Page images
PDF

had, even since last year undergone in men's minds, the bill was reiected in the House of Commons, by a majority of 7 members.--— It would be very foolish for the friends of the West India colonies now to lay aside their eforts to prevent the accomplishment of a project like that which has just been defeated; but, for the present, I shall content myself with noticing one argument advanced, upon this occasion, by Mr Wilbel force. His cbject evidently was to produce in the minds of his hearers, a conviction, that it was possible, and even easy, to keep up the number of negroes required in the islands by the increase of those already there, and, of course, without any further importation of negroes from Africa. In order to establish this position, he referred to the state of the negro population in the United States of America, where, he said, the negro population had doubled during the last 20 years. One way of oversetting this argument is by denying and disproving the fact, upon which it rests. If the reader will refer to the authentic and official statement relative to the population of the United States of America, which he will find in Vol. I. p. 230 of this work, he will perceive, that, in the year 1790, when the first Census was taken in the American states, the total of the slave population amounted to 697,697; and that,

when the second Census was taken, in the

year 1800, the total of the slave population was 876,790 ; being, in ten years, an increase of 179,003. Twice this latter number is 358, 186; and not 607,607, as it ought to be, in order to enable Mr. Wilberforce to maintain his position. There has been no Census taken in America since the year 1800; previous to 1790, there never was any taken. Nothing can be known, as to the increase of the population, except what is known from those two Censuses; and, therefore, the conclusion is, that Mr. Wilberforce's assertion, as it is stated in the London newspapers, is not true. It may have been falsely reported in the newspapers; and, if not, we are to suppose, of course, that somebody has deceived Mr. Wilberforce; very likely some black preacher, or some white faced preacher with a dark mind; but, at any rate, he will now perceive the error and will, doubtless, be upon his guard against such misrepresentations for the future. My objections, however, to the fact reported to be advanced by Mr. Wilberforce are not confined to what I have already stated. We have seen that the number of slaves in America, during the ten years ending in 1800, rose from 697,697, to $76,792, making, in that ten years, an in

crease of 179,093; and, this, Mr. Wilbeforce's printed specch says, without importation from Africa. Without any legally tolerated importation, if you please; and, indeed, without much importation from Africa; but, not so from St. Domingo, whence

there were imported into the United States,

about 70,000 slaves, between the years when the two Censuses were taken. That many of these had returned to St. Domingo, or had gone to the other West India islands, previous to the taking of the latter Census is true; but, that 30 or 40, thousand remained is certain; and, that they must have assisted in adding to the slave population of 1800 in a degree beyond the number of those who were remaining of the slaves actually imported, no one can, I think, entertain a doubt. If, then, we allow the slave population of America, of 18Co, to have received an increase of 50,000 from the importation from St. Domingo, it will follow, that she increase of the American slaves, in the space of ten years, had been only 129,693, upon a soriner population of 697,697; which is an increase of little more than one third in 20 years, instead of that doubling, of which Mr. Wilberforce is reported to have spoken.—. Having fallen into this account of the Ame-. rican slaves, I cannot refrain from obsery-, ing, that General Washington, a person usually regarded as a very sincere friend to liberty, did, nevertheless, keep his three hundred blacks and mulattoes in a state of slavery to the day of his death; and, that, even in his will, he made no provision for their being freed, till the death of his wife, an act, towards her, it has been thought, of no very great kindness, to say nothing about the o: of it. She, however, appears to have seen the matter in its true light, and, as was reported, in the American papers, lost no time in getting rid of the title of slave-holder, so affectionately bequeathed to her. Returning to the argument of Mr. Wilberforce, or more properly speaking, perhaps, the argument which the reporters of debates have ascribed to him, I cannot allow, that it ought to have had much weight, had the fact, on which it was founded, been true. It was assumed, that the climate of the American States, is less favourable to the increase of the negro population than the climate of the West Indies is. But, that this was a mere assumption will not, I think be denied by any one who is at all acquainted with the nature of the two climates; and, who happens to know, as I do, that the negroes even in several parts to the north of Bo ton, have increased,

