The House went into Committee on the Slavery Abolition Bill.
said the question was, the insertion of the sum of 20,000,000L. in the blank left in the 25th clause, for the purpose of having the amount determined by the House.
Sir Eardley Wilmot
said, that he was not actuated by any party feelings in the view he took of this question; but he was decided in his determination to move an Amendment in accordance with the notice he had given. He should oppose the grant of 20,000,000L. on two grounds: the first, that the covenant entered into for the immediate abolition of slavery had not been kept; and the second was, that the additional 5,000,000L., proposed to be given to purchase the concurrence of the West-India interests could not be asked for on that ground, as their concurrence had not been obtained. He could not, with respect to the first of these objections, admit the argument of the hon. and learned member for Dublin, who, at the commencement of the debate on that subject, had said, that he was for "a conditional liberty; and if the slaves would not work, let them perish." Such an observation might be very well if applied to England; it might do very well for a man possessed of such strength of mind, as well as of body, as the hon. and learned Member; but it was inapplicable to the condition of a slave, who, it should be remembered, was called upon by seven years' labour to attain that to which he was indisputably entitled before the term commenced. There was no parity in the two cases. In this country an apprenticeship might lead, as it often had led, to the highest office of civic honour to the Lord Mayor's chair or even to a seat in that
hon. House. On his second objection he should say, without fear of contradiction, that the West-India interest were conclusively against giving their concurrence to the measure. He believed he might say, that two-thirds were against it; and if that were true, it proved, that the consent of that interest had not been obtained. He thought, however, there was a third party whoso interests had been neglected, and that was the people of England. He did not wish to paint the distresses of this country in high colours, but he knew that great distress did prevail. Within a very few miles of his residence, there were many thousand persons (he alluded to the ribbon weavers) who, when they got up in the morning, knew not where they should lie down at night. In one parish near Coventry, there were 300 families, consisting of 1,000 persons, whose earnings did not average 2½d. per day. He therefore thought it but justice to ask for one corner of the sympathy of the House for our own countrymen. It had been said by two hon. Members, that he had formed his opinions from having attended meetings on the subject at Exeter Hall. He denied, that he had been converted by anything that had been said at those meetings: he had only attended one, and he did not think he should ever attend another; and as for having formed an opinion from what he had heard there, he had formed his opinion long before ever he went there. As to the arguments used by Mr. Stephen, they were so extraordinary and contradictory, that he could not follow or agree to them. He disclaimed all participation in Mr. Stephen's doctrines. The hon. Baronet concluded by moving, that the words "fifteen millions "instead of "twenty millions "be inserted in the clause.
Mr. O'Connell, before he proceeded to address the House, wished to ask the Chairman (Mr. Bernal) a question upon a point of privilege, viz. whether he (the Chairman) possessed the same privilege as the Speaker in ordering the Gallery to be cleared of strangers.
The Chairman, (Mr. Bernal) said, if any hon. Member chose to say, that he saw strangers in the Gallery, it would be his duty to order the Gallery to be cleared.
Mr. O'Connell, "Oh, very well. Sir; but I do not intend to look that way at present." His object, the hon. Member said, had been attained. The House would perhaps have been placed in a very unpleasant predicament; but he would refrain, as he had seen an avowal that, if the "people"
were suffered to report, justice would be done. He would not advert to the scurrilous manner in which that avowal had been made; but if gentlemen were desirous of seeing an excellent specimen of scurrility, he would recommend them to read The Times of that morning. He did not believe the promise would be kept because, as designedly false reports had been given before, they would be given again. With regard to the Motion before the House, he regretted to hear the hon. Baronet use an expression against a gentleman who was not present to defend himself. That gentleman, Mr. Stephen, had devoted many years of his life gratuitously to achieve negro emancipation; he was to a certain extent an enthusiast, but it was in a good cause; he was a gentleman of great talent and integrity, who had devoted his time to the advancement of humanity. He (Mr. O'Connell) had heard Mr. Stephen's speech at the meeting in question, but it certainly did not make any particular impression on his mind. He was sorry the hon. Baronet had declared he would not attend another of those meetings, for, although he believed the hon. Baronet was not of any great use, he added to the respectability of the meeting. He would inform the hon. Baronet, that Mr. Stephen was the son of that great patriarch in the cause of emancipation, the late Mr. Stephen, who was a Master in Chancery, and who had zealously aided the cause of emancipation. He did not know on what the question of the 20,000,000L. was to rest. Could the people of England afford that sum The Members had been sent to that House for the purpose of making reductions, and they had scarcely made one. The House had refused to diminish the Malt-tax; it had refused to abolish the Assessed Taxes; it had refused to diminish the great burthens of the people. And the ground on which it had refused to do so was, that the Government could not afford it. Why then, he would ask, were those burthens to be increased? How were they to be provided for. The people had a right to know that. Was it to be laid upon the agricultural interest? It had been clearly shown that the farmers were going to decay. Was it upon the shipping interest.' It was, perhaps, true that that interest was in a more flourishing condition than any other; but he objected to anything like monopoly, or the giving of a benefit to the West-India interest by that monopoly. He should prefer that the burthens should be thrown on the general
