« ForrigeFortsett »
happiness,—the envier, in his own abyss of misery, of all prosperity, and who, in the triumph of evil over good in the West Indies, glories that he has still unlimited power in one corner of the world, though even there, while one well-wisher to humanity remains on earth, neither he nor his adherents can hope any longer to keep " his goods in peace."'
« The slaves are claimed as the property of their owners. "Man can have no property in man." The very claim to such a propertr strikes at the root of all property whatsoever. God is the proprietnr of all things, because he is the Creator of all things. Labour stamp a right of property upon the objects on which it is exercised, because it creates their value. God having only given the raw elements, and having appointed that the art and labour of man should work them into their useful applications, has thus given to man a right of proprietorship, by making him a fellow-worker with himself. God creates, and man forms. But no man can assert a right of propertr in the involuntary labour of other men, without vitiating the title on which all his own property rests. By such a claim he shakes the foundation upon which civil society is built, and introduces a universal system of robbery and wrong. Man can have no property in man The slave-holders are therefore men-stealers, for wrong by repetition can never become right, but, by continuance, is only a more intolerable and excessive wrong.'
'It is argued from the Bible by the slave-owners—who, alas! seldom quote the Bible to a better purpose—that slavery is permitted, if not sanctioned, in Scripture, not only by the example of the Patriarchs, but by the Mosaic precepts.
'The truth, however, is, that the Bible does not sanction slavery: it only sanctions its mitigations and restrictions. The legislation of Moses on this head, goes to this one point—not to establish slavery, but to temper it, and, in n.any instances, to terminate it. God, lir the hands of Moses, gave such a constitution to the Israelites, that even the mast mitigated form of slavery could exist to no extent amongst them. By this constitution, after having once settled in Canaan, they were disqualified from carrying on offensive wars, till the changes in their government that occurred about the time of David, and had, consequently, no prisoners of war to dispose of as bondmen; and, by the agrarian law of Israel, slavery was rendered altogether unprofitable; for who in his own hereditary garden would employ the wasteful labour of the slave, when with ease he could cultivate his own estate by his own free, intelligent, and productive efforts? Slavery can only be profitable in an ill-peopled country, and in a new soil; but Canaan, before the Israelites entered it, was already fertile by artificial means, and, both before and after its conquest by Joshua, was crowded with population. The slave-owners appeal to the Bible when it suits their purpose so to do; but they would not, we presume, wish the laws of Israel revived, by which it was decreed, that "he that stealeth a man, and selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall
surely be put to death:." And 'if Revelation has not aLolisned slavery positively in direct terms, it has done so in effect, commanding every man to love his neighbour as 'hfnSsfclf.
'The injustice, then, of the West Indian system is manifest from this,— that man, by right, can have no property in man: but the whole West Indian system is founded on a property in man; hence, with them, wrong must be right, and right wrong. The order of nature is perpetually reversed— the rule of eternal justice for ever violated. What is praised in Britain is execrated in the West Indies ;— • what is here the object of reward, is there the subject of punishment. - The very laws themselves are the w6rst jpart of the system, being- a violation of all law. There the innocent become the victims, and the criminals are the judges and tne legislators. Tyrants alone talk of liberty and independence, and 'those whd have the hearts of Tell and of Bruce, must either live branded as slaves, or be massacred like dogs. In Britain all presumptions are in favour rff liberty, — in the West Indies of slavery. Whoever touches the soil of Britain is free; whatever Black, without the required certificates, touches the soil of the West Indian Islands, is, according to the proper form, seized, piit into "the cage," advertised ten days, and, "if no owner or claimant appear," is sold to pay the expenses; so that, if he has no master upon his arrival, he is sure by this admirable process to find one sooner or later.'— pp. 13 -15.
Mr. Douglas proceeds to answer the inquiry. For ^KoSe fit does this miniature of hell exist? Not, according id thei^ own shewing, for that of the planters. As far back as .the. tjrenly years from 1772 to 1792, the Committee of the Jamaica ,Assembly reported, that there had been in the courge,of that -time 177 estates sold for debt, and 5.5 thrown, up; whilef at the end of that period, 92 estates remained in the hands of creditors. Their present bankrupt condition is, then, bf-fop long standing to be ascribed to anti-slavery agitation with the slightest shadow of truth. Not for the profit of the Bristol merchants. The merchant, for the most part, prefers the rrslt of losirig his' money, to the greatM risk 6f befcimitig the proprietor of the mortgaged plantation.
