The Bishop of Exeter
, upon presenting petitions against slavery from the Wesleyan Methodists of Bath, from the Society of Friends of Sutton, from 3,175 females resident in Bradford, and from several dissenting congregations in that town, observed, that he was one of those who had not been very sanguine in their expectations of the results which would probably attend the emancipation of the negroes. He was one of those who, at the time when the measure of emancipation passed, did not think that the negroes were sufficiently prepared for the reception of that great boon. But from all that had since transpired, from all the evidence which had been collected on the subject, he felt thoroughly convinced that the negroes were now fitted for it and he, therefore, thought that the question of 2 their fitness or unfitness might now be considered at an end. The principle of the act of 1833, which was, that the negroes should be set free, should therefore now, he humbly conceived, come into unrestricted operation. That principle was not extended to the negroes at that period, because it was judged that at that time they were not in a fit state for its operation—that, instead of a boon, emancipation would have turned out a curse, after the negroes had been subjected for so many years to the most grinding tyranny. For his part, he thought it to be no weak argument in favour of the planters, that the negroes upon their estates were so soon found fit for manumission. If, indeed, they had been subjected to a despotism so unmitigated as that which they were described to have borne through so lengthened a period of misery, was it, he would ask, in human nature that they could have been so soon fitted to receive their emancipation complete and unrestricted? He returned, therefore, to the great principle, that, being fit, it was just they should be set 3 free. But the measure was not only just, but, as proved by the evidence, expedient. They were not to withhold this signal, this invaluable boon, because of any compact existing between the planters and the Legislature, and for this plain reason, that the negroes were not at all parties to that compact. If the planters had well-founded claims to additional compensation, let them put in those claims, and they would undoubtedly receive their due degree of attention. He had even looked upon the act of 1833 as the proudest monument of legislation which any nation ever reared, as the noblest example which Great Britain had exhibited to the world; and he, therefore, trusted that no obstacle would be presented to its complete success—that no means might be permitted to be adopted by which its efficacy might be impaired.
then presented a petition, also praying for the abolition of negro apprenticeship, from the borough of Aberystwith, signed by the mayor and the greater part of the inhabitants. The noble and learned Lord said, that he was sorry to be obliged to present a great number of petitions upon this subject to-day instead of yesterday. He had then presented 124, and had abstained from presenting the remainder because, although he had expressly stated his intention of presenting those petitions on the Wednesday, with a view to the accommodation of their Lordships, an arrangement to which the noble Viscount (Melbourne) stated, that he had no objection, neither that noble Viscount nor any other Member of the Cabinet, and very few Peers besides, had chosen to attend. When the noble Viscount said, that he had no objection to meeting on the Wednesday, he supposed the noble Viscount meant that he had none to meet vicariously. The noble Duke said, most positively, that he would not come; and, therefore, with characteristic consistency, he did not come. After that declaration, he never expected that the noble Duke would attend. With regard to the nonattendance of other noble Lords, he supposed he might be permitted to observe, that as some people from bad habits sometimes go to places to which they should not go, so others from bad habits sometimes don't come to places where they should attend. He would not have been doing his duty to the constituencies which had honoured him with the presentation of 4 these petitions if he had presented them to so thin a House as that which had assembled yesterday. After presenting the petitions, the noble and learned Lord continued, he had now presented considerably above 200 petitions, in addition to the 120 which he had presented the other day. He had gone through them as fast as he could, but he had still taken up three quarters of an hour of their Lordships' valuable time, which, however, could not be better bestowed than in listening to the respectful prayers of all classes of the community. He had not read the prayer of any of these petitions at length, but not from any want of respect for the petitioners, but there was one petition which he had to present which he felt bound to single out from the rest, as it was signed by his excellent, amiable, and revered friend Thomas Clarkson, a man whom to name was an honour. The petitions which he had presented proceeded from all classes and sects of the community, and among them were a vast number from corporate bodies and from public meetings. He had now to state the great gratification he felt in having the authority in favour of the views of these petitioners of the Lord Chief Justice of England, with whom he had been in communication upon this important and universally interesting question—upon the doubts and difficulties his noble and learned Friend had entertained on the question of contract and compact. He had asked his noble and learned Friend to consider the question; he had done so, and he (Lord Brougham) regretted that his noble and learned Friend, from his judicial duties, had been prevented from expressing that opinion on the occasion of either of the two discussions which had taken place on this matter. His noble and learned Friend wished not to be misunderstood as now holding any doubts or difficulties on the question, and that no mistake as to his opinion should be allowed to exist by reason of his absence. With that modesty which always accompanied worth, his noble and learned Friend had reluctantly complied with his (Lord Brougham's) request to state his views, and as part of his speech he should beg leave to read the letter he had received from his noble and learned Friend. "Supposing," said the noble and learned authority, "the Act of 1833 to be a compact between the planters and the Parliament of England, 5 acting as trustees for the negroes, no doubt the breach of an implied condition by the former would release the latter from their engagements. But I cannot so consider it. I deny the right of this country to stipulate for the negroes" The noble and learned Chief Justice of England might be mistaken, but his authority was entitled to weight with their Lordships and with the country. He said,I deny the right of this country to stipulate for the negroes. How could it be obtained? It originated in crimes, which if not properly called piracy, deserve a harsher name, and existed only because slavery existed, the lawfulness of which I have always denied. In other words, it was power without right; and the Act was an experiment by two joint wrongdoers (the more powerful of whom sincerely repented) whether the evil would not be best put down by continuing it in a mitigated form. This compromise, like a thousand other attempts to reconcile right and wrong, is admitted on all hands to have failed; compulsory apprenticeship, which was another name for slavery, and could only be justified by expediency, is proved to be inexpedient, and nothing remains but the duty of the mother country to afford to all her subjects the protection of equal laws. I am, therefore, fully prepared to consent to the immediate abolition of negro apprenticeship.After such an opinion thus expressed by so illustrious a convert, he would not detain their Lordships by any lengthy observations. It had, however, been said, that if the Bill for the abolition of negro apprenticeship should pass (as he hoped to God before two suns should rise it would), the responsibility of the consequences of the measure ought to fall upon its authors. He consented—he claimed—and he would not have his claim resisted—to take his full, and if it pleased the House, his individual share in that responsibility, and he felt assured that even under that load and that weight his sleep would be easy and sound. He should mistake his own opinions—he should misrepresent his own feelings—he should mislead and deceive his fellow-countrymen, if he did not say, that there was another responsibility, the weight of which, God forbid, should lie on his shoulders, which he would not take—he would not take the minutest particle of the responsibility with which those would be loaded and pressed down who, knowing the state of existing circumstances—knowing the present state of the West Indies—knowing the public voice to be unanimously raised 6 in this country with an universality and a strength of expression, the loudness of whose tone had never been equalled on any other question—would refuse the prayers of the people of England on behalf of the slaves of the colonies.
