« PreviousContinue »
more than twenty years nearly one half of them must in the course of nature be cut off by old age, while the number born can be but limited, because breeding begins at an early age among the negroes, and a large proportion of the females are already past the age of bearing children.*
In the island of Jamaica, the imported slaves or Africans constitute somewhat above a fourth part of the whole; and supposing their ages on arrival to have been on an average only twenty, the last imported in 1807, and youngest of the Africans, will now be thirty-eight; and the average age of the whole that were imported during the last twenty years of the African trade, may certainly be stated as above fifty. A statement of the ages of the negro population (which the Assembly ought to publish) would shew that it consists of an over proportion under twenty and above forty years
age; the consequence of which, for some time to come, must be an excess of deaths over births. To illustrate this, I quote from a Table in the Jamaica Journal, of the 15th of May, 1824, the following cases :
* It may be observed, by the way, that the circumstance just noticed, of so many of the slaves in Demarara being adults, and so few under age, accounts for the average quantity of sugar raised by each being so much greater there than in the islands, without, on the one hand, allowing so much as some do to the superior fertility of the soil, or, on the other, supposing the people to have been over-worked; by which last charitable supposition, some account both for the greater produce and the greater decrease in the population. With a greater proportion of infants and young people, the produce of Demarara would have averaged less to each sla : but then the population, instead of falling off, would have been increasing in strength.
In the first of these cases, the Africans having mostly died off, we find a very large proportion of young people. In the latter, where there remain 110 Africans, we find a large proportion of aged persons; and such is the case on the generality of estates in Jamaica : whence it is evident, that for the ensuing fifteen years there will, according to the common course of nature, be more deaths than births; although as great a proportion of the people should reach their three-score and ten years' as in any other country. When the Africans are gone, Middle Land Estate will be in the same situation as Mr. M Queen's, of Georgia, now is ; it will have a preponderance of young people at the age of reproduction, when of course a rapid increase of numbers may be expected, as the births will naturally be numerous and the deaths from old age few.
On estates in Jamaica peopled with Creoles, or having few Africans, there is even now a large annual increase of numbers; and on the same principle, in the old settled island of Barbadoes, into which few Africans have been imported since
1786, and where consequently they must now be nearly all extinct, there is an excess of births over deaths to such an extent, that, on a population amounting, in 1812, to 69,000, there was found, in 1820, an increase of 9,000. A similar increase has taken place in Virginia, into which importation ceased in 1775; and where there probably is not now a single African alive.
More need not be said to shew how far the illtreatment of the slaves is proved by the decrease of their numbers since the abolition. But Mr. Cropper's calculations on this subject are so ingenious, tell so well against the colonists, and are so widely circulated by the writers against them (among others by the Edinburgh Review), that it seems necessary to take some notice of them.
This gentleman who, it is said, is a Liverpool merchant, at the head of a house which receives consignments of American cotton, and East India sugar, founds his calculations on an assumption, that the imported slaves ought to have increased and multiplied from the day of their landing, at a rate three times greater than that at which the people of England increase. Upon this assumption, being an expert arithmetician, he finds that had the slaves so increased and multiplied, there would have been living in Jamaica in the year 1820, 400,000 slaves more than there were; and hence that the colonists are chargeable 'with a destruction or waste of human life, or a counteraction of its natural tendency to increase to
'the extent of 400,000 persons in the short space ‘of thirty years;' on which he observes, that'a system which destroys the lives or prevents the ex‘istence of 400,000 human beings in one island, in
thirty years, is desperately wicked, whether it ‘yields profit or not.'
The rate at which Mr. C. conceives the slave population in Jamaica ought to have increased, is founded on an American statement, professing to shew that the negroes in the United States had greatly more than doubled their numbers in the thirty years preceding 1820. Without questioning how far an accurate account was kept of the slaves imported into America during those thirty years; notorious as it is, that many thousands were carried into the southern states after the abolition by Congress; or how far we can depend on the accuracy of a census taken over sixteen thinly peopled states, where there are no registers of slaves, and some of which are larger than the the whole kingdom of Great Britain ; let us apply Mr. Cropper's principle at home. The population of the United Kingdom in 1720, amounted to 6,955,000 which increasing at the rate of 284 per cent every ten years (being the rate assumed by Mr. Cropper as that at which the slaves in Jamaica ought to have increased), there should have been in 1820, a population exceeding eighty-five millions. It proved to be little more than fourteen millions; and to use the gentleman's own words, a system of government which destroys the lives,
or prevents the existence, of upwards of 71 millions of human beings in one island, in the course of one century, must be desperately wicked.
In Mr. Cropper's estimate of the decrease of the slaves in Jamaica during the last thirty years, and that given in the Edinburgh Review (No. 82.) there is no notice of the increase of the free coloured population from 10,000 to 35, 000, or in other words of at least 20,000 slaves having been emancipated in that island, which occasions a decrease to that extent in the number of the slaves.
Such an item, indeed, was unworthy of notice in an estimate of the hundreds of thousands of human beings, whose existence the colonists have prevented!
While the African trade in slaves was carried on, it cannot be doubted there was a waste of life, as well after their arrival in the colonies, as while on board the ships of the now philanthropic merchants of Liverpool, who carried on the trade, and petitioned most earnestly against its abolition. In the removal of a barbarous people, subject to diseases incident to a change of climate and new mode of life, and sometimes doubtless with their wants and comforts too much neglected, not only on board ship, but on their arrival in the colonies, such must have been the case. Besides, is it to be supposed that Africa cast forth the most healthy or the most vigorous of her barbarous offspring ? Is it not more probable that, generally speaking, it was such as were found of least use at home?