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(successors to J. EUTTERWORTH AND SON,) 

43, fleet-street; 




In humbly dedicating this volume to your Ma- 
jesty, without having asked your gracious permission 
to do so, I am, perhaps, departing from ordinary 
rules ; but if so, it is from no want of confidence in 
your royal condescension and benignity, qualities 
which have preeminently distinguished your Ma- 
jesty from the first moment of your reign, and added 
to the high sentiment of loyalty, that of personal at- 
tachment, in the hearts of your faithful subjects. It 
is because, from peculiar considerations in a case of 
no ordinary kind, I think it more consistent with 
feelings of the most dutiful and profound respect 
towards your Majesty, to invoke publicly your 
royal attention to a work on the subject of colonial 
slavery, without presuming to ask for your consent. 

The unfortunate and anomalous situation of a 
large class of your Majesty's subjects, of whom I am 
a feeble advocate, recommends their cause in a pe- 
culiar manner, to the audience and protection of the 


throne. Over a large proportion of them your Ma- 
jesty is the immediate and sole legislator ; and all 
are destitute of any such share in the formation of 
the laws by which they are governed, as the other 
subjects of these United Kingdoms directly or in- 
directly enjoy in both Houses of Parliament. Their 
legislative influence exists in the heart of the Sove- 
reign alone. 

JVor have they that important resort, when ag- 
grieved, either m the formation or administration of 
the laws, which their free fellow-subjects possess. 
They cannot state their wrongs or their sufferings 
by petitions, even to the common father of his 
people. They have no public voice ; or none to 
which they dare give utterance. 

To the generous feelings of your Majesty, these 
disabilities will become motives for listening, with 
patient and favourable attention, to a voluntary ad- 
vocate of that helpless class, comprising near a mil- 
lion of your Majesty's subjects, who was long an 
eye-witness of their calamitous situation, and now 
desires to lay at the foot of your throne, a full ac- 
count of it, supported by what will be found decisive 
evidence, for your Majesty's compassionate con- 

It is their great further misfortune, especially that 
of the agricultural slaves, whose general lot is by 
far more severe than that of the domestics, that 
their situation and treatment are known, for the most 
part, only to those who have a deep interest in con- 
cealing all that is most oppressive in them from 
European minds, and exhibiting in a fallacious 


view every real or pretended mitigation. It is not 
distance of position only that gives facility to such 
deceptions ; for the nature of the system makes the 
discovery of its worst practical abuses extremely dif- 
ficult, even on the spot, except to its immediate 
administrators, or persons long resident among them. 
Those oppressions, especially of the plantation slaves, 
which are at once the most general and most per- 
nicious, the excess of their forced labour, and the 
insufficiency of their sustenance, are easily con- 
cealed from transient visitors ; and can be estimated 
only by those who have seen them at all hours and 
seasons ; and have been enabled to examine, in its 
details, the interior economy of the plantations. 

To lay open these sources of error, and remove 
the misconceptions that have arisen from them in 
many upright and intelligent minds, have been 
leading objects in the work which I have now the 
honour humbly to present to your Majesty. For 
those purposes I have found it necessary to review 
the evidence given before Parliament near forty 
years ago, by some distinguished public characters, 
chiefly officers of high rank in the naval and military 
services, who had visited the colonies ; and some of 
whom had been long on the West India station : 
not certainly with a view to impeach tbe sincerity of 
their opinions, or the respectability of their judg- 
ments ; but, on the contrary, to shew that even 
such men, eminent though some of them were for 
their talents, as well as illustrious from their public 
services, were unable to avoid those errors into which 
strangers of distinction are led, when they form 

iv DKD1C4T10N, 

opinions of slavery from what is permitted to meet 
their eyes and ears, while honoured guests in the 

The distant date of such testimony did not allow 
me to leave it unnoticed, as it is still cited by some 
of the colonial opponents to whom I had to reply. 
In fact, they have none more recent, of the same 
high character, to cite. But its age also constitutes 
its pre-eminent value, in the use to which I now ap- 
ply it ; because, in reference to the period at which 
that evidence was given, there is no longer any doubt 
or denial of facts, which prove that those much re- 
spected witnesses were, in the favourable accounts 
they gave of slavery, very widely deceived. 

Should your Majesty have the condescension to 
read what I have written on this subject, from the 
twentieth to the forty-sixth page of this volume, you 
will find that the defence now maintained on the 
part of the sugar colonies, is quite inconsistent with 
that which their agents formerly called those gallant 
officers and others to support ; and amounts, in effect, 
to a repudiation of their honest but erroneous tes- 

The assemblies, and the planters at large, have 
been driven by subsequent investigations, and by the 
admissions of writers of their own party, to confess 
that the state of slavery at that period was quite 
indefensible ; and what they now desire us to be- 
lieve, on the faith of evidence taken by themselves 
in the colonies, and on the assertions of their ac- 
credited public apologists, is that the case has since 
been altered, or rather reversed, Instead of still 


maintaining that the slaves, at the era of the par- 
liamentary examinations, were treated with the ut- 
most tenderness and liberality, as their witnesses 
then asserted, they admit, in effect, that the treat- 
ment was then as negligent, sordid, and severe, 
as abolitionists alleged. They acknowledge that 
cruelties in punishment were then frequent, and that 
the laws afforded no protection against them ; that 
the preservation of their numbers by native increase, 
was no object of solicitude with their masters, and 
that the frightful decrease in population was, in 
a great measure, imputable to avaricious oppression 
and neglect. One eminent planter and colonial 
apologist. Dr. Collins, has since expressly admitted, 
that inanition and famine, combined with severe 
labour, were very frequent causes of mortality among 
the plantation slaves, speaking of the same times in 
which the respectable witnesses I have alluded to, 
thought their labour remarkably light, and their 
sustenance abundant. 

Some of the present admissions, on the highest 
colonial authority, bring the condemnation of the 
former case much further down. They date the 
very commencement of humanity in the treatment of 
slaves, and care of their preservation, from the abo- 
lition of the slave trade in 1807 ; and ascribe it to the 
influence of that measure on the minds of the masters. 

If the new defence, however inconsistent with the 
old, were founded in truth ; if the alleged subsequent 
improvements were real, and such as to satisfy, in a 
reasonable degree, the demands of justice and hu- 
manity, these remarks would be less worthy of your 


Majesty's attention. But I have shown in this work, 
that the policy of casting back on past times, all that 
is most reproachful in the system, and taking credit 
thereby for alleged reformations, is by no means 
new ; and that the present iteration of it has no just 
claim to confidence. 

Could I hope that my delineation of slavery 
throughout, as contained in the present and former 
volume, would be honoured with a perusal by your 
Majesty, I should not doubt that the result would be 
a conviction in your royal mind, that the alleged 
improvements are, for the most part, fictitious or 
illusory. In respect, at least, of the grand econo- 
mical oppressions of excessive labour, and inade- 
quate maintenance, I have shown that the case is 
not materially altered, by what, I trust, will be found 
irrefragable proofs. If not, it must be because, not 
merely the enemies of the system, but its friends, 
apologists, and administrators, are supposed to have 
concurred in defaming it ; for I have relied upon 
the evidence on the colonial side alone. 

I humbly submit, on the whole, to your Majesty's 
judgment, that the state of slavery in the colonies, 
which I have delineated, both in point of law and 
practice, is not more inconsistent with the character 
of that free and happy constitution over which your 
Majesty has the happiness and glory to preside, than 
repugnant to the clearest dictates of religion, justice, 
and humanity ; and such as ought no longer to be 
maintained or tolerated within your Majesty's do- 

That your Majesty's life may be prolonged, with 


every public and private blessing, long after the aged 
subject, who has now the honour to address you, 
shall be called to his account before the King of 
Kings, and that among the felicities and glories of 
your reign, may be our deliverance from the guilt 
and reproach of colonial slavery, is the ardent wish 
and prayer of 


Your Majesty's faithful and devoted 

Servant and Subject 


Pages ix-x omitted in numberi 



The hope of engaging at this critical and arduous 
juncture of political affairs, so large a portion of the 
time of British statesmen and legislators, as would 
be necessary for the perusal of the work 1 now offer 
to the public, may seem idle and presumptuous ; 
yet for their use chiefly it has been composed. 

Why it was not sooner finished and published, is 
partly explained in my introductory chapter ; and if 
the apologies there made are not thought sufficient, 
let me here claim the indulgence due to the infirmi- 
ties of age. The composition of a work like this 
becomes laborious, in proportion as memory, in the 
promptness of its suggestions, declines ; and my sight 
also having, during the last two or three years, been 
greatly impaired, the task of keeping up, in my 
reading, with the rapid growth of information and 
discussion in a voluminous public controversy, has 
been more than, consistently with official and private 
duties, I could easily sustain. 

The best evidence of my own sincere persuasion, 
that such a work was wanted, is that I have at all, 
though feebly and tardily, surmounted those impedi- 


ments, by a great sacrifice of personal ease, the en- 
joyment which age is most covetous of, and finds it 
hardest to relinquish. 

The peculiar plan of my work is that, which in 
my own view constitutes its chief, or whole, im- 
portance ; and gives me the hope of its being useful 
to the great cause ihat I advocate, with enlightened 
and influential minds. 

Of all the difficulties with which public men, per- 
sonally strangers to the West India colonies, are em- 
barrassed by the anti-slavery question, the greatest, 
I believe, is that of ascertaining on what premises of 
fact they can safely rely ; and there can be no pos 
sible means of removing this difficulty so effectual as 
the singular plan which I have adopted, that of 
reasoning wholly e.v concessis, and establishing every 
fact that I adduce by the evidence of my opponents 

A work constructed on such principles, neither 
asks nor needs any confidence in its author. It 
might have been published anonymously, without 
impairing its effect : except that it would have been 
less likely to obtain public attention, on a subject 
which has not the attraction of novelty; and on 
which those who read, not for entertainment merely, 
but instruction, too generally, though very errone- 
ously, suppose they have nothing still to learn. 

This consideration, however, is of great and fearful 
importance to the cause of the unfortunate slaves. 
Though the inherent force of truth has, at length, 
made its way through all the entrenchments of con- 
troversial falsehood, and nothing is wanting to insure 


the victory of humanity and justice, but to turn 
the artillery of the adverse host upon themselves ; 
though a watchful advocate of reformation now sees 
his way to full success, in a review of the evidence 
opposed to him ; one formidable obstacle intervenes : 
— it is the satiety of his audience: — it is the diffi- 
culty of being heard. 

To lessen, if possible, this disadvantage, I have 
taken a course not very pleasant to a man who loves 
peace, and sincerely dislikes publicity, that of 
affixing my name to the work ; for it is one fair 
claim to attention, that the author is known to be 
well acquainted with his subject; and when I pledge 
myself, as I here confidently do, that the views I 
have now to open on the state of colonial slavery 
are, in great measure, new to the public, — new, at 
least, in their systematic combination, and the 
strong species of demonstration with which they are 
accompanied ; and new, also, as to the details of the 
general oppressions they describe, many, perhaps, 
from curiosity, if not from higher motives, will take 
the trouble to satisfy themselves whether that pledge, 
from a man well versed in the long-depending con- 
troversy, has been forfeited or redeemed. 

But will there not be a counterpoise to this be- 
nefit, in adverse prepossessions, which the author's 
name may excite ? Not, I humbly hope, with men 
of intelligence and penetration ; for though I ask no 
confidence, I am unconscious of any thing that can 
fairly expose me to suspicion or distrust. 

I have, indeed, been long and loudly railed 
against, as an enemy of the sugar colonies, and a 


man intent on their destruction ; but public men well 
know, from experience, how to estimate party- 
spirited invectives like these. They mean only that 
my views of the sources of prosperity and mischief 
to the planters, are, and always have been, dia- 
metrically opposite to their own ; that I was an early 
and determined enemy to the slave-trade, which 
they long held vital to their welfare; and, an enemy 
not less determined, of that interior system which, in 
their eyes, is prosperity and safety, but, in mine, 
perennial calamity, and closely impending ruin. 
They now, virtually admit that I was their friend, 
rather than their enemy, in the former case ; and, 
perhaps, will one day do me the same justice in the 

Against some anonymous charges, less vague, 
arraigning my motives and sincerity, I have already 
defended myself before the public ; * and my anta- 
gonists have not hazarded a reply. 

There is one imputation, indeed, which, though 
not ill calculated, I fear, to enlist strong prejudices 
against any advocate of a cause like this, with no 
small part of the community, I cannot desire to 
contradict ; but rather wish, that when fairly in- 
terpreted, it were true to a greater extent than it 
really is. I mean the charge, mixed up with almost 
every invective of my colonial enemies, that 1 am 
actuated in these labours by such a zeal for Christian 
doctrines and principles, as they call enthusiasm and 
fanaticism ; or that I am a character, their familiar 

* Sre tlie Preface to my former volume. 


name for whicli I will not quote, because it is a most 
irreverent, not to say" impious use, for derisive pur- 
poses, of a scriptural term, appropriated to the ven- 
erated first founders of our faith. 

Far be it from me to disclaim, as motives of my 
zeal, in this great cause, the fear of God, and a sense 
of Christian duty ; but I will not needlessly leave 
to my opponents the benefit of those prejudices to 
which they craftily appeal ; and, therefore, will not 
scruple to say, that if my hostility to West India 
slavery were truly imputable to zeal for the peculiar 
doctrines of the gospel, the effect must have pre- 
ceded its cause. 

When I first knew the West Indies, I was a very 
young man ; and not less ignorant and regardless of 
Christianity, or of all, at least, that exclusively be- 
longs to it, than young men in my own sphere of 
life then too generally were. I had early imbibed 
such theological opinions as are commonly called 
liberal ; and though religion was not wholly left out 
of my scheme, either in theory or practice, it was a 
religion in which not only Christians of the lowest 
standard, but enlightened heathens, might have con- 
curred : nor can any man be more disposed than I 
then was to despise, as narrow-mindedness and 
bigotry, those views which I am now supposed, 
whether justly or not, to entertain. Yet I can truly 
say, and appeal to my known conduct in proof of it, 
that I no sooner personally knew what negro slavery 
is, in its odious practice and effects, than I conceived 
and avowed for it all the detestation that I at this 
moment feel, regarded it as the greatest evil that 


ever afflicted suffering humanity, and the most op- 
probrious crime of my country ; and devoted my 
future life, as far as was immediately possible, to 
that great African cause, in which I have continued 
to labour for no less than forty-seven years. 

It is not true, then, that zeal for Christianity, or 
what my opponents call enthusiasm in religion, made 
me an enemy to slavery. It would be much nearer 
the truth, for certain reasons, to say that this enmity 
made me a Christian. But I know of no scheme of 
religion or morals. Christian or Pagan, on which the 
slavery of the sugar colonies, when truly delineated, 
can admit of justification or excuse. 

A fear has sometimes occurred to me while writing 
on these subjects for the public, and especially when 
noticing the corrupting effects of familiarity and con- 
tact with the harsh system, in the minds of those 
who have long resided in the colonies, that I might 
seem to arrogate to myself some native superiority 
to others, in having, during a residence there of eleven 
years, escaped that moral contagion. Let me here, 
therefore, disclaim as I sincerely can, any such vain 
opinion. Most unaffectedly do I confess my belief, 
that had it not pleased a gracious providence to 
guard me there by singular means from the general 
influence, 1 should, like others, have soon reconciled 
myself to the becoming an owner of slaves, next, in 
consequence, to the exercise of that odious discipline 
by which they are governed, and finally, perhaps, to 
the becoming a planter, and to all the abuses of the 
harsh relation which 1 have delineated in the present 
work. That t escaped that ordinary progress was 


chiefly owing to a resolution formed immediately 
after my first arrival in the West Indies, and in- 
flexibly adhered to during my stay there, never to be 
the owner of a slave. The calumnies of colonial 
enemies obliged me, self-defensively, to notice this 
peculiarity, in the preface to my former volume,* and 
no opponent, to my knowledge, has since attempted 
to contradict the facts there stated. But let me now 
add to them, if not from candour and justice to others, 
who have, on their emigration to lands of slavery, 
guarded themselves by no such resolution, at least 
in humble gratitude to an all-directing Providence, 
an incident that led me happily to form it. 

Like other strangers from Europe, I should pro- 
bably have seen and heard little of the state and 
treatment of slaves to disgust or alarm me, till too 
late to adopt that precaution, but for the coincidence 
of various circumstances apparently fortuitous (by a 
Christian nothing should be strictly deemed such), 
which gave me, immediately after my first arrival, a 
view of the system more impressive and revolting 
than can be easily described ; and taught me more in 
a day, of its real character and effects, than those 
who do not go out to reside on plantations, are likely 
to learn for years, or till habit has made the disco- 
very useless to them. Though destined to St. CJiris- 
topher, I was led, by an acquaintance accidentally 
formed, to take my passage in a ship that had pre- 
viously to touch at Barbadoes, an island four degrees 
of latitude out of my way, to land some passengers 

* See p. 51 to 54. 



and stores there, where we arrived, after an accident 
that detained us long in the Downs, in December, 

A letter from a London merchant to his cor- 
respondent at Bridgetown, the chief port of the 
island, secured to me the hospitable reception from 
him — which strangers usually meet in that part of 
the world ; and the next day I met a large party at 
his house, that had been invited to dine with me 

The principal topic of conversation at table, was 
the approaching trial of four plantation slaves, 
charged with the murder of a gentleman of the me- 
dical profession, for which they were to be tried the 
next day ; and my attention was the more excited to 
the subject, by the discovery that there were among 
the gentlemen in company some who strongly doubt- 
ed the guilt of the prisoners, that the case was in- 
volved in very mysterious circumstances, and that 
public suspicion glanced at a gentleman of the 
island, who had not however been prosecuted, or 
publicly charged with the offence. 

I learned, in answer to questions that curiosity 
prompted me to put to one or more of the gentlemen 
near me, what the grounds of that suspicion were ; 
but 1 will not state them here, because, though forty - 
seven years have since elapsed, I cannot be sure that 
the indication they might furnish of the mdividual 
suspected, to surviving members of the same society, 
would not be injurious to him, if still in life ; or to the 
feelings of his relations and friends if he is no more. 
I will only say, that the suspicious circumstances 


appeared to me pretty strong ; and that one of them 
was a certain interest which he was understood to 
have in the fatal event ; whereas the negroes, if 
guilty, must have committed what in the West In- 
dies is a crime very rarely heard of, the murder of a 
white man ; and without any apparent motive. 

My curiosity naturally inspired a wish to be pre- 
sent at the trial, not only from these circumstances 
of the case, but because I was too truly told that 
slaves were tried for their offences in a very different 
way from that which I nad been accustomed to wit- 
ness on the trial of criminals in England ; and my 
kind entertainer, therefore, was induced to accom- 
pany me to the court at its sitting the next morning. 

Very soon and painfully did I perceive how shock- 
ing a contrast there was between the proceedings of 
a slave court, and the humanity of our criminal 

The court, consisting of a bench of justices of the 
peace, five I think in number, without a jury, was no 
sooner constituted, than the four black prisoners were 
placed at the bar ; and as they were first common 
field negroes I had seen, their filthy and scanty garbs 
would have moved my pity, if it had not been more 
strongly excited by the pain they were visibly suf- 
fering from tight ligatures of cord round their crossed 
wrists, which supplied the place of hand-cuffs. I 
noticed it to my companion, and said, surely they 
will be put at bodily ease during their trial ; but he 
replied it was not customary. As there was no in- 
dictment, or other express charge, and consequently 


no arraignment, they had not to hold up their hands ; 
and remained bound in the same painful way while 
I remained a spectator. 

But the first proceeding of the bench, changed the 
sensation of pity in my breast, into honest indigna- 
tion. It was the production and reading by the 
chairman of a letter received by him from a gentle- 
man, who was owner of two of the prisoners, and 
who had been written to with an enquiry, whether 
he would choose to employ a lawyer in the defence 
of his slaves ; and the answer was that he declined 
to do so, adding as his reason, *' God forbid that he 
" sliould wish in such a case to screen the guilty from 
" 'pujiishmentr To the best of my recollection these 
were the very words : I am sure such was the exact 
import of the letter. 

I turned with a look of astonishment to my con- 
ductor ; but before I could whisper my feelings, they 
were diverted from the master to the bench ; for to 
my astonishment the chairman applauded the letter, 
as honourable to the writer ; and the other magis- 
trates concurred in his eulogy. 

Strangely misplaced though I felt it to be, and 
shocked though I was at such a cruel prejudication 
of the unfortunate prisoners by their natural pro- 
tector, I supposed that the commendation rested on 
his disinterestedness, in being willing to sacrifice his 
property in their bodies, without opposition to the 
demands of public justice ; for I did not then know of 
the laws noticed in my first volume, p. 322 to 328, 
which intitle a master, on the conviction and execu- 


tion of his slave, to be paid for his loss of property 
out of the public purse. The lawyers' fees in con- 
sequence would have been a profitless expense. 

Not only was there no written charge, but no 
opening of the case, on the part of the prosecution. 
The prisoners had to learn it as I did, only from the 
evidence adduced ; the uncontroverted part of which 
was briefly as follows. 

The deceased had been visiting a certain estate in 
his usual routine as its medical attendant ; and after 
seeing the patients, mounted his horse, to return to 
his residence in town. A negro of the estate the 
same morning brought in the horse with the saddle 
and bridle on, saying that he had found it grazing 
in one of the cane pieces ; and the manager there- 
upon ordered it to be put into the stable ; but did 
not send till the next day to give information of the 
occurrence at the doctor's house; supposing, as he 
alleged, that the horse by some accident had got 
away from him, and would be sent for. The de- 
ceased however never returned to his home; and an 
alarm naturally arising, he was enquired for at the 
estates he had visited ; and after consequent searches, 
the body was found in a cane piece not far from the 
house he had last visited, with contusions on the 
head, such as a fall from his horse could not have 
occasioned, and which were the apparent cause of 
his death. 

So far there was nothing to affect either of the 
prisoners ; except that one of them, a very old negro, 
was the man who brought in the horse ; and though 
this was regarded as a leading circumstance of sus- 


picioii against him, it seemed to me of a directly op- 
posite tendency. 

But a negro girl, or wench, as she was called in the 
ordinary style of the slave colonies, a deformed creat- 
ture, apparently about fifteen years old, was next 
called, as the only witness who could bring the of- 
fence home, by positive testimony, to the prisoners. 

Before she was examined, she was addressed by 
the chairman in a way that carried my surprise and 
indignation to the utmost pitch. She was admonished 
in the most alarming terms, to beware not to conceal 
any thing that made against the pjisoners ; and told 
that if she did, she would involve herself in their 
crime, and its punishment. No caution whatever was 
given as to any sin or danger on the opposite side. 
Every word implied a premature conviction in the 
mind of the court, that the prisoners were certainly 
guilty, and that she would be probably disbelieved 
and punished if she said any thing tending to acquit 
them. Terror was strongly depicted in her counte- 
nance during this address ; and I felt at the moment 
that had I been a juryman to try the prisoners on her 
evidence, after such an exhortation, nothing she 
might testify against them would weigh a feather in 
my verdict. 

As the negro dialect was new to me, I should not 
have been able clearly to understand her testimony 
in many parts of it, without the assistance of my com- 
panion, who kindly whispered the interpretations 
that I asked for ; but her story in substance was, 
that the deceased rode up to the negro houses of a 
plantation she belonged to, for shelter against a 


shower of rain ; that he alighted, and gave his horse 
to one of the prisoners to hold ; and that thereupon 
he and the other three, the only persons present ex- 
cept herself, fell upon him with sticks, knocked him 
down, and beat him to death ; and afterwards car- 
ried his body to the cane piece in which it was 

No provocation, or other motive, was assigned by 
her, and her evidence, independently of the terror 
that had been impressed upon her, would have ap- 
peared to me, from its matter, and the manner in 
which it was given, wholly unworthy of credit. 
The countenances and gesticulations of all the un- 
fortunate men during her examination, impressed me 
with a strong persuasion of their innocence. Never 
were the workings of nature more clearly imitated 
by the most expert actor on any stage, if her whole 
narrative did not fill them with astonishment ; and 
excite in them all the indignation that belongs to 
injured innocence. I expressed that feeling strongly 
to my conductor; and he dissented only by observ- 
ing that negroes in general were masters of dissimula- 
tion ; or something to that effect.. 

At the conclusion of her evidence, he reminded me 
that it was time to go, as we had to meet a party at 
dinner , and I was not sorry to quit the scene, for 
besides the bodily sufferings, to which the foul air of 
a crowded court in that hot atmosphere subjected me, 
I was nearly overpowered by disgust and indignation 
at what I had seen and heard. 

Here, therefore, I must cease to narrate the case 
from my own direct knowledge. But the sequel was 


well supplied to me by evidence beyond suspicion. 
The same day 1 heard of what further passed on the 
trial, from persons who had staid in court to the end 
of it. No further evidence had fortified that of the 
negro icench in any material point. On the strength 
of her testimony alone, the magistrates had convicted 
all the prisoners of murder. 

I asked my host anxiously " do you think they 
will be hanged ?" and great was my horror at the 
answer, when explained to me. He supposed that 
the governor would be applied to for an '* exemiplary 
death.'" What, I asked, was meant by that? *' burn- 
ing alive perhaps, or gibbeting/' was the reply. On 
enquiring what was the meaning of the latter term, it 
was explained to me to be hanging them up alive on 
a gibbet, in an iron cage or hoops, and leaving them 
to perish by hunger, thirst, and the other miseries of 
that situation. 

" And by what law are such cruelties perpetrated 
within the British dominions?" He could not tell; 
but it was understood the governor had a power to 
order such execution of slaves in extraordinary cases. 
" And did you ever know an instance of this gibbet- 
" ingV *' Yes, I remember one ; but it was a long 
" time ago. I was then a boy ; and can remember 
" that after the man had hung many days (he was 
*' above a week in dying), I and other boys threw 
" up " (I forget whether he said pieces of bread or 
fruit), " to the cage, which the poor wretch tried to 
** catch with his mouth through the bars." 

I should hardly venture to mention this fact, if like 
cruelties had not been narrated by Mr. Bryan 


Edwards and others; and if an execution precisely 
of the same kind, and with a death as lingering, had 
not notoriously taken place at Dominica, by order of 
the then governor, while I was resident in the 
Leeward Islands. Balla, the insurgent chief, was 
gibbetted, close to the chief Town of Roseau ; and 
being there a year or more after, I heard a particular 
account of it, exactly corresponding with that of my 
Barbadoes host, from several respectable gentlemen 
who disapproved of the act ; but though enemies of 
the governor (who was then the object of violent 
popular clamour), candidly admitted that he had 
been led to it by a pretty general wish of the com- 

I left Barbadoes immediately after the trial, but 
heard soon after the sequel of the tragedy, from 
several gentlemen who came from that Island to St. 
Christopher. The court applied to the Governor, 
a planter of the Island, and one who afterwards gave 
a very favourable account of the general humanity of 
his brethren, before the privy council, for an exemplai^y 
death; and he ordered that the four convicts should 
burnt alive. 

But what perhaps will be thought the most singular 
part of the case, remains to be told 

The owner of two of the slaves, the same I believe, 
who so laudably refused to employ a lawyer for them> 
on hearing of the evidence on which they had been 
convicted, in respect of time and place, was able to 
establish a clear alibi in their favor, to the satisfaction 

* See my fiibt vol. p. 309. unci the cascb there noticed. 


of the magistrates who had tried them ; in consequence 
of which they were pardoned. But however incredi- 
ble it may appear, the two other unfortunate men, 
convicted on the very same evidence, nevertheless 
underwent the cruel fate to which they were sen- 
tenced. They were literally burnt alive at Bridge- 

Among the persons there at the time, whose in- 
formation, within a short time after, confirmed to me 
these concluding particulars, was the late Charles 
Sturt, Esq. afterwards member of parliament for 
Bridport. He was then Lieutenant of the Falcon 
Sloop of War, which came down soon after the exe- 
cution, from Barbadoes to St. Christopher; and 
being a friend of mine, he answered my enquiries on 
the subject very freely; confirming that extraordinary 
fact which I had found it difficult to believe, the 
ground on which two of the prisoners had been spared, 
and which nevertheless had not saved the others from 
a dreadful death. " I had not," he added, " the 
'* heart to witness the execution myself; but several 
" of our officers and people did ; and the account of 
" it they gave when they returned on board, made 
" me shudder. You may remember" said he, "the 
" little old man," (1 did so, and shall never forget 
him. At this moment, his spare form and wrinkled 
visage, agitated with wonder and indignation while 
the girl was giving her evidence, are before me), in 
" his tortures he drew the iron stake to which he was 
" fastened from the ground, and had nearly got away 
** from the fire ; but they drove the stake into the 


" ground again, and applied more fuel. Both were 
" literally roasted to death." 

Such was the case which gave me my first right 
views of negro slavery in the sugar colonies, almost 
as soon as I reached their shores. 

My previous impressions on the subject, were not 
less erroneous than those which strangely yet prevail 
with too many in the middle and upper classes of 
this country. An uncle, and an elder brother of 
mine, had reconciled themselves to the practical 
system ; and the latter, a man of as much native be- 
nignity as T have ever known, was then engaged in 
it as a planter. My fellow-passengers, all West In- 
dians, had kind and pleasing manners ; and they had 
all, as usual, in like cases, taken pains with me to 
extenuate that revolting incident of the state, which 
the uninformed are led to believe is its only hard- 
ship, — liability to be whipped, by the mandate of a 
private master. They, indeed, somewhat counter- 
acted, in this respect, their own purpose ; by insist- 
ing much upon, and magnifying, the faults of the 
slaves, and their general ignorance and stupidity, as 
apologies for a discipline without which it was im- 
possible to govern them : for I had reflection enough 
to apprehend that such adverse and contemptuous 
views of them in the minds of their masters, were 
not unlikely to be both the effects, and causes, of 
severity in their treatment. On the whole, how- 
ever, I was not indisposed to believe, that an insti- 
tution, to which so many of my humane countrymen, 
and some of my near relations and friends, had recon- 


ciled themselves, was as lenient, generally, in prac- 
tice, as the case would well allow. 

I bless God, that by the singular means here 
recorded, I was kept from adding to such ordinary 
sources of prejudice, the self-love and self delusion, 
by which a man is easily reconciled to bad practices, 
when his own immediate interests, or his own credit, 
plead for their indulgence and defence ; and more 
especially, when habit has insensibly lowered in his 
mind, that moral standard by which he forms his 

The case I have mentioned was every way calcu- 
lated to rescue me at the outset, from delusion. As 
a lawyer, I could not but be deeply impressed with 
the shocking contrast it presented to the impartial 
and humane administration of British justice, and 
its reversal of every principle that I had been taught 
to reverence, by writers on general jurisprudence. 
And how much were my indignant feelings aug- 
mented, when I learned, from an enquiry which it 
suggested, that white men in the same island, were 
not only exempt from all such barbarous departures 
from the laws of England ; but for the wilful murder 
of a slave, were liable only to a fine of fifteen 

It gave me incidentally, also, a full proof how 
greatly the feelings of slave-masters in general, 
were indurated by the system they administered ; 

* See the passages in my former volume, before referred to, and tlie whole 
of the sixth section of its fifth chapter, as to the servile criminal code. 


for the case, naturally, was mentioned by me with 
reprobation, after my arrival in St. Christopher, to 
persons of both sexes, whom I met with there ; 
and though the cruel mode of execution, was con- 
demned by them, or undefended against my cen- 
sures, I could easily perceive, that with few excep- 
tions, their feelings on the subject were by no 
means responsive to my own. And as to the mode 
of trial, and conduct of the court, they were little, if 
at all, disposed to concur in my strictures ; but rather 
to extenuate or defend such proceedings, which I 
soon found were in unison with those in use among 
themselves, on the score of the bad characters of 
slaves in general, and the difficulty of extorting truth 
from them, when under examination, as to their own 
crimes, or those of their brethren. 

I was indebted, in short, to this early and impres- 
sive view of slavery, and the cruel prejudices in- 
spired by it, for the resolution that I immediately 
formed, and declared, never to become the owner of 
a slave ; and if I have contributed in any degree to 
the abolition of the slave trade, or shall ever have 
the happiness to promote the deliverance of its much 
injured victims in our colonies, the blood that was 
cruelly shed at Bridgetown, forty-seven years ago, 
was not shed in vain. 

I trust that the statement of this case on my own 
unsupported authority, will not be thought a de- 
parture from the rule which I stand pledged to ad- 
here to in the body of this work. I shall found no 
argument or general observation upon it ; nor is it 
referable to any part of the system that I have here to 


delineate. Neither can it be my aim to insinuate, 
that like cruel executions are still in use ; for I freely 
avow my belief of the contrary, and that in most, if 
not all the colonies, where they had been deemed 
legal, they are now prohibited by positive law. 

iVs to the general spirit of public injustice and 
inhumanity towards slaves, which the case exempli- 
fies, this, had a retrospective view of it been my 
object, might have been shewn to have prevailed in 
the same island, at a much more recent period 
I might have cited, for instance, those shocking cases 
in the official correspondence of Lord Seaford, which 
were printed by parliament ; and the long-continued 
resistance of the colony of Barbadoes, when soli- 
cited by His Majesty's government to protect their 
slaves from wilful murder, by annexing to the crime 
its proper punishment, instead of a fine of fifteen 
pounds ; though several atrocious cases of slave 
murder had then recently shown the barbarous 
effects of such impunity. 

I see no objection, therefore, to my prefixing to 
my work this personal narrative, though supported 
by my own testimony alone, as tending to reconcile 
without a boast, my own early and lasting antipathy 
to negro slavery, with that long exposure to its 
local influences, by which many better men have 
been reconciled to it, at the expence of their native 

After all, the plan of my present work is such, I 
repeat, as to make the credit of its author, or the 
sources of his anti-slavery feelings, of little or no 
importance. 1 need, and 1 desire, no confidence in 


the writer ; but only in the admissions of those by 
whom his general views and practical objects are 

There is one probable objection to my labours, 
against which it may be important to guard. In 
pleading the case of the unfortunate slaves, I may 
be supposed agere actum ; needlessly to advocate a 
reformation already resolved upon, and in progress ; 
and on the completion of which His Majesty's pre- 
sent government is sufficiently intent. But it has 
been a leading object of my work to prove, that no 
measures hitherto taken, or known to be in contem- 
plation, either for terminating slavery, or mitigating 
its enormous evils, have any real tendency to pro- 
mote those very important and necessary ends. 

