§ On the Motion of Mr. Secretary Stanley, the House resolved itself into a Committee on the Resolutions for Abolishing Slavery.
§ The Committee proceeded with the further consideration of the 4th Resolution—"That, towards the compensation 574 of the West-Indian proprietors, his Majesty be enabled to grant a sum not exceeding 20,000,000l., to be appropriated as Parliament may hereafter think fit.
§ Mr. Robinson
begged to congratulate the House, in the first instance, in having carried the principle, that slavery should be abolished in our colonies. He was confident that the effect of its abolition there would be remotely, if not very soon, the abolition of slavery also in the United States, and in other places where it at present existed. With regard to the question of compensation, which was the only one they had now to consider, he would say, certainly, that, taking into account the sacrifice which would be made by the West-India body, something would be undoubtedly due to them from the people of this country. He was glad that his Majesty's Ministers had adopted the plan of probationary instead of immediate emancipation. If the people of England were sincerely and zealously anxious for the accomplishment of the great object of the abolition of slavery, they should cheerfully pay that amount of compensation which was justly due for the sacrifice thereby occasioned to the properties and fortunes of individuals. Though, there might be no objection to the principle of compensation, there might be a great objection to the mode in which it was proposed that the money should be raised. He, for one would never object to bear his fair proportion, as an individual, of this burthen; but he feared that when the enthusiasm of the people of England on this sub ect subsided they would entertain different feelings, when the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be obliged to levy 800,000l., or 1,000,000l. per annum in the shape of additional taxes for the purpose of carrying this measure into effect As yet they had not had time to have the opinion of the people expressed with regard to the amount of compensation proposed. For his own art, he must protest against this revenue being raised by a tax upon consumable commodities. He did not see why this money should be raised by an additional duty on sugar, an article of such general use that it had almost become necessary of life. The result would be, that the burthen would principally fall upon the productive and industrious classes in this country, who were already suffering under over-taxation, and who were ill able to bear it. He trusted that the mode of raising this money, which would not be 575 decided by this resolution, would be hereafter, in the progress of the measure, more fairly adjusted. He gave has Majesty's Ministers sincere credit for having carried this measure so far towards its completion, and he hoped that no difficulties would be thrown in the way of its ultimate success.
§ Lord Althorp
did not rise to speak to the question generally on this occasion, but he was anxious to take the first opportunity to make a few observations in reply to what had fallen from the hon. member for Worcester. The hon. Member was right in saying that they were not now called upon to decide in what way this sum was to be raised—that was to be decided hereafter. If, however, the House should decide that a grant should be made they would be bound in some way or other to make that grant good. The hon. Member said, that generally the opinion of the people of England had not been expressed on this particular part of the question. Now, that opinion had been strongly expressed in the numerous petitions which had been presented to the House, in which the people stated their readiness to grant any sum of money which might be necessary to carry such a measure into effect. He felt confident that the people of this country, seeing the sacrifice which would be occasioned by carrying of this measure, would not object to the granting such an amount of compensation as that which was now proposed. It should be always recollected by the House that this money would be granted, and only would be paid, when this measure was actually carried into effect. They did not propose to grant this money to the West-Indian body, and then to leave it to the West-Indian Legislatures to carry the provisions of this measure into effect; the money was not only to be granted on the condition that the measure would be carried into effect, but it was not to be paid until after that condition had been fulfilled. He should not enter further into the general question at present, as, no doubt, he would be frequently called upon to address the Committee upon it during the course of the debate, but he had thought it necessary at once to apply himself, as he had done, to the observations of the hon. member for Worcester.
§ Mr. Charles Buller,
though as desirous as any man for universal liberty, could not but consider that this was a question intimately interesting to the people, and it was the duty of every honest representative 576 to take care that not one farthing of additional burthen should be laid upon them—oppressed, heavily oppressed, as the people were already. It was most incumbent upon every honest representative to act strictly up to this principle now, when so little thought for the people seemed to be evinced by certain parties in the House. Indeed, he was perfectly astounded at the manner in which compensation was treated by both sides of the House. On the one side there was a readiness to confiscate the property of the planters on the other a disposition to squander the public money without a parallel. He also condemned the carelessness of the Government in the details of the pecuniary part of the plan. First the Colonial Secretary proposed a loan, then a gift. Then he named fifteen millions, and altered it to twenty. As to the colonists, indeed, he did not see why they might not ask twenty millions as wet as fifteen, or a hundred millions as twenty, for, from every appearance, they would find no difficulty in having their demands complied with by his Majesty's reformed and most economical Ministers: indeed, so liberal seemed the Chancellor of the Exchequer of the people's money, that he dared to say, the colonists would not have long to wait for their money, for the Chancellor of the Exchequer has only to double the House and Window-duty and the Malt-tax, and they would be paid, principal and interest, in less than three years. He meant no offence to his Majesty's Government; but he could not help expressing his conscientious feeling that they were showing themselves to be the most dear friends of the colonists, subservient to all their wishes; so much so, that the present plan of Ministers was almost precisely that proposed by the colonists; indeed he should not be at all surprised, before the House rose to hear the right hon. Secretary for the Colonies get up and suggest the expediency of making the twenty millions fifty. He had been considerably surprised by the arguments of more than one Member on either side of the question, but, above all, he had been astounded at a speech made by the hon. member for Middlesex the other night—it was a most unhappy thing for the flock to be thus deserted by the shepherd's dog—he meant no offence by the expression. All he meant to convey was his sorrow, that a man "who had so long, like the hon. Member he mentioned, been the guardian of the people, should desert them on such an occasion as this. He 577 certainly had been petrified to hear the same hon. Member talk of twenty millions as a mere trifle, which the people would grant without the least difficulty—who had so often stickled for the saving of twenty pounds to the people. He (Mr. C. Buller) did not for a moment deny but that we were bound to make up to the West-India proprietors the full amount of beneficial right which we take from them by the measure; and however objectionable the property in slaves might be, abstractedly considered, yet as it was a property established by the laws of this country, we were bound to respect it. He approved of gradual emancipation, but partial compensation only ought to accompany gradual emancipation. Now he objected to the right hon. Gentleman's proposal, because it gave full compensation, while the emancipation was only to be gradual. He thought that a less sum than that proposed by the right hon. Gentleman might satisfy the planters. The hon. Member entered into a variety of details as to the value of slaves in the new and old colonies, to show that the compensation