taxation of the country, rather than upon any particular interest. In his opinion such a system was too bad to continue it at any time, but extremely so when every particular interest in the country was suffering. If 20,000,000L. were to be paid, the people ought to get value for it. In the present instance, he could see no value or equivalent the nation was to get for it. The greater part of the Representatives of the West-India interest were against the proceedings. He would only refer to the pamphlets of Mr. Burge and several other agents of the different colonies in the West Indies, all protesting against the plan. Up to the present moment there was not the slightest indication of an intention to give up the enforcement of labour from the slaves by the whip. No one colony had come forward to put an end to that abominable and cruel practice; the lash was still to continue, and therefore he would persist in contending, that the people of this country had received no value or equivalent for their 20,000,000L. It was true that in one clause the slaves were given the rights of freemen, but in others a power was given to the Colonial Legislatures to take those rights from them. It was said, that the west Indians would sustain great loss, and that advantages would be taken from them which had been sanctioned by repeated Acts of Parliament. Now he would take upon himself to deny that slavery was ever sanctioned by law in this country; and that was demonstrated most clearly by the fact that, whatever value had been given for a slave, the moment he set foot in this land, where a remedy was to be found, the slave was free. He denied that anything would be lost by the emancipation, as it was in evidence, both in and out of that House, that there was not any set of human beings who had more desire to get money than the negroes. He challenged the hon. Member who had spoken last to disprove that statement. In conclusion, the hon. and learned Gentleman, in the name of the people of England, protested against the grant of 20,000,000L., and said he felt it to be his duly to vote against it.
Mr. Stanley, was quite satisfied that there was no sacrifice the nation would not make rather than sacrifice the national honour. Neither of the two hon. Members who had spoken on this subject had stated any ground whatever-, why 15,000,000L. should be preferred to 20,000,000L. He would pass over the observations of the right hon. Baronet upon the Anti-Slavery meeting, and the
Anti-Slavery Society, with which he had nothing to do, and he would pass over, on the other hand, the remarks of the hon. and learned member for Dublin on the West-India Legislature; only observing, that violent attacks were not calculated to bring parties together. The hon. Baronet took as a ground for substituting 15,000,000L instead of 20,000,000L., that the engagement entered into by the Government and the House had not been completed. He was sure the hon. Baronet unintentionally misrepresented what the Resolution passed by the House was; for the hon. Baronet said, that the House of Commons pledged themselves, by their first Resolution, to the immediate and entire abolition of slavery throughout the British dominions, and that has not taken place. Now, with due respect to the hon. Baronet, he (Mr. Stanley) would tell him that they had pledged themselves to no such thing. What they had pledged themselves to was, that an immediate and effectual measure should be taken for the entire abolition of slavery throughout the colonies. The right hon. Baronet (the member for Tamworth) noticed at the time that very word "immediate," and stated that it would be bettor to strike it out, because it might lead to an inference that it was wished to introduce the immediate abolition. It was then understood, that the word "immediate" referred to immediate measures for the future abolition of slavery. Those immediate measures had been taken—the Bill had been introduced, and the Act of Parliament would, he trusted, in a very short time be passed, which should forthwith have the effect of producing, within a very short period, the entire abolition of slavery throughout the British dominions. But the hon. Gentleman said, they had not obtained that cordial co-operation which they had a right to expect from the Jamaica Legislature. He gave the names of two or three gentlemen who had entered their protests against the whole proceeding, and stated this as an example of what was to be expected from the whole of the colonists. He certainly must express his sincere regret that those gentlemen—one the agent for Trinidad, and the others all representing the interest of the island of Jamaica—had not felt it their duty to come forward in the manner which he thought the interests of their clients required. The question for them was not whether, in all its details, this measure would be desirable in the colonies or not, but whether, under the
