« PreviousContinue »
could excite our attention had beeu the lamented retirement of that distinguished individual whose name would be mentioned with veneration as long as charity, justice, piety, and humanity were counted virtues in man, yet he could not but feel confident of ultimate and not long deferred success, and that from one single statement; namely, that nothing had been done. They had been told, not for the first or second, but for the hundredth time, when they last pressed forward to lay the axe to the root of that poisonous tree under whose shade their fellow-men had so long Withered and perished, that theirs was not the task to meddle with the trunk—that theirs was not the task to even prune the branches—that the evil must be gradually encountered in the West Indies, and that the time for withholding nourishment from its culture, for ceasing to water its roots, or for pruning its luxuriance, could only be judged of by those on the spot, who knew the soil and the climate in which it was cultivated, and all the peculiarities of this delicate case. They had been assured, that by various means, slow, gradual, and almost imperceptible, their object would be accomplished, without that interference which could only mean hostility and destruction : if the West Indians were but let alone, they would do the thing effectually themselves. " Now," he proceeded, " we did not believe them, and we told them so. And what did they say to that? Why,only that we were vituperative, uncharitable, inhuman to the West India planters; that we were always as much the perverse, blind, prejudiced enemies of the Whites as we were the perverse, blind, and prejudiced advocates of the Blacks ; and that if we only waited a very little time, a month, or at most two or three, we should see the whole of our wishes speedily and surely effected by the West India Legislatures. What has been the result? Unbelieving, we had waited, and what have they done? Why, I say again, absolutely nothing. And here I beg to state, that I mean to follow up what has taken place, by a parliamentary notice on the subject which shall compel them cither to abide by their pledge, or to take the consequences which must surely and inevitably follow its forfeiture. They have now had not one, or two, but twelve months, and during that revolution of the sun they have done nothing. I almost retract my assertion, when I say they have done nothing ; for they have done much for us, though nothing for themselves. We have redeemed our pledges—they have forfeited theirs. I feel deeply impressed with gratitude to the West India planters, more than I ever expected to feel, for their advancement of this cause, by their fulfilling all I have ever ventured to predict of them. I know indeed many West India proprietors, who I am persuaded do all that those can do, by directions of lenity, and charity, and humanity, who are absent owners, who are living nearly 4000 miles from the unhappy objects of their compassion, and who, from necessity, leave over them delegates, invested with a power so absolute, that it might be almost called impiety to God, to grant it over anyof our fellow-creatures. To some resident proprietors too, I might express my obligation for their desire to meliorate the condition of their unhappy slaves— which, as long as slavery exists, must prove very unavailing; but I never expected to live to feel such a weight of obligation as I now feel to the whole of the West Indian authorities, and to them I now beg leave to express my most unbounded gratitude. What has Trinidad done? Why much. It has resisted from the instant it was promulgated, that Order in Council which was framed in consequence of our efforts, and to which the faith of the West India body at home was pledged. It resisted that Order to the very latest moment, and only yielded at last in obedience to the strong arm of authority. But in that simple resistance the planters of Trinidad have done more to advance our cause than we had done in a quarter of a century. They have favoured us at last with a frank and undisguised avowal of the real nature of their system, and in doing so have entitled themselves to a gratitude hardly to be exceeded by that which we owe to the exertions of my able and philanthropic friend, Mr. Stephen. They now admit, I say, nay, they loudly maintain that which my Hon. Friend had long asserted, and which many of them had affected to deny, that the cart-whip is the real, the efficient stimulus to West India labour, the essential and indispensable adjunct c f the whole system. The planters of Trinidad, I repeat, have declared, that to interfere with the discipline of the cart-whip is to cut off at once that which every one there knows to be the very essence of West India Slavery. In Barbadoes, you know, they demolished a meeting-house, because it had been devoted to the instruction of the unhappy objects of your solicitude ; and they drove the Missionary, Mr. Shrewsbury, with ignominy from the island, almost rivalling in cruelty the treatment of the persecuted and hapless Smith ; and when a successor was appointed to succeed Mr. Shrewsbury, they actually warned him off the island, and would not suffer him to land. This loo in Barbadoes, the oldest of our colonies, Ibc boast, the little England of ths West Indies. Does not this plainly shew that
they are determined to support the tyranny and cruelty practised over the bodies of their Slaves, by perpetuating as far as they can the brutality and ignorance of their minds 1 Then as to Jamaica—the largest of the Slave islands—the most enlightened in its legislation—the place to which we have been always called upon to bend our hopes—Why the legislation of Jamaica stands foremost in the nonperformance of its promises—in the violation of its engagements ! A Bill, it is true, was brought into the Jamaica Assembly, in its last session, to make slave testimony admissible in a court of justice—but only in certain specified cases. This Bill, you will suppose, was passed unanimously : no such thing. It was rejected by a majority of thirty-four to one; and that one the author of the Bill. The question is now, therefore, I conceive, whether we are to go on and allow ourselves to be deceived by promises never intended to be performed i Whether we will continue to subject ourselves to the ridicule of the West Indian planters, to the contempt of those for whom we are in fact labouring, by continuing to withhold that effective interference without which we may go on for centuries 1 Or whether, avoiding their examples of delays and manoeuvring, we will be at once resolute and determined in redeeming those pledges we have solemnly given to the world. I have stated thus much, in order to justify that which I consider it my imperative duty to propose; namely, that we should tell the West India proprietors, ' If you continue to pursue your present course, and allow more time to pass without adopting those measures which have been pressed upon you, the very first week of the ensuing session of parliament you shall see a Bill brought in to do that for you which you refuse to do yourselves ; and to set this question at rest for ever, not only for the benefit of the Negro Slave, but for the ultimate advantage of the short-sighted master.'"
