Elizabeth Coltman Heyrick.

Immediate, not gradual abolition online

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A Member of the Society of Friends.


No, 7 Carter's Alley,




The annexed pannphlet, written by Elizabeth Heyrick, of
Leicester, England, was publislied and extensively circulated
in 1824. It proved greatly advantageous to the cause of Eman-
cipation in the British West Indies. Until this tinne, Wilber-
FORCE and the other leading- abolitionists in Great Britain, had
directed all their energy to^^s the abolition of the Slave
^J^L. Stl^' Trade, under an impression^iat when this was accomplished
I*— 1,^ the evils of slavery would be gradually mitigated, and the

"^ . *!' whole system would soon' come to an end; — in a word, they

/^f-^^^' -were gradualists. This pamphlet changed their views ; they
jd>.*^^ now attacked slavery as a sin to be forsaken immediately^ and.
'^ / - the result is known. A limited edition was published that
Ct-L"-"' same year in this city, and within the sphere of its circulation
excited so much feeling and interest, as induces the belief that a re-
publication will be attended with very beneficial consequences.
A third edition is now offered to the American public. It is
commended to the attentive, serious perusal of the reader, as the
y, same principles and duties that apply to slavery in the West
Indies, are equally applicable to that which exists in the United



ABOLITION, &c. &c.
— K^5t^ —

It is now seventeen 3^ears since the Slave Trade was
abolished by the Government of this country — but Slavery
is still perpetuated in our West India Colonies, and the
horrors of the Slave Trade aie aggravated rather than
mitigated. By making it felony for British subjects to be
concerned in that inhuman traffic, England has only trans-
ferred her share of it to other countries. She has, indeed,
by negotiation and remonstrance, endeavoured to persuada
them to follow her example. But has she succeeded ?
How should she, while there is so little consistency in her
conduct ? Who will listen to her pathetic declamations on
the injustice and cruelty of the Slave Trade, whilst she
rivets the chains upon her own slaves, and subjects them
to all the injustice and cruelty which she so eloquently
deplores, when her own interest is no longer at stake ?
Before we can have any rational hope of prevailing on our
guilty neighbours to abandon this atrocious commerce, —
to relinquish the gain of oppression, — the wealth ob-
tained by rapine and violence, — by the deep groans, the
bitter anguish of our unoffending fellow creatures ; — we
must purge ourselves from these pollutions : — we must
break the iron yoke from off the neck of our own slaves,
and let the wretched captives in our own islands go
free. Then, and not till then, we shall speak to the sur-
rounding nations with the all-commanding eloquence of
sincerity and truth; and our persuasions will be backed



by the irresistible argument of consistent example. But
to invite others to be just and merciful whilst we grasp in
our own hands the rod of oppression, — to solicit others to
relinquisli the wages of iniquity whilst we are putting
them into our own pockets — what is it but cant and hy-
pocrisy ? Do such preachers of justit-e and mercy ever
make converts ? On the contrary, do they not render
themselves ridiculous and contemptible ?

But let us, individually^ bring this great question closely
home to our own bosoms. We that hear, and read, and
approve, and applaud the powerful appeals, the irrefragi-
ble arguments against the Slave Trade, and against Slave-
ry, — are we ourselves sincere, or hypocritical? Are we
the true friends of justice, or do we only cant about it?
To which party do ice really belong ? — to the friends of
emancipation, or of perpetual slavery ? Every individual
belongs to one party or the other ; not speculatively,
or professionally merely, but practically. The perpetua-
tion of Slavery in our West India colonies, is not an ab-
f stract question, to be settled between the Government and
[ the Planters, — it is a question in which we are all impli-
j cated ; we are all guilty, (with shame and compunction
t let us admit the opprobrious truth,) of supporting and per-
\_j)etuating slavery. The West Indian planter and the peo-
ple of this country, stand in the same moral relation to
each other, as the thief and the receiver of stolen goods.
The planter refuses to set his wretched captive at liberty —
treats him as a beast of burden — compels his reluctant,
unremunerated labour under the lash of the cart whip —
why ? — because we furnish the stimulant to all this injus-
tice, rapacity, and cruelty, by purchasing its produce.
Heretofore, it may have been thoughtlessly and uncon-
sciously, but now this palliative is removed ; the veil of
ignorance is rent aside ; the whole nation must now divide
itself into the active supporters and the active opposers of
slavery ; there is no longer any ground for a neutral party
to stand upon.

