Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

and their compulsory labour, colo- and in which he found little that nial land ceased to be of value. If was objectionable compared with the public interest, therefore, or the great good which it was well public opinion, required that these fitted to effect, he proceeded to the securities should be forfeited, then, conduct of the colonies which had in this, as in every other case of legislatures of their own. These private property being taken for were thirteen in number; and, he the use of the public, indemnity would examine, from the reprewas required both by justice and sentations of the colonial bodies by the practice of the constitution. themselves, what had been effected The fears thus entertained had by them in furtherance of the evidently no foundation in the views of government, and in conmeasures of government for miti- formity with the resolutions of the gating the evils of slavery; but House. In six of them, nothing their existence proved what appre- had been done, namely, Antigua, hensions were excited by the un the Bermudas, Montserrat, Nevis, ceasing knocking of the ardent abo- St. Kitt’s, and Tortola, including litionists at the door of the cabinet. also, in this enumeration, the Vir

A last, and a more formal, at- gin Islands. In these colonies tempt to induce government to there were not fewer than 80,000 abandon its own more moderate slaves; and the only information and cautious plan, and speak to on the subject of these colonies was the colonial legislatures in the contained in a letter from governor. voice of unbending authority, was Maxwell of St. Kitt's, who stated made just before the close of the that the important measure of the session by Mr. Brougham, who amelioration of the condition of moved (May 19) à resolution, the slaves, as recommended by the “ That the House has observed, government here, had been referred with extreme regret, that nothing to a committee of the two legislahas been effected by the colonial tures of St. Kitt’s and its depenlegislature, in compliance with the dencies, but that he regretted to declared wishes of government, say no progress had been made. and the resolutions of the House Next in order was Jamaica, á most of the 15th of May, 1823, for ame- important colony, in which, from liorating the condition of the slaves its population of 340,000 souls, in the West-Indian Colonies; and from the large body of whites, and that this House, therefore, pledges the great number of free people of itself, early in the next session of colour it contained, and from the parliament, to take into its most influence and advantages it posserious consideration such measures sessed in other respects, inight have as may be calculated to carry into complied more easily than any effect the recommendation of the other with the wishes of parliagovernment and the House.”

ment and the country; yet, here In the speech, full of detail, also, literally nothing had been with which the motion was intro. done. Out of nine injunctions, duced, after passing over with ap- five had been entirely overlooked, probation the provisions of the namely, those regarding religion, order in council, which had been marriage, separation of the slaves carried into effect in the colonies on the same plantation, separation having no particular legislatures, of members of the same slave

family, and the regulations respect slaves. The nine propositions sent ing punishment. But afi act had out for the adoption of the colobeen passed to protect slaves from nists had been rendered perfectly being taken for the debts of their nugatory: he might justly speak màsters, on Saturdays as well of the answers to all of them as as on Sundays. The first bill in- evils. It was true that on the troduced in Jamaica, respected the 18th of September, 1825, an act admission of slave-evidence under was passed containing many imcertain restrictions. The bill, portant provisions on all these which had been brought in for this several heads; but when these purpose, fenced about with limi- provisions were compared with tations, which rendered the law previous acts, it would be found, perfectly harmless, had been re that some of them would not prove jected by the almost unanimous of the slightest advantage to the voice of the House of Assembly, slaves; that many of them were the mover alone voting for it. verbally copied from previous Afterwards the same bill was sub- enactments that many of them mitted to a committee; and, every made worse what was already bad, thing having been done to conci- and, where they differed from the liate local prejudices in the amend- earlier legislation, it was, in most ment of it, it was again rejected cases, to the disadvantage of the by a majority of about two to one, negro. It was provided by the many who voted for it declaring act of 1825, that if any slave that they should, at a subsequent should give information concerning stage, vote against it. Now, what any other slave being implicated was the nature of this measure? in any insurrection, conspiracy or It was to admit slave-evidence, rebellion, so as to procure convicupon a certificate of approval given tion, the informer should be made from the person who had had the free by his price being paid to his management of the identical slave master, and be granted a pension who was to give evidence, for the of ten pounds a-year. In another space of three years. Yet thus at- case, provided for in the same act, tenuated, frustrated, and nullified, the informier was to have a pension the recommendation of the order of five and twenty pounds a-year. in council was rejected by the This was a premium held out for Assembly. Although the evidence the increase of pretended' plots, of the slave was to be confined to conspiracies, and rebellions. Now matters of murder, treason, and here was this provision shown up mayhem, the clamour out of doors as a novelty in the year 1825, was so great as to deter the Colo- while an act passed in the year nial Assembly. The duke of Man- 1688 contained the self-same prochester thus expressed himself vision, or rather, the same provi“ The clamour out of doors, and sion in a less detestable form, for the resolutions of parochial meet- that fixed the pension neither at ingš, so strongly expressed the 101. nor 251., but at 40s. In the public feeling, that many members same manner, every provision of yielded their better judgment.” the new act had been anticipated Next in importance to Jamaica, in seven or eight measures of the stood Barbadoes, containing se- last century, excepting those now venty-nine or eighty thousand introduced, which went to make

