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A Return of the Slave Population of the Mauritius, as received in ihe office of the Registrar of Colonial Slaves since its first establishment, was laid on the table of the House of Commons on the 27th of June last. It is as follows, viz.—
"1816. Males, 55,717; females, 29,706; total, 85,423.
" The duplicate. Slave Returns in the Mauritius, for the year 1819, arc so imperfect as not to afford any means whatever of ascertaining the amount of the Slave population at that period, and have therefore been sent back to the Colony for correction. Those for 1822 are supposed to have been lost in the ship George the Fourth, wrecked, on her voyage from the Mauritius, in June last."
It thus appears, that the registration of Slaves at the Mauritius is so incomplete as to prove a perfect nullity, and to be utterly useless to its grand purpose of checking the illicit introduction of Slaves. This state of things must now be more particularly favourable to the prosecution of an active Slave trade, since the removal of the protecting duty of ten shillings from Mauritius sugar, and the general rise in the price of Colonial produce, must have given an increased stimulus to cultivation, and rendered the temptation of the adjacent Slave-markets irresistible. Those markets are so near, and the price of Slaves there so low, that they may be brought to the Mauritius and sold there for thirty or forty dollars a piece. The consequence must be, that the effectual check of a perfect system of registration being wanting, and the interests and feelings of the planters being all in favour of the Slave Trade, it will be carried on without limit or control.
One effect arising from this facility of importation is, the frightful disproportion of the sexes among the Slaves, as may be seen in the above extract from the Slave Registry. Another is, that the human animal being so cheap, (less than is now paid for a dead subject for the dissecting-room in this country,) the system of exaction, and the severity of treatment are carried to a height of cruelty which very far exceeds that of our Western Colonies. This might be expected on general principles. But facts moreover prove it to be so ; and whips, and chains, and mutilations, and torture, and death, are thera still more the ordinary incidents of Slavery than in the West Indies or the United States. The mortality, therefore, is enormous ; and that mortality cannot fail to be largely increased by the admission of the sugar of the Mauritius to consumption in this country on the same terms with the sugar of the West Indies.
It does seem most extraordinary, that from all our dominions in the East, the Legislature should have selected the only Colony in which Slavery prevails for exemption from the protecting duty on sugar; thus giving an impulse not merely to the exaction of labour, and all the aggravated severities of an increased sugar culture, but a direct premium on all the horrors and atrocities of the Slave Trade, which the total confusion into which the Slave Registry has been allowed to fall renders perfectly safe and easy.
An attempt has been made, it is understood, to pass off the sugar of the Mauritius as the produce of free labour. The above statement will serve to undeceive our readers, and place, them on their guard against the deception.
The following are a few memoranda made on the subject of Slavery in the Mauritius by an eye-witness, who may be relied upon :—
'The Slaves are either Creoles, or natives of Madagascar, Mozambique, or the eastern coast of Africa. They are employed as domestics, artisans, or in the plantations ; the latter class are often ill-fed, hard-worked, and cruelly treated.
The Slaves are generally summoned to their labours by the cracking of the whip; and, when they are at work in the field, the overseer stands over them with it. If there is any law that prescribes limits to the punishment of Slaves, it is a perfectly dead letter, for lashes are inflicted from the number of twenty-five to six hundred. It might be expected that any such restricting law would become obsolete, .when it is known that in no instance can the evidence of a Slave be taken in a Court of Justice, when the interests of his master are concerned.
Women are alike subject to flogging, and the punishment of working in chains.*
The moral character of the Slave population, compared with that of other Slave Colonies, is supposed to be good. The number of Maroons (run-away Slaves) every year is asserted to be one fourteenth part of the number in Jamaica. In general they are subordinate and docile. Petty thefts are common, and the restraint of truth is little felt: but capital offences rarely occur. A listless inactivity, an indisposition to work except under coercion, the promiscuous intercourse of the sexes, &c. can hardly be called crimes in an unenlightened Slave; and, upon the whole, their actual moral condition, when viewed in connexion with their opportunities of improvement, may well excite wonder.
The marriage of Slaves is not recognized by the laws of the Colony. Cohabitation is common; but without any tie to enforce constancy, except mutual consent. A child cannot be separated from the mother against her wish, under the age of seven ; but no law respects the bond of the parents.
Cohabitation between the Whites and the Blacks is frightfully common among all classes in the Mauritius; but there is a law in the code of the last French governor, still in force, which not only greatly aggravates the evil, but, in fact, creates a considerable part of it. By this law, not only the marriage of a White and a Black person is prohibited, but even a person of colour, (i. e. one known to have descended, however remotely, from a Black,) cannot be married to a White; nor can any property whatever be bequeathed, by will, to children born in such a connexion. A dreadfully immoral aspect is thus given to the whole state of society; which, in conjunction with the facility of obtaining divorces, must be considered to have divested marriage of much of its honour and its sanctity.
* Chains of any endurable weight may be affixed by the master to his slaves, whether men or women.
The fees, securities, &c. required to be paid upon giving a Slave his freedom, are oppressive,—amounting to about three hundred dollars; which tax must be deemed an obstacle in the way of benevolence, and the progress of the abolition of Slavery. The formalities and provisions of the law are numerous ; and as the master alone is supposed to confer the boon of liberty, there seems no encouragement to the industrious exertions of the Slave.
