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Title: A Letter on the Abolition of the Slave Trade - Addressed to the freeholders and other inhabitants of Yorkshire
Author: Wilberforce, William
Language: English
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                           _Mr. Wilberforce_,


                   The Abolition of the Slave Trade.

                                A LETTER
                             THE ABOLITION
                                 OF THE
                              SLAVE TRADE;
                            ADDRESSED TO THE

                        BY W. WILBERFORCE, ESQ.

  “There is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision,
  Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but CHRIST is all, and in all.
  Put on therefore bowels of mercies, kindness,” &c.—COL. iii. 11. 12.

  “GOD hath made of one blood all nations of men, for to dwell on all
  the face of the earth.”—ACTS xvii. 26.

                   _Printed by Luke Hansard & Sons_,
              FOR T. CADELL AND W. DAVIES, STRAND; _And_,
                        J. HATCHARD, PICCADILLY.





 INTRODUCTION                                                          1

 Sources of Information                                               11

 Methods by which the Slaves are supplied in Africa                   18

 Slave Trade’s Effects in the Interior and on the Coast               30

 Proof of Abolitionists’ Facts decisive, and contrary
   Allegations groundless                                             47

 Pleas against Abolition, that Negroes are an inferior Race         53–4

 Opponents’ description of Negro Character contrasted with
   other Accounts                                                     57

 Argument from Africa’s never having been civilized,
   considered                                                         71

 New Phœnomenon—Interior of Africa more civilized than Coast          86

 Plea of Opponents, that Slaves State in Africa extremely
   miserable                                                          89

 Plea from Cruelty of African Despots                                 92

 Ditto, that refused Slaves would be massacred in case of
   Abolition                                                          95

 Middle Passage                                                       96

 Opponents’ grand Objection—that Stock of Slaves cannot be
   kept up in West Indies without Importations                       103

 Presumptive Arguments against the above Allegation, from
   universal Experience                                              104

 Positive Proof that the Stock of Slaves might be kept up
   without Importations—Argument stated                              109

 I.—Abuses sufficient to account for great Decrease.

 The Increase a subordinate Object of Attention                      116

 Insufficient Feeding                                                119

 Defective Clothing and Lodging, and overworking                     122

 Moral Vices of the System                                           123

 Especially Degradation of the Negro Race, and its important
   Effects                                                           127

 Proofs of Degradation—a Negroe-Sale                                 133

 Sale of Negroes for Owners Debts                                    136

 Working under the Whip                                              140

 Cruel and indecent Public Punishments                               144

 Inadequate legal Protection                                         147

 Ditto, considered in its Effect of degrading, and late
   Barbadoes Incidents                                               153

 Three other Vices of the System—Absenteeship                        177

 Pressure of the Times                                               186

 West Indian Speculations                                            190

 Admirals and Governors contrary Evidence and Remarks                192

 Decisive Proof that Slaves’ State is miserable                      205

 II.—Yet, though Abuses so great, the Decrease quite
   inconsiderable                                                    211

 III.—Hence, Abuses being corrected, Slaves would rapidly
   increase                                                          215

 West Indians most plausible Objections, and remaining Pleas
   against Abolition                                                 216

 Grand Plea, that Co-operation of Colonial Legislatures
   necessary                                                         219

 Disproved, both by Reason                                           222

 And Experience                                                      225

 Mr. Burke’s supposed Plan                                           238

 Efficacy and beneficial Consequences of Abolition                   241

 Immediate, preferable to gradual, Abolition                         254

 Abolitionists vindicated for not emancipating                       256

 Abolition’s Effects on Commerce and Manufactures                    261

 Present West Indian System ruinous                                  266

 West Indian Opposition to Abolition accounted for,                  274

 Strong Party Spirit Proofs                                          282

 No Hopes of West Indian Opposition ceasing                          288

 Appeal to gradual Abolitionists                                     288

 Objection to Abolition on the ground of Slave Trade’s
   Effects on our Marine                                             302

 Objection, that Foreign Nations would carry on Slave Trade
   if we relinquished it                                             305

 Objection to Abolition on grounds of Justice                        312

 Objection on grounds of Religion                                    318

 Abolitionists’ further Plea against Slave
   Trade—Insurrection, extreme danger of                             321

 Our Population drained to defend the West Indies                    330

 Summary View of the Miseries produced by the Slave Trade            333

 Instance of Individual Misery                                       340

 Conclusion                                                          345

 APPENDIX.—A few Specimens in Proof of Effects of the Slave
   Trade in Africa, and of the natural Dispositions and
   Commercial Aptitudes                                       353 to 394

      English Slave Trade as carried on so late as Henry 2d’s Time.


For many years I have ardently wished that it had been possible for me
to plead, in your presence, the great cause of the Abolition of the
Slave Trade. Conscious that I was accountable to you for the discharge
of the important trust which your kindness had committed to me, I have
longed for such an opportunity of convincing you, that it was not
without reason that this question had occupied so large a share of my
parliamentary life. I wished you to know, that the cause of my complaint
was no minute grievance, which, from my eyes having been continually
fixed on it, had swelled by degrees into a false shew of magnitude; no
ordinary question, on which my mind, warming in the pursuit of its
object, and animated by repeated contentions, had at length felt
emotions altogether disproportionate to their subject. Had I however
erred, unintentionally, I have too long experienced your candour not to
have hoped for your ready forgiveness. On the contrary, if the Slave
Trade be indeed the foulest blot that ever stained our National
character, you will not deem your Representative to have been unworthily
employed, in having been among the foremost in wiping it away.

Besides the desire of justifying myself in the judgment of my
Constituents, various other motives prompt me to the present address.
Fourteen long years have now elapsed since the period when the question
was fully argued in Parliament; and the large share of national
attention which it then engaged, has since been occupied successively by
the various public topics of the day. During the intervening period,
also, such strange and interesting spectacles have been exhibited at our
very doors, as to banish from the minds of most men all recollection of
distant wrongs and sufferings. Thus it is not only by the ordinary
effects of the lapse of time, that the impression, first produced by
laying open the horrors of the Slave Trade, has been considerably
effaced, but by the prodigious events of that fearful interval.

It should also be remembered, that, within the last fourteen or fifteen
years, a great change has taken place in the component parts of
Parliament, especially in those of the House of Commons; not merely from
the ordinary causes, but also from the addition which has been made to
the National Legislature by our Union with Ireland. Hence it happens,
that, even in the Houses of Parliament themselves, though a distinct
impression of the general outlines of the subject may remain, many of
its particular features have faded from the recollection. For hence
alone surely it can happen, that assertions and arguments formerly
driven fairly out of the field, appear once more in array against us.
Old concessions are retracted; exploded errors are revived; and we find
we have the greater part of our work to do over again. But if in
Parliament, nay even in the House of Commons itself, where the subject
was once so well known in all its parts, the question is but imperfectly
understood, much more is it natural, that great misconceptions should
prevail respecting it in the minds of the people at large. Among them,
accordingly, great misapprehensions are very general. To myself, as well
as to other Abolitionists, opinions are often imputed which we never
held, declarations which we never made, designs which we never
entertained. These I desire to rectify; and now that the question is
once more about to come under the consideration of the legislature, it
may not be useless thus publicly to record the facts and principles on
which the Abolitionists rest their cause, and for which, in the face of
my country, I am willing to stand responsible.

But farther I hesitate not to avow to you; on the contrary, it would be
criminal to withhold the declaration, that of all the motives by which I
am prompted to address you, that which operates on me with the greatest
force, is, the consideration of the present state and prospects of our
country, and of the duty which at so critical a moment presses
imperiously on every member of the community, to exert his utmost powers
in the public cause.

That the Almighty Creator of the universe governs the world which he has
made; that the sufferings of nations are to be regarded as the
punishment of national crimes; and their decline and fall, as the
execution of His sentence; are truths which I trust are still generally
believed among us. Indeed to deny them, would be directly to contradict
the express and repeated declarations of the Holy Scriptures. If these
truths be admitted, and if it be also true, that fraud, oppression, and
cruelty, are crimes of the blackest dye, and that guilt is aggravated in
proportion as the criminal acts in defiance of clearer light, and of
stronger motives to virtue (and these are positions to which we cannot
refuse our assent, without rejecting the authority not only of revealed,
but even of natural religion); have we not abundant cause for serious
apprehension? The course of public events has, for many years, been such
as human wisdom and human force have in vain endeavoured to controul or
resist. The counsels of the wise have been infatuated; the valour of the
brave has been turned to cowardice. Though the storm has been raging for
many years, yet, instead of having ceased, it appears to be now
increasing in fury; the clouds which have long been gathering around us,
have at length almost overspread the whole face of the heavens with
blackness. In this very moment of unexampled difficulty and danger,
those great political Characters, to the counsels of the one or the
other of whom the nation has been used to look in all public exigencies,
have both been taken from us. If such be our condition; and if the Slave
Trade be a national crime, declared by every wise and respectable man of
all parties, without exception, to be a compound of the grossest
wickedness and cruelty, a crime to which we cling in defiance of the
clearest light, not only in opposition to our own acknowledgments of its
guilt, but even of our own declared resolutions to abandon it; is not
this then a time in which all who are not perfectly sure that the
Providence of God is but a fable, should be strenuous in their
endeavours to lighten the vessel of the state, of such a load of guilt
and infamy?

Urged by these various considerations, I proceed to lay before you a
summary of the principal facts and arguments on which the Abolitionists
ground their cause, referring such as may be desirous of more complete
information to various original records,[1] and for a more detailed
exposition of the reasonings of the two parties, to the printed Report
of the Debates in Parliament,[2] and to various excellent publications
which have from time to time been sent into the world.[3] The advocates
for abolition court inquiry, and are solicitous that their facts should
be thoroughly canvassed, and their arguments maturely weighed.

I fear I may have occasion to request your accustomed candour, not to
call it partiality, for submitting to you a more defective statement
than you might reasonably require from me. But when I inform you that I
had just entered on my present task when I was surprized by the
dissolution of Parliament, I need scarcely add, that I have been of
necessity compelled to employ in a very different manner the time which
was to have been allotted to this service. Under my present
circumstances, I had almost resolved to delay addressing you till I
could look forward to a longer interval of leisure, than the speedily
approaching meeting of Parliament will now allow me; but I hope that
this address, though it may be defective, will not be erroneous. It may
not contain all which I might otherwise lay before you; but what it does
contain will be found, I trust, correct; and if my address should bear
the marks of haste, I can truly assure you that the statements and
principles which I may hastily communicate to you, have been most
deliberately formed, and have been often reviewed with the most serious
attention. But I already foresee that my chief difficulty will consist
in comprising within any moderate limits, the statements which my
undertaking requires, and the arguments to be deduced from them; to
select from the immense mass of materials which lies before me, such
specimens of more ample details, as, without exhausting the patience of
my readers, may convey to their minds some faint ideas, faint indeed in
colouring but just in feature and expression, of the objects which it is
my office to delineate. If my readers should at any time begin to think
me prolix, let them but call to mind the almost unspeakable amount of
the interests which are in question, and they will more readily bear
with me.

[Sidenote: Probable Effects of the Slave Trade.]

It might almost preclude the necessity of inquiring into the actual
effects of the Slave Trade, to consider, arguing from the acknowledged
and never failing operation of certain given causes, what must
necessarily be its consequences. How surely does a demand for any
commodities produce a supply. How certainly should we anticipate the
multiplication of thefts, from any increase in number of the receivers
of stolen goods. In the present instance, the demand is for men, women,
and children. And, can we doubt that illicit methods will be resorted to
for supplying them? especially in a country like Africa, imperfectly
civilized, and divided in general into petty communities? We might
almost anticipate with certainty, the specific modes by which the supply
of Slaves is in fact furnished, and foretell the sure effects on the
laws, usages, and state of society of the African continent. But any
doubts we might be willing to entertain on this head are but too
decisively removed, when we proceed in the next place to examine, what
are the actual means by which Slaves are commonly supplied, and what are
the Slave Trade’s known and ascertained consequences? To this part of my
subject I intreat peculiar attention; the rather, because I have often
found an idea to prevail; that it is the state of the Slaves in the West
Indies, the improvement of which is the great object of the
Abolitionists. On the contrary, from first to last, I desire it may be
borne in mind, that Africa is the _primary_ subject of our regard. It is
the effects of the Slave Trade on Africa, against which chiefly we raise
our voices, as constituting a sum of guilt and misery, hitherto
unequalled in the annals of the world.

[Sidenote: Evidence against the Slave Trade difficult to be procured.]

But, before I proceed to state the facts themselves, which are to be
laid before you, it may be useful to make a few remarks on the nature of
the evidence by which they are supported; and more especially on the
difficulties which it was reasonable to suppose would be experienced in
establishing, by positive proof, the existence of practices
discreditable to the Slave Trade, notwithstanding the great numbers of
British ships which for a very long period have annually visited Africa,
and the ample information which on the first view might therefore appear
to lie open to our inquiries.

Africa, it must be remembered, is a country which has been very little
visited from motives of curiosity. It has been frequented, almost
exclusively, by those who have had a direct interest in it’s peculiar
traffic; as, the agents and factors of the African Company, or of
individual Slave merchants, or by the Captains and Officers of slave
ships. The situation of captain of an African ship is an employment, the
unpleasant and even dangerous nature of which must be compensated by
extraordinary profits. The same remark extends in a degree to all the
other officers of slave ships; who, it should also be remarked, may
reasonably entertain hopes, if they recommend themselves to their
employers, of rising to be Captains. They all naturally look forward,
therefore, to the command of a ship, as the prize which is to repay them
for all their previous sacrifices and sufferings, and some even of the
Surgeons appear, in fact, to have been promoted to it. Could these men
be supposed likely to give evidence against the Slave Trade? nay, must
not habit, especially when thus combined with interest, be presumed to
have had it’s usual effect, in so familiarizing them to scenes of
injustice and cruelty, as to prevent their being regarded with any
proportion of that disgust and abhorrence which they would excite in any
mind not accustomed to them? In truth, were the secrets of the
prison-house ever so bad, these men could not well be expected to reveal
them. But let it also be remembered, that when the call for witnesses
was made by Parliament, the question of the Abolition of the Slave Trade
had become a party question; and that all the West Indian as well as the
African property and influence were combined together in it’s defence.
The supporters of the trade were the rich and the powerful, the men of
authority, influence and connection. They had ships and factories and
counting houses, both at home and abroad. Theirs it was, to employ
shopkeepers and artizans; theirs to give places of emolument, and the
means of rising in life. On the other hand, it was but too obvious (I am
sorry to say my own knowledge fully justifies the remark) that, in the
great towns especially, in which the African, or West Indian Trade, or
both, were principally carried on, any man who was not in an independent
situation, and who should come forward to give evidence against the
Slave Trade, would expose himself and his family to obloquy and
persecution, perhaps to utter ruin. He would become a marked man, and be
excluded from all opportunities of improving his condition, or even of
acquiring a maintenance among his own natural connections, and in his
accustomed mode of life. Any one who will duly weigh the combined effect
of all these circumstances, will rather be surprized to hear that any of
those who had been actually engaged in carrying on the Slave Trade, were
found to give evidence of it’s enormities, than that this description of
persons was not more numerous.

[Sidenote: Evidence actually obtained.]

For, notwithstanding all the obstacles to which I have been alluding,
much oral testimony of the most valuable kind was obtained from persons
who had been engaged in the actual conduct of the Slave Trade. And of by
far the greatest part of those witnesses it may be truly said, that the
more closely they were examined, and the more strongly their evidence
was illustrated by light from other quarters, the more was it’s truth
decisively established. So much I have thought it the more necessary to
observe; because insinuations, to use the softest term, have been not
seldom cast against some of the witnesses who gave evidence unfavourable
to the Slave Trade, before the House of Commons.—Happily, however, some
other sources of information were discovered; and the exact conformity
of the intelligence derived from these, with that which has been already
mentioned, gave to both indubitable confirmation. A very few men of
science were found, who from motives of liberal curiosity had visited
those parts of the coast of Africa where the Slave Trade was carried on.
Some few also of His Majesty’s naval and military officers, who, while
on service in Africa, had opportunities of obtaining useful information
concerning the Slave Trade, consented to be examined. They were indeed
little on shore, and they went to no great distance within the country;
but still the facts they stated, were of the utmost importance; the more
so, because of the credit which they reflect on the testimony of others,
who, on account of their inferior rank in life, might in the judgment of
some persons be more exceptionable witnesses.

[Sidenote: Other sources of information:—Old Authors.]

Lastly, there lay open to the Abolitionists another source of
information, to which great attention was due; the acknowledged
publications of several persons who at different periods had resided in
Africa, some of them for many years, and in high stations, in the employ
of the chief Slave trading Companies of the various European nations,
and whose accounts had been given to the world long before the Slave
Trade had become a subject of public discussion.

It might indeed be presumed, that though no attack had yet been made on
the Slave Trade, such persons would be disposed to regard it with a
partial and indulgent eye. To it they had owed their fortunes; and, even
independently of all pecuniary interest, no man likes to own that he is
engaged in a way of life which is hateful and dishonourable, Still, if
it be not the express purpose of a narrative to deceive, the truth is
apt to break out at intervals, and the Advocates for Abolition might
therefore expect to find some indirect proofs, some occasional and
incidental notices of the real nature and effects of the Slave Trade.
They were at least entitled to claim the full benefit of any facts to
the disparagement of the Slave Trade, which should be found in this
class of writings; and where these earlier publications, of writers so
naturally biassed in favour of the Slave Trade, should exactly accord,
in what they might state to it’s disparagement, with other living
witnesses, several of them, men most respectable in rank and character,
and utterly uninterested either way in the decision of the question
concerning it’s abolition; men too, whose testimony was the result of
their own personal knowledge; the facts which should be thus proved,
would be established by a force of evidence, little short of absolute

[Sidenote: Modern valuable information.]

Lastly, there are several other printed accounts of Travels in Africa,
which contain much valuable information. The authors of the publications
here referred to, having visited Africa of late years, can scarcely
indeed be said to be so unexceptionably free, as those who wrote before
the Slave Trade had become a subject of public discussion, from all
bias, either from their connections, their interest, or their
preconceived opinions. No imputation, however, is hereby intended to be
thrown out against them. With the character of one of them, Dr.
Winterbottom, I have long been well acquainted, and it is such as must
alone entitle him to the full credit which he has universally obtained.
But Mr. Parke justly stands at the head of all African travellers. There
prevails throughout his work a remarkable air of authenticity, and to
all the facts which it contains, entire credit is due. At the same time,
I have heard, from persons who saw his original minutes, that they
contained several statements favourable to the views of the
Abolitionists, which are not inserted in the publication. His work,
however, must ever be read with avidity, from its containing that which
perhaps of all human spectacles is the most interesting, the exhibition
of superior energies, called into action by extraordinary difficulties
and dangers. Other publications concerning Africa have since appeared.
That of Golberry, was drawn up and published under the patronage of
Bonaparte, about the very time when the latter entered on his crusade
against the Blacks in St. Domingo; the Abolitionists may therefore claim
the benefit of any facts to the discredit of the Slave Trade which it
contains. Barrow’s highly interesting account of the Cape of Good Hope,
and his late work, containing the account of the expedition to the
Booshuana country, reflect also much light on the African character, and
indirectly on the effects of the Slave Trade.

[Sidenote: Methods by which Slaves are supplied.]

[Sidenote: Wars.]

Let us now proceed to examine what are the principal sources from which
the Slave market is furnished with its supplies. The result of that
Inquiry will enable us to judge what effect that traffic produces on the
happiness of Africa. A very large proportion of the Slaves consists of
prisoners of war. But here it becomes advisable to rectify some
misconceptions, which have prevailed on this head. The Abolitionists
have been represented as maintaining, that in Africa, wars never arise
from the various causes whence wars have so commonly originated in the
other quarters of the globe; but that they are undertaken solely for the
purpose of obtaining captives, who may be afterwards sold for Slaves. In
contradiction to this position, various African wars have been cited,
which historians state to have arisen from other causes; and it has been
denied that wars furnish any considerable supply to the Slave market.
Can it be necessary to declare, that the advocates for abolition never
made so foolish, as well as so false an assertion, as that which has
been thus imputed to them? Africans are men—The same bad passions
therefore which have produced wars among other communities of human
beings, produce the same wasteful effects in Africa likewise. But it
will greatly elucidate this point to state, that, as we are informed by
Mr. Parke, who has travelled farther into the interior of Africa than
any modern traveller, there are two kinds of war in Africa. The one
bears a resemblance to our European contests, is openly avowed, and
previously declared. “This class however, we are assured, is generally
terminated in a single campaign. A battle is fought; the vanquished
seldom think of rallying; the whole inhabitants become panick struck;
and the conquerors have only to _bind their slaves_,[4] and carry off
their plunder and their victims.” These are taken into the country of
the invader, whence, as opportunities offer, they are sent to the Slave

[Sidenote: Predatory expeditions.]

But the second kind of warfare, called Tegria, which means, we are told,
plundering or stealing, and which appears to be no other than the
practice of predatory expeditions, is that to which the Slave market is
indebted for its chief supplies, and which most clearly explains the
nature and effect of the Slave Trade. Mr. Parke indeed tells us, that
this species of warfare arises from a sort of hereditary feud, which
subsists between the inhabitants of neighbouring nations or districts.
If we take into the account that the avowed compiler of Mr. Parke’s
work, the patron to whose good will he looked for the recompense of all
his labours, was one of the warmest and most active opposers of the
abolition of the Slave Trade, we shall not wonder that the fact alone is
stated, without being traced to it’s original cause. This however is a
case, if such a case ever existed, in which the features of the
offspring might alone enable us to recognise the rightful parent. But in
truth we know from positive testimony, that though hereditary feuds of
the deadliest malignity are but too surely generated by these predatory
expeditions, and consequently that hatred and revenge may sometimes have
a share in producing a continued course of them, yet that, speaking
generally, the grand operating motive from which they are undertaken,
and to which therefore, as their primary cause, they may be referred, is
the desire of obtaining Slaves. “These predatory expeditions,” Mr. Parke
tells us, “are of all dimensions, from 500 horsemen, headed by the son
of the king of the country; to a single individual, armed with his bow
and arrow, who conceals himself among the bushes, until some young or
unarmed person passes by. He then, tyger-like, springs upon his prey,
drags his victim into the thicket, and at night _carries him off as a
slave_.” (Vide note, p. 19). “These incursions,” Mr. Parke goes on to
inform us, “are generally conducted with great secresy; a few resolute
individuals, led by some person of enterprize and courage, march quietly
through the woods, surprize in the night some unprotected village, and
_carry off the inhabitants_, (vide note, p. 19) and their effects,
before their neighbours can come to their assistance.”—“One morning,”
says Mr. Parke, “during my residence at Kamalia, we were all much
alarmed by a party of this kind. The prince of Focladoo’s son, with a
strong party of horse, passed secretly through the woods, a little to
the southward, and the next morning plundered three towns belonging to a
powerful chief of Jollonkadoo. The success of this expedition encouraged
the governor of another town to make a second inroad on a part of the
same country. Having assembled about 200 of his people, he passed the
river in the night, and _carried off a great number of prisoners_. (Vide
note, p. 19). _Several of the inhabitants_ who had escaped these
attacks, were _afterwards seized_ by the Mandingoes (_another people_,
let it be observed) as they wandered about in the woods, or concealed
themselves in the glens and strong places in the mountains.”

[Sidenote: Predatory expeditions very common.]

“These plundering excursions are very common, and the inhabitants of
different communities watch every opportunity of undertaking
them.”—“They always,” as Mr. Parke adds, “produce speedy retaliation;
and when large parties cannot be collected for this purpose, a few
friends will combine together, and advance into the enemy’s country,
with a view to plunder, _or carry off the inhabitants_.” (Note, vide,
pa. 19). Thus hereditary feuds are excited and perpetuated between
different nations, tribes, villages, and even families, each waiting but
for the favourable occasion of accomplishing it’s revenge. Such is the
picture of the Interior of Africa, as it is given by one who penetrated
much further inland than any other modern traveller, and of whom it must
be at least confessed, that he was not disposed to exaggerate the evils
produced by the Slave Trade.

[Sidenote: Sources of supply continued.]

[Sidenote: Village-breaking.]

In another part of the country, we learn from the most respectable
testimony, a practice prevails called Village-breaking. It is precisely
the Tegria of Mr. Parke, with this difference, that though often termed
making war, it is acknowledged to be practised for the express purpose
of obtaining victims for the Slave market. It is carried on, sometimes
by armed parties of individuals; sometimes by the soldiers of the petty
kings and chieftains, who, perhaps in a season of drunkenness, the
consequences of which when recovered from the madness of intoxication
they have themselves often most deeply deplored, are instigated to
become the plunderers and destroyers of those very subjects whom they
were bound to protect. The village is attacked in the night; if deemed
needful, to increase the confusion, it is set on fire, and the wretched
inhabitants, as they are flying naked from the flames, are seized and
carried into slavery. This practice, especially when conducted on a
smaller scale, is called _panyaring_; [Sidenote: Panyaring, or
kidnapping.] for the practice has long been too general not to have
created the necessity of an appropriate term. It is sometimes practised
by Europeans, especially when the ships are passing along the coast, or
when their boats, in going up the rivers, can seize their prey without
observation; in short, whenever there is a convenient opportunity of
carrying off the victims, and concealing the crime: and the
unwillingness which the natives universally shew to venture into a ship
of war, until they are convinced it is not a Slave ship, contrasted with
the freedom and confidence with which they then come on board, is thus
easily accounted for[5]. But these depredations are far more commonly
perpetrated by the natives on each other; and on a larger or a smaller
scale, according to the power and number of the assailants, and the
resort of ships to the coast, it prevails so generally, as, throughout
the whole extent of Africa, to render person and property utterly

[Sidenote: Allegation, “that a small proportion of Slaves are prisoners
           of war,” considered.]

And here, before we proceed to other sources of supply, let us for a
moment recur to the assertions formerly mentioned, on which our
opponents lay very considerable stress,—that but a small proportion of
the whole supply of the market consists of prisoners of war, and that
African wars do not often originate from the desire of obtaining Slaves.
Should we even concede these points, we are now abundantly qualified to
estimate the force of the concession; for though we should grant, that
declared and national wars are not often undertaken for the purpose of
obtaining Slaves, yet it is at least equally undeniable, that those
predatory expeditions which are so common, and of which it is the
express object to acquire Slaves, are often productive of national wars
on the largest scale, and of the most destructive consequences; while
they also are the sure and abundant cause of those incessant quarrels
and hereditary feuds, which are said to be universal in Africa, and
which acts of mutual outrage cannot fail to generate, in countries where
the artificial modes of controlling and terminating the disputes and
hostilities of adverse tribes and nations are unknown. It appears also,
that wars are in Africa rendered singularly cruel and wasteful, by the
peculiar manner in which they are carried on. So that though we cannot
fairly lay to the charge of the Slave Trade all the wars of Africa, we
yet may allege that to the causes which produce wars elsewhere, the
Slave Trade superadds one entirely new and constant source of great
copiousness and efficiency, while it gives to the wars, which arise from
every other cause, a character of peculiar malignity and desolation. But
happy even, from what has been already stated, happy would it be for
Africa, if her greatest miseries were those of avowed and open warfare.
War, though the greatest scourge of other countries, is a light evil in
the African estimate of suffering. Direct and avowed wars will happen
but occasionally, as the circumstances which produce them may arise.
Wars, besides, between uncivilized nations, scarcely ever last long;
those of Africa, Mr. Parke tells us, seldom beyond a single campaign;
and the very consciousness that an evil will be of short duration,
mitigates the pain which it occasions. But it is not of accidental or
temporary injuries that Africa complains. Her miseries, severe in
degree, are also permanent; they know neither intervals or remissions.

[Sidenote: Sources of supply continued.]

[Sidenote: Administration of justice.]

But the Slave Trade is not sustained exclusively by acts of hostile
outrage. The administration of justice is turned into another engine for
its supply. The punishments, as we are told by some of the old
writers,[6] were formerly remarkable for their lenity; but by degrees,
they have been moulded, especially on the coast, into a more productive
form. The most trifling offences are punished by the fine of one or more
Slaves, which if the culprit be unable to pay, he himself is to be sold
into slavery, often for the benefit of the very judges by whom he is
condemned.[7] When the necessity for obtaining Slaves becomes more
pressing, new crimes are fabricated, accusations and convictions are
multiplied; the unwary are artfully seduced into the commission of
crimes. The imaginary offence of witchcraft becomes often a copious
source of supply, a conviction being punished by the sale of the whole

[Sidenote: Native superstitions: Witchcraft.]

Indeed, on some parts of the country bordering on the coast, this charge
furnishes the ready means of obtaining, especially for a chieftain, the
supply of European articles. A person accused of this crime is required
to purge himself by the ordeal of drinking what is called ‘red water’.
If the accused drinks it with impunity, he is declared innocent, but if,
as more commonly happens, the red water being generally medicated for
the purpose, the party is taken sick, or dies, in general the whole, or
at the least a certain number of his family, are immediately sold into
slavery. An eye witness, who stated the effects of this system,
mentioned his having seen king Sherbro, the chief of the river of that
name, kill six persons in that way in a single morning. In some
extensive districts near the windward coast of Africa, almost every
death is believed by the natives to be occasioned by magical influence;
and the belief, it is difficult to say, whether real or pretended, in
this superstition, is carried to such an extent as to break every tie of
natural affection. In these districts it is estimated that two-thirds of
the whole export of Slaves were sold for witchcraft. Every man who has
acquired any considerable property, or who has a large family, the sale
of which will produce a considerable profit, excites in the Chieftain
near whom he resides, the same longings which are called forth in the
wild beast, by the exhibition of his proper prey, and he himself lives
in a continual state of suspicion and terror.

[Sidenote: Famine and Insolvency.]

To this long catalogue are to be added two other sources, famines, and
insolvency. In times of extreme scarcity, persons sometimes sell
themselves for subsistence; and still more frequently, it is said,
children are sold by their parents to procure provisions for the rest of
the family. These famines, Mr. Parke, who mentions this source of
slavery, observes, are often produced by wars. But while on the one hand
we must remark, that this effect arises chiefly out of that peculiarly
wasteful manner of carrying on war in Africa, which we have already
noticed; so may we not fairly presume that to the Slave Trade also, and
to the habits of mind which it generates, it is to be ascribed, that in
such seasons of general distress, he who possesses food refuses to part
with so much as will suffice for the bare maintenance of his neighbours
and fellow sufferers, at any price except that of selling themselves or
their children into perpetual slavery? With respect to debt or
insolvency, the laws respecting debtor and creditor which prevail in
Africa, furnish a striking illustration of the effect of the Slave
Trade, in gradually moulding to it’s own purpose all the institutions
and habits of the country in which it prevails, and rendering them
instrumental in forwarding the grand object of furnishing a supply for
the Slave market. Creditors, in compensation of their claims on the
debtor, have not only a right to seize his own person, and sell him for
a Slave, but also any of his family; and if he or they cannot be taken,
any inhabitants of the same village, or, as Mr. Parke says, any native
of the same kingdom. Indeed it is very rarely that the debtor himself is
molested, it is his neighbours or townsmen who are the sufferers. Hence
persons become debtors more freely, because, while they gratify their
appetites by obtaining the European goods they want, they are not likely
to pay for their rashness in their own persons. The Captains of Slave
ships are in their turn less backward in advancing goods on credit to
the Black factors, and they again to other native dealers, knowing that
from some quarter or another the Slaves will surely be supplied.

[Sidenote: Distinctions between the Interior countries, and those on the

In giving this general account of the manner of procuring Slaves, it
ought to be observed, that the number and extent of the countries whence
the Slaves are furnished, and their varying circumstances, will
doubtless occasion some variations in the manner of carrying on the
traffic: still we might presume that the same causes, operating for a
long course of years, on human beings, in something like the same rude
state of society, would produce nearly similar effects. In fact we find,
from positive testimony, that there is this general similarity in the
consequences of the Slave Trade wherever it exists. But there is one
distinction which ought to be noticed, that between the inland countries
and those on the coast. The proportion furnished by them respectively
varies in different parts of Africa; but every where the greater number
is supplied from the interior. Many of them come from great distances
inland, and the sufferings of these unhappy beings during their journey
are such as would alone, if the voice of humanity were to be heard,
prompt us to abandon at once so horrid a traffic. Mr. Parke travelled
down with a small party of them; and hard indeed must be the heart of
that man who can read his account without shuddering.

The difference between the circumstances of the inland districts and
those adjacent to the coast, will of course create some corresponding
difference in the effects produced on them by the Slave Trade. In the
interior of the country, the kingdoms, though even they are often split
into a number of independent states, are generally of greater extent
than on the coast, which is often, especially on the Windward and Gold
coast, separated into numberless petty communities, under their
respective Chieftains or Aristocracies. It should likewise be remarked,
that on one extensive part of the coast of Africa which is divided into
a number of different states, every black or white factor who has
acquired a little property, forms a settlement or village, and becomes a
petty chieftain, and carries on against his neighbours a predatory
warfare, by which they are of course excited to reciprocal acts of
hostility. In the interior, acts of depredation on members of another
community, though, as we are told, very common, are not near so frequent
as on the coast; except, perhaps, on the boundaries of kingdoms: and it
is remarkable, that Mr. Parke informs us, that the boundaries even of
the most populous and powerful kingdoms are commonly very ill peopled.
On members of the same community also, these depredations, though
undoubtedly frequent, are for many reasons much less common than in the
countries bordering on the shore. The concealment of any such act of
rapine would be obviously much more difficult; neither might it be easy
for private traders to secrete their victims, during the long interval
which might elapse, before an opportunity might offer of disposing of
them. Again, the chieftains or kings of these large communities, while
on the one hand, their more abundant revenues place them above the
necessity of resorting to such ruinous means of supplying their wants,
as the pillage of their own villages, so on the other, not coming into
immediate contact with the Slave Traders, they are not so liable to be
suddenly instigated, in the madness of intoxication, to the commission
of such outrages. The same difference in the circumstances of the
interior, prevents the administration of justice, or the native
superstitions, being resorted to in the same degree as on the coast. And
it is remarkable, that though Mr. Parke speaks of crimes as one source
of supply to the Slave Trade, we do not find in his narrative, one
single instance specified of a Slave having been so furnished.
[Sidenote: Evils of Slave Trade aggravated on the Coast.] But, above
all, let it be remembered, on the coast the grand repository of
temptations is palpable, and on the spot; of temptations commonly of
that precise kind, which, by the gratifications they hold out to the
depraved appetites, and bad passions of man, spirituous liquors,
gunpowder, and fire-arms, the incentives to acts of violence, and the
means of committing them, are apt to operate most powerfully on
uncivilized men. The love of spirituous liquors, is a passion also,
which becomes from indulgence, more craving, and difficult to be
resisted. The Captains of Slave ships, who are sound practical
philosophers, thoroughly conversant, at least, with all the bad parts of
human nature, are well aware of these propensities, and of the
advantages which may be derived from them; and hence, they often begin
by giving to the petty king or chieftain a present of brandy or rum,
anticipating the large returns for this liberality, which future acts of
depredation will supply. It is almost a happy circumstance when the
chieftain, by possessing the implements of war, is tempted to revenge
some old injury, or to ravage and carry off the inhabitants of some
neighbouring district, instead of preying on his own miserable subjects.
Meanwhile the Slave factor himself takes no part in the quarrels between
contending chieftains, but which party soever is victorious, he finds
his advantage in the war. He supplies all the contending parties with
fire-arms and ammunition, and receives all the Slaves which are made on
both sides with perfect impartiality. Under such circumstances, might we
not anticipate, what we know from positive evidence, that the factor
stirs up and inflames dissensions, from which, whoever else may be the
loser, he is sure to gain. It has been even imputed to neighbouring
chiefs, who, assisted by their respective allies, have carried on with
each other a long protracted war, that by a mutual understanding, they
have abstained from wasting each other’s territories, while each carried
on his ravages against the allies of his enemy with great activity and
success. But it is not to kings or chieftains only, that the Slave Trade
holds out strong temptations. The appetite for spirituous liquors is
universal. European commodities are coveted by all. Whether for attack
or defence, fire-arms and gunpowder are most desirable. In such a loose
state of society, almost every one has some malice to wreak, some injury
to retaliate. Thus sensuality, avarice, hostility, revenge, every bad
passion is called into action; while there lies the Slave ship, ready to
receive old and young, males and females, all in short who are brought
to it, and, without question or exception, to furnish the desired
gratification in return. The Captains of Slave ships themselves, who
gave evidence before the House of Commons, frankly and invariably
acknowledged, that it is the universal practice, if the price can be
agreed on, to purchase all who are brought to them, without examination
as to the manner in which the Slave has been obtained, as to his former
condition, or the vendor’s right to sell. So well did they seem to be
aware how much the success of their traffic might depend on this mode of
conducting it, that they even resented it as an insult on their
understandings, when they were asked whether any questions of this kind
were put by the purchaser. Thus, whenever a Slave ship is on the coast,
a large and general premium is immediately held out for the perpetration
of acts of fraud, violence, and rapine. Every child, every unprotected
female that can be seized on, can be immediately turned to account. No
wonder that, as Captain Wilson informs us, the inhabitants are afraid of
venturing out of their own doors without being armed; a practice of
which one of themselves gave him the explanation, by significantly
pointing to a Slave ship which then lay in sight, completing her cargo.

But it is not only without doors that the Slave ship holds out its lure;
it is not only by open violence that it operates. When the Slave ships
arrive, unjust convictions are multiplied. Accusations for witchcraft
become frequent. And it is well worthy of remark, that these native
superstitions, being thus maintained in continued life and action, have
continued in full force in those very districts, where the intercourse
of the natives with the Europeans has been the longest, and the most
intimate; while in the interior, the same barbarous practices have
either gone into decay of themselves, or seem to have faded away before
the feeble light of Mahometanism. Even among private families the seeds
of insecurity and cruelty are copiously sown; and from the pressure of
present temptation, a husband or a master is often induced, in a fit of
temporary anger or jealousy, to sell his wife or his domestics, whom
afterwards he often in vain wishes he could recover.

[Sidenote: Practice of receiving relations as pawns, and consequences of

But besides these general and powerfully operating causes of evil, which
have been already noticed, there is one circumstance in the manner of
conducting the trade on the coast, which so naturally tends to the
production of frequent acts of violence, as to deserve a distinct
specification. It affords another striking instance of the way in which
the Slave Trade has in a long course of years gradually imparted a taint
to all the institutions and customs of Africa. It is the general custom
for Captains of Slave ships, in exchange for the goods which they
advance on credit, and of which the value, as has been stated, is to be
repaid to them in Slaves, to receive the children or some other near
relations of the Black Factor as pledges, or as they are termed in
Africa _pawns_, whom the Slave captains are to return when the
stipulated number of Slaves has been delivered. With the goods which
have been entrusted to him he commonly goes up the country; and, knowing
that by some means or other the requisite number of Slaves must be
furnished, or that his own nearest relatives, and he himself too if he
can be taken, will be carried off into slavery, it is obvious, that when
the day for the sailing of the ship draws nigh, he will not be very
scrupulous in the means to which he resorts for completing his
assortment. Thus even parental instinct and the domestic and social
affections are rendered by the Slave Trade the incentives to acts of
cruelty and rapine. But it would be endless were I to attempt to lay
before you in detail all the various forms and modes of wickedness, and
misery, of which, directly and indirectly, the Slave Trade is
productive. It’s general and leading features have been now exhibited to

[Sidenote: Recapitulation of effects of Slave Trade.]

Such are the methods by which from eighty to one hundred thousand of our
fellow creatures, a race of people too, declared by Mr. Parke himself,
to be perhaps beyond all others, passionately attached to their native
soil, are annually torn from their country, their homes, their friends,
and from whatever is most dear to them. All the ties of nature, and
habit, and feeling, are burst asunder; and, by a long voyage, the
horrors of which were acknowledged to constitute of themselves an almost
incalculable sum of misery, these victims of our injustice are carried
to a distant land, to wear away the whole remainder of their lives in a
state of hopeless slavery and degradation, with the same melancholy
prospect for their descendants after them, for ever.

Yet even this is not all. There is one consequence of the Slave Trade, a
consequence too, most important to Africa, which still remains to be
pointed out. It were much to foment and aggravate, not seldom to
produce, long and bloody wars—to incite to incessant acts of the most
merciless depredation—to poison and embitter the administration of the
laws—and in general, to give a malignant taint to religious and civil
institutions; thus, turning into engines of oppression and misery, that
very machinery of the social state, which is naturally conducive to the
protection and comfort of mankind. It is much to compel men to live at
home amid the alarm, elsewhere only felt, and with the precautions only
used in an enemy’s country,—to hold out a direct premium to rapine and
murder,—in short, to produce the general prevalence of selfishness, and
fraud, and violence, and cruelty, and terror, and revenge. And all this;
not on a small scale, or within narrow limits, but throughout an immense
region, bounded by a line of coast of between three and four thousand
miles, and stretching inland to various depths, not seldom to a distance
which it requires several months to travel. But there is one triumph
still behind; one effect of the Slave Trade; which, if it excite not at
first the same lively sympathy, as some others of it’s more direct
outrages, on the comforts of domestic or the peace of social life, will
yet, in the deliberate judgment of a considerate mind, appear on
reflection to be of more importance than all the rest. [Sidenote:
Another most important consequence of the Slave Trade.] This is, that by
keeping in a state of incessant insecurity, of person and property, the
whole of the district which is visited by Europeans, we maintain an
impassable barrier on that side, through which [Sidenote: It prevents
the civilization of Africa.] alone any rays of the religious and moral
light and social improvements of our happier quarter of the globe might
penetrate into the interior, and thus lock up the whole of that vast
continent in it’s present state of wretchedness and darkness.

[Sidenote: No natural death of the Slave Trade.]

Here, then, we see the bitter cup of Africa filled to the very brim. For
the above consideration shews but too clearly, that she cannot expect
any natural termination of her sufferings from the gradual progress of
civilization and knowledge, which have, in some other instances, put a
period to a less extended traffic for Slaves in countries differently
situated. The very channels through which alone, according to all human
calculation, Africa might have hoped to receive the blessings of
religious and moral light, and social improvement, are precisely those
through which her miseries flow in upon her with so full a tide. Thus
the African Slave Trade provides for it’s own indefinite continuance.
Here also, as in other instances which have been already pointed out, it
turns into poison what has been elsewhere most salutary, and renders
that very intercourse, which has been ordinarily the grand means of
civilization, the most sure and operative instrument, in the
perpetuation of barbarism.

[Sidenote: Our aggravated guilt.]

At length, then, we are prepared to form some judgment of the effects of
European intercourse on the state and happiness of Africa. The darkness
of Paganism were a very insufficient palliation of such a tissue of
cruelty and crimes. But surely it is no small aggravation of our guilt,
that We, who are the prime agents in this traffic of wickedness and
blood, are ourselves the most free, enlightened, and happy people that
ever existed upon earth. We profess a religion which inculcates truth
and love, peace and good-will, among men—We are foremost in a commerce
which exists but by war, treachery, and devastation. We enjoy a
political constitution of government, eminent above all others for
securing to the very meanest and weakest the blessings of civil liberty,
of personal security, and equal laws—yet We take the lead in maintaining
this accursed system, which begins in fraud and violence, and is
consummated in bondage and degradation. Blessed ourselves with religious
light and knowledge, we prolong in Africa the reign of ignorance and
superstition. In short, instead of endeavouring to diffuse among
nations, less favoured than ourselves, the blessings we enjoy; after our
crime has been indisputably proved to us, in defiance alike of
conscience and of reputation, we industriously and perseveringly
continue to deprave and darken the Creation of God.

There is scarcely any point of view in which the nature and effects of
our intercourse with Africa will appear so peculiarly disgraceful to us
as a christian nation, as when we contemplate them in connection with
the benefits which the Africans derive from their intercourse with the
Mahometans. When we cast our eyes towards the south-west of Europe, and
behold extensive countries, once possessed by the most polished nations,
the chosen seats of literature and the liberal arts; and now behold one
universal waste of ignorance and barbarism, we have always been
accustomed to ascribe the fatal change to the conquest of a band of
Mahometan invaders, and to regret that such fine countries should remain
under the benumbing effects of a Mussulman government. On the other
hand, in contemplating the superior state of our northern parts of
Europe, we have been used, with reason, to ascribe much of our light and
liberty, and many of our various blessings, to the influence of that
pure religion which is the friend of freedom, of peace, and good-will
among men. But with what shame must we acknowledge, that in Africa,
Christianity and Mahometanism appear to have mutually interchanged
characters.—Smith, the African Company’s own agent in 1722, tells us,
“the discerning natives account it their greatest unhappiness that they
were ever visited by the Europeans. They say that we Christians
introduced the traffic of Slaves, and that before our coming they lived
in peace. But, say they, it is observable, that wherever Christianity
comes, there come with it, a sword, a gun, powder and ball.”[8]

The same picture may appear to claim still greater attention from the
hand of Mr. Parke, whose visit is more recent, and whose knowledge of
Africa is more extensive.—Speaking of the Foulah nation, who are many of
them professed Mahometans, he says, “religious persecution is not known
among them, nor is it necessary, for the system of Mahomet is made to
extend itself by means abundantly more efficacious. By establishing
small schools in the different towns, where many of the Pagan as well as
Mahometan children are taught to read the Koran, and instructed in the
tenets of the prophet, the Mahometan priests fix a bias on the minds,
and form the character of their young disciples, which no accidents of
life can ever afterwards remove or alter. Many of these little schools I
visited in my progress through the country, and observed with pleasure
the great docility, and submissive deportment of the children, and
heartily wished they had had better instructors, and a purer religion.”
Again, speaking of the Mandingo country, and of other parts of Africa,
and of the eagerness which the natives, both Pagan and Mahometan, shew
to acquire some knowledge of letters, Mr. Parke speaks out still more
intelligibly, and appears feelingly alive to the humiliation of his own
religion; and, from motives of christian zeal as well as of humanity, he
recommends our endeavouring to introduce the light of true religion into
that benighted land.[9] “Although,” says he, “the negroes in general
have a very great idea of the wealth and power of the Europeans, I am
afraid that the Mahometan converts among them think but very lightly of
our superior attainments in religious knowledge. The white traders in
the maritime districts take no pains to counteract this unhappy
prejudice.”—“To me, therefore, it was not so much the subject of wonder,
as matter of regret, to observe, that while the superstition of Mahomet
has in this manner scattered a few faint beams of learning among these
poor people, the precious light of Christianity is altogether excluded.
I could not but lament, that although the coast of Africa has now been
known and frequented by the Europeans for more than two hundred years,
yet the negroes still remain entire strangers to the doctrines of our
holy religion.”— “The poor Africans, whom we affect to consider as
barbarians, look upon us, I fear, as little better than a race of
formidable but ignorant Heathens.”

Such was Smith’s relation, near a century ago, of the judgment formed by
the Africans, of the effects of their intercourse with the Christian
nations. Such is the acknowledgment of Mr. Parke, who is certainly
disposed to paint the effects of the Slave Trade in the softest colours.
Is it possible for any one who calls himself a Christian, and a member
of the British Empire, to read the passage without the deepest
humiliation and sorrow, and without longing also, not only to stop the
guilty commerce we have so long carried on, but to endeavour to repair,
in some degree, the wrongs of Africa, and with active but tardy
kindness, to impart to her some small share of the overflowings of our
superabundant blessings?

“But surely,” you will long ere now have been ready to exclaim, “Surely
the facts which you have laid before us, though believed by the
abolitionists, could not have been established in the judgment of the
majority of the House of Commons;”—and you may justly require some
decisive evidence in proof of them.

[Sidenote: Evidence by which the above statements are established.]

To adduce all the specific testimony by which the above allegations were
established, would be to fill a volume. I mean, as a specimen of the
whole, to extract, and subjoin in an appendix, a few passages from the
vast body of evidence with which we are furnished on this subject. But
it would be injustice to the great cause I am pleading, not to declare,
that the above statements were established beyond all possible dispute;
and also, that, with occasional variations, resulting from the
difference in the forms of government, and in other circumstances, they
were found to be applicable not to particular parts only of Africa, but
to the whole of that vast district which is visited by the European
Slave ships; to be, not the exception, but the rule; not the occasional,
but the general and systematic effects of the Slave Trade ships. We have
the evidence of several most respectable Officers of the navy, to prove,
that wherever they touched, acts of depredation were common. The same
practices were found to prevail in the widely distant countries of
Senegambia and the Gold coast, by men of Science, one of whom produced a
journal, kept at the time, in which he daily entered all that appeared
to him worthy of remark; and it was from this record that the Committee
read the affecting account which has been mentioned, in which one of the
African Kings, with every appearance of sincerity, repeatedly expressed
his deep remorse for having been instigated, in a season of
intoxication, into which he had been drawn by the Slave merchants, to
oppress and pillage his subjects. Much of the Abolitionists’ information
was also obtained from those who, in different capacities, chiefly as
surgeons, more commonly as mates, and in some few instances as common
sailors, had been actually employed in Slave ships; some of these
persons had likewise been for many months on shore among the natives;
and several of them had witnessed the practice of attacking villages by
armed parties in the night, and carrying away, and selling all they
could seize.

[Sidenote: Opponents’ contrary evidence.]

In opposition to all this testimony, the Slave Traders produced several
witnesses, who were either still engaged in the Slave Trade, or who had
formerly carried it on, some of whom had resided several years in Slave
factories on the coast. By them it was generally declared, that acts of
depredation for the purpose of procuring Slaves were never committed;
they had never even heard of such practices, nor had they ever heard of
the practice, or of the term, of panyaring or kidnapping.[10] Crimes and
witchcraft were said to be the chief sources of supply; a few were
furnished by insolvency. The trials were said to be fair, the
convictions just. In short, according to their report, the Africans, of
whose natural dispositions and character they at the same time gave a
highly unfavourable representation, and whose government was said to be
very loose and imperfect, must have been a people of the most
extraordinary moral excellency, who had for centuries resisted present
and strong temptations, which in every other country had proved too
powerful to be successfully opposed. Such, according to these witnesses,
was the state of things on the coast. Of the interior, from whence the
greater part of the Slaves were brought, they professed to know little
or nothing.

[Sidenote: Opponents’ evidence decisively refuted.]

The allegations of these persons, even though they had not been
effectually disproved by the concurrent testimony of the various classes
of witnesses already noticed, carried their refutation on the very face
of them. But if any doubts could have been entertained to which of the
two accounts most credit was due, to that of men who were still
concerned in carrying on the Slave Trade, or had made their fortunes by
it, on the one side; and of witnesses on the other, most of whom, highly
respectable both in point of rank and character, had no interest at
stake either way; these doubts would have been completely removed by
another branch of evidence. For, happily for the cause of truth and
justice, we were able to adduce, in support of our allegations, the
testimony of another set of witnesses, against whom our opponents at
least could urge no objections, [Sidenote: Especially by accounts of
Africa, published by Slave Traders, and before the Slave Trade had been
attacked.] persons in the employ of the African Company or of private
merchants, who had been long resident in Africa, for the express purpose
of carrying on the Slave Trade, and who, as was formerly mentioned, had
published to the world the result of their observations and experience.
It might indeed have been feared, that we should be compelled to except
against their testimony; and it must be confessed, that for the sake of
their own credit, and for that of the occupation by which they had made
their fortunes, they would naturally be disposed, even in acknowledging
abuses, to touch them with a tender and favourable hand. Yet, however
short of the truth we may reasonably suppose their representations to
fall, where they are discreditable to the Slave Trade, we find our
charges positively and abundantly proved.