proposed was too much. If the planters were to give up their whole property, which was not proposed, the sum for compensation might be reasonable. The right hon. Secretary, in fact, was going to give the planters four times as much as their advocate, the hon. member for Kidderminster, was willing to accept, and had made, as the Representative of the public, a very bad bargain. He must also object to the mode in which that compensation was to be levied, by a tax on sugar, which he considered likely to prevent the beneficial effects of emancipation, and completely to destroy the cultivation of sugar. He should wish to propose, as an Amendment to the plan of the right hon. Secretary, that a more simple and pure adoption should take place of the Spanish system, and that the slaves should work out their own freedom, and pay for it by instalments. He knew, indeed, that his plan would not meet the views of the hon. member for Weymouth; but it had so many advantages that he could not avoid calling the attention of the House to it. If that plan were followed, according to his calculations, the planters would be fully compensated by four or five millions instead of fifteen. The hon. Member entered into a variety of calculations, to show that this would be the result; and that by it the whole of the saves might be emancipated in six years. If that were the case, if it were both more 578 economical and quicker in its operations, he thought a measure which would give the speediest relief to the slave, without doing any injustice to the master, ought to be adopted. It might, undoubtedly, be objected to this, as to every plan of gradual emancipation, that it was to a certain extent a continuation of slavery—but that objection applied to every species of gradual amelioration. Unless a Government were reformed by a bloody revolution, the improvement must be gradual, and every gradual improvement, whether in government or slavery, necessarily implied a retention for a time of many abuses. If he; spoke warmly, it was only out of respect for economy—an observance of which he considered essential; and economy was a virtue in which he thought the Ministers were deficient. He congratulated the House, that at length the fiat had gone forth for the Abolition of Slavery; that it was to proceed from that House, and that it was immediately to be begun. He did not contemplate the probable results with the same eyes as other hon. Members. He did not believe, that it was possible to make the black and white population harmonize together; and he looked forward, without apprehension, to the establishment in the West Indies of a dozen St. Domingos. The negroes would not work so much—they might not work for a master; but he believed that they would be well fed and happy. Whatever might be the results to the Islands—whatever might be the results to our commerce and shipping—it was the duty of the Legislature to effect emancipation, though it was equally its duty to accomplish that with the greatest advantage possible, both to England and the colonies—both to the planters and the slaves.
agreed in the principles of the right hon. Secretary's plan, but not in all the details, and he regretted that those details had been so much entered into, because that was calculated to promote delay. He considered that the right hon. Secretary's rate of compensation was too high. He had entered into a considerable number of calculations, and he believed that seventeen instead of twenty millions would be a full compensation to the planters, at the greatest value of their property. The planters were at present in great distress; but he was convinced a great part of that distress was caused by their own fault It was proved before the Committee which sat in 1807, that from 579 1795 to that time, the planters had gone on increasing the cultivation of sugar to a great extent, and had produced more than the demand would take off. He had examined with great care the tables of the imports and exports of the colonies for periods of five years; and he could say, that from the year 1761 down to 1807, there had been a gradual increase in the importation of negroes, with the single exception of the four years of the American War. The result of that was, that there was a continual over-importation of slaves till the slave trade was extinguished. To that he attributed part of the distress of the planters. With respect to the question of property in slaves, which had been mooted, he denied, that any laws or proclamations warranted the assertion made by the planter, that this country has recognised the present right of property in the slaves. He had examined the Acts and Proclamations referred to by the planters in support of their views, and he was bound to say, that they did not bear out that assertion. He admitted, that the laws had recognised the property of the planters in the slaves they had imported, but those laws never recognised any such property in the offspring of those slaves. There was a clause in the Registry Act which had been relied on by the planters as recognising even the right of property in the offspring. That clause said, that the offspring should have the benefits of registration as well as the parents. It was intended, therefore, to secure benefits to the children—not slavery. It was to guard against the clandestine importation of slaves, and to give the offspring of slaves the same right to this protection as their parents—it was not recognizing in the planters a right of property in that offspring. Where, he should like to know, was the money to be paid to the West-India planters to come from? Was it to come from the pockets of the people of England? Why, the people were on every hand calling out for relief from their present burthens—from the House and Window Duties—from the Malt-tax—in short, the cry throughout the country was for remission of existing taxes, and not for new impositions. The proposed increase of the duty on sugar was very impolitic, and would tend to limit its consumption. It was a point with him to make himself acquainted, as minutely as possible, with the state of all classes of society; and he knew, that there was an increasing desire amongst the labouring 580 classes, to consume more sugar than they did—a desire which was only limited by the present high duties, and which would be effectually extinguished by the imposition of any additional tax. He hoped, therefore, the subject of compensation might be arranged without payment of so large a sum; and, at least, without increasing the present rates of duty on sugar.
§ Major Beauclerk
did not intend to trouble the House at any length. He regretted that he felt himself bound to vote against the proposition before the Committee, for he could not help giving the greatest possible credit to his Majesty's Ministers for the manly manner in which they had brought forward and grappled with the difficulties of this very difficult question. He could not, however, support a grant of 20,000,000l., under existing circumstances. Not that he objected to the principle of compensation to the planters, but because they had not at present any means of ascertaining what sum would be a fair compensation for their loss. If the right hon. Gentleman were to come down, at the expiration of a year, or further definite time, after the plan had been commenced, and show the House what was the actual yearly loss sustained by the planters upon the cultivation of their estates, then he would not object to give them such an amount as would prove a fair compensation, even though that amount were to exceed 20,000,000l. He could not also but object to the 12 years apprenticeship. It appeared to him to be open to great abuse, and he much feared that when this Bill was wafted across the Atlantic, and the enforcement of its regulations intrusted to the Houses of Assembly, apprenticeship would prove but another name for slavery, and that the Magistrates would be to the full as severe as the planters had hitherto proved. There were two means of making the negro work, either by wages or the lash; and if they took away the latter, they would not make him work without giving him the former. He had no doubt of the right hon. Secretary's conscientious belief in the practicability of the plan—but he could not consent to vote away twenty millions of the public money, unless Upon more detailed statements, and more distinct proof than they could at present obtain. If such were obtained he would not hesitate, for it was due to the planters, and to the honour of that House, to give the West-India proprietors fair compensation.
