Zachary Macauley.

The Anti-slavery reporter and aborigines' friend online

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day, an individual or two to cut and carry the grass which is needed^
the whole gang, men and women, at the close of a day of exhausting
toil, uAder a vertical sun, must be engaged, for an hour or two after it
is dark, in cutting and carrying large bundles of grass, perhaps tho-
roughly wet with rain, for a mile or two on their heads ; till having all
assembled, (possibly after long waiting,) and delivered their bundles,
they are dismissed to their homes ; some of them, perhaps, first receiv-
ing a few lashes, or beii^g punished with a ni^ht in the stocks, on ac-
count of the scantiness of their bundles. This is an enormous abuse,
which ought not to be endured for a day longer.*

But there is another, and perhaps a still more important, blemish in
the Order in Council. It consists in a supplementary enactment, which
directs that upon the complaint of a Slave to the magistrate, of an
illegal punishment having been inflicted, the accused, if convicted,
shall be liable to a penalty not exceeding ten pounds ; but that should
the complaint prove groundless or malicious, the magistrate shall re-
turn the Slave, with a written declaration of the cause of dismissing
the charge, to his master, who thereupon may inflict punishment, at bit
discretion, to the extent of 25 lashes ; or, if deserving of a higher
punishment, the Slave may be remitted to the proper tribunal.

It is impossible not to feel that this system of making Slaves liable
to punishment when they fail to establish, by satisfactory evidence, the
truth of their complaint, (a system which prevails throughout the whole
of the West Indies,) is radically vicious, and ought not to have been
sanctioned by His Majesty's Government A Slave fails to prove the
truth of a complaint, involving, even if established, a penalty not ex*
ceeding ten pounds ; and for this failure, the complainant may be sub-
jected to 25 lashes of the cart-whip, inflicted by an exasperated master,
and that without his being arraigned, or tried, or having any opportu-
nity afibrded him of preparation, or of producing witnesses in his
favour, but merely on the ground of what may have transpired before
the magistrate, not on an examination of a specific charge against him-
self, but on the trial of a charge against his master. It may be per-
fectly proper to punish malicioy>s complaints, but surely the pmishment
ought to follow a Tegular arraignment, and a regular trial and convic-
tion, after all fair means of disproving the charge of malice have been
allowed to the accused. The attorney-general, in a recent debate,
expressed most strongly, in common with Mr. Canning and Mr. Peel,
his sense of the obligation which lay on Parliament to provide that the
Negro should enjoy the same protection from the law, both in its sub-
stance and its forms, as the White man. But what can be a more
direct contravention of that principle, than the provision that has been

* See Collins*s Practical Planter; Watson's defence of West Indian Metho-
dist Missions ; the Tract, Negro Slavery, No. 1 ; and the Slave Colonies of
Great Britain, p. 80. and p. 86—90.



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145

mentioned ; a provision, not only radically unjust in itself, but pregnant
with the most disastrous effects on the happiness of the Slave popula-
tion. Of the extent of those effects, some idea may be formed from
the proceedings which took place in Trinidad itself, as detailed in the
papers before the House of Commons, in the case of two slaves, Mar-
quis and Regis; but still more from the returns of the fiscals of
Demerara and Berbice. In the report of this last, especially, are to
be found numerous instaiices of Slaves having been severely punished
on the pretence that, supported only by the evidence of the very indi-
viduals against whom they complained, their complaints were unfounded.

It has been necessary to dwell at so much length on the Order in
Council for Trinidad, because it is professedly the model on which the
Government has declared its intention of acting, with respect to all the
Colonies directly subject to its own legislation. It is extremely im-
portant therefore that its defects should be understood. In five of those
Colonies, however, nothing has yet been done for giving efF<^t to any one
of its provisions, although it has been stated to be the intention of
. Ministers no longer to delay the necessary measures for that purpose.
These Colonies are Berbice, St. Lucia, Honduras, the Cape of
Good Hope, and the Mauritius. Of them, therefore, nothing need
now t>e said ; as the legal condition of their Slave population remains
still in precisely the same state in which it was on the 15th of May, 1823.
In Demerara alone has any thing as yet been done for assimilating its
Slave laws to those of Trinidad.