[Sidenote: Slave Trade’s cruelty and guilt acknowledged by the
           parliamentary opposers of the abolition.]

But it is due to our opponents themselves in the House of Commons,
excepting only such of them as were personally connected with the places
whence the Slave Trade is principally carried on, who are allowed a
certain license of speaking and reasoning, on the ground of their being
understood to utter the language of their constituents rather than their
own; to the rest even of our opponents it is due, to declare, that they
never for a moment affected to entertain a doubt of the substantial
correctness of our statements. Of the injustice and inhumanity of the
Slave Trade, there was but one opinion. The chief advocates for gradual
abolition, and even the very few who resisted abolition in any form,
reprobated the traffic in the plainest and strongest terms; avowing
their firm conviction of its incurable wickedness and cruelty. One of
them declared that he knew no language which could add to its horrors;
another, that in the pursuit of the general object he felt equally warm
with the Abolitionists themselves; another acknowledged the Slave Trade
was the disgrace of Great Britain, and the torment of Africa. Whatever
might be thought of the consistency of our opponents, who, after thus
admitting our premises, stopped short of the conclusions to which such
premises might be thought infallibly to lead, it was no great stretch of
candour in them to speak in such terms of the Slave Trade, when, so
clearly indisputable were it’s nature and effects, that Mr. Bryan
Edwards, one of the ablest, and most determined enemies of abolition,
while avowedly opposing the measure in an eloquent speech (which was
afterwards published by authority) made the following memorable
declaration. After having confessed he had not the smallest doubt that
[Sidenote: Mr. Bryan Edward’s declaration to the same effect.] “in
Africa the effects of the Slave Trade were precisely such as I had
represented them to be;” he added, “the whole or the greatest part of
that immense continent, is a field of warfare and desolation; a
wilderness, in which the inhabitants are wolves towards each other; a
scene of oppression, fraud, treachery, and blood.”—“The assertion, that
a great many of the slaves are criminals and convicts, is mockery and

[Sidenote: Pleas against abolition.]

But if the charges which the Abolitionists brought against the Slave
Trade were thus clearly proved, you may now be much more disposed to
wonder, what arguments could be found sufficiently strong to induce the
House of Commons of Great Britain to hesitate, even for a moment, to
wipe away so foul a blot from our national character.

The grand operating consideration, which, from the very first discussion
of the question in 1791 to the present moment, has prevented the actual
abolition of the Slave Trade, though so long a period has elapsed since
Mr. Pitt congratulated the House of Commons, the Country, and the World,
that “its sentence was sealed, that it had received it’s condemnation,”
has undoubtedly been, the persuasion that it’s continuance is necessary
to the well-being of our West Indian colonies. We will, therefore,
inquire into that necessity. But as several other allegations were set
up, and various arguments urged, on the part of the Slave Traders, it
may be best to consider, previously, such of them as are included in the
African division of the subject, in order to clear the way for what may
be termed, the West Indian branch of the subject.

[Sidenote: The Negroes an inferior race.]

The advocates for the Slave Trade originally took very high ground;
contending, that the Negroes were an inferior race of beings. It is
obvious, that, if this were once acknowledged, they might be supposed,
no less than their fellow brutes, to have been comprised within the
original grant of all inferior creatures to the use and service of man.
A position so shameless, and so expressly contradicted by the Holy
Scriptures, could not long be maintained in plain terms. But many
others, which may not improperly be supposed, from their features, to
belong to the same family, were afterwards brought forward. To this
class belong the assertions, that, though it might scarcely be
justifiable to withhold from the Africans the name of men, yet that they
were manifestly inferior to the rest of the human species, both in their
intellectual and moral powers. Hence, doubtless, it was, that they never
had attained to any height of civilization; whence it was also inferred,
that they never could be civilized; that therefore they might be
reasonably regarded, as intended by Providence to be the hewers of wood
and drawers of water of the species; as a race originally destined to
servile offices, and fairly applicable to any purpose by which they
might be rendered most subservient to the interest and comfort of the
Lords of the Creation. This, indeed, was high ground, as has been
already remarked; but it was not injudiciously selected, had it been but
tenable; for our opponents well knew, that could they but obtain credit
for their representations of the incorrigible stupidity and depravity of
the Negro race, our commiseration of them would be proportionably
lessened, and then all, except perhaps a few stubborn advocates for
justice in the abstract, would be content to leave them to their fate.

It therefore becomes highly interesting, in a practical point of view,
to ascertain the real character and qualities, both intellectual and
moral, of the natives of Africa; and, remembering the advantages we
derived in a former instance, from publications which had appeared
before the Slave Trade became a subject of public discussion, we might
be disposed to congratulate ourselves in having access, on the present
occasion, to a work which was published many years before any
proposition had been brought forward for abolishing the Slave Trade.
[Sidenote: Mr. Long’s account of the Negro race.] The publication to
which I allude is Mr. Long’s elaborate History of Jamaica, a work which
has been long regarded as of the highest authority on all West Indian
topics. We may consider it as containing a more fair representation of
the opinion entertained of the Negroes, and of the estimation in which
they were held by the well-informed colonists, than any statements
which, having been subsequently made, may be supposed to have received a
tincture from that discussion. Mr. Long’s work appeared long before the
necessity of vindicating the Slave Trade, and the difficulty of finding
arguments for that purpose had driven the enemies of abolition to the
unworthy expedient of calumniating the African character. Yet we find
this commonly respectable author speaking of the race of Negroes in such
terms, as they who have read the more recent accounts of Africa will
peruse with astonishment, as well as with disgust. Far be it from me to
quote them with any design of injuring the reputation of a work of
established credit. But the passages are in several points of view
highly important, and well deserving of your most serious consideration.

[Sidenote: Extracts from Long’s History of Jamaica.]

“For my own part (says Mr. Long) I think there are extremely potent
reasons for believing that the white and the negro are two distinct
species.” “In general (he goes on) the African negroes are void of
genius, and seem almost incapable of making any progress in civility or
science. They have no plan or system of morality among them. Their
barbarity to their children debases their nature even below that of
brutes. They have no moral sensations; no taste, but for women,
gormandizing and drinking to excess; no wish but to be idle. Their
children, from their tenderest years, are suffered to deliver themselves
up to all that nature suggests to them. Their houses are miserable
cabins. They conceive no pleasure from the most beautiful parts of their
country, preferring the most sterile. Their roads, as they call them,
are mere sheep paths, twice as long as they need be, and almost
impassable. Their country in most parts is one continued wilderness,
beset with briars and thorns.

“They use neither carriages nor beasts of burthen. They are represented
_by all authors_ as the vilest of the human kind, to which they have
little more pretension of resemblance than what arises from their
exterior form.

“In so vast a continent as that of Africa, and in so great a variety of
climates and provinces, we might expect to find a proportionable
diversity among the inhabitants, in regard to their qualifications of
body and mind; strength, agility, industry, and dexterity, on the one
hand; ingenuity, learning, arts and sciences, on the other. But on the
contrary, a general uniformity runs through all these various regions of
people; so that if any difference be found, it is only in degrees of the
same qualities; and, what is more strange, those of the worst kind; it
being a common known proverb, that all people on the globe have some
good as well as ill qualities, except the Africans. Whatever great
personages this country might anciently have produced, and concerning
whom we have no information, they are now everywhere degenerated into a
brutish, ignorant, idle, crafty, bloody, thievish, mistrustful, and
superstitious people, even in those states where we might expect to find
them more polished, humane, docile, and industrious.”—“This brutality
somewhat diminishes when they are imported young, after they become
habituated to clothing, and a regular discipline of life; but many are
never reclaimed, and remain savages, in every sense of the word, to
their latest period. We find them marked with the same bestial manners,
stupidity, and vices, which debase their brethren on the continent, who
seem to be distinguished from the rest of mankind, not in person only,
but in possessing in the abstract every species of inherent turpitude
that is to be found dispersed at large among the rest of the human
creation, with scarce a single feature to extenuate this shade of
character, differing in this particular from all other men; for in other
countries, the most abandoned villain we ever heard of has rarely, if
ever, been known unportioned with some one good quality at least in his
composition.”—“Among so great a number of provinces on this extensive
continent, and among so many millions of people, we have heard but of
one or two insignificant tribes, who comprehended any thing of mechanic
arts, or manufacture; and even these, for the most part, are said to
perform their work in a very bungling and slovenly manner, perhaps not
much better than an oran-outang might with a little pains be brought to

“Ludicrous as the opinion may seem, I do not think that an oran-outang
husband would be any dishonour to a Hottentot female.”

“Maize, palm-oil, and a little stinking fish, make up the general bill
of fare of the prince and the slave.”

“They esteem the ape species as scarcely their inferiors in humanity.”

“Their hospitality is the result of self-love; they entertain strangers
only in hopes of extracting some service or profit from them.”

“Their corporeal sensations are generally of the grossest frame,” &c.
&c. &c.

Such is Mr. Long’s portrait of the negro character; such was the state
of contempt into which the whole race had fallen, in the estimation of
those who had known them chiefly in that condition of wretchedness and
degradation into which a long continued course of slavery had depressed
them. Can any thing shew more clearly, with what strong prejudices
against the negro race, the minds not only of low uneducated men, but of
a West Indian, whose authority is great, and whose name stands high
among his countrymen, were some years ago at least infected:
consequently they prove with what spirit and temper, even well-informed
men, among the colonists, entered on the consideration of the various
questions involved in the large and complicated discussion concerning
the abolition of the Slave Trade.

[Sidenote: The question of highly important practical tendencies.]

But the subject is of the very first importance in another view; for it
is a truth so clear, that it would be a mere waste of time to prove it
in detail—that our estimate of the intellectual and moral qualities, of
the natural and acquired tempers and feelings, and habits, of any class
of our fellow creatures, will determine our judgment as to what is
necessary to their happiness, and still more as to the treatment they
may reasonably claim at our hands. Now it be remembered, the author,
whose account of the Africans has been just laid before you, was the
very best informed of those on whose views and feelings, respecting the
Negroes, our opponents would have had us entirely rely. Must not the
representations of such witnesses against the Negroes be received with
large abatement, and ought we not to lend ourselves to their suggestions
with considerable diffidence? What judgment would they be likely to form
of the consideration to which, whether in Africa, on shipboard, or in
the West Indies, the negro Slaves were entitled? By how scanty a measure
would their comforts be dispensed to them! And when, in answer to our
inquiries, we were assured that in these several situations, their
treatment was _sufficiently_ mild and humane, and that _due_ attention
was paid to their wants and feelings, might we not reasonably receive
these assurances with some reserve, on calling to mind that they
proceeded from persons whose estimate of _sufficiency_ was drawn from
their calculations of what was _due_ to the wants and feelings, the
pleasures, and pains of a being little above the brute creation; not, of
a Being of talents and passions, of anticipations and recollections, of
social and domestic feelings similar to our own?

[Sidenote: Slave Traders account of the Negro character.]

The account given by the witnesses produced by the Slave Traders, of the
natural and moral qualities of the Negroes, was of the same unfavourable
kind, though considerably less strong in its colouring. I should detain
you too long by stating it in detail. It may suffice to mention, in
general, that the Africans were represented, in respect to civilization
and knowledge, as but very little advanced beyond the rudest state of
savage life. The population was said to be thin, their agriculture in
the lowest state, their only manufacture a species of coarse mat or
cloth. They very rarely used any beasts for draught or burthen, they had
no public roads; no knowledge of letters, or apparent sense of their
value. But the account of their personal qualities was still more
melancholy; because it was such as to leave but slender hopes of their
ever emerging out of this dark and barbarous state. The most respectable
witnesses produced by the Slave Traders, some of whom had resided among
the Africans many years, and on various parts of the coast, declared,
that their stupidity, and still more their indolence, were so firmly
rooted in their nature, as to be absolutely invincible; and, what may
perhaps be justly regarded as indicative of the worst natural
disposition, that they were deficient in domestic and parental

[Sidenote: Mr. Bryan Edwards’s account.]

Even Mr. Bryan Edwards, though in common more liberal than other
defenders of the Slave Trade, gives in his History of the West Indies a
highly unfavourable account of the African character. It ought, however,
in all fairness, to be urged in his defence, that his judgment of the
Negroes was formed under circumstances highly disadvantageous to them;
being grounded on what he had known and heard of them in our West India
colonies, where their natural character must necessarily have derived a
deep taint from the depraving effects of a long continued state of
slavery. To this cause, indeed, he himself very frankly ascribes most of
the bad qualities which he enumerates. After exhibiting the different
shades of character of the Slaves brought from different parts of
Africa, he goes on to state, what may be deemed the general properties
of the Negro race, and these are of the most debasing and depraving
kind. They are in general distrustful and cowardly; falsehood is one of
the most prominent features in their character; they are prone to theft;
sullen, selfish, unrelenting; and while the softer virtues are seldom
found among them, they are so sunk in dissoluteness and licentiousness,
that the attempt to introduce the ceremony of marriage among them, would
be impracticable to any good purpose. One of the few pleasing traits in
their character is their high veneration for old age.

[Sidenote: Parke’s character of the Negroes.]

After this melancholy picture, it is a relief to the humane mind, to
peruse the accounts of the intellectual and moral dispositions and
character of the Negroes, which have been given by persons who have had
far superior means of information. The chief of them, Mr. Parke, and Mr.
Golberry, were also, from their connections, unfriendly to the
abolition, and cannot therefore be supposed to be tinctured with any of
the prejudices which may be presumed to bias the minds of the avowed
advocates of the negro race. It would be a grateful task to lay before
you such copious extracts, as would give you a full and minute
enumeration of the particulars of the negro character; but my extracts,
to do justice to the subject, would almost fill a volume. I must
therefore refer you to my appendix for a brief specimen of them, and
content myself here with exhibiting the mere outlines of the very
different portrait which has been taken of the Negroes, after a more
familiar and extended survey of their tempers and conduct.

Mr. Parke represents the Africans of the interior as naturally superior,
both in their intellectual and moral endowments, to almost any other
uncivilized nation. He speaks in high terms of their powers of ingenuity
and invention, of their quickness and cheerfulness; of the value which
they set on the learning within their reach, and the price at which they
are willing to acquire it for themselves, or their children; of the
skill which they display in several arts and manufactures. But the
natural character of the Africans rises in our estimation, when, from
considering their intellectual, we take a fair survey of their moral
qualities; of the reverence for truth in which the children are educated
by their mothers, among the Mandingoes, who, let it be observed,
constitute the bulk of the inhabitants in all the vast districts of
Africa visited by Mr. Parke; of their almost universal benevolence,
gentleness, and hospitality; of their courage, and, when they have any
adequate motive to prompt them to work, of their industry and
perseverance; of their parental and filial tenderness, of their social
and domestic affection, of the conjugal fidelity of the women, combined
with great cheerfulness and frankness; of the extraordinary attachment
of the Negroes to their country and home; in some cases, of their
magnanimity, of which two instances are given, scarcely inferior to any
thing which is recorded in Greek or Roman story.

[Sidenote: Golberry’s character of the Negroes.]

Mr. Golberry’s account of the negro character is at least equally
favourable. “The Foulahs, he says, are intelligent and industrious,
fine, strong, brave men; but, from their habitual commerce with the
Moors, they are become savage and cruel. The Mandingoes are well
informed, graceful, and active, and, in their mercantile character,
clever and indefatigable. The Jaloffs are honest, hospitable, generous,
and faithful; their character mild, and inclined to good order and
civilization.” Besides this account of particular nations, he observes
of the Negroes in general, that they have both taste, ingenuity, and
cleverness, and may be reckoned among the most favoured people of
nature. They are, perhaps, the most prolific of all the human species,
which is probably owing to the moderation they in general observe, in
their habits, regimen, and pleasures. He bears, if possible, a still
stronger testimony to the benevolence, hospitality, frankness, and
generosity of the negro character. The mothers, says he, are
passionately fond of their children, and these discover in return great
filial tenderness. The women are always kind and attentive.

[Sidenote: Mr. Winterbottom’s.]

Concerning Mr. Winterbottom’s account, I will here only state, that it
corresponds, in the great essentials of character, with the
representations already given, though it be perhaps scarcely so
favourable to the negro character.

[Sidenote: The Hottentots vindicated.]

Even the poor calumniated Hottentots, who were long regarded as among
the lowest in the scale of being, have at length found respectable and
able advocates. Among the many good qualities which the Hottentot
possesses, there is one, says Mr. Barrow, of which he is master in an
eminent degree, a rigid adherence to truth: he may be considered also as
exempt from stealing. Sir James Craig, when he commanded at the Cape,
attempted to form an African corps, in defiance of the most confident
prediction of the colonists, whose prejudices against the Hottentot race
were scarcely less strong than those of Mr. Long himself. “We were
told,” says Sir James, “that their propensity to drunkenness was so
great, we should never be able to reduce them to order or discipline;
and that the habit of roving was so rooted in their disposition, we must
expect the whole corps would desert, the moment they had received their
clothing.” Both these charges were confuted by experience. Sir James
goes on to remark, “Never were people more contented or more grateful
for the treatment they now receive. We have upwards of three hundred,
who have been with us nine months. It is therefore with the opportunity
of knowing them well, that I venture to pronounce them an intelligent
race of men. All who bear arms exercise well, and understand,
immediately and perfectly, whatever they are taught to perform. Many of
them speak English tolerably well. Of all the qualities that can be
ascribed to a Hottentot, it will little be expected I should expatiate
upon their cleanliness; and yet it is certain, that at this moment our
Hottentot parade would not suffer in a comparison with that of some of
our regular regiments. They are now likewise cleanly in their persons;
the practice of smearing themselves with grease being entirely left off.
I have frequently observed them washing themselves in a rivulet, where
they could have in view no other object but cleanliness.” The poor
Bosjesman Hottentots are also stated as a docile, tractable people, of
innocent manners, and beyond expression grateful to their benefactors.

[Sidenote: Character of Booshuana and Baroloo natives.]

Some later travellers from the Cape of Good Hope, and in the service of
Government, have penetrated into the heart of Africa to a great depth,
but short of the region in which the Slave Trade prevails, and the
account which, both from their own knowledge and from the
representations of others, they give of the natives, is still of the
same encouraging kind.

[Sidenote: Character given of the Negroes by the Abolitionists

After these accounts, you will not be surprised to hear, that the
representations given of the Africans by the naval officers, and the men
of science before alluded to, were highly favourable. One witness spoke
of the acuteness of their perceptions; another, of the extent of their
memory; a third, of their genius for commerce; others, of their good
workmanship in gold, iron, and leather; the peculiarly excellent texture
of their cloth, and the beautiful and indelible tincture of their dyes.
It was acknowledged that they supplied the ships with many articles of
provision, with wood, and water, and other necessaries. Some spoke in
high terms of their peaceable disposition; all of their cheerfulness and
eminent hospitality.

I have been the more diffuse on this topic, because, though our
commercial connection, with Africa be of so old a date, we have
scarcely, till of late years, had any authentic account of the interior.
In a region so vast, there must be a great variety of nations, and very
different accounts may be adduced of particular countries; accounts not
always, however, of a very authentic kind. But it is highly encouraging,
and it is more than enough to rescue the African race from the unjust
and general stigma which has been cast on it, to know, that later
travellers who have visited the interior, in parts widely distant from
each other, have made such pleasing reports of the intelligence, tempers
and dispositions, habits, and manners of the natives of this vast

[Sidenote: Yet Africa never was civilized.—Argument resulting from that
           fact considered.]

But, notwithstanding all which has been here adduced in favour of the
negro character, I am aware that there exists, not uncommonly, in the
minds even of men of understanding and candour, a strong prejudice
against the African Negroes, on the ground of their never having
advanced to any considerable state of civilization and knowledge, in any
period of the world. Let me be permitted, in the first place, to
consider that position more particularly. They were always, it is
alleged, to a considerable degree barbarous. Still more, in the remotest
times to which our accounts extend, slavery, and even a Slave Trade,
have been found to prevail in Africa. Hence a presumption arises, that
her inhabitants are incapable of civilization, and that Africa cannot
much complain of a practice which has become so congenial to her, and
which seems to arise, not from European avarice, or cruelty, but rather
from the genius and dispositions of her people, or from some
incorrigible vice in her system of laws, institutions, and manners.

That Africa, which contains nearly a third of the habitable globe,
should never at any period have been reclaimed from a state of
comparative barbarism, is, indeed, on the first view, a strange
phenomenon. But without stopping to comment on the precision of that
reasoning which, on this ground, should argue that it is justifiable for
the European nations to make Africa the scene, and her sons the objects
of the Slave Trade, we may confidently affirm, that a considerate review
of the history, origin, and progress of civilization and the arts, in
all ages and countries, will not only explain the difficulty, but will
give us good grounds for believing, that, reasoning from experience, the
interior of Africa is full as much civilized as any other race of men
would have been, if placed in the same situation.

How is it that civilization and the arts grow up in any country? The
reign of law and of civil order must be first established. From law,
says a writer of acute discernment and great historical research, from
law arises security; from security, curiosity; from curiosity,
knowledge. As property is accumulated, industry is excited, a taste for
new gratifications is formed, comforts of all kinds multiply, and the
arts and sciences naturally spring up and flourish in a soil and climate
thus prepared for their reception. Yet, even under these circumstances,
the progress of the arts and sciences would probably be extremely slow,
if a nation were not to import the improvements of former times and
other countries. And we are well warranted, by the experience of all
ages, in laying it down as an incontrovertible position—that the arts
and sciences, knowledge, and civilization, have never yet been found to
be the native growth of any country; but that they have ever been
communicated from one nation to another, from the more to the less
civilized. Now, whence was Africa to receive these valuable presents?

Let us summarily and briefly trace the actual progress of human
civilization from the very earliest times. We learn from the Holy
Scriptures, and the researches of the ablest antiquaries strongly
confirm the supposition, that Mesopotamia was the original seat of the
human race. We know not to what extent the globe had been civilized
before the Flood; but the single family which survived that event,
inhabited the same or an adjacent part of Asia. About a century
afterwards, happened the dispersion of nations, and confusion of
tongues; when different races of men, like streams from one common
fountain, diverged in various directions to people the whole earth.
Without going into minute, and therefore difficult, inquiries, we know
that Assyria and Egypt were the first nations which attained to any
great heights of social improvement. Babylon, the capital of Assyria,
was built about 150 years after the flood, and the Assyrian empire is
supposed to have soon after risen to a high degree of splendour. The
neighbouring province of Egypt, from the mildness of its climate, and
its singular fertility, naturally attracted inhabitants, who, of course,
brought along with them the arts of their native land. It is represented
by the Mosaic writings to have been, about 450 years after the flood, a
flourishing and well regulated kingdom; and all history testifies that
it was one of the earliest seats of the arts and sciences.

Next to these come the Phœnicians, a colony from Egypt, situated on the
coasts of Syria, whose advances towards refinement appear to have been
great, and commercial opulence considerable. They gradually made
settlements in the islands and on the shores of the Mediterranean. By
them, the first rudiments of civilization, above all, the art of
alphabetical writing, were conveyed to Greece, the various inhabitants
of which were then in a far ruder state than most of the African nations
in the present day. They are said to have been cannibals, and to have
been ignorant even of the use of fire. Indeed, their barbarous state,
had it not been proved by positive testimony, might have been almost
inferred, from the single circumstance, of their assigning divine
honours to him who reclaimed them from living on acorns and other
spontaneous fruits of the earth, and taught them to cultivate the ground
for corn. Greece, as is justly observed by Mr. Hume, was in a situation
the most favourable of all others to improvements of every kind,
especially in the arts and sciences. It was divided into a number of
little independent communities, connected by commerce and policy, and
exciting each other by mutual competition to those heights of excellence
to which they at length attained, and which, in the arts of painting,
sculpture, architecture, poetry, and oratory, have perhaps never since
been reached by any other nation. About 150 years before Christ, Greece
was subdued by the Romans, who thence derived their civilization and
knowledge. By the extension of the Roman arms over almost the whole of
Europe, the seeds of civilization were first sown in our northern
regions, till then immersed in darkness and barbarism; and they sprung
up and flourished during the order and security which, previous to the
irruption of the northern swarms, prevailed for some centuries
throughout the Roman empire. Such was the state of Europe.

In Asia also, the progress of the Roman arms was considerable, and their
empire extensive: there were, besides, other great and populous nations,
which, from their connection with the earliest seats of civilization,
had attained to various degrees of social refinement. But of Africa,
those parts alone which border on the Mediterranean Sea had been settled
by colonies from any civilized nation. This will not appear
extraordinary, if we consider the geographical circumstances of that
quarter of the globe, and, still more, the low state of navigation among
the ancients. Their knowledge of navigation was so imperfect, that they
scarcely ever ventured out of sight of land; and the account of the
Phœnicians having penetrated into the ocean, and having found a way into
the East Indies by the Cape of Good Hope, although there now seems
reason to believe its truth, was in general regarded as bearing on it’s
very face it’s own contradiction. The Romans had therefore no access by
the ocean to the interior of Africa; and it was separated from the
provinces bordering on the Mediterranean by an immense sea of sandy
desert, near nine hundred miles from north to south, and twice that
extent from east to west, beyond which, though a few adventurous parties
might venture to penetrate, there was nothing of the established
regularity and order of a Roman province. The very tales which were told
of the inhabitants of these districts, sufficiently denote the imperfect
acquaintance and limited intercourse which subsisted with them.
Hitherto, then, how or whence was civilization to find its way into the
interior of Africa?

Next, the Northern nations, who, seeking for a more genial climate and a
more fertile soil, in the finest provinces of both the eastern and
western empire, overran the civilized world in the fifth century after
Christ, were under no temptations to extend their settlements beyond
those natural barriers which had formed the boundaries of the Roman
conquests. While the coasts of the Mediterranean therefore were
throughout ravaged and colonized, the interior of Africa was still

At length the all-conquering followers of Mahomet issued forth, and,
after desolating the fine African provinces which were subject to Rome,
some of their adventurous bands seem to have penetrated in various
quarters into the interior, and, occupying the banks of one of the
finest rivers, to have planted themselves, in greater or less numbers,
beyond the immense desert which forms the northern boundary of interior
Africa. But it should be remembered, that while the Mahometans, who
overran the various provinces of both the eastern and western empires,
became civilized by the nations they subdued, as Rome had been before by
her conquest of Greece, so that they soon attained to a great degree of
knowledge and refinement; the tribes which planted themselves in Africa,
finding only nations as illiterate and as unpolished as themselves,
retained all their original barbarism; while their ferocious tempers and
habits, and their intolerant tenets, led them to keep down their negro
subjects in a state of grievous subjection, and prevented that secure
enjoyment of person and property which prompts men to industry, by
securing to them the enjoyment and use of what they have acquired, and
is indispensably necessary for enabling the mind to exercise its powers
with freedom. Here, perhaps however, the first faint beams of knowledge
and civilization shot into the darkness of the negro nations; and it is
remarkable, that, barbarous as were the first Mahometan settlers of
interior Africa, and hostile to all improvement as is the genius of
Mahometanism, yet such is the effect of any regular government, that in
those districts in which the Mahometans either possess the entire
government, or a very considerable influence over it, there were many
centuries ago great and populous cities, provinces not ill cultivated,
and a considerable degree of social order and civilization.

It may therefore be boldly affirmed, that the interior, to which may be
added the western coast of Africa to the south of the great desert,
never enjoyed any of that intercourse with more polished nations,
without which no nation on earth is known ever to have attained to any
high degree of civilization; and that, contemptuously as we and the
other civilized nations of Europe now speak of the Africans, had we been
left in their situation, we should probably have been not more civilized
than themselves.

Let the case be put, that the interior of Africa had been made by the
Almighty the cradle of the world—that issuing thence, instead of from
the north-western part of Asia, the several streams of nations had
pervaded and settled the whole of that extensive continent—that the
banks of the Niger, not less fertile than those of the Euphrates or the
Nile, had been the seat of the first great empire—that the kingdoms of
Tombuctoo and Houssa had been the Assyria and Egypt of Africa, and that
the arts and sciences had been communicated to a cluster of little
independent states, and, under the same favourable circumstances, had
been carried to the same heights of excellence as that which they
attained in European Greece—that these had been however in their turn
swallowed up, together with the whole of that vast continent, by the
arms of a single nation, the Romans of Africa, under the shelter of
whose established dominion the various nations throughout that spacious
extent, enjoying the blessings of civil order and security, the natural
consequence had followed, that in every quarter the arts and sciences
had sprung up and flourished—Might not our northern countries have been
then in the same state of comparative barbarism in which Africa now
lies? Might not some African philosopher, proud of his superior
accomplishments, have made it a question, whether those wretched whites,
the very outcasts of nature, who were banished to the cold regions of
the north, were capable of civilization? And thus, might not a Slave
Trade in Europeans, aye, in Britons, have then been justified by those
sable reasoners, on precisely the same grounds as those on which the
African Slave Trade is now supported?

However the last supposition may mortify our pride, it will appear less
monstrous to those who recollect, that not only in ancient times the
wisest among the Greeks considered the barbarians, including all the
inhabitants of our quarter of the earth, as expressly intended by nature
to be their slaves; not only that the Romans regularly sold into slavery
all the captives whom they took in the wars, by which on all sides they
gradually extended their empire till it was almost commensurate with the
then known world; but that our own island long furnished it’s share
towards the supply of the Roman market. Even at a later period of our
history, we Englishmen have been the subjects of a Slave Trade, for
which it is remarkable that the city of Bristol[11] was the grand
emporium. That ancient city has now, I trust for the last time, retired
from that guilty commerce.

In fact we know from history, that the great principle, of the demand
producing the supply, has been amply verified in this instance, and that
when countries in which slavery has been tolerated, have been
sufficiently affluent to purchase Slaves, the Slaves have been caught
and brought, like other wild animals, from the less civilized regions of
the earth, where the inhabitants were less secure against foreign
invaders, or against internal violence. Had not our island therefore
been conquered by the Romans, who lodged in the soil the seeds of
civilization which sprung up afterwards, when circumstances favoured
their growth; and had the neighbouring provinces on the continent, from
which otherwise the rays of knowledge might have enlightened us,
remained also unsubdued; what reason is there to suppose that we, any
more than the inhabitants of any other savage country, should now be a
civilized nation? than, for instance, the whole continent of America
before it was settled by Europeans? than the islands in the Pacific
Ocean to this day?

But it may be even affirmed, that the Africans, without the advantages
to be derived from an intercourse with polished nations, have made
greater advancements towards civilization than perhaps any other
uncivilized people on earth. Nor is this the state of those nations
only, which, from their having received some tincture of the Mussulman
tenets, may be supposed to have owed their improvement to their
Mahometan invaders, but in a considerable degree in those countries also
where there are no traces whatever of any such connection.

Let us appeal to experience. In what state was Britain herself, when
first visited by the Romans? More barbarous than many of the African
kingdoms in the present day. Look to the aboriginal inhabitants of both
the northern and southern continents of the new world, both when America
was first discovered, and at the present day, with the exception,
perhaps, of only the kingdom of Mexico. Look to New Holland, a tract of
country as great as all Europe; look to Madagascar, to Borneo, to
Sumatra, to the other islands in the Indian seas, or to those of the
Pacific Ocean. Are not the Africans far more civilized than any of
these? The fact is undeniable. Instead of a miserable race of wretched
savages, thinly scattered over countries of immense extent; destitute
almost of every art and manufacture (this is the condition of the
greater part of the nations above specified), we find the Africans, in
the interior, in the state of society which has been found, from
history, next to precede the full enjoyment of all civil and social
blessings; the inhabitants of cities and of the country mutually
contributing towards each others’ support; political and civil rights
recognized both by law and practice; natural advantages discerned, and
turned to account; both agriculture, and, still more, manufactures,
carried to a tolerable state of improvement; the population in some
countries very considerable; and a strong sense of the value of
knowledge, and an earnest desire of obtaining it. How great is the
progress which the Africans have made compared with the scanty
advantages they could derive from their barbarous Mahometan invaders!

But it has been the peculiar misery of Africa, that nations, already the
most civilized, finding her in the state which has been described,
instead of producing any such effects as might be hoped for from a
commercial connection between a less and a more civilized people;
instead of imparting to the former the superior knowledge and
improvements of the latter; instead of awakening the dormant powers of
the human mind, of calling forth new exertions of industry, and thus
leading to a constant progression of new wants, desires, and tastes; to
the acquisition of property, to the acquisition of capital, to the
multiplication of comforts, and, by the more firm establishment of law
and order, to that security and quiet, in which knowledge and the arts
naturally grow up and flourish: instead of all these effects; it has
been the sad fate of Africa, that when she did enter into an intercourse
with polished nations, it was an intercourse of such a nature, as,
instead of polishing and improving, has tended not merely to retard her
natural progress, but to deprave and darken, and, if such a new term
might be used where unhappily the novelty of the occurrence compels us
to resort to one, to barbarize her wretched inhabitants.

[Sidenote: New phenomenon: interior of Africa more civilized than the

And now we are prepared both to admit and to understand a fact, which,
though found to take place universally in Africa, is contrary to all
former experience. In reviewing the moral history of man, and
contemplating his progress from ignorance and barbarism, to the
knowledge and comforts of a state of social refinement, it has been
almost invariably found, that the sea coasts and the banks of navigable
rivers, those districts which from their situation had most intercourse
with more polished nations, have been the earliest civilized. In them,
civil order, and social improvement, agriculture, industry, and at
length the arts and sciences, have first flourished, and they have by
degrees extended themselves into more inland regions. But the very
reverse is the case in Africa. There, the countries on the coast are in
a state of utter ignorance and barbarism, which also are always found to
be the greatest where the intercourse with the Europeans has been the
longest and most intimate;—while the interior countries, where not the
face of a white man was ever seen, are far more advanced in the comforts
and improvements of social life.

This is so extraordinary a phenomenon, and it points out so clearly the
pernicious effects of the Slave Trade on the prosperity of Africa, that
it deserves the most serious attention. However extraordinary the
statement may appear, it is confirmed by the unvarying testimony of all
African travellers. Such is the result of the experience of Mr. Parke,
who penetrated deep into Africa in one part; such is that of Mr.
Winterbottom, who travelled about 200 miles inland in another: and the
same extraordinary fact has since received a most striking confirmation,
in the accounts, before recited, of the Booshuana and Baroloo nations.

Surely more than enough has been stated, to shew how far the present
state of Africa is from furnishing any just grounds for believing that
the Africans are incapable of civilization. Our only cause for wonder
is, not that on the coast, where all is anarchy and insecurity, the
inhabitants should have gradually declined from the state of
civilization to which they had attained, and should have at length sunk
into a state of profound ignorance and barbarism; for they have long
been in circumstances which have been ever found utterly incompatible
with the rise and progress of civilization and knowledge; the more just
subject of astonishment is, that the kingdoms in the interior should
still be found in a condition of so much civil order and improvement, in
spite of the pernicious effects of the Slave Trade on their moral and
social state. But, through the gracious ordination of Heaven, the
political, like the natural body, can exist under severe and harassing
disorders. They may materially injure its health and comfort, and yet
not utterly destroy it. Thus the evils which the interior countries
suffer from the Slave Trade, are great and many; but their effects are
not, as they commonly are on the coast, such as to break up the very
foundations of society, and destroy the cohesion of its elementary
parts. In the interior, the Slave Trade exercises powers of destruction
which justly entitle it to the character of one of the greatest scourges
of the human race. But it is on the coast that it reaches its full
dimensions, and attains to the highest point of its detestable

But if the foregoing remarks prove plainly that our Slave dealers have
no just grounds for arguing, from the present uncivilized state of the
coast, that it is incapable of civilization; surely we cannot but be
astonished at the finished assurance, as well as the consummate
injustice and cruelty, with which they would charge on the natural
constitution and character of the natives of Africa, that very barbarism
of which they themselves are the authors; and not only so, but which,
after having produced it, they urge on us as a plea for continuing that
wretched land under the same dreadful interdict, not only from all the
comforts of the civilized state, but from all the charities of life;
from all virtue and all happiness; sealing her up for ever in bondage,
ignorance, and blood.

You have been detained, I fear, far too long before this melancholy
picture; and yet I am almost ashamed of apologizing for prolixity, when
I consider what “a world of woes” it is which I have been exhibiting to
your view.

[Sidenote: Slave Traders’ argument that the Negroes were at home in a
           worse state of slavery.]

When men began to question the soundness of that logic, which grounded
the right to carry off the natives of Africa into slavery, on their
state of barbarism and ignorance; and still more, when it was retorted,
that, even granting the premises, that the Africans were thus dark and
savage; the conclusion of a Christian reasoner ought naturally to be,
that it was the duty of more favoured nations to civilize and enlighten,
not to oppress and enslave, them; another set of arguments was brought
forth; that two-thirds, or perhaps three-fourths, of the Africans were
Slaves in their own country; and not only so, but that partly from the
cruel and bloody superstitions, partly from the political despotism
common in Africa, their state was so wretched at home, (the very worst
West Indian slavery, as Mr. Edwards affirms, being infinitely preferable
to the very best in Africa) that, independently on any motives of
interest, humanity alone would prompt us to transport them from such a
condition of misery and degradation, to the comparative Paradise of West
Indian servitude. [Sidenote: The assertion answered and refuted.] To all
this the reply was obvious, that we had no right to make men happy
against their will; and that whatever effect such an argument might have
had on us, if urged from African lips, yet that it came before us in a
very suspicious shape, when proceeding from those of a West Indian. But
since all the above allegations, however unsatisfactory on grounds of
justice, must be acknowledged, to have some place in determining the
practical effect of the Slave Trade, on the happiness of the Africans
themselves; it may not be improper to observe, that these assertions
also are utterly disproved by Mr. Parke, and by other recent travellers,
no less than by the witnesses produced by the Abolitionists.

[Sidenote: African Slaves real state.]

The slavery of Africa appeared, in truth, to be a species of feudal or
rather of patriarchal vassalage. The Slaves could not be sold by their
masters but for crimes; not without the form of a trial, nor, in several
parts, even without the verdict of a jury. They were described as
sitting with their masters, like members of the same family, in
primitive simplicity and comfort. “In all the laborious occupations
which Mr. Parke describes, both agricultural and manufacturing, the
Master and the Slave work together without any distinction of
superiority.” It appears also, from a passage in Parke, that Master and
Slave stand towards each other in a parental and filial relation: “Have
I not served you—” said an African, who had served Parke in the capacity
of a domestic Slave, “Have I not served you as if you had been to me a
father and a master?” Indeed it was the more ill-advised to make any
comparison between the slavery of Africa and of the West Indies, because
even the witnesses of our opponents give much the same account of the
condition of the African Slaves.

These remarks ought ever to be borne in mind in all our considerations
and reasonings concerning the state of society in Africa. They are
sometimes, however, forgotten by the very writers themselves by whom
they have been made. Our opponents have availed themselves of the
ambiguities of language; and the state of these domestic Slaves, who are
styled the bulk of the African population, is spoken of in terms
applicable only to the condition of those wretched beings who are
destined for the Slave market, and who are waiting in fetters for a
purchaser. The existence of this milder species of vassalage may even
facilitate the complete civilization of the negro nations, by having
familiarized their minds to the gradations of rank, and by having
accustomed them to submit to the restraints of social life, and to be
controlled by the authority of law and custom.

[Sidenote: Opponents argument from the cruelty of the African despots,
           and particularly from those of the King of Dahomy.]

Much use was likewise attempted to be made of the cruelties of some of
the African monarchs, and especially of a certain king of Dahomy. “It
was mercy to the poor Negroes to rescue them from such barbarities.” But
the argument was only a proof of the wretched straits to which our
opponents must be reduced, when they called in the aid of such an
auxiliary. Yet was this argument urged with a grave face by men of
education and intelligence; and it may therefore deserve a serious,
though a brief answer. It is probably true that the kingdom of Dahomy
had the misfortune to be governed by a cruel tyrant. His invasion of the
neighbouring kingdom of Whidah, was attended with a dreadful slaughter;
and it may be fact, that, like a celebrated oriental conqueror, Nadir
Shah, he thatched his palace with the heads of his prisoners. His
cruelties, and still more those of the Dahoman monarchs in general, must
however have been excessively exaggerated, since Mr. Devaynes, whose
personal knowledge of Dahomy was greater than that of any other person,
and who, though not favourably inclined to our cause, delivered his
evidence with great frankness and candour, declared that the Dahomans
were a very happy people. But, not to insist on the unfairness of
attempting to justify the Slave Trade in general, by the cruelties said
to be practised in one particular district, which constitutes not
perhaps a fiftieth part of the region from which the Slaves are
supplied; not to urge, moreover, that, but for the Slave Trade, this
whole system of superstition would probably have been ere now at an end;
the cruelties of the Dahoman court are the effect of the native
superstitions, and it therefore seems very doubtful, whether or not the
Slave Trade lessens the number of the victims: while, as the very
witness, who dwelt most strongly on this argument, himself allowed; it
leaves their place, by having taken off the convicts who would otherwise
have been sacrificed, to be supplied by innocent individuals. But, what
will you say, when you hear that, as Atkins[12] informs us, the
cruelties practised in the invasion of Whidah were committed by him in a
war undertaken with a view of punishing the adjacent nation, for having
stolen away some of his subjects, for the purpose of selling them for
Slaves? Thus, it appears, that to the Slave Trade itself is fairly to be
imputed this greatest of all recorded instances of the cruelties of an
African warfare, that very instance on which our opponents have relied.

[Sidenote: The Slaves brought to the coast for sale would be massacred
           in case of abolition.]

But an argument for the continuance of the Slave Trade has been grounded
on the massacre, which would otherwise take place, of the Slaves which
had been brought down to the coast for sale. This slaughter, however,
even granting it to be well founded, ought, in all fairness, to be
charged to the account of the Slave Trade, which had created the demand
for these wretched victims. At any rate it would only happen once; for
the Slave hunters would cease to catch and bring down for sale this
species of game, when it was known there could no longer be any demand
for it. But in truth, as the supposition is utterly contrary to common
sense, so it is abundantly contradicted by experience; [Sidenote: The
assertion positively contradicted by opponents partisans.] for it
clearly appears from Mr. Parke, as well as from the testimony of other
witnesses, that Slaves, when brought down to the coast for sale, are set
to work for their own maintenance, or for their master’s emolument,
either when there is no demand for them, or when the price offered for
them is deemed inadequate to their value. It further appears that, even
at this time, “It sometimes happens, when no ships are on the coast,
that a humane and considerate master incorporates his purchased Slaves
among his domestics; and their offspring, at least, if not the parents,
become entitled to all the privileges of the native class.”[13]

[Sidenote: Middle passage.]

On the middle passage but little shall be said; but we must not pass
from Africa to the West Indies, without some few observations.

When the public attention was first called to this branch of the
subject, it was alleged, and with considerable plausibility, that
self-interest alone would be a sufficient security against abuses; for
not only was the owner of the Slave ship interested in having the Slaves
brought to the port of sale in the best possible condition; but the
master, officers, and surgeons of the ships had all a similar interest,
their profits being made to depend, in a considerable degree, on the
average value of the cargo. To this argument from self-interest, it must
be confessed, that more weight was justly due in this part of the case,
than in any other; because the interest was nearer, and more direct, and
was not counteracted by any interest of an opposite nature; yet even
here it was proved but too decisively, that, as in other cases, nature
was too hard for reason, the passions too powerful for interest. The
habit of viewing, and treating these wretched beings as mere articles of
merchandize, had so blinded the judgment, and hardened the heart, as to
produce a course of treatment highly injurious to the interest of the
owners and officers of Slave ships, and at the same time abounding in
almost every circumstance that could aggravate the miseries of the
Slaves. When the condition therefore and treatment of the Negroes on
shipboard were first laid open, the indignation of the House of Commons
was excited so strongly, that though the Session of Parliament had
nearly closed, a Bill was immediately brought in and passed, with a view
to mitigate their sufferings, during even the short period for which, it
was then conceived, the existence of the Slave Trade could be tolerated.
Human ingenuity had almost been exhausted in contriving expedients for
crowding the greatest possible number of bodies into a given space; and
when the smallpox, the flux, or any other epidemic, broke out among
them, the scene was horrible beyond description. Even where there was no
such peculiar aggravation, the sufferings of the poor wretches were such
as exhausted all powers of description. Accordingly, the average
mortality on board the Slave ships was very considerable. Often, during
a voyage of a few weeks, so many perished, that if in any country the
same rate of mortality should prevail, the whole population would be
swept away in a single year. The survivors also were landed in such a
diseased state, that four and a half per cent. of the whole number
imported were estimated to die in the short interval between the arrival
of the ship and the sale of the cargo, probably not more than a
fortnight; and, after the Slaves had passed into the hands of the
planters, the numbers which perished from the effects of the voyage were
allowed to be very considerable[14].

A Bill for mitigating these evils was proposed by that justly respected
member of the House of Commons, Sir William Dolben, and, after great
opposition, was passed into a law. That law has since been from time to
time renewed and amended, prescribing certain conditions and
regulations, with a view to the health and comfort of the Slaves. For
want of some effectual means of enforcing this law, many of its
provisions have not, it is supposed, been carried into strict execution.
Still its primary object has been attained, and the evils, arising from
crowding great numbers into too small a space, have been considerably
mitigated. Much good has likewise been done by turning the attention of
the Slave dealers to the subject, and by convincing them that parsimony
is not always œconomy.

But many of the sufferings of these wretched beings are of a sort, for
which no legislative regulations can provide a remedy. Several of them,
indeed, arise necessarily out of their peculiar circumstances, as
connected with their condition on shipboard. It is necessary to the
safety of the vessel, to secure the men by chains and fetters. It is
necessary to confine them below during the night, and, in very stormy
weather, during the day also. Often it happens that, even with the
numbers still allowed to be taken, especially when some of those
epidemic diseases prevail, which, though less frequent than formerly,
will yet occasionally happen; and when men of different countries and
languages, or of opposite tempers, are linked together; such scenes of
misery take place as are too nauseous for description.[15] Still, in
rough weather, their limbs must often be excoriated by lying on the
boards; still they will often be wounded by the fetters:[16] still food
and exercise will be deemed necessary to present the animal in good
condition at the place of sale: still some of them will loath their
food, and be averse to exercise, from the joint effect perhaps of
sea-sickness and mental uneasiness; and still while in this state they
will probably be charged with sulkiness; and eating, and dancing in
their fetters will be enforced by stripes: still the high netting will
be necessary, that standing precaution of an African ship against acts
of suicide: but, more than all, still must the diseases of the mind
remain entire, nay, they may perhaps increase in force, from the
attention being less called off by the urgency of bodily suffering; the
anguish of husbands torn from their wives, wives from their husbands,
and parents from their children; the pangs arising from the
consideration, that they are separated for ever from their country,
their friends, their relatives, and connections, remain the same. In
short, they have the same painful recollection of the past, and the same
dreadful forebodings of the future; while they are still among
strangers, whose appearance, language, and manners are new to them, and
every surrounding object is such as must naturally inspire terror. In
short, till we can legislate for the mind; till by an Act of Parliament
we can regulate the affections of the heart, or, rather, till we can
extinguish the feelings of nature; till we can completely unman and
brutalize these wretched beings, in order to qualify them for being
treated like brutes; the sufferings of the Slaves, during the middle
passage, must still remain extreme. The stings of a wounded conscience
man cannot inflict; but nearly all which man can do to make his fellow
creatures miserable, without defeating his purpose by putting a speedy
end to their existence, will still be here effected; and it will still
continue true, that never can so much misery be found condensed into so
small a space, as in a Slave ship during the middle passage.

But this part of the subject should not be quitted without the mention
of one circumstance, which justly leads to a very important inference as
to other parts of the case. When Parliament entered into the
investigation of the situation and treatment of the Slaves, during the
middle passage; notwithstanding the decisive proofs, adduced, and
fatally confirmed by the dreadful mortality, of the miseries which the
Slaves endured on shipboard, the Slave Traders themselves gave a
directly opposite account; maintained that the Slaves were even
luxuriously accommodated, and, above all, that they had abundant room,
even when there was not near space sufficient for them to lie on their
backs.[17] They added likewise, that at that very period the trade hung
by a thread, and that the proposed limitation as to numbers, if carried
into a law, would infallibly and utterly ruin it. The agent for the West
Indies joined in their opposition, and predicted the mischief which
would follow. The limitation was adopted; and scarcely had a year
elapsed, before we heard from the West Indies, from the Assembly of
Jamaica itself, of the benefits which the measure was likely to produce,
on account of the gross abuses which had before notoriously prevailed,
fatal alike to the health of the Slaves and the interest of the
planters. Many years have now elapsed, and it is at length universally
acknowledged, that the measure has eminently contributed to the interest
of every one of the parties concerned.[18] May we not infer, that
probably, in other parts of this question, the parties do not always
judge very accurately with respect to their real interests; and that the
prospect of immediate advantage may cause them to be insensible to a
greater but more distant benefit.

[Sidenote: Grand allegation of West Indians, that the stock of Slaves
           cannot be kept up without importations.]

But against all, which justice and humanity could bring forward against
the Slave Trade, it was still to be urged, that the continuance of it
was necessary to the existence of our West Indian colonies. To put the
argument in more specific form, it was objected, that the stock of
Slaves then actually in the West Indies could not be maintained by
natural generation, without being recruited from time to time by
importations from Africa, and therefore, that the abolition of the Slave
Trade would produce the sure, though gradual, ruin of our colonies, with
all those effects on the wealth and strength of the mother country which
must follow from the loss of so valuable a member of the empire.

To the examination of this objection, let me intreat your most serious
attention; for on it, in fact, the whole argument turns, so far as
policy is in question. For my own part I hesitate not to say, that, let
the apparent temptation of profit be what it may, it never can be the
real interest of any nation to be unjust and inhuman; to suppose the
contrary, would be almost to arraign the wisdom and goodness of the
Almighty, as it would undoubtedly be, to admit a principle directly at
war with his revealed will. Nor can I forbear taking occasion to
congratulate my country, that in the discussions on this subject, the
greatest of her statesmen, both dead and living, even those who have
differed almost on every other question, have declared their concurrent
assent to that grand and aweful truth, _that the principles of justice
are immutable in their nature, and universal in their application; the
duty at once, and the interest, of nations, no less than of

Fully impressed with the force of these sentiments, I could not believe
that the prosperity of the West Indies must necessarily be built on a
foundation of injustice and cruelty; neither could I understand why, in
the West Indies alone, the Negroes could not even keep up their numbers.
The contrary supposition is in truth refuted, not only by its being a
contradiction of the great Law of Nature, but by its being contrary to
the universal experience of all other countries. [Sidenote: Presumptive
arguments to the contrary, furnished by experience.] For elsewhere, even
under the most unfavourable circumstances, not merely the human species,
but specifically the Negro race, had been found to increase; indeed
Negroes were said to be by nature peculiarly prolific. The climate of
the West Indies is similar to that of Africa. [Sidenote: In Africa] Why
then should the same race of beings gradually diminish in the former
country, which in the latter have so increased and multiplied, as for
two centuries to bear the continual drain of their population to the
opposite side of the Atlantic. On examining whether in fact the negro
race has kept up its numbers in other foreign countries, we find that it
has increased, and sometimes rapidly, even where the influence of the
climate might be justly supposed to be highly unfavourable.

[Sidenote: In the United States of America, Negro Slaves increase.]

