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Juded to the present state of the West Formerly, it was an argument of objection India islands. Last year, the state of that the number of slaves in the West Inthat quarter had pointed out the policy dies was not great euough to execute any of adopting some means for stopping the powerful act of rebellion; but when we influx of Africans into those islands. If recollect that since those arguments were that motive was urgent then, how much used, there has been a progressive augmore so was it at present ? Did gentle- mentation that argument of safety is weamen consider what the enemy was even kened and diminished. Another arguat this time doing there? Did they not ment was, that by enfranchising the know that the French government was slaves, we should let them loose upon soacting there on the decree of 1794 ; and ciety, and by that means excite anarchy by emancipating, and turning the arms of and confusion. He most earnestly en the negroes against us, had got several of joined the House not to suffer such an the islands into their possession, and were argument to prevail for a moment; nor to promoting and encouraging insurrection let our enemies assert that we suppressed in others? Had the act passed, our ene- liberty, in every shape, while we pretended mies would never have possessed the to cherish it; but to show an admiring strong ground they held in Guadaloupe, and applauding world, that we did really Grenada, and St. Vincent's. Was it not succour liberty, while we repressed licenevident that the negroes lately imported tiousness. If there were any who, renwould be easily influenced by the wide dered insensible by habit to the demands spreading system introduced by the of humanity, could look with indifference enemy? What tie had they of attachment on such a traffic, let them ask themselves, to the planters, when liberty was offered | if they never before had heard of it, and them by our neighbours? Let any man ask were told that a system so repugnant to himself how much more likely were the every human feeling, and so contradictory new imported slaves to be influenced by to every divine law, had been encouraged French principles than others, and com- by the House of Commons, what opinion mon sense would supply the answer. Upon they would form of that House? Shall the arguments used by the adversaries of it be said, that those who spread confuthe abolition, it was manifest that every sion through Europe, shall be merciful fresh importation of African negroes was alone, in that point where we are deficient? a fresh accumulation of inflammable mat- Shall it be said that they pour balm into ter into the islands: when they saw what the wounds of the Africans, whom we was going forward with others under the scourge and torment? He was conmachinations of the enemy, was it to be vinced, that neither policy nor interest hoped that they would not lend their aid ; justified any such measure; and sure he and thousands upon thousands joining in was, there was no man bold enough to the cause, become quite irresistible? advance, that any interest was a sufficient How much less would the danger have apology for the continuance of such a been, if the 150,000 wretched Africans, system of barbarity and wickedness. He who have been imported within the last exhorted the House, in the most pathetic four years, had not been added to the language, to consider what an important most dangerous of all the negroes. Was question they had to decide upon ; and it not then, infatuation of the most extra- to reflect, that upon their assent or disvagant kind to continue the trade under sent, the fate of millions of their fellowsuch circumstances? If gentlemen felt no creatures depended. He implored them impulse from the principles of justice and not to resist obvious and just claims by common humanity they should at least vague declarations ; but if they saw any hearken to the dictates of policy and harm in the measure, to state it specificommon sense, and give to self interest cally, and say what it was. And, finally, what they might be disposed to refuse to as they had themselves, upon the most thecalls of compassion, justice, and virtue. full examination and discussion, proThose who had argued, that there were nounced a just and equitable sentence, he not negroes in the islands to make up a called upon them to carry it into immesufficient stock, would surely be from this diate execution. To which end he moved, moment deprived of that argument, since That leave be given to bring in a bill many more had been introduced subse- for the Abolition of the Slave Trade, at a quent to that argument being urged, than time to be limited.” the number those gentlemen had specified. General Tarleton said, though he ala
ways admired the eloquence of the hon. planters. The House had been much gentleman, and though he gave him every taken by surprise in this business. He credit for his intentions, yet when he con- way able to show, by a letter he had in sidered the critical situation of the West. his hand, the solicitations and undue inIndia islands, he could not agree to his Auence that had been used to make a motion. The Liverpool traders he af. bad impression on the minds of gentlefirmed, had suffered more than any
