England and Emancipation

IN the British House of Commons, some eighty years ago, two newly chosen members took their places, each of whom afterwards became distinguished in the history of that body. They had become acquainted at the University of Cambridge, were strongly united by friendship, and had each, on attaining to manhood, formed the deliberate purpose of entering public life. Of these two, one was William Pitt, the other was William Wilberforce.

Neither of these members of Parliament had at this time passed the age of twenty-one, and the latter was of extremely youthful appearance. Small of stature and slight in frame, his delicate aspect was redeemed from effeminacy by a head of classic contour, a penetrating and melodious voice, an address which always won attention. His superior social endowments were fully recognized by the companions of his leisure ; nor was his influence lessened by the fact, that by the death of his father and uncle he had become the only male representative of his family and the master of a goodly inheritance. He paid from the first close attention to the business of the House, and, though by no means anxious to be heard, showed, that, when called out by any occasion, he was fully competent to meet it. Representing his native city of Hull, his first public speech was on a topic immediately connected with her interests.

The brilliant career of Mr. Pitt commenced, as the reader knows, in early life. Passing by the mental exploits of his boyhood, we meet him at his entrance upon the public service. He had no sooner become a member of the House of Commons than it began to he remarked that in him appeared to be reproduced those same qualities of statesmanship which had marked his illustrious father, Lord Chatham. Such powers, evinced by one who was but just stepping upon the stage of public life, first excited surprise, which was quickly followed by admiration. That strength of thought and keenness of analysis, which, seizing upon a subject, bring out at once its real elements of importance, and present them in their practical bearings, deducing the course dictated by a wise policy, had hitherto been regarded, by those who found themselves the willing auditors of a youth, as the ripened fruits of experience alone.

England was at this time at war not only with her American colonies, but with France, Spain, and Holland. Weakened by these prolonged conflicts, her finances drained, her huge debt increasing every day, her condition called loudly for a change of policy. The cause of American Independence was not without its advocates in the House, and among those Mr. Pitt was soon found, uttering his sentiments without reserve. Probably no individual of that body exerted a stronger influence than he in securing for this country the full recognition of her rights. Of the manner in which he was accustomed to treat of the American War, here is a single specimen. After speaking of it as “ conceived in injustice, brought forth and nurtured in folly,” and continually draining the country of its vital resources of men and treasure, he proceeds ; —

“ And what had the British nation gained in return ? Nothing but a series of ineffective victories and severe defeats,— victories celebrated only by a temporary triumph over our brethren, whom we were endeavoring to trample down and destroy, — which filled the land with mourning for dear and valuable relatives slain in the vain attempt to enforce unconditional submission, or with narratives of the glorious exertions of men struggling under every difficulty and disadvantage in the sacred cause of liberty. Where was the Englishman, who, on reading the accounts of these sanguinary and wellfought battles, could refrain from lamenting the loss of so much British blood spilled in such a contest, or from weeping, whichever side victory might be declared ? ”

It was not unusual for Mr. Pitt, when he addressed the House on a topic of sufficient magnitude to call forth his powers, to be followed by plaudits so loud and long-continued that the next speaker found difficulty in securing quiet in order to be heard. While in the youth was recognized the sagacity of the late Lord Chatham, it was declared that the eloquence of the father was exceeded by that of the son. Signal services to the country were augured, even by his opponents, from one of such extraordinary abilities and manifest integrity of purpose. He began to be looked upon as capable of holding the highest trusts, fitted for the gravest responsibilities. Hardly can history furnish a parallel to the case of so young a person solicited by his sovereign to take the lead of his administration, and declining the honor. Yet such, in this instance, was the fact.

A change in the Ministry having become necessary, it was proposed that Mr. Pitt should be appointed First Lord of the Treasury in the place of Lord Shelburne. That this appointment should be made was known to he expressly desired by the King. The friends of the young statesman were delighted. They advised by all means that the offer should at once be accepted. But, undazzled by his own unprecedented success, he weighed the matter coolly and deliberately.

That Mr. Pitt had a due sense of his own powers is evident. Early in his political life he had expressed his unwillingness to hold office under circumstances where he must execute measures which had originated in other minds rather than his own. As this was declining beforehand all subordinate office, an excessive modesty could hardly have been the cause of his backwardness at this juncture. It must be sought elsewhere. It is found in the opinion which he entertained that, the Ministry now about to be formed could never be an efficient one. The union which had recently taken place between parties whose political enmity had been extreme indicated to him an equally extreme opposition to the Government. The coalition between Lord North and Mr. Fox would, be anticipated, be the occasion of such a tide of hostility in the House of Commons as he was too wary to be willing to stem.

It was argued that he was needed; that an exigency had arisen which no one but himself could adequately meet; the country, in her adverse hour, must have his services; the King desired them, solicited them. With a remarkable degree of reticence be declined all these overtures, and in a letter addressed to his sovereign gave a most respectful, but decided negative.

Yet fame still followed him, and honor and office still claimed him as their rightful recipient. With the lapse of time came changes, and public affairs presented themselves in new and unexpected aspects. The vast empire of the East loomed up before the vision of statesmen and legislators in hitherto unimagined splendors, and with claims upon attention which could not be set aside. At the India House considerations of momentous interest had arisen. Mr. Pitt entered deeply into these affairs, connected as they were with the onward progress of British rule in Hindostan. A crisis occurred at this time, in which, having the power, he could serve his country with manifest advantage to her interests. At this juncture the offer of the King was renewed. It came now just at the right time, and the young statesman was found as ready to accept as he had before been prompt to decline. Mr. Pitt became the Prime-Minister of George III., and henceforth his history is blended with the movements of the Government.

