• TABLE OF CONTENTS
HIDE
 Front Cover
 Front Matter
 Title Page
 Foreword
 Acknowledgement
 Title Page
 I. Abolition of the British slave...
 II. The foreign slave trade
 III. The registration of slave...
 IV. Towards the abolition...
 V. Towards the abolition of...
 Appendix: Debate on East India...
 Index
 Back Cover






Group Title: British West Indies at Westminster, 1789-1823 : extracts from the debates in Parliament
Title: British West Indies at Westminster, 1789-1823
CITATION PAGE IMAGE ZOOMABLE
Full Citation
STANDARD VIEW MARC VIEW
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00003583/00001
 Material Information
Title: British West Indies at Westminster, 1789-1823 extracts from the debates in Parliament
Physical Description: v. : ; 21 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Great Britain -- Parliament
Williams, Eric Eustace, 1911-
Historical Society of Trinidad and Tobago
Publisher: Gov. Print. Off.
Place of Publication: Port-of-Spain Trinidad
Publication Date: 1954-
 Subjects
Subject: Slave trade -- History -- Sources -- West Indies, British   ( lcsh )
Slavery -- History -- Sources -- West Indies, British   ( lcsh )
Genre: non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Spatial Coverage: Barbados
Trinidad and Tobago
Jamaica
Belize
Guyana
Saint Lucia
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
British Virgin Islands
Saint Kitts and Nevis
Grenada
Cayman Islands
Bahamas
Turks and Caicos Islands
Anguilla
Antigua and Barbuda
Montserrat
Bermuda
Dominica
 Notes
Statement of Responsibility: selected and edited by Eric Williams.
General Note: At head of title : Historical Society of Trinidad and Tobago.
Funding: Eric Williams Memorial Collection
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00003583
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: aleph - 001056928
oclc - 02216085
notis - AFE0483

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Cover
    Front Matter
        Front Matter
    Title Page
        Page i
        Page ii
    Foreword
        Page iii
        Page iv
    Acknowledgement
        Page v
        Page vi
    Title Page
        Page vii
        Page viii
    I. Abolition of the British slave trade
        Page 1
        1. Wilberforce's resolutions on the slave trade
            Page 1
            Page 2
        2. Wilberforce's motion for abolition of the slave trade
            Page 3
            Page 4
            Page 5
            Page 6
            Page 7
            Page 8
            Page 9
            Page 10
            Page 11
            Page 12
            Page 13
        3.Wilberforce's motion for abolition of the slave trade
            Page 14
            Page 15
            Page 16
            Page 17
            Page 18
            Page 19
            Page 20
            Page 21
            Page 22
            Page 23
            Page 24
            Page 25
            Page 26
            Page 27
            Page 28
            Page 29
            Page 30
            Page 31
            Page 32
            Page 33
            Page 34
        4. Slave trade abolition bill
            Page 35
            Page 36
            Page 37
        5. Slave trade abolition bill
            Page 38
            Page 39
            Page 40
            Page 41
            Page 42
        6. The contraband slave trade
            Page 43
            Page 44
            Page 45
            Page 46
        7. Slave trade felony bill
            Page 47
            Page 48
            Page 49
    II. The foreign slave trade
        Page 50
        8. Spain and Portugal
            Page 50
        9. The foreign slave trade
            Page 51
        10. The foreign slave trade
            Page 52
        11. The French slave trade
            Page 53
            Page 54
            Page 55
        12. The French slave trade
            Page 56
            Page 57
            Page 58
            Page 59
            Page 60
            Page 61
        13. The French slave trade
            Page 62
            Page 63
        14. The foreign slave trade
            Page 64
        15. The Spanish slave trade
            Page 65
            Page 66
        16. The Spanish slave trade
            Page 67
        17. The Dutch slave trade
            Page 68
        18. The French slave trade
            Page 68
        19. The foreign slave trade
            Page 69
            Page 70
    III. The registration of slaves
        Page 71
        21. Registry of slaves
            Page 73
            Page 71
            Page 74
            Page 75
            Page 72
        22. Registry of slaves
            Page 76
        23. Registry of slaves
            Page 76
            Page 77
        24. Registry of slaves
            Page 78
            Page 79
            Page 80
            Page 81
            Page 82
            Page 83
            Page 84
            Page 85
        25. Registry of slaves
            Page 86
            Page 87
    IV. Towards the abolition of slavery
        Page 88
        26. Bill for gradual abolition of slavery in the British West Indies
            Page 88
        27. Cultivation of the West Indian Colonies by free labourers
            Page 89
            Page 90
        28. The Huggins case in Nevis
            Page 91
            Page 92
        29. The Rawlins case in St. Kitts
            Page 93
        30. Abolition of slavery
            Page 93
        31. Gradual abolition of slavery
            Page 94
            Page 95
            Page 96
            Page 97
    V. Towards the abolition of monopoly
        Page 98
        32. Petition of West Indian planters
            Page 98
        33. Petition from Barbados respecting the sugar trade
            Page 99
            Page 100
            Page 101
        34. Petition of the Tobago Planters
            Page 102
        35. East India sugar duties
            Page 103
            Page 104
        36. Commercial restrictions
            Page 105
        37. East India sugar
            Page 106
        38. Colonial trade bill
            Page 107
            Page 108
            Page 109
            Page 110
            Page 111
        39. East India sugar
            Page 112
        40. East and West India sugar
            Page 113
            Page 114
            Page 115
            Page 116
    Appendix: Debate on East India sugar
        Page 117
        Page 118
        Page 119
        Page 120
        Page 121
        Page 122
        Page 123
        Page 124
        Page 125
        Page 126
        Page 127
        Page 128
        Page 129
        Page 130
        Page 131
        Page 132
    Index
        Page 133
        Page 134
        Page 135
        Page 136
    Back Cover
        Page 137
        Page 138
Full Text



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HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO


THE BRITISH


WEST


INDIES


AT WESTMINSTER

PART I: 1789-I823



EXTRACTS FROM
THE DEBATES IN PARLIAMENT



SELECTED AND EDITED BY


ERIC WILLIAMS







FOREWORD
THE present volume is the first instalment of an enterprise designed
to cover the debates in Parliament on the British West Indies
during the period 1789-1852, the period which saw the abolition
of the British West Indian slave system and the British West Indian
sugar monopoly. The first volume covers the years 1789-1823. The
extracts from the debates, made years ago by the editor in the
course of research on the abolition of the British West Indian slave
system, are intended to supplement the data made available for
the British West Indies for the years 1588-1753 in the five volumes
of Proceedings in the British Parliaments respecting North America
edited by L. F. Stock and published by the Carnegie Institution of
Washington. It is hoped that the publication of this important
source of material, well-nigh inaccessible outside of the British
Museum and the Library of Congress, will facilitate its use by
students of the period, who have, for the most part, hitherto tended
to ignore or subordinate it.
This is not to say that the publication is exclusively designed
for students. Pitt's speech of April 2, 1792, with his impassioned
defence of Africa, must surely rank among the classics of British
oratory; whilst Brougham's speech of June 15, 1810, against
the contraband slave trade, and Grenville's of June 27, 1814,
against the foreign slave trade, have a rightful place in the best
of abolitionist literature. To the general reader such speeches will
have a positive appeal. The publication will also be of special
interest to those who believe, with the editor, that the teaching
materials in use in Caribbean schools need to be drastically over-
hauled and oriented towards the Caribbean environment. To the
extent that the attainment of this goal is hampered by the
inaccessibility of essential source materials, this book is designed to
encourage and facilitate that reorientation.
The Historical Society of Trinidad and Tobago and the editor
take this opportunity of expressing their appreciation to the
Government of Trinidad and Tobago, and to the Government
Printer, Assistant Government Printer and their staff, for making
possible this publication at this time.
ERIC WILLIAMS
Port-of-Spain, Trinidad
April 22, 1954.




















ACKNOWLEDGMENT

THIS publication has been made possible by generous
donations for paper, gratefully acknowledged by the Historical
Society of Trinidad and Tobago, from


MR. WINFIELD H. SCOTT, Port-of-Spain
and
DR. WINSTON MAHABIR, San Fernando












CONTENTS


111


I. ABOLITION OF THE BRITISH SLAVE TRADE

1. Wilberforce's Resolutions on the Slave Trade ...


2. Wilberforce's Motion for Abolition
Trade ... ...
3. Wilberforce's Motion for Abolition
Trade ......
4. Slave Trade Abolition Bill ...
5. Slave Trade Abolition Bill ...
6. The Contraband Slave Trade
7. Slave Trade Felony Bill .


II. THE FOREIGN SLAVE TRADE

8. Spain and Portugal ...
9. The Foreign Slave Trade
10. The Foreign Slave Trade
I1. The French Slave Trade
12. The French Slave Trade
13. The French Slave Trade
14. The Foreign Slave Trade
15. The Spanish Slave Trade
16. The Spanish Slave Trade
17. The Dutch Slave Trade
18. The French Slave Trade
19. The Foreign Slave Trade

III. THE REGISTRATION OF SLAVES

20. Registry of Slaves ...
21. Registry of Slaves ...
22. Registry of Slaves ...
23. Registry of Slaves ...
24. Registry of Slaves ...
25. Registry of Slaves ...
vii


... ... ... 50
.... ... 50
... 51
... ... 52
... 53
... ... ... 56
... ... 62
... .. ... 64
... ... ... 65
... ... ... 67
... ... ... 68
... ... ... 68
... ... ... 69

... ... ... 7 1
... ... 7 1
.. ... ... 73
... ... ... 76
... ... ... 76
... ... ... 78
... ... ... 86


FOREWORD


of the


of the


Slave


Slave


... ... 14
... ... 35
. ... 38
... ... 43
... ... 47


Page






CONTENTS-Continued


IV. TOWARDS THE ABOLITION OF SLAVERY


S ... 88


26. Bill for gradual Abolition of Slavery in the
British West Indies ... ... ... 88
27. Cultivation of the West Indian Colonies by
Free Labourers ... ... ... ... 89
28. The Huggins Case in Nevis ... ... ... 91
29. The Rawlins Case in St. Kitts ... ... 93
30. Abolition of Slavery ... ... ... 93
31. Gradual Abolition of Slavery ... ... ... 94


V. TOWARDS THE ABOLITION OF MONOPOLY
32. Petition of West Indian Planters
33. Petition from Barbados respecting the
34. Petition of the Tobago Planters
35. East India Sugar Duties ...
36. Commercial Restrictions ...
37. East India Sugar ...
38. Colonial Trade Bill ... .
39. East India Sugar ... .
40. East and West India Sugar ...

APPENDIX: Debate on East India Sugar


... 98
... ... 98
Sugar Trade 99
... ... 102
... ... 103
... ... 105
... ... 106
... ... 107
... ... 112
... ... 113

... 17


Page










1. ABOLITION OF THE BRITISH SLAVE TRADE

I. WILBERFORCE'S RESOLUTIONS ON THE
SLAVE TRADE

(Parliamentary Debates, XXVIII, pp. 41-78; House of Commons,
May 12, 1789)
WiLLIAM PITT (Prime Minister): . approved of the hon.
gentleman's sentiments, with almost every one of which he
cordially concurred; and when he differed at all, it was only as to
those sentiments which the rt. hon. gent. had stated with respect
to the mode of proceeding, and the propriety of coming to the
several distinct propositions, which were the grounds of the ultimate
vote for an unqualified abolition of the slave trade. He returned
his hon. friend, therefore, his sincere thanks for the manner in
which he had brought the subject before the House, not merely in
regard to the masterly, forcible and perspicuous mode of argument
which he. had pursued respecting it, but particularly for having
chosen the only way in which it could be made obvious to the
world, that they were warranted in every ground of fact and of
reason, in coming to that vote, which he trusted would be the end
of their proceeding. He was satisfied, that no argument reconcilable
to any idea of justice, could be given for continuing the trade in
question; and he was perfectly clear that his opinion, at least the
principles in which it was founded in his own mind, were
unalterable; yet he was ready to hear all the arguments that could
be offered by those who entertained different sentiments: being
from all the attention he had been able to pay the subject, firmly
persuaded that nothing but the obscurity of general notions,
unfathomed and unexamined, could have hitherto prevented all
mankind (those immediately interested in the question alone-
excepted) from agreeing in one and the same opinion on the subject.
The real grounds of the proceeding, which he doubted not but that
House would adopt, were stated distinctly in the propositions,
which when put point by point would be found to be such as no-
people could venture to say no to, if they were not equally deaf to.










1. ABOLITION OF THE BRITISH SLAVE TRADE

I. WILBERFORCE'S RESOLUTIONS ON THE
SLAVE TRADE

(Parliamentary Debates, XXVIII, pp. 41-78; House of Commons,
May 12, 1789)
WiLLIAM PITT (Prime Minister): . approved of the hon.
gentleman's sentiments, with almost every one of which he
cordially concurred; and when he differed at all, it was only as to
those sentiments which the rt. hon. gent. had stated with respect
to the mode of proceeding, and the propriety of coming to the
several distinct propositions, which were the grounds of the ultimate
vote for an unqualified abolition of the slave trade. He returned
his hon. friend, therefore, his sincere thanks for the manner in
which he had brought the subject before the House, not merely in
regard to the masterly, forcible and perspicuous mode of argument
which he. had pursued respecting it, but particularly for having
chosen the only way in which it could be made obvious to the
world, that they were warranted in every ground of fact and of
reason, in coming to that vote, which he trusted would be the end
of their proceeding. He was satisfied, that no argument reconcilable
to any idea of justice, could be given for continuing the trade in
question; and he was perfectly clear that his opinion, at least the
principles in which it was founded in his own mind, were
unalterable; yet he was ready to hear all the arguments that could
be offered by those who entertained different sentiments: being
from all the attention he had been able to pay the subject, firmly
persuaded that nothing but the obscurity of general notions,
unfathomed and unexamined, could have hitherto prevented all
mankind (those immediately interested in the question alone-
excepted) from agreeing in one and the same opinion on the subject.
The real grounds of the proceeding, which he doubted not but that
House would adopt, were stated distinctly in the propositions,
which when put point by point would be found to be such as no-
people could venture to say no to, if they were not equally deaf to.





THE BRITISH WEST INDIES AT WESTMINSTER


the language of reason and of undeniable fact. Let those propositions
once be put upon the Journals of that House and it was almost
impossible for them to fail. Persuaded as he was of the policy as
well as humanity of the measure, could he have ever entertained
any doubt of its success, still that would not have deterred him
from persisting in its purpose. As to the mode by which the
abolition of the slave trade was to be ultimately carried into effect,
they were not at present to discuss it; but he trusted that it would
not be found the means of inviting foreign powers to supply our
islands with slaves by a clandestine trade, because, after a debt
founded on the immutable principles of justice was found to be
due, it was impossible but that the country had means to have at
paid; and when once they had come to a resolution to abolish the
slave trade, they were not to be prevented by any fears of other
nations being tempted by the profit resulting from a commerce.
which upon grounds of humanity and national honour they had
abandoned, to carry it on in an illicit manner. Should that be the
case, the language must be, that Great Britain had resources to
enable her to protect her islands, and prevent that traffic being
clandestinely carried on with them. which she had thought it for
her own honour and character to abandon. It was their duty. and
it should be their ambition, to take the lead in a business of so
much national importance, and so much national credit; and he
declared, he could not but have great confidence that foreign
nations would be inclined to share the honour, and that if they
were ready and willing to do so, they ought on their part, for the
sake of the general good that would result from such a measure
being universally taken, to forego the honour in their favour, and
to be contented to follow as their imitators in so excellent a work.
If they were disposed to set about it in earnest, foreign nations
might be invited to concur with them, either by negotiation
immediately to be commenced, or by the effect that the propositions
being put upon their Journals would in all probability produce.
(Later Pitt rose again) . lest the House should separate
with an idea that he acceded to the proposition of an hon. gent.
who had suggested the necessity of making a compensation for any
losses that might be incurred by the people of Liverpool or
elsewhere; he could not reconcile the listening to any claim of that
kind, to any one principle of legislation.






ABOLITION OF THE SLAVE TRADE


2. WILBERFORCE'S MOTION FOR ABOLITION OF THE
SLAVE TRADE

(Parliamentary Debates. XXIX, pp. 250-343; House of Commons,
April 18-19, 1791)

WILLIAM WILBERFORCE: By arguing the subject point by point,
it would appear to a demonstration, that all those propositions and
all the pledges which he had given to the House would be made
good, and that the slave trade would be found to be contrary to
every principle of religion, morality, and sound policy.
He was aware that an opinion had gone forth that the measure
of abolition would be attended with inevitable ruin to the West
India Islands. He trusted he should be able to prove that the direct
contrary was the truth .. For his own part he confessed that,
considering the miseries this trade entailed in Africa, his liberty of
choice was taken from him; he must at all events determine for the
abolition; but surely no man, however free he might deem himself
to decide on grounds of expediency, would require more at his
hands than that he should show that the measure would not prove
absolutely ruinous to the West Indies. No petty, no dubious interest
would, by any one, be stated as a sufficient plea to justify the
extensive and certain evils he had enumerated. He would not detain
the committee for a moment, in arguing against the bringing of
new lands into cultivation, by fresh importations of African slaves;
for even apart from every consideration of justice and humanity,
the impolicy of the measure was indisputable. Let the committee
consider the dreadful mortality that attended the opening of new
lands: let them look to the evidence of Mr. Woolrich. and there see
a contrast drawn between the slow, perhaps, but sure progress of
cultivation, carried on in the natural way, and the attempt to force
improvements, which however flattering the prospect might appear
at the outset, soon produced a load of debt and inextricable
embarrassments. He might even appeal to the enormous sum, said
by the West Indians themselves to amount to more than 20 millions,
owing to the people of this country; and challenge them on any
principle to prove that any new system would involve them so deep
as that on which they had hitherto proceeded.





THE BRITISH WEST INDIES AT WESTMISTER


The ground on which were bottomed all the objections of those
who maintained the contrary opinion, he apprehended to be this,
that the stock of slaves dow in the islands could not be kept up
by propagation, but that it was necessary from time to time to
recruit them with imported Africans. In direct refutation of this
position, he should prove first, that in the condition and treatment
of the negroes these were causes sufficient for us to expect a
considerable decrease; secondly, that this decrease was in fact very
trifling, or rather, he believed, it had actually ceased; and thirdly,
he should urge many direct and collateral facts and arguments,
constituting on the whole, an irresistible proof that even a rapid
increase might henceforth be expected.
One of the principal causes of the negroes sufferings and
consequent decrease was the non-residence of the planters, many
of them persons of affluent fortunes, of sound understandings and
liberal hearts. The fact was that in general they (the managers)
sought to establish their characters, which is generally determined
by their producing large crops at a small immediate expense, too
little considering how far the slaves might suffer from ill-treatment
and excessive labour. He had formerly stated, that an admiral'q
visit to a plantation made a holiday, and could afford no adequate
idea of the general situation of the slaves.
He trusted he had made good his first proposition-that the
causes of decrease wexe so many and so great, that this decrease
might reasonably have been expected to be very considerable. In
fact, however, in the Island of Jamaica, which he conceived he
might take as a fair specimen of the whole, it was very trifling;
or rather, he believed he might assert, it had entirely ceased some
years ago, and that the decrease was only on the imported slaves.
In the report of the privy council, they had the numbers imported,
and the actually existing numbers during the last 90 years. From
1698 to 1730, a period of 32 years, the decrease appeared to be
31 per cent.; in the second period, from 1730 to 1755, the decrease
was 2j per cent.; in the third period, from 1755 to 1768, it was
lessened to Q1; and from 1708 to 1788, at the utmost, it was not
more than I per cent. From this and other considerations, he felt
himself warranted in asserting that the slaves in Jamaica were now
actually increasing.






ABOLITION OF THE SLAVE TRADE


He must draw a most important inference from the gradual
lessening of the decrease which he had already stated: for as this
had uniformly kept pace with the melioration of the slaves
treatment, so there was every reason to hope, that as this should
'be still mended, the decrease would continue to lessen in
proportion .
He had uniformly asserted that this trade was the grave rather
than the nursery of seamen* This fully equalled or rather
exceeded, the losses stated by Mr. Clarkson .
It was not by this detestable traffic that she (Liverpool) had
risen to her present opulence; and that not only because it comprised
but 1/30th part of her export trade, but also it was merely a lottery
-profitable, indeed, to some individuals, but a losing trade on
the whole .
Of the commerce of Bristol the slave trade constituted a still
smaller proportion .
The medium value of British manufactures exported to Africa
amounted but to about 400,000 a year, and there was no doubt
but that the superior capital, ingenuity, industry and integrity of
the British manufacturer would command new markets for the
produce of his industry, when this should be no more ...

MR. GROSVENOR: He acknowledged it was not an amiable
trade, but neither was the trade of a butcher an amiable trade, and
yet a mutton chop was, nevertheless, a very good thing.

ALDERMAN WATSON: The abolition of the trade would ruin
the West Indies, destroy our Newfoundland fishery which the slaves
in the West Indies, supported, by consuming that part of the fish
which was fit for no other consumption, and consequently, by
cutting off the great source of seamen, annihilate our marine.

CHARLES JAMES Fox: If the mortality in the West Indies
were ten times greater than it was, this would only be a ten times
stronger reason for forbidding the importation of slaves.

*Liverpool and Bristol muster rolls :
350 slave vessels, 12,263 persons. 2.643 deaths in 12 months.
462 West [ndiamen, 7,640 118 ,. 7 months.