§ Viscount Sandon
observed, that he would not trespass upon the attention of the Committee for any great length of time. Many objections had been urged by hon. Gentlemen to others equally as honourable who were of opinion that the West-India planters had not a property in the slaves. Now, if they had not, whence came the first motion of compensation for the losses of the planters by the fact of the emancipation of the slaves? In his opinion, however, under the present circumstances, the more prudent course for all the parties interested to pursue, would be that of conciliation; for in any other case, neither could tell the consequences which might very speedily ensue. Surrounded as this great question was with difficulties, it must be evident to every one, that the Legislature was bound to proceed in the most cautious manner. A false step now committed could not be easily remedied, even at no very distant day. Many apprehensions were to be overcome in the case of the negro, as well as in that of the planter, and it was only to a gradual transition in the condition of either that the objects of both could be really and fairly accomplished. Suppose the compensation required for the planter was to be stated merely at seventeen millions and a-half, why, he would ask, would not the payment of that sum be considered as an extremely profitable bargain, if it could be made the means of securing an accommodation between the parties." Suppose a little increase would more easily secure it, ought much difficulty to prevail respecting it?" He would not object to the measure of compensation proposed to be given to the planters, provided it could be made apparent that such a sum as 20,000,000l. would be sufficient to screen West-India property from loss. He did not believe it would, and he, therefore, considered that both in justice and common honesty, they ought to receive 25,000,000l. for a less sum, he was convinced, would not save them harmless. The hon. member for Cambridge (Mr. Pryme) had calculated the loss at 17,500,000l.; but he (Lord Sandon) should be able to show, that it could not be covered by any less sum than 25,000,000l. The gross amount of West-India produce annually exported, was about 10,000,000l., and that consumed in the colonies about 2,400,000l. As they proposed to diminish a fourth of the labour, they would diminish the produce by one-fourth and thus in exports about 2,500,000l. would be taken away from the West-India 582 proprietors. And what did they propose to give them in exchange? Twenty millions, which at 5l. Per cent. would produce only 1,000,000l. Per annum; or, in another point of view, it might be considered that they were giving them only eight years' purchase. It was unjust, he contended, to inflict any such injury upon West-India property; but he sincerely regretted that the loan of 10,000,000l., which the colonies had asked as a boon, had not been granted to them, as the effect of such a concession would have been, to conciliate the West-India proprietors, and obtain their co-operation in carrying this great experiment into proper effect. If the Government really wished for the assistance of that body (and without it their plan would be worth nothing), they should implore Parliament not to deal hardly with the planters.
§ Mr. Jervis
was perfectly ready to give to the West-India proprietors such just and fair compensation as they were really entitled to; but he would give them no more. He, however, could not understand how it was, that they laid claim to compensation as a matter of right, or that the Government were to give such a sum of the public money for the purchase of conciliation, at a period when the noble Lord (Lord Althorp) absolutely refused to remit to the people of England any portion of the heavy taxation under which they suffered. If the people had been aware that slave emancipation was to be obtained at an expense like this to their own country, they most assuredly would have paused before they crowded the Table of that House with petitions on the subject. When they did know the means by which it was to be accomplished, he was satisfied in his own mind that many of them, if the opportunity were afforded to them, would revoke the appeals which they had made. But, after the Resolution they had passed, the House might be considered pledged to the abolition of slavery; and the only question that remained to be determined, was, what amount of compensation were the planters entitled to receive. They had not been fully informed upon this part of the case, nor had it been stated how, or by what means, such a sum as that proposed to be given was to be raised. But it should not be forgotten, that compensation was to be made, and a large sum raised at a time when the noble Lord refused to take off the Malt-duty, or the House and Window-tax, without a substitute like the Property 583 tax, the country being as averse from one us from the other. At first, the right hon. Secretary, no doubt after full deliberation and inquiry, thought a loan of 15,000,000l. would have been enough to work out slavery; but what was now his proposition? Why, that they should grant 20,000,000l., not, it should be homo in mind, as a loan, but as a gift, for this same purpose. He, however, supposed the object of the right hon. Secretary to be merely to ascertain the feeling of the House; but as well might the Government lavish millions of the public money in conciliating hon. Members on that side of the House towards their measures, as purchase the co-operation of the West India proprietors. If they were to give 5,000,000l. away for such a purpose, he repeated they might just as well go back to the old rotten-borough system. This plan had been described by the right hon. Secretary as a great experiment, but he (Mr. Jervis) wished to know, if they would be acting wisely in giving the public money away before the experiment had been tried. Such a course seemed to him, he must confess, very like legislating in the dark. The noble Lord (Lord Sandon) had said, that the colonies would sustain a loss of 1,500,000l. But how stood the fact? Why, that although there might be a loss of 1,500,000l. for twelve years, the West India proprietors would obtain in perpetuity 1,000,000l. annually; so that, instead of being losers, they would be immense gainers by the bargain. The right hon. Secretary, and others, also contended, that the abolition of slavery would be an advantage to the planters; that free labour was cheaper than slave labour; and therefore they were now called upon to pay the planter for conferring a benefit on him. Although, as he had said before, he was desirous that all just and proper compensation should be given to the planters, he must object to the public money being disposed of, without inquiry as to the amount of injury which West-India property was likely to sustain by the measure. That should be made out clearly before they voted one sixpence. It had been said, that the mortgagees of colonial property would be losers; but the evidence which had been taken on that head went to prove, that no injustice whatever would be done to them further than obliging them to receive back their principal, and relinquish a high rate of interest. By the present system it was 584 well known, that by means of agency, brokerage, and other incidents, they got as much as 25 per cent upon their capital. It could not be denied that, for the money which they had advanced, they obtained very large profits. The effect of the Government plan would be to burthen this country with 1,000,000l. a-year more. But where was the prospect of their being able to raise such a sum? The people of England called out in vain for a reduction of taxes, but the noble Lord (Lord Althorp) told them that he could not take off" a single shilling, without endangering the public credit; and yet, with this fact before them, the right hon. Gentleman proposed adding to the burthens of the country in order to buy the cooperation of the planters. He could not concur in the policy which the right hon. Gentleman had adopted in this particular, and therefore he must vote against his proposition.
