§ Mr. Fowell Buxton
rose pursuant to notice, to move "That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire whether the conditions on which the 20,000,000l. were granted for the Abolition of Slavery have been complied with." He was aware that he might expect considerable opposition to the Motion; and he would at once admit, that the honour of the country was pledged, and its best interests committed, to the payment of the 20,000,000l. if the planters had fulfilled the conditions imposed on them, and observed the promises they had made. He was prepared, however, to show that the terms of the agreement had not been fulfilled by the planters; and, that no excuse or apology was to be 919 found in the conduct of the negroes for that breach of faith. In entering upon this subject, he felt that the part he had taken with respect to the emancipation of slaves in the colonies, imposed upon him at the present period a duty of the utmost responsibility, and from which he could not shrink with any regard to consistency. From the terms of the Motion of which he had given notice, he should assuredly be understood to allude to the necessity there existed for the British Parliament to watch, with an attention almost amounting to jealousy, the conduct of those persons officially intrusted with the charge conferred upon them by the Act of 1833; the object of which was to relieve the slave population of our West-India possessions from the infliction of the lash, and other odious evils, inseparable from the state of degrading servility in which they were held. The House would recollect the high tone of remonstrance then held by several hon. Members connected with the West-India interests, as to the impracticability of the measure proposed for extinguishing the hateful relation between the slave and the master; and the prophecy of many, that the measure must fail of effecting what it rashly proposed to accomplish. Gentlemen, he sincerely hoped, would see that it was their duty, under the circumstances he was about to detail, to take some decisive step, or to adopt a positive resolution to prevent the money apportioned by way of compensation to the owners of slaves, or rather as the ransom of the slaves themselves from their state of bondage, from being disbursed until the promises and stipulations should have been fulfilled, under which it was announced to the House that this large sum of 20,000,000l. was to be advanced to the owners of slaves, by way, as it was termed, of compensation for the loss of the services of their slaves. It was necessary that he should, in limine, recall to the recollection of the House some of the melancholy forebodings indulged in as to the results of the measure. A right hon. Gentleman, now elevated to the Peerage (Lord Ashburton), spoke with considerable confidence, inspired by his general knowledge on the subject of our commerce and colonies, and even went so far as to prophesy what would be the effects of the total emancipation of the negroes in the West Indies from slavery. Recollecting these prophetic and portentous announce- 920 ments, he had looked with attention to the returns made to the House upon this subject—returns which, so far from supporting the noble Lord's authority as a prophet, showed how completely these confident predictions had failed. He would read to the House an extract from Mr. Baring's speech on the subject, delivered on the 7th of June, 1833:—The hon. Member accordingly read a long extract from that Gentleman's speech, for which see Hansard's Third Series, Vol. xviii., p. 492, 494. Had those predictions, the hon. Member continued, been fulfilled? Had our manufactures and commerce declined, and were our ships rotting in harbour? As to the price of sugar, so far from being doubled or trebled in consequence of the abolition of slavery, it was, if anything, rather lower than it had been for the average of the ten years preceding the abolition of slavery. He wished to ask his right hon. Friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whether he had found a deficit of 3,000,000l. in the Sugar-duties?—Whether the emancipation of the slaves had been attended with all the serious financial difficulties foretold by the right hon. Gentleman? Had our West-Indian Colonies separated from us? The hon. Member expressed his desire of being taunted at the end of two years as a false prophet. He had not recalled the hon. Member's predictions for the purpose of taunting him, but for the purpose of shewing, in countries where slavery still continued, such as America—and where the same doctrines were current—how little reliance was to be placed on bold assertions and confident predictions of the evils of freedom, even when they came recommended by the undoubted probity and peculiar acquaintance with commerce and colonies of the late Member for Essex. In reply to the representations made by the great body of West-India Proprietors, he would confidently state, that by the slave population in these islands, the boon of freedom on August the 1st, had been received in a way which would have done credit to the most enlightened people. Had he said five years ago that freedom granted would not be accompanied with rivers of blood—with scenes of unexampled desolation, he should have been set down as an enthusiast. Now the real facts were before them; it was saying little to assert, that no blood was shed. Not one act of violence was committed—there 921 was no boisterous merriment—no uproar of joy. On the evening of the 31st of July, as the moment of liberation was approaching, which was to make so great a change on them and their condition, transforming them from things, and chattels, and brutes, as they are described in Colonial Acts, into citizens and subjects of the British Empire, with her laws and her power to defend them—that moment found every chapel and place of worship thronged with worshippers. It passed over in deep and solemn silence, and was at length broken by a burst of praise and thanksgiving to that Almighty Power which had redeemed them from bondage; and the day which was to have let loose the rude passions of a savage multitude, passed over in profound tranquillity, and in acts of simple and grateful devotion. So passed Friday, the 1st of August. On the Sunday the Slaves did that which we had so long in vain laboured for—they abolished the Sunday markets. But what did they do on the Monday morning? Did they, which had been predicted a thousand times, refuse and reject all labour? Did they "pass their hours basking in the sunshine of a luxurious but languid soil?" In 1832 he was examined before the House of Lords, for several successive days, and amongst the multitude of questions proposed he was asked:—"Suppose Emancipation were granted this evening, what would be done to-morrow morning?" His answer was,—"To-morrow morning is an early day. Perhaps they will enjoy themselves a little. I should say, that on the following Monday they would proceed to work." Lord Sligo was sitting by at the time. Lord Sligo was Governor of Jamaica when the liberation was effected, and these are his words:—"The 1st of August, the day of Emancipation, was devoted, in most parts of the island, to devotional services. Saturday was a holiday. On Monday the apprentices turned out to their work, with even more than usual readiness, in some cases with alacrity, and all with good humour." He was compelled to turn prophet upon the subject of that inevitable rebellion, which haunted Gentlemen's imagination. "Do you believe," he was asked, "that if Parliament were to grant privileges to the Slaves (which the Colonial Legislature would not authorize), those privileges would be granted without producing a rebellion on the part of the 922 Slaves?" His answer was—"The planters would be in a state of rebellion." Again he was asked—"Would there not be an insurrection of the negroes?"—"No; I think the real danger of the case, and so I stated the other day, is, that the planters would be disposed to rebel. The danger is not with the negroes." Now let them look at the fact as Lord Sligo stated it;—"They (the negroes) will be quiet unless forced into rebellion by the conduct of the overseers, and, I am sorry to say, many of the masters and managing attorneys encourage them. There have been several petty disturbances, in almost every instance caused by the intemperate conduct of the overseers, or exaction by the proprietors or managers." Again he was asked—"There being difficulties attendant upon the emancipation of the negroes in what way do you propose to obviate them?"—"The way I should propose would be, simply to subject the negroes to those motives which induce men to work everywhere else,—make it their interest,—throw them upon their own resources; and whether black men or white men, or men of any colour, or in any climate, I think there would be more labour obtained than there could be by force." And what did Lord Sligo say upon that point? After many months' experience he said,—"As far as the work of the negroes is concerned, it is now found that, except on Saturdays (when they work in their own provision grounds), as much work as is required can be had for wages." The House would see how my speculations on these points had been in conformity with subsequent events,—how thoroughly his expectations had been fulfilled—but nowhere had they been so fulfilled as in Antigua. The fairest answer would be found there, where there was no intervening apprenticeship,—where the negroes were "thrown upon their own resources," and, under these circumstances, they had realized all that had been predicted in their favour. He could not expect that the House would be so indulgent as to listen to the variety of details, all equally satisfactory, which he had to produce on this subject; but a few facts, derived from unquestionable authority, he mi In, perhaps, be permitted to state. "I found," wrote an eminent individual, on the 27th of November, 1834, "in Antigua, where, on the 1st of August, entire and unqualified freedom was given to the slave, that 923 the work of the plantations is conducted most satisfactorily, and at a far less expense than before." The Speaker of the House of Assembly, in a speech delivered on the 30th of October, 1834, said:—" That, far from desponding, he looked with exultation at the prospect before them. The agricultural and commercial prosperity was absolutely on the advance; and, for his part, he would not hesitate to purchase estates to-morrow." Mr. Loving, the chief of police in that island, wrote on the 7th of January, 1835:—"You may tell all our friends that matters are working vastly well in this island. The rural population exhibited a peaceful and moral deportment during the Christmas holidays, that would have done honour to any country in the world; and in no past year did the season of West-Indian revelry, frolic, and debauchery, blow over with such tranquillity." Another individual wrote to a noble Member of this House on the 14th of February, 1835:—"As to disturbance, there has been nothing like it since the celebrated 1st of August, but the island has been even more quiet than at other times." But he could not attempt to lead the House through all the details he had before him. He would, however, ask, was the tranquillity of the island disturbed? Gentlemen would recollect the arguments in favour of an intermediate state—of the extreme danger of passing, per saltum, from slavery to freedom. The two islands of St. Kitt's and Antigua were contiguous, and under the same governor. Granting the force of those arguments, against the sudden and entire establishment of freedom, the point of danger was not at St. Kitt's, where apprenticeship existed, but at Antigua, where none of these precautions were used. What was the result? Was there danger among the free negroes of Antigua, or among the half-freed negroes of St. Kitt's? Look at one fact. A few days before the 1st of August, the Governor, his staff, and his force, passed from Antigua to St. Kitt's, for this plain reason, because he apprehended danger, not on the island where entire freedom was given, but in the colony where it was only in part conceded. But he would go to the Christmas holidays, a period of great danger in every slave colony, but, according to the old notions, of peculiar and excessive danger in a colony where slavery had expired. For 100 years they had established military law 924 during these holidays, and, for the first time, that practice was departed from; and why?