Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

CHAPTER XVIII.

Abolition of Negro Slavery-Canning's Resolutions of 1823—Insur

rection in Demerara-"Missionary Smith's Case”—Immediate Abolition – Elizabeth Heyrick — O'Connell -- Brougham's Celebrated Speech of 1830—Insurrection and Anarchy in Jamaica, in 1832William Knibb-Parliamentary Inquiry-Buxton-The Apprenticeship Adopted, August, 1833–Result of Complete Emancipation in Antigua—The Apprenticeship Doomed–The Colonies themselves Terminate it, August 1, 1838.

ing gaze.

DICKENS, in his Martin Chuzzlewit, records, that Miss Charity Pecksniff, being told her side face was much betterlooking than the front view, ever after, when visited by her not very numerous suitors, presented her profile to their admir

The tribute which Great Britain has paid to the genius of Humanity, by her efforts and sacrifices for the abolition of the African Slave Trade and Negro Slavery, is the aspect in which she delights to be contemplated by other nations. The humblest Englishman is proud to reiterate the sentiment, uttered half a century ago by Curran : “ I speak in the spirit of our Constitution, which makes Liberty commensurate with and inseparable from our soil ; which proclaims, even to the stranger and the sojourner, the moment he sets his foot upon our native earth, that the ground he treads is holy, and consecrated by the genius of Universal Emancipation. No matter in what language his doom may have been pronounced; no matter what complexion, incompatible with freedom, an Indian or an African sun may have burnt upon him; no matter in what disastrous battle his liberty may have been cloven down;

no matter with what solemnities he may have been devoted on the altar of slavery: the first moment he touches our sacred soil, the altar and the god sink together in the dust ; his soul walks abroad in her own majesty; his body swells beyond the measure of his chains, that burst around him; and he stands redeemed, regenerated, and disenthralled, by the irresistible genius of Universal Emancipation.” The services and victories of Sharpe, Clarkson, Wilberforce, Stephen, Brougham, Macaulay, Buxton, Cropper, Lushington, Gurney, Sturge, O'Connell, Mackintosh, Thompson, Wardlaw, Scoble, and their fellow-laborers, in this department of philanthropy, mitigate the abhorrence with which Christendom views the continued oppressions of millions of British subjects in both hemispheres.

After the abolition of the slave trade, the attention of a few thoughtful and humane persons was turned toward slavery itself, of which the trade was only an incident. Public sentiment was gradually enlisted, till, in 1823, it had become sufficiently aroused to cause the passage, in Parliament, of Mr. Canning's celebrated resolutions, declaring the expediency of adopting decisive measures for meliorating the condition of the slave population in the Colonies, preparatory to their complete emancipation. A ministerial circular was sent to the Colonies, directing the authorities to act upon those resolutions in the future treatment of the slave population. But, as was predicted by those who had studied the genius of Slavery, the resolutions and circular were either contemptuously defied, coolly disregarded, or courteously evaded by the Colonies.

The latter part of the same year, an insurrection broke out in Demerara. The infuriated planters undertook to trace its origin to the religious teachings of a venerable English missionary of most pure and exemplary character, Rey. John Smith. He was seized, and, after resisting some attempts to axtort confessions, and going through a trial in which the very semblance of justice was outraged, was convicted, and sentenced to death. In feeble health, he was thrown into a small and loathsome dungeon, where, after several weeks of intense suffering, he died. This attempt to

bring back
The Hall of Horrors, and the assessor's pen
Recording answers shrieked upon the rack,"

[ocr errors]

produced a tremendous sensation in England. Early in June, Mr. Brougham introduced into Parliament a motion to censure the Government and Court of Demerara. A debate of surpassing interest followed, in which he supported his motion by two powerful speeches. It was on this occasion that Mr. Wilberforce made his last speech in Parliament. The motion was lost by a small majority.