Mr. Secretary Stanley
said, that two attacks had been made upon the Government that evening, the latter of which he felt himself called upon to lose no time in noticing. In the early stages of the discussion, one class of reasoners had professed the most extraordinary anxiety to see the termination of slavery, professing at the same time the most violent attachment to liberty in the abstract, but wishing justice to be done to all parties; but he was afraid, that if the slaves had depended on their exertions for their emancipation, they would have experienced but little advantage. It had now met the opposition of a class of persons adopting a similar style of reasoning, though professing to take a different view of the question. These latter individuals had not the least objection to compensation in the abstract, though they were ready enough to find objections to any particular application. The hon. Gentleman who had just sat down seemed to belong to this class of reasoners; for, while he professed his willingness to grant compensation in the abstract, he evinced no desire to satisfy those whom it was no less the duty, than the interest of that House, to coneiliate. He did not doubt that compensation in the abstract ought to be given; but, agreeing with those who thought the advantage of the planters would be promoted by free labour, he seemed to imagine that they were the parties by whom it ought to be paid. The calculations into which the hon. Gentleman had entered, were, to him (Mr. Stanley), altogether unintelligible; for he was 585 unable to comprehend how they could at the same time diminish the value and security of West-India property, and confer a benefit on the planter. The hon. Member had said, that the House was about to legislate in the dark, without inquiry. He (Mr. Stanley) did not think, that the speech of the hon. Gentleman would very much enlighten the country upon the subject. The hon. Gentleman had said, that free labour would be cheaper than slave labour, and that the planters ought to make a compensation. That argument had been before stated and refuted. It might be cheaper to hire horses than to keep them but was he to follow the directions of a friend who might say, "Give your own horses to me, that you may use hired horses, and give me a compensation into the bargain, for informing you how you may get your work done cheap." It was said, that by the Resolution which had passed the other night, the termination of slavery was inevitable. He acquiesced in that proposition, and he said boldly to the House: "You have carried the question of slavery, the question for the House and the country to decide is, whether you will carry it consistently with honesty." It had at one time entered into the contemplation of Government to separate the question of slavery from the details, and make two distinct measures; but they were deterred from that course, by the possibility that one measure might pass the House of Commons, and that by some means or other, the other measure might miscarry. They therefore determined, that the same packet which carried out the Resolutions, pledging the House of Commons to the termination of slavery, should also carry out a pledge that the termination of slavery should be accompanied with a due regard to the interests of the proprietors. He should, indeed, feel great remorse, if he could believe that, after consenting to the first Resolution, the House would negative the other Resolutions. It was said, that if the country had known that this large sum of money must be paid, there would not have been so many petitions upon the subject. It was incorrect, it would be an injustice to the people of England, to say, that the moral and religious feeling which had led them to advocate the abolition of slavery could have been turned aside by any pecuniary considerations; and the question which the Committee had now to resolve was, whether or not they would render the paper on which the Resolutions were 586 written mere waste, or convert it into a real and practical purpose Of those who objected to compensation as a means of conciliating the West-India proprietors, he would ask whether they had never heard of such a thing as purchasing the good will of premises to obtain a particular object." It was his firm opinion that if they could purchase the co-operation of the colonists for 2,000,000l, 3,000,000l., or even. 5,000,000l., in carrying this great measure into effect, the money would be judiciously laid out, for might not their assistance be a great advantage to this country, and at the same time prevent an effusion of blood? They must all be aware that without conciliation the colonies would obstinately resist any' plan the Government might propose for their adoption; but if they were only to take into consideration the value of the slaves to be liberated, they must be convinced that the compensation proposed to be given was not too great. It should be recollected that when he asked for a loan of 15,000,000l. for the planters he intended that it should be repaid out of the wages of the negro; and that in addition to this the slave would have to pay by instalments the price that might be set upon him by his master. with reference to this country he granted, that nothing more than a loan was at first contemplated; but with regard to the colonies the proposition amounted to an actual grant of 15,000,000l. There was nothing inconsistent between the first and last propositions which he had made. The hon. Gentleman thought the alteration which he had made in his proposition with respect to compensation was put forward merely to feel the pulse of the House. But was there anything unusual in Government endeavouring to ascertain the feeling of Parliament upon a question so gigantic, so encompassed with difficulties, and with respect to which there were so many conflicting and irreconcilable opinions as this? He was sure that there was not, and he should be borne out by facts when he asserted, that no measure of any importance had ever passed through the Legislature without in its progress concessions being made to parties on the one side and the other, for the purpose of conciliation, as bad been made on the present occasion. The increase of the compensation was no secret to the country, but was openly proposed upon the ground of fairness and justice. Upon further calculations the Government saw, that an additional 587 5,000,000l. would be more likely to secure to them the object which was so desirable, the co-operation of the proprietors. The hon. member for Cambridge thought the Sum of 20,000,000l. too large, and made the proper amount according to his own calculations, 17,500,000l. But the hon. Member forgot that in the plan the planter was deprived of one-fourth the value of his slaves, while he was left with the burthen of supporting the whole. This would appear more clearly in putting the case of four slaves, and supposing that you took one away instead of taking one-fourth of a slave's labour. When they had taken away the labour of one slave, did they leave the master only three to support? No; he had to provide for the whole four. It was, therefore, a fallacy to calculate upon the principle that they were only depriving the master of one-fourth. There was, it was said, a great probability that the apprenticeship would end in less than twelve years, and he believed that there was good ground in many instances for expecting that such would be the result; yet he thought it right to calculate upon the whole period, lest they should be disappointed in those expectations. When the Government were accused of not having made precisely accurate calculations upon the subject, he begged the House to recollect the extreme difference of opinion which prevailed with respect to the value of the slaves; for instance, the hon. member for Liskeard estimated them at only 4,000,000l., while the first claim made by the West-Indian interest was for no less a sum than 44,000,000l. He admitted, therefore, that there was a difficulty of ascertaining the actual value of the slave to within 5l. a-head, and if it should turn out that the value was 45l. instead of 40l. then, according to the calculation of the hon. member for Cambridge, the amount of compensation would be 20,000,000l. With all possible desire to be saving of the public money, he must say, that this was not a case in which to indulge parsimonious economy. If a majority should be found to defeat the proposition before the Committee, they would not only commit an act of injustice to the West-India proprietors, but run the risk of defeating the whole plan, and, he believed, that before many years passed over they would learn, by fatal and bloody experience, that they had consulted a false and pitiful economy in reducing the proposed grant.
