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weak to conquer their independence like America, or to present that formidable array of national preparation, which established the claims of Ireland.
"Such is the spirit manifested by those constitutional guardians of the rights of the people, the Edinburgh Reviewers, who, in this case, forgetting all their wonted principles, and substituting might for right, affect to despise the impotence of what they term ' West India clamour and swagger;' * who ridicule the idea of the West Indies following the example of America, by saying, that' what was boldness in the one ease would be impudence in the other;' and that * England must be reduced very low indeed, before she can feel greatly alarmed at a Caribbee Island, like Lord Grizzle in Tom Thumb, exclaiming, ''Sdeath, I'll be a rebel.' f This is just the language that was lield by some equally sapientpoliticians, and redoubted generals, on the jirst breaking out of the disturbances between Great Jiritain and her colonies in North America ; when a general officer declared in the House of Commons, that he would march through America, from one end to the other, with a thousand men. Every considerate mind must deprecate this contemptuous manner of treating the colonists; for if any thing can drive men to desperation, and decide them to hazard every extremity, it is thus adding insult to injury. This is indeed at once throwing the sword into the scale, and putting an end to that dispassionate discussion, which alone reconcile the rights of the colonies, with the dignity of the mother country, and the interests of humanity." The feelings of the Colonial Assemblies themselves, as to these matters, were embodied in Resolutions, Protests, Reports of all sorts, during the period of ferment excited by the question of the Registry Bills—that is in 1816 and 1817. Thaithe negro revolt of IS 16 had been excited by the agitation of this question, the flags, and inscriptions, and devices of the insurgents, manifested from the beginning ; and if any doubt could have existed, that was annihilated by the subsequent confession of those who were tried and convicted, after the Government had succeededinputtingtherevoltdown. That it was put down without a far more terrible cost of life, was entirely owing to the local circumstances under which it had occurred—Barbadoes being a
very small and flat island, every part of it cultivated ground, the population concentrated, and no possibility of escape after defeat. Had the thing been attempted then in Jamaica, how different must have been the result! But the revolt, such as it was, and, above all, the Wilberforcian war-cries and emblems, of which the negroes were proved to have made use, effectually damped for the time the ardour, or at least the resolution, of the agitators in England, and all the world knows how the Registry Question was at length settled bya sort of compromise, wherein the Parliament at home, and the Colonial Parliaments, met each other half way.
The recent agitations, however, have shewn abundantly, that the Colonial Assemblies are still of the same mind they expressed in 1816. In Jamaica, in Barbadoes, in Grenada, and indeed everywhere, Resolutions have again been resorted to, and the republication of some of these documents has already begun to attract not a little notice on this side of the water. We have before us a mass of these Colonial papers. They all breathe the same spirit: but, as might be expected, they do not all express this, either with the same temper, or with the same talent. In several particulars, we give the decided preference to the manifesto of the Bahamas, which has just been reprinted in London, (we know not whether for general publication or not,) under the title of " An Official Letter to George Chalmers, Esq. (Colpnial Agent for the Bahamas,) concerning the proposed abolition of slavery in the West Indies." This letter is written with a degree of calmness which, under all the circumstances, we really regard as astonishing. The writers go over the different accusations on which the Wilberforces have so long harped, and most effectually vindicate their own character in the teeth of all those venomous common-places. But their defence has already been anticipated by ourselves, as to the most important of these particulars : we shall therefore quote only the following passages, in which the second and more general class of topics is handled.
Tlte West Indian Controversy.
"Even, should Parliament conceive that it possessed a legitimate authority, to interfere with the domestic and other internal concerns of these colonies; let us ask, has Mr Wilberforce made out a case, sufficient to justify so unprecedented an exercise of that authority? At a time when few, if any, of the colonies had passed laws for the protection of the slaves, or the amelioration of their condition; before scarcely an attempt was made to introduce Christianity among them, and crimes against them might have been openly committed with impunity; even then, the right of property in Slaves was reverenced as sacred, and intangible even by Parliament itself. But now, after the most important changes have taken place in almost every particular; when the Slaves are everywhere under the protection of wholesome laws, which, let the Abolitionists assert what they please, are enforced with more or less rigour in every colony; when Christianity is rapidly gaining ground among them; when, by tlie Abolition of the Slave Trade, the Slaves in tlie West Indies are effectually cut off from all further contagion of barbarism and paganism from Africa, and already begin to evince considerable advances, in point of habits and principles, to a better condition ; wlien emancipations arc daily becoming more common, and the rights of both free Negroes and Slaves, are placed under a degree even of unnecessary protection by the late Registry laws, so strenuously recommended by the Abolitionists themselves; still that restless party appear to be even more dissatisfied than ever; and, in the fretfulness of their impatience for our final ruin, have at length discovered, that Parliament not only has a constitutional right to divest us of our property, or otherwise deal with it at discretion; but also that, unless Parliament does interfere, nothing can or will ever be done for the redress of those enormous but imaginary wrongs, with which, unfounded in fact, as they are unsupported by proof, every colony in the West Indies is indiscriminately charged.
