§ The Earl of Ripon
said, he stood before their Lordships for the purpose of introducing, for their consideration, a question of which no man could overrate the importance or the interest; and he could assure their Lordships that he approached the execution of that duty with such feelings of embarrassment and anxiety as he had never, in a parliamentary life of not much less than thirty years duration, experienced before. He could not but feel, in dealing with a subject of such immense importance, how much he stood in need of their Lordships indulgence; and though, were he to ask 1164 that out of any personal considerations, it might have the appearance of mock humility, he trusted their Lordships would extend it to him, out of regard to the great question which he rose to bring under their notice. The House of Commons, after much discussion, carried on for some years, and in every variety of shape, had come to certain Resolutions with respect to the subject of slavery in his Majesty's colonies, in which they sought the concurrence of their Lordships. This was a very great, a very grave subject. It involved many details, affecting not merely the state of a large number of individuals whose situation was utterly unlike that of any other British subjects, but it also involved the interests of those under whose control and power the first class, whom he had adverted to, lived. It likewise involved commercial and political interests of unequalled extent and magnitude; branching out into a variety of ramifications which affected almost every class of industrious persons in the country. It also involved, in the shape in which it now came before their Lordships, the imposition, or the call to impose, on the people of this country a very considerable sum of money, as the means of bringing to a successful issue this most difficult and important question. In asking their Lordships to accede to these Resolutions, he must begin, in the first place, by explaining to them the grounds on which he did not call for their acquiescence. In the first place, he did not ask them to consent to those Resolutions from the effect which the consideration of the subject had upon his own mind, or on account of any fancy or speculation of his own; he did not ask them to consent to those Resolutions from any wild, or enthusiastic, or what might be denominated even fanatic views of the abstract principles of justice. It was impossible for any man, he admitted, to consider this question without having his feelings deeply interested; but, in the situation in which he had been placed, having been obliged for some years to examine this subject closely, as a Minister of the Crown, with a view to its satisfactory adjustment, he had anxiously, and he hoped successfully, endeavoured to divest himself of all those feelings which the nature of the question was calculated to excite; and to come to the discussion of the subject with all the calmness which it required, banishing those 1165 prejudices and passions which were troublesome and perplexed guides on questions of practical policy. He had not been induced to take the part he had done on this question from any wish or desire to conciliate any parties in this country. He was well aware that there was a large body of persons in this country who had applied their utmost energies, for years past, to produce on the public mind a deep impression of the horrors of slavery, and of the necessity of abolishing the system. He, however, never had pursued that course—he never had been influenced by such proceedings, and he would undertake to say, that his Majesty's Government had not been influenced by any motives connected with the party to which he alluded, to subject to change and hazard the great interests involved in this important question. [The noble Lord appeared to be extremely ill, and paused for some time, but was encouraged by cries of "hear, hear."] Their Lordships, he said, were more indulgent to him than he deserved. He would, however, endeavour to explain to the House what were the real grounds upon which he asked the House to accede to those propositions; in acceding to which he thought they would be doing not merely an act of justice and humanity, but an act required by considerations of public policy. He said public policy, and he added that emphatically to the two other inducements which should lead their Lordships to take this course; because, however a man's feelings of justice and humanity might prompt him, still he ought not to proceed hastily, rashly, and without that due consideration of the means to meet all the difficulties of the case, and secure those advantages which public policy demanded. [The noble Lord again evinced symptoms of indisposition, and was obliged to sit down.]
The Earl of Winchilsea
said that, seeing the noble Earl opposite in a state of evident illness, his feelings being probably excited by the importance of the subject, he begged leave to move the adjournment of the debate till the following day.
§ The Earl of Ripon
again rose, and said, he begged to thank the noble Earl for his kind consideration, but he hoped he should yet be able to execute his duty, and he should be extremely sorry if, on his account, a question of such great importance were postponed. He would, with their 1166 Lordships permission, proceed to observe, that the ground on which he asked their Lordships to acquiesce in these Resolutions was not founded on any vague, indefinite, speculative views of a mere abstract nature. The House of Commons, by their Resolutions, had expressed themselves in favour of a change, because the present state of things could not possibly remain. He should be able, he thought, to satisfy their Lordships that a course of events, which no human power could check or prevent, had brought this question to such a point, that if they did not now fairly and honestly endeavour to settle it, those colonies would be left in a state of irretrievable confusion. It was not, therefore, on account of theoretical speculation, or what was called sentimental humanity, that he asked their Lordships to adopt those propositions; but because, in the present state of things, if they did not pursue some effectual measures, those colonies would be exposed to evils which God forbid should ever befall them. He was not one of those who could contemplate without dread all those vast interests, and that great mass of property connected with the colonies, involved in ruin, though he was aware that there were some persons who supposed that this might take place without prejudice to this country. But the present proceeding arose out of the necessity of the case, and the question for their Lordships to consider was—and it was founded on the very nature of the case itself—whether slavery could be permanent or not? It was, he believed, too late to argue, that it should be permanent. He had never heard—he had never met with any man who asserted—he had never read in any publication in this country—that, as a permanent principle, slavery could be maintained in the British dominions. It had become, therefore, merely a question of time, and their Lordships had to consider whether the time had or had not come when it was necessary to deal with it, and if it was necessary to deal with it, their Lordships must consider in what manner it could be dealt with, other than by abolishing it? It was inherent in the very nature of the subject itself, that where slavery existed in a civilized country, and, above all, in a free country, the question resolved itself into this—whether the time had come for its abolition? It might be said, and it was true, that slavery was the offspring of the 1167 laws of this country; but no man could assert that slavery was not uncongenial to all the customs and habits of the people. It was a question of that nature, that when once the mind of the public was directed towards it, their Lordships might be certain that the desire to put an end to the system must proceed, by slow degrees at first, but afterwards with accelerated velocity, until nothing but its abolition could satisfy the nation, and then inaction in the Government became impossible. The first blow given to slavery was when the public mind was called to the consideration of the slave trade; and it was impossible to disconnect the question of the slave trade from that of slavery itself. He knew that those who first advocated the abolition of the slave trade disclaimed any idea of mixing the two questions together, and he believed they acted rightly and wisely in adopting that course; but to the eye of any statesman, or of any person accustomed to deduce consequences from preliminary facts, it must appear plain, that all the arguments in favour of the extinction of the slave trade applied also to the extinction of slavery itself. No less a man than Mr. Burke entertained that opinion, at a time when the question had not so much interest as it possessed at present. In 1780 Mr. Burke's searching, philosophic, and, at the same time, practical mind, had directed itself to this subject; and, though the particular plan which he was led to contemplate aimed at the mere extinction of the slave trade, yet he always laid it down as a principle, that the same reasons which led to the extinction of the slave trade led also to the extinction of slavery itself. Let their Lordships look at all the evidence and examinations which took place when the subject was first brought before Parliament—let them look at the examinations before the Privy Council, and say whether they did not all prove that, sooner or later, if Parliament began to discuss the principle of the abolition of the slave trade, they must come at last to the consideration of the abolition of slavery itself? It was true the public mind was not very hastily directed to this particular part of the question. The horrors of the slave trade were at that time quite enough to absorb the public attention, but, as time went on, the minds of men were called to the consideration of slavery generally; and the facts which 1168 were daily elicited with respect to the situation of the slaves rendered it impossible not to come to the discussion of that subject, and to the conclusion, that slavery must be abolished. [Here the noble Earl again paused for a considerable time.] His Lordship proceeded. The events of war diverted public attention into another channel, but, in the year 1806, a measure relative to the slave trade was introduced by the Government, and a Resolution was adopted by the House of Commons which he thought was exceedingly proper. He recollected it the more particularly, because on that occasion he gave his first vote on this subject. Most of those who felt an interest in the question, and those also who in Parliament supported the abolition of the slave trade, acknowledged the propriety of that Resolution. [Here the noble Earl again sat down in a state of apparent exhaustion.]
§ The Duke of Buckingham moved, that the House do adjourn during pleasure.
§ The Earl of Ripon
, somewhat recovered, again rose. He certainly felt anxious to advert to those early proceedings, because it appeared to him that all which had happened at that time, with reference to the discussions on the slave trade, formed the basis of everything which had been since done on this subject. After the peace of 1814, a new point arose on this question, and though, perhaps, not very directly connected with the proposition about to be submitted to the House, nevertheless it formed an important particular in the concatenation of circumstances which had brought them, with reference to this question, in the situation in which they now stood. The exertions of a noble friend of his, who, at that time, held the office of Secretary of State, and who was one of those who doubted the expediency of doing away with slavery itself, were directed to the subject of the slave trade; but that noble Lord, in all his correspondence with France, Spain, and Portugal, on that question, adduced no reasons which, if pushed to their full extent, would not be applicable to the extinction of slavery itself. That correspondence, of course, went forth to the world, and the inference to be drawn from the reasoning it contained was, that the slave trade was contrary to justice—that it was contrary to humanity; and why? Because it was not possible to be carried on without giving a power to those who were 1169 embarked in the trade over men who were as free as themselves, and because it could not be carried on without perpetuating a blot on the character of this country. Why, then, were they called on to abolish slavery? For the very same reasons. No man could say that slavery was just—no man could say that slavery was humane—no man could say that slavery was consistent with those principles which they had all been taught to venerate and to cherish. They had no right to appropriate to themselves the physical force and strength of their fellow-men, and every principle on which they supported the propriety of abolishing the slave trade applied with equal cogency to the extinction of slavery. Then it became a question of time and means. Was it very extraordinary, he would ask, that the people of England should be hostile to a state of things which was entirely opposed to their feelings? It might be said, that great interests were involved in this question, and that great danger might be apprehended from a change in the system. That argument merely proved that they should proceed with caution, bat it could not apply, and a statesman would not apply it, as an answer to the general feelings of a whole nation. Unfortunately, in proportion as a desire was manifested on the part of the people that this system should cease, it produced in the minds of those whose property was likely to be affected by its feelings of a very contrary description. He did not blame—he did not dare to blame—those who felt alarm and dismay at the threatened extinction of their supposed rights, and at the expected diminution of their property—it was natural and proper that they should feel apprehension; but the effect of it was, to excite more strongly the antagonist principle; and the question was soon presented in a shape which required the decision of the Legislature, and which decision could not longer be postponed. On the one side was arrayed the principle which called for an abolition of slavery, and on the other the antagonist principle by which that proposition was opposed. There were the feelings of justice and of humanity on the one hand, and of interest and prejudice on the other. This tended greatly to complicate the question, and to render it one which, if not decided by Parliament, must sooner or later terminate in a crisis. In 1823, the 1170 first great step was taken by Government with reference to this question. The foundation was then laid for a change in the system. In 1823, certain Resolutions were come to by the House of Commons, in which, though they were most cautiously—most judiciously worded—still they recognised, in the most distinct and clear terms, the object at which Parliament should aim—namely, the ultimate extinction of slavery. The passing of that Resolution led to the inevitable result at which they had now arrived, and contracted this question to one of time and means. Since that, a circumstance had occurred which had a very great influence on this subject, and had, perhaps, more than anything else, tended to place it in such a state that it could no longer remain stationary. That event happened in the colony of Demerara. In 1823, an insurrection broke out there, and a missionary, of the name of Smith, was taken up on the charge of fomenting it. He was brought to trial, and sentenced to death. The execution of the sentence was postponed till reference was made to the government at home. The decision of the Government was, that the sentence should not be carried into effect; but, in the mean time, the unfortunate man died in prison. This, at the first view, might not seem to have much effect on the question of abolishing slavery, but it produced in this country a strong religious feeling on the subject. He would not enter into the question as to how far slavery was tolerated by religious tenets elsewhere, or how it accorded with the precepts of the Christian religion. But, in a matter of this kind, where men's feelings were deeply interested, if there were superadded to those feelings a strong religious conviction as to the necessity of the extinction of slavery, it gave a redoubled vigour to their efforts to accomplish their object. Men might take a particular course from motives of vanity or of ambition. Those incitements were, however, transient in their nature, and passed away; but if, in matters of this kind, men's feelings were mixed up with sentiments of a strongly conscientious and religious nature, no idea of political expediency, no idea of self-interest, none of those circumstances which, in ordinary cases, might operate, would, in the slightest degree, prevail with them, or prevent them from proceeding strenuously in the pursuit of that which they believed to be 1171 just. At the time to which he was adverting, the zeal of religious persons in the country led them to take a more active part in sending out to the West-India colonies persons to spread amongst the negroes the blessings of religious instruction; and what had happened at Demerara induced them to believe, that a bar would be interposed to put an end to their efforts in endeavouring to disseminate religion amongst the slaves—that they would be absolutely prevented from doing that which they called and considered a positive duty; and that they would not be allowed to introduce amongst the negroes that which they conceived to be essential to their eternal happiness. They were, therefore, stimulated by every feeling that could operate on the mind of man to persevere in their endeavours, in spite of all obstacles, to send out religious instructors to the colonies. This produced a very unfortunate effect. It led the planters, generally, to view this class of religionists, as particularly hostile to their interests, as a body of men who were seeking to destroy their undoubted rights. This feeling, from its own nature, was progressive, and threatened the colonies with the most fatal consequences. At length, in 1826, the Resolutions of the Commons passed in 1823 were presented to that House, and in those Resolutions their Lordships unanimously acquiesced. Their Lordships, then, as well as the House of Commons had established the clear and undeniable principle, that the time was come when slavery should be done away with. He knew that the question of time was of great importance, and he knew very well the arguments used by those who said, that the proper time for the abolition of slavery had not yet arrived. When individuals said, that the slave was not educated—that he did not understand the duties attached to a state of freedom, so as to enable him to enjoy it—they asserted that which remained to be proved. The question was, whether, supposing the slave not now fit for freedom, the time had not arrived when he was unfit for slavery? It certainly appeared to him that the slave was now unfit for slavery, and that was the most dangerous situation in which a large mass of people, still kept in slavery, could be placed. It was for the West-Indies the most perilous position that could be imagined. When the slave trade existed such a state of things was 1172 fraught with less danger than now. The supply was then