had a petition to present of a different character from the majority of those which had been presented. The petitioners, he was sure, would be Considered entitled to the utmost attention. The petition was very numerously signed by persons who had a greater amount of property involved in what was the subject matter of consideration of that night than any other class of persons in the United Kingdom. The petition was from West-India planters and merchants, and they came before that House entreating the House not to violate the national compact into which the Legislature had entered a short period ago, and not to abridge the remaining period of apprenticeship. They stated, that the abridgment would be a very great and serious injury to them, and that many other legislative enactments should precede entire emancipation. There were rules required for the suppression of vagrancy, for the embodiment of militia, for the regulation of the elective franchise, for juries, and for making rules between masters and servants. But there was one point to which he wished to call the attention of Parliament, supposing the measure of the hon. Baronet was carried, and that was, the introduction of a sound currency instead of that which now existed. He was anxious to call the attention of the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer to this point, and had given him notice of it two days ago, knowing that his right hon. Friend would be the last person to undervalue the importance of the subject. The currency throughout the West-India colonies was in anything but a satisfactory state.
, up to that moment, had confined himself to the petition. But, even if he did exceed the rule in any degree, he should have thought that some consideration ought to be given to a petition from those whose all, or the greater part of whose property, was involved. He was stating the subject of the petition to which 41 the Chancellor of the Exchequer bad engaged to give him an answer. He had to observe, that the petitioners stated, that a sound monetary system was particularly indispensable, and that the present state of the currency was anything but satisfactory.
§ Mr. Gillon
rose to order. At that moment the noble Lord had no right to enter into the state of the currency.
said, it never could be the rule to preclude a Member from stating the contents of a petition, or reading it. The petitioners stated, that the currency did not rest upon a sound basis, and that, under existing circumstances, it was difficult to keep the colony in an amount of coin sufficient for the wants of the population. The slaves had been supplied with clothing and various articles of necessity by their masters; but when they were to be paid for their labour a much greater amount of coin would be required. It was necessary, then, to establish in the colonies a sound monetary system. He asked, then, what was the intention of the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer with respect to a new coinage? He concluded by presenting a petition against the abolition of apprenticeship.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
, in answer to the question put by his noble Friend, which he admitted was one of very great importance, but not so immediately connected with the subject matter of the debate as was supposed by the petitioners, had to say this, that the subject to which the noble Lord alluded more particularly was under the consideration of Government at the present moment. He was quite sure, that his noble Friend and the House, must be aware, that a subject which particularly embraced the introduction of a new standard of value was not one that could be lightly disposed of.
Sir G. Strickland
rose and said, Sir, in rising to propose a resolution, "That this House is of opinion that apprenticeship in the British colonies, as established by the act of abolition, passed in the year 1833, should cease and determine on the 1st of August in the present year," I must, in the first place, express my regret that illness has caused the absence of the hon. Baronet, the Member for Warwickshire, who would have done so much more ample justice to this subject. I likewise feel that I come forward this evening under some disadvantage, as I have given a very laborious and patient attention for many 42 hours every day to one of the Committees, so that I have not had that leisure which I should wish to have had. But notwithstanding these disadvantages, I feel encouraged by the consideration, that this is not a party question. I hold it impossible that this all-important subject, resting alone upon the immutable principles of humanity, mercy, and justice, can be disfigured by party. For the first time I feel regret, that there is not in this House any neutral ground on which I could place myself, and by that means have more advantageously appealed to the kind and merciful feelings of hon. Members on my right and left. This subject does, indeed, come before the House under very peculiar circumstances. In the year 1833, that Act was passed which has been called the Imperial Act, the Act of Abolition, an Act which declared, in emphatic terms, that slavery should for ever be abolished. So strong were the words of that Act of Parliament that I cannot refrain from quoting this short passage from it—That, subject to the obligations imposed by this Act, all persons in slavery throughout the British colonies shall on the 1st of August, 1833, become, and be to all intents and purposes, free and discharged of and from all manner of slavery, and shall be absolutely and for ever manumitted, and that slavery shall be, and is hereby utterly and for ever, abolished and declared unlawful throughout the British colonies and possessions abroad.If this great promise had been realised, this was all that the friends of humanity and the enemies of slavery have ever asked or wished for. But it is, indeed, an extraordinary circumstance, that an act of this Legislature, hitherto considered all-powerful, should have been passed for five years, and at the end of that long period, when the people of the United Kingdom were flattering themselves with the fond expectation that the great work of justice and mercy was in progress, and that all those wretched persons, 800,000 of our fellow-creatures, were passing through a state of comparative happiness from darkness and oppression—that, after this long time, information after information should be received from the colonies which has raised one universal feeling of pain and distress, from a thorough conviction that the Imperial Act has not been carried into effect, but that it has been passed over, slurred, totally neglected. During the progress of that measure through the House, so anxious were some hon. Members 43 of the House, so delicate were their feelings, that no possibility of injustice should be effected, that after a long and arduous discussion it was at last determined that the enormous sum of twenty millions of money should be paid out of the pockets of the British people to accomplish the great work. I firmly believe, however just and necessary many hon. Members of this House thought it, that this enormous grant should be paid—a grant which at this day is universally believed to have been double the amount of a fair remuneration as a price for the slaves—however delicate and proper the feelings of the House were, yet from experience and from observation I am thoroughly convinced, that the country at large never did respond to the policy of this measure, and that the great majority of the people never approved of the grant being made. I state confidently, that the universal feeling on the subject is, that, especially in a land of regulated liberty, personal freedom was one of the first of the rights of man, and that no price ought to have been paid for it, and that it ought never to be bought or sold. But it is too late now to discuss this part of the subject. I think, considering what has been stated, the House cannot be surprised to hear, that a noble, gallant, and celebrated duke, in another place, declared, that four years after the establishment of apprenticeship, he was ashamed that the Legislature should be called upon for the protection of slaves. I am fully aware that the House thinks it a matter of very small consequence whether so humble an individual as myself has been consistent in my opinion on this subject. But upon moving for shortening the duration of the apprenticeship, I feel that the consideration is essential that have been consistent, and that I have taken a prominent part in demanding freedom for the unhappy slaves. It is due to myself, that I should set myself right with the House, and that I should show that I have not hastily taken up this subject, and that I have not embarked in it without thought and consideration. When the Bill was before the House of Commons in the year 1833, Mr. Fowell Buxton—that man whose absence from the House I deeply regret, as being one of the best and most tried friends of human nature wherever misery was to be found in any part of the world—that hon. gentleman moved an amendment, that the system of apprenticeship, instead of being continued 44 to the year 1840, should terminate in 1836—in fact, that it should only have two years' continuance. On that occasion, I am reported to have said, that—I have felt from the first how great an object it was, to carry this measure with as much unanimity as possible, but if it really do come to a question, whether I must vote for the shorter or the longer period, I shall feel obliged in consistency to vote for the shorter period. Though for years the emancipation of the slaves has been called for, the people have never expected that it was to be accompanied by remuneration to the planter. I admit, that the arguments of the hon. Member for Leeds are difficult to be answered in favour of compensation. But if it were not trespassing too long upon the attention of the House at this time of the night, I think I should be able to show, that so large a sum as twenty millions ought not to be paid; and as to the length of the apprenticeship, there cannot be a doubt that the voice of the people is in favour of the shortest possible period.It is my intention to deviate as little as possible from the exact question before the House. My object is to confine myself, as strictly as possible, to the inquiry, whether the apprenticeship system has worked well, or ill. I therefore feel myself entirely absolved on this occasion from entering into the general consideration of the wretchedness and misery produced by slavery—of the complete degradation of all classes of society, wherever the horrid system exists. I pass all this over, because I consider these as principles and maxims which are universally adopted. For the same reasons, it is unnecessary for me to enter upon any remarks upon the great maxim laid down in the powerful language of Mr. Fox, and illustrated with no less eloquence by Mr. Canning, that there is no intermediate state between slavery and freedom, because there is no executory principle. It is unnecessary for me to advert to such great authorities, because I have that of the noble Lord, the Member for Northumberland, whose opinions, I for one, hold in the highest esteem. Upon the occasion I before mentioned, that noble Lord signalized himself by showing, that the allurements of office were a matter of no consideration to him, in comparison with the preservation of his principles. The noble Lord had, on that occasion, addressed to the House a speech, which I am convinced, will do more to hand down his name in the grateful recollection of his country, than all the exploits, he will be able to perform in his office of secretary of 45 war, if he should hold the office for fifty years. Upon that occasion, the noble Lord expressed himself in such a manner, that I feel I cannot refrain from making a few short extracts from his speech. He said,My right hon. Friend (alluding to the noble Lord, the Member for North Lancashire, then Mr. Stanley, and Secretary for the Colonies) has said, that he proposes to place the negroes almost in a state of freedom—to give them (I think was his expression) all the essentials of freedom. Could I be persuaded, that such would be the effect of the measure he has recommended, I should be spared the pain of opposing it. But the House must not allow itself to be imposed upon by words. Slavery does not consist in a name." "Sir, I believe it is a truth universally recognized, that men can only be taught industry by having the fruits of their industry secured to them——by being made to know, that if they will consent to labour, the reward of their toil shall not be taken from them by another." "I believe, the plan of apprenticeship will be as injurious to the planters as to the slaves." "I know, sir, that we cannot trust the colonial assemblies to legislate. Whatever might be the nominal effect of the laws they might pass, in reality, they would amount to nothing less than the maintenance of slavery, as it now exists." "There is no intermediate state between freedom and slavery."*In another place, the same noble Lord had said,I did not vote for the grant of 20,000,000l. for this simple reason, that I wished that Parliament, before it was pledged to give the money, should have a more definite knowledge of the consideration to be received. I contend that 20,000,000l is ample compensation for immediate freedom, and if part of that freedom be withheld, what is more fair than that we should withhold part of the 20,000,000l?I think, the noble Lord is deserving of the highest praise, not for preaching upon things after they had happened, but in anticipating what has taken place. I say, that these anticipations were founded upon the truest knowledge of human nature, and upon the soundest principles of legislation, and they ought to be a warning to the House, not now to turn a deaf ear to them. Notwithstanding this admirable discourse, the plan was persevered in. There seemed to be some power overwhelming the Colonial-office, and they persevered in their plan in spite of every warning that was given to them. But* Hansard (third series) vol. xvii, p. p. 1232–1248.46 though the plan was persevered in, some hopes were held, that there might be some mistake, and in brilliant language, promises were made to the nation, that slavery should be abolished. The noble Lord, the Member for North Lancashire, then secretary for the Colonies, in answer to a question put to him by the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, expressed himself in these memorable words:—"I do not mean, that the apprentices shall not be liable to punishment. I mean, that their condition shall be precisely that of workmen in England." Now, the inquiry to which I humbly beg the attention of the House, is simply in these words, has that promise been fulfilled? Are the apprentices in the Colonies, precisely in the state of workmen in England? These were not the only memorable expressions made use of on that occasion. At that time, an hon. Member of this House (Mr. Patrick Stewart), who was considered the very mouth-piece of the Colonial interest, addressed the House, and received high praise for the talent, and the moderation with which he spoke. What did Mr. Stewart say? He said this:—"The bargain entered into was this—that within a limited period, on consideration of the co-operation of the Colonial authorities, such a sum should be paid." He said likewise, "I am perfectly satisfied, that the Colonial Legislatures will fulfil their part of the contract, and pass such measures as will facilitate the completion of the object the British Parliament has in view." He said, moreover, "I quite agree with hon. Members who say, that any opposition on the part of the Colonies, such as that contemplated, would be an infraction of the understanding which was come to." I am now approaching what I consider the far most painful part of my task, for I am going to inquire into and produce some facts, as few painful facts as possible, in order to point out whether or not there has been, in the words of Mr. Stewart, any infraction of the understanding then come to. On this point, I will just state the opinions of a very high authority. I will take one pithy passage from the message of Sir Lionel Smith to the Assembly of Jamaica, dated the 31st of October, 1837. He said there, "This island is subject to the reproach that the negroes are, in some respects, now in a worse condition than they were in slavery." I ask, is this the condition of British labourers? Is this an infraction of the understanding come to? 47 I have said already that, as far as possible, I will avoid entering into minute details. I know such statements are distasteful to the House, and, therefore, I will rather narrow my grounds of inquiry by stating the infractions of the understanding rather than go into minute specifications of the amount of them. In the first place, is there not an infraction fully made out as to the regulations of the time of the apprentices? One of the means by which these unhappy people have to maintain themselves is by cultivating small plots of ground for their support; any enactment or regulation, therefore, which would effectually prevent them from having an opportunity of cultivating those small spots would be a most important infraction of the understanding. Then, as to food, I believe that throughout all the colonies, as far as the evidence on the subject goes, the effect of it is to show that the allowance of food to the apprentice is little more than half of that he received in slavery. I ask, is this carrying out the intentions of the Imperial Act, which says, that no regulation shall be made which shall, in any respect, place the apprentice in a worse condition than when he was a slave? By the returns which have been made on this subject, I find that, whereas fourteen pints of Indian corn and twenty-one of flour used to be given to the slave, it was reduced to ten pints of Indian corn and eight of flour to the apprentice. Then, as to the treatment of, and indulgence to, aged persons and pregnant women, and those with a child to nurse, the accounts on these subjects are most distressing. Old persons, who were virtually relieved from labour till the apprenticeship system commenced, are now forced into the field. There is one part of this question, which I believe has throughout this country, and most deservedly, made a deep impression against the system of slavery: I mean the continuance of the horrid practice of flogging women. I will read a passage on this subject from the all-powerful Imperial Act. That Act states "That it shall not be lawful for any governor, council, and assembly, or other Colonial Legislature, to authorise any court, judge, or justice of the peace to punish any apprenticed labourer, being a female, for any offence, by whipping or beating her person." I will, first of all, draw the attention of the House to a narrative which has been widely circulated in this country, and which was written by James Williams, a young man, 48 who was formerly a slave, and who is now twenty-two years of age., This narrative, though from so humble an individual, has, from the circumstances connected with it, become a matter of great importance and interest. I will not read any extract from this painful narrative, but I will state generally its effect. It stated, when he was a slave he was comparatively mercifully treated; he was seldom beaten, and then very lightly; but from the moment he became an apprentice, his master declared that he would so work him and flog hint till the end of his apprenticeship, in 1840, that he should be of no value to himself or to any person. He stated, that he was flogged repeatedly for no intelligible offence, and that before his wounds were healed, he was flogged again and again; he was immured in a dungeon, he was committed to the treadmill, and, what was the most important part of the narrative, in the treadmill he witnessed scenes of horror which were disgraceful to human nature. The narrative states, that the treadmill and the House of Correction are placed beyond the power of the stipendiary magistrates, and are in possession of and under the power of the slave-owners them-selves. It states, that the writer there saw wretched women who were too weak and feeble to work at the treadmill, hung up to a pole above it, and in that state flogged in the most merciless manner. The writer gave, likewise, an account of a poor old woman with grey hairs, who was so mercilessly flogged that after vomitting blood she died. I will pass over this narrative. I feel that in such accounts as these, coming from this quarter, it may be naturally inferred that the whole is a fabrication, and that there is not a word of truth in it. In order to set this question at rest, the Colonial-office appointed a commission to inquire into the truth of the narrative, and what was the result? Mr. Gordon and Mr. Daughty, the two gentlemen appointed to report upon the narrative, drew up a report of which I will read a part. They give the whole of the evidence, but the report itself is very short. They state—In reporting upon the results of this extended inquiry, it has become the duty of the Commissioners to state, that the allegations of James Williams's narrative have received a few inconsiderable contradictions, whilst every material fact has been supported and corroborated by an almost unbroken chain of convincing testimony; that the abolition law has not been properly administered in some 49 parts of the parish of St. Ann; that the House of Correction was, until recently, a place of licentiousness and cruelty; and that the treadmill has been, and still is, an instrument rather of torture than of just and salutary punishment.I know that, notwithstanding the forcible arguments which I have read this evening from the speech of the noble Lord, the Member for North Lancashire, to prove what should be the condition of the blacks under the Emancipation Act, it has been stated in many of the public journals, and whispered amongst various parties, "Ay, it is true, that in Jamaica there have been abuses; in that island, the planters have behaved ill (for that is the lenient expression used); but it is a hard case that all the other colonies should be punished on account of the operation of the law there." I have had little time, as I said, for the investigation of this subject; but on cursorily looking over the information I could procure, I have found ample proof to justify me in stating, that whatever horrors have taken place in Jamaica, are to be found everywhere, for they form a necessary ingredient in slavery. I will not go into the returns which show, that in all the slave colonies, hundreds of thousands of lashes have been inflicted on those wretched apprentices for what are called apprentice offences—such as not doing their work in a proper manner, or even looking with disrespect towards their masters. These returns of hundreds of thousands of lashes, are convincing proofs that this system works very curiously indeed, if these apprentices are really to be looked upon in the situation of British labourers. But I will take only one account which I have extracted, of the manner in which the provisions of the act relating to apprentices, have been observed in other colonies.The Abolition Act requires that 'good and ample provision' shall be made for the apprentices by their employers. But it appears, that in Tortola, the allowance of farinaceous food is less than one half the prison allowance of Jamaica, under the slave law in corn, and one-fifth in flour. In Nevi, St. Christopher's, and Dominica, it is little more than one half in either corn or flour. In Barbadoes, it is little more than two-thirds of corn. From such cause in British Guiana, a crown colony, the apprentices are said to be in a state approaching to starvation.But I have no doubt it will he said, that the horrible account given in the narrative of Williams, of the treadmill in Jamaica, 50 does not apply to the other Colonies. I shall, therefore, be obliged to read to the House the testimony of Mr. Sturge, to what he saw in Bridgetown, the capital of Barbadoes.On the top of the treadmill were a number of negroes, to secure the arms of those who were too weak to hold on by the rails. The women were on it. The brutal driver was flogging them with as much severity as he had previously flogged the men. Be cut them wherever he listed, and as often as he pleased. We were dreadfully shocked. On the mill was a mulatto woman extremely exhausted. The driver flogged her repeatedly, and she as often made the attempt to tread the mill; but nature was worn out; she was literally suspended by the bend of the elbow of one arm, a negro holding down the wrist, and her poor legs knocking against the revolving steps of the mill till the blood marked them. She hung groaning. When the negro released her arm, she fell on the floor.I think this one case sufficient to establish my assertion. There is also an account given of the treatment of a poor black girl, about eighteen years of age, which was no less severe than that which I have read. Now, I ask you, has there been no infraction of the understanding which was come to? Are the apprentices in the state of British labourers? Has the imperial law been disregarded or not. If there were any doubt of the evidence which I have now adduced, I have yet the means of establishing it in the most triumphant manner by the words of Lord Glenelg himself. And, before I go farther, I beg to say, that I do not join in the unjust reproaches brought forward against that amiable and accomplished nobleman. I think, on the contrary, that the country is indebted to him for doing all that one in his situation could do—for having spoken out boldly and firmly, and not tried to slur over abuses. That noble Lord has spoken in a way which must afford some excuse for the conduct of individuals, like myself, who have brought this subject under public notice. Lord Glenelg said, "The complaints respecting the state of other Colonies, are not so numerous or considerable as those respecting Jamaica. I must allow, with respect to the latter colony, that many evils exist, which might be made the grounds for claiming the abolition of the apprenticeship system."
