* If, my Lords, of all the subjects that ever engaged the atten-* From a corrected Report published by Ridgway, with the following Prefix, which we preserve, as it is connected with the Debates.To ARTHUR DUKE OF WELLINGTON, K. G., &c., &c., &c.The uniform candour which guides your public conduct, and so often makes you sacrifice what ordinary men would reckon fair party advantages, induces me to hope that you will listen to the earnest entreaty which I now make, that you would peruse the arguments and the statements of this speech, with the attention certainly due to the subject, though not to the speaker. If you do, I feel very confident that you will be disposed to admit that your moving the previous question upon my resolutions last night, was ill-considered; and even if you should not arrive at this conclusion, I still entertain the most sanguine hope, that a further attention to the subject will incline you to support the next proposition which may be brought forward upon the same matter.There is but one meaning of a previous question. It never can with propriety be moved unless when the original motion was held to be irresistible on its own merits. Consequently, no Ministry ever before, within my knowledge, would consent to accept of an escape from a vote of censure by a proceeding which admits their guilt or their error, and only professes an unwillingness to condemn them. Unless the truth of the resolutions was undeniable, the previous question last night could have no meaning, and my motion should have been met with a direct negative.The eagerness with which the Ministers caught at your offer of letting them escape, censured in substance, though without a formal sentence pronounced against them, provided they would adopt and enact your plan themselves, was very remarkable. But this made no difference in their former conduct. Nay, all the regulations which they can make must leave the worst parts of their whole error untouched; because they cannot make laws417 tion of this country and of its Parliament, the one which I am about to broach before your Lordships has been found to possess at all times the most commanding attractions; and if, after struggling in the public mind, and in the chambers of the Legislature through a long course of years, it at length ended in the most brilliant victory ever gained by truth for humanity and justice; I will venture to affirm that now, when we had been fain to hope the battle was won, the doom of the slave trade pronounced by the universal voice of mankind, and the state of slavery itself condemned, the only question being as to the precise moment for executing the sentence, the question of the traffic will be found to have lost nothing of its pristine and enduring interest, but that the attention of the world will be arrested and the feelings of mankind be aroused in greater excess than ever by the new ingredient mingled in the cup of bitter disappointment at finding our hopes still so far from realised, and marking the efforts once more making to revive that execrable traffic, which all men had believed to have been for ever destroyed. For when I look at this Order in Council and compare its frame, its professed object, its inevitable consequences, with everything that the history of the past has taught us of the slave-trade, I am compelled to express the bitterness of the anguish which fills my bosom on reflecting that towards the middle of the nineteenth century, full fifty years after that monstrous iniquity was dragged into the light of public discussion, and thirty years after we believed it extirpated from the British world, I am actually standing here to grapple with a measure which all but professes to plant it anew, and of necessity must have the effect of extending its range to coasts which hitherto it had spared.for the coast of Africa or the settlements of foreign Crowns.But if is certain, nay if it is admitted by yourself and others, that this order should not have been issued, at all events without guards and precautions, surely it was not expecting too much to look for an expression of disapproval from Parliament, when a measure for encouraging the slave-trade was brought before it. The character of the country and its success in all negotiations on the foreign traffic seemed imperatively to require that step.I have in this address to your Grace employed not the language of panegyric, which you of all men would the most despise, but the language of truth, which you know well how to value, "The treachery which deceives418 But in thus coming forward no man cat accuse me of proposing a censure against the Government without giving ample warning and affording abundant opportunity for escape or amendment. It is up-wards of six weeks since I dragged to Ugly this reluctant Act of Council—I say reluctant—because though passed in July last not the least intimation of its existence was ever given by publication in the Gazette, the ordinary repertory of much lest important proceedings of State. I am told, indeed, that it is the practice not to publish such Orders—but I am sure it is a course "more honoured in the breach than in the observance." For when we consider that such orders framed in private by the Minister, make the law of the crown colonies as absolutely as the law of England is made by the enactments, the open and public enactments, of King, Lords, and Commons, surely it is not too much to desire that those resolutions of the executive Government, thus private in their adoption, and it may be, little considered before made, should not be consigned at once to the council books, where they can only be accessible to the clerks, but should be promulged to the whole people whose interests they concern, whose conduct they govern. When I denounced this order, I stated shortly but distinctly, my reasons for condemning it; I showed in some detail how it must work, I referred to the former history of slave-trading to illustrate my meaning; and believing, or willing to believe, that it had been issued through inattention, or negligence, or indolence, or ignorance of the subject, I said, "Let it only he withdrawn, and I shall never again advert to the subject in any way—nor comment upon the issuing it—nor in any manner make it the subject of observation." I have waited since then, anx-is as criminal as that which would dethrone you,"—was the memorable saying of the great French orator to a Sovereign,* who loved the treason of pleasing flattery more than the loyalty of unpalatable truth.It is a thing of the utmost importance to the honour and interest of the country, that one who stands in your pre-eminent position should, upon such a question as the slave-trade, have his eyes opened, in order that he may be found to side with all the other great statesmen of his age.March 7th, 1838. BROUGHAM.* Massillon—"La perfidié qui vous trompe est aussi criminelle que celle qui vous detroneroit.419 iously looking for its recall; but I find my not unfriendly suggestion was thrown away, and that the measure is persisted in, maintained, defended by its authors. No man, then, can accuse me of having stood by while mischief was brewing, and only spoken out after it was done. No man can, without the most indecent disregard of truth, charge me, here, with crying "I warned you, when the event is o'er." And yet I have seen, what on no other evidence than the testimony of my own senses I could have believed, this charge made against me when it was just as false as it would be now. I have been vilely, impudently, most falsely aspersed, for standing by and saying nothing on the great Canada question—charged in the records of the Government press, with being likeJuggling friends, who never spoke before,But cry I warn'd you, when the event is[o'er.—Incredible!—but true! I have often heard it disputed among critics, which of all quotations was the most appropriate—the most closely applicable to the subject-matter illustrated; and the palm is generally awarded to that which applied to Dr. Franklin the line in Claudian, Eripuit clo,fulmen, sceptrumque tyrannis—yet still there is a difference of opinion, and even that citation, admirably close, as it is, has rivals. But who has hit upon the most inapplicable quotation, no critic will hereafter presume to doubt. The Government scribe must be allowed by universal consent to bear away the palm of inaptness and falsehood from all his rivals, in the art of false quoting as of fabrication. So far from standing by till after the event, I addressed your Lordships and the Government as long ago as March last, and afterwards warned them with full reasons, and in much detail, both in my place and in an elaborate protest which yet stands on your journals to record the warning my voice had given. So far from waiting till the event justified my warning, and then, crying, "I warned you," I never even said so—never once, that I can recollect taunted them with having neglected my warning voice after the rebellion broke out of which I had bidden them to beware. If then, I now say that I do not expect any one will have the effrontery to bring a similar charge on this occasion, it is not because as great effrontery had not been displayed before, but because such audacity can 420 hardly be repeated a second time by any one at so short an interval after a former exposure to the indignation and scorn of the world, under which, unless all feeling be extinct, its author must now be writhing.
I must now begin by shortly re-stating what I six weeks ago said of the nature and import of this Order in Council. An order of March, 1837, had sanctioned the Ordinance made by the Court of Policy in Guiana, with the intention of confining the period of apprenticeship to three years. In July, representations were made by some planters that if this term were not extended to five years, no man could possibly bring any labourers into the colony. No cargoes of human beings could be imported to share the lot of the half freed slaves, by becoming indentured apprentices, if they could only be bound for three years. The papers on your table give both the memorials of the planters, and the statement of the colonial department, that with the request of the memorialists, they had complied, and for the reasons assigned in the memorial. My noble Friend (Lord Glenelg) says, in so many words, when announcing to the Governor of Guiana, the change made in the former Ordinance, that it was made, because without it the importer of such cargoes of apprentices would not find it worth his while to carry on the traffic, and that no apprentices, could be brought from the East. It was, therefore, avowedly for the express purpose, and with the deliberate intention of facilitating, of encouraging, of stimulating this traffic, that the law was thus changed. It was with the view of enabling those to carry on the traffic who otherwise could not do so, that the order was framed and issued, being, I think, about the first after the Queen's accession. This is the account given by the Ministers themselves of their own conduct, and of its motives. With their eyes open, in league with the planters, and to give every facility for the importation of apprentices into Guiana, they adopted this measure. It is easy, indeed, for them, and their West-Indian confederates to speak in soft language of bringing over free men—of introducing labourers—of increasing the number of hands employed—of enabling the owners of estates to find workmen as they wanted them. But I will tear away all these flimsy disguises—will show you what it is that lurks under these fair words—I will demonstrate to 421 you, and by facts, rather than by mere arguments, what every one of those whose acquaintance, with the slave-trade is the most enlarged and the most minute, who have for half a century and more been occupied in tracing it through all its forms, and pursuing it in each disguise which it unceasingly assumes—that nothing but slave trading is, and that nothing but slave trading can be, the meaning and the result of all that is thus doing.
And for this purpose I must first desire your Lordships to accompany me while I cast a retrospective glance over the sad history of that dreadful commerce, and to mark with me its origin and its progress in various parts of the globe. The task I know is painful; for we are going to contemplate by far the blackest page in the annals of our race. When the great satirist of England described our species, reduced by his sarcastic fancy to a diminutive stature, as the most vile, cunning, cruel, and detestable vermin that nature had suffered to crawl on and to infest the face of the earth—he was held to have presented an exaggerated picture of human vices, by those who remembered that he only professed to draw it from the court and the camp—the perfidies of politicians and the cruelties of soldiers. But if he had thrown into the canvass the crimes of sordid avarice, combining in one all the frauds that distinguish the one class with all the heartless cruelty ascribed to the other; if he had darkened his picture with that worst of all the monstrous births which that execrable vice has ever engendered—if his page had not only been disfigured with the details of the wholesale cunning and heartless ingratitude and mean trickery, that shine in the Statesman's life, and the reckless and desperate feats that mark the course of the warrior with blood, but been tinged with the far deeper dye of the African Slave Trade, combining within itself all the most infernal lineaments of human guilt—no tongue ever could have complained of the exaggerated terms which Swift has employed, and all would have confessed that the fidelity of truth had been the guide, and not the gall of misanthropy the distillment, of his pen.
It seems strange that a traffic of all others the most unnatural and the most revolting to our feelings, should, nevertheless, be found in every age and nation a practice among men, as if a propensity to it were inherent in the human constitution. Whether it be from the innate thirst 422 of gain, or the irrepressible love of dominion, or the deep-rooted selfishness of our nature, anxious to save our own toil at another's expense—certain it is, that a traffic in the persons, liberties, labours, and lives of our fellow-men, is to be found in one age or another of society wherever men have existed. In the most savage state, the fruit of war is slavery, and captives become the property of the conquerors, to be used and to be transferred and dealt in at his pleasure. In the islands discovered by our illustrious navigator, and unvisited before by the foot of civilised man; slavery was found in various forms, sometimes the state of absolute bondage, sometimes of qualified vassalage resembling our indentured apprenticeship; and for a limited period of time as well as for life. Slavery, and a constant traffic in slaves, polluted the most refined states of antiquity; and in the days when this island formed but a remote and barbarous member of the Roman world, our coasts were ravaged by the heathen Slave Trade, as those of Africa are laid waste by the Christian commerce. Bristol, by a singular coincidence, since the great emporium of the African trade, and a principal wrong-doer in the modern enormity, was, in ancient times, a great emporium of the Roman Slave traffic, and a victim of the crimes she afterwards imitated in the days of her civility and refinement. The feudal times in the Western world, were familiar with slavery and slave dealing in all its forms. Every kind of bondage was then known. There was the villein in gross, liable to be possessed and to be dealt in as a beast or any other chattel—the villein regardent, native, or ascriptus gleb, who could not be removed from the place of his birth, but belonged to the land and to its owner. The slave under a contract affixing terms and time, was also the growth of the same system which made so little of human rights and feelings, and gave to mere force so much dominion. The state of hired slavery and of apprenticeship or a mitigated slavery, arising out of contract and for a consideration, whether of hire or of being taught some trade, was a genuine produce of feudality and its servile tenures and oppressive practices.
In the East, the history of our race presents the same features, excepting that the mild influence of Christianity was there wanting, and the perpetration of similar crimes was less inexcusable. To supply those countries with slaves the centre of. 423 Africa was traversed by caravans, which carried her children into the more wealthy and civilised regions of Asia. But the life of domestic slaves mitigated the lot of those captives—living in the houses of their masters, and sharing in his comforts—little exposed to extremes of climate—hardly ever doomed to severe toil—often admitted to confidential stations—not unfrequently rising even to high employment—they tasted as little of the bitterness of slavery as is compatible with the mildest form of that always bitter cup. But an event now happened, which gave to slavery an aspect far more hideous than it had ever before worn even in the most barbarous regions, and in the darkest times.