These proceedings, touching a case of individual outrage, are worthy of special note, because they aroused a spirit in England that would never down,” till the last chain was stricken from the last slave. “ The Missionary Smith's Case" became a rallying cry with all the friends of religious freedom, and all the enemies of West India slavery. The measures of the Abolitionists became more bold—their principles commanded a more general concurrence—those who voted against the motion of Mr. Brougham were either excluded from the next Parliament, or obtained their seats with extreme difficulty ; and, to quote from the preface to Mr. B.'s speeches, “ All men now saw that the warning given in the peroration of the latter, though sounded in vain across the Atlantic Ocean, was echoing with a loudness redoubled with each repetition through the British isles ; that it had rung the knell of the system; and that at the fetters of the slave a blow was at length struck, which must, if followed up, make them fall off his limbs forever."

The year 1830 was memorable for a great advance in the principles of the Abolitionists, and the influence they exerted on public opinion. The doctrine of immediate as opposed to gradual abolition, had been set forth in a well-reasoned pam

g*

assume.

[ocr errors]

phlet, published anonymously, in 1824, which was afterward found to have been written by Elizabeth Heyrick, of Leicester. It now became the watchword of the Anti-Slavery Societies, their publications and orators. The anniversary meeting of the metropolitan association in this year was addressed by some of the most distinguished men in the kingdom. It was on this occasion that Daniel O'Connell uttered the noble and comprehensive sentiment—“I am for speedy, immediate abolition. I care not what caste, creed, or color, Slavery may

I am for its total, its instant abolition. Whether it be personal or political, mental or corporeal, intellectual or spiritual, I am for its immediate abolition. I enter into no compromise with Slavery ; I am for justice, in the name of humanity, and according to the law of the living God."

In July of the same year, Mr. Brougham introduced his motion in the Commons, just before the dissolution, pledging the House to take the subject of Abolition into consideration early the next session. His speech in its support, and which essentially contributed to his election for Yorkshire a few weeks afterward, as the successor of Wilberforce, contains the oft-cited passage : I trust that at length the time is come when Parliament will no longer bear to be told that slave-owners are the best lawgivers on Slavery ; no longer allow an appeal from the British public to such communities as those in which the Smiths and the Grimsdalls are persecuted to death for teaching the gospel to the negroes; and the Mosses holden in affectionate respect for torture and murder : no longer suffer our voice to roll across the Atlantic in empty warnings and fruitless orders. Tell me not of rights—talk not of the property of the planter in his slaves. I deny the right-I acknowledge not the property. The principles, the feelings of our common nature rise in rebellion against it. Be the appeal made to the understanding, or to the heart, the sentence is the same that rejects it. In vain you tell me of laws that sanction such a crime! There is a law above all the enactments of human

66

codes the same throughout the world—the same in all times ---such as it was before the daring genius of Columbus pierced the night of ages, and opened to one world the sources of power, wealth, and knowledge ; to another, all unutterable woes: such as it is at this day. It is the law written by the finger of God on the heart of man; and by that law unchangeable and eternal, while men despise fraud, and loathe rapine, and abhor blood, they will reject with indignation the wild and guilty fantasy, that man can hold property in man! In vain you appeal to treaties, to covenants between nations : the Covenants of the Almighty, whether the Old Covenant or the New, denounce such unholy pretensions. To those laws did they of old refer, who maintained the African trade. Such treaties did they cite, and not untruly; for by one shameful compact you bartered the glories of Blenheim for the traffic in blood. Yet, despite of law and of treaty, that infernal traffic is now destroyed, and its votaries put to death like other pirates. How came this change to pass ? Not, assuredly, by Parliament leading the way ; but the country at length awoke ; the indignation of the people was kindled; it descended in thunder, and smote the traffic, and scattered its guilty profits to the winds. Now, then, let the planters beware-let their Assemblies beware- let the Government at home beware-let the Parliament beware! The same country is once more awake-awake to the condition of negro slavery ; the same indignation kindles in the bosom of the same people; the same cloud is gathering that annihilated the slave trade; and, if it shall descend again, they on whom its crash may fall, will not be destroyed before I have warned them ; but I

pray

that their destruction may turn away from us the more terrible judgments of God !"

The French revolution of 1830, the turning out of the Wellington and the coming in of the Grey Ministry, and the protracted contest for Parliamentary reform, absorbed a large share of the public attention for the next eighteen months

« ZurückWeiter »