THE BRITISH WEST INDIES AT WESTMINSTER


WILLIAM PITT (Prime Minister): From the first hour of his
having had the honour to sit in parliament, down to the present,
of all the questions, whether political or personal, in which it had
been his fortune to take a share, there never had been one in which
his heart was so deeply interested as the present; both on account
of the serious principles which it involved, and the important
consequences connected with it. He observed that however forcibly
he might appeal to the natural and unerring feelings of every man
upon this subject, and however strong an argument he might
therefore draw even from this consideration, yet this was not the
ground on which he was about to rest the determination of the
present question. The present was not a mere question of feeling;
it was not for the sake of exercising humanity, as had been often
falsely imagined, that the abolition of the trade in slaves was
pressed upon the committee; but it was quite another principle,
which ought, in his own opinion, to determine their minds. "lhe
main argument insisted on was, that the slave trade was founded
in injustice; 'and it is therefore', said Mr. Pitt, 'such a trade, as
it is impossible for me to support, unless gentlemen will. in the
first place, prove to me that there are no laws of morality binding
upon nations, and that it is no duty of a legislature to restrain
its subjects from invading the happiness of other countries, and
from violating the fundamental principles of justice'.
Many gentlemen, however, who opposed the motion, had
brought forward the plea of impracticability. Several of them had
even expressed a desire to see the slave trade abolished, if it were
not for some necessity for continuing it, which they conceived to
exist; nay, almost every one he believed, appeared to wish, that
the farther importation of slaves might cease, provided it could be
made out that the population of the West Indies could be, by any
means, maintained without it.
He proposed, therefore, to apply himself particularly to this
subject; for as this appeared to operate, in the mind of so many
gentlemen, as the chief objection he trusted, that, by showing this
argument to be groundless, he should be able to clear away every
obstacle; so that, having no ground, either of justice or necessity,
to stand upon, there could be no pretence left to the committee, for
resisting the present motion.-He might reasonably hope, however,
that gentlemen even upon their own grounds, would not reckon






ABOLITION OF THE SLAVE TRADE


any disadvantage to the plantations, which was merely small and
temporary, to be a sufficient reason to warrant the continuance of
the slave trade. It was surely not any slight degree of expediency,
any small balance of profit, nor any light shades of probability on
the one side, rather than the other, which would determine any
gentleman in the present question. The committee he was sure,
would not decide the question on such grounds. The slave trade
was an evil of such a magnitude, that there must be a common
wish in them at once to put an end to it, if there were no very
great and serious obstacle. Nothing short of the utmost danger,
nay, of ruin to the West India Islands, ought we to hear urged as
a plea for continuing such a trade as this. It was a trade by which
unoffending nations were deprived of the blessings of civilization
and had their peace and happiness invaded. It ought, therefore, to
be no common expediency; it ought either to be some positive
necessity, or, at least, something very like necessity, which it
became those gentlemen to plead, who took upon them to defend
the continuance of this traffic.
He knew that the West India gentlemen had used very strong
language on this part of the subject, and had expressed an alarm
for the islands that was very serious indeed. It would be proper,
however, for the committee to consider this for themselves; for he
could not help thinking, there was an over great degree of sensibility
among those gentlemen, on this particular point, and that their
alarm was excited in a degree which the occasion by no means
justified. He had endeavoured carefully and impartially to examine
into this himself, and he would now proceed to lay those reasons
before the committee, which induced him firmly to believe, that no
permanent mischief would follow from the abolition, that not even
any such temporary hurt or inconvenience as could be stated to be
a reason for preventing the House from agreeing to the question
before them; but, on the contrary, that the abolition itself would
lay the foundation for the more solid improvement of all the various
interests of those colonies. In proceeding upon this subject, he
should apply his observations chiefly to Jamaica, which contained
more than half the slaves in the whole West Indies, and if he should
succeed in proving that no material detriment could arise to the
population of that island, this would afford so strong a presumption
with respect to the other islands, that the House could not any





THE BRITISH WEST INDIES AT WESTMINSTER


longer hesitate whether they should or should not put a stop to
this horrid trade. In the 20 years, ending in 1788, the annual loss
of slaves in Jamaica, i.e., the excess of deaths over the births,
appeared to be one in 100; in a preceding period the loss was
greater, and in a period before that greater still, there having been
a continual gradation in the decrease through the whole time, as
appeared from an accurate examination of the particular years in
-c.h period. It might fairly be concluded, therefore, that the
average loss of the last period being I per cent., the loss in the
former part of it would be somewhat more, and in the latter part
somewhat less than I per cent.; insumuch that it might be fairly
questioned whether, by this time, the births and deaths in Jamaica
might not be stated as very nearly equal. It was to be added, that
a peculiar calamity, which swept away 15,000 persons, had
occasioned a part of the mortality in the last mentioned period.
The check to the provision trade, occasioned by the independence
of America, had also been urged, by the West India gentlemen, as
a cause of more than common depopulation in the same time;
whether this had really operated to so great an extent as had been
stated he could not say, but he was clear that this also was an evil
which might not be expected to return, as a very considerable
culture of provisions in the islands had now happily taken place.
It was plain, then, even on these grounds only, nay even, if the
apparent loss had been, as some statements made it, more than
I per cent., that the probable loss now to be expected must be very
inconsiderable indeed.-There was, however, one circumstance to
be added, which the West India gentlemen, in stating this matter,
had entirely overlooked, and which was so material as clearly to
reduce the probable diminution in the population of Jamaica down
to nothing, supposing even that all the observations he had just
been making were entirely to fail him. The circumstance he meant
was this; in all the calculations he had referred to of the comparative
number of births and deaths, all the negroes in the islands were
included; those newly imported negroes, who died in consequence
of the seasoning, made a part, and swelled, therefore, very
materially the number of the deaths; but as these extraordinary
deaths would cease as soon as the importation ceased, there ought
to be a deduction of them made from this present calculation. Now,
this number would make up of itself nearly ihe whole of that





ABOLITION OF THE SLAVE TRADE


1 per cent. He particularly pressed gentlemen's attention to
this circumstance; for it was undoubtedly the fact, that the
complaint of being likely to want hands in Jamaica arose from
the mistake of including the present unnatural deaths caused by
the seasoning among the natural and perpetual causes of mortality.
These deaths, being erroneously taken into the planters calculations,
gave occasion to the idea that the number could not be kept up.
These deaths, which were caused merely by the slave trade,
furnished the very ground, therefore, on which the continuance of
the slave trade was thought necessary, and became the very reason
for bringing over more of those wretched negroes, and for thus
adding to this very source of mortality. The evidence before the
House as to this point was perfectly clear; for it would be found
in that dreadful catalogue of deaths, in consequence of the
seasoning, and the middle passage, which the House had been
condemned to look into. that one half die. An annual mortality of
2,000 in Jamaica might be charged, therefore, to the importation,
which, compared with the whole numbers on the island, hardly
fell short of the whole 1 per cent. decrease.-Joining this with all
the other considerations, Mr. Pitt then asked, can the decrease of
slaves in Jamaica be such-can the colonies be so destitute of
means, so incapable of thoe improvements which a more pnuldnt
management and a spirit of benevolence must naturally furnish-
can they, at a time when they tell you of new regulations to benefit
the slaves, which, they say, are establishing every day-can they,
under all these circumstances, be permitted to plead that total
impossibility of keeping up their number, which they have rested
on, as being indeed the only possible pretext for allowing fresh
importations from Africa? He appealed, therefore, to the sober
judgment of every gentleman whether an interest on the part of
Jamaica, such as he had described, could form an objection or
justify a hesitation, in agreeing to the present motion.
It might be observed, also, that, when the importation should
stop, that disproportion between the sexes, which was one of the
obstacles to population, would gradually diminish, and indeed our
whole colonies in the West Indies would revert to that natural order
and course of things by which population and civilization are
promoted. Through the want of this order, a thousand grievances
were created which it was impossible to define, and which it was






THE BRITISH WEST INDIES AT WEST3MINSTER


in vain to think that, under such circumstances, we could cure.
He was convinced that the abolition itself would work this effect.
The West Indian would then feel a near and urgent interest to enter
into a thousand little details which it was impossible for him to
describe, but which have the greatest influence on population. A
foundation would thus be laid for the general welfare of the islands,
a new system would rise up the reverse of the old, and eventually
both their general wealth and general happiness would increase.
This, however, it should be remembered, was proving far more
than he was bound to, with a view to the present question, for
gentlemen must feel, that if even he could prove the abolition not
ruinous, it would be enough. He could give up, therefore, three
arguments out of four through the whole that he had said, and
yet have enough left to establish his position. As to the creoles, it
was a plain point that they would increase: they differed in this
entirely from the imported slaves. who were both a burthen and
a curse to themselves and others. The measure now proposed
would operate like a charm, and besides stopping all the miseries
we give occasion to in Africa and the middle passage, would
produce even more benefits in the West Indies than legal regulations
could do.
One thing he must touch upon, which was rather a delicate
point-the question of emancipating the slaves in the West Indies.
A rash emancipation he was clear would be wrong and mischievous;
in that unhappy situation to which our baneful conduct had brought
both ourselves and them, it would be no justice on either side to
give them liberty. They were as yet incapable of it, but gradually
their situation might be mended. They might be relieved from
everything harsh and severe, raised from their present degradation,
and put under the powerful protection of law: till then to talk of
emancipation was insanity. But it was the system of fresh
importations that interfered with these principles of improvement,
and it was the abolition of the slave trade which would furnish the
means of effectually regulating the situation of the slaves This
was not a warm idea taken up without due reasoning and
reflection, but had its foundation in human nature. Wherever there
was the incentive of honour, credit, and fair profit, there industry
would be; and when these labourers should have the natural springs
of human action afforded them, they would then rise to the natural






ABOLITION OF THE SLAVE TRADE


level of human industry; but when degraded into mere machines,
they would not even afford you all the benefit of machines, but
become more unprofitable, and every way more disadvantageous,
than any other instrument of labour whatsoever.
Pitt then proceeded to some short observations on each of the
other islands, as there were some circumstances of difference between
them. In Barbados. .. no decrease to alarm ns! On the contrary,
the slaves .. seemed rather to increase. In St. Kitts, the decrease
for 14 years had been but J per cent., and here many of the same
observations would apply as. in the case of Jamaica. In
Antigua, a considerable number had died by a particular
calamity In Nevis and Montserrat there was this strong and
most favourable circumsltace, that there was little or no
disproportion of sexes, and it might well be hoped the numbers
would be kept up. In Dominica he had to observe, that
Governor Orde mentions an increase of births above deaths.
Grenada and St. Vincent's .. were probably not in circumstances
less favourable than the other islands, though perhaps it might be
found, that persons who had proceeded on recent grants might be
entitled to our consideration; but whether their case was separated
from the others or not, it never could be argued that they ought
to stand in the way of the great object before the House.-On a
full review of the probable state of the Negro population in our
West India Islands. was there any serious ground of alarm from the
measure of abolishing the slave trade-of abolishing it entirely and
immediately? and was there any of that impracticability to be
pleaded, on which alone so many gentlemen had rested all their
objections? Must we not blush at pretending that it would distress
our consciences to abolish this most horrid trade, on account of the
alarming consequences to the population of the islands?
Intolerable were the mischiefs of this trade, both in its origin,
and through every stage of its progress. An hon. gent. had been
describing Africa as a continent half cultivated. In such a country,
in order to promote this trade, you must apply yourselves to the
avarice and to the worst pasiaons of the princes. To say that slaves
can be furnished us by fair and commercial means was absurd and
ridiculous. The trade sometimes ceased, as during the last war;
sometimes the demand increased, sometimes it was declining,






THE BRITISH WEST INDIES AT WESTMINSTER


according to our circumstances. But how was it possible that, to a
demand so extremely fluctuating, the supply of slaves should
always exactly accommodate itself ? Alas alas i (said Pitt) we
make human beings the subjects of commerce; we learn to talk of
ihem as such; yet we will not allow to them the common principle
of commerce, that the supply must accommodate itself to the
consumption. It was from wars, then, that the slaves were chiefly
furnished. They were obtained in proportion as they were wanted.
If a demand for slaves arose, a supply was forced in one way or
other, and it was in vain, overpowered as we now were with positive
evidence, as well as the reasonableness of the supposition, to deny,
that, by the slave trade, we were the causes of those dreadful
enormities on that unhappy continent. It was plain, if we considered
the number annually carried off, that no regular or ordinary means
could furnish so many captives.-It was said by an hon. baronet,
that if we did not take them, they would be destroyed; but this he
did not believe, because he did not find, from all his reading, that
the destruction of their captives was the common practice of all
uncivilized nations. We assumed, therefore, what was false; the
very selling them implied this; for if they would sell their captives
for profit, why should they not employ them in any labour that
yield a profit, for the same reason? Nay, many of them, while there
was no demand from the slave merchants, were often actually so
employed. The wealth of the richer people in Africa was reckoned
to consist in slaves, and how could we suppose they would be so
absurd, then, as to destroy them? Besides, the trade had been
suspended during the war, and it was never said or thought, that
any such consequence had then followed. But even if instead of
the present pitiless transportation, some few lives should be actually
destroyed; if at the first they, with the guilt on their heads, should
put some few prisoners to death, it was clear that we ought not to
make this any reason for persisting in the trade. The duration of
this evil that was dreaded would be short; by degrees the interest
of humanity would work its own way, if our perverted system did
not obstruct its course.
It had been argued, by the hon. baronet, that the selling men
for witchcraft was no consequence of the slave trade, for that
witchcraft commonly implied poison, and was a real punishable
crime. But it was to be recollected, that in the case of witchcraft






ABOLITION OF THE SLAVE TRADE


or poison, it was not the individual only, but man, woman and
child, every connexion and relation of the guilty person that were
sold for slaves, which principle of injustice and cruelty was
promoted most undoubtedly by the slave trade. The truth was,
that we stop the natural progress of civilization! We cut off Africa
from the opportunity of improvement; we kept down that continent
in a state of darkness, bondage, ignorance, and blood. Was not this
an awful consideration for this country? Look on the map of
Africa; how little useful intercourse had been established in that
vast continent i While other countries were assisting and enlightening
each other, that alone had none of these benefits. We had obtained
as yet only just so much knowledge of its productions, as to show
that there is a capacity for trade, which we check. Indeed, if the
mischiefs in Africa were out of the question, the circumstances of
the middle passage alone would, in his mind, be reason enough for
the abolition. Such a scene as that of the slave ships, passing over
with their wretched cargoes to the West Indies. if it could be spread
before the eyes of the House, would be sufficient of itself to make
them vote at once for this question. And when it can be added also,
that the interest even of the West Indies themselves rests on the
abolition of this trade, he could not conceive an act of more
indispensable duty than that which was now proposed to the House.
If even the consequences had appeared to him widely different
from what they did appear, still he should insist that the House
ought to give the same vote. What an aggravation, then, of guilt
would it be, if the policy, instead of being against the measure, was
also for it! When it was evident, that this execrable traffic was
as opposite to expediency, as it was to the dictates of mercy, of
religion, of equity, and of every good principle that should actuate
the breast, how can we hesitate a moment to abolish this commerce
in human flesh, which had too long disgraced our country, and
which our example would no doubt contribute to abolish in every
corner of the globe?






THE BRITISH WEST INDIES AT WESTMINSTER


3. WILBERFORCE'S MOTION FOR ABOLITION
OF THE SLAVE TRADE

(Parliamentary Debates, XXIX, pp. 1055-1158; House of
Commons, April 2, 1792)

WILLIAM PITT (Prime Minister): At this hour of the morning.
I am afraid, Sir, I am too much exhausted to enter so fully into
the subject before the committee as I could wish; but if my bodily
strength is in any degree equal to the task, I feel so strongly the
magnitude of this question, that I am extremely earnest to deliver
my sentiments, which I rise to do with the more satisfaction,
because I now look forward to the issue of this business with
considerable hopes of success. The debate has this day taken a
turn, which though it has produced a variety of new suggestions.
has, upon the whole, reduced this question to a much narrower
point than it was ever brought into before. I cannot say that I
quite agree with the rt. hon. gent. over the way (Fox); I am far
from deploring all that has been said by my two hon. friends
(Dundas and Speaker Addington), I rather rejoice that they have
now brought this subject to a fair issue-that something, at least,
is already gained, and that the argument has taken altogether a
new course this night. It is true, a difference of opinion has been
stated, and has been urged with all the force of argument that
could be given to it. But give me leave to say, that this difference
has been urged upon principles very far removed from those which
were maintained by the opponents of my hon. friend when he first
brought forward his motion. There are very few of those who have
spoken this night, who have not declared the abolition of the slave
trade to be their ultimate object. The point now in dispute between
us, is, a difference merely as to the time at which the abolition
ought to take place. I therefore congratulate this House, the
country, and the world, that this great point has been gained; that
we may now consider this trade as having received its condemnation;
that this stigma on our national character is about to be removed;
and that mankind are likely to be delivered from the greatest
practical evil that ever afflicted the human race-from the severest
and most extensive calamity recorded in the history of the world.






ABOLITION OF THE SLAVE TRADE


In proceeding to give my reasons for concurring with my hon.
friend in his motion, 1 shall necessarily advert to those topics which
my rt. hon. friends near me have touched upon, and which they
stated to be their motives for preferring a gradual abolition, to the
more immediate and direct measure now proposed. Beginning as
I do, with declaring that in this respect I differ completely from
my rt. hon. friends near me, 1 do not, however, mean to say, that
I differ as to? one observation which has been pressed rather strongly
by them. If they can show that by proceeding gradually we shall
arrive more speedily at our end, than by a direct vote immediately
to abolish; if they can show that our proposition has more the
appearance of a speedy abolition, than the reality; undoubtedly
they will in this case make a convert of every man among us, who
looks to this, as a question not to be determined by theoretical
principles or enthusiastic feelings, but considers the practicability
of the measure-aiming simply to effect his object in the shortest
time, and in the surest possible manner. If, however, I shall be
able to show that the slave trade will on our plan be abolished
sooner than on theirs; may 1 not then hope. that my rt. hon. friends
will be as ready to adopt our proposition, as we should in the other
case be willing to accede to theirs?-One of my rt. lion. friends has
stated, that an act passed here for the abolition of the slave trade,
would not secure its abolition. Now, Sir, I should be glad to know,
why an act of the British legislature, enforced by all those sanctions
which we have undoubtedly the honour and the right to apply, is
not to be effectual: at least as to every material purpose. Will not
the executive have the same appointment of the officers and the
courts of judicature, by which all the causes relating to this subject
must be tried, that it has in other cases? Will there not be the
same system of law by which we now maintain a monopoly of
commerce? If the same law, Sir, be applied to the prohibition of
the slave trade, which is applied in the case of other contraband
commerce, with all the same means of the country to track it, I am
at a loss to know why the total abolition is not as likely to be
effected in this way, as by any project of my rt. hon, friends, for
bringing about a gradual termination of it. But my observation is
strongly fortified by what fell from my hon. friend who spoke last
(Jenkinson). He has told you. Sir, that if you will have patience
with it for a few years, the slave trade must drop of itself, from






THE BRITISH WEST INDIES AT WESTMINSTER


the increasing dearness of the commodity imported, and increasing
progress, on the other hand, of the internal population. Is it true.
then, that the importations are so expensive and disadvantageous
already, that the internal population is even now becoming a cheaper
resource? 1 ask, then, if you leave to the importer no means
of importing but smuggling, and if, besides all the present
disadvantages, you load him with all the charges and hazards of
the smuggler, by taking care that the laws against smuggling are
in this case rigorously enforced, is there any danger of any
considerable supply of fresh slaves being poured into the islands
through this channel? And is there any real ground of fear, because
a few slaves may have been smuggled in or out of the islands, that
a bill will be ineffectual on any such ground? The question under
these circumstances will not bear a dispute.
Perhaps, however, my hon. friends may take up another
ground, and say, 'it is true your measure would shut out further
importations more immediately; but we think it right, on grounds
of general expediency, that they should not be immediately shut
out.' Let us come then to this question of the expediency of making
the abolition distant and gradual, rather than immediate. The
argument of expediency, in my opinion, will not justify the
continuance of the slave trade for one unnecessary hour. Supposing
it to be in our power (which I have shown it is), to enforce the
prohibition from this present time, the expediency of doing it is to
me so clear, that if I went on this principle alone, I should not feel
a moment's hesitation. What is the argument of expediency stated
on the other side? It is doubted whether the deaths and births in
the islands are yet sb nearly equal as to ensure the keeping up of
a sufficient stock of labourers. In answer to this, I took the liberty
of mentioning, in a former year, what appeared to me to be the
state of population at that time. My observations were taken from
documents which we have reason to judge authentic, and which
carried on the face of them the conclusions I then stated: they
were the clear, simple, and obvious result of a careful examination,
which I made into this subject, and any gentleman who will take
the same pains may arrive at the same degree of satisfaction. These
calculations, however, applied to a period of time that is now
4 or 5 years past. The births were then, in the general view of them,
nearly equal to the deaths; and, as the state of population was