"What may be within the power of the British Parliament, it would perhaps be as difficult to define, as it might be perilous to question. But power does not always constitute right. Our colonists, being no longer represented in the Parliament of the mother country, were placed by the Crown (and the right of the Crown in this instance has never been questioned) under the government of Parliaments of their own ; the mother country reserving to herself, or her Parliament, only a sort of homage from the
17colonies, in matters relating to their maritime concerns. A political right, once unconditionally conferred, never can be recalled ; or the liberties even of England would be at this day enjoyed only by sufferance of the reigning Monarch. What was Magna Charta itself, but a royal boon ?—extorted indeed by intimidation, but perhaps, on that very account, only the less binding on the bestower. The same might perhaps be said, with very little abatement of circumstance, as to the Bill of Rights, as well as many other of those high securities for British freedom, which we have been so long in the habit of regarding with veneration. And yet, has it ever been pretended, that Parliament could constitutionally revoke those concessions?
"Whatever principal therefore of supposed dependence, may be attached to those colonial bodies that have been incorporated only by charters, which, perhaps, as such, may be liable to forfeiture; or to those colonies, as the Canadas, the Constitutions of which were originally created, and afterwards altered by the British Parliament; we conceive that the»present Constitution of the Bahamas, as well as that of Jamaica, and several other West India colonies, stands in this respect upon the highest possible ground. We purposely avoid details, because they are already well known to all who interest themselves [in West India affairs; and to those who do not, they would be of little use.—Among the rash measures of the British Ministry, in the early part of the revolt of the North American colonies, Parliament was induced to declare by law, that it had the right to legislate for the colonies in all cases; a declaration, by the by, which, from its being deemed necessary at such a season, admits the existence of some serious doubts upon the subject. This high-toned pretension accordingly was very shortly afterwards modified by the important exception of the riglu of taxation; and at last virtually abandoned, in toto, by the recog nition of the revolted Provinces, as Independent States. As, therefore, the General Assembly of these islands was lawfully constituted by the Crown, without any manner of Parliamentary sanction, except so far as the Assembly, with the King at its head, is in itself a Parliament for all local purposes, we sincerely hope tliat the question may never be seriously raised as a matter of contention with the mother country, whether the British Parliament can constitutionally interfere with our internal concerns; for on that puint, tltare can be but one opinion among I lie independent part of all tlie fne colania."
Take in connection with these expressions of the principal authorities in one colony, what Mr Brougham, yes, Mr Brougham himself, said, long ago, about the general question of Parliamentary interference.
"After the Government of the mother country lias abolished the African trade, the Colonial Legislatures are fully competent to take all the steps that may be necessary for improving the system. They are precisely in the situation which insures the adoption of wise measures; they are composed of men immediately interested in the pursuit of that very conduct which the good of the system requires. All the individuals who form the Assemblies, are concerned in the preservation and increase of the negro stock; in the improvement of the whole colonial society; in the gradual reformation of the general system. They are separated from their brother colonists only by that election which confers upon them the power of watching over the common good, and imposes on them the duty of investigating the means whereby it may best be attained. For the same reason that it would be in vain to expect from such men the great measure of Abolition, it would be foolish to despair of obtaining from them every assistance in promoting those subordinate schemes which may conduce to the amelioration of the colonial policy. Of their superior ability to devise and execute such measures, we cannot entertain the smallest doubt. They are men intimately acquainted with every minute branch of colonial affairs, and accustomed from their earliest years to meditate upon no other subjects. They reside in the heart of the system for which their plans are to be laid, and on which the success of every experiment is to be tried.
"The general question of Abolition may easily be examined at a distance. All the information that is necessary for the discussion of it has already been procured by the mother countries of the different European colonies. Its connection with various interests, not colonial, renders the provincial governments incompetent to examine it, even if their interest* and prejudices left them at liberty to enter upon a fair investigation.
