§ Mr. Labouchere
said, that in rising to move for leave to bring in a bill to suspend the existing constitution of the island of Jamaica, and to provide for the temporary government of that colony, he felt fully conscious that he had undertaken no light task, and that he had to bring under their consideration no ordinary measure. He felt completely aware, that to bring forward any proposition, the object of which was to abrogate even for a season that form of government by three estates, for which Englishmen entertained such deep and such just respect, was a proceeding of the very gravest kind; it certainly was one which he could not approach without feelings of the greatest reluctance. It was one which the responsible advisers of the Crown could not sanction without experiencing much pain, and bestowing upon the subject much reflection. It was one to which he trusted the House would direct its serious and undivided attention, for although the statements which he should have to 1244 lay before them were made up of dry and uninteresting details, yet he hoped they would feel that the present was an occasion upon which they were called upon to assume a judicial character of the highest kind; that they would, therefore, be sensible of the necessity of lending an attentive ear to the considerations which were to be brought under their notice, and at the same time of granting him that indulgence usually extended to those on whom the task devolved of proposing, explaining, and defending, on the part of the Government, any great measure of state policy. In the first place, he fully anticipated, that he should be supported by the unanimous concurrence of the House, when he asserted, that the state of things in Jamaica imperatively demanded the interference of Parliament. Whatever differences of opinion might prevail as to the causes which had led to this unhappy condition of affairs, there was no one who read the papers laid upon the Table of the House, or became acquainted with the information put forth in the public newspapers, but must see that Jamaica was in a state which cannot be regarded with indifference, and which demanded instant and effectual remedy. He had now, therefore, to propose to the House the adoption of that course which, under present circumstances, the Government thought it most expedient to recommend. The responsible advisers of the Crown came to the House for counsel, and for correction and reproof, if the measures which they proposed were of evil tendency, but for encouragement, assistance, and support, if those measures were just, politic, and necessary. In the month of October last year, Sir L. Smith called together the Legislature of Jamaica. There certainly never was a period in the history of that colony when subjects of more grave or momentous importance had to be discussed, and when they required more to have been considered impartially and deliberately. It was the first time the Legislature had met after the passing of that Act which had put an end to the system of apprenticeship in Jamaica, and which had given unqualified freedom to the great body of the negro population. At the meeting of the House of Assembly, in answer to a speech from the Governor, that house stated they would proceed to no business, with the exception of passing certain acts necessary to maintain the public credit of the island—that they would proceed to no other business, in consequence of an Act passed at 1245 the end of last Session by the Imperial Parliament which went by the name of the West India Prisons Act. The House of Assembly stated:—The House would have been ready now, as they ever have been, to give their consideration to every matter submitted to them for promoting the public welfare of the colony; but, having taken into their mature consideration the aggressions which the British Parliament continue to make on the rights of the people of this colony, and the confusion and mischief which must result from the present anomalous system of government, they have come to the determination that they will best consult their own honour, the rights of their constituents, and the peace and well-being of the colony, by abstaining from the exercise of any legislative function, except such as may be necessary to preserve inviolate the faith of the island with the public creditor, until they shall he left to the free exercise of their inherent rights as British subjects.This resolution, on which this address was founded, was carried by a majority of twenty-four to five. The Governor upon this prorogued the House of Assembly for a few days: on their meeting again, he expressed his hope that they would proceed with the public business, and detailed many important measures which it would be his duty, in pursuance of directions from the home government, to lay before them. He said:It will be my duty to lay before you various communications from her Majesty's Government, explanatory of the grounds upon which her Majesty, in the exercise of her prerogative, has been pleased to disallow certain laws of the island, and conveying her Majesty's recommendation, that provision should be made by the Colonial Legislature for the introduction of several measures of vital interest to all classes of her Majesty's subjects in Jamaica, amongst which, are included those having for their objects the prevention of vagrancy, the better regulating the relative rights and duties of masters and servants in husbandry or other kind of handicraft, the determining the qualification of electors, the regulation of a militia, and the preventing the unauthorised occupation of lands, belonging either to the Crown or private individuals.To this communication the House of Assembly returned the following answer:We thank your Excellency for your speech at the opening of the session. We feel, in common with your Excellency, the emergency in which the country may be placed by the expiration of the annual laws, and we also are well aware of the necessity which, in our present state of society, exists, that laws for the prevention of vagrancy, for regulating the re- 1246 lative rights and duties of masters and servants, for determining the qualification of electors, for the regulation of the militia, and for preventing the unauthorised occupation of land, should be enacted; but we are keenly alive to the fact, that our legislative rights have been violated; and so long as these rights continue to be invaded, we feel ourselves compelled to adhere to our resolutions of last session.This address was carried by a majority of twenty-one to three. The Council did not coincide in these proceedings of the House of Assembly, but agreed unanimously to take the several subjects alluded to by the Governor into their immediate consideration. On receiving this answer from the House of Assembly, Sir Lionel Smith determined to appeal to the constituent body of Jamaica, and dissolved the Assembly, and directed the new legislative body to assemble on the 18th of December, which they did on that day. The new House of Assembly, when it assembled, confirmed the resolutions of their predecessors, and returned the following answer to the speech that was addressed to it by the Governor. After expressing their intentions not to proceed to business, they state:—We beg sincerely to assure your Excellency, that in deciding upon this course, we have done so with extreme reluctance. We see the inconvenience that must result from it. We are more than sensible of the many existing evils which loudly call for laws to remedy them; but we are, at the same time, equally sensible that the power is no longer left in our hands to apply the remedy. Our legislative rights have been directly invaded by Parliament, enacting a law to regulate our gaols, a measure of internal and municipal regulation clearly and palpably within our province. Even in our ordinary legislative proceedings, instead of being left to the exercise of our own deliberative judgment, we are fettered by an overruling authority, and our best exertions often defeated. Nor can we conceal from ourselves the fact, that even such of our laws as have received the sanction of the Crown are rendered, in a great measure, inoperative from an influence, not only biassing the decisions of the stipendiary justices, but which would seem to over-rule the executive authority itself.In consequence of this address from the House of Assembly, and as it was clear that no business was likely to be transacted, Sir Lionel Smith prorogued that body and made a representation to the Government at home as to what had taken place. In transmitting the proceedings of this second House of Assembly to the home Government, Sir 1247 Lionel Smith made the observations which he would read to the House. They were contained in a despatch addressed to Lord Glenelg:—My late despatches will have prepared your Lordship for the event which the new House of Assembly brought about—a confirmation of the resolutions of the last house, to do no business in consequence of the interference of Parliament in passing the Prison Bill. All my endeavours to induce the house to proceed in their duties having failed, the country is placed in great confusion, from the absence of the annual laws on which the public creditor depends, and the public departments are regulated. About seventeen of these laws will expire at the end of this month, and among others the Police Bill, which force I must, consequently, discharge. I may probably, on the authority of your Lordship in former exigencies, have occasion to entertain a small constabulary force in lieu of the armed police, on which I shall report hereafter. Your Lordship will be fully satisfied from this last appeal to the electoral body, that no House of Assembly can now be found that will acknowledge the authority of the Queen, Lords, and Commons to enact laws for Jamaica, or that will be likely to pass just and prudent laws for that large portion of the negro population lately brought into freedom; and your Lordship will be perfectly aware I have no power, as the Governor, to remedy the evils arising from the House of Assembly having refused to perform its functions. Thus, a constituency which may be computed at about 1,500 or 1,600 voters for the whole island, have returned, and will continue to return, the same members who deny the authority of the mother country, while upwards of 300,000 of her Majesty's free and loyal subjects are totally unrepresented, and my appeal to obtain for them common laws of protection as labourers, has, your Lordship will find, been totally disregarded.He believed this would be the most proper time for him to direct the attention of the House to what, undoubtedly, it was most material to bear in mind throughout the entire consideration of the subject—he meant the relation in which the House of Assembly, as at present constituted, and the constituent body in reality stood towards the whole population of the island. He believed, that of the three classes into which the population of Jamaica was divided, the following numbers might be taken as a pretty accurate account. There were, he believed, at the present moment in Jamaica about 5,000 white persons; about 28,000 coloured persons, who had been free for some time; and 320,000 lately emancipated negroes. The consti- 1248 tuent body of Jamaica, which was represented by Sir Lionel Smith at 1,600, consisted, he rather believed, of about 2,000; while actually at the present moment, and from the law of registration which now existed in that island, fifteen months must elapse before any of the 320,000 newly emancipated negroes could acquire the elective franchise. The House of Assembly, therefore, consisting of forty-five members, was actually returned by a constituency of 2,000; the whole of the newly emancipated class having neither directly nor indirectly the slightest weight in their election. The House would perceive, that the point on which the Assembly of Jamaica were at issue with this country was the Act which passed the Imperial Parliament last year, and which went by the name of the West India Prisons' Bill. But in referring to the fact, that the controversy of the House of Assembly was not merely with the executive Government of this country, but also with the Imperial Legislature, he hoped it would not be supposed, that he wished to urge hon. Members at once to conclude, that of necessity the Imperial Legislature was right and the House of Assembly was wrong, and that, on the mere statement of that fact, they should proceed at once to punish as contumacious those who had ventured to resist their authority. He hoped he should not be suspected of arguing in that tone and manner; quite the contrary. He should ill represent the feelings of the Government if he gave rise to the supposition, that he wished to make a screen of the House of Commons or the Imperial Legislature to conceal or shelter any thing like error or imperfection which might have characterised any measures that had been formerly recommended by the Government to Parliament. He did not ask the House at once to conclude, because they differed from the Legislature of Jamaica, that, therefore, the Legislature of Jamaica must be in the wrong; but he did ask them carefully to review all the proceedings which they had taken in this matter. Those proceedings might have been taken in haste—they might have been founded in error—they might have been adopted in the confidence not unusually given to the general recommendations of the Colonial Minister; and if they were in error, if they had acted unadvisedly or rashly, a sense of justice, dignity, and duty required that they should retrace their steps; but if, on the contrary, after a careful consi- 1249 deration of the whole facts, they should be of opinion that they had acted rightly, and that the House of Assembly were wrong in the course they had adopted of resisting the law passed by the Imperial Legislature, then he thought he should be entitled to call upon them to maintain their former decision, and support the executive Government in the course they now felt it their duty to pursue. He would, in the first place, state as clearly and as briefly as he could, the steps which had led to the enactment of the Prison Bill, and the principles on which it was founded. Doubtless, the regulation of prison discipline formed a very important part of the legislation of every people. It was a matter of honourable distinction to the age in which we lived, that the public mind had recently been awakened to the great importance of this subject in relation to the general welfare of the people; it had acquired new interest, and increased care was taken with respect to it, in every civilised country in Europe. But, important as it must be, every where and at all times, that proper regulations should be made with respect to prisons, it acquired an additional importance in a state of society constituted like our West-India possessions. So long as the great body of the population was held in a state of slavery, the question of prison discipline scarcely arose; all punishments were inflicted by the domestic authority of the master. The proprietor of a slave was reluctant to immure him in a gaol, because he thereby deprived himself of his labour, and the state of the prisons in those islands, being then of comparatively no consequence, attracted but little attention. But the moment slavery was abolished, and the apprenticeship system abandoned, it became a question of great consequence. From that moment the power of punishment was taken out of the hands of the master; all he could do was, to bring his charge against the delinquent negro, who was then committed to gaol or the house of correction. It became, then, a matter of the utmost consequence to take care of the regulation and management of those gaols and houses of correction. If their regulation and management were left in the hands of the planters exclusively, there must obviously be the greatest danger that a system of punishments would be introduced which indirectly would keep up the worst vices of slavery, and be the means of exercising a sort of unwarrantable coercion over the 1250 labour of the negro population. The evils which might have been anticipated, it soon appeared, had actually occurred. No steps were taken to meet the Emancipation Bill and the other measures which followed it. The gaols and houses of correction were left under the management of the local magistrates; no peculiar precautions were taken, and there speedily arose a state of things which excited the greatest attention in this country, and obviously called for the interference of Parliament and the Government. Accounts reached this country of apprentices committed by the special magistrates, who then were under the exclusive control of the local authorities. They were treated in those gaols in so cruel and barbarous a manner, that it was quite obvious some of the worst and most disgusting features of slavery were still preserved in an aggravated form, because the atrocities to which he alluded, were committed beyond the reach of public observation, within the secresy of a gaol or house of correction. He referred most unwillingly to details, but they constituted an important part of the case he had to make out. The right hon. Gentleman then read the following extract:—"On the 12th of April, 1835, the governor reported the cases of two female apprentices, who had been flogged in the Kingston workhouse; and on the 7th of July, 1835, he states, that the Colonial Gaol Act of 1834 authorised the common council, or five magistrates in session, to pass rules.' He also adds, 'they have passed rules authorising the supervisor of workhouses to inflict corporal punishment on all persons, not even excluding females; they have also adopted the custom of cutting off the hair of all the females who are sent into the houses of correction for confinement or for punishment; they have, in some instances, put untried people to hard labour, and cut off their hair.' The following was an extract of an affidavit on oath of Charles Atherton (enclosed by the Governor):—'He saw two drivers flog a woman who was working on the wheel about her head and about her waist, one driver being on the mill steps, and the other on the ground, and both flogging the woman at the same time.' 