Infomotions, Inc.With a View to Their Ultimate Emancipation; and on the Practicability, the Safety, and the Advantages of the Latter Measure. / Clarkson, Thomas, 1760-1846

Author: Clarkson, Thomas, 1760-1846
Title: With a View to Their Ultimate Emancipation; and on the Practicability, the Safety, and the Advantages of the Latter Measure.
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): slaves; negroes; emancipation; planters; slavery; slave; steele; west indian; slave trade; colonies; indian; west; labour; west indies
Contributor(s): Jowett, Benjamin, 1817-1893 [Translator]
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Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 33,187 words (really short) Grade range: 12-15 (college) Readability score: 52 (average)
Identifier: etext10386
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The Project Gutenberg EBook of Thoughts On The Necessity Of Improving The
Condition Of The Slaves In The British Colonies, by Thomas Clarkson

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Title: Thoughts On The Necessity Of Improving The Condition Of The Slaves
       In The British Colonies
       With A View To Their Ultimate Emancipation; And On The Practicability,
       The Safety, And The Advantages Of The Latter Measure.

Author: Thomas Clarkson

Release Date: December 5, 2003 [EBook #10386]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ASCII


Produced by Carlo Traverso, Dave Morgan and the Online Distributed
Proofreading Team. The page images were generously made available by
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The following sheets first appeared in a periodical work called The
Inquirer. They are now republished without undergoing any substantial
alteration. The author however thinks it due to himself to state, that
_he would have materially qualified those parts of his essay which speak
of the improved Condition of the Slaves in the West Indies since the
abolition_, had he then been acquainted with the recent evidence
obtained upon that subject. His present conviction certainly is, that he
has overrated that improvement, and that in point of fact Negro Slavery
is, in its main and leading feature, the same system which it was when
the Abolition controversy first commenced.

It is possible there may be some, who, having glanced over the Title
Page of this little work, may be startled at the word _Emancipation_. I
wish to inform such, that Mr. Dundas, afterwards Lord Melville, an acute
Man, and a Friend to the Planters, _proposed this very measure to
Parliament_ in the year 1792. We see, then, that the word Emancipation
cannot be charged with _Novelty_. It contains now _no new ideas_. It
contains now nothing but what has been _thought practicable_, and _even
desirable to be accomplished_. The Emancipation which I desire is such
an Emancipation only, as I firmly believe to be compatible not only with
the due subordination and happiness of the labourer, but with the
permanent interests of his employer.

I wish also to say, in case any thing like an undue warmth of feeling on
my part should be discovered in the course of the work, that I had no
intention of being warm against the West Indians as a body. I know that
there are many estimable men among them living in England, who deserve
every desirable praise for having sent over instructions to their Agents
in the West Indies from time to time in behalf of their wretched Slaves.
And yet, alas! even these, _the Masters themselves, have not had
influence enough to secure the fulfilment of their own instructions upon
their own estates_; nor will they, _so long as the present system
continues_. They will never be able to carry their meritorious designs
into effect against _Prejudice, Law, and Custom_. If this be not so, how
happens it that you cannot see the Slaves, belonging to such estimable
men, _without marks of the whip upon their backs_? The truth is, that
_so long as overseers, drivers, and others, are entrusted with the use
of arbitrary power_, and _so long as Negro-evidence is invalid against
the white oppressor_, and _so long as human nature continues to be what
it is_, _no order_ from the Master for the better personal treatment of
the Slave _will or can be obeyed_. It is against the _system_ then, and
not against the West Indians as a body, that I am warm, should I be
found so unintentionally, in the present work.

One word or two now on another part of the subject. A great noise will
be made, no doubt, when the question of Emancipation comes to be
agitated, about _the immense property at stake_, I mean the property of
the Planters;--and others connected with them. This is all well. Their
interests ought undoubtedly to be attended to. But I hope and trust,
that, if property is to be attended to _on one side_ of the question, it
will be equally attended to _on the other_. This is but common justice.
If you put into one scale _the gold_ and _jewels_ of the Planters, you
are bound to put into the other _the liberty_ of 800,000 of the African
race; for every man's liberty is _his own property_ by the laws of
_Nature_, _Reason_, _Justice_, and _Religion_? and, if it be not so with
our West Indian Slaves, it _is only because_ they have been, and
continue to be, _deprived_ of it _by force_. And here let us consider
for a moment which of these two different sorts of property is of the
greatest value. Let us suppose an English gentleman to be seized by
ruffians on the banks of the Thames (and why not a _gentleman_ when
African _princes_ have been so served?) and hurried away to a land (and
Algiers is such a land, for instance), where white persons are held as
Slaves. Now this gentleman has not been used to severe labour (neither
has the African in his own country); and being therefore unable, though
he does his best, to please his master, he is roused to further exertion
_by the whip_. Perhaps he takes this treatment indignantly. This only
secures him _a severer punishment_. I say nothing of his being badly
fed, or lodged, or clothed. If he should have a wife and daughters with
him, how much more cruel would be his fate! to see the tender skins of
these lacerated by the whip! to see them torn from him, with a
knowledge, that they are going to be compelled to submit to the lust of
an overseer! _and no redress_. "How long," says he, "is this frightful
system, which tears my body in pieces and excruciates my soul, which
kills me by inches, and which involves my family in unspeakable misery
and unmerited disgrace, to continue?"--"For _ever_," replies a voice
Suddenly: "_for ever_, as relates to your _own_ life, and the life _of
your wife and daughters_, and that of _all their posterity_," Now would
not this gentleman give _all that he had left behind him_ in England,
and _all that he had in the world besides_, and _all that he had in
prospect and expectancy_, to get out of this wretched state, though he
foresaw that on his return to his own country he would be obliged to beg
his bread for the remainder of his life? I am sure he would. I am sure
he would _instantly_ prefer his _liberty to his gold_. There would not
be _the hesitation of a moment_ as to the choice he would make. I hope,
then, that if _the argument of property_ should he urged on _one side_
of the question, the _argument of property (liberty) will not be
overlooked on the other_, but that they will be fairly weighed, the one
against the other, and that an allowance will be made as the scale shall
preponderate on either side.


I know of no subject, where humanity and justice, as well as public and
private interest, would be more intimately united than in that, which
should recommend a mitigation of the slavery, with a view afterwards to
the emancipation of the Negroes, wherever such may be held in bondage.
This subject was taken up for consideration, so early as when the
Abolition of the slave trade was first practically thought of, and by
the very persons who first publicly embarked in that cause in England;
but it was at length abandoned by them, not on the ground _that Slavery
was less cruel, or wicked, or impolitic, than the slave trade_, but for
other reasons. In the first place there were not at that time so many
obstacles in the way of the Abolition, as of the Emancipation of the
Negroes. In the second place Abolition could be effected immediately,
and with but comparatively little loss, and no danger. Emancipation, on
the other hand, appeared to be rather a work of time. It was beset too
with many difficulties, which required deep consideration, and which, if
not treated with great caution and prudence, threatened the most
alarming results. In the third place, it was supposed, that, by
effecting the abolition of the slave trade, the axe would be laid to the
root of the whole evil; so that by cutting off the more vital part of
it, the other would gradually die away:--for what was more reasonable
than to suppose, that, when masters could no longer obtain Slaves from
Africa or elsewhere, they would be compelled individually, by a sort of
inevitable necessity, or a fear of consequences, or by a sense of their
own interest, _to take better care of those whom they might then have in
their possession_? What was more reasonable to suppose, than that the
different legislatures themselves, moved also by the same necessity,
_would immediately interfere_, without even the loss of a day, _and so
alter and amend the laws_ relative to the treatment of Slaves, as to
enforce that as a public duty, which it would be thus the private
interest of individuals to perform? Was it not also reasonable to
suppose that a system of better treatment, thus begun by individuals,
and enforced directly afterwards by law, would produce more willing as
well as more able and valuable labourers than before; and that this
effect, when once visible, would again lead both masters and legislators
on the score of interest to treat their slaves still more like men; nay,
at length to give them even privileges; and thus to elevate their
condition by degrees, till at length it would be no difficult task, and
no mighty transition, _to pass them_ to that most advantageous situation
to both parties, _the rank of Free Men?_

These were the three effects, which the simple measure of the abolition
of the slave trade was expected to produce by those, who first espoused
it, by Mr. Granville Sharp, and those who formed the London committee;
and by Mr. Pitt, Mr. Fox, Mr. Burke, Mr. Wilberforce, and others of
illustrious name, who brought the subject before Parliament. The
question then is, how have these fond expectations been realized? or how
many and which of these desirable effects have been produced? I may
answer perhaps with truth, that in our own Islands, where the law of the
abolition is not so easily evaded, or where there is less chance of
obtaining new slaves, than in some other parts, there has been already,
that is, since the abolition of the slave trade, a somewhat _better
individual_ treatment of the slaves than before. A certain care has been
taken of them. The plough has been introduced to ease their labour.
Indulgences have been given to pregnant women both before and after
their delivery; premiums have been offered for the rearing of infants to
a certain age; religious instruction has been allowed to many. But when
I mention these instances of improvement, I must be careful to
distinguish what I mean;--I do not intend to say, that there were no
instances of humane treatment of the slaves before the abolition of the
slave trade. I know, on the other hand, that there were; I know that
there were planters, who introduced the plough upon their estates, and
who much to their Honour granted similar indulgences, premiums, and
permissions to those now mentioned, previously to this great event. All
then that I mean to say is this, that, independently of the common
progress of humanity and liberal opinion, the circumstance of not being
able to get new slaves as formerly, has had its influence upon some of
our planters; that it has made some of them think more; that it has put
some of them more upon their guard; and that there are therefore upon
the whole, more instances of good treatment of slaves by individuals in
our Islands (though far from being as numerous as they ought to be) than
at any former period.

But, alas! though the abolition of the slave trade may have produced a
somewhat better individual treatment of the slaves, and this also to a
somewhat greater extent than formerly, _not one of the other effects_,
so anxiously looked for, has been realized. The condition of the slaves
has not yet been improved by _law_. It is a remarkable, and indeed
almost an incredible fact, _that no one effort has been made_ by the
legislative bodies in our Islands with _the real_ intention of meeting
the new, the great, and the extraordinary event of the abolition of the
slave trade. While indeed this measure was under discussion by the
British Parliament, an attempt was made in several of our Islands to
alter the old laws with a view, as it was then pretended, of providing
better for the wants and personal protection of the slaves; but it was
afterwards discovered, that the promoters of this alteration never meant
to carry it into effect. It was intended, by making a show of these
laws, _to deceive the people of England_, and _thus to prevent them from
following up the great question of the abolition_. Mr. Clappeson, one of
the evidences examined by the House of Commons, was in Jamaica, when the
Assembly passed their famous consolidated laws, and he told the House,
that "he had often heard from people there, that it was passed because
of the stir in England about the slave trade;" and he added, "that
slaves continued to be as ill treated there _since the passing of that
act as before_." Mr. Cook, another of the evidences examined, was long
resident in the same island, and, "though he lived there also _since the
passing of the_ act, _he knew of no legal protection_, which slaves had
against injuries from their masters." Mr. Dalrymple was examined to the
same point for Grenada. He was there in 1788, when the Act for that
island was passed also, called "An Act for the better Protection and
promoting the Increase and Population of Slaves." He told the House,
that, "while he resided there, the proposal in the British Parliament
for the abolition of the slave trade was a matter of general discussion,
and that he believed, that this was a principal reason for passing it.
He was of opinion, however, that this Act would prove ineffectual,
because, as Negro evidence was not to be admitted, those, who chose to
abuse their slaves, might still do it with impunity; and people, who
lived on terms of intimacy, would dislike the idea of becoming spies and
informers against each other." We have the same account of the
ameliorating Act of Dominica. "This Act," says Governor Prevost,
"appears to have been considered from the day it was passed until this
hour as _a political measure to avert the interference of the mother
country in the management of the slaves_." We, are informed also on the
same authority, that the clauses of this Act, which had given a promise
of better days, "_had been wholly neglected_." In short, the Acts passed
in our different Islands for the pretended purpose of bettering the
condition of the slaves have been all of them most shamefully
neglected; and they remain only a dead letter; or they are as much a
nullity, as if they had never existed, at the present day.

And as our planters have done nothing yet effectively by _law_ for
ameliorating the condition of their slaves, so they have done nothing or
worse than nothing in the case of their _emancipation_. In the year 1815
Mr. Wilberforce gave notice in the House of Commons of his intention to
introduce there a bill for the registration of slaves in the British
colonies. In the following year an insurrection broke out among some
slaves in Barbadoes. Now, though this insurrection originated, as there
was then reason to believe, in local or peculiar circumstances, or in
circumstances which had often produced insurrections before, the
planters chose to attribute it to the Registry Bill now mentioned. They
gave out also, that the slaves in Jamaica and in the other islands had
imbibed a notion, that this Bill was to lead to _their emancipation_;
that, while this notion existed, their minds would be in an unsettled
state; and therefore that it was necessary that _it should be done
away_. Accordingly on the 19th day of June 1816, they moved and procured
an address from the Commons to the Prince Regent, the substance of which
was (as relates to this particular) that "His Royal Highness would be
pleased to order all the governors of the West India islands to
proclaim, in the most public manner, His Royal Highness's concern and
surprise at the false and mischievous opinion, which appeared to have
prevailed in some of the British colonies,--that either His Royal
Highness or the British Parliament had sent out orders for _the
emancipation_ of the Negroes; and to direct the most effectual methods
to be adopted for discountenancing _these unfounded and dangerous
impressions_." Here then we have a proof "that in the month of June 1816
the planters _had no notion of altering the condition of their
Negroes_." It is also evident, that they have entertained _no such
notion since_; for emancipation implies a _preparation_ of the persons
who are to be the subjects of so great a change. It implies a previous
alteration of treatment for the better, and a previous alteration of
customs and even of circumstances, no one of which can however be really
and truly effected without _a previous change of the laws_. In fact, a
progressively better treatment _by law_ must have been settled as a
preparatory and absolutely necessary work, had _emancipation been
intended_. But as we have never heard of the introduction of any new
laws to this effect, or with a view of producing this effect, in any of
our colonies, we have an evidence, almost as clear as the sun at
noonday, that our planters have no notion of altering the condition of
their Negroes, though fifteen years have elapsed since the abolition of
the slave trade.  But if it be true that the abolition of the slave
trade has not produced all the effects, which the abolitionists
anticipated or intended, it would appear to be their duty, unless
insurmountable obstacles present themselves, _to resume their labours:_
for though there may be upon the whole, as I have admitted, a somewhat
better _individual_ treatment of the slaves by their masters, arising
out of an increased prudence in same, which has been occasioned by
stopping the importations, yet it is true, that not only many of the
former continue to be ill-treated by the latter, but that _all may be so
ill-treated_, if the _latter be so disposed_. They may be ill-fed,
hard-worked, ill-used, and wantonly and barbarously punished. They may
be tortured, nay even deliberately and intentionally killed without the
means of redress, or the punishment of the aggressor, so long as the
evidence of a Negro is not valid against a white man. If a white master
only take care, that no other white man sees him commit an atrocity of
the kind mentioned, he is safe from the cognizance of the law. He may
commit such atrocity in the sight of a thousand black spectators, and no
harm will happen to him from it. In fact, the slaves in our Islands have
_no more real protection or redress from law_, than when _the
Abolitionists first took up the question of the slave trade_. It is
evident therefore, that the latter have still one-half of their work to
perform, and that it is their duty to perform it. If they were ever
influenced by any good motives, whether of humanity, justice, or
religion, to undertake the cause of the Negroes, they must even now be
influenced by the same motives to continue it. If any of those disorders
still exist, which it was their intention to cure, they cannot (if these
are curable) retire from the course and say--there is now no further
need of our interference.

The first step then to be taken by the Abolitionists is to attempt to
introduce an _entire new code of laws_ into our colonies. The treatment
of the Negroes there must no longer be made to depend upon _the presumed
effects_ of the abolition of the slave trade. Indeed there were persons
well acquainted with Colonial concerns, who called the abolition _but a
half measure_ at the time when it was first publicly talked of. They
were sure, that it would never _of itself_ answer the end proposed. Mr.
Steele also confessed in his letter to Dr. Dickson[1] (of both of whom
more by and by), that "the abolition of the stave trade would _be
useless_, unless at the same time the infamous laws, which he had
pointed out, _were repealed_." Neither must the treatment of the Negroes
be made to depend upon what may be called _contingent humanity_. We now
leave in this country neither the horse, nor the ass, nor oxen, nor
sheep, to the contingent humanity even of _British bosoms_;--and shall
we leave those, whom we have proved to be _men_, to the contingent
humanity of a _slave colony_, where the eye is familiarized with cruel
sights, and where we have seen a constant exposure to oppression without
the possibility of redress? No. The treatment of the Negroes must be
made to depend _upon law_; and unless this be done, we shall look in
vain for any real amelioration of their condition. In the first place,
all those old laws, which are repugnant to humanity and justice, must be
done away. There must also be new laws, positive, certain, easy of
execution, binding upon all, by means of which the Negroes in our
islands shall have speedy and substantial redress in real cases of
ill-usage, whether by starvation, over-work, or acts of personal
violence, or otherwise. There must be new laws again more akin to the
principle of _reward_ than of _punishment_, of _privilege_ than of
_privation_, and which shall, have a tendency to raise or elevate their
condition, so as to fit them by degrees to sustain the rank of free men.

