§ The Order of the Day for the adjourned Debate having been read,
congratulated her Majesty's Government upon having so able a coadjutor as the Secretary for the Colonies, who had concluded the debate the preceding night on this most important and interesting subject. In the course of that able, eloquent, and forcible address, the hon. Member alluded to the pressure from without—the pressure from constituencies on their representatives; and he agreed with him that it had been unfairly exercised in many instances; but that did not apply as regarded himself, for he had only one letter from his constituents on the subject, and he believed the people of Cumberland took less interest in the question than any other part of the kingdom, for only four or five petitions had been presented on the subject. As he happened to possess an interest in the question, being the proprietor of an extensive estate in Jamaica, he trusted the House would extend its courtesy to him for a few minutes, as he was not in the habit of making long speeches and troubling them very often. He begged to tender his acknowledgments to the country for the donation of 4,000l. or 5,000l. which he had received as compensation money for the loss of property, or, perhaps, he should say the anticipated injury to the property, which had cost his family somewhere about ten times that amount. Much had been said about the 20,000,000l. which, it was alleged, the people of England had been swindled out of. The people of England had given that of their own free will, to establish a great principle; but it was a great mistake to suppose that it would afford any thing like an adequate compensation to the owners of slaves if the negroes should refuse to cultivate the soil under the free system, as was supposed by many persons would be the case in the island of Jamaica. When that money was granted, it certainly was a part of the bargain that the compulsory services of the negroes should cease at the expiration of seven years. The object of his hon. Friend, the Member for Yorkshire, was to shorten that period by two years. He had 157 given the subject his most earnest and anxious attention and dispassionate consideration, and he had no hesitation now in declaring that, under all the circumstances, he thought it would be best at once to emancipate the slaves and give them unqualified freedom. That would be better than keeping them in a continued state of excitement—and upon that point he differed from the hon. Baronet, the Under-Secretary for the Colonies—for a space of two years to come. He, therefore, should support the original motion; but, in doing so, he wished to guard himself against being considered as pursuing that course from any desire to court popularity, or with the view of being thought to possess finer feelings of humanity than his neighbours. He thought, that the immediate emancipation of the negroes, besides being, as it was contended, their right, would be advantageous also to the planters. He believed it would enable them to discharge from their properties all the idle, disorderly, and ill-conditioned persons, and relieve them from the maintenance of weakly and impotent hands. Where the planter was a kind and indulgent master, he would find no difficulty in cultivating his estates, because many persons would be glad to serve him instead of an oppressive taskmaster. The chief fear he had for the success of the scheme for the immediate emancipation, arose from reflecting upon the wretched condition in which many of those persons would find themselves placed. He supposed it was the intention of the hon. Baronet, the Member for Yorkshire, if this resolution were carried, to bring in a bill similar to that alluded to by Lord Brougham in another place. He thought that measure would not answer its purpose unless there was some vagrant clause, or something of the nature of a poor-law, introduced. There was undoubtedly a most easy mode of getting rid of the complaints of the negroes by the charity of those individuals who had pressed their claims so strongly upon the Legislature. A small mite from each of the British ladies who had so meritoriously taken up the cause of the negroes would go far to do all that was required to get rid of the difficulties under which the negroes laboured, and would improve greatly their munificent design. As a West-India planter, he had exerted his interest on behalf of the slaves in the colonies, but he had always thought, and 158 still thought, that there was and had been in England labourers in a far more miserable condition than the negroes. Look to the Irish labourers, and to the hand-loom weavers. Talk about the negroes being chained to their work—why the hand-loom weavers of this country were chained to their looms, not forty-five hours in a week, but ninety-six. They had far worse food than the negro. His friend, the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies, had adverted to the food of the negroes—why the hand-loom weavers would get fat upon such food; and so likewise with respect to the places in which they lived—the place appropriated to the negro was a palace compared with that devoted to the hand-loom weaver. He was satisfied that immediate emancipation would do no injury to the planter, who had behaved with humanity and kindness. Neither did he think it would cause any injury to the negro. It would, on the contrary, in his opinion, prove beneficial to all those who were orderly and had behaved themselves. Anxious, as he had always been, that the great measure of the abolition of slavery should be carried out fully, he would give his cordial support to the original motion, which had been introduced by his hon. Friend, the Member for Yorkshire, because he entertained none of those fears which had been expressed by the hon. Under-Secretary for the Colonies. He thought the measure could be carried out with perfect safety, and that the negro was now as fit to receive his liberty as he would be in two years hence.
§ Sir E. Sugden
rose thus early, because he was not so anxious to take a part at a later time of the evening in the contentions which might run high on this subject as he was to explain the grounds on which he should vote on the present occasion. At the same time, it was with some regret, early as it was, that he did not find any of her Majesty's Ministers in their places. Considering the great importance of the point to be discussed, he should have supposed there might have been at least some one representative of the Government present. In common with most other gentlemen he had received a communication from his constituents, not pressing hardly on him, but requesting him with considerable zeal to support the petition he had presented for the immediate abolition of negro apprenticeship; he owed it, therefore, to them to state the grounds on 159 which he should give his vote. It appeared to him, after all he had read and heard on this subject, that the questions reduced themselves to two very simple ones, although there might be some difficulty in coming to the result. The first question must necessarily be—was there anything in the act of Parliament of 1833 which prevented that House from interfering either with the bill, or the more extended measure of the hon. Baronet (Sir G. Strickland) who moved the resolution? Supposing the House was not by contract excluded from entering on the question, the next point was, had the case arisen in which it would be proper for the House as a branch of the Legislature to interfere? And supposing the moral right to interfere, and supposing the case had occurred, the question to be solved was, what remedy should be applied to the abuses which were alleged to exist? On the first question which had been agitated both in that House and elsewhere, and on which opinions had been stated which very much startled him, he did not hesitate to say, let them call it contract, compact, or what they chose, there was what might be fairly termed a national obligation in the shape of a solemn act of Parliament binding on both parties. It was very true the act did not in any part of it state the existence of what was called a contract. The words of the preamble to the act were very remarkable. They were as follow:—Whereas divers persons are holden in slavery within divers of his Majesty's colonies, and it is just and expedient that all such persons should be manumitted and set free, and that a reasonable compensation should be made to the persons hitherto entitled to the services of such slaves for the loss which they will incur by being deprived of their right to such services; and whereas it is also expedient that provision be made for promoting the industry and securing the good conduct of the persons so to be manumitted for a limited period after such their manumission; and whereas it is necessary that the laws now in force in the said several colonies should forthwith be adapted to the new state and relations of society therein which will follow upon such general manumission as aforesaid of the said slaves.And then came the enactments. Now, there was nothing in those words which recited any thing like a contract. But independently of the knowledge which the House had of the grounds upon which that arrangement was acceded to, one thing was quite clear, that though the preamble of 160 an act might be referred to in a matter of doubt, it could never be allowed to contradict the clear sense of the subsequent parts of the act itself. It was an undoubted fact that by the act, the property of the owner in his slaves was left to pass by will, descent, and assignment, just as it did previously to the passing of it. He did not mean to express an opinion at present as to whether that was wise or no; but under the act the property in slaves was saleable, and since the passing of it, the slaves, or rather the apprenticed labourers, had been repeatedly bought, sold, and mortaged, and now belonged to those who had laid out their capital upon them. If there were anything improper in such a state of the law, it was the Imperial Parliament which had been guilty of that impropriety; but, deny it who might, such was the state of the law now existing. He understood that some, who had filled high office in the country, were of opinion that no contract had been made, and considered that the arrangement to which Parliament had assented was an arrangement made entirely for the benefit of the slave, to teach him the habits of civilized life, and to enable him at thirty or forty years of age, whatever might be his class, to start up as a free man. It had also been said, that without the assent of the negro there could be no contract. That that was a fallacy was almost apparent on the very enunciation of it. If you chose to cast away all ideas of right and of law, very good; but if you take right and law as your guide, you must admit that though he was not necessarily a part, yet he was decidedly the subject of the contract. To say that the contract was not good, because the negro was not bound by it, was to be guilty of arguing upon premises that did not exist. A noble and learned personage had, however, placed the matter on a different ground. He did not consider that the negro was a necessary part of the contract, but said that the arrangement was made to ameliorate the condition of the slave, and that as that object had been attained by the amelioration which had already taken place in the condition of the slave, his freedom ought to be granted immediately. That, however, was not the question, as it appeared to him. It seemed, from the use of such an argument, as if one was indifferent to the interests of humanity, and to the miseries of slavery; for, disguise it as they might, the apprenticeship system was 161 slavery, though slavery in a mitigated form. But he was indifferent to no such thing. He wished, however, to do right between the nation and the planters, as well for other causes as with reference to the negroes themselves. If it depended upon him to free the negro apprentices, and if it could be shown to him that it was just to all parties to do so, he would strike off his fetters at once, and for ever. But it did not depend upon him, and he had no such power. The question therefore, for him to consider was, whether any case had yet arisen in which the House had at present the right to interfere? On that, he believed, there could be no doubt. For his own part, he knew of no instance in history in which there had ever been so audacious a breaking in upon the expressed intentions, declarations, and enactments of the Legislature, as there had been here. The reason which gave the House the right to interfere was the fact, that it interfered for the benefit of the slave, when the case required it, and not before. In a future part of his speech he might, perhaps, enter more largely into the inquiry, whether our Interference was not required for the benefit of the slave; but, at present, he would only say, that there had been breach enough on the part of Jamaica and some of our other West-India colonies to authorise us to displace the contract, if it were wise for this country, and consistent with the interests of the negroes themselves, that immediate emancipation should take place. The case against the planters appeared to him to be a very strong case indeed. He could not agree with his hon. and learned Friend who had spoken last night, and to whose speech he had given all the attention which it deserved, and that was all the attention which he could command—he could not agree with his hon. and learned Friend (Sir G. Grey) that it was not fair to quote individual instances of misconduct and oppression on the part of the planters to prove, that the planters generally had been guilty of a breach of contract. You could only make out a case of general oppression by showing, that it existed in a vast number of individual instances, for it was in vain to expect, that one great jubilee of cruelty over their slaves would ever be celebrated by the masters publicly and simultaneously. Speaking, for instance, of the colony of Jamaica, he had no hesitation 162 in declaring, that he had made up his mind, that a distinct case had been made out against it. He admitted, that a great number of the cases on which the hon. Gentlemen opposite relied had arisen in one particular district; but still there was evidence enough to show, that great cruelty had been practised universally towards the slave-population of that island. Look even to the matters which the Act that his hon. and learned Friend now proposed to read a second time was drawn up to enact. There was not one provision in it which was not intended to correct some vicious practice which had grown up under the acts of the Colonial Legislature since the period of passing the Slavery Abolition Act in 1833. The first clause enacted, that the hours of labour were to be regulated by proclamation. Why was such a clause necessary? Because many masters had deprived their apprentices of that portion of time which they had for themselves during the continuance of slavery, and had insisted upon having from them every day nine, instead of eight hours labour. The next provision of the Act was introduced to correct certain irregularities relative to the supplies to be furnished to the apprentices, both in and out of the hospital, and to obtain for them, when ill, certain exemptions from labour. In all these cases it was clear, that the planters had acted contrary to the intentions of the Imperial Legislature: for the Legislature had always intended, that the apprenticed labourers should have the same allowances of food, clothing, and medicines, as they had when slaves. The first thing that the planters did after the slaves were converted into apprenticed labourers, was to strike off certain allowances which they had previously enjoyed, under the notion that they were no longer sanctioned by law. This bill now stepped in, and would compel the masters to furnish their apprentices with food and necessaries while in the hospital, or while in confinement in prison. Another point which this bill would effect, was one which had escaped the notice of the House in its last attempt to legislate upon this subject—he alluded to the privileges allowed to the slave in "sitting up." Formerly, when he could not sit up, he was allowed to lie down, but this was no longer allowed; and it had been a great surprise to the slave-population to find that their condition was actually altered for the worse by a bill that was pro- 163 fessedly passed for their benefit. This bill would restore to the apprenticed labourers the privilege of "sitting up," which they bad formerly enjoyed as slaves. The next clause of the bill provided for the valuation of the services of the negro apprentice. He had read through the evidence lately laid on the table of the House, and he could not help stating, that very gross frauds had been practised in this respect. The law had been constantly evaded, and this bill provided a remedy for such evasions. There was also a clause giving to the special magistrates power to enter into all workhouses and prisons in order to see that no punishment was unjustly inflicted therein on the negro apprentice. Another clause was introduced to prevent the whipping of females. That was an outrage clearly denounced as illegal by the Slavery Abolition Act. He had read the 17th clause of that act over and over again, and he had no hesitation in saying that a grosser abuse of power and a more unjustifiable outrage and oppression never had existed than now existed in those colonies where the whipping of females still continued to be practised. The meaning of the 17th clause of the Slavery Abolition Act admitted of no dispute. It was as follows:—Provided also, and be it further enacted, that it shall not be lawful for any such governor, council, and assembly, or other colonial legislature, or for his Majesty in Council, by any such act, ordinance, or order in Council, to authorize any person or persons entitled to the services of any such apprenticed labourer, or any other person or persons other than such justices of the peace holding such special commissions as aforesaid, to punish any such apprenticed labourer for any offence by him or her committed, or alleged to have been committed, by the whipping, beating, or imprisonment of his or her person, or by any other personal or other correction or punishment whatsoever, or by any addition to the hours of labour hereinbefore limited; nor to authorize any court, judge, or justice of the peace, to punish any such apprenticed labourer, being a female, for any offence by her committed, by whipping or beating her person.He was sorry to say, that in open defiance of this law, thousands of women had been whipped; and when he saw that nearly 29,000 persons had been flogged, and that the average amount of lashes administered to each was 580, without any statement being made how many of those 29,000 persons were men, and how many 164 were women, he was obliged to add, that a grosser violation of any law had never, to his knowledge, taken place. In discussing this question, it was necessary to probe it to the bottom: but it was impossible to come to any safe conclusion upon it without inquiring where the mischief lay. As to the authority assumed by the planters to inflict these punishments, it was founded on a proviso of the clause, which enacted that" nothing contained in the act should extend to exempt any apprenticed labourer from the operation of any law or police regulation which is or shall be in force therein for the prevention or punishment of any offence, such law or police regulation being in force against, and applicable to, all other persons of free condition." "Oh!" said the masters, "we will not do to these apprentices anything which we do not do to freemen. We will send them to the workhouse, and there they will be subject to the same punishments as the whites. We will send them to dance the mill, as the negroes called being placed on the treadmill, and then, if they show any reluctance, we will whip them soundly." But what was the practice in our colonies, and particularly in Jamaica? There was not a single instance to be found of a white having been sent to the workhouse to' dance the mill,' and of a white having been flogged if he was reluctant to do so. The workhouses got white inmates occasionally from the sentences of the judges of assize and of court-martials, but they never received such inmates from the sentences of the local magistrates. When he looked at the cruelty which had been inflicted upon the female apprentices in workhouses, he saw that a great deal of it was occasioned by the obstinacy which cruelty always engendered among those who were its victims. That obstinacy, in its turn, created a species of daring, which led the parties to brave every sort of punishment rather than submit namely to the wrong inflicted upon them, as in the instance quoted last night of a woman who was held by her elbows on the mill, whilst her legs, which she refused to move, were bleeding from constant collision with the wheel, and her back was scarified by the whip on account of that refusal. The cruelty of the punishment drove the parties to the very obstinacy for which they were punished. He repeated, that in his opinion a very strong case had been made 165 out against Jamaica. Lord Sligo, in the pamphlet which he had recently published, completely justified his assertion. Here Sir E. Sugden read an extract from the 27th page of that work, to the effect that the flogging of females in Jamaica had been carried on to an extent that was astonishing—that no notice had been taken of that inhuman practice by the Colonial Assembly, except by appointing a committee to examine into its existence; but that, nevertheless, there could not be the slighest doubt that this abuse existed in every workhouse in Jamaica. Without reading any further, he should say, that Lord Sligo had in this passage laid it down, that this practice, or rather this abuse, of flogging females, was in Jamaica universal. He did not know how a case was to be made out of a breach of contract on the part of the planters, if it were not to be made out in this manner. You first of all show, that the contract had not been performed in individual cases, and you next show, that those abuses which constitute a breach of contract were universal. In the last communication which had been received from Sir honel Smith, and which was dated so recently as the 27th of last November, he said distinctly that there was no hope that the House of Assembly would correct the evils so generally complained of: and he further added, that great cruelty and oppression were still exercised over the negro apprentices, which he could not always control and punish. The local administration of justice was such, that the apprenticed negro could expect no redress of his grievances, no relief from oppression. The Marquess of Sligo said, "In truth there is no justice in the general local institutions of Jamaica, because there is no public opinion to which an appeal can be made. In consequence-of this, the grand juries, without the slightest regard for evidence, threw out bills of the greatest importance, affecting persons charged with crimes against the life of their fellow subjects, the negro apprentices. He could adduce specimens of the evidence set aside by grand juries, which no man in this land of liberty would believe had been rejected by men sitting on their oaths to examine into the truth or falsehood of accusations of the gravest nature. Petty juries showed the same disregard of the safety of their fellow-subjects. He felt justified, then, in saying, that as far as regarded Jamaica, 166 the case of the opponents of the present system of apprenticeship was in a great degree made out; there had been a breach of contract on the part of the House of Assembly, as well as of those intrusted with the administration of the law. Thus Parliament had a perfect right to deal as it should think fit with the question, as regarded Jamaica. What might be done by the House, and ought to be done by them, were very different questions. As a constitutional lawyer, he never had been, and never would be, a party to breaking a solemn contract; no consideration of expediency—no prospective advantage that might arise—should ever induce him to agree to it. It would be proper now to ascertain what the rights of the Legislature in this case were, in order that the West-Indian body might see whether their proceedings, to the extent to which legislation should be carried, were justifiable. A national contract had been formed, which they were not entitled to break. Particular instances would not prove a general abandonment of duty on the part of the colonial authorities, and, therefore, as far as that part of the argument went, the Legislature must hold by their bond. But what was the state of the case as concerned the British nation? Had not the rights which the nation had purchased been outraged by the punishment of women in numerous instances? If the planters were entitled to the benefit of the contract, no one would dare to deny, that the nation, on the other hand, were entitled to the benefit of a contract, bought with so much treasure, to secure the safety, the peace, the happiness and freedom of the negroes. How had that part of the contract been discharged which related to the exemption of females from flogging? Could any equivalent be offered for the barbarities practised towards women under the new system? Had they not been defrauded of the most precious part of the privileges which they had procured for the negroes? He felt, therefore, most strongly regarding the right of the House to legislate on the subject, because the rights of the nation had been infringed, on a point where restitution was impossible. The question now simply was, what was it right to do? The question was not, whether the contract had been broken, and whether the House might interfete—it was a mere absurdity to raise this question in the aspect under which the subject was 167 now presented to the House. There were two propositions before it—one for enacting the total and immediate emancipation of the negroes; the other, for the passing of a bill which would break through some of the most important provisions of the law of 1833, by which the contract was concluded. In either case, that act must be broken through; the authority of the local legislatures would be controlled by the power of the Imperial Parliament, and a great inroad would be made on the rights which the law, as it now stood, gave to the planter, over the negroes. They might take away all those rights, or only some of them; but whether they adopted the one course Or the other, the terms of the contract would be altered. What, then, was the remedy to be applied? Which of the courses ought now to be adopted, in order to advance more effectually, the amelioration of the present state in which the negroes were placed? He might remark, in passing, that he could not pay Government the compliment of saying, that they were entitled to the credit of the ameliorations already effected. Who had discovered the treatment of the negro apprentices? Had her Majesty's Government discovered it? He much disapproved and blamed the conduct of those persons who had discovered it, and who had concealed it for bad purposes of their own, instead of informing the proper authorities, as they would have done, if the feelings of which they had made so much parade really actuated them. They ought to have acquainted the Governor with the outrages which were committed, and he was very far from doubting that her Majesty's Government, when the information reached them, would have immediately applied a remedy to the abuse. He did not doubt this; but he blamed them much, that after the Emancipation Act had passed, they had not paid that attention to the condition of the negroes, which the conduct of the colonial legislatures called for. In the pamphlet of the Marquess of Sligo, which his hon. Friend, the Under Secretary for the Colonies had quoted, there were many passages in which severe censure was passed on Government for neglecting to investigate this important subject, and the want of diligence and activity for which those at the head of the Colonial Office were notorious, was plainly pointed out. The remuneration of the special justices 168 was so small, that it was quite insufficient to pay their expenses, and the consequence was, that when they repaired to any part of the country, to administer justice, they became the guests of the planters, sitting at their tables, and sleeping in their houses; and when the festivities of the day were concluded, and the magistrate rose in the morning, the slaves were brought up to be tried in the presence of their master. This was not the way in which justice ought to be administered; in fact, it was but mockery to talk of justice under such circumstances. He would, therefore, recommend strongly to Government to make a more liberal provision for the special justices. To come now to the question which he had proposed to consider, he could not agree that it would be proper to visit on all the colonies the breach of contract of which Jamaica had been guilty. The planters of Montserrat had already emancipated their apprentices, and it was probable that those of Barbadoes would follow the example. He would rather leave those colonies to accomplish emancipation by a voluntary act than oblige them to consent by a compulsory decree. He could not think it just to extend to all the colonies that punishment which Jamaica alone had fully incurred. It was said by the advocates of immediate emancipation, that the negroes were prepared for it. He must say, that such was not his opinion; and unless much more effectual means of preparing them for freedom were resorted to, he feared that they would not be prepared for it in the year 1840, when the time fixed by the Emancipation Act for finally liberating them should have arrived. He hoped that these preparatory measures would not be postponed till the last moment. A subject of such importance well deserved to receive the immediate attention of Government, that the apprentices, and those who wished to see them rise in the scale of civilization, might be satisfied that due regard would be paid to their welfare. The other colonies had not shown so much disregard of the wishes of the British Parliament, so culpable a neglect of the condition of the negroes, as Jamaica; and there certainly were not sufficient grounds, as far as they were concerned, to abolish the system established by the act of 1833. Nobody could expect that such a system would altogether eradicate former evils; it could not be supposed that the traces of subjec- 169 tion would disappear, while the change made in the relations of the planters and negroes to each other, was merely partial. He should not vote for the resolution of the hon. Baronet, not merely because they ought not to extend to all the colonies the punishment due to Jamaica, but because he did not think that immediate emancipation would conduce to the interest of the apprentices themselves. To emancipate them at once, without previous measures to prepare them for another state, and none such had been taken, would be a dangerous experiment. No one could foretell what might be the result of the emancipation of the non-prædial apprentices, which was to take place on the 1st of August in the present year, and of whom there were in Jamaica alone no less than 50,000. The danger of letting loose the whole negro population at once, would be immensely increased. He was disposed, therefore, to adopt a new law, which would remedy existing abuses for the future, as far as possible, being satisfied that that alternative was on the whole most likely to be beneficial to the apprentices. The bill proposed by Government, however, did not go far enough; it contained no effectual provision for the correction of the abuses which disfigured the present administration of justice. He should like to see the statement made to the House by the noble Lord, the Member for North Lancashire, on the introduction of the Emancipation Bill, taken as the groundwork of this measure, and recited in its preamble—he meant the statement that it was the intention of the Imperial Legislature by the act of 1833, to place the apprentices on the same footing as workmen in England. He should wish to see persons of station and respectability appointed to revise the decisions of the local magistrates, for he could not conceal from the House that, in his opinion, a prejudice pervaded the minds of those judges, which must militate very much against the impartiality of their sentences. There was another important alteration which he should wish introduced into the bill. By the act of 1833, apprentices who had been prevented from working through their own misconduct, were obliged to make up the lost time after 1840; thus if any of them ran away, which he must say they might often be justified in doing, from the cruel manner in which they were treated, or if any of 170 them were imprisoned, they were obliged to remain apprenticed after 1840 for twice the same length of time; so that this actually offered a premium on the imprisonment of apprentices, since, if they lost a week in this way, they were obliged to work a fortnight for their master afterwards. He could not support this bill, unless he were assured, both that more effectual provisions for the administration of justice would be adopted than were contained in it, and that the other abuses which he had mentioned were abolished. At present, the amount of punishment that might be inflicted in workhouses was not defined, and he wished that this should be accurately laid down. He should certainly vote for the resolution, unless he were assured that all vestiges of slavery would cease upon the 1st of August, 1840. He felt that the responsibility of this measure rested with her Majesty's Government, and he certainly would not refuse them his support on this occasion, except on very powerful grounds. He should be prepared to support them in any measures which might be necessary to suppress discontent and secure peace in the colonies, but he must vote for the resolution if they refused to accede to the proposal he had made to them, to take these steps for the benefit of the negroes. He thought, therefore, that he should be able to support the amendment to the motion in case the explanation which he should receive from the noble Lord opposite should be such as he expected; if not, he should feel obliged to vote for the motion of the hon. Baronet. But before he sat down, he begged to say one word with respect to a remarkable letter which had been mentioned in the course of the debate. He thought that there ought to have been, and that there ought now to be, no concealment or disguise on a question like this; and that it was really worth while to consider whether the British Parliament had been legislating on this subject for so many years on a totally false ground. The letter in question stated, as he understood, that Parliament had the power, but not the right, to legislate on the subject of slavery. Now, if this was the case, then he did not know what was to constitute a definite specific right, for the country was not just on the point of emergence from a state of barbarism into one of civilization. But, however this might be, the law for many, many years, had said that the slave was 171 property. This was the statement of the case. Was he defending it? He did not think of such a thing; but he must say, that the sentiments contained in that letter went against all law, and that they were so, as far as all his experience. Of law went, he had no hesitation in thus declaring in his place in Parliament. He had endeavoured to address himself to this as to a matter on which, as a legislator, he was bound to decide calmly, and he had addressed the House upon it with no feeling upon earth but a wish to explain to his constituents and to the country the grounds on which he had arrived at the opinions which he had stated; and to satisfy them that he had not come to his present conclusion, differing as it did from what his constituents wished, without having entered into an elaborate examination of the whole subject, and without having gone through the whole of the papers connected with it, and fully satisfied himself as to the soundness of the conclusion at which he had arrived.