others It was well known that there were by the war, as the African coast had been places called rotten boroughs, where one swept by the enemy's force. He thought personage or family sent by their sole it therefore rather severe, that their pro- patronage, members to that House; it perty should be marked for destruction, was also known, that there were other by the adoption of the present motion. corporations, where only about twelve There were two propositions in his mind persons had all the political interest. It insurmountable ; the inexpediency of the had been the custom to send a circular measure, and of the time for carrying it letter to the patrons of boroughs, to try into execution. In 1793, the House was to prejudice their minds, against the slave decidedly in favour of gradual abolition; trade; and to corporations, where a few and while this country was in peace, they electors returned members, to gain over all along entertained this idea; but if we the majority, to instruct their members compared the present with the past, it to vote for its abolition. To counties and inust be confessed, that no time could be places where election was more general more unfit for coming to a resolution of and in the hands of many, this circular abolition than the present. The hon. gen- was sent to leading characters, to influtleman had looked at the West-India is- ence the multitude, and induce them to lands, and had concluded that the circum- petition against the trade. Here sir Wilstances existing there justified such a liam Young read the letter signed T. measure. The general said, he was of a Clarkson, which was dated the 14th of very different opinion. The progress of February, 1796, after Mr. Wilberforce the French manners there would show, had given notice of the motion then bethat it was necessary to oppose them, to fore the House. Such were the steps save our possessions in that country. We taken by the committees for the abolition ought rather to endeavour to increase the of the slave trade, to make the members population, since it added to our defence, of that House act inconsistently with than depress it by stopping the importa- their duty and conscience. What he of. tion of negroes. The discussion of the fered to the consideration of the House, question might have such effect on the was not simply his own opinion, or what slaves, as to turn them against their mas- he collected from personal experience. ters, and induce them to pursue the prac- He was confirmed in it by the authority tices inculcated by Jacobin principles, of an intelligent writer, Mr. Bryan Ed. and the doctrine of the rights of man. wards, the historian of the West Indies, With regard to the commerce itself, there who declared to him, that he considered was less cruelty io it than gentlemen ima- the disturbances in St. Domingo as ori. gined. It engaged the attention of the ginating in the committees here, whose petty princes, and prevented mutual wars proceedings had the appearance of takand massacres. He was convinced of the ing the part of the slaves against their impolicy of the measure, and would there. masters. Nothing, he was persuaded, fore move, “ That the other order of the could tend more to render the negroes on day be now read.”
the plantations discentented, than an asSir W. Young said, that the hon. mover surance that their labours were not to had called upon every gentleman, who be alleviated by the arrival of additional rose to oppose him, to come forward, assistance. He gave Mr. Wilberforce in a fair and manly way, with arguments. every credit for his humanity and inteThis he proposed to do. In 1792, he grity, but, in the present instance, he conwent to the West Indies, to investigate ceived he was led away by modern the conduct of the planters to the slaves. theorists and canting hypocrites in reliHe found the treatment of the planters gion. In the worst days of the Jesuits, highly benevolent and proper. He came it never was adopted as a moral obligahome with this impression on his mind, tion to pursue good ends by bad means and had brought with him a body of evi- Such, however, was the theory set afloat dence to establish the benevolence of the in these times, to the injury of property and morality. He appealed to the House, and were stamped with the seal of the whether this was a proper period for Eternal's vengeance. Another argument carrying such a measure. It was, he was, that the negroes were better used was convinced, the very reverse. The to the climate than Europeans, and thereattachment of the slaves to their masters fore, ought to be imported. Unfortunate was well known. Before the hon. gentle- indeed, was it for these miserable beings, man had made his motion, he ought to that because they were born under the have read a history lately published, of tropics, they must be torn from their the state of the trade on the coast of dearest friends and relations, and drudge Africa. In that book he would read, that through a life of slavery! The religion, the natives escaped the cruelty of their the logic, and the morality of the suppetty princes, by being sold to the West porters of this diabolical traffic, were India planter : and that the king of Da- equally consistent and praiseworthy. It homey, who sold his prisoners to the was impossible that this inhuman traffic Europeans, if he could not dispose of could go on without the total loss of our them, had declared his resolution to put West India islands. It had been said, that them to death. In neither the West India the condition of the slaves had been me. islands, nor on the coast of Africa, would liorated. But was not that one of the the situation of the slave be bettered by blessed consequences of the regulations the measure ; on the conrrary, the planter proposed by the hon. mover? He hoped would be ruined in his property, and the House had heard such futile arguthis country much injured in its com. ments too often, to be any longer deceived merce.
by them, and that they would not be Mr. Buxton thought the conduct of perpetually sounding the words morality, the committees had been perfectly con- christianity, and revealed religion, withstitutional. He hoped constituents would out giving an example of the doctrines always continue to instruct their repre- they inculcate. sentatives. For his own part, he had uni. Mr. Jenkinson said, that in the pre. formly been in favour of the abolition. sent state of our national concerns, he Possessing liberty and the rights of man, could not but deprecate a motion of this he wished to see others enjoy the same nature. He was apprehensive that its blessings, and on that principle supported tendency would be to lead the negroes the motion.
