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have been rapidly apparent, in the abandonment of the plantations, and the stoppage of the annual consignments of rum and sugar to the British merchants. The great controversy which so long agitated this country as to the abolition of the slave trade, is not of such a remote date, but that every man who attended to it must remember, with what frequency and vehemence the West Indians insisted on this point---how incessantly it was repeated, that the negro population was incompetent to maintain its own numbers in the ordinary course of natural increase---and how confidently the ruin of the colonies and a deficiency of labour was predicted from the stoppage of the channel by which the gradual decay was repaired. Horrible to humanity as was the conclusion in favour of the endless continuance of this traffic, attempted to be drawn from this statement, the statement itself led inevitably to one consequence---that both the positive and the preventive checks to population, operated in the West Indies to a degree perfectly unknown in any other part of the world. Now, as this gradual waste of life was not asserted to exist among the free coloured inhabitants of these islands, the conclusion was irresistible, that, in the state of slavery only, this incompetency in the negro race to increase and multiply prevailed; and that to some circumstances attendant on that state, the progressive diminution of their numbers was to be attributed,
2. It is insisted that the superior hardihood of constitution will enable the African slaves to exist longer in a state of slavery than was possible to the effeminate Charib, and that the kind of slavery to which they are subject is itself far less rigorous and unfriendly to longevity. The accuracy of the first part of this position we are not disposed to dispute :, the accounts transmitted to us of the feebleness, both of body and mind, of the Indian nations may be exaggerated, but, if not very grossly erroneous indeed, certainly seem to establish the general fact, that that people were characterized by the most extreme listlessness and debility. But as to the comparative lightness of the negro's labours, we are very sceptical. The operations of mining were no doubt exceedingly pernicious, but it was not any large number of the people who were so employed. The islands were never very abundant in the precious metals, and were soon abandoned for the richer mines of the southern continent. While engaged in the common drudgery of agriculture, and domestic servitude, the numbers of the Charibs gradually diminished, without any extreme severity having been employed to accelerate their fate. The cultivation of the cane was not introduced till many years after the discovery of America ; nor is there any reason to believe that the tasks imposed on the Indians were peculiarly painful or oppressive. What, on the other hand, is the
situation of the negro? He is engaged in a description of agriculture of all others the most laborious---where immense exertion is occasionally requisite---in which the harvest lasts during nearly one half of the year---and where the crop time is uniformly a season of the most incessant toil. We know no better illustration of these facts than may be found in a pamphlet, published several years ago, under the title of “ The Crisis of the Sugar Colonies.” As this work is now rarely to be met with, we extract from it the following description of the operation of holeing.
• 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 fourscore 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 6 a driver, or several drivers in number 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 strougly plaited 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 choled.
As the trenches 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 boe 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 sus'pended; or else, such part of the trench as is passed over by the
former, will be more perfectly formed than the rest. It is, therefore, the business of the drivers, not only to urge forward the (whole
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 equat effect, The tardy stroke must be quickened, and the languid invigorated; and the whole line made to dress, 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 must work, or pause together.'*
* Crisis of the Sugar Colonies. pp. 9, 11.
Such are the toils of a negro slave in the ordinary occupations of West Indian husbandry. The labours of the harvest are however still more fatal to his ease and health. At this period he is, for several months of the year, compelled to labour through a great part of the night, exposed to the unwholesome damps of that pestilential climate. The much boasted Ameliorating Acts of the several colonies---(see the Bahama' and Grenada Acts particularly) --- not only recognize the existence of this evil, but do not even attempt to correct it. They enact that the slaves shall not be ut other periods of the year compelled to work before sun rise or after sun set. No doubt the labours of a cotton plantation are less severe, than those which take place on a sugar estate : but it is to be considered, that sugar is the great staple and the chief article of culture in the West Indies, and that the cotton grounds are principally situated in the swamps and marshes of the Spanish Main, where the increased malignity of the climate amply compensates, in its effect on the longevity of the slave, for any diminution of positive exertion and toil. The comparison between the labours of the negro slave and those of the Charib might easily be extended further, but our narrowing limits compel us to contract our statements on this point.