It was Lord Bathurst's instructions to the governor of Demerara, that
the whole of the provisions of the Trinidad Order should be introduced
into that Colony ; and it might have been introduced there, as easily as
it had been introduced into Trinidad, merely by exercising the same act
of the Royal authority in the one case as in the other. It was thought ex-
pedient to pursue a different course, and to prevail, if possible, with the
Demerara Court of Policy, to adopt and promulgate the new code as their
own enactment Two years were passed m efforts to this effect, until Lord
Bathurst was at length obliged to intimate to them, that '' however, de-
sirous His Majesty's Government might be that the origination of this
memsure should proceed from t,he Court of Policy," it was necessary
to explain that if they did not adopt his suggestions. His Majesty^s
Government ** would feel it their paramount duty to issue, without fur-
ther delay, an Order in Council for the purpose of carrying them into
effect."* This intimation led to the adoption, by the Court of Policy, of
the draft of an Order, which was transmitted to Lord Bathurt by Sir B.
D'Urban, on the 14th of March, 1825 ; and of which an analysis with
observations will be found in a former publication of the Society .f

On the 9th of July, 1825, Lord bathurst returned this draft to
Demerara^ with a strong expression of His Majesty's approbation of
the zeal with which the Court of Policy had proceeded to give effect
to Ills wishes; and although he admits that the law will be imperfect

* See Loid Baihnrsf s letter to Sir B. D'Urban, dated. 20th Nov. 1834 ; and
the Slave Colonies of Great Britain, p. 25. ^^i '

t Slave Colonies, &c. p. 27—33. ' ^

2



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146

until same important additions shall have been made to it, he neverthe-
less directs that a law, expressed in the terms of the draft, should be
forthwith promulgated ; his Lordship being anxious that the chief civil
authorities of the Colony should appear to the Slaves to be the immediate
authors of the beneficial change in their condition. He guards them,
however, against considering the adoption of this course as, in any
degree, admitting the claims of the Court of Policy, or compromising
the rights of His Majesty, to the legislative authority in Demerara ; or,
as implying that Government meant to abandon any of the principles of
reform enforced and acted upon in Trinidad, as nothing short of a
complete compliance with those principles will satisfy them.

These observations are accompanied by a repetition of the arguments
that had been already used by his Lordship in his dispatch of the 20th
November, 1824,* in reply to the objections of the Court of Policy ; and
he closes with expressing a hope, that they will spare him the necessity
of introducing, into the Order in Council, regulations which the Court of
Policy shall not have previously adopted.

The Court of Policy having taken this dispatch into their consider-
ation, refused to modify any part of their draft, excepting the clause
relating to the marriage of Slaves, which they have now agreed shall,
when solemnized in the prescribed mode, " be held, and considered
binding, valid, and effectual in law ; provided nevertheless, that such
marriages shall not confer, on the parties or their issue, any rights incon-
sistent with the duties which Slaves owe to their owners or to the goverri-
menty or at variance with those rights which the owner or the govern-
ment are by law entitled to dissert over Slaves and their progeny, or sub-
ject such Slaves, so intermarrybg, to any penal infliction the effects of
^ which might destroy the rights or injury the property of their owners.^f

The Demerara Ordonnance has been promulgated in this state of mu-
tUation, and^came into operation on the 1st of January, 1826.

The defects of the Order in Council for Trinidad, have been already
pointed out. . These defects, of course, remain in the law which has been
adopted in Demerara, and they remain there in greater force in conse-
quence of the omission, in the Demerara law, of several of the most im-
portant and most beneficial of the provisions of the Trinidad Order.

On the subject of these omissions. Lord Bathurst addressed the Govei*-
nor of Demerara, in a dispatch, dated February 25, 1826. The first to
which he adverts, respects Sunday labour, various kinds of which, as pot-
ting suear, turning and drying coffee and cotton, &c, the Court of Policy
contend it is necessary to continue, compulsorily, and without wag^s. Lord
Bathurst, in commenting upon this statement, observes, that it is neces-
sary to maintain inviolate the maxim that the owner of a Slave has no
title to his labour, except during six days of the week. % All labour^
therefore, on Sunday, for the preservation of the crops, must be neces^

* Slave Colonies, &c. p. 26. t See Papers of March, 1826.