§ The Duke of Wellington
said, that he had been intrusted with two petitions from the merchants connected with the West-India colonies, and resident in London and in Liverpool, to present to their Lordships. The petitioners stated, that they were interested in plantations situated in the West-India colonies, either as owners, or as entitled to mortgages and other incumbrances upon the same. They stated, that by the 'Act for the Abolition of Slavery, for promoting the industry of the manumitted slaves, and for compensating the persons hitherto entitled to the services of such slaves,' compensation for the labour of the slaves thereby manumitted was secured to your petitioners and others, by a money payment, amounting, in the whole, to 20,000,000l. sterling, and by a right to the services of the emancipated slaves as apprenticed labourers during a limited period; that period, in the case of the prædial apprentices, will not expire until the 1st of August, 1840; such right to the services of the apprentices was part and parcel of the compensation, in consideration of which the petitioners were compelled to resign their property; and that the right to the said services was declared by the Emancipation Act to be transferrable property, and, on the faith of that law, had been made the subject of sale and purchase, and of testamentary and other legal disposition. That the petitioners had learned with astonishment that a Bill had been introduced into their Lordships' House, entitled 'An Act for putting an end to the Apprenticeship of those who were formerly Slaves in the British Colonies;' by which it was proposed to terminate the apprenticeship on the 1st of August, 1838, without providing an equivalent indemnification to the petitioners and others for the loss of that portion of the compensation secured to them by the Act, and of which they would thus be deprived. That any measure of that nature would be a direct violation of the Emancipation Act, which had been emphatically styled' a national compact, of which Parliament was at once the author and the guarantee,' would be contrary to all the rules of British legisla- 7 tion, and opposed to the eternal principles of justice. That, although it had been alleged as an excuse for this measure, that adequate protection had not been afforded to the apprenticed labourers, and that they had experienced cruel and oppressive treatment from their employers; yet the petitioners, lamenting that there should appear to be any foundation for such charges, respectively represent that at present they chiefly rest upon ex parte evidence; and the petitioners confidently assert, that even if proved, they are the rare exception, and not the general practice of the colonies. In corroboration of this assertion, the petitioners refer to an extract from a circular despatch from Lord Glenelg to the governors of the West India colonies, dated November 6, 1837, in which it was stated, that 'hitherto the results of the great experiment of the abolition of slavery had been such as to justify the most sanguine hopes of the authors and advocates of the measure.' Whilst the petitioners protested against the abridgement of the period of apprenticeship, they were ready to carry into execution any measure which might be found requisite and expedient for securing the due performance, by both masters and apprentices, of the several duties and obligations imposed upon them by the Emancipation Act, the petitioners confidently trusting in the justice and wisdom of the House, that any measure for that purpose will be framed in conformity with the true spirit and meaning of the said Act. That the assertions made by the enemies of the colonists, to the effect that no loss had resulted to the planters from the emancipation of their slaves were sufficiently disproved by the fact, that whilst the quantity of produce made had greatly diminished, the expenses of cultivation had been increased by large payments for extra labour. That the proposed abridgement of the period of apprenticeship would not only be an act of gross injustice, and a violation of the right of property, but would materially endanger the final success of the great experiment of emancipation, and the maintenance of the colonies, as valuable and productive possessions of the Crown, inasmuch as no provision had yet been made for the new state of society in which the colonies would be placed upon the expiration of the apprenticeship. That the currency in the colonies did not rest upon any sound basis, and that even un- 8 der existing circumstances it was found difficult to keep in the colonies an amount of coin sufficient for the wants of the population. That this would be materially increased upon the expiration of the apprenticeship, when the labourer would have to supply himself with those articles of food and clothing with which he was at present supplied by the master, and the weekly payment of wages in money would require an increase of the circulating medium. That the establishment in the colonies of a sound monetary system and the enactment of proper laws for the support of the infirm and aged poor, the suppression of vagrancy, the summary adjustment of disputes between masters and servants, and for regulating the militia, the elective franchise, and the qualification of jurors, ought to precede the termination of the apprenticeship. No legislation on these important subjects had yet taken place, for reliance had been placed upon the enactment, that the apprenticeship should continue until the 1st of August, 1840; and further, it was the opinion of the Select Committee of the House of Commons on negro apprenticeship in 1836, and of her Majesty's Government, that it would be 'most expedient, that such enactments as were intended to come into operation after 1840 should as much as possible be delayed until that period should arrive, and at all events be postponed until the time which more immediately preceded it.' That there was no precedent in the history of the world of so large a proportion of the population of a country being suddenly raised from a state of slavery to the enjoyment of all the civil rights possessed by the rest of the community, and that the remaining period of apprenticeship afforded but a short time for the deliberate preparation and enactment of those precautionary laws which so momentous a change in the state of society imperatively demanded. The petitioners therefore prayed, that the Bill entitled ' An Act for putting an end to the Apprenticeship of those who were formerly Slaves in the British Colonies' might not be passed, and that the petitioners might be heard at the bar of their Lordships' House by their counsel or agents. He begged leave to move, that these petitions he laid upon their Lordships' table. He had listened, as he always did, with the greatest attention to the speech just made by the noble and learned 9 Lord opposite, and particularly had he attended to the statement of the opinions held on this subject by the noble and learned Lord who to-night was absent from his place. He had the greatest respect and veneration for the opinions of that noble and learned Lord, more particularly when those opinions were delivered from the judgment seat; but he had had the misfortune of differing from the opinions expressed in that House by the noble and learned Lord now absent, and he must say, that he could not consider the noble and learned Lord's opinion delivered in a letter in answer to another letter which had not been produced, as one upon which the House could entirely rely. Upon the discussion of the question of compact or not he (the Duke of Wellington) would not enter. In the Act of Parliament for the Abolition of Slavery, he could not find the word "compact" or "contract," but that which he did find, and to which he desired to draw attention, and particularly the attention of the right rev. Bench, was, that a beneficial interest had been created by the Act of Parliament in the services of these apprentices for a certain period of years up to the year 1840. He begged to observe also, that not only was this beneficial interest given to the colonists as individuals, as the possessors of estates, and the former possessors of slaves, but, as justly stated in the petition he had read, it was declared in the 10th Clause of the Act, that the services of the apprenticed labourers could be disposed of by sale or will. On the other hand, power was given to those apprentices to purchase their manumission from the planters at any period before August, 1840, upon an appraisement of the value of their services in the interim. He begged their Lordships to reflect whether, without any fault being brought home to the colonists, they should be deprived of their beneficial interest in those apprentices. If their Lordships took such a step, he would venture to tell them, that it would be a disasterous one for the prosperity of the West-Indian colonies. By the Act which the Legislature had already passed, compensation had been given for that amount of interest in the negro labour which they had resigned; and on the same principle, further compensation ought to be given, if their remaining interest was taken away. It was, however, quite clear, that the negro apprentices were not prepared for that 10 new state of society which would take place in the event of immediate and universal manumission. He had felt it to be his duty to make these remarks, in consequence of what had fallen from the noble and learned Lord and the most rev. Prelate; and he called upon their Lordships to reflect on the contents of the petitions he now presented.