Mr. Wilberforee had also at this time taken a strong hold upon public life. His energies were enlisted in favor of the Governmental party, of which Mr. Pitt had become the leader. Returning from a journey into France, which they had made together, these two friends entered upon their respective duties. With regard to the question at issue, Yorkshire, the largest county in England, had not yet defined her position with a sullieient degree of distinctness. Here Mr. Wilberforce possessed landed estates, and here he was prepared to uphold the consistency and integrity of the Administration. That peculiar persuasive power, that silver-toned eloquence, which in after years won for him so much iniluenee in the House of Commons, here perhaps for the first time found full play and triumphant success. His power over the minds of men certainly was brought to a rigorous test.

It was on a chilly day, amid falling hail, that he addressed a crowd of people in the castle-yard at York. They had listened already to several speakers, were weary, and about to separate, when Mr. Wilberforee appeared on the stand and began to speak. Silence was at once secured, and so perfectly were they swayed by his words that all signs of opposition or impatience disappeared. For more than an hour, notwithstanding unfavorable circumstances, he held their attention, winning them to harmony with his own political views. This was not all. Before the assembly dispersed, it was whispered from one to another, “ We must have this man for our county member.” The election of a member for Yorkshire was nigh at hand, and when its results were made known, he found himself in the influential position of “ a representative of the tenth part of England.”

To this same member for Yorkshire, in conjunction with the Prime-Minister of England, we are indebted for the first Parliamentary agitation of a topic which has since been fruitful enough in discussion, — AFRICAN SLAVERY.

The introduction of this subject into Parliament, during the administration of Pitt, was by no means the fruit of a sudden impulse, but was rather the matured expression of a series of preliminary efforts. In private circles, the Slave-Trade had been already denounced and protested against, as unworthy of a civilized, not to say a Christian people. In certain quarters, too, the press had become the exponent of these sentiments. Possibly, in their beginnings, no person did more in the exertion of those means which have wrought into the heart of the English people such undying hatred to Negro Slavery than the amiable recluse whose writings can never die so long as lovers of poetry continue to live. Who has not at times turned away from the bestloved of the living poets, to regale himself with the compact, polished, sweetly ringing numbers of Cowper ? On the subject of Slavery he had already given expression to his thoughts in language which at the present day, in certain portions of the United States, must subject his works to a strict expurgatorial process. He had exposed to the world the injustice of the system, and had thrown around his words the magic of song.

It would not, of course, be possible to proceed in these reminiscences without coming at once upon the names of Granville Sharp and Thomas Clarkson. The clerk who became a law-student, that he might be qualified to substantiate the truth that a slave could not exist on British soil, the Cambridge graduate, awakened by the preparation of his own prizeessay to a sympathy with the slave, which never, during a long life, flagged for an hour, need not be eulogized to-day. The latter of these gentlemen repeatedly visited Mr. Wilberforee and conferred with him upon this subject, imparting to him the fruit of his own careful and minute investigations. These consisted of certain well-authenticated items of information and documentary evidence concerning the trade and the cruelties growing out of it. The public efforts which followed, though hardly originated by these conferences, were probably hastened by them. Nor should it be forgotten that a small knot of individuals, mostly Quakers, had. associated themselves under the name of “ The London Committee.” This, if not an anti-slavery society, was the nucleus of what afterwards became one. These hitherto unrecognized efforts were about to receive fresh encouragement and acquire new efficiency. The influences which had worked in silence and among a few were about to be brought out to the light.

It was on the 5th of May, 1788, that a motion was introduced into the House of Commons having for its object the abolition of the Slave-Trade. It was brought forward by Mr. Pitt. He intended to secure its discussion early in the next session. Mr, Wilberforee, he hoped, would then be present, whose seat was now vacant by reason of severe illness. He had been, indeed, at one time, given over by his physicians, but had been assured by Mr. Pitt, that, even in case of a fatal result of his disease, the cause of African freedom should not die.

The idea of possible legislation on this subject was no sooner broached than it was at once taken up and found able advocates. Here Pitt and Fox were of one mind, and were supported by the veteran advocate for justice and right, Edmund Burke. The latter had some years before attempted to call attention to this very subject. Certain Bristol merchants, his wealthy constituents, had thus been grievously offended at the aberrations of the representative of their city. As early as 1780 be had drawn up an elaborate “ Negro Code,” of which it may be said, that, had some of its regulations been heeded, at least one leaf in the world's history would have presented a different reading from that which it now bears. Mr. Burke was at this time in the decline of life, and was well pleased that other and younger advocates were enlisted in the same great cause.

A bill was brought forward at this session, by one of the friends of the cause, Sir W. Dolben, for lessening immediately the cruelties of the trade. It will be remembered that up to this time slave-ships had sailed up the Thames all unmolested, were accustomed to fit out for their voyages, and, having disposed of their cargoes, to return. A vessel of this description had arrived at the port of London. The subject of the traffic having become invested with interest, a portion of the members of the House paid a visit to the ill-starred craft. The deplorably narrow quarters where hundreds of human beings were to be stowed away during the weeks that might be necessary to make their passage produced upon the minds of these gentlemen a most unfavorable impression. The various insignia of the trade did not tend to lessen this, but rather changed disgust into horror. Something must be done for the reformation of these abuses, and that immediately. The bill for regulating the trade passed both Houses, notwithstanding a vigorous opposition, and became a law. By the provisions of this bill the trade was so restricted that owners and officers of vessels were forbidden by law to receive such excessive cargoes as they had hitherto done. The number of slaves should henceforth be limited and regulated by the tonnage of the ship. This was something gained. But the anti-slavery party, though in its infancy, had already begun to show the features of its maturer days. Its strenuous and uncompromising nature began to manifest itself. The law for regulating the trade displeased the members who sought its abolition. They were, however, pacified by the assurance that this was by no means regarded as a remedy for the evil, but simply as a check upon its outrages.

