HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO
IN COLLABORATION WITH
)F PUERTO RICO
BRITISH WEST INDIAN
(Select Documents from the
Office, London, England, relating to the Colo-
nies of Barbados, British Guiana, Jamaica and
Compiled and Edited
Trinidad Publishing Co., Ltd.,
Port-of-Spalh, Trinidad, B.W.I.
The documentary material on Caribbean history is widely scat-
tered in national, state, municipal and private libraries.in the United
Kingdom, France, the Netherlands, Spain, Denmark, Canada and
the United States of America. Some of this material has been made
accessible in printed form. The best known is the Calendar of State
Papers the Spanish and the Colonial Series. The private papers
and official correspondence of some leading statesmen and public
figures are also available, containing their views on West Indian
affairs in England, for example, Wellington, Castlereagh, Bathurst,
Canning, Grenville and Wilberforce; in the United States of America,
Jefferson, Franklin, and John Quincy Adams. Hakluyt, Navarrete,
Mufioz and, in more modern times, Irene Wright, have published
Collections of documents relating to voyages to the Caribbean during
the period of the Spanish monopoly. Through the Carnegie Institu-
ktion of Washington, Leo Stock has made available the debates in
Parliament on the American colonies, including the West Indies, froni
1542 to 1753. The same foundation sponsored Elizabeth Donnan's
Documents Illustrative of the History of the Slave Trade to America,
the first two volumes of which deal with the West Indies. The Archivo
Nacional in Cuba and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Domin-
ican Republic have published valuable documents from the Spanish
archives relating to their respective countries. The Centre of Histori-
al Studies of the University of Puerto Rico is currently engaged on
project for making microfilms and photostatic copies of similar
documents relating to Puerto Rico; the hope may be expressed that
these will be printed in the near future.
For the most part, the archival material on.the British West
ndies in the nineteenth century remains inaccessible. There are a
ew useful documents in Bell and Morrell's Select Documents on
ritish Colonial Policy, 1830-1860. The Historical Society of Trinidad
nd Tobago has published about 1,000 heterogeneous documents
rom local and other sources on the two islands; many of these relate
o the nineteenth century.*
Only a few copies of each document were printed. The majority are today
The present compilation of documents from the Public Record
Office, London, represents extracts from the official correspondence
between the Secretary of State for the Colonies and the Governors of
Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad and British Guiana, for the period 1807-
1833, that is, the period between the abolition of the slave trade and
the abolition of slavery. These extracts were collected by the editor
of this volume fourteen years ago, in the course of his research on a
doctoral dissertation on The. Economic Aspect of the Abolition of
the West Indian Slave Trade and Slavery ". While the subject
necessarily tended to restrict the scope of the extracts collected, the
collection was not made in any narrow economic sense.
These extracts have been organised into nine separate chapters,
some of which are sub-divided. Miscellaneous documents have been
relegated to an appendix, statistics to another, whilst the third
consists of documents from the Custom House, London, which relate
to one aspect of the subject treated in one of the chapters.
Each extract has been numbered and given a title. Every effort
has been made to keep the titles objective and unobjectionable; in
many cases they consist of a phrase or word taken from the docu-
ments themselves. The original spelling and punctuation have been
retained. The documents in each chapter or section of a chapter are
presented chronologically, with the source in parenthesis below the
title. The official despatch in those days was of the omnibus "
nature, and the modern system of a separate despatch for each
subject had not yet been introduced. Unless it was absolutely neces-
sary, no effort has been made to break up the despatches into their
various parts and present each part in its proper place- in the text.
Thus a document dealing with one main subject will be found to
contain statements on other subjects which are dealt with separately
The editor has been guided in his work by three general con-
siderations. The first is the importance of making accessible, to
students and interested citizens, both in the West Indies and outside,
basic data on West Indian history previously accessible only to
accredited students in the Public Record Office. The second is the
necessity of breaking down the insularity which hampers West Indian
progress; this presentation, by the Historical Society of Trinidad
and Tobago, in collaboration with the Social Science Research Centre
of the University of Puerto Rico, is intended to promote the cause
of Caribbean cooperation in its cultural aspect.
The final consideration is more personal and subjective in nature.
A former classmate of the editor, now a teacher at Queen's Royal
College, the government secondary school in Trinidad, remarked,
when shown some of the documents in page proof, that he never
knew that Viscount Castlereagh, whose policies have to be studied
in the history curriculum, had ever held the post of Secretary of State
for the Colonies. It is the editor's hope that these documents, by
throwing additional light on such statesmen as Castlereagh, Canning,
Liverpool, Huskisson and other leading figures of this period of British
history, will contribute materially to increasing their interest for
West Indian students and, thus, to vitalising the study and teaching
of history in the West Indies.
It is hoped, however, that the documents will have a wider appeal
than student bodies in the Caribbean and the metropolitan countries.
Many of the subjects treated are still vital issues in the British West
Indies today. If, in some fields, conditions have changed within the
past 125 years- for example, employment opportunities for immi-
grants in Trinidad and the persecution of the missionaries -, in
others the similarity is striking for example, the potentialities of
local food production. Trusteeship, self-government, trade with the
United States these questions are still to the fore. In times of crisis,
and especially in the world crisis of today, people have an instinctive
and overwhelming desire for some conception of historical develop-
ment and its application to contemporary questions. This is true of
the world at large and to a lesser extent of the Caribbean, where there
is an almost total lack of a historical sense. It is hoped that this book
will have some value for those who are trying to get some picture of
the past which will help to explain the problems of the present.
The Social Science Research Centre of the University of Puerto
Rico appreciated the opportunity of cooperating with the Historical
Society of Trinidad and Tobago in sponsoring this collection of
historical documents. The University of Puerto Rico has a consider-
able interest in the encouragement of historical study of the
Caribbean, a region which, with all its diversity of language, cultural
origins, and political jurisdictions, is nevertheless a place lived in by
people having many common situations and problems. The common
denominators make the history of the entire region of interest to the
people of Puerto Rico. The interest of the University of Puerto Rico
in the Caribbean is revealed in the Caribbean History Project
sponsored by the Social Science Research Centre, a project to collect
historical documents which enjoys the uniquely valuable services of
Dr. Eric Williams. This interest is revealed also in the work of the
Centre of Historical Studies, directed by Dr. Arturo Morales Carri6n,
which has for many years been collecting historical documents from
most of the great depositories in the United States, Mexico, Cuba and
Spain. It is because of this interest in historical research that the
University of Puerto Rico has appreciated the opportunity to join the
Historical Society of Trinidad and Tobago in sponsoring this
Social Science Research Centre,
University of Puerto Rico.
The Historical Society of Trinidad and Tobago
gratefully acknowledges the courtesy of the Deputy
Keeper of the Records, Public Record Office, London,
England, with whose permission this book is pub-
The Deputy Keeper, however, has no responsi-
bility for the book or for any errors, either of
commission or of omission.
The Emancipation Controversy
THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT
The Case for Crown Colony Government-The Slaves
The Colour Problem
Justice and Humanity .
The Happiness Of The Inhabitants
Equal Justice For All
The Local Assembly In A Crown Colony
Relations With The Self-Governing Colonies
Making Allowance For Prejudices .
Time The Great Healer
Abstract Claims .
Making Friends And Influencing People
No Precise Parallelism
The Whole Is Greater Than The Part
The Interests of Humanity .
The Imperial Programme
The Discipline Of The Whip
Importance Of Concurrence
"Ami Des Noirs" .
Six Day Week .. .
Temperate But Autho6ritative-Adinonition
The Protector of lakes .. -" .
The Necessity Of Cooperation .
SDevelopment And Welfare--:. .
Holding The BaIance .. .. .
The Implementation Of The Imperial Pr~gramme
The Executive .
29. The Infection of Correspondent Preju
Trouble And Expense
Plea For The Planters
The Planter's Difficulties
Compensation For The Planters
The Masters And The Slaves
Oppression Of The Planters
The Economics Of Punishment
Reasonable Grounds Of Indulgence
. .. 31
S .. 39
The Separation Of Functions
The Secretary Of State And A Colonial Governor
The Planters' Friends At Court
In Defence Of The Planters
Irreparable Injury To The Planters
Ultra Vires ..
The Judiciary .
Justice To The Slaves
Injustice To The Slaves
Dereliction Of Duty
Pour Encourager Les Autres
The Need Of An Incentive To Labour
"To Offend, And Judge, Are Distinct Office
Opposed Natures" .
The Infection Of Correspondent Prejudices
The Protector of Slaves
Walking Out of Court
The Ultimate End of Human Society
Applause Of The Community
An Independent Judiciary
The Registry Of Slaves
The Registration Of Slaves
The Problem Of Law Enforcement
Popular Indifference To Law
Defence Of A Subordinate
Apology For The Planters
"Mr. Mother Country"
Apologia Pro Sua Vita
Contumacy From Above
The Protector Of Slaves
The Separation Of Functions
The Appointments Problem
Protection Of The Slaves
The Recording Of Punishments
Economy In The Public Service
Economy In The Public Service
Thwarting The Government
The Emancipation Act
The Transition Period
,s And 0
: The Local View
: The Imperial Vie
Self-Government: The Theory
Subversive And Repugnant
The Shadow Of Authority
Government From A Distance
Inconsistent With The British
92. Village Hampden 85
93. Strictly Within The Province Of The Colonies 86
94. Edicts 87
95. No Legislation Without Representation 88
96. Chartered Rights .. 88
97. Arbitrary Mandates 89
98. Enforcement By The Imperial Parliament 89
99. No Confidence 90
100. Incompatible With Colonial Interests 90
101. Development Before Welfare 91
102. Invasion Of Private Property 91
103. Revolutionary Doctrine 92
104. Local Knowledge And Practical Experience 92
105. Dictatorial 93
106. Jamaicans Never Will Be Slaves 93
Self-Government: The Milieu 95
107. No Taxation Without Representation 95
108. The Power Of The Purse 95
109. The Executive And The Legislature 96
110. Moderation 96
111. Intemperance 97
112. Thwarting The Government 97
113. The Party Programme 98
114. Tenacity Of Opinion 99
115. Gradualism 100
116. Jealous Of Interference 100
117. Delicate Hand Needed 101
118. The Governor's Dilemma 102
119. Answer To Britain 102
120. Unless Forced On The Colonies 104
121. "Compulsatory" Measures Needed 105
122. Give Them Time 105
123. Fear Of Irritating 106
124. Resistance To Interference 106
125. Non-Cooperation 107
126. Improper Disposition 108
127. Angry Feeling 109
128. Creole Prejudice 110
129. Estimate Of The Negro Character 111
130. Irreconcilables 112
131. Voice In The Wilderness 112
132. The Times Are Out Of Joint 113
133. Marked Disrespect 113
134. Town Meeting 114
135. The Fallacy Of Parliamentary Omnipotence 114
136. Not Apostles And Missionaries 114
137. Instant Irritation 115
138. Imprudent 115
139. Uncomfortably Warm 116
140. The Times Require 116
141. Very Short Of Expectations 117
142. All Dutch To Them 117
143. Gloomy Apprehensions 118
14i. Convincing The Ignorant 119
145 Reply to the Abolitionists 119
146. Persuasion 120
147. Unaccountable Jealousy 120
148. The Lamont Plan 121
149. Planter Democracy 121
Victory For The Planters
Tending To Error
Threatening The Colonies
A Very Difficult Task
The Whip .
What Toucheth All Should Be Approved
The General Will Is Not Free
The Custom Of The Whip
The Flogging Of The Gentler Sex
Leave It To Public Opinion
Subversive Of Discipline
The Colonial Climate
Humanity Of Flogging
Rights Of Women
The Infirmities Of Human Nature
Overshooting The Mark
Bad Example .
Crime And Punishment
Noblesse Oblige .
Pour Decourager Les Autres
Respect For Law
Statistics Of Punishment
Discipline Of The Whip
The Temper Of The Legislature
No Disposition To Cooperate
Embarrassment Of The Power Of The Purse
Sanguine Hope .
Only A Vestige .
Calm And Temperate Investigation
Excitement And Alarm
Urging The Planters
The Warner Plan
Last Ditch Stand
Delegation To England
Those Whom The Gods Wish To Destroy
The Horns Of The Dilemma
Self-Government: The Practice
The Registry Bill .
Infringement Of Our Rights
S .- 149
206. Necessity Of The Whip
207. -The Quality Of Mercy Is Strained
208. Frightful Powers Of Slavery
Regulation Of Labour
209. Dread Of Innovation .
210. State Of The Nation
211. Invasion of Property
212. Pas de Z6e .
213. Extravagant .
214. Compromise .
217. Freedom Slowly Broadening Down
218. Out Of The Reach Of The Slaves
219. Non-Violent Non-Cooperation
220. Manumission And Appraisement
221. Persistent Contumacy
222. Not Contemplated
223. The Views Of The Absentee Interests
224. High Appraisements
225. Impasse .
226. Unpopular Cause
227. Goodwill Of The Owners
Evidence Of Slaves In Courts Of Law
228. Public Clamour .
229. Hope .
230. Property Versus Humanity
231. The Bill Was Lost
232. Voluntary Amelioration
Negro Regiments .
234. Dislike And Distrust
235. The Governor's Dilemma
236. Trinidad And Regional Action
237. Regional Conference
238. Spirit Of Independence
239. When In The Course Of Human Events
240. Taking No Chances
241. The Transcendental Power
242. Declaration Of Independence
243. Arrogant Pretensions
244. View Of Empire
245. Rebellion Is Their Object
The Emancipation Act
246. Overawing Opposition
247. Announcement Of Emancipation
248. Little Sugar Dominions
249. Barbados Versus The Rest
250. Sugaring The Pill
251. Barbados First .
252. Not United .
CHAPTER III THE SLAVES
(a) Great Expectations
253. Speeches In Parliament 181
254. Ill Disposed Negroes 181
255. Interpretation Of Parliamentary Proceedings 181
256. Wilberforce The Deliverer 182
257. Subversive Propaganda 183
258. Counter Propaganda 183
259. Their Favourite Creed 183.
260. False Reports 184
261. False Inferences 185
262. Dangerous Impressions 185
263. False Impressions 186
264. Feverish Anxiety 186
265. The Ashes Of Discontent 186
266. Vague Expectation 187
267. Delusion 187
268. Sullen And Unsatisfied 188
269. Watchful Waiting 189
270. Erroneous Reports 189
271. The Grapevine 190
272. Mutual Confidence ? 190
273. Prevalent Belief 191
274. Bringing Out Emancipation 191
275. The Third Party 191
276. Apparent Contentment 192
277. Cruelty Of Suspense 192
278. State of Delusion 192
(b) The Revolts Of The Slaves 193
(i) The Danger 193
279. The Price Of Slavery Is Eternal Vigilance 193
280. Subversive Publications 194
281. Permanent Revolution 194
(ii) Jamaica, 1807 194
282. The Example Of St. Domingo 194
283. Rebellious Principles 195
(iii) British Guiana, 1808 195
284. The Most Sensible Slaves 195
(iv) Barbados, 1816 196
285. United Front 196
286. Outwardly Calm 196
287. Rights Of Man 197
288. Help 197
289. Alarm In Jamaica 198
290. Anxiety In Trinidad 199
291. The Only Efficient Remedy 199
292. Imperial Disapproval 199
(v) British Guiana, 1823 200
293. During Good Behaviour 200
294. Unconditional Emancipation 201
295. The Ball Has Begun To Roll 201
296. Universal Agitation 202
297. Prevention Is Better Than Suppression 202
298. The Trial Of Missionary Smith 203
299. Seditious Conversation 203
300. The Conviction Of Missionary Smith 204
301. Rum And Rebellion 204
302. Question And Answer 205
(vi) Jamaica, 1824 205
303. The Aftermath Of Rebellion 205
304. Vindication Of Their Rights 205
"Amis Des Noirs"
On The Brink Of Danger
Not To Be Trusted
The Cost Of Revolution
CHAPTER IV THE FREE PEOPLE OF COLOUR
309. The Political Circumstances Of The Wes
310. The Buffer
311. The Population Danger
312. Near-Whites .
313. Imperial Approbation
314. On And On And On
315. Up And Up And Up
316. Ban On Intermarriage
317. Racial Segregation
318. Outposts Of Empire
319. The Colour Line
320. The Rise Of The Coloured Professional
321. That Way Madness Lies
322. The Dilemma .
323. Immigration From Canada
324. United Front Of Whites And Mulattoes
325. The Bogey Of St. Domingo
326. Intermarriage .
327. Illegitimacy .
328. Trial By Jury And The Colour Problem
329. White Ascendancy
330. Disabilities .
331. Jealousy .
332. The Demand For Equality
333. Trusteeship .
334. Career Open To Talent
335. Fair Employment Practice .
336. Loyalty To The -Government .
337. Loyal British Subjects .
338. Vision Of The Future .
339. Blind Bigotry .
THE CHURCH .
The British Government And Religious Toleration
The Veto Power : In Theory
The Veto Power: In Practice
Power of Restraint
Invasion Of Toleration .
Invidious Distinction .
Religious Instruction For The Slaves
The Church Diligent
Breaking The Sabbath
Infra Dig .
Force Of Example
Church Or Market ?
Padlock And Wedlock
Religious Instruction Of The Slaves
In The Interests Of The Planters
The Missionaries In The Colonies
The Duty Of Obedience
Slaves Of Sin
The General Will In England
Objections To The Missionaries
Loosening The Bonds Of Authority
The Consolations Of Religion .
Their Temper And Pertinacity
Propriety Of Restraint
Needed: A Bishop
Plea For Imperial Protection
Designing And Intriguing Emissaries
The Missionaries And The British
Disturbance Of The Peace
Religion And Rebellion
Down With Methodism!
Protection Of The Missionaries
Public Opinion And The Missionaries
Protecting The Missionaries
Violent Men .
Colonial Church Union
Calumny And Misrepresentation
Part II Some West Indian Economic Problems
CHAPTER VI THE LABOUR PROBLEM IN BRITISH GUIANA AND TRINIDAD
(a) The Legislation For The Abolition Of The Slave Trade
397. Enemy Propaganda
398. The Threat To The Older Settlements
399. Abolition Of The Slave Trade And The New
The Advantages Of Union In British Guiana
The Traffic In Domestic Servants And Its
The Need Of Labour In Trinidad
The Economic Superiority Of British Guiana
The Labour Needs Of Trinidad
Humanity, Equity And Policy .
The Labour Problem In British Guiana
Revenue From Immigration
Encouragement Of Livestock
State Aid For Immigration
,~Ihe Advantages Of Trinidad
For The Good Of The Older Colonies
For The Good Of The Newer Colonies
For The Good Of The Slaves
Terms Of Removal
Restriction Of Sugar Cultivation ?
Opposition To Restriction Of Sugar Cultivation
Propriety And Justice .
Policy And Humanity .
Defence Of Sugar Cultivation
Planned Population .
Comparison Of Trinidad And The Older Settlements
For The Good Of The Slaves In The Smaller Islands
Those Wretched Colonies.
The Mountain Must Go To Mahomet
Essential To The Well Being Of The Slaves
Overpopulation And Emigration In Barbados
Redressing The Distribution Of Labour In The West
Of Great Benefit To The Slaves
The Government's Opportunity
YSoil Exhaustion In The Small Islands
Watching Brief .
Jealous And Fastidious Supervision
The Attitude Of The Planters
The Government's Dilemma .
Opposition To The Terms Of Removal
Deporting Undesirables .
The Illegal Traffic .
Not Guilty .
Going Much Purther .
The Situation Of British Guiana
Protecting The Older Settlements
The Ban On Foreign Slaves
Honduras And The West Indies
Watching Brief .
The Problem Of British Guiana
The "Dred Scott" Decision Of Barbados
CHAPTER VII MONOCULTURE OR DIVERSIFICATION ?
(a) Sugar .
489. The Declining Sugar Economy
490. Distress Of The Sugar Planters
491. Debts Of The Planters
492. The Plight Of Sugar And Coffee
493. Plea For The Speediest Relief .
494. East India Sugar
495. The Right To The Sugar Monopoly Of
496. Depression In The Sugar Industry
497. Depreciation Of West Indian Property
498. The Fall Of The Planter Class
The Rise Of Cocoa
The Possibilities Of Cocoa
The Happy Life Of Cocoa
The Obstacle To Cocoa
Plea For Cocoa
The Advantages Of Cocoa
The Case For Cocoa
The Cocoa Policy Of The Government
Cocoa And The Slaves
Cocoa vs. Sugar
Distress Of The Cocoa Planters
The Illegal Trade .
Not My Fault .
Your Fault .
Their Fault .
His Fault .
There's No Accounting For Taste
The Grounds For Fraud
Unpopular And Difficult
Severe Scrutiny .
Room For Suspicion .
The Basis Of Fraud .
Mala Fides .
Contrary To The Wishes Of The Slaves
Apologia Pro Sua Vita
Too Little Scruple .
Supply And Demand
The General Will
Case For The Prosecution
Pour Encourager Les Autres
Invidious And Disagreeable Task
Man Of Straw .