Sir G. Strickland
I have no doubt, the 51 words I am quoting, are to be found in "Hansard's Parliamentary Debates;" but I take them from The Morning Chronicle of the 21st of February, 1838, and I have no doubt they are correctly given. The hon. Baronet was proceeding to read some other extracts from Lord Glenelg's speech, when he was interrupted by
§ The Speaker
who said, that the hon. Baronet was out of order in making quotations from the source which he had mentioned.
Sir G. Strickland
Well, I merely wished to refer to those statements for the purpose of showing, that after repeated and earnest solicitations, the Local Assemblies could not be induced to make those regulations which were just. The noble Lord also admitted, that scenes still occurred, which were horrible and revolting, and entirely confirmed the narrative of James Williams. He moreover confessed, that in spite of the law, females were flogged in a manner which reflected disgrace on the Legislature. But I understand, that the Bill brought forward by the noble Lord, is to be moved this evening as an amendment to my Motion. I feel bound, therefore, to allude by anticipation to that measure. In the first place, I take it to be a full admission of the grievances of the slaves. What else does it mean? I will not quote authorities to sustain what I say, because such a course seems to be displeasing; but, if I were to do so, I could prove, that this Bill has been introduced to protect the apprentices from the effects of a conspiracy carried on against them. It is to afford protection to Magistrates, or rather to make another enactment, to prevent the flogging of females. Why, Sir, if it were possible to pass fifty laws, one after another, is it likely, that words could be found, prohibiting more strenuously and clearly, the evils which are now intended to be put down, than those contained in the Imperial Act. This is legislating, as it were, on legislation in a manner which, I was going to say, might be called impotent; but which, I am quite certain, can produce no possible good. But there is another point of view, in which this Bill is to be considered. It is to enable the Governor, in case the apprentices are used cruelly, to give them immediate freedom. Why, then, when I hear of my motion being an infraction of the contract, am I not entitled to say, that these enlarged powers to be given under the Bill to the magistrates are equally de- 52 serving of being characterised as an infraction of that contract, which I deny was ever entered into, at least in the sense in which it is now interpreted? I remember the debates which then took place, in which the Secretary for the Colonies explained the object of the measure with the greatest eloquence and perspicuity, and maintained, that the apprenticeship system was agreed to, not for the benefit of the planter, but that of the slaves. After the recital which I have given, I ask, how far that character has been sustained? In addition to the opinions of other statesmen whom I have quoted, there is that of Mr. Burke to show, that there is no intermediate place, no transitory state, between slavery and freedom. The more you legislate on this subject the more mischief you will do unless you confer on the negroes immediate freedom. It is far better to lay aside legislation altogether than to resort to this kind of interference, which only tends to irritate the planters to the exercise of their overwhelming power over the slaves. I will now endeavour to show, that from giving the apprentices unconditional freedom on the 1st of August in the present year, no danger is to be apprehended. But, in the first place I shall make a few remarks on that strange species of legislation which consists in saying, that the non-predial slaves shall be released in this year, but that the predial slaves shall be retained in servitude for two years longer. Was there ever a piece of legislation which gave greater promise of dissatisfaction, irritation, and discontent? Is it in human nature that one portion of these negroes should look on contentedly while their brethren were released from darkness and bondage to the light of day and freedom, though they continued two years longer in a state of slavery? But I revert to what I alluded to in the previous part of my observations. I wish to point your attention to the great experiment which was made in Antigua and Bermuda. There we see 45,000 negroes at once set free without any intermediate state of apprenticeship, working industriously, increasing prosperity, raising the value of land, and working for wages in a manner equally industrious, as the labourer of any other country. But there is this strong feature in the case of Antigua, that whereas, for thirty years before the proprietors of Slaves, to their eternal honour, gave immediate freedom, martial law had every year before the Christmas festival to be proclaimed, upon 53 the emancipation taking place the whole colony was peace, order, and subordination. If anything were wanted to show, that this people are fit for the adoption of freedom, I would refer to the evidence of Admiral Fleming, who thoroughly understood this subject, and who always maintained, that there was no danger in immediate emancipation. I would next refer to the beautiful account given by the Marquess of Sligo of the mariner in which the negroes celebrated the 1st of August, 1834, which they considered as leading to their happiness, freedom, and all the blessings of liberty. It is an extract from the Marquess of Sligo's Report, and is as follows:—The 1st of August was devoted in many parts of the island to devotional exercises. In the sectarian chapels the service was performed several times in the course of the day; in fact, as often as a fresh succession of auditors presented themselves. It has been generally remarked, that hardly a drunken man was to be seen in the streets on that day; the Saturday was divided between business and pleasure; they were fully aware, that the next Sunday's market would be abolished. At night in some of the towns there were fancy balls, in which the authorities of the island, past and present, were represented. On Sunday the places of worship were again unusually crowded, and the day passed over in the most orderly and quiet manner. My reports from all parts of the island, except St. Ann's alone, state, that on Monday the apprentices turned out to their work with even more than usual readiness, in some places with alacrity, and all with good humour"But it has been said, that these wretched blacks can never be roused from a state of indolence. Hear what the Archdeacon of Barbadoes says on this point—Strange that it should be said, that the free blacks are predisposed to idleness, when they have driven the free whites from some occupations in our own island of Barbadoes; for instance, as carpenters and masons. The lower class of the white population are in the greatest destitution and distress. The number of white persons receiving relief is far greater than the number of persons of colour in the same situation. Indeed, the poor blacks contribute towards the relief of the poor whites, while the poor blacks maintain entirely those of their own colour who are poor.Now, looking at the present aspect of affairs, I beg to ask the most strenuous supporter of apprenticeship, or slavery, or whatever it may be called, whether there is not now some danger in attempting to continue this irritating distinction between 54 non-prædial and prædial slaves? Let me, however, for one moment, ask what the French are now doing? They likewise have colonies in the West Indies. Shall England, after all her boasted generosity in giving twenty millions for establishing perfect freedom, allow France to take precedence in the work of emancipation? What I am now going to quote is a petition which has been presented from the proprietors of slaves in Martinique to the French Government at home:—We learn with the profoundest interest, that the Government is determined to put an end to slavery, because it is contrary to the fundamental principles of all society, and useful neither to the master nor to the slave. When there shall be no more slaves it will no longer be necessary to transport a great military force at an enormous expense. The emancipated slaves, having become soldiers and citizens, will be interested in maintaining the public order, and in defending the soil which gave them birth.These are the sentiments held by the planters of Martinique. They ask for the freedom of the slaves, because they think it will be for their own advantage, and that it will conduce to the peace of society and the prosperity of the country in which they live. I know I have trespassed long on the time of the House. I regret having done so, for I feel that I have very imperfectly performed the task imposed on me. When I say it was my wish that it should have fallen into abler hands, perhaps some explanation may be required why I have undertaken it. I could not help reflecting that I am sent to this House by that vast county, by that great constituency, which, for forty years, has been first and foremost in demanding freedom for the slave. I cannot help reflecting that I fill the same situation, that I follow, at however immeasurable a distance, the footsteps of that good, that eloquent, that enlightened, that humane and religious man, Mr. Wilberforce. And after age and infirmity obliged him to retire from that laborious situation the county of York called to its representation that individual, who, by his varied and splendid talents, by his great services in this cause, has distinguished himself above all other men, Mr. Wilberforce, perhaps, alone excepted. Again, when he was raised to a high situation in the service of his country the humble individual who now addresses you was invited to fill that post, for no reason that I know of excepting that I have, on some occasions, expressed my unalterable hatred to slavery and oppress- 55 sion, wherever they are to be found. I now conclude by expressing a hope that as long as life and energy may be spared to me I shall be found to devote them to the abolition of the horrors of slavery, under whatever name it may be disguised or by whatever nation it may be upheld. I move "That this House is of opinion that the apprenticeship established in the British colonies by the 3rd and 4th William 4th shall determine on the 1st of August,1838."