The climate of the United States of America is far from being well
suited to the negro constitution, which, we are assured, is so little
patient of cold, as even in the West Indies to suffer from it[19]. The
cold in America is often very severe in the winter, even in the southern
states; and the peculiar nature of the employment of great numbers of
the Slaves who work on the rice plantations, must operate very
unfavourably on their health; yet the Negro Slaves are universally
acknowledged to have so rapidly increased in that country, that,
according to the last census of the American population, without taking
into the account any importations, the Negroes had increased so much in
the ten years last preceding the augmentation, that, advancing at the
same rate, their numbers would be doubled in about twenty-four years.

[Sidenote: Slaves increase, in Bencoolen.]

Again, in Bencoolen, which has been accounted one of the most unhealthy
climates on earth, the Negro Slaves had increased[20].

But, lest the decrease in our Islands should be supposed to arise out of
some peculiarity of the West Indian climate, [Sidenote: Slaves increase,
in the West Indies themselves.] even in the West Indies themselves
undoubted instances of negro increase can be adduced. The crew of a
Slave ship had been wrecked on the unsettled island of St. Vincents,
about the beginning of the 18th century. They had every difficulty to
contend with, were wholly unprovided with necessaries, and were obliged
to maintain a constant war with the native Charaibs; yet they had soon
multiplied exceedingly.

[Sidenote: The Maroons increase.]

Even in the island of Jamaica itself, the Maroons, the descendants of
the Negro Slaves, who, when the island was originally captured, made
their escape into the mountains, and ever afterwards lived the life of
savages; the Maroons, who were acknowledged by the West Indians
themselves to be, under peculiar circumstances, so unfavourable to the
maintenance of their numbers, that their decrease would furnish no fair
argument for the general impossibility of keeping up the stock, were
found by actual enumeration to have nearly doubled their numbers in the
period between 1749 and 1782.

[Sidenote: The Domestic Negroes increase.]

[Sidenote: The Free Blacks and Mulattoes increase.]

In the same island of Jamaica, the domestic Slaves were said by Long to
increase rapidly. The free Blacks and the Mulattoes, it was allowed by
Mr. Long, increased. Several particular instances were adduced of gangs
of Slaves having been kept up, and even having increased, without
importations; and one of the most eminent of the medical men in Jamaica,
who had under his care no less than 4,000 Negroes, stated, that there
was a very considerable increase of Negroes on the properties of that
island, particularly in the parish in which he resided, one of the
largest in Jamaica. All these instances certainly afforded a strong
presumptive proof, that the stock of Slaves in the islands might be kept
up, and might even increase without continual importations.

But the conclusion resulting from so much and such diversified
experience was established also by positive and decisive proof. The
assertion, that the stock of Slaves actually in the islands could not be
maintained without continual importations, received an unanswerable
refutation, especially from Mr. Pitt, whose superior powers of
reasoning, as well as of eloquence, were never more powerfully displayed
than in the debate of that memorable night when this subject was under
discussion, and whose positions were clearly deduced from the very
documents and accounts which had been supplied by the islands

[Sidenote: Importance of the question, concerning the keeping up of the
           stock of Slaves without Importations.]

Here, undoubtedly, lies the main stress of the case, so far as policy is
concerned. On the determination of this question must obviously rest all
the assertions which have been so industriously circulated, and all the
apprehensions which have so generally prevailed, that the immediate
abolition would prove ruinous to our West Indian Colonies. Even in 1792,
much less in the present day, scarcely any man will deny, that if the
stock of Slaves can be kept up, the abolition will, in various ways, be
highly beneficial to the islands.

[Sidenote: Proof that Slave Trade not needed for maintaining the present
           stock of Slaves.]

It was proved then, first, That the abuses and the obstructions to the
natural increase, which too generally prevail, were sufficient to
account for a rapidly decreasing population, and even to lead us to
expect it.

Secondly, That the decrease, which really was considerable a century
ago, had been gradually diminishing; till at length there was good
reason to believe it had entirely ceased, and that the population fully
maintains itself.

Thirdly, That, therefore, if the great and numerous abuses which now
prevail should be materially mitigated, we might confidently anticipate
a great and rapid increase in future.

These three propositions being made out, it follows of course, that the
only substantial objection to the abolition, on the grounds of policy,
is completely done away. [Sidenote: Proof of existing abuses
unfavourable to increase.] To the proof, therefore, of these
propositions respectively, let me beg your most serious attention. And
now, in establishing the first of them, it becomes my duty to point out
the various abuses of the colonial system, so far as they have any
natural tendency to keep down the population below its proper level. I
am well aware that I am here about to tread on very tender ground. I
know that it is imputed to the Abolitionists, that they have endeavoured
to excite an unjust clamour against the Colonists by tales of cruelty,
which, if not utterly false, or, at least, grossly exaggerated, were,
however, individual and rare instances. They have been represented as
the rule, it is said, not as the exception, and as fixing a general
stigma on all colonial proprietors.

That on a subject naturally calculated to call forth powerfully the
feelings of every humane mind, zeal may have carried some of our
advocates too far, and made them not sufficiently discriminate between
particular cases of ill-treatment, and the general system of management,
I will not deny. Yet I might, perhaps, retort the accusation, and
object, in my turn, that our opponents have not in general acknowledged
even the particular cases of cruelty, and joined with us in reprobating
them; but that the facts themselves have been denied, as if it were
really the common cause of the Colonists, in which all were to stand or
fall together.

Yet, surely, any one who considers how great, even in men of rank and
education, have ever been the abuses of absolute power; who recollects,
besides, that in the West Indies, Slaves of inferior value are of very
low price, and consequently, that any man who possesses a horse in this
country might possess a Slave in that, would be sure that individual
instances of cruelty must frequently occur. Let any one who should be
inclined to pause on this position, consider how that noble animal, the
horse, is too often treated in the face of day, in the very streets of
the capital of this civilized country. But for myself I can truly
declare, that I cannot be justly charged with having insisted on
particular cases of West Indian cruelty. On the contrary, I have
uniformly abstained from whatever could provoke or irritate the
Colonists, as far as was possibly consistent with justice to the cause.
I have sometimes even doubted whether the cause may not have suffered
from my abstinence.

But, in justice to my own character, let me declare, that I have
observed this line of conduct, not merely from interested motives, that
our opponents might not be heated into still stronger opposition, but
from feelings of a more generous nature. I have borne in mind, that the
present generation of West Indian proprietors are not the first settlers
of the colonies, or the first maintainers of the Slave Trade; excepting,
however, the formers of the new settlements, which, alas! have been made
to a prodigious extent within the last sixteen years. The older
proprietors inherited their estates as we in Britain inherited ours; and
must we not expect them to be naturally tinctured with the prejudices
arising out of their circumstances and situations, since it is almost as
difficult to be exempted from the operation of these in the moral world,
as for natural productions not to possess the peculiar qualities and
flavour of their climate and soil.

But, speaking generally, for the absentees I feel above all other
proprietors; many of them born and educated in the mother country, and
therefore possessing all the principles, sympathies, and feelings which
belong to our state of society. They are most of them ignorant of the
real state of things in the colonies; they naturally give credit to the
accounts which they receive from their agents and correspondents. They
often, I doubt not, in some cases I know, they send over orders to their
managers to treat their Slaves with the utmost humanity and liberality.
There are among them, men who consider the Slaves whom they inherit, as
a family of unfortunate men, with whose protection and comfort
Providence has charged them, and whose well-being they are therefore
bound, by the highest obligations, to promote.

Far therefore be it from me to throw out a general reproach against the
whole West Indian body. In this case indeed, as in others of a similar
nature, the more the general mass is liable to any taint, the more to be
found exempt from it, is honourable. Surely those proprietors whose own
consciences acquit them of all inhumanity, nay more, whose general
conduct bears testimony to their kind and liberal feelings towards these
unfortunate dependants, ought rather to aid our endeavours to reform the
existing abuses, than to strive, by interposing their character, to
shield them from the view, and, by so doing, to promote their

Let the West Indians of more enlarged and generous minds join me rather
in examining into the vices of the existing system, more especially into
those which have hitherto obstructed the increase of the Negro
population. But to lay before you the various proofs which could be
adduced of those abuses, would require a volume, and that not a small
one. Want of time, therefore, will compel me to take a very cursory view
of this very important part of my subject. I must content myself with
specifying the chief abuses, referring generally for the proofs of them,
to authentic, but too often voluminous documents.

It might alone however be sufficient, to establish the positions for
which I shall contend, to refer you to a recent and most valuable
publication, the work of a professional planter. The author was from the
first an active and able opponent of the Abolitionists. But being a man
of truth and candour, he has at once furnished a strong argument in
support of their cause, and an invaluable service to his brethren, the
planters, by not only stating the prevalent vices of the existing
system, but by relating the remedies of them, which he himself applied,
and the reforms by which, however inadequate, he acquired, in a few
years, a large fortune, while at the end of that time, he had the
satisfaction to see the number of his Slaves rapidly and greatly

Actuated by motives at once benevolent and patriotic, desirous of
mitigating the sufferings of the Negroes, and of directing the planters
to those judicious and salutary reforms which would be found in the end
to have been not more humane than politic, he addressed publicly his
West Indian brethren, by whom, both from his general character for
understanding and experience, he was naturally much respected, and among
whom he was entitled to the more credit for having been among the
foremost to repel the attack of the Abolitionists. But it was impossible
to address the planters publicly, without his work being at the same
time read by the friends of abolition. He must be on his guard
therefore, lest he should afford a triumph to the latter by laying open
the various evils of the West Indian system in their full extent. He had
obviously a most difficult task to perform; and it is no more than
justice to say that few men ever performed a difficult task with more
ability. It is impossible, however, to peruse his work without
perceiving in every page that he felt extremely embarrassed, by wishing
to suggest the most salutary remedies without letting the world know too
much of the disease. He writes like a man who on the one hand is
conscious that he is prescribing to a patient who is very liable to take
offence, and who wishes on the other not to disparage the reputation of
the system of management which had been pursued by the former
practitioner. Hence he rather hints a fault, and hesitates dislike, than
speaks out plainly. We ought to bear in mind the author’s peculiar
situation, and its effects, during our perusal of his work, or we shall
form a very inadequate idea of the real strength of the various abuses,
from the soft colouring with which he paints them.

[Sidenote: The increase a subordinate object of attention.]

And here I ought to commence with stating, as a grand and universally
operative cause why the numbers of the Slaves did not increase more
rapidly, that their increase was not made in general a primary object of
attention. Here also there were individual instances of a contrary sort,
but still the position is generally true. The dependance for keeping up
the stock of Slaves was placed not on the increase to be obtained by
births, but on the power of purchasing from time to time from the Slave
market. This was abundantly proved by positive evidence; nay, even by
the express declaration of the managers and overseers themselves; but it
was established perhaps still more decisively, by its being almost
invariably found that the most intelligent West Indians, who were the
most fully acquainted with every other particular of the system, were
commonly utterly ignorant of all that related to this important topic.
On this head, their minds were a mere blank, wholly unfurnished with any
of those particulars with which they must have been familiar, had the
increase of their Negroes been any great object of their care. Even
medical men, though perfect adepts in all which regarded planting,
appeared quite at a loss, when questions were asked of them connected
with the breeding and rearing of children.

In some instances, even the colonial statutes have been framed on the
same principles, and an annual poll-tax has been laid on Negro Slaves
from their earliest infancy.

It is not however, that I impute even to the managers, much less to the
proprietors of West Indian estates, that they entered into any grave and
minute comparison between the breeding system on the one hand, and the
working down and buying system on the other, and that they deliberately
gave the preference to the latter as the most economical, in the full
view of all its horrid consequences; but the truth is, that under all
the circumstances of the West Indian colonies, it was perfectly natural
that the buying rather than the breeding system should be pursued; nay,
reasoning from experience, I had almost said, it was scarcely possible
that the case should be otherwise, for it was a mode of proceeding which
resulted from causes of sure and universal operation. Mr. Hume has
clearly proved the truth of this position, in his celebrated Essay on
the populousness of ancient nations; and he himself, after stating why
the buying system had been preferred among the ancients, applies the
reasoning to our Trans-Atlantic colonies, and speaks of the confirmation
which his doctrine receives, from the maxims of our planters, as a known
and acknowledged fact.[21] From the operation of similar causes, buying
rather than breeding Slaves became the general policy, among the nations
of antiquity; and hence it will infallibly continue the general policy
in the West Indies, so long as a Slave market remains open for a
purchaser’s supply.

Will not they, who might hesitate to adopt this position, be disposed at
least to deem it probable, when they hear, that, notwithstanding all the
steps which have been taken, for so many years, towards the abolition of
the Slave Trade; even yet, the price of women Slaves continues, as it
has always been, inferior to that of men. This is the more curious,
because our opponents have uniformly alleged their not having a due
proportion of females, as a primary cause of their not keeping up their
numbers. It is obvious, that this is a cause which could, at the utmost,
only exist among the imported Africans, and that there would be the
usual proportion of males and females among the Slaves born in the
islands, which, in all but the new settlements, constitute beyond all
comparison the bulk of the Black population. What then can shew more
clearly, that the planters do not, even yet, set themselves in earnest
to produce an increase by breeding, than that, under an exaggerated
impression of the effects of importing a too small proportion of
females, and with a probability, at least, of abolition before their
eyes, they suffer it to continue the interest of the Slave merchant, in
preference to bring over males.

[Sidenote: Vices of the West Indian system:—Insufficient feeding.]

I must begin my enumeration of the abuses of the West Indian system, by
mentioning _insufficient feeding_. It must be granted, indeed, that in
this particular, the Slaves are very differently circumstanced in
different islands. In the larger island of Jamaica, for instance, and in
Dominica, wherein the Slaves can be chiefly fed by provisions produced
on the estate, their quantity of food is far more ample than in those
islands where the land is so valuable, that little or none of it can be
spared for this service; where also the droughts are so frequent and
great, that the Negroes own provision grounds furnish but a very
precarious and scanty supply. It might be sufficient to mention, that
the allowance of provisions alleged to have been commonly given to the
working Slaves, in most of the Leeward Islands, was not above half the
quantity which, by an act of Assembly, lately passed in Jamaica, was
required to be given to such runaway Slaves as, having been taken up,
were lodged in prison till they could be returned to their masters. A
prison allowance is not meant to be such as will pamper the body; yet
double the food given in the former case to the working Negroes, was
prescribed for a Slave in prison, who had nothing to do. I might also
mention that acknowledged truth, that during the five or six months of
crop time, when the labour is the most severe, the Slaves uniformly
become much stouter and fatter, from the nourishment derived from the
cane juice.

But as time will not allow me to prove the point completely, let me
abstain from an imperfect enumeration of arguments, and satisfy myself
with affirming, that I am fully warranted by the very respectable
authority just now alluded to, in placing insufficient feeding among the
general vices of the West Indian system; though in Jamaica, and in some
of the other islands, the lands allotted to the Slaves for raising their
food is sufficient, had they but time enough for working it.[22] I will
only remark farther, that in America, where the Slaves increase so
rapidly, the quantity of food allowed to the Negroes was vastly greater
than the largest West Indian allowance.

[Sidenote: Defects in point of clothing and lodging.]

Clothing and lodging are, in the West Indian climate, less important
particulars; yet in them too there is room for improvement, as there is
also in the point of medical care. [Sidenote: Overworking.] Overworking
is a still more important hindrance, in which perhaps the excess in the
continuance of the labour, is more injurious than in its intensity. And
here I might call in Mr. Long as a witness, from whose experience on
this head there ought to be no appeal. The passage is well worthy of
attention: “I will not deny that those Negroes breed the best, whose
labour is least, or easiest. Thus the domestic Negroes have more
children than those on penns, and the latter than those who are employed
on sugar plantations. If the number of hogsheads, annually made from any
estate, exceeds, or even equals, the whole aggregate of Negroes employed
upon it, but few children will be brought up on such estate, whatever
number may be born. But, where the proportion of the annual produce is
about half a hogshead for every Negro, there they will, in all
likelihood, increase very rapidly; and not much less so, where the
_ratio_ is of two hogsheads to every three Negroes, which I take to be a
good _mesne_ proportion.” Does it not then indisputably follow, that
where the Slaves diminish, it is owing to the labour being
disproportionate to their strength?

[Sidenote: Moral defects of the West Indian system.]

But of all the vices of the West Indian system which tend to prevent the
increase, those which may be termed the moral vices and preventives, are
those on which I must insist most strongly, and on which also I must
dwell more particularly, because even by benevolent and liberal minds
they have been too generally neglected. These are of all others the most
efficient; since, in their consequences, they naturally produce the
existence, or at least the aggravation of all the rest. Of these let me
first specify the practice of polygamy, and much more the almost
universal dissoluteness and debauchery of the Negro Slaves. These are
evils which have been almost always assigned by the West Indian
gentlemen themselves, as the grand obstacle to the production and
rearing of children. And yet, strange as it may seem, no attempts
whatever appear to have been made, excepting by three or four
enlightened and liberal proprietors, to reform these abuses. Can a more
decisive proof be afforded, either that the increase of the Negroes was
never any serious object of general attention, or that the prejudices
and passions of men often make them act contrary to their clear and
known interest? [Sidenote: Neglect of religious instruction.] No efforts
have been made for the religious instruction and moral improvement of
the Negroes, and any plans of that kind, when adopted by others, have
been considered as chimerical, if not dangerous. This is the more
extraordinary, because an example on a large scale, has been of late
years furnished in the little Danish islands, and in one settlement, at
least, of our own smaller islands, of the happiest effects resulting
from such endeavours: so that men of great knowledge and experience in
West Indian affairs, in estimating the effects of the labours of the
missionaries, who were employed in this benevolent service, by a
pecuniary standard, declared, that a Slave, by becoming one of their
converts, was worth half as much more than his former value, on account
of his superior morality, sobriety, industry, subordination, and general
good conduct.[23]

In the French islands, likewise, the religious instruction of the Slaves
was an object of very general care; and the intelligent West Indian
Writer before alluded to, frankly declares, “that no person who has
visited the French islands can deny, that in consequence of the
improvements derived from this source, their Slaves are incomparably
better disposed than our own.” This is no singular opinion, and the
Governor of Dominica stated an undeniable truth, when, in answer to the
queries sent out by his Majesty, he declared, that “he was satisfied it
was principally from this cause (of religious instruction), that the
French Slaves were, in general, better, more attached, more contented,
more healthy, more cleanly than ours.” Their greater attachment and
contentment are the more worthy of remark, because it is pretty
generally agreed, that they were treated with more severity, and worked
harder than our own.

In the Portuguese settlements also, and probably in the Spanish
likewise, the religious instruction of the Slaves has ever been regarded
as a concern of high importance.

Might we not then have expected that our own West Indian Proprietors
would be prompted, not only by considerations of self-interest, but by
motives of a still higher order, to pay some attention to the religious
instruction of their Negroes? Might not mere humanity have enforced the
same important duty? Might we not have hoped, that the Slaves of this
Protestant and free nation, might have had some compensation made to
them, for the evils of their temporal bondage, by a prospect being
opened to them of a happier world hereafter, a world of light and
liberty? But, alas! no such cheering prospects are pointed out to them.
It is left, alas! to Paganism to administer to them, I had almost said
happily, a faint imitation of that more animating hope which
Christianity should impart; and these poor beings are comforted by the
idea, that death will once more restore them to their native land; on
which account it is, that, as we learn from most respectable testimony,
the negro funerals in the West Indies are seasons of joy and triumph,
whereas in Africa, they are accompanied with the usual indications of
dejection and sorrow.[24]

[Sidenote: Degradation of the Negro race.]

But though this neglect of the religious and moral instruction of the
Slaves, so manifestly leading to the master’s immediate interest, may
surprize on the first view, the problem will be completely solved on a
farther insight into the system of management; and the mischief may be
traced, if I mistake not, to a sure source of numerous and most
malignant evils. [Sidenote: Degradation of the Negro race.] For the
various moral defects of the negro system appear to me often to be
almost entirely caused, and always to be extremely augmented, by the
Negroes, as a race, being sunk into the lowest state of degradation.

That this was to be naturally expected, will be obvious to every
reflecting mind, which considers, that, for many successive generations,
the Negroes have not only been an inferior cast, a race of slaves, the
slaves too of men enjoying themselves, political freedom, and therefore
elevated above them to a still higher point; but that there is a variety
of circumstances, not forgetting that most important particular of
colour, all tending powerfully to designate, and stamp them, as a
peculiar, and that a base and degraded order of beings.

These are considerations of inexpressible importance; for these are
they, which, by extinguishing sympathy, render the yoke of African
slavery so peculiarly galling, and make it press on the West Indian
Slave with such aggravated weight. [Sidenote: West Indian compared with
ancient slavery.] Slavery, we know, existed among the ancients; and
according to the savage maxims of Pagan warfare,(too strikingly agreeing
with the mode of carrying on war which the Slave Trade has produced in
Africa), not only the soldiery of an enemy, but the peaceable
inhabitants of conquered countries were commonly sold as Slaves. But
what an idea does it convey of the abhorred system, which, with
coadjutors abler than myself, I have been so long endeavouring to
abolish; that, just as in Africa, it has forced Christianity to
acknowledge the superior power of Mahometanism, in rooting out the
native superstitions, and in instructing and civilizing the
inhabitants—so in our possessions in the western Hemisphere, it combines
the profession of the christian faith with a description of slavery, in
many respects more bitter in its sufferings, than that which the very
darkness of Paganism itself could scarcely tolerate.

This is the more grievous to those who duly venerate and love our most
pure and excellent form of christian faith, because to have first
mitigated the evils of slavery, and at length in a great degree to have
abolished the institution itself, have been numbered among the peculiar
glories of Christianity;[25] and because, what we deem a corrupted
system of Christianity, has produced highly beneficial effects on the
negro Slaves of our Roman Catholic neighbours in the same quarter. I
cannot now enlarge on this topic; but thus much I must state, that the
single particular, that the Slaves among the ancients were in general of
the same complexion, features, and form, with their masters, was of
itself a consideration of extreme importance. These masters were aware
their situation was one, into which they themselves might be reduced by
the fortune of war: this circumstance, together with the frequent
elevation of Slaves to occupations of the highest confidence and
importance, with a prospect, frequently realized, of emerging by
emancipation into a state of liberty and comfort, was sufficient to
render their condition infinitely preferable to that of our West Indian
Slaves.[26] In the case of ancient slavery, instead of there being no
place for sympathy, it was often in lively exercise; but even still
more, hope was not extinguished; hope, the cordial drop of life, that on
which, perhaps, more than on all which rank, and wealth; and power, and
prosperity can give, depends the happiness of man. But to the West
Indian Slave, on the contrary, his colour, his features, his form, his
language, his employment, all tend on the one hand to extinguish
sympathy, and on the other to shut him up as it were close and bound in
his dreary dungeon, without a ray of light, without a chance of escape,
the victim at once of degradation and despair.

Can it be necessary for me, in order to justify myself for dilating on
so invidious a topic as that of the degradation of the negro race, to
insist on the important effects which this degradation must necessarily
produce in all the various particulars of negro treatment? [Sidenote:
Important effects of Negro degradation.] Let me not here be
misunderstood. The degradation of which I shall speak, and of which,
while it continues, I must ever speak in terms of indignation, as of a
gross infraction on the just claims of our common species, is not to be
regarded as important, only, or chiefly, in the view of its being an
outrage on the feelings of the Negroes themselves. If that were all, I
might perhaps be charged with over-refining, and with measuring the
opinions and feelings of the Slaves by a standard justly applicable only
to men of far more enlightened and elevated minds. Though, even in this
view, what an idea does it convey to us of their wretched state! How
scanty must be their stock of comforts, when their very happiness is to
arise from their being insensible to circumstances of humiliation, which
all but a brute must understand and feel.

Hitherto it has been deemed one of the most debasing effects of slavery,
to render men insensible to the extremity of their own degradation; and
it is a new way of considering things to regard this insensibility as an
alleviation of their wretchedness. But, alas! this degradation makes
itself but too intelligible to the meanest capacity, and the most
unfeeling heart. Its effects are such as come home at every turn to the
Negroes’ “business and bosoms.”

Surely it would be a waste of time to prove to you in detail, that,
throughout all nature, but especially in the human species, in
proportion as any being is considered as possessing a higher or a lower
place in the scale of existence, in that same proportion shall we be
disposed to consider him as entitled to a larger share of our kind
consideration; in short, in the same proportion will sympathy be
awakened in his behalf, and sympathy is the great author and cherisher
of every benevolent emotion. In that same proportion shall we be
inclined to reflect on his situation, to spare his feelings, to multiply
his comforts; in short, to pour, even though with a cautious hand, some
drops of comfort into a cup, which, at best, must be but bitter, and of
which, wherever sympathy is in exercise, we feel that we ourselves might
have been fated to drink. Whatever, therefore, tends to depress that
wretched class of our fellow creatures, beneath that low level which in
any case they are doomed to occupy, tends compendiously and infallibly
to the counteraction of every thing good, and the aggravation of every
thing evil, in their unhappy lot.

Let it not then be thought, that in the odious recital which will
follow, I am influenced by any invidious or ungenerous feelings towards
the colonial Proprietors. I have a solemn duty to discharge, and however
painful the task, however invidious, however liable to misconstruction,
I must not shrink from it. It may be enough, I hope, to touch on the
chief humiliating particulars.

[Sidenote: Instances of degradation.]

And, first, comes in that most degrading spectacle of a negro sale.

[Sidenote: A negro sale.]

Mr. Edwards himself acknowledges with frankness and liberality, that
“there is something extremely shocking to a humane and cultivated mind,
in the idea of beholding a numerous body of our unfortunate fellow
creatures in captivity and exile, exposed naked to public view, and sold
like a herd of cattle.”[27] But the account given of one of those sales
by a late traveller, in his highly instructive and interesting work,[28]
will convey a more precise idea of the scene:—“The poor Africans, says
he, who were to be sold, were exposed naked, in a large empty building
like an open barn. Those who came with intention to purchase, minutely
inspected them; handled them, made them jump, and stamp with their feet,
and throw out their arms and their legs; turned them about; looked into
their mouths; and, according to the usual rules of traffic with respect
to cattle, examined them; and made them show themselves in a variety
ways, to try if they were sound and healthy. All this was distressful
and humiliating; but a wound still more severe was inflicted on the
feelings, by some of the purchasers selecting only such as their
judgment led them to prefer, regardless of the bonds of nature and

“The husband was taken from the wife, children separated from their
parents, and the lover torn from his mistress.”

“In one part of the building was seen a wife clinging to her husband.
Here was a sister hanging upon the neck of her brother. There stood two
brothers enfolded in each others arms, mutually bewailing their
threatened separation. In other parts were friends, relatives, and
companions, praying to be sold to the same master, using signs to
signify that they would be content with slavery, might they but toil

“Silent tears, deep sighs, and heavy lamentations, bespoke the universal
suffering of these poor Blacks. Never was the scene more distressful.
Among these unhappy, degraded Africans, scarcely was there an unclouded

To the honour of the Legislature of Jamaica, the consolidated Slave Act,
which passed in 1788, contained a proviso, which Mr. Edwards himself
subsequently endeavored to carry into more complete effect, that, as far
as possible, there should be no separation of the different branches of
the same family. I might remark that such a law, from the very nature of
the case, would be very imperfectly executed. But even where no such
humane condition has been prescribed, let me observe, that it is not so
much to my present purpose to notice the violence done to the domestic
and social feelings of the Slaves, as to point out the tendency which
the whole scene must have, to degrade and vilify the wretched beings in
the eyes of the spectators.

[Sidenote: Sales of Negroes for Owners’ debts.]

It is another particular in the situation of these poor creatures, which
should here be noticed; that they are personal estate, or moveable
property, and that hence they are liable to be seized and sold for their
Owner’s debts. This operates the more unfavourably towards them,
because, in the West Indies, there is always a more rapid change of
property than in any other country; and never has there been more
speculation, never more general difficulty and distress, consequently
never more seizures and sales, than during the last twenty or thirty

These continual sales, often commonly by auction, not only of recently
imported, but of homeborn and long-settled Negroes, are productive of
the most acute sufferings to the Slaves, by tearing open, in the
Africans, the old wounds, which might after many years have closed, and
by forcing them once more from their homes, their families, and
connections, when they had perhaps taken root in their West Indian soil,
and multiplied their domestic and social holdings. These
transplantations, besides, greatly tend to lessen the little disposition
which the Slaves, circumstanced as they are, naturally feel, to
endeavour to gain a good character, and obtain a master’s confidence, in
the hope that they and their families may possess a place in his esteem.
There is an object which it is obvious will operate most severely in the
case of the most industrious and best-conditioned Slaves. In proportion
as they are of this character, they are likely to have multiplied their
domestic and friendly relations, and in and about their dwelling-places
to have collected such little comforts as have been within their reach,
and as have tended to cause home to present, even to them, an idea of
consolation and refreshment. But all of them have some home, all have
some relatives and acquaintances. From all these they are hurried away,
often necessarily separated from the closest of all connections. They
are sent, probably, to form new settlements, when, perhaps, past the
prime of life, and to encounter hardships, and endure labours, to which
their bodily strength is scarcely equal.[29] At least they have to form
a new home, new connections, new attachments; and, when the best of
their days have now been spent in vain, how must the spirits, even of
the well disposed, sink within them, under the consciousness that they
have to recommend themselves to a new master, when, from the mere decay
of their bodily powers, they cannot hope, by the alacrity and vigour of
their services, to obtain any considerable share of notice or esteem; or
when, if at an earlier period of life, they are discouraged from
attempting it, by the probability, that ere long they may again be
transferred to a new owner.

But I wish you not so much to keep in view the deep wounds which the
happiness of the Slaves must sustain from these frequent sales. It is to
my present purpose to consider their effect in accustoming men to
disregard their comforts and feelings. It is impossible but that such
incidents must tend powerfully, and in various ways, to vilify and
degrade the Blacks in the general estimation, and hence to produce an
habitual disregard to their comforts and feelings.

It may be proper to state, that it was urged by our West Indian
opponents, that the grievance we have been now considering, may fairly
be laid to the charge of the British Parliament, having been sanctioned
by a statute passed in the time of George the Second, for the security
of the creditor in the mother country. The West Indian legislatures, it
was added, were bound not to enact any provision contrary to the laws of
England, and were therefore forced to endure this cruel and pernicious

It would not be difficult to shew that this charge is not well founded;
but it may suffice, for the present, to remark, that, even granting that
the effect of the 5th of Geo. 2d was such as is here supposed, yet that
Slaves were not for the first time rendered by that law personal
property, and liable to be sold separate from the land for the payment
of the simple contract debts of the Master. They have always been in
that wretched state. Still more it might truly be alleged, that the
Legislature of this country was utterly ignorant of the effect of the
law on the happiness of the Negroes, and not even a hint was dropped on
that subject by any one of the many West Indian Gentlemen in Parliament;
and, when the mischievous effects of the statute were explained,
Parliament immediately and unanimously consented to the very first
proposal which was made for repealing it. We do not find however, that
the West Indian legislatures have availed themselves of the acknowledged
right of rescinding it, which they now enjoy. Supposing therefore, what
is not however the fact, that, in this instance only, the British
Parliament and the Colonial legislatures, the former utterly ignorant of
all the practical evils resulting to the Slaves from the law in
question, the latter having them daily before their eyes, to have been
both parties to the wrong; we have at least done our part towards
redressing the injury; they have not done theirs.

[Sidenote: The universal practice of working under the whip.]

The next particular which must be mentioned, is, like all the rest, at
once an evidence and an effect of the degraded state of the Negroes. It
is that universal and established practice of working them under the
whip like cattle.[30] And here is it possible for any one not to feel
peculiarly shocked at the idea of working females in this method; the
consequence of which must unavoidably be, that notwithstanding the
immunities which may be allowed in more advanced stages of pregnancy, or
even as soon as a woman is known to be in that state, yet that females
will in fact be often worked in this mode, at times, and under
circumstances, when Nature peculiarly calls for forbearance, tenderness,
and support. Let me repeat, that it is not civilization merely, and
politeness, as sometimes happens in the case of artificial wants; it is
Nature herself, which, in such circumstances, claims some sympathy and
indulgence. And is this a time, are these circumstances, in which a
female should be urged to her labour by the stroke, or even the crack of
the whip? To view the practice in a mere mercenary view, surely if the
West Indian Gentlemen had been seriously and earnestly intent on
superseding the necessity of purchasing from the Slave market, by
rearing Negroes on their own estates, the younger women at least, if
employed in field-work at all, would not be worked in this rude and
undistinguishing manner, when a single inconsiderate lash of the
driver’s whip, intended not as a punishment, but as a quickener, or a
memento, may in its consequences, prevent the birth of a future infant.
Surely I need not enlarge on this disgusting topic, or enumerate in
detail the various evils which must result from so hateful a practice;
it’s tendency greatly to lessen, if not almost utterly to extinguish in
the Slaves, all honest, I had almost said, all mercenary emulation or
competition, all the hopes of obtaining a master’s approbation and
confidence; it’s admitting no occasional remissions of labour,
afterwards to be compensated by increased exertions; it’s making no
allowance for different states of mind or body; but, without inquiry as
to these, as the post-horse is to go through his stage, so the Slave
under the same impulse is to keep up with his fellows: In short, it’s
utter forgetfulness of _mind_ in the human subject, who is thus
considered and treated as of an inferior species, as not capable of
being worked upon by the ordinary motives of the hope of reward, or even
the fear of punishment; as one who, like the vilest of the brute
species, has no foresight or recollection, and must therefore be
subjected to the same humiliating regimen.

[Sidenote: Cruel and indecent public punishments of Slaves.]

Another particular, concerning which I am doubtful whether it ought to
be noticed chiefly as a cause of the degradation of the Negro race, or
as an evidence and effect of that degradation, is the cruel, and, in the
case of the female sex, still more the highly indecent punishments
inflicted in places of public resort, and in the face of day. Unless the
feelings of sympathy towards Blacks, as fellow creatures, or of decency
respecting them as of our own species, were not, to so great a degree,
extinct, such exhibitions would not be continued, if from no better
motive, yet because they would counteract their own effect, when they
were the execution of a public sentence, by interesting all beholders in
favour of the criminal, and bringing, to use the phrase of our law, the
Government into hatred and contempt; or because, when they were
punishments ordered by a master or mistress, besides probably producing
a riot, they would render those who ordered them the subject of general
obloquy. But, regarded as Blacks now are by the bulk of the population,
there seems to have been no fear lest public executions, by the most
cruel and protracted tortures, should be matter of public scandal. As
for the punishments of Owners, when General T. saw the shameless and
cruel flogging, on the public parade, of two very decent women, who,
while waiting at table where he was visiting, had been ordered by their
mistress, in spite of his expostulations, to go with the Jumper (or
public Flogger), to receive a dozen, each stroke of which brought flesh
from them, we do not find that the incident excited any surprize or
attention in any one but the General himself.[31] If such could be the
treatment sanctioned by public opinion, and general feeling, of decent
young women, publicly and in the face of day, what consideration would
be likely to be paid to the comforts and feelings of the field Negroes,
who are regarded as a far inferior race to the domestics, especially
when there are no officious bystanders to witness what may take place.

Let me but ask, what must be the effect necessarily produced on the mind
from having been habituated to such scenes as these from early infancy?
Can we be surprized to hear that, too often, even the delicacy and
tenderness of the female sex is not proof against the natural
consequences of daily beholding such spectacles?[32] Should we not be
almost prepared to find, the particular which I confess has ever most
deeply affected my mind as being of all others the most decisive proof
of the utter vileness and degradation of the Negro race, [Sidenote:
Other signs of degradation.] that utter contempt which too generally
prevails of their social and domestic feelings; that they are too
commonly regarded as below instruction, below the range of moral
precepts and prohibitions, below the sphere of the obligations, duties,
restraints, and comforts of conjugal, domestic, and social life.

Hence, doubtless, proceeds their being in some degree regarded, like
their fellow brutes, as below the necessity of observing towards others
the proper decencies of life, or of having these decencies observed by
others towards them. Hence, while Mr. Parke assures us, that in Africa,
adultery is not more frequent than in this country, we hear the most
respectable Colonists treat the very idea of introducing marriage among
the Slaves, in their present state, as perfectly hopeless or ridiculous.

Do we not here find the explanation of that strange phenomenon, formerly
mentioned, that while the prevalence and evils of dissoluteness are
universally acknowledged, scarcely any one thinks of applying that which
has already appeared from experience so safe, so appropriate, and so
beneficial a remedy?

[Sidenote: Inadequate legal protection.]

But it is time to pass to another most important particular, which, like
those already mentioned, is at once both cause and effect, both an
evidence and a consequence of degradation—the inadequate protection
afforded to the Slaves by the laws.

Here again let me not be misunderstood. It is not the matter of my
present complaint, that, from the inadequate penalties annexed to the
ill-treatment of Negro Slaves, and that still more from the evidence of
black and coloured men not being admissible, they are subject to the
restraints of civilized society, without being partakers of its
benefits. Much might be said, much has been said, to prove how
insufficiently they are secured by the laws against injuries and
insults. On the other hand, considerable stress, too has sometimes been
laid on the mildness of the penalties where the offences of Slaves were
to be punished, and still more on the laws which have from time to time
been passed for the protection of Slaves. The former assertion might be
but too effectually disproved, by appealing to various passages in the
Colonial statute book; and, where admitted, the lenity might be traced
to a cause less generous than disinterested humanity. It might have been
suggested to one of the most powerful of our colonial opponents, who
urged that capital executions of Slaves had taken place in very few
instances, that they might naturally be expected to be more rare, and
punishments in general more lenient, where men’s own property would
suffer from severity.

Concerning all laws for the protection of the Slaves, it might be justly
remarked, that so far as the protection of Slaves is concerned against
ill usage from all but their Masters, it was natural that the Slaves of
any man should be protected equally with his cattle, or any other
articles of his property; nor did the Slaves, any more than the cattle,
owe this protection to the humanity of the legislature. They were
protected merely like the rest of his substance.

But as to the far more important consideration, concerning legal
protection from the Owner’s ill usage, it is unquestionably true, that
be the laws what they may, “so long as the evidence of black or coloured
men against whites continues inadmissible,” the latter, in all that
respects the treatment of Negroes, are “in a manner put beyond the reach
of the law.” Such were the very words in which a much respected Colonial
Proprietor, though called as one of our opponents witnesses,
acknowledged the important truth.

His testimony on this head was the more worthy of attention, because,
besides his long residence in the West Indies, and his known
intelligence and habits of observation, he was for some time Chief
Justice of one of our islands. He also acknowledged, that till black
evidence should be admissible, he knew no possible mode of preventing
the most gross infractions of any laws against the ill-treatment of
Negroes. The subsequent death of this valuable man is deeply to be
regretted; because, with several of his immediate connections, he was
exempt from many of the prejudices which, in colonial proprietors, too
often obstruct the reform of West Indian abuses.

A remarkable proof was afforded how little the Slaves were regarded as
under the protection of law, against their Masters ill usage, by a
transaction which took place a few years ago, in one of our oldest sugar
colonies, and of which an account is contained in the Privy Council

A man, named Herbert, in low circumstances, and of very indifferent
character, had been guilty of an act of the most wanton cruelty, which
was rendered still more atrocious by being committed against the
helplessness of infancy. He had most wantonly and cruelly lacerated the
mouth and face of a child six years old, his own Slave, in a shocking
manner, and bruised various parts of its little body. The crime happened
to be committed under circumstances which admitted of legal proof, and,
owing to the benevolent and spirited exertions of a man of legal
eminence, who then resided in the neighbourhood, and who himself was
able to give decisive evidence, a prosecution was carried on against the
perpetrator. The facts were clearly established, and most horrible they
were; yet so strange and novel a doctrine did it appear to the jury,
that a Master was liable to punishment for any act of cruelty exercised
on his own Slave, that, after long consultation, they brought in a
conditional verdict, “Guilty, subject to the opinion of the Court, if
immoderate correction of a Slave, by his Master, be a crime indictable.”
The Court determined in the affirmative; and what was the punishment of
this abominable act of barbarity? A fine of forty shillings currency,
equivalent to about thirty shillings of our money! This was the more
extraordinary, because only two years before, in consequence of some
recent acts of abominable cruelty, an Act of Assembly had been passed
for the express purpose of preventing barbarities of a similar nature,
and a fine of £.500 currency, together with six months imprisonment, had
been annexed as the punishment of such offences. But so little were the
enactments of law in unison with the general feelings of the bulk of the
people, that even after this statute had been passed, not only did a
jury doubt whether the most wanton barbarity towards an infant, by its
owner, was liable to any punishment; but the idea of calling a Master to
account for this ill-treatment of one of his own Slaves created a
popular ferment, and a violent cry against the prosecutors of the
delinquent, and was resented as a gross and novel infraction of the
rights and privileges of ownership. This very Herbert afterwards brought
his action against the Provost Marshal, for having taken the poor
unoffending boy into his custody, partly that the child might be
forth-coming, partly to save him from the violence of his brutal Master.
The Provost Marshal, after a long course of judicial proceeding, would
have had heavy penalties to pay, had he not got off on a point of law.
Herbert was considered as a persecuted man, and became a highly popular
character in the community.

But that which renders this incident most of all worthy of remark, is,
that unsatisfactory as the issue might appear to us to have been, a
detailed account of it, with some other instances too much in the same
spirit, was sent over to the Privy Council, by the Council and Assembly
of the island, with some apparent satisfaction, as a proof of the
protection enjoyed by the Slaves against immoderate punishment or
cruelty on the part of their Masters.

Not to insist in this place on the impossibility of enforcing any laws
which may be enacted for the protection and comfort of Slaves, a topic
on which I may have occasion to say more hereafter, law and slavery are,
in their own nature, absolutely and universally incompatible. The
Slave’s best protection must ever be found in his Master’s kindness,
especially where kindness is combined with affluence; and, by giving to
the Slaves a nominal right to definite legal privileges, you only infuse
a spirit of discontent into them, and a spirit of suspicion and
resentment into their Masters; at least, until the absolute nullity of
the law be clearly manifest to both parties. The Master has not the same
motives for tenderness, (motives ever powerful in a generous mind) as
when all right, all rivalship are excluded, and he knows that his Slaves
are given up completely into his power; that they are entirely dependent
on his will, and that they must receive every favour as flowing
altogether from his spontaneous beneficence. It is not therefore going
too far, to affirm, that by destroying, or at least impairing, the force
of these feelings, you do the Slave more harm, than can be compensated
by any benefit he can derive from the laws.

[Sidenote: Considered in the view of its degrading effects.]

But to quit this view of the subject, it is the effect, in another
direction, of this inadequate protection of the laws, to which I wish to
point your particular attention. I wish you to observe the proofs which
it affords of the low estimate of the Negro race; as well as the
tendency which it must have to keep them in their present abject and
depressed condition.

But here, instead of quoting passages from the statute books and
judicial records of the several islands, which might be objected to, as
an unfair test of the opinions and feelings of the present generation, I
will extract from a set of papers, laid not long ago before the House of
Commons by Government, the account, given from the most respectable
authority, of some transactions which have recently taken place, and
which shew the degraded state of the Negro race in, excepting Jamaica,
the largest and oldest settled of all our West Indian colonies.

[Sidenote: Late incidents in Barbadoes.]

The Governor of Barbadoes, Lord Seaforth himself, I understand, an old
West Indian proprietor, in consonance with the wishes of many
respectable inhabitants, endeavoured lately, from the most honourable
motives, to procure the repeal of a law which had long been the disgrace
of the Barbadoes statute book, and for the rescinding of which an effort
had been in vain made a few years before; a law, by which the wilful
murder of a Slave was punishable only by a fine of £.15. currency, or
about £.11. 4_s_. sterling[33]. His Lordship therefore sent a message in
the common form to the House of Assembly, recommending that an act
should be passed to make the murder of a Slave a capital felony. There
seems every reason to believe that the Council, or Colonial House of
Lords, would gladly have assented to the proposition. But, strange as it
may appear to those who are unacquainted with the West Indian
prejudices, notwithstanding the time and manner in which the proposition
was brought forward, the House of Assembly absolutely refused to make
the alteration. But if the bare statement of this fact must shock every
liberal mind, how much will the shock be increased, when it is known
under what circumstances it was that this refusal took place.

For it happened, that, very recently, several of the most wanton and
atrocious murders had been committed. Some of these were accompanied
with circumstances of such horrid and disgusting barbarity, as to be too
shocking for recital; and yet it scarcely seems justifiable to allow
such horrid deeds, from their very atrociousness, to derive impunity.
But one of the accounts you must submit to hear, because the narrative
contains circumstances which strikingly illustrate the condition and
estimation of the Negro race. To myself, to say the truth, it tells me,
in the view in which I shall here regard it, nothing more than I already
knew; but it was scarcely to be expected that Providence would furnish
such undeniable and glaring proofs, of the assertions we had before
established by the most respectable testimony.

_Extract of a Letter from the Right Hon. Lord Seaforth, to Earl Camden,
one of His Majesty’s principal Secretaries of State, dated Barbadoes,
7th Jan. 1805._

“I inclose the Attorney General’s letter to me on the subject of the
Negroes so most wantonly murdered. I am sorry to say, _several other
instances of the same barbarity_ have occurred, with which I have not
troubled your Lordship, as I only wished to make you acquainted with the
subject in general.”

It will be enough for me to quote that part of the Attorney General’s
letter in which he gives the account of the single murder which I wish
to lay before you:

_Extract of a Letter from the Attorney General of Barbadoes, to the
Governor of the Island._

“A Mr. ——, the manager of a plantation in the neighbourhood, had some
months before purchased an African lad, who was much attached to his
person, and slept in a passage contiguous to his chamber. On Sunday
night there was an alarm of fire in the plantation, which induced Mr. ——
to go out hastily, and the next morning he missed the lad, who he
supposed intended to follow him in the night, and had mistaken his way.
He sent to his neighbours, and to Mr. C—— among the rest, to inform them
that his African lad had accidently strayed from him; that he could not
speak a word of English, and that possibly he might be found breaking
canes, or taking something else for his support; in which case he
requested that they would not injure him, but return him, and he would
pay any damage he might have committed. A day or two after, the Owner of
the boy was informed, that Mr. C. and H. had killed a Negro in a
neighbouring gully, and buried him there. He went to Mr. C—— to inquire
into the truth of the report, and intended to have the grave opened, to
see whether it was his African lad. _Mr. C—— told him, a Negro had been
killed and buried there; but assured him it was not his, for he knew him
very well, and he need not be at the trouble of opening the grave. Upon
this the Owner went away satisfied._ But receiving further information,
which left no doubt upon his mind that it was his Negro, he returned and
opened the grave, and found it to be so. I was his leading counsel, and
the facts stated in my brief were as follow: That C. and H. being
informed that there was a Negro lurking in the gully, went armed with
muskets, and took several negro men with them. The poor African seeing a
parcel of men coming to attack him, was frightened; he took up a stone
to defend himself, and retreated into a cleft rock, where they could not
easily come at him; they then went for some trash, put it into the
crevice of the rock behind him, and set it on fire; after it had burnt
so as to scorch the poor fellow, he ran into a pool of water near by;
they sent a Negro to bring him out, and he threw the stone at the Negro;
upon which the two white men fired several times at him with the guns
loaded with shot, and the Negroes pelted him with stones. He was at
length dragged out of the pool in a dying condition, for he had not only
received several bruises from the stones, but his breast was so pierced
with the shot, that it was like a cullender. _The white savages ordered
the Negroes to dig a grave, and whilst they were digging it, the poor
creature made signs of begging for water; which was not given to him,
but as soon as the grave was dug, he was thrown into it, and covered
over; and there seems to be some doubt whether he was then quite
dead._—C. and H. deny this; but the Owner assured me that he could prove
it by more than one witness; and I have reason to believe it to be true,
because on the day of trial, C. and H. did not suffer the cause to come
to a hearing, but paid the penalties and the costs of suit, which it is
not supposed they would have done had they been innocent.

                                           I have the honour to be, &c.”

The same transaction, with another far more dreadful murder, in which
there was a deliberate ingenuity of cruelty which almost exceeds belief,
is related, with scarcely any variation as to circumstances, by the
Advocate General, who, as well as the gentleman of whose estate the
criminal was the manager, and who was at the time absent, expressed
their most lively indignation against such horrid cruelty. After so
shocking a recital, lest you should be instinctively urged to be chiefly
affected by the barbarity of this horrid transaction, let me once more
remind you, that it is not in the view of its cruelty that I wish you to
regard the foregoing narrative but in that of the decisive evidence
which it affords of the utter degradation of the negro race.

How striking a proof is afforded of this, in the conduct even of the
Owner of the boy, the prosecutor of the delinquent, a man too, as the
beginning of the story indicates “of kind and liberal feelings.” Can any
thing suggest more strongly, that the protection which the Negro Slave
receives from the laws, is too often to be ascribed rather to a Master’s
care of his property, than to any more generous motive. When he had only
reason to believe that _a_ Negro had been killed, and buried out of the
way, and not that it was his own Slave, he goes away satisfied. Again,
it is a suggestion which the circumstances of the story enforce on us,
that the crowd, which was now collected, instead of being shocked at
such barbarity, were rather abettors of it; and then we hear, the White
Savages, as the Attorney General justly styles them, order the Negroes
who were present to dig a grave for their wretched countryman; they knew
their state too well to refuse, and accordingly we see them immediately
obey the order; yet I confess, that with all my ideas of their sunk and
prostrate spirit, I was myself surprized, under all the circumstances,
by this promptitude of obedience.

But I have not leisure to deduce half of the important lessons which we
are taught by the above horrid recital. Let us pass to the circumstance
which is most of all important; because it proves how little we can
expect an identity of sympathies and feelings between the Colonists and
ourselves: that this and several other murders, some of them attended
with circumstances far more shocking, instead of exciting any just
commiseration for the Negro race, had actually worked in a contrary
direction, and that not merely among the populace, but in a majority of
the House of Assembly itself. This is a problem by no means of difficult
solution. It is not that the Barbadian (I say it seriously and with
sincerity) is less humane, in general, than the inhabitants of other
countries; but Negro Slaves are not comprised within the scale of his
humanity; or, to be more accurate, they do not assume, in his estimate
of things, the rate and value of human beings. Hence, the proposition
for punishing a white man capitally for murdering a Slave, appeared to
him a punishment as much disproportionate to the crime, as if, in
compliance with the opinion of some speculator on the rights of the
brute creation, or, of some lover of domestic animals, we were to
propose to execute a man in this country for killing a favourite

One of the other murders supplies so striking an illustration of the
nature of this feeling, and of its almost necessary effects in producing
a disposition to injury and insult, that, contrary to my original
intention, I will lay before you a very brief and summary view of the
chief particulars of it.