into an idea that the House was about Mr. Courtenay said, that the hon. ba- to take up, what they supposed to be ronet had alluded to the methodists as their cause, in opposition to their masthe authors and abettors of the motion, ters. The effect of such an opinion, who, acting upon the absurd notions of when entertained by them, would be to the rights of man, introduced doctrines destroy all subordination, and to eninjurious to society. It so happened, danger the present state of the West however, that the present motion was India islands. In his opinion, the danger founded in practical humanity. The ob- of agitating such a topic, was infinitely ject of it was to release a wretched herd greater at the present, than it would have of men from slavery, to raise them to so- been in former times; in proportion as ciety, to enlarge their minds, increase their the French principles of 'equality preenjoyments, and extend their use. Un- vailed, in the same ratio was the danger fortunately, there was a malicious nar increased of an insurrection among our row-minded desire to counteract this; and West India negroes. A country might this insidious spirit of gain and persecu- be in that uncivilized state (as, perhaps, tion, had been found to reside in men of was the case in some parts of Poland high birth and station, and even in some and Russia), that but little comparative of the clergy, who, in direct disobedience risk attached to the discussion of such a to the precepts of their mission, had la- subject; but in the West India islands, boured to traduce and pervert the scrip- the people of colour in particular, from tures to their sophistry, and had hurled their increased sources of intelligence, forth their anathemas against those who had it much in their power to influence dared to controvert them. These fana- the untutored minds of the African netics had presumed to say, that because groes. He therefore considered the Cain murdered his brother Abel, some danger of insurrection from the slaves five or six thousand years ago, the ne. newly imported, to be far less than that groes, were doomed to eternal bondage, which would arise, were an act of the British legislature to be considered by , enforce a precipitate abolition had althem as holding cut an idea of support lower this internal to prepare gra. against their masters. When to this he dually for a conclusion. The deadded the present convulsed state of the stined period had elapsed, and during islands, arising from the war, he could the course of it, the traffic had been carnot but anxiously wish the question to be ried on to a greater extent than at any at least postponed till the restoration of former time. The question, therefore, peace. He thought that when the bless- which was then before the House, was, ings of peace came, some measure might whether it would agree to do that at last, be adopted for the relief of the negroes, which it had pledged itself to the world, with perfect safety; till then, he wished to perform four years before? The only the subject to be buried in oblivion. Had argument which he felt of weight suffi. the hon. mover attempted less, perhaps cient to combat, was one, which was ri. he might have accomplished more; but vetted by the force of prejudice. It was in his opinion, no good consequences said the prejudices which had been could arise from the present motion, in formed by habit and custom in favour comparison with the evils it would pro. of the trade were not to be removed; bably produce.
hence the argument of those, who, though Mr. Pitt said, that on a subject which they were driven, from the force of con. had been so often and so elaborately | viction, to abjure the traffic of slavery, debated, it was not to be expected that yet were brought to acquiesce in its conany arguments could be adduced which tinuance, from the idea that more prachad great novelty to recommend them. tical mischief would be done from its When, however, he considered the vast abolition, than any advantages which importance of the object, he could not could accrue from such a measure. He for a moment admit that any possible cir- would insist on it, that it was dangerous cumstance, any question of expediency to allow pretexts of one sort or another, or of local difficulties should impede the to prolong a system which in itself, was discussion. For his own part, he wished admitted by those to whom he referred, to enforce it, because he still adhered to be indefensible. Pretexts would thus to the opinion which the House had never be wanting, to prolong, from time already given upon the subject ; and he to time, a system which merited immeshould consider himself as doing injus. diate condemnation. Thus, at one time tice to those principles which governed excuses were drawn from its being a time his conduct, were he to wave them upon of peace, and at the present, from its any inferior consideration. It was impos- being a time of war. So far from feeling sible for those who felt as he did to admit such objections, he, for one, concurred any argument of expediency or plea of with those who thought that the danger existing circumstances to influence their to which our West India islands stood determination upon the question of the exposed, was an additional reason for immediate abolition, an idea which, to the wishing that the abolition of this trade utmost of his power, he was resolved to should be delayed no longer. The topics enforce. But while they would do in- of opposition urged by his hon. friend, justice to their principles to compromise with him led to different conclusions. this grand object, it was fair to allow He would not minutely argue what state their fullest force to the objections of of the human mind was the readiest to be those who