'The supervisor was present.'" The supervisor, in that case, was dismissed; and it was right he should state, that in some of the other cases to which he should allude, the persons committing the offences had been brought to punishment; still he was entitled to refer 1251 to them for the purpose of showing what did take place in those prisons and houses of correction, and the vicious system under which they had been managed. On the 29th of August, 1835, Lord Glenelg, in reply, adverted to the indecorum and injustice of scourging or cutting the hair off women for any imputed or real misconduct. The Governor was instructed to apply to the Assembly to amend the Act; and it was added, that if such practices should be continued under the sanction of any colonial enactment, the Government would feel it their duty to apply to Parliament. On the 17th of December, 1835, Lord Sligo, in obedience to these instructions, sent a message to the Assembly, suggesting important amendments in the Gaol Act, and calling especial attention to the fact, that women were flogged on the treadmill. This message was referred to a special committee; but no amendment bill was passed. "March 5,1836, the Governor reported the result of the inquiry into transactions at the St. Andrew's workhouse. He says:—'It proves that I have not lightly made the charge of corporal punishment of females being still, in spite of all my efforts, administered in the different workhouses of this parish. St. Andrew's, now reported, makes the sixth instance that I had proved.' March 30, 1836, the governor refers to the conviction of the supervisor of Trelawny for flogging Jane Reid, and adds: 'That the punishment by the cat, of women who will not work, on the treadmill, was become so general, that, in his opinion, an example should be made.' April 9, 1836, the Governor reported evidence on the inquest of Luise Beveridge, who died at the treadmill at Morant Bay, after having been tied upon the treadmill, together with four other females, Verdict, 'Apoplexy, occasioned by excitement.' On the 11th of June, 1836, Lord Glenelg observed, that it appeared, from his evidence, that in the Morant Bay workhouse the women who refused to work at the treadmill were fastened to it by ligatures round the arms for twenty-four successive hours in such a manner as to endanger the lives of all, and actually to occasion the death of one. And in reference to the same workhouse on the 31st of August, 1836, he observes, that it appeared, that 'Out of eleven deaths in that workhouse on which inquests had been held since January, 1835, three were confessedly owing to injuries received on the treadmill, and eight were ascribed to the 1252 visitation of God, under which general description it was obvious, that many cases may have been included in which the death of the prisoner was not unconnected with the treatment which he had previously undergone.' On the 25th of April, 1836, the Governor reported evidence of cruelties committed in the St. Andrew's workhouse by flogging and otherwise ill-treating Jane Retford. On the 13th of June, 1836, the Governor reports a message sent by him to the Assembly, stating particulars of several cases of whipping of females in the workhouses. On the 7th of June, 1836, the Governor says, in reference to flogging females—'I am sorry to say, that recent inquiries have shown to me that this illegal practice has not ceased.' On the 23rd of June, 1836, the Governor observes, that 'The extent to which the flogging of women had been carried in St. Anne's parish, without his knowledge, exceeded far all calculation.' June 14, 1836, in reference to the cases of Jane Reid and Frederick Shrieves, Lord Glenelg said, he hoped that "an instance of such scandalous abuse would lead to a general reformation in the management of workhouses and other places of confinement," and he directed a special application to be made to the Assembly. June 28, 1836, in reference to the cases of supervisor Whiteman and Nelson, charged with flogging female apprentices in the workhouse of Halfway-tree (in these cases the grand jury threw out the indictments, but the depositions proved the charges), Lord Glenelg observed, that if the law really authorised the flogging of females on the treadmill, there was the most urgent cause for the interference of the Legislature.' August 1, 1836, in reference to his instructions from home to endeavour to procure a remedy to the deficiencies in the law for preventing cruelties in workhouses, &c., Lord Sligo says: 'I again say, advisedly, the remedy must come from home.' March 13, 1837, the Governor reported a message sent by him to the Assembly on the 22d of February, 1837, calling the attention of the Assembly to this subject. This message was referred to a special committee, which reported to the effect, that the existing laws were sufficient to prevent abuses. Nothing, therefore, was done. July 1, 1837, Lord Glenelg says:—"I have already had occasion to advert more than once to the abuses alleged to exist in these places (gaols and workhouses), and I have intimated an 1253 opinion, that unless some remedy should be applied to them, it might be necessary for the stipendiary magistrates to abstain from committing apprentices to the workhouse.' About this time a Select Committee of that House was appointed to investigate the whole working of the apprenticeship system in the West Indies; and Lord Glenelg, on the 1st of August, 1837, sent out their report, in which they recommended a strict and searching examination, without delay, into the state of the gaols and workhouses, with special reference to the use of the treadmill. Captain Pringle was at the same time employed to make those inquiries on the spat, and report to the Government, and his appointment was announced to the Governor of Jamaica on the 25th of August, 1837. October 27, 1837, a despatch from the Secretary of State, dated May 31, 1837, was laid before the Assembly, reviewing at length the provisions of the Gaol Act of 1834, and urging various alterations and amendments. This message was referred, as before, to a special committee, and no further proceedings were taken. November 15, 1837, Lord Glenelg again called the Governor's attention to the many fruitless applications which had been made to the House of Assembly to amend' the oppressive provisions of the Gaol Act, and other local laws. November 28, 1837, the Governor sent a message to the Assembly, submitting some proposed regulations for treadmill punishments. It was referred to the same committee as before, and shared the fate of the preceding applications. February 1, 1838, with reference to the investigation into the statement of James Williams, Lord Glenelg, alluding to the abuses, flogging of females, use of chains, and other cruelties, "which had been brought to light by this investigation,' observed, that he found abundant evidence in the papers before him to justify the adoption of the most effectual means of placing the houses of correction under a more efficient control;… and to provide against the recurrence of such enormous abuses.' February 13, 1838, Lord Glenelg says:—'I apprised you that it was my intention to address you in a separate despatch on the subject of the requisite measures for the immediate prevention of abuses of a flagrant character in the houses of correction. It would be a great satisfaction to me to learn that a law of this nature were passed by the colonial legislature; but should this not be the case, 1254 there is no subject which, in my opinion more imperatively demands the interference of the Imperial Legislature.' Feb. 21, 1838, the Assembly was again solicited by message to entertain the question of prison discipline, and a further despatch was laid before it, with exactly the same result as before—reference to a committee, without further proceedings." A bill was introduced into that House at the commencement of last Session, known by the name of the Emancipation Act Amendment Bill. A controversy had gone on between the House of Assembly and the Colonial-office, not only with regard to prison discipline, but with respect to other matters; and the Government at home having repeatedly, but without effect, urged the Assembly to make such amendments as might be necessary to remedy the evils complained of, at last determined to come to Parliament, and they proposed the Act which he had mentioned. He would not refer to any of the other important topics contained in that Act; he only begged the House to recollect that it was not merely with respect to prison discipline that it had been found necessary to interfere. Among other matters the Act embraced the regulation of gaols and workhouses in Jamaica; but from the nature of the remedy then provided all the enactments in it applied exclusively to the system of apprenticeship, and only enabled the local executive government, the gover nor, and special magistrates to protect the apprentices in the gaols and houses of correction; it expired and became of no effect the moment the system of apprenticeship was abolished. The importance of this fact would appear from what he should have to state presently. Meanwhile, shortly after that bill passed, great excitement, which the House would recollect, arose with respect to the working of the apprenticeship, and Parliament was called on to put an end at once to the system. The House refused to do so; and he for one, without now entering upon the subject, must be allowed to say, he should always rejoice the House had refused to adopt that measure. But in refusing to accede to the proposal then made of terminating at once the system of apprentice ship, the House expressed an opinion of its own. He held in his hand two resolutions which were moved by his hon. and learned Friend the Judge-Advocate (Sir G. Grey), who then represented the Colonial-office in that House; and while the 1255 first declared their determination to adhere to what might be considered their pledge to the West Indians not to bring the apprenticeship system to a violent termination; the second was in these words—Resolved, that this House declares its opinion that no means shall be omitted tending to secure to the negroes the privileges to which they are entitled under the Act for the abolition of slavery, and under the amendment of the Slavery Abolition Act; and, further, that the anxious attention of this House shall be directed to the state of the negro population when the expiration of the term of apprenticeship entitles them to entire freedom.He had thought it necessary to read that resolution to the House, not thinking that a pledge so solemn and so recently given could have escaped the memory of any one of its Members, but because he felt, if the present state of the dispute with Jamaica were looked into, it would be found that not only on the single point of prison discipline, but with reference to the other concerns of the province, all right of interference whatever was denied to the Imperial Parliament. It was only in July, 1838, that the report of Captain Pringle was transmitted to the Government at home. Now let the House recollect the condition in which the Government was placed as soon as it received that document. He had already stated to the House that there in the first place the most shocking abuses committed in the workhouses, gaols, and houses of correction, in Jamaica; that there had been five distinct applications made by the Imperial Parliament to the House of Assembly in Jamaica to correct them, and that five times had those applications been, he would not say refused, but intentionally evaded. He must remind the House of what had been the consequence of the Act abolishing the apprenticeship system. All the protection provided by the Emancipation Act for the labourers in the workhouses and gaols was provided for them eo nomine as apprentices. As soon, therefore, as the apprentice became a freeman, there was no security against his being committed to the house of correction under the vagrant law, and against his being treated when there as he had been formerly treated when a slave, without any power on the part of the executive government to interfere on his behalf. This was the position in which the Government at home was placed. It had already had abundant proof of the indis- 1256 position of the House of Assembly to entertain the subject. It had abundant knowledge of the practical cruelty which had existed in the gaols and houses of correction, and which would continue to exist there, if no remedy were applied to it. It found that the case was urgent and admitted not of delay. There had been a solemn resolution of the House of Commons, that it would direct its attention to the amelioration of the condition of the negro population after their freedom was accomplished. Under such circumstances, the Government would have deserved the severest censure had it hesitated as to the course which it had to pursue. The question of the Prison Bill was introduced into the House of Lords in July last by his noble Friend Lord Glenelg. On its first introduction there, it passed unanimously, but not without observation by their Lordships. A distinguished nobleman, one of the late colleagues in office of the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, who had paid great attention to colonial affairs—he meant Lord Ellenborough—said, that he had read the bill through, and approved of it. The bill, in consequence, passed through the Lords, and came down to the Commons. His right hon. and learned Friend, the Judge-Advocate, had moved it in that House. He moved it at an early period of the Session. It passed, not indeed entirely sub silentio, but still it passed unanimously. It might be said, however, that it did not attract the attention of the gentlemen connected with Jamaica, and that it met, in consequence, with no opposition. But how stood the fact? Mr. Burge, the agent for Jamaica, with that zeal for his constituents which so honourably distinguished him, sent into the Colonial-office a written protest against the bill. A copy of that protest was moved for by the present Duke of Buckingham, then Marquess of Chandos, and on his motion it was laid upon their Table. The noble Marquess was in his place in the House when his right hon. and learned Friend moved the bill, as was also the hon. Member for Newark, as well as other hon. Members connected with the West India interest. He mentioned these matters to show that the bill had attracted, and must have attracted, their attention; but that no one opposed it in any manner. He was not aware that he had any need to say more of the immediate cause of controversy between the House of Assembly in Jamaica, and the Imperial Parliament 1257 of Great Britain. He would, however, say again, that if on reconsideration the House of Commons should be of opinion that it had acted hastily and unadvisedly, God forbid that he should set up its recorded vote as a deliberate resolution from which they could not under any circumstances recede. He had, however, a right to ask the House not to come to such a retraction of opinion without due and solemn consideration. He had already stated, that this Prison Bill was only one of the points on which the collision between the Colonial Assembly and the Imperial Parliament had arisen. He could only consider it, however, as part of the controversy which had long existed between them respecting the general treatment and condition of the negro population. When he looked back to the whole course of events from the year 1822, when the House of Commons passed the celebrated resolution, that it looked forward to the termination of slavery, and that it would take measures to accelerate that event, he could not doubt, no man could doubt, that from that time a controversy had existed between the Imperial Parliament of Great Britain on the one hand, and the House of Assembly of Jamaica on the other. It was not his intention to go back into the details of that controversy; but this he must be permitted to remark, that there was no one act which we had taken for the accomplishment of our objects which had not been forced upon the House of Assembly in Jamaica by the Imperial Parliament, with the exception of the bill substituting the apprenticeship system in the stead of slavery to which they had been induced to consent by the noble sacrifice which the people of this country had made for the accomplishment of that great object. Since that period we had been obliged to interfere no less than three distinct times with the legislation of the colony. 1. When we extended the duration of the Aid Act for one year longer; 2, when we passed the Apprenticeship Amendment Bill; and 3, when we passed the Prison Bill. He was unwilling to weary the House with extracts from speeches and documents in proof of what he had just said; but there was one document to which he must really be permitted to call their attention, as it was so illustrative of the tone and temper with which the House of Assembly was accustomed to act. He alluded to a protest which had been drawn up by the House of Assembly on the second interference of the Imperial 1258 Parliament for the purpose of carrying the Act for the amendment of the apprenticeship system. On receiving that Act the House of Assembly passed a solemn protest against it, in which were to be found the following passages:—This House does not dread a comparison with the Commons of England in the success of their legislation. Our laws have not been defied, as by the Irish opponents of tithes; murders are not committed in our island by companies of armed men in open day; nor do bands prowl about at night, setting fire to barns, and ricks of corn; nor do our labourers and artisans combine, as of late in Dublin and Glasgow, to raise wages, even by maiming and murder. Our courts are never occupied with the obscenities which disgrace England, nor do our husbands and daughters resort to them to expose their own shame for a money-price. The horrible trade of Burke, (and we fear, of many more), which has given a new word to the English language, was never heard of here; nor have we ever known an instance of parents putting their infant families to death to save them from the protracted sufferings of starvation. It is not in Jamaica that unfortunate mothers outrage nature by the destruction of their new-born offspring, to avoid the cruel persecution of a hard-hearted and destroying morality; nor is it under our laws that wretches commit suicide to escape the refuge which is provided for worn-out and aged industry. We have no corn-laws to add to the wealth of the rich, nor poor-laws to imprison, under pretence of maintaining the poor. We cannot, as the English Parliament does, boast of a pauper law which has taken millions from the necessities of the destitute, to add to the luxuries of the wealthy.Again, in another passage, this was the language—The taxation of the colony may, perhaps, he delegated to the House of Lords, into which was first introduced the infamous bill for our destruction; and, the first time, for many ages, their Lordships in that bill were permitted to exercise the privilege of laying on British subjects grievous pecuniary penalties. The power of taxing Jamaica may console their Lordships for its deprivation elsewhere:He had read these passages for the purpose of asking the House, whether it believed that a legislative assembly capable of using such language in a deliberate state paper was very likely to pass laws that were wise or impartial, or calculated to soothe irritation and He might, perhaps, be told, that however little the present House of Assembly might represent the large body of the people of Jamaica, a short space of time would bring a remedy for it; 1259 that the negro population would speedily acquire the right of suffrage, and, that instead of suspending the constitution of Jamaica, it would be much better for us to trust to the progress of events. It might be true that in the space of fifteen months under the registration law the negro population might acquire a voice in the representation of the