§ Sir R. Peel
had hoped that the House might have been spared the necessity of the present discussion, and that they might have come to some arrangement with respect to the government of Jamaica without any party conflict, or even any serious division of opinion as to the course which it might be advisable to pursue. He had the strongest impression that it was desirable to exhaust every alternative before proceeding to the forfeiture of the constitution of that important colony, or to the suspension of the system of representative government, and establishing a despotic and arbitrary power in place of that liberal system which had prevailed for upwards of 150 years. He thought, also, that in the event of the necessity for interference being demonstrated by proofs too unequivocal to be called in question, it was of the utmost importance that the measure to be adopted, in consequence of the continued refusal of the local authorities to exercise their power, should be sanctioned by as strong and as unanimous a concurrence of public sentiment in this country as it was possible to obtain. It was limn these joint impressions of the expediency of postponing the application*Ante, p. 756.766 of absolute suspension till every other alternative had been exhausted, and if it should at length be inevitable, of the expediency of supporting the measure by the almost unanimous voice of Parliament, that he had ventured to make a proposition to her Majesty's Government on this subject. It might be that from his imperfect acquaintance with the West Indian colonies, from the absence of the slightest interest with regard to them, and from his want of local knowledge, he overrated the magnitude of this question. He was sure he took a view of its magnitude different from that which was taken by her Majesty's Government, and he had been led to form different conclusions. He had not heard any Message delivered to the House respecting Jamaica. He had heard that night a Message from the Throne suggesting the union of the Canadas, but he had heard no Message lamenting the necessity, but recommending the measure of suspending the constitution of Jamaica. Nay, he had heard it proposed that the House should depart from the ordinary forms of conducting business in respect to this measure, and that, the notice having dropped on a preceding day from a failure of making a House, leave should be given as a matter of course to bring in the bill. These circumstances led him to suppose that he formed a different estimate of the importance and magnitude of this question from that which was formed by Government. There were other reasons, he confessed, than the abstract consideration of the merits of the question that led him to a conclusion adverse to abrogating the constitution of this colony. The precedent of Canada last year, when the House felt themselves under the painful necessity of suspending in that country a popular form of government, was not, in his opinion, an example to be followed, so that the House should, in the very next Session, present themselves to the world as compelled to suspend another popular form of government in Jamaica. If, having in one year suspended a popular form of government in the North American provinces, they were, in the very next year, to adopt a similar measure towards the most important of the West Indian colonies, it might seem to be a practice of the Parliament to suspend a constitution every Session. He would have the House, to bear in mind, that the parties with 767 whom they had to deal had had no notice of this proceeding—that the colonists were up to this hour entirely unaware of the heavy penalty about to be inflicted upon them. He had thought, in considering the possibility that extreme measures might ultimately be forced upon us, that if we had recourse to them after full notice and warning to the colonists, after enabling them to become acquainted with the accusation preferred against them, the infliction would then be more conformable to our sense of justice. Having most carefully examined the papers bearing, on this subject which had been laid before the House, and having re-examined them since the first occasion, he declared with perfect sincerity, that he did not think the House was justified in passing this measure, or that there was any vindication in equity and justice for the course they were about to pursue. He agreed with Mr. Canning, that it would be indeed unwise in the House to abdicate its right of control over the colonies. He agreed with Mr. Canning in the sentiments expressed by him in the following passage, in the year 1824:—"I shall be asked, what are the intentions of the Government as to those colonies; by what means is it intended to bring them to reason, and induce them to adopt the views, and second the determinations of Parliament? There are three possible modes in which Parliament might deal with the people of Jamaica. First, it might crush them; by the application of direct force, we might crush them with a finger. Secondly, we might harass them by fiscal regulations and enactments, restraining their navigation. Thirdly, we might pursue the slow and steady course of temperate but authoritative admonition. Now, if I am asked which course I would advise, I am for first trying that which I have last mentioned. I trust we shall never be driven to the second; and with respect to the first, I will only now say, that no feeling of wounded pride, no motive of questionable expediency, nothing short of real and demonstrable necessity shall induce me to moot the awful question of the transcendental power of Parliament over every dependency of the British Crown. That transcendental power is an arcanum of empire, which ought to be kept back within the penetralia of the constitution. It exists, but it should be veiled. It should not be produced on trifling occasions, or 768 in cases of petty refractoriness, or temporary misconduct. It should be brought forward only in the utmost extremity of the state, where other remedies have failed, to stay the raging of some moral or political pestilence." He could not say that he thought the utmost extremity of this state had arrived; he could not say, looking at the papers laid before the House, that there was any vindication for bringing from the penetralia of the temple, the transcendental power to which Mr. Canning alluded. He begged the House to consider the nature of the measure they were now asked to pass, and the society to which it was to be applied. He wished he could impress them with his own conviction of the deep importance of this question, of the dangerous consequences that would probably follow the double precedent they were now about to set, and the general uneasiness that would becaused in other colonies. He wished he could only impress the House with half the force of his own conviction, and then he should at least insure himself a patient and attentive hearing. The enacting clauses of this bill were contained in two pages; it was a brief and compendious measure, and wisely so; for, first, the necessity of the case might absolutely require, if they were determined to pass this law, that they should take such extraordinary powers; and, secondly, the bill was neither more nor less than a bill for the establishment of a complete despotism. It would establish the most unqualified, unchecked, unmitigated power that ever was applied to the government of any community. He presumed they were not yet arrived at the period when there would be no permission granted to discuss possible abuses of power. It was not sufficient to tell him, that the powers intrusted would not be abused. They ought, in determining a constitution for another people, to consider not what were the lucky accidents by which tyranny might be averted, but what were the guarantees which the people could have for protection against injustice and oppression. He wished not to be chargeable with the slightest exaggeration in describing the nature of the provisions of this bill, but he asked, was there any Crown colony, not having a charter, and governed by absolute power, that was subject to such regulations as would be established by this measure? Had they ever treated with so much severity a conquered colony, amidst 769 the first heat of animosity after the contest? Some precautions had generally been taken to maintain the existing laws, and the rights and privileges of the inhabitants, but in this case every such precaution was neglected. Ministers took for the Crown the course of appointing councillors, without the slightest reference to the wishes of the governed; they gave to the governor and council unlimited power, without the least check on its exercise from any local authority, enacting, that whatever law they chose to pass, should endure for eighteen months without control. They had passed an act last Session, suspending the constitution of Canada. In that case, distinct notice had been given; the supplies had been refused for several years, contrary to what was looked upon as an implied contract; resolutions had been passed, warning the colony of what they might expect; and at length a bill was passed. But had they applied to that colony, then labouring under the ills arising from rebellion, such a measure as they now proposed for Jamaica? Not at all. There was not a word in the preamble of this bill, as to the intention of Government in passing it; but in the preamble of the Canada Bill, it was distinctly stated, that the measure was intended to enable Parliament to frame another constitution, based on popular principles. The plea on which they rested their justification, for suspending a popular form of government was, that the measure was only to be temporary, and that its powers were necessary to enable them to restore, in an improved shape, the ancient constitution of the colony. The preamble of that bill contained this recital:—"And whereas it is expedient to make temporary provision for the government of Lower Canada, in order that Parliament may be enabled, after mature deliberation, to make permanent arrangements for constructing anew the government of the said province, upon such a basis as may best secure the rights and liberties, and promote the interests of all classes of her Majesty's subjects in the said province." There was not a word of such intentions in the preamble of the present measure, and could they affect to be ignorant, that part of the support given to this bill, was founded on the hope, that the bill would be of permanent duration? He knew they professed that the bill was to be only temporary; that five years had been originally fixed as the period of its 770 duration, and that a proposal might be made to curtail the term; but were they not aware, that there were some men who gave their support to the bill, in the hope that this temporary eclipse of public liberty would not be permitted to expire, that the dismal twilight would continue after the two years, or the five years had elapsed, in the belief, that when the light of representative government should once be extinguished, there was no "Promethean heat that could that light relume." He did not think that speculation extravagant; he did not think they would find it so easy to re-establish a popular form of government, or that they now foresaw all the consequences that might result from this measure. Could they believe it possible that the colony would tamely acquiesce in this treatment, would submit with perfect cheerfulness and satisfaction? Was it in human nature to do so? Could they hope it after the demonstration of public feeling on the part of those connected with Jamaica? Did they think it likely, that three salaried commissioners sent from home could govern to the satisfaction of the colonists? They gave by this bill unlimited power of taxation, while professing to hold that people should not be taxed without their own consent. They abolished the representative body which had hitherto possessed the power of imposing taxation, and transferred that power of taxation to a governor and council, appointed without the slightest reference to the feelings and wishes of the colonists. He saw some thing like an incredulous smile upon the countenances of Ministers, but could they deny, that there was no limit to the power of taxation granted to the colony, or to their power of making laws? Suppose this council met with opposition, could not they at once suspend the Habeas Corpus Act? The press of the colony seemed tolerably violent, as far as he could judge. Suppose that it should persevere in using inflammatory and exciting language, and that the council should think its freedom incompatible with the safety of the new Government, why might they not at once abolish it? They might tell him, that the council would not do this, but was he not at liberty to argue on the possible abuses of arbitrary government? He defied them to show him any security against those abuses, any protection for the liberty of thought. There was no constitutional 771 security, none except what might be found in the goodwill of the parties exercising this power. A guarantee against undue oppression was provided for the rebellious colonists of Canada, but no limits were set to the powers that might be called into action against the people of Jamaica. In the case of Canada it was provided, that the council should have no power to impose any tax, duty, rate, or impost, by any ordinance, save only so far as any such tax or impost payable at the passing of the act might thereby be continued. It was carefully provided, that the colonists should not be exposed to the evils of oppressive taxation, the council was debarred from increasing the public burdens. They gave no such security to Jamaica. In regard to personal liberty, to property, to the imposition of taxation, the power they took was perfectly unprecedented. Was he in error as to the nature of the provisions which it was intended to pass into a law? There was not a word in the preamble of the ultimate intentions of the Imperial Legislature—not a word, in the enacting part, of check or control. And now what was the society to which this bill was to be applied? To understand this part of the question clearly, the House must bear in mind, that Jamaica represents one-halt of the possessions of the British Crown in the West Indies, they were about, therefore, to suspend the constitutional Government, to establish despotic authority over one-half of the West-Indian colonies. He was taking the whole of our colonies in that quarter of the world, those in South America as well as the islands. Let not hon. Members, let not the House, think that the precedent of this bill for suspending the constitution of Jamaica, and establishing arbitrary authority did not apply to other of our colonies in those quarters—to British Guiana for instance. Let them not think, that it did not apply except to a small portion of the colonial community. He would show them, that the bill would apply to one-half of the population of the West-Indian and South-American colonies, and also to one-half of everything that constituted the value of those colonies to Great Britain. The white population of Jamaica was equal in numbers to one-half of the whole white population of the British colonies in the West Indies and in South America. The whole public revenue of the West-Indian colonies was 772 540, 000l., the revenue of Jamaica alone amounted to 300,000l., being more, as the House saw, than one-half of the whole. The whole annual expenditure of the colonies was 551,000l., the annual expenditure of Jamaica reached 300,000l., These statements greatly underrated, he believed, the importance of Jamaica, as exhibited by the amount of its taxation and expenditure, but if the bill passed into a law as it stood, the whole of this taxation would be raised by the new council, consisting in part of the stipendiary servants of the Crown. The whole of the expenditure also would take place under their direction. Again, the value of the imports of the British colonies in the West Indies and in South America in 1838, amounted to 5,806,000l. The value of the imports into Jamaica in the same year, was upwards of 3,000,000l. The amount of the total exports of the West-Indian and South-American colonies in that year, was 9,932,300l.; the amount of exports from Jamaica in the same period was calculated at 4,000,000l. He had therefore shown, that Jamaica represented one half the trade, one half the revenues, and one half the population of the West-Indian and South-American colonies. So much for the importance of Jamaica as a colony. Next, he would entreat the House to recollect what was the nature of society there—what the character of the people they were about to submit to this extraordinary experiment. It was true, that the black population outnumbered the white; indeed, that the numbers of the white population were as nothing almost, when compared with those of the black, the power of the Government was unlimited, if they chose to appear there as upholding the cause of the black population. They had the power. But he need hardly appeal to the generosity of her Majesty's Government, or of the House, to enforce the consideration, that thought they had the power, they were not relieved from the duty of claims, that in point of constitutional right, ought not to be dismissed without ample consideration on the part of the British House of Commons. But there was another point in his opinion of great importance; it was impossible to hear the proposal now made on the part of her Majesty's Government, without recollecting the circumstances of former conflicts and struggles on the part of 773 this country with her colonies. There might be a great difference on many points between the situation of the United States at the period referred to and Jamaica now, in respect of their relations as colonies with this country. The extent of the power exercised by the mother country in the two cases might be very different; the power which we exerted in the island of Jamaica now might very greatly exceed that which Great Britain exercised over the North American plantations in the year 1774. The power of the mother country might be different, but he entreated the House not on that account to permit itself to disregard some similitudes which certainly existed between the things. He' wished hon. Members, and especially he wished, that the Members of her Majesty's Government would read again Mr. Burke's speech on his resolutions for conciliation with the colonies, and especially what Mr. Burke then said in recommendation of conciliatory measures; he wished too that they would consider how far that similarity between the two cases which he (Sir R. Peel) had suggested, and which they would do well to bear in mind, had a real existence. Mr. Burke said, that there was exhibited on the part of the colonies a disobedient and intractable spirit; at least, he admitted the fact; and no doubt one of the difficulties with which the Imperial Government had to contend, in reference to her colonial policy, was to maintain popular government consistently with the peculiar situation of those countries as colonies; they had to contend with the difficulties in administering government which the use of popular assemblies must needs carry along with it; but her Majesty's Ministers must have been aware that they had difficulties which were inseparable from administering government in conjunction with popular assemblies to contend with, and that they ought to foresee and provide for those difficulties; and it became, therefore, the more important and indispensable that they should exhaust every possible device of careful and honourable policy before they resorted to the adoption of an extreme measure like this. Mr. Burke enumerated "six capital sources," as he called them, of dispute. His words were:—From these six capital sources—of descent, of form of government, of religion in the northern provinces, of manners in the 774 southern, of education, of the remoteness of situation from the first mover of government—from all these causes a fierce spirit of liberty has grown up. It has grown with the growth of the people in your colonies, and increased with the increase of their wealth—a spirit that, unhappily meeting with an exercise of power in England which, however lawful, is not reconcileable to any ideas of liberty, much less with theirs, has kindled this flame that is ready to consume us.These were the six capital causes, and he entreated the House to consider how far these six capital causes or sources were in operation in the colonies at the present day. Let the House and her Majesty's Government consider whether none of these were in action at present. Did the cause of descent operate nothing at all? If the descent of the original colonists of the North American Provinces from certain classes of Englishmen operated in 1774 to make them the more impatient under the restraints of arbitrary government, how was the colony of Jamaica differently placed, which owed its colonization by British subjects to the conquest that was made of it by the arms of Cromwell, and whose first English population was composed of those who, disgusted with the excesses of the civil wars, there found a refuge? A similar cause, therefore, of disobedience operated there in respect of descent as was in operation in the North American colonies, when Mr. Burke spoke. But, perhaps, it might be thought that the circumstance of this being a population of slave-holders made a complete distinction, and rendered them more easily governed. According to Mr. Burke, it did not. For while he represented that, religion formed one of the causes of the refractory spirit of the northern provinces; in the south, where the same principles were not in existence, there was still a cause at work—namely, manners, which, in this respect, be considered as supplying the place of religion, as far as regarded the spirit of reluctance to submit to arbitrary rule, and he spoke of the colonies of Virginia and the Carolinas, then, as Jamaica now, slave-holding colonies, but without intimating, in the least, that he thought, that because the people of those colonies were slaveholders, that they were on that account the more easily governed. He said,There is, however, a circumstance attending these colonies which, in my opinion, fully counterbalances this difference'—namely, re- 775 ligion—'and makes the spirit of liberty still more high and haughty than in those of the northward. It is, that in Virginia and the Carolinas they have a vast multitude of slaves. Where this is the case in any part of the world, those who are free are by far the most proud and jealous of their freedom.' 'Freedom is to them not only an enjoyment, but a kind of rank and privilege. I do not mean, Sir, to commend the superior morality of this sentiment, which has, at least, as much pride as virtue in it; but I cannot alter the nature of man. The fact is so; and these people of the southern colonies are much more strongly, and with a higher and more stubborn spirit, attached to liberty than those to the northward. Such were all the ancient commonwealths; such were our Gothic ancestors; such in our days were the Poles; and such will be all masters of slaves who are not slaves themselves. In such a people the haughtiness of domination combines with the spirit of freedom, fortifies it, and renders it invincible.The House might despise the sentiments; but, as Mr. Burke said, it was human nature, and with that nature the House had to deal. So far, therefore, the cases of Virginia and the Carolinas were, he conceived, not so very far different from that of Jamaica. Then, with reference to the distance from the home Government, Mr. Burke said—The last cause of this disobedient spirit in the colonies is hardly less powerful than the rest, as it is not merely moral, but laid deep in the natural constitution of things. 3,000 miles of ocean lie between you and them. No contrivance can prevent the effect of this distance in weakening government. Seas roll, and months pass, between the order and the execution, and the want of a speedy explanation of a single point is enough to defeat a whole system.They had all that difficulty and inconvenience in the case of Jamaica; 3,000 miles of seas roll between her and Great Britain, and interpose numberless difficulties in the way of carrying on the government of the country, by an administration at home. When Charles 2nd came to the throne, or rather shortly after, in 1661, he gave Jamaica its first regular form of government. The House of Assembly, however, was not established until a period a little later. A governor and council governed the colony. This form of government became subsequently unpopular in the island; but, in 1661, in the midst of the first burst of loyalty which spread throughout the nation and its dependencies, Charles 2nd provided that the legislative authority should be vested in 776 the governor and council of twelve, and that the members of it should be chosen by the Crown. A few years afterwards the House of Assembly was constituted. In 1678 began a series of attacks on the privileges of that House of Assembly, by the then ministers of Charles 2nd, which were completely repelled and rendered nugatory, by the firmness and the perseverance of the Assembly. But, let the House remember, a Chatham had not then spoken about the right of imposing taxes on the colonies; the American revolution had not taken place; popular principles were not so well understood then as now; yet Charles 2nd, and his ministers, failed in their attempts on the liberty and constitution of Jamaica. He mentioned this for the purpose of warning hon. Gentlemen opposite, that though it was true the negro population greatly exceeded the white population in numbers, they might expect to encounter greater difficulties in administering the government of Jamaica from home, than the power of so limited a place might suggest. No doubt her Majesty's Government would have facilities for carrying the measure into operation, from the presence of the negro population. Doubtless the masters would be powerless if the Government declared themselves the protectors of the negroes. But let not the Government suppose that Jamaica was an isolated case; let them not suppose either that he said this in a minatory tone; but what he meant was, that the effect of proclaiming to Jamaica the principle adopted in this measure, and the spirit which that principle, in his opinion, was calculated to evoke in Jamaica, was not likely to be bounded by the limits of that island, but might be expected to extend to the other West-Indian colonies. If there was any document which more than another would clearly show this, it was the address of the Assembly of St. Christopher's, which he would quote, that the House might see the possibility of the case of Jamaica attracting sympathy on the part of other colonies, which sympathy was not at present expected to arise, when the new form of government should have come into operation in that island. The House of Assembly of St. Christopher's, not at all foreseeing this measure, but speaking solely of their own affairs, said, in an address to Lord Glenelg—In conclusion, we firmly assure your Lordship, that we shall use all constitutional and 777 legal means for the defence of our best rights. We know that we are weak and poor, and form a very insignificant portion of the empire; but this very inability to stand alone against power, will procure us defenders amongst those of the British Parliament who shall consider our cause a just one, and therefore we feel strong in our weakness, and rich in our poverty. We assure your Lordship, that we will proceed cautiously and temperately, but, at the same time with firmness and perseverance, to uphold our chartered and constitutional rights. That we will not tamely surrender, or consent to be robbed, without resistance, of our own, or the rights of our constituents. Trifling as our privileges may appear to your Lordship, they are here held dear and sacred, and the loss of them would be severely felt.This had no reference to the pending measure; but whenever a knowledge of that measure should reach the West-Indies, let not the Government flatter themselves, that the feeling of indignation would be confined to the island of Jamaica. A sympathy would be excited throughout the West-Indian possessions of the Crown, which, in his opinion, it would not be in human nature to withhold, unless it manifestly appeared, that justice was on the side of the Parliament and Government of Great Britain, The measure, in his opinion, if it passed in its present shape, would certainly excite a degree of sympathy which, it would be found, would greatly obstruct the success of the new plan of Government. Her Majesty's Government might bring forward their three new stipendiary councillors, who might be, for anything he learned from the bill, three aides-de-camp of the governor, and enable them, if they pleased, to exert a power of unlimited taxation; but if they persisted in this, did they really flatter themselves that they would have the quiet acquiescence of the people of Jamaica in the measure? Did they recollect the act of 1774, for the better regulating the government of the province of Massachusett's Bay? Did they recollect the recital of that act?Whereas taxation by the Parliament of Great Britain, for the purpose of raising revenue, is found by experience to occasion great uneasiness in the minds of his Majesty's subjects in his provinces (Massachusetts), this is to declare, that the King and Parliament of Great Britain will not impose any future tax or assessment for the purpose of raising revenue?Did they remark, that the bill took the whole executive power out of the hands of an existing popular governor, and placed 778 it in the hands of a governor and councillors? Did they recollect this? If they referred to the eventful history of that period, could they fail to remark, how singular it was, that a bill proposed in the present reign should so nearly resemble the "Act for the better regulating the government of the province of Massachusett's Bay?" But let them-remember, that a time came when the Parliament of this country was obliged to give in its formal renunciation of the asserted right of taxation, and a solemn declaration followed, stating, that it was necessary and expedient to repeal the act for the better providing for the government of the province of Massachusett's Bay, which was the model on which the present measure for providing for the government of the island of' Jamaica was founded. Surely, these considerations ought to have considerable weight with the House, which could scarcely hear them, without conceding that they ought to have some influence. The House could not consider the origin of the people of Jamaica, they could not consider the history of the conflicts and contentions which had passed between the