§ Mr. Richard Potter
said, he felt as great 588 a wish as any Gentleman for the abolition of colonial slavery, but he could not consent to purchase it at so high a price as that proposed by the right hon. Gentleman. At a time when the country was so anxious and pressing for a reduction of taxes, what would be their feelings when they learned that a considerable addition must be made to their burthens, if the plan proposed was adopted; for, in addition to the grant to the planters of the enormous sum of 20,000,000l., the next Resolution contemplated the establishment of stipendiary Magistrates, and a police force, as well as a system for the moral and religious education of the negroes, when free. These establishments would require a considerable sum, in addition to the interest of the 20,000,000l., and would entail, he felt convinced, an annual expenditure of considerably more than 1,000,000l. He was sure this would create great discontent in the country, and ought to be opposed. If the original plan of granting a loan of 15,000,000l., with proper security could be carried into effect, he would say let the planters have the money; if not, he should prefer the abolition of slavery to be effected by an Act, declaring that the children of the negroes, born after a period to be fixed by Parliament, should be free.
§ Mr. Clay
had been favourably situated for ascertaining the opinions of a great number of persons on this subject, and he could assert, that the people of this country never contemplated emancipation unaccompanied by compensation to the planters. The West-Indian proprietors had no claim against the negroes, but they had against the mother country. He agreed with the right hon. Secretary as to the necessity of granting emancipation, and also in the opinion that emancipation ought not to take place without compensation. He would go further, and say that compensation ought not to be dealt out with a niggardly hand. On the contrary, he would assert, that the country had no right to indulge in the luxury of doing good at the expense of others. There was one branch of the subject which had not been alluded to, but which was of paramount importance to the people of England. He would grant a liberal compensation to the West-Indian planters, but, in return, he demanded that the colonial trade should be relieved from the shackles which were imposed upon it. The sugar refiners of this country were at present nearly overwhelmed with ruin, from no other cause 589 than being compelled to use only sugar which was produced in the British colonies, which being of a higher price than the sugar on the continent, the consequence was, that the continental manufacturers were displacing us in all the markets of Europe. The people of this country were paying not less than 1,500,000l. a-year in consequence of the monopoly enjoyed by the colonists. The quantity of sugar refined last year, and exported, amounted to 4,50,000 cwt., and unless he was much misinformed, the crop for the present year, as compared with that of last year, was exported to exhibit a deficiency of about that quantity. Now, let the House consider the situation in which not only the sugar refiners but the people of this country were placed under these circumstances. In consequence of the monopoly the sugar refiners would be compelled to come into the market, where there was only a sufficient quantity for home; consumption; and thus the price would be raised to the people of England. He would state a circumstance to illustrate the manner in which the monopoly worked. Last week some porto Rico sugar, which any one acquainted with the subject knew was precisely the same as that called Muscovado sugar, which was used by the refiners, sold in the city for 22s. per cwt., and at the same time English colonial sugar was selling for not less than 29s. per cwt. Here was an actual loss of 7s. per cwt. to the English consumer in consequence of the monopoly, which upon 4,50,000 cwt., the quantity refined and exported last year, amounted to a gross annual loss of 1,500,000l. Relief from this monopoly would be cheaply purchased by granting the West-India proprietors the full amount of the compensation proposed by the right hon. Secretary. He hoped the Chancellor of the Exchequer would give some explanations as to the intentions of Government on this point, for his vote would be biassed by the determination of Ministers, as to continuing or destroying this monopoly.
§ Mr. Fowell Buxton
said, the right hon. Gentleman had last night stated, that no sum should be paid to the planters, until the whole of the proposed regulations were carried into effect. He (Mr. Buxton) presumed that that meant until the apprenticeships had expired. His object was, if possible, to reduce the term of those apprenticeships. There was one point on which they must all agree—namely, that; the sooner the negro mind could be brought; under the action of healthy motives, the 590 better. He was about to propose a mode, in addition to the compensation, which would induce the planters to exert themselves in order to produce that favorable impression on the negro mind. He proposed to move, as an Amendment to the right hon. Gentleman's Motion, that half the amount of the compensation should not be paid until the period of the apprenticeship of the negroes had expired, and until the negroes were put in full possession of all the rights and privileges enjoyed by all other classes of his Majesty's subjects in the colonies. He cheerfully voted for the compensation to the planters; he knew that it would be greatly to the advantage of the negroes; but he should pay it still more cheerfully if he could accelerate the period when the negroes would be free labourers, and would enjoy free wages. The planter had it greatly in his power to advance or to retard the civilization of the negro. If he confined the negro to day labour, there would be little hope that more advance would take place than had occurred during the last two centuries; but if the planter chose to pursue another course there was no doubt that he might speedily improve the negro mind. Feeling that the Amendment to which he had adverted would act as a powerful stimulus on the planter, he now begged leave to propose it.