island. Indeed, he understood that the facilities for registration were so great there, that many persons were inclined to expect that the negro population would gain a predominant share in the local legislature. Such a Prospect afforded no consolation or encouragement to him. He could conceive nothing worse than that the House of Assembly should go on legislating as it now did, and that then at the end of fifteen months it should be succeeded by another chosen as that House would be. Although, from a perusal of the papers upon their Table, he could not but feel the highest gratification at the favourable and excellent moral conduct of the great body of the negro population, still he could not see without apprehension and alarm that population, smarting, as it would do under a sense of injuries inflicted, returning to the House of Assembly persons actuated by their feelings and passions. Looking at all these circumstances, then, he could see no other means of bringing this experiment to a successful issue than that of interposing for some time a body to frame laws for Jamaica, not actuated by the feelings and passions of either portion of the population. The House of Assembly had said, that it would transact no business till our Act of last Session was repealed. No one could suppose it possible to leave Jamaica in its present state. Great part of the legislation depended upon laws passed annually. He held in his hand at that moment a list of seventeen laws, all of which had now expired. Some of them were laws of the very first importance; for instance, there was now no law authorizing the existence of an armed police to execute the orders of the magistrates; there was no Jaw to regulate contracts between workmen and employers which was suitable to the present condition of society in Jamaica; there was now no law to prevent the population from carrying arms; there was now no good vagrant law; there was now no law making a provision for the poor. Besides all this, there was a loss of taxes and supplies amounting to 129,650l. a-year, all occasioned by the want of legislation. Not only were 1260 these, the old laws of the island, suspended, but also the laws necessary to be enacted for the new state of transition were left in a state of abeyance. Those laws might be classed under seven heads:—first, the laws for the reform of the judicature; secondly, the laws for the regulations of the police; thirdly, the vagrant laws; fourthly, the poor-laws; fifthly, the laws for the repeal of certain colonial judicatures which had formerly sanctioned various acts of oppression; sixthly, the laws relating to the qualification of electors; and seventhly, and lastly, the laws affecting the unauthorized and anomalous occupation of lands belonging to the Crown. On a general review, then, of the whole case, her Majesty's Government were of opinion that it would be advisable to suspend the constitution of Jamaica for a limited number of years, and to provide, that during that interval its legislative functions should not be exercised by a governor, a council, and a House of Assembly, but should reside in the governor and the Council alone. That would be the main purport of the bill which he now asked leave to introduce. Into its other provisions he would abstain from entering until the bill was printed, for then the House would be better able to discuss them. At the same time he must observe, that there were two points of such consequence among them, that even now he must be permitted to advert to them briefly. The first related to the period of time during which this suspension of the constitution was to last, and also the constitution which was to be established in its stead. Government proposed that this system should continue for five years. It was hoped that that period would give time for those laws to be enacted which were necessary for the transition state of that colony. It was hoped also, that that period would produce a calmer mood of mind, in all classes of inhabitants; and when that was produced, 'the most anxious desire of Government would be to restore to the island of Jamaica its ancient constitution, with such amendments as the changes in its society might render necessary. There was another point of great importance, to which he also wished to advert. It was the intention of Government to add to the present Council of Jamaica a certain number of persons—probably three in number—who would be sent from this country as special councillors. He could not help thinking that great advantage would be derived from the pre- 1261 sence of some persons in the Council who were strangers to the passions and prejudices of the colonists, and whose attention had been especially directed to some of the subjects which the Council would be called upon to discuss. When be considered how long such topics as the amelioration of the condition of the negroes, as the Poor-laws, and the state of prison discipline had occupied the attention of Parliament and the public in this country, he could not help, thinking that the union of those who brought such knowledge with those who had a local knowledge of the wants, and wishes, and feelings, of the colonial population, would produce a wise, and prudent, and salutary legislation. Such was the outline of the bill which he now asked leave to introduce, and which he trusted would receive the most dispassionate and unbiassed consideration of the House He did not see that there was any occasion for him to address any further observations to the House; and he should, therefore, proceed, after thanking them for the patience with which they had listened to his statements, to move for leave to bring in "a bill to make temporary provision for the government of Jamaica."
§ Mr. Goulburn
said, that the right hon. Gentleman opposite had so obscurely shadowed out the details of the measure he proposed to introduce, that however he might feel that an emergency had arisen requiring that some measures should be taken for the better government of an important colony of the empire, he should not avail himself of this opportunity of discussing at large the various important questions touched upon by the right hon. Gentleman. He should, before offering any opinion, prefer seeing in all its details the measure by which the government of the colony was hereafter to be regulated, that he might be enabled to judge how far it was calculated to answer the purposes of wise or useful legislation. But, though he did not mean on the present occasion to offer any opposition to the introduction of this Bill, he must beg leave to reserve to himself the fullest right of discussing all the topics upon which the right hon. Gentleman had entered, and also those which he had avoided—of inquiring, on the one hand, whether there had been an offence in the conduct of the assembly, and on the other hand, how far that conduct might have been occasioned by the policy of the Government in this country. The right hon. Gentleman had said, that this was a 1262 contest between the Legislature of Great Britain and that of the colony. In one sense he admitted this was true; but as the right hon. Gentleman had asked him to maintain the supreme power of the British Legislature if the Colonial Legislature should be found to be in the wrong, he (Mr. Goulburn) must in turn call upon the right hon. Gentleman to concede to him that, if it should be found that Government, having obtained the consent of Parliament to a particular measure, had propounded it to the colony in such a way as to excite the passion they saw complained of, at least some opinion should be pronounced on the conduct which Government might have pursued. He did not stand there to defend the conduct of the House of Assembly. He had, in the course of a long acquaintance with colonial governments, found great reason to doubt whether, if he had to establish a system of government for a colonial empire, he should make popular representation its basis. He had himself strenuously resisted proposals made to create colonial assemblies, but he must impress on the House that the question as to the abstract expediency of creating these bodies was widely different from that which was now before them—whether, after having called them into existence and permitted them to continue for a series of years, they should suddenly withdraw them, and substitute a Government of a totally different kind. If they were to canvass the conduct of popular bodies, whether existing in the colonies or in the mother country, they would find some cause of complaint. It belonged to the very essence of popular governments, that they should be from time to time influenced by the passions of those who elected them, and it was one of their evils, as well as one of the good qualities they were supposed to possess, that they faithfully represented the feelings and interests of their constituents. He agreed with the right hon. Gentleman, that, whether the fault were that of the House of Assembly, or of the House of Commons, or the Government, they had come to a point at which they must consider what course it was expedient for them to pursue, but be would no further assent to the proposal of the Government, If it were true that the conduct of the House of Assembly had been so intemperate and improper as it was represented to be by the Government, how did it happen that those who had preceded the right hon. Gentleman in the administration of colonial 1263 affairs had, notwithstanding the resistance offered to them, been able to carry measures of infinitely greater importance, infinitely more repugnant to the feelings of Government, than that which the right hon. Gentleman wished to introduce? A measure for the general emancipation of the negroes had been carried through Parliament, which the right hon. Gentleman would not pretend to say was not far more obnoxious both to the constituent and representative bodies in the West Indies. That measure had been carried by operating on their fears through the medium of that House, but it had not been thought necessary to suspend the constitution of any of the West Indian colonies, though many plausible arguments might have been alleged in favour of such a course. It might have been said, that the condition of the whole mass of the slave population was about to be changed, and therefore that it was proper to suspend the constitution, lest the existing authorities should act towards them with partial oppression. No such course, however, had been taken, and the right hon. Gentleman must prove to the House that it was now necessary, in consequence of some proceedings of the House of Assembly, to take a measure to which they had not had recourse when the whole face of society was about to be changed. He thought the right hon. Gentleman's objections to the conduct of the House of Assembly with respect to the regulations of prisons were hardly characterized by fairness. He (Mr. Goulburn) would not assert that there had been a very eager disposition shown on the part of the Assembly to meet the views and wishes of Parliament, but he must say, if Government had felt the question regarding the regulations of prisons to be one of so much importance, they had not shown it by the course they had pursued; they had rather acted in a manner calculated to create in the minds of the colonists the impression that they did not wish for a speedy decision on the subject, and then they had turned to the colonial assemblies and said, "You shall be punished, because you have acted in accordance with our own example of vacillation." The right hon. Gentleman had spoken of individual cases of oppression and abuse brought before the House in 1835, on which the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Dr. Lushington) had enlarged with his usual talent and energy, and which had afterwards been submitted to the consideration of the Assembly. The right hon. 1264 Gentleman had read what had no doubt been furnished to him as an abstract of the proceedings of the Assembly with regard to these cases, but he was sure that the right hon. Gentleman, though not feeling a very anxious desire to look favourably at their conduct, if he had looked over the details, would not have omitted that most important part of the abstract referring to the declaration of the Assembly in March, 1837. They had then declared that they would be ready to take into their consideration the state of the prisons, with a view to the correction of any abuses that might be proved to exist. It surely was not fair in the right hon. Gentleman, when detailing the conduct of the Assembly, to say that they had rejected the recommendation made to them after they had declared their willingness to take it into consideration. Were there no grounds for thinking that Government were not so anxious as they represented themselves to be regarding this subject? They had had the cases which it was material to consider, before them since 1835; they had been debated in Parliament, and Government ought long since to have made up their minds as to the nature of the cases themselves, and the remedies to be applied to them. To what did Lord Glenelg's communication amount, on the right hon. Gentleman's own showing? Why, in August, 1837, he simply informed the Assembly that he had directed an examination into the state of the several workhouses, in order to ascertain what abuses existed, and what remedies should be applied. Two years after it had become notorious that abuses were prevalent, the Secretary of State informed the Assembly that an inquiry was about to be set on foot in order that Government might have the facts of the case before them. That this was the meaning of Lord Glenelg's communication was placed beyond a doubt by the communication made in October following, when, in recommending to the Assembly the introduction of a better system of prison discipline, he said—"Returns have been required from different parishes in a prepared and condemned shape. The present act will expire in the year 1840, and at that period, if not before, it will devolve upon you to give your most serious consideration to the improvements which may be introduced into it." He did not say, that the noble Lord then at the head of the Colonial Department might not be deeply impressed with the evils existing in the pri- 1265 sons of Jamaica, but if that noble Lord had wished to mislead the Assembly, he could not have chosen a more effectual method than by saying, that he was about to collect information relative to the abuse existing, and that in the year 1840 he should expect remedies to be applied to those abuses. Captain Pringle was accordingly appointed to make inquiry into the state of the gaols in Jamaica, and the House of Assembly had every reason to expect, that his report would be laid before them. Had that ever been done? He knew perfectly well, that the Assembly had manifested every disposition to show deference to the recommendations of the report; they had forborne from proceeding with prisons which were in course of erection, in expectation of receiving it soon, and if Government had wished any further alterations to be made in the law previous to 1840, the Assembly would have readily complied with their request. He contended, that the proceedings of Government had been calculated to mislead the very body of whose conduct they now complained, and he must say, if the Assembly had displayed improper irritation on one side, there had been an equal degree of impropriety and greater negligence on the part of the Government. He would add further, that in dealing with popular assemblies, it was necessary to consider that peculiar sensitiveness entertained by them on the subject of their own rights and privileges. Having created a representative body in Jamaica, they ought to treat it with becoming courtesy. Government had not called together the Assembly to consider the Protection Bill, they had not made it the subject of a special message, they had not even stated, that they wished it enforced in Jamaica. Government ought to have represented to the Assembly, that this measure was a necessary consequence of the general plan of the abolition of slavery, that it was rendered inevitable by the passing of the Emancipation Bill, and therefore, that it was not intended as the prelude to a general assumption of power over the colonial authorities. Government, instead of stating to the colonial Assembly the reasons why they should agree to the measure, had withheld any communication whatever on the subject, and the Assembly only heard of it by seeing the Act posted on the door with the proclamation of the governor for enforcing it. Now, he contended, that Government ought, at all events, to treat the 1266 Assembly with the courtesy due to a body deeply interested in the welfare of the country they were called upon to govern, and which ought to subsist between two bodies concurring in the possession of legislative functions. They had, however, adopted quite a different course; therefore, although he was ready to consider with the Government any plan that might be proposed for removing the difficulties that now presented themselves, he should reserve to himself the right of entering at large into the various questions involved in it on some future occasion, and deciding on them after he had heard as well the statements that might be made by the advocates of the Assembly at the Bar of the House, as those which would be made by the right hon. Gentleman on the part of the Government of this country. He had avoided many points which must suggest themselves to the mind in considering this subject. Before suspending the constitution of Jamaica, they ought to consider what feelings would be excited by such a measure, not only in Jamaica, but in other colonies equally sensitive and sharing its peculiarities. The right hon. Gentleman had talked of the feelings of the white population. He would tell the right hon. Gentleman, that though at present there were no means of ascertaining the feelings of the large coloured population lately admitted to the privileges of freemen, they could not rely with confidence on their being uninfluenced by the higher classes, or not likely to share their feelings, with whom alone on the present occasion the right hon. Gentleman supposed he had to contend. He advised the right hon. Gentleman also to reflect on the changes that might be expected to occur in the course of five years, and on the inconveniences that would arise when the Assembly, suspended in consequence of its intemperate conduct, should be called on to resume its functions, the feelings which gave rise to the suspension having been carefully kept alive by continued agitation and excitement, and tending to show themselves in an increased spirit of hostility. As one deeply interested in the prosperity of the colony, he begged the right hon. Gentleman to take these matters seriously into consideration. He trusted, that when the discussion of the question should come on and they had heard the statements and arguments adduced, on behalf of both sides, they would be enabled to come to a decision with calmness and prudence, and adopt a course beneficial to 1267 the interests both of the island and the empire.