So clear and demonstrable is this truth, that were 
it in my power to cancel all that has been done for 
carrying into effect the resolutions of May 1823, 1 
should not hesitate to do so ; at least if I could re- 
store to the public mind that simplicity of concep- 
tion and feeling on the subject, which then prevailed i 

The duty of delivering the country from the guilt 
and shame of slavery, has been solemnly recognized 
by the government and legislature ; but the means 
resolved upon were utterly inadequate in their plan ; 
and in their feeble and vacillating application, have 
proved worse than useless. They have embarrassed 
and retarded, rather than advanced, the work of real 
reformation. They have contirmed and strengthened 
the resistance of its enemies ; and weakened and di- 
vided its friends. For one dispute on the general 
principle, a hundred have been substituted on the 


practical details ; and while objects too minute to be 
worth contending- for, or of no real value at all, have 
given birth to complex and voluminous discussions, 
distracting the attention, both of the government and 
the public; the worst, the most destructive, and 
most general, of the oppressions under which the 
poor slaves are daily groaning and perishing, are left 
unremedied, unattended to, and almost forgot. 

It is to demonstrate the reality, and the enormity 
of these general and standing oppressions, that I 
now address myself to the public. It is to prove 
what I have always maintained, that a merciless 
excess of forced labour, exacted by means as merci- 
less, and its ordinary concomitants, badness and 
scantiness of food, are the main evils, the former 
especially, by which the field negroes on sugar 
plantations are afflicted, worn down, and destroyed ; 
that these economical oppressions, give birth and 
tenacity to all the rest ; and that till these are cor-' 
rected, all other means for improving the condition 
of the slaves physically, intellectually, or morally, 
or for preserving their declining race even from de- 
struction, will be found perfectly vain and useless. 

These propositions certainly are not new ; and as 
to the existence of such oppressions, they have been 
so often admitted, that a man who has read much 
of the public evidence and controversial pieces, 
though only the colonial side, cannot possibly enter- 
tain a doubt of their frequent occurrence. The 
question with him can only be as to their degree, 
and their general prevalence. 

But with a large part of the British public, it will 


be matter of painful novelty to find to what a truly 
enormous extent, these avaricious excesses have been 
carried, and still prevail ; not in particular cases 
merely, but in general and ordinary practice ; and 
with what strict demonstration these can be proved to 
be the sources of almost every other species of op- 
pression that humanity has to lament, in the treat- 
ment of plantation slaves. 

But how to remedy these baneful evils, while 
slavery exists, is a difficult problem indeed ; and I 
can suggest no practical solution of it, that would 
not be attended with difficulties as great, and op- 
posed by the planters as pertinaciously, as the disso- 
lution of the state itself. If any such remedy can 
be discovered by others, my labours may assist their 
researches ; as the first step towards the cure of what 
is morbid in the natural or civil body, is the ascer- 
tainment of the nature and extent of the disease. 

But the result, in my mind, of long experience 
and anxious reflection, aided by a familiar acquaint- 
ance with the calamitous case, during great part of 
a long life, is, that the stern relation of master and 
slave admits of no effectual modification by law ; 
that to limit its extent or duration, is the only real 
p'elliative of its enormous mischiefs, and its abolition 
their only cure. 

* My manuscript has been sent to press in different portions and at dif- 
ferent times, as I progressively was able to prepare it, during nearly a year 
past; which it may be necessary to observe, in order to avoid the appcara^ioe 
of anachronisms, in tj-.e notice of different publications, a? having just ap- 
peared, or met my eye^ at certain jXii>iti uf my piorness. 






Reasons for resuming this Work; Defence of 
THE First, and Plan of the Second Volume .. 1 

[The object of the work is to prove the excessive labour 
exacted from the slaves, and the extreme parsimony of the 
master in their maintenance and comfort, — Sources of de- 
lusion on these points. — The author relies in this, as in his 
former volume, exclusively on adverse testimony; — asserts 
his right to employ an adversary's admissions in disproof of 
his statements ; — and defends his former volume from the 
misrepresentations of his opponents, and particularly of Mr. 
Alexander Barclay. — Appreciation of the early testimonies of 
high naval and military officers, and West Indian Governors, in 
favour of slavery ; their total want of truth being now admitted, 
either directly or virtually, by the modern advocates of slavery, 
Mr. Macdonnell, Mr. Barclay, and others ; and established by 
the testimony of Dr. Collins. — Contradictory representations 
and illusory proceedings of West Indians at home and abroad. 
— Explanation of the plan of this volume, which is confined 
to an exhibition of the actual state of the predial slaves on 
sugar plantations, and of the oppressions as to labour, food, 
and general treatment, to which they are subject.] 

b 2 




Of Agricultural Labour in the Torrid Zone, 


[Exhausting effects of hard labour, in tropical climates, on 
negroes as well as Europeans. — Compensatory provisions of 
the Great Author of nature. — Testimony of Major Moody 
accompanied by remarks on his " Philosophy of Labour." — 
Deplorable effects of coerced labour on the indigenous 
inhabitants of St. Domingo. — Testimony of Dr. Collins to 
the pernicious effects of excessive labour.] 


The high Probability that the Amount of 
FORCED Labour on Sugar Plantations is op- 
pressively AND destructively EXCESSIVE, DE- 
duced from the natural tendency of the 
System ; and confirmed by the Decline of 
Population AMONG the PREDIAL Slaves 57 

Sect. I . — Natural Tendencies of the System ib. 

[Comparison of the influence of freedom and of slavery in 
fixing a proper criterion of labour. — Strong tendency to an 
undue exaction of labour on sugar plantations. — The argu- 
ment for the lenient tendency of the system, drawn from 
motives of self-interest in the master, considered and refuted. 
— Alleged dislike of the Colonists to the continuance of the 
slave trade shewn to be unfounded.] 

Sect. 2. — Decline of Population among the Slaves on Sugar 
Estates 76 

[This calamity peculiar to sugar cultivation. — Increase of 
slaves in the United States, and of free negroes in Hayti. — 
Proofs to the same effect, furnished by the Council of Trinidad.] 




The actual ordinary Details and general 
Amount, in Point of Time, of forced Labour 
ON Sugar Plantations particularly stated 
and proved ; and the cruel Excess demon- 
strated 82 

Sect. 1. — Introductory Remarks; and Divisions of the 
Subject of this Chapter , ib. 

[The intensity of labour cannot be accurately measured ; 
but its duration, in point of time, maybe measured. — Com- 
parison proposed of the ordinary duration of agricultural 
labour in England and in the West Indies.] 

Sect. 2. — The Labour is cruelly excessive in point of 
Time 84 

[Mr. Ramsay's statements on this subject. — Opposino- 
statements of Colonial advocates and witnesses, with their 

discrepancies and contradictions. — Jamaica Act of 1788. 

Testimonies of Messrs. Beckford, Tobin, Willock, B. Edwards, 
Dela Beche,&c. — The delusions of Colonial advocates on this 
subject detected; — evidence of Dr. Collins, Mr. Thomas, 
Mr. Dwarris, and Marly. — Misrepresentations of Mr. Mac- 
queen exposed. — Extent of twilight in the West Indies. 

The evidence of Mr. Stewart and others of Jamaica, and of 
Mr. Dwarris, as well as of Colonial Acts, in proof that field- 
labour occupies eleven hours and a half of each day. 

Additional exactions of slave labour, arising from the distance 
of the field from the homestall ; from the quality and unpre- 
pared state of the food allowed them ; from the toil of col- 
lecting grass for the cattle after the hours of field labour ; 
and from the night-work of crop. — All these oppressive aggra- 
vations of the labours of the field proved by a variety of 
testimonies, including Mr. Dwarris, Mr. De la Beche, Dr. 
Collins, the slave protector of Berbice, and Mr. Mitchell of 
Trinidad. — Duration of the season of crop. — Estimate of the 
average duration of the slave's daily labour throughout the 
year. — Comparison of West India slavery with that of the 
Israelites in Egypt. — Strictures on the theory of Major 




The Labour shewn to be excessive also, for 


[Probabilities of the case. — Intense labour of holing or 
digging cane-holes. — Celerity of movement required in the 
work of distributing manure &c. — Privation of rest, and in- 
tensity and continuity of labour during crop. — These oppres- 
sions proved by a variety of testimony, and particularly that 
of Mr. Campbell and Mr. Bailey of Grenada, Mr. Tobin of 
Nevis, Mr. Willock, Sir Ashton Byam, and Dr. Athill of 
Antigua, Mr. Beckford of Jamaica, and Barre de St. Venant 
of St. Domingo.] 


Comparison of the Amount of Slave Labour 
ON Sugar Plantations with that of Agri- 
cultural Labourers in England 184 

[Assertions of West Indian witnesses and advocates (Mr. 
Baillie, Lord Lavington, Mr. Macqueen &c.), respecting the 
comparative lightness of slave labour, disproved by a view of 
the general duration of daily labour in England.] 


The Means by which Labour is enforced on 
Sugar Plantations greatly aggravates its 
Severity, and are in their Nature and ef- 
fects extremely cruel and pernicious .... 192 

Sect. 1 . Preliminary Remarks 192 

[The driving system no longer denied as heretofore, but 
avowed and defended.] 

Sect. 2. Driving described 193 

[The nature of this practice exemplified in the process of 
digging cane-holes.] 


Sect. 3. Denials and Misrepresentations of the practice 

stated and refuted 195 

[Practice denied by Colonial proprietors in Parliament; by 
Mr. Dallas ; by Mr. Macqueen; by the Council and Assembly 
of St. Vincents, and by Mr. Dwarris; — and their misrepresen- 
tations on the subject completely refuted by Dr. Collins, him- 
self a Planter of St. Vincent ; by the Council of Barbadoes ; 
by Mr. De la Beche, and Mr. Stewart of Jamaica; and by 
Mr. M'Donnell, the Secretary of the associated planters of 
Demerara, who affirms driving to be the peculiar charac- 
teristic, and unavoidable attendant of Slavery.] 

Sect. 4. The cruel and pernicious nature of the practice 

stated and proved 214 

[Driving is the characteristic and most opprobrious feature 
of the system. — The dreadful effects of this brutal coercion 
shewn by Mr. Stewart, Dr. Collins and Mr. De la Beche. — 
The apologies advanced for driving examined. Complaints, 
and redress of the sufferers by this practice, impossible. Ge- 
neral character of those who administer it — Overseers, mana- 
gers and attorneys of plantations.] 

Sect. 5. The only remedy for those mischiefs compatible 

with forced labour is individual task-work 231 

[Unjust and cruel effects of the driving method of coercion 
proved by Mr. Stewart, Mr. de la Beche, Mr. Roughley, a 
Jamaica planter, and Dr. Collins ; and, by the latter especially, 
its cruel effects on the sick and weakly. — Exposure of Colo- 
nial impostures on this subject. — The blame of its destructive 
severity attaches not to the drivers, or even chiefly to the 
overseers and managers, but to the unnatural system itself.] 


The Maintenance of the Plantation Slaves is 


Sect. 1. The proposition shewn to be highly probable from 

the nature of the case ib. 



[Probabilities of this parsimony arising from avarice armed 
with power ; and from the temptations produced by pecuniary 
distress and by competition. — Those who are guilty of an 
undue CAaction of labour, are not likely to be liberal either of 
food, or of time for raising it. — Feelings of humanity form no 
quate counterbalance to such temptations. 


Sect. 3. — Different modes of feeding the slaves in different 

[In Jamaica and many other Islands, the slaves are sub- 
sisted by the produce of their own provirion grounds, culti- 
tivated on Sunday, and a few days besides. — In the Leward 
Islands, they are chiefly fed by imported provisions ; and in 
Barbadoes, Demerara, and Berbice, chiefly by allowances of 
provisions, raised, on the ordinary days of labour, by the 
compulsory labour of the whole gang.] 

Sect. IV. — Of the mode and measure of subsistence in the 

home-fed colonies 264 

[Difficulty of ascertaining the measure of food, when the 
slaves grow their own provisions. — In this case the deficiency 
of the supply can only be proved by circumstantial evidence. 

— The testimony of Dr. Collins on this subject. — Sunday 
employed by the slaves in labouring in their provision grounds. 

— Distance of those grounds from the home-stall. — Slaves 
less scantily fed in home-fed than in foreign-fed, colonies. — 
The time required for raising food.] 

Sect. V. — Of the subsistence in foreign-fed colonies in 

respect of its ordinary nature and amoniit 277 

[Statements of Mr. Ramsay, and Mr.Tobin ; of Dr. Collins ; 
and of various other witnesses ; as to the quantity of the food 
allowed. — The careful suppression by West Indian advocates 
of the documentary evideiice in their possession on this point. 
— The regulations of the law of the Leeward Islands prove 
the extreme scantiness of the subsistence allowed to the 
slaves. — The allowances prescribed by that law compared 
with those of the Bahamas, and of the prisons in Jamaica. — 
The alleged further advantages possessed by the slaves, of 
marketing, &c. considered. — The extreme unfairness of West 
Indian advocates in their representations on these points.] 



Sect. VI. — The subsistence of the slaves shewn from com- 
parative views to be extremely scanty and inade- 
quate 305 

[A comparison of the allowances of agricultural slaves in 
the foreign-fed colonies, with the consumption of agricultural 
labourers in England, and with English prison allowances ; 
with the allowances also to the slaves in the Bahamas, and in 
the prisons and workhouses of Jamaica, and with those made 
to slaves in the United States, Brazil, arid the colonies of 
Spain and France. — Testimony of Dr. Collins as to the 
insufficiency of food. — The state of the West Indian slaves 
in this respect, compared with that of the Israelites in Egypt ; 
of the villeins in England ; and of the slaves in ancient 
Greece and Rome. — Exposure of the grossly fallacious state- 
ments of colonial witnesses, as to the extent of the property, 
and the accumulations, and hidden riches of slaves. — 
The question considered with a view to the means of the 
slaves to redeem themselves. — Reasons why their right of 
self redemption is so strenuously resisted by the colonists. — 
Comparative facilities of manumission that were enjoyed by 
Greek and Roman slaves, and by English villeins,] 


The Allowances of Clothing to the Field 
Negroes by their Owners is also in a 
shameful Degree penurious and insuffici- 
ent 342 

[The false representations on this subject given by Mr. 
Barclay and other individuals, and by public bodies, com- 
pared with the lav/ and the practice. — Counter-statements of 
Dr. Collins. — Tlie colonists challenged to produce the au- 
thentic documents in their possession of the clothing allowed 
their slaves. — Their total destitution of shoes, and the many 
injurious effects caused by the want of them. —Consumption 
of shoes by the Haytian population.] 




The Slaves are very badly lodged 359 

[Testimony of Dr. Collins on this point. — Misapprehen- 
sions to which strangers and casual visitants are exposed 
respecting it; and which are increased by the deceptive 
statements of colonists.] 


The Slaves are also treated with great Harsh- 
ness, Neglect, and Inhumanity when sick .. 362 

[Strong and decisive testimony of Dr. Collins on this sub- 
ject. — The plantation sick-house, most improperly termed a 
hospital, described. — It is not only an apartment for the sick 
but for the confinement of delinquents awaiting punishment, 
or already lacerated by its infliction. — A further reference to 
the testimony of Dr. Collins and also of Mr. Beckford.] 


The whole Expense of the Maintenance of 
Plantation Slaves estimated and compared 
with the cost of Free Labour 374 

[The respective statements on this subject of Mr. Ramsay 
and his opponent Mr. Tobin. — The remarkable reluctance al- 
ways shewn by Colonial advocates and Colonial authorities to 
afford information on this point ; and the consequent want 
of data for a correct estimate. — A document produced which 
shews that the expense of supplies from Europe did not ex- 
ceed \2s. a slave. — Immense disproportion of the expense 
caused by the maintenance of the slave, and by that of the 
free labourer in England. — Effects of the prevailing pecuniary 
distress of the planters, and also of their prosperity, on the 
happiness and comfort of the slaves.] 

CONTENTS. xliii 



Concluding and practical Reflections 387 

[The preceding pages prove slavery to be a disgrace to 
Great Britain. — Its monstrous injustice and inhumanity insisted 
upon — Such a system ought not to be permitted to exist. — 
The time and manner of its abolition, and the claim of 
compensation considered ; — Mr. Pitt's view of compensation. 
— Large profits of the planter hurtful to the slave. — A 
warning voice to the legislature, and the nation ; calling them 
to consider the disturbed state of Europe, and -the various 
events that have evinced the divine displeasure with the succes- 
sive Governments of France, Spain, Portugal, and Holland, 
for their obstinate adherence to the slave trade and slavery. 
— The peculiar case of Great Britain considered in this view. 
— The conduct to be pursued in the approaching session of 
parliament. — The utter hopelessness of reform by colonial 
means, shewn in the abortive results of the resolutions of Mr. 
Ellis, in 1797, and of Mr. Canning, in May' 1823.— It is our 
duty no longer to look to modifications of slavery, but to its 
extinction. — The various modifications proposed are all more 
or less objectionable. — The prayer of the people of this 
country ought to be simply for the abolition of slavery, 
leaving the detail of means to government and parliament. — 
Reprehensible policy of the Government in respect to this 
question. The fatal effects of the failure of the Registry 
Bill of 1826, and of the wholly ineflftcient substitutes for it 
since adopted by the colonists and accepted by the crown. — 
The author's vindication of himself from the charges of incon- 
sistency brought against him by Lord Seaford, and other 
colonial advocates. — The resolutions of May 1823, contuma- 
ciously resisted by the colonists. — Outrageous conduct of the 
Jamaica legislature; their persecuting spirit and enactments ; 
and their unwarrantable resistance not only to the recom- 
mendations of the imperial legislature, but to inquiry by the 
executive authority of the crown into the due administration of 
justice. — The case of the Rev. G. W. Bridges.- — No beneficial 
change to be hoped for, except from the direct intervention of 
parliament. — The power of West Indian influence in parlia- 
ment, and with the government. — The abolition of slavery 
can alone cureitsevils. — The hopes entertained even of any ma- 
terial effect from a concession of the right of self-redemption 
was vain and illusory ; and now that the West Indian commit- 
tee at home make common cause against it, with their brethren 
abroad, the case is still more hopeless. — The danger of longer 
delaying to decide this question — not merely dangers of excite- 
menamongthe slaves from frustrated hopes, butofincreaseddis- 



affection at home, even among the most moral and chris- 
tian part of the community ; provided padiament and 
government shall continue to reject the universal prayer of 
the nation to let the oppressed go free.] 


Cases of Cruelty, indicating the general 
Prevalence, in the Sugar Colonies, of In- 
sensibility TO THE Sufferings of Slaves, 
AND an Indisposition to restrain or punish 
THE Authors of such Offences.. 415 

No 1. — The cruelties related by Mr. G. H. Smith, with the 
proceedings against liim of the magistrates of Westmore- 
land, and the Assembly of Jamaica 416 

No. 2. — Presentment of a grand Jury in St. Christopher, ex- 
tracted from a paper printed by order of the House of 
Commons of May 1, 1827 ' 43G 

No. 3. — Conviction in the Bahama Islands, for cruelty to a 
female slave called Kate, extracted from papers jjrinted 
by order of the House of Commons of March 27, 1829 . . 

No. 4. — Account of the treatment of the slaves on two uni- 
ted estates, called Fahies, and Ortons, in the Island of 
St. Christopher, and the fatal effects that folloiced . . . . 442 









Th e two grand divisions of" this work proposed at the outset, 
were, first, a delineation of slavery in a theoretic view, as a 
legal institution ; and secondly, a delineation of the state in 
respect of its practical nature and effects. Thor former part 
of my task has been performed ; the latter has been long re- 
tarded, and still remains to be accomplished. 

While many readers of my former volume have expressed 
some impatience of desire for the appearance of the present ; 
others, perhaps, have thought that this part of my plan might 
be conveniently and properly laid aside ; considering how much 
the practice of slavery has, during the last five years, been 
discussed before the public by other writers, whose principles 
are in accordance with my own. — To a large part of the com- 
munity, it may seem that the great objects of my labours, the 
mitigation and gradual abolition of slavery, are virtually at- 

VOL. II. u 

2 Reasons for 

tained or secured ; and that the Parliamentary resolutions of 
May, 1823, with the consequent measures of Government, 
have made this sequel of my vv^ork useless, at least, if not 
even adverse to my purpose. 

That such views have been entertained by many, even 
among the sincere friends of the anti-slavery cause, I well 
know and lament ; and have reason to fear that they may 
still widely prevail ; for, though those measures have been 
nearly fruitless in all the colonies, and in some of them the 
solicitations of the Crown, and the voice of Parliament have 
been treated with the utmost contempt and defiance by the 
Assemblies ; their agents and partizans in this country have 
played a far more politic game, labouring indefatigably to 
persuade the British Public that opposition in language has 
been accompanied, in some measure at least, with practical 
compliance ; that the Planters and Assemblies, like the son 
in the parable, while answering to the parental command 
" I go not," have actually gone into the field : that much has 
been already done, and that patience on our part, alone is 
wanting to make their obedience entire. 

In my last publication, " Enghnid enslaved hy her own Slave 
Colonies," I endeavored to shew the erroneousness and the 
fatal tendency of such opinions ; but not, I fear, with suffi- 
cient general effect on the public mind ; and if any of the 
real friends of reformation still indulge a false security, and 
condemn as needless, further attempts to excite, on the right 
side, the feeling of the British people, one effort only remains 
by which I can hope to disabuse them ; the laborious and 
painful one, which again employs my pen. If any thing can 
effectually serve to dispel the delusions that prevail, and 
satisfy reasoning minds that slavery has not been, nor with- 
out parliamentary legislation ever will be, reformed, it is such 
means as I have long since engaged to supply ; a development 
and demonstration of the true practical nature and fixed prin- 
ciples of the system, not in its particular, but general ad- 
ministration, deduced exclusively from the evidence of those 
by whom it is defended and maintained. 

In proposing remedies for the inveterate, deeply seated, 
and deadly disease of colonial slavery, I have to encounter 
difficulties like those of a faithful well-informed physician, 

resuming this Work. 3 

whose patient has been long in the hands of deluded friends, 
and self-interested crafty practitioners ; both adverse, though 
on different views, to the only possible means of cure. The 
former, from groundless apprehensions of danger in the right 
and only effectual course, are trusting to wretched palliatives, 
which are of no real use even in the way of mitigation, 
while the latter are applying them, and alleging good ef- 
fects from their inchoate use, merely to support their own 
credit, and keep the patient longer in their own mercenary 
hands. The physician is aware, that to dispel the delusion 
will be not only a difficult, but a thankless and invidious 
office ; but sees there is no other expedient to prevent a fatal 
termination. To obtain the use of truly efficacious means, 
he must convince the too confident friends of the vanity of 
their present hopes, and the fallacy of the pretended improve- 
ments, by exposing to them, however alarmingly, the in- 
veterate constitutional causes, the still subsisting malignity, 
and extreme danger of the case. 

But though the present state of the Anti-slavery cause, 
unhappily, is not such as to absolve me from my promised 
task, much has been done by enlightened coadjutors that 
may well justify a great contraction of my plan. I refer 
particularly to the work called " Negro Slavery," to the 
writings of The Reverend Mr. Bickill, and Mr. 
Cooper, and above all, to those very valuable tracts, Tri e 
Anti-slavery Monthly Reports. They contain, col- 
lectively, such copious information as to the practice of 
Slavery in the Sugar Colonies, that had the writers adopted 
my own plan of delineating Slavery systematically, and in 
its ordinary character, and relying only on the evidence of 
our opponents, they would have left me little, if any thing, 
to add ; but though those well-informed writers have not 
thought it necessary to use such abstinence in respect of 
evidence (which certainly they were no wise bound to do), 
enough has been proved by them from irrefragable authority, 
and even out of the mouths of the planters themselves, to 
establish many of the abuses that I meant to develop ; and 
to refute decisively most of the idle pretences of improve- 
ments wiiich I should otherwise have had to repel. 

B 2 

4 Reasons fur 

I shall be content to leave in their hands all that relates 
to the shocking general neglect of intellectual, moral, and 
religious instruction ; to the profanation of the Sabbath ; to 
the discouragement of marriage; to the licentious and inde- 
cent treatment of females ; and to excesses and barbarities in 
punishment ; with the non-execution and perversion of those 
laws which profess to restrain such abuses. I shall abstain 
also from adding to their strictures, or to my own in my 
former works, on the hardships under which the slaves labour, 
in point of law and practice, from their liability to be sold 
apart from their families, the rejection of their evidence, the 
impediments to their acquisition of freedom, and its insecurity 
when obtained. 

What then, it may possibly be asked, after such a cata- 
logue of exclusions, are to be the subjects of my delineation 
and proof? " Surely it may be thought, most of, if not 
all, the evils of slavery must be comprised in this enumera- 

Would to heaven that the fact were so ! — The state, 
though bad enough, would be merciful and mild, compared 
with what it really is. It would be a case sufficiently la- 
mentable and opprobrious ; but not such as has harrowed up 
my soul with unavailing sympathy from youth to age; and 
now urges me to renew my labours, after more than three 
score and eleven years have chilled my human hopes, be- 
numbed my faculties, and left me no selfish good beneath the 
sun, so precious as repose and peace. 

Numerous and cruel though the oppressions are by which 
the poor negroes are degraded, tormented, and destroyed, 
there are two which 1 have always regarded and publicly 
denounced as by far the worst ; not only because the most 
general, and the most afflictive, but because they give birth 
and virulence and tenacity, to almost all the rest. I mean 
the trull/ enormous amount of labour to which the Jie Id negroes, 
or ordinary plantation slaves, are coerced; and the almost in- 
credible degree of parsimony iifith lohich they are maintained. 
Most of the other sufferings incident to their hapless state 
are casual and temporary ; but these are certain and pe- 
rennial ; and though mitio;ated in a small degree under the 

resuinbig this Work. 5 

more liberal of their owners, are, to a great and grievous ex- 
tent, their universal lot. 

Such oppressions are also the least likely to meet with 
any private restraint or correction. Abuses, the effects of 
anger, revenge, or other malignant passions, in a manager, 
overseer, or other subordinate master, might be expected to 
be much restrained or punished by the owner's authority, if 
brought to his knowledge ; for in such cases the interests of 
proprietors and of slaves are clearly on the same side. But 
oppressions of a gainful or economical kind, are perpetrated 
for the owner's emolument; and the present sacrifices ne- 
cessary to their correction are what few sugar planters are 
able if willing to make. Such oppressions also, when 
established by general usage, become, from the efi'ects of 
connnercial competition, hardly capable of correction, without 
ruinous consequences to individuals, except by the regulations 
of a general and compulsory law. 

The pre-eminence of evil in these economical branches of 
oppression will more fully appear, when it shall be shewn 
what cruel eftects they produce, and how large a portion of 
the other ordinary severities of the system are their natural, 
and, in great measure, inseparable attendants. Though the 
ordinary discipline of the plantations is odious and inhuman 
in its nature, the inflictions of the inndictive, when compared 
with those of the coercive whip, are small in their general 
amount ; and the former, too, are, for the most part, the pe- 
nalties of defaults to which excess of labour and insufficiency 
of aliment give rise. Of every hundred stripes, that are 
given on a sugar plantation, exclusive of the drivers' coercive 
process, ninety or more are inflicted for absence from the 
field at the appointed time, or the short performance of a 
solitary task ; and that these delinquencies are much more 
often the effects of fatigue and inanition than any other cause, 
I shall abundantly prove, out of the mouths of the planters 

How, indeed, can these consequences be doubted? If, 
under a system of forced labour, the work imposed is ex- 
cessive, and the quantum of food inadequate, it is manifest 
that in proportion to the degree of those economical oppres- 

6 Reasons for 

sions, must be the seventy of the discipline by which they 
are imposed. The resistance of nature can be no otherwise 
overcome. If you would drive your tired post horses another 
stage, you must not restrain your driver from the free use of 
his whip; still less if they have been also stinted in their food. 

That labour, so excessive and continuous as to leave the 
common field negro neither spirits nor time for any voluntary 
efforts, must preclude his intellectual and religious improve- 
ment, his acquisition of property, and whatever else we com- 
prise in the idea of civilization, is equally clear. In short, 
this species of oppression, when its cruel extent is proved, will 
be plainly seen to be incompatible with all real improvements 
in the physical condition of the slaves ; and still more with 
such advances in the intellectual and moral scale, as are held 
(whether rightly or not, I will not in this place enquire) to be 
necessary preparatives for the termination of their bondage. 

For these reasons, then, while I rely upon the writings of 
my fellow-labourers, as having exonerated me from a large 
part of the task that I undertook, I feel the engagement still 
binding, and the duty imperative, to delineate the general 
practice of the sugar colonies, in regard to those most import- 
ant articles of oppression, the extreme degree of forced labour 
imposed upon plantation slaves, and the great inadequacy of 
maintenance given in return. 

Let me not be understood to mean, that my humane and 
respected coadjutors have wholly neglected those most inter- 
esting topics. Enough has been said by them to shew that 
their views in these respects are in general like my own; 
though the excess of labour has not, in my judgment, had that 
prominence among the abuses they have exposed, which its 
extreme cruelty and pernicious effects deserve ; nor been 
stated with sufficient circumstantiality and precision. But 
the grand and general desideratum they have left me to sup- 
ply, is a demonstration of the facts of the case from irresist- 
ble evidence; for such I may surely call testimony on the 
anti-slavery side, when cited from colonial tongues and colo- 
nial pens alone. And this, in respect of the ordinary amount 
of forced labour, is of peculiar importance ; because no part 
of the general system has been a subject of so much assiduous 

resuming this Work. 7 

misrepresentation by our opponents ; nor is there any other, I 
believe, in respect of which such wide misconception prevails. 
The quantum of daily work directly and indirectly exacted 
from the field negroes has been reduced by bold assertions and 
artful fallacies to less than one half of its actual ordinary 
amount; and this, by writers and witnesses whose statements 
have been strongly accredited to the public by their means of 
information, their characters, and stations in life. A hundred 
colonial tongues and pens have not only boldly denied the 
existence of this most general and notorious species of oppres- 
sion, but actually claimed credit to the Planters for wonderful 
moderation and liberality in the use of their coercing power ; 
assuring us that the labour of the slaves is very light; nay, 
lighter by far than that of the free English peasant. This lat- 
ter proposition, indeed, has long been the chorus of their 
common song; ; and incredible thouoh the fiction will be found 
in its nature, when examined by a reasoning mind, yet such 
is the effect of bold reiterated public assertion, that many, I 
doubt not, believe it ; or regard it at least as having some 
approximation to the truth. 

How, indeed, can I doubt this, or deem a demonstration of 
the true case superfluous, when I find the delusion still cur- 
rent even among some eminent political economists and states- 
men ; so as actually to form an element in their calculations, 
in plans for the mitigation and gradual extinction of slavery, 
and for the supplanting it by free labour in the cultivation of 
sugar estates? If they had not been grossly deceived as to 
the actual amount of slave labour, they could not regard it as 
a standard up to which, or in any sustainable competition 
with which, free men will or ought to work ; still less could 
they expect the improvement of the common field negro's* 

* The distinction between the great mass of plantation slaves, those 
who wield the hoe and are driven, whom I call " Field Negroes," or 
'* Common Field Negroes," and the drivers and artificers, called " Head 
Negroes" is one which I must request my readers always to bear in mind. 
The apologists of the system always artfully confound them together; and 
it is one of their great engines of deception. The latter, from the nature 
of their occupations, cannot be driven, or worked to any destructive excess. 
The same is more obviously the case with domestics. 

8 Reasons for 

condition, or the attainment of his freedom, by the fruits of 
supererogatory toil. 

Another reason for the exclusive preference I mean to give 
to the topics of labour and maintenance is, that the generality 
of the economical oppressions they involve makes them unde- 
niably fair characteristics, not to say essential properties, of 
the system at large ; and will enable me more clearly in the 
sequel to prove the hopelessness of its reformation by West 
Indian legislators; or, in other words, by the planters them- 

When cases of excessive cruelties, or other particular abuses 
are adduced as arguments for reformation, the standing 
answer is, " that the instances of such crimes which we have 
" been able to establish incontrovertibly before the British 
" public are not numerous ; and that it is harsh to characterize 
" the general practice by a few rare instances of individual 
" crimes, such as are to be found in every country, and under 
" the best institutions." 

The defence is plainly fallacious ; for it infers the rarity of 
the crime, from that of its public dete'ction and proof; whereas 
one of our most undeniable charges against the general system 
is, that the public detection and proof of such cruel abuses 
as slavery has manifestly a strong tendency to produce, are 
for the most part precluded both by manners and by laws. 
The Lettres de Cachet of the old French despotism, the infer- 
nal practices of the Inquisition, and every other form of 
tyranny on earth that has shrouded its abuses in darkness, by 
the terror of its power, and by withholding the means of an 
effectual appeal to the laws, might be defended precisely in the 
same way. 

Besides, these apologists always take care to sink that most 
instructive and impressive circumstance in such adduced 
cases, the way in which the crime, when brought to light, is 
treated by the magistrates and juries, and by the popular 
feelings of the colony. A single conviction for a crime natu- 
rally odious might serve to indicate its great prevalence in 
any society, if the criminal, when convicted, not only escaped 
from any judicial punishment at all proportionate to his 
offence, and to the dangerous example of its impunity; but lost 
little or nothing of his former credit or popularity, and was 

resuming thh Work. 9 

received in the best company as favourably as before. How 
much more, if the popular odium due to the offender, was 
transferred to those who prosecuted, and brought him to con- 
viction. * 

Nevertheless, so difficult is it for the people of this happy 
country to conceive what the effects of private slavery are on 
the feelings of the masters, and on the popular sentiments of 
a community, all the free members of which are habituated to 
that harsh relation; and so strongly does our native humanity 
predispose us to believe that our fellow subjects in the colonies 
cannot ordinarily exercise with severity the despotic powers 
which they possess over' their helpless dependents, that the 
clearest refutation of these apologies does not wholly remove 
their effect. The oppression is believed to be rare, merely 
because it cannot be proved to be common. 

