Baptist History Homepage

State of Slavery Throughout Christendom
From New Baptist Miscellany, 1828
      The recent publication of the Twenty-first Report of the African Institution, enables us to give a short sketch of the present condition of Slavery; as well as the efforts of that institution for its suppression: and, with a view of presenting a more luminous and distinct insight into this wide subject, we shall arrange the information we have to communicate under separate subheads.

State of the Slave Trade among the European powers.

      FRANCE. — France has, at length, improved her legislation for the repression of the Slave Trade; and, although the measures which she has adopted are far from being fully adequate to the exigency of the case, they unquestionably indicate a better spirit on the subject. A law has recently passed, by which, all who co-operate or participate in any manner whatever in the Negro Slave Trade (including owners, super-cargoes, underwriters, commanders, and other officers), are subjected to banishment; and to a fine equal to the value of ship and cargo, to be inflicted jointly on the individuals concerned ; the ship and cargo being, moreover, confiscated. The captain and officers, are, besides, rendered incapable of serving either in the royal or mercantile navy; and the mariners, those excepted who, in fifteen days from the time of their arrival in port shall disclose the facts of the case, shall be imprisoned from three months to five years; and these penalties are to be independent of such as, by the existing penal code, may be incurred for other crimes proved to have been committed in the course of the voyage, such as the murder of slaves, &c. That this law may produce a considerable effect in checking the trade from the ports of France is very probable; but if a great change shall not be effected in the mode of administering justice in the French colonies, the trade, it is to be feared, will still be carried on from thence. Whatever may be its future effect, certainly the annals of the past year exhibit little or no diminution of French Slave-trading on the coast of Africa. A fact of peculiar atrocity is quoted from one of the Sierra Leone Gazettes: -

A French Slave-ship, the Perle, while lying near Point-a-Petre, Guadaloupe, succeeded in landing part of her Slaves: sixty-five, however, still remained on board, when an armed French Government-cutter was observed standing toward her. The brutal captain, to avoid detection, and consequent capture, threw the whole of the wretched victims overboard, and every one perished.
      SPAIN. — The conduct of Spain, with respect to the Slave Trade, has evinced one unvarying course of evasion, on the part of the colonial functionaries, and of indifference, if not faithlessness to engagements, on the part of government. The papers now laid before parliament exhibit, in every rank, from the highest to the lowest, an absence of moral restraint and recklessness of human misery, which are perfectly sickening. The number of Spanish Slave-ships condemned at Sierra Leone, in the last year, amounts only to six. The number boarded, but not detained, was immense : they appear to have swarmed on the coast: the treaty with Spain unfortunately does not admit of their detention, unless Slaves are found on board; so that our cruisers that visit them, (although the indications of their Slave trading purposes are as clear as the sun– and these purposes are, in many cases, even avowed), are obliged to leave them unmolested, to pursue their criminal traffic; and when a fair opportunity of escape offers, they take their Slaves on board in a few hours, and set sail for their destination. The number of Slaves captured in these six ships was 1360; but one of them being overset in a tornado, the Slaves on board, to the number of 197, perished. The crowded state of these ships, and the sufferings of the Slaves from that cause and from the ravages of dysentery and small-pox, are now become such necessary incidents of the trade, that they excite no surprise. One case, however, which occurred so recently as February last, may be specified: it is that of the Paulita, Antonio Terrara master, captured off Cape Formosa, by Lieut. Tucker, of H. M. S. Maidstone, with 221 Slaves on board; her burden was only 69 tons, and into this space were thrust 82 men, 56 women, 39 boys, and 44 girls — the only provision found on board for their subsistence was yams of the worst quality and fetid water. When captured, both small-pox
p. 67
and dysentery had commenced their ravages. Thirty died on the passage to Sierra Leone, and the remainder were landed in an extreme state of wretchedness and emaclation.

      PORTUGAL. — During the last fifteen years, the only pretence advanced by Portugal for refusing totally to abolish her Slave Trade, has been the necessities of her Trans Atlantic possessions. Since the declaration of the independence of Brazil, this pretence has no longer existed. Portugal, nevertheless, has clung to the trade; and has recently advanced a claim to carry it on without molestation, from the coast of Africa, for the supply of her African islands—the Cape de Verds, St. Thomas, and Princes; whence it would obviously be an easy matter afterward to transport them to the Brazils or Cuba. A traffic of that description is actually proceeding at this moment, of the occasional interruption of which, by British cruisers, the Portuguese ambassador ventured rather loudly to complain as a breach of treaty.