§ Mr. Pease
, in seconding the motion, assured the House that it was with the greatest diffidence he rose on this occasion, being fully aware of the vast importance of the subject, and of the great, he might say awful, responsibility which attached to those who were about to make the great change which it was the object of this motion to accomplish. Not only did he now feel the onerous duty imposed on him, but he had a full sense of the difficulty when he was first applied to for tests of his conduct. At a meeting of his constituents in the course of the past year, when their feelings and views were expressed in language not to be misunderstood, he stated unequivocally and honestly that he had the most serious doubts as to the policy pointed out; and also how far he could, in his situation as representative, stand up and propose a modification or abolition of an Act passed only a few years before. He trusted to the indulgence of the House whilst he endeavoured to state feebly, but as well as he could, the grounds on which he came to the conclusion that he could act that part from an honest wish to vindicate the national character, and from a Christian desire that the country to which he belonged should be no longer stigmatised with a system which reflected dishonour on the empire. Now he must, in the first place, disclaim the slightest degree of hostility to those who conducted the affairs of this vast empire, as well as any participation in the language which was held elsewhere, partly in his presence, but more particularly in his absence. He felt bound, too, to express his regret that the noble Lord, the Member for North Lancashire was not present, as he should have to make some reflections on his conduct, to which, though not impugning either his head or heart, he should wish to give him an opportunity of replying. After having waded through this large volume of evidence with all the industry which be could, he confessed he found him- 56 self in great difficulty, from the want of those particulars being given which would enable him to come to a conclusive judgment. The Act of abolition having proposed to give such extensive powers as would satisfy the people of England that all the views which they entertained with so much fervency and honesty would be fully met, the course taken by the Government was such as left no doubt that the final consummation of their efforts would be such as every Member of the House wished it to be. But, to his surprise, he found by an Order in Council, providing for sundry and galling deficiencies of the Legislature of Jamaica, the three great elements which bore so large a proportion in the comfort and happiness of the negro, namely, clothing, food, and medicine, were left untouched. This was pointed out by Mr. Secretary Stanley in his first dispatch. The same objection was made with respect to Guiana, where it was obvious that the regulations were not such as justified the grant. In this colony the slaves had a right to a certain allowance of food, in accordance with an Order in Council passed when Mr. Canning was Prime Minister, with respect to all Crown colonies. The understanding was, that that Order in Council should be carried into effect. Sir Benjamin D'Urban stated, that he had an intimation that it was the intention of the inhabitants of this colony to cast off their allegiance; and the consequence was, that a discretion was allowed him of making such modifications as to the time of receiving and species of their food as he might think fit. The modifications thus intrusted to his discretion took place; and from that period he dated some of the greatest calamities which afflicted the colony. The weekly amount of food had been twenty-one pints each of wheaten meal, or meal from the Indian corn, and also a certain allowance of fish. In lieu of the farinaceous food it was determined that they should get seventy-five plantains, of which one-third was edible food. In consequence of this change the twenty-one pints of meal were reduced to ten, and the fish also diminished one-half. In 1834 it was true that Sir James Carmichael Smith did issue a proclamation, directing that the apprentices should receive twenty-one pints of Indian corn a week; but two days after its publication, having been waited upon by a number of planters of Guiana, who represented that there was not then in the colony a sufficient supply of corn to 57 warrant the issue of this increased allowance, he consented to suspend it for a period of six months. At the end of six months, however, the proclamation was again suspended, although in one passage of the proclamation Sir J. C. Smith says, that the weekly allowance should be sixteen pints of corn, which would make twenty-one pints of farinaceous food, and he could not think how it could be supposed that less was sufficient to support an individual for a week. If, then, the twenty-one pints were only sufficient, what must be the situation of those slaves who were compelled to labour severely on an allowance of ten pints only? The first suspension was to allow time for the importation of grain; the second was to take the opinion of the Government at home—an opinion which had never since been given nor was there any official answer received to the communication. This important part of the case resolved itself into the question—was or was not the larger quantity the legal allowance of the colony? If it was, why reduce it by more than one-half? With regard to the plantations of plantains, there was now no inducement to the planter to cultivate them compared to that which he had before the Slavery Abolition Act. At that period the slaves were the property of their masters. and for his own interest sake he fed them well and prolonged their life as much as he could. Now the planter had no object in the prolongation of their existence, and no interest in their labours beyond the time fixed for their complete emancipation. It was well known that the mortality in Guiana on its first settlement was very great; but still the soil was so rich, it yielded such abundant returns, that many planters gave it the preference over the islands, and worked it to the utmost. The mortality at the present hour was as great as it had been at the beginning of that colony; a fact which he believed might be safely attributed to the inferior quantity of nourishment, and the increased labour imposed on the negroes. He had it from the best authority, that the mortality there now was in an equal ratio, compared to the population, to what it had been at the worst period of the colony. He would next enter on the subject of punishments, passing by the subject of compensation, because of the difficulty which he had in ascertaining the exact amount of compensation allowed, inasmuch as fathers were found claiming, for their own illegitimate 58 offspring, one having put in a demand for twenty-one of his own children of that description. Such claims were disputed, and the cases not being yet decided, it was not easy to ascertain how the compensation fund would be divided. But, with regard to the subject of punishment, he held in his hand certain returns, furnished him by the best authority, which would throw some light upon the subject. From the 1st of August, 1834 to the 1st of July, 1835, was, what was termed by the Governor of Guiana, the most troubled period. It was the period succeeding the passing of the Slavery Abolition Act. Well, in that most troubled period, comprehending a space of time of nearly a twelvemonth, there were 8,152 negroes punished in all in this colony. Of these 2,177 were flogged, and the remaining 5,975 were imprisoned, or mulcted of their time for free labour, or punished in some other manner, milder than flogging. In the November of the same year the Governor wrote home to the Colonial Office that the colony was then in a state of quietude and order, and that it was progressing to prosperity every day. And yet what was the fact? Why, that there was an increase of 1,742 cases of punishment on the preceding period, being an augmentation of about one-fourth in a time of peace, order, and prosperity. In the next month to that, December, 1835, another despatch of the Governor's reiterated the same statement as the former, respecting the quiet, order, and prosperity of the country; and yet, again, there was an increase of 797 cases of punishment over and above the same period and the same time the year preceding the year of disquiet and the most troubled period. On the 19th of March, 1836, Sir James Carmichael Smith addressed the House of Assembly on the subject of the existing local laws, and deprecated any alteration in a system which he said had worked so well. And yet in the February and March of that year there were 2,493 cases of punishment, making an increase of one-eighth over the worst period described in the despatches. If, then, 2,172 cases of flogging occurred in a peaceable year over a troubled period which preceded it, could any one have the hardihood to assert that the condition of the West-Indian apprentice bore any analogy to that of the English peasant; or how could the fact be reconciled with the statement of some parties, that the apprentices were in the condition of the happiest, roost contented, and most 59 comfortable peasants in existence? He had abundant proofs of the contrary from parties resident in Guiana, whose names he was at liberty to give privately, but not publicly, to any hon. Member who desired to know his authority. On the authority of one of these parties, he was enabled then to state, from returns furnished by them, the punishments, their nature, quality, degree, and duration, inflicted during a period of eight months on the negroes of seventeen estates in the judicial district, letter D. The whole negro population of these estates, which comprehended the district named, amounted to 2,300; and of this number punishment was inflicted on 736. The punishments were, on parties above nine years of age, 7,154 lashes of the cat had been inflicted, from June, 1834, to the following spring; that is, during the great period of disquietude. The remaining punishments were—hard labour after their full day's work, fifty-eight weeks; hard labour on the estates, 525 weeks; the treadmill, with the usual labour by day, 464 weeks; confinement by night, with the usual labour by day, 355 weeks; solitary confinement, with the same, 134 weeks; and all this mass of punishment inflicted on 736 negroes in the space of only eight months. He felt disposed to make one or two comparisons connected with the prosperous state of things. Not being a planter—he thanked God!—he could not enter into the spirit of a comparison on the state of the present and the past produce of the colony of Guiana; but he thought it required little penetration to perceive that the increase of produce appeared to be in a direct proportion to the decrease of the negro population—a circumstance which, to say the least of it, seemed very suspicious. But what further was the cause of this decrease of the negro population? Perhaps a few facts which he should communicate to the House might throw some light on the question. In the first place, before the Slavery Abolition Act, all women who had borne six children were considered from thenceforward exempt from field labour or hard work of any kind; and, in the second, it was customary to relieve women who were pregnant from toilsome duties a certain period before the probable time of their delivery, as well as for at least three months after their confinement, for the purpose of giving them an opportunity of taking care of their newly-born offspring. But since the passing of the Act all those 60 indulgences had been withdrawn, and no favour was now shown to any. It was also the practice to exempt, as well as the aged and the infirm, all under fourteen years of age, and under no circumstances did the law permit the latter to be worked more than thirty-six hours; but now they were worked at all ages, and forty-five hours was substituted by the Act instead of thirty-six. But, perhaps, the greatest evil of all in Guiana was the want of any law to regulate the hours and prescribe the nature of the labour to be done by the negroes. In Demerara, for instance, the negroes had to walk from four to nine miles to their work, and the planters insisted, notwithstanding the interference of the Colonial-office, that they should work the full nine hours a-day prescribed by the Act, in the fields, making no allowance whatever for the time spent in proceeding to labour. Thus the poor negro had often to be on his legs at work—for walking in such a climate was hard labour—for full twelve hours together. Many females in that state which of all others that their sex can be in, most calls for the commiseration of man, were placed in this position, and not alone that, but were worked to the very last moment. A case had been detailed to him of a female apprentice named Susan, the wife of the head man on an estate in the colony of Demerara. This woman was approaching her period of confinement, and in vain applied for permission to absent herself from work. The result was, she was actually taken with the pains of labour in the field; and, on being sent to the sick-house, gave birth to a child, only attended by an old deaf woman, and a young girl who was confined there with sores in her legs, and without having any of the requisites for a person in her situation. The day but one after, she was obliged to return to her work. Under the old slavery system there was no instance to be adduced of similar cruelty. He would next advert to the state of the hospitals or sick-houses, as they were termed, on the respective plantations. On the authority of a medical gentleman, he assured the House that the sick-houses of Demerara were properly prisons. Feigned sickness was common enough, and the tests employed were tartar emetic, assafœtida, and lamp oil; and the only apology for this was, that the sick houses ought not to be made too comfortable. In these sick houses, there were from fourteen to sixteen men negroes 61 locked up, day and night, under every circumstance that could be conceived offensive and disgusting, shamefully curtailed in their food, and in every way neglected. On the subject of clothing he had not much to remark, but on that of medical attendance he should say something. In that respect, he believed that the negroes were by no means so well off, or in the same situation as the people of England desired and expected on the passing of the Slavery Abolition Act. He had a memorandum of the case of certain female negroes who for not having performed their field task to the satisfaction of the overseer were driven hand-cuffed to gaol, were then sent on the treadmill, although they had all children at their breasts, and were brought hand-cuffed from thence next morning to the field to resume their daily labour. It was on these grounds, that be had come to the conclusion that in Guiana, in place of being the happy, contented, prosperous peasantry they had been described in the governor's dispatches, the negroes were the most oppressed, discontented, and impoverished beings in the world. Again, as to Sunday markets, he had the authority of Lord Glenelg that Sunday markets should not be allowed, inasmuch as they were inconsistent with the act of the Legislature; but the same noble Lord was found admitting their necessity not long after, in consequence of a representation of Sir L. C. Smith. It was not the wish of the English people that the Sabbath should be violated, and in that spirit the act of 1834 was conceived and carried through Parliament. Yet here was Lord Glenelg in 1838, admitting the propriety of their continuance. It could never have been anticipated that such consequences would ensue. The system of Sunday markets was of the most disgraceful character, for it not alone desecrated the Sabbath, but, in place of making the apprentice free, it made him more a slave than ever. Then there were other circumstances to prove that the negroes were more enslaved than they were before; one of the chief of which was the practice of giving passes. The hon. Member here read some of the passes given to the apprentices to go and see their friends. One was to an apprentice named Halls to go to the funeral of his child, who had died the previous night. A pass to see his own child buried! Another was to Stambouls and Rex to marry each other. He had also a letter stating that one pro- 62 prietor would not allow his consent to a marriage, unless the husband and wife would consent not to leave the estate to which each belonged to visit each other without the consent of the parties concerned. He had now done with Guiana; and he should not touch on Jamaica, because he hoped it would be taken up by one better qualified for the task than he was. There were, however, two facts which he had forgotten to mention. They were, that every female slave in Guiana above the age of fourteen unfailingly beanie the victim of the seducer, and that marriage had become a thing of such rare occurrence among the negro population that it was scarcely ever heard of. He supported the motion on a variety of grounds: he supported it, because the people of England had been defrauded by the planters—he supported it because the benevolent intention of the Government had been uniformly set at nought by the same body; he supported it because the system adopted in the West Indies was a shameful evasion and shuffling with the authorities—a shameful cheat of official characters. The people of England would never have conceded twenty millions to the planter, if they could have foreseen their atrocious conduct. In a statement transmitted to him from Demerara, he found that the most destructive mortality prevailed among free-born children in consequence of their 'mothers being compelled to abandon them to work for their inhuman task-masters. On one estate, which contained 1,500 negroes, an equal number of both sexes, the whole of the free children in existence amounted to only 300; the usual tables of increase in the population giving a number fully equal to 1,500 among the whites or other free people. There was, in a short time, a frightful gap in the population of that colony since the passing of the Act arising from the deaths of free-born children through the compulsory neglect of their mothers, and from the miscarriage of females through over-work, ill-usage, improper nourishment, scanty food, and other causes. But, besides these evils, there were many others equally destructive to society. The planters set the law at defiance, and in the island of Granada, the Lord Chief Justice had been obliged to commit his own secretary to gaol for refusing to execute a decree founded on a decision of his respecting the classification of predial and non-predial apprentices, which had given them great dissatisfaction. 63 That was one of the modes by which the people of England had been deceived and their hopes blasted in regard to the emancipation of the negroes from slavery. He had never been a party to any compact with the planters; he had always agreed with the opinions expressed by the Secretary at War on that occasion. He agreed with them still, and he hoped the noble Lord still retained them. On the subject of religious care, he (Mr. Pease) felt it difficult to make any remark, considering the condition of the negroes. When their bodies were uncared for by their masters it could not be expected that they would fare any better at their hands in the matter of spiritual salvation. Nothing whatever was done in the way of educating the free-born children—they were let to live or die, if they chose; and yet 20,000,000l. had been appropriated to that purpose by the Imperial Legislature, Throughout the whole of the correspondence between the Government and the Marquess of Sligo, and Sir Lionel Smith, there were irrefragable proofs, that the Colonists had not kept faith with the people of this country. Was the raising of the sum of 20,000,000l. for the purpose of compensating the slave owners, nothing? A grant, which was acquiesced in with a degree of cheerfulness, by the people of this country which did them the highest honour. He could assure the House, from all that he had heard, that an end might be put to the apprenticeship system at once without the slightest inconvenience. This was proved by what had taken place on an estate in Jamaica, where the negroes had been liberated at a moment's notice, and that without the slightest inconvenience. Liberation had taken place, where there was not more than a handful of whites, as compared with the negro population, without the interference of justices, constables, or police. He had that day had his attention drawn to a book which had been recently published, in which it was stated, that in Trinidad and Guiana, it had been found necessary, as regarded these lazy, idle negroes, as they had been called, and as being unfit for freedom—it had been absolutely necessary to pass a law to prevent them from hiring themselves out for labour on the Sabbath day. He would ask, whether sophistry could go further than to make statements, that the negroes would not work, when here was a proof that it actually required a law, in order to compel 64 them to keep within those bounds, which the demands of religion required to be observed? Whether he looked to the present or the eternal welfare of the employers of slaves, or to the present or everlasting good of these victims of oppression, his opinion was, that there was nothing to fear, but everything to hope, from the immediate abolition of the apprenticeship system. He had received several letters, in reference to the subject, with four of which only he would trouble the House. The first was from a gentleman, who was a member of the Colonial Assembly of Jamaica, who stated, that a shameful resolution had been carried by a majority of the House of Assembly, declaring, that they would entertain no question that had for its object, the immediate abolition of the system of apprenticeship. The second letter was from a gentleman, who was anxious to liberate his slaves, having 300 in one parish, 200 in another, and 130 in a third; but he said, if he did so, Jamaica would be too hot for him and his family, and that his agricultural negroes cost him the same expense as would be the case if he cultivated his estate by free labour. The third letter was from a planter in Jamaica, addressed to a missionary, who stated, that the prevailing opinion was, that the negroes had adopted death or liberty as their motto, and which, there was too much reason to apprehend, would be acted on, if the present galling system was persevered in beyond the year 1838. The last letter with which he would trouble the House, was dated in the latter part of last year, and was from a baptist missionary. The writer stated, that the apprenticeship system was a great deal worse than he could have conceived it to be—that the greatest agitation prevailed—and that it was easier to call such statements lies, than to prove them to be so. The writer admitted, that without the aid of the press and the Government, it would be in vain for him to hope to remain there, for the coming struggle would be one of life and death. The hon. Member also read the petition, which he had presented to the House a few weeks ago, signed by the baptist missionaries in all the larger districts of the island of Jamaica; and which, if there had been time, would have been signed by all the Baptist missionaries in the island. He begged to call the attention of the House to the character of these individuals, who had left every worldly advantage to perform what 65 they felt to be a sacred duty, who preached to hundreds and thousands of the negroes, who were intimately acquainted with the character, habits, and feelings of the negroes, and who, in their petition, represented the great advantages which would result from terminating the apprenticeship system in August next. He was prepared for the attack which would be made on the supporters of the Motion, by accusations of breach of faith and broken compact. He denied, that there was any compact in the case, and he felt, that there was in the Bill, such a departure from the protection given to the negro, even by the old slavery laws, that he felt fully justified in supporting the alteration proposed as a matter of equity. The Legislative Assembly was almost defunct at the present moment, and the Governor in Council was nearly supreme. The penalty of 5l. for neglect of clothing a negro on a plantation was done away with. The neglect of providing him with stipulated quantities of food, and of ground for cultivation, which was punishable by penalties of 20l, was now reduced to 40s. Treating a slave with cruelty, was formerly punished by 100l fine, or a year's imprisonment; now only by 5l fine, or five months' imprisonment: and instead of being paid to the poor negro sufferers, all these now go to the Exchequer. Though he had pressed this Motion on the ground of pecuniary policy, of advantage to the planter, of safety to the Colonies, of honour to the mother country, and of consistency and equity in legislation at home, he would venture to take higher ground, and appeal to their sympathies on behalf of their poor brethren of colour, whose sufferings under the present system were of a nature to stimulate every feeling bosom to concede to them a paramount consideration. He felt the inadequacy of his powers in pleading such a cause. [Here the hon. Gentleman was so affected, that he was obliged to pause for a moment. Much cheering]"The House will pardon me," concluded Mr. Pease, "for having so long trespassed upon their attention. I am unable to go on. But when that great and solemn day shall come—when I shall myself stand in need of mercy—I hope it will be meted to me in the same measure as I am disposed to mete it to others."
