The Marquis of Chandos
presented the Petition agreed on at the meeting held in the city, of Planters, Merchants and others connected with the West-India interest. The petition called the attention of the House to 35 the distress of the West-India Colonists, and prayed protection and relief for them. The noble Lord stated, that it was much to be regretted, that this question, which was to come on to-night, had not been taken up by Government, but was left to other parties.
§ Sir Adolphus Dalrymple rose
for the purpose of supporting the prayer of this petition, although he had no other interest in the West Indies, or in west-India property, than what every Englishman who was acquainted with the importance of these colonies must feel. The West-Indians had been reduced to their present state of distress by a variety of causes—among others, their produce had been taxed far beyond all other mercantile produce. Although it was now seventeen years since the peace, war taxes were still charged upon West-India produce, while they were paid on no other commodities. For several years, the profits from the West-India estates had been very trifling; and occasionally the cultivation of those estates had been carried on even at a loss. It was the opinion of a very large portion of the more intelligent and reflecting classes, that the conduct of his Majesty's Ministers towards the West-India colonies had been harsh and cruel. He would appeal to any man of candid mind and unbiassed judgment, and who was acquainted with the circumstances of the case, whether the Orders in Council had not produced the most serious inconvenience in those colonies where they had been brought into operation. The attempt on the part of his Majesty's Ministers to force those Orders in Council into operation in all the colonies was most injudicious, and would be attended with the most disastrous consequences. He was surprised that the Government should support the views of Lord Goderich, after the noble Lord opposite had declared in that House, and the noble Earl at the head of the Government in the other House, that in a very short time Ministers would be prepared to submit to Parliament some extensive measure for the relief of the colonies. He (Sir A. Dalrymple) held in his hand a paper relative to the population of the West-India colonies, with a view to show, that it had been gradually diminishing for some years past. He was convinced that the paper was erroneous; but, if it showed anything, it only proved, that the great distress in the colonies had produced 36 an increased mortality. He was sorry that there should have been anything in the conduct of the local legislatures of the West Indies which could make them liable to the aspersions of the hon. member for Weymouth. He had, however, greatly exaggerated the faults of those bodies, and imputed motives which had never actuated them. He had been astonished at the observations made by the hon. member for Weymouth respecting the legislature of Jamaica, some weeks ago. The hon. Member had charged that body with a wish to throw every impediment in the way of the amelioration of the condition of the slaves. So far from this being the case, several most important regulations had been introduced to promote that amelioration. He was not surprised at some degree of feeling having been manifested by those colonial assemblies, at the treatment they had experienced from the Government. Human nature was the same on both sides the Atlantic, and it was probable, that within the Tropics the tempers of men were more easily excited at ill-treatment, which he certainly thought these persons had experienced. At the public meetings held throughout the country, on the subject of slavery, the most scandalous stories were told respecting the treatment of the slaves, and things were narrated as of daily or recent occurrence, which happened thirty or forty years ago. Whenever motions had been made for ameliorating the condition of the slave-population, the grossest calumnies and the most shameful reflections were cast upon the conduct of the West-Indians, and more especially on the members of the colonial legislatures. He knew that speeches of this nature had produced the worst possible effects on the minds of the slave-population. One expression of this nature had fallen from the hon. member for Weymouth, which he (Sir A. Dalrymple) knew to be incorrect. The hon. Member had said, "That he did not hesitate to declare, that the whole endeavours of the West-Indian legislatures had been exerted to suppress religious instruction." He must also express his surprise that the hon. Member had thought it necessary to allude to the case of Missionary Smith, going into all the grievances or causes of complaint for several years. The only effect this could have would be, to excite a prejudice in the minds of his hearers against the colonists. The hon. Member had also 37 formerly stated, "That the people of Demerara had entered into a resolution not to allow religious instruction to be given to the slaves." In reply to this assertion, a letter appeared in the newspapers, contradicting this statement, and also denying that a single missionary had been driven from the island of Demarara, as had been asserted by the hon. Member. A new Missionary chapel had also been built in George town—there were now eight Missionaries employed in preaching and imparting instruction in schools to the negroes in that town—there were three clergymen of the Church of England, and one Roman Catholic clergyman—these latter, with eight catechists, were paid by the colony. He was certain that this statement was correct, in consequence of a friend of his, who was connected with the colony having told him that it might be relied on, and that he was prepared to confirm every part of it on oath. As to the charge that the local legislatures were opposed to the religious instruction of the negro, he would in reply only refer to the recent speech of the Archbishop of Canterbury, with which the hon. Member was, he hoped, much gratified. The Archbishop of Canterbury said, that he was formerly President of the Society for the Conversion of the Slaves in the West-India colonies; and that this Society had been materially aided in its useful labours by the assistance it received from the local legislatures, especially that of Jamaica, and more particularly for the last eighteen years. That in Jamaica 40,000l. had been given by the local legislature for religious instruction, and also, that there was no want of religious instruction in the island of Barbadoes. The Archbishop further stated, that numerous schools had been established for the moral and religious instruction of the blacks; and that, altogether, the labours of the Society had been attended with the most beneficial results. It was, in his mind, a matter of duty to show that there was no want of religious instruction in the colonies, and that there was no indisposition on the part of the colonists to impart it, as had been said by the hon. Member; and it was neither kind nor Christian-like to make an unfounded charge of this nature against large bodies of persons.
§ Petition to be printed.
§ Mr. Fowell Buxton
presented two Petitions for the Abolition of Slavery, and went on to say, that, as he had been in- 38 duced to alter the wording of his motion since the morning, at the request of several hon. friends of his, he would at once read it to the House. It was, "That a Select Committee be appointed to consider and report upon the measures which it may be expedient to adopt for the purpose of effecting the extinction of slavery throughout the British dominions, at the earliest period compatible with the safety of all classes in the colonies." His object then, it would be perceived, was, to call upon the House to pledge itself to the adoption of means for the abolition of slavery. Before, however, he made any observations on this Motion, he meant to make some remarks in reply to what had fallen from the gallant Officer opposite. The hon. and gallant Officer's speech was a reply to one which it appeared he (Mr. Fowell Buxton) had made two months ago. He wished the gallant Officer had been a little earlier in the field, or a little later; somewhat more active, or somewhat more tardy; for, certainly, the gallant Officer could not have selected any other time in which such an attack—which he must consider a personal one—would have been equally embarrassing. At the very moment when he was about to bring forward this voluminous subject, the gallant Officer was pleased to distract his attention. The gallant Officer stated, that he (Mr. F. Buxton) had used expressions towards the members of the colonial legislative assemblies which were unjust and unchristianlike. He would only observe, that he had given utterance to language weak and feeble in comparison with what he had felt on the subject; and that the expressions he had then used he was prepared to justify, and to prove, to the satisfaction of every impartial person, that they were fully called for. Reference had been made to the exertions of the Society for the Conversion of the Negroes, with a view to show that the colonists were not indifferent to the religious instruction of their slaves. But what would the House think of this Society, when he stated that, notwithstanding all that had been said of their exertions to ameliorate the condition of the negro-population of the colonies, the Society had been in possession of slaves for upwards of 100 years. An estate was left to this Society, for the purpose of raising the negro character, and of instructing and improving the condition of the slaves; but four years ago they de- 39 clared in their report, that the negroes were still unfit to enjoy the common rights, and to perform the common duties, of man; the whip was carried in the field—the Sunday was a day of labour to the slaves of this Christian prelatical body, and, in short, their slaves were as low in morals, as oppressed in labour; as much subject to wanton punishment, as those of the planters themselves. The hon. Baronet had referred to the language used on a recent occasion by a right reverend Prelate, for whom he (Mr. F. Buxton) entertained the greatest respect. He had been present on the occasion alluded to, and was extremely sorry to hear expressions fall from the lips of the right reverend Prelate, relative to the treatment of the slaves in the West Indies, which he (Mr. F. Buxton) never could have anticipated that he would have used. The language there used reminded him of what had fallen from Mr. Ellis, a Member of that House, in 1797: that hon. Member suggested, with a view of thwarting the benevolent exertions of Mr. Wilberforce for the abolition of the slave trade, and in which he succeeded for a time, that before any exertions were made, or any steps taken towards this object, the slaves ought to be made Christians. "Why," said that hon. Member, "if you wish to improve the moral condition of the slave, and to prepare him for enjoying the blessings of civilization, why do you not instruct him in the tenets of the Christian religion?" This had its effect at the time, but what had been done in furtherance of this object? He (Mr. F. Buxton) had heard Mr. Ellis, now Lord Seaford, say in the House of Lords, a short time since, that up to 1826 there was hardly one slave in all the colonies that was, strictly speaking, a Christian. These words had made a great impression on him. He had, however, a better authority with respect to the religious instruction that had been imparted to the negro—he alluded to the Bishop of Jamaica—and if ever there was a man prejudiced in favour of the colonists, this was the man; and he said, that in the very heart of his diocese he did not perceive even the semblance of the form of Christian worship. He should shock the House were he to attempt to describe the shameful neglect of all religious instruction in our colonies. The truth was, a most horrid system of intolerance prevailed in all of them; and those who were engaged 40 in the benevolent task of instructing the slave, and in endeavouring to improve his moral condition, by imparting the blessings of religious instruction, had to undergo the most cruel persecutions. There were several instances of the Missionaries having died in consequence of the treatment they experienced. He had a case before him of a Missionary of the name of Grimsdale, who applied to the Magistrates for a license to preach, which those persons illegally refused; notwithstanding this illegal refusal, he preached, and was apprehended and committed to gaol, and the natural consequence was, from the extreme heat of the prison, and from the filthy state in which it was, that he died. Another Missionary, of the name of Whitehouse, was arrested on a charge of preaching without a license, though a license he had, and produced it, and was committed to the same prison—he, however, did not die. Another, Mr. Orton, followed in a few days; then another, Mr. Watkins; and probably the rest of the congregation would have followed, had it not been for the agency of a humane individual, by whom these proceedings were made known to the higher authorities in the island, who immediately declared that the proceedings of the Magistrates were illegal and unjust, and the result was, that the whole of the Magistrates (this Council of Protection) were dismissed by the Government. This, then, was the system of toleration—this was the encouragement given to imparting religious instruction to the slaves. These were not the only cases of shameful persecution which he could mention. He would refer, also, as an illustration of the feelings of the colonists towards those who were anxious to ameliorate the condition of the negro, to the language made use of in the newspapers, advocating the cause of the planters. In one of them the following language was employed:—'In the Irish rebellion of 1798, the Catholic priests, who were supposed to be the instigators of it, when taken were immediately bound to the halberts of the soldiers, and flogged by the drummers of the army. On the confessions extorted under these circumstances, many of them were afterwards convicted and executed. Can we, in Jamaica, have more delicacy towards the vagabonds who are known to have excited a revolt among our slaves than the Generals and officers of rank in the 41 British army had towards the Catholic priests? We say, let Irish justice prevail, and Jamaica may yet flourish.' Again, in another paper, was the following statement:—'When the gallant General (Picton) was governor of Trinidad, a Missionary was brought before him, charged with preaching sedition. "Who are you," said Picton? "A servant of the Lord Jesus Christ, my only Lord and Master." "How dare you utter treason to my face; take him out and hang him." Sir Thomas's orders were seldom disobeyed, and Trinidad has never since been cursed with the presence of a Missionary.' In consequence of the atrocious language indulged in by the editors and conductors of these colonial newspapers, a most cruel persecution had been commenced against the Missionaries; and in Jamaica no less than fourteen chapels had been recently destroyed, and the people had been called upon to burn all the chapels in the colonies. And what had been the conduct of the Magistrates? Had they exerted themselves to put a stop to such disgraceful proceedings? He had heard, on undoubted authority, that several Magistrates were present at the destruction of some of these chapels; he had been informed that there were but few; but he had the names of three, which he would read to the House, if it were thought necessary. A Church Union had also been formed, the avowed object of which was, to drive all the Missionaries from the colonies, and to destroy all the chapels. Facts of this kind clearly proved that a most cruel religious persecution was now being carried on in the colonies. If he were not as great an enemy of religious persecution as of slavery itself, he would say, let them go on; for this barbarous treatment of the Missionaries, and this cruel intolerance, would infallibly enlist the feelings of the whole of the people of England against them. He was sorry for the Missionaries who were exposed to this brutal treatment; but he was glad, that the colonists had disclosed their conduct to the world, and had done so much to enlighten the people of England as to the feelings they entertained. They had now demonstrated to all men that preaching, and praying, and worshipping God, were crimes not to be tolerated—offences not to be endured in that Christian country. He had been betrayed into these observations in consequence of what had fallen from the gallant 42 Officer opposite. He knew that a great and rapid change had taken place in men's minds on the subject of slavery. The distress of the planters had excited considerable attention: it was great, but, if deep, it was uniform; and hon. Gentlemen might suppose that, in consequence of peculiar circumstances, the colonists were now more than usually distressed; but during the last sixty or seventy years the same language had been used as at present, and the same complaints made. He would pledge himself to find expressions, used ten, twenty, fifty, seventy years ago, exactly similar to those urged in the present day, and that the complaints of loss, and ruin, and bankruptcy, and the expressions of distress, and the charge of sacrificing the interests of the colonies, were not stronger than those used at that period. He knew these circumstances had had great influence on the minds of intelligent and thinking men; and he was convinced that, from the change that had taken place in the public mind, the time was not distant—if it had not then arrived—when slavery must cease. He would also refer to the opinions which had been expressed by some of the West-Indian body, who had admitted that the time had come, or was close at hand, when it was necessary to consider the best means of attaining the object in view, both with reference to the interests of the masters and the slaves. He did not wish to have a Committee to consider whether slavery were a good or a bad thing, but he was desirous that an inquiry should take place, and that the question should be, the best mode of extinguishing slavery; and on this subject he trusted that he should have the concurrence of the House and the Government. With a view to show that a feeling was growing up in the minds even of the West-Indians themselves, that this system could not last, he would refer to one paragraph of a remonstrance addressed to Lord Goderich, in October last, by the Special Committee of Planters interested in the Crown colonies, in which the object he now proposed was recommended. 