But if a new Code of Laws be indispensably necessary in our colonies in
order to secure a better treatment to the slaves, to whom must we look
for it? I answer, that we must not look for it to the West Indian
Legislatures. For, in the first place, judging of what they are likely
to do from what they have already done, or rather from what they have
_not_ done, we can have no reasonable expectation from that quarter. One
hundred and fifty years have passed, during which long interval their
laws have been nearly stationary, or without any material improvement.
In the second place, the individuals composing these Legislatures,
having been used to the exercise of unlimited power, would be unwilling
to part with that portion of it, which would be necessary to secure the
object in view. In the third place, their prejudices against their
slaves are too great to allow them to become either impartial or willing
actors in the case. The term _slave_ being synonymous according to their
estimation and usage with the term _brute_, they have fixed a stigma
upon their Negroes, such as we, who live in Europe, could not have
conceived, unless we had had irrefragable evidence upon the point. What
evils has not this cruel association of terms produced? The West Indian
master looks down upon his slave with disdain. He has besides a certain
antipathy against him. He hates the sight of his features, and of his
colour; nay, he marks with distinctive opprobrium the very blood in his
veins, attaching different names and more or less infamy to those who
have it in them, according to the quantity which they have of it in
consequence of their pedigree, or of their greater or less degree of
consanguinity with the whites. Hence the West Indian feels an
unwillingness to elevate the condition of the Negro, or to do any thing
for him as a human being. I have no doubt, that this prejudice has been
one of the great causes why the improvement of our slave population _by
law_ has been so long retarded, and that the same prejudice will
continue to have a similar operation, so long as it shall continue to
exist. Not that there are wanting men of humanity among our West Indian
legislators. Their humanity is discernible enough when it is to be
applied to the _whites_; but such is the system of slavery, and the
degradation attached to this system, that their humanity seems to be
lost or gone, when it is to be applied to the _blacks_. Not again that
there are wanting men of sense among the same body. They are shrewd and
clever enough in the affairs of life, where they maintain an intercourse
with the _whites_; but in their intercourse with the _blacks_ their
sense appears to be shrivelled and not of its ordinary size. Look at the
laws of their own making, as far as the Negroes are concerned, and they
are a collection of any thing but--wisdom.

It appears then, that if a new code of laws is indispensably necessary
in our Colonies in order to secure a better treatment of the slaves
there, we are not to look to the West Indian Legislatures for it. To
whom then are we to turn our eyes for help on this occasion? We answer,
To the British Parliament, the source of all legitimate power; to that
Parliament, _which has already heard and redressed in part the wrongs of
Africa_. The West Indian Legislatures must be called upon to send their
respective codes to this Parliament for revision. Here they will be well
and impartially examined; some of the laws will be struck out, others
amended, and others added; and at length they will be returned to the
Colonies, means having been previously devised for their execution

But here no doubt a considerable opposition would arise on the part of
the West India planters. These would consider any such interference by
the British Parliament as an invasion of their rights, and they would
cry out accordingly. We remember that they set up a clamour when the
abolition of the slave trade was first proposed. But what did Mr. Pitt
say to them in the House of Commons? "I will now," said he, "consider
the proposition, that on account of some patrimonial rights of the West
Indians, the prohibition of the slave trade would be an invasion of
their legal inheritance. This proposition implied, that Parliament had
no right to stop the importations: but had this detestable traffic
received such a sanction, as placed it more out of the jurisdiction of
the Legislature for ever after, than any other branch of our trade? But
if the laws respecting the slave trade implied a contract for its
perpetual continuance, the House could never regulate any other of the
branches of our national commerce. But _any contract_ for the promotion
of this trade must, in his opinion, _have been void from the
beginning_; for if it was _an outrage upon justice_, and only another
name for _fraud, robbery, and murder_, what _pledge_ could devolve upon
the Legislature to incur the obligation of becoming principals in the
commission of such enormities by sanctioning their continuance?"

They set up again a similar clamour, when the Registry Bill before
mentioned was discussed in Parliament, contending that the introduction
of it there was an interference with their rights also: but we must not
forget the reply which Mr. Canning made to them on that occasion. "He
had known, (he said,) and there might again occur, instances of
obstinacy in the colonial assemblies, which left the British Parliament
no choice but direct interference. Such conduct might now call for such
an exertion on the part of Parliament; but all that he pleaded for was,
that time should be granted, that it might be known if the colonial
assemblies would take upon them to do what that House was pleased to
declare should be done. The present address could not be misunderstood.
It told the colonial assemblies, You are safe for the present from the
interference of the British Parliament, on the belief, and on the
promise made for you, that left to yourselves you will do what is
required of you. To hold this language was sufficient. The Assemblies
might be left to infer the consequences of a refusal, and Parliament
might rest satisfied with the consciousness, that they held in their
hands the means of accomplishing that which they had proposed." In a
subsequent discussion of the subject in the House of Lords, Lord Holland
remarked, that "in his opinion there had been more prejudice against
this Bill than the nature of the thing justified; but, whatever might be
the objection felt against it in the Colonies, it might be well for them
to consider, that it would be _impossible for them to resist_, and that,
if the thing was not done by them, _it would be done for them_." But on
this subject, that is, on the subject of colonial rights, I shall say
more in another place. It will be proper, however, to repeat here, and
to insist upon it too, that there is no _effectual way_ of remedying the
evil complained of, but by subjecting the colonial laws to the _revision
of the Legislature of the mother country_; and perhaps I shall disarm
some of the opponents to this measure, and at any rate free myself from
the charge of a novel and wild proposition, when I inform them that Mr.
Long, the celebrated historian and planter of Jamaica, and to whose
authority all West Indians look up, adopted the same idea. Writing on
the affairs of Jamaica, he says: "The system[2] of Colonial government,
and the imperfection of their several laws, are subjects, which never
were, but _which ought to be_, strictly canvassed, examined, and amended
by the British Parliament."

The second and last step to be taken by the Abolitionists should be, to
collect all possible light on the subject of _emancipation_ with a view
of carrying that measure into effect in its due time. They ought never
to forget, that _emancipation_ was included in _their original idea of
the abolition of the slave trade_. Slavery was then as much an evil in
their eyes as the trade itself; and so long as the former continues in
its present state, the extinction of it ought to be equally an object of
their care. All the slaves in our colonies, whether men, women, or
children, whether _Africans or Creoles_, have been unjustly deprived of
their rights. There is not a master, who has the least claim to their
services in point of equity. There is, therefore, a great debt due to
them, and for this no payment, no amends, no equivalent can be found,
but a _restoration to their liberty_.

That all have been unjustly deprived of their rights, may be easily
shown by examining the different grounds on which they are alleged to be
held in bondage. With respect to those in our colonies, who are
_Africans_, I never heard of any title to them but by the _right of
purchase_. But it will be asked, where did the purchasers get them? It
will be answered, that they got them from the sellers; and where did the
sellers, that is, the original sellers, get them? They got them by
_fraud or violence_. So says the evidence before the House of Commons;
and so, in fact, said both Houses of Parliament, when they abolished the
trade: and this is the plea set up for retaining them in a cruel

With respect to the rest of the slaves, that is, the _Creoles_, or those
born in the colonies, the services, the perpetual services, of these are
claimed on the plea of the _law of birth_. They were born slaves, and
this circumstance is said to give to their masters a sufficient right to
their persons. But this doctrine sprung from the old Roman law, which
taught that all slaves were to be considered as _cattle_. "Partus
sequitur ventrem," says this law, or the "condition or lot of the mother
determines the condition or lot of the offspring." It is the same law,
which we ourselves now apply to cattle while they are in our possession.
Thus the calf belongs to the man who owns the cow, and the foal to the
man who owns the mare, and not to the owner of the bull or horse, which
were the male parents of each. It is then upon this, the old Roman law,
and not upon any English law, that the planters found their right to the
services of such as are born in slavery. In conformity with this law
they denied, for one hundred and fifty years, both the moral and
intellectual nature of their slaves. They considered them themselves,
and they wished them to be considered by others, in these respects, as
upon a level only _with the beasts of the field_. Happily, however,
their efforts have been in vain. The evidence examined before the House
of Commons in the years 1789, 1790, and 1791, has confirmed the
falsehood of their doctrines. It has proved that the social affections
and the intellectual powers both of Africans and Creoles are the same as
those of other human beings. What then becomes of the Roman law? For as
it takes no other view of slaves than as _cattle_, how is it applicable
to those, whom we have so abundantly proved _to be men_?

This is the grand plea, upon which our West Indian planters have founded
their right to the perpetual services of their _Creole_ slaves. They
consider them as the young or offspring of cattle. But as the slaves in
question have been proved, and are now acknowledged, to be the offspring
of men and women, of social, intellectual, and accountable beings, their
right must fall to the ground. Nor do I know upon what other principle
or right they can support it. They can have surely no _natural right_ to
the infant, who is born of a woman slave. If there be any right to it by
_nature_, such right must belong, not to the master of the mother, but
to the mother herself. They can have no right to it again, either on the
score of _reason_ or of _justice_. Debt and crime have been generally
admitted to be two fair grounds, on which men may be justly deprived of
their liberty for a time, and even made to labour, inasmuch as they
include _reparation of injury_, and the duty of the magistrate to _make
examples_, in order that he may not bear the sword in vain. But what
injury had the infant done, when it came into the world, to the master
of its mother, that reparation should be sought for, or punishment
inflicted for example, and that this reparation and this punishment
should be made to consist of a course of action and suffering, against
which, more than against any other, human nature would revolt? Is it
reasonable, is it just, that a poor infant who has done no injury to any
one, should be subjected, _he and his posterity for ever_, to _the
arbitrary will and tyranny of another_, and moreover to _the condition
of a brute_, because by _mere accident_, and by _no fault_ or _will of
his own_, he was born of a person, who had been previously in the
condition of a slave?

And as the right to slaves, because they were born slaves, cannot be
defended either upon the principles of reason or of justice, so this
right absolutely falls to pieces, when we come to try it by the
touchstone _of the Christian religion_. Every man who is born into the
world, whether he be white or whether he be black, is born, according to
Christian notions, a _free agent_ and _an accountable creature_. This is
the Scriptural law of his nature as a human bring. He is born under this
law, and he continues under it during his life. Now the West Indian
slavery is of such an arbitrary nature, that it may be termed _proper_
or _absolute_. The dominion attached to it is a despotism without
control; a despotism, which keeps up its authority by terror only. The
subjects of it _must do_, and this _instantaneously_, whatever their
master _orders them to do_, whether it _be right or wrong_. His will,
and his will alone, is their law. If the wife of a slave were ordered by
a master to submit herself to his lusts, and therefore to commit
adultery, or if her husband were ordered to steal any thing for him, and
therefore to commit theft, I have no conception that either the one or
the other would _dare_ to disobey his commands. "The whip, the shackles,
the dungeon," says Mr. Steele before mentioned, "are at all times in his
power, whether it be to gratify his _lust_, or display his
authority[3]." Now if the master has the power, _a just, and moral
power_, to make his slaves do what he orders them to do, even if it be
wrong, then I must contend that the Scriptures, whose authority we
venerate, are false. I must contend that his slaves never could have
been born free agents and accountable creatures; or that, as soon as
they became slaves, they were absolved from the condition of free-agency
and that they lost their responsibility as men. But if, on the other
hand, it be the revealed will of God, that all men, without exception,
must be left free to act, but accountable to God for their actions;--I
contend that no man can be born, nay, further, that no man can be made,
held, or possessed, as a proper slave. I contend that there can be,
according to the Gospel-dispensation, _no such state as West Indian
slavery_. But let us now suppose for a moment, that there might be found
an instance or two of slaves enlightened by some pious Missionary, who
would refuse to execute their master's orders on the principle that they
were wrong; even this would not alter our views of the case. For would
not this refusal be so unexampled, so unlooked-for, so immediately
destructive to all authority and discipline, and so provocative of
anger, that it would be followed by _immediate and signal punishment_?
Here then we should have a West Indian master reversing all the laws and
rules of civilized nations, and turning upside down all the morality of
the Gospel by the novel practice of _punishing men for their virtues_.
This new case affords another argument, why a man cannot be born a
proper slave. In fact, the whole system of our planters appears to me to
be so directly in opposition to the whole system of our religion, that I
have no conception, how a man can have been born a slave, such as the
West Indian is; nor indeed have I any conception, how he can be,
rightly, or justly, or properly, a West Indian slave at all. There
appears to me something even impious in the thought; and I am convinced,
that many years will not pass, before the West Indian slavery will
fall, and that future ages will contemplate with astonishment how the
preceding could have tolerated it.

It has now appeared, if I have reasoned conclusively, that the West
Indians have no title to their slaves on the ground of purchase, nor on
the plea of the law of birth, nor on that of any natural right, nor on
that of reason or justice, and that Christianity absolutely annihilates
it. It remains only to show, that they have no title to them on the
ground of _original grants or permissions of Governments_, or of _Acts
of Parliament_, or of _Charters_, or of _English law_.

With respect to original grants or permissions of Governments, the case
is very clear. History informs us, that neither the African slave trade
nor the West Indian slavery would have been allowed, had it not been for
the _misrepresentations_ and _falsehoods_ of those, _who were first
concerned in them_. The Governments of those times were made to believe,
first, that the poor Africans embarked _voluntarily_ on board the ships
which took them from their native land; and secondly, that they were
conveyed to the Colonies principally for _their own benefit_, or out of
_Christian feeling for them_, that they might afterwards _be converted
to Christianity_. Take as an instance of the first assertion, the way in
which Queen Elizabeth was deceived, in whose reign the execrable slave
trade began in England. This great princess seems on the very
commencement of the trade to have questioned its lawfulness. She seems
to have entertained a religious scruple concerning it, and indeed, to
have revolted at the very thoughts of it. She seems to have been aware
of the evils to which its continuance might lead, or that, if it were
sanctioned, the most unjustifiable means might be made use of to procure
the persons of the natives of Africa. And in what light she would have
viewed any acts of this kind, had they taken place to her knowledge, we
may conjecture from this fact--that when Captain (afterwards Sir John)
Hawkins returned from his first voyage to Africa and Hispaniola, whither
he had carried slaves, she sent for him, and, as we learn from Hill's
Naval History, expressed her concern lest any of the Africans should be
carried off _without their free consent_, declaring, "that it would be
detestable and call down the vengeance of Heaven upon the undertakers."
Capt. Hawkins promised to comply with the injunctions of Elizabeth in
this respect. But he did not keep his word; for when he went to Africa
again, _he seized_ many of the inhabitants _and carried them off_ as
slaves, "Here (says Hill) began the horrid practice of forcing the
Africans into slavery, an injustice and barbarity, which, so sure as
there is vengeance in Heaven for the worst of crimes, will sometime be
the destruction of all who encourage it." Take as an instance of the
second what Labat, a Roman missionary, records in his account of the
Isles of America. He says, that Louis the Thirteenth was very uneasy,
when he was about to issue the edict, by which all Africans coming into
his colonies were to be made slaves; and that this uneasiness continued,
till he was assured that the introduction of them in this capacity into
his foreign dominions was the readiest way of _converting them_ to the
principles _of the Christian religion_. It was upon these ideas then,
namely, that the Africans left their own country voluntarily, and that
they were to receive the blessings of Christianity, and upon these
alone, that the first transportations were allowed, and that the first
_English_ grants and Acts of Parliament, and that the first _foreign_
edicts, sanctioned them. We have therefore the fact well authenticated,
as it relates _to original Government grants and permissions_, that the
owners of many of the Creole slaves in our colonies have no better title
to them as property, than as being the descendants of persons forced
away from their country and brought thither by a traffic, which had its
allowed origin in _fraud and falsehood_.

