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ILLUSTRATIVE OF THE ACTUAL CONDITION OF THE
NEGROES IN DEMERARA.
ALSO, AN EXAMINATION INTO
THE PROPRIETY AND EFFICACY OF THE REGULATIONS CONTAINED
TO WHICH ARE ADDED,
SUGGESTIONS ON THE PROPER MODE OF
AMELIORATING THE CONDITION OF THE SLAVES.
BY ALEXANDER M'DONNELL, Esq.
SECRETARY TO THE COMMITTEE OF THE INHABITANTS OF
LONGMAN, HURST, REES, ORME, BROWN, AND GREEN,
THE question of colonial slavery continuing to excite general interest, I offer the following work to the consideration of the public. It was my original intention merely to have given a statement of the actual condition of the slaves in Demerara, together with some particulars of a local nature, with which I supposed the community unacquainted, and which I thought might mitigate the feeling of hostility so generally entertained in this country against the West Indies. On reflection, however, it appeared to me that the details of only part of a subject, no matter how fully illustrated, could not in themselves be sufficient to produce the effect desired. Even supposing them to be perfectly satisfactory, so many other matters press upon the attention, giving rise to various doubts, that any favourable impression, if connected with but one view of an intricate question, is generally soon effaced and speedily forgotten. To do justice to the present enquiry we should endeavour to take a survey of all the circumstances, to regard them under the different con
siderations to which they have reference, to allow our decisions to be guided by the combined operation of the whole, and to make choice of that line of policy for which the greater number of solid arguments can be clearly assigned. That such has never yet been done, I believe will be generally granted; and the misfortune is, it is the West Indians who have in consequence suffered. If we take the many recent debates in parliament, I am afraid we shall seek in vain for any very comprehensive view of our colonial system; each speaker generally adopts a few leading easy topics, with which he contents himself, and to which the best mode of replying would be, not to attempt to prove the arguments erroneous, but to show that twenty others might be adduced more minute perhaps, and less obvious, but which, when combined, would totally alter the previous conclusion.
Possessed with these sentiments, I have made the attempt to give a more enlarged examination of the subject. What is contained in the following sheets will be found to embrace, I conceive, all that bears upon the state of negro slavery; and I have endeavoured to arrange it in a methodical and consecutive manner. I cannot be unconscious of the discouraging nature of the task; the theme is unwelcome; and perhaps the greatest difficulty a West Indian
advocate encounters, is not to escape being judged partially, but to get a hearing at all. A very little reflection teaches me, that such a state of things is far from surprising; and that the voice of popular opinion so loudly expressed is in principle not only natural but laudable. Who is there, we may ask, who, when the term SLAVE is mentioned, does not feel his generous sympathy at once aroused, associated as it is in his memory with the period when, on reading some tale of oppression, his youthful bosom first heaved with ardent indignation at the cruel conduct of unrelenting tyranny? Or in more mature age, who is there who does not know, that all that the senate could ever boast either for genius or eloquence has been arrayed to mitigate the sufferings of the unfortunate African? Far be it from my intention to raise an effort to check those feelings, founded on one among the noblest of our sentiments, that of a desire to protect the weak from the oppression of the strong. It would show but little judgment to make the attempt; and low indeed would be the West India cause, if it required such a mode of argument to justify the continuance of the present system.
It must be perfectly apparent that we have not now to argue upon slavery in the abstract; the question is in every respect different from what it was at the period of the abolition of the