§ The Earl of Ripon moved, that the Bill be read a second time.
§ After a short pause, during which the Lord Chancellor rose to put the question,
The Earl of Belmore
asked if the noble Earl meant to move the second reading of the Bill without offering any observations whatever in explanation of its principles? Such a course was certainly most unusual.
§ The Earl of Ripon
did not see any 504 necessity for troubling the House with any observations upon the present occasion. The principle of the Bill had been admitted by the adoption of the Resolutions; and he should be taking up the time of the House most unnecessarily were he to offer any statements in explanation of it.
§ The Duke of Wellington
said, the custom of the House had always been, that on the second reading of a Bill its proposer should state generally the principles on which it was founded, as well as the purport of its details, and he was, therefore, somewhat surprised at the course the noble Earl seemed resolved upon pursuing with regard to the present Bill. He certainly had expected some statement from the noble Earl explanatory of the important details of the measure, and he submitted that it was in courtesy due to their Lordships to give them such an explanation. If the noble Earl was resolved to make no statement, their Lordships of course had no alternative but to discuss the Bill on their own interpretation of its details; but if they were to be treated with that decorum to which they were entitled, they ought at least to be informed what were the motives which induced the Government to insert many provisions in the Bill at direct variance with the spirit of the Resolutions.
§ Earl Grey
admitted, that the general custom was, on the second reading of a Bill, to offer a statement of its general purport, and explain briefly the nature of its details. The present Bill, however, came before the House under extraordinary circumstances, inasmuch as its general principles had not only been discussed, but assented to before its introduction. With respect to the alterations which had been made in it since the Resolutions were discussed, he thought the Committee was the fitting stage for their consideration, and that his noble friend would only unnecessarily take up their Lordships' time by then alluding to them.
§ The Duke of Wellington
observed that, in the first two pages of the Bill, there were three or four provisions making a complete alteration in the principles of the measure as they were explained by the noble Earl who introduced the Resolutions to their Lordships' notice. In the first place, the period of apprenticeship had been shortened from twelve years to six years in some cases, and four years in Others. Now, that in itself was a most 505 serious alteration. In the next place, the commencement of the period of apprenticeship was changed from August, 1834, to January, 1834. Then in the Bill there were three descriptions of apprenticeship, while in the Resolution only one was contemplated. There was likewise in the Bill a total alteration in the laws respecting slaves, not in any way alluded to when the Resolutions were before the House. These were great alterations, and he asked the House if they did not involve such a change in the measure as to require, at least, a short statement from the noble Earl? He had no hesitation in saying, their Lordships would not be treated with that respect which they had a right to demand if the noble Earl persisted in moving the second reading without offering any explanation of the motives which led to the alterations he had mentioned.
was prepared to object in toto to the principles of the Bill, which he thought had not been introduced from necessity, but in compliance with a delusion too successfully practised as well on the Government as on the country at large. He regretted much the absence of a noble friend of his, who, he was sure, could have given their Lordships a great deal of information regarding the likely results of the measure, many of the details of which he looked upon with considerable alarm. For his part, he did not consider himself pledged by the Resolutions to assent to the present Bill; and as he differed altogether from the principles on which it was founded, he should be quite ready, should a division take place, to vote against it.
§ The Earl of Ripon
did not mean to contend that the noble Duke had pledged himself personally, or that their Lordships had pledged themselves to the passing of this Bill, by having agreed to the Resolutions, though certainly it would be a most unusual thing to reject the Bill on the second reading, under such circumstances. With regard to the alterations which it was stated had been made in the Bill, there certainly were alterations, but none of them were of such a nature as to affect the original principles on which the Bill was founded, and which were embraced by the Resolutions. The first alteration to which the noble Duke referred was the alteration in the length of the period of apprenticeship. It was perfectly true, that in stating to their Lordships the 506 nature of the measure, and the intentions of his Majesty's Government, he stated the Bill would contain, as it did contain, a provision for a period of twelve years' apprenticeship. That proposition was made, and it was discussed, as every one knew, in the other House of Parliament. The result of that discussion, however, was such as to make it evident, that so long a terra as twelve years was not likely to be conceded. His Majesty's Government had stated their reasons for thinking as he did, that period the best; but they yielded to the general opinion of the House of Commons in favour of a shorter time. Still, it did not appear to him that the change, which was only a matter of detail, was such as to induce their Lordships to refuse to proceed to the second reading of this measure. Another alteration to which the noble Duke objected, was the distinction made between prædial or prædial unattached, and non-prædial slaves. He would not at that period positively state that he had explained that part of the plan to their Lordships, but it certainly was part of the original plan, and involved nothing inconsistent with the principles of the Bill, or the intentions of his Majesty's Government. The classification proposed was the most convenient mode of dispensing to these persons the advantages which it was the object of the Bill to bestow upon them. The noble Duke had also complained of the alteration in the time which it was originally fixed that this enactment should come into operation. A change had certainly taken place, but it would be much more convenient to explain the reasons for that change when considering the details in Committee. He did not understand how that change could be deemed at all inconsistent with the Resolutions. Originally it was intended that on the 1st of November, 1833, the power of punishing slaves should be taken away from the masters, and vested solely in the Magistrates; and that on the 1st of August, 1834, the period of apprenticeship should commence. The Gentlemen, however, who represented the interests of the planters in this country, themselves objected to the arrangement, stating, that the intervening period would be found productive of much inconvenience, and that it would be a great improvement if the apprenticeship and the withdrawal of the power of punishment from the hands of the planters were to 507 commence together, for which reason the dates were altered to the 1st of June, 1834. It was not for him then to contend whether this were a wise or an unwise alteration—all that was needful for him to remark was, that it did not affect the principle of the Bill, which was that of ultimate emancipation, preceded by a probationary state of apprenticeship. With respect to other alterations, he thought they would be best discussed in Committee. He had already made a full statement when the principle of the Bill was admitted, and he thought the course which he proposed to adopt was the most convenient, and one which could not justly be deemed disrespectful to the House.