Neither have the masters of slaves in our colonies any title to their
slaves on account of any _charters_, which they may be able to produce,
though their charters are the only source of their power. It is through
these that they have hitherto legislated, and that they continue to
legislate. Take away their charters, and they would have no right or
power to legislate at all. And yet, though they have their charters, and
though the slavery, which now exists, has been formed and kept together
entirely by the laws, which such charters have given them the power to
make, this very slavery _is illegal_. There is not an individual, who
holds any of the slaves by a _legal_ title: for it is expressed in all
these charters, whether in those given to William Penn and others for
the continent of North America, or in those given for the islands now
under our consideration, that "the laws and statutes, to be made there,
are _not to be repugnant_, but, as near as may be, _agreeable, to the
laws_ and statutes of this our _kingdom of Great Britain_." But is it
consistent with the laws of England, that any one man should have the
power of forcing another to work for him without wages? Is it consistent
with the laws of England, that any one man should have the power of
flogging, beating, bruising, or wounding another at his discretion? Is
it consistent with the laws of England, that a man should be judged by
any but his peers? Is it consistent with the same laws, that a man
should be deprived of the power of giving evidence against the man who
has injured him? or that there should be a privileged class, against
whom no testimony can be admitted on certain occasions, though the
perpetrators of the most horrid crimes? But when we talk of consistency
on this occasion, let us not forget that old law of Barbadoes,  made
while the charter of that island was fresh in every body's memory, and
therefore in the very teeth of the charter itself, which runs thus: "If
any slave, under punishment by his master or by his order, shall suffer
in life or member, no person shall be liable to any fine for the same:
but if any person shall _wantonly_ or _cruelly_ kill his own slave, he
shall pay the treasury 15 l." And here let us remark, that, when Lord
Seaforth, governor of Barbadoes, proposed, so lately as in 1802, the
repeal of this bloody law, the Legislature of that island rejected the
proposition with indignation. Nay, the very proposal to repeal it so
stirred up at the time the bad passions of many, that several brutal
murders of slaves were committed in consequence; and it was not till two
or three years afterwards that the governor had influence enough to get
the law repealed. Let the West Indians then talk no more of their
_charters_; for in consequence of having legislated upon principles,
which are at variance with those upon which the laws of England are
founded, they have _forfeited them all_. The mother country has
therefore a right to withdraw these charters whenever she pleases, and
to substitute such others as she may think proper. And here let it be
observed also, that the right of the West Indians to make any laws at
all for their own islands being founded upon their charters, and upon
these alone, and the laws relating to the slaves being contrary to what
such charters prescribe, the _slavery itself_, that is, the daily living
practice with respect to slaves under such laws, _is illegal_ and _may
be done away_. But if so, all our West Indian slaves are, without
exception, unlawfully held in bondage. There is no master, who has a
legal title to any of them. This assertion may appear strange and
extravagant to many; but it does not follow on that account that it is
the less true. It is an assertion, which has been made by a West Indian
proprietor himself. Mr. Steele[4], before quoted, furnishes us with what
passed at the meeting of the Society of Arts in Barbadoes at their
committee-room in August 1785, when the following question was in the
order of the day: "Is there any law written, or printed, by which a
proprietor can prove his title to his slave under or conformable to the
laws of England?" And "Why, (immediately said one of the members,) why
conformable to the laws of England? Will not the courts in England admit
such proof as is authorized by _our slave laws_?"--"I apprehend not,
(answered a second,) unless we can show that _our slave laws_ (according
to the limitations of the charter) are _not_ repugnant to the laws of
England."--The same gentleman resumed: "Does the original purchaser of
an African slave in this island obtain any legal title from the merchant
or importer of slaves--and of what nature? Does it set forth any title
of propriety, agreeable to the laws of England (or even to the laws of
nations) to be in the importer more than what depends upon his simple
averment? And have not free Negroes been at sundry times trepanned by
such dealers, and been brought contrary to the laws of nations, and sold
here as slaves?"--"There is no doubt, (observed a third,) but such
villainous actions have been done by worthless people: however, though
an honest and unsuspicious man may be deceived in buying a stolen horse,
it does not follow that he may not have a fair and just title to a horse
or any thing else bought in an open and legal market; but according to
the obligation _of being not repugnant to the laws of England_, I do not
see how _we can have any title to our slaves_ likely to be supported by
the laws of England." In fact, the Colonial system is an excrescence
upon the English Constitution, and is constantly at variance with it.
There is not one English law, which gives a man a right to the liberty
of any of his fellow creatures. Of course there cannot be, according to
charters, any Colonial law to this effect. If there be, it is _null and
void_. Nay, the very man, who is held in bondage by the Colonial law,
becomes free by English law the moment he reaches the English shore. But
we have said enough for our present purpose. We have shown that the
slaves in our Colonies, whether they be Africans, or whether they be
Creoles, _have been unjustly deprived of their rights_. There is of
course a great debt due to them. They have a claim to a restoration to
liberty; and as this restoration was included by the Abolitionists in
their original idea of the abolition of the slavetrade, so it is their
duty to endeavour to obtain it _the first moment it is practicable_. I
shall conclude my observations on this part of the subject, in the words
of that old champion of African liberty, Mr. W. Smith, the present
Member for Norwich, when addressing the House of Commons in the last
session of parliament on a particular occasion. He admitted, alluding to
the slaves in our colonies, that "immediate emancipation might be an
injury, and not a blessing to the slaves themselves. A period of
_preparation_, which unhappily included delay, seemed to be necessary.
The ground of this delay, however, was not the intermediate advantage to
be derived from their labour, but a conviction of its expediency as it
related to themselves. We had to _compensate_ to these wretched beings
_for ages of injustice_. We were bound by the strongest obligations _to
train up_ these subjects of our past injustice and tyranny _for an equal
participation with ourselves in the blessings of liberty and the
protection of the law_; and by these considerations ought our measures
to be strictly and conscientiously regulated. It was only in consequence
of the necessity of time to be consumed in such a preparation, that we
could be justified in the retention of the Negroes in slavery _for a
single hour_; and he trusted that the eyes of all men, both here and in
the colonies, would be open to this view of the subject as their clear
and indispensable duty."

Having led the reader to the first necessary step to be taken in favour
of our slaves in the British Colonies,--namely, the procuring for them a
new and better code of laws; and having since led him to the last or
final one,--namely, the procuring for them the rights of which they have
been unjustly deprived: I shall now confine myself entirely to this
latter branch of the subject, being assured, that it has a claim to all
the attention that can be bestowed upon it; and I trust that I shall be
able to show, by appealing to historical facts, that however awful and
tremendous the work of _emancipation_ may seem, it is yet _practicable_;
that it is practicable also _without danger_; and moreover, that it is
practicable with the probability of _advantage_ to all the parties

In appealing however to facts for this purpose, we must expect no light
from antiquity to guide us on our way; for history gives us no account
of persons in those times similarly situated with the slaves in the
British colonies at the present day. There were no particular nations in
those times, like the Africans, expressly set apart for slavery by the
rest of the world, so as to have a stigma put upon them on that account,
nor did a difference of the colour of the skin constitute always, as it
now does, a most marked distinction between the master and the slave, so
as to increase this stigma and to perpetuate antipathies between them.
Nor did the slaves of antiquity, except perhaps once in Sparta, form the
whole labouring population of the land; nor did they work incessantly,
like the Africans, under the whip; nor were they generally so behind
their masters in cultivated intellect. Neither does ancient history give
us in the cases of manumission, which it records, any parallel, from
which we might argue in the case before us. The ancient manumissions
were those of individuals only, generally of but one at a time, and only
now and then; whereas the emancipation, which we contemplate in the
colonies, will comprehend _whole bodies of men_, nay, _whole
populations_, at a given time. We must go therefore in quest of examples
to modern times, or rather to the history of the colonial slavery
itself; and if we should find any there, which appear to bear at all
upon the case in question, we must be thankful for them, and, though
they should not be entirely to our mind, we must not turn them away, but
keep them, and reason from them as far as their analogies will warrant.

In examining a period comprehending the last forty years, I find no less
than six or seven instances of the emancipation of African slaves _in
bodies_. The first of these cases occurred at the close of the first
American war. A number of slaves had run away from their North American
masters and joined the British army. When peace came, the British
Government did not know what to do with them. Their services were no
longer wanted. To leave them behind to fall again into the power of
their masters would have been great cruelty as well as injustice; and as
to taking them to England, what could have been done with them there? It
was at length determined to give _them their liberty_, and to disband
them in Nova Scotia, and to settle them there upon grants of land as
_British subjects_ and as _free men_. The Nova Scotians on learning
their destination were alarmed. They could not bear the thought of
having such a number of black persons among them, and particularly as
these understood the use of arms. The Government, however, persevering
in its original intention, they were conveyed to Halifax, and
distributed from thence into the country. Their number, comprehending
men, women, and children, were two thousand and upwards. To gain their
livelihood, some of them worked upon little portions of land of their
own; others worked as carpenters; others became fishermen; and others
worked for hire in other ways. In process of time they raised places of
worship of their own, and had ministers of their own from their own
body. They led a harmless life, and gained the character of an
industrious and honest people from their white neighbours. A few years
afterwards the land in Nova Scotia being found too poor to answer, and
the climate too cold for their constitutions, a number of them, to the
amount of between thirteen and fourteen hundred, volunteered to form a
new colony, which was then first thought of, at Sierra Leone.
Accordingly, having been conveyed there, they realized the object in
view; and they are to be found there, they or their descendants, most of
them in independent and some of them in affluent circumstances, at the
present day.

A second case may be taken from what occurred at the close of the
second, or last American war. It may be remembered that a large British
naval force, having on board a powerful land force, sailed in the year
1814, to make a descent on the coast of the southern States of America.
The British army, when landed, marched to Washington, and burnt most of
its public buildings. It was engaged also at different times with the
American army in the field. During these expeditions, some hundreds of
slaves in these parts joined the British standard by invitation. When
the campaign was over, the same difficulty occurred about disposing of
these as in the former case. It was determined at length to ship them to
Trinidad _as free labourers_. But here, that is, at Trinidad, an
objection was started against receiving them, but on a different ground
from that which had been started in the similar case in Nova Scotia. The
planters of Trinidad were sure that no free Negroes would ever work,
and therefore that the slaves in question would, if made free and
settled among them, support themselves _by plunder_. Sir Ralph Woodford,
however, the governor of the island, resisted the outcry of these
prejudices. He received them into the island, and settled them where he
supposed the experiment would be most safely made. The result has shown
his discernment. These very men, formerly slaves in the Southern States
of America and afterwards emancipated in a body at Trinidad, are now
earning their own livelihood, and with so much industry and good conduct
that the calumnies originally spread against them have entirely died

A third case may comprehend those Negroes, who lately formed what we
call our West Indian black regiments. Some of these had been originally
purchased in Africa, not as slaves but recruits, and others in Jamaica
and elsewhere. They had all served as soldiers in the West Indies. At
length certain of these regiments were transported to Sierra Leone and
disbanded there, and the individuals composing them received their
discharge _as free men_. This happened in the spring of 1819. _Many
hundreds_ of them were _set at liberty at once_ upon this occasion. Some
of these were afterwards marched into the interior, where they founded
Waterloo, Hastings, and other villages. Others were shipped to the Isles
de Loss, where they made settlements in like manner. Many, in both
cases, took with them their wives, which they had brought from the West
Indies, and others selected wives from the natives on the spot. They
were all settled upon grants given them by the Government. It appears
from accounts received from Sir Charles M'Carthy, the governor of Sierra
Leone, that they have conducted themselves to his satisfaction, and that
they will prove a valuable addition to that colony.

A fourth case may comprehend what we call _the captured Negroes_ in the
colony now mentioned. These are totally distinct from those either in
the first or in the last of the cases which have been mentioned. It is
well known that these were taken out of slave-ships captured at
different times from the commencement of the abolition of the slave
trade to the present moment, and that on being landed _they were made
free_. After having been recruited in their health they were marched in
bodies into the interior, where they were taught to form villages and to
cultivate land for themselves. They were _made free_ as they were landed
from the vessels, _from fifty to two or three hundred at a time_. They
occupy at present twelve towns, in which they have both their churches
and their schools. Regents Town having been one of the first
established, containing about thirteen hundred souls, stands foremost in
improvement, and has become a pattern for industry and good example.
The people there have now fallen entirely into the habits of English
society. They are decently and respectably dressed. They attend divine
worship regularly. They exhibit an orderly and moral conduct. In their
town little shops are now beginning to make their appearance; and their
lands show the marks of extraordinary cultivation. Many of them, after
having supplied their own wants for the year, have a surplus produce in
hand for the purchase of superfluities or comforts.

Here then are four cases of slaves, either Africans or descendants of
Africans, _emancipated_ in _considerable bodies_ at a time. I have kept
them by themselves, became they are of a different complexion from
those, which I intend should follow. I shall now reason upon them. Let
me premise, however, that I shall consider the three first of the cases
as one, so that the same reasoning will do for all. They are alike
indeed in their _main_ features; and we must consider this as
sufficient; for to attend minutely to every shade of difference[5],
which may occur in every case, would be to bewilder the reader, and to
swell the size of my work unnecessarily, or without conferring an
adequate benefit to the controversy on either side.

It will be said then (for my reasoning will consist principally in
answering objections on the present occasion) that the three first cases
_are not strictly analogous_ to that of our West Indian slaves, whose
emancipation we are seeking. It will be contended, that the slaves in
our West Indian colonies have been constantly in an abject and degraded
state. Their faculties are benumbed. They have contracted all the vices
of slavery. They are become habitually thieves and liars. Their bosoms
burn with revenge against the whites. How then can persons in such a
state be fit to receive their freedom? The slaves, on the other hand,
who are comprehended in the three cases above mentioned, found in the
British army a school as it were, _which fitted them by degrees for
making a good use of their liberty_. While they were there, they were
never out of the reach of discipline, and yet were daily left to
themselves to act as free men. They obtained also in this _preparatory
school_ some knowledge of the customs of civilized life. They were in
the habit also of mixing familiarly with the white soldiers. Hence, it
will be said, they were in a state much _more favourable for undergoing
a change in their condition_ than the West Indian slaves before
mentioned. I admit all this. I admit the difference between the two
situations, and also the preference which I myself should give to the
one above the other on account of its desirable tendencies. But I never
stated, that our West Indian slaves were to be emancipated _suddenly_,
but _by degrees_. I always, on the other hand, took it for granted, that
they were to have _their preparatory school_ also. Nor must it be
forgotten, as a comparison has been instituted, that if there was _less
danger_ in emancipating the other slaves, _because they had received
something like a preparatory education_ for the change, there was _far
more_ in another point of view, because _they were all acquainted with
the use of arms_. This is a consideration of great importance; but
particularly when we consider _the prejudices of the blacks against the
whites_; for would our West Indian planters be as much at their ease, as
they now are, if their slaves had acquired _a knowledge of the use of
arms_, or would they think them on this account more or less fit for

It will be said again, that the fourth case, consisting of the Sierra
Leone captured Negroes, _is not strictly analogous_ to the one in point.
These had probably been slaves but _for a short time_,--say a few
months, including the time which elapsed between their reduction to
slavery and their embarkation from Africa, and between this their
embarkation and their capture upon the ocean. They had scarcely been
slaves when they were returned to the rank of free men. Little or no
change therefore could have been effected in so short an interim in
their disposition and their character; and, as they were never carried
to the West Indies, so they never could have contracted the bad habits,
or the degradation or vices, of the slavery there. It will be contended
therefore, that they were _better_, _or less hazardous_, subjects for
_emancipation_, than the slaves in our colonies. I admit this objection,
and I give it its full weight. I admit it to be _less hazardous_ to
emancipate a _new_ than an _old_ slave. And yet the case of the Sierra
Leone captured Negroes is a very strong one. They were all _Africans_.
They were all _slaves_. They must have contracted _as mortal a hatred of
the whites_ from their sufferings on board ship by fetters, whips, and
suffocation in the hold, as the West Indian from those severities which
are attached to their bondage upon shore. Under these circumstances then
we find them _made free_; but observe, not after any _preparatory_
discipline, but almost _suddenly_, and _not singly_, but _in bodies_ at
a time. We find them also settled or made to live under the _unnatural_
government of the _whites_; and, what is more extraordinary, we find
their present number, as compared with that of the whites in the same
colony, nearly as _one hundred and fifty to one_; notwithstanding which
superiority fresh emancipations are constantly taking place, as fresh
cargoes of the captured arrive in port.

It will be said, lastly, that all the four cases put together prove
nothing. They can give us nothing like _a positive assurance_, that the
Negro slaves in our colonies would pass through the ordeal of
emancipation without danger to their masters or the community at large.
Certainly not. Nor if these instances had been far more numerous than
they are, could they, in this world of accidents, have given us _a moral
certainty of this_. They afford us however _a hope_, that emancipation
is practicable without danger: for will any one pretend to say, that we
should have had as much reason for entertaining such a hope, _if no such
instances had occurred_; or that we should not have had reason to
despair, _if four such experiments had been made, and if they had all
failed_? They afford us again ground for believing, that there is a
peculiar softness, and plasticity, and pliability in the African
character. This softness may be collected almost every where from the
Travels of Mr. Mungo Park, and has been noticed by other writers, who
have contrasted it with the unbending ferocity of the North American
Indians and other tribes. But if this be a feature in the African
character, we may account for the uniformity of the conduct of those
Africans, who were liberated on the several occasions above mentioned,
or for their yielding so uniformly to the impressions, which had been
given them by their superiors, after they had been made free; and, if
this be so, why should not our colonial slaves, if emancipated, conduct
themselves in the same manner? Besides, I am not sure whether the good
conduct of the liberated in these cases was not to be attributed in part
to a sense of interest, when they came to know, that their condition
_was to be improved_. Self-interest is a leading principle with all who
are born into the world; and why is the Negro slave in our colonies to
be shut out from this common feeling of our nature?--why is he to rise
against his master, when he is informed that his condition is to be
bettered? Did not the planters, as I have before related, declare in the
House of Commons in the year 1816, that their Negroes had then imbibed
the idea that they were to be made free, and that they were _extremely
restless on that account_? But what was the cause of all this
restlessness? Why, undoubtedly the thought of their emancipation was so
interesting, or rather a matter of such exceedingly great joy to them,
that _they could not help thinking and talking of it_. And would not
this be the case with our Negroes at this moment, if such a prospect
were to be set before them? But if they would be overjoyed at this
prospect, is it likely they would cut the throats of those, who should
attempt to realize it? would they not, on the other hand, be disposed to
conduct themselves equally well as the other African slaves before
mentioned, when they came to know, that they were immediately to be
prepared for the reception of this great blessing, the _first
guarantee_ of which would be an _immediate_ and _living experience_ of
better laws and better treatment?

The fifth case may comprehend the slaves of St. Domingo as they were
made free at different intervals in the course of the French Revolution.

To do justice to this case, I must give a history of the different
circumstances connected with it. It may be remembered, then, that when
the French Revolution, which decreed equality of rights to all citizens,
had taken place, the _free People of Colour_ of St. Domingo, many of
whom were persons of large property and liberal education, petitioned
the National Assembly, that they might enjoy the same political
privileges as the _Whites_ there. At length the subject of the petition
was discussed, but not till the 8th of March 1790, when the Assembly
agreed upon a decree concerning it. The decree, however, was worded so
ambiguously, that the two parties in St. Domingo, the _Whites_ and the
_People of Colour_, interpreted it each of them in its own favour. This
difference of interpretation gave rise to animosities between them, and
these animosities were augmented by political party-spirit, according as
they were royalists or partizans of the French Revolution, so that
disturbances took place and blood was shed.