'In conclusion, your petitioners beg leave most respectfully to observe, that it is unworthy of the British nation to seek the accomplishment of so momentous an object as the extinction of slavery, by indirect and doubtful methods; and that it would be more just towards your petitioners, as well as more honourable to 43 Great Britain, to proceed at once to the emancipation of the negroes, and, at the same time, that Parliament should consider what compensation it would be equitable and expedient to grant to the planters.' He unfeignedly rejoiced to hear such language from a West-Indian body; he did go along with them in protesting against the adoption of any indirect or doubtful measure, and in claiming direct and decided measures for the emancipation of the negro. He was not behind hand with them in wishing to inquire whether any, and, if any, what compensation was equitable and expedient for the planter; but the question of emancipation must come first—the negro, at all events, owed no compensation to the planter. Whatever the Government and the country might owe the planter as a compensation, the negro did not owe the planter anything. Nor was the concluding paragraph the only one in that remonstrance to which he assented. He never heard from the lips of the most zealous abolitionist a doctrine in which he more perfectly agreed than that which was broached in the preceding page:—'It is in vain to expect 'that the deformities of the slave code can be cured by any process short of the extinction of the system itself.' This, surely, was not the customary panegyric on slavery: the deformities of the slave code were broadly stated, and we were plainly told, these you must endure, or you must abolish slavery. It was remarkable, and showed what a change even had taken place in the public opinion of the colonies on this subject, that a very short time ago a man was sentenced to be hanged for making use, not of this language, but these sentiments, couched in language far less obnoxious. This expression was found in the private journal of Missionary Smith, at Demerara:—'The evils of slavery cannot be mitigated, the system must be abolished.' The journal was produced against him on his trial, these words constituted the force of the charge, and he was sentenced to be hanged; but whether taken from the journal of a missionary, or from the more official document, he heartily concurred in the sound truth of the doctrine—namely, that there was one only mode, one solitary expedient for curing the evil of slavery—the abolition of the system itself. He never went further than this; he had never said, that mitigating measures would do no good; he knew the 44 Orders in Council had done good; where they had been introduced they had abated the number of punishments, and diminished the rate of mortality; and their tendency necessarily was, to remove many of the more prominent and palpable brutalities of the system. But there was one essential feature of slavery which no instigating measures could even touch. Slavery was labour extorted by force; wages, the natural motive, were not given, but their place was supplied by the whip. In that House, discussions as to what slavery was, and what it was not, took place frequently; but one thing it was, by the confession of all men—it was labour extorted by force. In the mildest system—in the most ferocious—there was still the same feature; under the most mitigated system, then, slavery was still labour obtained by force; and, if by force, he knew not how it were possible to stop short of that degree of force which was necessary to extort involuntary exertion. A motive there must be; and it, came at last to this, inducement or compulsion, wages or the whip. But he would not argue this question; by his favourite West-India authorities it was stated in the following manner—'Domestic jurisdiction and corporal punishment are part and parcel of the system: they must stand or fall together.' They must stand or fall together! This narrowed the question, and all the House had to decide was—shall they stand or shall they fall? These gentlemen had exhibited great candour; they had neither disguised nor palliated the evils of slavery; and, in return, he would willingly make a concession, of which they, too, should know the value. He was not, then, such a bigot, even to his own doctrines, as to deny that it was no slight matter to disturb and remove the relations of society existing in the West Indies. If the evils of slavery were slight—if they affected but few—if they were not intensely felt by any—if, in short, slavery were not an inroad upon man's most inestimable rights (and such an inroad as inevitably destroyed his happiness)—then he admitted, all circumstances considered, all difficulties weighed, it were better to leave these slight and trivial evils to sleep in silence, as they had already done for many a year. But he contended that the evils of slavery were grievous and enormous—grievances of that nature, and degree, and malignity, 45 that there was no warrant for tolerating them, and no alternative but to rid the country of them and the system which engendered them, at whatever price, and through whatever difficulty. He would not enter into a full detail of the evils of slavery; rather than fatigue the House with such an irksome recital, he would trust to the detestation of slavery which every man who heard him must feel. Two or three facts alone he would state. In the first place, the decrease of the slave-population, the excess of deaths above births in the slave colonies. In consequence of some doubts having been expressed on this subject last year, he had taken the trouble to make strict inquiries. He had had a number of these returns, respecting the population of the West Indies, printed and distributed, and challenged contradiction, as to their general accuracy; he saw them in the hands of an hon. Member (Mr. Burge), but till he heard such confutation, he would repeat the fact, that in a climate congenial to the negro constitution, in a soil abundantly fertile, and in a country not ravaged by war, pestilence, or famine; under circumstances so favourable to an increase of population, the population had decreased to the extent of 52,000 in the last eleven years. This simple fact carried with it more conviction to his mind of the intolerable evils of slavery, than would a thousand cases of the most extravagant cruelty: however, there was one fact. The second fact was, the number of stripes inflicted on the slaves. He had reason to believe, that the number of stripes of the cart-whip inflicted upon the slaves in the slave colonies, amounted to upwards of 2,200,000 annually. In the chartered colonies no record was kept; it had been repeatedly asked for, and it had been as repeatedly refused, as every Gentleman knew, who knew anything of the subject. It was one of the points in controversy at this moment, and one of the objections to the Order in Council, that it demanded such a record. He had not then, the best data on which to proceed, and therefore was driven to the necessity of gathering the nearest approximation to the truth which the data he had would admit of; but they were amply sufficient. It appeared by a return from Demerara, that during six months the number of lashes of the cart-whip inflicted on the slaves exceeded 100,000—that was, 200,000 for the 46 year. The learned Gentleman would find the return in p. 28, of No. 262, Parliamentary Papers of 1831. The proportion that the population of Demerara bore to the whole slave-population was known. Assuming, then, that the same proportion of punishments were inflicted in Jamaica and elsewhere as in Demerara, the elements of an arithmetical calculation were obtained, and the result was, that 2,200,000 lashes were annually inflicted. The number of stripes were ascertained from official information—the population the same—and the question, therefore, resolved itself into a rule-of-three sum. If 69,000 slaves required 200,000 lashes, what did 755,000 require? The answer was 2,200,000. He had no doubt, however, that this number was greatly exceeded; for the number of stripes inflicted in the chartered colonies greatly exceeded the number inflicted in the Crown colonies. In Demerara there was an Order in Council; not so in Jamaica. There was a Protector of Slaves in Demerara; there was none in Jamaica. There was an interval between crime and punishment in Demerara; but there was not in Jamaica. The whip was not allowed to be carried into the field in Demerara; but it was in Jamaica. There was a record of every punishment in Demerara; there was not in Jamaica. Every stripe that was inflicted in Demerara, ought to be recorded; but this was never done in Jamaica. But, above all, their females were liable to the lash in Jamaica, but not in Demerara; and it might be presumed, at least, that the number of punishments was as great in a colony where both sexes were lashed, as in one where the females were exempt. From this calculation, then, which was made with great fairness, it appeared that 2,200,000 stripes of the cart-whip were annually inflicted in the slave colonies, without taking into calculation those inflicted on the females. This was only an approximation to the truth. The real facts upon which to argue had been repeatedly asked for and refused; but if they chose to bury the truth in oblivion, had he not a right to argue from the. facts that were known to those that were suppressed—from the stripes actually inflicted in a Crown colony, to those which it might be supposed were inflicted in colonies where there was no Order in Council, no Protector, no record of punishments, no interval for passion to subside, where the 47 whip was carried in the field, and where females were liable to be flogged? Let the House recollect that these stripes were inflicted with a cart-whip. He would ask, whether this was a mild and trifling punishment? and, to use the language of an hon. Member, capable indeed of frightening children, but incapable of injuring a man? On this point he would read a statement which he had somewhere seen; it ran thus:—'The cart-whip is a base, cruel, debasing instrument of torture—the cart-whip is the fellow of the rack and the thumb-screw. I do not hesitate to say, I do not hesitate to declare, that the cart-whip is a horrible, detestable instrument when used for the punishment or torture of slaves. I do say that thirty-nine lashes with this horrid instrument can be made more grievous than 300 lashes with the cat.' When and by whom was this statement made? Was it an abolitionist who had never seen slavery, and gathered his notions from the pages of the Anti-slavery Reporter? No; it was a planter eminent for many things, and for none more than his hostility to the doctrines of the abolitionists. And where was this statement delivered? Was it in one of those meetings, described by the hon. member for Haddington, where there was no one to confute it? No; but it was made in the House of Assembly in Jamaica; and there Mr. Barrett, for he was the author, defied and challenged contradiction. If such was the nature of these punishments inflicted on the slaves, he insisted that he had a right to designate the system as most execrable, and to call upon his Majesty's Ministers to grant a Committee, with a view to put a stop to such a system. One fact more—the moral and intellectual degradation of the slave-population. Here he supposed all were agreed. Did any man deny this? He wished the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Burge) would give an answer. He (Mr. F. Buxton) and his party had always urged the moral devastation of slavery, as one of the strongest arguments for its downfall, and their opponents had urged the moral debasement of the negro as an argument for the continuance of slavery. But if he could not get an answer, he would produce a witness. The hon. member for Bramber, in October last, in a letter which he addressed to Lord Goderich, which had been published among the official papers, said—'In England we admi- 48 nister an oath to those only who understand its nature and obligations. Is that the condition of the negro mind? Not of one in a thousand.' No comment of his (Mr. F. Buxton's) should spoil the force and the emphasis of this statement. He might, indeed, remind his hon. friend, that in England children of very tender years were considered capable of taking an oath. An oath was administered to the Chinese—to the Hindoo—to the African himself, so long as he was a wild savage; but let him be subjected to our Christian domination, and not one in a thousand understood the nature of an oath. These were his three facts; he had others, and resting on incontrovertible authority, but he would waive them. Slavery already was illustrated in its moral influence, by the universal turpitude of the people; and its humanity illustrated by this multiplicity of punishments, and this waste of human life. And here he should stop, if it were not that another consideration weighed most heavily upon him. Was it certain that the colonies would remain to this country if we were resolved to retain slavery? Did any one doubt that a crisis was coming which would leave them no alternative but an immediate concession of freedom to the slaves, or a dreadful attempt to extort it through the horrors of a servile war? Dreadful as this would be in times of peace, how much more dreadful would it become should the circumstances of Europe require this country to enter into a war with France? He would tell the West-Indian proprietors this—if their trade had been as prosperous as they were now complaining of its being the reverse—if, for the last fifty years, they had been boasting of their gains, instead of lamenting their losses—now would be the time when it would be advisable for them to make terms for the future, without waiting till they were compelled to yield. But there was one consideration which he must press on the attention of the noble Lord. How was the Government prepared to act, in case of a general insurrection of the negroes? War was to be lamented any where, and under any circumstances: but a war against a people struggling for their freedom and their rights, would be the falsest position in which it was possible for England to be placed. And did the noble Lord think that the people out of doors would be content to see their resources exhausted for the purpose of 49 crushing the inalienable rights of mankind? In saying these things, he was not speaking as an enthusiast; he was only repeating the opinion of a very different class of persons. He would refer the House to the sentiments of Mr. Jefferson, the President of the United States. Mr. Jefferson was himself a slave-owner, and full of the prejudices of slave-owners; yet he left this memorable memorial to his country:—'I, indeed, tremble for my country, when I remember that God is just, and that his justice may not sleep for ever: a revolution is among possible events. The Almighty has no attribute which would side with us in such a struggle.' This was the point that weighed most heavily with him. The Almighty had no attribute that would side with them in such a struggle. A war, with an overwhelming physical force—a war, with a climate fatal to the European constitution—a war, in which the heart of the people of England would lean toward the enemy; it was hazarding all these terrible evils, but all were light and trivial compared with the conviction he felt that, in such a warfare, it was not possible to ask, nor could we dare to expect, the countenance of Heaven. He assured the House he had been discharging a most painful duty, and his endeavour had been to perform it without offence to any body. He begged to move, "That a Select Committee be appointed to consider and report upon the measures which it may be expedient to adopt, for the purpose of effecting the extinction of slavery throughout the British dominions, at the earliest period compatible with the safety of all classes in the colonies."
§ Mr. Cresset Pelham
said, that the speech of the hon. member for Weymouth was diametrically opposed to the object he had in view. The sufferings of the slaves had been much exaggerated; and as to religious instruction, he believed that there were more Christians among the blacks than in this metropolis. He remembered having seen a negro woman in England, who was asked to remain, but the idea was revolting to her, and she preferred going back to the West Indies and slavery where her mistress had always treated her with kindness, to remaining in this land of freedom. He thought that the evils which he admitted did exist in the colonies, might be prevented by the residence of the planters on their own estates.
§ Mr. Strickland
thought that, with respect to the interests of the proprietors themselves, it would be advisable to adopt the measure recommended by the hon. member for Weymouth, for he was convinced that the safety of the colonies would be endangered unless some measure with a view to emancipation was granted. The Committee moved for by the hon. member for Weymouth was, in his opinion, the best mode of setting about a satisfactory arrangement. He considered it desirable that emancipation should really commence, accompanied, certainly, by proper precautions; but that it should not be further delayed, nor the feelings of the people of England any longer trifled with. He fully admitted, that the West-India interest should be as dear to England as any of the great interests of the empire, but he denied the inference generally drawn from this proposition, and could not sanction the opinion, that the welfare of these interests was identified with the continuance of slavery. He called on the House to assist in effecting the emancipation of the negroes, and he called on the slave-owners themselves to aid in that object, for he was convinced that nothing would so completely secure them in their present possessions as the putting an end to slavery. Let hon. Members suppose, if they could, that the curse of slavery had existed for centuries in one corner of the United Kingdom; he asked them, if such were the case, whether the Legislature would not put it down at once as soon as the horrid deformity was exposed? They should act on the same principle with regard to the negroes, and he called on all of them to unite in one determination to let the oppressed go free.