and do increase, faster than in any of the

more southern latitudes. But, it is to be * presumed, that, if Mr. Wilberforce had not spoken last in the debate, some one would have pointed out the wide difference between the West Indies and the American States in the means of affording subsistence ; for, there are, I imagine, few persons who will deny, that, at last, subsistence is the cause, and that its relative abundance is, therefore, the measure, of the increase of population. The lands in the West Indies are employed, not in the producing of all the subsistence they are capable of producing; but, in the producing of commodities, profitable to the mother country, and o out of the islands. The lands in Amorica, for the far greater past, are enployed in the producing of bread corn. The contrast is, indeed, clearly shown in the short statement of a siniple and undeniable fact; to wit; that the West Indians are supplied with a great part of their food out

of the superabundance of the United States. .

In this circumstance the reflecting mind clearly discovers the true and only cause of the difference in the state of the negro population in the West Indies and that of the negro population in the United States. Verysallacious, therefore, is that argument, the conclusion of which is, that, because the negroes in the West Indies do not keep up their population without importation, while the negroes of the United States do, those of the West Indies are worse treated than those of the United States. It is not that the negroes in the West Indies have not enough to eat; but, it is that there is lo food to bestow in that way which tends to increase population. The negroes in the West Indies, like the soldiers in a camp, are compelled to live, in a greater or less degree, in a state of celibacy. Their state of life is not favourable to the procreation of children; and, to keep up their numbers, recruits must be brought amongst them; but, does it thence follow, that they are ill treated : That they are miserable? That they are deprived of all the comforts of life? that to place them and keep them in such a state is, in the language of the proposed bill, “ contrary to the principles * of justice and humanity ?" I before appealed to the instance of great cities, particularly London; and, if the slave trade qught to be abolished, because it produces, sh itself considered, a wate of lives; that is to say, because the deaths, amongst the slaves, exceed the births; if, for this reason, the slave trade, ought to be abolished, why does not so me abolitionist assert, that

NLondon onght to be destroyed, or, at least, to be reduced to a size that would render it as wholesome as a small town Why are not many trades abolished? For many are to be pointed out, in which the births do not half equal the deaths. How many facto. ries and settlements have we formed, with the full expectation of being obliged to keep up the numbers of their inhabitants by mi"grations fom home Nay, do we not, I would ask Mr. Wilberforce, persevere in supporting, in this manner, the white population of the terrestrial paradise, commonly called the “ British Folly,” at Sierra Leone, which to maintain, about 16,0co pounds a year are extracted sron the labor of the people of this country A Why, then, is the mere circumstance of a decreasing population amongst the West India negroes to be urged as a proof that they are illtreated, and that further importations of them ought to cease ? Baving, as I think, shown, that the premises of the argument ascribed to Mr. Wilberforce are not founded in truth, and, that, if they were, they would warrant the conclusion that was drawn from them, I should. for the present, dismiss the subject, did it not appear proper, and even necessary, to take some notice of a passage, relative thereto, in a late number of the Edinburgh Review. At the close of their review of a pamphlet, entitled, “A Defence of the Slave Trade,” the Reviewers say: “we cannot but hope, “ that this is the last expiring effort of an “ opposition, which has too long success‘ fully opposed the termination of a traffic, “ the continuance of which is the foulest ‘ blot that has ever stained the character “ and conscience of a Christian nation.” These gentlemen will now find, that they were deceived ; and, if the disappointment should have the effect of checking a little the boldness of their speculations, particularly upon matters connected with politics, there can be scarcely any doubt of its proving greatly advantageous to the reputation of their very able, and, in many respects, excellent work. But, the passage, on which I more immediately had fixed my eye, was the following, relative to the conduct of the House of Lords, in postponing, for the six months, the second reading of the bill sent to their Lordships from the Commons, on the 27th of June last. “As to “ the House of Lords, how far their being “less under popular influence, and their “ being of a more aristocratical spirit than “ the House of Commons, circumstances “ which, generally speaking, aie produc