In the year 1791, the People of Colour petitioned the Assembly again,
but principally for an explanation of the decree in question. On the
15th of May, the subject was taken into consideration, and the result
was another decree in explicit terms, which determined, that the _People
of Colour_ in all the French islands were entitled to all the rights of
citizenship, provided _they were born of free parents on both sides_.
The news of this decree had no sooner arrived at the Cape, than it
produced an indignation almost amounting to phrensy among the _Whites_.
They directly trampled under foot the national cockade, and with
difficulty were prevented from seizing all the French merchant ships in
the roads. After this the two parties armed against each other. Even
camps began to be formed. Horrible massacres and conflagrations
followed, the reports of which, when brought to the mother-country, were
so terrible, that the Assembly abolished the decree in favour of _the
Free People of Colour_ in the same year.

In the year 1792, the news of the rescinding of the decree as now
stated, produced, when it reached St. Domingo, as much irritation among
the People of Colour, as the news of the passing of it had done among
the Whites, and hostilities were renewed between them, so that new
battles, massacres, and burnings, took place. Suffice it to say, that as
soon as these events became known in France, the Conventional Assembly,
which had then succeeded the Legislative, took them into consideration.
Seeing, however, nothing but difficulties and no hope of reconciliation
on either side, they knew not what other course to take than to do
justice, whatever the consequences might be. They resolved, accordingly,
in the month of April, that the decree of 1791, which had been both made
and reversed by the preceding Assembly in the same year, should stand
good. They restored therefore the People of Colour to the privileges
which had been before voted to them, and appointed Santhonax, Polverel,
and another, to repair in person to St. Domingo, with a large body of
troops, and to act there as commissioners, and, among other things, to
enforce the decree and to keep the peace.

In the year 1793, the same divisions and the same bad blood continuing,
notwithstanding the arrival of the commissioners, a very trivial matter,
viz. a quarrel between a _Mulatto_ and a _White man_ (an officer in the
French marine), gave rise to new disasters. This quarrel took place on
the 20th of June. On the same day the seamen left their ships in the
roads, and came on shore, and made common cause of the affair with the
white inhabitants of the town. On the other side were opposed the
Mulattos and other People of Colour, and these were afterwards joined by
some insurgent Blacks. The battle lasted nearly two days. During this
time the arsenal was taken and plundered, and some thousands were killed
in the streets, and more than half the town was burnt. The
commissioners, who were spectators of this horrible scene, and who had
done all they could to restore peace, escaped unhurt, but they were left
upon a heap of ruins, and with but little more power than the authority
which their commission gave them. They had only about a thousand troops
left in the place. They determined, therefore, under these
circumstances, to call in the Negro Slaves in the neighbourhood to their
assistance. They issued a proclamation in consequence, by which _they
promised to give freedom to all the Blacks who were willing to range
themselves under the banners of the Republic_. This was the first
proclamation made by public authority for emancipating slaves in St.
Domingo. It is usually called the Proclamation of Santhonax, though both
commissioners had a hand in it; and sometimes, in allusion to the place
where it was issued (the Cape), the Proclamation of the North. The
result of it was, that a considerable number of slaves came in and were

Soon after this transaction Polverel left his colleague Santhonax at the
Cape, and went in his capacity of commissioner to Port au Prince, the
capital of the West. Here he found every thing quiet, and cultivation in
a flourishing state. From Port au Prince he visited Les Cayes, the
capital of the South. He had not, however, been long there, before he
found that the minds of the slaves began to be in an unsettled state.
They had become acquainted with what had taken place in the north, not
only with the riots at the Cape, but the proclamation of Santhonax. Now
this proclamation, though it sanctioned freedom only for a particular or
temporary purpose, did not exclude it from any particular quarter. The
terms therefore appeared to be open to all who would accept them.
Polverel therefore, seeing the impression which it had begun to make
upon the minds of the slaves in these parts, was convinced that
emancipation could be neither stopped nor retarded, and that it was
absolutely necessary for _the personal safety of the white planters_,
that it should be extended _to the whole island_. He was so convinced of
the necessity of this, _that he drew up a proclamation_ without further
delay _to that effect_, and _put it into circulation_. He dated it from
Les Cayes. He exhorted the planters to patronize it. He advised them, if
they wished to avoid the most serious calamities, to concur themselves
in the proposition of giving freedom to their slaves. He then caused a
register to be opened at the Government house to receive the signatures
of all those who should approve of his advice. It was remarkable that
all the proprietors in these parts inscribed their names in the book. He
then caused a similar register to be opened at Port au Prince for the
West. Here the same disposition was found to prevail. All the planters,
except one, gave in their signatures. They had become pretty generally
convinced by this time, that their own personal safety was connected
with the measure. It may be proper to observe here, that the
proclamation last mentioned, which preceded these registries, though it
was the act of Polverel alone, was sanctioned afterwards by Santhonax.
It is, however, usually called the Proclamation of Polverel or of Les
Cayes. It came out in September 1793. We may now add, that in the month
of February 1794, the Conventional Assembly of France, though probably
ignorant of what the commissioners had now done, passed a decree for the
abolition of slavery throughout _the whole of the French colonies_. Thus
the Government of the mother-country, without knowing it, confirmed
freedom to those upon whom it had been bestowed by the commissioners.
This decree put therefore _the finishing stroke to the whole_. It
completed the emancipation of the _whole slave population of St.

Having now given a concise history of the abolition of slavery in St.
Domingo, I shall inquire how those who were liberated on these several
occasions conducted themselves after this change in their situation. It
is of great importance to us to know, whether they used their freedom
properly, or whether they abused it.

With respect to those emancipated by Santhonax in the North, we have
nothing to communicate. They were made free for military purposes only;
and we have no clue whereby we can find out what became of them

With respect to those who were emancipated next in the South, and those
directly afterwards in the West, by the proclamation of Polverel, we are
enabled to give a very pleasing account. Fortunately for our views,
Colonel Malenfant, who was resident in the island at the time, has made
us acquainted with their general conduct and character. His account,
though short, is quite sufficient for our purpose. Indeed it is highly
satisfactory[6]. "After this public act of emancipation," says he, (by
Polverel,) "the Negroes _remained quiet_ both _in the South and in the
West_, and they _continued to work upon all the plantations_. There were
estates, indeed, which had neither owners nor managers resident upon
them, for some of these had been put into prison by Montbrun; and
others, fearing the same fate, had fled to the quarter which had just
been given up to the English. Yet upon these estates, though abandoned,
the Negroes _continued their labours_, where there were any, even
inferior, agents to guide them; and on those estates, where no white men
were left to direct them, they betook themselves to the planting of
provisions; but upon _all the plantations_ where the Whites resided, the
Blacks _continued to labour as quietly as before_." A little further on
in the work, ridiculing the notion entertained in France, that the
Negroes would not work without compulsion, he takes occasion to allude
to other Negroes, who had been liberated by the same proclamation, but
who were more immediately under his own eye and cognizance[7]. "If,"
says he, "you will take care not to speak to them of their return to
slavery, but talk to them about their liberty, you may with this latter
word chain them down to their labour. How did Toussaint succeed? How did
I succeed also before his time in the plain of the Cul de Sac, and on
the Plantation Gouraud, more than eight months after liberty had been
granted (by Polverel) to the slaves? Let those who knew me at that time,
and even the Blacks themselves, be asked. They will all reply, that _not
a single Negro_ upon that plantation, consisting of more than four
hundred and fifty labourers, _refused to work_; and yet this plantation
was thought to be under the worst discipline, and the slaves the most
idle, of any in the plain. I, myself, inspired the same activity into
three other plantations, of which I had the management."

The above account is far beyond any thing that could have been
expected. Indeed, it is most gratifying. We find that the liberated
Negroes, _both in the South and the West_, continued to work upon their
_old plantations_, and for their _old masters_; that there was also _a
spirit of industry_ among them, and that they gave no uneasiness to
their employers; for they are described as continuing to work _as
quietly as before_. Such was the conduct of the Negroes for the first
nine months after their liberation, or up to the middle of 1794. Let us
pursue the subject, and see how they conducted themselves after this

During the year 1795 and part of 1796 I learn nothing about them,
neither good, nor bad, nor indifferent, though I have ransacked the
French historians for this purpose. Had there, however, been any thing
in the way of _outrage_, I should have heard of it; and let me take this
opportunity of setting my readers right, if, for want of knowing the
dates of occurrences, they should have connected _certain outrages_,
which assuredly took place in St. Domingo, _with the emancipation of the
slaves_. The great massacres and conflagrations, which have made so
frightful a picture in the history of this unhappy island, had been all
effected _before the proclamations_ of Santhonax and Polverel. They had
all taken place _in the days of slavery_, or before the year 1794, that
is, before the great conventional decree of the mother country was
known. They had been occasioned, too, _not originally by the slaves
themselves_, but by quarrels between _the white and coloured planters_,
and between the _royalists_ and the _revolutionists_, who, for the
purpose of reeking their vengeance upon each other, called in the aid of
their respective slaves; and as to the insurgent Negroes of the North,
who filled that part of the colony so often with terror and dismay, they
were originally put in motion, according to Malenfant, under _the
auspices of the royalists_ themselves, to strengthen their own cause,
and _to put down the partizans of the French revolution_. When Jean
Francois and Biassou commenced the insurrection, there were many _white
royalists_ with them, and the Negroes were made to wear the _white
cockade_. I repeat, then, that during the years 1795 and 1796, I can
find nothing in the History of St. Domingo, wherewith to reproach the
emancipated Negroes in the way of outrage[8]. There is every reason, on
the other hand, to believe, that they conducted themselves, during this
period, in as orderly a manner as before.

I come now to the latter part of the year 1796; and here happily a clue
is furnished me, by which I have an opportunity of pursuing my inquiry
with pleasure. We shall find, that from this time there was no want of
industry in those who had been emancipated, nor want of obedience in
them as hired servants: they maintained, on the other hand, a
respectable character. Let us appeal first to Malenfant. "The colony,"
says he[9], "was _flourishing under Toussaint. The Whites lived happily
and in peace upon their estates, and the Negroes continued to work for
them_." Now Toussaint came into power, being general-in-chief of the
armies of St. Domingo, a little before the end of the year 1796, and
remained in power till the year 1802, or till the invasion of the island
by the French expedition of Buonaparte under Leclerc. Malenfant means
therefore to state, that from the latter end of 1796 to 1802, a period
of six years, the planters or farmers kept possession of their estates;
that they lived upon them, and that they lived upon them peaceably, that
is, without interruption or disturbance from any one; and, finally, that
the Negroes, though they had been all set free, continued to be their
labourers. Can there be any account more favourable to our views than
this, after so sudden an emancipation.

I may appeal next to General Lacroix, who published his "Memoirs for a
History of St. Domingo," at Paris, in 1819. He informs us, that when
Santhonax, who had been recalled to France by the Government there,
returned to the colony in 1796, "_he was astonished at the state in
which he found it on his return_." This, says Lacroix[10], "was owing to
Toussaint, who, while he had succeeded in establishing perfect order and
discipline among the black troops, had succeeded also in making the
black labourers return to the plantations, there to resume the drudgery
of cultivation."

But the same author tells us, that in the next year (1797) the most
wonderful progress had been made in agriculture. He uses these
remarkable words: "_The colony_," says he[11], "_marched, as by
enchantment, towards its ancient splendour; cultivation prospered; every
day produced perceptible proofs of its progress. The city of the Cape
and the plantations of the North rose up again visibly to the eye_." Now
I am far from wishing to attribute all this wonderful improvement, this
daily visible progress in agriculture, to the mere act of the
emancipation of the slaves in St. Domingo. I know that many other
circumstances which I could specify, if I had room, contributed towards
its growth; but I must be allowed to maintain, that unless the Negroes,
who were then free, _had done their part as labourers_, both by working
regularly and industriously, and by obeying the directions of their
superintendants or masters, the colony could never have gone on, as
relates to cultivation, with the rapidity described.

The next witness to whom I shall appeal, is the estimable General
Vincent, who lives now at Paris, though at an advanced age. Vincent was
a colonel, and afterwards a general of brigade of artillery in St.
Domingo. He was stationed there during the time both of Santhonax and
Toussaint. He was also a proprietor of estates in the island. He was the
man who planned the renovation of its agriculture after the abolition of
slavery, and one of the great instruments in bringing it to the
perfection mentioned by Lacroix. In the year 1801, he was called upon by
Toussaint to repair to Paris, to lay before the Directory the new
constitution, which had been agreed upon in St. Domingo. He obeyed the
summons. It happened, that he arrived in France just at the moment of
the peace of Amiens; here he found, to his inexpressible surprise and
grief, that Buonaparte was preparing an immense armament, to be
commanded by Leclerc, for the purpose of _restoring slavery in St.
Domingo_. He lost no time in seeing the First Consul, and he had the
courage to say at this interview what, perhaps, no other man in France
would have dared to say at this particular moment. He remonstrated
against the expedition; he told him to his face, that though the army
destined for this purpose was composed of the brilliant conquerors of
Europe, it could do nothing in the Antilles. It would most assuredly be
destroyed by the climate of St. Domingo, even though it should be
doubtful, whether it would not be destroyed by the Blacks. He stated, as
another argument against the expedition, that it was totally
unnecessary, and therefore criminal; for that every thing _was going on
well_ in St. Domingo. _The proprietors were in peaceable possession of
their estates; cultivation was making a rapid progress; the Blacks were
industrious, and beyond example happy_. He conjured him, therefore, in
the name of humanity, not to reverse this beautiful state of things. But
alas! his efforts were ineffectual. The die had been cast: and the only
reward, which he received from Buonaparte for his manly and faithful
representations, was banishment to the Isle of Elba.

Having carried my examination into the conduct of the Negroes after
their liberation to 1802, or to the invasion of the island by Leclerc, I
must now leave a blank for nearly two years, or till the year 1804. It
cannot be expected during a war, in which every man was called to arms
to defend his own personal liberty, and that of every individual of his
family, that we should see plantations cultivated as quietly as before,
or even cultivated at all. But this was not the fault of _the
emancipated Negroes_, but of _their former masters_. It was owing to the
prejudices of the latter, that this frightful invasion took place;
prejudices, indeed, common to all planters, where slavery obtains,
from the very nature of their situation, and upon which I have made my
observations in a former place. Accustomed to the use of arbitrary
power, they could no longer brook the loss of their whips. Accustomed
again to look down upon the Negroes as an inferior race of beings, or as
the reptiles of the earth, they could not bear, peaceably as these had
conducted themselves, to come into that familiar contact with them, as
_free labourers_, which the change of their situation required. They
considered them, too, as property lost, but which was to be recovered.
In an evil hour, they prevailed upon Buonaparte, by false
representations and _promises of pecuniary support_, to restore things
to their former state. The hellish expedition at length arrived upon the
shores of St. Domingo:--a scene of blood and torture followed, _such as
history had never before disclosed_, and compared with which, _though
planned and executed by Whites[12]_, all the barbarities said to have
been perpetrated by the _insurgent Blacks_ of the North, _amount
comparatively to nothing_. In fine, the French were driven from the
island. Till that time, the planters retained their property, and then
it was, but not till then, that they lost their all; it cannot,
therefore, be expected, as I have said before, that I should have any
thing to say in favour of the industry or good order of the emancipated
Negroes, _during such a convulsive period_.

In the year 1804, Dessalines was proclaimed emperor of this fine
territory. Here I resume the thread of my history, (though it will be
but for a moment,) in order that I may follow it to its end. In process
of time, the black troops, containing the Negroes in question, were
disbanded, except such as were retained for the peace-establishment of
the army. They, who were disbanded, returned to cultivation. As they
were free when they became soldiers, so they continued to be free when
they became labourers again. From that time to this, there has been no
want of subordination or industry among them. They or their descendants
are the persons, by whom the plains and valleys of St. Domingo _are
still cultivated_, and they are reported to follow their occupations
still, and with _as fair a character_ as other free labourers in any
other quarter of the globe.

We have now seen, that the emancipated Negroes never abused their
liberty, from the year 1793 (the era of their general emancipation) to
the present day, a period of _thirty_ years. An important question then
seems to force itself upon us, "What were the measures taken after so
frightful an event, as that of emancipation, to secure the tranquillity
and order which has been described, or to rescue the planters and the
colony from ruin?" I am bound to answer this, if I can, were it only to
gratify the curiosity of my readers; but more particularly when I
consider, that if emancipation should ever be in contemplation in our
own colonies, it will be desirable to have all the light possible upon
that subject, and particularly of precedent or example. It appears then,
that the two commissioners, Santhonax and Polverel, aware of the
mischief which might attend their decrees, were obliged to take the best
measures they could devise to prevent it. One of their first steps was
to draw up a short code of rules to be observed upon the plantations.
These rules were printed and made public. They were also ordered to be
read aloud to all the Negroes upon every estate, for which purpose the
latter were to be assembled at a particular hour once a week. The
preamble to these regulations insisted upon _the necessity of working,
without which everything would go to ruin_. Among the articles, the two
the most worthy of our notice were, that the labourers were to be
obliged to hire themselves to their masters for _not less than a year_,
at the end of which (September), but not before, they might quit their
service, and engage with others; and that they were to receive _a third
part_ of the produce of the estate, as a recompense for their labour.
These two were _fundamental_ articles. As to the minor, they were not
alike upon every estate. This code of the commissioners subsisted for
about three years.