Mr. Keith Douglas
must first say, that he thought the hon. member for Weymouth was not justified in having altered the terms of his Motion since he had first given notice of it. How did the question stand now? Certain Resolutions had been passed by that House in 1823, on the recommendation of the Government, and the hon. Member ought to confine himself to a motion that these Resolutions be carried into effect. Yet, instead of doing so, the hon. Member now placed them in the strange predicament of superseding, by the present proposition, the Resolutions that had already been passed, and the Order in Council founded on them. By the course which the hon. Member seemed disposed 51 to take, he would, in fact, be destroying the interests of those persons whom he professed to wish to protect. He denied that the hon. member for Weymouth had fairly stated the case of the degradation of the slaves, or of the mortality that prevailed among them. There were statements of a similar kind published out of doors, and he must take on himself to say, that those who drew up such statements, and presented them to the public, must know that they were stating that which was not accurate. The real cause of the mortality among the negroes was, that the number of men and women was now more nearly approximated, and the consequence was, that more children were born. But this, at all events, he would contend—that even if the hon. Member thought that he was able to show that the mortality arose from other causes, still, as this was at least an undeniable cause, it was exceedingly unjust on his part to have omitted all mention of it, and to have done his best to leave the House in the dark on the subject. In 1807, those who had property in the colonies had authorized the importation of a large number of males, but of very few females. Many of these had grown old and died, and this, in a very considerable degree, accounted for the state of society of which the hon. Gentleman complained. In 1817 there was, it appeared, a great excess of males over females, but in 1827, in many of the colonies, there was an excess of females over males. A perfect exemplification of the position he had just laid down was to be met with in the Island of Barbadoes; for in that island, where the slave trade ceased much earlier than in our other West-India possessions, they were told by the returns, that in ten years there had been an increase of 5,600—the females there greatly exceeding the males in amount. Here again was another point in which the hon. Member had not dealt fairly by the House—for he had taken an average of ten years for making up his returns, which, in fact, in many instances, was calculated to produce a false impression. As a proof of this, he would cite the case or St. Christopher's: by taking the average of ten years there appeared to be a general diminution of the whole; but if the returns of 1825 and 1826 were taken by themselves, by which time the sexes had more nearly approximated, it would be found that there was in those years an increase of nearly 900. The hon. 52 Gentleman complained, too, that nothing had been done to ameliorate the condition of the slaves. Now, how stood that fact? Mr. (now Lord) Brougham had said, that the best thing that could be done for the slaves would be, to establish a system of good slave evidence: and a measure had been introduced for that purpose in Jamaica. The coloured population was also highly favoured; so much so, that he believed two gentlemen of colour were at present members of the House of Assembly. With respect to the two grounds urged by the hon. Member, they did not appear to him to be sufficient to justify the House in assenting to the formation of this Committee. If the House of Commons wished to do anything in furtherance of the Resolutions which were passed in 1823, he should have thought that the right thing would have been to appoint a Committee for the purpose of inquiring how far those Resolutions had been carried into effect, and what amelioration of condition the slave had experienced in consequence. His Majesty's present Ministers had supported those Resolutions when introduced by Mr. Canning, and he trusted that they would consider themselves so far bound by the Resolutions of 1823, as to feel it to be their duty to act up to the spirit of them; and that they would not throw this question as one of agitation on the vain fancies of the country. He trusted, that they would act with that disposition which ought to belong to all governments—viz. that of seeking the preservation of the rights and property of all parties.
§ Mr. Macaulay
After the very extensive view of this subject which has been taken by my hon. friend, I shall not attempt to take a general survey of the subjects of Negro Slavery, but merely confine myself to the question of the decrease of the negro population, the only point of all my hon. friend's argument that the member for Dumfries has ventured to dispute. The hon. Member has not contented himself with charging my hon. friend with a mis-statement, but has actually gone the length of accusing him of having knowingly and wilfully brought forward a system which he was, in his own mind, convinced was incorrect. I beg, however, to say, that I am, in my own mind, most entirely convinced, that the argument of my hon. friend is impregnable. I first say, that this decrease, which the 53 hon. Gentleman atrributes to the inequality of the sexes, is to be found in many islands where the females exceeded the males number in the year 1817. I next say, that in St. Christopher's, which is the island selected by the hon. Member himself, the women, in 1817, exceeded the men in numbers. To be sure, the hon. Gentleman has talked about the sexes approximating in 1825 and 1826; but if this means anything, it means that the women diminished in number, for it cannot be otherwise explained. It is true that, in Barbadoes, the black population has increased, which circumstance the hon. Gentleman may attribute to what he calls the approximation of the sexes, if he pleases, but which I attribute to the cultivation of sugar being little practised in that island. But, Sir, there are some colonies in which the number of the men exceeds that of the women, such, for instance, are Berbice, Demerara, and Trinidad; and there we find, not only that there is a total decrease, but even a decrease in the number of the females. I say, that this fact reduces the whole matter to irresistible demonstration; for if he be correct, and if the men exceed the women, the worst that could happen would be, that the islands would be in as bad a situation as if the men were reduced to the number of the women, and the two sexes made equal. But if we look to those colonies, we shall find that there is a decrease in the women as well as in the men; and, therefore, again I say, that it is clear to demonstration, that the decrease in the slave-population cannot arise from this ill assortment of the sexes, as argued by the hon. Gentleman. But the hon. Gentleman seems to think that he has done enough when he has made out, as he supposes, that no decrease has taken place; but I contend that, not only should there be no decrease, but that there should be a most rapid and striking increase. The negro population in the West Indies are placed in a situation admirably suited to their nature and disposition; the produce of the land is all-prolific—the bright and vivid sky is favourable to their African constitutions—they have a great extent of rich virgin soil ready to pour forth its gifts, with but little labour, into their hands. This, therefore, ought, to them, to be the golden age of existence; it ought to be their age of easy life, smiling children, and happy wives; it ought to be their age of high wages, 54 full meals, light work, early marriages, and numerous families. But is it so? Alas, Sir, no; a blight is on them, and they drag on a weary, burthensome existence, darkened by despair, and uncheered by a single ray of hope. Let us look at the result of the same advantages in other countries. How is it in New South Wales? There the population is made up of convicts and prostitutes; and yet, in spite of that deterioration—in spite of the inequality of the sexes—we see that colony daily increasing, with every probability of these convicts becoming the patriarchs of a mighty empire. We all know the origin of the United States; we all know that they were originally peopled by the refuse of European society. And how is it with them? The population there has gone on swelling and swelling, like an irresistible torrent; the people have multiplied, till at length, in whole tribes, they have poured themselves across the mountains of Alleghany, the streams of Ohio, and the plains of the Arkansas. Year after year the woods and the forests, the fortresses of nature, have been receding before the advancing tide of human beings; and, year after year, mankind has shown, by its multiplication, that, under favourable circumstances, its tendency is to fulfil the immutable law of nature. Why, then, does not the same rule apply to those colonies? Why is all America teeming with life, and why are the West Indies becoming desolate? Sir, that our colonies should decrease in so rapid a manner is to me one of the most appalling facts in the history of the world. In the worst governed state of Europe—in the worst managed condition of society—the people still increase. Look, for instance, at the miserable population of Ireland—at the oppressed serfs of Russia—look eve at the slave-population of America, or that of our own colonies where sugar is not cultivated. In the Bermudas and the Bahamas, where no sugar is manufactured, the population goes on increasing; but when we come to the sugar islands, the ordinary law of nature is inverted, and, in proportion to the exuberance of the soil, is the curse of suffering and of death. In these islands, which are subject to one eternal reign of terror, human life flickers and goes out like a candle in a mephitic atmosphere. What the Spaniards did on the continent for gold, we are doing in the islands for sugar. Let me remind the 55 House of what Mr. Fox said on this subject. No one will deny that, perhaps, of all our statesmen, Mr. Fox was the most ardent for political liberty, and yet his observation on this question was, that all political liberty was but as a mere nothing compared with personal liberty. I shall give my best support to the Motion of my hon. friend. I shall do so, because I feel that this continued waste of life, without example and without parallel, is a foul blot to this country, and because I hope that the adoption of this Resolution may remove it.
Sir Robert Peel
said, notwithstanding the eloquent speech of the hon. Gentleman, and notwithstanding his sincerity in this cause, he had not touched any one of the points that constituted the real difficulties of the case. The hon. Member admitted that we must not form our judgment from individual instances of cruelty or abuse, and he deeply regretted that so wise a precept was not uniformly acted upon; for he never heard a debate on that subject in which there was not an attempt made to rouse the passions of the audience by referring to individual cases. The hon. Gentleman said, that the system of slavery was an abominable system, and that the gradual decrease of life among, the blacks was a sufficient proof that slavery had a tendency to shorten the average duration of human existence. But, supposing these two points admitted, the hon. Member must concede that, unless he was prepared with some rational plan by which this great evil could be abated, it was vain to indulge in general, though eloquent, denunciations against a mischief, the magnitude of which was not denied. Surely the events which had recently taken place in the West Indies—the insurrection scarcely yet suppressed in Jamaica—must impress on the minds of all, the danger of laying down precise rules for the government of a people, thousands of miles away from us, in ignorance of the events that may have occurred, and have rendered our rules utterly inapplicable to a new state of affairs. This consideration ought to impose on the House the duty of acting with the greatest caution and deliberation, in any thing that might interfere with the present relative position of the planters and the slaves. To excite the latter to resistance by incautious language and false hopes, and then to employ infantry and artillery in sweeping them from 56 the face of the earth as rebels against the authority of the law, was an act of injustice, both to the whites and the blacks, even greater than the slavery which was so generally and justly deplored. The Resolution now proposed might be liable to misconstruction, and produce the result to which he had alluded. Should that happen—should the slaves, deceived as to our intentions, refuse obedience to their masters—every one would admit, that the authority of the law must be vindicated, and that the Government would have no alternative but the recourse to force to put down any sudden insurrection. Mercy towards the slave ought to plead powerfully against any proceeding pregnant with such consequences. He deeply lamented the course that the hon. member for Weymouth had taken, and that he did not sooner make up his mind as to the nature of his Motion. The hon. Member had given the House notice of the terms of his Motion, and he, for one, came down to the House expecting that the hon. Member would adhere to his own notice: the hon. Member, however, had materially varied those terms, though, perhaps, he would not allow that the substance was altered. The Resolution moved by him affirmed that it was the duty of the Legislature to put an end to the existence of slavery throughout the possessions of Great Britain. But if the House once agreed to that position, without qualification, how could they hope to enforce the law during that period which must elapse before slavery could be practically and universally abolished? Was the hon. Gentleman aware that the course he was pursuing was precisely in conformity with that adopted by the National Convention of France? The Convention took a similar step for the purpose of inducing the slaves of St. Domingo to unite with the French forces in repelling the English. They decreed the extinction of slavery, but postponed indefinitely the consideration of the mode by which that extinction was to be effected. The coincidence between their plan and the Resolution of the hon. Gentleman, if it were accidental, was certainly very extraordinary. The hon. Gentleman's Resolution, according to the notice he had given, was—'That it is the duty of the British Legislature to put an end to the existence of slavery throughout the dominions of Great Britain: that a Select Committee be appointed to consider and report upon the 57 safest and speediest mode of effecting the extinction of slavery throughout the British colonies.' The Resolution of the National Convention was as follows:—'The National Convention declares, that negro slavery, in all the colonies of France, is abolished. In consequence it declares, that all men, without distinction of colour, domiciled within those colonies, are French citizens, and capable of enjoying all the rights assigned by the Constitution.' That was the first Resolution; the second was this—'It refers to the Committee of Public Safety, to make an immediate report of the measures that ought to be taken to secure the speedy execution of this Resolution.' These Resolutions bore date on the 5th February, 1794. The course pursued by the hon. Member was precisely similar—he denounced slavery, and decreed its instant extinction as an imperative duty, but did not hint at the mode by which his principle was to be carried into effect. It was most important, before the debate proceeded, that the Ministers should state to the House the course which they proposed to pursue. Every Member must recollect the Resolutions of 1823; and he apprehended that the country stood at present in this position as to the colonies:—the present Ministry, since their accession to office, had framed certain Orders in Council, which they determined to enforce in the Crown colonies; and they had signified to those colonies which have independent legislative assemblies, that those Orders in Council must be accepted by them, without qualification, on the penalty of not being allowed to benefit by the reduction of the sugar duties about to be proposed. Up to the 14th of March, 1832, the House had every reason to presume that the Government was determined to enforce this arrangement; and it was, therefore, important for the House to be apprized if there were any change in the intentions of Government. If the Ministers adopted the Resolutions of the hon. Gentleman, that, of itself, necessarily superseded their former intentions. He had no desire to taunt the Ministers with abandoning any declarations they might have made; and if they found the state of society in the West Indies such as to make it inexpedient for them to enforce their instructions, he trusted they would have the manliness to act on any new information they might 58 have acquired, and not risk the safety of the colonies through feelings of false shame. Within the last two months, an important event had occurred, closely connected with the subject. A Committee had been appointed in the House of Lords, with the concurrence of the King's Government—'To inquire into the laws and usages of the several West-India colonies, in relation to the slave population; the actual condition and treatment of the slaves, their habits and dispositions; the means which are adopted in the several colonies for their progressive improvement and civilization,and the degree of improvement and civilization which they have at present attained; and also to inquire into the distressed condition of those colonies.' To adopt the hon. Gentleman's Resolution, therefore, would be as inconsistent with the appointment of the Lords' Committee, as with the Ministerial Orders in Council. If the Government had come to a conclusion that slavery ought to be forthwith extinguished, and if they saw the means of extinguishing it, consistently with the well-being of the slaves, the rights of colonial property, and the future safety of both classes of the West-Indian community, he earnestly implored them to take the question into their own hands. There must be matters of detail requiring consideration, though the principle might appear to them so clear as to be irresistible. But, at all events, appoint no Committee in pursuance of this Resolution, for that would be, of all courses, the least calculated to effect any satisfactory adjustment. If the hon. Gentleman's Committee were fairly constituted, it must consist of partizans on both sides; and then what chance would there be of any amicable arrangement? In what mode the immediate extinction of slavery was to be accomplished, he did not see. How they were to secure the future well-being of all parties—how to provide for the future support of the blacks—what chance there was of immediately substituting free labour for slave labour—were all questions to which the most serious consideration must be given, before he could consent to affirm, that slavery ought to be at once abolished. He repeated, that if the Ministers saw any prospect of being able to extinguish slavery, they should take the question into their own hands. If they could bring forward a plan for the purpose next year, so short a delay would be of no consequence, com- 59 pared to the chance of being able to effect so great an object, consistently with the well-being of all classes of society, and consistently with those rights of property which they were all determined to respect. If there were details not yet perfected—if there were inquiries still to be made—let them make such inquiries by means of Committees of their own body, or of the Privy Council; but let them not adopt a resolution in favour of an abstract principle, without having considered any one of the details by which alone it could be carried into effect. The passing of such a Resolution might lead to a misconstruction of the intentions of the Government, both by the whites and by the blacks; might widen the gulf which at present existed between them; might make the slaves still more impatient of slavery; might, by the excitement of false hopes, encourage them to resistance, and leave us no alternative but again to put them down by physical force, and delay the time for giving them, with any prospect of safety or advantage, the blessing of freedom. He trusted, that he had used no intemperate language; he had not spoken from any party or political considerations, or from a wish to throw the slightest impediment in the way of the Ministers adopting that course which would enable them to effect a satisfactory settlement of this most difficult question.
