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little interest in common, between the slaves and persons of free condition, that this is an evil of rare occurrence. Even if the law afforded no protection, free people of the lower class, who are alone likely to have quarrels with the slaves, and to do them an injury, are afraid of the master's
of retribution. However specious appearance, nothing can be more unsound in practice than to take the laws of England, as a test by which to judge of those made for a society so differently constituted.
Adultery with the wife of a slave.
• Section V.- There are many species of wrongs, for which
it is not pretended that a slave, when injured by a free stranger, can have any legal redress. p. 156.
Of these many wrongs, Mr. Stephen particularly enlarges on one, the case of adultery with the wife of a slave; and the proof by which he establishes this most foul and unfounded charge against the colonists, is a gross perversion of the evidence of Chief Justice Ottley, of St. Vincent, examined before the House of Commons, thirtythree years ago.
• One of the best informed, and by far the most candid of the witnesses connected with, or resident in the colonies, Chief Justice Ottley, of St. Vincent, was asked, “Is the slave often married or attached to one woman as his wife ?' He answered, • In St. Vincent, the slave is never married according to the rites of the church ; but they are very frequently attached to one woman.' It was enquired, “ If so attached, is that woman or wife liable to be taken, or debauched from him by a white person, and do such cases happen?' He replied, I know of no law to prevent it, but I do not recollect cases of the kind
ever happening: they may have happened without my knowledge' p. 161.
Now, what is the candid Mr. Stephen's comment upon this?
• Certainly they might have happened to any extent without his judicial knowledge, for the reason he himself assigns.'
Does Mr. Ottley's evidence bear such a construction, or the insidious distinction here drawn between his general and his judicial knowledge, when his previous answers are evidently founded . on his general, and not his judicial knowledge ? But, in the estimation of Mr. Stephen, such a trifling perversion to serve the good cause, may be regarded as pardonable, if not meritorious. It certainly is a venial offence, compared with the unfounded calumny he is guilty of in asserting, that the connubial rights of these poor men are every where violated by the white people. p. 161.
To this, and many other charges brought against the colonists, it is impossible to answer better than in our author's own words, when speaking of some aspersion on his own character: “To the
wretches who have had the malignity to invent ' such a charge, reproof would be useless : to · those who have adopted it, I say, look well to * and cleanse your own hearts, for there must * have been foul corruption in them before you • could credit the accusation.' pref. p. 66.
Even this accusation is not enough; the colonists must be represented as wretches so hard
ened in wickedness, as not even to know or think they are doing wrong; for such is the import of the following paragraph:
• West Indians, I am aware, will think, that in noticing this case as one of the defects in their slave laws, I am taking an unfair advantage of the prejudices of European readers. But, by their leaves, I must regard the voluntary and exclusive cohabitation of one man with one woman, where neither law nor custom has provided any nuptial solemnity, as constituting a marriage union, which it is by the law of God adultery to violate, and which the law of man ought in justice to protect.
That this crime may not have been perpetrated in the West Indies, as well as in Westminster, I cannot take upon me to say; but if so, it is concealed; and I feel justified in saying, so great is the abhorrence with which it is regarded in Jamaica, that such a charge established against a white person on a plantation, whether overseer or book-keeper, would be the loss of his situation and character. Nor is this, as Mr. S.'s assertions may lead one to suppose, a new feeling there. Twenty years ago I heard the late Mr. Simon Taylor, the wealthiest and most influential man in these islands, say, that he would discharge from his employ any man, however much regard he might otherwise entertain for him, who should be guilty of this act.
That concubinage is customary in the West Indies, cannot be denied; but there are objects enough there for the licentious, as in other places, without trespassing on
on the connubial rights of the most humble.
Mr. Stephen's aim being to work on the prejudices of the British public, and fan the flame against the colonists, he evidently considers any means allowable; and the truth or falsehood of his charges of no moment. Having already made them such monsters for cruelty, injustice, and oppression, he is at least consistent in adding adultery to the catalogue of their crimes.
That the exclusive cohabitation of one man Marriage of
slaves. with one woman, where neither law nor custom has provided any nuptial solemnity, is a marriage union, which ought to be held sacred, need not be told even to savages; but as to legal enactments to give permanency to such unions among the negroes, all I shall say, is, that I fear Mr. Stephen will not easily persuade an African, who has been accustomed and claims a right to follow his own free will in these matters, to submit to such restraints. No obstacle, certainly, is ever put in the way of regular marriages among the slaves; on the contrary it is the wish, and the interest, of their owners to promote them: but all sensible people are agreed, that it would be in vain to attempt by law to reform the evil, till they are further advanced in the scale of civilized life. *
* I ought here to have excepted Mr. Buxton, among whose suggested improvements on the condition of the slaves, I find it proposed, that marriage should be ENFORCED.'--Debate in the House of Commons, 15th May, 1823.
If it would be so good a thing for the negroes, why should not the people at. home bave the benefit of marriage being enforced among them? In returning
A negro fully acknowleges the authority of his master in regard to his labour: but boldly disclaims his right to controul or interfere with his inclination and free will in matrimonial connections; and any attempt to direct him in these particulars has always been found to produce an opposite effect. Many instances of this have come within my own knowledge. The most unavailing exercise of authority as a master, that I ever myself made, was in a case of this kind. A woman who had long been the wife of a very deserving man, and had borne five children to him, some of them yet very young, became attached to another, and left him. The husband first made his suspicions known to me, and complained of the injury done to him and his children. I could scarcely at first believe it, but privately cautioned the parties (who denied the charge) of the consequences, if it should prove true. On further complaint being made, I again admonished them, threatened, and ultimately punished, but to no purpose; and though I have since on similar occasions pressed well-meant but unavailing advice, I have never done more. The solemnization of regular marriages among the better informed negroes, with the progress of
late from the House, the benevolent member for Weymouth must often have seen with sorrow, such gross pollution as has no parallel in the West Indies, although among a people, who (Mr. Stepben tells us) are individually as well as collectively, publicly as well as privately instructed.' Might he not extend his benevolence to his own countrymen, by introducing a law to enforce marriage in London and Westminster?