Thomas Babington Macaulay Macaulay.

Critical, historical, and miscellaneous essays online

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adopts towaixis philanthropists reminds us of Dogberry pat-
ting Verges on the back : — ^ A good old man, Sir ! He will
be talking. Well said, i'faith, neighbour. An two men ride
of a horse, one mast ride behind. An honest soul, i*faith, as
ever broke bread. But Grod is to be worshipped. All men
are not alike.'* But we must go on with the argument of
our philosophical commissionei*.

" Any person who has travelled among people in a backward stale
of knowledge and social civilization, people who never experienced
what slavery was, must have observed, as I liave done, that the burden
of agricultural labour is generally imposed on the females, by the arb«>
trary power exercised over them by the males "

" Vviiilst an examination into the actual population of Hayti, and
the real numl)er of the males actually withdrawn from agricultuml par-
suits for those of military service, at the time Mr. Dewey roade hi« ob>
servations, would show, that, tlioui^h the cause assiipicd by him might
have some cftcct, that, in point of fact, a more powemil influence wookl
probably be found in the action of causes springing fVom a different
source than that assigned by him as tlio true cause ; and whilst these
other powerful causes are left in action, little practical good is effected
by the removal of a minor influence." *

We have not time to notice the innumerable beauties of
this headless and endless sentence, in which a double allow-
ance of thats compensates for the absence of a nominative
case and a verb : — those who study the works of the Major
roust take such grammar as they can get, and be thankfuL
But, does he advance any reason, or the shadow of any rea-
son, for dissenting from the opinion formed by a man whose
honesty he acknowledges, on a point on which it is scarcely
possible to be mistaken ? No man of common sense can live
three days in a country without finding out, whether it is by
idleness, or by military duties, that the males are prevented
fi\>m working. But Major Moody reasons thus — Savages,
from their propensity to indolence, make their women work
for them. The Ilaytians make their women work for them ;
therefore the Haytians are indolent savages ; — an exquisite
specimen of syllogistic reasoning ! Horses are quadrupeds :
but a pig is a quadruped ; therefore a pig is a horse. The

1 Ibid, p 89.



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CAPACITIES OF NEGROES. 395

dullest of the gravediggers in Hamlet would have been
ashamed of such an argal.

The Major surely does not mean to deny, that, in civilized
and industrious nations, circumstances similar to those which
exist in Hayti, have compelled the women to engage in agri-
cultural labour. History abounds with such instances.
When, fourteen years ago, the Prussians rose against the
French, almost the whole harvest of Silesia and Upper
Saxony was gathered in by females. The conscriptions of
Buonaparte frequently produced the same eflfect. The Ma-
jor says, indeed, or rather we, endowing his. purposes with
Syntax, say for him, that if the numbers of the Haytian
people and of the Haytian army were ascertained, the causes
assigned by Mr. Dewey would be found to have produced
only part of the effect. But what evidence does he offer ?
Where are his facts, and his reasonings on these' facts? Does
he know what the population of Hayti may be ? Does he
know how large its army may be ? If he knows, why does
lie not tell us ? If he does not know, how can he tell what
might be the result of an examination into those particulars?
It is something too much that a writer, who, when he tries
to demonstrate, never demonstrates any thing but his own ig-
norance of the art of reasoning, should expect to be hnplic-
itly believed, when he merely dogmatizes.

We grant, that the Haytians do not rear any great quan-
tity of sugar. But can this circumstance be explained only
by supposing that they are averse to the labour necessary
for that purpose ? When capital is withdrawn from a par-
ticular trade, a political economist is commonly inclined to
suspect that the profits are smaller than those which may be
obtained in other lines of business. Now, it is a notorious
fact, that the profits which the cultivation of sugar yields arc>
in all our West Indian islands, extremely low ; that the busi-
ness is carried on only because a large quantity of capital h;i8
already been fixed in forms useless for every other purpose ;
and that, if this fixed capital were to be suddenly destroyed,
no fresh investment would take place. A man who has pur-
chased a costly apparatus for the purpose of carrying on i\
particular manufacture, will not necessarily change his busii
ness because he finds that his gains are smaller than those
which he might obtain elsewhere. He will generally prefer
a small profit to a dead loss, and rather take two per cent



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SOCIAI- AND INDUSTRIAL

apon.his first investment than let that investment perish «iIto-
gether, suff(5r his macliinery to lie idle, and turn the remains,
of his fcrtune to a pursuit in which he might make five per
cent- This, we believe, is the only cause which keeps up
the cultivation of sugar in Jamaica and Antigua.

