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TO ROBERT WILMOT HORTON, ESQ. M. P. &c. &c.
It has been rumoured, that certain individuals connected with His Majesty's Government have expressed no_little astonishment, that the West India Proprietors resident in England should now betray symptoms of dissatisfaction at the Order in Council for Trinidad. They are reported to assert, that they had always proceeded with regard to that measure, upon the belief that the provisions contained in it met with the most perfect approbation of the West India Body in England ; that they were warranted in that supposition by the silence maintained on the subject, by the representatives of the West India interest in Parliament ; and that it is consequently somewhat ungracious, that they should now, for the first time, receive remonstrances and complaints, which might have been preferred with far more propriety and decency two years ago.
• As ministers, particularly those connected with the Colonial Department, must be well aware, that at the very first promulgation of ihat Order in Council to the House of Commons, the compulsory • manumission clauses” were protested against by Lord Seaford, the Chairman of the West India Body in London; and that more than one remonstrance against that particular clause, and against the “ enforcement” of any part of the “ Order,” have been presented to His Majesty's Government, it is impossible to believe that any observation of the kind could have proceeded from them. The rumour might have been left to die unnoticed, because unbelieved, had in not been for the appearance of a pamphlet, in which similar charges have been conditionally made against the West India Body. The pamphlet is evidently written by a defender of Government, and this circumstance renders him deserving of a reply, as otherwise it might be supposed that the West Indians acquiesced in the justice of his accusations, and the public might be induced to believe, that amid the numerous calamities by which the Colonies have now long been assailed, that of having forfeited the protection of Government, must now take a place. Feeling that those accusations are utterly unfounded, and that the writer of this pamphlet has almost egregiously mistaken the conduct of the English West India Proprietors, it is with no fear of having undertaken a difficult task, that I enter upon an explanation; and I take the liberty of addressing myself to you, Sir, because repeatedly and properly as you have repelled the charge of being the partizan of the West Indians, I am convinced you will be glad, when appealed to, to give your testimony to the correctness of my statements; which have for their object to shew, that the West Indians have behaved fairly, manfully, and openly with the Government, and are far from having, as this writer insinuates, betrayed either their own, or the interest of their fellow subjects abroad.
The pamphlet to which I allude, is entitled, “Reinarks on an
“ Address to the Members of the New Parliament, on the proceedings “ of the Colonial Department, with respect to the West India Ques“tion," and professes to be written" by a Member of the last Parlia“.ment.” He first of all shews, that the measures taken to enforce the Order in Council, are to be considered as those of the whole Executive Government, and not merely those of the Colonial Department; and next, that the Order in Council is adapted to the end for which it was brought forward, and is consistent with the resolutions of the House of Commons of 1823,-both of which propositions are denied by the author of the Address..
In the progress of his reasonings, the member of the last Parliament goes somewhat out of his way to make the following remarks:
• Is he (i. e. the author of the pamphlet) not aware that, by inevitable implication, he stamps the West Indian members of the last Parliament, as the “ must ignorant, incautious, and imbecile body of men who ever were got together to repre“ sent an interest ? If they have omitted to do justice to their own cause, by point“ ing out the practical defects of those enactments and instructions which for two “ years and a half have been public documents on the table of the House of “ Commons, and have remained there without commentary, much less disparage“ment, where was their sense of public duty-of personal interest, fairly and “ rationally understood-of nanly responsibility,--for who is there that will “ pretend to deny that they were virtually responsible for the fair interests of the “ West Indians being duly discussed and understood in Parliament? If they have “ shared the opinions of the writer of this address, how can they reconcile it to themselves not “ to have had the manliness to avow them? What inference, therefore, is to be drawn “ from their silence, and from this address-writer's accusations ? Why, that his “ accusations are utterly unfounded ; as it is too monstrous to believe that, if “ they had the shadow of foundation, they would be first communicated to the “ world in a pamphlet published in October, 1826, when three long Sessions of “ Parliament had elapsed without one sylla' le of a kindred nature being uttered “ within the walls of Parliament."
As it is now pretty well ascertained, that the West Indians at home are united in the intention of opposing by every constitutional means the enforcement of the “ compulsory manumission clauses,” it is of course clear, that they do to a certain extent “share the opinions” of the author of the address, and are consequently exposed to the censure so lavishly bestowed upon them in the preceding extract. Of that censure, a very few words will suffice to demonstrate the folly and injustice, and to make the charge of ignorance and incaution recoil on him who brought them forward.
