« PreviousContinue »
home to live in Navery under people so much their superiors, adding, withal, it was likewise necessary, or they (their lords and masters) could not otherwise enjoy quite so many superfuities; and, I fear, that nothing short of so forcible an argument could, or would, convince them. For, as Miss Hannah Maria Williams observes in one of her letters from France, (only I substitute the abolition of Navery for the demolition of the Bastille,)." Those, who have contemplated on Navery without rejoicing at the prospect of an Abolition, may, for aught I know, be very respectable persons, and very agreeable companions in the hour of prosperity; but, if my heart were finking in anguilh, I should not fly to them for consolation.” I believe it is Sterne who says, that a man is incapable of loving one woman as he ought, who has not a sort of an affection for the whole sex. I am of the same opinion; and as little should I look for particular sympathy from those who have no feelings of general philanthropy.
“ To return; the poor Africans, thus cruelly carried-over to the West-Indies, are exposed at a publick market, frequently at a vendue, (or sale by auction,) and fold, like beasts of burden, to the highest bidder. A small proportion are selected for domestick ufus; and I am willing to allow fome of these to be ranked with the flaves in the northern parts of the continent of America, for comfort and even for pleasures, except in case of miscondnet, when they are fub. ject to be turned-out as field-negroes, which is often the case; under which term, we may comprehend the large bulk of negro-laves. These may truely be called miserable Slaves ; fur, although it may be allowed that in fome of the plantations they are treated with humanity, yet those who are treated the very best, among the working field. negroes, it is a cruel lot to suppose any fellow-creature to be born-to, or to be subjected to by theiron hand of power, with out having committed an offence. What, theo, must be the
deplorable fate of those unhappy wretches who are the pro. perty of masters, (I am sorry to say mistresses, too), whose hearts are callous to every feeling of humanity towards them? Impressed from their cradles with the idea that their flaves are little, or nothing, superior to the brute creation ; they treat them accordingly.
“In my youthful days I remember to have seen at Savan. nah-la-Mar, in Jamaica, a Creole lady (as she was called) stand by while one of her negro-wenches was so severely flogged, in thc publick place, by one of her negro men. Naves, that, if a drayman were so to flog his horse in the streets of London, I am persuaded the populace would wrest the whip from his hands, and retaliate upon him the injuries of the animal. Yet, so accustomed to these fights and screamings of the poor wretches were the people at Savannah, that they past along unconcerned, until attracted by the greater novelty of a youth, like myself, interfering, by aking the mistress if she was not ashamed of herself. The good lady then poured-forth such a torrent of abuse, plentifully decorated with oaths, as to provoke a retort fimilar ; until, foaming at the mouth like a mad creature, the retreated into her house, curling me for a “ dom torry orse, impudent sailor-fellow.'
“ What Mr. Jefferson remarks, of the conduct of the marter to the Nave in Virginia, is equally, if not more, applicable to the West-India islands. The whole commerce between master and save is a perpetual exercise of the most boisterous patsions, the most unremitting haughtiness, on the one part, and degrading submission on the other. The chil. dren see this, and learn to imitate it, man being an imitative snimal. This disposition to imitate is the germ of all education in him; from his cradle to his grave he is learning to do what he sees others do. If a parent could find no motive, either in his philanthropy or his self-love, for restraining the intemperance of his passions towards his slave, the presence of his child should always be a sufficient one. The parent storms; the child looks-on, catches the lineaments of wrath, puts-on the same airs in the circle of smaller flaves, gives a loose to his worst paffions; and, thus nursed, educated, and daily exercised, in tyranny, cannot but be stamped by it with odious peculiarities.