In Hayti this cause has ceased to operate. .Most of the
fixed capital necessary for the sugar-trade was destroyed by
the war which followed the liberation of the negroes. The
machinery which remained was employed as formerly. But
it was not replaced as it fell to decay. This at once explains
the gradual decrease of pi^uction. A similar decrease,
from similar causes, is taking place in our oldest colonies.
But let us even suppose that the cultivation of sugar was
likely, under ordinary circumstances, to flourish in Hajli^ it
still remains to be considered what security capital invested
in that business would have enjoyed. A short time back it
seemed by no means improbable that France would assert
her rights to the sovereignty of the island by arms. In the
year 1814, the strongest apprehensions were entertained. A
murderous and devastating war, a war in which quarter
would neither have been given or taken, was to be expected.
The plan of defence which the rulers of Hayti contemplated
was suited to so terrible a crisis. It was intended to turn
the coast into a desert, to set fire to the buildings, to fall
back on the interior fastnesses of the country, and by constant
skirmishes, by hunger, and by the effects of a climate so
fatal to Europeans, to wear out the invading array. This
design was avowed by the Crovemment in publications which
have found their way to England. It was justified by cir-
cumstances, and it could scarcely have failed of success. But
it is evident that the remotest prospect of such an emergency
would alone have deterred any capitalist from sinking bis
property in the extensive and valuable machinery necessary
to a sugar-planter.

It is true that there is a diminution in the quantity of cof-
fee exported from Hayti. But the cause of the diminution
U obvious. The taxes on that article are exorbitantly high*
The territorial ippost raised on the plantation, and the cus-
toms which must be paid previous to exportation, make up
a duty of sixty per cent, on the prime cost. If the Hay-
tians are to be free, they must have an army.. If they are
to have an army, they must raise money ; and this may [Ht^



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CAPACITIES OF NEGROES. 897'

aibly be the best way of raising it. But it is evidtintLy im- ^
possible that a commodity thus burdened can maintain a
competition with the produce of countries where no taxes
exist.

We therefore think it by no means improbable that the
Haytians may have abandoned the cultivation of sugar and
coffee, not from idleness, but from prudence ; that they may
have been as industriously employed as their enslaved an-
cestors, though in a different manner. All the testimony
which we have ever been able to procure tends to prove
that they are at least industrious enough to live comfortably,
and multiply rapidly under the weight of a very heavy tax-
ation.

We have shown that the decrease in the exports of Hayti
does not necessarily prove a decrease in the industry of the
people. But we b\m> maintain, that, even if we were to ad-
mit that the Haytians work less steadily than formerly, Ma-
jor Moody has no right to attribute that circumstance to the
influence of climate. His error in this and in many other
parts of his work proceeds from an utter ignorance of the
habits of labourers in the temperate zone. What those hab-
its are, we have already stated. If an English labourer,
who has hitherto been unable to obtain the enjoyments to
which he is accustomed without working three hundred day:!
a year, should find himself able to obtain those enjoyments
by working a hundred days a year, he will not continue to
work three hundred days a year. He will make some addi-
tion to his pleasures, but he will abate largely of his exer-
tions. He will probably work only on the alternate days.
The case of the Haytian is the same. As a slave he worked
twelve months in the year, and received perhaps as much as
he would have been able to raise in one month, if he had
worked on his own account He was liberated — he found
that, by working for two months, he could procure luxuries
of which he had never dreamed. If he worked unsteadily,
he did only what an Englishman, in the same circumstances,
would have done. In order to prove that labour in Hayti
follows a law different from that which is in operation among
ourselves, it is necessary to prove, not merely that the Hay-
tian works unsteadily, but that he will forego comforts to
which he is accustomed, rather than work steadily.

This Major Moody has not even asserted of the Haytians,.



