Page images
PDF
EPUB

representation of some passages of Richard III. which they made sufficiently farcical. The Joncanoe-men, disrobed of part of their paraphernalia, were the two heroes, and fought not for a kingdom but a queen, whom the victor carried off in triumph. Richard calling out “A horse! a horse!" &c. was laughable enough. This farce I saw at Dalvey estate, the property of Sir A. Grant, and it afforded Mr. Bell the manager and his guests no small amusement. How the negroes had acquired even the very imperfect knowledge they seemed to have of the play, we could form no idea, and the occasion did not admit of asking questions.*

While on the subject of Christmas I may observe, that the whole of the Negroes in Jamaica, have three, and some of them four days allowed for their amusements; and that on this occasion their masters give them an allowance of rum, sugar, and codfish or salt meat; and, generally, the larger estates kill as many cattle as are sufficient to give each family a few pounds of fresh beef. Nor let it be supposed that this is the amount of their enjoyments; the more wealthy slave families kill pigs and poultry, have their Christmas cakes, and in fact abound in good things both to eat and to drink.

To many who contemplate the West India labourers but as wretches born to work and

Since this was written, I have read Mr. De la Beche's pamphlet, who mentions having seen the same thing in a different part of the island.

weep;' who have them associated in their minds with horrors, cruel oppression, and broken-heartedness, the description I have given of a sett, may appear a picture altogether imaginary: but let such persons ask any one, who has been upon a Jamaica plantation at a Christmas season, if the description is not correct.

tion,

Origin of Sla- •CHAPTER 1.-On the Origin and Authority of the Colonial very in the colonies, and right

Slave Laws in general.' p. 14. of the Colonists

Under this head the following paragraph deto compensa

serves notice.

The assemblies have often, in their acts, recognised slavery as an existing institution; and have, by directing or regulating the sale of slaves, and by numerous other provisions, treated them as subjects of property. But if the books of colonial acts were resorted to for information as to the legal origin of this state, the rights which it gives to the masters, or the duties and incapacities which it imposes upon the slaves, no satisfaction upon these important heads would be found.' p. 14.

It may be true that slavery had not in the West Indies, or in any other country perhaps, its origin in any positive enactment; but Mr. Stephen himself informs us of its “legal origin” in our colonies. • The bringing labourers or negroes • from Africa,' says he, ‘was certainly permitted, ' and even encouraged by parliament; and in the . more modern acts there was no reserve in respect

to the condition of these exiles, as far as a vague

name could define it; for the commerce in slaves, eo nomine, has been expressly recognised * and regulated’ p. 14.

And yet in every page of his book, our author pours out his abuse on the colonists, as if slavery had been an evil of their creating, and for the infamy of which they now merit the vengeance of heaven and of earth! Without stopping to enquire whether or not the condition of savages has been improved by the change, one thing is certain, that the merit or odium of it is due, not to the inhabitants of the colonies, but to the people of England. They reaped the advantages of establishing slavery in the West Indies; it was their ships and their capital that conveyed the negroes from their native land to these fertile islands, from the cultivation of which, the British people have derived much of the wealth they now possess* ; and if any of the existing interests are now to be broken up, these surely ought, in common justice, to be indemnified at the public expence. Mr. S. thinks otherwise; and after stating as above, that in the acts of parliament encouraging the trade in slaves, there was no reserve, and that the commerce in slaves, eo nomine, was expressly recognised and regulated, to do away any impression that this should found a right to compensation on the part of the colonists,

The West India colonies are of great importance in extending the manufactures and commerce of the mother country. It is difficult to find any engine more efficient for the purpose. Possessing them has occasioned a pouring in of wealth into this country, much of which was employed in fertilizing the soil. The wealth received from the Dutch and other islands was in fact visible on whole districts of the country, not only from the money expended, but in the very names of the spots brought into cultivation.-Speech, House of Commons, Mr. Brougham, April 9, 1816.

[ocr errors]

if deprived of their property, obtained under such a sanction, he proceeds to say, “But that these foreigners shall on their arrival in a British

colony, where British law and liberty are esta·blished, be sold into, and perpetually retained in

slavery, and that the same state shall attach on ' their offspring,' (as it did on that of the villeins in England), though born under the king's alle

giance, has never been enacted.' — Parliament ' seems all along to have supposed that there was

some known local law in the colonies, distinct ' from the law of England, which had introduced and defined the state in question.' p. 15.

Was ever sophistry more glaring ? Parliament sanctioned and encouraged the trade in African SLAVES eo nomine, but, it seems, did not enact that those slaves, or foreigners (as Mr. S. artfully calls them) were to be held as slaves in our colonies ! For what other purpose they were bought and carried there, he has not attempted to explain. Again, parliament, it seems, has all along foolishly supposed that some local law in the colonies, of which it was ignorant, had introduced the state in question: although it must have known that the state existed there, and had been recognized by its own acts encouraging the trade in slaves, before the colonial legislatures had existence!

But Mr. Barham has stated this matter so clearly, that it is only necessary to give his statement, as, until the facts he brings forward are set

Mr. Barham on
Compensation.

aside, the legal title of the colonists to their

property, and their right to compensation if it is taken from them, cannot be questioned but by those persons who are prepared to advocate not merely oppression, but absolute spoliation.

• To say that Great Britain formed the plan, and that the colonies executed it — to say that Great Britain made the laws, and that the colonies availed themselves of those laws, - would be greatly understating the share which Great Britain had in the origin of the slave trade, and in the consequent system of slavery that now exists. But many persons have been so used to charge all the odium of that system on those, who by accident, happen to be the present owners of slaves, that they will be surprised to learn how much larger a share Great Britain has had than the colonies, in the formation, maintenance, and present extent of slavery.

• The following historical facts will clear up this point a little.

• Great Britain established • The colonies did not then the slave trade in the reign of exist. Queen Elizabeth, who personally took a share in it.

• Great Britain encouraged • The colonies, all this time, it in the successive reigns of took no share in it themselves, Charles I, Charles II, and merely purchasing what the James II, by every means

British merchants brought that could be devised. But it them, and doing therein what was William III. who outdid

the British government invited them all. With Lord Somers them to do, by every means in for his minister, he declared

their power. the slave trade to be “highly beneficial to the nation :" and that this was not meant merely as beneficial to the nation through the medium of the co

с

« PreviousContinue »