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our most distinguished and now most lamented statesmen, who in as
admirable speech on the Slave Trade in the year 1799, thus adjured tha
House of Commons ; '' Trust not the masters of slaves^* said this en^'
lightened statesman, '* in what concerns legislation for slavery. How^
ever specious their laws may appear , depend upon it they must he in^
effectual in their operation. It is in the nature of things that they
should he so," *' There is something in the nature of absolute autho^
tity, in the relation between master and slave^ which makes despot'*
ism, in alt cases, and under all circumstances, an incompetent and
unsure executor, even of its own provisions in favour of the objects of
its power," The philosophical truth and accuracy of these sentiments
are as unquestionable, as (he eloquence with which they are expressed.
They irresistibly carry conviction along with them. In them he ** being
dead, yet speaketh."

It is the more necessary to expose the unsoundness of this vaunted
lOaximW the Demarara planters, because some such delusive view of
the subject may have unhappily been imbibed even by some of our
statesmen, who, in opposition to all fact and experience, as well as to
all general principle, may have permitted themselves to hope that an
improvement in the condition of the slaves is to be effected through the
medium of the masters. They ought at length to be aware that by
the masters it will never be e£(ected. How it may be effected without
them, and even against them, is a question on which we have no ob*
jection fully to enter. At present it would lead us away from our
purpose. We will only remark that, with respect to the particular
measure now under discussion, namdy that of securing to the slave
a legal right to effect his redemption at a fair price, without the consent
of his master, it will never, we fear, be conceded by the planters of
the British West Indies, and least of all by those of Demarara. It
must be made the subject of positive enactment by a superior authority.
Thus it was in the Spanish and Portuguese Colonies ; and thus it must
be in ours, if we would not abandon the single slender hope which
it affords of putting an end, at any time however distant, to the evil of
Colonial Slavery.

2. A second objection may be thus stated, tn the lowlands of
tropical climates, steady labour in the sun is only to be obtained by
means of coercion ; therefore the cultivation of the West Indies couU
not possibly be maintained, if the slaves were converted into freemen ;
as in that case they would not be induced to labour beyond what was
required to sustain life. The authority chiefly adduced by the learned
counsel Mr. Adam, in support of this opinion, was that of Major Moody,
on whose testimony great stress was laid. Those who wish to see
that gentleman's views fully examined and refuted, may consult the
Edinburgh Review, No. XC»

The proposition thus enounced, however, is contradicted by ex-
perience. The climate of Hindo^tan lies in the same latitude, and is
as oppressively hot as that of our West India Colonies. Yet it does
n6t prevent the natives of that country, who are not slaves, but
freemen, from labouring assiduously and steadily, not only in manufac^
iures^ but in agriculture also* The inhabitants of even temperate

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Coercion not indispensable in IVopieal Climate. 97

dimates do not labour more strenuously in the cultivation of the soil
than do the inhabitants of the southern provinces of China. And if
it be alleged that there the great density of the population, pressing
on the means of subsistence, produces all the effect of physical coer-
cion, yet the same reasoning can neither be applied in the same degree
to Hindostan, nor to two other instances which we are about to cite.
The first is given to us by Baron Humboldt, and is as follows. Speak*
ing of tropical South America, he says,