drawn from year to year from the coast of Africa; and those negroes who were imported into the colonies had no notion whatever of the ordinary relations of civilized life. They knew not the moral degradation of slavery, and they thought not of extricating themselves from it. But it was a very different thing now. The Legislature had to deal with the feelings of a half-civilized people, who resented the physical sufferings which they were obliged to undergo, and whose information produced strong and fearful irritation of mind. This was the necessary result of the abolition of the slave trade: because, the moment they cut off the ordinary supply of slaves, they obliged the planter to depend on those he could rear on his estate. They compelled him, from the necessity of the case, to place his slave in a perfectly different situation. The planter was forced to administer to the comforts of his slave; and, above all, to administer to the wants of his mind—rendering him intelligent, teaching him to read and write, and, finally, making him not only an intelligent being, but a Christian man. When the measure of the Legislature, by the abolition of the slave trade, brought about this change, they completely altered the relations between the master and the slave. They taught the latter that the endurance of the lash was dishonourable, and that the chance of exposure to it was degrading. Now, he would call upon their Lordships to look at the evidence of those who wished to abolish slavery at once, and of those who were adverse to that proposition. The missionaries, or, as some called them, the enthusiasts, told the world, that the slaves were in such a state as to be perfectly fit to enjoy their freedom, the importance of which they completely comprehended. Those persons affirmed, that the slaves only required the ordinary stimuli, by which individuals were induced to labour, to work as freely and as cheerfully as any body of free men. The endeavour to improve the condition of the slaves had materially altered their character and dispositions. That the amelioration had been carried far enough to produce all the effects that might be expected to result from it, he did not say; but the evidence of both parties proved, that the negroes were in that state of increased intelligence and improvement which rendered them, even if they should 1173 be as yet unfit to be completely tree, utterly unfit to continue slaves:—Mens agitat molem et magno se corpore miscet.The great mass was so far under the influence of mind as to render it impossible to prolong the present system with any degree of safety. The catastrophe that must inevitably result from such an attempt could only be prevented by entertaining the Resolutions which he should submit to the House, and adopting the practical measures to which they were intended to lead. How did the matter stand with respect to slavery? The Legislature could not carry things back; could it allow them to stand still? Impossible; and, even if it were practicable, ought their Lordships, as forming part of a free and Christian Legislature, to take no part in procuring both for the slaves and the planters beneficial results from that change which all now agreed was inevitable. In relation to a question of this kind, upon which men's feelings were interested, the Legislature could not avoid advancing; and it would be dangerous to make the attempt. The Ministers, therefore, felt it to be their duty to take the subject up as they best could, and submit to Parliament the outline of an arrangement, in the hope of giving satisfaction, as far as possible, to all parties. Could any one doubt, if this question had not been taken up on the responsibility of his Majesty's Government, that the result would have been to produce a much more dangerous state of things, and one which it would be infinitely more difficult to control? In order to avoid such dangers and difficulties, Government considered it to be their duty to act as they had done. He knew that, according to the ordinary practice of political party and opposition tactics, all this might be represented as extremely absurd conduct on the part of Government, and they might be blamed for yielding to a pressure, which, if they had only had a little spirit, they might have successfully resisted. He could not believe, whatever might be said, that any one would really think thus, or that any person who took the trouble to look at the state of things, past and present, in the colonies, could deny, that the Ministers charged with maintaining the peace of those colonies, and preserving them as useful and valuable appendages of the Crown, would not have shamefully abandoned their duty, if merely on account of dangers or difficulties connected with 1174 the settlement of the question, they had left it to take its chance without under taking the matter on their own responsibility, and calling for the assistance of Parliament to aid them in the accomplishment of such a measure as should set the subject at rest. Having described the motives which had influenced his Majesty's Government in the course adopted by them on the present occasion, it now became his duty to state as shortly as he could the general nature of the propositions which they had recommended to the other House of Parliament, which that House had adopted, and in which he trusted that their Lordships would concur. The first Resolution was, "That immediate and effectual measures be taken for the entire abolition of slavery throughout the colonies, under such provisions for regulating the condition of the negroes as may combine their welfare with the interests of the proprietors." It was unnecessary for him to add anything on the subject of that Resolution. If the view he had taken of the subject were correct in reference to the necessity for an extinction of slavery, the Resolution would follow as a corollary upon the propositions he had laid down. He flattered himself, that it was evident slavery must be abolished, and that no one would deny, if slavery were to be extinguished, that it was fit it should be extinguished under such regulations as might combine the well-being of the negroes with the interests of the proprietors. The second Resolution was, "That it is expedient that all children born after the passing of any Act of Parliament for this purpose, be declared free; subject, nevertheless, to such temporary restrictions as may be deemed necessary for their support and maintenance." Now, it was quite clear, that if the Legislature were to do anything in the way of establishing the freedom of those beyond childhood, the same principle rendered it absolutely necessary to extend the advantage to individuals who should be afterwards born, or who might be of too tender an age at the passing of the Act to participate fully in its benefits. He, therefore, conceived that this proposition was one to which no objection could be taken. He was aware that the plan of extinguishing slavery, by declaring all children born after a certain date absolutely free, was a favourite one with many abolitionists; at the same time he had always felt, in common with the late Mr. 1175 canning (among others), that such a system could not be reduced to practice without incurring great risks, inasmuch as the plan must produce such a marked distinction between certain classes of negroes as to render it impossible to carry it into effect without endangering the tranquillity of the colonies. Although it was necessary, therefore, that any measure for the abolition of slavery should embrace the freedom of negro children, he thought it impolitic and unwise to confine the process of emancipation to them. Government, in consideration of this difficulty, had devised an intermediate and probationary state, which, while it relieved the negro from the harsher parts of slavery, would not deprive the planters of the advantage of his services during such time as might appear adequate to afford the master reparation for the establishment of his entire freedom. He did not say, that it was impossible to have devised a scheme by which all might be made free at an early period; on the contrary, bethought such a plan quite practicable, and that inducements might be held out sufficient to cause the negroes to labour steadily, they receiving wages for their labour. He thought that the facts of the case were against the supposition, that out of mere idleness and extreme indolence, the negroes would abstain, if not compelled to labour, from all kinds of exertion. The slave might be idle, but it did not follow that the emancipated negro would refuse to work. Why should the slave be other-wise than idle when the whip was not hanging over his head, seeing that he had no motive to labour but compulsion? But under other circumstances, why should it be supposed that the negro was constitutionally more idle than other men? He was not found to be so in Africa, where the best and latest inquiries proved him to be addicted to agriculture, and that he had carried many of the arts of civilized life to a considerable extent. In Africa the negro was known to have acquired a good deal of skill in some branches of manufacture, and although compared with Europeans he must be accounted uncivilized, there was nothing to prove the existence of any physical or moral difference between the negro and other men with respect to a disposition to labour. The motive which induced people to work was want: labour they must, or they could not support life; and the same mo- 1176 tive which impelled men to exertion in Europe would, if applied in the West-Indies, induce the negro to labour. There was a great deal of evidence to prove that the negro was capable of being influenced by the same stimulus which worked upon the rest of mankind, and induced them to labour. How account for the negro spending his leisure time, not in idleness, but in active labour, with a view to obtain additional comforts and luxuries—how account for this fact upon any other principle than that referred to? He knew it had been said, that among the free negroes in the West-Indies there was nothing but idleness and vice, but he denied the accuracy of the statement; and, as a proof of its incorrectness, would refer their Lordships to the case of great numbers of free negroes who maintained themselves by their own exertions in Antigua and the Bahamas. But even if these individuals did not labour in so satisfactory a manner, it should be recollected who they were; they were not creoles, but negroes, captured in slave-ships coming from different parts of Africa, speaking different languages, having no common bond of union, none of the habits considered necessary to honest and persevering industry, and yet, in point of fact, no people in the world laboured more assiduously. It was said, that they would not labour in the cultivation of sugar. It could hardly be expected, that they should, where sugar cultivation was the badge of slavery, and in which free negroes probably could not find adequate employment while slave labour was directed to that branch of cultivation. He thought the inference was, that if all were free, all would be disposed to labour. He knew that many doubted, whether the negroes, if they were manumitted all at once, could be induced to labour by the fear of want on the one side, and the hope of wages on the other. Without entertaining any such apprehension, he admitted it to be fit and prudent to establish some sort of intermediate and probationary state between slavery and perfect freedom, under a qualified compulsion. The proposition by which this scheme was to be effected, went upon the principle, that every slave was to be registered after a given date as an apprenticed labourer, and that for a period of twelve years he should be under the obligation of labouring forty-five hours a-week (seven and a-half hours per day) 1177 for his existing employer, the remainder of his time being left to himself to be disposed of in the cultivation of the soil, or in any other way most conducive to his own interest. The effect of this system would be, to give the master the advantage of the compulsory services of his negroes to a certain extent; but he was deprived of the power of punishment, which was rot to be inflicted on any apprenticed labourer except in pursuance of the sentence of an authorized Court. It was hoped that, under this plan, the same system of cultivation would go on, at least to a great extent—whether to the same extent as at present it was impossible to say—but there was no reason to suppose that the planter would not derive sufficient advantage from the labour of his negroes to remunerate him for their maintenance, which he was to be compelled to supply in future in like manner as at present. By this apprenticeship the negroes were to acquire all the rights and privileges of freemen, subject to the conditions and restrictions referred to. The next proposition, which was contained in the fourth Resolution, was one of very great importance, not only on account of the principle on which it proceeded, but because of the manner in which it might affect the people of this country. He must here premise that he had never contemplated any measure of emancipation without reference to what might be due to the existing owners of the negroes. This consideration constituted one of the great difficulties of the question; for they must take into consideration the risk and loss to which the planters might be exposed; at the same time they all well knew, in days like those, how much and how unfavourably every addition to the public burthens affected the minds of the people. However, he was of opinion, although Parliament possessed the power of altering the relation between master and slave, that it could not do so without giving to the former a just and adequate compensation. The people of this country had, over and over again, expressed their extreme anxiety for the extinction of slavery, and he could not believe that they would have done so without being prepared to take their share of the burthens which the proposed remedy of the evil might naturally be expected to produce; therefore, he thought it by no means unreasonable to call upon Parliament to place at his Majesty's disposal a 1178 large sum of money in order to effect the extinction of slavery. He knew, that there were persons who, reasoning on the abstract proposition as to the right of property in man, thought it about as great a crime to give compensation to the slaveowner as to permit the existence of slavery; but the State (which never died, seeing it always survived in its acts and their consequences) had given its sanction and encouragement to that species of property; and if the property thus created were taken away, reason, justice, and common sense, demanded that the State should give compensation to the owners. The amount proposed to be granted in the way of compensation was 20,000,000l., a large sum, undoubtedly; but would any one say that, if by this contribution so great a question could be settled in such a manner as to relieve the colonies from danger, and prepare and satisfy the wishes of the people of this country—would any one say, that the grant was not equally noble and necessary? The last Resolution to which he had to advert was, "That his Majesty be enabled to defray any such expense as be may incur in establishing an efficient stipendiary magistracy in the colonies, and in aiding the local legislatures in providing, upon liberal and comprehensive principles, for the religious and moral education of the negro population to be emancipated." In relation to this Resolution, he must say, that as in so great a change many internal precautions and police regulations would be necessary in the colonies, it was fair that at least a part of the expense should be defrayed by the mother country. It would be unwise to have all questions that might arise between master and labourer to be decided by the local magistracy; and great advantage might be expected to arise by sending from this country persons totally exempt from party feeling to act as Magistrates in the colonies in such cases. It was not reasonable, however, to expect the colonies to bear the expense of such a magistracy, which it was therefore proposed should be borne by the mother country. As to religious instruction. Parliament had some years ago charged the revenues of this country with no inconsiderable sum to maintain in the colonies an establishment connected with the Church of England, so that the principle of providing for the religious instruction of the negroes was clearly established, and he supposed would 1179 not now be disputed. Although it was not proposed to pay dissenting teachers, yet it was thought necessary to make some alteration in the law on the subject. It was doubted whether such persons had at present full scope for the exercise of their zeal and talents, and it was considered necessary to remove all difficulties and obstacles out of their way, and leave the religious instruction of the negroes fairly open to the exertions of any individuals who should endeavour to extend to their fellow-creatures in the colonies the benefit of the consolations of that religion which they thought it their bounden duty to diffuse. He believed, that he had now gone through most of the topics on which he had to address their Lordships, connected with this important subject, though he was sensible—painfully sensible—of the very imperfect mode in which he had executed his task—an imperfection for which he could offer no excuse. He had had some experience in matters of this kind, which ought to be familiar to him, inasmuch as his life had been passed in dealing with public affairs; and he really could scarcely account, even to himself, for the very imperfect manner in which he had addressed the House. He could not pretend to speak to their Lordships with the authority, weight, and eloquence of the great men who had preceded him on this subject, but who had passed away—such men as Pitt, Fox, and Burke, or as Wilberforce and Lord Grenville among the living—(and among the other illustrious dead who had distinguished themselves on this subject, he might mention the names of Lord Londonderry and Mr. Sharpe). He repeated he could not speak with the authority of such men, but nevertheless he hoped he had spoken in their spirit. They would have urged the question with an eloquence and power of which he was incapable; they would have laboured under no imperfection or impediment, nor stood in need of any apology. Nevertheless, following, as he humbly trusted, in the track of those great men, and attempting but in vain to adopt their sentiments and feelings, he had called upon the House to entertain this important subject. Their Lordships had the advantage of the riper experience of later times, which some of the illustrious men who were gone did not enjoy, and, resting upon that experience, he thought he might with confidence ask the House to agree 1180 to propositions which he considered calculated to promote the public good; and of which, if passed and carried into effect, the fame would not rest with him, but with Parliament and the English nation. If their Lordships, in concurrence with the other branch of the Legislature, should bring this most momentous and difficult question to a safe and satisfactory issue, they would accomplish one of the greatest triumphs of justice and humanity which had ever been achieved within the walls of Parliament. The noble Lord concluded by moving the first Resolution.