—because they felt perfect security under their new circumstances. In further confirmation of the perfect tranquillity which had prevailed, he would quote a passage of a letter from the chief of the police, up to an early period of the present year:—"There had not been a single crime of any atrocity perpetrated by the free negroes of this island, since their emancipation;"—while, as it was quite unnecessary for him to inform the House, such offences were of constant occurrence before that time. But how much have they heard of the want of an inclination in the negroes for the enjoyments and luxuries of life? How often had the walls of that House heard, that if they could implant within the breast of the negro a desire for the luxuries and enjoyments of civilized life, all would be well? But unhappily the negro had no such tastes. He had an inclination, however, it now appeared for some of the enjoyments of life; marriage for example. "To the best of my recollection," said a clergyman, 5th January, 1835, "during the seven preceding years I have spent in this island, there were solemnized in my church 103 marriages. Since the 1st of August, a period of five months only, I have already solemnized 61 marriages of the newly freed people." The House would hardly be prepared to hear of the refinements in which they were disposed to indulge. A person who had been gratified by the industrious and obedient conduct of the negroes on his estate, wrote:—"I collected all my negroes and asked them what stores of clothes, &c. I should order for them from England? They all declined my offer, saying, they preferred waiting till they could see what would be the fashions, and then they might ask me to buy for them, if they could not purchase for themselves." Another gentleman who had long resided in Antigua, and on whose testimony he could entirely rely, assured him that at a meeting of a friendly society there, consisting of some hundreds of apprentices, the males attended almost all of them in kid gloves: the females, without exception, protected by parasols. And these were the people in whom a taste for the indulgences and luxuries of life could not be implanted. But the poor planters were to be ruined. They might receive compensation for their slaves, it was said, but who 925 would repay them for their buildings and grounds which would cease to bear any value. A gentleman recently from Antigua, gave him this piece of information:?—"The price of land has advanced considerably since the 1st of August. In the town of St. John's it has been doubled in value. More ground has been opened in the island since that period, than was ever known to have been done before in the same time." Were the negroes industrious? A gentleman on whom he could entirely rely, wrote to him, on the 25th of April, 1835, as follows:—"The negroes are a much-defamed people. In all Antigua I know but one disinclined to work since the 1st of August, and he is an idiot. They are as able and willing to labour as any people under the sun, if they receive proper remuneration for their labour,—they give their labour for small wages, about 6d. per day." But nothing perhaps would more clearly place before the House the advantages which the proprietor of West-India property would derive from freedom, than this Summary of an estate of 185 acres, situated in the Island of Antigua, from the months of January and February, of the last three years. He had obtained it through the medium of an hon. Member of this House, then present, and he had his authority for stating, that the proprietor, though an indulgent master to his negroes, had been his whole life long, a determined enemy of emancipation. He received at the early part of this year letters from his manager. The manager generally complains of the idleness of the free negroes on the estate. He says, "their laziness is unbearable"—(January.) "It was impossible, I find, to make more than one hogshead of sugar per day!"—(February.) "The people do not work. How am I to get off the crop, and put in the ensuing? I hardly know. As to provision ground, I know not when I shall be able to prepare any."—(February.) A note of admiration marked his surprise or indignation at their exorbitant demand of two bits per day (seven-pence British,) for wages. He would proceed to read the Summary of what was obtained from the Estate:
926 The industry of the two first months of 1835, then produced five more hogsheads than 1834, and nine more than 1833.
HOGSHEADS OF SUGAR POTTED. 1833. 1834. 1835. January 5 January 10 January 10 February 10 February 9 February 14 Hhds. 15 Hhda. 19 Hhds. 24
This requires no comment.
OF RUM. None was made in January in any of these years. 1833. 1834. 1835. February-0 February-95 galls. February-128 galls.
Fewer grown persons, then, were employed in 1835 than in any of the preceding years, and the number of children was reduced from fifty to two. What could be said, then, of the manager's complaints: and how sympathize with his despondency?—Or how reconcile such results with his accounts of the idleness and unbearable laziness of the negroes. In the two months for which accounts had been received of this year, much more sugar and rum had been made, more field-work had been done, than in the like period in former years; less was left to be done, the provision ground (of which he knew not how he could prepare any) was all prepared, and the work was done by fewer hands than in the corresponding months of the two preceding years. With a reduction of forty per cent, of the numbers employed, forty per cent, more work was done than on an average of the two preceding years! He would mention another anecdote, which is applied to Antigua, he believed, though he was not certain. A friend of his, an hon. Member of this House, met with a gentleman, an acquaintance of his, who possessed West-India property. He asked him, "How are things going on in the colonies?" "Bad enough," was the reply; "the negroes are the most ungrateful, indolent, worthless rascals in the world." I am afraid, then," said my friend, "they will never get in the crop." "Yes they will," said his friend, "that is the worst of them—they'll do nothing out of gratitude, but they'll work like furies for wages." And these are the people of whom some slender hopes might be entertained if they could but be got to work at any price. They worked well, it seemed, for 6d. a-day. In Jamaica, the Christmas holi- 927 days and days preceding and subsequent to that period, passed over without any disturbance, as appeared by a variety of letters addressed by the special magistrates to the Marquess of Sligo. These gentlemen had the best opportunities for judging, and they were unanimous in stating, that no peasantry in the world could have conducted themselves with more propriety than they had. Some state that "all was quiet;" others, that there was perfect tranquillity; another, that the conduct of the negroes was "very exemplary,"—"perfectly tranquil and orderly,"—"most regular,"—"all at work cheaply and well,"—" praiseworthy in the extreme,"—"irreproachable and admirable,"—"blameless,"—" most orderly,"—" most satisfactory,"—" most orderly, correct, and obedient." He selected only a few of the epithets applied by the special magistrates to the conduct of the negroes since their emancipation, as the best answer to the predictions of convulsion in this island, as a consequence of the measure. A report had been drawn up by the special magistrates, confirmatory of the quiet state of everything on 452 estates, and not a single complaint against the negroes. From the papers which had been already presented to the House, it would be seen that as much labour could be obtained for wages as was required. From the reports of the special magistrates and planters to the Marquess of Sligo, it appeared that "The negro will work for money, and work cheaply too;" that "a disposition to work in their free time, on terms equally favourable to the proprietors, was not only general, but universal, among the negroes in some parishes—"the negroes have shewn that they are easily to be satisfied with wages," "I never knew them so greedy for money, so industriously anxious to earn it;"—I have been hiring apprentices to dig cane boles, in their own time, at from 40s. to 50s. per acre cheaper than the current price paid to jobbers;"—"coppers hung, and plumber's work done in the apprentices own time, and I can hire as many labourers as I require for the estate from the neighbouring estates, in their own time." In the Marquess of Sligo's despatch dated the 10th of February, 1835, he says,—"I think that the crop will be, if not more, at all events a full average one;" and in a subsequent despatch, dated the 6th of March, 1835, he adds—"nothing can be 928 going on better than everything in this island." Governor Smith wrote to Lord Aberdeen, in April, of the present year. During the last quarter of 1834, the apprenticed labourers have produced 2,764 hogsheads more than the planter had a right to calculate upon, and the produce of this year, notwithstanding unfavourable weather, exceeds that at the same period of 1831: 24,676 hogsheads have been shipped from the river Demarara alone, during the last six months, more than (with a dimunition of one-sixth of his labour) he had a right to expect." In another letter to the same noble Lord, Governor Smith, stated—"The whole colony is perfectly tranquil. Indeed, the general good conduct of the labouring population is such, that it is impossible, in any quarter of the British dominions, that the same extent of numbers can conduct themselves better than the apprenticed labourers in this colony." And again, on the 4th of March,—"In this colony, complete tranquillity prevails, the industry and good-will of the labourers are acknowledged by the planters themselves. Where there are complaints, in nine cases out of ten, they arise from the quantum of work attempted to be exacted, and not the labour itself. In very many cases the labourer was more sinned against than sinning. There is not one estate where a reasonable quantity of work is not performed. Since the 1st of August, no white man has been struck or ill-treated, nor a single building or cane-field set fire to." From these accounts, particularly from Antigua, it was fair to infer that the Legislature might have safely and wisely provided at once to emancipate the slaves completely, if it had trusted to human nature. But he would content himself with congratulating the House, and the negroes themselves, on what had been done so happily in this respect, and the little evil there was fairly to be anticipated from a measure of so much humanity. Trying them by every test, the negroes had shewn themselves worthy of the boon granted them. The disposition evinced by the negroes, since the attainment of freedom, had been cheerful and industrious in the extreme. The amount of the proceeds of their labour on various estates, so far from being diminished, had actually increased since that event. In short, their conduct had not only refuted the calumnies so profusely spread against them, but had sur- 929 passed the warmest expectations of their most sanguine friends. He wished he could have closed his case at this point, and had not found it necessary to make further remarks, having for their object to shew that the same disposition to fulfil engagements had not been manifested by other parties to the contract which has been entered into on the subject of emancipation. Had the planters performed their engagements to the negro, as the negro had performed his duty to the planter? Had they acted up to the promises given on their behalf?