Home Government in Charles 2nd's time and the house of Assembly of Jamaica; they could not consider the natural repugnance of Jamaica and of all colonies to be taxed by the mother country, or by any other than their own representatives, without feeling, that they ought to pause before they made any return to any of those measures to which he had alluded as having been adapted to the North American colonies. The state of the society to which this measure was to be applied suggested many important considerations; but if there was any one thing which could aggravate the danger and inconvenience to be apprehended from the passing of such an act—more than another, arising, he meant, from out of the measure itself, it would be, to pass the measure on false pretences. If there was any one thing which could tend to diminish the authority of Parliament, and lessen the veneration felt for the mother country—if there was any one thing which would go to make a precedent of colonial legislation full of danger to all time to come, that thing would be, and that danger would immediately arise, if they were to pass a bill of this kind on false grounds. He could conceive reasons of public convenience strong enough; he could con- 779 ceive the occurrence of circumstances imperative enough, to make it necessary to suspend for a time the constitution in a British colony; but if he found that course necessary, his advice to her Majesty's Government, or to any Government, would be, on their bringing forward a measure for that purpose—"By all means, for the sake of reconciling it to the people, put forth none but your real reasons for proposing the measure." When his noble Friend near him proposed a measure for the abolition of slavery in 1833, he (Sir R. Peel) could conceive it possible that it might have been suggested to him, "We are about to make an experiment, the issue of which is necessarily uncertain. We are about to abolish slavery; we are afraid that the measure may call forth local uneasiness; we have no assurance that an Assembly which was calculated for a state of slavery, may not be found unfit to conduct the Government where all are to be free. We think that something ought to be done to suspend for a time the functions of the House; we call upon you to relieve the local authorities from the burthen of carrying the emancipation into effect; we will take upon ourselves the whole responsibility; we are determined by a general measure to suspend all the West-Indian Governments in favour of the liberated class; we are determined, in expectation of the inconvenience and uneasiness which may arise to the colonial Governments, to take their duties on ourselves." Such, he could imagine, might have been the tone of the suggestions made to his noble Friend at the time when the measure of negro emancipation was yet untried. But that experiment had been made. Freedom had been established, slavery was abolished, and they had not proposed any general measure for the protection of the negro; they did not feel satisfied of the incompetence and unfitness of the local Governments to administer their local affairs; that was not the ground on which they rested. Because if they rested their justification of this measure on that ground, Jamaica and Barbadoes ought to be subjected to the same measure. They might say also that there was a great experiment about to be made in Jamaica. They might say that the negro population, although they had acquired freedom, had not acquired a right to the elective franchise. They might say that although the result 780 of the experiment of abolition had exceeded their most sanguine hopes, yet still they were desirous to provide, by the supreme authority, for the admission of the negro population to civil and political rights. If these were the reasons for this bill, they were as applicable to the other colonies, unless they knew of something peculiar in the constitution of Jamaica. But granting that there was something peculiar—that there was something that made it wise to undertake the solution of this question—why, if this were the true reason that suggested this act, why not put it in the preamble, and tell the grounds on which they rested? He was not aware whether that danger existed which some gentlemen seemed to apprehend. It had been suggested—for the purpose, doubtless, of conciliating support for this act—that it was desirable for the protection of the negroes. If that were true, let it be told. Why not say that they thought there was so much of irritation, that the House of Assembly was unfit to legislate in this particular, and let them know what limitation was to be put upon the precedent they were about to set, and what justification there was for this act? There might he danger existing—he could not say, from any communications he had had with those who were intimate with the West Indies, that they appeared to apprehend danger to the extent that some seemed to think. The elective franchise in Jamaica was exercised by those who held a freehold of the value of 10l. a year currency, or 7l. sterling, or a leasehold of the yearly value of 50l. Freedom was now established in the island; there was no distinction known in the eye of the law between black and white; the black man had a perfect right to be elected to the House of Assembly, and there were in the Assembly eight coloured persons, and he rejoiced at it. He thought this was perfectly right, that the negro population should exercise their legitimate rights, but that they could do according to the existing law. The existing law provided that there should be no distinction between black and white; therefore upon the possession of the necessary freehold, the negro was entitled to the franchise. Did they apprehend that the franchise was too limited or too extensive? As to its being too extensive, no man could exercise the franchise till after he had obtained a freehold, and he could not think 781 that the negro, by his industry, would be admitted in such numbers as greatly to endanger the white population. Then with reference to the House of Assembly: what was the amount of the qualification of a member of that House? The amount was 300l. a year, or freehold property of the value of 3,000l. It did not appear to him that the negro population would exercise immediate control over the constituent or representative body, but they were entitled to freedom and the franchise under the existing law. The late Secretary of the Colonies suggested that some restrictions should be put upon the franchise—for instance, that the negro should be entitled to exercise the franchise only in case he was able to read and write. He would not discuss this. It might be very proper that some restrictions should be imposed; but surely these restrictions, fortified by the authority of Parliament, the House of Assembly would impose and would not be disinclined to impose. Why then was it necessary to exert the supreme authority of the state to impose any qualification with regard to the franchise? If that was the reason for which this bill was to be passed, let it be distinctly avowed. But the reason that was avowed was of another kind. He had a right to judge of the bill by the reasons he found alleged in the preamble, and it would be perfectly consistent in him to reject the bill on the ground on which it was proposed to pass it; and yet if he were told that for public considerations intervention was necessary, it would be perfectly right for him, before he assented to the bill, to demand what pretext or justification there was for it; and if he thought that justification was not well founded, it would be perfectly right in him to refuse to assent to the bill. He had a perfect right to refuse to take into consideration those collateral reasons that might be suggested as the real vindication of this measure. He took it for granted that the House would agree with him, that nothing could be so injurious to their character, nothing so fatal to their authority, as assigning false pretexts for passing a bill. He thought the House would agree with him also in thinking that in a measure of this extreme importance the real cause of passing the bill ought to be stated. He came then to the consideration of whether or not the preamble contained a vindication of this measure. It said 782Whereas the House of General Assembly of the island of Jamaica having been summoned to meet on the 17th of December, 1838, to make, constitute, and ordain laws, statutes, and ordinances, for the public welfare and good government of the said island, and having met in pursuance of such summons, did then resolve that unless certain conditions should be complied with, to which it is not expedient that Parliament should accede, they would abstain from the exercise of any legislative function, excepting such as might be necessary to preserve inviolate the faith of the island with the public creditors. And whereas it has thus become necessary that temporary provision should be made for making, constituting, and ordaining, laws, statutes, and ordinances for the public welfare and good government of the said island; be it therefore enacted," &c.That was the whole of the preamble. That was the vindication of this measure. There was not a word of the general unfitness of the local Assembly to legislate. There was not a word as to the peculiar circumstances of Jamaica with respect to the elective franchise to call for the temporary application of the supreme authority. There was merely an allegation that the House of Assembly had refused to perform their legislative functions. Ministers professed to regret the necessity which gave them the opportunity of proposing this measure; and so far from thinking the local Assembly disqualified—so far from its being a subject of exultation that they had found a good reason for getting rid of them, they appeared to consider it a source of mortification and regret that they should be obliged to resort to this measure. He came next to the consideration of this important question. Was there a sufficient vindication for the suspension of the legislative functions of the House of Assembly stated in the preamble of the bill? Her Majesty's Ministers said that it was not merely on account of the refusal of the House of Assembly to consent to the Prison Act, and the act for the emancipation of the negroes, but on account of a long-continued series of misconduct, and their refusal to co-operate cordially with the Home Government, that this measure was necessary. That was one of the reasons that were assigned. Now, would the House hear him for one moment? The House of Assembly was absent. The House of Assembly was not aware of the indictment that was preferred against them. He would summon some witnesses to appear on the part of 783 the House of Assembly, in order to prove that the alleged continuous misconduct on the part of the House of Assembly, was utterly inconsistent with their past conduct. He had public declarations that were made with respect to the conduct of the House of Assembly. He would summon no witnesses whose testimony was liable to suspicion. The witnesses he would summon should be the Ministers themselves and the governors of the island. The period over which the allegation of refractory conduct extended, dated from the passing of the Slavery Emancipation Bill in the year 1837—from the latter end of that year. He proposed to divide this period into two, because in the latter part of the period—namely, the period that had elapsed from 1837 to 1839—there had been two new causes of dissension, namely, the precipitate termination of the apprenticeship, and the passing of the Prisons' Bill. Let the House see how the House of Assembly had acted to the latter end of the year 1837. He wished he could append to this bill for the destruction of the constitution of Jamaica the declarations that had been made up to the year 1837 with respect to the conduct of the House of Assembly. The Emancipation Act was passed in the year 1833. Parliament met in the year 1834, and the Speech from the Throne contained this passage:—Of the measures which have, in consequence, received the sanction of the legislature, one of the most difficult and important was the bill for the abolition of slavery. The manner in which that beneficent measure has been received throughout the British colonies, and the progress already made in carrying it into execution by the legislature of the Island of Jamaica, afford just grounds for anticipating the happiest results.He would begin with 1834, at that period when a great change in the state of society commenced in Jamaica; and yet in 1834 the House of Assembly of Jamaica was selected by the Crown for special approbation in the King's speech, on account of the progress already made in carrying into execution the Slavery Abolition Act. In 1836, the Marquess of Sligo relinquished the government of Jamaica, and he found that on relinquishing the government his last dispatch to the Secretary of State dated August 23rd 1836 contained the following passage:—In making to your Lordship my usual report on the state of the island, the last that in 784 all probability it will be my duty to make in the character of the governor of this colony, it is my pride and satisfaction to say, that I leave the administration of affairs in the hands of my successor in as satisfactory a state as can be well imagined.A new Governor succeeded in 1836; and he would read an extract from his dispatch, dated the 8th Nov., 1836; but first he would read a passage from the new Governor's speech to the House of Assembly. The address of the Governor (the present Governor) on that occasion was as follows:—I have not forgotten, that Jamaica set the first example in speedily and laudably giving effect to the wishes of the Imperial Parliament, in the furtherance of emancipation, and I feel under great obligations to them for their conduct on this occasion.Had they been cajoling the House of Assembly? Were not these honest compliments! They were upon record—those compliments were upon record. He would, however, read the dispatch of the Governor to the Secretary of State; and before doing so, he would observe, that there was no necessity for cajolery between the Governor and the Secretary of State. To the Secretary of State he would at least write his honest opinions. It might be said, "Oh, we used very civil terms to the House of Assembly; for although we utterly disapproved of their conduct, we endeavoured to coax them into compliance with our wishes; we were therefore particularly civil to them; unfortunately these civilities are upon record; they appear contrary to our Acts, but we can pick out other messages in which we blamed this very body; we were not sincere in those expressions of approbation; we did this from good motives, but we never gave them the slightest credit for their acts; unfortunately these things are upon record in the papers presented to the House; the declarations of our approbation compared with our acts." But what said the Governor of Jamaica, in his dispatch to the Secretary of State—and here let him remind the House, that this was not addressed to the House of Assembly—it was addressed, as he before said, to the Secretary of State, and purported to give an account of the dissolution of the Assembly. On the 4th Nov., 1836, the Governor in proroguing the House of Assembly, said:—He acknowledged with great pleasure the 785 ready attention which they had given to all his suggestions, and that he was happy to bear testimony to the zeal with which they had applied themselves to the public business, and he could not omit expressing his gratification at the friendly understanding, that appeared to animate them upon all occasions during the Session.The preamble of this bill ought to have run thus—"Whereas compliments have been passed by the Governor to the House of Assembly, and whereas those compliments were never intended, and whereas therefore they ought not to be pleaded as obstacles in the passing of this bill;"—let them have this inserted, in order that posterity, looking at their compliments and their acts, may say, that never were enactments so inconsistent with, and so contradictory to their declarations and assurances; and let posterity see what were the grounds of continued misconduct upon which the people of Jamaica had forfeited their constitution. On the 13th of March, 1837, the Governor, not addressing the House of Assembly, not cajoling them by compliments, but writing to the Secretary of State, said:—I enclose for your Lordships' information a printed copy of the law relative to classification, by legal enactment, of the apprenticed population. The chairman of this committee appointed to bring in this bill, communicated with me freely with respect to its details, and at my suggestion one or two clauses were struck out, which appeared to me to militate against the provisions of the Imperial Abolition Act.And what said the Secretary of State on the 1st of May, 1837?—It has been very gratifying to me to learn by this despatch the successful result of my recommendation, and your efforts to introduce a classification which will effectually obviate the confusion and discontent, which might otherwise have prevailed at the expiration of fifteen months from the present time. In this result I gladly acknowledge one of the beneficial consequences which have followed from the friendly understanding which has prevailed between yourself and the House of Assembly.If her Majesty's Ministers really felt, that all this time the Assembly was utterly unworthy of confidence, why talk of the friendly understanding that prevailed, and the good consequences that resulted from it—if they felt, that that friendly understanding existed only in ap- 786 pearance, and that the House of Assembly was guilty of hollow pretexts, and was utterly unworthy of confidence? The Government disapproved of the Act of classification afterwards; but they did not find out the objections to it till after the lapse of four months, and accordingly on the 1st of September, the Secretary of State wrote a dispatch, recalling the expression of approbation; but still in the previous May the opinion of the Secretary of State was, that that bill was one of the beneficial consequences, that followed from the friendly understanding, that prevailed between himself and the House of Assembly. Was it possible—and let them recollect, that he was only speaking up to May, 1837, when the Secretary of State and the Governor distinctly declared the existence of a friendly understanding, which was attended with the most beneficial consequences—was it possible to assent to a declaration, that even up to that period there had existed nothing of a good understanding. How could they do it? He came, then, to the 24th of October 1837, which brought him down to the end of the first period. On that occasion the Governor, on addressing the House of Assembly said:—On my first meeting the Legislature, I brought such subjects to their notice as I considered of paramount importance, and I had the satisfaction of witnessing last Session an anxious desire on your part to improve the condition of the negro population. Frequent experience in your local affairs has not diminished my confidence on that and other subjects, particularly, that you will receive from me, with your usual liberality, such suggestions as I may have to offer to you for the improvement of the future interests of the masters and apprentices.Was this truth, or was it not? Had the Governor witnessed this anxious desire, or had he not? If he had not witnessed it, was it wise to state that he had? And, if he had witnessed it, let him ask how could they propose this bill in 1837, and with such a declaration on record, how was it possible to consent to the passing of this bill now? He dared say, that her Majesty's Ministers might produce other dispatches conflicting with those; but what would that show? Was there not upon the public records of Parliament this testimony, that, up to the year 1837, the House of Assembly had been guilty of no act that warranted the House of Commons in suspending their constitution. He 787 would now take the other period that had elapsed between the close of 1837 and the present time. He did not appear as the advocate of the House of Assembly. He would not recede from any one expression he had used respecting their conduct. He regretted deeply the course they had taken; nothing could be more unwise. He thought it would have been infinitely better if they had performed the duties, and cordially co-operated in the furtherance of that great experiment which the people of this country had a right to see fulfilled. He said again, he did not stand there as the advocate of the House of Assembly. He blamed their language—he blamed their acts; but the question the House had to consider was, whether that language and those acts justified the House in suspending the constitution of Jamaica, and placing the liberties and properties of a whole people under the arbitrary control of a governor and his council He foresaw the time might occur when they would wish that they had attended to his suggestions. He wished that they should pause—that they should remonstrate—that they should see what could be effected by time, that great assuager of human passions as well as of human woes—that they should give the House of Assembly time to reflect upon their conduct, and to become convinced of the impropriety of the course they had adopted. If they had made but one overture of peaceful adjustment, and failed, he had promised to them his cordial support in carrying out any measure which the exigency of the case might then require. But the Government had not acted so; they had assumed the case at its utmost extremity of difficulty, and had proposed a course which would place the Assembly more in the right, and ourselves more in the wrong, than at the outset. For his own part, he thought that it would have been better that the Government had not passed the Prisons' Bill at the end of a Session, and under the circumstances that they did; but that they should have expressed their decision of the necessity for a general legislation upon this subject for all the colonies alike. They should have done this, and sought, as far as possible, to conciliate the local legislature, and explain the urgency of the case; and, failing in this appeal, much of the present difficulty would have been obviated, and the public mind prepared for, and recon- 788 ciled to, the steps which circumstances might render necessary. Nay, more, he had said, that if delay would, in the present case, be dangerous, if it was absolutely necessary to do something to meet the present difficulty, he would assent to any measure which might be absolutely necessary to carry on the government of the colony. These were the proposals which he then made to her Majesty's Ministers, and deeply did he regret that, although he doubted not with the best motives, they had refused to entertain them. But as the Government had refused to accede to these terms, he now felt bound to state the grounds upon which he should refuse to assent to the course which they now proposed. As he said before, he thought it impossible, after the admissions made by the Government in their dispatches, to establish any case of misconduct on the part of the Assembly warranting such a strong measure as the present, up to the period of October, 1837. He came now to consider what had taken place since 1837. Since that year two important measures had been passed, the one abolishing or curtailing the apprenticeship system by two years, and the other the Prisons' Act, which had more immediately led to the present rupture. Now, with respect to the first measure, what had occurred? In 1833, the Parliament of this country provided that the apprenticeship system should continue till the year 1840, partly to enable them to pass certain measures which would become necessary under the altered condition of the colonies, and which they had omitted to provide for in the Act of Emancipation, and partly as a compensation to the West India proprietors in aid of the 20,000,000l. granted as a consideration for their pecuniary loss. In the year 1838, a great ferment took place in this country, accompanying a demand for the curtailment of this apprenticeship system. The Government determined to resist this demand, and they did so successfully. But on what did they found this their resistance, but on the simple fact that the national faith was pledged to the arrangement which had been previously entered into, and that so strongly did the Government feel the obligation of that pledge to be, that they would abdicate their functions rather than yield to public clamour in a demand so obviously in violation of public faith? The motion was, nevertheless, 789 carried against the Government, and then they came down and made a motion, which was carried, rescinding the former resolution. But although the Government would not consent to this proposition, the curtailment of the apprenticeship system was effected by the local legislature of the island. Now, the Assembly of Jamaica did so from one of two causes, either through fear or from motives of generosity. Let the Government assume of these grounds whichever they pleased. If it were from mere generosity and philanthropic feeling on the part of the Legislature of the island—from a desire to terminate the evils of slavery, and ameliorate the condition of the black population, to the sacrifice of some private interests and rights—if this were the incentive to the act, then he thought that it was one which called for and deserved some show of generosity—some conciliatory allowance on the part of the Government whose views they had so far endeavoured to meet. But suppose the other alternative to be true, and that they had yielded to the pressure of public opinion, and the severe apprehension of not being able peaceably to maintain their rights and property under other terms. What had the state done in return? It had made no equivalent for the sacrifice; it had declared it would make none. He was ready to grant that it was through the influence of fear that the Assembly had abolished the apprenticeship system; but, if so, might not some allowance be fairly made for the irritation naturally occasioned by such a forced abandonment of individual interest, which the Government had already said the national faith was pledged to? If, on the other hand, it was from mere motives of generosity that this measure was passed, had not the Assembly a fair right to appeal for some share of generosity from the Government in return. You might not admire the chivalrous feelings under which the measure was adopted; but, at least, you should make some allowance if, on coming to the adoption of it, the Assembly indulged in some irritable language which might not strictly be justifiable. He now came to the Prisons' Bill. Coincidences were sometimes unpleasant, but in the present case he could not avoid referring to some which suggested themselves in a very marked manner. On the 16th of July the Government received an account of 790 the fact, that the colonial legislature of Jamaica, by its own act, had terminated the apprenticeship system at a much earlier period than it was originally limited to. He would beg now to read to the House the terms in which Sir Lionel Smith communicated this important event to the Government of this country, in a dispatch addressed to Lord Glenelg, dated 16th June, 1838. Sir Lionel Smith says:—I have the sincere satisfaction to acquaint your Lordship that I this day assented to an Act which has passed the Council and Assembly, for the total abolition of the prædial apprenticeship on and from the first day of August next." "I anticipate the happiest results from this event towards all classes of her Majesty's subjects." "I beg to enclose your Lordship the Act passed on this occasion, which I hope may be found sufficient to secure the rights of the labouring population in their free condition, and to protect the aged, diseased, and infirm. I have, further, the honour to transmit a copy of my speech, by which I prorogued the Session to the 17th of next month.On the 15th of June the Governor prorogued both Houses of the Legislature, which had so conducted themselves as to call forth this address from him:—Gentlemen of the Council,—Mr. Speaker and Gentlemen of the House of Assembly,—I congratulate you and the whole country on the Act for the abolition of the apprenticeship from the first of August next, and most fervently do I hope that it may insure to the colony those advantages which equal liberty under wise laws has ever been found to produce." "I am happy that I can now grant you a recess, as I am most anxious that you should, by returning to your homes, be enabled to make such arrangements as may give encouragement to the industry of the free labourer, and by your example, prepare all ranks to meet the approaching change in a spirit of kindness and mutual good will.The Governor then added—It will, I am convinced, prove a source of lasting satisfaction to you, that this final declaration of unrestricted freedom has been the act of the Legislature of Jamaica; and I cordially thank you for the great boon it confers upon those whose former condition has long been the cause of painful discontent both here and in the mother country.Here the Governor, in permitting the Members to return to their homes, says, he does so that they may "be enabled to make such arrangements as may give encouragement to the industry of the free 791 labourer," and he assures them that "it would prove a source of lasting satisfaction to them, that this final declaration of unrestricted freedom had been the act of the Legislature of Jamaica. This despatch was, as he had said, received on the 16th of July, 1838, and on the very next day the Government presented to the House of Lords the bill which was subsequently passed for regulating the prisons in our West-India colonies. This was on the very day after the receipt of the intelligence that the Legislature of Jamaica had passed the Act for abridging the apprenticeship. The answer of the House of Assembly to the opening address of the Governor, seemed as if they had anticipated some interference with them by Parliament, for they say:—"On receiving the despatches alluded to by your Excellency, we shall proceed, in the critical posture in which the island is placed, to give to the momentous matters submitted to us our most serious consideration. Jamaica does, indeed, require repose, and we anxiously hope that, should we determine to remove an unnatural servitude, we shall be left in the exercise of our constitutional privileges to legislate for the benefit of all classes, without any further Parliamentary interference." He repeated, that on the day after the receipt of the Governor's despatch, conveying the intelligence that the Legislature of Jamaica had passed