§ Sir G. Grey
said, that notwithstanding the somewhat intemperate attack which had been made by the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down on the measures which had been adopted by the Government with reference to the negro population of the West India Islands, and more particularly of the island of Jamaica, he most earnestly hoped that this important subject would be discussed, when it came to be fully discussed on the second reading of the bill, with a calm and serious attention on the part of hon. Members to the circumstances which had at length forced on Government the adoption of measures, with reference to the legislature of Jamaica, which they had been earnestly endeavouring for years to avoid. Considering the magnitude of the question, he strongly hoped hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House would approach the discussion of it with temper and calmness. The right hon. Gentleman, he was sorry to say, had not set the example of moderation on the present occasion. The right hon. Gentleman made it a charge against her Majesty's Government that by a series of unprovoked attacks on the legislature of Jamaica they had at length brought affairs to such a condition as to lead that body to the adoption of measures which, as the right hon. Gentleman admitted, were of such a nature as justified the extreme measure of the suspension of the colonial legislature. The right hon. Gentleman had admitted this, and had led him to conclude that he had no intention of opposing the second reading of the bill, provided that the details turned out to be such as he could approve.["No, no."] He (Sir G. Grey) certainly understood the right hon. Gentleman to state that he should not oppose the bill; that he wished it to be introduced without discussion; but that he would reserve giving his final opinion upon it till he saw what were to be the details of the measure, and had an opportunity of considering their nature. Assenting, then, as the right hon. Gentleman did, to the introduction of the bill, and deprecating, as he also appeared to do, any discussion of its principle, the right hon. Gentleman must be concluded to admit the necessity which impelled Government to have recourse to it. When the right hon. Gentleman told him that he should reserve his further observations till the time for the full and ample discussion of the measure should come 1268 he would reply, that he should then be ready to meet the right hon. Gentleman, and that not by vague references and startling assertions, but upon the evidence of facts. He should be ready, whenever the right hon. Gentleman gave hint the titles of the papers on the Table of the House to which he particularly referred, to go into a full and complete examination of those papers if he chose, taking them paragraph by paragraph, for the purpose of showing what the conduct of the Government had really been with regard to the House of Assembly of Jamaica. Some of the facts on which this measure was founded had been known, it was true, to the Government for some time, but it was not true, as the right hon. Gentleman argued, that the Government had been acquainted since the year 1836 with the whole of the facts on which the measure was founded. He had himself, as Under Secretary for the Colonies, been examined at considerable length before the Committee of 1836, when he had stated to the committee every case of the violation of the law in the work-houses of Jamaica which had, up to the time of his examination, been reported to the Colonial Secretary by Lord Sligo. The report of the Committee, which was ordered by the House to be printed on the 13th of August, 1836, after some other remarks, went on thus—Your committee have felt it their duty to institute a strict inquiry into the alleged cases of corporal punishment inflicted on female apprentices. They found that this subject had engaged the close attention both of the local Government of, Jamaica, and of the Government in this country, and that measures had been already taken to prevent the recurrence of the violation of that most important enactment, contained alike in the Imperial Act for the abolition of slavery, and in the Jamaica Statute, which prohibits the infliction of corporal punishment on female apprentices. The result of Lord Sligo's inquiry upon this point led to the discovery of many instances of a practice of this nature existing for offences against the discipline of the workhouse in the houses of correction in Jamaica, not under the immediate control of the executive Government, but subject to local regulations and superintendence. Your committee are happy to observe that the legality of this punishment has in no instance been asserted, but that all parties in Jamaica have concurred in its being contrary to the enactments in the Abolition Act before referred to. In several cases prosecutions were instituted against the offender by order of the governor; in one recent case 1269 the party was convicted, and the illegality of the punishment thereby established. As, however, some doubt has been thrown upon the construction which may be placed on the law in this respect, your committee are of opinion that it is essential that such doubt should be effectually removed. The attention of the House of Assembly of Jamaica has been directed to the subject, and as they had distinctly recorded their opinion of the illegality of this mode of punishment, your committee entertain the fullest confidence that they will not fail to take such measures as will prevent the possibility of the continuance of a practice at once contrary to law, and abhorrent to the best feelings of our nature.In fact, the state of things, as far as the Government were then informed, was such, that he had stated in answer to Mr. Buxton, that he considered the case as by no means hopeless without the immediate interference of Parliament; that he hoped the House of Assembly were sincere in their professions on the subject; and that he was therefore not without confident expectations that all they wanted would be obtained from the Jamaica Legislature. Under these circumstances the committee had refrained from recommending to Parliament any measure on the subject though there was little doubt, that had there been such a recommendation, it would have been adopted. If, therefore, he had to answer to any charge, it was to the charge of having been instrumental in postponing party interference with the legislature of Jamaica; and being so far deceived by appearances and professions as to have relied upon that body for the correction of abuses, which they acknowledged to exist, but which he was more anxious to see corrected through the medium of colonial legislation than to come to Parliament for the means of redressing. He was now obliged to confess that this compliance had been misplaced; for the sake of humanity he sincerely regretted they had not then passed a measure on the subject. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman before the full and ample discussion of this question which he had promised the House, would make himself better acquainted with the facts stated in the papers on the Table; the right hon. Gentleman would again familiarize himself with those documents, for it was clear, that if he had read them before, he had not had them in his recollection when he delivered the speech which the House had just heard. The right hon. Gentleman had quoted an address of the House of Assembly of Jamaica, pre- 1270 sented in 1837, in which they stated, that they did not know that any abuses existed in regard to the prisons; and denied their knowledge, or at least belief, of there existing any such extent of evil as to require legislative enactments on the subject. But what was the history of this question? The committee of 1836 received a mass of evidence on this subject, the whole of it was known to the assembly, at the date of that address. The committee had moreover as he before stated, abstained from recommending Parliament to apply the remedy, in the confidence that such remedy would be applied by the colonial legislature. The application for the remedy was but by an assertion of the disbelief of the existence of the evil, notwithstanding the abundant evidence of its frequency, and this is quoted by the right hon. Gentleman, as proof of the readiness of the Assembly to carry out honestly the principle of the Emancipation Act. In 1837 the committee of 1836 was renewed, and took evidence at some length. That evidence was not laid on the Table, because it was conceived to be partial evidence, and that it would be unfair to the West Indian interest to present, in the unfinished state in which the sudden close of the Session unavoidably left it, a mass of evidence involving them in charges of the most revolting kind. However, facts were stated and witnesses heard before the committee, detailing multiplied horrors and atrocities which passed in the prisons and workhouses of Jamaica—horrors and atrocities which certainly very much exceeded anything that had come to the knowledge of the Government. These statements he did not say were true to the full extent, it was not impossible they might be somewhat exaggerated. They had certainly not been entirely borne out by Captain Pringle's report. As a member of that committee he had felt it his duty to give an account of these statements to Lord Glenelg. Lord Glenelg felt that their accuracy ought to be ascertained; and it was consequently determined to send out a competent person to the West Indies to inspect the prisons personally, with a view to inquire into their actual condition, and of course with the ultimate view of applying a remedy to those evils, so far as they should be found to exist. This intention had been carried into effect by the mission of Captain Pringle. While these steps were taken by the Government, what was the course adopted by the committee? They made a short report, which stated, 1271There is one subject to which the committee consider it to be their duty specially to advert. The state of the workhouses and of the prison discipline is so intimately connected with the working of the apprenticeship system, that it has engaged the anxious attention of the committee, particularly as it exists in the island of Jamaica, to which their inquiries have been principally directed, and it appears to them to be indispensable that there should be instituted, without delay, a strict and searching examination into the state of the workhouses in the West India colonies, and especially into the construction and use of the treadmills which are employed in them, and the nature of the coercion adopted to insure labour among the prisoners. It has been satisfactory to the committee to learn that the attention of the Colonial-office has been directed to this question, and that it is the intention of that department to take effectual means to obtain the information which is required upon it.In September, 1837, Lord Glenelg's instructions to Captain Pringle were dated, and in July, 1838, Captain Pringle's report was received. He was bound to state, that the report of Captain Pringle did not wholly bear out the charges which had been made. On the other hand, however, it ought to be remembered that that Gentleman was not likely to see anything spoken to by the witnesses who had been examined by the Committee; but he did corroborate their evidence as to the general character of the prison discipline in the island. The report bore out an important fact deposed to by the witnesses—namely, that there were instances of the boatswains in the workhouses being convicts for life, persons wholly unfit to be intrusted with the charge of their fellow prisoners. Upon the whole it was clear that the report laid ample grounds for a total reformation of the prison system. That reformation was, he (Sir G. Grey) was sorry to say, still incomplete, because the chief points referred to in Lord Glenelg's despatch quoted by the right hon. Gentleman require the agency of the Colonial Legislature. Lord Glenelg, in his despatch addressed to Sir Lionel Smith, and dated May 31, 1837, after pointing out a variety of defects in the Gaol Act of the Jamaica Legislature passed in 1834, and adverting to the means which appeared attainable for remedying them, concludes by telling the Governor, that in 1840, which he mentioned, not as an arbitrary period, as the right hon. Gentleman seemed to intimate, but because the Act was limited in its duration to the period then fixed for the termination of the 1272 apprenticeship (viz. 1840), when the power of the special magistrates would then be at an end; that in 1840, a change of the system of prisons throughout the colony would be requisite; but if the right hon. Gentleman had read Captain Pringle's report, he would have found that there existed evils for which irrespective of the general improvements recommended in that despatch an immediate remedy was urgently demanded. As he had stared, it had been found that the boatswains attending the treadmills of the workhouses in Jamaica were, in some cases, convicts for life: the prisons also were not of the same kind as those known in this country, but included cells which were subject to no inspection. By the Abolition of Slavery Act Amendment Act, power of inspection and regulation had been given so far only as related to the apprentices. By the abolition of the apprenticeship this power ceased to exist, and the executive Government possessed no means of checking abuses in the prisons to which any member of the emancipated population might be consigned. To meet this difficulty, Captain Pringle recommended that the law in Jamaica should be assimilated to that which was established in Barbadoes, and that the appointment of the officers of prisons should be vested in the governor. Her Majesty's Government had, however, not thought fit to go so far as this; but they proposed, and Parliament had enacted, that if the governor was dissatisfied with the prison officers he might remove them, that notice of such removal should be given to the proper authorities, and on fourteen days elapsing without any substitution being made by the local authorities in room of the individuals removed, then the appointment of fresh officers should be in the governor. The object of the Act was, that they should always be sure of having, not convicts for life, placed in the superintendence of prisons, but that responsible persons might be placed in offices of so much trust and importance. The instructions to the governor accompanying the Gaol Act enjoined him to carry into effect the provision relating to the removal of officers with firmness and decision. Power was also given to the governor to appoint persons to inspect the real state of the prisons, and so enable him to know how the law was actually administered, so that he should no longer have to learn, for the first time, from the evidence of witnesses before a committee of the House of Commons here, what was the 1273 state of the prisons in Jamaica, because he had not the means of instituting inquiries on the spot. It is true that the necessity for this measure has been less than was anticipated when it was passed, for he was most happy to say, that crime had so diminished since the abolition of the apprenticeship, not only in Jamaica but in other colonies. That gaols which before were crowded, have since, not only not been full, but in some cases there have not even been inmates enough to perform the ordinary duty of keeping them clean. Gratifying, however, as this fact is, it is one on which the Government could not before hand have relied, so has to discharge them from the obligation of preventing the continuance of abuses such as those which had been proved to exist. But the right hon. Gentleman said, the Government having passed this bill, as he seemed to think, very unnecessarily, next proceeded to promulgate it in Jamaica in a mode which very much extenuated, if it did not justify, the subsequent conduct of the House of Assembly. Had the right hon. Gentleman read the despatch of Lord Glenelg, dated August 13, 1838, transmitting the Act? He wished very much that the right hon. Gentleman would point out any one passage in that despatch which afforded any ground to justify the almost unqualified censure which the right hon. Gentleman insinuated, rather than passed, upon the Government for their management of this matter. These were some of the expressions of Lord Glenelg in that despatch:I am aware that the necessity for such an Act may be much greater in some colonies than in others; and I have no reason to doubt that, in some at least, every disposition will be evinced by the Legislature to correct evils and abuses in their prison discipline and arrangements, which will probably still remain for the local legislature to do, in order to place this subject in a proper position. The Government, however, felt it necessary that an immediate remedy should be applied to such evils as may be removed by the adoption of an uniform system of superintendence and inspection throughout the West Indies. The intervention of Parliament has been the only effectual mode of accomplishing this object. A bill was accordingly introduced, which has been adopted with the unanimous assent of both Houses of Parliament, and has within the last few days received the Royal assent.The enactment was applicable to all the West Indian colonies alike, although Jamaica was the most pressing case. Ought they, then, to have made applica- 1274 tion to the colonial legislatures for their separate consent before passing an Act of the Imperial Legislature binding them all? If application had been made to the Legislature of Jamaica, then it must have been made to all the other colonial assemblies. Would the right hon. Gentleman, then, have had them wait till they got the consent of the eighteen other colonies, or would he have wished rather that they should have legislated seriatim, and brought in separate bills for each colony However, it was distinctly stated, that this was a general Act. [Mr. Goulburm.