Slike strani
PDF
ePub

$

was bound, in justice, not to have ordered execution in such a case. Suppose a case had come before the Secretary for the Home Department, where persons had been condemned upon evidence clearly bad and insufficient; would he, in such a case, advise execution without further inquiry; and that too, in order to have execution done, and an example made before a certain day? Then his resolution called for a reform-of what? Not of the law, though that doubtless required it, but of the administration of criminal justice in the island. But they were told, that the system of law ought to bear all the blame. Was it to be endured, that public functionaries should thus carry unjust sentences into execution in such a precipitate manner, and that the House should do nothing more than coolly say, that all the blame rested with the system? Where were the checks that were justly to be expected from the controlling superintendence of an English governor, endowed with prerogative, possessing the sympathies of national feeling, and the education and habits of the high rank in which he moved? Should they not expect to see him wield his authority for the protection of the weak, from the violence of the mighty, instead of lending the influence of his power to sanction oppression and injustice? If any thing in the arguments of the right hon. gentlemen opposite more particularly called

I on him not to consent to substitute the amendment for his own resolution, it was the observation of one of them who had long been connected with the colonies, who said he was afraid that if censure were passed upon judicial proceedings regularly carried on, it would establish a dangerous precedent. But, was the House prepared to say, that it never would inquire into any judicial proceedings, in which, although the essence of justice had been violated, the forms had been complied with? If they were, he must protest against a doctrine so unconstitutional. Whatever forms were observed towards these eight slaves, the substance of justice had been denied them, and eight men were consigned to death who ought not to have suffered. It was proved, that four of them were convicted on the evidence of a perjured rogue and robber, and that one of them was executed after the governor was aware of the infamy of the witness. If they were to be told, that it was neither safe nor expedient to

VOL. XIV.

pass censure on those who duly acted under the solemn obligations of judges and jurors, why then had the cases of Russel and Sidney, and other murdered victims of arbitrary power, been revised and reversed? Had they not been tried according to law, before judges and juries, closely observing judicial forms? If the doctrine now insisted upon had been enforced by our ancestors, how could they have wiped off the foul stigma of these murders from the national character? He would no further trespass on the time of the House, than to say, that the government must bring this system of judicial abuse to an end, unless they were prepared to make a mockery of their whole proceedings. He could not adopt the amendment, because his conscience told him, that he ought not to bestow a qualified praise upon individuals, on the ground that what they had done was not in violation of law.

The House divided on Mr. Denman's motion; Ayes 63; Noes 103; Majority against the motion 40.

List of the Minority.

Acland, sir T.

Allen, J. H.

Althorp, viscount.
Attwood, M.
Benett, J.
Birch, J.
Brougham, H.
Burdett, sir F.
Butterworth, J.
Buxton, T. F.
Calcraft, J.
Cavendish, C.
Calthorp, hon. F.
Cavendish, H.
Colborne, N. R.
Cole, sir C.
Corbett, P.
Crompton, S.
Davies, T. H.
Duncannon, viscount
Fergusson, sir R. C.
Evans, W.
Gaskell, B.
Guise, sir B. W.
Heathcote, G. J.
Heron, sir R.
Hobhouse, J. C.
Honywood, W.
Kemp, T. R.
Lushington, Dr.
Leycester, R.
Marjoribanks, S.
Martin, J.
Milton, viscount
Newman, R. W.

3 Z

[blocks in formation]

After the division, Mr. Brougham, referring to the course and temper of the discussion, suggested the propriety of cutting off the latter part of the amendment relative to the inexpediency of impeaching the verdict of the court, being all that part which followed the words "the year 1823." Mr. Canning assented to the suggestion, and it was agreed nem. con. to alter the amendment accordingly.

HOUSE OF LORDS.
Friday, March 3.