Lord St. Vincent
was sorry to trespass on the time of the House; but as an individual proprietor he wished to say a few words. It had been said, that the apprenticeship system was considered on all hands not to have worked well; now, as far as his experience went, and certainly upon his own property, it had worked extremely well. He did not feel disposed to adopt the language of the noble Marquess (Sligo), by expressing his readiness at once to emancipate the negroes on his estate, unless those negroes were properly prepared, and the Legislature of the colony had made due provision for the change, according to the statement of the petition presented by the noble Duke. If that preparation had been made, he could not feel the slightest disinclination to do away with a system which he had ever deplored, and from which he would be glad to escape; but the circumstances did not exist which could secure to the negroes all those social enjoyments which would arise from the boon of emancipation when attended with the improvement of the moral character and the requisite preparations for the new state of things, or which, on the other hand, could secure at all the interests of the planters. He should, therefore, oppose any premature measure. The noble and learned Lord opposite had the other night remonstrated with the noble Earl (Earl Stanhope) for taking measures calculated to produce excitement amongst the labouring classes. Now, he would beg to ask that noble and learned Lord, whether he had such an opinion of the superior civilisation of the negro population of the West Indies as to suppose, that the language which he had employed on this subject was not calculated to produce equally mischievous excitement? He did not mean to insinuate, that he was opposed generally to the New Poor-law Bill; he was of opinion, that it required some alteration; but he thought, that there was some analogy between one part of it and a part of the system in the workhouses in the West Indies, against which violent 11 complaints had been made. The medical man was the person appointed to decide when any one was unable to work; and so it was in the workhouses there, but still the charge was made, that the apprentices were worked when they were in too bad a state of health. It came to the same point, which had led to so much alarm—the decision of the medical man as to the power to work. He perfectly subscribed to all the language and reasoning set forth in the petition presented by the noble Duke, and he could not perceive, that there was anything irrational in that petition, although the noble and learned Lord had described those who had signed all the petitions which he had presented as rational people. As to the responsibility which the noble and learned Lord had described as falling so heavy upon those who opposed his measure, he would say, that, conscious that he had done every thing to give effect to the Act of Parliament passed for the Abolition of Slavery, he was willing to undertake that responsibility, because he felt, that the best course was to continue the apprenticeship, and prepare the apprentices for the day of complete emancipation, subject to the superior judgment of those who were resident in the colonies, and best able to decide and point out such measures as would be most efficacious for the object, and advantageous to the negroes.
§ Lord Seaford
was aware of the inconvenience of raising debates on petitions, but, a debate having been already raised, he hoped he might be excused offering a few observations, as there would be no future opportunity of vindicating the claims—the just claims, as most persons considered them—of the West Indian planters, and much misconception having, as he conceived, prevailed with regard to some parts of the question. The advocates of the immediate abolition of slavery appeared to him to have lost sight of many important circumstances with regard to the origin of the measure, and he would beg the House to look back at the history of the question. When the Government and Parliament determined on the abolition of slavery, they adopted the system of apprenticeship as the best and safest mode of accomplishing that measure. He had taken no part in the discussions; but he thought that the House had acted wisely and judiciously, in what it had done: they adopted the course to prepare 12 the apprentice, by gradually emancipating him; which afforded him an opportunity, by improving his moral condition, and by accustoming him to a limited state of freedom, to prepare himself for the unqualified exercise of his civil liberties. That intermediate state was important, by placing at his disposal a portion of his time, and teaching him the habit of labouring for wages, and thus bringing him into the condition of a free labourer; and it was important, also, by rendering his condition satisfactory and comfortable, to temper the change to liberty. For these reasons, also, he thought that the few remaining years of the apprenticeship were of the greatest importance, both to the welfare of the apprentice, and of the master. He considered it the duty of every master so to employ the interval, and it had been so employed in no inconsiderable number of instances, as to prepare the apprentice for the great change which was about to take place. Such were also the views of Parliament, but whether they were wise or not, might be doubted. At any rate, it was scarcely now open to discussion; it had been decided by Parliament and the Government, who were pledged to the due execution of the Act, with the passing of which the colonies had no share. When the Act was sent out there, they were offered compensation, on condition of adopting certain measures which were suggested. It was true that some of the details were left for the special consideration and the superior local information of the colonies; but, at the same time, it was stated, that the grant of compensation would not be allowed, unless the Executive Government was satisfied with the regulations which had been adopted. The colonial Legislatures, and Jamaica among the number, adopted these necessary resolutions, and had received the compensation. The Colonial Secretary had indeed pointed out certain defects in the Bill to be removed, and omissions to be supplied by the local Legislatures; but having had confidence that the necessary alterations would be made, he had granted the compensation. The colonial Legislature did supply the defects and omissions by an Act called the "Act in Aid" By the Act in which Parliament decreed the abolition of slavery, it also granted, than which he could not conceive any Act more solemn and binding, a right to the planters to employ the non-prædial apprentices for 13 a period of four years, and to the masters of the two classes of prædial slaves the right, under certain restrictions, to their labour for an extended term of six years. When the Act was explained to the masters and apprentices in Jamaica, by the Earl of Mulgrave, this was expressly stated, and the extra term for the prædial was stated to be, in consideration of the time for labour, and exemptions granted to them. He offered no comment at the time as to the propriety of making this distinction, but could Parliament now render this position unequal, by curtailing for two years, the term granted to the master for the two prædial classes? At the same time, Parliament granted the right to the masters to transfer and sell, for any part of the term, the services of the apprentices. He would not give his opinion, whether this were or were not a proper power to be given, but it was granted; and the effect had been, that many sales of attached and unattached prædials had been made; the purchasers had thought they had the best of titles, the title, of an Act of Parliament; and would Parliament now vitiate that title, by diminishing the value of the labour by one-half or two-thirds? Further, the beneficial interest in the services of the slaves had been held out as a boon jointly with the compensation for the