—Was it laid before the House of Assembly of Jamaica?] Was the right hon. Gentleman not aware that on three several occasions the House of Assembly refused to receive this Act? He would turn to the despatch containing a report of the proceedings of Sir Lionel Smith on the first meeting of the Legislature after the Act was passed. It was stated that the first notice the members of the Legislature had of this Act was, that they found it pasted on the door of the House of Assembly. By these papers it appears on the contrary, that notice was promulgated and circulated for six weeks previously in the colony; and yet the right hon. Gentleman, by way of swelling the catalogue of offences against the Government, would lead the House to suppose that Sir Lionel Smith had purposely abstained from communicating this Act to them. Such an insinuation was without foundation; the Act was promulgated six weeks before the meeting of the Legislature; and on the meeting of the Legislature Sir Lionel Smith stated, "many important measures necessary on the recent change in our social system demand your calm and dispassionate consideration." Upon their meeting again after the prorogation—and he begged attention to this in answer to the right hon. Gentleman's observation—Sir Lionel Smith stated that it would be his duty to lay before them papers explanatory of the measures of the Government, and conveying her Majesty's recommendation that provision should be made for the introduction of several measures of great interest to all classes of her Majesty's subjects. This was among the despatches; and there was another passage in which he distinctly stated, that there were various despatches from Her Majesty's Government which he should lose no time in laying before the House of Assembly.—[Cheers.] He really did not understand hon. Members. The complaint made was, that this bill and the dispatch 1275 which accompanied it were not laid before the House of Assembly. It was not usual on the opening of the Session, for despatches to be laid before the House. He was not aware of a single instance in an opening speech of despatches being laid before the Legislature. The custom was generally to state that there were important communications to lay before the House, and two or three days' afterwards to lay before it the despatches or communications by message. In this instance it was made a complaint against Sir Lionel Smith that these despatches were not communicated to the House of Assembly at its opening. His answer was, that no opportunity was afforded to Sir Lionel Smith to lay these despatches before the House of Assembly, owing to their refusal to enter on any general business. He was not aware that there were any other topics with which he need trouble the House, as there would be other opportunities for this subject to be discussed; but he was anxious to have an opportunity of stating, that in his opinion if the Government were liable to any charge at all, it was to the charge of too great forbearance. In his conscience he stood acquitted of not having done anything hastily. He should have been inexcusable if after having been a party to, induce the committee to abstain from any recommendation of party interference. If after five years' experience of the fruitlessness of all recommendations to the House of Assembly on this subject—looking at the spirit with which they had received the Slavery Abolition Act Amendment Act, which had received the unanimous assent of that House—he could have recommended them to have waited for the result of another application to the Legislature of Jamaica. He deeply regretted that they were now compelled to suspend the functions of, the Legislature of Jamaica, because they would not adopt the spirit of the British Parliament in carrying out the Emancipation Act which rendered interference was necessary to give effect to the resolution unanimously adopted by this House in the course of last Session, by which we were pledged to watch over the rights of the emancipated negroes. In accordance with the spirit of this pledge, ministers had felt bound to ask from Parliament, and Parliament had given the power to the local Government, by the West India Prison Act, to dismiss improper persons from offices which they abused in the prisons, a power indispensably necessary to the due 1276 discharge of the responsibility with which the Government was intrusted.
§ Mr. W. E. Gladstone
said, that his principal object in rising was to guard himself against the assumption which the right hon. Member who had just sat down was inclined to make on behalf of Gentlemen on that (the Opposition) side of the House, that in the introduction of the Bill it was intended to wave every other consideration but that which had reference to its details On the contrary, what he intended was this, that in the existing state of Jamaica it was clear that they were putting an end to the Legislature of the island, and it was necessary for public order to have some legislation, and they were bound to ascertain what the provisions of the measure were. A case had arisen in which it was necessary for some new steps to be taken; but whether by the Imperial Parliament, or the executive Government, was a question which he should wish to reserve for future consideration. The right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had bestowed the whale of his attention on the first act of last Session of the Jamaica House of Assembly; but he did not give attention to the most important part; there was a link wanting. It might be true, that in the despatches there were grounds requiring the enactment of some measure regarding prisons. But what was the next question? It was undoubtedly whether time were left to the Legislature to act upon the evidence laid before it. Why, until the report of Captain Pringle was laid before the House of Assembly of Jamaica, he would not say the Assembly was not ripe for legislation, but until the report was laid before the Assembly, the Government of this country was not in a condition to say to the Assembly, "You are prepared to proceed to legislate." His hon. Friend cheered loudly when it was stated that this Report was not laid before the Assembly. How was it possible to say to the Assembly of Jamaica, "We will suspend your powers because you will not legislate on the subject of prisons," when the Government itself thought it necessary to institute an inquiry into the state of prisons, and when the results of that inquiry were not in the possession of the House of Commons, nor in the possession of the colonial legislature? He was not prepared to affirm that the act for the regulation of prisons was justified by the necessity of the case; but suppose it was—supposing every one of these questions put, 1277 still the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for the colonies did not think it necessary to prove, but assumed, that the question then before the House was either the repeal of the Prison Act, or the passing of the present Bill. It might be so, but it was not in the papers before the House. He was prepared to admit that if the Assembly of Jamaica had, in totidem verbis, demanded that the Imperial Parliament should retrace its steps, the case would be very different. Nearly the whole of the dilemma in which we were involved might, as it appeared to him, have been avoided by a more prudent and wary conduct. He (Mr. H. Gladstone) did most earnestly beg of the right hon. Gentleman that he would give to the particular part of the subject which he had now pointed out some further consideration. It appeared to have entirely escaped his view. Let him refer the right hon. Gentleman to the fourth resolution in the 154th page of the papers laid before them. [Sir G. Grey.—Read the first resolution]. The first resolution was, that "the Act for the better Government of Prisons in the West Indies" ought not to have the force of law in the island. [Sir G. Grey.—But read it]. That was the effect of it. Now he came to the fourth resolution:—Therefore, that in the opinion of this House, they will best consult their own honour, the rights of their constituents, and the peace and well-being of the colony, by abstaining from the exercise of any legislative function, excepting such as may be necessary to preserve inviolate the faith of the island with the public creditor, until her Most Gracious Majesty's pleasure shall be made known, whether her subjects of Jamaica, now happily ail in a state of freedom, are henceforth to be treated as subjects with the power of making laws, as hitherto, for their own government, or whether they are to be treated as a conquered colony, and governed by Parliamentary legislation, orders in Council, or, as in the case of the late amended Abolition Act, by investing the governor of the island with the arbitrary power of issuing proclamations having the force of law over the lives and properties of the people.Neither of these passages which the Assembly of Jamaica had sent forth, made a demand on that House for the repeal of the Prison Act. They did not state that they would decline the resumption of their duties. The legislature of Jamaica had undoubtedly propounded a certain condition as essential to the resumption of their functions. Now, the question before them was, what was that condition; and was 1278 that condition the repeal of the Prison Act? They were to be bound by their own words. The proposition before them was, to suspend their legislative functions. In order to justify them in entertaining that proposition, they must have before them a definite issue, and they must have before them the terms on which they would re-some their legislative functions. They had not demanded the repeal of the Prison Act. If the right hon. Gentleman could show that they had made that demand, the case would be altered; but until he was able to show that something more than a mere point of honour was at issue, that there was some graver reason, he should have some serious doubts as to the propriety of passing this Bill, and should not be surprised if it were possible to find the secret of the evils without the intervention of that measure.
§ Mr. Godson
objected to the inference, that the principle of the bill was conceded by permitting it to be laid upon the Table in order to judge of its details. The right hon. Gentleman had called upon the House for its sympathy in consequence of being obliged to suspend the functions of the Jamaica House of Assembly. He thought, that the Government might be very much in want of sympathy from the position in which they were placed, but he was prepared to show, that the position which they now held with respect to the Legislature of Jamaica was the result of their own conduct. The fault lay with her Majesty's Government and not with the Legislature of Jamaica. The House of Assembly had demanded repose as they termed it, without further parliamentary surveillance after a former act, but that repose had not been granted to them—they had not obtained that repose which was necessary for the good and efficient Government of the island. The Assembly had been told by the Governor, that their conduct merited the approbation of the Government, and that commendation reached the Parliament of this country on the very same day that Captain Pringle's report arrived. Yet, notwithstanding that testimony in their favour, notwithstanding they had shortly before passed an act for the abolition of negro slavery, and notwithstanding they had before passed several laws upon the subject of prisons, it was now proposed without any proceeding upon their part to justify it, to deprive them of their power as a legislative body for the period of five years. Who, he would ask, was to raise the 1279 taxes of the island of Jamaica, amounting to half a million, during those five years. Were they to be raised by the council and commissioners which it had been proposed to appoint? Was that a proposition for which the Government deserved support? Was it justice to Jamaica to raise such an amount of taxes without any legislative body in the island. Upon what grounds did they propose to inflict that injustice upon Jamaica? Because they had not adopted a bill upon which they had not been consulted. He had no doubt, if the bill had been sent to Jamaica as an instruction, it would have been received in a very different manner. After the passing of the bill, at least in a very short time, who could tell whether it would be black or white persons who would form the majority of those in prison. It was quite evident, that the Government were anxious for an excuse to abolish the House of Assembly of Jamaica. When the second reading of the bill was proposed he should be able to show, that the House of Assembly of Jamaica had shown perfect good faith with respect to prisons. They had passed the 5th of William 4th, and they had voted 42,000l. for the purposes of prisons, They had appointed a select committee to prepare a bill with reference to this subject, and a gentleman of colour, a very able and intelligent man, was actually engaged in drawing up this bill, at the time that the Prisons Act passed by the Imperial Parliament arrived in the island. He could not help condemning the eagerness with which the Government passed that act, nearly at the end of the Session, and at a time when there were few Members in town; and with the same eagerness as soon as the act was passed, they sent it out to the island of Jamaica and had it proclaimed as law throughout the island. He challenged the law officers of the Crown to show an instance in which this had been done before; he challenged them to point out an instance in which the Imperial Parliament had passed a law to provide for the internal regulation of Jamaica. The act of slave emancipation had been carried into effect by an act of the Legislature of Jamaica, in which that act was recited. The same was the case with respect to the act in aid, so that these instances could not be cited. He admitted, that the House of Assembly would not consent to submit to the act of last session. They said that sooner than submit to the grinding tyranny of that bill they would 1280 abolish the apprenticeship altogether. Never was there anything equal in tyranny to that act of Parliament. Before the second reading of the bill now before the House he should have to present a petition from the merchants and planters of Jamaica, praying to be heard at the bar of the House against this bill; and on that occasion the subject would be more fully discussed. It appeared to him that the conduct of the Government had been precipitate, and he could not avoid condemning the Governor as having acted with precipitancy and want of forbearance. When the Governor found, that the House of Assembly objected to carry into effect a particular measure, was it not his duty to let the Assembly proceed with the disposal of the other business before it and to send home for instructions as to how he should act with respect to the Prisons Bill? He would not further trespass on the House at present, but would protest in the strongest manner against a measure which would allow the island of Jamaica to be taxed to the extent of half a million a year by a governor aided by nine councillors, and three commissioners to be sent out from this country.
