Zachary Macaulay.

Anti-slavery monthly reporter online

. (page 67 of 72)
Online LibraryZachary MacaulayAnti-slavery monthly reporter → online text (page 67 of 72)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


the evidence.

'< Margaret Murray, the first witness, states that she passed the day of the 2Sd
of July with Mr. and Mrs. Moss ; she understood from Mrs. Moss, that Kate had
been put in the stocks and flog:ged on the preceding day, and in the course of this
day (the 2Sd), she heard Mr. and Mrs. Moss three several times give orders for
having her punished, and she * heard her cry out three several tiroes, as if she
had had three distinct floggings.' She states that the directions to flog were
^ven to Mr. Spencer, (Mr. Moss's nephew and overseer), and that she heard
Spencer say, on the third order being given to flog, ' Good God t uncle, what !
flog again ?* and that ' Mr. Moss insisted on his order being obeyed.' She adds,
that two other slaves (whom she names) were confined in the same building,
and flogged at the same time.

** Now, from the evidence given by the other witnes^s, there can be little
doubt that this witness was mistaken in assigning the date oif the 28d of July to
the circumstances which she relates, and that these circumstances belong to the
date of the 28th of May, when, also, she was present, and when much of what
she states is also stated by the overseer, Spencer, to have taken place. These
circumstances do not appear, therefore, to form any part of the offence upon
which the indictment was founded. But they are, nevertheless, such circum-
stances as I cannot but bear in mind, when I come to consider the weight due
to the evidence in favour of the character of the parties for humanity.

^* Delancy, die second witness, is one of the overseers on the plantation, and
one of those who were employed in the infliction of the punishments. He states,
in his cross-examination, that Kate was * not very severely flogged.' He had
stated, however, in a former part of the same examination, that when he saw
her flogged, < she appeared to feel it very much.* He states further, that * he
cannot say whether any of the pepper got into her eyes; * whereas he had pre-
viously deposed that * he thought she could not see to do either of her tasks after
her eyes were peppered.'

'^ It is to be remarked, with respect to the severity of the flogging, that this
vritness has stated, that the under driver, who flogged Kate when taken out of
the stocks, * desisted at the entreaty of a man, named John Wylly ;' he * does
not know whether John Wylly interfered in consequence of the girl's debilitated
state, or not ;' — but it does not appear tkat there was any motive, except a sense
of the cruelty with which she was treated, which could have induced him to in-
terfere.

** Spencer, the third witness, is a nephew of Mr. Moss, and also an overseer
on the plantation. Mr. Forbes, the magistrate before whom the examinations
were taken which led to the committal of the Mosses, has deposed, that he had
some difiicolty in getting Spencer to give his evidence, having told him, that if
he would not answer the questions he put, he should be obliged to send him to
the attorney-general. This circumstance, and the relationship between Spencer
and Moss, detract, in some degree, from the value of Spencer*s evidence on some
points, although I perceive no reason to impute to him any intentional want of
veracity. Spencer corroborates Delancy's statement in all the more material cir-
cumstances, but there are some variations, and something is added by Spencer.
He says, that Kate would not perform the tasks given her ; whilst, from Delancy's
evidence, it is to be inferred, that she was incapable of performing some ' of the
tasks, from being unaccustomed to the species of work, and that, by the treats
ment which she received, she was incapacitated, more or less, and for some part
of the time, from performing any work that required the use of her eyes.

'* Spencer further deposes as follows : * he told her that if she would mend her
clothes she would be forgiven ; she replied she would not, and did not care
whether she was let out of the stocks or not ; he advised Kate to mend her
clothes ; she was insolent to him for doing so ; it would not have occupied her

more than two hours.' ' Kate did not seem to mind the

flogging'' On this last statement I have to remark, that it is at variance with
that of Delancy^ who says, that when he saw her flogged, she appeared to feel it



Digitized by



Google



464 Crueliifis tn the Bdhamat of Mr. and Mrs. Most,

very aittok ; at variance with the ctociiMUwBe of Delaiiey, On an ocGasioo w^mm
he waa not present, distingQishing the nonber of laahes by her cries ; with thm
eircttBMtance of Wylly't iaterferenoe ; with the fact, that except in one or two
instaacet, the waa taken ont of the atockf and tied up to be flogged ; and finally,
with every natural probability, which no teatiMony can be required to sabatsa-
tiate. Vith respect to the expressions used to Spencer regarding her indiffer-
ence to her Confinement, and her detemination not to do what was required of
her, they nnst be considered as evidence of an exasperaled state of temper, not
of insensibility to suffering ; but I see no reason to discredit them, and they 8«f-
ficicAtly prove that she persisted in insubordinate conduct