§ Mr. Godson
congratulated the House upon the prospect of arriving at a satisfactory conclusion of this important question, and was glad to find, that in the end the planters were to be the subjects of a word of kindness from the; hon. member for weymouth. He believed that the term of apprenticeships would be much shorter than that named by the right hon. Secretary; for, as the hon. member for Weymouth and those who acted under him would never cease to agitate the colonies while an apprentice remained, he thought that two or three years would be the longest terra they would have to serve, as their masters would be very glad to be relieved from them. About Christmas twelvemonth, probably, in Jamaica the whole of the apprenticeships would be at an end. The grant now proposed would enable the planter's to effect this, if, as he expected, they should receive the additional assistance of votes of credit; he did not mean to be advanced to the planters, but to be employed upon the necessary internal improvement of the colony. The news of the proposed measures in that colony had already been attended with good effect, in 591 the expectation that the mother country was to act in union with the Legislative Assemblies. In one of the papers last received, the opinion of the colony was thus expressed. On one point we cannot resist the expression of our gratification: Lords Grey and Brougham have admitted our slaves to be property, and are talking of raising a loan of thirty millions sterling, to compensate the owner. This is a great point gained; and although it is evident the British Government can only Day 6s. 8d. in the 1l., we are willing to receive it, and to join cordially in her views, to encourage any regulations for the future benefit of the planter as well as the slaves.' In another paper it was asserted that if injustice was done them, the colonists would remember that an Act of the British Parliament was not law until it had the sanction of the local Legislatures, and that if any attempt were made to force such law upon them they were bound to resist it to the utmost. This showed that, while the planters were willing to be conciliated, yet they were also determined to assert their rights. The elections which had recently taken place proved that, with proper treatment from the Mother Country, such a consummation of this great plan would soon be brought about as all men must wish to see.
§ Mr. Ewart
entirely concurred in the opinions of the hon. member for the Tower Hamlets. He was quite willing to grant compensation to the planter, on condition that that measure should be accompanied with a stipulation for the unrestricted liberty of commerce. Every day that we remained at peace, the removal of the West-India monopoly became not only more politic, but more indispensable; for if it were not removed, we should be unable long to compete in the market with foreign nations.
§ Mr. Rigby Wason
was not disposed to give the planter a shilling in the form of compensation, until it was proved that a loss had been sustained. He utterly denied the validity of the arguments which had been urged on the subject upon a former night by the noble Lord and the right hon. Gentleman; and he would endeavour to prove to the Committee that those arguments were entirely unfounded. The hon. Member quoted a variety of opinions to show that it had been held that compensation was not to be given to individuals for loss of property occasioned by a measure which was to promote the general 592 good, but the continued noise rendered the hon. Member nearly inaudible. He had a right to be heard; he insisted on attention, and unless he received it, he would move the adjournment of the House. After making several efforts to be heard, which were not very successful, the hon. Gentleman concluded by stating that he would, at the proper time, move the following amendment:—
- 1. That every negro who shall register himself as an apprentice to the estate where he now resides, for the terms hereinafter mentioned, shall be free. If between the ages of seven and twelve, the terra of fourteen years; between twelve and fifteen, ten years; between fifteen and twenty, seven years; between twenty and twenty-five, five years; between twenty-five and upwards, five years, or for life, at option of negro.
- 2. That, at the expiration of such respective terms, the apprentice shall be at liberty to work wherever he pleases.
- 3. That his most gracious Majesty may appoint an officer in each of the colonies to act as police Magistrate and protector of apprentices.
- 4. That such officer shall fix the rate of wages to be paid to the apprentice, either as individuals or in classes, and shall also receive a portion of such wages for the maintenance of aged and infirm negroes.
- 5. That such officer shall have power to extend the respective terms of apprenticeship upon its being satisfactorily proved that the apprentice has neglected his work.
- 6. That such officer shall have power to advance to each proprietor, who shall request such advance, a weekly sum for the payment of wages, corresponding to the number of apprentices upon his estate.
- 7. That all such advances shall constitute the first lien upon the produce of the estate.
- 8. That the expense of such efficient police establishment as shall be recommended by the local legislature in each island shall be borne as follows; one-half by a tax on property in each island, the remainder out of the produce of sugar-duties paid in this country.
- 9. That such property-tax shall constitute the second lien upon the produce of the estate.
- 10. That the expense of a general system of moral and religious education shall be defrayed out of the surplus revenues of the Irish Church Establishment.
§ Lord Althorp
could easily imagine how those who agreed with the hon. member for Weymouth that the negro should be at once entirely emancipated without any probationary period of preparation, might consistently vote for that hon. Member's Amendment; but for the very same reason he could not see on what ground the advocates 593 —the large majority of that House—of a probationary period could justify his voting for that Amendment. The House had sanctioned the principle of a probationary period, as essential to the welfare of the slave himself before he was placed in a state of freedom.; it was therefore bound to provide that the period of probation be sufficiently prolonged to ensure the requisite fitness. The hon. Member's amendment reduced that period to a minimum; but if it were necessary at all, it should be duly apportioned as a means to the end they all had in view. He agreed with the hon. member (Mr. Clay) for the Tower Hamlets, that it was impossible the present restricted system of sugar refining could be persisted in. He was, indeed, free to admit, that the home consumption of sugar should he ensured to our West-India producer, but was also bound to admit, that the importation of foreign sugar for refining for exportation should not be as restricted as it was at present. It might be asked, why, then, had he not brought forward a measure to remove this impolitic restriction on the refining of foreign sugar? The answer was, that it would be inexpedient, as a question of time, till the West-India question was settled. With respect to the question more particularly before the House, he admitted that the sum proposed for compensation to the West-India proprietors was a large one; but as they were all agreed that some compensation should be afforded, and as it was of the most essential importance to the success of any plan of abolition that the colonial authorities should cordially co-operate in carrying its arrangements into effect, and as Ministers had been assured by the West-India interest, that it would so cordially co-operate if the present amount of compensation were given, and as, on the face of the matter, it was plain that that House, legislating there, could not possibly devise those laws and regulations of detail which would appear to the Colonial Legislature as expedient and necessary—he thought the House and the public would agree with him that they were not purchasing the assistance of the colonial authorities at too high a price. While the probationary period would guard the colonies and the negro himself against the danger, the bloodshed, and strife, consequent upon a sudden change from galling slavery to unrestricted freedom, this compensation would, he repeated, ensure them the cordial co-operation of the Colonial Legislatures; and surely such an end was 594 worth the sacrifice. It would indeed be unfortunate, that they should have proceeded so far in their career, and then stop short on a mere question of amount of compensation—that they should have passed a solemn resolution declaring that slavery should be at an end in the British colonies, and then deprive the Executive of the means of following up that Resolution to a practical conclusion. The amendment of the hon. member for Weymouth would produce this prejudicial effect. He therefore, need not say, that he should consider it as one of the most fatal the House could adopt, confident that the country would ratify the vote of compensation, us it would ensure them the cordial co-operation of the local legislatures to carrying its own beneficent views into actual operation.