Slave Trade and Slavery in the United States.

      It is to be regretted that no arrangements have yet been entered into with the American government, for the mutual suppression of the Slave Trade; especially as there have appeared strong indications, in the course of last year, of American interests being embarked under foreign flags in this traffic. The Slave Trade, however, which most deeply affects the character of America, is her internal Slave Trade; which, to the reproach of her free institutions, fills her southern provinces with atrocities paralleled only in the annals of Africa. We are happy to observe, that this Slave Trade, as well as the slavery which gives it birth, has begun widely and strongly to engage the attention of the American public; and that, after the example of England, Antislavery Societies are now forming throughout the union, embracing not only the object of protecting free blacks and mulattoes from being kidnapped and reinslaved, but that of the universal emancipation of the African race. It is, without doubt, a deep stain on the character of Great Britain, that any of her subjects, and especially of her public men, should subsist by the forced labour of Slaves; but in one or two of the middle states of America, some of the highest names in the annals of that nation actually derive their income from breeding Slaves for the southern plantations, in the same way in which cattle and pigs are in this country reared for the market!

Entire abolition of Slavery in Austria.

      The time, it may be hoped, is fast approaching, when a better feeling will pervade every part of the world pretending to Christian principle and to the light of civilization; and it is no slight encouragement to the cherishing of this hope, that a decree has recently appeared from the Emperor of Austria—remarkable, both for the principles which it asserts and the sanction which it imposes—utterly abolishing Slavery throughout the Austrian dominions. “Every man,” says his Imperial Majesty, “by the right of nature, sanctioned by reason, must be considered as a free person.” . . . . “Every Slave becomes free from the moment he touches the Austrian soil or even an Austrian ship.” The free governments of Great Britain, America, and France, may learn a salutary lesson of justice and humanity from this monarch.

      The foregoing brief details will doubtless prepare our readers to relish, with intense interest, the conduct of His Majesty's late 'Ministers in reference to the oppressive and persecuting spirit evinced by the legislative House of Assembly at Jamaica.'

      The subjoined remarks form part of the despatch of the Right Honourable William Huskisson, Secretary of state for the Colonies, to his excellency Major General Sir John Keane, K. C. B. Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica.

      We feel assured, that the sound constitutional principles developed in these extracts will afford as great a gratification to our readers as they have imparted to us: we shall therefore offer no apology for their insertion.

      The spirit they breathe is, that no unnecessary interference with the religious opinions and practice even of slaves, can be allowed by Great Britain; they are conceived in the full extent of religious toleration, and by direct inference they acknowledge, the impossibility of legal restraints within the sacred precincts of conscience. we trust they form the basis of the code, by which, in future, our colonies will be governed, and that succeeding administrations, as well for their own fame, as the permanent welfare of our slave population, in whose persons the inalienable rights of humanity have been violated, will make them the corner-stone of their legislative edifice.

      We have always felt the difficulties associated with emancipation, and we know that the participators in this most unnatural traffic, can plead long usage and the protection of parliament, not as a ground for

p. 68
its everlasting continuance, but solely for an abolition so gradual in its progress, as shall not infringe upon or injure individual rights vested in the property.

      To those who advocate slavery as a system, who profess that this deeply injured class of the human family realize a degree of comfort quite in harmony with their capacity for enjoyment, we have nothing to say; we may pity their blindness, if it be real, and if not, we scarcely entertain a hope of its removal: nothing rivets the understanding in such adamantine bonds, as self interest; so effectually precludes the entrance of light, as the consciousness that what we desire to maintain, cannot exist with an increased degree of intelligence.

      There are some, however, who hold opinions on slavery much more rational and moderate than these, who are still in doubt, as to the best method of effecting that change, which they cannot but see, is inevitable. To such, we would suggest, that religion will best prepare the way for a return from this odious system, to the enjoyment and exercise of natural rights: if it be feared that a release from present and in many instances long endured thraldom, may be followed by a licentious abuse of liberty, let the slave now be taught the nature and extent of that responsibility, which as a freed man, he must acknowledge towards God, and the laws: if it be feared, that when emancipated, he will seek his happiness in indolence, and in the unrestrained pursuit of debasing sensuality, let it now be impressed on his mind, that the pursuits of honourable industry, yield the largest and most enduring amount of real good. In a word, let him be brought within the pale of civilized life, let the mild and winning truths of the christian religion exert their full influence on his spirit, demonstrating incontestably that there is a future and final account, to which he is amenable, and on the results of which will depend his eternal happiness or misery.