In the spring of the following year, in pursuance of Mr. Pitt’s motion, the subject was again brought forward. Mr. Wilberforee was now ready for the occasion, and on the 12th of May, 1789, in a speech of three hours and a half, he held the attention of the House, while he unfolded the African Slave-Trade in its several points of view,— its nature, being founded in injustice, its cruelties, the terrible mortality of the slave-ship, the demoralizing influence of the trade upon British sailors, and the astonishing waste of life among them, as well as among the captive negroes.

The speech was declared to be one of the ablest ever delivered before the House. The speaker was also well sustained by Pitt and Fox. Mr. Burke said of this performance, — “The House, the nation, and Europe are under great and serious obligations to the honorable gentleman, for having brought forward the subject in a manner the most masterly, impressive, and eloquent.” “ It was,” said Bishop Porteus, who was present, “a glorious night for this country.”

The subject was now fairly afloat. The anti-slavery agitation had sprung to a vigorous life. The “ irrepressible conflict ” was begun. Nor can it be denied that its beginning was highly respectable. If there be any good in elevated social rank; joined to distinguished ability, if there be any advantage in the favor of honorable and right-minded men, any dignity in British halls of legislation, the advocate of anti-slavery doctrines may claim alliance with them all.

One inevitable effeet of the interest thus awakened was to render those enlisted in favor of the trade aware of their position, and alert to prevent any interference on the part of the Government. The alarm spread. The merchants of Liverpool and Bristol must maintain their ground. In various quarters were set forth the advantages of the trade. It was no injustice to the negro, but rather a benefit. The trader was no robber or oppressor; he was a benefactor, in that by his means the native African was taken from a heathen land and brought to live among Christians. At home, he was the victim of savage warfare ; by the slave-ship his life was prolonged and his salvation rendered possible.

Witnesses on both sides were now summoned for examination before Parliamentary committees. The premises from which conclusions had been drawn must be thoroughly sifted. The evidence collected was manifold ; to dispose of it required time, and with time the opponents of the Abolition Bill gathered strength. The next year and the following its advocates still maintained its claims. The third year of its presentation opened with high hopes of its success. Its friends had increased in number, and so marked was the inferiority of their opponents in talents and influence, at this time, that the contest was known as “ The War of the Pigmies against the Giants.” But the pigmies, being numerous, gained the vote, and it only remained for the giants to return with renewed vigor to the contest in the following year.

In 1792 the debate began with spirit. During this discussion Mr. Pitt was most prominent. The great subject of the Resources of Africa had recently engaged his attention. This subject, then an almost untried theme, seems not unlikely in our day to take precedence of all others in connection with the fate of the negro. It has been argued, and that wisely, that only by strengthening the African at home can he ever be respected abroad. In the productions of his native soil lie materials for trade vastly better than the buying and selling of men, women, and children. The fomenting of wars, whereby captives may be secured, may well be superseded by the culture of the coffeetree and the cotton-plant.

Mr. Clarkson, who left no effort untried which might in any manner promote the interests of the cause, regarded as one important means to this end the diffusion of knowledge concerning that unknown and mysterious region. He had therefore procured from Africa specimens of some of the actual products of the country, to which he called the attention of the Premier. The specimens of ivory and gold, of ebony and mahogany, of valuable gums and cotton cloth, awoke a new vein of thought in the mind of the statesman. The resources of such a country should be brought into use for her own benefit and for the promotion of commerce. When his turn came to address the House, he presented this view, pursuing it at some length, and attacking on this ground the trade in slaves. That exuberant imagination which he was accustomed to rein in, yet which well knew how to sport itself in its own airy realm, was here suffered to take wing. He pictured to his enraptured audience the civilization and glory of Africa, when, in coming years, delivered from the curse of the Slave-Trade, she should take her place among the nations.

Wilberforce, in writing to one of his friends concerning this speech, after mentioning the admiration expressed by one who was no friend to Pitt, adds, — “ For the last twenty minutes he seemed really inspired.”

A bill was introduced at this time for putting an end to the whole business in a certain number of years. The year 1800 was named as the extreme limit of the continuance of the traffic, that department of it by which British vessels supplied foreign nations being abandoned at once.

The bill for gradual abolition displeased those who were most deeply interested in the matter. The clear-headed sagacity of Pitt, the patriotism of Fox, and the moral sense of Wilberforee led them to the expression of the same view. There could be no compromise between right and wrong; that which required redress some years hence required it now. It was, moreover, they were certain, in some minds only a pretext for delay, as the event proved.