§ The Duke of Wellington
said, he could assure their Lordships, that he fully shared with the noble Earl in feelings of diffidence at rising to address their Lordships upon the present question. Indeed it was impossible for any man, be his talents and abilities what they might, and his means of bringing those talents and abilities into the field ever so great, not to feel diffidence and anxiety when he contemplated that the question upon which he had to deliver his opinions involved a most important and most serious change in the condition of 800,000 of his fellow-beings. Notwithstanding, however, the influence which his feelings might have with him, the very importance and the very magnitude of the question made it imperative on him to rise in his place and endeavour to show, that in many of his statements and most of his conclusions the noble Earl was not supported either by facts or sound reasoning. Without further preface, therefore, he would at once proceed, as nearly as he could in their proper order, to comment upon different points in the noble Earl's speech. In the first place he had to observe that he fully concurred with the noble Earl in thinking, that the first blow given to the system of slavery took place when the vote was passed by the British Legislature for the abolition of the slave trade; but it did not, he contended, follow, that because that first blow was given in the year 1806, since which period other measures on the subject were adopted, it was therefore necessary in the year 1833 to come to such Resolutions as those which had been that night proposed for their Lordships adoption. It was not that he intended to endeavour to prevail on their Lordships not to pass those Resolutions that he now rose; but he felt that he owed it to himself, as well as to those with whom he bad acted during different 1181 Administrations on the present subject, to point out to their Lordships that the consequences to which they were brought on that occasion did not follow from the grounds laid by the noble Earl. In the first place he begged to remind the noble Ear), that on the discussion on the abolition of the slave trade it was more than once denied by those who advocated that measure that there was any intention on their parts to follow it up by any proposition for the abolition of slavery. On the contrary, it was frequently stated by those who argued most strenuously for the measure, that it was not intended the abolition of the slave trade should be followed by a measure for the abolition of slavery. The intention at that time was, by the abolition of the slave trade, to ameliorate the condition of the slave, and improve the general frame of society throughout the colonies. But he (the Duke of Wellington) could not, from all he had ever heard or read, believe, that it was, even by those who on general grounds contended for the abolition of the slave trade, intended to follow up the establishment of such a system as might lead to those desirable results by the abolition of slavery itself. That men might have looked forward to the abolition of slavery as a remote consequence of the improvement of the state of society, of the amelioration in the state of the slave population, and in the general improvement of the colonies, all of which doubtless were contemplated, and all of which had unquestionably been the consequence of the abolition of the slave trade—there could be no doubt; but that the one was to be considered as the immediate consequence of the other he (the Duke of Wellington) denied, and challenged the noble Earl or any of his colleagues to substantiate it. Neither did the question which was that evening brought under discussion arise from anything that had taken place in Parliament in 1814, nor, he would contend, from what passed on the subject in the Session of 1822–3. In 1814 it was perhaps in the recollection of their Lordships, that a noble friend of his, who was then at the head of the Foreign Department, did ail in his power, by treaties and negotiations, and the exercise of all the influence he possessed, and all the means he could devise, to induce Foreign Powers to join Great Britain in abolishing the slave trade; but he positively asserted, that his noble friend's 1182 measures with that view did not go to the abolition of slavery, nor were they ever, he believed, stated to tend to the effecting of that object. There was, it was true, something of an opinion expressed at that time that the improvement in the condition of the slave, and of the state of society in the colonies, was likely, at some period or other, to lead to the abolition of slavery; but he again asserted, that the probability of any such event never was stated as a reason for the abolition of the slave trade. He came then to speak of the proceedings on the subject during the Session 1822–3. Many of their Lordships would doubtless recollect that during that Session the individual (Mr. Canning) who was conducting the affairs of his Majesty's then Government in the House of Commons proposed certain Resolutions which had for their object the ulterior abolition of slavery in the colonies. Now that, he contended, was the first occasion on which the question of the abolition of slavery was mentioned on authority in either House of Parliament. And what, he asked, did Mr. Canning say upon that occasion? What were the Resolutions which he then proposed? The noble Earl, it was evident, had not attentively read those Resolutions, or he would not have instanced them as leading directly to those which he had that night moved. The Resolutions of Mr. Canning stated a distant period for the abolition of slavery. They stated, that if the emancipation of the slaves was to take place at all it should take place only at that period when they had been civilized, after measures had been taken to enable them to better their own conditions, and, in short, after they were found to be in a state of Society in which, for their own interests, as well as for the interests of the slave proprietor himself, emancipation should become feasible. Towards the accomplishment of that object Parliament had from time to time adopted various Resolutions, and Orders in Council were issued, all of which tended to ameliorate the condition of the slave, to educate him, and to render him fit for that situation in which it was the object and intention of the Resolutions of 1823 that he should ultimately be placed. From 1823 downwards measures having these objects in view were taken by the Government and the Colonial Legislatures, to which the noble Earl had very properly done justice. He also, must do the Colonial Legislatures 1183 justice, and say of them, that although they did not perform all that was required of them by Government, they did so much that there had been no Colonial Secretary in office between 1823 and 1830 who had not expressed approbation of their conduct. Therefore, it was not consistent with the facts of the case to say that the Colonial Legislatures did nothing to accomplish the ultimate object of the Legislature. Afterwards, in 1830, came the Order in Council issued for the purpose of regulating these matters in the Crown Colonies; and he would here observe, that the intention of Government, manifested so early as 1823, was to keep these colonies in advance of the other colonies, with a view to their affording examples which the others might be induced to follow. By the Order in Council of 1830, certain very important measures were determined on. The order went, in the first place, to the appointment of protectors of slaves; secondly, Sunday markets were prohibited, and governors were empowered to appoint a market-day; there was a prohibition of Sunday labour—the whip was not to be carried at work—females were not to be punished by whipping—a register of punishments was required to be kept—slaves were declared competent to marry—slaves might acquire property—slaves in certain cases were not to be separated from their families—fees on manumissions were abolished—slaves might effect their manumission by a compulsory process—the evidence of slaves was to be admitted—forfeiture of slaves was ordered in certain cases. This was the state of things in 1830. It was true, that the sentence of death passed on Mr. Smith, the missionary in Demerara, did produce a considerable sensation in this country, and added to the feeling against the existence of slavery. He did not deny the fact; but was that a ground for such an important change as was now proposed in the condition of the negro? That change, he repeated, had been contemplated only as a measure which was to take place after the negroes themselves had been a long time in the progress of improvement. Knowing, as he did, the power of the Government to arrest popular excitement, which made him wish that Ministers would exercise it more frequently, he saw no object which they could gain by taking up this question in the manner they did in 1830 and 1831, unless it was from 1184 a desire to press it in a crude and undigested shape upon the attention of Parliament. It was taken up without any necessity in those years, and the consequence was, that their Lordships had the question brought before them in its present premature state. The fact was, that the slaves were not one whit better prepared for emancipation at the present day than they were in 1830. The business of the Government, therefore, if a wise policy had been pursued, would have been, to have begun the measures of preparation in the Crown colonies, and those measures being put into practice, a good example would thus have been set to the Legislatures of the other colonies, which, with a little exertion, made in the spirit of conciliation on the part of the Government, they might in a short time be induced to follow. When that progress had been made, then the Government might have brought the question forward with a view to ulterior measures. But instead of that, the Government came forward with the Orders in Council of 1831, which had no sooner gone out to the colonies than they were found to be impracticable. These orders were first issued to the Crown colonies, and instructions were sent to the Colonial Legislatures to enact them into laws; but the whole attempt was a failure, and the Orders were withdrawn from the Crown colonies, and afterwards from the Colonial Legislatures; and yet what was the result? Why these preparatory measures of 1830 and 1831 having been found impracticable, the Government now took on itself the responsibility of forcing on the question of slave emancipation. Now, on that subject, there were some important points on which the noble Earl had not touched at all, some on which he had said very little, and what he said on others was not only inconsistent with his own former statements, but with the acts of Government. The noble Earl had said, that there was no proof whatever, that slaves when made free in our colonies would not work for hire. In this he begged to differ widely from the noble Earl. He thought, that his statement in that respect was inconsistent with the circumstances in which the negro slaves were placed in our colonies. When a question was raised respecting the emancipation of large bodies of men, who had been most of them from their birth in a state of slavery, the first thing, as it appeared to him, to be considered was, 1185 whether those slaves were in a condition to fit them for freedom; and, next, whether, when they were made free, it was probable that they would work for their former masters for hire? The noble Earl had said, that there was no proof to show-that they would not. But, he must contend, that the onus of bringing proof lay on the other side of the question. Where were the instances in which large bodies of slaves had been emancipated in tropical climates, and had shown a willingness to do the same kind of work as before? The case of the slaves emancipated in Columbia had been cited as an illustration; but suppose that 100,000 slaves emancipated in Colombia had shown a disposition to labour for hire, that would not prove the wisdom or sound policy of emancipating more than 800,000 slaves in our own colonies. It would not establish any proof that, when emancipated, those negro slaves would be willing to work for hire. But he by no means, concurred with the noble Earl as to the sufficiency of the case of Colombia as a case in point. He had very good authority—that of a very intelligent individual resident in Colombia at the time—for taking a very different view oft hat case. That individual had described the experiment as a dangerous one, from the difficulty which was found of getting the emancipated slave to work at all. This was further proved by the fact, that in four or five years afterwards it was found necessary to introduce a measure for the promotion of agriculture, which measure, it was admitted, was called for by the difficulty found of getting the free negroes to work. He had troubled their Lordships on this part of the subject on a former occasion, and would not now urge it further; he would only ask them to look at their own colonies in tropical climates, and see whether they could find any disposition in the free negro to work in the low grounds. If they looked at Surinam, or any other of the tropical colonies, they would perceive a total absence of any disposition on the part of the free negro to work for hire, or for any other consideration. But, said the noble Earl, the negroes work in Africa. He begged the noble Earl's pardon for expressing his dissent from that assertion; but the question was not whether they worked in Africa, but whether it was probable they would work for hire in the low grounds of our tropical climates. He was aware, that in a country with which he 1186 was well acquainted, men were found to work for hire in the low grounds of tropical climates, but those were men who were divided into castes, in which their feelings and prejudices operated on them more than any other consideration, and to those causes might be attributed their unwillingness to work under such circumstances. The case, however, was very different in our West-India Islands. There always was, and there ever would be, a difficulty in getting men to work in tropical climates more than would be sufficient to provide themselves with the common necessaries of life. After they had got these, their great luxury was, to repose in the shade, and this was a luxury which they could procure by refraining from labour; but, begging the noble Earl's pardon, he must say, that he was inconsistent with himself, on the subject of this question of the willingness of free negroes to work for hire. In some of his former communications to the colonists on this subject, the noble Earl had admitted the necessity of coercion. Indeed, unless he was much mistaken, the plan of emancipation which the noble Earl had himself originally proposed—and, although the plan was not before Parliament, as it had reached the public through the Press, he thought he had a right to allude to it—in that plan the noble Earl fully admitted, that, unless some very strong measures were taken, it was not to be expected that the manumitted slave population would labour for hire, and had proposed that, in order to induce them to labour, there should be a measure of coercion in the shape of a tax on the import of provisions. Now, he would be glad to know how, if the negro were not likely to work as an apprentice, it was to be expected that he would work after the period of his apprenticeship had expired, and, consequently, after all the means with which, at present, the planter was armed to compel that work were at an end? He could not indeed conceal from himself the fear, that the consequence of the removal of all control would be a total and complete cessation of the valuable produce of the colonies. He must say, that he considered the Government no very good authority for the assertion that free negroes would be found willing to work for hire, for Ministers themselves seemed to have no fixed opinion on the subject. They first sent out their Orders in Council, which they soon withdrew as impracticable, and in the 1187 short space of three months, they had changed their plan several times, and in some of its most important features. First, there was the plan by which the negro was to be coerced into labour by a tax on provisions, which would force him to do a greater share of work; that was to be accompanied by a loan to the colonists of 15,000,000l. He wished to know why were they to give or to lend 15,000,000l. to the colonists, if the freed negroes were likely to work? He could easily understand the principle of compensation for the difference in the amount of labour done by the slave and the free negro; but then, what became of their boasted improvement of the negro, and of his willingness to work, when he was placed in a great degree at his own disposal? If these improvements were as they were described, why give compensation?—if no such improvement was yet to be found, then all these measures were premature. This part of the plan of coercion by the tax on provisions was given up: and then came the plan of apprenticeship, which was also to be accompanied by a gift of 15,000,000l. [A noble Lord: 20,000,000l.] No; that was the result of a subsequent change: for, in about a fortnight afterwards, just after the Easter holydays, they found this turned into a gift of 20,000,000l. Now, seeing that these various changes were made by the same set of noble Lords and right hon. Gentlemen, who now recommended the Resolutions before the House to their Lordships—seeing so little accordance in their plans, or so little adherence to any fixed principle—considering that the noble Earl in his address to the House, had left some of the most important parts of the measure unexplained, and had touched on others so very lightly, he must say, that he looked to the whole plan with less of confidence than he had ever viewed any great measure that had been submitted to Parliament. If, he repeated, these free negroes should work, and if there should be a return of sugar to the country, for what was the compensation? A right hon. Gentleman in another place had stated, as part of his plan, the slave was to give only a certain portion of his labour to his master, and another part was, that all children of slaves to be born hereafter, and all at present of six years old, were to be declared free: by the way, in this plan, which he must call a very homely one, not a word was said about who was to have 1188 the care of these young free negroes. Formerly, the master had an interest in taking care of them, which was now taken from him, and not a word was said about any arrangement with respect to the due care and custody of them. But was he to understand that the compensation was to be given for the loss thus occasioned to the owner? Another part of the plan was, that the slave was to have one-fourth of his labour at his own disposal; that was, that out often hours in the day, he was to give the labour of seven hours and a-half to his master, and to have two hours and a-half to himself, which he might give to the master for hire, or to any other person, or dispose of it in any other way he pleased. Was he to understand that the compensation was to be given for this? Then, at the end of twelve years, the whole of the negro population was to be declared free for ever. Was the compensation to be given for that? All these were points on which the noble Earl had not touched, but on which it was important that their Lordships should have some information, in order to see on what principle it was, that compensation was to be given. For his own part, he believed that the loss occasioned to the West-India colonists by this measure, would be much greater than had been admitted by the Government, and of course he admitted, that where there was loss occasioned by the measures of Parliament, there ought to be compensation, but he did not think that this sum of 20,000,000l. would be a sufficient compensation for that loss, or any thing like it. There were many classes of persons, who would be great losers by the measure, who would not be included in the principle of compensation, in the way in which it was to be applied. There were some who had no land, but whose whole property lay in slaves, and who would lose their labour without receiving any compensation whatever. This was a point, however, on which the noble Earl had not said anything. But there was another part of the subject, on which the noble Earl had not touched, but which, nevertheless, was most material, as it related to the question of the labour of the negro; and that was as to the probable effect which the whole measure might have on the commerce of the country. Suppose—he now put the case hypothetically—suppose it should turn out that the slave under the new state of things would not work, must there not be an end 1189 at once to that commercial intercourse, which had existed for so many years, with so much advantage to us, between us and our West-India colonies? But not only had this intercourse been of immense advantage to us in a commercial point of view, its importance had also been felt in our navy, and, in fact, in every thing which could add to the honour and the glory of the empire. He might be told, that