Toussaint, when he came into power, reconsidered this subject, and
adopted a code of rules of his own. His first object was to prevent
oppression on the part of the master or employer, and yet to secure
obedience on the part of the labourer. Conceiving that there could be no
liberty where any one man had the power of punishing another at his
discretion, he took away from every master the use of the whip, and of
the chain, and of every other instrument of correction, either by
himself or his own order: he took away, in fact, _all power of arbitrary
punishment_. Every master offending against this regulation was to be
summoned, on complaint by the labourer, before a magistrate or intendant
of police, who was to examine into the case, and to act accordingly.
Conceiving, on the other hand, that a just subordination ought to be
kept up, and that, wherever delinquency occurred, punishment ought to
follow, he ordained, that all labourers offending against the plantation
laws, or not performing their contracts, should be brought before the
same magistrate or intendant of police, who should examine them touching
such delinquency, and decide as in the former case: thus he administered
justice without respect of persons. It must be noticed, that all
punishments were to be executed by a civil officer, a sort of public
executioner, that they might be considered as punishments _by the
state_. Thus he _kept up discipline_ on the plantations, _without
lessening authority_ on the one hand, and _without invading the liberty
of individuals_ on the other.

Among his plantation offences was idleness on the part of the labourer.
A man was not to receive wages from his master, and to do nothing. He
was obliged to perform a reasonable quantity of work, or be punished.
Another offence was absence without leave, which was considered as

Toussaint differed from the commissioners, as to the length of time for
which labourers should engage themselves to masters. He thought it
unwise to allow the former, in the infancy of their liberty, to get
notions of change and rambling at the end of every year. He ordained,
therefore, that they should be attached to the plantations, and made,
though free labourers, a sort of _adscripti glebae_ for five years.

He differed again from the commissioners, as to the quantum of
compensation for their labour. He thought one-third of the produce too
much, seeing that the planter had another third to pay to the
Government. He ordered, therefore, one-fourth to the labourer, but this
was in the case only, where the labourer clothed and maintained himself:
where he did not do this, he was entitled to a fourth only nominally,
for out of this his master was to make a deduction for board and

The above is all I have been able to collect of the code of Toussaint,
which, under his auspices, had the surprising effect of preserving
tranquillity and order, and of keeping up a spirit of industry on the
plantations of St. Domingo, at a time when only idleness and anarchy
were to have been expected. It was in force when Leclerc arrived with
his invading army, and it continued in force when the French army were
beaten and Negro-liberty confirmed. From Toussaint it passed to
Dessalines, and from Dessalines to Christophe and Petion, and from the
two latter to Boyer; and it is the code therefore which regulates, and I
believe with but very little variation, the relative situation of master
and servant in husbandry at this present hour.

But it is time that I should now wind up the case before us. And, first,
will any one say that this case is not analogous to that which we have
in contemplation? Let us remember that the number of slaves liberated by
the French decrees in St. Domingo was very little short of 500,000
persons, and that this was nearly equal to the number _of all the
slaves_ then in the British West Indian Islands when put together. But
if there be a want of analogy, the difference lies on my side of the
question. I maintain, that emancipation in _St. Domingo_ was attended
with _far more hazard_ to persons and property, and with _far greater
difficulties_, than it could possibly be, if attempted _in our own
islands_. Can we forget that by the decree of Polverel, sanctioned
afterwards by the Convention, all the slaves _were made free at once_,
or _in a single day_? No notice was given of the event, and of course
_no preparation_ could be made for it. They were released _suddenly_
from _all their former obligations and restraints_. They were let loose
upon the Whites, their masters, with _all the vices of slavery_ upon
them. What was to have been expected but the dissolution of all
civilized society, with the reign of barbarism and terror? Now all I ask
for with respect to the slaves in our own islands is, that they should
be emancipated _by degrees_, or that they should be made to pass through
a certain course of discipline, _as through a preparatory school_, to
fit them for the right use of their freedom. Again, can we forget the
unfavourable circumstances, in which the slaves of St. Domingo were
placed, for a year or two before their liberation, in another point of
view? The island at this juncture was a prey to _political discord,
civil war_, and _foreign invasion_, at the same time. Their masters were
politically at variance with each other, as they were white or coloured
persons, or republicans or royalists. They were quarrelling and fighting
with each other, and shedding each other's blood. The English, who were
in possession of the strong maritime posts, were alarming the country by
their incursions: they, the slaves, had been trained up to the same
political animosities. They had been made to take the side of their
respective masters, and to pass through scenes of violence and
bloodshed. Now, whenever emancipation is to be proposed in our own
colonies, I anticipate neither _political parties_, nor _civil wars_,
nor _foreign invasion_, but a time of _tranquillity and peace_. Who then
will be bold enough to say, after these remarks, that there could be any
thing like the danger and difficulties in emancipating the slaves there,
which existed when the slaves of St. Domingo were made free? But some
objector may say, after all, "There is one point in which your analogy
is deficient. While Toussaint was in power, the Government of St.
Domingo was a _black_ one, and the Blacks would be more willing to
submit to the authority of a _black_ (their own) Government, than of a
_white one_. Hence there Were less disorders after emancipation in St.
Domingo, than would have probably occurred, had it been tried in our own
islands." But to such an objector I should reply, that he knows nothing
of the history of St. Domingo. The Government of that island was French,
or _white_, from the very infancy of emancipation to the arrival of the
expedition of Leclerc. The slaves were made free under the government
of Santhonax and Polverel. When these retired, other _white_
commissioners succeeded them. When Toussaint came into power, he was not
supreme; Generals Hedouille, Vincent, and others, had a share in the
government. Toussaint himself _received his commission from the French
Directory_, and acted under it. He caused it every where to be made
known, but particularly among his officers and troops, that he retained
the island for the _French Government_, and that _France_ was the

A sixth class of slaves emancipated in bodies may comprehend those, who
began to be liberated about eighteen months ago in the newly-erected
State of Columbia. General Bolivar began the great work himself by
enfranchising his own slaves, to the number of between seven and eight
hundred. But he was not satisfied with this; for believing, as he did,
that to hold persons in slavery at all, was not only morally wrong, but
utterly inconsistent with the character of men fighting for their own
liberty, he brought the subject before the Congress of Venezuela. The
Congress there, after having duly considered it, drew up resolutions
accordingly, which it recommended to the first general Congress of
Columbia, when it should be assembled. This last congress, which met at
the time expected, passed a decree for emancipation on the 19th of July
1821. All slaves, who had assisted, in a military capacity, in achieving
the independence of the republic, were at once declared free. All the
children of slaves, born after the said 19th of July, were to be free in
succession as they attained the eighteenth year of their age. A fund was
established at the same time by a general tax upon property, to pay the
owners of such young slaves the expense of bringing them up to their
eighteenth year, and for putting them afterwards to trades and useful
professions; and the same fund was made applicable to the purchase of
the freedom of adults in each district every year, during the three
national festivals in December, as far as the district-funds would
permit. Care, however, was to be taken to select those of the best
character. It may be proper to observe, that emancipation, as above
explained, has been proceeding regularly, from the 19th of July 1821,
according to the terms of the decree, and also according to the ancient
Spanish code, which still exists, and which is made to go hand in hand
with it. They who attain their eighteenth year are not allowed to go at
large after their liberation, but are put under the charge of special
juntas for a useful education. The adults may have land, if they desire
it, or they may go where they please. The State has lately purchased
freedom for many of the latter, who had a liking to the army. Their
freedom is secured to them whether they remain soldiers or are
discharged. It is particularly agreeable to me to be able to say that
all, who have been hitherto emancipated, have conducted themselves
since that time with propriety. It appears by a letter from Columbia,
dated 17th February 1822, about seven months after emancipation had
commenced, addressed to James Stephen, Esq. of London, and since made
public, "that the slaves were all then _peaceably at work_ throughout
the republic, as well as _the newly enfranchised_ and those originally
free." And it appears from the account of a gentleman of high
consideration just arrived from Columbia, in London, that up to the time
of his departure, they who had been emancipated "were _steady_ and
_industrious_, and that they _had conducted themselves well without a
single exception_." But as this is an experiment which it will yet take
sixteen years to complete, it can only be called to our aid, as far as
the result of it is known. It is, however, an experiment to which, as
far as it has been made, we may appeal with satisfaction: for when we
consider that _eighteen_ months have elapsed, and that _many[13]
thousands_ have been freed since the passing of the decree and the date
of the last accounts from Columbia, the decree cannot but be considered
to have had a sufficient trial.

The seventh class may comprehend the slaves of the Honourable Joshua
Steele, whose emancipation was attempted in Barbadoes between the years
1783 and 1790.

It appears that Mr. Steele lived several years in London. He was
Vice-president of the London Society of Arts, Manufactures, and
Commerce, and a person of talent and erudition. He was the proprietor of
three estates in Barbadoes. His agent there used to send him accounts
annually of his concerns; but these were latterly so ruinous, not only
in a pecuniary point of view, but as they related to what Mr. Steele
called the _destruction_ of his Negroes, that he resolved, though then
at the advanced age of eighty, to go there, and to look into his affairs
himself. Accordingly he embarked, and arrived there early in the year

Mr. Steele had not been long in Barbadoes, before he saw enough to
convince him that there was something radically wrong in the management
of the slaves there, and he was anxious to try, as well for the sake of
humanity as of his own interest, to effect a change in it. But how was
he to accomplish this[14]? "He considered within himself how difficult
it would be, nay, impossible, for a single proprietor to attempt so
great a novelty as to bring about an alteration of manners and customs
protected by iniquitous laws, and to which the gentlemen of the country
were reconciled as to the best possible for amending the indocile and
intractable ignorance of Negro slaves." It struck him however, among the
expedients which occurred, that he might be able to form a Society,
similar to the one in London, for the purpose of improving the arts,
manufactures, and commerce of Barbadoes; and if so, he "indulged a hope
that by means of it conferences might be introduced on patriotic
subjects, in the course of which new ideas and new opinions might soften
the national bigotry, so far as to admit some discourses on the
possibility of amendment in the mode of governing slaves." Following up
this idea, he brought it at length to bear. A Society was formed, in
consequence, of gentlemen of the island in 1781. The subjects under its
discussion became popular. It printed its first minutes in 1782, which
were very favourably received, and it seemed to bid fair after this to
answer the benevolent views of its founder.

During this time, a space of two years, Mr. Steele had been gaining a
practical knowledge of the West Indian husbandry, and also a practical
knowledge of the temper, disposition, habits, and customs of the slaves.
He had also read much and thought much. It may be inferred from his
writings, that three questions especially had employed his mind.
1. Whether he could not do away all arbitrary punishments and yet keep
up discipline among the slaves? 2. Whether he could not carry on the
plantation-work through the stimulus of reward? 3. Whether he could not
change slavery into a condition of a milder name and character, so that
the slaves should be led by degrees to the threshold of liberty, from
whence they might step next, without hazard, into the rank of free men,
if circumstances should permit and encourage such a procedure. Mr.
Steele thought, after mature consideration, that he could accomplish all
these objects, and he resolved to make the experiments gradually upon
his own estates.

At the end of the year 1783 he put the first of these questions to
trial. "I took," says he, "the whips and all power of arbitrary
punishment from all the overseers and their white servants, which
occasioned _my chief overseer to resign_, and I soon dismissed all his
deputies, who _could not bear the loss of their whips_; but at the same
time, that a proper subordination and obedience to lawful orders and
duty should be preserved, I created a _magistracy out of the Negroes_
themselves, and appointed a court or jury of the elder Negroes or
head-men for trial and punishment of all casual offences, (and these
courts were always to be held in my presence, or in that of my new
superintendant,) which court _very soon grew respectable_. Seven of
these men being of the rank of drivers in their different departments,
were also constituted _rulers_, as magistrates over all the gang, and
were charged to see at all times that nothing should go wrong in the
plantations; but that on all necessary occasions they should assemble
and consult together how any such wrong should be immediately rectified;
and I made it known to all the gangs, that the authority of these rulers
should supply the absence or vacancy of an overseer in all cases; they
making daily or occasional reports of all occurrences to the proprietor
or his delegate for his approbation or his orders."

It appears that Mr. Steele was satisfied with this his first step, and
he took no other for some time. At length, in about another year, he
ventured upon the second. He "tried whether he could not obtain the
labour of his Negroes by _voluntary_ means instead of the old method by
violence." On a certain day he offered a pecuniary reward for holing
canes, which is the most laborious operation in West Indian husbandry.
"He offered two-pence half-penny (currency), or about three-halfpence
(sterling), per day, with the usual allowance to holers of a dram with
molasses, to any twenty-five of his Negroes, both men and women, who
would undertake to hole for canes an acre per day, at about 96-1/2 holes
for each Negro to the acre. The whole gang were ready to undertake it;
but only fifty of the volunteers were accepted, and many among them were
those who _on much lighter occasions_ had usually pleaded _infirmity and
inability_: but the ground having been moist, they holed twelve acres
within six days with great ease, having had _an hour_, more or less,
_every evening to spare_, and the like experiment was repeated with the
like success. More experiments with such premiums on weeding and deep
hoeing were made by task-work per acre, and all succeeded in like
manner, their premiums being all punctually paid them in proportion to
their performance. But afterwards some of the same people being put
_without premium_ to weed on a loose cultivated soil in the common
manner, _eighteen_ Negroes did not do as much in a given time as _six_
had performed of the like sort of work a few days before with the
premium of two-pence half-penny." The next year Mr. Steele made similar
experiments. Success attended him again; and from this time task-work,
or the _voluntary_ system, became the general practice of the estate.
Mr. Steele did not proceed to put the third question to trial till the
year 1789. The Society of Arts, which he had instituted in 1781, had
greatly disappointed him. Some of the members, looking back to the
discussions which had taken place on the subject of Slavery, began to
think that they had gone too far as slaveholders in their admissions.
They began to insinuate, "that they had been taken in, under the
specious appearance of promoting the arts, manufactures, and commerce of
Barbadoes, _to promote dangerous designs against its established laws
and customs_." Discussions therefore of this sort became too unpopular
to be continued. It was therefore not till Mr. Steele found, that he had
no hope of assistance from this Society, and that he was obliged to
depend solely upon himself, that he put in force the remainder of his
general plan. He had already (in 1783), as we stated some time ago,
abolished arbitrary punishment and instituted a Negro-magistracy; and
since that time (in 1785) he had adopted the system of _working by the
piece_. But the remaining part of his plan went the length of _altering
the condition_ of the slaves themselves; and it is of this alteration, a
most important one (in 1789), that I am now to speak.

Mr. Steele took the hint for the particular mode of improving the
condition of his slaves, which I am going to describe, from the practice
of our Anglo-Saxon ancestors in the days of Villainage, which, he says,
was "the most wise and excellent mode of civilizing savage slaves."
There were in those days three classes of villains. The first or lowest
consisted of villains in gross, who were alienable at pleasure. The
second of villains regardent, who were _adscripti glebae_, or attached
as freehold property to the soil. And the third or last of copyhold
bondmen, who had tenements of land, for which they were bound to pay in
services. The villains first mentioned, or those of the lowest class,
had all these gradations to pass through, from the first into the
second, and from the second into the third, before they could become
free men. This was the model, from which Mr. Steele resolved to borrow,
when he formed his plan for changing the condition of his slaves. Me did
not, however, adopt it throughout, but he chose out of it what he
thought would be most suitable to his purpose, and left the rest. We may
now see what the plan was, when put together, from the following

In the year 1789 he erected his plantations into _manors_. It appears
that the Governor of Barbadoes had the power by charter, with the
consent of the majority of the council, of dividing the island into
manors, lordships, and precincts, and of making freeholders; and though
this had not yet been done, Mr. Steele hoped, as a member of council, to
have influence sufficient to get his own practice legalized in time.
Presuming upon this, he registered in the _manor_-book all his adult
male slaves as _copyholders_. He then gave to these separate tenements
of lands, which they were to occupy, and upon which they were to raise
whatever they might think most advantageous to their support. These
tenements consisted of half an acre of plantable and productive land to
each adult, a quantity supposed to be sufficient with industry to
furnish him and his family with provision and clothing. The tenements
were made descendible to the heirs of the occupiers or copyholders, that
is, to their children _on the plantations_; for no part of the
succession was to go out of the plantations to the issue of any foreign
wife, and, in case of no such heir, they were to fall in to the lord to
be re-granted according to his discretion. It was also inscribed that
any one of the copyholders, who would not perform his services to the
manor (the refractory and others), was to forfeit his tenement and his
privileged rank, and to go back to villain in gross and to be subject to
corporal punishment as before. "Thus," says Mr. Steele, "we run no risk
whatever in making the experiment by giving such copyhold-tenements to
all our well-deserving Negroes, and to all in general, when they appear
to be worthy of that favour."

Matters having been adjusted so far, Mr. Steele introduced the practice
of _rent_ and _wages_. He put an annual rent upon each tenement, which
he valued at so many days' labour. He set a rent also upon personal
service, as due by the copyholder to his master in his former quality of
slave, seeing that his master or predecessor had purchased a property in
him, and this be valued in the same manner. He then added the two rents
together, making so many days' work altogether, and estimated them in
the current money of the time. Having done this, he fixed a daily wages
or pay to be received by the copyholders for the work which they were to
do. They were to work 260 days in the year for him, and to have 48
besides Sundays for themselves. He reduced these days' work also to
current money. These wages he fixed at such a rate, that "they should be
more than equivalent to the rent of their copyholds and the rent of
their personal services when put together, in order to hold out to them
an evident and profitable incentive to their industry." It appears that
the rent of the tenement, half an acre, was fixed at the rate of 9 l.
currency, or between forty and fifty shillings sterling per acre, and
the wages for a man belonging to the first gang at 7-1/2d. currency
or 6d. sterling per day. As to the rent for the personal services, it
is not mentioned.