the Act curtailing the apprenticeship by two years, and putting an end to it altogether by the 1st of August, 1838, Ministers presented the Prisons' Regulation Bill to the House of Lords. He did not know whether Captain Pringle's report was then printed, though he believed not, but on that he laid no stress. Now, he was ready to concede that the Prisons' Bill was a wise measure, and necessary for a general system of prison regulation in our West-India colonies, and that it was right to pass it, and to adhere to it; but at the same time, he could not help calling attention to the unfortunate coincidence, that this measure was proposed by the Government at home upon the very day they had received the intelligence of the House of Assembly having parted with a part of its compensation for the loss of their slaves, at the same time expressing a hope that the Legislature of the colony would in future be "left in the exercise of their constitutional privileges, to legislate for the benefit of 792 all classes, without any further Parliamentary interference." When this fact was considered, did it not, he would ask, form a good ground for overlooking the irritation of the House of Assembly on learning the proceedings in the Imperial Parliament? He again declared, that he did not stand there as the advocate or defender of the conduct of the House of Assembly on that occasion. He would admit it to be foolish and unjustifiable, but let him ask, was the course pursued by the Government such as at all tended to conciliate the Legislature or the people of Jamaica to the Act sent out to them? Even the manner in which the Act was made public was enough to add to the irritation which its enactments created. The Governor proclaimed the Act, and that proclamation was the first intimation which the House of Assembly got of this law, which they were thus called on to obey. The Governor subsequently summoned the Assembly, and in his opening speech said not one word about this Act, but merely said, that he had some important despatches to lay before them. The measure, he would admit, might be a good and necessary one, but he would put it to the House, whether the more wise and prudent course would not have been to communicate it in a manner which would have tended to conciliate the Assembly to it? It might be said that there was no precedent for such a course, but neither was there for the Prisons' Bill itself; and as there was none, it would have been wise and prudent to communicate it in a conciliatory manner. What was the course adopted with respect to the bill in Barbadoes? The Governor there sent a message to the House of Assembly—he spoke only from the information derived from a Jamaica paper. In that it was stated, that Sir Evan M'Gregor, the Governor of Barbadoes, did communicate the nature of the despatches he had received to the Assembly. He informed them of the nature of the bill that had come out—that it had been passed by the Imperial Legislature for the general assimilation of prison discipline in the West-India Colonies, but that it would not be drawn into a precedent, and that he hoped it would not give rise to any jealousy on the part of the local Legislature. That was a prudent and a conciliatory course, but nothing of the kind was done in Jamaica. These, he again said, 793 were matters which should be taken into consideration in looking at the subsequent conduct of the House of Assembly. He repeated, that he did not stand there to vindicate that conduct. He was far from being satisfied with it, or with the spirit which the Assembly had manifested. [Cheers!] He understood that cheer, but hon. Members must admit that there was a vast difference between disapproving the acts of the Assembly, and consenting on such grounds as had been stated—on such grounds as the preamble of this bill had put forth—to wrest its long-enjoyed constitution from an old and valuable colony. He would contend, that on such grounds as the preamble set forth, they could not support this bill, and on that ground he could not support it. What he said was, that the preamble of this bill did not support its provisions, and upon that ground he should refuse it his assent. He thought that the House of Commons should not be too prone to resent expressions of jealousy, or any ebullitions of anger in other legislative bodies. He thought that they should have some feeling of sympathy for a popular body whose jealousy had been excited by acts of interference on the part of the executive power. It was no reflection on themselves to admit it, but admitted it must be, that it was an inseparable condition in the institution of popular assemblies, to be prone to breaking out in excesses, but if they were to be too keen in repressing each of such ebullitions as it occurred, would they not run the risk of finally destroying altogether the constitutional principle to which those popular bodies owed their existence and their value. And he thought that this House should be the last of these popular assemblies to be too ready in resenting the excesses of others. One fortnight had scarcely elapsed since this House resented a supposed interference, not with its privileges, but with its expressed opinions by the House of Lords. The House of Commons fancied it saw, in some proceedings of the House of Lords, an interference with its expressed opinions—its adopted course of policy—and, therefore, it came forward ready to mark its indignation at the supposed encroachment, and manifest its jealousy of its privileges. That was their last act in reference to the House of Lords. What was to be their next? They were now to approach the House of Lords, and to ask 794 them to punish the refractory Commons of Jamaica. Jealous and vigilant in the assertion of its own privileges, if the House of Lords appointed a Committee to inquire into the state of Ireland, which, in fact, was no infringement of the privileges of the Commons, but, at most, contrary to its expressed opinions, this House then agreed to a resolution to express its indignation at such a proceeding, and so justify every popular assembly which might form itself after our mode. The House of Commons, concluded the right hon. Baronet, which on the 22nd of April had shown its great sensitiveness at what might even remotely affect its rights, now turns on another popular assembly, moving, it was true, in a smaller orbit, but gravitating to a common centre, and for language and conduct which might find an excuse in our example, calls on the House of Lords to help it in crushing, for a time at least, that refractory Assembly. The roof of this House had scarcely ceased to ring with the loud assertion of the rights and privileges of a popular Assembly, when we are ready to go up to the House of Lords and present to them the House of Assembly of Jamaica as a nuisance which ought to be abated. We call upon them to help us to abolish for a time that Assembly, and enable the Lords of Jamaica to tax the people of that colony without representation. "Don't be alarmed," we say to them, "Don't feel any jealousy, don't fear any abuse—you may depend on the Lords of Jamaica for taxing the people. Popular assemblies are dangerous things: we pray you, therefore, to help us to enable them to exercise all the powers of the Government without the intervention of popular representation." Is the House, I ask, prepared to take this course? If it is, it will place itself in a most strange position, which may end in placing some of its own dearest privileges in jeopardy. And let me say that, if you are extreme to take amiss all intemperance, every violent expression, every act of indiscretion on the part of a popular assembly—if you have no fraternal sympathy with other representative bodies—if you are ready 'to pluck out the moat from your brother's eye, but consider not the beam that is in your own,' I still should hope that the example which you are about to set will never, under any future circumstances, be pleaded in derogation of your own privileges; and 795 that you may escape that fate yourselves, which however would not be unjust; for, remember, that 'with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged, and with what measure ye mete, shall it be measured to you again.'"
§ Mr. Labouchere
said, that the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down began his statement by declaring his belief that on the part of Government there was a very inadequate conception of the importance of the subject under discussion. He could answer the right hon. Gentleman that the Government was fully aware of the importance of the subject. He was satisfied that no question of greater importance could possibly occupy their attention. He believed, in the first place, that the future prosperity of Jamaica would depend on the manner in which the House of Commons decided the present question. He believed in the next place that the result of the great experiment they were now making, in which the universal wish of this country was interested, he meant the great experiment for so many ages unaccomplished, of leading by peaceable means a population of one million of our fellow-subjects from slavery and ignorance to freedom and enlightenment. He could assure the right hon. Gentleman that with regard to the importance of the subject it was impossible for any one to be more deeply impressed with it than he was. The right hon. Gentleman also said that he regretted being obliged as a party leader to oppose this question. He agreed with the right hon. Gentleman that not only on this question, but on others connected with our colonies it would be most dangerous to deal with them in a party spirit. He said it most sincerely that in the present divided state of parties in that House and in the country, if our great colonial possessions were to be made the battlefield on which party questions were to be fought, the integrity of the empire would be placed in the utmost danger. He should commence his observations by attempting to recall the attention of the House to that, which it had been the whole tendency of the right hon. Gentleman's speech to keep out of sight, namely, the real state of the case under consideration, and the real grounds on which the House was to form its decision. He should begin by stating to the House the facts connected with the present contest between the Assembly of Jamaica and the Parliament and 796 Government of this country, as stated in the papers laid before the House and by the Jamaica Assembly itself. The right hon. Baronet had said, that unless a case of evident and pressing necessity were made out—unless it could be proved that a crisis had arrived, at which Parliament must interfere—the Government would not be justified in interfering; that no à priori belief, founded on the conduct of the Legislature of Jamaica, would of itself justify such measures as were in contemplation. In this, he entirely agreed with the right hon. Baronet, although such circumstances would greatly diminish his pain in applying to Parliament. He would undertake to show that this crisis had arisen, and that the House had no alternative. He hoped he should be able to show to the House that they had no alternative, but either to submit to the conditions of the Assembly, or to establish some power in Jamaica to enact the laws which they refused to interfere with. It was on the 30th of October, in the last year, that the House of Assembly was summoned by Sir Lionel Smith, who opened the Session in what all must admit was a most temperate speech. Sir Lionel statedMany important subjects consequent upon the altered condition of society will, I hope, receive your early and serious consideration. I shall lose no time in laying before you various dispatches from her Majesty's Government. I beg to assure you of my cordial co-operation in all measures which may tend to improve the laws, to give security to property, to protect the just rights of the peasantry, and assure peace and happiness to all classes of her Majesty's subjects.It was after this speech that the House of Assembly passed four resolutions, to which he begged to direct the particular attention of the House; because in those resolutions the House of Assembly stated their reasons for refusing to transact the public business which formed part of their functions, although those reasons were widely different from those which it was now attempted to be set up in palliation of their conduct. The first resolution was as follows:—House of Assembly, Oct.31, 1838.Resolved, 1st. That the act of the British Parliament, intituled, 'An Act for the better Government of Prisons in the West Indies,' is a violation of our inherent rights as British subjects, as recognised by the constitution of this island, and by the Act of Parliament 18 Geo. III., c. 12; that the same has not, and 797 ought not to have, the force of law in this island, and that the authorities will not be justified in acting on it.This resolution was carried by a majority of twenty-four to five. The other resolutions were as follow;—Resolved, 2d. That the violation of our 141hts by the Parliament of Great Britain, in which we are not represented, is the less excusable, inasmuch as the house was prepared to enter into the consideration of prison disciline as soon as the report of her Majesty's commissioner was officially before them.Resolved, 3d. That the House have witnessed with the deepest regret the unmerited censures passed upon the inhabitants of this island, the extent to which the public mind in Great Britain has been poisoned against them, the absence of all confidence in the Legislature, the reckless manner in which the laws passed by it have been disallowed, and the system of legislation for the colonies which has been determined on, whereby the power of the House has been fettered, and that body has ceased to exist for any purpose useful to the people whom they represent.In coming to the fourth resolution he begged leave to call to it the particular attention of the House.Resolved, 4th. Therefore, that, in the opinion of this House, they will best consult their own honour the rights of their constituents, and the peace and well-being of the colony, by abstaining from the exercise of any legislative function, excepting such as may be necessary to preserve inviolate the faith of the island with the public creditor, until her most gracious Majesty's pleasure shall be made known, whether her subjects of Jamaica, now happily all in a state of freedom, are henceforth to be treated as subjects with the power of making laws, as hitherto, for their own government, or whether they are to be treated as a conquered colony and governed by parliamentary legislation, orders in council; or, as in the case of the late amended Abolition Act, by investing the Governor of the island with the arbitrary power of issuing proclamations having the force of law over the lives and properties of the people.Upon the receipt of the address embodying these resolutions, the Governor prorogued the Assembly for a few days. On the 8th of November he again convened the Assembly, and made a speech to them, urging the necessity of their proceeding with the business of legislation; and in order that they might know what important subjects he had been instructed by the Government here to bring before them, he stated the subjects of the despatches he had received, to the effect that her Ma- 798 jesty had disallowed certain laws of the island. He recommended the House of Assembly to pass several measures of vital interest to her subjects in Jamaica, and enumerated in the following terms the subjects to which he would particularly direct their attention:—It will be my duty to lay before you various communications from her Majesty's Government, explanatory of the grounds upon which her Majesty, in the exercise of her prerogative, has been pleased to disallow certain laws of the island, and conveying her Majesty's recommendation, that provision should be made by the Colonial Legislature for the introduction of several measures of vital interest to all classes of her Majesty's subjects in Jamaica, amongst which are included those having for their objects the prevention of vagrancy, the better regulating the relative rights and duties of masters and servants in husbandry or other kind of handicraft, the determining the qualification of electors, the regulation of a militia, and the preventing the unauthorised occupation of lands belonging either to the Crown or private individuals.
§ Mr. Labouchere,
—That act certainly was not mentioned. Now, in reply to this speech the House of Assembly returned for answer, that they admitted the emergency in which the country might be placed by the expiration of the annual laws, and the necessity of passing those that were recommended by the Governor in his speech, but so long as their rights continued to be invaded, they must adhere to their resolution of the last Session, and therefore declined to proceed with the business before them. Now, having twice tried the experiment with this House of Assembly, and having found that on two separate occasions they absolutely refused to discharge the duties which they were nominated to perform, Sir L. Smith determined—he thought wisely—that it was idle to continue it in its legislative capacity any longer. Accordingly he dissolved the House of Assembly. A new election took place, and on the 18th of December a new assembly w as summoned; and this was the answer returned to the address of the Governor by this new assembly after mature deliberation:—We thank your Excellency for your speech at the opening of the session. We feel in common with your Excellency the emergency in which the country may be placed by the expiration of the annual laws, and we also 799 are well aware of the necessity which, in our present state of society, exists, that laws for the prevention of vagrancy, for regulating the relative duties and rights of masters and servants, for determining the qualification of electors, for the regulation of the militia, and for preventing the unauthorised occupation of land, should be enacted; but we are keenly alive to the fact, that our legislative rights have been violated, and so long as these rights continue to be evaded we feel ourselves compelled to adhere to our resolution of last session. We are compelled to adhere to the determination which was come to by the late House of Assembly, the result of our own mature deliberation, corroborated by the full and cordial sanction of the constituency of the island. We beg sincerely to assure your Excellency that in deciding upon this course we have done so with extreme reluctance. We see the inconvenience which must result from it—we are more than sensible of the many existing evils which loudly call for laws to remedy them; but we are, at the same time, equally sensible that the power is no longer left in our own hands to apply the remedy—our legislative rights have been directly invaded by Parliament enacting a law to regulate our gaols, a measure of internal and municipal regulation, clearly and palpably within our province.He should only add that this answer to the speech of the Governor was carried by a still larger majority in the new House of Assembly than in the old—there being forty on one side and four on the other. On receiving that address from the House of Assembly, Sir L. Smith concluded, I think justly, that it was utterly useless to continue their legislative functions any longer. He accordingly prorogued the Assembly, and sent to this country a statement of the way in which matters stood, with a request that we should adopt whatever measures were thought necessary. He would read a passage from a despatch of Sir Lionel Smith, as to the state in which the colony was left by this conduct of the Assembly:—My last despatches will have prepared your Lordship for the event which the new House of Assembly brought about—a confirmation of the resolutions of the last House—to do no business in consequence of the interference of Parliament in passing the Prisons Bill. All my endeavours to induce the House to proceed in their duties having failed, the country is placed in great confusion from the absence of the annual laws on which the public creditor and the public departments are regulated. About seventeen of these laws will expire at the end of this month, and amongst others the Police Bill, which force I must consequently discharge. I may probably, on the authority of your Lordship, in some exigencies, 800 have occasion to entertain a small constabulary force in lieu of the armed police, on which I shall report hereafter. Your Lordship will be fully satisfied from this last appeal to the electoral body, that no House of Assembly can now be found that will acknowledge the authority of the Queen, Lords, and Commons to enact laws for Jamaica, or that will be likely to pass just and prudent laws for that large portion of the negro population lately brought into freedom; and your Lordship will be perfectly aware I have no power as the Governor, to remedy the evils arising from the House of Assembly having refused to perform its functions. Thus a constituency which may be computed at about 1,500 or 1,600 voters for the whole island, have returned—and will continue to return—the same members who deny the authority of the mother country, while upwards of 300,000 of her Majesty's free and loyal subjects are totally unrepresented: and my appeal to obtain for them common laws of protection as labourers, has, your Lordship will find, been totally disregarded.In a subsequent address, Sir L. Smith laid down the white population at 20,000, and it was no wonder that he should commit this error, from the difficulty of acquiring statistical information as to the colonies. He had himself, the last night he had addressed the House, committed an error which he was happy to have an opportunity of correcting. He greatly understated the number of the white population in Jamaica, which he found to be 16,000. Now the House would perceive, from the statement which he had made, that the case stood in this way: the House of Assembly refused to transact the public business, and the occasion of the refusal was the passing of the Prisons Act. The apology for that refusal was, that their rights were invaded. The condition of the renewal of their functions was the declaration of her Majesty's pleasure that the course which Parliament and the Government took with regard to protecting the interests of the negro population, irrespective of the House of Assembly, should be abandoned. [Sir James Graham, no.] Though his right hon. Friend said no, and though there was a great deal of quibbling about words on this subject, after all, the question came to this; when the House of Assembly complained of the course followed by the Parliament and Government, as being unconstitutional and dangerous, and refused in consequence to perform their legislative functions, it stood to reason that the meaning of the condition which they laid down w as, "unless the course which has been 801 pursued is completely altered, unless Parliament is prepared to refrain from acting in the manner which they have done, and unless the Government is willing to alter the measures which they thought it their duty to pass, we will not resume our functions." On the part of the Government, he could state that they were not prepared to alter their course. On the contrary, the experience which they had had, confirmed in their minds the necessity, not only of continuing, but of redoubling the vigilance with which they had watched over the interests of the great body of the negro population. The right hon. Member for Tamworth had asked the House, whether they were prepared to pass so harsh a measure as this on such slight grounds. The question which he should put, with great confidence, to the British House of Commons was this—"Are you prepared, in the face of your constituents and of the world, to abandon the resolution which you came to only last year, stating, that you will not rest satisfied with conferring mere nominal freedom on the negro population, but that you will vigilantly watch over their interests, and protect them against oppression and wrong, from whatever quarter they may proceed." It was of the utmost consequence that the House should have a true knowledge of the condition which the House of Assembly imposed on the resumption of their legislative duties. It was on that point that everything turned. Now, he had the curiosity to look at a document which he considered of great importance, and which contained the debates of the House of Assembly of Jamaica, at the time the measure on which the difference arose was discussed, and he must say, that upon looking over the speeches, he was particularly struck at the complete difference which existed between the manner in which the Members of the House of Assembly stated their own views, and that in which some of the Gentlemen in that House attempted to represent them. In the first place, he was bound to admit the advantageous light in which these Members were exhibited with regard to the conduct of the governor. They made no unjust or ungenerous attacks, such as those which he had heard indulged in during that debate against the gallant Officer, who, under circumstances of no ordinary difficulty, was now administering the government of Jamaica. Even the right hon. Member for Tamworth had that night said, that 802 part of the evils of the existing situation of the colony was owing to the ungracious manner in which Sir L. Smith had communicated on the subject of the Prisons Bill with the Assembly, and to his not having imitated the course pursued by Sir E. M'Gregor, by explaining, in a conciliatory spirit, the object of the Legislature in passing that measure. Now, he did not find, in these debates, the slightest blame attached to the conduct of Sir L. Smith; nay, more, no one asserted, as a ground of quarrel with the Government, that Sir L. Smith had not communicated with the Assembly in a becoming manner. All these complaints were fancies put into the heads of the Gentlemen who used them. Sir L. Smith had observed the ancient mode of communication with the Assembly, and no Jamaica man ever dreamed of fastening a quarrel on us, because the governor had not acted in a courteous manner; but they avowed as the ground of their resistance to our authority, the passing of the Prisons Bill by that House. He should now read the extracts from the debate in the House of Assembly. [An hon. Member: You cannot read from a newspaper.] He was reading from the regular record of the proceedings of the House of Assembly; the speeches were well reported, and the Jamaica Hansard appeared to be correct like the reports of that House. They were as follows:—Mr. March—The speech which they had heard was a very mild and conciliatory one, and there was nothing in it to justify the expression of angry feelings, or a departure from the usual mode of disposing of the opening address.Another member of the assembly,—Mr. Hamilton Brown had also said, he considered the speech of the Governor very conciliatory indeed, and hoped the usual courtesy of a reply to his Excellency would not be departed from.These two gentlemen certainly were members of the minority, but he would now refer to the speech of one of the majority, the Gentleman, indeed, who had moved the four resolutions, and in which he had mentioned Sir L. Smith in a way that did him great honour—he alluded to Mr. Barclay. That gentleman said—They had not to deal with his Excellency's speech simply—they had to look otherwise—they had to look to the state of the country, and say what they intended to make up their minds to do. There was nothing in the speech which could justify the House in showing any want of courtesy to the 803 Governor, and he was sure in dealing with it, as was proposed by the hon. Member for St. John's, his Excellency would not believe any thing personal was intended. The House, in the present instance, had nothing whatever to do with the Governor of this island; it was with the Government at home that it had now to deal. It appears that there will be no end of this interference—that there was to be no end of this continual infringement of the people's rights." [Hear, hear! from the Opposition benches.]He was surprised to hear those cheers, proceeding from Gentlemen who had voted both for the Abolition Act and for the Prisons' Bill. When the feelings of the people of this country were strongly excited on the question, they had never ventured to utter a word against all those proceedings, the natural consequence of which it now became the duty of the House to meet. A large proportion of the Gentlemen opposite joined in that resolution, by which the House bound itself in future to legislate for the protection of the negro population. Mr. Barclay proceeded:If it were the intention of the British Government to legislate for her colonies, why let them honestly and openly avow it, and do so; but he deprecated this hotch-potch mode of legislation—this half legislation at home, and half here. The thing could go on no longer. The House must now make a stand, and bring the matter to a close. It was necessary to come at once to that point, and stick there, for that was, in point of fact, the only question before the House.Mr. Guy, an opponent of the Government said—He did not blame the Governor. He was obliged to conform to his instructions.In the course of another debate, on the occasion of moving that the four resolutions be committed, Mr. Barclay said,—It was worse than useless to keep up merely the show of legislative authority, when the substance was gone; the time had arrived when the House should, in justice to itself, and to its constituents, make a stand, by bringing the question fairly to issue, whether the laws for the government of the colony were to be made there or at home.The next extract he should read was taken from the speech of Mr. Lake, a Member of the minority. Mr. Lake said—The passing of the Prisons Bill by the Imperial Parliament was the bone of contention. He regarded this measure as an interference with the privileges of the House; but it was not without justifiable cause, for it must be recollected, that during the administration of the Marquess of Sligo, the subject of prisons, with a view to their alteration and disci- 804 pline, was brought under the consideration of the House, and subsequently a dispatch was, last Session, transmitted to the House from the Colonial Secretary, through the Executive again directing their attention to the subject. He was aware that the matter had been referred to a special committee, but that committee had done nothing; they had not even reported to the House what they had done, or what they intended doing.This gentleman expressed the same opinion as he (Mr. Labouchere) entertained, of the utter hopelessness of the colonial legislature adopting any satisfactory enactments on the subject of prisons.