Much are such honest prepossessions strengthened, in many 
minds, by friendship or intimacy with West Indians resident 
among us : most of whom are or have been proprietors of 
estates in the sugar colonies, and all of them masters of slaves. 
I mean, not only through the partial and untrue accounts 
which such gentlemen naturally give of a system, in the cha- 
racter of which their own credit is involved, and which they 
too commonly know only from the report of men under the 
same bias ; but because nothing perhaps has been seen in their 
manners when amongst us, to indicate feelings less liberal and 
humane than our own. It is therefore concluded that a sys- 
tem which such men are engaged in, have perhaps personally 
administered, and are desirous to uphold, cannot be, in its 
ordinary chaacter, extremely cruel and oppressive. 

Such reasoners do not consider that the stern relation of 
slave master, one in which the conduct of their West Indian 
friend has never met their notice, avowedly involves and de- 

* Those who are at all conversant with the works of anti-slavery writers 
need not be told that several most impressive examples of such a popular 
spirit in the sugar colonies have been established beyond denial. I have 
given one of them in Appendix, No. I. to my first voluine ; and in an Ap- 
pendix to the present division of my work I mean to add some very recent 
and striking ones from decisive authorities. 

10 Reasons for resuming this Work. 

mands a discipline highly repugnant to their own benevolent 
feelings. They do not remember either that the same person, 
pei'haps, or gentlemen whose apparent suavity and benignity of 
manners when in England were not inferior to his, reconciled 
themselves to all the now admitted atrocities of the inhuman 
slave trade, though it had long existed under their eyes ; and 
had opposed pertinaciously its abolition for nearly twenty 
years. They do not well estimate the powerful influence of 
early prejudice, habit, and example, in warping the human 
feelings out of their ordinary current towards a particular ob- 
ject ; and, what is the main source of these errors, they do not 
know (for West Indians here are always careful to conceal it) 
that in their friend's heart, there is a wide partition between 
the sympathies and duties that belong to a white fellow-being 
and to a black one. If such considerations were not put out 
of the account, thinking men would no more rely on the humane 
treatment of negro slaves in the West Indies, from what they 
see of their masters in England, than on that of the convicts 
in the House of Correction, or the patients in a mad-house, on 
the score of their keeper's general manners towards those who 
are not in his custody, or whose interference and control he 

Still, however, this source of error, assiduously cherished 
as it is by the colonial party, greatly prejudices the cause of 
the unfortunate slaves ; among the many grievous peculiarities 
of whose lot it is, that their cruel state is unseen in the coun- 
try whose power maintains it, and that they are personally 
strangers, while their oppressors are companions and familiar 
friends, to the lawgivers, and the generous people, from whose 
sympathy alone they can ever obtain relief. 

To shew that, in the excessive exaction of labour at least, 
the practice of slavery on sugar plantations is universally op- 
pressive and cruel, will, I am aware, be to attack the adverse 
prejudices I have mentioned in their strongest intrenchments ; 
but should I succeed in such an attempt with the public at 
large, as with patient and attentive readers I am sure of doing, 
there will be an end of all presumptions in favour of the sys- 
tem from the personal characters of those who are engaged 
in it. 

Defence of the First Volume. 1 1 

While these considerations make the topics I have selected 
the most important, they enhance the necessity of discussing 
them on my own peculiar plan ; for nothing short of irresisti- 
ble demonstration will suffice to vanquish the powerful pre- 
judices and, willing credulity, with which I have here to 

In the preliminary chapter of the first volume, the general 
plan of the work was opened. The most important novelty in 
it was that which has been already noticed ; an engagement 
to establish every fact controverted on the part of the colonies, 
which I should have occasion to adduce, by the evidence alone 
of their own assemblies, witnesses, and parti zans.* The un- 
dertaking may have seemed more bold than prudent; and was 
certainly quite gratuitous ; for the testimony copiously given 
by eye-witnesses on my own side of the controversy, if be- 
lieved, is decisive : and on what rational ground can confidence 
be generally denied to it ? — I might most reasonably have 
claimed for such evidence at least, a great deal more credit than 
is due to that of our opponents ; which has for the most part 
come from persons as deeply interested in the representations 
they made, as a prisoner at the bar is in his plea of not guilty j 
while to the credit of the many anti-slavery witnesses and 
writers, who have described the system from their own personal 
knowledge of it, no fair or specious objection can be made '■> 
unless, indeed, some of our railing antagonists are right in as- 
suming, as they seem to do, that religion and philanthropy 
predispose men to calumny and falsehood. But I chose wholly 
to decline such testimony; because I was anxious to place out 
of all possible doubt in fair and reasoning minds, the real na- 
ture of a system, which owes its toleration, by this humane and 
liberal land, chiefly to darkness and delusion. 

The self-prescribed restriction was fully adhered to through- 

* Vol. I. p. 10, 11. 

12 Defence of 

out iny former volume. I kept, indeed, considerably within 
its promised limits ; for my engagement did not restrain me 
from citing evidence on the anti-slavery side, in confirmation 
of any facts which I had previously shewn to have been ad- 
mitted by colonial opponents ;* and I might have given to such 
facts much greater effect, by adding the language of willing, 
to those of reluctant witnesses ; but this was a right from the 
use of which, though reserved to myself, I in general ab- 

The desired effect on the minds of my readers was, I trust, 
not wholly lost. I know that some of them, who had doubted 
before whether negro slavery was so very odious and cruel an 
institution as its opponents represented it to be, declared their 
full conviction on that subject. — There was seen to be in the 
barbarous and iniquitous laws by which the state was framed 
and maintained, enough for its condemnation ; and enough 
also to prove that its practical character, under masters who 
made and retained such laws, and pertinaciously opposed their 
repeal, must be extremely oppressive and severe. It was seen 
also, how little credit was due on such subjects to the colonial 
authorities, and to their most respectable agents in this coun- 
try ; since it was shewn that they had not scrupled to mis- 
represent, in the boldest and grossest manner, before the Privy 
Council and Parliament, in their defence of the African trade, 
almost every canon, and every principle, of their then existing 
slave law. 

My book, though it certainly obtained sufficient attention 
with the colonial party, long remained unanswered. It seemed 
as if seeing themselves convicted of public misrepresentation 
and imposture, as well as of a truly barbarous spirit of legis- 
lation, out of their own mouths, and by their own records. 

* It may be best to transcribe here the words of the engagement itself. 
" It is on such evidence (the colonial) that I shall chiefly rely; nor shall 
" I assume the truth of any statement adverse to the colonial system that has 
" has ever been controverted, however unimpeachable the testimony may be 
" on which it stands, until I have shewn it to have been directly or indirectly 
" confirmed by the same decisive evidence, the concessions of the colonists 
" themselves." — Vol I. p. 10, 11. 

The First Volume. 13 

they despaired of parrying the attack ; and thought silence 
the best resort • for nearly three years elapsed without any 
reply, until the repeated remarks of anti-slavery writers, who 
inferred that my statements were tacitly admitted, pushed 
their opponents into a different and desperate course. 

Expedients of the foulest kind were then adopted ; such as 
attempting to discredit my statements by partial and mu- 
tilated extracts from them, calculated not only to conceal 
their true sense, but often to convey a different or opposite 
one ; and by citing in a like partial and fraudulent way, the 
public records to which I referred, in order to furnish out an 
apparent refutation. 

Such practices, when a man's purse is assailed by them, 
are commonly repelled by a terse piece of controversy called 
an indictment; but when not his bond, but his book, is the 
subject of this crimen falsi, though its purpose is the execrable 
one of cheating helpless and wretched multitudes out of their 
only human hope, the compassion of the British people, there 
is no possible remedy that I know of, except requesting that 
those readers who possess the book and the answer, and have 
access to the documents referred to, will take the trouble of 
collating them with each other.* 

* The work chiefly here referred to is entitled, " A practical view of the 
" present state of slavery in the West Indies, or an Examination of Mr. 
" Stephens' Slavery of the British West India Colonies. By Alexander 
" Barclay, lately and for twenty-one years resident in Jamaica." — Its readers 
must have strong faith if they believe the author's account of his life and 
occupations, and at the same time that the work was his own. It is cer- 
tainly a most erudite and able piece of controversy for a Jamaica overseer ; 
whose life had been previously spent in the labours, not of the pen, but the 
whip. The colonial writers have derided justly enough the appellation of 
" book-keeper," by which the occupation is dignified in that island, though 
both writing and reading are foreign to its duties; but Mr. Barclay may 
raise it hereafter, perhaps, to the higher title of " book-w«Aer." 

We are desired further to believe that this volume, of 456 pages, was com- 
posed by Mr. Barclay for his amusement on his passage from Jamaica to 
England; in consequence of his having fortunately chanced to put on board 
my book among others for his entertainment on the voyage ; and that the 
greater part of it, as given to the public, was written out before his arrival, 

14 Defence of 

This indeed is a remedy of which, with many or most of 
those who were gratuitously supphed with the pretended an- 
swer, I could not have the benefit ; because it did not appear till 
long after my former volume had ceased to be procurable by 
purchase. I might, it is true, reprint here the many inisre- 
presented passages, together with the deceptious extracts 
and replies ; but this would -be to rate too highly the reader's 
patience, and impair his attention, perhaps, to matters of 
much more importance than my defence against such an an- 
tagonist. I will content myself, therefore, with exposing a 
few of the many instances of his extreme unfairness, when my 
subjects lead to the notice of them ; leaving the reader to 
judge by such specimens of the rest. 

I may, however, avail myself here of a summary mode of 
defence which some fellow-labourers in this cause long since 
volunteered on my behalf, against the vague general charge 
of inaccuracy, which the work called Mr. Barclay's, and 
others that followed and cited it, had made against me. The 
authors were challenged to maintain that charge, by pointing- 
out a single instance that could fairly support the impu- 
tation. * They were repeatedly defied to do so ; and at 
the peril of their o*vn credit ; being told that their declining 
it would be regarded as retractation. Yet they have all re- 

(see the preface). By some happy coincidence with this preternatural fa- 
cility of composition, he must have found on board a large library of con- 
troversial works on slavery ; besides the other books to which he refers. 

Who can sufficiently admire the good fortune of the West India Com- 
mittee, in finding that long desideratum, a reply to my Law of Slavery, 
thus fortuitously and wonderfully supplied, by a mere volunteer; and by one 
who could furnish from his own experience and unquestionable authority, 
the facts of which they were so much in need, in order to grapple with the 
evidence of their own testimony and their own records ! 

But though they have thus been rescued from the expence and tlie diffi- 
culty of authorship, they must not escape from its responsibility. They 
have so strongly accredited, and so widely circulated the work, that I shall 
till they disavow it, take leave to treat it as their own. 

* See the Anti-Slavery Monthly Reporter of November 1826, No. 18; 
and that of June 1828, No. 37. 

The First Volume. 15 

niained silent : with the exception of one, who explained 
away and virtually gave up the charge, by resorting for the 
impeachment of what I had shewn to be the law, to what he 
had assumed, on Mr. Barclay's or such like authority, to be 
the practice. Palpable though this evasion is, it will be 
found to pervade nearly the whole of what has been boasted 
of as a full answer to, and refutation of, my former volume. 

As I mean to adhere, in the continuation of my work, to 
the same plan of demonstration that I have hitherto pursued, 
it may be proper to notice some general objections that have 
been made to my mode of conducting it. 

By some of my antagonists, or one of them at least, it is 
held unfair to cite against the colonial party, the statements 
of their known agents, witnesses, and accredited partizans, 
unless I adopt the whole of their testimony, however false 
and inconsistent (see Barclay, p. 3,4.); which is, in effect, to 
require that I should treat the evidence of my opponents as 
if it were my own ; and to impose on me a rule that would 
make my plan of demonstration utterly hopeless and ab- 
surd. He who calls a witness must, 1 admit, take the whole 
of his testimony together, and either support its consistency 
or forfeit its benefit; but in relying on an antagonist's evi- 
dence, I have a clear right to use any of the facts it fur- 
nishes, without admitting the rest : and even to reason from 
its inconsistency, against its general effect. 

This undeniable controversial right I certainly have used, 
and shall continue to do so. I shall prove, for instance, 
from details furnished by my opponents, the shocking and 
opprobrious truth, that the slaves on sugar plantations are 
forced to work from sixteen to eighteen hours per diem ; re- 
garding the preposterous general statements by the same 
persons, that the labour of these poor drudges is leisure and 
mere pastime when compared to that of the English pea- 
sants, as what I am at liberty to pass unnoticed ; unless when 
I choose rather to cite them in order to shew their utter 
falsehood and effrontery. 

Another objection has been made to my former volume 
which is contrary not only to reason but to fact. I have been 
charged with quoting, as still in use, cruel and opprobrious 
ancient slave laws, which have become obsolete ; and some 

16 Defence of' 

that have actually been repealed, for the sake of unfairly im- 
puting to the colonists of the present aera, a harsh and bar- 
barous spirit, that prevailed at a former distant period, but 
had long ceased to exist. 

The charge is utterly groundless. It is true, indeed, that 
among the laws which I cited and digested, many were not 
very modern ; but their true dates were not withheld. The 
oldest and worst of them, in several colonies, had their origin 
in his late Majesty's reign : nay, some of the most revolting 
were passed within the present century. — That every act of 
assembly which I quoted of an earlier date than 1788 re- 
mained then in force, appears incontestably from the printed 
compilation of them as existing laws, made in that year by 
a Committee of the Privy Council, in its Report on the Slave 
Trade; from which, with very few, if any, exceptions, all my 
abstracts of an anterior date were taken. 

Nor did I represent any of those laws as unrepealed, which 
I had not good reason for believing to be so ; for the as- 
semblies have not been slow to take credit here for every 
improvement, real or ostensible, in their slave codes ; and all 
acts of that description having been from time to time trans- 
mitted and laid before Parliament, and printed, at several 
periods between 1788 and 1823, when my former volume 
went to press, I carefully reviewed them, and left no repeal 
or material alteration unnoticed.* Further collections of 
new slave acts in different colonies have been since printed 
by Parliament; and if a new edition of my first volume 
should be called for, the assemblies shall have full credit in it 
for any good enactments they have recently made ; though I 
have seen very little indeed in them that goes to redeem the 
character of their legislation in any degree, by more than 
ostensible reforms. 

Nor did I omit to give them credit for the practical disuse 
of severe laws still in force, when J knew it to be due to them, 
though that candour has been ill repaid.f 

* See a note in my preface to that volume, page 48, 49. 
f Among the many gross misrepresentations, for instance, of their much 
extolled champion, Mr. Barclay, I am vehemently arraigned in reference to 

the Fi/sf Volume. 17 

Though it is untrue tliat I availed myself of any repealed 
or obsolete law to discredit unflurly the existina- slave codes, 

my statement, tliat tlie law gives any property which the slave may acquire, 
to his master, though the proposition is undenied and undeniable, for what 
is called " a most barbarous attack on the West India character." It is as- 
sumed that in stating this, I imputed to the masters in general a cruel use of 
that right; though the insidious commentator himself found it for his purpose 
afterwards to quote, from the immediate context in my work, the following 
paragraph : — " // is, indeed, alleged by the Colonial partij, that though the 
" master is legallij entitled to all the proper ti/ acquired bij the slave, he never 
** asserts that title ; and, with a few exceptions, I believe the proposition to be 
" true. The slave's little property is, indeed, sometimes seized bi/ way of 
" punishment, or as a mean of obtaining restitution of property suspected to 
" have been stolen from the master ; but upon purely sordid principles, I re- 
" member only one instance of such an exercise of the owner's power; and in 
" that his conduct was generally condemned." (See Barclay's Practical \^iew 
of the Present State of Slavery in the West Indies, p. 47, 48. See also, 
and compare, my former Volume, p. 60 — 62.) 

The reader may be curious to know how my antagonist could possibly 
hope to sustain his imputation ; and yet avail himself of such a context. The 
honest stratagem was this : — I had shewn from an instance given by one of 
the witnesses of the slave-trading party, that in Africa the law was so differ- 
ent, that the slaves often possess great property, while the masters them- 
selves are sometimes poor; and that, nevertheless, that property is so fully 
protected by the laws, that a slave had been known to offer to give the price 
of a hundred slaves for his freedom, which the poor master fain would 
have accepted, but was prevented by the local law; because the slave having 
not been born such in the country, but purchased, he could not be en- 

The use I made of it was merely to shew, by an obvious inference, ano- 
ther important contrast between the British colonial, and the African hnv, — 
viz. that the African master had not the power of corporal punishment; be- 
cause if he had possessed the power of the West Indian master in that 
respect, the price might have been easily extorted without the manumission. 
The stricture, therefore, was manifestly on the colonial law, not on the 
practice : but my opponent, artfully separating the passage from its con- 
text, exclaims, " What other impression does this convey, what other is 
" it meant to convey, but diat the West India planters, legally armed 
" with the power of the dungeon, the chain, and the whip, use them 
" to extort from their humble labourers the fruits of their industry ? 
" For what purpose," he adds, " such a inonstrous accusation was brought 
"forward, it is impossible to conjecture, as in the very next passage 
" he acknowledges it to be without foundation." Impossible, indeed ! 
that I could mean to insinuate an accusation against the planters in une 


1 8 Defence of the First, mid 

there was one purpose for which I might very justifiably 
have cited them even if they had been all repealed. The 
unwritten customary law of slavery, as well as the practical 
character of the state, had been grossly misrepresented by 
my opponents ; and in delineating both, from a collocation 
of the facts which their own evidence had furnished, and 
thereby falsifying their general statements, I had more than 
one powerful prepossession to combat ; for it was not easy to 
believe of Englishmen and gentlemen, that they had not only 
built up and still defended an institution in the colonies, more 
barbarous than any that ever elsewhere existed upon earth ; 
but that they had employed in its defence, before the British 
Government and Parliament, the foul means of direct and 
wilful misrepresentation. 

Nor had my opponents neglected amply to avail themselves 
of this advantage. They incessantly objected, as they still 
do, to every revolting account of their system, not only the 
favourable presumptions due to the natives of this humane 
and liberal land, though placed beyond the Atlantic; but 
the credit that belonged to many respectable witnesses who 
had given very favourable, though most unfounded, state- 
ments of the slaves' condition in point of law, as well as 

It was highly important, therefore, to shew by authentic 
records, what barbarous laws, some of the worst of which 
were of very recent dates, these migrated Englishmen and 

paragraph, of which I expressly and gratuitously acquitted them in the 
next, unless I was insane. 

This, however, is by no means one of the strongest specimens which 
might be given of this author's most disingenuous commentaries. They 
are to be found in almost every page of his work. 

His ordinary mode of defence and refutation, is to oppose to what I stated 
and proved to be the laui, that which he maintains, on his own mere asser- 
tion, to be the practice ; or, at best, to adduce some idle and impotent qualifi- 
cations by recent ostensible acts of assembly, which I had shewn to be 
neither executed, nor meant for, nor capable of execution ; and on such 
premises to charge me with having mis-stated existing and effective slave 
laws, to the records of which I had referred, or unwritten rules, which I 
had proved to be in general use, and recognized as customary law m every 
colonial court. 

Plan of the Second Volume. 19 

gentlemen, when inured to the government of slaves, had 
been capable of framing ; but still more so, as they were for 
the most part undeniably in full force at the very time when 
such favorable but false accounts were given of their slave 
codes, by the colonial agents and witnesses, before the Privy 
Council and Parliament. Nor would my citation of them for 
those purposes have been at all unfair, if they had since that 
period been finally repealed ; whereas the repealing acts 
passed before I wrote were for the most part of limited 
duration. Moreover, I was able to shew, that almost every 
pretended mitigation or improvement subsequently made 
by the meliorating acts, was illusory, or practically useless ; 
that the sole object of those ostensible reformations was 
to prevent the interposition of parliament; and that the for- 
mer spirit of legislation, which I could not exhibit without 
citing those barbarous laws, still, in some of those colonies, 
openly and avowedly prevailed. But it is not true that, even 
under these circumstances, I cited knowingly any law that had 
been repealed or disused in practice when I wrote, without 
apprising my readers of the fact. 

The right of quoting former evidence, for the sake of discredit- 
ing the ad verse party that produced it, is one that I certainly shall 
not relinquish in this second part of my work; for the practice 
of slavery was still more grossly misrepresented at the same 
period, and by the same witnesses, than its laws ; and the 
exposure of their errors and impostures is no unimportant part 
of the duty I have now to perform. 

It would indeed be necessary to cite here with some particu- 
larity the colonial evidence of that period, if only for the sake of 
shewing the practical nature of the system I have to describe 
as given by its administrators; for we have since had none but 
ex parte examinations or statements from them; in which they 
have prudently confined themselves, for the most part, to con- 
venient generalities; avoiding many specific details into which 
they were formerly led ; and which are essential to a clear con- 
ception, and fair investigation of the case. Several changes 
and improvements are alleged to have taken place since the 
parliamentary evidence was given ; but the truth or falsehood 
of these allegations obviously cannot be shewn without com- 

c 2 

20 Defence oJ'tJie First, and 

paring the former case, as it stood on the evidence, with that 
which at present exists. 

I shall for these reasons have frequently to adduce, under 
the future divisions of my subject, further citations from those 
very important, but now almost recondite volumes, the printed 
Reports of the Committees of Privy Council, and the House 
of Commons, on the slave trade. 

But there is one description of evidence contained in them, 
the notice of which seems most proper for these preliminary 
remarks. I mean that of witnesses, whom the colonial peti- 
tioners called to testify as to the general character of their 
system, in respect of humanity, liberality, and mildness : for 
this is a mode of defence to which, however weak and unsa- 
tisfactory when opposed to specific and well-established impu- 
tations, the colonists have always had recourse, with no 
small effect in this country ; and my much-vaunted anta- 
gonist, the respondent of my former volume, invites, or rather 
defies me, in his preliminary chapter, to reply to it. He 
taxes me with illiberality, and want of candour, for refusing- 
credit to the planters themselves even, when so defending 
their own body and their own individual conduct ; but still 
more for disregarding the testimony of such men as were their 
compurgators before parliament; " officers civil, naval, and 
" military, in the service of Government, who had visited the 
" colonies." " Many of these, doubtless," says the work as- 
cribed to Barclay, " went from the mother country with strong 
** prejudices ; but have they, on their return, told this tale of 
" horror? Have thei/ said that the slaves are ill-treated, op- 
" pressed, or unhappy ? Have they not borne testimony to 
'^ the contrary ? And is there any thing so very captivating 
" in the system and management described by Mr. Stephen, 
" that even a person who has no interest, could not see it without 
" being enamoured of it, adopting the prejudices of the colo- 
" nists, and becoming a convert to their cause, against truth 
" and justice."* 

Very freely will I answer these interrogatories ; and more 
fully perhaps, than their propounder or his employers would 

R;i relay, p. .'>. 

Plan of the Second Volume. 21 

desire; and since he relies so much on the force of such auxiU- 
aries, as to put them in his front line, for the sake of prelimi- 
nary effect, it is fit that I should grapple with them at the 
onset. It is true, that honorable men of the descriptions here 
stated, and some of them officers of very high public charac- 
ter, did come forward as witnesses before Parliament in 1790, 
at the instance of the planters, to support their petitions against 
the abolition of the slave trade ; and that their testimony, as 
to the then condition and treatment of the slaves, was not less 
favourable than that of the planters themselves. I will here 
accommodate my catechist with a few extracts quite for 
his purpose. 

Admiral Lord Shuldham, 

Q. " What has your lordship observed of the behaviour of 
*' masters towards their negro slaves, in those islands where 
** you have commanded." 

A. " It has been mild, gentle, and indulgent in all re&pects ; 
" equal to ivhat masters generally/ shew torvards their servants in 
" this kingdom" * 

Admiral Sir Peter Parker. 

Q, " What did you observe of the behaviour and treat- 
" ment of masters towards their slaves in the several islands 
" where you have been ?" 

A. " From the best observations I could make, their treat- 
" ment was lenient and humane. I never heard oj' even one in- 
** stance of severitu toivards a slave during the xvhole time I was 
'* on the Jamaica station." (This he stated to have been more 
than four years.) 

Q. " Did the slaves in general appear to be properly fed 
*' and clothed and lodged ?" 

A. " The^ not only appeared to me to be properly fed, clothed 
" and lodged, but were, in my opinion, in a ?nore comfortable situ- 
** ation than the loiver class of people in any part of Europe ; 
*' Great Britain not excepted." 

Commons Report on the Slave Trade of 1790, p. 404. 

22 Defence of the First, and 

Q. " Did it appear to you that more labour was required 
" of the negroes than they could properly bear ?" 
"A. *' Bi/ no means."* 

Sir Archibald Campbell, Knight of the Bath. 

Q. " What have you observed with respect to the conduct 
" of masters towards their negroes in Jamaica?" 

A. ''It appeared that it was marked by great kindness and 
" humanitij." 

Q. " Did it appear to you that their treatment was mild 
" and humane?" 

A. " It did." 

Q. " Did they appear to be properly fed, clothed and 
" lodged." 

A. "They did." t 

Lord Rodney, Admiral Gardner, Sir J. Dalling. 
and other Officers gave accounts hardly, if at all, less favour- 
able of the general system. 

Admiral Barrington, being asked, " What have you 
*' observed of the behaviour of masters towards their ne2;ro 
'* slaves in those islands where you have commanded ?" 
answered, " Always the greatest humanitij ;" and afterwards 
added, " they seemed so happy that he had wished himself' a 
" negro.^'% 

I will add extracts from the evidence of only two of the 
planters, who were examined at the same period ; and among 
scores of eminent ones who spoke strongly to the same laudatory 
effect, will select gentlemen of that description who had filled 
high official situations in the colonies ; and had much per- 
sonal acquaintance with the practice they described, on their 
own estates. 

Sir Ralph Payne, afterwards Lord Lavington, twice 
Governor of the Leeward Islands, and proprietor of se- 
veral estates in Antigua and St. Christopher. 
*' / trust I do not hazard a contradiction tvhen J say that 

" there is no slave, at least none that I ever saw, the severity of 

* Commons Report on the Slave Trade of 1790, p. 477. 
i Ibid. 451. I Ibid. 405. 

Plan of ihe Second Volume. 23 

" whose labour is by auy means comparable to that of a day la- 
*' bourer in England.'^ 

Q. " Did the slaves in general appear to be properly fed, 
** clothed and lodijed ?" 

A. " Most uiujuestionably they did.''* 

David Paury, Esq., for seven years Governor of Barbadoes, 
and Proprietor of estates in that Island. 

Q. " What have you observed of the behaviour of masters 
" towards their slaves?" 

A. " Every possible kindness, care and attention.'' 

Q. " Is not their treatment remarkably gentle and hu- 
" mane?" 

A. " Certainly, so." 

Q. " Did it appear to you that more labour was required 
" of them than they could properly bear ?" 

A. " Not nearly so much as I think their owners had a right 
" to demand ; and the common labour of the negro there would 
" be play to any peasant in this country. "f 

How satisfactory, how truly honorable to the planters of the 
Sugar Colonies, was such evidence ! No wonder that it 
deeply impressed the British Parliament, and contributed 
mainly to the protection of the slave trade against the efforts 
of J'anaiics and enthusiasts, adding thereby seventeen years of 
protracted life, and enormous extension to that beneficent 
traffic ; for be it observed that these testimonies refer to times 
when the trade was in full vigour ; and though no small part 
of the negroes whose situation and treatment are here de- 
picted, must have been recently imported Africans, now called 
by the colonial writers '' savages," and, " rude barbarians," and 
therefore, we are told, unavoidably subjected to a rigorous dis- 
cipline ; for no distinction was made by these well-informed 
observers, between their condition, and that of the Creole 
slaves. All were treated with equal tenderness, and all equally 
content and happy, if these accounts were true. 

What a pity is it that the planters were ever bereft of a 

* Commons Report on tlie Slave Trade of 1790, p. 435. 
+ Ibid. 464. 

24 Dejeme of ihe First, ami 

trade that produced such benignant effects ; converting by 
millions the barbarous and hapless natives of Africa into the 
enviable condition here described, and furnishing their mas- 
ters with an endless succession of new objects for the exer- 
cise of their benevolence, liberality, and self-denial! The 
only drawback on the happy consequences was, that the lives 
of those fortunate beings, the new negroes especially, though 
merry, were found to be short : but this, no doubt, was the 
effect of that excess of kindness and indulgence which pam- 
pered them too much, and added indolence to repletion. 
The speedy loss of twenty-five by the lowest, and fifty by 
other estimates, in every hundred, by their " seasoning" into 
ease and luxury, might detract, indeed, from the priidei/ce of 
their planting benefactors ; but added to the praise of that 
unexampled benignity, which made slavery, instead of its 
proverbial wretchedness in other countries, a state to be envied 
not only by our free peasants, but by a British admiral ! 

Having thus taken up the gauntlet thrown down by Mr. 
Barclay, and fairly given to the planters the full benefit of 
that disinterested and honorable testimony, which he chal- 
lenged me to answer; I must now take leave to place under the 
eyes of my readers some accounts much more recent, and of 
rather a different kind. 

** Prior to the abolition of the slave trade, no planter of any 
" candour could deny that the evils of the system icere great. 
" No sooner, however, had this measure been accomplished, than 
" the ivhole mode of treatment changed," &c. " Immediately 
" subsequent to the years 1807 and 1808, care and attention on 
" the part of the master commenced.'" * 

How, Mr. M'Donnell ! ! ! commenced after 1807 ! Strange 
anachronism ! Why, seventeen years before that period, they 
had attained the ne plus ultra of maturity and perfection — 
" The whole mode of treatment since changed" ! It has been a 
sad revolution, then, for the poor slaves ; since we are assured 
on such high authority as it would be " ilhberal and uncan- 
did to doubt," that they were before treated with " every possible 

* Considerations on Negro Slavery, &c., by Alexander INl'Donnell, Esq., 
Sterotary to tlie Committee of the Inhabitants of Denierara, p. 200. 

Phin of the Second Volume. 25 

kindness, care, and attention.'^ The change could be only 
for the worse ; and an entire change must have been the 
entire substitution of neglect, harshness, and severity, for con- 
summate " care, humanity, and kindness." 

Who, it may be asked, is the writer that thus oversets 
the whole case so well got up by the West India Committee, 
and so well attested before Parliament, in 1790 ? Who is 
the bold man that thus ventures to give the lie to all that a 
hundred respectable planters then alleged, and all that their 
honorable witnesses confirmed ; telling us that " no planter of 
any candour could deny'' what they all stoutly did deny ; nay, 
called other men liars for asserting? It is no other than one 
of the best accredited colonial champions of the present day. 
It is Mr. M'DoNNELL, the secretary to the general committee 
of all the inhabitants of Demerara, constituted for the pur- 
pose of opposing the reformation of slavery proposed in 1823 
by His Majesty's government ! I cite the passage from a 
work written and published by him as their official organ ; 
and which has been very extensively and gratuitously circu- 
lated in this country by that fourth estate of this realm, the 
West India Committee, or its members. Nor is it by this single 
passage only, that he thus renounces and repudiates their 
former case. I have extracted it, among many others in that 
work to the same effect, only as one of the most compendious. 
It is in truth the main drift of his arguments, to persuade 
the people of this country that the cessation of the slave trade 
has given birth to, and will progressively mature, without their 
further interference, the mitigation and cessation of slavery. 
He affects systematically to distinguish various different stages 
in the process, to the first of which he alleges the state has 
already arrived ; and admits that up to the abolition in 1807, 
slavery existed in its worst degree of severity. * 

Many other are the colonial authorities that have contradicted 
not less directly the evidence of 1790. Dr.ColHns'willbeshewn 
to have done so in every particular, as well as in its general effect. 
But I will cite here only one testimony more ; and it shall be 
that of the very antagonist who has been hardy enough to defy 
me to this review ; even Mr. Barclay himself! 

* Seep. 204. to 227. 

26 Defence of the Firat, and 

He, like Mr. M'Donnell, plainly admits that at the time 
when the respectable witnesses here quoted, represented the 
condition of the slaves as being so happy and enviable, and 
for seventeen years later, the work of mitigating its extreme 
rigour had not even begun ; and ascribes the origin and pre- 
tended progress of it to the cessation of the African trade. 
" T/teJirst stage of improvement is by far the most difficult to a 
" rude and barbarous people ; but the progress that the negroes 
" have already made is far from inconsiderable. No person who 
" saw the situation of the slaves in Jamaica tiventi/ years ago 
" (i. e. fourteen years after the evidence of 1790) could have 
" believed it possible that so great a change for the better could 
*' have taken place in so short a period."* 

Certainly not, if the testimony I have cited was true ; for 
no such change was possible. 

He proceeds to specify the improvements which he alleges to 
have taken place ; contrasting them in parallel tables with 
what he admits to have been the former case. I will not follow 
him fully into his particulars here ; because several of them re- 
late to parts of the system not within the scope of my present 
work, and any which may fall within it, will be noticed in the 
proper places hereafter. But I will extract two or three of 
them, as fair samples of the whole. 

" When savage Africans were pour- ", It is now limited to 39 stripes, 
" ing into Jamaica, &c., the master's " to be inflicted by order and in 
" power of punishing his slaves was " presence of the master or over- 
" little restrained bylaw; and was " seer, and 10 by subordinate 
*' exercised to a great extent by the " agents : and, comparatively speak- 
" subordinate white people and " ing, is but seldom required at all. 
" drivers. " There is not now one punishment 

" for twenty that were inflicted fif. 

" teen or twenty years ago. 
" Ten years ago chains were in " Tliey are now entirely abolished. 
" common use on the plantations, for 
" punishing criminal slaves. 

" For cruel and improper punish- " Now they are manumised, and 
" ment, slaves had formerly no ade- " provided with an annuity for life ; 
" quate redress. " and magistrates are appointed a 

" council of protection, to attend to 

" their complaints. 

* Barclay's Present State of Slavery, &c., Introduction, p. 21. 

Plan of the Second Volume. 27 

" Twenty years ago, there was " Now they are nearly all bap- 
scarcely a negro baptised in Ja- " tised." 