Then succeeded things, the record of which tinges with its deepest shades the darkest page in the history of man; and yet that page was next to the most brilliant by far of the eventful volume. As if to bring down Spain from the summit of glory to which her fame had been elevated by the daring genius of Columbus, she plunged into an abyss of crimes, and mingling all perfidy with all cruelty, the sordid thirst of gold with the inhuman appetite for blood, enacted such scenes as have called down upon the Spanish name the reprobation of the world, and as the just execration of centuries have left still inadequately condemned. The simple, unoffending Indians were seized upon, distributed in lots like cattle, like cattle worked, but not spared like cattle; for they were worked to death by their hard task-masters exacting fur more than their feeble frames could sustain. Nor was it till the total extirpation of their race approached, and there seemed reason to fear that the field could no longer be tilled nor the mine explored to allay the fierceness of Spanish avarice, that a thought was given to their sufferings, or the means sought for their relief The substitution of African for Indian labourers, was the expedient resorted to by an unnatural union between short-sighted philanthropy and clear-sighted interest; and out of this union was engendered, and under this appellation was cloaked, the monster which we have since learned to loathe and detest as the African Slave Trade. The course taken then, at the beginning of the 16th century, was the same with that which, in this country, was pursued last year. Memorials were delivered in to the Colonial-office in the Downing-street of Madrid; representation ware made that the decrease 424 of the Indians had begotten apprehensions of the hands no longer sufficing for the work of the West-Indian estates; the necessity was urged of introducing into the West, labourers from the East, (as the process was termed in either case), and the facilities were asked, which Government alone could give, to favour this important operation, on which it was alleged the fortunes of the planters, and the fate of the Colonial empire depended. I might easily, from these papers before you, cull out the very expressions used in the correspondence between the parties at Madrid. In neither the 16th century nor the 19th, were the terms of Slave-trading, or any thing equivalent, employed: but in both instances, it was the supply of hands, the introduction of labourers, the encouragement of emigrants, the obtaining of workmen—phrases which dance through these despatches in various collocation, and in apparently innocent array. To this scheme a man lent himself, whose name will descend to the latest ages, as a pattern of persevering and disinterested benevolence, and a monument of its uselessness, nay, its mischiefs, if the good-will only exist, and is not under the control of sound reason; a lasting proof, that to serve mankind, the act must keep pace with the intention. Bartholomew de Las Casas was that ill-judging and well-meaning philanthropist, who, having devoted his blameless life to mitigating the sufferings of the Indian, could see nothing but charity and kindness in relieving him by substituting the hardier African in his stead; and he joined with the planters in the application to the Colonial Secretary of the day, for so the Prime Minister of Spain may well be called, as American affairs formed the bulk of his administration. But in Cardinal Ximenes they found a statesman of equal humanity and wisdom; he agreed with the benevolent "Protector of the Indians," in desiring to relieve that injured race, but he said that he understood not the left-handed, one-eyed philanthropy which would take the burthen from the shoulders of one people to lay it still more heavily on those of another; and that the speculation in African labourers should receive no aid from him. This sagacious statesman, however, was now in the extremity of old age on his death the young Emperor took the helm of government into his own hands; ignorant of colonial affairs, and surrounded by Flemish councilors who 425 knew no better, he listened to the plans of the speculators; he granted a patent for the yearly introduction of 4,000 negroes, and thus laid the foundation of that regular slave-traffic which had before only occasionally, and on a very trifling scale, been driven by a few Portuguese settled in the Brazils. Thus was established that infernal policy which for above three centuries has been the scourge of Africa. After it had desolated that unhappy continent for many ages, by the blackest crimes ever committed systematically by men, there happily arose in this our country a man, who to the pure benevolence, the pious zeal, the inextinguishable love of his fellow creatures, the indomitable perseverance of Las Casas, united the only merit which was wanting in his character, a strict love of justice and a sound judgment, the guide of his principles and his conduct. Need I name him whose venerable form already stands before you, even in my feeble picture? Thomas Clarkson yet lives, till lately happy in the reflection that he first brought to light the horrors of the African traffic, but now is tasting, with all the surviving friends of the abolition, the bitter mortification of finding that their labours are to begin again, since the Government has become the patron of a new slave trade; and there is, I tell you plainly, but one opinion and one feeling pervading every place where an abolitionist is to be found, and that is the opinion and the feeling which all have urged me to lose not a moment in expressing to your Lordships. With Thomas Clarkson, and with his early associate, the learned, pious, and truly humane Granville Sharpe, was joined, soon after, another, and their most powerful fellow-labourer, Mr. Wilberforce, whose name will be revered as long as wisdom and eloquence attract the admiration, or virtue and piety command the love, of mankind. He it was who brought the slave trade before Parliament for trial. And now let us attend for a moment to the way in which the traffic was defended, because we shall find the self-same topics adduced, nay, and the same language used, as are now employed to defend the present measure.
The slave-trader took high ground. He was not to be cowed by the big words of the philanthropists; he would not be put down by senseless clamour, or silenced by the cry of mistaken humanity. The threats of the abolitionists should not drive bun from his honest occupation, nor the 426 calumnies of his adversaries destroy an important branch of trade which (and here I blush to say he did speak the truth,) the Legislature had sanctioned, and even encouraged. He would show, that the African was happier by far in the West Indies than at home; that he was not stolen and carried over by force, but rescued from murder, or, if not, from a more cruel slavery in Africa; and that this great branch of commerce, this importation of labourers, as it was called both in 1788 and 1838, proved no less beneficial to the continent they were drawn from, than to the islands they were brought to cultivate. Thus General Tarleton asserted, that the Africans themselves had no objection to the slave trade—complained that people were led away by a mistaken humanity affirmed that the greatest misrepresentations were abroad—denied the miseries of the middle passage, in which he said only five in 500 died, while ten and a-half per cent. perished of our regiments on board of West-Indian transports—and cited in proof of the happiness and comfort of the negro slave exceeding that of the English peasant, the authority of a governor, two admirals, one captain, and a commodore—all naval officers being through the whole controversy friendly to the slave-trade, and willing witnesses to the blessings of negro slavery in the West Indies; as military men, who saw far more of those blessings, were generally observed to take the opposite side of the question. The report of General Tarleton's speech I take from the Parliamentary history for 1791; but Sir William Young's, which follows, bears internal evidence of having proceeded from his own pen, for I am very sure no reporter in modern times ever used the words "hath" and "cloth," as this account of the worthy Baronet's speech does throughout. "Far be it from me," says he, "to defend a traffic in human beings." But then he did not regard the African commerce at all in that light. He denied that a system of kidnapping supplied the slaves. They were captives in war, or they sold themselves into bondage; or were men who must perish in a famine, or be murdered by wholesale at the funeral of their chiefs, but for the tender mercies of the Liverpool trader, who rescued them from hunger or the sword. Then to cultivate the colonies without this trade, was wholly impossible; the decrease was two or two and a-half per cent. a-year in the slave population, the same proportion as I 427 find now given in the papers before us; but in one colony especially, this necessity is so strongly represented, says Sir William, that he who runs may read. And what colony, think your Lordships, is that whose cry for more hands—new workmen—a supply of labourers from the East—went up so loudly half a century ago? Why, the very colony of Guiana, upon whose demand and for whose use the present Order in Council is framed! But there is this difference, that in 1791, Africa alone was required to supply the wants of Guiana; whereas we are now extending the drain to all the territories within the East-India Company's charter. General Phipps and others contended that all Africans were slaves; that the traffic was supplied in almost every instance voluntarily, not by kidnapping; and that the negro was far better off in our islands than in his own country. It never struck these advocates of crime that the poor African, who had never seen the ocean, could by no possibility form an idea of the suffering he was about to endure, or the scenes into which he was to be conveyed; and that to give him any such notions would have been as difficult as to make him comprehend the transactions of another planet. Memorable were the words of Mr. Pitt;—memorable the sudden reply with which he wept all those sophistries away! Would that his awful voice could now sound them in his successor's ears! Would to God that he were still among us to make these walls echo the language of his indignation and chase away at once and for ever the miserable pretences, the shadows of an excuse urged for these abominable proceedings! "Alas! alas!" (said that great man) you make human beings the subjects of your commerce, as if they were merchandise, and you refuse them the benefit of the great law which governs all commercial dealings—that the supply must ever adapt itself to the demand." But on the slave-traders all appeals to reason, or to feeling, were thrown away. The very next time that the subject was brought before Parliament, we find them reiterating their assertions, that no wars and no kidnappings were caused by the trade, and their contrasts of West-Indian happiness with African distress Alderman Brook Watson, representing the great city of London, was heard to avow, that were humanity concerned in the abolition, he should at Once support the measure, but it was all the 428 other way—the negro being removed from a worse to a better state. Your Lordships will give me credit for not adverting to a topic urged, hardly to an expression used, in these memorable debates for the support of the slave trade, to which a match may not be found in the papers before you upon the proposed Guiana importation. The worthy magistrate's comparison is paralleled by a similar contrast in the papers between the state of the Coolies in Asia, and after their removal to the Mauritius.
The Alderman too, like my noble Friend (Lord Glenelg) and his West-India allies, had no kind of objection to regulate the trade. No one who defended it ever had. From 1788 to the period of its extinction, I never yet found one either of those engaged in it, or of those who defended it, make the least objection to put it under as many regulations as the wit of man could devise. And why? Because these men knew, what we too know as to the new traffic sanctioned by Government, that all regulations must of necessity fail and go for nothing—that all efforts to prevent the abuses with which it is inseparably connected, of cruelty and fraud both in procuring, and in conveying, and in employing the slaves or apprentices, must infallibly fail, if the regulations were devised by the wisdom of an angel. But again, they said in 1791 as they say now—"You need not be disturbed as to treatment on the voyage; trust to men's interests if you won't confide in their honesty and humanity"—and surely, said Lord Penryn, then member for Liverpool, it is the trader's interest to carry over as many Negroes in a healthy state as possible. Such was the reasoning by which we were argued out of a belief even in the horrors of the middle passage; such the grounds on which were denied all the atrocities—the torments—the murders of which the slave-ship is universally the scene, and on which those men expected to make the world reject the frightful history of those prodigious crimes as the fabrications of calumny, or the creatures of a distempered imagination. I shall presently show you that already the new traffic encouraged by our Government and incapable of being driven at ail without its help, has led to scenes of nearly the same description, and which before long will almost equal the horrors of the middle passage itself.
The same advocates of the traffic have recorded their defence of slavery and slave-trading in their works. I have this morn- 429 ing refreshed my recollection of Sir William Young's writings, by reading his West-Indian Tour, undertaken immediately after the debate of which I have given you an abstract. In St. Vincent's he says to a friend, the day of his landing, that far from the slaves being an oppressed race, the proudest human being he ever beheld was a Negro woman. After passing the winter months there, he exclaims, "All you know in England of jolly Christmas falls very far short of the Negro's three days' Christmas in this Island." He visits a slave-ship just arrived, and vows he can see nothing unpleasant belonging to it. The slaves laughed and joked with him, he says, like a Davus of Terence. Indeed he is fond of adorning the West Indies with classical illusions, having himself written a very poor history of Athens. The squares and streets remind him of the Forum and great ways of old Rome, with groups of slaves here and there. He goes to Antigua, and there the slaves dance with more spirit and grace than the most fashionable circles in England. In Tobago it is still the same happy scene. "The Negroes seem treated like the planter's favourite children." I dare to say in one respect the love of the parent was conspicuous enough—I mean in not sparing the rod.
Such were the pictures of slavery comforts, of Negro happiness, with which the patience of the country was worn out, and the reason of Parliament beguiled for many a long year; and such the arguments by which men were persuaded that there was something wholly unreasonable in the objections we were always urging against wholesale robbery and cruelty and murder. Nevertheless our strange and paradoxical opinions daily gained ground. The carrying over 70,000 or 80,000 human beings from their own country to labour in America, of whom above 15,000 were brought to our settlements, began to be universally reprobated. Men came to feel that such a traffic could no longer be suffered, whether the objects of it were termed labourers, or apprentices, or more fairly and honestly, slaves. We were no longer described as visionaries and theorists. Our statements were no more regarded as fictions or calumnies; and, at length, in spite of every attempt to ward off the blow, the doom of the traffic was pronounced, to the immortal honour of the Cabinet of 1806, with which it may seem unaccountable, but is yet true, that some of the present Government were closely 430 connected. Lord Grey, in concert with Mr. Wilberforce, brought in the Abolition Bill, and thus performed what I really think, and I believe my noble and most valued Friend himself considers, the most glorious act of his long, useful, and brilliant public life. It was passed by the greatest majority ever known on a great measure long the subject of controversy. The Commons, by sixteen to one, sealed the fate of the slave-trade.
The predictions of the planters, that the Negroes must decrease, continued to haunt them for some years, and various schemes were proposed for keeping up the numbers of labourers. This led Mr. Barham, in 1811, to propose the introduction of free labourers from Asia, and his motion forms the next event of importance in this history. He was one of the very best masters, and most successful planters in Antigua; and his proposal was rested wholly upon motives of kindness towards the slaves. These being, as he thought, reduced in numbers while there was the same work to perform, in consequence of the embarrassments of West-Indian property not permitting the produce to be diminished which went to satisfy creditors, there seemed reason to apprehend the effects of the Negro labour being so much increased. The reception of this plan in Parliament was very remarkable. Mr. Anthony Browne, then and now the respectable agent for Antigua, cautioned the House against being led astray by its feelings in behalf of the slaves, to sanction an impracticable and visionary scheme. But Mr. Stephen gave it his decided opposition upon higher grounds. Now, than Mr. Stephen's, there can no higher authority be cited on slavery and slave-trading, and every thing connected with these subjects. He had long made them his study; he had been at all times the zealous co-operator with his Friend and brother-in-law, Mr. Wilberforce, in the Abolition Committee; he had passed the best years of his life in a slave colony, St. Kitt's; and since his return to Europe he had never ceased to watch over every branch of the great questions connected with West-Indian affairs. His resistance to the proposition of introducing free labourers into the Colonies, as it was called then and is called now, was grounded upon the injuries thus certain to be inflicted upon the people whom it was proposed to transport from Asia; and Mr. Huskisson adopting the same views, opposed the project upon the same grounds 431 An accident prevented Mr. Canning from at tending this debate, as absence from town upon the circuit kept me also away from it. I felt exceedingly anxious when the subject was announced, and when I saw that eminent person after the Committee had been appointed, I found he viewed the subject in the same light with Mr. Stephen and myself. No, no, said he, it is enough to have desolated Africa, without introducing this pest into Asia too.