if sugar were not to be raised in our West-India colonies, they could get it elsewhere, and that its transport to our shores would give employment to the same number of ships, and to the same extent of trade. He admitted that it might; but it was unnecessary for him to remind their Lordships of the superior advantage of bringing the produce of their own colonies in their own vessels. Then, besides the advantage of commerce, there was also the advantage of revenue. Were their Lordships prepared to risk the loss of the amount of revenue which was raised from their colonial produce? And here he would beg to refer to what had fallen from the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack. The noble and learned Lord had said, that he (the Duke of Wellington) had assumed the loss of revenue. He had not gone on that assumption. He had said (going on the assumption that the free negro would not work on the sugar plantations) that we should lose the greater part of the revenue which we now derived from our colonial sugar. It now paid 24s. per cwt.; but assuming that the free negroes would not work, and that sugar were to become scarce, could they expect that it would pay the same amount of revenue as at present? Where, he would ask the noble and learned Baron, was the revenue of 5,000,000l., which we now derived from our West-India colonies, to come from, in the case which he had assumed? He should be glad to bear the noble and learned Lord's explanation of that subject. He would repeat, that if sugar became scarce, it would of course be raised in price, and would not bear the same amount of taxation as at present; and, therefore, that we should lose an amount of revenue to that extent. That was all he had said as to the assumed loss of revenue. There was another view of this part of the subject, which he thought deserving of the serious consideration of their Lordships. Suppose the growth of sugar should, from the causes he had mentioned, fail in the West Indies, where were we to get sugar? We must get it, no 1190 doubt, from the colonies of other countries in which it was produced by slave labour. This was an hypothesis which he thought well deserved the attention of those who were most anxious to abolish slavery. There could be no doubt that until we should be enabled to import sugar from countries which could raise it by free labour, we must be content to take it from those which raised it by slave labour. What, he would ask their Lordships, would be the inevitable result? Would it not be the renewal of the slave trade, with all the added horrors of its being carried on in a contraband manner, and could any one, who seriously desired to put an end to slavery, contemplate with calmness such a result of his exertions? In proportion as any such individual was serious in his wish to put an end to slavery, so should he be cautious and pause before he entered into a course which would tend much more to increase, than to diminish its extent. Their Lordships should bear in mind that we were greater consumers of sugar than all the rest of Europe together; and he would ask how could our demand be supplied (supposing that the supply from our West-India colonies should fail) except by the produce of slave labour from the colonies of other countries? Another part of the question, on which the noble Earl had told them something that evening, and on which a few words had been said by a noble Earl (Earl Grey) opposite, in answer to a question by his noble friend (Lord Ellenborough) yesterday, was the mode of proceeding proposed by Government with respect to the Resolutions before the House. Although he was well aware that the Government could have prevented the necessity they were under of passing some measure of this kind—although he felt this, he would admit, that they ought not to refuse to accede to those Resolutions, considering what bad already taken place on the subject—considering that the House of Commons had unanimously adopted them (though he knew that there were many in that House who thought that a different course ought to have been pursued)—and considering that those Resolutions had also been assented to by the great body of the colonial interests in this country, and that they would find their way with the discussions upon them to the colonies, he felt that it was now impossible for their Lordships to 1191 refuse their assent to them, and he should be the last man to advise their Lordships to reject them. But there was an important difference between the mere assent to those Resolutions and an adoption of the means by which they were to be carried into effect. He should prefer that they should be sent out to the colonies, with the request, that the Colonial Legislatures should carry the principle of them into execution by measures of their own. This, it was admitted by those best acquainted with the question, would be the safest mode of carrying the measure into effect. It appeared, however, that these Resolutions were to be embodied into a Bill which was to provide the means of carrying them into execution in the colonies. Before they adopted that course, he would beg of their Lordships to consider seriously what would be its probable results. Suppose the Bill were to adopt the principle of the first Resolution—as it was probable it would—and enact that slavery should be abolished, he would ask, what was to become of all the system of law which had been established in the colonies, founded on the admitted legality of slavery? He would admit, that the moment the law passed here, it being paramount to the authority of any local legislature, the whole system of colonial law on the subject must fall to the ground, and that without any provision being made for many details which were of the utmost importance. Under these circumstances, he thought it would be the safest and best way to send out the Resolutions as Resolutions agreed to by both Houses of Parliament, and that the Colonial Legislatures should be invited in a temperate and conciliatory tone to carry them into operation by such means as they best could. He would admit, that Government might have some good grounds of suspicion as to the sincerity of the Colonial Legislatures on the subject, and particularly that of Jamaica; but he had documents then before him which he thought gave a satisfactory proof—proof which was believed by those who best understood the subject in this country—that the colonies did intend to carry measures of this kind into effect themselves; but that if they had not originated any measure of the kind, it was because, that up to this time, no offer had been made to them of compensation for any losses which they were likely to sustain. In the instructions given to their agents who were 1192 sent over to this country to attend to their interests here, particularly as related to this question, they were directed to require compensation in proportion to the amount of slave labour of which they were to be deprived, and to the risk which they might incur from the change, and also to demand that the Government should pay the expense of any police regulations which it might think it necessary to adopt under the new circumstances which would arise in the colonies. But the Government had acceded to the principle of compensation, and had also agreed to pay the expense of the maintenance of an adequate police in the colonies; and the gentlemen, therefore, to whom he alluded were instructed to say that the colonies would assent. Another document to which he would refer, was the memorial of the West-India body, in which they stated, that there had been no refusal on the part of the West-India colonies, for that no offer had yet been made to them of compensation for the loss they were to sustain—that, so far from the colonies objecting, they would assent to the proposition of Government if a proper compensation were secured to them. They added the expression of their belief that the legislature of Jamaica would be ready to adopt the views of Government, and to carry them into effect in a better manner than they could be by any measure passed by Parliament; but they added, that they could not contemplate without alarm the passing of a law which was to be at once binding on all, rather than sending out the Resolutions with a request that they might be carried into effect by the local legislatures, and they earnestly recommended that Government should adopt the latter course as the most effectual way of having their own proposition carried into effect. In this he (the noble Duke) fully concurred, for he felt convinced, that if Government adopted the plan of carrying those Resolutions into operation by passing them into a law, they would degrade the Colonial Legislatures. He was anxious to impress it on the minds of their Lordships, that it would be impossible for those legislatures to continue to govern as they ought to do if it were once known in the colonies that this measure was forced upon them by the Government and the Parliament, instead of its being allowed to emanate from themselves. But, was it possible to think that the colonies would 1193 submit quietly to have a law of this kind forced upon them? The thing was impossible. It was in the nature of man to resist an attempt of that kind, and let him ask their Lordships what must be the inevitable consequence? There must be a contest, in which the Government and the troops would be on the one hand, and the white population on the other. Would the black population remain neuter in such a contest, or could it end in any other manner than in the destruction of the colonists themselves? There was no way of avoiding it except that of abandoning their property, and leaving all in the hands of the black population; but all this might be prevented if the Government consented to send out the Resolutions as they now were, using every conciliatory means to induce the colonies themselves to carry them into execution, and not to urge them on their adoption by force. He would suggest the sending out a commissioner or commissioners with as ample powers as might be necessary to arrange with the local authorities. Let it be recollected that it was no trifling matter to change a nation of slaves to that of freemen. There was an alteration which he would propose to their Lordships to make in the last Resolution, and that was by leaving out the words "upon liberal and comprehensive principles." He was desirous that when the negroes should be in a situation to choose their religious pastors, they should have the power to do so; but their Lordships must not conceal from themselves that society in the West Indies had reason to suspect, and, rightly or wrongly, did suspect, that certain missionaries had endeavoured to stir up the slaves to rise against their masters. He would not enter into any examination of the grounds upon which those suspicions rested—they might be unfounded—they might be not; but the fact was, that society in the West Indies was greatly disturbed by those suspicions. He entreated their Lordships to recollect the necessity of conciliating the feelings of West-Indian society successfully, if they wished to carry these Resolutions into effect without ill will and even without bloodshed. If such were the wishes and intentions of their Lordships, they must do all in their power to conciliate the West-Indian body; but they could not conciliate that body if they sent out to them this Resolution in the form in which it had 1194 come to their Lordships from the other House of Parliament; for this Resolution, as now worded, evidently contemplated the sending out a new band of missionaries to the West Indies; and could their Lordships suppose that the owners of property in those islands would willingly submit to such a measure? Desiring as he now did the success of these Resolutions, he implored their Lordships to strike out from the last Resolution the objectionable words to which he had called their attention. They were not inserted in the Resolution originally by his Majesty's Government; but they were adopted upon the recommendation of an hon. Gentleman in the other House of Parliament, for whom he entertained a very sincere respect, but whose amendment in this instance, was uncalled for, and if allowed to remain would be likely to lead to consequences which all their Lordships would lament. Under these circumstances, he would again implore their Lordships to expunge them from the Resolution. Having said thus much, he was unwilling to trespass further upon their attention; but seeing what had occurred in the United States and in St. Domingo, he could not help again expressing his opinion, that it would have been better to have postponed these measures for a few years longer, until the negroes had been instructed how to bear the change which the Legislature was now going to make in their condition.
declared, that he was a little disappointed at his noble friend having taken so low a tone in recommending the alterations which would be effected by these Resolutions. He would not, however, quarrel with it, as he thought that his noble friend had shown sufficient grounds, both in point of expediency and in point of policy, for the important change which he proposed. It had been said in the course of the debate, that at present the slave was not fit for freedom. Be that as it might, he was sure that their Lordships would all agree that, whether fit for freedom or not, the slave was prepared to take it, if their Lordships were not prepared to give it. His intelligence had increased much of late years, in spite of the various obstacles which his master had created to prevent his attaining any intelligence; and it was now impossible to keep him from freedom; so that in giving hint that which they could no 1195 longer withhold, Ministers had not only acted humanely, but wisely. There were two points to which he wished to call the particular attention of their Lordships, and those points were connected with the 3rd and 4th Resolutions. The third Resolution related to the apprenticeship of the slave for a certain term of years before he could obtain unconditional emancipation. Now, he was not going to complain of that as an injustice to the slave—he was not going into an examination of his abstract right to the full command of all his time; he was only looking at the impolicy of this Resolution in a practical point of view When he ventured to complain of it; for he had the success of this scheme greatly at heart, not only on account of the benefit which he believed it would confer upon the slave, but also on account of the benefit which he believed it would confer upon his master, and on account of the advantage which would accrue from the improved condition of both master and slave to the prosperity of the parent state. He had also another reason which was paramount to all these considerations. He looked upon this scheme as a great example, which, if it succeeded, would secure the extinction of slavery throughout the World. Here arose his objection to this System of apprenticeship; it was calculated to defeat the entire object which the Resolutions had in view. That it would undergo qualifications both in that and in the other House of Parliament he had not the slightest doubt. But he should be very glad to get rid of it altogether; or if that could not be accomplished, to fix the term of apprenticeship at the shortest possible period. He confessed he should wish to see the adoption of a proposition made by a Member of the other House of Parliament—namely, that only a part of the compensation-money should be paid to the planters in the first instance; and that the remainder should be withheld until the termination of all the apprenticeships. He was persuaded that these apprenticeships would not be found beneficial to the planters. The negro would be removed from fear of the lash, but would not have sufficient stimulus of another kind. His labour would be like that of parish labourers in this country, and their Lordships 1196 well knew how valueless that labour was. As had been elsewhere humorously stated, the twelve years apprenticeship would be twelve years of holidays to compensate for former toils. Why, he would ask, was this system of apprenticeship introduced? He could not answer the why, but he could tell their Lordships when, it was introduced. It was introduced with another vicious proposition, that the slave should work out his own freedom. That proposition, thank God, had been got rid of, and he did not see why this proposition should now be considered necessary. One word now as to the Resolution granting compensation, or it might be relief, to the West-Indian proprietors. He would not quarrel with the amount of that compensation, provided, that it enabled their Lordships to accomplish the object which the people of England had in view—he meant complete emancipation. He was afraid, however, that the people of England would not think emancipation complete if the system of apprenticeship was persevered in; still, if they were desirous to make the West-Indian colonists this munificent grant to purchase their good-will to these Resolutions, he would not object to the large amount of the sum contained in this Resolution. He could not, however, refrain from stating, that in the way of loan, the expenditure of this Sum would have been much better, and quite as effectual for the object in view. The noble Duke had adverted at some length to the proceedings of Colonial Legislatures with reference to the slaves; and had asserted, that from those proceedings the slaves derived much benefit. On that point he differed from the noble Duke in toto. He did not think that the colonists had legislated beneficially in any material degree for the slave population. On another point he entirely differed from the noble Duke. The noble Duke was of opinion, that when the negro was emancipated, he would not be found disposed to labour. Against that opinion he (Lord Suffield) appealed to the evidence taken before the Committee of both Houses of Parliament, by which it was established, that the free negro was universally found disposed to exert himself for an adequate object. Indeed, why should a negro differ from human kind generally in that respect? It had been proved by the evidence to which he 1197 adverted, that the emancipated slave did work most industriously for hire. He had read a great deal on the subject, and he had never met with a single instance in which it was stated that an emancipated slave refused to work for wages. The noble Duke had alluded to the case of Columbia. The state of the negro in Columbia, however, tended to support his objection to the system of apprenticeships; for the negroes in Columbia were not in a perfect state of freedom. It had been argued by the noble Duke, that by the Abolition of Slavery in our colonies, we should encourage the slave-trade in places not within his Majesty's dominions. He maintained the direct reverse. If we proceeded as we ought, we should show the world how much more cheaply sugar could be produced by free than by compulsory labour. If the policy on this subject which ought to be adopted were pursued by his Majesty's Government, he sincerely believed that the consumers of sugar in this country would, in a few years, be saved the 20,000,000l. of compensation, which it was proposed to grant to the West-India proprietors. When he recollected that it cost the inhabitants of this country a million and a-half annually to support the wretched system now existing, he sincerely believed, that by adopting a wise course of policy, by opening a free trade in sugar, and by other measures of a similar description, this country would in a short period be reimbursed the sum in question. One remark now upon the words to which the noble Duke had taken objection—to which the religious part of the public attached so much weight—and without which he was certain that they would never be satisfied. The words of that Resolution went a long way to reconcile the people of England to the enactments proposed in the other Resolutions. The liberal and comprehensive principles on which it was proposed to carry on religious instruction in our West-India colonies were points to which the people of England, and particularly the religious portion of them, attached great importance. He was unwilling, upon this occasion, to refer to the persecution of religious sects which had, he was sorry to say it, taken place in some of our colonies. To prevent irritation, he would abstain from it; but he abstained from it with 1198 difficulty when he heard the noble Duke making the false insinuation—of course he did not mean to apply these words to the noble Duke personally—that the missionaries were the instigators of the recent insurrections in the colonies. Were not the greatest pains taken by the colonists to make out that fact? The most unwarrantable measures were taken to prove it; and yet, upon the minutest investigation not a single fact was elicited to justify such a suspicion. He had now done: he had not gone into the abstract question of the right of one man to have property in another; he had confined himself to replying to the observations of the noble Duke which he found on his notes. He concluded by expressing a sincere and cordial wish for the success of these Resolutions in both Houses of Parliament.