—promises to the effect that the whip, as a stimulant to labour, should be abolished, that females should not be subjected to corporal punishment,—that the special magistrates alone should inflict punishment,—and that, in fact, the negroes subject to the obligation of working a certain number of hours a-week for their masters, should, to all intents and purposes, be free. It was settled that no part of the money was to be paid until provision had been made for carrying into effect the intention of the Act. It could not, indeed, be denied, that the condition on which the 20,000,000l. had been given, was, that the negroes, subject only to the daily task, should be substantially free. He must, however, quote certain documents to shew that the conditions on which the money was granted had not been fulfilled by the planters. The object which he had in view was, that the money should not be paid to the planters till such an inquiry had been made as would enable the House to see whether the settlement of the Question of Negro Slavery had been adjusted in an adequate and satisfactory manner. Had the planters and slave-owners done that upon doing which, 20,000,000l. was bestowed on them? The project of the Bill of the noble Lord (Stanley) in the Resolution, ran thus:—"Subject to the obligations imposed by this Act, all persons held in slavery on the 1st of August, 1834, become to all intents and purposes free, and discharged from all manner of slavery; and from and after the 1st of August, 1834, slavery shall be, and is, utterly abolished, and declared unlawful throughout the British Colonies, plantations, and possessions; and that the power of the whip, as a stimulant of labour, shall cease; that females shall not be flogged; that neither master nor local magistrate, but only spe- 930 cial magistrate, shall inflict punishment; that the allowances hitherto granted by law shall be continued; that the negro shall be liable to work for his master for a certain number of hours each week, but that, subject to this obligation only, he shall be free; that no part of the money hall be paid till adequate and satisfactory provision has been made for carrying these principles into effect; and, finally, that the Act in principle is to be irrevocable—it cannot be altered at all—till the alterations have received the assent of his Majesty, nor unless the alterations accomplish the objects of the Bill as fully as the Bill itself." He would ask the noble Lord (Stanley) whether the plain understanding of all these conditions was not, that, hereafter, the apprentice in our colonies shall, after giving his labour to his master for a certain number of hours, be free?—[Lord Stanley: Yes.]—Exactly so. The condition announced by the noble Lord was, "That the negro should have, after that service, all the rights of freedom," and "that no taint of the servile condition should be suffered to remain as respected the apprentice." "That no corporal punishment should be inflicted; nor should he or his connexions be insulted by the use of the lash." The noble Lord appeared to be aware that the craving of the slave-owner for absolute power over the slave was so undeviatingly active, that he withdrew by his Bill all former restrictions, "so that no taint of slavery should remain to impeach the new-born rights of the apprentices in our Colonies: and it was distinctly stated, that the Act provided "that the Colonial legislatures themselves should be positively bound to legislate on this subject in the spirit of the Act of the Imperial Parliament. Nay further, that no Act of the Colonial legislature, on this important subject, though enacted in that spirit, should be of force or validity till it was sanctioned by his Majesty in Council.—[Lord Stanley: The suspending clause was struck out in the Committee.]—Still he contended that every Act on this subject, passed by the Colonial legislatures, was suspended till ratified in England. Those legislatures were not at liberty to pass a law, and enforce it in the Colonies, touching the negroes, till a formal recognition should have been despatched from the Government of Great Britain to the Colonial Government.
NUMBER OF PERSONS EMPLOYED. 1833. 1834. 1835. Grown person Children 103 Grown person Children 99 Grown person Children 83 under twelve 51 under twelve 52 under twelve 2 154 151 85
§ Sir George Grey
said, that the clause to which the hon. Member alluded merely referred to Local Acts, and provided that if, in the course of that species of legislation, any thing should be found to contravene the Imperial Act, an Order in Council might prevent
§ Mr. Fowell Buxton
That was precisely what he contended for; that legislation was not left to the Colonies as regarded the rights of the negroes, that the Colonial Assemblies could only legislate in minor matters, and even then that their Acts could not be carried into effect till they had received the assent of the King in Council. The Order in Council approving the Act for the Abolition of Slavery, arrived in the Colonies early in May, 1834, when the planters were told that they had an indefeasible right to the grant of 20,000,000l. Upon this understanding between the Government at home and the colonists, it was natural to infer that the Colonial legislatures, and the persons thus benefited by this large grant of public money, would be prepared to act in obedience to the Slavery Abolition Bill, and in furtherance of its spirit. But had they so acted? He answered, no. It was not too much to suppose, that by such a Bill it was intended the apprentices should have the ordinary privileges of freemen—those common but indispensable rights without which liberty could be nothing but a name. For example: the freeman, after having discharged his duty to his master as required by the Act, in the time indisputably his own—say the Saturday afternoon—should be at liberty to walk along the high road, attend a meeting, if he conducted himself properly, vote for a favourite candidate, if he had the necessary qualification of property, visit his own wife residing upon a neighbouring estate, and complain to the person sent specially from England to hear his complaints, and protect him from the violation of his rights, if he should feel himself in any respect, however trifling, aggrieved. Who would say, that the apprentice, delivered from every taint of slavery, was not to have these moderate privileges? By the Act of the Jamaica legislature, however, for walking along the high road, in his own time, he was an offender liable to punishment. By attending a meeting a second punishment was incurred; by voting for a candidate, or 932 indeed voting at all, he was a third time a transgressor of the law; by making his complaint, slight and trivial in the eyes of the white man, but important to him who had better reason than we had to value every part of freedom, he was once more an offender; and he was undoubtedly a criminal for the fifth time if he should visit his own wife on a neighbouring estate. ["No! No!"]—It was so, however, in the 27th clause of the Act of 1833, and in the 7th clause of the Act of 1834. All persons leaving the estate to which they belonged were liable to be apprehended by the constable, to be adjudged vagabonds, and to be treated accordingly. There was an exception, however, in favour of the wife, for she was permitted to visit her husband on a neighbouring estate, though her husband was not allowed to go to her. Why should there be an exception in favour of the wife, without also including the husband? Had justice been done to the negroes by the planters? In his opinion it had not. There was scarcely an instance in which the promises held out to the negro population had been satisfactorily redeemed; the West-India legislatures had set themselves to work, to undo and thwart all the kind intentions of the British Parliament. The Acts of the Colonial legislatures ought to have been laid before the House, in order that before the money was paid to the planters, it might be ascertained how far they had acted up to their agreement. Why was it that the Acts of the Colonial Assemblies were not laid before the House?—[Sir George Grey: They would be laid on the Table if called for.]—If called for! It was announced in the King's Speech, that the Acts of the Colonial legislatures in reference to the Emancipation Bill, which were to become laws on their being approved of by his Majesty in Council, should be laid before Parliament immediately; but they had not been produced. He had done his duty on the occasion, for, at an early period of the Session, he had moved for copies of all Acts passed by the Houses of Assembly for the abolition of slavery in his Majesty's dominions, and yet up to the present period no one in the House, except his hon. Friend, knew anything at all about them. This country would pay the money blindly if it paid it now; but the House ought at least to inquire and see if the conditions of the contract had been adequately and satisfactorily fulfilled before 933 paying it. If they had been satisfactorily fulfilled, he should be as glad as any one to see the money paid; but if they had not been fulfilled, he was sure the House would agree with him, when he said that the 20,000,000l. ought not to be paid. With regard to the appointment of local magistrates, he must observe that when the Bill was discussed in 1833, nothing made a deeper impression on him, or more reconciled him to the general principles of the measure, than the declaration of the noble Lord (Stanley), that impartial persons should be appointed by the Crown to act as magistrates. He relied on that promise, and he might add, the noble Lord urged that point so much, that he confidently trusted it would have been carried into effect. The noble Lord said, that "stipendiary Magistrates, appointed by the Crown, uninfluenced by the local assemblies, free from local passions, and unbiassed by party prejudices, who will administer equal justice to the rich and the poor, the black and the white; who will watch over and protect the negro in his incipient state of freedom, and will aid and direct his inexperience in forming a contract with his master, which must have so material