« ElőzőTovább »
and upon her principally must it depend whether they be possessed of any attractions whatsoever, whether home be indeed that “spot of earth supremely blest” and general society offer any thing more than one unvarying, tedious round of frivolity, scandal, match-making and stupidity. In any community where, with respect to intellectual development, the disparity between the sexes is almost immeasurable, one need hardly be surprised at finding comparatively little sympathy or intercourse between them, the society of a mother, a sister or a wise of all society the least esteemed, prattle insipid even for the nursery, the conversational currency of the fashionable world, woman's high mission neither comprehended nor fulfilled, and half of life's purest enjoyment unknown.
ART. III.-BRITIs H WEST INDIA Is LANDs.
Report from the Select Committee on West India Colos nies, together with Minutes of Evidence and Appendia. Ordered by the House of Commons to be printed. 25th July, 1842.
Proceedings of the Select Committee on Sugar and Coffee Planting. Ordered by the House of Commons to be printed. 29th May, 1849.
THE policy pursued by the British government for the last forty years, in reference to slavery and the slave trade, has made a lasting impression upon the organization of society in the world, and produced consequences as permanent as society itself.
In the July number of this Review, of 1847, the origin and progress of that policy, and some of the measures taken to develope it, were explained. Our purpose, at present, is to enter more into their details and to follow to a further length their consequences than we were then able to do. The emancipation of the slaves in the British colonies was initiated by the adoption in the British Parliament of the resolutions of Mr. Canning in 1823. Those resolutions provided for limitations upon the powers of masters over
the persons of slaves, the formation of families among them, a capacity to hold property, and recognized the duty to promote their moral and intellectual improvement. These provisions were destined to prepare the slaves for freedom. The principle was then announced by parliament that servitude could not be permanently tolerated in the British colonies, and would be allowed only until the measures for its abolition could be completed. The bold and resolute minds of the accomplished statesman who superintended the preparation of these propositions staggered at the prospects they opened. He appreciated the entire difficulty of the work of recasting, in a single generation, a whole people.
Bold as the measures were, the means did not appear inadequate to the end. The acts of legislation, founded upon the resolutions of Mr. Canning, altered in important particulars the positions of the members of West India society. The slave lost a portion of his value as property. He was recognized as a member of society, having already important claims under its laws, and destined to occupy there a position of more consequence. These measures were received with great discontent in the West India Islands. The missionaries who had proceeded to them, under the patronage of the abolition societies in Great Britain, became more active and intermeddling than before. The masters became more restless and less disposed to submit to legislation or to the officious interference of individuals. Angry collisions arose between the colonial legislatures and the members of the metropolitan government. The officers of the crown in the colonies were frustrated by the slave owners in their attempts to sulfil their duties on this subject. The colonial legislatures refused to pass laws to execute the will of the imperial government. The missionaries were visited with mob law, and a dangerous insurrection arose in Jamaica in 1831, among the slaves, in which millions of property were destroyed and hundreds of lives lost before it was suppressed. This state of things in the islands stimulated the abolitionists at home to renewed efforts. They made an incessant warfare upon the laws recognizing the relation of master and slave in the colonies. They familiarized the public mind to the necessity of emancipation. They depreciated all the alarming consequences that were apprehended from it to follow to the master or slave, and satisfied the public mind that it would improve and even enrich both parties to the relation. In May, 1832, a committee of the Ilouse of Commons, appointed to inquire into the condition of colonial slavery, after stating that their investigations embraced the two sollowing propositions, viz.: “First. That the slaves, if emancipated, would maintain themselves, would be industrious and disposed to acquire property by labor.” Secondly. “That the dangers of convulsions are greater from freedom withheld than from freedom granted,” reported “that the evidence affirmative of these propositions was not exhausted, but that, as the session was drawing to an end, they were compelled to close their labors in an unfinished state, and that the important question of what was due to the fair and equitable consideration of the interests of private property, as connected with emancipation, had not been investigated by them.” At the next session of Parliament, without further inquiry, Lord Stanley announced that the “frightful experiment” of immediate emancipation would be undertaken. At the same time he exonorated the ministry from all responsibility on account of the measure. The ministry, in this, obeyed an overruling and unreasoning necessity. The will of the British people imposed it as a duty upon them to propose the measure. The act he proposed divided the slaves into three classes: those under six years and