The state of slavery in our West Indian Islands, is now
become notorious ; the secret is out ; the justice and hu-


manity, the veracity also, of slave owners, is exactly
ascertained ; the credit due to their assertions, that their
slaves are better fed, better clothed, — are more comforta-
ble, more happy than our English peasantry, is now uni-
versally understood. The tricks and impostures practised
by the colonial assemblies, to hoodwink the people, to
humbug the government, and to bamboozle the saints, (as
the friends of emancipation are scornfully termed,) have
all been detected, and the cry of the nation has been raised,
from one end to the other, against this complicated system
of knavery and imposture, of intolerable oppression, of
relentless and savage barbarity.

But is all this knowledge to end in exclamations, in pe-
titions, and remonstrances ? Is there nothing to be donCy
as well as said ? Are there no tests to prove our sincerity,
no sacrifices to be offered in confirmation of our zeal?
Yes, there is one, (but it is in itself so small and insignifi-
cant, that it seems almost burlesque to dignify it with the
name of sacrifice) — it is abstinence from the use of ,
West Indian productions, sugar especially, in the culti- i
vation of which slave labour is chiefly occupied. Small,
however, and insignificant as the sacrifice may appear, it
would, at once, give the death blow to West Indian slavery.
When there is no longer a market for the productions of
slave labour, then, and not till the?!, will the slaves be

Many had recourse to this expedient about thirty years
ago, when the public attention was so generally roused to
the enormities of the Slave Trade. But when the trade
was abolished by the British legislature, it was too readily
concluded that the abolition of slavery, in the British dO'
minions, would have been an inevitable consequence;
this species of abstinence was therefore unhappily discon-

" But (it will be objected) if there be no market for
West India produce, the West Indian proprietors will be
ruined, and the slaves, instead of being benefited, will
perish by famine." Not so, — the West Indian proprie-
tors understand their own interests better. The market,



though shut to the productions of slave labour, would still
be open to the productions o( free labour, and the planters
are not such devoted worshippers of slavery as to make a
voluntary sacrifice of their own interests upon her altar;
they will not doom the soil to perpetual barrenness rather
than suffer it to be cultivated by free men. It has been
abundantly proved that voluntary labour is more produc-
tive, more advantageous to the employer, than compulso-
ry labour. The experiments of the venerable and philan-
thropic Joshua Steele, have established the fact beyond all
doubt ; but the planter shuts his eyes to such facts, though
clear and evident as the sun at noon day. None are so
blind as those who ivill not see. The conviction, then,
must be forced upon these infatuated men. It is often
asserted, that slavery is too deeply rooted an evil to be
eradicated by the exertions of any principle less potent and
active than 5e//'-m^eres^; if so, the resolution to abstain
from West Indian produce, would bring this potent and
active principle into the fullest operation, — would compel
the planter to set his slaves at liberty.*

But were such a measure to be ultimately injurious to
the interest of the planter, that consideration ought not to
weigh a feather in the scale against emancipation. The
slave has a right to his liberty, a right which it is a crime
to withhold, let the consequences to the planters be what
they may. If I have been deprived of my rightful inheri-
tance, and the usurper, because he has long kept posses-
sion, asserts his right to the property of which he has
defrauded me ; are my just claims to it at ail weakened
by the boldness of his pretensions, or by the plea that
restitution would impoverish and involve him in ruin ?
And to what inheritance, or birthright, can any mortal
have pretensions so just, (until forfeited by crime) as to
liberty ? What injustice and rapacity can be compared to
that which defrauds a man of his best earthly inheritance,
tears him from his dearest connexions, and condemns him

*It has been ascertained, that the abstinence of one-tenth of the inhabi-
tants of tliis country from West Indian sugar, would abolish W'est Indian
slavery .


and his posterity to the degradation and misery of intermi-
nable slavery ?