an effect upon his future life." What was the fact? According to letters which he had received, it appeared that in one island, out of eight magistrates, five were connected with estates; in another, out of twenty-one or twenty-two magistrates, seventeen were planters, or attornies, or agents; and in a third, there were thirty special Magistrates connected with the planters. He had received accounts of these facts from a variety of quarters; and he did not hesitate to lay them before the House for the purpose of putting hon. Gentlemen on their guard against paying the planters the whole sum of 20,000,000l. without seeing that the conditions on which it was given had been complied with. It might be said, that the Governor carefully selected proper persons for the office. He doubted that, as he had reason to believe that very improper persons had been appointed. He was going to say, that in one case, a person convicted of crime had been appointed a Magistrate, but he would not say so—for he was not convicted, he was acquitted, but his name was afterwards struck out of the Council, yet that man had been appointed a Magistrate. [Lord Stanley wished to know the date of the 934 appointment and the colony?] He did not wish to name individuals, or enter into numerous details, but he could assure the noble Lord that his assertion was strictly true. All he wanted by his Motion was, to suspend the payment of the twenty millions till the House could judge whether the conditions of the contract had been fulfilled on the part of the planters. He came to another point, and one too on which the noble Lord had laid great stress. On bringing in the Bill, the noble Lord dwelt on the destruction of morals caused by the infliction of corporal punishment on females. The expressions used by the noble Lord on that occasion were to the following effect:—"To talk of preparing the slave for freedom, to speak of developing or ripening his moral faculties to render him capable of enjoying it, and yet show him, that all the domestic ties of his home may be violated; that his wife, that his daughter, that, his sister, may be at the pleasure of the overseer of a plantation, all be subject to corporal punishment upon their bare persons, was a mockery and an insult."* Since that time, however, a sort of bye-law had been passed, according to which it was lawful to inflict certain punishment on juvenile offenders, and to show how that law had been acted on, he would give a case which occurred in St. Kitt's, and it took its rise from Mr. Wilson, a Special Justice, having given a general permission to whip the small gangs on estates, whose conduct might be deemed, by those in authority over them, to be impertinent. The case was as follows:—"Ann Mahon, a girl of fifteen years of age, had given offence to her master, who had taken improper liberties with her, which she resented. Her master in consequence accused her of not watering the garden properly, and called upon the auxiliary constable of the estate, desired him to do his duty according to the orders he had received from Mr. Wilson. The constable then took her round the waist, and carried her to the mango tree, where, assisted by two men, each holding a hand of the girl, he, after unbuttoning her frock, and taking off her handkerchief, proceeded to flog her with a bunch of tamarind twigs, after which infliction she was compelled to work in the garden until dark." He had a great file of atrocities* See Hansard, (third series) vol. xvii. p. 1202.935 which he could produce, but he would not detain the House with citing them. He wished, however, to refer to an extract from the St. Christopher Advertiser of the 10th March, 1835, relative to this case. It appeared from this, that a meeting of the Special Magistrates was held on the previous Thursday, and the case of Ann Mahon came under their consideration. The opinion of the Solicitor-General was taken on the right which the authorities had to inflict such a punishment, and it was to the following effect:—"That, although Mr. Justice Wilson might fairly have considered he was not exercising an unsound discretion in awarding this punishment, yet, that he (the Solicitor-General) was inclined, under the 17th clause of the Imperial Act, to advise for the future, that it be not resorted to by the Special Magistrates." The opinion of the Magistrates varied; Mr. Wilson said, he would adopt the punishment, as he could not see what else was to be done with the young people on the estate.—"Mr. A. H. Rawlins felt it his duty to say there, openly and candidly, that he had, in two instances, given such an order, but that he had done so from a feeling of humanity, and with strict justice to the apprentice and to the master. He was equally bound candidly to say, that he knew at the time that he was giving this order, that it was illegal; but he did it in his discretion, and was prepared to take the consequences—he should continue to exercise that discretion, notwithstanding the opinion of the Crown officer, as he conceived that nothing but the Court of King's Bench had power over the discretionary acts of a Magistrate." "Mr. Fahie considered that he ought to continue such a species of punishment, for he conceived it founded on humanity and sound policy. Two other Magistrates refused to agree to the punishment, and said they never would give such an order." He could mention other cases, but these happened in one colony. The Emancipation Act was to do away with the symbols of slavery, as well as slavery itself, and it was under the conviction, that every trace of such barbarities would be swept away, that the compensation was voted. He proved, however, that the whip, to a limited degree, was still in frequent use. Now, when the noble Lord wanted to get rid of slavery entirely, how did it happen that penal gangs were still allowed in the 936 colonies. Would the House believe, that though the Act of Emancipation declared that no master or overseer could inflict punishment—or put supposed offenders into the penal gang, the practice was still allowed by the 21st clause of the Act of Assembly to which he had already referred.
was understood to say, that the clause in question had no reference to such a punishment.
§ Mr. Buxton
All he could say on the point was, he had received the fact as he had stated it; and it was because there was some doubt on the subject, that he called for the appointment of a Committee, to see how far the intentions of the Act of 1833 were answered, and its provisions enforced. The 49th Clause of the Act provided for the punishment of insolence on the part of the negro. This was unquestionably a very indefinite offence, and when the clause in question was under the consideration of the House, it had been asked whether looking a man in the face might not be construed into an act of insolence? For this very vague offence, however, no less than thirty-nine lashes were ordered to be inflicted on the negro. He was certainly of opinion, that if they punished the insolence of the negro, they ought to visit the offence, when committed by the planter, with equal severity. Lord Sligo was of a similar opinion as to the justice of restraining the overbearing conduct of the planters and overseers; for he said, in his despatch of the 13th August, that the negroes were quiet, well-tempered, and tranquil; but at the same time dwelt upon the violence of the overseers, as being calculated to excite them to rebellion. By what measures, then, were the cruelty and injustice of the planters, which ought to be so carefully watched and guarded against, checked and punished? By the 49th Clause of the Act, they got off with the slight punishment of a fine of 5l. of that, or 3l. 11s. 3d. of this currency.
I must inform the hon. Gentleman, that he labours under a misapprehension. The Clause to which he refers, directs that a line of 5l. should be paid on the commission of certain offences; but that clause does not deter the negro from preferring his charge, if he should think fit, before any of the Superior Courts.
§ Mr. Buxton
acknowledged, on looking 937 at the Act, that the Clause contained the provisions stated by the noble Lord; but still he would put it to the House whether, when the offence of insolence on the part of the negro was so severely punished, that that of cruelty, when committed by the planter, should be only visited by a fine of 3l. 11s. 3d. What he was anxious principally to impress upon the House was, that they should not pay over the money to the planters, until they saw that the liberty awarded by it to the negro was in no way curtailed; that the bargain between the country and the planter was fulfilled by them, and that the negro should, in the words of the noble Lord opposite (Lord Stanley) enjoy every right and privilege of a freeman, subject only to the contract of labouring a certain time for his owner. The noble Lord then said, "He proposed, that every negro should, from that day, not after a year or two, but forthwith, be entitled to claim to be put in such a situation as would prepare him to enjoy all the rights and privileges of a freeman—a situation in which he would no longer bear about him any taint of a servile condition." He suspected, however, that certain taints of slavery were allowed still to remain on the character of the negro; he wished to have an inquiry instituted, in order to judge of their existence, and, if possible, to have them removed. He understood, too, that the Colonial Assemblies had passed several Acts incompatible with the spirit of the Emancipation Act, though such laws could not be considered binding until they had actually received his Majesty's consent. He had not the slightest wish to impede the payment of the gift to the West-India planters, but he warned the House against proceeding too hastily with the payment, for if the people of this country found that the same cruelties were practised after as before the passing of the Act of 1833, they must feel regret at the passing of a measure for which they sacrificed so much, with so little benefit to those whom it was designed to relieve. He was satisfied that the negroes were generally quiet under the present system but there were some instances in which he had been informed that it was not unlikely that they would be forced into rebellion by the conduct of overseers and masters and that an impediment would be thus thrown in the way of the success of the great experiment which Parliament had 938 made. He was only anxious that justice should be done to both parties, and that the contract, as entered into with the planters, should be strictly fulfilled. He would state one fact, to show that the measure had conferred no slight benefit on the planters. He had been told, that a gentleman in Trinidad had purchased a man and a maid servant for forty dollars, and that the amount of compensation awarded to him for these servants, under he Bill of 1833, was no less than 200l. The price of land, also, had considerably increased in the island of Antigua, and in St. John's it had doubled in value. He was not about to propose that anything which the planters received as a boon, should be withdrawn; but he called upon the House to see that they obtained those benefits for which they had bargained. The hon. Member concluded by moving, "That a Committee be appointed to Inquire whether the Conditions on which the twenty millions were paid to the West-India planters had been fulfilled."