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398 SOCIAL AND INDUSTRIAL

or Oft' any other class of tropical laboarers. He has, th«^
fore, altogether failed to show, that the natives of the torrid
zone cannot be safely left to the influence of those i^rinciplea
which have most efiectually promoted civilization in Kurop*^
If the law of labour be everywhere the same, and he lia*
said nothing which induces us to doubt that it is so, that un-
readiness of which he speaks will, at least in its exireme
degree, last only for a time, which, comfmred with the life
of a nation, is but as a day in the life of man. The luxu-
ries of one generation will become the necessaries of the
next As new desires are awakened, greater exertions will
be necessary. This cause, cooperating with that increase of
population of which the Major himself admits the effect,
will, in less than a century, make the Haytian labourer what
the English labourer now i*^

The last case which we shall consider is, that of the free
negroes who emigrated from North America to Hayti. They
were in number about six tliousand. President Boyer un-
dertook to defray the whole expense of tlieir passage, and
to support them for four months after their arrival — a dear
proof that the people of Hayti are industrious enough to
place at the disposal of the Government funds more than
Buiiicient to defray its ordinary charges. We give the sixth
and seventh articles of Boyer's insti*uction to the agent em-
ployed by him on this occasion, as M^jor Moody states them.
It is on thei^e that his whole argument turns.

" Article VI. — To regulate better the interests of the emigmats, it
will be proper to let them know in detail, what the government of the
republic is disposed to do, to assure their future well-l)ctng and that of
their children, on the sole condition of their being good and industrioiid
citizens. You are authorized, in concert with the agents of the difft*r>
ent societies, and before civil authority, to make arrangements with
heads of families, or other emigrants who can unite twelve people able
to work, and also to stipulate that the government will give them a por-
tion of land sufficient to employ twelve persons, and on whidi may be
raised coffee, cotton, maize, peas and other vegetables and provisions ;
and after they have well improved the said quantity cf land which will
not be less than thirty-six acres in extent, or twelve carreaces, govern-
ment will give a perpetual title to the said land to these twelve people,
their heirs, and assigns.

" Article VIL — Those of the emigrants who prefer applying them-
selves individually to the culture of the earth, either by rentinj? lands
already improved, which they will till, or by working m the field ic
share tlie produce with the proprietor, must also engage •themselves bt
» legal act that, on arriving in Hayri, they will make the aliove itcii



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CAPACITIES OF NEGROES. 399

tioiied arrangements ; and this they must do hefore judges of the peace ;
M that, on their arrival here, they will be obliged to apply themselves
to agriculture, and not be liable to become vagrants." ^

On these passages the Major reasons thus —

" In Hayti, even at present, under the judicious government of Pres-
ident Boyer, we find the free and intelligent American Blacks receiving
land for nothing, having their expenses paid, and the produce of the
land to be for their own advantage, obliged, by a legal act, to apply
themselves to a kind of labour which is manifestly and clearly intended
to better their condition.

" Why should a free man be thus obliged to act in a manner which
the nio8t ignorant person might discover was a duty incumbent on him,
an<l that the result would be for his advantage 1 The legal act and
its penalties, after such a grant of land, would appear pre-eminently
absurd in England." ^

We, for our own parts, can conceive nothing more pre-
eminently absurd, than for a man to quote and comment on
what he has never read. This is clearly the case with the
Major. The emigrants who were to be obliged by a legal
act to apply themselves to labour, were noC those who were
to receive land for nothing, but those who were to rent it, or
to hire themselves out as labourers under othere. The
Major has applied the provisions of the Seventh Article to
the class mentioned in the Sixth. So disgraceful an instance
of carelessness we never saw in any official document.

Whether the President act«d well or ill, is not the ques-
tion. The principle on which he proceeded cannot be mis-
taken. He was about to advance a considerable sum for
the purpose of transporting these people to Hayti. He ap-
pears, as far as we can judge from these instructions, ttfhave
exacted no security from the higher and most respectable
class. But he thought it probable, we suppose, that many
of those idle and profligate persons who abound in all great
cities, and who are peculiarly likely to abound in a degraded
ca.'^te, beggars and thieves, the refuse of the North American
bridewells, might accept his proposals, merely that they might
live for some months at free costs, and then return to their
old habits. He therefore naturally required some assurance
that the poorer emigrants intended to support themselves by
their industry before he would agree to advance their sub-
^tence.