With respect to labour and things connected with it, Mr. Steele entered
the following among the local laws in the _court-roll_ of the tenants
and tenements. The copyholders were not to work for other masters
without the leave of the lord. They were to work ten hours per day. If
they worked over and above that time, they were to be paid for every
hour a tenth part of their daily wages, and they were also to forfeit a
tenth for every hour they were absent or deficient in the work of the
day. All sorts of work, however, were to be reduced, as far as it could
be done by observation and estimation, to equitable task-work. Hoes were
to be furnished to the copyholders in the first instance; but they were
to renew them, when worn out, at their own expense. The other tools were
to be lent them, but to be returned to the storekeeper at night, or to
be paid for in default of so doing. Mr. Steele was to continue the
hospital and medical attendance at his own expense as before.

Mr. Steele, having now rent to receive and wages to pay, was obliged to
settle a new mode of accounting between the plantation and the
labourers. "He brought, therefore, all the minor crops of the
plantation, such as corn, grain of all sorts, yams, eddoes, besides rum
and molasses, into a regular cash account by weight and measure, which
he charged to the copyhold-storekeeper at market prices of the current
time, and the storekeeper paid them at the same prices to such of the
copyholders as called for them in part of wages, in whose option it was
to take either cash or goods, according to their earnings, to answer all
their wants. Rice, salt, salt fish, barrelled pork, Cork butter, flour,
bread, biscuit, candles, tobacco and pipes, and all species of clothing,
were provided and furnished from the store at the lowest market prices.
An account of what was paid for daily subsistence, and of what stood in
their arrears to answer the rents of their lands, the fines and
forfeitures for delinquencies, their head-levy and all other casual
demands, was accurately kept in columns with great simplicity, and in
books, which checked each other."

Such was the plan of Mr. Steele, and I have the pleasure of being able
to announce, that the result of it was _highly satisfactory to himself_.
In the year 1788, when only the first and second part of it had been
reduced to practice, he spoke of it thus:--"A plantation," says he, "of
between seven and eight hundred acres has been governed by fixed laws
and a Negro-court _for about five years with great success_. In this
plantation no overseer or white servant is allowed to lift his hand
against a Negro, nor can he arbitrarily order a punishment. Fixed laws
and a court or jury of their peers _keep all in order_ without the ill
effect of sudden and intemperate passions." And in the year 1790, about
a year after the last part of his plan had been put to trial, he says in
a letter to Dr. Dickson,  "My copyholders have succeeded beyond my
expectation." This was his last letter to that gentleman, for he died in
the beginning of the next year. Mr. Steele went over to Barbadoes, as I
have said before, in the year 1780, and he was then in the eightieth
year of his age. He began his humane and glorious work in 1783, and he
finished it in 1789. It took him, therefore, six years to bring his
Negroes to the state of vassalage described, or to that state from
whence he was sure that they might be transferred without danger in no
distant time, to the rank of freemen, if it should be thought desirable.
He lived one year afterwards to witness the success of his labours. He
had accomplished, therefore, all he wished, and he died in the year
1791, in the ninety-first year of his age.

It may be proper now, and indeed useful to the cause which I advocate,
to stop for a moment, just to observe the similarity of sentiment of two
great men, quite unknown to each other; one of whom (Mr. Steele) was
concerned in preparing Negro-slaves for freedom, and the other
(Toussaint) in devising the best mode of managing them after they had
been suddenly made free.

It appears, first, that they were both agreed in this point, viz. that
the _first step_ to be taken in either case, was _the total abolition of
arbitrary punishment_.

It appears, secondly, that they were nevertheless both agreed again as
to the necessity of punishing delinquents, but that they adopted
different ways of bringing them to justice. Toussaint referred them to
_magistrates_, but Mr. Steele _to a Negro-court_. I should prefer the
latter expedient; first, because a Negro-court may be always at hand,
whereas magistrates may live at a distance from the plantations, and not
be always at home. Secondly, because the holding of a Negro-court would
give consequence to those Negroes who should compose it, not only in
their own eyes but in the eyes of others; and every thing, that might
elevate the Black character, would be useful to those who were _on the
road to emancipation_; and, lastly, because there must be some thing
satisfactory and consoling to the accused to be tried by their peers.

It appears, thirdly, that both of them were agreed again in the
principle of making the Negroes, in either case, _adscripti glebae_; or
attached to the soil, though they might differ as to the length of time
of such ascription.

And it appears, lastly, that they were agreed in another, and this the
only remaining point, viz. on the necessity of holding out a stimulus to
either, so as to excite in them a very superior spirit of industry to
any they had known before. They resorted, however to different means to
effect this. Toussaint gave the labourers one _fourth_ of the produce
of the land; deducting board and clothing. Mr. Steele, on the other
hand, gave them _daily wages_. I do not know which to prefer; but the
plan of Mr. Steele is most consonant to the English practice.

But to return. It is possible that some objector may rise up here as
before, and say that even the case, which I have now detailed, is not,
strictly speaking, analogous to that which we have in contemplation, and
may argue thus:--"The case of Mr. Steele is not a complete precedent,
because his slaves were never _fully_ emancipated. He had brought them
only to _the threshold_ of liberty, but no further. They were only
_copyholders_, but _not free men_." To this I reply, first, That Mr.
Steele _accomplished all that he ever aimed at_. I have his own words
for saying, that so long as the present iniquitous slave-laws, and the
distinction of colour, should exist, it would be imprudent to go
further. I reply again, That the partisans of emancipation would be
happy indeed, if they could see the day when our West Indian slaves
should arrive at the rank and condition of the copyholders of Mr.
Steele. They wish for no other freedom than that which is _compatible
with the joint interest of the master and the slave_. At the same time
they must maintain, that the copyholders of Mr. Steele had been brought
so near to the condition of free men, that a removal from one into the
other, after a certain time, seemed more like a thing of course than a
matter to be attended either with difficulty or danger: for
unquestionably their moral character must have been improved. If they
had ceased for seven years to feel themselves degraded by arbitrary
punishment, they must have acquired some little independence of mind. If
they had been paid for their labour, they must have acquired something
like a spirit of industry. If they had been made to pay rent for their
cottage and land, and to maintain themselves, they must have been made
to _look beforehand_, to _think for themselves and families from day to
day_, and to _provide against the future_, all which operations of the
mind are the characteristics only of free men. The case, therefore, of
Mr. Steele is most important and precious: for it shows us, first, that
the emancipation, which we seek, is a thing which _may be effected_. The
plan of Mr. Steele was put in force in _a British_ Island, and that,
which was done in one British Island, may under similar circumstances
_be done again in the same, as well as in another_. It shows us, again,
_how_ this emancipation may be brought about. The process is so clearly
detailed, that any one may follow it. It is also a case for
encouragement, inasmuch as it was attended with success.

I have now considered no less than six cases of slaves emancipated in
bodies, and a seventh of slaves, who were led up to the very threshold
of freedom, comprehending altogether not less than between five and six
hundred thousand persons; and I have considered also all the objections
that could be reasonably advanced against them. The result is a belief
on my part, that emancipation is not only _practicable_, but that it is
_practicable without danger_. The slaves, whose cases I have been
considering, were resident in different parts of the world. There must
have been, amongst such a vast number, persons of _all characters_. Some
were liberated, who had been _accustomed to the use of arms_. Others at
a time when the land in which they sojourned was afflicted _with civil
and foreign wars_; others again _suddenly_, and with _all the vicious
habits of slavery upon them_. And yet, under all these disadvantageous
circumstances, I find them all, without exception, _yielding themselves
to the will of their superiors_, so as to be brought by them _with as
much ease and certainty into the form intended for them_, as clay in the
hands of the potter is fashioned to his own model. But, if this be so, I
think I should be chargeable with a want of common sense, were I _to
doubt for a moment_, that emancipation _was not practicable_; and I am
not sure that I should not be exposed to the same charge, were I to
doubt, that emancipation _was practicable without danger_. For I have
not been able to discover (and it is most remarkable) _a single failure_
in any of the cases which have been produced. I have not been able to
discover throughout this vast mass of emancipated persons _a single
instance of bad behaviour_ on their parts, not even of a refusal to
work, or of disobedience to orders. Much less have I seen frightful
commotions, or massacres, or a return of evil for evil, or revenge for
past injuries, even when they had it amply in their power. In fact, the
Negro character is malleable at the European will. There is, as I have
observed before, a singular pliability in the constitutional temper of
the Negroes, and they have besides a quick sense of their own interest,
which influences their conduct. I am convinced, that West India masters
can do what they will with their slaves; and that they may lead them
through any changes they please, and with perfect safety to themselves,
if they will only make them (the slaves) understand that they are to be
benefited thereby.

Having now established, I hope, two of my points, first, that
emancipation is _practicable_, and, secondly, that it is _practicable
without danger_, I proceed to show the probability that _it would be
attended with profit_ to those planters who should be permitted to adopt
it. I return, therefore, to the case of Mr. Steele. I give him the prior
hearing on this new occasion, because I am sure that my readers will be
anxious to learn something more about him; or to know what became of his
plans, or how far such humane endeavours were attended with success.  I
shall begin by quoting the following expressions of Mr. Steele. "I have
employed and amused myself," says he, "by introducing _an entire new
mode_ of governing my own slaves, for their happiness, and also _for my
own profit_." It appears, then, that Mr. Steele's new method of
management was _profitable_. Let us now try to make out from his own
account, of what these profits consisted.

Mr. Steele informs us, that his superintendant had obliged him to hire
all his holing at 3 l. currency, or 2 l. 2s. 10d. sterling per
acre. He was very much displeased at these repeated charges; and then it
was, that he put his second question to trial, as I have before related,
viz. whether he could not obtain the labour of his Negroes by voluntary
means, instead of by the old method by violence. He made, therefore, an
attempt to introduce task-work, or labour with an expected premium for
extraordinary efforts, upon his estates. He gave his Negroes therefore a
small pecuniary reward over and above the usual allowances, and the
consequence was, as he himself says, that "the _poorest, feeblest_, and
by character _the most indolent_ Negroes of the whole gang, cheerfully
performed the holing of his land, generally said to be the most
laborious work, for _less than a fourth part_ of the stated price paid
to the undertakers for holing." This experiment I have detailed in
another place. After this he continued the practice of task-work or
premium. He describes the operation of such a system upon the minds of
his Negroes in the following words: "According to the vulgar mode of
governing Negro-slaves, they feel only the desponding fear of punishment
for doing less than they ought, without being sensible that the settled
allowance of food and clothing is given, and should be accepted, as a
reward for doing well, while in task-work the expectation of winning the
reward, and the fear of losing it, have a double operation to exert
their endeavours." Mr. Steele was also benefited again in another point
of view by the new practice which he had introduced. "He was clearly
convinced, that saving time, by doing in one day as much as would
otherwise require three days, was _worth more than double the premium_,
the _timely effects_ on vegetation _being critical_." He found also to
his satisfaction, that "during all the operations under the premium
there were _no disorders, no crowding to the sick-house_, as before."

I have now to make my remarks upon this account. It shows us clearly how
Mr. Steele made a part of his profits. These profits consisted first of
a _saving of expense_ in his husbandry, which saving _was not made by
others_. He had his land holed _at one-fourth_ of the usual rate. Let us
apply this to all the other operations of husbandry, such as weeding,
deep hoeing, &c. in a large farm of nearly eight hundred acres, like
his, and we shall see how considerable the savings would be in one
year. His Negroes again did not counterfeit sickness as before, in order
to be excused from labour, but rather wished to labour in order to
obtain the reward. There was therefore no crowding to the hospitals.
This constituted a _second source of saving_; for they who were in the
hospitals were maintained by Mr. Steele without earning any thing, while
they who were working in the field left to their master in their work,
when they went home at night, a value equal at least to that which they
had received from him for their day's labour. But there was another
saving of equal importance, which Mr. Steele calls a saving of _time_,
but which he might with more propriety have called a saving of _season_.
This saving of season, he says, was worth _more than double the
premium_; and so it might easily have been. There are soils, every
farmer knows, which are so constituted, that if you miss your day, you
miss your season; and, if you miss your season, you lose probably half
your crop. The saving, therefore, of the season, by having a whole crop
instead of half an one, was _a third source of saving of money_. Now let
us put all these savings together, and they will constitute a great
saving or profit; for as these savings were made by Mr. Steele in
consequence of _his new plan_, and _were therefore not made by others_,
they constituted an _extraordinary_ profit to him; or they added to the
profit, whatever it might have been, which he used to receive from the
estate before his new plan was put in execution.

But I discover other ways in which Mr. Steele was benefited, as I
advance in the perusal of his writings. It was impossible to overlook
the following passage: "Now," says he (alluding to his new system),
"every species of provisions raised on the plantations, or bought from
the merchants, is charged at the market-price to the copyhold-store, and
discharged by what has been paid on the several accounts of every
individual bond-slave; whereas for all those species heretofore, I never
saw in any plantation-book of my estates any account of what became of
them, or how they were disposed of, nor of their value, other than in
these concise words, _they were given in allowance to the Negroes and
stock_. Every year, for six years past, this great plantation has
bought several hundred bushels of corn, and was scanty in all
ground-provisions, our produce always falling short. This year, 1790,
_since the establishment of copyholders, though several less acres were
planted_ last year in Guinea corn than usual, yet we have been able to
sell _several hundred bushels_ at a high price, and _we have still a
great stock in hand_. I can place this saving to no other account, than
that there is now an exact account kept by all produce being paid as
cash to the bond-slaves; and also as all our watchmen are obliged to pay
for all losses that happen on their watch, they have found it their
interest to look well to their charge; and consequently that we have
had much less stolen from us than before this new government took

Here then we have seen _another considerable source of saving_ to Mr.
Steele, viz. that _he was not obliged to purchase any corn for his
slaves as formerly_. My readers will be able to judge better of this
saving, when I inform them of what has been the wretched policy of many
of our planters in this department of their concerns. Look over their
farming memoranda, and you will see _sugar, sugar, sugar_, in every
page; but you may turn over leaf after leaf, before you will find the
words _provision ground_ for their slaves. By means of this wretched
policy, slaves have often suffered most grievously. Some of them have
been half-starved. Starvation, too, has brought on disorders which have
ultimately terminated in their death. Hence their masters have suffered
losses, besides the expense incurred in buying what they ought to have
raised upon their own estates, and this perhaps at a dear market: and in
this wretched predicament Mr. Steele appears to have been himself when
he first went to the estate. His slaves, he tells us, had been reduced
in number by bad management. Even for six years afterwards he had been
obliged to buy several hundred bushels of corn; but in the year 1790 he
had sold several hundred bushels at a high price, and had still a great
stock on hand. And to what was all this owing? Not to an exact account
kept at the store (for some may have so misunderstood Mr. Steele); for
how could an exact account kept there, have occasioned an increase in
the produce of the earth? but, as Mr. Steele himself says, _to the
establishment of his copyholders_, or to the _alteration of the
condition_ of his slaves. His slaves did not only three times more work
than before, in consequence of the superior industry he had excited
among them, but, by so doing, they were enabled to put the corn into the
earth three times more quickly than before, or they were so much
forwarder in their other work, that they were enabled to sow it at the
critical moment, or so as _to save the season_, and thus secure a full
crop, or a larger crop on a less number of acres, than was before raised
upon a greater. The copyholders, therefore, were the persons who
increased the produce of the earth; but the exact account kept at the
store prevented the produce from being misapplied as formerly. It could
no longer be put down in the general expression of "given in allowances
to the Negroes and the stock;" but it was put down to the copyholder,
and to him only, who received it. Thus Mr. Steele saved the purchase of
a great part of the provisions for his slaves. He had formerly a great
deal to buy for them, but now nothing. On the other hand, he had to
sell; but, as his slaves were made, according to the new system, to
_maintain themselves_, he had now _the whole produce of his estate to_
_dispose of_. The circumstance therefore of having nothing to buy, but
every thing to sell, constituted another source of his profits.