§ Sir George Grey
commenced by observing, that the speech of the hon. Member had not only differed from the Motion of the hon. Member, but that the Motion which he had submitted to the House departed considerably from that of which he had given notice. Reassured the hon. Member however, that he was satisfied his conduct was dictated by none but the purest and most honourable motives. The character of the hon. Member stood far too high for humanity, and love of freedom and justice, to leave his motives, on that occasion, open for a single moment to any imputation of a derogatory character; and, therefore, he felt it his duty, in opposing even the amended Motion of the hon. Member, to award him the credit to which he was entitled, by declaring that he felt a perfect conviction that the spirit in which the hon. Member submitted his proposition to the House was that of a man deeply imbued with the feelings of honour, justice, and real humanity. The Motion of his hon. Friend he took in point of fact, to mean that the payment of 20,000,000l. to the West-India proprietors should be suspended until a Committee report whether the conditions on which the grant was made had been fulfilled. [Mr. Bux ton ex pressed his assent.] He saw by his hon. Friend, that he acquiesced in his interpretation of the Motion. Now he would just ask, whether 939 the Committee for which he had moved could by possibility make a Report which would give satisfaction to the House o the country? Was the Committee to inquire into Acts which had been passed by the Colonial Assemblies, or were they to investigate the cases of cruelty said to be committed by planters, proprietors and Special Constables, throughout al the islands of the West-Indies? If an inquiry, then, was to be instituted into these particulars—and he conceived the on these the hon. Member rested his case—Would it be possible for a Committee to come to any impartial, satisfactory decision without communicating the fact of the appointment of such a tribunal to the West-Indies—without acquainting the persons on trial with the nature of the charges which were to be preferred against them, in order that the parties interested might be able to prove or disprove such statements as those which the House had that night heard? Was it possible that the Committee could be called upon to frame its Report on the evidence collected from private letters, newspapers, and such sources, without at least hearing the parties whom they affected, and affording them the opportunity of rebutting such accusations? Were these facts which had been detailed by the hon. Member, and which referred to but a small minority of the islands, to be taken as condemnatory of the conduct of the whole of the planters to whom the 20,000,000l. were due; and were those under whose sanction liberty had been established, to be branded with a breach of engagement, because on a few occasions some acts of cruelty had been committed, which he reprobated with as strong feelings of indignation and abhorrence as those by which his hon. Friend was actuated? He did not mean to express a doubt that some transactions had taken place since the passing of the Act of 1833, which disgraced those who took part in them. But was his hon. Friend so ignorant of human nature—had his acute eye fixed itself to so little purpose on this British Act of Parliament—this Charter of liberty to the negro, as not to know that whatever might be the regulations of the Act of Parliament, and however its provisions might be enforced, they could not change the nature of the West-Indian planter, and could not prevent those ill effects which must result from a change by which arbitrary power 940 was wrested from those who were henceforward made responsible for their acts? If the hon. Member foresaw that such occurrences must take place on the passing of the measure of 1833, he should never have consented to its adoption until he received a pledge, that under it every attribute of slavery should be totally abolished, and that no payment should take place until he was satisfied of that event; but the hon. Member took the sense of the House on two occasions relative to his views, and they rejected his propositions when accompanied by such conditions. He thought, therefore, that the contract could not be fairly disturbed, because—without at all wishing to screen or wink at acts of cruelty—individual acts of hardship and oppression might in some cases be adduced. His hon. Friend brought forward the two instances of Antigua and Bermuda, in which he understood him to argue, that the conditions of the Act had not been complied with. [Mr. Buxton had excluded them.] He saw no notice of the exclusion in his hon. Friend's Motion. Was it to be understood that his hon. Friend had abandoned the conclusion at which he seemed anxious to arrive from his statements with reference to these islands. Would it be just to say to the planters in the West-Indies, "We agreed to give you this money on one condition; we now propose that you shall receive it on another?" Let the House consider what a bad precedent such conduct on our part would hold out to other nations. He should be sorry to give the slave-owners in the slavery States of America any pretext for a similar step, by enabling them to point to the course which had been taken by the Parliament of Great Britain—by the Representatives of a country renowned for the maintenance of its national faith. While he trusted hat in many respects he held the same opinions as his hon. Friend—while he rusted that he entertained similar feelings of humanity for the oppressed, and of detestation for the oppressor, he hoped that he should never be found ready to gratify those feelings at the expense of the national faith and honour, which he hoped a British Parliament would neither now nor at any future period do anything to tarnish or impair. The House could not fail to remember that it was the duty, as it would be the care, of the Government at home to keep a watchful and vigilant eye over 941 the West-India colonies—over every law passed by their Colonial Legislative Assemblies, and the practical execution of those laws; and he (Sir George Grey) on the part of the present Government, would pledge them to the hon. Member opposite, that the fullest inquiry and investigation in a manner most satisfactory to the hon. Member himself should be instituted into every case which the hon. Member could suggest, if the Government was furnished with a sufficient specification of the nature and necessity of such inquiry. He had already stated this to his hon. Friend, who had brought many cases of complaint to him at the Colonial-office, and with respect to some of which his hon. Friend had already put notices upon the books, and he had only requested in instances where no information as to the circumstances could be found among the Records in the Colonial-office, that he should be allowed time for such information to be sent for, and the case thus fully met. To this he had pledged himself to the hon. Member, and on that pledge he had acted; information had been sent for in reference to those cases, and with respect to any other complaints which might be adduced by the hon. Member, or by any one else, the Government would take every means to procure information for the satisfaction of this country, to reduce existing grievances, and to afford protection to the apprenticed labourers. The hon. Member had alluded to acts of cruelty and oppression, but he would, in the absence of information, refer the hon. Member to the character of the Governors of the British West-Indian colonies, men of tried humanity, who would not suffer those acts without at least representing them to the Government at home. It should, however, not be lost sight of, that there were many acts which could not be controlled by them, but, as their despatches generally showed, which arose from that demoralized state and condition of society in the colonies, which was the consequence of the long-continued system of slavery, and which could not in one day be removed. Would any man assert, that the Marquess of Sligo would refuse justice or protection to any class of the subjects of his Sovereign over whom he had been by that Sovereign intrusted to preside? Again, the despatches of Sir Lionel Smith, the Governor pf Barbadoes, manifested the position for 942 which he (Sir George Grey) had contended, and he was satisfied that his hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Buxton) would not think that distinguished Officer was playing into the hands of the planters by his system of Government. He would call another witness (Sir Carmichael Smyth, the Governor of Demerara), than whom no man had laboured more strenuously in the protection of the rights and interests of the apprenticed labourers. The effects of the exertions of that Officer had already manifested itself in the improved spirit of the planters in his colony. But to return to the Question more immediately before the House, he must call their attention to the conditions upon which the money was made payable. Those conditions were stated in the 44th section of the Act of Emancipation, which provided, that no part of the said sum should be applied for the benefit of any person now entitled to the services of any slave in any of the colonies aforesaid, unless an order "shall have been first made by his Majesty, with the advice of his Privy Council, declaring, that adequate and satisfactory provision had been made by law in such colony for giving effect to this Act, or unless a copy of such Order in Council duly certified shall have been transmitted to the Lords of the Treasury for their guidance and information." The effect of this clause was to delegate to his Majesty's responsible advisers these duties, and he would ask, how it was possible for this House to make away a right made indefeasible by this Act of Parliament, and at the same time place in the hands of a Select Committee the powers of the Government to withhold payments legally demanded and chargeable under and by virtue of this Act.
§ Mr. Powell Buxton
said, that if the hon. Baronet would refer to the 16th section of the Act, he would find that after reciting the various regulations necessary for giving effect to the Act, it provided that "nothing therein contained should be construed to extend to prevent the enactment by the respective governors, councils, and assemblies, of laws and ordinances necessary for that purpose."
§ Sir G. Grey
was perfectly aware of the provisions of the clause to which the hon. Member opposite had called his attention, and only regretted that the hon. Member had not read the remainder of the Clause, for the House would then have seen that it was nevertheless provided that any 943 enactment, regulation, provision, rule, or order, which should in anywise be repugnant or contradictory to the act should be void, and of no effect. The object of this was manifest, for it was impossible at once to legislate in detail, and it was therefore necessary to leave it to time to judge of the propriety of such regulations, and for carrying into effect the great principles of the Emancipation Act. So also in the 23rd section, it was provided that acts passed by local legislatures with similar, but improved, enactments to those contained in the measure of slave relief, should supersede the provisions of the latter on being confirmed by his Majesty in Council. He was, however, prepared to say, that as yet no such instance had occurred as that for which this 23rd section provided, and every enactment of the original measure still remained in full force and effect. How, then, was the House circumstanced at the present moment with respect to the colonies? The hon. Member for Weymouth had thrown aside, and out of the scale, the situation of Antigua and the Bermudas. The next in order were Trinidad, the Mauritius, and St. Lucia. In those colonies no local legislation had taken place, but orders in Council had been issued by his Majesty, against which no remonstrance had been made, and yet the hon. Member for Weymouth would withhold the money until he was satisfied that in enacting those ordinances right had been done. The three next colonies were Honduras, British Guiana, and the Cape of Good Hope. From them ordinances in furtherance of the Emancipation Act had been sent home—had been amended and altered by the Government here, and on being returned so altered had been adopted and were now in full force and effect. He would next inquire what degree of justice would it be to say to the slave-proprietors of these colonies. "You have passed inadequate and unsatisfactory ordinances, which the Government of the day at home have altered; so altered, you have submitted to them, and under them the apprentice labourers are in peace, yet we will not pay you that to which we are pledged (because we may have been wrong) until a select Committee of the House of Commons shall have gone through them and pronounced an opinion upon their propriety?" Surely the hon. Member for Weymouth would not hesitate to exclude 944 together with Antigua and the Bermudas, these six colonies from the sweeping effects of the Motion which he had submitted to the House. The authorities in the Cape of Good Hope were entitled to some extraordinary good feeling, inasmuch as they had reduced the period of apprenticeship by two years. For this, at least, they were entitled to some credit on the score of humanity. The hon. Member for Weymouth had dwelt much upon the other West-India Colonies, which he (Sir G. Grey) had not yet named, and of these he would first allude to the island of Jamaica. With respect to what had fallen from his hon. Friend, in reference to the declaration made by his noble Friend (Lord Stanley), that the Act of the Colonial legislature of Jamaica transmitted to the Government, of which his noble Friend had formed a part, a declaration made advisedly and under responsibility, his hon. Friend must make out that Parliament was called upon for that declaration to censure in the most marked manner possible the conduct which had in that instance been pursued by his noble Friend. He doubted not that his noble Friend would be fully able to justify himself; but he (Sir G. Grey) would not on the part of the present Government shrink from any portion of responsibility which might attach to the Administration by which that important decision had been come to. It was but due to his noble Friend and to the House to state further, that his Majesty's present Government was satisfied that the course pursued in that instance was correct, and that by it they were prepared to abide. With regard to the spirit in which his noble Friend behind him (Lord Stanley) had dealt with the West-India Colonies, he could cite extracts from the printed papers before the House, but this he at present thought to be unnecessary. He would, however, refer his hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Buxton) to the despatches in 1832 of Earl Mulgrave,—a nobleman from whom his hon. Friend could not differ in sentiment, who had held the Government of Jamaica in times of great difficulty and delicacy, and who instead of subjecting himself to reproach had won for himself immortal credit. That noble Lord was the organ of communication between the Government at home and the colonial interests in Jamaica, and with the means of information which he possessed, was 945 the best guide for the Government here to take, and whose opinion as to the act of the Colonial legislature in furtherance of the Emancipation Act was entitled to the fullest weight. The noble Earl in his despatch communicated to the