dissent from the present mo. infected with the poison of dangerous tion in the utmost extent of its principle. principles. He thought, however, that it His hon. friend who spoke last, had de was either when it was wholly uninformed, clared himself adverse to a hasty aboli- or when it was debased by oppression ; tion of the slave trade. He was asto. either when it was so rude, so blank and nished at such a declaration. After a stren- uninstructed, as to be equally incapable uous and decided opposition on the part of the impressions of virtue, and the sugof some, and after the conviction of many gestions of mischief; or, when it was of the original enemies of the measure was groaning under the pressure of slavery effected by the powerful evidence that had and injustice. Granting the whole force been adduced, the House four years ago of the hon. gentleman's argument, that came to the resolution that at the pre- the newly-imported negroes were most sent time it should cease. The House, secure against the influence of Jacobinical upon the idea that it was improper to Principles, still it must be admitted, that they were open to the attempts of others being the fact, that it would be giving to to enlist them as auxiliaries in riots and the master fresh means of attaching the insurrections. If, then, there were any negroes to his service. It was said, that danger from the uninformed minds of the the negroes were desirous of new impornewly-imported negroes being operated tations of slaves, that these might enjoy upon by the perverted minds of the ne- the happiness which their situation begroes
of another description, was evi- stowed. On the other hand, the negroes dent that the one and the other of these were described as delighted with the prodangers were united, so long as the sys- spect of emancipation, and dissatisfied tem of slavery was continued. But it with the hardships to which they were had been argued, that the danger arising exposed. Both these accounts could from the negroes who have been long not be true; and, in fact, neither of them in the islands, would be much increased, had any foundation. Upon the whole, were the future importation from Africa he was so far from feeling any force in to be stopped. But this was an opinion the arguments which had been adduced, founded upon the argument, that the in opposition to the motion, that every House, by adopting the decision proposed consideration derived from the critical this evening, would be considered by the state of the country, and of the islands, negroes as taking a part with them against furnished so many additional reasons, in their masters, and holding out to them his opinion for adopting the measure proencouragement to insurrection. But what posed. was this but to confound the two distinct Sir Richard Hill said, that as to the ideas of abolishing the slave trade on the time of bringing forward the motion, African coast, with the emancipation of there could be no time improper to do the negroes at present in the West Indies ? what was right, and to abolish what was The one point had no connexion what. wrong. He only lamented that a traffic ver with the other. This much he could so contrary to the laws of nature, and of say at any rate, that the abolition of the God, should so long have disgraced this traffic must long precede the period when country. He hoped, it was now going the negroes were to be made free. A to be put a stop to, and should give his great change must previously be effected most hearty assent to the motion. in their situation and upon their minds. Mr. Dent denied that the slaves were Degraded and wretched as they now were, treated with harshness. He was astonishto declare them free would be only to ed to hear it asserted, that new imconfer an empty name; it could not be portations would injure the islands by stow the substance. He had heard of strengthening the spirit of insurrection the humanity of the planters, and what that prevailed; for it was the speeches was the conclusion which this observation delivered in that House which promoted authorized? Could it be doubted that the the disposition to revolt. Whilst humaplanter possessed more the confidence nity was so much talked of, he wished and the attachmen: of the slaves born justice might not be overlooked. He arupon his estate, than of those who, torn gued against the motion upon the ground from every tender relation, became the of political interest : the West Indies proreluctant victims of slavery? By putting duced a great revenue to this country : a stop to a trade which interfered with but by the measure proposed, the House those principles by which the planter and was going to deprive the planters of the the slave were placed in the most agree. means of paying that revenue. He beable relations, which confounded those lieved that the merchants of Liverpool propensities, and disappointed the opera- and elsewhere had but one wish, that the tion of those advantages which would re- House would adopt strong measures to sult from them, a very important object prevent any of the Africans from being would be gained. But so long as the im- ill-treated. The regulations already portation of new Africans was permitted, made, tended to make the middle pasnew seeds of discord would be sown, and sage thoroughly comfortable. As to giv. confidence, security, and the interest of ing the negroes their freedom, without the planters would be proportionably les- the means of procuring a livelihood, that sened. The hon. gentleman had argued would only be giving them up to a spirit that the negroes would consider the pre- of plunder. sent motion as taking their cause against Mr. W. Smith said, that it was his their masters; but this was so far from anxious wish, as we valued our character