England) African Institution (London.

A review of the colonial slave registration acts, in a report of a committee of the Board of Directors of the African Institution, made on the 22d of February, 1820, and published by order of that board online

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Online LibraryEngland) African Institution (LondonA review of the colonial slave registration acts, in a report of a committee of the Board of Directors of the African Institution, made on the 22d of February, 1820, and published by order of that board → online text (page 1 of 9)
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PARLIAMENTARY PAPERS, containing the Official Copies of the

Acts reviewed 3


FIRST GENERA*. DIVISION.- The Provisions which respect the
Organization of the different Registries, pp. 8 24. viz.

1. Salaries and Fees of the Registrars 9

2. Public Offices for the Purposes of the Registries 20

3. Preparation of the Register Books ' 23

SECOND GENERAL DIVISION. The Provisions which prescribe and

regulate the positive Duties of Individuals and Public
Officers, in regard to the Registration; the Returns and
their Enrolment, and the Transmission of Copies, or Abstracts
to England, pp. 2496. viz.

1. Distinction between Plantation and Personal Slaves, &c 24

2. Personal Descriptions and Identification of the Slaves returned 34

3. Authentication of the Returns, Books, &c 44

4. Good Effects of a Slave Registry regarded as a Census of the

Black Population 57

6. Remarks on the Inaccuracy of former Population Accounts

from Jamaica 59

6. Important new Discoveries, as to the Proportion of the Sexes

in Jamaica and other Colonies 67

7. Transmission of Copies or Abstracts of the Registeied Re-

turns to England 80

8. Limitation of some Acts in point of Duration 91

THIRD GENERAL DIVISION. The Sanctions by which Obedience to

the Register Laws is promoted or enforced, pp.96 120. viz.

1. Avoidance of Conveyances of Unregistered Slaves 99

2. Non-registration Evidence of Freedom 102

3. Registration necessary Evidence of Property 112

4. Ill Effects of the great Number and Diversity of these Laws 122

Anticipations of the Society in its former Report confirmed 126

Great Britain pledged to Foreign Powers to make Slave Registra-
tion effectual 128

The Statute 59 George III. cap. 120. abstracted and commended 132

Defects in that Act 134

Necessity of further Parliamentary Measures 135


of t$e African Wttttttfon*

THE following is the Report of your Committee, to
whom it was referred " to examine the Acts passed by
the Legislatures of the different Colonies in the West
Indies, for a Registration of Slaves in those Colonies,
and to report their opinion thereon to the Board."

Your Committee, on proceeding to make the
inquiry referred to them, found their progress imme-
diately arrested by the information that the papers
already presented to Parliament, and printed, would
furnish an incomplete and erroneous view of the
laws lately passed in the different colonies for the
registration of Slaves; because various other Acts
of Assembly, explanatory of the former, or intro-
ductory of new improvements, had since been passed,
and transmitted to this country for the Royav Allow-

ance, although there had not yet been time enough
for collecting and presenting to Parliament such of
them as his Majesty had allowed. Orders, however,
having been given for their being laid before each of
the two Houses of Parliament, in consequence of
Addresses for that purpose, your Committee, under
these circumstances, thought it better to suspend
their proceedings, than to prepare and submit to your
Board a Report which must have been at least im-
perfect, and which might have been thought unjust
towards the Colonial Legislatures, in noticing defects
that perhaps had been already repaired, and with-
holding from them the credit of their latest improve-

These further laws were not presented to Parliament
and printed till the month of June last ; and, before
your Committee obtained a copy of them, the par-
liamentary recess had commenced, and the Members
of the Committee were too much dispersed to be
easily convened for the purpose of proceeding upon
the extensive inquiry referred to them. It is hoped,
therefore, that the delay will be considered as an
inconvenience which has not been wilfully or need-
lessly incurred.

These laws, as now before your Committee, are con-
tained in five different collections, officially presented
to the House of Commons and printed by its order,
which it will be convenient, for the purpose of this
Report, to distinguish by so many numbers, in the

chronological order of their presentation ; and these
collections, taken together, contain all Colonial Acts
and Ordinances within the knowledge of your Com-
mittee, in any degree relating to the Registration of
Slaves. They are as follows : viz.

