« PreviousContinue »
ON NEGRO SLAVERY.
"My ear is pain'd,
My soul is sick, with every day's report
THOUGH I am less disposed to ramble about the streets of the Metropolis than through the fields, and lanes, and woods of the country, yet I cannot sit in one room the whole of the day, contenting myself by gazing on the people who may pass and repass before my eye. The same roving disposition which often took me abroad amongst the captivating scenes of rural life, impelled me, when in the great city, to walk out, and view its wonders. Of course I paid my first visit to St. Paul's; from thence I went to Guildhall; and terminated my morning's peregrination at the Monument. I was pleased with what I had seen, but I was soon convinced that my taste was not formed for such scenes of gratification; and should have hastily resolved to return to the country, had I not anticipated superior enjoyment from the society of my friends. now hastened to Mr. Llewellin, who had engaged to accompany me to Mr. Wilcox's at Hwhere we dined with a select party. After the cloth was re moved, and the ladies had retired into an adjoinin
parlour, we entered on the discussion of an important question, which rose out of a remark that very accidentally fell from my lips. Peter, the emancipated Negro, waited at table, and seemed anxious, (as I thought,) by his attentions, and the gracefulness of his manners, to redeem the character of his countrymen from a portion of that odium which is so unjustly cast upon them. "You have," I observed to Mr. Wilcox, a Negro who possesses a very superior mind; and from some conversation which I had with him the other morning, I judge he is not altogether ignorant of the Christian Religion."
Mr. Wilcox. superior mind.
"Yes, Sir, Peter does possess a very His thirst for improvement is never satisfied. He has acquired a very extensive share of information on a variety of subjects, and he will often. conduct a discussion with great facility and accuracy of reasoning."
Mr. Llewellin. "It was an opinion some once entertained, that the Africans are an inferior race of beings to the Europeans; and on this basis they rested one of their arguments to justify their conduct in reducing them to a state of slavery. But instances of genius, and of improvement, and of skill in the mechanical arts, have been displayed in modern, as well as in ancient times, sufficiently strong to destroy this absurd. notion. Africa has given birth to divines, heroes, and poets,* who would sustain no loss of reputation on a comparison with the celebrated men of other countries; and if in the present day her sons do not distinguish themselves in the republic of letters, yet this must be attributed more to their bad education, the influence of their tyrannical governments, and their unsettled state, than to any original inferiority of mind. Give to them the civil and religious rites, and customs, and privileges which we enjoy, and in process of time, I have no doubt, they will raise their country as high in the scale of excellence as our own."
Some few," said a Mr. Foster, a West India mer
* Africa has produced several distinguished persons; among whom we may enumerate Cyprian, Augustin, and Tertullian in the class of divines-Hannibal and Asdrubal in the list of herces-Terence among the poets, and many others.
chant, who was one of our party, "may discover genius, and may be disposed to embrace the Christian religion; but I am decidedly of opinion that, as a people, they are inferior in strength and vigour of intellect to Europeans; while, at the same time, I must confess that they are adepts at roguery and lying; nor do I believe that they are susceptible of the social virtues."
Mr. Llewellin. "If they are addicted to these crimes, I believe they have imbibed them from their intercourse with us. I remember, Mr. Towne, who had travelled several hundred miles up the country, when examined by the Committee of the House of Commons, said, "The natives of Africa are hospitable, kind, and ready at learning languages; that in the inland country they are innocent, but on the coast their intercourse with Europeans has made them adepts in roguery, and taught them to plunder, and pick up one another to sell.' Lieutenant Dalrymple stated, That in natural capacity the Africans equal any people whatever; that if they had a better market for their produce, they would be as industrious as any Europeans; for where there is no slave trade, they were very industrious, manufacturing cotton cloth, working in gold, silver, and iron, and also in wood and leather, making saddles, bow cases, and other articles.' They are represented by some as a sullen, unsocial, and malignant race of human beings, who are sunk so low in degeneracy that no efforts can raise them to a level with the inhabitants of other countries; but such charges are not substantiated by the testimony of impartial travellers. The celebrated Park* speaks of them as attached to
* On one occasion, being exhausted by fatigue and hunger, he was preparing to lodge himself in the branches of a tree, when a woman, who was returning from the labours of the field, invited him to her hut, where he received every attention which he needed. "The female part of the family," says Mr. P. "lightened their labour by songs; one of which was com. posed extempore on myself, and sung by one of the young women, the rest joining in a sort of chorus. 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 him corn, Chorus.-Let us pity the white man; no mother has he,' &c. &c." These words have since been formed into verse, and set to music:
their country-gentle and benevolent in their dispositions-ingenious and industrious. During a wearisome peregrination of more than five hundred British miles, exposed to the burning rays of a tropical sun, these poor slaves, he says, 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.""
Africa," I remarked, "is a fine country; and if Great Britain had done as much to diffuse the principles of justice and humanity amongst her population, as she has to encourage barbarism; if she had expended half as much of her capital to promote her civilization, as she has to check her progress in improvement, she would have been, ere this, one of the most powerful nations of the earth. Instead of being a stain on the humanity and honour of the English people, she would have been, from her commerce with us, a mine of wealth to our manufactories, richer than any which Spain ever possessed in South America."
Mr. Foster. "Well, Sir, you have obtained the abolition of the slave trade, which you imagined stood in the way, like some evil genius, to prevent her march of improvement; but though that evil spirit has been laid nearly twenty years, what progress has she made?" "The loud wind roar'd, the rain fell fast; The white man yielded to the blast. He sat him down beneath our tree; For weary, sad, and faint was he; And ah! no wife or mother's care, For him the milk or corn prepare.
The white man shall our pity share,
"The storm is o'er, the tempest past,
Go, white man, go; but with thee bear
"We, Sir," I replied, "have abolished the slave trade, as far as a legal enactment can extend, but the unjust and inhuman commerce is still carried on; and if it is not pushed to such a destructive extent as formerly, yet it perpetuates those evils which it originated. Indeed it is my opinion, that the slave trade will continue as long as slavery does. They are twin vices, that live and grow together; nor will one die without the other. We wiped off one deep stain from our national character, when we voted the abolition of the slave trade; and I hope there is virtue enough left in the British Parliament to wipe away another blot, by abolishing slavery throughout the whole of the British dominions."
Mr. Foster. The abolition of slavery in the West Indies is a measure which some of the good people of England are very anxious to carry into effect; but in my opinion they are governed more by their feelings than their judgment. Those feelings which are strongly excited by gloomy and exaggerated descriptions of individual instances of atrocity and barbarity, are hohourable to their character; but if we suffer ourselves to be guided by feelings alone in relation to this most important question, we may take a step that will prove no less injurious to the welfare of the slaves than destructive of our own interest. The slaves, I grant, may not possess such a large portion of personal and domestic comfort as we enjoy; but it is my decided opinion that their condition is superior, in many respects, to that of most of the European peasantry. They are well clothed, well fed, and, I believe, generally treated with justice and kindness. And if it should be their fate to serve a hard master, they may appeal to the courts of law against his cruelties and oppressions, and obtain redress."
Mr. Llewellin. "A man may be well fed, and well clothed, and he may be treated with kindness; but if the fetters of bondage are fastened on him when he is guilty of no crime, we ought not to say that he is treated with JUSTICE. What justice can there be in stealing an article? What justice in purchasing that article, knowing it to be stolen? or what justice in retaining that article when the owner comes to demand