Puslapio vaizdai

and the attempt to keep them from it, for the term proposed by the new law, I greatly fear will lead to occurrences which no one can contemplate with unconcern.

I am, my dear Sir,

Yours very truly,

R. R. M.




To Mons. Julien.

Kingston, Nov. 6, 1834. My dear Sir, The failure of the apprenticeship system would be to be regretted on no account more than for the unfavourable inference respecting the real abolition of slavery, that would be unfairly drawn from the unsuccessful operation of this partial measure. The enemies to emancipation would argue that the conduct of the negroes was the cause of its failure, that slaves who could not be half-liberated with success could never be wholly emancipated with safety. Such notions as these, if the apprenticeship system should unfortunately fail in our colonies, would do harm to the cause of liberty in your colonies. My object in now addressing you, is to put you in possession of the progress and prospects of the new system in this colony; and by pointing out the difficulties it has had to encounter, I hope to indicate evils which the friends to the abolition of slavery in your country will be induced to avoid in any remedial measure for the slave they may propose or sanction. The old slave-law in our colonies had undergone repeated modifications and improvements; but its ancient savagery could not be considered as effectually softened down till the year 1788. We are told by Mr. Brydges, “ The early laws constructed to restrain the unexampled atrocities of the negroes were rigid and inclement: so great was their depravity of nature and deformity of mind, as to give colour to the prevailing belief in a natural inferiority of intellect, so that the colonists considered it to be a crime of no greater moral magnitude to kill a negro than to destroy a monkey, however rare their interest in them as valuable property rendered such a test of conscience.” I I presume the clergy of your country have written on the subject of slavery, and have also descanted on “ the natural depravity” and mental deformity that caused the construction of rigid and intlement laws, and led the civilised white men of your colonies to think no more of killing a negro than of destroying a monkey. I therefore, perhaps, ought to apologise for troubling you with the Rev. Mr. Brydges' pleasing, and, I dare say, very accurate account of the early spirit of colonial jurisprudence. In 1748, an attempt was


made to mitigate the barbarity of the penal code in this colony: hitherto the power was in the hands of the owners of punishing their slaves to the extent of mutilation, and consequently of death ; for no limb, I apprehend, could be muti

l lated without endangering life. When the measure was discussed in the House of Assembly, which proposed putting these capital punishments in the hands of the magistracy, the tables of the house groaned under the weight of petitions and remonstrances against the infraction of the rights and privileges of the planters; and the admirable historian to whose enlightened views I am indebted on many occasions, lays me under a further obligation for the information, that "it is not at all surprising that even this humane relaxation of the nerves of discipline was viewed with such trembling anxiety, or that the meditated indulgence was smothered beneath a pile of petitions, which loaded the table of the legislature.”

In 1831 the late slave law was enacted. The condition of the slave was not in any way effectually improved by it. In some things I think he was put in a worse condition than the preceding law had placed him. In both, however, ample pains were taken to remove the barbarous punishment that disgraced former enactments; and in the last, to secure for the negro in courts of law the advantages of legal protection. But when the

crime amounted to a resistance of authority, or tyranny, or insult, or injury to the majesty of a white man, the advantage I speak of was wholly nominal.

In 1512, in consequence of the reiterated complaints of the Dominican missionaries of the cruelties exercised by the Spanish on the Indians, a' measure was prepared for the amelioration of their condition, very similar to our late one in the colonies. The Spanish government sent out a number of gentlemen called visitors or intendants, whose office was quite analogous to that of the special magistrates in our islands, to protect the natives from oppression. Without the consent of the intendants, the Indians could not be punished. There was

one day in the week set apart for their own use; certain church festivals were also declared holidays for them, and some indulgences were granted to the women.

But these regulations, we are informed, proved wholly ineffectual to repress long-established habits of oppression. In all cases of great evil, half measures usually prove entire failures.

The negroes, we are told, were so happy under the old system, that they had no desire to be absolved from slavery, they were so comfortably provided for; so much better fed, clothed, and housed, and so much less severely worked than English labourers, that they would not change conditions

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