Imatges de pÓgina




To the Honourable the COMMONS of the UNITED KING

DOM, in Parliament assembled,



That your Petitioners have learned, upon information, the authenticity of which they cannot doubt, that it is the intention of His Majesty's Government to bring before your Honourable House, without delay, a measure for the immediate abolition of Slavery in the British West India Colonies; and, viewing this proceeding with the utmost alarm, as being at once highly injurious to the interests of the mother country, and ruinous to these colonies, your Petitioners feel themselves imperatively called upon to submit to your Honourable House a concise statement of the reasons which, in their opinion, demonstrate the danger and impolicy of the proposed measure.

While, however, your Petitioners are thus hostile to an Immediate Eman. cipation of the slave population, they humbly represent to your Honourable House, that any safe and practicable measure for their gradual Emancipation, in a manner calculated to secure the interests of the empire at large, and the welfare of all classes of the inhabitants of the Colonies, and to protect the rights of private property, will receive their most cordial support.

Your Petitioners have said that, in their judgment, Immediate Emancipation would be fraught with the most serious injury to the interests of the Mother-Country; and they apprehend that a very few words will be sufficient to establish this position beyond the reach of controversy.

It has long been admitted that the West India colonial trade nas formed the best nursery for British seamen ; nor can it be disputed, that a very large amount of British capital (not less, on the most moderate calculation, than one hundred and twenty millions sterling) is invested in the West India colonies, and that a corresponding portion of the produce and manufacture of the United Kingdom, is either consumed in these colonies, or is applicable to their wants. Almost the whole revenues of the proprietors are expended at home—and these facts prove how deeply interested every part of our own population is in the prosperity of these colonies.

These considerations acquire additional weight, when taken in connection with the fact, that nearly one-sia th part of the whole revenue of the ted Kingdom arises from direct taxes imposed upon the produce of the West

India colonies. This latter position, so necessary to be kept in view, in forming a correct judgment on this momentous question, your Petitioners will now proceed to establish.

The net produce of the whole revenue of the United Kingdom for the year ending 5th Jannary 1830, amounted to the sum of L.50,786,882 sterling. During the same period the net produce of the duties on sugar, rum, coffee, and molasses, imported from the West Indies into Great Britain and Ireland, amounted (exclusive of the duties on cotton, ginger, and the other less important West India commodities, the precise amount of which your Petitioners have not been able to ascertain, but which cannot be inconsiderable) to no less than L.7,868,312; being nearly three millions sterling above the whole produce of the assessed taxes for that year.

Your Petitioners do therefore confidently trust, that before putting in jeopardy the existence of the property, which is productive of such extraordinary advantages to the country, your Honourable House will pause, and inquire, with the grave deliberation wiich the subject demands, whether the measure now proposed is really required, and low the loss of revenue is to be supplied from a people, so nearly overwhelmed by the burden of taxation from other sources, and load in their demands for a remission of the assessed taxes.

But if the Immediate Emancipation of the Slaves would be so injurious to the Mother-Country, it would, in the apprehension of your Petitioners, carry with it total ruin to the Colonies ; which would fall not more on the free population than on the Slaves themselves, whom it professes to benefit.

Your Petitioners humbly submit, that, at the least, the experiment which it is proposed to make is a tremendous one; and the failure of it, which is dreaded by all intelligent men, not led away by feelings of mistaken humanity, would involve in one common ruin all the Colonists, as well as a great part of the shipping, mercantile, and manufacturing interests at home.

That such would be the ruinous result to the Colonists, as well as to the people at home, is but too certain, and has hardly ever been seriously controverted, so far as your Petitioners are aware. But there is a difference of opinion as to whether or not the Slaves themselves would be benefited ; and your Petitioners will therefore now proceed to a short examination of this question.

Until of late the Slave was a happy and contented being. Subjected to no undue severity of labour-with all his wants liberally supplied with a large portion of time at his own disposal, and (with the exception of a few solitary instances of individual harshness, which


Petitioners sincerely deplore) treated by his master with uniforin humanity and kindness, it cannot be wondered that he did not desire his freedom-an acquisition to which, if he attached any definite idea, it was that of total cessation from labour. To form an adequate conception of the change which a transition from servitude to freedom involves, and to be able to contrast the advantages which he now enjoys, with the disadvantages to which he would then be subjected, requires an effort of mind, and an exercise of thought, of which the Slave in his present state is not capable.