concurrence of the colonies in the Abolition Act, and would they curtail the term thus given? But it had been stated by the colonial Legislatures, and by the planters, that there had been no compact, and, therefore, no breach of faith; and he wanted to know on what grounds the charge was made, when the Assembly of Jamaica, by adopting the Abolition Bill, had obtained the acknowledgment that they were entitled to compensation, and had passed the Bill in Aid? But this was not all: when the Assembly of Jamaica allowed the Bill in Aid to expire, the Imperial Parliament had renewed the same Bill, without alteration or addition. Thus far, up to 1836, Parliament was debarred from finding fault with the law as it stood; if it were defective, the Imperial Parliament, and the local Legislature was jointly responsible for the defects. But, subsequently, greater defects had been brought to light, great abuses in the administration of the law were found to exist, and the Assembly of Jamaica was called upon by the Governor to amend the law; and he regretted to find, by the last dispatch which had been 14 received from the Governor of the colony, Sir Lionel Smith, that he "entertains no hope that the Assembly will adopt the amendments pointed out, with the view of remedying the evil." He did not defend the Assembly of Jamaica: it was utterly unjust and highly discreditable; it was neither consistent with the duty which they owed to their constituency, nor with what was due to those interests, as the guardians of which they were appointed to protect; but with regard to this country, their conduct was rather contumacy than a breach of faith: it might be such as to call for the interference of Parliament, but it did not justify Parliament in refusing to fulfil its own engagement. The House need not rely on the colonial Legislatures for any alteration which might be necessary for removing abuses. Parliament might apply the remedy which it had already applied in the minor case of the re-enactment of the Bill in Aid. This was the worst conduct which had been adopted by the Assembly since the Bill had passed; he did not, in any degree, palliate it. At the same time, the Imperial Parliament might apply an immediate and most ample remedy. By the Act which had already passed that House, they had, as he thought, applied a remedy, by directly punishing the wrong-doer, and by affording redress to the injured party; by declaring the immediate emancipation of the apprentices who should have suffered injustice or oppression: Moreover, they had placed the power in the hands of those who were trusted by the executive Government, who were appointed by the Government of this country. So far also from having a right to charge a breach of faith on the colonists, in matters of law, let them see whether the charge could be substantiated? Did Parliament confide any share in the administration, either to the Legislative Assembly, or to the local magistracy? On the contrary, Parliament deprived the local magistracy of all jurisdiction over the negro population, and placed the whole in the hands of special magistrates appointed by the Colonial-office, most carefully selected, so as to ensure that there should be no bias in favour of the planters. He believed that the colonial government took every precaution to prevent evasion or thwarting of the Act, and showed the greatest distrust and jealousy of the planters. In this he acknowledged that Government had acted wisely, but, at the 15 same time, the Legislature could not charge a breach of faith on those in whom they had placed no trust. They had heard also of great abuses, of shocking oppressions, and of immense cruelty; and, in support of these statements, the conduct in the workhouses had been adverted to; and he might be allowed to add, that he believed the abuses in the workhouses constituted by far the largest majority of the shocking cases of abuse, oppression, and cruelty. But would emancipation remove those evils, or would it of itself form any remedy at all? He need not remind their Lordships, when they complained of the cruelty, of the oppression, and of the injustice which happened in Jamaica, that free persons were not entirely free from these evils. Had they not lately heard a great deal of the abuses in our own workhouses? They could not forget also the appalling catalogue of abuses which had been recited by his noble and learned Friend near him (Lord Brougham) under the Old Poor-law; and could they consider, that Jamaica would be free from evil, when such were the oppressions practised in the workhouses in England? The evil, as they now existed, would be aggravated when all the old and infirm persons who were now maintained on the estates, would be driven to the workhouses; and that all the misdemeanors, which were now cognizable before the Special Magistrates, and were punishable by them on their own sentences, and on the estates, would all be thrown into the workhouses; that the offences would be cognizable by the Local Magistrates, who would generally punish them by imprisonment in the very workhouses where these great abuses now prevailed. He did not justify the abuses, but he called upon Parliament to consider an immediate and effectual remedy; and a proper remedy, one which ought to be applied previous to the entire emancipation, was, in his opinion, the introduction of a Poor-law system. He said, also, that it ought to be the same as that already established in this country; and he asked noble Lords, when they recollected what length of time had been required for, and what difficulty had attended the establishment of the New Poor-law into England, and the still greater difficulties which had attended its extension to Ireland, whether Oleic would be less difficulty, and whether less time would be required, in introducing 16 the system into Jamaica, and whether it could be established within the few months, which would elapse, prior to the 1st of August? Nor was this the only law which was required. The whole of the penal code of the colonies had been framed, with a reference to the anomalous state of society there, the division into two classes, the one highly privileged, and the other completely servile; and he need not remind their Lordships, how many modifications were necessary to accommodate the laws to the great change by which all persons in the Colonies, would become entitled to their civil rights and liberties. He knew, that this subject had not escaped the attention of his noble Friend, the Secretary of State for the Colonial Department; and he would appeal to his noble Friend, whether, upon the many points to which he had directed his inquiries, the laws necessarily requiring modification before complete emancipation was accorded, were either inconsiderable in number, or in importance? He would also ask his noble Friend, the late Governor of the island of Jamaica (the Marquess of Sligo), whether he did not think, that there would be extreme difficulty within the period, which would elapse before the 1st of August, to effect all the modifications which were necessary for the success of so great a change? And would their Lordships emancipate the apprentices, without preparing those modifications of the law, which were necessary for the transition, from a state of slavery to a state of freedom? Would they increase the difficulties, which were already sufficiently great? Or would they not rather persevere in carrying out the plan which they had laid down for themselves, which had been considered at the time to be as sure as it was safe, which had hitherto worked more satisfactorily than the most sanguine of its supporters, had anticipated, and which, if it were defective on any points, they had the power in their own hands, to apply the correction; to which correction he had never heard the shadow of any objection advanced by any Member of that House, and to which it must be allowed on all hands, that not the shadow or a word of opposition had ever been offered by any person connected with the West India Colonies?