“tive of practical benefit in a constitution

“ al view, are likewise beneficial in the “ present instance, is a point on which we * will deliver no opinion. “ questions as that of the abolition of the “slave trade rarely occur. Legislatures “ are not constructed with a view to their ‘ determination; and, if the peculitr con“stitution and tem/er of the House of Lords “should operate unfavourably on this great “question, however we might regret the “circumstance, we should be very slow in “ drawing any inferences concerning the “general utility of that body.”—Wonderful forbearance . They shall be slow (and this they say while the bill is before the Lords) in declaring the House of Lords 3. useless, even though it should not pass Mr. Wilberforce's bill ! But, why should we be surprized : Is not this the spirit, the intolerant spirit, by which the most bosy of the abolitionists have been actuated, and which has been apparent in all their conduct, fiom the time the question of abolition was first agitated to the present hour They always assume, as a truth universally admitted, that their opponents are men actuated by the most selfish motives; men destitute of every feeling of humanity and of every sentiment of religion, deaf to all the admonitions of conscience, and, in short, animated by a soul, which they have sold to the devil. Such seems to be the opinion of a person, who has lately written to me, through the h inds of a common fiend; but, without giving me permission to publish his letter. This gentleman bids me bow down before the disinterested perseverance of Mr. Wilberforce. I do not know that Mr. Wilberforce is not disinterested; nor do I think it very difficult for any man to make a great display of disinterestedness with a fortune of twenty or thirty thousand a year. But, as to the question of the slave trade, I will venture to assert, that neither Mr. Wilberforce nor his officious supporter Qan produce a single shadow of proof, to Justify the insinuation, that I am not disinterested. I have no private interest whatever to answer by the continuation of the slave trade; I am neither related to nor connected with, either directly or indirectly, any person having a private interest in that traffic; nay, though, since I have duly considered the question, I have always been an advocate for the continuation of the slave trade, I never have, till very lately, been personally acquainted with any one WestIndia plauter or merchant. The conduct, which I have, in this respect, pursued, has Proceeded, from a sincere conviction, that

[ocr errors]

the sutu of hualaa misery is rather lessered

Happily, such

[ocr errors]