§ Sir George Grey
Sir, I feel that if any Member of this House is entitled to ask for its indulgence oil rising to address it, 66 the present occasion justifies me in preferring this request. The importance of the question which has been submitted for the consideration of the House, the excitement to which it has given rise out of doors, and the effect produced by the deep, honest, and sincere feeling which characterised every word which fell from my hon. Friend who has just sat down, and by which, I have no doubt, the hon. Baronet who moved the resolution was also actuated; all combine to increase the reluctance with which I rise to propose an amendment to the resolution which has been read from the chair. I am, however, persuaded that the amendment, with the proposal of which I shall conclude, is calculated far more effectually than the original resolution to remove the evils which have been adverted to, and to benefit that class of persons, an interest in whose welfare has prompted the present motion.
I have to thank the hon. Baronet for bringing this subject under the consideration of the House. I regret that, notwithstanding the numerous meetings which have been held during the last few months, both in this metropolis and in various parts of the country, with reference to this question, notwithstanding the addresses made at those meetings, and the resolutions which have been passed at them, no opportunity has hitherto been afforded for a full and impartial statement of its real merits; and I rejoice that now, though for the first time, it is about to obtain a fair, patient, and dispassionate hearing. I pledge myself, before I sit down, to show that the facts of the case do not hear out the statements which have been made, and the resolutions which have been adopted at the meetings to which I have alluded; and I hope to induce the House to pause, at least, before they agree to the resolution of the hon. Baronet
Before, however, I proceed to notice the arguments which have been adduced in favour of the motion, I must express the satisfaction with which I can congratulate the House that we are not now met, as many of us have before met, and as many who were Members of this House in former years have, on various occasions, to decide whether slavery shall be abolished or not. The fiat of the British Parliament has irrevocably gone forth that slavery shall be abolished throughout our colonies. We are not now about to discuss any proposition such as that made by the most ardent abolitionists even within the present century, the object of 67 which was to secure the blessing of freedom to future generations, and to children yet unborn. The question before the House relates to a short transitory period of little more than two years, and those not of slavery as it formerly existed, but of an intermediate system of modified coercion.
The object of the Government has been fully to carry out the principle of the act of 1833: we are now called on to depart from one of the leading principles of that act. I contend that Parliament ought not to entertain this proposition; and the ground on which I maintain this opinion is, that a compact was made by the act of 1833 between Parliament and the West-India proprietors, with which we are not now justified in interfering. A solemn engagement was entered into by the British Legislature after full deliberation, after a long and patient discussion of the principles on which the emancipation was to be carried into effect, and with a clear knowledge on the part of Parliament of what it was doing. When this question was first agitated, I hoped that we should have been spared the necessity of arguing the existence of this compact, but I understood my hon. Friend, the Member for Durham, to deny, that any compact was entered into; and I have been surprised to learn, that it has been denied by a noble Lord, who was a Member of the Government by which the act of 1833 was framed and introduced. In my opinion it is incontrovertible that, by that act, a compact was concluded, binding on the Government and Parliament of this country on the one hand, and on the West-India proprietors on the other.
In support of this opinion, I may refer to the proceedings which took place, and the declarations which were made in both Houses of Parliament, by Members of the then Government, during the progress of that act through Parliament. On the 24th July, 1833, Mr. Fowel Buxton (whose absence from this House I may take this occasion of stating, I deeply regret) moved that it be an instruction to the Committee on the Slavery Abolition Bill,That they shall not, for the sake of the pecuniary interests of the masters, impose any restraint or obligation on the negro which shall not be necessary for his own welfare and for the general peace and order of society, and that they shall limit the duration of any temporary restrictions which may be imposed on the freedom of the Negroes to the shortest period which may be necessary to establish, on just principles, the system of free labour for adequate wages.68 The noble Lord, the Member for Lancashire, then at the head of the Colonial Department, opposed that motion. In answer to Mr. Buxton, he used the following words:—I distinctly stated, when I introduced the measure (and I do not shrink from avowing it now), that I consider the period of apprenticeship to be part of the compensation to be paid to the proprietor. At the same time, I am ready to state distinctly (and do not let me be misunderstood upon the point) I am ready to admit, to the fullest extent, that, when hon. Gentlemen in this House assented to the principle of apprenticeship, they did not thereby bind themselves to the term or period for which that apprenticeship should endure.At that time no term had been fixed, and it was perfectly competent to the House to abridge the term proposed by the Government; but I shall show that a term was afterwards deliberately fixed, after full discussion. The noble Lord proceeded:—The ground upon which the Government felt it necessary to proceed, with respect to the compensation, was a ground composed of two separate calculations; the one being a calculation of the amount proper to be paid down now, for the immediate remission of one-fourth of the labour of the negro, the other, a calculation of the sum which ought to be paid for the total remission of the whole of the labour of the negro at the end of twelve years. The sum thus to be paid, as compensation to the colonists, has been taken, first, with reference to the estimated value of the slave at the present time; and secondly, with reference to the interest which the amount of that value, in money, might bear for twelve years.And Again:—After the manner in which the hon. Gentleman has mixed up the two questions of compensation and apprenticeship, I am bound to show how, in the calculation upon which we have proceeded, the period of apprenticeship is to form part of the compensation to the master.The noble Lord afterwards (having stated the grounds on which his calculation had been based) added,—These are the strict grounds upon which the calculation has been made of the sum which ought to be paid to the master, now, for his certain present and his certain prospective loss; and the hon. Gentleman will not fail to see how very materially the amount of the period of the apprenticeship enters into all the calculations with regard to the value of what we are taking from the master.Nothing could be more explicit and unambiguous than these declarations of the 69 noble Lord, as the official organ of the Government of which Lord Brougham was a member. The House decided though by a small majority, against Mr. Buxton's proposition. That Motion directly raised the question as to whether the apprenticeship should form part of the compensation, or not; and the House decided that it should. If it could add any weight to the opinion which I now entertain as to the effect of these proceedings, I might observe that I voted, on that occasion, with Mr. Buxton, being of opinion that the term of apprenticeship ought to be fixed solely with regard to the interests of the negroes: the House, however, decided otherwise, although the period for which the apprenticeship was to continue was then still left open to discussion
On the following day the noble Lord came down to the House, and stated that in consequence of the small majority of the preceding night the Government were prepared not indeed to accede to the principle of Mr. Buxton's motion, but to shorten the term of apprenticeship in the case of the non-prædial apprentices to four years, and of the prædial to six. Mr. Buxton subsequently moved to substitute the year 1836 for 1840 as the limit of the apprenticeship, upon which the Chancellor of the Exchequer (the present Lord Spencer) said, that the amendment if carried, would be totally destructive of one of the main principles on which the Bill was framed. The amendment was rejected by the House. On a subsequent motion in Committee for reducing the term, the noble Lord the Member for Lancashire again said:—The House having decided that the apprenticeship shall terminate in seven years (or rather six years from the time of 'its commencement), we cannot now leave it to the option of one of the parties to the contract, without giving the other any consideration, to put an end to the apprenticeship at an earlier period.I confess, that, after a review of these proceedings, I am at a loss to understand how it is possible for any one, much less for any one who was a Member of the Government at that period, to contend, that no compact exists, and that it is competent for us, after giving to the proprietors a direct pecuniary interest in the apprenticeship as part of the compensation, to shorten the period of that apprenticeship as if no such obligation had been created. Parliament decided that the term of apprenticeship should be six years. The Government 70 and Parliament became distinctly pledged to that arrangement. There was an explicit acknowledgement that this term of apprenticeship was to form part of the compensation. Bearing that in mind, and remembering the complaints which were made at the time by the representatives of the West-India interest in this House of an alleged breach of faith against the noble Lord for not adhering to the original proposal of twelve years, I do not see any pretence, on the ground that slavery was in itself criminal, and that the slave trade was abhorrent to all the best feelings of humanity, for taking away without compensation a pecuniary interest which had been conferred and guaranteed by a solemn Act of the Legislature. We must also recollect that extensive transactions have taken place on the footing of the compact to which I have referred—that the services of the apprentices were made transferrable by our own Act, and that relying on the assurance and guarantee of Parliament, the right to those services have in many instances been bought and sold; and that persons who may never have been slave-holders have purchased the unexpired term of apprenticeship, in full confidence that, so far as the British Parliament was concerned, the apprenticeship would not be terminated at an earlier period than that which Parliament had fixed for its expiration.
But it is alleged, that the compensation was exorbitant, and that the West-India proprietors have made a profitable bargain. This would not, in my opinion, release us from the obligation which we had contracted. But on this point I cannot concur with those who depreciate that great act of national justice and generosity by which 20,000,000l. were given to effect the abolition of slavery. I cannot join in characterizing that grant as an act of wanton and extravagant expenditure, by which a fraud was practised on the nation. It is a narrow and unstatesmanlike view of this question to contend that the West-India proprietors ought to have been left by the proposed arrangements precisely in the same pecuniary condition in which they had been found immediately before the abolition of slavery; that they were to remain subject to the same state of embarrassment and difficulty in which, for the most part, they had become involved during the few last years of slavery. When I see the compensation money finding its way to the colonies, and when I see it applied to the 71 discharge of estastes from their incumbrances, to the cultivation of those estates, to the substitution of mechanical for manual labour, to the introduction of those improvements in agriculture which are calculated so much to relieve the labourer from the severity and pressure of the toil formerly imposed on him, I cannot regret or grudge the pecuniary benefit received by individual proprietors. It is a remarkable fact, that since l834, there has been a considerable increase in the amount of exports from this country to the West-Indian colonies, while there has been a decrease in the amount of imports from those colonies; and it is impossible not to feel, from this and other facts, that the apprenticed labourers themselves must have derived great benefits from the payment of the compensation money. It is the needy and distressed proprietor who has the most direct interest in extracting from his labourers the greatest amount of work for the least possible return; while on the estates of those proprietors who are free from such pressure the labourers are sure to enjoy the greatest advantages. I believe it to be, in some measure at least, owing to this cause, that in the great majority of cases, in Jamaica for instance, the concurrent testimony of Official Despatches laid before Parliament, and of other authentic information, proves that the negro population have risen during the last four years in their moral and social condition in a degree which I confess I did not myself anticipate during so short a period
This brings me to the question which it is essential minutely to consider before we adopt the resolution of the hon. Baronet, whether, assuming the existence of a compact, that compact has, as it is alleged, been broken by one of the contracting parties.
It has been confidently asserted, that one of the parties having violated the stipulations of the contract, Parliament is at liberty at once to cancel it. I object to the mode in which this is attempted to be proved. We are bound to look to what were our reasonable expectations when the Act of 1883 passed. The parties who assert a general breach of contract on the part of the West-India proprietors altogether omit to take into account the state of society produced by slavery, and the feelings engendered by it, which could not be eradicated in a day.
The comparison between the evils of slavery and those imputed to the apprenticeship is altogether lost sight of. Indi- 72 vidual instances of cruelty and ill-treatment, which have been openly and without reserve communicated by the Government to Parliament, with the earnest desire that the most ample means might be afforded of examining into the working of the system, and into the conduct of all parties with regard to it; these instances I say, of oppression and of wrong, are publicly stated and relied on as conclusive evidence of the failure of the existing system. I do not object to these facts being stated, but I do object to their being stated exclusively—to their being taken alone—detached from the context in which they are formed, and separated from all those favourable circumstances which are carefully suppressed, but which, if fairly stated, would give a very different impression of the general result of the evidence.
I object to the withholding of the great mass of evidence, which shows the immense advantages which have been derived by the negroes from the change from slavery to apprenticeship, even without considering the prospective advantages which, in a very short period, will be enjoyed by them, having been secured by that Act against which so many objections are urged. The advocates for the abolition of the apprenticeship forget the wrongs endured by the slave—the wrongs committed in privacy and never heard of in this country; they forget the absence of all legal redress for those wrongs during slavery, and limit their view to those individual instances of cruelty, the natural results as I contend of slavery, and which, taking place under the present system, are brought fully to light, are subjected to close investigation, are punishable by law, and which are exceptions to the general rule, and cannot fairly be taken as illustrative of the working of the apprenticeship system. The case of Williams has been alluded to, a case in which transactions have been brought to light which cannot be spoken of in too strong terms of censure and disgust; but that case was a direct infraction of the law, and no sooner was it detected than some of the parties implicated were punished, and against others the Attorney-General was directed to institute prosecutions. Nothing can be more unfair than in the publication of that case to represent it, as has been done throughout the country, as the case of 800,000 of our fellow-subjects; on the contrary, I am prepared to show, that, with regard to the conduct of individuals in the great majority of cases, there has been on the part of the 73 West-India proprietors and their agents in the colonies a bona fide adherence to the spirit as well as the letter of the Emancipation Act, and that they have given their cordial concurrence in carrying out the principles of that Act. The charges brought against the mass are, in fact, applicable only to a small minority
The first authority which I will cite in support of this position is that of Lord Sligo, during the last few months of his residence in Jamaica. In his despatch of the 9th July, 1836, he says,I have the honour to enclose herewith the usual quarterly reports of the Special Justices in original; the most striking feature contained in the majority of them is the increased kindness of the managers to the apprentices; they have, in fact, found from experience that the most advantageous manner of managing them is by conciliation; while, however, this is distinctly stated in several cases, I am sorry to say that it is not universal. I know several attornies who continue their old system of exacting the pound of flesh, which I unhesitatingly pronounce to be the worst possible policy, and that many a proprietor in England will deeply suffer if they do not throw on one side all the nonsense which is so prevalent about the negro character not being known.And again—Now the desire to annoy the people has much ceased, though it exists in some places still. At first, however, I am quite certain that several of the lowest sort of bookkeepers and overseers have, out of spite to the Bill which set the slave free, determined to annoy them; this, of course, did much harm, and I the more rejoice at the report that this feeling seems to have rapidly passed away. These people have, in many instances, had all their former allowances of food and indulgences stopped from them, and for some unwillingness to labour, or some reason, whether deservedly or not so, their Saturdays are often taken from them; how, then, are they to exist but by theft? These cases, however, are not very general, and some bright examples of kind and good conduct are to be seen in all parts. I would particularly call your attention to the beneficial effects of the humane system of management exemplified in Mr. Baynes's report of the parish of St. John's, where Spring Vale, under the management of Mr. James Wright Turner, exhibits an absence of complaint which is quite extraordinary.Again, on the 1st August, 1836, Lord Sligo, writing under a conviction of the defects in the existing law, says,Your Lordship having been pleased in your despatches of the 24th April and of the 74 14th June, to direct me to turn my attention to some enactments to remedy the deficiencies in the abolition law, for the purpose of preventing the perpetration of such cruelties as are therein alluded to, I have the honour to state, and I do so with much pain, that the necessity for such enactments becomes every day more and more apparent to me, and that the hope I entertained of the existence generally of ameliorated feelings, though justified in many instances, is not universal. I must, however, remark, that the prevalence of such system, as I must consider to be objectionable, is in particular districts only; still they must be provided against, and though much blame has attached itself to me for having used on a former occasion the same language, I again say, advisedly, that the remedy must come from home.
, whose well known benevolence and humanity give the greatest weight to his opinion on this subject, writing with a full sense of the inadequacy of the existing law to enable the Government to check abuses in particular districts and individual cases, considered that the remedy would be, not the abolition by Parliament of the apprenticeship system, but the placing greater powers in the hands of the Executive Government.