; till my noble Friend who had just sat down had made the remarks which he has addressed to your 17 Lordships it was not my intention, as my noble Friends who sit near me know full well, to have said one word on the general question of negro emancipation. I heard the noble Duke opposite present the two petitions, the two solitary petitions, which have been presented on that side of the question, in answer to the thousands upon thousands of petitioners whose petitions have crowded the table of your Lordships' House and of the other House of Parliament—the two solitary petitions which have lifted up their voices in either House of Parliament on one side of this great question; and, my Lords, I give the petitioners credit for proceeding with due care, for having formed their opinions after great and due deliberation: so far I am willing, my Lords, to attribute great weight to the petitions, and to give to them, from this circumstance alone, some of that value which makes up for the want of numbers when compared with other petitions. The petitions undoubtedly came from those who are deeply interested in this great question, after calm inquiry and with the utmost impartiality; with that perfect want of rashness, that perfect absence of partiality, which never fails to actuate the determination of a man in his own case, and in that singular tribunal where one and the same individual is both a party in the cause and the judge who is to decide its merits, and with that calmness, that delicacy, and with that conscientiousness, and that perfect disinterestedness, these petitioners have come to the clear and decided opinion—God wot that it is clear, God wot that it is decided enough—and perhaps they might have added, without doing to themselves any injustice, an unalterable opinion against the vast numbers of their fellow-citizens who are loudly calling for the abolition of the apprenticeship system, of that vast body of persons who are loud and unanimous in the prayer which they have directed to effect their object in their petitions to both Houses of Parliament. My Lords, on the presentation of petitions I have rigorously observed the rule, and I will appeal to the noble Lord opposite (Viscount St. Vincent), who asks leave to refer me to my own remarks upon an entirely different subject—I will appeal to that noble Lord, if indeed—which I very much doubt—he has been present on any other occasion, save this night, when I have presented petitions, if I have ever deviated a hair's breadth from 18 the rule which I have laid down, not to raise debates on the presentation of petitions, and if I have on any one occasion ventured to raise a discussion on their merits. Night after night, my Lords, I have presented scores and hundreds of petitions on the subject of negro emancipation; I have stated the name of the place only from which they came, and I have made no one observation, except, indeed, when noble Lords, without arguing the subject, expressed their change of sentiments, and supported, not incidentally, but avowedly, my propositions; not introduced to your Lordships' House by any interlocutory remarks, but after I had distinctly avowed my own opinions, and had, after full notice, brought the subject before your Lordships' House; but when my Lords, night after night, and one after another; I heard noble Lords, rising in their places declaring their conversion, I could not refrain from an expression of my joy, unaccompanied, however, by one single word or argument or observation. So, my Lords, when to-night I had received the opinion of my revered and excellent friend, the Lord Chief Justice, I simply read it to your Lordships; but now, my Lords, after all this care, I find myself involved in inquiry, I find the whole merits of the question dragged into discussion; and, my Lords, I have considerable doubts in my own mind, doubts which I shall determine before I sit down, whether I ought not now to conclude with a motion which I avowed that I would postpone till after the recess—whether I ought not now to press what I would not have attempted to revive till after that period—and, my Lords, I can do it, for it requires no notice—whether I ought not to take the sense of the House upon the important question which has been raised and debated by my noble Friend who spoke last. The noble Duke slightly mentioned the subject on the presentation of the petitions with which he had been intrusted, the noble Viscount on the opposition benches (Viscount St. Vincent) entered upon it at greater length, but the noble Lord who spoke last, from the seat behind, has debated it as minutely and as fully as if the question then on the table of the House, were, whether a bill to effect immediate emancipation, and which had been read a first time, should or should not be read a second time—Whether the debate into which I have been dragged shall compel 19 me, whether the debate which has been got up, doubtless without any concert and without any notice, and, at any rate, without any concert with me, and without any notice given to me, in which the planters' interest and the interest of the West Indian slave-holders have been set against the interests of the negroes themselves and against the intention and the prayers of the people of this country, shall urge me to proceed; and whether it be desirable for the planters, even for their own sakes, in the present state of affairs, and under the peculiar circumstances in which they are placed, to force on this very night a discussion on the merits of the hundreds of thousands of persons who have petitioned for the abolition of the West Indian slavery; whether I shall adopt the suggestion remains for me to determine before I resume my seat. Instead of doing so I should, when the noble Duke had presented his petition, have risen to say that I trusted that neither the House nor the noble Duke would consider me guilty of any want of respect if I declined to say one word in answer to the arguments adduced by the petitioners, that their beneficial interest ought to be respected, and that a right of property had been established, but that I would reserve myself upon that point, as well as upon the whole of this treat question, to a more fitting occasion, o the second reading of the bill which I have introduced to your Lordships' House. Such was my determination, and I am sorry that that determination, I lament, I grieve, that by any, and especially by as deliberate a statement as it was possible for a planter to make, or for a pen to deliver, that determination should have been altered, and that I should have been dragged, as it were, into the discussion of the whole question of Negro Emancipation. But I know, my Lords, if I did not enter upon it, what would be said; I know that it would be immediately stated, that the prayer of the petitions which I have had the honour to present could not be supported by argument; but that immediately the planters, at the eleventh hour of the day, when the hour was about to strike, brought forward their case, the friend of the negro apprentices flinched from his duty, glossed over each, and that all was silence; and knowing this, I am compelled, in some sort, to enter upon the discussion of this question. And, first, I will express my gratitude to my noble 20 Friend near me that the skill which he displayed was by no means proportioned to his zeal in the cause; for nothing can be more decisive in favour of the demands which I have made, nothing can be more in favour of the views which the petitioners have taken, than the statement of the noble Lord, that there is no pretence for saying that there is a compact, or that there ever was a contract. I never yet heard stronger admissions made by any speaker, not made once, but two or three times over—not in the hurry of debate, but after deliberation—when he said, that there was no compact; that a compact there cannot be, because there was no contracting party to make it. Observe, my Lords, how the case stands, and I hope that this proposition will have its due effect elsewhere, in any vote which may be come to upon this subject, that this most important admission had been made for the planters, by one of the most influential of their body, by their chief representative [No, no! from Lord Seaford]; at all events, by their main supporter, who for many years (and this must not be forgotten) was the chairman of the West Indian body, a great planter himself, and the leader of the body for many years in the other House of Parliament—the zealous opponents, the bitterest opponents, of emancipation [No, no! from Lord Seaford]. If it were possible to find a more bitter opponent—a more strong, a more vehement, if the noble Lord preferred sweeter words—but a more strong, a more vehement, a more unhesitating opponent than his noble Friend had that night proved himself to be—grounded, as I fancied, on his opinions against emancipation, till the hour shall have struck twelve on the night of the 31st July in the year 1840—I have never heard either within the walls of Parliament, or without the walls of Parliament. And what has been the admission which has been made upon this high authority, which will put an end to all difficulty? That as for any compact, any breach of faith, any contract, any bargain being made, there was none; he says, that what was done by Parliament was done by itself, and that it had no authority to make the compact; and the noble Lord drew this corollary from his own statement, bearing out his view of the case—therefore to talk of a breach of faith was preposterous, because there was no faith plighted; there was no breach of 21 compact, because no compact was made; there was no breach of contract, because no contract was struck; and, after this statement, I should like to see the man, as a curious specimen of human boldness, who could step forward and say, that the negro has no right to his freedom, and that every apprentice ought not to be free, as there is no longer any argument that there was a compact, that there was any bargain, that there was any contract, that there is any breach of faith, when the representative of the planter, when the chosen advocate of the planters, avows that of bargain there was none, of compact there was none, of contract there was none, and that therefore of breach of faith there was none; and who would say, that there ought to be one moment's delay in granting that immediate liberty to the slave which they had found in every colony in which it had been tried to have been usefully, safely, and peacefully carried into effect. Then, as to the argument of my noble Friend of whom I wish to speak with the greatest possible respect, that the legislature must give time to prepare the negro for emancipation—to prepare the