoring freedom to the enslaved. All these were, therefore, for immediate emancipation, without any further delay than was absolutely indispensable for the protection of the public peace: and this conclusion was, indeed, borne out by the fact, that out of the thousands of petitions presented on this subject, bearing the signatures of more than a million of persons, they nearly all prayed for immediate, rather than gradual, emancipation, and demanded that the freedom they claimed for the slave should be given him at once, and secured to him for ever. This demand, however, was opposed by the Ministers, as well as by the West Indians, on various grounds: the principal of which were these—first, that by immediate emancipation, there would be great danger of insurrection, which would lead to the murder of the whites and the loss of our Colonies entirely; secondly, that if this did not take place, the natural indolence of the slaves was so great, that no stimulus but the whip would ever make them labour, even for a bare subsistence; thirdly, 228 that as sugar could not be cultivated by free-labour, the abolition of slavery would lead to the extinction of the growth of sugar in the West Indies; and fourthly, that the slave colonies of other countries, thus becoming the only places in which sugar could be grown, we should be giving them a benefit at the sacrifice of our own possessions, and encouraging that very slave trade, which our aim was to abolish. These, he believed, were the principal objections raised to immediate emancipation, and he would answer each of them in detail. First, then—as to the danger of insurrection; the causes of insurrection generally were, a strong sense of wrong, and a determination to shake off some burthen or yoke. As long as slavery was continued, call it by what name they might, whether apprenticeship or servitude, or by any other term, as long as forced subjection to an individual master, without power of removal, or of improving wages, remained, so long would there be danger of insurrection: for so long would there be powerful motives to rebel. But when freedom had been granted—when the yoke had been taken off—when every man might seek his own employer, and fix his own terms of reward; when the blacks were elevated to the same enjoyment of equal rights with the whites, what was there to rebel for? What greater good could they hope to attain? It was not the usual conduct of mankind to rebel against their benefactors, nor to break out into insurrection when freedom was accorded to them. In general the people of all countries were too happy to receive the smallest boon from the hands of their rulers; and it was only when rights were withheld, and justice denied, that insurrections or rebellions ever did take place. They were frequent in the West Indies now—they occurred often in the East—they happened perpetually in ail the despotic states of Asia, and they took place occasionally in the worst governed countries of Europe—of which Turkey, Spain, Portugal, and Italy, were examples. But there were no insurrections in America, and none in England; and if there were any, they would occur, not because rights were conceded, but because rights were denied. The rule was universal, that men never rebelled because freedom was granted to them; and that the only danger of insurrection lay in a denial of rights which were justly due. But, as to the murder of the whites—What was to hinder 229 that taking place now, if the hatred of the blacks was so strong? Nothing but military force. Let, then, such force be still further strengthened by a preventive police, and a body of independent Magistracy, until the change from slavery to freedom should be complete; and as the slaves would have no addition to their numbers or their force by being made free, while all the motives to rebellion or revenge would be greatly lessened, we could not, for a moment, apprehend insurrection as a consequence of their obtaining their immediate freedom, though we might dread it as the almost inevitable consequence which must and would ensue on that freedom being longer withheld. Secondly—As to the indolence of the slaves, and their incapacity or unwillingness to labour for their own support. It could not be denied, that the love of ease was as common to the negro race as to every other. It was not necessary to resort to Africa to discover this propensity. All men disliked to labour more than was necessary to obtain for them the enjoyments of life; beyond this, they desired leisure, or at least the entire direction and control over the employment of their time. It was also true, that, in warm climates, repose was a greater luxury than in colder ones. But notwithstanding this: how stood the fact? Was it not established by evidence the most varied and unimpeachable, that wherever the experiment had been tried, it had been found that the negroes, like other men, were beings made up of hopes and fears, and operated upon by the stimulus of rewards and punishments? They had been granted for their own use, in some cases, a day in each week; in others, an hour in each day: and in both they had shown that in the hour or day devoted to their own use, and the produce of which was to be for their own benefit, they had done more than in twice or thrice the time employed for the benefit of others. Had he had the good fortune to have caught the Chairman's eye in an earlier part of the night, he was prepared to establish this by evidence, which he had brought