Mr. Leslie, an opponent of the Government observed—Her Majesty's Government, not satisfied with disallowing our laws, had proceeded to legislate for us by an imperial act of super-legislation. They had forced upon us the Prisons Bill. Were they, then, to waste their time in enacting laws which were sure to be disallowed. He would much rather that the Assembly were at once abolished, and the Government administered by a governor and council.He had quoted these speeches to show, that this bill would not take the House of Assembly with such surprise as the right hon. Gentleman opposite seemed to imagine. He really thought when the House of Assembly had come to the resolution already referred to, and when they declared, that they would not resume their functions except on certain conditions, which they knew the Parliament and the people of this country never would comply with, they must have made up their minds to meet the consequences which the bill imposed. And he must say, that in some respects he did not disapprove of the position which these Gentlemen had laid down in their speeches. He now felt and had always done so, that the kind of half-and-half legislation commented upon was very objectionable, and in tae present critical condition of transition in which the population of the colony was; and whilst the great experiment as to the cultivation of Jamaica estates was about to be tested, he thought, that to pursue what Mr. Wilberforce called "a polemical legislation," bandying acts from the Colonial-office to the Jamaica Legislature, then bringing them back again without ever being passed as laws, was a most dangerous waste of time. And he should not be surprised to hear that this Assembly, having made up their minds not to legislate frankly and honestly in the way 805 which the people and Parliament of this country required, was willing to admit, that it was better not only for the negroes but for the white proprietors, that an efficient and trustworthy system of legislation should be established in the colony itself. This was the only practical solution of the difficulty in which the colony was placed. The right hon. Gentleman had gone at great length into general grounds upon which all were agreed, that it was inexpedient to interfere with the chartered rights of colonists, except in case of absolute necessity. But when the right hon. Gentleman had proceeded to say, that when the result of our dissensions had reached Jamaica, if they refuse to accede to our reasonable wishes, he should be prepared to consent to a motion precisely similar to that now made, he felt bound to ask him two questions; first, was there any reasonable probability that the House of Assembly would abandon their solemn professions and declarations on account of the mere vote of a House of which they bad not certainly spoken in very respectful terms? And the other was one which every Gentleman should seriously ask himself before he came to a vote on this motion—it was this: Supposing when we meet again next Session, the House finds, that the House of Assembly either persist in their resolution not to legislate at all, or do so in an imperfect manner, what will be the consequence of the excitement and absence of legislative authority which the proposed delay will cause? He did not think the Government would be justified in bringing in a bill until an absolute necessity arose to deal in some way or other with Jamaica; but when the occasion did occur, the Government was bound to take an enlarged view of the whole of the questions connected with that island—to look back at the conduct of that Legislature towards the people, and what was the peculiar state of the society for which we were called on to pass laws. The right hon. Gentleman admitted, that on general grounds he might agree with her Majesty's Ministers; but, that as the preamble of this bill was too narrow, and did not include the reasons for this mode of legislation, suggested by an extensive view of the whole system of our colonial government, he should vote against it. He must say, that considering the station which the right hon. Baronet held in the 806 House and in the country, that was the most extraordinary position he ever heard maintained. On reviewing the history of Jamaica for the last few years, he found, that since the passing of the Abolition Act, the House of Commons had been obliged to interfere with the Jamaica Assembly on no less than three distinct occasions. In the first instance, the House of Assembly avoided the adoption of that Act, which was consequently made effective without any proceeding on their part. The next interference was one which the right hon. Gentleman, who had professed to give a whole history of the case, had omitted to mention; he alluded to the adoption of that great measure which passed by the unanimous vote of Parliament, representing, as it truly did, the feelings of the people of England—the Abolition Act Amendment Bill. Did the right hon. Baronet recollect the circumstances under which that bill was adopted? Some quotations had been made from complimentary despatches, but they were sent out during moments when there appeared to be a hope, that the Assembly would act in accordance with the wishes of Parliament. Again, he asked, did the right hon. Baronet recollect the reasons for the adoption of the Abolition Act Amendment Bill? That bill interfered with almost every part of the powers of the Jamaica Legislature, and had passed after mature inquiry by two committees of the House of Commons. Moreover that bill was a Prisons Bill, and therefore let him not be told, that such a measure was a new and unheard of thing. The mismanagement of the Jamaica workhouses and houses of correction, formed a prominent part of the inquiries of the committees he had spoken of, and were provided for in the bill. He would not harrow up the feelings of the House by relating the scenes of horrid cruelty and indecency which were practised in those houses of correction, and he agreed with the right hon. Baronet in thinking, that it was ten times worse, that those scenes should pass in the secrecy of gaols, than that they should take place in the light of day. Some stress had been laid on the circumstance, that Captain Pringle did not actually see with his own eyes these abominations, but they had never been disputed, and there appeared in Captain Pringle's report good reasons for believing, that they had occurred. He 807 found, that the governors of the gaols were broken-down planters, whose minds were influenced by feelings in favour of the old slave-driving system; and the inferior officers were convicts and improper characters. It was to the care of such men that apprentices of both sexes were committed, and the consequence was, that they were subjected to treatment of the grossest cruelty and indecency. The right hon. Baronet had laid great stress on the fact, that the Government had proposed the Prisons Bill to the House of Lords on the very day on which they received the Jamaica Act for the abolition of negro apprenticeship; but he must say, that the Government would have grossly neglected their duty if they had on that account delayed the introduction of the Prisons Bill. The Abolition Act Amendment Bill only applied to apprentices, and became null and void in consequence of the abolition of the system of apprenticeship. Thus there would have existed for the free labouring negro no protection against cruelty, except the chance that the Jamaica Legislature would pass a Prisons Bill. Now, when all the proceedings of the House of Assembly were called to mind, when it was recollected that no less than five distinct applications were made to pass some laws for the regulation of prisons, and that the only progress made was the introduction of a Bill on the subject, which was referred to a select Committee, the Government would be justly liable to censure if they delayed to bring forward a Prisons Bill on expectations so vague and uncertain. The right hon. Gentleman also said, that this Bill passed at the close of a Session, and, therefore, attracted no discussion. Now, he had already stated that a distinguished Member of the other House (Lord Ellenborough) had stated that he read through the bill and approved of it. The present Duke of Buckingham, too, then Marquess of Chandos, who had been chairman of the West-Indian body, who presented a protest against the bill from Mr. Burge, and who was cognizant of all the facts of the case, was in his place when the bill was brought into the Commons, and yet never uttered one word on the subject. Neither did the hon. Member for Newark (Mr. Gladstone) speak against the measure. And why was this? At that time the conduct of the Jamaica Assembly was fresh in the recollection of Members, and had excited strong feelings in the mind of the people 808 of this country, and, therefore, it was not surprising that hon. Members opposite did not deem it convenient to offer any opposition to the bill then brought in. Now, indeed, when those feelings were forgotten, Gentlemen came down to censure the Government for having passed it at so late a period of the Session. After all, the question now really before the House was, what would be the consequences if the expectations of the right hon. Baronet should be disappointed, and that the House of Assembly should persist in their determination not to pass the Prisons Bill? In this case it would be impossible for the Imperial Parliament to provide a remedy for such an alarming state of things until the next Session. The right hon. Baronet had said, that he would not be unwilling to agree to a measure for renewing some of the seventeen annual laws which might otherwise expire in Jamaica. Now, he must be permitted to remark that such a proceeding would greatly aggravate the offence alleged to have been committed by the Imperial Parliament against the House of Assembly in passing one bill interfering with the internal affairs of the colony; for many of these seventeen laws were laws imposing taxation. There was another part of the subject which related to laws most urgently required in the present condition of the colonies, but the enactment of which the right hon. Baronet seemed perfectly willing to postpone until such time as the Jamaica Legislature might resume its functions. He should mention some of these laws, and the House would see the great importance of them. There was no question connected with the West Indies which he looked to with greater anxiety for the prosperity and welfare of those colonies than this—how far it might be possible to continue, by a system of free labour, the cultivation of estates. He had no hesitation in saying that on the favourable solution of that difficulty depended the success of the great experiment which we had made; for if we should see the negroes "squatting," as he called it, and passing their time in idleness and sloth, though he might prefer such a condition to the shocking and disgraceful state of servitude to which they had been previously reduced; yet he maintained in such a case half our work only was done, and that unless we could raise them to the condition of free citizens, filling their situations in society virtuously, and taking an 809 active part in its laborious pursuits we should only enable them, under the guise of freedom, to pass their lives in a state of inglorious ease and deplorable inactivity. It would be also most unfortunate if English capital and enterprise were no longer directed to the cultivation of estates in Jamaica, or if those who did possess property there, found it necessary to abandon it. He was bound to state what was his conscientious belief (after looking at the documents which had reached his office, and which were laid on the table of the House) not that there was reason for despair, but that if the proper means were not taken for enforcing the observance of the laws sanctioned by the Home Government, he had great apprehensions for the success of the Emancipation Act. It was impossible that it should not be so. The negro now refused to enter into contracts which were necessary to supply continuous labour. He would just state what the law of contract at present wasBy the present law, any person having entered into a contract, written or unwritten, with any other person for any kind of service, may, for not commencing his work according to the terms of the contract, or for absence during its continuance, or for neglecting to fulfil it, or for any other misconduct or misdemeanour in the execution thereof,' be committed, by any justice of the peace of the parish, to hard labour, in the house of correction for a reasonable time, not exceeding three months, and at the same time be deprived of the wages which would have been due during the period of such confinement; or he may be deprived of the whole or any part of his wages, or he may be discharged from his contract".It was not surprising that the negroes should be unwilling to enter into contracts under such a law. He was not surprised that the negro was unwilling to enter into contracts under such a law as this, and it was necessary that a proper contract law should be passed, not only for the sake of the negroes, but in order to promote the interests of the proprietors and the planters. [Hear, hear!] He understood that cheer; he understood that it was meant that the interests of the planter imperatively required the passing of such a law. But he must say that the history of the House of Assembly in Jamaica showed that they had too often listened to their passions instead of their interests. In any attempt to perpetuate coercive measures under the guise of freedom, he believed they would not succeed, for he was per- 810 suaded that no part of that House or of the people of the country would allow so great a sacrifice as had been submitted to by this country, in order to emancipate the negroes, should be made in vain. He would now come to another law, the absence of which during, the next eight months would, in his apprehension, lead to the most serious results. He alluded to the law relating to the militia. He understood, that at present the Governor of Jamaica had no power whatever to prevent militia musters, and he understood also that in case of a skirmish the militia might at any time be called out by their own officers without the authority of the Governor. He thought that it must be evident to every one, that some regulations on this subject were absolutely necessary. The next law was the law of vagrancy. He certainly was of the opinion that a vagrancy law was as much required in Jamaica as in any other country; and he did not see why a black man should be allowed to go about and make himself the pest of society because he was too idle to work. But he was given to understand that the vagrant laws of Jamaica enacted heavy penalties against persons refusing to work for reasonable wages. Now, who was to judge what reasonable wages were? The negro, however, under the vagrant laws of Jamaica, if he refused to work for what might he considered reasonable wages, was liable to be imprisoned for six months. All these enactments were entirely inconsistent with the present framework of society in that colony. His noble Friend (Lord Stanley) smiled at that observation, and he supposed that by that smile he was to understand that the introduction of a Poor Law into Jamaica must necessarily be very hazardous. He agreed with him in that sentiment, but at the same time he considered its introduction necessary, and he was convinced that postponing the measure for an indefinite period would in itself be a great calamity. Another subject which demanded grave deliberation was the adoption of some law to prevent the unauthorised occupation of land, out of which much difficulty and much dispute had arisen, and with respect to which no law at present existed. He came in the next place to a point which must be regarded as one of paramount importance, he meant the reform of the courts of justice. He understood that 811 the courts of law in Jamaica were at the present moment so over-crowded with business in consequence of 350,000 persons being brought within their sphere, in addition to the 50,000 who were there before, that the chief justice declared on the 1st of December, that it "almost amounted to a denial of justice." Upon that point, therefore, it was necessary that some new regulation should be made. It was also necessary that something should be done with respect to the qualification of electors. He could not state with any accuracy what would be the effect of the present qualification upon the liberated negro population; but he knew that great fears were entertained upon the subject by the House of Assembly. He knew also that many frauds were committed, and many fictions votes created under the existing law. It was necessary, therefore, that that law should be amended. It was also requisite that some new provisions should be made with respect to the law of marriages. He was not aware that he need trouble the House at any greater length. He believed it was not expedient to grant the condition which the House of Assembly had declared to be the only one on which they would consent to resume their functions. He saw but little prospect of their receding from that determination. At all events it did not seem probable that they would recede in such a manner as to resume their legislative functions with any advantage to the general interests of the colony. He conceived that new laws were requisite to meet the new state of society which was arising in Jamaica, which new laws from the spirit exhibited by the House of Assembly it seemed vain to expect from that body. Hence the interference of the Imperial Parliament became absolutely necessary. To defer that interference for another year, would, he believed, be productive of the most fearful consequences. The right hon. Baronet had made various observations upon the subject of the extraordinary powers to be vested in the Governor in council. He (Mr. Labouchere) quite agreed with the right hon. Baronet that the temporary provision proposed to be made for the Government of Jamaica was of a very arbitrary character. It was, however, very similar to the constitution under which the chief part of the Crown colonies of this country at present existed. Deme- 812 rara, it was true, was an exception; but in the Mauritius, in Trinidad, and in the other Crown colonies, the constitution was almost precisely the same as that which they were now proposing to establish in Jamaica. As related to the Crown colonies, the Queen in council might pass a law upon which no parties in the colony should be consulted, but which being sent out to them would be binding upon them. It was not proposed to adopt so arbitrary a course with respect to Jamaica. Ministers thought that the laws necessary to meet the new state of things in that colony should be passed by persons settling in the colony. It was not proposed, therefore, to frame those laws in Downing street, as might be done in the case of any of the Crown colonies, but to leave the enactment of them to some competent authorities within the island itself. The right hon. Baronet had, also, said, that these things were matters of principle, and that the House ought not to be satisfied with mere assurances on the part of the Government as to the manner in which they should be carried into execution. He was bound to say that the Government would feel it to be their duty to take care that in the composition of the council there should not be wanting persons who should fairly represent the property and general interests of the colony. Mr. Burge and the other learned counsel who had addressed the House upon the subject, had laid great stress upon the number of "twelve." They deemed it necessary that the council should at least consist of that number. He (Mr. Labouchere) assured the House that in the event of this bill becoming law, it would be the object of Government immediately to enlarge that number. The right hon. Gentleman had also adverted to the intention announced by the Government of sending out from this country a certain number of salaried commissioners. He was not able to state to the House what their number and what their functions might be, but there was one object particularly which he thought might be accomplished by this bill, which was of great importance to Jamaica. He believed that the greatest inconveniences were found to result from the fact, that the Governor and the chancellor were one and the same person, and if a lawyer of respectability could be sent out from this country as one of the council, who would be willing to act as chancellor, it would 813 be of great advantage to the people of Jamaica. He believed he had trespassed too far upon the indulgence of the House. He would only say before he sat down, that nothing in the world would have induced him to bring forward such a measure, if he did not in his conscience believe, that it was best for all classes of the community in the island to whom it was to be applied—best for the negro—best for the white—best for the success of that great experiment, the complete success of which no man had more cordially at heart than he had. The right hon. Gentleman had wished to know how long it was proposed that this bill should continue in force. That was, properly, a point to be considered in Committee. He, however, had no hesitation in stating at once that he should propose that it should continue in operation for two years and a half, as the shortest term in which the necessary measures could be completed.