negro! Will the noble Earl just be pleased to answer one question which his speech has suggested? I would treat the noble Earl more kindly than noble Lords have on this occasion treated me. I will not require the noble Earl to answer the question now, but will give him the whole of the recess to find an answer to it, though I cannot consent to let the noble Earl write over to the West Indies for an answer; that would be rather too long a delay. But let him take the next month, and then answer the short and simple question which his speech has suggested. The noble Earl's argument was this; "you cannot emancipate the negro apprentices now, because you have not given them time to be prepared for the enjoyment of complete freedom." What time was given for that purpose in Antigua or in Bermuda; or what preparation was made for the event which occurred the other day only in Montserrat, and which thing was very nearly happening in the great slave colony of Barbadoes? But the question I wish to ask the noble Earl is this, what preparation has been made for the ultimate freedom of the negroes during the last four years? Because I suppose that if the six years' apprenticeship were intended by way of preparation, the preparers 22 had not stopped till four years of that term have elapsed, and begin the preparation at the commencement of the last two years. And moreover, since that preparation was, in the opinion of the noble Earl, so necessary, what steps have been taken at this moment to begin, the sexennial preparation having been entirely neglected? That is one question which I will thank my noble Friend to answer, and to which I will take leave to add another. The prædial apprentices will cease to be such in 1840; but the non-prædials will cease to be apprentices on the 1st of August, 1838. Do they require no preparation? I know that the non-prædials are not by a great deal so respectable a class of men as the prædials. The prædials are more respectable ten to one, in habits and character, than the non-prædials. But all the non-prædials "unhouselled, unannealed," are to rush into freedom on the 1st of August, 1838, without anything like preparation. In Jamaica there are 350,000 negro apprentices, of whom no less than 50,000 are non-prædials. But my noble Friend has said nothing of them, they were no one tittle prepared, nor had anything been projected for preparing them for that state of emancipation which, neverthertheless, all knew and admitted they were to enjoy on the 1st of August, 1838. If your Lordships are willing to grant my noble Friend all his premises, and are willing to shut your eyes to those parts of the case which are against my noble Friend, then indeed he might be said to have made out a strong primâ facie case. But, says my noble Friend, "You must have a Poor-law Bill, and provisions against vagrants." Here again I will say nothing of Antigua. There is no Poor-law there; but if a Poor-law be necessary, I make no doubt that it will come in good time, and that it will be passed by the same wisdom that has already emancipated the slaves of that colony. But I will not refer to Antigua, lest it should be said that Jamaica and Antigua are in different circumstances. But is there no Vagrancy-law, no Poor-law wanted, no preparatory law required with respect to the 50,000 non-prædials? And yet, without any one such law having either been projected, propounded, or even thought of, they are to be emancipated on the 1st of August next. Then the petitioners even made the matter a question of currency. I was very much diverted 23 at observing that the two great questions which have vexed this country for so many years—which have tired the one party and tortured the other, and of both of which your Lordships have certainly had your share—one, the currency question, or Mr. Peel's Bill [Hear, hear! from Earl Stanhope.] Oh, yes! I expected that cheer from my noble Friend, because I know my noble Friend is just as strong upon Mr. Peel's Bill as upon the Poor-law, and I believe (I say it with all courtesy) just as right upon the one as the other. We have heard much of one or other, or both of these subjects; and, accordingly to-night we have heard almost as much of the Poor-law Bill, as of the emancipation of the negro apprentices. But now we have also the unexpected, I will not say pleasure, but the u n expected variety of the currency question. These petitioners say, "You cannot emancipate the negro apprentices." Why? Because you must have a new currency. It is made a question of coinage, and not of contract, not of compact. But what has become of the twenty millions? Surely, they might have set aside a little bit of that for a new coinage! My noble Friend seizes upon the Poor-law; he exclaims, "This is an unexpected pleasure! I do not care any thing for that stupid subject, slavery; but I now find that the subject is as good as a Poor-law Bill." Yes, the question of negro apprenticeship has been so treated by the petitioners; a little so by my noble Friend opposite (Earl Stanhope); and very much so indeed by my noble Friend behind me (Lord Seaford). But I will not be dragged into the question of a Poor-law. I will have nothing to do with it; and as to the monetary question, I must say anything more ridiculous and more absurd (and I speak it with all respect to the people of Liverpool) than the making this a monetary, a currency question, I never yet heard of in the whole history of digressions. How, it is asked by the petitioners, will wages he paid when the negroes are free labourers? Why, the same means will exist for paying wages, then, as exist now. How are the goods to be bought? Goods are imported now—imported by the transactions of the Colonies with this country. The free negroes will have to buy those goods which are now purchased by the master for the slaves. But when they become free, the Masters will pay the slaves in money, and 24 then the free negroes will purchase the goods themselves. All this will be carried on by the same circulation, without the necessity of one single farthing, or the fraction of a farthing more being required after the first of January, than before. But if 350,000 slaves require for their transactions a considerable increase of currency, it is a rule of three question, how great an increase 50,000 will require; and yet you make no provision for them, while it is clear, that the non-præ will require more currency than the prâdials, because the former are not payable by means of provision grounds, but in hard cash, and their wages also are higher. The prâdial slave works for a small piece of money compared with what carpenters and artizans receive; and yet no provision of a monetary nature, no Peel's Bill, has been propounded to accommodate the 50,000 non-prædials, who will be emancipated upon the 1st of August next. My Lords, I begin to relent when I come near the body and bulk of this question, and really feel that I owe it to your Lordships, not to be dragged, whether I will, or not, any further into this premature discussion. Yet, I beg distinctly to say, that it is not from any apprehension of not being able to meet my noble Friend, for a set of more flimsy reasons, I never yet heard offered on any side of a question than what have been advanced; but because it is inconvenient to go out of the course I had prescribed to myself, not to debate this important question on petitions, anticipative of what is soon to arrive—the opportunity of discussing the whole merits of this question at a proper time, and in the right stage, namely—the second reading of my Bill, which will raise the question of the principle of the Bill. My noble Friend opposite (Viscount St. Vincent) is a planter; and my noble Friend near me (Lord Seaford) is also a planter. Now, I ask them, are they quite sure that the question is any longer in their hands? Are they quite sure that they have the option of now refusing the emancipation of the apprentices on the 1st of August next? I am treading upon tender ground; I am going to touch upon still more tender ground; but they have dragged me into it; I cannot help it. I should not have said a word, if they had not forced me into a premature and unseasonable discussion; but, my Lords, I owe it to that measure which I have so long advocated—I owe it 25 to myself—I owe it to the peace of the colonies, and to the prosperity and safety of the planters themselves, above all other interests, I owe it—not to withhold my observation. I have great confidence in the peaceful disposition of the negroes. That confidence I feel because it is founded upon long experience of their quiet and patient demeanour. Show me anywhere, all over the world, a race of men who could have borne as much as they have for ages borne, with hardly a murmur and scarcely an outbreak in their history! Upon this history of the negro—his hard fate—his long and cruel sufferings—his unexampled demeanour under those sufferings—his patience, far exceeding the patience of the sons of men ordinarily in other countries—upon this character of the negro, so attested by all his conduct in all ages, I build my hope, that he will continue peaceable to the end. But, my Lords, I am not the man to say, that even the negro will continue peaceful under all circumstances, and when the cup of disappointment is filled to the overflowing. He has now known, that for the last six months an unexampled fervour of public feeling has been excited in his favour. He is as well acquainted as you are with all that has been going on in England, Scotland, and even now in Ireland. He knows that the feelings of the people of England have been roused, their opinions formed, taken, and loudly expressed, and his hopes are directed to one point—that of his ceasing to be in chains at all on the 1st of August, 1838. To that day his hopes are pointed—his feelings are directed—his expectations are fixed. If, on that day, after the unanimous voice of the people of this kingdom has been expressed so loudly—so universally—so unremittingly for his emancipation on that day, and if he, knowing as he does the universality and earnestness of that expression, shall still be kept in chains, my belief is, that he will still continue patient—that he will still refuse to join in the breach of the peace, but I have a confident expectation that the hoe will fall from his hand, and that if he work then he will work by compulsion, and by compulsion alone. My opinion, therefore is, that you have not a choice—that it is no longer optional with you; and that now that the general voice has fixed that day for the cessation of negro bondage, it is as much as the prosperity—1 do not say the peace—but as 26 much as the prosperity of the West Indies is worth, to delay it eight-and-forty hours longer.