thought it was perfectly plain that the Queen's Government could not resist the demand for negro emancipation. The public sentiment had been pronounced so distinctly, the public feeling had been excited so strongly, that he did not think he was going too far when he said that the question must be conceded. The right hon. Gentleman who had just spoken would find the utter impossibility of carrying out his own principle in any other way than by supporting the resolution, adding, if he pleased, another by way of qualification, but not standing upon the bill proposed by the Government, in which case it would be utterly impossible for him to realise the principle he had himself laid down, or to satisfy his own reasoning on the subject. He had heard some complaints last night of the methods taken to inflame the public mind on this subject, and some persons bad treated with disregard the virtues and services of men in the cause of liberty which they did not deserve. The matter was distinctly understood by the people of England. They understood that they had paid 20,000,000l.; they knew that they had paid it upon terms. They agreed to pay 20,000,000l, upon having an adequate and satisfactory arrangement made in the colonies to work out the Emancipation Bill. That bill was perfectly intelligible to every body. Could there be any 172 difficulty or doubt about the 20,000,000l. not being paid until an adequate and satisfactory arrangement was made for giving to the negroes the advantages of the British act of Parliament? The money was paid—that was the first fact. Had there been an adequate arrangement made to give to the negroes the benefit of emancipation? Had there been a satisfactory arrangement? There was neither the one nor the other. A satisfactory meant something more than an adequate arrangement, and every body knew that neither an adequate nor a satisfactory arrangement had been made. The money was paid, and why? He had heard it stated, that this was attributed to the noble Lord, the Member for North Lancashire (Lord Stanley); but any one would easily imagine that it was to be shared between him and the cabinet; and he had been told that the proposal of the payment of the 20,000,000l. was to be attributed to a noble and learned Lord who had taken so active a part latterly on the subject. Certainly if the cabinet acted on that noble and learned Lord's advice, he had placed himself in a position not the most enviable when he accused others of doing that in which he was himself a principal actor. The people, therefore, stood in this predicament—they gave 20,000,000l. for having the act carried out. The money ought not to have been paid until the carrying out of the act was secured. The money was paid; and now, for the first time, a bill is brought in to carry out the conditions and particulars of the Act of Emancipation. It cannot be denied, that those conditions had not been carried out. If they had, there would have been no necessity for this bill at all, and the very bringing in of the bill was a demonstration that they had not worked out the act of 1833, that the arrangements under that act had not been completed, and that the value of the 20,000,000l. had not been given to the people. He thought that this was perfectly clear from the speech of Sir Lionel Smith to the Legislative Assembly of Jamaica, in which he distinctly stated that in some instances the situation of the negro was worse under the present system than before the Emancipation Act. It was, therefore, perfectly plain that the people had been defrauded of 20,000,000l., and the only thing proposed was by a new act of Parliament to endeavour to get for the people the value of their money. But 173 could they recover the four years that had gone by? What compensation could they give to the people for the period that had elapsed since the payment of 20,000,000l., and what for the sufferings of the negroes during that period, against the provisions of the act? Some facts had come out, and had been admitted on all sides, which were of considerable importance to enable them to arrive at a proper practical conclusion. These facts were consolatory enough, as related to the planters; for in every discussion before the present they had heard repeated complaints of the poverty and distress of the planters, of their failing fortunes, their increasing incumbrances, and their diminished profits. They had always come before the House in the situation of persons complaining that their property had been diminished in value, and they implored the House not to take steps towards the emancipation of the negroes, as the effect would be, to accumulate misfortunes upon them. But now the scene was altered, and concomitant with the progress of emancipation of the negroes was the prosperity of the planters themselves. The hon. Baronet (Sir George Grey) read triumphantly a return of the imports and exports of the colonies, which showed that the imports had greatly increased, and consequently showing an increased consumption of all articles in the colonies. This fact, therefore, proved the increased internal prosperity of the colonies. They had, then, in the first place, this fact, that the planters themselves had benefitted by the emancipation. They had also another fact, borne out by entire evidence in all the discussions in which the negroes had been involved, that there was not the least well-grounded cause for saying, that the negroes had not conducted themselves in the manner which their warmest advocates prophesied they would do, and shown themselves perfectly fitted for entire liberty. Those facts were of the greatest importance. The planter was benefitted. The experiment had been made, and the negro had most satisfactorily responded to the experiment. Could there be any doubt, after the speech of the right hon. Gentleman (Sir E. Sugden), that the regulations of the act, and the conditions on which the money was paid, and the apprenticeship created, had been violated by the planters? No man could doubt it. They had, then, a violation of the engagements 174 under which the planters had received the public money. It had been said that there was in this case a contract, and he was sorry to find the right hon. Gentleman give countenance to it, although he must admit, that the right hon. Gentleman did not argue on the terms of a contract, but referred to a quasi contract rather than a real one. If there was any weak part in the right hon. Gentleman s able speech, this was the weakest, in which he endeavoured to describe what be supposed to be a contract between this country and the planters. The only objection started to entire emancipation was, that it would be a violation of a contract. But there must be a contract before it could be violated, and he asked, was there ail contract on this subject? The first person who appeared to suggest the idea of a contract was Lord Glenelg, but when he did so, he apologised for calling it a contract, as would be seen in his dispatch of the 13th of June, 1835. In addressing the Legislative Assembly of Jamaica, wishing to induce them to give to the apprentices the benefit of the law, he stated, "that there might be said to exist a solemn contract." It must be remarked, that Lord Glenelg did not call it a contract, he apologised for using the word. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir Edward Sugden) did not define what he called a contract. There was an act of the supreme Legislature, legislating of its own authority, and regulating the condition of its own subjects. There was nothing of a contract or a bargain. There were no parties to the contract, and there was no subject matter for the contract to operate upon. Did the noble Lord, (Lord Stanley) when he brought in the bill, state that any arrangement had been entered into with the legislature of the islands? Did he state, that he was holding out terms, or offering conditions on entering into a bargain? He said directly and emphatically the reverse. In his speech, made on introducing the proposition, on the 14th of May, 1832, that noble Lord distinctly stated, that on every occasion the British Parliament had endeavoured to persuade the legislative assemblies, especially that of Jamaica, to enter into arrangements for mitigating the horrors of slavery, and it was the confident expectation of the House that measures would be concerted by the colonial legislatures which should carry into effect the wishes of Parliament. 175It was thought, that the friendly warning Of Parliament would be sufficient to induce the colonists to attend to its wishes. That warning, however, that admonitory voice has gone forth, and for years and years, been, I am sorry to say, unheeded and disregarded by all the colonial legislatures; they have allowed it to be lost upon them, they have done nothing to further and accomplish that great measure which the mother country, eleven years ago declared to be so just and so desired. But the voice of warning has been found to speak in vain—the tongue of honest and affectionate counsel has not been heeded. I will not deny, that if we look to the measures agreed upon by the Colonial Legislatures since the period I have alluded to, some improvement may be found in points affecting the physical condition of the slaves; but I do assert boldly, and without fear of contradiction, even from themselves, that nothing has been done of that nature, extent, or character, which may fairly be characterised as a step toward the ultimate extermination of the system. I therefore now call upon the House to take the matter at once into its own hands."*There was no compact, therefore, with the legislatures. But it might be said, that if there was no contract with the colonial legislatures, there might have been one with the planters, and that they entered into a bargain with the Government of the day, which was sanctioned by Parliament, and which, having the force of a contract,. could not on the one side, be violated, without at least demonstrating that it had been violated on the other. There had, indeed, been a meeting between Government and the planters, and what was the result? Mr. Stanley, then Secretary for the Colonies, said,He did not wish to speak in the language of complaint; but he must say, that it was impossible to negotiate with a body such as the West-India deputation, which attended to hear proposals with authority to object to them, but without authority to offer any suggestion, or propose any modification, in a plan which they rejected. He stated to the deputation distinctly, that it was the intention of Government to carry into effect safely, and if possible, with their concurrence, a complete extinction of slavery, and that such extinction must form the basis of any plan on which Ministers would consent to act. The deputation declared they had no power or authority to propose any plan. Four of the number did, in their individual capacity, offer to his notice a plan, to which he should not have alluded, but that he found it had since been given to the public. The proposal was, that a grant should be made to the colonists of 44,000,000l.As he said before, there was no contract with the legislatures, and it was clear there was no contract with the planters. There was nothing in the nature of a contract. The principle was asserted, that negro slavery should be extinguished; and upon that principle they legislated. They determined to extinguish negro slavery, and the noble Lord, the Member for North Lancashire, was far from thinking, that the planters were entitled to have their negroes purchased by this nation, what was his original proposal? His first proposal was, to lend 15,000,000l. to the planters, to enable them to get through their present difficulties. It was but a loan they were to get, to be repaid, and it had no connexion with the purchase of the negro population. And now, when they heard of compacts, and of the violation of contracts, he would call back the attention of the people to the determination which then animated them to obtain extinction of slavery, a determination which might be lulled for a particular period into a tranquillity which should give no manifestation of its existence, but nevertheless, a determination which was not dead, but only slept, and which would rise again, imperatively, to demand that negro slavery should be utterly extinguished, not in name but in reality. The noble Lord, the Member for North Lancashire, in speaking of the determination of the people, used these words—* Hansard, (Third Series), vol. xvii. P. 1198.176 sterling; that the colonial proprietors should enjoy all existing rights over the slaves, for a period of one-and-forty years; and that that one-and-forty years was to be estimated from the time the 44,000,000l. could be paid out of the wages of the slaves, with four per cent. interest, and one per cent. sinking fund."*There is a growing determination on the part of the people of this country, to put an end to slavery, which no one can deny or wisely despise; a determination the more absolute, and the less resistible, because founded in sincere religious feelings, and in a solemn conviction, that things, wrong in principle, cannot be good in practice I and that determination is expressed in a voice so potential, that no minister can venture to disregard it.He said now, that that voice was so strong, that no minister could venture to disregard it. The voice spoke emphatically from one end of Great Britain to the other; it spoke from the inmost recesses* Ibid. vol. xviii. P. 137.177 of Ireland; and that voice was so potential, that no minister could venture long to disregard it; and after the speech of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir E. Sugden), and after the powerful manner in which he had put the violation of the terms upon which we paid the 20,000,000l., after the information that had been spread amongst the people by the anti-slavery societies—the government might get a majority against this motion, but it was substantially carried in that House. He hoped that, on this subject, the House would not exhibit another instance of a want of sympathy between them and the people. The people understood that they had given value for emancipation. The bringing in of an Act of Parliament was a confession that they had not got a return. It was impossible to say, that they had. For four years, the Government had brought in no Act for enforcing the Emancipation Act. Why did they do so now? In November last, the delegates from the anti-slavery societies waited upon Government, and urged them to pass some legislative measure. Government refused to bring in any legislative measure then, but they were bringing one in now; and why? Was it to protect the negro? No; but it was to prevent their having a resolution of that House in favour of the negro, and to make it an excuse to some to vote against the motion, and holding out hopes that something would be done. But the negro must have the protection of a vote of that House, and of an Act of the Legislature. The House must respond to the voice of the people at large. He had endeavoured to show, that there was nothing of what they could call a contract in this case, that there could be no parties to such a contract, and that no value had been received for the 20,000,000l. that had been paid. The planters had no right to resist the voice of the people in legislating; they did not want the planters assent, and they did not ask it. But the 15,000,000l. of loan were converted into a grant of 20,000,000l. The people consented to give this large bounty for the extinction of slavery; but this large sum was given upon conditions which the Legislature had enforced, or intended to enforce. One of the conditions was, that the planter should have the benefit of the services of the negroes for six years. Mr. Fowell Buxton, than whom no man ever rendered greater service to the cause of humanity—than 178 whom no man had written his name on the page of humanity in brighter letters, endeavoured to abolish apprenticeship altogether; and he rembered the prophetic words of the noble Lord, the Member for Northumberland (Viscount Howick) when he declared, on that occasion, that the only satisfactory and safe course was immediate emancipation. The noble Lord was, however, over-ruled; and if the story be true, that the casting voice that overruled him in the cabinet was that of a noble Lord elsewhere, it afforded a strange contrast to that noble and learned Lord's present exertions. It might be said, that he was wrong in making this taunt. He had attended anti-slavery meetings for many years, and no difference of political opinion had ever polluted such meetings except the last. He had met Whigs and Tories, Orangemen and Roman Catholics, all in the same arena, struggling for a purpose that was creditable to their common humanity; and he must say, that political difference, party zeal, or party attack, had never mingled in their proceedings, until the last meeting. And upon what pretence was it introduced? Not because anything was said at the meeting, but because some newspaper inserted something which displeased the noble and learned Lord (Lord Brougham). He therefore said this, that if he were The party who decided by his casting voice against the immediate abolition of apprenticeship, and who was now so exceedingly anxious to effect that object, he envied not his feelings, however much he might envy his great and transcendent talents. But to return to the subject in hand. He would say, that the contract was null. They had granted to the planters a boon of 20,000,000l. for the extinction of slavery. But it was not an absolute boon. There were conditions attached to it, and it lay upon the planters to prove, that those conditions had been performed. It was not for him to show, that they had violated those conditions; he charged them with not having performed the conditions of the grant, and he Challenged them to the proof. Who asserted that they had performed those conditions? Nobody. He had never heard any one assert that they had done so. No man was mad enough to say so. The only assertion made was, that they had not violated the conditions universally. What was the nature of those conditions? If the planters relied on the 179 performance of those conditions, they must themselves have completely performed them. A part performance would not do. One point out of 100, or 99 out of 100, would not do; there must be a complete performance. But those conditions had been almost universally broken. He appealed in proof of this to the Government, to the hon. Baronet (Sir G. Grey), and to the Bill which he sought to introduce. That Bill itself demonstrated, that the planters had not performed the conditions. After a lapse of four years, Government brought in a Bill to enforce the performance of the conditions of the Act of 1833. What had been done during the four years? What compensation were they to have for those four years? Could they do anything for the sufferings of the negroes all that time? Could they take the stripes off the backs of the female labourers? Could they give a proper allowance of food for those four years? No, they could do nothing to perform the conditions now. Time was the essence of the contract, if contract it was—it was the very essence of the conditions. The object which the people of England had in the emancipation had been utterly defeated. He begged to remind the people of England, that the hon. Baronet (Sir G. Grey), with his highly-cultivated mind, with his full preparation for the subject, and after the fullest research, with all the aid of official industry, came forward to make out his case; and he firmly appealed to the British people upon the case made by the hon. Baronet himself. The hon. Baronet, of course, produced his strongest documents; for if there was one Gentleman more likely to select the documents that suited his purpose, it was no compliment to say the hon. Baronet was the man. The first document cited by the hon. Baronet was from a despatch, dated the 9th of July, 1836, and which was as follows:—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, it is not universal. I know several attorneys who continue their old system of exacting the pound of flesh, which, I unhesitatingly pronounce to be the worst possible 180 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.".… "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 book-keepers and overseers have, out of spite to the Bill which set the slaves 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? The cases are, however, 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 reports of the parish of St. John's, where Spring Vale, under the management of Mr. J. Wright Turner, exhibits an absence of complaint which is quite extraordinary.Now, what was this brought to prove? The well-working of the Bill, though there was the solemn attestation of the Governor in his despatch, to the malpractices which had occurred under the law, to be placed in juxta position, with the single exception afforded by the management of Mr. Turner, in Spring Vale. It was not he who read this; it was the Colonial Secretary: and it was adduced to support the case, that the conditions upon which the Act proceeded were complied with, simply and solely, because no complaint proceeded from one district called Spring Vale. [Lord Stanley—"Hear!"] Would the noble Lord cry "hear I" to that part of the despatch in which the frequent departures from the law were dwelt upon, and in which it was stated, that there still were attorneys who "exacted the pound of flesh," and who, in the insolent spirit of half-defeated tyranny, persisted in their cruelty towards those unhappy men for whose liberation we had paid 20,000,000l. of our money. Did the noble Lord cheer now? Did he approve of such practices? The noble Lord talked of the "extinction" of slavery, and he used the same expression regarding another matter; and in both cases, the thing continued only in a more aggravated form. And this plan was the proof of the noble Lord's wisdom; this 181 apprenticeship system, by which he overruled the proposition of the noble Lord, the Secretary-at-War. But there was another passage in a despatch of the Marquess of Sligo, dated 1st August, 1836, in which that noble Lord says,—Your Lordship having beets pleased, in your despatches of the 24th of April, and of the 14th of 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 a 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 me, for having used on a former occasion the same language, I again say, advisedly, that the remedy must come from home.Now this despatch was written more than two years ago, in which distinct warnings were given, and special instances of the working of this law were supplied, which demonstrated, that the conditions on which this Act passed, were not performed, and that every species of cruelty still continued to be perpetrated. The government was called on then by the Marquess of Sligo, to legislate, in the year 1836.—They did not legislate in 1836—they did not legislate in 1837—they did not legislate in 1838, until they introduced an amendment on a motion, which, if carried, would make all further legislation on this subject totally unnecessary. But see how they confirmed the case on which he relied by their Bill. He thought every part of that measure was calculated to do so; but there was one topic in it on which he should reply at some length, because it was omitted by the hon. Gentlemen who so powerfully introduced the present motion. Why, the very preamble contained a distinct admission that the conditions of the Act were not complied with, for it said, "whereas it bath since appeared that further provisions are necessary for the protection of the apprenticed labourers in the said colonies, and for giving full effect to the intent and meaning of the said Act for the abolition of slavery." Who said this? The advocates of the 182 resolution? No; but the opponents of it: those who talked of "compact" and the "violation of engagements." These were the men who admitted, that up to the present moment the Abolition Act had not been carried into effect, and that further enactments were necessary to give it operation. Why we gave away our money four years ago; we paid the purchase-money four years ago; and why within that period of four years which had elapsed—why not in November last—declare that the negroes had been so ill treated that the Government had determined that they should have two days of the week to themselves—namely, Friday and Saturday? No; they preferred to withhold all legislation until they now came forward with a measure, not for the benefit of the negro, but in order to prevent the benefit which must result from this resolution being carried. The Bill then went on to appoint a kind of dictator. Now, he did not complain of this; but why did they not appoint him in the beginning, before the negro suffered four years of bondage? "And that," continued the hon. and learned Gentleman, "is the only remedy which you now propose for the evils which you acknowledge to exist. Yes, for you never can legislate against nature itself, and expect humane, and generous, and beneficent feelings from those who are made the taskmasters of their fellow-men. There are some men amongst the planters as remarkable as any in the community for their honour, integrity, and charitable feelings; but I speak of the general and overwhelming mass of the proprietors, and, above all, of the lower instruments of power—the attorneys and agents. Legislate for them you cannot. You cannot possibly intrust to any man dominion over another, and expect that he will adequately discharge the responsibility which he thus incurs. You cannot give one man a property in the labour of another, and hope that his conduct will be free from fault. Well, after four years of admitted suffering, you depute a dictator of limited authority to do that justice to the negroes which you have failed to afford them. I do not stop to inquire why this Bill does not give full discretionary powers to the governor, and make him not a one-handed or left-handed dictator, but invest him with authority to emancipate the negro if he should think fit. I am not asking you to do that, but 183 something else infinitely better. What is the next clause of the Act? How characteristic is the section which follows that establishing a despotism! It is to allow the negro the time spent in going to and returning from work. If any man in England had stated a doubt, when this Act was under consideration, that the master would require the negro to go to his work two or three miles, and work eight or nine hours, without allowing for the time spent in proceeding to and returning from the place of labour, he would have been laughed at? If the negro were to remain at home for two or three hours, could the master be persuaded to consider time so spent as consumed in his employment? And yet, when he transported him three, four, or five miles in a day, he did not make any allowance for the time thus passed in proceeding to the place where his work was to be done, but deducted it out of the miserable remnant of his labour, allowed to the apprentice after the proprietor's claims were satisfied. Was that the intention of the Legislature? It was not? Was it the intention of the Government? I submit it was not. We prove, that neither one nor the other had any such view by now enacting this clause to remedy the universal violation of the conditions of the Act, and to prevent a further spoliation of the negro's time, in addition to the deprivation of four years, which he has already undergone. Do we propose to give him any compensation? I have heard a great deal of compensation. I always thought the negroes deserved it at our hands. He, at all events, now deserves that which it is our duty to give him, and which all England demands—his liberty. It is impossible to do justice otherwise. The master obtained a title in the negro's labours only on conditions; and it is impossible for the Government to resist the emphatic declaration that these conditions have been violated, and that the negro ought to be free. What is the next clause? It provides that their customary allowances shall be continued to the negroes. Is it not quite clear and known to everybody that by customary allowances the law intends the apprentice should be allowed so much as to afford him, in the absence of wages, a full subsistence? What has been the operation of the law in this particular? Look to Sir Lionel Smith's last speech to the 184 Jamaica Legislature, where it is said, that in some instances the apprentice is in a worse condition than the slave, was it for this we gave the twenty millions? Was it that the negro should be stinted in the article of food? Oh, if there is anything which appeals with irresistible force to the human heart, it is the condition of a man who works without wages, and who even then is not mercifully treated! And shall it be said, that the people of England will endure the continuance of such monstrous abuses? Oh, but it is said, that we cannot complain of the continuance of this system, when two-thirds of the period of apprenticeship have already elapsed. Well, I ask you to give the negro the remaining third, which is the only relief he can now obtain at your hands. The advocates for immediate emancipation are taunted with referring to particular instances, and not establishing anything like universality of abuse? Why, one of the clauses of this Act gives every justice who thinks fit the power of visiting prisons. And again, the 5th section of this Act states, "that the proprietors of estates should furnish apprentices while in confinement or in hospital with food and necessaries." Though the word hospital is introduced, there is no provision for what would seem a necessary consequence—medicine. Do you think it safe to leave the construction of this provision to the planters, and while you impose on them the obligation of providing food and necessaries, leave their discretion unfettered as to that which would naturally suggest itself to the mind of any man legislating for the wants of those negroes, namely, medicine? This only shows how hopeless is the attempt to legislate on this subject in its present position. The next point touched upon in the bill applies to the valuation of the apprentices on seeking their discharge. Now, was it not intended that the apprentice should be set free as soon as he gave proof of his ability to enjoy a state of liberty; and is it not