§ Mr. Godson
said, the right hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary for the Colonies had stated, that the Government had determined to suspend the constitution of Jamaica on account of the fourth resolution which they had passed, and therefore he begged to direct the attention of the House to it. The rights of the people of Jamaica to a free constitution, which they had enjoyed for 150 years, had not been conferred upon them by Parliament, but by the Crown, and therefore, when they found their privileges invaded by an Act of the Imperial Legislature, the House of Assembly naturally referred to the Crown, by whom those privileges had been granted in the first instance. The Prisons Act was the first Act passed by Parliament which it was declared should have the force of law in the colony, and therefore they sent to inquire from her Majesty whether they were to go on legislating in future. The first time it had been attempted to call the attention of the people and the Assembly of Jamaica to the subject of prisons, was by the Governor in 1829, and in consequence of that attempt the Act of the 11th George 4th was passed. That Act, however, did not give satisfaction in this country, and had not received the sanction of the Government. Again, the Assembly passed another Act on the same subject, and provided no less a sum than £.42,000 for the establishment of gaols. That Act was one of very great importance, and was calculated to be of the 814 greatest service to the colony. It had received the approbation of Captain Pringle, who stated that it was a measure likely to be productive of the greatest good. A set of regulations was at the same time framed, of which Captain Pringle had also distinctly and emphatically approved. It appeared, therefore, that long before the time when the Prisons' Act of the Imperial Legislature had been sent out to Jamaica, the House of Assembly had in reality passed a Prisons' Bill, almost the same as the one which it was now attempted to force upon them. But when such was the fact, it might be asked, why did the House of Assembly refuse to accept the Act which had been passed by the Parliament of England? The reason was not that the House of Assembly disapproved of the Prisons' Bill, or that they were adverse to its provisions; but because it was the first Act in which the right of the Assembly to legislate on the internal affairs of the island was denied; because it was the first act which was to acquire the force of law, by being posted on the doors of the House of Assembly. The House of Assembly were denied their just rights, and this Act was to be forced upon them without their consent. All the other Acts which had been sent out from this country had been Acts enabling the Assembly to pass Acts of their own, but the Prisons' Bill was an exception to those, and therefore he con. tended that the House of Assembly were fully justified in inquiring whether, after such an attempt upon their rights, their charter was good for anything; whether the Imperial Parliament was to supersede all local legislation; whether they were in future to be governed as a conquered colony, by Orders in Council, by Acts of Parliament framed and passed without their consent being given or their opinion asked, or by instructions from the Government to the Governor, who was thus to rule them with despotic power. The House of Assembly had not asked for a repeal of the obnoxious Prisons' Bill, but they asked their Sovereign whether they were to consider the charter which had been bestowed upon them as good for anything. Surely no one could contend that they were not justified in pursuing that course, and yet, because they thus asserted their legitimate rights, Jamaica was to be deprived of her constitution. Let it be remembered, that at the time the House 815 of Assembly was investigating the subject, at the very time they had made their report, the Slavery Abolition Act had arrived, when the Assembly was called together by the Governor, and in June that body consented to an Act abolishing, in accordance with the wishes of the Parliament and the people of this country, the two years of negro apprenticeship which were unexpired. After that display of generous feeling—after consenting to the Act for abolishing the remaining years of apprenticeship, the Assembly was dismissed by the Governor. On the 17th of July, when the Prisons' Bill was laid on the Table of the House of Lords, the Assembly, as he had shown, had got a Prisons' Act of their own, and had raised £.42,000 for the purpose of carrying it into operation. They had not refused to adopt the suggestions sent out from England; they had not refused to carry into operation in the island the same system which had been adopted in this country. The bill passed by the Assembly had been approved by Captain Pringle, as well as the regulations which had been framed, and the House of Assembly had manifested their consent to establish a better class of prisons by raising a very large sum of money for that purpose. Now, with such facts before them, he would ask, what right had the Government to propose to suspend the constitution of Jamaica on such grounds as had been stated? Could Parliament be justified in sanctioning such a course? Could they be justified in taking from the people of Jamaica their most valued rights on the plea of the prisons of the island requiring reform, when no necessity existed for such interference, the Assembly having of its own accord passed a Prisons' Bill, and raised a large sum for the purpose of carrying it into operation? But there were two other grounds on which it was contended that it was necessary to pass the bill before the House. It was said, that it would be for the benefit of the whites that the House of Assembly should be abrogated, and it was also said, that such a step was necessary for the black portion of the population. Let him, therefore, examine the subject; and first, with respect to the advantage which it was said the whites would derive from this measure, and from a new constitution being given to the island. The island of Jamaica was divided into three coun- 816 ties, and again into twenty-one parishes, each of those parishes being nearly equal in size to a county in this country. Now, each of those parishes returned two Members to the House of Assembly, and he would ask hon. Gentlemen opposite, who were the advocates for the ballot, an extension of the franchise, and shorter Parliaments, to listen to the franchise which existed in Jamaica. In the first place, there was 10l. franchise arising from a freehold in land. Now, a cottage, a garden, and an acre of land, as was well known, were in Jamaica worth 15l., so that the 40s. freeholders in this country were not upon an equal footing with those freeholders in Jamaica. In the next place, the franchise was granted on tenancy of the amount of 50l. currency, which was, in point of fact, equal to a 10l. occupancy in this country. In the last place, the payment of taxes in Jamaica gave a right to the franchise. And now he came to inquire what was the probable amount of the constituency. The right hon. Gentleman could not be expected, from the short period he had been connected with the Colonial Department, to know, with much accuracy, the amount of the population, or the state of the island; and he was therefore not surprised that he bad mis-stated the constituency of Jamaica. It was not 5,000, but a much larger amount. There were in Jamaica about 40,000 whites, 110,000 browns, and 312,000 blacks. Now the greater portion of the whites possessed the franchise, and he would ask, was that a small constituency for a population of not more than 470,000 persons? What town in England could, with such an amount of population, show such a constituency? But that was not all, for in a few years the constituency would be very much increased, so that he thought there was no ground of complaint, as far as the whites were concerned. Was there then any fear of the blacks? No. Jamaica had, by petition, informed the House and the country, that they were anxious that that portion of the population should obtain the franchise. The whites had every confidence in the brown population, and were persuaded that they would stand between the whites and the blacks, and they would be of the greatest service in training the negroes to the proper exercise of the rights of freedom. Who, then, were the real parties who wished to do away with the House of Assembly? Were 817 they the inhabitants of Jamaica? No, it was not the people of that colony who wished for such a measure; the parties who wished to deprive Jamaica of her constitutional rights were in this country, and he would mention one of those parties. The Colonial Banking Company wished to do away with the House of Assembly, and let them ask why? That company had a charter, and they wished for a monopoly, and to obtain exclusive possession of the large floating capital of the debt which was yet due. The House of Assembly had passed an Act, establishing a bank in the island, and that act had received the sanction of the council, and had met with general approbation; but when it reached this country, the Government refused to sanction the measure, and had refused to break up the monopoly of the Colonial Bank. Could they, then, wonder that the House of Assembly felt indignant at such treatment, and that they manifested displeasure at seeing strangers enjoying privileges which the Government had denied to the native population? But the grounds for complaint, on the part of the Assembly, did not rest there. At one time a great outcry had been raised in this country, that the slaves were not properly classified, and to obviate all grounds of complaint, the Assembly passed a bill relative to this subject, which, in 1837, was approved by Lord Glenelg. In September, however, of that year, a despatch had been received from the Governor, Sir Lionel Smith, and the act which had passed the Assembly, and in regard to which the Colonial Secretary had expressed his approbation, was, on the receipt of that despatch, disallowed by the Crown. Now, when they saw an act which had passed the Assembly, and which had met with general approbation, and been even approved by the Colonial Secretary, denied the confirmation and sanction of the Crown, could they be surprised that the Assembly should feel that it was in vain for them to legislate on any subject, when they found that a party, hostile to their existence, rendered all their acts, and all their good intentions, of no avail whatever? Many of the despatches of Lord Glenelg had been quoted, and he should only allude to one more, which had not yet been noticed. It had reference to the subject of education, which had occupied much of the attention of the Assembly, and was dated on the 29th of April, 1837, and addressed to the Gover- 818 nor, Sir L. Smith. It was to the following effect:—"I have received, with much satisfaction, the report of the measure proposed by the House of Assembly for the diffusion of religious and moral instruction in the island of Jamaica, and with pleasure observe, that they have made no distinctions between any sect or class of society." Those were the terms in which Lord Glenelg spoke of the measures of that body, which the bill before the House proposed to abrogate. His Lordship, however, continued—"The benefits likely to result from those measures, and the conciliatory conduct, and the anxious endeavours of the House of Assembly to promote the welfare and happiness of the people of Jamaica, will amply compensate the Imperial Parliament, and the people of this country, for the pecuniary sacrifice they have made for the emancipation of the negro population." Hence then, down to the year 1837, they perceived that Lord Glenelg had expressed the highest approbation of the proceedings of the Assembly, and had proved, in the most satisfactory manner, that he considered the Assembly to have done every thing to meet the views and the wishes of the Parliament, and the people of Great Britain, and to promote the best interests of religion in the island of Jamaica. How then came it, that the Assembly had lost the high character which had been bestowed upon them by Lord Glenelg—how was it that that body could not now be trusted? Was it on account of the state of the prisons, and the disinclination of the Assembly to improve them? In 1836, Mr. Sturge had visited Jamaica, with the view of examining the state of the country, and, amongst other objects, that Gentleman had directed his attention to the state of the prisons. And what was his report on the subject? Mr. Sturge had allowed, that he had seen several, which he considered deserving of approbation. But the Government had, in the September of that year sent out Captain Pringle to examine into the many complaints and allegations which reached this country, and to see how far the grievances complained of were well founded. And what had been the report of that gentleman? Captain Pringle had stated, that although he had found many things requiring improvement, he had seen nothing like what had been described to him before he left this country. He found a large proportion of the allegations 819 which were made, totally without foundation, and he had distinctly stated, that so far from the Assembly being unwilling to proceed to legislate on the subject of prisons, two plans had been shown him, which were under consideration with a view to immediate adoption. Such were the facts as stated by Captain Pringle, who had suggested that neither of those plans should be adopted till they received the plans which were under the consideration of Parliament, and which were to be adopted in England. It was upon the plans to be adopted for England, that the Assembly proposed to form the prisons of Jamaica. But it might be asked, what confidence could the people of Jamaica have in the Governor and the council by whom they were governed? Were hon. Gentlemen aware of the nature of that council? Why, at one time it was a legislative body, at another like the House of Lords, it sat as a court of justice; and at the next moment it might be convened as a privy council. If the Governor was informed that the council was legislating, or about to legislate on any matter, or in any way he disapproved, he might walk in, and at once suspend their legislative functions, and form them into a privy council. Under such circumstances the council was, in fact, nothing more nor less than the Governor. A council so composed, and with such limited functions, at once gave into the hands of the Governor a degree of power amounting to a complete despotism. The right hon. Gentleman opposite had said, that the laws which were necessary for Jamaica to enact, fully justified the course which the Government had adopted, and that no time was to be lost in passing the bill before the House. Now, let the House consider that statement for a moment, and let them see to what laws the right hon. Gentleman alluded in justification of the haste which he considered necessary, and of the despotic measure which he advocated. The first of those laws related to contracts between master and servant, but the law of Jamaica on that subject was the same as the law in this country. The next law related to vagrancy. The law of vagrancy had been enacted before the Emancipation Act; what was the law in this country? If a person was found going about idle and not working for his subsistence, he was sent to prison. The law was almost the same in Jamaica, and 820 if it was provided that the person going about idle should before being sent to prison be offered employment and sufficient wages, no difference whatever would exist. The next law related to the militia, but the Governor of Jamaica was also Captain-general, and no one could call out that force without his sanction and authority. That force was entirely at his disposal. The right hon. Gentleman had next alluded to the laws relating to the courts of justice; and he admitted that those laws loudly called for amendment. There ought to be a Lord Chancellor for the island, for the idea that an old officer unacquainted with the laws should be the chief administrator of justice was absurd. He should be glad, indeed, to see the courts of justice in our West-India Colonies improved, and such a step could not fail to give satisfaction to the people, and to be productive of the greatest benefit. There was, in fact, one bill which required immediate attention, namely, the Police Bill; but surely that bill alone was not sufficient ground for depriving Jamaica of its constitution, by suspending the legislative functions of the House of Assembly. But, supposing the bill before the House passed, what guarantee had they that Jamaica would submit, and how were they to enforce obedience if she refused? Would they send out a fleet? Would they, when France was exulting on the downfall of our navy, when from weakness they had submitted to insult at Mexico, and when they were without a fleet in the Baltic, send out a fleet to enforce obedience to their laws in Jamaica? Or would they increase the army estimates by sending out an army? The House of Assembly had often entered into contests with this country, and bad always been successful, and for this plain reason, that they had always contended for their rights. The House might smile at the idea of Jamaica opposing the force of this country. It was true she was totally unable to resist the armed force of England, but if she opposed a passive resistance, how was that resistance to be overcome? He would give them an instance to illustrate this part of the question. The Governor had under the Prisons Act appointed two inspectors, and what was the conduct of the local magistrates? They had informed the Governor that they could no longer continue their services. And if such conduct was imitated, how could that spe- 821 cies of resistance be overcome? How could they make men obey their dictates when they knew that they had the sympathy of their fellow-subjects, and when they were sure of the support of all the other islands? The thing was impossible, and they would be obliged to submit at last. What guarantee would the Canadians have after the Canadian Bill was passed, according to the message of her Majesty, that an Act of a similar nature would not be sent out to them? He would tell the Government that they might attempt to coerce, but they never could succeed in coercing the smallest portion of a nation determined to be free. What confidence could the people of Jamaica have in the present Government? He declared that they had no confidence in it. The only address which had come from the island in favour of the Governor, contained among the signatures appended to it the forged names of 179 inhabitants of the town of Kingston. What confidence could they have in the Government which intrusted the whole of their liberties to such a Governor, whose support was so weak that forged signatures must be resorted to? What confidence could the people of Jamaica have in these magistrates, who were notoriously men who took only a one-sided view of every case, and in differences between masters and servants were always prejudiced against the master? In one instance an order was made for the payment of a negro for work, which he afterwards admitted he never was ordered to perform. What could be thought of a Governor who talked of the missionaries having well advised the negroes what to do, and in reference to the planters said, "We will overcome tliem"—a Governor who acted with a one-sided view of every case between planters and negroes? Such a Governor might be as great a despot as any that ever tyrannized over others. Taking this bill, then, as a Bill of Pains and Penalties, he averred that there was not the slightest ground for passing such a bill. He thought it was too much for the British House of Commons to agree that the suspension of the legislative functions of the House of Assembly was necessary even for the limited period of two years and a half; and perhaps it would not stop there, but at the expiration of that term some excuse would be made for continuing this act, and, more than that, it might be 822 hereafter construed into a precedent for so dealing with other colonies, and they would lose the good opinion, the good feeling, and, what was more, the revenue that came from those colonies, For it must be recollected, that the little island of Jamaica paid more to the revenue than any other; 3,000,000l. a-year was a low estimate of the mount annually contributed by that island to the public revenue. He trusted, then, that for all the reasons he had attempted to urge upon the serious consideration of the House they would pause before they agreed to such a measure as that now proposed for adoption; and that they never would set the example of showing, that while they enjoyed liberty themselves, they were the first to take it away from others.
would give his cordial support to this bill, and he thought, that he could find his first reason for so doing in the extremely feeble speeches of the right hon. Baronet and of the hon. Gentleman opposite who had opposed the present motion. Knowing the power of the right hon. Baronet, and being aware of his eloquence, they could not trace the feebleness he had displayed to any want of talent, but they must attribute it to the feebleness of the cause which he advocated. He had heard it with surprise asserted, that the suspension of the constitution of Jamaica was a suspension of popular government. Was that a popular government which ran counter to the wishes of the people, for whom it ruled? He confessed, that if he wanted to show the very opposite of popular government, he would point to the Legislative Assembly of Jamaica. They could no more draw a parallel between this assembly and popular government, than they could between the two great leaders of opposite parties on this question, Mr. Burge and the distinguished head of the United States, George Washington. It was not on the Prisons' Bill that he founded his vote—he only took the conduct of the Assembly with regard to that bill as an index of the disquiet which existed between the planters and the labourers; and it was upon the general grounds of the differences existing between them that the House was called upon to interfere. He thought, that in the intermediate period of danger, they should transfer the power from both parties, and vest it in a third, which would keep it safely for both. He was anxious to transfer the power; for he abhorred the power of the ascendancy system, either in 823 Ireland or in Jamaica. He knew well the feelings of those who had once had the ascendancy in a country; and this feeling prevented them from ruling those with a semblance even of equality, over whom they had long domineered. He believed, that when persons had once possessed this ascendancy power, there was a greater temptation in that power to domineer than to acknowledge the just rights of man. This, however, was not only a portion of the common system of an ascendancy government, or of a government by the proprietors in Jamaica, but it was a government of agents and factors—a kind of middle men, more dangerous than any other; for while they felt all the weight of the power they possessed, they felt none of its liabilities and none of its duties. In the papers which he held in his hand he found ample vindication for the course he was about to take. Did they not find them ejecting labourers from the land on the same system as was pursued in this country on the idea of "doing what they liked with their own," though it was not done with an English, but with a West Indian feeling? Did they not find them endeavouring, under the pretence of contracts, to preserve the dominancy of the old system of servitude. And when the House saw these things, when they saw the people still dealt with as slaves, could they come to any other conclusion, than that these persons so acting were no longer fit to be governors, and that the government ought to be transferred to other and to better hands? He found his justification also in the conduct of the local legislature towards the British Government and the British Parliament. They did not expostulate quietly with either. They did not simply protest against the acts that had been passed, but they said:—While we protest against the usurping power of the British Parliament, and deny their right to pass laws for our government, we cannot overlook the character of the parliament which affects to regulate and constrain our morals and humanity. The greatest share of power rests in the House of Commons. That body has been accused before the world and within its own walls, by a leading member, of the high crime of perjury. The accuser has not been punished nor the charge refuted; and he and the accuser himself are in their turn accused of violating their oaths as often as ecclesiastical matters are the subject of legislation in the House. The House of Commons has also been charged with corruption in the progress through the House of private bills.824 It might be supposed, that they would be more merciful to the House of Lords, but of that House this local legislature said:—The island of Jamaica never will consent to be ruled by men who have, in their proceedings towards them, invaded the ancient statutes of the realm, and usurped the prerogative of the Crown; who have, although not represented amongst them, imposed on her people taxes and penalties, and set aside the trial by jury,Nor was this the first indication of opposition. The Governor had been, before there was any quarrel about the Prisons' Bill, opposed by the Colonial Assembly in matters of humane legislation. They spoke as if they were the representatives of the people of Jamaica, whilst they represented only 2,000 persons out of 300,000. He felt, therefore, no compunction, but he was rather happy in supporting a measure to place under the power of the British House of Commons the liberty of the people of Jamaica, and to put down the spurious local legislature. He turned with satisfaction from the consideration of the conduct of the local legislature to the conduct of the Governor, Sir Lionel Smith, who had acted with the dignity becoming his situation, and with more of the mildness becoming a Christian, than the legislature by whom he had been opposed. The people of Jamaica felt safe only when they appealed to the Governor of Jamaica, and when they could make the additional appeal to the British Parliament and the British Crown. They had been pursued in their own country by their hard taskmasters, who could not forget the chains with which they had been long bound. They flew for refuge to the Throne and to the British Parliament, and they threw themselves for protection under the ægis of the English constitution. Not only was it the interest of this country, that the Parliament should be required to interfere; but it should be demanded for the interest of the planters themselves. He felt, therefore, that they were bound to intercede for the welfare of the planters. Who were against the planters? They had against their proceedings the Parliament, the people, and the Crown of England, and when they were supported by this power, and backed by reason, it was vain for the planters to contend against them. He sat down, therefore, firmly impressed with the conviction, that the House was bound to intercede, not only on account of the negroes, but also to sustain the cha- 825 ratter of the Government and of the Parliament, and with a proper consideration for the lasting interests of the planters themselves.