      If this course be pursued, we anticipate the most advantageous consequences, not only to the slave but also to his owner.

      Downing-street, Sept. 22. Sir, The act passed by the Governor Council, and Assembly of Jamaica, in the month of December, 1826, entitled “An act
* That our readers may have some conception of the spirit of these obnoxious laws, the three which particularly relate to the subject of religious restraints are subjoined.

LXXXIII. And whereas it has been found that the practice of ignorant, superstitious, or designing slaves, of attempting to instruct others has been attended with the most pernicious consequences, and even with the loss of life: Be it enacted, That any slave or slaves, found guilty of preaching and teaching as Anabaptists, or otherwise, without a permission from their owner and the quarter sessions for the parish in which such preaching or teaching takes place, shall be punished in such manner as any three magistrates may deem proper, by whipping, or imprisonment in the workhouse to hard labour.

LXXXIV. And whereas the assembling of slaves and other persons, after dark, at places of meeting belonging to dissenters from the established religion, and other persons professing to be teachers of religion, has been found extremely dangerous, and great facilities are thereby given to the formation of plots and conspiracies, and the health of the slaves and other persons has been injured in travelling to and from such places of meeting at late hours in the night: Be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, that from and after the commencement of this act, all such meetings between sunset and sunrise shall be held and deemed unlawful; and any sectarian, dissenting minister, or other person professing to be a teacher of religion, who shall, contrary to this act, keep open any such places of meeting between sunset and sunrise for the purpose aforesaid, or permit or suffer any such nightly assembly of slaves therein, or be present thereat, shall forfeit and pay a sum not less than L20., or exceeding L50., for each offence, to be recovered in a summary manner before any three justices, by warrant of distress and sale, one moiety thereof to be paid to the informer, who is hereby declared a competent witness, and the other moiety to the poor of the parish in which such offence shall be committed; and, in default of payment thereof, the said justices are hereby empowered and required to commit such offender or fenders to the common gaol [jail] for any space of time not exceeding one calendar month; provided always, that nothing herein contained shall be deemed or taken to prevent any minister of the Presbyterian Kirk, or licensed minister, from performing divine worship at any time before the hour of eight o'clock in the evening at any licensed place of worship, or to interfere with the celebration of divine worship according to the rites and ceremonies of the Jewish and Roman Catholic religions.

LXXXV. And whereas, under pretence of offerings and contributions, large sums of money and other chattels have been extorted by designing men, professing to be teachers of religion, practising on the ignorance and superstition of the negroes in this island, to their great loss and impoverishment: and whereas an ample provision is already made by the public and by private persons for the religious instruction of the slaves: Be it enacted by the authority aforesaid, that from and after the commencement of this act, it shall not be lawful for any dissenting minister, religious teacher, or other person whatsoever, to demand or receive any money or other chattel whatsoever from any slave or slaves within this island, for affording such slave or slaves religions instruction, by way of offering contributions, or under any other pretence whatsoever; and if any person or persons shall, contrary to the true intent and meaning of this act, such person or persons shall, upon conviction before any three justices, forfeit and pay the sum of L20. for each offence, to be recovered in a summary manner, by warrant of distress and sale, under the hands and seals of the said justices, one moiety thereof to be paid to the informer, who is hereby declared a competent witness, and the other moiety to the poor of the parish in which such offence shall be committed; and in default of payment, the said justices are hereby empowered and required to commit such offender or offenders to the common gaol [jail] for any space of time not exceeding one calendar month.

p. 69
alter and amend the slave laws of this island,” having been referred by His Majesty in Council to the Lords of the Committee of Privy Council for the Affairs of Trade and Foreign Plantations, that committee have reported to His Majesty in Council their opinion that this act ought to be disallowed. The order of His Majesty's Council, approving that report and disallowing the act, will be transmitted to you by the earliest opportunity.

      In obedience to the commands of His Majesty in Council, I proceed to communicate to you the grounds of His Majesty's decision upon this subject.

      The Privy Council did not submit to His Majesty their advice that this act should be disallowed without great reluctance. The great importance of the subject has been fully estimated, and His Majesty has perceived with much satisfaction the advances which the Colonial Legislature have made in many respects to meet the recommendations conveyed to them in Lord Bathurst's despatch of the 11th of May, 1826; but, however much His Majesty may have been desirous to sanction these valuable improvements in the slave code of Jamaica, it has been found impossible to overcome the objections to which other enactments of this law are open.