X The transcribing of these and similar expressions, is not to be considered as
implyin^^an acquiescence in the justice of the principles which they involve. It
would obviously be difficult for the owner to establish, on any very satisfactory
ground, his Just title to the labour of his fellow-men for six, or for any, days ia
the week.



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147

sary to that end| and must both be voluntary on the part of die Slave
upon any estate, and must be paid for at a regulated rate by the master.
This principle of remuneration to the Slave for Sunday labour cannot,
his Lordship says, be departed from ; and that remuneration must be
paid, not in a small portion of the produce, but by ascertainable wages.
Lord Bathurst is, therefore, of opinion, that the reasons alleged by the
Court of Policy for permitting, in certain cases, the compulsory labour
of Slaves without wages on Sunday, are insufficient to justify the
practice.

With respect to the Slave's right of property, Lord Bathurst seems
disposed to concede, that Slaves should be debarred from cultivating or
selling the staple articles of sugar, coffee, and cotton, on the ground
alleg^ by the Planters, both of Trinidad and Demerara, that a permis-
sion to cultivate or sell the staple commodities of the Colony, would
tempt the Slaves to commit depredations on their owners' property.
But even such a restriction as Lord Bathurst proposes would fall far
short of that imposed by the law of Demerara, which enacts that ** All
slaves, as well males as females, are prohibited from selUng or barter-
ing with any one whatever, any produce, sugar, coffee, cocoa, indigo,
cotton, rokow, syrup, rum, bottles, or flasks, or any thing else ; being
permitted to sell onlv vegetables and ground provisions, the produce of
their garden, or stock which they are permitted to rear ; on pain of their
being severely flogged, on the plantation to which they belong, for the
first offence ; and, for the second, to be punished by sentence of the
court, according to the exigency of the case." *

If this law, or even the modified version of it proposed by Lord
, Bathurst, is to be maintained, what hope can reasonably be entertained
of productive industry, beyond the mere supply of their necessities, on
tlie part of the Slaves ? What would be thought of a law in this country
which should prohibit labourers, who might be the owners or occupiers
of a few acres of land, from cultivating upon it any of the staple articles
of production ? But the Planters say, that if the existing prohibition
were removed, a door would be opened to depredations on the Master's
property. If depredation is practicable, the Master will be liable to it,
whether such a law exists or not But even if all the weight were al-
lowed to the argument which is claimed for it, it does seem alto-
gether unwarrantable to make the prohibition, as it now is, universal and
unqualified. Why should the slaves of a sugar estate be debarred from
growing coffee, or the slaves of a coffee plantation from growing cot-
ton, or the slaves of a cotton plantation from growing coffee, ginger, and
other exportable articles? The law, as it stands at present, is con-
ceived in the very worst spirit of a pure and unmitigated monopoly ;
and if it shall be deemed necessary to continue it, it will only serve to
convince the people of this country, more fully than ever, of the untract-
able nature of Slavery, and of the necessity, on every sound principle,
whether of morals or of political economy, to effect its utter ex-
tinction. The Court of Policy had also brought forward an anray of
objections to the allowing Slaves to hold property in land, or to the

« Slave Colonies of Great Britain, p. 26.



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148

giving them a power of civil actfon in regard to their property; to some
of which objectbns it is to be regretted that Lord Bathurst seems to
attach sufficient weight to incline him to modify, in some degree, the
provisions of the Trinidad Order.

The third grand omission in the Demerara Order respects the right
proposed to be given to the Slave to purchase his manumission. On
this point Lord Bathurst justly observes, ** no system of measures would
satisfy the feelings of this country, or execute the purposes of the House
of Commons, whiclvdid not contain some direct provision, some acting
principle, by which the termination of Slavery may be gradually ac-
complished. He regards therefore the right in question as ** a vital
part of the whole measure," which *' cannot be dispensed with." His
Lordship then discusses at some length, and refutes, the reasoning of
the Court of Policy on this subject, though occasionally on grounds
which are themselves liable to very considerable question, and with occa-
sional concessions which expose even his main principle to the risk of
becoming practically inefficient. His Lordship s dispatch thus con-
cludes —

'^ This principle of emancipation will proceed on presumptive evi-
dence of the Slave having acquired habits of industry which may fit
him for an independent existence, while it will secure to the owner that
compensation to which it may be found by experience, as the measure
advances in operation, he will be fairly entitled; and it is by experience
alone that this can be truly ascertained.*

" A manumission of Slaves under these regulations will be in confor-
mity with the concluding Resolution of the House of Commons in 1823,
which declares that the great object of emancipation must be accom-
plished * at the earliest period which shall be compatible with the well-
being of the Slaves themselves, with the safety of the Colonies, and
with a fair and equitable consideration of the interests of private pro-
perty.