Mr. Denman congratulated the Meeting upon the support which their cause would receive from his eloquent friend, in that place where alone the oppressed could look for relief, and in which he had pledged himself to advocate it. The Hon. and Learned Gentleman strongly impressed upon the Meeting the necessity of a clear and distinct enunciation of public opinion ; as, without that, no administration would be found strong enough to carry their wishes into full effect. He concluded by alluding to the presence in the room of Mr. O'Connell, and to the powerful influence he possessed over the people of Ireland, and the assurance he felt of that gentleman's zeal to promote their objects.
Mr. W. Whitmore said, he was fully persuaded they would find, the more the matter was examined, that the slavery of our colonies depended upon the restrictions which were placed upon the importation of any sugars but those which were the growth of our West India islands. The removal of these restrictions would be the most effectual method of putting an end to that horrid system. The use of slaves prevented the introduction of machinery, and all those means by which free labour assisted its efforts, and thus abridged labour and cheapened production. It had been held, indeed, by Montesquieu, and other writers of eminence, that in no one instance had slavery and the use of mechanical inventions existed together. He would likewise appeal to the fact, that in all cases where free labour had been allowed to come into fair competition with slavery, it had been found impossible for the latter to maintain the competition for a moment: free labour had in every case (riumphed. If, then, the mass of free labour in the East was allowed to come into competition with the slavery of the West, there could be no doubt of the result. He implored the Meeting to join heart-and hand in their efforts to remove those restrictions, which were the main supports of slavery, and concluded by moving a resolution to that effect.
Mr. Sykes, M. P., fully concurred in all that had been said by his Hon. Friend who preceded him upon the subject of the sugar duties and restrictions, and the encouragement they afforded to Slavery. The best way to attack that system was undoubtedly by the abolition of all such regulations; for if they would but call to their recollection the amount of the bounties alone, £1,200,000, they must be sensible, that if these were taken off, the whole machinery of slavery must be affected by the change. It ought to be fully understood, that we ourselves are in effect the upholders of slavery. The ladies who now heard him would hardly believe him when he told them, that for every cup of tea they sweetened, they had to pay a premium on Slavery. He concluded with eulogizing the efforts of the Quakers in this cause, and paid amerited compliment to the philanthropic labours and enlightened zeal of thatindefatigable friend of mankind, Mr.Cropper, ofLiverpool.