Again, in his despatch of the 23d August, immediately before his retirement, he says—In making to your Lordship my usual report by each packet, on the general state of the island, the last which, in all probability, it will be my duty to make to you in the character of governor of this colony, it is my pride and satisfaction to be able to say, that I leave the administration of affairs in the hands of my successor in as easy a state as can be well imagined.Such then was the opinion of Lord Sligo up to the latest period of his administration. What has been the subsequent testimony of Sir L. Smith? In his despatch of the 23rd of September last he writes—In acknowledging the honour of your Lordship's despatch, No. 30, dated the 30th December, 1836, referring to various despatches of Lord Sligo, reporting acts of oppression towards the apprenticed labourers, and instances of their ill-treatment in houses of correction, I have to express my regret that I have not been able to reply to it earlier; but it was referred to the Attorney-General, and has laid over a considerable time.After adverting to some of the cases to which his attention had been called, he adds—I would not on any account give your 75 Lordship to believe, that these evils are general; on the contrary, I consider them of rare occurrence; but unfortunately we have nothing but the usages of slavery to insist on, without any positive law to enforce them. The only expedient we have is to direct the special justices not to award any punishment for insufficiency of work, occasioned by that want of necessary assistance which they are fairly entitled to.And again——On well-regulated estates, those usages and indulgences have never been withdrawn, and the system is working satisfactorily: but it is where managers or overseers, having only a temporary interest in the properties, disregard the present welfare of the labourers, and the future benefit of proprietors, that discontents and complaints are created, alike injurious to the working classes and to the character of the community.Again, in his despatch of the 13th of November, Sir L. Smith states—I believe all parties would be glad to abandon the system to morrow for further compensation. When asked my opinion on that subject, I have deprecated its absurdity, because I felt convinced no Ministry could go to Parliament for an additional grant towards negro freedom; nor would it, in my opinion, be desirable, if we could get the local abolition law revised and improved. As it stands, I denounce it the worst law of all the late slave colonies.With reference to one observation in this despatch, I may take this opportunity of stating my belief that the very agitation of this question here, by encouraging the hope of further compensation, has had the effect of checking a disposition on the part of the local legislatures, in some instances at least, to abridge by their own acts the period of apprenticeship. In Barbadoes, where, I believe, that it might be safely and beneficially terminated at an early period, the subject has recently been brought under the consideration of the Legislature, and it is evident that an impression existed in the minds, at least of some of its Members, that an abridgment of the period of apprenticeship might be forced on the Government; and as it was not believed, that such a measure would be acceded to by Parliament without additional compensation, a fear was expressed that this advantage would be lost by a voluntary abandonment of the system. I trust that the result of the present debate will completely check this expectation, as I cannot for a moment suppose that any further compensation will be provided by Parliament for negro emancipa- 76 tion, and thus one obstacle at least will be removed, to the speedy termination of the apprenticeship in those colonies where, there is reason to believe, that this change might be beneficially effected.
Having laid before the House the opinions of the late and present Governors of Jamaica as to the extent of the evils now existing, and the nature of the remedy to be applied to them, I proceed to call its attention to the reports periodically transmitted to this country, and laid before Parliament, from the special magistrates engaged in the administration of the law. The papers before me would indeed supply voluminous extracts if required, in support of the view which I take of this case, but I shall content myself with only a few, chiefly taken from the reports of those magistrates who are well known as men above all suspicion of partiality towards the proprietors, or of indifference to the rights of the negroes. The first passage which I will read is from a report of Mr. Daughtrey, a magistrate whose name is well known as having been one of the Commissioners employed by the Government in the investigation of the case of Williams.
The report is dated in January, 1837. He says—With partial exceptions, the conduct of the apprentices has continued to be favourable. They are gradually performing their labour with more apparent willingness and good humour.Though the feeling between them and their masters is not universally cordial, there is scarcely any instance in which a decidedly bad feeling exists, and on some few properties the harmony and mutual confidence are extremely gratifying. It is much easier to discern the causes of the confidence than of its oppositeTask-work has not been resorted to here to any great extent; I am not aware, however, of any prevailing objection to it in the minds either of masters or people, but like every deviation from the beaten track, its fancied difficulties have been allowed to prevent any considerable attempt to introduce it. The steps at present in progress, under the auspices of his Excellency the Governor, will, I trust, issue in an extensive application of this most desirable mode of carrying on the labour of the island.The disposition to work for money wages is increasing. Some plantations which had been suffered to run almost into a wilderness before the commencement of the apprenticeship, by the diversion of the strength to other objects, as, for instance, the cultivation of ginger, have been nearly restored during the last few months, solely by labour obtained from apprentices in their own time, It has 77 become now, I think, a matter of general observation that they do more on a free labour day than on a compulsory day, and yet, on occasions of this sort they are often far less strictly superintended. They appear actually ashamed to skulk on a hired day. The rate of wages depends upon the nature of the work, and varies in this neighbourhood from 2s. ld. to 3s. 4d. currency. The smaller sum is the rate for all ordinary purposes. The payment is in money, daily.In a subsequent passage of the same report, Mr. Daughtrey observes:—With regard to the free children, I discover nothing within the range of my observation that would lead me to think that any considerable number of them were suffering from neglect. If they have lost the care of the estate, which they have not every where done, the father, often by marriage or other means, has acquired new views of the parental obligation, and for the first time, with his wife and his children around him, has a feeling of home.The next extract is from Mr. Lyon's report transmitted at the same time.In taking a review of the interval that has elapsed since my last quarterly report, I am happy to have the opportunity of asserting that nothing has occurred to indicate any alteration in the general good conduct and industrious disposition of the apprentices of this district—a grateful fact, which furnishes me with no opportunity of original remark; I therefore comprise everything that can be said on the treatment and conduct of apprentice, (master and apprentice,) when I observe that each party are performing their relative duties as well as can be reasonably expected from men in their peculiarly anomalous situation.After a valuable and interesting statement as to the conduct and pursuits of those negroes who had purchased their manumission, he adds:—But though I have the greatest confidence in the general industry and improved condition of the peasantry after August, 1840, I do not think from the present disproportioned number of the population, as compared with the quantity of land in cultivation, and its productiveness, that it will he possible to continue the manufacture of sugar to the same extent as at present: the feelings and dispositions of the unapprenticed labourers, being taken as indicative of the disposition of the peasantry at that period, is, I think, conclusive testimony on that point. The great number of negroes who will then be proprietors of small freeholds Will render, probably, the major portion of those at present on sugar estates independent of daily hire; while the remainder who will be so dependent, will be exposed to 78 the temptations of the coffee planter and small settler, on whose lands the labour of cultivation will be less onerous, and not exposed at any season to the continuous exertion requisite about the boiling and distilling houses in the manufacture of sugar. In my opinion, the only probability the sugar planter, has of continuing cultivation to any extent after the termination of the apprenticeship consists in his seizing the golden opportunity afforded him in the remaining term of compulsory labour, of creating in his labourers a strong local attachment to their present homes and land, and by identifying their interest with, his own success.
, another special magistrate, says:—I am of opinion there cannot now be a doubt in the minds of even the most determined opposers of the apprenticeship system, that it does work and will work well to the end of the six years; whether after that period the labourers will work on the several estates mainly depends, I think, on the planters themselves, and on the mode in which they may conduct themselves to their apprentices during the term of probation. In that respect, I am happy in being able to state that, a great change for the better has taken place during the last few months. Anger and coercion have had their day. But a feeling of self-interest is now beginning to introduce milder and more conciliatory measures; and the proprietors and managers generally are showing a more ready disposition to meet the new system in a liberal and honourable manner.
says:—I have much pleasure in reporting that the apprentices in my district are well-disposed, and that their conduct for the last quarter has been both quiet and orderly; they perform their work cheerfully, and I have lately perceived a better feeling existing between the managers and the general body of the apprentices; they are treated humanely by the great majority of those placed over them.The working hours are nine daily, by which the apprentices have it in their power to devote every Friday afternoon and Saturday to the cultivation of their grounds, or to labour for hire. When the length of the day permits, they have one hour for breakfast and two for dinner; but when the day shortens, it is found necessary to curtail those hours a little, to give the estate the legal labour, and preserve to the apprentices the Friday afternoon.Voluntary task-work is becoming more general, and in the digging of cane-holes and cleaning the cane-pieces, answers well.I have, within the last few months observed an improved disposition on the part of the apprentices to labour in their own time for hire, for which they receive from 2s. 6d. to 3s. 4d. per day.The greater number of attornies and 79 managers give many of the old allowances. Those withholding form the exceptions, and do so either from the poverty of the property, or their own bigotted and illiberal notions.Great efforts are making by every class in the island to extend church and school accommodation with considerable success, and attendance at church daily increases. As regards the free children, they seem to remain a burden on their parents, who, where localities permit, place them at the schools now daily opening. Though private munificence and benevolence have been great, there is still a wide field for national aid in those respects, the attendance at church, in this quarter particularly, being more than equal to the existing accommodation.The next magistrate, to whose report I shall refer, is Mr. Edward Baynes, a gentleman above all suspicion of undue partiality to the present system. After enumerating some of the evils which were prominent in his district, he adds:—It is by no means my intention to imply that, even on estates where the reins of discipline are tightest drawn, the negro is labouring under actual oppression and cruelty; my observations are limited to the shortsighted perverse, and unconciliatory system, but within the pale of the law, pursued by some, which, generating and resentment in the breast of the apprentice, will too surely be visited, to his cost, on the proprietor in the sequel.Again, towards the close of the same report he says, with reference to the alleged increase of crime, that nothing could be more contrary to the fact than such an allegation: the apparent increase had arisen from offences which had been formerly concealed being brought before public notice.Formerly, (he says) all but enormous and atrocious offences were visited by domestic discipline, and in multifold instances, even these were never punished at all; the proprietor too often regarding with indifference aggression against the public, where he himself was not an immediate sufferer. He rarely, therefore, gave up to justice a delinquent slave, unless in cases which subjected him either to the penalty of transportation or that of death; in both which instances he was reimbursed by law for his loss. He often esteemed it his interest to shield a minor offender, by whose punishment, by imprisonment or otherwise, he was liable to be, in any shape, himself damnified. Circumstances are now toto cœlo diverse. The magistrate before whom any case, not special, is brought for examination, must, if borne out by evidence, commit the accused for trial in the superior courts; hence the apparent increase of crime, 80 about which so much has been so unjustly said, for the sole purpose of prejudicing and throwing disrepute on the general character of the negro population. The increase of cases brought before the tribunals is, therefore, in this country no indication of the increase of crime; and as for the total sum of punishment now awarded by the sentence of the special magistrate on the apprentice, no one unbiassed, or unblinded by the spirit of party, will pretend that it amounts to the one-hundredth part of that inflicted by domestic discipline on the slave.
, in a report of a subsequent date, says:—Whilst I am able thus to bear testimony to the general good conduct of the negroes, I have much satisfaction, also, in having it in my power to commend the proprietors and managers generally, for conducting themselves towards their apprentices in a kinder and more conciliatory manner. Some of the subordinate planters, it is true, still cling to the old system, and cannot divest themselves of their former prejudices towards the negroes; they at present, however, I am happy to say, compose but a small section of the general body of the planters of this district.
, in March, 1837, makes the following report:—From the commencement of the apprenticeship I have been anxiously and unremittingly watching the development and the beneficial progress of freedom. In superintending the administration of the Abolition Law in this district, during a period of more than two years and-a-half, I have had the gratification in each quarter to report favourably of the conduct of the apprentices, to speak well of the condition of the estates, and, in announcing that crime had decreased, to represent that the decorum of social life was daily being better understood and observed by the labouring population, and that the example of those who were released by purchase from their apprenticeship was likely to have a beneficial influence upon the habits and feelings of the remaining bond-servants.On this, the last opportunity afforded me of reporting the state of this district, and the condition of the peasantry (my services being transferred by his Excellency's command to a distant part of the island), I am happy that am enabled to repeat what on so many occasions I have had the pleasing satisfaction of detailing by a reference to facts; that the conduct of the apprentices and the condition of the plantations continue satisfactory, the number of offences against the provisions of the Abolition Act having diminished to a degree hardly possible to admit of further reduction. The few cases that do occur are chiefly of the most trifling description, and such as happen among agrarian labourers in the most favoured nation of the world.81I confidently hope that the habits of industry and decorum, which have conduced to so favourable a state of things among the working classes of this district, founded as they are upon an increase of religious knowledge, are too firmly rooted to admit of the possibility of disorganization or rupture; and that they with whom, and for whom, I have so long and so anxiously laboured may live to enjoy, and by their conduct to promote, a happy and prosperous condition of society on the termination of the apprenticeship in 1840.
§ Mr. Grant
, in April 1837, says,—It affords me much pleasure to have to state, for the information of his excellency the governor, that, since my last quarterly report, the apprentices generally in this extensive district have conducted themselves with very great propriety, paying strict attention to their duty, and respectful and obedient to persons in authority over them in almost every instance where persons, by conciliatory and kind acts, show themselves deserving of, and entitled to, respect and obedience.There is in general a good feeling between the apprentices and their employers. To an intelligent manager it is very evident that, on the cultivation of a good feeling between himself and his apprentices, altogether depends the success of his endeavours for the benefit of the property under his charge; yet there are men who imagine that nothing can be done but by coercion, who watch every action of an apprentice in the endeavour to find something wrong, and for this have him or her (if possible) punished. The exceptions, however, to a general good feeling between both parties in my district are, I am glad to say, very very few; in those few instances, however, where a bad feeling does exist, I have no hesitation in attributing its cause to the irritability of the managers, in whose minds no thought of conciliation ever enters. The apprentices generally perform their work willingly, and well; they know that they have a duty to perform, and, far from evincing any desire to elude that duty, they seem to perform it with pleasure.On the 1st July, 1837, Mr. Fishbourne says,—The general conduct of the apprentices in my district, since my last general quarterly report, has been peaceable and industrious; they perform their labour well and willingly; and to these causes I attribute the good feeling which almost universally subsists between them and their owners. The spirit and disposition of both toward each other is generally of a more amicable description than I have observed since I came to the island; and a desire to encourage mutual forbearance and confidence seems to spread more and more every day. Complaints against employers are very few; whilst, on the other side, the charges now 82 brought forward are neither so numerous nor of so aggravated a nature as formerly.
, having recently been appointed to a new district, in which abuses were suspected to have existed, after detailing the circumstances which he found to require correction, and the means which he had taken for this purpose, adds,—I have, I trust, succeeded in putting an end to the system of incarceration in cells and assault by constables, and yet I have not had a single complaint of indolence against a gang, and remarkably few complaints by managers against individuals; and I feel the most perfect confidence that, with the support I am sure to receive from the executive, I shall in a very short time be able to see the benevolent law for the abolition of slavery fairly, fully, and beneficially in operation, to the great increase of the mutual advantages of master and apprentices.
says—The good feeling and friendly understanding, which it has afforded me such pleasure on previous occasions to afford my testimony to and approval of, still reign predominant in the; and in any case where the stream thereof might happen to be obstructed, it could only be attributed to the attempt at exercising by the employer something of the despotic sway of olden times, including a harshness of tone and manner, and ungraciousness, which the emancipated bondsman or woman cannot be expected to endure as the affrighted and trembling slave would and must have done. The labouring populations, after a three years' enfranchisement from thraldom, know too well their rights and; they feel them-selves raised and elevated in the scale of existence; and what would once be accounted heinous offences, and punished with severity, can and should now only be considered as a respectful assertion of their rights.And again,As to the indulgences usually allowed during slavery, my observations and remarks hereon must be the same as those heretofore submitted; they are most usually given; but, as they are only indulgences, they are liable at any moment, and upon any occasion, to be wholly or partially withheld, and either temporarily or permanently. Upon the whole, I believe they are allowed, and if at any time withheld, not for any very considerable length of time.
again, in July, 1837, says,Of the gradual improvement of the people under the present system, no doubt can exist. I know no intelligent person, with opportunities of forming an opinion upon the subject, and who has been long enough in the island to 83 compare one period with another, who makes it even a question.I might multiply extracts of this description if it would not weary the House; but I confidently appeal to the general tenor of these reports, as proving the great improvement which has taken place in the moral and social condition of the negro under the present system.