No. I. Papers printed by order of the House of
Commons, of 5th April 1816, entitled, " COLONIAL
LAWS RESPECTING SLAVES; " being a Return made
in pursuance of an Address of July 12th, 1815, for
copies or extracts of all such laws as had been
enacted in any of the colonies relative to the impor-
tation of Slaves, or to the protection or good govern-
ment of Slaves or People of Colour, since the year

No. II. Papers printed by order of the same
House, of 26th February 1817, entitled, " COLO-

No. III. Papers printed by order of the same
House, of the 6th June 1817, entitled, " ADDI-

No. IV. Papers numbered " IV.", and entitled,

by order of the House of Commons, of lOthJune

No. V. Papers printed by order of the same
House, of 7th June, 1819, entitled, " PAPERS


THE COLONIES" viz. Colonial Acts of Berbice,
Dominica, Grenada, Nevis, and Tobago.

To state the provisions of all these laws in detail,
with the observations which they respectively invite,
would be to extend this Report far beyond all con-
venient limits. No less than twelve different Legis-
lative Assemblies have dealt with the same subject,
according to their various views. The diversity has
been further increased by Ordinances of Governors
and Courts of Policy or other local Authorities, in
some of our lately-acquired colonies, in which Re-
presentative Assemblies have not been established.

Your Committee will therefore endeavour to
abbreviate their statements as much as possible, by
avoiding minute or unimportant discriminations; and
by classing together such laws of different colonies as
have the same general texture, or are liable in some
measure to the same general remarks.

There is now no legislative assembly, in any colony
belonging to Great Britain wherein Slavery exists
(with the exception of BERMUDA), which has not
in some measure practically recognized the necessity
or propriety of that important measure, the Registra-
tion of Slaves*.

* In the BAHAMAS the Act is not called a Register Act, and
the Assembly is understood to have expressly refused to pass
one ; but as far as a numerical census goes, the expediency of
the system is there also practically admitted.


The African Institution may thus far, therefore,
congratulate itself on the success of its labours. A
Report made to your Board in 1815, and which was
published by your order, first called the attention of
Parliament, and of the public at large, to the necessity
of effectually preventing the clandestine importation
of Slaves, and shutting out the mischievous hope of
such a resource in the sugar colonies, by means of a
public registry ; and it was in pursuance of a reso-
lution of your Board, that a Bill was brought into
Parliament for that purpose.

A violent opposition was made to the measure in
the colonies, and by their agents and other persons
connected with them in this country. Your conduct
was loudly condemned ; even your motives were
vehemently arraigned : and the measure itself was
treated by many of your opponents as not only
useless but mischievous, and in a high degree dan-
gerous to the very existence of the colonial system,
Yet in less than three years almost every West-
Indian Legislature has practically admitted that the
Register Bill, in its principle, and in most of its pro-
visions also, was right

They objected, it is true, and may still object, to
the interposition of Parliament. You, on the con-
trary, maintained that the measure neither would,
nor could, be effectually carried into execution by
any other than parliamentary authority. If the
event shall be found to have really disproved this
opinion, it will be right to acknowledge it to have


been groundless ; but you will still have reason to
rejoice in its consequences, notwithstanding all the
reproach es lavished on the Institution on account of
that fortunate mistake. The Assemblies condemn
your interference as needless and mischievous, even
in some of the laws that adopt, or profess to adopt,
your suggestions ; yet not one of these legislative
bodies, during nine years that had elapsed from the
Abolition of the Slave Trade, had at all entered on
this important work, or even provided in any way
for ascertaining the increase or decline of their
Black population, till your Report, and the intro-
duction of the Register Bill into Parliament, called
their attention to the subject. The example had
been given by his Majesty's Government in the
Registry of Trinidad ; but it had no where in any
degree been followed. Your appeal to the public
and to Parliament, therefore, can hardly now be
thought to have been superfluous.