state of public opinion here, it was not for the interest of those whom they represented, to close with the British Parliament upon the terms which they were disposed to offer. At the same time these Gentlemen did not represent the whole of the West-India population. They were very far from representing the whole of that body. He would even yet trust, that these Gentlemen, having had the opportunity of witnessing the proceedings of that House, and of personally knowing what the difficulties of the Government had been in obtaining for them such terms as they thought just and equitable, would exert their influence when they proposed it for the purpose of enforcing and encouraging an acquiescence in a measure which had now become absolutely necessary. But if, unfortunately, a different course should be pursued—and he begged to say, that such speeches as they had just heard from the hon. and learned Member opposite might tend to stir up feelings of irritation—if they would still resist the feelings and determination of this country, why then, to look at it in a secondary point of view—to look at it in the low question of pecuniary consideration—Jamaica, at least, would forfeit the whole of the claim she might have to any portion of the 20,000,000L. which were now proposed to be granted. The question then arose as to whether 37L. 10s. per head throughout the island was a fair calculation with regard to the value of slaves. He thought it difficult to give the exact amount of the value of every slave, but he had in his hands a list of actual sales which had taken place of negroes, exhibiting what the value of negroes had been between 1808 and 1827. During that period, there had been sold 22,66l negroes, at an average of 71L. 10s. currency, which was about 51L. sterling; and the greater part of the 22,000 had been sold under the disadvantageous circumstances of being sold for debt. From 1808 to 1812, there had been sold 5,498 slaves, at an average of 53L. 10s.; from 1813 to 1817, 6,598, at an average of 53L. 10s.; from 1818 to 1822, 5,200, at an average of 58L.; and from 1822 to 1827, 5,365, at an average of 38L. The House would see, therefore, that from 1822 to 1827, there was a fall in the value of slaves to 38L., which was at the rate of 10s a-head more than the average which Government had acted upon. The average in Trinidad, from 1825 to 1830, was 66L. 15s.; in Demerara, from 1821 to 1825, 93L.; and in Barbadoes, from the two periods of
from 1821 to 1825, and from 1825 to 1830, 38L. These were some of the calculations upon which the Government had gone. In assuming, that the sum of twenty millions ought to be granted as compensation, they (lid not consider that, in assuming the average value to be 37L. 10s., they had exceeded the actual value of the slaves. There was not one of the calculations of ten planters, eight planters, or six planters, that had been alluded to by the hon. Baronet, but would more than give the amount of twenty millions. Then, again, since the House had acceded to the granting of twenty millions, which was done on a division, it had cut off five years from the terra of the apprenticeship; and no man would say, that that was not a great reduction of value to the planter. They had already agreed, that twenty millions should be the compensation; and having, since that, taken off the five years, it was too much to expect that the House would cancel that vote without one single argument having been advanced to justify such a proceeding. The House would recollect the manner in which the Government had been accused for agreeing to the shortening of the apprenticeship to which they were driven by the force of public opinion. The present proposition was one to which no Ministers, who had any feelings of honour or consistency, could submit. His honour at least was pledged, and he felt it his duty to give it all the opposition in his power.
Mr. Buxton, after passing a high eulogium on Mr. Stephen, proceeded to say, that there was not one clause in the Bill, however curious it might appear, that he would support with more pleasure than the grant of 20,000,000L.; and, if any degree of reproach attached to those who voted for it, he was prepared to take his share. The amount was far surpassing what he thought the actual value of the slaves; and, if the Government were only to wait till next year, they might buy emancipation at a quarter of the present price; but, then, in what state would the colonies be." He supported the grant for this reason: if emancipation was not given, more than 20,000,000L. would be spent in military preparations; and, what was worse, it would be against men who were merely asserting their natural rights. He would much rather give double, or any amount, to the planter, than have such a thing happen. The Government was entitled to great praise for the measure, and he
was sure they would be supported by the country. He was quite aware that the people were suffering great distress, but he very well knew they would suffer a little more hardship, rather than lose all the benefits of the Bill. If it was not passed, they would lose the colonies. Were they not cheap at the price of 20,000,000L.? It would put an end to that murderous system of depopulation which had been so long going on in the West Indies. It would extinguish slavery in our colonies; and it was possible—in his opinion it was certain, to altogether extinguish the slave trade; and also, it would go a very great way towards abolishing slavery in the world. For all those benefits, would the people grudge such a sum The Government, he was sure, would receive the cooperation of the slaves themselves—they would repay their debt of gratitude by their industry and their peaceable conduct in their new situation. The body of delegates, though against him on the compensation clause, were a most excellent body of men; but if they were opposed to him, he had one great name on his side; he could not name him now, without feelings of emotion—he meant Mr. Wilberforce; he bore a high testimony to the character of that gentleman, and regretted that he had not lived to see the cause he had so long and so ably advocated, carried into full execution. To no man were the words of the poet more applicable— "A veteran warrior in the Christian field," "Who never saw the sword he could not wield," "Who, when occasion justified its use," "Had wit as bright, as ready to produce;" "Could draw from records of an earlier age" "Or from philosophy's enlightened page," "His rich materials; and regale the ear" "With strains it was a privilege to hear!"