Government, that the act had passed the House of Assembly through all the stages except the last, which was one of form, and that on the first point, that of the general principles of the measure, he did not think there existed the slightest ground of complaint, for many of the provisions of their (the colonial) act had adopted the very words of the English measure of the Emancipation. On the second point—viz. the details and minor points, the local Legislature desired a postponement, in consequence of a difference of opinion upon those details and minor points prevailing amongst themselves; but in order to afford the British Government a substantial proof of their sincerity they expressed their full approbation of the measure passed by the Imperial Parliament. With such information before it, could the British Government withhold its approbation of the colonial act thus described and would the House then consent to censure such approbation declared by his noble Friend behind him—Lord Stanley? He would also repeat his inquiry, whether this measure, on the part of the Colonial legislature, could, in the remotest degree, affect that indefeasible right to a share in the receipt of that sum, for the payment of which the British Government stood pledged to the colonies generally? To the Government of Earl Mulgrave that of the Marquess of Sligo succeeded, and the latter nobleman had enforced upon the colonists of Jamaica the necessity of filling up those defects which prevailed in the preceding local legislation, and to remedy them in a supplemental Bill. The Colonial legislature acceded to the suggestion in all points but two, and those two points the Marquess of Sligo, from his local knowledge, was enabled to inform the Government at home were impracticable. Hence it was manifest the House of Assembly had throughout shown a determination not only to accede to suggestions, but to uphold both the letter and the spirit of the Slavery Abolition Act, and to carry out into effect its details and its principles. Would the House, then, now agree with his hon. Friend, the Member for Weymouth in censuring the Act 946 as inadequate and unsatisfactory? Reference had been made by his hon. Friend to a Colonial Act of Assembly passed in 1834, and he concurred with his hon. Friend in the opinion that it did not show that good spirit in the Legislative Assembly of Jamaica which he could have wished but he must again remind the House, that he distinguished between the feeling of the Legislature and that of the residents generally in that colony. The whole population was not to be included in any censure to which that measure might give rise. It had been transmitted to, and was now under the consideration of, the Government, and would be dealt with without reference to party or colour. It had been stated that it was intended there should be no restriction upon the apprentice labourers during their servitude, but the Act of Parliament itself had in terms provided punishment for insolence of conduct and insubordination during that period, and the British Legislature was in this respect alone to blame, as the Colonial Legislature had only carried out those provisions, awarding (as we understood) the amount of punishment. By the 22nd section of the Act, the military, civil, and other franchises, to which the negro apprentice was entitled, were also strictly and scrupulously maintained, and the Colonial Act did not infringe or trench upon those rights and privileges, so that, on that head, no censure could attach. With regard to St. Kitt's, Nevis, Tobago, and the other colonies, they had passed ordinances, which, after amendment at home, had finally been adopted by them. The Virgin Islands had as yet furnished no act, and until their acquiescence was received they would not be entitled to any share of the compensation. On the whole, he contended that his hon. Friend (the Member for Weymouth) had shown no grounds for the censure which his motion (if carried) would cast upon his noble Friend (Lord Stanley), and the Government to which he was attached; he had shown no grounds for taking this measure out of the hands of the responsible advisers of the Crown, or for removing from them those powers which had been delegated to them by an Act of the Legislature, and thus hold them up as being unworthy of watching over the important interests of the British colonies, and disqualified for the stations which they had been called upon by their Sovereign to fill. 947 His hon. Friend must make out a case of this kind to justify the introduction of a Bill, for such it must be (which many hon. Members would not support, though a few might vote for a Committee of Inquiry), to render defeasible those powers already conferred. The House, in considering the present Motion, ought not to forget that on the faith of the payment of the awarded compensation in the course of the ensuing autumn, engagements had been entered into, and the result of the postponement, which must be the consequence of the appointment of the proposed Committee, would lead to most disastrous commercial effects. He trusted that Parliament would not re-open this question, but that, on the faithful performance of the conditions contained in the Act of last Session, it would pay this money according to the pledge which it had already given. There was one other branch of the subject which, though it was not connected with the point of money, required some observations on his part, after what had fallen from his hon. Friend the Member for Weymouth; and that regarded the conduct of the stipendiary Magistrates. Now, he concurred with his hon. Friend in saying, that the powers vested in the stipendiary Magistrates ought only to be confided to impartial men, who in all controversies between the masters and the apprentices ought to have no bias either to one or the other, and who, acting fairly and indifferently on their responsibility to the Local Government, and through the Local Government to the Government at home, could be looked on with confidence by every class of the community among which they were sent to administer justice. He admitted that there had been a grievous miscalculation as to the number of local stipendiary magistrates necessary to carry the law into effect. It had been thought that 100 magistrates would be sufficient; but that number was too small, and it therefore became necessary for the governors of several colonies, acting upon the discretion with which they were vested, to appoint individuals to occupy that wide unoccupied field, which it was quite impossible for 100 magistrates to occupy. What then was the course pursued by the Government? It had been made a subject of complaint against Lord Sligo by the Colonial Legislature, that he had refused to grant this special commission to the local magistrates generally. Lord Sligo 948 had placed in the commission persons resident in the colony; but in no one case had he placed in it any person interested in apprenticed slavery. The hon. Baronet then proceeded to read a dispatch sent by Lord Sligo to Mr. Spring Rice, descriptive of the measures which he had adopted on this subject, and also part of the reply sent by his right hon. Friend to that despatch. Did his right hon. Friend content himself with cautioning Lord Sligo how he filled up these commissions? No; he called on his Lordship to state the number of stipendiary magistrates sent out from England, who were able to perform the duties imposed upon them with ability and impartiality, and upon receiving that statement, he declared his intention of sending out such a number as would enable the executive Government to meet all the exigencies of its new position. His noble Friend, Lord Aberdeen, in augmenting the number still further, acted on the same principle as that on which his right hon. Friend had acted. The House would find, on looking at the Estimates for this year, that there was a charge for 135 stipendiary magistrates to be voted. Of this number 35 had been added by Lord Aberdeen, acting on the same great principle of their being impartial men, unconnected with the colonies. Lord Glenelg had carried the principle still further, for he thought that it was better that Parliament should grant a larger sum of money to defray the charge of a greater number of magistrates, than leave their present power in the hands of the local magistrates. He had, therefore, sent out instructions to the Governors of all our colonies in the West Indies, and also to the Governors of the Cape of Good Hope and of the Mauritius, ordering them to withdraw the special commission from every magistrate who was a planter in their governments. He also ordered them, in filling up such commissions as might become occasionally vacant, to select men who were not planters, but who were as free as possible from all local bias or interest. It was clear, that if the special commission was withdrawn from the local magistrates, an additional number of stipendiary magistrates must be employed. It was therefore now proposed to put twenty-five more into the commission. When the charge for them came to be voted, it would be for the House to decide whether it would agree to appoint that increased number, or whether it would leave 949 a number of these special commissions in the hands of the local authorities. His noble Friend at the head of the Colonial Department had not adopted this course, because he had received intelligence from the colonies that the local magistrates had abused the powers with which they were vested by the special commission. Indeed, he had informed the local governors that those powers had not been withdrawn from any notion that they had been abused, and had commissioned them to communicate to the local magistrates the thanks of his Majesty for their services in any way which they might deem to be most agreeable to their feelings. With regard to the report which his hon. Friend had read from a colonial newspaper, respecting the observations which had been made by several of the magistrates, at a meeting of the magistrates assembled to consider the legality of whipping females, he had only to observe that he had not seen it. He understood, however, that in the island where it occurred the Solicitor-General had written to the authorities at home stating, that doubts had arisen upon the legality of that practice, expressing his wonder how they could have arisen, since it was clearly prohibited by law, and declaring his intention of remitting, till he heard from home, every sentence of every magistrate which should impose so improper a punishment. This functionary, in his opinion, was perfectly correct in the view which he had taken of the law, and he insisted, that by the Act of 1833, the power of flogging females was entirely taken away. He pledged himself to his hon. Friend, that if he (Mr. F. Buxton) would state to him any case of misconduct on the part of any stipendiary magistrate, it should be instantly examined into; and that, if it were proved, that stipendiary magistrate should be dismissed. In making this statement, he was not giving his hon. Friend any vague or indefinite pledge, for it was in strict consistency with the past conduct of the present Government, of the late Government, and indeed of every Government which had anything to do with the question. His hon. Friend had said, that there must have been misconduct, as some of the special magistrates had been dismissed. Undoubtedly it was so. Lord Sligo had reported some such cases to the Government at home, and the conclusions to which his Lordship had come upon them had been confirmed by 950 the Colonial Department in this country. In other cases where the misconduct seemed to arise out of an error of judgment only, a reprimand had been deemed a punishment sufficiently severe upon the magistrates, and, therefore, in such cases the special commission had not been withdrawn. He assured his hon. Friend, that the most vigilant circumspection had been used, and would continue to be used, by the Government at home, and by the Governors of our colonies abroad, over the stipendiary magistrates; and he did not think that any act of misconduct, oppression, or cruelty would be committed by them without drawing down upon them, as occasion might require, a reprimand or dismissal. If his hon. Friend would bring forward any cases of misconduct, cruelty, or oppression, he pledged himself on the part of the Colonial Department, to grant a full and patient inquiry into them; but be thought that until the Government had been convicted of being either negligent, or partial, or cruel, his hon. Friend ought not to call upon the present Parliament to take from the Government that power which a former Parliament had confided to its care, nor to disgrace the Government by calling on the House to accede to a proposition which would affix the bitterest stigma upon it. The hon. Baronet then proceeded to express his concurrence in the statements which the hon. Member for Weymouth had made, to prove that the negro was capable of being moved by the stimulus of wages, and that for wages he would willingly work. He could corroborate that statement from other quarters. He had heard from a relation of his own residing in Antigua, that with a less amount of labour his estate had been more productive last year than it had been in the years 1832 and 1833, before slavery was abolished. He, therefore, hoped that the House would consider itself bound by the law which had abolished slavery. He conceived that nothing could be more injurious to the colonies, and indeed to the country at large, than to Consider any questions which had been settled by law as open questions. The experiment of the Abolition Act had succeeded to a greater extent than its warmest friends had anticipated, and it was a glorious reflection for those who had made it, to know, that during the ten months which had now elapsed since the 1st of August, 1834, when it first came into operation, not one 951 act of violence or injury had been committed upon any white, and that not more than one black man had been hurt out of a population of 800,000 negroes, whom it was still necessary to keep in subordination. He was happy to say, that a better feeling between the master and the apprentice was daily growing up in the West Indies. The letters of Lord Sligo (which he read to the House) were full of the most satisfactory proofs that the growth of this kindly feeling was uniting all classes, rich and poor, black and white, together for the protection of their common interests. If the House wished to promote a union so desirable, it would not sanction the present Motion for a Committee; for if that Motion were carried, the payment of the money would be suspended for a year at least; and believing that such a suspension would be injurious to the national honour, that it would be derogatory to the national faith, that it would be ruinous to thousands, and that it would exasperate the white without benefitting the negro population, he should oppose it to the utmost of his power. He felt that he had performed very inadequately the task which his official duty had that evening imposed on him, but he still hoped that the House, listening, if not to his arguments, to the arguments of those hon. Gentlemen who might rise after him, would pause before it entertained the present Motion, and that it would be convinced of the paramount necessity for taking such a dangerous step, before it ventured upon a measure which would impair the national character for justice and good faith, which he was sure that his hon. Friend would be the last man to injure under the sanction of his name and respectability.