'' But the Court of Policy must recollect, that if, on the one hand,
Parliament and His Majesty's Government stand pledged to give the
Planters an equitable compensation, they stand equally pledged to take
such measures as may ultimately, though gradually, work out the free-
dom of the Slaves.

^' The Court of Policy may be assured, that from the Jinal accomplish-
ment of this object this country will not be diverted.

*^ It remains for me only to add, that I now, for the last time, bring
these regulations under the consideration of that Court, with no other
akemative, in the event of their declining to admit them, than that of
my humbly submitting to His Majesty the expediency of enacting them
by direct royal authority."t

* This proposition is not a very obvious one, although its tendency is scarcely
to be inistaken. But, after all, is not the real value of any article, whether it be
a machine, or cattle, or the human animal, if we must so degrade him, the amount
which it will command in the market f

t See the papers laid before Parliament, March 1826.

The author of a pamphlet, more largely noticed below, has justified the course
of referring this matter to the Court of P4>licy, by pointing out the important in-



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149

There is^ however, a fourth most important omission not noticed in
the dispatch of Lord Bathurst, though mentioned by him on former oc-.
casions, namely, that clause numbered 21 in the Trinida4 Order,
which directs that on the prosecution of any Owner, &c,, for inflicting
any illegal punishment on a Slave, if the Slave so alleged to be pu-
nished shall be produced in open court, and if the marks of recent
laceration shall appear on his person, and if the Slave shall make a ccn-
sistent and probable statement of the facts, the accused shall be bound
to prove either that the punishment was not inflicted by him or with his
privily, or that it was a lawful punishment, lawfully inflicted ; and in
default of such proof he shall be convicted.

But besides the defects belonging to the Trinidad Order in Council,
and which are also attributable to that of Demerara, and the further im-
portant omissions which have now been noticed in the latter, there are
to be found in it some minor but yet material deviations from the Trini-
dad model, which ought not to be overlooked in any Royal Order it
may be necessary to issue.

The interval between an offence and its punishment is altered from
the definite period of twenty-four hours in the Trinidad Order, to
*' after suti-rise'' of the day next following that of the offence ; which
may allow an interval of only six or seven hours. Again, instead of re-
quiring, as in Trinidad, a free witness of the punishment, it is made
sufficient that six Slaves shall witness it. It is surely a hazardous in-
novation to make the. witnesses in such a case persons so wholly de-
pendent on the punisher as his own Slaves must be ; and the pretence
for it, too, seems inadmissible, namely, that it may be impracticable to
obtain, in any reasonable time, a free per8on,White, Brown, or Black, to
attend and witness the infliction. If free persons are so extremely scarce
in Demerara, as to require such an arrangement, it is only a proof of the
importance of imposmg additional checks on arbitrary punishment, in-
stead of granting additional facilities for its exercise. A delay of forty -
eight hours is allowed in recording punishments, on what account doe»
not appear. The penalty for failing to deliver, every six months, a copy
of the record on oath^ is only 300 guilders, or 25/. sterling.

The hours iorjield work m Demerara are made to extend from six in
the morning till six in the evening, with ai^ interval, in the whole, of
two hours for rest and meals; bein^ half an hour less than in the other
Colonies. But, as has been already observed, Jield work by no means
comprises the whole of the labour exacted from Slaves. One of the
most onerous, vexatious, and injurious of the tasks daily imposed on
them follows after the cessation of field work. We speak not of the labour

fluence which will be produced, on the other Colonies, by the example of a local
legislature like that of Demerara appearing to take into its own hands the ini-
tiation of such an Ordonnance. But those Colonies are not in ignorance of the
real facts of the case. They know them as well as the author of the pamphlet.
He cannot throw dust into their eyes on this subject, as they may have done too
successfully into his. They well know that, whatever appearance may be given to
the transaction, both the initiation and the completion of it belong to His Ma-
jesty's Government, and not to the Court of Policy. The attempt, therefore, to
exhibit it to them under such a semblance, can serve no rational purpose what-