notorious that just in proportion as he showed himself to be industrious, the price of his liberation accumulated, and the law was so arranged that he was shut out from the advantage of purchasing his freedom at a fair valuation? And what are you now going to do? After four years you give him that right of obtaining a fair valuation, which you ought to have secured before 185 you paid the money for his obtaining this privilege. And let it be ever remembered, that while you had the money in your exchequer you could have obtained any stipulations which were necessary to ensure to the negro those advantages which you now make a tardy effort to confer upon him; but with preposterous haste you distributed the money without protecting the negro, or answering the claims of justice and humanity. It is next provided that no person shall be committed as a vagrant except by a stipendiary magistrate. This clause bespeaks a foregone conclusion—that any man found beyond the estate to which he belonged had been hitherto denominated a vagrant. And this is placed beyond doubt by the next provision, which requires that the negro should use a pass in going from one part of the country to the other. So that here is a freeman—for the apprenticed negro is entitled to that appellation when he has discharged his forty-five hours work in the week—debarred from the right of going from one place to another! The evidence is full of instances where men, desirous of visiting their wives and families, have been prohibited by the owners from passing the boundary of their estates. What is this but to make every plantation a prison, and to prevent a freeman from going beyond the limit of his task-master's property. I am not resorting to any doubtful evidence, but to the confessions emphatically made by the provisions of your own act of amendment. The next clause prohibits the flogging of females. Why I thought we had taken steps to prevent that in the Imperial Act. It is true in the first draft of the act all provision for this grievance was omitted, and I claim the honour of having placed on the order-book a notice to supply this defect. It is true that this point was very properly taken out of my hands by the noble Lord (Stanley), but I am not on that account the less anxious that this exemption should be full and complete. Has the provision inserted in the Imperial Act been carried into effect? I remember well how powerfully the noble Lord, in his eloquent speech on introducing the Emancipation Act, pointed out the unmanly cruelty, the total want of generous and noble feeling exhibited by the Members of the colonial legislatures, who could not be prevailed on to give up the whip, "even in the case of the female," not to speak of going so 186 far as to abolish flogging altogether. The noble Lord thought he had secured that object. He applied his powerful and ingenious mind to the subject with a view to give effect to his wishes; the clause was maturely framed and carried by the Legislature. Did it succeed? It is admitted it did not. And was it not one of the conditions, the most dearly cherished conditions, of the boon of six years' apprenticeship granted to the planters? It must be admitted—heaven help the man who can doubt itl—that the people of England acceded to the payment of the 20,000,000l. principally because they expected that this condition should be faithfully observed. The women of England, who have sent up uncounted millions of petitions in favour of the emancipation of the negroes, lent their countenance to the Imperial Act because they were convinced that it would have the effect of rescuing the unfortunate beings of their sex from the degradation, cruelty, and torture, of the lash. The noble Lord did everything he could to make this clause as stringent as possible. The Legislature did everything it could to assist him. But both totally failed; and this diabolical and atrocious violation of the express enactment of the Legislature some men have now the hardihood to designate as part of a contract which ought not in the slightest degree to be touched. Sir, the people of England laugh to scorn such a notion. You have heard within this House the noise occasioned by the congregated Dissenters who besiege your doors. And who are they that have raised this cry of immediate emancipation? Are they the idle and the violent agitators who look to the convulsions of the state, and disregard social order; men who look to the chances of revolution as holding out the hope of their being possibly useful to their interests? No; they are the steadiest, soberest, most industrio us, and most respectable men, differing from me as to religious forms, but holding out in their conduct the happy spectacle of religious zeal mixed with religious charity. They are men who do not care for distance of country or difference of clime, but risk their health as scattered missionaries of humanity, and have travelled at their own expense to the remotest corners of the globe in order to indulge the noble gratification of doing the work of their God by benefiting his creatures. These are the 187 men that you think to put off by a passage of Lord Glenelg's speech or asolitary intance of a colony in which the apprenticeship system has worked well. Recollect that four years have gone by, and that sufferings have been endured for that period, and yet two years more are now to be thrown in to answer the purpose of your present "hit or miss" kind of legislation. If you think they will bear this, you mistake the men. They have too much good sense and good feeling not to determine, should you reject this motion, to redouble their efforts, and to send up to your table 500,000 petitions, besides crowds of deputies, who will peaceably and quietly stand before your door, but who will insist on having freedom granted to the negro. They are enlisted in a cause too good and too sacred—dear as it is to humanity, and consecrated to religion—to admit of their respiting their exertions for a single moment until they succeed, as they ought to do, and until the last fetter is struck off from the limbs of the negro. But this bill contains one or two other provisions for compelling compliance with the conditions of the Emancipation Act. At this moment the distinction between prædial and non-prædial has not been ascertained. The hon. Baronet (Sir G. Grey) stated last night that if you passed a law in accordance with the resolution, it would not reach the West Indies until a day or two before the 1st of August. Now I shall ask in turn, what is to be the effect of his legislation, delayed until the 1st of August, for distinguishing prædial from non-prædial? How many a man, then entitled to his freedom, will be condemned to the illegal sufferings of slavery! The Jamaica Legislature have pertinaciously refused for four years to pass an act on this subject which you ought to have compelled them to have done in the first instance. It took myself a fortnight to understand the distinctions between prædial and non-prædial, attached prædial and nonattached prædial. Now, if ever there was a case which required that you should depute some high Commissioner for its settlement, it is that to which I have referred. But is it not insufferable that you should allow three—four years to pass without legislating at all on this question, and that you should pass a law which enables a man to augment his property at the expense of another, by raising the value of non-prædial over prædial slaves? This is a matter on 188 which the public sentiment cannot be checked. Dust may be thrown in the eyes of good men; delusions may be practised on honest men; but let me ask whether the Lord Chief Justice of the King's Bench would have volunteered an opinion if his conscience did not call on hint to promulgate it? I am entitled to ask who appointed the noble and learned Lord; who declared him to be the fittest man to preside over the first bench in the British dominions, which decides on questions relating to the honour, the lives, and the property of her Majesty's subjects? The present Government. They, at least, are precluded from saying, that he is not a man competent to his situation; and when he has stepped out of his usual course at the call of justice and humanity, his opinion may be called extra-judicial; but he has proclaimed, with all the solemnity and sanctity of his name, that there is no contract to prevent us from doing justice. I have, of course, wearied the House; but I think I have established these propositions, that the West-India planters have been greatly benefited by the emancipation; that complaints of distress and difficulty are no longer heard; that the imports are increasing, and the exports diminishing; and that the negro population have completely vindicated their character, and read an emphatic lesson to another country calling itself free, and boasting of its democratic institutions, to prove, when they speak of dangers to be apprehended from the brutalised negro, that he went through an apprenticeship of full four years, that his conduct was scrupulously watched, regularly attended to, and cautiously reported, and that he came out of the trial with the full praise of possessing all the kindly and warm feelings which belong to the social character, and of demonstrating his desire to ameliorate his condition, and to benefit the objects of his choice and love. What is the next proposition? I have proved that there was no compact, and that there were no parties to it; for that the Legislatures of the Colonies, though not disregarded by the noble Lord (Lord Stanley) were treated with that high hand which he had a right to use. I have next shown that this case is one on which the House is called upon to legislate, and on which it is not necessary that it should depart from any of its ordinary functions and powers. The hon. Baronet (Sir G. Grey) has said that the law of the country admitted a 189 state of slavery. I utterly deny that declaration in the sense in which it was made; and I put it to this test, that if a negro were brought before him as a judge in 1833, and his purchase proved, he could not have handed him over as property to the owner. I admit, that the law suffered the practice in the Colonies. Why? Because the arm of the law of England was not long enough to reach them; and because the writ of habeas corpus did not run into those colonies. But the moment the slave appeared at the bar of the King's Bench the title of the master was gone. But looking to the high power of the Legislature to decree the extinction of slavery, seeing that emancipation was granted in a manner most advantageous to the planter, who got a large sum of money, which, though I opposed, I should not now regret if I obtained value in return, and maintaining that the apprenticeship was given on conditions, I now stand on my last proposition, that these conditions were not performed, and that you may as well attempt to call back the waters of the Thames on which the late snows drifted as to resist the demands which are made to strike off the last fetters of the slave, and to make him what the people of England intended him to be.
§ Mr. Plumptre
felt himself bound by the contract which had been entered into. It had been argued that the House ought to accede to this proposition, on the ground of justice, humanity, and religion. He was not satisfied that on any of these grounds they were called upon to accede to the proposition of the right hon. Baronet. Were they certain that they were consulting kindness and humanity in acceding to this motion? It had been argued that, because the negro had been punished severely in some cases, justice demanded you should give him general emancipation. Was this justice to the planter who had treated the negro with kindness? Neither on the ground of religion could he accede to this motion. If it were true that he should be committing an act of justice by acceding to such a proposition, he never could sanction the proposition which would lead him to do evil, that good might come. As to the negroes themselves he more than doubted that it would, be consulting their good, if we were to say to them, knowing how utterly unprepared they were for free labours, and to meet the temptations which they would be exposed in their sudden 190 emancipated condition, "You are at liberty to go where you please, and do what you like." The hon. Member then proceeded to contend that this question, if carried at all, should be carried without passion or prejudice. His mind was made up that he had a solemn duty to perform, and however displeasing his vote might be to his constituents, he must give it against the motion of the hon. Baronet, and support the amendment. He could never bring himself to sanction any violation of a solemn compact.
§ Viscount Howick
spoke as follows:* —The deep interest I have for many years taken in the subject before the House, and the share I had in the discussions upon the measure, which it is now proposed to alter, have rendered me anxious to state the grounds of the vote I am about to give, as early as I can, in this debate. If that vote depended upon the question, of whether the system of apprenticeship were one of which I can approve, upon whether my present opinion were different from that which I entertained in 1833, as to the course which it would then have been expedient for the legislature to adopt, if this were the question now to be decided, I should not hesitate for a moment in giving my vote in favour of the motion of the hon. Baronet. The experience of the five years which have elapsed since this measure was passed, has only confirmed and deepened the opinion I then entertained, of the inexpediency of adopting the system of apprenticeship. But, unhappily, political errors can seldom be redeemed, by retracing false steps which have once been taken. It too generally happens, that by so attempting to go back, instead of correcting, we should only aggravate the evil consequences of the original mistake. Such, I believe, would be the case in the present instance. The result of adopting the proposition of the hon. Baronet, would, I am convinced, be only to increase the ill effects of the error we before committed. Such, Sir, is my opinion of the present question, and I fear, it will be necessary for me, in order to support this opinion, to trespass upon the time of the House, by endeavouring to place before you a review of the circumstances which led to the adoption of the measure it is now proposed to alter; and the consequences, which, as it* Reprinted from a corrected edition published by Ridgway.191 appears to me, would be likely to follow from such an alteration.
In the first place, then, I must remind the House that the plan of interposing between what was called the Abolition of Slavery, and the time when perfect emancipation was to take place, an interval during which the slaves were in some modified shape, to be under the control of their masters, did not originate with those who were connected with the Colonies. This plan was not suggested by any person interested in colonial property, but was brought forward by the then Government, of their own free will, unsought for, and unrecommended by any other parties. The measure was received also, with the general sanction and approbation of the House. I must remind my hon. and learned Friend behind me (Dr. Lushington) that he, and those who had long taken the greatest interest in the cause of the slaves, did not, when the question was first brought forward by the Government, concur in objecting to the principle of apprenticeship; they expressed, indeed, their strong disapprobation both of the period for which the apprenticeship was intended to last, and also of many of the conditions attached to it; they directed their efforts towards obtaining amendments in these respects, and being cordially joined by myself, and others who would have preferred resisting the system altogether, these efforts were partially successful, and we obtained from the Government several most important modifications of the original scheme; but the leaders of the anti-slavery party, both in and out of the House, refused most distinctly, to join in resisting, in the first instance, the principle of some sort of apprenticeship.
When I say this, let not my hon. and learned Friend suppose that I mean to cast the slightest blame upon him, and upon those who then acted with him. Far from it; I am well aware of the high and honourable motives by which they were actuated; and how valuable had been their services, during the many years in which they had devoted themselves, with so much zeal and so much ability, to the great cause of humanity. But with all respect for them, I must think that they did fall into an error; but an error into which it was very natural that they should fall. However easy it may now be to look back, and to say, that apprenticeship was altogether unnecessary, that it is 192 merely a system of modified slavery, which was useless as a means of arriving at ultimate emancipation; such certainly was not, some years ago, the general opinion, either of the House or of the country. At that time, persons of all parties, and, I might almost say, of every shade of opinion, were agreed upon this as an admitted truth, that Slavery could only be gradually abolished. Such was the opinion of Mr. Burke; such was the opinion of Mr. Canning, who, if I mistake not, said, that we must take off the fetters of the slave, link by link, until he had at last become a free man. Such was also the opinion of Mr. Buxton, whose services we roust all so much admire, and whose absence from this House, I, for one, so deeply lament. Such was, in fact, the general and universally received opinion, which prevailed some time ago, upon this subject. I certainly do not mean to assert that I was myself at first exempt from participating in this, as I now think it, general and unfortunate error; on the contrary, for a long time after I turned my attention to the subject of slavery, I was content to believe al most without examination, as a truth too self-evident to be disputed, that emancipation could only take place by degrees; that the proper mode to effect it, was to endeavour gradually to mitigate its evils, and to remove the restraints to which the slave was subject, until he should eventually become free. It was only after I had for some time had the honour of holding the office of Under Secretary of State for the Colonies, when it had been my almost daily duty to watch over the practical working of the attempt to carry this idea into effect, when I had for two years had the opportunity of observing the constantly recurring difficulties which arose, and the impossibility, even with the most favourable means, of working out the scheme of gradual emancipation—it was only by this experience that my eyes were at length and slowly opened to that, which I am now prepared to maintain was an error and a delusion, into which I, in common with all around me, had previously fallen. I was at last convinced, that the vice of slavery is in the very principle of slavery itself; that if one man is to have an interest in the compulsory labour of another, it is utterly fruitless to endeavour to guard against injustice and cruelty by any number or description of checks and regulations.
193 It is impossible that a man doomed to the odious and hateful task of labour, in which he has no interest, but of which all the fruits are to be reaped by another, should be stimulated to exertion, otherwise than by severity. Forced labour of this description, in whatever part of the world it is performed, and by whatever name the labourer is called, whether he is a slave, a convict, or an apprentice, must always, by the deepest-seated principles of human nature, be unwillingly rendered; and if this labour is to be effective, you must necessarily arm the person who is to profit by it with power to inspire that fear, by which alone it can be extorted; and, if you give this authority to one man over another, it is impossible to prevent its being abused.
Such was the conviction which forced itself upon my mind, after two years experience of an attempt, I must say, most zealously and honestly made, by my noble Friend, the then Secretary of State for the Colonies, to work out the principle of the resolutions adopted by this House, in the year 1823. Then it was, that I came to the conclusion, that we had been proceeding altogether in a wrong course, that our object ought to have been to put an end at once to the system of giving to the master an interest in the compulsory labour of the slaves, in order to place the slaves in such a position that, by moral motives acting upon his will, he might he stimulated and trained to industry. I was then farther convinced that all that had been said about training slaves, while kept in a state of slavery, in order to teach them habits of industry, and thus to make them fit for ultimate emancipation, was the veriest nonsense that had ever been imposed upon a nation. How is it possible to teach men the value of industry, by forcing them to labour, and allowing all the fruits of their labour to be reaped by their masters? All experience shows, that to place men in such a situation, must have a precisely contrary effect, and must associate labour with the idea of pain and degradation. Is it not known, that in our convict colonies, the industrious British labourer is almost ashamed to labour, lest he should put himself upon a level with the convicts? Do we not see that in the southern states of the American Union, and in Barbadoes, the white race will submit to almost any extremity of privation rather than have recourse to labour, which is degraded in 194 their estimation, by being usually the lot of the despised and miserable Negro? In every country, a system of forced labour makes labour hated and disgraceful. What, then, is the meaning of training and preparing the negroes for industry when emancipated, by a system which has the distinguishing characteristic of slavery, that of requiring the performance of compulsory labour, for another's benefit? The idea seems to me, to be absurd, and when, at the period of which I am speaking, I came to this conclusion, I endeavoured to press it upon the consideration of the Government, and I most earnestly recommended the adoption of a measure, for the complete and entire abolition of slavery.
But it would not have been reasonable to suppose, that the long-continued and deeply-rooted prejudice which then existed, as to the necessity of proceeding by degrees,—a prejudice that had scarcely been combated by any one, should have given way to so humble an opinion as mine. In the first instance, indeed, I had reason to entertain the cheering hope, that the views I had adopted upon this subject would also be adopted by the Government, I had reason to believe, that several Members of the Government, were prepared to act upon the opinion I have enforced. It is notorious to the House, that a measure founded upon the principle I have just endeavoured to lay down, was submitted by my noble Friend, the then Secretary of State for the Colonies, to those interested in West-Indian property. It is also, I believe, well known, that this proposal, unfortunately, was not combined with an offer of those pecuniary, advantages which were after-wards given. To this scheme the West-Indian body threatened their most determined opposition, in case it should be brought forward; and, in defiance of this opposition, the Government, upon full consideration, determined that it would not be prudent to proceed. I endeavoured, but in vain, to obtain the re-consideration of this decision; the risk of acting in direct opposition to the whole body of the colonial proprietors was thought too formidable to be encountered; and above all I found that the fact of such being the decided opinion of the noble and learned Lord, who then held the high office of Lord Chancellor, outweighed all the arguments I could urge. Nor could I expect it to be otherwise—his extraordinary talents, the active part which, immediately before his 195 accession to office, he had taken in favour of the slaves, naturally gave an overwhelming weight to his opinion upon this subject in the minds of his colleagues, and induced them to conclude, that a measure for the benefit of the slaves, which he thought too extensive and too dangerous to be attempted, was one which it would be impossible to risk; and I soon found, that even those members of the Government whom, shortly before, I had believed to be prepared for a large measure, now altered their views of the subject. The consequence was, of course, that I was obliged to declare, that I could not continue in office; but before any new arrangement could be made, from causes quite unconnected with this question, my noble Friend, the then Secretary of State, took another office, and was succeeded, in the Colonial Department, by my noble Friend, who now sits opposite (Lord Stanley). A few weeks afterwards, my noble Friend (Lord Stanley) brought forward the resolutions which were the foundation of the measure, which was afterwards passed into a law. These resolutions, as I have already observed, as far at least as their principle was concerned, met with the general acquiescence of the House. The hon. and learned Member for Dublin, Mr. Buckingham, then Member for Sheffield, and some others, perhaps, forty or fifty Members in all, concurred with me in protesting against the system of apprenticeship altogether. But that there should be some such step taken, that the master should have, under some conditions, and for a limited period, an interest in the labour of the slave, and that the slave should be subjected to the obligation of giving that labour, was a principle so generally received at the time, that it obtained the consent of at least nine-tenths of the Members of the House.
Sir, I have been obliged to enter into this detail, and to call upon the House to take this retrospect of the circumstances under which the measure for the Abolition of Slavery was carried, because they have the most material bearing upon the matter which is now before us. The whole question we have to decide, in fact, hinges upon these circumstances. It is scarcely possible that a great arrangement could be adopted in a manner which more completely pledged the legislature, not subsequently to alter it, so as in any way to damage the interests of the parties affected by it. The 196 measure, as I have shewn, was brought forward, numbering among its supporters every one of those who had taken the most distinguished part in advocating the Abolition of Slavery; it fixed, for a definite period, what was to be the condition of the apprentices, with an express understanding that, during that period, no further alteration should be made by the authority of Parliament. But this is not all; when the Act was passed, and reached the colonies, it is well known by hon. Gentlemen, who watched their proceedings, that the local legislatures shewed so little favour for the system of apprenticeship, that the slightest exercise of the influence of the Government would have been enough to determine them to give a preference to complete emancipation. Had this influence been used, and especially if there had been only a very trifling degree less of easiness than was actually shewn as to the terms upon which these legislatures should be declared, in the words of the Act to have made "adequate and satisfactory provision" for the Abolition of Slavery; there can be no doubt whatever that to entitle themselves to the compensation, they would, probably, all have done away with slavery altogether, as the island of Antigua actually did. Nay, more, it is well known, and the files of the Jamaica newspapers would confirm the statement, that in the Assembly of that island itself, in that body which has been so much abused, there was so numerous a party, and so strong a feeling in favour of complete emancipation, that it is very doubtful whether this would not have been the line preferred, if the governor, acting in accordance with the policy of the Home Government, and of the Legislature, bad not discountenanced, rather than encouraged, any such project. Such being the ease, let me ask, whether it would be fair—whether it would be just—now to change and overturn an arrangement which was thus come to, and thus sanctioned, unless some unanswerable reason for doing so can be shown to exist.
We are told that there is such a reason; the hon. and learned Gentleman, who spoke lately in the debate (Mr. O'Connell) endeavoured with great forte and ability, to shew that there had been no contract, and that, if there had, it had been broken. Now, I conceive, that my hon. Friend, the Member for Devonport, had already, last night, most completely demolished 197 this argument. My hon. Friend showed, that the abuses upon which so much stress had been laid, were the exceptions to the general practice, and not the rule as might be supposed, from the manner in which they have been brought forward; that for the future also, they would be guarded against and prevented by the Bill which he had proposed now to read a second time. For my own part I confess, that my surprise is not that there has been so much ground for complaint, but, on the contrary, that the system has, upon the whole, worked as successfully, and as prosperously as it has. In my opinion, the legislature has great reason to congratulate itself that the dangers and difficulties which were anticipated, have not proved to be of a more serious character.
In expressing this opinion, and in employing these arguments, let me not be misunderstood as wishing to intimate that, in my judgment, it is desirable that the apprenticeship should continue to the period now fixed by law, or that the mere pecuniary interest of the masters of those apprentices would be any sufficient reason for a rejecting the motion before the House, if it could rejecting shewn that justice to the negroes required that this motion should be adopted. I am far from meaning to advance either of these opinions. I should hail with the utmost satisfaction, the earliest possible termination of the apprenticeship, provided (but this is most material), provided, I say, that that termination took place not by the authority of Parliament, but by the authority of the Colonial Legislatures. I admit, also, to the hon. and learned Member for Dublin, that the claims of the negroes cannot be shut out by any compact between this nation and their masters.