with him for that purpose; but at this late hour, and under the pledge of brevity he had given, he would abstain from reading the evidence he had brought. He might direct, however, those who still entertained doubts on this subject, where it would be found; and he would accordingly name the works he held in his hand. They were not anonymous, but 230 each the productions of authors well known and highly esteemed, both in the political and the literary world. The first was Mr. Jeremie, for many years a resident in the West Indies, as President of the Council in the island of St. Lucie, and subsequently appointed in an official capacity to the Mauritius. This gentleman, in his "Essays on Colonial Slavery," presented a large mass of evidence to prove, that the emancipated slaves were among the most industrious of men: that, under every imaginable disadvantage they acquired property, and became industrious, frugal, and prosperous artisans and traders. He gave an interesting history of the town of Castries, in St. Lucie, where the great part of the population were free blacks, and people of colour, and by whom a large amount of property was held in houses, lands, ships, &c., many individuals possessing from 2,000l. to 3,000l. of value; and all acquired entirely by their own exertions. The other work was one entitled "Wages, of the Whip," drawn up by Mr. Conder, a well known author, in which was collected a body of evidence to satisfy the most sceptical of this great truth, that wherever coercion or force was applied to draw forth the exertions of the negro, he gave his labours unwillingly; and it was consequently unproductive: but wherever the stimulus of hope and reward were offered, his vigour became redoubled, his industry was untiring, and his labour was rendered profitable both to the employer and the employed. There was not the slightest ground, therefore, for the assumption, that, if liberated, the negroes would fail to support themselves; and the best proof, perhaps, that could be given, that the Ministers did not entertain this view of the case, and consider the negro a peculiarly indolent being, was this—that though they urged his natural unwillingness to work, as an argument against his immediate emancipation, and justified the keeping him in slavery for twelve years longer, on the ground that it was necessary to teach him habits of industry (as if the unfortunate slave had not been taught those habits, by being kept at hard labour all his life), yet they expected this "indolent being," who they alleged could not be induced to labour, by the stimulus of hunger and nakedness, to supply the want of food and raiment, which could only be thus obtained—they expected him, when all his wants had been supplied by the seven hours and a-half of 231 labour for his master during the day, to labour the other two hours and a-half, without the stimulus of hunger and nakedness, but with the prudent forethought and design of laying up a provision for a future day! Now, both of these positions could not be true—the negro could not be at once the most indolent and improvident, and the most industrious and prudent of the human race; though the Ministers assumed him to be either, as it best suited their purpose. The truth was, that he was in neither of these extremes; but his character was that of the common average of humanity under similar circumstances to his own: whatever was bad about him, was the result of his enslaved condition, and could only be eradicated by his being made free. Whatever was good about him was part of his human nature, and, as such, was capable of progressive improvement; the first step to which must be his emancipation. And, as all slaves hitherto made free had bettered their condition from the moment of their freedom being attained, there was no good reason for doubting but that all the slaves in future to be emancipated, would run the same career of improvement, some faster and some slower than others, but all at least rising above that lowest point in the scale of existence, which now marks them the next link in creation to the beasts of the field, but which, being broken, they would rise, like other rational beings, to the enjoyment of all the privileges and all the virtues of manhood and humanity. Thirdly—As to the cessation of our supplies of sugar, which it is contended, can only be had from the West Indies, and only be cultivated by slaves. It was certainly remarkable, that such an argument as this should be advanced by any one pretending to geographical, or political, or commercial information; and yet it had been dwelt upon at great length. But could hon. Members be ignorant of the fact, that in our own immense empire of the East Indies, any quantity of sugar might be obtained, the entire produce of free labour; and even now, under all the disadvantages of its growth, so much cheaper than the sugar of the West, that, to protect this, a heavy extra duty had been placed on all the sugar imported from Bengal, without which the West-India sugar, produced by slave labour, would, long ago, have been driven out of the market? It was true, that at present, the East-India sugar was inferior in strength 232 and quality to that of the West: but when the same protection of person and property should be extended to residents in Bengal, as was now enjoyed by the inhabitants of all our other colonies—when British capitalists should be permitted to hold lands in India, establish mills, and apply the capital, the