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expressed, that the remaining term of the apprenticeship should be
cancelled, that the excitement produced by a law which has done
inconceivable harm in Jamaica, in alienating the affections of her
people, and creating discord and disaffection, should at once cease.
Thank God! it is now nearly at an end, and we trust that Jamaica will
enjoy that repose, so eagerly and anxiously sought after, by all who
wish the Island well."

These facts come down upon the question of the safety of an _immediate_
emancipation with an _a fortiori_, a _much more then_. For it is
admitted on all hands that the apprenticeship had "alienated the
affections of the people;" they were in a state less favorable to a
quiet sequel, than they were before the first of August, 1834, yet the
danger was not thought of. The _safety_ was an argument _in favor_ of
emancipation, not _against_ it. The raw head and bloody bones had
vanished. The following is a fair exhibition of the feeling of the most
influential planters, in regard to the _safety_ of the step.

From the Barbadian, May 9, 1838.

AT A MEETING OF THE BOARD OF LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL, IN THE NEW COURT
HOUSE, APRIL 24TH, 1838.

The Lord Bishop rose and spoke as follows:

"_Mr. President, and Gentlemen of the Council_,

'I was informed yesterday that, during my absence from this island, the
members recorded their opinion as to the expediency of absolutely
abolishing the apprenticeship in August, 1838. I am most anxious to
record my entire concurrence in this resolution, but I wish it to be
understood that I do not consider the measure as called for by any
hardships, under which the laborers in this island are suffering - nor
from the want of any essential comfort - nor from the deprivation of any
thing, which a laborer can fairly claim from his master; still I do
express my concurrence in the resolution of the board, and I do so on
these grounds: that I am satisfied the measure can be safely carried in
this island, and if safely, then I feel justly; for I consider the very
important interests which are involved in the measure. I must confess,
too, that I am unwilling the Barbados should be behind any other island,
especially in a measure which may be carried both safely and justly, and
where its example may be of such beneficial consequence. I am just
returned from visiting the Northern Islands of the Diocese. I have gone
over every part of Tortola, and though it is far more fertile than the
Off Islands, yet even these are sufficiently productive for the laborer
to raise the lesser and necessary provision of life, - and yet with these
islands in their very face, the Legislature of Tortola has passed the
act of abolition. Some of the proprietors were opposed to it, but they
have now given up their opposition; and I heard, whilst in Antigua, not
only that the act had passed, but that on the day of its passing, or the
following day, some of the leading proprietors rode through the island,
and were met by the people with expressions of the utmost gratitude,
regarding the act as a boon granted to them by their masters. At Nevis
the act has passed. At St. Christopher's the council are in favor of its
passing, and with Nevis emancipated in its vicinity, there is little
doubt but the Act must pass. At Montserrat also it has passed. At
Antigua, which I visited last year, I found that every thing was
proceeding quietly and regularly. I found too, the planters in high
spirits, and some estates, which had been given up, restored; and the
small patches and tenements of the free people, commencing last year,
now in a very satisfactory state of cultivation. It is possible, indeed,
that these last mentioned, unless the population is proportionably
increased, may affect the cultivation of the larger estates, but there
they are, and flourishing, as I have described, whilst I was in the
island. A contiguous, though abandoned estate was purchased by Sir Henry
Martin for about 9,500 _l._ currency, being 3,000 _l._ more than he had
offered a few years previously. To compare Barbados with any other
island, either as to population, wealth, or state of agriculture, is
unnecessary. I have seen nothing like the commercial activity which I
saw in the streets yesterday, except at St. Thomas; and I feel,
therefore, on all these grounds, that the act may be passed safely and
justly. At the same time I am not unmindful or insensible to the state
of public opinion in the mother country, nor to the many new and
harassing annoyances to which the proprietors may be exposed during a
protracted continuance of the apprenticeship. I request that my full
concurrence in the resolution of the council, may be accorded on the
minutes of this day's proceedings.'"

Such is the testimony of a witness in no wise warped by prejudice in
favor of the anti-slavery party.