• If, then,' toHitimieis Mr. BoWglas, 'neither the planters' tibt the merchants are gainers" by the colonial system, is Britain a gained?' If squandering Kre and niohey be a gain to her, — if adding to her taxes, and providing graves for her soldiers, — if becoming a party to wrongs which are crying to Heaven for vengeance, be gain to Britain, then has she foirnd in the West Indies an inexhaustible treasure. If it be for her advantage to uphold a body of men ready to plead for every abuse, so that their own enormities may remain untouched, such a corps she has had during many a sitting of Parliament. It is to be hoped, under a reformed Parliament, the case is different; but it'was formerly calculated that the West India interest alone supplied fiftysix members of the House of Commons, the well-disciplined phalanx,
Vol. IX. — N.S. x x
the constant advocates, of corruption, ready to support any ministry that would connive at their violation of all 1aws divine and human.
'While things continued in this state, little could be hoped from the British Legislature; but now that public opinion is allowed to bear upon the election of members of Parliament—now that the public voice possesses the means of commanding attention—we may hope that a speedy end will be put to this most absurd and cruel waste of British blood and treasure in the West Indies.
'No folly could be equal to the folly of Britain, to say nothing of inhumanity, if the present ruinous system is continued even during the course of another year;—it is the supineness of the British nation alone that can permit to slavery a longer existence, and can suffer her own burdens to be increased, in order to enable the planters to continue to extort a prolongation of their present ruinous misgovernment, out of the aggravated wrongs of the wretched Africans.
'The most extravagant individuals find their vices the most costly of their luxuries, and nations are most impoverished by their political crimes. The West Indies have proved one great source of debt and expenditure to Britain. We may depend upon it, that nothing but the bounties and protections granted year after year upon West Indian produce, could have enabled the slave-holder to compete with the labour of free men in the East Indies, and on the African coasts. It is out of the pockets of this nation, heavily as we are taxed, and grievously as we complain of our burdens, that the money comes, which enables the West Indian planter, with his monopoly and bounties, to resist the natural effects of that universal law which doo'ms to unproductiveness the labour of slaves, and curses with barrenness, the soil, however fertile, where the labourer is deprived of his just share of the produce. Had slave-labour in the West Indies been left to the untroubled laws of nature, shivery would by this time have died a natural death throughout the British colonies. But Britain intercepts this benevolent provision of the Author of Nature for the emancipation of slaves; and, by bounties and taxes, wrung out of the productive labour of free men, prevents the unproductiveness of compulsory labour from telling to its full extent in favour of the slaves; while two-elevenths of her whole military force go to the maintenance of that unjust and inhuman tyranny, usurped by a handful of white men over thousands of their fellow creatures.
'By an elaborate and moderate computation, the military and naval expenses of maintaining the West India Islands in a state of slavery, especially if the Mauritius and the Cape are added, cannot fall short of two millions sterling annually. The duties and drawbacks on sugar have been estimated, with equal care, at one million two hundred thousand pounds sterling; and, if we add the loss that we suffer from excluding the productions of the richest countries of the east, the total amount of Britain's loss cannot possibly be much overstated at four millions a-year. When England is so anxious about economy, that even the reduction of a few thousands a-year is esteemed a matter of great moment, and members are forced to make all sorts of excuses to their constituents for not voting in favour of any measure which would produce a saving of even an inconsiderable gum, shall four millions a-year be quietly suffered to be wasted, and wasted upon a system alike destructive of British property and British life?
'The loss of money, however, be it ever so great, cannot compare with the cruel waste of life occasioned by sending our soldiers to those pestilential regions, whose very atmosphere is, in many cases, death to the uninured whites, and certain loss of health to all. In 1826, of the eighty-three regiments then in the British service, twenty were placed in the West Indies, being only three less than the number of those which were then stationed in distracted Ireland, (excluding the reserve corps,) and only six less than are in Ireland at this present eventful crisis. While twenty regiments were required for the West Indies, nine were deemed sufficient for Britain. If we inquire, against •what enemy so large a force was accumulated, we find the West Indies threatened with no danger from without; their only danger was from within. The British fleet had possession of the sea; Britain was at peace with the world; but slavery could not be maintained without the presence of a force, which might have spread the influence of Britain over the farthest east, but which, without a battle or an enemy, was wasting away under the influence of a West Indian climate.