§ Sir R. Peel said
, I wish, Sir, before the question is put, to make a few observations with respect to the subject before the House, and the principles that appear to me to be involved in the course which the right hon. Gentleman calls upon us to adopt. In the opinions I am about to offer to the House, I do not wish to be understood as approving of the course which has been pursued by the House of Assembly of Jamaica. I do not appear as the advocate of one party or the other, but whilst I cannot approve of what has been done by the House of Assembly of Jamaica, I am still less inclined to approve of the course that has been taken in reference to these transactions by her Majesty's Government. At the same time, I feel the difficulty of the situation in which we are placed, and the necessity of adopting some course to remedy that difficulty as well as the circumstances out of which it has arisen. But, Sir, when I consider the steps which have led to that necessity, though I admit, that there is blame to be imputed to the House of Assembly of Jamaica, it appears to me that a far greater amount of blame is to be attributed to the course which has been adopted by her Majesty's Government. I have already stated, that I am no advocate for the House of 1281 Assembly of Jamaica. I do not want to defend, on the contrary, I condemn, the proceedings they have adopted. I regret, that they did not lend themselves cordially to carrying out the great measure of slave emancipation in the spirit in which it was enacted, and carry forward those measures which were considered requisite for the interests of the apprentices, and to render effectual the abolition of slavery. Nay, more, I think that the people of England had a right to insist, that the interests of the emancipated negro should be protected, and that they had furthermore a right to require in every instance that no law should be passed by the House of Assembly at variance with the spirit of that great act of Parliament which had been passed by this country for the emancipation of the slave population, and the complete fulfilment of which this country ought to demand as an equivalent for the liberal and extraordinary sacrifice of the sum of 20,000,000l. as compensation to those whose interests would be injuriously affected by the great change. I repeat, that I am not satisfied with the spirit in which the House of Assembly of Jamaica entered upon regulations for the purpose of carrying this act into operation. But whilst I make this admission, I cannot at the same time disguise from myself the fact that the course proposed by the right hon. Gentleman involves the most important consequences, which I cannot avoid looking at. I do not, I confess, clearly understand the consistency of the grounds on which the Government came forward to ask our concurrence in this measure. I could easily understand her Majesty's Government coming forward and asking us to dissolve the constitution of Jamaica on the ground that they considered a popular form of Government not exactly suited to a colonial dependency. They might ask us to abrogate the constitution on that ground. I could understand them to come forward on another ground, and to say, that, after the steps taken for the emancipation of the negro population, it was necessary to suspend a popular Government for some time, as preliminary to carrying into effect the measure of emancipation, Coming forward on these grounds, would be intelligible. But instead of this, the right hon. Gentleman says, that so far from considering the abolition of the constitution of Jamaica as an advantage, he considered it a disadvantage, that it is a course which the Government has been induced to adopt with great reluc- 1282 tance, and which he admits he considers to be positively injurious. Now, if I had not this declaration of the right hon. Gentleman I should be inclined to infer from the correspondence that has been laid before the House that the Government were glad of an opportunity to get rid of the House of Assembly of Jamaica. The first question we have to consider is whether anything has passed on the part of the House of Assembly to justify Parliament in the abolition of the constitution of Jamaica, and whether there is not some other course open to us without having recourse to so severe and extreme a measure. It is easy to point out the evils that arise from the present state of things; but in considering those, let us not close our eyes to the evils that are likely to arise if we adopt the course that has been proposed to us. Here we have an important colony, which from the earliest period of its history has been in the enjoyment of a free system of Government. You propose this hitherto free colony to suspend the popular form of Government which now prevails there, and after a short period of suspension you propose that that form of free Government is to be revived. But is that so easy to be accomplished? Supposing that you carry into effect what you propose, are you sure, that the transition is so easy? Her Majesty's Government propose to abolish the House of Assembly, and to substitute in its stead a Governor, a council, to be appointed by the Crown, and three salaried commissioners. Now, what is the sum with which these individuals will have the power of imposing as taxes on the island? Why, not less than half a million. The sum raised at present in the shape of taxation is not less than 400,000l., and I do not think, that they will be able to carry the New Prisons Act into effect without increasing the taxation, so that the amount to be raised by this new authority will amount at least to half a million. The proposal of her Majesty's Government, then, is this, that the island of Jamaica should be subject with respect to taxation, to a Governor, nine Councillors, and three salaried Commissioners. Now, at the same time, that her Majesty's Government make this proposal to subject Jamaica in respect to taxation to an arbitrary power, what do we find in the report of their commissioner to Canada? Lord Durham in his report on Canada states that your system of colonial Government there is altogether wrong for that you ought to make the executive offi- 1283 cers responsible to the control of the popular assembly. Lord Durham does not say, that the executive officers should be responsible to the Crown, or to her Majesty's Government at home, but to the popular assembly of the colony. How will the people of Jamaica feel when they read this opinion put forward in the report of Lord Durham, your commissioner to Canada, and at the same time, know that a bill is brought in not making the executive officers responsible to the House of Assembly, but abolishing representation altogether, and vesting the executive power in the hands of arbitrary officers. This course might become inevitable, but we can only consent to adopt it when you shall have convinced us that there is no other alternative left us to pursue. Let me ask you, before you adopt this course, have you well considered what will be the probable effects of your persevering in it? Is there any man sincerely anxious for the success of the great experiment of slave emancipation who is not at the same time desirous to =ciliate the other slave-holding States into following the example set by this country? Ought it not to be an object with those desirous of the complete abolition of slavery to conciliate the slave-holding portion of the United States into an adoption of your experiment? But how will you do this if you pass this measure? How will you conciliate the United States into the imitation of your example, if you tell them that the emancipation of the negro is incompatible with a popular form of Government? Is it not possible that, if you substitute in Jamaica an arbitrary for a popular form of Government, you will create new obstacles in other places to the emancipation of the slave? But supposing we are driven to this alternative, it is open to us to consider how far the Government may have been the means of driving us to it. We have also to consider, and to consider most maturely, whether we can adopt any alternative besides the abolition of popular Government. If it should appear that the Government, by their precipitancy, gave occasion to the proceedings that had been adopted by the House of Assembly, many serious and important considerations call on you to devise some other remedy for the existing difficulties besides the abolition of the constitution of Jamaica. We must seriously consider how much such a proceeding is calculated to alarm other colonies that possess a popular form of Government. The hon. Member opposite refers to the in- 1284 solent language used by the House of Assembly as a justification for those proceedings; but surely there cannot be a more dangerous ground for legislation than the use of insolent language by a popular Legislative Assembly. The hon. Member says, "Is it possible for persons who use such language towards the House of Commons of England to be intrusted with legislative powers, and much less with powers to legislate with respect to the emancipated slaves?" But surely this is a most dangerous ground for legislation. It is a most dangerous ground that because insolent and intemperate language has been used, that is to go to furnish part of a justification for the abolition of popular Government in one of the most important of our colonies. I say, that no popular Government could be maintained for an hour if that ground were held to be justifiable. That certainly should never be brought forward as a ground for the abolition of a free constitution. But it is said, that the House of Assembly insisted as a condition that this House should repeal the Prisons Act. It has not been shown that they insist upon any such condition. But certainly the conduct of the Government appears to have been hasty and precipitate. Before you come forward to call upon us to adopt such a measure as this, you should be prepared to show that you had exhausted every remonstrance, and had used every reasonable means in your power to put an end to these differences. If, after this, you came forward and asked Parliament to provide for the difficulties that had arisen—if you could show that the Colonial Legislature demanded of the Imperial Parliament to abandon its new Act—if you could show me this, I would then be prepared to tell the Colonial Legislature, "You are the inferior power, and you must abdicate your functions, since you refuse to exercise them save on terms which it would be disgraceful for the Imperial Parliament to sanction." But I tell her Majesty's Government that they must convince me that they have used every exertion and exhausted every remonstrance unavailingly before I will consent to allow a body of executive officers to tax to the extent of half a million, the inhabitants of a colony hitherto accustomed to have their taxation regulated by a House of Assembly chosen by their own citizens. Admitting that the conduct of the Assembly has been censurable, that their language has been violent and most unwise, was no provoca- 1285 tion given them, and ought not some allowance to be made for the circumstances under which that language was made use of? Now, last year, when it was proposed in this House to abolish the remaining term of apprenticeship, you refused. You stated very properly and very justly that the national faith was pledged to the maintenance of the full term, and that independent of that it was better that it should continue, as it would afford time for the mature consideration and preparation of those measures which would be necessary to carry out the complete emancipation of the negro, and to prepare for the change consequent upon the termination of the apprenticeship. This was the language held last year, and yet what did they think of the Governor of Jamaica holding language to the House of Assembly to the effect that, though Parliament had refused to curtail the apprenticeship, yet that they ought to do it themselves? The right hon. Gentleman here quoted some passages from the speech of the Governor to the House of Assembly, and which concluded in these terms: "The peace of Jamaica is in your hands. The colony requires repose from the operations of a law that has been found equally tormenting to the labourer, and disappointing to the planter, and which constrains man in unnatural servitude to man." Though the Government at home said, that the national faith was pledged to the continuance of the apprenticeship, yet when the Governor told them that the peace of the colony required its abolition, what other course had they to pursue? They found the executive authority combined with, perhaps he ought not to say physical force, but with the influence of numbers; and had they any option left them but to do that which the Parliament at home refused to do, and to abolish the remaining period of apprenticeship? It might be right to refuse additional compensation, but I certainly think, that under the circumstances the House of Assembly are entitled to some little indulgence; and even though you do not feel called upon to censure your governor, yet allowance ought to be made for the circumstances in which the House of Assembly were paced. Surely that the House of Assembly used violent language you can consider no sufficient excuse for abolishing the free constitution of that colony. With respect to the measures adopted, I certainly lament the course which the Government have taken. I admit, that I am not satisfied with the 1286 manner in which the House of Assembly have acted with respect to prison discipline, I can imagine nothing more objectionable, nothing more to be condemned than sending a man to prison, upon pretence of some breach of order, or as a substitute for inflicting punishment in the field. I certainly think, that more exertions ought to have been made to convince the House of Assembly of the impolicy of the course they adopted. They should have been told that this measure was part of the system for the carrying into effect the measure of emancipation. The Minister should have accompanied this measure by some frank explanation to the House of Assembly, that would have afforded them an opportunity to retrace their steps. But instead of this you left them under the impression, that you would not interfere. What was the language held by Lord Glenelg, in October 1837, when the report of the committee was before you, when you were aware of those complaints and grievous abuses, if you believed the evidence before the committee? The governor called the House of Assembly, and stated, that he had been instructed to communicate to them what were the views of her Majesty's Government with respect to the introduction into the island of an improved system of prison discipline. The governor communicated this despatch to the House of Assembly. The despatch is dated the 27th of October, 1837, and stated that, as the period of negro apprenticeship would expire in 1840, they would be called on to give their most serious consideration to the improvements in prison discipline, that it would be necessary to introduce. Now, this was not calculated to leave the House of Assembly under the impression that they would be interfered with. Well, then, you sent Captain Pringle out to make an inquiry and to report. Captain Pringle's report did not in any way aggravate the case before the committee. But, instead of communicating to the House of Assembly, that the Imperial Parliament would provide for a system of prison discipline, you enabled Captain Pringle to communicate with the House of Assembly on the subject, and he stated to the House of Assembly, that it would be better for them for the present not to grant any land for prisons. This was certainly calculated to leave the Assembly under the impression, that no interference would be resorted to. Well, then, on the 16th of July the report of Captain Pringle was laid on 1287 the Table of the House of Lords. No communication whatever was forwarded to the island. At the end of July, towards the end of the Session, the bill was passed, and it was immediately sent to the island. No communication or intimation whatever was given to the House of Assembly, but proclamations were issued, proclaiming the new act as the law. The House of Assembly, I admit, acted unwisely in suspending the exercise of their functions; but then they declared, that they were ready to pass acts for the public credit of the island, to provide for the civil service of the island; and they would have passed those acts if they had been afforded the opportunity. Some of those seventeen acts which they are charged with not having passed they would have passed if they had been allowed to pass them. Why not, then, give the Assembly the opportunity of collecting the taxes? Why not trust to the influence of returning good sense operating upon them to put an end to those differences? I do not by any means seek to justify the House of Assembly. I am not the advocate of any party, but I certainly think, that the House of Assembly, by its want of temper, lost the opportunity of making a case against you. On the whole, I think that allowance ought to be made for any intemperate language or for any violence that may have been displayed. Popular assemblies are jealous when they suppose, that their privileges are invaded, and therefore allowance ought to be made for the circumstances in which the House of Assembly were placed. Whilst I feel the necessity of the case, and whilst I lament the alternative offered, I cannot acquit her Majesty's Government of having contributed to these circumstances by their want of temper, by their neglecting to communicate these proceedings to the House of Assembly, and by their neglect to endeavour to soothe the feelings of men who believed, that they were called on to submit to what they considered an injustice. We should not forget, that these men are Englishmen, accustomed to free institutions. Provided that you do your duty and secure the protection of the slave, which this country has a right to expect after the sacrifice that has been made, but that object being accomplished, some allowance ought to be made, and some course should be adopted that would put an end to these differences without resorting to so severe an alternative. In my opinion the abolition of popular government in Jamaica will 1288 only have the effect of alarming all other colonies which possess free government, and it will have still further the effect of preventing the emancipation of the negro in other States, by making it appear that slave emancipation is incompatible with popular government.