The debates which took place in the legislatures of both Barbados and
Jamaica, are full of similar testimony, uttered by men every way
qualified to bear witness, and under influences which relieve their
testimony from every taint of suspicion.

In the legislature of Jamaica, on the question of a Committee to bring
in a Bill, Mr. GOOD remarked, "He could say that the negroes from their
general good conduct were deserving of the boon. Then why not give in
with a good heart? why exhibit any bad feelings about the matter? There
were many honorable gentlemen who had benefitted by the pressure from
without, who owed their rank in society and their seats in that house to
the industry of the negroes. Why should they now show a bad heart in the
matter? - Nine tenths of the proprietors of this island had determined
upon giving up the apprenticeship. Hundreds of thousands were to be
benefited - were to take their stations as men of society, and he hoped
the boon would not be retarded by a handful of men who owed their all
to slavery."

Mr. Dallas said, - "_The abolition of the remaining term of
apprenticeship must take place; let them then join hand and heart in
doing it well, and with such grace as we now could. Let it have the
appearance of a boon from ourselves, and not in downright submission to
the coercive measures adopted by the British Parliament_."

After a committee had been appointed to prepare and bring in a Bill for
the abolition of the apprenticeship, a member rose and proposed that the
28th of June should be its termination. We give his speech as reported
in the Jamaica papers, to show how fanatical even a slaveholder
may become.

"On the members resuming their seats, Mr. HART proposed that it be an
instruction to the committee appointed to bring in the bill or
abolishing the remainder of the apprenticeship, to insert a clause in
it, that the operation of that bill should commence on the 28th of June,
that being the day appointed for the coronation of the Queen. _He felt
proud in telling the house that he was the representative of the black
population. He was sent there by the blacks and his other friends_. The
white Christians had their representatives, the people of color had
their representatives, and _he hoped shortly to see the day when the
blacks would send in their own representatives_. He wanted the thing
done at once, Sir, said the honorable member waxing warm. It was
nonsense to delay it. It could be done in three lines as he said before,
dele 1840 and put in 1838. That was all that they had to do. If it were
possible, let the thing be done in two words. He went there to do his
duty to his constituents, and he was determined to do so. His black
friends looked up to him to protect them - and he would press his motion
that all the apprentices in the island should be _crowned_ on the 28th
of June. (Thundering roars of laughter.) He was as independent as any
honorable member, and would deliver his sentiment, without caring who
were and who were not pleased. He was possessed of property in
apprentices - _he had an estate with nearly two hundred negroes, that he
was determined to crown on the 28th of June_. (Increased roars of
laughter in the house, and at the bar.) He would not be laughed down.
His properties were not encumbered. He would not owe anything on them
after they were paid for, and that he could do. (Loud laughter.) He was
determined to have his opinion. As he had said before, the 28th day of
June being fixed for the coronation of all the negroes in the island,
that is the day they ought to be released from the apprenticeship.
(Thundering and deafening roars of laughter). (Here the honorable member
was told that the Queen was to be crowned on that day.) Ah, well, he had
made a mistake, but he would tell the house the truth, _he had made up
his mind to give his apprentices freedom on that day, but he did not
wish to do it without his neighbors doing the same, lest they should say
he was setting a bad example_. He would press his motion to a division.
It had been seconded by his honorable friend on his right. - (Aside,
"Good, didn't you promise to second it?") The honorable member then read
his motion, and handed it up to the clerk."