§ The Earl of Harrowby
said, he would not enter on the question of respect to the House, but it was quite clear, that if the noble Earl was determined not to make his speech, their Lordships could not compel him. The House had been occupied some time in listening to a discussion, which was doubtless very interesting, but the discussion which ought to have taken place was, whether it would be advisable to read the Bill a second time. It was the usual course for some member of his Majesty's Government to enter into an explanation of a Bill on the second reading. Their Lordships did not know what the measure before them was; they knew the Resolutions which they had agreed to; but of the measure by which those Resolutions were to be carried into effect by the Bill now before them, they were, or must be presumed to be, ignorant. All they knew was, that it was a very different measure from that which they had reason to expect when they agreed to the Resolutions. It was said the details might be settled in Committee, but the propriety of the Bill could not be ascertained by a separate examination of each clause in Committee, but by a general consideration of its details, and of the adaptation of its machinery to its object. He thought it much better, that the noble Earl should give his explanation in the present stage of the Bill.
The Earl of Belmore
would endeavour briefly to state his objections to the Bill: and he hoped that, in doing so, their Lordships would acquit him of any desire to sanction a system of slavery with his approbation. On the contrary, he would not prolong its continuance in our colonial possessions one moment beyond the 508 period when a state of society so uncongenial to our habits and our feelings could be safely dispensed with. He concurred with those who desired its immediate abolition, if that abolition could be carried into effect with safety to our commerce, and with advantage to our colonies, and with a probability of increasing the industry, civilization, and social order of the negroes themselves. But great as was his desire to expedite the period when such a system might be dispensed with, from a firm conviction that our colonies would not prosper except from the application of the capital and industry of an increasing free population, he begged, however, to disclaim any participation in the belief of those statements of cruelty practised by the masters towards the slaves, which had so unjustly been propagated in this country, for the purpose of exciting an unjust prejudice against those whose capital and industry had so materially promoted the prosperity of this nation. No doubt the power given to the planters had been, in some instances, abused; and such instances had come under his own knowledge; but these were merely exceptions. These statements had, however, served their purpose; and, instead of coming to consider this Bill calmly and deliberately, they were told that such was the feeling prevailing amongst the people of this country, that emancipation must, at whatever hazard, be immediately conceded. Certainly, the course pursued by the noble Lord who recently held the office of Colonial Secretary, was by no means calculated to allay excitement; and the demand for emancipation had, since his taking office, increased ten-fold. He was willing to believe, however, that the noble Lord saw many of the objections which related to the plan, and that he yielded to what he believed to be a measure of expediency. It was, however, incumbent on the noble Lord to show that the measure was practicable, and that its details could be carried into execution, consistently with the safety and advantage of our colonial possessions, or the commercial interests of this country. This, however, was a point to which he found the advocates of negro emancipation seldom adverted; and he had not heard from any one, that this measure was expected to confer a benefit on any one interest in the empire. The fact that compensation was given, proved 509 the contrary. The planters had reluctantly, on payment of twenty millions, given their consent to a measure which they believed to be fraught with ruin and destruction, and which would affect the safety of our colonies, and materially injure our commercial prosperity. The people of this country, too, had been required to purchase the measure at a very large price—that measure, too, would injure our commerce, at a time when all the interests of the country were complaining of depression. What, he should like to know, would be gained by the measure, in the way of cultivating the islands by productive negro labour?—Nothing. Nothing, in short, would be gained by the Bill but the affirmation of an abstract principle. He had examined the plan proposed by the noble Lord for free cultivation in the colony of British Guiana—he had examined the mode proposed by the noble Lord, for continuing productive labour there—and their Lordships would find, on reference to it, that it was founded on a system of coercion, infinitely more severe in a practical point of view, than that under which the slaves now lived, and which, in his opinion, was utterly inconsistent with a state of freedom. There was this fundamental error in the noble Lord's plan, that the means proposed for coercing labour were opposed to an increase of the population, which, in his opinion, was the only natural and safe mode of effecting a change from slavery to freedom, if such a system as this were necessary to enforce free productive labour, how was productive labour to be expected from the slaves, if emancipated in the mode proposed? Such a plan would be merely changing the name of slavery, and nothing more. It might be said, that this measure of the noble Lord had been rather unceremoniously set aside by the right hon. Gentleman who succeeded him; but he complained that the plan was still adhered to, whilst the right hon. Gentleman had not thought fit to give any details of the manner in which he proposed