If the advocates of the discontinuance of the Slave-Trade had in the beginning anticipated an easy victory, they had before this become convinced of their mistake. The prospect, which had looked bright and hopeful, pointing to a happy consummation, after a period of encouragement again grew dark and doubtful. Instead of a speedy adjustment, they found themselves involved in a long contest. Opponents increased in strength and activity. Wars and convulsions, rending the nations of Europe, engrossed the thoughts of public men. As years passed on, the Abolition Bill became a sort of fixture. It grew into a saying, that “ only the eloquence of Pitt and Wilberforce” made the House willing to endure its mention at all. The amount of documentary evidence became formidable in quantity and tedious in detail. For collecting this evidence Mr. Clarkson had now the most ample means, in the persons of those who, whether as sailors, soldiers, or scientific men, had become acquainted with Western Africa. In the work of reducing these masses of facts to a system, making them available for purposes of public debate, a most efficient aid was found in Mr. Zachary Macaulay. The father of the celebrated historian was most unrelaxing in his zeal for Abolition, and, possessing a memory of singular tenacity, he came to be regarded, in this peculiar department of knowledge, as a very perfect encyclopædia. Nor, in mentioning the advocates of the suppression of the monster evil, should we ever forget one who to an overflowing goodness of heart added an inimitable richness and delicacy of humor,—James Stephen. His influence in Parliament was always given in favor of Abolition, and he was also the author of several able pamphlets on the subject. He had been at one period of his life a resident in the West India Colonies, and the hatred of the slave-system which he there imbibed remained unchanged through life.

While, as has been seen, these labors were becoming complicated and arduous, the opposition was growing not only strong, but violent. Anti-slavery petitions, intended for presentation in Parliament, must be sent in strong boxes, addressed, not to the leaders of the cause, but to private persons, lest they should be opened and their contents destroyed. Mr. Wilberforee is requested, when writing to a friend in Liverpool, not to frank his own letter, lest it should never be received. Correspondence on this subject must be carried on anonymously, and addressed to persons not known to be interested. This was not the worst. To random words of defiant opposition were added threats of personal violence. For a space of two years the friends of Mr. Wilberforce were annoyed by a desperate man who had declared that he would take the life of the Yorkshire member. But, to do justice to the advocates of the trade, there was one form of violence which they appear never to have contemplated:— secession. The injured slave-merchants of that time never thought of conspiring against the government under which they lived. That was reserved for a later day.

Yet, while appearances were so dark, the cause was actually gaining ground. The moral sense of the nation was becoming aroused. The scattered sympathies of the religious classes were concentrating. Already public sentiment in certain quarters was outgrowing the movements of Parliament, and the impatient friends of the negro declared that the leaders of the cause had given up !

In rebutting this charge, Mr. Wilberforce took high ground. He declared that for himself his aim in this thing was the service of God, and, that having committed himself to this enterprise, he was not at liberty to go back. Believing that these efforts on behalf of an injured people were in accordance with the will of the Almighty, he expressed himself confident that the divine attributes were enlisted in the work and sure of the ultimate success of the cause. Of his sincerity and honesty in this matter we need not speak. By common consent he takes place among those who in this world have been permitted to illustrate on an extended scale the power and beauty of the Christian life. As a reformer of the abuses of society he is often cited as a model, uniting to a singular purity and sweetness of spirit an immovable firmness of will. To these blended and diverse qualities was owing, in a great measure, the final success of the long-contested Abolition Bill. Seldom, indeed, has the patience of an advocate been put to a severer test than during the protracted period that the bill for the suppression of the Slave-Trade was before the House. To push it forward when there was an opening, and to withdraw when effort was useless or worse than useless, was the course pursued for a scries of years. The subject, meanwhile, was never lost sight of; when nothing more could be done, the House were reminded that it was still in reserve.

Early in the present century a favorable conjuncture of events led to vigorous efforts for the attainment of the long desired object. The antagonistic policy was now rather to hinder the progress of the Abolition Bill than to oppose the ultimate extinction of the trade. Of the supporters of this policy it was remarked by Mr. Pitt, that “ they who wished to protract the season of conflict, whatever might be their professions, really wished to uphold the system.”

Notwithstanding certain covert efforts on the part of the opposition, the prospect gradually brightened. Several new and influential members were added to the London Society, — among them Henry Brougham. The Irish members, who, in consequence of the completed union with England, took their seats in Parliament, were almost to a man in favor of Abolition. In 1805 success seemed about to be obtained. But before the final passage of the Abolition Bill came sorrow of heart to its friends. Mr. Pitt, having run a political career whose unexampled brilliancy and usefulness had well fulfilled his early promise, died in the very prime of life. A year had hardly passed, when his great political rival, Mr. Fox, was no more. Both of these distinguished men had been, as we have seen, from the beginning of the contest, the friends of Abolition. Said Mr. Fox, on his death-bed, — “ Two things I wash earnestly to see accomplished: peace with Europe, and the abolition of the Slave-Trade ; but of the two I wish the latter.”

Notwithstanding the death of its friends, the Abolition Bill was steadily making its way. The “ vexed question ” of near twenty years was about to be set at rest. Opposition had grown feeble, and in May, 1807, the bill which made the SlaveTrade a crime wherever the British rule extended passed both Houses and became a law.

It was a day of triumphant joy. This was felt by the friends of Abolition at large, and especially by its advocates. These received everywhere the warmest congratulations. Mr. Wilberforce, on entering the House of Commons just before the passage of the bill, was greeted with rounds of applause.

That Slavery had received its deathblow was fully believed at this time. Africa being delivered from the traffic, the institution itself, its supplies being cut off, must necessarily wither and die. This was the common view of the matter ; and the more effectually to secure this result, negotiations were entered into with other European governments for the suppression of the trade in their dominions. In America, the Congress of the United States passed a law prohibiting the African Slave-Trade after the year 1808, the period indicated in the Constitution, — the law taking effect a few years later. Napoleon, restored from his first banishment, and once more wielding the sceptre of power, caused a law to be passed forbidding the trade in the French Colonies. The friends of the negro were everywhere high in hope that the days of Slavery were numbered. Starved out, the monster must inevitably die. So sure were they of this result, that in England their efforts had all along been directed against the trade. The institution itself had been comparatively untouched.

