Sivut kuvina

evident amelioration of the African race, and the stoppage of the unutterable horrors of the middle passage, console the friends of humanity for this disappointment of all their hopes, and blasting of their expectations, on the other side of the Atlantic ? Alas! here the prospect is even more gloomy than on the sunny slopes of Jamaica, now choked with weeds, or the rich marshes of Guiana, fast relapsing into jungle. The slave trade has been DOUBLED IN EXTENT AND QUADRUPLED IN HORROR, throughout the globe, by the monstrous act; and the sufferings of the African race, under European cupidity, are now incomparably greater than when the philanthropy of Wilberforce and Clarkson first interfered for their relief. The rapid decline in the agricultural produce of the British West India islands has given an impulse to the foreign slave colonies which is almost incredible; and augmented to an extent which it is piteous to think of, both the number of blacks who are annually torn from their homes and their children in Africa, and the barbarity with which they are treated in their passage to the American shores. Twelve years ago, the only exports of Puerto Rico were cattle and coffee, and the only sugar she received was from importation. In 1833, she exported 33,750 tons— more than a sixth of the whole British consumption. The export of sugar from Cuba was, on an average of 1814, 1815, and 1816, 51,000 tons ; in 1833 it had risen to 120,000 tons. In 1814, 1815, and 1816, the average export of sugar from Brazil was 26,250 tons; in 1833, though a bad year, the exports were 70,970 tons. The increase, since the Emancipation Act passed, has been still greater ; but no official accounts of these years bave yet been made public. *

As might well have been expected, this prodigious increase in the produce of the foreign slave colonies, consequent on the progressive decline, and at length the almost total stoppage, of industry in the British settlements, under the influence of fiscal oppression and emancipation madness, has been obtained only by a vast increase in the importation of the African race, and a terrific addition to the sum of human suffering. The raising of sugar, by the stationary, domestic, half-civilised English serf, who had ascended a few steps on the ladder of freedom, having ceased, or evidently approach

See Parliamentary Report on the Commercial State of the West Indies, p. 286.

ing cessation, the void has been supplied by an extraordinary multiplication of African savages, who are now treated and worked with severity, compared to which the condition of our domesticated slaves was Paradise. Great and deplorable as were the sufferings of the captives in crossing the Atlantic, in the large and capacious Liverpool slave-ships, they are as nothing compared to those which have since been, and are still, endured by the Negroes in the hands of the Spanish and Portuguese traders, where several hundred wretches are stowed between decks in a space not three feet high ; and in addition to the anguish inseparable from a state of captivity, they are made to endure, for weeks together, the horrors of the black-hole of Calcutta. Nearly two hundred thousand captives, chained together in this frightful manner, now annually cross the Atlantic; and they are brought, not to the comparatively easy life of the British West India islands, but to the desperate servitude of Cuba or Brazil ; in the latter of which several hundred Negroes are worked, like animals, in droves together, without a single female among them, and without any attempt to perpetuate their race; they are worn down by their cruel taskmasters to the grave by a lingering process, which on an average terminates their existence in seven years !

What does Mr Buxton, a most unexceptionable authority on this point, say to the amount of this enormous increase of the foreign slave-trade of late years? “ Twenty years ago, the African Institution reported to the Duke of Wellington that the number of slaves who annually crossed the Atlantic was 70,000. There is evidence before the Parliamentary committee to show, that about one-third was for the British islands, one-third for St Domingo; so that, if the slave-trade of other countries had been stationary, they ought only to import 25,000; whereas, the number landed in Cuba and Brazil alone is 150,000 annually ; being more than double the whole draft on Africa, including the countries where it had ceased, when the slave-trade controversy began. Twice as many human beings are now its victims as when Wilberforce and Clarkson entered on their noble task; and each individual of this increased number, in addition to the horrors which were endured in former times, has to suffer from being cribbed up in a narrower space, and on board a

vessel where accommodation is sacrificed to speed. Painful as this is, it becomes still more distressing if it shall appear that our present system has not failed by mischance, or want of energy, or want of expenditure ; but that the system itself is erroneous, and must necessarily end in disappointment.” *