The Earl of Winchilsea
considered that the period of seven years' apprenticeship was a portion of the compensation to the planters, and he thought that if those years were properly employed, the negro population would be much better able to discharge their social duties when they should finally become free. But he most sincerely regretted that the question respecting the shortening of the apprenticeship term should have been raised in this country. It did not appear to have arisen among the negro population themselves. No expression on that subject had emanated from that body. It was his confident opinion that some preparatory steps must be taken previous to the expiration of the apprenticeship system; and he should say that some act ought to pass for the purpose of giving the negro population, when they become free, a legal claim for support on the colonies in the shape of a poor-rate. He would not, however, trespass on their Lordships' attention then, as another opportunity would be afforded for fully discussing this question. He was sure that every man in this country was anxious to wipe away that stain from the country in the shape of slavery which now attached to it, and that their sole object must be to do justice to all parties. With respect to the question of compact with the planters, he certainly could not but consider that there was a fair and honest compact entered into by the Legislature of this country with the planters; and that if that compact were violated, he could not conceive what confidence could ever be placed in any act of the Legislature.
The Marquess of Clanricarde
said, that when the tune came he should be prepared to show that it was impossible to consider any act of Parliament, particularly an act passed in the manner that the Emancipation Act was, to be in the nature of a compact or an agreement. If any alterations were effected in the original provisions of that bill, it was the result of the deliberation of Parliament, and not of any compact with the Assembly or the planters of Jamaica. That act was passed by the wisdom of Parliament, and by the wisdom of Parliament it might be altered.
§ Viscount Melbourne
said, that considering the magnitude and great importance of the subject of the present debate, con- 27 sidering its extreme urgency and the very intimate acquaintance which his noble Friend behind him (Lord Seaford) had with it, he could not think, that it was in the slightest degree extraordinary that he should go somewhat more at large into the subject than it was usual to go on the presentation of petitions. At the same time he did not deny, that, considering the share which he had taken in this question, considering the zeal with which he had maintained the cause he had supported, and of his having gone so much at large into it, it did impose on the noble and learned Lord the duty of replying to some of the arguments which his noble Friend had urged. Something was said by a noble Lord last night about the propriety of setting aside Wednesday for the discussion of petitions. This, he thought, was impracticable. He believed, that discussions upon petitions were likely to be as long as discussions in any other form. But the noble and learned Lord had adverted to his absence on Wednesday, being the day fixed for presenting these petitions. He could assure the noble and learned Lord, that he (Viscount Melbourne) meant no disrespect to the House, to him, or to that numerous body of petitioners who had intrusted their prayer to the noble and learned Lord's hands, by his absence; but it not being settled until the day before, that the House was to sit on Wednesday, and naturally considering that to be an open day, he had made many appointments and engagements of very great importance for that day, with the nature of which the noble and learned Lord was himself, he (Viscount Melbourne) apprehended, acquainted, and that was the reason that he was not present on that occasion. But, to return to the subject immediately before the House, he begged to say that, not yielding to anybody in anxiety for the welfare of the negroes, for the amelioration of their condition, for the improvement of their situation, and ultimately for their enjoying that state of liberty which he felt they might with safety enjoy, and to which he agreed with the noble and learned Lord they had shown themselves thoroughly entitled; yet he could not but at the same time express his most anxious concurrence in the opinions expressed by the noble Duke on the present occasion. He owned that he felt the greatest possible apprehension from the precipitation with which this great and 28 important question had been hurried forward. He was not surprised at any strength of feeling that prevailed among the people on this subject; he was not surprised at the eagerness that had been evinced concerning it; or that many persons should, by the indignation that had been expressed by others, have been urged to pursue the course in which they had engaged; but, at the same time, he did confess, that he was somewhat surprised at the quarter whence opinions had emanated by which these hasty and precipitate discussions might be considered to have been promoted. It certainly behoved those whose influence it must be known would operate, to have ascertained what their own opinions really were, before they added the weight and impulse of their authority to that course in which they were not entirely prepared themselves to coincide. The noble and learned Lord had read a letter from a noble and highly respected Friend of his in which that noble Lord stated, that, in his opinion, no compact whatsoever was entered into with the planters of the West-India colonies by the great Act passed for settling this question in 1833. It might be very possible that the noble and learned Lord (Lord Brougham) might find persons to coincide with him in opinion that the Act of 1833 was not, in the legal sense of the word, a compact. Certainly there were no persons to whom letters of attorney were given by the planters to act for! them here on this question. He could suppose that if the question were put to the noble and learned Lord as a casuist, that he might find means to invalidate such a compact; that he might discover some argument for escaping from its obligation; some loophole through which to evade its force and true meaning. But of its fair purport and of the understanding which existed at the time of its being passed—and of which their Lordships were as good judges as the noble and learned Lord himself, so far as their abilities were equal to his—he (Viscount Melbourne) must say, that fairly speaking, there was a full and clear understanding that this apprenticeship system was part of the advantage offered to the West-India planters for the risk they were subjected to, the danger they incurred, and the hazard they had to meet. The whole language and proceedings of Parliament ever since had only tended to confirm this original interpretation of that Act. In 29 proof of this he would call their Lordships attention to the report of the Committee of the House of Commons in 1836, which was mentioned in the petition presented by the noble Duke, and in which it was distinctly stated, that although the Committee believed that great abuses had existed, yet they saw no reason for abridging the original term of apprenticeship. The noble and learned Lord had asked what preparation had been made to qualify the negro to become free? The report of this Committee most distinctly recommended that no preparation should now be made with respect to the apprentices to be emancipated in 1840; because those measures that might be necessary could be taken with much more knowledge of the subject than could now be had, if they were deferred until the time for the final emancipation of the negroes arrived. Therefore, if these measures of preparation had been delayed, it was at the recommendation of a Parliamentary Committee—that Committee consisting of those who had been the most anxious friends of the negroes. In his opinion, it would not only be hard upon the planters themselves, but dangerous to the peace of the colonies, and injurious to the great measure of the Legislature, to cast, as it were, these emancipated negroes so hastily and prematurely upon the West-India islands, without having made any preparation, and which the Committee desired should not be made until the near approach of the period when the emancipation of the apprenticed negroes would take effect. I cannot but view (said the noble Viscount) with the greatest apprehension the precipitation with which this question is attempted to be hurried forward. It is unjust to the planters and harsh in its operation, because it metes out the same measure to all the islands and to all the Houses of Assembly, who are at least in different degrees of fault, whatsoever may be the culpability any of them may have incurred; and next it is unjust, because it visits the whole body of planters for that which is only the fault of the House of Assembly, and which the Assembly has the power to remedy and supply. But, my Lords, I beg to say, that all these questions about injustice and breach of contract on the part of the Assembly are as nothing, in my mind, compared with the danger we run in respect to the success of our ultimate measure, and the injury we may do to the 30 negroes themselves if we hurry on this important matter in so unexampled a manner. Such a course of proceeding may lead to the greatest possible evils, and interrupt that system which, however mixed up with defects, with irregularities, and evils of another description, is at present proceeding, upon the whole, in a prosperous course, and such as is likely to lead to a happy and auspicious termination. My Lords, it is, perhaps, the greatest experiment that ever was tried by any nation on the face of the globe. If we achieve it successfully it will be one of the greatest exploits that ever was achieved by any nation. Then, for God's sake, my Lords, let us be cautious; let us not mar the great work by our own precipitancy and haste.