A few years passed, and it began to be evident to those who had been active in the great conflict that the law against the Slave-Trade was less effectual than had been anticipated. The ocean was wide, the African coast a thousand miles long, and desperate men were not wanting who were disposed to elude the statute for the sake of large gains. Nor need they fail to secure suitable markets for the sale of their ill-gotten cargoes. But into this part of our subject it may not be well to pry too closely.

If the friends of the African cause had supposed their work accomplished, when their first success was attained, their error was soon corrected. It was pleasant to repose upon the laurels so dearly won ; but another battle must be fought, and this necessity soon became apparent. But a few years elapsed and the negro was again made the subject of legislative consideration. Mr. Wilberforce was still a member of the House, though most of those with whom he had been associated at the beginning of his public life were dead. Forty years bad passed since he first took his seat, but he was ready once more to take up the cause of the defenceless. The abuses perpetrated against the West Indian negro called loudly for Governmental interference.

Since 1807 little had been done save the passage of the Registry Bill, which had been secured by Mr. Wilberforce in 1816. This was of the nature of an investigation into the actual state of the West India Colonies with respect to the illicit commerce in slaves. Mild as this measure appeared, it proved the opening wedge of much that followed. It was in fact the first of a series of movements which issued in momentous events, even the emancipation of all the slaves in the British Colonies. The passage of this bill was followed by an increased expression of interest in the matter of Negro Slavery; this was evinced in a number of valuable publications issued at this time, —able pamphlets from the pens of Mr. Wilberforce, Mr. Stephen, and others. The labors of the London Society have already been noticed; and after the passage of the law of 1807 we find in existence the “ African Institution,” under which name the friends of the negro were associated for the purpose of watching over his interests, more particularly with regard to the operation of the law. But during the period of repose which followed the first anti-slavery triumph, a portion of this body, losing its original activity, had become comparatively supine.

In 1818, Thomas Fowell Buxton, whose Quaker mother had instilled into him a hatred of African Slavery, became a member of Parliament. Having soon after joined himself to the African Institution, he became somewhat mortified at the apathy of the friends of the slave, as here embodied. He was frank and outspoken, and gave expression to his indignant feeling without reserve. The next day the young member for Weymouth found himself addressed by Wilberforce, for whom he entertained a high veneration, and warmly thanked for the earnest utterance of his sentiments the evening before.

After this Mr. Wilberforee conferred freely with Mr. Buxton upon the subject of Slavery in its manifold details. In a letter written not far from this time he unfolded the matter concerning the negroes of the West Indian plantations, the cruelties to which they were subjected, and the abuses which grew out of the system. Something must be done. Measures must be taken of a protective character at least, and the work must be prosecuted with vigor. Such was the view presented by Mr. Wilberforee. Warned by age and infirmity that the period of his retirement from public life could not be far distant, he wished that the cause which had been with him a paramount one might be passed to able and faithful hands.

How Mr. Buxton responded to this call the subsequent history of the antislavery cause unfolds. He had already shown, that, as a member of the House, he was to make no light impression, whatever might be the objects which should enlist his efforts.

At this juncture there was formed in London a new anti-slavery society. Its object was explicitly stated to be “ the mitigation and gradual abolition of Slavery throughout the British dominions.” In looking over the names of its officers and leading members, we find not those of the early Abolitionists alone : by the side of Zachary Macaulay we find the name of his more distinguished son, and that of Wilberforee is similarly followed.

In behalf of the African there existed a somewhat widely spread public sympathy, the fruit of the previous long-continued presentation of the subject, and at this time it seemed about to be aroused. Several petitions, having reference to Slavery, were sent into the House of Commons. The first of these came from the Quakers, and Mr. Wilberforee, on presenting it, took occasion to make an address to the House. In place of Mr. Pitt now stood Mr. Canning, who inquired of Mr. Wilberforce if he intended to found upon his remarks any motion. He replied,— “ No; but that such was the intention of an esteemed friend of his.” Mr. Buxton then announced his intention of submitting to the House a motion that the state of Slavery in the British Colonies he taken into consideration.

On the 15th of May, 1823, the expected debate took place. Mr. Buxton began by moving a resolution, “ That the state of Slavery is repugnant to the principles of the British Constitution and of the Christian Religion, and that it ought to be gradually abolished throughout the British Colonies, with as much expedition as may be found consistent with a due regard to the well-being of the parties concerned.”

A lively debate followed, and certain resolutions drawn up by Mr. Canning were finally carried. These articles, as well as Mr. Buxton’s motion, had in view a gradual improvement in the condition and character of the slaves. In pursuance of the object to be attained, circular letters were addressed to the Colonial authorities, recommending, with regard to the negroes, certain enlargements of privileges. These letters were extremely moderate in their tone. The reforms were simply recommended, not authoritatively enjoined ; in the language of Mr. Canning, the movement was such a one “ as should be compatible with the wellbeing of the slaves themselves, with the safety of the Colonies, and with a fair and equitable consideration of the rights of private property.”