I will not suppose any of my readers so totally ignorant of 
the public discussions on the subjects of punishments and re- 
ligious instruction, as to stand in need of being informed or 
satisfied that the improvements here alleged, are all either 
frivolous or wholly unfounded in fact. I might otherwise refer 
to my former volume under the proper titles, for expositions of 
their nullity or absolute falsehood ; and appeal for my confir- 
mation to volumes of official documents now before the public 
in Parliamentary papers. 

The other improvements alleged by him are of a like decep- 
tious character. But while I protest against all Mr. Barclay's 
propositions in his second column, I thank him for his admis- 
sion in the first. They confirm me in many statements in my 
former works, the truth of which has been loudly denied ; while 
they shew in almost every particular, how grossly deceived the 
respectable witnesses of 1790 were in their eulogies of negro 

In saying they were " deceived^' as far at least as relates to 
the naval and military officers, I desire to be understood se- 
riously and literally; beijpg far from supposing that they did 
not sincerely entertain the very erroneous opinions they gave. 
Nor is it hard to explain how officers, or other strangers, may 
visit the West Indies, or even stay there a considerable time, 
and return with impressions as to the general treatment of 
slaves, widely remote from the truth. 

From Mr. Barclay's suggestion, that such men doubtless 
go from this country with strong prejudices adverse to the co- 
lonists, I must wholly dissent. The very contrary I know from 
much observation to be the truth. The fact is, that naval and 
military officers, usually carry to the West Indies a preposses- 
sion of which their hospitable entertainers, the slave masters 
there, do not fail to avail themselves, and which greatly fa- 
vors the universal policy of all the proprietors they associate 
with ; that of keeping from the eyes of respectable strangers 
the more offensive parts of the system, and studiously contriv- 
ing to bring within their notice, whatever may seem to make for 

28 Defence of the First and 

its credit. This prepossession, is a notion that the planters suf- 
ferinpubhc opinion unjustly, /"///oMgA the popular odium attached 
to the use of the whip, which their own professional experience 
has taught them to be necessary for maintaining subordination 
and discipline; or which at least they believe to be so. Some 
of themselves, perhaps, have incurred unmerited censure on 
that score ; and may consequently be the more ready to sym- 
pathise with those whom they are taught to regard as victims 
of the same popular prejudice. 

Reflection, indeed, might suggest to them the essential and 
fearful difference between a power of corporal punishment in- 
trusted for public purposes, to honorable men, who have no self- 
interest, real or imaginary in abusing it; and the same, or a 
far wider discretional power, placed in the hands of vulgar and 
sordid men, unrestrained by any sense of honorary or legal 
responsibility, and whose gains depend on the strict per- 
formance of laborious services which the whip is employed to 
enforce. If it were the duty of soldiers or seamen to work 
hard for the private benefit of their officers, and the power of 
corporal punishment without a court martial, were given to the 
latter for enforcing that duty, the two cases would be less 
widely different ; but to give them a further approximation, 
the boatswains, and Serjeants and every other petty officer, 
must be armed with the same authority, and have an interest 
also in its use. We must also divest the superior officers of 
their elevated professional feelings; and suppose that the sole 
object of their occupation is gain. 

Nevertheless, the prepossession here noticed, is not always 
or generally corrected by such reflections. It would effectually 
be so, if the interior discipline of a plantation were exposed 
to the view of such guests as these ; but they see as little of 
it in the houses of their pubhc or private entertainers, as a 
respected visitor in this country does of the family discipline, 
and ordinary economies, of his host; or the treatment of paupers 
in a neighbouring workhouse. The only slaves brought within 
their notice, are domestics in their holiday dresses; and if faults 
are committed by these, the punishment of them is of course 
postponed till their departure. As to the field negroes, they 
may be seen perhaps at their work in the cane pieces by the 
passing stranger; but the drivers are loo well instructed to use 

Plan of the Second Volume. 29 

their whips in his presence. Still less can he learn, without a 
prying curiosity that would be highly offensive, the excessiv(; 
times of their daily and nocturnal labour, and the scanty 
amount of their weekly allowances of food, the articles of 
oppression in which I shall shew that their worst ill-treatment 

If these difficulties of observation are doubted, I beg leave 
to refer to the following extract from a work lately published. 
It comes from an apologist of the system; otherwise of course 
I should not use it. He is also one of those writers whose style 
has been the most useful to the bad cause they support, 
and the most mischievous to that of the unheard and un- 
fortunate slaves ; for he affects, in a very specious strain, mo- 
deration and a mediating spirit ; admitting in a small degree, 
and with laboured palliations, abuses too notorious to be 
denied; and chidingthose who call oppression and inhumanity 
by their proper names, or exhibit them in their true dimen- 
sions, as intemperate partizans.* He is, like all such writers, 
a professed friend to humane improvements, but would post- 
pone ad Gracas Kakndas, the emancipation of the slaves, f 
t must nevertheless do him the justice to say that he writes 
with ability; and fairly enough acknowledges some truths that 
his fellow-labourers have boldly denied. 

Speaking of a gentleman who was making a tour through 
the Leeward Islands to obtain information on these subjects, 
he has the following passage. 

" An individual must possess a greater share of discern- 
" ment than falls to the lot of most observers, in order to put 
" it out of the power of an interested guide to deceive him, 
" unless his opportunities for observation are constant, and 
** unrestrained by ceremony. The true condition of the slaves, 
" upon an estate which might be governed with the grossest 
" abuses of humanity, would not be made apparent to the 
** casual visitor, if it were contrary to the wishes of his con- 

* Observations upon the State of Slavery in the Island of Santa Cruz. 
&c. ; published by Simpkin and Marshall, 1829. See especially his 
strictures on the Edinburgh Review, &c. 70, 71. 

t Ibid. 86. 

30 Defence of the First, and 

" ductor or host. Means could be easily resorted to, which 
" would compel even misery to cast aside its semblance, and 
" to wear the temporary guise of content. It may probably 
" be attributed to the difference between visits of social fes- 
" tivity, and those of a settled and ordinary reception en 
" famille, that evidence so much at variance with the facts, 
" and yet tendered with a perfect conviction of its truth, 
" should have been given by many individuals of high rank 
** during the discussions which preceded and led to the abo- 
" lition of the slave trade. ' We do not wash our linen before 
" strangers,' was the coarse but pithy observation of one 
" whose knowledge of human nature was both extensive and 
" varied : nor is it reasonable to suppose that planters feel de- 
" sirous that their visitors should see slavery in its worst 
" colours; or witness the painful exhibitions which are seldom 
" entirely dispensed with upon the best governed plantations."* 

I heartily wish that these remarks, the obvious truth of 
which might recommend them, even had they been made by 
an anti-slavery pen, were transcribed, and delivered with his 
commission or instructions, to every governor or other public 
officer sent to the West Indies, who happens fortunately to be, 
what they all ought to be, unattached by property or connec- 
tions to the cause of the planters ; and that they were enjoined 
to make no official reports as to the general condition and 
treatment of slaves, until they had lived at least a year in that 
country, after the long round of festive entertainments which 
always follow their first arrival. 

Even those sacred office-bearers, who are now sent to the 
sugar colonies, may stand in great need of such cautions. 
They might, in one instance, have prevented a Right Re- 
verend Prelate from committing himself inextricably as an 
apologist of slavery, almost as soon as he had touched the 
shore of Jamaica; and shutting out most effectually from his 
own ears, truths which others took good care to keep from his 
eyes, by at once engaging as his private chaplain, the most 
active and violent public champion of slavery that the island 

* Observations upon the State of Slavery in the Island of Santa Cruz, 
Sec, p. 5. 

Plan of the Second Volume. 31 

Another Right Reverend Prelate, for whom I feel very high 
respect, might also have escaped the premature formation and 
avowal of views, which I am persuaded he has already in 
great measure corrected,* and will, if his valuable life is 
spared, ere long find cause to reverse. If so, his brief error 
will probably redound to his own honor, and the benefit of 
the oppressed multitudes committed to his spiritual charge ; 
for I know his character too well to doubt that when fully de- 
livered from those delusions which the concurrent assertions, 
and systematic artifices, of all who were admitted to his society 
unavoidably impressed upon his mind, he will frankly ac- 
knowledge and disclaim them. He will not be less candid 
and manly in this respect than that gallant officer. Governor 
Arthur; who, though when he first visited the West Indies he 
was a warm friend to the anti-slavery cause, or, to quote his 
own term, " a perfect Wilberforce," became, soon after his 
arrival, so complete a victim to the ordinary arts of the slave 
masters on the spot, that he hastened expressly to retract his 
first opinions, and bore spontaneous testimony, in his official 
dispatches, to the exemplary general humanity that prevailed 
in the colony over which he had come to preside. 

Soon, however, did experience teach him how grossly he 
had been imposed on. He found that practices existed exten- 
sively under his own immediate government, more cruel and 
atrocious than any that his original views had ascribed to co- 
lonial slave-masters ; and that the general spirit of the com- 
munity made it impossible to suppress them. A second con- 
fession of error was of course mortifying enough ; but he did 
not hesitate to make it, and freely to retract, in a letter to the 
Colonial Minister, his former retractation. f 

Though I have been led thus largely to explain, injustice 
to the eminent naval and military officers whose errors my an- 
tagonist has compelled me to expose, the sources of their 

* My chief reason for so thinking is, that his lordship has now the 
honour of being abused in that ordinary gazette of the slave-masters — the 
Morning Journal ; and other publications known to be in their employ- 
ment and pay. 

t The correspondence is in the official papers printed by orders of 6th 
June 18ir, p. 115., and 16th June 1823. 

32 Defence of the First, and 

deceptions testimony; and thongh I sincerely regard the blame 
of it as imputable not to themselves, but to the well-informed 
petitioners who called them ; let it be remembered that I have 
been reasoning not to repel their evidence, but to excuse it ; 
for we have seen that it has been wholly overthrown, however 
inconsistently and ungratefully, by the same party at whose 
instance it was given. If I have failed to shew, that the 
misrepresentations of those highly respectable witnesses may 
have been sincere, so much the worse was the conduct of 
those who knowing;; the true case, brought them forward to 
disguise it. 

Here some of my readers may perhaps be disposed to ask,*' Do 
" you then deny the last representations, as well as the first; con- 
" tending, that no general improvements have actually taken 
" place during the last twenty years ? and if so, how do you 
" account for these public assertions that the colonists have 
" recently made with apparentcandour, because at the grievous 
" expense of their own credit, and that of their predecessors 
" and co-partizans, in respect of their former evidence ?" 

T will answer the last question first. The case is by no 
means new. It is but the last iteration of pretences, that have 
been set up as speciously, and supported by equal authority ; 
and yet afterwards refuted and abandoned, at every succes- 
sive stage of a controversy, that has now subsisted forty 

Indeed this is short of the truth ; for even in the Parlia- 
mentary investigations of 1790, there was the same affectation 
of candour, in the retrospective condemnation of former prac- 
tices, with which the credulity of the British public has been 
often since, and is now again abused. Many of the colo- 
nial witnesses then admitted, that the slavery of a former 
period, had been rigorous and cruel; and took credit for the 
very lenient and satisfactory state at which they represented 
it to have arrived, as the effect of improvements within the 
time of their own recollection. In this part of their case also, 
the planters were supported by some of their naval and military 

Question to Commodore Gardner. " Do you think the 
" slaves are better or worse treated now than they were for- 
" merly?" 

Plan oj' the Second Volume. 33 

A. " I am confident when I say they are much better 
" treated now, than they were when I first knew that island 
" (Jamaica).'' * 

In answer to the same question, ViceAdmiral Arbuth- 
NOT said, " Beyond compurison better: in Jamaica, much im- 
" proved since I first knew it, which was as long ago as in the 

"year 1763." t 

Here we find the era of improvements carried back to a 
period now no less than sixty-six years distant. They, must to 
be sure, have had a very slow growth ; since the colonists now 
admit by the pen of Mr. M'Donnell, that they have not yet 
advanced beyond their first stage ; but they certainly lessen 
the wonder by dating the commencement of the progress, at 
least seventeen years later, than when these gallant officers 
and many other witnesses were called by the West India peti- 
tioners to prove its consummation. 

Reasonably did the planters exult over the abolitionists in 
the effect of this plausible, but now repudiated testimony. It 
not only gave a long respite to their beloved slave trade; but 
gave colour to their long continued boast, that the humanity 
of their system had been vindicated from the charges of their 
opponents^ But it was because their cause was tried before 
assemblies, to all the unbiassed part of whom, the whole sub- 
ject was new, and of difficult investigation; and who therefore, 
instead of well weighing the evidence as to the details of con- 
troverted facts, probably took the easier part of judging, as 
jurymen are prone to do, by the respectable and imposing tes- 
timony adduced as to general character. 

The slave trade, however, was soon found to stand in need 
of further support ; and a stronger or fresher colonial case 

* Commons Report of 1790, p. A')2. f Ibid. 410. 

\ See a Report of the Jamaica House of Assembly of November 23, 1804, 
which was laid before Parliament, and printed by order of the House oi' 
Commons of February 25, 1805, p. 12. " The particular accusations of 
" oppression without the means of redress, of avaricious and unfeeling rigour 
" exercised towards bur slaves, &c., heaped upon the inhabitants of th<? Bri- 
" tish West India Colonies, have hcni vf pilled and rLJutcdln/mcti irrefragable 
" evidence, that they can now make little impression, except on the pre- 
" judiced and uninformed." 


34 Defence of the First, and 

was called for to maintain it, not by the enemies of slavery, 
but its friends. 

The West India committee of proprietors and merchants 
in this country, constituted for the purpose of upholding 
that iniquitous commerce (to which we are now modestly 
told the colonies had been long averse), suggested the ab- 
solute necessity of parrying the further attacks upon it by 
Mr. Wilberforce and his party in Parliament, by such acts of 
Assembly for meliorating the state of the slaves, as might hold 
out a future prospect of putting an end to the trade, by pre- 
serving and increasing the native black population ; and Lord 
Seaford, as chairman of the Committee, not only communi- 
cated resolutions to that effect to the different islands through 
their agents*, but moved for and obtained, in the House of 
Commons, an address to the Crown, recommending such im- 

This proceeding, which took place in 1797, backed by the 
most urgent solicitations of eminent proprietors resident here, 
to their friends in the islands, gave birth to most of the meli- 
orating laws ; almost every enactment of which, and several of 
their express recitals, were direct, or virtual contradictions, of 
the evidence given seven years before. 

I refer for those laws to my former volume, and to the many 
parliamentary papers in which they are set forth at large ; and 
dare venture to affirm that no man can read many of their 
provisions without being convinced that the state so much 
eulogized in 1790 was one of the most opprobrious rigour and 
barbarity. The palliatory remedies prescribed, shewed suffi- 
ciently the malignant and desperate nature of the case. 

Thenceforth a new era, and a new source, of improvements. 

* See the Resolutions at large, and some of the correspondence, in papers 
printed by order of the House of Commons of the 8th June, 1804, H. 58 — 
60. The second Resolution, which will suffice to characterise the whole 
proceeding, was in the following terms : — " Resolved, that the question of 
" abolition will continue to he agitated year after year, and as -often as the 
"forms of the House permit ; and that neither the House of Commons, nor the 
" country at large, will suffer it to rest till some steps have been taken which 
" may afford them i^eason to believe that every regulation has been adopted 
" which is consistent with the safety of the colonies^ 

Plan oj the Second Volume. 35 

were adopted by the colonial apologists. The meliorating 
hnvs, we were now told, had done every thing for the slaves 
that could possibly be done ; and to every new charge and 
proof of practical oppression, was opposed some specious pro- 
vision of that useless and impracticable code. Mr. Barclay, 
as we have partly seen, assuming the full efficacy of those idle 
enactments, treats them not merely as evidence of the prac- 
tical improvements he alleges, but as actually constituting 
the changes from admitted precedent rigour, to present hu- 
manity : and there is not one, I believe, of the recent writers 
on the colonial side, who has not more or less relied on the 
same mode of defence. Yet every one of those laws was pos- 
terior in date to the parliamentary evidence; with the excep- 
tion of the first Consolidation Slave Act of Jamaica, which had 
not come into operation till the year preceding. Besides, all 
the witnesses who testified so strongly from their own obser- 
vation as to the then existing condition of the slaves through- 
out the West Indies, had quitted that country at antecedent 

To resort to these laws, then, in defending the humanity of 
the system, is to put the colonial witnesses of 1790 again out 
of court. To ascribe the new-born humanity to the moral influ- 
ence of those laws is, if possible, still stronger : for supposing 
merely ostensible and impotent laws to have any such influ- 
ence, it must of course be a work of time ; yet this also has 
been alleged as a cause of improvement by some writers, who 
felt no doubt that they could not credibly ascribe to the me- 
liorating code, in opposition to a host of proofs, any more direct 
and material operation. 

Even the Jamaica Assembly has, in its last manufac- 
ture of what it calls evidence* as to the condition of the 

* I thus describe the examinations taken by a committee of that house 
in 1815, in opposition to Mr. Wilberforce's Register Bill, because I cannot 
consent to treat as really deserving the name of evidence, the statements of 
slave masters in defence of their own system and their own characters, col- 
lected for the purpose of defeating a measure which they thought, or pro- 
fessed to think, however preposterously, would be fatal to their properties 
or their lives. 

We have already seen, and in the course of this work I shall more 

D 2 

36 Defence of the I'iist, and 

slaves, resorted to this indirect cause of alleged improve-' 
merits. Several of the planters whose testimony is given, 
asserted that the condition and sreneral treatment of the slaves 


had been greatly meliorated, within the time of their own ex- 
perience; and one of them, Robert William Harris, Esq. speci- 
fied the following particulars, to which I request particular 

** As to the hours of labour, when the examinant came to 
" the Island the slaves were turned out full an hour before 
" day, and kept out as long after dark. Their breakfast was 
" always cooked for them, and they were allowed half an 
" hour to eat it, and two hours to go home to their dinner. 
" As the length of the days, on an average through the year 
" in this climate, including the twilight, is about twelve hours 
" and a half, so the slaves then worked twelve hours in the 

abundantly shew, the danger of listening to such self-defensive testimony^ 
though given in this country, before the high tribunal of parliament, and in 
the presence of an opposing party, as well as impartial judges and auditors, 
and subject to the test of cross-examination, and to contradiction by 
other witnesses : but in these examinations, and others of a like kind 
transmitted from different colonies, all such checks are wanting. The 
judges, the examiners, the auditors, and the witnesses, are all parties to 
the controversy, and all on the same side ; or if any of the latter appear 
by their descriptions to be disinterested, that appearance is not rarely de- 
ceptions; for it does not follow that because a witness is described as a mi- 
litary or civil officer, a lawyer or physician, he is not also a planter or 
ov,'ner of slaves ; still less that he is not so connected with those who are, 
as to have nearly an equal biass. The presumption from residence is 
strongly the other way; nor have the examiners in any instance, to my re- 
collection, attempted to repel that presumption, as they might have done, 
were it groundless, by proper questions to the witnesses themselves. 

What is more important still, a witness examined in the West Indies, 
must not only be sincere and impartial, but have a degree of courage 
amounting to temerity and self-devotedness, who should dare to give any 
testimony on these subjects on the anti-slavery side. If such willing mar- 
tyrs to the cause of truth and humanity were to be found on the spot, their 
characters were, doubtless, well enough known to prevent their being called 
as witnesses on these ex parte and extra-judicial examinations. 

For these reasons, I shall certainly tliink it no part of my duty to state 
and refute such testimony ; but the same considerations will intitle me to 
cite with the greater effect from it, any facts which, though adduced to sup- 
port the colonial case, may be used for its refutation. 

Plan of I he Second Voiiune. 37 

" twenty-four. At present the same time is allowed for 
•* breakfast and dinner: but the slaves, as far as examinant 
" sees, are only required to work in the field in daylight ; and 
" consequently they work only ten hours in the twenty-four, 
" and not near so hard as formerly. 

" In respect to punishments, amelioration made its first 
" stand there. As far as has come within exantinanfs observa- 
" tion, the punishments of the present day hold no measure 
" with former times; and are mild and oentle both in their 
" natm"e and extent when compared with military punish 
" ments. The manners, habits and condition of slaves have 
" been greatly ameliorated since he came to the island; and, 
** generally speaking, the improvement has been regular and 
" progressive ; and he considers it is to be attributed to the 
" operation of several concurrent causes. In the first 
" PLACE, to the legal enactments and the 7noral iifiuence of the 
" consolidated slave laiv. Secondly, to the increased hu- 
" manity and benevolence of the proprietors, which led them 
" to employ and get out people of better education, better 
" principles and better connections for the planting line than 
" were formerly employed in it. Thirdly, to the conse- 
" quent disposition of all those in power to treat the slaves 
" with greater lenity, encouraging them to be christened, and 
" giving the head negroes more confidence. Fourthly, to 
" their being relieved from oppressive duties they were for- 
" merly subjected to, over and above the ordinary labours of 
" agriculture and manufacture. Fifthly, the progress of 
" improvement not having been interrupted or retarded by 
" the accession of new savages, since the abolition of the slave 
" trader* 

Though 1 have cited the testimony of this long experienced 
and eminent planter only for the immediate purpose of fnr^ 
ther shewing how often the dates and the sources of alleo-ed 
improvements have been shifted by the assemblies and their 

* Paper intitled Further Proceedings of the Honourable House of As- 
sembly of Jamaica, relative to a Bill introduced into the House of Commons 
&c. (Mr. Wilberforce's Register Bill). Printed by Richardson, 1816 and 
widely circulated by the West India Committee and agents, p. 83 — 81. 

38 Defence of the First, and 

advocates, it will be found hereafter to have a substantive 
importance in the question, whether there have been any 
improvements at all ; and will tend much to elucidate what 
I shall maintain to have always been, and still to be, the 
worst and most destructive part of the whole system, the op- 
pressive excess of forced labour. I pledge myself to demon- 
strate that what is here admitted to have been its former, is 
far short of its present amount. 

But I would at present only ask my readers to observe the 
dates, and the assigned causes of improvement, here alleged. 
When the respectable examinant speaks of the time of his 
first arrival in the island, he refers to the year 1785, or some- 
what near that time ; probably his first knowledge of the 
facts he specifies was later; for he had stated himself to have 
resided there upwards of thirty years, and his examination 
is dated the 23rd of November, 1815. But supposing him to 
refer to a state of things not more recent than 1785, it would 
still synchronize with that of which the witnesses of 1790 on 
the colonial side gave such extremely favourable accounts ; 
as they had for the most part quitted the West Indies several 
years before their testimony was given, and their accounts 
related to the time of their residence there. We have here, 
therefore, an admission, not in general terms only, but by the 
adduction of many particulars, that those accounts were un- 
founded in fact. 

The first cause of improvement here assigned, brings 
down the former severity to a much later date ; for the first 
Consolidation Act bears date the 6th December, 1788, and its 
" moral injfuence" on the feelings and manners of the society, 
if a real, must have been rather a distant effect. The three 
next, as the reader will observe, are rather consecutive effects 
than causes ; and the last, the cessation of the African slave 
trade, did not come into operation till the year 1808. 

Such was the new and inconsistent defence of the colonies 
in 1815, when the Register Bill gave rise to new investiga- 
tions as to their existing interior system. 

But now their note is again changed. The Consolidation 
Act, and the other meliorating laws, now are virtually ad- 
mitted to have done nothing, either by their direct provisions 
or moral influence, towards the improvements in question ; 

Plan of the Second Volume. 39 

for the present watchword of the jvarty is to ascribe them to 
the abohtioii alone. Even Mr. Barclay, as we have seen, con- 
curs with that other accredited and redoubted champion of 
the colonies, Mr. M'Donnel, in regarding the non-admission 
of " savage Africans, or of a rude and barbarous people," as 
having been necessary to clear the foundation of his alleged 
improvements. Even he, in affecting to contrast the present 
with the past, tells us of oppressions that existed " twentif 
" and ten years ago," as the strongest he could find for his 

And why this last change of doctrine ? Why not still 
ascribe the good work rather to the meliorating laws, which 
have had so much longer a reign ? Because the immediate 
objects of the controversy are changed. Because the practical 
question now is, whether the meliorating code shall be ex- 
tended, pursuant to the votes of Parliament and the trouble- 
some though most humble solicitations of the crown. To 
hold, therefore, that such laws have been found effectual, 
would be much less convenient and prudent, than to maintain 
that the abolition has supplied reformatory principles and 
motives, such as have already done much and will progres- 
sively do all that justice and humanity require. Should the 
reader not be satisfied with this explanation, let him find if 
he can another. 

Here let me point out, by the way, a new and glaring in- 
consistency. If we suppose the colonists sincere in attributing 
to the abolition the beneficent efiects they allege, and that 
they really rejoice, as they affect to do, for those fruits of the 
measure, how shall we account for their rancorous animosity 
to Mr. Wilberforce ? The patient might as reasonably hate 
and reproach the skilful physician who had healed him ; or 
the penitent, the spiritual monitor who had turned him from 
his sins. 

Mr. Wilberforce has been an advocate indeed for humane 
laws, which they allege to be no longer necessary \ but if his 
indefatigable labours alone have made them so, the self-dispa- 
raging, and therefore honest error, should surely be more than 
outweighed by the actual and inestimable benefit received. 
That he was sincere, could not be doubted ; for what man, or 
what angel, would not have been elated to take to himself. 

40 Defence of the First, and 

if he truly could, the praise of having effectually alleviated 
the galling and guilty yoke of colonial bondage ; as well as 
put an end to the slave trade ! Yet, the stores of vituperative 
language are ransacked by every colonial press on both sides 
of the Atlantic, in the vain attempt to blast his well-earned 
laurels ; and in the attempt, not vain, to gratify the malignant 
feelings of slave masters towards him. Even a superior, 
but young and inexperienced mind, one who, I hope, has a 
moral as well as intellectual superiority to common men, and 
therefore will not be ashamed to avow involuntary errors, was 
so seduced by the contagious sympathies, which in a very 
short and rapid tour through the islands he imbibed at every 
table of his hospitable entertainers, as not only to become on 
his return a volunteer apologist of their system, but to call 
the now confessed author of all that he thought defensible in 
it " the once glorious Mr. Wilberforce." 

But I will press these remarks no further. Enough has 
been said to shew, that there is no presumption in favour of 
the recent and present pretences of improvement, either from 
the confidence with which they are brought forward, or the 
consistency of their authors, or from any apparent candour in 
the confessions they involve of past and once denied abuses. 

It has been well said by one of my fellow-labourers, that 
oppression in the sugar colonies has no present tense ; and I 
may add, that humanity has hardly a past one. Every new 
defence calls every former one a cheat. 

And now I will answer the other question which my readers 
were supposed likely to put. 

" Do I contend that no general improvement in the treat- 
** ment of slaves has yet actually taken place ?" Yes; speak- 
ing of the temporal lot of the field negroes, in all the most im- 
portant points, and of their spiritual interests too, with few and 
slight exceptions, I verily and conscientiously do. Different 
degrees of severity there are, and always have been, on diffe- 
rent estates, according to the various dispositions and circum- 
stances of their managers or owners ; but in those grand arti- 
cles, and main sources of ordinary oppression, under which 
the field negroes suffer and die ; in the fatal excess of labour, 
and with some local and accidental exceptions, in the penury 
of maintenance also, the case in general is little, if at all 

Plan of the Second Volume. 4 1 

better than it was forty years ago. This I maintain; and this 
I undertake to estabUsh. 

Leaving the clear elucidation and proof of these views to 
the following sheets, I proceed to apprise my readers more 
distinctly, of the plan and limits of the work now presented 
to them. 

The condition of the slaves in point of law, was delineated 
under three principal heads. 

The slave laws were considered, 1st, as constituting the re- 
lation between master and slave. 

2dly. As they repect questions between the slaves and 
persons of free condition in general. 

3dly. As they affect the slave in his relation to the state, 
as an object of civil government and protection. * 

I might now, were it my wish to give a complete account 
of all the practical evils and crimes that belong to the system, 
follow the same divisions; for in each of these relations, the 
slaves might be shewn to be practically and grievously op- 
pressed. But I have already, in my account of the laws, under 
the second and third heads, noticed incidentally some of their 
practical effects ; and it was professed at the outset not to 
be my aim in delineating this odious institution, to say all 
that could truly be said against it ; but only so much as might 
suffice to shew that it is too bad to be tolerated by a Christian 
legislature, a moment longer than strict necessity requires, f 
Therefore, and for the reasons before assigned, though I may 
have occasion sometimes to notice, as connected with the rela- 
tion to the master, evils that more directly belong to the slave's 
depressed and helpless situation in his relations to the free 
classes, and to the state itself, the practical consequences of 
the master's formidable power, will be the chief subject of 
the present book. 

The law as between master and slave, was delineated by its 
principal canons or rules; of which I distinguished twelve,! 

* Vol. I. p. 32. t Ibid. p. 11. t Ibid. p. 18. 

42 Defence of the First, and 

but it is in shewing the mischiefs which flow from the 3d, 
4th, and 5th of these, and more especially the 3d, that my 
remaining labors will be chiefly employed: I will therefore re- 
peat them here. 

Rule 3d. The master is the sole arbiter of the kind, and de- 
gree, and time of labour to which the slave shall be subjected ; 
and of the subsistence, or means of obtaining a subsistence, 
that shall be given in return. 

Rule 4th. The master may imprison, beat, scourge, wound, 
and otherwise afflict or injure the person of his slave, at his 

Rule 5th. These harsh powers of the master may all be 
exercised, not only by him in person, but by his representatives 
and agents of every description, and by every person, whe- 
ther bond or free, who is clothed in any manner with his 

In delineating the ordinary exercise of these powers, I shall 
confine myself to the treatment of the predial slaves, com- 
monly called the "field negroes f not only because these form 
by far the most numerous class, amounting probably to four- 
fifths of the whole enslaved population, but because it is upon 
them, that the slavery of the sugar colonies falls with the hea- 
viest and most destructive pressure. Domestics, are likely to 
suffer more from the anger, the revenge, the suspicion, and 
other malevolent feelings of the master ; with whom they are 
brought, much oftener than the field negroes, into personal 
contact and collision ; but his avarice, that far wider and 
surer source of oppression, is opposed to the comfort, the 
health, and often the existence, of the predial slaves. They 
are on sugar plantations, as I shall shew, universally over- 

* The exceptions, and pretended exceptions, to these rules were noticed 
in the proper places in my former volume ; and it would be tedious to 
repeat them here. It would be equally tedious, nor is it necessary, to no- 
tice in this place, such further exceptions as have been added by subsequent 
Acts of Assembly, or Orders of Council. They will properly belong to a 
second edition of my former volume, or " Law of Slavery," if I live to pre- 
pare one. Meantime such alterations of the law as have any material con- 
nection with my limited account of the practical system, shall be noticed in 
those respective divisions of my subject to which they relate. 

Plan of the Second Volume. 43 

worked, and for the most part under-fed, not because the 
proprietor is cruel, nor always because he is too greedy of gain, 
but because most proprietors are necessitous ; and because all, 
having acquired their estates after progressive competition 
had pushed the exaction of forced labour to its present ex- 
tent, they cannot, without great sacrifice of present income, 
or the protection of a general law, reduce it to such bounds 
as would consist with the physical or moral well-being, or ge- 
nerally even with the preservation, of the slaves. I do not, 
therefore, mean to describe or notice, unless incidentally and 
by way of illustration, any of the oppressions under which 
they suffer, except those which I hold, and have ever held, to 
be the most cruel and destructive, as well as the most general 
and inherent to the system, excess of labour, and insufficiency 
of maintenance; in other words, those abuses of the master's 
power which arise from his selfish, not his malevolent feelings. 

Incidental, however, to these main topics, and inseparably 
connected with a fair consideration of them, is the discipline 
by which labour is coerced ; the harsh and brutalizing nature 
of which greatly aggravates the ill effects of its excess, and 
constitutes at the same time, a third head of oppression, not 
less general than the two former, and springing from the same 
ordinary motives. 

My practical delineation then, will be much narrower in its 
plan, though not I fear in its bulk, than my account of the 
Slave Laws ; and shall be arranged as follows : — 

1st. I will state and consider the forced labour imposed on 
the slaves of sugar plantations in its ordinary nature and 
amount; premising some remarks on human labour in the 
Torrid Zone in general, and subjoining a comparative view of 
agricultural labour in England. 

2d. I will describe the means of coercion and discipline by 
which their labour is enforced. 

3rd. I will state the ordinary treatment of the slaves in res- 
pect of food, clothing, and other necessaries provided by the 

After which, I propose briefly to review the state of colonial 
slavery as thus delineated both in law and practice ; and to 
conclude with some practical suggestions. 

44 Of Agricidlural Labour 



The main object of slavery in the sugar colonies is the obtain- 
ing, by compulsion, the labour of negroes in the cultivation 
of the land. 

It is maintained by the planters, that there are no other 
possible means by which West India produce can be raised ; 
because Europeans, as they allege, cannot, and negroes, in a 
j state of freedom, will not, till the soil in that climate. The 
' former of these propositions was disputed by some early wri- 
ters in the abolition controversy, who were not personally ac- 
quainted with the West Indies; and there are certainly some 
plausible grounds for denying that it is strictly and universally 
true ; but it has never been controverted by me. Nor do I 
think that it can be fairly denied, to an extent material 
to the practical question for the sake of which it has been 
maintained ; for Europeans certainly cannot work so much 
there in the tillage of the soil, without speedy destruction of 
health and life, as to make their labour in the raising of sugar 
a substitute that the planter can afford, while the black or 
coloured race, whether slaves or free, are their competitors. 

On the first settlement of our oldest West Indian colonies, 
Europeans, I admit, were employed in the labours of the 
field ; but they were chiefly transported convicts, or indented 
servants, who worked by compulsion ; and at a time when 
sugar planting, incomparably the most laborious species of 
agriculture, was in its infancy, and was prosecuted to but a 
small extent. 