to carry it into execution. In truth, as to all that related to the trade of the country, in connection with this subject, their Lordships were called upon to legislate in the dark. The measure might meet the concurrence of the local Legislatures, the twenty-millions might be paid and distributed, the machinery might be put into operation, and 510 yet, after all, the measure might be found wholly inoperative. He was sure, let them do what they would, that they could never get the negroes to work for wages; and, in confirmation of this opinion, he would appeal to the noble Earl opposite. The noble Earl had himself suggested a tax of 40s. an acre on land cultivated for articles of subsistence, while land cultivated for superfluities was allowed to go tax free, in order to induce the negroes, by the constraint of necessity, to work. The noble Earl was persuaded—and he thought rightly persuaded—that unless there were some system of coercion—unless the necessity arising from misery and want were created—that the negroes would not work. He did not say this from supposing that there was any peculiarity in the negroes, but from supposing that they were like other men. He would not say that they were lazy—they were rather indolent than idle. He had no doubt that the negroes would work for their subsistence—they would do that from their natural instinct, like the Europeans. But they did not like work any more than the Europeans; and he was convinced, should this Bill become law, that it would baffle all the efforts of subsequent legislation to prevent the negro men from making slaves of the negro women. He did not attribute this to any peculiarity of character in the negroes, for he thought Europeans would be likely to act in a similar manner. If it were possible that the 300,000 slaves now in Jamaica could be deported, and their places be supplied by 300,000 European labourers, he did not believe, that the latter would work for wages any more than the former; and the more industrious they were, the less they would be likely to work for wages. They would all prefer to work for themselves; and they would, in such a place as Jamaica, find means to do that. Jamaica was 170 miles long, by forty-five broad, and its population did not exceed 400,000. There were about 40,000 Europeans, about 40,000 free blacks and people of colour, and about 300,000 slaves. But that island was capable of containing a much greater population. He believed, that at the time it was discovered, it was supposed to have contained 1,000,000 inhabitants; and he had no doubt that, under proper regulations, the island might at no distant period, if its resources were developed, 511 possess 3,000,000 inhabitants. Under those circumstances, with so much room, and with a great facility of obtaining food, would not, under any system, the free labourers rather occupy and cultivate the soil on their own account, than work for wages? At present, two-thirds of Jamaica were wood and bush; and how could it be imagined that the slaves, when liberated, would work for others rather than for themselves? They would work, he believed, to obtain subsistence for themselves, and even to obtain comforts. Jamaica abounded in means of support; cattle were plentiful, the rivers teemed with fish, and the negroes had plenty of swine and poultry, though they liked the former much better than the latter. There was not enough of them to make a competition for land; rent, therefore, would be nominal. Their Lordships knew, that high rents were in Europe the result only of the density of the population. It was said by those who certainly did not know much on the subject, that it was not so easy to obtain subsistence in Jamaica, and that the labour of the slaves for twenty-six days in the year barely sufficed to maintain themselves. On the contrary, the labour of the slaves on those days not only sufficed to maintain themselves, but to provide subsistence for most of the inhabitants of the towns on the island. He was convinced that at least nine-tenths of the inhabitants of the towns in Jamaica were provided with subsistence by what the negroes brought to market. He would mention another fact of importance. Their Lordships knew that there was a rebellion in one part of the island; for nearly two months that part of the island was crowded with troops, and though the country suffered from a state of warfare, and there was, of course, much destruction, yet, during all that time, and till the termination of the rebellion, there was no scarcity of food, notwithstanding the additional number of mouths they had to feed. These were then an abundance of proofs, that the twenty-six days' labour of the slaves, sufficed to subsist themselves and the great majority of the inhabitants of the towns in the island. The noble Earl then referred to the evidence of Mr. Shaud, to show that the negroes might obtain other things at a small cost. That gentleman said, that the expense of each slave for European stores was 1l. 17s. perhead, Looking to their wages 512 at present, a mistake was made, he thought, by not including in what was now given, the profit of the master. It should be remembered, that slaves were now let out by their masters; and Mr. Thorpe stated, that 2s. 6d. was the hire of a slave's labour for the day. Looking, then, at what was now the wages of a slave, and the little cost at which they could obtain clothes and all such allowances, he could not conceive what inducement they would find to work for wages. If the negroes were emancipated, unless under some of those restrictions formerly proposed by the noble Earl (Earl Ripon), he was sure that they would not work for hire. One of the arguments in favour of the measure was, that if the slaves were not emancipated, they would emancipate themselves; but that, he thought, was an unfounded apprehension, for the slaves were the feeblest of all possible creatures. They were powerful, he admitted, for mischief, but were easily checked and