" We observed with a lively interest the great number of scattered
houses in the valley inhabited by freed-men. In the Spanish colonies,
the institutions and the manners are more favourable to the liberty of
the Blacks than in the other European settlements. In all these ex»
cursions we were agreeably surprised, not only at the progress of agri-
culture, but the increase of a free, laborious population accustomed to
toil, and too poor to rely on the assistance of slaves. White and
Black farmers had every where small separate establishments* Our
host, whose father had a revenue of 40,000 piastres, possessing more
lands than he could clear, he distributed them in the valley of Aragua*
among poor families who chose to apply themselves to the cultivation
of cotton. He endeavoured to surround his ample plantations with
freemen, who working as they chose either on their own land or in the
neighbouring plantations, supplied him with day-labourers at the
time of harvest. Nobly occupied on the means best adapted gra«
dually to extinguish the slavery of the Blacks in these colonies. Count
Torur flattered himself with the double hope of rendering slaves less
necessary to the landholders, and furnishing the freed-men with oppor-
tunities of becoming farmers. On departing for Europe, he had par-
celled out and let a part of the lands of Cura. Four years after, at his
return to America, he found on this spot, finely cultivated in cotton,
a little hamlet of thirty or forty houses, which is called Punta Zamuro,
and which we afterwards visited with him. The inhabitants of this
hamlet are nearly all Mulattoes, Zumboes, or free Blacks. This ex-
ample of letting out land has been happily followed by other great
proprietors. The rent is ten piastres for a vanega of ^und, and is
paid in money or in cotton. As the small farmers are often in want,
they sell their cotton at a very moderate price. They sell it even before
the harvest ; and the advances thus made by rich neighbours, place the
debtor in a state of dependence, which frequently obliges him to offer
his services as a labourer. The price of labour is cheaper here than in
France. A freeman working as a day-labourer (Peon) is paid in the
Valleys of Aragua and in the Llanos four or five piastres a month,
not including food, which is very cheap on account of the abundance
of meat and vegetables. I love to dwell on these details of colonial
industry, because they prove to the inhabitants of Europe, what to the
enlightened inhabitants of the colonies has long ceased to be doubtful,
that the continent of Spanish America can produce sugar and indigo

* Situated in the province of New Granada, between the latitudes of 4® and
«• North.

Digitized by


dS Agriculhtral Industry of the Nattt>€i of Java.

by freiB handt^ aad tbat the unhappy slaves are capable of becoiniDg
peasants^ farmers, and landholders/'

The second mstance is of a still more decisive kind. It refers to the
Island of Java, which lies between the latitudes of 6^ and 9^ South,
and which must therefore be one of the hottest countries in the workL
In what we are about to state respecting it, we quote the History of that
Island by Sn Stamford Raffles* Its population according to him amounts
to between four and five millions, (vol. i. p. 66.) of wbom only 27,000
are slaves, and these are held by the Europeans and Chinese alone, and
are not employed in agriculture, but almost exclusively for domestic
purposes. The cultivation of this rich and extensive Island is wholly
earned on by a free peasantry who reside in villages, and whose happy
condition Sir Stamford seems to delight in describing. (lb. p. 76 to 82.)

** In the first establishment or formation of a viltege on new ground,
the intended settlers take care to provide themselves with sufficient
garden ground round their huts for their stock, and to supply the ordi-
narv wants of their families. The produce of this plantation is the
exclusive property of the peasant, and is exempted trom contribution
or burden ; and such is their number and extent that in some regencies
they constitute a tenth part of the area of the whole district. Tfe spot
surrounding his simple habitation, the cottager considers his peculiar
patrimony, and cultivates with peculiar care. He labours to plant and
to rear in it those vegetables that may be most useful to his family,
and those shrubs and trees which may at once yield him their fruit and
their shade ; nor does he waste his efforts on a thankless soiL The
cottages or the assemblage of huts that compose the village, become
thus completely screened from the rays of a scorching sun, and are so
buried amid the foliage of a luxuriant vegetation that at a small distance
no appearance of a human dwelling can be discovered, and the resi«
dence of a numerous society appears only a verdant grove or a clump
of evergreens. Nothing can exceed the beauty or the interest which
such detached masses of verdure, scattered over me face of the country,
and indicating each the abode of a collection of hsqppy peasantry add
to scenery otherwise rich."

. '' Every village forms a community within itself, having each its vil*
lage officers and priest Here is found that simple form of patriarchal
admmistration, which so forcibly strikes the imagination of the civilized
inhabitants of this quarter of the world, and which has so long been the
theme of interest and curiosity, to those who have visited &e Indian
Continent." lb. p. 82.

. '' The natives of Java are, in general, better clothed than those of
Western India." *^ It is part of the domestic economy that the women
of the family should provide the men with the cloths necessar3r ibr their
apparel, and from the first consort of the Sovereign to the wife of the
lowest peasant, the same rule is observed. In every cottage there is a
spinning wheel and loom ; and in all ranks a man is accustomed to
pride himself on the beauty of a cloth woven either by his wife, mistress,
or daughter." lb. p. 86.