511. From Cocoa Back To Sugar
512. Protection For The Cocoa Planter
(c) Cotton .
513. Cotton Potentialities
514. Decline Of Cotton
(d) Local Food Production
515. The Food Basket Of The West Indies
516. The Problem Of Local Food Production
517. The Difficulties Of Local Food Production
518. Possibilities Of Livestock
519. The Policy Of Diversification
520. Livestock Policy
521. Sugar, Food Crops And The Slaves
CHAPTER VIII THE ORDEAL OF FREE LABOUR
522. The Writing On The Wall
523. Vision Of The Future
524. White Immigration
525. Conditions Of White Immigration
526. Novelty .
527. Sugar By Free Labour
528. Communal Property
529. White Labour And Cocoa
CHAPTER IX OPEN OR RESTRICTED TRADE ?
530. Trade With South America
531. Plus Ca Change, Plus C'est La M6me Chose
532. Free Trade .
533. War And Trade In The West Indies
534. Scarcity Of Provisions
535. United States Trade
536. Lumber .
537. Import Restrictions
538. Import Controls .
539. Free Port .
540. Freedom Of Trade
541. Plea For Relaxation Of Trade Controls
542. Import Duties And The Revenue
543. British Guiana And Trade Liberalisation
544. Designing Men .
545. Trade With The United States
546. Duties On Imports From The U.S.A.
547. Restrictions On United States Trade
548. Trade Liberalisation
549. Those Halcyon Days
550. The Commercial Prospects Of Trinidad
Relations With Latin America
Independence Of The Spanish Colonies
In Case .
If France Had Spain, It Should Not Be Spain With
The Indies .
South American Independence And British Trade
The Fear Of Haiti .
No Annexations .
West Indian Society
Oxford And Cambridge
Canada Or Barbados ?
Crime And Punishment
The Industry Of The Slaves
The Foreign Slave Trade
Royal Visit To The West Indies
To The Rescue Of Barbados
SELECT DOCUMENTS FROM THE CUSTOM HOUSE, LONDON,
ILLUSTRATING THE INTERCOLONIAL TRADE IN
DOMESTIC SLAVES .
MISCELLANEOUS STATISTICS .
Vital Statistics .
Table 1 Trinidad
Table 2 Slave Population, Trinidad, 1808 1811
Table 3 British Guiana .
Births and Deaths .
Table 4 Slave Births And Deaths, Trinidad
Table 5 Deaths In Georgetown And Precincts,
British Guiana .
- Plantation Statistics, Trinidad
.L U e .
Table 10 Exports Of Cocoa, Trinidad, 1825 1827
Table 11 Exports Of Agricultural Produce And
Table 12 Exports And Imports, Trinidad
Slaves Sold Under Execution For Debt
Table 13 British Guiana .
Table 14 Jamaica
Table 15 Trinidad .
Table 16 Wages For Sunday
Table 17 Trinidad
Table 18 Jamaica
Table 19 British Guiana
Table 20 Slave Offences, T
Table 21 Poor Relief. Trini
Table 22 -
Baptism Of PlantE
Labour Of Slaves,
GLOSSARY OF PROPER NAMES
THE EMANCIPATION CONTROVERSY
THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT
The period under review is of importance in the constitutional history of
the Caribbean for a significant departure in British colonial policy--the
institution of the Crown colony system of government. As with all such
questions, the underlying motives were mixed. Public opinion in England
was pressing for colonial reforms. The experience of the twenty years before
the abolition of the slave trade in 1807 by the British Parliament proved the
unwillingness of the slave owners to cooperate in the abolition of slavery from
above. The Haitian revolution emphasised the danger of the abolition of
slavery from below. In Trinidad, in addition, there were racial considerations
involved (1).* For these varied reasons, the British Government decided not
to grant sellf-governing institutions to the colonies annexed during the long
war with France Trinidad, British Guiana and St. Lucia. Instead, the
Crown legislated by order in council, the nominated member replaced the
elected, and the local assemblies were relegated to a subordinate position (6).
It was in this framework that the British Government adopted and
announced its policy of amelioration for mitigating the excesses of slavery
and bridging the gap between slavery and freedom. Various reforms were
agreed upon by Parliament (19-27), which were sent to the colonies with the
"temperate but authoritative admonition" of the British Government the
phrase of George Canning, Prime Minister. The admonition was authorita-
tive vis-d-vis the Crown colonies, and temperate with respect to the self-
governing colonies. As regards the former especially Trinidad, which
served as the model--simple directives were issued, though there was no
objection to sugaring the pill (27). As regards the latter, the British Gov-
ernment, recalling the American Revolution, trod warily, presented recom-
mendations, emphasised tact (11-13, 26), and tried to eschew discussion of
the constitutional issues involved (7-10, 14-18).
The general policy adopted by the British Government may be summed
up as the policy of trusteeship (4-5), with en attempt to hold the balance
between the planters and the slaves t28).
One of the chief difficulties encountered by the British Government in
the implementation of its programme was the sympathy of the executive
officers for the plantocracy. This was particularly true of officers recruited
locally (34), especially the judiciary (49-65), and the Governor was frequently
thwarted by his subordinates (83). But even the Governor, appointed from
abroad, was not immune. One explanation is to be found in the fact that
these officers, responsible for the execution of a policy designed to modify or
alter the existing slave system, were themselves allowed to own slaves (43, 56,
58, 77), and so were inevitably exposed to "the infection of correspondent
prejudices" (29). But this explanation is hardly adequate to account for the
arguments repeatedly adduced by Governor Woodford of Trinidad against the
imperial legislation (30-33, 36-37, 39-40, 42, 45, 68-72). Where, in self-
governing Jamaica, the British Government had to contend with an adamant
legislature of planters, in the Crown colony of Trinidad it had to deal with
a governor who was virtually the self-constituted spokesman of the planto-
The numbers in parentheses refer to the documents.
4 DOCUMENTS ON BRITISH WEST INDIAN HISTORY, 1807-1833
The policy of trusteeship thus necessitated a strict scrutiny of the acts
of the imperial representatives in the colonies. The task fell chiefly on the
able and willing shoulders of James Stephen, one of the first Permanent
Under Secretaries of the Colonial Office, member of a family prominent in
the abolitionist movement. Scoffed at as "Mr. Mother Country" by Gibbon
Wakefield and the other colonial reformers of the period, Stephen's super-
vision, whatever the criticisms which could be levelled at it in Australia and
elsewhere, was an important fact to be reckoned with in the British West
Indies (67). He was thorough to the most minute details (73). He was also
a clear thinker and a man of vision, and there is no finer sentence in the
literature of trusteeship than this: "The ultimate end of human society -
the security of life, property and reputation, must be preferred to its subor-
dinate ends the enjoyment of particular franchises (62). Placing princi-
ples above prejudices, Stephen saw the solution of the problem of recruiting
sympathetic officials not in the appointment of officials from England (59, 78).
but in the admission of the free people of colour and in the "enlargement of
popular rights ... (to) enlist the mass of society on the side of their rulers"
(62). A comparison of this view with that of one of his colleagues (63)
shows the full stature of the man and the breadth of his perspective.
BELL, K. N. and MORRELL, W. P., Select Documents on British Colonial
Policy, 1830-1860, Oxford, 1928, pp. 372-395.
BURN, W. L., Emancipation and Apprenticeship in the British West Indies,
London, 1937, pp. 55-64, 77-82.
BUXTON, C.. Memoirs of Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton, Baronet, London, 1848,
CLEMENTI, Sir C., A Constitutional History of British Guiana, London, 1937,
COUPLAND, Sir R., Wilberforce, A Narrative, Oxford, 1923, pp. 454-456,
COUPLAND, Sir R., The British Anti-Slavery Movement, London, 1933, pp.
FRASER, L. M., History of Trinidad, Trinidad, 1896, II, 276-285, 317-323.
MANNING, H. T., British Colonial Government after the American Revolu-
tion, 1782-1820, New Haven, U.S.A., pp. 100-126, 150-165, 339-392.
MATHIESON, W. L., British Slavery and its Abolition, 1823-1838, London,
1926, pp. 115-242.
RAGATZ, L. J., The Fall of the Planter Class in the British Caribbean, 1763-
1833, New York. 1928. pp. 384-393, 408-420, 441-443.
SCHOMBURGK, Sir R H The History of Barbados, London, 1848, 394-399,
SCHUYLER, R. L., Parliament and the British Empire, New York, 1929, pp.
WILLIAMS, Eric, Capitalism and Slavery, Chapel Hill, N.C., 1944, pp. 180,
THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT
1. THE CASE FOR CROWN COLONY GOVERNMENT THE SLAVES
(Trinidad C.O. 295/24, Chief Judge to Liverpool, Feb. 14, 1810)
(Arguing against the introduction of the British Constitution)
It is incompatible with the vital principle of colonial existence
S. The vital principle of colonial existence is slavery in which state
are to be found five-sixths of the inhabitants of every colony. Freedom
is the exception in favor of two-thirds of the remaining sixth, and
Liberty, as we understand it, a privilege only attaching to the re-
mainder. Such is the picture of our population. Five-sixths slaves,
two-thirds of the remaining sixth free people of color in a state of
degradation, and the remainder free white inhabitants, reducing the
latter description to about one-eighteenth of the whole population,
and after deducting the number of women and children leaving the
adult male population of free white inhabitants not more than one-
thirtieth part of the whole.
In the present circumstances of our colonies, deprived by the
Abolition of the Slave Trade of all resources for increasing the num-
ber of their labourers save that of increasing by their own popu-
lation, policy not less than humanity calls aloud for.such a system
of government as may insure to this class of human creatures the
protection which is essential to their increase, a practical not a nomi-
nal protection. This protection can only be afforded by an authority
over which the master of the slave has no control and to which he
must submit .
The English interest under any other head of cultivation except
coffee is nothing, and in that article they grow about one-fifth of the
whole crop. The French and Spaniards grow all the cocoa and the
French and colored people grow all the cotton. So that it appears
that in the sugar cultivation the foreigners with less capital and
less strength than the English produce more sugar and are almost
exclusively the promoters of all the other articles cultivated in the
I DOCUMENTS ON BRITISH WEST INDIAN HISTORY, 180o-1839
2. THE COLOUR PROBLEM
(Trinidad. C.O. 295/27, Liverpool to Gov. Hislop, Nov. 27, 1810)
The question proposed for decision has no necessary reference
to the state of things which has existed for so many years in the
old West India islands, but may be stated to amount to this:
whether in a new colony, in which the rights of the Crown and of
Parliament must be admitted on all hands to be entire, it would be
advisable to surrender those rights in whole or in part and to establish
a system of government analogous to those of the other West India
Even if the circumstances of Trinidad were in all respects much
more nearly the same with those of the other West India Colonies
than they unquestionably are, the determination of Government
would probably be to negative such a proposition; but it so happens,
that the circumstances of the Island of Trinidad are in many respects
so materially different from those of all the other West India Colo-
nies, that supposing the system of government established in those
islands to be the best which could be afforded to them in their
situation, it would not follow that the same system could be rendered
applicable, either in justice or in policy, to the Island of Trinidad.
In all the West India Colonies, except Dominica, whites form the
great majority of free people, and the political rights and privileges
of all descriptions have been enjoyed exclusively by them. In Trini-
dad people of colour form the majority of free inhabitants ..
3. JUSTICE AND HUMANITY
(British Guiana. C.O. 111/12, Acting Gov. Carmichael to Liverpool,
May 15, 1812)
A planter of some property nam'd Jaffray an Englishman is
accused of cruelties of the most inhuman nature. He is ordered for
immediate trial and I shall preside upon this painful duty and report
the result to Your Lordship. At the present crisis exclusive of the
National characteristic justice and humanity policy demands at this
juncture merciful treatment of the negroes and not furnish them
with pretence for revolt. It is said the adjoining Spaniards at the
Orinoco have freed and arm'd their slaves.
THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT
4. THE HAPPINESS OF THE INHABITANTS
(Trinidad. C.O. 295/47, Colonial Office draft to.Marryat, Jan. 23,1818)
I am directed by Lord B. to inform you that he has from time
to time recommended alterations in the law of Trinidad and is
always disposed to do so whenever he is satisfied that by such
alterations the happiness and interests of the inhabitants will be
consulted or improved .His Lordship is desirous that you should
distinctly understand that he cannot hold out any expectation of
his recommending the introduction into Trinidad of the British
Colonial law of the West Indies.
5. EQUAL JUSTICE FOR ALL
(Jamaica. C.O. 137/179, Gov. Belmore to Goderich, Sept. 20, 1831)
I have particularly noticed Your Lordship's very just observa-
tions on the duty which is imposed on magistrates of never disregard-
ing any application which may be made to them for a prompt and
impartial enquiry into any act of injustice or oppression which may
be brought to their notice.
6. THE LOOAL ASSEMBLY IN A CROWN COLONY
(Trinidad. C.O. 295/92, Gov. Grant to Goderich, Jan. 13, 1832)
With every respect for the illustrious Board of Cabildo I would
never allow that it could claim any right whatever to interfere in
matters connected with the general affairs of the colony or with
His Majesty's commands regarding them I considered the powers
of the Board to be entirely of a municipal kind, chiefly confined to
the town of Port d'Espagne, and that, on all points confined to .this,
I should be happy to take their opinion and have their cooperation...
(b) Relations with the Self-Governing Colonies
7. IMPERIAL SUPERINTENDENCY
(Jamaica, C.O. 137/121, Castlereagh to Gov. Manchester, Jan. 19,
It is with much concern that His Majesty has observed the tone
of the Resolutions, which have been lately entered into by the As-
8 DOCUMENTS ON BRITISH WEST INDIAN HISTORY, 180-1938
sembly of Jamaica on the subject of the Law for the abolition of the
Slave Trade; but He trusts they may be considered as merely
temporary effusions of warmth upon a measure which they consider,
however erroneously, destructive to their personal interests and not
as deliberate Resolutions for their permanent conduct.
In this view of the proceeding of the Assembly it is not wished
that any formal notice should be pointedly taken, which would make
it necessary to enter into further discussion of the legislative right
of control and superintendance of the Imperial Parliament in all
cases where taxation is not concerned. That superintendance will
never be exercised but in cases conducive to the true liberties of
the island, and for the increase of all the classes which inhabit it,
and which are all entitled in their several relations to the protecting
care of the Mother Country.
At a time like the present, when it is found that by the too
great increase of colonial produce, the markets of the world are
overstocked, and the price proportionably reduced, an experiment
for putting an end to a traffic, attended always with inhumanity
and injustice, might be tried with the least possible damage to the
interest of the colonies; it becomes in this case the interest of the
West India planter to prevent the increase of cultivation and the
breaking up of new lands. The existing stock of negro labourers
being sufficient for a cultivation, found already too extensive, it
naturally occurred that by due attention to management and morals
the present number of slaves might be kept up without further
importation :- and as it is known that on several estates the negro
population increases, it is believed that by due management that
increase may be made general. His Majesty therefore feels a just
confidence that when the first moments of apprehension and alarm
shall have subsided the subject will be considered in its true light,
and as the Planter must see that a more extensive cultivation will
merely tend still more to clog the markets and reduce the price of
commodities they will be reconciled to a measure which excites them
to a generous attention to their labourers as the surest means to
maintain and increase their number.
This consideration leads me to exhort Your Grace to use all
your influence for increasing the growth of provisions in the island.
There have been instituted agricultural societies at Tobago and St.
Vincent which are producing the most beneficial effects, and possibly
an institution of a similar nature in Jamaica, if well modelled and
confined to its true object, may lead to many plans of improvement.
THE RITISH GOVERNMENT
I am also to direct Your Grace to recommend the utmost at-
tention to the increase of marriages among the slaves and to the
rearing of the children .
It might also be attended with good effect if a premium were
held out to the planter who, -at the expiration of five years from the
present time, should have the greatest number of children alive,
which shall have been born within the period in proportion to the
number of his slaves.
Under the pressure of a war which has been so long carried on
with so short an interval of peace it was to be expected that every
part of His Majesty's dominions should experience some inconven-
ience and distress; and Jamaica would naturally be exposed to a
part of the evils which were the inevitable result of a state of hostili-
ties; but altho' from the complaints which have arisen there is reason
to believe that the profits of many individuals have been diminished,
and that personal embarrassment has in many instances been great,
yet from the increase of the exports of the island and the demand for
slaves there is every reason to believe that its general prosperity
has not suffered: and His Majesty feels assured that he shall never
want the zeal and loyalty of His Subjects of Jamaica in assisting
every exertion which may tend to bring to a successful termination
the present arduous contest nor find them less disposed to
submit to those privations which the rest of his subjects are so
ready to endure, should necessity demand the sacrifice.
That His Majesty has not been inattentive to the interests of
his subjects in Jamaica will I trust fully appear from the recent
Orders in Council, and which it is trusted will entirely counteract
that preference in the European markets which the enemy had en-
deavoured to establish for the produce of their colonies, and restore
that just competition in foreign as well as that monopoly of the
British market which it has been the continued policy of Great
Britain to preserve.
8. MAKING ALLOWANCES FOR PREJUDICES
(Jamaica. C.O. 137/122, Castlereagh to Gov. Manchester, Sept. 8,
The representations and resolutions whrch have been made and
passed by the Assembly of Jamaica upon the Act for the Abolition
of the Slave Trade have been taken into full consideration by His
10 DOCUMENTS ON BRITISH WEST INDIAN HISTORY, 1807-1833
From the feelings which had early shown themselves upon the
subject by which His Majesty's colonists conceived their interests
would be deeply injured, it was not to be expected that the Act
could have been received with satisfaction. But it was hoped, when
once the Legislature of Great Britain had after repeated and long
investigation and after the most solemn and reiterated discussions
come to a final determination on the principle of the Slave Trade,
and resolved never to permit for the future the exercise of a traffic
so contrary to the dictates of humanity, that the white inhabitants
and Legislature of Jamaica would not only have acquiesced in the
measure, but have assisted in carrying it into effect.
As however a different temper has shown itself and the white
inhabitants and Legislature of Jamaica seem disposed to resent as
far as it is possible the conduct of the British Parliament in passing
the law for the Abolition of the Slave Trade and to raise opposition
upon what they term a constitutional principle; it seems adviseable
in a certain degree to soothe their prejudices and to allow time for
good sense and moderation to return and operate .
It is trusted that the Assembly of Jamaica can by no means
wish to bring to issue the point which they have assumed in their
Resolutions viz. that there is no authority in the British Parliament
to pass laws which have an internal operation within the Island. It
can never be their wish, depending as they do for their daily exist-
ence upon the force voted for their protection by the British Parlia-
ment, to assume principles which seem incompatible with their re-
ceiving that assistance. Nor do I conceive they would wish to assume
a principle still more difficult to be maintained, that they have a
right to withdraw the aid they have given for a series of years in
contributing to the support of a protecting force and at the same
time to demand the continuance and possibly the increase of it ...
So long as they expect a system.to be maintained which must con-
tinually call upon Great Britain for the employment in an unhealthy
climate of the best European soldiers for their protection, it seems
irreconcilable to any consistent principle that they should resort to
a punctilio of total independence of the British Parliament when
they claim as a right to be protected by the very forces which are
levied by her authority.
Upon the principle assumed in the Resolutions of the Assembly
of Jamaica the Mutiny Bill of Great Britain ought to be more an
object of their jealousy than the act for the Abolition of the Slave
Trade; and as its operation is totally internal and interferes more
THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT
with the privilege and laws of the island than any one law what-
soever, their objection to its operation within Jamaica ought to be
proportionably more violent.
However therefore it is justly considered that the language
adopted in the Resolutions of the Assembly of Jamaica is neither
reconcileable to constitutional usage nor to the interest and safety
of Jamaica, yet as I have before mentioned there is a wish in His
Majesty's servants to make allowances for prejudices and to leave
room for the operation of good sense and moderation .
Your Grace will use such private occasions as may be in your
power to explain to well disposed members the sentiments of His
Majesty's Government as they are detailed in this dispatch and you
will represent how anxious His Majesty's Government is at all times
to avoid all angry discussion upon legislative measures and principles
and how reluctant they must ever feel to enter into arguments which
by showing the situation of the white inhabitants of Jamaica in its
true light must place them in a point of weakness and dependance
which would essentially tend to lower those prejudices of superiority
upon which they conceive their authority over the coloured inhabi-
tants principally to rest.
9. TIME THE GREAT HEALER
(Jamaica, C.O. 137/124, Castlereagh to Gov. Manchester, Secret, Feb.
From the circumstances reported by Your Grace and a recol-
lection of the many recent occasions on which the temper of the
Assembly of Jamaica has been evinced, I can have no doubt'that
their conduct upon the late occasion* has grown in a great measure
out of other considerations than those which are avowed.
It is clear from the Resolutions which the Assembly have come
to, and which appear in their Minutes that impatience under
the laws enacted by the Imperial Parliament for the Abolition of
the Slave Trade is the true cause of their discontent, and the govern-
ing principle, which, till Time shall reconcile them to so fundamental
a change in their internal policy, must be expected to give rise to
frequent embarrassments in the administration of the Government.