controlled, He also admitted, that at the last insurrection in Jamaica, they had done a great deal of mischief; but they would not have done that, had they not been abominably and cruelly deceived into supposing that the authorities of the island would not oppose their outrages. Before the troops could be collected, they had done much mischief, but they had not succeeded in any other object. He looked upon the opinion that they could make a successful attempt at insurrection to be most preposterous. Nothing was so feeble as the negroes; and it was quite impossible that they should ever be able to emancipate themselves by force. Proceeding to look at the Bill itself, he must maintain, that no state of society ever existed like that which the Bill would make, should it pass into a law. The noble Earl referred in particular to the 17th clause, as destroying all authority of the masters over their apprentices and servants; and the state of society which that would produce he could not imagine. The masters would have no control over their servants, but that which would be supplied by a stipendiary Magistrate and a Court of Justice. He appealed to their Lordships, whether they could carry on the business of their own families if they had no other control over their servants than that of the Magistrate? Their Lordships could remonstrate with their servants if they neglected their duty, and might discharge them; but the master 513 in Jamaica could not do that. He must appeal to the stipendiary Magistrate. Not one of their Lordships, he was sure, could endure to live in a state of society where they must submit to such evils; and he was sure that every person who could, would escape from the colonies. He repeated, that the masters in the colonies would be unable to discharge their apprentices or servants—they could only appeal to the stipendiary Magistrate, and after he had punished the servant, the master and the servant must return home to their several occupations. The same regulation would apply to persons engaged in agriculture; and he wished to know how the farmers of this country would like it if they could get no redress for the negligence of their ploughmen or waggoners, without applying to the Magistrates? He saw that, by another part of the Bill, it was expected that the stipendiary Magistrates should be half-pay officers; and could it be expected, that they should be good judges of the making of cane holes? Those who were acquainted with the agriculture of the island were to be carefully excluded from these offices. The stipendiary Magistrates were all to be strangers; they were to know nothing of the colony, in order that they might be impartial; and how were they to judge, if the labour had been effectually performed in the cultivation of sugar? These were only a few of the objections which he had to the Bill; and he must declare that it appeared to him doubtful whether it would not in its consequences render emancipation equally injurious to the planters and the slaves, to the colonies and the United Kingdom. He was ready to admit, that slavery was itself injurious; that while it existed, the resources of the colonies could not be developed. He had stated that before, and he adhered to his opinion. He would not yield to any member of the Government, nor to any member of the Anti-slavery Society, in a desire to promote emancipation, consistently with justice, and with the welfare of the masters and the slaves. He believed, too, that it would be consistent with many improvements; but emancipation by the Legislature was impracticable, and ought not to be attempted. He passed by the flagrant usurpation by such a measure of the rights of those colonies which possessed Legislatures, and the constitutions of which 514 had been as solemnly recognised as any rights ever ceded by the Crown. He admitted, indeed, the power of the Government to over-rule those Legislatures; but it was only the power of might against right; it was strength against weakness, and a strength we should not dare to use, if those colonies were situated on the American continent, instead of lying off its shores. Their Lordships might yet live to rue the effects of that Bill on the colonies; and that time would come, when the great Power in the neighbourhood of which the colonies were situated, and which was aware of their value, should be engaged in hostility with us, and being sensible of the errors of our policy, should be able, as she was not ill-disposed, to profit by them.
supported the Bill, but stated that he objected to the 20,000,000l. being given as compensation, because he was sure that it was more than the planters ought to get, and more than they would have accepted if they had been pressed. The noble Lord also stated, that he should object in the Committee to the clause settling the salaries, as we understood, of the stipendiary Magistrates, and to the clause relative to the Mauritius. With reference to the opinion of the noble Earl who had just taken his seat, that the negroes would not work for wages, he reminded their Lordships of the colony of Liberia, when, of 142 colonists in 1828, only twenty were, at the end of one week, a charge to the United Stales government. The noble Lord also referred to the evidence of Admiral Fleming and other persons, to show that the negroes worked in the Caraccas, in Cuba, and other places for hire. In Jamaica, he knew, on good authority, that the negroes hired each other, and he knew (hat the rate of their wages was fifteen-pence a-day. With respect to the cruelties of the system, of course the noble Earl, from his official situation, would be the last person to hear of them. As to having no control over their servants, he would ask, what control had their Lordships over their servants? Did the noble Earl want to introduce the whip into our families, for his argument went to that? What control was there here but that of the Magistrates? He should give his strenuous support to the Bill.