Indeed, your Petitioners doubt extremely if the Slaves even understand what is meant by the freedom which it is proposed to confer upon them. For reasons which it is unnecessary to enumerate, no attempt whatever, on an extended scale, has yet been made to convey to them distinct and adequate notions on the subject. But were they made to comprehend what is implied in the proposed freedom, and how it will affect them in all the different circumstances and relations of life ; and particularly how completely it will withdraw them from the affection, the care, the protection, and the parental indulgence of their masters, it may fairly be doubted whether they would accept of the proffered boon So far as your Petitioners can discover, there is a great degree of inaptitude to labour, and a want of reliance on himself, and his own resources, in the disposition of the Slave ; and, were other proofs wanting, the melancholy history of St Domingo, once so flourishing, but now fast verging to a state of nature, would abundantly serve to establish the fact.

But whatever may be the wishes of the Slaves themselves, is it possible to contemplate the Immediate Emancipation of so large a population, wholly unprepared for freedom, without the most serious alarm for the very existence of the Colonies ? The whole frame of Society in the West Indies will be thereby dissolved. The inducement to labour within the tropics, arising almost entirely from artificial wants, which scarcely begin to be felt until progress has been made beyond the stages of civilization, at which the mass of the slave population has yet arrived, there is but too much reason to fear that the hitherto industrious slave population will be sunk in a state of sloth and inactivity, out of which there will be no power to raise them ; and that mendicity, which is at present unknown, and crime, which is of rare occurrence in these Colonies, will prevail. Where the necessaries of life are limited almost exclusively to the article of food, and where that food is so abundant as to require from the individual not more than 18 or 20 day's labour throughout the year, what motive, it may be asked, can be presented to the mind of the uninstructed negro which shall be powerful enough to overcome the indolence superinduced by the relaxing influence of climate, and to draw from him that steady and continuous labour, without which the cultivation of the staple commodities cannot be carried on ? Your Petitioners, therefore, ask the guarantee of proof and experience, drawn from authentic sources, and from an induction of particulars sufficiently large to warrant the conclusion, to satisfy their minds that free labour will be procurable, and to the requisite extent, after Slavery shall have been extinguished; for they cannot conceal the impression, they at present entertain, that these now flourishing and productive islands will not then be adequate to the support even of their own population.

Yet your Petitioners confidently hope, that the time is not very far distant when the Slave will be in a condition to be admitted to a participation of equal civil privileges with the rest of his Majesty's subjects; but this must be preceded by a course of education and moral culture, such as will teach him to appreciate and understand the blessings, duties, and relations of freedom, and prevent him from abusing his newly-acquired liberty. When this time shall have arrived, your Petitioners repeat that they will cheerfully concur in any safe and practicable measure, consistent with the just rights of property, and the well-being of all classes of the population of the Colonies.

However unwilling your Petitioners are to eneroach on the valuable time of your Honourable House, they cannot conclude without expressing their regret at the misrepresentations which have been so industriously propagated in certain quarters as to the real condition of the Slaves, and the characters and motives of their masters ; but feeling persuaded that these misrepresentations have now, in a great measure, lost their hold on the public mind, your Petitioners shall only observe, that were they to institute a comparison between the condition of the Slaves and that of the labouring classes in our own country, they apprehend the advantages would be found to be all in favour of the former ; and that the moral characters of their masters will bear a comparison with that of any other class of his Majesty's subjects. The West India proprietors have challenged the most rigid serutiny into their eonduct, which your Petitioners apprehend they are entitled to demand as a matter of right; and it would appear that this object, as well as a full elucidation of the whole question, will be best attained by the renewal of the Committee of Inquiry, appointed last year by the House of Lords.

Your Petitioners, therefore, humbly pray that this Honourable House

(upon due consideration of the above facts and premises, and other matter pertinent to the inquiry) will adhere to your resolutions, of date the 15th May 1823, and will not pass any bill for the Abolition of Slavery in the British West India Colonies, until the proposed plan of compulsory labour shall have been first fairly tried, and its results ascertained ; nor until the Slaves in the respective Colonies are so far advanced in civilization, and in moral and religious knowledge, as to be capable of appreciating the blessings, of fulfilling the relations, and discharging the duties of a state of freedom ; and that in any measure to be adopted, due regard will be had to the interests of private property, the well-being of the Slaves, and the safety of the Colonies.

And your Petitioners will ever pray, &c.

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