As a private militiaman was returning home from his duty upon an alarm,
with his musket, and bayonet fixed, over his shoulder, he overtook
several Negroes returning from their daily labour on the road, and among
them, a woman big with child. He began abusing, and threatening to kill
them, if they would not get out of the way. Most of them escaped him;
but he made after the woman, and, without the least provocation on her
part, plunged his bayonet into her, and, as one of the accounts states,
very coolly and deliberately stabbed her several times in the breast.
Providentially it happened, that a very respectable Gentleman, who was
also returning from town, was a witness of the whole transaction. And
now comes the curious part of the story; for, when Mr. H. went to him,
“spoke harshly to him, and said, he ought to be hanged, for he never saw
a more wicked unprovoked murder, and that he would certainly carry him
before a magistrate and that he should be sent to gaol;” the man
replied, “_for what? killing a Negro!_”—Some of the accounts state that
the man was in liquor; but it is clear from the circumstances, that it
was in no such degree as to affect his reason; for neither is this
circumstance mentioned by Mr. H. the eyewitness, nor by the magistrate
before whom Mr. H., having got assistance, immediately brought him, nor
by the President of the Island, before whom, from having no right to
commit him, they next carried him. On the contrary, they state
distinctly, that the murder was committed in the most wanton, malicious
manner, and that he seemed afterwards to be very indifferent about the

It may seem only candid to state the sequel. The President did commit
him, though aware that it was a stretch of power; the man’s person was
thereby secured, and he remained answerable to the amount both of the
King’s fine, £. 11. 4. _s._ sterling, and of the Negro’s value, for
which he was afterwards arrested by the Owner’s representative, and
which, as she is stated to have been a valuable Slave, who had five or
six children, would be a still larger sum. The man was not worth a
shilling, in possession or expectancy, and therefore, as the President
adds, may possibly be in confinement for life. It is only due to the
President, to add, that in the conclusion of his letter, he expresses
himself in terms of the warmest and most indignant feeling, that the
Assembly should look on such things with cool indifference, and not
provide “that just remedy which has been found productive of no evil in
the still larger island of Jamaica, and which, in every other civilized
community, is provided by the law, both of God and man.”

Let me subjoin one additional remark, that, but for the circumstance of
Mr. H.’s happening to have been at the same time returning from town,
this barbarous murder must have remained unpunished for want of
evidence. It is fair, also, to acknowledge, that the murder above
stated, however horrid, appears (very different, indeed, in that
respect, from another shocking incident, which I suppress) to have been
an act of wanton insult and contempt, rather than of deliberate cruelty;
and to have been precisely such in nature, (though I doubt not, above
the ordinary rate of insults in measure) as I have supposed to proceed
from a low estimate of Negroes, as such. Hence the criminal’s
exclamation, when he was told he deserved to be hanged, and was further
threatened with being committed to gaol. _For what?_ he replied;
_killing a Negro!_—Surely I need not add a word—the fact supplies its
own inference.

Shall we allege, in behalf of this poor militiaman, that he was,
probably, half drunk; that he was a low uneducated man; that it was the
exclamation of passion; or that it was suggested by self-preservation or
self-defence? But what shall we say, then, for the Assembly of the
Island? They consist of men of liberal education, and liberal manners;
yet it is grievous to reflect, that their conduct is but too much in the
same spirit as that of this militiaman. Their estimation of a Negro is
much the same. Hence, on its being proposed to inflict a capital
punishment, not on themselves, but on others, for the murder, though
attended with the most horrid circumstances, of a _Negro_, they resent
the suggestion, not by a transient and passionate exclamation, but by a
deliberate and continued opposition of some years; not unguardedly, not
privately, when a man will sometimes hint an opinion he would not avow;
but publicly; in opposition to clear explanation; to powerful influence;
to eloquent enforcement of the principles of justice and humanity; in
opposition, one should have thought, to the natural suggestion of
self-interest, and of regard to their own property, when gravely sitting
in their capacity of Legislators.

Let me again, however, declare most seriously, that it is not so much of
defective, as of misplaced humanity, that I here complain. They had not
been used to think and feel concerning Negroes, as concerning their
fellow creatures; and to consider that their rights, and comforts, and
feelings, were to be protected by the same powerful sanctions. Hence,
when it was proposed to inflict a capital punishment for the murder of a
Black, their sympathy was excited on the wrong side. They felt, but it
was for the offended dignity of a White Man, not for the murdered Negro.
The truth is, a certain _esprit de corps_ was now called into action,
and all the barbarities of which the wretched Negroes might be the
victims, would, in such a temper, and such circumstances (taken, I mean,
in connection with such a proposed punishment) serve rather to inflame
than to mitigate the general fury. Hence, Lord Seaforth, in another
letter, declares, “that though he had received no contradiction of the
horrible facts, yet that nothing had given him so much trouble as to get
to the bottom of these affairs, so horribly absurd were the prejudices
of the people.”

There are no persons, I am persuaded, who will be more shocked by the
above transactions than the West Indian Proprietors themselves, and none
especially more than those of the very island of Barbadoes, in which
these tragedies were acted. They, like other absentee Proprietors, are
most of them, I doubt not, almost utterly ignorant of the real state of
things in the West Indies; and they will read with equal astonishment
and concern, Lord Seaforth’s horrid communication. Let them however
remember, these cannot be styled, as some former relations have unjustly
been, exaggerations of Abolitionists; but, like Governor Parry’s famous
charge against the African Captains, they are the official communication
of the Executive Government laid before the House of Commons.

Let them, therefore, join with me, in seriously considering the
practical conclusions to be drawn from these shocking incidents, and the
remedy which should be applied to such crying evils. Let them not
retort, as has been sometimes done, that instances of monstrous cruelty
have taken place in this country also. It is true, that even in this
land of liberty and humanity, we heard some years ago of an apprentice
being starved to death. We heard more recently of a British Governor of
an African possession, causing the death of a soldier by excessive
punishment. But let us complete the parallel; not only were these crimes
punished by the death of the criminals, but here, in Lord Bacon’s
phrase, “mark the diversity;” it was difficult to prevent the
indignation even of the populace, from anticipating the sentence of the
law. In the West Indies, on the contrary, when you begin to talk of
punishing capitally far more horrible murders, the sympathy, among the
majority of the community, the highest classes excepted, is for the
criminal, not for the wretched and innocent sufferer; and that, not
merely among low illiterate men, in whom such prejudices might be
somewhat less astonishing, but in the House of Assembly of the Island,
the body to which it especially belongs to watch over the rights, and
which naturally gives the tone, and fixes the standard for the opinions
and feelings of the whole community.[34]

Let the absentee Proprietors attend, above all, to this, because it
leads to the most important practical conclusions. I have been assured
privately, (though the information has not yet been laid before
Parliament, and therefore I cannot speak with certainty) that Lord
Seaforth has at length been able to carry his point, and to prevail on
the Assembly as well as the Council, to make the murder of a Slave a
capital offence. In my view of the above transactions, this is a matter
of small importance. It will not, I trust, appear uncandid; but I must
frankly declare, that had the Assembly originally consented to Lord
Seaforth’s recommendation and made the murder of a Slave a capital
crime, I should not have admitted it as any proof of their feeling for
the Negroes with any tenderness of sensibility. It would only have shewn
that there was no apparent want of common humanity, and therefore have
belonged to that class of actions, from the performance of which no man
arrogates to himself praise, though to be defective in them we consider
as blameworthy. For, might we not fairly have questioned whether the
members might not be influenced, not so much by motives of benevolence,
as by deference for their Governor, by a regard for their character, by
a respect for the feelings, call them, if you will, the prejudices, of
the more liberal few among their own community; or even by the
apprehensions of the effects which their refusal might produce in
forwarding the abolition of the Slave Trade? Surely, however, the
rejection of the proposition shews, that they not only do not themselves
regard the Negroes as entitled to the consideration and treatment due to
a _human being_, considered as such, but that they cannot even persuade
themselves that he will be regarded as entitled to them by the world in

Supposing, therefore, that Lord Seaforth’s law has passed, and even
supposing (what it is far too much to suppose, considering the extreme
difficulty, or rather impossibility of obtaining legal proof, if a
murderer would be tolerably cautious) that it does prevent absolute
murders; yet how wide a range is still left for the exercise of the
worst of passions? To this case surely we may justly apply the maxim,
and the important lesson which it inculcates may well excuse a trite
quotation, “_Quid leges sine moribus?_” Will such a law, passed contrary
to the real wishes, feelings, and judgment, deliberately entertained and
repeatedly avowed for many years, change the real estimation of a Black
man in the Barbadian scale of being? Or will not rather the contrariety
between the law and the feelings of men, be likely to stir up a spirit
of indignation and hatred towards the Blacks, which must be productive
of innumerable injuries and insults towards the Negro race; while, Black
evidence not being admissible, they may be almost always injured and
insulted with impunity?

This _esprit de corps_ naturally results from the relative circumstances
of Blacks and Whites in a West Indian community; and it is the more
operative and pernicious, because with pride, itself a passion
sufficiently regardless of the claims and comforts of others, another
principle still more pernicious associates itself but too naturally; a
principle of fear, arising out of the consciousness of the immense
disproportion in number between the Blacks and the Whites. This fear
again but too surely gives rise to hatred; and what may not be expected
from the effects of an _esprit de corps_ made up of such powerful
ingredients? It is not that they who are actuated by it are conscious of
these several feelings; but they are not on that account less real or
less efficient. This _esprit de corps_ which has long prevailed, was
many years ago nearly proving fatal to the life of a most honourable,
upright, and resolute Judge, who, in the discharge of his public
function, dared to act as duty and conscience prescribed to him. But
among the inferior orders of Whites especially, this spirit has been
naturally called forth of late years into more lively exercise, by the
very efforts which have been made to ameliorate the condition of the
Negro race.

I have detained you very long on this topic: but I have dwelt the more
largely on the vileness and degradation of the Negro race, because it
appears to me to be the grand master vice of the colonial system. If
duly considered, and traced into its almost infallible operations, it
will establish the prevalence of all the other evils which have been
specified; for it is of a nature so subtle and powerful, as to extend
its effects into every branch of negro management; and wherever its
influence does extend, it has a natural and sure tendency to lessen the
enjoyments of the Slaves, and to aggravate their sufferings. If all the
various other causes which operate unfavourably on the condition and
treatment of the Slaves could be done away, it contains within itself
the pregnant source of numerous, most important, and, so long as it
continues, incurable mischiefs.

Let me, therefore, once more conjure the West Indian Proprietors to give
their due weight to all the foregoing facts and considerations; to
observe how low a point in the scale of being is now allotted to the
Negro race; and to estimate duly the effects on their treatment, and
comforts, and feelings, which must necessarily result from such vileness
and degradation. I cannot quit this head without once more assuring
them, that it is unspeakably painful to me to appear to be charging the
bulk of the resident White population of the West Indies with having too
low an estimate of the Negroes as a race, and of the consideration and
comforts which are due to them. But the nature of my undertaking renders
it my duty to state facts, such as I really believe them to be. If I
have fallen into any error, I shall be most willing to correct it, and
shall be sincerely thankful to any one who will set me right. But I will
frankly own, also, to the resident West Indians, that, judged at the bar
of equity and candour, we in this country are more in fault than they in
that. Of them it can only be said, that causes of powerful, and, where
great numbers of human beings are concerned, of almost infallible
operation, have produced their natural effects. We have no such excuse
to allege. We have not been familiarized by habit, or misled by
interest, or prejudice, or party spirit, into contemplating without
pain, a system from which, at first, both they and we must have shrunk
back with horror. We cannot allege, that all the consequences, greatly
as they are to be deplored, are not such as we might have anticipated
with ease, or rather might have predicted with certainty, reasoning from
the acknowledged principles both of speculation and experience. Could we
not have foretold what would necessarily be the consequences of a system
of slavery continued for centuries, where the Slaves, as in the West
Indies, were to be of a peculiar race and colour, and under all the
other circumstances of the African Negroes? We cannot, at least, plead a
prejudice in favour of slavery, in consequence of having long been
habituated to its evils. Surely if those who have lived all their lives
in Great Britain, are tainted with such a prejudice, they are of all men
inexcusable. I repeat it, therefore, we are more criminal than the West
Indians, for having suffered such a system to gain an establishment, and
to grow to its present size; and we shall be still a thousand times more
criminal than they, if, with our eyes at length opened to its evils, we
suffer it to continue unreformed.

But though from these considerations, as well as others which have been
formerly mentioned, it has been with deep reluctance that I have dwelt
on these invidious topics, would it be consistent not only with humanity
and justice, but even with common fairness and truth, that transactions
like those which have been here stated, when communicated from the
highest authority; and, for the instruction and guidance of the British
Legislature, laid before the House of Commons, should be suppressed,
from any motives of personal delicacy; or if noticed, that just
conclusions should not be drawn from them? I am almost fearful that I am
wanting to the claims of duty, in not detailing the particulars of a far
more horrible narrative, which has also been laid before Parliament. For
duties too serious, and even interests too high, for the admission of
such an inferior principle as delicacy, are here in question. If such a
system must still exist, surely it ought only to be with our fullest
knowledge, the result of our most deliberate consideration; not because
we are unacquainted with its horrors, from our having instinctively
turned away our eyes from objects too painful to be beheld.

Consider if these enormities are too shocking to be seen and heard, what
are they to be felt and suffered? When we are thoroughly acquainted with
the abuses of the West Indian system, we may, perhaps, be able to
mitigate, if we cannot cure them. If policy and interest are still to be
admitted as a plea for injustice and cruelty, let us at least not take
for granted, as if it were a self-evident truth, what I never can myself
believe, that injustice and cruelty must forward the views of policy and
interest. Let us scrutinize the evils point by point, and be sure of
each individual particular of them which we leave in being, that on
grounds of policy and interest it is indispensable. If we are to
tolerate such enormous evils, let it be at least by weight and measure;
let us deal them out, grain by grain, as absolute necessity shall
require; and not in a wholesale way, give our sanction to such a mass of
miseries, because the close inspection and scrupulous examination of
them shock our delicacy, and wound our humanity. Let us remember what
was beautifully said of this last virtue by one, than whom none
possessed a larger share; “True humanity consists not in a squeamish
ear. It consists not in starting or shrinking at such tales as these,
but in a disposition of heart to relieve misery. True humanity
appertains rather to the mind than to the nerves, and prompts men to use
real and active endeavours to execute the actions which it suggests.”

To this long catalogue of the vices of the West Indian system, there
remain yet to be added two others, which tend powerfully to aggravate
almost all its various evils.

[Sidenote: Absenteeship.]

The first is, Absenteeship, particularly of the more affluent
Proprietor, who could afford to be liberal, whose presence among his
Slaves would naturally produce a sort of parental feeling, and cause him
habitually to interest himself in their comfort and improvement; and
whose affluence might enable him to carry into effect the plans, whether
in the way of exemption or beneficence, which his liberality should

I have not leisure to point out in detail the various bad consequences
which follow from the Owner’s absence; but they will naturally occur to
any one who will consider the peculiar circumstances of the West Indian
Slaves, in connection with this subject.

But let me point out one consequence which has been less attended to
than it deserves to be, the unspeakable loss to the society, of that
very class of men, not only in the legislature, but in private life
also, who, from their rank and fortune, must in general be supposed to
have received the best education, and to possess the most enlarged and
liberal minds; who consequently would raise the general standard of
morals and manners, whose presence, and the desire of being admitted
into whose company, would be a check to dissoluteness; who would not
only abound themselves in acts of kindness to the wretched Negroes, but
who might make liberality popular, and render, more than it now is, the
ill-treatment of Negroes disreputable; for I trust it is already so in
no small degree, where it is discovered. Many absentee Proprietors, of
large property, even if they do, once or twice in their lives, visit
their estates; yet, while living in the West Indies, they consider
themselves not at home, but only on a visit, and on a visit commonly
which is not very agreeable to them, and which, therefore, especially
when, as often is the case, constrained by œconomical motives, they mean
to end, as soon as they have saved enough to enable them to live again
in the mother country in ease and affluence. Hence they are too
naturally persuaded to adopt the generally prevailing practice as to
feeding and clothing, and other particulars; and, however desirous they
may be of introducing a more liberal system, they are easily dissuaded
from it, knowing that they shall not be able themselves to superintend
the actual observance of their own regulations.

As for the far larger class of absentee Proprietors, who reside
constantly in the mother country, though I give them all due credit for
benevolent intentions, yet they are commonly precluded by their very
ignorance of plantation affairs, from interfering with any confidence,
or to any good purpose, in the detail of management. How little they are
often acquainted with these particulars, I was not even myself aware
till lately, when it appeared, that an old West Indian Proprietor,
acknowledged by all who know him to be remarkable for the extent and
accuracy of his information, and intimately conversant with all the
detail of political and commercial œconomy, was wholly ignorant of its
being the universal practice to work the Negroes in their field-work
under the whip. This is the more remarkable, because the practice is not
a partial or an occasional procedure, but the constant and universal
mode; because for several years, men in general in this country, though
personally unconnected with the West Indies, had been naturally led to
turn their attention to the system of negro management.

I doubt not that the absentee Proprietor directs his manager to treat
the Slaves with all due kindness and liberality; yet it must not be
conceded with equal readiness, that the orders even of these benevolent
Absentees will be faithfully executed. For in supposing this to be the
case, we suppose a combination of incidents, and an assemblage of
qualities, each of which, unconnected with the others, is sufficiently
rare; how much more rare, then, must it be, to suppose them all
concurring. We must suppose this benevolent Absentee to be affluent
also, that he may be able to give effect to his benevolence.
Benevolence, I trust and believe, will generally be found in the higher
class of Proprietors; but I fear affluence, in proportion to their rank
and way of living, is not so common. Again, we have also to suppose the
more rare occurrence, not merely of equal but of far superior
benevolence, in a man of inferior rank, fortune, connections, and
manners, most probably of inferior education also. We must suppose this
man of extraordinary benevolence to select for himself the situation of
a manager in the West Indies, a somewhat unlikely choice; and that this
benevolent owner, and this still more benevolent manager, happen to come
together; I repeat it, still more benevolent, because this quality in
the owner, though a generous, is a transient effusion, when the mind is
in close contact with its object; or we may assign to it the higher
character, of the habitual generosity of a just judgment, and a liberal
heart. But such a judgment and such a feeling may often be found in a
moment of serious reflection, in men, who from various infirmities, are
not practically kind and beneficent in all the homely occurrences of
daily life; especially under circumstances in which there are many
little trials to be borne, and many vexatious obstacles to be

But we are to suppose a manager whose benevolence is of this hardier and
firmer kind. It must be a principle ever wakeful and observant; combined
with judgment, and improved by experience; the very acquisition of which
experience implies the having been long practically conversant with the
system. We must suppose also, what is very extraordinary, that this long
familiarity with prevailing abuses has not, in any degree, impaired the
power to perceive, or the promptitude to redress them. In short, we are
to suppose a principle so vigorous as to resist the strongest
counteractions, and not only to maintain its existence, but to support a
continued activity, under circumstances the most powerfully calculated
to impair and destroy it.

But we have not yet done. Besides this extraordinary portion of
benevolence, this rare manager must have some other qualities not less
uncommon. He must not only have the firmness to dare to be singular, and
to expose himself to the imputation of wishing to be thought to have
more humanity than his neighbours, a sort of courage the most difficult
of all to be found in our days; but, above all, he must resist the
consciousness, that in return for all his humane exertions he may be
misrepresented to his employer; that, having acquired the character of a
visionary schemer, who sends home comparatively small returns, and calls
for great expences, he may, in consequence of such representations, be
dismissed from his present office, and in vain solicit another. To find
such a man, of so much benevolence, combined with so much resolute
integrity, must be acknowledged to be no common occurrence. That such a
man should be in the precise situation of overseer of a West Indian
estate we should still less expect; and that this rare manager should
meet with this more than commonly benevolent owner, is a still more
curious coincidence. Yet all these expectations must be realized, for an
Absentee’s plantation to be regulated as it ought to be, under the
present circumstances of the West Indies.

This subject is of such primary practical importance, that I must still
be permitted to add one word more. Any man who will consider what his
own feelings and temptations would be likely to be, were he the absentee
Proprietor of a West Indian estate, will acknowledge the force of my
reasoning; and they who may see no reason to suspect themselves, will be
precisely those, concerning whom all other men would be apt to entertain
the strongest suspicions. Were we ourselves West Indian proprietors, we
naturally should wish that the income of our estate might be as large,
and the outgoings as small as might be; and though in a benevolent, or
rather let me call it, a just mind, this wish would be qualified by the
understood condition, that the Slaves should be sufficiently provided
for; yet, ever allowing most honourable exceptions to the contrary, that
which would in general constitute a manager’s recommendation, which
would obtain him a character, would be his increasing the clear profits
of the estate. All this depends on principles of universal, infallible,
and constant operation. It was the case in Mr. Long’s time. He pointed
out to the West Indian Proprietors, in the strongest terms, the mischief
done by “overseers,[35] whose chief aim it was to raise to themselves a
character as able planters, by increasing the produce of the respective
estates; this is too frequently attempted, by forcing the Negroes to
labour beyond their abilities; of course, they drop off, and if not
recruited incessantly, the gentleman steals away, like a rat from a barn
in flames, and carries the credit of great plantership, and vast crops
in his hand, to obtain advanced wages from some new employer in another
district of the island. The Absentees are too often deceived, who
measure the condition of their properties by the large remittances sent
to them for one or two years, without adverting to the heavy losses
sustained in the production of them.”

Let me likewise again remind the benevolent absentee Proprietor to
beware lest he is misled by the ambiguities of language. Let him bear in
mind that when he receives from his manager in the West Indies,
assurances that his Negroes have _sufficient_ supply of food, and
clothing, and medical care; that their work is not _unduly_ hard, nor
their treatment _unduly_ rigorous; that _sufficient_ regard is paid to
their comforts, and their feelings: Let me again remind him, that this
_sufficiency_ is not necessarily estimated by the measure of the claims
and wants and feelings of a human being. Of course, I mean to speak only
of managers in general. Individuals there are of that class, I doubt
not, of a liberality and feeling, which would do honour to any rank. But
it must be remembered, that it would be unreasonable to expect them to
be exempt from prejudices and feelings, to which they are peculiarly
exposed, and which have been so lately proved to prevail in the majority
of a body of men like the Assembly of Barbadoes, greatly superior to
them in rank, connections, and fortune. If such a prejudice could shew
itself also, and exert its influence in the sight of the world, and in
the face of so many opposing considerations, how much more must it not
be expected to operate, when there is no bystander to witness its acts,
and when indolence, self-interest, habit, example, and various other
motives, conspire to give effect to it?

[Sidenote: Effect of the pressure of the times.]

But if, in the way which has been lately stated, the Slaves suffered
from absenteeship thirty or forty years ago, for it is so long since Mr.
Long remarked the evil, how much must their sufferings have been
aggravated in our days, when (this is the second circumstance to which I
alluded some time ago) the increased extravagance of the age on the one
hand, and the increased price of all articles of consumption on the
other, furnish to every man, strong additional inducements for raising
his estate to its utmost value? Above all, how powerfully must this
principle operate in the case of those whose estates are considerably
encumbered with debts? And this, remember, is actually the case of
probably nine tenths of all West Indian Proprietors. Here in truth
consists the grand obstacle in the way of all those regulations, in the
present system, which would call for any additional expenditure in the
first instance. Proprietors, whose estates, after paying the interest of
their mortgages, leave scarcely enough, in our times of pecuniary
difficulty and pressure, for merely decent subsistence, much less
sufficient to live upon in the way naturally acceptable to the West
Indians, who are, in general, men of liberal and hospitable habits; such
Proprietors, so circumstanced, must naturally be endeavouring in every
instance to discover the minimum of charge, and the maximum of
production. The manager of the estate will not be long in learning this,
and his endeavours will be directed to the same objects. The effects of
lessening the allowances of the Slaves may not be immediately visible,
and he may really conceive that, without injury to them, somewhat may be
saved for the master. But I will not pursue this invidious topic into
its too obvious consequences. The professional Planter has just sketched
a faint outline of some of the effects.[36]

Let me, however, remind all Proprietors who are thus circumstanced, that
however inconvenient it may be to them, to increase, for a time, the
outgoings, and subtract from the receipts of their estate, to go on as
they are now doing, is sure and utter ruin. Will they say, that the
course which I recommend, however politic ultimately, yet at the moment,
and in their circumstances, deserves no better a name? I must reply, the
professional Planter will tell them, that the opposite system of working
down their gangs of Negroes, and making them good from the Slave market,
is murder added to ruin, murder too in its most painful and shocking,
because a protracted form.

The topic on which I have just now touched, so lightly, considering its
importance, reminds me of another circumstance, which, in various ways,
has a most unfavourable tendency on the treatment and happiness of the
Slaves; and which, though it has operated powerfully in the West Indies,
has never, perhaps, produced such extensive effects as within the last
twenty or thirty years. This is, the buying of West Indian property on
speculation. [Sidenote: West Indian speculations injurious to the
Slaves.] Wherever this is the principle of purchase, it is for the most
part connected with the formation of new settlements, and this is in
various ways, some of which have been already specified, productive of
unspeakable misery to the Negroes employed in forming them.

But besides this probable class of evils, where any one is engaged in
planting speculations, there must naturally be a disposition to regard
the undertaking as a mercantile transaction, in which the investiture of
capital is to be made as small, and the returns as large as possible;
rather than as a landed property, or as (for that is the light in which
a West Indian estate ought still more to be considered) as a little
sovereignty of a feudal nature, the vassals of which have a claim to
their lord’s protection, with whom, therefore, he is instituting a
connection of mutual duties, services, and attachments, which is to
subsist on both sides through generations yet unborn.

I scarcely need state, that, most commonly, West Indian speculations
fail; and in that failure, at whatever number of years it happens, is
most probably involved the sale of such of the Slaves as survive, to a
new owner. But I must forbear from enlarging on this important topic,
and hurry you through what remains of our painful journey. It is a
course furnishing, at every moment, numerous and interesting objects:
But in the case of the greater part of them, I must be forced to content
myself with doing little more than barely pointing them out for your own
more deliberate consideration. Other duties now demand my time, and I
should be strongly tempted to desist from my undertaking, from the
consciousness that in such a brief and hasty progress, I cannot do
justice to the great interests which are at stake, if I were not deeply
impressed with a sense of the importance of stating at this time, though
but imperfectly, the real views and principles of the Abolitionists.

To resume my subject. I have now stated the chief vices of the present
West Indian system. But before I quit the discussion concerning West
Indian abuses, [Sidenote: Admirals and other most respectable witnesses
gave evidence of the good treatment of Slaves.] I might appear wanting
in justice to the cause, and even in deference towards many gentlemen of
high respectability, if I were not to acknowledge, that the condition
and treatment of the Negro Slaves were painted in colours which were
almost a direct contrast to all which have been here used, by several
West Indian Proprietors of great consideration and affluence; and still
more by several persons of high rank, who resided for some time in the
West Indies, either in a naval and military capacity, or, in some few
instances, as governors of islands.

It is no disparagement to the characters of these justly respected men,
to affirm, that this was not the stage which they trod to the most
advantage. It is due to them however, to say, in general, that they came
forward from the impulse of grateful and generous feelings. While in the
West Indies, they had been treated with that liberality and kindness
which strangers never fail to experience in those hospitable islands. If
they visited a country plantation, it was commonly on a scheme of
pleasure; every countenance around them was lighted up with cheerfulness
and gaiety; they themselves naturally partook of the same feelings, and
looked on every object with a good-humoured eye.

But even when a longer residence afforded more ample means of acquiring
information, they looked down from an elevation far too high to allow of
their having a just perception of the state and circumstances of the
poor depressed Negro Slaves. It will not, I trust, be deemed
disrespectful treatment of men, towards whom, in common with their
countrymen, in general, I feel great respect and gratitude, to say, that
they came forward under the influence of strong prejudices. And who
needs be told of the wonder-working powers of prejudice, in colouring,
adding to, or subtracting from the scene which it contemplates? What can
render this more apparent, than that they had come to a conclusion,
without touching on the premises on which it must depend. They expressed
a decided opinion, that the abolition must ruin the Colonies; an opinion
which, it is obvious, must necessarily depend on the practicability of
keeping up, or increasing, the stock of Slaves; and yet on the latter
point they had formed no opinion. In others of their statements, the
effects of prejudice were not less visible.

In truth, it scarcely needs be remarked, that these respectable visitors
could know very little of the general treatment of the Negroes, of their
allowance of food, and ordinary amount of labour, and still less of the
temper and disposition of the manager, on which so much must depend. If
he were ever so severe, or even ever so cruel, the visit of an Admiral
would not be his time for shewing these dispositions. In short, these
gentlemen appeared almost utterly unacquainted with those details, an
accurate knowledge of which would alone warrant the opinions which they
delivered. Such are the conclusions which we should naturally form, from
a general knowledge of the circumstances of the case.

But, added to all these, we fortunately obtained access to one of the
party, a West Indian gentleman, who resided many years in Jamaica; whose
high respectability and ample fortune had not so estranged him from the
poor despised Negroes, as to prevent his seeing, and pitying their
distresses; and who, with a resolute benevolence and integrity, rarely
found in these days, dared to come forward and deliver his evidence in
behalf of that injured race.

He declared that he had often accompanied Governors and Admirals in
their visits to the different plantations. That the estates naturally
being those of persons of distinction, were such as must be supposed to
be under the best management; and that all possible care would be taken
to keep every disgusting object out of sight, that the feelings of those
high personages might not be wounded.

[Sidenote: Opponents witnesses: Effects of Selection.]

There is also a remark which must be made, concerning the evidence of
several very respectable West Indian Proprietors, who appeared as
witnesses. The West Indian body, it is obvious, would naturally look
through the whole range of Proprietors, and call as witnesses those whom
they knew to be most affluent and humane. But nothing can possibly be so
unreasonable as to suppose, that we are hereby furnished with any fair
sample of the general treatment of the Negroes, which, as has been
already stated, must necessarily vary according to the temper and
disposition of the owner (and also of their manager,) and still more
than on his temper, on his being in affluent or distressed
circumstances, on the nature of his views and undertakings. But from
this selection of witnesses, which however was perfectly natural, the
treatment and the allowances of some peculiarly liberal and affluent
proprietors are taken as the treatment and allowances of all masters, in
all their several varieties. Indeed, these witnesses themselves were
disposed to take for granted, and thence to state, that their own was
the general mode of proceeding, partly from the natural repugnance which
is felt by men of liberal minds to say any thing which might have the
appearance of boasting of their own peculiar liberality; partly, from
the real ignorance of one man as to the conduct of another, in all
matters of private management.

It would, however, be gross injustice to my cause, not to mention one
instance, in which the effect of this mode of proceeding, in conveying,
quite unintentionally I doubt not, a very exaggerated idea of the
allowances and comforts of Slaves, was established by indisputable
proof.[37] The Agent for the Island of Jamaica, a gentleman truly
respectable and well-informed, with some other coadjutors of equal
respectability, when questioned by the Privy Council as to the
provisions allowed to the Slaves, stated; that the common allowance of
herrings, which are used for the Slaves as a seasoning of their
vegetable food, was from twenty to twenty-five barrels of herrings
annually, to every one hundred Slaves. Now, taking an average of five
years of peace immediately after a long war, from 1783 to 1787, the
whole number of Slaves in the island being estimated at about 230,000,
and the field Slaves, according to the usual calculation, as
seven-eighths of the whole number, the barrels of herrings consumed
ought to have been near 46,000 barrels. But the accounts of imports
shew, that the average quantity of herrings, and all other cured fish,
annually imported during the five years, not for the Negroes alone, but
for all the inhabitants of the island, amounted to not half the
quantity, to but 21,089 barrels. Surely this circumstance powerfully
confirms the supposition, which, on our reasoning from what we know of
the manner of selecting and bringing forward witnesses, would be
suggested to our minds.

It is curious likewise to observe concerning both those most respectable
witnesses who were formerly mentioned, and concerning several justly
respected members of the West Indian body who delivered their testimony,
that their evidence covers a considerable extent both of time and space,
and yet they make no distinction whatever as to periods and places. In
every island, equally, during the whole period of their acquaintance
with the West Indies, the Slaves were treated as well as possible. Now
the West Indians themselves tell us, that the treatment of Negroes has
been exceedingly improved within the last twenty or thirty years: if
this be so, there were at least defects in the system formerly; yet in
speaking of that former period, no such hint is given; but the treatment
is stated to have been uniformly excellent. These declarations are
manifestly incompatible.

The question itself, whether the treatment has or has not improved of
late years, is of great importance; but far too large and difficult to
be here discussed. Still, as the assertion is often made, and as, in the
opinion of some, it may be of great practical influence, a few words
ought to be said on it. That there are fewer individual instances of
cruelty now than formerly, I believe to be true. It is alleged, and I
hope truly, that an improvement has taken place in the education and
manners of the book-keepers, or overseers, who are in immediate and
continual contact with the Slaves; and whose characters and tempers must
therefore have a decisive effect one way or another on the treatment
they receive. But the system continues the same; and it is greatly to be
feared that the increasing pressure of the times has tended in too many
instances to abridge the stock, before but too contracted, of the
Slave’s comforts, and perhaps to increase his labours.

It is worthy also of remark, that the West Indian colonies, and their
inhabitants, are almost always mentioned, by the witnesses before
mentioned, in general terms; and scarcely a hint is given us, that
greater attention is paid to the comforts and feelings of the Slaves in
one island, than in another. Now in the case of one island, and that
next to Jamaica, by far the largest and most populous of them all, we
have had such proof, I had almost used Shakespeare’s expression, such
damning proof, of the low estimate of Negroes, and of the treatment to
which they are liable, as even our opponents themselves must own to be
utterly inconsistent with the accounts of those respectable witnesses of
whom I have before spoken. And indeed in others of the islands we have
the same facts established by individual testimony of the most
respectable sort. Are we not, then, entitled to extend the application
of the instances, and to consider them, such as indeed from their number
also they must be regarded, as fair samples, by no means of the
universal, but of the general condition and treatment of the negro

[Sidenote: Assertion, that Negro Slaves are happier than our Peasantry.]

But another broad and general objection may be urged against the
testimony of the same respectable class of witnesses, that it proves by
far too much. For they tell us not only that the Slaves are in general
treated with liberality and kindness; not only that they are protected
by law equally with white men, in their lives and property; but that
they are in a situation superior to that of the bulk of our English
peasantry: and one most respectable and amiable man, of whose humanity
no one thinks more highly than myself, declared, that they were so happy
that he often wished himself one of them.

Such assertions as these might excite a smile, if the subject were less
serious; but after the review we have taken of the degraded state of
this unfortunate class of our fellow creatures, in all its humiliating
particulars, we cannot but hear, with the greatest pain, assertions,
which, coming from characters so respectable, have but too manifest a
tendency to prolong the duration of those enormous evils. The assertions
can in themselves be only accounted for by the supposition, that they
who made them were utterly ignorant of the particulars of the treatment
and estimation of the Negro race. They may have seen, perhaps, the
domestic Negroes collected at some season of festivity, and thence have
too hastily drawn an inference as to the general situation of the bulk
of the Black population; of that far larger class, which daily works
under the whip, and is subject to all the other particulars which have
been mentioned, of degradation and suffering.

When from the West Indies themselves I have heard the same assertion,
that the negro Slaves are happier than our labouring poor, let me be
forgiven for declaring, that such an opinion, formed not by transient
visitors, but by those to whom a Negro sale, working under the whip,
public and severe floggings of decent females, private punishments, and
all the other sad particulars of negro humiliation are thoroughly known,
has, I own, created in my mind a reflection of a different character. I
have by no means questioned the veracity of those from whom the remark
has fallen, or imputed to them, I say it with sincerity, the smallest
intention to deceive; but I have conceived myself to see in it an
instance of that righteous ordination of the Almighty, by which it ever
happens, that the system of slavery, and the same may be affirmed of
every other gross infringement on the rights and happiness of our fellow
creatures, is far from being so much clear gain, even to those for whose
exclusive advantage it may appear to be instituted. It is not by the
wretched Negro that the whole price is to be paid. Surely it is much,
that the Master’s understanding of the nature and amount of the value of
liberty is so far impaired. Much also is paid in that effect which, ever
since the world began, has ever been produced by slavery on both the
morals and manners of the free part of the community in which it has

It would be really an insult to the understandings and feelings of
members of this free and happy country, to enter into any detailed
comparison between the situation of a British peasant and a West Indian
Slave. It is almost in every particular a perfect contrast; and, for my
own part, when, after asserting, with what correctness we will not just
now question, that the Slaves are better fed, and clothed, and lodged,
than our own peasantry; and when the conclusion has been so confidently
drawn, that therefore they must be happier; the assertion has appeared
to me to supply only another proof, in addition to the many already
furnished, that our opponents in their judgments as well as in their
feelings are apt to reason concerning the Negroes, as well as to act
towards them, as if they were of an inferior species. Were we engaged in
any inquiry concerning the brute creation, to ascertain these
particulars might be to decide the question of their happiness or
misery. But are feeding and clothing, and lodging, the only claims of a
rational and immortal Being? Are the feelings of the heart nothing? Are
the consciousness of independence, and the power of pursuing the
occupation and habits of life which we prefer, nothing? Is the prospect
of happier days, and of an improved situation for ourselves or our
children, nothing? Where also are family endearments, and social
intercourse, and willing services, and grateful returns? Where, above
all, are moral improvement, and the light of religious truth, and the
hope full of immortality?

It is indeed a merciful ordination of the Supreme Being, that men are
often able to accommodate themselves in some degree to their situation,
and to suffer less from it than we might suppose. We may therefore
sometimes be apt to imagine our fellow creatures more miserable than
they really are, because we should be extremely miserable in their
situation; but this does not alter the essential nature of things, and
annihilate the distinctions between happiness and misery.

But besides that in the negro Slave’s condition there are but too many
glaring unambiguous causes of positive suffering, many of those sources
of enjoyment which are commonly open to the poor and the ignorant, are
here excluded. It has justly been observed, as an instance of the
goodness of the great Creator of all things, that though he has provided
the world with but a scanty portion of those more curious substances, or
more refined luxuries, which are never necessary to happiness, and which
often serve only to gratify vanity; the articles which are really
necessary for the comfort and well-being of man, are either supplied
every where with inexhaustible profusion, or are at least of no
difficult attainment. By a like gracious ordination, he has likewise
rendered the enjoyments which are most substantially and permanently
gratifying, universally accessible; the domestic affections, the social
pleasures, the tender emotions, the sweets of hope, and recollection,
religious hopes and consolations. All these are gratifications which
virtuous poverty often enjoys in large measure, which wealth cannot
purchase, nor greatness secure.

But in the Negro’s cup few indeed of these cordial drops are to be
found; while there are too many other ingredients which even to a negro
palate must be unconquerably bitter. We are not, however, here left to
infer their actual feelings, from considering what our own would be in
their situation. We learn, from the professional Planter, how their
spirits sink within them on their first acquaintance with the cart-whip
system, and with what caution a provident manager will inure them to the
discipline and treatment to which they are hereafter to be subjected. We
have heard from others, of negro mothers lamenting the wretched prospect
of their offspring.

[Sidenote: Decisive proof that Slaves state unhappy.]

But there is one decisive proof, that even custom does not render the
Slaves insensible to the evils of their condition. It sometimes happens,
rarely if ever I am assured to common field Slaves, but sometimes to
domestics and artificers, that by the sale of the little productions and
stock which they are allowed to raise, they may annually lay by a little
peculium, which, it is due to the masters to declare, is never invaded.
When the savings of many years have, at length, accumulated to a
considerable amount, how do they dispose of it? With this sum, for which
they have been struggling during the whole course of their lives, they
go to their masters, and buy their freedom. By the sacrifice of their
last shilling, they purchase their release from that situation which the
West Indians would persuade us is a condition of superior comfort. Or,
if they think that the little which is left of their own lives is not
worth redeeming, they will purchase the freedom of a son, or a brother,
or a sister; thus affording at once a proof of the value they set on
freedom, and of their disinterestedness and social affection.

It ought likewise to be observed, that they who thus buy their freedom,
are likely, from the habits of industry which the very circumstance of
their acquiring so much property implies them to have had, to have
smarted less than the general mass of Slaves under the whip of the
driver. And what is it that they thus purchase at so high a rate? Is it
really freedom? The consideration, the security, equal rights, equal
laws, and all the other blessings which the word liberty conveys to our
minds? No: but degradation and insecurity; the admission into a class of
beings whose inadequate protection, by the law and the public force of
the community, is not in some measure compensated by the interest which
their owner feels in the preservation of his property. They are still of
the inferior cast, and must for ever continue of it—a set of beings, as
Mr. Edwards himself informs us, “wretched in themselves and useless to
the Public. These unhappy people are a burthen and a reproach to
society. It very frequently happens that the lowest white person,
considering himself as greatly superior to the richest and best educated
free man of colour, will disdain to associate with a person of the
latter description.”[38] “No wonder that, as it is added, their spirits
seem to sink under the consciousness of their condition. They are
continually liable to be injured and insulted with impunity, from the
inadmissibility of their evidence; so that in this respect they seem to
be placed on a worse footing than the enslaved Negroes, who have masters
that are interested in their protection, and who, if their Slaves are
maltreated, have a right to recover damages by an action on the

Yet this wretched and degraded state, the lowest, one would have
conceived, and least desirable, of all human conditions, is eagerly
coveted, is bought with the earnings of a whole life, by the Negro
Slave. And shall we then be told that the situation of the latter is a
situation of comfort, a situation superior to that of our British
peasantry! Nor is it merely that the Slaves themselves desire their
freedom, over-rating perhaps the evils of their actual state, and
ignorant of what may be really conducive to their happiness. I would not
so calumniate the West Indians, as to impute to them that they mock
these poor people with a real evil, under the name of an imaginary good;
yet we find masters remunerating long and faithful services by the gift
of freedom, as their best reward; nay, more, we have seen the laws of
the islands hold out the same boon as the most valuable recompence of
the most distinguished public merits.

I cannot therefore but consider the earnestness of the Slaves to
purchase, at so dear a rate, their admission into a class of beings,
which, whether we judge from what we know of the circumstances of their
situation, or from the accounts given of it by all intelligent writers
(by none more than by Mr. Edwards himself), we should conceive the most
unprotected, ineligible and miserable condition of human existence in
any civilized society, as a most decisive proof of the wretchedness of
the state of slavery. From the very nature of the case, it is probable,
in some of the instances, we know, that they who have thus purchased
their freedom have been the Slaves of Masters of affluence, under whom
the treatment must have been as mild and liberal, and the situation as
comfortable, as the condition of a West Indian Slave is capable of being
rendered. It therefore seems fairly to indicate that there are
particulars in the situation and circumstances of a West Indian Slave in
general, as such, which prove a source of great practical suffering; and
perhaps it is a proof of the degree in which the Slaves are conscious of
their own degradation. But it also well deserves to be noted, that we
never find any, either of those Slaves who have bought their freedom, or
of the free Negroes or coloured men, of whom there are above a thousand
in many of the smaller islands, and in Jamaica several thousands,
desiring to be again admitted into the condition of slavery.

We know that in the middle ages it was not uncommon for poor men of free
condition voluntarily to become vassals, that, in an age in which person
and property were very imperfectly secure, they might obtain a master’s
protection; but the vassalage of the middle ages was not the slavery of
the West Indies. In spite of all the evils therefore and degradation,
incident to the state of Blacks who have no owner to protect them from
injuries and insults, there never yet was, surely there never will be,
an instance of an emancipated Negro returning to resume the yoke of
slavery, notwithstanding all the security and all the comforts which we
are assured this situation carries in its train. May not also the state
and circumstances of this class account for the numerous defects and
vices which are laid to their charge? Their indolence is particularly
noticed, and their never engaging in field-work is mentioned as
discreditable to them: but can we wonder that none will subject
themselves to the driver’s lash, who are not absolutely forced to submit
to such a degradation.[40]

On the whole, therefore, notwithstanding the favourable representation
made of the condition and treatment of the negro Slaves by persons of
high rank and acknowledged respectability; if you will seriously weigh
the amount of the various vices of the West Indian system which have
been here enumerated, you will be ready almost with certainty to
conclude; that, under circumstances so extremely unfavourable to the
multiplication of our species, the West Indian Slaves must annually and
rapidly decrease in number. [Sidenote: First Proposition proved.] This,
it will be remembered, was the first of the three propositions which I
undertook to prove on the question concerning the keeping up of the
Black population without importations from Africa.

[Sidenote: Second Proposition.]

The second proposition was, that notwithstanding all the grievous abuses
of the West Indian system, the decrease of the Slaves was on the whole
very inconsiderable, if there were any decrease at all.

When the Slave Trade became first the subject of public discussion, His
Majesty’s ministers sent to the legislative and executive bodies of the
different West Indian Islands, a number of queries, the answers to which
contained a vast body of information on the various particulars of the
colonial system. A great addition was made to this stock of information,
by examining various persons of intelligence and experience in West
Indian affairs. The whole was compiled into one bulky Report, and laid
before both Houses of Parliament.

This Report contains the account of the population, both white and
black, slave and free, of our several West Indian islands, as received
from their respective governors. We are there furnished with the
actually existing number of the Slaves in Jamaica, [Sidenote: Jamaica
Slaves Population.] which alone contained as many as all the other
islands put together, at several different periods; the first, at the
distance of almost a century; the last, in the year 1787; together with
the number of Slaves imported annually, during the whole period. In
order to judge whether the Black population was in an improving or
declining state, the whole term was divided into four periods:

           The 1st beginning with 1698 and ending with  1730.
           The 2d  ......... from 1730 to  ............ 1755.
           The 3d  ......... from 1755 to  ............ 1768.
           The 4th ......... from 1768 to  ............ 1787.

And we had the satisfaction to find, from those unexceptionable
documents, that,

 In the first period, the excess of deaths above the births, of
   Slaves, or their annual decrease, was                        3½ p’c^t

 In the 2d period, it was                                       2½

 In the 3d period, it was lessened to                           1¾

 And in the 4th, from 1768 to 1788, it was not more than        1

Now, it is manifest, that if the ratio of decrease had been continually
lessening, as appears on the very face of the account, and if, during
the whole of the last period of twenty years, the annual loss had been
but 1 per cent., having been 1¾ per cent. during the former immediately
preceding period of thirteen years, that loss would be somewhat more
than 1 per cent. at the beginning of the last period, and somewhat less
than 1 per cent. towards the end of it. But even this loss of 1 per
cent. was itself accounted for, by an extraordinary series of hurricanes
and consequent famines, from which it was stated that fifteen thousand
Slaves lost their lives; and still more, the 1 per cent. included the
loss on all the Africans who were imported during that period. This,
which is termed the loss in the seasoning, has been estimated by high
West Indian authorities, to be, including the loss in the harbour,
between 1–4th and 1–3d of the whole number imported; by some it has been
rated still higher. This mortality was supposed to be in a considerable
degree occasioned by the Slaves having been commonly landed in a highly
diseased state, owing in a great measure, as was supposed, to crowding,
and other evils on shipboard: And the Assembly and Council of Jamaica
estimated that 1½ per cent. of all the Africans imported died in the
short period, probably not above a fortnight, between the ship’s
entrance into port and the day of sale. Adding together the whole loss
fairly to be ascribed to these various causes of mortality, of which all
depending on the voyage would obviously cease with the importations,
they would more than account for the whole 1 per cent. lost during the
last period; and we should be warranted in concluding, that the whole
number of Slaves in Jamaica were at length actually on the increase.

It will add to your confidence in the conclusion which so clearly
results from the above calculations, to know that they were carefully
drawn by that great and able minister before referred to, among whose
extraordinary powers, peculiar clearness and accuracy in calculation was
universally acknowledged to possess an eminent place. Indeed this result
ought not to surprize us, for we were assured by Mr. Long, many years
before, “that upon most of the old settled estates in the island of
Jamaica, the number of births and deaths every year is pretty equal,
except any malignant disorder happens.”

[Sidenote: Barbadoes Slaves’ Population.]

Calculating on the same principles, and from West Indian accounts, it
appeared that in Barbadoes also, the annual loss of Slaves has been of
late under 1 per cent. Indeed if the loss had been so small in Jamaica,
it probably was not greater in most of the other islands, into which, in
general, the importations had been less considerable, and in which, from
their several circumstances, the population was likely to be, to say the
least, full as well kept up as in Jamaica itself. [Sidenote: Second
Proposition proved.] Thus the second proposition was established, that,
notwithstanding the general prevalence of so many and great abuses, the
annual decrease was very inconsiderable.

[Sidenote: Third Proposition.]

The third proposition, that therefore an increase might in future be
expected, must doubtless rest on the basis of probable inference; but in
a case like this, in which an appeal is made to a principle of sure and
unerring operation, as established by universal experience, we may hold
our conclusion almost with the certainty of absolute demonstration. If
the many existing abuses would account for a great annual decrease, yet
there had been no decrease at all, or a very small one; it clearly
follows, that if the prevailing abuses could be done away, or even
considerably mitigated, we might anticipate in future a great and rapid
annual increase.

[Sidenote: Opponents most powerful objections.]

Our chief opponents of abolition in Parliament objected neither to the
premises on which our reasonings concerning the West Indian population
were grounded, nor to the conclusions which we drew from them. They
acknowledged, as has been already stated, to the utmost extent, the
guilt and cruelty of the Slave Trade. But they urged, that it would be
fair to give the West Indians time for the completing of their gangs of
Slaves, and for the subsiding of their prejudices; and as they warmed in
argument, advancing in their positions, they contended, that from the
facilities afforded by the local circumstances of the islands for
smuggling, it would be found impracticable to abolish the Slave Trade
without the aid of such regulations as could only be enacted by the West
Indian Legislatures themselves. They trusted, however, the time would
ere long arrive, when, by the general consent of all parties, this
hateful traffic might be abandoned. A respite till the remainder of the
century was alone asked, a period of eight years, and on the 1st of
January 1801, the reign of justice and humanity was to commence, and a
new and happier day was to begin to dawn on the wretched Negroes.
Meanwhile, no new settlements were to be formed, a limited number of
Slaves only was to be annually imported; and other regulations and
measures were to be adopted, with a view to the general abolition of the
Trade in human beings.

Time would fail me, were I to attempt to lay before you in detail the
various discussions which subsequently took place. It may be enough to
state, that the Abolitionists apprehended, that if Parliament,
acknowledging the foul injustice and cruelty of the African Slave Trade,
should suffer it to continue for several years on any such weak and
vague grounds as those of not shocking the prejudices, and acting
contrary to the wishes of the West Indian proprietors, and on such other
pleas as were urged by our opponents, when it had been distinctly proved
by the greatest political authorities, who, differing on most other
subjects, entirely concurred on this, that the measure so far from being
ultimately injurious to the West Indians, would substantially and
permanently promote their interests, it would be in vain that we should
flatter ourselves that any determination to abolish the Slave Trade at
the end of eight years would ever be adhered to.

If obligations so powerful, if duties so clear and urgent, could be now
so easily evaded, surely at the end of eight years some new pleas would
be set up for the continuance of the trade, and the Abolitionists
themselves would then be told, that, having formerly recognised the
right of sacrificing the dictates of justice and humanity to
considerations of expediency, they ought in common consistency to grant
a new respite on the same or better grounds. Thus, period after period
would be claimed from us, so long as ever the planters should choose to
purchase, or as Africa should have victims to supply.

What has since passed shews that there was but too much reason for these
apprehensions; for, notwithstanding that a period was fixed by a
majority of the House of Commons; though a period, far longer than the
longest which was then asked, has since elapsed; though it was
distinctly stated that importations ought henceforth to be allowed only
for keeping up the cultivation at its actual state; though numbers,
prodigiously greater than any which were then stated as necessary for
filling up gangs, and preparing the islands to meet abolition, have been
since imported; yet the same difficulties have still been experienced,
the same objections have still been urged. The wickedness and cruelty of
the Slave Trade have been frankly confessed, while all our endeavours to
put an end to it have been opposed with undiminished earnestness.

[Sidenote: Objection concerning Smuggling, answered.]

