Page images

very good crops of corn, or other useful vegetables; and his title to the land be quite clear and undifputed to him and his heirs for ever; and the land clear of all mortgages, or rentcharges, or other burthens, or outgoings, whatsoever; and yet that the faid man, though fo great a land-holder, may be in want of a dinner." The Bishop had fpent a few years in North-America; and there, I conjecture, this query came into his head.-But to return to the fubject of the emancipation of the Negro-Slaves in the WeftIndies, the fuggeftions of Mr. Harriott for the gradual attainment of this important change in their condition, contained in the faid 36th chapter of his useful and entertaining work, are fo judicious, and fo well-defcribed, that I fhall here prefent my readers with the whole of that chapter in the author's own words.

F. M.

From LIEUTENANT JOHN HARRIOTT'S "Struggies through Life," vol. II. pages 232 to 248.

[blocks in formation]

"Slavery in North America, in Turkey, Barbary, the European States, up the Mediterranean, and in the East and IVeft Indies; Observation on Slavery; Hints for a gradual Emancipation,

"IN fome parts of my account of America, my objections to any thing that feemed to countenance slavery are cursorily mentioned; and yet I afterwards acknowledge to have purchased fome flaves. I wish to remove any appearance of inconfiftency on this head, and know not how I can do it better than by giving my opinion on the longcontefted point for the abolition of flavery. It is an opinion. I gave, fome years back, to a much-valued friend, who re


quefted it when the fubject was fo generally agitated and claimed the publick attention. It is true, fince that time, I have myself purchased slaves; yet have I never changed my opinion, but remain more and more confirmed in it.


Having feen Slavery in a variety of fhapes, in different parts of the world, not to have confidered it would reflect on my humanity: I have often, very often, and with fenfations that varied as the time and circumftances occurred; and I believe the sureft, shortest, and cleareft, way of delivering my thoughts on the fubject, will be by sketching an outline of the kinds of Slavery that have fallen within my notice. In the general acceptation of the term Slavery there is not, cannot be, a more fincere well-wisher for a proper abolition than myfelf. How that is beft to be carried into execution, fo as to produce the greatest good and occafion the leaft evil, deferves ferious confideration.

"In North-America, taking those parts to the northward and eastward of Pennsylvania, the Slaves are much happier from being better fed, cloathed, and taken care of, than they would be if left entirely to their own liberty; I am an advocate, however, for reftoring them to their natural rights. To enfranchise the whole immediately would not be the best poffible good for them. What has already been done (in bringing them, or their ancestors, from Africa, to make them Slaves) cannot be undone; but a continuance of the horrid traffick is unjuft and wrong in the extreme.

"In Turkey and Barbary there are two (or more) kinds of Slaves: thofe who are bought, and the Europeans who are made prisoners of war. The firft we may clafs with the negroes in America and the Weft-Indies, while the latter are to be pitied the most of any defcription of flaves I have feen. Dreadful, indeed! is the fituation of thefe unhappy mortals, compared with whom the flaves in our plantations are freemen. And here we may lament that we have


not the power to interfere refpecting a quick abolition of their Slavery.

"It is unnecessary to notice all the fimilar kinds of Slavery feen in different countries; I fhall felect thofe only that appeared to me to differ from the reft. In all the European States up the Mediterranean, they have Slaves who have been condemned as fuch on account of crimes. The juftice or injustice of their sentences is no part of the prefent inquiry; but, admitting they were fairly tried and convicted, I hefitate not to say, I think it much more justifiable to deprive them of their liberty than to take-away their lives, let the crime they have committed be what it may. Of course I am no advocate for abolishing this kind of Slavery; yet it requires numerous regulations to make it anfwer the intended purposes of punishment, repentance, reformation, and example.