CORN LAWS.] Lord King rose to present a petition against the most gigantic of all jobs. It came from the working community of Manchester and its neighbourhood, and was signed by 40,000 persons, and would have been signed by 20,000 more, had it not been for the delay and expense of collecting them. He thought that the character of that House would depend on the result of their lordships' determination respecting the Corn-laws. In coming to this question, their lordships ought to recollect, that the public were very good judges, not only of the value of their decisions, but of the motives of them also. The petitioners stated, that the Corn-laws were made for the benefit of the landlords; but in that House it was always argued, that those laws were established for the benefit of the public; and those who were most forward in maintaining this doctrine, were among the persons who contended for unlimited trade in every other respect. The people, however, were now too well informed on the subject, and their lordships must expect to draw very largely on public credulity, if they thought they could make it be believed that those laws were for any body's benefit but the landowners. Some noble lords, however, objected very much to "little harangues" on corn, and wished to have nothing said on the subject, except in a real debate, in which they might sport all the variety of their ingenuity. These great orators were like those sportsmen who wished to abstain from shooting occasionally, in order to have ne great shooting day. Others, on the contrary, chose to shoot every day in the year, and he believed that, in the end, they killed more than those who reserved themselves for one great annual battle. When the great debate day did come, he had no doubt that some noble lords would

endeavour to prove that the real interests of the manufacturers and labourers consisted in eating the dearest corn, and in being confined to the narrowest market. To him nothing could be more absurd than this; for when the price of corn was made dear, the labour of those who consumed it must be increased, as they could not get proportionate wages. There could be no greater injustice than this, and he believed nothing was so likely to diffuse angry feelings, and separate the labouring community from the owners of property. He was therefore most anxious that the subject should be gone into without loss of time.

Ordered to lie on the table.

HOUSE OF COMMONS.

Friday, March 3.

SLAVERY IN THE COLONIES.] Mr. Brougham rose for the purpose of asking the hon. Secretary for the Colonies, whether any act of the legislature of St. Vincent's on the subject of improving the condition of the slaves, had recently arrived in this country, and whether it was of that character which would cause its being allowed by the government here? He was anxious that information should be given to the House on the subject of any recent advices received of the proceedings of the colonial legislatures; for, as far as he had been able to ascertain, the statement of the right hon. Secretary for Foreign Affairs as to the course which some of those legislatures had adopted, was not borne out by the facts that had transpired in this country.

Mr. Wilmot Horton said, that a bill had been received in this country which had been introduced in the colonial assembly of St. Vincent's. It had been read a second time, and ordered to be committed; and he supposed that ere now it had been passed into a law. This and all the other acts which had emanated from the colonial legislatures would be laid before the House. His right hon. friend had not stated, that in the acts of any of the colonies the whole of the points mentioned in the Orders in Council had been embraced. Many of them had, however, been introduced.

Mr. Brougham said, he had no wish to impute any intentional misstatement on the subject. He was aware that the accounts that had been received were as yet imperfect; but undoubtedly there did ap

pear to him a discrepancy between the statement made by the Secretary for Foreign Affairs and the accounts which had yet arrived in this country. The right hon. Secretary had said, that some measures had been adopted for facilitating the manumission of slaves, where they had the means of purchasing it, that was, that a power should be given to appraise the slave without the consent of the owner, and on that appraisement that the slave should, if he could make good the sum at which he was appraised, be manumitted. Upon this point, he could not find that any measure of the exact description alluded to had been introduced by the colonial assemblies. The next point on which the House was told that an improvement had taken place, was that of the discontinuance of the whip as a badge of authority and stimulus to labour in the hands of overseers and drivers; but, upon this he could not discover that any step had been taken, except by the legislatures of St. Vincent's. The next point was the admissibility of slave-evidence. The statement of the right hon. Secretary for Foreign Affairs on this point was, that out of twelve of the colonies which had legislatures (indeed it might be said out of thirteen, for, including Honduras, there were thirteen with local legislatures) seven had adopted measures for the admission of negro evidence. Now, what might be the contents of the papers recently received from the West Indies, he did not know; but from all the inquiries he had been able to make, and after consulting the public papers which had reached this country, detailing the proceedings of the colonies, as late as the 22nd of November last, he could learn, that only three of the islands had passed any acts for the admission of slave evidence. These were Dominica, Tobago, and Barbadoes. The act of Dominica had been passed eight years ago; so that that could not be received as evidence of any disposition of the islands to act upon the Order in Council. There were thus only two islands which had passed any bill in accordance with the Order in Council. Tobago had passed such a measure; and to let the House see how far it entered into the spirit of the orders sent out, he would state how far it carried the principle of receiving slave evidence. The evidence of a slave was to be admitted only in the single case of murder of a slave committed by a white man, and even that admission was to be