§ The Duke of Wellington
I beg leave to say, that I made no insinuations at all against the missionaries.
begged pardon, but he had understood the noble Duke to say that some people in the colonies supposed the missionaries to have been the instigators of the late insurrections in the West Indies.
§ The Duke of Wellington
I said, that the missionaries were accused of such instigation in the colonies. I said, that I would not stay to inquire whether they were accused truly or falsely. I made no insinuation against them. I only spoke of the feeling existing in the colonies.
§ The Earl of Harewood
thought, that at the present moment it would have been as well if the noble Baron, who was so prominent a member of the Anti-slavery Association, and who was himself objecting to that part of the Resolutions which established the system of apprenticeship, had abstained from using such language as that which he had used when he said that the slaves, if they could not get their freedom quietly, were prepared to take it. The noble Baron had likewise said, that the free negroes were on all occasions willing to work, and had referred, in proof of his assertions, to the reports of the Committees of both Houses. Now, he defied the noble Lord to point out a single instance in those reports in which it was stated that free negroes ever laboured at the cultivation of sugar; and, moreover, he challenged the noble Lord to point out 1199 a single case where, on that question being put, the answer was, that any such labour was known. As to free negroes engaging in other species of labour, it might be so; but with regard to sugar—
§ The Earl of Harewood
What! Does he say that he saw free negroes working at sugar? Does he say that?
§ The Earl of Harewood
"I have only read the evidence taken before our House. If I am in error let it be so; but it was denied in our Committee in every instance. There may be that instance, but I am sure that there is no other." The noble Earl then said, that he would proceed to speak to the Resolutions. He complained of the treatment which the West-India body had experienced at the hands of Government. He said, that there had been no disposition shown on the part of Government to take any measures for the protection of their property. He was sorry to remark, that in consequence of the various pledges which had been given at different times on this subject, a mass of crude and undigested proceedings had been adopted by his Majesty's Government. Without reference either to the interests or to the safety of the colonies, and with reference only to the interest of the slaves, had this matter been conducted; and up to the very moment at which he was addressing their Lordships there had been no fair and direct communication made to the West-India body by the Government, relating either to the preservation or the destruction of their property. With regard to these Resolutions, all the information which they received was received at a very late period, and appeared contemporaneously in the public prints of the same evening. Since that time no distinct communication had been made to them on the part of Government, notwithstanding that their property in the West Indies, notwithstanding that their lives, notwithstanding that the best interests of this country, were all at stake. Up to this moment no distinct mode of proceeding had been adopted for communicating with the West-India body. He (the Earl of Harewood) had had op- 1200 portunities of knowing the sentiments of that body, as well from his knowledge of individuals, as from the expressions of their opinions at public meetings; and he would then state, on his own responsibility, that there was no cause whatever for entertaining those suspicions which were indulged in by some noble Lords He could affirm, that they were disposed cordially to concur in the measures of Government for the amelioration of the condition of the slaves. He could assure the noble Earl that there existed among them a determined desire to carry the measures of Government into execution, because they were sensible that the mere agitation of this question had already produced a state of the utmost danger among that population. He thought that the case of the West-India authorities, under such circumstances, could not but be considered as somewhat hard; and he would ask any man of common understanding whether persons would be, or could be, or ought to be, content with such proceedings—namely, that the Parliament of Great Britain should suspend a law over the beads of the legislative bodies in the West-India colonies, and tell them that they might in the mean time enact what they (the Parliament of Great Britain) had enacted; but that otherwise the law would be carried into effect without their concurrence. He was aware that there were certain details which were to be left entirely to the Colonial Legislatures; but what was the effect of this arrangement? The Imperial Parliament was to enact the freedom of the negro; but was to leave to the Colonial Legislatures the odium of enacting the penalties and punishments which must be appointed in order to carry the plan into effect. He was sure, that it must be the wish of his Majesty's Ministers to uphold the authority of the Colonial Legislatures, and he would, therefore, implore them to take into their consideration the propriety of leaving the matter to these assemblies. He was persuaded that they were determined to meet these Resolutions with their best endeavours for the good of the slaves. He stated that from conviction; for he knew, that the West-India planters were convinced that society in these colonies could not possibly continue any longer in the state in which it was. Why, then, throw this stumbling-block in the way of the colonial assemblies, and compel them to do that which they were ready to do of 1201 their own free will? There was something to be said also respecting the mode in which the planter was to receive the compensation; but he did not insist further upon that; for he was happy to say, that no feeling existed in the minds of the West-India body, which would impede the carrying of the wishes of Government into full effect if the matter were left to them. If it were not left to them, it would create the greatest anxiety as to the stability of the British authorities in the islands. He, therefore, took this opportunity to suggest, in as strong terms as he could, that the West-India body felt that they had no interest which could induce them to act in opposition to the wishes of the British Parliament. He had used all the means in his power to bring them to that conclusion, and he had succeeded. He was sure they were now ready to act in conformity with the principles of these Resolutions, and to act with perfect good will and honesty. There existed no ill feeling among them upon the subject; and, therefore, that was another reason for wishing that the thing should be effected by the Colonial Legislatures themselves. This course was objected to in consequence of certain circumstances which had occurred in Jamaica; but these circumstances had reference to a different state of things which then existed in that colony. The circumstances which were applicable to the state of things then were not applicable to the state of things now; and, it was, therefore, unnecessary to refer to these circumstances in order to judge of the probable conduct of the Legislature in future.
§ Earl Grey
said, that he did not intend to trouble their Lordships at any length upon this occasion; but he could not help offering them a few words, more particularly in consequence of the observations which had just fallen from the noble Earl opposite. He could assure their Lordships that there was not a man in the House who felt more strongly than he did all the importance, all the delicacy, and, he was even going to say, all the dangers which attended the settlement of this question. He could assure them that his Majesty's Government had applied themselves to it under the pressure of a strong necessity that was not to be avoided. How it happened that a necessity so strong as not to be avoided had happened, it was not for him on that occasion to inquire. Unhap- 1202 pily, those preparatory measures which every thinking man considered as necessary to be taken for the accomplishment of that conclusion at which all wished to arrive, and which all contemplated as the necessary consequence of the abolition of the slave trade, had not, he regretted to say it, been taken by the colonial assemblies. Those preparatory measures not having been taken, things came to their present condition in the West Indies and at home—in the West Indies from the state of uncertainty in which every thing was kept, at home from the pressure of public opinion, which became so cogent and irresistible, that, he stated it broadly and undisguisedly to their Lordships, the Government, whether that of the noble Duke or of those Ministers in whose hands it was now unworthily placed, must of necessity yield to it. Under these circumstances. Government had applied itself sedulously, as he had already stated, to the removal of the difficulties which environed the subject. And here he could not refrain from expressing his extreme surprise at the complaint made by the noble Earl respecting the hard manner in which the West-India body had been treated by Government. He could assert with confidence, that during all these discussions, in every measure which had ever been in contemplation, there had been the most sincere and anxious desire and the most unremitting exertion on the part of Government to conciliate the West-India body. The Government was willing to enter into the most unreserved communication with them; but that willingness was met on their part with nothing but difficulties, for he would not use a stronger term, and when Government asked them to indicate a measure which in their opinion was qualified to meet the necessity, of which they never denied and of which the noble Earl acknowledged the existence, they told the Government in the plainest terms that they had no proposal whatever to make. Government had all along sought, by the best lights which it could obtain, to settle this question; and, if the noble Duke would only look to its immense and multifarious difficulties, to the complication of matters involved in it, and to the multiplicity of interests intimately connected with it, he would find an excuse for the measures of different characters which had been proposed at different times, and for the conclusion to 1203 which the Government had come at last. This was the general course in all matters of difficulty which men undertook with a view to their settlement. They propose at first plans, which they afterwards find it necessary to abandon, and thus at last by long consideration they come to those which they think best calculated to carry them to the conclusion at which they are desirous to arrive. In answer to the complaint of the noble Earl that the West-India body had not been treated with common fairness by the Government, he would reply—first, that if the charge were true, it was contrary to the intention of the Government; and next, that if the noble Earl would look but calmly at past transactions, he would see that there was not the slightest foundation for the charge. But one article of the noble Earl's complaint was, that the very plan now detailed in the Resolutions of the House, was only proposed to the West-India body simultaneously with its appearance in the public prints. How that simultaneous publication took place he did not know. It was not made by authority of Government. As soon as the plan was arranged, it was forwarded to the West-India body, and that very evening it appeared, in a newspaper not in any way connected with the Government—not supporting it—a newspaper decidedly opposed to Government—he meant The Standard. How it was sent to that print he could not conjecture. Perhaps some of the noble Earl's friends would be better able to explain. But then, said the noble Earl, "if these Resolutions be sent out to the colonies, he would undertake that enactments would be made in the colonies in perfect good faith with the spirit of these Resolutions." He was unwilling, in reply to that observation, to say anything which was likely to create irritation, or to add to the existing difficulties of this subject; but he must frankly confess to their Lordships that he did not think that Parliament would perform its duty, if, having passed these Resolutions, it did not take effectual measures to secure their becoming law in the colonies. The noble Earl had also stated, though rather prematurely, the nature of the bill which was to be introduced to carry the details of the measure into execution. Did not that prove that there was no want of communication between the Government and the West-India body, of which the noble 1204 Earl was so distinguished a Member? Had not the noble Earl said enough to show, that he did not want information upon the subject?
§ The Earl of Harewood
said, that he had not entered into any details, what he complained of was, that the nature of the measure was not earlier communicated to the West-Indian body.
