« ZurückWeiter »
The whipping of females is to be in no case permitted. All Sunday labour to be abolished. As a compensation to slaveholders, £20,000,000 sterling to be paid them from the treasury. The compensation to be distributed in nineteen shares, according to the number and relative value of the slaves in each colony; but to be entirely withheld from such as do not comply with the provisions of the act.
It seems to be acknowledged that the sworn or arbitrated value of a slave, according to his current market price, is the fairest principle for awarding compensation. In order to determine the amount of compensation, accurate and complete returns from every plantation in the colonies is to be sent in by the 1st of August, or within three months from that date. These returns are to be transmitted to England, and as soon as they have all arrived, the process of awarding the compensation money will commence, unless where counter claims may be sent in from mortgagees, etc.
The bill passed by decided majorities in both Houses of parliament. The ultra-abolitionists, as O'Connell, and others, were opposed to the apprenticeship-provision, and also to the granting of the compensation. Mr Wilberforce, who died before the bill finally passed, was understood to have been in favour of the compensation. Mr Buxton said that “there was not one clause in the bill, which he would support with more pleasure than the grant of £20,000,000; and if any degree of reproach attached to those who voted for it, he was prepared to take his share. The amount was far surpassing what he thought the actual value of the slaves, and if the government were only to wait till the next year, they might buy emancipation at a quarter of the present price; but, then, in what state would the colonies be. He supported the grant for this reason ; that if emancipation was not given, more than £20,000,000, would be spent in military preparations. He would much rather give double, or any amount, to the planter, than have any such thing happen. The government was entitled to great praise for the measure, and he was sure they would be supported by the country. It would extinguish slavery in the colonies, it would extinguish the slave-trade, and it would go a very great way towards abolishing slavery throughout the world."'*
A sufficient reason for granting the compensation can be de
* Hansard's Parliamentary Debates, third series, vol. xx. p. 131. VOL. V. No. 17.
rived from the well-known fact, that the British nation, as such, were the authors of West Indian slavery. Its introduction was a national concern, sanctioned by royal charters, and persevered in, to some extent, in opposition to the will of the colonists. Why should not its abolition be a national concern? The vote on the compensation in the commons was 132 to 51. It was also foreseen that the co-operation of the colonial legislatures was indispensable, in order to carry the bill happily into effect. C'nattended with the compensation-clause, the bill might have inet with their decided opposition.
The bill no sooner received the sanction of the parliament than all eyes were turned to the West Indies, and especially to the leading colony-Jamaica. After a long discussion in the house of assembly of that island, the bill finally passed on the 12th of December, 1833, embodying all the principles of the parliamentary measure. It was determined that apprentices may purchase their discharge, without consent of the master, by paying the appraised value. The value to be appraised by three justices of the peace, who are to order sums advanced on the security of the negro, to be paid out of the purchase-money. No apprentice to be removed from the island, nor to another estate, if the removal separates him from his wife or child. Masters to be liable for the maintenance of discharged labourers above fifiy years of age, or those who are disabled. The employer bound to supply the apprentice with food, clothes, and medicine. Children under twelve, now born, to be indentured, and remain apprentices till twenty-one. Special justices to be appointed for the execution of the act, who shall take cognizance of offences committed by negroes. Sunday markets are to be abolished, and praedial labourers are to have Saturday free.
The most serious difficulties were apprehended in Jamaica, where is a great quantity of uncultivated land, where vegetation is very rapid, and but little labour is required. * In the smaller islands nearly all the land is under cultivation. The legislature of Antigua was the first which set the example of an amelioration of ihe criminal law with regard to negro slaves, by affording the accused party the benefit of trial by jury, and allowing in the case of capital convictions, four days to elapse between the time of sentence and the execution. They have since, (Feb. 4, 1834) done themselves the further honour of enacting that “ from and after the 1st of August, 1834, slavery shall be and is hereby utterly and forever abolished and declared unlawful within this colony and its dependencies.” The laws of the island relative to slavery to be abolished, and the statute laws of England to take their place. The measure is unqualified from all the provisions of the apprenticeship. Food and clothing to be supplied to the old, young and infirm for one year, at the proprietor's expense, and reasonable wages are to be allowed to all competent labourers. The Bermudas have since copied the example.
* Of the 4,000,000 acres on the island, only 2,235,732 are occupied. The inhabitauts are 56 to a square mile. In Barbadoes they are 816.
Thus far, we believe, the results of the act of emancipation have been as favourable as could have been reasonably anticipated. The reports respecting the indolence of the negroes, and the arbitrary measures of the newly appointed stipendiary officers, are, doubtless, to a considerable degree, correct. Very serious embarrassments have existed, and do yet exist in Hayti. The statements of the journalists on both sides, respecting that island, are to be received with great allowances. Owing to many causes, the advancement of the people in knowledge and happiness must be very slow. Still, the fact that the population has been doubled in less than twenty-five years, is certainly evidence of improvement. Our confidence that a favourable result will follow the late measures in the British West Indies, is founded on the following reasons.