the situation of the slave 'worse it appeared from the documents than it had been before. By an that every pretended improvement, old act, punishment was provided and every provision of importance for any slave who "should use any in this boasted law of Barbadoes insolent language, or gesture to was to be found in the old, as well any white or free person.” The as in the more recent enactments. new act had made it, "to or of Even in regard to the flogging of any white or free person.” He females, the only alteration made could understand what was meant was, that females should not be and intended by insolent language flogged publicly, under a penalty addressed to a person, by a still of 101. further stretch; an insolent gesture The islands of Grenada, Demeto, and in the presence of, the rara, and St. Vincent's, Mr. Brougparty might be comprehended; ham continued, were to have done but an insolent gesture of and most, as being the best circumconcerning an absent man, was, to stanced; but he thought that nosay the least of it, vague and arbi- thing deserving the name of imtrary in the extreme. A slave, provement had been introduced convicted of this strangely-described into any one of them, either as to offence, remained entirely at the the admissibility of slave-evidence, mercy and discretion of a single or the regulation of punishment, justice, by whose decision he might or the right of property. The be punished to the extent of nine instance of the Island of St. Vinand thirty stripes. By this little cent's had been mainly relied on, interpolation à punishment of a and it was urged, that there slavemost severe character was incurred. evidence was admitted, and the Another new enactment provided, practice of driving put down. that if any slave should hear any With respect to evidence, there words tending to mutiny, and not were no fewer than six points of immediately disclose and discover essential difference between the act the same, &c. &c. “ Words tend of St. Vincent's and the Trinidad ing to mutiny!" How could a order in council. The first was, slave judge of words tending to that the evidence was only admissimutiny? -not whether they were ble in cases of murder, maiming, seditious,--not whether they were cruelty, or such felony as would treasonable, but whether or not subject the accused, if convicted, to they tended, directly or indirectly, the punishment of transportation. to make the other slaves mutiny ; The second difference consisted in not whether the words constituted this, that the witness must be in themselves a mutiny, but when provided with a certificate from a ther they had that tendency. clergyman. The third was, that What was the punishment pro- he must obtain a' certificate' from vided for the crime of hearing his proprietor, overseer, or manager, these words of mutinous tendency, as well as from the clergyman, 'so -was it five and twenty, or nine that, unless the owner or his atand thirty stripes ? No; it was torney chose, the evidence of the death. On the subjects of pro- slave could not be admitted."And perty, mutilation, cruelty, punish- what was the kind of certificate ment, and hanging instruments of required ? Not only that the slave torture round the necks of slaves, was acquainted with, and unders