§ Lord Althorp
said, that if his hon. friend (Mr. Buxton) had advanced an abstract proposition, that slavery should be abolished, unaccompanied by anything else, then he should agree with the right hon. Baronet, that it would be highly objectionable; but that was not the case. The Resolution went on to call for the appointment of a Committee to inquire into the safest and speediest mode of extinguishing slavery; this was not at all at variance with the Resolutions of 1823. Those resolutions were adopted by the House at that time, with the avowed object of extinguishing slavery, when that object could be properly and prudently effected. The present Motion, therefore, was not inconsistent with the proceedings which the House had hitherto adopted on the subject, it being the object of the House to consider how, and by what means, slavery could safely be abolished. The object of the resolutions of 1823 was the amelioration of the slave, and such, in this instance, would be the object of inquiry in the Committee. Where, then, was the incon- 60 sistency? There was a Committee appointed in the House of Lords to investigate this subject, with the acquiescence of his Majesty's Government; and they had acquiesced in that Committee, because they were assured that its labours would be directed to the consideration of the best mode of ameliorating the condition of the slave. Now, as their Lordships had a Committee, he thought that, so far from being an objection, was an argument in support of the appointment of a Committee of the House of Commons. The resolution of the House of Lords set forth, that an inquiry should be made into the best mode of ameliorating the condition of the slave, with "a due consideration of the interests of all parties." The present Resolution certainly did not contain that provision; but, looking to the speech of his hon. friend, and of all those who had taken that side of the question, he was convinced, that due consideration would be given to those interests. He would not pledge himself to any immediate abolition of slavery, because he did not think that the slave-population was in a situation to receive that boon beneficially for themselves; but he thought that the Legislature might employ itself most usefully in bringing the slaves to such a state of moral feeling as would be suitable to the proposed alteration in their condition. They would thus be performing an important duty, and achieving that which was due to humanity and justice. He could not see any objection to the insertion of some words in the Resolution, requiring the Committee to take into consideration the interests of the whole inhabitants of the colonies; and he could not see how his hon. friend, the member for Weymouth, could object to them, as he admitted that the colonists would have a fair claim to compensation if they should be injured by any measures which should be taken for the abolition of slavery. It was most desirable that, upon a question such as this, as little difference should prevail as possible; and if his hon. friend would agree to the insertion of the words suggested in his Resolution, his doing so would conciliate all parties to the appointment of the Committee.
§ Sir George Murray
admitted, that there could be nothing more deplorable than the existence of slavery, and that there could be nothing more desirable than its abolition; but, at the same time, he would 61 contend, that whatever measures should be adopted for the purpose of changing the condition of the population of the West Indies from that of slaves to that of freemen, should be taken with the greatest caution, prudence, and deliberation. It appeared to him, that the best course to pursue was, to keep such a question as this as much as possible in the hands of the Government. If the Government proceeded too slowly, the House might quicken its diligence; and if the Government found that it had not sufficient power, the House was there, to which it could apply for greater powers. He conceived that, if the Ministers were sincere—and he had no doubt that they were—in their desire to put an end to slavery, they would adopt measures for that purpose, in due accordance with the safety of all existing interests in the West-Indies; and, for his part, he thought that there could be nothing more imprudent or dangerous than to take such a matter out of the hands of the Government, and put it into the hands of the House of Commons. A Committee on the state of the West Indies had been already appointed in the Lords, and he did not see why a Committee on the same subject should be appointed in this House on directly different principles. They possessed sufficient information as to the existence of slavery to proceed with the abolition of it with caution and prudence. He thought it would be most imprudent, in the present state of the West Indies, to come to such a resolution as that proposed by the hon. Member, and that its adoption by that House might be productive of the most dangerous consequences in those colonies. On these grounds he should oppose it, at the same time that he should be most anxious to see that most desirable object, the utter extinction of slavery, effected, whenever it could be effected with safety to the persons and properties of the West-India proprietors. The interference of the House was more likely to retard and frustrate that object than to promote it. When he had the honour of holding office, the duty which, of all others, he felt to be most imperative upon him was, to resist the temptation which was naturally held out to every man of humanity to proceed without, perhaps, sufficient deliberation, to the extinction of a system so abhorrent to all our notions of freedom, and to proceed with that caution 62 and circumspection, which a due regard to all the interests concerned in this great question demanded.
§ Mr. Fowell Buxton
said, that he had deliberately considered the suggestion to which his noble friend (Lord Althorp) had drawn his attention, and that, upon mature conviction, he was determined to oppose the introduction of the words proposed. He should divide the House, even if alone, on the point.
§ Lord Howick
expressed the gratification with which he had listened to the manly and honest declaration of the right hon. and gallant Officer (Sir George Murray)as to the necessity of the utter extinction of slavery, a sentiment in which he cordially concurred, and which was the more refreshing after the speech of the right hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Peel), from which it was impossible to gather whether or not he was opposed to the permanent continuance of slavery. That right hon. and gallant Officer looked to the ultimate extinction of slavery; and he should despise himself and the House if he and it should look to anything else but the extinction of slavery. At the same time, he was ready to allow, that the extinction must be begun gradually and temperately. He did not think that it would be impossible, after due consideration, to devise a system for the abolition of slavery, in which both the hon. member for Weymouth and those connected with the West Indies would concur. He agreed with the right hon. Gentleman in thinking that this matter should as much as possible be kept in the hands of the Government. The Government had acted upon that principle; but the difficulties with which it had to contend in this instance were to be attributed to that system of delay to which all the other difficulties which they had to meet were to be attributed. In 1823, when the passions were not excited so much as they were now, a settlement of this question was practicable, but the right hon. Baronet opposite and his colleagues then shrank from the responsibility of effecting such a settlement., and that was the true source of the difficulties with which the present Government had to contend in dealing with this question. The right hon. Baronet disclaimed being actuated by the spirit of party on this subject, but he had certainly been under the influence of a stationary spirit with regard to it. While on the Treasury bench he was 63 alive to the difficulties which surrounded the question; but when he got to the opposite side of the House, in this as on other questions, he was ready to start objections to the course of Government. The right hon. Baronet had pursued the same course with regard to Slavery that he had pursued with regard to Reform and the Catholic Question. Did the right hon. Baronet not recollect the strong language he used in 1827, in opposing Mr. Canning's accession to office, because that Minister would carry the Catholic Question; and did not the right hon. Baronet remember how well two years afterwards, he had refuted the arguments he had before advanced? The course the right hon. Baronet then pursued he was pursuing now in relation to slavery. The right hon. Baronet was a waiter upon time, and he left to others to clear the road of all the difficulties that might beset it. The Order in Council which had been issued by his Majesty's Ministers was founded upon precisely the same principles as those Orders in Council to which the right hon. Baronet had been a party. After eight years of discussion, it would have been mere trifling on the part of the Government to have asked the legislative colonies to adopt the resolutions of 1823, without coming forward with some measure to induce them to do so. He hoped that the appointment of this Committee would lead to a favourable result, and he could not see, that the appointment of it was at all likely to supersede the Order in Council. The result of the labours of the Committee, he trusted would be, to advise the legislative colonies to adopt the Order in Council, and to devise better and more effectual means for putting an end to slavery. The measures which had been taken in the Crown colonies for the amelioration of the condition of the slaves had been productive of the best effects as was proved by the alteration in the rate of mortality among the slave-population of those islands. In the debate of last year, the speech of the hon. member for Weymouth made such an impression upon him that in order to ascertain more clearly the effect of the measures which had been adopted, he caused returns to be made of the comparative progress of the population before and after those measures. In Guiana, Trinidad, and St. Lucia, the three Crown colonies in the West Indies, a great and decided 64 difference had become apparent in the mortality of the slave-population. In St. Lucia there were, in the year 1819, 6,800 males and 8,200 females. In the six years ending the 1st of January 1825, there was an apparent decrease in the slave-population, arising from the excess of the deaths over the births, amounting to 702. In the three years following there was an increase of the births above the deaths of 227. So that during the period of unmitigated slavery there was an annual loss of slave life of 117 per annum, or eight in every thousand, while in three years of the improved system there was an increase of seventy-six in each year, or about five and a half in every thousand. Now, on the other hand, what was the case in the chartered colonies? In Jamaica, during the six years to which he had referred, there was a positive decrease of 8,436, being an annual waste of life amounting to 1,406, or about four and one-sixth in every thousand, while in the three years, during which such an improvement had taken place in St. Lucia, there was in Jamaica a positive decrease of 7,299, about seven and a half in a thousand, so that the decrease was not very far from being doubled. That statement afforded a proof of the good effects which had followed from the measures taken for the ameliorating the condition of the slaves—measures which had been taken with as much caution and prudence as the most timid amongst the West-Indian body could desire, and he trusted that the Committee which would be now appointed might devise some means by which the certain, though not, perhaps, early extinction of slavery might be effected.
Sir Robert Peel
said, that the noble Lord had taken an ungenerous advantage of his having spoken; and had made an attack which the noble Lord well knew he had not the power, consistently with the forms of the House, to repel. He certainly did not expect that, in a discussion on the question of slavery, his conduct in 1827, and in 1829, in relation to the Catholics, should be brought before the House. The noble Lord, without attacking him, had quite enough to do to defend the colonial policy of the Government [cries of "spoke!"] As the House would not allow him to enter into the subject, he would confine himself to explanation. He never had objected to the Order in Council, but he had expressed his surprise, that the 65 noble Lord, after being six months in office, should have publicly spoken of an Order in Council, which he said was not matured, but yet which must be adopted to the letter by the independent legislature of each colony. He had never objected to the extinction of slavery, but he had said, that for the Government to assent to resolutions that slavery ought to be abolished, without first providing the means by which they could be carried into effect, was likely to be productive of frightful calamities, which every man of humanity must shudder to contemplate.
objected to requiring the colonists to adopt resolutions which the House itself was ready to break. He felt it his duty to move an amendment to the Motion of the hon. member for Weymouth namely that in his resolution, after the word "safety," there should be inserted the words "of the interests of all parties concerned;" and that at the end of the resolution, the following words should be inserted:—"And in conformity with the resolutions of the 15th of May, 1823."He had in his possession at present a petition from a great body of his constituents—from men of all interests, East-Indian, West-Indian, and North-American—praying that the House would appoint a Committee to inquire into the subject before it adopted any sudden measure with regard to the West Indies. He trusted, that the principle of conciliation would be adopted on all sides. In proposing his amendment which he should feel it his duty to press on the House, he must declare himself a warm friend to the improvement of the condition of the slaves, though he had never been an abolitionist, and had always taken care to keep clear of the abolitionists. He thought they were actuated by too much party zeal, and that their conduct was as often dictated by animosity to the planters as by charity to the slaves, and he wished not to be implicated in their proceedings. He knew that nothing was more difficult than to make slaves fit to receive the benefits of freedom. The Greeks and the South Americans were both examples of this fact. The noble Lord concluded by moving his Amendment.
§ Lord Althorp
said, that he had suggested to the hon. member for Weymouth the propriety of adding some such words at the end of the resolutions. He thought it was more desirable that that hon. Gen- 66 tleman should propose the introduction of such words; but that not being the case, it appeared to him that it would be expedient to add at the end of the resolutions, the words "and in conformity with the resolutions of the House, of May 15, 1823." After the House had so often recommended the gradual, but ultimate, emancipation of the slaves, he did not see how it was possible, consistently with their former declarations, or with resolutions which had stood so long on their Journals, to enter into any question of the advantages which slavery had produced to the West-India colonists, although at the same time he had no hesitation in declaring, that he was totally opposed to the adoption of any steps for the sudden emancipation of the slave-population. In conformity, therefore, to the view which he took of the Motion of the hon. member for Weymouth, he should not deem it necessary to oppose it, but simply to propose, as an amendment on the original question, with the noble Lord's (Lord Sandon) leave, that there be added to the Motion the following words, "and in conformity to the resolutions of this House of the 15th of May, 1823."
Sir Robert Peel
thought that some words implying that the interests of the planters should be protected ought to be introduced into the resolution.
§ The Speaker put the original question together with the amendment.
