§ On the 33rd clause being read,
§ The Duke of Wellington
said, that the different value of slaves and of land in the different islands was so great, that the marketable value of the slaves in each island would not be an accurate criterion for apportioning the losses of the planters. He objected, therefore, to the principle of the mode proposed by the Bill for determining the compensation to be given to the planters, and to the machinery to be employed to make the distribution of that sum. He objected to the compensation being made according to the value of the slaves, and proposed, that it should be merely according to their number, without any reference to their value. He objected, also, to the Commission proposed to distribute the money, and proposed that the sum, when it was determined by the register of the slaves what was due to each colony, should be handed over to the 629 colonial authorities, to be apportioned according to the laws of the colonies. He would propose, as an Amendment, to leave out all the clauses from 33 up to 40, to retain 41 and 42, and leave out 43 and 4 and, instead of 45, he would insert two clauses. His Grace, accordingly, read two clauses, to the following purport:—"Be it enacted, that the number of slaves in each of the nineteen colonies, which were then enumerated, shall be ascertained according to the number of slaves registered under the 59th Geo. 3rd; and that the number of slaves being ascertained from the register, the said sum of twenty millions shall be divided into nineteen different shares; and when it has been ascertained what is the proportionate number of slaves in each colony, and what is the proportional share of the twenty millions for each colony—that share shall be assigned to each colony in the books of the Bank of England, to be paid to each colony, or a colony order." There would then follow another clause, providing that the share of the twenty millions which went to each colony should be left to be disposed of by the local assemblies, according to the number of slaves possessed by each owner, and according to the laws in force in the colony. The noble Duke concluded by stating that he mentioned to their Lordships the plan he proposed, and he should then only move that the 33rd clause be omitted.
§ The Earl of Ripon
said, if of the 800,000 slaves there was no difference in their value, the plan of his noble friend would be very simple and easy; but as there was a great difference in the value of the slaves, to adopt that plan would be a great injustice. There was, for example, a great difference in the value of slaves in Jamaica and in Demerara; and he could see no reason why the actual value of the slave in possession should not be the criterion for determining the indemnity to the planter. To say that the indemnity to the planters in Demerara should be settled by the value of a slave in Jamaica would be manifestly unjust. He would take the case of the Bahamas, where the average value of a slave was about 18l., while, in Demerara, the average value of a slave was 80l.; and if, according to the plan of his noble friend, the planter in the Bahamas should get as much for his slave as the planter in Demerara, he should 630 say they would commit a great injustice. Moreover, he was convinced that the plan of his noble friend would create confusion, and lead to many lawsuits, and in practice give rise to many delays.
§ Lord Wynford
supported the Amendment. It was far more simple and equitable than the plan proposed in the Bill. In particular, he approved of allowing the Local Courts to settle disputed or doubtful points, which, he considered a great deal better than the proposed scheme of a commission.
The Lord Chancellor
said, there were two points at issue; the first was as to the principle on which the distribution was to be made, and the second was as to the machinery by which the distribution, on whatever principle made, was to be carried into effect. The Bill went upon the plan of proposing, that as there was a difference in the value of the slaves, the compensation should not only be according to their numbers, but according to their value; the noble Duke's plan—and this was the difference between the two—went upon the principle of granting the compensation according to the numerical results of the last census, without any reference to the value of the slaves. He had before stated the grounds of the preference he gave to the plan proposed by the Bill. It should be remembered that the money was given as an indemnity for something taken away; and surely it ought to be in proportion to the value of the thing taken away. It seemed as if the suggestion came from Jamaica; for if it were carried into effect, half the compensation would go to that island. He would suppose, that they took away according to the value of the slaves 2,000,000l. from Demerara, and 3,000,000l. from Jamaica; according to the Bill, the people of Demerara would get 2,000,000l., and Jamaica 3,000,000l; but, according to the noble Duke's plan, Demerara would get only 1,000,000l., and Jamaica 4,000,000l. It might happen also that the land, as he believed was the case, was more valuable where the slaves were most valuable, than in the colony where the slaves were less valuable; and in that case there would arise a twofold claim for an indemnity, separate from the mere number of slaves. He, therefore, should oppose the principle of the noble Duke's plan. As to the machinery for carrying the plan into effect, 631 he preferred the Commission by far to the Local tribunals, which would only give rise to endless confusion and delay. The Commission was certainly not so long known to the law as those other Courts, but it was not unknown to the law, and certainly the Commission was much better than the Court of Chancery, even of England, and infinitely better than the Courts of Chancery of the colonies.
Viscount St. Vincent
thought, the ages of the slaves were overlooked in this estimation. If it were true, as he believed it was, that the number of the aged and of the very young was comparatively small in Demerara, and comparatively large in Jamaica, that might account for the difference in the average value. He believed, that the proportion of old and young to the middle age, was in Jamaica, as compared to other colonies, as seven to three. It was taking a very partial view not to consider this circumstance. If the estimation of the average value of the slave referred only to those which were fit for labour; and if allowance were made for these circumstances, he believed that there would be little or no difference in the value of slaves in Jamaica, and the other colonies. Justice required that this should be considered, otherwise it would turn out that the colony which took most care of the worn-out slaves, which provided for them, and also took care of the offspring of slaves, would be worse treated than the colonies where these duties were comparatively neglected.
also supported the Amendment, considering Local Courts the only proper medium for distributing the money. If they were not fit for this, they were not fit for anything, and ought to be revised. They alone had the documents, papers, and local knowledge, which were essential to a just and impartial distribution of the money. He would ask whether, in this distribution, aged, infirm, or very young slaves, were to be considered able-bodied persons? And he would also wish to know what the meaning was of the double rule of distribution laid down, there being one for average distribution to each colony, and another rule for sub-distribution?
§ The Earl of Ripon
said, that it must be obvious to the noble Baron, in consideration that it would be impossible to pursue the same rule in the internal distribution 632 of the money as in distribution of the compensation to each colony, that the fairest general rule would be that adopted by Government, which was to take the average value of slaves for a given period; but, in the sub-distribution, it would be necessary to adopt a different rule; for instance, some proprietors had healthy and effective slaves, while the negroes belonging to another proprietor might be unhealthy, aged, infirm, or otherwise ineffective.
§ Amendment withdrawn, and clause agreed to.
§ On reading Clause 61, extending to the colonies the provisions of the 52nd George 3rd, relative to religious Worship and Assemblies, and giving to the Special Justices the same power in the colonies as Justices enjoy under that Act,
§ The Duke of Wellington
protested against the clause, as an improper interference with the internal legislation of the colonies. He said, it was called a clause of toleration, but, in his opinion, it was one of intolerance, and eminently calculated to set the colonists, and especially the colonial Legislatures, at variance with this country. He therefore recommended their Lordships to strike out the clause.
§ Their Lordships divided on the clause—Contents 31; Not Contents 15:—Majority 16.
§ The remainder of the Clauses were agreed to.
§ The House resumed; and the Bill was reported.633
|List of the CONTENTS.|
|Westminster||Howard of Effingham|