As to the objection, grounded on the impossibility of preventing Slaves
from being smuggled into the islands, it was argued with undeniable
force, that the power of this country to prevent the smuggling of Slaves
to any considerable extent, had been proved by abundant and undoubted
experience. Some trifling supply might be thus introduced, but in cases
wherein it was far more difficult to prevent a contraband trade,
regulations had been enforced somewhat strictly, which were opposite to
the known and avowed interests and feelings of all the inhabitants of
the West Indian islands.

[Sidenote: Grand objection: Co-operation of Colonial Legislatures

But the consideration which appeared to weigh most powerfully against an
immediate abolition was the expediency, if not the absolute necessity,
of the co-operation of the West Indian Legislatures. They, it was hoped,
would enact such internal regulations as would rectify any abuses which
might prevail in the system of negro management. Several of the Colonial
Legislatures, it was said, had lately passed, or were now passing Acts
for improving the condition and treatment of the Slaves. Similar laws
might be anticipated in others of the islands; and these reforms having
taken place, the domestic stock of Slaves would gradually increase; the
importation would diminish, and the Slave Trade would ere long die of

[Sidenote: Considered.]

It must be to suppose the Abolitionists absolutely void of all common
sense, to imagine that they were not well aware how greatly the
introduction and establishment of the necessary reforms in the negro
system would be facilitated by the planters being willing to adopt them.
But, from the very first, there was but too much reason to fear that no
hearty co-operation would be afforded on their part.

In the first place it should be remembered, that they appeared to be
impressed with a persuasion, that though the profit was theirs, the
guilt and shame were exclusively our own; and it was not probable that
they would voluntarily consent to dissolve a contract so much to their
advantage. Soon after the abolition was first proposed, this sentiment
was stated in the most explicit terms by the Assembly of Jamaica. “The
African trade (they say) is purely a British trade, carried on by
British subjects, residing in Great Britain, on capitals of their own.
The connection and intercourse between the planters of this island and
the merchants of Great Britain trading to Africa, extend no further than
the mere purchase of what British Acts of Parliament have declared to be
legal objects of purchase.” But independently on all other
considerations, the spirit of party had gone forth, and the operation of
that powerful cause would alone prevent the West Indians from forwarding
the views of those whom they regarded as their determined opponents;
especially since their concurrence might be supposed to imply a
recognition of the various abuses and evils of the West Indian system.
The Abolitionists therefore found themselves very early compelled to
abandon all hopes of obtaining the abolition of the Slave Trade, through
the enforcement of regulations to be prescribed by the colonial
legislatures. It was not going too far to argue, that the colonial
assemblies neither were able, nor, if able, would they be willing to
produce the desired effect.

[Sidenote: Colonial Legislatures neither able nor willing to effect the
           abolition, by regulations as to the detail of management of

It must be manifest to any one at all acquainted with the principles of
human nature, and still more clear to any one who knows the peculiar
circumstances of our West Indian settlements, that any laws which might
be passed by the legislatures of the islands, would not of themselves be
adequate to the end in view. Granting that the legislatures might fix
the quantity of food and clothing which all masters were to allow their
Slaves, that they might also prescribe the degree of labour to be
exacted, the punishments to be inflicted, the instruction to be given,
and other regulations with a view to moral reform; How could they see to
the execution of their own laws? Put the case of a similar law,
applicable to servants in this country; how impossible would it be found
to enter into the interior of every family, and with more than
inquisitorial power to ascertain the observance or the breach of the
rules which should have been laid down for our domestic economy. How
much more difficult in the West Indies, where the testimony of Negroes
not being admissible, there would be no means of bringing proof of any
violations of the rules prescribed. But supposing the means of enforcing
the regulations to be found, how odious, how utterly intolerable would
such a system be found in its execution! Would it be borne even in this

But let it be remembered, that this kind of inquisition would be still
less endured in the West Indies than it would be here. For, it has been
often observed, and it is undeniably true, “that wherever slavery is
established, they who are free are peculiarly proud and jealous of their
freedom.” Mr. Edwards has more than once declared this to be true with
respect to the inhabitants of our West Indian Colonies, and this
principle would assuredly cause them to regard with jealousy, and resent
with indignation, any interference of the officers of government in the
management of their private concerns and family affairs, among which
their treatment of their own Slaves must fairly be included.

But in truth all such general regulations of the kind here supposed,
entering into all the detail of domestic economy, and prescribing the
precise quantum of food, clothing, labour, punishment, and medical care,
must be, in their own nature, inherently defective. The quantity of food
which they should direct, might in some cases be greater, in others
less, than would be necessary; accordingly as the land which the Negroes
had for growing their own provisions was more or less in quantity, more
or less productive. Again, the medical care, the labour, the
instruction, the discipline, the correction which might be called for on
some estates, would not be required on others. And then all these
provisions, so vexatious and invidious in their nature, were to be
observed, not merely gratuitously, but it was to be expected that people
would submit to them, would lend themselves to the enforcing of them,
for the purpose of accelerating the period of abolition; an event which
they had frankly declared they conceived would be in the highest degree
injurious to their interests. Surely no credulity could be sufficient to
make any one believe that laws of such a kind, and for such a purpose,
and with such a premium on obeying them, could ever be carried into

[Sidenote: Proofs subsequently furnished, that no hope from Colonial

But if these and other arguments rendered it abundantly clear, when the
question was first discussed, that the colonial legislatures neither
could nor would apply any adequate reform to the existing abides, so as
effectually to cooperate in measures for the abolition of the Slave
Trade, there is now at least no ground for doubt on that head. The
question has been since brought to the test of experiment. For, an
endeavour to obtain the concurrence of the colonial legislatures has
since been made under the most favourable circumstances of which the
nature of the case could possibly admit; and yet it is not saying too
much to declare, that the endeavour has utterly failed.

On this as on other occasions, different motives would operate on
different men, in prompting them to concur in the measure. For my own
part, I sincerely declare, that to the respectable gentlemen who took
the lead on that occasion, I give the fullest and most unreserved credit
for having been actuated by an earnest desire of reforming the West
Indian system. But it must be acknowledged that the transaction in some
of its parts, especially since we have had new light reflected back on
it from recent West Indian communications, exhibits an appearance of
having been befriended by some of its promoters with a view rather to
defeat, than to promote, the abolition of the Slave Trade. Be this
however as it may, in the year 1796 a Committee, consisting of the most
respectable West Indian proprietors, having been appointed to take into
consideration what steps should be taken respecting the Slave Trade,
resolved among other things, “That, for the joint purposes of opposing
the plan of Mr. Wilberforce, and establishing the character of the West
Indian Planters, it is essential that they should manifest their
willingness to promote actively the cause of the Negroes, by such steps
as shall be consistent with safety to the property of individuals, and
the general interest of the colonies;” and they requested a most justly
respected member of the House of Commons to move in Parliament, “That an
address be presented to His Majesty, requesting him to recommend to the
colonies the adoption of such measures, as may promote the increase of
the Negroes, gradually diminish the necessity of the Slave Trade, and
ultimately lead to its complete termination; and also as may conduce to
their moral and religious improvement, and secure to them the certain,
immediate, and active protection of the law.” This address was moved and
carried with the warm support of all the West Indian party in
Parliament; [Sidenote: Applications to the Colonies] and was
transmitted, to the Governors of all the islands by the Duke of
Portland, accompanied by letters urging the colonial legislatures to
second the wishes of the House of Commons; private and confidential
letters being written to explain to the Councils in the different
islands, the amicable purpose with which this otherwise perhaps
questionable measure had been proposed, and assuring them, “that the
adoption of some legislative provisions relative to the Negroes was
indispensably necessary, not only to stop for the present, but gradually
to supersede the very pretensions at a future period, to a measure of
direct abolition of the Slave Trade by the mother country.”

Thus the concurrence of the West Indian legislatures was requested by
their own tried friends and counsellors, on that most acceptable and
pleasing ground, of superseding the abolition of the Slave Trade. It
might have been conceived, that, by the administration of such a
powerful opiate, the _esprit de corps_ of the islands would be lulled
asleep; and, though it might even be from motives less pure than those
of their friends at home, that they would at least adopt the line of
conduct which had been recommended.

[Sidenote: Colonial answers.]

But how different has been the issue! You are already apprized of the
conduct of the island of Barbadoes, to which Lord Seaforth, most
honourably glad to avail himself of an opportunity of introducing the
measure under such favourable auspices, recommended the rendering a
capital crime, the wilful murder of a Negro, which is now punishable
only by a fine of about £.11. 10_s._ sterling.

The Assembly of Jamaica assert, “that the right of obtaining labourers
from Africa is secured to them on the most solemn engagements; and that
they never can give up, or do any act that may render doubtful, this
essential right.” The General Council and General Assembly of all the
Leeward islands state, “that the right of procuring labourers from
Africa, has been secured to us by repeated Acts of Parliament, &c. We,
therefore, never can abandon it, or do any thing that may render
doubtful this essential right.” The language of these answers is but too
intelligible. But some communications lately made to Parliament, render
it if possible still more clear than it before was to all considerate
and impartial men, that it is in vain to expect much effect from the
regulations which any colonial acts may prescribe.

It may here perhaps be proper to state, that since the abolition of the
Slave Trade came into question, acts have been passed for securing
better treatment to the Slaves. It is no more however than justice to
the Island of Jamaica, to take this opportunity of declaring, that the
Legislature of that island had passed a law rendering the murder of a
Slave a capital crime, and containing various other salutary
regulations, before the motion for abolishing the Slave Trade had been
brought forward; though at the same time a fact then became public,
which affords a curious proof how little the treatment of Slaves is
really affected, one way or another, by public laws. For it appeared
from the Assembly’s own communication, that, for three years immediately
preceding this last reformation, an interval happening to take place
between the repealing of a former consolidated Slave law for the
protection and security of the Slaves,[41] and the passing of a new one,
there were for three years together no laws whatever in being for the
protection and security of the Slaves; and yet it was not found that the
smallest difference in the treatment of the Slaves had been occasioned.
They were just as well secured without laws as with them. In truth, as
was before stated, the real protection of a Slave must lie in his
master’s disposition to protect him.—But to resume the discussion.

What has been already urged may perhaps appear sufficient to prove, that
all the colonial laws for reforming the vices of the West Indian system,
must be practically inefficient. Nor can any farther argument be
necessary, in order to enforce a conclusion so manifestly resulting from
the circumstances of the case. To some persons however it may render the
point still more clear, to know, that the inefficacy, to say no worse,
of the late Colonial Slave Acts, is decisively established even on West
Indian authority itself.

For, about two years ago, on the application of His Majesty’s Secretary
of State to the Governors of the West Indian Islands, for information as
to the manner in which the late Acts for the better protection of Slaves
had been executed, it clearly appeared, that though those laws had been
passed so few years before with so much pomp and circumstance, yet that
their provisions had never been carried into effect. This applies not
merely to the impossible regulations, so to term them, prescribing the
precise quantity of the food and clothing, and labour and punishment of
the Slaves, but to all those regulations which really were of perfectly
easy execution. There had been the same entire neglect of the religious
and moral regulations, in which the Owner’s duty was clear and easy,
even granting that his success might be difficult and doubtful.

This utter neglect of the Slave laws might alone have tended to give
effectual confirmation to the suspicion, that the laws had been intended
for the protection of the Slave Trade, rather than of the Slaves. This
indeed was plainly stated by a British Officer, who was resident in one
of the islands in 1788, when one of the earliest and best of these
boasted laws was enacted. It was the general language of the Colonists
at the time, that its only real operation would be, to supersede any
similar measures which might otherwise be adopted by the British
Parliament. But much to the honour of the Governor of the only island
from which any satisfactory information has been returned, he has
distinctly stated,—“The Act of the Legislature, entitled, “An Act for
the Encouragement, Protection, and better Government of Slaves,” appears
to have been considered, from the day it was passed, until this hour, as
a political measure to avert the interference of the mother country in
the management of Slaves. Having said this, your Lordship will not be
surprised to learn, that the 7th clause of that Bill has been wholly

It may be proper to mention, that the clause which has been thus wholly
neglected, was enacted for the express purpose of securing, as far as
possible, the good treatment of the Slaves, and ascertaining the causes
of their decrease. Some farther information, much to the same effect,
was contained in a letter to the Secretary of State, from another
correspondent, concerning the encouragement which the law had required
to be given to Slaves to marry.

After this, can any reasonable expectations be entertained, that the
Colonial Legislatures will cordially concur in any measures for the
abolition of the Slave Trade? Can the Abolitionists be deemed uncandid,
for not greatly confiding in any statutes which those assemblies may
enact, in co-operation with the British Parliament, for the abolition of
the Slave Trade?

[Sidenote: Laws for the protection of Slaves ineffectual in the old
           French, Spanish, and Portuguese Settlements.]

It ought earlier to have been stated, as an additional proof of the
inefficacy of all legal regulations for the government and protection of
Slaves, that they have fallen into practical disuse even in countries in
which the matters do not themselves enjoy that political freedom with
which all such regulations are peculiarly at variance; and where, it
might have been preconceived, a government perfectly despotic possessed
abundant means of giving effect to its own regulations.

The better treatment of the Slaves in the Spanish and Portuguese
Settlements, is much more to be ascribed to the influence of their
religious zeal, and its happy consequences, than to the institution of a
Protector among the one, or to the provisions of the Directorio on the

Again, under the more despotic system of government which was
established in the French islands before the revolution, the Code Noir,
and various other edicts, which from time to time had been issued,
concerning the treatment of Slaves, were become a mere dead letter. It
is a curious proof, how much the practice and the opinions and feelings
produced by it may differ from the law, that the free coloured people
had for an entire century been legally entitled to that equality of
rights and privileges with the whites, the granting of which, by the
national assembly of the mother country, produced so violent a ferment
among the white inhabitants of St. Domingo; and the retractation of
which, after its having been granted, followed by fresh grants and fresh
retractations, produced the confusion which terminated in the loss of
that flourishing colony.

But besides that fundamental objection to statutes, for regulating the
treatment of Slaves, and securing for them, to use the words of the
colonists themselves, the _certain, immediate, and active protection of
the law_, that they must prove utterly inefficient; [Sidenote: Legal
protection of Slaves in an abject state of slavery either impracticable
or unsafe.] I must frankly acknowledge my opinion, that all those legal
regulations which, in the various particulars of treatment, interfere
between the Master and Slave; which interpose between them some external
authority to which the Slave, when ill used, is to have a right to apply
for protection and redress; unless, as I before observed, they are not
executed, must prove in practice unspeakably dangerous. This is true at
least where Slaves are in a state of such abject slavery as that which
has so long prevailed in our West Indian islands, and where the Slaves
so greatly outnumber the free men, and the difference between Slave and
Freeman, is marked and palpable. In extreme cases of ill-treatment, or
rather in cases of enormous cruelty, it might be practicable to apply
some remedy, by the means of that regulation which was established in
Athens, and which, with additions most grateful to a humane mind,
prevails, we are assured, in the Spanish islands, of allowing the Slave
when extremely ill treated, to be transferred to another owner. But this
regulation is not applicable to those particulars of treatment, which
are constant and systematic, such as underfeeding, overworking, and
other general vices of management, whether arising out of degradation,
absenteeship, speculation, the pressure of the times, or any other of
the causes which have been above specified. And it is these systematic
vices which constitute the real evils in the condition of the bulk of
our Slaves.

In these cases of systematic management, of daily and almost hourly
recurrence, the interposition of a new tribunal of appeal for checking
the master’s authority, and compelling him, by the dread of penalties,
to be more liberal in his allowances of food and rest, and more
abstemious as to labour and punishment; in short, to force him to amend
the Slave’s treatment in future in all the undefinable particulars into
which it ramifies, or even to compensate to the Slave his past ill
usage, would in practice be soon found productive, not only of extreme
discontent, insubordination, and commotions on private properties, but
of the most fatal consequences to the safety of the whole colony. Sunk
as the Slaves at present are, we are assured they do not feel into what
a depth they have been depressed. We are told that they are not shocked,
as we are for them, by the circumstances of a Negro sale, or by the
other degrading particulars of their treatment; the spirit of the man is
extinct, or rather dormant within them. But remember, the first return
of life after a swoon is commonly a convulsion, dangerous at once to the
party himself, and to all around him. Impart to the Slaves the
consciousness of personal rights, and the means of asserting them; give
the Slaves a power of appealing to the laws; and you awaken in them a
sense of the dignity of their nature, you call into life a new set of
most dangerous emotions; of emotions, let me repeat it, beyond measure
dangerous, while you continue the humiliating and ignominious
distinctions to which they now unconsciously submit. When you encourage
your Slave to take account of his rights, and measure them with his
enjoyments: when you thus teach him to reflect on the treatment he is
receiving; to compare his own condition with that of Slaves under other
masters; to deliberate about obtaining redress; and, at last, to resolve
to seek it: when you thus accustom him to think, and feel, and decide,
and act; to be conscious of a wrong; to resent an injury; to go and
relate the story of his ill usage, thus daring to harbour the idea of
bringing his master to punishment and shame: when you even enable him to
achieve this victory; Do you think that he will long endure the wrongs
he now tolerates? It is a remark, if I mistake not, of an ancient
historian, who had the power above all others of placing before his
reader the scene he represents, that in that celebrated instance in
which a whole army, being hemmed in on all sides by the enemy, was
compelled, according to the barbarous practice of ancient warfare, to
submit to the shameful condition of going under a sort of gallows, that
each man was rendered most sensible of his own dishonour, by seeing the
shameful appearance of his comrades in that disgraceful exhibition. And
can you think that, when affection combines with indignation, a Negro
will bear to see the wife of his bosom, or a mother the children of her
rearing, driven through their daily work like the vilest of the brute
creation; and that too when each man can consult with his fellow, when
all they see around them almost are blacks? Above all, but here I
anticipate—when St. Domingo, and the lessons which it inculcates, occur
to the mind.

Surely enough has been said to shew, that there is no alternative, no
practical medium, between keeping the Slaves sunk in their present state
of extreme degradation, an idea for which no one, I trust, will be found
hardy enough to contend, and introducing the milder system of what may
not improperly be termed Patriarchal vassalage (to which the abolition
is an indispensable preliminary) as the state of training and discipline
for a condition in which they may be safely admitted to a still more
advanced enjoyment of personal and civil rights.

[Sidenote: Mr. Burke’s plan respecting the Slave Trade.]

And in this place, where we are considering the different modes which
have been proposed for effecting the abolition of the Slave Trade, it
may be proper to notice another plan of gradual abolition, which has
been often mentioned, though it has never been yet produced. No one can
doubt that attention is justly due to it, when they are told that it
claims the late Mr. Burke as its author. In duty to that great man
himself, as well as to the cause which I am defending, this matter
should be explained. Some years before the abolition of the Slave Trade
had been named in Parliament, Mr. Burke’s attention had been drawn to
that object. His stores of knowledge were so astonishingly ample and
various, that it is difficult to suppose any subject on which his great
mind was not abundantly furnished. But certainly very little was known,
even by men in general well-informed, concerning the nature and effects
of the Slave Trade on the coast, but much more in the interior of
Africa. Nor had we then obtained any of that great mass of information
concerning the West Indian system of management, which was procured
through the authority and influence of Government, and which could no
otherwise have been obtained. Mr. Burke, however, drew up the heads of a
plan for regulating the mode of carrying on the Slave Trade in Africa,
and a system for securing the better treatment of the Slaves in the West

When, after the whole subject had been thoroughly investigated, a motion
for the immediate abolition of the Slave Trade was made in the House of
Commons; Mr. Burke honoured it with his support. He indeed stated, that
he himself had formerly taken up ideas somewhat different, with a view
towards the same end; but he added, expressing himself in that strong
and figurative style which must, methinks, have fixed the matter of his
speech firmly in the memory of all who heard him, that he at once
consigned them to the flames, and willingly adopted our mode of
abolition. I can with truth declare, that in private conversation, he
afterwards expressed to me his concurrence in our plan. It is a little
hard, therefore, that the authority of that great man should now be
pleaded against us. Still harder, that this should be the only use made
of it, that, instead of any attempt to give effect to his intentions,
his plan of abolishing the Slave Trade should be rendered practically
subservient to the continuation of that traffic. In short, that his name
should be used in complete opposition to his example. As to the nature
and effect of his proposed plan, I had the opportunity of perusing it
only hastily, and I have endeavoured, hitherto in vain, once more to
procure a sight of it. It is still however I believe in being, and will
I trust appear in some authentic form.

The plan itself was probably no more than a rough draught, or rather his
first thoughts on a subject, for forming a right judgment on which, a
full and exact knowledge of facts must be particularly necessary. That
on any subject, even the first thoughts of so great a man claim the
highest deference, I willingly allow. But may I not be permitted to
indulge a persuasion, that, from farther information than it was
possible for any man then to possess, concerning the nature and effects
of the Slave Trade in the interior of Africa, into which no traveller of
credit had then penetrated for some centuries, Mr. Burke would have been
convinced of the inefficacy of the regulations he proposed to establish
for the coast. Of his West Indian regulations, I will only say, that
while, unless completely neglected in practice, they would probably have
excited an opposition even more efficient than abolition itself; while
they would have been open from beginning to end to all objections,
grounded on interference with the internal legislation of the colonies;
they would, more than any other plan ever heard of, have been liable to
the objections which I have lately urged against imparting personal
rights and the privilege of complaining to a legal protector, so long as
the Slaves remain in their present condition of extreme degradation.

[Sidenote: Greater efficacy of abolition.]

With this plan for abolishing, as by a strange perversion of terms it is
styled, instead of confirming and perhaps perpetuating, the Slave Trade,
by the gradual operation of colonial statutes, a plan which, though
tried under the most favourable of all circumstances, has absolutely
failed; which has been declared even by West Indian authority itself to
have been proposed for the sake merely of getting rid of the
interference of the British Parliament; which has been clearly proved to
be utterly inefficient as to practical execution, and which, if it could
be executed, would immediately become inconceivably dangerous—With this
measure, founded on principles essentially and unalterably incompatible,
either utterly inefficient or mischievously active, compare the effects
of the measure which we propose, the abolition of the Slave Trade.

The bad effects of the continual introduction of African Slaves are so
manifest as scarcely to need suggesting. The annual infusion into the
West Indian Colonies of a great number of human beings, from a thousand
different parts of the continent, with all their varieties of languages,
and manners, and customs, many of them resenting their wrongs, and
burning with revenge; others deeply feeling their loss of country and
freedom, and the new hardships of their altered state; must have a
natural tendency to keep the whole mass into which they are brought, in
a state of ferment; to prevent the Slaves in general from emerging out
of their state of degradation; and to obstruct, both in them and in
those who are set over them, the growth of those domestic feelings and
habits, and the introduction of those more liberal modes of treatment,
which might otherwise be deemed both safe, and suitable in the case of
Slaves whose characters were known and who were become habituated to
their situation. But the grand evil arising from the continuance of
importations from Africa, is, that till they are discontinued, men will
never apply their minds in earnest to effect the establishment of the
breeding system.

But all farther importations being at length stopped, the Slave market
now no longer holding forth any resource, the necessity for keeping up
the stock would at once become palpable and urgent. All ideas of supply
from without, being utterly cut off, it would immediately become the
grand, constant, and incessant concern of every prudent man, both
proprietor and manager, to attend, in the first instance, to the
preservation and increase of his Negroes. Whatever may have been the
case in the instance of men at once both liberal and opulent, the mass
of owners have, practically at least, gone upon the system of working
out their Slaves in a few years, and recruiting their gangs with
imported Africans. The abolition would give the death-blow to this
system. The opposite system, with all its charities, would force itself
on the dullest intellects, on the most contracted or unfeeling heart.
Ruin would stare a man in the face, if he did not conform to it. The
sense of interest so much talked of, would not as heretofore, be a
remote, feeble, or even a dubious impulse; but a call so pressing, loud,
and clear, that its voice would be irresistible.

But the grand excellence of the operating principle of this reform is,
that it will stand between the absentee master and his Slaves; and while
it will promote the interest of the former, it will secure for the
latter the actual enjoyment of the effects of his benevolent intentions.
Managers would henceforth be forced to make breeding the prime object of
their attention. And every non-resident owner would express himself in
terms of an experienced Barbadian proprietor of superior rank and
fortune; “That he should consider it as the fault of the manager, if he
did not keep up the numbers of his Slaves.” The absent owner would have
the best security of which the nature of the case admits for his Slaves
being treated with liberality and kindness. The operative principle thus
supplied would exactly answer the desired purpose. It would adapt itself
to every variety of situation and circumstances. It would penetrate into
the interior of every plantation; it would ensure a due quantity of
food; it would provide against too rigorous an exaction of labour, and
enforce the adoption of those reforms which should be found requisite
for increasing the population. Many of the improvements which must at
once be introduced are perfectly manifest. But, ingenuity once set at
work in this direction, a thousand discoveries will be made, a thousand
reforms adopted, and, a manager’s credit and character now depending on
the increase of the Negroes, not as hitherto on that of the immediate
and clear returns from the estate, the former would henceforth become
the great object of his study in the closet, and of his conduct in life
and action.

The professional Planter’s work shews the improvements which may be
suggested by a single individual of intelligence and experience, living
on the spot, and superintending the whole system with an observant eye.
What, then, may be expected when the ingenuity and attention of a whole
community are set at work in the same direction; to effect the
introduction of moral reforms, the settlement of families, the
discouragement of adultery; the countenancing, by example as well as
precept, among book-keepers or overseers, of morality and decency, the
neglect of which, by persons of that class, has been hitherto productive
of many injurious consequences.

Let us hear therefore no more of the Slaves invincible habits of
profligacy and sensuality, of their not being susceptible of the
restraints, obligations, duties, and comforts of the marriage state.

Wonder not that they are now sunk into habits of gross debauchery. Not
man alone, but beings in general, throughout the whole range of animated
nature, instinctively seek the indulgencies and enjoyments suited to
their condition and capacities. Depressed therefore nearly to a level
with the brute creation, the negro Slaves instinctively adapt themselves
to their level, and are immersed in merely animal pursuits. Hence it is,
that those very Negroes, who in Africa are represented as so eminent for
truth, so disinterested in kindness, so faithful in the conjugal and
domestic relations, so hospitable, so fond of their children, of their
parents, of their country, gradually lose all these amiable dispositions
with the enjoyments which naturally arise out of them, and become
depraved and debased by all that is selfish and mercenary, and
deceitful, timid and indolent, and tyrannical. [Sidenote: System of
management, how to be reformed.] Would you raise them from this
depressed condition, remember the disease is of a moral nature. It
admits therefore only of a moral cure. Take away those particulars which
degrade and vilify, and thus expel from the system those circumstances
which depress the Slaves below the level of domestic life.[42] Endeavour
in such ways, and by such instruments, as by experience are found best
fitted for the purpose, to impart to them the inestimable blessings of
religious instruction and moral improvement and reform, many of them
would soon shew the happy effect of these instructions, by a conduct and
demeanour manifestly the result of higher principles; for I must once
more raise my voice against that gross misconception of the character of
the Negroes (an impeachment of the wisdom and goodness of their Creator
no less than of our own), which represents them as a race of such
natural baseness and brutality as to be incapable of religious
impressions and improvements. Encourage marriage and the rearing of
children in the only proper way; by settling the Slaves in family life,
with their cottage and gardens, and with such other immunities and
comforts and distinctions as will make them be respected by others and
teach them to respect themselves.

I am aware that it has been by no means uncommon for such masters as
have made the domestic increase their object, to give rewards to mothers
for rearing their children. Surely they have forgot, that Nature, I had
almost said instinct, would take care of this for them, if they would
but pursue the previous course she so manifestly dictates. It is not by
a reward to be given at the end of a year or two, that continual
attention can be purchased, with all the ten thousand cares and
assiduities and kindnesses which both by day and by night the weakness
of infancy requires; they are to be bought by a different price; they
are to be prompted and repaid by maternal tenderness, by domestic
sympathy, and parental interest. Give but to the Slaves a home; let the
children be safely born, with a tolerable prospect of happiness; and let
the mothers be allowed immunities and indulgencies, especially a little
time from field work, morning and evening, to attend to their infants;
bring them thus acquainted with conjugal duties and conjugal feelings,
with the comforts and emotions of family life, awaken in them the
dormant sympathies of domestic affection, and they will soon become
creatures of a higher order, for it is in the soil of domestic life that
all the charities of our nature spring up and flourish. A new set of
feelings will begin to unfold themselves. The Slaves in general will
learn to feel the value of a good character, to covet the acquisition
and strive for the maintenance of it. They will make it their study to
gain a master’s good opinion and confidence. With hope to animate, and
gratitude to warm, how soon should we witness willing industry and
hearty services. To these would justly be added, for in this imperfect
state the addition will doubtless be required, the fear of a master’s
displeasure, and the wholesome restraint of punishment for the indolent,
and refractory, and vicious. The harshness of their present bondage
being transformed into the mildness of patriarchal servitude, they will
become capable of still greater blessings, and more ennobling
privileges. The Slaves being now admitted to be not incapable of moral
obligations, they will surely be acknowledged to be fit for the lower
civil functions; and, above all, there will be no pretence for
maintaining that grand disqualification, which alone is sufficient to
taint their whole condition with the bitterness of degradation and
suffering, the utter inadmissibility of their evidence.[43] Thus they
would gradually and insensibly be transformed into a native peasantry.

Is it possible to contemplate the change which has been here slightly
traced, without emotions of the most lively delight? I will not now
indulge myself in the pleasing task of detailing the several steps of
this gratifying process; but I must state, that in many of the islands,
probably in them all, the quantity of food must be increased; in the
articles of clothing, lodging, and medical care, improvements must be
adopted; especially the hours of working must be lessened, and wherever
it is possible, task-work must be introduced; above all, that degrading
practice of working the Slaves under the whip must be abandoned. Think
not that it will be enough that females, when clearly pregnant, shall be
spared the more laborious duties of field work. No; nor even that all
the young women, without exception, shall be no longer worked under the
driver’s lash; from which, in the judgment of a most respectable and
intelligent planter, innumerable miscarriages happen in the earlier
periods of pregnancy. The system of whip-working itself must be entirely
exploded, and in its place must be substituted the operation of those
principles which are elsewhere found universally sufficient for their
object, the hope of reward, and the fear of punishment.

In all these particulars I am but recommending the several reforms
enforced with so much more authority by the professional Planter, to
whom I have so often referred. All these are preliminary reforms, which
must precede, or rather accompany that most efficient and beneficial of
all improvements, the combined effect of religious and moral
cultivation, with the comforts of being settled in families, and the
obligations and duties of conjugal and domestic life. That it may
require reflection, attention, and discretion to introduce this happy
change, I mean not to deny; it will require also, that a proprietor
should make up his mind to some present diminution of income, for the
sake of larger ultimate returns. Possibly even some arrangements of law
may here become expedient; nor will I even affirm, that in one or two
particular islands there may not be instances (though it is with
reluctance that one would acknowledge such a case) in which proprietors
may have found it their interest hitherto to work down their gangs, and
supply vacancies from the Slave market, to whom therefore the new system
may be injurious, the rather, because it would of course find their
Slaves nearly ground down by the want of necessaries and the excess of

But with such moderate exceptions as must necessarily be anticipated in
any change so great, it may be truly affirmed, to be the excellence and
glory of the measure we propose, that it is likely almost from the very
first to dispense blessings to every individual connected with it, in
every step, from the first to the last, throughout the whole of it’s

Often it happens in human affairs, that ends the most beneficial must be
obtained by painful and distressing means. Inveterate diseases can
rarely be cured without disgusting or painful remedies. But how
gratifying is the consideration, that in the present instance, not only
is our ultimate point the seat of security and happiness, but the way by
which we travel to it is a way of pleasantness and peace. Its effects
cannot be produced at once, but we are all the while tending to their
complete enjoyment, with an uniform and uninterrupted course. The Slaves
will daily grow happier, the planters richer. The whole will be like the
progress of vegetation; the effects are not at first perceptible, but
the great principle, operating in ten thousand instances, will gradually
change the whole face of things, and substitute fertility and beauty in
the place of barrenness and desolation.

And all this happy transformation we anticipate, not from carrying into
execution the speculations of the most intelligent and able men, but by
quitting the ways of injustice and cruelty, and by entering on those
happier paths, which, by the gracious ordination of Heaven, are, on the
long run, ever found to lead to safety, prosperity, and happiness. It
may be right to state one consideration, which may suggest the
probability, that even from the first the island stock of Slaves may not
be found inadequate to the increasing demands to be made on it.

[Sidenote: Waste of labour wherever slavery prevails.]

It is proved by indisputable reasoning, as well as by uniform
experience, that where slavery exists, there is always an immense waste
of labour; there is a tendency to accomplish, by mere force, all which
is elsewhere effected by machinery. How far this has been the case in
the West Indies, is pointed out by various authors, and particularly
with great ability, and perfect knowledge of the subject, by a late

In order, therefore, to form a just estimate of the means of cultivating
the West Indies, after the abolition shall have taken place, we must
superadd, to a population gradually increasing, and advancing so much
the more rapidly from the removal of the obstacles to breeding, and the
positive causes of increase which have been already stated, that great
and incalculable increase in the efficiency of the force actually
employed, which will be effected by its becoming the immediate and
pressing interest of the proprietors to economise in the labour of their
Slaves, and to avail themselves of all the means by which labour may be
abridged, and the same produce may be raised by fewer hands.

[Sidenote: Immediate abolition preferable to gradual, both in the West
           Indies and in Africa.]

Allow me also to remark that, now especially, when the planters have had
so much time, since the first proposal of abolition, for filling up
their gangs, the change is likely to operate more favourably on both
sides of the Atlantic, in consequence of it’s being immediate and
complete, not gradual in it’s operation. In the West Indies, where there
is to be a great change of practical views and objects, a change too
which will be very unwillingly adopted, men are far more likely to make
up their minds to the new system, and to set about acting upon it with
vigour, if it be clearly and decisively necessary, than if there be
still some supply, though in a diminished proportion, to be obtained
from the Slave market. Supposing them in the first year to fail in their
endeavours to obtain a share of the Slaves allowed to be imported, they
may hope to be more fortunate in the second. Meanwhile the hope of a
resource in the Slave market will prevent their exerting themselves in
earnest in establishing the system by which they might secure an
internal increase; and thus they might be drawn on from year to year to
their own ruin, to the public injury, and to the misery of their unhappy

Again, in Africa, were we at once to give up the Slave Trade, the native
chiefs and factors, who have hitherto entirely depended on it for their
supply of spirits, fire-arms, ammunition, and other European articles,
having no resource in their old occupation, would set themselves in
earnest to some other mode of employing their domestic Slaves, in order
thereby to procure the desired stock of European articles. But were the
trade to be abolished by degrees, they, as in the former case, would
hope to obtain a share, though it should be a smaller share; and this
expectation would be sufficient to prevent their engaging spiritedly in
any undertaking of agriculture or commerce.

It may seem to be anticipating an argument which ought to receive a
separate consideration; but let me also remark, that our retiring
gradually from the trade, would greatly favour the entrance of other
nations into the post we had before occupied. It would be utterly
impossible for them to find capital or other means sufficient for
undertaking the whole of so extensive a commerce; but were we to give it
up by degrees, they might possibly be able, by great efforts, to obtain
the means of carrying on, part after part, what we should have

[Sidenote: Abolitionists falsely deemed inconsistent for not
           emancipating the West Indian Slaves.]

And here, perhaps, it may be right to answer a strange objection, which
our opponents, at a loss, surely, for sound arguments, have urged
against us. I may be able also at once to vindicate the Abolitionists
from two opposite charges, which have been brought against them. One
class of their opponents, in spite of repeated and most positive
assurances to the contrary, have imputed to them the design of
immediately emancipating the Slaves. Can it be necessary to declare,
that the Abolitionists are full as much as any other men convinced, that
insanity alone could dictate such a project. On the other hand, by
another class of opponents, they have been charged with being unfaithful
to their own principles, in not immediately emancipating the Slaves
already in the islands, as well as immediately putting a stop to our
ravages in Africa. Sometimes it has been argued, that we ourselves prove
by our conduct in this instance, that the laws of justice must
occasionally concede somewhat to considerations of expediency. That
therefore they do but extend a little further than we, the limits of
that concession, when they propose that the Slave Trade itself, with all
its horrors, should be suffered to continue.

It scarcely would be requisite to expose the sophistry of this argument,
if it had not sometimes proceeded from men of understanding, whose use
of it however can only be accounted for by the supposition, that they
are utterly unacquainted with the circumstances of the case.

Supposing they were themselves to discover an unfortunate human being,
who, by long imprisonment and severe treatment, had been driven into a
state of utter madness; would either justice or humanity prompt them to
grant at once to this unfortunate man the unconstrained enjoyment of his
natural liberty? On the contrary, would not these principles rather
inculcate the duty of endeavouring by proper medical regimen, by
salutary restraint, and if necessary even by the harsher expedient of
wholesome discipline, to restore him to his senses, and qualify him for
that freedom which he might afterwards enjoy?

The West Indian Slaves are in a state which calls for a course of
treatment founded on similar principles. It would be the grossest
violation and the merest mockery of justice and humanity, to emancipate
them at once, in their present unhappy condition. God forbid (with most
serious reverence I use the expression) that we should not desire to
impart to the Negro Slaves the blessings of freedom. No man, I believe,
estimates liberty more highly, or loves it better, than myself. True
liberty, of course, I mean, the child of reason and law, the parent of
order and happiness; such liberty, as that, of which they must be dull
indeed who do not understand the nature and feel the value, who have
lived in the enjoyment of the blessings which it dispenses under the
form of a British Constitution; while they have beheld also its perfect
contrast, both in nature and effects, in the wild licentiousness of a
neighbouring kingdom.

It is indeed a “plant of celestial growth,” but the soil and climate
must be prepared for its reception, or it will not bring forth its
proper fruits. These are fruits, alas! which our poor degraded Negro
Slaves are as yet incapable of enjoying. To grant it to them
immediately, would be to insure not only their masters ruin, but their
own. A certain previous course of discipline is necessary. They must be
trained and educated for this most perfect state of manly maturity; and,
by a singular felicity of coincidence, the stoppage of all further
importations from Africa, with all the consequences which it introduces
in its train, is the very shortest and safest path by which the Slaves
can travel to the enjoyment of true liberty.

[Sidenote: Other objections to Abolition.]

Besides the great argument urged by the opponents of the abolition, that
of not being able to maintain their stock of Slaves at its present
number and force, without importation from Africa, a position which, I
trust, has been now most satisfactorily refuted by decisive appeals both
to speculation and experience; other allegations also were made
concerning the injurious consequences of the abolition, and of these it
may now be proper to take a brief review.

It should however be borne in mind, that they all depend on the
determination of the great question concerning the keeping up of the
population, except so far only as the African Slave Trade is in
question; and, with the exception before made, of persons connected with
places whence this bloody traffic is carried on (now, to the honour of
the kingdom, but two, London and Liverpool), none have been found such
steady advocates for the Slave Trade, as to contend for its continuance
merely for it’s own sake.

The opponents of abolition, and especially some of our great colonial
antagonists, have confidently stated, that our measure would effect the
speedy destruction of our West Indian colonies; and that in consequence
of the loss of national capital which we should sustain, and from our no
longer importing the productions of our Western colonies, the abolition
would bring down utter ruin on the commercial, manufacturing, maritime,
and financial interests of the empire.

[Sidenote: Abolition injurious to our Commerce, Manufactures, &c., &c.]

I am far from denying the political, commercial, and financial
advantages we have derived from the West Indies, or the benefit
resulting to us, as a maritime nation, from the distant situation of
those possessions. Still it is impossible to admit the principles of
calculation, any more than the reasoning, of our opponents, when they
state the whole loss which the public will sustain by the abolition of
the Slave Trade.

They commonly begin by putting down as loss, very nearly the whole value
of our exports to Africa, together with that of all the ships and
sailors employed in that branch of commerce. They enlarge much also on
the evils resulting from the suddenness of the shock, by so large a
share of the national capital, as well as of our ships and seamen, being
all at once thrown out of employment; they then pass over to the West
Indies, and sum up the value of the West Indian estates of all kinds
belonging to British subjects, with their buildings, Negroes, and other
stock. To these they add the value of all the exports and imports, to
and from the West Indies; with all the revenue derived from them, and
the shipping and sailors which they employ; and then they tell us, that,
adding the value of all these various articles together, we shall find
the amount of our loss.

With respect to the African branch of the foregoing statement, all who
believe with me, that the Africans are not incapable of civilization,
and that when the fatal barrier shall be broken down, which along the
whole western frontier has shut out all the improvements to be derived
from a bloodless intercourse with more polished nations, they may
gradually advance to a state of social order, comfort, and abundance;
all who entertain hopes like these, will anticipate the immense amount
of the commercial transactions which Britons in future times may carry
on with that vast continent; and surely our descendants will, at the
same time, wonder that their forefathers, on principles even of mere
commercial gain, could be blind to the advantages to be derived from
diffusing our manufactures through a region which constitutes almost a
third part of the habitable globe.

Even our opponents themselves will acknowledge, that the suddenness of
the shock is alone to be regarded. The objection on this ground was
quite satisfactorily, though briefly refuted, in the concise statement
formerly referred to. It appears, that, even before the abolition of
that large part of the Slave Trade which consisted in supplying
foreigners, and the French and Dutch conquered settlements with Slaves;
the capital employed in the Slave Trade was but about one thirty-fifth
part of the whole of our capital employed in foreign trade; and it was
very truly affirmed, that “very few changes ever take place in the
political arrangements of the state, or in its measures of commercial
œconomy, which are not attended with a much greater shifting of capital,
than the abolition of the Slave Trade, however sudden, could have
effected in the periods of its greatest prosperity.”

The assertion, that we should be injured by suddenly throwing out of
occupation the ships and seamen employed in the African Trade, was shewn
to stand on still weaker grounds. When at its very highest amount, an
amount far higher than it will ever again reach, unless we even replace
the branches which we have actually lopped off, it employed not
one-sixtieth part of our whole tonnage; not one twenty-third part of our
seamen. But so far as our seamen are in consideration, it will scarcely
be disputed by any Naval Officer, that we should gain by the extinction
of the Slave Trade.

With respect to the West Indian part of the price, as calculated by our
opponents, which Great Britain must pay for obeying the dictates of
justice and humanity, by abolishing the Slave Trade; we must remark,
that they forget that the revenue at least, derived from the taxes
raised on West Indian productions, is paid by the subjects of this
country. Other objections of detail might be made to their calculations.
But, passing by these, let me observe, that, above all, they utterly
forget, that in this reasoning they take for granted the whole question
in dispute; for the Abolitionists maintain, that, while the abolition
would produce a gradual increase of our exports to the West Indies, from
the improving condition of the bulk of their population; our revenue,
our imports, and our marine, dependent on them, would be fixed on a
basis far more safe and durable than that on which they now rest. But in
considering the question on the grounds of policy, it is ever to be kept
in mind, that the alternative is not, whether or not we shall take a
step which is affirmed, on one side, to be big with mischief, while the
opponents only maintain, on the other, that it will be productive of no
injury. It is, whether we shall take a step, which may perhaps produce
some slight inconveniencies, or whether we shall subject ourselves, by
refusing to take it, to great and inevitable calamities. The West Indian
proprietors who are friends of the Slave Trade cannot be more positive
that its termination will be injurious to their interests, than the
Abolitionists are, that its continuance is every moment threatening them
with ruin.

But when the Colonists tell us that the system which we recommend to
them, would be injurious to their own and the national welfare, in
opposition to the repeatedly avowed opinions of those great statesmen,
in the sense of national interest entertained by the one or by the other
of whom they have all, in every other instance, concurred; are we not
also entitled to say, that their system has at least had a full and fair
trial, and that the issue of this experiment has been to bring our old
colonies in general into such an extremity of distress and
embarrassment, as even the realizing of the utmost apprehensions which
our opponents have entertained from the abolition could scarcely exceed?

[Sidenote: Present West Indian System ruinous.]

Here again an immense field opens to our view. But I must take a most
hasty survey of it; otherwise it would be no difficult task to prove,
that the Slave Trade, and the system of management with which it is
intimately associated, has, in various ways, tended to this unprosperous
issue. The eyes of the public have been dazzled by the sight of some
splendid fortunes, which, it is understood, have been rapidly acquired;
while the liberal, not to say profuse, tempers and habits of the West
Indian gentlemen, tempers and habits naturally generated by a system of
slavery, as well as by a tropical climate, and which are powerfully
promoted by the prodigious variations in the annual returns of their
estates, tend to keep up the delusion.

But West Indian speculations, which have often been called a lottery,
are, like the lottery, on the whole a very losing game. This will be the
more readily assented to, when it is stated, that in Jamaica, by far the
largest of our colonies, taking the whole island together, the planters
capital, as was stated in 1789 to the Privy Council, by a Committee of
the Council of the island, does not yield more than about 4 per cent.;
and this, it is to be observed, is not obtained by all adventurers in
about an equal proportion; but as some derive great gains, others are
proportionably losers. In some few of the smaller islands, the profit on
the capital was stated to be somewhat, but only a little more.

The facility of purchasing labourers afforded by the Slave Trade has
tempted multitudes to their ruin. Sometimes a great number of Slaves,
for which no adequate preparations were made, have been put to the most
unhealthy and laborious of all employments, the clearing of new land,
and forming of new settlements. Accordingly, it has followed for the
most part but too naturally, that the Slaves have perished, and the
estate has been either thrown up, or sold for the benefit of the

These are no new speculations. Mr. Long, above thirty years ago, dilated
on the evils of this system in the strongest terms. He even went so far
as to recommend, with a view to the prevention of them, a temporary
stoppage of the importation of Slaves from Africa; and he confirmed his
reasoning by appealing to the experience of one of our North American
colonies, which, when involved in the deepest distress by the operation
of similar circumstances, had been retrieved from a state of almost
utter ruin by the adoption of a similar expedient.

We have had an opportunity of receiving but too decisive a proof of the
bad effects of suffering the opposite system to go on without restraint.
Even twenty-six years ago they had exhibited a display of ruin, which
was scarcely equalled by the effects of any regular and permanent cause
of evil, in any other age or country. It would scarcely have appeared
credible, if it were not established by the records of a public court,
that in twenty years, from 1760 to 1780, the executions on estates in
the Sheriff’s court amounted in number to above 80,000, and were to the
amount in value of £.32,500,000 currency, or about £.22,500,000
sterling. Again; of all the sugar estates in the island at the beginning
of the same period of twenty years, nearly one half were, at the end of
it, either thrown up as not worth cultivating, or were in the hands of
creditors, or mortgagees, or had been sold for their benefit.[45]

This was many years before the abolition of the Slave Trade had ever
been proposed; and one would have conceived, that the consequences of
the system which had been so long pursued, might alone have produced a
disrelish for it, and have predisposed the Colonists to adopt another
which was recommended by the highest authorities. Prejudice, however,
and party spirit, were too powerful for reason and sound policy, as well
as for humanity and justice. And what has been the result? The affairs
of the colonies have gone on from bad to worse, until the distress being
extremely aggravated by another cause, to be presently noticed, the
great island of Jamaica is represented, by its own legislature, in a
state, to use the compendious terms of a very able and experienced West
Indian proprietor, of general distress and foreclosure of property.

During all this time a debt to the mother country, before prodigious,
has been gradually accumulating; or rather, perhaps, to say the truth,
the merchants of London have for the most part become the real
proprietors of colonial estates; while the resident, and even sometimes
the absentee planters, have been little more in reality than their
stewards and agents.

You will naturally be astonished at the facts which have been here
stated; you will naturally ask, what temptations can have been
sufficiently strong to prompt men to go on in such a continued course,
with speculations which have proved in the main so unprofitable? It is
really difficult to account satisfactorily for the phœnomenon. Much is
certainly to be ascribed to the operation of that principle in our
nature, the gambling principle as it may be termed, the existence and
effects of which have been so well explained by Dr. Adam Smith; the
disposition to overrate our probable success, and to assign too little
weight to contingencies which may disappoint our expectations. However,
in the present instance, besides this general cause, we may discover
several specific causes of sure and highly powerful operation.

The West Indies are a very wide field, and some few instances of great
and rapid success attract more notice than the far more numerous cases
which terminate in ruin. The British merchant’s profit from consignments
ensures a somewhat ready disposition to assist adventurers in planting.
When also, as often happens, there is a glut of Slaves in the West
Indian market, as they are an expensive article while they remain
unsold, the planter can buy them on a proportionably longer credit. Two
and even three years are not seldom allowed; the Planter therefore is
tempted to purchase Slaves even if he does not greatly want them, in the
hope, that before the time of payment arrives, they will have more than
worked out their cost, by the sugars which their labour will have
brought to market. In like manner the British merchant trusts, that
before the bills drawn on him shall become due, the sugars in his hands
will meet them. Thus encouraged, the planter buys. Meanwhile the Slaves
must be set to work; and the inadequate funds of their master, the same
cause which curtails their food and abridges their other comforts,
causes them to be worked the harder. They sicken and drop off, and
perish in what is called the _seasoning_, a mode of death sufficiently
important and notorious to have obtained this epithet; a somewhat
singular one, considering that the climate of the West Indies and Africa
are so much the same. Yet this is a system, which, ruinous as it is, has
a natural tendency to increase; which may grow even to an indefinite
extent. The evils of it, however, though too long unacknowledged, are
now at least felt by all who are not blinded by interest or passion. An
immense mass of the national capital has thus been invested, I had
almost said has been sunk, in our Trans-Atlantic Empire. In one respect
it may be said, that, in accordance with the principles so clearly
developed by the great political Economist who has been already named,
our commercial accumulations have found their way to the land, and have
become an agricultural capital. But it is to land many thousand miles
removed from the mother country.

[Sidenote: Excessive accumulation of capital in the West Indies.]

I admit all the advantages, to their utmost extent, which we derive,
considered as a maritime nation, from these distant possessions. But
there are peculiar circumstances in their situation, which must make
every considerate politician acknowledge how much more it would have
been for the benefit of this country if a part of that capital had been
employed at home. What is expended in the improvement of our own soil is
so much permanently added to the wealth, resources, and population of
Great Britain. It is well digested, and well assimilated nutriment; and
it adds proportionably to our muscular strength. It is inseparably a
part of ourselves; it must share our fortunes; and in all times and
circumstances contribute to our benefit. Even the wealth which is
acquired by British subjects in the East Indies is brought home to be
spent in our own country. It improves our land, or it increases the
funds to be employed in commercial or manufacturing enterprizes.

How differently circumstanced is that part of our national capital,
which is invested in the West Indies. It is in a situation where it is
peculiarly open to seizure; and where, in consequence, it often invites
the attack of an enemy, while at the same time it is defended at an
immense expence of the lives of our fellow subjects. From a fatal
principle of internal weakness, it may at once be dissipated by the
explosion of an insurrection, or it may be separated from us by other
events which no one can call impossible. Not only would our gain, from a
large part at least of this capital, have been greater in amount, if it
had been invested within our own island; but still more, the gain,
whatever it might have been, would have been held by a less precarious
tenure. Of West Indian, even more truly than of any other riches, it may
be affirmed, that they are apt to make themselves wings and fly away.

But notwithstanding the decisive proofs which have been adduced, of the
ruinous consequences of the existing system; notwithstanding the tried
efficiency, and salutary operation, of those great principles, to which,
in the event of the abolition, we look for the advancing safety,
happiness, and greatness of our Western Colonies; notwithstanding, still
more, the acknowledged authority of that great man, whose opinion of the
tendency of the abolition to promote the solid and permanent prosperity,
as well as security, of the West Indies, was so repeatedly declared—I am
yet aware that the statement of the contrary opinion by the Colonists
themselves, and by their agents and correspondents in this country,
greatly biasses the judgment of many considerate and respectable men.