§ Earl Grey
would not press that part of his argument any further. The noble Earl had, however, gone on to say, that our present mode of proceeding would be injurious to the legislative assemblies of the colonies, and would place them in difficulties which would aggravate all the other dangers of the subject. Now, how did the matter really stand? And what did the noble Earl advise the Government to do? The noble Earl recommended them to send out Resolutions on the subject to the Colonial Legislatures, and let them pass laws in conformity with those Resolutions. If they delayed passing such laws, the Imperial Parliament might then enact a measure to do that which the colonial legislatures refused to do. Now, in his (Earl Grey's) mind, this plan appeared to be obnoxious to all the objections which the noble Earl had stated to apply to the course adopted by Government. The noble Earl said, that the Government measure would leave all the grace and favour of abolishing slavery with the English Parliament, and all the odium of carrying the details into effect with the Colonial Legislatures. The same objection would equally apply to the mode of proceeding recommended by the noble Earl, because, if Resolutions were to be sent out from this country, and laws passed in conformity with them by the Colonial Legislatures, it could not be denied, that the conduct of the local assemblies would be regulated and controlled by the expression of the sentiments and determination of the British Parliament, while any odium which might attach to passing the laws must fall on the same body. In this respect, therefore, he saw no difference between the course pursued by the Government, and that pointed out by the noble Earl; but this peculiar advantage belonged to the plan of the Government over that of the noble Earl—that it provided by a general law enacting the outline of the plan of emancipation, and leaving the details to be filled up by the Local Legislatures, means for a more 1205 full, efficient, and convenient execution of the measure. He believed, that some such security as that provided by Government was necessary to satisfy the people of England, and was requisite to ensure the real and effective execution of the Government plan. He had already expressed his unwillingness to advert to subjects which had given occasion to reproach and dissatisfaction; but, after what had been stated by the noble Duke opposite, he must be allowed to say, that the conduct of the Legislatures of the colonies on this question, had not been such as inspired him with confidence that they would carry the measures of Government fairly into execution unless under the operation of some pressure. It was not without great surprise he heard it stated by the noble Duke, that, from the time of the passing of Mr. Canning's Resolutions in 1823, a continual course of improvement in the condition of the slaves had been going on by means of the enactments of the colonial assemblies, in conformity with the spirit of those Resolutions; that that improvement had been such as to meet the just expectations of the Parliament; and that all the Colonial Secretaries of State, from 1823 to 1830, had frequently expressed their satisfaction at the mode in which the legislative assemblies had complied with, what he must call, the injunctions of the British Parliament. Though he took no great share in the discussions which had arisen on this subject during the period he had mentioned, and therefore could not be justly exposed to the reproach which he had heard cast out, of having agitated the public mind on this question, yet he had some recollection of what had occurred, for he had always felt in it the deepest interest; and their Lordships would not think that surprising, if they bore in mind that one of the earliest measures which he supported after his introduction into Parliament, now nearly half a century ago, was a measure for the abolition of the slave trade. He had voted with Mr. Pitt and Mr. Fox for the accomplishment of that object—an object which, perhaps, the most powerful Minister that ever directed the affairs of this country in the zenith of his power had been unable to effect, and which was left to be accomplished by an administration of which he (Earl Grey) formed an unworthy member—he meant that of Mr. Fox and Lord Grenville, It was his lot, 1206 indeed, to introduce into the other House of Parliament, the Bill which finally abolished the slave trade; and he certainly felt a pride and satisfaction in having, as a member of that administration and as an individual, lent his humble efforts to carry into effect the ultimate abolition of that odious traffic. It could, therefore, not be surprising, that, on the subject which their Lordships were now called on to consider, he should feel a deep interest. He had ever regarded the part he had taken in the abolition of the slave trade with satisfaction and pride, and he looked forward with similar feelings to the success of the measure for the abolition of slavery, to which, both as a man and a Minister, he had lent his humble assistance. But, to revert to the course pursued by Mr. Canning, and the conduct of the Colonial Legislatures, he must observe, that so late as 1826 and 1827, that Minister complained of the Colonial Legislatures having done nothing to advance the objects to which the faith of Parliament was pledged; and he went so far as to say, that he would try them for one or two years longer, but that if, at the end of that period, something was not done by them, it would be the imperative duty of Parliament to interfere. But he was surprised to hear the noble Duke say, that something had been done since that time, when he recollected that no longer ago than the year 1830, a few months before the termination of the noble Duke's Administration, Sir Robert Peel admitted in the House of Commons, on a Motion brought forward by his noble and learned friend on the Woolsack, that, far from the condition of the negroes having advanced in a constant course of improvement in consequence of the acts of the Colonial Legislatures, the Colonial Legislatures had a disinclination to improve the condition of their slaves. The right hon. Gentleman then used these remarkable words: He hoped that there would be no pretext furnished to their (the Local Legislatures), over anxiety for their own interests by the forcible interference of the Legislature at home to attempt to prolong the de pendence of their slaves, and that the West-Indian Legislatures would set about in good earnest improving the Condition of the negroes, in order to prepare them for the reception of more important concessions hereafter; thus warding off ill time the dangers which were possibly 1207 to be anticipated from that interference of which they were so apprehensive, but for which nothing but their own disinclination to attempt the improvement of their slave population could furnish Parliament with a motive, or their enemies with a pretext.' * In point of fact, then, it appeared that in 1830 nothing had been done, and therefore he was greatly surprised to hear the enumeration of laws read by the noble Duke as in operation in the West-Indies. When he heard the statement of the noble Duke, he supposed that those laws were universal enactments, in force in all the colonies; but he understood that the law relating to compulsory manumissions, on which the noble Duke seemed to lay some stress, did not prevail in a single West-Indian colony, and was only in force, under certain restrictions in, the Bahama Islands. The fact was, a constant unwillingness had been shown on the part of the Local Legislatures, in spite of expostulations, remonstrances, and even the entreaties, of every succeeding Administration, to do that which Mr. Canning's Resolutions, sanctioned by the unanimous vote of both Houses of Parliament, required. It had been truly stated in another place, that nothing was more outrageous to the feelings of the people of this country, than subjecting females to the degradation of capital punishment. Had this disgraceful mode of punishment been abolished in the colonies? Mr. Canning had advised its abolition, and a division took place on the question in the legislative assembly of Jamaica, when there appeared twenty-five members for the continuance of female flogging, and three against it. He was not disposed to deny that some measures of inferior consequence, but improvements, as far as they went, had been adopted by the Colonial Legislatures; yet nothing effectual had been done towards carrying into effect the objects so much desired by the people and Parliament of this country. This was the complaint made by Mr. Huskisson; and every Secretary of State, not excepting Sir George Murray (who had himself sent out two circular letters on the subject), had been under the necessity of addressing strong remonstrances to the colonial assemblies in consequence of their neglect of the measures recommended for their adoption by Mr. Canning's Resolutions.* Hansard (new series) xxv. p. 1210.1208 This being the state of the case, it appeared to the Government, looking at the question with reference both to time and circumstances, that they could take no other course but one having in view the establishment of complete emancipation. He, for one, should have been most glad to have seen that object gradually accomplished by means of those preparatory measures which the noble Duke said had been in a constant course of execution. The noble Duke said, that it had always been understood, that the negroes were to be prepared for freedom by preparatory measures, to be carried into execution by the legislative assemblies. The noble Duke went on to say, that these measures had been taken; but what was his conclusion? Not that the slaves had arrived at that state in consequence of those preparatory measures which Parliament had always contemplated, but that they were as far from it as ever, and that emancipation was not to be thought of. This, though he did not quote the exact words, was the tenor of the noble Duke's argument. With respect to the measure under the consideration of the House, he begged to say, that his Majesty's Ministers had endeavoured, as well as they were able, to meet a necessity which they could not avoid, and in proposing the plan of emancipation, their object had been to make it equitable and just to those whose property would be affected by it, and to carry it into execution in such a manner as, in the words of the Resolution, "might combine the welfare of the negroes with the interests of the proprietors." He confessed he could not contemplate, without some degree of apprehension, the possible danger which might arise from setting the slaves free at once; and it was therefore considered by his Majesty's Government, that a progressive plan, combining a preparatory state of restricted labour with a certain degree of free labour, to end in ultimate manumission, was the safest course to be pursued. This was the ground on which the plan of apprenticeship was proposed by his Majesty's Government; the slaves being allowed a portion of the day to labour for themselves, and at the expiration of a certain number of years being completely manumitted; and in his opinion the continuation of a certain degree of compulsory labour was necessary, in order to habituate the slaves to habits of industry. Whether 1209 the plan would be successful it was not his province to say, but he thought that hopes of its success might fairly be entertained if the Colonial Legislatures and the West-India proprietors would only cooperate with Government to carry it into effect. Under all the circumstances of the case, he really thought that the only plan which promised effectually to secure the ultimate object of complete freedom—the extinction of slavery in all parts of his Majesty's dominions, had been pursued by the Government. The noble Duke had stated, that the extinction of slavery was never contemplated at the time of the abolition of the slave-trade. But he knew, that when it was urged to Mr. Fox that without the extinction of slavery he would do little by the abolition of the slave trade, Mr. Fox replied, that he would abolish the slave trade, because he had the power to do so; but he (Mr. Fox) looked as Mr. Pitt, and Lord Grenville had always looked to the ultimate extinction of slavery as the necessary consequence of the extinction of the slave-trade. He certainly had hoped that the necessity of the case would have produced such a change in the condition of the negroes of the West-Indies as would have made the extinction of slavery the natural and necessary consequence of the abolition of the slave trade. Such a change as this it had not effected, but it had produced a considerable change in their condition, and things had arrived at that state in which, as his noble friend had truly said, if the negroes were not fit for freedom, they were no longer fit for slavery. He had stated the general principles of that propose dmeasure, the details of which would more properly be discussed when the Bill itself was introduced; and he would now say a word with respect to compensation. He admitted, that the sum proposed by Government was a large one, but he agreed with his noble friend near him in thinking, that if the British Parliament should deem it right to abolish slavery, the interests of those individuals who possessed property in slaves ought to be considered; and that if their Lordships were pleased to enact this great measure of necessary benevolence, they ought not to do so entirely at the expense of the planters. The Ministers had therefore considered it but just to propose something in the shape of compensation. Whether the sum were too large or too small he would not pretend to decide; but this he 1210 would say, that if the proposed grant should have the effect of safely accomplishing the abolition of slavery, so hateful to every Englishman, it would be money well laid out; and he was sure, that the British public, burthened as they were, would not grudge the sum. The people of this country had been called on for even larger sums to support the honour and interest of the nation, and Parliament had not hesitated cheerfully to grant them: but that honour and that interest were to be supported by means which left much to regret; and even when the people were exulting in all the glory and successes produced by that expenditure, their joy was always damped by this heart-rending consideration, that great misery and affliction had attended those successes. If it was necessary to resist foreign encroachment, to defend the honour and interest of the country by war, was it less necessary to uphold the honour and the character of the country by abolishing from every portion of the British dominions the odious condition of slavery, so abhorrent to the principles of the Constitution, as well as to the breast of every Englishman? He for one, entertaining as he did a hope that this great measure would be successful, did not grudge the payment of even 20,000,000l. The noble Duke wished to know by what rule the amount of compensation had been fixed. It was based on an estimate of the value of the entire number of the slaves, which was calculated at 30,000,000l. One-fourth of the slave's time which was the planter's property was to be immediately taken from the proprietors, and ultimately the whole of it, and according to the best calculations which Ministers had been able to make, they thought that 20,000,000l. would be a fair compensation to the proprietors for all the losses and injury to which they might be subjected by the adoption of the Government plan. While on this subject, he begged to inform the noble Duke that it was the intention of Government to propose compensation to the owners of every description of slaves. The noble Duke had objected to certain words in one of the resolutions, which he had truly stated did not appear in them when they were originally proposed by Government, but had been introduced on the Motion of a most respectable Member of the other. House of Parliament. Though he (Earl 1211 Grey) did not think those words at all necessary, and although he might lament the introduction of them, since it had occasioned some objection to the Resolution, yet having been introduced, their Lordships could not fail to see the bad effect of expunging them, and he therefore trusted that the noble Duke would not press his Amendment. He did not think it necessary to trouble their Lordships longer, since they would have another opportunity of arguing this question when the Bill, founded on the Resolutions, should be brought in, and as no objection was, he believed to be offered to the present Resolutions, for the noble Duke, as he understood, notwithstanding his confident predictions of the almost certain ruin which would follow the proposed measure, had concluded by saying, that he would give no opposition to the Resolution, but on the contrary, would do his best to procure the ultimate success of the measure of which they were the forerunners. He certainly looked to the results of the measure with some degree of anxiety, but he also anticipated, with a strong hope, having in it some degree of confidence, that this measure would tend not only to the welfare of those unhappy persons so long in the miserable state of slavery, but also to the prosperity of the colonies, to which the emancipation of the negroes had been by some supposed to be prejudicial. At all events, the plan proposed by Government was the only one which they thought they could adopt under all the difficulties of the case, and under the pressure of a necessity which they could no longer avoid.
§ The Duke of Wellington
, explained that he said, that though the colonial Legislatures had not done all that could be desired, they had done much to improve the condition of the slaves, and had received the approbation of the Home Government for their acts. The noble Duke read some extracts from various despatches sent out in 1827 and 1828, conveying the thanks of the King to several colonial assemblies, for their endeavours to improve the condition of the slave population.