An assertion that they had the right to summon the officers and privates
of his Majesty's troops to attend them.
1N DOCUMENTS ON tRITISH WEST INDIAN HISTORY, 1807-1838
But in proportion as this is likely to be the case, and as it is
probable that the rights now asserted by the Assembly may be
claimed with a view to their being hereafter brought forward and
applied to other and more important objects than that of merely
enquiring (as they have a right and as it is their duty to do) into
matters affecting in their judgment the internal peace and security
of the island, and on which they may have it in their contemplation
to tender for His Majesty's gracious consideration some representa-
tion or legislative proceeding, it becomes the more important to meet
these claims of right when they are connected with the actual mea-
sures which the Assembly may think fit to originate, rather than to
contest them as a bar to their general powers of enquiry.
Your Grace will feel the importance, under the peculiar circum-
stances above stated, of not committing the authority of Govern-
ment upon points of inferior importance. Unfounded claims of right
must not be admitted, but every endeavour must be made to avoid
their being brought unnecessarily to issue, when the true design may
be disguised under popular and plausible pretences.
Whatever the people of Jamaica may have felt on the question
of the Slave Trade, they cannot suppose it possible that any change
can now take place on a point so gravely and deliberately decided
upon by the Imperial Parliament with the general concurrence and
support of the British nation. It becomes them therefore in good
sense to submit, and to meet the change of system which has taken
place with a determination to draw from it all the advantages of
which under proper regulations it may be capable .
Your Grace will, I have no doubt, perfectly enter into the
views of policy which His Majesty's Ministers deem it necessary
to pursue at the present moment towards Jamaica, and I should
hope that what has passed will not make it painful to Your Grace
to adopt towards the Assembly the same line of conduct, as if nothing
had occurred to interrupt your former harmony.
10. ABSTRACT CLAIMS
(Jamaica. C.O. 137/124, Castlereagh to Gov. Manchester, Feb. 20,
His Majesty sensibly regrets that any point of a collateral and
incidental nature should have occurred to disturb the harmony of
Your Grace's intercourse with the House of Assembly, and to arrest
their progress whilst proceeding to make provision for the exigencies
of the public service.
THE lBRITISH GOVERNMENT T
It is the more to be regretted as the discussions which have
arisen therefrom have led to the assertion on the part of the Assembly
of abstract claims to constitutional rights which it is impossible to
admit in the extent to which they have been stated in the Minutes
of their Proceedings, and which it is equally unnecessary and impoli-
tic to bring into discussion at the present moment, independent of
their practical application to any particular measure.
11. CONCILIATORY APPROACH
(Jamaica. C.O. 137/142, Gov. Manchester to Bathurst, Sept. 6, 1816)
Your Lordship may be assured that I shall avail myself of the
conciliatory terms in which Your Lordship's instructions are conveyed
in bringing before the Assembly the necessity of passing a Registry
Bill here, and I hope this important object may be obtained in a
manner which may justify the expectation of His Majesty's Govern-
ment and be creditable to the colony.
12. MAKING FRIENDS AND INFLUENCING PEOPLE
(Jamaica. C.O. 137/154, Gov.AManchester to Bathurst, Aug. 11, 1823)
I shall pay the strictest attention to such instructions as I have
or may receive and shall employ any influence which I may
possess with the leading gentlemen in the island to induce them
to revise the slave code with a view of meliorating the condition of
the slave population by all practicable measures and of satisfying the
expectations of His Majesty's Government and Parliament upon a
question which has excited so great a degree of interest in the public
13. UNUSUAL PROCEDURE
(Jamaica. C.O. 137/163, Gov. Manchester to Bathurst, Private, May
receipt of despatch of 13 March, stating that with a view
of enabling me to bring under the consideration of the New Assembly
in a more distinct shape the several measures contemplated by His
Majesty's Government for the improvement of the slave population
14 DOCUMENTS ON BRITISH WEST INDIAN HISTORY, 1807-1833
it is Your Lordship's intention that as soon as I shall receive your
further instructions proper steps are to be taken for having bills
drawn up here for carrying these measures severally into effect in
such manner as may be most conformable to the existing laws of
Jamaica: and that I am to cause these bills when duly prepared
to be brought under the consideration of the Assembly so that the
Assembly may have them separately before them and either pass
them in the shape in which they shall be introduced or make such
amendments or modifications of their provisions as the Assembly
may deem expedient.
... I think it may be proper to observe that it has not been
usual in communicating to the Assembly any measure which His
Majesty's Government may desire that they should adopt, to embody
such proposition in the shape of a bill. In the case of the Registry
Bill though one had been prepared by the West India body in
London, the House refused to notice it and I am apprehensive that
they might, were Bills brought before them, avail themselves of
that plea to reject the propositions of Government without further
consideration. Indeed I know no person here except the Attorney
General to whom I could apply to prepare such bills and I should
be still more at a loss to find members to introduce them into the
Assembly, as the only members on whom the Crown can exercise
any direct influence in the House are the Advocate General and
the Judge of the Vice Admiralty The former particularly hostile
to the measure of receiving the evidence of slaves and the latter
has been twice unsuccessful in his endeavours to induce the Assembly
to pass the Slave Evidence Bill. The usual mode of communicating
with the Assembly has been by message, and when they think proper
to adopt the measure recommended to them a Committee. is ap-
pointed to prepare and bring in a bill.
.Your Lordship may be assured that nothing shall be wanting
on my part to assure their favourable consideration by the two
branches of the Legislature.
14. No APPEASEMENT
(Jamaica. C.O. 137/186, British Government's Reply to Jamaica
Delegation, Jan. 7, 1833)
His Majesty's Government refused to discuss a series of pro-
positions which not only involve an avowed intention on the part
THE iRITISH GOVERNMENT
of the British Colonists of Jamaica to resist by all the means within
their power certain measures which it is assumed that His Majesty
by the advice of Parliament may be pleased to adopt, but which
also require from His Majesty the dismemberment of His Majesty's
dominions unless the demands of the Assembly of the Island
are immediately complied with.
15. No PRECISE PARALLELISM
(Jamaica. C.O. 137/188, Goderich to Gov. Mulgrave, Feb. 5, 1833)
Upon the abstract question of constitutional right, I am not
convinced of the accuracy of the conclusions which you adopted,
and I have the misfortune to differ from you altogether as
to the expediency of agitating that question.
The analogy derived from the law and usages of Parliament
must in this as in many other cases be employed with great circum-
spection in the British Colonies. The constitution of Great Britain
and Jamaica cannot be reduced to a precise parallelism. The em-
barassments inseparable from the transfer to a slave colony, of the
institutions of a great empire, would be absolutely insuperable, if
large space were not left for yielding to the pressure of local
(c) Negro Regiments
16. THE WHOLE IS GREATER THAN THE PART
(Jamaica. C.O. 137/122, Castlereagh to Gov. Manchester, Dec. 14,
It seems to be a prudent policy not to permit the West Indian
regiments to remain for any long period in the same quarters. At
the same time I cannot by any means encourage Your Grace to hold
out that the system of maintaining Black Regiments in the West
Indies can be given up, a system from which the Empire has received
the greatest benefit by the saving of European lives, and the inconven-
iences of which are to be resolved into mere apprehension.
16 DOCUMENTS ON BRITISH WEST INDIAN HISTORY, 1807-1833
17. THE INTERESTS OF HUMANITY
(Jamaica, C.O. 137/131, Liverpool to Gov. Morrison, Feb. 8, 1812)
I take the earliest opportunity of expressing my surprise that
you should have thought it possible that such a measure* could meet
with the approbation of His Majesty's Government and that you
should not have known that the negroes in question, who have not
I believe even been tried for the offence with which they are charged,
must on their arrival in England be freed from every species of
restraint** and be entitled to the protection of the British Law
equally with any other subject of His Majesty.
Under any circumstances whatever the transportation of these
negroes from Jamaica to England would be most impolitic and I trust
that this dispatch will be received before you have an opportunity
of carrying into effect so unwise a project. It is difficult to conceive
that the practices of these negroes can have been very criminal, if
there is a want of legal evidence to convict them. The interests of
humanity will probably be best consulted by enlisting them into the
Black Regiments in His Majesty's service, if there are any serious
objections to return them to the employ of their former masters.
18. REMOVING APPREHENSIONS
(Jamaica. C.O. 137/134, Liverpool to Gov. Morrison, Feb. 29, 1812)
It appears adviseable in order to remove every reasonable ground
of apprehension from the employment of those negroes in the Island
of Jamaica, that no part of them should be enlisted in the black
regiments now serving in that island, but that the whole number
should be sent to Barbados.
Sir George Beckwith will distribute them as he may think proper
among the remaining black regiments in His Majesty's service.
(d) The Imperial Programme
19. THE DISCIPLINE OF THE WHIP
(Trinidad. C.O. 295/59, Gov. Woodford to Bathurst, Aug. 6, 1823)
The Planters and slave proprietors having been quite unprepared
for the event are in consequence more sensible of this interference
*Removal to England of Negroes charged with rebellious practices with the
intention that they be employed there.
*By the Mansfield decision in the Somersett Case, 1772.
THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT
with their authority. Not being prepared to state to them how far
His Majesty's Government intend that the punishment of female
slaves by whipping should be restricted, I invited the Commandants
to consult the principal slave owners as to the fittest substitute for
flogging and the majority have availed themselves of this reference
to their opinion, to solicit a general meeting either of all the slave
proprietors or of delegates from each quarter: some to consider of
the substitute, others to deliberate upon my communication of Your
Lordship's commands: the latter is of course inadmissible, and un-
certain as I feel respecting the extent to be given to the order I
have received, I must defer for the present. at least to allow of any
such meeting being officially called: indeed such a precedent might
be inconvenient: and individually I question the policy of public
deliberations upon the subject, surrounded by the persons whose
situation is the object of consideration. Before therefore that I can
receive the instructions necessary to my guidance, I shall hope to
obtain from Your Lordship an intimation of the line of conduct
which I am to adopt in admitting any discussions in any public
meeting upon the directions which have now been or hereafter may
be received upon the subject, from Your Lordship, and whether I
should direct such a meeting to assemble or even permit it to be
called together: if the solicitation is persisted in the former would
be the safer plan.
I have received the answers of thirty of the thirty-three Com-
mandants : twenty-seven concur in the necessity of chastising female
slaves, with a cat, or switch, over the shoulders: as well as in the
carrying such an emblem of authority in the field: it has already
occurred that the slaves complain of the marks on the shoulders
as well as of the increased severity of the instrument, and it is
apprehended that when generally known among the gangs that the
concession made in favor of the women will be considered an in-
justice by the men.
Will Your Lordship signify to me.
1. Whether the flogging of women by order of a magistrate
is to be entirely abolished.
2. Whether whipping by stripes over the shoulders of women
is to be permitted.
3. If these chastisements are not to be permitted, what substi-
tute is to be allowed to slave owners, and what severer
correction ordered by magistrates particularly in the distant
quarters, where there are no modes of solitary confinement,
18 DOCUMENTS ON BRITISH WEST INDIAN HISTORY, 1807-1898
that could be safely entrusted to any individual owner, or
such a punishment as in Port of Spain of the tread mill,
the good effects of which continue to develop themselves
The carrying a switch or cane in the field cannot I presume be
objected to : without it the greatest confusion may be apprehended,
without any benefit to the negro.
20. IMPORTANCE OF CONCURRENCE
(Trinidad. C.O. 295/59, Gov. Woodford's Circular to Commandants,
Aug. 22, 1823)
His Majesty's Government have likewise declared that Religious
Instruction is to be considered the foundation of every beneficial
change, and that if the revenues of the colonies are not adequate to
the expense of providing a sufficient number of clergymen and teachers
throughout the West India Colonies under Episcopal control, that
they will not hesitate to apply to Parliament for such pecuniary
grants as may be necessary for supplying the deficiency, not doubting
of the concurrence of Parliament in this object provided such dis-
position on their part be properly met in the several islands.
That no doubt may exist in your mind or in that of the Planters
of your quarter of the importance of affording a cheerful and ready
concurrence in the views of His Majesty's Government, and of carry-
ing these as well as the former provisions into effect, speedily and
effectually, I transmit for your particular information the Resolutions
of the Standing Committee of the West India Planters and Merchants
in London of the 5th June, and the Report of the Sub-Committee
founded upon these Resolutions, all of which have been officially
transmitted by the Island Agent. The whole cannot fail to impress
upon the minds of the slave proprietors the necessity of instant and
willing co-operation on their part in the measures required of them by
His Majesty's Government in compliance with the declaration of His
Majesty's Ministers in Parliament and the unanimous Resolutions of
the House of Commons.
I have personally only to add one recommendation, viz. that you
would earnestly suggest to the planters the adoption of task work on
their sugar estates (it existing on others) as a measure that I have
reason to believe His Majesty's Government consider as likely to
promote the comfort and happiness of the slave in no small degree,
THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT
and as it has been successfully tried on cane plantations, I hope from
the assurances you have given me of the favorable disposition of the
planters of your quarter that they will not hesitate to try the experi-
ment in the wish of success.
In concluding I have only to entreat you will consider that the
general interest of Proprietors and the tranquillity of the colony must
mainly depend upon a zealous and ready disposition upon the part of
the planters and owners of slaves, voluntarily to establish on their
respective estates the plan which His Majesty's Government have
decided upon, and thus frustrate the effect which any public order
may have, when promulgated, in the minds of the slave population.
(Trinidad. C.0.295/63, Gov. Woodford to Commandants, Aug. 21,
His Majesty's Government are however aware of the necessity
that may exist, on some estates, for grinding during certain periods of
the year, due care for the preservation of that portion of the crop that
may be in process of cure on Sundays, and until directions are given
upon this subject, you will permit a reasonable number of slaves to
attend this service...
The prohibition contained in the 11th clause is intended to pre-
vent the use of the whip as the immediate impulse to labor, and as
such, it is to be strictly construed; but it is not to be inferred there-
from that slaves refusing to work are thereby screened from
The power conferred by the 24th clause by which slaves are
permitted to acquire lands is not to be held as exempting them from
the existing restrictions as to the mode in which lands may be culti-
vated by persons of their class and condition. They are therefore
not authorised by the mere acquirement and tenure of land to culti-
vate for their own profit, the staple commodities of the island.
The obligation required by the 34th clause in the cases of volun-
tary manumissions, to give security to the Crown for maintenance of
the slave, does not apply to testamentary manumissions.
As respects the 42nd clause and the penalties attendant upon it,
I have the satisfaction to acquaint you that for the purpose of allay-
ing any apprehensions that have been entertained of this enactment,
it has been directed that the penalty on the second conviction shall
20 DOCUMENTS ON BRITISH WEST INDIAN HISTORY, 1807-1833
never be enforced until the whole case has been referred home for
the consideration of His Majesty, and you will observe that in this
special instance the forfeiture is to the benefit of the Crown and
therefore would not be enforced unless the offence were of a grave
and serious character.
22. AMI DES NOIRS"
(British Guiana. C.O. 111/45, Fiscal to Gov. D'Urban, Sept. 17,
I feel it my duty to state to Your Excellency that I do not con-
sider the Fiscal exclusively a Protector and Guardian of slaves. He
is the law officer of the Crown. He acts as a magistrate and the head
magistrate and he is bound to listen to every complaint on the part
either of the master or of the slave, and to decide as far as lies in his
power with the most rigid and scrupulous impartiality. At the same
time however I must confess that although I have only been here 3
months in office it is my opinion that the slaves do look up both to
Your Excellency and myself for what they term "Right" and that
the Fiscal is by them considered as their friend at least. During the
investigation of complaints on estates many subjects of domestic and
internal management have been discovered and pointed out as tending
to the annoyance of the negroes and they have been altered. Com-
plaints on the part of a master against his own slaves are very very
rare as his power if properly exercised will generally preserve good
order. On the part of the slaves they are also rare and most frequent-
ly recur when they have been guilty of some fault the consequences of
which they are desirous of avoiding. On all occasions they are care-
fully examined and the decisions are made without respect of persons.
23. Six DAY WEEK
(British Guiana. C.0.111/49, Colonial Office to Gov. D'Urban,
July 9, 1825)
The same object might have been more speedily accomplished by
making an Order in Council, but the adoption of that measure would
have been attended with the loss of the important advantage of show-
ing to the slave population that the chief civil authorities of the
colony are the immediate authors of the beneficial change which it is
proposed to accomplish in their situation ... (but) implies no recogni-
tion of their claims to legislative authority.
THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT
This concession as to the mode of enacting the law does not
involve the abandonment of any of the principles inculcated in my
despatch of the 20th of November 1824, and actually enforced and
acted upon in the Island of Trinidad.
On the contrary, I have to impress upon you even more earnestly
than before that His Majesty's Government cannot be satisfied with
the propositions which were detailed in that dispatch.
Giving the Court of Policy full credit for the accuracy of their
opinion that certain operations on sugar, coffee and cotton estates
cannot be suspended on a Sunday without much inconvenience to the
proprietor, and admitting that the slaves must be occasionally em-
ployed in these services, His Majesty's Government cannot allow that
these services should be performed without a specific remuneration.
It is necessary to maintain entire and unbroken the maxim that the
owner of a slave has no title to his labor, except during six days of
It is needless to point out to you how much the moral sentiments
and conduct of mankind upon such subjects are regulated in reference
to the maxims promulgated upon legislative authority; and it must
be remembered that whatever tends to protect the sanctity of this
relation is not only of importance to the interests of the slave, but to
those of the master.
24. TEMPERATE BUT AUTHORITATIVE ADMONITION
(Jamaica. C.O. 137/168, Bathurst to Gov. Manchester, May 11, 1826)
(Enclosing substance of eight bills, the provisions of Order in
Council of March 10, 1824, for Trinidad with all such modifications of
the Order as have been introduced by any subsequent enactments.
1. Office of Protector and Guardian of Slaves.
2. Admission of Evidence of Slaves in Civil and Criminal Cases.
3. Manumission of Slaves.
4. Intermarriage of Slaves.
5. Observance of Sunday and Abolition of Sunday Markets.
6. Acquisition of Property by, Slaves and Establishment of
Savings Banks for better protection of it.
7. Separation of Families under Judicial Process.
8. Punishment of Slaves with record to be kept when inflicted
by Authority of Owner.)
2 D)OCUMEJNTS ON BRITISH WEST INDIAN HISTORY, 1807-1883
I am perfectly aware of the difficulty if not impossibility of
framing in this country on so comprehensive a subject enactments
which are to have their operation in Jamaica. I am also aware that
upon some of the topics the wishes of His Majesty's Government
have already to a certain extent been anticipated by the existing
laws of the Island, and that without a very intimate and practical
acquaintance with those laws, it may be impracticable to frame with
safety new legislative provisions on the same or similar subjects.
I do not propose them as drafts which could be passed
without a careful revision, nor probably without some material
alterations;. my object has rather been to explain the measures
which His Majesty's Government desire to introduce; and I have
for this purpose adopted the form and language of legislative acts
because in no other way could those views be explained with equal
accuracy and precision. His Majesty will however be ready to con-
firm any law in which the Legislature of Jamaica may effectually
embody these principles and give effect to those intentions, however
much such laws may depart from the enclosed papers in arrangement,
language, or minor details .
It is almost superfluous to remind Your Grace of the necessity
of proceeding on this occasion with such discretion and with such a
regard to the constitutional privileges of the Council and Assembly as
to afford no reasonable cause for any jealousy or complaint on the
part of those bodies. Upon this subject Your Grace will exercise
your own judgment with all the advantages to be derived from your
long and intimate acquaintance with the established usages of the
Colonial Legislature ...
I cannot close the present dispatch without again reminding
Your Grace that His Majesty's Government will feel the most lively
interest in the result of the deliberations of the Legislative Council
and Assembly in the ensuing session. I am not disposed to anticipate
the continued rejection of enactments so earnestly and anxiously
looked for by both Houses of Parliament and by every class of society
in this kingdom.
25. THE PROTECTOR OF SLAVES
(Trinidad. C.O. 295/92, Gov. Grant to Goderich, Jan. 13, 1832)
Whatever Your Lordship may be induced to do, in regard to a
modification, I would most strongly recommend that the power of the
Protector to enter upon estates and into negro houses, in order to
THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT
ascertain the actual condition of the slaves, in cases where he may
have reason to suspect improper proceedings should not in any way
be curtailed. Every day instances are brought before me to show
the necessity for such a power existing; within the last two hours, a
manager has been brought up from the country to jail. who is to be
indicted for murder and repeated cruelty.