" The island of Java is a great agricultural country : its soil is the
grand source of its wealth. In its cultivation the inhabitants txert

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Agricultural IndUit¥y of the Natives of Java. 39

their chief industry 9 and upon its produce they rely, not only for their
subsistence, but for the articles of foreign luxury or convenience which
they purchase. The Javans are a nation of husbandmen, and exhibit
that simple structure of society incident to such a sti^ of its progress.
To the crop, the mechanic looks immediately for his wages, the soldier
for his pay, the magistrate for his salary, the priest for his stipend, and
the Government for its tribute. The w^th of a province or village is
measured'' (not by its slaves, though it b a tropical island, but) ^* by the
extent and fertility of its land, its facilities for rice irrigation, ana die
tinmber of iU bumdoes." lb. p. 106.

Nine^tenths of the population are employed in agriculture. lb. p. 107»
Again, <* Java is a great agricultural country. It has been considered
as the granary of the Eastern Islands.^ lb. p. 1 95.

*^ The sugar cane is extensively cultivated in this island," p. 125, *' and
may be grown to any extent demanded," p. 212. ''There are nume*
rous manufactories for its juice, principally owned by the Chinese, both
in the vicinity of Batavia and in Jopara and Pasuruan, and partially in
other districts of the Eastern provinces. Previous to the disturbances in
Cheribon, sugar likewise, was manufactured in diat district in consider*
able quantities, and fiimbhed an important article of export." P. 125.
See also p. 176. ** Large quantities of Java sugar have been exported
to Bombay ; " p. 212 ; and 7000 tons of it were sold in one year to the
Americans alone. P. 213.

: ** The land allotted to each separate cultivator is managed by himself
exclusively, and the practice of labouring in common, which is usual
among the inhabitants of the same village, on continental India, is here
unknown. Every one, generally speaking, has his own field, his own
plough, his own bufiiatloes or oxen, prepares his farm with his own hand,
or the assistance of his iainily at seed time, and reaps it by the same
means at harvest." P. 146.

Sir Stamford Raffles then proceeds to shew how the industry of the
Javan cultivators had been repressed by the shameless exactions of the
native Governments and the Hatch Company, who '' employed all the
machinery of despotism to squeeze from the people their utmost mite of
contribution, the last dregs of their labour." P. 151.
. This system of gross oppression and undefined exaction was put an
end to by the British Government The effect, we are told, exceeded
the most sanguine expectations. Sir S. Raffles himself was a pleased
spectator of its beneficial tendency, and of the security and satisfaction
it universally difflised; promoting the prosperity, improvement, and
happiness of the people, increasing the revenue, augmenting the export-
able produce, and dHninishing crime. If the Dutch Government did but
adh^ to the same iust and wise policy, as it seems they profess to do,
j^ happiest efiects, he conceived, would follow. P. 160, osc.

A part, at least, of the following apology, of this truly aUe and exceU
lent and lamented individual, on behalf of the Javans, will be found to
apply wtdi equal force to the charges of the Demarara Planters against
the free negro of the West Indies.

** Much has been said of the indolence of the Javans by those who
deprived them of all motives for industry. I enter a bioad denial of th^

Digitized by


40 Sugar Culture 6y the Natives qf Java*

charge. They are as indastrions and laborious as any people could be
expected to be in their circumstances of insecurity and oppression, or as
any people would be required to be, with their advantages of soil and
climate. If ihej do not labour during the whole day, it is because such
persevering toil is unnecessary, or would bring them no additional enjoy-
ments. The best refutation of the charge of indolence is to be found
in the extent of their cultivation, the weS-dressed appearance of their
rice fields, and the abundant supplies of their harvests. They generally
rise by day-light At half-past six they go out to the rice fields, where
they employ &eir bufialoes till ten ; when* they return home, bathe, and
refresh themselves with a meal. During the violent heat of the noon
they remain under the shade of their houses or village trees, making
baskets, mending their implements of husbandry, or engaged in other
necessary avocations, and at about four return to the sawahs (or rice
fields) to labour them without buffaloes or other cattle. At six, they
return to their homes, sup, and spend the remainder of their time rill
the hour of rest, (which is generally between eight and nine,) in little
parties for amusement or conversation, when the whole village becomes
a scene of quiet content, and pleasure. The same round of toil aiid
relaxation is observed during the season for garden culture, dry field
labour, or other eokployments. Under this system the villagers seem to
enjoy a greater degree of happiness than they 'could derive from those
increased means tl^t would result from increased exertion. I can bear
testimony to their general cheerfulness, concentedness, and good humour ;
for having visited their villages at all seasons, and often when least ex*
pected,or entirely unknown, I have always found them pleased and satis*
fied with their lot when engaged at their work, or social and festive in
jtheir hours of pleasure." P. 232.

