« ZurückWeiter »
family, and the regulations respecting punishment. But an act had been passed to protect slaves from being taken for the debts of their masters, on Saturdays as well as on Sundays. The first bill introduced in Jamaica, respected the admission of slave-evidence under certain restrictions. The bill, which had been brought in for this purpose, fenced about with limitations, which rendered the law perfectly harmless, had been rejected by the almost unanimous voice of the House of Assembly, the mover alone voting for it. Afterwards the same bill was submitted to a committee; and, every thing having been done to conciliate local prejudices in the amendment of it, it was again rejected by a majority of about two to one, many who voted for it declaring that they should, at a subsequent stage, vote against it. Now, what was the nature of this measure? It was to admit slave-evidence, upon a certificate of approval given from the person who had had the management of the identical slave who was to give evidence, for the space of three years. Yet thus attenuated, frustrated, and nullified, the recommendation of the order In council was rejected by the Assembly. Although the evidence of the slave was to be confined to matters of murder, treason, and mayhem, the clamour out of doors was so great as to deter the Colonial Assembly. The duke of Manchester thus expressed himself— "The clamour out of doors, and the resolutions of parochial meetings, so strongly expressed the public feeling, that many members yielded their better judgment." Next in importance to Jamaica, stood Barbadoes, containing seventy-nine or eighty thousand
slaves. The nine propositions sent out for the adoption of the colonists had been rendered perfectly nugatory: he might justly speak of the answers to all of them as evils. It was true that on the 18th of September, 1825, an act was passed containing many important provisions on all these several heads; but when these provisions were compared with previous acts, it would be found, that some of them would not prove of the slightest advantage to the slaves; that many of them were verbally copied from previous enactments—that many of them made worse what was already bad, and, where they differed from the earlier legislation, it was, in most cases, to the disadvantage of the negro. It was provided by the act of 1825, that if any slave should give information concerning any other slave being implicated in any insurrection, conspiracy or rebellion, so as to procure conviction, the informer should be made free by his price being paid to his master, and be granted a pension of ten pounds a-year. In another case, provided for in the same act, the informer was to have a pension of five and twenty pounds a-year. This was a premium held out for the increase of pretended plots, conspiracies, and rebellions. Now here was this provision shown up as a novelty in the year 1825, while an act passed in the year 1688 contained the self-same provision, or rather, the same provision in a less detestable form, for that fixed the pension neither at 10/. nor 251., but at 40*. In the same manner, every provision of the new act had been anticipated in seven or eight measures of the last century, excepting those now introduced, which went to make
stood the nature of, an oath, but also that he had previously borne a good and unblemished character. Fourthly, the person tendering his evidence was to be examined by the court as to his proficiency in moral principles, and his knowledge of the obligations of an oath. In the fifth place, two slaves, examined apart, and out of the hearing of each other, must give exactly the same evidence. And, last, and greatest of all, the testimony of slaves was not to be received against their owner, his attorney, manager, overseer, or any person having the charge of such slaves, who might be prosecuted for any of the crimes aforesaid. Was this adopting the substance of the Trinidad order in council? or had these colonists gone, as they pretended, to the utmost verge of conciliation, when they did not scruple so to mutilate and frustrate the letter and spirit of that order in a case the most important of all, namely, with reference to charges brought against the owner or his agent, who had it thus in his power to stifle all complaint, where it was generally most desirable that complaints, if well founded, should not be discouraged? In the same way, Dominica had recognized the admissibility of the evidence of slaves duly baptized, provided two of them concurred, when examined apart, in the same story ; and provided that the evidence was not to affect their master. After going into many other lengthened details of what had not been effected by the colonial legislatures, Mr. Brougham concluded that Jamaica had done less than nothing, and Barbadoes worse than nothing. The House, therefore, ought now to let itbe known, that government and the country took Vet. LXVIII.