In the great question of emancipation, the interests of
two parties are said to be involved, — the interest of the
slave and that of the planter. But it cannot for a moment
be imagined that these two interests have an equal right to
be consulted, without confounding all moral distinctions,
all difference between real and pretended, between sub-
stantial and assumed claims. With the interest of the
planters, the question of emancipation has (properly
speaking) nothing to do. The right of the slave, and the
interest of the planter, are distinct questions ; they belong
to separate departments, to different provinces of conside-
ration. If the liberty of the slave can be secured not only
without injury, but with advantage to the planter, so much
the better, certainly ; but still the liberation of the slave
ought ever to be regarded as an independent object; and
if it be deferred till the planter is sufficiendy alive to his
own interest to co-operate in the measure, we may for
ever despair of its accomplishment. The cause of eman-
cipation has been long and ably advocated. Reason and
eloquence, persuasion and argument, have been powerfully
exerted; experiments have been fairly made, — facts broadly
stated in proof of the impolicy as well as iniquity of sla-
very, — to little purpose; even the hope of its extinction,
with the concurrence of the planter, or by any enactment
of the colonial or British legislature, is still seen in very
remote perspective, — so remote that the heart sickens at
the cheerless prospect. All that zeal and talent could
display in the way of argument, has been exerted in vain.
All that an accumulated mass of indubitable evidence
could effect in the way of conviction, has been brought to
no effect.

It is high time, then, to resort to other measures; to
ways and means more summary and effectual. Too much
time has already been lost in declamation and argument, —
in petitions and remonstrances against British slavery.
The cause of emancipation calls for something more de-
cisive, more efficient than words. It calls upon the real


friends of the poor degraded and oppressed African to
bind themselves by a solemn engagement, an irrevocable
vow, to participate no longer in the crime of keeping him
in bondage. It calls upon them to "wash their own hands
in innocency," — to abjure for ever the miserable hypoc-
risy of pretending to commiserate the slave, whilst, by
purchasing the productions of his labour, they bribe his
master to keep him in slavery. The great Apostle of the
Gentiles declared, that he would " eat no flesh whilst the
world stood, rather than make his brother to offend."
Do you make a similar resolution respecting West Indian
produce. Let your resolution be made conscientiously,
and kept inviolably; let no plausible arguments which
may be urged against it from without, no solicitations of
appetite from within, move you from your purpose, —
and in the course of a few months, slavery in the British
dominions will be annihilated.

" Yes, (it may be said) if all would unite in such a re-
solution, — but what can the abstinence of a few individuals,
or a few families do, towards the accomplishment of so
vast an object?" It can do wonders. Great eff'ects often
result from small beginnings. Your resolution will in-
fluence that of your friends and neighbours ; each of them
will, in like manner, influence their friends and neigh-
bours ; the example will spread from house to house, from
city to city, till, among those who have any claim to
humanity, there will be but one heart, and one mind, —
one resolution, one uniform practice. Thus by means
the most simple and easy, would West Indian slavery be
most safely and speedily abolished.

*' But, (it will be objected) it is not an immediate, but
a gradual emancipation, which the most enlightened and
judicious friends of humanity call for, as a measure best
calculated, in their judgment, to promote the real interests
of the slave, as well as his master ; the former, not being
in a condition to make a right use of his freedom, were it
suddenly restored to him." This, it must be admitted,
appears not only the general, but almost universal senti-
ment of the abolitionists; to oppose it, therefore, may



seem a most presumptuous, as well as hopeless attempt.
But truth and justice are stubborn and inflexible; they
yield neither to numbers or authority.