If, indeed, the Assemblies have really accomplished
what you supposed they wanted both the will and
the power to effect, you will not be anxious to contend
for the justice or the reasonableness of the opinions
you then expressed. It will be enough for your
satisfaction, that your suggestions have certainly
given birth to the colonial Registries of Slaves ; in
other words, to the only system that can effectually
and permanently exclude the Slave Trade from the
British Colonies, and thereby lay a sure foundation
for humane improvements in the exercise of the

master's power, and in the general condition of the
Slave Population.

Your Committee, in examining the Register Acts
of the different colonies, have been naturally im-
pressed with these views; and have, therefore, per-
haps, been more in danger of being biassed by their
wishes to ascribe to them too much, than too little,
efficacy in respect of the great objects in question.
They hope, however, to avoid partiality on either
side; and fairly, though compendiously, to state, both
what the Colonial Legislatures have done, and what
they have omitted to do.

The most convenient classification of the various
provisions of the different Register Acts that has
occurred to your Committee, is to consider, First,
Those which respect the organization of the registries
themselves. Secondly, Those which prescribe and
regulate the positive duties of individuals and public
officers, in regard to the registration. Thirdly, The
sanctions by which obedience to those laws is to be
promoted or enforced.

In reviewing these different classes of enactments,
it will be useful to premise, in a general way, what,
under each class, are the provisions of the Order in
Council for establishing the Registry of Trinidad,
which was the model of the Bill brought by your
request into Parliament, that it may be seen how far
the Colonial Legislatures have conformed to that pre-


cedent, or departed from it. Departures from it, it is
admitted, are not necessarily defects. They may, per-
haps, be improvements. But a precedent, settled,
after long deliberation, by his Majesty in Council,
with the assistance of all the Law-officers of the
Crown, is well worthy of attention ; more especially
as the new system introduced by it has now stood
the test of experiment during several years, and is
said to have fully accomplished at Trinidad the im-
portant purposes for which it was designed.

The organization of the Registry of that island,
was specifically and minutely provided for by the
Order in Council. A Registrar was to be appoint-
ed, whose personal and upright discharge of the
duties of his office was secured by all the precau-
tions that legislative foresight could devise ; by oaths,
by bonds and sureties, by a liberal official income,
and by heavy penalties, including forfeiture of office, in
cases of malversation or neglect. It was thought right
also to guard him from the temptation of practising
the abuses which it was his duty to prevent, and if
possible also from the influence of those local preju-
dices and habits that were opposed to the principles
of the new law, by disqualifying him from holding,
while in possession of his office, any property or
interest in Slaves. A convenient house or building
in the principal town was set apart for the sole pur-
pose of the Registry ; and the books of record to be
kept there were described, and the manner of pre-
paring and keeping thehi regulated, with great par-

ticularity and precision. The slaves belonging to
the plantations, and those employed in the domestic
or personal service of their masters, were to be dis-
tinguished from each other by the respective names
of "plantation slaves," and "personal slaves," and
registered in different books.

The salary of the Registrar was left to the dis-
cretion of the Crown ; but his fees were appointed
by the Order in Council *.

* Viz. For office copies of the Registered Returns, at the
rate of one penny sterling for each Slave ; for every certificate
of extracts or entries in the register books, ten shillings ; and
two shillings for every hundred words beyond the first hundred
in any such extract ; and five shillings for every search made in
the Registry.

It is not immaterial to state what the produce of these fees
has been in Trinidad, where the number of registered Slaves is
known, because it will furnish a ratio for estimating the suffi-
ciency of the fees allowed by the several Acts now under review ;
and your Committee are enabled to state from an authentic
document, being a return made by the Registrar on oath, that
the whole gross produce of his fees during the six years
that had elapsed since the formation of the Registry, viz. from
18ia to 1818, both inclusive, was 7648/. 13s. 3d., giving an
average of 1274/. 15s. 0|d. sterling. But out of this, the Re-
gistrar had to defray the salaries of his clerks, and the cost of
stationary, and all other articles, except the original and du-
plicate blank books of registry, which were purchased and
prepared at the charge of Government in this country ; and
except also the rent of his office, which has been paid from
the Colonial Treasury. They are not enabled to state what,
after these deductions, has been the net annual emolument ;
but they suppose that it cannot have exceeded 1000/. sterling ;
and has probably been considerably less.