§ The Earl of Ripon
thought, that a great many of the observations which had fallen 515 from the noble Earl opposite went to confirm the principle of the Bill, and particularly that portion of it which involved the ultimate abolition of slavery. The noble Earl objected to the existence of slavery, and had expressed his opinion that the resources of the island of Jamaica never could be fully developed while the system of slavery lasted. He (the Earl of Ripon) could not well imagine any state of society more calling for change than that which had been described by the noble Earl as inconsistent with the principles of the British Constitution, repugnant to all feelings of humanity, and an obvious and direct drawback on the development of the resources of the colonies. The noble Earl had alluded to exaggerated statements circulated in this country respecting the state of slavery in the West Indies, and had implied that Ministers had been influenced by those misrepresentations. That he denied. He, as well as the Government of which he was a member, had always looked at this question as a practical question; they were desirous of seeing it settled in such a way as would prove beneficial to the colonies themselves, and prevent it being a source of perpetual agitation. The noble Earl had stated, that the negroes were incapable of carrying insurrection to a successful termination. That might be the case; but it should be recollected, that the insurrections in which they had hitherto been engaged had been put down, not by the unassisted efforts of the slave owners, but by means of the naval and military forces of this country. However, powerless the negroes might be to effect a Revolution, it must be confessed that the present state of society in the colonies was full of insecurity and danger, and would remain so as long as there existed the elements out of which even an attempt at rebellion could be formed. It was admitted on all hands, that the colonies were precisely in that condition, and he therefore was of opinion, that the West-India proprietors would consider their interest benefited, if some means were adopted whereby the present state of circumstances might be changed. Their Lordships were told, that the very discussion of this question was replete with danger; but to that statement he must reply, that it was the business and duty of Government to meet and overcome that danger. The noble Earl had alluded to a plan of emancipa- 516 tion which he (the Earl of Ripon) had submitted to the West-India proprietors, in which he proposed to accompany the state of freedom by coercive laws; and the noble Earl observed, that the existence of those laws with a state of freedom was an anomaly. He admitted that it was an anomaly; but then it should be recollected, that they were dealing with an anomalous state of society. He would not follow the noble Earl through the comments which he had been pleased to make on his (the Earl of Ripon's) proposition. It would be sufficient for him to say, that he had proposed it to the West-India proprietors as a mode by which, with their concurrence, the great object the Government had, at heart might be effected. They, however, did not take the same view of the matter; they objected both to the principle and the details of the plan; and it therefore became his duty to consider whether it would be advisable for the Government to persist in that particular scheme, or make some other arrangement, which would as effectually serve their purpose, and at the same time be free from those objections urged by the West-India body against the first proposition. It did not fall to his lot to communicate with the proprietors of colonial property on the subject of the plan now submitted to Parliament; but he most entirely concurred in the substitution which had been made, as his only object, throughout the whole business, had been to adopt the best and most satisfactory means of setting this question at rest; and he was convinced, that its settlement never would be effected, except by the direct interference of the Government and Parliament. He had always been of opinion, from the moment Parliament abolished the Slave-trade, that the abolition of slavery had become merely a question of time. But if the arguments of the noble Earl were to carry any weight with them, it would be difficult to conceive when the fit time for emancipation could arrive; for though a certain portion of the noble Earl's speech seemed to be directed against the maintenance of a permanent system of slavery, he argued at the same time that the negroes were idle, and would not work unless by compulsion. But he must contend that the negroes were influenced by the same motives as all other men, and the tendency of all the evidence which had been given on the subject was to 517 prove that they were disposed not only to work for the necessaries, but even for the comforts and luxuries of life. The noble Earl had expressed an objection to that part of the Bill which allowed corporal punishment to be inflicted only in pursuance of the sentence of a Magistrate, and he had asked their Lordships how they would like to have offences committed by their domestic servants decided upon by a Magistrate. Surely the noble Earl did not mean to say, that he wished masters in England to possess the power of corporally punishing their domestic servants. The noble Earl should bear in mind that the cases of cruelty which had created the strongest impression in this country were exactly those in which the unlimited power of punishment possessed by the slave-owner, had been exercised against domestic slaves. It therefore appeared to him, that nothing was so desirable, when a change was made in the relative condition of these parties, as that the power of inflicting corporal punishment should be taken from the masters, and placed in other hands. With respect to the general question, he thought there could be no difference of opinion as to the impossibility, under the peculiar circumstances of the case, of standing still. Their Lordships could not shut their eyes to the state in which this question stood. It might be said, that all the difficulty with which this subject was surrounded had arisen from the unreasonable warmth and zeal by which the question had been taken up by a body of persons in this country. It might also be said, that too much facility had been given by Government to the operation of those feelings; but, in point of fact, those feelings had existed for a great length of time, and produced a wonderful impression; and what their Lordships had to deal with was, the question as it presented itself under existing circumstances. He did not think that the Government could be justly charged with having any share in creating those circumstances, for it was impossible that the question could be long discussed by the country without Parliament being called upon to endeavour, once for all, to settle it. He was not unaware that its settlement was a matter of difficulty; but, though he had heard of various schemes of emancipation, he had never seen any more calculated than the present to bring about a satisfactory and safe settlement.
