HL Deb 31 May 1836 vol 33 cc1168-71
Lord Glenelg

, in moving that the Bill be committed, said, that it was "a Bill to re vive and continue in force until the 1st of August, 1840, an Act passed by the Legislature of Jamaica on the 4th of July, 1834, to explain and amend an Act for the Abolition of Slavery in that island," and begged leave shortly to state the circumstances under which it was proposed to their Lord ships. According to the late Abolition Act it was necessary that a supplementary measure, for the purpose of carrying the provisions of that Act into effect, should be passed by the Legislature of each colony, and afterwards the King in Council was to declare whether such supplementary Act, agreed to by the colonial Legislature, was sufficient to enable the individuals possessing slaves to claim a share of the compensation awarded by Parliament. The Legislature of Jamaica had immediately applied itself to frame a local Act of that description. In 1833 that Act was passed, which extended to 1834. The Government thought it necessary to re commend to his Majesty that he should approve of that Act; but Lord Stanley, in communicating that decision to the local Government, pointed out some clauses in the measure which required alteration, the consequence of which was, that an Act was passed in 1834 for altering the preceding measure. When that Bill was sent over, his noble Friend opposite (the Earl of Aberdeen), in a letter addressed to the proper authority, stated, that he should feel great pleasure in advising his Majesty to approve of the Act framed in compliance with the advice of Lord Stanley; but his noble Friend observed, in the same despatch, that there was one serious objection to the measure, not to any part of it connected with the advice of Lord Stanley, but with reference to the duration of the Act. The new measure, he observed, would be nugatory, unless it was of the same duration as the act to which his Majesty had given his assent. In the autumn of last year the attention of the Legislative Assembly was called to the renewing of this Act. The Legislative Assembly considered the subject, and in January last sent up a measure to the Council. This latter body introduced amendments to which the Legislative Assembly were not disposed to agree; and ultimately, while the Bill was lying on the table, a prorogation of the Assembly took place. The result was, that the Bill was lost. In con sequence, therefore, of the non-existence of an Act for carrying into effect the mea sure of abolition, it was necessary to apply to Parliament to sanction the present measure for reviving and continuing in force, for a given time, the Colonial Act of 1834. He agreed in the propriety of this step, because such a measure was manifestly as necessary in 1836 as in 1834. As matters now stood, those who were most interested in carrying into effect the Abolition Act were deprived of that protection which it was the intention of the Legislature to extend to them. The alternative was, either for the Imperial Parliament to interfere, or to leave it to the chance of the local Legislature taking up the subject at a future lime. The present measure was connected with nothing criminatory; it merely went to give life to what the House of Assembly had formerly done, and he lamented that any amendments should have been proposed to which that body could not assent. Having thus incidentally adverted to circumstances with which the noble Lord, the governor of the colony, was connected, he should take that opportunity of offering to that noble Lord his meed of praise for the zeal, vigilance, and ability which he had constantly displayed, and for the anxious desire which he had ever manifested to promote good government since he first took charge of the colony. As to their right to interfere, the conduct of Parliament had completely decided that question. It was left to the colonial Legislature to adopt those measures which were best calculated to carry the intentions of Parliament into effect; but if anything occurred which tended to impede the accomplishment of those intentions, then it became the duty of the Legislature to apply a remedy. When the abolition of slavery was decided on, they entered into very serious obligations, moral obligations, as binding as any legal obligations which could be conceived. The object of which was, to do justice to those to whom they were anxious to grant their freedom, but to whom they said, "As you are not yet prepared to enjoy that freedom, you must remain for a certain time in a state of probation—the Government here, and the government of the colonies, taking care that your interests shall be carefully consulted." For agreeing to adopt this course, the colonists had received a large compensation, and those who had entered into this arrangement on behalf of the negro population were called on to support that population, which had a right to demand the protection, when it was needed, of the British Legislature. With respect to the contract which had been entered into, the British Government had done its part—those who were emancipated were anxious to do their part, and the local Legislature was ready to do its part; but, owing to the circumstances which he had stated, a part of the protection which the negro population had a right to claim was taken from them. Now, he contended that they were bound, during the period in which they refused the negroes their full rights—rights which they admitted those people ought to possess—to take every necessary step for their ultimate emancipation, and do their utmost to accelerate it. Those Gentlemen in the other House of Parliament who were interested in this question had, highly to their honour, not only ac- quiesced in the propriety of the present Bill, but they had assisted in carrying it. They conceived the present to be a case which called for the intervention of the British Parliament, and they cheerfully acceded to the Bill.

The Earl of Aberdeen

looked upon the measure not only as desirable, but as necessary. Unless the duration of the last Act extended to the same period as the Bill which it was framed to amend, it would be inefficacious. At the same time it must be observed, that by passing this Bill, they were violating the independence of the colonial Legislature. They were giving existence to a measure which the colonial Legislature declared to have ceased. That, however, was owing to the unfortunate disputes that had arisen between the Executive and the Legislative Assembly. If those disputes had not occurred—if other measures had been pursued—they would not now be under the necessity of resorting to such a measure; and it was much to be lamented that they should be driven to their present position, when it might have been avoided without any great difficulty.

The Bill went through a Committee.

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