The general incapacity of white men to endure such labours 
between the tropics, arises from two causes ; the noxious 

ill /he Torrid Zone. 45 

effects of long exposure to the rays of the sun ; and the ex- 
hausting tendency of vigorous action in a highly heated at- 
mosphere ; by the first of which negroes seem not to be at all 
annoyed, and by the other in a niuch less degree than natives 
of the temperate zones. The noontide solar blaze in that 
climate cannot in general be sustained by our countrymen for 
any great length of time, though in a state of rest, without 
uneasy sensations, and injury to the nervous system ; while to 
the blacks it is quite innoxious. The one, therefore, would 
be distressed and exhausted by such a continuance or in- 
tensity of field labour, as the other might, without injury, 

But in this latter point, the difference is more in degree 
than in kind; for brisk and vigorous action subjects the negro, 
as well as the European, to a redundant perspiration, pro- 
portionate to the heat of the atmosphere in which the ex- 
ertion is made; and with both, the natural effect is exhaustion 
of strength and spirits. The black can work much more than 
the white man in that burning region ; but cannot, without 

* Let me not be understood for a moment, as giving' any countenance 
here to the apologies that are made for slavery or slave trade, on the score 
of this physical inferiority of European labourers between the tropics. In 
a moral view, they are too preposterous for serious refutation. But the 
defence, as usual in like cases, has been extended tacitly to much iniquity 
that does not fall within the range even of its own bad principle. Of 
indoor labours, and domestic service, our free fellow subjects of this country 
are not less capable in the West Indies than negroes are; and at a former 
period, the artificers and mechanical labourers in those colonies were chiefly 
white men ; but now, domestic service, and almost all mechanical employ- 
ments, are exclusively allotted to negroes or mulattoes ; and, for the most 
part, to slaves. Though so many of our fellow-subjects here are distressed 
for want of employment in various lines, and would be glad to go for it to 
the West Indies on easy terms, thereby relieving us in some measure from 
the evils of a redundant population, this resource is shut to them ; while 
the pestilent influence of slavery on morals and manners, is needlessly and 
fatally, caiTied from the fields into the parlour, the nursery and the work- 
It would be easy to shew tliat the domestic slavery of the colonies has, 
in its natural effects, much embittered the predial ; and that the abolition of 
the one, would make the mitigation and progressive termination of the 
other, a work of great facility, and perfect safety. But this is too large and 
important a subject for incidental discussion. 

46 Of Agricultural Labour 

prejudice to health, work so much as an Enghshman of the 
same bodily strength can in his native climate. The field 
negro, indeed, is driven, as I shall shew, to actual exertions 
far exceeding, in duration at least, any that our hardiest pea- 
sants sustain in this temperate climate ; but not without the 
most distressing and fatal effects. 

Had the primeval curse equally affected the earth itself in 
every latitude, the natives of the Torrid Zone, slavery apart, 
would in this respect have felt it more than the rest of their 
species. The sweat of the brow, and the sufferings of the 
wearied labourer, would have been pre-eminently theirs. But 
the Creator's works abound with compensatory and equalizing 
expedients. The same fervent atmosphere that makes arduous 
long continued labour much more irksome, lessens greatly the 
need of it; by quickening the process of vegetation, and giving 
to the soil with little culture a much greater fertility than la- 
borious tillage will impart to it in the temperate zones. Many 
nutritious fruits, grateful to the taste of man, and well fitted 
for his support, such as the plantain, the banana, the bread 
fruit, and the cocoa nut, are either the spontaneous growth of 
the soil, or when once planted, require scarcely any further 
toil, but yield perennially, a copious supply of food. 

An attentive observer of the works of God in the animal and 
vegetable world, might infer a priori from these facts, that in- 
feriority in the inhabitants of hot climates to ourselves in la- 
borious activity, which they always exhibit when their native 
propensities are unsubdued by the yoke of private bondage ; 
and might infer also, that such a disposition, if not carried to 
H vicious excess, conduces to their physical welfare. In that 
beautiful and deservedly popular work of Dr. Paley, his Natural 
Theology, he has shewn in a multitude of instances, how won- 
derfully seeming defects or disparities in the powers or facul- 
ties of different animals, and in the provisions made for their 
support and well being, are supplied or compensated by their 
respective positions, propensities, and habits. All are sup- 
plied with adequate means of providing for their natural wants; 
but without superfluity ; so that the faculties and powers of a 
particular organization in any species of animal being given, 
we may generally infer corresponding and proportionate neces- 
sities ; and vice versa, when the latter are known, we may be 

in the Torrid Zone. 47 

led to expect an adaptation of the former, antecedently to 
any zoological observations of the fact. The interior cistern 
of the camel, for instance, might teach us that he was des- 
tined to traverse the dry deserts of Africa ; and the various 
powers of the elephant's proboscis might be expected from 
the unwieldy bulk of his frame. 

Man, the favourite care of Providence, even in its sublunary 
scheme, was destined to inhabit every region of the globe ; 
and his reason, while a free agent, enables him amidst all the 
diversities of climate and situation, so to fence against their 
disadvantages by artificial means, as to preserve his being in 
them all. But as reason and foresight, have no steady or cer- 
tain influence, he is guarded also by strong instinctive pro- 
pensities, against a fatal departure from those habits which 
his local position demands. In temperate regions, he finds 
vigorous bodily action rather pleasant than the reverse ; and 
though naturally prone to prefer the stimulating employments 
of the chace or war, to the monotonous labours of the husband- 
man, he has no such strong aversion to these, as the rewards 
of industry in a civilised state of society will not overcome ; 
but in the torrid zone, his instincts are very strongly on the 
side of rest and ease ; he shrinks from continuous labour on 
the sultry glebe ; and delights in the shade, not only for re- 
freshment but repose. 

Nor is it true, as the apologists of negro slavery now in- 
sidiously pretend, that these propensities belong to the inha- 
bitants of hot climates only when they are in a barbarous 
state ; and may be vanquished by the larger excitements of 
industry in an advanced stage of civilization. In the most 
polished countries of the East, the indisposition to arduous 
and long continued agricultural labour is notoriously great, 
and the industry of the free peasants is vastly inferior to that 
of the same classes in Europe. Even the Chinese, whose 
high state of civilization will not be disputed, and whose re- 
dundant population imposes on them the necessity of being 
industrious in the culture of their soil, form no exception to 
this remark. It is clear, at least, as I shall hereafter shew, 
that their labour was regarded as mere idleness by our plan- 
ters, when put in comparison with that of slaves working 
under the drivers ; for in Trinadad, the experiment was tried 

48 Of Agricu/turul J^ahoxr 

of working their sugar estates by labourers imported fr6m 
China ; and its complete failure, when shewn hereafter in 
the proper place, will be found highly instructive. 

If these general characteristics were not too notorious to be 
disputed, I might support them by the authority of many 
eminent writers ; and even by that of some distinguished 
champions of colonial slavery ; since they adduce as an apo- 
logy for that odious institution, the necessity of counteracting 
by force, these strong natural propensities of its unfortunate 
subjects. They find, strange to say, a defence of the coercive 
whip, in the peculiar pains and privations that it imposes on 
those chartered libertines of nature, the natives of a tropical 
climate. Because, from the exuberance of the soil, they need 
not work hard for themselves, it is inferred, that may be justly 
enslaved, and whipped into hard work for the profit of others. 
The very bounty of God, is thus made a plea for the tyranny 
and cruelty of man.*' 

* Lest I should be supposed here to deal unfairly with my colonial op- 
ponents, let me quote the language of one of them who is nearly one of 
the most recent, and seems to claim a distinguished place in ])oint of au- 
thority among them; I mean Major Moodi/, late of the Colonial Office, in 
his reports as a commissioner of enquiry into the state of the captured and 
apprenticed Africans, printed by order of the House of Commons in 1825. 

As it may be supposed a departure from my rule to quote a writer so 
described, it is necessary to add that he is a West Indian ; not as I believe 
by birth; but by habits, attachments and connections. He was long resi- 
dent in the sugar colonies, and for some time a proprietor and m.anager of 
estates in Demerara; and his official reports are throughout an elaborate and 
zealous defence of negro slavery. They are very voluminous, and abound 
so much with passages to my present purpose, that it is difficult to choose 
among them. 

It would appear, from the Major's own account, that not only during his 
mission, but in his previous employments, it had been the great business 
of his life to lucubrate on what he stiles the " philosophy of labour" the 
fundamental, and almost the only distinguishable tenet of which is, that the 
natives of tropical climates disrelish agricultural labour too much to addict 
themselves to it sufficiently without compulsion ; and its chief or only prac- 
tical doctrine, is that slavery ought to be maintained, as a necessary mean 
of raising sugar for the consumption of this country. The Major seems 
originally to have doubted, though, perhaps, no other intelligent man ever 
did, of the general propensity I have mentioned ; for he boasts of having 

in the Torrid Zone. 49 

It seems to have never entered into the imaginations of 
these gentlemen, that feeUngs so strong and so general as they 

taken great pains to establish it, by enquiries in different regions of the 

The result, as he shews with anxious and endless iteration, is, that the 
agricultural labourer in the torrid zone, is strongly indisposed to steady 
exertion, not merely by the pain that it imposes from the heat of the at- 
mosphere, but by the privation of greatly desired pleasures. 

Speaking of the difficulty of obtaining agricultural labour from en- 
franchised slaves, he says : — " Though their former habits as slaves may 
" make them feel the pain of stcadj/ industry in a less degree, it is not 
" sufficient that they should encounter the pain of labour in the sun ; they 
" must also be able to resist the seducing pleasures afforded by repose 
"in the shade — the very enjoyment which their former state of slavery 
" prevented their obtaining — the enjoyment sought for and prized by all 
" around them. By what motive," he asks, " are these men to be witli- 
" drawn from the pleasure of repose, which has a value so much higher in 
" the torrid zone than in Europe ? Any man may convince himself that 
" this enjoyment of repose is a high pleasure, by honestly examining his 
" own inclination for any laborious exertion in the open air, when the sun 
*' in Europe radiates a heat measured by 80 degrees of the thermometer.'' 
— Report, 2d part, p. 55, 50 and 75, and 1st part, p. 132. 

Again : " In warm climates, repose 'is one of the strongest desires of 
" men." He further observes, that this propensity is by no means the 
mere effect of habit, or one even the long practical controul of which will 
remove its powerful influence. " In the torrid zone, where steady labour 
" in the sun is painful from the physical influence of heat, time cannot 
" altogether remove the pain felt, though it prepares the bodies of some 
" men to endure it. No dexterity in the use of tools can diminish the 
" heat of the sun's rays ; and at the end of forty years, as at the end of 
" four months, the pleasure of repose in the shade is found to be most 
" powerful in diminishing voluntary steady industry," &c. — Report, 2nd 
part, p. 77. 

From these premises the Major strangely enough infers our moral right 
to persist in the use of slavery and the cart- whip, under the softening 
names, which he every where chooses to give them, of " coiistraint," 
'^ physical force, '^ '■'^ coercion" and the like. He does not condescend, in- 
deed, to enter into any ethical disquisitions on the subject; thinking it 
enough to shew that we shall otherwise be undersold in the sugar markets 
of Europe; for " if the capitalist in one colony," he justly argues, 
" raised colonial produce at a greater expence, in the end the cheapest 
" would drive the dearest produce out of any market wherein there may 
" be a competition, &c. Any nation, therefore," he adds, " adopting a 
" mode of local police, or interior government, which gave to the landed 
" colonial capitalist a moral or physical force to coerce the labour of the 
VOL. 11. E 

50 Of Agricultural Labour 

describe, might possibly have been implanted by the benig- 
nant Author of our natures for kind and conservatory ends; 
and that the aversion to long continued field labour in the 
torrid zone might perhaps form no exception to that very 
fi^eneral rule, that what is excessively irksome to our bodily 
sensations, is unfriendly to health and life. Yet those who 
insist continually on the importance of attending to "physical 
''facts, and sneer at the advocates of the poor Africans for 
neglecting them,* might have been led by experience to infer 
that such is the case. The striking and deplorable preva- 
lence of disease and mortality, and the rapid decline of a race 
naturally strong and prolific beyond the rest of mankind, 
whenever those native propensities are so effectually con- 
trouled, as they are by the whip on sugar estates, might have 
suggested to them that nature was probably right in this in- 
stance, and relentless avarice in the wrong. 

They might have adverted also to historical, as well as living 
facts, comparing the exuberant Indian population of the 
Antilles, Mexico and Peru, when first discovered by the 
Spaniards, with their subsequent depopulated state ; and 

" Africans in return for subsistence, and a moderate scale of comforts, 
" would possess a decided advantage over the colonists and agricultural 
" capitalists of any other nation, who should adopt a mode of police or 
" government obtaining a smaller quantum of exertions for a much greater 
" rate of wages or allowances," Sec. — 2nd part, p. 16. 

It is plain that this gentleman thinks not only that for these reasons 
the enfranchised African captives ought to be replaced in slavery, which 
is the obvious and main drift of his work, but that the slave trade ought 
to be restored ; for he holds that our colonies cannot raise sugar on terms 
so cheap as those foreign countries in which the trade is still allowed. 
" The time is fast approaching when the proprietors will be no longer 
" able to produce sugar, or other articles having an exchangeable value, 
" in Europe, from the competition of Foreign colonies with cheaper agri- 
" culture, from their still carrying on the slave trade." — Report, 1st part, 
p. 131. 

If so, his principles of political economy are evidently as applicable to 
the defence of slave trade as of slavery ; and they are equally uncontrouUed 
by moral considerations ; unless it be more criminal to relapse into the 
African trade ourselves, than to reinslave its captured victims, after we have 
taken them from the foreign slave traders, under the pretext of makingthem 

* See the same Reports of Major Moody in a hundred places. 

in the Torrid Zone. 51 

recognizing in the tyranny of forced labour, when opposed 
to those native propensities, the source of the appalling con- 

* Charlevoix, taking tlie medium of different accounts, supposes the 
native inhabitants of St. Domingo, when first discovered by the Spaniards, 
to have been about a million and a half. He agrees with all other writers 
in describing them as the happiest and most amiable of mankind. — Histoire 
de St. Domingo, liv. i. 

Mr. Washington Irving, in his very valuable work recently published^ 
A History of the Life and Voyages of Columbus, has given a very particular 
and highly interesting account of their character and manners ; and of 
the commencement and early progress of that forced labour by which the 
avaricious tyranny of the Spaniards soon effected their entire extermina- 
tion. Unfeeling, indeed, must be that mind, in which their sad story, as 
told in his pages, fails to excite the most lively emotions of pity and in- 
dignation. — See especially, book. ii. chap. 10; and book viii. chap. 7. 

" Deep despair now fell upon the natives, when they found a perpetual 
'* task inflicted upon them. Weak and indolent by nature, unused to 
" labour of any kind, and brought up in the untasked idleness of their soft 
" climate, and their fruitful groves, death itself seemed preferable to a life 
*' of toil. The pleasant life of the island was at an end ; the dream in the 
" shade by day, the slumber during the sultry noon-tide heat by the 
" fountain or the stream, or under the spreading palm, tree, and the song, 
" the dance and the game in the mellow evening, when summoned to their 
" simple amusements by the rude Indian drum. They were now obliged 
" to grope, day by day, with bending bodies and anxious eye, along the 
" borders of their rivers, sifting the sand for the grains of gold, or to 
" labour in their fields beneath the fervour of a tropical sun, to raise food 
" for their task-masters. They sunk to sleep, weary and exhausted with 
" the certainty that the next day was to be but a repetition of the same toil 
" and suffering. Or if they occasionally indulged in their national dances, 
" the ballads to which they kept time were of a melancholy and plaintive 
" character. They spoke of the times that were past, before the white 
" men had introduced sorrow and slavery and weary labour among 
« them." 

The terrible and fatal consequences are narrated by Mr. Irving with 
great particularity, and in a like impressive style. They resist while re- 
sistance is possible ; they fly to their mountain tops and woods ; but are 
every where pursued and slaughtered, or brought back by their remorseless 
and indefatigable oppressors. They perish by thousands from hunger, 
fatigue, and hardships of every kind ; till at length opposition is effectually 
quelled ; and they submit in despair to that cruel and murderous drudgery, 
or, in the style of our philosopher of labour, to that " steady industry" 
of which death is the slow, but sure result. 

E 2 

52 Of Agricultural Laboitr 

Modern Hayti, in its reversal of the barbarous experiment, 
has sufficiently taught the same important lesson ; for there 
the depopulating power of death, and the driving whip re- 
tired together. Notwithstanding all the destruction that the 
most sanguinary long continued insurrectionary wars — wars 
waged at last for the very purpose of extermination, could 
effect ; in spite of systematic massacre, and all that blood- 
hounds, and hell-hounds, could do to reduce the black popula- 
tion, the tide of human life has risen there again to its pris- 
tine flood mark ; and promises soon to overflow. No change 
of those immoral habits to which our planters would ascribe 
the sterility and morality of their slaves, has taken place in 
Hayti ; so, at least, they themselves would anxiously persuade 
us ; and there is no increase in the comforts of life, as we are 
told on the same authority ; but the driving whip is banished ; 
forced labour is no more ; and nature, restored to her rights, 
convicts the past slavery of murderous oppression, by the 
evidence of her multiplying powers. 

Let me not, however, be understood to mean that the labours 
of the field in the torrid zone are injurious to its natives when 
moderated to that degree which the climate fairly demands. 
There is a point of muscular exertion there, as well as here, 
up to which men may habitually work, not only without pre- 
judice, but with positive benefit to health ; and the love of 
rest, like every other natural propensity, may every where be 
indulged to a pernicious excess. All that I would immedi- 
ately deduce from these remarks is, that immoderate labour, 
in that region of the earth, is extremely noxious to the human 
frame, as well as pre-eminently irksome ; and that repugnance 
to it is a salutary instinct, implanted in the mind of man by 
the Author of our natures, for the security of health and life. 

What degree of labour may be sustained there, or in any 
climate, without pernicious effects, is obviously not to be 
ascertained theoretically by any general rule. The diversities 
of age and sex, and strength of constitution, and of previous 
habits, with their various combinations, and of local circum- 
stances, friendly or adverse to health and strenth, are endless ; 
and if a medium of them all could be found, experience would 
still be the only criterion to decide how much of labour in 
point of intensity and duration may consist, under ordinary 

tn the Torrid Zone. 53 

circumstances, with the physical well-being of a workman of 
average powers. But even the lessons of experience can 
furnish no rule of safe application to individuals whose ex- 
ertions are forcibly constrained. The labourer himself, indeed, 
may be pretty surely taught, by his feelings of fatigue and ex- 
haustion, when he has worked beyond the just measure of his 
strength ; but his employers or observers, can rarely know 
with certainty, except from the destructive consequences of 
excess, whether his exertions have been limited by necessity, 
or by choice ; by a just regard to self-preservation, or by 
indolent self-indulgence. 

If the latter proposition be true, the inhumanity of exacting 
labour from innocent men by coercive force, imposed for the 
profit and at the discretion of their masters, is a plain corollary 
from it. The im poser of the toil, supposing hirn even a dis- 
interested assessor of its amount, could not be sure that it 
was not excessive ; and yet excess is likely to prove a very 
cruel, though slow paced, species of murder. 

I speak here especially, with a view to such present force 
as the labourer cannot resist or avoid ; like the cart whip in 
the hand of a driver. Among the gross and puerile sophisms 
to which the apologists of West Indian slavery are obliged 
to resort, they confound in their defences of the driving 
system, moral with physical coercion ; and gravely observe 
that the free labourer also, is constrained to work for the sub- 
sistence of himself and family : one sufficient answer, to 
which, if such a miserable fallacy deserves any answer at all, 
is that the instinct of self-preservation is too strong to be 
easily subdued, either by the love of comfort or the fear of 
want : though it yields to present pain, or nearly impending 
torture. We do not find, in this industrious land, that our 
agricultural peasants work themselves to death for wages 
however high : we hear often of their distress for want of 
work, but never of their perishing from its excess ; whereas 
the fact that men and women very often sicken and die from 
overwork on sugar plantations, is fully admitted, and quite 
beyond dispute.* The merciless drudgery which Major 

* This will be abundantly shewn in subsequent chapters ; but lest the 
proposition should startle uninformed readers at the outset, T here subjoin 

54 Of Agricultural Labour 

Moody calls the *' steady imlustrt/' of the cane pieces, has 
always thinned the black population of our sugar colonies, far 

some extracts from that veiy important work of Dr. Collins, his " Prac- 
" tical Rules for the Management and Medical Treatment of Negro 
" Slaves in the Sugar Colonies." It is a work, that I have referred to in 
my former volume ; and shall often have to cite in the following sheets. It 
may be proper, therefore, to shew this author's superior claims to at- 
tention ; and my right to quote as decisive authority what he states on 
the anti-slavery side. They were noticed in the first volume of this work ; 
but as that has long been out of print, it may be useful to repeat them 

Dr. Collins was a physician, and planter, of great eminence and ex- 
perience, who had resided great part of his life in the West Indies, and was 
proprietor of valuable sugar estates in St. Vincent's, which he sold after 
retiring to this country. He wrote a pamphlet in defence of the slave 
trade ; and to the last sided with its apologists ; as appears even from the 
work I quote. But when Mr. Wilberforce's efforts for the abolition 
seemed to be finally frustrated, Dr. Collins compiled and published this 
work with the humane intention of pointing out to his brother planters 
such abuses in the treatment of their slaves injurious to health and life, 
as he deemed not essential to their system, and therefore hoped they 
might be induced to reform. 

Hence and certainly not from any desire on his part to cast odium on 
a system which he had long administered, and wished to uphold, the im- 
portant testimony he aifords on the anti-slavery side. He could not sup- 
press those facts of the case on which it was his object to advise; but he 
notices them as a friend, not an enemy, of the general system ; and always 
with the utmost tenderness and extenuation; at least, such is his usual 
style when the abuse he is pointing out is one of a general kind. 

From these circumstances I presume it has happened, that Dr. Collins, 
though often quoted against the planters, has hitherto riot been treated by 
them like most other writers on whose testimony their practice has been 
arrai'^ned. I am not aware, at least, that he has been traduced and vili- 
fied or that his authority ever has been questioned by any of their hired 
writers or partizans : some of them have expressly admitted it; and Mr. 
Hibbert the agent for Jamaica, had the liberality and humanity to pub- 
lish a new edition of the work ; the same from which I now transcribe. 

There are so very many passages in this work that shew the truth of the 
shocking proposition to which this note is annexed, that I find selection 
rather difficult. His strongest statements as to the fatal effects of forced 
labour refer to the treatment of newly imported Africans, which may be 
thought not strictly relevant to the existing case ; but for my present pur- 
pose they are emphatically so ; as the effects of the first imposition of 
forced labour, on men who had been previously governed by those strong 
native propensities described by Major Moody, will shew most clearly and 

in the Torrid Zone. 55 

more than all other modes of oppression, and all the diseases 

fairly, how it operates on the the human frame ; and if the driving whip 
could controul at once those, powerful propensities, notwithstanding their 
habitual indulgence, and the resistance of oppressed nature united, its power 
will not be doubted to be an over-match for the latter alone. 

" Experience," says Dr. Collins, " has demonstrated that a great number 
" of the negroes exported from the coast of Africa to the West Indies, die 
" within three or four years after their arrival there. I believe that the 
" most moderate calculation cannot rate the loss at less than one fourth on 
" an average. In certain cases it may not, perhaps, be so great ; but in 
" others it is infinitely greater ; whole lots of ten or twenty having very 
" few survivors at the end of that time," (p. 51). After noticing some me- 
dical causes of this shocking mortality, he adds, " Labour is another, and 
" the most frequent cause of the mortality of new negroes ; some of whom 
" have never experienced any considerable portion of it in their own 
" country; and none in the manner in which they are obliged to work in 
" ours. The inuring them gradually to labour, so that they may undergo 
" it in continuation, is the primary object, and greatest difficulty, in their 
" seasoning ; for to press for sudden and unremitted exertion, is to kill 
" them; which many unfortunately do every year " (p. 60). 

" Your new subjects," he says in another place, " will not have been 
" long in the field, before they will exhibit a very different appearance from 
" that which they had before they went there. If they have made any ex- 
" traordinary efforts, as many of them will do from the beginning; they 
*' will have grown much thinner. This is the natural consequence of exer- 
" tion to which they have not been accustomed, and the consequent waste 
" by perspiration ; and need not alarm you, if they are otherwise well and 
" in spirits ; but if they are languid and dispirited, you must indulge them 
" either with a total remission of labour, or with such an abatement of it 
" as circumstances may require," (p. 78). " In the first year they get rid 
" of the effects of the passage and the change of situation ; but the result of 
" continued and hard labour is most felt after a longer interval, and your eye 
" must be diligently directed to them for some years," (p. 81, 82). 

It is not, however, among the neiv negroes alone that the destructive ef- 
fects of forced labour are noticed by Dr. Collins. His chapter on labour 
shews throughout that this is, in truth, the grand source, not only of the 
cruel discipline which the slaves of the plantations are afflicted with, but 
of the diseases which conduct them to the hospital and the grave. He 
ascribes much of the mischief, indeed, to the indiscriminate manner in 
which the force is applied. " The exertions required of them should be 
" proportioned to their faculties, which vary greatly in different subjects, 
" some being capable of doing a great deal more than others. This seems 
" not to have been sufficiently attended to in the distribution of labour, as 
" it is usual to divide the negroes of an estate more according to their ages 
" than their abilities ; power being inferred from age. The consequence 

56 Oj' the probable Excess 

of the climate, and all the vices adverse to longevity and pro- 
pagation, taken together. 

" of which is either that the weaker negroes must retard the stronger ones ; 
" or your drivers, insensible of the cause of this backwardness, or not weigh- 
" ing it properly, will incessantly urge them, either with stripes or threats, 
" to keep up with the others ; bi/ which means they are overwrought and 
" compelled to resort to the sick-house J" (p. 175, 6). 

If the reader is ill-informed enough to suppose that the driving method 
of coercion is not still applied in the same indiscriminate way, or is not 
still copiously destructive of health and life, I shall in the proper place fully 
prove to him the contrary ; but I need offer no further evidence here, to 
shew that, though men do not work themselves to death by moral constraint 
in this country, they are to use Dr. Collins's term " overwrought,'^ and to a 
deathful excess, by physical force in the colonies. 

of forced Labour in l/ie Sugar Colonies. 57 



Section I. — Natural Tendencies of ' the System. 

Though the proper medium between an indolent deficiency, 
and a pernicious excess of exertion, cannot be certainly ascer- 
tained by any general rule, applicable to all cases and circum- 
stances ; yet where the labourers are free, experience suppUes 
a criterion accurate enough for ordinary use. When wages 
are sufficiently high, and still more when there is a competi- 
tion for employment, it will be known how much labourers 
can commonly do, consistently with self-preservation and 
health, by what they actually perform. Hence a custo- 
mary standard has arisen between the employers and the em- 
ployed. The English farmer knows by usage, and so does 
the labourer too, what is a fair days' work at the different 
seasons of the year : the one will not be content with less, and 
the other will yield no more. A labourer may be too feeble 
from age or constitution to work up to the established stand- 
ard ; but then he must be content to receive less than ordi- 
nary pay. 

Slavery, and its forced labour, preclude that fair and safe 
adjustment. There may be a customary quantum of work ; 
but as the usage has grown from the compulsion of the mas- 
ters, not the volition of the slaves, we cannot infer from the 
generality of its performance, that it can be easily or innox- 

58 Of the probable Excess 

iously endured. If there are any securities for its moderation, 
they must be found in the motives of the master, not the self- 
conservatory feelings of the enslaved labourers themselves ; 
yet it is by the latter alone, that the capacity for exertion 
can be measured, without danger of fatal mistakes. 

Unhappily, the personal experience, and physical sympa- 
thies of West Indian masters, can in this case furnish no 
criterion vi^hatever. Many of our English farmers have them- 
selves held the plough, and thrown the flail ; they can 
judge, therefore, in a great degree of the powers, and the 
feelings of the labourers, from their own; but as white men 
are strangers to the toils of the field in the West Indies, they 
can form no judgment from their own sensations, of what 
their negro slaves can, without much suffering, and abrevia- 
tion of their lives endure. They know only, that the negro 
has a very different constitution from their own; and can sus- 
tain a degree of exertion under the solar blaze, which to 
themselves would be intolerable, and speedily destructive; 
and this naturally leads, especially under the suggestions of 
avarice, to much exaggeration. The potential range of capa- 
cities far surpassing our own, is likely to be magnified by 
the imagination, even without the bias of self-interest. Men 
of gigantic stature, were anciently supposed able to put 
armies to the rout; and to perform those wonders of muscular 
strength, which are ascribed to Hercules, and other fabulous 
heroes of antiquity. The learned, in an illiterate age, were 
as liaturally thought to be endued with preternatural powers. 
So, also, when the hardy strong-built negro was first brought 
from Africa to the new world, his masters, from the same 
propensity, exaggerated in their ideas his powers of enduring- 
labour, beyond all rational bounds. Even Las Casas seems 
not to have apprehended, that avarice might over-tax the 
strength of this new drudge, as it had fatally done that of the 
less vigorous Indian. Experience, indeed, progressively proved 
the mistake ; but under a concurrence of other circumstances 
adverse to health and life ; and till its awful lessons were given 
in the cane-pieces, as well as the mines, they did not so clearly 
shew, that the main cause of mortality was excessive labour 
alone. Nor were the French, English, and Dutch settlers, 
among whom, that grand curse of Africa, sugar planting in 

of forced Labour in the Sugar Colonies. 59 

the West Indies, originated, easily convinced of an error, by 
which their immediate gains were promoted ; and the ill effects 
of which their slave trade promptly repaired. The excessive 
estimates of the masters, therefore, as to the poor negro's 
capacity for labour, were left to be corrected in the sugar 
colonies, as in Spanish America, by long continued fearful 
experiment alone. The limits of his possible endurance, were 
found only by forcing him to that which he could not endure ; 
as we ascertain the utmost capacity of a vessel, by filling it 
till it overflows. 

Though every planter was left to assess the labour on his 
own estate at his discretion, the effect of its assessment by 
all, on the same general principle of taking the utmost that 
compulsion could obtain, was such an uniformity of practice 
upon almost every estate, and in every sugar colony, as upon 
any other premises, it would be very hard to account for. If 
justice, or humanity, or policy, or a provident regard to future 
and permanent interests, had adjusted the limits of exaction, 
of course the practice of forced labour would have varied so 
greatly in different places, and at different periods, as not to 
be reducible to any general customary standard. 

But a customary standard there is ; and one of singular 
uniformity in all the sugar colonies, British or foreign; as 
clearly appears in that which best admits of mensuration, the 
time employed in work. Nor has there been any variation in 
it, as I shall shew, in the British West Indies, at least, since 
the first public investigations of the subject, now near forty 
years ago. Whether that standard is a moderate and humane, or 
an oppressive and destructive one, is the most momentous 
question at issue between the friends, and the opponents of the 
system ; and its close examination upon evidence, will be the 
chief business of the following sheets. 

The distance between the conflicting general statements on 
this point, is of no ordinary width. — It is not a mere diffe- 
rence of degrees ; but extends to the most opposite extremes. 
While it is maintained on the one side, that the slaves on 
sugar estates are grievously distressed, worked down, and 
destroyed by excessive and incessant labour, it is stoutly 
alleged on the other, that their work is mere pastime ; and 
that they enjoy a superabundant share of leisure, recreation. 

60 Of the probable Excess 

and repose: representations of which, sufficient specimens have 
been given in a former chapter. 

Let us first enquire, then, which of these statements is the 
more likely, from the nature of the case, to be true ; for in every 
question that involves disputed facts, it is the best preparative 
for rightly weighing the evidence, to determine first on ad- 
mitted premises, if we can, on which side probability lies. 

If the controversy turned merely on the actual quantum of 
work in point oi time, such a preliminary enquiry might well be 
spared ; for this I shall be able to establish by direct and irre- 
fragable proofs to be truly enormous; and antecedently to ex- 
perience, I should have thought that fact enough for my 
purpose; but the modes of labour, and most of the attendant 
circumstances, being little known, and ill conceived in Europe, 
the case is open in those respects to fallacious representations, 
of which the colonial apologists have very artfully and amply 
availed themselves ; and I have lived to see how little impres- 
sion is made in this case by the best authenticated and most 
undoubted facts, though demonstrative of gross oppression, 
upon minds biassed by self-interest, or preoccupied by favorable 
or extenuatory views of the colonial system, derived from the 
sources of prejudice to which I have before adverted. 

Let me not, then, be thought cither diffident of the posi- 
tive proofs I have to adduce, or regardless of the reader's time, 
if I endeavour to dislodge these prepossessions in the present 
instance, by shewing that the general excess of forced labor 
is a highly probable imputation, and the bold pretences of 
liberal forbearance in that respect, utterly incredible, from the 
very nature of the case. 

To avoid extreme terms, and put this preliminary question 
in the simplest form, which is the more likely, that the labour 
generally exacted by sugar planters from their predial slaves, 
should fall short of, or that it should exceed, that measure of 
exertion, which the latter, consistently with their well-being, 
can yield. 

That the master's immediate self-interest, is more directly 
and apparently opposed to any error on the lenient, than on 
the oppressive side, is sufficiently plain. The planter's object 
is to extract wealth from the soil by the labour of his slaves ; 
and his profits, ceteris paribus, must be directly proportionate 

of forced Labour in the Sugar Colonies. 61 

to the quantity of work they perform. To require less, there- 
fore, than they can yield, would be a present sacrifice of the 
potential gain ; and it is not easy to believe that such a sacri- 
fice has been usually and generally made. 

If a farmer, or manufacturer, weie to say that he willingly 
and habitually remits to his workmen a considerable portion 
in point of time, or exertion, of the work he is entitled lawfully 
to demand from them, we should distrust his sincerity ; and the 
assertion would be thought the more incredible, the greater the 
number of his workmen was known to be, and the larger the 
expence of labour, in proportion to the gross returns of the 
manufactory, or farm. But the sugar planter, who is both a 
farmer and manufacturer, who constantly employs a hundred 
or two hundred slaves, or more, and whose expences in 
acquiring and sustaining them, bear a very large proportion to 
the value of his produce, tells us that he remits much of the 
labour, which he might fairly exact from them ; and expects 
to be believed ! 

If the English manufacturer were, by patent or otherwise, 
the sole maker and vendor of the article he deals in, such a 
statement from him, though strange, might not be quite in- 
credible ; for he might, possibly, indulge himself in a lavish 
liberality without any ruinous effects ; raising the price of his 
article so as to make up for the value of the labour wastefully 
remitted and lost. But if there were, and had long been, a 
multitude of competitors in the same manufacture, for the 
same markets, and if competition had already produced the 
usual effect of reducing the returns of the business in general 
to the lowest average of profit for which it could be carried 
on, we should see that the statement involved a solecism in 
political economy, and could not possibly be true. His less 
liberal rivals must long since have driven him from the mar- 
kets, and obliged him to desist. 