science, and the skill, of Europe, to the cultivation of sugar in the East, as they now do in the West—there was no doubt, in the mind of any person who had resided in India, that its quality might be made quite equal to that of any sugar in the world; and, therefore, that all alarm on the subject of failure of supply in this necessary or luxury of life, was perfectly groundless. Fourthly—As to the encouragement which would be given to slavery in other colonies, and the extension of the slave trade for their supply, by the cessation of slavery in our own, he thought the remedy for this perfectly easy:—If, instead of the unjust preference which had hitherto been given to the produce of slave-labour over that of free industry, the Ministers would but reverse the rule, and tax heavily the produce of slave colonies, while they admitted the produce of free labour on easier terms, slavery would then become so much more unprofitable than freedom, even to the planters themselves, that it would not long be continued. And as to the slave trade, he contended, that if the Government of England would only be just enough, courageous enough, and virtuous enough, to declare the slave trade to be piracy, wherever practised, and by whomsoever carried on—and make some severe examples of those captured in its perpetration—it would soon be swept away, as it deserved to be, from the face of the earth. There was one remarkable inconsistency in the opinions held on slavery and the slave trade, to which he must, for a moment, advert. All parties were now agreed to speak of the latter with detestation and horror, even those who saw nothing in slavery itself so bad as to require its abolition. But, for himself, he deemed slavery to be the worst of the two. The slave trade consisted in the capture and conveyance of men from Africa to the West Indies, in a most inconvenient and uncomfortable manner, it was true; but what was slavery but a perpetuation of this state of suffering and wrong, for all the rest of the victim's life? It was a crime, no doubt, to seize the free man, and make him a slave: it was also a crime to transport him by 233 force from his native home to a foreign shore: but was it not equally a crime to purchase this injured victim, and to keep him in cruel bondage all the rest of his days? For his own part, though he knew it was against the commonly received opinion, he considered the subsequent bondage of perpetuated slavery to be even worse than the original capture and banishment of the slave, to which it gave rise. He thought that the subsequent slavery, though coming after, in point of time, was, in reality, the parent of the slave trade itself; for had there been no receivers of stolen men, men would not continue to have been stolen: had there been no buyers of slaves, there would soon have ceased to be sellers; and he therefore could not understand the philanthropy of those who affected such extreme horror at the slave trade, as the means by which the victims were procured, but had no indignation whatever towards those who kept those victims all their lives afterwards in bondage, subject to misery, to stripes, and to chains. The time, he hoped, was arrived, when both slavery and the slave trade were about to be extinguished together. Let England set the proud example first; and use all her great political and moral influence with other countries, to follow it; and he did not despair, even before he sunk into the grave himself, to see slavery abolished in every colony of the West, whether British or Foreign; as well as in the United States of America, where it had too long been a blot on the free institutions for which that country was otherwise distinguished. He had thus endeavoured, much more briefly than he could have wished—as, in deference to the convenience of the House at that late hour of the night, he had omitted many arguments on which, had he been earlier in the debate, he should have felt it his duty to dwell—to show that all the reasons alleged against immediate emancipation were capable of being refuted: and that as such immediate emancipation was more just, and not more dangerous, than any protracted scheme, it ought to have the preference of all parties, whether they wished the abolition of slavery on the grounds of religion, justice, or policy—all of which were opposed to any delay whatever, beyond the shortest possible period, with in which adequate arrangements could be made to carry the emancipation into effect. In conclusion, he would say a few words on the prospects which such 234 a measure as he advocated would open to the colonies, as well as to the mother country. The negroes being released from their present degraded and depressed condition, would become subject to new motives, animated by new hopes, and cheered by new enjoyments. The means of instruction being afforded them, their leisure would be devoted to the acquisition of knowledge. Religious and moral, as well as entertaining and useful instruction, would teach them that the wants of man could be best satisfied by industry and prudence; that, next to the satisfaction of the physical wants, the attainment of knowledge was at once a duty and a pleasure. The developement of every new mental faculty would expand the desire for further intellectual attainment; and thus the now dormant powers of the negro mind would be brought out into progressively increasing exercise, till they became fitted for the highest enjoyment of all social and domestic pleasures. With