Abbildungen der Seite

limits. At any rate, it will enable us to judge calmly of the wisdom exercised by our representatives in the last Parliament, when, with this case before them, they renewed, almost by acclamation, their professions of confidence in assemblies of Slaveowners, and acted up to those professions.

When Mr Brougham, in order to ascertain the credit due to the representations made by the Government on behalf of the Colonial Assemblies, and examine accurately the grounds upon which his proposed Bill was delayed, moved for å return of the titles and dates of all the West Indian laws, passed since May 1823, and providing for any of the great interests of the Slave population, distinguishing those interests under the various heads, of Religious Instruction, Admissibility of Slave Evidence, Facilities to Marriage, Compulsory Manumission, Security of Property, Regulation of Punishment, and Prevention of Separation by Sale from the estates or from their families, a statement was produced in a Tabular form, and ordered to be printed on the 5th of April. That document, the first case relied on by the West Indian advocates, now lies before us; and in almost all the Islands, and all the important particulars, it presents a blank! Nil, to use the technical phrase, is the prevailing feature of the return. But much dissatisfaction was expressed by those zealous defenders of the system, at the nature of this paper, when they perceived the effect which it was calculated to produce; when, for instance, they saw that the greatest Island of all, Jamaica, presented to the eye, in five out of eight columns, the word none ;' and in the remaining three, a few words, which to the mind in an instant conveyed the very same impression; and that the Island next in importance, Barbadoes, in every one of the eight columns made the same ominous negative sign! A tabular form was plainly ill adapted to the statement of their case; and after a good deal of surd murmur at the negligence with which the paper had been got up, they presented perhaps a more full, certainly a more bulky, but in reality not a more correct statement, containing extracts from the Acts of Assembly themselves, under all the heads. The Acts themselves, and the correspondence with the Governors, were about the same time laid be. fore Parliament; and we shall now shortly demonstrate how en. tirely they speak the same language of negation; how accurately their amount in substance is, after all, nil; how truly they present one wide and dreary waste, without an object for the eye of him to rest on, who would still fondly imagine that slave-owners are fit to legislate for slaves; how impressively they teach, for the thousandth time, the lesson, that what is

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

wanting to those unhappy beings, must be supplied from the disinterested solicitude of the mother country.

Let us begin with Jamaica, the most forward object in every point of view, and the quarter from which, on every account, most was to be expected. The amended statement, after citations from three Acts passed since 1823, concludes with this very ample admission.

' It does not appear from the documents received at this department, that any Act has been ‘ passed by the Legislature of Jamaica since the fifteenth of May one thousand eight hundred and twenty-three, containing any provisions respecting the admissibility of the evidence of slaves - for preventing the sale of slaves detached from the estates of their owners--for preventing the separation of slaves « from their relations—for restraining or regulating the punish«ments of slaves by their masters or those having authority

from their masters-provisions for enabling slaves to acquire i and enjoy property-Nor any provisions respecting the office of protector and guardian of slaves.' (p. 6.)

What then, it may be asked, has been done under the remaining heads, of Religious Instruction, Marriage, Manumission, and Property? An Act has been passed, extending to Saturday the protection against being taken in execution for their master's debts, already provided for Sunday; and another has been framed respecting the clergy, the principal provision of which is, to give the newly appointed Bishop ecclesiastical jurisdiction. Curates are allowed to marry, either on the estates, or at the chapels. A person possessing only a lifeinterest in a slave, is allowed to free him, upon providing compensation to the party having the reversion; and by another act, slaves are declared capable of receiving legacies of personal property,—but are prohibited from suing for them in any court of law or equity. Is not this a very prolix and roundabout way of saying the same word None, -or nil,-or nothing? The extension from Sunday to Saturday is plainly for the benefit of the master; the provision respecting life-interests, does not enable a slave to obtain his freedom upon being able to pay for it, by a fair appraisement between him and his master, which was the meaning of manumission in the discussion as referring to the Trinidad Order in Council ; and the right to receive a legacy, and give a valid acquittance' for it, if the executor or administrator chooses to pay it, is a right of property closely resembling the foregoing personal right. The Duke of Manchester himself justly characterises such measures as of very trifling importance,' (Continuation of Papers, 1825, p.-5); and the following expressions of his Grace to the

Secretary of State, and to the Assembly, show how different an estimate of our prospects in that quarter is formed by those on the spot and those at a distance.

Mr Speaker, and Gentlemen of the Assembly-Another year • has been allowed to pass away



effectual measure · having been adopted for the improvement of the condition of

the slaves. It does not become me to anticipate what the result may be of the great disappointment his Majesty's Government will ' experience, when they learn that the reiterated representations • which have been made to you, to do what your own interest * calls for, as much as a due regard for those who look up to

you for protection and relief, have totally failed. In obeying • the instructions which I received, I earnestly pressed upon your consideration the necessity of doing something, if not to disarm your enemies, still to satisfy your friends, and more • than all to convince Parliament, that the urgent representa‘tions of his Majesty's Government had not been entirely dis* regarded.'

