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A L E C T U R E
COLONIAL SLAVERY AND GRADUAL
DELIVERED IN THE ASSEMBLY ROOMS ON FRIDAY,
MARCH 1, 1833.
By P. BORTHWICK, Esq.
TAKEN IN SHORT-HAND.
Mr BORTHWICK, who was received with shouts of applause, said--Ladies and Gentlemen, that our meeting may lack nothing of the good order whiche it is desirable in all respects should be preserved, I have the honour to name David Milne, Esq., advocate, for our Chairman. (Great cheering.)
The CHAIRMAN.- Ladies and Gentlemen, I feel extremely flattered with the proposal now made, and, with your permission, I shall be happy to accede to the request. I believe it is usual for the Chairman to state the ob ject of the meeting over which he is to preside, but I am sure there is no person here who is not perfectly aware of the subject on which Mr Borthwick is now to lecture. * I may be permitted to say, that I can hardly conceive any subject of a moral or political nature, in which every friend to humanity, and every well-wisher to his country, can feel a deeper or more intense interest. (Cheers.) On the one hand, there is involved in this colonial question the welfare of 800,000 human beings, who, although they may live comfortably and physically happy, are yet sunk and stagnating in the lowest level of degradation ; and, on the other hand, there is involved the welfare of numbers of our own countrymen, whr se lives and properLies, and dearest interests, are at stake ; and there is also involved in it the prosperity of Great Britain herself - the loss of whose colonial possessions would be to cut off the right arm of her power, and spoil her of her riches. (Cheers.) This is the subject on which we are now again to have the pleasure of hearing Mr Borthwick lecture, and it only requires to be announced to awaken the sympathies and attention of every one who has a heart to feel, or is at all capable of reflection; and of Mr Borthwick I think myself bound to take this public opportunity to state, what must be the general feeling of all who heard him before, that rarely, if ever, have we witnessed such a combination of argument, proof, and eloquence, as he has brought to bear upon this question. (Cheers.) I am only detaining you from the treat of listening to his lecture by these observations ; but, before taking the chair, I shall advert to one topic morc-I mean the unseemly, unfair interruptions with which he was met occasionally during his former Lectures. Every one knows, or if not, he is inforined now, that this place ought not to be converted into an arena of controversial disputation ; and I put it to y ur good sense, if there be any who have come here with the intention of interrupting the comm in object of this meeting, whether they ought not to abstain from such a breach of decorum. It is creditable neither to the individuals themselves, nor to the compan , nor to the numerous fair whom we have the honour of seeing here. High as I consider the honour of being called to the chair, I shall consider it as a higher honour still if any thing that I have said have the effect of preserving good oriler. (Cheers.)
Mr BORTHWICK.Mr Chairman, and Ladles and Gentlemon, I know not whether the crisis at which I address you, or the question on which I have che honour to speak, or the circumstances altogether under which we have met, impress my mind with the deepest feelings of awe and solemnity. Five thousand miles from the spot in which we now have the pleasure of meeting together, there are, slumbering on the bosom of the mighty ocean, and nursed under the enlivening of the sun's most genial rays, beautiful islands, peopled with 750,000 human beings in a state of slavery; and with a certain, though a small proportion, of our brothers and sisters, born at, educated at, reared to manhood at home, and now in the possession of these Colonies, as owners, or rulers, or, in some sort, moral and civil protectors of those beings in a condition of bondage. Of them I come to speak. From them, you, the people of Great Britain, draw a revenue of direct income, amounting to seven millions in the year. From them, too, you have an encouragement to your industry, which is not equalled by any other market. They rear, under the protection of your laws, tropical produce, which is exported to you in the form of the raw material which at home employs the industry of your peasantry-manufactured by them into the shape it is ultimately intended to assume. It is repurchased by the Colonist at a per centage of L.50 beyond the price he must pay for it in any other market in the world. Taking those things into view, the direct yearly value of the West India Colonies is to you worth not less than 30 millions. And what do you give in return for this annual amount? Of every 1.7000 which the planter receives, only L.2500 are his own: the remainder goes directly to your advancement and enrichment; and his return now-a-days are unkind looks and words, bitterness, scora, cursing, and persecution. The Colonists are Ill-treated and persecuted ; you are enriched at their expense; in the mean whilo your best feelings are enlisted against them by stories circulated by a combination of talent and industry unequalled in the annals of calumny. And how can I, single and alone, the least worthy, the feeblest of all my countrymen, address an assembly of my countrymen on such a subject as this, so surrounded with difficulties, and at such a time, while, perhaps, at the moment I address you, the fatal measure is being concluded in the highest councils of the nation, unmoved by that solemn responsibility which you may conceive, but which I cannot describe ? Would that our opponents would meet us on the like fair ground, and come to this question--not as one of passion and prejudice, but of deep policy-not as one of empty declamation and field-day oratory, but of vital importance to the religious and humane character of our country! Would they might remember how many young, and warm, and noble hearts have their hopes bound up in this queston: How many human beings have their best interests involved in it: How many of your own peasantry entirely depend upon it for support! How many of your sailors, twenty thousand in number, your defenders in time of war, your honour in time of peace, from year to year are nursed by it! for if the character of the British sailor be venerated all over the world for its bravery, generosity, and readiness to defend the country in time of peril, where was it nursed to that order of valour, that generosity of enthusiasm and national attac ment ? In passing over the bosom of the wide sea that Folls between Britain and her West India colonies. I ask whether its best nursery has not been the West India seamanship—whether the sailors that have best supported the glory of our naval wars, have not been educated on the salt seas, and in that particular line of trade? Twenty thousand of the most gallant of our children are from year to year employed in this trade, and govern more than two hundred and forty thousand tons of shipping, out ward and inward, exclusive of an extensive cross trade constantly maintained between these Colonies and British America. Who build the ships—who weare the sails which bespeck the bosom of the ocean-who are the anchor smiths - the cable smiths - and those employed in all the details of carpentry downwards ?