Moderate as were the measures first set on foot for the improvement of the social state of the slaves, the authors were not by that means secured from opposition. This was accompanied, on the part of the West India planters, by such an extreme violence as was hardly expected, at least by the Premier, who had so favorably met the introduction of the subject, if he had not actually committed himself to the work. The leaders of the movement, who had but just now been borne onward by the wave of public approval, found themselves fiercely denounced. Here is a brief paragraph which appeared at that time in a Jamaica newspaper:—

“ We pray the imperial Parliament to amend their origin, which is bribery ; to cleanse their consciences, which are corrupt ; to throw off their disguise, which is hypocrisy; to break off with their false allies, who are the saints ; and finally, to banish from among them the purchased rogues, who are three-fourths of their number.”

Among the reforms recommended to the Colonists, by the circular letters of the Government, was one which had reference to the indecent flogging of the female slaves, and also a suggestive restraint upon corporal punishment in general. This called forth in a Colonial paper the following, which certainly has the merit of being entirely unambiguous:

“ We did and do declare the whip to be essential to West India discipline, ay, as essential, my Lord Calthorpe, as the freedom of the press and the trial by jury to the liberty of the subject in Britain, and to be justified on equally legitimate ground. The comfort, welfare, and happiness of our laboring classes cannot subsist without it.”

These specimens of the fierceness of abuse with which the Government was assailed may perhaps prepare the reader for that last resort of indignant discontent on the part of the governed,-—the threat of secession ! Yes; Jamaica will break away from the tyranny of which she is the much abused object, she will free herself from the oppression of the mother country, and then, — what next? — she will seek for friendship and protection from the United States! How soon this threat, if persisted in and carried out into action, would have been silenced by the thunder of British cannon, we need not stay to consider.

To this clamor of the opposition the more timid of the Anti-Slavery party were disposed to yield, at least for a season. The Government showed little disposition to press the improvements which it had recommended. Mr. Canning seemed apprehensive that he had committed himself too far, and was inclined to postpone, to wait for a season, to give the West Indians time for reflection, before legislating further. The chief advocate of the slave began to realize, that, of those who had encouraged and coöperated with him, but few, in a moment of real difficulty, could be relied upon. But he was not to be baffled. “ Good, honest Buxton ” had made up his mind that the world should be somewhat the better for his having lived in it, and he had chosen as the object of his beneficent labors the very lowest of his fellow-subjects, — the negro slave of the West Indies. He was, moreover, a vigorous thinker and an invincible debater, and, once embarked in this cause, he had no thought of drawing back. So exclusive was his zeal, that at one time Mr. O’Connell, vexed that the claims of his constituents were set aside, electrified the House by exclaiming, “ Oh! I wish we were blacks ! ” The Irish orator had all along supported the Abolition cause, and spoken words of good cheer to Mr. Buxton ; but now his impatient patriotism finds vent in exclaiming,—“ lf‘ the Irish people were but black, we should have the honorable member from Weymouth coming down as large as life, supported by all the ‘ friends of humanity ’ in the back rows, to advocate their cause.”

There was truth here, as well as wit, showing not only Mr. Buxton s absorption in the cause which he had espoused, but his inspiring influence on other minds. His indomitable energy was always sure to grow stronger after defeat, and the strength of his own belief in the justice of his cause of itself increased the faith of its friends.

In the onward course of events the violence of the West Indians assumed different phases, and one of the most memorable of these had respect to the religious teachers of the slaves. They had been sent out by various bodies of Christians in England, commencing nearly a hundred years before these antislavery efforts. The object of the missionary was a definite one, to christianize the negroes. He knew well, before engaging in his work, that those who might come under his instruction were slaves, and because they were slaves the call was all the louder upon his compassion. Yet his path of duty lay wide enough from any attempt to render the objects of his Christian efforts other than they were in their civil relations. Such were the instructions which the missionaries were accustomed to receive, on leaving England for a residence among the Colonists. Nor was there ever, from the beginning to the ending of this stirring chapter in the history of Slavery, reason to believe that these instructions had been disobeyed. Their labors had in some instances been encouraged by the planters, and their influence acknowledged to be a valuable aid in the management of the negroes. But in these days of excitement and insubordination the missionaries were accused of encouraging disobedience in the slaves. When outbreaks occurred, the guilt was laid to the charge of the Christian teachers. Upon a mere suspicion, without a shadow of evidence, they were seized and thrown into prison. One of the most melancholy instances of this was that of the Rev. J. Smith, who was sentenced to be hanged, but died in prison, through hardships endured, before the day of execution arrived. He was only one of several who suffered at the hands of the West Indians the grossest injustice. The case of Air. Shrewsbury was at one time brought before the House. Mr. Canning made reference to him as “ a gentleman in whose conduct there did not appear to be the slightest ground of blame or suspicion.” He was a Wesleyan missionary at Barbadoes, and, having fallen under suspicion, was also condemned to die. Among other charges, he was accused of having corresponded with Mr. Buxton. Said the latter, in an address to the House,—“I never wrote to him a single letter, nor did I know that such a man existed, till I happened to take up a newspaper, and there read, with some astonishment, that he was going to he hanged for corresponding with me ! ”

If Englishmen and Christian ministers were condemned to death on such allegations, adduced at mock trials, it is not strange that negroes sometimes lost their lives on similar grounds. After a rising among these people, several having been executed, the evidence of the guilt of a certain portion was reviewed in the House of Commons. The witness was asked whether he had found guns among the insurgents. He replied, “No; but he was shown a place where guns had been ” ! Had he found bayonets ? “ No; but he was shown a basket where bayonets had been ’! Unfortunately, the victims of this species of evidence were already hung when the review of the trial took place.