Mr. Fryer, expressed his astonishment at the manner in which the question was met by the House. Scarce was the sound of a loan for 15,000,000L. out of the mouth of the right hon. Secretary, before he came down with a proposition for a grant of 20,000,000L., and this was founded upon the value of slaves; but was giving 20L. for 32L. 10s. paying the full value? The planters would get the money, but would never execute the Bill; and the Bill was a dead robbery. The people of England did not make the negroes slaves, and why call upon them to pay the money "The House would not dare to make such a Bill for Canada, nor dare to take away the legislative rights of that colony. The other
ground on which he was determined to oppose this grant was, that the House had no right to mortgage the future industry and labour of the country. There was no pledge given, that the sugar trade would be thrown open, and after all this compensation-money was granted, the West Indians might still charge the people of this country at as extravagant a rate as they pleased. He would oppose the grant in toto.
Mr. Rigby Wason, opposed the grant as enormous and extravagant. According to the calculations made by the planters themselves, this grant of 20,000,000L. would greatly exceed the entire value of their slaves and estates in the West Indies.
Mr. Harvey said, it was curious, that after all that had taken place, they had not heard one word from the noble Lord about the source from which the 20,000,000L. was to come, and by whom the interest of it was to be paid. He had, indeed, heard it stated, and he should be most glad to hear it confirmed, that, inasmuch as emancipation was a Christian duty, it was in the contemplation of those to whom our interests in those matters were confided, to raise it by a sale of a portion of the Church revenues of the country. That would be a most comfortable assurance, for then there would be an appropriate correspondence between the end to be accomplished, and the means by which it was to be gained. But he was afraid that was a mere illusion. He remembered the eagerness and eloquence with which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Stanley) appealed to the House to give its unanimous sanction to the Resolutions, in order that they might be sent off as a rich freight to the Colonies. But they did not then foresee the dilemma into which they might be thrown. When Mr. Peel's Bill was brought forward, Mr. Canning most eloquently implored the House to give that Bill its sanction, and the House was so beguiled by the reasoning in that speech, that they decided upon a measure, the effect of which they had been deploring ever since. It was the same with the present measure. The House had been led away by their feelings, and by the feeling out of doors, to give this measure their sanction; but if, when all the meetings throughout the country for the abolition of slavery were held, it had been known that that great boon was to be purchased at a price of 20,000,000L., he could not
imagine those petitions would have found their way into that House. The House was now in such a situation that it was scarcely possible for it to retrace its steps. He was one who would not part with the twenty millions, without a proper equivalent; but the proposition before the House was, whether it should rescind Resolutions which it had previously passed In his opinion, the House was bound to adhere to them, unless it could be shown they were founded upon false calculations, and embodied upon defective principles.
Mr. Robinson wished to know from the noble Lord (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) in what manner he intended to pay the interest of the money? He must, at the same time, state his concurrence in the grant, and he had no doubt that he should be able to justify his vote to his constituents?
Lord Althorp said, that he meant to propose to raise the money by an additional tax on colonial produce. He knew that the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Robinson) would not approve of that plan—he would rather have a property-tax—but in that he did not concur. As he did not see that there were many Gentlemen who were prepared to vote for the clause, he did not think it necessary to go further into the question.
Mr. O'Connell said, as he understood the proposition, the noble Lord intended to raise the scale of taxation on other produce, so as to keep the advantage to the West-India body. Was not that granting a monopoly?
Lord Althorp considered, that, at pre-sent, our own colonies ought to have a preference.
Mr. Herries said, the noble Lord, in answer to the various questions put to him, had merely stated, that the ultimate intention of the Government was to provide for the interest of this debt by a tax on colonial produce; but he (Mr. Herries) thought this clause required a great deal more explanation, before the House could be justified in laying an additional burthen of 20,000,000L. on the people. It was the most unusual grant he had ever heard of.
Mr. Stanley did not rise to dispute the propriety of the right hon. Gentleman's observations, but merely to remind him that the question before the House was whether the blank should be filled up with 15,000,000L. or 20,000,000L.
Mr. Herries had not yet come to the passage relating to that subject, and, therefore,
he considered he had been rather improperly interrupted. It was not stated in what manner, or how this sum of money was to be raised; but the Government were empowered to raise it in whatever way they pleased, without the control or authority of Parliament. On all occasions hitherto, every perpetual debt incurred by a Minister had been subjected to the confirmation of Parliament. He was sure the noble Lord opposite would not think it impertinent in him, if he called upon him to give a more minute explanation of the grounds on which he had framed that clause in the way in which it now stood. A subject of so much importance ought not to be discussed in the absence of so many Members on the Committee business of the House. He was afraid that the House was not in a condition honestly and fairy' to refuse the compensation; but it was incumbent on the House to show that it was given with reluctance.
Mr. Aglionby could not permit the House to divide without stating his dissent from the sum proposed.
The House, it being three o'clock, resumed; the Committee to sit again.
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UK Hansard report of UK Parliament debate ministerial plan for abolition of the enslavement [of Africans]