The next circumstance to which we must look in pursuing this historical retrospect, is the traffic which for some years has been going on between India and the Mauritius; for it is to the alleged success of this experiment that we are desired to look by the patrons of the new scheme—the Government and the Guiana planters. I own that I regard whatever relates to the Mauritius with extreme jealousy in all slave questions. There is no quarter of the globe where more gross abuses have been practised—nay, more flagrant violations of the law, from the eager appetite for new hands which the fertile land excites in the uncleared districts of that island. It was in 1811, that I had the happiness of passing the act through Parliament, declaring slave trading to be a felony, and awarding to it the punishment of transportation. Some years afterwards it was made capital. Yet in spite of this penal sanction, the Mauritius planters were audacious enough to introduce by slave traffic so many Africans, that Sir George Murray, when Secretary for the Colonies some time back, admitted 25,000 at least to have been thus brought thither from the coasts of Africa. No less than 25,000 capital felonies had thus been perpetrated in the course of a few years by those sordid and greedy speculators. The position of the island is singularly adapted for carrying on this detested commerce. Near the continent, and near that part of it where we have no settlement, and keep hardly ever any cruisers, no effective check upon such operations can ever be maintained, if the authorities in the island itself do not exercise the most vigilant attention; and there is but too much reason to suspect, from what came out in Mr. Buxton's Committee, that instead of watching, they connived at one time, while some high in office encouraged the offenders and even partook in the fruits of their crimes. Doubtless, if the Guiana Order in Council is suffered to subsist, a like privilege will be extended to this 432 island. But in either case the African coast is under the operation of this new traffic. That order comprehends it in terms the most distinct. Nor does it only open the trade to—them that sailBeyond the Cape of Hope, and now are pastMosambique"—It stretches along Sofala, and to Guardafui and Arabia—comprising all the Asian Islands—Ceylon and Timor, Ternate and Cadore.It then includes the whole coast of India, and all the regions of that vast domain, stretchingO'er hills where flocks do feed, beyond the springsOf Ganges and Hydaspes, Indian streams.All those plains and mountains—all those ports and bays and creeks, long lines of sea-beach without a fort or a witness, a magistrate to control or an eye to see what is done—from Madagascar to the Red Sea—from the Arabian Gulf along Malabar, to Travancore, thence from Comorine to the mouths of the Ganges, and of all the unknown and unnamed streams that water the peninsula and flow into the Indian Ocean. It is in such vast and such desolate regions that we are to be told this order will never be abused, and none be taken by force nor any circumvented by fraud. When in the heart of Europe, with all men's eyes to watch him and his agents, the king of Prussia could drive his trade of a crimp and fill his army with recruits spirited away from the banks of the Rhine, populous, civilised countries, enjoying the blessings of regular government, the protection of a vigilant police, and entertaining ambassadors at the court of Berlin—when that monarch could, in such countries, and in the face of day, carry off the priest at the altar, and the professor at his desk, from the countries on the Rhine, the Moselle, and the Oder, and these reverend and learned recruits were for months afterwards found carrying his firelocks, and serving in his ranks—how can the folly be sufficiently derided which represents it as difficult to abuse this abominable regulation, and make it the cover of common slave trading in the remote desolate countries watered by the Niger, and the yet more deserted shores of Eastern Africa, through which nameless rivers flow into the sea? The order was passed without a single regulation being 433 subjoined, either here or in the East Indies, to prevent such abuses or to limit their amount. But to speak of regulations in such circumstances, is too absurd. What regulations can the wit of man devise which can have any effect at all? Nay, in the very places where the abuse is most likely to occur, you have not the shadow of authority to make rules. How can you legislate for the slave-dealers on the eastern coast, north of the Cape? Yet there the worst branches of the old slave-trade at this moment exist. I saw only yesterday a person who had been present at the capture of a Portuguese slave-ship, which had sailed from the coast of Zanzebar, with 800 negroes on board, and lost above 200 before she reached her port of destination in the Brazils. Let it not then be said that regulations may be devised for preventing abuse. But none have been attempted or thought of. The wretched beings, apprentices you call them, are to be carried without a word said specifying the tonnage, regulating the space for accommodation between the decks, fixing the proportion of water to drink, or provision to sustain life, ordering medical attendance, directing the course of the voyage, or limiting its duration. The order was issued here in July, before it could possibly be known that any law had been promulgated in Bengal, for the date of the Bengal regulation was May 1, and it was sent over on the 7th of June. That regulation, too, was, and still is, confined to the presidency of Fort William. Nay, more, it is altogether silent on every one of the important particulars which I have mentioned, and merely prescribes in vague and general terms that the parties interested in disobeying it, and on whose conduct it sets no kind of watch, shall attend to the comforts of the crew and cargo.
Contrast now, this legislation of the Crown with the enactments of the Parliament when giving laws, I will not say in pari materiâ, but on things incomparably less demanding legislative care, because hardly liable to any of the like abuses. A band of emigrants are about to leave their native country, and seek their fortunes in the western world. They are civilised men—well acquainted with all that regards their voyage and destination—generally well informed—nay, compared with the Coolies of Bengal, or the Negroes of the Mozambic coast, I have a right to say accomplished persons. In the Thames, or 434 the Mersey, or the Severn, the gallant ship that is to convey them forth is ready—her crew on board—her stores taken in—her anchor a-peak—her sails unfurled. Every passenger is there, and as the favouring breeze sounds through the cordage, all are more anxious to go than the captain of the vessel to make sail. Shall she go? The fore-top-sail dangles from the mast in token of her readiness to drop down the river if she only may. Shall she go? No. The Act of Parliament interposes. The Act of Parliament says, No. The Act of Parliament commands, under penalties which may not be risked, that she shall stay and be examined. "Come ashore, thou captain, says the law of the land, and show thyself worthy to take charge of so many British subjects on the ocean. Come ashore you crew, and muster, that the equipment be seen sufficient. Come ashore, thou surgeon, and prove by the testimonials of Surgeons' Hall the requisite fitness to be intrusted with the health of this emigrant people! "But, at least those emigrants may remain on board. They are of mature age—fully aware of their own intentions—well fitted to look after their own interests, and guard themselves against all fraud. They may keep in the births where they are counting every minute an hour that is lost of the propitious wind which shall waft them to the wished-for region of all their hopes. They surely may remain in the ship. Again the Act of Parliament says, No. Still it calls aloud, "Come on shore, you emigrants that you may be mustered, and the King's officer who marshals you examining into each man's case may ascertain that none are carried forth against their will, and that no fraud, nor circumvention, nor delusive misrepresentation has been practised upon any." And whence all this jealousy, this excessive care, which seems even to protect men from the consequences of their own imprudence, and almost interferes with their personal liberty in order to make their maltreatment impossible? It is because the law was framed by wise and provident men, who had well weighed the importance of throwing every obstacle in the way of sordid cunning, and had maturely calculated the hazards of deception being practised, and abuses of every kind creeping into a traffic so little in the ordinary course of human affairs as the removing masses of the people from one hemisphere to another. It is, because the laws so jealously guard the safety of 435 subject, that they will take every elaborate precaution to exclude even the possibility of a single person being entrapped, or inveigled, or spirited away, lost amongst a crowd of emigrants, whose general information about all they are doing—whose general design to go—and of their own free will to go—and with their eyes open to go—no man who ever made these laws ever doubted for an instant. Therefore are all these regulations prescribed, with the additional penalty of no less than 500l. for any passenger taken on board in any place where no Custom-house stands, and no officers are ready to perform the examination—lest peradventure a single Englishman may by some improbable combination of accidents be kidnapped and carried, innocently or ignorantly into a foreign land. And then comes my noble Friend (Lord Glenelg) with his Order in Council—his crown-made law—to encourage the shipment, not of enlightened Englishmen, but simple Hindoos and savage Africans, in distant, desert coasts, in remote creeks and bays of the sea, laid down in no charts, bearing no name, at the mouth of rivers which drain unknown regions far inland, and carry down their streams the barbarous natives to an ocean which they had never beheld. Knowing the watchful care, the scrupulous and suspicious jealousy of the English law made by Parliament on all that relates to the emigration of our own civilised people—knowing that the shipper would be ruined who should suffer an Englishman to embark of his own free will, and more desirous to go, than he to take him, where there was no Custom-house officer to watch the operation—my noble Friend makes his colonial law with the avowed purpose of enabling thousands and thousands of simple, ignorant, uncivilized men to be taken in any speculating trader's vessel, in obscure, nameless places, where, instead of revenue establishments and public officers, being stationed, the footstep of no European, save the slave-trader and the crimp, ever was known to have trodden since the creation. The law made by Parliament suspects all engaged in the trade of emigration, even from the city of London, and the lawgivers have framed its enactments, on the assumption that abuse and offence must come. The law of the Colonial-office suspects no one, even of those who navigate the Indian seas, and sweep the coasts of Southern Africa—it proceeds upon the assumption that neither abuse nor offence can ever come where the temp- 436 tation is the strongest and the difficulty of prevention the most insurmountable. The Parliament adds regulation to regulation for securing safety where all men's eyes are directed, and nothing can be done unseen. The Colonial-office despises all regulations and trusts the slave-trader and the crimp where no eye but his own can see, and no hand is uplifted to restrain his arm.
But let us turn towards the place of destination, and see what the consequences will be of this scheme, even if nothing illegal shall be done—if the most strictly correct course of conduct he pursued by every one engaged in the new traffic—if nothing whatever is done but introducing a number of apprenticed labourers into the West Indies, all of whom go there knowingly and willingly. Let us see the consequences to the negroes who are already there, who are now apprentices working partly for wages, and whose complete emancipation is approaching. On the 1st of August, 1840, as the law now stands—on the 1st of August, 1838, as I fervently hope—the whole of these poor people will have the command of their own time, and the right to derive from their own labour its just reward. Then see how you are treating them! Just at the moment when their voluntary industry should begin to benefit them, and the profits of their toil no longer belong to their masters—just as they are about to earn a pittance by the sweat of their brow, wherewithal to support themselves and their families—just at that instant comes your Order in Council to prepare for them a competition, with crowds of labourers brought over by wholesale from the East, and able by their habits to work for little and live upon nothing. You let in upon them a supply of hands sufficient to sluice the labour-market and reduce its gains to the merest trifle, by this forced and unnatural emigration thither of men habituated all their lives to subsist upon a handful of rice and a pinch of pepper. Can anything be conceived more cruel and unjust? This is the avowed object of the whole proceeding. It is stated in express terms by the planters, whose representations obtained the Order in Council—"The emancipated slaves. (say they, p. 25) are very likely to form combinations for the purpose of restricting the ordinary and necessary periods of labour, as well as to compel the planters to pay them wages at rates, much above their means and ability to comply with."
Do, I beseech you, my Lords, let us 437 make the case our own. Suppose such an experiment were tried for lowering the wages in Kent, or Essex, or Sussex, by the planters there, who are always complaining of their high rents and low profits. Suppose in that county, happy under the mild government of my noble Friend (the Duke of Richmond) the rumour should spread, of 3,000 or 4,000 coolies being expected there, men who could work for twopence and threepence a-day, and be better off than in their own country—that the colonial office were petitioned by the Sussex farmers to give such facilities as were necessary to make this importation practicable—that the farmers were persuading the Secretary of State and his Under Secretaries, of the benefit this help must prove to the over-worked day labourers of the county—and that the measures required by the speculators were about to be adopted so as to make the operation feasible—I won't say, that the Sussex peasantry would instantly meet and mob and riot and threaten the castle of my noble Friend and the office in Downing street; but I venture to assert that my noble Friend, with a train of all his deputy Lieutenants, and magistrates, and squires, and clergy would speedily darken the doors of that department, and that to issue the dreaded order would become an absolute impossibility. Nothing could ever make its issuing possible but its being secretly agreed upon and passed without any publication in the Gazette, and as soon as its existence became known its recall would be matter of perfect certainty. Surely, surely, the unhappy African has been treated at all times as never race under the sun was suffered by Providence to be treated. All men and all things conspire to oppress him. After enduring for ages the most bitter miseries of slavery, privations unexampled, hardships intolerable, unrequited toil, he is at last relieved from his heavy burthen, and becomes a free labourer, ready to work for wages on his own account. Straightway he is met by myriads of other labourers not naturally belonging to the soil or climate, and habituated to the lowest hire and the scantiest and the worst sustenance, and after having been so long kept out of the hire he earned by the bondage of his condition, he is now defrauded of it by the craft of his former master, in revenge for his tyranny being at an end.