If justice to the negroe requires that we should put an end to the system of apprenticeship, we are bound to do so, and if, by taking this course, any pecuniary injury is done to the Colonial proprietors, this may give them a claim upon us for further compensation, but it can afford no justification whatever for withholding from the negroes, that which we admit to be their due. But, setting aside any mere pecuniary claims of the masters, I must reply to the hon. and learned Member, by saying, that Parliament is bound to adhere to the compact, or understanding, or whatever it may be called, by which the existing arrangement is secured, upon the 198 ground, that the apprenticeship system, not having been sought for by the Colonial Legislature, or by the West-Indian proprietors, but having been the unsolicited act of the British Government, and the British Parliament, we have no right now to unsettle that system, to the injury, not only of the pecuniary interest of the Colonists, in the services of their apprentices, but of those far higher interests which would be affected, by alienating from each other, the different classes of society in the Colonies, and lowering the Colonial Legislatures in the eyes of the population, which they are permanently to govern. In this sense, I contend, that any fresh interference, by Parliament, with the existing arrangement, would be a breach of compact, and an injury, not only as regards the whites, but also the negro population of the Colonies. I have always considered it a matter of most vital importance, that the change now in progress in the constitution of society, in our Colonies, should be accomplished, without any interruption of their regular industry, or a sudden cessation of the existing system of cultivation. I consider this of importance, not merely on account of the interests of the Colonial proprietors, and of the numerous class of persons in this country, dependent upon them,—not merely for the sake of our own commerce, nor even of the immense slave population in the dominions of other States, but for the real welfare of the negroes themselves, because their real happiness, and their real interests, would be best promoted, not by their escaping from their present bondage into a state of barbarous indolence, but, on the contrary, by their being placed, when free, in a situation, in which they would be induced to continue in a course of industry for their own benefit, by which the Colonies might be maintained in the condition of civilised communities. This is, what I believe the real interests of the negro to require, but the hope of such a state of things being realised, would be greatly diminished, and the interests of the negroes, therefore, most materially injured by any act, on our part, having a tendency to alienate the masters from their apprentices.
Now, Sir, it appears to me, that our adopting the Motion of the hon. Baronet, would have this tendency in the very highest degree, since it would be condemning, 199 by the authority of the British Parliament, the conduct of the Colonists under the Act of 1833. To set aside the arrangement thus come to, upon the express ground, that the Colonial proprietors have not fulfilled our just expectations, that the alleged abuses have really been so great as to make this course necessary, would be to stamp the whole body of Colonial proprietors, in the opinion of the apprentices, and in the opinion of mankind, with the stigma of the vilest and most scandalous misconduct. We have no right so to stamp them; or to take the course which has been recommended, without, at least, giving to the Colonial Legislatures an opportunity of considering, whether, if the system of apprenticeship, which they never asked for, is now to be abolished, they would not take to themselves the merit of carrying at once into effect that change, which, under the law as it stands, would not happen for two years longer. The argument, then, for which I contend that we are bound to adhere to the arrangement that was made in 1833, does not rest upon the pecuniary interests of the masters in the services of their apprentices, but upon the much higher ground, that this arrangement having been adopted by the Colonies in deference to our views, this acquiescence on their part, most assuredly ought not to be made the means of inflicting upon them the great and lasting injury, of exasperating the irritation which, I fear, exists between the various classes of society. I have always considered it matter of minor importance, what is to be the immediate effect of our measures, in comparison with their result, as to the state which society, in the Colonies, is ultimately and permanently to assume. In this respect, I have always thought, that the measure adopted in 1833 was to great objection. By deferring the period of emancipation for six years, the gratitude which the planters felt, in the first instance, for the pecuniary compensation awarded to them, was likely to be, in a great degree, forgotten, before the time for trying the great experiment of giving entire freedom to the negroes should arrive; and, in like manner, the joy and thankfulness with which the negroes were sure to receive the unexpected announcement, that they were to be free, would be succeeded by those feelings of anger and disappointment, which the continuance of the system of forced labour for six years 200 after this announcement, was calculated to produce. Both parties would be placed in a relation to each other, which could hardly fail to create mutual animosity and ill-will; since the planters were to have a claim to the services of the negroes, which they would have no adequate means of enforcing; and the negroes, on the other hand, after being excited by being told, that they were no longer slaves, would still find themselves called upon to submit to that which had made slavery most odious; thus, bickering, and discontent would arise, which might probably be avoided, if full compensation were given on the one hand, and immediate liberty on the other. Thus, it appeared to me, that when the complete change should ultimately take place, and when the future prosperity of the Colonies would so entirely depend upon the different classes of society, co-operating together in a spirit of mutual confidence and good-will, this result would be much less likely to be attained after an interval of six years' apprenticeship, than if no such state of transition were attempted.
Such were my anticipations of the probable effect of this measure in 1833, and I regret to think, that they have, to a great extent, been realized by the actual working of the measure. Hon. Gentlemen, I see, express their dissent; but I confess, it appears to me that the papers upon the table, and the abuses which have been referred to, afford only too conclusive evidence of the irritation which has been created. Do you think that such occurrences as are detailed to us, that the circulation of such stories, as that of James Williams, could tend to create harmony and good feeling in the Colonies? Do you suppose, that the discussions which are now going on in this country, that the debate of this evening, and the division by which it is to be followed—the natural results of the measure of 1833, will tend to foster the mutual good feeling between the masters and their apprentices, and to heal the divisions and jealousies of Colonial society? To those who think so, I can only say, that my opinion is precisely the reverse. But, if I am right in believing, that hitherto the measure of 1833 has tended to exasperate and embitter against each other the labouring population of our Colonies and their masters; if this is one of the worst effects of that measure, I contend that our now 201 adopting the Motion of the hon. Baronet, would only increase the mischief; it would be declaring to the negroes, "Your masters have been guilty of such cruelty, and of such oppression, we have been compelled to reduce to four years the period of apprenticeship, which was intended to last for six." We should thus do all that in us lies to envenom and to render permanent those feelings of hostility which, I fear, are already engendered between the parties.
This is a course, therefore, which, in my opinion, it would be both inexpedient and unjust to adopt. And we must also remember, that, by the acknowledgment of all parties, various laws will be indispensably required to regulate the new state of society which will arise, when the apprenticeship is at an end. But if we adopt the resolutions of the hon. Baronet, no time whatever will be given for making these necessary laws, the passing of which has hitherto been delayed upon the express advice and recommendation of a Committee of this House, of which the most distinguished enemies of slavery were the leading members. We shall suddenly, and without warning, precipitate that change for which we have taught the Colonists to believe, that they have still two years to prepare.
I say, then; that if, having originally caused the Colonial assemblies to adopt the system of apprenticeship, we are now determined abruptly to put an end to it, we are, in common justice, bound, at least, to give them fair warning of the change of our intentions, to afford them time and opportunity to prepare to meet this change, and possibly to give themselves, in the eyes of the negroes, the merit of having voluntarily anticipated the period when servitude must altogether cease. I believe it to be by no means impossible, that they may themselves pass measures for this purpose; I am convinced they will do so, if they are influenced by an enlightened regard for their own interests, and will consider what advantages would result from doing that, which would be received by the negroes as a free boon, and which would operate with the most salutary influence upon the future and permanent relations of society; I am encouraged in this hope, by various considerations, by the course taken, in the first instance, by Antigua, and by Bermuda, by the recent determination of the Legislature of Mont- 202 serrat, and by the statement which was made last night, by the hon. Member for Durham, of the opinion expressed by a leading member of the assembly of Jamaica, in favour of complete emancipation. The Bill, too, of which my hon. Friend, the Under Secretary of State, has proposed the second reading, will, I believe, greatly contribute to lead the Colonial assemblies to take this course. I see that hon. Gentlemen express incredulity upon this point, and regard, as altogether visionary, the hope of such a measure being adopted by the assemblies; they seem to treat as idle, or worse than idle, the expectation of anything good from these bodies. I cannot acquiesce in the justice of this opinion. I think, that we have dealt out somewhat hard measure in our judgment of the Colonial Legislatures. I am as ready as any man, to admit that the laws they passed in the ten years, previous to 1833, for the mitigation of slavery, and those which they have since passed for the regulation of Apprenticeship, have been bad, but, I must be permitted to doubt, whether, if we, in this House, had been placed in a similar situation, we should have legislated much better. The fault seems to me, to have been much less in the Colonial Legislatures, than in the object to which we have directed their efforts; we have desired them to perform impossibilities, and to reconcile contradictions, and it is unjust to find fault with them, for failing to execute such a task. I say, we have desired them to perform impossibilities, and to reconcile contradictions; for we have called upon them to maintain the system of forced labour, and, yet to guard against oppression; while, for the reasons I have endeavoured to explain, in the commencement of the observations I have now addressed to the House, I am persuaded, that if you are to have forced labour, you must necessarily intrust to those who are to profit by it, powers which are liable to be abused, and which, while human nature continues what it is, will not fail occasionally to be so. Sir, these considerations, in my opinion, sufficiently explain the unanimous refusal of all the Colonial Legislatures during the ten years previous to 1833, to pass satisfactory laws for the mitigation of slavery, in compliance with the opinion expressed by both Houses of Parliament, in the resolutions proposed by Mr. Canning. Those Legislatures knew 203 better than we did, the real nature of that system, which they were required to amend, and, at the same time, to maintain; they were conscious that fear was the mainspring of the whole machine, and this mainspring they were naturally averse to weaken, by imposing restrictions upon the arbitrary power of the master, and by depriving him of the means of inspiring terror into his slaves. The defects so much complained of, in the laws passed by the colonies, in furtherance of the objects contemplated by the Abolition Act may, in like manner, be accounted for. My hon. Friend, the Under Secretary of State, has mentioned, that with respect to those laws, what has given rise to the most complaints has been the want of any legal obligation to compel the master to continue those allowances to the apprentices, to which, as slaves, they were considered to be entitled; to make him divide the number of hours of labour which he has a right to demand, in the manner most convenient to them, or to prevent a vexatious enforcement of the authority which he possesses. My hon. Friend has, at the same time, said, that in general the planters do continue to give the allowances in question, and are not guilty of the sort of tyrannical conduct which it is desired to check by law; that the cases in which the apprentices are ill used, in these respects, are the exceptions, and not the rule, why then, it may be asked, does it happen, if the very great majority of the planters already themselves do what is right toward the negroes, that the assembly which represents the whole body will not be induced to pass laws to restrain the misconduct of the small minority? How is this seeming contradiction to be explained? The reason for their conduct, which has been stated by the Members of the Assembly of Jamaica is, that if they were to make such enactments, as are required from them, the only effectual means they possess of inducing the apprentices really to exert themselves in their service would be taken away; that if there was nothing they could withhold, no coercion they could apply, of their own authority, to stimulate the apprentice to industry during the hours he is by law bound to work for his master, the natural aversion to fruitless toil, and the wish to reserve his strength for the time which belongs to himself, would lead him to avoid performing more labour than he could help, and, that against this disposition no 204 sufficient remedy would be afforded by the power of the Special Magistrate, to punish the apprentice for such a degree of idleness as can be proved by distinct evidence; this power may be sufficient to make the negro pass the allotted hours with the instruments of labour in his hands, but not to compel him to put forth his strength in his master's service; or, to perform such an amount of labour as to make it really valuable to his employer. The Members of the Assembly, therefore, tell you, and, I must say, I think they not unnaturally or unfairly tell you, that though individually in these matters they will deal justly by their uppreutices, though they deprecate and condemn the conduct of the few who do otherwise, and who use the power they possess for the purpose of oppression, still they cannot consent by Legislative enactments to render compulsory that mode of treating the apprentices which they would desire to see universally adopted, because, if it were made compulsory, even the best masters would be deprived of that power, which, under the existing system, their interest requires that they should possess.
But, though I am not, for these reasons, surprised that the Assembly has refused to legislate in a manner satisfactory to us, with respect to apprenticeship, I think it will be quite right that Parliament should interfere, and should, by adopting the bill, of which my hon. Friend has moved the second reading, enforce, so long as the state of apprenticeship shall continue, its being made conformable to what was expected by the country, when the measure of 1833 was adopted. My belief is, that when we do so, that when we show the Colonial Legislatures that at all events, the masters must give up their present powers, which are so liable to abuse, and cannot be permitted to resort to the means which they have hitherto employed, for enforcing the labour of the apprentices, the result will be, that they will think it wiser to give up the system altogether, and that when they can no longer bring force and terror effectively to bear upon the minds of the negroes, as a stimulus to labour, they will apply themselves to consider whether their object may not be better accomplished by other means, and whether the labouring population in the colonies, may not be brought under the influence of an entirely new class of motives, those motives which form the stimulus to industry in countries where slavery is un- 205 known. I have the strongest hope that the Bill, now before us, when passed into a law, with the advice and encouragement, which I am sure, my noble Friend, the Secretary of State, will not fail to afford to the colonial legislatures, will induce them to adopt this, their wisest course, and if so, I am convinced the result will be most beneficial to all the colonies, and more especially to Jamaica. I can conceive nothing more important, with a view to the future welfare of that island, than that the Assembly, and the class which it represents, should be induced thus, even in the eleventh hour, to reconcile themselves with the negro population, and to place those, who have stood to each other in the relation of master and slave, in harmony together, at the time that servitude is to cease. If the House of Assembly of Jamaica should adopt such a course, this most important object would be gained, and I think they have, on other grounds, every inducement to do so. All the experience which we have had since 1833, is in favour of such a measure. Since that time, it has been proved, even if proof had before been wanting, that the negroes may be impelled to industry, by the same motives, and the same desires, by which men of other races are acted upon.—Additional proof has also since been afforded, of the soundness of those opinions, first promulgated, eight or nine years ago, by Mr. Gibbon Wakefield, of the connexion which exists between the power of obtaining continuous labour, and the maintenance of a due proportion, between the extent of land which is occupied, and the numbers of the population.
The experience of our Australian colonies, has clearly proved, that that wide extent of territory, which was formerly supposed to create so great a difficulty, in maintaining any system of combined and continuous labour, may be prevented from producing this effect, and be made instead, a new source of wealth.
For these reasons, I again repeat, that I see no ground for despairing of an early abolition of the system of apprenticeship, by the authority of the colonial legislatures; but even if this expectation could be shown to be vain, even if it were certain that this system were to be allowed to continue for the two additional years it may last by the law as it now stands, I would rather permit it to do so, providing, 206 as far as is practicable, by the measure now before us, against those abuses which have existed, than incur all the hazard, and all the certain inconvenience, which, in my opinion, must result from adopting the motion of the hon. Baronet, the Member for Yorkshire.
Such, Sir, are my views upon this moat important question. I am prepared to find that they meet with the concurrence of comparatively a small proportion of the House. I am well aware that they will be unsatisfactory to those who call themselves the advocates of the colonial interest, who would have preferred that I should have expressed an opinion in favour of the system of apprenticeship, which, not entertaining it, nothing should induce me to profess. I know also, that these views will be still more distasteful to those with whom I cordially concur in their abhorrence of slavery, and of every modification of slavery, but who seem to me now, in their demand for immediate and unconditional emancipation, to be acting rather on the dictates of passion, than of cool and sober reason. Gentlemen, both in and out of this House, seem to me to have brooded over individual cases of cruelty and oppression, and to have dwelt upon the highly-coloured pictures of the wrongs of the negro, conjured up by their own imaginations, till they have worked themselves into a state of excitement, which gives no fair play to their sober reason, and has induced them to allow some slight tinge of vindictive feeling against the colonial proprietors—something of resentment against the whole class, which they regard indiscriminately as oppressors, and as wrong-doers, to be mingled with those high feelings of humanity and benevolence, by which, I am well aware, that they are mainly actuated. In saying this, I trust that I shall give no offence to those excellent persons to whom I allude. But we all know how deceitful is the heart of man—that the best impulses of the best men, are seldom without some alloy of a baser kind. I hope, therefore, I may be pardoned when I repeat, that I cannot help thinking, from the tone that has been adopted in speeches at public meetings, that the just indignation against oppression, the generous and praiseworthy sympathy for the oppressed, which have been manifested by the speakers on these occasions, have been allowed to grow into something like anger 207 and resentment, against the ruling class in our colonies. But I need hardly say how much it is our duty to guard against the influence of motives like these, and in how different a spirit we ought to legislate on this important subject. For my part, it has always appeared to me, that we are bound to regard the white inhabitants of our slave colonies, not with any feelings of irritation, or of harshness, even when we have most right to complain of their conduct, but, on the contrary, with sentiments of indulgence and compassion, as persons hardly less deeply wronged than the slaves themselves, by the sin of the British Parliament, in allowing the accursed institution of slavery to take root, and grow up amongst them. True it is, they have been exempt from those, physical sufferings which have weighed so heavily upon the unfortunate negroes, but physical sufferings are not the worst that can be inflicted upon men—moral corruption and degradation carry with them misery, less obvious, perhaps, but not less keen, nor less lasting, and the white inhabitants of our slave colonies have been exposed to that moral blight (if I may use the expression) which pervades and corrupts the air wherever slavery is allowed to exist, We, therefore, who have been parties to its existence, have no right to judge with severity, nor to visit with harshness the faults which its influence has created. It is our duty, on the contrary, to do with firmness, all that is required by justice to the oppressed, but to do it with all possible mildness and indulgence towards those who have only been our instruments in the oppression so much complained of. By taking this course, too, let me remind hon. Gentlemen, that we shall be doing what is most likely to lead to the real and permanent welfare of the negroes themselves; what is best calculated, under the blessing of Providence, to convert into free, into prosperous, into enlightened, and religious communities, those colonies which have, heretofore, resounded with the clank of chains, and with the cries of the oppressed, which must now, at all events, soon be relieved from the last traces of slavery, but which, by any precipitation, or imprudence of ours in this crisis of their fate, may still be made to escape from the horrors of their past condition, only to fall into the lighter, but still deplorable, evils, of hopeless confusion and 208 barbarism. Let us remember how fearful is this alternative, and how deep will be the responsibility, which will rest upon all those who may, in any way, contribute to the failure of this great experiment. Let hon. Gentlemen remember, that no one vote, which shall this night be given, will be without its importance, that even, if the resolution of the hon. Baronet should be rejected, still the expression of a strong feeling, by a large minority of this House, in favour of the motion, may have almost incalculable effects on the minds of the negroes, and produce dangers of the gravest and most serious kind.
It is, therefore, the solemn duty of every man, in giving his vote upon this momentous question, to be guided, not by any feelings of excitement which he may have allowed to enter his own mind, still less by the prevalence of such feelings among his constituents, who have had no opportunity of considering the arguments which have been adduced against the measure proposed to us, but exclusively by the dictates of his own cool reason, and deliberate judgment.