The history of emancipation in St. Domingo, and of
the conduct of the emancipated slaves for thirty years
subsequent to that event (as detailed in Clarkson's admi-
rable pamphlet, on the necessity of improving the condi-
tion of our West Indian slaves,) is a complete refutation
of all the elaborate arguments which have been artfully
advanced to discredit the design of immediate emancipa-
tion. No instance has been recorded in these important
annals, of the emancipated slaves (not the gradually,
but the immediately emancipated slaves) having abused
their freedom. On the contrary, it is frequently asserted
in the course of the narrative, that the negroes continued
to work upon all the plantations as quietly as before
emancipation. Through the whole of Clarkson's diligent
and candid investigations of the conduct of emancipated
slaves, comprising a body of more than 500,000 persons,
under a great variety of circumstances, a considerable
proportion of whom had been suddenly emancipated —
ivith all the vicious habits of slavery upon them; many
of them accustomed to the use of arms ; he has not,
throughout this vast mass of emancipated slaves, found a
single instance of had behaviour, not even a refusal to
work, or of disobedience to orders; much less, had he
heard of frightful massacres, or of revenge for past injuries,
even when they had it amply in their power. Well might
this benevolent and indefatigable abolitionist arrive at the
conclusion, " that emancipation, (why did he not say im-
mediate emancipation?) was not only practicable, but
practicable without danger." All the frightful massacres
and conflagrations which took place in St. Domingo, in
1791 and 1792, occurred during the days of slavery.
They originated, too, not with the slaves, but with the
white and coloured planters ; between the royalists and
the revolutionists, who, for purposes of mutual vengeance,
called in the aid of the slaves. Colonel Malenfant, in his
his history of the emancipation, written during his resi-



dence in St. Domingo, ridicules the notion that the ne-
groes would not work ivithout compulsion, — and asserts
that in one plantation, more immediately under his own
observation, on which more than four hundred negroes
were employed, not one in the number refused to work
after their emancipation.

In the face of such a body of evidence, the detaining
our West Indian slaves in bondage, is a continued acting
of the same atrocious injustice which first kidnapped and
tore them from their kindred and native soil, and robbed
them of that sacred unalienable right which no considera-
tions, how plausible soever, can justify the withholding.
We have no right, on any pretext of expediency or pre-
tended humanity, to say — "because you have been made
a slave, and thereby degraded and debased, — therefore, I
will continue to hold you in bondage until you have ac-
quired a capacity to make a right use of your liberty."
As well might you say to a poor wretch, gasping and
languishing in a pest-house, " here will 1 keep you, tdl I
have given you a capacity for the enjoyment of pure

You admit that th,^ vices of the slave, as well as his
miseries — his intellectual and moral, as well as corporeal
degradation are consequent on his slavery; — remove the
cause then, and the effect will cease. Give the slave his
liberty, — in the sacred name of justice, give it him at
once. Whilst you hold him in bondage, he will profit
little from your plans of amelioration. He has not, by
all his complicated injuries and debasements, been dis-
inherited of his sagacity, — this will teach him to give no
credit to your admonitory lessons — your Christian instruc-
tions will be lost upon him, so long as he both knows and
feels that his inslructers are grossly violating their own

The enemies of slavery have hitherto ruined their
cause by the senseless cry oi gradual emancipation. It
is marvellous that the wise and the good should have
suffered themselves to have been imposed upon by this
wily artifice of the slaveholder, for with him must the



project of gradual emancipation have first originated.
The slaveholder knew very well that his prey would be
secure, so long as the abolitionists could be cajoled into
a demand lor gradual instead of immediate abolition.
He knew very well that the contemplation of a gradual
emancipation, would beget a gradual indifference to
emancipation itself. He knew very well, that even the
wise and the good, may, by habit and familiarity, be
brought to endure and tolerate almost any thing. He had
caught the poet's idea, that —

" Vice is a monster of such frightful mein,
As to be hated, needs but to be seen ;
But, seen too oft, familiar with her face,
We first endure, then pity, then embrace."

He caught the idea, and knew how to turn it to advan-
tage. He knew very well, that the faithful delineation
of the horrors of West Indian slavery, would produce such
a general insurrection of sympathetic and indignant feeling,
such abhorrence of the oppressor, such compassion for
the oppressed, as must soon have been fatal to the whole
system. He knew very well, that a strong moral ferment-
ation had begun, which, had it gone forward, would soon
have purified the nation from the foulest of its corruptions;
that the cries of the people for emancipation would have
been too unanimous, and too importunate for the Govern-
ment to resist, and that slavery would, long ago, have
been exterminated throughout the British dominions. Our
example might have spread from kingdom to kingdom,
from continent to continent, and the slave trade and slave-
ry might by this time have been abolished all the world
over : " A sacrifice of a sweet savour," might have as-
cended to the Great Parent of the Universe,- " His king-
dom might have come, and his will (thus far) have been
done on earth, as it is in Heaven."