If to avoid this obvious objection, the manufacturer should 
add that all his brother manufacturers, multitudinous thouoh 
they were, practised the same liberality, the moral improba- 
bility would increase, as the commercial paradox was soft- 
ened ; and the latter, after all, would not be solved, unless he 
could extend the assertion to all past as well as present, and 
to foreign as well as British, competitors. It must always and 

62 Of the probable Excess 

every where, have been the strange rule, in this branch of ma- 
nufacture, to accept fewer hours, or days of labour, than the 
workmen had bargained and been paid for ; because the eco- 
nomy of predecessors would otherwise have so far reduced 
the price of the fabric, as to have left no room for such gene- 
rosity in the existing class. The market they had succeeded 
to could not have afforded such a sacrifice. 

To the case of our planters, the same principles clearly and 
strongly apply ; for the difference made by slavery is in this 
respect a difference only in form ; though in other views it 
highly enhances the improbability of what they allege. If 
we substitute for the manufacturer's right by contract to a 
given portion of labour, the planters' power and legal right to 
exact from the slaves all the labour they can possibly be com- 
pelled to yield, the two cases will be found to be the same ; 
and it will be as difficult, upon the most certain principles of 
political economy, to believe that any needless abatement is 
generally made in the latter case to the slaves, as that in the 
oldest and best contested branches of manufacture at Bir- 
mingham, or Manchester, the masters having a right by con- 
tract to six days' labour in the week, and ten hours in each 
day, are content with five and nine ; or pay for piece-work 
twenty per cent, more than the workmen have contracted to 

Though our planters allege to the people of England, that 
the asserted liberality is general, or has few exceptions in the 
British West Indies, I do not recollect that any of them 
allow, and some of them strongly deny, the same liberality to 
their competitors in the foreign colonies : yet upon indisput- 
able principles, applied as we have seen, by Major Moody to 
this identical case,* the more rigid economies of those foreign 
competitors, must have imposed on the British planter, a ne- 
cessity of departing from it, and exacting a full measure of 
work from their slaves, in order that they might meet their 
rivals on equal terms in the foreign European markets. 

The same, though not so obviously, must have been the 
effect of a full or extreme exaction of work by the predeces- 
sors of our present planters in the English colonies, and those 

* See supra, p. 50. 

of forced Labour in the Sugar Colonies. 63 

from whom they have bought their estates ; *' not so obvi- 
ously," only because it is not sufficiently known and consi- 
dered, that sugar plantations themselves are commercial com- 
modities, which pass with great frequency from hand to hand, 
at prices governed by the profits they have been recently 
known to yield. Consequently the thrift of the sellers, in 
pushing the faculties of the slaves to the utmost, must im- 
pose an economical necessity on the buyers, of practising a 
like frugality. The gang that produced a hundred hogs- 
heads of sugar, by whatever severity of labour, must be made 
to produce as much still ; or the investment, though made at 
a fair price, will turn to a loss. Now, that the liberality in 
question did not heretofore exist, and that on the contrary an 
undue exaction of labour prevailed in our colonies, I have 
shewn to be no longer in dispute. 

I shall demonstrate, however, to my readers hereafter by 
direct evidence, that if labour was excessive, twenty or even 
forty years ago, it is so still. I shall shew that in this 
respect at least, there is no general change for the better.* 
But I am reasoning now a priori, on premises which my an- 

* Mr. Barclay, in his enumeration of improvements, and contrast of the 
past with the present, has alleged no such change. 

Mr. Dwarris, in a pamphlet published by him, is one of the most strenu- 
ous assertors of recent ameliorations in the treatment of the slaves in the 
sugar colonies ; and he undertakes, in answer to a supposed question, to 
specify in what they consist ; but this Jamaica planter (for such I under- 
stand he is, though a commissioner lately delegated by government to en- 
quire into subjects like these) does not insert in his catalogue any mitiga- 
tions of labour ; though he looks back over a period of thirty years, to find 
other changes for his purpose. (The West Indian question by Mr. Dwarris, 
p. 12 and 14). 

As this gentleman does me the honour to refer to accountslong since given 
by me ; and asks triumphantly, " does my reasonable man believe the pre- 
" sent condition of the islands to resemble the pictures there drawn, in any 
" the slightest degree ?" I answer, that the likeness in every important 
feature is as correct as ever ; and that it was denied as confidently by his 
brother planters, when first taken, and in reference to the very time when 
the living subject was under my eyes. I answer further, that in many 
features of the system as now delineated by himself, I find the very same 
characteristic deformities, though much softened in the colouring by a com- 
plimentary artist ; and lastly, that many connoisseurs, whose acquaintance 
with the subject is as recent as his own, and much more familiar, find 
none of the dissimilitude he complains of. 

64 Of the probable Excess 

tagonists cannot dispute. Let them reconcile them, how they 
can, with the principles I have adduced, and with credibility, 
not merely the disuse of such inordinate exactions of labour 
as were found destructive to the master's property in his 
slaves ; but a gratuitous remission of his right to exact as 
much work as he thinks compatible with their well-being ; 
and a degree of liberality and self-denial on his part, that is 
asserted to leave them a superfluous portion of time, for re- 
creation, and the improvement of their own condition. 

To estimate better the credit due to such assertions, let us 
take a nearer view of that seductive immediate interest which 
a planter has in extending, or at least not retrenching, the la- 
bours of his slaves. 

His profits, as I before remarked, must be in proportion 
to the work they perform. It may be otherwise with the em- 
ployer of free labourers ; for their wages may advance or de- 
cline with the measure of their exertions ; but the only wages 
given by the masters of slaves, are food, and other articles ne- 
cessary for their support; the amount of which does not depend 
on the quantum or value of the work, but on their wants 
alone. It is admitted indeed, nay often brought forward in 
argument by the planters, that when they themselves are dis- 
tressed, their slaves are very badly sustained ; but it has 
never to my knowledge been pretended, that their ordinary 
allowances are raised, when the crops are either in quantity 
or value increased. 

Neither is that far larger cost of slave labour, the price 
paid for the power of enforcing it ; in other words, the interest 
on the capital invested in the purchase of the slaves, les- 
sened by any diminution of the work. It may be hereafter 
enhanced indeed, I admit, by the effects of any such excess as 
shortens the lives of the workmen; and this may be supposed 
to form a motive of forbearance, the value of which I shall soon 
proceed to examine ; but we are now considering the force of 
the motive of a certain and immediate self-interest, in order 
to poise it fairly afterwards, against that of a provident re- 
gard to distant and doubtful consequences. 

That almost all the other ordinary charges of this farmer 
and manufacturer, such as interest on the value of the land, 
the works and buildings, salaries of managers, &c. would not be 

of forced Labour in the Sugar Colonies. 65 

lessened by any reduction of the quantity of work exacted from 
a given number of slaves, is sufficiently obvious. Therefore 
as the difference between the collective amount of all charges, 
and the value of the gross produce, constitutes the planter's 
profit; and as the quantity of the produce ceteris paribus, 
must be in proportion to the labour obtained, the present gain 
from any potential augmentation of labour, is manifestly equal 
to the entire value of the additional produce raised by it. It 
is so much added, not merely to the gross, but to the clear 
nett returns, of the estate. 

To make this clearer, let it be supposed that from an 
estate which has cost, including the works, buildings, slaves 
and stock, 20,000/., a hundred hogsheads of sugar are an- 
nually produced, by a degree of labour not amounting to 
excess ; and that they yield, on the balance of the consignee's 
accounts, 20/. per hogshead, or 2,000/. in all, which is 10/. per 
cent, on the capital employed, and that the planter's annual 
expenditure is 1,200/., or 6/. per cent, so as to leave him a 
profit of 4/. per cent, or 800/. as a clear return on his ca- 

It is manifest, that if, by encreasing the labour of the slaves, 
the estate can be made to produce one fourth more, or 1 25 
hogsheads, the augmentation of the balance of nett proceeds 
in the consignee's accounts, will be 500/., making 2,500/. in 
all, or 12a per cent, on the capital, liable only to the same 
deduction of 1,200/. for annual expenditure, and leaving the 
planter 1,300/., being a clear return of 6^ instead of 4 per 
cent. The increment of labour, and of gross value, is but 
one fourth, while that of the planter's profit is five-eighths, of 
the former amount ; and the temptation to excess, is the 
power of raising his clear income from 800/. to 1,300/. per 

I am far from meaning to convey the idea that an aug- 

* Though these hypothetical data may be wide of the truth without 
affecting the argument, most of tliem were stated, on high colonial au- 
thority to be the actual averages of capital, charges and returns in ordinary 
times. — See the Report of the Committee of the House of Commons on the 
Commercial state of the West Indies, 1807. 


66 Of' the probable Excess 

mentation of labour by one fourth part, is now within the 
power of the planters. It has long since ceased to be pos- 
sible to increase its ordinary quantum in any very material 
degree ; as I shall ere long, I trust, fully satisfy my readers. 
But I am reasoning here, against those who hold the con- 
trary, affirming, that the slaves still have much time and 
potential exertion to spare. 

Let us, however, apply the same calculations, on the same 
data, to the case of a planter, who, thinking the ordinary 
standard of labour excessive, should lessen it by one-fourth 
part ; throwing out so much of the cane land, before under 
the hoe, as would reduce his average crop from 100 hogs- 
heads to 75. His nett proceeds would then be reduced to 
1500/., giving a surplus of no more than 300/. beyond his 
annual expenditure, or a return of only 1 1 per cent, on his 

I am not unaware of what an enemy to reformation may 
be here disposed to remark. Upon these premises, he may 
say, the planter cannot materially reduce the labour of his 
slaves without ruinous consequences, unless they are indemni- 
fied by the public. But neither can they, nor do they, proceed 
in their present course, without meeting those consequences as 
certainly and almost as generally, though by other and guilty 
means; and perhaps by a slower and intermitting process. 
Ruin, as I have more than once before publicly remarked and 
proved, is the natural lot of those whose entire capital is in- 
vested in sugar estates, and whose solvency depends on their 
returns. There are individual exceptions ; and pretty numer- 
ous periodical ones in particular colonies, from temporary 
causes ; but such is the ordinary case; and I could name 
islands in which, at the present moment, ruin is so universal, 
that it is difficult to name an estate (in a certain island I am 
credibly informed not one is to be found) that is not in the 
possession of creditors, or receivers appointed for their use. 

Nor was the case, in a general view, ever materially differ- 
ent. If any man doubt it, let him examine the colonial 
authorities referred to in the appendix to my former volume. 
Let him read, for instance, the reports and petitions of the 
Jamaica Assembly, there extracted, embracing a period of near 

of forced Labour in the Sugar Colonies. 67 

50 years, from 1772 to 1811. What stronger pictures of 
comprehensive and perennial ruin than they contain can be 
imagined ! Reasonably did the honourable assembly say in 
one of them, that " a faithful detail would have the appearance 
" of a frightful caricature." 

If the general ruin of the sugar planters can fairly be 
alleged to form a claim on the mother country for indemnity, 
the claim is already irresistibly strong ; and if the evil being 
imputable to her, is a necessary concurrent ground, we cannot 
deny its existence. More justly might she be' charged with 
compensation for having so long tolerated and maintained 
an iniquitous and ruinous system, than for attempting to re- 
form it. Besides, are not the people of this country already 
paying the smart money with a lavish hand ? What else is 
the high price extorted from them as consumers of sugar, for 
the benefit of the planters, and through their parliamentary 
influence alone, by a barefaced monopoly, after all their 
former pretences of reciprocity have ceased ? But I have 
inadvertently broken in upon a subject that more properly 
belongs to a future division of my work ; my present business 
is with the causes and virulence of the disease ; not with the 
means, or the price of its cure. 

If these views of the subject do not make it, in the highest 
degree, probable to my readers, that the ordinary exaction of 
forced labour is not abstemious, but excessive; it must be 
because, perhaps, they look to the master's permanent in- 
terests, in the health and longevity of his slaves, and in the 
maintaining of their numbers by native increase, as a counter- 
poise to the present temptation ; or else because, perhaps, 
they rely upon his humanity. 

As to the favourable presumption deduced from the per- 
manent interests of the master, it is a consideration which 
the apologists of slavery have been in the constant habit of 
adducing, and relying on for near forty years ; though the 
argument has a hundred times been answered, by irresistible 
appeals both to reason and experience. Never was it more 
speciously advanced, or more confidently insisted upon, than 
during the twenty years of controversy on the slave trade ; 
a period now abandoned to us, as one of indefensible rigour 

F 2 

68 Of the probable Excess 

and neglect ; and when a provident attention to the pre- 
servation of the slaves was confessedly yet unborn.* 

As to the new motive for sparing them, arising from the 
abolition, which my opponents now artfully, though most in- 
consistently, allege to have given birth to humane improve- 
ments^ it could be new only in its degree ; and in that respect 
even its novelty was small ; for there never was a time in 
which the destruction of the slaves by excessive labour and 
other oppressions did not manifestly tend to the future ruin 
of the planter. The African slave-market was proverbially 
the grave of his fortune and his solvency. All the colonial 
witnesses and writers, before the abolition, strongly attested 
this truth ; and it was one of the very few points in which 
they were both unanimous and sincere. Why, then, did not 
planters, at that time, generally use proper means for the pre- 
servation of their gangs ? For causes that equally exist at 
the present day ; because they were then, as now, for the most 
part men in needy and embarrassed circumstances, who could 
not make the present sacrifices necessary to that end, especi- 
ally that first and most essential one, a diminution of forced 
labour, without immediate or speedyruin. Itwas because they 
preferred future, to present, and contingent, as they hoped it 
was, to certain evil ; because also, then as now, proprietors in 
better circumstances were in general non-residents, and left 
the management of their estates implicitly to men who had no 
permanent interest in the preservation of the slaves, but a 
present and highly influential interest in the magnitude of 
the crops, and consequently in the amount of the labour ; 
lastly, it was because absent proprietors were then, as now, 
easily deceived, and resident ones not rarely deceived them- 
selves, in respect of the true causes of mortality and sterility 
among the slaves ; and the proper means of correcting those 

But let us look for a moment at the general nature of the 
boasted security for good treatment in the prudent regard to 
self-interest, even by independent and well-informed owners. 

Is it an ordinary feature of human character, to resist pre- 

See p. 14 to 27, supra. 

of Juiced Labour in the Sugar Colonies. 69 

sent temptation, from a provident and adequate estimate, of 
the distant evil, that may ensue from yielding to it ? In 
other words, are prudence and self-denial more common than 
the opposite defects ? and if we can justly thus compliment 
human nature in general, can we fairly ascribe the same 
characteristics to the gentlemen of our West India islands ? 
Many of their own body, and many of their eulogists, would 
contradict us if we did. Their general proneness to indulge 
when here, in expences they can ill afford, whether we call 
it, with their friends, spirit and generosity, or with their cen- 
sors, imprudence and extravagance, is quite proverbial ; and 
in no part of the earth is the transition from opulence, to in- 
digence and ruin, a twentieth part so common as it confes- 
sedly is among the proprietors of the sugar colonies. 

As to the excitement of the resident planters to the im- 
provement of their present incomes, by pushing their culture 
of exportable produce to the utmost, what objects can be more 
potently attractive ? They are not only the exchange of em- 
barrassment for ease, and poverty for wealth ; but of sickness 
perhaps, and danger, from a lethiferous climate, for health and 
safety in their native land ; and above all, of the multiplied 
discomforts, and privations of a residence in the West Indies, 
for luxurious enjoyments in England. 

Many of them have been educated, and spent the most in- 
teresting part of their lives in this country ; and what is more 
natural, than that they should be eager to return to it, and, 
impatient of that exile, which the present insufficiency of 
their crops to keep down the interest of their debts, and to 
yield a surplus for the expences of a residence here, alone im- 
poses on them ? How intolerable to be confined to a West 
India Island, where the pleasures of the field and chase are 
unknown, and almost every elegant public amusement as 
much so ; where there is no theatre for ambition, or literary 
emulation, and where the pleasures of social intercourse are 
coarse and tasteless, when compared with those of polished 
society in England ! Even the pure and tranquil enjoyments 
of family affection, are often cruelly cut off, or painfully 
abridged ; for he must be a selfish or very improvident pa- 
rent, who does not rather part with his children, than 
deny them the benefit of European education, and expose 

70 Of the probable Excess 

them ill their early years, to the corrupting influence of do- 
mestic slavery. Under what possible circumstances, then, can 
the immediate increase of income, though at the expence of 
future probable loss, have a more seductive influence on the 
human mind, than on the generality of planters ? The youth- 
ful lover, who might obtain by it the hand of his mistress, the 
slave who might purchase his freedom, if not -a. field negro, 
could hardly have stronger inducements. 

Yet if my opponents speak truth, all these dangerous tempt- 
ations to an undue exaction of forced labour, are perfectly 
innoxious to the slaves; and have served only to signalize the 
self-denial and generosity of the planters. Instead of com- 
petition having raised the standard, as the opponents of the 
system maintain it has, up to and beyond the maximum of 
innoxious endurance, it falls short we are told of a proper 
medium : leaving to the enslaved labourers a superfluity of 
rest, leisure, and recreation ; nay, time enough for their own 
use to enrich them by voluntary industry, whenever they are 
not too idly disposed so to employ it; or even to pay for 
their freedom. " The great mass of planters," though con- 
signed, as Mr. Bryan Edwards says, " to unremitting drudgery 
" in the colonies,'' have been so abstinent, and generous, as to 
forego, even a reasonable use of their only means of extrica- 
tion, or relief; abandoning a large surplus of disposable la- 
bour, merely that the slaves might be idle, and rich if they 
pleased ; while their unfortunate masters were poor, and em- 
barrassed, and pining in consequence of their immediate ne- 
cessities, in a painful, and life-shortening exile ! ! ! 

Letme not be understood as imputing to the planters in general, 
that, without the impulse of urgent necessity, they wilfully and 
consciously overwork the slaves, to a degree imcompatible with 
their preservation. Many proprietors, I doubt not, non-resident 
ones especially, are impressed with an opinion, that the ordinary 
'ong-established standard of forced labour, is not more than their 
slaves, if properly treated in other respects, can innoxiously 
sustain. This error indeed, may seem strange ; considering 
how long, and how decisively, a declining population, under 
circumstances naturally the most favourable to its increase, 
has attested the reverse. But unhappily, as disease and 
death produced by excess of labour, have no peculiar or dis- 

of forced habour in the Sugar Colonies. 71 

tinctive symptoms to indicate their source ; the sickliness, and 
steriHtyof agang are easily ascribed by the attorney or manager, 
andeven perhaps by the resident proprietor himself, to some na- 
tural or unavoidable causes; and every death, when accounted 
for, is attributed to some common disease ; though in fact that 
disease was but one of the many morbid forms in which a 
constitution worn out by long continued fatigue and exhaus- 
tion ultimately sinks.* 

That the diseases of the field negroes are for the most part 
those of debility,, almost every authority on the subject will 
be found to attest ; but the dropsy, or the diarrhoea, &c., not 
the predisposing weakness induced by the driving-whip, are 
the concluding maladies that account for the loss in the 
plantation bills of mortality. 

If the pre-eminent loss of life, among the slaves of a par- 
ticular estate, attracts attention from its absent owner, and 
leads to enquiry, there are always specious explanations at 
hand. The situation is unhealthy ; epidemics have prevailed ; 
the negroes are vicious in their habits ; or they are given to 
dirt-eating, and obia, &c. ; whereas the neighbours often 
could tell a different tale ; namely, that from the inadequacy 
of the numbers, to the extent of the lands in cultivation, 
or other causes, the slaves had been worked harder than is 
usual, and treated, perhaps, in other respects, with a severity 
exceeding the ordinary standard. 

Much, I admit, cannot well be added to that standard 
as to time of labour; but some differences there are, as 
I shall hereafter shew ; e. g. in the relays of night work ; 
and competition having pushed up the general exaction 
of labour to its maximum of long endurance by ordinary 
frames, a small addition is naturally attended with very bad 

* See Dr. CoUins's Practical Rules, in various places. In page 18, for 
example, he says, " The attomies or managers unfortunately have an in- 
" terest, not only distinct from, but destructive of that of the planters. The 
" character of a manager is generally deduced from the quantity of produce 
" which he extracts from the estate, though the loss sustained bi/ the mor- 
" tality of the slaves, in consequence of his undue exertions, is sometimes con- 
" siderable enough to exhaust the whole amount of his produce. In such 
" cases the credit of the crops is appropriated to those who direct the es- 
" tates, while the destj'uction is charged upon Providence." 

72 Of the probable Excess 

and fatal effects ; especially among the feebler and less healthy 
individuals of the gang. When the boat swims already 
gunwale-deep, an additional pound may sink it. 

The extraordinary sickness and mortality, that often distin- 
guish particular estates, are not, however, simply the effects of 
such an additional pressure on the gangs at large, as the ordi- 
nary standard will admit of, and the necessities of the owners 
may demand ; but of many consequential evils, which I shall 
have to notice, exemplify, and prove hereafter, as fruits of the 
general excess of forced labour; and still more of any aggrava- 
tion, however small, which the slaves have not before expe- 
perienced. It disheartens the feeble, it excites murmurs, 
and sometimes contumacy, among the strong; it multiplies 
desertions, and punishments, and those distressing and diffi- 
cult questions, which every manager has to decide almost 
every day in the cases of individuals, who have been absent 
at the driver's muster, or remiss in some appointed task, 
and who allege sickness or weakness as their excuse, or as 
a plea for being admitted into the sick house, instead of be- 
ing sent into the field. 

I refer to an Appendix to this part of ray work, as furnish- 
ing a well authenticated and graphic illustration of these 

But these causes of mortality, whether ordinary or extra- 
ordinary, are little known to most proprietors on this side of 
the Atlantic; and when stated to them by anti-slavery writers, 
they oppose to the information incredulity as willing as that 
of a patient to his surgeon, who tells him, in contradiction to 
the assurances of self-interested quacks, that his case requires 
a painful operation. If they obtain from their agents in the 
colonies, periodical returns of the births and deaths on their 
estates (which is more than lately was, or perhaps yet is usually 
required) and an alarming decrease is found, they rely, for in- 
formation as to its causes, upon their attornies or managers ; 
who are not likely to impeach the general practice, and still 
less their own particular agency, by pointing out excess of 
labour as the true source of the evil. 

To resident proprietors, the true causes by which the black 
population is kept down, cannot without wilful self-deception 

of forced Labour in the Sugar Colonies. 73 

be unknown ; but I have shewn that from the circumstances 
they for the most part stand in, the remedy is one which they 
cannot apply, without consequences more formidable than the 
progressive reduction of their gangs ; and consequently, that 
there is no good security in their sense of self-interest, against 
their over-working their slaves. Is there a better, then, in the 
other principle, which I supposed some of my readers might 
rely on, that of humanity towards those unfortunate and help- 
less dependents. 

To those good-natured, but unreflecting readers, who may 
suppose humane feelings not to be obtunded by the exercise 
of a slave-master's discipline, and to be an overmatch for his 
sense of self-interest in economical modes of oppression ; I 
will not say, wait till you are possessed of the facts and de- 
monstrations that I have to submit to you in the following 
chapters of this work; for I am now reasoning only on premises 
already established and undenied ; nor will I refer them to 
any of the numerous cases of recent occurrence attested by 
official authority, which manifest a state of general feeling 
on these subjects, among the resident colonists, inconsis- 
tent with the clearest dictates of humanity and mercy ; but 
I will ask, where was this humanity, when the barbarous 
laws, which I have delineated in my former volume, were 
framed ? and where was the practice of it during the preva- 
lence of the slave trade ? Surely, it could have had little place 
in the breasts of men, who not only reconciled themselves 
to all the horrors of that cruel traffic, including those of the 
middle passage, many of which were daily exhibited to their 
view ; but, to the last, pertinaciously opposed its abolition.* 

* Among all the bold violations of notorious truth by which the cause 
of slavery, or any other cause, has been defended, I know of none so auda- 
cious and extravagant, as the assertions recently put forth, that the colonies 
were averse to the African trade; and were compelled by the mother 
country to adhere to it. 

True it is, that among the numberless instances in which, at various periods, 
they have flown in the face of the mother country, and upbraided her with 
the benefits her commerce was supposed to receive from them, whenever 
they had a point to gain from her, they have been able to find two very 
ancient cases ; in one of which it was represented by one colony on the 
North American continent, and in another by Jamaica, that they were 

74 Of the probable Excess 

Nor did this humanity suffice to avert from the poor African 
victims, the very species of oppression now under considera- 
tion, when purchased by the British planters ; for they were 
subjected immediately to a seasoning, as it is called, by which 
it is admitted, that at least one-fourth, or according to some 
colonial writers, more than one-half, of their number perished. 
And what was this tremendous seasoning ? Doctor Collins has 
furnished us with an answer to that question.f It was the 
very abuse, respecting the probability of which, we are now 
enquiring ; the forcing them by the whip, to undergo an ex- 
cess of labour, for their slow training to which, avarice would 
not wait ; and which their nature could not sustain. The 
humanity of the planters, in moderating the general standard 
for the seasoned or native slave, if moderate it was, must, 
to be sure, have been strangely capricious, and inconsistent. 
They spared not the poor newly-imported Africans, in the 
exaction of labour, when they were least able to bear it ; un- 
moved by compassion for their recent sufferings, and painful 
reverse of habits; undeterred even by a consequent frightful 
mortality, averaging at least twenty-five per cent., among men 
and women in the prime of life; and often much exceeding 
that rate. Can we then imagine, that when use had made 
such oppression less intolerable, or less destructive, at least 
to the hardier survivors, these same masters sacrificed their 
own present interests to humanity; and staying the hands of 
the drivers, formed the standard of labour for seasoned slaves 
within limits which mercy and moderation prescribed ! 

injured by the slave trade. They well knew there was no danger of the mother 
country taking them at their word, and renouncing it ; nor did they profess to 
be influenced by humanity, or any other moral consideration. But from the 
first proposal of the abolition, till that measure, twenty years after, took 
place, the West India colonies loaded the tables of parliament with peti- 
tions and manifestoes against that righteous reformation ; nor ceased even 
then to remonstrate strongly against it, as invasive of their rights, and de- 
structive of their property. 

The prolongation of that grand national iniquity, from 1788 to 1807, was 
effected solely almost by the zealous and potent efforts of the sugar colo- 
nies; and Jamaica was foremost in the too successful contest. Do they 
suppose, then, that the people of England have lost their memories, and 
that the records of parliament are destroyed ? 

f See the extract from this work, supra, p. 55. 

of forced Labour in the Sugar Colonies. 75 

If the reader can believe this, his credulity must be invin- 
cible ; and he may find no difficulty in believing further, that 
Dr. Collins, that well-informed apologist of himself and his 
brother planters, has foully, and insidiously belied them. It 
may be in vain therefore, perhaps, that 1 have shewn, on his 
authority, in respect of native or seasoned slaves also, that 
excess of labour with its avariciously indiscriminate exaction, 
have been the causes of their destruction.* 

But here another staggering objection will occur; for if 
humanity has moderated the quantum of labour, in which the 
master's urgent immediate interests are directly opposed to his 
forbearance, how comes it not to have been active also in re- 
spect of the means and manner of enforcing it, in which the 
opposition of his interest seems less direct and powerful? 
Can any man, who contemplates the barbarities of the driving 
method, as depicted by Dr. Collins,f or even in its obvious 
and essential character, doubt of its unavoidable oppression, 
and cruelty ? The planter's humanity, if humane he be, is 
consigned to the keeping of his drivers, who are negro 
slaves, and therefore, as the colonists assert, unfeeling tyrants 
to each other ; and a method is at the same time prescribed 
to them, which makes humane discrimination, not merely an 
extremely difficult, but quite impracticable task. 

It would be a very inadequate reply in support of the favour- 
able presumption I am repelling, to say, that these views are 
partly retrospective, as relating to a time when the slave- 
trade was in use ; for by what moral charter are the colonists 
of the present day exempted from the obdurating influence that 
the administration of the same interior system had on their 
predecessors ? and where is there any evidence of an altered 
spirit in their reception of the humane suggestions so much of 
late pressed upon them by the British government and legis- 
lature ? Besides, the question relates to a standard of cus- 
tomary labour established long before the abolition ; and I trust 

* See the same note, p. 55, 56. 

f Ibid. The description of Dr. Collins as strikingly confirms that which 
I gave in the Crisis of the Sugar Colonies, and have copied in my former 
volume, much though its veracity was disputed, as if it had been written 
for that very purpose. 

76 Presumptiofi of excessive Labour 

it has been shewn that if then carried too high, there is the 
strongest ground for presuming that it has not since been re- 
duced. That presumption, however, shall soon be confirmed 
by direct and positive proof. 

Section II. — Decline of Population among the Slaves ou 
Suga?- Estates. 

Let us next enquire, whether the same probability is not 
strongly fortified by the undisputed, and indisputable fact, 
that among the field negroes, or common working-slaves, on 
sugar plantations, there always has been, and still is, a la- 
mentable loss of life, such as the reproductive power of na- 
ture does not fully repair. 

The best criterion of the good or bad condition of the la- 
bouring classes in any country, may be found in the increase 
or decline of their numbers. This I presume is a proposition, 
which no man of tolerable information will deny : but it is 
the most decisive, when the result is on the unfavourable side. 
Such is the superfecundity of the human species, more espe- 
cially among the tillers of the soil, that a rapid increase of 
population may consist with very considerable hardships, and 
privations ; as I fear is too much the case, in many parts of 
England at this period : but that their condition is extremely bad, 
may with certainty be inferred, when the reproductive powers 
of nature are so far subdued, though in a climate propitious 
to their constitutions, that their numbers greatly decline. 

Emigrations, general famines, or destructive wars, may in- 
deed form exceptions to the rule ; but from these causes of 
depopulation, the slaves in our sugar colonies are pre-eminently 
exempt. They are restrained from voluntary emigration ; and 
are now protected by law, as before the abolition they were by 
pretty general practice, from compulsory removal ; they have 
no military service to perform, except on a minute scale, and 
on very rare occasions : nor has any general famine been al- 
leged to have occurred in any colony, during a long series of 
years. Yet the decline of numbers, among the predial slaves, 
has always been deplorably great; and still exceeds any measure 
of the same calamity, that is elsewhere to be found, under or- 

from the Decline of Population. 77 

dinary circumstances, in the history of tnankind. In the last 
six years, comprised in the official returns laid before parlia- 
ment, viz. from 1818, to 1824, the loss amounted to 3 per 

But these general returns furnish a very inadequate view of 
the loss among the common field negroes ; because they in- 
clude the domestics of every description, the slaves em- 
ployed in various occupations in the towns and ports, and the 
tradesmen or artificers and head-negroes on the plantations, 
who are neither driven, nor overworked, and among whom it 
is notorious, the domestics especially, there is much longevity, 
and a very considerable native increase.^ A discrimination 
in the returns, between these different descriptions of slaves 
would be highly interesting and important. 

That the loss of numbers is pre-eminently great or ex- 
clusively found among the field-negroes does not neces- 
sarily prove, indeed, that excess of labour, is the depo- 
pulating cause. Their condition and treatment may be, 
in other respects, bad and destructive ; but if the same ca- 
lamity occurs only in the sugar colonies, where forced la- 
bour is confessedly the most severe, and is there proportionate 
to the degrees in which sugar is raised ; if there is no decline, 
but on the contrary an increase in the slave population, under 

* I refer, not for authority, but for detail and computation, to a statistical 
table, extracted from those public returns in the Anti-slavery Monthly Re 
porter, No. 26, for July, 1827, in order that any reader who doubts the accuracy 
of this general result, or any opponent who denies it, may be enabled to 
detect and expose any error in the arithmetic or official data. The waste 
of life is evidently in a larger proportion, by all the amount of that in- 
crease which should have been made by births, within the same period : 
and estimating this only by the rate of increase in the slaves of the United 
States, as stated from authentic public documents in the same paper, the 
loss in six years may be said to be more that 18 per cent., or 3 per cent, 
per annum, amounting in number to 145,331. See also the Anti-Slavery 
Reporter, No. 27, p. 52. 

f " Domestic negroes," says Dr. Collins, " who undergo no more 
" drudgery than household duties require, and are supplied with com- 
" petent food and clothing, are as healthy and prolific, and live as long 
" as any other class of people in the West Indies." — Practical Rules, 
p. 19. 

78 Presumption of excessive Labour 

the same, or more unfavourable circumstances, wherever that ar- 
ticle is not cultivated, and labour consequently is less severe ; 
and if, where there is no forced labour at all, the same race, in 
the same climate, multiply with great rapidity,* surely we 
must in sound reasoning ascribe the calamity to the one pe- 
culiar cause. 

Now, that such are the facts of the case has been often 
asserted by the public opponents of slavery ; and never, to 
my knowledge, denied by its apologists ; and has been de- 
monstrated by evidence of the most authoritative kind. In 
colonies where sugar is not cultivated, as, for instance, in the 
Bahamas, the slaves are found to have a great native increase ; 
the same, though in a less degree, is the case in the sugar 
colonies themselves, on cotton estates ; and everywhere, to a 
very considerable extent, among domestic slaves. In the 
United States of America, the increase in the slave popu- 
lation is from to 2 to 21 per cent, per annum, though slavery, 
in point of law, and in practice too, the article of labour ex- 
cepted, is not less severe than in our own sugar colonies ; and 
though the climate is certainly much less favourable to African 

It may be doubted, whether the native increase among the 
slaves in that country, is less than among its free inhabitants ; 
for the ratio of increase in the general population of the 
United States appears, by a decennial census, to be very re- 
gularly about three per cent, per annum, comprising all 
classes,i- and if the increase of the free exceeds, by a half 
per cent, or somewhat more, that of the slaves, the very large 
influx of the former from foreign countres, together with ma- 
numissions of the latter, may well account for the difference. 

