Page images

which has been said to exist between the whites and the free people of colour, linked together as they are by consanguinity and a community of interests. If the latter are rising into importance as a class,-if some individuals among them own considerable property and have been liberally educated, can a single case of the kind be adduced where they have not been indebted for these blessings to their white relatives and friends ? True, they have not yet an equality of political privileges with the white people; but as a body are they yet fit to be put upon an equality ? and if not, how is the line of distinction to be drawn between the few who are, and the many who are not ? Persons of property and respectability among them are fully sensible of this difficulty, and are far from desiring that public tranquillity should be hazarded by premature measures. Individuals of an opposite description will be found in every country; but, (though there may be some prejudices to overcome, and some partial distinctions which might as well be removed,) I have never, in my own experience, seen any appearance of animosity between the two classes of white and brown people on this ground; nor do I think there is any danger of a misunderstanding, unless the torch of discord is carried among them by the party in this country who are disposed to imbitter every thing, and embroil the different classes, in the colonies. These, like Tom Paine, find no difficulty in set

tling the rights of man ; governments have not found it quite so easy.

That African negroes are looked upon as a class Superiority of inferior to enlightened Britons is true; they are ple, how view

ed by the Nethemselves perfectly sensible of their inferiority, groes. however much at a loss to account for it. Building ships, for instance, particularly men of war, and sailors finding pass' (finding their way) in the ocean from Guinea to Buckra Country, as they call Jamaica, I have often heard them speak of with astonishment; and I was much struck with their admiration of the first steam-engine,' or 'smoke-mill,' as they call it, that was set to work in the neighbourhood where I resided, and which they came from all quarters to see. The common exclamation was, “Massa-nigger ! wharra dem

Buckra no savi? Wharra dem no can do ?' (Fellow-servant! what is it the white people do not know? What is it they cannot do ?) *


. Sect. VI. Of Enfranchisement.' p. 374.

This subject is introduced by a beautiful and affecting figure, in which our author fancies him

Sone years ago, the boiler-men negroes on Duckenfield estate were overheard by the book-keeper discoursing on this subject, (the superiority of the whites,) and various opinions were given, till the question was thus set to rest by an old African : When God Almighty make de world, him make two

man, a nigger and a buckra; and him give dem two box, and bim tell dem . for make dem choice. Nigger (nigger greedy from time!) when him find * one box heavy him take it, and buckra take t'other ; when dem open de box, • buckra see pen, ink, and paper ; nigger box full up with hoe and bill, and

hoe and bill for nigger till this day.'

self to be Baron Trenck, immured in a gloomy and solitary dungeon, labouring, body and soul, to work his


out :

* Impatience and dejection,' says he, 'would indeed often return; but after paroxysms of these, hope would again come to soothe me and animate my efforts. My tyrant would lose much of his purpose, for he would not break my heart, unless by finding out my secret labours, and preventing their resumption, he should shut out the ray of hope which had cheered me, and plunge me in the darkness of despair. Such is the value of possible, but far more that of potential liberty, to the slave.' p. 375.

A very beautiful and very affecting description certainly, if Mr. Stephen were really Baron Trenck, deprived of “possible or potential liberty, or if the slaves, whom he personates, were really in such a situation as is implied by the comparison. Fortunately, it is quite inapplicable to them. The negro labourers in the West Indies feel it no more a degradation or a hardship, that having their wants and comforts supplied by their masters, they must work for them to the end of their days, than the free labourers in Britain do, that to procure daily bread, they are doomed to a life of toil that can end only with their existence, while they see the master whom they serve, wallowing in the enjoyment of all the luxuries of life, spending more in one day than the pittance that repays the toil and supplies hundreds of his poor dependents with the bare means of existence.


People are apt to err by applying their own feel- E mancipation ings to the case of others; and by whom was this stood by the error ever more likely to be fallen into than by enlightened free-born Englishmen, applying the standard of their own minds to the case of the African slave, who in some things has not an idea in common with them? Freedom, to an Englishman, appears an object of such paramount impor, tance, that every earthly blessing sinks into insignificance in comparison ; while to the negro, who has been born and bred

and bred up in slavery, who considers labour the only evil, and idleness the only bliss, freedom, as British labourers understand and enjoy it, is a thing as yet unknown and undesired. I have lived twenty-one years among negroes, and never heard one of them express a sentiment with regard to freedom, such as Englishmen entertain. They speak of it as desirable, viewing it as the enjoyment of wealth with an exemption from labour ; but freedom, joined with poverty and labour, is a thing they even ridicule ; and I have more than once witnessed how much an independent wealthy slave can look down on a poor freeman of his own colour. On Golden Grove estate, the property of Mr. Arcedeckne, on which I many years resided, a little colony of free blacks have established themselves on the seaside, and are by sufferance allowed to remain. They pay no rent ; and yet such is their indolence and improvidence, that they are, to my certain knowledge, supported in no small degree by the


bounty of the slaves on the neighbouring plantations. I have often myself assisted them with medicine, food, &c., and have known medical gentlemen, on several occasions, attend them in sickness without, of course, looking for a fee.

That freedom should be a blessing when joined, as it often is, with much abject toil and great ' misery,' is as incomprehensible to the negroes, as that the element of water should become solid by cold. To exemplify their understanding of freedom, I may mention that I have heard my own servants, when I happened to be longer in bed than usual, say to one another, 'Massa think he a free man this morning ;' meaning that I thought I had nothing to do, and was indulging in idleness instead of attending to business. Such generally, if not universally, is the meaning which they attach to being free ; they have no more conception of the labour performed by the free people of England, (so much greater than they themselves perform,) than these have of the greater comforts enjoyed by the slaves. And the eloquence of a CANNING would fail to convince a negro slave that he would be benefited by being freed, if he had to lose his present home, provide himself with another, and work as hard as before to support himself and his children, hitherto provided for by his master. Nor, indeed, is emancipation much better understood in its various bearings and probable results, by the supporters of it in this coun. try, than by the slaves in the colonies. Here it is

« PreviousContinue »