Can it be doubted that the moderate and regular labour of this free
peasantry, as described by Sir Stamford Raffles, under which they in*
crease, by his account, very rapidly, is to be infinitely preferred, even
with a view to its commercial and political advantages, to the incessant
4X)mpulsciry toil of the Demarava slaves, whidi is no less rapidly wear-
ing them aown and wasting their numbers.

The testimony of Mr. Botham, before the Privy Council in 1789, will
furnish a very convenient supplement to that of Sir Stamford Rafiies.
He is speaking of considerable sugar estates which exist near Batavia.
^'The proprietor," he «ays, '^is generally a rich Dutchman, who has
built on it substantial works. He lets the estate (say of 300 or more acres)
to a Chinese, who lives on and superintends it, and who relets it to iree
men in parcels of 50 or 60 acres, on condition that they shall plant it
in canes, for so much for every pecul (133^ avoirdupois) of sugar pro-
duced. The superintendant collects people from the adjacent village
to take off his crop. One -set of taskmen, with their carts and bu£Rdoes,
cut the canes, carry them to the mill and grind them ; a second set boil
ihem ; a third clay and basket them for market, at so much a pecuL
Thus the renter knows with certainty what every pecul will cost him.
He has no unnecessary expense ; for when the crop is over, the task-
men go home ; and for seven months in the year, there only remain
iifx the estate the cane planters preparing the next crop. The prios

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Alleged incurable Indolence of the Negro Slaves. 41

of common labour is from 9d, to lOc^. a day; but the taskmen gain
considerably more, not only from extra work, but from being considered
artists in their several branches." ** The cane is cultivated to the utmost
perfection in Batavia. The hoe, almost the only implementof the west,
IS there scarcely used. The lands are well ploughed by a light pk)ugh
with a single buffalo." Much more is added on the culture of the cane
and the manufiaicture of sugar and rum, which the West Indians would
do well to study.

Satisfactory, however, as these examples may prove to candid and
dispassionate minds, they will probably be objected to by the Demarara
Planters, as not bearing a strict analogy to the case of the West Indies.
Whatever may be the fact in other parts of the world, and with respect
to other races of men, they are disposed to maintain, Uiat the negro race
whether slave or free, can only be excited to exertion, by coercive means.
No industry is to be expected from them beyond what may be required
for the bare supply of their animal wants. In a climate which renders
ease so desirable, and toil so painful, they will not be influenced by the
motives which, in other cases, stimulate to exertion, and lead to the ac-
cumulation of wealth; and will be rather content to live in idleness,
looking beyond this, for no enjoyments, and aiming at no improvement.

Such is in substance the view which has been taken of this question
by the Demarara planters, and which was urged with much force by their
leading advocate ; it deserves therefore a careful consideration.

3. Let us first consider the question as it respects the negro in a state
of slavery, and enquire whether there be any motives besides those of
coercion, or the* cravings of mere animal appetite, which are capable of
exciting him to industrious effort

Here however we think it right to guard against that abuse of terms
which, in the West Indian vocabulary, dignifies with the name of indus-
try, the labour extracted from the slaves by the cartwhip. Industry implies
not a forced but a willing effort ; an effort made, not for the purpose
merely of escaping the lash, or of satisfying hunger, but for that of
attaimng some desired and higher good. If ^erefore we are to estimate
the industry of which the negroes are capable, we admit that we must
take into account, not their forced services, but their voluntary sacrifices
of time and ease, and those voluntary exertions that are called forth
by the same moral motives which influence free agents in the other
classes of mankind.