'< It is not the least deplorable feature in this case, that, besides the floggings
which the girl received by order of her owners, and at the hands of the over-
seers, other individuals appear to have been free to maltreat her at their pleMore.
She was flogged without orders, by the under driver, the evening before her death,
and twenty-four lashes were inflicted by her own father whilst she was in the
stocks. On this occasion, Mr. Moss is said to have stopped the infliction, bat
merely with the observation, that it was no use flogging her, and it was better t»
send her to work in the field.

' Before I come to consider what has been said in favour of the character of
the Mosses, I must observe, that the facts against them are established upon the
evidence of two witnesses, both of whom were overseers upon the plantation,
both instrumental, under the orders of Mr. and Mrs. Moss, to the omdties ia
question, one (Oelaacy) by no means disposed to aggravate the case against
them, since he gives them a character for great humanity ; the other (Spenoer)
a nephew of Mr. Moss, and proved to have appeared against him with great
reluctance.

<* These being the principal witnesses for the prosecntion, those for the de-
fence are eleven in number. Only one of them, Af rt. Prertf the mother of Miai
Moss, has anything to depose upon the particular case. Her evidence is not
material, and in no respect impugns the evidence for the prosecutioB. Ano-
ther, J. Heplmr%y deposes that he never saw so mild an instrument of correction
as the whip which was produced in court, being that which had been used in
flogging Kate. The others appear to have been called to depose to the conduct
and character of the Mosses ; though one of them, A. Fmrquhmnon, says, that
he knows nothing respecting it. G. Hcsly says, that their Negroervrere well
clothed and fed, and appeared to be cheerful. J. Scuv^Ua testifies to their care
and good treatment of their Negroes in sickness, and says he never saw any
one treat their Negroes so well as Mr. Moss ; but, on his cross-examinatioo,
he acknowledges himself to be under great obligations to Mr. Moss. L, 5a%,
£Itsc CampbeUy CaptMin Pimdefy A. Demtnfne and J. UwrrUy all speak strongly
of the character of Mr, and Mrs. Moss for humanity, and there does not appear
to be any thing which would render these exceptionable vritnesses.

*^Mwrr9!ff G. FixrqHktrwn^ after having deposed that Mr. and Mrs. Moss ' are
considered far from being severe to their slaves ;' and, ' that he never knew
any severity of Mr. Moss,' is cross-examined, and states as follows : ^ Witaeaa
has always entertained the same favourable opinion of Mr. Moss, has always
expressed himself so. (Upon the Attorney General here asking the witneaa
if he himself had not, on a former occasion* come to his (the Attorney Oenerara
office) to complain of Mr. Moas'a barbarity, and called him * a Tartar,' the wit-
nets first pretended not to understand the question, and then refnsed to
answer it; the Attorney General not thinking it necessary to insist on the
answer, the witness was allowed to depart fVom the box).'

<* In addition to the testimony to character, given at the trial, I have the
petition which vras presented to you by several inhabitants of the colony, of
whose respectability you assure me : and your own despatches of the 18th of
May, and Sd July. The object of the former despatch was to prevent the an*
pression, that the unfortunate Henry and Helen Moss are to be looked upon an
wilful accessaries to the death of the girl,' and you add, that they are rather
to be pitied for the untoward melancholy occurrence which has taken place.
In the latter you write as follows ; ' I had the honour to inform you, that I had
every reason to think that the case of cruelty towards Kate, from Mr. and Mra.
Moss, was not in accordance with their general treatment of their Negroes, hot



Digitized by



Google



Cruelties in the Bahamoi of Mr, cukl Mrs. Moss, 465

wi especial. exception, which wovld appear to have resaltod from a persevering
obstinate disposition on the part of the slave, Kate, and an equal determination
on the part of ber owners to carry their aathority into effect. The provocation
begot the cruelty ; and while I trust I am not disposed to uphold the failing of
giving way to passion, I yet think that I may venture to say, that we need. not
resort to slavery, or go far out of the tract of common life, to discover many in-
stances where the obstinate perseverance in wrong-doing, will draw from pasp
sion, or perhaps the necessity to overcome -such disposition, severer methods of
punishment than ever would have been thought offer the original offence/

'< On these representations I have in the first place, to assure you, that I am
equally ready with yourself to acquit the convicts of having been, wttfoUy,
accessary to the death of their slave. The respect which I owe to the judgment
of the grand jury, who ignored .the indictment for murder, would have made me
extremely unwilling to come to any other conclusion, neither do I find any thing
in the evidence which could l<fad me to differ from the grand jury.