ABOLITION OF THE SLAVE TRADE


shown, by a considerable retrospect, to be regularly increasing, an
excess of births must before this time have taken place. Another
observation has been made as to the disproportion of the sexes.
This, however, is a disparity, which will gradually diminish as the
slave trade diminishes, and must entirely cease when the trade shall
be abolished But, Sir, I also showed, that the great mortality
which turned the balance so as to make the deaths appear more
numerous than the births, arose too from the imported Africans,
who die in extraordinary numbers in the seasoning. If, therefore
the importation of Negroes should cease, every one of the causes
of mortality which I have now stated, would cease also. Nor can
I conceive any reason why the present number of labourers should
not maintain itself in the West Indies, except it be from some
artificial cause, some fault in the islands; for example the impolicy
of their governors, or the cruelty of the managers and officers,
whom they employ.- -I will not repeat all that I said at that time,
or go through island by island. It is true, there is a difference in
Ihe ceded islands; and I state them possibly to be, in some respects,
an excepted case. But, if we are to enter into the subject of the
mortality in clearing new lands, this, Sir, is undoubtedly another
question; the mortality here is tenfold: and this is to be considered,
not as the carrying on of a trade, but as the setting on foot of a
slave trade for the purpose of peopling the colony; a measure
which I think will not now be maintained. I therefore desire
gentlemen to tell me fairly, whether the period they look to is not
now arrived? Whether, at this hour, the West Indies may not be
declared to have actually attained a state in which they can
maintain their population? And upon the answer I must necessarily
receive, I think I could safely rest the whole of the question.
One hon. gent. has rather ingeniously observed that one or
other of these two assertions of ours, must necessarily be false:
that either the population must be decreasing, which we deny: or
if the population is increasing, that the slaves must be perfectly
well treated (this being the cause of such population), which we
deny also. That the population is rather increasing than otherwise,
and also that the general treatment is by no means so good as it
ought to be, are both points which have been separately proved by
different evidences; nor are these two points so entirely incompatible.
The ill treatment must be very great indeed, in order to diminish





THE BRITISH WEST INDIES AT WESTMINSTER


materially the population of any race of people. That it is not so
extremely great as to do this, I will admit. I will even admit that
this charge may possibly have been sometimes exaggerated; and
I certainly think, that it applies less and less as we come nearer
to the present times. But let us see how this contradiction of ours,
as it is thought, really stands, and how the explanation of it will
completely settle our minds on the point in question. Do the slaves
diminish in numbers? It can be nothing but ill treatment that
causes the diminution. This ill treatment the abolition must and
will restrain. In this case, therefore, we ought to vote for the
abolition. On the other hand, Do you choose to say that the slaves
clearly increase in numbers? Then you want no importations, and
in this case also, you may safely vote for the abolition. Or, if you
choose to say, as the third and only other case which can be put,
and which perhaps is the nearest to the truth, that the population
is nearly stationary and the treatment neither so bad nor so good
as it might be; then, surely, sir, it will not be denied, that this of
all others, is, on each of the two grounds, the proper period for
stopping further supplies; for your population, which you own is
already stationary, will thus be made undoubtedly to increase from
the births; and the good treatment of your present slaves, which
I am now supposing is but very moderate, will be necessarily
improved also by the same measure of abolition. I say, therefore,
that these propositions, contradictory as they may be represented,
are in truth not at all inconsistent, but even come in aid of each
other, and lead to a conclusion that is decisive. And let it be always
remembered, that in this branch of my argument, I have only in
view the well-being of the West Indies, and do not now ground
anything on the African part of the question.
But, Sir, I may carry these observations regarding the islands
much further. It is within the power of the colonists (and is it not
then their indispensable duty?) to apply themselves to the correction
of those various abuses, by which population is restrained. The
most important consequences may be expected to attend colonial
regulations for this purpose. With the improvement of internal
population, the condition of every negro will improve also; his
liberty will advance, or at least he will be approaching to a state
of liberty. Nor can you increase the happiness, or extend the
freedom of the negro, without adding in an equal degree to the





ABOLITION OF THE SLAVE TRADE


safety of the islands, and of all their inhabitants. Thus, Sir, in
the place of slaves, who naturally have an interest directly opposite
to that of their masters, and are therefore viewed by them with an
eye of constant suspicion, you will create a body of valuable
citizens and subjects, forming a part of the same community,
having a common interest with their superiors, in the security and
prosperity of the whole. And here let me add, that in proportion
as you increase the happiness of these unfortunate beings, you will
undoubtedly increase in effect the quantity of their labour also ...
I will venture to assert, that, even if in consequence of the
abolition, there were to be some decrease in the number of hands,
the quantity of work done, supposing the condition of the slaves
to improve, would by no means diminish in the same proportion:
perhaps would be far from diminishing at all. For if you restore
to this degraded race the true feelings of men; if you take them
out from among the order of brutes, and place them on a level
with the rest of the human species, they will then work with that
energy which is natural to men, and their labour will be productive,
in a thousand ways, above what it has yet been; as the labour of
a man is always more productive than that of a mere brute.
It generally happens, that in every bad cause some information
arises out of the evidence of its defenders themselves, which serves
to expose in one part or other the weakness of their defence. It is
the characteristic of such a cause, that if it be at all gone into,
even by its own supporters, it is liable to be ruined by the
contradictions in which those who maintain it are for ever involved.
The committee of the privy council of Great Britain sent over
certain queries to the West India Islands, with a view of elucidating
the present subject; and they particularly inquired, whether the
negroes had any days or hours allotted to them, in which they
might work for themselves. The assemblies in their answers, with
an air of great satisfaction, state the labour of the slaves to be
moderate, and the West India system to be well calculated to
promote the domestic happiness of the slaves: they add, 'that
proprietors are not compelled by law to allow their slaves any
part of the 6 working days of the week for themselves, but it is
the general practice to allow them one afternoon in every week
out of crop time, which, with such hours as they choose to work
on Sunday, is time amply sufficient for their own purposes'. Now.






THE BRITISH WEST INDIES AT WESTMINSTER


therefore, will the negroes, or I may rather say, do the negroes
work for their own emolument? I beg the committee's attention to
this point. The assembly of Grenada proceeds to state-I have their
own words for it-'That though the negroes are allowed the
afternoons of only one day in every week, they will do as much
work in that afternoon, when employed for their own benefit, as
in the whole day when employed in their master's service.' Now,
Sir, I will desire you to bur all my calculations, to disbelieve, if
you please, every word I have said on the present state of
population; nay, I will admit, for the sake of argument, that the
numbers are decreasing, and the productive labour at present
insufficient for the cultivation of those countries: and I will then
ask, whether the increase in the quantity of labour which is
reasonably to be expected from the improved condition of the
slaves, is not, by the admission of the islands themselves, far more
than sufficient to counterbalance any decrease which can be
rationally apprehended from a defective state of their population?
... If you will believe the planters, if you will believe the legislature
of the islands, the productive labour of the colonies would, in case
the negroes worked as free labourers instead of slaves, be literally
doubled. Half the present labourers, in this supposition, would
suffice, for the whole cultivation of our islands on the present scale.
I therefore confidently ask the House whether, in considering the
whole of this question, we may not fairly look forward to an
improvement in the condition of these unhappy and degraded
beings, not only as an event desirable on the ground of humanity
and political prudence, but also as a means of increasing very
considerably indeed (even without any increasing population).
the productive industry of the islands ? When gentlemen are so
nicely balancing the past and future means of cultivating the
plantations, let me request them tn put this argument into the
scale; and the more they consider it, the more will they be satisfied,
that both the solidity of the principle which I have stated, and the
fact which I have just quoted in the very words of the colonial
legislature, will bear me out in every inference I have drawn. I
think they will perceive also, that it is the undeniable duty of this
House, on the grounds of true policy, immediately to sanction and
carry into effect that system which ensures these important





ABOLITION OF THE SLAVE TRADE


advantages, in addition to all those other inestimable blessings
which follow in their train.
If, therefore, the argument of expediency, as applying to the
West India Islands, is the test by which this question is to be tried,
1 trust I have now established this proposition, viz., that whatever
tends most speedily and effectually to meliorate the condition of
the slaves, is undoubtedly, in the ground of expediency, leaving
justice out of the question, the main object to be pursued. That
the immediate abolition of the slave trade will most eminently have
this effect, and that it is the only measure from which this effect
can in any considerable degree be expected, are points to which
I shall presently come; but before I enter upon them, let me notice
one or two further circumstances. We are told (and by respectable
and well-informed persons) that the purchase of new negroes has
been injurious instead of profitable to the planters themselves; so
large a proportion of these unhappy wretches being found to perish
in the seasoning. Writers well versed in this subject have even
advised that, in order to remove the temptation which the slave
trade offers to expend large sums in this injudicious way, the door
of importation should be shut. This very plan which we now
propose, the mischief of which is represented to be so great as to
outweigh so many other momentous considerations, has actually
been recommended by some of the best authorities, as a plan highly
requisite to be adopted, on the very principle of advantage to the
island; nay, not merely on that principle of general and political
advantage on which I have already touched, but for the advantage
of the very individuals who would otherwise be most forward in
purchasing slaves. On the part of the West Indies it is urged, 'The
planters are in debt: they are already distressed; if you stop the
slave trade, they will be ruined.' Mr. Long, the celebrated historian
of Jamaica, recommends the stopping of importations, as a receipt
for enabling tie plantations which are embarrassed to get out of
debt. Speaking of the usurious terms on which money is often
borrowed for the purchase of fresh slaves, he advised 'the laying
of a duty equal to a prohibition on all negroes imported for the
space of 4 or 5 years, except for re-exportation. Such a law would
be attended with the following good consequences. It would put an
immediate stop to these extortions; it would enable the planter to
retrieve his affairs by preventing him from running in debt, either





THE BRITISH WEST INDIES AT WESTMINSTER


by renting or purchasing negroes : it would render such recruits
less necessary, by the redoubled care he would be obliged to take
of his present stock, the preservation of their lives and health:
and lastly, it would raise the value of negroes in the island. A
North American province, by this prohibition alone for a few years,
from being deeply plunged in debt has become independent, rich,
and flourishing.' On the authority of Mr. Long, I rest the question,
whether the prohibition of further importations is that rash,
impolitic, and completely ruinous measure, which it is so confidently
declared to be with respect to our West India plantations. I do not,
however, mean, in thus treating this branch of the subject,
absolutely to exclude the question of indemnification, on the
supposition of possible disadvantages affecting the West Indies
through the abolition of the slave trade. But when gentlemen set
up a claim of compensation merely on those general allegations,
which are all that I have yet heard from them, I can only answer,
let them produce their case in a distinct and specific form; and if
upon any practicable or reasonable grounds it shall claim
consideration, it will then be time enough for parliament to decide
upon it.
I now come to another circumstance of great weight, connected
with this part of the question-I mean the danger to which the
islands are exposed from those negroes who are newly imported.
This, Sir, is no mere speculation of ours: for here again I refer
you to Mr. Long. He treats particularly of the dangers to be dreaded
from the introduction of Coromantine negroes; an appellation under
which are compressed several descriptions of negroes obtained on
the Gold Coast, whose native country is not exactly known, and
who are purchased in a variety of markets, having been brought
from some distance inland. With a view of preventing insurrections,
he advises that 'by laying a duty equal to a prohibition, no more
of these Coromantines should be bought;' To the authority of
Mr. Long I may add tte recorded opinion of the committee of the
house of assembly of Jamaica itself; who, in consequence of a
rebellion among the slaves, were appointed to inquire into the best
means of preventing future insurrections. The committee reported,
'That the rebellion had originated (like most or all others) with the
Coromantines; and they proposed that a bill should be brought in
for laying a higher duty on the importation of these particular





ABOLITION OF THE SLAVE TRADE


Negroes', which was intended to operate as a prohibition. But the
danger is not confined to the importation of Coromantines.
Mr. Long, carefully investigating as he does the causes of such
frequent insurrections, particularly at Jamaica, accounts for them
from the greatness of its general importations. 'In 2 years and a
half, 27,000 negroes have been imported. No wonder we have
rebellions Why, Sir, I believe that in some late years
there have been as many imported into the same island within
the same period. Surely, when gentlemen talk so vehemently of
the safety of the islands, and charge us with being so indifferent
to it; when they speak of the calamities of St. Domingo, and of
similar dangers impending over their own heads at the present
hour, it ill becomes them to be the persons who are crying out
for further importations. It ill becomes them to charge upon us
the crime of stirring up insurrections-upon us who are only
adopting the very principles, which Mr. Long-which in part even
the legislature of Jamaica itself, laid down in the time of danger,
with an avowed view to the prevention of any such calamity.
It is no small satisfaction to me, Sir, that among the many
arguments for prohibiting the slave trade which crowd upon my
mind, the security of our West India possessions against internal
commotions, as well as foreign enemies, is among the most
prominent, and here let me apply to my two rt. hon. friends, and
ask them, whether in this part of the argument they do not see
reason for immediate abolition? Why should you any longer import
into those countries that which is the very seed of insurrection and
rebellion? Why should you persist in introducing those latent
principles of conflagration, which, if they should once burst forth,
may annihilate in a single day the industry of a hundred years?
Why will you subject yourselves, with open eyes, to the imminent
risk of a calamity, which may throw you back a whole century in
your profits, in your cultivation, in your progress to the emancipation
of your slaves? and disappointing at once every one of those golden
expectations, may reward not only the accomplishment of that
happy system which I have attempted to describe, but may cut
off even your opportunity of taking any one introductory step?
Let us begin from this time. Let us not commit these important
interests to any further hazard. Let us prosecute this great object
from this very hour. Let us vote that the abolition of the slave






THE BRITISH WEST INDIES AT WESTMINSTER


trade shall be immediate, and not left to I know not what future
time or contingency. Will my rt. hon. friends answer for the safety
of the islands during any imaginable intervening period? Or do
they think that any little advantages of the kind which they state,
can have any weight in that scale of expediency in which this great
question ought undoubtedly to be tried? Thus stated, and thus
alone, Sir, can it be truly stated, to what does the whole of my
rt. hon. friend's arguments, on the head of expediency, amount?
It amounts but to this;-the colonies on the one hand would have
to struggle with some few difficulties and disadvantages at the first,
for the sake of obtaining on the other hand immediate security to
their leading interests; of ensuring, Sir, even their own political
existence; and for the sake also of immediately commencing that
system of progressive improvement in the condition of the slaves,
which is necessary to raise them from the state of brutes to that of
rational beings, but which can never begin until the introduction
of these new disaffected and dangerous Africans into the same
gangs, shall have been stopped.-If any argument can in the
slightest degree justify the severity that is now so generally practised
in the treatment of the slaves, it must be the introduction of these
Africans. It is the introduction of these Africans that renders all
idea of emancipation for the present so chimerical; and the very
mention of it so dreadful. It is the introduction of these Africans
that keeps down the condition of all plantation negroes. Whatever
system of treatment is deemed necessary by the planters to be
adopted towards these new Africans, extends itself to the other
slaves also. Instead, therefore, of deferring the hour when you will
finally put an end to importations, vainly proposing that the
condition of your present slaves should previously be mended, you
must, in the very first instance, stop your importations, if you hope
to introduce any rational or practicable plan either of gradual
emancipation, or present general improvement.
Having now done with this question of expediency as affecting
the islands, I come next to a proposition advanced by my rt. hon.
friend (Dundas), which appeared to intimate, that on account of
some patrimonial rights of the West Indies, the prohibition of the
slave trade might be considered as an invasion on their legal
inheritance. Now, in answer to this proposition, I must make two
or three remarks, which I think my rt. hon. friend will find some





ABOLITION OF THE SLAVE TRADE


considerable difficulty in answering.-First. I observe that his
argument, if it be worth anything, applies just as much to gradual
as to immediate abolition. I have no doubt, that at whatever period
he should be disposed to say the abolition should actually take
place, this defence will equally be set up; for it certainly is just as
good an argument against an abolition 7 or 70 years hence, as
against an abolition at this moment. It supposes, we have no right
whatever to stop the importation; and even though the disadvantage
to our plantations, which some gentlemen suppose to attend the
measure of immediate abolition, should be admitted gradually to
lessen by the lapse of a few years, yet in point of principle, the
absence of all right of interference would remain the same. My
rt. hon. friend, therefore, I am sure will not press an argument
not less hostile to his proposition than to ours. But let us investigate
the foundation of this objection, and I will commence what I have
to say, by putting a question to my rt. hon. friend. It is chiefly on
the presumed ground of our being bound by a parliamentary
sanction heretofore given to the African slave trade, that this
argument against the abolition is rested. Does then, my rt. hon.
friend think, that the slave trade has received any such
parliamentary sanction, as must place it more out of the jurisdiction
of the legislature for ever after, than the other branches of our
national commerce? I ask, is there any one regulation of any part
of our commerce, which, if this argument be valid, may not equally
be objected to, on the ground of its affecting some man's patrimony,
some man's property, or some man's expectations? Let it never
be forgotten, that the argument I am canvassing would be just as
strong, if the possession affected were small, and the possessors
humble; for in every principle of justice, the property of any single
individual, or small number of individuals, is as sacred, as that of
the great body of West Indians If this be the case, in what a
situation does my rt. hon. friend's argument place the legislature
of Great Britain? What room is left for their interference in the
regulation of any part of our commerce? It is scarcely possible to
lay a duty on any one article, which may not, when first imposed,
be said to affect the property of individuals and even of some entire
classes If the law respecting the slave trade imply a contract
for its perpetual continuance, I will venture to say, there does not
pass a year without some act, equally pledging the faith of





THE BRITISH WEST INDIES AT WESTMINSTER


parliament to the perpetuating of some other branch of commerce.
In short, I repeat my observation, that no new tax can be imposed,
much less can any prohibitory duty be ever laid on any branch of
trade, that has before been regulated by parliament, if this principle
be once admitted.
Before I refer to the acts of parliament by which the public
faith is said to be pledged, let me remark also, that a contract for
the continuance of the slave trade must, on the principles which
I shall presently insist on, have been void, even from the beginning;
for if this trade is an outrage upon justice, and only another name
for fraud, robbery and murder, will any man urge that the
legislature could possibly by any pledge whatever incur the
obligation of being an accessory, or I may even say a principal,
in the commission of such enormities, by sanctioning their
countenance? As well might an individual think himself bound by
a promise to commit an assassination. I am confident, gentlemen
must see, that our proceedings on such grounds, would infringe all
the principles of law, and subvert the very foundation of morality.
Let us now see, how far the acts themselves show that there is this
sort of parliamentary pledge to continue the African slave trade.
The act of 23d Geo. 2d, C. 31, is that by which we are supposed
to be bound up by contract to sanction all those horrors now so
incontrovertibly proved. How surprised then, Sir, must the House
be to find, that by the clause of that very act, some of these
outrages are expressly forbidden! It says-'no commander, or
master of a ship, trading to Africa, shall by fraud, force, or
violence, or by any indirect practice whatsoever, take on board or
carry away from the coast of Africa, any negro, or native of the
said country, or commit any violence on the natives, to the
prejudice of the said trade, and that every person so offending shall
for every such offence forfeit 100' But, Sir, let us see what
was the motive for carrying on the trade at all? The preamble of
the act states it, 'Whereas the trade to and from Africa is very
advantageous to Great Britain, and necessary for the supplying the
plantations and colonies thereunto belonging with a sufficient
number of negroes at reasonable rates, and for that purpose the
said trade should be carried on,' &c. Here then we see what the
parliament had in view when it passed this act; and I have clearly
shown that not one of the occasions on which it grounded its





ABOLITION OF THE SLAVE TRADE


proceedings now exists. I may then plead, I think, the very act
itself as an argument for the abolition. If it is shown, that instead
of being 'very advantageous' to Great Britain, this trade is the
most destructive that can well be imagined to her interests; that it
is the ruin of our seamen: that it stops the extension of our
manufactures: if it is proved in the second place that it is not now
necessary for the 'supplying our plantations with Negroes'; if it is
further established that this traffic was from the very beginning
contrary to the first principles of justice, and consequently that a
pledge for its continuance, had one been attempted to have been
given, must have been completely and absolutely void;-where then
in this act of parliament is the contract to be found, by which
Britain is bound, as she is said to be, never to listen to her own
true interests, and to the cries of the natives of Africa? Is it not
clear that all argument, founded on the supposed pledged faith of
parliament, makes against all those who employ it? I refer you to
the principles which obtain in other cases. Every trade act shows
undoubtedly that the legislature is used to pay a tender regard to
all classes of the community. But if, for the sake of moral duty.
of national honour, or even of great political advantage, it is
thought right, by authority of parliament, to alter any long
established system, parliament is competent to do it. The legislature
will undoubtedly be careful to subject individuals to as little
inconvenience as possible; and if any peculiar hardship should
arise, that can be distinctly stated and fairly pleaded, there will
even, I am sure, be a liberal feeling towards them in the legislature
of this country, which is the guardian of all who live under its
protection. On the present occasion, the most powerful considerations
call upon us to abolish the slave trade and if we refuse to attend
to them on the alleged ground of pledged faith and contract, we
shall depart as widely from the practice of parliament, as from the
path of moral duty. If indeed there is any case of hardship, which
comes within the proper cognizance of parliament, and calls for
the exercise of its liberality-well But such a case must be reserved
for calm consideration, as a matter distinct from the present
question.
The result of all I have said, is, that there exists no impediment,
on the ground of pledged faith, or even on that of national
expediency, to the abolition of this trade. On the contrary, all the