But this GRADUAL ABOLITION has been the grand marplot ^^
of human virtue and happiness ; the very master-piece I
of Satanic policy. By converting the cry for immediate,
into gradual emancipation, the prince of slaveholders


" transformed himself, with astonishing dexterity, into an
angel of light," and thereby " deceived the very elect."
He saw very clearly, that if public justice and humanity,
especially, if Christian justice and humanity, could be
brought to demand only a gradual extermination of the
enormities of the slave system ; if they could be brought
to acquiesce^ but for one year, or for one month, in the
slavery of our African brother, in robbing him of all the
rights of humanity, and degrading him to a level with the
brutes ; that then they could imperceptibly be brought to
acquiesce in all this for an unlimited duration. He saw
very clearly that the time for the extermination of slavery,
was precisely that, when its horrid impiety and enormity
were first distinctly known and strongly felt. He
knew that every moment's unnecessary delay, between the
discovery of an imperious duty, and the setting earnestly
about its accomplishment, was dangerous, if not fatal to suc-
cess. He knew that strong excitement was necessary to
strong effort; that intense feeling was necessary to stimulate
intense exertion ; that, as strong excitement and intense
feeling are generally transient, in proportion to their
strength and intensity, the most effectual way of crush-
ing a great and virtuous enterprise, was to gain time, to
defer it to " a more convenient season, when the zeal and
ardour of the first convictions of duty had subsided; when
our sympaties had become languid; when considerations
of the difficulties and hazards of the enterprise, the solici-
tations of ease and indulgence, should have chilled the
warm glow of humanity, quenched the fervid heroism of
virtue ; when familiarity with relations of violence and
outrage, crimes and miseries, should have abated the horror
of their first impression, and, at length, induced indiffer-

The father of lies, the grand artificer of fraud and im-
posture, transformed himself, therefore, on this occasion,
pre-eminently " into an angel of light," and deceived, not
the unwary only, the unsuspecting multitude, but the wise
and the good, by the plausibility, the apparent force, the
justice, and above all, by the humanity of the arguments



propounded for gradual emancipation. He is the subtilest
of all reasoners, the most ingenious of all sophists, the
most eloquent of all declaimers. He, above all other
advocates, " can make the worst appear the better argu-
ment;" can, most effectually pervert the judgment and
blind the understanding, whilst they seem to be most
enlightened and rectified. Thus, by a train of most
exquisite reasoning, has he brought the abolitionists to
the conclusion, that the interest of the poor, degraded, and
oppressed s/at'e, as well as that of his master, will be best
secured by his remaining in slavery. It has, indeed,
been proposed to mitigate, in some degree, the miseries
of his interminable bondage, but the blessings of emanci-
pation, according to the propositions of the abolitionists
in the last session of Parliament, were to be reserved for
his posterity alone, and every idea of im/mediate emanci-
pation is still represented, not only as impolitic, enthusiastic,
and visionary, but as highly injurious to the slave him-
self, — and a train of supposed apt illustrations is continually
at hand, to expose the absurdity of such a project. " Who
(it is asked) would place a sumptuous banquet before a
half famished wretch, whilst his powers of digestion were
so feeble that it would be fatal to partake of it? Who
would bring a body benumbed and half frozen with cold,
into sudden contact with fervid heat ? Who would take
a poor captive from his dungeon, where he had been
immured whole years in total darkness, and bring him at
once into the dazzling light of a meridian sun ? No one,
in his senses, certainly. All these transitions from famine
to plenty, — from cold to heat, — from darkness to light,
must be gradual in order to be salutary." But must it
therefore follow, by any inductions of common sense, that

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Online LibraryElizabeth Coltman HeyrickImmediate, not gradual abolition → online text (page 1 of 4)