But this is the very least part of the evil inflicted by the measure; this is taking the argument on the lowest ground. 438 Look to the inevitable consequences of the system upon the Eastern coast of Africa, and all our Indian dominions. The language used by its patrons and their abettors in Downing-street, is just what used to be heard in the days of open slave-trading. "We wish to bring over a number of labouring people from Asia," says one planter—"We contemplate drawing a supply of labourers for our estates," say others—respectable men, whom I personally know. It is "the engaging of labourers," according to the President of the Board of Control, tinder whose protection India is placed; while the Colonial Secretary, under whose care all our other settlements repose, speaks of the "Emigration from India "and" East-India Emigrants." The voyage which brings these poor creatures from the indolence of their native plains to the hard and unwholesome toils of Guiana, can hardly yet be described as proving an agreeable passage, for time has not yet been allowed to carry any over. But the experiment already made in the Mauritius furnishes the means of commendation, and that passage has been distinctly termed by the schemers one of no suffering, but of sufficient ease and comfort to the cargoes. So they have described the change of the Coolie's situation as beneficial to him. They are represented," (it is said, p. 23,) "to be much pleased with their new situation, it being considered by them as more desirable and beneficial than that from which they have been removed"—in the very language, your Lordships observe, of the slave-traders and their defenders fifty years ago. The experience of the Mauritius planters is in these papers cited at large, and paraded through many a long page, to spew how happy is the lot of the transported labourer in the bondage of that blissful land. The queries sent to various proprietors are given at length, with the answers returned by them. The fourth question, as to the comforts and happiness of the imported apprentices, is answered alike by all but one—from whom the truth escapes. The others say, the men are quite contented and happy, exactly as Sir William Young found the African slaves in the Leeward Islands. They represent, too, the Mauritius negroes as quite pleased with their new help-mates; and, in short, never was such a picture of felicity in that island, since those halcyon days, when 25,000 capital felonies were perpetrated by the importation of as many labourers— 439 days, which it was feared had been gone never to return, but which this Order in Council fills the Mauritian bosom with hopes of once more living to see restored. That one planter, however, gives a somewhat different account of the matter. "Has any feeling of uneasiness and discontent been observable among the Indian labourers on your estate as arising out of separation from their families, or from any other similar cause?" The answer is signed Bickagee; and this name seems to indicate a Malabar origin; so that probably the reason why the account is so different from that of other proprietors may be that Bickagee could converse with the poor Indians in their own language, as another witness who gives a similar account certainly could. The answer is, "Yes; and for these reasons—In their country they live happy and comfortable with their wives and families on three or four rupees a-month. They engage to leave their native country on a small increase of salary, say five rupees and rations, in the hope of receiving the same comfort here, but experience has proved the reverse. Uneasiness and discontent arise from these privations, besides their being deprived of the holidays their religion entitles them to." (p. 83.) So Mr. Scott, a gentleman resident in Bengal and acquainted with the people, their language, and habits, plainly says, that "with very rare exceptions he doubts if there are any who congratulate themselves on the bargain they have made." (125.) He makes an observation of much wisdom upon the inefficacy of all regulations respecting treatment, and of all conditions in contracts for apprenticeship. "The main result of my inquiry," says he, "leads me to the conclusion that the condition of the labourer practically depends on the individual character of his employer, and that the terms of the agreements are trifling compared with the spirit in which they are interpreted."
But let us look to the far more pressing consideration of the way in which these poor people are brought over from their own country; for upon that two very important matters arise out of these papers, and especially Mr. Scott's report. I must, however, first turn aside for a moment to show your Lordships that the abuses of the measure had not been unforeseen. My noble Friend himself at one time was awake to this important consideration. He could see it in the measures of others, 440 but in his own all such suspicions are lulled asleep. When he first received the Ordinance made by the Court of Policy in Demerara, he at once warned them against letting it become the cover for slave-dealing, describing it as essential that no apprentice from Africa should be brought over. His words are remarkable, and I apply them distinctly to the measure of my noble Friend himself, now under your consideration. "If (said he, in a despatch dated October 3, 1836, p. 11) labourers should be recruited on any part of the African coast, the consequence would inevitably be direct encouragement to the slave-trade in the interior, and a plausible, if not a just, reproach against this country of insincerity in our professions on that subject." A plausible, if not a just reproach! Truly, the reproach is still more just than it is plausible; and so my noble Friend's Colleague (Lord Palmerston), under whom the foreign concerns of this country flourish as much as our colonial affairs do under himself, will find in the first attempt which he may make to treat for the abolition of the foreign slave traffic. I can tell him that far less ingenuity than falls to the lot of Spanish, and above all Portuguese, negotiators, will be required to shut his mouth with this Order in Council as soon as he tries to open it against the Portuguese or Spanish enormities which all England and both Houses of its Parliament are vociferously urging him to put down. They will hold, and truly, that they have a just right to tax us with insincerity, and with fraud and dishonesty, if, while we affect to reprobate slave-trading in them under its own name, we continue to carry it on ourselves under false pretences, and by a false and borrowed title. As long as Africans are brought over under the vile Order by the name of apprenticed labourers, it is still more just than it is plausible to accuse us of that insincerity and those frauds; and how does my noble Friend (Lord Glenelg) escape the charge? By a regulation which he adds to the ordinance, and which I pledge myself instantly to demonstrate does nothing whatever to prevent the very thing here denounced. Nothing of the kind, absolutely nothing has been done by the additional provision of my noble Friend. For what is that provision? You will find it in page 21, and it only makes indentures of apprenticeship void if executed in Africa, or the adjacent islands inhabited wholly or in part by the negro race, Why, 441 what signifies that? Who is prevented by such a flimsy folly as that article from carrying over as many Africans as he pleases, and in whatever way he likes? To escape this most ridiculous check, the slave-trader (my noble Friend himself calls him by this name) has only to take the negroes on board of his slave-ships and there execute their indentures, or to Brazil, or to Cuba, or to Monte Video, or, indeed, to Guiana itself; and then he complies with the conditions of this inconceivable restriction, and imports as many negroes as he pleases, and can afford to buy. To be sure, there is added another provision of the same notable kind, requiring that all contracts be made and witnessed before two justices, or, it is added, magistrates. What then? The slave-trader has only to carry his prey, his human victims, to the Mauritius, where he will find two, aye twenty, magistrates full ready to help him, and to do anything for the encouragement of the business there most popular, the slave-trade; or if it be the western coast of Africa which he has been desolating with his traffic, under the encouragement of this Order in Council, he has only to touch at the Brazils, where all slave-traders are at home; or at Monte Video, where the governor took a bribe of 10,000l., to allow, in the teeth of the Spanish law, 2,000 slaves, which he termed in the language of these papers and this Order in Council, labourers, to be introduced; or at Cuba, where the governor does not suffer the sailing of slave-ships to be announced in the newspapers, for fear of our cruisers being thereby warned and stopping them. In all these slave-trading ports, justices, and magistrates, and governors too, will ever be ready to witness indentures for Guiana, and make this most ludicrous provision utterly void and of no effect.
But the despatches of my noble Friend are not the only documents which shew that the abuses of this intercourse have been alluded to before now—though no precautions whatever have been adopted to prevent them. Some few years ago a Mr. Letord propounded to the Governor of the Mauritius a plan for importing 20,000 African labourers, as he called them, in the phraseology of the Order in Council so familiar to all slave-traders. He was to obtain them by negotiation with the chiefs of the country, and to apprentice them for a limited time, His plan was circumstantially and elaborately 442 framed, and reminds me of what a learned friend of mine, now Advocate-General in Bengal (Mr. Pearson) used to say at Guildhall on such estimates, that with a little pen and ink he would undertake by figures to pay the national debt in half an hour. The ingenious projector (who I understand was one of those most deeply concerned in the Mauritian slave-trading some time ago, and therefore well versed in the subject) gave his plan the name of "Projet d'Emancipation Africaine"—for he was of course to liberate all the slaves he bought of the chiefs, or kidnapped on his own account, and to convert them as the plan of our Government proposes, into indentured apprentices. Your Lordships smile at the plan and its title, because you see through the trick at once—so did the worthy Governor-General Nicolay—whose answer was short—whose refusal was flat and unqualified—just such as the Government at home should have given to the Letords of Guiana. He said, he had read the details of the plan "with much interest, and felt bound to give it his unqualified refusal, considering it, however speciously coloured, as neither more nor less than a renewal of the slave trade, and therefore entirely inadmissible." (p. 24.) And so to be sure it was. Your Lordships saw through the cunning trick and its flimsy disguise at once, and you smiled when I stated it. But I now ask if there is one single tittle of the plan thus instantly seen through, which differs from the present project for Guiana? I defy the most ingenious, subtle, and astute person who now hears me to shew any one thing that could have been done under Letord's plan, denounced by Sir W. Nicolay, as common slave-trading—in other words felony—which may not be done exactly in the same manner if this Order in Council is suffered to continue in operation. My noble Friend will answer me, and defend or explain his measure. I call upon him to point out, if he can, one single particular in which the project rejected as felonious by Governor Nicolay, with the entire approval of the Government at home, differs from the project aided and sanctioned by that same Government, and under their auspices inflicted upon Africa and Asia too, for the benefit of the Guiana planters and their slave-trading captains. My noble Friend is now challenged to this comparison, and having given him ample notice, and in very distinct terms, I expect—I am entitled to 443 expect—that he shall point out wherein the two schemes differ, and what act of slave-trading—that is, of felony—can be perpetrated under the one, which may not, with the most perfect ease and safety, be perpetrated under the other.
Here, my Lords, I might rest, and safely rest, my case. For if I have shewn to demonstration that abuse is inevitable—that no regulation can prevent it, but also that none have ever been attempted—if I have further shewn out of my noble Friend's own mouth, and that of the Mauritius Government, whose proceedings he wholly approved and adopted, that without precautions which never have been taken or thought of, the project is one of disguised, and but thinly disguised, slave-trading—surely I am not bound to go further, and prove that already, and while in its infancy, the results proved to be inevitable have actually flowed from it—that kidnapping has filled our vessels, and that waste of life and misery has been endured on the middle passage—nevertheless I am prepared to prove this likewise, superfluous though it be—and thus to remove the very last vestige of doubt, to preclude every opening through which a cavil can enter into the discussion.
I here again revert, in the first place, to the report of the only persons, or one of the only two persons, who were capable of giving information on the subject, by their knowledge of the language in which alone these poor Hindoos can converse. Mr. Scott gives this truly remarkable statement; his words are few, but the single sentence speaks volumes. "They all stated (says he, p. 125), that they left Calcutta under the impression that they were going to the Company Rabustie—(Company's village) the name by which the Mauritius is designated"—but by whom? In the vernacular tongue of India? By all men in common parlance? Oh no, nothing of the kind! But "by the agents in India!"—By the slave-trader's agents—by his crimps—his inveiglers—his kidnappers. Mr. Scott adds, "How far the term was complimentary or compulsory I cannot say"—so that he has his suspicions of these poor ignorant people being made to believe that they might be compelled to go to the Mauritius as a part of the Company's territory. He adds this remarkable observation: "While I make no charge of misrepresentation, I am bound to acknowledge the difficulty of correctly and intelligibly describing an island in the 444 Indian Ocean to a person who had never seen the sea, or knew what an island was."—Some there may doubtless be, who will say, that this representation of the Mauritius, where the powers of Leadenhall-street have not one servant, and possess not one yard of ground, being a village of the Company, was plausibly, rather than justly, made. For my part I hold it to have been wickedly, deceitfully, fraudulently, crimpingly, kidnappingly done, and with the purpose of inveigling and cheating, and carrying away the natives of Asia after the most approved practices of slave-trading, in their nefarious proceedings on the African coast. My noble Friend must have turned his attention to this subject as well as Mr. Scott. He long presided at the India Board,—he had under his protection the natives of the country, to whom he and his respected family have long been the friends—he had studied their temper and their habits from his youth—he hail an acquaintance possessed by few—an hereditary acquaintance with all that belongs to this subject—and before he issued an order for the emigration of these poor creatures, he must have well weighed all its consequences, having regard to their nature and their knowledge. This matter is not one that arises indirectly, or unexpectedly, or by any unforeseen accident out of the scheme. On the front of that scheme it is graven in legible letters; it is a plan for enabling planters in the West to import natives of the East into their colonies. Then my noble Friend must have often asked himself the natural, and, indeed, unavoidable question which I now ask him, as Mr. Scott has suggested it from a knowledge of Indian affairs, far less extensive than his own—What hopes can we entertain of ever being able to make a Hindoo, a Coolie from the inland territory of the Company, a poor native who has never seen the ocean, or any sheet of water larger than the tank of his village, or the stream in which he bathes—comprehend the nature of a ship and a voyage, the discomforts of a crowded hold, the sufferings of four months at sea, the labours of a sugar plantation, the toils of hoeing, and cutting, and sugar boiling under a tropical sun—toils under which even the hardy negro is known to pine, and which must lay the feeble and effeminate Asiatic prostrate in the scorched dust? But will my noble Friend really take upon him to say that one single Hindoo is embarked for Guiana 445 who can form the idea of what the voyage alone must expose him to? We are here not left without proof. Experience has already pronounced upon the voyage from Hindoostan to the Mauritius; these papers paint it as a worthy companion for the middle passage. I hold in my hand the despatch from the Mauritius Government of April last, in which three vessels are said to have carried over, one of them 224, the other 200, and the third seventy-two labourers, as you are pleased to term, what I plainly name slaves. Each had a full cargo of rice besides—so that the despatch says, they could not have proper accommodation for the Indians, nor protection from the weather, nor had any one of the three a medical officer. The William Wilson, out of 224, lost thirty-one on the voyage—a sacrifice to the pestilential hold in which they were compelled to breathe. The Adelaide, still worse, lost twenty-six out of seventy-two—between a third and a half in five or six weeks. The statements I have given from the slave trader's argument in 1788 and 1791 were absurd enough when they represented the mortality of the middle passage as one in the hundred. But never did I hear it put higher than this of thirty or forty per cent. Only see once more how the record of your own Statute Book rises up in judgment against your own conduct! While you not merely allow, but encourage and stimulate the carrying away of untutored Indians and savage Africans from the desolate shores of Malabar and Ceylon, and Mosambic, giving free scope to all the practices of fraud and treachery, which the arts of wicked ingenuity can devise to entrap them, and bear them into bondage, that the sordid desires of a few grasping planters may be gratified,—read the wise and humane words on the front of the British statute—read them, and blush for shame! "Whereas in various parts"—Of Hindoostan! Of the Indian Archipelago! Of the Mosambic and Sofala coasts? No—but "of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, persons have been seduced to leave their native country under false representations, and have suffered great hardships for want of provisions and proper accommodation, and no security whatever being afforded that they shall be carried to the ports for which they have agreed—be it therefore enacted."—Has the faintest attempt been made to afford such security to the Indian and the African as this statute anxiously 446 provides for the free and enlightened native of our own island—any precaution against his being trepanned and seduced on board, under representations that he is only going to another village of his own country, where he will enjoy his own ease, work in his own way, and worship according to his own religion—any precautions against being hurried away by force, while others are decoyed by fraud—any precautions against being scantily provided and pestilentially lodged—any precaution against his being carried to one destination after bargaining for another? Nothing whatever of the kind. But, indeed, such precautions, though practicable where they are little wanted—on the coasts of this country, studded with custom-house establishments, and round which a cordon of revenue officers is drawn by day and by night—must prove wholly ineffectual where they are most wanted—on the desert strands of the Eastern Ocean. And you see the results in the documents I have just read, where the frauds and the force of the embarkation, and the dreadful mortality of the voyage, are recorded in imperishable proofs of the crimes you have dared to encourage.