In the first place, it is perhaps necessary to observe, that the West Indians do not even now object to the resolutions of the House of Commons of 1823; but they contend that the Government, in founding upon those resolutions a provision for emancipation, invito domino, have violated both their letter and their spirit. The author of the remarks makes a most awkward attempt to prove, that such a measure ought to have been contemplated as the necessary result, whereas, by every principle of grammatical and logical construction, Parliament is thereby pledged to do nothing more than to “ enforce” measures of amelioration, and declare that they look to the negroes' (not partici
pating, but) being prepared for participating civil rights and privileges, by" a progressive improvement in their character;" and yet, in direct contradiction of these well-guarded provisions, the Trinidad Order in Council contains clauses, not only for amelioration, but for 'emancia pation. It is perfectly immaterial whether these were introduced through the agency of the legal adviser of the Colonial Office, or Mr. Canning, whether they are to be ascribed only to the Colonial Department, or to the whole of the Cabinet; they are equally reprehensible and unauthorized by the records of Parliament. They are obnoxious to the letter of the resolutions, for they are measures of emancipation, and not of amelioration. They are obnoxious to the spirit, for they are not “ 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 property."
But why, then, says the author of the Remarks, why did not the West India Body remonstrate against their clauses? Why have two years and a half been suffered to pass by without any remark having been made upon them ?-Why did they not? Sir, you as a Minister, as a Member of the late Parliament, which this author pretends to be, must know that they did remonstrate at the very first moment that the Trinidad Order in Council was made known to them.-.-Mr. Canning, when he laid it before the House of Commons, detailed in the glowing language of philanthropy and genius, the beautiful effects which would be produced by the measures which it contained, tending to the improvement of the negro character. In this part he was at once argumentative and eloquent; but when he arrived at the com-. mencement of the “ Compulsory Manumission Clauses,” his argument and his eloquence alike gave way. Try him, Sir, by the extract from his speech on that occasion, which the author has been unlucky enough to quote in support of his views. I give the words in which he promulgates this important addition to the meaning of the Resolutions of 1823.
" It ordains, that a negro who has acquired sufficient property shall, under certain “ guards and regulations therein set forth, be entitled to purchase his own freedom, the “ freedom of his wife, or that of his children. I have thus, Sir, stated to the House the " provisions of the Order in Council. I know that, with respect to the last point, namely, " the purchase of freedom, great prejudice, great dislike, great apprehension prevails. I “am far from saying that it is not a perplexing question ; but the principle has been ad"mitted, to a certain ertent, in St. Kitts, and also in Trinidad. No principle can be con“sidered as impracticable which has, even in a single instance, been voluntarily admitted “ in the West Indies."
Avowing his knowledge of the “dislike-the apprehension," prevalent against it, admitting that it embraced a “perplexing question,” this accomplished statesman endeavours to allay that dislike, remove those apprehensions, deprive the question of its perplexities, by an elaborate train of argument comprised in sixteen words,
ciple has been admitted, to a certain extent, in St. Kitts, and also in “ Trinidad!!”
How satisfactory, how convincing, to the representatives of
« the prin
Jamaica, of Barbadoes, and of nine other colonies, all governed by different laws and usages! How strange, that this reasoning should have failed to operate on their minds, as it did upon that of the author of the pamphlet, who appears to have been so completely overcome, that he did not even hear the observations which Lord Seaford made, on the very same night, expressive of his dissent. You, Sir, no doubt remember them, and I will subjoin them to assist your recollection. His authority as an individual, Sir, is no mean one; and on this occasion he might have been supposed to stand forward as the Representative of the West India interest. He was the Chairman of the West India Committee; he had been the first to propose and to support measures of amelioration; he had obtained to such measures, and to the measures of Government, the support of the West India Body; but when he found that Government had exceeded their instructions, in proposing measures of emancipation, he entered his protest against them, a protest which, considering the quarter from which it came, must have been considered as the protest of the general West India body. His whole speech, indeed, is exceedingly important, because it contains the grounds upon which the leaders of that body founded both their approbation and disapprobation of the Orders in Council; and I strongly recommend the following passages to the attention of every one who conceives the West Indians to be either unceasingly refractory,“ ignorant, incautious, or imbecile.”