said, that after thirty years consideration of the subject, he felt bound to enter his protest against the doctrine of his noble Friend who had just sat clown. In addressing to the House a few observations, he begged to advert to the line of argument which had been taken with respect to this question. A resolution had been moved that the apprenticeship system should cease in August, 1838. To that resolution the hon. Member for Devonport gave a negative; and justified his negative by a compact which he alleged to exist between the Parliament of Great Britain and the West India planters. It was true, that the hon. Member for Devon-port allowed that that compact might have been violated by the planters in a few trifling instances; such as flogging the negro women, diminishing the food of the slaves, and in other slight particulars rivetting their chains. But the hon. Member for Devonport maintained that such petty and insignificant matters as these ought not to weigh with the House; and that no remedy ought to be thought of but the bill which was in progress in the House. A right hon. and learned Gentleman on the other side of the House admitted that the contract entered into by the act of 1833, had been grossly violated by the planters. But his noble Friend 209 laughed to scorn all notion of any contract. His noble Friend said, that he had opposed the apprentice system from the commencement. Yes, and he had done so in a speech, the solid argument of which, entitled it to be read over and over again, by those who wished to render themselves acquainted with the merits of the subject. His noble Friend had that evening told them, that in 1833, he foresaw all the evils which had resulted from the system of apprenticeship, which he justly called slavery. Now, two years and a half of the period for the existence of those evils were unelapsed. Why not get rid of that term? "No," said his noble Friend, "I have great respect for the House of Assembly, and I dare say they will legislate correctly on the subject." His argument was;—"the misery of the present state of things I allow to be great; let it continue until the year 1840." Having described to the House in most eloquent terms, the accumulated wretchedness and oppression of the slaves, his noble Friend's advice was, not to interfere. Was that fair? Was it candid? Was it humane? For the life of him, he could not conceive what compacts, even if compacts there had been, had to do with the question. It was the duty of the British Parliament to guard the interests of all the inhabitants of the British empire; to protect their rights, to secure their freedom, to consult their happiness. He could not believe that a British Parliament would adopt a measure which, on a dispassionate consideration of it, must appear to them, incompatible with the best interests of so large and valuable a portion of the British empire. In November last, an hon. Friend of his, who was no longer a Member of that House, and who, if he were present, would not want any one to defend him, made some observations on the subject, to which he entreated the attention of the House. In November, 1837, Mr. Buxton having been appealed to, to take an active part in favour of the negro apprentices, stated that, on the principle of the justice of the abolition, he went with them to the fullest extent; but before he again would unite in any measure to effect that abolition, he must be satisfied that there was a reasonable prospect of attaining the object. His opinion was, that it was not just to embark in the agitation of the question, unless there was good reason to suppose that they could do so with advantage. The hon. Gentleman had 210 accordingly abstained from doing so till the month of March, and he (Dr. Lushington) had adopted the same line of conduct. In the meantime, however, they had the Marquess of Sligo's letter, and having seen that, having seen also the progress which the question was making in public opinion, he had written to Mr. Buxton, and told him that, in his opinion, the time had arrived, when he who had so distinguished himself as the public leader in this cause, should come forward and take the same active part that he had taken formerly. It so happened that Mr. Buxton had come to the same conclusion before his letter arrived. All parties, then, felt that matters ought not to remain as they were. Some change was necessary, but what was it to be? The hon. Baronet said, that the measure he proposed to substitute for the course recommended by the motion of the hon. Member for Yorkshire would be sufficient. The question for the House was, whether that measure would operate, so as entirely to remove the existing abuses, or whether the stronger measure of the hon. Gentleman were necessary. To prevent the possibility of its being said, that his conduct was dictated by any statement that had been made out of doors, he begged to say that every word which he was about to utter, was founded on three documents; on the Parliamentary documents, numbers four and five, hut more especially on number five, and the pamphlet avowed as the production of Lord Sligo, the former governor of Jamaica. So far from coming to the conclusion of his hon. Friend, (Sir G. Grey) on those documents, he was decidedly of opinion with his hon. Friend, the Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire, that it was not here or there, but that there was an uniform and a constant, if not an universal, violation of the contract. His hon. Friend, (Sir G. Grey) said, that it was unjust to visit on the entire people of Jamaica, the faults of only a portion. He begged to ask how large a proportion was there of them that had not participated in the offences. He did not mean to say, that there were not a few splendid examples of contrary conduct; he knew that there were some, and they were deserving of the highest praise, considering the infected atmosphere of that region. But what did the hon. Baronet say, first, of the House of Assembly? Did they participate in the feelings of the British people on this sub- 211 jest? Next, he would ask what his hon. Friend said to the grand juries? Had not his hon. Friend and Sir Lionel Smith visited them with terms of severe reprobation for the disregard of their oaths? had the coroners done their duty? Let the House look to the blue book—the Parliamentary returns from which the hon. Baronet had quoted so largely, and on which he had relied so much. What did he say to the conduct of the petty juries? Again, he would refer them to the blue book. Had any of the local magistrates been suspended? Was it not the object of the proposed measure to suspend their jurisdiction? Then there were the law officers of the Crown, had they not set the Government at nought, and done the best they could to defeat its measures? Was Mr. Banton, the King's advocate, dismissed by Lord Glenelg, because he adopted a course opposed to the supremacy of this country? Let them look at the papers and see how few were the exceptions, and how general was the cause of complaint. There was a short crop in 1836, and it was alleged against the negroes that they were idle. Mark the evidence of two of their special magistrates. They stated, that the negroes were seen day by day labouring in the field, but they were reduced to the direst distress. Surely they had some aid in their extremity; surely the heart of the planter was not so hardened but that he did from his stores give something to save them from starvation. Instead of so acting, they were told that the watchmen were withdrawn from the negroes provision grounds, and on their return to them at several miles distance they found that the labour of their over days for several months had been expended in vain, and that their grounds had been exposed to the depredations of runaways and thieves. The pauper in this country had the benefit of his whole week's work, and if that did not enable him to maintain himself, he might at last take shelter in the workhouse; but the slave had taken from him the labour that was necessary to his existence, and that which he was not permitted to supply to himself was not furnished to him by others. Let them look also at the state of the children. One and all of the special magistrates described the rising generation in Jamaica to be in a most calamitous condition. Was it humanity, was it religion, was it any one motive dear to man that could induce 212 them to subject the negro to such suffering for two years and a half longer? Could anything equal the demoniacal cruelty that had been practised? He spoke on the authority of the blue book. Was it not true, that the mother, instead of leaving her child at nurse, had been compelled to strap it to her back, and go to the field? Such cruelties were indigenous in the land of slavery. Three years and a half had been spent in bitterness and animosity between the negro and his master; and what rational ground was there for expecting, that during the remainder of the term there would exist a better state of things. He would tell the hon. Baronet his belief was, that the Bill he proposed to pass would turn out to be little better than waste paper; but so far as it did operate, he was satisfied that it would produce great exasperation. Could it be imagined that those whom it was meant to control would not feel themselves insulted by it; that they would not be angered; that they would not resort to every means of retaliation that, unfortunately, human nature always resorted to when long-cherished opinions and prejudices were felt to be insulted and outraged? Allow him to read one or two passages from the blue book. He knew that the House must be impatient; but he begged to refer to the testimony of Mr. Cooper, a special magistrate: "Would to God," said that gentleman, "I could add that corresponding improvement was perceptible in the conduct of their managers, or that the apprentices were more cheerful, more happy, or better treated." The same gentleman also observed—" I will only in conclusion repeat that, to the correct moral and religious principles of the apprentices, must alone be attributed the tranquillity which happily pervades this district. To the masters no credit whatever is due." This was not, he could assure the House, a solitary instance of the expression of such opinions; so far from it, the whole tenor of the evidence was consistent with it. Let them read the evidence of Mr. Grant. That gentleman wrote as follows:—Their behaviour has been such as almost entirely to put it out of the power of the masters to find fault. The complaints made were very few, and nearly in every instance of the most trifling nature. Although the conduct of the apprentices has thus been everything that their best friends could desire, of the good feeling existing between them and their employers, I regret to say, I cannot report so 213 favourably as heretofore. This want of good feeling, in existence at the present moment, I have no hesitation in attributing to a desire on the part of the employer (and a desire which I observe to increase daily) to make the apprentice do more than can with any reason, be required from him, notwithstanding they perform their work willingly and well; and the best proof I can give of the truth of this important assertion, will be in stating, that during the period to which this report refers, there has only been, in this extensive and valuable district, one complaint for deficiency of labour," "Their conduct put it almost out of the power of the masters to find fault.Was that small praise? The hon. Baronet told them that as a set-off against the conduct complained of, there was that of a largely preponderating majority of the inhabitants of Jamaica, whose indignation it provoked. What! he begged to ask, was said upon the exposition of the case of James Williams? What single instance had there been from first to last of a meeting in any parish in Jamaica to express the horror of these proceedings? The hon. and learned Gentleman also referred to the case of a female who was refused admission to the workhouse, and who died at the workhouse door. This was not the slave of an obscure individual; she belonged to the Speaker of the House of Assembly. There was no inquisition. Murder passed by unheeded in that colony. Where was the virtuous indignation which was to redeem the inhabitants from the censure which would properly attach to any colony in which such proceedings were tolerated? There was no trace in the annals of Jamaica of the expression of any dissatisfaction with these acts of criminality. Had there been the case of any special magistrate having neglected the performance of his duty, and being dismissed on that account? Yes, there was, and the House of Assembly voted him a piece of plate in approbation of his conduct. Could they entertain a rational hope, that where society was so constituted there was the least prospect that any real benefit could result from the course it was proposed to adopt? Dare they trust them a single hour longer, when the public faith had been so notoriously broken in every one particular for which the British public paid their money—in every particular on which the hearts and the feelings of the British people were set? Dare they do so in the face of the British public, dare they tell them, "you know 214 these facts, and yet we will resort to no other remedy than a repetition of that which has been found useless and futile." Dare they say, "we will trust to the good-will, to the kindly, to the merciful feelings of those whose great pride it has been to thwart every one of our efforts; who have delighted in evading the law; who, when we had bound them, as we thought, in chains of adamant, by Acts of Parliament, laughed at our statutes, and informed us that they had private acts of their own? There was a case of a female apprentice taken up on suspicion. She was thrown into the workhouse. Guilty or innocent no matter; she was chained by an iron collar round her neck to another. At the end of nine months, no offence being charged, nothing having been imputed, she was turned out the miserable wretch that she must have been after such treatment. It was the first law of our nation that he whom we deprived of his liberty, we were bound to keep alive; but his hon. Friend seemed surprised to hear that there were cases in which this law had been neglected, that had escaped the scrutinizing eyes of Lord Sligo and Sir L. Smith. These things were occurring from year to year in Spanish town and the fact never reached the Government. No doubt, if they had come to the knowledge of Sir L. Smith, he would have adopted measures to put an end to them. It had been complained of, that Mr. Sturge had not laid the abuses he discovered before the governor, but would they have had him turn common informer, and thus prevented the possibility of any further discovery? Lord Glenelg lamented, that notwithstanding the vigilance exercised, those abuses did not come to the knowledge of the Government. Before he sat down, he begged to address to the House a few words as to the obligation cast on them to vote in favour of immediate emancipation. He was somewhat encouraged by the conduct adopted by the Marquess of Sligo. He had the pleasure of stating, that Mr. W. Hanbury had also determined to give up his slaves on the 1st of August. He implored the House to consider whether, from the evidence that had been laid before them, there was not sufficient proof given, that the negroes were fitted for emancipation. All the stipendiary magistrates concurred in thinking so. He appealed to them, not as men who loved justice, not as men 215 anxious to do justice to those who had suffered injustice, but he appealed to them as men who loved mercy, had the negroes been conciliated for the last three years? He asked them, too, if it were possible, considering the manner in which they had been treated, that the negroes would continue in slavery when upon the 1st of August 50,000 non-prædial apprentices would be free? The mother would be free; the father in the field; brother would be distinguished from brother as slave was distinguished from free-man; and he appealed to them, if they were in such a case saved from discontent, saved from disturbance, and, possibly, from an outbreak, must it not be attributed to that peculiar patience of the negro which might be found in him, but which was not to be discovered in any other class of the human race.
§ Lord J. Russell
said, he never rose to address the House under a deeper sense of responsibility than he felt on the present occasion. He passed by, as unnecessary for him to consider, the question whether it were wise and prudent to enact the stipulations of the Act for the Abolition of Slavery; but this he would say, that every feeling of solemn duty by which a legislator could be swayed—the endeavour to establish freedom where slavery was inherited, to replace the oppression of severe task-masters by the protection of a mild government, and, at the same time, a consciousness of the perils which must attend the attempt combined to influence the Parliament which passed it; and the measure was so far happy, that those who stood forward to denounce the sufferings of the negro—those who advocated the claims of the West-Indian proprietors—those who bore office in the Administration and those who opposed them—all concurred in accepting it as a settlement of that great question. The period when the last stage of this mighty revolution was to be consummated having been fixed at seven years after the expiration of that Act, it was now proposed to this Parliament to break through that Act—to break the ties of those relations which now subsisted between the negroes and their masters, totally against the declared opinions and wishes of one party, and totally, as he believed, against the expectations of another, and to assume to themselves, certainly without much preparation of debate, suddenly and abruptly to cut short the duration of the state of apprenticeship. In 216 his apprehension, looking at the means by which a great excitement on this subject had been produced, and by which it had been sought to influence the minds of Members of this House, whether the Government or those who were opposed to it, he must say, that motives had been urged—he had heard them urged himself—unworthy of the purity of a cause which had for its object to deliver a numerous race of mankind from bondage. He must say, that it added to his reluctance to entertain the proposal, that it was made in the absence of all those measures of preparation which persons of all classes concur in thinking ought to precede emancipation. That those measures of emancipation had been delayed was partly a consequence of those who represented themselves, and with truth he believed, as most sincere and ardent friends of the negro. Their distrust of the present colonial governments and assemblies was urged upon Government as one of the many reasons why measures of preparation should be delayed. This might or might not be a good reason for delaying those measures, but it certainly showed, that those who urged it had little regard for consistency when they now proposed, that no interval should elapse before the final change was effected. He must, too, having listened with much attention to the speech of his hon. and learned Friend, remind him of an observation his hon. Friend, the Under-Secretary for the Colonies, made at the commencement of his speech the preceding night, that they were not now discussing the question "whether slavery ought to be abolished." That slavery contained within itself many and frightful horrors was no longer a question to be discussed. It was that which this country had long since made its mind up to; and, to put a final consummation to slavery, 20,000,000l. had been paid by the people of this country; they gave it as the price for clearing away the sin and the stain of slavery. Could it then be believed, that the transition which should take place from a state of society which they all admitted to be dreadful to another state of society could occur without much evil arising? It was in the very nature of the transition that evil must arise. Among those he had in former times spoken on freedom and slavery, he remembered a traveller, who, in giving an account of his travels in Turkey, said he thought the poorer classes in a state of slavery had great advantages over those in a state of freedom; that a man was fed 217 and clothed and medicine provided for him by his master when in a state of slavery. Now, he utterly abhorred such arguments in favour of slavery; but then it was impossible not to see, that great evils might follow from the immediate removal from a state of slavery without some previous preparation. The moment they made a transition to freedom, the moment they abstracted from the proprietor the labour of the persons he had before regarded as his property, the moment they did this, the proprietor felt it to be no longer necessary for him to make the provision for them which he had formerly done. They could not expect to release a man from slavery, and that the proprietor would continue to him indulgences which had mitigated slavery—they could not do this and at the same time grant to the man all the benefits of freedom. Perhaps there was no evil without some mitigating indulgences in these instances, and those in some degree compensated for the horrors of slavery. When once men gained that social state in which it wished to place the apprentices, they must expect some of their present advantages to cease, and they must also expect that others afterwards would take their place. He would say but little on the question of contract. He thought that his hon. Friend near him had spoken sufficiently upon that subject the preceding night, and had made out a case to show, that they had entered into such a compact as ought to make Parliament cautious in entering into a new measure upon this subject. He did not mean to enter into the precise definition of a contract, but he thought it was perfectly clear, that a solemn Act of Parliament, under which certain interests had been regulated, and by means of which certain rights could be transferred and sold, was an Act of Parliament that ought not lightly to be dealt with, and with which they would not be justified in interfering, unless all interests were duly provided for. But the next question that arose was indeed a question of very deep importance, and it was this, whether, upon the whole, there had been such a change in society in consequence of the apprenticeship system, that it could induce them to say, that such an improvement had been produced in the apprentice since he had ceased to be a slave, that he had risen so much in understanding, that he had risen so much in independence, and in the means of procuring his livelihood, that it was likely, that the transition would be more 218 easy to him now than if this law had not been enacted. He thought, that three-fifths of the apprentices were to be found in Jamaica and in Guiana, and he should then read for them the testimony of the Governor of British Guiana, and the testimony of a person who had been sent out from the Colonial-office to Jamaica. Upon opening the Colonial Legislature on the 3rd of February, 1838, the Governor thus delivered himself:—I consider the continuance of the present system until the 1st of August, 1840, as identified with the future welfare of this magnificent province. It appears to me, that if in British Guiana we are allowed to continue as we are, there is every prospect of our being enabled to slide almost imperceptibly into a state of perfect freedom. Excepting in cases of theft, the degrading punishment of the lash is unknown. Females are not permitted to be sent to the treadmill. The advantages resulting from labour are becoming daily more understood and better appreciated by the apprentice. He is, moreover, fast acquiring a knowledge of the rights and duties which, as a freeman, he will hereafter have in the one case to enjoy, and in the other to perform. The proprietor, on his part, is daily preparing to meet the coming change. A kind and a good feeling between the employer and the labourer is everywhere rapidly gaining ground. It is no longer the master and the slave having opposite interests; but the husbandman, who cannot effectually till his ground without the willing aid and the extra work of his apprenticed labourers; and the apprenticed labourer, who looks to the husbandman for that money, in payment for his extra labour, which he requires to enable him to take care of his wife and family, and to provide himself and them with those articles of comfort and luxury to which they have become habituated. When things are going on so well as in British Guiana, it appears to me, that it would be little short of an act of folly to offer any interruption to the present system.That speech was made publicly in British Guiana, and it was declared and spoken of as a matter of notoriety to the whole world. The Governor was one who, it would not be denied, had shown the utmost anxiety for the condition of the negro, and who had a thorough knowledge of the system of which he spoke. Now, in Jamaica, there was no doubt, but that much greater complaints had been made than elsewhere, even though they had heard of many in the commencement of the debate with respect to British Guiana. A gentleman who had been sent to make inquiry in Jamaica, Captain Pringle, had written a letter previously to his return. In this letter, Cap- 219 tain Pringle stated, that the writer bad travelled through the island of Jamaica, and found that the value of labour had greatly increased; that the negroes often had their tasks completed before ten in the morning, and hired out their labour in the evening; and that, in this way, upon one plantation, 401. a week was paid for apprenticeship labour. This, continued the noble Lord, was the evidence of a person in no way interested in this system. He told them, that apprentices were earning 40l. a week, and that gentleman assured them, that the negroes were earning it at task work. He was not surprised at this proof of their industry; but he did say their apprenticeship, serving the purposes for which terms of apprenticeship were applied, taught men how to turn to advantage the wages of industry; and so that, when such men were set free, they would be made more worthy of freedom, and that they would be more likely to be contented and happy as free labourers, than if they had passed through no transition of the kind. Captain Pringle next remarked, after noticing the complaints of some old women that they had been set to work; that a large proportion of the property of the island appeared to be well managed, and that only one-fifth of it was out of cultivation. While there was no doubt that great abuses had existed, and that great cruelties had been practised, it was also shown, that four-fifths of the property in the island was well managed. He thought, then, that he might ask the House, whether they found themselves warranted when they had such testimony as to British Guiana and Jamaica—whether they would risk the perilous step of throwing into confusion this state of things, and of driving the people who were thus employed, upon well-managed estates into excitement, and thus totally destroying the relations which existed between different classes of persons on well-managed property? He must also quite agree with another authority, to which his hon. Friend referred, because his hon. and learned Friend who had last spoken, had likewise referred to persons upon whose authority he depended, he meant the authority of a report of a Committee of that House, of which Mr. Fowell Buxton was the mover, and of which he was a Member, of which his hon. and learned Friend was a Member, of which the hon. Member for Leeds was a Member, and various other Gentlemen, who took an interest on behalf of the negroes. They had come to a resolution, a year and a half 220 ago, respecting negro apprenticeship, on which they declared that the moral condition of the negroes had been greatly improved, and on which they also declared their conviction, that nothing could be more unfortunate than any occurrence which could unsettle the minds of either party, that is, of planters or apprentices. The same Committee sat in 1837, and did they then come to any opinion as to the sudden abolition of apprenticeship? On the contrary, after having sat the whole Session, they came to the opinion, that the Committee ought to be re-appointed. Then he should say, with the utmost respect for men whose good intentions and sincerity he duly estimated, and whose anxiety in the cause of negro emancipation he properly appreciated, that he had the authority of Mr. Fowell Buxton to show, that up to the close of the Session, 1837, there was no such case made out as could call upon Parliament abruptly to terminate that arrangement which Parliament itself had sanctioned. His hon. and learned Friend, who had spoken last, had dwelt much upon the abuses that had prevailed. He was not then going to enter into a history of those abuses, except that one quotation, in reference to them, had been made from Sir James Macintosh, and which it was said was supported by the authority of Mr. Fox. His hon. and learned Friend said, that there was a difference between abuses occurring here, and in the colonies. In the one case, persons who committed abuses were degraded; and in the other, it was said they were praised. In the one case, it was true that they were in a state of slavery, and the observations of his hon. and learned Friend constituted a sound argument against the continuance of slavery. But, then, it was not at all applicable to the present state of things. Had the case of Williams, which had been referred to, been allowed to pass unnoticed? Was the magistrate rewarded? No; but he was suspended, and the Attorney-General was directed to commence proceedings against him. Lord Glenelg, too, had issued orders for immediate measures being taken for the punishment of neglect of duty. Would it be believed that the Government were not anxious to punish, or that the eye of the Legislature would not be directed to such subjects; or would it be believed, that for the future, such abuses would be permitted to pass unnoticed? That such matters never could occur again, it would be chimerical to expect; but they surely would not be rewarded; he could 221 answer for it, they would receive the punishment they deserved. That a remedy ought to be applied to such abuses was admitted. The hon. Baronet proposed instantaneous emancipation from slavery, and such, too, was the nature of a Bill introduced into the other House of Parliament. Could such a Bill apply a remedy to the abuses which had been complained of? It would put an end to the authority of the special magistrates, and it would leave the workhouses to the sole control of the local magistrates. What must be its effect? The planters, feeling they had been treated with bad faith, and feeling so with some justice, would instantly abandon the old and the infirm, and leave them without any support. He said, then, that it was for the interest of the negroes themselves, that the House should not adopt a measure which would violently, and without preparation, break through the ties that existed between master and apprentice. The Bill before them proposed a remedy for some of the evils complained of, by enabling the Governor to regulate the times of work. Penalties were to be imposed, and, in short, it specified grievances, and for each grievance it applied a specific remedy. He said, moreover, that though it might sound better, though it might sound more philanthropic that the negroes should be declared free at once; but still, if they really took an interest in the apprentices, if they regarded the happiness of that great body of men, he said that the Act of Lord Glenelg more directly tended to that great object, while the other plan that was proposed could only tend to the aggravation of every evil. The right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Ripon, had asked whether, at the expiration of the apprenticeship, complete freedom would be enjoyed? He said, certainly; and that point had not been left unnoticed by Lord Glenelg, who called attention to it, in a dispatch of the 6th of November, 1837. It had been declared, that a solemn engagement had been entered into by Government, and they were bound to carry it into effect. Considering, then, the whole of this subject, he said, that in the first place, they had laid down, by Act of Parliament, certain terms, by which all parties expected them to abide. They had laid down terms by which merchants and planters considered themselves bound, when they gave up that which was before to them a property in slavery. They themselves, too, had laid down terms, to which even those who disliked the apprenticeship system, 222 considered the nation and Parliament to be bound. In carrying those terms into effect, it was competent for them to see and provide, that all their intentions in sanctioning the apprenticeship system should be secured to the negro by law; but then, instead of bettering the condition of the negroes, they would only increase their misfortunes, and make their condition hopeless, if they themselves were to break the compact, and declare, without any previous preparation, and without any further measures, that the negro should be sent forth from his apprenticeship, and severing the ties between master and apprentice, thus tear violently from each other, and place in situations opposed to one another, the rich and the poor, the humble man, and the man having superior authority. He had heard it said, that if Parliament were to agree to any vote by which the apprenticeship should be declared terminated in August, 1838, that it would then be the duty of the Government to carry that resolution into effect. He disclaimed any such responsibility. His hon. Friend near him, the Under-Secretary for the Colonies, had said, that they could not stop the apprenticeship system without giving compensation—that they could not do so without a breach of faith. He was not prepared to say, that a Government should undertake the conducting of any measure which they considered to be a breach of faith. His hon. Friend further said, and had truly said, that they might recommend such a measure of justice, by giving a further compensation for the rights they insisted on taking away. Nor was he prepared, on the other hand, to propose further compensation, because he thought that any such additional compensation would be made on a principle totally different from that which was adopted formerly; that was a compensation by which the various parties to that measure might, if possible, be induced to enter on the new system, with a due regard to the feelings of humanity on the one hand, and to the security of the colonies on the other; but he thought that a compensation such as he had spoken of, to be made in addition to the former, would be a compensation for the increased danger of the colonies. He was not prepared to adopt any such plan of compensation, and he must declare that the Ministry could not take charge of any such measure. It was for those who supported measures of this kind to take upon them the consideration of how it was to be carried into effect. 223 Was it to be supposed, that the Bill which was in the other House of Parliament could come down to that House, if at all, for a considerable time? Would it not have to be re-discussed? Must not the House hear those whose interests would be affected? Will they not, and justly, ask, when making those great changes, that evidence should be heard at the bar to show their effect in the colonies, and would they keep those colonies all that time in the agitation of expectation? Would they keep them exposed to that danger while the measure was thus being discussed, and when such uncertainty must rest even upon its ever passing? He was not sorry to hear an argument that was used the other night, when for the first time they were told, that the danger was such, that the excitement produced was so great, that, for the sake of peace, for the sake of endeavouring to preserve the safety of this measure, it was the duty of the House and of the Government to undertake it. He thought for the Government so to act would be setting a most dangerous example. It was not because he saw a crowd running with lighted torches to set fire to a building, although they threatened to illtreat him unless he consented to assist in the conflagration—it was not for that reason that he was to make himself responsible for their proceedings. He said, then, that he could not undertake any such measure; and he wished to say one thing more, to which he begged the attention of the House, because it referred to their own authority. If there ever was a question upon which Parliament was bound to act according to deliberation—in which they were bound to act according to their own solemn opinions of what are the interests concerned, and what are the future dangers—it was the question before the House. But it was clear, that if this question were to be carried in that House, it was more by overbearing their opinions than by consulting the settled opinions of the House of Commons. He considered such precedents most dangerous, and setting such a precedent in a case so delicate as that of slavery in the West Indies, of the utmost danger; but he considered likewise, that the House would be acting against the opinions of those who had most fully considered the question on all sides of the House; and would be setting a precedent for the future of the utmost danger to the deliberations of Parliament. He thought, that for the future it would only 224 be necessary to say, "Let us rouse the opinions of the country, let us have a certain number of petitions presented, and then it will be necessary for the House of Commons, whatever their judgment may be, to follow our course and no other enactments can come from them than those which please us." He did hope that Parliament would not set that precedent. He saw considerable evils on every side. He knew how excited were the people in the West Indies, but he thought, upon the whole, that the course attended with the least danger was to give assent to the Bill of his hon. Friend, and to give a decided negative to the resolution before them.
§ Mr. W. E. Gladstone
said,* Mr. Speaker,—If I regard the lateness of the hour at which we have arrived, the number of Members now congregated within these walls, and eager for the decision, and my own inadequacy to fulfil the task which is before me, I utterly despair of being able to attract the attention of the House: but remembering, on the other hand, the vast and manifold interests involved in the issue of this debate, the singular course which the discussion of this evening has in general taken, until the speech of the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Home Department, and the fact that no one belonging to the body which stands accused before you has as yet risen to make a statement of their defence, I am encouraged to make the effort, and I trust to your favour and indulgence to bear me through. For I may indeed entreat that indulgence, in a sense far stronger than that which the request usually bears, and as I have seen you on a recent occasion listen for hours to one at your bar pleading for a theory of constitutional rights, I am confident you will give the like opportunity to one connected with a body who are virtually at your bar, and who have to plead for much more than political rights alone: these, indeed, are involved,—their property, too, is involved in the vote of this House; but what is weightier far, their character is not less involved; for if it be true that the negro population of the West Indies is suffering under general hardship through their neglect, no words can be strong enough to describe their delinquency. Sir, when the Abolition Act of 1833 was brought forward, to his immortal honour, by the noble Lord, the Member* Reprinted from a corrected report, published by Hatchard.225 for North Lancashire, we who had seats in this House, and were connected with West-Indian property, joined in the passing of that measure: we professed a belief that the state of slavery was an evil and a demoralising state, and a desire, to be relieved from it; we accepted a price in composition for the loss which was expected to accrue; and if, after those professions and that acceptance, we have endeavoured to prolong its existence and its abuses under another appellation, no language can adequately characterise our baseness, and either everlasting ignominy must be upon us, or you are not justified in carrying this motion.