§ Sir Charles Wetherell
said, that he felt it necessary to vindicate his right hon. friend near him, and those who acted with him on the question of Catholic Emancipation, from one of the most extraordinary attacks which under the circumstances of the case, he had ever heard made upon a public man. He thought that a more conciliatory speech than that delivered by his right hon. friend could not easily be imagined; nevertheless, it had called from the noble Under Secretary for the Colonies a speech, than which anything more insulting, more provoking, more unstatesmanlike, had never fallen from a gentleman holding an official situation, whether young in office or old in office. The noble Lord had laboured, with no very great portion of success, to convert the motion of the hon. member for Weymouth to the purposes of his party—and he had endeavoured with 67 great earnestness to mix up the question of the Abolition of Slavery with that of Catholic Emancipation, and to link it in the same car with Reform. Now, the noble Lord, in pursuing this course, had shown a total disregard to that mutual understanding, which, he (Sir Charles Wetherell) fully believed had been entered into on both sides, to avoid the introduction of all irritating and party topics whilst discussing the momentous question which was then before the House. The noble Lord was, however, not peculiarly happy in his attempts to excite other feelings than those of unanimity; his course, it must be acknowledged, was the reverse of pouring oil upon the angry waters. The noble Lord had not been long in office, and therefore he would take the liberty of advising him, the next time the question of slavery was introduced, and there appeared a disposition on both sides of the House to proceed pari passu, not, as far as he was concerned, to let any thing occur on the part of the Government, to prevent the question from having a safe and easy passage. The noble Lord said, that his right hon. friend was a standing-still man. Now, he thought that the noble Lord was a man of the Movement. If his right hon. friend stood still, he was sure that the colonists would not stand stlil when they heard the noble Lord's language. If ever there was an incentive to the colonies to throw off their allegiance it was to be found in the insulting, and provoking speech of the noble Under Secretary. It was evidently the intention of the noble Lord to put a construction upon the proceedings of the House which the noble Chancellor of the Exchequer and the noble member for Liverpool deprecated. When the noble Lord attacked his right hon. friend for standing still, he begged him to take care that he did not proceed too fast, for he (Sir Charles Wetherell) did not hesitate to assert, that in the present state of the West Indies, a declaration of the House of Commons in favour of unqualified emancipation would be the signal for revolt. The noble Lord was not correct in his history, when he asserted, that all the Cabinets which had existed since Mr. Canning's had stood still upon the question of emancipation. That was not the case. Considerable advances had been made towards carrying into effect the resolutions of 1823; and if the noble Lord would refer to the office in 68 which he held a situation, he would find that the question of emancipation had not stood still, but had been advanced by different Secretaries with a bona fide progression, and with as much expedition as was compatible with the cautious course recommended by Mr. Canning's resolutions. The motion had been seconded in a speech which he would not call the movement of sedition, but the movement of eloquence. The proposition of the hon. and learned seconder was this—that because slavery was abhorrent to religion and the British Constitution, it ought therefore, to be immediately abolished. That, however, was a fallacy. Others regulated the principle by historical experience, which proved that no instantaneous transition from slavery to freedom could be effected without producing mischiefs which would nearly counterbalance the blessing of liberty. The amendment had introduced into the orginal proposition a qualification of a very valuable nature—namely, that emancipation was not to be carried into effect at any particular time, but only when it could be done consistently with the safety and the interests of the persons connected with the West Indies. The noble Lord correctly and properly stated, that though the motion, as amended, did not in terms pledge the Government to grant compensation to the planters, yet it admitted the principle of compensation. He was much disposed to think that it would have been better had the question been left in the hands of Government, instead of being placed in those of a Committee. There was reason to fear that a Committee would not exercise sufficient caution in the consideration of this most important and delicate subject. The noble Lord (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had not joined in the taunts which his noble colleague had thrown out against those whom he accused of standing still, but he nevertheless approved of the appointment of a Committee. Upon that point he disagreed with the noble Lord, but he entirely approved of the amendment which he had proposed, pledging the House not to authorize any attempts at sudden emancipation, but only a course of proceeding in conformity with the resolutions of Mr. Canning. With all due deference to the abolitionist party—to the piety or saintship of one class, the eloquence of another and the eagerness of a third— 69 it was his opinion that the idea of the immediate emancipation of the slave-population of the West-India colonies was an absurdity. He trusted the Government of this country would never sanction a course of conduct with respect to the colonies, which would operate like the famous proclamation of the French Convention, in which they proclaimed freedom to all the slaves of the colonies. He was certainly as willing as any person to abolish slavery, but he would not do so at the cost of the destruction of life and property. The question of emancipation involved not only the manumission of the slaves, but a consideration of the interests of the great branches of trade which had grown out of the system of slavery. As it appeared to be the wish of the House not to divide, he hoped that the hon. member for Weymouth would be induced to agree to the amendment proposed. The hon. Member at first seemed disinclined to allow his motion to be modified at all. In the cant phrase of the day, he would have emancipation, instant emancipation, and nothing but emancipation. If the hon. Member's wishes were carried into effect, our colonies would exhibit a scene of horror similar to that which the French colonies presented at the commencement of the revolution. He should not have risen but for the purpose of vindicating his right hon. friend from the furious and unjust attack of the noble Lord, and he would conclude by expressing his determination to give his support to the amendment.
observed, that if ever there was a question of a public nature which ought to be discussed in a temperate and kindly feeling, and with an entire exemption from all irritating party topics, it was that which was the subject of consideration that evening. It was for this reason, that he had listened to observations which seemed to him to spring more from heat of temper than coolness of debate. If the House was really sincere—if they were really anxious to wipe off the stigma which attached to Great Britain for maintaining her slave establishments in the West Indies—the present was the time at which to do so. The introduction of irritating topics and personal acrimony was the likely way to induce the planters to entertain the same feelings; and the amelioration of the condition of the slaves would be thus retarded, 70 instead of being hastened, by their discussions. He felt happy to see the noble Lord (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) determined to keep the resolutions of 1823 in mind. The Committee which it was proposed to appoint was in perfect accordance with the spirit of those resolutions; and it was also in perfect conformity to the expressed intention of those resolutions, to do nothing inconsistent with the safety of the colonies or the interests of the planters; for no one who was acquainted with their purport was uninformed of the fact that such was their special recommendation in the concluding paragraph, and the addition of the amendment of the noble Lord to the present motion would attach that same recommendation, to keep in view the safety of the colonies and the interests of the planters, to the Committee which it was sought to appoint; and he should be glad if the hon. member for Weymouth would inform him upon what grounds he objected to the consideration of the planters' interests. When the hon. Member read to the House the paragraph from the Demerara papers—a statement, by the way, by which he declared he was ready to be bound to the House—he totally omitted to read one part, which would be found to have a material effect upon the preceding statement. The declaration to which he alluded was that of a conviction in the minds of the planters that it was unworthy of the British Government to seek to emancipate their slaves by indirect means; and they, therefore, were certain that the Government would deem it more honourable for them to procure the liberation of the slave-population by open means, than to resort to any underhand proceedings to effect their purpose. Now, what was meant by this, but that the abolition of slavery was considered to be a measure which it was better to effect openly, and with a due regard to the interests of the planters, and wherein was this inconsistent with the resolutions of the House of Commons of 1823? Before the question was brought forward by the hon. Member, he had taken an opportunity of asking the hon. Member whether he intended his motion to comprise any provision having regard to the interests of the slave-owners. To this question the hon. Member replied that he did not intend such a provision to form part of his motion, but that it was his intention to urge the Govern- 71 ment to make them some compensation. He believed that the condition of the slaves had been considerably ameliorated in consequence of the resolutions passed in 1823, though he lamented to hear the statement of the hon. member for Weymouth as to the extent to which punishment was carried, knowing as he did, that there was good ground for it. He deplored the existence of the flogging, but there was no reasoning upon the subject. Experience proved the impossibility of a state of slavery existing without some means of compelling labour. What was the ground upon which military flogging in free-states, and applied to free men, was defended? Necessity. He denied the existence of the necessity; but if flogging in the case of free men could find advocates on the plea of necessity, how was it possible to dispense with corporal punishment in the case of slaves? The hon. member for Weymouth properly defined slavery when he said, that it was a system which insured the proprietor the labour of his slave. In discussing the question of slavery, it was advisable to discard all topics of an irritating nature, and to have in view the amelioration of the condition of the slaves, in all their measures, as much as possible. He thought it quite possible that measures might be adopted for the ultimate abolition of slavery, agreeably to the resolutions of the House, consistently with the welfare of the slaves, and the interests of the proprietors. He would not yield to the hon. member for Weymouth in a desire to see the slave-population free; but he thought that they would not consult either the happiness of the slaves, or the interest of the proprietor by immediate emancipation. Slavery was an evil which had unfortunately grown up under laws which we had sanctioned, and practices long continued. The wise course was, not to consider slavery as an abstract question, but to look at it as it existed under these circumstances, and reflect whether any sudden change was likely to prove beneficial either to the slaves or their masters. Admitting the decrease of the slave-population as stated by the hon. member for Weymouth, it by no means followed, that this decrease was the consequence of a state of slavery. It might be accounted for by other circumstances. He was informed that there were special reasons for the decrease in Demerara, to 72 which the hon. Member particularly referred. It appeared, by the same returns from which the hon. Member quoted, that in Barbadoes, which produced 220,000 cwt. of sugar, and was, in fact, fourth or fifth in the list of sugar plantations, the slave-population had increased by 9,000 or 10,000 during the same period in which the population of Demerara had decreased 10,000 or 12,000. Results so different under apparently the same circumstances required another explanation than that which the hon. member for Weymouth had given. It had been stated in evidence before a Committee of the House, that the decrease of population in Demerara had been gradually diminishing from 1825 up to the present moment, and that now there was no decrease at all. This was a point of the utmost importance, to which the attention of the Committee should be specially directed. The witness to whose evidence he had alluded, stated that the time would soon arrive when there would be an increase of the slave-population in Demerara. This evidence, which was that of a person perfectly conversant with the subject, was in flat contradiction to the statement of the hon. member for Weymouth. At all events, it proved, that further inquiry was necessary before the House adopted the views of the hon. Member. The most prudent course which the House could pursue was, to adopt the amendment proposed by the noble Lord, which was in strict conformity with the principles which had been confirmed again and again in that House. In the present state of the colonies nothing should be done which was calculated to excite irritation. If the resolutions of the hon. member for Weymouth should be carried, they would produce a feeling amongst the colonists which would render them indisposed to adopt any measures recommended by this country. It must be evident to the colonists that there existed an overwhelming desire on the part of the people of England that throughout the British possessions every man should be free; and he believed that they would yield to that desire; but again he would repeat, that the work of emancipation must be gradual, in order to ensure the happiness of the slaves and the interests of the planters, and of the country.
Mr. Gally Knight
said, it was impossible for any man to feel a stronger desire than 73 he did for the abolition of slavery; and he was quite prepared to say, that if the House were any longer to delay to take the question into its own hands, it would neither appear to be influenced by the dictates of humanity, nor fairly express the strong and declared opinions of the nation, which its Members represented. To arrive at the complete extinction of slavery must be the great end and aim of all their proceedings, and this great object must no longer be left to the tender mercies of colonial legislatures. In the words of Mr. Canning,—'Trust not the masters of slaves in what concerns legislation for slavery; let the British House of Commons do their part themselves; and let the evil be remedied by an assembly of free men, and the Government of a free people.' The obstinate resistance of the colonial assemblies, the resistance of the planters, the resistance of the proprietary body, in opposition to the voice of humanity, in opposition to the voice of the British nation—all this resistance only made it the more necessary for that House to interfere. Nine years had passed away in vain exhortation on the part of the mother-country, and stubborn resistance on the part of the colonies, and nothing effectual had been done. In 1832 the slave question was nearly in the same position as in 1823. Out of many regulations which the colonial assemblies had been repeatedly urged to confirm, one island might have adopted one regulation, and another island another, but none of the colonial legislatures had adopted all. Scarcely a statute had been passed which carried within itself a reasonable security for the faithful execution of its provisions; and so little had the spirit of colonial legislation been changed, that, only last year, the House of Assembly in Jamaica rejected, by a large majority, a proposition for the discontinuance of the flogging of females. If the unremitted efforts of nine successive years—if the declared sentiments of the great men of all parties—if the unanimous wish of the British nation—if the dictates of humanity, and the dictates of prudence, had no effect on the colonial legislatures, to what opinion must the House come at last? Every Englishman must come to the opinion, that the period had at last arrived when it became the duty of that House to take the question into its own hands. But, whilst he was entirely of opinion that it was necessary for the House to interfere, 74 they must not be provoked, even by contumacious resistance, into a disregard of justice, or into measures which would not be the best for the slaves themselves. Emancipation ought to be the constant aim and end to which all measures were to be directed, but the slave must not immediately be placed in a situation for which he was little prepared. Let not the House appear to wish at once to secure to themselves the luxury of doing good, and the luxury of tormenting; to have the ruin of the planter as much at heart as the liberty of the slave; to be regardless how much blood-shed they might cause, so long as it was the blood of the whites. Two parties were concerned: the Legislature had duties to discharge to both; and if the slave was to be considered first, the planter should not be forgotten. If the mother-country, after having long sanctioned slavery, had come, and rightly come, to the resolution of wiping that foul stain from her code, the mother-country should share the inconvenience which must result from a change of system. If the mother-country required the colonies to adopt regulations which of necessity diminished their profits, when they were in a distressed state already, the mother-country had a right to share the loss which she occasioned. It was a shabby philanthropy which indulged itself at the expense of others; and, if England was sincere in her wish to accelerate the extinction of slavery, England should give a proof of her sincerity by consenting to pay the price. It was Mr. Wilberforce who said, that "there existed no right of paying a debt of African humanity with West-Indian property." But, if the whole value of all the slaves in the West Indies were subscribed and laid down, he would contend that they could not do the slaves a greater unkindness than setting them free at once. Sudden liberty would only be a wild intoxication; slaves suddenly advanced to freedom, would be likely to make a bad use of that of which they had no just conception. They might be vindictive; they would certainly be idle. The object was, to make them better and happier than they were; and the House ought to pursue that course which was most likely to reach this righteous end. There was, in the immediate neighbourhood of our West-Indian colonies an island, of which the history afforded a sad but useful lesson to all the parties who were concerned in the present question; to the 75 planters, on the one hand, and to those who advocated the immediate abolition of slavery, on the other. The island of St. Domingo too forcibly demonstrated the fatal consequences of prolonged resistance on the part of the planters; the fatal effects of the injudicious haste of immediate abolitionists; and, lastly, the fatal crimes into which sudden emancipation was liable to lead the slave-population, and the questionable benefit which sudden emancipation afforded, even to the emancipated themselves. The proceedings of les Amis des Noirs, and the decrees of the National Assembly, with reference to St. Domingo, were the very counterpart of the propositions of the immediate abolitionists of this country: and what was the result? Wholesale massacre; universal devastation; crimes, horrible and numberless; crimes of an amount to doom the slaves to endless perdition at the very moment of emancipation. The most fertile island of all the Antilles was now reduced to import sugar for its own consumption. Disgraced with the ruins of its towns, its villas, and its plantations; half depopulated, scarcely cultivated, St. Domingo held out to the world a frightful example of the inutility of freedom to those who were unprepared for it. Let the fate of St. Domingo be a warning to all; and, while it moderated the zeal of those who would move too fast, let it school the pride and tame the obstinacy of colonial legislatures, and teach them, by timely concession, to shield themselves from a fate which it was still in their power to avert. The recent conduct of the West-Indian colonies, and, he regretted to add, of the proprietary body, had naturally turned the tide of public feeling into a contrary direction from that which it was beginning to take. But the House must not suffer themselves to be hurried away by passions, because others were intemperate. Not even an honest indignation should induce them to depart from the paths of justice and wisdom. He should wish the House to make it evident to the colonies that no concessions would be made to the planter, unless the planter would make concessions to the slave. This House must no longer be thwarted in its endeavours to ameliorate the condition of the slave; but with these concessions he should have been willing to rest content for the present. It would, in every way, be better for the slave. Previous education and preparation would train him up by degrees for the possession 76 and proper use of freedom; and, until he should be completely free, any relief afforded to the master would be of advantage to the slave; for if the master were kept in bad humour, the servant would be sure to fare worse. The Amendment which had been proposed by the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, exactly met his views on this important subject, and he could only say, that he should be happy to give it his cordial support.