1. We believe that the act of emancipation will receive the benediction of the Ruler of nations. He has not been an indifferent Observer of the scenes which have, for two hundred years, disgraced the beautiful islands of the West. In respect to nations and large bodies of men, he has constituted this world a state of retribution. Where are the possessions now of that kingdom, whose armies and governours, with savage cruelty, exterminated the Caribs, the Mexicans, and the children of the sun? In whose hands are the Floridas, Mexico, Darien, Terra Firma, Buenos Ayres, Paraguay, Chili, Peru, California ? England has pursued a different course, and will meet with a different destiny. Her religious influence has been consecrated long and nobly to the extermination of colonial slavery. Her reward is in heaven, and her record is on high.
2. We believe that the different races of men possess similar passions, and are governed by similar motives. We do not place much confidence in a few detailed instances of superior African intellect and cultivation. It is true that the African family have furnished a Hannibal, who was a colonel in the Russian artillery; a Lislet, who was a corresponding member of the French academy of sciences, an Arno, who took the degree of doctor in philosophy in the university of Wittemberg; an Ignatius Sancho, a Gustavus Vasa, a Capitem, and a Louverture ; but the instances are not sufficiently numerous to allow of a general deduction from them. We choose to take the broader assumption of an original equality in all the tribes of man. Southern India, and Eastern and Northern Africa have had their days of splendid intellectual and military glory. With an object of sufficient magnitude before them, all men will labour perseveringly and successfully. Stimulate the negro with the hope of personal profit, and his indolence and ignorance will be transformed into industry and forethought. The result will not be fully developed in one, nor in two generations. But it will take place at length, despite of climate, configuration of the skull, want of ancestral recollections, or any other disadvantageous circumstance.
3. There are almost 200,000 coloured persons in the islands, who have been free for longer or shorter periods. As a body their character is most respectable. In Jamaica, they have been for some time entitled to seats in the legislature; many of them are persons of property, of intelligence, and of moral worth. Of course, their influence on the lately emancipated slaves must be great and salutary. They have long stood as a barrier against the insurrections of the slaves on the one hand, and of the tyranny of the whites on the other.
4. It is probable that there will be a considerable emigration of white agricultural labourers from Great Britain. The exaggerated views, which are entertained relative to the difficulty and danger of agricultural labour in tropical climates will be removed. In several of the West India Islands, with ordinary care and prudence, illness is very rare among the white inhabitants, where the heat, on an average of six working hours in a day, is but little greater than it is during the month of July in England.
5. Our strongest confidence, however, is in the immediate and universal application of all the means of education in connection with religious influence. It is the mild and transforming influence of the gospel of Christ, which will prepare the negroes for freedom, and teach them how to improve the gift. The United Brethren now occupy twenty five stations in the British West Indies. One hundred and twelve missionaries of their church, male and female, have the superintendence of about 39,000 coloured people, of whom 13,500 are communiçants, and a large number are children recieving a christian education. In Jamaica, where since the last insurrection they have been left almost alone, they employ eighteen missionaries, at six stations, and at eight detached school-rooms, besides those in their settlements. The Wesleyan Missionary Society expended in their missions, on these islands, in the year ending in May, 1834, about £5,300. They number twenty one missionaries and assistants, 9508 scholars, and 31,937 members. Six chapels in Jamaica were destroyed or damaged in the late insurrection, Of the estimated cost of repairing them, £2090, the British government will pay one half. Thirteen of the Baptist meeting houses were laid in ruins, in the same insurrection, at a loss of about £18,000, of which the British Government will repay nearly £12,000. They have thirteen missionaries, 6000 members, and 10,000 inquirers. On a smaller scale, the Church, London, and Scottish missionary Societies are labouring. On the 2d of June last, the British and Foreign Bible Society determined, at an estimated expense of twenty thousand pounds, to tender to every person receiving the gift of freedoin in the British colonies, on the first of August, 1834, a copy of the New Testament, accompanied by the Book of Psalms, in a large type, and substantially bound, provided such persons can read, or may be at the head of a family, any member of which may be able to read. Other benevolent associations in Great Britain are proceeding on a corresponding scale to enlarge their sphere of operations. It is well understood that without great exertions of this description, vigorously and judiciously employed, the measure of emancipation will fail to produce its most precious fruits. May every blessing attend this noble effort of humanity. It is a spectacle on which is fixed the gaze of a great cloud of witnesses. It is a consummation worthy of Anglo Saxon energy. It is a subject for devout congratulation to all the descendants of Britain, in the four quarters of their dispersion. In the language of Mr. Buxton, “it has cost England twenty millions, but it has saved the colonies. It has cost her twenty millions, but it has liberated the negroes.