THE BRITISH WEST INDIES AT WESTMINSTER


arguments drawn from those sources plead for it, and they plead
much more loudly, and much more strongly in every part of the
question, for an immediate, than for a gradual abolition. But now,
Sir, I come to Africa. That is the ground on which I rest, and here
it is that I say my rt. hon. friends do not carry their principles to
their full extent. Why ought the slave trade to be abolished?
Because it is incurable injustice. How much stronger, then, is the
argument for immediate, than gradual abolition By allowing it to
continue even for one hour, do not my rt. hon. friends weaken
their own argument of its injustice? If on the ground of injustice
it ought to be abolished at last, why ought it not now? Why is
injustice to be suffered to remain for a single hour? From what
I hear without doors, it is evident that there is a general conviction
entertained of its being far from just; and from that very conviction
of its injustice, some men have been led, I fear, to the supposition,
that the slave trade never could have been permitted to begin, but
from some strong and irresistible necessity: a necessity, however,
which if it was fancied to exist at first, I have shown cannot be
thought by any man whatever to exist now. This plea of necessity
has caused a sort of acquiescence in the continuation of this evil.
Men have been led to place it among the rank of those necessary
evils, which are supposed to be the lot of human creatures, and to
be permitted to fall upon some countries or individuals, rather than
upon others, by that Being, whose ways are inscrutable to us, and
whose dispensations, it is conceived, we ought not to look into.
The origin of evil is indeed a subject beyond the reach of human
understandings: and the permission of it by the Supreme Being,
is a subject into which it belongs not to us to inquire. But where
the evil in question is a moral evil which man can scrutinize, and
where that moral evil has its origin with ourselves, let us not
imagine that we can clear our consciences by this general, not to
say irreligious and impious, way of laying aside the question. If
we reflect at all on the subject, we must see that every necessary
evil supposes that some other and greater evil would be incurred
were it removed. I therefore desire to ask, what can be that greater
evil, which can be stated to over balance the one in question? I
know of no evil that ever has existed, nor can imagine any evil to
exist, worse than the tearing of 70 or 80.000 persons annually from
their native land, by a combination of the most civilized nations,






ABOLITION OF THE SLAVE TRADE


inhabiting the most enlightened part of the globe, but more
especially under the sanction of the laws of that nation which calls
herself the most free and the most happy of them all. Even if these
miserable beings were proved guilty of every crime before you take
them off, ought we to take upon ourselves the office of executioners?
And even if we condescend so far, still can we be justified in taking
them, unless we have clear proof that they are criminals? But if
we go much further-if we ourselves tempt them to sell their fellow
creatures to us-we may rest assured, that they will take care to
provide by every possible method, a supply of victims increasing
in proportion to our demand. Can we, then, hesitate in deciding,
whether the wars in Africa are their wars or ours? It was our arms
in the River Cameroon put into the hands of the trader, that
furnished him with the means of pushing his trade: I have no more
doubt that they are British arms, put into the hands of Africans,
which promote universal war and desolation, than I can doubt their
having done so in that individual instance.
Think of 800,000 persons carried out of their native
country by we know not what means I for crimes imputed for
light or inconsiderable faultsR for debt perhaps! for the crime of
witchcraft! or a thousand other weak and scandalous pretexts?
There is something in the horror of it, that surpasses all
the bounds of imagination But that country, it is said, has
been in some degree civilized, and civilized by us. It is said they
have gained some knowledge of the principles of justice. Yes, we
give them enough of our intercourse to convey to them the means,
and to initiate them in the study of mutual destruction. We give
them just enough of the forms of justice to enable them to add the
pretext of legal trials to their other modes of perpetrating the most
atrocious iniquity. We give them just enough of European
improvements, to enable them the more effectually to turn Africa
into a ravaged wilderness. Some evidences say, that the Africans
are addicted to the practice of gambling; that they even sell their
wives and children, and ultimately themselves. Are these, then,
the legitimate sources of slavery? Shall we pretend that we can
thus acquire an honest right to exact the labour of these people?
. But the evil does not stop here. Do you think nothing of the
ruin and the miseries in which so many other individuals, still
remaining in Africa, are involved in consequence of carrying off so





THE URITISH WEST INDIES AT WESTMINSTER


many myriads of people? Do you think nothing of their families
left behind? Of the connexions broken? Of the friendships,
attachments, and relatives that are burst asunder? Do you think
nothing of the miseries in consequence, that are felt from generation
to generation? Of the privation of that happiness which might be
communicated to them by the introduction of civilization, and of
mental and moral improvement? A happiness which you withhold
from them so long as you permit the slave trade to continue.
Thus, Sir, has the perversion of British commerce carried
misery instead of happiness to one whole quarter of the globe.
False to the very principles of trade, misguided in our policy, and
unmindful of our duty, what astonishing mischief have we brought
upon that continent! If, knowing the miseries we have caused, we
refuse to put a stop to them, how greatly aggravated will be the
guilt of this country! Shall we then delay rendering this justice to
Africa? I am sure the immediate abolition of the slave trade is the
first, the principal, the most indispensable act of policy, of duty,
and of justice, that the legislature of this country has to take, if it
is indeed their wish to secure those important objects to which
I have alluded, and which we are bound to pursue by the most
solemn obligations. There is, however, one argument set up as a
universal answer to every thing that can be urged on our side. The
slave trade system, it is supposed, has taken such deep root in
Africa, that it is absurd to think of its being eradicated; and the
abolition of that share of trade carried on by Great Britain is likely
to be of very little service. You are not sure, it is said, that other
nations will give up the trade, if you should renounce it. I answer,
it this trade is as criminal as it is asserted to be, God forbid that
we should hesitate in relinquishing so iniquitous a traffic; even
though it should be retained by other countries! I tremble at the
thought of gentlemen's indulging themselves in the argument which
I am combating How, Sir, is this enormous evil ever to be
eradicated, if every nation is thus prudentially to wait till the
concurrence of all the world shall have been obtained? Let me
remark, too, that there is no nation in Europe that has, on the one
hand, plunged so deeply into this guilt as Great Britain, or that
is so likely, on the other, to be looked up to as an example .
How much more justly may other nations point to us, say, 'Why
should we abolish the slave trade when Great Britain has not





ABOLITION OF THE SLAVE TRADE


abolished it? Britain, free as she is, and deeply involved as she is
in this commerce above all nations, not only has not abolished, but
has refused to abolish.' This, Sir, is the argument with which we
furnish the other nations of Europe, if we again refuse to put an
end to the slave trade ...
It has also been urged, that there is something in the disposition
and nature of the Africans themselves, which renders all prospect
of civilization on that continent extremely unpromising the
single instance that has been dwelt upon of African barbarity .
1 hope, therefore, we shall hear no more of this moral impossibility
of civilizing the Africans, nor have our understandings again
insulted, by being called upon to sanction the trade, until other
nations shall have set the example of abolishing it. While we have
been deliberating, one nation, Denmark, not by any means
remarkable for the boldness of its councils, has determined on a
gradual abolition. France, it is said, will take up the trade, if we
relinquish it. What! Is it supposed that, in the present situation
of St. Domingo, an island which used to take three fourths of all
the slaves required by the colonies of France, she, of all countries,
will think of taking it up? Of the countries which remain, Portugal,
Holland, and Spain-let me declare it is my opinion, that if they
see us renounce the trade, they will not be disposed, even on
principles of policy, to rush further into it. But I say more. How
are they to furnish tie capital necessary for carrying it on? If there
is any aggravation of our guilt, in this wretched business, it is that
we have stooped to be the carriers of these miserable beings from
Africa to the West Indies, for all the other powers of Europe. And,
if we retire from the trade, where is the fund equal to the purchase
of 30 or 40.000 slaves ? A fund, which if we rate the slaves at
401. or 501. each, cannot require a capital of less than a million
and a half, or two millions of money.
Having detained the House so long, all that I will further add,
shall relate to that important subject, the civilization of Africa.
Grieved am I to think that there should be a single person in this
country, who can look on the present uncivilized state of that
continent, as a ground for continuing the slave trade,-as a ground
not only for refusing to attempt the improvement of Africa, but
even for intercepting every ray of light which might otherwise break
in upon her. Here, as in every other branch of this extensive





THE BRITISH WEST INDIES AT WESTMINSTER


question, the argument of our adversaries pleads against them; for
surely, Sir, the present deplorable state of Africa, especially where
we reflect that her chief calamities are to be ascribed to us, calls
for our generous aid, rather than justifies any despair on our
part of her recovery, and still less any further repetition of our
injuries Are we justified, I ask, in any one ground of theory,
or by any one instance to be found in the history of the world;
from its very beginning to this day, in forming the supposition
which I am now combating? Are we justified in supposing that the
particular practice which we encourage in Africa, of men selling
each other for slaves, is any symptom of a barbarism that is
incurable? Are we justified in supposing that even the practice of
offering up human sacrifices proves a total incapacity for civilization?
I believe it will be found, that both the trade in slaves, and the
still more savage custom of offering up human sacrifices, obtained
in former periods, throughout many of those nations which now,
by the blessings of providence, and by a long progression of
improvements, are advanced the farthest in civilization. I believe
that, if we reflect an instant, we shall find that this observation
comes directly home to ourselves; and that, on the same ground
on which we are now disposed to proscribe Africa forever from all
possibility of improvement, we might, in like manner, have been
proscribed and forever shut out from all the blessings which we
now enjoy. There was a time, Sir, when even human sacrifices are
said to have been offered in this island. But I would peculiarly
observe on this day, for it is a case precisely in point, that the
very practice of the slave trade once prevailed among us. Slaves,
as we may read in Henry's History of Great Britain, were formerly
an established article of our exports It does not distinctly
appear, by what means they were procured: but there is
unquestionably no small resemblance, in this particular point.
between the case of our ancestors and that of the present wretchei
natives of Africa Every one of these sources of slavery has
been stated to be at this hour a source of slavery in Africa. And
these circumstances, Sir, with a solitary instance or two of human
sacrifices, furnish the alleged proofs, that Africa labours under a
natural incapacity for civilization; that it is enthusiasm and
fanaticism to think that she can ever enjoy the knowledge and
the morals of Europe; that Providence never intended her to rise





ABOLITION OF THE SLAVE TRADE


above a state of barbarism; that Providence has irrevocably doomed
her to be only a nursery for slaves, for us free and civilized
Europeans. Allow of this principle, as applied to Africa, and I
should be glad to know why it might not also have been applied
to ancient and uncivilized Britain. Why might not some Roman
senator, reasoning on the principles of some hon. gentlemen, and
pointing to British barbarians, have predicted with equal boldness,
'There is a people that will never rise to civilization .' Might
not this have been said, in all respects as fairly and truly of Britain
herself, at that period of her history, as it can now be said by us
of the inhabitants of Africa? We, Sir, have long since emerged
from barbarism; we have almost forgotten that we were once
barbarians; we are now raised to a situation which exhibits a
striking contrast to every circumstance, by which a Roman might
have characterized us, and by which we now characterize Africa.
There is, indeed, one thing wanting to complete the contrast, and
to clear us altogether from the imputation of acting even to this
hour as barbarians; for we continue to this hour a barbarous traffic
in slaves: we continue it even yet, in spite of all our great and
undeniable pretensions to civilization. We were once as obscure
among the nations of the earth, as savage in our manners, as
debased in our morals, as degraded in our understandings, as these
unhappy Africans are at present. But in the lapse of a long series
of years, by a progression slow, and for a time, almost imperceptible,
we have become rich in a variety of acquirements, favoured above
measure in the gifts of Providence, unrivalled in commerce,
pre-eminent in arts, foremost in the pursuits of philosophy and
science, and established in all the blessings of civil society: we are
in the possession of peace, of happiness, and of liberty; we are
under the guidance of a mild and beneficent religion; and we are
protected by impartial laws, and the purest administration of
justice; we are living under a system of government, which our
own happy experience leads us to pronounce the best and wisest
which has ever yet been framed; a system which has become the
admiration of the world. From all these blessings, we must forever
have been shut out, had there been any truth in those principles
which some gentlemen have not hesitated to lay down as applicable
to the case of Africa. Had those principles been true, we ourselves
had languished to this hour in that miserable state of ignorance,






THE BRITISH WEST INDIES AT WESTMINSTER


brutality, and degradation, in which history proves our ancestors
to have been immersed. Had other nations adopted these principles
in their conduct towards us; had other nations applied to Great
Britain the reasoning which some of the senators of this very island
now apply to Africa, ages might have passed without our emerging
from barbarism; and we, who are enjoying the blessings of a British
civilization, of British laws, and British liberty, might, at this hour,
have been little superior, either in morals, in knowledge, or
refinement, to the rude inhabitants of the coast of Guinea.
If, then, we feel that this perpetual confinement in the fetters
of brutal ignorance, would have been the greatest calamity which
could have befallen us; if we view with gratitude and exultation
the contrast between the peculiar blessings we enjoy, and the
wretchedness of the ancient inhabitants of Britain; if we shudder
to think of the misery which would still have overwhelmed us,
had Great Britain continued to be the mart for slaves to the more
civilized nations of the world, God forbid that we should any
longer subject Africa to the same dreadful scourge, and preclude
the light of knowledge, which has reached every other quarter of
the globe from barring access to her coasts! I trust we shall
no longer continue this commerce, to the destruction of every
improvement in that wide continent; and shall not consider
ourselves as conferring too great a boon, in restoring its inhabitants
to the rank of human beings. I trust we shall not think ourselves
too liberal, if, by abolishing the slave trade, we give them the
same common chance of civilization with other parts of the world,
and that we shall now allow to Africa the opportunity-the hope-
the prospect of attaining to the same blessings which we ourselves,
through the favourable dispensations of Divine Providence, have
been permitted, at a much more early period, to enjoy. If we listen
to the voice of reason and duty, and pursue this night the line of
conduct which they prescribe, some of us may live to see a reverse
of that picture, from which we now turn our eyes with shame and
regret. We may live to behold the natives of Africa engaged in the
calm occupations of industry, in the pursuits of a just and legitimate
commerce. We may behold the beams of science and philosophy
breaking in upon their land, which, at some happy period in still
later times, may blaze with full lustre; and joining their influence
to that of pure religion, may illuminate and invigorate the most






ABOLITION OF THE SLAVE TRADE


distant extremities of that immense continent. Then may we hope
that even Africa, though last of all the quarters of the globe, shall
enjoy at length, in the evening of her days, those blessings which
have descended so plentifully upon us in a much earlier period of
the world. Then also will Europe, participating in her improvement
and prosperity, receive an ample recompense for the tardy kindness
(if kindness it can be called), of no longer hindering that continent
from extricating herself out of the darkness which, in other more
fortunate regions, has been so much more speedily dispelled-
Nos primus equis crieus afflant anhelis;
Illic sera rubens accendit lumina vesper.
Then, Sir, may be applied to Africa, those words, originally used
indeed with a different view:
His demum exactis ...
Devencre locus lactus, et amoena vireta
Fortunatorum nemorum, sedesque beatas:
Largior hic campos Aether, et limine vestit-
Purpureo.
It is in this view, Sir,-it is as an atonement for our long and
cruel injustice towards Africa, that the measure proposed by my
hon. friend most forcibly recommends itself to my mind. The great
and happy change to be expected in the state of her inhabitants,
is, of all the various and important benefits of the abolition, in my
estimation, incomparably the most extensive and important. I shall
vote, Sir, against the adjournment; and I shall also oppose to the
utmost every proposition, which in any way may tend either to
prevent, or even to postpone for an hour, the total abolition of the
slave trade: a measure which, on all the various grounds which
1 have stated, we are bound, by the most pressing and indispensable
duty, to adopt.


4. SLAVE TRADE ABOLITION BILL

(Parliamentary Debates, VIII, pp. 657-661; House of Lords,
February 5, 1807)
LoRD GRENVILLE: Had it been, my lords, merely a question of
humanity, I am ready to admit that it might then become a
consideration with Your Lordships as to how far you would extend






THE BIUTISH WEST INDIES AT WESTMINSTER


or circumscribe that humanity. Had it been simply a question
involving the interests or welfare of the British Empire in the
West Indies, it would then certainly have been a question with
Your Lordships how far and in what respect you should legislate.
But in this instance, I contend that justice imperiously calls upon
Your Lordships to abolish the Slave Trade.
Some years since I was engaged in calculations respecting the
population of the West Indian Islands, along with a person who
to many great and brilliant qualifications, added a complete
knowledge of political arithmetic: I mean the late Mr. Pitt. The
result of those calculations was, with respect to the Island of
Jamaica, that from the year 1689 to 1730, the excess of deaths
over the births amounted to 3 per cent.; from 1730 to 1755 to
24 per cent.; from 1755 to 1769, to 14 per cent.; from 1769 to
1780 to jths per cent.; and the average of 3 years ending in 1798
or 1800, it is not material which, gives an excess of deaths of only
1/24th per cent. In this calculation is included the whole population
of the island, and of course the fresh importations; and it is well
known, that with respect to the latter, the negroes newly imported
die in the harbours before they are landed to the amount of 5 per
cent., and that many more die soon after they set to work. It is,
therefore, clear that the population of the island is perfectly
competent to support itself. It is remarkable also that in Dominica,
although a newer island, and although fresh lands are known to
be inimical to the increase of population, there is an excess of births
above the deaths. The argument, therefore that fresh importations
are necessary to keep up the present population of the islands
completely fails. But then we are told that fresh importations are
necessary in order to cultivate new lands. My lords, to encourage
the continuance of the trade for this purpose is to ruin the planters
of your islands: are they not now distressed by the accumulation
of produce on their hands, for which they cannot find a market;
and will it not therefore be adding to their distress, and leading
the planters on to their ruin, if you suffer the continuance of fresh
importations ?
My lords, according to a very moderate calculation, to bring
into cultivation the waste lands in the Island of Jamaica, the slave
trade must be continued for 2 or 3 centuries longer, and to cultivate
nearly the whole island of Trinidad, a much longer period, whilst





ABOLITION OF THE SLAVE TRADE


it would take a million of those unfortunate beings from Africa to
cultivate each island: to cultivate Trinidad even a greater number.
I have endeavoured to prove, my lords, that the continuance
of this trade is unnecessary, with a view to the present state of
the population of the islands, as that can support itself; that to
suffer it to continue for the purpose of cultivating new lands will
be certain ruin to the planters, and that the abolition of the trade
is the only way of avoiding, in your islands, the horrors which have
afflicted St. Domingo.
I look forward to the period when the negroes in the West
Indian islands, becoming labourers rather than slaves, will feel an
interest in the welfare and prosperity of the country to whom they
are indebted for protection, and of the islands where they
experience real comforts, and when they may be called upon to
share largely in the defence of those islands with a sure confidence
in their loyalty and attachment.
EARL ST. VINCENT: From his own experience he was enabled
to state that the West Indian islands formed Paradise itself, to the
negroes. in comparison with their native country.
Considering the high character and intelligence of the noble
proposer, he declared that he could account in no other way for
his having brought it forward, but by supposing that some obiman*
had cast his spell upon him.

LORD HAWKESBURY: With the conviction he entertained of
the impropriety of introducing abstract principles into the preamble
of the Bill, he conceived it his duty to submit to the committee
an amendment, which should exclude the terms "justice and
humanity", and confine the necessity of abolishing the Slave Trade
solely to the inexpediency of its continuance.
Some allowance should be made for the feelings and characters
of those- who had embarked their property in the African trade.

Lonu CHANCELLOR (ERSKINE): What was the object of the
noble lord last night? It was, that this trade ought not to be
abolished, except in conjunction with foreign powers, and now the
noble lord, by his motion, would take away the only ground upon
which we could ask other powers to co-operate in the abolition of

'Obeah manl.





THE BRITISH WEST INDIES AT WESTMINSTER


the trade. If we declared that we abolished the trade on the ground
of expediency alone, then it might be fairly supposed that we did
so for reasons applicable to ourselves alone or to our own colonies;
but by stating broadly and distinctly that the trade was contrary
to justice and humanity, we took a ground upon which we might
fairly call upon other powers to co-operate with us in abolishing
the trade.
EARL OF LAUDERDALE: Maintained that the words which it
was proposed to leave out were the most essential words in the Bill.
How was the great object of general abolition to be attained, if
it appeared upon the face of our own proceedings that we were
only actuated by considerations of expediency, and that in calling
upon other powers to abolish the trade, we made no sacrifice
ourselves? This he could illustrate by communications, which he had
whilst at Paris, with one of the French ministers on this subject.
On his arguing to the ministers the abolition of this trade, he was
answered that it could not be expected that the French Government,
irritated as it had been by the conduct of the negroes in
St. Domingo, would readily agree to the abolition of the trade. He
replied that the abolition would have been the only effectual means
of preventing the horrors which had occurred in that island. Then
the truth came out : He was told by this minister that England,
with her colonies well stocked with negroes, and affording a large
produce, might abolish the trade without inconvenience; but that
France, with colonies ill stocked and deficient in produce, could
not abolish it without conceding to us the greatest advantages and
sustaining a proportionate loss. Thus, then, if we were to declare
the ground of abolishing the trade to be expediency alone, we
should be declaring that we were actuated by the very policy
imputed to us by the French minister; and how, in thus being
supposed to make no sacrifice ourselves, could we call with any
effect upon foreign powers to co-operate in the abolition?

5. SLAVE TRADE ABOLITION BILL
(Parliamentary Debates. VIII, pp. 946-994; House of Commons.
February 23, 1807)
LORD HoWICK: It was contrary to the practice of parliament to
declare before hand what might be the amount of compensation to
be granted for possible losses by proposed political regulations.