said, that the unfortunate transactions which occurred at St. Domingo, were not the consequence of the emancipation of the slaves, but the result of an attempt to reduce those who were emancipated to a state of slavery again. Though he was a determined abolitionist, he was no enemy to the planter; neither were any persons of the party with which he was connected: on the contrary, they all were of opinion, that by promoting the abolition of slavery they should promote the best interests of the planters. He regretted exceedingly that the noble Lord should have brought forward his Amendment on the Motion of his hon. friend, which should have his vote, if his hon. friend called for a division of the House.
would carefully abstain from the adoption of any language that might hurt the feelings of hon. Members whose views were opposed to his own. The right of compensation he must deny upon two distinct grounds; first, upon the principle that no man could reasonably claim compensation for surrendering that which inflicted wrong upon his fellow-creature; no man could be the property of another man. Secondly, he was of opinion that no case for compensation would arise, for they did not wish to deprive the West-India proprietors of their houses and estates; they simply required them to cultivate their lands as lands were cultivated in this country, by free labour, which, he contended, would be productive of gain, instead of loss. With respect to the noble Lord's proposition, he must object to it as a source of delay, of which they had ample experience already. He was for throwing overboard the resolutions of 1823, which had been brought forward by a Minister not remarkable for the sincerity of his devotion to the cause of freedom, and were only calculated to delude the public, and procrastinate the adjustment of the question. The proposition of his hon. friend, the member for Weymouth, embraced 77 emancipation, coupled with safety, and upon that score was liable to no objection. He implored the noble Lord (Lord Althorp) to grant a Committee on the principle laid down by his hon. friend, out of consideration for the general voice of the people of England, which it would prove vain to resist, as the time would shortly arrive when a more popular House of Commons would be returned, with its Members deeply pledged to the abolition of slavery. No change in the Representation was necessary in Ireland to accomplish that end, for all the Irish Members, with one exception, he believed, were unanimous upon the question. The danger to the planters, he was prepared to maintain, lay, not in the abolition, but in the continuance of slavery—in the existence of a system that made its victims consider life a burthen, and death desirable. The resolutions of 1823 had done their business. The country had been long enough deluded, and it was time that the people should know that the slave was to be emancipated. He felt deeply for the planters, but he felt also for the slaves. The state of society in the colonies was one of continual misery to both parties; to which was Superadded the continual apprehension of more frightful misery. The planter was sitting, dirty and begrimed, over a powder magazine, from which he could not go away, and he was hourly afraid that the slave would apply a torch to it. Let England, then, perform her act of retribution to the slaves, and she would release the planter from his thralldom, while she would make it impossible for the Americans, the Spaniards, or any other nation, to continue the reign of oppression. He hoped that the noble Lord would not persevere in pressing his Amendment, but if he were resolved to do so, he trusted that his hon. friend would take the sense of the House upon the question.
said, it was easy to declaim vaguely, as the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. O'Connell) had done, against granting compensation to the West-India proprietors; but it should be borne in mind, that when compensation was demanded, it was for that which the legislature of this country had treated as property for a long series of years. The hon. and learned Gentleman himself admitted, that by the adoption of free labour no injury would result to the planter. Now if such were the fact, upon what plea could the 78 hon. and learned Member object to the words which it was proposed to add to the resolution? In his opinion, however, the interests of the West-India proprietors formed the smallest part of the consideration in the question of compensation; for, looking merely to the profits of the estates, it would require very little money to make an equivalent for their relinquished profits. But who, he would ask, could make adequate compensation to the shipping and other great interests of the country, whose property was so closely connected with the colonies? The feeling that was abroad among the people of England, on the subject of slavery—a feeling honourable in its origin—would not, he was afraid, be satisfied save by the surrender of the colonies. But he would venture to say, that when the colonies were gone from us, and the eyes of the country opened, then a bitter day would arrive for the nation, and Gentlemen little anticipated how the change would be felt in every town in the kingdom, and among our interests, both commercial and agricultural. It was clear, from their trading relations, that when the West-India islands were gone, our American colonies would soon follow. He was every way inclined to speak with respect of the efforts of those persons who by their perseverance, had succeeded in ameliorating the condition of the slaves, and he believed that, by pursuing temperate measures, they might yet effect much good, and at no very distant period effect the emancipation of the negro. Still he could not assent to all the statements they had put forth, nor agree to their consequent deductions. The hon. member for Weymouth had produced a calculation of the amount of the annual punishment by the whip in the whole of the West-India islands, which he rated at 2,000,000 of lashes. Now, supposing that the calculation were accurate, what did it amount to? Why, that this extent of corporal punishment being distributed among 800,000 persons, left about two stripes for each individual negro. He would admit the principle that the free labourer was a cheaper servant than a slave. Instead of feeding and taking care of a man—leaving out of view the original outlay of capital—it would, he granted, be most desirable for the planter to substitute the payment of wages and free labour, and he should feel gratified if a Committee could hold out to the House and the country 79 any hope of so beneficial an alteration. But if they could not give such a hope—if they proceeded with reckless impetuosity—if what was called freedom proved to be freedom from labour—then the result would, he apprehended, be, that the white men would be obliged to leave the islands, and we should be compelled to take an article of extensive commerce from foreign colonies which employed slave-labour, while the price of sugar would be doubled or trebled in Jamaica. If they acted imprudently, he was convinced that they would eventually cause more instant cruelty and misery than had occurred in ten years of our own colonial system. He approved of the Amendment proposed by the noble Lord, and should certainly vote for that; it was at least a useful modification of the hon. member for Weymouth's proposition. He objected to the motion of the hon. member for Weymouth, because he was persuaded of the danger of making declarations tending to excite the negroes. They all knew the effects which had already been produced in Ireland by the declaration of the Ministers, that tithes were to be extinguished, and fearing worse effects from a similar declaration as to slavery he objected to the hon. Member's resolution. He would relate an anecdote, to show the evil of prematurely proclaiming the extinction of slavery. It was a mistake of Washington's, who specified in his will that his negro slaves—of whom, like most Virginian gentlemen, he had a large number—should on his demise be set free, adding the proviso, that their liberation should be postponed until Mrs. Washington's death. After the will was opened, Mrs. Washington, by the advice of some friends, ere she retired to rest for the night, adopted the precaution of liberating all the slaves. He would leave this anecdote to the understanding of the House.
§ Dr. Lushington
believed, that but for the endeavours of those persons who had laboured indefatigably to put the people of England in possession of the merits of the question, slavery, with all its admitted evils, would have continued unaltered up to the present hour. The proprietors he was persuaded from long experience, did not feel as had been asserted, a sentiment of commiseration for the slaves. And when it was said, that if injury were inflicted on them there was a mode of redress, he denied the fact. In a case which occurred last November, where a person in power 80 had inflicted injury on a slave, complaint was made to the Council of Protection, and redress was refused. He knew it was said, that in Jamaica a code had been promulgated in 1831, and that the negroes now enjoyed its protection. But he begged to observe, that this code—which was drawn up in such a manner as to show that the framers meant one thing while they professed to do another—allowed a stranger to inflict fifteen lashes on a negro in the field, even in the absence of the owner, driver or master, while the owner himself was permitted, at his good will and pleasure, to inflict as many as thirty-nine lashes. That code did not say a word against the flogging of females—not a word about compulsory manumission. If he wanted a receipt to create a general insurrection in the colonies, he should find it in making the negroes of the colonies believe that they must look for emancipation to the legislatures of the colonies themselves, instead of being allowed to expect it from the Legislature of this country; for then their present hopes of emancipation would be converted into absolute despair. He rejoiced exceedingly that the attempt at conquering St. Domingo had failed, for though, perhaps, that island produced less sugar than some other islands of the West Indies, it yet possessed a population enjoying the advantage of freedom, and, in consequence of that freedom, a greater degree of happiness than they could ever have hoped to attain had they still remained under the curse of slavery. Having been a member of the West-India committee in 1806, and having most attentively considered the subject ever since, he became every day more fully convinced, that the continuance of slavery was absolutely incompatible with the prosperity of the colonies. He was also certain that no West-India property would ever make a favourable return to its owners, so long as slavery was united with absenteeism. His connexions were many of them holders of large property in the West-Indies, and for their sakes he hoped that the emancipation of the negroes would be undertaken by the Legislature of this country, and steadily pursued.
Lord George Bentinck rose
to defend Mr. Canning from the charge which had been made against him by the hon. and leaned Gentleman, the member for Kerry, and he could assure that hon. Member that Mr. Canning was a sincere friend to 81 the negroes, but he was at the same time a friend to the planters. He could assure the hon. and learned Member that Mr. Canning never had sacrificed his private feelings to political motives; and in proof of the purity of his illustrious relative's principles, he begged leave to remind the hon. and learned Member of Mr. Canning's conduct on the Catholic question. He must deny that Mr. Canning had ever attempted to bolster up his broken fortunes by a sacrifice of his principles. He was too high-minded to adopt such a course. He should support the Motion as amended by the noble Lord.