The "mistake" of this liberal descendant of Israel, which excited so
much merriment was, after all, not a very unfortunate one, _if_ the
"crown" of manhood is more important than that of monarchy. The members
objected to so near an approach to _immediatism_, not, however, be it
remarked, on account of the unfitness of the apprentices, (slaves) but
their own convenience. Among those who replied to Mr. Hart, was Mr.
Osborn, of unmingled African blood, born a slave, and who, we are
informed, was a successful competitor for the seat he now occupies
against the very man who formerly claimed him as property. Mr. Osborn
and his partner Mr. Jordon were editors of the Jamaica Watchman, and had
contended manfully for liberty when it was a dangerous word. Mr. Osborn
said: - "He was astonished at the galloping liberality which seemed to
have seized some honorable members, now there was nothing to contend
for. Their liberality seemed to have outrun all prudence. Where were
they and their liberality when it was almost death to breach the
question of slavery? What had become of their philanthropy? But no, it
was not convenient then. The stream was too strong for them to resist.
Now, however, when the question was finally settled, when nothing
remained for them to do, it was the time that some honorable gentlemen
began to clamor their liberality, and began a race who should be the
first, or who should have the honor of first terminating the
apprenticeship. He hoped the motion would be withdrawn, and the
discussion put an end to."

What had become of the visions of blood and slaughter? Could there be
more impressive testimony to the safety of Emancipation in all, even the
worst cases?

We might add to this testimony that of the universal newspaper press of
the British West India colonies. We have room, however, to select only
from a few of the well known opponents of freedom.

"We seriously call upon our representatives to consider well all the
bearings of the question, and if they cannot resist effectually these
encroachments of the Imperial Government, adopt the remaining
alternative of saving themselves from an infliction, by giving up at
once and entirely, the bone of contention between us. Thus only shall we
disarm, if anything in reason or in nature can, our enemies of their
slanderous weapons of offence, and secure in as far as possible, a
speedy and safe return of peace and prosperity to the "distracted"
colony. - Without this sacrifice on our parts, we see no shelter from our
sufferings - no amelioration of present wrongs - no hope for the future;
but on the contrary, a systematic and remorseless train laid for the
ultimate ruin of every proprietor in the country. With this sacrifice
which can only be to any extent to a few and which the wisdom of our
legislature may possibly find out some means or other of compensation,
we have the hope that the sunshine of Jamaica's prosperity shall not
receive any farther diminution; but shall rather dawn again with renewed
vigor; when all shall be alike free under the protection of the same
law, and the same law-givers; and all shall be alike amenable to the
powers that punish without favor and without affection." - _Jamaica
Standard_.

"There is great reason to expect that many Jamaica proprietors will
anticipate the period established by the Slavery Abolition Act for the
termination of the apprenticeship. They will, as an act of grace, and
with a view to their future arrangements with their negroes, terminate
the apprenticeship either of all at once, or by giving immediate freedom
to the most deserving; try the effect of this gift, and of the example
afforded to the apprentices when they see those who have been discharged
from the apprenticeship working on the estates for wages. If such a
course is adopted, it will afford an additional motive for inducing the
Legislature to consider whether the good feeling of the laboring
population, and their future connection with their former employers, may
not be promoted by permitting them to owe to the grace of their own
Legislature the termination of the apprenticeship as soon as the
requisite legislation for the new state of things has been
adopted." - _Jamaica Despatch_.

Of such sort as this is the testimony from all the Colonies, most
abundantly published in the Emancipator and other abolition papers, to
the point of the _safety_ of entire Emancipation. At the time when the
step was taken, it was universally concluded that so far from being
dangerous it promised the greatest safety. It would not only put an end
to the danger apprehended from the foreign interference of the
abolitionists, but it would _conciliate the negroes_! And we are not
able to find any one who professes to be disappointed with the result
thus far. The only evil now complained of, is the new freemen do not in
some instances choose _to work_ on the _terms_ offered by the planters.
They have shed no man's blood. They have committed no depredation. They
peaceably obey the laws. All this, up to the latest date, is universally
admitted. Neither does any one _now_ presume to prophesy anything
different for the future.

INDUSTRY.