preadial and urbon laborers. The first class was emancipated and no indemnity was granted to the master. An apprenticeship of six years was provided for the first and four years for the last class. During the period of apprenticeship the blacks were to work for their masters five days in the week and nine hours per day. In 1838, the difference made between the two classes of apprentices was abolished, in consequence of the complaints of the abolitionists at the injustice of the distinction between them. The British parliament, in the emancipation act, granted £20,000,000 to the planters as an indemnity for their losses. The slaves were appraised, for the purpose of division of this sum, at £45,000,000. The four years of apprenticeship constituted the only compensation for the £25,000,000 of value not covered by the grant. It is an interesting fact in the history of this transaction, that the slaves were nearly as valuable during the years of apprenticeship as before. The master was debarred, during those years, from inflicting punishment upon them. The hours of their labor were regulated by statute. The master was subject to many vexatious interferences from magistrates, sent from Great Britain to superintend the execution of the laws providing for emancipation. Notwithstanding these things, the cost of production and the amount of produce raised on the islands indicated no very injurious result to the masters. These are facts, which establish that extensive ameliorations in the law of the relation can be made, without prejudice to the master's interest. Another fact, of equal importance in this history, is that when emancipation was granted it was followed by no revolt or insurrection. There was no act of insubordination and no offence against public authority committed by the emancipated slave. In our former article we expressed our impatience at the changes that were habitually rung by the speech makers upon the dangers that life and property in the South was exposed to from servile insurrections. We can imagine cases in which dangers of such occurrences might arise. We can suppose that if they were addressed, from week to week, by men in whose authority and professions they had confidence, and were influenced against their masters, that an insurrection might be produced among the slaves. We think it possible that a long continued and constant ag tation abroad, to effect a change in the positions of master and slave, carried on with the knowledge and exciting the expectations of the slaves, might finally render them discontented and lead them to make disturbances. We are satisfied that individual cases of insubordination will arise, from the existence of the last mentioned state of facts, and many crimes will be perpetrated under their influence. We wholly discredit all apprehensions of a general revolt, or of any serious injury to the frame of society from such causes. The slaves have no disposition to enlist in such enterprises. They look to their masters as their natural guardians and protectors. The frame-work of a society based upon slavery is strong. It is an institution fitted, above all others, to sustain and furnish the means of satisfying an appetite for conquest. The institution arose out of wars of aggression, and was maintained in its utmost vigor in military republics. It languished in Europe when wars became defensive, and perished there naturally when commerce became king. We are then fully prepared for the picture drawn by the assembly of Jameica, of the first scenes of emancipation in the island. “For successive weeks, universal idleness reigned over the island : the plantation cattle, deserted by their keepers, ranged at large through the growing crops, and fields of canes, cultivated at great cost, rotted upon the ground for the want of hands to cut them. Among the humbler classes of society, respectable families, whose sole dependence had been a few slaves, had to persorm for them. selves the most menial offices.” Since the proclamation of freedom in 1838, the affairs of the West India Islands have received on two occasions the most careful examination of the British parliament. In 1842, a select committee was appointed to “inquire into the state of the different West India colonies, in reference to the existing relations between employers and laborers, the rates of wages, the supply of labor, the system and expense of cultivation, and the general state of their rural and agricultural economy.” Of this committee Lord Stanley was chairman, and some of the most prominent members of the British parliament composed it. In 1848, a committee was raised, with Lord George Bentinck at its head, to inquire into the present condition and prospects of the interests connected with and dependant upon sugar and coffee planting in her majesty's East and West India possessions, and the Mauritius, and to consider whether any and what measures can be adopted by parliament for their relief. The report of both committees concur in the statement that unexampled distress existed in the colonies. The report of 1848 declares “that many estates in the British West India colonies have been already abandoned, that many more are in the course of abandonment, and that from this cause a very serious diminution is to be apprehended in the total amount os production. That the first effect of this diminution will be an increase in the price of sugar, and the ultimate effect a greater extension to the growth of sugar in slave countries, and a greater impetus to slavery and the slave trade.” The two reports concur in the statement of the causes of these untoward results. The report of 1842 declares “that the principal causes of this diminished production, and