§ Viscount Howick,
in supporting the amendment of his hon. friend (Mr. Buxton), did not thereby mean to negative the principle of compensation. Neither did he mean to formally resist its actual amount—though he was satisfied it was much higher than was necessary, or than the West-India interest could have been brought to accede to—because he agreed with his noble friend as to the desirableness of their having the cordial aid of the local legislatures in carrying their views into effect. All that he wanted was, that they should not expend so large a sum of the public money without insuring the public the greatest advantages of the outlay. Now, he conceived the proposition of his hon. friend was well calculated to attain this end, as it went to make the payment of half of the compensation dependent upon the bonâ fide and perfect co-operation of the colonists with the decisions of that House. He could not admit to his noble friend, that this arrangement would necessarily minimize the period of probation; the planters had too great an interest in the apprenticeship system to shorten it more than Parliament would seem to think expedient. Indeed, the bias of the planter would naturally set so strongly on the other side—the prolonging the probationary period—that he thought it expedient that they should counteract it by the pecuniary motive implied by his hon. friend's Amendment.
§ Sir Robert Inglis
cordially supported the Ministerial proposition, and would most willingly bear his share of the necessary burthen.
Mr. Wolryche Whitmore
would vote for the Motion, on the understanding that 595 the two questions, as to the duties on sugar, and the refining of sugar, should be considered open questions.
said, that the country would view the proposition about the 20,000,000l. with much more satisfaction, if preparatory measures had been adopted in the way of extensive reduction in the national expenditure. Such a sum as 20,000,000l., under present circumstances, was perfectly preposterous, and he would move an amendment to that effect. [The Chairman informed the hon. and gallant Member, that there was already one amendment before the Committee.] He would postpone it then for the moment, but would, at the proper time, bring it forward for the adoption of the Committee.
§ Mr. Pease
could not consent to the vote then under the consideration of the Committee, when he remembered the circumstances under which it was proposed, and when, at the same time, he bore in mind, that, of necessity, it could not prove of any essential benefit to the West-India body. In his judgment, the House could not, with any propriety, agree to any plan of compensation until the great measure of abolition was carried into effect. If they thus agreed to compensation in the first instance, all the money would go into the hands of the mortgagees, and those who were the owners of slaves, would derive no advantage from the arrangement.
rose to address the House which manifested great impatience. He said, that the House was often perfectly patient under the most lengthened arguments on the most trumpery salaries, and therefore he thought it was scarcely becoming in the House to manifest impatience when a sum of 20,000,000l. was at stake. He could not help complaining that the promoters of the measure had not condescended to inform them in what manner the 20,000,000l. was to be raised, or how distributed. He acknowledged that he had not heard any part of the previous debate, and therefore he should be glad to hear some explanation of the mode in which the acquirement of that money was to be effected, and when obtained, how it was to be disposed of [A laugh] Hon. Members might laugh, but he would contend that the matter under consideration was very serious. As he understood the arguments of the hon. Members on the other side, they amounted to this, that the planters would derive great eventual advantage from 596 the emancipation of the slaves, and yet they were most anxious, in addition to this benefit, to afford them compensation for some supposed loss. In his apprehension nothing could be more inconsistent with itself than was that argument. The present Resolution imposed upon the House and the country a very weighty obligation; and what he wanted to know was, how that obligation was to be fulfilled? All the public establishments of the country had been pared down to the lowest point—the Executive had reduced the revenue to the lowest possible point, and they had deprived themselves of the power of raising the revenue again, by consenting to the demands for reduction. He must protest against that mode of voting away the public money, and without any information from the Government as to the mode in which it was to be raised or distributed. He would not consent thus to have the money of the people voted away, though such vote might tend to pacify some Gentlemen connected with the West-India body. The right hon. Gentleman might have made his peace with the delegates of the West-India interest, but with that he (Mr. Baring) had nothing to do; he had nothing to do with any one but his constituents.
Mr. Secretary Stanley
said, that he entertained great respect for the hon. member for Essex but he entertained still higher respect for the House, and was anxious to save its time. It had then been sitting from six o'clock till twelve; and, though the hon. member for Essex might have been very agreeably employed—more agree ably than in listening to debates in that House—yet perhaps it would have been more becoming in him to address himself to the matter really under consideration, than to treat it with such indecent levity. The hon. Gentleman had told them, that he wanted to know the arguments by which the promoters of the measure had supported their views: if he did feel such an anxiety upon the subject, he had much better have attended in his place, and have listened to the statements and observations made on that side of the House. He was sure the House would not consent that those arguments should be repeated, even if any one were disposed to indulge the hon. Member with the repetition of them. In the course of to-morrow, the greater part of their constituents would be made aware of all that had taken place that night upon the question before the House; and he really 597 must be allowed to refer the hon. Gentle man to the same channels of information through which the country at large was usually made acquainted with what took place in that House. The hon. member for Essex seemed to apprehend the worst consequences from the proposed measure. He would ask the hon. Member, was he serious in supposing that the granting or the denial of compensation would tend, the one to tranquillize, and the other to disturb and excite the monied, mercantile, and commercial portions of the community? As to the Colonial legislatures, he had only to observe, that no act would be done—no step taken—without giving them an opportunity of expressing their sentiments.