      Among the various subjects which this act presents for consideration, none is more important in itself, nor more interesting to every class of society in this kingdom, than the regulations on the subject of religious instruction. The 83d, and the two following clauses must be considered as an invasion of that toleration to which all His Majesty's subjects, whatever may be their civil condition, are alike entitled. The prohibition of persons in a state of slavery assuming the office of religious teachers might seem a very mild restraint, or rather a fit precaution against indecorous proceedings; but, amongst some of the religious bodies who employ Missionaries in Jamaica, the practice of mutual instruction is stated to be an established part of their discipline. So long as the practice is carried on in an inoffensive and peaceable manner, the distress produced by the prevention of it will be compensated by no public advantage.

      The prohibition of meetings for religious worship between sun-set and sun-rise will, in many cases, operate as a total prohibition, and will be felt with peculiar severity by domestic slaves inhabiting large towns, whose ordinary engagements on Sunday will not afford leisure for attendance on public worship before the evening.

      The penalties denounced upon persons collecting contributions from slaves for purposes either of charity or religion, cannot but be felt, both by their teachers and by their followers, as humiliating and unjust. Such a law would affix an unmerited stigma on the religious instructor; and it prevents the slave from obeying a positive precept of the Christian religion, which he believes to be obligatory on him, and which is not inconsistent with the duties he owes to his master. The prohibition is, therefore, a gratuitous aggravation of the evils of his condition.

      It may be doubtful whether the restriction upon private meetings among the slaves, without the knowledge of the owner, was intentionally pointed at the meetings for religious worship. No objection, of course, could exist to requiring that notice should be given to the owner or manager whenever the slaves attended any such meetings; but, on the other hand, due security should be taken that the owner's authority is not improperly exerted to prevent the attendance of the slaves.

      I cannot too distinctly impress upon you, that it is the settled purpose of His Majesty's Government to sanction no colonial law which needlessly infringes on the religious liberty of any class of His Majesty's subjects; and you will understand that you are not to assent to any bill, imposing any restraint of that nature, unless a clause be inserted for suspending its operation until His Majesty’s pleasure shall be known.

      In the provisions for the due observance of Sunday, I remark that the continuance of the markets on that day till the hour of 11 is contemplated as a permanent regulation. It is, however, impossible to sanction this systematic violation of the law prevailing in every other Christian country. In the proposals transmitted by Lord Bathurst to his Grace the Duke of Manchester, a temporary departure from this rule was permitted, but only as a relaxation required by peculiar and transitory circumstances.

      The clauses denouncing penalties on persons employing their slaves to labour on Sunday, are expressed with some ambiguity, so as to leave it doubtful whether the penalty will be incurred at any other time than during crop, or for any work excepting that required about the mills. Neither is it clear that an owner, procuring his slaves to work on Sunday by persuasion, or by any other means than those of direct compulsion, would violate the law. I do not perceive that provision is made for those cases of unavoidable necessity which would create an exception to the general rule.

Manner in which the above despatch was received by the House of Assembly in Jamaica.

      Mr. Atkinson rose, and said that he congratulated the house—he congratulated the country—on this message having been sent down to the house. He hoped the house would coalesce, and be unanimous in objecting

p. 70
to the whole of the suggestions now submitted to them, and form a determination in carrying through the provisions of the law, which they had so laboriously and zealously framed last year, purposely to meet the views of the British Government, as it was now evident nothing they could do would satisfy their enemies. There was not a single passage in Mr. Huskisson's letter which was not objectionable; and he therefore trusted the House would have but one view of it, that it should be printed, and that a call of the house should take place to have it fully discussed.

      Mr. Hyslop said, that it was the duty of the Lieutenant-Governor to send down to the house any instructions he may have received from His Majesty's Government, and that it would only be the usual courtesy to allow the Message to lie on the table.

      Mr. Atkinson said, he did not refer to the Lieutenant-Governor, but to the Message itself, which was objectionable.

      Mr. Cox moved that 500 copies of Mr. Huskisson's letter should be printed, to be disseminated throughout the island, that the general sense of the inhabitants respecting it might be obtained, which was agreed to. Mr. Atkinson was repeatedly cheered during his speech; and his proposition was agreed to with acclamations.


[From New Baptist Miscellany, Volume 2, London, January, 1828, pp. 66-70. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

More on Baptists: Various Subjects
Baptist History Homepage