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• making, selling, throwing, or firing squibs, serpents, or other • fire-works; or of cock-fighting, or gaming; or of riding on a • faster gait than a walk; or of driving on a faster gait than a * gentle trot; or of cruelly whipping or beating any horse, mare,
mule, ass, or other cattle; or of negligently driving any cart, ' &c., or of any disorderly conduct or behaviour, shall, on conviction before a magistrate, be whipped at the discretion of * such magistrate, not exceeding thirty-nine stripes! Again, it is enacted, that any slave who shall hear any other slave
speak any words tending to mutiny or rebellion, or shall know • of his having gunpowder or arms in his possession for pur
poses of rebellion, and shall not immediately disclose the same, • shall suffer Death, without benefit of clergy, or such other * punishment as the court may think fit.' It is unnecessary to add, that the very least we can say of the Barbadoes Legislature is, that it has done nothing since May 1823. To admit this, is giving a somewhat favourable picture of its proceedings.
We shall now, instead of going through the six other colonies in detail, take the heads to which the papers refer, and see if, under any of them, any improvement has been made in any of the Islands. We have already shown, that Jamaica and Barbadoes, in comparison of which all the rest put together are of little importance, and the councils of which might be expected to show most liberality and wisdom, have done absolutely nothing on any of the great subjects pressed upon their consideration by the united voice of the Government, the Parliament, and the People of England. We shall now inquire if any of the lesser settlements has evinced a better disposition on any of those questions.
1. Has provision been made for the Religious instruction of the slaves, by any of these Colonial Legislatures? The Bahamas Assembly passed an act in 1824, it is said, requiring that all * owners, &c. shall, as much as in them lies, endeavour to in• struct their slaves in the Christian Religion, and shall do their - endeavour to fit them for baptism, and, as soon as conveni
ently may be, shall cause to be baptised, all such slaves as they can make sensible of a Deity and of the Christian faith.' So
says the 9th clause of the Act, passed 28th January 1824; but so, and in the self same words, had said the Act passed by the same Legislature in the year 1796, section 6. This very precise and efficient provision of Colonial legislation, therefore, has not the merit of novelty, whatever its other perfections may be. In Grenada, there are one or two provisions, of no practical efficacy, upon the same matter; and the more definite enactments of the Act passed in 1788 are omitted, as are also
the important penal clauses of that Act, 99, 10 and 11, for preventing the debauching of female slaves, whether by freemen or slaves. In St Vincents, Sunday markets are restricted to the morning, before ten o'clock, involving a necessity of passing the Sabbath on the road home, or in idling about the town, wherever the slave has to come from a distance. For the further promoting religious instruction,' it is likewise enacted, that all slaves found preaching, or teaching any re• ligious subject,' shall, upon due proof thereof, receive whipping and imprisonment, by way, it should seem, of at once stimulating their zeal and aiding their meditations. In Dominica, two provisions, enacting that slaves shall be encouraged to be baptized, and allowed to attend divine worship, under a penalty of five pounds, and that goods shall not be publickly sold during service, are taken from the Act 1788; and a day in each fortnight, instead of in each week, is given to the slaves for cultivating their provision grounds. In Tobago alone is any thing enacted that can pretend to answer the description of provision for promoting religious instruction or the observe ance of the Sabbath. Sunday markets are there abolished, and one day in the week allowed to the slaves.
2. Has any provision been made for the admissibility of slave Evidence by those Colonial Legislatures? The Bahamas Act of 1824 is cited, as containing such provisions; but nothing can be more absurd. It declares that, in all cases, slaves may be witnesses against slaves, which they were by the former laws of the Island; and it copies sections 64 and 73, word for word, from the Act of 1796, sections 59 and 69 affixing the punishments for perjury, and directing slave evidence to be received against such Negroes, Mulattoes, &c. as have been once slaves, and are now freed--a provision rather unfavourable than favourable to the Black race. In Grenada, however, it is confidently said that slave testimony has been admitted; and in the same way, there can be little doubt that all the Legislatures which have peremptorily rejected the proposition, would feel no reluctance whatever to adopt it, if the mother country could be satisfied with such a manifest evasion. For, first, the slave to be examined must produce a certificate of baptism from a clergyman of the Established church ; next, a certificate, either from the clergyman or the owner, or his altorney, that he is of good character and repute, and so far instructed in religion as to understand the nature and obligation of an oath : then the court is, before admitting his evidence, to decide on the validity of those certificates, and the truth of the facts certified; and, after all, no White or free person is to be
convicted on slave evidence, unless two slaves concur in deposing to the same facts and circumstances, and unless their testimony be clear and consistent,' and also unless it be corroborated by circumstantial evidence, to the satisfaction of the court, and even then only if the trial take place within twelve months of the offence. Let
any man reflect for a moment on the small number of English witnesses who could ever be sworn under such restrictions, the still smaller number whose testimony could be allowed to go to the jury, and the imperceptible amount of the risk which any criminal would run of conviction, though the case should, under such grounds, be gone into, and he will then be able to estimate how far Grenada is an exception to the general rule of rejecting the propositions for admitting slave evidence. The Legislators of Tobago bave not gone much further; in cases of murder, mayhem, or cruelty, where no free person can be produced as a witness, and two slaves were present, they may be examined, and their testimony is to have the weight of one White's, provided their credit is unimpeached. This notable provision was made in 1823. In St Vincent, the subject was disposed of as late as December 1825; and the provision is there clogged with some half dozen re. strictions, which really make it a mere mockery, we should think, in the eyes of the most prejudiced West Indian. The evidence is confined to cases of murder, felony, and other transportable offences. The slave must have a certificate of baptism from the established clergyman, as in the Grenada law; but he must have a certificate of character, not as there from the cler. gyman or the owner, but from both, so that the slaves on every estate are admissible or not, as the owner and his attorney please; all the other restrictions of the Grenada Act are adopted verbatim, and, moreover, the two slaves must be examined apart; and, as if any thing of negro testimony still remained to be afraid of, it is expressly declared, that it shall never, in any case, be received against either the owner, attorney, manager,
overseer, or person having the charge of such slave'-or • in ' in any case where any White person may be charged with a • capital offence!! So much had the Colonial Legislators improved between April, the date of the Grenada Act, and December !