This last incident brings us to another feature of those times, the actual insurrections which took place among the slaves. Passing by the lesser excitements of Barbadoes and Demerara, we come to the great rising in Jamaica in 1832. A servile war is generally represented as displaying at every point its banners of flame, plashing its feet meanwhile in the blood of women and children. But the great insurrection of 1832, which, as it spread, included fifty thousand negroes in its train, was in the beginning simply a refusal to work.

Fiercely discussed by the masters, emancipation began to be spoken of among the slaves. Necessarily they must know something about it; but, in their distorted and erroneous impressions, they believed that “ Great King of England ” had set them free, and the masters were wilfully withholding the boon.

There was one, a negro slave, whose dark glittering eye fascinated his fellows, and whose wondrous powers of speech drew them, despite themselves, into the conspiracy. But he planned no murders, designed no house-burnings; to those who, under solemn pledge of secrecy, joined him, he propounded a single idea. It was this. If we, the negroes, who are as five to one, compared to the white men, refuse to work any more until freedom is given, we shall have it. There will be some resistance, and a few of us will be killed; but that we must expect. This, in substance, was the ground taken by Sharpe, who, as a slave, had always been a favorite both with his master and others. This was the commencement of the great insurrection. Its leader had not counted upon the excitable spirit of the slaves when once aroused. Holding as sacred the property of his master, he believed his followers would do the same, until the light of burning barns and out-houses revealed the mischief which had begun to work. Yet, in the sanguinary struggle which followed, it is to be remembered that the excesses which were committed, the wanton waste of life, were on the part of the white residents, who meted out vengeance with an unsparing hand, — not on the part of the negroes.

One effect of this uprising of the slaves was, in England, to deepen the impression of the evils of the system under which they were held. If the mere discussion of Slavery were fraught with such terrible consequences, how could safety ever consist with the thing itself? By discussion they had but exercised their own rights as Englishmen. Of what use to them was Magna Charta, if they must seal their lips in silence when a public abuse required to be corrected, a gigantic wrong to be righted ? Must they give up the ocean and the land to the dominion of the slave-owner and slave-trader, hushing the word of remonstrance, lest it should lead to war and bloodshed ? No ; they would not do this. The thing itself which had caused these commotions must perish.

Here was a decided gain for the friends of the slave in Parliament. Mr. Buxton, in alluding to the fearful aspect of the times, asks the pertinent question, “ How is the Government prepared to act in case of a general insurrection among the slaves ? ’ We give the closing paragraphs of his speech at this crisis.

‘‘ I will refer the House to the sentiments of Mr. Jefferson, the President of the United States. Mr. Jefferson was himself a slave-owner, and full of the prejudices of slave - owners; yet he left this memorable memorial to his country: ‘ I do, indeed, tremble for my country when I remember that God is just, and that His justice may not sleep forever. A revolution is among possible events; the Almighty has no attribute which would side with us in such a struggle.’

“ This is the point which weighs most heavily with me. The Almighty has no attribute that will side with us in such a struggle. A war with an overwhelming physical force, a war with a climate fatal to the European constitution, a war in which the heart of the people of England would lean toward the enemy: it is hazarding all these terrible evils; but all are light and trivial, compared with the conviction I feel that in such a warfare it is not possible to ask nor can we expect the countenance of Heaven.”

While events tended to bring the whole system of Slavery into odium, the leaders of the Abolition party were themselves changing their ground. They had begun with the hope of mitigating the hardships of the slave’s lot,—to place him upon the line of progression, and so ultimately to fit him for freedom. But they had found themselves occupying a false position. Slowly they came to the conclusion that for the slave little could be accomplished in the way of improvement, so long as he remained a slave. The complete extinction of the system was now the object aimed at. At a crowded Anti-Slavery meeting held in May, 1830, Mr. Wilberforee presided. The first resolution, moved by Mr. Buxton, was this, — “ That no proper or practicable means he left unattempted for effecting, at the earliest period, the entire abolition of Slavery throughout the British dominions.” At a meeting held in Edinburgh similar language was used by Lord Jeffrey. Said Dr. Andrew Thomson, one of the most influential of the Scottish clergy, — “ We ought to tell the legislature, plainly and strongly, that no man has a right to property in man, — that there are eight hundred thousand individuals sighing in bondage, under the intolerable evils of West Indian Slavery, who have as good a right to be free as we ourselves have, — that they ought to be free, and that they must be made free ! ”

Another element at this time wrought in favor of the Abolitionists. Of the missionaries who had suffered persecution in the Colonies, numbers had returned to England. These religious teachers, while plying their vocation in the West Indies, had acted in obedience to the instructions received from the societies which employed them. Necessarily, while in a slave country, they had been silent upon the subject of Slavery. But in truth they liked the institution as little as Mr. Buxton himself. Once in England, the seal of silence melted from their lips. Everywhere in public and in private they made known the evils and cruelties of Slavery. Some of these persons had been examined by Parliamentary committees, and being acquitted of every suspicion of misstatement, their testimony received this additional sanction. The tale of wrong which they revealed was not told in vain. Each returned missionary exerted an influence upon the religious body which he represented. The aggregate of this influence was great.

If, in the latter stages of the Emancipation effort, the backwardness of the Administration was an evil omen, making final success a difficult achievement, this was balanced by reform in Parliament. At the recent elections, anti-slavery sentiments in the candidate were in some quarters requisite to success. A story is told of a gentleman who had spent some time canvassing and found abundant evidence of this. At an obscure village he had been hailed with the question, whether he was trying to get into the Lords or Commons. “ But,” added the simple questioners, “ whichever you do get into, you must vote for the poor slaves.”