§ The Duke of Wellington
fully agreed, that it had now become impossible for this matter to stand still, whatever might be the mode adopted of forwarding it. He must observe, however, that the manner in which Government had taken the lead in putting forward this abolition measure, had exhibited the most unequivocal contempt of the rights of private property. He denied, however, that there existed any necessity for framing the measure in its present shape, or any shape like it. The proper way would have been to induce the Colonial Legislature, to take means for improving the social and moral condition of the slaves, so as to bring them to such a state in which it would be safe and advantageous for all parties concerned, to do away with slavery altogether. Without this discipline, it would be fatal to all parties to emancipate the negroes. As to the proposed alteration of the relative positions of the colonists and their negroes, were they likely to have fewer rebellions when the parties were called master and apprentice, instead of master and slave? There would, on the contrary, he believed, be more than ever; and, indeed, before long matters he was afraid, would come to such a pass in the colonies, as to reduce us to the necessity of destroying the black population. Then there was another provision in the Bill which would very materially be objected to by the proprietors: for they were not to be allowed the power of dismissing their apprentices on any grounds, even though the latter should be quite worn out and unserviceable; and not only were they not allowed to get rid of them till the end of those six years, but they were obliged to maintain them. Ministers had only provided 100 Magistrates for the whole nineteen colonies, but they would And that such would be the disorder produced by this Bill, that they would require 100 for Jamaica alone. As he had said before, such a hazardous measure as the emancipation of the negroes ought to be very gradual in its operation. The first point should be to conciliate the colonists, so as to ensure their co-operation. Nothing should be done hastily in a matter which involved such immense public and private interests, and in which the negroes themselves were so deeply concerned. It was absurd to expect that the negroes, in such a climate as that of the West-Indies, would work as regular agriculturists, unless they were obliged to work; the 519 proprietors in the United States, in Colombia, in Guyana, would bear ready testimony to the truth of that proposition. Instead of this arbitrary Bill, the measure ought to have been commenced by Resolutions, recommending' to the Colonial Legislature certain acts to be done, and promising compensation for all losses sustained by the operation of such Acts. That might have ensured the co-operation of the local Legislature, without Which nothing could be effectually done; and he was sure, that those Legislatures would never concur in such a harsh and violent measure as the present; which was moreover a measure quite different from the one formerly proposed by the noble Lord—and essentially different in several of its most important points. In the apprentice clause, for instance; the Bill would have the effect of making an extensive and dangerous alteration in the existing law, for whereas at present, although a slave accompanying his master to England would be free while in this country, yet, on his return to the colonies, he would again be a slave; this Bill rendered the fact of his being once free sufficient to make him free for life. He repeated that the proper course would be to suggest certain things, and promise certain compensation to the colonists, and leave to their judgment, (which on such matters must surely be better than that of the Government at home), to use the best means for carrying such measures into effect, and to distribute properly the compensation money. The colonists generally would take care of its impartial distribution. Here, too, he must object to the present plan, that instead of raising the proposed sum at once, and either handing it over to the Colonial Legislature, or putting it out to interest on their account, the compensation money was not to be got together till the termination of the apprenticeship. The proper way would be when the average rate per head was fixed, and the total amount ascertained, to transmit such amount to the authorities to be distributed by them, when the wishes of Government had been carried into effect. By the change now proposed as to the time of the labour of the negroes, the proprietors would lose one-fourth of the amount of produce now obtained from their estates, and they would in justice be entitled to compensation for that loss. The produce at present amounted to 12,000,000l. sterling, 520 and by this change it would be reduced by the sum of 3,000,000l. sterling. The difference in the amount of the value of the labour of the negro was equivalent to the whole amount of the rent; so that the loss would be very considerable. Was the taking away so much the sort of protection which that House and the Government ought to give to the planters? Had not the planter been suffciently interfered with already? Had not the Government allowed, and indeed encouraged men to go among the slaves, and leach with the utmost freedom all sorts of doctrines? The provisions of the 52nd George 3rd, c. 155, carried toleration to its fullest extent. It had certainly been passed in a very liberal spirit, but he doubted whether it could be called the work of prudent Statesmen. Nothing could be a matter of greater delicacy than the licensing of sectarian instructors under this Act. Did the House imagine that they could ever establish the negroes as a part of society in the islands of the West Indies? Let them refer to the opinions of some of the wisest and best men in America, in those States in which slavery had been abolished, and they would find, that when by law the negroes had been made fellow citizens with the Americans, it had been found necessary to begin colonization in order to remove them from the States, with the citizens of which, it was impossible they should ever perfectly amalgamate. The noble Duke here read the opinion of General Harper on this subject, who had declared his firm conviction, that there never could be an intimate union between the two races; that they never would look on each other as fellow-citizens in the cordial manner in which different classes of men living in the same country, and subject to the same laws, should do; and that the colonization of the negroes was, therefore, necessary for their advantage, as well as for that of the Americans themselves. Again, he called on the House to look at the details of this Bill, many of which were such an interference with the right of internal legislation possessed by the colonies, that it was not surprising they should object to it. The Bill, in fact, was a renewal of the attempt at internal taxation, which he imagined had been abandoned a long time ago. Looking at all these circumstances, he entreated the Government to revise the measure, and to take out of it those harsh 521 parts which he regretted to see introduced with respect to the colonies, and to take away those clauses which it was impossible that any Legislatures in the colonies could agree to.