But I utterly and confidently deny the charge, as it affects the mass of the planters, and as it affects the mass of the apprentices. Yet, in declaring it to be without foundation, I do not ask you to accept that assertion on my credit, but I refer you to the proof which shall follow. I am aware that I must speak under prepossessions, though I have striven with all my might against them: and I desire that no jot or title of weight may be given to my professions or assertions;—by the facts I will stand or fall. And oh, Sir, with what depth of desire have I longed for this day! Sore, and wearied, and irritated, perhaps, with the grossly exaggerated misrepresentations, and with the utter calumnies that have been in active circulation without the means of reply, how do I rejoice to meet them in free discussion before the face of the British Parliament! and I earnestly wish, that I may be enabled to avoid all language and sentiments similar to those I have reprobated in others.
Now, Sir, the first point I have to put is one on which, if need were, I should be content to rest: we are at this moment in the midst of a Parliamentary inquiry: and I say the argument is resistless against violently putting a period by legislation to that inquiry, the renewal of which was unanimously recommended by your own Committee of last year. How is it possible, with that recommendation before you, to declare that we are ripe for a final adjudication? But in the abundance of arguments which present themselves to me, I shall not dwell strongly upon this point. I must, however, express my astonishment, that those very parties who first demanded a Parliamentary investigation, are now, after having had, in 1837, the opportunity of stating their case, the parties to protest against hearing the other side of the ques- 226 tion. And is the House aware of the composition of that Committee, which was appointed in 1836, and re-appointed in 1837, to examine the subject? I will read the names. They are—
Very few of these are from the Conservative party. Only three are connected with West-Indian property, and of these one is the hon. Member for Ashburton, the brother to the hon. and learned Member for the Tower Hamlets. Can any man listen to the recital of these names, and then need to be told, that if there had been a bias upon the mind of that Committee, it would not have been a bias favourable to the planter?
Mr. T. F. Buxton, Mr. Oswald, Sir G. Grey, Mr. Lushington, Mr. O'Connell, Mr. Thornely, Mr. W. Gladstone, Mr. A. Johnstone, Mr. Baines, Lord Sandon, Mr. Plumptre,* Sir J. Graham, Mr. Labouchere, Lord Howick. Mr. P. Stewart,
And yet that Committee had furnished a report, an unanimous report, in the year 1836, having then before its view the defects in the existing colonial laws, in which they stated,—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.And they went further than this; for they gave a positive opinion upon the merits of the apprenticeship itself.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.Next, as regards the views of Mr. Buxton. That gentleman had felt the injustice of deciding without hearing. He declared, in November last, "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." He had further* Afterwards replaced by sir Stratford Canning.227 said, "I am utterly deceived if you find one hundred men in either House, who will vote even for inquiring whether the apprenticeship ought to be abolished." Such was, I must say, Mr. Buxton's unbiassed opinion, with the evidence before him. It is stated, that he has altered it more recently. I claim the authority of his former declaration. I have a high respect for his motives, and every confidence in his judgment, when acting for himself, but less, I admit, when he has been thrown into the boiling caldron of agitation. The letter I have quoted is from North Repps Hall: at another hall, Exeter-hall, I am more suspicious of his opinions.
But as regards his connexion with the report of 1836, I need only say, that he was present at the discussion when it was unanimously agreed upon, and that he took an active part; and the meeting was a numerous one. My recollection of what passed on that occasion, and of expressions which were used, is extremely distinct: and although I should not think it desirable needlessly to enter into those details, I should feel it my duty to do so, if any attempt were made to question the fact, that Mr. Buxton was bona fide a concurring party to that report.
Is it not a remarkable circumstance, that of all those to whom the House delegated this momentous inquiry, not one could be found to move or second this resolution, which has been left at the mercy of strangers, and but one of fifteen members of the Committee has spoken in its support?
Sir, I divide the argument on the merits of this case into two parts: the first, that which regards the relations between the planter and the negro; the second involving those between the planter and the Imperial Legislature. I admit, I avow, I contend, that these are questions entirely distinct; and if a case of hardship call be made out affecting the bulk of the black population, then I think their wrongs call in the first instance for redress; and that although the planter might, in such case, have a claim on the Government for compensation; and although I am well aware, that in practice, his postponing that claim till his hold on the services of the negro had been absolutely withdrawn, would in practice deprive him of the hope of obtaining for it a fair consideration, yet still, because the theory of justice requires it, I am content to depend simply upon this issue, the condition of the negro popula- 228 tion. And if I go first in time to that branch of the argument which I have placed last in importance, it is only that I may disembarrass my mind of the pecuniary question, before I proceed to argue what is most weighty and essential.
I maintain, then, Sir, that there is a compact in this case. There has been much special pleading upon the term. And, indeed, it is in strictness difficult to say what compact there can be between a supreme legislature and subject bodies or individuals; because a compact, by its definition, implies that two parties are agreeing to do something which they had the power not to do; while, on the other hand, the idea of a supreme legislature implies, that it has, in the last repot, an absolute control over all that belongs to the governed, and, consequently, they cannot give to it what it already possesses. But in substance and in practice it is otherwise. We hear constantly, for example, of the original contract or compact between the ruler and the subject. Where is that contract written, or in what store of archives is it preserved? It is written in the nature of things; it is merely a form of expressing the essential obligatory relations which connect the parties. And so in this case; there was all the substance—there was the nearest possible approach to the form of a contract in the Abolition Act of 1833, ratified by his Majesty; it had every sanction that the proceedings of Parliament could give, and it had a yet deeper foundation on the immutable principles of justice.
As between the administration of Lord Grey and the West-Indian body, the compact was clear even in form. To show this, I will state, in the presence of the noble Mover of the Bill, who will correct me if I am inaccurate, that before the final basis of the plan of emancipation was submitted to Parliament, Lord Spencer and Lord Stanley, on the part of the Government, had an interview with several gentlemen on the part of the West Indians, to whom they offered the choice of the following three alternatives, in the nature of compensation.
The first: a grant of twenty millions, with twelve years apprenticeship.
The second: a grant of twenty millions, a loan of ten millions, and a seven years apprenticeship.
The third: a grant of fifteen millions, a loan of ten millions, and a seven years apprenticeship.
229 The West Indians preferred the first; but any Gentleman will perceive, from equating these three alternatives, that in the estimation of the Government, the extra five years of apprenticeship were of the value of five millions sterling, paid seven years in advance; and I advert to this for the purpose of showing, first, how specifically the apprenticeship* bore a computed value as part and parcel of the compensation; and, secondly, that when Parliament indicated, as was believed by the noble Lord, a disposition to refuse its assent to these terms, he, acting as he did with the strictest honour, felt himself bound to them, until released by the agreement of the West-Indian proprietors, to accept a compensation, less, as I have shown, by five millions at seven years' advance, than that which the administration had deemed to be an equitable amount.
I will next show that the remaining term of this apprenticeship continues to bear a marketable value, by a reference to cases in my possession.
I take first the case of forty-eight negroes, whose services were purchased in December last by Mr. Spencer Mackay, a planter of Demerara, at 92l. sterling per head, for the residue of their time, amounting to two years and seven months. Next, that of about 100 negroes, whose time was purchased at the same period by the Government of British Guiana, at about 100l. sterling for each labourer. I request the House, in passing, to observe the very high value of effective labour in that colony: it*Lord Stanley said, July 24, 1833.—" I distinctly stated when I introduced the measure, and I do not hesitate to avow it now, that I consider the period of apprenticeship to be part of the compensation to be paid the proprietor.Mr. Fryer.—"Why are we to pay anything?Lord Stanley.—"The honourable gentleman asks me a very short and a very pithy question. 'Why are we to pay anything?' My answer is, because the principles of justice require that we should not take away a man's property without remunerating him for it.Extract from a dispatch of Lord Glenelg to the Marquess of Sligo, dated Downing-street, 31st March, 1836; and by the latter communicated to the House of Assembly of Jamaica on the 24th May.The abolition of slavery, and the subordinate measures required to render it effectual,230 is not the apprentice alone who has to pay dearly for its purchase.
Lastly, I quote a case, from Jamaica, dated no farther back than the 20th of January last, and announced by the last packet, in which Mr. Robert Page assigned to Mr. Joseph Gordon, as attorney for Sir Alexander Grant, the services of the Hill Side apprentices, comprising of able-bodied persons about thirty, with certain others, for 1,000l. sterling.
Thus the House will see with what perfect confidence the West-Indians are reposing on the faith of the British Legislature, and with what entire unconsciousness of the charge, that the compact between them has already been made void.
And now with regard to the amount of the consideration which the West-Indians received. It has been said, not only by Lord Brougham, which is of less moment, but by such persons, for example, as the Bishop of London—of whom I shall never speak but with sentiments of the highest respect and esteem—that the planters have been sufficiently compensated for the labour of the slaves by the grant of twenty millions, without the guaranteed labour of the apprenticeship. It is alleged, and commonly, that they are enormous gainers by the bargain. I deny it; but I do not complain of the insufficiency of the compensation; it was a noble and a generous act in the Parliament to vote it. I only remind Gentlemen, that although twenty millions sound as a large sum, when you come to buy up the property of whole communities, or the labour required to make it available, you must necessarilypresent a course of events altogether peculiar and anomalous.That great act was nothing less than a national compact, of which Parliament was at once the author and the guarantee. Binding the people of the United Kingdom to the payment of a grant of unequalled magnitude, it also bound the emancipated slaves to contribute compulsory labour for several successive years, while it imposed upon the Assemblies the Obligation of reconciling by proper laws the duties of the negro population, as apprenticed labourers, with their rights as free men.On the part of the British treasury, as on that of the emancipated slaves, the agreement has been carried into complete execution.It follows, Parliament is therefore at once entitled and bound to enforce by its power the performance of any part of the duty of the Assembly of Jamaica towards the apprenticed labourers which that body may hemselves have failed to fulfil.231 deal in large sums. I find, for example, the agricultural produce of Ireland valued at 36,000,000l. annually, which, at twenty-five years' purchase, would give, for the gross value of land and labour (and both are included in the case before us), 900,000,000l. The agricultural produce of England I find valued at 156,000,000l. annually; which, at thirty years' purchase, would similarly give 4,680,000,000l. The fair and real test is not the absolute but the relative magnitude of the sum, as compared with the consideration received for it.
Now, the noble Lord, the Member for North Lancashire, in his speech of May, 1833, valued the labour of the slaves at 30,000,000l. It was, however, valued by appraisement, under the assistant commissioners of compensation in 1834, at 51,000,000l.; and a most authentic record, namely, the averages of actual sales as ascertained by the Commissioners, taken during a period of depression, namely, that from 1822 to 1830, gave a value of 45,000,000l. Over and above this was involved the whole amount of the lands, works, and buildings, which were dependent on the supply of labour. For this, then, it was, that you gave twenty millions, paid six years in advance, with an apprenticeship to 1840.
But further, we must recollect, that the experiment of apprenticeship at the time was considered by the most eager promoters of abolition as one that would be ruinous. The noble Lord, for example, now Secretary at War (Lord Howick), prophesied that it would fail to secure labour. Something was, of course, to be allowed for that uncertainty, connected with those anticipations, nor are the West Indians to be reprobated if they have been falsified.
Now, Sir, it has been observed, that property has become marketable during the apprenticeship, and that a stimulus has been given to the cultivation, and that these causes have made the West Indies absolutely gainers by the change.
With regard to the first, the case is this.—Before the abolition of slavery, the excitement upon that subject had been such, as to throw the greatest uncertainty upon the title of West-Indian property. In a state of which uncertainty was the main characteristic, it became better worth the while both of buyers and sellers to wait for some settlement of the question, than to run the enormous risks on the one hand, 232 or incur the immense losses on the other, which would then have attended the transfer of the property. But when the Abolition Act was passed, you gave a new legal guarantee to the labour on which the planter depends; security was substituted for doubt, and estates became saleable. But at what price? We have the evidence of Mr. Miller and Mr. Oldham, given before the Committee of 1836, to the effect that the price paid has been little beyond a number of years' purchase corresponding with the remaining term of apprenticeship. Mr. Miller was asked, with respect to an estate sold at 6,000l (and which had been valued, more than twenty years back, at 60,000l. currency,) whether that sum was fixed on a calculation that the returns during the apprenticeship would replace it and whether nothing was allowed for the subsequent reversion? His answer was, that it had been valued with reference to the probable returns during the apprenticeship, and that they gave little consideration to the reversion. Mr. Oldham testified, that he had bought for 12,000l. what cost 35,000l., and he was willing to be a buyer, but only at four years' purchase.
Next, with regard to the encouragement of cultivation. There is no doubt that such has been in some instances the fact: often, as respects sugar, to the injury of other products. But what was the nature of this compensation? It was money paid altogether in advance; it was paid for two things, (besides the freedom of the children), first the fourth part of the apprentice's working-time for six years, and next for his whole time at the end of that period. Thus, a large portion of the money was actually given six years before the equivalent for it, was to be rendered. Of course, the intermediate effect was, release from incumbrances, and increased activity; but it was burdening the future to relieve the present—it was as if a man in this country should raise money by anticipation, six years beforehand, for the improvement of his estate; or as if one should obtain it by post obit bonds; and what could possibly be more inaccurate, than to mistake an artificial stimulus of this description for stable and permanent prosperity? In point of fact, we have not yet arrived at the real solution of this question, and we shall not know with any certainty, until the apprenticeship has expired, how stands the account between the state and the planter.
233 But I proceed to circumstances of probability which bear upon that future solution.
I find from the evidence before the Committee of 1836, that the crops were only kept up at their previous amount, when the whole interest of the compensation money was laid out upon them; but I have shown that a part of that money does not properly belong to the period of apprenticeship, and therefore we have here the resources of the future forestalled, in order to meet the present necessity.
I shall next give some facts, which I take on account of their lying within my own private knowledge, and tending to show, in the first place, the general depreciation of West-Indian property, not specially connected with the Abolition Act.
The estate of Lacovia, in Jamaica, was purchased by Mr. Watt about the year 1813. It stood in his books, charged with 115,000l. The compensation upon it would be about 4,200l., the people being two hundred and fourteen. It was bought within the last year for 9,000l. by a person to whom local circumstances gave it an extra value. Here we have a disappearance of 100,000l.
The Campbell estates in Jamaica are termed Holland, Fishriver, and Petersville. On the death of their possessor in 1821, they were charged with legacies and annuities to the amount of 63,000l. They were mortgaged at the time for 81,000l. Assuming the whole to have been absorbed under these heads, we have a value thus indicated of 144,000l. The compensation upon the three did not reach 14,000l. The estates or shares in them have changed hands under the apprenticeship, at prices the aggregate of which is 29,000l., leaving unaccounted for, the sum of 101,000l. I am not aware of anything in these cases which renders them exceptional.
I proceed to another case, which I believe represents West-Indian property under the most favourable aspects, and which does exhibit the effect of the Abolition Law upon its value. The facts lie entirely within my own knowledge. A planter holding four estates in British Guiana estimated them, in the year 1831, at 300,000l. The estimate is more than justified by the fact, that in the year 1826, a moiety of two of these four estates, which were worth about one-third part of the entire 300,000l., was sold for 234 75,000l.; and that the number of people, upon the whole, being 1,310, is demonstrated, by the amount of compensation, actually paid for them, to have had a value as slaves, under the averages of the Commissioners, amounting to 160,500l. while the lands, works, and buildings, are usually taken in British Guiana at as much more. This proprietor has received 72,100l. as compensation money, leaving 227,600l. against the estates. He would gladly agree to dispose of his interest in them after 1840 for 100,000l. payable at that time; leaving a loss of 127,600l., or about 42½ per cent on the entire value. And this I believe to be in every respect an advantageous case.
Sir, I have laboured this point hard, at the risk of wearying the House, because I feel, that if the West Indians had really enjoyed a gainful bargain, and this in addition to being charged with a broken engagement, that new circumstance would have added a deeper dye to the baseness of which they are accused.
And I must still make reference to the most authentic mode of proof, namely, the general returns of produce, and revenue for the colonies, from their great export, that of sugar, for which there has been a tendency to sacrifice every other article.
I take accordingly the quantity of sugar imported into this country, and the Gazette average price, first in the year 1814, where the proceeds were highest; next in the years 1816–18, after the peace; (in both these cases, the Mauritius is excluded from the returns); thirdly, in the years 1832–4, a period of great depression, and the last years of slavery: and fourthly, the years 1835–7, being those of apprenticeship. They stand thus—
Year. Quantity, in Tons. Gazette Average Price per Cwt. Gross Proceeds 1st. 1814 £196,200 73s. 4¼d. £12,484,000 2d. 1816 £185,000 43s. 6¾d. £8,354,000 1817 190,400 49 8 8,850,000 1818 196,100 50 0 9,163,000 3)571,500 3)26,367,000 Average £190,500 £8,789,000 3d. 1832 £211,000 27s. 8½d. £5,855,000 1833 209,000 29 7½ 6,196,300 1834 214,000 29 5 6,209,500 3)634,000 3)18,351,800 211,300 £6,117,260
If then we compare the annual proceeds under the apprenticeship, favoured as they have been by high prices, with the three last years of slavery, we have an increased return of 920,000l: annually: but if with the highest returns which the West Indies have made, a decrease appears of 5,447,000l; and if with the first years of the peace, a decrease of 1,752,000l.
4th.1835 £200,000 33s. 6d. £6,700,000 1836 197, 000 40 10 8,055,000 1837 184,000 34 7½ 6,366,000 3)581,000 3)21,111,000 Average £193,660 £7,037,000
The profits have been chiefly in the crown colonies, where legislation under the Abolition Act has been within your own control.
Jamaica has gained nothing, as appears by the following calculation.
I regret to say, that Antigua is also a loser, under the operation, however wholly, or partially, of natural causes, since 1834.
1st. 1832 71,570 tons, at £27 15 per ton. 1833 62,850 29 13 — 1834 –62,810 29 8 — 3)197,230 3)86 16 Average—65,776 tons, at £28 18 Average gross price £.1,874,000 2d. 1835 57,430 tons, at £33 10 per ton. 1836 52,700 40 17 — 1837 44,200 34 12 — 3)154,330 3)108 19 Average 51,400 tons, at£36 6 Average gross price £1,865,880.
And thus, Sir, having shown the amount of present returns, and the probability of future loss, I have only to add on this part of the subject, that I do not regret that loss, whatever it may eventually be. I do not complain that, bearing a share as a portion of the community, the planters should likewise make an additional and a heavy sacrifice. To emerge from such a state as that of slavery without serious loss, would be alike beyond our deserts 236 and our anticipations, but I think it hard only, that an accusation of enormous profits should be brought, when the case is likely to prove the very reverse.
1832 7,160 tons. 1835 8,730 tons. 1833 6,480— 1836 6,770— 1834 12,850— 1837 3,600— 3)26,490 3)19,100 Average 8,830 Average 6,360 Value £.251,655 Value £.230,868
I now approach the more essential portion of the argument. There was a compact. Has it been broken by the West-Indian body, or by the Assembly of Jamaica? Sir, when the bill of 1833 was passed, Parliament itself provided a criterion for determining absolutely, whether the substance of the compact had, so far as legislation was concerned, been fulfilled.
The decision was referred, by some strange error, not to an unseen and unknown Committee, but to the King in Council and to his administration, acting on their public responsibility! In every single case, this, the appointed authority, has long ago declared the conditions to have been fulfilled. But a question arises, respecting the subsidiary and secondary legislation required for carrying out the spirit of the Act. I do not seek to avoid this question, but it is a distinct one. And here, I neither myself comprehend, nor can I undertake to vindicate, the conduct of the Assembly of Jamaica. Heartily do I wish that it were in the power of those who hold the property of the island to influence more sensibly the composition of that body, by whose acts they must be bound. I observe, however, in the first place, that the questions now raised are supplemental questions, not comprised in the Abolition Act, but beyond it: and in the second, that Parliament in the last resort has the responsibility, for it retained the power of supplemental legislation in its own hands. It has retained that power in law, for in the sixteenth clause of the Abolition Act it makes no absolute surrender to the assemblies, but merely states that it cannot be exercised by the British legislature, "without great inconvenience." It has retained the power in practice, because in the year 1836, when an useful law of Jamaica, denominated the Act in Aid, had been suffered to expire, Parliament interposed, and without protest, except, I believe, on the part of the then Member for Bath, a bill was passed for renewing that colonial act, and thus, you have laid at your own doors the responsibility, if legal abuses and defects have not been removed. Had you reserved no power of interference with details short of breaking up the entire compact, I will not now inquire whether the merits of the question might have been different.
237 I now proceed to the case of Jamaica, and I shall endeavour to deal with it explicitly and in good faith, without omissions, though my memory may not enable me to gather and notice all the allegations that have been made in the entire course of this debate. I shall not refer to anonymous and unauthenticated statements, but I shall found my argument almost wholly upon the public reports of responsible officers, laid upon the table of this House, and open to exposure if their statements had been false. I should blush to follow the course of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Pease) who seconded the present motion, and who occupied the House with allegations from nameless persons, which it is wholly impossible to test. No, Sir, I had forgotten; in his courtesy he promised me the name of his informant; vote away the apprenticeship to-night, and give me the name to-morrow morning! Really, Sir, to advance such charges, and to expect that within a few hours of their promulgation this House is to go to a definitive vote on their uninvestigated credit, is the veriest mockery of justice that imagination can conceive. But I thank the hon. and learned Gentleman, the Member for the Tower Hamlets (Dr. Lushington,) for he, first of his whole party, seems to have disclaimed the idea of deciding this question upon rare and individual cases, and to have been struck with the idea that it was well to refer to the accredited statements which public functionaries have sent home. Sir, I agree with him; but, from the source to which he has referred me, I will show the falseness of his conclusions: and I agree with him in another principle which he laid down, that we are to be bound by the rule and not the exception in the conduct of the planters; I join issue with him on the very terms which he stated, and which at the moment I took down, "that the contract has been broken by a very large and preponderating majority of the island of Jamaica."