'In June 1829, when Parliament ordered the returns to be laid before them of the mortality of our army in the West Indies, those returns were withheld; and Parliament acquiesced in the non-production of them, on the implied understanding that they contained details too horrible to meet the public eye.
'The then Secretary of War, Sir Henry Hardinge, was reported to have said, that the inspection of these returns would "be too horrifying for the public." What, then, are we to think of the iron nerves of those rulers who can calmly surrender their fellow-citizens to evils too horrible to be contemplated?
'Will the Secretary of War exult in having nerves to execute that, which the body of the nation are not supposed to have nerves to bear the recital of? But has Britain much cause to rejoice in rulers who possess so extraordinary a pre-eminence above their fellow citizens, in the intrepidity with which they can contemplate human life unprofitably squandered away? Anxiously, however, as they were concealed, a part of those horrors have transpired. The then Secretary of War is understood to have allowed that, out of three regiments, consisting of 2700 men, sent to one of the islands, one-third had perished in one season! If the choice had been offered to those unfortunate regiments to decline the duty, on the condition of having every third man of them shot upon the spot, they would have been gainers, had they preferred the horrible alternative. They would have been spared the Erevious pangs of wasting sickness, they would have died in their own md, and in the sight of their friends, bedewed with their tears, and buried by their hands. Nor let us suppose that the loss of these regiments was limited to a third. Death did not cease his work the following years, though his havock may be most dreadful on the first. Who more might have perished, or what feeble remnants of these devoted regiments might have returned to their country, is known only to the Secretary of War, and those of hi* colleague* who have nerves to face the greatness of the disaster. No doubt, if the present colonial system were abolished, we might still be obliged to keep up some military force in the West Indies, but a much less might suffice, and the regiments might mainly consist of blacks, upon whom the climate does not produce such baleful effects, and who might relieve the white troops of the most wasting part of their duty; but, while slavery exists, so large a white force is absolutely necessary to maintain the system of compulsory labour and the lash.
'The planters, ind«ed, jn their rage against our legislature, for the very moderate restrictions it has attempted1 from time to time to impose upon their cruelties, talk loudly of asserting their independence. How capable they are of doing so, is abundantly evident from the fact, that when, upon an alarm of insurrection, they flew to arms, their bullets were found not to have been adapted to the bore of their guns; and, upon another occasion, they were forced to entreat a British vessel accidentally lying off the coast, to come near to the shore, that the terror of her cannon might nwe into obedience the slaves, whom they had it no£ in their power to reduce to submission by their own efforts. These are the men who threaten to shake off the British yoke, and are enraged at the mention of any interference between them and their property! When they talk of .rising against Britain over their sangaree, no wonder their slaves talk of rising against them. Without the arm'of power which Britain has stretched over them, it stands to reason that a handful of white men could not have restrained thousands of blacks from asserting the natural rights of humanity; and, but for her ill-judged bounties and protections, they must long since have thrown up their plantations in despair. There arc not, two thousand sugar planters, and they receive one million two .hundred thousand poirnds of British money, to enable thqm to set the laws both of natnre and humanity at defiance. These magnificent paupers, by the help of Britain, can at once evade .the benevolent provision^ of Nature, and'blaspheme the hand that feeds them; for a part of their pensirtns are allotted to a secret fund, whieh rewards the hired invective, calumnv, and falsehood, of the advocates of slavery in Britain.—pp. 17- 24
We will not offend our readers by offering any apology for the length of these citations. Should the language be thought by any person too strong, Mr. Douglas is able to answer for himself. We must transcribe one more paragraph from this part of the address.
VI •".'•.. i . . • -I -'
•' We pray for immediate abolition, because gradual emancipation is now' out of the question. The .planters .themselves have solved the difficulty; they have left us no alternative between immediate emancipation, or certain insurrection. Gradual, means step by step, but the planters will not take the first step towards emancipating the Negroes.
'EJdncation and religion are the preparatory measures which have long been pointed mit as the safest and surtest mode of fitting the slaves f6r the blessing of freedom. Education.'however, (except teaching