26. THE NECESSITY OF COOPERATION
(Trinidad. C.O. 295/93, Circular of Goderich to Governors of West
India Legislative Colonies, May 12, 1832)
(Recommending adoption of provisions of Order in Council of
November 2, 1831 for Trinidad, British Guiana, St. Lucia, Cape of
Good Hope, Mauritius)
The refusal of the Colonial Legislatures to adopt the measures
submitted to them for the relief of the slaves is the more to be
regretted, because, in the view which His Majesty's Government
took of this question, they had felt it to be their imperative duty to
combine, in the consideration of the practical measures to be adopted,
the interest of the masters with that of the slaves, and to adhere
inflexibly to their determination to propose measures calculated to
benefit the former only when satisfied that adequate means had been
adopted for the improvement of the condition of the latter. The
combination of these two objects appeared to them to be the only
mode of satisfactorily meeting the complicated difficulties of the
question; and I can confidently assert, that there cannot be a greater
error than the supposition that in the course which they took His
Majesty's Government were deficient in sympathy for the embarrass-
ments under which the West India proprietors were labouring, or
that they were desirous of forcing upon their adoption any measures
which tended, in their judgment, to increase those embarrassments,
or to impair the means of successfully contending against them.
The feelings which dictated their policy were entirely different;
and they are still of opinion that the course which they proposed to
pursue was the best calculated to avert the evils which every year's
experience has demonstrated were likely to follow from the prolonged
agitation of the vehement controversy upon all questions connected
with- West India slavery.
The reason for the suspension of further proceedings upon the
.subject of the Orders in Council is to be found in the appointment
X4 DOCUMiENTS ON IRITISH WEST INDIAN HISTORY, 1807-18$3
of a Committee of the House of Lords, for the purpose of instituting
an inquiry into the actual state of society in the West India Colonies,
and into the laws by which the mutual relation of the owner and
the slave are regulated. In this Committee, many members are
closely connected with and deeply interested in the prosperity of
the West India Colonies. It may therefore be reasonably expected
that the advice which may be offered by them will be received by
the local Legislatures, not only with all the respect and attention
which is due to the position in which they stand, but also with the
confidence which is naturally given to advisers having a common
interest with those whom they address.
Of the increasing necessity of such a co-operation on the part
of the colonists with these views, His Majesty's ministers are more
than ever persuaded, nor can they help entertaining the strongest
conviction that the delay which has taken place in fully acting up
to the principles of the Resolutions of 1823, has driven many who
would originally have been contented with their enforcement, to
press for the immediate and unqualified abolition of slavery. It is
to be hoped therefore that the Committee of the House of Lords
may be the means of prevailing upon the Colonial Legislatures to
take a just view of their situation, and of the increasing difficulties
with which it is surrounded.
27. DEVELOPMENT AND WELFARE
(Trinidad. C.O. 295/93, Circular of Goderich to Governors of
Crown Colonies, May 13, 1832)
His Majesty's Government have accordingly resolved to apply
to Parliament for power to grant to the treasuries of the Crown
colonies, when it shall appear to their satisfaction that the Order in
Council is in full operation, such sums of money respectively as shall
be equal in each case to one moiety of the amount of the annual
public revenue of each; and it will be left to the Governor and
Council in the cases of Trinidad and St. Lucia, and to the Governor
and Court of Policy in the case of British Guiana, to select for the
approval of His Majesty's Government the particular taxes the levy
of which may be most properly remitted for this year, with a view
of affording the intended relief.
You will of course understand that the relief thus proposed to
be afforded to the Crown Colonies is merely provisional, and that
THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT
it is intended hereafter to be exchanged for advantages of a more
permanent character; but His Majesty's Government could not
suffer even this year to elapse without taking measures for providing
substantial relief for the current period.
I trust that before you receive this despatch the excitement
occasioned by the first promulgation of the Order in Council may
have subsided, and that both slaves and masters having learned
their mutual rights and duties will act accordingly. Of course, should
it be necessary, you will not fail to make use of all the powers with
which you are invested for the enforcement of the law; and while on
the one hand you secure to the slaves the full enjoyment of those
advantages which His Majesty has graciously been pleased to confer
upon them, you will, on the other, repress every attempt on their
part to abuse the privileges which have been granted to them, and
cause the authority of the master to be respected and his lawful
commands to be obeyed.
Frequent changes of the law with respect to slavery are most
justly objected to, as calculated to unsettle the minds of the negroes.
and to cause unreasonable expectations and discontent. And, indeed,
were the reasons for abstaining from present alteration less cogent
than they obviously are on this score, it could scarcely be expected
that a law framed with so much previous investigation, and with
such elaborate care and circumspection, should be altered on any
other ground than that of practical evils found by experience to
result from it, after it should have been for a sufficient time in full
and fair operation.
All that is prohibited by the Order in Council is compulsory
labour (manufacturing) beyond the prescribed hours.
But it is further assumed that the slaves will not voluntarily
engage in extra labour for hire. This assertion has often been made,
and wherever the experiment has been fairly tried, so far as my
information extends, has been as often refuted. Thus the works of
the engineer department were executed at Berbice, and the Lieutenant
Governor's residence there was built, by the voluntary labour of hired
slaves; and the Crown negroes in British Guiana, who have recently
been made free, have, since their liberation, employed themselves
in working for wages under the commanding officer of engineers.
From the Bahamas also several cases are reported by the Governor,
of the-exertion of the utmost. industry by persons of the same class,
when stimulated by the hope of wages; and in the last collection
of papers on the subject of slavery, which were presented to Parlia-
26 DOCUMENTS ON BRITISH WEST INDIAN HISTORY, 1807-1833
ient on the 15th of March last, will be found at page 76, a Report
from Surtees, the protector of slaves in St. Lucia, which proves
from the Custom House returns that, from the 5th January 1831
to 5th January 1832, upwards of 1092 tons of logwood were exported
from the port of Castries on account of slaves, being the produce of
their voluntary labour during the days and hours secured to them
The advantages of introducing such a system would be of the
highest moment; it might pave the way for a more general substi-
tution of hired service for forced labour; and a slave who during
part of the year had been accustomed to work two or three hours
daily for wages, would be rapidly preparing for the transition into
the condition of a free labourer.
These views are not founded on mere theory. I learn from most
respectable authority, that since the promulgation of the Order in
Trinidad, the practice has already commenced in that island of
hiring slaves to work in crop time at extra hours, for an increased
allowance of food: and the extension of the same practice to British
Guiana and St. Lucia, may not improbably remove the obstacle
which the Order is said to have raised to the completion of the manu-
facturing process, with great and permanent advantages to all parties
28. HOLDING THE BALANCE
(Trinidad. C.O. 295/93, Circular of Goderich to Governors of Crown
Colonies, June 9, 1832)
The Committee of the House of Lords was appointed on the
petition of the merchants and others interested in the West India
property, and has been instructed to investigate the actual condition
of the slave population, and the state of the law by which their treat-
ment is regulated : the Committee of the House of Commons, on the
other hand, has been appointed in consequence of the numerous
petitions which have been presented for the abolition of slavery .
no fear that the House of Commons vote should tend to
an erroneous impression on the minds of the slaves, that they have
been actually declared free, and lest this notion, and the disappoint-
ment which it must necessarily meet with, should produce acts of
insubordination and violence one, and only one contingency,
THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT
in which I think there would be just grounds for the fears which
have been expressed. If the owners of slaves should suffer themselves
to give way to unfounded and exaggerated apprehensions, if they
should indulge in violent and intemperate language, there would be
but too great a probability that the slaves, forming their notions
of what they nave to expect from the alarm expressed by their
masters, might be led to indulge in extravagant hopes; and that they
might understand as literally true those complaints of total con-
fiscations of property, which, under the influence of feelings of undue,
though not perhaps unnatural excitement, have sometimes been made
with a view to their effect in this country, and without sufficient
consideration of their extreme danger. I trust that the fatal proof
which recent experience has afforded of the reality of this danger *
will serve as a warning to the colonists of and prevent any
such conduct on their part as may lead to a possible misconception,
on the part of the slaves, of that which has taken place in Parliament.
It will, of course, be your study to impress upon all classes within
your Government a just sense of the position in which they are
placed, and of the duties which it imposes upon them. To the planters
you will explain that the vote of the House of Commons implies no
departure from the principles sanctioned by the Resolutions of 1823;
that no violent change in the existing form of society is contemplated,
but that, on the contrary, the object to which the labours of the
Committee will oe directed, will be that which Parliament has always
recognized as the end to be aimed at, in all that has been done on
this subject, namely, the substitution, as soon as it can be effected
without any shock or convulsion, of a system of free for one of forced
labour. To the slaves, on the other hand, you will give the assurance
of His Majesty's most earnest solicitude for their welfare; but you
will explain to them that any attempt on their part to wrest by
force from their masters advantages to which they have no legal
claim, can have no other effect than to draw down upon them -the
severest punishment, and to postpone the accomplishment of that
which is intended for their benefit. Your personally visiting the prin-
cipal estates in the colony, and speaking to the most intelligent of
the slaves, would perhaps be the surest and most effectual means of
removing any false impression which they may have received, and
of making them understand their real situation. I rely with confidence
upon your vigilance and activity for the adoption of this or any
other precaution which circumstances may seem to require.
* Jamaica slave revolt of 1831. See Chapter III.
A8 DOCUMENTS ON BRITISH WEST INDIAN HISTORY, 1807-1833
(e) The Implementation Of The Imperial Programme
(i) The Executive
29. THE INFECTION OF CORRESPONDENT PREJUDICES
(Trinidad. C.O. 295/25, Stephen to Liverpool, Sept. 1, 1810)
(Disputes between Chief Judge Smith and Governor Hislop)
But if it could be doubted on a perusal of the former papers
whether the Governor was acting on a principle of systematic hostility
towards a magistrate whom it was his duty to countenance and pro-
tect, no doubt of it I think can now remain.
I find him in the papers before me, again, as in the case of
Gallagher and Lockhead, patronising contumacious opposition to the
Chief Judge, and seizing every pretext that offers for bringing his
authority into odium and contempt.
With great deference I therefore submit to Your Lordship that
Mr. Smith should be speedily assured of that protection from H. M.
Government which he so anxiously claims.
S.. Allow me to add that one of the best securities against any
of his (Hislop's) successors following the pernicious example of the
conduct which in this case I condemn, would be to adopt the wise
principle applied to many analogous cases, and forbid the Governor
of this new colony to involve himself in its peculiar private interests,
and hazard the infection of correspondent prejudices, by becoming
a planter. I think the Chief Judge also should be liable to the same
30. TROUBLE AND EXPENSE
(Trinidad. C.O. 195/37, Woodford to Goulburn, Oct. 15, 1815)
From all my inquiries I am satisfied that no illegal importation
of slaves from Africa or of new slaves ever took place. There may
have been some half dozen (bad subjects originally) brought from
the French islands--,but I have never found an instance which gave
rise even to suspicion.
In this island the Registry was not I apprehend so necessary as
in others as a check on holding free persons in slavery for very few
persons here have manumissions that are not of a very recent date.
THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT
Too many of the free are runaways from other islands: and as a
person not owned is reputed free, and, as free, is, in the eye of the law,
as far as testimony and property go, as good as a white, no apprehen-
sion was to be entertained that persons not strictly free would easily
submit to be treated as slaves: but from the number of ignorant
free coloured persons who hold slaves, and living at a distance, or
sick, or unable to pay the expense (which is heavy of them, in as
much if you have 1 or 100 slaves you pay the same for the oath -)
or not informed how it is to be done, it has been and is still from the
number of original defaulters, in many cases a great hardship It
was here very severe inasmuch as the colony was suddenly informed
of the measure and very few English (the smallest number of our
community) could understand it. It was impossible the French or
Spaniards should: and as for the annual returns, I could not manage
one myself the increase of stature in children is so difficult and
generally so carelessly performed, it becomes absurd, and in personal
slaves the frequent change of owners will give more trouble than can
The whole always appeared to me to aim at too much.
Very few returns here would be found correct planters who
have made them on their estates have through habitual inaccuracy
made many mistakes- half the negroes don't or won't know their
nation none their age their marks can only be defined with
accuracy by a person accustomed to examine them. All these
rendered his return imperfect but if he was a foreigner or if he
could not read and write, he carried a confused idea of his different
slaves in his head, came up to town, paid a clerk from 2 to 10 to
make out the returns as he recollected them, did not understand any
part of the proceedings, and then had to take an incorrect oath, and
pay more money which he considered a tax to the King I believe
you have little idea of the labor, and as for a general registry in
London I conceive it impossible, if the same details are united.
On the whole I dare venture to tell you, My dear Goulburn, that
I think, as the matter has been ordered to be done here, and as it is
proposed, that it has been a most severe hardship on the island,
though it will be less so in the small old English islands -that it
gives vast unnecessary trouble and expense and that the same thing
might be done in a much more simple and equally effectual manner.
Nothing has been done about servants travelling with their
masters from foreign colonies, as I mentioned in a despatch sometime
30 DOCUMENTS ON BRITISH WEST INDIAN HISTORY, 1807-1833
However it is probably to little purpose that I state all this for
in 10 years I fear there will be a great change if in the meantime our
Spanish neighbours do not afford such an example as will induce all
our slaves to run over to them. The case is bad, and if you could
obtain the admission here of slaves from the Main- not new but
negroes speaking Spanish : which would be the best Test (sic) of their
having been some time in the country, you would break the neck of a
hydra which will be the eventual ruin of this island and every other.
There is no Slave Trade but at Cuba; none at Caracas or
generally on the coast since 1806... There has not been a new slave
imported on this neighboring part of the Main for many years.
There is also so much repetition and detail in the Order that it
confounds persons of ordinary abilities.
31. PLEA FOR THE PLANTERS
(Trinidad. C.O. 295/44, Gov. Woodford to Bathurst, July 31, 1817)
I am happy to say that upon my whole tour the greatest pro-
portion of which was through parts of the island that had never
been before visited by any of His Majesty's Governors, I had only
one complaint of any kind from the slaves. It was a case of severe
punishment of children, which I investigated at the moment .
I cannot conclude this report without apprizing Your Lordship
that I found the custom of punishing negroes for slight offences -b
flogging to be greatly diminished. They are generally well clothed
and receive good salt cod fish and in the wet season some rum. It
were however much to be wished that the custom of the driver's
carrying a whip were abolished. That this instrument (a very neces-
sary one) should be kept by the manager of the estate and that a
cane only should be used for trivial faults during the hours of labor;
and that bells be universally substituted for the whip for calling
the negroes together.
The night labor during crop upon estates having only cattle
mills, it were much to be wished should be prohibited: but unless
the duty on importation of sugar in England were diminished, it
would not be possible for such estates to make sugar enough during
that period of crop which the seasons have of late afforded to make
good their engagements or pay their expenses.
THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT
32. THE PLANTERS' DIFFICULTIES
(Trinidad. C.O. 295/44, Gov. Woodford to Goulburn, Aug. 3, 1817)
I have not failed to consider with every attention the object of
the communication with which you honored me on the 22d May,
and I have the honor to acquaint you for the information of Lord
Bathurst, that however desirable the plan might be which His Lord-
ship's humane consideration of the negroes in the colonies has sug-
gested, I do not think that in this island it could be carried into effect
without a very considerable expense, much greater than His Lordship
I am sure contemplates, while I must own that I doubt if the distri-
bution of the rewards to the different managers could be impartially
or effectually made.
To proprietors of slaves, as to mankind in general, no incentive
can be so great as their own interest. It is not in their power now to
replace a slave, whose physical powers are exhausted by a short
service, therefore the value of a slave of good character is greatly
enhanced beyond the value of his ordinary appraisement, and pro-
portionate efforts are made to keep up his natural health and vigour.
Managers are under the control of attorneys of estates and
overseers are subject to either or to the proprietor if residing on the
spot. On these may depend the due apportionment of the labor of
the strong and the care of the sick, but the subsistence, extra nourish-
ment and comforts depend generally on the proprietor or the attorney.
The former if he is out of debt is generally liberally disposed towards
his slaves, a disposition which under the privilege granted by the law
of supply in this colony is greatly indulged, even where the estate or
the owner is much embarrassed. The Attorney may indeed often find
his account with the proprietor or mortgagee in lessening the quantum
of supplies to shew his economical management and Lord Bathurst
is aware that in this island the supplies have a preference over mort-
gage debts and interest. If however the estate is unencumbered the
manager obtains all that he can and sometimes more than he ought
from the attorney, if the latter is a merchant supplying the estate.
The "ordonnance" of Genl. Picton requires 3 lbs & 1/ of Salt
cod fish to be given to the slaves weekly. On all estates this is to the
best of my knowledge obeyed: that is 3 lbs are generally given and
half of Saturday to work their grounds. But the smaller French and
Spanish estates prefer giving the whole Saturday to the negro, instead
of the salt fish, and as the industrious negro can easily earn two
dollars in making a basket of charcoal, he prefers it.
32 DOCUMENTS ON BRITISH WEST INDIAN HISTORY, 1807-1833
It however is liable to great abuse; and by giving the slave two
days to himself in succession they are often spent in idleness and
debauchery. To rob his neighbour is therefore his only resource for
subsistence for the following week.
The negroes on sugar estates generally receive rum in the wet
season and sugar in the dry, and a suit of clothes at Xmas. Where
the land is good it is the fault of the slaves if they have not extensive
gardens. It is however acknowledged that one of the most important
duties of a planter is to see that the negroes really work in their
grounds at the times given to them for the purpose. The laborious
negro spends his Sunday there, and easily realizes large sums for his
The situation of estates, the soil, the length of time that has
elapsed since the establishment of the estate, the mode in which the
slaves were acquired, unite in.forming good or bad gangs of negroes.
With the work of an estate well regulated, the negro houses well
placed, the land affording good garden grounds, the proprietor at his
case, and the negroes established for a number of years, discontent
seldom prevails--but where the reverse of these positions and ad-
vantages exists and in the settlement of a new estate the most
indefatigable and humane manager, the most liberal proprietor would
fail in showing a superior gang.
Of those estates that have been more immediately visited by me,
as taken in execution for debts to the Crown, not one of them would
ever make a creditable appearance upon inspection, although they
have not wanted any due allowances or proper indulgence and their
superintendent is a very humane and intelligent planter. They have
been formed of bad negroes purchased in other islands and thrown
together without the common tie of having been shipmates at sea, or
otherwise previously known to each other, and the situation of the
estates is very unhealthy.
The comforts of the slaves depend upon themselves and their
own industry and their health, upon their own imprudencies or the
quantum of work they are required to perform.
They can if they chuse with very little trouble amass much
beyond the wants of the utmost ambition or profligacy, but the idle
and drunken (of which there are many) will always be in poverty and
I have frequently known cases of negroes preferring to continue
slaves than with ample means to purchase their freedom or even to
THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT
accept it. With a humane owner the negro is most happy and as a
slave and when sick he always shares the fare of the owner's table.
The only mode I can suggest to further His Lordship's benevo-
lent views is to reestablish the Commissaries of Population as they
were intended by Governor Chacon. Altho no records exist of those
required by these instructions, nor can I ascertain that they ever were
carried into effect, I think they might be rendered useful for such a
purpose as is proposed, and by blending it with agricultural improve-
ments, (which are very much wanted and worthy of the encourage-
ment of His Majesty's Government) the inspection and report of
this officer would be more agreeable to the feelings of the planter who
would perceive in his superintending control and observation that
the prosperity of his estate was viewed by the Government in com-
bination with the happiness and comforts of his slaves. The rewards
might in such case be given to the Resident proprietor conducting his
own estate or the manager, for the best conducted estate in each
division, and that will always include a healthy, disciplined and
industrious gang of negroes. It would be necessary to extend the
number of divisions of the colony to about six, instead of three as
pointed out by the Instructions.
I presume that His Lordship intends that this encouragement
should apply only to sugar estates, for as the work on these and on
cocoa settlements bears not any fair proportion they would not admit
Nothing can contribute more to the improvement of the negroes
than the custom of evening prayers. It renders them submissive,
orderly, and devout. The Spaniards invariably attend to this and
their negroes are much more obedient and well ordered than others.
On the French estate the Sunday evening is rarely passed over with-
out prayers, but on the English it is seldom if ever observed. The
prayers consist of the Lord's Prayer, Belief, Litany, and are for their
master and themselves. It offers none of the objections of religious
instruction and preaching to negroes, which only teaches them to
reason ill, and upon matters far beyond their comprehension. But
upon English estates the proprietor if present is often of a different
religion; if absent, the manager (who is too often the only person
known on the estate), is not always of a character to be impressed
with the custom. (And the attorney, who is not seen above once or
twice a year is more devoted to the crop of sugar than to considera-
tions of religion and morality.)
34 DOCUMENTS ON BRITISH WEST INDIAN HISTORY, 1807-1833
The greatest benefit His Lordship could confer on the negro
would be to abolish night work upon all estates... but this could not
be done without some considerable indemnification to the proprietor
who is now quite unable to part with any proportion of his crop, so
great is his debt, from the ruinous prices of his supplies for many
years past, and the low prices that his produce at the same time sold
for. But such an indemnification might be found in removing the
present restrictions upon the sales and shipment of colonial produce,
restrictions that were wise and beneficial when they were enacted,
but are no longer necessary for the purpose of creating a mercantile
navy. By throwing open the market for the shipment of produce as
well as for the importation of supplies the Govt. would soonest make
the slaves happy by rendering the proprietors rich and speculation
in slaves being at an end no harm would result. The British market
would always obtain sugar in sufficient quantity to meet the demand.
and the planter would have the best chance of obtaining the real
value of the article that he had raised.
