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LITERATURE, SCIENCES, AND THE BELLES-LETTRES.
JANUARY TO JUNE, 1826.
Another of those meetings, for the Abolition of Negro Slavery, which have already created so much excitement in our colonies, was lately held at Norwich :' when Lord Suffield stood forward, and after vituperating the planters, and setting forth, most pathetically, all the evils of slavery, proceeded to cite particular instances of peculiar cruelty to females, and concluded by alledging these alone to be a sufficient ground for the immediate interference of Government, and the instantaneous abolition of slavery. It is not my intention to question the accuracy of the facts stated to have occurred, though it is difficult to reconcile such charges with the reputed avarice of the planters, whose property, depending upon the increase of their slaves, must necessarily be endangered by severity to females, more especially in a state of pregnancy; calumnies such as these have been so frequently promulgated, and so frequently refuted, that it is quite unnecessary to vindicate the large body of slave proprietors from any general inference in the present case ; indeed it is altogether foreign from my purpose to enter at all at this moment into the nature of slavery in our colonies : it exists, and its existence, in any form, is a sufficient argument for its extinction : such at least is the doctrine of the Anti-Slavery Society, and stated by them to be the general feeling of the British people; and truly, if any opinion can be drawn from the numerous petitions which have been presented to Parliament upon this subject, we must all arrive at the same conclusion. But, whilst this society has been busy in stirring up the feelings of the public, and preparing all these petitions, it is not a little singular that no system of negro amelioration, no system of emancipation, either progressive or inmediate, has ever emanated from their body. Dark and distant hints have, indeed, been given by individualssome have suggested task-work—some copyholds-and some, more bold, instant manumission ; but no connected system has ever been agreed upon, and I firmly believe the whole society to be as much divided amongst themselves as to the true and proper course, as the Reformers in England on the great question of Parliamentary Reform. On one point, however, they appear to be unanimous—that the whole onus of the experiment, whatever it may be, must rest upon the colonists alone, without the shadow of security or indemnity for the consequences of its failure ; and though some have admitted the right of compensation, yet none have pointed out the manner of åffording it.' M. M. New Series.—Vol. I. No.l.
This is neither just nor liberal, and we cannot be surprized that the colonists should require some guarantee before they deliver themselves and their properties to the wild and visionary schemes of speculative individuals. "If the measure is a public measure, let its consequences rest upon public responsibility. As a great national work, every one must admit that it is worthy of the age in which we live, and of the country which it is our pride to call our own; but as it is a measure surrounded with difficulties it must be approached with caution. That it is practicable I firmly believe, and if undertaken by the Government, and conducted with temperance and prudence, it is perfectly reconcileable with the interests of the planters, and the security of the islands. That colonial property, unhampered by the continual agitation of this question, retains its fair value in the estimation of European capitalists, is evident from the facility with which, we are told, the Commissioners of Hayti have negociated a loan for their government, to pay the indemnity agreed upon to the ancient proprietors of the island for the recognition of its independence. This payment denotes the feeling entertained by the blacks that indemnity was due. Now this feeling, which has been acted upon, after a long lapse of years, by self-emancipated slaves, should be the ground-work of our own proceedings in the manumission of our negroes, and, before we commence any operations, we should seek an ample guarantee for the property of the planters and the safety of the colonies. The one is blended with the other. The dominion of Great Britain would fall with the annihilation of the whites: and the possession of our West-India Islands is now become of paramount importance. The establishment of so many new governments in the American hemisphere has rendered them absolutely necessary for the protection of our commerce and the extension of our trade. The United States of America have long felt the inconveniency of having no harbour subject to their flag in the European seas, and frequent intrigues have been afloat to obtain one of the islands in the Mediterranean, but hitherto without success. The same difficulties would attend American commerce, if we suffered ourselves to lose our Trans-Atlantic possessions, either by the dissaffection of the whites, or the insurrection of the slaves.
Experience has taught us the evils which arise from the present mode of conducting this question. The blacks have been excited to tumult, and the whites, no longer feeling the security of their property, have resolved to vest no more where they are uncertain who may reap. All confidence has been destroyed; and though the markets are favourable, and the prospects of future prices fair and cheering, yet such is the panic arising from the injudicious and intemperate discussions which are daily pressed upon the public, that estates are in vain put to the hammer—no purchaser appears. In vain is application made to the capitalist for the advance even of the necessary supplies. The planter is referred to the speech of Mr. Buxton, or the pamphlet of Mr. Cooper. To this lamentable pitch of ruin has the mistaken zeal of a few, perhaps well-meaning individuals, brought the whole of our WestIndia property; and still unsatisfied, they continue to declaim, and yet produce no settled plan for the completion of their object, no organized system for its attempt. It is in the absence of all other schemes, I venture to suggest one which, though it may at first appear gigantic and chimerical, would be, I am persuaded, easy in its operation, and effec
tual in its result. It will relieve the planter from apprehension, and, whilst it offers nothing immediate to the slave, it will eventually give him liberty, after he has been rendered capable of appreciating its value, by a knowledge of civilization and the blessings of religion.
I propose that commissioners should be appointed to value all colonial property, the half of these commissioners to be nominated by the Government, the other by the respective legislatures of the different colonies ; and it shall be imperative upon all colonists to dispose of their property
to Government, at the valuation determined by these commissioners. To effect this purchase, Government should guarantee the whole sum to be paid in thirty years, by instalments, at intervals of three years, bearing an interest of 4 per cent. till finally liquidated. To render the operation more easy and profitable, the Government should avail itself of the sinking fund to pay down one-sixth of the whole; and, from the date of this arrangement, agents should be appointed to receive the consignments, at fixed salaries, instead of commissions; and the whole proceeds of all colonial produce should go annually to the credit of the Government. The revenue would be considerably augmented by the measure: for all duties being remitted on the various imports, such an impulse would thereby be given to the consumption of colonial produce, 'as would always insure a fair price and a ready market, and thousands would enjoy luxuries, and indeed necessaries (for sugar is but second to salt), which now they scarcely dare dream of, by which the annual return from the sale of colonial produce would so greatly exceed the annual interest, and the sum laid by to meet the triennial instalment, 'as to leave in the Exchequer a much more considerable sum than is now raised in the shape of duty. By the adoption of such a scheme as this, the Government would acquire the right of enforcing whatever measures it might desire, either for the immediate improvement, or the ultimate emancipation of the slaves. The Anti-Slavery Society would lose its venom, and the slaves themselves, no longer agitated and acted upon by false hopes, but seeing their condition in the hands of Government, would rest satisfied with the measures taken for the amelioration of their lot, till they should be declared by law no longer slaves. And the whole time thus employed in emancipating the negro race, without violence and without injustice—without risk to the Government —without ruin to the planters, and all the dreadful excesses of insurrection, would not exceed the period I have pointed out. A shorter probation the negroes have no right to expect. To a life of labour they have been born, and in that state, to which it has pleased God to call them, they must be content to abide, till it shall please him, in his mercy, to grant them a better. They must endure the same hardships which fall to the share of all labouring communities, and let them recognize in their fate the hand of a bountiful and all-seeing Providence; to their slavery they are indebted for the benefits of instruction and the knowledge of the Christian redemption. It was the state of utter ignorance and savage stupidity in which the Africans were found in their own country, that induced the whites to render them subservient to their own speculative views of colonization in the West, whilst the American Indians were absolved from slavery and labour of every kind -doubtless there were peculiarities in the situation of each, which may account for this apparent preference; but it is not a little curious to observe how the favoured race in North America has been almost