said, that the report of the Committee to which the noble Viscount had referred had given anything rather than satisfaction. It said, "Don't begin your preparations too soon; wait till you come within six months of the year 1840." Well, but they were now within six months of August, 1838, when the non-prædials would be emancipated.
Viscount St. Vincent
said, that the House of Assembly in Antigua took twelve months for preparing their apprentices to become free; and, as a proof that the negroes both there and in other islands had benefitted by the preparations already made, he had himself found, that they were now disposed to accept wages for their labour during that portion of the time which the Emancipation Act gave them; whereas they would not work for wages during those hours at the commencement of their apprenticeship. This was a proof that the time of apprenticeship had been valuably employed. As to the excitement that prevailed on this subject, if the Government of this country did its duty to the colonial authorities, he had no fear on earth of any bad effects resulting from what was called excitement. It had been given out (he meant not to insinuate anything against any one) that this excitement had been promoted, in order that it might be made use of as an argument in favour of this premature kind of emancipation.
said, that if the noble Viscount were correct in the fact he had stated, namely, that the House of Assembly had taken twelve months for preparation, he would suggest to him the propriety 31 of moving for a return of all the Acts passed in Antigua from the year 1834 up to last year. This would have a very important bearing on the Bill which he had introduced.
§ Petitions laid on the table.
§ The Marquess of Lansdowne
presented a petition from the Dissenters of Hackney, bearing, among others, the name of a most eminent person; he meant Dr. Pye Smith. The prayer of the petition was, that their Lordships would adopt such measures as should be effectual for guarding the negroes and the colonial population against oppression, and for securing the attainment of all the equitable and beneficent intentions of the Slave Emancipation Act. In this prayer he most cordially concurred. Their Lordships were now engaged upon that subject; and he was confident that they would persevere in endeavouring to secure the great object of giving to the negroes the full benefit of that ultimate Emancipation Act which was agreed to some years ago. He should rely upon the justice and humanity of their Lordships; but upon that justice, as well as upon that humanity, also he relied, that they would not be betrayed into any hasty step which would equally compromise the interest of the planter and the future happiness of the negro, which, he believed, were essentially blended and united with each other; and that, if they exist at all, must exist in the relation of employer and employed.
entirely concurred with the noble Marquess, that there could not be a more respectable or more learned divine, than Dr. Pye Smith, whose name stood at the head of the twenty or thirty persons (very respectable persons, he had no doubt), whose signatures were attached to the present petition—a petition which opposed itself to the feelings and wishes of the general body of the people in every part of the country, and expressed a decided opinion against the propriety, policy, or justice, of an immediate emancipation of the negroes. The opinion of Dr. Pye Smith, and of the twenty or thirty persons who joined with him in the prayer of the petition, was, no doubt, of great value; but he (Lord Brougham) must remind the noble Marquess, whose views seemed to accord with theirs, that they were mightily contracted in number as compared with those who entertained directly the contrary opinion, and who had 32 sent thousands of petitions, signed by myriads of persons, to Parliament, praying for the immediate emancipation of the negroes on the 1st of August next. Dr. Pye Smith and his twenty or thirty coadjutors, were, no doubt, very honest and very sincere in the opinions they expressed; but they were opinions of which Dr Pye Smith and his friends possessed an entire and complete monopoly—out of the whole population of the country they would find no one else to share those opinions with them. Therefore, with all respect for Dr. Pye Smith, he could not say, that the mere weight of that learned gentleman's authority was sufficient to make him abstain from supporting that which he considered the sounder and wiser course.
§ The Duke of Wellington
, referring to some of the observations which had been made by the noble and learned Lord (Lord Brougham) with respect to the discussion which had arisen upon the petitions presented by him (the Duke of Wellington), observed, that he should not that night have called the attention of the House to them, except upon this one and solitary ground: that he understood the noble and learned Lord was not likely to be present in the House to-morrow.
§ The Marquess of Lansdowne
had not presented the petition to the House as one coming from a numerous body, but simply as coming from a class of persons whose opinions were entitled to consideration. He should not have spoken upon the subject, except to show that although the great mass of the people (whether well-informed upon the subject or not, he would not stop to inquire), were in favour of immediate emancipation, there were at least some persons in the country whose opinions ought not to be slightly regarded who entertained a contrary view of the question.
had already observed, that he was disposed to allow great weight to the opinion of Dr. Pye Smith; but it would be seen that that reverend gentleman had not formed any very strong or very settled opinion upon this subject; for if he were not misinformed, a petition from Dr. Pye Smith, and signed by six teen or seventeen theological students over whom he presided at the Homerton College, praying for the immediate emancipation of the negroes, would be presented tomorrow evening by the noble 33 Lord who had been his predecessor and successor upon the Woolsack.
§ The Marquess of Lansdowne
knew nothing of any other petition from Dr. Pye Smith. He had confined himself to a brief statement of the substance of the petition intrusted to his care, and in doing so, he conceived, that he was at once performing his duty, and allowing an opportunity to the noble and learned Lord of making a speech upon his favourite topic; an opportunity which, as he expected, was readily seized.
§ Petition laid on the table.