§ Mr. Buckingham
said, he was glad that he had given way to the hon. Baronet, the Under Secretary for the Colonies, as it had enabled him, in common with the House, to enjoy the advantage of listening to the very able and satisfactory speech of that hon. Gentleman—able from the clear and convincing manner in which the statements had been laid before the House, and satisfactory, as containing the solemn declarations and public pledges of his Majesty's Government to see the Abolition Act carried into effect in all its integrity, as far at least as their power and authority could achieve so desirable a result.—As, however, he (Mr. Buckingham) had taken a very deep interest in the Question of Slave Emancipa- 952 tion from an earlier date than the proposition for abolishing slavery in that House; as he had taken part also in the discussions on the Question while this great charter of negro liberty was passing through the House, he hoped he might be forgiven for desiring to say a few words on this occasion. In reverting to the discussions on this Question, he could not help recalling with pleasure the fact, that he had always contended for immediate emancipation without delay and without price; and the result had but too clearly proved that in so contending for this right of the slave, he had seen somewhat more clearly into futurity than those by whom this immediate and uneompen-sated emancipation was opposed;—for it was now shown that the labour of the same individual after his emancipation, was worth more to his employer than while he was a slave; and that estates on which the slaves were set wholly free, were of greater value to their owners after that event, than they were before: which must clearly show that compensation was unnecessary, as the planters were, by the abolition of slavery, benefitted instead of injured; and to give them twenty millions for a change which had turned out as was predicted to be to their advantage, rather than their wrong, was a reckless waste of money, to call it by no milder name. While, on the other hand, the complete success of the experiment of immediate abolition, as tried and proved in Antigua, and the Bermudas, shewed that the apprenticeship was as unnecessary as the compensation; and that both might have been safely dispensed with, by which the enormous cost to the nation, and the six years of suffering to the apprentice might both have been saved. It might be perfectly true, according to the language of the hon. Baronet (Sir G. Grey) that there could be no benefit in discussing these subjects from day to day. But on the other hand he (Mr. Buckingham) was perfectly satisfied that there was great utility in discussing it occasionally: for the facts elicited in such debates would go forth to the world, and produce their proper influence on the Colonies, and on the mother country. It was for this reason that, though he was gratified with the sentiments and declarations made in the name of his Majesty's Government by the hon. Baronet opposite, he was at the same time of opinion, that the House and the country ought to feel glad that the hon. member for Weymouth (Mr. Buxton) had introduced the subject for discussion. In reply to that hon. 953 Member's statements, it had been shown, and he thought satisfactorily, that the Government were not themselves parties to any breach of contract in the matter, and that they had taken such steps, by the purification of the local magistracy especially, as were likely to check any disposition to such breaches in future, among those functionaries. But at the same time, it could not be concealed, that faithfully as England and the English Ministry had done their duty, the colonial authorities, hitherto, at least, had not so well performed theirs;—and surely in the bargain made there were two contracting parties, from each of whom certain conditions were to be exacted, as the act prescribed. Every one who remembered the discussions on the act must remember that when the originally proposed loan of fifteen millions was transformed as if by the suddenness of magic, into a gift of twenty millions: the reason urged for such a rapid and immense advance was this:—that it was a large sum it was true—but then, it was to purchase freedom for the slave—to give liberty to the captive—to abolish corporeal punishment by the whip—to place the African on a level with the European in the administration of justice, and, in short, to secure to the negro—save and except only the reservation of a portion of his daily labour for his former owner—all the rights and privileges of a free man: and it was asked triumphantly, whether the British nation, in its high feeling of chivalrous devotion to freedom, would not readily pay even this large sum as a munificent sacrifice on the altar of justice. But what if the sacrifice were to be made, and the justice to be still withheld, surely this would be a source of deep regret and disappointment to those who were to pay the money. The twenty millions were to be given to purchase certain substantial and valuable blessings to 800,000 of our fellow subjects, and if these substantial and valuable blessings were not attained by the payment, then was it a mockery to talk of the compact being faithfully fulfilled. The House should see, then, how the matter stood, for he (Mr. Buckingham) should be able to prove to them, not from mere newspaper paragraphs, but from authentic and undoubted authority, that in the island of Jamaica, at least, the conditions have not been fulfilled. He would not go through all the details of those conditions, but he would select only three, and they were these:—first, that the flogging of females by the whip should cease after the first of August 1834:—next, 954 that the apprentices should be put in a condition to obtain their manumission at a fixed and moderate rate:—and lastly, that justice should be impartially administered between the negro and his master in all cases of dispute. He would prove, then, that these conditions had been grossly violated in the letter and in the spirit, in Jamaica at least, and he would argue from this, that the owners by whom such violations had been perpetrated, ought to have their individual compensation suspended until satisfactory explanations, if that indeed were possible, had been given of their conduct. The authority he was about to cite was that of Dr. Madden, who had been sent out by the government of this country about two years ago as a stipendiary magistrate, to Jamaica: but who, after residing there for more than a year, and endeavouring to do his duty in a truly English spirit, being determined to uphold the integrity of the Abolition Act, and protect the negro from oppression, had met with such persecution from the local magistrates and persons connected with the planters, and the Colonial Union, that he had felt himself obliged to give up his appointment in disgust, and return to England; though, in proof of the general excellence and propriety of his conduct, he had received the most valuable testimonies as to his zeal, ability, and irreproachable conduct, from the two Governors of Jamaica, Lord Mulgrave and the Marquess of Sligo. This gentleman had resolved to publish his observations on the state of society in Jamaica which were now passing through the press, and would appear in a few days, under the title of "Twelve Months in the West Indies." The work had not yet been published: but Dr. Madden had favoured him (Mr. Buckingham) with an early copy of such sheets as were printed; and from these as he held the fragments of those volumes in his hands, he would cite the passages adverted lo, to show that in these three particulars, the abolition of flogging of females the self-redemption at a fixed and reasonable rate of the apprentices, and the impartial administration of justice, the planters and magistrates of Jamaica had grossly abused their powers and forfeited all claim to compensation till these acts were satisfactorily explained. The following were two cases only, among many, of the female floggings. He said:—The negroes are prone to shamming when they want to escape from labour; but the result of this propensity is, that every sick negro 955 is suspected of being a shammer. On one occasion, a woman was pointed out to me as a shammer by an overseer. The woman was limping before the Busha's house, and when I asked what was the matter with her, I was answered, 'Oh, nothing at all, Sir, the woman is shamming lameness.' I asked had she been seen by the doctor? I was told that she had, and had been recommended a dose of salts. I said to Mr. Jerdan, who was with me, ' That is no shamming; observe how the woman drags her left leg after her, call her and see if she can raise her left arm to her head.' The woman was told to do so, but she could only lift it with her other hand. I said to the overseer, 'This young woman, Sir, is not shamming, she is dead of one side, and she is not able to work.' I was assured if such was the case, she should not be required. In the course of three weeks (when I happened to be absent in the parish of St. Mary,) the same paralytic woman, I was informed on my return, had been to my house with a complaint which she would not go away without making to my wife; she was crying a good deal, and stated that for refusing to work she had been flogged on her paralytic hand."—Such a case as this needed no comment: and he (Mr. Buckingham) would offer none, but leave it in the words of the writer. There was another case, however, more touching still. It was this:—A woman was brought to Dr. Madden by the overseer, as a shammer, and she had been flogged before, but without effect, as she still persisted in her having a pain in the skin, which is the usual mode of describing pains in various parts of the body. After a description of the first interview, Dr. Madden said:—I begged the overseer to withdraw, and again urged her to tell me what was the matter? I could learn nothing except that the marks of a recent flogging were very visible. I imagined it wag the effects of this punishment she meant by 'pain in the skin.' I told her I saw nothing at that time to disqualify her for labour. I called the overseer in, and requested him to allow her some customary gratuity, which had been withheld as a punishment; and that the woman would and must go to labour. The obstinacy of this perverse woman now began to give way; she burst out a crying and said, "Well, Massa! God judge one day 'tween you and me!" I again urged her to inform me of her illness: it was in vain, however; but I satisfied myself there was no shamming in the case. The unfortunate woman was labouring under one of the most awful maladies a female is subject to.He would pass, however, from this painful and revolting picture, to the part of Dr. Madden's work in which he speaks of the self-redemption of the apprentices; and 956 this was so remarkable, that he must beg to request the special attention of the House to it. The writer said:—The eighth clause of the amended Abolition Act enabled the apprentice to redeem himself from servitude, upon payment to his master