Dr. Lushington said, that without the universal cry of the whole empire urging Parliament to some decisive act, no efforts of any individual could procure a mitigation of the horrors of West India Slavery. They were not perhaps aware, that there were no less than fifty-six Members of the House of Commons, deeply and
personally interested in the continuance! of colonial slavery ; not all speaking In its favour, but all acting and voting in a compact body to defeat the endeavour which had been made to remove that foul stain upon the English name ; whilst Mr. Canning, on whose exertions in the cause of humanity, the friends of the Negro population must chiefly rely ; who, of the present administration in the House of Commons had manifested the deepest interest in the cause, was liable to be influenced by some of his most intimate personal friends interested in the preservation of West India Slavery. He would repeat, therefore, that without the voice of the people from one end of the three kingdoms to the other, they must not hope to succeed. Dr. Lushington then stated that a Member of the House of Commons, to him unknown save by character, having occasion to visit his West India property, took with him a sister to Jamaica, and upon his arrival there endeavoured, in concert with her, as was natural for a feeling and philanthropic mind, to effect some alterations in the state of his Slaves, and to instil into them some rudiments of religious knowledge. But, would the Meeting believe it ? the gentleman and his sister were assailed with the most violent abuse on account of these exertions, and actually libelled in the newspapers, in terms too gross for him to read to that assembly. From this single instance may be well learned what is the general disposition and feeling of those actually resident in Jamaica, and how hopeless it is to expect co-operation in mitigating the evils of Slavery from men who can mock, or patiently listen to the mockery of all humane attempts for the benefit of that oppressed class. They who could take any objection to Mr. Brougham's proposal of doing the work themselves, little knew what the state of the Negro population was, or the horrors which it involved. In no point of view did it strike his mind with more indignation and disgust than in its influence on domestic happiness, the dearest ties of which were torn asunder by this accursed system. He had lately seen a parallel in the Jamaica papers, in which an English peasant was compared, through all the ramifications of his condition, with a West India Negro, and the balance in every respect, of food, clothing, lodging, liberty, and labour, drawn largely in favour of the Slave: but he would read them an extract from one of these same papers, and then ask, if in this country, there ever had been any thing approaching to it in cold-blooded heartlessness. " Run
away, a female Slave named Mary Smith, from the estate of Miss ;" and
then, after offering a reward for her apprehension, it goes on to say—" It is strongly suspected that the said Slave is harboured by her husband, William Smith." If a wife were here to fly to her husband's protection, the laws of God and man would justify him in protecting her—aye, and give him here the power to do it; but there, in that favoured country, which boasts of the condition of its population, to obey God is to violate the law of the land, and to protect the wife of his affection, is to subject himself to slripes and punishment. The Hon. and Learned Gentleman, after some other observations, in which he exposed, in very forcible and eloquent language, the assertion that the Slavery existing in our colonies « a3 not prohibited by the whole spirit and tenor of holy writ, concluded with recommending the formation of Associations throughout the kingdom, to excite and keep alive the interest necessary for a unanimous effort to abolish Negro Slavery.
• Mr. O'connell had no idea of being able, by any effort of his, to advance the cause in which this Society was engaged. But he did hate despotism so much— he did detest slavery so cordially—he did abhor cruelty so strongly—that he coald not refrain from raising his voice in the cause of liberty, and joining his exertions to the labour of those who would strike off from the slave his chains, and from the Briton his reproach. The eloquent discourse of the last speaker had roused a chord in every bosom which beat responsive to the calls of humanity, and melted every heart which sympathized with the injured and oppressed. Like that mighty master of the human mind (Sterne), who, when he wished to set before his readers the blessings of liberty, did not indulge in empty declamation, or frigid discussion, but took the captive in his cell, and placed him before them 1—clanking his chains—solitary—broken-hearted—dying—with the iron entering into his soul, and the torpor of despair spreading over his body ; so the Learned and Hon. Gentleman did not speak of Slavery in its impolicy, or its impiety, or its cruelty ; but he took the wife, torn from the arms of her protecting husband, and pictured to you the mother subjected to stripes and the father to chains, for their adherence to those laws which God and nature had declared inviolable. Who could doubt that the people of this land would lend their support to put down a system so atrocious? Who could doubt of the effect which the example of England must have on the world in general? It had had that influence universally, and every page of its history confirmed it. Who could imagine that
there would be, at the present moment, one spark of liberty on continental Europe, from the frozen regions of Russia to the rock of Gibraltar, if, when feudal power was merging into despotism, England had not struggled for and gained her free Constitution, giving to all the earth her glorious example, and shewing how easy it was for a nation to be free if she willed freedom ? What was it but her example that had placed France under a new Constitution ? What was it which revolutionized Spain and Portugal ? And though fortune might for a time frown upon their efforts, yet many a gallant heart now glowed with the hope that they might yet be able to follow that example, and triumph at last over their oppressors. Nor was the example set by this country confined to Europe. That example had passed the Atlantic, and expanded itself over America; for even among the echoes of the Andes the voice of Slavery was now heard no more. And here to instance Bolivar—the immortal Bolivar,—that illustrious hero, uniting in himself every thing magnanimous in ancient times, or heroic in modern:— what was the first act of his newly-acquired power ? The liberation of his own Negroes. What was his first address to the assembled Senators of bis Government ? " I beg as fervently of my country as I would for the lives of my children, that you will never consent that clime, or colour, or creed, should make any distinction in your republic." And what had been the fate of such exalted virtue? Why, while men joined in the universal sound of praise, Providence had smiled upon his exertions, and victory, wherever he went, had followed his standard; and every triumph he obtained was not the triumph of the man, but of liberty— not the triumph of his country, but of the human race. But the example must go farther even than America. Who could be so absurd as to think, that, when the Negro saw warriors and statesmen of his own race, he would not make a desperate exertion for freedom ? Could any man say, that, when that time came in which we should see the poet and the hero of the same cast and colour, slavery could exist a moment longer ? It was utterly impossible, and, instead of being cruel to the masters, a charge the less to be valued as it came from polluted lips, we should excite gratitude and praise for our attention to their interests, when we besought them to grant that gradual emanicipation which would secure to them the permanent enjoyment of their present property. He had thus ventured to lend his feeble efforts to the promotion of the objects of the Meeting. How, indeed, could he refuse, when he saw the cause of freedom advocated and supported by one of that illustrious family whom their ancestors had placed on the throne to maintain their liberties and uphold their rights ; a support which for countless ages he prayed that that family might continue to afford. In conclusion, he conjured those who heard him to recollect that in this country the public mind upheld every thing, and that by its influence they could not fail to accomplish their object.