§ Mr. Burge
had waited till a late hour of the night before he addressed the House, in order that he might know the full extent of the misrepresentation and calumny which the colonies were to encounter in this Debate, and what new topics were to be urged, with the sole purpose of depriving this discussion of the calmness and temper with which it ought to be conducted, and of preventing the House from forming a dispassionate and sober judgment on one of the most momentous and difficult questions ever presented to the consideration of a deliberative assembly. The experience of former debates had prepared him for the course which the hon. member for Weymouth and his party had taken. He had repeated all his former mis-statements and exaggerations, and he had again proved that it was only to the passions and prejudices which he would excite, and not to the calm reason and sober reflection of mankind, he would leave the decision of this great question. But he (Mr. Burge) had not been prepared for the course which the Government had taken. He had not anticipated that he should see them openly renounce the protection of our colonies, and still less had he expected they would exhibit themselves unable or unwilling to incur the responsibility with which preceding Governments had charged themselves, of retaining in their own hands the superintendence of those measures by which the ultimate extinction of slavery might be effected, and that they would surrender it to those who were not only the avowed enemies of our colonies, but who were deficient in every qualification requisite for the discharge of so delicate and hazardous a trust. This most unjustifiable course had been the result of no mature deliberation, of no previous communication with any persons interested in our colonies, but 82 appeared to have been decided on within the last few hours. Yesterday, the Government had resolved on giving a direct negative to the motion of the hon. member for Weymouth; in the course of that afternoon he understood that it was their intention to move an amendment which would have expressly left to a Committee an inquiry into all the measures which had been adopted by the colonial legislatures, in furtherance of the resolutions of the House in 1823, and it was not until one hour before the Debate commenced, that he heard his Majesty's Ministers had resolved o concur in the hon. Member's motion—a motion which assumed that nothing had been, or was to be, done by the colonial legislatures for the amelioration of the slave-population; that measures by which amelioration had been, or was to be, effected, were not those by which the extinction of slavery was to be accomplished; which left it doubtful whether any compensation was to be granted for the destruction of property; in short, which abandoned all the principles on which alone preceding Ministers, as well as both Houses of Parliament, had considered that the extinction of slavery could, or ought, to be accomplished. This was the only country possessing colonies—it was certainly the first time in the history of this country, which had hitherto regarded them as an integral part of the empire, that the Government had been found renouncing the protection of those colonies, and placing them in the hands of those whose policy had been considered altogether incompatible with their preservation. But this was not the full extent of the injustice they had experienced. Hitherto, the Minister who in that House represented the Colonial Office, had considered it his duty to interfere between the contending parties, to allay excitement, to correct misrepresentations, and to endeavour that justice should be done to the colonies. What, however, had been the conduct of the noble Lord, the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies? He was found, not allaying, but increasing, excitement: he declared he rejoiced that the motion of the hon. member for Weymouth had been made: he exhibited himself, not as a Minister of the Crown, but as an active partisan of that hon. Member, and of the hon. and learned member for Ilchester who had triumphantly declared that his life had been passed in disseminating information on this subject, and that it was to the exer- 83 tions of himself and his party, he attributed the feeling which existsed in this country on the question of slavery. The noble Lord, instead of correcting the misrepresentations of others, had added to them: he had talked of the fruitless applications made to the colonial legislatures, to adopt measures of amelioration, and of their refusal to accede to them. This was a misrepresentation: but if the assertion were true, at least the noble Lord should have been prepared to have proved its truth. If the noble Lord believed it, he must be in utter ignorance of all that had been done in the different colonies: he must have imagined that no preceding Secretary of State had ever applied himself to this subject, and he never could have read the correspondence in his office. Had he never seen the despatches of Earl Bathurst, Mr. Huskisson, and Sir George Murray, addressed to the governors of the colonies having legislatures, in which he would discover that those Ministers, could find measures which merited and received the approbation of the Government? They held language directly opposite to that which the noble Lord had used, and which had also been used in the circular letter of the 10th of December, to which the name of Lord Goderich was affixed. The noble Lord represented that nothing had been done by the colonial legislatures, with the exception of one or two of the colonies, in which laws had been passed admitting the evidence of slaves. Before the noble Lord thus libelled (for he had libelled) the different colonial legislatures—before he had endeavoured to discredit the recorded opinions of preceding Secretaries of State,—he should have been prepared by some reference to the colonial laws, to have shown in what respects their enactments were inadequate to their purpose, and for what reasons the opinions of his predecessors were erroneous and unfounded. The noble Lord's representation, in his circular despatch, and which he had repeated to night was unjust and unwarranted. Had not every one of the colonies admitted the evidence of slaves? In some of the colonies almost all the regulations recommended by Earl Bathurst in 1823, and subsequently by his successors, had been adopted; and if they had not been adopted in all the colonies it had been because those regulations were not equally applicable to all. The noble Lord, and others, seemed to imagine that one general slave-code suited 84 for all the different colonies might be established, and that there could exist no difference, arising from local causes, from the habits of the people, and their previous laws and usages, which ought to create any difference in the system of laws to be adopted by them. There was not, perhaps, a more fatal error in the policy of the Government than such an opinion. The hon. and learned member for Ilchester had referred to the slave law of Jamaica, in terms which might induce the House to suppose that the legislature of that colony had not introduced the admission of the evidence of slaves, or adopted numerous other ameliorations of the condition of the slave, until 1831; this would be a most erroneous supposition. That measure, which Mr. Canning and others justly considered most important, not merely because it would secure to the slave the full protection of the law, but because its effect would be to raise him in the scale of civilization, he alluded to the admission of slave evidence—had been adopted by the legislature of Jamaica, so long ago as 1826. It was not the fault of that legislature that his Majesty was advised to disallow the law which had adopted it. But so it was. Notwithstanding it contained this, and other provisions of the most beneficial character, yet, because it also contained some regulations which that legislature thought essential to the well-being of the slaves, no less than to the safety of the island, it was disallowed. It would appear, however, that no consideration was to be had for those measures of amelioration which had been already adopted by the colonial legislatures; no credit was to be given to them for what they had done, and what they might do. The policy which Mr. Canning, and every other statesman, had urged, was now to be abandoned. The improvement of the condition of the slave was not to be introduced through the medium of his master; but the policy now to be pursued was that which was to sow the seeds of disaffection and distrust between them, and to represent the master as the only obstacle to the freedom of his slave. It was scarcely possible to contemplate a policy more fatal to the interest of the slave, and more certain in counteracting the only means by which the extinction of slavery could be effected, in the way any rational man would desire its extinction. It must inevitably retard the progress of his civilization, and surely no man dreamt of giving him freedom 85 until he had attained that state. First, let them improve his moral character; impart to him the truths of Christianity, by that sobriety and simplicity of instruction which might protect him from the mischievous effects of fanaticism; raise him in the state of society; give him the motive for industry, which he did not and could not possess if he had only natural wants, which a few hours of cultivation could, in the fruitful and unappropriated soil on which he lived, ever supply. Until he had acquired habits of industry, and which he would not possess until he was further advanced in civilization, the gift of, freedom would be worse than useless to him. But, above all, let him cultivate those feelings of harmony and confidence between him and the master, which heretofore existed, and which so powerfully contributed to the amelioration of his condition, but which he (Mr. Burge) grieved to say, had been so greatly impaired by the conduct which had been pursued by the hon. member for Weymouth, and his party, and which now, unhappily, was too much sanctioned by his Majesty's Government. One would suppose from the sentiments heard from hon. Members, that no one could oppose the course of the hon. member for Weymouth and his partisans without being desirous of perpetuating slavery. He (Mr. Burge) was as heartily desirous of seeing the abolition of slavery effected, as any hon. Member could be, however strenuous he might appear in this House or elsewhere. But, he would seek its abolition by means which he knew would accomplish this important object; and he opposed the adoption of those means which he knew must inevitably defeat its accomplishment. He would tell those hon. Gentlemen that if they could that night succeed in obtaining a vote declaring slavery to be immediately abolished in Jamaica, they would desolate that colony—they would deluge it with blood—they would drive to the shores of some other country the few free persons who might escape the knife of the insurgent negro, and they would leave that island in possession of the negro-population. But what would then be their condition? It would be that of a lawless set of savages, cut off from all intercourse with those who would lead them on to civilization. They would be placed beyond the reach of civilization—doomed to a state of abject misery. It was said by the noble Lord, the Under Secretary of the 86 Colonies, that nine years had elapsed, and still slavery existed. Did the noble Lord mean that freedom should precede civilization? If he did not, then he would ask, could the noble Lord have read the history of Europe, or of his own country?—could he have marked the progress of civilization at other periods of the world? If he had, what warrant had he for supposing that its progress was to be more rapid amongst our slave-population than it was in this country, or in the rest of Europe? Did the experience of history justify the expectation that they should, in the period which had been assigned, have attained that state of civilization which every man of common sense would require should precede the gift to them of freedom? The opinion which the noble Lord entertained was not that of Mr. Canning, nor of any statesman, nor of any man conversant with the history of this country, or of the world. If he recalled the period when there existed in England a class of persons corresponding with the slaves of our colonies; examined the gradual means by which they were emancipated from their condition, and the progress from barbarism to civilization throughout Europe; then let him, if he could, justify the sanguine expectation with which he had limited the period when the civilization of the slaves might be perfected. It had been said by the hon. and learned member for Ilchester, that in the history of, St. Domingo he saw everything to encourage, and nothing to discourage, those means which might ensure the speediest extinction of slavery; and that the only subject of his regret, connected with that history, was the part taken by this country, and the blood and treasure which were sacrificed in endeavouring to subjugate the slave-population of that colony. He (Mr. Burge) had heard the expression of such an opinion with astonishment. He should refer to the fate of that colony, as reading the most awful lesson to this country as to the management of this question. The declaration of the National Assembly of France—the proceedings of the Society of the Amis du Noirs—the commencement and progress of the revolution which followed them—ought, with a warning voice, to arrest the course which was now taking in this country. If he wanted an example to deter the House from the rash and mischievous policy which a party in this country were pursuing, he would point to this desolated and depo- 87 pulated colony, and without endeavouring to excite commiseration by the scenes of horror which could be exhibited there, he would recall to the recollection of the House, the former condition of this, once, the most rich and splendid of all the colonial posessions in the Carribean sea, and contrast it with its present deserted fields, its scanty cultivation, enforced by coercive labour, and its wretched and reduced population. Yes, the history of St. Domingo was, and ought to be, the beacon to warn them from adopting the course which the hon. and learned Gentleman and his partisans recommended. When he heard some regret the part taken by this country in the early period of the revolution, he could not but remember how different an opinion was entertained by the great leader of his party, the present Lord Chancellor. That learned person, in his work on colonial policy, urged, ten years afterwards, the Government of this and every other country in Europe possessing colonies, to co-operate with France in putting down the negro republic of Hayti, and reducing its population to their former state of slavery. He could not think of St. Domingo, and not feel perfectly appalled at the course which the hon. member for Weymouth called on the House to adopt.—the abolition of slavery not by gradual means—not by the previous amelioration of the condition of the slave—but by at once destroying the relation of master and slave. Even the amendment which the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, had reluctantly proposed, was little calculated to allay his (Mr. Burge's) apprehensions. The noble Lord left it doubtful whether he adhered to the principles on which this House, by its resolutions in 1823, contemplated that the extinction of slavery should be effected. He spoke with hesitation of that claim to compensation of which, in 1823, he entertained no doubt. He (Mr. Burge) held in his hand that which was reported as the speech of the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and he had thus expressed himself:—'I certainly think the owner of West-India property has a fair claim on the House for compensation, in the event of the adoption of the plan proposed by my hon. friend.'* He hoped the noble Lord had not become a convert to the extravagant and unfounded notion of the hon.* Hansard (new series,)vol. ix. p. 349.88 and learned member for Kerry, that there could be no interest or property in slaves which could be the subject of compensation. He would not detain the House by enumerating the various Charters and Statutes which first created, and afterwards recognized, this property, nor give a narrative of those proceedings of the Legislature of this country which would prove that this property owed its creation and encouragement to Great Britain herself—that her colonies received it from her—that the colonial legislatures were prohibited by the Government of this country from adopting any measures which could restrain the introduction of this property into the colonies—that the Legislature of Great Britain invited not only its own subjects, but foreigners, to lend money on the security of this property. He would ask the hon. and learned member for Kerry, whether he would, as a lawyer, advance or act on that opinion in the Courts in which he practised? Would the hon. Member, in any contract of sale or mortgage of a West-India plantation and the slaves, deal with it as if those slaves were not property? Would he be prepared to say to a mortgagee, you are claiming a property in that which cannot be property? Certainly not: the Records of the Courts of Law were the best answer to the popular declamation on this subject. The hon. member for Weymouth had repeated his former assertion, that it was impossible to account for the decrease of the slave-population of the sugar colonies, upon any other principle than that of an excess of labour in the cultivation and production of sugar, and that the natural consequence of the necessary labour in cultivating sugar was a great sacrifice of human life. To support this assertion he had drawn up a paper, which he had distributed among the Members. Although it was dated the 1st of May, it was not communicated to the Members until the very day preceding that on which this discussion was to come on, and when it was quite impossible to examine the documents to which it referred, and ascertain its accuracy. There was one decisive objection to that paper. It did not contain those particulars which would discover the real cause of the decrease, and which would establish that it was not attributable to the cause which the hon. Member assigned. The Return did not distinguish the country of the slaves, their ages, and 89 the ages at which the deaths had taken place. The proportion which the survivors of the originally imported Africans bore to such slaves as were born in the island, and called Creoles, constituted a very important consideration in ascertaining the cause of the decrease. The Africans were adults when they were imported. In 1808, when the Slave-trade was abolished, and they ceased to be imported, the whole African population of the colonies were adults, the youngest not being under twenty years of age. Their decrease had been the effect of age, while there were causes which prevented any increase by births, such as the disproportion between the sexes, in consequence of the great majority imported being males, and the habits of the Africans. But it would be found that, although the Africans were decreasing, yet there was a continued increase in the Creole population, and that increase in the Creole population would stand the test of a comparison with that of any other part of the world. In Jamaica, in 1817, one-third of the slave-population consisted of Africans: there were at least 111,000, and such a proportion of Africans had a material influence in causing the decrease of the slave-population. In Barbadoes there was a very