What the other particular profits of Mr. Steele were I can no where
find, neither can I find what were his particular expenses; so as to be
enabled to strike the balance in his favour. Happily, however, Mr.
Steele has done this for us himself, though he has not furnished us with
the items on either side.--He says that "from the year 1773 to 1779 (he
arrived in Barbadoes in 1780), his stock had been so much reduced by ill
management and wasteful economy, that the annual average neat clearance
was little more than _one and a quarter_ per cent. on the purchase. In a
second period of four years, in consequence of the exertion of an honest
and able manager, (though with a further reduction of the stock, and
including the loss from the great hurricane,) the annual average income
was brought to clear _a little above two_ per cent.; but in a third
period of three years from 1784 to 1786 inclusive, _since the new mode
of governing the Negroes_, (besides increasing the stock, and laying out
large sums annually in adding necessary works, and in repairs of the
damages by the great hurricane,) the estate has cleared very nearly
_four and a quarter_ per cent.; that is, its annual average clearance in
each of these three periods, was in this proportion; for every 100 l.
annually cleared in the first period the annual average clearance in the
second period was 158 l. 10s., and in the third period was 345 l.
6s. 8d." This is the statement given by Mr. Steele, and a most
important one it is; for if we compare what the estate had cleared in
the first, with what it had cleared in the last of these periods, and
have recourse to figures, we shall find that Mr. Steele had _more than
tripled_ the income of it, in consequence of _his new management_,
during his residence in Barbadoes. And this is in fact what he says
himself in words at full length, in his answer to the 17th question
proposed to him by the committee of the Privy-council on the affairs of
the slave trade. "In a plantation," says he, "of 200 slaves in June
1780, consisting of 90 men, 82 women, 56 boys, and 60 girls, though
under the exertions of an able and honest manager, there were only 15
births, and no less than 57 deaths, in three years and three months. An
alteration was made in the mode of governing the slaves. The whips were
taken from all the white servants. All arbitrary punishments were
abolished, and all offences were tried and sentence passed by a Negro
court. In four years and three months after this change of government,
there were 44 births, and only 41 deaths, of which ten deaths were of
superannuated men and women, some above 80 years old. But in the same
interval the annual neat clearance of the estate was _above three times
more than it had been for ten years before!!!_"

Dr. Dickson, the editor of Mr. Steele, mentions these profits also, and
in the same terms, and connects them with an eulogium on Mr. Steele,
which is worthy of our attention. "Mr. Steele," says he, "saw that the
Negroes, like all other human beings, were to be stimulated to permanent
exertion only by a sense of their own interests in providing for their
own wants and those of their offspring. He therefore tried _rewards_,
which immediately roused the most indolent to exertion. His experiments
ended in _regular wages_, which the industry he had excited among his
whole gang enabled him to pay. Here was a natural, efficient, and
profitable reciprocity of interests. His people became contented; his
mind was freed from that perpetual vexation and that load of anxiety,
which are inseparable from the vulgar system, and in little more than
four years the annual neat clearance of his property _was more than
tripled_." Again, in another part of the work, "Mr. Steele's plan may no
doubt receive some improvements, which his great age obliged him to
decline"--"but it is perfect, as far as it goes. _To advance above 300
field-negroes, who had never before moved without the whip, to a state
nearly resembling that of contented, honest and industrious servants,
and, after paying for their labour, to triple in a few years the annual
neat clearance of the estate_,--these, I say, were great achievements
for an aged man in an untried field of improvement, pre-occupied by
inveterate vulgar prejudice. He has indeed accomplished all that was
really doubtful or difficult in the undertaking, and perhaps all that is
at present desirable either for owner or slave; for he has ascertained
as a fact, what was before only known to the learned as a theory, and to
practical men as a paradox, that _the paying of slaves for their labour
does actually produce a very great profit to their owners_."

I have now proved (_as far as the plan[15] of Mr. Steele is concerned_)
my third proposition, or _the probability that emancipation would
promote the interests of those who should adopt it_; but as I know of no
other estate similarly circumstanced with that of Mr. Steele, that is,
where emancipation has been tried, and where a detailed result of it has
been made known, I cannot confirm it by other similar examples. I must
have recourse therefore to some new species of proof. Now it is an old
maxim, as old as the days of Pliny and Columella, and confirmed by Dr.
Adam Smith, and all the modern writers on political economy, that _the
labour of free men is cheaper than the labour of slaves_. If therefore I
should be able to show that this maxim would be true, if applied to all
the operations and demands of West Indian agriculture, I should be able
to establish my proposition on a new ground: for it requires no great
acuteness to infer, that, if it be cheaper to employ free men than
slaves in the cultivation of our islands, emancipation would be a
profitable undertaking there.

I shall show, then, that the old maxim just mentioned is true, when
applied to the case in our own islands, first, by establishing the fact,
that _free men_, people of colour, in the East Indies, are employed in
_precisely the same concerns_ (the cultivation of the cane and the
making of sugar) as the slaves in the West, and that they are employed
_at a cheaper rate_. The testimony of Henry Botham, Esq. will be quite
sufficient for this point. That gentleman resided for some time in the
East Indies, where he became acquainted with the business of a sugar
estate. In the year 1770 he quitted the East for the West. His object
was to settle in the latter part of the world, if it should be found
desirable so to do. For this purpose he visited all the West Indian
islands, both English and French, in about two years. He became during
this time a planter, though he did not continue long in this situation;
and he superintended also Messrs. Bosanquets' and J. Fatio's
sugar-plantation in their partners' absence. Finding at length the
unprofitable way in which the West Indian planters conducted their
concerns, he returned to the East Indies in 1776, and established
sugar-works at Bencoolen on his own account. Being in London in the year
1789, when a committee of privy council was sitting to examine into the
question of the slave trade, he delivered a paper to the board on the
mode of cultivating a sugar plantation in the East Indies; and this
paper being thought of great importance, he was summoned afterwards in
1791 by a committee of the House of Commons to be examined personally
upon it.

It is very remarkable that the very first sentence in this paper
announced the fact at once, that "sugar, better and _cheaper_ than that
in the West Indian islands, was produced _by free men_."

Mr. Botham then explained the simple process of making sugar in the
East. "A proprietor, generally a Dutchman, used to let his estate, say
300 acres or more, with proper buildings upon it, to a Chinese, who
lived upon it and superintended it, and who re-let it to free men in
parcels of 50 or 60 acres on condition that they should plant it in
canes for so much for every pecul, 133 lbs., of sugar produced. This
superintendant hired people from the adjacent villages to take off his
crop. One lot of task-men with their carts and buffaloes cut the canes,
carried them to the mill, and ground them. A second set boiled them, and
a third clayed and basketed them for market at so much per pecul. Thus
the renter knew with certainty what every pecul would cost him, and he
incurred no unnecessary expense; for, when the crop was over, the
task-men returned home. By dividing the labour in this manner, it was
better and cheaper done."

Mr. Botham detailed next the improved method of making sugar in Batavia,
which we have not room to insert here. We may just state, however, that
the persons concerned in it never made spirits on the sugar estates. The
molasses and skimmings were sent for, sale to Batavia, where one
distillery might buy the produce of a hundred estates. Here, again, was
a vast saving, says Mr. Botham, "there was not, as in the West Indies, a
_distillery_ for _each estate_."

He then proceeded to make a comparison between the agricultural system
of the two countries. "The cane was cultivated _to the utmost
perfection_ in Batavia, whereas the culture of it in the West Indies was
but _in its infancy. The hoe was scarcely used_ in the East, whereas it
was almost _the sole implement_ in the West. The _plough was used
instead of it in the East_, as far as it could be done. Young canes
there were kept also often ploughed as a weeding, and the hoe was kept
to weed round the plant when very young; but of this there was little
need, if the land had been sufficiently ploughed. When the cane was
ready to be earthed up, it was done by a _sort of shovel_ made for the
purpose. _Two persons_ with this instrument would earth up more canes in
a day than _ten Negroes_ with hoes. The cane-roots were also _ploughed
up_ in the East, whereas they were _dug up with the severest exertion_
in the West. Many alterations," says Mr. Botham, "are to be made, and
expenses and human labour lessened in the West. _Having experienced the
difference of labourers for profit and labourers from force_, I can
assert, that _the savings by the former are very considerable_."

He then pointed out other defects in the West Indian management, and
their remedies. "I am of opinion," says he, "that the West Indian
planter should for his own interest give more labour to beast and less
to man. A larger portion of his estate ought to be in pasture. When
practicable, canes should be carried to the mill, and cane tops and
grass to the stock, in waggons. The custom of making a hard-worked Negro
get a bundle of grass twice a day should be abolished, and in short a
_total change take place in the miserable management in our West Indian
Islands_. By these means following as near as possible the East Indian
mode, and consolidating the distilleries, I do suppose our sugar-islands
might be better worked than they now are by _two-thirds_ or indeed
_one-half_ of the present force. Let it be considered how much labour is
lost by the persons _overseeing the forced labourer_, which is saved
when he works _for his own profit_. I have stated with the strictest
veracity a plain matter of fact, that sugar estates can _be worked
cheaper by free men than by slaves_[16]."

I shall now show, that the old maxim, which has been mentioned, is true,
when applied to the case of our West Indian islands, by establishing a
fact of a very different kind, viz. that the slaves in the West Indies
do much more work in a given time when _they work for themselves_, than
when _they work for their masters_. But how, it will be said, do you
prove, by establishing this fact, that it would be cheaper for our
planters to employ free men than slaves? I answer thus: I maintain that,
_while the slaves are working for themselves_, they are to be
considered, indeed that they are, _bona fide, free labourers_. In the
first place, they never have a driver with them on any of these
occasions; and, in the second place, _having all their earnings to
themselves_, they have that stimulus within them to excite industry,
which is only known _to free men_. What is it, I ask, which gives birth
to industry in any part of the world, seeing that labour is not
agreeable to man, but the stimulus arising from the hope of gain? What
makes an English labourer do more work in the day than a slave, but the
stimulus arising from the knowledge, that what he earns is _for himself
and not for another_? What, again, makes an English labourer do much
more work _by the piece_ than by _the day_, but the stimulus arising
from the knowledge that he may gain more by the former than by the
latter mode of work? Just so is the West Indian slave situated, when _he
is working for himself_, that is, when he knows _that what he earns is
for his own use_. He has then all the stimulus of a free man, and he is,
therefore, _during such work_ (though unhappily no longer) really, and
in effect, and to all intents and purposes, as much _a free labourer_ as
any person in any part of the globe. But if he be a free man, while he
is working for himself, and if in that capacity he does twice or thrice
more work than when he works for his master, it follows, that it would
be cheaper for his master to employ him as a free labourer, or that the
labour of free men in the West Indies would be cheaper than the labour
of slaves.

That West Indian slaves, when they work for themselves, do much more in
a given time than when they work for their masters, is a fact so
notorious in the West Indies, that no one who has been there would deny
it. Look at Long's History of Jamaica, The Privy Council Report,
Gaisford's Essay on the good Effects of the Abolition of the Slave
Trade, and other books. Let us hear also what Dr. Dickson, the editor
of Mr. Steele, and who resided so many years in Barbadoes, says on this
subject, for what he says is so admirably expressed that I cannot help
quoting it. "The planters," says he, "do not take the right way to make
human beings put forth their strength. They apply main force where they
should apply moral motives, and punishments alone where rewards should
be judiciously intermixed. They first beslave their poor people with
their cursed whip, and then stand and wonder at the tremour of their
nerves, and the laxity of their muscles. And yet, strange to tell,
_those very men affirm, and affirm truly_, that a slave will do more
work for himself _in an afternoon_ than he can be made to do for his
owner _in a whole day or more_!" And did not the whole Assembly of
Grenada, as we collect from the famous speech of Mr. Pitt on the Slave
Trade in 1791, affirm the same thing? "He (Mr. Pitt) would show," he
said, "the futility of the argument of his honourable friend. He (his
honourable friend) had himself admitted, that it was in the power of the
colonies to correct the various abuses by which the Negro population was
restrained. But they could not do this without _improving the condition
of their slaves_, without making them _approximate towards the rank of
citizens_, without giving them _some little interest in their labour_,
which would occasion them to work _with the energy of men_. But now the
Assembly of Grenada had themselves stated, that, _though_ the _Negroes
were allowed the afternoon of only one day in every week, they would do
as much work in that afternoon when employed for their own benefit, as
in the whole day when employed in their masters' service_. Now after
this confession the House might burn all his calculations relative to
the Negro population; for if this population had not quite reached the
desirable state which he had pointed out, this confession had proved
that further supplies were not wanted. A Negro, _if he worked for
himself, could do double work_. By an improvement then in the mode of
labour, the work in the islands could be doubled. But if so, what would
become of the argument of his honourable friend? for then only half the
number of the present labourers were necessary."

But the fact, that the slaves in the West Indies do much more work for
themselves in a given time than when they work for their masters, may be
established almost arithmetically, if we will take the trouble of
calculating from authentic documents which present themselves on the
subject. It is surprising, when we look into the evidence examined by
the House of Commons on the subject of the Slave Trade, to find how
little a West Indian slave really does, when he works for his master;
and this is confessed equally by the witnesses on both sides of the
question. One of them (Mr. Francklyn) says, that a labouring man could
not get his bread in Europe if he worked no harder than a Negro.
Another (Mr. Tobin), that no Negro works like a day-labourer in
England. Another (Sir John Dalling), that the general work of Negroes is
not to be called labour. A fourth (Dr. Jackson), that an English
labourer does three times as much work as a Negro in the West Indies.
Now how are these expressions to be reconciled with the common notions
in England of Negro labour? for "to work like a Negro" is a common
phrase, which is understood to convey the meaning, that the labour of
the Negroes is the most severe and intolerable that is known. One of the
witnesses, however, just mentioned explains the matter. "The hardship,"
says he, "of Negro field-labour is more in the _mode_ than in the
_quantity_ done. The slave, seeing no end of his labour, stands over the
work, and only throws the hoe to avoid the lash. He appears to work
without actually working." The truth is, that a Negro, having no
interest in his work while working for his master, will work only while
the whip is upon him. I can no where make out the clear net annual
earnings of a field Negro on a sugar plantation to come up to 8 l.
sterling. Now what does he earn in the course of a year when he is
working for himself? I dare not repeat what some of the witnesses for
the planters stated to the House of Commons, when representing the
enviable condition of the slaves in the West Indies; for this would be
to make him earn more for himself _in one day_ than for his master _in a
week_. Let us take then the lowest sum mentioned in the Book of
Evidence. This is stated to be 14d. sterling per week; and 14d.
sterling per week would make 3 l. sterling per year. But how many days
in the week does he work when he makes such annual earnings? The most
time, which any of the witnesses gives to a field slave for his own
private concerns, is every Sunday, and also every Saturday afternoon in
the week, besides three holidays in the year. But this is far from being
the general account. Many of them say that he has only Sunday to
himself; and others, that even Sunday is occasionally trespassed upon by
his master. It appears, also, that even where the afternoon is given
him, it is only out of crop-time. Now let us take into the account the
time lost by slaves in going backwards and forwards to their
provision-grounds; for though some of these are described as being only
a stone's throw from their huts, others are described as being one,
and two, and three, and even four miles off; and let us take into the
account also, that Sunday is, by the confession of all, the Negro market
day, on which alone they can dispose of their own produce, and that the
market itself may be from one to ten or fifteen miles from their homes,
and that they who go there cannot be working in their gardens at the
same time, and we shall find that there cannot be on an average more
than a clear three quarters of a day in the week, which they can call
their own, and in which they can work for themselves. But call it a
whole day, if you please, and you will find that the slave does for
himself in this one day more than a third of what he does for his master
in six, or that he works _more than three times harder_ when _he works
for himself_ than when _he works for his master_.

I have now shown, first by the evidence of Mr. Botham, and secondly by
the fact of Negroes earning more in a given time when they work in their
own gardens, than when they work in their master's service, that the old
maxim "of _its being cheaper to employ free men than slaves_," is true,
when applied to the _operations and demands of West Indian agriculture_.
But if it be cheaper to employ free men than slaves in the West Indies,
then they, who should emancipate their Negroes there, would _promote
their interest by so doing_. "But hold!" says an objector, "we allow
that their successors would be benefited, but not the _emancipators
themselves_. These would have a great sacrifice to make. Their slaves
are worth so much money at this moment; but they would lose all this
value, if they were to set them free." I reply, and indeed I have all
along affirmed, that it is not proposed to emancipate the slaves _at
once_, but to prepare them for emancipation _in a course of years_. Mr.
Steele did not make his slaves _entirely free_. They were _copyhold-bond
slaves_. They were still _his freehold property_: and they would, if he
had lived, have continued so for many years. They therefore, who should
emancipate, would lose nothing of the value of their slaves, so long as
they brought them only to the door of liberty, but did not allow them to
pass through it. But suppose they were to allow them to pass through it
and thus admit them to freedom, they would lose nothing by so doing; for
they would not admit them to freedom till _after a certain period of
years, during which_ I contend that the _value of every individual
slave_ would have been _reimbursed_ to them from _the increased income
of their estates_. Mr. Steele, as we have seen, _more than tripled_ the
value of his income during his experiment: I believe that he more than
quadrupled it; for he says, that he more than tripled it _besides
increasing his stock_, and _laying out large sums annually in adding
necessary works_, and _in repairs of the damage by the great hurricane_.
Suppose then a West India estate to yield at this moment a nett income
of 500 l. per annum, this income would be increased, according to Mr.
Steele's experience, to somewhere about 1700 l. per annum. Would not,
then, the surplus beyond the original 500 l., viz. 1200 l. per annum,
be sufficient to reimburse the proprietor in a few years for the value
of every slave which he had when he began his plan of emancipation? But
he would be reimbursed again, that is, (twice over on the whole for
every individual slave,) from a new source, viz. _the improved value of
his land_. It is a fact well known in the United States, that a certain
quantity of land, or farm, in full cultivation by free men, will fetch
twice more money than the same quantity of land, similarly
circumstanced, in full cultivation by slaves. Let us suppose now that
the slaves at present on any West Indian plantation are worth about as
much as the land with the buildings upon it, to which they are attached,
and that the land with the buildings upon it would rise to double its
former value when cultivated by free men, it follows that the land and
buildings alone would be worth as much then, that is, when worked by
free labourers, as the land, buildings, and slaves together are worth at
the present time.

I have now, I think, pretty well canvassed the subject, and I shall
therefore hasten to a conclusion. And first, I ask the West Indians,
whether they think that they will be allowed to carry on their present
cruel system, the arbitrary use of the whip and the chain, and the
brutal debasement of their fellow-creatures, _for ever_. I say, No; I
entertain better hopes of the humanity and justice of the British
people. I am sure that they will interfere, and that when they _once
take up the cause_, they _will never abandon it till they have obtained
their object_. And what is it, after all, that I have been proposing in
the course of the preceding pages? two things only, viz. that the laws
relating to the slaves may be revised by the British parliament, so that
they, may be made (as it was always intended) _to accord with, and not
to be repugnant to_, the principles of the British constitution, and
that, when such a revision shall have taken place, the slaves may be put
into _a state of preparation for emancipation_; and for such an
emancipation only as may be compatible with the joint interests of the
master and the slave. Is there any thing unreasonable in this
proposition? Is it unreasonable to desire that those laws should be
repealed, which are contrary to the laws of God, or that the Africans
and their descendants, who have the shape, image, intellect, feelings,
and affections of men, should be treated as human beings?