" With respect to considerations of character, I must observe, that, if the
present offence be fully proved, and the sentence no more than duly proportioned
to it, the circumstances of the former life of the delinquents having been free
from offence, even if that were unquestionable, would not justify the remittal of
any part of a punishment which is due to this offence singly. Had the evi-
dence^to their guilt admitted of doubt, I should have been most solicitous to
give every weight to the evidence for character, as rendering it extremely impro-
bable that persons of such charac^r should have been guilty of such (Mffences ;
but the offences being proven facts, and evidence to character being. always open
to some doubt, I cannot but perceive that the improbability which is raised, is,
that persons guilty of such offences should have really deserved so very high a
character for respectability and humanity, as that to which some of the wit-
nesses have testified.

** With respect to the provocation which led to the offence, I must remark,
that a series of cruelties which continued for seventeen days, can admit of no
extenuation on the pretext of sudden anger. I am willing to believe that there
was a determined resistance to authority on the part of the slave ; but I can
never admit that such resistance constitntes * a necessity' for resorting to any
extreme of severity, short of which, severity would be unavailing to subdue it.
Where obstinate disobedience arises from an exasperated state of temper, the
remedy is not to be found in severity of treatment ; for, in some cases, no degree
of severity would be adequate to the purpose, and, in others, the degree of se-
verity which would be adequate would be unjustifiable.

**One of the witnesses (Hepburn), states, that *he has iireqvently knows
Negroes to conceal their illness from sulkiness ;' and it appears by no means
improbable, that in the present case, the slave sacrificed her life in this manner
to her feelings of resentment. It is proper, in similar cases of insubordination^
to resort to such treatment as will render the course taken by the disobedient
alave ineligible to any who possess a temperate state of mind ; and, whilst the
example is thus rendered harmless to others, the irritated feelings of the slave
must be allowed to wear out with time, until he shall become ca^ible of choos-
ing the course of conduct which is best for himself But when punishment ia
inflicted with a vindicdve or intemperate feeling, it is justified by no offence
whatever; and the infliction must be attributed to such a feeling, when the
ponishment is not such as will reclaim the offender, and more than adequate to;
guard against the evil of the example.

<* The cruelties committed by Henry and Helen Moss are, as I have said^
incontrovertibly proved; that there was a provocation to them might have been
believed without the evidence, for it could scaroely be in human ttature to com^
rait them from mere wantonness; but they are totally unjustified by any such
provocation ; they constitute an offence of an aggravated character, and for
which I cannot consider the sentence of five months' imprisonment, and fines
amounting to 300/. to be by any means unduly severe. 1 am therefore, unable
to advise His Majesty to remit any part of this sentence. And, vrith refer-
ence to that part of your despatch of the 3d of July, in which you '^ request my
approbation to relinquish the mulct in order in some degree to remove the im-
pression of their being deemed habitually and notorious cruel," I oan only say,
that it is not in my power to remove the impression which may have been pro-
duced upon the public mind ; but I sincerely hope that Henry and Helen Moss



Digitized by



Google



466 Cruelties in the Bahamas of Mr. and Mrs. Moss,

will, by their fatnre conduct to their slares, as far ai in them lies, rctriere the
cbaiacter which they are said to hare bor ne heretofore.

GoTemor Grant, " I hare, &c.

&c. &c. &c (signed) " Wm. HtisidsMHi."