than augmented by the slave trade; and, that the abolition of that trade would prove greatly injurious to my country. Insinuations, like that above alluded to, I, there. fore, despise; and, the insliction of that eternal wrath, with which the modest in“inuator is pleased to menace me, I am happy to reflect is lodged in other hands than his. This gentleman says, that, after the most mature consideration, he is convinced of the iniquity of the slave trade, and that it ought to be abolished. He talks incessantly of his conscience, and, vows that, “so help him God,” such and such are his opinions. And, does he think, that nobody has a conscience as well as he And, what opinion, or expression of mine, either public or private, could have emboldened inim to call the army “ the God of my adoration *" But, as was before observed, this is their constant practice. This is the way, in which they have invariably treated their opponents. The publications, which they h ive made against the planters of Jamaica, would have cost them their ears, cropped off a hair's breadth at a time, if made against any other class of their fellow subjects. Upon the score of disinterestedness I will, at any time, venture on a comparison with this gentleman, be he who be may, or with his friend, Mr. Wilberforce. I have no purpose in view but the good of my country. I have nobody to please ; nobody to humour; I an under no promises ; my hands are as clean as Mr. Wilberforce's; I never touched the public money myself, nor did I ever enable, or endeavour to enable, or wish to enable, any other person to touch it, or to keep it; I am under no influence but that of my own mind; I hunt after neither pelf nor praise; I wish to see my name inscribed neither in the Court Calendar nor in the Calendar of canting Saints. When this vehelment monitor of mine shall find that time, for which he seems to wish, for the purpose of entering at large upon the subject of the slave trade, I would recommend him to begin his labour (and no trifling labour it will prove) by *...* a pamphlet, published in 1790, entitled, “. Doubts on the Abolition of the Slave “ Trade, by an old member of parliament," which never has yet been answered, except by frothy declamation and violent abuse. Upon this pamphlet the Edinburgh reviewers observe, that it is the best they have ever read in defence of the slave trade. They do not attempt to answer it; but, with that sort of candour which has always marked the conduct of the writers on their side of the question, they insinuate scueral departments of the navy, and of reporting to parliament the result of such their inquiries. That this board has made nine different reports, the public have already been informed in the account of the proceedings in parliament. These reports all exhibit ample proofs of the necessity of such an inquiry; they discover most shao.eful scenes of peculation; and, the tenth is not expected to be icss interesting in this way than the former ones. Much of the business of this board remains to be done; and, therefore, as the commission, if not renewed, will, of itself, expire at the end of the present session of parliament, a notion was, on the 1st instant made, in the House of Commons, by Mr. Giles, for leave to bring in a bill to continue, beyond the duration of the present session of parliament, the act appointing commissioners sor Naval Inquiry. This motion was resisted by Mr. Pitt, who thereupon moved the order of the day; and, upon a division of the House, the motion of Mr. Giles was lost, there being, for the motion 75, and against it, 92, leaving a majority in favour of the ministry of 17. –—Mr. Pitt said, that he by no means meant to propose to the House, not to continue the act, if its continuation should be necessary; but, that he did not think it necessary to vote its continuance before any occasion for that measure should appear. He did not hesitate to say, that the reports of the commissioners had been attended with much benefit, neither had he any difficulty in declaring, that, if there was not sufficient tinic before the close of the session to terminate the investigation referred to then, their powers should be further continued. But it did not now appear that the remainder of the session would not afford sufficient time. On the review taken by the hon. and learned gentleman himself of the subjects proposed for inquiry, only one of any great importance remained uninvestigated, that was the victualling department; the transport department and the others were of inferior importance. He saw no reason, however, to suppose that the commissioners might not be prepared to make their report of the Victualling Office now, nor that they had not at intervalspriety of continuing the inquiries of the commissioners during war, doubts were at first expressed upon that point. The bill was introduced with a declaration, on the part of the then ministry, that Lord Spencer had always had the intention of instituting such a commission; but to a his ...is very prudently determined to postpone it, till. a tire of peace, lest the public service should experience a tenporary interruption, or, at leat, incon: venience, from the inquiries that it would be necessary to make, and from the measures consequent thereon. Upon the round of this declaration Lord Foskestone, moved to postpone the passing of the bill, till after the Christmas recess (of 1832), being of opinion, that the House would soon be convinced, that, before the commissioners could scarcely be assembled, the nation would be called upon to begin making extensive preparations for war ; aud, every one must recollect, that the Parliament actually received the King's message for the calling out of the militia in about eleven weeks from the time, that this motion of Lord Folkestone's was made. In the debate upon Mr. Giles's motion, Castain Markham, , the person by whom the bill was brought in, unequivocally, declared, that it never was the wish of the late ministry to establish the board in time of war; but, he observed, and very truly, that all the inconvenience which could arise to the public service from the operation of the commission was now known; it had already arisen, and, that, therefore, the service would now go on without any chance of impediment from the inquiries of the commissioners. Here it is necessary to recur, for a moment, to the memorable Addingtonian pamphlet, by the “ Near Observi. R,” who, in describing the conduct of Lords Spencer, Grenville, and Carlisle, says: “ Every species of despon“dency was again carefully spread amongst “ the people. The finances were decried, and “the statements of the Chancellor of the “Exchequer disputed." [They have since been proved to have been false..] “ Even “ the resources of the country were attacked." [This is always the accusation against every one, who exposes the falsehood of a minister's statements.] “ The conduct of “the government was arraigned in all “ its foreign intercourse, and the crimes of Buonaparié preposterously transfer“red to Mr. Addington. The Admiralty was reviled and calumniated, and those “just and salutary reforms in the dock“ yards, which will carry down the

turned their attention to the other remain

ing subjects of inquiry, on which no report had yet been made, in such a manner as to leave little to be done to make up what they would submit to the House respecting them. He thought it right, io, to wait till a more advanced period of the ses*ion, and then if it should be necessary, he should have no objection to the continuance.