ABOLITION OF THE SLAVE TRADE


There was at this moment no disposition to question the
principle of the measure. It was universally admitted by the
merchants, the planters and all descriptions of persons, that the
slave trade, so far as regards Africa was unjust and impolitic.
The principle was now given up, and the ground of justification
narrowed to a question of policy and justice. It was said not to be
politic to abolish a trade that afforded such ample revenues for our
commercial prosperity, and it was represented as unjust to the
merchants, ship owners, and planters, whose properties were to be
affected by the measure But in place of doing injury to the
West India property by this measure of abolition, which was now
about to be accomplished, he should shew that the West Indies
would be benefited and improved by it. The persons interested in
this measure were either the merchants engaged in the trade, the
ship owners, or the planters; and if he should shew that none of
their interests would be injured by the measure, he was confident
all opposition to it must cease.
The tonnage engaged in trade to Africa was not quite, in
1805, 1/52nd part of the whole export tonnage (not including the
export from Ireland or the coastal trade) the seamen not
quite 1/23rd part of the seamen in general trade. He wished
gentlemen to consider therefore whether, in the flourishing state of
our commerce, employment would not be found for this shipping,
if not embarked in this traffic. The proportion of capital embarked
in the African trade, on the average of 10 years preceding 1800, was
1 24th part of the whole capital of the export trade. That capital
must have since been reduced to a still lower proportion, by the
operation of the slave carrying bill, and the bills which prohibited
the importation of slaves into the colonies conquered from the
enemy. What remained now was only a remnant of the trade for
the supply of the old British colonies so that there remained
in the trade a capital which was not more perhaps than 1/80th
of the whole export trade capital and when they considered
the increase and prosperity of our commerce, notwithstanding the
unjustifiable means taken by the enemy to stop its progress, there
could be no doubt that various ways might be devised of employing
the capital to advantage ...
It appeared by the muster books from Liverpool, which had
been laid before the house in 1793, that the mortality amongst the





THE BRITISH WEST INDIES AT WESTMINSTER


seamen in that trade was to the mortality in the West India trade
as eight to one. A traffic, therefore, so destructive of the seamen
employed in it, could not be considered beneficial to the navy. The
readiness with which the men entered the king's ships on their
arrival in the West Indies shewed what their opinion of that trade
was. The practice was for men to desert to the merchant service in
every other branch of trade, but from this they voluntarily entered
the king's ships.
Returns had been procured from various islands previous to
the year 1800; and subsequent to that, queries had been put to
them with a view to obtain additional lights respecting their
situation. To these the answers were partial and defective, but as
far as they went, they confirmed the calculations made by Mr. Pitt
in the year 1792, the results of which were, that the number of
births was increasing, and the number of deaths diminishing; and
when the causes were considered that checked the population of the
West Indies, there was reason to believe that, by the regulations
which the abolition would produce, nature would there, as in other
countries, accomplish her own ends, and that the population would
maintain itself In Jamaica, from 1761 to 1768, the excess of
the deaths above the births was 25,000; from 1768 to 1774, 11,000;
from 1774 to 1787, 20,000; and in 1804-5 it appeared that the
excess of deaths was only 258 in 8 parishes in Jamaica. In the
first period, the decrease was 24 per cent., in the second 1 per cent.,
in the third 3/5ths per cent., and in the fourth I out of 1,456.
This last decrease was so minute that the balance was nearly
equal In Dominica the births exceeded the deaths, and also
in the Bermudas and Bahamas; but he did not much rest upon
them, because the climate and the nature of the labour might be
stated as the cause. The importations were considerably diminished
in Barbados, Montserrat The slave population in North
America, according to Mr. King, if they continued to multiply
at the rate they did when he wrote, would double their number
in 20 years .The Maroons increased in Jamaica under all
their disadvantages; as did the Caribs in St. Vincent The
cold climate in North America, as well as the labour, consisting in
the cultivation of the ground for rice, was peculiarly hostile to the
negro constitution, and yet there, as it appeared, they multiplied
with rapidity Two principal causes were assigned (checking






ABOLITION OF THE SLAVE TRADE


population in the West Indies): the disproportion between the
sexes, and the promiscuous intercourse among them .. There were
other causes bad food, severe treatment, and want of proper
accommodation. The effect of the abolition would be to remove
these causes and to promote the morals and comfort of the negroes.
It has been argued that the non-importation of fresh negroes
would tend to impose additional labour upon the old ones already
in the island; but this is a consequence which I am far from
thinking would follow; for is it not well known that the newly
imported negroes are not calculated, at least for a length of time,
to diminish the labours of those who are actually employed in
clearing and cultivating the new grounds?
The prohibition to import fresh negroes could not be fairly
adduced as a motive why the old ones should revolt. It was proved
by experience and fact that in those islands, where there was no
regular supply of fresh negroes, no insurrection ever took place.
We have been told, that if this be considered as a measure of
justice, we do not follow up our own principles; for, if slavery be
in itself unjust, we ought to abolish it altogether. I think it sufficient
to say that the result of this measure will, I trust, lead to the
abolition of slavery, encouraged and assisted by such regulations
as the wisdom of parliament may afterwards think fit to adopt.
I confess, Sir, I am far from being sanguine that even if peace
were to take place tomorrow, any such general and liberal measure
(international abolition) would be adopted; but let us at least hope
that France, which is contending with us for power, when it sees
us take the lead, may be ashamed to confess itself inferior to us in
liberality and virtue. At all events, this appears to be the most
proper moment for effecting the salutary measure; for the trade of
France and Holland are nearly annihilated; Denmark and America
have already abolished the traffic in slaves; Portugal alone continues
it; and her trade is not 1/6th part of ours.

WILLIAM ROSCOE : Whatever might have been supposed, the
inhabitants of the town of Liverpool were by no means unanimous
in resisting the abolition of the slave trade.
So far was he from thinking that the islands would be sacrificed
by this measure, that he was sanguine enough to believe it would
be their salvation.






THE BRITISH WEST INDIES AT WESTMINSTER


He did not think he should discharge his duty to his constituents,
if he did not urge the claim the West India merchants had on the
public for compensation. But he hoped that the merchants of Great
Britain would find in a more extended commerce a more lasting
compensation than a pecuniary one could bestow.
He hoped the same enlightened policy, which had so eminently
distinguished the measures of the present administration, would
dictate some measure which could do away this (East India
Company) monopoly, and thus compensate for any loss which the
slave trade might occasion to the merchants of Great Britain.

SmR Jom4 DOYLE: I positively deny that any policy can be
sound that is grafted upon injustice and oppression; but least of all
can British policy rest upon such foul and hollow grounds. But,
if I had any doubts on the score of policy, they would have been
removed when I reflect, that the two greatest men this or any
other country ever produced.* differing upon almost all other points,
agreed, not upon the humanity and justice merely, but upon the
sound policy of the measure, as connected with the general interest
of the Empire and its colonies; thus clubbing, if I may say so. their
great talents in favour of the present measure. But, Sir, an
additional proof of its policy is deducible from the undivided
sentiments of His Majesty's present ministers because the great
responsibility rests with them of giving a due direction to the policy
of the country.
Let me congratulate the hon. member (Wilberforce) in
thus bringing to a happy conclusion a measure which does so much
honour to his head and heart, and which washes out this false stain
from the pure ermine of the national character.

GEORGE HIBBERT : I cannot, Sir, grant at the outset that
this bill is unquestionably grounded upon humanity and justice,
and then debate it as a matter of expediency and policy. There can
be no dispute about the obligation of those great principles-it is
eternal and immutable as is their nature; and if you admit that the
present measure is their necessary dictate, the dispute is at an end.
I cannot stand here, and, in opposition to them, calculate the

*Pitt and Fox.





ABOLITION OF THE SLAVE TRADE


advantage of an increased production of sugar and coffee; but if
I had been told, not of this measure now proposed to us, but of
any measure that, although it was indisputably enjoined by every
principle of justice and humanity, yet that in the course of almost
20 years discussion, it had not been able to make its effective
progress through the British parliament (recommended at the same
time by the cry of the people out of doors, and by an union of the
greatest talents within), until it received the protecting hand of
His Majesty's principal minister in either house, 1 should say. 'it
is impossible; there must be some mistake in the application of
these great principles to the measure.'
The noble lord (Howick) might have spared himself the proof
of the small comparative value of the African part of the trade;
it has been reduced by successive acts of parliament into the mere
means of necessary supply to the population of our old colonies;
and had not those colonies seen abolition suspended over their
heads, their supply would have been much smaller than the average
of late years shews it to have been.
I do not believe that, were you to remove that dread, our old
colonies would require annually more than 7,000 imported slaves:
and looking to this limited trade as necessary for the welfare of the
colonies, and for the advantage of a population of about 600,000
slaves already existing there 1 cannot think that this remnant
of the trade, thus existing, calls upon us for its abolition.
IR. MANNING was convinced that the abolition of the African
slave trade would not be attended with the injury apprehended to
the West India planters. The negro population of our colonies
would, he was sure, be kept up without it.


6. THE CONTRABAND SLAVE TRADE
(Parliamentary Debates, XVII, pp. 659-687; House of Commons,
June 15. 1810)
HENRY BROUGHA.I: The question he proposed to submit to the
House was whether any, and what, measures could be adopted,
in order to watch over the execution of the sentence of condemnation
which parliament had, with a singular unanimity, pronounced
upon the African slave trade?






THE BRITISH WEST INDIES AT WESTMINSTER


That measure, which had formerly met so many obstacles,
whether as some were willing to believe, from the slowness with
which truth works its way, or, as others were prone to suspect, from
the want of zeal in its official supporters, now experienced none of
the impediments that had hitherto retarded its progress; far from
encountering any formidable difficulties, it passed through parliament
almost without opposition; and one of the greatest and most
disputed of measures was at length carried by larger majorities,
perhaps, than were ever known to divide upon any contested
question. The friends of the abolition, however, never expected that
any legislative measure would at once destroy the slave trade: they
were aware how obstinately such a trade would cling to the soil
where it had taken root: they anticipated the difficulties of
extirpating a traffic which had entwined itself with so many interests,
prejudices and passions. But he must admit, that although they
had foreseen they had considerably underrated, those difficulties.
They had not made sufficient allowance for the resistance which
the real interests of those directly engaged in the trade, and the
supposed interests of the colonists, would oppose to the execution
of the acts: they had underrated the wickedness of the slave trader,
and the infatuation of the planter. While on the one hand it
appeared, from the documents he formerly moved for, that nothing
had been done to circumscribe the foreign slave trade, it was now
found that this abominable commerce had not completely ceased,
even in this country I
Our largest island was within a day's, he should rather say,
a night's sail, of the largest slave colony of Spain. Our other old
colonies lay in the very track both of the Spanish and American
slave ships. When the vast plantations of Trinidad and Guiana
were in such want of negroes to clear their waste lands, and were
situated almost within sight of the Spanish slave market, where
the law still sanctioned that infernal traffic, how could it be expected
that the British abolition should be effectual?
The great obstacle which he always found opposed to such a
proposition (an arrangement with the Spanish Government) was,
what can we do? of this argument he entertained very great
suspicion, and for one plain reason, that it was on the single subject
of the abolition that he ever heard it used .It was only when
the interests of humanity were concerned, and ends the most






ABOLITION OF THE SLAVE TRADE


justifiable, as well as expedient, were in view, that we not only
all at once lost our activity and influence, but became quite forward
in protesting that we had no power to interfere Why, we never
failed at all when the object was to obtain new colonies and extend
the slave trade; then we could both conquer and treat; we had
force enough to seize whole provinces, where the slave trade might
be planted, and skill enough to retain them by negotiation, in
order to retain with them the additional commerce in slaves, which
their cultivation required. It was natural, therefore, for him to
view with some suspicion our uniform failure, when the object was
to abolish or limit this same slave trade. He suspected it might
arise from there being some similarity between our exertions in the
cause and those of some of its official advocates in this House;
that we had been very sincere, no doubt, but rather cold-without
a particle of ill-will towards the abolition, but without one spark
of zeal in its favour.
The advantage of such an arrangement to our own planters
would also be very great: for if rival foreigners carry on the slave
trade, while it is prohibited in our settlements, our planters are,
for a certain time at least, liable to be undersold in the sugar
market, and subjected to a temporary pressure ...
.. Evasions of the abolition acts in England For
accomplishing this detestable purpose, all the various expedients
had been adopted which the perverse ingenuity of unprincipled
avarice could suggest ...
It was remarkable that, lurking in some dark corner of the
ship, was almost always to be found a hoary slave trader-an
experienced captain, who, having been trained up in the slave
business from his early years, now accompanied the vessel as a
kind of supercargo, and helped her, by his wiles, both to escape
detection and to push her iniquitous adventures.
But a few months ago, in the very river which washed the
walls of that House, not two miles from the spot where they now
sat, persons daring to call themselves English merchants (Hear !
Hear !) had been detected in the act of fitting out a vessel of great
bulk for the purpose of tearing 7 or 800 wretched beings from
Africa, and carrying them through the unspeakable horrors of the
middle passage to endless bondage and misery, and toil which






THE BRITISH WEST INDIES AT WESTMINSTER


knows no limits, nor is broken by .any rest. in the sands and
swamps of Brazil. (Hear hear !)
Traders, or merchants, did they presume to call themselves!
and in cities like London and Liverpool, the very creations of
honest trade? He would give them the right name, at length, and
call them cowardly suborners of piracy and mercenary murder.
(Hear hear hear!)
Once root out the trade, and there was little fear of its again
springing up. The industry and capital required by it would find
other vents. The labour and ingenuity of the persons engaged in
it would seek the different channels which would continue open.
All the measures he had mentioned were mere expedients-
mere makeshifts and palliatives, compared with the real and
effectual remedy for this grand evil, which he had no hesitation in
saying it was now full time to apply After the trial that has
been given to the abolition law, he was now prepared to go much
further, and to declare that the slave trade should at once be made
felony. (Hear hear hear /) .When he saw that difficulty
experienced by an honourable and learned friend of his (Romilly)
in doing away the capital part of the offence of stealing 5/- .
When, in short, so many comparatively trivial offences were so
severely visited, could we, who knew what slave trading meant,
hesitate -in admitting that it ought at length to be punished as
a crime?
While you levied your pence, the wholesale dealers in blood
and torture pocketed their pounds, and laughed at your two-penny
penalty.

JOSEPH MARRYAT : In his opinion we were still assisting the
slave trade, by our convoying its produce, and finding a market
for it in other countries. We had in the beginning abolished it on
the grounds of justice and humanity; but we had afterwards
admitted policy into the calculation, and it was much to be feared
our policy made us swerve from our pure motives. The inhumanity
of this trade was generally allowed. He would ask, if it was so bad,
why we should not treat those whom we found engaged in it as
pirates? But we bowed to policy, and we of course defeated
justice He alluded more particularly to the Spanish Slave
Traders, who carried on a traffic, enormous in extent, and in its





ABOLITION OF THE SLAVE TRADE


effects ruinous to the British colonies. We should tell those slave
traders who came to ask our assistance, that we would not fight
for liberty with one hand and for slavery with the other; and that
if they wished to be rescued from the thraldom of their enemies,
they must not act the tyrant to those within their power. In truth,
as some had formerly predicted, the slave trade was not destroyed,
ii had merely changed hands.
J. STEPHEN: Entirely denied Marryat's proposition that the
Trinidad settlers, who had embarked their capital there, relying
on being able to procure slaves to cultivate their lands, had been
hardly treated by the abolition. Pitt and Sidmouth had publicly
disavowed having any design to acquire in Trinidad a new
slave colony. Such people speculated without any authority or
encouragement from His Majesty's Government. If they were
disappointed, clearly only their own folly and rashness were to blame.
GEORGE CANNING : He was against coming to any specific
resolution on so grave a matter as the creation of a new felony,
without mature deliberation; and while it might be ascribed to the
House being heated with the hon. mover's address ... He did not
say that the slave trade might not fall within the scope of this
proposition but neither could he at once say that it did fall
within it. All he contended for was caution and delay in so delicate
a matter and one involving so many weighty considerations.
GEORGE HIBBERT : Was satisfied, after the most diligent
enquiry, that into Jamaica there had not been illegally imported one
single negro since the abolition act took effect.
The time he looked to with dread, and which would indeed
present the subject under a new aspect, would be when France
was again in possession of extensive colonies in the West Indies.


7. SLAVE TRADE FELONY BILL
(Parliamentary Debates. XIX, pp. 234-240; House of Commons,
March 5. 1811)
HENRY BROUGHAM: The evidence could bear no doubt whatever
that a considerable traffic was still carried on in the t r a d e in
question, by subjects of this country resident in our colonies.






THE BRITISH WEST INDIES AT WESTMINSTER


The trade was now carried on, not by vessels supposed to be
employed in such a traffic, but in the more innocent one of trading
in wood and ivory.
Letters from the judge of the Admiralty at Sierra Leone .
proved that though the traffic was greatly diminished, and bore no
proportion to its former extent, yet there still existed sufficient to
render it highly worthy of the attention of parliament, and that it
well became them to consider how they should best free themselves
from what still remained of it. The judge mentioned that since his
arrival in March, 1809, no fewer than 1,091 slaves had been brought
for condemnation in his court He was not disposed to state
that many of the slaves so carried off were introduced into the
British colonies; but he did say that they were carried to
St. Bartholomew's and St. Croix, for the purpose of being sent
from thence into other islands. In the latter island advertisements
for the sale of such slaves were even exhibited publicly and in open
day. It was not necessary for him to accuse those interested in our
West India possessions with violating the act of the legislature of
this country and the resolutions of the House; it was sufficient if
these slaves were carried to Demerara, Berbice, and the other
newly conquered islands. If'necessary, on this point he could refer
to a contest between the Governor of Demerara and the planters of
Berbice, where, in a memorial by the latter, signed with their own
names, it appeared that they not only continued to import negroes,
but that they were ignorant of any law to prevent them from doing
so, or if they were aware of such a law, that they were not disposed
to attend to it ... This was only in November, 1809.
If such a trade was suffered to be carried on, it would be
better to suffer it to proceed as formerly, so that the honest dealer,
as well as the smuggler, might have the means of carrying
it on. It was unjust to the fair trader that he should be excluded,
while the unfair trader made a calculation of the chances in his
favour, and was suffered to be in a better situation than before the
trade was put a stop to. The West Indian himself must be anxious
to cut down a trade in which he himself had no share. If, again,
the House looked to the ship owners, they had now little or no
interest in such a traffic, having diverted their capital into another
channel. The trade was so much reduced, so far as they could be
concerned, that a love of contraband alone could induce them to





ABOLITION OF THE SLAVE TRADE 49

wish its continuance .one successful adventure, it appeared,
was sufficient to cover three or four failures .They could hardly
fail being satisfied that there was not a single subject more
appropriate for criminal legislation.
The House would recollect that he was talking of that which
was robbery, torture, murder, and they would not fail to punish
such an offence with something at least equal to the punishment
imposed for stealing an oyster ..








II. THE FOREIGN SLAVE TRADE


8. SPAIN AND PORTUGAL

(Parliamentary Debates, XXIII, pp. 1188-1190; House of Lords,
July 23, 1812)

LORD HOLLAND: Though some of the present ministers had
originally opposed the abolition, yet he was persuaded that since
the traffic had been condemned by the law of the land, they had
used, and would use, their utmost exertions to carry it into effect.
The influence-the honourable influence--which we might be
supposed to have in the councils of Spain and Portugal afforded
an opportunity at present of acting with peculiar effect upon the
recommendation to which he had adverted. He wished therefore
to know whether Government had paid the proper attention to this
subject: and whether they had done anything with the powers in
question towards the accomplishment of this great object .
Since the abolition of the Orders in Council-a measure in
which no one concurred more heartily than he did-the law of
exclusion from intercourse, except in certain articles, with the
United States bore most heavily upon our West India Colonies-
sugar and coffee were not included in the articles which they were
permitted to exchange for the lumber which it was necessary for
them to procure. Rum they were permitted to send to the United
States, but it so happened that there was at present hardly any
demand for that article in the United States. They were therefore
obliged to pay for their lumber in a great measure in specie; which
very specie was employed to purchase these very articles from
other West India possessions not belonging to Great Britain. He
wished to know therefore whether this subject had engaged the
attention of His Majesty's Government, and whether it was intended
to afford any relief to our West India Colonies in this respect. A
more free intercourse with the United States was of the highest
importance to our West India Colonies, and he trusted, on this
account as well as others that the relations of amity between this
country and the United States would soon be restored.








II. THE FOREIGN SLAVE TRADE


8. SPAIN AND PORTUGAL

(Parliamentary Debates, XXIII, pp. 1188-1190; House of Lords,
July 23, 1812)

LORD HOLLAND: Though some of the present ministers had
originally opposed the abolition, yet he was persuaded that since
the traffic had been condemned by the law of the land, they had
used, and would use, their utmost exertions to carry it into effect.
The influence-the honourable influence--which we might be
supposed to have in the councils of Spain and Portugal afforded
an opportunity at present of acting with peculiar effect upon the
recommendation to which he had adverted. He wished therefore
to know whether Government had paid the proper attention to this
subject: and whether they had done anything with the powers in
question towards the accomplishment of this great object .
Since the abolition of the Orders in Council-a measure in
which no one concurred more heartily than he did-the law of
exclusion from intercourse, except in certain articles, with the
United States bore most heavily upon our West India Colonies-
sugar and coffee were not included in the articles which they were
permitted to exchange for the lumber which it was necessary for
them to procure. Rum they were permitted to send to the United
States, but it so happened that there was at present hardly any
demand for that article in the United States. They were therefore
obliged to pay for their lumber in a great measure in specie; which
very specie was employed to purchase these very articles from
other West India possessions not belonging to Great Britain. He
wished to know therefore whether this subject had engaged the
attention of His Majesty's Government, and whether it was intended
to afford any relief to our West India Colonies in this respect. A
more free intercourse with the United States was of the highest
importance to our West India Colonies, and he trusted, on this
account as well as others that the relations of amity between this
country and the United States would soon be restored.