What a complication of atrocities ! Mr. Huskisson is disposed to
think that the grand jury were justified in refusing to put Mr. and Mrs.
Moss on their trial for the murder of this poor slave ; and legally speak-
ing, he may be right ; at least, it would doubtless require very clear and
decisive testimony to sanction him in impeaching the verdict of a grand
jury. But speaking morally, Mr. and Mrs. Moss we conceive, stand
convicted of the guilt of more than ten ordinary murders, if the de-
liberate malignity of the transaction be duly estimated. The details of
the evidence, which are summed up with siogular clearness and ability,
by Mr. Huskisson, will be found to add to the impression of their guilt ;
and when we consider that the culprits were among the aristocracy of
the Bahamas, to whose "highly respectable character" not only many
of that aristocracy, (including nme members of the legislative assembly)
but the King's representative. General Grant himself, bear the very
strongest testimony, we have exhibited to us a state of society of
which, happily, it is difficult for those who have never visited a slave
colony, to form an adequate idea.

It appears that the Governor, General Grant, was absent from the
colony when these crimes were jperpetrated, and the authors of tbem
were brought to trial. Mr. President Munnings was then acting as his
substitute. This gentleman, whom we greatly honour for his conduct
on this occasion, transmitted to Earl Bathurst on the 5th of April
1827, the following account of the matter.

" Henry Mou^ esq. of Crooked Island, having been accased of excessive cmelty
to a negro girl slave, by confining her for the period of seventeen days and nights i«
the stocks, without intermission, by giving her, while in that situation, tasks which
she was unable to perform, and by causing her to be repeatedly flogged for the non-
performance of such tasks ; and after releasing her from the stocks, by having sent
her to labour in the fields, before she had recovered from the efi*ects of her con-
finement, and by having caused her to be flogged in the fields, (and the girl haT-
ing died in the field on the morning after she had received one of those floggings),
and Mr. Henry Moss jointly with his wife //eZen, having been accused of rubbing
red pepper ^capsicum) upon the eyes of this girl, the attorney-general preferred
a bill of indictment against Mr. Moss and his wife for murder. The grand jary
having returned * Not found ' upon this bill, the attorney-general preferred two
other hills for misdemeanours, one against Mr. Moss, the other against Mr. Moss
and his wife. Both these bills were found by the grand jury, and after a very
full and patient investigation of the circumstances of the case before the petit
jury, during a trial of upwards of sixteen hours' duration, a verdict of guilty was
returned upon both indictments.

*' The court sentenced Mr. and Mrs. Moss to imprisonment in the common
gaol at Nassau, for flve calendar months, and Mr. Moss to the payment of a fine
of £S00. over and besides the costs of the prosecution.

'* I have been solicited to remit or to shorten the term of Mrs. Moss's impri-
sonment, but I shall in no degree whatever alter the sentence of the general
court, by the extension of mercy to those by whom it appears none was ex-
ercised."

In a few weeks General Grant returned to the Bahamas and resumed
his command. He was immediately applied to ''by the most respect-
able inhabitants of the town and colony," to remit the sentence of Mr.
and Mrs. Moss ; and he lost no time in applying to Lord Bathurst in



Digitized by



Google



Cruelties in the Bahamas of Mr, and Mrs. Moss. 467

a letter dated 18th May 1827, to authorise such remission. '' The
unfortunate Henry and Helen Moss/' he tells his Lordship, ''are
rather to be pitied for the untoward melancholy occurrence which has
taken place-/' he therefore hastens to prevent the impression the
bare mention of the case might make on his Lordship's mind. In
a letter of a later date (dd July 1827,) he recurs with much solicitude
to the subject. Some extracts from diat letter have already appeared in
the admirable despatch of Mr. Huskisson, who held the colonial seals
when it arrived. It expresses a strong sense of the respectability of
Mr. and Mrs. Moss, and of their general kindness to their slaves, and
refers to the high estimation in which they are held by '' all who have
visited Mr. Moss and partaken of his hospitality.''* Nay ; *' Mr. Moss,
and especially Mrs. Moss, have never been otherwise than favourably
spoken of in every respect y including that of his slave management." The
Governor, in short, is most anxious that '* persons of their respectability
might be spared from imprisonment ;" and at least, that Lord Bathurst
will allow him to ''relinquish the mulct" lest they should be "held
cruel and oppressive beyond others^* and also in order, in some degree,
" to remove the impression of their being deemed habitually and notoriously
cruel." But he adds, and the addition is most significative of colonial
feeling on such subjects ; " Notwithstanding their being in gaol, they
are visited by the most respectable persons in the place, and by all who
knew them before. This would not be the case even here, if it was the
public opinion that the treatment of Mr. Moss's slaves in general was
unduly severe !"