I would ask hon. Members to read these reports with attention, to consider them as a whole, and to view them in connexion with the particular instances of oppression and of wrong which have excited so much just indignation, but which alone do not afford a fair view of the operation of the system. I again protest against one case being selected from 1,000, while the remaining 999, of a totally different character, are carefully withheld or overlooked. The general result of all these reports is of a decidedly favourable description. The evils which remain, and on which these reports are by no means silent, ate the remnant of those inherent in slavery, and are gradually passing away. It would be the extreme of folly to suppose that, by the mere enactment of an act of Parliament, virtue could be immediately substituted for vice throughout a society tainted by slavery, or that feelings of benevolence and good will would universally spring up where, for a long series of years, the prevailing features of the system had been irresponsible power in the master, and terror in the slave. There has, however, been a far more rapid improvement in the nature of the relations between master and apprentice than could have been anticipated by the most sanguine advocates of the new system at the time of its establishment; and I believe it would be most impolitic for Parliament now to interfere by a sudden disruption of the ties which yet bind one class to the other.
In addition to the passages which I have read from the ordinary reports of the magistrates, there is one of a different nature, to which I feel it my duty to advert. The report to which I now refer is that of Mr. Edward Baynes, a most intelligent and humane man, and it comprises answers to certain questions which had been addressed to him by a Mr. Hovey, the agent of a society in the United States, having for its object the extinction of slavery and the amelioration of the condition of the labouring population. Mr. Baynes has had much experience in the working of the apprenticeship system, and has been by no means insensible to its defects. I mention this as 84 giving additional force to the observations which I am about to read. Some of the questions addressed to him were the following—Is there an increasing confidence among the people in the stability of the present course of things? He says, by the expression, present state of things,' does Mr. Hovey allude to the apprenticeship? If he do, it is clear that, being an intermediate state between slavery and freedom, a period simply of transition and preparation, it can in nowise be said to possess stability. If Mr. Hovey's meaning extend generally to the measure in progress, and to the great end to be attained by the elevation of a lage portion of the family of man from the most pitiable and degrading state of slavery recorded in the annals of history to the condition of freemen, there can be no doubt that the experiment has not only been attended with complete success already, but that its effects also will be lasting and stable.Do they perform much extra labour for hire?—As regards the performance of extra work for hire, they consult their own convenience, as freemen should do. Some sell their time, and afford to their employer an adequate proportion of labour; others prefer using their extra hours in the cultivation of their provision grounds, and the sale of the produce in the market.Is an increasing desire for knowledge and instruction apparent among them, and if so, in what way?—An increasing desire for knowledge and improvement is apparent among them; it manifests itself now in the general acceptance of the truths of Christianity, in the enlarged attendance on places of public worship, in the increasing attention to personal decency and comfort in their apparel and houses, and in the signally intelligent questions which they often put, on a variety of subjects, to those who have inclination or leisure to converse with them.Has the amount of labour in the island diminished since; and if so, how does it?—I have not time sufficient at my disposal to follow this question through all the details which a complete view of the objects that it embraces would lead to; I shall simply observe, that the general amount of labour performed in the island has not diminished since 1834. The exports have necessarily declined with the disuse of the hideous and abominable system which drove the slave to the field before daylight, 'and kepi him there, with little intermission, until night supervening rendered the continuation of his task a matter of; a system which often kept the negro, when employed in the manufacture of sugar, on continuous labour for sit days and as many nights, during which time the only intervals he could devote to rest were snatched by stealth from the vigilant eye of an overseer, and liable to be rudely interrupted by the lash of his inhuman taskmaster; a sys- 85 tem under Which, before the abolition of the slave-trade, the negro was worked like the horse or the steer, until he dropped under his burthen, and when it was held more profitable and planter-like to purchase a new slave than to incur the expense and trouble of patching up the worn-out constitution of some unhappy wretch diseased or disabled by cruel treatment, or by compulsory exertions beyond his strength. From these and similar causes, the quantity of agricultural labour expended on exportable commodities has necessarily decreased in amount; but the sum total of labour performed in the island has not at all diminished. It seems to be an undeviating rule of nature that all atrocious violations of her laws defeat the end which they are meant to attain. The negro, it is true, then died under the load or under the lash; but though his master had the power to stay him, he had not that of making him work willingly, or even adequately, when removed from his immediate inspection. Such part of his extra time as the negro can now spare, without infringing on that claimed by nature for repose, is devoted to his immediate profit and convenience; and it is needless to say that one hour of voluntary is worth two of compulsory labour. Hence the aggregate of the work effected in the island has not decreased; the labour is merely diverted into other channels. A reference to the returns of the custom-house will show that, whilst exports have fallen off, imports have considerably increased. The negro, in fact, now certainly does less for his master, but vastly more for himself. The course which industry has taken daily developes new resources, creates fresh wants, improves the condition of the people (by the people I mean the labouring population of Jamaica), and increases the market for the staples and manufactures of the mother country, without injuring the revenues of the colony.Has the introduction of the new system had any perceptible effect on the enterprise and prosperity of the island, and especially upon the value of?—Again, as I observed in reply to No. 5, I have not time to go into a lengthened statistic detail, and must confine my remarks to facts that. Mr. Hovey's own experience will probably have made him acquainted with. The new system has had an effect on the enterprise and prosperity of the island, totally unanticipated by the most sanguine at its commencement. New towns have been founded in various parts of the country; and in the old, new houses are springing up on all sides. Institutions, unthought of in the days of slavery, are established for agricultural and scientific purposes. Land daily increases in value, and the labour of apprentices, considered as property, has brought, and is bringing in, for the six years of the apprenticeship, a sum equal to three times the whole life value of the slave, as appraised by commissioned valuators in 1834.86 Now, I ask, whether, after having heard these opinions, entitled, as they are, to the greatest weight, and forming a small portion only of the evidence of a similar character contained in those volumes, which I trust hon. Gentlemen will take the trouble to examine before they hastily adopt a conclusion adverse to the view which I have taken,—I ask, whether the representations and statements which have been circulated through the country are warranted in point of fact? Only yesterday a memorial was presented to the Government by a large body of delegates, representing the wishes and feelings of the inhabitants of various parts of the country, and speaking with the authority which undoubtedly attaches to their number and their character. What are the terms in which that memorial speaks of the present condition of the apprenticed negroes? The parties from which it emanates state, that they have learnt with feelings of disappointment and disgust, "that, with but few and slight exceptions, the purposes of the Abolition Act have been defeated; and that, a people, already crushed by tyranny and oppression, have had their miseries aggravated, and in a variety of ways have been spoiled and harassed beyond all they had to endure under slavery itself." Is that statement borne out by the evidence? Let the House compare it with the facts which I have submitted to them, and I would then ask, whether there is any ground for such an opinion, or any sufficient reason for the great excitement which has been raised? I have no doubt, that those from whom this memorial emanates were firmly convinced of the truth and accuracy of their statements; but this is only a proof, that the most incorrect information has been circulated on the subject. I believe the information which has been so circulated, and on which resolutions have been passed, and petitions framed, has originated with some few persons, who, with good intentions it may be, but with excited and mistaken feelings, desire to prevent the peaceful termination of the apprenticeship at the expiration of its legal term. There were those in 1833 who declared, that, nothing should induce them to assent to the apprenticeship; and who, not having then succeeded in defeating it, are determined in 1838 that it shall come to a violent termination.
Frauds have been practised at public meetings by a concealment of the truth, fowls for which the Government at least 87 are in no degree responsible, as they have imparted the fullest information, withholding, indeed, nothing from Parliament which made against the system, but exhibiting a faithful picture of it as a whole. Difficulties of no ordinary nature there no doubt have been in the administration of it; but the constant endeavour of the Government has been to secure its working in accordance with the principle of the Abolition Act, and advantageously to the interests of all parties concerned in it. The result I believe to be, that it is impossible to assert, that the experiment has failed, or that, in the great majority of instances, any foundation exists for the charges which have been brought against the whole body of proprietors.
There is one other extract from the Reports before me to which I feel it right to refer, as materially bearing on the state of the apprenticed negroes. The document from which it is taken is a report from three special magistrates on the state of crime in Jamaica, which had been represented to have been greatly increased. I select the following passage as affording strong evidence of the improvement which has been effected. It is well known how low the state of moral feeling was during slavery, and how great was the licentiousness which it occasioned. These magistrates say,The perpetration of rape, which the grand jury declared to have become frequent in a country in which formerly it was of rare occurrence, should be deemed not the evidence of increasing crime, but of a sense of increased decency and moral propriety in the peasantry, who claim the protection of the law against this outrage.It is presuming too much on the illusion of prejudice to suppose it can be believed, in a state of society in which, till lately, the caprice of a master, or the wanton depravity of a plantation underling, could expose the nakedness of a female, and subject her to be lacerated by the whip of a driver, that the chaster virtues could have been much practised or much regarded. The wise dispensation of Providence, which assigns ignorance to brute creatures, as a mitigation of their condition, has made also the extinction of the acuter moral feelings, and of the capacities of thought, intelligence, and reflection, a means of reconciling men to the degradation of slavery; the low desires and affections of such a state could never have ranked chastity as an important virtue, or, if it did, the defenceless condition which made the happiness and usefulness of one class of our fellow-creatures administer to the arbitrary self-will of another, presented too many inducements to the weaker portion 88 to surrender it without complaint, to the lost and caprice of the stronger. In every country in which the domestic virtues are cherished, deviations from moral propriety subject those who are betrayed into error to exclusion from society. In those in which female chastity is respected, the ravisher is punished ignominiously; while, wherever virtue is treated with indifference, the crime, though not heard of, is yet perpetrated, but the offence is not viewed as a great atrocity. A similar state of moral feeling prevailed during the existence of slavery; but, under freer institutions, or those where religion has spread its influence, and the virtuous affections are regarded, female honour is made to claim the protection of the law; hence it is, that the crime of rape appears among the offences of the calendar, and demands protection from the same tribunal, which sees, for the first time, the once slave assuming the dignity of the citizen, and demanding that truth, good faith, and honesty, should judge in his interests as they judge in those of any other set of the King's subjects.This passage is of great importance, as bearing on many of the cases which have been referred to as evidence of increased suffering on the part of the negroes. So far from showing their degraded condition, these very cases, and the publicity given to them, tend strongly to show that they are more sensible of their rights, and of the protection which the law affords them. The hon. Member for Durham has alluded to several cases where illegal acts of violence had been committed on them; but has he shown that the law has been insufficient to bring the offenders to punishment when the crime has been discovered? Take again the case of Williams. No sooner was the local Government informed of the facts connected with that case, than a remedy was applied, and measures taken for preventing the repetition of atrocities such as were developed in that investigation. But that case was known to individuals, who became acquainted with it in the colony for months before it was communicated to the Government. Instead of its being disclosed to the Executive Government, in order that the guilty parties might be punished, and the evil stopped, it was concealed until it could be used for the purpose of exciting the public mind in this country. Connected as I am with that department of the Government to which the administration of the colonies more immediately belongs, I rejoice that no share of the responsibility rests on me for the continuance of those atrocities one hour after they were brought under the notice of the Govern- 89 ment. An immediate inquiry was instituted, and, so far as the power of the Executive Government extended, an immediate check was placed on the practices which were discovered. That this was not done many months sooner, is entirely owing to the conduct of those who abstained from at once making the facts known to the local Government, when measures would have been promptly taken for investigation and redress.
A passage was read by the hon. Member for Durham, from the Report of the Commissioners of Inquiry in this case, stating that the treadmill still is an instrument rather of torture than of just and salutary punishment. It was so at the time of their investigation, but Sir L. Smith, in transmitting their Report, distinctly states, that he had given most positive orders to put a stop to this abuse, and that he had regulated the punishment with due regard to moderation and safety.
Again, the cases have been referred to in which females have been flogged—a practice which, I believe, to be wholly illegal, even under the circumstances in which it has been proved to have taken place.
This punishment has never been inflicted, except under pretence of workhouse or prison regulations, and even in such case the Legislature of Jamaica have expressed their belief of its illegality. I must say, that I think they would have acted more honestly, and evinced a greater disposition to correct abuses, had they effectually removed the doubt on this subject by a declaratory law. These cases, however, are not necessarily connected with the apprenticeship system. Under that code, it is true, that persons are liable to imprisonment, with hard labour, for offences which are peculiar to the existing; but if the apprenticeship were to be abolished tomorrow, there are numerous offences of which females might be convicted under the ordinary laws, and by the ordinary magistrates, which would subject them to the same punishments. By the Bill now before the House, we propose to put an end to the punishment of female apprentices by flogging, under any pretext whatever. My hon. Friend has stated, we are only repeating an enactment which has already been found inefficient. This is not the case. If he had looked attentively at the clause of the Act of 1833, which prohibits the flogging of female apprentices, he would have found a proviso, which excepted from 90 this prohibition those offences which would subject any person of free condition to the same punishment. This proviso has given rise to the only doubt on the subject. It is alleged, that all the inmates of the workhouse, whether free or not, are liable to the prison regulations in this and every other respect. We propose now to omit this proviso, and to render the prohibition absolute in the case of female apprentices, and a penalty is to be attached to the breach of the law. By this means, all doubt on the subject will be removed, and a power given to enforce a compliance with what was clearly the previous intention of the Legislature.
The hon. Member for Durham has also alleged, that a breach of contract has been committed, in the reduction of the amount of food allowed to the apprentices, and has particularly referred to British Guiana as establishing this objection.
The Act for the Abolition of Slavery expressly provided, that the persons entitled to the services of an apprenticed labourer should be required to supply him with such food, clothing, lodging, medicine, medical attendance, and such other maintenance, and allowances as by any law then in force in the Colony to which such apprenticed labourer belonged, an owner was required to supply to any slave being of the same age and sex as such apprenticed labourer. It fixed these allowances at the same amount, during the apprenticeship, at which they were fixed by law at the time of the passing of that act. Now, in British Guiana, a proclamation of Sir B. D'Urban, who was then Governor of that colony, regulating the amount of food to be supplied to the negroes, not as apprentices, but as slaves, had been issued in the beginning of 1833. My hon. Friend says, this was not in force when the Act for the Abolition of Slavery passed, not having been expressly confirmed by Order in Council. This is a legal question, on which I am not prepared, on my own authority to dispute his view of the case; but the question has been referred to the law officers of the Crown, and they have given a decided opinion, that the proclamation in question was in force, and that consequently the scale of food which it prescribed was fixed as the legal amount to be supplied to the apprentices by the clause of our own Act, to which I have referred, and that, it could not be increased without the authority of Parliament. The hon. Gentleman has referred to the correspondence on this subject, and has professed his ignorance of the 91 steps taken by the Government to remedy the grievance. If he had read the Bill sent from the other House, and which I hope will soon become law, he would have found that this case is expressly provided for, and that a clause is contained in it, authorising an increase in the amount of food to the apprenticed negroes in British Guiana, notwithstanding the legal difficulty which has arisen on the subject: But with regard to British Guiana, and other colonies similarly circumstanced, there can be no pretence for alleging a breach of contract as against the proprietors for defects in the law. That colony., as one of the Crown colonies, is subject to the legislation of the Queen in Council; and if any defects exist in the laws in force there, as it respects the apprentices, the charge ought rather to be preferred against the Government than against the proprietors, who may be compelled to submit to enactments by orders in Council.