The Addington's being called upon to support their own measure, Mr. Bragge, though he seemed not very well pleased to be compelled to speak, declared that his vote for the previous question would be grounded upon his firm reliance upon the promise of Mr. Pitt, that, if all the objects of inquiry had not been gone through, at the end of the session, the commission should be continued, till they were all gone through. Mr. Canning, the successor of Mr. Tierney, in the Treasurership of the Navy (once held by Mr. Dundas) ; Mr. Canning reserved to himself some other grounds of objection. First, it was with him a question, whether it would be necessary to renew the bill at all. Secondly, whether, if renewed, the powers of the commissioners ought to be so great as they now are. And, thirdly, whether, in any case, the inquiries of the commissioners ought to be continued during war.—As to the exrent of the / over of the commissioners, that appears to have been quite sufficiently circumscribed, for every good purpose, by the alterations, which were introduced into the bill by the Lord Chancel;or, who, being, is all the world must, by this time, have heard, a person uncommonly conscientious, would certainly have left nothing in the bill hikely to produce an assault upon the consciences of other men. The extent of the commissioners' powers having, therefore, undergone such an examination, previous to their being granted by parliament, it is rather surprising that we should hear doubts started as to the propriety of renewing them to the same extent. The noble lord, beforementioned, took great and laudable pains (as was noticed at the tisme, in this work) to provide a shield against the committing of wrong, against the forcing of a man to say what would criminate himself; and, what more is wanted I think I have read a poetical moralist, who treats with the utmost ridicule and contempt that candour, which shows itself in tenderness towards “ poor suffering Guilt.”

[blocks in formation]

“ victorious name of St. Vincent to pos“terity, with every character of public “ virtue and devotion, were represented as cruel/ersecutions. The insurrection of “ jobbers in the dock-yards was abetted and defended, and the rebellion of boards and “ departments encouraged and promoted." Now, who would not imagine, that the three noblemen last named, were at the head of these calumniators of the admiralty 2 Wh), (that knew nothing of them nor of this writer) would not naturally suppose, that they took the lead in these troops of abettors and defenders of the jobbers and peculators in the dock-yards : The truth is, however, that, not one syllable did either of them ever utter, at least in parliament, against the establishing of that commission, for which Lord St. Vincent was so much, and, I allow it, so justly extolled ; and, except from persons now acting with the Addington, now closely leagued with them in power and emolument; except from persons of this description, no opposition to the commission of inquiry was made, upon any other ground than that of time ; the ground upon which solely alone Lord Folkestone's notion was founded, and which ground has now, even by the framers and supporters of the bill, been acknowledged to have been good ground. But, the most important point yet remains to be touched; which is, that we now find the Addingtons joining Mr. Canning and the other partisans of Lord Melville and Mr. Pitt in voting against the motion of Mr. Giles' It would be curious to hear what the NEAR OB's ER v FR could say to this Mr. Pitt and Lord Melville and Mr. Canning he would, perhaps, care little about; but, surely, he would spill a little ink for the purpose of endeavouring to defend the consistency of the Addingtons TAx on SA lt.——The bill imposing an additional duty upon salt was, on the 4th instant opposed, in the House of Commons, upon a motion of Lord William Russell, who, as an amendment to the motion of Mr. Pitt, that the bill be now read a second time, moved, that the biil be read a second time this day six months. The House having divided upon his lordship's motion, there appeared for it 60, against it 92, leaving a majority of 32 in favour of the ministry and of the tax.--—His lordship said, that this tax would materially affect the labcoring classes of the community, the protection at whom he was sorry to say, the right hon. gentleman seemed to have abandoned ; that he had been in hopes that the report of the committee on this subject would have shtr ficiently shown the iuconvenipoice and 28

« PreviousContinue »