To the aid of the Emancipation leaders there came now a new element, a power so strong that it required no small share of skill to hold it in, that it might work no evil in contributing to the desired end.

Since the commencement of efforts for the slave a considerable period had passed. These efforts extended, in fact, over nearly half a century. During that time, pamphlet after pamphlet and volume after volume had set forth the evils and abominations of Slavery, forcing the subject upon the public attention. The leaven had worked slowly, and for a portion of the time in comparative silence; but the work was done. The British people were aroused. The great heart of the nation was beating in response to the appeals for justice and right which were made in their ears. The world can scarce furnish a parallel to this spectacle of moral sublimity. It was the voice of a people, calling, in tones that must be heard, for justice and freedom, — and that not for themselves, but for a distant, a defenceless race.

The publication of a circular inviting Anti-Slavery delegates to London, a movement made by the leaders of the cause, in its results took the most enthusiastic by surprise. More than three hundred appeared in answer to the call. Mr. Buxton met them in Exeter Hall. With a rampant freedom of opinion, there was little prospect of harmony of action being attained, however desirable it might be. Through the influence of Mr. Buxton and his coadjutors, these men ot conflicting theories were brought into such a degree of harmonious action that an address was drawn up embodying their sentiments and laid before Lord Althorp, at that time the head of the Administration. The strong outside pressure of the nation at large upon the Government was evident. The strength of the Emancipationists in Parliament, also, had been carefully estimated, and success could no longer be doubted.

The fourteenth of May, 1833, witnessed an animated debate in the House. While the advocates of Emancipation desired for the negro unconditional freedom, they found the measure fettered by the proposal of Mr. Stanley, the Colonial Secretary, that he be placed for a number of years in a state of apprenticeship. Twelve years of this restricted freedom was, by the influence of Mr. Buxton, reduced to seven, and the sum of twenty millions of pounds sterling being granted to the slave-owners, the bill for the abolition of Negro Slavery passed the House of Commons. With some delay it went through the Upper House, and on the 28th of August, receiving the royal assent, it became a law. The apprenticeship system was but short-lived, its evilworking leading to its abolition in its fourth year.

It has been often said, with how much of truth it is not our purpose here to inquire, that in this country the mention of the evils of Slavery is and must be fraught with most evil consequences. Yet the agitation of this subject, whether for good or evil, in the United States, is intimately connected with the whole movement in England. In the earlier stages of the measures directed against the trade, a hearty response was awakened here; nor could the subsequent act of emancipation fail to produce an impression everywhere, and most of all among ourselves. United to the English nation by strong affinities, one with them in language and literature, yet cleaving still to the institution which England had so energetically striven to destroy, could it be otherwise than that such a movement on her part should awaken an eager interest among us ? Could such an event as the release from slavery of eight hundred thousand negroes in the British Colonies pass by unnoticed ? To suppose this is preposterous. It is not too much to say, that the effect of British emancipation was, at the time it took place, to give in certain portions of the United States an increased degree of life to the anti-slavery sentiment. No words could have been uttered, which, reaching the shores of America, would have been half so emphatic as this one act of the British nation. Among the causes which have nourished and strengthened the anti-slavery sentiment among us this has its place. Verily, if England gave us the poison, she has not been slow to proffer to us the antidote.

Concerning the actual fruits of Emancipation, it may be asked, What have they been ? The world looked on inquiringly as to how the enfranchised negroes would demean themselves. One fact has never been disputed. This momentous change in the social state of near a million of people took place without a single act of vioence on the part of the liberated slaves. Neither did the measure carry violence in its train. So far the act was successful. But that all which the friends of Emancipation hoped for has been attained, no one will assert. When, however, we hear of the financial ruin of the Islands, as a consequence of that measure, it may be well to inquire into their condition previous to its taking place. That the West India Colonies were trembling on the brink of ruin at the close of the last century is evident from their repeated petitions to the mother country to take some measures to save them from utter bankruptcy. This can hardly be laid to the extinction of Slavery, for both Slavery and the SlaveTrade were at that time in the height of successful operation.

Again, if the West Indian negro is not to-day all that might be wished, or even all that, under the influence of freedom, he had been expected to become, there may possibly be a complication of causes which has prevented his elevation. He has been allowed instruction, indeed, to some extent; the continued labors of those who contended for his freedom have secured to him the schoolmaster and the missionary. But this is not enough. Has he been taught the use of improved methods of agriculture, the application of machinery to the production of required resuits ? Has he been encouraged to works of skill, to manufacturing arts even of the ruder kind ? Has he not rather been subjected to the same policy which, before the Revolution, discountenanced manufactures among ourselves, and has caused the fabrics of the East Indies to be disused, and the factories of Ireland to stand still ?

These questions need not be pursued. Yet, amid the conflicting voices of the evil days upon which we are fallen, now and then we hear lifted up a plea for Emancipation, an entreaty for the removal of the accursed thing which has plunged the happiest nation upon earth into the direst of calamities.

Of the causes which have affected the success of Emancipation in the case before us, it may be remarked, that, so far as their action has been pernicious, they would operate among ourselves less than in any colony of Great Britain, abundantly less than in the West Indies. The greater variety of employments with which the Maryland or Kentucky negro is familiar, his more frequent proficiency in mechanical pursuits, combined with other circumstances, render him decidedly a more eligible subject for freedom than the negro of Jamaica.

The changes which may issue in this Country from the present commotions it were vain to predict. It may not, however, be unwise, in considering, as we have done, an achievement nobly conceived and generously accomplished, to examine carefully into the causes which may have rendered it otherwise than completely successful in its results.