To Lord Bathurst he writes- I am afraid, after so many re* peated trials, that there is no hope of persuading the present House of Assembly to do any thing effectual for the relief of the slaves. I have exhausted all the means in my power to lead them

to a proper way of thinking. I, in the first instance, assumed • a responsibility, by speaking to them in my own name, and which, perhaps, I was not justified in doing. I have since addressed them in the name of his Majesty's Govern* ment, and employed the words of your Lordship's despatch in my speech. I reminded them that the time had now arrived when the island enjoyed perfect repose, and nothing had oc"curred to mislead the minds of the slaves, or encourage a• mongst them unreasonable expectations, and, of course, pe'culiarly favourable for the consideration of what may be • found practicable for their benefit.'

In Barbadoes, the Tabular View laid by the Government before Parliament had represented, that no provisions were made under any one of the eight heads. Each column contained the word® None,' and nothing else ; although certainly it was stated, that an Act passed there, in March 1825, was under consideration at home, and that this Act had, for one of its objects, to give the slaves further protection. The more detailed statement afterwards produced, extracts from this notable specimen of Colonial Legislation several of its enactments, and parades them under the heads of Evidence, Manumission, Punishment, and Property. The reader who does not read who only looks at the title or head of the column, and finding VOL. XLV. NO. 89.


there, for example, " Provisions respecting the Admissibility of • Slave Evidence,' observes, without reading further, a whole page of printing--will naturally be deceived into the notion, that some new provisions have been made by the Barbadoes Legislature for allowing slave evidence to be received. But he has only to look a little more closely, and he will find the provision to be one to facilitate the conviction of persons accused of selling arms, powder, or poisons to slaves, and for this purpose allowing the slaves to be examined, but providing that the freeman's oath shall be an answer to the slave's,- and the other declaring, that the evidence of slaves against each other shall be received in all cases as heretofore. Such provisions plainly have nothing to do with the real meaning of the title "Admis• sibility of Slave Evidence;' and it becomes, therefore, a matter of perfect indifference to examine whether they are new, or only copied from former acts. One of them avowedly makes no change in the law as it before stood; the other, in all probability, is likewise a copy, or merely declaratory.

The same observation applies with perhaps greater force, if it be possible, to the head of Nanumission. In the detailed statement, it is made to look as if there were three sections in the New Act, facilitating the manumission of slaves;' and the inference obviously intended to be conveyed is, that Barbadoes has, since May 1823, made so many provisions for this purpose. But what is the fact? The first of the clauses provides, that any slave giving such information of rebellion, or plots, or “evil designs, ' as may procure the conviction of any other slave or free person, shall be declared free; the second enables the Legislature (somewhat superfluously) to declare any slave free who shall distinguish himself in fighting against an invading enemy, or against any insurgent slaves; and the third provides, that any slave manumitted in either of these ways, shall be tried for all offences committed before manumission, exactly as if he were still a slave. These provisions, then, have clearly nothing to do with facilitating the manumission of slaves. But such as they are, it happens that they were made about a century and a quarter before May 1823. The first is taken from the Act of Assembly 1692, October 27th ; the second from the Act of Assembly 1707, November 30th, with the addition of the case of rebellion, not to be found in the former Act; the third, we believe, is the only novelty in the Act 1825. So that the only additions are those which bear hard upon the Negroes, the enabling parts are old, the restraining parts alone new.

The provisions for enabling slaves to acquire and enjoy Property, ' turn out to he penalties attached to any one allow


ing his slave to go at large, in order to work for his own benefit or that of his master, without license; penalties upon employing any slave without making agreement with his master; power given to any person to seize slaves who shall have any articles of produce in their possession, and 39 stripes attached to the slaves for this offence; and other checks upon the cultivation of produce. As for the provisions respecting Punishment, they are those which we cited in our last discussion of the subject, to shew the cruelty and injustice of the system; They are such indeed as to excite indignation wherever they have been made known; and are only fit to be appealed to by the enemies of the system as decisive evidence of the incapacity of the Islands for legislating respecting slaves. A single example may suffice.

After a preamble, reciting that it is highly expedient to restrain owners and other persons having the government and • direction of slaves, from indiscriminately, wantonly, andcruelly • exercising the power they possess over their slaves, and that, * as the cruelty of punishment by flogging necessarily depends much more upon the manner of intlicting it, than upon the

number of stripes, it is therefore deemed most conducive to the • ends of humanity, to trust to the discretion and good feelings of

the justices (planters of course) before whom complaints of 6 such offences shall be made, it is enacted, that if any person shall hereafter commit any wanton act or acts of cruelty towards any slave, or if the same shall be committed by his direction

or order, or with his knowledge, privity, or consent, or shall "wantonly, maliciously, and cruelly whip, beat, or bruise any

slave, or keep in confinement, without sufficient food and sup'port, any slave, or shall suffer, pernit, cause or procure the same to be done, whether such slave may or may not belong to him, such person shall be summoned before any two justices of the peace, to answer for the offence, and such justices are ordered, on conviction thereof, to impose a penalty on the person so offending, not exceeding twenty-five pounds, accord. ing to the nature of the offence.'--Section 44.

As a contrast to this punishment for wantonly and cruelly bruising a slave that is doing him any personal violence short of cutting off a limb, it is fit that we show the kind of punishment denounced against the slaves, in order to exemplify the evenness with which the scales of West Indian justice are poised. It is enacted by the same law of 1825, that any slaves 'guilty of quarrelling or fighting with one another; or of in

solent language or gestures to any White person; or of swear*ing, or uttering any obscene speeches; or of drunkenness, or


« ZurückWeiter »