Therefore, it is, my Lords, that I have deemed it my indispensable duty to drag before you this iniquitous measure; therefore it is, that I have yielded to the sacred obligation of going through a subject as painful to handle as it was necessary to be examined; therefore, it is that I have waded, at extreme suffering to myself, through the agonizing detail of the slave traffic; and therefore it is, that I have, with unspeakable anxiety—but an anxiety occasioned far more by the importance of the question than by its difficulty or any disinclination to grapple with it—laid bare the enormities of this proceeding, and set forth its glaring inconsistency with the great Act of Abolition, from the principles of which, I had fondly hoped, no English statesman would ever be found daring enough to swerve. My Lords, I have for more than a quarter of a century been the supporter in Parliament of that great measure of justice. But at every period of my life since I reached man's estate, I have been its active, zealous, eager, though, God knows, feeble supporter, wherever I could hope to lend it assistance. For this holy cause I have been a fellow-labourer with the greatest men this country ever produced, whether in the senate, in the courts, or at the bar—elevated to the 447 ermine, or still practising in the forum. With them I have humbly though fervently fought this good fight, and worked at this pious work—with them who are gone from hence as with those who yet remain. And we had indeed well hoped—they who are no more and they who still survive to venerate the names of the forerunners, and tread, if it be possible, in their footsteps—that we had succeeded in putting down for ever the monstrous traffic in human flesh. Could I then see this attempt to revive it, and hold my peace? I could not have rested on my couch and suffered this execrable work to be done—uninterrupted to be done. I required not to be visited by those surviving friends of whom I just now spake—required not to be roused by the agitation of public meetings—required not the countless applications of those whose disinterested patriotism, whose pure benevolence, whose pious philanthropy, endearing them to my heart, have won for them the universal confidence of mankind. No! my Lords; I could not slumber without seeing before me in visions of the night the great and good men who have passed away, seeming as if they could not taste their own repose, while they forbade me the aid of rest, until I should lend my feeble help, and stretch forth this hand to chase away the monster slave-trade from the light he once more outrages, back to the den where he had been chained up by their mightier arms. Justly famous of other times! If it be not given us to emulate their genius, to tread the bright path of their glory, to share in the transcendent virtue which formed their chief renown—let us at least taste that joy which they valued above all others—for that enjoyment we too can command—to bask in the inward sunshine of an approving conscience, athwart which no action of their illustrious lives ever cast a shade!
I move you to resolve,1. That the Order in Council of the 12th of July, 1837, Was passed for the purpose of enabling the proprietors of Guiana to import into that colony, as apprenticed labourers, the natives of countries within the limits of the East India Company's Charter, before it was known that any law had been enacted in India for their protection, and has been suffered to remain in force after it was known that the law enacted in India on the 1st of May, 1837, and transmitted by a despatch of the 7th of June, is wholly insufficient to afford them such protection as is required, and to prevent the evils to which such traffic is ex- 448 posed, while there are no means of preventing the greatest abuses from being practised, both in Asia and in Africa, under colour of the traffic, which it is the professed object of the Order in Council to facilitate and encourage;2. That the said Order in Council of the 12th of July, 1837, was improperly issued, and ought to be recalled.
§ Lord Glenelg
rose. In the course of his very eloquent speech, the noble and learned Lord had animadverted with much severity on the Order in Council which was issued from the Colonial Department on the 12th of July last, and had spared few terms of invective against those who had issued it. The noble and learned Lord had commenced by complaining that the order in question had been secretly issued; but, he begged to state, that such was not the fact. The Order in Council of July, 1837, was issued precisely in the same manner as all others during a series of past years. It was not the habit—why it was not so he could not say—to publish Orders in Council in The Gazette; and as none others on the subject, or any other, as he believed, had found their way into that publication, the one in question was not there inserted. So much on that head. With respect to the general question, he had to observe, that if he could at all acquiesce in the statements of' the noble and learned Lord, he should not presume to offer any opposition to the motion with which he had concluded. As, however, the noble and learned Lord had, by a very dexterous line of reasoning, roused the feelings of their Lordships with respect to the Order in Council, he felt it incumbent on him to state, as briefly as possible, the history of the transaction which terminated in the issue of the Order in Council, as well as the exact position in which the parties connected with it were placed. He would commence by mentioning, that the old law of the colony of Guiana admitted the importation of labourers without restriction. In the course of 1836, a law was passed by the Governor and Council of' Policy of the colony, with the view of regulating the relations between the employers of labour and those labourers who should come to the colony under articles of indenture. That law, on being passed by the Colonial Legislature, was transmitted to this country for approval. On examining it, he found that though it was, in some respects, a restriction and improvement on the pre- 449 viously existing law of the province, it still was objectionable on several grounds. In the first place, it proposed a period of seven years employment. This period, he thought, was too long, and he accordingly had objected to it. He next objected to it, because it did not exclude all the natives of the continent of Africa; and then, because it did not make any peculiar exception with respect to those labourers who might come from the West-India Colonies where slavery had existed. In consequence of those objections, an Order in Council was issued in March 1837, giving assent to the act of the Colonial Legislature, but with most important alterations, which he should now proceed to detail. The first was the reduction of the proposed period of seven years service to that of three years. In fixing this latter period, his object had been to maintain the principle, which he thought a just one, that the employer of the labourers should be entitled, through their labour, to receive fair compensation for his expense in bringing them over and maintaining them; but, in order that the labourer should have no cause of complaint, and that nothing but the bare measure of justice should be meted to the employer, the Order in Council provided that if, before the third year expired, any of the individual labourers could prove that his employer had been compensated, he might claim his immediate freedom. So far with regard to the labourers generally. With respect to the labourers from the West-India colonies, in which slavery had been abolished, he had made a further exception. In their case, he reduced the period of employment from three to one year, also providing, that if, before the expiration of that period, a labourer could prove that the expense to which his employer had been put in bringing him to the country had been reimbursed him he might claim his freedom. Another important alteration in the act of the Colonial Legislature had reference to the protection of the labourers. The act placed them under the protection of the Sheriff and Justices of the province. By the Order in Council, this duty was transferred to the magistrates appointed under the Slavery Abolition Act. Another alteration made by the Order in Council was the exclusion from Guiana of all labourers from the continent of Africa, or islands peopled in part or fully by the negro 450 population; and in this state, and with these modifications, the act of the Colonial Legislature was sent back to the colony. Shortly after, an application was made with respect to the Indian labourers, and it was stated that these Indian labourers could not be introduced into the province of Guiana unless the period of their employment was extended to five years; and in answer to a demand from the Colonial office, as to why such extended period was necessary, a calculation was transmitted, proving clearly that a shorter period of labour could not reimburse the employer the expense he would have to incur in the transmission of the labourer. He had accordingly deemed it expedient to extend the period to five years, but with this accompaniment, that if within that period the labourer could prove that his employer had been repaid the expenses incurred, he might not merely claim his immediate discharge, but a passage home at the expense of the employer. If, however, he had to serve the five years, he should then, under any circumstances, be sent home free of expense by his employer. In addition to all this, it was to be recollected that the Order in Council, from which such disastrous consequences were apprehended, was to expire in August 1840. If there were injustice in the matter, it might last until that period, but then it must cease, unless a new law authorising a continuance of the system were enacted. It was alleged by the noble and learned Lord, as an argument against the Order in Council, that it was issued before it was known whether the Indian Government would pass any law on the subject. That was certainly true; but it was well known that the matter was under the consideration of the Indian Government, and there was every reason to presume that that Government would do its duty respecting it, and pass the very law which subsequently they did enact. The noble and learned Lord had then argued, that there was no protection held out by the Order in Council for the good treatment of the labourers. He contended, that as far as Guiana was concerned, the protection was complete. The indenture was to be made in the presence of the magistrate, and they were placed under the peculiar protection of the Executive Government of the colony; and at any period, when it was in the power of the labourer to reimburse his employer, the 451 engagement might be dissolved and a passage home claimed. It was alleged by the noble and learned Lord, that the act passed by the Bengal Government was not adequate. He contended, however, that the Indian Government had most effectually secured the objects the act had in view. In the first place, it provided that no person could be embarked at any port without the special permission of the Governor, or person appointed by him. This person was to see that medical attendance was provided, and that security should be taken for the return of the parties as soon as the period for which they were engaged had expired, at the expense of those engaging them. These were strong enactments; and if they were found at all defective, the Government would be ready to remedy them. But it was clear that the Government had the power of carrying them into operation, and that they had done so, as far as they had hitherto proceeded. So, then, a perfect security was given for carrying proper measures into operation, both by the acts of those who had the management of Guiana, and by the law passed by the Indian Government. But his noble Friend alluded to the case of the Mauritius, and stated that those evils which were apprehended had occurred in that place. His noble and learned Friend had said, "Let us not consult the planters, who are interested persons; we don't know what the state of the Mauritius is; we don't know how the labourers live; let us, therefore, take the evidence of a witness who is competent to speak to the question—let us hear what Mr. Scott says." Unquestionably, Mr. Scott stated that he found many labourers in a state of discomfort, and he stated, in particular, one cause of their being so, namely, their ignorance of the language, though it should be recollected that they acted under the guidance of one of their number, who took the office of chief. Now, the statement drawn up by Mr. Scott was made before any regulations were entered into either by the Indian Government or that of Mauritius.
begged to explain. What he had stated was, that the Order in Council enabled the Government to do that between Madras, Bombay, Pondicherry, and Guiana, which Mr. Scott's fetter showed had taken place in the Mauritius.