The Lord Chancellor
was a little surprised by the charge of the noble Duke, that the present was a precipitate and uncalled-for measure, for which Ministers only should be responsible, as they only had a hand or felt an interest in its enactment. Never was a charge more unfounded; for, be the measure in principle right or be it wrong, or let the probable consequences of its provisions be what they might, he maintained that it was not volunteered by Ministers—that they had not led the way in proposing its adoption—that it was no precipitate and ill-advised scheme of their own crude fancies—but one loudly demanded by the all but unanimous voice of the people of England—one based on the rooted opinion, and conviction, and most ardent feeling of the community at large—a measure, moreover, which was not attributable so much to either the mother country, or Parliament, or the Government, as to the ill-advised conduct of the Local Legislatures themselves, who had, after long delay, made it the duty of the Government and the Parliament of the mother country to interfere, and endeavour to accomplish that great and most meritorious object which the best and ablest men in the empire had, for the last quarter of a century, more particularly for the last twelve or fifteen years, earnestly advocated; and which public opinion was now set so strongly in favour of, that no government, however anxious to delay or frustrate the attainment of that object, could any longer help lending its aid to accomplish. He had himself been for some time deeply impressed with the conviction that the period was arrived beyond which Parliament could no longer refuse its aid in accomplishing the anxiously sought wishes of the people; and that the longer the delay the greater was the danger. The noble Duke objected to the present Bill, because it would, according to him, be an assertion of the right of the Imperial Parliament to legislate for the internal affairs of the colonies. He was surprised that the noble Duke should again dish up this thirty-times refuted assertion. The very statute, the 18th of George 3rd, to which the noble Duke referred, as en- 522 suring the colonies the exclusive right, of internal legislation, actually retained the right and that, too, while it renounced the right to impose taxes upon the colonies. That Statute recited, 'That the taxation by the Parliament of Great Britain, for the purpose of raising a revenue in the colonies of North America had occasioned great uneasiness and disorder among his Majesty's faithful subjects, who might nevertheless be disposed to acknowledge the justice of contributing to the common defence of the Empire, provided such contributions were raised by the assembly of each province. In order to remove the said uneasiness, &c. it was expedient to declare that the King and Parliament of Great Brtiain will not impose any duty, &c. for the purpose of raising a revenue in any of the colonies &c. Be it therefore, enacted that from and after the passing of this Act, the King and Parliament will not impose any duty tax, or assessment what ever, payable in any of his Majesty's colonies, provinces, and plantations in North America, and the West Indies, except only such duties as it may be expedient to impose for the regulation of commerce, the nett produce of such duties to be always paid, and applied to, and for the use of the colony, in which the same shall be levied, in such manner as other duties collected by the authority of the respective general courts or general assemblies of such colonies provinces, or plantations, are ordinarily paid and applied.' The right, therefore, to interfere in the internal affairs of the colonies was never abandoned; the exercise of that right being merely suspended in the particular case of taxation, and that suspension, too, was voluntary, on grounds of temporary expediency. That was the view taken theoretically by Mr. Burke, and practically asserted by Mr. Secretary Dundas. All Mr. Burke's speeches bore testimony to his sincerity, for to that and to his views on this point he sacrificed his seat at Bristol. With respect to the noble Duke's remarks, as to the improbability of free negroes working, if it were the nature of the negro, under existing circumstances, to find a delight in cultivating his ground, after his day's work for his master was at an end, surely he would not so alter his nature as to refuse voluntary work when this new arrangement came into operation. The noble 523 Duke had objected to the apprenticeship clause; but power was given to the local Legislatures to enact regulations for the government of apprentices, and it was better left to the local Legislatures to provide for the details, which required local knowledge, than to do so by that Bill. With respect to the change of plan between the resolutions and the Bill, although he (the Lord Chancellor) denied that there was any real discrepancy between the resolutions and the Bill, but between the statements that accompanied the resolutions and the plan in the Bill; the change was effected by the House of Commons, who thought it expedient to reduce the term of twelve years to seven, when they were increasing the amount of the gift from 15,000,000l. to 20,000,000l. If they had reduced it to five years, he (the Lord Chancellor) should not have broken his heart, either on account of the masters or on account of the slaves. To suppose that the apprenticeship would last seven years was out of all reason. He did not think it would last five. The first persons to desire an alteration would be the local Legislatures, which would reduce the seven years to a shorter period. The noble Duke had instituted a comparison between the emancipation of the Catholics in Ireland and that of the slaves in the West Indies; but the cases were totally different. There was not an Act in the Statute-book to show that we had no right to make a law to bind Jamaica. The noble Duke had objected to the mode of the distribution of the money, and had said, that the simplest mode was to distribute it according to the number of slaves in each colony; but he (the Lord Chancellor) doubted if there were any two colonies in which the value of the slaves was the same; it varied from 15l. or 20l. to 45l.; so that the mode of paying per capita would not be just in any one colony, and in no one case would the colony have what it ought to have. A more simple and just mode could not be devised than that of taking the combined ratio of number and value, by which justice was done to all. The case of Demerara was undoubtedly a special one; there the slaves were more severely taxed than in other colonies, and it was one of the worst traits of the system that the better the country for the master, the worse for the slave. Whole myriads of wretched creatures had been swept away on the discovery of a 524 new island, or a virgin soil. That there was a deficiency of population in the colonies was undeniable; since the abominable African slave-trade had been abolished, the mortality of the slaves had been great and their numbers had diminished. This did not falsify the predictions of the abolitionists of the trade that there would be a sufficient number of hands to cultivate the soil, for those predictions were founded on the expectation that the colonists would do their duty to the slaves and