[Sidenote: Probable causes of the opposition to abolition.]

Allow me therefore to make a few observations on this head, and to
consider a little whether there may not be other causes besides reason
and argument, from which the continued opposition of what is termed the
West Indian body may probably be owing in no inconsiderable degree.

It is not surprising that a great effect has been produced by the
declaration of so numerous and respectable a class of the community as
that of the West Indian body, that the abolition would be ruinous to
their interests; especially, considering that there has been full scope
for the operation of party spirit, we should not be surprized to find
this opinion held somewhat strongly and generally by the colonial world,
and their numerous connections. Yet surely we have been too much
accustomed to hear men predicting the most fatal consequences from
incidents and measures, which have been depending, when the event has
afterwards proved that their fears, if not utterly groundless, have been
at least excessively magnified, to conclude that the mere circumstance
of such apprehensions being entertained, is a sufficient proof of their
having a sound foundation. We have already stated a striking instance of
this kind, in the progress of this very contest—that of the violent
opposition which was made by all the parties concerned, to the passing
of the Slave-carrying Bill; a measure which a very few years after was
acknowledged, as it is still universally confessed, to have been
beneficial to them all. One of the most efficient of the opponents of
abolition, in 1792, frankly acknowledged this common delusion; and even
declared, that he anticipated the period when the question of abolition
itself would afford another instance of its having occurred. He stated a
particular fact in confirmation of his opinion; which, as the story is
not long, it may be worth while to relate.

“There was a species of slavery prevailing only a few years ago in some
boroughs in Scotland. Every child that carried a coal from the pit, was
the bound slave of that borough. Their emancipation was thought by
Parliament to be material; and was very much agitated in the House. It
was urged by those who opposed the emancipation, that, let every man’s
genius be what it might, yet that those pits in which the work, from its
nature, was carried on under ground, were quite an excepted case; and
that without the admission of slavery in this particular instance, the
collieries could not be worked; that the price of coals would be raised
to a most immoderate height; and all the neighbouring manufactories,
which depended on them, would essentially suffer in their interests.
After several years struggle, the Bill, however, was carried through
both houses of Parliament. Within a year after, the whole idea of the
collieries being in the least hurt by the abolition of this sort of
slavery, vanished into smoke, and there was an end of the business.”

I hope therefore, that, notwithstanding the declared sense of the bulk
of the West Indian body, I may, without being thought presumptuous,
still declare, that renewed consideration has only confirmed my
judgment, that the abolition of the Slave Trade would be ultimately and
permanently beneficial to the West Indians themselves.

It is not lightly that I have taken up the persuasion, which has been
intimated more than once, that the determined hostility with which the
abolition of the Slave Trade has been opposed by the bulk of the West
Indian body, is, in a multitude of instances, the effect of party spirit
rather than of rational conviction after full and fair investigation. It
is in the case of the West Indian party as in that of parties in
general, a few men of superior zeal and activity give the tone to the
rest. The residents in the islands, the greater part of whom are either
engaged in planting speculations, or are looking forward to such
speculations, are the real instigators of the opposition. The West
Indian merchants lend them their zealous and powerful aid; and the
proprietors in this country head the party, partly from an implicit
confidence in the judgment of others, partly from a liberal feeling,
which renders them unwilling to desert the cause of their fellow
planters abroad; and if they take any share at all in the contest, their
rank and fortune render it natural for them to take the lead.

By far the greater part however are actuated merely by deference for the
opinion of others; and by that _esprit de corps_ which first renders men
unwilling to differ from their friends, and which, by degrees, produces
warmth, and at length vehemence, by mutual intercourse, sympathy, and

In truth, what force of mind does it not require in a considerate man of
any feeling, aware of all the low surmises, the invidious comments, the
unkind constructions, the altered countenances, not to speak of the real
loss of influence and connections to which he may expose himself, to
resolve, on refusing to join the general party, and to adhere to his
resolution; in such circumstances as those of the West Indian body; or,
even still more, to quit the party he has joined, when a sense of duty
commands the sacrifice. It is indeed but too true, that almost in any
instance, and never perhaps in any more than in that of the West Indian
connection, to break through the trammels of our party, demands the most
strenuous, and, judging from experience, we should say, one of the most
difficult of all efforts.

For men to emancipate themselves from this bondage, it requires not so
much an uncommon degree of judgment and foresight, not even so much of
impartiality and candour, as it calls for such a share of firmness and
independence of mind as rarely indeed falls to the lot of men in any
times, and less than almost in any other, in our own, in which fashion
and party rule with such a rigorous despotism, as if it were to revenge
on us our not submitting to any other yoke. Yet are there not a few West
Indian Proprietors, both in and out of Parliament, who, though owners of
large colonial possessions, have refused to join the West Indian body;
who are exempt from West Indian prejudices, and who, to their honour,
are resolved that the source from which their annual income is derived,
shall not be polluted by injustice and cruelty.

There are also various individuals connected with the colonies, whose
complete personal acquaintance with the whole system of West Indian
management has given them an opportunity of discovering it’s vices, and
has prevented their becoming the dupes of party violence or sophistry.
And though, in quitting a formed party when we have once joined it, we
obviously have greater difficulties to encounter, and obstacles to
overcome, than even in originally refusing to combine with our brethren
in constituting it, yet one splendid conquest of this kind has been made
well it deserves such an epithet, for he, who knows any thing of human
nature, knows full well, that these are the most difficult of all

Yet this difficult conquest has been achieved by one of those gentlemen
who originally took the lead, in committing to the colonial legislatures
the service of superseding the necessity of abolishing the Slave Trade
by internal regulations. He has since abundantly proved that he did not
support the measure, in order merely to defeat the efforts of the
Abolitionists, and with a real view of prolonging the continuance of the
Slave Trade; but that he conceived, that the question then at issue was,
whether that traffic should be abolished by the Colonial Assemblies or
the British Legislature: and now, that the former have refused to accept
the commission which the House of Commons offered to instruct to them,
he has embraced the other part of the alternative, and cordially
co-operated in the attempt to abolish by the Imperial Parliament.
Instances of such conduct as this are rare; for being rare, they are the
more honourable. The mind loves to dwell on them. Perhaps, from never
having been a party man myself I may feel their excellencies with
peculiar force.

I might offend the delicacy of this gentleman, by mentioning his name;
but surely without his leave I may venture to describe him. I fear there
are but two or three others with whom, in all the following particulars,
he can be well confounded. I may state him, then, to be the Jamaica
Proprietor, in whom I believe humanity and kindness to his Slaves are
hereditary virtues; and who, having more waste but cultivable land, than
almost any other Jamaica landholder, had more to gain by the continuance
of the Slave Trade, while he has been among the first to abandon, or
rather to abolish it; who has ever had his eyes more open than most
other proprietors to the abuses of the West Indian system, and his
endeavours more warmly and actively exerted to correct them; being more
exempt than most others of his brethren from West Indian prejudices, but
often, I fear, counteracted by the prejudices of others; who has been
desirous especially of promoting those moral reforms which would above
all other improvements tend to the comfort of the Slaves, and the
security and prosperity of the islands.

This is not general and indiscriminate praise; each commendation has
it’s object. May he go forward in the path on which he has so honourably
entered, and may he be followed by descendants, inheriting his
principles as well as his property, who may perfect the work which he
has commenced.

[Sidenote: Power of party spirit in the West Indians.]

That the principle of party spirit is adequate to the production of most
powerful effects; that it may be even sufficient to prompt men to act in
manifest opposition to a clear, direct and valuable interest, has been
decisively established in the case of our West Indian Proprietors
themselves in a very recent instance. For, what but this party spirit
could cause them to support the continuance of that branch of the Slave
Trade which consisted in supplying foreigners with Slaves, and still
more, which could prevent their even strenuously and eagerly
anticipating the efforts of the Abolitionists for stopping the supply
for the cultivation of the immeasurable expanse of the South American
continent. In the colonies which we there conquered, near twenty
millions of the capital of this country were actually invested during
the short period after their conquest, for which we remained in
possession of them during the last war; and, on their being restored by
the peace, all this vast sum contributed to the improving and enriching
of the colonies of a power which unhappily even then could be considered
only as the vassal of our already too powerful rival. The proprietor in
our old islands will not deny that those continental settlements not
only have injured him by greatly increasing the quantity of colonial
produce in the market, but that, enjoying very decided advantages over
our older islands, from a more fertile soil, from being exempted from
hurricanes, from the opportunity of feeding the Slaves more plentifully,
and at a cheaper rate, they have been to him the cause of very great
loss and embarrassment. Had this evil been suffered to advance, the ruin
which must have followed from it, though gradual, would have been sure
and complete. From that misfortune the Abolitionists have relieved him,
by obtaining the Order of Council, since confirmed and sanctioned by an
Act of Parliament, for stopping the importation of Slaves, not only into
foreign colonies, but even into those possessions, chiefly in Guiana,
which in the present war have been again conquered from the enemy. And
surely we may assume to ourselves some credit for having willingly
rendered to them, our opponents, the greatest benefit which they could
receive. But while we are engaged on this topic, let me call on the West
Indians in our own ancient possessions, for whom again I must declare I
feel most good will, as those who have long been our fellow subjects, in
company with whom we have weathered many a storm and rejoiced after many
a victory; let me call on them to bear in mind a very probable source of
extreme injury to their particular interests, which will be opened on
the restoration of peace, if the Slave Trade be not abolished.

Supposing us to retain the conquered settlements, the importation of
Slaves cannot be withheld from the proprietors in those colonies, while
we allow it to their fellow subjects; yet, if granted to the former, by
far the larger part of our whole export from Africa will be allotted to
their use. Their settlements will be every year increasing; new cargoes
of colonial produce will be poured by them into the market, and the
planters in our old islands, for whom and for whose interests we ought
to feel most concern, will be plunged deeper and deeper into a gulf, in
which, by their own confession, they have already sunk almost
irretrievably. But supposing us even to give up the conquered West
Indian settlements on the restoration of peace, still Trinidad will
remain to us; and that large and fertile island would of itself be
sufficient to furnish such an immense quantity of fresh colonial produce
as almost to consummate the ruin at least of our more ancient and less
fertile colonies.

To resume the discussion in which I was lately engaged. Let me again
declare, that so much do I ascribe to the effects of that party spirit
of which I have treated so largely, that I am convinced, if the colonial
proprietors were not warped by prejudice, and heated by _esprit de
corps_, such of them as are really well acquainted with the subject in
it’s various parts and bearings, would be in favour of abolition; they
would agree with me, that, excepting only some particular interests, the
present West Indian system, and, above all, the Slave Trade, as it’s
basis and ground-work, are contrary to sound policy, no less than to
justice and humanity. In truth, this question has been already decided;
for, we have been assured by the same respectable gentleman who was
before alluded to, that, above thirty years ago, the following question
was discussed in Kingston, the capital of Jamaica, in a society formed
of the first characters of the place, “Whether the Trade to Africa for
Slaves was consistent with sound policy, the laws of nature and
morality.”—The discussion occupied several meetings, and at last was
determined, by a majority, that the Trade to Africa for Slaves was
neither consistent with sound policy, the laws of nature, or

“The chief ground on which the advocates for the Slave Trade rested
their opinion (he thinks) was, that God had formed some of the human
race inferior to others in intellect, and that Negroes appeared to have
been intended for Slaves; or to that purpose.”

Let this incident, and the conclusions which it suggests, be well
considered. It deserves to have the more weight, on account both of the
understanding and character of the individual who gave the account of
it; for, no man living was ever less likely to confound any hasty
expressions of men of warm and feeling minds, or of men of speculation
or ingenuity, who might like to defend a paradox, with the real
deliberate judgment of men of reflection, practical knowledge, and
personal experience. Observe, the only ground on which the Slave Trade
was defended, even in Jamaica, was that of the Negroes being an inferior
species. This opinion, as I formerly remarked, was the original
foundation of the Slave Trade, and it is the only ground on which it can
be rested with the smallest pretence to reason, justice, or humanity.
Happily, the friends of these wretched beings have, at length, obtained
the recognition of their human nature; but as yet it is a barren and
unprofitable right, if, while we grant them to be men, we treat them as
if we still deemed them of an inferior species. But still more this
incident shews, that they, who, from their local circumstances and
pursuits were most conversant with this great subject in all it’s parts,
had adopted, above thirty years ago, the position which Mr. Pitt
asserted so confidently, and proved so unanswerably, that the Slave
Trade was contrary not to justice and humanity only, but to sound policy
also; and if even so long ago they entertained this opinion; what, if
relieved from the blinding effects of prejudice and party, would be
their judgment now, when all the facts and principles, on which the
Slave Trade system must have been proved impolitic, have received an
almost unspeakable accession of force, and when the arguments, by which
it’s policy could alone be contended for, have since been almost
entirely done away: I regret that I have not time for enlarging on this
topic. But any man who has obtained any insight into this question will
readily discern the several considerations to which I allude.

[Sidenote: The hope of West Indian body’s opposition ceasing.]

But notwithstanding I ascribe so much of the opposition which has been
made to us, to the operation of party spirit, yet I dare not hope that
the flame is likely to become weaker, or at length to die away. On the
contrary, there is a store of aliment fully sufficient to maintain it in
continual and even interminable vigour. For after all that I have
stated, of it’s being rather the spirit of party, or at the utmost a
mistaken apprehension of loss, than a just sense of interest, which
animates the efforts of the great mass of West Indian Proprietors, yet
there are many who, it cannot be denied, are prompted by a true
persuasion that the abolition of the Slave Trade will materially lessen
their gains. Of this number is that great, respectable, affluent, and,
as we have fatally experienced; most powerful body, the West Indian
Merchants. I cannot deny that many, perhaps almost all of this class,
may have a direct interest in the extension of West Indian cultivation.
Though planting speculations may not answer to the immediate
undertakers, they may answer to the merchant in this country; and he
might gain by the cultivation being pushed to an extent which would
utterly ruin the planters. He pays himself in the first instance both
for the articles furnished for the supply of the estate, and for his
profits on the importations from abroad; and if he have prudence
sufficient, which however is seldom the case, to prevent his advancing
too much on any one estate, so as to compel him to become the proprietor
of it, he is certainly engaged in an advantageous branch of business.
Hence he is always the foremost to petition against the abolition.

Together with the merchants, I must except also that considerable body,
often of respectable men, who have gone over to the West Indian islands
in inferior capacities, and who mean to engage in planting undertakings.
The stoppage of the importations from Africa would retard, at least, if
not destroy these speculations. This is a class of men, in whose
interests I confess I take a lively interest; but not an interest
sufficient to induce me to sanction the destruction of thousands of my
fellow creatures annually, for the sake of allowing them more convenient
opportunities of rising in life. I confess their interest is a matter of
much more concern to me than those of the greater and more adventurous
speculators. I ought, perhaps, also to except the last-mentioned class
of persons. Though, in common, to afford them the opportunity of
engaging in these West Indian speculations, be only to afford them an
occasion of accomplishing their own ruin; yet they conceive they have an
interest in the continuance of the Slave Trade, and therefore they are
not actuated only by party spirit. This class is likely to increase. The
few great prizes in the West Indian lottery will tempt adventurers to
engage in it; and it is in vain to hope that the colonists will ever
concur in the abolition of the Slave Trade, so long as there is room
left for new speculations; that is, so long as there remains, in the
Western hemisphere, any unsettled land capable of cultivation, and as
any Negroes can be brought from Africa to work it. So long as there is
any scope left for new speculations, so long there will be a set of new
speculators residing in the islands, who will form the real instigators
of the opposition to the proposal for abolishing the Slave Trade; and
these, joined by the great mercantile body at home, will carry along
with them the bulk of their brethren, the colonial proprietors resident
in this country.

It is for the benefit of these classes, not for that of our old colonial
proprietors, that the Slave Trade is in reality carried on. For it is
undeniably true, nor will it, I presume, be contested, that by far the
larger proportion of all the Slaves we import, have always been and will
ever be destined to the formation of new settlements, not in maintaining
and keeping up estates which had been already completed.

But surely the question has ere now occurred to you, When or where is
this system to terminate? Is it to go on till our colonial settlements
are brought into a state of complete cultivation? It may be worth while
to spend a few moments in examining the consequences of such an
admission; they were traced out by a high authority, who stated, that,
even of the great island of Jamaica itself, the quantity of uncultivated
land was two-thirds more than that already in cultivation.[47] To
suffice for the cultivation of the other parts, the complete number of
600,000 more Negroes, living at the same time, would be necessary, in
addition to 256,000 now there. The calculation went on to consider the
numbers which must be imported, and the length of time which, under all
the waste of human life which attends the present destructive system,
must elapse, in bringing the Island of Jamaica into complete cultivation
by Slaves. It was found that, supposing the rate at which the
cultivation and population would increase in future, to be the same as
that at which they had increased hitherto, that it would not be
accomplished in less than two hundred and twenty years, and it would
require the exportation from Africa of greatly more than a million of
our fellow creatures. For reasons which could be stated, the period here
mentioned is much too short. But besides the Island of Jamaica, there
are St. Vincents, Grenada, Dominica, above all, Trinidad, and the
unknown extent of our future continental acquisitions, which would claim
just the same right to have their cultivation completed.

Such must be admitted to be the fair consequences of prosecuting the
Slave Trade, for the purpose, plainly enough avowed by the colonists in
Jamaica, of bringing into cultivation the whole of the land which is
still uncultivated. Would even the most determined friends of the West
Indians on this side of the water go this length? I speak not of those,
if any such there be, who love the Slave Trade on account of its own
inherent excellencies; nor of the West Indian merchants, nor yet of the
African trader. But would the less devoted friends of the Slave Trade go
the length of admitting this principle? I trust they would not. Must
they not then concede, that the only principle on which they can act
consistently, must be that of carrying on the importation of Slaves for
the sole purpose of keeping up, not of extending the cultivation.
Indeed, when this great cause was argued in the House of Commons in
1792, all, I believe, of our opponents, excepting only those who were
personally connected with the Slave Trade, admitted fully and frankly
the principle of not opening new lands. They objected not to the ground
which was taken by that great man to whom I have already so often
alluded. Would the most attached friend, he asked, of the Slave Trade,
think of founding a new colony, or of setting up a new Slave Trade? And
it was justly and undeniably argued, nor was the position contested,
that the formation of new settlements in our old islands was just as
much the planting of a new colony, as if the same settlements were made
in any newly discovered country. There was no difference in principle
between the two cases. It was a new and voluntary establishment, made
with our eyes open to all the guilt which the enterprise would involve,
and all the horrors of which we professed to be sensible. The force of
these arguments, when used in 1792, was granted to be irresistible; but,
as if it were in absolute contempt of them, and of the practical
conclusions to which they lead, we are plainly warned by the colonists,
against supposing that they will ever consent to stop the importations
from Africa, so long as any vacant and cultivable land remains on which
to plant them. These facts, with the aweful considerations which result
from them, let me most seriously urge on the conscientious deliberations
of those who, contrary alas! to the expectation indulged by that great
man whom I have before so often mentioned; by their fatal proposal of
gradual, [Sidenote: The gradual abolitionists especially bound to
consider these facts.] instead of immediate abolition, dashed the cup of
happiness from the lips of the wretched African, at the very moment when
at last he appeared likely to taste it, and who thus proved in fact the
most efficient supporters of the Slave Trade. A vast majority in
Parliament were then so much alive to the principles of justice and
humanity, that all direct opposition would have been utterly
ineffectual. But this kind of half measure, however unintentionally,
exactly answered the purpose of our enemies, by giving time for the zeal
of men to cool, and providing an expedient by which, aided by a little
of that self deception which we are all apt to practice on ourselves on
suitable occasions, they might feel the complacencies arising from an
act of justice and humanity, without paying the price or making the
sacrifice which those principles required.

Let me be forgiven if I speak strongly, where I feel so very deeply. It
is not only because the gradual Abolitionists have been, in fact, the
only real stay of that system of wickedness and cruelty which we wish to
abolish; though that assertion is unquestionably true; but it is trying
beyond expression that they should be the real maintainers of the Slave
Trade, who reprobate it in terms of detestation as strong as any which
we ourselves can utter. Nor do I mean (the declaration is made with
solemnity and truth) that these expressions are not sincere. If they
were not proved to be so by the general character of those who use them,
my personal knowledge of some of them, and the esteem and regard I
entertain for them, excludes the contrary supposition. Yet I cannot but
believe, that, could they have clearly foreseen what would be the
practical effect of their opposition, it would not have been continued
for an hour.

Let them now, however, remember the grounds and principles on which they
resisted our measure; that they themselves stated the question to be
only between two different modes of abolishing the Slave Trade. They
alleged, indeed, with others, the difficulty of preventing Slaves being
illicitly imported into the colonies; but this was obviously an evil
which never could prevail to any great extent, nor did they lay any
considerable stress on it. Abjuring the most remote idea of contending
for the interminable continuance of the Slave Trade, the utmost they
asked was, that a short respite should be granted. The year 1800 was
afterwards specifically named; the West Indians would be able, in the
interval, to fill up their vacancies, to complete their gangs; in short,
to improve their population, so as to be prepared to meet the new order
of things.

But the gradual Abolitionists chiefly urged, that we were too hasty and
violent, and that by our precipitancy we should defeat our own purpose.
For, without the concurrence of the colonial legislatures, it was
alleged, we could not carry our measure into effect; they advised that
time, therefore, should be allowed for softening the prejudices and
cooling the warmth of the colonists.

What has followed since that period? The Slave Trade, instead of eight,
has now lasted fourteen years. Far more time, therefore, has been
allowed the Planters for completing their gangs, than was originally
proposed by any one who did not avow himself a friend to the perpetuity
of the Slave Trade. A far greater number of Slaves, also, than was then
in any one’s contemplation, has since been imported. So far, therefore,
the Islands are better prepared for the measure.

But above all, it is now clear that we must abandon all hopes of
bringing the colonial legislatures to consent cheerfully to the
termination of the Slave Trade. Was it possible for the proposition to
come before them, not only in a more acceptable form, but with a more
gradual approach; and, if I may so say, at the end of a longer visto,
than when it was presented to their notice by some of the most
respectable of their own body, by men who had uniformly opposed the
abolition in the British Parliament, and when they had, therefore, every
reason to believe that the importation of Slaves would never be actually
stopped until the measures, which were to make that importation no
longer necessary, should have had, according to their own report, an
effect so complete and satisfactory as to render the abolition no longer
in the least objectionable; yet so strong are the prejudices of the
colonists, that, even in answer to this communication, they frankly
declared against abolition at any time and in any form. They intimate
plainly that they look forward to the complete settlement of all the
cultivable but now waste land throughout the whole of our West Indian

Supposing, therefore, that the gradual Abolitionists even still retain
their original opinion, that the concurrence of the Colonists is
necessary to our complete success, yet considering the immense
magnitude, as acknowledged by themselves, of the evil which all this
time has been going on with even increased ravages; would it not be fair
that they should now, at least, consent to try the effect of our less
satisfactory measure? Would not this be the mode of conduct pursued by
men in all the common affairs of life, when really interested for the
accomplishment of any object? Supposing them to labour under some
painful or dangerous disease, which was making havoc of their
constitution, and wearing them down with excruciating torture, and that
a particular plan of treatment should be proposed to them; supposing
that, (though the plan should be recommended by various medical men of
the most acknowledged superiority of skill, who, though often differing,
entirely agreed in this particular, and prescribed with the most
sanguine confidence) they should yet fear the plan would not answer,
perhaps that it was in some way or other impracticable; supposing them
also to prefer a second plan, recommended by some other practitioner;
yet if there appeared to be in the way of the adoption of this second
plan some practical obstacle which they could not remove, Would they
suffer the disease to go on with its ravages, rather than adopt the
first plan, from which they might not themselves expect much benefit,
but which might yet be preferable to doing nothing at all?

But supposing, to make the case more nearly parallel, that the disease
was to have continued for many years; that the proposers of the first
plan had declared from the very first, that the second plan could not be
carried into execution; that time and other circumstances had proved the
truth of their prediction as to the past, and that, to say the least,
the prospect was not brighter for the future; would not a man thus
circumstanced be disposed at least to suspend his opposition, and, if he
could not give the plan, which he still feared would be ineffectual, his
active support, yet would he not at least cease to obstruct the trial of
it, when at the utmost he could only object that he feared that the
impracticability would be found to attach to the first plan, which had
been proved by experience to belong to the second?

Are we not in public life continually compelled to act on the principle
of embracing the measure which we do not, in itself, judge to be near so
eligible as another, which, from it’s not appearing to others in the
same light as to us, is practically unattainable? And was there ever an
instance, if such an one can possibly exist, in which this mode of
proceeding was so imperiously enforced on us as in the present, when we
consider to what an extent the work of death is every year going on in
Africa: for here it may be truly said, _Deliberat Roma, perit Saguntum_.

Were I not convinced that the objection against which I have been here
contending was urged by men of fair and honourable minds, I should not
have entered so largely into this discussion. But with that persuasion,
I cannot but indulge the hope, that even though their original objection
may appear to them to retain all it’s force, they will at least not
obstruct the trial of a measure which pleads the authority of such
respectable names, and which affords the only practical hope, though
they may think it but a faint hope, of putting an end to a system, which
every year that it lasts is producing, as they affirm not less than we
do, an almost incalculable amount of misery.

Let me also remind these gentlemen, that if we immediate Abolitionists
conceive them, the gradual Abolitionists, to be, though unintentionally,
the real practical friends and supporters of the Slave Trade, we at
least are not the only persons who hold that opinion. The West Indians,
who frankly declare they never can consent to the abolition, nay even
the Slave Traders themselves, evidently shew that they conceive these
gradual Abolitionists to be their real adherents. Against them ought to
have been directed the serious opposition of our African and West Indian
opponents, while we were mere objects of derision and contempt. We were
a set of well-meaning visionaries, who were proposing what, even if
carried into effect, would be found utterly impracticable. Whereas they
were men of sound practical understanding, who had wisdom to devise
effectual measures for executing all which their virtue might suggest.
This is not urged with levity, it is seriously and earnestly pressed.
Nor is it a statement without instruction. It has often been justly
urged, that we may collect much as to the character of any man, or the
tendency of any measure, by observing them not only in themselves, but,
when that investigation is difficult and doubtful, by observing who are
their enemies and who are their friends. Tried by this principle at
least, we know what judgment would be passed on the gradual

[Sidenote: Slave Trade injurious to our Marine.]

Another argument which, especially in the outset of the discussion, was
strongly, and with great confidence, urged against us by our opponents,
was, that the African Trade is a nursery for seamen; and that its
abolition would therefore be highly injurious to our naval strength.
This part of the subject was very early taken up by Mr. Clarkson, a
gentleman whose services, throughout the whole conduct of this great
cause, deserve the highest commendation. He asserted, as the result of a
long and laborious inquiry, that of the sailors employed in the African
Trade, between a fifth and a sixth actually died; and that the African
ships seldom brought home more than half of their original crews.
Nothing was more vehemently repelled, or more obstinately denied, than
these positions, till, at length, having long borne with these clamorous
contradictions, the muster rolls of the African ships were moved for and
laid before Parliament; documents which had been kept in the possession
of our opponents, and which cannot therefore be supposed to have been
fabricated or coloured to serve our purpose.

From these papers Mr. Clarkson’s calculations were fully justified. It
appeared, that of 12,263 persons, the number of the original crews,
there had died 2,643, the average length of their voyages being twelve
months; whilst, on the contrary, in the West Indian trade, in which the
length of the voyage was seven months, of 7,640, the number of the
original crews, there had died only 118. But the loss by deaths was not
the whole loss to the country; for, besides the broken constitutions of
the survivors, which rendered many of them, for the rest of their lives,
incapable of the duties of their profession, so many left their ships in
consequence of ill usage, that they seldom brought home more than half
the persons they had taken out. This last circumstance was attempted to
be accounted for, from the natural capriciousness of sailors; and it was
said, that they ran away in as great number from the West India as from
the Guinea ships. The direct contrary appeared from the muster rolls,
and this too, though, from the different ways of paying them in the two
trades, their forfeiting little or nothing by quitting the West
Indiamen, but much by quitting the Guineamen, the reverse might have
been naturally expected. Much more might be said on this subject.
Especially, such scenes of cruelty towards those unhappy men might be
opened to your view, as would excite at once the concern and indignation
of every man, who feels for that class of his fellow-citizens to which
this nation owes so much both of her security, her affluence, and her

The evidence taken before the House of Commons contains but too many
humiliating instances of this kind; and in consequence we find the most
respectable naval commanders acknowledging that the Slave Trade is no
nursery of seamen. This truth was even frankly confessed by a Noble
Admiral on whose general testimony our opponents set the highest value.
But I will quit the present topic, only remarking, that as at the outset
of the discussion none of our assertions was more strongly controverted
than that concerning the loss of seamen, which can now be no longer
denied, we may hence claim some credit on those points which are still
in dispute. The incident shows at least that it is not necessary that
our opponents should be correct in order to be positive.

[Sidenote: Another objection to abolition:—if we should abolish, foreign
           nations would still carry on the trade.]

Again, great stress was laid on the consideration, that were Great
Britain to desist from the Slave Trade, other nations would still
continue it, and that the trade would not therefore cease to exist. The
only difference would be, that the trade which formerly we had ourselves
carried on, would henceforth be carried on by others; and how would
Africa, how would the cause of humanity, be hereby a gainer? To this
argument, many answers were returned. But before I proceed to state
them, can I forbear remarking, that there would have been no place for
such an argument as this, but for that fashionable though pernicious
doctrine of the present day, that we are to regulate our practice by
considerations of expediency, that vague, fluctuating, and often vicious
instructress, instead of the sound, plain, and immutable dictates of
justice. It is self-evident, that by stopping the importation into our
own colonies, we destroy a large proportion at least of the evil.

During the continuance of the war, all the Dutch, and some of the French
colonies, being in our hands, the supply to such of the French as are
still unconquered being stopped, that of the Spanish being much
interrupted, and the Portuguese settlements also deriving their supply
from the more southern part of the Slave coast, the whole of that vast
region which constitutes what may be called the solid substance of the
African continent, would be almost entirely exempt from the ravages of
the Slave Trade. Nor is this temporary abolition desirable, merely in
the view of its affording to that wretched country a short breathing
time from her miseries. If the war should be of any duration, we may
hope, that the Africans may form new habits, and, having adopted less
guilty expedients for obtaining the commodities with which they are
supplied by the Europeans, may, in some parts at least of the coast, not
resume the traffic in human beings, when the war shall be at an end.

All that could be said concerning the future conduct in this relation,
of France, Spain, and Portugal, must be mere speculation. But, let us
ask, in regard to those several nations, Where is the capital to be
found? Surely whatever might have been alleged formerly concerning the
possibility of British capital being transported into foreign countries
for this use, it will scarcely now be urged; it will surely at least not
be credited, that in the present state of the continent, any British
subjects will be mad enough, let their strange and unnatural craving
after this trade in flesh and blood be ever so importunate, to trust
their capital in the way which this argument supposes, out of the only
country in which either person or property can now be deemed secure.

We ought also to observe, that in both the Spanish and Portuguese
colonies, the Slaves are far better treated, and the breeding system
much more encouraged, than in those of the other European nations. There
is in them also far less of the spirit of commercial speculation and
enterprize than in our own. Denmark has long since shewn her willingness
to abandon the Slave Trade, and private information confirms the
supposition which the circumstances of the case suggest, that her not
having yet carried into full effect her declared resolution, that the
human traffic should cease with the year 1800, may fairly be ascribed to
our conduct and example.

The United States of America were absolutely precluded, by a fundamental
article of the confederation, from abolishing the Slave Trade before
1808, by any general law operating over the whole of the union. But it
was one of the first acts of all, except I believe one, of the
individual states of which the union consists, to abolish this traffic;
and when a law was lately passed in South Carolina, allowing the
importation of Slaves, Congress shewed its sense of the transaction by
imposing on the importation of Slaves into South Carolina itself, the
highest duty which the constitution permits. The importation of Slaves
also into Louisiana was entirely prohibited. All these are strong
indications of a disposition in the Government of the United States to
abolish the Slave Trade; and they confirm the assurance which has been
received from the best informed gentlemen of that country, that in 1808,
when Congress will have a clear right to put an end to that traffic, it
will not be allowed the respite of an hour.[48]

So far for the Slaves which are exported westward from the coast of
Africa. As to the supply which is sent to the countries east of Africa,
it has long been comparatively trifling in amount; and by far the larger
part of those immense regions which furnish the European exports, are
too distant to allow of Slaves being carried out of them eastward to a

But may we not be allowed to assume a higher tone, and to ask, if this
practice, though by a strange perversion of words it is called the Slave
Trade, ought indisputably to be considered as a most enormous crime,
rather than a commerce, is it not clearly our own duty to abstain from
it, and to prohibit and to punish the perpetration of it by our own
subjects, however it may still prevail in other countries?

It might serve to discover the monstrous tendencies of this argument, to
those whose moral principle is so dull and dark as not instinctively to
reject it, to consider to what lengths it might fairly carry them: for
why might it not equally be alleged as a sufficient plea for performing
every other act of profitable wickedness, which we might conceive,
though perhaps unjustly, would be performed by others if not by
ourselves. Let any one consider what would be the consequences of
admitting such a principle into the intercourse of nations.

Is this, then, a principle to which we will give our solemn sanction,
unless we mean fairly to avow that we have one set of religious and
moral principles for Africa, and another for the rest of the world?

Apply the principle to private life, and consider what would be its
consequences. But there happily the law of the land would soon interfere
to check its application. And here, indeed, from first to last, is our
misfortune in this whole business of the Slave Trade; that the
practices, for the abolition of which we are contending, are such, as by
the laws of every civilized community are punishable with death; but,
unhappily, there is no tribunal (no earthly tribunal) to which the
criminals are amenable. And is this a time above all others, and are the
present circumstances of nations precisely those in which such a
principle of conduct becomes the Imperial Parliament of Great Britain?
Or, if the reproach which has been cast against us be really true, and
we are only to be moved by an appeal to our self-interest, is this a
time when it is politic or even safe to avow such a principle, and to
inculcate such a lesson?

But how, it was indignantly asked, could this enormous evil be ever
eradicated, if every nation were thus prudentially to wait till the
concurrence of all other nations should be obtained? Let it also be
remembered that, on the one hand, no nation has plunged so deeply into
this guilt as Great Britain; on the other, that none could be so likely
to be looked up to as an example, if she should be the first decidedly
to renounce it.

But does not this very argument, grounded on the probable conduct of
other nations, apply a thousand times more strongly in a contrary
direction? How much more reasonably might other nations point to us, and
say, Why should we abolish the Slave Trade, when Great Britain has not
abolished? Great Britain, free, just, and honourable as she is, deeply
also involved as she is in this commerce above all other nations, not
only has not abolished, but has refused to abolish! (This was the
language of a great man, many years ago). Alas! it may now be added, and
after even at length resolving to abolish, has receded from her

A long and scrutinizing inquiry has taken place, the subject has been
thoroughly canvassed. Her Senate has deliberated again and again; and
what is the result? She has gravely and solemnly determined to sanction
the Slave Trade. Her Legislature therefore is doubtless convinced that
it has been falsely charged with injustice, cruelty, and impolicy. What
need then have we to look any further? Why should we examine or
deliberate? What more satisfactory proofs could our own investigation
bring forth, of the justice and policy of the Slave Trade?

Thus, then, it would appear, on a more impartial view, that, instead of
being justified in our continuing to prosecute the Slave Trade, by the
probability that other nations would still carry it on, we with but too
much colour of reason may be charged with being, if not the authors, yet
at least the confirmers of their disposition to persevere in it; and to
our account may at last appear to be in a great measure imputable the
entire mass of the guilt of this enormous wickedness. We cannot, it is
to be feared, now undo all the evil which our misconduct has occasioned;
but, as we have long been foremost in the crime, let us, however
tardily, endeavour to be at length exemplary in our repentance.

[Sidenote: Slave Trade supported on grounds of justice.]

Of all the sources whence arguments could be drawn in support of the
Slave Trade, that of justice would perhaps least have been anticipated
by those who have seen how from first to last it sets at nought the
rights and happiness of our fellow creatures. The argument was put,
however, with some plausibility, so as on a very superficial view to
appear to have a faint colour of equity. It was argued, that we had
encouraged the West Indians to engage in colonial speculations; that
these speculations could not be carried on without supplies from time to
time of African labourers; that therefore, to prohibit the importation
of Negroes, was to ensure the failure of those very speculations into
which we had encouraged the West Indians to embark.

It was a sufficient reply, that if the West Indians would but reform the
glaring abuses of their system of management, abuses to which not only
every humane but every just mind must be anxious to put an end;
importations of Slaves from Africa would be rendered perfectly
unnecessary, by the natural increase of their domestic stock; while from
the stopping of these importations, various and highly important
advantages would follow, to the West Indians themselves as well as to
the empire at large. But supposing the case to have been otherwise, and
that the West Indians might be likely to suffer in their property from
our abolition of the Slave Trade; the inference suggested by justice, I
say not by self-interest, but by justice, would be, that the West
Indians should be compensated out of the treasury of the mother country,
or rather, that the loss should fall in equal shares on all the several
parties. But for justice to be supposed to inculcate, that because (from
our being ignorant, it is to be hoped, of the real nature and effects of
the Slave Trade) we had been accustomed to ravage the unprotected shores
of Africa, and bring away by force a number of innocent men, women, and
children, to carry them in the hold of a Slave ship in fetters, across
the Atlantic, and consign the survivors and their descendants for ever
to a state of hopeless and most degraded bondage;—to argue, that,
because for two centuries we had pursued this course of wickedness and
cruelty, or because, which is not fact, we had even engaged to continue
it—that we are bound by the obligation of duty to admit the equity of
such a prescription, or to fulfil such an engagement, is certainly a
most extraordinary lesson for justice to be supposed to inculcate.

Supposing us to be the debtors of the West Indians, what right have we,
as was so well urged by my excellent friend, Mr. Gisborne, to pay
British debts with the flesh and blood of Africans? The absurdity of
this argument, not to mention its profane usurpation of the sacred name
of justice, is too manifest to require any further comment.

But it may be proper in this place to say a few words concerning
compensation. It was stated by the great minister to whom I have so
often had occasion to allude, than whom no one was more intimately
conversant with the commercial system of this country, that it had been
our general practice to make from time to time such regulations in the
different branches of our commerce, as considerations of policy or
finance might require; and excepting cases in which the circumstances
had been peculiar, it had not been usual to grant compensation to those
who might suffer from the change. The abolition of the Slave Trade ought
therefore to be regarded as one of the contingencies which are foreseen
and understood in general, though not in the particular form and
instance in which they may happen; one of those accidents to which
persons who engage in commercial or any other speculations render
themselves liable, relying only on the wisdom and justice of the
legislature, that, in administering its important trust of watching over
the general welfare of the community, it will, as far as possible,
consult also the advantage of every particular class, and not lightly
sacrifice any individual interests.

The truth of this doctrine was completely established by the great man
above referred to, who contended, founding his arguments on general
reasoning, and confirming them by a reference to particular statutes,
that Parliament had at no time given any pledge that the Slave Trade
should be continued, or that the losses incurred in consequence of its
suppression, had any losses been likely to take place, should be made
good by the public.

Still as it might seem hard, if not absolutely unjust, that one set of
men should be the sufferers, when the crime, though committed chiefly
for their benefit, was one in which others had participated with them,
it was declared by the chancellor of the exchequer, that one class of
persons, those alone who might otherwise with reason complain of hard
measure, if not of unjust treatment, should receive compensation on any
fair case of injury being made out to the satisfaction of impartial
commissioners. This was the class of persons who had bought lots of
uncultivated land of Government, in the ceded or any other islands. It
might be presumed, that they had engaged in the speculation, with
expectations of being able to bring them into cultivation by imported
Africans; and therefore if they had performed their share of the
conditions of the purchase, they were entitled to require the state to
perform its share also, or to pay them an equivalent.

But when the colonial system, as now administered, except perhaps in
some particular cases, has not only been injurious to the Slaves, but on
the long run to the master also; when it is at length declared by a very
intelligent West Indian, that the colonists, by adopting those reforms
for which justice and humanity should alone furnish sufficient motives,
will ultimately derive the most substantial benefits, though possibly
they may suffer some temporary inconveniency; when, at the same time,
the prejudices against these reforms are so powerful, that a direct,
palpable, and valuable interest alone, will probably be adequate to
overcome their effect; in such circumstances as these, it is undeniably
obvious, that to hold forth an offer of compensation to all, who, after
the abolition, should allege that they had suffered from that measure,
or who should even furnish plausible proof that it had been injurious to
their interests, would not only be to subject ourselves to immeasurable
and most inequitable claims, but would be to interpose an insurmountable
obstacle in the way of all reforms of the West Indian system, or, to
speak more correctly, it would be to give a premium on the continuance
and even extension of the old abuses. [Sidenote: and on grounds of
religion.] It is, however, most of all astonishing, that our opponents
attempt to vindicate the Slave Trade on grounds of religion also. The
only argument which they urge with the slightest colour of reason is,
that slavery was allowed under the Jewish dispensation. The Jews were
exalted by the express designation of heaven to a state of eminence
above the strangers who sojourned among them, and the heathen who dwelt
around them, from either of whom, as a mark of their own dominion, God,
who has a right to assign to all his creatures their several places in
the scale of being, allowed them to take bondmen and bondwomen, treating
them, however, with kindness, remembering their own feelings when they
were slaves in Egypt, and admitting them to the chief national
privileges, to the circumcision, to the passover, and other solemn
feasts, and thus instructing them in the true religion. Besides this,
the slaves were to be set free at the year of Jubilee, or every fiftieth
year, a command which was alone sufficient to prevent their accumulating
in any great number.

But they who thus urge on us the Divine toleration of slavery under the
Jewish Theocracy, should remember that the Jews themselves were
expressly commanded not to retain any of _their own nation_, any of
their _brethren_ in slavery, except as a punishment, or by their own
consent; and even these were to be set free on the return of the
sabbatical, or the seventh year. Inasmuch therefore, as we are
repeatedly and expressly told that Christ has done away all distinctions
of nations, and made all mankind one great family, all our fellow
creatures are now our brethren; and therefore the very principles and
spirit of the Jewish law itself would forbid our keeping the Africans,
any more than our own fellow subjects, in a state of slavery. But even
supposing, contrary to the fact, that our opponents had succeeded in
proving that the Slave Trade was not contrary to the Jewish law, this
would only prove that they would be entitled to carry it on if they were
Jews, and could, like the Jews, produce satisfactory proof that they
were the chosen people of God. But really it would be consuming your
time to no purpose, to enter into a formal proof, that fraud, rapine,
and cruelty, as contrary to that religion, which commands us to love our
neighbour as ourselves, and to do to others as we would have them do to
us. I cannot persuade myself that our opponents are serious in using
this argument, and therefore I will proceed no farther with this
discussion. Besides, even granting that it were possible for any of them
to be seriously convinced that Christianity does not prohibit the Slave
Trade, I should still have no great encouragement to proceed, for,—it
may be prejudice, but I cannot persuade myself that they are so much
under the practical influence of religion, that if we should convince
their understandings, we should alter their conduct. [Sidenote: Other
Considerations which enforce the necessity of abolition.] After having
thus stated the various grounds on which our opponents argued against
the abolition of the Slave Trade, it still however remains for me to
mention two or three additional considerations. For want of time I shall
not dwell long on them. But let me recommend them to your most serious
reflection, for they are of unspeakable importance. It is not using too
strong language to affirm, that if all the arguments which have been
hitherto adduced in support of the abolition of the Slave Trade, were
weak and unsatisfactory, the measure is urged on us by these
considerations alone, with such commanding force, that it would deserve
the name of infatuation not to agree to it, and that on grounds not
merely of abstract right and duty, but of regard for the well-being of
our West Indian Colonies themselves, and for the prosperity of the
British Empire.

[Sidenote: Insurrections:—danger of.]

The first consideration which I shall mention is that of a danger of
unspeakable amount, to which at length, though surely somewhat too late,
even those who have been most blinded by prejudice begin to open their
eyes. It seems at last to be discovered, that Negroes are men; that as
men, they are subject to human passions; that they can feel when they
are injured; that they can conceive, and meditate, and mature; can
combine and concert, and at length proceed to execute with vigour what
they have planned with policy. Such being the lesson which the Island of
St. Domingo has taught to those most unwilling to receive it; the
immense disproportion between the Blacks and Whites in our islands,
perhaps ten or even fifteen to one, is a subject of most just and
serious dread, and the danger is extremely aggravated, by the difference
between the two descriptions being so plain and palpable, that the more
numerous body is continually reminded of its own force. What but
insanity would go on every year augmenting a disproportion already so

But it is highly important also to consider, that the continuance of the
Slave Trade not only aggravates the danger of the West Indian
settlements, by increasing the disproportion between Blacks and Whites,
but still more by introducing that very description of persons which has
been acknowledged by the most approved West Indian writers to be most
prone to insurrections. Here let us refer again to the historian of
Jamaica. “The truth is,” says he, “that ever since the introduction of
Africans into the West Indies, insurrections have occurred in every one
of the colonies, British as well as foreign, at times.”[49] Again, “The
vulgar opinion in England confounds all the Blacks in one class, and
supposes them equally prompt for rebellion; an opinion that is grossly
erroneous. The Negroes who have been chief actors in the seditions and
mutinies which at different times have broken out here, were the
imported Africans.”[50] Again; “If insurrections should happen oftener
in Jamaica than in the smaller islands, it would not be at all
surprising; since it has generally contained more Negroes than all the
windward British islands taken together: its importations in some years
have been very great:

 In 1764 imported,                                                10,223

 And from January 1765 to July 1766, a year and a half,           16,760

“So large a multitude as 27,000 introduced in the space of two years and
a half, furnishes a very sufficient reason, if there was no other, to
account for plots and mutinies.”[51] Let it be remembered, that since
Mr. Long’s book was published, in 1774, there have been retained
probably above 200,000 Negroes; and add to these the importations which
have subsequently taken place in our other islands, and remember, that,
as even Negroes can confederate, and the Slaves in the several islands
might mutually assist each other, all the islands are interested; that
fresh accessions of Negroes should not be permitted in any one: then
estimate if you can the sum of the danger which has been too long
suffered to accumulate without restraint, and which is every year still

Even at the very moment in which I am writing, I hear rumours of an
insurrection in one of our smaller colonies, Grenada; and though I
cannot trace the report to any authentic source, yet it is impossible to
deny that it is highly probable. The importations into this island have
been of late years larger, considering its size, than into most of our
other islands; thence the report derives additional probability. But to
all the foregoing considerations, add that new aggravation of the
dangers of our West Indian colonies, that, almost within the visible
horizon of our largest island, the Negroes have been taught but too
intelligibly the fatal secret of their own strength. Here also the
Planters may learn, were it not before abundantly clear, how ardent is
the Negroes’ love of liberty, and what a price they are willing to pay
for it. The season is critical—not a moment is to be lost. The British
Legislature should consider the present as a happy interval, in which,
perhaps, an opportunity is yet providentially afforded them, of averting
the gathering storm. If they pause, it will be too late.

Let it not be said, that the West Indians themselves can best judge of
the reality of the danger, and that they do not greatly regard it. It
might, indeed, have been expected, that the necessity of compulsion
would here be superseded by every man’s concern for his own interest and
safety. But that takes place in this case, which often happens where
danger is apprehended to the whole community, from practices in which
men engage for their own individual advantage. Each particular instance
of this practice seems to add but little to the amount of the general
danger, or but little in proportion to the advantage which the
individual expects to derive from it. The danger besides is uncertain,
however probable; and he shares it in common with the whole community.
The benefit he conceives certain, and the gain is all his own. Is not
this then precisely the state of circumstances in which the legislature
should interfere as the general guardian of the whole community, and
prevent the interest and happiness of all from being endangered by
individual avarice, obstinacy, or foolhardiness. But it would not be
wonderful if the resident West Indians themselves were not conscious on
what hollow ground they stand. It is nothing new that they who are most
exposed to a great danger are the least aware of it; that, like the
short-sighted inhabitants of Puzzoli, or Terra del Gréco, they alone are
insensible to the approaching lava which is about to desolate their
dwellings. It happens in this, as in other instances, familiarity with
the danger naturally generates insensibility to it, and the very persons
who are most exposed to its evils, are most blind to its reality and
magnitude. But the legislature, as a provident guardian of the whole
community, should exercise its watchful superintendence, and take that
step which is the natural preliminary to all radical reform, and to all
effectual measures for the future safety of the islands. But, to state
the truth, it is not merely by familiarity with the great danger which
we have been describing, that the resident colonists are rendered
insensible to it. This insensibility results in no small degree from the
extreme degradation of the Negro race. The resident White is so
accustomed to regard them as of an inferior species, that he is no more
apprehensive lest they should learn the fatal secret of their own
strength, and combine for their own deliverance, than lest such a
combination should take place among the horses or cattle, or any other
inferior animals, which may therefore, without danger, be suffered to
increase their numbers to any amount.[52] Is it possible to see men thus
lulled into a fatal insensibility to such a great and obvious danger,
without recognizing once more that righteous ordination of the Almighty,
by which, when human laws are inactive, he provides natural punishment
of our infringement on the rights and happiness of our fellow creatures.

But the dangers to our great island of Jamaica, arising out of its
proximity to St. Domingo, are not yet exhausted. Contemplate the state
of St. Domingo. See how it is placed; almost in contact with Jamaica.
Consider its size, and its vast Black population. And since recent
events have so clearly proved that Negroes can reason, and feel and act
like ourselves; we may form no unjust judgment of the probable
sentiments and emotions of these free Negroes, by imagining what in
similar circumstances would be our own.

Take then the Negroes of St. Domingo, justly jealous of the Europeans,
and resolved carefully to watch over and defend those newly-acquired
liberties which they have so dearly purchased. They hear of cargoes of
their wretched countrymen continually torn from their native land, and
doomed for life to a state of vassalage. They see that, all around them,
their African countrymen are still detained in that same state of bitter
bondage from which they have themselves so lately emerged. They know
that the Colonists in all the islands regard them with mixed emotions of
hatred and fear, and would rejoice in being able again to rivet on their
chains. Do they not see, in the present degraded state of their
brethren, and remember in their own, that there is a grand fundamental
ground of distinction between Blacks and Whites, a radical separation
and even opposition of interests; a real, enduring principle of

May they not reasonably be supposed to think that they owe it alike to
their honour and their security to vindicate the rights of their sable
countrymen? May they not apprehend, that if they do not, while they can,
assist their brethren in the neighbouring colonies to assert their
freedom, and drive out their taskmasters, the white inhabitants of the
other islands will not only preserve their empire over the Blacks
already subject to them, but be continually plotting for the destruction
of freedom in St. Domingo? May they not justly fear lest the European
Powers, when their present differences shall be made up, should
hereafter combine their efforts to restore, even in St. Domingo itself,
the yoke of slavery?

Such, it is not unnatural to suppose, will be the reasonings and
sensations of the St. Domingo Negroes. But experience has in vain
afforded us proofs of the watchfulness, address, and versatility of our
indefatigable enemy, if we do not suppose it possible that Bonaparte, by
his agents, will reinforce those natural surmises; that by suggesting,
through his emissaries, to the Negroes of St. Domingo, the dangers to
which they are exposed, and the means of averting them, he will
endeavour to stimulate them to invade Jamaica, and to stir up in all our
islands insurrection and revolt. Those whom he has in vain attempted to
make the victims of his rapacity, he will thus render the instruments of
his revenge.