Any means that could be devised to induce the residence of the
proprietor on an estate would tend I conceive to the improvement of
the condition of the negroes by keeping them under the personal
observation of the person most interested in their preservation and
lor whom they naturally feel the greatest attachment.
shall be happy if this information is acceptable to Lord
33. COMPENSATION FOR THE PLANTERS
(Trinidad. C.O. 295/59, Gov. Woodford to Bathurst, July 13, 1823)
Since acknowledging the receipt of Your Lordship's despatch of
the 20th May, I have communicated the same to the Commandants
of the respective quarters of the Island, inviting them to confer with
the Slave proprietors upon the objects to which it related, and to
report the description of punishment they would propose to substitute
for flogging, in the cases of females, upon the estates; and that they
might not remain ignorant of the view which His Majesty's Minister
in the House of Commons had taken of the several propositions
brought forward, as well as of the tenor of the sentiments expressed
by him on behalf of His Majesty's Government, I caused the Times
Report of Mr. Secretary Canning's speech to be reprinted and for-
warded with my letters .
I have not failed to confer with His Majesty's Council upon
the subject in general.
THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT
Being however sensible that their disposition is generally as
favourable as they profess, I was desirous of obtaining a further
expression of their sentiments and I have the honor to lay before
Your Lordship a copy of the Resolutions which on the 9th instant
I submitted to them and in which I am happy to say they concurred,
with the understanding however that if nothing further were de-
manded, they would willingly recommend them for adoption through-
out the colony, and feeling how desirable it must be to obtain some
voluntary assent and concurrence from the local authorities I did
not hesitate to accept the Resolutions upon these terms.
The provisions they contemplate might doubtless be extended
with advantage to the slaves, and I hope with equal safety to the
Proprietors, but I was unwilling to enter into further details until
I should have it in my power to state the nature of the compensation
which the planters might look to for any surrender of their rights;
for as the question of Emancipation has been agitated, every pro-
tective Order on behalf of the slave will be considered as a diminution
of them as well as of the value of their property.
To secure therefore the success of these or any further proposals
which in the same spirit may be made to the Proprietors, it will
be indispensably necessary that a plain and distinct understanding
should be had regarding the amount and mode of indemnification.
If however upon the difficulties which I apprehend will be found in
establishing any system of gradual emancipation, His Majesty's
Government may resolve upon recommending to the House of Com-
mons to confine their interference in behalf of the slaves to the en-
actment and effectual execution of further provisions for their pro-
tection, it might perhaps be considered a judicious encouragement
to the colonies if the produce of those that were to adopt the regu-
lations in this respect that to His Majesty's Government would be
satisfactory, were admitted to consumption in Great Britain at a
reduced rate of duty.
If however His Majesty's Government determine to enforce any
plan leading more directly to Emancipation, the indemnity must be,
in justice, equally direct to the Slave proprietor.
I am happy to have it in my power to say that I really believe
the best disposition to exist among the principal Slave Proprietors
of this colony towards their negroes. The number that are daily
manumitted afford the best proof in that respect of their feelings
and sentiments, which will I am confident entitle them to Your
36 DOCUMENTS ON BRITISH WEST INDIAN HISTORY, 1807-1833
:34. THE MASTERS AND THE SLAVES
(Trinidad. C.O. 295/60, Commandant of Tacarigua to Gov. Woodford,
Sept. 19, 1823)
I can assure Your Excellency there is no want of inclination in
this community to promote the benevolent intentions of Government,
respecting the slave population, but the adversity under which they
have been laboring for some years, and which there is no prospect of
ameliorating, precludes the possibility of their affording their slaves
the comforts and advantages a state even of moderate prosperity
would enable them to do :- through all the employment of life the
comforts of the servant are proportioned to the independence of the
master, the West India Planter. and especially those who are afflicted
with sugar estates are struggling for a frugal maintenance, and not-
withstanding the most scrupulous economy, their expenses exceed
their resources; interest of capital, wear and tear excluded, notwith-
standing, however, the preservation of the slave being of the utmost
importance, they have not been nor are they suffering under those
privations which comparatively speaking is the lot of their masters. It
may be truly said that the master and slave mess out of the same pot
- the vegetable production of the soil, with the addition of salt fish
and salt meat, form the head dish of both ; the luxuries of life are very
seldom the fare of the master.
If the friends of the negroes in Parliament would use the same
endeavours to promote the interest of the unfortunate West India
Planters, by increasing the value of their produce, that they do to
protect the slaves (who with good masters are in no need of it) they
would render them a much greater service, than by instructing them
in the advantages of civil society as is proposed, and which in a
country where the negro French and Spanish is the prevailing lan-
guage, and the population of the lower and middle classes, the Roman
Catholics, will not he easily affected by clergymen from England.
Altho' foreign to the subject of Your Excellency's dispatch it is
my duty as Commandant to report to Your Excellency that I have
remarked with concern an incipient state of contumely prevailing
among the negroes, since the murmur has got abroad of the proposed
innovation in their situation.
An idea is prevalent with them that the King has ordered their
masters to allow three days in the week, and it is a question among
them, why Bacchra no do that King bid him.
THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT
There is another Regulation in the slave police which encourages
contumacy, disobedience and indiscipline among the slaves, and is on
frequent occasions very disgraceful and hurtful to the feelings of the
master, I mean the facility the slave has of carrying complaints
against his master to the officer who is ex-officio his Protector, fre-
quently on the most trifling occasions and unfounded.
With such examples as these and many others of the like nature,
the slaves are encouraged to mutiny and disobedience, and it is won-
derful they are not more so, when they can so easily expose their
masters to insult with impunity.
With respect to the further melioration of the slaves there does
not appear that any measure could be of equal benefit to the planter
as a reduction of duty on his produce, by reducing the duties the
value of his labor would be increased, which would enable the master
to better cloathe and feed his slaves, and pay greater attention to
educating the rising generation ; at present the sugar planters (with
very few exceptions) are increasing their debt, and if some substan-
tial relief is not afforded (notwithstanding the most rigorous
oeconomy) their ruin must evidently ensue, and that very shortly.
As regards task work it is very desirable and ought to be en-
couraged whenever practicable.
35. STRICT SCRUTINY
(British Guiana. C.0.111/44, Gov. Murray to Bathurst, July 10,
(The Governor's answers to queries)
why he sanctioned a public meeting at which it was intend-
ed to propose resolutions so inflammatory, improper, and disrespect-
Several of the most respectable planters requested the meeting.
The object they said was to consider the best means to be adopted
for respectfully conveying to the Sovereign the expression of the
alarm created by the constant public agitation in the Mother
Country of questions involving their most vital interests. Fearful
that at a meeting of that description there might be found some whose
warmth of feeling might get the better of their cooler judgment and
prompt them on the spur of the moment to use violent language .
I sent my secretary to the newspaper offices to prevent the publica-
tion of violent or improper speeches; impressed on the applicants the:
38 DOCUMENTS ON BRITISH WEST INDIAN HISTORY, 1807-1833
necessity of moderation; induced moderate men to go to the meeting.
(But) the expression of feeling was so overwhelming as to have
totally borne them down and bid defiance to their efforts. The
Resolutions passed and published by the meeting. not shown to
36. OPPRESSION OF THE PLANTERS
(Trinidad. C.O. 295/63, Gov. Woodford to Bathurst, Aug. 6, 1824)
As regards the construction of the 10th clause it will occasion a
loss in all the crops unless planters be permitted to employ a few of
their slaves in taking care of that portion of produce which is in
process of cure, when the Sunday intervenes: at present this extra
labour is invariably remunerated either in a present of part of the
produce or in money or time, and the slave knows his own rights too
well not to claim a recompense.
I would therefore suggest that during periods of crop of the
various kinds a small proportion of the gang should be permitted to
assist for these necessary services: and I do not think there is any
cause to apprehend the abuse of this relaxation of the order, it cannot
however with propriety be limited to any particular months of the
It will be satisfactory both to owner and slave that the latter
may work in their grounds on that day.
I take the opportunity of reporting that the Island is undisturbed,
and that the apprehensions that prevailed begin to subside.
I must however be permitted to regret that it is not deemed
expedient to mitigate the severity of the 42nd clause as regards
the confiscation of all the slaves of an offender upon a second convic-
tion, not alone of cruelty, but of any unlawful punishment, which
now extends to the correction of any female slave except it be by im-
prisonment or stocks, etc., and I humbly beg leave to observe that
the discretion vested in the Court to which Your Lordship adverts is
confined to the first offence, and that for the second the forfeiture of
all the slaves of any unfortunate offender is declared absolute!
I most earnestly and most respectfully again presume to entreat
Your Lordship's reconsideration of this severe penalty, which is
naturally considered most oppressive by every planter and slave
holder in the colony, and it conveys an imputation they do not
THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT
37. SUNDAY LABOUR
(Trinidad. C.O. 295/63, Gov. Woodford to Bathurst, Sept. 3, 1824)
The sanction which Your Lordship has given to the preservation
of private property I held to be sufficient to warrant the authorizing
the necessary care of that portion of the crop which happens to be in
a state of preparation and cure, on Sundays : and if any abuse occurs,
which I have no reason to apprehend, the slaves will not fail to com-
plain of it.
38. LANGUAGE PROBLEMS
(Trinidad. C.O. 295/65, Protector of Slaves to Gov. Woodford,
Jan. 31, 1825)
From the returns it is apparent that the planters have in general
evinced considerable anxiety to comply with the provisions of the
Order in Council, but independent of the general inaptitude for
business, so common amongst persons engaged in agricultural pursuits,
which must oppose obstacles to the full and exact compliance of laws
by which they are required to perform duties unconnected with their
ordinary avocations, numerous additional difficulties are to be
encountered by the planters of this island. Many of them, especially
the owners and managers of cocoa estates, are foreigners, entirely
ignorant of the English language, and consequently incapable of
comprehending the Order in Council. Many are colored creoles,
generally of little, at best of very limited education, speaking no one
language perfectly,' but using what may be termed the patois, or
negro French; or Spanish. Under such circumstances, it might be
considered harsh and oppressive to prosecute these persons for a
trifling omission in date or in expressing the particular hour at which
a punishment was inflicted, particularly when that punishment had
in itself been slight, and was fully warranted by the nature of the
offence. I am not aware of any voluntary or wilful disregard of the
provisions of the Order in Council.
39W.: THE ECONOMICS OF PUNISHMENT
(Trinidad. C.0. 295/65, Gov. Woodford to Bathurst, Feb. 10, 1825)
It is alleged that many planters do not punish their slaves even
when they merit chastisement from the dislike and often from the
inability to keep the record book: but tho' this may have occurred,
40 DOCUMtNTS ON BRITISH WEST INDIAN HISTORY, 1801-188
it is I believe equally true that the fear of their offence being recorded
has also served to restrain the slaves. Cases of insolence and in-
subordination frequently occur among the female slaves for which
confinement would be a sufficient punishment if it were persisted in,
but the loss of the people's labor prevents all the benefit that might
be felt from such a substitution. More serious offences were intended
to be met by labor on the tread wheel, under orders of a magistrate,
but the distance of the majority of estates from Port of Spain pre-
vents recourse being had to it.
40. REASONABLE GROUNDS OF INDULGENCE
(Trinidad. C.O. 295/65, Gov. Woodford to Bathurst, May 7, 1825)
most deeply concerned that Your Lordship disapproves
and considers as objectionable in every point of view my having
permitted the Council to form a committee for investigating the negro
I could not find anyone capable of conducting the investigation
who could have afforded the necessary time for it, and who would not
have been equally exposed to the same objections of being interested
in the question, for there is no one in the colony who can be con-
sidered as impartial. It appeared to me that a body of evidence
would afford the best means of forming an opinion upon the subject.
The temper and tone of the inhabitants at that particular
moment was such that I felt it advisable to make this concession and
thus withdraw my opposition to a question in which the planters
appeared to have reasonable grounds of indulgence, feeling that it
were better conducted in the Council than by a Committee chosen
at a public meeting, where it would have been attended with violent
language and offensive measures.
I can only add that I do not conceive any report will be entirely
satisfactory unless framed by persons totally unconnected with the
West Indies and whose character and situation in life shall be such
as to command public confidence. To the planters it would be most
satisfactory that a Commission were appointed of Members of the
Imperial Parliament, accompanied by the most ample assistance, so
as to preclude the necessity of employing any persons whatsoever on
the spot. The colonists would repose their interests with safety in
such hands, and the public of Great Britain would have the best
guarantee for the impartiality of the investigation.
THE BRITISH GOVERNMiV~EN
41. ABOLITIONIST PROPAGANDA
(British Guiana. C.O. 111/50, Gov. D'Urban to Horton, Dec. 27, 1825)
(Re a pamphlet of the Anti-Slavery Society)
There is unquestionably a continued spirit of unfairness through
the whole, I mean an evident design to pervert statements and to
place them in a false light so as to draw from the reports of
officers of the crown and other authorities such inferences, no matter
to the Society whether strained, partially true, or altogether false--
as suit their immediate purpose of making an impression upon the
public mind preparatory to the approaching discussions in Parlia-
42. PRACTICAL DIFFICULTIES
(Trinidad. C.O. 295/71, Gov. Woodford to Horton, April 27, 1826)
(In accordance with Horton's letter of March 20 for a report of
any practical difficulties in the execution of the Order in Council of
March 10, 1824)
The Protector cannot attend all trials in which the offences
against the person of a slave are tried or slave property may be
mentioned should be limited to such actions as are cognizable
in the principal courts, and be discretionary in the Protector to
The restriction on slaves working on Sundays for hire were better
.removed as it is easily and generally evaded tho' it has not been
common for some years past to see slave mechanics working.in town
on Sunday as formerly and until there be instruction for them,
they are best at work...
... Returns of punishments should be not oftener than twice a
year perhaps once would be sufficient after a probationary
(Marriages with owner's consent, if refusal, magistrate's.) The
propriety of these marriages is very doubtful, and I think they should
be recommended by the clergy when the parties are fit :- the people
are decidedly averse to them...
It becomes a practical difficulty when the smaller planters are so
situated as to be deficient in energy to repress the violence of turbu-
40 bOCUMINTS ON BRITISH WEST INDIAN HISTORY, 180'-1898
lent women- and are perhaps unable to keep the Record Book.
All complain of the time lost by the use of the stocks and the post-
ponement of punishments to the men. But some of the planters that
were most averse to the order among the foreigners have
acknowledged to me that their apprehensions had not been followed
by any results all however admit that it requires great patience to
bear with the provoking tongues and noise of the women. The com-
mitments to the gaol of this class are for that particular offence : and
I think it certainly creates the greatest difficulty.
I entreat of His Lordship to render the returns as rare as possible.
Your principle of manumission is very good; but it involves too
many contingencies, as it appears to me, for practical operation.
43. THE SEPARATION OF FUNCTIONS
(Trinidad. C.0.295/71, Gov. Woodford to Bathurst, July 2, 1826)
.. circular of March 19 all Governors or Lieutenant
Governors of colonies, in which property in slaves exists, should take
the earliest opportunity of parting with it Governors or Lieuten-
ant Governors hereafter to be appointed will be prohibited from
holding that species of property, with the exception of domestics.
I have no such property- only one domestic slave.
44. THE SECRETARY OF STATE AND A COLONIAL GOVERNOR
(Trinidad. C.O. 295/76, Colonial Office Note on a Despatch of
Gov. Woodford, Jan. 3, 1827)
(Lord Goderich objected to a "not ". Stephen pointed out to
Mr. Hay three "nots ") no one objected to the not in favour
of which Woodford argued, but he quietly expunged the intrusive
"not" to which the whole objection applies.
Woodford has a great fancy for the mere mechanical work of
legislation, and is the composer of all his own laws. But not being a
lawyer by profession, he is continually falling into mistakes in the
choice of words and much more in their arrangement. He should
employ a lawyer by profession to give utterance to his ideas, (so as
not to) impose on the Secretary of State the necessity of writing
despatches descending into minute criticisms which scarcely comport
with the dignity and proprieties of his high station.
THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT
45. THE PLANTERS' FRIENDS AT COURT
(Trinidad. C.0.295/74, Gov. Woodford to Horton, Private and
Confidential, Feb. 27, 1827)
I thank you very much for your last pamphlet. I trust your
authorship will not remain concealed, that the colonists may know
what an able advocate they possess in you:- it is very agreeable to
me to see stated that which I have always told them here, that the
Order of March 1824 was to be considered as the model for the
colonies in general. The latter part of Page 15 is delightful: tho'
if the South American Bubble had lasted 2 years longer I should have
not been surprised at seeing a proposal to sacrifice a sum to redeem
a proportion of the slaves.
I hear the compulsory clause, as it is called, is resisted every-
where and yet one does not see a single individual coming here
from the other colonies who attempts in society to justify the opposi-
tion. The 5 years character is a great concession and a useful one to
both. There wants I think some establishment for these people
when they become free- for they are not to be found a few years
afterwards as I shall shortly shew.
46. IN DEFENCE OF THE PLANTERS
(Jamaica. C.0.137/165, Gov. Manchester to Horton, Private,
March 7, 1827)
(Observations on the Anti-Slavery Monthly Report, Dec. 30,
1826, as far as relates to Jamaica)
It will not escape Mr. Horton's observation that throughout the
whole there is a constant attempt to distort all information received
from the colonies in a most unfair manner, to quote garbled extracts
of Dispatches, for the purpose of answering particular purposes in
short to do anything but speak the truth.
47. IRREPARABLE INJURY TO THE PLANTERS
(Trinidad. C.0. 95/88, Gov. Smith to Goderich, Aug. 2, 1831)
As I did not understand from Sir George Murray's No. 50 that I
was expected to transmit a report from the Protector of Slaves, I
contented myself with discussing the several points connected with
44 DOCUMENTS ON BRITISH WEST INDIAN HISTORY, 1807-1833
partial slave labour on Sundays with that officer, who aided me in
the examination of persons most conversant with, and in obtaining
the best information on, matters concerning the agricultural interests
of the colony. The result of these inquiries confirmed my belief that
a suspension of the labour permitted by the 4th clause must be attend-
ed with irreparable injury to such portion of the crops as might
be neglected for 36 consecutive hours ...
The exorbitant rate of pay fixed by the 4th clause for potting
sugar has probably given rise to the subsequent experiments from
which it has been ascertained to the satisfaction of some planters that
irreparable loss will not be sustained by deferring that operation till
Monday morning whilst others are still strenuous in support of the
system of manufacture previously prevailing.
By the annexed Report of the Protector, in which I entirely con-
cur, Your Lordship will perceive that the drying and attending to
coffee and cacao cannot be dispensed with but that the potting of
sugar may, without any extraordinary injustice to the parties, be
struck out of the Proclamation on the receipt of Your Lordship's
further pleasure. I am however clearly of opinion that the evil is
one which must shortly work out its own remedy; for, as I before
had the honour to observe, the rate of wages per hour is so high as to
amount to a prohibition in all cases where the planter is not convinced
that he would suffer irreparable injury for the want of assistance
procured on such terms.
48. ULTRA VIRES
(Trinidad. C.0. 95/92, Colonial Office to Gov. Grant, Nov. 3. 1832)
(Re Grant's Proclamation auxiliary to His Majesty's Order in
The Order in Council does not authorize you to promulgate any
rules of that nature. Without enquiring whether they are in them-
selves judicious or otherwise, it is sufficient for me to say that they
are misplaced in your Proclamation.
Without denying the wisdom of the rules which prohibit the
infliction of any domestic punishments on Sunday, and which
authorize the punishment of males in the same manner as female
slaves, I must repeat that the Order in Council has not delegated to
you the power of making such regulations, and I need scarcely remark
on the importance of your avoiding whatever may appear an illegal
assumption of legislative authority.
THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT
(ii) The Judiciary
49. JUSTICE TO THE SLAVES
(Jamaica. C.O. 137/152, Gov. Couran to Bathurst, Private, Sept. 1,
(Proceedings of a Slave Court held recently in Clarendon on a slave
sentenced to transportation, but pardoned as a result of a petition by
a representative of his owner)
In transmitting to Your Lordship these proceedings, I have
avoided making them the subject of a public despatch because I
have reason to believe that the marked disapprobation I have shown
at the irregularity and illegality of the late trial will render the
Magistrates generally more attentive to their duty. Your Lord-
ship may be satisfied that the protection of the slave population and a
vigilant attention to the due administration of justice will be objects
of my constant solicitude.
(Colonial Office note: In expressing my entire approbation of
the course which you have pursued I have only to add my hope that
the measures which you have taken may effectually ensure the
regularity of all future trials before Slave Courts and may excite an
increased attention on the part of the magistrates to the important
duties which under the Consolidated Slave Law devolve upon them.)
50. INJUSTICE TO THE SLAVES
(Jamaica. C.O. 137/152, Gov. Couran to Bathurst, Dec., 1821)
S. a most melancholy event in Hanover, where, through the
gross and unpardonable ignorance of the magistrates, a slave has been
a slave of very bad character tried at a Slave Court for
horse stealing and absenting himself from his master. guilty on'
both counts. sentenced to transportation for life. The Custos,
Mr. Vassall, made an addition to the sentence. and if found at
large at any time hereafter in the Island he be hanged ".