THE FOREIGN SLAVE TRADE


LORD LIVERPOOL : The very principles upon which some of
them had opposed the abolition led them, when the traffic was by
law abolished, to carry the law, if possible, into complete execution.
They had constantly had that object in view. In their communications
with foreign powers it had never been forgotten, when the
opportunity occurred, to make the proper representations on the
subject. They had to a certain extent succeeded, although certainly
not to the extent they wished. He trusted, however, they would
be enabled to induce the Governments of Spain and Portugal,
gradually, if not at once, to concur with the government of this
country in the abolition of this traffic. The efforts that had been
made for this purpose by His Majesty's Government had in some
instances led to inconveniences which, if all the circumstances were
before the noble lord, would sufficiently convince him of their
sincerity in the endeavours which they had made to accomplish
the object in question ...


9. THE FOREIGN SLAVE TRADE

(Parliamentary Debates, XXVII, pp. 637-647; House of Commons,
May 2, 1814)

WILLIAM WILBERFORcE: It was impossible for anyone to open
his eyes and look abroad upon the world, without feeling that there
never was a period when the general circumstances of all nations
were more favourable to such a motion than the present, and when
there existed such powerful motives for them to accede to its object.
It was something to have an occasion like this presented, when all
the great powers of Europe were assembled in congress to consider
and discuss the very elements, as it were, of their own political
rights; it was something to have such a movement presented for
urging the consideration of the wrongs of Africa ...
When the features of that trade were truly developed, when
its character was fully known, when its effects were thoroughly
understood, we got rid of it directly. It was on its trial during that
time, and its sentence followed immediately upon conviction. When
the whole system was unfolded, everyone acknowledged that we
were bound to abolish it, as a traffic inconsistent with every feeling





THE BRITISH WEST INDIES AT WESTMINSTER


of justice, religion and humanity. When the question was first
entered upon, no one properly understood its details; by degrees,
however, the light broke in upon that den of serpents; and when
it did so, and it was seen in all its hideous deformity, there existed
but one opinion among men of any sense of duty, or any feelings
of humanity. It should be remembered, too, that great and powerful
interests were opposed to it... In (France) there was no commerce
to be destroyed, no marine to suffer, no manufactures to decay, as
a consequence of not participating in this traffic ...


10. THE FOREIGN SLAVE TRADE
(Parliamentary Debates, XXVII. pp. 656-661; House of Lords,
May 5, 1814)
LORD GRENVILLE : He had on former occasions apologized for the
earnestness with which he had pressed the measure for the
abolition, when many were adverse to its adoption. Now when
parliament and the country were unanimous in its favour,
unanimous in the wish that it should be extended to the whole
civilized world, he need not state at length the motives and reasons
why he was desirous that their lordships should accede to a
resolution which had for its object the effectuating of that which
they were all so anxious to see accomplished .
They had now the proud, the consoling reflection that that
had been found most consonant to sound policy which was most
consistent with justice and humanity They could now say that
the experiment had been tried, and that the commerce and
prosperity of the country existed notwithstanding the abolition.
Nay, he was convinced that the country stood in its present proud
and happy situation because it had abolished the slave trade .
If ever there was a right in one nation to demand from another
a deference to its own regulations, here the right was manifest. If
a great act of our legislature were justified to ourselves; if we
followed up that act in contradiction to our own immediate profit;
if interests loftier than human profit were consulted by us, and yet
liable to perpetual impediment by the practices of other nations,
then we had an undoubted right to require that our objects should
be impeded no longer ...





THE FOREIGN SLAVE TRADE


In the Spanish dominions it (the slave trade) was carried on
chiefly with British capital; in the Portuguese both by British and
native .
He felt unwilling to speak his full feelings on this subject
(Portugal): he was reluctant to say anything that might be
unbecoming a British member of parliament. But it would be
absurd to hesitate in saying, that Portugal owed much to the
protection of Britain, nay, that, under Heaven, she owed her very
existence to the prompt and vigorous services of Britain: and then
was it to be still said, that we should not call upon her to second
our efforts for the termination of a traffic that was a national
crime .
It was not to be endured, that under the coverture of a flag
which owed its security to us, our laws should be violated.
Things must be done as they had been already done.
Stipulations had been procured, arrangements entered into with
great solemnity; all the forms of regulation had been proposed;
and yet, in the face of all, a system was going to commence to
which all that was perpetrated before was feeble.
All our efforts must be ineffectual while we gave the privilege
of carrying on the trade to foreign flags. We had no alternative:
it we chose to follow up our own laws, we must resist those practices
even at the hazard of hostilities with those flags. The interest of
our own colonies was even involved. The trade which, while liable to
parliament, might be kept in certain politic limits, teemed with
political dangers when it was given over to the clandestine industry
of foreigners.


11. THE FRENCH SLAVE TRADE

(Parliamentary Debates, XXVIII, pp. 272-294: House of
Commons, June 27, 1814)

WILLIAM WILBERFORCE: Colonies of great value and magnitude
were now restored to her (France) unconditionally: St. Domingo
would in itself be an immense vortex of human calamity; the
cultivation of that island might be carried to any extent, and on a
moderate calculation it might be estimated that for that island






THE BRITISH WEST INDIES AT WESTMINSTER


only, during the 5 years stipulated, the happiness and the lives of
500,000 human beings would be sacrificed. This statement made
the blood run cold, but it by no means was equal to the extent of
the evil; it might be computed that in the whole, no fewer than
between 2 and 3 millions of our fellow-creatures would be torn
from their homes, and annihilated for the supply of the colonies
just ceded to France, and the evils that Africa would suffer could
not be remedied by the exertions of benevolence during the space
of 2 or 3 centuries. Was this a prospect that could be beheld
without horror? .
The offence could not be considered as light when we gave to
France the colonies we had conquered, that she might people them
with the wretched exiles from Africa. As a matter of policy, some
individuals, connected with the West India trade, might think that
they should be seriously injured by the monopoly that France
would acquire. They had consented formerly, for the general
benefit, to submit their opinions and to abolish the slave trade:
but they did it under an implied contract that supposed benefits,
of which they were deprived, should not be enjoyed by others. The
grand object in view was to mitigate evils that could not, in all
probability, now be prevented; but he was not without a faint hope
that France, when she found that it was her interest, would consent
to an immediate abolition Mr. Wilberforce could not avoid
indulging a hope that those principles of justice and humanity
which actuated all the rest of Europe would have some influence
upon France, and that she would see the policy of adhering to
those principles which bound the civilized world in one harmonious
compact.

LORD CASTLERBAGH: If France could not be persuaded to
act in the manner desired, she could not be compelled to it, nor
was it to be expected that she should be taught morality at the
point of the bayonet ...
This which was a mere question of morality was never made
the criterion whether they should or should not keep up the
relations of amity with foreign powers ...
It was not, he contended, consistent with the progress of the
human mind to adopt valuable truths at once. It took a considerable
length of time before the abolition of the trade was adopted, even






THE FOREIGN SLAVE TRADE


in this country of liberality; and other countries could not be
blamed for not adopting it immediately, particularly when it was
proposed to them in the shape of a dictum ..
The motives were not thought there to arise from benevolence,
but from a wish to impose fetters on French colonies and injure
their commerce; and if it was made a question of power, he was
convinced that interest would be supposed to have a share in it.
If this country retained the colonies, unless upon the condition of
abolition, it would be said we retained them for commercial views,
and that it was only a pretence for keeping up the war and retaining
possession of those settlements .
In the internal parts of France the inhabitants were absolutely
ignorant that the slave trade was abolished in the British Colonies.
There was no part of Europe, he believed, in which such profound
ignorance prevailed as in France ...
He was ready to admit that Guadeloupe and Martinique being
permitted to be points of depot, did, to a certain degree, increase
the probability of an illicit trade being carried on from those islands
with our colonies. But if France had even consented to abolish the
trade, the number of depots which would have otherwise existed
was sufficiently numerous for the illegal introduction of slaves into
the islands belonging to Great Britain. From the Havannah and
Porto Rico, the possessions of Spain, slaves might very easily find
their way into our colonies .
France was not the only power whose colonial importance
made the slave trade a question of interest. Spain and Portugal
were also connected with it; and he thought his hon. friend was
wrong in dashing from his lip the cup of enjoyment, by indulging
the supposition that if a final regulation had been made with France
to abandon the traffic, it must necessarily have been abolished .
Much surely had been gained; and it was a great matter, when
gentlemen recollected, that the negotiation ended in mutual respect
and confidence, instead of terminating in anger and dissatisfaction ...
They did not think it right to force it upon other nations, at
the expence of their honour, and of the tranquility of the world.
Morals were never well taught by the sword; their dissemination
might sometimes be made a pretext for ambition, but the real
object could not be long concealed; and it was to the light of
experience, to the promulgation of wisdom, and not to the exercise






THE BRITISH WEST INDIES AT WESTMINSTER


of violence, or the influence of war, that they could look with any
prospect of success for the abolition of the slave trade ...


12. THE FRENCH SLAVE TRADE

(Parliamentary Debates. XXVIll, pp. 299-355; House of Lords,
June 27, 1814)
LORD GRENVILLE: Your Lordships will readily believe,
judging of my feelings by your own, how deeply mortifying it must
be to me again to bring under your discussion a subject which
I vainly thought had been closed forever; how painful to the
adversaries of the slave trade once more to find themselves
suppliants in the cause which they had gained, soliciting your
interposition to prevent the revival of that atrocious wickedness in
the final abolition of which they had so long exulted.
The stipulations of this treaty (with France) have filled them
with alarm and grief; but their zeal is unabated, their perseverance
not to be overcome. Disappointed of the promised aid from their
government, they have found a strong bulwark in the feelings of
their country, and they rest with firm reliance on the virtue and
constancy of parliament ...
The feelings of our countrymen are roused. They will not, they
cannot consent to the revival of the slave trade. It is therefore, on
their behalf, it is in the name of the people of England, in support
of their numerous and urgent petitions, that I plead before you
on this day; to avert from them this unmerited disgrace, to rescue
from disappointment and defeat that sacred cause in which they
have already conquered, and to vindicate from the unhallowed
intrusion of guilt and shame their glorious triumph-the triumph
of religion, of justice, and humanity .
The demand of our country for the immediate and unqualified
abolition of the slave trade rests not on any local, any temporary
considerations, on any questions of constitutional right or political
expediency. Its principles are universal, its foundations eternal.
Grounded in immutable justice, and commanded by the plainest
precepts of that religion which we profess in common, this great
work of mercy claimed, from the beginning, the support of all good
men of every description .






THE FOREIGN SLAVE TRADE


We receive, instead of these, a partial contract, by which the
British crown has sanctioned and guaranteed the slave trade! We
find our own sovereign made the accomplice, our free and happy
country the instrument of its revival and extension! ..
The courts of Vienna, Petersburgh, and Berlin are silent; but
England and France have spoken: France has proposed, England
has consented, not to abolish but to revive; not to prohibit, but to
extend these horrors ...
With full assurance may we believe how great must have been
his (Louis XVIII's) reluctance in subscribing this opprobrious
article. It must be so. His sympathy for affliction, his inborn
worth, his moral and his religious principles, and his full knowledge
of this subject, derived from long residence in England, have
doubtless implanted in his breast an indignant abhorrence of the
slave trade. Would to God that he had acted on his own
impressions! That he had followed the dictates of his own feeling
heart! .
But if he, in opposition to his own better judgment and feeling,
has yielded to prejudices still perhaps too prevalent in France .
yet from our own ministers other things were to be expected. They
had no prejudice to encounter, no opposition to surmount .. Is it
possible that they alone, of all the inhabitants of this country,
could view with indifference the revival of the slave trade? .
Do we expect to obtain, five years hence, by the spontaneous
concession of France, that renunciation of felonious profit which
neither peace, nor commerce, nor augmented territory have
purchased from her, which she has refused to the united authority
of all the greatest European nations .. and even to the most urgent
consideration of present political expediency?
She has at this time no slave trade. All her present interests
are prejudiced by its revival: she sacrifices to this iniquity the
strong, the just claims of her trade, her manufactures, and her
agriculture. Her commercial capital exhausted by her long miseries
is wholly insufficient for the calls of domestic industry. By diverting
it at this moment to distant speculations, by embarking it in
hazardous and ruinous enterprises, she must retard her own
progress in recovery. This abuse of her remaining strength-this
improvident misdirection of vital power, must prolong both the
symptoms and the consequences of disease. In her colonies the






THE BRITISH WEST INDIES AT WESTMINSTER


mischief will be still more sensible. There, by the operation ot
British laws, this wickedness had long since been prohibited. Her
planters have conformed themselves to its abolition. That just and
beneficent measure has introduced into their islands, as into our
own, new modes of culture and new systems of internal
management. By its natural and inevitable effects it has meliorated
the condition of their slaves.
And yet it is not in the West Indies only, but much more in
Africa, that this iniquitous stipulation must operate to this revolting
consequence. In those countries .what might not France have
achieved? The arts of industry, the kindly and benevolent
intercourse of social life, she might have opened to those countries;
the reciprocal gains of legitimate commerce were placed within
her own reach. What infatuation is it to have relinquished all the
profit and all the glory of this course for that nefarious and wide
wasting iniquity, which by a just retribution of Providence is
scarcely less destructive to its instruments than to its victims; for
a traffic which brutalizes the character of man, for a navigation
murderous to more than half of the sailors who embark in it, and
for a system of culture tending inevitably to ruin her planters and
to desolate her colonies I ...
Such are the considerations which might have been -presented
to those with whom we treated; considerations founded in justice,
supported by policy, and confirmed by our own example. These
arguments we might have urged, and if urged with zeal, could
they in this negotiation have been urged in vain I
Under the accursed influence of this article, with the growth
of wealth, the growth of crime will keep pace. Before five
years shall have elapsed, how much property will, by public
encouragement, have been embarked in this wicked traffic; how
many trades, how many manufactures, how many establishments
will have been connected with it; how many new and extensive
interests created in its support? ..
The revival of the slave trade will already, by its blasting and
malignant influence, have poisoned the growing promise of a more
merciful system New importations from Africa, a new waste
of life in the islands, a new demand for fresh slaves; new sufferings,
new fears, new cruelties: the planter overwhelmed with debt, his
capital unprofitable, his produce depreciated; yet his increasing






THE FOREIGN SLAVE TRADE


expenditure still demanding more extended culture, and that again
requiring the farther accumulation of the miserable victims from
whose unmitigated toil it must be exacted; the overseer in the
meantime regardless of their condition, the proprietor estimating
his gains only by the increasing severity of their labour, and those
wretched beings themselves sunk in hopeless despondency, or
rendered ferocious by despair.
In comparison with the suddenness, the extent, the enormity,
and duration of the sufferings created by this article; the past
wickedness, even of the slave trade itself, is humanity and
mercy What will not Africa suffer from a sudden demand for
slaves following the long suspension of this trade, and infinitely
exceeding the utmost amount of any former supply? ...
That the immediate and total abolition of the slave trade
might in this treaty, if pursued with zeal, have been with certainty
obtained, is, unless I am greatly misinformed, the general sentiment
of all who are conversant in foreign negotiation; the concurrent
and decided judgment of enlightened statesmen in every country
in Europe .
In the circumstances of this treaty, what answer could France
have made to such a declaration? We negotiated in the hour of
victory. Her colonies were in our hands; her American islands, her
African settlements; the objects and the theatre of these crimes.
England had nothing to ask and everything to restore.
Parliament had desired only to stipulate for justice, and we have
not obtained it even by the sacrifice of all our conquests! .
What credulity will acquiesce in the pretence, that to extort
from France the surrender of her conquests was easy, to dissuade
her from the revival of the slave trade impracticable? ..
From what settlements in Africa, to what colonies in the West
Indies is it, that France now designs to carry on the slave trade?
.. Those only which we occupied, those of which we and our
allies were in the undisturbed possession, those to which no access
could possibly have been opened to France but by the intervention
of Great Britain .
I condemn not the restitution of our conquests I wish
only that we had made them the pledges and security for justice .
Our own demand for an immediate and total abolition of the
slave trade, and the promise of our government to labour earnestly






THE BRITISH WEST INDIES AT WESTMINSTER


for that object, are not easily reconciled with a gratuitous agreement
for the continuance of that wickedness, still less with an active
interposition for its revival .
I not only concluded this unqualified surrender not to be in
the intention of our government; 1 doubted, and on mature
reflection I still more strongly doubt, whether it was legally within
their competence.
Parliament has long since proscribed the slave trade, not as a
prohibited wrong, but as a moral crime Under what authority
then have our ministers assumed to covenant for its continuance?
By what warrant of English law have they compromised and
bargained for felony? A claim of more than dispensing
power; a pretension not to suspend but to abrogate our statutes;
an undertaking to subject to a nefarious iniquity those very
countries which our legislature had expressly exempted from
it! Nor can I discern on what grounds of justice our laws
can punish as a felon the man who delivers into slavery a few
individuals, if our treaties in the same moment can proclaim
impunity to those who inflict this misery on millions .
We have consented to revive and guarantee the slave trade,
not because we feared war, but because we thirsted for more
extended possessions. By the sacrifice of these we might have
preserved both peace and innocence. Such will be the just judgment,
both of the present time, and of posterity; the opinion of impartial
men in all ages ...
What splendour would not the triumph of Europe have derived
from a decree which gave life and liberty to Africa? .
The best of all resources still remains to us, in the firmness
and spirit of our countrymen; in their determination and in ours
never to submit to this opprobrious wrong ...
Suspend at once the execution of this unhallowed article.
Withhold the restitution of your conquests ...
We cannot covenant for crime; we cannot barter away the
rights of others; the lives and liberties of the nations of Africa have
not been placed by our Creator at the disposal of France and
England .
The inexpediency of this engagement I have purposely
forborne to argue. It has not the weight of a feather in the balance.
when compared with those topics, which I have this day submitted





THE FOREIGN SLAVE TRADE


to your feelings. I could not bring myself to dwell on such
considerations when the revival of the slave trade was in question.
Nor could it indeed have been necessary to urge them. They are
obvious to all Your Lordships. You are well apprized what ruinous
speculations this revival of the slave trade will infallibly produce
in the French islands; you know by what inevitable consequence
these must expose your own planters to an unequal and
uncommercial competition... Nor can you disguise from yourselves
or from the world what a mockery it would be to talk of abolishing
the slave trade in the settlements of Holland or of Portugal, if you
yourselves shall have re-established it in French Guiana .
No principle is better established in the law of nations, than
that which entitled you when you restored to France her colonies,
to stipulate, that her possession of them should be so regulated as
not to become, from any intermediate change of circumstances,
more prejudicial to your interests than it was before the war .
That you could see the inmost recesses of a slave ship! That
you could even imagine to yourselves the horrors of a slave market i
That you could count the groans, that you could estimate the
silent miseries of the plantation slave! His ceaseless labour, his
unprotected sufferings, his tortured life, his premature and
anticipated death .
For myself I can truly say, and such, I am confident, were
the impressions of thousands, I never have, I never can experience,
in any moment of my life, sensations of joy, emotions of gratitude
to Heaven, at all comparable with those which were excited in my
breast, when we succeeded in effecting the abolition of the British
slave trade.

EARL OF LIVERPOOL: I cannot but think, my lords, when
you coolly and fairly deliberate on the question, that however you
may agree to the principles asserted by the noble baron, you will
be of opinion that in the application of them to the transaction at
issue, there has been much of exaggeration, much of inflammation,
which neither that transaction nor the circumstances attendant
upon it in any degree warrant.
There is one great mistake in the whole of the noble baron's
argument, founded on a misconception of the right which this or
any other country has to dictate to another and independent nation






THE BRITISH WEST INDIES AT WESTMINSTER


on a subject like the present .Mankind have long agreed that
how sacredly binding soever moral obligation ought to be considered
by individuals, or by a nation, the imposition of it upon another
nation is not a legitimate cause of war .
If we cannot depend on the faith of France to abolish the
trade at the expiration of five years, neither could we have
depended upon her faith, had the stipulation been for an immediate
abolition ...
Does the noble baron suppose that the continental powers
would have allowed Great Britain to keep all the colonies of the
world ? Does he not know that the colonial possessions of Great
Britain are as much the subject of the jealousy of those powers
as ever the continental power of France was? ...
It is my opinion-an opinion which has been strongly
impressed upon them-that it is the interest of the French
Government, on the soundest view of their true policy, to abolish
the slave trade immediately and altogether .
It is much to have fixed the French Government to the
cessation of the trade at a given time. The stipulations are not
loose and general, as in the Treaty with Portugal. They are precise
and determined; and if there be any faith in treaties, in five years
the slave trade in the French colonies will be at an end ...
Any attempt to make our proceedings authoritative in their
character would retard, rather than accelerate, the attainment of
our wishes.



13. THE FRENCH SLAVE TRADE

(Parliamentary Debates. XXVIII, pp. 386-410; o u s e of
Commons, June 28, 1814)

LonD CASTLEREAGH: He was fully impressed with the opinion
that the best way of promoting the abolition of the slave trade was
to leave the French Government to its own discretion, even if we
had the power of dictation: for in framing a stipulation for an
unwilling Government, what guarantee should we have for its
observance? .






THE FOREIGN SLAVE TRADE


We could not help noticing the zeal evinced by certain
parties upon the subject of the slave trade of late, compared to
their conduct at former periods, and under other administrations...
He begged that they would moderate their virtuous feelings,
and put their solicitude for Africa under the dominion of reason.