a deep and universal interest in the subject; but, above all, it would be well to let it be known to the WestIndian legislatures, who had disregarded, were disregarding, and were likely, till the House and the country roused themselves, still to continue to disregard, the admonitions which they had received, that the time had arrived, when, if they wouldnot do their duty, the British parliament were determined to do theirs. Dr. Lushington supported the motion, because slavery was inconsistent with Christianity and the constitution; and Mr. Denman, by referring to the progress which St. Domingo, since its emancipation, had made in civil attainments. Mr. Horton and Mr. Ellis maintained, in opposition to it, that it was unjust and absurd to consider the planters as having any love of slavery for itsown sake, or resisting its mitigation as the renewal of an abstract blessing; that their reluctance to concur in measures proposed at home arose mainly from a belief that those measures tended to depreciate their property, if not to destroy it; that, as information extended, and gradual steps continually added to experience, they would take a more accurate view of their own interests, and discern that the gradual amelioration intended was neither objectionable in principle nor dangerous in practice; that the course which had been already recommended by parliament, and begun by government, was the only course properly fitted to gain these ends; and that to comply with the present motion would be an abrupt and total departure from it. The point, said Mr. Canning, on which the House is now called to decide by its vote is whether the resolution
proposed for its adoption will be useful for the purposes, which, it must be assumed, are the objects of that resolution. That resolution contains some propositions, to which, as abstract propositions, I have no difficulty (with some modifications, indeed,) in subscribing. But the particular question for the House to determine, on the present occasion, I take to be—whether the passing of any such resolution as this be necessary or useful? and if it be neither necessary nor useful, whether it may not be rather detrimental than beneficial to the general question upon which the House has already expressed its feeling? I must assume, that the resolutions passed by this House in May 1823, contain the whole of the code which parliament have agreed to take for their guidance in this business; and I must also assume that the several measures, which the government have founded on those resolutions, have been admitted to have been conceived in the spirit of those resolutions, and to have been framed accordingly. If there be those who think that a different course from that which we have pursued ought to have been adopted; if there be those who may be even disposed to go back to the year 1807, as thinking that the abolition of all slavery in. the West Indies ought to have been then enforced by an act of parliament, I have really only to say to them that they come too late into the field: that parliament has already come to its determination and formed its decision on that subject. I can only remind them, that parliament has already pronounced, in a voice not to be misunderstood, that it would not by an immediate act proceed to compel the emancipation of slaves
in the West Indies, but that it looks to that event as a result which will be produced by the more concilitating and moderate course it has already adopted; that it will not be diverted from that course, except by a degree of resistance amounting to contumacy, which it does not at present contemplate; and that we may still hope that we shall not be drawn to that sort of alternative which a departure from this kind of course supposes. As to those again who think that this most important question, involving, as it confessedly does, so nearly the lives, the interests, and the property of so many of our fellow-subjects, is to be determined on the abstract proposition—" That man cannot be made the property of man,"—I must take the liberty of relegating them to the schools; and of telling them that they do not deal with this grave and extensive question as members of the British parliament, or as members of any established society. I must tell them that the practical adoption of their speculative notions on so grave and weighty a subject would leave our West-India possessions to a state of ravage and desolation, which, I think, they themselves would be but little prepared to expect. Is the resolution now offered for adoption, conceived in that temperate spirit, and does it bear that stamp of deliberation, which would not give it the effect of changing our course, and precipitating the House at once beyond the viewit has hitherto acted upon? If this resolution were no more than a renewal of our former declarations, it would amount to nothing. But, in fact, it is no such thing. In the first place, it expresses regret at the proceedings of the West-Indian legislatures. To this part of it I can have no objection, further than that it would be a waste of time to record over again what we have already recorded; and, to the second part of it, which pledges the House to follow up this declaration with measures calculated to give effect to it in the ensuing session, 1 have another and a different objection. I think that to record such a determination would be productive of positive mischief. I do not look to the six or eight months which may possibly intervene between the present and ensuing session, with any feeling of despair that the West-Indian governments will not adopt some measures in the spirit of the recommendations sent out to them; and I think their disposition to do this would be weakened by a pledge of this nature. What would be the effect of it on their minds? They would have a right to argue that we knew not our own minds; that, discontented with the course we had already taken, we now stood pledged to resort to some other mode of legislation; that, whatever might have been the views of government, the House of Commons had stepped in, and of necessity changed them by pledging itself to a new mode of proceeding. In this way would the Jamaica legislature have a right to argue ; and would it be right to abandon at once those expectations which it is impossible but we must have, and which the West-Indian legislatures will not be so absurd and impolitic, to give it no worse a moral epithet, as to entirely disappoint, by signifying to them that we are not satisfied with our own course, and thereby warning them to wait, and see what further steps we shall be disposed to take? The great difference between the plans
of his majesty's ministers and those of the hon. gentlemen who are desirous of a more rapid progress is, that they risk the desired end, to arrive at a precipitate conclusion; whereas we wish to retard a little the attainment of the object, in order that we may arrive at it with a greater assurance of safety."
Sir T. Ackland, having observed that he did not wish directly to negative the motion, and that he nevertheless thought that its adoption would retard the good effects to be looked for from the resolutions of 1823, moved the previous question as an amendment, which was carried by a majority of 100 to 38: and thus the colonial legislatures were allowed another opportunity of shewing how far they were inclined, by timely concessions and purposes of good faith, to prevent the necessity of the direct and authoritative interference of the mother country in matters of in* ternai regulation.
An important alteration was introduced, during this session, into the administration of justice in India, by a bill, brought in by Mr. Wynn, for the regulation of juries within the territories of the company. The existing law admitted, by its words, all British subjects to serve upon juries; but, in its interpretation, this appellation had never been extended to all persons born within the British dominions. A very large population had sprung up of late years in India, known by the name of half-caste, one of their parents having been a native, and the other an European. By the construction which the law had received, a construction so ancient and fixed that only an act of parliament could now alter it, the whole of this large class, though born in wedlock, as well as another