First, as to the abuses in the law; they were for the most part before the Committee of 1836, when it came to its unanimous report. As to those which have since come to light, they are completely met, together with the first, by the provisions of the bill now before the House. That bill, says the hon. and learned Member for Dublin, (Mr. O'Connell) goes to establish a dictatorship or a despotism in the West Indies. Sir, it is true that the provisions of the bill for the protection of the negro 238 are most stringent; the constitutional rights of their employers are utterly set aside in the bill, to secure that great object; and I enter into no questions of political privilege, I freely waive those rights, not now for the first time, but as I have ever been ready for such a cause to do; I think that the West Indians, on every ground, but especially as non-resident proprietors, are bound to yield everything for the protection of the negro; in the substance and principle of the enactments of the bill I entirely concur: and I have a right to ask, why have we not had this legal remedy at an earlier period? Sir, I do not hesitate to state my deliberate belief that the postponement is mainly owing to Mr. Sturge and his coadjutors.* They went to the West Indies. They accepted the civilities the hospitalities, of managers and planters: they stored up all allegations of abuse until they had reached a distant land, where it would require much time to investigate their truth. They pursued a course the very opposite of that which in common sense would be followed by men anxious only for the truth. What right had Mr. Sturge* On Mr. Sturge's retention of the statements which he had obtained in Jamaica, Lord Glenelg thus writes to Sir Lionel Smith, in a despatch dated lst, of February, 1838, and to be found at page 264 of the Papers, Part V.I confess I deeply regret that the circumstances which have led to the present inquiry, instead of having been brought under the notice of her Majesty's Government, for the first time in a pamphlet printed and circulated in this country, were not fully stated to you in Jamaica, when they first came to the knowledge of the parties, through whom they have at last happily transpired. Had this course been adopted, the dismissal of Mr. Rawlinson would have taken place at a much earlier period, and the authentic statement of the written disclosures, contained in the evidence now before me would long since have supplied a motive and laid a foundation for a more complete remedy than it has yet been in the power of the Government to provide against the recurrence of such enormous abuses.And Sir Lionel Smith writes, dating 16th of July, 1837, (see p. 271 of the same papers,)It would be puerile in me to complain of the want of personal courtesy in Joseph Sturge, but I do complain of his want of confidence in me to put him in the way of the best information.I should have felt obliged to Joseph Sturge if he had told me of any abuses he had discovered in our system towards the apprentices.239 to distrust the willingness or the power of Sir Lionel Smith to investigate his allegations? After all, it is to him that they have been referred: it is upon his report, in the shocking case of James Williams, that we rely. Why was this not done in the first instance? Why was Sir Lionel Smith, in whom perhaps, as much as in any governor of any of our colonies, temper, talent, principle, and judgment, are combined, thus suspected by Mr. Sturge Even his politics, I believe, are akin to those of the administration. Now, had he gone to Sir Lionel Smith with the narrative of Williams, the inquiry would have been instituted, the report sent home early in the last Session, and the Government would have come down with an irresistible demand for new enactments: twelve months of many difficulties and some suffering would have been avoided, but an opportunity for agitation and excitement would have been lost. So much for the case of defects in the law, which has been seriously raised in this debate with regard to Jamaica alone, and which I have thus argued, affords no ground for abolishing the apprenticeship.
I pass to consider the actual condition of the apprentice population; for if the practice on the whole be good, you would scarcely punish with severity the deficiencies of the law, even were they of a different order. Remember always, that the question is, whether the generality or the majority of the planters have violated the compact.
I divide the evidence into two classes: that which is ex parte, and that which has a public authority, or has been subjected to investigation. And with respect to the first, I apprehend I am justified in arguing, that the only use which can be made of it is, as a reason for inquiry: it cannot warrant a definite vote. Upon any other principle, no man, no relation of life, can be secure. I need only, then, consider the authenticated statements, for the purposes of this debate, and these afford no ground of serious allegation, except in the case of Jamaica.
Now, Sir, I differ from those who have preceded me in the means I have pursued for the collection of the general effect of the evidence from the papers on your table. I am prepared to rely upon the reports of our governors and of the stipendiary magistrates. Attempts have been made to impeach the veracity of these gentlemen: yes, made by persons who themselves are not 240 ashamed to be accusers upon anonymous or irresponsible testimony. It is said, that the magistrates receive the hospitalities of the planters; and it may be true: but the House is to recollect, that in the West Indies, dispersed as is the population, and the country destitute of inns, the man who refused hospitality would be regarded in the common opinion as a monster; it is given as a matter of course, and almost a right, and not as a matter of personal favour. If, however, I grant, that from this cause there may be an influence—is there none to countervail it? These magistrates are a body of English gentlemen; many of them from those services which are marked by the highest sense of honour; without West-Indian interests or prejudices: but this is not all; they are judicial officers, and yet they are not, as judicial officers should ordinarily be, exempted from the control of the executive government, but they are absolutely dependent for their subsistence on the respective governors, and dismissible at their pleasure, while the governors, I need not say, represent the Administration at home, so that if there were matter of charge against them it would redound upon the imperial authorities: but there is no evidence of the kind. There have, however, been two actions against them, with unfavourable verdicts given by Jamaica juries. And here I may say, I am not favourable to the interposition of West-Indian juries, as at present constituted, between the planter and the apprentice: and my hon. Friend, the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies, can correct me if I am wrong in stating, that he knows this is, with me, no new opinion. But let us take them as they are. Two verdicts were found against special magistrates: yet it is fair to add, that I find, in page 133 of the Parliamentary Papers, Part V., that Mr. Colin Chisholm, a considerable proprietor and attorney, had been fined 100l. at the Surrey assizes, for an assault on Mr. Special Justice Bourne. I could cite, on the other hand, a case of a special magistrate, who was fined seven thousand guilders, not by a jury, but by professional judges, holding their appointments from the Crown, for an assault on a white person. These magistrates are not infallible: but is it to be supposed for a moment, that a body of one hundred and fifty English gentlemen could be terrified out of the discharge of their solemn duties by the results of three actions in Jamaica, one of which was 241 favourable, while in the other two the charges were borne, and properly borne, under the circumstances, by the Government? These magistrates have the freest access to the negroes: they spend their time in itinerating over the estates: they have all the means of information and the will to use it, and to their information I appeal.
We have in the Papers, Part V., a despatch of Sir Lionel Smith's, dated 8th September, 1837, conveying fifty-six in-closures, which are the last quarterly returns from fifty-five special magistrates. It did certainly appear to me, though it had not so appeared to the hon. and learned Gentleman (Dr. Lushington), that as these reports contain for the most part specific answers to a set of twelve questions from the Governor upon the state of the negroes, the natural course was, to place them in a tabular form; and I shall now give the most important of the results, particular by particular, point by point. He has done otherwise: as he has read individual statements respecting free children who are tended by their parents alone, so I could read an account from a magistrate, who states that they are neglected by their mothers, but supported by the planters; but I shall look for general results. He boasts that he has thrice read the documents: what avails it, when his repeated perusals have only enabled him to read partial extracts which coincide with his views, and to make that general allegation respecting the effect of their evidence as a whole, which I will utterly overthrow by the process I have stated.
With hardly an exception, they testify to the good disposition of the negroes.
As respects the reciprocal feeling of employers and employed, nine only of the fifty-five report it to be otherwise than good. I deeply regret that there are nine such reports: but let us not forget the forty-six.
As respects the nine and eight hour systems, the House should know that this has been one of the great causes of bickering: I will not detain you by explaining the phrases further than to say, that they denote different distributions of the time legally exigible, of which the first is taken to be more convenient to the negro than the other. Now, of the fifty-five, twenty-nine only make a special report on this subject; and I take it for granted, therefore, where they only deal in general terms, that they had no specific grievance to 242 mention. And how are these twenty-nine subdivided? Of the twenty-nine, one says, that the eight-hour system prevails and is not unpopular with the negroes: another, that it is falling into disuse, because the negroes have begun to dislike it: two, simply that it is in general use: and twenty-five, that the nine-hour system is in general use.
The next important question of grievance is that which relates to the customary indulgences. Their withdrawal, in certain cases, has been made matter of serious complaint. They were not legally demandable under the Abolition Act: but I think that in equity and in kindness they were due; and I am willing to be bound by these principles, as if they had the stringency of law. The Committee of 1836 reported that they were very generally given on the larger properties: I do not, however, stand on that report, and I look to the special magistrates to assure me what is the conduct of the majority. There are thirty special reports upon the point. Of these, one states that they are commonly given, on condition that the negroes shall work for wages. Three state, that they are given as a consideration for extra labour. Two state, that they are generally withheld. Twenty-four state, that they are generally given without reserve.
Another point is that of manumissions, on which there is, undoubtedly, a case of hardship. I think the tribunal has been a bad one, and I deeply regret it, if the negro has been in any case paid one pound or one shilling beyond the real value of the labour he has brought out. On this subject there are nineteen or twenty special reports. Eight state that there is little desire to redeem the residue of the apprenticeship: eleven or twelve, that the negroes are too poor, or the valuations too high. But now let us look at the amount of the grievance. And here again I refer you to an authentic statement. In page 89 of Papers, Part V., you will find a return of concluded and unconcluded valuations, from the 1st November, 1836, to 31st July, 1837; the average term bought up was three years and five months, the average price 18l. sterling, or 29l. currency: a price higher, probably, than it should have been, yet not of the enormous character that has been represented, considering that the manumitted negroes are, on the whole, I apprehend, of a superior class: nor, on the other hand, have the great mass been repelled, for it appears that in these nine 243 months one thousand and twenty valuations have been concluded, four hundred and five have remained unconcluded. Now, Sir, I do trust, that, allowing for the possibility of error in units, I have dealt fairly by the House and by the merits in the manner in which I have here addressed myself to the examination of the evidence.
I pass to another important subject, that of education. Now this has always been a sore point during West-Indian discussions, and old prejudices are not easily removed; but the state of feeling undergoes daily improvement, and that improvement will, please God, continue, if it be not intercepted by the present agitation. Again I refer you to a public document: it is the report, dated October 19, 1837, of Mr. La Trobe, a gentleman appointed by the present Government, and not being a member of the Church of England, to inquire into the state of education. I find in the eleventh page of that report,That active opposition to the various plans set on foot for the education of the apprentice or his children, by whatever religious denomination they may be proposed, is rarely to be met with, either on the part of the authorities or of influential individuals.And again,—It is to be admitted, that many exhibit great apathy with reference to the question, yet it is no less true that the change of public opinion on this head in the island has been such as to surprise those acquainted, for even ten years past, with the colony, and with the strength of prejudices, which the former state of things had apparently rooted in the mind of the community at large, beyond all hope of speedy eradication; and when every few months give proof of an advance in the public feeling on this bead, and bring with them the hearty and liberal co-operation of many influential individuals, who, up to a recent date, comparatively, were foremost in opposition, there is certainly every encouragement held out to the friends of education, at home and in the island, and far more reason to wonder that so much had been already achieved, than that so much remains to be done.I now come to the most painful portion of the case; the abuses connected with the management of certain prisons in Jamaica. Even here I must observe, it is satisfactory to find that, as in the first place the learned Gentleman has dealt only with the case of Jamaica, containing a minority of the entire apprentice population, so, with reference to the cases of cruelty, we have only to deal with a small and diminishing minority of that minority, for they refer only to 244 those, I believe, who have been convicted under the Abolition Act. Now, Sir, let me say, that I have no apology to offer for the monstrous offences which have been detected in the workhouse of St. Ann's, and, in various degrees, in a few of the other workhouses of Jamaica: but I ask again, do they affect the mass? Do they establish a rule? I might say, you cannot prove this: I deprecate the method of the learned Gentleman, who refers to some paper from the parish of Trelawney, signed by seventy-three persons, on the subject, I believe, of labour, and on that evidence he proposes to convict the whole white population of Jamaica; but they—no I beg pardon, the white and coloured population of Jamaica, amount to between forty and fifty thousand. I shall, however, give you positive evidence that the cases of these workhouses are exceptions, the evidence of Sir Lionel Smith. And let no man say that governors are ignorant. He writes from a personal inspection, which much to his honour, he caused to be instituted into the state of the workhouses, before the mission of Captain Pringle, and before he had received the evidence of Mr. Sturge. On the 12th of June, 1837, he writes, as Gentlemen will find at the 310th page of the Papers, Part IV.Having lately returned from an inspection of the greater part of these buildings, I am enabled to report that, in roost instances, I found them well regulated, and under a careful supervision, from which the special magistrate is by no means excluded: and I have every reason to believe, from the disposition manifested by the local authorities, that I shall have no difficulty in obtaining such modifications of the existing rules, as may appear to me desirable.And at a later period I think he announces his further progress in the examination, without varying from the tenor of this report.
But observe, Sir, this is a question of prison discipline, not of apprentice law. The prison discipline of the West Indies may be bad: but let Gentlemen remember, that this is ordinarily one of the last departments which is affected by social ameliorations. As in England persons are unwisely beginning to call workhouses by the name of prisons, so in Jamaica the district prisons are habitually called by the name of workhouses. Now, are Gentlemen aware what were the sufferings and abuses detected in this country by the philanthropic Howard, no more than some half a century ago? Do they know what 245 my hon. Friend, Mr. Buxton, published in his work on prison discipline, dated, I think, in 1818? Nay, have they read the reports of the prison inspectors but two two or three years back, with regard to the gaol of Newgate? If they have, they will be slow in applying to the prisons of Jamaica a test, which those of England itself are but beginning to be able to bear.
Again, it is to be remembered, that in the cases which have attracted so much attention, there has been delinquency alleged on the part of two special magistrates. One has not been heard. One has been dismissed. He does not represent the character of the body.
But I shall now beg leave to introduce another question which the hon. and learned Gentleman has altogether avoided, one, however, which was urged with tremendous and resistless force during the discussions on slavery, the question of punishments: one which does exhibit facts connected with the mass, and not with single cases alone, because we have periodical returns from all the magisterial districts of all the punishments inflicted, made by those who have pronounced the sentence. I refer you to page 332 of the Papers, Part V. You will there find, that in the month of May, 1837, there were punished in Jamaica, males by whipping, 282; otherwise than by whipping, 855; females 860; total 1,997. But by the month of August an immense improvement is exhibited: we then find males punished by whipping, 105; otherwise than by whipping, 585; females, 498; total 1,188: so that there is a decrease, in three months, of nearly one-half upon the aggregate of punishments, and of nearly two-thirds upon the floggings. I regret, that any should remain: yet how different is this authentic statement, for the colony, the peccant colony of Jamaica, from the representations that have been made by the opponents of the apprenticeship.
Sir, I hope that, as well as the infirmity of memory will allow, I have dealt with every allegation regarding Jamaica. I have gone fully into the case, because the greatest stress is laid upon it by the supporters of the resolution. A right hon. Friend reminds me that I have not mentioned the flogging of females. But I have dealt with it in substance. In the instances where it has been proved to have occurred, it has been the grand abuse in the prison discipline: it is in itself monstrous—is a legal offence against the Abo- 246 lition Act: it cannot be punished with too much severity; and, but for the course taken by Mr. Sturge, it would have been effectually prevented long ago: but it is a question of prison discipline, not of the apprenticeship system.
Undoubtedly it was an omission in the Abolition Act—no human wisdom could foresee everything—that when you were most properly providing an independent jurisdiction for the adjudication of questions between planter and apprentice, you did not also make provision, that the stipendiary magistrate should have an effectual control, in all respects, over the prisons to which he was to sentence offenders: yet this fault is not with the planters; and I entreat the House to consider what would be the effect of rejecting the Bill, and carrying the resolution? The Bill of the Government does stop the abuse: if it be now a legal offence it may be stopped without any Bill; but if not, the resolution makes no provision whatever against it, and there is nothing to prevent its introduction into every prison in Jamaica!
Sir, I pass to the other case on which the supporters of the resolution have staked its issue, that of British Guiana. Against the other colonies allegations are not made. I think myself, therefore, justified in omitting to consider them. The hon. Seconder of the motion (Mr. Pease) chose to introduce British Guiana. Truly can I say to him, "I thank thee for that word." He talked of the blue books, and stated he had read them. He must have dreamed it. I do complain of Gentlemen who make reference to Parliamentary documents, to which they have evidently paid no real attention. He utterly overlooked the plainest and broadest statements of those books; and gave us instead a mass of private and wholly unauthenticated allegations, chiefly of individual cases, which it is of course impossible to meet one by one; and I will not meet them by replies of a similar order from planters and attorneys. I shall avoid the practice which I have blamed in my opponents, and out of those very books I shall utterly confute him (unless where it has been done by my hon. Friend, the Under Secretary for the Colonies already) upon every point that he attempted to raise.
He raised a point upon a decrease of population, with an enormous increase of produce: a decrease which he admits he cannot prove, and an enormous increase 247 which I can disprove. Sir, the average import of sugar from British Guiana was, in the years 1832–4, 41,790; in the years 1835–7, it was about 47,978 tons. There may be a slight inaccuracy in this return. It exhibits an increase of one-eighth, for which I account by the following notimaginary causes: the increased investments in works and machinery—the succession of three remarkably fine seasons—the circumstance that sugar cultivation in British Guiana has been gradually, for a series of years, supplanting every other,—and, lastly, the introduction of several thousands of additional labourers.
He complained next, that the distance to the field was taken out of the time of the negro. He seems to be quite ignorant that Lord Glenelg has long ago declared that it should be computed as a part of the time due to the master, and that Lord Glenelg has the power of regulating the law upon the subject as he pleases.
He complained of the treatment of the sick; and he mentioned, that upon the estate of Wales, in which those with whom I am connected are concerned—but he took away all personal point from the attack by adding, that the sickhouse there was one of the best—lamp-oil and other nauseous substances were administered to invalid negroes, to ascertain the reality of their indisposition. He had this from one of his anonymous friends, with whom I should be delighted to make acquaintance across the table of one of the committee rooms of this House. Sir, I need hardly say I have no information on this monstrous statement: but I hope the House, when they have heard what is the general treatment of the labourers of British Guiana, will think me justified for the present in disbelieving it. If the hon. Gentleman shall think fit to introduce into the bill before the House a clause forbidding to administer lamp-oil to the negroes, he shall have my best assistance. But, seriously, Sir, I invite the hon. Gentleman to supply me with a statement of his charges, that an immediate inquiry may be instituted. The result of that inquiry, be it what it may, shall be entirely at his service.
With regard to his general statement, I may offer in answer one which I myself received from Mr. Willis, lately a judge in British Guiana, and now advanced to an office in New South Wales by her Majesty's Government, in the presence and hearing of the late Member for Weymouth, of the Member for Leeds, and other Gentlemen.
248 He said nothing indeed of lamp-oil, but something of wine, meat, and soups provided for the sick: he stated, that the practice of medical men on estates was considered to be very valuable: that there was no point in which the planters of British Guiana were more commendable than in their treatment of the sick apprentices.
And similarly with regard to the reduction of food: I know, in those cases of which I am cognisant, that the labourer receives ten pints of rice weekly, (when plantains are deficient), which are stated to yield forty-five pounds and upwards of edible food, together with three pounds of salt fish, and several other allowances.
But I think I am justified in citing the twelfth question addressed to the fifteen stipendiary magistrates of the colony, as comprehending both these heads, and their answers; and here, long as I have necessarily been, I am scarcely afraid of wearying the House; the conciseness of their replies, in general, is a perfect curiosity. The question commences thus:
"Have any complaints been preferred to you during the last month, from any apprenticed labourers, respecting their clothing, food, treatment, or upon any subject?"
And now I take the latest answers that are printed, those for February 1837. They run to this effect.
"None. None deserving of notice. None. Two—the parties were fined. No. None. None deserving of notice. None. No. No. No. One referred to the sheriff. None. None. None."
I have made no undue selection. This is the general tenour of the reports. And is it in the face of facts like these, that upon nameless testimony gentlemen can expect a British Parliament to break faith with the planters of Guiana?
And now, Sir, I take the condition of mothers, and the abandonment of the free children. And I will show, as was shown by my hon. Friend (Sir G. Grey) last night, that the planters have done much more than was required of them, either by the letter or the spirit of the compact. The parents were bound to support the children, or apprentice them: they have not supported, they have not apprenticed them: but the reports of the magistrates apprise you, in answer to question fourteen, that upon every estate throughout the colony, except three, the planters, without either present or prospective equivalent, have 249 continued to supply to the free children the whole maintenance and care which in a state of slavery they had received. But who are these three unnatural proprietors, that form the exception to the general practice? No, Sir, not even these shall be left to the hon. Gentleman. The estates named are those of Best, Tuchen de Vrienden, and Vreesenhoop. Attracted by the similarity of the last name to that of Vreedenhoop, an estate belonging to Mr. Gladstone, I was induced to make inquiry into these cases, and let the House mark the result, resting however, of course, on private information. I received a letter this day from a proprietor of the first, Tuchen de Vrienden, forwarding to me a copy of one from the manager, in which he says,—
"I can verify on oath, that the allowance of food and clothing, prescribed by law, was regularly offered for the free children, and as regularly refused."
I apprehend he means prescribed by law for slave children. The reason of the refusal was this: the parents had been persuaded, that by accepting the allowances they would incur at least an implied obligation to bind the children as apprentices, to which they were averse.
The estate of Best, I understand, is in pecuniary difficulties, and on the verge of sequestration. The estate of Vreesenhoop is actually in sequestration, and of course the court would not allow, in the accounts, any except legal charges.
The hon. Gentleman also referred to the amount of punishments; but what a strength of case have we here! When the noble Lord introduced his resolutions for abolition in 1833, he referred to the case of British Guiana, to show, a register of punishments being there regularly kept, what was the amount of corporal suffering inflicted under slavery. Two hundred thousand lashes was the number which he then reported. And how stands that subject now? Why, Sir, the use of the lash, as-a stimulus to labour, has died a natural death in Guiana. The last five months show eleven corporal punishments upon a population of 7,000 persons, yielding an average of seven hundred lashes by the ear; not be it observed, for neglect of work, but for theft. And yet we are to hear, in utter contempt of the demonstration afforded by this extraordinary and progressive reduction, of the failure forsooth of the apprenticeship system, and the essential vices in its principle!
250 I think the hon. Gentleman also complained that the forty-five hours of labour, exigible by law from the apprentice, were so distributed through the week, as to render valueless the remainder of his time. Certainly the method by which this end could be attained must be curious, and I should be glad to have the receipt. But again I meet the hon. Gentleman from the reports of the special magistrates. If he will look to question five, he will find that the hours of labour are almost always comprised between seven and half-past two, or half-past three: and how would the English workman rejoice if he could secure such a limitation! But further; I find by the answers to question four, that task-work is almost universally resorted to; and I ask who in his senses ever heard of a compulsory arrangement of hours for task-work, or can deem this reply compatible with the accusation of the hon. Gentleman?
With regard to the prisons of British Guiana, no charge has been made; but I may mention a statement received from Mr. Willis by myself, in the presence of the same gentlemen as I before mentioned. He stated to me, that the prison discipline was lax and defective, but not cruel; that precisely the same method of treatment was pursued with apprentices, and white persons, specifying soldiers in particular; that the treadmill was not more severe than those of England; and that the white persons suffered from it considerably more than the blacks.
Lastly, Sir, with respect to wages. I rejoice to say, that the field labourer of British Guiana can earn at the rate of from three to four shillings a day. Even in Jamaica he can earn up to half a dollar. But in British Guiana it is as I have stated from my own knowledge: I would rather, however, refer you to the two last reports of the magistrates on the subject, in pages 556–7 of Papers, Part IV., where they report that the negroes work for wages in the field at the rate of in one case three shillings, in the other three and ninepence, per day of ten hours.
Sir, I trust, that from the reports of these gentlemen, from their public statements, liable to contradiction, and made under constant liability to dismissal, I have disposed of the charges of the hon. Gentleman, and I boldly ask him, where is your case against British Guiana?
But what will you say to Sir James Carmichael Smith? a gentleman of undoubted honesty, and not less unquestionable ta- 251 lents—a gentleman whose bias is in favour, and I will say excusably in favour, of the negroes upon every doubtful point. He exercises a most vigilant superintendence. He lives close to the negroes at George Town, and he invites and encourages them to resort to him with their complaints. And he it is who tells you, that the labourers of British Guiana are an orderly, a happy, an industrious, an improving population; he it is who says to you, "I challenge comparison with any county of Great Britain."
But I cannot refrain from mentioning to the House two circumstances that have very recently taken place upon estates within my own private knowledge; for it is no part of my policy to suppress what tends to exhibit the amiable qualities of the negro character, as it is, I grieve to say, on the other side to conceal whatever is for the credit of the planters. On one estate, (that of Vreedenhoop) an inundation suddenly occurred, which threatened the most serious mischief. It was a Sunday morning—there was no legal claim upon them—but the labourers turned out to a man to erect a dam, and prevented the mischief.