3. It is clear that the want of the means of subsistence forined the great cause of the gradual decline and ultimate extinction of the native population of the West Indies. The negro slave, on the contrary, it may be supposed, does not suffer any privations of this kind ; and no doubt if it be true that his mere animal nature has sufficient sustenance, the man may protract life to extreme old age, although his moral and intellectual part is neglected and debased. Now we admit that it is extremely difficult to institute a comparison between the quantity of food usually allotted by his master to a native Indian, and the pittance which the modern planter allows for the subsistence of his slave. We may reasonably presume that very little superfluity has been permitted in either case. If it should be said, in favour of the negro, that the minimum of his daily provision is in most of the colonies ascertained by law, it ought, on the other hand to be recollected, that his greater capacity for exertion, and the actual amount of his labours, render a larger quantity of substantial and nutritive diet necessary for the support of life and health in the African, than was sufficient for the sustenation of the Charib. But whatever might be the result of the supposed comparison, one thing we consider as perfectly. clear. We mean that there is, generally, throughout the West Indies, a great deficiency of food among the slave population. No one of those islands produces within itself the means of its own subsistence. In times of peace they are dependent on North America. An
the Charibs. But we must again protest against the presumption, that the condition of a people can be ascertained by reading their statute books. Leges sine moribus are proverbially inefficacious. But where are the so-much vaunted laws for the benefit of the negroes to be found ? Acts called ameliorating were, no doubt, passed in many of the colonies when the question of the abolition was first agitated, and it would on a proper occasion be a task at once useful and curious, to enter into a strict and minute examination of those statutes. This labour we must for the present decline, but one or two general observations on these laws we must offer for the consideration of our readers.
Every one remembers the answer given by the Spartan, when asked what was the punishment of adultery at Lacedæmon--the crime was unknown; and the law of course had neither supposed, nor provided for, its occurrence. The silence of the penal code of any country, as to a particular offence, is however no very good proof that the morals of the people are, in that respect, perfectly unimpeachable. Without much hesitation, we may confidently assume that connubial infidelity was not a very rare occurrence among the disciples of Lycurgus, although that legislator had provided no chastisement for the violation of the marriage bed. The absence of penal statutes is more frequently to be attributed to the moral apathy of the law-giver, than to the purity and innocence of the subject.
On the other hand, it is quite plain, that, where the code of any nation frequently prohibits offences of the deepest malignity and turpitude, although we may acquit the legislative authority of a culpable indifference to guilt, we are bound of necessity to convict the people of the frequent commission of the prohibited crimes. If the Spartan laws had abounded with edicts against adultery, frequently renewed and carefully reiterated, every man would have deemed such enactments conclusive evidence of the frequency, among that warlike race, of matrimonial unfaithfulness, Now in applying this observation to the history of penal legislation in the West Indies, two periods are carefully to be distinguished. Anterior to the year 1988, the massy volumes from time to time produced by the labour of the colonial assemblies, may be searched in vain for any law against the infliction of tortures on negro slaves---against the exaction of excessive labour ---against unmerciful whippings---or maiming and cutting the person. Prior to that time, few, if any, provisions will be found, compelling the owner to provide sufficient sustenance for his gang---making the wilful murder of a coloured person a felonious offence---establishing any guardians for the protection of their civil or natural rights and privileges ---making it imperative on the master to maintain an aged and disabled slave---giving any respite from labour to pregnant women---or in short any of
those numerous and beneficent regulations, which, since that time, have been adopted by the assemblies of all our islands. What then is the conclusion which we are to draw from the total silence of our colonial legislatures, on these subjects, during the very long period in which, previously to 1788, they exercised, within the precincts of their respective jurisdictions, an authority analogous to that of the British Parliament? Shall we say that till this era justice and mercy had called for no such enactments ? that the slave population had been treated with an equity so inflexible, and tenderness so lenient, that laws for their protection would have been superfluous ? that, down to the disastrous moment when these laws became necessary, there had been no torture? no severity? no starvation? no rights abused ? no, worn out slaves left to die in want and sickness ? no pregnant women compelled to the drudgery of field labour? no murders committed ? All this no doubt has been asserted---nay in the very teeth of the Ameliorating Acts themselves this has been as-, serted to have been the state of the negroes down to the present moment: but certainly they who make such statements must have a very mean idea of European understandings, if they expect to be believed. Such a representation, it is self evident, must be false. Would any man, who should turn over our own statute books, want further proof that housebreaking, forgery, larceny, and taking illegal oaths, were crimes of common occurrence amongst ourselves ? Why then refuse to believe that the horrid cruelties, against which it is the professed object of the Ameliorating Acts to relieve the coloured population of the West Indies, are of common occurrence in those colonies ?
But then the question recurs; is not the enactment of such laws a sufficient proof of a humane attention on the part of the colonial assemblies to the evils under which the slaves have laboured? We have no pleasure in drawing gloomy pictures of society: and of all communities we least wish to depict in melancholy colours those which have a common parentage with ourselves. But on this subject it would be culpable not to speak, plainly. Compliment in right season and in proper place has its use, but this we think is not the time for congratulatory language. We venture then to say, in so many words, that these * ameliorating acts” have, in most cases, been nothing more than palpable frauds on the British public, and that, so far from intitling our colonists to the praise of humanity, they are generally only proofs that in this, as in most other cases, hard-heartedness, is usually united to duplicity.
The date of these laws is extremely worthy of remark. In: Grenada, the act for protecting the slaves bears date the 9th of, December, 1797. In the Bahamas, the consolidated slave act was passed in 1796. In Antigua, a similar law, is dated in the