thought the course taken by the noble Lords opposite of 1212 quoting every expression of censure which had been issued by the different Secretaries for the Colonies against the conduct of the Colonial Legislatures was, at a moment like the present, to say the least of it, exceedingly injudicious. The attempt ought to be to conciliate, and not to irritate; to leave untouched past disagreements, and not to excite by the revival of them present opposition. After the able speech of his noble friend (the Duke of Wellington), in which every topic of importance had been clearly touched upon, it would be unnecessary for him to detain their Lordships at any length. He must, however, trespass on their attention while he stated his own particular feelings on the question, and the more so because he could not concur with his noble friend (the Duke of Wellington), in sanctioning the Resolution under consideration. He could have wished that the noble Earl had gone more fully into the question of 20,000,000l. of compensation. He had hoped to have heard from the noble Earl not only a general exposition of the objects to which those 20,000,000l. were to be applied, but also of the manner in which they were to be raised. He had hoped to have heard from the noble Earl something more than a mere general vague expression of belief that the people of England would not object to such a sacrifice for such a purpose. He was ready to admit, that if the people of this country could be presented with a plan which at once gave freedom to the slaves and security to the manufactures, the commerce, and the shipping interested in the prosperity of the slave colonies, they would not show repugnance to make even the enormous sacrifice that was now demanded from them. He doubted, however, or rather he was convinced, that the people of this country neither desired nor were willing to add so greatly to their burthens for the purpose of indulging in a rash and dangerous experiment. The 20,000,000l. were not required for success but for experiment, and even the noble Earl, by whose Administration the experiment was proposed, ventured only to say that he entertained faint hopes [Earl Grey said, confident hopes]. He was glad to find, that so far he had misheard the noble Earl; but even adopting the language chosen by the noble Earl, it consisted still of hopes, and hopes only. The noble Earl had spoken in strong censure of the conduct of the Legislature 1213 of Jamaica. He thought such censure was dealing out too hard a measure to that colony. Would it not better become their Lordships to treat more leniently the proceedings of those who were called upon to act in the midst of danger? To legislate in calm and in security was surely far different from having to act in the midst of threatened destruction. But the fact was, that the Legislature of Jamaica had done much while that Colony was under the government of his noble friend near him (the Earl of Belmore). Vast and numerous ameliorations had been effected in its laws. The noble Earl who had been so successful in administering the government of that colony had triumphed by adopting a very different line of proceeding from that which had occasioned such determined opposition to his successor. Through kindly conciliation and reasonable well judged firmness, his noble friend had succeeded in procuring the adoption of almost every measure he was instructed to advocate. During his administration the free people of colour were placed by the Colonial Legislature precisely on the same footing as the whites. Slave evidence was admitted in criminal cases, and other most important ameliorations were effected. Let it not then be said, that the Legislature of Jamaica had done nothing but through coercion. When the Resolutions adopted in 1823 were proposed to their Lordships he was the only Peer who took an exception to them. At the time they were proposed he asked his noble friend then at the head of the Colonies (Earl Bathurst) what was the next step he proposed to take if these Resolutions should fail? His noble friend could give him no answer, and it was because he foresaw that if these Resolutions did fail they must of necessity lead to further difficulties, that be opposed them. The present aspect of affairs showed him that he had been right. Sure he was that, if in 1823 the Resolutions proposed for 1833 could have been anticipated, the former would have found in either House of Parliament but few supporters. He dissented from the Resolutions now under consideration, not because he had not emancipation as deeply at heart as any man, but because he apprehended almost to conviction that they must lead to a yet more dangerous step. The noble Lords opposite had said, that the measure was forced upon them, that the necessities of the case de- 1214 manded they should deal with it, and effectually, for the slaves were no longer fit for slavery, though they were not yet in a state advanced enough for emancipation. Why, would any man in his senses say, that that was a reason for a departure from the principles laid down in 1823? Could any person read the Resolutions of 1823 and not at once see, that they anticipated as absolutely necessary a series of changes in the condition of the slaves preparatory to emancipation, and that in these changes there must be a moment of peculiar difficulty? The present condition of the slaves, if rightly stated by the noble Lord, was the best answer possible to all the allegations they had made against the conduct of the Colonial Legislatures. It proved, that the slaves had made a considerable progress, and that they had so fur advanced, that their improvement must go on. Their present condition then was looked for by the Resolutions of 1823, and it had been effected, not by violence and offensive interference with the Colonial Legislatures, but through the reasonable and beneficent measures which they had adopted in concurrence with the spirit of these Resolutions. He opposed the present Resolutions because they were not in accordance with the spirit of the Resolutions in 1823, and because they were in opposition to the Resolutions proposed by the present Government in 1831. In that year Mr. Buxton proposed a Resolution calling for immediate emancipation. That Resolution was opposed by the Government on the ground, that the slaves were not fit for immediate emancipation; and the reason given for that statement was, that their condition was precisely the same as in 1823. He then adhered to the opinions thus put forward by the Government, and, in doing so, he was not the party who had to account for any inconsistency it might involve. But the Government having told the country in 1831, that the slave was not fitted to be emancipated forthwith, why did it now propose this sudden and entire breaking up of the system? Oh, said the noble Lords, this plan is proposed in obedience to the determined and loudly expressed wishes of the country? He admitted that the people of England took a deep and earnest interest in the question; further, that whatever men might have been in power, they would have found it absolutely necessary to have provided some 1215 measure upon the subject; but the people of England wanted not revolution and ruin in the colonies, but the gradual, safe, and happy deliverance of their fellow-subjects from a state of slavery and their restoration to one of freedom. They wished to see the negroes converted into free men, working honestly, diligently, and happily, under equal laws. But they had never imagined that the commerce, the manufactures, and the navigation of this country, were, to a large extent, to be endangered in any mere attempt to effect the transition, and still less did they imagine that, in addition to all the other weighty losses, the country was to be burthened with a new twenty millions of debt. That idea had never for a moment occurred to the people at large. They had been continually told, on the contrary, that the change would be beneficial, both in a pecuniary and in a moral point of view; and as the contrary was now admitted to be the fact, as it was shown in the Resolutions before their Lordships that the pecuniary sacrifice must be enormous, surely it was the duty of those who, by the accident of birth or by the election of their fellow-subjects, sat in either House of Parliament, to point out to the community at large the great difficulties with which the question was beset, and to expostulate with them with a view to protecting their own interests rather than yield to their demands. He admitted to the full, the respect due to the people of England, but that legislator he thought would now mark the greatest respect for the people, who, finding them unacquainted with all the bearings of the question, laid before them his own information and experience in preference to at once and blindly adopting their wishes. But the measure was thrust upon his Majesty's Government by the people of England. Were his Majesty's Government afraid of the House of Commons? If so it was an absurd fear; for of all the Houses of Commons that had yet existed, there never had been one which had reposed a greater confidence in Ministers. When his Majesty's Government proposed a measure of coercion towards Ireland, severe beyond precedent, concentrating, in fact, in one Act all the severities of all former measures, did not the House of Commons adopt it? For doing so he blamed not the House of Commons, but he said it gave a remarkable instance of its confidence in the 1216 Government. On another occasion, when it might have been supposed that the voice of the great body of the constituency would have been rigidly obeyed by the Representatives, he meant in the case of the Malt-tax, did not the House of Commons one night decide for the repeal of that tax, and in a night or two after, on the dictum of the Government, declare that it should be continued? Further upon this very question, had the House of Commons shown any want of confidence in his Majesty's Government? The first proposition was for a loan of fifteen millions. That proposition was at once converted, and without argument or explanation, into a gift of twenty millions; and yet the House of Commons said ay to both propositions. One would have thought that if there had been any thing like a want of confidence, it would have shown itself on such an occasion. Surely it might have been asked, how was it that the Government having matured a measure, thought a loan of fifteen millions only necessary, and the next day required a gift of twenty millions? It was therefore idle to talk of fears as to the conduct of the House of Commons. If his Majesty's Government had stated to that assembly all the consequences of this experiment, and all the dangers with which it was beset, and proposed instead of it some safe and rational measure consistent with the spirit of the Resolution of 1823, the House of Commons would not have been forced to withdraw its confidence from the Government, nor would the country have shown any aversion to such conduct, but would have received it with satisfaction. The consequence would have been, instead of standing in the dangerous position their Lordships then occupied, the people would have had the gratification of seeing their dearest hopes marching on to maturity in safety and in prosperity, and the colonies would have promised new fields for the employment of British manufactures, British commerce, and British shipping. But the noble Lords complained of the difficulties which they had to encounter. Had not they themselves created many of those difficulties? Did they not recollect the Resolutions of the 15th of April 1831—the threat of imposing duties? And did they not recollect that they had acted upon this, which had never been confirmed by Parliament, and a threat which was so imprudent that it ought never to have been 1217 uttered? He would ask, did not these imprudent speeches lead to great alarm, and, he would admit, to great intemperance also? And was it not this which had made the Colonial Legislatures assume a tone which otherwise they never would have done? Again, had they forgotten the Orders in Council of November, which were so extraordinary and so extravagant in many of their provisions, as to excite general ridicule and derision? It was to these measures that many of the present difficulties were to be attributed, and further also to the language which had been used, not by the noble Lord then at the head of the Colonies, but by some of the acknowledged supporters of the Government. It must be remembered by their Lordships that the language used in another place in support of the Orders in Council, under the Resolution, had been declared upon the best possible authority to have produced uneasiness and irritation, if not dismay, in the island of Jamaica. But the noble Earl (Earl Ripon) had thought proper to send forth his Order in Council, with all its weaknesses and all its absurdities, and the result was, that it had been repudiated by every colony, without exception. His opinion was, that by such conduct the Government had thrown the measure back. He sincerely believed, that when the present Government first entered office, it would have been easier to have secured the cordial co-operation of the colonies, than at the present moment. His noble friend near him (the Earl of Harewood) had calmly stated the new ground of objection given to the Colonial Legislatures. It was a serious one, and he trusted early means would be taken to remove it. He dreaded the first step in this attempt to legislate for independent Legislatures. It was indeed an experiment, and an alarming one; and he did conjure the Government at any rate to let the strict principle only be pointed out, and to leave the details entirely to the Colonial Legislatures. Such a proceeding, indeed, must seem absolutely necessary, for what might be suitable to one colony might be injurious to another. The principle to be worked out, then, ought to be laid down as clearly as they pleased, but the mode of carrying of it into effect ought to be left to the different colonies themselves. For instance, might not some of the Colonial legislatures think, as many people in this country thought, that the plan of the noble Earl 1218 (Ripon) was superior to the plan now proposed? And could they be blamed for so thinking? Had not that plan been deliberately adopted by the Government, though the Government had subsequently discarded it for a scheme of a fortnight's concoction? He could not but again refer to the 20,000,000l. that were to be given for compensation. The plan might satisfy the Government; it might compensate the West-India proprietors; but what was to compensate the people of England? It was true that at the present moment 20,000,000l. alone would appear to the bulk of the people as their only loss; but it was the duty of the Legislature to look further, and to weigh well what was to compensate the country for the immense injury its commerce, its manufactures, and its navigation would sustain. The good resulting from the measure was a matter of speculation; the evil was defined, positive, and immense. Some notion might be formed of the opinions the Government entertained from the fact of their own proposition. The country had been told year after year by the very men who now proposed 20,000,000l. as compensation to the West-India proprietors, that the proper and only way to relieve the West-India interest was by lowering the duties on sugar. Why was that measure not had recourse to now? The answer was plain, because the Government apprehended the cultivation of sugar would be impeded, if not destroyed. He could have wished the Legislature to have acted in a reasonable and wise way. He wished to see slavery gradually abolished, and to see freedom extended, not by ruin and convulsion, but by systematic and sure amelioration of the present system. Such a course would have been beneficial to all parties. It would have given to the slave freedom and a happy home—to this country an extended field for its productions, and a more enlightened and more happy empire. He knew very well that a mere reduction of the duties on sugar would not give to all parties in the West Indies relief. There were many there who would not be benefited by such a measure, but those were exceptions that might easily be dealt with. Such a plan, however, had been only talked of, and now when the time for action was arrived an entirely different system was to be pursued, the sum of 20,000,000l. were to be (liven. How, he asked, were these 1219 20,000,000l. to be raised, and how were they to be repaid, and the interest upon them provided for? Although the Government must have been aware of the great expenses they were about to incur, they had thrown away all the surplus of revenue which might have assisted to meet them. The expenses of stipendiary Magistrates and police, and schools, now proposed, would be enormous, yet the necessary funds were thrown away in the reduction of duties, which the public did not care for, and instead of the House-tax, which might have been put an end to. Yet those duties were thrown away, and 20,000,000l. were to be given, and should we have a bad harvest, the additional loss would be also great. Our difficulty was at present a financial one, and yet could any one say, that fresh duties to the amount "of 1,300,000l. or 1,400,000l. could be laid on without exciting the hostility of the people? The noble Lords opposite knew, that this must be the result; and even could they succeed, by any majority however large, in voting such sums, yet they could not do so without raising feelings in the people perhaps attended with the utmost danger. Could any man look at the condition of the country and persuade himself that for a mere experiment the people now suffering under the pressure of taxation would be content to submit to new taxation? The feeling against taxation was strong to overflowing, and would it ebb merely because an experiment was to be made in favour of what—of commerce? No. Of manufacture? No. Of navigation? No; but in favour of humanity. It was no such thing. Even if the measure was successful it would lead to the perpetration of blacker horrors than had ever been known in the British Colonies. It would give rise to an increase of the slave trade; and instead of being a measure of general humanity, it would increase the sum of human misery. They might, indeed, say that this country had washed its hands of the crime; that the gift was not England's; but such a boast would be idle, and would be groundless; for if they adopted measures which led in reason to pernicious results, for those results they were answerable. Let him state it plainly—of all the misery which might ensue, England would be the guilty cause. But then it was said, that there was a great loss of life from the cultivation of sugar, but if Mr. Irving's cal- 1220 culations were looked to, it would be seen that the loss of life was not owing to the sugar cultivation, and was not owing either to excessive labour, to deficiency of food, or to severity of treatment. Humanity, therefore, did not call for the measure. But what was that measure upon the very face of it? What would be its very first effects? Its proposers declared that the slaves were not fit for freedom; and what, therefore, must be the consequence of this crude and ill-digested scheme? It would leave infancy unprotected, maturity without a guide and abandoned to debauchery and to vice, and age without a shelter and without refuge. What was the present state of the negroes? The child was reared and protected, the adult was provided for, and the aged had a sure and safe resting-place. They were as a body well governed, well protected, and happy in their station. Such being his views, it was utterly impossible for him to vote the resolutions, excepting the last. He was perfectly ready to make considerable sacrifices for the improvement of the negroes. He was desirous that they should have a moral and religious education; he was willing to establish stipendiary Magistrates and police; for Mr. Buxton, who had been last year examined before their Lordships Committee, had declared, that the establishment of such a Magistracy was absolutely necessary before the emancipation of the slaves. He was desirous that all possible steps should be taken to prepare for their deliverance from their present bondage; but beyond that he could not consent to go. In adopting such measures, he should be acting in accordance with the resolutions of 1823; and to their spirit it was but wise and reasonable to adhere. In the measure now proposed, he saw certain present loss, and but faint prospects of any future good. He did not believe, that it would be either satisfactory or beneficial to the colonists, while he was sure it would be costly and injurious to England. It would burthen her with a heavy tax, and destroy much of her commerce and shipping. Taking reason for his guide, he could come to no other conclusion than the one he had stated, and he must oppose the Resolutions.