SIR SAMUEL ROMILLY : The extensive influence of Liverpool
and Bristol, and other great trading towns, opposed difficulties
with us which it required much time and patience to remove.
Happily no such influence -now exists in France, but it seems that
by the revival of the trade such an influence is to be general, and
to be fostered. Let the cause of humanity, the noble iord says, be
promoted in France by exactly the same means as it was in
England. In other words, let Nantes and Bourdeaux, and other
maritime towns, become the Bristols and Liverpools of France; let
large capitals be embarked in the trade, let the support of many
thousands of individuals be made to depend on its continuance;
enlist the activity and zeal of commercial enterprise and adventure
against you; multiply, without number, the enemies to the abolition,
and then wisely trust to reason to refute their arguments and silence
their clamours. Embody against you the most uncontrollable
passions and strongest interests, and most formidable combinations
of men, and then calmly appeal to argument, to philosophy, and
to religion, to disperse and to disarm them. Expect that some
Clarkson will appear in France who will consume his valuable life
in the service of the most oppressed and despised of his fellow-
creatures. Wait till some Wilberforce shall arise, who with
unexampled perseverance in spite of clamour and obloquy and
ridicule, will maintain his steady course, till he sees the great
object of his life accomplished. Rely upon the slow but certain
effects of free discussion in popular assemblies, and by an
unrestrained press; and till all these causes shall have fully
operated, be content that the work of death and devastation shall
go freely on upon the shores of Africa ...
In a debate, which I remember took place in the year 1806,
when this House resolved that it would, at a time to be afterwards
fixed, abolish the trade, the noble lord, as well as the right hon.
gent. who sits near him (Mr. Rose), strenuously opposed that
resolution, upon this, amongst other grounds, that the fixing a






THE BRITISH WEST INDIES AT WESTMINSTER


future time for the abolition must always have the effect of giving
new life and a wider extension of the trade while it lasted; and
experience, the noble lord observed, had shewn that the fixing such
periods always afforded a rich harvest to Liverpool ...
If she had presumed to dictate to us, as the indispensable
price of peace, that Gibraltar should be ceded to her, the noble
lord assuredly would not have thought a prospect of the continuance
of war a sufficient reason for making a sacrifice to France of that
proud monument of our glory; and yet, for no better reason, he
has sacrificed to her what was a monument of much greater glory
to the British name ...
The Treaty disappoints all our hopes, blasts all our
prospects, seals our perpetual disgrace, and leaves us to deplore
that we have lost an opportunity of benefiting mankind and
ennobling ourselves, such as the world will, probably, never again
afford! .
The Treaty appears to me, as far as it respects the slave trade,
to be repugnant to justice and humanity, disgraceful to the British
name, and offensive in the sight of God.


14. THE FOREIGN SLAVE TRADE

(Parliamtentary Debates, XXXVI, pp. 1325-1335; House of
Commons, July 9. 1817)

WILLIAM WILBERFORCE: Every consideration impelled us to stop
a traffic like this. If it were not put an end to, any hope for our
colonies selling their produce beyond our own possessions would
be at an end. He should not hesitate, if the two powers* would
not put an end to the Slave Trade, to advise a recourse to an
expedient the prospect of which had been held out, viz., a treaty
with the great powers of Europe to prevent the purchase of
colonial produce from colonies of those states which had not
abolished the Slave Trade.

J. F. BAIIAM : Alluded to a charge against this country,
which was sometimes gravely and sometimes sarcastically made by

*Spain and Portugal.





THE FOREIGN SLAVE TRADE


foreigners, and particularly by the French, of our being actuated
by selfish motives in our exertions to procure a universal
relinquishment of this trade; and of our having ceased to carry
it on ourselves only when it was no longer necessary to our
colonial interests. Bold as this accusation was, it was directly
contrary to the fact; and it was rather singular, that at this moment
the French West India colonies were more saturated with slaves
than our own.

MR. MARRYAT: Was of opinion, that the suggestion of
prohibiting the colonial produce of Spain and Portugal, would, if
acted on, expose this country, which must be the greatest gainer
by such a proceeding, to a still stronger suspicion of being actuated
by selfish motives.


15. THE SPANISH SLAVE TRADE

(Parliamentary Debates, XXXVII, pp. 244-258; House of
Commons, February 9, 1818)

SmI GILBERT HEATHCOTE: He was of the opinion that 400,000 1.
might be much more advantageously distributed in this country.
It would furnish the means of giving to 8,000 individuals the sum
of 50 1. each. To him it appeared to be false humanity to be thus
seeking for foreign channels of disposing our money, however
benevolent our intention he might say that the revolt of the
Spanish colonies in South America was notorious, that several of
those colonies had established their independence, and that probably
the whole of Spanish America would eventually be emancipated.
What would then be the situation of Spain with reference to the
colonial possessions? Those possessions would be confined to Cuba,
and to the Spanish part of St. Domingo. We should in that case
therefore be purchasing humanity at too dear a rate .
Whether in peace or in war the people of this country were,
it seemed, to be goaded into madness by incessant demands on
their pockets. It was impossible that we could thus continue to be
the general paymasters of Europe. If we were to be compelled to
pay money for any phantasy which might enter into the head of
any monarch, he could not see how it would be possible to make





THE BRITISH WEST INDIES AT WESTMINSTER


the income of the country meet its annual expenditure. He was
surprised that ministers were not impressed with the necessity of
discontinuing so profuse a system of policy.
Now the coffers were empty, we could not afford
unnecessary expenditure, and he was averse to granting 400 pence
to any potentate in Europe.
WILLIAM WILBERFORCE: If, indeed, we only considered it
upon the most simple commercial footing, as a common mercantile
regulation, we should find it abundantly recompensed by the result;
but when there was a nobler inducement to interfere, such a sum
as that was might easily be sacrificed .
He could not but think that the grant would be more than
repaid to this country in commercial advantages by the opening of
a great continent to our industry, an object which would be entirely
defeated if this traffic was to be carried on by the Spanish nation.
Considering it either with regard to interest or generosity, he felt
that it reflected honour on his ndble friend who had brought it
forward, and on the House which was likely to adopt it.
Sm OSWALD MOSLEY: She (Spain) was at war with her
colonies; and if in that war she should be unsuccessful, of what
use would it be; and what would be the consequence, as far as
the object of this vote was concerned ? Why we should in all
probability be called upon to vote the same sum to that separate
independent government, which would in such an event be
established. He hoped in God that such separation would take
place. It- was the interest of mankind that it should: it was
particularly the interest of this fine and commercial country, that
other countries should be free, and in a condition to reciprocate
commercial advantages upon liberal and enlightened principles; but,
if the Spanish colonies achieved their freedom, the grant of this
money to Spain, dissevered from them, would not promote our
object .
The question appeared to him to be this-whether they would
grant such a sum to enable Spain to carry on the war against
her colonies? And in deciding upon this question, they would do
well to consider, whether, by redeeming by such an expedient one
African slave, they did not in effect impose slavery upon thousands
now struggling for freedom in another quarter of the world?
It was not for us to teach Spain humanity.






THE FOREIGN SLAVE TRADE


MaR. BENNET: There was no person who felt more deeply
than he did the calamity under which this country suffered from
the heavy load of taxation under which it laboured; yet he believed,
that if they went from house to house, they would have no
difficulty in raising a contribution for the purpose of putting down
this traffic.
MR. GonwoN: With respect to what had been stated, that the
Spanish merchants had offered their government four times this
sum for further continuance of the Slave Trade, he laid no weight
upon it. He did not believe the Spanish merchants possessed so
much money to offer; but even if they did, the Spanish government
might have been politic in refusing it, for after receiving the
400,000 1. from Britain, it might then exact the other sum from
the merchants.

16. THE SPANISH SLAVE TRADE

(Parliamentary Debates, XXXVII, pp. 334-337; H o u s e of
Commons, February 11, 1818)

LORD CASTLEREAGII: In reply to the question of the hon. gentle-
man (Mr. Lyttelton) he must say, that he lamented as much as
any one, that the commercial principles which regulated the conduct
of the Spanish government were of so confined and mistaken a
nature-principles which had now been quite exploded in the
politics of this country, and which he hoped would not long
maintain their ground in any European cabinet. At the same time
we ought to show some indulgence towards the Spanish govern-
ment even on this score, considering that we ourselves had, not
long since, acted upon the very same mistaken principles in many
of our commercial regulations.

LORD ALTrHORP: Had no objection to the spirit and object
of the treaty, but the laying out of so large a sum of money in
pure bounty to the Spanish government, appeared to him very
liable to suspicion. We were evidently ambitious of being distin-
guished as the most charitable of all nations: but could we get
credit for lavishing so large a sum out of mere charity, while our
own country was in such distress.






THE BRITISH WEST INDIES AT WESTMINSTER


SIR R. HERON: Did not consider the amount of money to be
paid to Spain as any objection to the conditions of the treaty,
although he could not help regretting, that it was to fall into the
coffers of the Spanish treasury at the moment when it might enable
that government to effect the subjugation of its revolted colonies.
He did not very clearly see why our policy now should so far
differ from that of Queen Elizabeth, who had considered it
important to the interests of this country to protect the rising
liberties of the Netherlands.

17. THE DUTCH SLAVE TRADE
(Parliamentary Debates, XXXVII, p. 1186; House of Commons,
April 6, 1818)
JoSEPH MARRYAT : Strongly deprecated the object of this Bill,
being convinced that if the transfer of slaves to Demerara and
Berbice were allowed, it would be extremely difficult, if not
impossible to prevent them from being smuggled into other parts
of the continent over which we had no dominion, and especially
to Surinam. But on the score of that humanity which had produced
the abolition of the Slave Trade, he would resist a measure which
proposed to transport slaves from the scene of their early connexions
to distant and unhealthy regions. Such transportation, it would be
recollected, was but too likely to benefit foreigners, to the prejudice
of our own colonies; for there could be little doubt that if the
transportation to Demerara and Berbice were tolerated, the slaves
would be seduced, and clandestinely taken away to Surinam, where,
from the peculiar fertility of the soil, great temptation was held
out to capitalists.

18. THE FRENCH SLAVE TRADE

(Parliamentary Debates, XL, p. 1543; House of Commons,
July 7, 1819)
WILLIAM WILBERFORCE: With respect to the trade, he regretted
to say, however, that notwithstanding the laws passed in
several countries for its abolition, it was still carried on-it had been
found impossible to sweep away at once that incurable race of
free-booters who infested Africa. .






THE BRITISH WEST INDIES AT WESTMINSTER


SIR R. HERON: Did not consider the amount of money to be
paid to Spain as any objection to the conditions of the treaty,
although he could not help regretting, that it was to fall into the
coffers of the Spanish treasury at the moment when it might enable
that government to effect the subjugation of its revolted colonies.
He did not very clearly see why our policy now should so far
differ from that of Queen Elizabeth, who had considered it
important to the interests of this country to protect the rising
liberties of the Netherlands.

17. THE DUTCH SLAVE TRADE
(Parliamentary Debates, XXXVII, p. 1186; House of Commons,
April 6, 1818)
JoSEPH MARRYAT : Strongly deprecated the object of this Bill,
being convinced that if the transfer of slaves to Demerara and
Berbice were allowed, it would be extremely difficult, if not
impossible to prevent them from being smuggled into other parts
of the continent over which we had no dominion, and especially
to Surinam. But on the score of that humanity which had produced
the abolition of the Slave Trade, he would resist a measure which
proposed to transport slaves from the scene of their early connexions
to distant and unhealthy regions. Such transportation, it would be
recollected, was but too likely to benefit foreigners, to the prejudice
of our own colonies; for there could be little doubt that if the
transportation to Demerara and Berbice were tolerated, the slaves
would be seduced, and clandestinely taken away to Surinam, where,
from the peculiar fertility of the soil, great temptation was held
out to capitalists.

18. THE FRENCH SLAVE TRADE

(Parliamentary Debates, XL, p. 1543; House of Commons,
July 7, 1819)
WILLIAM WILBERFORCE: With respect to the trade, he regretted
to say, however, that notwithstanding the laws passed in
several countries for its abolition, it was still carried on-it had been
found impossible to sweep away at once that incurable race of
free-booters who infested Africa. .





THE FOREIGN SLAVE TRADE


It grieved him to think that a great and high-minded people,
a nation of cavaliers like the French, should refuse to take the
proper measures for putting an end to this trade; while we, who
had been called a shop-keeping nation, had given up the trade, it
was not a little surprising that it should be taken up by a high-
minded nation, who had never been considered in any great degree
as possessing a commercial character, and most of all, that they
should think of assuming that character, in the instance of a traffic
like this. Surely a few predatory men would not be suffered to
injure the character of a great country.


19. THE FOREIGN SLAVE TRADE

(Parliamentary Debates, New Series, V, pp. 1286-1289; House of
Lords, June 25, 1821)
THE MARQUIS OF LANSDOWNE: When this country resolved upon
relinquishing her share in the guilty traffic, it was expected that
into the vacuum thus created, unprincipled adventurers from all
quarters of the world would run .
With regard to Portugal, their lordships would find that no
material diminution had taken place in the Slave Trade; 18,000
slaves had been carried into her colonies since the abolition. Of
2,000 conveyed to South America, one-fourth had been lost; and
in one vessel, out of 300, 144 had died. There was too much reason
to suspect that many persons in authority were concerned in the
traffic. The Portuguese Governor of the Isle of Princes, was one
of them; and it was notorious that there was no diminution in the
supply of slaves from Africa to Surinam. He now came to the
steps taken by France, and sure it was to be expected that a people
living under a representative government, and enjoying privileges
themselves, should feel a desire to carry the laws against this odious
and detestable traffic into effect. Years had elapsed, yet no effort
had been made; and they had the authority of Sir George Collier
that, under the French flag, not less than 60,000 slaves were
brought from Africa in the course of a single year.






70 THE BRITISH WEST INDIES AT WESTMINSTER

He alluded to an advertisement in a French newspaper, as
an additional feature of its notoriety. The advertisement described
a vessel then fitting up for the coast of Africa, there to purchase
about 100 mules. Such was the flimsy pretext, which was found
sufficient, under the eye of an enlightened government, to carry
on a trade which desolated one quarter of the globe .
It was not on the ground of humanity alone that this trade
was to be resisted; it carried along with it passions and habits
blighting to the industry of nations.









III. THE REGISTRATION OF SLAVES


20. REGISTRY OF SLAVES

(Parliamentary Debates, XXXI, pp. 772-785; House of Commons,
June 13, 1815)

WILLIAM WILBERFORCE: He felt a satisfaction in thinking that the
measure which he intended to propose was one which involved no
novelty of principle, but was, in fact, merely a supplement to the
Bill for the abolition of the slave trade ...
He would frankly confess that when the Slave Trade Bill
passed the friends of that measure did not dare to encumber it then
with more extensive operations than at that time belonged to it.
Now, however, the period had arrived when supplementary
measures might not only be resorted to, but when in fact they
were called for from the practices which undoubtedly existed in the
West India Islands .
With respect to the objection that the measure would interfere
with the colonial legislatures, he denied its cogency The
paramount right of control on the part of the legislature of this
country, had been at all times acknowledged. On this subject the
delusion would soon pass away, as it had passed away on the
subject of the abolition of the slave trade itself-a measure which
was now universally allowed to be one of undeniable justice and
humanity.
There were other considerations, of a much more powerful
nature, to induce the House to accede to his proposition, arising
out of the duty of parliament to provide for the moral and religious
instruction of the negroes Above all other circumstances he
had looked to the encouragement of marriage among the slaves as
a necessary and most beneficial consequence of the abolition of
the trade .
How desirable would it be to convert the slaves into a free
and happy peasantry, capable of defending the islands which they
inhabited, instead of endangering them by their presence I






THE REGISTRATION OF SLAVES


that the same object might be attained another way. If we did as
the hon. gent. wished us, we should only be raising up a stone wall
to break our own heads against. We had only to prohibit the
lending any money to any colony which did not agree to such a
register as that now wanted. If we acted as the hon. gent.
recommended, we might perhaps light up a flame between the
mother country and the colonies which would one day be deeply
deplored.
SmI SAMUEL ROMILLY : The establishing a registry of slaves
and declaring all persons not found in the list to be free men was
the only way by which the illicit trade in slaves could be prevented.
It was nothing more than establishing a registry of real property,
and securing slaves to their owners, in the same way as.it would
secure to them their cattle. He lamented that the act for the
abolition had scarcely at all tended to ameliorate the condition of
the negroes.

LoRD CASTLEREAGI: If there was not virtue enough in the
people of Jamaica to second such a measure, what good could be
hoped from it?
He should think it most important if the colonies were to carry
this measure into effect by their own legislature: this would be a
great triumph to the cause.
He was sure that if we could persuade the colonies to pass
this measure voluntarily, in the spirit in which it was meant to
operate, that it would be far more beneficial than forcing upon
them a law from parliament which they might try to circumvent.




21. REGISTRY OF SLAVES

(Parliamentary Debates, XXXI, pp. 1127-1132; H o u s e of
Commons, July 5. 1815)

J. F. BARHAM : He believed it was intended to be the ground-
work of another Bill, which would perhaps be the means of
producing many benefits to the situation of the slaves in the West









III. THE REGISTRATION OF SLAVES


20. REGISTRY OF SLAVES

(Parliamentary Debates, XXXI, pp. 772-785; House of Commons,
June 13, 1815)

WILLIAM WILBERFORCE: He felt a satisfaction in thinking that the
measure which he intended to propose was one which involved no
novelty of principle, but was, in fact, merely a supplement to the
Bill for the abolition of the slave trade ...
He would frankly confess that when the Slave Trade Bill
passed the friends of that measure did not dare to encumber it then
with more extensive operations than at that time belonged to it.
Now, however, the period had arrived when supplementary
measures might not only be resorted to, but when in fact they
were called for from the practices which undoubtedly existed in the
West India Islands .
With respect to the objection that the measure would interfere
with the colonial legislatures, he denied its cogency The
paramount right of control on the part of the legislature of this
country, had been at all times acknowledged. On this subject the
delusion would soon pass away, as it had passed away on the
subject of the abolition of the slave trade itself-a measure which
was now universally allowed to be one of undeniable justice and
humanity.
There were other considerations, of a much more powerful
nature, to induce the House to accede to his proposition, arising
out of the duty of parliament to provide for the moral and religious
instruction of the negroes Above all other circumstances he
had looked to the encouragement of marriage among the slaves as
a necessary and most beneficial consequence of the abolition of
the trade .
How desirable would it be to convert the slaves into a free
and happy peasantry, capable of defending the islands which they
inhabited, instead of endangering them by their presence I






/1 THE BRITISH WEST INDIES AT WESTMINSTER

India Islands; and to any Bill that in his opinion tended to the
amelioration of the condition of the slaves themselves, no man in
that House or out of it would be found to be more friendly; but he
could not bring himself to vote for the present Bill, because it
supposited a traffic of a very injurious kind, which he did not
admit to exist .
It was a matter of great difficulty, indeed, to prove the
identity' of negroes .
He could not, however, help lamenting the general apathy
which had been manifested on that subject. The Deity pf the
African Institution appeared to have fallen asleep; or peradventure
he was journeying. With respect to the Bill now introduced, he
repeated that it was uncalled for, and that the imputations which
in its very preamble were thrown on the colonies, were wholly
without foundation.

WILLIAn SuMIT : He had received information from the best
authority, and those intimately acquainted with the West Indian
seas, that from the nature of the currents which flowed round
some of the islands, it was morally impossible to prevent the illicit
importation of slaves, but by some such measure as that now
brought in by his hon. friend.

A. BROWNE : With respect to the Bill before the House,
he felt it his duty, in every stage of its discussion, to reprobate it,
as a measure uncalled for upon any parliamentary ground, or by
any evidence whatever of the existence of the evil which it was
intended to prevent: a measure highly objectionable in principle,
as assuming a questionable and hazardous interference in the
internal conduct of the colonies, and in its oppressive details
endangering the whole system of colonial policy, by which the
security both of the properties and the lives of the white population
was preserved .
Without this ground of proceeding, the House would set out
on a crusade of legislation derogatory to the character of parliament,
and which, growing out of the ardent zeal and inflamed state of
men's minds in the attainment of a favourite object, might lead to
consequences highly injurious to other interests connected with that
favourite object. In the present instance, the mode proposed for






THE REGISTRATION OF SLAVES


the prevention of the supposed evil by the establishment of a
machinery of internal regulation, was one of a very unusual nature,
and founded upon the assumption of a right to interfere in the
internal conduct of the colonies, questionable in itself; but which,
if it did belong to the parliament of this country, all must agree.
should only be exercised upon the strongest grounds of necessity.
If the clandestine importation of slaves did exist in the colonies,
which he denied, and if a registry of slaves be necessary to prevent
that evil-why is the parliament of this country, even if they
possessed the right of legislating for the colonies, called upon to
pass such a law, until they found that the legislatures of the
colonies would not of themselves do so? Would it not be wise to
see whether the legislatures themselves will not co-operate with
the mother country in rendering the abolition perfect, before
parliament resorted to the unusual course of forcing such a
measure upon them? There is some reason to believe that this
co-operation would be afforded ...
He conjured them, while they were endeavouring to benefit the
blacks, not to sacrifice the whites.

WILLIAM WILBERFORCE : Seriously and soberly standing
in his place, he would say, that the general condition of slaves in
the West Indies, was worse than that of any description of slaves
in ancient times .
He had heard enough of the West Indian legislatures, not to
have any very sanguine expectations from that quarter. It was
melancholy to reflect, that notwithstanding all the admonitions
which they had received on the subject of mitigating the state of
slavery, so little had been done by them, that the unhappy beings
were liable to be torn away from their little domiciles, when they
had at length, perhaps, forgot their native home, and found a
second home in the West Indies, on account of their masters'
debts-husbands torn from their wives, parents from their children,
the most sacred ties of human nature dissolved.
It was a complete misapplication of language to compare these
legislatures to that of Great Britain. What sort of British
constitution was it in which nine-tenths of the people were not even
virtually represented? The evidence of a slave could not even
be taken.