* The existence of all the phenomena here mentioned, are shewn from 
official authorities in the Anti-Slavery Reporters last cited, and in No. 31, 
p. 155. 

f See statistical accounts quoted in the Quarterly Review for January, 
1828, p. 264. I am sorry to say that I might cite this very eminent periodi- 
cal work as evidence, were it necessary, without infringing my general rule. 
See also the striking facts and observations in the Edinburgh Review for 
June, 1829, p. 497, 8. 

from the Decline of Population. 79 

The observation tends strongly to shew the great natural 
fecundity of the African race, when unsubdued by a pernicious 
excess of labour ; for that the state of slavery is, even with- 
out this destructive species of oppression, unfriendly to the 
multiplication of our species, cannot admit of a doubt. I 
have already noticed the case of Hayti, where forced labour 
exists no more ; and where a mortality not less dreadful than 
the greatest that ever prevailed in our own islands, existed 
while it was a flourishing sugar colony. Such, there, has 
been the rapid increase of the black population, that its 
amount, by the best authenticated estimates, has been nearly 
doubled, in less than thirty years. 

But a contrast still more instructive and decisive, if possi- 
ble, and to which I request special attention, may be found 
in Trinidad ; and is attested by an official document trans- 
mitted by the Council of that Island, through the Governor; 
being an extract from the Council's Minutes, of the examin- 
ations taken by them, for the purpose of supporting their 
opposition to the progressive manumission of slaves, on the 
ground of forced labour being necessary for the cultivation of 
their estates. It may surprise most of my readers, perhaps, 
that in this paper (printed by order of the House of Com- 
mons of the 14th of June, 1827) we find the following facts ; 

Between November 1815 and January 1821, at different 
periods, 774 negroes were brought into that island, which 
had been rescued from slavery, partly by the seizure of slave 
ships, under the abolition acts ; but chiefly by running away 
from their masters in the United States, and taking refuge on 
board our ships of war, during our hostilities with that country ; 
which they did on the British admiral's invitation, and under 
his promise of protection and freedom. 

The liberty given to them at Trinidad, was by no means 
perfect. They were placed under the protection of an officer 
appointed by government; a planter of the. island, and who 
had been habituated to the practice of slavery on his own 
estate during two-and-twenty years; and such were his powers 
of restraint and discipline, that an uninformed reader might 
be at a loss to distinguish their state clearly from that of the 
slaves around them. In fact, its main distinction, but an all 

80 Presumption of excessive Labour 

important one, was that they were not driven, or forcibly com- 
pelled to work, for the profit of a master, and at his discretion ; 
but worked for their own benefit only ; though restrained 
from idleness and vagrancy, by a discipline sufficiently strict. 

What was the result ? — In the close of 1824, or by the 
1st of February, 1825, native increase was found to have added 
to their number 147 .— (See the parliamentary paper referred 
to, p. 2 and 30). What was the sad reverse, during the same 
period, and what is it still, with the slaves driven to their 
work, in the same island ? A loss, as appears by the latest 
official returns, of two and th7-ee quarters percent per annum!! ! 

In what way can our planters defend their system against 
all these damning facts ? Their old plea was a disparity be- 
tween the sexes ; but it was not true, generally speaking, 
when alleged ; and it has since been proved by official returns, 
that in the old colonies the female slaves have for many years 
rather exceeded the males. Even in Trinidad, the inequality 
is very small ; but among the free negroes there, whose pro- 
gress in population I have contrasted with the shocking 
decline among the slaves, the disproportion of sexes was 
on the contrary extremely great ; and had been still greater. 
There were, by the protector's statement, in December, 
1824, no less than 350 men to 160 women; and till 
1817 the case must have been still worse; for 63 'women 
were then added; and there had been no subsequent ad- 
dition of males, (same paper, p. 5 and 2). The result is, 
from these circumstances, the more striking and decisive. 
No possible experiment could more clearly demonstrate the 
murderous effects of excessive forced labour on sugar estates, 
or the falsehood of every plea that ascribes them to any other 
cause than this ; with the concurrent oppressions to which that 
abuse gives rise. The American refugees brought with them, 
no doubt, to Trinidad, all the vices of slavery ; and the liberated 
Africans, all those bad habits and propensities, which have 
borne the blame of disease and death, and sterility in many 
a West Indian apology ; but they were not driven ; and they 
were not overworked. 

I will here conclude these preliminary views ; and I desire, 
after all, to take nothing by them in the judgment of my 

from the Decline of Population. 81 

readers, beyond the preparing their minds for a fair examinj^- 
tion of the evidence, as to the actual, and very lamentable 
case, which I shall now proceed to open. Whatever pre- 
possessions they may have formed in favour of colonial pro- 
prietors, from friendship, connection, or sjjecious private 
representations, enough, I trust, has been said to prevent their 
rejecting at the outset, as incredible, those revolting truths, 
ivhich it is my painful duty to unfold. 

VOL. n. 

82 Of the Excess of forced Labour 



Section I. — Introductory Remarks and Divisions of the Sub- 
ject of this Chapter. 

Labour may be excessive, either in point of duration or in- 
tensity. It may occupy too large a portion of the labourer's 
time ; leaving him intervals too short for reasonable refresh- 
ment and repose ; or it may, in the degree of immediate 
muscular exertion, be too arduous and severe. In both these 
modes, the field negroes on sugar plantations are cruelly and 
destructively overworked. 

The degree of intensity of labour, is obviously not suscepti- 
ble of such direct definition and proof as its duration ; because 
we have no definite standard or scale whereby to measure 
muscular exertion. 

An actual beholder may perceive that a man is working 
hard, or the reverse ; but has no means by which he can clearly 
prove the fact to others ; still less any terms by which he can 
define the positive degree of energy or languor. To convey 
any accurate conception of it, he must resort to the effects 
produced, in a given time ; and can apply that criterion only 
when the subjects and modes of labour, and its ordinary pro- 
duce, are such as we are familiar with. When these are all 
unknown, and local circumstances also, affecting: the work- 
man, arc foreign to our experience and observation, we cannot 
easily form even a comparative estimate of the work, in point 

in point of Time. 83 

of easiness or intensity. An English farmer may judge from 
the quantity of corn threshed out in a day, whether his 
labourer has worked with more or less than ordinary exertion; 
but what degree of effort has been requisite to produce 
annually, by a gang of West India slaves, whose number is 
given, a certain quantity of sugar, and whether the indivi- 
duals who compose that gang have worked hard or otherwise 
in given times during the different processes of the planta- 
tion, are questions evidently beyond the reach of calculation, 
upon any premises known to my European readers at large ; 
though I hope to furnish them with some that may suffice 
for a general and highly probable judgment. 

But the same is not the case as to the diurnal, or other 
periodical times, during tvhich the work is continued. Here we 
have a measure of moderation or excess, positive, definite, and 
clear; and applicable to every species of human labour, in 
every climate, though not in an equal degree. The more 
intense the exertion is, and the hotter the atmosphere, the 
more fatiguing and exhausting a given duration of labour 
obviously must be; and the latter distinction is, for reasons 
assigned in the preceding chapters, of main importance. If 
the maximum of the time which can be given to the labours 
of the field in a temperate climate, without prejudice to life or 
health, can be found, we may with certainty conclude, that in 
the torrid zone, the same duration of them would amount to 
great and pernicious excess. 

I shall, therefore, in the first place, state and demonstrate 
the actual portions of time during which the predial slaves 
in the sugar colonies are compelled to work, diurnally and 
weekly, at the different seasons of the year : next, shall 
assist my readers with such information and suggestions as 
may enable them, in some degree, though imperfectly, to 
estimate the intensity of the labour ; and afterwards, compare 
it with the ordinary amount of agricultural labour in En- 
gland, and other countries. 

c; 2 

84 Of the Excess of forced Labour 

Section II. — The Labour is cruellj/ excessive in point of Time. 

Those who are not familiar with the controversies, of which 
slave trade and slavery have been the subjects, and the ge- 
neral character of those defences which the colonial party 
have made successively for both, may suppose that the ac- 
tual time of daily labour, cannot well have been a topic of 
much dispute in point of fact ; more especially if the practice 
in that respect is uniform and long established ; because it 
may be thought a matter too conspicuous and notorious, to be 
greatly misrepresented on either side, without certain detec- 
tion and disgrace. 

But unhappily, in this case, the controversy is on one side 
of the Atlantic, and the facts are on the other. Still more un- 
happily, the system in question is so highly disreputable and 
offensive in European eyes, that violations of truth in its de- 
fence, are held less disgraceful by those who are engaged in 
it, than the admission of its real nature and details ; nor can 
they hope, by any fair means, to avert reformations which 
they deem subversive of their fortunes, by the interposition of 
the British Legislature. They have not scrupled therefore to 
publish, and solemnly to attest in this country, statements 
grossly repugnant to truth, and to local notoriety ,• and when 
such impostures have been refuted and exposed, even on the 
evidence of their own partizans and their own records, they 
have boldly reiterated the same refuted falsehoods ; and en- 
deavoured to cry down as calumniators and liars, all who 
have borne testimony to the truth. 

If any man deems this censure too strong to be true, I refer 
him to the general misrepresentations exposed in the last 
chapter ; and might refer also to my former volume, for the 
many extravagant mistatements of the slave-laws, which it 
quotes and clearly refutes, by extracts from their own printed 
codes, and by the testimony of some of their own witnesses ; 
and to the many virulent libels by which those labours of mine 
on the side of the truth have been repaid. Let it not then be 
thought incredible or strange, that the planters and their 
apologists, have stated the ordinary long established time of 
slave labour per diem, as being less in an enormous proportion 

in point of Time. 85 

than its true amount; or that some of them have had the au- 
dacity to advance that it does not exceed eight or nine hours 
per diem ; whereas I shall prove it, from details furnished by 
evidence on their own side, to be, in crop-time, eighteen hours 
and more, and at least sixteen on an average through the year. 

The best and fairest way of enabling my readers to under- 
stand and apply the evidence on this branch of my subject, 
will be to shew them, first, what was specifically alleged upon 
it at the outset, by the early advocates of reformation ; and next 
to examine the colonial testimony that was opposed to them ; 
especially that which was given before the committees of the 
privy council and the House of Commons, on the question of 
abolishing the slave trade. The reader will thus be possessed 
of the various points that were in issue between the parties, 
on this important subject ; and be enabled to form a right 
judgment between them as to its true amount at that period; 
after which he will be better prepared to follow me in an ex- 
amination of the most recent colonial evidence, in order to de- 
termine whether there has since been any change on the side 
of moderation or mercy. 

I shall select, for the first purpose, the statements of the 
Rev. Mr. Ramsay ; because his publication gave the first 
practical view of slavery in the sugar colonies, that excited 
the attention of the British public ; and formed the basis of 
the long controversy on that subject which ensued. It was to 
the refutation or support of his statements, that the respective 
combatants chiefly bent their efforts. Without a previous know- 
ledge of these, therefore, much of the evidence which I have 
to cite would be imperfectly understood. 

Let it not be supposed for a moment, that I am here re- 
ceding from the engagement of verifying my delineation of 
slavery by the testimony of its apologists alone. I do not 
cite Mr. Ramsay as a witness, though he was a highly 
respectable and competent one ; and was attached to the 
colonies, by the nearest family connections ; for he was, like 
myself, a foe to the system he described. I desire, therefore, 
that his account may be considered as of no more authority 
than the speech of a counsel, in opening the case of a pro- 
secutor to the jury. But as it is often absolutely necessary, 
when a general charge is to be made out in a court of law by 

86 Of the Excess of forced Labour 

the combined effect of many particular facts, that a connected 
statement should precede the adduction of proofs ; so here, 
the daily and nightly work of the slaves at different seasons, 
being a subject of complexity and detail, it is necessary for 
the reader's assistance, that he should be imformed at the out- 
set, with some particularity, what the accusers allege and un- 
dertake to prove. I might, it is true, attain in this respect, 
the same object by a preliminary statement of my own ; but, 
for the reason assigned, it is better to extract Mr. Ramsay's. 

" The discipline of a sugar estate," said that writer, " is as 
" exact as that of a reg-iment. At four o'clock in the morn- 
" ing, the plantation bell rings to call the slaves into the 
" field. Their work is to manure, dig and hoe-plow, the 
** ground, to plant, weed, and cut the canes, and bring them 
" to the mill, &c. About nine o'clock they have half an hour 
" for breakfast, which they take in the field. — Again they 
" fall to work ; and, according to the custom of the plantation, 
" continue until eleven o'clock or noon. The bell then rings ; 
" and the slaves are dispersed in the neighbourhood to pick 
" up about the fences, in the mountains and fallows, or waste 
" grounds, natural grass and weeds for the horses and cattle. 
" The time allotted for this branch of work and preparation 
" of dinner, varies from an hour and a half to near three 
" hours. In collecting pile by pile their little bundles of 
" grass, the slaves of lowland plantations frequently burnt 
" up by the sun, must wander in their neighbour's grounds 
" perhaps more than two miles from home." 

After noticing some occasional hardships, to which the poor 
slave is exposed by being punished as a trespasser, and having 
his bundle of grass taken away from him, after its painful 
collection, he adds, " At one, or in some plantations at two 
" o'clock, the bell summonses them to deliver in the tale of 
" their grass, and assemble to their field-work. If the owner 
" thinks their bundles too small, or if they come too late 
" with them, they are punished with a number of stripes from 
" four to ten : some masters, under a fit of carefulness for 
" their cattle, have gone as far as fifty stripes. About half 
" an hour before sun-set, they may be found scattered again 
" over the land, to cull again blade by blade from among the 
" weeds, their scanty parcels of grass. About seven o'clock 

in point of Time. 87 

" in the evening, or later according to the season of the year, 
" when the overseer can find leisure, they are called over by 
" list to deliver in their second bundles of grass ; and the 
" same punishment as at noon is inflicted on the delinquents. 
" They then separate, to pick up, in their way to their huts, 
" (if they have not done it, as they generally do, while gather- 
" ing grass,) a little brushwood or cow-dung, to prepare some 
" simple mess for supper and to-morrow's breakfast. This 
" employs them till near midnight; and then they go to sleep 
" till the bell calls them in the morning."* 

*' The work here mentioned (continues Mr. Ramsay) is 
" considered as the duty of slaves that may be insisted on, 
" without reproach to the manager of unusual severity ; and 
" which the white and black overseers stand over them to see 
'' executed; the transgression of which is quickly followed with 
" the smart of the cart-whip.f In crop-time, which (he ob- 
" serves) may be reckoned together on a plantation from five to 
" six months, the cane-tops, by supplying the cattle with food, 
" give the slaves some little relaxation in picking grass ; but 
" some planters, will, especially in moonlight, keep their 
" slaves till ten o'clock at night, in carrying wowra (the de- 
" cayed leaves of the cane) to boil oif the cane juice: a con- 
" siderable number of slaves are kept to attend in turn the 
" mill and boiling house all night." 

" The process of sugar-making, is carried on in many 
" plantations for months, without any other interruption than 
" during some part of day-light on Sundays. In some plan- 
" tations it is the custom to keep the whole gang employed 
" as above, from morning to night, and alternately one half 
" throughout the night, to supply the mill with canes, and the 
" boiling-house with wowra. ;{: 

He admits that there are mitigations of this treatment 
among the more humane and liberal planters ; and adds : 
" In some particular plantations they enjoy as much ease 
" and indulgence, the grievance of picking grass, and the 

* Essay on the Treatment and Conversion of African Slaves in the 
British Colonies, by the Rev, James Ramsay, \'icar of Teston, Kent, 
p. 69—72. 

t Ibid. p. 74. + Ibid. p. 76. 

88 Of the Excess of forced Labour 

" circumstance of their being so long as sixteen hours out oj the 
" twentt/-four under the lash of the drivers, excepted, as are 
" compatible with tlieir present state of ignorance and 
" dependance, and the accurate methodical cultivation of a 
" sugar estate."* 
These statements, with Mr, Ramsay's other revolting accounts 

of negro slavery, were, by the colonial party, loudly and indig- 
nantly denied. They exclaimed against its author, as a wilful 
and malicious violator of truth ; and a gross calumniator of the 
j)lanters, among whom he had lived respected and beloved, 
about twenty years. They commenced against him the use 
of those tactics, which they have since uniformly employed 
against all the eye-witnesses of their system, who have dared 
to give their public testimony to its abuses. Numerous de- 
famatory libels were published against him, and widely cir- 
culated, to impair his credit in this country ; and not without 
effect; though, I believe, few men ever had a stronger shield 
against them, among all to whom the pure and blameless 
tenor of his private life was known. But as I claim no cre- 
dence to his testimony, as such, it is not incumbent on me 
here to defend his memory. It will be enough for me to prove 
the truth of the statements I have quoted.f 

* Ibid. p. 87. 

f In undertaking to prove the truth of this account, I do not mean that 
it is accurate in every particular ; or that it was so generally, in the sense 
that Mr. ll.'s enemies ascribed to it; but only in his own. He meant 
to describe the practice as he had known it in St. Christopher, or in that 
island and Nevis alone ; as clearly appears from the work itself. In Jamaica, 
and some other sugar-colonies, the subjects, modes, and times of labour, 
are, and always have been, variant in some respects from those of the old 
colonies, which then formed the Leeward-island government ; and I shall 
fully notice those varieties hereafter. The reverend author also admitted, 
as we have seen, that there was less severity of treatment on some planta- 
tations in the same islands, than on others. He meant his account to be con- 
sidered, therefore, as generally, not universally true. 

But I would direct the attention of my readers to the last extract, which 
I have printed in italics, as descriptive of the ordinary amount of daily 
labour, even on those estates which he notices as favourable exceptions. 
That this was not, and still is not, less than sixteen hours in the twenty-four 
on an average, I trust clearly to establish in respect of the sugar-colonies at 

in point of Time. 89 

Such having been the facts alleged on the one side, let me 
next shew to what extent they were denied on the other. In 
the examinations, that soon after took place before the Com- 
mittee of the Privy Council, appointed to enquire into facts 
connected with the slave-trade, there was a standing inter- 
rogatory relative to the hours of daily labour generally ex- 
acted from, and the times of rest allowed to, the slaves, in 
each of the sugar-colonies ; and many witnesses of the first 
respectability among the planters, including the agents of 
the different islands, were examined upon it. Among them, 
the gentlemen connected with Jamaica, deserve, in respect 
of the extent and importance of that colony, the first atten- 
tion. They were, Mr. Fuller, the then agent, Mr. Long, 
and Mr. Chisholme ; and their joint answer was, " The work- 
" ing hours of the slaves, are eight, or not exceeding nine 
" in the four and tiventy.'"* 

This was no hasty or ill-considered answer of those re- 
spectable witnesses; for their attention having been again 
called to the subject by another standing interrogatory, which 
enquired as to differences of the labour, at different seasons 
of the year ; they said, " The work of the negro slaves in 
" Jamaica, is far less than that of a labourer in Great Britain. 
" They have in general fifteen hours in twenty-four to them- 

large; and if this proposition is proved; it ought to be more than enough 
for my purpose. 

In saying that the slaves worked so long " under the lash of the drivers,^' 
Mr. R. was unjustly charged with falsehood. His meaning manifestly is 
not that the lash was so long actually inflicted, or that the drivers were all 
the time behind them ; for he had described no small portion of it as em- 
ployed while the slaves, scattered over the same or other estates, were 
employed in their solitary individual task of grass-picking. His words 
plainly were meant to convey no more than, that either the presence, or the 
terror of the driver's whip, compelled the slaves to work so long. It is 
in this sense, that I undertake to maintain his proposition ; and must so 
far qualify it in respect of colonies, not in his contemplation, those in 
which the slaves raise their own provisions — as to admit that the coercive 
principle is not generally during that employment, the terror of the 
drivers ; but in great measure the sense of hunger^ or the dread of approach- 
ing want. 

* Printed Report, part 3. title Jamaica, (J. A. No. 9. 

90 Of the Excess of forced Labour 

" selves ; which is quite sufficient for sleep, and for cooking 
*' and eating their victuals, to say nothing of recreations."* 

I request the reader's attention to the terms of this latter 
answer ; because they preclude the resort to an explanation, 
which I shall have occasion much to notice hereafter, — the 
omitting in such statements, the time during which the slaves 
are obliged to work in the culture of provisions, for their own 
subsistence. No such explanation can here be allowed ; 
since cooking and eating were alleged to be the only deduc- 
tions from the fifteen hours left for sleep and recreation : nor 
did these gentlemen say any thing as to the great increase of 
labour in crop-time ; though the interrogatory expressly en- 
quired, whether there was any increase of it in time of 

Here, then, we have a breadth of contradiction to Mr. 
Ramsay, such as must astonish any man not familiar with 
the ordinary character of colonial testimony on these subjects. 
The difference in respect of this general fact, of the utmost 
publicity in the colonies, is as eight or nine to sixteen ; or nearly 
as two to one. If these witnesses spoke the truth, the re- 
verend author they contradicted, a beneficed clergyman of 
the Church of England, in venturing on so enormous an 
exaggeration, in the face of a powerful party, with multitudes 
on the spot to whom his exposure would be interest, honour, 
and favour with all their fellow-colonists, must be supposed 
to have made shipwreck, not only of his morals, but his 
understanding. But before the reader adopts this conclusion, 
let him in the next place attend to what other witnesses on 
the colonial side, stated on the same subject, nearly at the 
same time. 

Almost all the other witnesses examined before the Privy 
Council, in answering the same interrogatories, prudently 
avoided defining the amount of labour or of respite, by the 
number of hours per day. The only exception I have noted, 
was Mr. Laing of Dominica, who says, " They (the slaves) 
" are not on an average employed above ten hours in the 
" twenty-four." t If he meant to include the crop-time, 

* Printed Report, &c., Q. A. No. 36. 

t Privy Council Report^ part 3. title Dominica, A. No. 9. 

in point of Time. 91 

this is a discordancy with the Jamaica witnesses, by no more 
than one or two hours per day, (no small difference, certainly, 
in respect of hard and constant labour, more especially between 
the tropics) ; but it plainly appears, that he could not so mean ; 
because in answering the other interrogatory, he states that in 
the crop-season, which he says is from February to June, " The 
" slaves employed in the mill and boiling house, are only 
" relieved once in twenty-four hours,"* the effect of which 
must very greatly, on his own premises, have enlarged that 

Other witnesses before the Privy Council, while avoid- 
ing any such simple and intelligible statements ; entered into 
details, of which I shall soon shew, that the effect was a 
much larger difference than Mr. Laing's, with Messrs. Fuller, 
Long, and Chisholme; and a much nearer agreement with 
Mr. Ramsay. 

But further examinations on the same subjects took place 
in 1790 and 1791, before a Committee of the House of Com- 
mons ; and one very eminent and long-experienced planter of 
Jamaica, John Wedderburne, Esq. was interrogated specifi- 
cally on the same point, the number of hours per diem. — 
Q. " How many hours of the twenty-four do the negroes 
" labour; the time of crop excepted?" Answer. " About eleven 
" hours."-\ 

Is it supposed that this respectable gentleman spoke from 
ignorance ? He says, in the same evidence, that he himself 
*• had the charge of plantations containing full 5000 slaves."! 
He was a witness called by the West India petitioners; and 
certainly no enemy of the system. He spoke of the treatment 
of the slaves as in general very humane ; and said "their 
situation was a happy one."§ Yet we find that, without in- 
cluding the crop-season, in which the time of labour is admit- 
ted by every witness, and every writer that has noticed the 
subject, to be very largely augmented by night-work, he 
added no less than between two and three hours, i, e. from one- 
fourth to one-third, to what his brother planters of the same 

* Ibid. A. No. 3G. 

t Commons Report on the Slave Trade 1790, p. 376. 

X Ibid. 370. § Ibid. 378. 

92 Of the Excess of forced Labour 

island, and its public agent, had stated to the Privy Council 
as the true amount of the time of daily labour. He admitted 
eleven hours out of crop ; whereas they made, as 1 have ob- 
served, no exception of the crop-time j but must have meant 
to be understood to mean eight or nine hours on an average of 
all seasons. 

And what is the length of the crop time ? They themselves 
stated it to be about five months.* We must therefore add 
to the enormous difference between their account and Mr. 
Wedderburne's, five- twelfths of the great, but yet undefined 
increment of labour, during that portion of the year. 

The colonial petitioners, in the same parliamentary examin- 
ations, addressed a question to one of their witnesses, Alex- 
ander Douglas, Esq. then an eminent West India merchant, 
and with the evident view of contradicting Mr. Ramsay ; 
probably because Mr. Douglas and he had long resided in the 
same island, St. Christopher. The question was, " Do you 

* conceive that, at any time or season of the year, the respite 

* granted to negroes in the island of St. Christopher from 
' their labour, amounts only to four or five hours out of the 
' twenty-four?" The answer was, " I think they have from 

* nine to eleven hours' respite." If so, from thirteen to fifteen 
hours, would be the time of labour. It may be supposed, 
perhaps, that this answer had reference to the crop-season j 
because Mr. Ramsay had shewn that the slaves who then 
work with relays through the night, added to their ordinary 
day work, could not have more than four or five clear hours 
for sleep. But the witness could not with consistency have 
taken night-work into the account, because he had immedi- 
ately before said he understood that practice to have been 
abolished on most estates, f In that case, his estimate in a 
general view might not have been far from the truth ; but 
those who led the respectable witness so to understand, might 
as truly have asserted that fires in the winter season were for 
the most part laid aside in London ; as the reader will find, 
when I cite the evidence on that part of the system. At all 
events, his admission put those witnesses out of court who 

* Privy Council Report, part 3, J^itle Jamaica, Q. A. No. 36. 
t Commons Report of 1790, p. 289. 

in point of Time. 93 

alleged eight or nine hours to be the limitation, without any 
exception of the crop-time. 

The reader, I trust, already sees, that the evidence for the 
defendants was hardly more inconsistent with the charge of 
the accuser, than with itself. But let us proceed. 

Doctor Collins, who wrote about ten years later than these 
accounts, unfortunately omits to state expressly the ordinary 
times of work. It is the most striking defect in his very 
valuable publication ; and one of which I am at no loss to con- 
jecture the reason ; but it may be clearly collected, that if he 
had been explicit on this subject, tender though healways is in 
touching abuses of a general kind, his statement would have 
confirmed or gone beyond that of Mr. Wedderburne ; for in 
advising the planters to repair the huts of their slaves, so as 
to exclude the wind and rain, he urges the consideration that 
they cannot find time to do that work for themselves, and says, 
" With negroes, hal/^ whose time is devoted to the service of 
" their masters, the little which is not given to sleep, must 
" necessarily be employed in obtaining or cooking their food, 
" which exhausts almost the whole of their short remissions 
" from labour."* A strange contrast this, by the way, to the 
representations of the Jamaica gentlemen, and many others 
that I shall hereafter have to state, which describe these poor 
beings as having fifteen hours in the twenty-four for rest and 
recreation ; and as having a superfluity of leisure to gain wealth 
for themselves. 

It may be thought, perhaps, that the expression half their 
time in this passage, is used in a loose, general way ; and was 
not meant to convey the idea that they work so much as 
twelve hours in twenty-four for the master ; but in another 
place, when recommending the substitution of task work for 
driving, the same intelligent colonist says, ** the work of 
tivelve hours will be dispatched in ten.-\ I infer, therefore, that 
he meant to be understood as estimating the ordinary work 
out of crop at twelve hours ; and if so, his account will fall 
little short of Mr. Ramsay's ; for let it be observed that he 
assigns the " obtaining their food" as a charge upon the re- 

* Medical Rules, &c., p. 13.5. f Ibid. 177. 

94 Of the Excess of forced Labour 

maining twelve hours of their time ; and their subsistence in 
St. Vincent, where he resided, as in Jamaica, was in great 
measure derived from the cultivation of their provision 
grounds, which, like most other colonial writers, he does not 
seem to regard strictly as work for the master. It appears, 
also, clearly, from what he elsewhere says of night work in 
crop-time, that he did not take that important addition into 
account in his general estimate of their daily labour. 

But let us return to the Privy Council evidence for further 
demonstration on this subject ; for though the witnesses I 
have cited were the only ones that thought fit to state ex- 
pressly the amount of labour by the number of hours per 
diem, premises were furnished by others from which they 
may, with proper explanations, be computed. 

While the committee of Privy Council was prosecuting 
its enquiries, the legislatures of Jamaica and of some other 
colonies, were preparing to parry the efforts of the aboli- 
tionists, by passing some specious, though impotent laws for 
the protection of their slaves ; and before the committee had 
finished its labours, the first of those ostensible improvements, 
the consolidation act of Jamaica of 1788, arrived, in time to 
give the colonial party the benefit of it in the report. Mean- 
time the standing interrogatories of the committee had been 
officially transmitted to the governors of the different colo- 
nies, with instructions to lay them before the councils and 
assemblies, and obtain answers to them from those bodies; 
in consequence of which answers were obtained from some of 
them, and transmitted soon enough to be inserted in the same 
report. That of the council of Jamaica to Q. A. No. 9. im- 
mediately follows the above cited answer of Messrs. Fuller, 
Chisholme, and Long; and is in these words, " This is an- 
" swered by the consolidation act ; to the directions whereof the 
" practice usually conforms* 

Whether the latter proposition was true, my readers will be 
soon enabled to judge; but they will not hesitate to believe 
that if not so, the misrepresentation at least was not on the 
unfavourable side. Considering the manifest object of the 

Privy Council Report, part 3, title Jamaica, Q. A. No. 0. 

in point of Time. 95 

legislators, and of their agent and pavtizans in this country, by 
whose solicitations the Act was passed, and who immediately 
made abundant use of it before Parliament and the British 
public, it is impossible to suppose that its ostensible regula- 
tions were calculated to discredit the general existing prac- 
tice of slavery, by holding out limitations of labour less 
humane than those which practice had already established. 

The singular style of the clause thus referred to, might suf- 
fice to mark the true object of its authors ; for it is perhaps 
the first law that ever embodied in its own enactments an 
averment, implying that they were not wanted. The clause 
was in the following words : " Be it enacted, that every field 
" slave on such plantation or settlement shall on work days be 
" allowed, according to custom, half an hour for breakfast, and 
" two hours for dinner ; and that no slave shall be compelled 
" to any manner of y?*e/J work upon the plantations before the 
" hour of Jive in the morning, or after the hour of seven at 
" night, except during the time of crop, under the penalty of 
" ten pounds," &.c. * 

We have an express admission here, then, from the highest 
authority on the colonial side, that the customary practice 
was not better than these limitations prescribe. Let us next 
consider, therefore, to what they amount. It is the more im- 
portant, to do so, because the same are identically the regu- 
lations of labour by law in Jamaica, and every other sugar 
colony where assemblies have passed any Acts on the subject 
at the present hour : and I shall prove that the practice 
now, as in 1788, though it does not conform to these re- 
gulations, departs from them only on the oppressive or exact- 
ing side. 

From five in the morning till seven in the evening, being 
fourteen hours, and the breakfast and dinner respite (if we 
suppose them, for the present, to be bonajide intervals of rest) 

* Consolidation Slave Act of December 6, 1788, sect. 18, printed in an 
appendix to the same report of the Privy Council, part 3. See also the 
Consolidation Act of 1792, printed by Mr. Edwards in his 2nd volume, 
where the clause was re-enacted in the same words ; and the same was the 
case in the Act of December, 1816, sect. 20. still in force, except that the 
words "according to custom" are omitted. 

96 Of the Excess of forced Labour 

amounting together only to two hours and a half, there re- 
mains, as the amount of daily labour in the cane pieces, or 
" field work" out of crop-time, eleven hours and a half 

Let me pause here again for a moment, to compare this 
result with the statement of the colonial agent and eminent 
proprietors resident here, who were examined by the same 
committee. Take eight hours and a half as the medium be- 
tween their terms, and we have a subduction of no less than 
three hours from the actual amount. We must add near 
three-eighths to the quantum alleged by them, in order to 
make it agree with the cotemporary admission of the legisla- 
tive council of their island, and of the Act to which they 

But this is by no means all ; since those witnesses, be it 
remembered, spoke, without any exception of the crop-time, 
the large augmentation of labour in which continues about 
five months in the year. * 

We have it thus established beyond all dispute, that even 
at the season of the shortest diurnal labours, they occupy 
at least eleven hours and a half of the twenty-four; but to 
reduce them to this amount, it must be supposed that the 
interval of half an hour in the morning and two hours at 
noon, are really and entirely periods of rest, or exemptions 
from every species of laborious occupation ; which is not, and 
cannot possibly be the truth. If they were so, what time 
would be left for the slaves to work in, or even visit, their 
own provision grounds, when near enough for access on work- 
ing days ? 

We are told that Saturday afternoon once a fortnight, or 

* Should the reader be disposed to give the Jamaica council some credit 
for candour in thus discrediting their own agent, and the other witnesses 
that had been brought forward by their partizans in this country ; let him 
observe that the Cor^solidation Act may be presumed from its date, De- 
cember, 1 788, to have been laid before the governor for his assent, and 
officially transmitted by him, though not yet received in this country, 
before the testimony that I have cited from the Privy Council Report 
could be known in Jamaica. There was probably a like priority in the 
answer of the council, which is not dated ; but if not, the statement of 
the usage so strangely introduced into the enactments themselves, had 
stopped them from alleging that the practice differed from the law. 

in point of Time. 97 

by some planters, every week, is allowed for the purpose of 
cultivating those grounds out of the crop-season. Let this 
be supposed to be generally true ; and that with the aid of 
Sabbath work, which is confessedly applied to that purpose, 
the time is made to suffice : still the provisions must be ga- 
thered, as well as raised, and brought from the grounds, 
which are generally far distant from the negro huts and 
homestall, and not less so from the cane-pieces where these 
brief respites begin and end. Besides, the raw provisions 
must be boiled, roasted, or otherwise prepared for eating. 

The poor slave, be it always remembered, has no wife at 
home to prepare his meals for him ; for she, if he has one, is 
worked in the field with himself, till the general dismission 
of the gang. If we should suppose materials for the meal 
already at their hut, still they must gb there to dress it ; 
and to go and return, a mile or two- under a vertical sun, 
mounting, perhaps, steep acclivities, as is very usual, in the 
way, is a bad mode of recruiting their strength after six or 
seven hours of arduous labour, previous to its renewal for 
four or five more on the same day. During the half hour al- 
lowed for breakfast, such means of providing for their own 
necessities are manifestly impracticable. 