But my hon. Friend next adverted to the amount of punishments inflicted in British Guiana as proof of a very severe and defective administration of the law. From all the information which I possess, I am persuaded that the statements which he has made, give a most unfair representation of the administration of the apprenticeship system in that colony under Sir Carmichael Smyth. All who know that officer must acknowledge, that no man can have been more anxious than he has been to carry out the principles of the Abolition Act with a due regard to the interests of all parties, and more especially of the apprenticed negroes. I am confident that the hon. Gentleman in the complaints which be has preferred against him, has drawn his information, not from the papers before the House, some of which he cannot have read, but from some person whose object it must have been to make out a case against Sir Carmichael Smyth and his administration in British Guiana. The hon. Gentleman stated the amount of corporal punishment in that colony during the first six mouths of the apprenticeship. Is he aware that during slavery that punishment was carried to a greater extent in British Guiana than in any other colony? Has he compared the amount during 'even those first six months, with what it was during any corresponding period before the abolition of slavery? The hon. Gentleman has said, that he has not the means of knowing what the facts at present are on this subject. If he 92 had referred to the tabular statement contained in the papers before the House, he would have found accurate information upon it. He would have found, from the return of punishments exhibited in that statement for the year ending with May, 1837, that there had been a most rapid decrease, especially of corporal punishment. The return for the last month of that year being incomplete, I will refer to that for the month of April, in which, out of a population of more than 70,000 apprentices, the whole number of punishments of every description was only 489, or five-eighths per cent., of which the corporal punishments were only three, and the maximum of punishment of any other kind was one month's hard labour. I may add, that corporal punishment in that colony, has been wholly discontinued, except on reference to the governor, and in cases of theft.
If I wanted a proof of the rapid improvement which has taken place in British Guiana since the commencement of the apprenticeship, I should appeal to this fact, that although during the first few months of the new system corporal punishment was considered necessary to a great extent, though much reduced as compared with any former time, in the short space of three years it had been altogether discontinued, except in a very few cases, not of offences under the apprenticeship code, but of theft.
Again, as to the condition of the free children in that colony, I am at a loss to know where the hon. Gentleman can have obtained his information on this point. The papers before the House, which he might have examined, give very detailed and minute information on this as well as on other matters connected with the condition of the negroes in British Guiana. A series of questions calculated to elicit the fullest information, are periodically answered by each of the special magistrates; these answers are transmitted to the Government, and laid before Parliament. One of these questions relates to the condition of the free children, the care taken of them, and the manner in which they are maintained, and their medical treatment when sick.
I will read the answers of each of the special magistrates to that question for one month from the papers now on the table of the HouseThe children are allowed provisions, nurses, and medical attendance.93The children are allowed the same food, &c., as when in a state of slavery?The children are fed and allowed the same advantages as when in a state of slavery.On all estates the children are allowed food, nurses, and medical attendance.The children are fed gratuitously on all the estates, have nurses and medical attendance.The children receive the same treatment as when in a state of slavery.No variation has taken place since last report.The terms of that report being, "They are fed, have medical attendance and nurses while the mothers are at work.On plantations "Best," "Vreed-en-hoop," and Tuchen de Vrienden," "no food is allowed; but on all the other estates they receive the same allowance as before 1st August, 1834.The children are treated as formerly.The children are fed and treated in the same manner as when they were in a state of slavery.The free children upon all the estates are most liberally provided for.Generally the same as before the 1st August, 1834.The children are treated in the same manner as when in a state of slavery.On most of the estates the children are fed as before the apprenticeship; on all they receive medical attendance.With scarcely an exception it appears that the free children all receive the same food, medicine, and attention, as they did before the apprenticeship. I wish their condition was equally good in every other Colony. But even if they were not so attended to, it could not be considered as constituting a breach of contract. No legal obligation is imposed on the proprietors to maintain those children. Our own act provided another mode by which, in case of the inability of their parents to maintain them, they might be provided for. A strong and just objection has been found practically to exist in the minds of the parents to this provision, and the great body of proprietors in British Guiana appear to have voluntarily taken on themselves !the continued maintenance of the children.
On this point I hope I have fully answered the observations of the hon. Gentleman. He alluded to the testimony of one of the special magistrates. I asked him at the time to mention his name, that I might at once, before the House, compare the statement of this magistrate as communicated to the hon. Gentleman, with his official reports, and the answers given to the questions addressed to him by the 94 Government on this point, as I am unable to find one whose information to the Government, at all bears out the statement on which the hon. Gentleman has relied.
Another part of the hon. Gentleman's observations as to British Guiana, affords the clearest proof, that he has not read these papers himself, but has trusted to extracts made from them by some other person, whose object it was, to establish a case rather than to give a fair view of the whole facts. He has said, that Lord Glenelg was compelled to waive an objection which he had made to Sunday markets in Guiana, and bad consented to the enactment of an ordinance, legalizing Sunday markets. Now, if he had read even the whole of the page, from which it is evident his partial information has been drawn, he would have found, that the fact was directly the reverse of what he has stated. An ordinance with the objectionable clause was indeed passed in the Colony, but Lord Glenelg, in his despatch of the 29th of October, 1836, says,The sixth clause distinctly authorizes the holding of markets on the Sunday, although they are to be closed at half past nine in the morning. It is impossible that His Majesty should confirm an enactment, sanctioning a practice which, even during the continuance of Slavery, had been abolished and prohibited.Sir C. Smyth, in answer to that despatch, states,In obedience to your Lordship's instructions, the sixth clause, or enactment, having reference to Sunday morning markets, and directing such markets to be closed at half past nine, A. M., will also be expunged from the new ordinance.It is true, that, in that despatch, the Governor, in his own justification, status the reasons which had induced him to assent to the ordinance with the objectionable clause, but he at once yielded to the decided opinion of Lord Glenelg; and, in a subsequent despatch, dated 13th of February, 1837, he says,I have to lay before your Lordship an ordinance for the better observation of the sabbath, in which those enactments of the former ordinance, which were disapproved of by his Majesty, as communicated to me in your Lordship's despatch of the 29th October No. 161, have been omitted.On a reference to this correspondence, it is clear, that the statement of my hon. Friend on this point was, I am quite sure, unintentional on his part, but fact. 95 With respect to one other statement made by my hon. Friend as to the course which had been forced on the Chief Justice of Grenada, who is said to have been compelled to imprison his own clerk for a refusal to carry into effect a decree of the court as to the classification of the apprentices, I can only say, that I have heard it to-night for the first time, and that no information has reached the Government which can induce me to believe that such an occurrence can have taken place. Doubts have certainly arisen in several of the colonies as to the correct classification of the apprentices; but here again the bill which we have proposed will provide an effectual and complete remedy. That bill is calculated to meet every existing evil; to compel, on the part of the minority, a compliance with the humane and judicious system of management in the regulation of the hours of labour, and grant of allowances, as well as in other respects, which has already been cheerfully adopted in the case of the great majority; and further, to supply those defects in the existing laws which the Colonial Legislatures have either refused or failed to supply. That those defects are numerous in the law of Jamaica, I not only do not deny, but I fully admit and even assert. I cannot, however, join in the censure which has been imputed to the noble Lord opposite for the course which he pursued with reference to the Jamaica Act. I regret that it was declared adequate and satisfactory, but that regret is founded on subsequent experience of its defects, and on the subsequent conduct of the Jamaica legislature. The noble Lord only acted as probably any other man would have acted under similar circumstances; receiving, as he did, from Lord Mulgrave, who was then Governor of Jamaica, a strong recommendation as to the course to be taken, and an assurance of his belief, that the Colonial Legislature was actuated by a sincere desire to carry out the principle of the Imperial Act; nor can I impute to the noble Lord any blame which would not equally attach to those with whom he acted. I am only referring to what the noble Lord has himself distinctly stated on a former occasion, when I remind the House that the decision on that Act was not taken until after it had been, clause by clause, submitted for the opinion of his colleagues; and when I remember who then occupied, as a Member of the Cabinet, the highest legal station in this country; when I consider the deference which must 96 have been paid to his opinion on a question of law by those who, technically speaking, were unlearned men; when I advert to the additional weight which must have attached to his judgement on a subject on which he is understood to have taken so deep an interest, and on which he still continues to bestow so much attention, I cannot avoid the conclusion, that whatever blame may be imputed to the noble Lord opposite for his conduct on that occasion, attaches with tenfold force to Lord Brougham, whose duty it undoubtedly was, had he perceived their existence, to have pointed out to his colleagues such defects in the Jamaica Act, as would have rendered it necessary to withhold the declaration of its being adequate and satisfactory for the purpose of entitling the proprietors to compensation. The noble Lord opposite, however, acted with a generous confidence in the Jamaica Legislature, which I regret now to feel was misplaced. I admit the subsequent misconduct of that Legislature to the fullest extent, and it is chiefly to supply their deficiencies that the Bill now before Parliament has been framed. That Bill is calculated to meet the existing evils, but not to advance beyond the necessity of the case. The Government hold themselves bound on the one hand to do justice to the proprietors, and to maintain the compact entered into with them; and, on the other hand, to do justice to the negroes, by asking from Parliament what the other House has already cheerfully and unanimously conceded, and what, I trust, this House will also grant, those additional powers for the Executive Government which will enable it to secure to the negroes, in all cases, those rights which it was the intention of Parliament they should possess during the intermediate state of apprenticeship. An objection has been made to this Bill, that its provisions are not enforced by penalties; and a comparison has been instituted between the penalties under the Abolition Act and those to which offenders were liable under former laws for the protection of slaves. The penalties imposed by the Abolition Act, and which are equally imposed by the present Bill, for the breach of any of its provisions, may be inflicted by a summary jurisdiction. The higher penalties to which reference has been made could only be inflicted after a conviction by a Colonial jury; and it is a general rule, that when a summary jurisdiction is given, the penalty is less than when the verdict of a jury has ascertained the guilt of the offender. But 97 the hon. Gentleman has overlooked one penalty proposed by the present Bill—the loss of the services of the apprentice. It provides, that an apprentice who has been wronged or injured may be altogether discharged from the apprenticeship; and by a clause added to the Bill in the other House, and which I think a most valuable one, the party who has inflicted the wrong, if not himself, the person entitled to the services of the apprentice, is rendered liable to an action of debt for the value of those services, while it is expressly provided, that the offender shall continue subject to the ordinary penalties attaching to his illegal conduct.
Without occupying the time of the House by a detailed reference to other colonies, besides those to which I have particularly referred in answer to the statements made by the hon. Baronet and the hon. Member for Durham, I proceed briefly to advert to some authorities in support of the view which I have taken of this question. The first of these is the Report of the Committee of the House of Commons, in 1836, on negro apprenticeship. That Committee received a great mass of evidence both with respect to the Colonial laws and to the actual working of the system, the evidence under the latter head being chiefly confined to Jamaica. After a long investigation they made a Report, from which I will read the following passage:—Your Committee have thus commented upon the principal points which have been brought before their notice; and upon a general review of the evidence which they have received, they conceive that they are warranted in expressing a belief, that the system of apprenticeship in Jamaica is working in a manner not unfavourable to the momentous change from slavery to freedom which is now going on there. They perceive, undoubtedly, many traces of those evils which are scarcely separable from a state of society confessedly defective and anomalous, and which can only he defended as one of preparation and transition. But, on the other hand, they see much reason to look forward with a confident hope to the result of this great experiment. In the evidence which they have received, they find abundant proof of the general good conduct of the apprentices, and of their willingness to work for wages whenever they are fairly and considerately treated by their employers. It is, indeed, fully proved, that the labour thus voluntarily performed by the negro is more effective than that which was obtained from him while in a state of slavery, or which is now given to his employer during the period for which he is compelled to work as an 98 apprentice. The mutual suspicion and irritation of the different classes of the community appear to be gradually subsiding, and on the part of the negro population, industrious habits, and the desire of moral and physical improvement, seem to be gaining ground. Under these circumstances, your Committee feel bound to express their conviction, that nothing could be more unfortunate than any occurrence which had a tendency to unsettle the minds of either class with regard to the fixed determination of the Imperial Parliament to preserve inviolate both parts of the solemn engagement by which the services of the apprenticed labourer were secured to his employer for a definite period, and under specified restrictions; at the expiration of which he is to be raised to a state of unqualified freedom, and be governed by laws framed in all respects on the same principle as those to which his white fellow-subjects are amenable.Of the Committee who agreed to this Report Mr. Buxton was a Member, and the Report was agreed to unanimously. It is but fair to Mr. Buxton to express my belief, that he has always been opposed to the apprenticeship, and that he has never concealed his objections to it; but he, at the same time, has distinctly admitted, that a solemn engagement has been entered into, and, after the investigation before that Committee, he consented to a Report which deprecated any violation of that engagement. But I have also the subsequent authority of Mr. Buxton in support of my view of the case, in a letter addressed by him so recently as November last, to the delegates who were then met in London for the purpose of demanding the immediate abolition of the apprenticeship. It appears, from the report of the proceedings which took place on that occasion, that the chairman informed the delegates that Mr. Josiah Forster was at the door waiting their permission to enter and read a letter which he had received from Mr. Buxton on the subject before them, and he asked whether it was their pleasure that he should be admitted for that purpose. I should have thought that, at any meeting of persons professing an interest in the welfare of the negroes, no hesitation could have been felt as to the immediate admission either of Mr. Buxton himself, or of any friend of his as the bearer of a letter from him on the subject; but it seems, that this readiness was not shown on the present occasion. A lengthy conversation appears to have taken place before permission was given to Mr. Forster to enter the meeting. It was probably anticipated that Mr. Buxton's sentiments might not be fully in 99 accordance with the determination which they had already adopted. Mr. Forster, however, at length was suffered to appear and read the letter, with an extract from which I will trouble the House. Mr. Buxton began his letter by asserting his well-known opposition to the apprenticeship system, which induces me to attach the greater importance to the opinions which he expressed in the subsequent part of that letter. He says—Having thus stated my sense of the wrongs of the negroes, I proceed to consider what steps their friends should take. I am not convinced of the propriety of making a grand effort for procuring the abolition of the apprenticeship in 1838. It seems to me an improbability of the highest order that we should succeed in such an attempt. What is our present situation? A contract sanctioned by the Legislature exists.