"But the details of the Slave Laws require more minute and accurate acquaint
ance with an infinite variety of particulars, which can only be known to those who reside upon the spot. To revise the domestic codes of the colonies, would be a task which no European government could undertake for want of information, and for want of time. Any Parliament, Council, or Senate, which should begin such a work, would find it necessary to give up legislating for the mother country, in order partly to mar, and partly to neglect, the legislation of the colonies. Let this branch of the imperial administration, then, be left to the care of those who are themselves most immediately interested in the good order and government of the distant provinces, and whose knowledge of local circumstances, of those things that cannot be written down in reports, nor told by witnesses, is more full and practical. The question of Abolition is one and simple ; it is answered by a yea or a nay; its solution requires no exercise of invention; the questions of regulation are many and complex; they are stated by a 'quomodo;' they lead to the discovery of means, and the comparison of measures proposed. Without pretending to dispute the supremacy of the mother country, we may be allowed to doubt her omniscience; and the colonial history of modern Europe may well change our doubts into disbelief. Without standing out for the privileges of the colonies, we may suggest their more intimate acquaintance with the details of the question, and maintain that the interest both of the mother country and the colonies requires a subdivision of the labour of legislation ; a delegation of certain duties and inquiries to those who are most nearly connected with the result, and situated within the reach of the materials. When the Abolition shall have rendered all the planters more careful of their stock, and more disposed to encourage breeding, the only task for the colonial governments will be to regulate the relative rights of the two classes, to prepare the civilization of the subordinate race, and to check those cruelties which may still appear in a few instances of individual inhumanity and policy."*
And last of all, hear what Mr Murryat said in 1816, just before the Barbadoeit revolt broke out.
"An eminent political writer, speaking of the British colonists, says,—
"' Masters of slaves are by far the most proud and jealous of their freedom. Freedom is to them, not only an enjoyment, but a kind of rank and privilege. Not seeing there, that freedom, as in countries where it is a common blessing, and as broad and general as the air, may be united with much abject toil, with great misery, with all the exterior of servitude, liberty looks among them like something that is more noble and liberal. Such were all the ancient commonwealths; such were our Gothic ancestors; such, in our days, were the Poles; and such will ever be, all masters of slaves who are not slaves themselves. In them, haughtiness combines with the spirit of freedom, fortifies it, and renders it invincible.'•
* Brougham's Colonial Policy, voL II. p. 502.
"It would be degrading to the memory of that great man, who wrote and spoke on colonial subjects with a prophetic spirit, to compare his observations, founded on a deep knowledge of human nature, with the superficial and flippant remarks of the Edinburgh Reviewers. Whether the haughty spirit of the White inhabitants in the West Indies, may or may ■ot submit to superior force, one thing is certain, that Great Britain cannot make the experiment, without forfeiting the confidence, and alienating the affections of that class of her subjects. The British West India colonies labour under greater disadvantages than those of any other European power j for although exempted from direct taxation, the double monopoly to which they are subjected, of receiving all their supplies from, and shipping all their produce to the mother country, comprehends within itself every possible species of taxation, and renders the whole of their industry contributory, in an unexampled degree, to the increase of her commercial greatness and naval power. Their only compensation for this disadvantage, is, that they enjoy the blessings of a free Government; that they are admitted into a participation of the privileges and benefits of the British Constitution. Deprive them of these, and the tie that attaches them to the mother country will at once be broken; the charm that has secured their loyalty, under the most trying hardships, will at once be dissolved. They will brood, in sullen silence, over their lost rights; and meditate the means by which they may hereafter be regained.
"The Abbe Raynal has predicted, that the West India Islands will one day belong to America, on account of their natural dependence upon her for the great necessaries of life; and the accomplish
ment of this prediction is likely to be hastened, by the intemperate counsels of the African Institution. When the constitutional rights of the colonies were invaded, the Stamp Act was burnt as publicly in the British West India Islands, as in the American colonies, though the contest between the mother country and the latter, afterwards turned upon points in which the former had no concern ; and nothing can be so likely to bring about an union between the remaining, and the revolted colonies of Great Britain, as a new dispute concerning legislative rights. The hostile spirit of America towards this country, and her ambition to become a great naval power, would induce her to watch the first favourable opportunity of supporting the West India colonies, in asserting that independence which she herself established; and to fan the embers of rising discontent among them into a flame, in order to sever those valuable possessions from Great Britain, and unite them to her own Government."