§ Mr. Charles Buller
spoke to the following effect: I am more than usually anxious, Sir, on the present occasion, to have an opportunity of explaining the reasons of my vote, because, while I am most decided in supporting the bill now before the House, I entirely dissent from the grounds on which it was at first specially proposed. The extensive and important change which it is now proposed to make in the form of government so long established in Jamaica, has been specifically grounded on the alleged necessity arising from the Assembly's refusal to discharge its duties, in consequence of the interference of the House of Commons with its privileges in the case of the Prisons Act. If this were the only ground on which alone this bill could be defended—if the question were, whether we are prepared to enforce the Prisons Act by destroying the Legislature which has ventured to resist it, I would vote against the present bill. Nothing is clearer than the duty of the supreme legislative authority to respect the independent exercise of that authority which it delegates to subordinate bodies. We have delegated the internal legislation of the province to the free inhabitants of the colony; and while that delegation of power exists—while we continue to recognize the compact of noninterference in the internal affairs of the island, it is our interest as well as our duty faithfully to observe the compact, and to respect the legislature which is established under our own authority. We have a perfect right to take away the present constitution of Jamaica if we please; but while we maintain it we must respect it, and respect the independence of those who, in resisting a violation of a compact, are not merely maintaining privileges which we have granted to them but discharging duties which we have imposed on them. The management of the prisons is clearly one of those matters of internal regulation, which the established constitution of the island vests in the sole discretion of its own legislature. That legislature has chosen to exercise its undoubted right in a manner repugnant to our sentiments and contrary to our views of sound legislation, and contrary, I am perfectly ready to admit, to every dictate alike of humanity and policy. But if you mean to allow the island a degree of self government, you must surely allow the 826 legislature a difference of opinion on such a point as this; and even if its ideas are rather backward, you must not overturn the whole form of government in order to force upon it your own more enlightened system of prison discipline. It would surely be simpler and safer to let the people of Jamaica continue for two or three years with bad prisons, than to destroy their whole form of government, for the sole purpose of putting their gaols in order. If I were called upon to decide the matter merely on the grounds of the present quarrel, I think, that in that quarrel we are in the wrong; and that instead of destroying the constitution of the colony, because its legislature has resisted an encroachment on it, our only mode of getting out of the difficulty in which we have involved ourselves, would be by retracing the false step of interference which we have already made. This quarrel appears to me a singular specimen of the shortsighted policy of legislating not on general principles, but on the exigencies of the moment. The attempt has been made to evade the recognition of those large and bold principles which we have long been called on to adopt in the government of the West-India islands, and to attain our end under the pretext of a quarrel, which seems to have been very carefully prepared. The utter insufficiency and injustice of the pretext appears to me now to be the most serious obstacle in the way of the measures which it is desired to further. For, Sir, strong as my opinion is against the alleged grounds of the bill now before the House, when I extend my views beyond the mere allegations of parties to the general merits of the question, and inquire what really is the form of government best suited to the present circumstances of Jamaica, I am forced to come to the conviction that the only prudent course for the imperial legislature to adopt, is, that of suspending the present constitution of the island in the mode proposed in this bill. The bill brings that question before us. It brings before us of necessity not merely the single quarrel respecting the Prisons Act, but all the difficulties which have arisen, and must be expected to arise, from the attempt to carry into effect the great measure of emancipation under the system of government which existed during the state of slavery; and I must say, that I could only regard it as a contemptible evasion of our duty, were we to confine ourselves in the present instance to deciding on the conduct 827 or the allegations of particular parties, and so elude the great duty of fitting the political institutions of Jamaica to that altered state of society produced by that great change, that we have effected in the social condition of the island. This is the real business before us: and if in the decision of a question which involves the honour of the empire, and the dearest interests of a large number of our fellow-creatures, we can have the virtue or the capacity to elevate our minds for awhile above the paltry personalities and narrow views of party, we shall, instead of vying in the petty ingenuity of suggesting expedients that may stave off the difficulty, or shift it on others, set ourselves in earnest to the task of providing that remedy which has been already too long delayed. The bill now proposed is but the necessary supplement to the Emancipation Act, and it would have been passed simultaneously with that act, had the noble Lord, the Member for North Lancashire conceived the real nature of the task which he then undertook. I am peculiarly sorry to offend hon. Gentlemen opposite, by making remarks upon the conduct of the great statesman whom they are proud to follow. Unfortunately, though such of us as were in this House during the Session of 1833, may recollect with admiration the great skill with which the debates on that question were conducted, the nation has little reason to congratulate itself on the forethought, or the comprehensiveness which were exhibited in framing the measure of Emancipation. I know of no act which reflects so high honour on the nation, whose extended philanthropy impelled the emancipation of the slaves in our colonies, and whose generosity bore the heavy cost at which it was effected; and none which reflects so little credit on the statesmanlike qualities of the minister who was intrusted with carrying the will of the people into effect. I speak not now of the singular levity which was very publicly exhibited to the eyes of the world during the passage of the Emancipation Act through this House, when, in the course of two or three weeks, a loan was suddenly converted into a gift, and the purchase-money then augmented by the addition of a full third to the original sum of many millions. I speak of the measure itself—unwise and incomplete in its very nature—a measure which, possessing no really useful characteristic of either immediate or gradual emancipation, interposed 828 a period of delay, which has been, in fact, a period of more irritation, and which, instead of facilitating the conversion of the slave into the labourer, has unfitted him for his future condition, by subjecting him to an apprenticeship, during which neither coercion nor wages were presented as an inducement to industry—a measure of which the signal failure is marked by the facts that, by an almost universal consent of all the interested parties even a seven years' trial has been considered too long for it, and that the experiment of emancipation has as yet met with success only in that one island, in which a perfectly different system was adopted from the outset. Nor was the measure accompanied by any of those supplemental political changes which this great social change rendered necessary. The noble Lord has allowed the period of delay between the commencement and the termination of emancipation to elapse, without the suggestion of a change in the form of government. I know that the noble Lord thinks that so soon as he passed from this side of the House to that on which he now sits, all his duties to the colonies ceased. He has been a Member of this House ever since, and we have frequently had occasion to hear his voice, but he has never suggested any alteration in the bill which he introduced; and, I say, that the great difficulty now is, to do that which the noble Lord ought to have done in 1833. I am inclined, Sir, to doubt a little whether the Gentlemen who oppose this bill, have ever sufficiently reflected on the vast change which the emancipation of the negroes has effected in the condition of the West Indies. I tax my memory to find an instance in the history of the human race, in which so great a revolution in the condition of a people, has ever been so rapidly effected; and I can find none, except perhaps the sudden subjection to slavery which visited the inhabitants of the Roman Empire, on the invasion of the barbarians. The great revolutions of modern times—political revolutions which have filled men with dismay are, after all, nothing in comparison with the change from slavery to freedom. Changes of the same, or almost equal magnitude, have no doubt been effected in modern Europe; slavery existed here; and slavery has been extinguished. But it was extinguished by the action of the society in which it existed; men's minds had by degrees been prepared for it; the authority 829 of the master, the bonds of the serf were gradually loosened; and the same progress of opinion which abolished the personal servitude, by the same gradual process, enlarged the political privileges of the lower orders. But here, in a community of 400,000 souls, you have suddenly converted 380,000 from oppressed and degraded slaves, dependent on the caprices and prudence of a handful of masters of another race, into freemen, clothed with the privileges and the responsibilities of freedom. You have converted the mass of a people from chattels into men; you have, as it were, suddenly added this immense proportion of free population; and you are called on to make laws for all this new population, which has been left hitherto unprovided with any, which are necessary either to restrain or to protect freemen of their class. For it is one of the peculiarities of slavery, that it needs not the existence of the laws, which, in free societies, are requisite to regulate some of the most important relations of life. Endowed with no civil rights, the slave needs no laws to regulate his relations towards his master, and hardly any towards other men. All his civil—the greater part of his criminal—code lies in the breast of his master. By freeing him, you create, for the first time, one of the most important relations of humanity—that of employer and workman, that of landlord and tenant, are the most obvious. What a world of legislation do these two relations imply! But even further legislative provisions are rendered requisite by the change from slavery to freedom. In the state of slavery, the masters provide for the poor. There is no vagrancy but that of runaway slaves. The slave does not inherit, nor bequeath. The very relation of marriage and paternity, are matters that almost exclusively concern the master. The acts which society punishes as crimes in free men, are, with a few exceptions, merged in the offence to the master; and the greater part of a criminal code is consequently superfluous, the master taking the place of the Government in adjudicating on crime and administering punishment. The disputes between slaves, legally incapable of entering into contracts, or undergoing civil injury, are matters regulated by the paternal jurisdiction of the master. The functions of police are those of merely supplying physical force to enforce that jurisdiction. Nor does the State interfere 830 with the education, hardly with the religious instruction of the slave. When you convert the slave into a free man all these wants arise. The State has to provide what it previously left to the master—it has to create the greater part of a criminal, almost the whole of a civil, code—it has to supply the judicial machinery for administering both, and the police necessary for enforcing the laws—it has to provide for those of whose support it has relieved the master, and to regulate the questions of pauperism, of vagrancy, and a number of others of equal importance; and it is its duty to furnish the education which can alone fit the ignorant and helpless slave to enjoy the privileges and discharge the duties of freedom. When, as in the case of the West Indies, the emancipation has been sudden, these legislative provisions must be suddenly made; and, above all things, they must be made in a spirit of hearty good will to the great experiment of emancipation. They must be made by men thoroughly convinced of the possibility of elevating the slave into the freeman, and sincerely desirous of achieving that great end—by men filled with no regrets for past power, no irritation at the loss of extinguished rights—by men who will not seek to perpetuate slavery under the name of vagrant laws, or iniquitous regulations respecting the contests of workmen—who will not, on finding it hopeless to attempt keeping up the obligations, seek still to continue the degradation of slavery, and to vitiate the results of freedom by leaving the emancipated negro in all his former ignorance and immorality, and thus rendering savages those whom they cannot keep slaves. New laws must be made for a new people, and made and administered in a spirit exactly the reverse of that which has hitherto animated the Legislature of Jamaica. In that Legislature what expectation can you form of fitness for such a task as this? I knew the ordinary state of culture and political education in British colonies; and though I doubt not that the inhabitants of a colony are generally fitted, in the ordinary course of political events, to supply the ordinary wants of legislation, I do not believe that the society of any colony, far less of a slave colony, chiefly owned by absentee proprietors, can supply the legislation that can achieve the great task imposed on those who have to carry into immediate 831 effect the emancipation of the negroes. But putting aside capacity, what evidence of good intention have the Legislature of Jamaica given? What is the spirit in which they regarded emancipation while unaccomplished, or with which they have administered it since it has been achieved? The very worst. They prevented its becoming law as long as they could; and since it has become law, they have endeavoured, by every means in their power, to defeat its purpose and nullify its provisions. I will not enter into that crimination of particular Acts, which I so much object to in dealing with legislative bodies. I ask you, what has the history of Jamaica legislation for the last twenty years been, but a constant revision of every measure that has been adopted for the benefit of the slave—a constant resistance to every authority, every law, and every minister that sought to better his condition? What are the objects of the law passed in the island since emancipation, except to keep up slavery under the provisions for regulating the contracts of workmen, and to degrade and depress the negro? Look at the composition of the Assembly, and the constituent body which it represents. What are they but the very class out of whose hands you have taken the lash? Who resisted emancipation as a spoliation of their property—who predicted its failure, and who can be expected to make no wiser and no more humane use of the political power which has been left in their hands than to defeat, by every possible means, the great experiment, of which they dread the success? I do not blame the Assembly. ["Hear!" from Lord Stanley.] The noble Lord is surprised that I can tolerate a difference of opinion in any man, but I beg to assure him that I can do so. Their difference of opinion from us on the subject of emancipation is a difference which I view with great tolerance. I blame only those who, affecting a regard for the success of emancipation, would leave the powers, on the exercise of which that success entirely depends, in the hands of its ancient, unreconciled, and irreconcileable adversaries. The right hon. Baronet is shocked at the present bill because it interferes with what he calls popular rights, and suspends what he calls a popular Assembly. Well, Sir, he is consistent in his views of representative government. While a colleague of 832 his—his colonial secretary by the bye—is denouncing the Assembly of Newfoundland, because the people of that island are poor and Catholics, the right hon. Baronet demands our respect for this model of representative government, in which about a two-hundredth part of the population form the constituency. The right hon. Baronet is consistent in his views of representative government, and I do not wonder at his upholding this constitution as one which ought to be respected. But I must express my astonishment at his being supported even in the days of Liberal crotchet and inconsistency, by friends of mine on this side of the House, who feel a sincere attachment to popular Government. I don't allude to my hon. Friend the Member for Kilkenny. He is always wrong. He has always singular notions on all topics connected with negro slavery, on the subject of emancipation I only knew him as far too friendly to the planters. But I do wonder, that there should be others not warped by this feeling, who allow themselves to be juggled by the mere name of representative Government, and seem to imagine, that in defending the Jamaica Assembly, they defend anything but one of the narrowest and most oppressive oligarchies that ever mocked the form of free Government. Why, if this were an European Government—if in this quarter of the globe a 200th portion of a community elected the rulers of the remainder, who would not denounce such a tyranny, whatever disguise of elective institutions it might wear? I cannot comprehend how these men could be sincere opponents of the parliamentary system which existed in this country before the Reform Act. Bad as that system was, it provided a far freer and fuller representation of the people than this Assembly of Jamaica. To me it seems, that such an oligarchy is, without exception, the most detestable form of Government that has ever been known, and that despotism of any kind is to be preferred to these semblances of self-government, which give you in fact many tyrants instead of one. We do not lament the oppressive oligarchies of Venice or Poland, merely because they dishonoured the name of republic by assuming it. Yet these oligarchies were better than this privileged class of white masters of a black population, this agent oligarchy, this aristocracy of attorneys and overseers. Compare a governor in coun- 833 cil to such an assembly. Each is equally irresponsible to the people whom it governs. In whose hands is it safer to leave such power? In that of an English governor, responsible to English public opinion; or in that of the delegates of this handful of dispossessed and irritated slave-owners? Take the instance of the Prisons Act apart from the interference of our Parliament, and you have in the behaviour of the Assembly on this subject a sample of what co-operation in the business of emancipation you have a right to expect from it. You have here an instance of the opposition which you may expect from the House of Assembly to every measure for the good government of the emancipated negroes. You may, by menace or coercion, make this opposition more prudent, but, depend upon it, while you submit those whom you have freed to the government of their ancient masters, that opposition will always be as obstinate and effectual. There are some who think, that this is an evil, which a little time will be sure to remedy, that the blacks will, ere long, acquire a preponderance in the electoral body, and be able to right themselves. I must confess, Sir, that this affords me no consolation, and, that in addition to desiring a suspension of this constitution in order to stop the present abuse of power by the whites, I am quite as anxious for it in order to prevent the future abuse of power by the blacks. I should see with as much dismay emancipated slaves ruling their ancient tyrants, as dispossessed slave-owners ruling their former slaves. No man is more inclined than I am implicitly to adopt the will of the majority as the only safe rule of Government. The more experience of men and political institution I acquire, the more thoroughly do I adopt the belief, that the best way of governing them is to let them govern themselves entirely. Nor do I at all believe in the doctrine of the essential inferiority of particular races, or doubt that black men would, under favourable circumstances, govern themselves quite as well as white men. But surely there are circumstances of inferior civilization, of long oppression, and of consequent ignorance, degradation, and irritation, that unfit particular races of men for entering on the task of self-government at particular times. Are not the emancipated negroes in such a position? Take their past history—the excitable character of 834 their race—their utter ignorance—the oppression from which they have just obtained their deliverance, and let any man say whether such a people would not first use their political power to wreak vengeance on their ancient tyrants? I do not depreciate the capacities of these long-depressed men—I do not deny, that they will ere long be fit to govern themselves; but to give them power now—to give to any man who has felt the lash the power of avenging himself on the man who has laid it on him, seems to me to be giving up a society to the worst passions that can actuate men, and to be ensuring all the first horrors and all the subsequent barbarism of Hayti. Establish representative Government as extensively and as fully as you can; but establish it in homogeneous societies, and in circumstances which will give it some chance of fair play. If I could wonder at any imprudence on the part of many involved in a contest of political power, I must confess, that I should be astonished at finding the representatives of the white interest in Jamaica refusing the present opportunity of guarding against the inevitable and speedy predominance of the blacks in the Legislature of the island. I know, that they console themselves with assurances that the acquisition of the franchise will be gradual, and that the negroes will obtain political power bit by bit. From what I can understand of the nature of the franchise, the ease with which land may be acquired, and the utter impossibility of preventing an irruption by force and fraud of a great mass of coloured electors, I must own that I think this a most dangerous experiment; and that the slightest doubt of the result is in my mind decisive against a course in which disappointment would be so disastrous. Under these circumstances, Sir, what form of Government can be devised for this island? I am very much opposed to despotism any where, and, above all things, to despotism in a colony of England. I know enough of the character of English functionaries in the colonies, and I know how entirely unfit the gentlemen employed are to administer their power without the aid, as well as the control, of the people. I know how peculiarly inefficient and corrupt an English despotism everywhere is. I know, too, that when you render the Government of a colony utterly irresponsible to the governed, you 835 only excite an increased disposition for interference on the part of the public and Parliament at home; and that the colonial despotism which you propose to establish will be liable to be constantly thwarted by ignorant and factious intermeddling here, and be, in fact, a very weak as well as a bad Government. Still it seems to me the best that the peculiar circumstances of Jamaica admit of. Any despotism is better than the anarchical despotism of contending races—of slave-owners suddenly stripped of what they consider their property—of slaves suddenly freed and invested with the power of avenging themselves on their oppressors. At present you can trust neither the majority nor the minority with the government of the island. You must place power in the hands of some external authority leaning for support on an external force, and in no wise responsible to the governed. This is just what the bill contemplates. I know not whether its details may carry this purpose into effect in the best manner conceivable, but its object I am very confident is right, because in fact it is prescribed by an absolute though deplorable necessity. To these conclusions I have come on general principles, and on grounds utterly independent of the ill-advised quarrel on which so much stress has been laid. I should have come to these conclusions at any time since the passing of the Emancipation Act. The suspension of the constitution was necessary then—has been so ever since—and is not a bit less so now. And such being my feeling, I cannot accept the right hon. Baronet's suggestion of giving up this bill on his promising to get us out of our present difficulty by a little delay and fine speaking. Settle the question as you please, the constitution of Jamaica is still unsuited to the present state of society in the island; and its existence is an intolerable evil. No compromise or delay can get us out of this difficulty—nothing can overcome it, but the prompt and vigorous execution of the bold and comprehensive course devised in this hill. As to the right hon. baronet's plan, putting aside its utter insufficiency, in such a view of the case as that which I have presented to the House, I should like very much to know on what view he can make oat that his suggestion would contribute either to our honour or our safety. The right hon. Baronet puts himself for- 836 ward as a mediator, taking a view as hostile to the pretensions of the Jamaica Assembly, as their most decided adversary can take. For he thinks them wrong in this particular quarrel. He stands by the Prisons Act—he is as determined to enforce it as the Government can be; but he fancies diet he has hit upon so insinuatin a plan for obtaining the submission of the Assembly, that he can get it to do what no one else could persuade it into. He proposes not to pass the bill now, but to give the Assembly one more chance of retracing their false step, and submitting cheerfully to the Prisons Act; but I think this rather a hopeless experiment; he will give Ministers power to do in the holidays what he does not think the House entitled to do during the Session. I must at once, without discussing the chances of success, protest against this as a most unbecoming and fatal course. The suspension of a constitution is a grave measure; and surely if ever it be taken, it should be taken absolutely and not contingently, by the direct and not by the delegated authority of the Legislature. It should be taken on large and well-considered views of public policy, and not be left hanging on tae good temper of Ministers or provincial assemblies, and the nice shades of right or wrong in the conduct of a quarrel between them. But I own I cannot see any actual chance of success from delay. I suppose that the plain meaning of the right hon. Baronet's suggestion (if indeed he had any view in originally propounding it beyond that of taking advantage of the too great frailty of Ministers) was to get credit for directing their policy. I suppose it was, Sir, that as the most influential Jamaica proprietors are Tories, he could by his influence with his party, induce the Assembly to make to him an unavoidable concession, which it had refused to make to the present ministers; and that he should thus have the merit of saving the constitution of the island, and at the same time enforcing a due respect to the authority of the Imperial Parliament. Now, besides not having any wish to further such designs of the right hon. Baronet, for the augmentation of his own credit, I must say, I see no remarkable chance of his success. If, in acting on the Jamaica Assembly, he was acting on the minds of prudent men, or of lien whose strongest feelings were on the side of English Toryism, he might have some chance of success. But these 837 Gentlemen, who have charged on us all the Burking and other crimes of the last twenty years, do not seem to me to be very temperate men, or men whose sense of their own true interests will weaken their excited passions. Nor from our experience of their past conduct, do I perceive that they are at all more inclined to be thwarted by a Tory than by a Liberal minister; for they were just as refractory before the Reform Act as they have been since. Nor is there anything really conciliatory, either to their pride or their interest in the suggestion of the right hon. Baronet. At his hands, as well as at those of the present Government, they will have to swallow the Prisons Act; and the locus penitentiœ afforded by his amicable menace, appears to be the opportunity of swallowing the disagreeable mouthful under the compulsion of a very thick stick held over their heads. If they have the spirit of mice, they will, now that they have gone so far, resist. If they do, what will the right hon. Baronet's suggestion have got for us, but another slap on the face? If they do not, if after all their big words, they submit to menace, what shall we gain except the renewal of the dispute on a vagrant law, or a militia law, or the next measure required for the benefit of the negroes, and the consequent necessity of adopting this act, either on temporary grounds, no better than those now put forward, on general principles, which might be acted on with equal force, and far better grace at once? But, Sir, the principle, and what appears to me to be the indisputable reason for preferring the decided course taken by the Government, to the shilly-shally and dubious proposal of the right hon. Baronet is, that the circumstances of Jamaica admit of no delay—of no doubt as to the intention of Parliament at once to establish, in that island, a Government possessed of the vigour necessary for preparing and carrying into effect the measures necessary for completing the emancipation of the negroes. The experiment of emancipation is already in very great peril. I cannot but say, that on reading the papers laid before this House, I see, in spite of the consolatory representations of the stipendiary magistrates, such evidence of a very general indisposition of the Negroes to work as hired labourers, as fills me with the greatest misgivings as to the prospect of the continued cultivation of any exportable produce in the island of Jamaica. I cannot 838 but suppose, that there exists among the newly-emancipated negroes a great aversion to work in any capacity for the masters whose slaves they have been, and in the species of labour, of which every operation must be associated in their minds, with the recollections of all the past sufferings of their slavery. I cannot but allow for the strong feeling inherent in all men, bat most particularly natural in colonies, that will incline these men rather to provide a rude but plentiful subsistence by the cultivation of small patches of ground for themselves, than to submit to labour, even more lucratively, on the estates of others. I know, that in Jamaica there exists a vast portion of waste but productive, of appropriated but unoccupied, land; and I know how utterly impossible it is, where the disposition exists, to prevent the labourers from dispersing themselves over these wastes, and squatting where they choose. A year's indulgence of such a disposition—which, if it once arise, no law, no force, can check—will for ever put an end to the cultivation of sugar in Jamaica. To prevent such a result from attending your great experiment should be your first and immediate care. This is a danger which brooks no delay; now or never will you make the negro a useful member of civilized society. All depends on the habits which he may form in the outset of his freedom. Much depends on the wisdom and vigour of the local government—still more on the confidence which the negro entertains in its sincerity. Adopt the course of the right hon. Baronet, and you will, during the greater and more important part of this eventful period, leave the negro under a Legislature which he regards as hostile, and which he must regard also as an enemy, paralysed by a suspended sentence of deprivation. You will leave him under the powerless rule of conflicting authorities—of a Legislature, and an Executive in undisguised and unceasing collision. You will leave him under a Legislature which cannot, or will not, repeal the very laws which deter the negro from work. Look at that, for instance, which subjects him whom you call free, to thirty-nine lashes, for whatever a planter-justice may choose to call a breach of contract, or a refusal to work for reasonable wages; and tell me fairly whether you do not think that such a law, administered by magistrates in whom the negroes can have no confidence, is not sufficient to de- 839 ter every one of them from the folly of entering into any contract with an employer, and to drive them into the forests and mountains, where they will not be subjected to an offer of reasonable wages. I say, that the existence of such a law, and such an administration of justice for a single year, or for the few months during which the Assembly and the Government, would be doomed by the right hon. Baronet, to diplomatise in resolutions and dispatches tardily bandied across the Atlantic, will be sufficient to defeat the ends of emancipation, and destroy the production and civilization of Jamaica; for there is no question in which our national honour is so deeply involved, as in the issue of the great experiment that we have made in the West-India Islands. We have attempted the bold and great enterprise of suddenly converting slaves into free men. Never, under such circumstances, has it been attempted before; nor does history present another instance of a legislative act so daring or so generous. The civilized world looks with anxious interest to the result of this experiment. It is the point on which the future destiny of the African race turns. I know not whether the issue is in our hands—whether we may yet hope that the glory of success is to be added to that pure renown which our country has acquired, by even attempting this great thing. But, great as the glory of success will be the reproach to the nation, if its public men fling away the prize, in the ignoble squabble of parties, or the miserable vacillation of timidity. I, Sir, shall grieve much, and feel sincerely ashamed, if this great work be marred by conservative unwillingness to invest a Government with due authority. But I shall feel yet greater regret if such an opposition shall, on this occasion, be strengthened by the reluctance of liberal men to aid in the destruction of a form of government which, under the semblance of representative institutions, has been contrived and worked for no purpose but that of enabling a petty handful of tyrants to inflict the greatest possible amount of suffering and degradation on the many.