Sir J. Sebright then moved a vote of thanks to the Royal Chairman ; which was seconded by Mr. Maxwell, and passed with acclamation.
His Royal Highness said, it was with painful sensations that he had met them on this occasion, for he had expected that at this Meeting they would be able to report the progress made since last year; but, unfortunately, they had not advanced a single step. However, after what had passed this day, it was impossible that the evil could last much longer. It was impossible that Englishmen could tolerate that system of slavery which was so incompatible with the British Constitution. They were accused of innovation, of proposing something new; but it ought not to be forgotten that, in the year 1795, Lord Melville, then Secretary of State, charged them with beginning at the wrong end in attacking the slave trade first: they should have begun with slavery itself. And Lord Melville was right; for slavery was the real cause, the root, of the slave trade, and unhappily, and to the disgrace of this country, slavery was just as flourishing now as it was then. He was sure, however, that if the public voice raised in its favour should be heard by Parliament, they would certainly attain their object. His family had been brought to this country for the protection of the rights and liberties of its subjects; and as a member of that family, he should not be discharging his duty towards them if he did not recommend the sacred principles of freedom by every means in his power.
All Communications to be addressed to the Secretary of the Anti-Slavery Society, 18, Aldermanbury, London; where the publications of the Society are on sale, and also at Hatchard's, Piccadilly, and Arch's, Cornhill.
London: Printed by Bagster and Thoms, 14, Bartholomew Close.
ADDRESS TO ANTI-SLAVERY ASSOCIATIONS.
THE Committee of the " London Society for the Mitigation and gradual Abolition of Slavery throughout the British dominions," have felt, in common with their friends in all parts of the kingdom, the want of a regular medium of communication concerning the progress of the work in which they are engaged. To this want, probably, are to be attributed the misconceptions which have occasionally been formed respecting the design and objects of this Society, but more frequently respecting the means which are deemed by the Committee most desirable to be employed.
With a view to supply this deficiency, the Committee propose to publish Monthly a sheet of the size of the present, which shall contain extracts from their correspondence, and such other intelligence relating to the purposes of their institution, as their acquaintance with the subject may enable them to furnish. The publication to be named the "anti-slavery Monthly Reporter," will be ready for delivery on the last day of every month. Copies will be forwaTded, at the request of any Anti-Slavery Society, at the rate of four shillings per hundred, provided the order for them be received within the month immediately following the date of each Number. It is requested that all persons wishing to receive a regular supply, will make application to the Secretary, at the Society's office, No. 18, Aldermanbury, and mention the conveyance by which they may be most conveniently sent.— They might in many cases be sent at very little expense, enclosed in booksellers' parcels, or along with the Monthly Publications of the various religious or charitable Societies; permission to that effect being obtained from the country booksellers or others to whom the parcels are addressed.
It is further earnestly recommended by the Committee to all the friends of Negro improvement, to promote the circulation of the intelligence contained in the " Anti-Slavery Reporter," by lending their own copies, or encouraging others to purchase at the Depots of the several Societies.
The Committee anticipate much benefit from the proposed publication, provided it be encouraged, as they trust it will be, by their friends throughout the country. In particular they calculate upon a large accession of strength to their cause, from numerous and influential classes of the community,—not yet sufficiently informed respecting the