On the one topic of the industry of the Emancipated people, the West
Indian papers give the most conflicting accounts. Some represent them as
laboring with alacrity, diligence and effect wherever anything like an
adequate compensation is offered. It is asserted by some, and not denied
by any authorities that we have seen, that the emancipated are
industriously at work on those estates where the masters voluntarily
relinquished the apprenticeship before the first of August and met their
freed people in good faith. But most of the papers, especially in
Jamaica, complain grievously that the freed people will work on no
reasonable terms. We give a fair specimen from one of the Jamaica
papers, on which our political editors choose most to rely for their
information: -

"In referring to the state of the country this week, we have still the
same tale to tell of little work, and that little indifferently done,
but exorbitantly charged for; and wherever resisted, a general "strike"
is the consequence. Now this, whatever more favourable complexion the
interested and sinister motives of others may attempt to throw around
it, is the real state of matters upon nine-tenths of the properties
situated in St. James's, Westmoreland, and Hanover. In Trelawny they
_appear_ to be doing a little better; but that only arises, we are
confident from the longer purses, and patience of endurance under
exorbitant wages, exhibited by the generality of the managers of that
parish. Let them wait till they find they can no longer continue making
sugar at its present expensive rate, and they will then find whether
Trelawny is substantially in a better condition than either of the other
parties." - _Standard, quoted in the Morning Journal of Nov. 2_.

This is the "tale" indeed, of a great part of the West India papers,
sung to the same hum drum tune ever since the first of August; and so
faithfully echoed by our own pro slavery press that many of our
estimable fellow citizens have given it up that the great "experiment"
has turned out unfavorably, and that the colored population of the West
Indies are rapidly _sinking_ from the condition of _slaves_ to that of
idle freemen. Were we all in a position perfectly disinterested and
above the peculiar influence of slavery, we might perhaps consider these
complaints as asking for, rather than against, the character of the
Emancipated and the cause of freedom, inasmuch as they prove the former
slaves to have both the discretion and the spirit which should
characterise freemen. But to the peculiar optics which abound in these
United States it may be necessary to show the entire picture.

To prove in the first place the general falsehood of the complaints
themselves it is only necessary to advert to recent official documents.
For our present purpose it will be sufficient to refer to Jamaica. The
legislature was convened on the 30th of October and addressed by the
Governor Sir Lionel Smith in a speech of which the following extract
pertains to our subject: -

_"Gentlemen of the Council, Mr. Speaker, and Gentlemen of the House
of Assembly,_

The most important event in the annals of colonial history has taken
place since last I had the pleasure of meeting the legislature of
this Island; and I am happy in being able to declare that the
conduct of the laboring population, who were then the objects of
your liberal and enlightened policy, _entitles them to the highest
praise, and amply proves how_ WELL THEY HAVE DESERVED _the boon
of freedom._

It was not to be expected that the total extinction of the
apprenticeship law would be followed by an instantaneous return to
active labor, but feeling as I do the deepest interest in the
successful result of the great measurement now in progress, I
sincerely congratulate you and the country at large, on the
improvement which is daily taking place on the resumption of
industrious habits, and I TRUST THERE IS EVERY PROSPECT OF
AGRICULTURAL PROSPERITY."

Such is the testimony of a Governor who is no stranger in the West
Indies and who was put in the place of Lord Sligo as more acceptable to
the planters. But what said the House of Assembly in reply? - a House
made up chiefly of attornies who had more interest than any other men in
the continuance of the old system and who, as will presently be shown,
were not unwilling to have the "experiment" fail? They speak as
follows: -

_"May it Please your Excellency,_

We, her Majesty's dutiful and loyal subjects, the Assembly of
Jamaica, thank your Excellency for your speech at the opening of
the session.

The House join your Excellency in bearing testimony TO THE
PEACEABLE MANNER in which the laboring population have conducted
themselves in a state of FREEDOM.

It certainly was not to be expected that so great a change in the
condition of the people would be followed by an immediate return to
active labor. The House, however, are willing to believe that some
degree of improvement is taking place, and they sincerely join in
the HOPE expressed by your Excellency, that the agricultural
interests of the Island may ultimately prosper, by a resumption of
industrious habits on the part of the peasantry in their new
condition."

This settles the question. Those who will not be convinced by such
documents as these that the mass of the Emancipated in Jamaica are ready
_to do their part_ in the system of free labor, would not be convinced
if one rose from the deed to prove it.