§ Lord Glenelg
Mr. Scott showed, that the labourers left India without knowing the particulars of their engagement, the place where they were to go, or the purposes for which they were engaged, or the time for which they were to remain, and that, in consequence, feuds and dissensions arose between them. Mr. Scott urged that the best mode of correcting these evils was to limit the period of their servitude, and to give security that they should be enabled to return at the expense of their employers. It was on the consideration of the remarks of Mr. Scott that the Bengal Act was passed for the remedy of the evils which he had enumerated. A correspondence had taken place between the Governments of Madras and Bombay and that of Mauritius, which led him to believe, that the same strong regulations would be adopted in the former places as those which were already acted upon in the latter place which he had mentioned. Although his noble and learned Friend seemed to consider those securities of little avail, he confessed he differed from that opinion, and relied on the zeal, vigilance, and circumspection of that government, and on the laborious application which they and the law-commissioners of that country had bestowed on the subject. But should difficulties arise within the two years and half which remained, it would be easy to meet them as they occurred. If this were the case, and it was proved that due vigilance had been used by this country from the commencement to meet the difficulties or dangers as they arose, he must contend it was somewhat premature, when it was not proved that any approach towards a slave trade had taken place, to condemn the policy of the Government simply because it did not prohibit Indian labourers from going from one part of her Majesty's dominions to the other; because, unless it was clearly shown that the danger was imminent, and that they even ran a risk of incurring it, they would not be justified in opposing what he conceived to be the principle of the Order in Council, and in presenting a barrier to the circulation of voluntary labour. That was the great principle which they were bound to reverence unless it was proved, that an adherence to it would involve them in disastrous consequences. His noble Friend had urged, though he did not much insist on the point, that the negro would be encroached 453 upon in his peculiar field. The apprehension was, that after the year 1840 the negroes, being accustomed to a tropical climate, and being able to procure sustenance with ease, would abandon their labour, spread over the country, and refuse to assist in raising its productions. Now, though other considerations ought naturally to occupy the attention of Government, that undoubtedly was a contingency which ought not to be overlooked. He knew there were some persons—he utterly disclaimed the allusion as applying to any noble Lord in that House, and his noble and learned Friend in particular—but he was aware there were some persons out of doors who really seemed to forget that the great commercial and powerful interests of the colonies were mainly concerned in the result of the experiment of the year 1840, namely, whether at that period we should be enabled to retain the labour now expended on the staple products of our West-India possessions? Great and important as that consideration was, did he mean to contend that no greater difficulty attended the settlement of this question? Far from it. But he maintained that it was worth while to take the most severe precautions against the abuse of the freedom about to be conferred on the negro race, and that this topic ought to form one amongst the subjects of paramount importance to this country, when the proposed change was to be effected. Those countries had grown and flourished under a system which met with our detestation. But why should it be concluded, that the curse of slavery was affixed to the negroes, and that the possessions which they cultivated should no longer contribute to form the glory and strength of this great nation the instant slavery was at an end? He did not believe that this was the necessary consequence of bestowing freedom on the negroes; but those persons to whom he had alluded, in their laudable anxiety to do justice to the human race, and to exercise humanity towards their fellow-creatures, seemed totally to forget the interests of their British fellow-subjects, and almost to anticipate with exultation the prospect of visiting with vengeance the descendants of those who failed in their duty towards the negroes, and who, if they were involved in that crime, were so involved in common with the Legislature. He denied that any person could fairly charge him 454 with wilfully neglecting the duty which he owed to the negro race; and he felt bound to take every means in his power to secure that result—not to the expulsion of the negroes, not to the injury of any other class of labourers—but with a just view, at least, to the interests of the colony, and with a determination to prove, that the strength and commercial resources of the country and of the West Indies were not extinguished because slavery was taken away from that country. He wished to see slavery suppressed all over the world; but did their Lordships think, that they would promote the cause of universal freedom if other nations were to perceive that, with the abolition of slavery, they destroyed the resources which the country derived from its once flourishing possessions? Did they imagine they would try the same experiment? Or was it impossible, that a better result might not be effected? He trusted, that, without any degree of injustice or oppression, it might be possible to introduce labourers who would stimulate the negroes to action, and whose conduct would maintain the resources and power of our West-Indian Colonies. He preferred rather to labour for the attainment of this object than to adopt a course of policy by which the colonies would be gradually impoverished, the greatness of this kingdom impaired, and the ruin of British subjects effected, without doing any good to the negro population. If once the negroes were found to distribute themselves in idleness throughout the country, they would quickly subside into a state of barbarism, in which the wealth of our British fellow-subjects would be of no benefit to the negro, with whose lot we should cease to sympathise, as causing the sacrifice of our national advantage and interests. On these accounts he should oppose the resolutions of his noble and learned Friend.
§ The Duke of Wellington
had looked with the greatest attention to the papers on the table, and listened with the utmost admiration to the speech of the noble and learned Lord. He felt, indeed, that much of the speech of the noble and learned Lord adverted to a part of this subject and to some of those papers which had no immediate relation to the subject under discussion—he meant as to the removal of labourers from the East Indies into the Mauritius or Guiana. The first order in Council—and he must say, that which fell 455 particularly under the discussion of the noble and learned Lord—did not refer immediately to this subject, but only incidentally, so far as it related to labourers when introduced into the colonies of Guiana and the Mauritius, which proceeding was laid under the regulation, and, as he thought, the beneficial regulation, of that order in council. It was the other order in council—the one which permitted the importation of labourers from the East Indies into Guiana for five years, instead of three, which was the term fixed upon in the first—that he considered the proper subject for their Lordships' condemnation. That was the point to which the noble and learned Lord originally drew attention, and on which his notice was founded. The introduction of labourers into those colonies from other parts of her Majesty's dominions must have attracted the attention of her Majesty's Government years back. He observed in these papers a statement concerning these transactions so far back as the year 1834; that was four years ago. With reference to the removal of a certain number of labourers into the Mauritius, he could not give her Majesty's Government credit for vigilance or attention on this subject; for, in point of fact, no notice was taken of it for a considerable period after the occurrence. It was a most remarkable fact, that it was brought under the consideration of one of her Majesty's Ministers, not in that House but in the other, by Mr. Gladstone, in a letter to the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Board of Control; and that the right hon. Gentleman seemed to answer as if no interference on the part of the Government was necessary, as if it was a mere matter of course. The answer which was returned was, "As the hiring is to be voluntary, the only purpose for which the East-India Company or the local Government could have a wish or pretence for interference would be to provide, that due care was taken of the labourers so hired while at sea, and to prevent their detention beyond the period for which they had engaged." So that three years after the practice of removing the Hindoos had commenced the organ of the Government stated, that the only "pretence" for their interference was to see, that care should be taken of the sick. He ventured to state, that if the right hon. Gentleman had only taken the trouble of conversing with any one person 456 connected with the East Indies, or any person who was an inhabitant of that country, that person would have told him, that it was absolutely impossible that such arrangements could be made between the lower class of inhabitants in that country and Europeans without the strict superintendence of the Government, in every part of the transaction, from the beginning to the conclusion. Notwithstanding the respectability of the merchants connected with these transactions in this country, and the respectability of those who acted under their authority in Calcutta, yet the direction of these negotiations often fell into the hands of a lower class of persons, crimps and others, both European as well as native, whose conduct was so bad as to justify any description which might be given of it. There was enough in the description of these transactions to show an absolute necessity for active vigilance on the part of the Government with respect to their whole course. Gentlemen's servants, grooms, and cooks were removed as persons wishing to be transported, and there was no doubt that some falsehood or other was practised on them in order to gain their consent. Under these circumstances he certainly lamented, that this mode of hiring labourers should have gone on so long without attracting the attention of the Government presiding over the affairs of the East Indies; that up to May, 1837, no law was passed on the subject, and that even then the law which was enacted should have been one which he could not help characterterising, in the language of the noble and learned Lord, as entirely inadequate to the purposes for which it was intended. He certainly felt most strongly the truth of all which had been stated to their Lordships by the noble Secretary for the Colonies in respect to the importance of the West-India colonies to this country, as well as the importance of the crisis which was approaching, not only in relation to the planters and proprietors, but also with reference to the cultivators of that part of her Majesty's dominions. He trusted that the future lot of the negroes would be happier than the life which they had led up to this moment; but that, in his opinion, depended entirely on their becoming hereafter an industrious people. If they were to pass their lives in idleness—as he much feared was to be apprehended, both 457 from what he saw in the papers on the table, and other documents already laid before the House—not only would the proprietors suffer considerably, but those useful islands, which had contributed so much to the prosperity, glory, and happiness of the empire, would be filled with a degraded population, amongst whom, in all probability, we should hear that that trade, now so much deprecated was reestablished. He fully appreciated the importance of the crisis which was approaching during the next seven years. From the documents before them, he concluded that the influence of those labourers who were brought from Bengal had a great effect in the Island of Mauritius, not only on their fellow-labourers, the apprenticed negroes, but on the minds of the planters themselves, who felt more confidence in the prospect of deriving some advantage from the labour of the apprenticed negro when the period arrived for setting him entirely at liberty. He confessed this state of things in the Mauritius was satisfactory to him, and he wished it were possible to extend the same advantages to the colonies of the western world. He saw an absolute necessity for taking more precautions than had been hitherto observed, in order to protect the interest, the health, and lives of those who should embark in this speculation. But if the result of the present proceedings were to produce the effect of obliging persons interested in the industry of the western colonies to introduce workmen brought from the East Indies into their works in the West Indies and the continent of America, he could not conceive any pains too great to be taken, or expense too heavy to be incurred, to effect such an object. The noble and learned Lord (Lord Brougham) had contended that it would be a hardship to the negro to introduce into these colonies labourers who would work for two pence a-day. But it was probable that the expense could not be estimated at less than two shillings a-day, taking into consideration the expense of transport from Bengal to Guiana and back again within the five years, a rate of pay which would not offer a very dangerous competition to the resident negroes on the islands. But even if it did offer a serious competition to them, he must say, that, considering the means of providing subsistence which would be open to the negroee on the expiration of their appren- 458 ticeship, it would be desirable to introduce new hands at a rate even under two shillings, nay, even at the smallest rate which the noble and learned Lord had stated. With respect, however, to the case of the native Indians, he must confess that he should never be satisfied to see the new system continued unless the very strongest security were provided to insure the performance of the bargains of those who engaged them, and for the comfortable removal of the inhabitants of Bengal so engaged to the colonies in the West Indies, and from thence back again to their homes. He could never be satisfied that the law made by the Governor-general in council on this subject was sufficient for this purpose. It had been his lot to know what these people were, and to embark with large numbers of men; and he knew that it was of the utmost importance that they should not be carried away as cattle, but secured not only at the period of their embarkation, but throughout their voyage, in the comforts which they required. He had prepared the heads of what he considered would be reasonable alterations in the Bengal order in council, which, with the permission of their Lordships, he would read to the House, as it was not his wish to put an end to the present system if the law could be sufficiently improved. The noble Duke then read from a written paper in his hand a statement, of which the following are the heads:—That whenever an application was made to the Governor-general for the embarkation of blank (which he proposed to fill up with ten) natives, an officer should be named, who should superintend the bargains made by them with their employers, the preparations made for the voyage and for their embarkation, and who should take care that no man should make a bargain which he did not thoroughly understand, or who had not undergone medical inspection; and who should, moreover, see that not more of either sex were so engaged than in the proportion fixed by the regulation. That the bargain should specify that the parties should embark—the probable length of the voyage, the nature of the food which was to be provided for them, the length of time for which their services should endure, the nature of their employment, the number of days in each week and of hours in each day during which they would have to labour; and other particulars relative to the quantity of remuneration in the shape of food, specifying quality as well as quantity, money, clothing, &c.; and, finally, that at the end of the period agreed upon, the parties engaged should be 459 sent back to the place from whence they were embarked, with the same care as to their food and accommodation during the voyage. The same officer would have to see that the vessel was seaworthy and duly equipped for the voyage, and that the decks were such as to afford comfort and healthy accommodation to the number it was intended to carry; that there was the requisite quantity of water, and provisions on board of the specified quality. The officer was, further, to superintend the embarkation of the natives engaged, and after that to embark with them, in order to attend to the regularity of their treatment and conduct during the voyage; after which he was to see to the strict execution of the bargains made with them, to be their interpreter to the magistrate or governor in the island on which they were engaged, and, on the other hand, to see that they did justice to their employers.The noble Duke concluded by declaring that, if precautions of this kind were taken, he should have no hesitation in acquiescing in the continuance of the present system.