contingent, upon two circumstances; namely, that there were none other but slaves present when the crime was committed, and that the testimony of the party admitted as evidence should be corroborated by that of two slaves of unimpeached character. These regulations, and some others included in the act, rendered it so objectionable that it was disallowed by the government here; so that, for any practical good, it was worth nothing. In the act passed in Barbadoes, slave evidence was admitted, provided the witness produed a certificate of instruction in his religious duties; not, as had been most properly recommended in the instructions sent out from the government here, which admitted the certificate from the religious minister of any Christian denomination, duly licensed to preach and teach, but from the clergy of the established church only. This was the only condition on which a slave could be admitted as evidence in Barbadoes; but it was a qualification of his admissibility, involving such a mockery of justice, that the act itself was most properly disallowed by his Majesty's government. From all he had been able to learn, it appeared, that since the passing of the resolutions by the House of Commons on the 15th of May, 1823, only two islands, Tobago and Barbadoes, had passed any measure for admitting slave evidence; and these were clogged with such conditions and qualifications as caused both to be disallowed at home; so that, in fact, on that point nothing practicable had yet been done.-But it was said that eight out of thirteen of the islands had taken some steps towards giving to the slaves religious instruction, and also for their more due observance of the Sabbath. From the accounts which he had seen, he did not understand that much more had beendonethan had been effected by the measures adopted by government, and supported by that House, of providing and sending out a sufficient number of clergymen of the established church, for the purpose of affording religious instruction; but this was a measure for which the colonies could take no credit. As to the steps taken for a more due observance of the Sabbath, he could not see what had been done, further than the substitution of a Thursday market, for that heretofore held on the Sunday; or the enabling the slaves to work in their provision-grounds on the former day instead of the latter. It was said, that five out

of the thirteen colonies had adopted measures to legalize the marriages of the negroes; but he could not discover where it was adopted, except in the Bahamas; and even there the rights of the masters might, to a certain extent, interfere. Eight of the colonies, the House was told, had adopted measures to secure the property of the slave, so as more effectually to facilitate his manumission. Unfortunately, however, manumission was left out in the instructions sent to Demerara. This was to be regretted, as it would lead the other colonies to believe that the government were not particularly anxious on that point. In the regulations arising out of the orders sent to Trinidad, there was one defect, which extended also to all the regulations made on the same point by the other colonies. It was, that, though the slaves were allowed to cultivate portions of ground for their own profit, they were prohibited from the culture of any of the staple articles of colonial produce; and thus they were precluded from the only branch of industry, by the profits of which their manumission might be greatly accelerated. In the five colonies which were said to have taken steps to prevent the separation of families by sale or otherwise, Bahama was the only one in which a practical measure had been introduced; but in Tobago the measure extended no further than preventing the mother from being separated from the child up to a certain age. That, no doubt, was good as far as it went; but it did not go far enough to justify the statement, that efficient means had been adopted in five coJonies to prevent the separation of families. The House had heard, that in eight of the colonies measures, had been adopted to prevent the punishment of females. He was not aware of that being done in any island but St. Vincent's, but even there the use of the whip, as a badge of authority and a stimulus to labour, was not wholly restricted. The only one of the eight, in all of which it was said that the use of the whip had been restricted, was Tobago; in which island the number of lashes was reduced from thirty-nine to twenty. This, no doubt, would make a great difference in the scale of human sufferings, but it did not go the length to which it ought to be carried. He thought he had said enough to satisfy the House that the statement they had heard was not completely borne out by the facts of which they were yet in possession. However, to bring the mat

ter to an issue, he would ask the hon. Secretary for the Colonies whether he would object to returns containing the titles of all the acts passed by the colonial legislatures since May 1823, for bettering the condition of the slaves? Such a return would show at once what provisions had been made by the colonial legislatures. It would show how far the statements which the House had heard had been borne out, by what had been really done; and what that something was for which the colonies were entitled to any praise.