The remedy which Mr Buxton and the anti-slavery advocates propose for these awful evils, is the declaring the slave-trade piracy by the laws of all civilised nations. It is evident now that this would only still further aggravate the existing evils ; and that nothing but this is wanting to add the last drop to the cup of African bitterness. The whole navies of the world could not stop the smuggling of slaves between Africa and the American shores; the search for slave vessels, with the penalty of death hanging over the crew if taken, would only aggravate the sufferings of the captives, by rendering desperate the cruelty of the captors. If the trade were stopped from the African shores, it would speedily begin from the southern provinces of America, which would breed slaves to fill up the gap produced by British madness in the West Indies. One way, and one only, of stopping the infernal traffic exists ; and that is, enabling the British planter, with stationary slaves, gradually improving in industry, to undersell the foreign slave-holder in the supply of the world with sugar. That method—the simple, just, progressive method of naturewas in satisfactory progress; and the slave-trade must have declined, and perhaps in the course of ages expired, from the effect of the competition of the British stationary serf with the foreign imported slave, when the whole progress was stopped by the Emancipation Act; our own islands reduced to ruin ; our own slaves restored to savage life; and a new impulse, to which philanthropy can assign no limits, communicated to the execrable traffic in human flesh! Such, even when under humane guidance, and when actuated by a benevolent spirit, is the legislation of the masses. What must it be if stimulated by cupidity and directed by ambition ?

After the dreadful and irremediable evils inflicted on our own subjects—our own Negroes--and the African race in general, by the well-meant, but ill-judged and most disastrous legislation of late years, the recent disputes between the

* African Slave Trade, by T. F. BUXTON, M.P. London : 1839. P. 172.

mother country and the Jamaica House of Assembly sink into insiguificance, and cease to be the object of serious attention, except as indicating the indisposition of the party, unhappily still possessing the majority in the British legislature, either to stop in the career of injustice, or to make any amends for the errors of past times. It is evident, however, that, having plunged so deeply into former errors, it was incumbent on the British Parliament to have had more than usual toleration for exasperated feeling and wounded interests—to have recollected that men, seeing their properties and the substance of their families wasting away, under the effect of former British legislation—could not be expected to have their feelings peculiarly cool, or their tempers signally under control, in political contests with the dominant power, from whom they had suffered so much : and that now, when experience is on all sides so clearly demonstrating how well grounded their complaints really are, was the time, by a respectful attention to their suggestions, and uniform deference to their wishes, to have demonstrated the disposition of the parent state to remedy, so far as yet in their power, the existing evils. Instead of this, what have the Liberal Ministry done? Why, they brought in a bill suspending the constitution of Jamaica, on the first angry controversy with the British Parliament; and on its being stopped by the firmness and zeal of the Conservative opposition, they have brought in another, substantially the same, and vesting absolute legislative power in the governor and council, if certain acts of Assembly were thrown out by the veto of the sovereign authority ! We first tax the West India planter one hundred per cent on his agricultural produce; next let loose the live stock on his estate for less than half their value, and, in so doing, render his fields totally unproductive ; and, when he remonstrates on a subordinate point of management, deprive him of all his liberties, and reduce him to despotic authority! If these are the blessings which democratic institutions secure to their colonial dependencies, what evils has despotism in store for its subjects ? and if such is the system of government of a widely-extended colonial dominion, how long is it likely to withstand the shock of fortune consequent on the almost total paralysis of the central executive power ?


[BLACKWOOD'S MAGAZINE, JAN. 1834 & Sept. 1841)

It was not without reason that Bacon asserted that time was the greatest of all innovators; and the maxim is not so trite, but that its truth and importance are continually brought back to the observation of the most inconsiderate observer of public events. Forty years have now elapsed since we began to take an interest in the observation of human affairs, and we have never ceased to keep our eyes upon their changes down to the present time. Nevertheless, the difference between the commencement, the middle, and the end of this period, brief as it is, when compared to the lifetime of nations, is so prodigious, that it looks as if our infancy had been passed in one age, our manhood in a second, and our old age in a third.

In January 1794, Great Britain was beholding, with nearly unanimous horror and detestation, the first fruits of popular usurpation, in the Reign of Terror and the government of Robespierre. The dreadful spectacle of blood streaming in torrents from the scaffold ; of Religion overthrown, and the Goddess of Reason in her place ; of a Monarch butchered, and a nation decimated, revolted all the best feelings of the English character, and in all save a few callous and insensible Republicans, whose hearts were as hard as the nether millstone, produced a powerful reaction against the principles of democracy. At that time the British nation cordially and generally supported the principles of Mr Pitt's government; the House of Commons, in general, divided 260 to 40 ; the House of Lords 80 to 7, in bis favour ; and even Mr Burke, whose prophetic eye and ardent temperament led him rather to exaggerate than

« EdellinenJatka »