admits the contract in the most explicit terms. Mr. Buxton, who opposed the apprenticeship from the beginning, who moved the instruction to the Committee on the Bill in 1833, the object of which was to exclude the apprenticeship from forming any portion of the compensation contracted to be given to the proprietors, here distinctly admits the existence of the contract finally sanctioned by the Legislature, although against his own opinion, being far too honest to have recourse to any subterfuge by which the obligation of that contract could be denied. He says,A contract, sanctioned by the Legislature, exists. We maintain that its conditions have been violated, and that, therefore, it ought to cease.Upon this matter of fact we are at issue with the West Indians; and it can hardly be expected that Parliament will pronounce its verdict until our evidence has been stated in detail, and the apprentice-holders have been heard in reply. I observe that some of our excellent and zealous friends have expressed an invincible aversion to Parliamentary Committees." These gentlemen actually object to any investigation of the facts on which their own opinions have been formed. They have, as Mr. Buxton says, an invincible aversion to Parliamentary Committees, because they are there subjected to cross-examination; because their allegations are there capable of being sifted and scrutinized; and because there, evidence may be adduced to rebut some of those allegations, and a full and comprehensive view of the whole case may be presented. But, Mr. Buxton continues, "I cannot suppose that Parliament will decide so grave a question, and dissolve an existing contract of its own making, without inquiry; and an inquiry in this case implies a Parliamentary 100 Committee. I take it then for granted, that to an investigation before Parliament we must go.As our case will rest on specific grievances, occurring in a vast multitude of instances, this in itself will open the doors to an indefinite and endless accumulation of evidence; in short, we shall be at the mercy of the planters, and they will have it in their power to protract the inquiry as long as they please. Let us suppose, however, that their witnesses being at hand, at the commencement of the Session of 1839, their examination shall be completed by the close of that Session. In 1840, the whole case comes before Parliament, an Act passes, and with all expedition it may reach Mauritius by the day already fixed by law for the termination of the apprenticeship.You will not fail to perceive, that hitherto I have contemplated a conjunction of the most favourable circumstances. I have not mentioned the House of Lords, though no Act abolishing the apprenticeship will be allowed to pass till a Committee of that House also has investigated the evidence; and this will occupy at least as much time, and be attended with at least as much difficulty, as the inquiry in the Commons.I have supposed that you will get Committees to investigate the question, Whether the contract has not been virtually dissolved by the misconduct of the planters? That I am persuaded you will never do. I am utterly deceived, if you will find 100 men in either House who will vote even for inquiring whether the apprenticeship ought to be abolished. With these views I venture to pronouce our failure to be certain, if we embark in the attempt to secure entire freedom to the negroes in 1838.The effect of such a defeat cannot but be injurious to our cause, and that in many ways. Our strength is in the support which the public is prepared to give us; without this we are nothing; and our responsibility will be great if we squander, in a fruitless attempt, that force which might be successfully employed in important operations. There are attainable points almost as vital, and quite as pressing, as the abolition of the apprenticeship in 1838.I will not trouble the House with reading the remainder of this letter, in which the objects contemplated by Mr. Buxton, as of far more importance to the interests of the negroes, than the abridgment of the term of their apprenticeship, are fully detailed; but the whole letter will amply repay the perusal of any Gentleman who will take the trouble to read it. In the general sentiments which Mr. Buxton expresses in that letter I entirely concur. I agree altogether with him as to the inexpediency of having agitated this question; and I believe he was correct in his opinion, that Parliament will not accede to a proposition, such as that which has been submitted to it by the hon. Ba- 101 ronet. Mr. Buxton, indeed, I am told, has since changed this opinion; he has recently declared his belief, that the public feeling is sufficiently strong on this question to overcome all opposition, and on this ground he is said to have now united himself with those who demand the immediate abolition of the apprenticeship. But is the House to yield to this argument? Is it to agree, contrary to its own judgment, to a violation of the national faith, merely because of an external pressure created by most incorrect representations? I cannot believe, that such will be the case. I know the means which have been taken to induce hon. Gentlemen to vote in favour of the resolution. I know that they have been importuned not to listen to the arguments on both sides of the question, not to decide calmly and dispassionately after they had heard it discussed, but to pledge themselves beforehand to support a motion which had never before been brought forward in Parliament, and on which no opportunity had been afforded for argument or debate. I cannot believe, that any large portion of the Members of this House, as I have heard it confidently stated, have abandoned their functions, as members of a deliberative body, by consenting so to pledge themselves. I know the urgency with which they have been pressed by their constituents on the subject. I have myself received representations from many of those whom I have the honour to represent, stating, as they were fully entitled to do, the grounds on which they urged on me a support of the present motion. I have to-night presented a petition from them, very numerously signed, in support of this motion; but, however I may regret the difference of opinion between us on this subject, I shall not hesitate to present myself again to them with a full confidence of being able to justify my refusal to pledge myself to their view of the case on a question which never has been discussed within these walls. If I fail to convince them that the course which I have taken is the right one, I shall, I trust, be able to satisfy them that they would have been disgraced in the person of their representative, if having been sent by them to act as one of a deliberative body, and to consult for the interests of the nation, I had, without inquiry or hesitation, adopted at their bidding opinions which they honestly and sincerely entertain; but which, I believe, to have been formed on ex-parte statements and imperfect information.
I will now refer to another authority, 102 which I am sure will be considered as entitled to great weight. It is a pamphlet called "Jamaica under the apprenticeship system," written so recently as January, 1838, and of which, I believe, it is well known, that Lord Sligo is the author. This pamphlet was avowedly written with a view to point out the defects in the present system, and to suggest an effectual remedy. No one could be better acquainted with the subject, or better fitted for this task, than the noble Marquis; and what were his opinions so recently as last January, on the present question? After showing the indisposition of the Colonial Legislature to attend to any recommendation for an amendment of the law; he says, "Why does the English Administration delay a moment in appealing to the Imperial Parliament, to legislate in such a manner as shall enforce the complete fulfilment of the abolition law?" Why, that is the precise course which we have adopted. We have implicitly followed the suggestion of Lord Sligo, and I have reason to know, that if an amendment of the present law is to be effected, the Bill now before the House is, in his judgment, calculated fully to accomplish that object. He proceeds to say, "The country, which, but with one opinion carried that law, would not surely hesitate to make those subordinate arrangements which the omissions in the original Act have rendered necessary." So far as the other House of Parliament is concerned, no such hesitation has been shown, and what we ask is, that this House will sanction the measure which has come down to it, and which is entirely in accordance with Lord Sligo's suggestions. But then follows this striking passage with reference to the very proposition which the House is asked to accede to by the hon. Baronet.
The Anti-slavery party, who find, that the law has been much abused, and that the humane intentions of the original promoters of this most benevolent measure have been defeated, cry out loudly for an immediate abolition of the apprenticeship. But it appears doubtful, if such a measure would, in the end, be advantageous to the negro. The success of immediate and total abolition in Antigua, has been quoted as an argument in its favour; but the cases are not parallel. Jamaica has thousands of acres of waste and unclaimed land, and every acre which is not actually kept in tillage, is soon covered with bush, impenetrable to all except the negroes. Into these places, where food can be procured at the least possible expenditure of labour; where, as has been proved before the House of Lords, a man 103 can provide a year's food for a reasonable family by twelve days' labour at his plantain ground,—where, from the heat of the climate, no more clothes are necessary than what are required by decency; where the quantity of unclaimed wood, and of the thatch palm, enables the negro to erect a comfortable hut in a few hours,—into these places will he probably retire, and there lazily pass his life, never issuing from his recess until the want of some luxuries may lead him to bring produce to market, or perhaps, if the market is overstocked, may induce him to labour for a few hours. Under these circumstances, no continued labour is to be expected from him. How is the case in Antigua? It is a small island, every acre of which is well known; in which it is said, that there exists not a single spring of fresh water, and where the provisions are all imported; where there is no resource but work, with the produce of which the negro goes to market, and purchases his daily bread. There the immediate emancipation was a wise measure; but in Jamaica, more time is required to prepare the minds of the negroes for freedom. If the colonists have not availed themselves of the opportunity, if they have not made use of the interval to get rid of the feelings engendered among the blacks by a long course of oppressions during the continuance of slavery, it is their own fault—they will suffer for it. It is to be hoped, however, that they will employ the remaining time better, and Ova nobler feelings will succeed those now existing.I must say, I can scarcely go the length of the noble Marquis in his opinion of the indisposition of the negro to continuous labour, and I am inclined to hope, that he may have overstated the difficulties likely to arise in Jamaica on the expiration of the apprenticeship. This extract, however, from Lord Sligo's pamphlet, suggests a consideration, which, after all, is of the greatest importance to the decision of this question, namely, whether the immediate emancipation of the negroes throughout all the West-Indian Colonies by the Act of the British Parliament, would be conducive to the interests of the negroes themselves. If this could be clearly established, it might be necessary that the House should consider by what means the object might be accomplished without injustice to any parties concerned, and without the violation of any existing engagements. But my firm belief is, that the sudden and violent disruption of the ties which still bind the apprenticed negro to his master, would insure the termination of the apprenticeship under circumstances the most adverse and inauspicious to the interests of the negroes themselves. Let the House remember, that 104 during the apprenticeship, they are secured in the enjoyment of their huts and provision grounds, but that they would have no legal right to them, if, without any further enactment than that which is contained in a Bill now on the table of the other House of Parliament, the apprenticeship should be abolished on the 1st of August next. Why, that Bill is not to be proceeded with until some day, not yet fixed, after the holidays. Supposing it to be taken up at an early day after Easter, and to be proceeded with as rapidly as the usual course of business will allow, it is extremely improbable that it could become law, and reach the Colonies in which it is to come into operation, until within a few days of the 1st of August, even if it should arrive there so soon. If it really was intended to confer any benefit on the negroes by that Bill, it ought to have been proceeded with at once, and without delay. The course which has been taken with it is such as only to pander to the popular delusion. But, supposing it to become law, and to arrive in the Colonies a few days before the 1st of August, let the House consider the irritation and excitement which could not fail to be produced by it, in the minds of those very persons who are accused, even under the restraints which the law now imposes on them, of a tyrannical and cruel exercise of power. What security would there be, when the legal right of the negro to his hut, and provision ground was gone, and the exclusive jurisdiction of the Special Magistrates at an end, that there would be no attempt to deprive the negroes of their homes, and in many instances to turn them loose to seek for shelter and support elsewhere, under feelings which would inevitably lead to acts of plunder or of violence? Let the House reflect on the mutual ill-feeling which would thus be engendered between the different classes of society—let it reflect on the resistance which might probably be offered under such circumstances to acts legally within the power of the planter, and which in a moment of exasperation might be recklessly and injudiciously exercised—and let it consider the effects of disturbance or insurrection;—that the tide of improvement would be rolled back—that the progressive amelioration of the condition of the negro would be checked—that the extending plans of education, and religious instruction would be impeded and suspended—and then let the House pause before it accedes to a proposition, which, while it would afford ground of complaint 105 to the proprietor as a breach of engagement, would be most injurious to the interests of the very class of persons whom it is intended to benefit.
I know that this argument is used in a different way. The advocates of the immediate abolition of the apprenticeship tell us, with something of an air of triumph, that such will be the danger from a disappointment of the hopes which have been raised in the minds of the negroes, that we dare not refuse to comply with the demand which is made. I will not conceal my apprehension of danger from the excitement which I think has been unwisely created, and from the disappointment of hopes which ought never to have been raised. Here again I fully agree in the sentiments expressed by Mr. Buxton in a subsequent part of the same letter, from which I have already read an extract. But no share of the responsibility for this disappointment and danger rests with the Government. Our constant endeavour has been to allay excitement, and so to administer the present system as to secure its peaceful termination, under circumstances the best calculated to promote the interests of all classes, and the general welfare of society throughout the Colonies. With the advocates of the present proposition must rest the undivided responsibility for the consequences of the agitation of this question. But, although sensible of the danger, I do not despair of a prosperous issue to the great experiment now in progress. I still hope that the negroes will continue to pursue a peaceful and a quiet course, and will thus arrive at a happy termination of the intermediate state in which they have but a short time to remain before they enjoy unrestricted freedom. I trust, that the influence and authority of this House will be interposed to avert the danger with which we are threatened. I trust, that its decision will prove, that there is no intention on our part to recede from the engagements which we have contracted. If hon. Gentlemen are satisfied that a contract does exist, and that no breach of that contract has been established which could warrant us in going farther than the Bill now before us, I ask them to negative this resolution by a decisive majority, that the negroes may be made acquainted with the deliberate determination of Parliament, that suspense may give place to certainty, and that the excitement so thoughtlessly and indiscreetly raised, may not be productive of those evils which it is calculated to 106 produce. I ask them to follow the same course with this resolution which was adopted some weeks ago, in the other House of Parliament, when a resolution, as I believe, in precisely similar terms, moved by a noble and learned Lord, was negatived; and, although a Bill has been subsequently introduced into that House, purporting to have the same object in view, I cannot believe that any serious expectation can be entertained of its being assented to. Such a measure, making no provision for the altered state of society which would follow its enactment, leaving untouched the powers of the Colonial magistracy, and affording no protection to the negroes, is one from which I can only anticipate disastrous consequences. I call on you then to reject the motion of the hon. Baronet, because I believe it to involve an act of great injustice towards many individuals, and because, so far from tending to advance, it would materially prejudice, the interests of the negro population. I call on you, on the other hand, to do justice to the negro, to compel a full performance of the contract for his benefit on the part of those who have failed in the discharge of their duty, and to afford the Government the means of giving him complete and effectual protection.
Sir, before I sit down, I would address one word to those who possess West-India property, and have, therefore, a direct interest in this subject. To them, I would say, in the terms with which Lord Sligo concludes his pamphlet:—"It would be better for the proprietor to give liberally now, while he has it in his power to give, than wait for a reaction, which, if once it takes place, will be terrible in its consequences. He would not hesitate, if he was aware of the effect of a little kindness on the mind of the poor contemned black. Little does he know how deep every act of considerate regard and kindly feeling sinks into his heart, or how it carries with it gratitude and devotion. Let him not say, I thank God that I am not a publican and sinner as this man is,' but let him pour wine and oil into his wounds, and make him his friend."
I know any advice of this kind is needless, as it respects many of the proprietors. They have anticipated every suggestion which I could urge on them. Several whom I could name, have already taken measures for the early liberation of their apprentices, and although they have not publicly announced their intention, 107 have not delayed to carry it into effect. They may have felt that to liberate them simultaneously on the 1st of August, was a proceeding liable to inconvenience, but they have given directions for the unconditional grant of freedom, without delay, to those of their apprentices on whose good conduct and industry they I could rely, holding out, at the same time, to the rest, the expectation of the same boon, as an inducement to imitate the example of the former. I trust, that this system will be far more extensively acted on. But, in the mean time, I would venture to remind the great body of the proprietors, of the increased responsibility which rests on them, owing to their absence from their properties, and the necessary detegation of the management of them to persons over whom they can exercise no direct control or superintendence. Let them exert the influence which their position and their property must give them with those to whom the immediate powers of legislation in the colonies has been entrusted, and endeavour to induce them to enact such laws as are required, not only for the present temporary state of society, but for its permanent welfare after the existing system shall have expired. Let them mark the deep feeling which exists in this country on the subject, and let them anticipate the wishes of the country. Freely they have received from a nation's wealth, and of a nation's munificence, freely let them bestow on the negroes those boons which it is in their power to confer, and by so doing, they will reap a rich reward, not only in the blessing promised to those who "undo the heavy burdens, and break every yoke," but in attaching to themselves, by closer ties than any which now exist, that portion of the population whose interests are intimately connected with their own, and thus laying the foundation of a social system throughout those colonies, which is essential to their permanent prosperity, and under which the rights of all classes of the community will be defined and secured. I believe, that the adoption of the motion of the hon. Baronet, would tend to retard this desired consummation, while it would be inconsistent with the national faith, and would expose us to disgrace in the eyes of other nations, who are watching our course, and, I trust, may be induced to follow our example. On these grounds, however inadequately and insufficiently stated, I feel bound to oppose the resolution of the hon. Baronet, and to 108 move, as an amendment to it, the order of the day for the second reading of the Slavery Abolition Act Amendment Bill.*