The measure then, which I have been proposing, is _not unreasonable_. I
trust it _would not be injurious_ to the interests of the West Indians
themselves. These are at present, it is said, in great distress; and so
they have been for years; and so they will still be (and moreover they
will be getting worse and worse) _so long as they continue slavery_. How
can such a wicked, such an ill-framed system succeed? Has not the
Almighty in his moral government of the world stamped a character upon
human actions, and given such a turn to their operations, that the
balance should be ultimately in favour of virtue? Has he not taken from
those, who act wickedly, the power of discerning the right path? or has
he not so confounded their faculties, that they are for ever frustrating
their own schemes? It is only to know the practice of our planters to be
assured, that it will bring on difficulty after difficulty, and loss
after loss, till it will end in ruin. If a man were to sit down and to
try to invent a ruinous system of agriculture, could he devise one more
to his mind than that which they have been in the habit of using? Let us
look at some of the more striking parts of this system. The first that
stares us in the face, is the unnatural and destructive practice of
_forced labour_. Here we see men working without any rational stimulus
to elicit their exertions, and therefore they must be followed by
drivers with whips in their hands. Well might it be said by Mr. Botham
to the Committees of Privy-council and House of Commons, "Let it be
considered, how much labour is lost by the persons overseeing the forced
labourer, which is saved when he works for his own profit;" and,
notwithstanding all the vigilance and whipping of these drivers, I have
proved that the slaves do more for themselves in an afternoon, than in a
whole day when they work for their masters. It was doubtless the
conviction that _forced labour was unprofitable_, as well as that there
would be less of human suffering, which made Mr. Steele take away the
whips from his drivers, as _the very first step necessary_ in his
improved system, or as the _sine qua non_ without which such a system
could not properly be begun; and did not this very measure _alter the
face of his affairs in point of profit in three years after it had been
put into operation_? And here it must be observed, that, if ever
emancipation should be begun by our planters, this must be (however they
may dislike to part with arbitrary power) as much a first step with them
as it was with Mr. Steele. _Forced labour_ stands at the head of the
catalogue of those nuisances belonging to slavery, which oppose the
planter's gain. It must be removed before any thing else can be done.
See what mischiefs it leads to, independently of its want of profit. It
is impossible that forced labour can be kept up from day to day without
injury to the constitution of the slaves; and if their health is
injured, the property of their masters must be injured also. Forced
labour, again, sends many of them to the sick-houses. Here is, at any
rate, a loss of their working time. But it drives them also occasionally
to run away, and sometimes to destroy themselves. Here again is a loss
of their working time and of property into the bargain. _Forced labour_,
then, is one of those striking parts in the West Indian husbandry, in
which we see a _constant source of loss_ to those who adopt it; and may
we not speak, and yet with truth, as unfavourably of some of the other
striking parts in the same system? What shall we say, first, to that
injurious disproportion of the articles of croppage with the wants of
the estates, which makes little or no provision of food for the
labourers (_the very first to be cared for_), but leaves these to be fed
by articles to be bought three thousand miles off in another country,
let the markets there be ever so high, or the prices ever so
unfavourable, at the time? What shall we say, again, to that obstinate
and ruinous attachment to old customs, in consequence of which even
acknowledged improvements are almost forbidden to be received? How
generally has the introduction of the plough been opposed in the West
Indies, though both the historians of Jamaica have recommended the use
of it, and though it has been proved that _one plough_ with _two sets of
horses_ to relieve each other, would turn up as much land _in a day, as
one hundred Negroes_ could with their hoes! Is not the hoe also
continued in earthing up the canes there, when Mr. Botham proved, more
than thirty years ago, that _two_ men would do more with the East Indian
shovel at that sort of work in a day, than _ten_ Negroes with the former
instrument? So much for _unprofitable instruments_ of husbandry; a few
words now on _unprofitable modes of employment_. It seems, first, little
less than infatuation, to make Negroes carry baskets of dung upon their
heads, basket after basket, to the field. I do not mention this so much
as an intolerable hardship upon those who have to perform it, as an
improvident waste of strength and time. Why are not horses, or mules, or
oxen, and carts or other vehicles of convenience, used oftener on such
occasions? I may notice also that cruel and most disadvantageous mode of
employment of making Negroes collect grass for the cattle, by picking it
by the hand blade by blade. Are no artificial grasses to be found in our
islands, and is the existence of the scythe unknown there? But it is of
no use to dwell longer upon this subject. The whole system is a ruinous
one from the beginning to the end. And from whence does such a system
arise? It has its origin in _slavery_ alone. It is practised no where
but in the land of ignorance and slavery. Slavery indeed, or rather the
despotism which supports slavery, has no compassion, and it is one of
its characteristics _never to think of sparing the sinews of the
wretched creature called a slave_. Hence it is slow to adopt helps, with
which a beneficent Providence has furnished us, by giving to man an
inventive faculty for easing his burthens, or by submitting the beasts
of the field to his dominion and his use, and it flies to expedients
which are contrary to nature and reason. How then can such a system ever
answer? Were an English farmer to have recourse to such a system, he
would not be able to pay his rent for a single year. If the planters
then are in distress, it is their own fault. They may, however, thank
the abolitionists that they are not worse off than they are at present.
The abolition of the slave trade, by cutting off the purchase of new
slaves, has cut off one cause of their ruin[17]; and it is only the
abolition _of slavery which can yet save them_. Had the planters, when
the slave trade was abolished, taken immediate measures to meet the
change; had they then revised their laws and substituted better; had
they then put their slaves into a state of preparation for emancipation,
in what a different, that is, desirable situation would they have been
at this moment! In fact, _nothing can save them, but the abolition of
slavery on a wise and prudent plan_. They can no more expect, without
it, to meet the present low prices of colonial produce, than the British
farmer can meet the present low prices of grain, unless he can have an
abatement of rent, tithe, and taxation, and unless his present poor
rates can be diminished also. Take away, however, from the planters the
use and practice of slavery, and the hour of _their regeneration_ would
be begun. Can we doubt, that Providence would then bless their
endeavours, and that _salvation_ from their difficulties would be their
portion in the end?

It has appeared, I hope, by this time, that what I have been proposing
is not unreasonable, and that, so far from being injurious to the
interests of the planters, it would be highly advantageous to them. I
shall now show, that I do not ask for the introduction of a more humane
system into our Colonies _at a time when it would be improper to grant
it_; or that no fair objection can be raised against the _present
moment_, as _the fit era_ from whence the measures in contemplation
should commence. There was, indeed, a time when the planters might have
offered something like an excuse for the severity of their conduct
towards their slaves, on the plea that the greater part of them then in
the colonies were _African-born_ or _strangers_, and that cargoes were
constantly pouring in, one after the other, consisting of the same sort
of beings; or of _stubborn ferocious people, never accustomed to work,
whose spirits it was necessary to break_, and _whose necks to force down
to the yoke_; and that this could only be effected by the whip, the
chain, the iron collar, and other instruments of the kind. But _now_ no
such plea can be offered. It is now sixteen years since the slave trade
was abolished by England, and it is therefore to be presumed, that no
new slaves have been imported into the British colonies within that
period. The slaves, therefore, who are there at this day, must consist
either of Africans, whose spirits must have been long ago broken, or of
Creoles born in the cradle and brought up in the trammels of slavery.
What argument then can be produced for the continuation of a barbarous
discipline there? And we are very glad to find that two gentlemen, both
of whom we have had occasion to quote before, bear us out in this
remark. Mr. Steele, speaking of some of the old cruel laws of Barbadoes,
applies them to the case before us in these words:--"As, according to
Ligon's account, there were not above two-thirds of the island in
plantations in the year 1650, we must suppose that in the year 1688 the
great number of _African-born_ slaves brought into the plantations in
chains, and compelled to labour by the terrors of corporal punishment,
might have made it appear necessary to enact a temporary law so harsh as
the statute No. 82; but when the _great majority_ of the Negroes were
become _vernacular, born in the island, naturalized by language_, and
_familiarised by custom_, did not _policy_ as well as humanity require:
them _to be put under milder conditions_, such as were granted to the
slaves of our Saxon ancestors?" Colonel Malenfant speaks the same
sentiments. In defending his plan, which he offered to the French
Government for St. Domingo in 1814, against the vulgar prejudice, that
"where you employ Negroes you must of necessity use slavery," he
delivers himself thus:--"[18]If all the Negroes on a plantation had not
been more than six months out of Africa, or if they had the same ideas
concerning an independent manner of life as the Indians or the savages
of Guiana, I should consider my plan to be impracticable. I should then
say that coercion would be necessary: but ninety-nine out of every
hundred Negroes in St. Domingo are aware that they cannot obtain
necessaries without work. They know that it is their duty to work, and
they are even desirous of working; but the remembrance of their cruel
sufferings in the time of slavery renders them suspicious." We may
conclude, then, that if a cruel discipline was _not necessary_ in the
years 1790 and 1794, to which these gentlemen allude, when there must
have been _some thousands of newly imported Africans_ both in St.
Domingo and in the English colonies, it cannot be necessary _now_, when
there have been no importations into the latter for _fifteen years_.
There can be no excuse, then, for the English planters for not altering
their system, and this _immediately_. It is, on the other hand, a great
reproach to them, considering the quality and character of their slaves,
_that they should not of themselves have come forward on the subject
before this time_.

Seeing then that nothing has been done where it ought, it is the duty of
the abolitionists to _resume their labours_. If through the medium of
the abolition of the slave trade they have not accomplished, as they
expected, the whole of their object, they have no alternative but to
resort to _other measures_, or to attempt by constitutional means, under
that Legislature which has already sanctioned their efforts, the
mitigation of the cruel treatment of the Negroes, with the ultimate view
of extinguishing, in due time and in a suitable manner, the slavery
itself. Nor ought any time to be lost in making such an attempt; for it
is a melancholy fact, that there is scarcely any increase of the slave
population in our islands at the present moment. What other proof need
we require _of the severity of the slavery there, and of the necessity
of its mitigation?_ Severe punishments, want of sufficient food, labour
extracted by the whip, and a system of prostitution, conspire, _almost
as much as ever_, to make inroads upon the constitutions of the slaves,
and to prevent their increase. And let it be remembered here, that any
former defect of this kind was supplied by importations; but that
importations are _now unlawful_. Unless, therefore, the abolitionists
interfere, and that soon, our West Indian planters may come to
Parliament and say, "We have now tried your experiment. It has not
answered. You must therefore give us leave to go again to the coast of
Africa for slaves." There is also another consideration worthy of the
attention of the abolitionists, viz. that _a public attempt_ made in
England to procure the abolition of _slavery_ would very much promote
their original object, the cause of the abolition of the slave trade;
for foreign courts have greatly doubted our sincerity as to the latter
measure, and have therefore been very backward in giving us their
assistance in it. If England, say they, abolished the slave trade _from
moral motives_, how happens it _that she continues slavery_? But if this
_public attempt_ were to succeed, then the abolitionists would see their
wishes in a direct train for completion: for if slavery were to fall in
the British islands, this event would occasion death in a given time,
and without striking any further blow, to the execrable trade in every
part of the world; because those foreigners, who should continue
slavery, no longer able to compete in the markets with those who should
employ free men, must abandon the slave trade altogether.

But here perhaps the planters will say, "What right have the people of
England to interfere with our property, which would be the case if they
were to attempt to abolish slavery?" The people of England might reply,
that they have as good a right as you, the planters, have to interfere
with that most precious of all property, _the liberty of your slaves_,
seeing that _you hold them by no right that is not opposed to nature,
reason, justice, and religion_. The people of England have no desire to
interfere with your _property_, but with your _oppression_. It is
probable that your property would be improved by the change. But, to
examine this right more minutely, I contend, first, that they have
always a right to interfere in behalf of humanity and justice wherever
their appeals can be heard. I contend, secondly, that they have a more
immediate right to interfere in the present case, because the oppressed
persons in question, living in the British dominions and under the
British Government, are _their fellow subjects_. I contend again, that
they have this right upon the ground that they are giving you, the West
Indians, _a monopoly_ for their sugar, by buying it from you exclusively
_at a much dearer rate_ than _they can get it from other quarters_.
Surely they have a right to say to you, as customers for your produce,
Change your system and we will continue to deal with you; but if you
will not change it, we will buy our sugar elsewhere, or we will not buy
sugar at all. The East Indian market is open to us, and we prefer sugar
that is not stained with blood. Nay, we will petition Parliament to take
off the surplus duty with which East Indian sugar is loaded on your
account. What superior claims have you either upon Parliament or upon
us, that you should have the preference? As to the East Indians, they
are as much the subjects of the British empire as yourselves. As to the
East India Company, they support all their establishments, both civil
and military, at their own expense. They come to our Treasury for
nothing; while you, with naval stations, and an extraordinary military
force kept up for no other purpose than to keep in awe an injured
population, and with heavy bounties on the exportation of your sugar,
put us to such an expense as makes us doubt whether your trade is worth
having on its present terms. They, the East India Company, again, have
been a blessing to the Natives with whom they have been concerned. They
distribute an equal system of law and justice to all without respect of
persons. They dispell the clouds of ignorance, superstition, and
idolatry, and carry with them civilization and liberty wherever they go.
You, on the other hand, have no code of justice but for yourselves. You
_deny it_ to those who _cannot help themselves_. You _hinder liberty_ by
your cruel restrictions on manumission; and dreading the inlet of light,
_you study to perpetuate ignorance and barbarism_. Which then of the two
competitors has the claim to preference by an English Parliament and an
English people? It may probably soon become a question with the latter,
whether they will consent to pay a million annually more for West India
sugar than for other of like quality, or, which is the same thing,
whether they will allow themselves to be _taxed annually to the amount
of a million sterling to support West Indian slavery_.

I shall now conclude by saying, that I leave it; and that I recommend
it, to others to add to the light which I have endeavoured to furnish on
this subject, by collecting new facts relative to Emancipation and the
result of it in other parts of the world, as well as relative to the
superiority of free over servile labour, in order that the West Indians
may be convinced, if possible, that they would be benefited by the
change of system which I propose. They must already know, both by past
and present experience, that the ways of unrighteousness are not
profitable. Let them not doubt, when the Almighty has decreed the
balance in favour of virtuous actions, that their efforts under the new
system will work together for their good, so that their temporal
redemption may be at hand.


Printed by Richard Taylor, Shoe-Lane, London.


[1] See Dickson's Mitigation of Slavery, p. 18.

[2] See Dickson's Mitigation of Slavery, p. 339.

[3] Mitigation of Slavery, p. 50.

[4] See Dickson's Mitigation of Slavery, p. 102.

[5] A part of the black regiments were bought in Africa as recruits, and
were not transported in slave-ships, and, never under West India
masters: but it was only a small part compared with the whole number in
the three cases.

[6] Memoire historique et politique des Colonies, et particulierement de
celle de St. Domingue, &c. Paris, August 1814. 8vo. p. 58.

[7] Pp. 125, 126.

[8] There were occasionally marauding parties from the mountains, who
pillaged in the plains; but these were the old insurgent, and not the
emancipated Negroes.

[9] P. 78.

[10] Memoires, p. 311.

[11] Ibid. p. 324.

[12] The French were not the authors of tearing to pieces the Negroes
alive by bloodhounds, or of suffocating them by hundreds at a time in
the holds of ships, or of drowning them (whole cargoes) by scuttling and
sinking the vessels;--but the _planters_.

[13] All the slave-population was to be emancipated in 18 years; and
this consisted at the time of passing the decree of from 250,000 to
300,000 souls.

[14] See Dr. Dickson's Mitigation of Slavery, London 1814, from whence
every thing relating to this subject is taken. Dr. Dickson had been for
many years secretary to Governor Hay, in Barbadoes, where he had an
opportunity of studying the Slave agriculture as a system. Being in
London afterwards when the Slave Trade controversy was going on in
Parliament, he distinguished himself by silencing the different writers
who defended the West Indian slavery. There it was that Mr. Steele
addressed himself to him by letter, and sent him those invaluable
papers, which the Doctor afterwards published under the modest title of
"Mitigation of Slavery by Steele and Dickson." No one was better
qualified than Dr. Dickson to become the Editor of Mr. Steele.

[15] It is much to be feared that this beautiful order of things was
broken up after Mr. Steele's death by his successors, either through
their own prejudices, or their unwillingness or inability to stand
against the scoffs and prejudices of others. It may be happy, however,
for thousands now in slavery, that Mr. Steele lived to accomplish his
plan. The constituent parts and result of it being known, a fine example
is shown to those who may be desirous of trying emancipation.

[16] Mr. Botham's account is confirmed incontrovertibly by the fact,
that sugar made in the East Indies can be brought to England (though it
has three times the distance to come, and of course three times the
freight to pay), and yet be afforded to the consumer at as cheap a rate
as any that can be brought thither from the West.

[17] Dickson's Mitigation of Slavery, p. 213, where it is proved that
bought slaves never refund their purchase-money to their owners.

[18] P. 125.

End of the Project Gutenberg EBook of Thoughts On The Necessity Of Improving
The Condition Of The Slaves In The British Colonies, by Thomas Clarkson


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