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defence from the inadmissibility of their evidence. This surely is wrong; and as the number of free persons of colour is fast increasing, the chance of wrong to the slave encreases in the same proportion; while his progressive wealth and intelligence render such rejection of his testimony the more intolerable.
Mr. Stephen ridicules the idea of admitting the evidence of slaves against free persons of their own colour, and not also against white persons. This he calls, holding the credibility of evi'dence to depend on the colour of the defendant ' against whom it is given, that white criminals
may escape, and blacks and mulattoes be hanged ' unjustly.' p. 183. But this distinction, though I do not mean to argue in favour of it, is not quite so ridiculous as he would make it appear. It is by those more immediately on a footing with themselves, and with whom they are coming in daily contact, that slaves are most likely to be injured, and against whom it is therefore most important that they should have protection. The admission of their evidence against white persons is of much less consequence; both because they are less likely to be injured by them, and because, as before stated, the great body of plantation slaves are under the immediate authority of agents who are themselves dependent, and from whose violence or ill treatment the slaves are protected by a more summary process than a court of law,
an appeal to their master, or those in superior authority to the offender.
It is also a grievance complained of by Mr. S. that free negroes and mulattoes are not tried
per pares; but whatever contemptuous opinion he may entertain of the white people in the colonies, it is well known that the coloured population in general, think they have a better chance of justice from a jury of intelligent white men, uninfluenced by any of the little animosities and jealousies which exist among themselves, than they would have from a negro or mulatto jury. It is true, free persons of colour have petitioned the legislature for an equality of privileges with the white people, and among others to sit as jurors; but this may be considered as the wish of a few of the more wealthy who look forward to sit as judges, rather than of the many who are to be judged.
It has been suggested that to entitle slaves to give evidence against free persons, and to guard in some measure against the dangers apprehended, such only should be admitted, as had obtained a certificate from the clergyman of the parish of their general good character, and their sufficiently comprehending the nature of an oath. But to such a rule there are many objections; it would be likely to create much dissatisfaction, and hurt the clergyman's usefulness; besides that it would be very difficult for a clergyman to become sufficiently acquainted with the character of every slave in his parish, so as to be able to say
whether he would or would not be a credible witness; nor would such a power in his hands be altogether free from objection. Allowing the court itself on examination to decide as to competency of knowledge, with perhaps some testimony as to character, would be better.
I was once present when two old African negroes belonging to Cheswick estate, and with whom I happened to be well acquainted, came to the clergyman of the parish desiring baptism. On examining them as to their knowledge of Christianity, one of them, an indifferent character, gave such answers as were considered satisfactory, and was baptized; the other, a very good character, but less apt, was rejected; and on turning indignantly away, exclaimed · It hurts * me to be treated so, when that worthless runaway
and thief is made a Christian, and Buckra always • known me to be a good nigger.'
Slave's right of • SECTION VII.— The slave, while exposed to so many self-defence.
remediless wrongs, is bereft by the same laws of the right of self-defence' p. 187. - By the existing law in most, I believe in all our colonies, the slave who should attempt to defend himself against a murderous weapon, or instrument of torture, in the hands of a white person, though the aggressor possessed no public warrant, or private authority over him, might be hanged for so obeying the imperious dictates of nature.' p. 190.
The following clause of the slave act is the sole ground upon which this unparalleled charge
rests; and I beg the reader to remark upon how slight a foundation our author's ingenuity has been able to build so hideous an accusation.
• And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid that if any slave shall assault, or offer any violence, by striking, or otherwise, to, or towards any white person, or persons of free condition, such slave, upon due and proper proof, shall, upon conviction, be punished with death, transportation, or confinement, to hard labour for life, or a limited time, or such other punishment, according to the nature of the offence, as the court shall in their discretion think proper to inflict; provided such assault or violence be not by command of his, her, or their owners, overseers, or persons entrusted with them, or in the lawful defence of their owners' persons, or goods.'
The question here evidently is not about a white or free person assaulting a slave, but about a slave assaulting or offering violence to a white or free person. The words assault, or offer violence,' clearly imply the slave's being the aggressor, and the clause has no reference to the slave's right of self-defence in the case of his being assaulted or offered violence to. But because a slave is so much under the power and influence of his master and his agents, he ought not to suffer punishment for what he does at their command, or in the lawful defence of the owner's person, or goods; and the law provides accordingly.
Now what is there in this to take away the slave's right of self-defence, when it is not he that assaults or offers violence to a white or free per
son, (the case alone that the clause of the act is providing for) but a white or free person that assaults or offers violence to him ? Mr. Stephen (for such is his meaning in printing
in italics), it should also have been added, or in the lawful defence of his (the slave's) own person. —Why? The question was about the slave's right of self-defence, when assaulted; but what should be his punishment when he assaults, and what should excuse him for assaulting or offering violence. But because it is not here expressly enacted that a slave, when assaulted or offered violence to, may defend himself (as to which no one could entertain a doubt) it seems the contrary is by omission enacted! By the same argument, no man in England possesses the right of self-defence. The law provides for his punishment if he assaults another, but has not enacted so far as I know (any more than the law of Jamaica in the case of a slave), that he shall have permission to defend himself against a murderous weapon in the hand of an assailant.
And by so disingenuous a perversion are the characters of the British colonists vilified and held up to the detestation of their country, and of mankind! Let Mr. Stephen produce one authenticated instance of a slave having been, not hanged, but punished in any way, for exercising the right of self-defence, when wantonly assaulted, and I shall give up the colonists, as well