By this unfortunate addition to a sentence in other respects
conformable to law the magistrates who sentenced the slave to be
executed were misled.
46 DOCUMENTS ON BRITISH WEST INDIAN HISTORY, 1807-1833
The slave returned to the island. according to the Con-
solidated Slave Act, he should have been brought before another
Slave Court, identified before a Jury, his return voluntarily estab-
lished he would have been again transported. This is the utmost
punishment which the slave could have legally suffered, had the fact
been proved of his having vohmntarily returned from transporta-
I am extremely unwilling to say anything that can aggravate an
offence of such enormous magnitude, but, had these magistrates not
acted with the most blameable precipitation the Cornwall Assize
Court was sitting twenty miles away, and the Acting Attorney
General could have been consulted .
I am unable to describe to you the general feeling of horror which
this event has excited throughout the island. Bill passed by the
Council and Assembly forbidding slave executions in the future except
by warrant under the hand of the Governor one exception, that
of a slave being found guilty of rebellion or rebellious conspiracy,
where the policy of the island seems to require that no delay should
intervene between the conviction and execution of the offender .
However grossly ignorant the magistrates who are involved in
this affair were of their duty and the law of the land, they are persons
of a respectable character; and who in the first instance acted with
mildness; as the slave had by horse stealing incurred the punishment
looking to the possibility of their being convicted of murder
at the next Assize Court in March recommend to His Majesty's
great goodness these unhappy gentlemen in such manner as to prevent
their suffering the long and grievous imprisonment which must take
place, were they to remain in prison until their sentence may be
communicated to Your Lordship and His Majesty's pleasure received
(Jamaica. C.0.137/153, Attorney General to Governor's Secretary,
Feb. 20, 1822)
If the ends of justice should not be defeated and Mr. Newman
should be apprehended, the conduct of the Coroner and Magistrates
is nevertheless so reprehensible that I consider it my duty to submit
it to His Honor's consideration.
THE B sRITISH GOVERNMENT
Knowing His Honor's solicitude on such an occasion and
impressed as I am with the great necessity of enforcing on the local
magistracy the utmost vigilance in the discharge of that part of their
duty which respects the slave population, I cannot refrain from also
submitting to His Honor's consideration whether in addition to such
criminal prosecution as may be sustainable against the coroner and
two magistrates, it may not be salutary and expedient to give them
the earliest intimation of His Honor's displeasure and of the severe
censure to which they have subjected themselves.
52. DERELICTION OF DUTY
(Jamaica. C.O.137/153, Gov. Couran to Bathurst, March 8, 1822)
I lament exceedingly that it should become necessary for me
to trouble Your Lordship with a detail of atrocious cruelty which
has been inflicted on a slave in the parish of Manchester by a person
called Charles Newman.
S. It appears the slave was confined in the stocks: and of
course incapable of any means of defending himself from the brutal
violence of Newman, and, whilst in that situation, he was beaten
with a large stick by Newman in such a manner as to occasion his
death, although Newman was cautioned by a person who was present,
that if he did not desist from beating the slave, he would kill him.
It is unnecessary for me to make any other observation in the
present stage of this matter than to call Your Lordship's attention
to the scandalous neglect and ignorance of the Magistrates; and
to remark that, at this early period of my administration, three in-
stances have occurred of the misconduct of the local magistrates -
.one referred to in my letter of 1st September last, the second that
of the Hanover magistrates, on which occasion a slave was illegally
executed; and that which forms the subject of this communication.
If the result of the trial on Newman should confirm the Attorney
General's statement, I shall feel it my duty to dismiss all those
magistrates who may be found to have been guilty of a dereliction
of their duty.
53. ENCOURAGING RESPONSIBILITY
(Jamaica. C.O. 137/153, Attorney General to Gov. Couran, March 20,
A great and important benefit will I trust and hope result from
this trial. The solicitude manifested by His Majesty's Government
48 DOCUMENTS ON IBRITISH WEST INDIAN HISTORY, 1807-1833
of this island that this case should receive the most solemn investi-
gation, further evinced as that solicitude was by the personal attend-
ance of the Attorney General at court where he is not in the habit
of attending, and the extreme jeopardy in which the lives of these
magistrates were placed, increased by the lengthened deliberation
of the jury, cannot fail to excite in the whole magistracy of the island
a more anxious sense of the great responsibility under which they
enter on the discharge of their duties, to increase their caution and
humane attention in dispensing to the slave population that code
of laws with the execution of which they are entrusted, and to con-
vince all classes of persons in this island that the most ample pro-
tection of that part of the population is the object of unremitting
vigilance on the part of His Majesty's Government.
54. POUR ENCOURAGER LES AUTRES
(Jamaica. C.O. 137/153, Gov. Couran to Bathurst, March 23, 1822)
I trust you will be of opinion that nothing has been left undone
to bring these persons to justice and although the Attorney General
seems to think that the jury were influenced by considerations which
did not properly belong to them I am willing to hope that the
jeopardy in which these gentlemens lives have been placed and the
solemnity with which the trial was conducted will lead to a more
strict observance on the part of the magistrates of the laws which
they are appointed to administer and that the frequent and just
complaints which have been made of their negligence and disregard
of their duty will not be repeated.
55. THE NEED OF AN INCENTIVE TO LABOUR
(Trinidad. C.O. 295/60, Opinion of Chief Judge on 1823 Resolutions
of House of Commons, 1823)
That so long as the system of slavery is permitted to exist, and
the Proprietors of West India estates to derive from their properties
that just and reasonable return to which their advances and risks
entitle them, some incentive to labor will be found necessary, is I
think unquestionable, and that some one of the Gang of slaves must
be invested with authority over the rest, seems to me equally free
from doubt. But that the person so invested should at all times be
around with the instrument of his authority, and hold the cart whip
THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT
continually impending over the industrious as well as the idle, is not
I think founded upon principles of justice or policy.
I think the restriction of the introduction of this instrument into
the field is one of the first steps towards improvement and towards
raising these unfortunate beings from the state of degradation in
which they are placed.
56. "To OFFEND, AND JUDGE, ARE DISTINCT OFFICES AND OF
(Trinidad. C.0.295/80, Murray to Gov. Grant, March, 1829)
(Re Half Yearly Report of Protector of Slaves to Dec. 24)
(Suits before the Chief Judge to obtain freedom of slaves:
3 slaves (2 women) all valued at 216. 13. 4 each. 1st slave (male),
250 fixed by owner's umpire; 173. 0. 8 by slave's. Female slaves,
260 fixed by owner's umpire, 130 by slave's. None of the slaves was
able to produce the sum.)
The material differences in the valuations of the appraisers in
these cases, contrasted with the exact identity in those of the umpire,
appear singular, and I request that you will enquire into the circum-
stances, and report to me whether you are able to find anything
explanatory of the variations on the one hand and of the coincidence
on the other. In particular you will inform me whether the Chief
Judge is in the practice of appointing the same individual to be
umpire in all or in a majority of the cases of this kind which are
brought before him; for if this practice obtain, the qualifications of
the individual whom he thus selects must become a matter for most
serious consideration, in as much as the efficiency of the compulsory
manumission law will mainly depend upon the conduct and opinions
of that individual.
During the same period the highest price paid for any slave
manumitted by private contract was 141 the prices of adult slaves
so manumitted have in general been considerably under 100. In
the first case referred to, the Chief Judge was himself the owner of
the slave. I fear that the provisions of the Slave Order did not allow
the Chief Judge any alternative but that of appointing the umpire in
his 6wn case. It may be proper however that an amendment of the
law in this particular should be submitted to His Majesty in Council.
60 DOCUMEsNTS ON 3RITISH WEST INDIAN HISTORY, 1807-188
(Jamaica. C.O. 137/172, Meeting of Magistrates, May 14, 1830)
We deprecate this interference of the Colonial Secretary as a gross
violation of our just rights, and an attempt to destroy that constitu-
tional authority with which we have been solemnly invested by the
several branches of the Legislature our astonishment that the
Colonial Secretary should a second time irritate and wound the feel-
ings of the magistrates of this colony, by the attempt to establish
an inquisitorial jurisdiction over their proceedings.*
That of the Anti Slavery Society we admit no other cognizance
than their avowed and implacable hostility to the colonies and their
general treachery to the interests of the Empire. We, however, de-
plore the influence which they appear to have gained over the several
departments of Government and it is with the utmost pain that we
contrast the facility with which all communications from this self-
constituted Society are received and acknowledged with the neglect
which the petitions and remonstrances of our Representatives in
Assembly have suffered from the Ministers of the crown.
58. THE INFECTION OF CORRESPONDENT PREJUDICES
(Trinidad. C.O. 295/90, Stephen to Taylor, March 4, 1831)
As to the great bulk of cases of illegal importations into Trinidad,
the Governor has been directed to negotiate for the emancipation of
the Slaves on condition of foregoing every other proceeding against
the importers ...... :
The only remaining imputation is that Mr. Fuller is a great slave
owner, which he very frankly admits. I think this a sufficient reason
why he should not be Attorney General, but it certainly affords no
reason for censure, since no prohibitory rule on the subject existed
in Mr. Fuller's case.
I should add, however, were it my province to decide such mat-
ters, that if Mr. Fuller's agricultural pursuits are essential to his
plans of life, and if he intends to pursue them, it will not be possible
to maintain him in his office of Attorney General.
The Secretary of State for the Colonies had directed the Governor to consult
with the Attorney General as to whether there were sufficient grounds for
further prosecuting Rev. Bridges, who had been acquitted of a charge of
cruelty and indecency to a female slave.
THE B3RITISH GOVEtNMiNT
59. THE PROTECTOR OF SLAVES
(Trinidad. C.O. 295/92, Draft of Goderich's Reply to Gov. Grant's
Despatch of Jan. 26, 1832)
It was unquestionably the intention of the Order in Council that
the functions of Protector of Slaves should cease to be committed to
the local magistrates or Commandants of districts. Where it is
absolutely necessary to the efficient and punctual execution of the law
that more than one officer whose whole time is devoted to that service
should be employed upon it, His Majesty's Government intended that
persons should be sent out from this country to act as Assistants to
the Protectors in the districts; but it was hoped that a larger propor-
tion of officers would not be needed than 1 to every 20,000 slaves ...
I am aware however that it is not only the number of the slaves
but also the scattered or concentrated locality of the population on
which the extent of difficulty of the service must necessarily depend,
and should it be found by experience that the present establishment
of the Protectors is unequal to the complete and practical execution of
the law, I shall be prepared to send out another officer as his assistant.
60. WALKING OUT OF COURT
(Trinidad. C.0.295/92, Gov. Grant to Howick, April 30, 1832)
(Trial for maltreatment of slaves). The second Alcalde of the
Cabildo who happened to be the one who was the assessor with the
judges on the occasion, immediately declared, and that in language of
no mild nature, that he would never consent to sit as a judge, on any
trial founded on the recent Order in Council, and immediately walked
out of court.
61. STUDIOUSLY CULTIVATED
(Trinidad. C.0.295/93, Gov. Grant to Goderich, July 3, 1832)
(Re 7 cases of complaints of slaves against their owners)
Whatever the real merits of these cases may be the sumarias
did not on the face of them admit of their being deemed altogether
trivial; it must therefore be presumed that they (the Alcaldes) have
determined not to take their seats on the Bench in any trial for
. misdemeanors under the Order in Council of 2nd November 1831.
539 DOCUMENTS ON BRITISH WEST INDIAN HISTORY, 1807-18i8
The new Supreme Court before which all offences amounting
to misdemeanors under the Order in Council of 2nd November 1831
will have to be tried, is to consist of the three Judges and three
Assessors from the Cabildo, and no smaller number forms a court.
If there is no provision made against the Assessors keeping aloof
from the Courts, there is little doubt, judging from what has occurred,
that this will be practised in trials under the Order in Council of
2nd November 1831, and even should attendance be made compulsory
they would probably come with the same feeling which would have
induced them to stop away, and be guided in their judgments by the
view they have been accustomed, and feel disposed, to take of the
relative situation between master and slave, instead of by the strict
letter of the order.
I am rather afraid that for some time to come, and in reference
to the feeling which now exists in this community, it will not be
found that Assessors taken from it to assist on the Criminal Bench
will be any acquisition, and especially where the interest of the Slave
is concerned, or where persons in authority are to be protected from
libel and insult. The public press teems with the most virulent abuse
against the Government both at home and here and against all their
measures, and does its utmost endeavour to cry down public men
and public measures and to spread alarm, distrust and discord among
the inhabitants, many of whom arc so credulous and so ignorant,
and have so little the means of obtaining proper information that
they believe all th::t goes forth in this shape.
I am sorry to say of a community among whom I am placed
that there is a great deal of discord, discontent and opposition pre-
vailing in it and studiously cultivated and that some of the principal
inhabitants actively mix themselves up with it: this is the more
to be regretted that with a good feeling prevailing peace and tran-
quillity could most easily be maintained and the prosperity of the
country thereby promoted instead of being endangered.
(Colonial Office note: The state of things described in these
papers is one which makes it in my opinion very doubtful whether
any further delay ought to take place in effecting by the authority of
the Crown such an alteration in the constitution of the criminal courts
in all the Crown colonies as may secure the due enforcement of the
provisions of the Order in Council. It was certainly most desirable
that any strong measure of the kind should not be adopted without
the fullest proof of its necessity, but I think that these occurrences in
Trinidad (where there was the best prospect of the law being
THE iRITISH GOVERNMfiNT
acquiesced in) shew such a determined and concerted spirit of resist-
ance on the part of the colonists as to make it perfectly clear that
this necessity really has arisen.)
62. THE ULTIMATE END OF HUMAN SOCIETY
(Trinidad. C.0. 95/93, Stephen to Howick, Aug. 25, 1832)
I venture to assert with confidence that the evidence was such as
to present two opposite conclusions, either of which might have been
adopted by honest and reasonable men. To have taken such a case
as the ground of impugning the good faith, not only of those particu-
lar assessors, but of the whole body from which they were drawn,
would, to say the least of it, have been very bad policy.
I would however distinguish between the legal and the moral
conviction induced by the proofs transmitted from these colonies.
Though the King's Secretary of State, as I think, has not before him
such evidence as will warrant his making a direct imputation of a
perjurious violation or a continuous neglect of duty, on the part of the
assessors, yet no man can read these papers without coming to the
conclusion that the assessors were not to be trusted .
To acquiesce in the present constitution of the Criminal Courts of
the three colonies after the representations made by the Governors
and Judges, and with the evidence which the last few months have
yielded seems to me impossible. Whatever is valuable in human
society is manifestly at stake in those colonies. The agitators are
bringing destruction on their own property, and are placing in danger
their own lives and those of their associates. The slaves will be
publicly excited to.revolt, and the calamities of a servile war must
then follow. In defiance of all reproach and heedless of the invidious
terms which would be applied to such policy, I would resolutely act
upon the principle of securing obedience to the law, and a resolute
execution of it, whatever minor principles I might be compelled to
tread down in advancing towards that consummation. The ultimate
end of human society the security of life, property and reputation
must be preferred to its subordinate ends the enjoyment of particu-
The combination of three assessors with three Judges for the
decision of the guilt, or innocence, of all persons indicated before the
Criminal Court appeared to be as wide a departure from the popular
institution of trial by jury as anticedently to experience the British
54 DOCUMENTS ON BRITISH WEST INDIAN HISTORY, 180'Y-188
Government could properly establish even in a slave colony ... The
constitution of these tribunals had originally a much larger infusion of
the popular voice, than was left to them by the Order in Council.
(1) entire abolition of the office of assessor seems to
outrun the exigency of the case. It is not, and probably could not be
truly alleged, that assessors would act with partiality in those cases in
which the question of slavery is entirely excluded ... This is the
ultimate and extreme remedy, the resort to which, until all milder
methods had been tried in vain, could scarcely be vindicated.
(2) abolishing the office of assessor except in capital or
transportable cases With what consistency could the more weighty
trust be confided to the hands of those to whom you cannot confide
the less important duty ?
(3) to abolish the function of assessors in slave cases would
enhance enormously the antipathy and resistance to the Slave Law.
It would be to proclaim to the world a distrust of the colonists on that
subject of which the complaints would be most bitter and plausible.
It would deprive the laws made for the protection of the slaves of
whatever support they can derive from forming part of the general
jurisprudence of the country, and would exhibit them in the invidious
light of regulations rendered effectual by an instrumentality peculiar
(4) casting vote to the Chief Judge -. is to destroy in
great measure the essential character of the institution. However, if
no other remedy were at hand, I should decidedly prefer this, or
indeed any of the others, which have been mentioned, to total
(5) ... drawing assessors from the whole body of society in
this measure an easy and effectual remedy may, if I mistake not, be
found for the evil .
... every one over 91 and of free condition, not convicted of any
infamous crime, to be competent and liable to serve as an assessor -
must be able to read and write, and have paid, or been assessed
to pay, any direct tax or rate for the relief of the poor within the next
preceding twelve months.
(Arguments in Favour.)
(1) the least possible innovation.
(2) in appearance and in truth an enlargement of popular
rights which the other schemes all tend to abridge. You enlist the
mass of society on the side of their rulers.
THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT
(3) By thus throwing open the door indifferently to all classes,
that which is the most numerous and the best affected, namely, the
free coloured people, will acquire a preponderating influence in the
administration of justice, and the cabals of the cabildo... will be
effectually broken down.
(4) No man will know beforehand who are to be the assessors
at his trial, and all secret influence will be prevented.
(5) Attendance being compulsory, with a power to the judges to
fine and imprison absentees, trials will no longer be postponed for
want of assessors. To the free coloured people the employment will
be an enviable distinction; and they will press forward to undertake
it. The whites will then also bestir themselves, lest the tribunals
should fall entirely into the hands of the other class.
63. CONSISTENTLY ARBITRARY
(Trinidad. C.O. 295/93, H. T. Memorandum on the measures
which may be required in the Present State of Affairs in British
Guiana, Trinidad and St. Lucia, Aug. 23, 1832)
I entirely agree with Lord Howick in thinking that the time has
arrived for taking some decisive, if not definitive, steps for the en-
forcement of the Order in Council.
It is highly expedient that this consummation should be brought
about before the critical season of the Christmas holidays.
In British Guiana we have declared that there is not sufficient
evidence of a wilful determination to defeat the ends of justice by
giving verdicts against the evidence, and the Governor has been
directed to give the Assessors a further trial before he despairs of
obtaining a just administration of the law. It would be difficult there-
fore to retract this concession.
In St. Lucia we have no evidence that the Judicature now labours
under any incompetency to administer the law, except what results
from the indolence and occasional hilarity of the Chief Judge. At
Trinidad I do not think that the proceedings have been such as to
enable the Government to refuse to grant the same amount of in-
dulgence and respite as in the case of British Guiana. In my opinion
the course taken by the Alcaldes was more justifiable than that taken
by the Guiana Assessors. The Assessors took their seats upon the
S*Either Henry Taylor or Horace Twlss of the Colonial Office.
56 DOCUMENTS ON BRITISH WEST INDIAN HISTORY, 1807-1833
Bench and warped their judgments to suit their inclinations. The
Alcades refused to take their seats, and such was the course pursued
by the Protector in the indictment of trivial offences as misdemeanors,
that had the refusal of the Alcades been limited with due discrimina-
tion to particular cases, I should have scarcely thought them much to
blame. Their error was that having been provoked into adopting the
measure of refusing to sit, they carried it too far in practice, and
chose to consider as trivial some sufficiently heinous offences. But
if it was to be expected that the Guiana Assessors would return to a
rational and impartial manner of forming their opinion upon evidence,
I think it must also be presumed that the Alcaldes will learn to dis-
criminate between trivial and atrocious offences, and that when the
Protector shall be encouraged to exercise a larger and sounder discre-
tion in the choice of cases to be brought before the Supreme Court,
they will at least resume their seats upon the Bench.
Ostensibly therefore I think it will be necessary in dealing with
the Trinidad Alcaldes to adhere with a certain degree of consistency
to the principle on which we dealt with the Demerara Assessors. In
point of fact, however, I think it is full time to take some steps which
may lead to a change in the Judicature of all the three Crown
I am strongly persuaded that whether or not the Assessors con-
tinue to be contumacious to the extent to which they carry their
contumacy at present, they will never be just administrators of the
slave law, especially in cases not amounting to felony. So long,
therefore, as they shall have the power of equally dividing the Court
upon every case, I do not believe that it will be possible to bring the
Order in Council into fair operation; and I am, equally with Lord
Howick, impressed with the danger and mischief which is likely to
result from placing before the eyes of the slaves the mere dead letter
of a salutary law and omitting the measures which are necessary to
give it vitality.
I have long been convinced not only that slavery cannot be.
reformed by proceedings adopted upon the principles of a free Govern-
ment, but that so strong a measure of reform as that which is
embodied in the Order in Council cannot be successfully enforced
without a course of proceeding which shall be consistently arbitrary.