Let any one read the “Crisis of our Sugar Colonies” with seriousness,
and he will acknowledge the amount, the variety, the probability, of the
dangers to which our West Indian settlements are exposed. Their reality
as well as their magnitude must equally be confessed by every man whose
judgment is not totally obscured by interest, or whose discernment is
not altogether blinded by familiarity with the objects which he views.

[Sidenote: Our population drained.]

The next of the important topics to which I lately alluded is one on
which, from prudential motives, I will press lightly; but which I must
commend to the most serious attention of my readers, not merely from
considerations of humanity, but even of self-interest. The West Indies
have long been regarded as the grave of our soldiers and seamen, but
never surely with so much reason as of late years. For a new disease has
broken out, so terribly wasteful in its effects, and so little subject
hitherto to the controul of medicine, as to furnish too just cause for
fearing lest there should be such a constant drain of the population of
the mother country, as from the numbers consumed on the one hand,
perhaps even still more on the other, from the dangerous effects on our
naval and military service (I trust I shall be understood, though, from
motives of caution, I rather hint than express my meaning) to render the
protection of our transatlantic colonies incompatible with our internal
security. This is a topic on which I will not press; but in proportion
as I abstain from the alarming discussion, lest I should in any degree
aggravate one of the evils which I apprehend, let it be deeply and
seriously weighed by every considerate mind. Even independently of
interest, shall not the voice of humanity be heard? Is it nothing to
send the brave defenders of our country, and the flower of our youth, to
a pestilential climate, where they fall not in the field of battle, not
contending with the enemies of their country, but where they perish
unknown, and therefore ingloriously, often even falling the victims of
their own fears, from beholding such multitudes around them continually
swept away.[53]

But that which I must press upon you is, that all these sufferers, or at
least an immense majority of them, are the victims of the Slave Trade.
For it is this pernicious traffic, which by the double operation of
continually increasing the disproportion between the Blacks and Whites
on the one hand, and of obstructing on the other those salutary reforms
which would change by degrees this depraved, degraded mass into a happy
peasantry; makes you shrink back with terror from defending the islands
by their own internal resources, though we cannot but acknowledge that
they would hereby be rendered utterly invincible by any European force
which the great nation, or any others of our enemies, might bring
against them.[54] And here a fresh prospect of misery opens to our view:
here come in a new set of sufferers from the Slave Trade, not the less
to be attended to, because, as yet at least, they do not themselves
trace the bitter stream from which their cup is filled, to its original
source; the numerous train of widows and orphans and relatives, whose
nearest connections have fallen the victims of the diseases of the
western world. I am persuaded, that if the full effect of the Slave
Trade in this relation were generally known, the general feelings of the
nation, more powerfully, alas! excited for our own subjects than for the
unhappy Africans, would have produced throughout the British Isles one
universal cry of indignation against this arch enemy of the happiness of
mankind. Here is another of those instances, several of which in the
course of this investigation we have had occasion to remark, wherein,
through the righteous retribution of Heaven, wickedness and cruelty are
not allowed, even in this world, to go unpunished; by which the
irreligious and unfeeling are taught to respect the happiness of others,
if from no higher motive, yet from regard to the preservation of their

[Sidenote: Summary view of the miseries produced by the Slave Trade.]

And now surely you must be prepared to admit without hesitation, and in
its full extent, the declaration made by Mr. Pitt in the House of
Commons, that the Slave Trade was the greatest practical evil that ever
had afflicted the human race. Such indeed it would be found, had we but
leisure to take the real weight of all the various evils which it
includes; and surely it might well become us to enter into this
examination. But it would almost exceed the powers of calculation, after
having traced the Slave Trade into all its various forms of suffering,
to estimate the amount of them all.

Let us, however, spend a few moments in adding up the great totals of
which it consists, that we may be the less likely to deceive ourselves,
as in such cases men are apt to do, by underrating the evils of which we
are the cause, and consequently the amount of guilt with which we are

To begin with Africa. If we would form a fair calculation of the
aggregate sum of misery caused by the Slave Trade, we must remember that
it is by no means to be estimated by the numbers which we actually carry
away into slavery: Nor yet by adding to them all the wretched relatives,
families, and connections who are left behind: Nor yet by superadding
the devastation and misery which, to those who may not actually be
caught and carried off, may arise from all the several predatory
expeditions occasioned by the Slave Trade, either directly or in
retaliation of former aggressions originating from the same cause: Nor
still by adding the destruction and desolation produced by national wars
(for of these the Slave Trade is often the origin), with pestilence and
famine, and all the various forms of misery which follow war in its
train: Nor even yet by subjoining the wretchedness of those, with all
their families and friends, who are the victims of injustice and
treachery, masking themselves under the forms of law, or availing
themselves of the native superstitions.

But let us endeavour to make the case our own, and to consider what it
would be to live in a country subject to such continual depredations by
night, and such treachery by day. These evils affect the whole condition
of society; they poison the happiness of every family, nay, it may
almost be said of every individual in the community. All the nameless
but sweet enjoyments comprised within the idea of home, to all of which
security is necessary, are at once destroyed; and Parke assures us that
no people taste these pleasures with a higher relish than the Negroes.

Consider the intensity of the sufferings which the Slave Trade occasions
in Africa, and the number of the sufferers; remember throughout what an
immense extent these evils prevail, and the time they have continued.

To this vast mass of African misery, add up all the various evils of the
middle passage. See there the husband and father, wife and mother, who
have been torn from the dearest objects of their affections, and are now
carried away, they know not whither, in their floating prison. Take in,
their never having been before at sea, their confinement, their posture,
with all the other distressing particulars of their situation; is not
too much to say that you see them enduring exquisite bodily suffering.
But, much more, consider the sorrows of the mind; see them dying of a
broken heart, from the loss of their friends and country, from their
remembrance of the past, and their prospect for the future. In this
state forced to bear the coarse brutality of the sailors, and urged by
stripes, with a stomach loathing food, to eat; and with limbs galled
with fetters, to dance; while their hearts are wrung with agony.
Consider then that in every individual Slave ship there are most likely
multitudes of these wretched beings; many of them men, as Mr. Parke
tells us, of some education; some of them men of considerable rank in
their own country: but the whole cargo, as it is hatefully termed,
consists of husbands and wives, of parents and children—all had a
home—all had relatives.

But to the sufferings of the wretched Slaves themselves, we must add
those of the sailors also, who are too often treated with extreme
barbarity. Of the latter, there are not a few who, though their lives
are spared, lose their health, their sight, or the use of their limbs,
not merely from the unwholesome nature of the climate of Africa, but
from various peculiarities attendant on the Slave Trade.

Nor ought we to omit the moral injury which our country sustains from
the number of persons who are rendered ferocious and unfeeling by the
hardening nature of their constant occupation.

It would be difficult to add up the different items, much less to
discover the precise sum of the misery which may fairly be placed to the
account of the Slave Trade in the West Indies. Here, however, let me
first remark, and it ought to have been observed in the case of Africa
likewise, the Slave Trade is justly chargeable with the prevention of
all that domestic happiness and social comfort and prosperity which
would follow from the introduction of the domestic system which it
naturally supersedes. But when we proceed to the positive articles of
this account; when we endeavour to sum up the total of the immense
number of individual sufferers: Again, when to these we add the
sufferings and the waste of our brave defenders, by sea and land, with
the sorrows of their surviving relatives; and when we consider the
unknown amount of evil, which, from the effect on the minds of our
soldiers and sailors, may at some time or other result from this class
of ravages, evil possibly commensurate with the ruin of our country:
When we remember that it is the Slave Trade which prolongs the internal
weakness of our West Indian colonies, that it is this weakness which
invites attack, and thence creates the necessity of defence at such a
profuse expenditure of the lives of our countrymen; and that the
facility of conquering these possessions operates powerfully as a
temptation to our enemies to commence war, with all its unknown miseries
and dangers: By what new denomination shall we in any degree fairly
express the real sum of these several items?

There is still, however, another class of evils on which I have
occasionally touched, which will appear of the highest amount to all
considerate men, to whom the best interests of their country are dear,
and who have been accustomed to trace the operation of those causes
which have led to the decline and fall of nations.[55] These are the
moral evils both of the Slave Trade, and even, still more, because of
greater extent, of the system of West Indian slavery. It is the fashion
of the present day to pay little attention to evils of this class; but
they are not on this account less real or less efficient. Their nature
and force have been acknowledged by all writers of eminence, whether
ancient or modern, who have treated either of the prosperity or decay of
the great nations of antiquity.

The system of slavery, especially of slavery in it’s more hateful forms,
never did nor ever will prevail long in any country, without producing a
most pernicious effect, both on it’s morals, habits, and manners. This
is an invidious topic, on which I will not enlarge; but let it’s amount
be duly estimated by all who are interested for the independence, the
prosperity, or the happiness of their country. When all these various
masses of misery are piled up into one, who shall attempt to take the
dimensions of it’s enormous bulk. Yet we must acknowledge, that from
it’s very size it produces less impression on mankind in general. This
principle may be termed a law of our nature, and we suffer from the
effect of it in every part of our great cause. I firmly believe that it
is here the Slave Trade has found it’s chief security. Had it not been
for the operation of this cause, both Houses of Parliament, I had almost
said the whole nation, would have risen with one indignant effort, and
have forced the Slave Traders to desist from their cruel occupation.
Could we but place even the people of Liverpool themselves, where they
could see with their own eyes the progress, from first to last, of this
series of crimes and cruelties; could we but confine their attention so
that they might have but one object before them at once, and might view
it in all it’s parts distinctly, with all it’s circumstances and
relations, I firmly believe they would themselves abjure that inhuman
traffic for which they are now so ignominiously preeminent.

But the enormous dimensions of this mass of misery are such, that our
organs are not fitted for the contemplation of it; our affections are
not suited to deal with it; we are lost in the immensity of the
prospect; we are distracted by it’s variety. We may see highly probable
reasons why our all wise Creator has so constituted us, that we are more
deeply affected by one single tale of misery, with all the details of
which we are acquainted, than by the greatest accumulation of sufferings
of which the particulars have not fallen under our notice. Could I but
separate this immense aggregate into all its component parts, and
present them one by one to your view, in all their particularity of
wretchedness, you would then have a more just impression of the
immensity of the misery which we wish to terminate. This cannot now be
done; but let us, in concluding our melancholy course, employ a few
moments in taking some family, or some individual Negro, and following
him through all his successive stages of suffering, from his first
becoming the victim of some nightly attack on his dwelling, or from his
being sentenced to slavery for the benefit of those who condemned him,
to the final close of his wretched life. I will not attempt to describe
his sufferings; estimate from your own feelings what must be his, in all
the various situations through which he passes.

Conceive, if you can, the agony with which, as he is hurried away by his
unfeeling captors, he looks back upon the native village which contains
his wife and children who are left behind; or, supposing them to have
been carried off also, with which he sees their sufferings, and looks
forward to the dreadful future; while his own anguish is augmented by
witnessing theirs. Accompany him through his long and painful march to
the coast; behold him, when the powers of nature are almost exhausted by
fatigue and affliction, urged forward like a brute by the lash, or, with
still more bitterness of suffering, seeing the fainting powers of his
wretched wife or daughter roused into fresh exertions by the same savage
discipline.[56] Behold him next brought on shipboard and delivered over
to men, whose colour, appearance, language, are all strange to him,
while every object around must excite terror. If his wretched family
have not been brought away with him, he is tormented by the
consciousness that they are left destitute and unprotected, and that his
eyes will see them no more. If his wife and daughter have been carried
off with him, he sees them dragged away to another part of the ship,
while he is debarred from their society, and often even from the sight
of them; what must be his anguish, from being conscious not only that
they are suffering many of the same evils as himself, but still more,
from knowing that they are exposed to all those brutalities, the idea of
which must be most cutting to a husband or a father; while his misery
becomes more intense, from the consciousness that they are close to him,
though he cannot alleviate their misery, or protect their weakness.

See our wretched family or individual arriving at the destined port, and
then call to mind the abominations of the sale of a negro cargo. See the
wretched individual or family exposed naked like brutes, and the same
methods taken as with their fellow brutes, to ascertain whether or not
their limbs and members are perfect. See them forced to jump or dance,
to prove their agility; or, still more affecting, see them afraid, each
lest the other only should be bought by some particular purchaser, and
therefore displaying their agility, while their hearts are wrung with
anguish, in order to induce the buyer to take them both. Perhaps the
different branches of the family may be bought by different owners; they
may probably be taken to different islands, and the poor hope of wearing
away together the wretched remainder of their lives is disappointed; or,
if they are purchased together, see them taken home to the estate, and
entering upon their course of laborious and bitter degradation; while,
looking forward to the future, not a single ray of hope breaks in to
cheer the prospect, no hope of any alleviation of drudgery or
degradation for them or for their children, for ever! Suppose our
wretched Slave at length reduced to the level of his condition, and,
either with his own family or with a new one, suppose him to have his
hard lot in some little measure mitigated by a very slight taste of
domestic and social comforts. It might well be thought, that, except for
the hardships and sufferings inseparable from such a state of slavery,
where even the necessaries of life must depend on an owner’s affluence,
in a country where we know that an immense majority are extremely
embarrassed in their affairs—the bitterness of death would be now past;
but a negro Slave does not die so easily; again probably, possibly again
and again, he is to be subjected to the brutalities of a sale, and to
the pains of separation from all that are most dear to him.[57] He is
taken perhaps to form a new settlement, and forced to the severe labour
of clearing land, in a pestilential soil and climate, without any of
those little accommodations which ingenious and industrious poverty
might in a course of years have collected around him, in his old
habitation. This, however, if a severe is still a short suffering, from
which death soon releases him, and is far preferable to the sad fate of
those, who linger out the tedious remainder of life, separated from all
who have known them in their better days, and without any of those
kindly props to lean upon, which the merciful ordainer of all things has
provided, for sustaining the weakness, and mitigating the sorrows of
age. To look around, and to see not a single face of friendship or
relationship, no eye to cheer, no staff to lean upon; surely the
comfortless close of such a Negro’s comfortless life, though not of
equal intensity of suffering with many of the evils of the former scenes
through which he has passed, is yet, from the deep tinge and uniform
melancholy of its colouring, as affecting a state, to the humane mind,
as any whatever in a life abounding in all the varieties of human

[Sidenote: Conclusion.]

Such from first to last is the condition of human existence, to which
that abhorred traffic the Slave Trade annually consigns many thousands
of our unoffending fellow creatures. This is a most astonishing
phenomenon, when we consider the general character of the people of this
country; when we call to mind the unparalleled benevolence and
liberality which are found among us; when we take into account, that not
a new species of distress can be pointed out, but that almost
immediately some meeting takes place, some society is formed, for
preventing it. Is it not utterly astonishing, that Great Britain should
have been the prime agents in carrying on this trade of blood? Posterity
will scarcely believe it. We, the happiest, render the Africans the most
miserable of mankind!

It is a humiliating and an aweful, but, I fear, it is an undoubted
truth; that it is in part, at least, because we ourselves overflow with
comforts, that we are so indifferent to the happiness of this vast
portion of our fellow creatures. It is, in our corrupted nature, too
naturally the effect of prosperity to harden the heart. Yet I firmly
believe, that could many of our opponents see with their own eyes but a
slight sample of the miseries the Slave Trade occasions, they would
themselves be eager for its termination. But, alas, Africa and its
miseries are out of sight. Business, pleasure, engagements, the
interests and feelings of the hour, leave little time for reflection,
and therefore little access to the feelings. Sympathy here likewise
operates against us. For we are readily led to sympathize with a great
West Indian Proprietor; but not with a miserable negro Slave. Yet, let
me ask (in this happy country the case cannot really happen), what
should we think of any man, who, for some even considerable and clear,
much more for any dubious interest, was to make a single family as
miserable as the Slave Trade renders thousands of families every year?
If he were to keep them month after month and year after year in
continual alarm, from the apprehension of some nightly attack; if at
length the apprehension were to be realized, the attack to be made, and
the wretched beings, flying from the flames, were to be seized and
carried off into slavery; if he were thus to tear a father or mother
from their children, or to seize unawares and hurry away some helpless
children from their parents; What would be his remorse, if he had even
innocently been the occasion of rendering a before happy family the
scene of lasting sorrow and misery? What should we think of any man, who
would not be forward to dry the tears of such a family, and restore
them, if possible, to comfort, or who would not willingly expose himself
to danger, in order to prevent their suffering such a miserable fate.
Let every one then remember, that, by giving his vote for the abolition
of the Slave Trade, he will prevent the perpetration of innumerable
crimes, like the worst of those here mentioned, and the suffering of the
bitterest of these miseries. How few, if one single man could be found,
who would support the Slave Trade, were it but possible to bring before
each individual, of the whole number of those who may vote for it’s
continuance, his own specific share of the whole mass of crimes and
miseries. The exact amount, either way, will one day be known!

Forgive me if I seem still to linger; if I appear unwilling to conclude.
When I call to mind the number and the magnitude of the interests which
are at stake, I know not how to desist, while any fresh argument remains
to be used, while any consideration not as yet suggested occurs to me,
by which I may enforce my intercession in behalf of the most injured of
the human race. But though the mind be naturally led to the Africans, as
the greatest sufferers, yet, unless the Scripture be a forgery, it is
not their cause only that I am pleading, but the cause of my Country.
Yet let me not here be misconceived. It is not that I expect any visible
and supernatural effects of the Divine vengeance; though, not to listen
with seriousness to the accounts which have been brought us of late
years from the western hemisphere, as to a probable intimation of the
Divine displeasure, would be to resolve to shut our ears against the
warning voice of Providence. To mention no other particulars, a disease
new in it’s kind, and almost without example destructive in its ravages,
has been for some time raging in those very colonies which are the chief
supporters of the traffic in human beings; a disease concerning which we
scarcely know any thing, but that it does not affect the Negro race, and
that we first heard of it after the horrors of the Slave Trade had been
completely developed in the House of Commons, but developed in vain.

But it is often rather in the way of a gradual decline, than of violent
and sudden shocks, that national crimes are punished. I must frankly
therefore confess to you, that in the case of my Country’s prosperity or
decline, my hopes and fears are not the sport of every passing rumour;
nor do they rise or fall materially, according to the successive reports
we may receive of the defeats or victories of Bonaparte. This
consideration opens the view into a wide field, and I must abstain from
so much as setting my foot on it. I will only remark, that a country
circumstanced in all respects like this, under an auspicious Providence,
and using our various resources with energy and wisdom, has no cause
whatever for despondency. But he who has looked with any care into the
page of history, will acknowledge, that when nations are prepared for
their fall, human instruments will not be wanting to effect it; and,
left man, vain man, so apt to overrate the powers and achievements of
human agents, should ascribe the subjugation of the Romans to the
consummate policy and powers of a Julius Cæsar, their slavery shall be
completed by the unwarlike Augustus, and shall remain entire under the
hateful tyranny of Tiberius, and throughout all the varieties of their
successive masters. Thus it is, that, most commonly by the operation of
natural causes, and in the way of natural consequences, Providence
governs the world. But if we are not blind to the course of human
events, as well as utterly deaf to the plain instructions of Revelation,
we must believe that a continued course of wickedness, oppression, and
cruelty, obstinately maintained in spite of the fullest knowledge and
the loudest warnings, must infallibly bring down upon us the heaviest
judgments of the Almighty. We may ascribe our fall to weak councils, or
unskilful generals; to a factious and over-burthened people; to storms
which waste our fleets, to diseases which thin our armies; to mutiny
among our soldiers and sailors, which may even turn against us our own
force; to the diminution of our revenues and the excessive increase of
our debt: men may complain on one side of a venal ministry, on the other
of a factious opposition; while amid mutual recriminations, the nation
is gradually verging to it’s fate. Providence will easily provide means
for the accomplishment of it’s own purposes. It cannot be denied, that
there are circumstances in the situation of this Country, which,
reasoning from experience, we must call marks of a declining empire; but
we have, as I firmly believe, the means within ourselves of arresting
the progress of this decline. We have been eminently blessed; we have
been long spared; Let us not presume too far on the forbearance of the

  Jan. 28th, 1807.

  Printed by Luke Hansard & Sons,
    near Lincoln’s Inn Fields




_From Travels of the Sieur d’ Elbée, sent by the French W. I. Company to
Ardrah, in 1670.—Astley’s Voyages, vol. iii._

[Sidenote: Depredatory Acts occasioned by the Slave Trade.]

Though the king has a great number of wives, yet but one has the title
of queen; who is she that bears him the first son. Her authority over
the rest, whom she treats rather as her servants, than as her
companions, is so great, that she sometimes sells them for slaves,
without consulting the king, who is forced to wink at the matter. An
affair of this kind happened while the Sieur d’ Elbée traded here. The
queen, having been refused by the king some goods or jewels she had an
inclination for, ordered them up privately, and in exchange sent eight
of his wives to the factory, who were immediately stamped with the
Company’s mark, and sent on board.

These poor princesses had sunk under so severe a stroke, if the Sieur d’
Elbée had not shewn them some distinction, by treating them in a kind
manner; so he carried them in good health to Martinico.—(p. 72.)

_Extract from a Voyage to Congo, and other countries, in 1682, from
Astley’s Voyages, vol. iii. by Jerom Merolla, &c._

He, said he, was sure it was not the intention of the duke (the Duke of
York) that christians should be bought and sold as slaves; nor that such
as he (meaning the captain) should be allowed not only to trade, but to
rob and infest the shores wherever they came, in the same manner as
another English captain had done there the year before; who, as soon as
he had taken in all his lading, fell to wasting the country, and forced
away many of the natives into slavery, and killed many others whom he
could not get away.—(p. 174.)

_Bosman’s description of Guinea, about 1690 to 1700, in Astley’s
voyages, vol. iii._

Coto Coast.—Their trade is that of slaves, of which they are able
sometimes to deliver a good number, but never enough to load a ship.
These they chiefly steal from the inland country. But this commerce is
uncertain; in some years there are no slaves to be had, the Europeans
having no settlement here. (p. 2.)—Their most profitable trade is
stealing men inland, whom they sell to the Europeans.—(p. 3.)

The same author says, that the people of little Popo depend chiefly on
plunder, and the slave trade, in both which they exceed those of Coto;
for, being endowed with a much larger share of courage, they rob more
successfully; although to freight a ship with slaves, requires some
months attendance. In 1697, the author could get only three slaves here
in three days time, but they promised him two hundred in three days
more; which not caring to trust to he sailed to Whidah. There he learnt
that they had succeeded so well in their incursions, as to bring down
above two hundred; which, for want of other ships, they were obliged to
sell to the Portuguese.—(p. 4.)

Philips informs us that the Whidah blacks are constantly at war with the
Ardrah and Allampo men, the Quamboors and Achims. All the plunder is men
and women, to sell for slaves.—(p. 53.)

_Sieur Brüe’s (many years Director General of the French Senegal
Company, and who resided in Africa eleven years) Voyage to the Isles of
Bissas and Bissagos, on the Western Coast of Africa, in 1701;—from
Astley’s Voyages, Vol. ii._

The Sieur Brüe having received an assortment of goods by a fleet from
France, sent notice to the Damel, or king of Kayor, between the rivers
Senegal and Gambia, as he had promised, and wrote him word, that if he
had a sufficient number of slaves, he was ready to trade with him.—This
prince, as well as the other negro monarchs, have always a sure way of
supplying this deficiency, by selling their own subjects; for which they
seldom want pretensions, of some kind or other, to justify their rapine.
The Damel had recourse to this method: knowing the Sieur Brüe would give
him no credit, as he was already in the Company’s debt, he seized three
hundred of his own people, and sent word to the Sieur Brüe, that he had
slaves to deliver for his goods, if he would come to Rufisco, where he
waited to receive him.—(p. 29, 30.).

The Damel wishing for more goods than his slaves would purchase, the
Sieur Brüe proposed having a licence to take so many of his people; he
refused to consent, saying, it might occasion a disturbance amongst his
subjects; and so he was forced to want the goods he desired for that

The chief sometimes penetrated far into the country, always returning
well loaded with slaves and spoil.—(42.).

This is the negro manner of making war—it is a great chance if they come
to a pitched battle. Their campaigns are usually mutual incursions, to
plunder and carry off slaves, which they sell to the traders on the
coast.—(p. 42.)

The isle of Bassao is very populous, and would be much more so, if it
were not for the frequent incursions made by the Biafaras, Balantes, and
Bissagos negroes, who often infest the coasts.

The Europeans are far from desiring to act as peace-makers among them,
which would be contrary to their interest; since the greater the wars
are, the more slaves. These wars of theirs are never long; generally
speaking, they are incursions, or expeditions, of five or six days.—(p.

He then describes the mode of their warfare: When the emperor of Bassao
judges proper to invade his enemies, he sounds his bonbalon, and
immediately the officers of his troops repair with their soldiers,
armed, to the place directed; there they find the king’s canoe of war,
of which he has a fleet of twenty-nine or thirty. They put twenty men in
each canoe:—they embark them, full of hope, and order matters so as to
reach the enemy’s country by night. They land without noise; and if they
find any lone cottage without defence, they surround it; and after
forcing it, carry off all the inhabitants and effects to their boats,
and immediately reimbark.

If the villages be strong, they are not fond of attacking them, but
rather plant themselves in ambuscade on the ways to some river or
spring, and endeavour to surprise and carry off the natives. On the
least advantages of this kind gained, they return in as great a triumph
as if they had obtained a complete victory. The king has, for his duties
and the use of his fleet, the half of the booty. The rest is divided
among the captors. All these slaves in general are sold to the
Europeans, unless they be persons of some rank, whose friends can redeem
them, paying two slaves, or, five or six oxen.—(p. 98).

Of the Bissagoes he says: They are passionate lovers of brandy. Whenever
a ship brings any, they strive who shall be the first, and stick at
nothing to get it. The weaker becomes a prey to the stronger. They
forget the laws of nature; the father sells his children; and, if they
can seize their parents, they serve them in the same manner. Every thing
goes for brandy.”—(p. 104.)

_Barbot’s Travels, about 1700.—Astley, vol. ii._

Barbot, speaking of the blacks, says, rather than work they will rob and
murder on the highway, or carry off those of a neighbouring village, and
sell them for slaves.—(p. 255.)

They go farther yet; for some sell their own children, kindred, or
neighbours. This, Barbot tells us, has often happened. To compass it,
they desire the person they intend to sell, to help them in carrying
something to the factory, by the way of trade; and when there the person
so deluded, not understanding the language, is sold and delivered up as
a slave, notwithstanding all his resistance and exclaiming against the

Le Maire tells an odd story on this occasion, which Barbot says he heard
in Africa. A man, it seems, had formed a design of selling his son, who,
suspecting his intention, when they came to the factory, went aside to
the storehouse and sold his father. When the old man saw them about to
fetter him he cried out, he was his father; but the son denying it, the
bargain held good. The son met his desert, for, returning with his
merchandize, he met a negro chief, who stripped him of his ill-gotten
wealth, and sold him at the same market.

Abundance of little blacks, of both sexes, are also stolen away by their
neighbours, when found abroad on the roads, or in the woods, or else in
the lugaus, or corn-fields, where they are kept all day, to scare the
small birds that come in swarms to feed on the millet.—(p. 256.)

_Labat.—Astley’s Voyages. vol ii. p. 259._

The French have been forced sometimes to make use of violent means, when
they cannot get the princes to discharge these forced loans, by
pillaging some village, and making slaves of the inhabitants; after
which they have balanced accounts with his majesty, and paid for as many
as they had taken above their due. But these measures, says the author,
don’t always succeed; and even though one was sure of getting paid this
way, yet that it would be better not to make a practice of it, for fear
of drawing the resentment of the country upon a man, which, sooner or
later he would feel to his cost—(p. 258.)

_Le Maire’s Travels, about 1690.—Astley’s Voyages, vol. ii._

Sometimes the king of Senegal makes incursions on the weakest of his
neighbours, driving off their cattle, or making slaves of them, which he
sells for brandy. When his stock of this grows low, he locks it up in a
small chest, giving the key to one of his favorites, whom he dispatches,
perhaps thirty leagues off, and thus saves his liquor by putting it out
of his power to get at it. If he has no opportunity of exercising his
tyranny on his neighbours, he makes no scruple of living on his own
subjects, staying with his court, which consists of two hundred of those
who have learnt all the worst qualities of the whites, till he has eat
up the inhabitants; and, if they presume to complain, selling them for
slaves.—(p. 260.)

As long as the brandy bottle lasts the prince is drunk: no answer is to
be expected till all the liquor is out. When he grows sober, he gives
his audience of _congée_, presenting the factor with two or three
slaves, which he sends to have taken up in the nearest villages. Unhappy
are they who at that time fall into the hands of his guards, for they
stay to make no choice.—(p. 260, 261.)

_Travels (about 1730), of Francis Moore, Factor several years to the
Royal African Company of England._

The king of Barsalle, so soon as he has wasted what he has gotten,
either by taking an enemy’s town, _or one of his own_, he must look out
for some new prize to give it to his men.—Astley, ii. 261.

Rohone, where the king of Barsali commonly resides, stands near the sea,
about one hundred miles from Joar, which lies in the same kingdom. When
he wants goods or brandy, he sends a messenger to the governor of James
Fort, to desire he would send up a sloop with a cargo, which the
governor never fails to do. Against the time the vessel is arrived, the
king plunders some of his enemy’s towns, selling the people for such
goods as he wants, which commonly is brandy or rum, gunpowder, ball,
fire-arms, pistols, and cutlasses for his soldiers, and coral and silver
for his wives and mistresses. If he is at war with no neighbouring king,
he falls upon one of his own towns, and makes bold to sell his own
miserable subjects.

His usual way of living is, to sleep all day till sun-set, at which time
he gets up to drink, and goes to sleep again till midnight, when he
rises and eats; and if he has any strong liquors, will sit and drink
till day-light, and then eat and go to sleep again, When he is well
stocked with liquor, he will sit and drink for five or six days
together, and not eat one morsel of any thing in all that time. It is to
this insatiable thirst after brandy, that his subjects freedoms and
families are in so precarious a situation[58]; for he often goes with
some of his troops, by a town in the daytime, and returns in the night,
and sets fire to three parts of it, placing guards at the fourth, to
seize the people as they run out from the fire: he ties their arms
behind them, and marches them either to Joar or Rohone, where he sells
them.—(p. 261, 262.). The king furnishes the Europeans with slaves very
easily: he sends a troop of guards to some village, which they surround;
then seizing as many as they have orders for, they bind them up and send
them away to the ships, where, the ship mark being put upon them, they
are heard of no more.

They usually carry the infants in sacks, and gag the men and women, for
fear they should alarm the villages through which they are carried; for
these actions are never committed in the villages near the factories,
which it is the king’s interest not to ruin, but in those up the
country. It often happens, that some escape, and alarm the country,
which, taking arms, join the persons injured, and pursue the robbers. If
they catch them, they carry them before the king, who then denies his
commission, and sells them on the spot for slaves. What is further
remarkable, if any of the injured people appear as evidence still in
bonds before the king, they are also adjudged to be slaves, and sold as
such.[59]—(p. 268.).

_Voyage of Atkins to Guinea, about 1720. Astley, vol. ii._

_Panyaring_ is a term for manstealing, along the whole coast.—(p. 320.)

_Voyage of Smith, about 1727—employed under the African Company._

December 18, they sailed from Sierra Leona, and on the 25th anchored at
Gallinas; here lay the Queen Elizabeth, Captain Creighton, before
mentioned, who invited Capt. Livingstone to take a Christmas dinner with
him, and shewed him a letter from one Benjamin Cross (third mate of the
Expedition, Capt. Mettisse) who had been _panyarred_ by the natives of
Cape Monte, three months before, and detained there by way of reprisal
for some of their men carried off by an English trader. This villanous
custom is too often practised, chiefly by the Bristol and Liverpool
ships, and is a great detriment to the Slave Trade on the Windward
coast.[60]—(p. 475, 476.)

Mons. Brüe, (vol. iv.) relating a dispute he had with the Damel,
respecting his giving in English ship liberty to trade in his dominions,
on which M. Brüe seized and confiscated the vessel, says, “Most of the
Negroes on board, he found, were free fishermen of the coast, whom the
king had decoyed to Potadâlly, under the pretence of employing their
canoes to transport his troops to attack Goree; but as soon as by this
pretence he had assembled them, he sent them on board, and sold them as
Slaves. There was not the smallest appearance that the Damel had even
conceived so extravagant a project, says M. Brüe, but it was necessary
to form some scheme to entrap these men, and sell them.” Although the
injustice of the king in trepanning and selling them was notorious, it
mattered not; they were all sent to America, and sold as Slaves.—(p.

Labat mentions that a Captain of a French man of war, at the suggestion
of a French trader, (the Captain’s name was Montorsies, and the ship’s,
Lion, and Fond was the name of the trader) pillaged the Isle of Cazegat,
one of the Bissagos Islands. They landed 200 men without the smallest
resistance. The king, of the island, named Duquermaney, was surrounded
in his houses, and he chose to burn himself rather than fall into the
European hands; the natives fled to the woods and mountains, so that, of
about 3,000 inhabitants, they took only about a dozen. This unfortunate
enterprise, says our author, made M. Fond greatly fear, lest he should
lose all trade with these people: but he managed the matter so cleverly,
“_il se donna tant de mouvemens, et fit jouer tant de ressorts_,” says
Labat, that he made them believe he had no hand at all in the affair,
and assured them it was a parcel of ruffians, a set of pirates and
banditti, who had made this incursion, by which their king was lost, and
their country laid waste.

_Depredations—Effect of Slave Trade._

In old Calabar River are two towns, Old Town and New Town. A rivalship
in trade produced a jealousy between the towns; so that, through fear of
each other, for a considerable time no canoe would leave their towns to
go up the river for slaves. [Sidenote: Astley’s Voyages.] In 1767, seven
ships lay off the point which separates the towns; six of the captains
invited the people of both towns on board on a certain day, as if to
reconcile them; at the same time agreed with the people of New Town to
cut off the Old Town people who should remain on board the next morning.
The Old Town people, persuaded of the sincerity of the captains’
proposal, went on board in great numbers. Next morning, at eight
o’clock, one of the ships fired a gun, as the signal for commencing
hostilities. Some of the traders were secured on board, some were killed
in resisting, and some got overboard and were fired upon. When the
firing began, the New Town people, who were in ambush behind the Point,
came forward and picked up the people of Old Town, who were swimming,
and had escaped the firing. After the firing was over, the captains of
five of the ships delivered their prisoners (persons of consequence) to
the New Town canoes; two of whom were beheaded alongside the ships; the
inferior prisoners were carried to the West Indies. One of the captains,
who had secured three of the king’s brothers, delivered one of them to
the chief man of New Town, who was one of the two beheaded alongside;
the other brothers he kept on board, promising, when the ship was
slaved, to deliver them to the chief man of New Town. This ship was soon
slaved, from this promise, and the number of prisoners made that day;
but he refused to deliver the king’s two brothers, and carried them to
the West Indies, and sold them.

_Natural Disposition of the Africans, and Capacity for
Civilization.—Astley’s Voyages, vol. i._

James Welsh’s Voyage to Benin.—The people are very gentle, and

The inhabitants of Whidah are more polite and civilized than most people
in the world, not excepting the European. (vol. iii. p. 14.)

Marchais.—There are no people on earth, says that author, more tender of
their offspring, or that shew more parental affection.—(p. 20.)

Nyendael.—Kingdom of Benin. The inhabitants are generally good-natured
and civil, and may be brought to any thing by fair and soft means. If
you make them presents, they will recompense them doubly. If you want
any thing of them, and ask it, they seldom deny it, even though they had
occasion for it themselves: but to treat them harshly, or to think to
gain any thing of them by force, is to dispute with the moon.

Artus says, that the people of Benin are a sincere, inoffensive people,
and do no injustice either to one another, or strangers.—(p. 95.)

Although some of them be surly and proud, yet in general they carry
themselves very friendly towards strangers; being of a mild
conversation, courteous, affable, and easy to be overcome with reason,
yet inclined to drink, especially Spanish wine and brandy. In
conversation, they discover great quickness of parts and understanding,
delivering themselves with so much sense and humour, that the most
knowing persons take delight in hearing them.—(p. 247.)

The Negroes at Whidah are so industrious, that no spot of land, except
what is naturally barren, escapes planting, though even within the
inclosures of their villages and houses.—(p. 8.)

The soil is so fruitful, that as soon as one harvest is over, the ground
is sowed with some other grain, so that they have two or three crops in
a year. (p. 8.)

Captain Stibbs, about 1724.—The Foleys are a cleanly, decent,
industrious people, very affable.—(p. 199.)

Moore’s Travels.—Their form of government goes on easily, because the
people are of a quiet, good disposition, and so well instructed in what
is just and right, that a man who does ill is the abomination of all.
Their humanity extends to all, but they are doubly kind to their own
race; so that if one of them be made a Slave, all the Fûli will join to
redeem him. And as they have plenty of food, they never suffer any of
their own nation to want, but support the old, the blind, and the lame;
and, as far as their ability goes, supply the wants of the Mandingoes,
great numbers of whom they have maintained in famines. They rarely are
angry; yet this mildness does not proceed from want of courage, for they
are as brave a people as any in Africa.

Winterbottom’s Travels, about 1796, &c. &c.—The Foolas impart to leather
a red colour, equal to that of morocco in beauty; and by steeping it,
they obtain a beautiful shining black. Another class of men are equally
celebrated as blacksmiths; besides making every kind of necessary
utensil, they inlay the handles, and chase the blades of swords, &c.
with great neatness, and they make a variety of elegant fancy ornaments
for the women, out of pieces of gold and silver dollars. A considerable
degree of ingenuity in the arts with which they are acquainted must be
allowed to all these nations, and is evident in the construction of
their houses, and the formation of a variety of domestic and
agricultural utensils. With the rudest instruments, they form canoes
from a single tree, capable of carrying eight or ten tons; their mats
shew much neatness and ingenuity, &c. &c.—(p. 91, 92.)

They have various substitutes for hemp and flax, of which they make
fishing-lines and nets, equal in strength and durability to those of
Europeans.—(p. 93.)

They make earthen pots fit for every domestic use. (p. 94.)

I have been often gratified by observing the strength and tenderness of
the attachment subsisting between mothers and sons.—(p. 152.)

It is my earnest wish to divest myself of partiality, and neither to
“extenuate or set down aught in malice.” They (the Africans) are in
general of mild external manners; but they possess a great share of
pride, and are easily affected by an insult; they cannot hear even a
harsh expression, or a raised tone of voice, without shewing that they
feel it. As a proof that they are not deficient in natural affection,
one of the severest insults which can be offered to an African, is to
speak disrespectfully of his mother. (p. 211.) The respect which they
pay to old people is very great.—(p. 211.)

The hospitality of the Africans has been noticed by almost every
traveller.—(p. 213.)

I have ever met with a welcome and hospitable reception on arriving at
their villages; mats have been brought out for myself and friends to
repose on; and if it happened to be meal time, we have been at liberty
to join them without ceremony, or to wait till something better could be
provided. If we intended to spend the night there, a house has been set
apart for us; and, on taking leave in the morning, a guide has generally
offered to shew us on our way.—(p. 213.)

As soon as a stranger is observed, all the inhabitants quit their
occupations, and hasten to shake him by the hand, repeating several
times the word “Senno,” welcome. Even the children who can barely lisp a
welcome, when a little custom has diminished the dread attending a white
face, are eager to discharge this duty of hospitality, and with a smile
hold out their little hands, and seem delighted if he deigns to notice
them.—(p. 214.)

Smith’s Guinea, about 1730.—These Negroes seem to be very industrious,
for they all go clad with their own manufactures.—(p. 104.)

The natives of Axim industriously employ themselves either in trade,
fishing, or agriculture. (p. 115.)

Whydah.—Before the king of Dahomey conquered this place, the natives
were so industrious, that no place which was thought fertile could
escape being planted.—(p. 199.)

The discerning natives account it their greatest unhappiness that they
were ever visited by Europeans. They say that we Christians introduced
the traffic of Slaves, and that before our coming, they lived in peace.
But say they, it is observable, that wherever Christianity comes there
come, with it a sword, a gun, powder and ball. (p. 266.)

_Africans natural Qualities, and Capacity for Civilization—Commercial
Intercourse practicable.—Astley’s Voyages, vol. iii._

Bosman.—Whidah.—All who have seen it allow it to be one of the most
delightful countries of the world.

The number and variety of tall, beautiful, shady trees; the verdant
fields, every where cultivated, and only divided by those groves, or in
some places by a small footpath; together with the innumerable little
agreeable villages.

The farther you go from it (the ocean) the more beautiful and populous
you find the country; so that it resembles the Elysian fields.

There is also a weekly market in the province of Aplogua, which is so
resorted to, that there are usually five or six thousand merchants.—(p.

Ogilby.—Kingdom of Loango.—There are many handicrafts among them, as
weavers, smiths, cap-makers, bead-makers, potters, carpenters, vintners,
fishermen, canoe-makers, besides merchants and other traders, (p. 221.)

There are whole mountains of porphyry, jasper, and marble, of divers
colours, which in Rome are called marbles of Numidia, Africa, and
Ethiopia; certain pillars whereof may be seen in the palace of Pope
Gregory. (p. 299.)

_Natural Qualities and Disposition of Africans._

Capt. Wilson, of the Royal Navy (in Africa about 1783–4) fully believes
Africans to be equal to Europeans in capacity. They have various
manufactures, chiefly for home consumption. They make cotton cloths
beautifully fine, under every want of machinery: also very curious
ornaments of gold, and weapons and tools of iron, which their experience
makes them prefer to those sent from hence, which are made for them.

The Africans are most grateful and affectionate: they treated him most
kindly, when many miles up their country, and unprotected; and numbers
shed tears on his departure.

Mr. Wadstrom (in Africa, about 1787–8.) thinks the Africans very honest
and hospitable; was treated by them with all civility and kindness. Is
clearly convinced that the Negroes surpass such Europeans as he has
known, in affection. Has been surprised at their industry in
manufacturing cotton, indigo, iron, soap, wood, pottery, leather, and
other articles. They work gold so well, that witness never saw better
wrought trinkets and ornaments in Europe. They manufacture cloth and
leather with uncommon neatness. The latter they tan and work into
saddles, sandals, and a variety of useful and ornamental articles. They
forge iron very dexterously on anvils of a remarkably hard and heavy
wood, when they cannot get stone for the purpose.

The Negroes are particularly skilful in manufacturing iron and gold.
They are equal to any European goldsmith in fillagree, and even other
articles, as buckles, except the chafes, tongues, and anchors.

The Rev. John Newton:—Made five voyages to Africa, the last in 1754, as
master of a slave ship. Lived ashore about a year and a half, chiefly at
the island of Plantanes, at the mouth of the river Sherbro.

Always judged, that, with equal advantage, the natives capacities would
be equal to ours. Has known many of real and decided capacity.

The best people he met with were on the R. Gaboon, and at C. Lopas.
These had then the least intercourse with Europe. Believes they had then
no Slave Trade, and has heard them speak against it. They traded in
ivory and wax. One great man said, “if I was to be angry, and sell my
boy, how should I get my boy back when my anger was gone?”

They are generally worse in their conduct in proportion to their
acquaintance with us.

Capt. Sir George Young, Royal Navy; in Africa from 1768 to 1792.—Many
Negroes he met with seemed to possess as strong natural sense as any set
of people whatever; their temper appeared to be very good-natured and
civil, unless where they suspected some injury; are, however, naturally
vindictive, and revenge the injury done.

Henry Hew Dalrymple, Esq.; in Africa 1779.—As far as he could judge, in
natural capacity, the Negroes are equal to any people whatever; and in
temper and disposition they appeared to be humane, hospitable, and well

James Towne; about 1760, Carpenter of his Majesty’s ship Syren.—The
natives are hospitable and kind, and capable of learning quicker than
white men. They differ as our own people in character; those on the
coast learn to be roguish; inland, they are innocent. The intercourse
with Europeans has improved them in roguery, to plunder and steal, and
pick up one another to sell.

_African Commercial Tendencies._

Mr. Wadstrom.—The Africans have an extraordinary genius for commerce and
industry. The Slave Trade makes it dangerous for the Negroes to pass
from one part of their country to another, and is the chief hindrance to
the improvement of their cultivation, since they never venture into the
fields, unless very well armed.

The Negroes are particularly skilful in manufacturing iron and gold;
they are equal to any European goldsmith in fillagree, and even other
articles, as buckles, except the chapes, tongues, and anchors.

Captain Sir George Young, Royal Navy.—He verily believes that the
natives would cultivate the soil for natural productions, provided they
had no other means of obtaining European commodities. He recollects some
circumstances in proof of their industry. A number of people from the
Bulam shore came over to Sierra Leone, and offered their services to
work at a very low price; he accepted of a few (who worked very well)
and might have had thousands of the same description. Further is of
opinion, from observation, that Africa is capable of producing every
thing of the East and West Indies, in equal perfection, with equal

Is of opinion, that, by shewing the natives of Africa how to cultivate
the land, a greater quantity of shipping and seamen would be called for
in the commerce, for the natural productions of that country, without
any greater inconvenience, in point of health to the seamen, than in the
present West Indian trade.

Anthony Pantaleo How, Esq.; in Africa about 1785.—Saw no European
commodities in the interior parts; is sure no European spirits were to
be had there. The inhabitants there remarkably industrious, also
hospitable and obliging. A village of several hundred houses on the Lake
of Appolonia, whence in the rainy season they supply the sea coast with
vegetables, grain, palm wine, &c. Thinks they have but little capacity
in regard to manufactures, but quick in learning languages.

Has no doubt but spices in general, and all other tropical productions,
might be cultivated with success there. The soil and climate adapted to
produce the sandal wood. Has seen indigo at Apollonia in its raw state,
and also manufactured, but not manufacturing; also cotton growing in
great abundance; but knows not that any or either of these two articles
were exported.

Cinnamon plants at St. Thomas, at the sea-side, about twenty feet high;
from what he heard, grew inland to a higher size; those on the sea-side
he considered only as shrubs. He saw a number of them, and, from the
appearance of the bark brought down, concludes there must be a great
quantity inland.

Henry Hew Dalrymple, Esq.; in Africa about 1779.—They manufacture cotton
cloths, almost equal in the workmanship to those of Europe; they work in
gold, silver, and iron remarkably neat, also in wood, and make saddles,
bow-cases, scabbards, [Sidenote: Golberey.] grisgris, and other things
of leather, with great neatness.

Richard Storey; in Africa, about 1766 to 1770.—He looks upon the natives
of the Windward coast to be in general a hospitable, friendly people,
always willing to sell what they have, and also to give the best
provisions the country affords. The men in general are very active and
industrious, and chiefly employed in fishing, and trade with the
Europeans; the women chiefly in cultivating rice and other vegetables.

Has every reason to believe, that if there was nobody to purchase
Slaves, they would turn themselves to cultivate their ground, and raise
rice, &c. to purchase European goods. The quality of African rice is far
superior to that of Carolina, bearing one-fourth more water.

Mr. James Kiernan; in Africa from 1775 to 1780; knows the Negroes
manufacture cotton, leather, and metals, for they supply Senegal with
cloathing, articles of leather, and ornaments of gold and silver; they
die some of their cottons very finely, blues and scarlets; believes
their consumption of cotton cloths is very considerable.

_Africans’ Natural Dispositions—Golberey’s Travels, about 1786._

The Foulhas of the banks of the Senegal are intelligent and industrious;
but, by their habitual commerce with the Moors of Zahara, they have
become savage and cruel, and our convoys from Galam have more than once
experienced their perfidy.

The Mandings are likewise dispersed over the western countries; they are
well-informed, graceful, and active, and in their mercantile character,
they are as clever as they are indefatigable.

The Jalofs are the finest Negroes of this part of Africa; they are tall,
and well made; their features are regular, their physiognomy is open,
and inspires confidence; they are honest, hospitable, generous, and
faithful; their character is mild, they are inclined to good order and
civilization, and possess an evident disposition for benevolent actions.

Vol. ii. page 40. At Senegal I was treated with a cordiality, frankness,
and generosity, which will never be obliterated from my memory.

Page 93. Their character is in general, honest and sincere; hospitality
is a natural virtue among them.

Page 141. Ali Sonko had governed the kingdom of Barra for seven years,
with all the ability, wisdom, and prudence, of an enlightened European;
his physiognomy was regular and agreeable, and there was seen in him
that wisdom and experience which generally distinguish the Manding
nation. His estimable character was replete with benevolence and energy;
all his actions were regulated by wisdom, and every trait in this prince
announced him to be a man of a superior kind.

Page 146. Mandings are very active, intelligent, and cunning, in
commercial affairs; notwithstanding which, their general character is
very hospitable, sociable, and benevolent; their women are also very
lively, spirited, good, and agreeable.

Page 306. The Negroes have both taste and ingenuity.

Page 309. The women are always kind; attentive, and complaisant.

Page 313. The Negro race is perhaps the most prolific of all the human
species that exist on our globe. Their infancy and youth are singularly
happy; the mothers are passionately fond of their children.

Page 314. It ought to be understood, that in the general situation of
the Negroes, on their native soil, their life passes without labour,
chagrin, or even care.

Page 315. The passing almost the whole of the human life in a nearly
equal and permanent state of health, is owing to the moderation the
Negroes in general observe in their habits, regimen, and pleasures.

Page 326. These Negroes, whom we call Savages, respect the ashes of
their relations, friends, and chiefs.

Page 336. It cannot be denied that the Negroes are extremely clever.

Page 346. Among the Negroes are to be found virtuous and sensible men,
who, as well as those of the best education and information in Europe,
are susceptible of attachment, respect, delicate conduct, and a noble

Page 348. These examples of delicacy and friendship are not by any means
rare in Africa.

Page 382. Hospitality is in Africa a general virtue, and misers are
unknown in the country.

Page 412. All that I have said of the Negroes tends to prove that they
are in general good men, naturally gentle and benevolent.

Page 413. The Moors are perfidious, cruel, capable of all crimes, and
are addicted to every vice; but the Negroes have many naturally good
qualities, and their general character does honour to human nature.

The picture I have given of the situation of the Blacks, and of the
peaceable, careless, and simple life of these favourites of Nature, is
by no means exaggerated.

_State of Slaves on Shipboard._

They often disagree in the night about their sleeping-places; the men
linked together often fight, when one wants perhaps to obey the calls of
nature, and the other is unwilling to go with him.

They often refused to eat, especially beans, when they were corrected
with a cat-o’-nine-tails. He has known their refusal to eat attributed
to sullenness, when owing to sickness; particularly one man, who was
corrected moderately for not eating, and was found dead next morning.
They were made after meals to jump, on beating a drum; this is called
dancing; when they refused, they were compelled by the cat.

It is very common for the Slaves to refuse sustenance; with such, gentle
means are used; but if without success; the cat is generally applied.

An instance on board induced him to believe they were as affectionate as
most other people. Bouny, one of the higher class, was brought on board;
he seemed to take his situation to heart, and got ill, but, from
indulgencies which none of the rest had, he partly recovered. When he
was convalescent, a young woman was also brought on board, who proved to
be his sister. At their first meeting, they stood in silence, and looked
at each other, apparently with the greatest affection; they rushed into
each others arms, embraced, separated themselves again, and again
embraced: the witness perceived the tears to run down the female’s

They are made to jump in their irons; this is called dancing by Slave
dealers. While a surgeon in a Slave ship, has been often desired, in
every ship, to flog such as would not jump: he had generally a cat in
his hand among the women.