to themselves, and that the local Legislatures would take steps to encourage breeding, the only mode of doing which was increasing the comforts of the slaves. It had been supposed by the noble Duke that there would be a falling-off in the quantity of sugar in consequence of this measure; he had at first supposed that nobody would work at all, and that we should have no sugar. If he (the Lord Chancellor) had that apprehension—if he believed that there was something in the nature of sugar cultivation so pernicious that no one would be induced by any kind of temptation, or by any species of motive, to devote himself to it as a labourer, and that nothing but the scourge, the fetter, and the lash could make a man labour at this kind of toil, what an argument was this against the continuance of slavery for one hour longer. And did not those who urged this consideration see that it would be one of the most flagrant of human enormities that sugar cultivation should be continued on such terms as these? The noble Duke said, that the quantity of sugar would be reduced from 12,000,000l. to 9,000,000l., and that the revenue would be proportionably reduced; but we were obliged at present, in order to keep out East-India sugar, to give a protecting duty to West-India sugar. We had only, therefore, to let in East-India sugar, and the damage would be repaired; we should raise a revenue of 9,000,000l. from West-India sugar, and 3,000,000l. from East-India. The Chancellor of the Exchequer would care no more whether the revenue came from East-India or West-India sugar, than ancient Tyre did as to the source from whence her wealth came. The noble Duke had dwelt upon the clause respecting the licensing of teachers. The delicate nature of the authority to be intrusted to Magistrates, in the exercise of the powers of the Act 52nd George 525 3rd, was a reason why there should be a careful selection of the persons to whom those powers were to be confided. If it was found in the Committee that the authority might be safely extended, he should have no objection to extend it. What he wanted to guard against was this—that if the power was confided to resident Justices, with insular prejudices, he doubted whether one dozen of slave teachers would be appointed by the resident Magistracy. He wanted to supply a sufficient number of preachers and teachers for the slaves; and to secure sectarian teachers against persecution, by placing the power in the hands of those who would exercise a sound discretion, without prejudice or hostility, or a dogged determination that no sectarian should teach a slave. Evidence of the fact was wanting that any of these conscientious men had abused the liberty afforded them to raise disaffection. He did not believe that a tittle of evidence to prove such an assertion existed, and he had read all the evidence, which amounted to nothing. If he were asked for a reason why sectarian preachers should be permitted, he answered, that the only chance, the only possibility of teaching the slaves, was to be found in the zeal and congenial habits of those sectarian preachers. Send a man from Oxford or Cambridge to a colonial parish—why, they might as well be sent to a workshop in Birmingham or a spinning manufactory at Manchester; they would be just as fit for one as for the other. It was from the zeal and habits of these sectaries that we were to look for a progress in this great work. The noble and learned Lord concluded with saying, that after the exertions of more than a quarter of a century, it was no little gratification to him, and no little consolation for many disappointments and disquietudes, to have lived to see this great and good work brought so near to a consummation.
§ Lord Wynford
defended the colonial clergy against the remarks of the noble and learned Lord. If the clergy of the colonies were like those of England, they were ever ready to visit the humblest cottages of the poor. There was not the least pretence for saying that the cause of Christianity would not be as well served by them as by any sectarians whatever. His noble and learned friend had no pretence for saying, that the Colonial Legislatures were at all to blame, or were 526 not ready and willing to adjust tin; great question, which could not be adjusted without their assistance. He objected to that clause in the Bill which removes the power of granting licenses to sectarian preachers from the Quarter Sessions to stipendiary Magistrates. This mark of degradation—for he could consider it only in that light—placed upon the colonial Magistrates, could only tend to keep alive those feelings of irritation which it was for the interest of all parties should be allowed to subside as soon as possible. It was not pretended that the Magistrates at the Quarter Sessions had ever abused the powers with which they were invested by refusing to license preachers, except on the ground of immorality. In the present measure all that was in the character of a boon appeared to come from England, whilst all the coercive regulations, which were likely to excite odium, were thrown upon the Local Legislatures. With respect to the mode of distributing the money, he contended, that a distribution per capita would be the only fair mode of dispensing the grant made to the planters. There appeared reason to apprehend that the effect of the measure would be to diminish the produce of sugar; and if that should be the case, the people of this country would bitterly repent that the Bill had been passed in such haste. The negroes, when freed from coercion, would acquire vices which not all the zeal of the clergy of the Church of England or of any other Church would be able to eradicate. With respect; to the system of apprenticeship, he thought it would not last one year; the negroes would in that time cast off the remaining restraints imposed upon them. It was absurd to suppose that the predial negroes would consent to remain in a state of apprenticeship when other negroes were liberated. He concluded by stating, that he would not oppose the second reading of the Bill.
Viscount St. Vincent
said, that the principle of the Bill proceeded upon an unwarrantable distrust of the Colonial Legislatures. This pervaded every part of the Bill, and in his humble opinion, it would endanger its adoption by the colonies. On the other hand, there was nothing which implied a doubt, that the Colonial Legislatures would execute all the unamiable duties which were imposed upon them by the measure. The Bill appeared to him defective in this respect, that while it 527 provided that the masters should find food, clothing-, and lodging for the negroes, it contained no provisions by which the performance of the negroes' duties to the masters could be enforced. After expressing his belief that the Colonial Assemblies would have acted upon the Resolutions of Parliament, if no attempt had been made to interfere with what they considered their peculiar privileges, the noble Earl concluded by saying, that he was so overcome by fatigue, having travelled 150 miles that day in order to be present at the discussion, that he would defer what further observations he had to make till another occasion.
thought, that as no one seemed disposed to object to the second reading of the Bill, the discussion might with propriety terminate.
§ Bill read a second time.