of the appraised value of his services. This clause, had it been so worded as to prevent the misconstruction of its intent would have been the most valuable clause in the whole Act. But, as it stands, the power of procuring a reasonable award is so limited, that I have lately been obliged to dissuade almost every applicant from applying for a valuation. The Corporation have proved stronger than the British Parliament. When a negro applies to the special justice to purchase his liberty, the latter calls upon the master to appoint a local Magistrate to proceed to a valuation. When the two Magistrates meet they name a third, who must also be a local Magistrate; and according to the age, sex, health, and occupation of the negro they ought to decide. There is one thing obvious at the first glance; there are two local Magistrates and one Special Justice; and it is evident that the interests of the slave-owner have been most looked to in this arrangement. The matter respecting the mode of conducting the valuation is so vaguely expressed in the Act, that the amount to be adjudicated is left entirely to the discretion of the Magistrates, without any reference to the scale of valuation; and this unfortunate defect has been the occasion of an immense deal of misunderstanding between the special and local Magistrates. In some instances the estimate has been as high as 170l. a sum for which no negro has certainly been sold for many a-year in Jamaica: in others it has been as low as 20l. for an adult, and from 10l. to 15l. for children; which, being in currency, is about one-third less in sterling money. In Kingston I believe there have been more applications for negroes to purchase their liberty, than, I believe, in all the rest of the island, with the exception of Spanish Town. In all eighty apprentices have obtained their freedom before me, either by valuation or by mutual agreement; and the average valuation has been 25l. each. In one instance a tradesman was valued at 80l. in the others it varied from 16l. to 35l. I have now been almost a-year in the island: I have attended a great many slave sales, and I have seen no negro sell for more than 30l. and I believe the very last slave that had been levied on for an owner's debt, and sold in Jamaica, I saw put up on the day previous to the 1st of August, on the steps of Hasty's Tavern, in this town Kingston, the last exhibition of this kind that was to disgust the beholder; and in this instance the property put up was a young woman, strong and healthy, and she was knocked down to the highest bidder, which happened to be the only one, for 5l. 6s. 8d.957 Here, then, was a case for inquiry which might well demand the earliest and most earnest consideration of the British Government. Hon. Members would no doubt recollect the two great arguments by which this unnecessary prolongation of slavery under the new and inappropriate name of apprenticeship was defended. First, it was said to be indispensable, in order to prepare the slave for the otherwise too sudden transition from a state of slavery to a state of freedom; a precaution shown to be wholly uncalled for, as the experiment tried in Antigua and the Bermudas, of immediate emancipation, had been most successful, and would have been equally so everywhere else. Secondly it was said, to be an additional compensation given to the slave owner by presenting him with the value of six years labour at a reduced rate, in addition to the compensation of twenty millions; and this, no doubt, was its real nature in the eyes of the planters themselves. But according to the testimony furnished by Dr. Madden, these apprentices were forced to pay for the redemption of their term of six years labour, a much larger sum than slaves usually sold for before the Abolition Act was passed at all; so that in such cases, at least, the planters would first get the full value of their slaves in their share of the twenty millions Compensation Fund, and then be paid a second time by having more than the full value by the excessive redemption price; thus getting repaid thrice the original purchase money for their slaves—once in the labour and profit had out of them in their previous state of slavery—a second time in the compensation money paid by the nation; and a third time in the self-redemption of the slave at a larger price than all and thus performing a treble robbery; for the first act of making a man a slave was an unjustifiable wrong; the second of asking compensation from the public purse was an aggravation of that wrong; and the third of demanding compensation from the unhappy slave himself, whom the nation had already redeemed, was an accumulation of wrong, that it required more than usual hardihood and effrontery to perpetrate and defend He (Mr. Buckingham) would come now, however, to the concluding portion of the case, and shew, from the undeniable testimony of Dr. Madden, that besides the flogging of females, and the exorbitant demands for manumission, there was nothing like impartial justice administered be- 958 tween the negroes and their oppressors. The following were only a few of the cases that he would venture to cite from Dr. Madden's pages; he said:—Since August, 1834, various outrages have been committed by white people on negroes. One planter has been indicted for shooting at an old woman, and, after wounding her severely, discharged the second barrel at her, but fortunately without effect. The Grand Jury ignored the bill—Another gentleman was indicted at the October Court, for outrage on a sick negro woman. The Grand Jury ignored the bill. Another planter was indicted for the murder of his negro, by shooting him, and was sentenced to nine months' imprisonment.—Another gentleman, an overseer, was committed to gaol a few weeks ago, for the murder of a boy, by shooting at a number of negroes assembled in a hut, in the act of singing hymns. He has not been yet tried, but from the exertions making for him I have no expectation he will be convicted.—Another gentleman was tried in October last, for causing one of his negroes to be severely torn by dogs, for going without permission to bury his wife, who had been dead three days, and had been refused sufficient time to prepare her coffin. The strenuous exertions of the Chief Justice obtained a conviction: he was fined 100l.—But in the majority of cases convictions are not to be expected: Such cases are not given on newspaper authority. I have taken them from the sworn informations. Is this a state of things to be remedied under the present system? In my opinion it is not.It was unnecessary to add anything to these recent and vivid, and he feared too faithful pictures of West-Indian Society, drawn by the pen of one whose testimony was unquestionable. With these statements he would leave the case to the judgment of the House and the country; and whatever might be the fate of the Motion of the hon. Member for Weymouth, he (Mr. Buckingham) should feel that he had endeavoured to do his duty towards the poor oppressed negro, by drawing the attention of the people of Great Britain by whom the twenty millions were to be paid, to the violations of good faith on the part of those towards whom, in a moment of reckless extravagance, which he would not dignify by the name of justice or generosity, this immense sum had been voted in payment for that liberty, which the slaves ought never to have had taken from them, and which it should not have cost either them or the country a shilling to regain.
§ Mr. Clay
merely rose to ask whether his hon. Friend, the Member for Weymouth, after the very able, eloquent, and 959 satisfactory speech of the right hon. Baronet (Sir George Grey) would think it necessary to persist in his Motion? In his opinion nothing but a positive breach of faith on the part of any of the Colonial legislatures could justify the Government of this country in withholding the amount of compensation which had been voted by the British Parliament; and it did not appear to him, from anything which had been stated by the hon. Member for Weymouth, or from anything that he had heard from the Colonies themselves, that any such breach of faith had taken place. The exculpation of the Government from the charge of negligence, too, was, he thought, most complete, and he thought the task might now be safely left to the Government of working out the details of the measure which had passed last Session. He happened to know that large commercial transactions had been entered into on the faith of the payment of the money, and any breach of that faith would be attended with most disastrous consequences. If the hon. Member should divide the House on the Question, he would find that he would lose the support of many sincere friends to the cause he advocated, and it would not be well to let it appear to the public that there was even the appearance of a falling-off in the numbers of those who were in that House the promoters of negro emancipation. He trusted that the hon. Member would see the propriety of withdrawing his Motion.
would also implore his hon. Friend to withdraw his Motion. Every object that he could have in bringing it forward must have been amply answered in the speech which had been made by the right hon. Baronet. He (Mr. O'Connell) derived a consolation, and an assurance that the views of negro emancipists would be fully met, not only from the propriety and accuracy of the materials of which the right hon. Baronet's speech was composed, but also from the liberal spirit which pervaded and gave a character to every passage of it. From all that had been stated, the hon. Member must now be satisfied that all those abuses of which he complained were watched over with a vigilant eye friendly to the Emancipation of negroes, and willing to punish any acts of oppression on the part of their tyrants. Opposed as he had been to the original grant of twenty millions, he still felt bound to say, that the country 960 had now ample value for the money. Feeling, as he did, that there never was a man so well formed by every qualification to advocate the cause of suffering humanity as the hon. Member for Weymouth (Mr. F. Buxton), he still felt confident that he might safely leave the matter in the hands of the Government.
§ Mr. Fowell Buxton,
in reply, said, he felt that the speech of the hon. Baronet (Sir. G. Grey) must have made a deep impression on the House; and, accompanied as it was by numerous suggestions from the friends of emancipation, he felt that he had no alternative. He felt that it was indispensable on his part, wishing to do the best for those of whom he was the humble advocate, to withdraw his Motion. The Government had now taken upon itself a greater responsibility than it had hither to done in carrying the measure of emancipation into effectual operation; and he had no doubt they would do all that was possible to effect that object. It never was his intention to withhold the twenty millions, but that its payment should be accompanied with the intimation that Government was pledged that the intention of the Legislature should be carried into effect.
§ Motion withdrawn.