Nor do I think that such a course would occasion so much clamour
and disturbance as one which falls short of it. When an end is pro-
posed, to the attainment of which an arbitrary exercise of power is
THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT
indispensable, and when arbitrary measures are consequently to be
adopted, I am convinced that there cannot be a greater error than
the not making them sufficiently arbitrary to be successful; for success
is the great anodyne of all the anger and excitement which arises upon
such occasions. Therefore being advanced to the point at which we
now stand, I am decidedly of opinion that to stop short here, or even
to allow the complete execution of the Order to be suspended for, a.
few months longer, especially with the Christmas holidays in prospect,
would be neither politic, as regards the credit of the Government, nor
safe, as regards the planters and the slaves.
(Recommends) the issue of an Order in Council not imperatively
directing any change, but empowering the respective Governors to
make certain prescribed changes, contingently upon their receiving
reports from the respective judges to the effect that the Courts, as at
present constituted, either cannot be formed owing to the repugnance
of the Assessors to sit, or are found not to be adapted to the purpose
of administering impartial justice. The change which I should pro-
pose to prescribe for contingent adoption would be the slightest which
would suffice to destroy the existing equilibrium between the official
and the popular votes; that is, I would give the Chief Judge a cast-
ing vote when the Court is equally divided ...
The Assessors seem to me to have given to the Government a
fair and highly desirable opportunity of strengthening to this extent
the official side of the Bench ...
At the same time that any modifications of the Slavery and
Judicature Orders in Council are propounded, it would seem desirable
to refer to the Parliamentary Grant, which is not, as it was first
intended to be, in its terms, conditional, although the Government are
at liberty to make it so. The conditions which the Government will
impose should therefore be set forth, and perhaps it would be desirable
to direct the Governors to report themselves, and to call upon the
Protectors to report, on the question whether the Order is in full
operation, and to obtain also the report of the Judges as to whether
they consider that any obstruction exists to the administration of
justice under the law; and if the reports of these officers or any of
them be unfavourable, then to desire that their reports should be
repeated monthly until further orders, for the purpose of enabling
His Majesty's Government to judge from time to time whether they
would be justified in proceeding to apply the Grant to the relief of
the Colonial Treasuries.
58 DOCUMENTS ON BRITISH WEST INDIAN HISTORY, 1807-1833
64. APPLAUSE OF THE COMMUNITY
(Jamaica. C.O. 137/183, Gov. Mulgrave to Goderich, Nov. 12, 1832)
(Letter of September 19 transmitting letter from Mr. Dyer,
Secretary of Baptist Missionary Society in London, with enclosures
respecting the conduct of several of the custodes and magistrates of
Jamaica re Missionaries)
It would be quite useless to institute legal proceedings against
any of them, and even if the result of an investigation of a different
nature were to establish the substantial accuracy of Mr. Dyer's in-
formation, it would be scarcely possible, at this time, to visit so many
persons filling the situation of magistrates with that mark of dis-
pleasure which such proceedings would appear to call for, sustained
as I fear these gentlemen would be by the applause and encourage-
ment of no inconsiderable part of the community.
An investigation in which so many persons might probably
be implicated would only tend, at this time, to keep alive that agi-
tation in the community which it is so important should be suffered,
if possible, to subside.
65. AN INDEPENDENT JUDICIARY
(Barbados. C.0.28/111, Gov. Smith to Stanley, June 1, 1833)
You may rely on my hearty exertions to give all the effect in my
power to every measure that may release so many thousand human
beings from barbarous slavery.
I want independent Judges, independent Magistrates, and
independent Law Officers, and then we may associate with the happy
event of Slavery Extinction, the establishment of Civil and Criminal
Jurisprudence, such as Englishmen are born to, and have a right to
expect, except only in Slave Colonies.
(iii) The Registry of Slaves
66. THE REGISTRATION OF SLAVES
(Trinidad. C.0.295/28. Order in Council of March 26, 1812)
To provide more effectually for the prevention of the illegal and
clandestine importation of slaves into the Island of Trinidada.- .
establishment of a public registry for the registration and enrolment
THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT
of the names and descriptions of all negroes, mulattoes and mustees,
who now are, or at any time hereafter shall be held in a state of
slavery within the said island, and of the births and deaths of all such
From and after the said final closing and authentication of the
said original registry of slaves in the said island, it shall not be lawful
to hold or detain in slavery, nor to use or treat as a slave, in the said
island, any negro, or mulatto, or other person, who shall not have
been first duly registered as a slave, according to the directions here-
inbefore contained, but that every negro; mulatto or other person
within the said island, not so registered as a slave, shall be deemed
and taken to be free, except only fugitive slaves from any other island
or place in the West Indies.
(Trinidad. C.0. 295/31, Stephen to Bathurst, Aug. 24, 1813)
(Re letters and papers from Murray, Registrar of Slaves)
As the Governor's or Registrar's official correspondence has, no
doubt, brought in a regular way to Your Lordship's notice the obstruc-
tion given to the execution of the Order in Council, and the departure
from its limitations in point of time, which Mr. Murray represents
to have been unavoidable, the proper measures have I hope been
taken to obviate all doubts as to the effect of that departure in point
of law, and also for enforcing the legal consequences of the order
against those who have contumaciously disobeyed it, especially by
the preventing their holding any longer in slavery any unregistered
negroes belonging to them who by the provision of the order are
entitled to freedom. Indeed tho' I have no personal knowledge of
the new Governor (for he did not do me the honor to make use of
the introduction which Your Lordship mentioned having given to
him) I should hope that without waiting like his predecessor for
specific instructions, he has done his duty in that respect, pursuant
to the general injunction contained in the order itself.
Your Lordship will perceive not only the information contained
in Mr. Murray's letters to me, but from the magnitude of the returns
of slaves now in the Island compared with former returns of an
official character, the urgent necessity that there is for the strict
execution of a law which can alone prevent the contraband importa-
tion of slaves into that colony.
60 DOCUMENTS ON BRITISH WEST INDIAN HISTORY, 1807-1838
68. THE PROBLEM OF LAW ENFORCEMENT
(Trinidad. C.O. 295/31, Gov. Woodford to Bathurst, Nov. 12, 1813)
(Re Order in Council for the registration of slaves)
I do not apprehend that many will be found negligent but from
the total ignorance of many colored owners of a slave or two, in the
distant parts of the island, there may be cases deserving of Your
Lordship's indulgence. The clause which provides for the appoint-
ment of Commissioners will I fear be found difficult of execution in
as much as such respectable persons who would best fulfill the inten-
tions of His Royal Highness. will not easily be persuaded to undertake
to visit the distant settlements of the island.
I hope Your Lordship may be induced to complete this most
excellent provision for the security of property here, to be perfected
by preventing the exportation of slaves from the island, which having
suffered so materially from the Abolition of the Slave Trade may
appear to Your Lordship to have some claim to such a prohibition.
69. POPULAR INDIFFERENCE TO LAW
(Trinidad. C.0. 95/32, Gov. Woodford to Bathurst, Jan. 4, 1814)
I cannot conceal from Your Lordship that the total ignorance in
which many of the free coloured owners live, the great distance from
the town, the frequent casualties of sickness and infirmity, will be the
cause of converting the penalties of neglect and disobedience into
serious hardships and perhaps ruin to the aged and ignorant owner
of one or two domestic slaves : and I may also add that such has
been the total indifference of the people to the orders of Government,.
that they are perfectly unaccustomed to obey any which do not
happen to suit some object of personal convenience. The completion
of the Registry therefore has been accompanied with delays and
difficulties which would not have existed elsewhere.
I doubt very much the practicability of all future annual returns
of slaves being made into the Registrar's office in so short a space as
ten days; and am of opinion that a month would be a more reasonable
period to allow them for that purpose, as it often requires three weeks
for a boat to reach the town from those quarters to which there is no
communication by land.
S. the Registrar reports the numbers of his registry
1882 personal returns containing 8633 slaves
649 plantation 17084
2531 total of returns 25717
THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT
70. DEFENCE OF A SUBORDINATE
(Trinidad. C.O. 295/32, Gov. Woodford to Bathurst, March 18, 1814)
I beg Your Lordship will feel perfectly satisfied that no such
improper intercourse as that which has been represented to Your
Lordship has been carried on since I have been in the island, without
the adoption of the most vigorous and active measures for its
detection and punishment.
two cases of four slaves brought from Martinique by a slave
broker, and six slaves landed on the south west coast by an English
settler of St. Vincent's In the first case but a few hours, and in the
latter a few days only, elapsed before the seizure was made.
With these exceptions I do not believe a single slave has been
illegally imported.- Although from certain information of a very
unofficial nature that Mr. Murray informed me he had received in
England respecting the real object of the Order in Council, he was
induced to believe that the view proposed was more to prevent and
prohibit any ulterior and illegal increase of the Negro Population
than to visit with unusual or unexpected vigour those who have
innocently, ignorantly, or even contumaciously opposed its execution
in the first instance, I am still warranted in saying that his permission
subsequently granted to certain individuals of that description, whom
at the same time he seriously warned, was given in conformity to the
suggestions that had been so strongly impressed upon his mind, and
I believe I may further state that in general none of these cases will
be found liable to suspicion, the parties being old settlers and pro-
prietors in the island, and the slaves that they registered having been
imported into it for some time previous to the promulgation of the
Order in Council.
(Population of slaves for three years preceding--
1809, 21475 1810, 20729 1811, 21288.
Registry of Slaves
Received to 22nd April 1813, according to the Order in Council
of 26 March 1812
584 plantation returns 14411 slaves
1537 personal 6865
22nd April 31st August 1813
53 plantation returns 2376 slaves
'205 personal returns 1257
15th October 16th December
12 plantation returns 297
141 personal 511)
62 DOCUMENTS ON BRITISH WEST INDIAN HISTORY, 1807-1833
71. EXCUSING CONTUMACY
(Trinidad. C.0. 295/33, Gov. Woodford to Bathurst, Aug. 1, 1814)
It has always appeared to me that the spirit, intent and meaning
of the proviso was to give those persons who had been prevented from
making either any or a proper return at the period of original regis-
tration, an opportunity of correcting their omission or mistake, as
well as any subsequent defects in their succeeding returns, and
although too much latitude should not be allowed by the Registrar
for such corrections yet I am convinced that if the omissions and
mistakes that have been made in the several returns were strictly
taken, great injustice would be done and much hardship suffered by
I feel however an anxious wish to receive proper authority
for this interpretation, before it is acted upon .
Commissioners selected and appointed under. the order
S. .unable to perform the object assigned to them within the period
there provided affords one among several proofs that I am in the
habit of receiving, of the inadequacy of the several periods of time
assigned by the Order for the execution of its several provisions.
72. APOLOGY FOR THE PLANTERS
(Trinidad. C.0. 295/33, Gov. Woodford to Bathurst. Sept. 7, 1814)
The distinction recognized by the Order in Council dated 21 July
1813 between the several descriptions of the employment of slaves has
been found to be productive of infinite trouble and expense to- the
ignorant and to the conscientious part of the community, -p'resenting
a hazardous alteration which they could only get rid f by erasing the
term, occasionally, from the oath required by the Proclamation.
73. MR. MOTHER COUNTRY"
(Trinidad. C.O.295/34, James Stephen, "Facts and Observations as
to the Execution of the Order in Council of March 26,
1812, Feb., 1814)
By a variety of successive delays and mistakes which it is need-
less here to state, this order remained without one effectual step
towards its execution in the island till February 1813, about eleven
months from its date.
THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT
About the middle of February 1813, Murray, the Registrar, ar-
rived from England with the books ready for entering the returns,
and every other preparation for carrying the order into effect.
According to the anxious provisions of the order itself, it ought
to have been publicly notified by the Governor within a week from
Within one calendar month from such notification all returns of
slaves ought to have been made.
Within one calendar month after, or two months from the notifi-
cation, all returns should have been registered.
Another calendar month was afterwards allowed, not for making
any further returns, or registering any returns already made, as of
right, but for the remedy of omissions arising from accidents or un-
avoidable impediments; which remedy was to be had only by special
order of the Governor, upon proof made before him that the default
had not been wilful.
At the end of the last mentioned month, or three months from
the first notification of the order in the Island, the original Registry
was to be finally closed and solemnly authenticated.
Within two months from such final close and authentication,
duplicates of the books of Registry were to be formed, authenticated
and transmitted to the Secretary of State.
the first departure -the Governor's proclamation. 26
February. But Murray later took 20th March and after 22nd
March, as the time of the first notification--he appears to have
acted at his own discretion, without any authority from the then
Governor. He assigns as justification of his conduct that in conse-
quence of the great distance of several of the quarters of the island
and the difficulty of communication with some of them the Order in
Council could only be effectually promulgated in every part of the
island between the 26 of February and 20 of March ".
By later date, he enlarged of his own authority the time for
completing the returns by twenty-one days. This was contrary not
only to the intent but the express terms of the Order, in Council.
On this first departure from the limitations of time Mr. S. neither
expressed nor felt disapprobation; for tho' he was certainly surprised
at the proposition that it required a month, or even three weeks to
give .publicity to this Order in Trinidad, and thought it rash in the
Registrar to take upon himself such a departure from the law which
he was bound to execute ministerially, he gave credit to the sincerity
and fairness with which Mr. Murray had acted; and thought that
64 DOCUMENTS ON BRITISH WEST INDIAN HISTORY, 1807-1833
under the difficulties of his official duties arising from the popular
opposition which the same letters described, an error on the con-
ciliatory side might well be excused; and that the proceedings might
be fit to be legalised by a retrospective Order in Council. He was
then rather reconciled to it by the expectation, held out in the two
former letters, that the original registration would be completed
within the limited time, counting from March 22, tho' this would
have been impossible, by Mr. Murray's representations, if he had
counted from the proper period, that of the first notification.
Subsequent proceedings however seem to call for the following
1st. That the ground of excuse in point of fact is extraordinary
and might deserve investigation.
2nd. That Mr. Murray on the 6th of March had no foresight of
any such unavoidable impediment; but expressed in his letter of
that date a hope that he should be able to effect everything neces-
sary within the limited time ".
3rd. That the month allowed for supplying unavoidable or in-
voluntary omissions of returns by orders from the Governor would
have effectually relieved those who from want of timely notice in
distant quarters of the island, should have been unable to send in
their returns within the limited period, without any departure what-
ever from the provisions of the Order in Council.
the next disobedience the returns not entered into
the book by 22nd May, which by the Registrar's own computation
was the proper period, applied for an extension from Governor
Monroe to' 31 August the reasons given in a letter on
April 25, turned on local and clerical difficulties, to shew the impossi-
bility of entering all the returns in the Registry within the time
limited by the order, or in less even than 150 days from its first
promulgation. But Monroe's extension meant 186 days from the
first promulgation of the order, and Murray secured from the new
Governor Woodford a further extension to 15th October.
Thus a work which the Order in Council had peremptorily in-
joined to be done within two months and one week from the time of
the first arrival of the Order in Trinidad, was not done till about
eight months after the second arrival of that order, tho' all possible
preparations had been made for its immediate execution. The
returns ought all to have been registered by the first week in May;
they were not registered before the middle of October.
THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT
If this however had been all, there would have been a strong
disposition in the author of these remarks to judge favourably of the
Registrar's conduct; to regard his departure from the Order as
venial, if not necessary; and to think they ought to be acquiese'd in
and ratified by His Majesty's Government. He is ready to admit
that some of the causes of delay assigned are in a considerable degree
reasonable and wellfounded. The number of slaves ultimately re-
turned appears to have been greater by 2/5 than was supposed when
the limitations of time were adjusted by the Order in Council; and
perhaps even on the estimate of numbers then formed, from the last
official returns, the time allowed for their registration, which was
meant to be not more than sufficient, was much more than the
clerical labour required. Some of Mr. Murray's excuses indeed may
well be questioned in point of fact or principle. The proposition,
"that the same clerk will write twice as much in England as in the
West Indies" cannot be admitted Nor ought the alleged ex-
pediency of "not writing by candle light and not employing different
clerks to relieve each other" to be admitted in opposition to the
positive requisition of the law, the speedy execution of which in the
first instance was so essential to its very important objects Mr.
Murray's own estimates might also be urged against him. On the 12
of April he stated in his letter to Mr. Stephen that he had then re-
ceived two-thirds of all the expected returns had begun to enter
the returns as early as the 15th of March.
But it is not meant to urge this inconsistency against Mr. Mur-
ray in proof that he could really have done the business on his own
plan within the time prescribed. The contrary is believed to be
true; and it is possible that he did not think of the obvious criterion
before him, by which he might have ascertained soon after the outset
of his work the great inadequacy of the time allowed for its comple-
tion. Let it be supposed then in his favour that all the time
obtained from Governor Monroe was necessary for registering the
returns, and there would be no objection to a like concession even as
to the time obtained from Sir Ralph Woodford for that purpose, if
there were no other ground for blame; tho' this and the former ex-
tension together are believed to have greatly exceeded the real
necessity of the case. But these concessions must be applied only to
the .Registration of the Returns : and can in no degree be extended
to the receiving into the office and registering returns made at any
time after the 22d of April 1813, if that has been permitted or done.
The 22d of April is here taken as the latest period for the purpose
66 DOCUMENTS ON BRITISH WEST INDIAN HISTORY, 1807-1833
of making returns, which even the Registrar's own construction of
the Order in Council as to the time of its notification could be
allowed. It is near a month later than the period which the terms
and intention of the Order in Council prescribed. But the alleged
difficulty and delay in circulating the notification through the differ-
ent districts of the island having led the Registrar to allow near a
month for that purpose, and to take the publication of the Order in
the last of the districts as the time of its first notification in Trinidad,
let his own views be adopted, and his own measure of the indulgence
due on this score be allowed. Still, by the 22d of April every return
might and ought to have been made.
Beyond that day, he suggests no excuse whatever for the delay
of the Slave-holders in making their returns, but only for his own
delay in their registration. On the 12 of April he states the fact
that two-thirds of the returns had already been received, and his ex-
pectation of receiving the rest within the then remaining time of
limitation, i.e., within ten days; and it may be shewn positively from
his own letters that if any returns were longer withheld, it must have
been either from wilful and contumacious defaults, or from accidental
or unavoidable causes in particular cases .
If therefore the extension of time for entering returns in the
Register Books were abused to the purpose of receiving new returns
subsequent to April 22, it was a proceeding for which no cause what-
ever has been suggested, and for which no apology can be conceived.
The enlarging the time for completing the official work within
the Registry itself was a departure from the Order in Council which
stood on the justification of necessity; and no other justification
ought to be admitted either for the Registrar or Colonial Government
in any contravention of a law like this founded on the same principle
with the Abolition of the Slave Trade. If any such latitude were
given, the fate of such laws in the West Indies might easily be fore-
told. They would become useless; and had better be repealed. But
for the proceeding here supposed there could be neither necessity nor
any other excuse. None at least that could consist with the objects
and spirit of the law.
One great object of the limitations of time for registering the
returns when made and authenticating the original registry was to
obtain the earliest possible security against the Registrar himself, and
even against the Colonial Government. As soon as the Register
Books are authenticated in duplicate, and one sett of them sent to
England, the door will be shut against frauds in the original Registry.
THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT
Till then, there is no security against them, if aided by the Registrar,
and connived at or disregarded by the Governor. The very long
delay therefore in registering the returns, and the still greater delay
yet to take place in the transmission of the Duplicate books (of
which hereafter) are certainly no unimportant departure from the
plan of the Order in Council.
But to reject its limitations as to the time of original returns was
far worse. Here the designed precaution was not merely against the
Public Officers, but against all the slave holders in the island; against
persons bound by no official duty, and engaged by no public interest
or character, to give effect to the law, but strongly disposed by pre-
judice, and by real or supposed self-interest, to frustrate and evade
it if possible. It could not be doubted that many of the planters in
Trinidad would avail themselves of any attainable delay in making
their returns, if not to preconcert, by fictitious insertions the means
of future frauds, at least to add to their gangs by clandestine im-
portation of slaves, before the possibility of obtaining a legal title to
them should be cut off by the closing of the original Registry. Un-
less therefore the time for. returns had been strictly limited, this
measure for securing the effect of the Abolition in that peculiar
colony would have operated rather as a stimulus to the contraband
Slave Trade. Some temporary effect indeed of this kind was seen to
be unavoidable; but to reduce it to the smallest limits, the time for
original returns was limited with reference to the first notice of the
Order in the colony; and it may be seen from various clauses in the
Order how much anxiety there was to pursue the principle of that
limitation in the special cases afterwards provided for. In short a
more flagrant violation of this law cannot be imagined than the
indiscriminate reception and registration of returns made after the
22d of April.
The extensions of the time for closing the books, far from furnish-
ing any apology for that other needless infraction of the law, would
make it if possible still more culpable. If His Majesty's Government
was not to have all security against abuses which had been required,
it was the more necessary not to keep open the door to them more
widely than the necessity of the case required. It was important to
shew that the time given for registering was not also given for
No account of the number of slaves returned within the proper
period, or up to April 29 has been transmitted.