stood the nature of, an oath, but a deep and universal interest in the also that he had previously borne subject ; but, above all, it would be a good and unblemished character. well to let it be known to the WestFourthly, the person tendering his Indian legislatures, who had disreevidence was to be examined by garded, were disregarding, and were the court as to his proficiency in likely, till the House and the counmoral principles, and his know- try roused themselves, still to conledge of the obligations of an oath. tinue to disregard, the admonitions In the fifth place, two slaves, ex which they had received, that the amined apart, and out of the hear- time had arrived, when, if they ing of each other, must give ex would not do their duty, the British actly the same evidence. And, parliament were determined to do last, and greatest of all, the testi- theirs. mony of slaves was not to be re Dr. Lushington supported the ceived against their owner, his motion, because slavery was inconattorney, manager, overseer, orsistent with Christianity and the any person having the charge of constitution; and Mr. Denman, by such slaves, who might be prose- referring to the progress which St. cuted for any of the crimes afore- Domingo, since its emancipation, said. Was this adopting the sub- had made in civil attainments. Mr. stance of the Trinidad order in Horton and Mr. Ellis maintained, council? or had these colonists gone, in opposition to it, that it was as they pretended, to the utmost unjust and absurd to consider the verge of conciliation, when they planters as having any love of did not scruple so to mutilate slavery for its own sake, or resisting and frustrate the letter and spirit its mitigation as the renewal of an of that order in a ase the most abstract blessing; that their reimportant of all, namely, with luctance to concur in measures proreference to charges brought against posed at home arose mainly from a the owner or his agent, who had it belief that those measures tended thus in his power to stifle all com to depreciate their property, if not plaint, where it was generally most to destroy it; that, as information desirable that complaints, if well extended, and gradual steps confounded, should not be discouraged?tinually added to experience, they In the same way, Dominica had would take a more accurate view recognized the admissibility of the of their own interests, and discern evidence of slaves duly baptized, that the gradual amelioration inprovided two of them concurred, tended was neither objectionable when examined apart, in the same in principle nor dangerous in pracstory ; (and provided that the evi- tice; that the course which had dence was not to affect their master. been already recommended by parAfter going into many other liament, and begun by governlengthened details of what had not ment, was the only course properly been effected by the colonial legis- fitted to gain these ends; and that latures, Mr. Brougham concluded to comply with the present motion that Jamaica had done less than would be an abrupt and total denothing, and Barbadoes worse than parture from it. The point, said nothing. The House, therefore, Mr. Canning, on which the House ought now to let it be known, that is now called to decide by its government and the country took vote is whether the resolution VOL. LXVIII.

[M

proposed for its adoption will be in the West Indies, but that it useful for the purposes, which, it looks to that event as a result which must be assumed, are the objects will be produced by the more con of that resolution. That resolus cilitating and moderate course it tion contains some propositions, to has already adopted ; that it will which, as abstract propositions, I not be diverted from that course, have no difficulty (with some modiexcept by a degree of resistance fications, indeed,) in subscribing amounting to contumacy, which it But the particular question for the does not at present contemplate ; House to determine, on the pre- and that we may still hope that we sent occasion, I take to be whe- shall not be drawn to that sort ther the passing of any such resolu- of alternative which a departure tion as this be necessary or useful? from this kind of course supposes. and if it be neither necessary nor As to those again who think that useful, whether it may not be this most important question, inrather detrimental than beneficial volving, as it confessedly does, so to the general question upon which nearly the lives, the interests, and the House has already expressed its the property of so many of our feeling? I must assume, that the fellow-subjeets, is to be determined resolutions passed by this House on the abstract proposition." That in May 1823, contain the whole of man cannot be made the property the code which parliament have of man," I must take the liberty agreed to take for their guidance in of relegating them to the sehools ; this business ; and I must also as and of telling them that they do sume that the several measures, not deal with this grave and exwhich the government have founded tensive question as members of the on those resolutions, have been ad- British parliament, or as members mitted to have been conceived in of any established society. I must the spirit of those resolutions, and tell them that the practical adopto have been framed according- tion of their speculative notions on ly. If there be those who think so grave and weighty a subject that a different course from that would leave our West-India poswhich we have pursued ought to sessions to a state of ravage and have been adopted ; if there be desolation, which, I think, they those who may be even disposed themselves would be but little prea to go back to the year 1807, as pared to expect. Is the resolution thinking that the abolition of all now offered for adoption, conceived slavery in the West Indies ought in that temperate spirit, and does it to have been then enforced by an bear that stamp of deliberation, act of parliament, I have really which would not give it the effect only to say to them that they come of changing our course, and precitoo late into the field : that parlia- pitating the House at once beyond ment has already come to its de- the view it has hitherto acted upon? termination and formed its deci. If this resolution were no more sion on that subject. I can only than a renewal of our former de remind them, that parliament has clarations, it would amount to no. already pronounced, in a voice not thing. But, in fact, it is no such to be misunderstood, that it would thing. In the first place, it exnot by an immediate act proceed to presses regret at the proceedings compel the emancipation of slayes of the West-Indian legislatures.

« EdellinenJatka »