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bone will out in the flesh ;” and until the heart is corrected, and the mental faculty awakened, so precious a gift as liberty, in being undervalued, will only be abused.
In the official letter from the Commissioners of Correspondence of the Bahama Islands, are the following just and correct observations upon this point:
“ But it is asked, is the negro slavery in the West Indies to be interminable, while in other portions of the globe, the condition of the slaves has long been ameliorating, and in many of them, slavery itself has for a considerable time ceased to exist, shall the negro race of the West Indies alone be shut out from the hope of freedom for ever? To this we answer, that reflecting on the very tardy progress of the peasantry from slavery to freedom, in all other countries where the peasantry once were slaves, and now are free, we contemplate in that change rather the work of a gracious Providence, than of presumptuous man. As the general condition of a community improves, every class of that community naturally benefits by the improvement; and in due season, should the tide of prosperity not be checked by some of the many wayward visitations of calamity to which every portion of mankind is equally exposed, all social distinctions, in point of social rights at least, have generally been observed to subside. But the immense change for which in all other places, the revolutions of ages have frequently been required, ought, in the opinion of Mr. Wilberforce, to have been effected by him for the West India negroes, in little more than the quarter of one century, and he laments that he has so long delayed the attempt.
“ To await the maturity of time and circumstance absolutely necessary to convert slavery into freedom, and by the only means which can effect that change with safety to the public weal, and justice to the owners, or real benefit to the slaves, but ill suits the impatience of our abolitionists, now avowed.”
for the first time openly
It is a most invidious and painful task for a British writer to appear to be the advocate for the longer continuance of slavery, but that painful feeling is greatly relieved by the reflection, that every day shortens its duration, and that in the interval of regulation, a permanent gift, and not a doubtful experiment, is maturing; and we are rather disposed to think, that the measures of the Colonists, and not the appeals of the abolitionists, will ultimately bring about this most desirable measure.
It is a very just observation, “ that truth withheld, is falsehood made current_when, therefore, we took up “ An Appeal in behalf of the Negro Slaves in the West Indies,” with that previous feeling of respect which is due to its author, we did expect to have found arguments advanced founded upon recent facts, which would have concluded us as one of the Gentleman's converts; but having found no facts whereon to raise any mode by which we could estimate the publication, or any occurrences of recent date, by which the Colonists might be charged with crimes of commission or of omission, we became a friend to the Colonist upon the writer's own shewingand upon these grounds.
It is of course admitted, that the unhappy condition of the slave, places in the hands of the
master, a power over his person which does not exist between freeman and freeman. In the absence, therefore, of any proofs on behalf of men so entrusted with an arbitrary power, of wanton abuse of such power-two positions become evident. First, that the power was accompanied by forbearance, and that such forbearance formed the principal feature in the conduct of the colonist. By endeavouring, therefore, to raise prejudices against the West Indians, upon abstract reasoning, in a case where, if abuses did really exist, they were capable of being brought forward as facts; Mr. Wilberforce has done the colonists an essential service, for though he may have proved that the principle of slavery is bad (which the colonists do not deny), he has tacitly admitted that their conduct, under such a system, is free from the stain of aggravation or cruelty.
The West Indians are not generally considered as dull of apprehension; on the contrary a warm climate produces precocious talent. Surely, therefore, there is, in the interval of thirty years, some possibility of admission to improvement; and, therefore, when Mr. Wilberforce, in speaking of the licentious intercourse existing in the West Indies, quotes from a book published so recently as 1793 (only thirty-one years ago), as „proof of its existence; it is possible, it is probable, and it may be true, that West Indian society is not now what it was in 1793. Indeed, we know it
is not. Young men will be young men—and even in the cases alluded to, Mr. W. may rest assured that the libertinism of the West Indies is by no means to be compared with the debauchery of London, and the shameless depravity exhibited in its streets.
In another more serious case-that of a most wanton and deliberate murder, committed so recently as 1800, and perhaps earlier (but not less than twenty years ago), Mr. W. takes an opportunity of urging against the island of Barbadoes, that the murder of a slave by his owner was an offence commuted for a fine of 151. if murdered. by another white, then the fine was 251. to the public treasury, and double the value of the slave to the owner. But for what purpose is this reference made to so distant an occurrence ? To create an unfair and unjust prejudice ; for in 1805 (only nineteen years since) murder was made at Barbadoes, as it is in all the other colonies, a capital offence. True it is, that Mr. W. notices this; but then he complains, that the words of the act are ambiguous, and allow a latitude for escape. The words stand thus : “ If any person shall hereafter wilfully, maliciously, wantonly, and without provocation kill and murder any slave." The words “ without provocation” seem, in Mr. Wi's opinion, to be ambiguous, and he asks, “ What offender could be unable to prove, to the satisfaction of a Barbadoes jury, that there
had been some provocation? This aspersion upon the character of the jurors of the island, and upon the administration of justice, can only be met by another question, for in the query itself there is nothing tangible. Is Mr. Wilberforce prepared with any case of murder, since 1805, in which the white offender escaped by the subterfuge of the act as pointed out?
Besides the unfairness, (to say the least of it) of these antiquated facts, we are sorry to find Mr. W. indulge himself in applying the terms of “ white ruffians,” and “ white savages,” to the Colonists. If this is done in return for much personal abuse, so often bestowed upon himself and party; he should always bear in mind the passage, “ When men revile you, revile not
So when the author affirms that the present system of slavery in the West Indies is one of unrelenting cruelty ; that it is a course of power unlimited ; that it is the maximum of labour with the minimum of food, he falls into the error of speaking of the slave as his condition was about thirty years ago, since when, it is so altered as hardly to be the same state.
All these things are in bad taste, they revive prejudices upon which no legislative measure should proceed ; and what is more, they perpetuate ignorance : and as regards the colonists, can it be supposed that they will submit to these