THE BRITISH WEST INDIES AT WESTMINSTER


A. BROWNE : The present proposition involved something
further than the mere preventing, by a prohibitory statute, any
*clandestine importation of slaves-it went to effect a measure of
internal regulation in the colonies, and involved therefore the
*doubtful and hazardous question of the right of this country to
legislate for the internal and domestic concerns of the colonies ..
(Wilberforce) aimed at a general power of legislating for the colonies
and this was the commencement of a system of interference on the
part of this country, which was to effect a change conformably to
the views of the hon. gent., but destructive of the whole tenure of
property The possession of a right and the exercise of it were
two distinct things.
If the measure of a registry of slaves be the best expedient
that could be devised to prevent the clandestine importation of
slaves, why not, in the first instance, propose to the colonies, under
a recommendation from the Colonial Secretary, to pass a law to
that effect themselves? They have delegated to them the
power of legislating for themselves. That power cannot be interfered
with (to concede for the sake of argument the question of right)
without some imputation upon their own conduct, and without
giving occasion for much dissatisfaction and discontent These
were considerations not to be overlooked, not to be sacrificed to
the wild and undigested theories of those who seemed to be
exclusively occupied in the general emancipation of the negroes.
The House would not disregard the moral duty while they were
endeavouring to benefit the one description of persons, not to do
a vital injury to the other.

MR. PROTHEROE: He was not very sanguine in his expectations
that the Colonial legislatures would adopt this measure; and it was
the less likely because the measure was brought forward here, as
they would consider it an infraction of their rights. He was willing
to allow that the legislature of the parent country had a paramount
right to legislate for the colonies; but the exercise of that right
ought to be determined by the combined consideration of the
importance of the object and the possibility of its being effected.

JOSEPH MARRYAT : We ought to recollect that by persisting
in the question of right we lost America. We ought to recollect also






THE BRITISH WEST INDIES AT WESTMINSTER


22. REGISTRY OF SLAVES

(Parliamentary Debates, XXXIV, pp. 719-721; House of
Commons, May 22, 1816)

LORD CASTLEREAGH: He need not state to his hon. friend that
government were friendly to his system, as that system had been
acted upon in the several colonies under its immediate control.
But with respect to the other colonies, he suggested for the
consideration of his hon. friend, whether his system was not much
more likely to be effective, and his object more secure of attainment,
if carried on in concert, and with the co-operation of the local
legislatures. These legislatures were known to have themselves a
measure of registration in view, and he assured his hon. friend
that government would remit no endeavours to draw their attention
to the subject. On these grounds he hoped his hon. friend would
abstain from pressing any measure for the present ...
As to the right of parliament to legislate for the colonies,
nothing short of absolute necessity should urge the assertion of
that right, however indisputable, especially on a measure which
proposed to subject these colonies to taxation against the will of
the local authorities.


23. REGISTRY OF SLAVES

(Parliamentary Debates, XXXIV, pp. 909-911; House of Lords,
May 30, 1816)

LORD HOLLAND: He understood that it was supported on two
grounds: first to prevent the illicit importation of slaves into the
British West India colonies; and secondly, to better the condition
of the slaves. But he was convinced that there was no such direct
importation into Jamaica nor any of the British West India colonies
except Trinidad; and even if there had been such illicit importation
it would be infinitely better that the remedy should be applied by
the legislatures of the colonies themselves; and he hoped that a
recommendation to that effect would be sent from the government
here to the colonial legislatures. The utmost reluctance ought to






THE BRITISH WEST INDIES AT WESTMINSTER


22. REGISTRY OF SLAVES

(Parliamentary Debates, XXXIV, pp. 719-721; House of
Commons, May 22, 1816)

LORD CASTLEREAGH: He need not state to his hon. friend that
government were friendly to his system, as that system had been
acted upon in the several colonies under its immediate control.
But with respect to the other colonies, he suggested for the
consideration of his hon. friend, whether his system was not much
more likely to be effective, and his object more secure of attainment,
if carried on in concert, and with the co-operation of the local
legislatures. These legislatures were known to have themselves a
measure of registration in view, and he assured his hon. friend
that government would remit no endeavours to draw their attention
to the subject. On these grounds he hoped his hon. friend would
abstain from pressing any measure for the present ...
As to the right of parliament to legislate for the colonies,
nothing short of absolute necessity should urge the assertion of
that right, however indisputable, especially on a measure which
proposed to subject these colonies to taxation against the will of
the local authorities.


23. REGISTRY OF SLAVES

(Parliamentary Debates, XXXIV, pp. 909-911; House of Lords,
May 30, 1816)

LORD HOLLAND: He understood that it was supported on two
grounds: first to prevent the illicit importation of slaves into the
British West India colonies; and secondly, to better the condition
of the slaves. But he was convinced that there was no such direct
importation into Jamaica nor any of the British West India colonies
except Trinidad; and even if there had been such illicit importation
it would be infinitely better that the remedy should be applied by
the legislatures of the colonies themselves; and he hoped that a
recommendation to that effect would be sent from the government
here to the colonial legislatures. The utmost reluctance ought to






THE REGISTRATION OF SLAVES


be felt to legislate here in matters which concerned the internal
regulations of the colonies; and such a mode of proceeding would
have the strongest tendency to defeat the very object in view. If
he thought that there really was an illicit importation of slaves
into the British West India Islands, and that this unjust and
horrible traffic was continued there; and if he were convinced that
there was a determination in the colonial legislatures never to have
recourse to the measures which might be necessary to put an end
to it, then he would certainly vote for a slave-registry Bill brought
into parliament here, and even for stronger measures, if that should
not be found sufficient. The only difference between him and his
noble friend, therefore, rested on questions of time and procedure.

EARL BATHURST: He himself certainly thought, that a
slave-registry act passed by the colonial legislatures was the best
mode for accomplishing the object. If the colonial legislatures
should choose to take up the matter, he trusted it would be with a
full determination really to effectuate the purpose, instead of merely
doing it in form, and leaving it undone in substance and effect.
It would be even better for the colonial legislatures sturdily to
refuse doing this at all, than to endeavour to proceed in that hollow
mode to which he had adverted. He was desirous, however, that
the principle upon which this recommendation was to be made to
the colonial legislatures should not be misunderstood. The principle
upon which he had agreed to offer this recommendation, was not
his belief in the existence of a present practice of illicit importation
of slaves into the islands. He was satisfied that there was no
systematic violation of the law in that respect, though certainly
such a violation might have taken place in some few instances.
The principle was not to correct an existing evil, but to prevent
the occurrence of an evil, which, without some such regulation,
would probably arise He did not deny the right of the British
parliament to bind the colonies by such a law; but it would be
very indiscreet to act upon that right, unless in cases where the
object could not be accomplished by any other method.






THE BRITISH WEST INDIES AT WESTMINSTER


24. REGISTRY OF SLAVES
(Parliamentary Debates, XXXIV, pp. 1154-1220; House of
Commons, June 19, 1816)
WILLIAM WILBERFORCE: Many persons thought they answered all
objections, if they could show that the slaves were sometimes well
fed and taken care of-just as if they were speaking of the good
condition of so many horses ...
It had been objected, that they had changed ground; that
before they were aiming at abolition, and now they were aiming
at emancipation; but the truth was, that the main object was the
abolition of the slave trade, with a view to produce the amelioration
of the slaves; that we might see the West Indies cultivated by a
happy peasantry, instead of being cultivated by slaves. The same
cry had always before been raised as was raised now: from 1788
to the abolition of the trade in 1806, it had always been said,
'You are going to make all the slaves free;' but he was willing
to read the extracts, if anyone doubted, to prove that they had
always thought the slaves incapable of liberty at present, but
hoped that by degrees a change might take place as the natural
result of the abolition .
It was too much for a patient man to hear without emotion,
that when he and his friends had for 20 years been disclaiming
the charge of any attempt to make the negroes free at once-
when the negroes believed this themselves-they should bear the
blame, when the piece which the planters had loaded had burst
among themselves. But he would not rest here: he would go
farther, and say, that the insurrection* which all lamented had
proceeded from the intemperance of the colonists themselves, and
was to be attributed to the imprudence of their language and
conduct. Whatever had happened had no reference to himself or
his friends; he had no share in creating the explosion that had been
felt: he washed his hands clean of the blood that was spilt .
He had seen great changes in the opinions of individuals
during the progress of their lives; and great inconsistence in their
professions: but he could not have supposed it possible, unless it
had actually taken place, that the same persons who delivered the

*In Barbados in 1816.





THE REGISTRATION OF SLAVES


opinions he had stated should now maintain others so palpably
opposite-that those who formerly declared all precautions against
smuggling ineffectual, should now pronounce them unnecessary,
that those who thought the colonies would not refrain from breaking
the law, should now wonder that they should be supposed capable
of it .
There were fifteen years of decrease in the negro population,
and only one year of increase: that year happened to be a year
in which the greatest temptation to smuggling existed; and when
an explanation was required of this fact, the one resorted to was a
reference to an ambiguous statement, which could not itself be
explained or proved. He would even go farther, and he would tell
the hon. gentleman that he expected success to the measure he had
in contemplation through the influence of that very quality which,
under a false name, he vituperated; he expected the accomplishment
of his object through the fanaticism of the people of England. He
trusted to the religion of the people of England, to their humane
and christian feelings, for support in his endeavours; and through
their support, for final success in a cause which involved both
humanity and religion.

C. N. PALLMEn : But if it should appear that in this
latter respect everything had not been done which every christian
would have wished, he must caution the House against attributing
the blame entirely to the West India planters: they entertained a
predilection (which he hoped the House would not condemn) for
instructors of the established church ...
And here he felt it his painful duty to state what he had called
a predilection on the part of the planters, was in fact a necessary
precaution. Persons had been found, assuming the sacred office
of religious instructors, making their way into the interior of the
islands, instilling into the minds of the negroes doctrines subversive
of the public tranquillity, mixing with the truths of christianity
the dreadful principles of insubordination and insurrection .
It had appeared, that nightly assemblies had been held, at
which a sort of religious ceremony was performed, and a hymn
was sung, the purport of which was to return thanks to Providence,
that their good friend, naming the hon. gentleman, had made them
free, but that their masters would not allow them to be so ...





THE BRITISH WEST INDIES AT WESTMINSTER


No man could lament more than he did, the existence ot
slavery in any shape-it was a sore part of our system, and the
frequent handling of it served to irritate, but not to cure it: the
fretful inter-meddlings with it by persons in this country, only
served to make it worse; its abrupt removal would be injustice to
one set of persons, whilst it would not be humanity to others: to
hold out false hopes, only served to substitute discontent and
mutual suspicion, where a degree of content and confidence did
certainly prevail .
He did not mean to raise any question about the limits of
jurisdiction between the colonial legislatures and that of this
country. It was sufficient for this purpose to contend, that let what
was called internal legislation be only an indulgence to the colonies,
that there was nothing to justify their being deprived of it; and as
to the extreme danger of doing it, the House, he believed, would
not hesitate to admit (if proofs had not unhappily established the
fact), that nothing but danger could result from a system which
should give the negroes in the colonies to know, that the acts of
rigour and restriction under which they labour, have been passed
by the colonial assemblies; but that they may look for acts of
grace and kindness to a higher and superior authority ...
Prudent men would be unwilling to open the door of reform,
while they saw there were persons ready to rush in, who, without
skill, without experience, against every remonstrance from the
voice of local knowledge, would proceed to carry into effect the
wildest schemes of improvement. Practical and beneficial reformation
could best, he would say, could only be accomplished by the aid
of those who had to carry it into effect. It did not require much
knowledge of mankind to be convinced, that a code, although
somewhat defective, if zealously executed was more likely to be
useful, than the most complete code which would be devised,
forced upon those who were to be the unwilling instruments of its
execution.

J. F. BARHAM : If my hon. friend suspected that a slave trade
yet lurked in any of the islands, or that such enormity could exist
as the detaining free persons in slavery, why did he not institute
an inquiry into the fact? ...






THE REGISTRATION OF SLAVES


All this beautiful prospect has been destroyed at once, and
destroyed by a man who seems to think that calumny and insult
are the only proper inducements to lead men to good, or to confirm
them in it, who seems to think that nothing is true but what goes
to West Indian condemnation, that nothing is just but what goes
to West Indian ruin, and that no means are fit for Great Britain
to employ towards her colonies, but force and violence ...
But the insurrection, they say, has not been at all owing to
the registry bill, or the proceedings of its promoters. Now, we
say it can be distinctly traced to that, and no other cause, and we
ask what proof you require of the truth of our assertion. Every
kind of proof you shall have that is applicable to historical truth,
and every kind of proof in the highest degree. Is it testimony you
would have? You shall have the testimony of every white
inhabitant of the colonies, unless perchance it be that of some
itinerant preacher, or some emissary of the African Institution .
The peculiar case of Barbadoes furnishes some additional
proofs. This colony is the oldest of any. The laws partaking of the
spirit of the age they were framed in, are here more severe than in
any other. Yet never has there been in this island any case of
insurrection, or alarm of insurrection. But the registry bill comes
out, the ferment begins, the appearance of every packet is eagerly
expected with the order for emancipation, and when the last packet
arrives without such order, disappointment explodes in a nearly
general revolt .
Without the slightest hesitation would I communicate to the
slaves all the truth on all these subjects, but what I fear is, when
they are told that which is not the truth:-when they are told
that their masters wantonly oppress them, and ever will oppress
them: -when they are told that Mr. Wilberforce, Mr. Stephen, and
Mr. Macaulay love them better than those who live on their
labours-Sir, there may be many exceptions; but I declare my
solemn conviction, that a vast majority of their masters are
impressed with the most just and tender sentiments towards their
slaves. I believe that from their improving custom and manners
(which are seldom followed at equal pace by the laws) in the
colonies the condition of the slaves has been for some time as
rapidly improving as it could perhaps improve with permanent
benefit to themselves, and I believe that, if the African Institution






THE BRITISH WEST INDIES AT WESTMINSTER


were in the place of these masters, they would not find it easy to
do much more for the slaves-and as to the pseudo philanthropists
and trading philanthropists, I believe they would do much less ...
Bless me, Sir, these must be dreadful times indeed, when no
informer can be found to denounce a breach of the law, which in
its own nature must be so notorious.
What I no one neighbour who from honesty, no penitent who
from remorse, no discarded servant who from revenge, no person
who for the reputation of a saint, will disclose the solemn secret?
No, even that fearless and thoughtless class, the British sailors,
are here all paralyzed and dumb as by enchantment. But need
I go on?-Let these mysteries be left to the contemplation of those,
who recognize the mysteries of Udolpho as a portion of true
history the excuse alleged is that these anonymous persons
being in West India employ might lose their places, if their names
are known.
Could not this African Institution with all its riches and its
influence, have indemnified a West Indian overseer? Could not
my hon. friend, who is said not to be always unsuccessful in this
sort of negotiation with government, have made an application for
some trifling post, on such an occasion? ., .
I am proud to say it is on my estates that the first Christian
missions, in the British West Indies have been established ...
Truth, however, obliges me to declare, that the conduct of
some methodist preachers have been exceedingly indiscreet, and
even dangerous. Towns and districts have been kept in a state of
alarm from excessive and tumultuous assemblies at their preachings
-from unseemly meetings in the dead of night, from discourses
more calculated to inflame, than to guide and control the passions
of men, and from doctrines, the deleterious quality of which has
been found dangerous, even in better established forms of society.
If in such cases the constituted authorities have interefered, was it
not their duty to interfere? If teachers will mix poison in the cup
of salvation, can those be blamed who will not suffer it to be
handed round ? Even in this country it has been deemed proper
to pass laws against irregular preaching, and those laws are still
enforced here, where one can hardly suppose that mischief could
ensure; and yet there, while the danger is so evident, you blame
the colonies for manifesting any apprehension. This shows in a






THE REGISTRATION OF SLAVES


very strong light, what I complain of as the greatest injustice to
which the colonies are subjected, namely, that the same action
which here is just and proper, changes its character when it occurs
in the West Indies. Here you pass a law against irregular
preaching-here, where it seems hardly necessary; and you enforce
it without existing complaint or observation; a similar law is passed
in the West Indies, and immediately there arises a cry, that the
colonies are all enemies of christianity, and you have the whole
army of saints besieging his majesty's council to get the law
rejected .
It is really not now the interest of the colonies even to suffer a
contraband trade. They would lose money by it. The argument
respecting income, rests nearly on the same ground. From an
increase of slaves, an increase of produce must be expected, and
this increase of produce the other proprietors would meet in the
market, depreciating the value of their own produce. On the subject
of right, I cannot agree with those who claim for the colonies some
original, and indefeasible right of legislation. Whatever right they
have, appears to me to be a grant from hence, and, like every
other grant of this nature, must be fiduciary and resumable. But
resumable how? On a breach of the trust committed to them-
prove such a case, and I have done. But even if such case were
made out, you could only act by depriving them of their charter.
You have no right to exercise the discretion while they remain
charged with the responsibility. It would be the highest degree of
injustice in you to make the attempt, and the greatest folly in them
to submit to it. They must of necessity either abdicate their
functions or resist you ...
The chief function of those legislatures is, to watch over the
slave system. Now, if upon this chief of their duties, the slaves
shall see their rulers contradicted and controlled, and that on the
ground of delinquency; is it possible to suppose that any respect
can remain? All subordination will cease; on every new claim of
right they will look for support, in every case of resistance they
will look for protection, from their stronger friends here .
The colonies can no otherwise exist, than by its being known
to the slaves, that there is on the spot a power from which there is
no appeal. You may, if you please, abolish all those authorities,
and place a supreme power elsewhere, in order to pass the law;






THE BRITISH WEST INDIES AT WESTMINSTER


but leaving those authorities, you cannot occasionally supersede
them, and if you attempt it, I now tell you, you have lost your
colonies.

LORD CASTLEREAGH: It was evident that the recent calamities
had grown out of a perversion of the meaning of the registry bill
which no rational man could have entertained. His Majesty's
ministers in adopting the bill, could never have intended to have
given countenance to so wild a measure as the general emancipation
of the slaves. If anything so preposterous had reached them, as an
intention on the part of the legislature of this country to give them
unqualified freedom, it was of the highest importance such a
delusion should be instantly removed .
He must observe, with reference to the hon. gentleman below
him (Mr. Pallmer) who had spoken with so much ability and
moderation, that however he must concur with the hon. gentleman
in feeling the danger which might arise from misunderstanding the
discussions upon it, that we lived in an age when the risk of
discussion could not be avoided.
Being decidedly of opinion that that measure included means
calculated materially to ameliorate the situation of the individuals
for whose benefit it had been projected, he nevertheless guarded
himself against being supposed to be pledged to its entire support ...
It appears to him to be extremely erroneous to annex the
immediate manumission of a slave to the defect of his master in
making the proper return While parliament should be
understood as by no means abdicating their superior control over
the legislatures of the colonies, or their right to supply remedies
for those enormities which might appear to exist among them,
they ought to mark their opinion, that nothing was so much to be
deprecated as a wanton interference with those legislatures. For
he could assure his hon. friend opposite, that if ever the time
should unfortunately arrive when this country would be compelled
to legislate for the colonies with her own hands, he was apprehensive
that the progress of the cause which his hon. friend had so much
at heart, would be much more tardy than it was likely to be under
the present circumstances.
HENRY BROUGHAM : He and his friend did indeed wish for an
amelioration of the condition of the slaves, such an amelioration





THE REGISTRATION OF SLAVES


as would prepare them for final emancipation, but he did not say
that the present time was the fittest for such emancipation, which
would now be a curse, not a blessing, to the slave and to his
master ...
... it was to the construction put upon the bill itself by some of
the legislative assemblies of the colonies. He held in his hand three
Jamaica gazettes, in which it was openly avowed that registration
was only a cloak for emancipation. When these and such
misconstructions of the bill were industriously circulated in the
colonies, would it be said that a pamphlet published in London,
or speech in the House of Commons in favour of that measure, was
the real cause of whatever disturbances took place ? .
He did not hesitate to say, that the lower order of whites in
the colonies were the grossest and basest rabble that ever deserved
the name of human population ...

GEORGE CANNING: Far be it from him to doubt the omnipotence
of parliament, but he had always thought, as he still continues to
think, that the question on the latter subject ought not to be stirred
up, unless interference became absolutely necessary. When the
necessity for such interference should be proved to exist, his voice
would be fearlessly raised in its favour; but he would not anticipate
the arrival of that period at which so painful an exertion would be
imposed on the British parliament. He disapproved of the manner
in which the colonial assemblies had been spoken of. If there was
any idea of making use of them, it was not well that they should
be treated with so much contempt. If such a thought had been
entertained, so much pains ought not to have been taken to
degrade them.
The present address could not be misunderstood. It told the
colonial assemblies, 'you are safe for the present from the
interference of the British parliament, on the belief that left to
yourselves, you will do what is required of you'. To hold this
language was sufficient. The assemblies might be left to infer the
consequences of refusal, and parliament might rest satisfied with
the consciousness that they held in their hands the means of
accomplishing that which they had purposed. He again recommended
to his hon. friend the course which had been pointed out to him,
confident that it would answer every purpose, and that condition




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