> Second Part of Major Moody's Report, p. 30.
< Ibid, p 32.



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400 SOCIAL AND INDUSTRIAL

The Major proceeds thus : —

" Your Lordship may observe, in the instructions o.' the President,
that only certain modes of rewanling the labour of the free American
Black are mentioned, riz. renting land already improviMl, working in
the field to share the produce with the labourer,' or. by being proprietors
of land, to cultivate on their own account without either renter pur-
chase, having land from the free gift of the Givemmont.

'* The ordinary mode of rewarding the lalK)urer by Uic payment of
wasres, as in England or the East Indies, where the country is fully peo-
pled, i.-4 never once mentioned or alluded to by President Boycr, who
may be fairly supposed to understand the situation of the country
which he governs." ^

For the sake of the Haytians, we hope that Boyer ander-
standd the country which he governs better than the Major
understands the subject on which he writes. Who, befbi^
ever thought of mentioning the renting of land as a mode of
rewarding the labourer? The renting of hind is a transac-
tion between the proprietor of the soil and the capitalist.
Can Major Moody possibly imagine, that, in any part of the
world, the labourer, as a labourer, pays rent, or receives it ?
He surely must know, that those emigrants who rented land,
must have rented it in the capacity, not of labourers, but of
capitalists ; that they must have paid the rent out of the prof-
its of their stock, not out of the gains of their labour; that
even when a man works on his own account, the gains of h*«
labour, though not generally called wages, are wage- to all
intents and purposes, and, though popularly oonfoundeil with
his profits, follow a law altogether diiferenL But Boyer,
says Major Moody, itever mentions wages. How can wa^t s
be better defined, than as the share of the produce nllowi d
to- the labourer ? Does Major Moody conceive that wages
can be paid only in money, or that money wages represent
any thing but that share of the produce of which the Pi*esi-
deiit speaks ? He goes on, however, floundering deeper and
deeper in absurdity at every step.

" In the present constitution of Uayti, as administered by Pnisideut
Koyer, in " Titre sur TEtat Politique des Citoyens/* I find, under tito
47th act, tlmt the rights of citizenship are suspended, as regards domes-
tics working for wages (' par T^t&t do domestique h gages'), in th:u
very republican country, where a person, ignorant of the effect of phys-
ical causes, would naturally conclude that it would bo most unjust* to
deprive a man of his right of citizenship, because he preferred one
mode of subsisting himself to another, which the Government wished
u> encourage *'*

* Second Part of Major Moodv*s Report, p. 82.

• Ibid



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CAPACITIES OF NEGROES. 401*

Physicttl causes again ! We should like to know whether
these physical causes operate in France. In the French
Constitution of the year 1791, we find the following Article.

"To be an active citizen, it is necessary not to be in a
menial situation, namely, tliat of a servant receiving wage$«.'*

It seems, therefore, that this law which, in the opinion of
Major Moody, nothing but the heat of the torrid zone will
explain — this law, which any person, ignorant of physical
causes, would consider as grossly unjust, is copied from the
Institutions of a great and enlightened European nation.
We can assure him, that a little knowledge of history is now
and then very useful to a person who undertakes to specu-^
liite on politics.

We must return for a moment to the North American
emigrants. Much mismanagement seems to have taken
place with respect to them. They were received with cor-
diality, and pampered with the utmost profusion, by the lib-
eral inhabitants of Port-au-Prince. They had left a country
where they had always been treated as the lowest of man-
kind ; they had landed in a country where they were over-
whelmed with caresses and presents. The heads of many
were turned by the change. Many came from cities, and,
totally unaccustomed to agricultural labour, found themselves
transported into the midst of an agricultural community.
The Government, with more generosity tlian wisdom, suf-
fered them to eat their rations in idleness. This is a short
summary of the narrative of Dr. Dewey, who was himself
on the spot. He continues thus.