It seems, therefore, that when to these fees, is added the salary
of 1000/. Trinidad currency, or 500/. sterling per annum, the



In all the points that have been mentioned, but
most observably in what respects the Registrar's in-

emoluments, cannot be deemed excessive, the whole not exceed-
ing 1500/. ; and this, as has been stated on good information to
your Committee, was the sum which his Majesty's Government
originally estimated as the proper amount of remuneration to a
Colonial Registrar of Slaves, an officer who has to discharge
functions of great importance and responsibility, yet of a very
delicate and invidious nature, and in which his integrity might
be exposed to dangerous temptations, unless he were guarded
by external respectability, and placed in perfect independency
of the community in which he lives. When the formidable risks
of the climate are also taken into the account, it seems clear
that an income of much less than 1500/. per annum, cannot
well be expected to induce properly qualified persons, perfectly
worthy of confidence, to submit to permanent residence in the
West Indies, and to devote their time there wholly to the duties
of such an office, renouncing every other gainful employment.

Your Committee has felt the propriety of submitting to you
these facts and observations, because the emoluments of the
Registrar of Trinidad have been exaggerated by the opponents
of the Register Bill to a most extravagant degree. They have
even ventured to state them to the public as amounting to
5000/. or 6000/. sterling per annum. They were estimated at
the latter amount in a petition or memorial of the Cabildo, or
Insular Council, to the Prince Regent in 1812. Such at least,
was alleged to be the charge imposed on the island by the
Registry of Slaves.

Some of the colonial writers have founded on such exagge-
rations, not only their most specious objections to the system
in general, but even injurious imputations on its authors or pro-
moters ; as if their object had been to burden the Colonies with
a wasteful expense, for the benefit of individuals, for whom
they wished to provide by means of ministerial interest.

Unfortunately, however, for the authors of this imputation,
no Registrar of Slaves yet appointed in the Colonies has been
recommended by, or known to, the promoters of the Register


dependency, and the respectability of his office, the
Colonial Acts have widely departed from the Order
in Council.

They have, in the first place, universally omitted
the salutary disqualification of slave-holders. The
Registrar, in every colony may be, and therefore
most probably will be, a person whose own private
interests are liable to be thwarted, and in supposable
cases ruined, by a strict discharge of his official du-
ties, and whose former habits and prejudices are
strongly opposed to the principles of the Register

In the next place, the ease and independency of
this officer are sacrificed by a parsimony utterly
incompatible with both.

In some colonies, as Jamaica and the Bahamas *,
no new officer is appointed ; but the laborious and
important functions of the Registrar, or such of them
as the Acts create, are imposed upon the Secretary
of the Colony.

When it is stated, that this officer had before a

Bill ; and the nomination to the office alleged to have been so
valuable, was left by his Majesty's ministers (in consequence of
the actual want of any recommendation here) to the gentleman
on whom the Government of Trinidad had by accident devolved,
and who filled it with a private friend of his own, a planter of
the island. This gentleman was so far from being indebted to
the promoters of the measure, that the restrictions of the Order
in Council would have excluded him, if he had not immediately
sold his estate to qualify himself for the office, when unexpect-
edly offered to his choice.

* Papers, No. iv., p. II 14.


multiplicity of clerical duties, furnishing together
full employment for his time ; and a variety of other
miscellaneous employments, such as in this country
belong to a great number of different public function-
aries, no more perhaps need be said to shew the
absolute impossibility of his properly discharging the
duties of such an onerous additional office as that of
Registrar of Slaves. Yet, in Jamaica, he is required
to register all the returns, original and periodical, of
all the twenty-one parishes of the island, which,
collectively, contain by the last official returns, no
less than 345,252 Slaves ; and in the Bahamas, he
is to record such returns of the Slave Population as
are prescribed, for all the numerous islands which
that Government comprehends.