“When the Colonial Legislatures find that the Government and Parliament of Great “ Britain do not intend to employ for the enforcement of those measures to which they “ look, as it is expressed in the resolutions of this House, for 'that progressive improve"ment in the character of the slave population, which may prepare them for a participa“tion in those civil rights and privileges which are enjoyed by other classes of His Ma“ “ jesty's subjects'—when they find that they do not intend to employ, for the enforce“ment of those measures, the ultima ratio of Governments, but are contented to rely upon " the influence of example, and the argument, ad verecundiam, there will remain no longer "any ground of jealousy as to any interference with their legislative privileges. When “ they further learn that, for the accomplishment of their ultimate object, the Government “and Parliament do not look to legislative enactment, but to the natural operation of such “ an improvement in the state of society in those countries as shall render the slave fit to " receive his liberty before he can obtain it; in a word, that they look not to the enfranchise“ment of the slave, but to the extinction of slavery;' they will see that there exists no “intention to invade their property in their slaves. And lastly, when they further find " that the Government and Parliament do not intend to call upon them to adopt any mea-, “sures of doubtful prudence, until they shall have had the opportunity of seeing the prac“ tical proofs of their good effects in full operation in some other colonies, they cannot “ entertain any dread of an intention to put to hazard the public tranquillity—when they “thus find that no measures of hostility are directed against their legislative privileges
no measures of spoliation against their property, and no measures of dangerous policy " against their internal tranquillity, every existing cause of jealousy and distrust will have “ been removed from the minds of the Colonial Legislatures.
“Having stated my approbation of the course pointed out by my Right Honorable “ Friend, it is necessary for me to explain that there are two of the measures announced “by him not included in the pledge wbich I have stated to have been given by gen“ tlemen connected with the Colonies ---I mean the admissibility of slaves as witnesses, " and the compulsory power proposed to be given to the slave of purchasing his freedom.
“ With regard to the first of these propositions,' I have no hesitation in saying, as far " as my own opinion is concerned, that I entertain no objection to that concession which
“ would not be obviated by the modifications proposed by my Right lionorable Friend. “ I consider it indeed essential, that the exercise of that privilege should be restricted by “ the knowledge which the slave may be proved to have of the obligation of an oath,--“ that it might be proper to require a certificate to that effect, and also perhaps of general “good character, and to except all cases in which the interest of the master might be " directly implicated in the evidence of the slave. But subject to such qualifications and “exceptions, I should hope that the concession might be safely made, and if safe, it would, " I think, be most proper to grant it.
“ With regard to the second proposition, I confess I entertain more serious appre“ hensions. It is a measure, of which it is impossible at the first blush to embrace all the “ various and remote effects in its bearings upon the state of society in the Colonies. Nu“ merous objections, however, present themselves to the mind at the first sight of it, as to “its execution in various points of detail : first, as affecting the property of the master ; “ next as affecting the comfort of the slave: and, lastly, as tending to counteract even the “ ultimate object of the measure itself.
“ For these objections no satisfactory solution has yet offered itself to my mind, and I “ cannot but think that these objections could scarcely have failed to suggest themselves “ to the comprehensive mind of my Right Honorable Friend, if the multiplicity of his “other avocations could have afforded him the opportunity of considering the practical de“ tails of this measure as maturely as they deserve.
“ Indeed I think that my Right Honorable Friend would have done better, with a “ view to the more safe, and I believe the less distant, accomplishment of the very object “ of this measure---the extinction of slavery---if he had not departed from the principles “ laid down by the Abolitionists themselves, and expressed by their own organ, in a Re
port published by the African Institution, in which while they repel with indignation all “ imputation of having in contemplation any other more abrupt means, they declare that " they look only to the extinction of slavery' by the same happy means which had put an " . end to it in England,'---' by the encouragement (not compulsion) of particular manu"' missions,'---'to an emancipation of which, not the slaves, but the masters, should be the
It is but fair to remark, that, in page 28, our author acknowledges his acquaintance with this speech ; and the bold assertions which he makes in page 11, and in the extract given, becomes thus qualified:
“ The Order in Council, containing the compulsory manumission clauses, has “ remained on the table of the House of Commons for two years and a half, without any “ motion having been made upon it, or any abuse levelled against it, by any individual of “the last parliament, connected with the West Indian interest, except in a speech of the " present Lord Seaford (Mr. C. R. Ellis), made on the day on which Mr. Canning uttered “ his celebrated commentary on its enactments.”
It is not my business to examine whether the author has or has not fairly answered Lord Seaford's observations, my only object is to shew, that the West India Proprietors in England did object to the compulsory manumission clauses immediately on their promulgation, and how unfounded is their author's accusation against them to the contrary.
But this protest, thus solemnly uttered by the Chairman of the West India Body, and speaking in their name, goes for nothing in the opinion of our author, because, forsooth, no motion was made." Can any thing be more preposterous ? Let me ask the author, was there ever any motion made in Parliament for the purpose of obtaining their approbation to the Order in Council? Mr. Canning stated the course about to be adopted-Mr. Buxton thought he did not go