From this inference of the governor we entirely dissent. Indeed his
own tone was much altered after receiving the despatch of Mr. Secretary
Huskisson. " I confess myself," he says, " much instructed by the
despatch of Mr. Huskisson, as to the manner of viewing both faults and
offences !" And he then claims to himself some merit for the sincere
interest he takes in the subject. — All we ourselves have previously known
of this geuUeman's conduct, in the great question now agitating with
respect to colonial slavery, is from the papers laid before parliament
by his Majesty's command, in the year 1825, a brief abstract of which
is given in a pamphlet published by the Anti-Slavery Society in 1826,
entitled " The Slave Colonies of Great Britain/' &c. pp. 1—11. He
had transmitted to Lord Bathurst an act of the Colonial Assembly,
of which his Lordship censures the injustice in no measured terms,
and which Mr. Huskisson, even after it had been greatly modified, also
condemns with pointed severity. Of this act, he says, that " it improves
the condition of the slaves very considerably." And yet, if we look at
the act, we shall find it, what we have elsewhere described it to be,
(No. 28^ p. 87,) " mere unmeaning verbiage; apparent concessions which
are drawn back by the multiplicity and largeness of the exceptions, and

* Here we have the tme source of many a high eulogium on colonial planters
and their humanity, from naval and military onicers, and from casual visitants,
the lovers of good cheer, who, like Mr. Coleridge, (the Six Months tourist in the
West Indies), find a compensation, in the turtle and madeira of the hospitable
slaveholder's table, for all the oppressions and atrocities which may, at the very
time, bo passing in the slave yard or the field.



Digitized by



Google



468 Cruelties w the Bahamas of Mr> and Mrs, Moss.

pretended reforms which leave every evil of slavery untouched,*' — *^ an
idle and useless parade of legislation, calculated for no purpose but to
blind the eyes of the people of this country."

Since this transaction took place General Grant, we regret to learn,
has been promoted from the petty government of the Bahamas, to the
far more important situation of governor of Trinidad, where he wiM
have to carry into execution his Majesty's plans of West Indian re-
form ; — the grand experiment of amelioration which Mr. Canning held
out as the rm)del after which the whole frame of our colonial policy was
to be moulded. This is an appointment which, judging from our only
means of knowledge, seems highly inauspicious both for the slaves, the
subjects of the experiment, and for those also who have undertaken their
cause, and who will be made answerable, at least by their opponents
and detractors, for its failure.

To conclude, if we would duly estimate the state of feeling, in a com-
munity corrupted by slavery, and the evil that must follow from leavmg
it to such communities to legislate for their unhappy dependents, we
should contrast the burst of execration which, a few days ago, in this
capital, added bitterer agonies to the stroke of justice which fell apon
the wretched Esther Hibner ; with the general sympathy excited, amone
the colonists of the Bahamas, with the more lenient isite of Henry and
Helen Moss, two not less guilty criminals.

If, also, we would duly estimate the unexampled wretchedness which
the Anti-Slavery Society has united to extirpate, we must view, in con-
nection with this transaction, at one extremity of the Antilles, the no
less revolting scenes passing at Berbice, their other extremity {See
Reporter, Nos. 5, 16, 43 and 46) ; and while we may imagine what may
have occurred, contemporaneously, in the intervening colonies from which
no similar returns have been supplied, we must combine with them the
picture of slavery in the Mauritius which has so recently harrowed the hearts
of our readers (No. 44). We shall then have before us a mass of suiTear-
ing which may well make us to shudder, . when we reflect that it has
been inflicted, and is still proceeding, under British authority; and that
therefore we, — this nation, — stand answerable for it all, before Him who
claims the prerogative of being the avenger of the oppressed. Before
Him and before the public do we again solemnly pledge ourselves, widi-
put fear or favour for any individuals, whether high or low, who parti-
pipate in this crjmb, to exert ourselves to the utmost, in vindicating the
indefeasible claims of these unfriended and outcast children of humanity
to the rights of British subjects ; to equal laws; to justice ; to freedom;
and to all the blessings of the gospel. '

A notice of one or two remaining points in the letter of Philalethes ;
and our reply to the British Critic, will appear either in a supplement, or
in the next number.



Online LibraryZachary MacaulayAnti-slavery monthly reporter → online text (page 67 of 72)