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150

of crop, as grinding and boiling sugar, pulping*cofiee, Ac, which are al-r
lowed to be continued for half the night, thus depriving the Skiyes, for
several months of the year, of a great part of their natural rest ; but of the
prevalent practice, when the field work is over, of obliging the Slaves to
collect food for the horses, cattle, and other live stock — a task which
necessarily consumes from one to two hours of the evening in a mos|
troublesome and unhealthy occupation y bringing with it also a needless
multiplication of penal inflictions.*

In Demerara the Fiscal has been appointed the protector and guar?
dian of Slaves. The two offices seem not to be very compatible ; an^
if we may judge by the returns, already received from this very gen-
tleman, of his decisions on the complaints of Slaves, they certainly
present no satisfactory ground of confidence that he is peculiarly qua-,
lified for his new office* .

After having pointed out the comparative defects of the Demerara
Order, as compared with that of Trinidad, it is but an act of justice tOf
sjtate wherein it has improved upon that model. A record of punishments^
is directed to be kept not only on all plantations, as in Trinidad, but by
all persons having gangs of Slaves exceeding six. Those who possess^
a smaller number are not subject to any such regulation ; and yet per-:
sons in low circumstances are both less likely to be accustomed tot
restrain their passions, and less liable to observation than others. Their
slaves, therefore, if no record of their punishments is to be kept;,^uglit
surely to be exempt from any arbitrary inflictions (at least beypnd the
three lashes which may be given in all cases without a record ]|^ unlesi^
by the order of a magistrate.

The Demerara law of evidence is also more favourable to th^ Staves^
than that of Trinidad, inasmuch as it admits the evidence of Slaves in
eivil suits in which the Owner is concerned, and on the trial c^ Whitei^
charged with capital oflences.

Such, then, is the actual extent of the improvements effected in the
seven Slave Colonies subject to the crown. In Trinidad an Order has^
been promulgated, comprizing many beneficial regulations^ but falling
short of even that measure of reform which the public had been led to
expect. In Demerara an Ordonnance has been published, which, as;
has been seen, falls, in some very important respects, below that of Tri-
nidad. In the other five Colonies nothing has as yet been done.

The Colonies having Legislatures of their own are thirteen in number.
To these the Trinidad Order was transmitted by Lord Bathurst in the
year 1824 (full instructions to the same purport having been sent oat in
the preceding year), recommending it to them, in the strongest manner,
to frame their Slave Codes accordingly. The result of these recommen-
dations will now be explakied. — rNine of these have dpne nothing, viz.
Antigua, Barbadoes,t Bermuda, Dpminica,t Jamaica,§ Mantserrat,
Nevis, St. Kitt's, and Tortola, or the Virgin Islatids.

* See above, p. 143, 144.
t In the paper laid before Parliament, containing a ** Statement of Slav*
meliorating Provisiona recommended by His M i^esty^s Government,'' and en*
acted in the Colony of Barbadoes, the word " none" is affixed to each sepai^ate
head of improvement.



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151

Id these nine Colonies, therefore, not one of the twelve or rather
fourteen heads of proposed improvement specified above (p. 1, 2.) has
been adopted, in consequence of the recommendations of His Majesty.

There remain, however, four Colonies in which something^ it appears,
has been done. We proceed to shew to what that some thmg amounts.

I. THE BAHAMAS.

The papers laid before Parliament would shew that improvements
had been introduced into the law of the Bahamas, passed in 1824, in six
particulars, namely, religious instruction, manumission, regulation of
punishment, female flogging, marriage, and the separation of families.
With respect, however, to the first three of these heads, they ought to
have been entirely excluded, for reasons which shall now be given.

] St. All that the new Act says on the subject of religious instruction
is to this effect : — ^' That all Masters, or, in their absence, their Over-
seers, shall, as much as in them lies, endeavour to instruct their Slaves



Online LibraryZachary MacauleyThe Anti-slavery reporter and aborigines' friend → online text (page 23 of 58)