_Africans Natural Dispositions, and Capacity for Civilization.—Parke’s

[Sidenote: Parke.]

Jillifree is much resorted to by Europeans, on account of the great
quantities of bees wax which are brought hither for sale: the wax is
collected in the woods by the Feloops, a wild and unsociable race of
people; their country, which is of considerable extent, abounds in rice;
and the natives supply the traders, both on the Gambia and Cassamansa
rivers, with that article, and also with goats and poultry, on very
reasonable terms.—(P. 4.)

The usual beast of burthen in all the Negro territories is the ass.—(p.

Their fierce and unrelenting disposition is, however, counterbalanced by
many good qualities; they display the utmost gratitude and affection
towards their benefactors; and the fidelity with which they preserve
whatever is entrusted to them is remarkable. During the present war they
have more than once taken up arms to defend our merchant vessels from
French privateers; and English property, of considerable value, has
frequently been left at Vintain, for a long time, entirely under the
care of the Feloops, who have uniformly manifested on such occasions the
strictest honesty and punctuality.—(p. 16.)

The government in all the Mandingo States, near the Gambia, is
monarchical. The power of the sovereign is, however, by no means
unlimited. In all affairs of importance; the king calls an assembly of
the principal men, or elders, by whose councils he is directed.—(p. 19.)

In every considerable town there is a chief magistrate, called the
Alcaid, whose office is hereditary, and whose business it is to preserve
order, to levy duties on travellers, and to preside at all conferences
in the exercise of local jurisdiction and the administration of justice.
These courts are composed of the elders of the town (of free condition)
and are termed Palavers; and their proceedings are conducted in the open
air, with sufficient solemnity. Both sides of a question are freely
canvassed, witnesses are publicly examined, and the decisions which
follow generally meet with the approbation of the surrounding audience,
(p. 19.)

Professional advocates, or expounders of the law, who are allowed to
appear, and to plead for plaintiff or defendant, much in the same manner
as in the law courts of Great Britain.—(p. 20.)

The Mandingoes, generally speaking, are of a mild, sociable, and
obliging disposition.—(p. 21.)

The Negroes do not go to supper till late, and, in order to amuse
themselves while our beef was preparing, a Mandingo was desired to
relate some diverting stories; in listening to which, and smoking
tobacco, we spent three hours. These stories bear some resemblance to
those in the Arabian Night’s Entertainments; but, in general, are of a
more ludicrous cast—(p. 31.)

It is worthy of remark, that an African will sooner forgive a blow, than
a term of reproach applied to his ancestors: “Strike me, but do not
curse my mother!” is a common expression among the Slaves.—(p. 47.)

We were amused by an itinerant singing-man, who told a number of
diverting stories, and played some sweet airs. These are a sort of
travelling bards and musicians, who sing extempore songs in praise of
those who employ them.—(p. 48.)

The industry of the Foulahs, in the occupations of pasturage and
agriculture, is every where remarkable.—(p. 61.)

In Bondou they are opulent in a high degree, and enjoy all the
necessaries of life in the greatest profusion. They display great skill
in the management of their cattle, making them extremely gentle by
kindness and familiarity.—(p. 61.)

“At two o’clock we came in sight of Jumbo, the Blacksmith’s native town,
from whence he had been absent more than four years. Soon after this his
brother, who had by some means been apprized of his coming, came out to
meet him, accompanied by a singing-man; he brought a horse for the
Blacksmith, that he might enter his native town in a dignified manner;
and he desired each of us to put a good charge of powder into our guns.
The singing-man now led the way, followed by the two brothers; and we
were presently joined by a number of people from the town, all of whom
demonstrated great joy at seeing their old acquaintance the Blacksmith,
by the most extravagant jumping and singing. On entering the town the
singing man began an extempore song in praise of the Blacksmith,
extolling his courage in having overcome so many difficulties, and
concluding with a strict injunction to his friends to dress him plenty
of victuals.—(p. 81.)

“When we arrived at the Blacksmith’s place of residence, we dismounted,
and fired our muskets. The meeting between him and his relations was
very tender; for these rude children of nature, free from restraint,
display their emotions in the strongest and most expressive manner. Amid
these transports, the Blacksmith’s aged mother was led forth leaning
upon a staff. _Every one made way for her_; and she stretched forth her
hand to bid her son welcome. Being totally blind, she stroked his hands,
arms, and face, with great care, and seemed highly delighted that her
latter days were blessed by his return, and that her ears once more
heard the music of his voice. From this interview, I was fully
convinced, that whatever difference there is between the Negro and
European, in the conformation of the nose, and the colour of the skin,
there is none in the genuine sympathies and characteristic feelings of
our common nature.”—(p. 81.)

“With these worthy people I spent the remainder of that and the whole of
the ensuing day in feasting and merriment.”—(p. 83.)

“I had a most enchanting prospect of the country. The number of towns
and villages, and the extensive cultivation around them, surpassed every
thing I had ever seen in Africa.”—(p. 88.)

“Feb. 4th. We departed from Loomoo, and continued our route along the
banks of the Krieks, which are every where well cultivated, and swarm
with inhabitants.”—(p. 89.)

“I lodged at the house of a Negro who practised the art of making
gunpowder. He shewed me a bag of nitre, very white, but the crystals
were much smaller than common, They procure it in considerable
quantities from the ponds, which are filled in the rainy season.”—(p.

“The Moors supply them with sulphur from the Mediterranean; and the
process is completed by pounding the different articles together in a
wooden mortar.—(p. 117.)

“Their sabres, as well as their fire-arms and ammunition, they purchase
from the Europeans, in exchange for the Negro Slaves, which they obtain
in their predatory excursions.”—(p. 150.)

“Cultivation is carried on here on a very extensive scale; and, as the
natives themselves express it, hunger is never known.”—(p. 187.)

“From the best inquiries I could make, I have reason to believe that
Lego contains altogether about thirty thousand inhabitants.”—“The view
of this extensive city, the numerous canoes upon the river, the crowded
population, and the cultivated state of the surrounding country, formed
altogether a prospect of civilization and magnificence, which I little
expected to find in the bosom of Africa.”—(p. 195 & 196.)

“I was regarded with astonishment and fear, and was obliged to sit all
day without victuals, in the shade of a tree, and the night threatened
to be very uncomfortable, for the wind rose, and there was great
appearance of a heavy rain; and the wild beasts are so very numerous in
the neighbourhood, that I should have been under the necessity of
climbing up the tree, and resting among the branches. About sun-set,
however, as I was preparing to pass the night in this manner, and had
turned my horse loose that he might graze at liberty, a woman, returning
from the labours of the field, stopped to observe me, and perceiving
that I was weary and dejected, inquired into my situation, which I
briefly explained to her; whereupon, with looks of great compassion, she
took up my saddle and bridle, and told me to follow her. Having
conducted me into her hut, she lighted up a lamp, spread a mat on the
floor, and told me I might remain there for the night. Finding that I
was very hungry, she said she would procure me something to eat; she
accordingly went out, and returned in a short time with a very fine
fish, which, having caused to be half broiled upon some embers, she gave
me for supper. The rites of hospitality being thus performed towards a
stranger in distress, my worthy benefactress (pointing to the mat, and
telling me I might sleep there without apprehension), called to the
female part of her family, who had stood gazing on me all the while in
fixed astonishment, to resume their task of spinning cotton; in which
they continued to employ themselves great part of the night. They
lightened their labour by songs, one of which was composed extempore,
for I was myself the subject of it; it was sung by one of the young
women, the rest joining in a sort of chorus. The air was sweet and
plaintive, and the words, literally translated, were these:—“The winds
roared, and the rains fell—The poor white man, faint and weary, came and
sat under our tree—He has no mother to bring him milk, no wife to grind
his corn.” Chorus: “Let us pity the white man; no mother has he,” &c.
&c.—Trifling as this recital may appear to the reader, to a person in my
situation the circumstance was affecting in the highest degree. I was
oppressed by such unexpected kindness, and sleep fell from my eyes. In
the morning I presented my compassionate landlady with two of the four
brass buttons which remained on my waistcoat, the only recompence I
could make her.” (pp. 197–198.)

“About eight o’clock we passed a large town called Kabba, situated in
the midst of a beautiful and highly cultivated country, bearing a
greater resemblance to the centre of England, than to what I should have
supposed had been the middle of Africa.”—(p. 202).

“We passed, in the course of the day, a great many villages, inhabited
chiefly by fishermen; and in the evening, about five o’clock, arrived at
Sansanding, a very large town, containing, as I was told, from eight to
ten thousand inhabitants.”—(p. 203.)

“We accordingly rode along between the town and the river, passing by a
creek or harbour, in which I observed twenty large canoes, most of them
fully loaded, and covered with mats, to prevent the rain from injuring
the goods.

“He shewed me some gunpowder of his own manufacturing.”—(p. 206.)

“About fifteen years ago, when the present king of Bambarra’s father
desolated Maniana, the dooty of Sai had two sons slain in battle,
fighting in the king’s cause. He had a third son living; and when the
king demanded a further reinforcement of men, and this youth among the
rest, the dooty refused to send him. This conduct so enraged the king,
that when he returned from Maniana, about the beginning of the rainy
season, and found the dooty protected by the inhabitants, he sat down
before Sai, with his army, and surrounded the town with the trenches I
had now seen. After a siege of two months, the towns-people became
involved in all the horrors of famine; and whilst the king’s army were
feasting in their trenches, they saw with pleasure the miserable
inhabitants of Sai devour the leaves and bark of the bentang tree that
stood in the middle of the town. Finding, however, that the besieged
would sooner perish than surrender, the king had recourse to treachery.
He promised, that if they would open the gates, no person should be put
to death, nor suffer any injury, but the dooty alone. The poor old man
determined to sacrifice himself for the sake of his fellow-citizens, and
immediately walked over to the king’s army, where he was put to death.
His son, in attempting to escape, was caught and massacred in the
trenches; and the rest of the towns-people were carried away captives,
and sold as Slaves to the different Negro Traders.”—(p. 227.)

“The Mandingoes in particular are a very gentle race; cheerful in their
dispositions, inquisitive, credulous, simple, and fond of flattery.”—(p.

“It is impossible for me to forget the disinterested charity, and tender
solicitude, with which many of these poor heathens (from the sovereign
of Sego, to the poor women who received me at different times into their
cottages, when I was perishing of hunger) sympathized with me in my
sufferings, relieved my distresses, and contributed to my safety.”—(p.

“Accordingly, the maternal affection (neither suppressed by the
restraints, nor diverted by the solicitudes of civilized life) is every
where conspicuous among them, and creates a correspondent return of
tenderness in the child. An illustration of this has been given in p.
47, “Strike me,” said my attendant, “but do not curse my mother!” The
same sentiment I found universally to prevail; and observed in all parts
of Africa, that the greatest affront which could be offered to a Negro,
was to reflect on her who gave him birth.”—(p. 264.)

“One of the first lessons, in which the Mandingo women instruct their
children, is the _practice of truth_. The reader will probably recollect
the case of the unhappy mother, whose son was murdered by the Moorish
banditti at Funingkedy, page 102. Her only consolation in her uttermost
distress, was the reflection, that the poor boy, in the course of his
blameless life, had _never told a lie_.”

“For, though the Negro women are very cheerful and frank in their
behaviour, they are by no means given to intrigue: I believe that
instances of conjugal infidelity are not common.”—(p. 268.)

“With the love of music is naturally connected a taste for poetry; and,
fortunately for the poets of Africa, they are in a great measure
exempted from that neglect and indigence, which, in more polished
countries, commonly attend the votaries of the Muses. They consist of
two classes; the most numerous are the singing-men, called jilli kea,
mentioned in a former part of my narrative. One or more of these may be
found in every town. They sing extempore songs in honour of their chief
men, or any other persons who are willing to give “solid pudding for
empty praise.” But a nobler part of their office is to recite the
historical events of their country; hence, in war, they accompany the
soldiers to the field, in order, by reciting the great actions of their
ancestors, to awaken in them a spirit of glorious emulation. The other
class are devotees of the Mahometan faith, who travel about the country
singing devout hymns, and performing religious ceremonies, to conciliate
the favour of the Almighty, either in averting calamity, or insuring
success to any enterprise. Both descriptions of these itinerant bards
are much employed, and respected by the people, and very liberal
contributions are made for them.”—(p. 278.)

“The Negroes in general, and the Mandingoes in particular, are
considered by the whites on the coast as an indolent and inactive
people; I think, without reason. Few people work harder, when occasion
requires, than the Mandingoes; but, not having many opportunities of
turning to advantage the superfluous produce of their labour, they are
content with cultivating as much ground only as is necessary for their
own support.—(pp. 280, 281.)

“The labours of the field give them pretty full employment during the
rains; and in the dry season, the people who live in the vicinity of
large rivers employ themselves chiefly in fishing.” “Others of the
natives employ themselves in hunting.” “They are very dextrous marksmen,
and will hit a lizard on a tree, or any other small object, at an
amazing distance.” “While the men are employed in these pursuits, the
women are very diligent in manufacturing cotton cloth.” “The thread is
not fine, but well twisted, and makes a very durable cloth. A woman,
with common diligence, will spin from six to nine garments of this cloth
in one year.” “The loom is made exactly upon the same principle as that
of Europe, but so small and narrow, that the web is seldom more than
four inches broad.” “The women dye this cloth of a rich and lasting blue
colour, with a fine purple gloss, and equal, in my opinion, to the best
Indian or European blue. This cloth is cut into various pieces, and
sewed into garments with needles of the natives own making.”

“As the arts of weaving, dying, sewing &c. may easily be acquired, those
who exercise them are not considered in Africa as following any
particular profession; for almost every Slave can weave, and every boy
can sew. The only artists which are distinctly acknowledged as such by
the Negroes, and who value themselves on exercising appropriate and
peculiar trades, are the manufacturers of leather and iron.” “They are
to be found in almost every town.” “They tan and dress leather with very
great expedition.” “They are at great pains to render the hide as soft
and pliant as possible.” “The hides of bullocks are converted chiefly
into sandals, and therefore require less care in dressing than the skins
of sheep and goats, which are used for covering quivers and saphies, and
in making sheaths for swords and knives, belts, pockets, and a variety
of ornaments.”—(pp. 281, 282.)

“The manufacturers of iron are not so numerous as of leather; but they
appear to have studied their business with equal diligence.” “In the
inland parts, the natives smelt this useful metal in such quantities, as
not only to supply themselves from it with all necessary weapons and
instruments, but even to make it an article of commerce with some of the
neighbouring states.”—(p. 283.)

“Most of the African blacksmiths are acquainted also with the method of
smelting gold.” “They likewise draw the gold into wire, and form it into
a variety of ornaments, some of which are executed with a great deal of
taste and ingenuity.” “I might add, though it is scarce worthy
observation, that in Bambarra and Kaarta, the natives make very
beautiful baskets, hats, and other articles, both for use and ornament,
from rushes, which they stain of different colours; and they contrive
also to cover their calabashes with interwoven cane, dyed in the same
manner,”—(p. 285.)

“It seems to be the universal wish of mankind to spend the evening of
their days where they spent their infancy. The poor Negro feels this
desire in its full force. To him, no water is sweet but what is drawn
from his own well; and no tree has so cool and pleasant a shade as the
tabba tree of his native village. When war compels him to abandon the
delightful spot in which he first drew his breath, and seek for safety
in some other kingdom, his time is spent in talking about the country of
his ancestors; and no sooner is peace restored than he turns his back
upon the land of strangers, rebuilds with haste his fallen walls, and
exults to see the smoke ascend from his native village.”—(p. 292.)

“It was not possible for me to behold the wonderful fertility of the
soil, the vast herds of cattle, proper both for labour and food, and a
variety of other circumstances favourable to colonization and
agriculture; and reflect withal, on the means which presented themselves
of a vast inland navigation, without lamenting that a country, so
abundantly gifted and favoured by nature, should remain in its present
savage and neglected state. Much more did I lament that a people, of
manners and dispositions so gentle and benevolent, should either be left
as they now are, immersed in the gross and uncomfortable blindness of
Pagan superstition, or permitted to become converts to a system of
bigotry and fanaticism.”—(p. 312.)

“During a wearisome peregrination of more than five hundred British
miles, exposed to the burning rays of a tropical sun, these poor Slaves,
amidst their own infinitely greater sufferings, would commiserate mine;
and frequently, of their own accord, bring water to quench my thirst,
and at night collect branches and leaves to prepare me a bed in the
wilderness.”—(p. 356.)

_Effects of Slave Trade on Administration of Justice. By the Sieur Brüe,
Director General of the French Senegal Company, about 1700.—Astley’s
Voyages, vol. ii. & iii._

[Sidenote: Astley’s Voyages.]

“Crimes here are seldom punished with death, unless it be treason and
murder. For other faults, the usual penalty is banishment, to which end
the king generally sells them to the company, and disposes of their
effects at his pleasure. In civil cases, the debtor, if unable, is sold
with his family and effects, for the payment of the creditor, and the
king has his thirds.”—(p. 59.)

Barbot says, that the Negro kings are so absolute, that upon any slight
pretence, they order their subjects to be sold for Slaves, without
regard to rank or profession. Thus a Marbut was sold to him at Goree by
the Alkade of Rio Fresco, by special order of the Damel, for some
misdemeanors. This priest was above two months aboard the ship before he
would speak one word.”—(_Travels of Barbot_, p. 257.)

“The smallest crimes whatever are punished with banishment.—(p. 315.)

Criminal causes are tried by a public Palaver, or Assembly of the head
men of the country, and Slavery is the usual punishment; a circumstance
which holds out a strong temptation to prefer false accusations,
particularly as the African mode of trial furnishes convenient means of
promoting purposes of avarice and oppression.—(_Winterbottom’s Account_,
&c. &c.)

Marchais.—In case of the debtor’s insolvency, the king allows the
creditor to sell him, his wives, and even his children, for the sum due.
Here is also another extraordinary law; if the creditor, before
witnesses, three times asks his debt of a person, whom he cannot arrest
or sue on account of his dignity or power, and the debtor refuses to pay
him, the creditor has a right to seize the first Slave he meets, let him
belong to whom he will.

There is but one sort of punishment for offences here, the offender, and
all his generation, being made Slaves.

In their proceedings they take no care whether the party be guilty, or
deserves to be punished.

[Sidenote: Golberey.]

It is a striking circumstance, that in Africa, before the Slave Trade
was introduced, the punishments for offences generally consisted of
mulcts or fines, as is evident from the testimony of Artus, Barbot,
Ogilby, Bosman, Loyer, Nyendael, and others, and that nobody was mulcted
beyond his ability, except by an accumulation of crimes. Murder and
sorcery were punished capitally in some of the countries of Africa, but
in others, murder and every species of offence had no other punishment
than a fine. If people could not pay these fines, they were disposed of
in two ways. Some of them were sent into a temporary banishment in
Africa; others were sold into home slavery. Debtors also, who refused to
pay their debts, or became insolvent, were sold for the benefit of their
creditors, in case their relations would not redeem them, and worked for
these at their respective homes. But since this trade has been used,
says Moore, all _punishments_ are changed into _slavery_: there being
_an advantage_ in such condemnation, they _strain_ for crimes _very
hard_, in order to get the _benefit of selling the criminal_. Not only
murder, theft, and adultery, are punished by selling the criminal for a
Slave, but _every trifling_ crime is punished in the same manner.”[61]

Moore gives us a history of some of these crimes. “There was a man, says
he, brought to me in Tommany, to be sold, for having stolen a
tobacco-pipe. I sent for the alcade, and with much ado persuaded the
party aggrieved to accept of a composition, and leave the man free. In
Cantore, a man seeing a tyger eating a deer, which he had killed and
hung up near his house, fired at the tyger, and the bullet killed a man.
The king not only condemned him, but also _his mother_, _three
brothers_, and _three sisters_, to be sold. These eight persons were
brought down to me at Yamyamacunda. It made my heart ache, says Moore
(_for this was in the infancy of the Trade_) to see them, and I did not
buy them.” But it appears in the sequel, that this kind action in Moore
did not produce the desired end. “For they were sent, says he, further
down the river, and sold to some _separate_ traders at Joar, and the
king _had the benefit of the goods_ for which they were sold.”

In estimating the revenues of king Forbana, he mentions[62] “the
criminals that were sold, _a part of the profit_ of _which_ devolved
_upon his majesty_.” [63] “In Africa, says he, crimes are punished
either by fines, slavery, or death. _Offences_ are _rare_, but
_accusations common_; because the chiefs frequently accuse for the
purpose of _condemning_, that _they may be able to procure Slaves_.”

“The crime of magic is that which the Negro kings and chiefs most
frequently _cause_ to be preferred against individuals of the lower
class, _because this crime is punished by slavery, and consequently
produces Slaves_.”

_Evidences examined before the House of Commons._

[Sidenote: House of Commons Evidence.]

[64] Capt. Wilson, of the Royal Navy, says, it is universally
acknowledged, and he believes it to be true, that free persons are sold
for real or imputed crimes, for the benefit of their judges. Soon after
his arrival at Goree, the king of Damel sent a free man to him for sale,
and was to have the _price himself_. One of the king’s guards, who came
with the man, on being asked whether he was guilty of the crime imputed
to him, replied, with great shrewdness—he did not conceive that was ever
inquired into, or of any consequence.

[65] Dr. Trotter says, that of the whole cargo, he recollects only three
criminals in the ship where he was. One of these had been sold for
adultery, and the other for _witchcraft, whose whole family shared his
fate_. The first said, he had been decoyed by a woman, who told her
husband of the transaction, and he was sentenced to pay a Slave; but,
being poor, he was sold himself. Such _stratagems_ are _frequent_. The
fourth mate of the ship Brookes was so decoyed, and obliged to pay a
Slave, under the threat, that trade would be stopped if he did not. The
other had quarrelled with one of the Cabosheers. The Cabosher, in
revenge, accused him of witchcraft. In consequence of this accusation he
was sold with his family. His mother, wife, and two daughters, were
sentenced with him. [Sidenote: House of Commons Evidence.] The women
shewed the deepest affliction; the man a sullen melancholy; he refused
his food, tore his throat open with his nails, and died.

[66] Lieutenant Simpson, of the Royal Marines, considered two crimes as
almost made on purpose to procure Slaves. These were, adultery, and the
removal of _Fetiches_, (or of _charms founded on a notion of
witchcraft_). As to adultery, he was warned against connecting himself
with any woman not pointed out to him, for that the kings _kept
several_, who were _sent out to allure the unwary_; and that, if found
to be connected with these, he would be seized, and made to pay the
price of a man Slave. As to fetiches, consisting of pieces of wood, old
pitchers, kettles, &c. laid in the path-ways, he was _warned to avoid
displacing_ them, for if he should, the natives, who were on the watch,
would seize him, and, as before, exact the price of a man Slave. These
baits were laid equally for the natives, as the Europeans; but the
former were better acquainted with the law, and consequently more

James Morley, 1760 and 1776.—On pretence of adultery, he remembers a
woman sold. He learnt that this was only a pretence, from her own mouth,
for she spake good English, and from the respect with which her husband,
king Ephraim, treated her, when he came on board; whereas, in real cases
of adultery, they are very desperate.

Sir George Young, 1767, 1768, 1771, 1772.—Has always heard, that the
sovereign or chief of a district generally derives a certain profit from
the sale of Slaves.

[Sidenote: House of Commons Evidence.]

Henry Hew Dalrymple, Esq. 1779.—All crimes, in the parts of Africa he
was in, were punished with slavery.

James Towne, 1760, 1767.—He has repeatedly heard, both from the accused
and accusers themselves, and he believes it common on the coast, to
impute crimes falsely for the sake of having the accused person sold.

_Mode of Warfare, &c._

[Sidenote: Parke.]

The Moors purchase the fire-arms and ammunition from the Europeans in
exchange for Negro Slaves, whom they obtain in their predatory
excursions.—_Parke’s Travels_.

“Some neighbouring and rebel Negroes plundered a large village belonging
to Daisy (the king), and carried off a number of prisoners.”—(p. 110.)

“They accordingly fell upon two of Daisy’s (the king’s) towns, and
carried off the whole of the inhabitants.”—(p. 169.)

“I passed, in the course of this day, the ruins of three towns; the
inhabitants of which were all carried away by Daisy, king of Kaarta, on
the same day that he took and plundered Yamina.”—(p. 230.)

“Mansang separated the remainder of his army into small detachments,
ordered them to over-run the country, and seize on the inhabitants
before they had time to escape.

“Most of the poor inhabitants of the different towns and villages, being
surprized in the night, fell an easy prey.

“Daisy had sent a number of people to plant corn, &c. &c. to supply his
army; all these fell into the hands of Sambo Sego; they were afterwards
sent in caravans to be sold to the French, on the Senegal.”—(p. 109.)

_African Population._

[Sidenote: Winterbottom.]

Winterbottom’s Travels in Africa.—The towns on the seacoast are in
general small, and seldom consist of more than forty or fifty houses;
but as we advance inland, they become more populous.—(p. 81.)

The villages near the sea coast not only consist of fewer houses than
those more inland, but they also shew less neatness and ingenuity in
their construction.—(p. 83.)

Teembo, the capital of the Foola kingdom, is computed to contain about
8,000 inhabitants; Laby, the second in size, has about 5,000; and
several of those which I have visited in the Soosoo and Mandingo
countries, contain from 1 to 2 or 3,000 inhabitants.—(p. 87.)

_Domestic Slaves State in Africa.—Travels of Moore, a Factor of African

[Sidenote: Astley’s Voyages.]

They seldom sell their family Slaves, except for great crimes.—(vol.
iii. p. 242)

Some of them have a good many house Slaves, in which they place a great
pride; and these Slaves live so well and easy, that it is hard to know
them from their Owners, being often better cloathed; especially the
females, who have sometimes coral, amber, and silver necklaces and
ornaments to the value of £. 20. or £. 30. sterling.

The author never heard of but one that ever sold a family Slave, except
for such crimes as they would have been sold for if they had been free.
If one of the family Slaves (where there are many) commits a crime, and
the Master sells him for it without the consent of the rest, they will
all run away, and be protected in the next kingdom.—(p. 267)

[Sidenote: Winter-]

Winterbottom’s Travels.—Their domestics are in general treated by them
with great humanity, and it is not uncommon to see the heir-apparent of
a head man sitting down to eat with the meanest of his father’s people,
and in no wise distinguished from them by his dress.—(p. 127.)

Captain Wilson, 1783.—The Slaves employed by the Africans live with
their Masters, and are so treated as scarcely to be distinguishable from

Isaac Parker, 1764.—Dick Ebro’ had many Slaves of his own, whom he
employed in cutting wood and fishing, &c. but he treated them always
very well.

James Morley, 1760 and 1776.—They treat their Slaves with the greatest
kindness, more so than our servants and Slaves in the West Indies.

Henry Hew Dalrymple, Esq. 1779.—Slaves are treated so well, eating and
working with their Masters, that they are not distinguishable from free

James Kiernan,—Persons of property there have a great number of persons
under the denomination of Slaves, whom they treat as Europeans would
people of their own family.

[Sidenote: Parke.]

“The Mandingo Master can neither deprive his domestic Slave of life, nor
sell him to a stranger, without first calling a palaver on his conduct;
or, in other words, bringing him to a public trial.” (p. 23)

“He told me, that he had always behaved towards me as if I had been his
father and master.” (p. 68.)

“He sometimes eats out of the same bowl with his camel driver, and
reposes himself, during the heat of the day, upon the same bed.”—(p.

“In all the laborious occupations above described, the Master and his
Slaves work together, without distinction of superiority.”

The authority of the Master over the domestic Slaves elsewhere observed,
extends only to reasonable correction; for the Master cannot sell his
domestic without having first brought him to a public trial before the
chief men of the place.”—(p. 286.)

_Bristol Slave Trade formerly.—William of Malmsbury, book ii. ch.
20.—Life of St. Wolstan, Bishop of Worcester._

Directly opposite the Irish coast there is a seaport town called
Bristol, the inhabitants of which, as well as others of the English,
frequently sail into Ireland on trading speculations. St. Wolstan put an
end to a very ancient custom of theirs, in which they had become so
hardened, that neither the love of God, nor that of the king (William
the Conqueror) had been able to abolish it. For they sold into Ireland,
at a profit, people whom they had bought up throughout all England, and
they exposed to sale maidens in a state of pregnancy, with whom they
made a sort of mock marriages. There you might see with grief, fastened
together by ropes, whole rows of wretched beings of both sexes, of
elegant forms and in the very bloom of youth, a sight sufficient to
excite pity even in Barbarians, daily offered for sale to the first
purchaser. Accursed deed! infamous disgrace! that men, acting in a
manner which brutal instinct alone would have forbidden, should sell
into slavery their relations, nay, even their own offspring; yet, St.
Wolstan destroyed at length this inveterate and hereditary custom. The
historian goes on to state, that from the effect of religious
instruction, the people of Bristol not only renounced this vicious
practice themselves, but afforded an example of reform to the rest of
England; harsh methods however were resorted to where persuasion was in
vain; for one of the inhabitants of Bristol who resisted the good
bishop’s reform with peculiar obstinacy, was expelled from the city, and
had his eyes put out.

In 1171, on the invasion and conquest of Ireland by Henry II. it was the
unanimous judgment of a great ecclesiastical council, called at Armagh,
that the event was to be regarded as a providential visitation for their
guilt in making Slaves of the English, whether obtained from merchants,
robbers, or pirates; and this opinion was regarded as the more probable,
because England herself, the natives of which, by a vice common to that
nation, had been used to sell their children and nearest relatives, even
when not under the pressure of famine or other necessity, had formerly
expiated a similar crime by a similar punishment (alluding to the Norman
Conquest.) To the honour of the Irish, a resolution was then passed,
that throughout the kingdom the English Slaves should be immediately
emancipated. I trust their Hibernian descendants, in our day, will shew
themselves actuated by a like humane spirit, and that the English will
no longer continue subject to that foul stain with which, even in these
early days, she was contaminated.

The city of Bristol is once more exempt from the disgrace of being
concerned in the traffic of human beings.


       Printed by Luke Hansard & Sons, near Lincoln’s Inn Fields.


Footnote 1:

  The Report of the Privy Council to the King in 1788, and still more
  the Reports of the Committee of the House of Commons, to which had
  been referred the various petitions for and against the abolition, and
  in the Appendixes to which is contained the Evidence at length of the
  Witnesses who were examined on that occasion. For the convenience of
  those who might not have leisure to peruse so voluminous a mass of
  evidence, an abridged abstract of it was made. This occupies two small
  octavo volumes, and is entitled “An Abridgement of the Minutes of the
  Evidence on the Slave Trade. 1790.” It is to be purchased at
  Phillips’s, George-yard, Lombard-street.—Various Papers and Accounts,
  tending to give useful information, have also been laid before the
  House of Commons from time to time. The titles of these will be found
  in the House of Commons Journals. See especially a voluminous mass of
  Papers respecting the Slave Trade, ordered to be printed 8th June
  1804; and another very important set of Communications from the West
  Indies, ordered for printing 25th February 1805. See also two very
  interesting Reports of the House of Assembly of Jamaica.

Footnote 2:

  Vide, especially, an Abstract of the Debate on Mr. Wilberforce’s
  Motion for the Abolition of the Slave Trade in 1791, and of the Debate
  on a similar Motion in 1792; both printed for Phillips, George-yard,

Footnote 3:

  Mr. Clarkson’s publications well deserve this epithet, particularly
  his “Essay on the Impolicy of the African Slave Trade.” See also
  Remarks on the Decision of the House of Commons concerning the Slave
  Trade, on April 2d, 1792, by the Rev. J. Gisborne.—Much valuable
  information likewise concerning Africa is contained in Lord
  Muncaster’s Historical Sketches of the Slave Trade. Again, almost all
  the principal arguments involved in the discussion concerning the
  abolition are to be found in Mr. Brougham’s Colonial Policy, stated
  with that author’s usual ability.—Once more, a valuable Summary of the
  Arguments in favour of Abolition, and of the answers to the chief
  allegations of its Opponents (by a writer, whose name, if subjoined to
  it, would have added great weight to the publication) was published
  two years ago, printed for Hatchard, and Longman and Rees, entitled, a
  “_Concise Statement of the Question, regarding the Abolition of the
  Slave Trade_.” An Appendix, containing much valuable matter, soon
  after followed. A valuable publication appeared also some years ago,
  by a Member of the University of Oxford, now become a dignitary of the
  church. I might specify several others on particular parts of the
  case. In short, were it as easy to prevail on mankind to read
  publications which have been some time before the world, as to peruse
  a new one, my present task might well be spared.

Footnote 4:

  In reading accounts of African wars, the attentive reader will
  continually meet with expressions such as those here used; which
  incidentally and undesignedly, and therefore the more strongly prove,
  that the persons of the natives are regarded as the great booty; and
  we may therefore not unreasonably infer, that they often constitute
  the chief inducement for commencing hostilities.

Footnote 5:

  Vide evidence of Naval Officers, &c. taken before the House of
  Commons.—Smith also, who visited the coast in the service of the
  African Company in 1726, says “The Natives who came off to trade with
  us were mighty timorous of coming aboard, for fear of being panyard.”

Footnote 6:

  Vide Nyendael and Artus of Dantzic, in De Bry’s India Orientalis,

Footnote 7:

  Moore, many years factor to the African Company, about 1730, says,
  ‘Since this trade has been used, all punishments are changed into
  slavery, there being an advantage in such condemnations. They strain
  for crimes very hard, in order to get the benefit of selling the
  criminal. Not only murder, theft, and adultery, but every trifling
  crime is punished by selling the criminal for a Slave.’

Footnote 8:

  Vide Smith’s Voyage to Guinea, p. 266.

Footnote 9:

  Surely Mr. Parke, when he suggested this, forgot that experience as
  well as reason teach us, that we must first abolish the Slave Trade
  before we attempt to diffuse among the Africans the lessons of peace
  and love; lest we are asked the same well-known question, and receive
  the same reply, as the Spanish priest from the poor dying Peruvian,
  when the Spaniards in America were acting on the plan which is here
  advised, of at once ravaging and converting: “Are there to be any
  Europeans in this Heaven, where you wish me to secure a place?” Being
  told yes, “Then it is no place for Peruvians.”

Footnote 10:

  This is the more astonishing, because it is mentioned by the older
  writers as well as by more recent travellers, as Captain Sir G. Young
  and Sir T. B. Thompson, as a term of which the meaning is clear, and
  the use perfectly familiar. Thus, as a single instance, Smith, after
  saying “the natives were afraid of being panyard,” (p. 104.) subjoins
  the meaning in a note,—“To panyar is to kidnap or steal men. It is a
  word used all over the Coast of Guinea.”

Footnote 11:

  The account given of this Slave trade by an almost contemporary
  historian, will be found in the Appendix.

Footnote 12:

  Atkins was a surgeon in the Royal Navy, who visited all the British
  Settlements in Africa, with the Swallow and Weymouth men of war, in
  1721; and whose account is the more to be credited, from his being a
  disinterested witness, whose testimony also was given before the
  justice or humanity of the Slave Trade had been called in question.

Footnote 13:

  See Parke, p. 26. 290. 356.—So Lieutenant Matthews (an Opponents’
  witness, Privy Council Report p. 27.) says, “The Slaves that are
  purchased before the rainy season commences are employed upon their
  plantations, and are sold to the Europeans, and sometimes among
  themselves, from one master to another, after the rice is planted.”

Footnote 14:

  Vide Report of the Committee of the House of Assembly of Jamaica, in
  the Privy Council Report.—Vide also Long’s History of Jamaica.

Footnote 15:

  Vide evidence of Mr. Newton, Mr. Claxton, and others.

Footnote 16:

  I cannot vouch for the following fact, but it was related at the time
  with every appearance of authenticity. A few years ago the male
  convicts suffered very severely during their passage to New South
  Wales, and if I mistake not, for I speak from memory, several of them
  at length died from the hardships which they endured. On inquiring
  into the cause, it was stated to be, that the person whose province it
  was to provide necessaries for the voyage, had, by mistake, purchased
  such fetters as were used on board Slave ships, instead of the common
  fetters for convicts.

Footnote 17:

  Vide evidence taken before the House of Commons.

Footnote 18:

  Vide the late Publication of a professional Planter.

Footnote 19:

  Vide Practical Rules for the Management of Negro Slaves, by a
  professional Planter. “New Negroes says he, court the warmest
  situations they can find, nothing less intense than actual fire being
  too hot for them. Hence we see that when they turn out in the morning,
  even in the low lands in the West Indies, they embrace their bodies
  closely with their wrappers to defend them from the cold.”

Footnote 20:

  Vide the evidence of —— Botham, Esq. in the Minutes of Evidence taken
  before the Privy Council.

Footnote 21:

  Vide Hume’s Essays, vol. i. page 407. Edinb. 1777. Cadell.

Footnote 22:

  The professional Planter’s own words well deserve to be inserted: “For
  I aver it boldly, melancholy experience having given me occasion to
  make the remark, that a great number of Negroes have perished annually
  by diseases produced by inanition. To be convinced of this truth, let
  us trace the effect of that system, which assigned, for a Negro’s
  weekly allowance, six or seven pints of flour, or grain, with as many
  salt herrings; and it is in vain to conceal what we all know to be
  true, that in many of the islands they did not give more. With so
  scanty a pittance, It is indeed possible for the soul and body to be
  held together a considerable portion of time, provided a man’s only
  business be to live, and his spirits be husbanded with a frugal hand;
  but if motion short of labour, much more labour itself, and that too
  intense, be exacted from him, how is the body to support
  itself.”—“Their attempts to wield the hoe prove abortive, they shrink
  from their toil, and, being urged to perseverance by stripes, you are
  soon obliged to receive them into the hospital, whence, unless your
  plan be speedily corrected, they depart but to the grave. It may
  possibly be urged in palliation of this practice, that in cases of
  such short allowance as I have mentioned above, Negroes do not depend
  upon that solely for their subsistence, but that they derive
  considerable aid from little vacant spots on the estate, which they
  are allowed to cultivate on their own account. Though frequently
  otherwise, this may sometimes be the case; yet even there it is to be
  observed, that such spots, in the low-land plantations, are capable of
  producing only for a part of the year, either through the drought of
  the season or the sterility of the soil, and when that happens, the
  Negro is again at his short allowance; and having no honest means of
  eking it out, to make it square with the demands of nature, he is
  compelled to pilfer.”—The writer goes on to state, that the
  delinquent, extending his thefts, is detected and apprehended, is
  severely whipped and chained, and confined; but as neither chains nor
  stripes, nor confinement, can extinguish hunger, he returns, when
  released, to the same practices, till, partly from the discipline,
  partly from scanty nourishment, and colds from exposure during his
  desertion, he, ten to one, falls into a distempered habit, which soon
  hurries him out of the world. The close is very remarkable, “Now this
  was set down as a vicious incorrigible subject, and his death is
  deemed a beneficial release to the estate.”

Footnote 23:

  Vide Privy Council Report—head, Antigua and Barbados—and some
  following articles.

Footnote 24:

  Vide Captain Wilson’s evidence.

Footnote 25:

  Vide a late publication on the beneficial effects of Christianity, by
  the venerable Bishop of London, a prelate in whom, whether in the
  closet, the pulpit, or the senate, the poor and the oppressed have
  ever found a zealous, and eloquent advocate.

Footnote 26:

  “_Are they Slaves?_ No, they are men; they are comrades; they are
  humble friends. Are they Slaves? Nay, rather fellow servants; if you
  reflect on the equal power of fortune over both you and them.”

  “Were you to consider, that he, whom you call your Slave, is sprung
  from the same origin, enjoys the same climate, breathes the same air,
  and is subject to the same condition of life and death, you might as
  well think it possible for you to see _him_ a Gentleman, as he to see
  _you_ a Slave. In the fall of Varus, how many born of the most
  splendid parentage, and not unjustly expecting, for their exploits in
  war, a senatorial degree, hath fortune cast down! She hath made of one
  a shepherd, of another a cottager. And can you now despise the man,
  whose fortune is such, into which, while you despise it, you may
  chance to fall?”—Seneca, Epistle 47, p. 158.

Footnote 27:

  Edwards’s History of the West Indies, 4to. vol. ii. page 124.

Footnote 28:

  Dr. Pinckard’s Notes on the West Indies, printed for Longman. It
  ought, perhaps, in fairness to be mentioned, that the Author appears
  originally to have had no prejudices against the West Indian system.

Footnote 29:

  Even before Mr. Long wrote, between thirty and forty years ago, this
  was a great evil. “And it is inconceivable,” says Mr. Long, “what
  numbers have perished in consequence of the law for recovery of debts,
  which permits Negroes to be levied on and sold at vendue. By this
  means they are frequently torn from their native spot, their dearest
  connections, and transferred into a situation unadapted to their
  health, labouring under discontent, which co-operates with change of
  place and circumstance to shorten their lives.” Long’s Jamaica, vol.
  ii. p. 435.

Footnote 30:

  But a nearer, and more particular view of the manner of working may be
  necessary to those who have never seen a gang of Negroes at their

  “When employed in the labour of the field, as for example, in _holeing
  a cane piece_, i. e. in turning up the ground with hoes into parallel
  trenches, for the reception of the cane plants, the Slaves of both
  sexes, from twenty perhaps to four score in number, are drawn out in a
  line, like troops on a parade, each with a hoe in his hand; and close
  to them in the rear is stationed a driver, or several drivers, in
  numbers duly proportioned to that of the gang. Each of these drivers,
  who are always the most active and vigorous Negroes on the estate, has
  in his hand, or coiled round his neck, from which by extending the
  handle it can be disengaged in a moment, a long, thick, and strongly
  platted whip, called a _cart-whip_, the report of which is as loud,
  and the lash as severe, as those of the whips in common use with our
  waggoners, and which he has authority to apply, at the instant when
  his eye perceives an occasion, without any previous warning. Thus
  disposed, their work begins, and continues without interruption for a
  certain number of hours, during which, at the peril of the drivers, an
  adequate portion of land must be holed.

  “As the trenches (continues our Author) are generally rectilinear, and
  the whole line of holers advance together, it is necessary that every
  hole or section of the trench should be finished in equal time with
  the rest; and if any one or more Negroes were allowed to throw in the
  hoe with less rapidity or energy than their companions in other parts
  of the line, it is obvious that the work of the latter must be
  suspended; or else, such part of the trench as is passed over by the
  former, will be more imperfectly formed than the rest. It is therefore
  the business of the drivers not only to urge forward the whole gang
  with sufficient speed, but sedulously to watch that all in the line,
  whether male or female, old or young, strong or feeble, work as nearly
  as possible in equal time, and with equal effect. The tardy stroke
  must be quickened, and the languid invigorated, and the whole line
  made to _dress_, in the military phrase, as it advances. No breathing
  time, no resting on the hoe, no pause of languor, to be repaid by
  brisker exertion on return to work, can be allowed to individuals: all
  artist work, or pause together.”

Footnote 31:

  Vide Evidence taken before the Committee of the House of Commons.

Footnote 32:

  Dr. Pinckard’s late publication adds some painful instances of this
  sort to others contained in the evidence of very respectable men.

Footnote 33:

  Vide House of Commons papers.

Footnote 34:

  The very words which I am now writing suggest to my mind another
  possible explanation of the conduct of the Assembly of Barbadoes.
  Possibly the majority, in rejecting the Governor’s proposition, acted
  not so much from their own judgment and feelings, as from deference to
  those of the bulk of the community. Considering that, as is stated
  above, it must be regarded as a part of their duty to set the tone of
  public judgment and feelings, this would not be a very creditable
  plea; nor have I found any hint of it in the papers laid before the
  House of Commons; but, on the contrary, an expression of resentment
  against the Governor, with an intimation of the danger of interfering
  between Master and Slave. But as the idea in question has occurred to
  me, I think I should scarcely be acting candidly in suppressing it.

Footnote 35:

  Long’s History of Jamaica, vol. ii. page 406.

Footnote 36:

  The passage to which I allude, contains such important truths, and
  bears so strongly on the point now under discussion, that I shall take
  the liberty of inserting a large part of it. I should place it in the
  Appendix, but that, for various reasons, I wish not to introduce in
  the Appendix any article respecting the West Indian branch of the

  “To superior morality I lay no claim; but I understood my interest,
  and happily, interest and morality were not in that case, as in many
  others, at variance. I lost very few Negroes in comparison with other
  gentlemen, even of such as were purchased out of Guinea yards, and
  surprisingly few of the infants born on the estate.

  “It may be urged, as an objection to this system of management, that
  the expence attending it would be too great to be defrayed with such a
  portion of the produce of the estate as it is consistent with prudence
  to apply to that object alone. That the expences of estates will be
  considerably larger than at present I admit, because it is proposed
  that the Negroes should be fed and clothed more liberally than they
  now are, and be more indulged during their indisposition; whence an
  excess of expence, and an apparent decrease of income: But let it be
  remembered at the same time, that an expenditure, when judiciously
  applied, is not a waste, but the investment of a capital with a view
  to productive return. It will be found so in this case; for, when
  Negroes are so treated, there will be fewer sick than in the common
  mode of management, and they will certainly be enabled to make much
  more vigorous efforts when engaged at their labour; for they will be
  more robust of body, more alert and contented in mind, so that,
  performing more work, the gross income of the estate, far from being
  reduced, will necessarily experience a considerable increase. But not
  only the gross income will be greater, but it may be presumed that
  fewer Negroes will die, and that more will be born, so as to afford a
  reasonable hope that your number may be kept entire without any
  foreign recruits; whence a saving in itself, probably equivalent to
  the extraordinaries incurred by the proposed melioration of their
  treatment; and the balance at the end of the year, so far from being
  against the planter, will probably be in his favour. Were it, however,
  otherwise, who would not submit to a small pecuniary loss, for the
  inappreciable advantage resulting from a mind contented with itself,
  and conscious of no neglect of duty? As to those who are unfortunately
  in such a situation, with respect to incumbrance and credit, as to be
  disabled from supplying their Negroes as they ought, it behoves them
  to consider whether by the utmost their undue savings can effect, they
  can possibly be retrieved from their embarrassments, and if they can,
  they ought seriously to ponder on the consequence by which their
  relief is to be obtained; that it must be by the blood of their own
  species—a horrid thought; and if they cannot, how much better would it
  be for them to surrender at once their property to their creditors,
  and to repose in the humble, though exquisite enjoyment of ease of
  mind, and a fair name, and to trust to recommendations for a future
  subsistence, which, in the West Indies, is never denied to the
  industrious, while it is frequently conferred on the undeserving.”

Footnote 37:

  Vide Privy Council Report, Part III. Jamaica, A. N^o. 5.

Footnote 38:

  Edwards’s History of the West Indies, vol. ii. p. 20.

Footnote 39:

  Edwards’s History of the West Indies, vol. ii. p. 18.

Footnote 40:

  It is a mistake however to suppose, that, from any natural or moral
  infirmity, the Negroes are not as willing as the people of other
  countries to perform ordinary out-of-doors work for hire, as free
  labourers. This was decisively proved both in the Sierra Leone and
  Bulam Colonies. Vide Sierra Leone Company’s Report; and Beaver’s
  African Memoranda. This fact, through inadvertency, was not inserted
  in its proper place; but it ought not to be left unnoticed, because
  several authors have confidently stated the contrary as an undoubted
  fact. Their works were in general, I believe, written before the
  publication of the intelligence from Sierra Leone and Bulam.

Footnote 41:

  Vide Privy Council Report, Nov. 12th 1788; 2d Report of the House of
  Assembly of Jamaica.

Footnote 42:

  Institute schools for their children.

Footnote 43:

  Why should not a right of giving evidence, with perhaps some other
  civil distinctions, be granted to any Slaves who have lived creditably
  in the marriage state, for three or five years. They might think
  little of these distinctions at first; but accompany them with some
  outward mark, and they will produce their effect. No distinctions are
  more impressive, than those which are arbitrary, and the essential
  nature of which is little understood.

Footnote 44:

  See the publication of Mr. Canes, a most experienced and benevolent
  West Indian proprietor.

Footnote 45:

  Vide Report of the Committee of the House of Assembly of Jamaica, in
  the Papers presented to the House of Commons.

Footnote 46:

  See evidence taken before the House of Commons.

Footnote 47:

  This is fully confirmed by the Assembly of Jamaica. See Privy Council

Footnote 48:

  These expectations have been just now confirmed by the welcome
  tidings, that, on the recommendation of the President of the United
  States, Congress are passing an act for abolishing the Slave Trade on
  January 1st 1808.

Footnote 49:

  Vol. ii. p. 442–3.

Footnote 50:

  Ibid. p. 444.

Footnote 51:

  Vol. ii. p. 442.

Footnote 52:

  Nothing can shew more clearly the degree of this security, than that
  the Jamaica newspapers have been allowed to print, not only the
  detailed account of all our parliamentary debates about the abolition
  of the Slave Trade, but even the particulars of the St. Domingo
  transactions.—Surely the West Indian Petitioners to the House of Lords
  were ignorant of these facts, or rather perhaps they thought the
  Abolitionists were ignorant of them, when the mere discussion of the
  question here was stated to be so alarming.

Footnote 53:

  See Dr. Pinckard’s late work; Notes on the West Indies.

Footnote 54:

  The petition of the Assembly of Jamaica, in 1775, plainly recognizes
  the source of danger here alluded to. “Weak and feeble (says the
  Assembly) as this colony is, from its very small number of white
  inhabitants, and its peculiar situation, from the incumbrance of more
  than 200,000 Slaves,” &c. &c.

Footnote 55:

  For the illustration of this part of the subject, and of many other
  topics which I have slightly touched, I must refer my readers to Mr.
  Brougham’s Colonial Policy; a work from some parts of which I must
  express my decided dissent, but which contains a most valuable fund of
  commercial and financial, political and moral facts, and suggestions
  on all the various subjects connected with colonial interests and

Footnote 56:

  See Mr. Parke’s account of his journey to the coast from the interior.

Footnote 57:

  Let it be considered what immense numbers of Negroes have of late
  years been removed from our older islands to Trinidad, or to Guiana.

Footnote 58:

  Compare this with Captain Hill’s and Wilson’s, and especially with Mr.
  Wadstrom’s evidence.

Footnote 59:

  Compare this with Mr. Howe’s evidence.

Footnote 60:

  Compare this with the absolute denial of such practices, or of any
  term for them, by Opponents’ witnesses.

Footnote 61:

  Page 42.

Footnote 62:

  Vol. ii. 237. English translation by Blagdon.

Footnote 63:

  Vol. ii. 340–1.

Footnote 64:

  House of Commons Evidence, p. 4, 5.

Footnote 65:

  Ditto, p. 81–2.

Footnote 66:

  House of Commons Evidence, p. 40.


                          TRANSCRIBER’S NOTES

 1. P. 1, added a missing chapter title "INTRODUCTION."
 2. P. 135, changed “Never was scene more distressful” to “Never was the
      scene more distressful”.
 3. P. 319, changed “cruelty, a contrary” to “cruelty, as contrary”.
 4. Silently corrected typographical errors and variations in spelling.
 5. Archaic, non-standard, and uncertain spellings retained as printed.
 6. Footnotes were re-indexed using numbers and collected together at
      the end of the last chapter.
 7. Enclosed italics font in _underscores_.
 8. Superscripts are denoted by a caret before a single superscript
      character or a series of superscripted characters enclosed in
      curly braces, e.g. M^r. or M^{ister}.

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