“ God bless the Duke of C! I trust he speaks honestly, as far as he knows. But his royal highness, as well as fome other respectable characters, muft excuse me for observing, that their knowledge respecting the treatment, usage, and mode of living, of the hard-working field-negroes on the plantations, must necessarily be much confined. The most that these men of high rank have an opportunity of observing is among the household, or domestick, negroes, where our opinions may partly coalesce. But, admitting that, out of curiosity, they may have visited many, and some of the worst, of the (maltreated) negro-plantations, is it not evident to common sense, that the owners, or managers, of such plantations would take the greatest care that every thing should appear in its best during such visits? Of course, they fee no negro-driver flourishing and cracking his whip over the negroes at work, to try his dexterity in cutting a musquito off any of their backs, merely to amuse himself. Nay, if these visitors condescended to inquire of the poor devils themselves, the wretched beings too well know they dare not pour their forrows into the ear of any but such as, like myself, (being, at the time I allude to, in too humble a station to attract the notice of their masters,) could observe their customary daily treatment, with their hard, scanty, sublistence. And, while employed, in the long-boat of the ship I belonged-to, to fetch-off sugars, rums, &c. from various distant plantations, I have frequently entered their huts with familiarity, at night, to give them a spare piece of salt-beef or pork,
I believe it was a situation as likely as any to obtain informie ation on the subject, free from partiality or prejudice, ada mitting the observer to have any human affections remaining; and, where a person has had frequent opportunities of observation, it requires no very great abilities to form a tolerable judgement on the subject.
“ I do not hesitate, therefore, in saying that the traffick of transporiing fresh flaves from Africa ought, in conmon justice, to cease immediately; as it cannot be justified on any principle of humanity, expediency, or necessity. So far, then, I again express my surprize that there should be two opinions on the subject, anong men who are not interested in it. The sons of Mammon are out of the question : for they, whether in the semblance of merchants, lhip-owners, or planters, will endeavour to justify it under sanction of their religion, self-interest !
“ The great and almost only difficulty, I conceive, is in forming and adopting such a plan, for their gradual emancipation, as will best answer the humane intention of re. leasing so many thousands of our fellow-creatures from bond
To do this hastily, to say to them, “ Ye are all free from this instant," would be nearly as cruel as the first enllaving them. If there were only a few hundreds, or thousands, thinly scattered over the illands, it mattered not how foon it was done; but the liberation of such a multitude, whose numbers far exceed the Europeans, from whom they must (whether freemen or flaves) expect a maintenance for a confiderable time to come, would not only be productive of the worst consequences to those Europeans, but equally so. to themselves : the excefles, fo fudden an intoxication would plunge them into, would be dreadful.
"Probably, much better plans than I have to offer, for accomplishing this desirable end, may have been suggested ; and I hope they will be adopted. But the following was
what I propoled to carry into execution, if I'had settled on any of the southern states of America, where slaves alone at present perform the work; and from this I had promised myself no small gratification, in the good I might have done as an individual, and a hope that the example might induce others to do the same, when they found it their interest, whatever their principles might be.
Under their present owners, they have not the most distant prospect of gaining their liberty: to purchase such Naves, with a view to afford them an opportunity of working-out their own redemption, I believe is justifiable. Supposing, then, I had purchased a number of Naves, worth on an average fifty pounds each ; on becoming their master, to encourage them in diligence and good behaviour, I would have allowed them one day in each week to work for them. selves, allotting a piece of ground to each to work upon ; assuring them, that whoever, by their industry and frugality, saved a fifth part of their prime cost, (say ten pounds,) should then be entitled to purchase, with that money, another day to work upon their own account, and so on until they cleared the whole of their time. Possibly, it will adpear to some people that a long time would be required for a slave in this manner to emancipate himself compleatly: but it is far from being so. Afreenegro can easily earn half-a-crown a day, mostof them twiceas much; a slave is found in the necessaries of life and cloathing by his master. We will suppose, then, that he earns no more than half-a-crown on the day first given to him, calling it Saturday, and that he expends one shilling on himself; he then lays-by eighteen pence a week. Triing as this may appear, at first view, to the accomplishment of so great an end, it will enable him to make his first purchase, of another day of freedom in the week, in little more than two years and a half. Should he then apply the whole additional earnings to the former eighteen