We confess that the general aspect of the New World at this particular time, has no tendency to make us view some of these matters more easily than this highly intelligent person was able to do seven years ago. On the contrary, who can be blind to the fact, that the whole of that immense region is, at this moment, in a state of most alarming confusion? who has not had smne tears that England may be called upon to arm herself in consequence of events not yet developed, nay, of influences not yet capable of being analysed ?—And if she should be so called upon, who but a fanatic can be fool enough to doubt—who but a Whig can be base enough to pretend to doubt— that there are powers, ay, more than one, which, in seeking to derive advantage from the agitated state of feeling, that already has been excited in our colonies, and that may, unless a very different tone be taken in certain quarters, be pushed very easily to a degree of excitement as yet happily unknown, would do nothing but what abundant precedents have heretofore shewn them quite capable of doing, and that under circumstances by no means so favourable for their views, as are, or may soon enough be, exhibited? Who has not d: eamt, at least, of the possibility of a North American alliance against Britain, purchased by the bribe of all others the most likely to captivate the imagination of those sagacious, not less than ambitious republicans? And who, supposing such a bargain to be really in posse, would voluntarily court the risk of contemplating it in esse and in opere?Some of the publications which the recent march of events has called forth from among the British colonists themselves, deserve, however, to be referred to for many things, besides the information they afford concerning the present state of feeling among our own fellow-subjects in that quarter of the world. In one point of view, therefore—we must admit, to be sure it is a very subordinate one—the agitators at home have done some good by their new outcries. They have compelled, so to speak, the production of the only thing that was wanting for their own destruction—a mass of really genuine and authentic facts, illustrative both of the actual condition of our own negroes now, and of the effects of which rash revolutionary experiments have actually been productive among the negro population, and upon the commercial prosperity of the great Island of St Domingo. It was only the culpable state of ignorance (for we must call it so) in which we had been suffered to remain by those who ought to have laboured in furnishing us with knowledge,—it was this alone that put in the power of the Clarksons, Wilberforcos, and other wellmeaning dupes of Brougham and the East Indian free-traders, to excite that measure of public feeling, of which we all witnessed the unhappy effects during the last session of Parliament. Happily, there is no need for lamenting what is past and irrevocable —happily, no such excuse remains now. The English planters have vindicated themselves wilh a modesty that adorns their firmness—and they have shewn us, in their genuine views of Hayti, something very different indeed from the paradisaical creations of Mr Clarkson's Mute.
Into this wide field we cannot at present enter. We shall merely make two short extracts from two distinct works thathave just appeared, inreference to the vaunted Utopia of revolutionized St Domingo,—And first, what says "the Official Letter from the Bahamas?"
"It is absolute trifling with the people of Great Britain, and worse thun trilling with the colonies, to persist thus in holding out the absurd idea, that negroes, when emancipated, (the writer means if emancipated in their present, or in anything like their present state,) would continue to employ themselves in the cultivation of West India produce upon wages. Does the experience of any one island in the West Indies justify it? Not one; let Mr Wilberforce say what he pleases about his disbanded soldiers and American deserters; or, to come still closer to the point, do the present situation of St Domingo, and the dreadful aspect of affairs in that abyss of anarchy, kept down only by arms, justify it? On the contrary, to raise a twentieth part of what once was the produce of that unfortunate island, the peasantry had to be reduced to a state of worse than military vassalage, infinitely more degrading, unjust, odious, sanguinary, and cruel, than Mr Wilberforce himself, even under the malignant influence of one of his worst West India nightmarcs could possibly dream of finding in any portion of the western world. The cultivators of the soil in Hayti, we understand, are not, like our slaves or our soldiers and sailors, exposed to the horrors of the cat-o'-nine-tails. No, they are free—and therefore they are only sabred or shot when they fail to bring the expected quantity of produce into the quondam royal, hut now presidential, exchequer. Mr Wilberforce's allusion, indeed, to the present state of St Domingo, is most unfortunate for his cause; particularly with respect to the religious improvement likely to be the result of suddenly manumitting any large body of slaves. In that ill-fated island, our missionaries, reasoning possibly with Mr Wilberforce, calculated no doubt on a rich harvest of grace among negroes, now no longer restrained by the chains of bondage, from the means of religious instruction. Let the mission speak for itself. While, in nearly every other part of the West Indies, the missionaries boast of increasing success and brightening prospects, the modern St Domingo stands alone impregnable to the real truths of Christianity. On the 15th of January, 1821, the Rev. MrEvariste, the missionary sent thither, writes thus:—' Every door is shut against us, ami we are deprived in every possible way of liberty to act either according to the Gospel or our own conscience, or the light of truth.' Again, ' This city is a burden to me, on account of the fearful and horrible things which I see; particularly the habitual