Mr. Wilmot Horton said, he was perfectly ready to agree to the proposition of the hon. and learned member. Nay, he would do more. He would lay upon the table a tabular statement of the different acts passed by the colonial legislatures, with their different clauses, so that the whole question might at one view be brought under the consideration of the House. It would be some time before this could be done, owing partly to the great increase of business in the colonial department, arising out of the recent discussions respecting the slave question, and partly to the illness of the colonial counsel, which had been brought on by the severe application to the duties of his office. He must take that opportunity of stating, that the hon. member for Aberdeen, by his economy, had been chiefly instrumental in preventing the public departments from being manned in a way necessary for the efficient discharge of their duty. It would be much better, if the present system were not altered, for the House to pass a resolution to absolve the public departments from all responsibility. The colonial counsel had been employed in his office during the whole of last year, not less than ten hours a day. That was too much for any man. Unless the House would furnish him with assistance, the public business must, in a case of illness, stand still. He pledged himself, when the colonial estimates should be brought forward, to show that it was impossible that the public business could be transacted without an augmented establishment. With respect to Demerara, the court of policy of that colony deserved great praise for the readiness with which they had adopted the recommendations of the Order in Council. The hon. and learned member was mistaken when he stated, that the slaves in none of the colonies were permitted to cultivate staple commodities They had that privilege

in Demerara. He did not feel it necessary to enter into the subject at greater length until the papers were before the House. He had every reason to believe that the Order in Council would, in about a fortnight, be the substantial law in St. Lucia, the Cape of Good Hope, Berbice, and the Mauritius.

Mr. Hume said, that though it was paying the hon. Secretary no compliment, he must declare that he had not been listening to his speech until he had roused him by accusing him of impeding the public service. He really had a right to expect a very different treatment from the hon. Secretary; for last year he had allowed an increase of 1,700. in the estimate for the colonial department to pass without observation. The increase was made for the purpose of giving a salary to Mr. Stephen, who was appointed colonial counsel. Nothing could be more objectionable to the colonies than such an appointment. He was the son of the person whom the colonists supposed to be their greatest enemy; and to put him in an office in which every communication to and from the colonies must pass through his hands, was highly objectionable. The appointment had outraged the feelings of the colonists more than any other act of the government

Mr. Wilmot Horton doubted whether the gentlemen in that House who belonged to the profession of the law would accede to the doctrine which the hon. member seemed desirous to establish; namely, that a counsel would allow his private feelings to impede the performance of his public duty. He, in his conscience, believed what he had heard Mr. Stephen himself state, that, on any subject connected with the West-Indian interests, he had never had any communication, direct or indirect, with his father. There was no man to whom, if he wished for advice or information on subjects of difficulty connected with the West Indies, he would sooner apply than Mr. Stephen. The hon. member seemed to labour under a complete mistake as to the duties of Mr. Stephen's office. He was merely an executive officer, and could originate nothing. He might state as a proof that there was no sort of understanding between the father and son, that the former had published a pamphlet in which he called the Order in Council, which was drawn up by his son, parcel of trash." He was glad that he had been presented

with an opportunity of stating, for the satisfaction of persons connected with the West Indies, that Mr. Stephen was merely an executive officer, and could do no more than obey the instructions of the head of the department.

Mr. F. Buxton felt it necessary to say, that Mr. Stephen never made any communications to him. On the contrary, he generally found that gentleman so very reserved, that he preferred transacting business with the hon. secretary.

Mr. Brougham then moved, for the "titles of acts passed by the legislatures of the slave colonies since 15th May, 1823, and containing any provisions for promoting the religious instruction of the slaves, or the better observance of the Sabbath; distinguishing the names of the colonies, the dates of the acts, the numbers of the sections in which such provisions are contained, and specifying whether the same acts had been allowed or disallowed by, or are now under the consideration of, the king in council”—Ordered.

ARMY ESTIMATES.] On the order of the day for going into a committee of supply.

Colonel Davies said, that, in opposing the motion for the Speaker leaving the chair, he could assure the House, he was far from being actuated by any spirit of factious opposition. Thus much he wished at the outset to claim for himself and for his party, who had always been disposed to support a system of liberal policy. He had shown that his own disposition was not unfavourable to such a system, when he, last year, withdrew his opposition to the estimates of the noble lord. But the circumstances of the country had been greatly altered since that period, and in the present crisis, when the nation was labouring under the pressure of general distress, it was the duty of every member, to see that the burthens imposed upon his constituents were as light as possible. Besides this consideration, there were objections to the condition of the army as constituted at present, which did not apply to it, when the noble lord came down with his propositions last year. If the motion with which he intended to conclude, should be agreed to, which was for a select committee to inquire into the military expenditure of the country, he had no objection to vote for a committee of supply, to grant such a sum as would

« PrejšnjaNaprej »