- who but your British peasants: Then what is your Bristol, your Liverpoel, your Manchester, your Glasgow, your Paisley, your Dundee, your eastern end of the great metropolis, even London itself--if you take from them the West India Colonies ? Nothing-worse than nothing ; one universal scene of beggary and starvation. (Cheers.)
Talk then of Slavery! Look at home. Abolish slavery in the Colonies ! Weigh well the effect it will have on your own peasantry, who now, even the most industrious of them, can hardly earn enough to give them the food which is necessary for the support of life, or to meet their wants of necessary clothing. Refer back to the times of our fathers, when the commercial interests of our country were in a more prosperous condition ; point, on the tablets of your memory, to those of your own youth, when the peasantry were comparatively happy ; and if it were a question of serious deliberation then in the Cabinet and Government of your country whether the Slave Trade should be abolished-a trade considered by the wise of that time beneficial to the nation-how much more caution is necessary to decide upon this question now, which, for any thing our opponents have yet shown, will involve in one mass of ruin so large a proportion of your peasantry and of your commercial industry as that which I have described ? Are you now in a state to sacrifice the provision for your multitudinous poor? How are you compelled to work them at present in your manufactories ? For it must be by compulsion on your part that you work them from five in the morning till eight at night. I can hardly allow myself to believe that humane persons—some of them subscribers to the Anti-Slavery Society of L.200 from one, and of two guineas from another per annum, and of ls. 4d. aweek from others--would work these poor children from five in the morning till eight at night, without allowing them any other time than what is barely necessary to take their scanty food, unless there was some dire necessity pressing on them to compel them to do it. If there be such a necessity-if it be with pain that they see the young woman's beauty wasted, and the young man's strength drained from his vitals, ere yet he have reached the period at which men are called men- if this be the state of things at home, then I again ask you to think well of what Emancipation of the Slaves in the Colonies will do for your own Slaves at home. (Cheers.) I have called them Slaves—I do not mean that they can be bought and sold for so much money-but I do mean that stern necessity compels them to sell, not so much of their labour, not so much of their time, but of their very life itself, that they may earn as much food as will keep them from starvation for a few years to come. Is this not so ? Look at the examination before the House of Commons upon the Factory Bill. Who were they that turned the promoters of that bill out of the House of Commons ? Who opposed the amelioration of Home Slavery? Who opposed Mr Sadler when he stood for the representation of Leeds, knowing that, upon his return, depended the carrying of a bill for the amelioration of this condition of our own poor? Why, the Macauleys and other liberators of the Slaves in our own Colonies! I have often remarked that pure humanity is universal, and knows no bounds but those of nature. Where there is a being wearing the shape of man, and having human hopes and affections, there true humanity will extend—wherever human suffering is, there, if humanity be found, it will be found alleviating it. What think we of that humanity which at home sees no suffering, which bas no sympathy for a child of ten years of age dropping into a premature grave, because its parents have compelled it to work longer than from sunrise to sunset, at a kind of labour which wastes its life so soon, and yet sees objects of pity in the Slaves of the West India Colonies, who work nine and a half hours a-day, and are well fed, well clothed, and well provided for ? (Hear, hear.) In one plantation of the West Indies, in the island of Antigia, the Negroes to a man are subseribers to a Bible Society, of which the proprietor of the estates is president.