§ Mr. Hume
had listened with much attention to all his hon. and learned Friend had been saying, but he confessed he was very much at a loss to know, after all, what he would be at. The hon. and learned Gentleman attributed to him and to his hon. Friends around him, that they 840 were led away by a paltry and delusive juggle; but it did not seem very clear what was the object which the hon. and learned Gentleman himself looked forward to. He went backwards and forwards, attacking this and defending that, but never showing what was his own object, or how it was to be attained; and his propositions were so inconsistent with each other, that he had found it quite impossible to follow him. The hon. and learned Gentleman had laid it down as a maxim, that the oligarchy of Jamaica ought to he put down; yet he was advocating a bill, the effect of which was to suspend their power only. He expressed his desire to secure the freedom of the negroes, yet he did not scruple to hand them over to a governor and a council with whom the people would have no connection. He avowed, that he looked forward with anxiety to the result of the great experiment of emancipation, and with hopes that it might be carried out successfully; yet he was not prepared to commit its practical working to men notoriously unfit for such a charge—men whom the hon. and learned Gentleman himself had described as tyrannical—the Governor and Executive Council of a colony. To put it into their hands, he would take it out of those of the constitutional authorities. He (Mr. Hume) need not, he thought, refer to any more of his hon. and learned Friend's inconsistencies—he had enough. But his hon. and learned Friend seemed to have forgotten the effect of the proceedings of the Committee of 1837. That Committee, with Mr. Fowell Buxton for chairman, distinctly avowed these opinions, that it would be highly improper for those who were called on merely to pass the measure of emancipation, to make beforehand the laws requisite for the after state of the negroes—that it would be better to wait until the wants of the people and their circumstances were known—and that, in fact, there would be no necessity for such legislation until 1840. In compliance, in all probability, with that expressed opinion of the Committee, Lord Glenelg's circular to the Colonial Legislatures recommended them not to trouble themselves with any legislation for the emancipated negroes at that time, but to wait until the year 1840. Against whom, then, was the complaint made? Whose was the fault that such laws had not hitherto been passed? The hon. and learned Gentleman had not pointed out how be would attain his object—he would overturn every thing, yet 841 was not prepared to point out how things were to be done afterwards; and, in the mean time, he would hand over the emancipated negro to the worst tyranny that ever existed in the world—the executive government of a colony! He was very sorry to see those with whom he was accustomed to vote adopting Tory maxims—suspending constitution after constitution, and rendering every thing insecure. It ought not to be forgotten that, if the colonies owed a duty to the parent country, so the parent country owed duties to the colonies. If this system of constant interference was continued, it would be impossible for the colonies to go on. It was the mere mockery of a constitution if they were liable to have their powers suspended whenever any difference of opinion took place, such as had arisen on the present occasion. He entertained no fear whatever as to the working of that constitution. The law, at this moment, placed no distinction between the black man and the white man. Every black man, on acquiring the necessary qualification of 7l. freehold per annum, became entitled to, vote at elections as well as the white man. If in one year there were 4,000 electors, and in five years 40,000, was it likely the government could long continue an oligarchy? On the other hand, it might be said, that the black would outnumber the white electors. Did the white electors anticipate this? Had they called on Parliament to protect them from such a contingency? He would be prepared to give them any suffrage they wished for—a 40s. freehold qualification, or even universal suffrage. If there was any fear of improper influence, he would be ready to extend the suffrage so as to give to 'the community the power of managing their own affairs—the system of government which he understood his hon. and learned Friend professed to prefer. He entertained scarcely a doubt, that if matters had been and still were allowed to go on in a regular and friendly way, all present difficulties would be put an end to. What was there to fear from the blacks? There was no prospect of employment for them except from the whites. The hon. and learned Gentleman's fear was, that the blacks would be taken from under the control of the whites; but he (Mr. Hume) did not see how this was to be apprehended, when it was borne in mind that through the whites alone could they obtain employment, and rise in the scale of Society. The hon. and learned Gentleman 842 was not, he conceived, justified in going back twenty years, and arguing as if the transactions which took place under the old system would continue under the new, when the blacks were free and entitled to all the rights of freedom. That was an unfair argument. And the right hon. Secretary, when he rose to reply to the right hon. Baronet, did not answer any one of the allegations made by him, nor attempt to set aside the authority of the letters he read or the dispatches he quoted. Why, the very despatches up to December, 1837, contained the Government's expression of satisfaction at the conduct of the House of Assembly, and thereupon went out the thanks of Lord Glenelg for the manner in which they had performed their duties in passing the various bills submitted to them. He contended, that her Majesty's Government had made out no case whatever to justify the course they were about to take. On constitutional grounds they were wrong. It was asserted, as affording a justification, that the House of Assembly refused to pass the measures necessary for the welfare of the colony. The preamble of the present bill stated, that the House of Assembly had refused to pass bills unless certain conditions, were complied with. This was not true. In the resolution come to by the House of Assembly there was one condition only. They paused until they knew whether or not the British Legislature were resolved to suspend their constitution. They did not think it necessary for them to pass bills until they were informed whether the power of passing them was to be preserved to them. The resolution of the House of Assembly was to the effect, that they were of opinion, that they would best consult their own honour, the interests of their constituents, and the peace and well-being of the colony, by abstaining from all legislation, except what was necessary to preserve inviolate faith with the public creditor, until her Majesty's gracious pleasure be known whether her Jamaica subjects, now happily in a state of freedom, are to have the free exercise of their constitution, or to be treated as a conquered colony, and governed directly by the Crown and British Legislature. Did this make out the case stated in the preamble? On the contrary, all the difficulties would have been avoided, if the Governor of the colony had only thought fit to make the requisite explanations, and had said, that it was not the desire of the British Government to inter- 843 fere with the ordinary internal affairs of the colony. The resolution from which he had quoted did not arrive until December 10, 1838, and up to the present day, no explanation had been sent out to Jamaica. No explanation had been given, and, therefore, there could be no answer. He, therefore, considered, that the Government had not done their duty by having neglected to meet the reasonable expectations of the colony. They were about to try a most dangerous experiment. He had always expected, that the Government at home would lend their powerful aid to foster a good feeling between the planters and the black population, and was convinced, that the only result which would ensue from persisting in the present bill, and adopting a course so diametrically opposite to every thing like conciliation, would be to irritate and exasperate. He begged to ask her Majesty's Ministers why they had not made this measure general, so as to apply to the whole colonies? His hon. Friend who had just sat down spoke of legislating upon broad and general principles. If the Government had proposed a measure of the same nature which would apply to all the colonies, that would have been legislating upon broad and comprehensive principles; but he could see nothing just or comprehensive in the bill now before the House, which was a measure of punishment, and one of that description to be enforced in the colony of Jamaica alone. He could assure the House that he did not feel satisfied with the position in which they were placed. The measure had assumed a party appearance—it had, in short, become a party question. He regretted that such was the case. But before the right hon. Baronet had given notice of his motion, and so far back as the 27th of last month, he had ventured to express his regret to her Majesty's Government at the course which they appeared inclined to pursue, and stated, it would be impossible for him to give them his support. He should give his vote against the hill with great regret. It might not be said, that he was deserting the party whom he had generally supported. On that point he wished it to be understood, that desirous as he was to support a liberal government, he could not allow himself to be dragged from day to day contrary to his convictions to the support of arbitrary measures of this nature, and the attack of constitutional principles. He was sorry to see so many of his Friends, the general supporters of 844 liberal measures, prepared to follow in this onset upon constitutional rights. He had gone along with several of those hon. Members in opposing a measure of coercion for Ireland. He knew no difference between Ireland and Jamaica in this respect. Both countries were to him the same. He begged the attention of the House to what his course had been on previous occasions. When Earl Grey brought forward his Coercion Act for Ireland, he entreated hon. Members to forbear from assisting that noble Earl's Government in carrying out that tyrannical enactment. He predicted, that it would be attended with the most disastrous consequences, and that it would destroy the Administration of that noble Earl. In the year 1819, he had pursued the same line of conduct in giving his most strenuous opposition to the passing of the Six Acts. When the late bill for the suspension of the constitution in Upper Canada was before the House, he had also refused to listen to the solicitation of his Friends, although many of them were supporters of that tyrannical act. On that occasion he also expressed his apprehensions as to the evil consequences which would ensue. He really did hope, that her Majesty's Government would pause, and give time to parties to re-consider what had been done, so as to admit of explanations. He knew of no proper dignity that could suffer, or be in any degree compromised, by affording an opportunity for reasonable explanation. He would advise them to try all means, to attempt every expedient, before they finally persisted in so extreme a course as that of suspending the constitution of Jamaica. He considered that course, under existing circumstances, to be totally unnecessary, and should most deeply regret the collision which was likely to be brought about from such a course. Its results could not fail to be most disastrous, both to the white and the black population, fraught with evil not only to Jamaica alone, but to all the colonial dependencies. Such certainly would be the consequences if the bill were carried, which, however, he could not believe, for it would be the greatest misfortune if such an unconstitutional measure should succeed. He was sorry to have detained the House so long, but, under the circumstances in which he found himself placed, he could not possibly say less, having made up his mind to oppose the Government bill. He saw no necessity for any such proceeding, nor did he think that the right 845 hon. Baronet would have occasion to propose any bill should he succeed in his opposition on this occasion. Her Majesty's Government had not condescended on any one overt act to justify the bill which they had brought forward. They had dealt in nothing except vague generalities. He asked whether her Majesty's Government were prepared to follow out the means that would be required to be entered upon in the event of their carrying this bill. Were they prepared with a militia act, or a vagrant act? [Yes, yes!] Well, then, why had they not taken this step before? Why had they not sent out forms of law for the guidance of the Assembly in those matters? They ought to try the Assembly fairly and not destroy their existence until they had made up their own mind what was to be done after the House of Assembly was set aside. He thought, the bill had been introduced prematurely by her Majesty's Government. They ought to have sent out explanations about the Prisons' Bill, and matters might then have been arranged. At all events, the bill now under consideration was so arbitrary in its nature, and so unnecessary in every way, that he felt himself under the necessity of voting against a measure so averse to liberty, and fraught with danger to every principle of a free constitution.
§ Sir George Grey
certainly expected that the House would have been favoured with stronger reasons from the right hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side of the House in support of the course which they had adopted. He thought they should have been favoured with the sentiments of the noble Lord opposite, who was more intimately conversant with colonial affairs than the right hon. Baronet, as the leader on this occasion of the attack which had made upon the bill brought forward by her Majesty's Government, and as the proposer of any substitution that might be offered in its stead; but it appeared that the whole opposition was to rest upon the facts and arguments contained in the speech of the right hon. Baronet, a speech which had disappointed the expectations he had formed. Knowing and admiring as he did—and as every man must who knew the right hon. Baronet—his great and extraordinary talents, his extensive Parliamentary skill and experience—he must say that the speech of the right hon. Baronet had produced a feeling in his mind of surprise and disappointment, 846 which he attributed to his evidently labouring under the pressure of supporting a cause, which, from its weakness, clearly bore him down. He must say, that the right hon. Baronet appeared to him to be grappling with facts which he could not contradict; and that his great effort seemed to be how he could best evade and best manage to conceal them. He did not attribute to the right hon. Baronet any improper concealment—unless this might be called so—that he accused him of not taking his facts as they were detailed in the papers and documents laid on the table of that House, detailing the whole transactions in debate for the last four years. But he bad confined himself to a carefully considered selection of those facts, eliciting only a few points of the conduct of the House of Assembly most favourable to their cause, and omitting to notice the most important portion of the evidence which bore against them, and to which he should now feel it his duty to request the attentive consideration of the House. Beginning at the period of 1833, when the great measure of emancipation was passed, he need scarcely remind the House that he was not one of those who blamed the course taken by the noble Lord opposite, nor that he had supported the measure in its passage through the House. He was aware of the difficulties which the Government at that time had to contend with in carrying that act of national justice and generosity, although subsequent experience had caused him deeply to regret that they had intrusted the colonial legislature with the powers necessary for the working of the Emancipation Act, and that they had also confided to them the revision of the various local codes, which required such extensive change and superintendence. But Parliament having passed the Act of Emancipation, declared also that there should be a transition state, and allow the local colonial assemblies to carry out the details necessary for the fulfilment of that enactment. But Parliament had not been able to induce the colonial legislatures, more especially the Assembly of Jamaica, to act up to the confidence which had been thus reposed in them. The right hon. Baronet had alluded to the speech of his late Majesty, in the year 1834, expressing approbation of the conduct of the Legislative Assembly of Jamaica. The Legislative Assembly had then come forward with 847 measures so adequate and satisfactory in support of the act of 1833, that they were found entitled to a share in the compensation-money. After noticing this favourable point in the conduct of the House of Assembly, there the right hon. Baronet stopped. He did not notice that there were considerable defects in that act of the Assembly. He did not blame the Government, of which the noble Lord opposite was a member, for the course they had taken in placing so much reliance upon the disposition of the local Legislature. He trusted that they would have remedied these defects, as they stated they would do in their address to Lord Sligo; and, no doubt, the House of Assembly had so far complied with the expectation of the Home Government by the act which they passed in the following year. But then that act was followed by a subsidiary act, which only lasted for one year, and that year was allowed to expire without the renewal of that subsidiary enactment. Here was to be found the commencement of that want of faith on the part of the Colonial Assembly which characterized all their subsequent proceedings. None of their after conduct was based upon the principle of good faith. There seemed to be a constant endeavour pervading their every act to tax their ingenuity how they could manage to retain as much as possible of the spirit of slavery in all their legislative operations. The right hon. Baronet had passed over altogether the committee of 1836 which went fully into the consideration of the state of colonial legislation and the laws of Jamaica. The noble Lord the Member for Liverpool and the hon. Member for Newark were both Members of that committee; and he hoped he was right in assuming that there was no difference of opinion in the minds of that committee in regard to there being great defects in the enactments of the Colonial Legislature, and the report accordingly recommended that application should be made to the Assembly before appealing to Parliament for a remedy. The report was unanimous. It pointed out the defects. It was laid before the Assembly by the governor, and it was totally and utterly disregarded. This was between the years 1833 and 1837, "the golden age" of the right hon. Baronet, when the colonial Assembly was represented by him to have been free from all blame, and acting with every feeling of honesty and good faith. 848 Again, let the House consider the conduct of the Assembly during the Government of Lord Sligo, who, finding it impossible to induce them to agree to the adoption of the measures recommended in the Government despatches, resigned the Government of the island, and was succeeded by Sir Lionel Smith, who was received in a spirit that seemed to infer that their previous quarrel had been personal with the governor. But that spirit was of short duration; and if the select committee of 1836 had been disregarded, equally so was that the case with regard to the committee of 1837, where the evidence was given by persons who had themselves been resident in Jamaica. The principal evidence taken before the committee in 1837 related to the state of the colonial prisons, and will satisfy any one who chooses to read it, that there had been a total neglect, a complete want of execution of all measures necessary to enforce the gaol regulations. The law was totally useless, and this was the evidence given by witnesses well acquainted with the localities—free from all taint of party and void of all bias. What, then, could be done to remedy these evils? The public mind became excited. A bill was brought in making the apprenticeship what it always was intended to have been. The bill passed unanimously—the only difficulty felt about it was, that it did not go far enough, and the only amendment moved was one to render its provisions more stringent. He wished to remind the House, and especially the right hon. Baronet, of the opinions which had been delivered by the right hon. Member for Ripon on the 30th of March of last year. He wished to call attention to these opinions, because credit had now been claimed on the part of the House of Assembly:—The question for me to consider, said the right hon. Member for Ripon, is whether any case has yet arisen in which the House has at present a right to interfere. On that I believe there can be no doubt. For my own part I know of no instance in history in which there has ever been so audacious a breaking in upon the expressed intentions, declarations, and enactments, of the legislature as there has been here.In speaking of those provisions of the bill then before the House, which related to prison discipline, the right hon. Member said that "in his opinion a very strong case had been made out against Jamaica." 849 He then quoted and adopted a statement in Lord Sligo's pamphlet,That the flogging of females had been carried on to an extent that is astonishing; that no notice has been taken of that inhuman practice by the colonial Assembly except by appointing a committee to examine into its existence; but that, nevertheless, there cannot be the slightest doubt that this abuse exists in every workhouse in Jamaica.The House might see in this what were the right hon. Member's opinions with respect to prison discipline, and what was his opinion as to the conduct of the Assembly. The papers on the table of the House showed that this was no recent case. The House of Assembly did not deny the existence of the abuses, but what had they done to remedy them? The House had declared, on a former occasion, its wish that every vestige of slavery should expire. Apprenticeship had now expired, but he now asked them if all the vestiges of slavery had expired? What means, he asked, were proposed by the right hon. Baronet to hasten its termination? Would the right hon. Baronet give a remedy for the evils that existed? In referring to this subject he wished to quote the opinions on the other side. He wished now to state the opinions of the Duke of Wellington as delivered in the other House of Parliament:—It appears to be beyond a doubt, said his Grace, that the colonial legislatures have not carried the new system into execution as they ought to have done; and some two or three years ago your Lordships were under the necessity of consenting to a bill rendered necessary in consequence of the legislature of Jamaica having refused, under not very creditable circumstances, to enact a law which it had positively promised to pass. Under these circumstances, considering that we are now approaching to within a couple of years of the period when a new state of society is to be established in all the British possessions where slavery has existed, I must say I think Parliament ought not to hesitate adopting some measure of the description now proposed, for the purpose of carrying into full and complete execution the object which the Imperial Legislature had in view when the Emancipation Act was passed. It appears to me that if the legislature of the colonies had acted as sensible men ought to have done in the circumstances in which they were placed four years ago, they would have had before them, and the British Parliament would have had before it, a very different prospect from that which I fear exists at the present moment.The noble Duke had in this referred to 850 a particular promise—there had been no particular promise, but there was the obligation of honour, which ought to have been fulfilled, and therefore the Duke of Wellington was justified in regarding it as a promise. Such was the opinion of the Duke of Wellington upon this subject—such was the opinion entertained by both Houses of Parliament. No one had dissented from them—all seemingly agreed in them, and now let them be contrasted with the opinions of the right hon. Baronet, and with that conduct of the Assembly which he said was fatal to the progress of this bill. He wished next to refer them to the following dispatch from Lord Glenelg:—I cannot dismiss from consideration the specific cases now before me, without taking this opportunity of recording, that it has not been for want of repeated efforts on the part of her Majesty's Government to obtain an amendment of the law, that it has been found, down to the date of these cases, to be still unavailable for the correction of such abuse as those which form the subject of this correspondence.In my despatch, No. 84, of the 29th of August, 1835, I urged an amendment of the law, by which the ill treatment of women in gaols might be prevented.In my despatch, No. 125, of the 15th of October, 1835, I desired that the 'Assembly should be reminded of the pressing importance of enactments to secure the attendance of the children of apprentices at schools.In my despatch, No. 257, of the 24th of April, 1836, I seconded the wishes of the Marquess of Sligo for laws to restrain cruelty in hospitals, and to authorize the inspection of them by special justices at all hours. A committee of the Assembly alleged, it is true, that the right to inspect was not disputed; but I find by the despatches now before me, that the attendance and proper treatment of the sick is not yet secured by law, although defects of the law on this head were pointed to by Lord Stanley, at the very beginning of the apprenticeship, in his despatch of the 20th of February, 1834, No. 3.In my despatch, No. 285, of the 14th of June, 1836, I desired that the Assembly should be applied to for a law to restrain the powers of officers in workhouses to the infliction of such punishments only as should have been authorised in writing by a magistrate.In my dispatch, No. 303, of the 28th of June, 1836, I directed application to be made to the Assembly for a law to prevent the flogging of women on the treadmill.In my despatches, Nos. 87 and 103, of the 29th of April and 10th of June, 1837, I had to regret the refusal of the Assembly to entertain the various proposals which you had brought before them, for supplying deficiencies 851 in the Abolition Act, and for the obtaining uniformity in the distribution of the hours of labour; and in my despatch, No. 176, of the 31st of last month, I was under the necessity of issuing such instructions as had become necessary, in consequence of the Assembly having failed to adopt the recommendation of the committee of the House of Commons in the Session of 1836, respecting amendments in the law which governs the valuation of apprentices for the purchase of their discharge.In my despatch, No. 99, of the 25th May of this year, I desired that the Assembly should be called on to exempt the apprentices from the operation of certain enactments respecting vagrants. I have yet to learn whether this application has shared the fate of those previously enumerated.It is with serious regret and concern that I have found myself under the necessity of reverting thus specifically to a succession of ineffectual attempts to obtain requisite amendments of the law in Jamaica; but the continual recurrence of abuses, to the prevention of which many of those attempts were directed, imperatively requires that I should discharge myself of the responsibility which would attach to me, if I did not once more convey through you to the Assembly of Jamaica, an earnest exhortation that they will not allow the period of apprenticeship to expire without any thing being effectually done, by their own intervention, to mitigate grievances, which, while they must exasperate the minds of the apprentices, cannot fail to be attended with serious injury to the future interests of their employers.I have, &c.