In order to refute the position respecting the incurable indolence of
the negro, it would be sufficient to cite the facts brought forward, on a
variety of occasions, by the West Indians themselves. They tell us,
with almost one voice, that the slaves are fully fed and clothed by their
masters — a circumstance which, according to the theory we are com-
bating, would take away all motive to labour which was not the result
of coercion. And yet they tell us, that, nevertheless, multitudes of them
employ their small pittance of leisure time so industriously, and to such
advantage, that they abound in wealth and luxuries. The slaves are
restrained by the most severe laws, not only in Demarara and Berbice,
but in all the other Colonies, from growing sugar, cotton, coffee, cocoa,


Digitized by


42 • Alleged incurable Indolence of the Negro Slaves.

or any other exportable produce ; * but we are told that they raise, in
considerable quantities, for their own benefit, whatever they dare to
cultivate, such as vegetable provisions, fruit, &c. besides breedmg pig9
and poultry, with all which they largely supply the Sunday markets.
If this statement be true, and it is the statement of the West Indians
themselves, then it is obvious that the negroes are susceptible of the
force of moral motives ; for without this, what could be the induce-
ment for 'men in a tropical climate, who are exhausted by constant and
hard labour to which they are driven by the cart-whip, and who are
not compelled (as is asserted) by hunger, or any other physical want,
to employ that fragment of lebure, which they might naturally be ex-
pected to give to the paramount enjoyment of repose, in raising those
quantities of yams, plantains, oranges, pine apples, pigs and poultry,
with which they so abundantly supply the markets, and for which they
obtain mere superfluities and luxuries m exchange. Abundimce of West
India testimony has been adduced to prove that such is the case. Hostd
of affidavits to that effect have been transmitted from Jamaica, Barbadoes,
and even Demarara; and these affidavits are confirmed by Major
Moody, who, in one of his elaborate Reports, has endeavoured, with ex-
traordmary ingenuity and perseverance, to prove that the negro will not
labour voluntarily, or for wftffes ; and yet, as if he were fated to save
his opponents the trouble of demolishing his theories, he brings forward,
in the very same Report, a statement of the large property possessed by
the twelve or fifteen hundred families of slaves who inhabit Tortola,
which was the fruit of their own voluntary industry, during their
short intervals of relaxation from their master s service, they cJso being
fed and clothed by their masters. The statanent is so curious, and so
decisive of the vei^ point at issue, that it deserves to be exhibited
entire on this occasion.



38 Horses at 7/. 10s. each
938 Head of homed cattle, at 5L
2125 Goats at lO*.
1208 Pigs at 105.
33,120 Poultry at Is. 6d.

23 Boats, at 5/. . . .
Fish pots and fishing tackle .
Buildings, chiefly in town
Furniture, utensils, &c.


* The foilowing is the law of Demarara on this point. — *< All slaves^ as well
males as females, are prohibited from aelliog or bartering, tcith any one what-
ever, any produce — sagar, coffee, cocoa, indigo, rokow, syrop, rum, bottles or
flasks, or any thing else; being permitted to sell only vegetables and ground
provisions, the produce of their gardens, or stoek which they are allowed to
rear; on pain of being severely flogged on the plantations te which they belongs
for the first offience ; and for the second to be punished by sentence of the Courts
according to the exigency of the case.''














Digitized by


Alleged incurable Indolence of ike Negro Slaves. 43

*^ In the above/' it is added, ^ I have not estimated the disposable
portion of esculents and fruits, and of cotton, raised by slaves. They
cultivate on their own account, about 1,675 acres of land, which is
estimated to yield annually, 3/. lO*. sterling per acre, in total, 5,862/. 10s.
After supporting themselves, the surplus they dispose of at market,
which amounts to a very considerable sum. The industrious also
potwess, in cash, considerable sums. I am fully satisfied they are
possessed of capital, arising from the sale of stock and crop, to fully
the amount of 5000Z. sterling." — Parliamentary papers of 16/A of
March, 1825, No. 115, p. 152.

No one, of course, can be so absurd as to argue, that although the
enslaved negroes of Tortola work, thus diligently, without the propelling
power of the cart-whip, or the urgency of hunger, in order to obtain
luxuries or accumulate wealth, yet that they will not work for the same

Online LibraryZachary MacaulayAnti-slavery monthly reporter → online text (page 6 of 72)