considerable increase, because Africans ceased to be imported long before the abolition of the Slave-trade. The population was in its natural state: there was a due proportion between the sexes; and the population of Barbadoes had increased. Again, if this paper had exhibited the ages, it would have been apparent that the mortality was in infancy, and not after the period when labour commenced. Returns fully and accurately detailing these particulars in the population would completely refute the hon. Member's assertion. The noble Lord, the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies, had referred to the decrease which he considered to have taken place in the island of Jamaica during twelve years. It was quite clear, that the noble Lord had not investigated, and did not know the state of that population. It was stated in the Return of 1819, that there were then 346,000 slaves in Jamaica. He had strong reasons for doubting the fact. This and the subsequent triennial Return of 1820 were double Returns—that meant in many cases, the same slaves were returned twice. The owner returned them; and, in some instances, if another than the owner was 90 in possession, he also included the slaves in his Return; others again, having a claim to the slaves, returned them, thinking they asserted, or saved their title. It was not until the triennial Return of 1823, that persons became sufficiently familiar with the provisions of the Registry Act to desist from this practice. The correction of this practice made it appear as if there were a decrease. Again, if the noble Lord had been as desirous of doing justice to the colonies, as of joining in an attack on them, he would have found himself able further to account for the considerable decrease in the triennial Return of 1823, by the fact, that in the year 1822, no less than 5,000 infants died from measles and the influenza. The noble Lord might also have still further accounted for the number of the decrease, by looking at the number of manumissions which had taken place in the twelve years. They exceeded 8,000, according to the number recorded in the Secretary's office; but it was perfectly well known that there were many manumissions which were never registered, and he was convinced that the whole number exceeded 12,000. What was the effect of these manumissions on the original slave-population? They not merely diminished the number of slaves, but they withdrew from that class of the population the means of increasing it to the extent to which otherwise it would have been increased by the children of the females manumitted. The addition thus made to the free population was a diminution of the means of increasing the slave-population. Again, there were many slaves who left the island, or who had withdrawn themselves from their owners; and here was another cause of decrease. But for these and other causes, there was no allowance made by the noble Lord; but that noble Lord was bound, as the Colonial Minister in that House, to see that justice was done to the colonies in this and every other Representation. He ought not only to be accurate himself, but to furnish himself with the means of correcting the inaccuracies of others. This was not the way in which our colonies had beeen accustomed to be treated by a Minister of the Crown. Unfortunately, however, from the period of the noble Lord's accession to office, no less than in his speech of to-night, he had proved that he entertained the sentiments, not of a Minister of the Crown bound to see that 91 justice was done to the colonies, but of a zealous partisan against them. He (Mr. Burge) would not by any observations of his, weaken the indignation which the noble Lord must have excited on the mind of every hon. Member who heard his attack upon the right hon. Baronet the member for Tamworth. To deprecate rash and precipitate measures, to warn the House of their disastrous consequences, and to implore a calm and dispassionate consideration of this great question, was so foreign to the habits and disposition of the noble Lord, that he could not understand why they should be adopted, unless for the purpose of advocating the continuance of slavery. The assertion of the noble Lord, that the colonial legislatures had literally done nothing, had been echoed by an hon. Member, of whom he (Mr. Burge) should very much like to ask, whether he had ever read, or knew the contents of any one of the Acts of every one of the colonial legislatures passed within the last five years? Neither that hon. Member, nor the noble Lord, had pointed out those defects in the laws of the several colonial legislatures which justified an assertion that nothing had been done. He should oppose to that assertion, the recorded opinions of the three preceding Secretaries of State to whom he had already alluded. He was surprised that, in all the discussions which had taken place, not one word had ever been uttered by the noble Lord in commendation of the legislature of Jamaica, in removing the disabilities of the free people of colour, and giving them all the rights of white people; but perhaps the noble Lord attached no importance to this measure, in its effect in promoting the advancement and civilization of the slave-population. If such were the case, the noble Lord afforded another instance how ill qualified he was, to judge of the means which would accelerate the freedom of the slave. The removal of the civil disability which formerly attached to the distinction of colour, the elevation in society of the class interposed between the slave and the white person, were most effectual instruments in elevating the slave, not only by removing long-established prejudices, but by furnishing the slave himself with a powerful motive for acquiring that moral capacity for a state of freedom, without which freedom would be a curse to him rather than a blessing. The dangerous delusion under 92 which so many laboured was the consequence of their ignorance of the negro habits and character. They presumed him to have attained a degree of civilization from which he was yet far removed, that he had acquired those habits which would render him an industrious labourer if he were free, and that he regarded freedom with the same feeling as they did, instead of considering it, as he really did, in no other light than as a total cessation from any employment. The mere gratification of natural wants would never supply him with an adequate motive for industrious labour, because those wants were so readily supplied. In such a case, the progress of civilization must necessarily be slow, but it was advancing, and advancing, too, by the only means which were adequate to that purpose—the improvement of his moral feelings and character. The hon. member for Weymouth had, with the greatest injustice, accused the colonies, not merely of indifference to the religious instruction of the slave-population, but of a systematic refusal to allow it to be imparted. Long before the condition of our colonies had attracted his attention, every colony readily admitted, and zealously encouraged, sober and discreet instructors in the truths of Christianity. That Society on which he had cast some unwarrantable reflexions, had its missionaries in most of our colonies. The name of one of them, the reverend Mr. Curtin, of Antigua, had been brought under the notice of the House some few weeks since. That Society had exerted itself with meritorious zeal, and had greatly contributed to the religious instruction of all classes in the colonies. But the colonies themselves, also, sustained the expense of large ecclesiastical establishments. This Society existed, and was in active operation, long before the year 1823. Since that period, the episcopal establishments had been formed, and this Society had increased its exertions, and the colonies had multiplied the means of religious instruction, by additional places of worship, by catechists, and other instructors. Of the extent of the ecclesiastical establishment of Jamaica, the papers on the Table of this House afforded abundance of proof, to the credit of that island, and in refutation of the unfounded charge of the hon. Member. In opposition to those charges, he (Mr. Burge) would refer the House to the Reports of the Bishops of Jamaica and Bar- 93 badoes—to the circumstantial details which clergymen of the Churches of England and Scotland had given—to the extent of the religious instruction which had been imparted, and the influence it had had on the slave-population. The hon. Member had especially selected the island of Jamaica as the object of his attack. He had charged that colony with the spirit of religious intolerance. He (Mr. Burge) must deny that there was the least foundation for such a charge; on no occasion had such a spirit existed. There were Catholics and Presbyterians, as well as ministers of the Church of England. Jamaica did not want the Catholic Relief Bill to secure from the legislature, not merely toleration, but assistance, in communicating instruction to the followers of that faith. The Kirk Establishment was liberally supported—the Moravians had been encouraged in pursuing their peaceful, discreet and sober course, as moral and religious instructors; nor was any distinction made in regard to any body of Dissenters, until some classes of them had injudiciously interfered with the civil and political state of the slave-population, and had made an intemperate and indiscreet use of their influence over the minds of the slaves, and been found conveying to this country, and to the known and relentless enemies of the colonies, the most unfounded charges against them. It then became the duty of the colony to consider whether the ministers of our own Church and of that of Scotland, as they were equally able and efficient, might not at the same time be more safe instruments for extending to the slaves the general truths of religion and morality; and they considered, and he thought rightly, that those truths could be inculcated with greater advantage to the slaves by sober and discreet persons, than by those who had become violent partisans against their owners. They thought it their duty to endeavour that the doctrines of religion should not be accompanied by those which excited disaffection and distrust, and were incompatible with the well-being, and peace, and safety of the island. The hon. Member supported his unfounded charge of the persecution of missionaries by extracts from a newspaper; but the hon. Gentleman at the same time condemned his proof, by admitting that he had no right to make the people of Jamaica responsible for the language which 94 the editor of a newspaper used. The House was in possession of no better proof to warrant the observations he made respecting the persons by whom the Baptist chapels had been destroyed. He (Mr. Burge) would not enter on that subject until the House had before it the means of forming a correct judgment on it. ["Question!"] There were interests, and great interests, placed in jeopardy—the lives and properties of our fellow-subjects in the colonies; and the interests also of those who had sent Members into that House were at stake. Hon. Members might rest assured, that the colonies could not be destroyed without inflicting irreparable injury on that great body of manufacturers in this country, for whom those colonies found employment and profit. The cry of "Question!" might prevent his voice from being heard; but it would not, stifle the feelings of remorse in hon. Members, when they reflected on the work of destruction which a rash and precipitate vote might complete, and on the great and extensive interests which had been thus sacrificed. Even if he (Mr. Burge) did not perceive the evident inclination of the Government to promote the views of that party whose designs were most fatal to the existence of our colonies, he should protest against this or any Government abandoning the superintendence and conduct of this great question. They were bound to take the responsibility of it upon themselves; they ought not to shrink from it; still less ought they to place it in the hands of a party pledged to a particular course, which, if persisted in, would lead to the most frightful consequences. He deprecated the course that was about to be taken that night. It was true the Motion, as amended by the noble Lord, was preferable to the original motion of the hon. member for Weymouth; but he (Mr. Burge) objected to both, because they equally placed beyond the control of the Government, a question so difficult, and so delicate, that it ought to be in the hands of those who were responsible for the manner in which they dealt with it, and who, feeling that responsibility, would deal with it with the calmness, soberness, and discretion, which it could experience from no other hands. He protested against the Government relieving itself from this responsibility by the course they were taking that night. Scarcely had the flames, which had been raging in Ja- 95 maica, been extinguished, before they were again to be lighted. There would be a repetition of all the dreadful scenes which had taken place in that unhappy colony. All that had passed that night, and especially the course adopted by his Majesty's Government, would operate with increased effect on the present excited state of the negro-population. Surely, the recent insurrection of Jamaica, the destruction of property, the sacrifice of life, and the barbarities and outrages which the savage insurgents committted, might have left on the human heart an impression strong enough to have prevented the Government from adopting a course too likely to produce the same disastrous consequences. He implored the House, he implored his Majesty's Government to pause, and he warned them of the danger they incurred; but if, regardless of the experience which they had acquired, with so dreadful a sacrifice of life and property, they persisted in their course, on them, and on them alone, must rest the responsibility, in spite of their attempt to relieve themselves from it; and never was there a responsibility so great, or involving consequences so appalling, ever before incurred by the Government of this country.
supported the Motion of the hon. member for Weymouth, as the safest, because the speediest, measure.
Sir Francis Burdett
would be happy to see an agreement between his hon. friend and the noble Lord on the subject of motions, which were so similar in their nature as scarcely to justify a difference of opinion. He saw no difference between human nature in the West Indies and in Europe, and there was, therefore, no reason why labour could not be stimulated by the same motives there as here. Whether the Committee were appointed by the Motion of the hon. Member, or the amendment of the noble Lord, it would most likely come to the same practical result, and grant compensation to the planter, while it recommended emancipation for the slaves. He hoped his hon. friend would accede to the amendment of the noble Lord. He believed that no difficulty would be found in the way of emancipating the slaves.
§ Mr. Serjeant Wilde
supported the Motion of the hon. member for Weymouth in preference to the Amendment, which mixed up together two things that ought not to 96 be united—emancipation and compensation. The first duty of that House, on the plain principles of justice, was, to give liberty to the slave; they could afterwards consider the compensation due to the master on the same principles: but they ought not to delay emancipation by refering it to the Committee to decide on the question of compensation, from which, however, in its proper place and order, he was by no means averse.
§ Sir Robert Price
entreated the hon. member for Weymouth to accede to the noble Lord's Amendment, and not sow disunion between the supporters of this great cause by pressing the original Motion.
§ Colonel Sibthorp
expressed himself as decidedly hostile to an immediate or premature emancipation of the slave-population in the colonies. That had always been his opinion; he had heard nothing tonight to alter it, and he, therefore, should vote for the Amendment.
§ Mr. Fowell Buxton
replied, that to the resolutions of May, 1823, which had been so much and so warmly eulogized by several hon. Members, was to be attributed the true cause of the delay which had been experienced in the emancipation of the slaves in the British colonies; and though he had heard for some length of time much said, both by noble Lords and hon. Gentlemen, in favour of compensation or remuneration to the planters, yet he had not heard a sentence escape their lips on the condition of those who were suffering under thousands of lashes, and were the victims of a rapid death. He concurred in what had fallen from the noble Lord (Althorp), that there ought to be two resolutions instead of one for the decision of the House, and he was therefore, willing., to add to his Motion—"That the Committee should consider and report upon the best means by which, without prejudice or delay to the emancipation of the slave-population, relief could be afforded to the West-India planters." He would meet the noble Lord thus far, though at the same time he would rather have preserved his original Motion.
§ Lord Althorp
could not see how it was possible that the addition of the words he had proposed could produce that delay which had been urged by several hon. Members as a reason against their adoption by the House. The question could not be disposed of until the Committee, sought 97 now to be appointed, had made its report, and consequently no delay was occasioned. The proposition now made by the hon. member for Weymouth was also so very different from his original Motion, and so many Members had now left the House, that he (Lord Althorp) could not give his consent to the proposition.
§ The House divided on Lord Althorp's Amendment:—Ayes 163; Noes 90:—Majority 73.
|List of the NOES.|
|Adeane, H. J.||Kemp, T. R.|
|Agnew, Sir A.||King, E. B.|
|Anson, Hon. G.||Lambert, J. S.|
|Astley, Sir J. D.||Leader, N. P.|
|Baring, Sir T.||Lefevre, C. S.|
|Barnett, C. J.||Lemon, Sir C.|
|Bayntun, S. A.||Lennox, Lord A.|
|Benett, J.||Lennox, Lord G|
|Blake, Sir F.||Lennox, Lord W.|
|Blamire, W.||Lushington, Dr. S.|
|Blackney, W.||Macaulay, T. B.|
|Blunt, Sir C.||Mayhew, W.|
|Bouverie, Hon P.||Mills, J.|
|Boyle, Hon. J.||Mullins, F.|
|Briscoe, J. I.||Musgrave, Sir R.|
|Buller, Sir A.||O'Connell, D.|
|Bulwer, E. L.||Pelham, I. C.|
|Bulwer. H. L.||Pendarvis, E. W. W.|
|Calcraft, G. H.||Penleaze, J. S.|
|Callaghan, D.||Petre, Hon. E.|
|Cavendish, Lord||Philips, Sir R. B.|
|Chandos, Marquis of||Phillipps, C. M.|
|Clifford, Sir A.||Protheroe, E.|
|Clive, E. B.||Pryse, P.|
|Curteis, H. B.||Rider, T.|
|Easthope, J.||Ruthven, E. S.|
|Ellis, W.||Sanford, E. A.|
|Etwall, R.||Skipwith, Sir G.|
|Evans, Colonel||Spencer, Hon. Capt.|
|Evans, W. B.||Stewart, C.|
|Evans, W.||Strickland, G.|
|Folkes, Sir W.||Tennyson, C.|
|Gisborne, T.||Thicknesse, R.|
|Glynne, Sir S.||Throckmorton, R. G.|
|Godson, R.||Tomes, J.|
|Guise, Sir B. W.||Vernon, Hon. G. T.|
|Hulse, J.||Vincent, Sir F.|
|Handcock, R.||Walker, C. A.|
|Handley, W. F.||Warburton, H.|
|Harvey, D. W.||Webb, Colonel E.|
|Hodges, T. L.||Wellesley, Hn. T. L.|
|Hodgson, J.||Whitmore, W. W.|
|Hoskins, K.||Wilbraham, G.|
|Hughes, Ald. W. H.||Wilks, J.|
|Hulse, Sir G.||Williams, Sir J.|
|Ingilby, Sir W.|
|Jephson, C. D. O.||TELLERS.|
|Jerningham, Hon. H.||Buxton, T. F.|
|Johnstone, A.||Wilde, T.|
§ Lord Althorp
said, that although the division on the wording of the Motion had 98 been in his favour, yet, as the appointment of a Committee on the subject was a most important matter, he was desirous of taking more time to consider who were the most proper persons to appoint.
§ Appointment of the Committee deferred.