"In the Eaft-Indies Slavery affumes a milder aspect, Slaves being chiefly bought and kept for domestick uses. The native poor, with large families, in times of fcarcity, think they cannot do better than to dispose of their children either to the opulent natives or Europeans; and, being fold when young, they become ftrongly attached to their masters or mistreffes, from whom they receive every thing, even to fuperfluities; fo that to enfranchise them, and turn them adrift to get their own livelihood, would be a punishment in nine cafes out of ten.

"One matter of fact is worth a dozen fuppofitions. I had a boy fent me from Bengal to Mafulipatam, when about eight years old, as a prefent. My friend, who fent him, wrote me word it was an act of charity for the mother had been some time importuning him to take the boy for a slave; and, on mentioning his intention to fend the boy fuch a distance, she was perfectly fatisfied when informed it was to an English Officer of his acquaintance. The boy continued


with me for fome years. When about to leave India, I offered him his liberty, and to fend him back to Bengal. On the first mention of the circumftance, he threw himself at my feet, as I fat; and, lifting one of them up with his hands, placed it on his head upon the ground, and defired me to kill him rather than turn him away. I accordingly kept him until we arrived at St. Helena, where I made some stay; and it became a ferious confideration upon learning that there had lately been great disturbancces in England by the emancipation of fuch numbers, who, thus freed from fervitude and restraint, were fwarming about the streets of London, diftreffed to the greatest degree. This determined me; I gave him his choice, to go-back to Bengal free, or to be placed with fome worthy family at St. Helena. Finding me refolved not to take him to England, and noticing how happily they lived in the island, he preferred being turned-over to a mafter and miftrefs who would take care of him, to having his liberty and returning to his native country; and I am fatisfied he made the wifer choice.

"The Malay flaves, that I obferved on the coaft of Sumatra, both in the Dutch and English settlements, differ fo little from those in the other fettlements in the East Indies, that it is unneceffary to fay more concerning them, than that their Slavery frequently originates in an extravagant spirit of gaming, which induces the father, when he has nothing elfe to stake, to gamble-away the liberty of his children: and hence, I infer, arises that extraordinary kind of madnefs, fo peculiar to the Malays, termed running a muck. I believe, the nervous system of a lofing gamefter is more violently agitated and convulfed by the fenfe of his loffes, than by any other voluntary felf-inflicted operation whatever; and, where the paroxyfm of the diforder has risen to fuch a height as to induce the miferable man to hazard his children becoming flaves to another, there is fcarcely any


other rafhnefs he can be guilty-of that need excite furprife; yet the manner in which he fecks deftruction, which I have related in a former part, is unaccountable.

"I have referved to the last my obfervations on the treatment of flaves in our Weft-India plantations, as they only are the real fubjects of the Abolition-act; and I conceive the foregoing will not be deemed either foreign to the fubject, or fuperfluous, fince it may help in fome degree to account for the apparent difference in the evidence given by different gentlemen before the houfes of parliament, as well as the contradictory accounts in the publick papers. The inhuman and horrid practice of obtaining and conveying men, women, and children, from their native land, merely because they are black, and therefore reckoned fitter for work in hot climates than Europeans; the original purchafe, conducted by fraud, force, and artifice; the tranfportation and fale of them, in a foreign country, for flaves; altogether present the picture of fo diabolical a traffick, that I cannot fufficiently express my furprize at finding there are yet advocates for its continuance, after the inhumanity of the practice has been fo ably and justly expofed: for it is a mockery of justice, as well as an infult to common understanding, to fay, that, from motives of humanity, they are removed by compulfion from a worse to a better fituation.

"Let us fuppofe there were inhabitants of fome diftant country, as fuperior to us in ftrength of arms and understanding as we esteem ourselves to the poor Africans; and, trufting in that ftrength, let us farther fuppofe they were to come hither, and, among others, to make free with these advocates for flavery. I imagine thefe gentry would not be better reconciled to their fate, from being told, by their mafters, it was doing them a kindnefs to carry them from

Vol. I. chap. xlv. p. 205.


« PreviousContinue »