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increasing population of America must open. Their land and their labour will still remain ; property may to a great degree change hands, but it will ultimately centre in those who can turn it to useful account; and, under a new regime, the fertile soil and uncultivated regions of these tropical climes will get abound with riches and inhabitants. But it is not thus that age recovers its wounds; it is not thus that limbs can be severed from the aged trunk of Britain. Teeming with inhabitants, bowed down with debt, overflowing with capital which cannot find employment, and paupers who cannot earn bread, it will never recover the loss of a portion of the empire, through which so large an artery of its heart's blood flows; and the ruinous policy which severs from its body so fair a member, will cause it to bleed to death, or to perish under the attempt to stanch the wound.
What the West Indians complain of, and what threatens such deplorable consequences to the whole empire, is—1. Excessive and perilous precipitance in forcing
forcing upon them the early and ill-considered emancipation of the slaves ; and, 2. The continuance of enormous burdens upon their produce, at a time when the change in the value of money, and other causes, have made these
with unexampled severity upon their industry.
The great danger which has excited such extraordinary terror through all the West India islands, arises from the incessant efforts of Government, and ignorant individuals and societies, to interfere with the management of the slaves, with a view to their immediate or early emancipation. This danger is imminent and excessive : it places the dagger at every man's throat, and approaches the torch to every human habitation. We can understand the danger of such changes ; they proceed from the same spirit of rash, ignorant, and impetuous innovation, under which England is now suffering so severely at home ; with this difference, that the danger is greater there than here, just in proportion as the passions are more violent, and reason less powerful, under a tropical sun and among an enslaved population, than under the cloudy atmosphere and among the free inbabitants of northern regions.
We yield to none in love of freedom; and shall give decisive proof, on all occasions which may occur, of our ardent
desire to promote any measures calculated to improve the condition, elevate the minds, or purify the morals of the labouring poor. It is not therefore from indifference to the Negroes, but from a sincere interest in them ; not from a love of slavery, but from an anxious wish to do what may really mitigate its horrors, that we make the following observations, the result of thought and research into the condition of the labouring classes in all parts and ages of the world.
Slavery,--though unquestionably an evil, if it is perpetuated in circumstances, and in a population, susceptible of free habits, and capable of maintaining itself,—is not only not an evil, but a positive advantage, and a necessary step in the progress of improvement in the early ages of mankind. This truth is demonstrated by the universality of slavery in rude nations all over the world, and the extremely slow steps by which the process of emancipation has gone forward in all the nations which now enjoy the blessings of general freedom. Survey the globe in ancient and modern times, you will find slavery co-existent with the human race, and continuing, though with mitigated features, through all the glories of ancient civilisation. The ages of Pericles and Antonine, of Cicero and Socrates, of Fabricius and Justinian, were equally distinguished by the universality of this distinction among the labouring classes. Twenty thousand freemen in Athens gave law to 400,000 slaves ; and in the decline of the Roman empire, when it was proposed in the senate that slaves should wear a particular dress, it was rejected, lest, as Tacitus observes, it should be discovered how few the freemen were in comparison.
The case was the same in the modern world. For a thousand years, slavery was universal in Europe, and it still obtains in many of the most extensive of its monarchies. Wherever the Mahommedan rule is established, slavery is to be found ; it exists from one end of Africa to another, and is to be seen, with a few exceptions, over the vast extent and amidst the countless millions of the Asiatic continent. It is the influence of Christianity alone, the long establishment of civilisation, and the permanent subjugation of human injustice by the sway of religion, which has enabled mankind to get quit of this painful distinction; and it will be found, upon examination, that it never can remain absent
for any length of time, but in those states whose governments have charity enough to impose, and power sufficient to collect, a general poor-rate for relief of the indigent. It is in vain to say, that an institution so universal, so unvarying, and so permanent, is an unmitigated evil, the abolition of which would confer nothing but blessings upon mankind. Nothing exists generally, or for ages, but what is indispensable in the stage of society in which it is to be found, and is founded in the universal and unvarying circumstances of our condition.
Protection from violence, maintenance in sickness and old age, and secure employment for their offspring, are the substantial and immense advantages which more than compensate to men, in rude or civilised ages, all the hardships of slavery. If they are free—that is to say, if they do not belong to some powerful lord—they are liable to be massacred, plundered, and ruined with impunity; no one will take care of them; no one will maintain them; no one will relieve them, unless he has some lasting interest in their labour; and this lasting interest can only be obtained by their becoming his property. Slavery is the return made by the labourer for the advantages of permanent protection, maintenance, and care, which can never be obtained but in the highest stages of civilisation on any other conditions. Accordingly, it is observed by Sismondi,* that when the barbarians settled in the Roman empire, the great proportion of the free inhabitants, after a few years, voluntarily submitted themselves as slaves to some powerful lord ; having found by dear-bought experience that, when in the unprotected condition of freemen, they could not, in those unruly times, reckon for a day either on their lives, their property, or their employment.