The Lord Chancellor
said, he wished to make a very few remarks in consequence of the extraordinary speech delivered by the noble Baron. He did not say extra- 1221 ordinary in reference to the talent displayed in it, for it displayed that degree of talent for which the speeches of the noble Baron were always noted—he only meant, that it was extraordinary from the startling conclusion to which the noble Baron had come—a conclusion such as he (Lord Brougham) had never heard arrived at either in that House or anywhere else. It was startling from the contradictions which the noble Baron had made in the course of it, and from the nimbleness with which he sprung from one assertion to another, and from one misapprehension to another, as the noble Baron successively brought them forward and escaped, when corrected by the noble Earl. It was startling, too, from the interpretation he had put upon some persons and things, and the eulogies heaped with equal liberality upon others. The first panegyric made by the noble Baron to which he would allude, was that upon slavery, and certainly it astonished him more than all the rest. He certainly agreed with the noble Baron, that this was not a time to introduce topics into the debate which might impede the great work in progress, and that it would be desirable to obtain as much co-operation in that work, not only on this side of the water, but in the West-Indies, in carrying it into effect, as possible; and he would, therefore, abstain, however violent his inclination might be, and although invited and almost dragged into it by the noble Baron, he would abstain from discussing the conduct of the local Legislature. He would also abstain from entering into any unnecessary ground of controversy, but he certainly did not expect, in the year 1833, to hear freedom and slavery contrasted as they had been that evening by the noble Baron. The noble Baron had drawn the picture of freedom as a state of unprovided infancy, comfortless manhood, and destitute old age; and slavery as a state in which the slave enjoyed comfort in infancy, comfort in manhood, and comfort in old age. Such was the contrast which he drew between a state of freedom and slavery. Good God! was it in that House and in England that such a character should be given of a state of freedom and of a state of slavery? And did the noble Baron think to draw their Lordships to join him in support of slavery by the panegyric he drew of it?—a state which it would be unnecessary for him to describe, because all knew and all felt how 1222 different it must be from the description given by the noble Baron. The noble Baron had said, that he alone had, in 1825, opposed the Resolutions of 1823, and he stated, that he had done so because he had seen that the present measure was the inevitable consequence of those Resolutions, and that if they were passed, they could not help going on in the same course till they at last arrived at a measure like the present. Now he (the Lord Chancellor), instead of thinking that the noble Lord should be opposed to the present measure on that account, claimed his support. For though he might be quite consistent in opposing the present measure, if the Resolutions of 1823, which, according to him, led to the present measure, had not been adopted at all, yet those Resolutions having been adopted by both Houses of the Legislature, led, no doubt, to the present result, and the consequence was, as foreboded by the noble Lord, that they now must go further, for they could not stop. He would ask, if they ought to stop now, after the interval which had elapsed?—an interval in which so little had been done towards the improvement of the slaves in consequence of that pertinacity on the part of the colonists themselves—a pertinacity which he would not then wait to inquire whether blamable or not, but the consequences of which they had frequently been warned of, and for which they had been everything but denounced. The colonists could, therefore, not say, that they were unprepared for this measure, or that the Government had been hasty towards them. The noble Baron had said, that they were not told how the twenty millions were to be raised. It could not be expected that the financial part of the measure, which that was, should be laid before their Lordships until after it had been laid before the other House. And, as far as he understood, although the general features had been stated in the other House, none of the details had been entered into, and nothing had been said of the manner of raising the twenty millions. The noble Baron would likewise observe, that by the Resolutions the sum to be raised was not absolutely twenty-millions, but a sum not exceeding twenty millions. So that the sum might not, perhaps, amount to 20,000,000l. The noble Baron had also said, that it was too much to venture upon an experiment on the result of which, the noble Earl at 1223 the head of the Government had only a faint hope, while his noble friend had really described his hope as one "almost amounting to confidence." The noble Baron, however, finding himself corrected, had said, that he was of a different opinion; that, far from being sanguine, he had no confidence in the result. The noble Lord was right to argue thus, if such was his belief; but sure he was, that the noble Baron, as well as himself, was of opinion, that if the miserable state of slavery were put an end to, it would be better, not only for the character, but for the interests, of the nation. The gloomy anticipations indulged in by the noble Baron and the noble Duke (of Wellington), on the ground that the slaves when set at liberty would not work, did not, in his opinion, rest upon a good foundation. It was well known at present, that the free negroes constantly laboured in some kinds of work, and in several islands there was proof of these free blacks working, and submitting to as good regulations, and being as industrious, as if they had never been under the lash, or enjoyed the benefit of slavery. But it had been said, that this was not the case in sugar plantations. In answer to that assertion, he would bring the evidence of a gallant officer, whose testimony was most deserving of attention, and who had made most accurate observations on the state of our colonies—he meant Admiral Fleming. That gallant Officer, had gone more habitually and systematically into the inquiry than most naval officers had the opportunity of doing. And in his evidence regarding Cuba and Colombia, he stated, that sugar to a great extent was cultivated in those colonies by the labour of free negroes. But they had this fact besides, which showed that negroes would work. The Dutch of Guiana, not only at present, but half a century ago, uniformly preferred to give their slaves task work, to the system ordinarily followed in our colonies, and by a calculation they ascertained that that system was more profitable to the master than working the slaves in the ordinary manner. Could there be a stronger proof that other means than the degrading lash might be found to insure the negro to labour, not only as much, but even more, than he does at present for his master? And he would ask if there was anything in the nature of sugar which would prevent the negro from labouring in its cultivation, as well as in 1224 the cultivation of cotton, coffee, or gardens, in all of which they had been found, not only willing, but anxious, to work for wages? The negro might at present be averse to the cultivation of sugar, from the recollection that it was the most painful and irksome of his present labour, but that was only a question of expense. A little more wages would induce him to work at the sugar plantation as well as at coffee or cotton. He recollected a story told of a planter in the Caraccas, who had a plantation, one-half of which he cultivated by the labour of slaves, and the other half by the labour of free labourers. That planter declared, that the labour of the free negroes was cheapest and most profitable to him. Then the whole question was a matter of expense—of wages, and that could easily be arranged. He might in reply, to this, be referred to St. Domingo; but if he were, he would mention the Caraccas, where the planter he had just mentioned cultivated his sugar half by slaves and half by free negroes, and this proprietor found in the long run, that the produce by free labourers was the cheapest. He thought it right to say thus much, before he proceeded to answer what had been said by the noble Duke (Wellington) of the loss which must accrue from the cessation of sugar cultivation. He, in the first place, could not agree that there would be this cessation; but suppose it were so, and that the sugar cultivation would be diminished to a certain extent, for there was nobody wild enough to suppose that it would totally end; then take twelve years as the maximum, during which negroes were to give compulsory labour—though he hoped it would not be near so long; but suppose that in that space of time, the sugar cultivation were diminished one-fourth, or even a third—well, then, the revenue from that would not be paid by the planter nor the merchant, but by the consumer, who was the party to pay all. It might be also asked—but where is that sugar to come from? There might be an increase of production in some of the other sugar colonies; but this would have nothing to do with the slave trade; but of course this increase, although probable, was not to be reckoned upon positively. However, if this were not likely to take place, why was there a protecting duty of 8s. per cwt. upon slave sugar? The people of England paid, if his noble friend's calculations were correct, 1,600,000l. annually for this protection to slave sugar; 1225 but, at all events, they paid more in this way than any defalcation resulting from the present measure would amount to. He was, unfortunately, old enough to recollect the discussions on the question of the slave trade abolition, and there were quite as many gloomy anticipations upon that account as there existed at present from the projected negro emancipation. They were then, as now, told, "Look to so many thousand tons of shipping; look to so many thousands of seamen engaged in navigating the worst coast in the world for disease, and therefore calculated to be the best nursery for the navy; and look to the effect that the stopping of this traffic will have on your trade." No doubt this traffic was then a favourite, as the colonies now were with one part of the Legislature; it was also, as slavery now is, eulogized; but, nevertheless, he had lived to see an end put to it by that Government of which his noble friend (Earl Grey) was at the time the head in the House of Commons; and not merely was it put an end to by the Government, but by the friends of humanity throughout the country, led by that venerable advocate of all that was good, Mr. Wilberforce, who, he was glad, had lived to see the present day, as well as the time, when the justice and feeling of the people of England were roused and put an end to that traffic which, as he had said, suffered its termination through the undoubted instrumentality of his noble friend now at the head of the Government. Not only was an end put to it, but just punishment was denounced against whoever should carry it on, and it was declared that any man should be hanged by the neck till he was dead for that which had just before been pronounced essential for the maintenance of our commerce, our manufactures, and our navigation, and which reasoners of the same class had prophecied they would never survive; and he hoped that we should live to see the day when the existence of slavery would be spoken of as we now spoke of the "accursed African slave trade." The noble Baron had said, he was sorry we did not rest the question on higher ground than that of policy, and the fact was, that it was rested upon much higher ground, but it was also consistent with the soundest and best policy, and not merely with that, but with humanity and justice, and upon this treble title did this measure rest, which would ease the owner of the 1226 slave from the weight of such unjust property, and also release the character of the nation from a stain which, while slavery existed, must always disfigure it. It had been alleged that sufficient was not done to conciliate the legislatures of the colonies, but now they were left with a most happy power, which, he hoped, would conciliate them—the power to shorten the time of their fellow-creatures bondage, and to this conciliation, he hoped, they would respond. And now upon another point. Whatever was the popularity of that House, and whatever was the respect entertained for it by the people of the country, which he would not then stop to discuss, surely that popularity and that respect the elaborate vituperation of the other House of Parliament, by any Member of their Lordships House, could not, by any means, extend; and yet the noble Baron had indulged in language with regard to the proceedings of the House of Commons which would have been much better dispensed with. He would say, and he would repeat it with a confidence that could not be shaken, that a more honest, a more upright, and a more independent House of Commons than the present, had never been elected to watch over the interests of a great and a free people. Their Lordships, by cordially co-operating with that House of Commons in forwarding the great measure before them would, he confidently repeated, insure themselves the love, gratitude, and respect of the country.
, in explanation, begged to say, that he had never intended to convey any censure on the other House of Parliament. Nothing that had fallen from him could be so construed, and he positively and unequivocally denied that he had had any such intention.
The Lord Chancellor
said, that the part of the noble Baron's speech alluding to the late proceedings of the other House of Parliament seemed to bear the interpretation he had put on it. If the noble Baron did not intend to convey censure by the allusion, he must, of course, have misunderstood the noble Baron's meaning.
The noble and learned Lord had charged him with elaborate vituperation, but he denied the fact.
§ Lord Wynford
said, that the effect of the Resolutions proposed, if acted upon, would be to injure our own trade and 1227 commerce, while it advanced those of other countries. He doubted, if slaves could be induced to work upon sugar estates for any wages except such as would be too high. There was not sufficient evidence before the Committee to prove that they would work in sugar cultivation at all for hire. The West-India planters were anxious to have witnesses examined to that point before the Committee, but were put off from time to time until it was too late. There was some slight evidence on the other side, but not sufficient, in his judgment, to settle the question. Even their Lordships proposed to assent to a vote of 20,000,000l. for the planters, which sum after all might not amount to a just compensation. He could not consent to this Resolution, without knowing whether or not it was the sum that the public ought to pay, or the planters ought to accept of, in liquidation of their just claims. The fact was, that the question had been urged on by senseless clamour. No man had a greater respect for the sense of the people when calmly and dispassionately expressed; but a cry got up as this against slavery had been could not be called the deliberate sense of the nation. Suppose, in consequence of emancipation, that sugar should cease to be cultivated altogether in the colonies, 20,000,000l would not then be sufficient compensation to the planters. It might be sufficient as payment for their slaves, but would not remunerate them for their other losses. His noble and learned friend (Lord Brougham) had said, that if sugar cultivation ceased altogether, or was diminished in their own colonies, the article would be supplied in sufficient abundance from other countries. But he would ask, were these countries likely to take our manufactures as the colonies at present did? He feared the result of putting an end to slavery in the West Indies would be to aggravate and extend the evils of slavery in the colonies of other countries. His noble and learned friend should recollect, that when the slave-trade was abolished, and he (Lord Wynford) voted for the measure at the time, treaties were soon after made with other nations, pledging them also to put an end to the trade within a limited time. Nothing of the kind was proposed now. In his opinion, the better course would be, not to bring in an Act of Parliament at all upon the subject, but leave the matter to the 1228 discretion of the Colonial Legislatures. Those legislatures had, since 1823, done much for the slaves. They would violate the principles of the Constitution by the course of legislation now proposed, for they were bound not to interfere with the authority of the Colonial Legislatures, except in cases of necessity, and that necessity he did not think existed in the present case. He maintained, that if the Legislature interfered with the functions of the colonial assemblies, they would infringe upon the charter by which those assemblies were established. He denied that a case had been made out to justify the interference of the British Parliament. Why should not the local assemblies in the colonies have the gratification of themselves emancipating the slaves?
§ The Earl of Ripon
replied, and observed, that if the Order in Council of 1831, which related to razors for the negroes was ridiculous, as had been termed by the noble Duke, it was founded upon that of 1825, to which the noble Duke had been a party.
The four first Resolutions were agreed to.
On the fifth Resolution, the Duke of Wellington moved, to leave out the words, "on liberal and comprehensive principles."
§ Amendment negatived, and the Resolution agreed to.
§ The concurrence of their Lordships in the Resolutions, was ordered to be communicated in a conference to the House of Commons.
§ Against the words in the fifth Resolution, to which the Duke of Wellington objected, his Grace entered the following Protest.
§ "Protest against agreeing to the proposed Amendment to the fifth Resolution of the House of Commons on Colonial Slavery.
§ "1st. Because it must be supposed that any system of moral and religious education proposed by his Majesty's Government, must be founded upon principles sufficiently liberal and comprehensive, to ensure the improvement and permanent welfare of the negro population.
§ "2nd. Because the insertion of the words "upon liberal and comprehensive principles" in the fifth Resolution, which words were not in the Resolution when 1229 first proposed to Parliament, is calculated to create a feeling in the colonies, that it is intended to employ in the religious and moral education of the negro population classes of persons whom the proprietors and other free inhabitants of the colonies regard with apprehension and distrust, and of whose conduct they think that they have reason to complain.
§ "3rd. Because such feeling is calculated to prevent the successful attainment of the object of the first Resolution, which depends upon the consent of the colonial legislatures, and upon the cordial cooperation and assistance of the proprietors and colonists at large in the measures intended to be adopted.
§ [Between the 27th of June and July 1, the following signatures were added to this Protest, pursuant to the special leave given for such purpose by the House of Lords:—