§ Sir S. Lushington
was one of those who felt the deepest interest in the progress of slave emancipation, and was desirous, that our example should influence other States. But the fears that he felt on the subject were of a different description from those of the right hon. Baronet. He believed, that if they could show, that this measure promoted the wealth and prosperity of the colonists themselves—if they could show that the holders of property felt no deterioration of that property in consequence of the emancipation which had taken place—if they could show, that the inhabitants of these colonies suffered no diminution of wealth or prosperity, that then our example would become a beacon to the United States to guide them to the emancipation of those whom they held in slavery. With respect to the more immediate questions, he felt that it was not on light grounds that the constitution of Jamaica ought to be taken away. He felt, that those who proposed to take from Jamaica a constitution which that island had enjoyed for two hundred years, should show that there was an inevitable necessity to justify such a proceeding, and that the island had not been governed for the happiness of its people. The first and most important consideration was, what was to be done in the existing circumstances? He had heard it stated, that the House of Assembly had not exactly said, that they would not resume their functions unless the Parliament at home abandoned their act. No such thing had been said. But what had been said, and what had been done? Had not the House of Assembly four successive times abdicated their legislative functions? They adhered to that determination and what was it? "We will cease to act until her gracious Majesty shall be pleased to declare in what form we are to be governed, and whether or not the Imperial Parliament is to have any share in legislating for this colony." Now, this was their alternative. Did the House propose, that it should be adopted? Did they propose that the present or any future Government should say, that the Parliament of this country 1289 must be obedient to the Jamaica House of Assembly—that they, whose business it was to control the legislature of Jamaica, and, if necessary, to supersede it, and to pass wholesome laws for the government of the community, should emasculate themselves, and decline a duty which he would maintain was a paramount one for the Parliament of Great Britain. The right hon. Gentleman had said, that the House should not be provoked by the intemperate language of the House of Assembly. He agreed with the right hon. Gentleman in that opinion, although certainly coarser or more violent and indecorous language no assembly could use. It was equally insulting to one side of the House as to the other, to that and to the other branch of the Legislature, and tended greatly to exasperate the unpleasant and hostile feeling already existing in this country. He agreed, that it should form no sufficient reason for taking from the Assembly its power; but, on the other hand, it formed no inconsiderable argument for such a temporary suspension of its functions as might be necessary to restore its efficacy. It was no small matter to see this determination to fly in the face of Parliament, and to see the protest which had been so much condemned' still adhered to. He must say, that in his opinion, the language of the protest fully justified his right hon. Friend in thinking that the persons who could dictate such language were not the most likely to legislate for the benefit of the colony. Another thing to be considered was, that the protest had been published before the Prisons Bill was in existence. The protest stated, that the freeholders of Jamaica would not send Representatives to a mock Assembly, and that if any taxes were levied they should be collected at the point of the sword. Now, was not the plain English of this, that the planters were determined to refuse to exercise their functions so long as the British Legislature claimed any right to interfere? He did not agree that the colonists were compelled to accept the proposal of immediate abolition made by Sir Lionel Smith. His impression was, that they agreed to it because they did not wish to obey the Act of the British Parliament. Why had that Act been passed? Because the House considered it a part of the original compact, and that it was a measure of right and justice. He would beg 1290 the House to consider what was the state of things in the colony at the passing of that Act. He believed, if his memory did not deceive him, that the prisons of Jamaica had been a topic of discussion in the House of Assembly for ten years before, and, that down to that time nothing had been done in the way of reform. But be that as it might, did nothing new take place in July, 1838, to render it imperative on Government to proceed in their legislation without a minute's delay? Mark what these circumstances were. They had obtained an Act of Parliament, which up to 1840 would protect the apprentices; the great mass of the black population were apprentices, and the stipendiary magistrates had been appointed for their protection. By the immediate abolition of the apprenticeship the power of these magistrates ceased, and he left it to the House to consider what would be the state of the apprentices if left for six months without some equivalent protection. He did not intend to harrow the feelings of the House by repeating the horrors of the workhouse of St. Anne's, but it was absolutely necessary that the repetition of such horrors should be prevented. What would the people of England say if in case of any temporary rising or disturbance a population of three hundred thousand persons were left subject to imprisonment in such places? If Lord Glenelg had refused to include Jamaica in his Prisons Bill, he would have incurred a heavy responsibility, for which he would be the first to condemn him. But let them go further into the subject. The right hon. Baronet said, that from the papers produced, it would appear, that Government had itself brought about the present state of things as a pretext for the suspension of the constitution. How could that be with respect to the Prisons Bill? Captain Pringle's report arrived in July, 1838; the bill then went through the Lords, and was returned to Jamaica the 23d of September, in the same year. It was then presented to the House of Assembly, and their resolution bore date the 3d of November. But the Government knew nothing of this—they were totally ignorant until the Assembly published their resolution. It was superabundantly clear that no act of the home Government had promoted the present state of things. But then it might be said, that although Government had done nothing, they might 1291 have done something—that the Governor's speech should have conveyed some intimation of the Prisons Bill. He had looked into Sir Lionel Smith's speech, delivered previous to passing the Abolition Act, and, singular enough, it did not in the slightest degree notice that measure. In fact it was not customary for the Governor to allude to measures in his opening speech; but to state that he had despatches to communicate, and he reserved till the opportunity came for laying those despatches before the House to state their contents. Well, then, the bill complained of did as little as it was possible for it to do. It merely gave rower to the Governor in Council to make regulations, and the penalty so much complained of, was only 20l. in case of refusal or resistance to inspection. That was but a very slight restriction on the power of the House of Assembly, and what was the state of things that called for it? He would ask the right hon. Gentleman opposite, was not the necessity for immediate legislation overpowering? First, there was a necessity for some law regulating the contract between master and servant; and next, to prevent the occupation of land by persons without title. With respect to these two most vital measures, the House of Assembly had abdicated its functions, and the consequences were such as loudly called for a legislative remedy. Then there was the question of the militia. He stated these things merely to show how foolish it would be to refuse or delay legislation in such an emergency. He was afraid, that the right hon Gentleman did not clearly comprehend the state of feeling in the colony. He had been always of opinion, that on emancipation the coloured people would adhere to the high class and desert the blacks, and had been so convinced of this, that when the former applied to him for assistance in 1824 he made it an express stipulation, that if they obtained their freedom they should join in the efforts for the blacks. He told them, that the best case they could make for themselves would be kindness to their black dependents. He hoped the time would yet come when the affairs of the colony might be intrusted to its own legislature; but it had not yet arrived, as the black population placed no confidence in the House of Assembly, but looked to the British Parliament for protection.
should not have risen to address the House but for some observations which had fallen from the hon. and learned Gentleman. He, for the sake of the Government itself—for the sake of the credit of the country—did entertain an earnest hope that, if this bill should pass, her Majesty's Government would be able to satisfy the House and the country that nothing had led to it but such an overwhelming necessity as it was not in their power to control or resist; and that it could not have been avoided by a more conciliatory and temperate line of conduct than that which had been adopted. His right hon. Friend, the late Under Secretary and his right hon. Friend the present Under Secretary for the Colonies, had both most studiously disclaimed any intention hostile to the planters, They repudiated the hint thrown out by his right hon. Friend, the Member for Tam-worth, that, looking at the documents and proceedings of Government, it seemed as if Ministers were rather anxious to seize on some pretext for getting rid of a troublesome House of Assembly. It might be well to resist the insinuation if it rested merely with his right hon. Friend, but what said the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just sat down? Did he rest his attack on the late conduct of the House of Assembly? No; he spoke about the brown people, and stated that he had foreseen so far back as 1824 that the House of Assembly, as at present constituted, could do nothing for the benefit of the black population. It was for this reason that the hon. and learned Gentleman was anxious for this bill. The House had to consider two questions with reference to this measure—first, whether the necessity for it was absolute, and that by it alone could the necessary objects be effected; and next, if this necessity did exist, whether Government was not to blame for bringing the colony into such a condition. The hon. and learned Gentleman who had just sat down said that the House of Assembly had no reason for the improvident part taken by it in the Session of 1838.
did not wish to misrepresent the hon. and learned Gentleman, but he had certainly understood him to say that there had been no necessity for the conduct of the Assembly.
§ Sir S. Lushington
wished to explain what he really had said. He had stated that the local Legislature passed the Abolition Act, not in consequence of the governor's speech, but in consequence of the Act of the British Parliament.