68 DOCUMENTS ON BRITISH WEST INDIAN HISTORY, 1807-1833
Mr. Murray had repeatedly promised to Mr. Stephen (whom he
seemed to regard as an official correspondent) to inform him exactly
of the whole number returned for registration as soon as he possibly
could. No such information has to this day been received by Mr. S.
nor to his knowledge by His Majesty's Government letter from
Mr. Murray in May, in order to show the insufficiency of his official
profits, in which 20000 was put down as the whole number of slaves
and 24000 as that of the returns on which fees were received or to be
received for their registration round numbers letter of
September 15--by that date he had received no less than 25000
slaves. The fact is given, like the former, incidentally, in stating the
insufficiency of the time for entering the returns; and he has not to
this hour and otherwise performed his promise of April 25 or given
any excuse for its non-performance.
It was the great advance of number between May and September
as apparent from the said letters, which first led Mr. S. to surmise
that returns had been received after the time limited for their regis-
tration, as well as after that limited for their reception, by the Order
in Council. It appeared even that they must have been received for
registration after the month of May .
letter from Mr. Murray to Mr. S. dated June 23, 1813 .
arrived 1l January 1814. the bearer captured by American
privateers, among various disasters.
Mr. S. now for the first time was put in possession of Governor
Monroe's order of May 22, 1813, and to his great surprise and con-
cern found that this order expressly sanctioned the registration of
returns to be made subsequent to its date ... Here is a most singular
excess in the violation of the Order in Council, beyond not only the
alleged necessity of the case, but beyond the prayer of the petition on
which the order was made.
.. Murray's letter .. "since my last of the 23d of May
inclosing you a statement of expenses and receipts of my office, some
individuals have come forward to register, which has increased the
number of slaves registered to the present amount, to 24000 instead
of 20000 as mentioned in that statement. There are still two or three
individuals who have not come forward, but I dare say the arrival
here of our new Governor will have the effect of inducing them to do
so without more delay ".
It is now therefore clear from this officer's statements that he
continued to receive new returns of slaves to the extent of no less
than 4000 after the time at which by his own construction of the
THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT
Order in Council they ought to have been excluded, and that after
the 23d of June he continued to receive them, to the extent of
To call this an exceeding of his own grounds for the order of
Governor Monroe, is to state the matter too weakly. It was not
only beyond, but directly repugnant to the principle on which he
relies for excuse in the delay of registration. He had not time enough
to register the returns lawfully made, and yet he suffers them to be
unlawfully augmented by one fourth part! He was bound to register
20000: and in taking at the expense of the law which he had sworn
to execute further time for that purpose, on the ground of strict
necessity, wilfully enlarges the necessity by adding 5000 to the
.From extracts from Woodford's despatches fear that
the last order of extension, and the proceedings under it, have been
as objectionable as the first.
Murray moreover allowed the parties to swear that the slaves
returned are now attached, or belonging to the plantation (or be-
longing to the asserted owner) and being within the island". The
Order in Council itself had given them a different form of oath when
returns out of time were for special causes admitted, obliging the
owner or possessor not only to make proof of the excusable cause of
delay, but to swear in his return that no slave therein named had
been imported or brought into the Island since the time of the general
limitation for returns.
It is the design of this paper rather to supply promises for a
right judgment of the motives of the public officers, than to offer any
such judgment: yet it would be inconsistent with the writer's sense
of duty to withhold the following remarks.
1st. The number 20000 mentioned by Murray, on May 23, is not
merely the number then returned but the amount of all the slaves he
supposed to be in the island. On this number he calculated his fees.
Either therefore the surplus 5000 was for the most part introduced
afterwards into the island, or Murray was most unaccountably mis-
taken; yet he offers no explanation or remark on this enormous and
very suspicious excess of numbers.
*2nd. On June 23, Murray says some individuals have brought
the number up to 24000 -in former letters he said defaulters are
only a few-- yet 4000 returns. He now adds two or three individ-
uals are still to come forward -yet 1000 more slaves are returned.
70 DOCUMENTS ON BRITISH WEST INDIAN HISTORY, 1807-1833
A man must know little of the West Indies, and less of Trinidad
in particular, to suppose 5000 slaves fairly returned by a few persons
among proprietors of all classes. In June. 20000 slaves, 2400
returns i.e., little more than eight slaves to each properitor. By
the same proportion it would have required 600 new returns to make
up the additional 5000 slaves.
3dly. It is a very extraordinary fact if proprietors of 5000 slaves
entitled to registration had wilfully incurred a forfeiture of their
property, by a pertinacious refusal to make their returns up to the
23d of May, and were rescued from the legal consequences only by
unforeseen delays in the Registry, and a most singular consequence
of those delays in the Govr. and Registrar's conduct. Nor is the fact
more extraordinary in itself than in having passed unnoticed by the
Registrar while those returns were withheld. His later letters of
March and April represent the particular defaulters, and their motives,
as well known to him. By his later letters of April, they had for the
most part come in; and he expected the speedy submission of the two
or three wilful defaulters who still stood out. In May all the known
defaulters must have sent in their returns, for how otherwise could
he have stated his account with such confidence taking the whole
number of slaves on the island liable to registration at the same
number, viz., 20000. The additional number then of 5000 must have
been the subject of defaults which with all his particularity, had then
escaped his notice. There must have been abundance of contumacy,
at once the most desperate and the most occult, long after avowed
and ostentatious contumacy had made its public submissions, and
quitted the field. Yet this extraordinary part of the case excites no
surprise in Mr. Murray, and draws from him no remark. He does
not here, as in the former and much narrower cases, take credit for
the effect of his perseverance against popular opposition.
4th. There is a strange and most unaccountable proportion in the
number of personal slaves to that of plantation slaves in Trinidad, by
the ultimate returns. The Registrar's letters to Mr. S. furnish these
data, that the book for personal slaves is quite full, while that for
plantation slaves has overflowed, only by 200 folios, or less than one-
third of the whole. The latter therefore must exceed the former in
a less proportion than that of 8 : 6 the personal slaves, or slaves
not attached to plantations, do not it is conceived have so large a
proportion to those who are so attached in any agricultural colony
as : 10. The family slaves upon and belonging to plantations are
not classed as personal slaves by the Order in Council,
THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT
There is one hypothesis that will explain this phenomenon and
all the other difficulties of the case.
Let it be supposed that when the progressive execution of the
Order in Council had convinced the colonists that all opposition to it
was in vain, the planters wished earnestly to enlarge their gangs, or
at least to provide the means of hereafter enlarging them, by purchase
within the island, before the original Registry should be closed. Let
it be farther supposed that the merchants were eagerly inclined to
import while they could, and put themselves in a situation to profit
by the great advance of price which registered slaves would infallibly
bear after that important period. The planters, as usual, would be
at a loss for the means of immediate purchases. The merchant on
the other hand might want further time, to obtain slaves from the
neighboring foreign markets; for it appears that even after Mr.
Murray's arrival, a general opinion prevailed that the Order in
Council would not be enforced.
Beyond doubt, under such circumstances every mean of influence
would be tried: and what could influence effect more indulgent in
point of time than has been gratuitously conceded by the public
officers ? But time being gained, there would be another difficulty.
Few of the planters comparatively could either pay or give good
security for the price of the slaves they might wish to purchase. Yet
if slaves were to be annexed to the plantation, and registered by the
owner as his property, the merchant would under the law of the
island coupled with the new provisions of the Order in Council, have
but a very slippery security for the slaves on their price. The only
expedient therefore in general must have been for the mercantile im-
porter .to. retain for- a while the legal title to them; and to return
them: as his own personal slaves, and afterwards to sell them at
leisure, when prices should have risen, to such planters as could make
or secure satisfactory payments.
It is obvious that on this hypothesis the personal slaves imported
on speculation would probably bear a large proportion to the old
Plantation stock; that there would be very large additional returns
during the extended term, as to numbers of slaves, but few as to that
of proprietors; for the merchants of the island whose capital and
credit admitted of such speculations must be few; it also would
follow, that if any previous statements or estimates had been made
of the number within the island, they would be found highly
fallacious, as Mr. Murray's have so remarkably proved.
I DOCUMENTS ON BRITISH WEST INDIAN HISTORY, 1807-18~8
Whatever be the true solution of the difficulties of this extra-
ordinary case, one thing seems now unfortunately placed beyond the
reach of doubt. Very gross infractions of the Order in Council have
taken place; and in respect of the general registration of returns made
after the 22 of May, it was a proceeding for which no necessity or
justifiable cause existed, and for which no reason or excuse (unless
in official papers unknown to the author of these remarks) has been
order of November 2, 1813 never seen by Mr. S. until
January 24 or 22, 1814 drafted by Mr. S. .. but drafted when
no official despatches had arrived, except Mr. Murray's letters to
Mr. S. It was on the facts so disclosed that Mr. S. suggested the
propriety of confirming what he supposed to have been done in the
colony by a new Order in Council, and the expediency of doing it as
soon as possible, to prevent the great inconvenience of any practical
doubts as to the validity of the Registry, and consequently of the
legal state of the negroes comprised in it; and it was to facilitate
this measure that Mr. S., either by his Lordship's request, or by his
own offer, then or soon after undertook to prepare the form of the
Order in Council. But it was never for a moment in Mr. S.'s con-
templation that an Order in Council could be actually passed until
official information of the proceedings to be ratified should have
arrived, and consequently till their true nature and extent should be
Most of the acts therefore which the Order in Council recites to
have been done, and which it confirms as done, are still future; and
the rest were not known to have been done till long after that order
--(On reading the Order in Council of November 2, 1813, Mr. S.
was surprised and alarmed to find that it ratifies in the most general
and unqualified manner, not only the original Registration and the
authentication of the Books and duplicates, but the returns made
after the limited periods, and this seems to sanction all the said pro-
ceedings at Trinidad, however culpable, up to a period more recent
than any of those proceedings of which he is yet informed.)
Order in Council of November 2, 1813. was proper
upon the case then before him; though improper on the case after-
wards disclosed by the official dispatches.
It remains only to notice that part of the Registrar's correspond-
ence which shews that the duties still unperformed by him, in regard
to making and transmitting a Duplicate of the original books, have
THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT
been, and will be, as much departed from in point of time as the
rest; and that new Governor's orders of extension may be expected.
That gentleman (Murray) seems never to think of such substi-
tutes for, or approximations to, the duties prescribed and found
impracticable, as might palliate the disappointments of His Majesty's
Government, and those who with them have the success of this im-
portant measure at heart. If once set loose from the exact requisi-
tions of the law in one point, he thinks himself entitled to take the
utmost possible range not only in that, but in every collateral direc-
tion. If he could not authenticate and transmit during near two
years the duplicate books, he might have made an abstract at least
of the returns, with their respective amounts, and verified that by
oath before the Govr. in the mode prescribed as to the books; which
would have furnished much of tho' not all the security against subse-
quent frauds in the Registry that the Order in Council meant to
obtain. But he does not even so verify, nor to Mr. S.'s knowledge
state in any way, even the total numbers returned, and registered,
except by loosely calling the whole 25000.
Again, if he wanted another blank book for plantation slaves, .
not so for personal slaves. The latter he admits are fully contained
in the book prepared for them, of which he has a duplicate but be-
cause he must lose many months in waiting for the former, he seems
to think himself at liberty to take the same time with the latter.
When it was found that one clerk only being capable of writing
at the same time in a small book ready bound, the original registra-
tion could not be completed without an enormous delay, it would
surely have been a much less objectionable course to alter that
mechanical arrangement than to infringe the very important limita-
tions of time. Detached sheets, or a competent number of small
unbound books, might have been used, and separate clerks employed
upon each. They might afterwards have been bound in one .
That worst and most needless infraction of the Order in respect
of the limitations for receiving returns .
It is this which most urgently calls for the attention of His
Majesty's Government, and which involves the most serious diffi-
culties as to the rights of private persons Whether the Order in
Council of November 2 ought not to be wholly revoked, or how it
ought to be modified, so as to fit the facts of the case, as well as its
moral and political merits ? What ought to be now directed in re-
spect of the Duplicate Books ? and what shall be the conduct of
Government towards the Registrar and towards the Governor or
74 DOCUMENTS ON BRITISH WEST INDIAN HISTORY, 1807-1893
Governors who have sanctioned his proceedings? These are
questions which cannot too early be considered; but on which,
conformably to the plan of the present paper, its author offers no
74. APOLOGIA PRO SUA VITA
(Trinidad. C.0.295/38, Murray to Gov. Woodford, Feb. 1, 1815)
From the considerable changes of property, namely, not only the
change of owners and of plantation and personal slaves, but the
change of slaves from plantations and owners to other plantations
never heard of originally,- the division and junction of property, by
the dissolution and formation of parnerships throughout the colony,
--the want of the receipt of several annual returns for comparison,
where a change of property had taken place, and which reference is
had to in many returns received,-and finally, the deficiency of
returns of former slave owners, who having disposed of their slaves,
have left the colony, or otherwise thought it unnecessary to make
an annual return, when no longer an owner or holder of slaves,-
renders the operation of effectually carrying on the registry according
to the letter and spirit of the order so difficult, and of a nature so
complicated, that I must acknowledge I have apprehensions whether
the continuation of it is practicable, unless a simplification in its
system is adopted.
75. CONTUMACY FROM ABOVE
(Trinidad. C.O. 295/36, Gov. Woodford to Bathurst, March 10, 1815)
With reference to the letter from the Registrar I had the honor
to transmit by the last packet, I have the honor to report to Your
Lordship that accompanied by the Chief Judge, I have taken an
opportunity of examining the present state of that office as described
by Mr. Murray's letter and I find the representation he has made of
the difficulties arising from the imperfect state of this year's returns
to be correct.
The enclosed supplementary letter will enable Your Lordship to
judge of the delay which attends the undertaking, at every step, and
how necessary it becomes that the time should be prolonged in a new
order or left to the Superior Tribunal to determine, and that the
limitation of eleven days should be extended in the next and future
years to thirty or forty, which is indispensable.
THE I3RITISH GOVERNMENT
That Your Lordship may not be alarmed at the Registry of
"Slaves newly imported" it is necessary to state that the strictest
attention has been paid by nie in this particular and that the slaves
in question are from the old islands and general personal slaves.
The new plantations are settlements of cocoa and provisions
commenced since the Registry was established.
The inhabitants of the Eastern coast of the Island have not yet
appeared this year to make their returns. There is no road to that
quarter, and the long voyage and danger of being carried far away
by the currents deters the planters from undertaking it.
(iv) The Protector of Slaves
(Trinidad. C0..295/62, Gov. Woodford to Bathurst, May 7, 1824)
(Recommends) Mr. Gloster as Protector of Slaves with a salary
of 1250. The Attorney General, who has for some years past filled
the office of Syndic and Protector of Slaves declines disposing of his
estates to qualify himself for the office.
Mr. Gloster is a son of the Chief Judge of Dominica, and his
temper and judgment would I have reason to think render him not
only well calculated for the situation but acceptable to the planters.
(Colonial Office note : as, if, in addition to their rooted objection
to the change in the law, they had also a personal objection or an
indisposition towards the person appointed to put one of its main
provisions into execution, the difficulties would be increased.)
77. THE SEPARATION OF FUNCTIONS
(Trinidad. C.0.295/63, Attorney General to Bathurst, Aug. 19, 1824)
The Order in Council of 10 March declared the Procurador
Syndic to be confirmed in his said office as Protector and Guardian of
Slaves, but in the 3rd clause it was also declared that the said
Protector and Guardian should not be the holder of any Plantation
in the said Island, or of any slaves employed thereon, or have any
share interest or any mortgage or security upon any plantation or
slave. Unfortunately I became possessed by purchase in 1818 and
1820 of considerable property in Estates and slaves in this island.
76 DOCUMENTS ON BRITISH WEST INDIAN HISTORY, 1807-1838
78. THE APPOINTMENTS PROBLEM
(British Guiana. C.0.111/54, Gov. D'Urban to Horton, Private,
April 23, 1826)
You will have seen by my letter of the 15 Feby that I had no
hope of finding a fit person in the colony for the office of Protector of
Slaves, and that I requested you to urge Lord Bathurst to send me
one from England.
79. PROTECTION OF THE SLAVES
(British. Guiana. C.O. 111/56, Protector of Slaves, Half-yearly Report,
I found that th slaves in many instances made the coming to
me to complain a cloak for idleness and a pretext to get to town for
other purposes, and when the property of their masters is situated
at a distance such conduct is not only most injurious but attended
with expence first by loss of labor for several days and by cost for
lodging and food while so absent.
In the Returns sent to me. in no one instance has the
person in charge of an estate exceeded the number of stripes as
regulated by the ordinance and very rarely does it appear on the
face of such returns that the proprietor or manager have found it
necessary to resort to the Fiscal for the infliction of a more severe
punishment than the ordinance admits of. Considering a population
of 70000 slaves this must not only prove satisfactory to Your Ex-
cellency but speaks in favour of the increasing disposition to good
conduct that prevails amongst the negroes upon the estates as also
of the judicious management that renders it unnecessary.
three cases only of females complaining of correction by
stripes-one unfounded. The other two ... not on estates but among
the lower orders of inhabitants in George Town, persons incapable
of reading and properly understanding the law.
complaints from domestics in the town frequent, but
trifling and tedious.
There is no question as far as has come within my reach of
observation as to the difficulty of managing the women and they
are irritating and insolent to a degree (often instigated by the men),
take advantage of the exemption from stripes and in town do little
or nothing. One domestic servant in England would do more work
than many of them.
THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT
80. THE RECORDING OF PUNISHMENTS
(British Guiana. C.0. 111/60, Report of the Protector of Slaves,
May 1, 1827)
The recording of punishments is beginning to have a proper hold
on the mind of the slave, and his aversion to have his name inserted
frequently evinces itself.
81. ECONOMY IN THE PUBLIC SERVICE : THE LOCAL VIEW
(Trinidad. C.0.295/88, Gov. Grant to Goderich, Oct. 8, 1831)
It has been too much the system in this Government to multiply
and overpay public officers to a degree of prodigality without exam-
ple; but of all the offices in the colony there is no one that has been
so loudly and perhaps justly complained of as that of Registrar of
Slaves, the proceedings of which are most inconvenient and its
charges the most onerous on the community.
If any good reason exist for the separation of the offices of Pro-
tector and Registrar, I have as yet failed to discover them; whilst
many important considerations induce me to recommend a combina-
(Suggests) three classes of circuits (1) contiguous to Port of
Spain monthly. slave population of 6000 and upwards .
Port of Spain 4000 more very nearly one half the aggregate num-
ber of vassals in the island. (Colonial Office marginal note : Once a
fortnight at the least.)
(2) The line of coast from Chaguanas to Erin. near 11000
Visits .. once in each of the first and second months of every
quarter of the year. (Colonial Office marginal note: Once a fort-
night at the least.)
(3) Toco, North East extremity to Mayaro, due East Toco 56
(slaves), Mayaro, 656 annually Toco, six months Mayaro.
(Colonial Office marginal note: Monthly at least.)
82. ECONOMY IN THE PUBLIC SERVICE: THE IMPERIAL VIEW
(Trinidad. C.0.295/88, Goderich to Gov. Grant, 1831)
(Suggests) division of Trinidad into two (parts), which would
embrace almost the whole of the slave population, and that a circuit
of these divisions might be performed in three weeks Northern
and Eastern circuit and Southern circuit.
78 DOCUMENTS ON BRITISH WEST INDIAN HISTORY, 1807-1833
To accomplish contemporaneous circuits of these districts, and to
obviate any inconvenience which might arise through the absence of
the Protectors from the seat of Government .three officers in-
vested with Protectorial authority incorporation of offices of
Protector and Registrar, the latter to be in subordination to the
former. Visits must be as regular as possible North East
coast left out -only 56 slaves there visit once every three
(v) The. Customs
83. THWARTING THE GOVERNMENT
(Jamaica. C.0.137/183, Gov. Mulgrave to Goderich, Oct. 7, 1832)
The Comptroller of His Majesty's Customs at Savanna La Mar
had been throughout a principal partizan of the Colonial Union .
had-taken a prominent part in the destruction of houses which took
place on the 8th and 9th of August.
In the present state of the island where the Executive. is not
infrequently thwarted by those to whom, from their station, it would
naturally look for assistance. .. suspended him I hope I shall
be backed up at home without such support it would be impossible
to conduct with any chance of success a Government beset with
difficulties, occasioned at this moment, in a great measure, by the
intemperate conduct of persons, many of whom arc in the higher
classes of society, and the influence of whose station thus lends a
mischievous weight to their opinions.
(f) The Emancipation Act
84. THE TRANSITION PERIOD
(Barbados. C.0.28/111, Gov. Smith to Stanley, July 8, 1833)
After an attentive consideration of the difficulties which present
themselves in giving effect to any scheme of Negro Emancipation so
as to ensure their labour and yet to clear them of a cruel bondage,
my greatest apprehension of failure and disorder has been from the
unfitness of the slaves themselves to bear the great transition from
slavery to civil rights.