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religion, is gradually effecting the removal of this great evil, to the advantage as much of the master, as of the slave; two interests which, in this case as in many others, happily go together.
• He may
In, the conclusion of this section, Mr. S. enu- Defamation of merates various other ‘remediless wrongs,' to which he says the slave is exposed : • be the victim of the most cruel defamation, may • be arrested and imprisoned without any justifiable cause, may be prosecuted maliciously, and 4 have his life brought into danger, by the most • groundless accusations, and, in short, with the exceptions already noticed, may sustain all the
oppression which the injustice and malignity * of the wicked, can inflict upon the innocent.'
The dispassionate reader will perhaps ask, whether these supposed cases of oppression may not all occur in free and happy England ? Nay, whether some of them are not of daily occurrence there, though not among the labouring classes who have a sufficient lot of physical evil to bear in all countries, but run little risk of being 'cruelly defamed, unjustifiably arrested, or maliciously ' prosecuted.'
Had Mr. Stephen been less anxious to impute to the white people in the British colonies, every depravity to be found in the catalogue of crimes (including universal adultery among the rest),
and to make the slaves the victims of every species
Evidence of slaves.
* Section VI. — The testimony of slaves is not admissible in
any cause, civil or criminal, against a white person, though
The inadmissibility of the evidence of slaves has
While not at issue therefore with Mr. Stephen, on this important question, I cannot help no
ticing his want of candour here as on other occasions. Who else does not see the objections there existed to the testimony of barbarous pagans, incapable of comprehending the nature of an oath, ignorant of the sanctions that restrain Christians from false swearing, and insensible to the infamy or loss of character that attends it? Whatever 'we may imagine,' says Hume, “concerning the * usual truth and sincerity of men who live in a • rude and barbarous state, there is much more · falsehood and even perjury among them, than
mong civilized nations. Yet he is not speaking here of the savage hordes of Africa, the Ashantees or Coromantees, * but of our own ancestors, after they were converted to Christianity. Surely, when these circumstances are considered, Christian charity, which thinketh no evil,' might ascribe the rejection of negro evidence to something else than that universal hatred and contempt * of the oppressor towards the oppressed, which * manifests itself in the colonies by an abomina
The Ashantees are known from recent events, and the Coromantees equally well to persons versant in the history of Jamaica, from the atrocities committed by them in the insurrection of 1760.
• At Ballard's valley, they surrounded the overseer's house about four in the * morning, in which, finding all the white servants in bed, they butchered every
one of them in the most savage manner, and literally drank their blood mixed ' with rum. At Esher, and other estates, they exhibited the same tragedy, and • then set fire to the buildings and canes. In one morning they murdered be"tween thirty and forty whites and mulattoes, not sparing even infants at the breasts.'—B. Edwards, vol. II. p. 78.
tion of the African colour and lineage; coupled ' with a desire to screen offenders of the privi• leged order from discreditable prosecutions, as ' well as from the danger of public punishment • and disgrace.' p. 185. Or, as in another place, to ‘that contemptuous antipathy to the African
race, and a determination that the crimes of • white oppressors
pass unpunished. p. 182. Even yet the admission of their evidence is attended with considerable difficulty. Mr. Stephen himself admits, that there would be danger in receiving the testimony of a slave wherever the master has any interest in the cause; and suggests that “they ought never, perhaps, to be heard, .but when he is himself no party, and would, if • called as a witness, be free from every excep• tion.'
p. 177. But the danger does not stop there; for, from the ignorance and abject condition of the slaves, too many of them would be ready instruments in the hands of any unprincipled person. This, however, it may be hoped, will not be long the case; and I notice these difficulties only to shew there are other causes for not having as yet made their testimony admissible, than those to which Mr. Stephen's charity imputes it.
If it will afford him any satisfaction, however, I
A very common idea among the African negroes is, that false swearing will bring some bodily calamity upon them; ( make them belly swell, as they express it), but that their baving a broken rial in their moutb, when giving evidence, will act as a charm to prevent this.
pests ard. d, if
think I can assure him, that I speak not only my own individual sentiments, but those of a great proportion of the white people in Jamaica, when
I say that we shall now be happy, how soon our lace legislature shall make slave testimony admissible
in the courts, in such manner that while the innocent are protected, the guilty may be brought to punishment, whether white-skinned or black. But should our Assembly, in the exercise of that highly responsible trust, which we repose in its
hands with the confidence its conduct has ever the merited, deem the minds of the slaves not yet
sufficiently enlightened to be safely trusted as evidence against the white people, their masters, let it not be thought that this is denied them for the purpose of screening the guilty from the punishment of their crimes. During a residence of upwards of twenty years in Jamaica, I have not known an instance where a white person has escaped punishment from the inability of slaves to give evidence against him. This fact, however, while it leads to the conclusion that little injury has been done to the slaves, by not admitting their evidence against white persons, goes in some measure also to prove that no evil could result to the latter from granting it; and such I confess is my impression. Cases I have certainly known of quarrels between slaves and free persons of colour, where the former had no possible means of obtaining a fair hearing in their own
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