(Signed) "GLENELG.Such were the series of recommendations that were given by Lord Glenelg on the 15th November, 1837. It was under these circumstances that the opinions of the right hon. Member for Ripon and the Duke of Wellington had been delivered, and that the despatch of Lord Glenelg had been written, and they all concurred in the opinion that there was a necessity for the Imperial Legislature to interfere. Their opinions were uncontroverted by any Member of that House; they were fully concurred in by all. Consistently with those views, the act was passed which was regarded as a grievous invasion of the rights of the local legislature. It was then stated by the right hon. Baronet, that the course pursued by Sir Lionel Smith towards the House of Assembly, had been the great cause of the disturbances that had taken place there. He said that it was attributable to no such cause, and that the assertions of the right hon. Baronet in that respect were not borne 852 out by the correspondence before the House. From that correspondence it appeared, that Sir Lionel Smith had told the Assembly of Jamaica that the apprenticeship system having been abolished in other colonies, it was impossible that it should be kept up in Jamaica, for it was impossible to shut out from the negroes what was occurring in the other colonies. It was impossible to shut out from them what had been done in their favour by the great body of the people of this country, and he was only discharging his duty faithfully, by pointing out to the Legislature of Jamaica the impossibility of maintaining the apprenticeship with any hopes of success. The language used by Sir Lionel Smith on that occasion was only a repetition of what had been said by the noble Lord, the Member for Lincolnshire, in 1833, when opposing a proposition brought forward by Lord Ashburton, then Member for Essex. The words of his noble Friend were these:—If there be a course of baste and rashness which would render insurrection in the colonies inevitable, it is that which would set the slaves of Demerara, Trinidad, or Berbice free, and at the same time leave those of Jamaica and the other colonies to continue five or six years in a state of unmitigated slavery. It would be impossible for all the power of tins country to introduce freedom into any one of those small islands and to continue slavery in Jamaica.In that declaration, too, he fully concurred. What did the House of Assembly of Jamaica say in their Address to the Crown? They humbly declared to her Majesty, that, in consequence of an act which had recently been passed by the Parliament of Great Britain and Ireland, wherein they were no ways represented, they had been constrained to abandon the apprenticeship system, and grant unqualified freedom to the negroes. He admitted, with the right hon. Baronet, that they passed the Emancipation Act, not through love, but from an irreconcilable aversion to the stringent restrictions of the Apprenticeship Act, and they considered that, subject to these restrictions, the apprenticeship was not worth having. In order to put an end to that super-legislation, they abolished the apprenticeship, and they did it avowedly on the ground that Parliament should not farther interfere with them, but leave them to make such laws as they thought themselves justified 853 in making, although it was admitted on all hands that they did not represent the great body of the people, but constituted, as the hon. Member for Liskeard said, a very small oligarchy, and one of the worst possible description. The terms or the protest accompanying that address had been alluded to, and they had been frequently stigmatized on all hands as indecorous, and conceived in the worst possible spirit which could influence a legislature against whom such serious charges had been made. It was important to bear in mind the language used in that protest, not that he would call upon the House to legislate upon language used in moments of irritation, but, in consequence of the spirit by which the Assembly was actuated, it was most important to weigh deliberately what that spirit was. He confessed, under those circumstances, he scarcely understood in what way the right hon. Baronet's proposition could be effectual. There was a resolution on the journals of the House which ran thus.—That the anxious attention of this House will be directed to the state and condition of the negro population when the expiration of the term of apprenticeship shall have entitled them to the full enjoyment of entire freedom.That resolution required superintendence on the part of that House; but against that superintendence the House of Assembly remonstrated most distinctly, and in language the most improper and most unjustifiable. To that remonstrance the right hon. Baronet proposed to return of the apprenticeship at an earlier period an answer that, having passed such a resolution, the House of Commons in order to get over the temporary difficulty, was content that the resolution should remain at present a dead letter on its books. Notwithstanding the pledge the House had given to the emancipated population of Jamaica, it was still to leave them subject to the oppressive and partial code which for so many years had existed in Jamaica, and was not to interpose its authority in any way to secure to that population those rights which it solemnly pledged itself to secure to them. He should like to know in what way this plan will be effectual; if he understood the right hon. Baronet's proposition rightly, it was, that the Assembly, having objected to the prisons bill—having demanded the suspension or repeal of that bill—having abolished the apprenticeship, he proposed in the first place, seeing the state of irritation in 854 which the House of Assembly were when they drew tip their protest, to put a distinct negative upon it. He next said, that he was prepared to assert the right and authority of Parliament to interfere for the protection of the emancipated population. He next proposed to afford the House of Assembly an opportunity of repeating the offence of which we complain, by restoring the constitution and privileges of the House of Assembly, and he next proposed to accompany this with a message, the terms of which he did not state to the House, with a distinct threat that if they did not rescind the resolution which they had now deliberately recorded and transmitted to this country—if they did not recede from that resolution; he was prepared to concur in passing a measure which would deprive the House of Assembly for a time of its legal functions. He thought it was improbable, looking at the state of irritation in which the Assembly was when it framed that protest—he thought it unlikely that the conciliatory course proposed by the right hon. Baronet would convert the hostile attitude in which the Assembly had placed itself, into a willing and cordial co-operation in measures which it was admitted on all hands were necessary, in order to secure the rights, not alone of the negroes, but of the landed proprietors of Jamaica. In a dispatch, dated the 15th of December, 1838, from Lord Glenelg to the Governor of Jamaica, it was distinctly stated, that the abolition of the apprenticeship at an earlier period had rendered the enactment of new laws a subject of immediate and urgent importance—allusion was made in that dispatch to the omission during four years of any attempt to pass these laws, and allusion was also made to the recommendation of the committee of 1836. It was also regretted in that dispatch that so much time had been so unhappily spent in the unfortunate dissensions between the Government and the colonial legislature. It pointed out the defects in the law that had been passed, and pointed out new laws to be framed in a spirit calculated to meet the new state of society in the colony. Did the House of Assembly act upon the recommendation? By no means. Their efforts were directed to keep the power they previously had still in their hands at the expiration of the apprenticeship, and their first measure was to increase the franchise from 10l. to 30l. Next when 855 that act was disallowed, as it could not fail to be, they increased the franchise from 10l. currency to 10l. sterling, being an addition of one-third, and that also was disallowed, their legislation being pronounced oppressive and defective. At the close of 1837, Lord Glenelg addressed a circular to the Government of the West-India colonies, requesting information as to what laws it was desirable should be repealed, or enacted, or modified, in order to meet the change of the condition of the negro population from compulsory to free labours. The answers received were defective, yet they enabled his Lordship to come to some general conclusions. They showed that the old slave laws materially influenced the new state of society—that many enactments must be modified or entirely changed; and that those laws which worked very well during the existence of slavery were no longer compatible with the state of society. Sir, were not these paramount objects for consideration? Ought not those laws to be repealed which produced heartburnings and ill feelings, and a stagnation in the commercial affairs of the colonies? And should there not be passed instead, equitable laws to rule in a fair spirit for the entire population, not only for the negro population, but for the interests of the proprietors themselves? He asked whether the amendment of the right hon. Baronet touched in the slightest degree those paramount objects? Petitions had been presented against the suspension of the constitution of Jamaica; and although the number of signatures to those petitions, according to the report of the committee on petitions, amounted in the whole, including that of Mr. Burge, to 256, still he would take the number at 500, on the statement of the hon. Member for Kidderminster, as he was about to quote the authority of the petitioners to show how little could be expected from the course proposed by the right hon. Baronet. They did not entertain any hope that if the course proposed by him were adopted, and the prisons act adhered to, that the Assembly would become more willing to carry out the policy of the Imperial Legislature. But they said, in a resolution at the meeting from which one of the petitions emanated,That this meeting sees no reason to doubt that the House of Assembly of Jamaica, relieved from all the difficulties and anomalies incidental to legislation during a state of slavery 856 or apprenticeship, will, if the prisons act which was promulgated in so unprecedented a manner be suspended, proceed to legislate on the principle that all the people of Jamaica are free inhabitants of a free country, entitled to enjoy the benefits of the British constitution.Such was the opinion of these petitioners, and Mr. Burge, the agent for Jamaica, representing the opinions of the House of Assembly, told them that the Assembly would legislate in a right and proper spirit upon the suspension of the objectionable bill. But neither the agent nor the petitioners pretended to support the proposition of the right hon. Baronet, that if they adhered to the Prisons Act, the Assembly would proceed to legislate in that spirit. They would not, perhaps, be guilty of the suicidal act of adhering to the resolution which they had transmitted. It might be doubtful what precise course they would pursue; but looking at the spirit which had hitherto animated them, as evinced by the details in the documents before the House, it was not difficult to foresee that they would legislate in no very cordial spirit of co-operation, but they would make the very least advances they could, just enough to put them in a condition to induce the House not to go the length of the bill now before it. The authority of Mr. Canning had been quoted in favour of the plan of delay. But what had been the result of Mr. Canning's policy? Mr. Canning argued strongly against Mr. Buxton, and in favour of giving a locus penitentiœ to the Assembly. He had taken precisely the course which was now recommended, and what was the consequence? He would read a short extract from the speech of one whose words were on every account entitled to much respect, referring to the course adopted by Mr. Canning. They were the words of his noble Friend opposite on introducing the bill of 1833. The noble Lord said:—In the discussion of this question, Mr. Canning, dissatisfied as he was with the result of the measures of 1823 and 1824, did not adopt a harsh tone—he did not call upon Parliament immediately to adopt such measures as would bring the contumacious opposition of the colonial legislatures to the test. On the contrary, he begged for time, for a respite as he called it, to allow the colonies to reconsider their refusal, and to call to mind the position in which they were placing themselves with respect to this country by their constant interposition between the wishes of the legislature here, and the well being of the 857 population whose condition had become a matter of so much interest at home,The noble Lord went on to state the result of this forbearance.This took place in 1826—I am now addressing Parliament in 1833, and up to this hour neither the voice of friendly expostulation nor of authority has produced the desired effect. Undoubtedly some of the colonies have gone through the form of carrying the outline of the shadow of some of the bills into effect, but all have studiously avoided the substance.Precisely the same results would follow from the adoption of a similar course now. The hon. Member for Kilkenny referred to various papers—to bills that were sent to the House of Assembly—and to Orders in Council that were transmitted to them, in order to form the basis of their measures. But the Assembly had, it appears from these authorities, al ways endeavoured, as before, to frame measures according to the shadow, but avoiding the substance of the wishes and recommendations of the Imperial Legislature. Was the course proposed by the right hon. Baronet consistent with the resolution of the House last year? Was it a proper course, in this, which was not a party question, but in which the interests of all are involved—a course that would aggravate hostile feelings—that would increase irritation, by continuing the Assembly, and that would perpetuate those bad laws respecting vagrancy, which were enacted under the reigns of George 2nd and George 3rd? Could any satisfactory result issue from that course? He was aware that it bad been stated as an argument against this bill that a similar course might be pursued with regard to the colonies. He did not believe that any other colony had acted in opposition to the wishes of the Legislature to anything like the same extent as Jamaica—which ought to have set the example of obedience to the wishes of the Imperial Legislature—Jamaica, which had been the first to pass a legislative enactment for the abolition of slavery, which had been denominated adequate and satisfactory—which had consequently been the first to receive the compensation money—but which, from the moment that money had been received, bad been the last to adopt any measures rendered necessary by the altered state of society. Was the House prepared to state that there existed no necessity at the pre- 858 sent moment for more active legislative measures than those proposed by the right hon. Baronet? He should be glad to hear one who could assert that he could point out measures calculated to meet this emergency—short of the present bill; and he found the reasons for the necessity of this measure in the conduct pursued by the House of Assembly of Jamaica in 1833—in the conduct pursued by them again in 1836, and in the whole course of conduct pursued and the determination manifested by the Legislature of Jamaica from the year 1833 to the present moment. Was it possible, considering all these circumstances, that any Gentleman could believe, that the House of Assembly would, if the course proposed by the right hon. Gentleman be adopted, repent them of their bad courses, and pursue a better line of conduct, become truly and properly penitent, and cease to do evil, and learn to do well, and discharge faithfully those duties which devolved on the Colonial Legislature. It therefore became the duty of the Government to find an adequate remedy for the existing evils, and he was of opinion, that no plan short of the one proposed could by any possibility be attended with advantage. He could not avoid noticing the total inapplicability of the speech of the right hon. Baronet, in that part of it in which he quoted the opinion of Burke relative to the interference of the Imperial Parliament with the American colonies. The Houses of Assembly of these colonies were really popular representative Assemblies, but such was not the case with regard to Jamaica. The House of Assembly of that colony was the least popular of any House of Representatives, representing only a small fraction of the population; but he trusted that at the expiration of this Act the Assembly of that island would be found to be a really popular Assembly, fitted for the discharge of those important duties which will devolve upon them, fitted for maintaining peace between conflicting races, one struggling for the maintenance of the ancient laws, and the other struggling for the acquisition of their natural rights. It was necessary that arrangements should be made for the purpose of averting dangers which might be fatal to the colony, for securing to it uninterrupted peace and happiness. It would be the duty of the Government to provide for this emergency 859 during the short period which it was proposed to suspend the existing constitution, which was not a popular representation, but the representation of a minute fraction of the people; and when the Assembly should resume its functions under more auspicious circumstances, far from those heats and animosities which were not likely to be softened at present, he trusted that they would enact measures more calculated to ensure substantial justice than they had hitherto done. He had intended to justify the conduct of the Government with regard to the Prisons' Act, but the right hon. Baronet did not make that a subject of attack on the Government. He understood the right hon. Baronet to admit that the conduct of Ministers, respecting that measure, was not worthy of censure, therefore he did not feel called upon to say anything more on that head. The hon. Member for Kilkenny had not said anything respecting that question, any more than the right hon. Baronet. The hon. Member for Wigan and the hon. Member for Liskeard subsequently addressed the House, and when the hon. Member for Liskeard sat down, several hon. Members rose on this side of the House—some of them perhaps opponents of the bill; but as the House seemed anxious that he should speak, he rose thus early in the debate. He understood that no attack had been made on the conduct pursued by the Government with respect to the Prisons' Bill.—["Hear, Bear!"] Well, then, with regard to this Prisons' Act, if he must advert to it, it was necessary he should recall to the House that several accusations had been made by Lord Sligo against the House of Assembly on account of their reluctance to legislate for the reformation of the abuses of the prison system, about the time the representations of Mr. Storge were laid before the public, end it was deemed advisable to send out Captain Pringle to examine into the matter. Although that gentleman did not witness the horrors described by Mr. Sturge, which it was very unlikely, under the circumstances, that he would, yet he reported such a state of things as demanded immediate legislative interference to supply a remedy, and in consequence of the repeated failure of attempts to induce the local government to pass the necessary enactments, it became necessary for the Imperial Legislature to make the necessary alterations. 860 He would just read to the House one extract from Captain Pringle's Report. The hon. Baronet read as follows:—The local magistrates form from their body a gaol committee, to inspect and make regulations; but the power and management are almost entirely left to the deputy provost marshal. The emoluments of the deputy provost marshals are chiefly derived from fees. Their salaries as gaolers vary from 100l. to 180l., currency, but this is often paid by them to their assistant, or resident gaoler. The salary of their under gaoler varies from 50l. to 100l, but for their salaries they have generally to execute other duties mentioned hereafter. Under them are boatswains, who are almost all either free or apprenticed negroes; they are paid 10s. to 15s. a-week. In a few instances, prisoners who are convicts for life are employed as boatswains. The other duties that devolve on deputy marshals are the serving of writs, summonses, and warrants, on which duties they frequently employ their under-gaoler, so that the gaols are often left for several days in charge of a boatswain, who, in some places, as at St. Ann's and Montego bay, is a 'convict for life. Classification is only practised to the extent of locking up the sexes at night in different rooms, excepting at Spanish Town and Kingston, where the debtors have a separate yard, but the general practice is, that all classes convicted and untried, males, females, and debtors, have almost unrestricted intercourse with each other.In the House of Correction, Captain Pringle stated:—In several instances, the boatswains of the yard and of the penal gang are themselves convicts, some for life. The superiors are generally men who have been planters or in business, and failed, and receive their appointments as a new resource. To several of the houses of correction, a matron is attached—the salary from 20l. to 40l. a year. She is generally the wife of the supervisor, and above the duties of such a situation, or an old woman who professes nothing more than to act as nurse to the sick. I found but two instances in which the rule, that females should be looked after by females only is observed. The locking up and opening of the women's rooms and even of the women's solitary cells, is generally confided to a boatswain." "Prisoners on being brought into houses of correction, are immediately put in couples, by an iron collar round the neck of each, connected by a chain six feet long, and from three to four pounds weight, but men and women are chained separately, and in this manner they are sent to work on the public roads, men and women in the same gang, under the boatswain. The supervisor, or sometimes the boatswain, chains 861 such prisoners together as he chooses, commonly two of unequal strength, to allow less chance of escape. I have thus sometimes found a convict for life, chained to a boy on his first committal to prison, and in the same manner girls to old offenders.With regard to the treadmills, he says:—At Kingston, where cats were regularly hung up under the wheel, and at the former place, the supervisor admitted, that it was used by his authority, when the prisoners would not step properly. The supervisor and the keeper of Kingston prevented my examining the prisoners them selves. At Vere, though stated not to be used, a case had occurred very lately, when it was applied pretty severely. Almost all the houses of correction and gaols have rooms with bilboe rods, and it is certainly a most efficient contrivance for the purpose of security. A strong iron bar extends along the length of the room, and generally through a hole in the wall, so that it can be locked in a different room from that occupied by the prisoners. Shackles fitting the leg above the ancle run upon this bar; the bar is carried along the bottom of the bench, forming the bed about four inches above it. A whole row of prisoners, can, therefore, be secured upon it, almost without a possibility of effecting their escape. In the lockups of Brownstown and Annatta Bay, prisoners are placed in these bilboes for security this was also done in some cases at St. Elizabeth's and Port Maria. At Clarendon, and St. Ann's Bay, the convicted prisoners were every night placed in them. At the latter, the supervisor, by whom the keys are kept, and his assistant both lived at some distance from the prison, so that the yard was left at night in charge of a boatswain, who is a convict for life. One of the rooms in this prison in which prisoners were put in the bilboes, was little more than six feet wide—therefore only just sufficient for the bench on which they slept, with but few inches to spare.He need not trouble the House with any more of the barbarities committed in the Houses of Correction in Jamaica—they were admitted. It was admitted, that nothing could be more disgraceful than the prisons in Jamaica. Looking at the total failure of every measure upon the subject of prisons which was sent to the Assembly—not suggesting a new prison bill, but merely an amendment of the old one—Lord Glenelg pressingly pointed out various amendments which were imperatively necessary in order to remedy the abuses which existed. The remedy was refused; he must say, not graciously, but in the most ungracious 862 manner, and all remedy of abuses was refused; not one proposition would they listen to. The Government, therefore, having received the report of Captain Pringle in July, lost not a day in submitting to Parliament a bill to carry out a better system of imprisonment; it was a remedy we had frequently demanded from the Assembly of Jamaica; it was always refused, and the Government felt themselves bound to attempt to put an end to the tyranny and cruelties exercised in the Houses of Correction in Jamaica. It was said, whether truly or not, he did not know, that that bill was introduced on the very day we received information of the House of Assembly having passed the bill for abolishing the apprenticeship. Such a coincidence might have happened, but the two circumstances had no other connection with one another. It is well known, that the Assembly passed that bill not out of a spirit of justice or mercy, but in order to escape from the necessary severe restrictions of the emancipation amendment bill. However that might be, it was impossible to delay any longer, and accordingly, the Government introduced their bill for effectually putting an end to the horrors of the prisons, and that measure it was admitted, was one by which the Parliament ought to abide. The right hon. Baronet complains of the manner in which the prison bill was communicated to the Assembly; but he must have forgotten, that the Assembly was not in session, except for one day, when they received the speech, and he knew no instance where a bill of any kind was ever communicated in the speech of the Governor, it was always done by subsequently sending down a message, and so it was in Barbadoes. The Assembly was in session at the time, it was communicated by a message. The people of Barbadoes did not see, that the proceedings of the Imperial Parliament were any invasion of their rights. They received the message from the Governor with approbation, and, by a unanimous vote of the House of Assembly, they passed an act giving increased effect to the measure of the Imperial Parliament. They had shown a spirit of such good will and conciliation, that it would be most unjust and indefensible now to invade their privileges. They had done their best to co-operate with the home Government to secure to the negro population the rights which the Imperial Parlia- 863 ment had declared they should enjoy. The contrast of the conduct of Barbadoes with that of the House of Assembly of Jamaica was relief pleasant to the eye. The right hon. Baronet says, if this was a general measure, he could then have understood it. But we have no reason to suppose there will be anything like contumacious opposition to those laws in the other colonies. In Jamaica there has been a distinct refusal, accompanied with a feeling and a spirit for a series of years, which, he confessed, gave him no reasonable hope that they could overcome that opposition, or that the House of Assembly would accede to the wishes of the British Parliament. He hoped the House, therefore, would seriously consider the results and the effects of the vote they might come to on the present occasion. The right hon. Baronet may be desirous of rallying his forces after his recent defeat. The right hon. Baronet might have hoped that under the guise of respect for constitutional privileges and representative Government, quoting the authority of Burke as applicable to a wholly different state of things—he might think he would get votes from the Ministerial ranks, and by diminishing their majority swell his own recent minority; but he asked the House to discourage any such attempts to make the interests of our colonies, and especially the interests of the emancipated population, that have a peculiar claim on its protection, he asked the House, and he hoped they would discourage any attempt to make those interests subservient to party purposes. He hoped the House would look at this question with reference to its own merits alone. If the House really conceived that the plan proposed by the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, would succeed—if they thought that the House of Assembly of Jamaica would attend to the threat of the right hon. Baronet that he would, unless they resumed their functions and passed the Prisons Bill, agree in 1840 to a resolution similar to the present; if the House really felt that the course proposed by the right hon. Baronet would convert the House of Assembly into willing agents in carrying out the generous spirit, and he would add, the determined resolution of the people of this country that the negro population should be protected by fair and impartial laws, and that those measures which ground down and retarded the 864 prosperity of the colony would be abrogated; if they believed, in opposition to those connected with the West Indies, whose opinions he had quoted, that such would be the result, and that when they met next year, Government would only have the pleasing duty of laying before them a series of acts passed by the Legislature of Jamaica, such as would win golden opinions on every side, and extort that meed of approbation which, on their past conduct, would have been most unjustly bestowed; if they believed all this, let them follow the course proposed by the right hon. Baronet; but if, on the other hand, they thought this prospect hopeless—if they were unable to indulge in those pleasing illusions—if they thought that the House of Assembly would not be induced to depart from their resolution, or at most would only pass the shadow of some of those acts which were imperatively required to give due effect to the Emancipation Act—if they thought that the interference of the Imperial Parliament was necessary to carry out their own act—why then he called upon them to adopt the present measure, which, in his opinion, was the only decisive, the only effectual, and the only adequate, remedy that could be adopted.
§ Debate adjourned.