§ Mr. Briscoe
, amidst loud cries of Question," objected to more than fifteen millions being granted, indeed, he thought eight or nine would be sufficient for the purpose. At the same time that he begged it to be understood that he was the advocate of a fair and liberal compensation.
§ The Committee divided on Mr. Fowell Buxton's Amendment: Ayes 142; Noes 277—Majority 135.
§ It also divided on Mr. Wason's Amendment: Ayes 21; Noes 383—Majority 362.
§ It also divided on Col. Evans's Amendment, that the mode of compensation should consist in lowering the duties on West-India produce: Ayes 22; Noes 346—Majority 324.
§ Mr. Briscoe moved, that the words "Fifteen Millions" be substituted for "Twenty Millions."
§ The Committee again divided: Ayes 56; Noes 304—Majority 248.
§ The Committee then divided on the Original Resolution: Ayes 286; Noes 77—Majority 209.
Mr. Secretary Stanley
stated, that the packet had been detained that it might carry out to the colonies the decision of Parliament on the propositions of Government, and he therefore felt bound to press the next Resolution:—"That his Majesty be enabled to defray any such expense as he may incur in establishing an efficient stipendiary magistracy in the colonies, and in aiding the local legislatures in providing for the religious and moral education of the negro population to be emancipated."
§ Mr. Buxton
, late as it was, must propose the introduction, in the latter part of the Resolution, of the words, "on liberal and comprehensive principles."
Mr. Secretary Stanley
said, that as it was not the wish of Government that any exclusive system of religious education should be adopted, he had no objection to the introduction of the proposed words.
§ The Resolution, as amended, agreed to.
§ Mr. Rigby Wason
proposed the following Resolution:—"That whatever expense may be incurred in carrying into effect the plan proposed by Government, shall be defrayed by a tax on property in this country."
§ Negatived without a division.
§ The House resumed. The Resolutions to be reported.
|The AYES on Mr. Briscoe's Amendment (The fourth division).|
|Aglionby, H. A.||Hutt, W.|
|Bainbridge, E. T.||Ingilby, Sir W.|
|Baldwin, Dr.||Jervis, J.|
|Baring, A.||Kennedy, H.|
|Bellew, R. N.||King, E. B.|
|Blamire, W.||Lister, E. C.|
|Bowes, J.||Lloyd, J. H.|
|Briscoe, J. I.||Marshall, J.|
|Bruce, Lord E.||Martin, J.|
|Buller, C.||Methuen, P.|
|Bulwer, H. L.||Parrott, J.|
|Cayley, E. S.||Pease, J.|
|Chandos, Viscount||Potter, R.|
|Chapman, M. L.||Pryme, G.|
|Collier, J.||Rippon, C.|
|Curteis, H. B.||Robinson, G. R.|
|Dick, Q.||Roche, W.|
|Evans, Colonel||Romilly, J.|
|Ewart, W.||Ruthven, E. S.|
|Fryer, R.||Ruthven, E.|
|Gaskell, D.||Seale, Colonel|
|Gillon, W. D.||Tennyson, Rt. Hon. C.|
|Goring, H. D.||Trelawney, W. L. S.|
|Gully, J.||Tyrell, Sir J.|
|Handley, Major||Walter, J.|
|Hardy, J.||PAIRED OFF.|
|Harland, W. C.||Nagle, Sir R.|
|Hawes, B.||O'Connell, M.|
|Hughes, H.||Scholefield, J.|
|The NOES on the Original Resolution (The last division).|
|Aglionby, H. A.||Chapman, M. L.|
|Baldwin, Dr.||Cobbett, W.|
|Baring, A.||Cornish, J.|
|Barry, G. S.||Curteis, H. B.|
|Bayntun, Captain||Dick, Q.|
|Bellew, R. N.||Don, O'Conor|
|Blake, M. J.||Evans, Colonel|
|Boss, Captain||Ewart, W.|
|Bowes, J.||Faithfull, G.|
|Briscoe, J. I.||Feilden, W.|
|Bruce, Lord E.||Fitzsimon, C.|
|Buckingham, J. S.||Fitzsimon, N.|
|Bulwer, H. L.||Fryer, R.|
|Bulwer, E. L.||Gaskell, D.|
|Butler, Colonel||Gillon, W. D.|
|Chandos, Marquess||Goring, H. D.|
|Guest, J. J.||Philips, M.|
|Gully, J.||Potter, R.|
|Hall, B.||Pryme, G.|
|Hardy, J.||Richards, J.|
|Harland, W. C.||Rippon, C.|
|Hawes, B.||Robinson, G. R.|
|Hughes, H.||Roche, W.|
|Hutt, W.||Ronayne, D.|
|Jervis, J.||Ruthven, E. S.|
|Kennedy, J.||Ruthven, E.|
|King, E. B.||Tennyson, Rt. Hon. C.|
|Lister, E. C.||Thicknesse, R.|
|Lloyd, J. H.||Tooke, W.|
|Macnamara, W. N.||Tynte, C. J. K.|
|Marshall, J.||Tyrell, Sir J.|
|Marsland, T.||Vigors, N. A.|
|Methuen, P.||Walker, R.|
|Mills, J.||Walter, J.|
|O'Brien, C.||Wason, R.|
|O'Connell, D.||Watkins, J.|
|O'Connell, M.||Whalley, Sir S.|
|O'Connell, J.||Wigney, I. N.|
|Parrott, J.||Yelverton, Hon. W.|