The other is really a touching incident. I hold in my hand the Guiana Chronicle, of October 11th, 1337, containing an advertisement of subscriptions raised within the colony in aid of those collected at home last year, for the relief of the distressed Highlanders. Among the subscriptions are sums from the apprenticed labourers of twenty-two estates; and I rejoice to say, that the largest amount is from the estate of Success, where it exceeds twelve pounds. It is affecting to see, not, I am happy to think, the poor, but the humble labourer of British Guiana, thus already mindful of his distant fellow-subjects. It shows the advancement of the negro population. But it also shows the friendly relations—the white persons on that estate are chiefly Scotchmen—subsisting between the different classes, and surely it speaks volumes against the proposition for a violent interference between them.
Sir, if there had been in Guiana a breach of contract by defective laws, the fault would have lain with the Government; because I believe that the whole legislative power over that colony, except in the case of taxation alone, where it is controlled by a court called the Combined Court, is in the hands of the Government at home.
But I will not leave even that supposition 252 to stand. Mr. Jeremie, in the year 1836, examined, with the eye of a lynx, all the colonial abolition and supplemental laws. Every man who knows his eminent abilities can appreciate that examination. Mr. Jeremie told me, before my hon. Friend, Mr. Buxton, and others, that he thought the legislation of British Guiana, with few and immaterial exceptions, was even then entitled to be termed adequate and satisfactory.
Now, Sir, you have heard of the authority of Mr. Buxton and of the Committee of 1836, on the abolition of the apprenticeship. But, observe also, in particular, that of Sir James Carmichael Smyth. He declared, as he has been cited by the noble Lord, (Lord John Russell) on the 3rd of February last,—I consider the continuance of the present system until the 1st of August, 1840, as identified with the future welfare of this magnificent province.But add to this, that when first he heard of the agitation at home, so early as in a despatch of the 19th March, 1837, he wrote to my Lord Glenelg as follows:—I assure your Lordship that I should much regret and lament the doing away of the apprenticeship. I deprecate any sudden change or the abandonment of a system which, in British Guiana at any rate, so completely answers. Neither the planters nor the labourers are prepared for any immediate alteration. Of other colonies I presume not to speak nor to offer any opinion but in British Guiana, not only the letter but the spirit of the Act of Parliament abolishing slavery and introducing apprentice labour have been so strictly enforced, that no act of tyranny, of cruelty, or of oppression, can take place without the speedy detection, exposure, and punishment of the person so offending.And now learn, from a subsequent passage, which way, had he suffered himself to be influenced by personal motives, that influence would have tended. He sub-joins:In thus advocating the continuance, for the present, of a system which, to a hasty observer, may appear to be too favourable to the interests of the planter as put in opposition to those of the labourer, I beg to explain to your Lordship, that I am influenced solely by what I conceive to be the general good, and that the apprentice system (if carefully superintended in its details) appears to me to be equally necessary and advantageous to both parties. If I was susceptible of being influenced by unworthy motives, the continued opposition and experienced on the 253 part of the most influential of the planters would rather have induced me to have arrived at the conclusion that the apprentice system ought to be abolished. I am, however, of a decidedly contrary opinion; the managers and the labourers are daily approximating; not only wages for additional labour are becoming more common, but fields of sugar-canes are weeded or cut down by agreement. Labour is, in fact, finding its level and its value; nothing can be going on better, and I do not think that the permanent well-being of the labourer would be accelerated by any immediate change of system. We have everything to expect from persevering in the present plan; it is impossible to foretell what mischievous effects a sudden and (in my humble opinion) an uncalled-for change might produce.And now, Sir, I beseech the House to consider the utter impossibility of any adequate legislative preparation for the abolition of the apprenticeship in August 1838. Let me suppose, what, except for argument's sake, I regard as a purely chimerical supposition—that you could carry your resolution, and pass your Bill in June. It might arrive in the West Indies by the 1st of August. We require poor laws, police laws, jury laws, electoral laws, vagrant laws, laws for prison discipline. We require at least a currency in which it may be physically possible to pay wages to the mass of the apprentice population. Do you expect that, upon the naked announcement of your will, there will in a moment spring into existence a whole harvest of legislative measures, which are permanently to fix and determine, in every colony, the social condition of a whole people? But, perhaps, you will say, this legislation ought not to have been postponed, and the islands must suffer for their fault. Not so, Sir; the Government are responsible for it. Lord Glenelg, I apprehend, wrote thus to Sir J. C. Smyth, on December 29th, 1837.It is perfectly true that, to the utmost extent, it is, and has been the endeavour of her Majesty's Government to avoid every measure which will predetermine the nature of the relations which are to subsist between employers and servants in the West Indies after August 1, 1840. They have postponed that inquiry until the time shall arrive for viewing the question under the many different aspects in which it must be regarded when all the necessary information shall have been collected."Nor was this from the Government alone. The Committee of 1836 reported in exactly the same sense; and the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Labouchere,) who sat as Chairman of that Committee, knows 254 that I am correct in saying, this recommendation was peculiarly desired and pressed by those who are termed the friends of the negroes. And they were right. The obvious reason being, that in the prospect of so great a change, it is well to make your preparations with the advantage of the utmost possible degree of knowledge which can be gathered from the experience of the apprenticeship.
What, then, are you prepared to do? Will you throw all these communities into a state of anarchy? Will you call forth the aged among the apprentices upon the world, and leave them to the mere mercy of those planters who are so much vituperated? They have no claim to relief, no means of subsistence. The Abolition Act was passed with the general, and I will say, the bonâfide concurrence of the West Indian proprietary body; and yet it took two years to arrange, very imperfectly, the laws necessary for regulating a transition state of only six years' duration; and can it be now expected that all the measures which should attend emancipation can be adjusted in an instant; not, be it observed, with the concurrence of the West Indian body at home, but in the midst of their general and indignant protestations?
And further, I am sure that the House will feel the necessity of observing some analogy and proportion in its method of dealing with different questions, and with the several classes of her Majesty's subjects. Compare the child of nine years old—and some say, under—entering your factories to work eight hours a-day—and some say, more—for a livelihood, with the child of nine years old in British Guiana, supported without labour by the proprietors of the soil. What shall we say of the Irish peasant with his sixpence a day; of the hand-loom weaver with his four shillings a-week?—what shall those of us who have such poor constituents say to them, when next we go among them, and see their wasted frames stooping to their toil for twelve or fourteen hours in the day to procure a bare subsistence, when we tell them we have no aid to afford them, but that we have been busy in rescuing from his seven-and-a-half daily hours the negro of British Guiana, who can employ his extra time at the rate of three shillings and sixpence, or four shillings a-day?
But more. Are you ignorant of the slave trade that is now in its fullest vigour between Africa and the West? I am credibly informed that 50,000 human 255 beings were brought last year to a single port of South America. Have you considered how many cargoes of them are now upon their deadly passage? Have you inquired why and how that trade is carried on? I do not mean alone that in your public negotiations you tamper with it from year to year, and rest in the feeblest and most ineffectual measures, instead of declaring that trade to be a piracy, or of letting the world know, at all events, who are the nations and the governments that prevent its being so declared: not this alone, but I ask, are not the manufacturers of this country they who supply the means of supporting this monstrous traffic? The British manufacturer sends his goods in British ships to the Brazils, and receives for them cotton, the produce of slave labour. But a portion of those goods are made for an ulterior purpose; they are adapted to the African market; they are reshipped from the Brazils to the coast of Africa, and there exchanged for the human ware that passes from Africa to Brazil.
And have you, who are so exasperated with the West-Indian apprenticeship, that you will not wait two years for its natural expiration, have you inquired what responsibility lies upon every one of you, at the moment when I speak, with reference to the cultivation of cotton in America? In that country there are near three millions of slaves. You hear not from that land of the abolition—not even of the mitigation—of slavery. It is a domestic institution, and is to pass without limit, we are told, from age to age; and we, much more than they, are responsible for this enormous growth of what purports to be an eternal slavery. It is the demand which creates the supply; it has been the demand for cotton to support and extend your manufactures, under which slaves have been multiplied in America, and which has made the breeding trade in the northern slave-states, and the carrying trade towards the southern slave-states, and the vast increase of the entire servile population. You consumed forty-five millions of pounds of cotton in 1837, which proceeded from free labour; and, proceeding from slave labour, three hundred and eighteen millions of pounds! And this, while the vast regions of India afford the means of obtaining, at a cheaper rate, and by a slight original outlay to facilitate transport, all that you can require. If, Sir, the complaints against the general body of the 256 West Indians had been substantiated, I should have deemed it an unworthy artifice to attempt diverting the attention of the House from the question immediately at issue, by merely proving that other delinquencies existed in other quarters; but feeling as I do, that those charges have been overthrown in debate, I think myself entitled and bound to show how capricious are hon. Gentlemen in the distribution of their sympathies among those different objects which call for their application.
And now, Sir, I have completed my long and wearisome detail, and I commit this weighty question, with the utmost confidence, to the justice of a British Parliament. I ask for justice alone, and to that demand the legislature of England cannot be deaf. I have no fear of the effect of any of the arguments which have been used in this place; but I am aware that means of a different character have been put into requisition. All the machinery of private solicitation and intrigue has been at work, and a pressure almost intolerable has been exerted, it is probable, upon nearly every one of those who hear me. Yet I am fearless of the result. The threatened measure cannot pass here or elsewhere. You have been urged by demands, addressed to you not as members of the British Parliament, not as rational beings, but as if you were mere machines, intended simply to indicate the views of parties outside these walls. I have requested no vote, nor would I stoop to such a course; but when any Gentleman has named the subject to me, I have said simply, hear the case. You are yet, in some sense, the mind and the deliberate wisdom of the nation, and you will act in the spirit of that high capacity, not in subservience to blind impulses from without, originating no doubt in benevolent motives, but founded upon information most partial, inadequate, and erroneous. If I have failed in proving that which I undertook, it has been my weakness and my shame, but it has been the misfortune of one of the strongest cases ever submitted to Parliament. I read but yesterday an article in a morning journal on this subject, with sentiments which I will not characterise, lest I should add one more to the expressions of irritation which, contrary to my will and intention, may have escaped me while I have addressed the House. The writer did not reason of justice or of humanity; but he recited cer- 257 tain resolutions upon this subject, and went on to say, "These resolutions are intelligible enough; hon. Members are aware of the weight of the body from which they proceed, and require no hint from us as to the course which they ought to pursue." Sir, I stand in the face of Parliament; I have laid before you the facts of this case, myself bewildered by their multitude. I have laid before you considerations of policy and of statesmanlike foresight, considerations of equity and plighted faith. I will not intimate a suspicion, nor presume to entertain a doubt, as to the principle upon which Members of this House will to-night regulate their conduct; I retort the language of that scribe in a sense most opposite to his. Hon. Gentlemen can require from me no hint as to the course which they ought to pursue.
Sir George Strickland
said: Mr. Speaker, I think that I shall best discharge my duty by not offering one word in reply.
§ The House divided on the original question:—Ayes 215; Noes 269: Majority 54.
|List of the AYES.|
|Aglionby, H. A.||Butler, hon. Colonel|
|Alford, Viscount||Byng, G.|
|Alsager, Captain||Cantalupe, Viscount|
|Alston, R.||Cayley, E. S.|
|Archbold, R.||Chalmers, P.|
|Attwood, M.||Chandos, Marquess of|
|Bagot, hon. W.||Chester, H.|
|Bailey, J.||Chetwynd, Major|
|Bainbridge, E. T.||Chisholm, A. W.|
|Baines, E.||Clive, E. B.|
|Baker, E.||Collier, J.|
|Barnard, E. G.||Collins, W.|
|Beamish, F. B.||Colquhoun, Sir J.|
|Berkeley, hon. H.||Conyngham, Lord A.|
|Berkeley, hon. C.||Copeland, Alderman|
|Bewes, T.||Craig, W. G.|
|Blackstone, W. S.||Cripps, J.|
|Blake, M. J.||Dashwood, G. H.|
|Blunt, Sir C.||Denison, W. J.|
|Bodkin, J. J.||Dennistoun, J.|
|Boldero, H. G.||D'Eyncourt, rt. hn. C.|
|Brabazon, Sir W.||De Horsey, S. H.|
|Bridgeman, H.||D'Israeli, B.|
|Briscoe, J. I.||Divett, E.|
|Broadwood, H.||Duff, J.|
|Brocklehurst, J.||Duke, Sir James|
|Brodie, W. B.||Duncombe, T.|
|Brotherton, J.||Dundas, C. W. D.|
|Browne, R. D.||Dundas, hon. J. C.|
|Bruges, W. H. L.||Dungannon, Viscount|
|Bryan, G.||Easthope, J.|
|Buller, Sir J. Y.||Eaton, R. J.|
|Bulwer, E. L.||Egerton, Sir P.|
|Busfield, W.||Eliot, Lord|
|Ellis, J.||Muskett, G. A.|
|Etwall, R.||Nagle, Sir R.|
|Evans, G.||Neeld, J.|
|Evans, W.||Neeld, J.|
|Farnham, E. B.||Noel, W. M.|
|Feilden, W.||O'Brien, W. S.|
|Fielden, J.||O'Connell, D.|
|Fector, J. M.||O'Connell, J.|
|Ferguson, Sir R.||O'Connell, M. J.|
|Finch, F.||O'Connell, M.|
|Fitzroy, Lord C.||O'Connell, M.|
|Fitzroy, hon. H.||Owen, Sir J.|
|Fleetwood, P. H.||Paget, F.|
|Foley, E. T.||Parker, R. T.|
|Fort, J.||Parker, T. A. W.|
|Gibson, T.||Pattison, J.|
|Gillon, W. D.||Pechell, Captain|
|Glynne, Sir S. R.||Peel, J.|
|Gore, O. J. R.||Philips, Sir R.|
|Gore, O. W.||Phillpotts, J.|
|Goring, H. D.||Pigot, R.|
|Grattan, H.||Polhill, F.|
|Greenaway, C.||Poulter, J. S.|
|Grimsditch, T.||Powell, Colonel|
|Grote, G.||Powerscourt, Viscount|
|Guest, J. J.||Protheroe, E.|
|Hall, B.||Pryse, P.|
|Halse, J.||Redington, T. N.|
|Handley, H.||Rice, E. H.|
|Harland, W. C.||Richards, R.|
|Harvey, D. W.||Rippon, C.|
|Hawes, B.||Roche, E. B.|
|Heathcoat, J.||Round, J.|
|Hill, Lord A. M. C.||Rundle, J.|
|Hindley, C.||Russell, Lord|
|Hodges, T. L.||Salwey, Colonel|
|Hollond, R.||Sanderson, R.|
|Horsman, E.||Sanford, E. A.|
|Hoskins, K.||Seale, Colonel|
|Humphery John||Sibthorp, Colonel|
|Hurst, R. H.||Sinclair, Sir G.|
|James, W.||Smith, hon. R.|
|Jervis, S.||Smyth, Sir G. H|
|Johnson, General||Somerville, Sir W. M.|
|Jones, J.||Stanley, M.|
|Jones, W.||Stansfield, W. R. C.|
|Kinnaird, hon. A. F.||Staunton, Sir G. T.|
|Langdale, hon. C.||Stewart, J.|
|Langton, W. G.||Stuart, H.|
|Leader, J. T.||Strangways, hon. J.|
|Lennox, Lord A.||Style, Sir C.|
|Lennox, Lord G.||Thompson, Alderman|
|Litton, E.||Thornley, T.|
|Lowther, J. H.||Tollemache, F. J.|
|Lushington, Dr.||Townley, R. G.|
|Lushington, C.||Trench, Sir F.|
|Mackinnon, W. A.||Turner, E.|
|Maher, J.||Turner, W.|
|Marsland, H.||Verner, Colonel|
|Martin, J.||Vigors, N. A.|
|Master, T. W. C.||Villiers, C. P.|
|Maunsell, T. P.||Vivian, J. H.|
|Meynell, Captain||Wakley, T.|
|Miller, W. H.||Walsh, Sir J.|
|Molesworth, Sir W.||Warburton, H.|
|Moneypenny, T. G.||Ward, H. G.|
|Morris, D.||Welby, G. E.|
|Wemyss, J. E.||Wood, Sir M.|
|White, A.||Wood, G. W.|
|Whitmore, T. C.||Worsley, Lord|
|Wilkins, W.||Wyse, T.|
|Williams, W.||Yorke, hon. E. T.|
|Winnington, T. E.||Strickland, Sir G.|
|Winnington, H. J.||Pease, J.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Acheson, Viscount||Darby, G.|
|Acland, Sir T. D.||Darlington, Earl of|
|Acland, T. D.||Dick, Q.|
|Adam, Admiral||Dottin, A. R.|
|Adare, Viscount||Douglas, Sir C. E.|
|Ainsworth, P.||Douro, Marquess of|
|Anson, hon. Colonel||Dowdeswell, W.|
|Arbuthnot, hon. H.||Dundas, F.|
|Ashley, Lord||Dundas, hon. T.|
|Bagge, W.||East, J. B.|
|Baillie, Colonel||Ebrington, Viscount|
|Ball, N.||Egerton, W. T.|
|Bannerman, A.||Egerton, Lord F.|
|Baring, F. T.||Elliot, hon. John E.|
|Baring, hon. F.||Ellice, Captain A.|
|Baring, H B.||Ellice, right hon. E.|
|Baring, hon. W. B.||Ellice, E.|
|Barron, H. W.||Estcourt, T. G. B.|
|Barry, G. S.||Estcourt, T. H. S.|
|Bell, M.||Euston, Earl of|
|Bellew, R. M.||Fazakerley, J. N.|
|Bentinck, Lord G.||Fellowes, E.|
|Bentinck, Lord W.||Ferguson, Sir R. A.|
|Blackburne, I.||Ferguson, R.|
|Blackett, C.||Fergusson, rt. hon. C.|
|Blair, J.||Filmer, Sir E.|
|Blake, W. J.||Fitzalan, Lord|
|Bolling, W.||Fitzgibbon, hon. Col.|
|Bramston, T. W.||Fitzsimon, N.|
|Broadley, H.||Fleming, J.|
|Brownrigg, S.||Follett, Sir W.|
|Buller, E.||Forester, hon. G.|
|Burroughes, H. N.||Fremantle, Sir T.|
|Byng, right hon. G. S.||French, F.|
|Calcraft, J. H.||Gladstone, W. E.|
|Callaghan, D.||Goddard, A.|
|Campbell, W. F.||Gordon, R.|
|Canning, rt. hn. Sir S.||Gordon, hon. Captain|
|Cavendish, hon. C.||Goulburn, rt. hon. H.|
|Cavendish, hon. G. H.||Graham, rt. hon. Sir J.|
|Chapman, A.||Grattan, J.|
|Chute, W. L. W.||Greene, T.|
|Clay, W.||Grey, Sir C. E.|
|Clayton, Sir W. R.||Grey, Sir G.|
|Clements, Viscount||Grimston, Viscount|
|Clive, hon. R. H.||Halford, H.|
|Colquhoun, J. C.||Harcourt, G. G.|
|Compton, H. C.||Harcourt, G. S.|
|Conolly, E.||Hastie, A.|
|Coote, Sir C. H.||Hawkins, J. H.|
|Corry, hon. H.||Hayter, W. G.|
|Courtenay, P.||Heneage, E.|
|Crawford, W.||Henniker, Lord|
|Currie, R.||Herbert, hon. S.|
|Curry, W.||Herries, rt. hon. J. C.|
|Dalmeny, Lord||Hinde, J. H.|
|Hobhouse, rt. hn. Sir J.||Pakington, J. S.|
|Hodgson, F.||Palmer, C. F.|
|Hodgson, R.||Palmer, R.|
|Hogg, J. W.||Palmer, G.|
|Holmes, W.||Palmerston, Viscount|
|Hope, G. W.||Parker, J.|
|Hope, H. T.||Parker, M.|
|Houstoun, G.||Parnell, rt. hon. Sir H.|
|Howard, F. J.||Patten, G. W.|
|Howard, P. H.||Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.|
|Howick, Viscount||Pemberton, T.|
|Hughes, W. B.||Pendarves, E. W. W.|
|Hume, J.||Phillips, M.|
|Hurt, F.||Philips, G. R.|
|Hutton, R.||Pinney, W.|
|Ingestrie, Viscount||Plumptre, J. P.|
|Ingham, R.||Ponsonby, hon. J.|
|Inglis, Sir R. H.||Power, J.|
|Irton, S.||Power, J.|
|Irving, J.||Praed, W. M.|
|Jenkins, R.||Price, Sir R.|
|Jermyn, Earl of||Pusey, P.|
|Johnstone, H.||Ramsbottom, J.|
|Jones, T.||Reid, Sir J. R.|
|Kemble, H.||Rice, right hon. T. S.|
|Kirk, P.||Rich, H|
|Knatchbull, hn. Sir E.||Bickford, W.|
|Knight, H. G.||Roche, D.|
|Labouchere, rt. hn. H.||Rolfe, Sir R. M.|
|Lambton, H.||Rose, rt. hon. Sir G.|
|Lascelles, hon. W. S.||Rumbold, C. E.|
|Lefevre, C. S.||Rushbrooke, Colonel|
|Lemon, Sir C.||Rushout, G.|
|Leveson, Lord||Russell, Lord J.|
|Liddell, hon. H.T.||Russell, Lord C.|
|Loch, J.||Sandon, Viscount|
|Lockhart, A. M.||Scarlett, hon. J. Y.|
|Logan, H.||Scarlett, hon. R.|
|Lygon, hon. General||Scrope, G. P.|
|Lynch, A. H.||Seymour, Lord|
|Mackenzie, T.||Sharpe, General|
|Mackenzie, W. F.||Sheil, R. L.|
|Maclean, D.||Shelburne, Earl of|
|Macleod, R.||Sheppard, T.|
|Macnamara, Major||Shirley, E. J.|
|Mactaggart, J.||Smith, J. A.|
|Mahony, P.||Smith, A.|
|Marshall, W.||Smith, R. V.|
|Marton, G.||Somerset, Lord G.|
|Maule, hon. F.||Speirs, A.|
|Melgund, Viscount||Spencer, hon. F.|
|Mildmay, P. St. John||Spry, Sir T.|
|Milnes, R. M.||Standish, C.|
|Mordaunt, Sir J.||Stanley, Lord|
|Morpeth, Viscount||Stanley, W. O.|
|Murray, rt. hon. J. A.||Stewart, J.|
|Nicholl, J.||Stuart, Lord J.|
|Norreys, Lord||Stuart, V.|
|Northland, Viscount||Strutt, E.|
|O'Brien, C.||Sturt, H. C.|
|O'Callaghan, hon. C.||Sugden, rt. hon.Sir E.|
|O'Ferrall, R. M.||Surrey, Earl of|
|O'Neil, hon. J. B. R.||Talbot, C. R. M.|
|Ord, W.||Talbot, J. H.|
|Ossulston, Lord||Tancred, H. W.|
|Packe, C. W.||Teignmouth, Lord|
|Paget, Lord A.||Thomson, rt. hon. C.P.|
|Trevor, hon. G. R.||Williams, R.|
|Troubridge, Sir E. T.||Williams, W. A.|
|Vere, Sir C. B.||Wodehouse, E.|
|Verney, Sir H.||Wood, C.|
|Villiers, Viscount||Wood, T.|
|Vivian, Major C.||Woulfe, Sergeant|
|Vivian, J. E.||Wrightson, W. B.|
|Vivian, rt. hn. Sir R.H.||Wynn, rt. hon. C. W.|
|Walker, It.||Yates, J. A.|
|Wall, C. B.||Young, J.|
|TELLERS.||Westenra, hon. H. R.|
|White, S.||Stanley, E. J.|
|Wilbraham, G.||Steuart, R.|
§ Bill read a second time.