" Althoagh these and other circumstances damped the ardoar of some
of the emigrants, and rendered them dissatit^tiod with their situation,
yet I have uniformly found the industrious and the roost respectable,
and such as were fitted to be cultivators of the soil, contented with
their condition and prospects, and convinced that great advantages
were put within their reach. Bv far the greater part of the emigrants
I saw were satisfied with their change of country, and many wore so
much pleased that they would not return on any consideration, and
said, that they never felt at home before, that they have never felt what
it was to be in a country where their colour was not despised. But
tliese were such as went out expectinj;^ to meet difficulties, and not to live
ill tlie city ; and they are so numerous, and pursuing their course with
so much enterprise, that I feel there is no more reason for surprise at
the industry qnd contentment w^hich they exhibit, than at the dissatis-
faction which has brought back 200, and will perhaps bring back a few
moje." 1

> Second Part of Major Moody^s Report, p. 85.



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402 SOCIAL AND INDUSTRIAL

All this statement the Major quotes as triumphantly as if
it were favourable to his hypothesis, or as if it were not of
itself sufficieut to refute every syllable that he has written.
Those who came from towns shrunk from agricultaral laboor.
Is this a circumstance peculiar to any climate ? Ltet Major
Moody try the same experiment in this ooantry witli the
footmen and shopmen of London, and see what success be
will have. But those who were accustomed to tillage, afi-
plied themselves to it with vigour ; and this though thej
came from a cold country, and must therefore be supposed
to have been peculiarly sensible of the influence of tropical
heat. It is clear, therefore, that their desire to better tli«tr
condition surmounted that love of repose which, according
to the* new philosophy of labour, can, in warm, fertile, and
thinly peopled countries, be surmounted only by the fear of
punishment*

We have now gone through the principal topics of which
the Major has treated. We have done him more than jus-
tice. We have arranged his chaotic mass of ^ts and tbeo-
nes ; we have frequently translated his language into £ng.
lish ; we have refrained from quoting the exquisitely ridicu-
lous similitude4S mid allusions with which he has set oflT hii
reasonings ; we have repeatedly taken on ourselves the bur-
den of th» proof in cases where, by all the rules of logic,
we might have im|K>:^ed it on him. Against us, he cannot
resort to his ordinary modes of defence* He cannot charge
US with ignorance of lo- al circumstances, for almost all the
facts on which we have argued are taken from his own re-
port. He cannot sneer at us as pious, benevolent people,
misled by a blind hatred of slavery, eager in the pursuit of
a laudable end, but ignorant of the means by which alone it
can be obtained. We have treated the question as a ques-
tion purely scientific. We have i-easoned as if we had been
reasoning, not about men and women, but about spinning*
jeanies and power-looms.

Point by point we have refuted his whole theory. Wti
have shown that the phenomena which he attributes to the
atmosphere of the torrid zone, are found in the most tem|>er-
ate climates; and that, if coercion be desirable in the case
of the West Indian labourer, the stocks, the branding iron,
and the forty stripes save one, ought to be, without delay
uitroduced into Kndand.



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CAPACITIES OF np:groes. 403

There are still some parts of the subject on which, if thix
article were not already too long, we ^ould wish to dwell.
Coercion, according to Major Moody, is necessary only in
those tropical countries in which the population does not
press on the means of subsistence. He liolds, that the mul-
tiplication of the species will at length render it superfluous.
It would be easy to show that this remedy is incompatible
with the evil ; that the deadly labour, or, as he would call it,
the steady labour, which the West Indian sugar-planter ex-
acts, destroys life with frightful rapidity ; that the only colo-
nics in which the slaves keep up their numbers are those in
which the cultivation of sugar has altogether ceased, or has
greatly diminished ; and that, in those settlements in which
it is extensively and profitably carried on, the population de^
creases at a rate which portends its speedy extinction. To
say, therefore, that the negroes of the sugar colonies must
continue slaves till their numbers shall have greatly inci*eased,
is to say, in decent and humane phraseology, that they must
continue slaves till the whole race is exterminated.

At some future time we may resume this subject We
may then attempt to explain a principle, which, though es-
tablished by long experience, still appears to many people
paradoxical, namely, that a rise in the price of sugar, while



Online LibraryThomas Babington Macaulay MacaulayCritical, historical, and miscellaneous essays → online text (page 72 of 84)