We are now prepared to investigate the causes of the complaints, and
inquire why in numerous cases the negros have refused to work. Let us
first go back to the debates Jamaica Legislature on the passage of the
Emancipation bill in June, and see whether we can discover the _temper_
in which it was passed, and the prospect of good faith in its execution.
We can hardly doubt that some members, and some especially from whose
speeches on that occasion we have already quoted, designed really to
confer the "boon of freedom." But others spoke very differently. To
understand their language we must commence with the Governor's speech at
the opening of the session: -

_"Gentlemen of the Council,

Mr. Speaker, and Gentlemen of the Assembly,_

I have called you together, at an unusual season, to take it to your
consideration the state of the Island under the Laws of
Apprenticeship, for the labouring population.

I need not refer you to the agitation on this subject throughout the
British Empire, or to the discussions upon it in Parliament, _where
the honourable efforts of the ministry_ were barely found sufficient
to preserve the original duration of the Laws, as an obligation of
the National faith.

I shall lay before you some despatches on this subject."

* * * * *

_"Gentlemen,_

_General agitation and Parliamentary interference have not, I am
afraid, yet terminated._

_A corresponding excitement has been long going on among the
apprentices themselves,_ but still they have rested in sober and
quiet hopes, relying on your generosity, that you will extend to
them that boon which has been granted to their class in
other Colonies."

* * * * *

_"Gentlemen of the Council,

Mr. Speaker and Gentlemen of the Assembly,_

In this posture of affairs, it is my duty to declare my sentiments,
and distinctly to _recommend to you the early and equal abolition of
the apprenticeship for all classes._ I do so in confidence that the
apprentices will be found worthy of freedom, and that it will
operate as a double blessing, by securing also the future interests
of the planters.

I am commanded, however, to inform you that her Majesty's ministers
will not entertain any question of further compensation. But should
your views be opposed to the policy I recommend, I would entreat you
to consider well _how impracticable it will become to carry on
coercive labor_ - always difficult, it would in future be in peril of
constant comparisons with other colonies made free, and with those
estates in this island made free by individual proprietors.

As Governor, under these circumstances, and I never shrink from any
of my responsibilities, _I pronounce it physically impossible to
maintain the apprenticeship with any hope of successful agriculture._

* * * * *

"_Gentlemen of the Council,

Mr. Speaker, and gentlemen of the Assembly._

Jamaica, is in your hands - she requires repose, by the removal of a
law which has _equally tormented the laborer, and disappointed the
planter_ - a law by which man still constrains man in unnatural
servitude. This is her first exigency. For her future welfare she
appeals to your wisdom to legislate in the spirit of the times, with
liberality and benevolence towards all classes."

* * * * *

When such a man as Sir Lionel Smith pronounced it no longer practicable
to carry on coercive labor, he must have been a bold as well as a rash
planter who would venture to hold on to the old system under Lord
Glenelg's improvement Act. Accordingly we find some of the staunchest
advocates of slavery, men who had been fattening on the oppression of
the apprentices up to that moment the first, and the most precipitate,
is their proposals of abolition. Mr. Hyslop, Mr. Gay and others were for
acting at once on the Governor's speech without referring it to a
committee. The former said: "He believed that a proposition would be
made to abandon the apprenticeship from the 1st of August, _but he would
say let it be abandoned from Sunday next_. He would therefore move that
the speech be made the order of the day for tomorrow."

Mr. Guy said: -

"The Governor's speech contained nothing more than what every Gentlemen
expected, _and what every Gentlemen, he believed, was prepared to do. In
short he_ would state that _a bill had already been prepared by him,
which he intended to introduce tomorrow, for the abolition of the
apprenticeship on the 1st of August next_."

Both these gentlemen are well known by the readers of Jamaica papers as



Online LibraryAmerican Anti-Slavery SocietyThe Anti-Slavery Examiner, Part 2 of 4 → online text (page 48 of 75)