§ Viscount Melbourne
said, that the noble and learned Lord who had opened the case to their Lordships had certainly made a most splendid, magnificent, and impressive speech: perhaps the most so that he had ever the pleasure of hearing the noble and learned Lord make in the whole course of his political career. The noble and learned Lord in that speech had called forth all the imagery with which his mind was furnished, and had almost, exhausted even that unrivalled power of language which he undoubtedly possessed. The noble and learned Lord had stated the condition of his own mind, and the anxiety he felt, that his feelings would not allow him to rest upon his couch in the night—that the shades of the great and the good and the glorious men with whom he had been associated in struggling for the abolition of slavery, seemed to hover around, chiding and rebuking his inactivity, and urging him to come forward and bring the subject under their Lordships' consideration. There was no doubt that the noble and learned Lord stated the impression of his own mind, and the real state of his feelings; but giving full credit to the statement, he begged leave to warn their Lordships, that a person under the influence of these very warm and excited feelings, was not a very fit guide for their Lordships' counsels and deliberations on this very nice and delicate question. With respect to every part of the subject, especially with respect to what they were to expect might be the ultimate issue of the late 460 measure in the West India colonies, if ever there was an occasion which demanded calm and cool deliberation, the subject to which the noble and learned Lord's resolutions referred, undoubtedly offered that occasion thirty or forty years ago, when the moral feelings of the country on this subject had not been awakened—when, indeed, the question of slavery had been scarcely raised in this country, then there might have been need for eloquent, and glowing, and able speeches to excite and urge people to espouse the cause; but surely that day was now long past in this country; surely now it was more necessary to restrain than to push forward the people of this country on this subject. He would not yield to any man in his indignation against slavery and the slave-trade; he had always had at heart every measure calculated to discountenance and restrain those enormities, but it did seem to hint that now, when the success of the great measure of slave emancipation was at stake, they were bound to pause before they gave any rash pledge on the subject, or commenced a course of policy which they might see cause to regret. The truth was, they were trying a very great experiment in the West-Indian colonies, and they were bound by every motive to allow it fair play. The noble and learned Lord, drawing on the resources of his own mind, stored as it was, with the perfect knowledge which he had acquired on this subject, had stated at great length and with much minuteness, the mode in which slavery arose in ancient times—how difficult it, was to eradicate—how perpetually it returned—how naturally inclined, how prone, it waste rise again; but their Lordships would observe that in vain they pointed against slavery all the powers of eloquence; in vain they assailed it with considerations of morality; in vain they fulminated the commandments of religion; it would still rise again, and still there would be required fresh measures for a fresh suppression, unless they took care not to do that which was just the opposite of what they ought to do—unless they took care not to make slavery identical with the interests of the employer. In short, if they wished to put it down effectively, they must not only enlist the feelings of mankind on their side, and for its suppression, but they must also enlist the interests of mankind in the same cause, or they would never be safe. How was this to be done? 461 How was the slave labour of antiquity, to which the noble and learned Lord had referred, at length eradicated? He believed it was superseded by free labour. As free labour became cheaper, slavery disappeared. Now in the case of the West Indies until that was seen and felt—until it was fully perceived that free labour was cheaper than the labour of the slave, the question would never be set at rest. But how was free labour to become cheaper if they prevented the people of one part of the world from supplying another with labourers? Unless this was done, how could free labour be cheaper? He said, therefore, that the only way they had to make the abolition secure, was not merely by painting the system of slavery as he believed it to be, full of abominations and atrocities in the extreme, but by showing that it was contrary to the interests of the inhabitants of the West Indies. In vain might they launch their eloquence, and represent scenes calculated to move the feelings and arouse the indignation; in vain might they urge every argument on the subject which imagination and reason could suggest; they had as much chance to effect their purpose as the storm in the fable had of getting off the traveller's cloak; but, as soon as the sun of interest shone upon him, off it came readily. As soon as this was done, then the abolition of slavery would be secure, but not until then. So long as it was their interest, persons would be found to embark their capital in the slave trade. The profits in it were very large; persons said, "Here we can have eight, or nine, or ten per cent for our money, while at home, the usual rate is three-and-a-half per cent.; so long as this was the case, he said persons would be found to engage in it. He owned that the speech of the noble and learned Lord, and the whole debate, opened a matter of very serious consideration, and one which, on a future occasion, would probably lead to further investigation. On the one hand, they had to guard against the event of slavery recurring; and then, on the other hand, to guard against the evils which undoubtedly attended on that system of transporting persons from the East Indies to serve as labourers in the West. The noble and learned Lord had talked of persons of education, but had the noble and learned Lord and the rest of their Lordships, never heard of persons belonging to this country, and 462 having such an education as usually fell to the lot of the labouring classes, being decoyed and inveigled to go out with a cargo of milk pails, by means of stories of some country where milk cows ran about with their udders distended, and only waiting for persons to come and milk them. No Hill Coolies would be more absurd than had been some of our own people. But, as he had said, they had to guard on the one hand against that which existed before the Orders in Council—the danger of slavery recurring; on the other, against the evils which might happen to these poor people, the Coolies, who might very easily be betrayed into a state little better than that of slavery. It appeared to him, however, that they could not prohibit persons going from one country to another for the purpose of disposing of their labour, provided this was done under proper regulations. But, supposing the motion of the noble and learned Lord were acceded to, and supposing the Order in Council of the 14th of July were rescinded, what would be the result? Why, that persons might go to Guiana only for an apprenticeship of three years, whereas now they went for five. [Lord Brougham: Mr. Gladstone denied that.] But Mr. Gladstone wished to have the time longer, perhaps. At all events the case was as he stated. Moreover, these people had a right to make any contract they pleased with the planters of Guiana or of any other colony, unless that contract were prevented by the laws under which they lived in their own country; this was, he thought, agreeable to the general principle regulating contracts of this sort, and if they introduced any regulation to prevent the transportation of labourers with regard to India, then they left open the other countries of Asia, and they would have the same measures to take in succession respecting the greater number of them; and if their Lordships or the Government were to undertake the regulation of all these civil contracts, they would open a very large field of discussion, which he would not enter upon at present, but which, he must say, did appear to him full of difficulty. With respect to the motion of the noble and learned Lord, he begged first to assure the noble Duke that her Majesty's Government would give their best attention to all the suggestions which the noble Duke had made; and he would add, generally, that no intention or idea existed in the minds of Government but 463 to make the abolition as full and as secure as possible. He was not exactly aware of all the acts of the Government of India, and therefore it was very possible that many of the suggestions of the noble Duke had been anticipated and carried into execution; those suggestions, however, he could assure the noble Duke should have all the consideration her Majesty's Government could bestow upon them, and every precaution should be taken to render the measure of abolition as secure and permanent as possible. The noble Duke did not, as far as he understood, wish to put an end to the present system of transporting the Hill Coolies for the purpose of cultivating the West Indies, and he could assure the noble Duke and the House that every pains would be taken by Government to render the operation of the order in Council of July as safe as it could be made.
could not concur in, or feel satisfied with what had fallen from the noble Viscount. Every kind of security, as it appeared to him, the most ample security, ought to be taken, to prevent abuse of the system in question. With respect to the suggestions of the noble Duke, there was not one of them which did not already exist, either in some act of Parliament or among the regulations of the East-India Company, with reference to their seamen. There were twenty-three of these regulations, only three of which had been adopted by the Order in Council. The first regulation was, that there should be on board the same ship an European, speaking the language of these people, and that he should continue with them and watch over their interests. He must say he felt the deepest regard for his noble Friend at the head of the affairs of India, but he did most deeply regret his noble Friend's conduct on this question. Why did his noble Friend remit such a subject to law commissioners? It was, of all others, a subject for practical men, not lawyers, however skilful, to deal with. And what had been the result? Why, it was in March, 1836, that the question was submitted, and not till March, 1837, that the trash which was called a law was put forth by these seven gentlemen, each of whom was said to have contributed a separate portion of the law. As a specimen of its efficacy, he would merely state that there was no security given to the Government for the performance of 464 the contracts entered into with these people beyond what the presence of the custom-house officers, who had the discharge of the vessel, could offer. And yet, on the face of the papers laid on the table of the House, it appeared that no people required the paternal care of the Government more than they did. One of those papers, a communication made by the agent in Calcutta, stated that they knew nothing whatever of where they were going to, that they were perfectly ignorant of everything connected with the voyage, and the labour they were hired to perform; and that some of them, those of the hill tribes, were more like monkeys than men. There was another point to which he wished to call their Lordships' most serious attention. Mr. Gladstone had very properly expressed his wish that not less than one-half of the persons transported from the East Indies should be females, though the person whose evidence lay on the Table, expressed his doubts how far the women, from their peculiar habits, might be willing to go. What then, was the proposition before their Lordships? That the number of men transported to the West Indies should be in the proportion of 100 to seven females—he never would be accessory to such a plan. The noble Lord then read an extract from the documents to which he referred above, which represented the Coolies as having no wants but those of eating, drinking, and sleeping. These, then, were the persons with whom they were about to colonize the West Indies. It was clear from all that had been said, and from other sources, that very great apprehension existed even on the part of those who had achieved the great work of negro emancipation, with respect to the ultimate effects of that measure, that the negro would not work, and therefore that the measure would fail. For himself, he was willing to unite with the noble and learned Lord, and with the noble Duke, to pass any law to regulate the state of society in those islands; but he did not see that they ought to involve natives of the East Indies also in the consequences of emancipation which might come to light there. If he saw any of the regulations of the East-India Company respecting their seamen adopted by the Government, he should not be indisposed to join them, but not having seen anything of this sort, he had thought it his duty to come forward and state his opinion 465 to the House. In every word that had fallen from his noble and learned Friend (Lord Brougham) he fully agreed; but with respect to the resolutions, he could not express similar sentiments, because the resolutions did not in fact go to eradicate the system of transporting East Indian labourers, while the speech of the noble and learned Lord was wholly directed to that object. Since that law had been passed in India on the subject, which by the way, was on the face of it wholly inadequate, but which, as was natural, the noble Baron stated to be satisfactory, no one step in the matter had been taken by the Government, though the noble Viscount now stated, that the suggestions of the noble Duke should receive the fullest consideration of Government. It was his conviction that the system which the noble Baron had sanctioned, practically reestablished slavery and the slave-trade, and having had the good fortune to be at one time intimately connected with India, and grateful as that country was for the benefits it derived From our rule, he had felt peculiarly bound to come forward and call upon their Lordships not to agree to introduce into that country the frightful evils of slavery.
The masterly speech which has just been delivered by my noble Friend (Lord Ellenborough), while it calls for my cordial thanks, relieves your Lordships from hearing many points, which he has handled, discussed far less effectively by me, in availing myself of the right of reply, which your courtesy bestows. But a few words of explanation are required by one or two things which have fallen from the noble Duke (Wellington), for whom I entertain the most unqualified respect, and whose authority, as a practical statesman, I place in the foremost rank.
First, however, I must express my unbounded astonishment at the speech of my noble Friend (Lord Glenelg), not only has he left wholly unnoticed my distinct and formal challenge, to show wherein this measure differs from the scheme of Letord, which all the authorities, both in the Mauritius and at home, stigmatised as a mere blind for a slave-trading adventure; but he has argued the whole question as if there were no Madras on the map of Asia—no Bombay—no Ceylon—for which no rules are made—no Pondicherry belonging to France, for which we cannot 466 make any rule—no Goa in the hands of slave-trading Portugal—no African coast within the Company's limits—and for which there exists not an authority on earth that can make a single rule, or watch a mile of the sea board. The whole reliance has been placed on the law made at Calcutta by my noble Kinsman, the Governor General in Council (Lord Auckland)—a law of no kind of value, had it comprehended all Asia and Africa too—a law in which my noble relation attempted little and effected less—pretending to prevent hardly any thing, and really preventing nothing at all—feeble in its provisions—impotent in its enactments—insignificant in its rubric—a blank in its body—when every one knows, and I had expressly so argued it, that no law made by the Governor in Council (if in Council the potentate who made such a thing can be said to sit) has any force or effect whatever, were it as omnipotent as it is inefficient, beyond the presidency of Fort William, and never could affect a single atom of the traffic which most of all this measure is intended to encourage, and which most requires regulation and control. But in overturning the whole speech of my noble Friend, I have also disposed of the noble Duke's. For his only reason for resisting the motion and offering the Government an escape through the previous question is their acceptance of his offer to pass certain regulations. Suppose the noble Duke's system were adopted tomorrow—and I think I am using sufficiently complimentary language when I call it a system, for assuredly I do not profess to admire it as much as I have hitherto been wont to admire all its author's productions, whether as a soldier or as a statesman. Suppose my noble Kinsman (Lord Auckland) had enacted every title of it in Council, instead of his own puny regulation of the 1st of July—still it would have been confined to Bengal. [The Duke of Wellington: All are included.] No, not Pondicherry, for there you cannot legislate; not Goa, for that is Portuguese—not any part of the African coast, over the whole of which this measure of July sweeps, enveloping all in the slave trade. That measure, our Order in Council, is now given up—it cannot for an instant stand; for every argument urged in its defence assumes that it must be accompanied or followed by other regulations some of which have not been, others of which never can be, made. The noble 467 Duke admits this as distinctly as my noble Friend. Then I shew you places without number, where no regulations whatever can be made by all the powers and authorities existing in the empire, and that is decisive against the Order in Council. I have waited and in vain for any answer to this main branch of the argument from the noble Secretary of State—I put it to him in every form, and he makes no sign. Therefore that Order stands convicted—viz., by confession it stands convicted of leaving the door a-jar to the African slave-trader, under the fairer name of encouraging the trade in apprentices—for I call it as bad as leaving the door a-jar to affect shutting the main gate while you leave half a yard to the one side, a door wide open, through which the whole body of it may enter, and which there exists no power within your reach, nay, no power on this earth that can shut it.