agreed with the hon. and learned Gentleman so far as to think that the Jamaica Legislature considered itself placed in such a difficulty by the passing of the Act as rendered immediate and total emancipation necessary; but the hon. and learned Member said that there was no compulsion. He begged to call the attention pf the House to one or two passages in the governor's speech. The hop, and learned Member had stated that in the speech no mention was made of abolition. He should have liked the speech better if mention had been made of it. He thought a temperate statement should have been made of the extent to which Parliament had interfered, and what was the necessity for that interference. But what did the speech say? Sir Lionel said, "I need not refer you to the agitation going on throughout the empire; an agitation which makes the honourable efforts of Ministers barely sufficient to preserve a law in which the national faith is concerned. I am afraid that parliamentary interference in your affairs is not yet terminated, and as Governor I shall not shrink from stating my conviction that it will be physically impossible to maintain the apprenticeship system much longer with any hope of success. Why, if any one form of language more than another could express compulsion, it was that under which the House of Assembly had passed the Abolition Act. But what he blamed the Government for was this, that until driven to it by public clamour, they had no intention of recommending total abolition in 1838. They were driven to that recommendation, and when driven to it, it was their duty to originate measures to meet the necessities of immediate emancipation. Instead of this they studiously kept the Colonial Legislature unprepared, and when they did call on them to act under such pressure as the language pf Sir Lionel Smith shewed, they had none of the measures which ought to have accompanied that call in readiness, although knowing that the ruin of the island would be consequent on their neglect. The hon. and learned Gentleman had spoken of the ne- 1294 cessity of originating measures at the time of the Emancipation Act. He (Lord Stanley) would tell the hon. and learned Member that the object of the apprenticeship system was to give time for measures of precaution—to prepare for regulating the contracts between master and servant—to regulate the militia and other important matters. All these measures the House of Assembly had been compelled to neglect by the mode in which it was forced to pass the Abolition Act. Well, the argument of Government was, that such irritation prevailed—such determined manifestations were exhibited by the Legislature of a desire to abdicate their functions, that the present measure had become absolutely necessary. He doubted very much that this was the case; he doubted whether the necessity would have existed if Government had taken the proper steps to prevent it. The hon. and learned Gentleman had spoken of the protest. He (Lord Stanley) granted that nothing could be more indecorous, nothing more violent, than that protest; but he must say, that a great deal of the irritation arose from the circumstance of the Assembly being compelled to pass a law to which they were disinclined. That law had beep forced on them in the most vexatious way a law could possibly be pressed on a Legislature. What was the language of the governor? "Jamaica is in your hands; she wants repose, and will acquire it by the passing of this law." What was the answer of the Assembly? "We will pass this law; and we do hope that, having complied with every demand, we shall enjoy the repose we have peen promised." In the proceedings which followed this the Government congratulated the Assembly on the measure, and cordially thanked them for the great boon they had conferred on the people. Was not this giving them sufficient reason for thinking they had merited the approval of Government, and fulfilled the intentions of the Legislature? For thinking that they would be left to the promised repose, and to legislate for themselves. In the state of mind produced by this language, the Members of the House of Assembly, returned to their homes, and the first thing they found, after complying with all demands, was another Act containing a worse invasion of their privileges than the former. Moreover, this was not accompanied by any conciliatory dispatch. [Sir G. 1295 Grey: there was a despatch.] The first intimation the Assembly had of the Act was the proclamation of the governor, unaccompanied by any conciliatory despatch or any explanation of the grounds on which the British Legislature had based it. To be sure Lord Glenelg sent a dispatch, but the local Legislature were not put into possession of it, and the act was communicated to it in a most offensive manner. The hon. and learned Gentleman had also stated, that it was unusual for Governors to make allusions in their speeches to measures of this kind. If this had been the case in the speech of 1838 it was no reason why the Assembly should not be informed of the second invasion of their privileges. The Governor should certainly have informed them of the intended measure and stated, that there was no desire to interfere further with their privileges than was necessary to secure the great object for which the bill had been brought in, namely, to carry into effect the abolition of negro slavery. He did not know the Governor, but he thought the whole tenour of his despatches, during four years was not at all calculated to soothe an irritated and prejudiced body. There were in them attempts at one little vexation after another, an appearance of taking a partizan view of questions, and of always siding with one party. He should not now enter more fully into the subject, deferring further remarks to a future stage of the bill, but he must object to the mode of making extracts from these despatches adopted by Ministers. Everything unfavourable to the system of apprenticeship was carefully selected; everything that could throw blame on the planter. It was not in human nature, that this should not irritate that body. There was, for instance, the letter of Sir Lionel Smith to Mr. Phillips, the Baptist missionary, dated the 1st of January, in which he stated, that he had made numerous inquiries as to the conduct of the apprentices, and in every case had heard, that where labour was met by fair remuneration and kindness it was to be had in abundance. This was the public declaration of the Governor, and yet, one week after, on the 8th of January, 1839, the same Governor wrote to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, that the disposition to labour, from various causes, was certainly not increasing—that both parties were unreasonable in their demands, and that exorbitant wages and 1296 extravagant rents were the consequences of this unsettled state of things. Thus, on the 1st of January the Governor made a statement that wherever fair remuneration for labour was offered it was not found wanting; and on the 8th he sent home a despatch containing a directly contrary statement. He was, therefore, justified in stating, that this was one amongst many instances, to which he could refer, in which it appeared to him that Governor Sir Lionel Smith did seem to have taken a partisan view of the case, and to have set himself against the planters, and become the advocate of the black population; and he did further say, that if the Governor had not been able to do all that he desired, yet, if he had acted on more impartial and conciliatory principles, he might have gone down to the House of Assembly in November; he might have explained to that House what it was that led to the passing of this bill—that there was no intention on the part of the British Parliament to interfere further than necessary with their privileges; and if all this had not been successful, he would at least have thrown upon the Members of the House of Assembly the responsibility of taking the unreasonable course of refusing to legislate at all. But they did not refuse to legislate at all. They did not refuse to provide for the debt, the civil list, and the public services of the colony. They said they would maintain the public faith of the colony, and beyond that their refusal to legislate was not until the Act should be repealed, but until they were informed on what principles it was the intention of the Imperial Parliament to interfere in their internal regulation. Why, then, could not the Secretary of State for the Colonies have written out to Jamaica, and have expressed his regret that the Assembly had taken an erroneous view of the measures adopted by the British Parliament; that it had no intention to interfere with their privileges? This might have been done without departing one whit from the dignity of the Imperial Parliament, and without repealing one iota of the bill; and thus, perhaps, this unfortunate difference might have been terminated, the House of Assembly in Jamaica might have resumed its sittings, and full confidence have been renewed between that colony and the mother country. If that had been done, if every measure of conciliation had been 1297 tried to prevail on the Colonial Assembly to carry on the Government, and if all I these measures had failed, then he would not deny, but not until that could be proved to him would he admit, that her Majesty's Ministers were justified in coming to the British Parliament and asking them to compel the obedience of a refractory Colonial Assembly by a suspension of their constitution, and depriving them of privileges which they had so long enjoyed. But on every occasion up to this period, we had left them no doubt of their full and unrestrained legislative powers: indeed, we had necessarily left them no doubt on this point, for we ourselves had vacillated, first naming 1840 as the period when the apprenticeship should terminate, and afterwards recommending that it should terminate in August, 1838. Then we sent over a commission of inquiry into the prisons; the commissioner was desired to report; and the Colonial Assembly were thus led to infer that the report would be laid before them for their guidance, and two days after that report was laid on the Table of the House of Lords, the Prisons Bill was brought in, carried rapidly through both Houses, passed; and sent over to the Governor of Jamaica before any communication had been had with the agent for the colony or with the Assembly, and without giving the Assembly the least opportunity of declaring how much of that report they were inclined voluntarily to adopt. He had entered more at length into this subject than he intended to have done in the present stage, and he would detain the House no longer. Although he for one should not oppose the introduction of the present measure, yet he was far from being satisfied by what had passed tonight that her Majesty's Government were free from blame for the course hitherto pursued with regard to the colony of Jamaica. Still less was he at this moment satisfied, that there existed an overwhelming necessity which made it absolutely indispensable to take away from that colony its independent Legislature, to deprive it of those political functions and privileges which it had so long enjoyed, and to substitute for a free form of Government, the arbitrary power of a Governor and Council, aided by salaried commissioners to be sent out from this country.
§ Lord John Russell
After what the noble Lord has said, I think it necessary, before this debate closes, to say a few words on the subject of this measure, and to point out what I consider to be the real question for our consideration. The noble Lord has not, I think, correctly represented the course pursued by her Majesty's Government. The noble Lord said, that the abolition of the apprenticeship system had been forced on, and forwarded by, the agitation and excitement which existed here on the subject, and the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for the University of Cambridge, who spoke early in the debate, spoke almost as if we had begun the agitation on this subject, with a view of putting an end to the apprenticeship. Now, the view which had been taken by her Majesty's Government—a view which they supported both in that House and elsewhere—was, that although it was desirable to put an earlier termination to the apprenticeship system than was originally contemplated, they could not, with propriety, do so without consulting the Assembly of Jamaica on the subject, and that it would be more properly terminated by an Act of that Assembly than by any Act passed here. That, Sir, was the opinion which we maintained in this House, an opinion which, at the time, subjected us to considerable odium and unpopularity, and which was opposed by several Members on that side of the House as well as this, who were inclined to take the more popular side of the question, viz., that without further delay, the apprenticeship system ought to be put an end to by the aid of the British Legislature. Such, however, was not our view, and we contended against that conclusion. We would not interfere with the West India Legislature, and in consequence we subjected ourselves to a great deal of unpopularity in this country. But this is not the question at present in debate. The Act on which the Legislative Assembly of Jamaica has founded its protest is an entirely different one. It is an Act that was thought necessary for us to pass in consequence of the conduct both of the Legislature and of individuals in Jamaica, which prove that the Acts of Emancipation were most grossly evaded, and that those called apprentices, whom my noble Friend, by his bill, proposed to redeem from slavery, and place in an intermediate state during their progress to complete 1299 freedom, were most inhumanly and cruelly treated, and in a manner of which that Act of Emancipation never contemplated the probability. To put an end to these abuses, Lord Glenelg introduced a bill into the House of Peers, a measure which it did not appear that hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House, not even those hon. Gentlemen who were more directly interested in favour of the West-Indian colonies, thought fit to oppose. It was against this Act, and not against the Act for the Abolition of Apprenticeship, that the Assembly of Jamaica protested. That Act was agreed to after the deliberate attention of Parliament had been attentively given to it. It was passed unanimously by both Houses, and after a careful investigation of its details in committee. It was this Act, thus passed, that excited the anger of the House of Assembly in Jamaica, and the declaration made by them in their protest, a declaration which he was happy to hear his noble Friend say was neither proper nor decorous. The right hon. Gentleman, the Member for the University of Cambridge, did not characterize it in such strong terms—he only said, the House of Assembly exhibited a great want of cordiality. [Mr. Goulburn: not in reference to that protest.] I thought it was in reference to the protest; and certainly that protest could scarcely be properly characterized without the use of somewhat harsher terms. "It is not necessary," said the protest, "to look back upon the steps by which the British Parliament has usurped the legitimate powers of the Assembly of Jamaica; the monstrous pretexts which have accompanied her usurpation, and the falsehoods and slanders which have been advanced to justify it, it would be useless to complain of or to controvert." Certainly this was not language to which the very mild terms used by the right hon. Gentleman could properly be applied. This was something more than want of cordiality. [Mr. Goulburn: It was to a different subject that I applied that term.] But it was this Act on which the opposition arose, and on which the Assembly, as it appears to me, showed a determination not to listen to any attempt to guide them in their course of legislation, for they go further and deny the right of the Imperial Parliament to interfere. They say the Imperial Parliament of this country has a right to regulate the commerce of those 1300 islands, but with respect to any other power over the Provincial Legislature, that we have no right whatever. What, Sir, I ask, does this amount to? Why, it is a denial of the power by which slavery was abolished. It is a denial of that power by which the Slavery Abolition Bill, and the Amendment Bill, were carried into effect. It applies, likewise to the Apprenticeship Act, and to every amendment which Parliament chooses to enact. Now, with reference to this part of the question, though I endured a great deal of unjust obloquy in opposing the instant abolition of apprenticeship last year, yet I was one of those who agreed to the resolution proposed by my right hon. Friend—a resolution adopted by the Legislature, and which declares it to be the solemn duty of Parliament to watch over and protect the interests of the black population of the West Indies. That resolution stated, that the anxious attention of that House would be directed to the state of the negro population whenever the expiration of the term of apprenticeship entitled them to the full enjoyment of entire freedom. Now, Sir, I say these words, this pledge to watch over the condition of the negro population, are totally inconsistent with the words of the protest. My noble Friend himself never contemplated that this large black population, being once totally free, the House would allow the Legislature of Jamaica to enact any statutes, however cruel, however evasive of the Emancipation Act, and that the British Parliament was to say nothing to these Acts, because, according to the definition given in their protest, they do not relate to the regulation of commerce. [Lord Stanley: There is also the veto of the Crown.] I am aware that the power of enacting new laws is, in a great measure checked by the power of the Crown; yet, I can conceive that, without an opportunity of calling into exercise that power, there are many old colonial Acts and usages which, if applied to the state of the freed blacks, would in effect enable those who had the property for such a long course of years, together with superiority of other kinds, to exercise a very grinding oppression. It was not for this that we passed the Emancipation Act. It was not to see the slaves nominally free. We did not wish to boast throughout the globe that we had abolished the name of slavery throughout our dominions; but it 1301 was our object and wish, and for it we awarded a most liberal compensation, that not merely the name of slavery should be abolished, but that the emancipated blacks should enjoy the practical comforts, advantages, and blessings, of free subjects. Now, Sir, if this be the case, and if we shall have no reason to doubt when this Bill shall arrive to another stage that it was not, and is not, the intention of the Legislature of Jamaica fairly and honestly to treat the emancipated negroes as free inhabitants of the colony, as equal to themselves in point of political freedom, and not attempt, by indirect means, to use those powers which we have now abolished, and for which they received most ample and magnificent compensation—for if they should be inclined thus honestly and fairly to meet our views, God forbid that a British Parliament should interfere with their legislative privileges; big if they should not evince this disposition—that they adhere to their determination, that either from the love of property or of the power they have hitherto enjoyed, or in consequence of their prejudices against those of a different colour—if we find from any or all of these causes combined, the Legislative Assembly of Jamaica is prevented from doing justice to those whom we are pledged to protect, then I apprehend it becomes the bounden duty of the British Parliament to provide by some measure like the present to carry into effect the intentions of the British Legislature in passing the Act of Emancipation, and even though this cannot be accomplished without suspending, for some few years, the legislative functions of the Colonial Assembly, that suspension will be more than compensated for by the general happiness and liberties of the inhabitants of Jamaica, which such a measure is calculated to promote. Contending passions would cease to sway its population, and it would afford a means of restoring, in a few years, to a contented and free people, those powers which at present are not likely to be exercised without a struggle on the one hand to maintain a superiority long possessed, and on the other to obtain an equality with, or, perhaps, the degradation of, those once above them.
§ Mr. Labouchere
, in reply, said, that he considered the declaration of the Legislative Assembly of Jamaica to be in effect, if not in terms, that they would not re- 1302 sume their functions without the repeal of the Prisons Act, and as he believed, also, without a pledge that we would not further interfere in their legislation, except in commercial matters.
§ Sir Robert Peel
explained, that he had not defended the Legislative Assembly, and had declined doing so to a deputation which waited on him to solicit his aid.
§ Leave given. Bill brought in and read a first time.