The same lapse of time seems to have communicated equal improvement to the lawgivers of Dominica ; for the Act passed in January 1826, after stating, by way of preamble, the difficulty of convicting free persons of offences committed against slaves, and the consequent necessity of allowing the latter to give evidence, under such restrictions as are rendered abso
• lutely necessary by their imperfect knowledge respecting the • true nature of an oath,' enacts, that they shall be admitted in all cases . except charges against their owners,' that is, in all except the cases where it is at all material for their protection to receive their testimony; But, this restriction being stated to be rendered necessary by their ignorance of the true nature
of an oath,' it is further provided, that in no case whatever shall they be allowed to give evidence, unless, after having • been minutely interrogated, they appear to the Court tho• roughly to comprehend the true nature and meaning of an - oath.' There are the usual restrictions of two slaves being witnesses, otherwise there is no admission of the slave evidence, of consistent examination apart, and prosecution within twelve months. Absurd and utterly inconsistent with each other as these enactments are, they seem to have been suiiicient to satisfy the Council of St Kitts; for they have recommended the provisions of the Dominica Act respecting slave evidence to the adoption of the Assembly. The Governor, however, reports, that neither there, nor in Nevis, nor in the Virgin Isles, has any progress been made towards making or adopting any law whatever respecting the slave population. (Continuation of Papers, p. 69.) 'It is therefore clear, that to the important question, what has been done any where to facilitate the admission of slave evidence, the true nature' of the pretended measures being understood, the proper answer is, Nothing.
3. Has any thing been done to encourage Marriage among the slaves? Only two colonies have done any thing that can be pretended to touch the subject of marriage. The Bahamas Assembly has allowed slaves professing the Christian religion to marry with the consent of their owners, as if Pagans were not still more likely to be improved by the introduction of marriage among them; and the St Vincent's legislature has, for the religion, substituted as a condition, the slaves appearing to understand the nature of the marriage vow.
4. Has any thing been done any where to facilitate Manumission, meaning by this, to give the slave a power of obtaining his freedom, who is willing and able to pay the fair price for it? In Bahamas we find a provision stated under this head, for suspending all acts imposing a tax on manumissions. This law is dated 1824, and would be of little avail if it had any meaning; but it happens, that, since 1921, there had been no tax on manumissions in the colony. This we learn from No. 317 of the Papers ordered to be printed, 11th May 1823, and entitled Slave Population. It is a certificate from the Colonial Secretary to that effect, and bears date 5th December 1822. In Grenada, the provision has been adopted which we formerly mentioned as having been adopted in Jamaica, as to persons having a life-interest in slaves; but it is restricted to the case of mortgagers, in respect of the mortgagees, and thus becomes still more trifling in importance. In Dominica, the manumission tax imposed in 1810 has been repealed; in Tobago, St Kitts, and the other islands, except St Vincent, nothing is pretended to have been done, or even attempted, under this head; but St Vincent was always, during the Parliamentary discussions of the last Session, cited as having, though it was admitted to be the only one, yet furnished an instance of a West Indian provision for facilitating compulsory manumission—that is, manumission at the option of the slaves. The Act of December 1825, containing this provision, was there. fore expected with much anxiety; and, upon examination, it is found to contain no provision at all for facilitating manumissions! It only makes a deed of manumission good upon registration, with a penalty of 2001. currency upon manumissions of aged or infirm slaves, which is a restraining, and not an enabling enactment; and it allows courts, in certain atrocious cases, of offences proved against the owner, to direct the manumission. To the most important question of all, therefore, what has been done to facilitate manumission, the answer is, Nothing.
5. Has any thing been done to prevent the Separation of slaves from the estates, or from the families they belong to? not pretended that any provision whatever has been made in any one colony since May 1823, to prevent the separation of slaves from the soil; the laws of Tobago alone had formerly prohibited the separation of land and slaves in the single case of sale under legal process. The separation of families has been in two Islands, and to a very limited extent, the subject of some late enactments. In the Bahamas, children under fourteen are not to be sold apart from their parents, if these be man and wife, or reputed man and wife. In Grenada the same provision is still further restricted, to children under twelve, and to judicial sales. In all the other settlements there is nothing, absolutely nothing done, or pretended to be done, upon a matter which the sanguine friends of humanity had hoped would have been among the earliest fruits of the abolition of the Slave Trade.
6. Has any provision been made for enabling slaves to acquire Property? Doubtless there must be something worth knowis to tell ; for this head is gratuitously added to the re