Much was said by the noble Duke of the value of colonial possessions, the necessity of more hands to cultivate our plantations, and the tendency of these resolutions to prevent their importation. But here it is that the noble Duke has entirely mistaken both the tenor of my opinions and the scope of the resolutions. I am not one of those who object to colonial establishments. Many men for whom I have a great and just respect do go this length. My opinion differs from their's. I lately stated how I draw the line. I make a great distinction between such colonies as those on the main land of North America, where men settle without the plan of returning home, where the property is in the hands of personal residents, and which are extensive enough to defend themselves. When these are able to stand alone, when it is no longer of mutual benefit that the colonial relation should continue, the separation is advantageous to both parent state and settlement. But as I lately stated in the argument I held with my noble Friend, now absent, unfortunately from a domestic affliction (Lord Ashburton), the slave colonies are differently circumstanced; and no one can doubt the mutual benefits of their continued dependance upon the mother country. They are important to our commerce and still more to our income and wealth—we are of use towards their defence—and in a military point of view the connexion may be exceedingly material. I have not therefore a word to say against the noble Duke's high value which he sets upon such possessions. How far their cul- 468 tivation, after the Emancipation Act comes into full play will require an importation of labourers from the East is quite another question. But then it is one on which these resolutions pronounce no opinion whatever. I defy any man to point out one line of either resolution which even looks in that direction. Why do I thus confidently say so? Because I purposely framed them so as to keep quite clear of a subject, on which I knew men might differ widely while they all agreed in the main object of censuring the Order in Council. But says the noble Viscount (Melbourne) following the noble Duke, whose unwillingness to remove him from the office holden at his Grace's pleasure seems to have excited a just feeling of thankfulness, a great experiment is about to be made. We cannot tell, he says, what may happen in 1840—I hope and trust that will be all known two years earlier—therefore, he adds, let us be on our guard. Why not? Certainly let us be on our guard—but do you say a single word to shew that this Order in Council for importing more apprentices puts us more on our guard? What will betide us, says the noble Duke, should the emancipated negroes refuse to work for hire? How will your estates then be cultivated? and how can you tell that they will pass from the state of slavery to that of industrious workmen? How can I tell? Why by looking at what they are already doing—in Jamaica and Barbadoes where they work every spare hour voluntarily for wages—in Antigua and Bermuda where they have been as free as the peasantry of Hampshire for near three years, and have worked as hard and behaved themselves as well. On this head, then, I have not the shadow of a doubt, nor am I entitled to have—if experience can be trusted as a safe guide. But furthermore—suppose me quite wrong—suppose the whole experience of the past belied by the future, and that all the negroes refuse to work the moment the hour of their liberation strikes—here are 800,000 idle and dissolute, and restless and rebellious negroes (for there can be no middle state between peace with industry and idleness with revolt)—and the noble Duke would keep all quiet and reclaim all from idleness by sprinkling over this vast mass 3000 or 4000 Coolies from Asia. The supposition is that all the West Indies are in a state of inaction first—presently after of insurrection and confusion—no work done but that of mischief—no labour, no quiet, no subor- 469 dination—all is a mass of confusion, and every portion of the vast population is in a ferment—when sprinkling over the boiling mass a few peaceful and indolent natives of Hindoostan will at once restore universal quiet, and all will suddenly sink down to rest!Hi moths animorum atque hæc certamina tanta Pulveris exigui jactûcompressa quiescent!But I have said, my Lords, that these resolutions, pronounce no judgment whatever upon the policy of importing new hands. All my opinions on this subject may be as erroneous as you please—the noble Duke's and the Government's under his protection, as well grounded as possible—whatever may be my private opinion, you are to vote on the resolutions and not on the speech that introduces and defends them; and he who holds as high as the noble Duke the necessity of introducing new labourers may most correctly and earnestly join with him who has no opinion of the kind in supporting resolutions which leave the question wholly untouched. Nay, the more I was of the noble Duke's opinion—the higher I valued the importation as a resource—the more should I vote for these resolutions—because they go only to condemn a most erroneous mode of trying this experiment—a mode which its authors shrink from defending, and which the noble Duke and every one else join in condemning, as not giving the experiment fair play. Can anything indeed be more unfair towards that experiment than trying it in such a clumsy, bungling manner as to bring upon it the odium of being a new slave trade?
While, however, this is the clear and undeniable posture of the question in debate, I cannot at all abandon the jealousy and indeed the aversion with which I regard all plans whatever of wholesale shifting of population. Nor am I in the least degree won over to such plans by hearing their defence clothed in language drawn from the science of political economy. My noble Friend calls it "a free circulation of labour," and professes his reluctance to abandon on this subject his tenets as an economist. I have heard the terms and the doctrines of political economy turned to manyuses in my time. They have been used to defend State Lotteries, insurances in the Lottery—stock-jobbing—time-bargains in the funds. Why, it is said, should there be any interference with the free use of capital, or of skill and of labour in these departments of industry? 470 On the Continent it has been applied to even baser uses—and made to defend the establishment of public stews, under due regulations for the benefit of the subject. But I own I have never yet heard those principles applied where they were more out of place and season than to the subject of the slave trade. Can any man in his sober senses think of calling the wholesale embarking of Hindoos and then transporting them to the antipodes, to work in ways wholly unknown to them, and foreign to their nature and habits, and pretend that giving it facilities—encouragement—stimulants—is furthering the free circulation of labour? The argument against all this plan is, that there is mere slave trading in every part of it—that a felony lurks under each of its arrangements. Then do the political economists and my noble Friend who is so vigorous a stickler for their doctrines, hold that the circulation of labour is interrupted by preventing the slave trade? If they do—nor can they stop a hair's-breadth short of this—then I am for abiding by the law of God and the law of the land, let their laws of political economy fare how they may.
The noble Duke has proposed certain terms to the Government as the price of his support—"Promise me you will adopt my code of regulation, says he, and you shall not be condemned by a vote of censure this time." The hook so baited was sure to take, the Ministers bit immediately—but they were not caught. "O yes—by all means"—"Any thing you please," says the noble Viscount—"we agree at once"—to what? Not to the proposal made, but only to consider of it—"We will take it into our best consideration." I don't much think this kind of acceptance will catch the noble Duke. He saw the noble Viscount swallow the bait—but he had not caught his fish—away it ran with the line in its mouth, down the stream, and buried itself in "serious consideration." Why, I defy the noble Duke to propose any one thing on any one subject which the Government, and all the House, and the country too, will not as a matter of course take into serious and respectful consideration. The noble Viscount will consider of it—so shall I but very possibly he may end by thinking as little of it as I do. Considering of it proves no assent—Le Roi s'avisera, is the form of rejecting bills—the Sovereign has only once or twice taken any measure into consideration since the Revolution, though he has assented to some thousands; 471 and the Minister too may consider and reject. The nature of the noble Viscount's answer then was, to use the phraseology of a witness on a memorable occasion at that Bar, more no than yes. So as the noble Duke failed to catch the noble Viscount, the noble Viscount must not expect to catch the noble Duke—anxious as he is to be taken upon the present oceasion.
I hear it said by my noble Friend (Lord Glenelg), that there is a wide difference between his plan and Mr. Barham's in 1811, inasmuch as slavery then existed, and the Chinese were to be brought over as free labourers—whereas apprenticeship is now the law, and the Hindoos are to come into a colony of apprenticed labourers. That is precisely my argument to shew how much worse this plan is, than that; and yet that was not endured by any one who knew the subject ever so imperfectly. No one would have listened to Mr. Barham's proposition, but that he was to make all the labourers he brought over free at once; they were to be free from every shackle imposed upon the negroes. Here the Hindoos are to be subject to every restrainst which the negroes endure—nay, this plan is to continue for years after the negroes are set free.
But a new argument is raised by the noble Viscount (Lord Melbourne). "Take care," says he, "how you set men's interests against their duty, and raise their strongest prejudices against negro freedom. The slavery of the ancient world was only extinguished by it becoming men's interest to prefer free labour to slave labour; therefore, if you make free labour so scarce in the West Indies as to make it dear, slavery never can cease." I am not sensible of ever in my life having heard a piece of reasoning more absurd in all its parts—one in which the incorrectness of the facts assumed, more strove for the mastery with the thoughtlessness of the inferences drawn from them. What! slavery in Europe extinguished by the high price of slave labour, or any other calculation of profit and loss! Why, I had always believed that it was the mild spirit of the gospel of Christ which worked by slow degrees this happy change. I state the sentiments I have always heard accounted just, and not out of deference to the right rev. Prelates in whose presence I speak, and who to their immortal honour have never once refused their support to any one proposition adverse to the slave trade. But never before 472 did I hear it doubted, that first the spirit of Christianity, hostile to all cruelty and oppression, and afterwards the efforts of zealous priests, even refusing the rights of the Church to men unless they would free their bondsmen, gradually wrought the happy change which the noble Lord ascribes to a Calculation of interest. But grant him his facts; how do they prove the emancipation to be in any danger from a rise in the wages of labour? He talks as if the Act had never passed, and we were trusting to men's interests for setting their slaves free. Happily, longer than August, 1840, they cannot be retained in any form of servitude. Does he dread, that high wages will bring back the chain and the cart-whip? I have no share in his chimerical apprehensions. I defy all the combinations which cruelty can effect with avarice to restore that hideous state of society of which the knell sounded over the Atlantic in 1833. No, no! I will trust the negro people for that. They will keep what they have got. Trust me, they will set at defiance all the noble Lord's calculations, and all the wishes of their former masters, and never more consent to work one spell of work, but for their own behoof—be the terms of their employment ever so distasteful to their white neighbours—be their desire for a restoration of the yoke, and the chain, and the cartwhip, ever so intense. The renewal of the slave trade is a very different thing. On that my fears are indeed grave and perplexing—for I know the Indian crimp and the African trader—the inexhaustible perfidies of the dealers in men, and the scope which those frauds have among hordes of uncivilised men, many of them in their own country slaves—the comfort and aid which those wretches may reckon upon receiving from accomplices ready made, such as the bribed governor on the Spanish Main, and the friendly authorities of Cuba.
But I am told to be of good courage and not to despond—there is no fear of abuse—no prospect of the horrible traffic so much condemned ever taking root in our islands. I am bid to look at the influence of public opinion —the watchfulness of the press—the unceasing efforts of all the societies—the jealous vigilance of Parliament. Am I, then, to stand by and suffer the traffic to be revived in the hope that we shall again be able to work its extirpation? Trust, say the friends of this abominable measure, trust to the force which gained the former triumph, 473 Expect some Clarkson to arise, mighty in the powers of persevering philanthropy, with the piety of a saint and the courage of a martyr—hope for some second Wilberforce, who shall cast away all ambition but that of doing good, scorn all power but that of relieving his fellow-creatures, and reserving for mankind what others give up to party, know no vocation but that blessed work of furthering justice and freeing the slave—reckon upon once more seeing a Government like that of 1806—alas, how different from any we now witness !formed of men who deem no work of humanity below their care or alien to their nature, and resolved to fulfil their high destiny, heard the court, confront the peers, contemn the planters—and in despite of planter, and peer, and prince, crush the foreign traffic with one hand while they give up the staff of power with the other, rather than be patrons of intolerance at home! These are the views with which it is sought to console us and gain us over to the ill-starred measure before you.
I make for answer—if it please you—No—by no means—nothing of all this. The monster is down, and I prefer keeping him down to relying upon all our resources for gaining a second triumph. I will not suffer the Upas tree to be transplanted, on the chance of its not thriving in an ungenial soil, and in the hope that after it shall be found to blight with death all beneath its shade, my arm may be found strong enough to wield the axe which shall lay it low. I thank you for the patience with which you have listened to me, and on which I have unwillingly trespassed so long. My bounden duty could not otherwise have been performed; and I had no choice but to act now as I have acted ever through the whole of my life—maintaining to the end the implacable enmity with which I have at all times pursued this infernal trade.
§ Lord Lyndhurst
wished distinctly to state to the House the reason for which he proposed giving his vote in favour of the motion of the noble and learned Lord opposite. It was, that he thought the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies, should not have advocated the adoption of the Order in Council in July until he had made adequate provision to prevent the abuses which he thought the Order in Council would very naturally have caused. It was on this ground that he proposed to give his vote in favour of the noble and learned Lord's motion.
§ The Duke of Wellington
had proposed to the noble Viscount at the head of the Administration to adopt a system which he thought would amend the law in the West-Indian colonies for the purposes of the description of population which had been already alluded to, and the noble Viscount had on his statement (a very loose one, he must admit) of his views expressed his intention to take that system into consideration. He was quite satisfied that when the noble Viscount stated that it was his intention to take his suggestion into consideration, it was his intention to do so with a view to its being ultimately carried into effect in a way which would be satisfactory both to him and the House, and on the principle which he recommended. He thought that it would not be advisable to go to a division on the motion of the noble and learned Lord as it stood, and he should, therefore, move the previous question.
§ Lord Fitzgerald
was anxious, before the House divided, to know from the noble Viscount opposite if he adopted the advice of the noble Duke, and intended to act upon it in the spirit in which it had been given. It would be extremely painful for him, as well as for several noble Lords near him, not to vote for the amendment of the noble Duke; but unless the noble Viscount asserted that he received and adopted the recommendation of the noble Duke in the sense in which it was given, a sense of duty would compel him to vote with the noble and learned Lord.
§ Viscount Melbourne
replied, that of course when he adopted the advice of the noble Duke he assented entirely to the advice so given. He had already stated on behalf of himself and colleagues, that they would take the advice of the noble Duke into their serious consideration in a spirit of sincerity, not merely because it was the course of proceeding recommended by the noble Duke, but because he believed that it was the plan, if adhered to and persevered in, the best calculated to guard against all the evils which had been pointed out to them.
trusted, that he should also be excused asking the noble Viscount a question. Supposing the noble Duke's plan to be adopted, what was there in it to prevent Africans from being removed from Pondicherry and Goa to the western colonial possessions?
|List of the CONTENTS.|
|Sutherland||Lichfield & Coventry|
|Aberdeen||Douglas of Douglas|
|Ripon||Saye and Sele|
|Uxbridge||Stuart de Rothsay|
|List of the NOT CONTENTS.|
|Clanricarde||Bath and Wells|
|Harrowby||Brougham and Vaux|
§ Original motion not put.
wished to learn from the noble Viscount, as the recess was approaching, when he intended to bring forward the measure which he had promised, and which he had been driven into from apprehension of being in a minority, and which he would have been in had not the noble Duke come forward to his assistance. When did the noble Viscount mean to bring in his Bill, and which had been adopted at the suggestion of the noble Duke opposite?
§ Viscount Melbourne
could not at that moment tell when a measure on the subject 476 would be proposed, but it would be brought forward with as little delay as possible, allowing for the importance of the subject. However anxious, therefore, he was to suit the convenience of the noble and learned Lord, he could not then give him a positive answer.