If the duties are really to be performed, the hard-
ship imposed on this old patent officer in Jamaica,
would be intolerable ; for no salary is given to com-
pensate him for these new labours, and for the serious
responsibility attached to them, nor any allowance
made for the rent of the additional rooms, or the
salaries of the additional clerks, which he must of
necessity engage.

The enormity of these defects in the Act of Ja-
maica, will appear in a more striking point of view,
if you recur to the calculations made by the Assem-
bly of that island in its Report on the Register Bill,
of December 1815, when the avowed object was
not to adopt the measure, but to condemn it alto-
gether as impracticable. The Assembly then


stated, that it would require thirty -four of the largest
books used in the Secretary's office to contain the
original registration alone, and would employ a
clerk more than six years to enter them.

It is said, but on what authority we know not,
that an excuse has been made for appointing the
Secretary to be Registrar of Slaves in Jamaica, on
the ground of his patent rights. How his old patent
can extend to a new office, instituted for a special
purpose, and on principles unknown before, it is
not easy to conceive ; nor do your Committee un-
derstand how such a right, if existing in Jamaica, has
been overlooked in other colonies, in which the
Secretary is also an old Patent Officer. But, if
there was any necessity for making the Secretary the
Registrar, there could be none for not giving him
adequate official appointments or assistants, and for
not obliging him, if he claimed the new office, to
provide a proper separate establishment for its busi-

The Bahama Act does not even allow any fees for
the extracts or certificates which the Secretary may
have to furnish, or for any other official service. In
Jamaica certain fees are allowed ; but they are such
as cannot be at all an adequate compensation for
the new duties which ought to be performed.

The other colonies, though consisting for the
most part each but of one small island, have admit-
ted the necessity of establishing a new and special
officer, to perform the duty of Registrar. The Act


of DOMINICA indeed, has imposed the duties on
the Colonial Treasurer; but in GRENADA, NEVIS,
SAINT CHRISTOPHER, &c., it has been felt, that in
professing to adopt the system of Slave Registration,
the appointment of a new special officer as Registrar,
could not be consistently withheld.

These colonies, however, have differed widely
from each other ; and still more from his Majesty's
Government, in estimating the proper remuneration
of the Registrar of Slaves.

In Nevis, this important officer is allowed for the
first year the sum of 150/. current money, being, at the
rate of exchange lately current, 751. sterling. And, lest
it should be doubted, whether that compensation was
meant to cover his highly laborious services in receiv-
ing and filing the original returns, and transcribing
them into his books of original registration, and
completing in all respects those bulky fundamental
records, it is expressly declared that the 1501. cur-
rency is given for those services ; and his remunera-
tion in all subsequent years is accordingly reduced to
100/. currency, or about 50/. sterling! ! His allow-
ances in fees are also materially less than those
which are established in Trinidad ; though, as their
average number in a given period must be less by
nearly two-thirds, the rates should rather have been
enlarged *.

* The fees are, for every search in his registry, three shillings
currency ; and for official copies of schedules, &c., at the rate
of two shillings currency for every ninety words ; and for every


It would swell this Report to an immoderate
length, if your Committee should fully state the

certificate by him given and subscribed (except the original
office copy therein before-named), nine shillings like money.
The exception is particularly hard. It refers to copies of all the
original registered returns, which he is required to give if de-
manded ; and for which additional duty also, the allowance of
75/. sterling for the first year is, expressly, to be his only com-
pensation. As proprietors must, for obvious reasons, be desirous
to possess an official document, attesting the original Registra-
tion of their Slaves, the profits arising from office-copies would
naturally be far greater in the first than in any subsequent year.
Accordingly, it appears from the Trinidad Return, before refer-
red to, that the gross amount of the Registrar's fees, in the first
year, was no less than 24541. 7s. sterling, though they averaged,
in six years, only about half that sum. But in Nevis, this

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Online LibraryEngland) African Institution (LondonA review of the colonial slave registration acts, in a report of a committee of the Board of Directors of the African Institution, made on the 22d of February, 1820, and published by order of that board → online text (page 1 of 9)