When we say that slavery is such a dreadful evil, we always figure to ourselves what slavery would be, established in a civilised country
such as this, where law is established, indigence relieved, violence restrained, and industry protected. That is the source of the greatest errors in political thought. We imagine, without being aware of it, that the condition of the people in other states is similar to what it is in our own; and, this being done, the subsequent conclu
* Hist. de France, vol. i. 432, 439.
sions follow as a matter of course. But if we would accurately view the condition of the unappropriated poor in the early stages of civilisation, their condition here is to be taken not as a portrait, but as a contrast. Destitute of protection, exposed to rapine, murder, and violence, unable to provide a fund for the maintenance of old age, without a market for their industry, or an employer to furnish them with bread, they must speedily perish, or give some powerful chieftain a lasting interest in their preservation, by giving him a right of property in their labour. So universally has this necessity been felt that, in all ages and parts of the world, slavery, or the right of property in the labouring poor, has been established when society existed in its earlier stages.
Nor is it only in the early ages of civilisation that the necessity of this appropriation of the poor exists. Few are aware of the advanced state of government which is required, and the descent of civilisation in the ranks of society, before it can be dispensed with, or the poor left to shift for themselves amidst the injustice and the storms of the world. The Greeks and the Romans, the Persians and the Egyptians, never reached it. No state in modern Europe attained that stage till within these three hundred years. A thousand years of a beneficent religion ; the long establishment of law and regular government; the progressive subjugation for centuries of the passions by a powerful and impartial central government, were necessary to enable the poor to derive any benefit whatever from their emancipation. It is not sufficient to have civilisation merely existing in a high degree in the upper classes of society; to have luxury, ornament, and opulence among the rich, or the warlike virtues resplendent amidst the chivalrous nobility: it is indispensable to have beneath them a numerous, opulent, and industrious middle class of society; a body of men in whom prosperity has nourished sentiments of independence, and centuries of security developed habits of industry, and ages of regular justice extinguished savage passion, and long-established artificial wants vanquished the indolence of savage life. Till this obtain, it is in vain to attempt the emancipation of the labouring classes : the overthrow of the authority of their lords would only annihilate industry, unfetter passion, exterminate improvement.
The horrors of the revolt of the Jacquerie in France, the hunting down of the seigneurs like wild beasts, the conflagration of their chateaus, the formation of all the serfs into bands of robbers, the total cessation of every species of industry, the resolution of society into its pristine chaos; a famine of unexampled severity, a pestilence which cut off one-third of the population of that and every other country which it reached, signalised the growth of the democratic spirit among the serfs of that great kingdom, and wrote in characters of fire the perils of precipitate emancipation.* Dangers not less dreadful awaited this country from the same insane spirit; the insurrection of Wat Tyler in the time of Richard II. was begun in the true spirit of this frightful anarchy; and had it not been crushed by the efforts of the feudal chieftains, the glories of British civilisation would have been drowned, perhaps for ever, in the waves of servile insurrection.
Many estimable persons are influenced by the consideration, that the Christian religion has proclaimed the universal equality of mankind; and thence they conclude, that it is not only wrong but impious to retain any portion of our subjects in a state of servitude, or withhold our efforts from the general emancipation of the species. There never was a more mistaken idea. It springs from a benevolent intention, but it is fitted to devastate society by its consequences. Considerations of religion lead to a directly opposite conclusion ; they support, in a manner the most convincing, the arguments for which we contend.
If immediate emancipation from slavery, or its abolition in the early stages of civilisation, had been intended by Providence, or deemed consistent with human welfare in those ages, why was it not communicated to mankind at the Tower of Babel, or amidst the thunders of Mount Sinai? Why was a religion, which declared the equality of mankind in the sight of Heaven, and was fitted ultimately to effect the universal abolition of private slavery by influencing the human heart, reserved for the highest era of ancient civilisation, the age of Cicero and Augustus ? Why was it cradled, not on the frontiers of civilisation, not amidst barbarous tribes, but in the centre of refinement;
SISMONDI, Hist. de France, Vol. ix. 231-269.