As labour is carried on on Sundays, it is not supposed there can be any law, appointing that holy day a day of rest to the Slaves. It is believed that some masters allow them the day, or part of it; but, in general, they are not so favourably circumstanced as the Slaves in the West India Islands.
- ENGLISH LIBERTY NOT RECOGNIZED.
There are several Slaves in the Island who have been in England, and by the glorious charter of that land of liberty, have become free: but returning ignorantly to the Mauritius, the Colonial law has not respected their British privilege; they have been sold again as Slaves, and they and their children remain in bondage.
Since the abolition of the Slave Trade, and the registration of Slaves in the Colony, the illicit traffic has been carried on to a great extent; and a considerable portion of the present Slave property in the Island has been notoriously acquired in that manner. The proprietors being therefore liable to forfeiture, are not in a condition to oppose any melioration of the state of the Slaves that Government might recommend; nor do they deserve that any prejudices or imaginary interest of theirs should countervail the moral wants of eighty thousand of their fellowcreatures.
There are eleven hundred Slaves attached to the different departments of Government; and many of them are let out to hire at the rate of from five to seven dollars per month; a sum presumed to be more than enough to cover the expense of their food and clothing, which they are provided with by Government.
There is another class of Blacks styled Government apprentices, whose situation requires attention. Since the abolition of the Slave Trade, all captured Slaves are bound apprentices by the Collector of Customs, according to Act of Parliament, for the term of fourteen years, to such persons as are willing to take them, engaging to teach them either trades or other occupations, and to bring them up in the principles of the Christian religion. The number of these is about six hundred. It is known that in two or three English houses some attempts are made to teach the Slaves and apprentices ; and it is said, that the lady of the late Commander of the Forces (Major-General Darling) set an admirable example in this respect, reading prayers in Creole twice a day to her Slaves and apprentices : but, in general, they are quite neglected. Doubtless many are prevented by the difficulty of communicating with them ; and many more by indifference to the subject; for no man who does not supremely value the Christian religioti for himself can be expected to undergo the labour of teaching it to an ignorant Black.
ABERDEEN ANTI-SLAVERY SOCIETY.
A powerful and active Anti-Slavery Society was formed at Aberdeen on the 18th of March last. In the list of its Vice-Presidents and Committee we observe with satisfaction the names of the most distinguished literary and influential characters in that important and populous place. In an energetic address from the Committee, they call upon their countrymen universally to consider calmly and deliberately the nature of personal Slavery, with all its injurious effects, as it exists in our Colonies ; and after describing it in much the same manner as it has been, on various occasions, exhibited in the publications of the London AntiSlavery Society, they thus proceed:—
" In this brief detail, the Committee have been anxious not to exaggerate any of the circumstances. They disclaim all calumny and invective against the Planters and White inhabitants ; believing them to be men of like passions with ourselves, many of them labouring under the influence of strong prejudices, consequently objects of our pity ; and probably not acting worse than we should do, were we placed in similar circumstances, intrusted with absolute power over our fellowcreatures. It may be asked, however, What has been done for ameliorating the condition of our Colonial Bondsmen ? Have the humane regulations recommended by the Government at home been acted upon ? Have they not, almost in every case, been evaded, or offensively rejected ? While this is the case, we cannot sit still, year after year, silent spectators of such a system of oppression, exercised within the British dominions without partaking of the guilt.
" The Committee would particularly recommend that Associations should be formed in every part of the kingdom, for the purpose of cooperating to diffuse information, and to call forth the distinct expression of public opinion on the subject; thereby strengthening the hands and seconding the movements of Government, for accomplishing the final and complete abolition of Slavery. Such a change would be equally advantageous to the Planters as to the Slaves, to the Whites as to the Blacks. Free or voluntary labour has invariably proved far more profitable than compulsory or slave labour. Strong prejudices, and the innate love of power, have made the Colonial Proprietors, or their Agents, deny this important fact, and thereby sacrifice their own interest. The change would also powerfully contribute to the security and increasing value of all kinds of lawful property; and it would be essentially felt in suppressing the unrestrained licentiousness which so much prevails among both the Slave and the White population. Many other advantages would naturally follow, which must be apparent to every intelligent and unprejudiced observer.
" To the Ministers of religion, of every denomination, the Committee confidently look for co-operation and assistance. By directing their
respective congregations to this important subject, as their own wisdom and prudence may suggest, they will essentially promote the cause of justice and humanity; and by exciting the inquiry and attention of all ranks to the dreadful wretchedness and degradation of Negro Slavery, they will hasten its final abolition.
" To the Ladies in this City, and throughout the country, the Committee appeal with confident hopes of success. The subject is worthy of their attention. By their well-directed and persevering exertions in acquiring an accurate knowledge of the numerous hardships endured by the Slaves, and communicating the same in their domestic and social circles, it is almost impossible to calculate the happy effects that may result. In various parts of England, many amiable and highly-accomplished Females are now devoting sortie of their leisure hours to this object, in the most exemplary manner, and are effecting a great change on public opinion. May their example be speedily followed here!
" Finally, the Committee most fervently wish that Petitions to Parliament may be prepared, and numerously signed, previous to the opening of next Session, from every county and every town, from every village and every parish, in the United Kingdom, making one energetic and concurrent appeal to both Houses of the Legislature in behalf of our enslaved fellow-subjects ; praying that they may be admitted to a full participation of those civil rights and^orivileges, and to all those moral and religious advantages, enjoyed by the rest of his Majesty's subjects."
London : Printed by Bagster and Thoms, 14, Bartholomew Close,