increased intelligence, augmented wealth would be acquired; new desires would require new materials for satisfaction; the further developement of the resources of their own industry would furnish the means of payment or exchange; and the demand which would thus be created for British manufactures of every sort and kind, would be the most ample, as well as the most satisfactory, repayment of any temporary sacrifice which we might now be called upon to make, to carry this great measure of immediate emancipation into effect. If loss should actually accrue for the first few years, from the change from a system of slave labour to one of free industry in the cultivation of the soil, he should have no objection whatever to such loss being compensated; though, he believed, that the planter as well as the slave—the colony as well as the mother country—would be benefited by the change. As his Amendment was but the first of a series of Resolutions growing out of it, which he should be prepared, at the proper time, to submit to the House, he should, for the present, content himself with following the example of the Ministers, who, though they had laid four Resolutions on the Table of the House, were going to divide only on the first. He would, therefore, submit only the first of his Resolutions by way of Amendment; and when the sense of the House had been taken on it, he would shape his course 235 with respect to the others accordingly. His Amendment was as follows:—"That it is the opinion of this Committee that immediate and effectual measures should be taken for the entire Abolition of Slavery in all the British possessions, without further delay than may be necessary to organize a body of Magistracy and Police, for the preservation of order and peace—and without subjecting the emancipated slaves to any payment or burthen whatever as the price of their redemption."
§ Colonel Davies
observed, that he was a free judge on the present question, having no recorded opinions upon it, and no interest at stake. He had no hesitation whatever, in saying, that the immediate abolition of slavery was absolutely necessary. The wishes of this country, and the situation of the colonies, imperatively demanded that it should be no longer delayed. And yet, he could not forget the tremendous difficulties which stood in the way of that abolition; difficulties involving in themselves not only the existence of the colonies, but the prosperity of this country. He could not forget that there were two parties to be considered; and that while the negroes ought to have justice done to them, the rights of their masters ought not to be neglected. Whoever had a large body of constituents must have among them many who on this subject were hurried on by an inconsiderate zeal, which, nevertheless, did credit to their hearts, although it made them dangerous guides. In his opinion, if the House were to adopt the Resolution of the hon. member for Sheffield, they would take a dangerous and impolitic step. He was anxious for the immediate abolition of slavery; but he could not shut his eyes to the danger attendant upon it. Let the House recollect the misery that had been produced by sudden emancipation at St. Domingo; misery ten thousand times greater even than that of slavery itself. He was friendly, therefore, to a course which would subject the slave to a course of probation. But while he stated this, he objected to the proposition of the right hon. Secretary of State. He thought the slave ought to have such wages as would, in a few years, enable him to purchase his emancipation. Ashe intended to take the sense of the Committee on the right hon. Gentleman's fourth Resolution, he would say a few words on the subject of it. When he considered how loudly the people of this 236 country complained of the pressure of existing taxation, he could not assent to the policy of imposing an additional tax on colonial produce. He thought, also, that the gift of 15,000,000l. would be the most fatal boon to the colonies. The depreciation of West-India property had been so great of late years, that there could be no doubt that that sum of 15,000,000l. would soon be absorbed. Nor was that all. The produce of the West Indies was so considerable, that it did not meet with adequate consumption in this country. Would the consumption of that produce be increased by increasing the duty upon it? On the contrary, to increase that duty would inevitably be, to increase the difficulties of the planters. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to think that the produce of the increased duties would afford ample means of paying the interest of the loan. The returns of late years proved that this was a fallacious expectation; and there could be no doubt that the country would be saddled with the permanent interest of that loan, or 600,000l. The true course would be, not to increase, but to diminish the duty. That would at once relieve the planter, and, by increasing the consumption, give a stimulus to all trade in connexion with the islands. Even if it diminished the revenue (which was doubtful), that diminution would be trifling compared with the perpetual charge of 600,000l., which would be incurred by the proposed plan. Before he sat down, he begged to repeat that there was no warmer friend than himself to the immediate abolition of slavery, as far as that was consistent with real justice and humanity.
§ The House resumed—the Chairman reported progress, and obtained leave to sit again.