How then, the reader may be curious to learn, do these 
poor drudges manage as to their meals ? In satisfying his 
curiosity, I shall, perhaps, stagger his belief. The breakfast 
is often, and the dinner most commonly, a meal only in name. 
The former may often be lost, though there should be no 
deficiency of food, from want of time to prepare it. In Ja- 
maica, indeed, the practice is said generally to be, to allow 
one negro or more to act as cooks in the field, for those who 
bring with them raw materials for breakfast ; but I believe 
that in most, or all other colonies, there is no such usage ; 
and that unless the slave brings to the field food ready pre- 
pared for eating, he must fast, from the want of means to 
prepare it there, and of time to return for the purpose. 

During the noontide respite, the more feeble sla\es gene- 
rally lie down, to recruit from their fatigue ; and the more 
able, commonly go to work on their provision grounds or gar- 
dens, unless when they are too remote for the purpose. 


98 Of the Excess of forced Labour 

However startling these accounts may be, with those who 
have had faith enough in their colonial friends, to credit the 
strange fables industriously circulated amongst us, as to the 
ease and luxury that the slaves enjoy, I trust the following- 
extracts will be found sufficient to support my statements. 

That the field negroes, commonly, return dinnerless to their 
work after the noontide pause, is a fact respecting which, 
however extraordinary, there is very little discordance among 
the West India witnesses or writers ; to prove which, I will 
cite three or four of them, who spoke or wrote at different 
periods, from the beginning of the abolition controversy down 
to the present time. 

" They continue upon the hoe," said Mr. Beckford, " till 
" dinnertime; that is, until twelve or one o'clock, and perhaps 
" the medium of these hours is the general time of vacancy 
" all over the Island (Jamaica). Although this be called the 
" time of refection, and is with the overseer and the white 
" people upon the plantation, that part of the day which is 
*' set apart for this particular purpose, yet in this interval, the 
" negroes seldom make a meal ; but are rather inclined to in- 
" duloe their leisure in conversation with their fellows, or to 
" loiter away the time in useless inactivity until the shell pre- 
" pares them for a renovation of toil. They are allowed," he 
adds, '* for a nominal dinner one hour and a half, but it gene- 
" rally exceeds two before they all re-assemble."* 

" It may be proper to observe," deposed Mr. Tohin of Nevis, 
" that the two hours at noon is seldom employed by a negro 
" in preparing a regular meal, their chief meal being at sup- 
" per, so that they are frequently to be found working in 
" their grounds during that interval."t 

" They are allowed," deposed Mr. Willock of Antigua, " an 
" hour and a half' for dinner time, and frequently take 
*' an opportunity during that interval to work in their 
" grounds."^ 

On this point, even Mr. Bryan Edwards did not wholly 

* Remarks upon the situation of Negroes in Jamaica, by Mr. W. Beck- 
ford, Jun., p. 44, 45. 

t Commons Report of 1790, p. 276. \ Ibid. 347. 

m point of Time, 99 

suppress the truth, which his predecessors had admitted ; 
though he qualified it with his usual address. " They are 
** now allowed two hours of rest and refreshment, one of 
'* which is commonly spent in sleep. Many of them, pre- 
'* f erring a plentiful svpper to a meal at noon, pass the hours 
*' of recess in sleep, or in collecting food for their pigs and 
" poultry, of which they are permitted to keep as many as 
*' they please : or perhaps a few of the more industrious will 
'' employ an hour in their provision grounds. 

English labourers also, are permitted to drink as much 
wine as they please, provided they can get it ; imd it would 
be about as fair to insinuate on that account that they spend 
their spare time in bottling their Port or Madeira, as of the 
common mass of field negroes, that they employ their noon 
respite in collecting food for their pigs and poultry. But 
under these artful glosses, the impressive fact peeps out, that 
whether to reserve food enough for the evening, or to pro- 
vide it for the future, or from whatever motive, the dinner 
is foregone, 

" At half-past twelve," writes Mr. De La Beche, in 1824, 
" a conch shell is sounded, for all the negroes on the property 
" to take their dinner ; b^it as dinner is a meal seldom taken by 
*' the negroes, who from choice defer their principal repast till 
*' the evening, the more industrious part of them generally de- 
" vote the two hours alloived them by lata at this time, to the cul~ 
" tivation of their provision grounds^ a large proportion of 
*' which is in this estate (his own) within five minutes' walk 
'' from their houses." f 

* Hist, of West Indies, vol. ii. p. 134. 

f Notes, Sec, p. 3. The respectable author seems here to have for- 
gotten that it is not from their houses, that die negroes are to come at noon, but 
from the cane-piece, however distant, that they were at work upon ; and to 
which they must return within the two hours allowed. 

It would be unjust, however, to tliis gentleman, not to add that he writes 
with a degree of candour which distinguishes him very honourably from 
the other West India planters who have givfin information on ihese sub- 
jects to the British public. It is not without hesitation that I add to 
these authorities an extract from the work called Barclay s. The ultra 
contempt of truth and fair dealing, manifest in every page of it, makes the 
citation of it, even against its compilers, painful and disgusting: but it 

H 2 

100 Of the Excess ofjorced Labour 

When these accounts are taken together, it will be seen 
what the case really was and is. The poor people, rarely, if 
ever, dine; but during the two hours in which the superin- 
tendants retire for their dinners, the slaves are released from 
the drivers, and left to spend the time either in rest, or in 
working individually on their provision grounds. The former 
is naturally the choice of those slaves who, being the weakest 
in body, are the most completely fatigued and exhausted by 
six or seven previous hours of vigorous exertion ; but the more 
" industrious^" by which we may generally understand in co- 
lonial language the stronger slaves, avail themselves of this 
opportunity to work in their grounds, when near enough, or 
bring provisions from them ; thereby perhaps obtaining for 
themselves relaxations on the Sabbath, which they otherwise 
could not enjoy ; and sometimes to collect firewood for their 
own use in the evening, or bundles of the same article, or of 
grass for sale in the market, if they are fortunate enough to 
be near a town. 

It is a cruel abuse of terms to say, even of those who re- 
main inactive, from weary nature's irresistible demand for a 
short respite, between two long periods of forced labour, that 
they have so much time for themselves. But to those who are 
less exhausted, the respite at noon, miscalled dinner time, 
gives, we see, neither food nor rest, but a change of labour 
only ; though it is, I admit, a change much for the better, 
because the drivers are no longer behind them. 

brings down the West India case to a more recent period by two years, 
that Mr. De la Beche's work, and I find this passage in it (p. 319), in re- 
spect of the noon-tide respite. — " They employ the time at their own con- 
" cerns — mending their fences or hogsties, canying home fire-wood, cane- 
" tops, or hog-meat, &c. A feiv roasted plcmtains, with a little fish, is all 
" thei/ seem to care about eating in the middle of the dui/,hveak{ and supper 
" being their chief meals." 

Where, when, and how, do they procure and dress the fish and roast the 
plantains ? Why was it not said that they resort to taverns for a lunch of 
turtle, and some glasses of madeira ? Certainly not because it is not 
equally true Tliis chef d' aunrc of the party quite beggars the invention of 
Mr. Edwards, and the rest who have endeavoured to varnish over the 
want of a dinner, and the labours that employ the miscalled dinner-time. 
Yet the opprobrious facts appear. 

in point of Time. 1 1 

When we arc gravely told that such toilsome employment 
of an interval placed between six hours and a half of previous, 
and five hours of subsequent driving, under the solar blaze, 
is matter of choice, laughter may be suppressed by pity and 
indignation ; but a serious answer surely cannot be called for. 
If any man has faith to believe it, he must deem the poor 
negroes industrious to a fault, and to a wonder ; and must be 
astonished therefore at the charges of Major Moodij and others, 
who tell us that the love of ease, of repose, and refreshment in 
the shade, is so strong in them, as to prompt them to a vicious 
excess in its indulgence, and to be wholly indomitable except 
by the driving-whip. 

But the slave-masters are here only at their ordinary prac- 
tices on English credulity. It is a standing rule with them, 
to extenuate every oppression which they can neither deny, 
nor as their own act defend, by the choice of the poor 
slaves themselves. Are they compelled, for instance, to watch 
and work at night during the crop ? we are told they like it ; 
and prefer the crop-season to all others. Are they denied a 
Sabbath rest? it is because they love the Sunday markets, 
and would be discontented with their abolition. Is marriage 
discouraged, and its rights set at nought ? it is because they 
love polygamy or loose amours. The impious neglect of all 
religious instruction, was long excused by the same plea : the 
negroes were said to be invincibly attached to their African su- 
perstitions ; yet when the indignant voice of the British people 
called forth the Jamaica Curates' Bill, they rushed, we hear, in 
multitudes to the Christian font. Nay, the tearing them from 
their native homes and their dearest connections, and trans- 
porting them to a distant colony for life, till an act of Parlia- 
ment put a stop to it, was also their singular choice. Even 
after that prohibition, masters and mistresses have had the face 
to solicit particular exceptions to it from Government and Par- 
liament, on the same preposterous suggestion ; and I lament 
to say not always without success. While the shores of some 
of our islands rang with the heart-piercing lamentations of 
wives and husbands, parents and children, severed to meet no 
more, and resistance, by the desertion of many of the devoted 
exiles, was su|)pressed only by military force, the British 

1-02 Of the E-xcess of forced Labour 

public and Legislature were actually led to believe that the 
wishes of the banished slaves seconded the relentless cupidity 
of their masters ! 

These strange self-inimical propensities, certainly, in the 
point before us, as in all the rest, fall in admirably with the 
master's convenience and interest. His drivers and overseers 
are relieved from a wearisome superintendance during the ex- 
cessive heat from twelve to two, and have time to return 
from the field to their dinner ; while the slaves, if not too 
much exhausted, are performing work for the supply of their 
own urgent necessities, in ease of the master's purse. 

The employment of the half hour in the morning, for break- 
fast, is more variously represented ; I mean as to the actuality 
of the meal, or the want of it ; and I believe it really va- 
ries much in different colonies, and also on different plan- 
tations. I will give a few extracts from the colonial writers 
and witnesses on this subject also ; leaving the reader to form 
his own conclusions from them, whether the breakfast is the 
most commonly, nominal, or real. 

Let us first hear the comprehensive and very authoritative 
testimony of Dt. Colhns. " At breakfast it is customary to 
" indulge the gang with half an hour, which is rather taken as 
" an intermissioti of labour, than for a meal; as negroes seldom 
'* appl^ it to that purpose; yet it is too salutary a practice to 
*• be discontinued ; for it is a loss of time that will be easily re- 
" paired by their invigorated efforts. Those who have in- 
" fants," he adds, " should be allowed an hour to repair to 
" the nursery to give them the breast." * 

Dr. Collins, be it observed, speaks in, general of all the 
sugar colonies ; and his humane suggestions are addressed to 
the proprietors of them all. That he sincerely aimed at im- 
provements cannot be doubted ; yet all, we see, that he ven- 
tures to recommend, is continuing the suspension of labour, 
not supplying the meal ; and he recommends the improve- 
ment solely on an econ'omical ground ; admitting it to be, in a 
view to the meal itself, a mere loss of time. 

His advice as to mothers who have suckling infants, may 

* Practical Rules, p. 188-9. 

in point of Time. 103 

require an explanatory comment. That their labour in the 
field may not be lost or interrupted, such infants are consigned, 
in the gross, to the care of a plantation dry-nurse at the negro 
huts or honiestall, in a receptacle which he here dignifies by 
the name of a nursery ; and we see that he regards an hour's 
interval as necessary to enable the poor infants to receive the 
breakfast which Nature has prepared for them in the break- 
fastless mother. No more can be necessary to shew that the 
adult slaves cannot possibly have time to return and prepare 
it for themselves. 

Mr. ToBiN, who was certainly one of the most liberal of 
planters, assuming his statements of his own practice to be 
impartial, but a violent public antagonist of Mr. Ramsay, 
said, " Upon many estates, and upon all of which I had the 
" direction, they had out of crop time a regular breakfast, of a 
" biscuit and a proportion of molasses and water, which in 
*' wet and rainy weather was qualified with rum."* This wit- 
ness spoke of the island of Nevis. 

Mr. Thomas, speaking of Nevis also, said, " About nine 
" they broke up for the purpose of breakfasting, which was 
** generally taken in the field, in preference of going to and 
" from their houses" (a very necessary preference, certainly), 
and for this purpose, he added, " everi/ good-i)tclined negro 
*' generally carried his breakfast with him."f Unfortunately 
he did not state what the proportion of these " good inclined 
'' negroes" was ; and what was the lot of the rest. Had the 
practice been general at Nevis, Mr. Tobin would hardly have 
spoken as he did. 

Mr. WiLLocK, of Antigua, a master of distinguished libe- 
rality, mentioned a peculiarity of practice on his estate ; that 
of his having generally fed about one-third of his ic hole gang 
on what is called " the pot ;" i. e. food prepared and dressed 
for them by the master ; and gave the following reason for it. 
" My reason for feeding so many out of the pot, was a direc- 
" tion given to the overseers, that when the negroes went to 
" their breakfast in the field, if any negro did not bring some- 
*' thing to eat, I immediately took away his allowance, and 
" fed him from the pot. Though the quantity of provisions," 

* Commons Report of 1790, p. 297. f Ibid. 354. 

104 Of the Excess of forced Labour 

he added, " they got from being fed from the pot, was much 
" more, yet it was a disgrace to them, and they dishked it ex- 
" ceedingly, as they conceived themselves treated like new 
" negroes.* One-third of his negroes, therefore, were kept 
from being breakfastless only by this humane but extraordinary 

I do not wish my readers to infer from these authorities, 
strong and various though they are, that the field negroes 
always, or very generally, work fasting through the day, and 
that their supper after their dismission from the labours of the 
field is their only meal. Their oppression, in respect of food, 
will be a separate subject of discussion in a subsequent 
chapter; and it well then, I doubt not, appear to the convic- 
tion of my readers, that in many, or most of the colonies, if 
they eat more than once in the twenty-four hours, it must be 
very sparingly indeed ; at least, where they wholly or chiefly 
depend on the master's weekly allowances for support. I 
have cited these colonial testimonies here, only lest un- 
informed readers should doubt the possibility of the meal- 
time respites being diverted from their nominal use, and being 
periods of actual labour, well attested though we have 
seen the fact to be, by the apologists of the system. I feel 
myself warranted by so many concurrent and unexceptionable 
authorities, to affirm, what I believe the fact to be, that though 
the practice as to breakfasts varies in different colonies, and 
on different estates in the same colony, the dinner is, gene- 
rally speaking, everywhere dispensed with; but whether from 
choice or necessity, my readers will be better enabled to judge, 
when informed of the ordinal y practice as to the supply 
and preparation of food. Meantime let us return to that im- 
portant topic, the hours of daily labour. 

Hitherto I have proceeded on the supposition that the la- 
bours of the slaves out of crop-time may, in a proper and 
strict sense, be said to begin at five in the morning, and end 
at seven in the evening, according to the alleged effect of the 
limitations in the colonial meliorating acts, to which, as we 
are assured by the legislators who made them, and by the 

Commons Report of 1790, p. 247. 

in point of Time. 105 

recitals and averments of the acts themselves, the practice 

But what, by the express purview of these laws, is the 
work to which the limitations apply ? It is only actual la- 
bour in the field : in other words, that work which the col- 
lected gang performs under the drivers, from the morning 
muster to the evening dismissal, which is limited, as we have 
seen, to fourteen hours, with intervals of two hours and a 
half. They are not sooner or later to be " compelled to any 
" manner of field-work, except in the crop-season." 

Are the remaining ten hours and a half of the twenty-four, 
then, noon-work excepted, times of rest or repose ? Clearly 
not; for before the morning- work can begin, the negroes 
must be roused from their sleep, and " turned out," as 
it is called, from their huts ; and every individual must 
proceed to, and assemble at the spot, however distant, of ap- 
pointed work. Many, no doubt, to avoid the peril of tardiness, 
arrive before the rest; for there the driver stands with his 
whip, to inflict instant flagellation on those who come too late ; 
and if the gang is to be put in line at five o'clock, the bell, 
or conch-shell, or far-resounding whip, variously used to 
awaken the slaves, must give their awful summons long 
before. The cane-piece where they are to be worked for 
the day, may be at a great distance from the huts; sometimes 
on large estates from one to two miles ; and very commonly 
they have a steep hill to ascend ; for most estates, at least in 
the smaller islands, range from the sea side or low grounds, to 
a considerable height on the side of a high hill or mountain ; 
and the cluster of houses called the negro-houses, is commonly 
placed in the lower situations, near the manager's house and 
the works. On the whole, I think it a probable calculation, 
that an hour, or nearly that time, must intervene on an average 
between the rousing the negroes from their sleep, and their 
setting; to work in the field. 

Nor is this all ; for so assiduous are the planters that the 
work should begin as soon as there is light enough for the 
purpose, that the bell or other call is always sounded at the 
earliest peep of dawn ; nay often still sooner, as may suffi- 
ciently appear by the following extract from Dr. Collins. 

" In turning out in the morning," says that long-cxpc- 

10(3 Of the Excess of forced Labour 

rienced planter, " it is usual to prepare your negroes by the 
" morning- bell, which by the carelessness of the watchman, 
" or by the difficulty of distinguishing between the light of 
" the moon, and the first approach of morning, is rung an 
" hour or two earlier than it ought to be. This you should 
" prevent, by directing it not to be rung, until the twilight is 
" very well ascertained."* 

* Practical Rules, p. 88. 

Two very recent authorities may suffice to shew that the negroes are 
still called out before day-break. The first is a work called Marly, 
cr a Phnifer's Life in Jamaica, a new publication on the colonial side, 
in the catching form of a novel. Should my right to quote him as 
an antagonist be doubted, I refer to his sixteenth chapter, in which the 
novellist drops his mask, and appears in his true character, as a serious 
and zealous apologist of slavery, and champion of the colonial cause. 
From his grapliic delineations of scenery and manners, no man who has 
seen the West Indies will doubt of his having been resident there. 

When describing his hero's initiation in the duties of a plantation book- 
keeper, he says : — 

" Next morning Marly was awakened out of a dream of delight, &c., 
" by the firing of the driver s whip ;" — " he started from his bed, but day had 
" not yet glimmered from the East." (p. 62.) Again — " Next morning, 
" before day broke, the firing, or smacking, of the driver s whip awakened 
" Marly, when he started from his pillow," &c. (p. 49.) 

The other recently published authority to which I refer, is no novel ; 
but that grave defence of slavery by Mr. Commissioner Dwarris, which I 
have before cited, in a letter to the Right Honourable Henry Gonlbiirn, 
Chancellor of the Exchequer. " It is said," observes Mr. Dwarris, " that 
" the slaves begin their toil before day ; and the assertion is true ; but in 
" such a climate, it is no hardship to begin their work in the cool of the 
" morning. It ought," he adds, " in common candour, at the same time, 
" to have been stated, that in the countries of which we are now speaking, 
" all classes rise at gunfire ; i. e. at five o'clock in the morning." (p. 17.) 

A modest appeal to candour this, no doubt ! The whites certainly do, 
in general, rise very early, especially if careful of their health ; but it is to 
enjoy the cool air, and to take exercise before the sun rises ; not to increase 
the length of daily toil. As to the field-negroes, they are so far from being 
called out before day, for health or comfort, that Dr. Collins, and all 
other authorities on the subject, notice their great sensibility to sufferings 
from cold, and regard the chilling effects of their being turned out long 
before sun-rise, as one great source of their diseases. If this candid writer 
thinks it humane to work negroes in the earliest dawn because it is cold, 
his abhorrence of the intolerable long-continued toils they arc afterwards 

in punii of Time. 107 

Another extract from Mr. De La Beche, will shew that the 
poor weary, and drowsy slave, is likely not to demur at the 
rousing call, however premature ; but to spring from his pallet 
at the first sound of the plantation bell or whip, and make all 
haste to the field. 

" It is much to be regretted," he says, " that considerable 
" martinetism exists on some properties, with regard to the 
" time when the negroes ought to assemble in the morning. 
" Then it is that the negroes sufter most from the driver's 
" whip ; for he unfortunately can on his own authority in- 
" flict punishment on those who are not in time.'"* 

Not a few of the colonial witnesses and writers have at- 
tempted to subtract an hoixr at least from the morning's 
field-work, by representing its commencement to be at six 
o'clock, instead of five ; but in a way inconsistent not only 
with what I have shown to be the actual practice, but with 
astronomical and geographical truth. 

" About six o'clock in the morning," said one of them, 
" which is generally about day-light, the whole gang are ex- 
" pected to appear in the field ; the list was then called over, 
" and absentees were marked down."f 

*' With respect to the hours," said another, " the negroes are 
" generally called into the field by the ringing of a bell about 
" daicn of day, which, in a latitude where the days and nights 
" are so nearly equal, is generally about six o'clock. "J 

On the same physical premises it was of course added, that 
day-light ended at six, and that the slaves remained no later 
in the field ; and some of the colonial writers I think arraigned 
the abolitionists of having asserted, what the laws of nature 
made impos.!;ible, when they stated the true daily commence- 
ment and termination of the field-work. 

It may naturally be supposed that the first Jamaica Conso- 

subjected to in that broiling climate through the day, ought surely to exceed 
my own. But I quote him only for the fact. As it is true that " the 
" slaves still begin their toil before dat/Iighf," they must of course be still roused 
and turned out before the first peep of dawn. 

* Notes on the present Condition of the Slaves in Jamaica, p. 19. 

t Commons Report of 1790, p. 247 ; Evidence of Mr. Thomas of Nevis. 

I Ibid. p. 266 ; Evidence of Mr. Tobin. 

108 Of the Excess of forced Labour 

lidation Act disposed for ever of this part of the controversy. 
In making five and seven the morning and evening limits of 
field-work out of crop-time, i. e. in a season comprising the 
shortest days, and stating that this was conformable to gene- 
ral custom, it should have put an end both to the astronomi- 
cal and practical question. 

But the champions of slavery are far too stout to quail 
under such knock-down blows, whether given by their foes 
or fellow-combatants; and they now again with all their pris- 
tine intrepidity attempt to cut off two hours from the day, in 
order to reduce by the same amount the actual labour of the 
slaves. The courageous Mr. M'Queen assures us, in what he 
calls " a plain and undeniable statement, that the days and 
*' nights in our West India islands are so nearly equal, that 
" the difference is not worth taking into account, and may 
" be taken at tivehe hours each;''* from which and other pre- 
mises, equally undeniable, he concludes, and expressly asserts, 
that " no negro out of crop xvorks above nine hours." 

Though this writer is so strongly accredited to us by all the 
colonies, that his voice may be fairly considered as theirs, I 
might probably leave him here to settle the small difference 
of two hours and a half between himself and his munificent 
patrons, the legislators of Jamaica, if this revival of ex- 
ploded fictions stood on his authority alone. But the Coun- 
cil of Barbadoes, in a nearly cotemporary Report, has stated, 
that " the slaves do not work more than nine hours for the day 
*' at that season of the year when the days are short, and nine 
*' hours and a half when the days are long ;" from which re- 
ference to the length of days, and the near correspondence 
with Mr. M'Queen's conclusion, it may be fairly presumed, 
that his '' undeniable" premises were in view, and tacitly as- 
sumed by that honourable Board.f 

The Assembly of Jamaica, also, in the latest report it has 
favoured us with on this subject of slave labour, has reduced 
its amount out of crop, not indeed to nine hours, but to ten, 
notwithstanding the evidence of its renewed and still subsist- 
iiior law. 

* West India Colonies, p. 257. 

t Printed Report of the Council of Barbadoes, 1824, p. 108. 

in point of Time, 109 

" Although by the consolidated slave law, the master may 
" call for fourteen hours' labour in the field, deducting one 
" half hour for breakfast, and two hours for dinner, leaving 
" of course eleven hours and a half for work ; yet in practice, 
" the time for labour in summer is one hour, and in winter 
" two hours, less than might be exacted by law ; so that the 
" labourer only works on an average ten hours daily, and has 
" fourteen for meals, relaxation, and rest.'"* 

How remote from truth the last clause is, my readers have 
been already enabled to judge : but my business at present is 
with the field-work under the drivers, the only subject of 
limitation ; and though the report itself, in reducing the prac- 
tice to ten hours, does not expressly say that it begins and 
ends with the daylight, the examinations annexed, and re- 
ferred to, shew clearly that such an impression was meant to 
be conveyed ; and also that the calculation was founded on 
astronomical data grossly erroneous, though less so than those 
of Mr. M' Queen. See an important extract from those exa- 
minations given in a former chapter (p. 36-7,) the first pa- 
ragraph of which it will be convenient to place again here 
under the eye of the reader. 

*' As to the hours of labour, when the examinant came to 
" the island, the slaves were turned out full one hour before 
" day, and kept out as long after dark. Their breakfast was 
'' always cooked for them, and they were allowed half an 
" hour to eat it, and two hours to go home to their dinner. 
" As the length of the days on an average through the year in 
" this climate, including twilight, is about ticelve hours and a 
" half, so the slave then worked twelve hours in the twenty- 
" four. At present, the same time is allowed for breakfast and 
" dinner, but the slaves, as far as examinant sees, are only 
" required to work in the field in daylight, and consequently, 
*' they work only ten hours in the twenty-four." 

I will not suppose the respectable witness to have meant 
any thing unfair, either by the qualification, '' as far as exanii- 
" nant sees," or by his changes of phraseology in the two sub- 
jects of comparison, from " fumed out, and kept out,"' to 

Printed Papers of 181G, already cited,) p. 25. 

110 Of the Excess of forced Labour 

" worked, and required to work in the f eld," or from *' length 
'' of the daj/s," to " daylight." They must have been used 
respectively in the same sense, or the comparison would be 
plainly idle, and the effect wholly deceptions. 

But what he, and the Committee in adopting his calcula- 
tions, must be understood to mean, is this, that the " length 
*' of the day, or daylight, including the twilight," is on an 
average only twelve hours and a half; which deducting the 
allowance of two hours and a half for meal-times, leaves ten 
clear hours of field-woi'k ; and that the former excess arose 
from the working an hour before the morning, and an hour 
after the evenino;, twilio-ht. 

The fallacy here lies in the alleged duration of the twilight, 
which the witness rightly and expressly included in the day- 
light or length of days ; whereas the other authorities I have 
cited allow for it nothing at all ; but strangely shorten the day 
to the time that the sun is above the horizon, and treat all the 
rest as 

Now, though it is true, that the twilight in the West Indies 
is much shorter at all seasons than here, to say that it is so 
short on a medium, or at any season, taking the morning and 
evening together, as not to make a very considerable and for- 
midable addition to the daily labour of a hard-worked slave, 
woidd be a proposition equally unfeeling and false. 

It would be so, even were the daily addition no more than 
half an hour, i. <?. one quarter of an hour for each twilight, 
according to this strange computation ; but in this instance 
the enormity of the misrepresentations I have to combat, may 
be shewn by witnesses who can neither be silenced nor tra- 
duced ; even those of whom it is said, " their line is gone out 
" through all the earth, and their words to the end of the 
" world ; and that there is no speech or language where their 
" voice is not heard." The heavenly luminaries shall prove 
for me, that my opponents, to extenuate their oppressions, 
have wrested from the tropical day a sixth part of its legiti- 
mate domains. 

As to the time, during which, on an annual average the sun 
is above the horizon, there is no disagreement between us ; 
and if there were, I could not suppose any of my readers so 
ill-informed, as not at once to decide it for tiiemselves. The 

in point of Time. Ill 

average time is just twelve hours. Neither can it be necessary 
to shew, that in all climates, and at all times, the morning 
and evening twilights are of equal duration. The only point, 
therefore, on which doubt can arise, is their true medium 
length, taking together the different seasons of the year. 
Now, the latitude being given, (which in the central parts of 
Jamaica is about eighteen degrees north, and in our other 
islands, too near that parallel to be worth a separate calcula- 
tion,) many of my readers will be able to compute the true 
duration of twilight for themselves, on the known astronomical 
rule, that it every where begins in the morning when the sun 
approaches within eighteen degrees of the horizon, and ends 
when the sun has dipped eighteen degrees below it, in the 
evening. For the assistance of those, who, like myself are 
not expert mathematicians, I have asked the favour of a friend, 
who is very eminently such, to calculate for me what is the 
shortest, and what the longest duration of twilight in latitude 
eighteen north, at different seasons ; and to compute from them 
its medium duration throughout the year. He has kindly done 
so ; and having submitted his solutions of those problems to 
another friend, celebrated for his mathematical skill, who has 
confirmed them, I can safely vouch for their accuracy, as con- 
tained in a note below.* 

The general result, it will be seen, is that instead of the 
twilight being on an average a quarter of an hour long, so as 

* The shortest twilight in 18 deg. north, is when the sun's declination 
is 2 deg. 24 min. south, that is to say, a few days before the vernal and a 
few days after the autumnal equinox, about the 13th March, and 29th Sep- 
tember. It then commences at 11 minutes before five in the morning, and 
the sun rises at 3 min. after 6. Consequently its duration is 1 hour and 14 
min., and that of the morning and evening taken together, 2 hours and 
28 min. 

The longest twilight in the same latitude, viz. at the summer solstice, 
June 20th, is 1 hour and 25 min. ; for it begins at 3 min. after 4, and the 
sun rises at 28 min. after 5. 

The medium duration from 29th September to 13th March, is 1 hour, 17i 
min. morning and evening, or together 2 hours, 35 min. 

The medium from 13th March to the 29th September, is 1 hour, 19i min. 
morning and evening, or 2 hours, 39 min. daily. 

The medium duration throughout the year, is 1 hour and 18 min. morn- 
ing and evening, or 2 hours. 36 min. daily. 

112 Of the Exceas of forced Labour 

to make the length of the day, both twilights included, only 
twelve hours and a half; it is, when shortest, one hour and 
fourteen minutes, and on a medium, one hour and eighteen 
minutes ; and taking the morning and evening together, two 
hours and thirty-six minutes ; making the average length of 
the days two hours and thirty-six minutes throughout the 
year. The difference, consequently is about five to one. 

Should it be said, that the Jamaica Report, in the passage 
extracted, did not mean to speak of the twilight with astrono- 
mical correctness ; but had in view only such a portion of it 
as gives light enough for the labours of the field ; I reply, that 
this explanation cannot be offered for those who rejected the 
twilight altogether, as most of the West India witnesses and 
writers have done, speaking of twelve hours in the twenty-four 
as flight; nor could any impossibility of turning out or working 
the slaves in even the faintest twilight, have been in contem- 
plation by the Jamaica examinants and reporters, since we 
are told by them, " that it was formerly done during a full 
" hour in the dark." But I desire not to quarrel with my 
opponents about terms ; and am ready to give them the full 
benefit of any possible explanation, consistent with the facts 
of the case. 

I admit that some portion of the twilight, from its com- 
mencement in the morning, and previous to its termination in 
the evening, is but a scarcely discernible glimmering, and a 
larger portion of it but a medium between clear light and 
darkness ; though I cannot admit that the utmost faintness of 
its light forms a necessary obstacle to field-work, still less to 
the turning out the slaves from their huts, or their proceeding 
to the often distant place of labour ; for this, as has already been 
shewn, would be untrue, and inconsistent with what is ac- 
knowledged to be, or what is equally conclusive, to have for- 
merly been, the practice. Dr. Collins, too, did not caution his 
brother planters against an impussibk fault, when he advised 
them not to turn out their slaves before the twilight was well 
ascertained ; or untruly allege that the bell was sometimes 
rung for that purpose an hour or two before even the first 
approach of morning ;* nor will Mr. Divarris be supposed 

* See supra, p. 106. 

in point of Time. 1 1 3 

to have falsely magnified a hardship he wished to extenuate, 
in telling us that the slaves still " begin their toil before day."* 
I will nevertheless suppose, for argument sake, that there 
is a portion of twilight, during which the slaves cannot have 
light enough either to work nor walk by ; or what will serve 
as well, I will suppose that the planters voluntarily abstain 
from compelling them to do so, when the light is not clear 
enough for every species of agricultural labour known in this 

I am sorry that the proportion of the twilight in that degree 
obscure, cannot be ascertained like the duration of the whole, 
by mathematical demonstration. It can be known only by 
experience ; and experience in a climate like our own, where 
clouds and rain, or fogs and mist so generally darken the 
morning and evening atmosphere, and are rarely absent from 
the skirts of the horizon, when the sun nearly approaches or 
actually surmounts it, can teach us little or nothing in respect 
of such a climate as that of our West India islands, where the 
sun commonly rises and sets with cloudless splendour, and 
every twilight ray that precedes his appearance, or follows his 
descent, is shot upwards into an atmosphere so clear as to lose 
none of its reflection and luminous effect. All we can with 
certainty infer is, that whatever proportion the adequate de- 
gree of crepuscular light, bears to the inadequate in England, 
that proportion must be in a very high degree greater in the 
West India islands. 

But there are means by -which we may satisfactorily arrive 
at some approximation to the truth, without departing from 
my rule of using alone the evidence of colonial opponents. 
I shall be able at least to shew, that statements which reduce 
the twilight, even supposing what I have called adequate twi- 
light only was meant, to a quarter of an hour, were extrava- 
gantly wide of the truth. 

In the first place, the same report which tells us that the 
slaves work only in " daij-light" which of course could be 
meant to comprise adequate twilight only, tells us elsewhere 
that the hours of labour still, are those limited by the Conso- 
lidation law. The Honorable James Stewart, Esq. a proprie- 

* See supra, p. 106. 
VOL. 11. 1 

114 Of the Excess of forced Labour 

tor, thirty years resident in the island, and member of the 
Assembly, being interrogated as to improvements within that 
period, in respect of food, clothing, hours of labour, and 
punishment, answered as to all but labour, in a way "that shewed 
him to have been sufficiently well-disposed to do credit to the 
existing system, and to bring forward every assignable im- 
provement within his long experience ; but in respect of the 
point in question, his words are, " The hours of labour are re- 
" gulated by the Consolidated Slave Laiv, to which examinant 
" begs leave to refer the Committee ; and he believes the slaves are 
" allowed fullf/ the time prescribed by it for refreshment and 
" rest." * 

I will not stop to shew how decidedly the Committee and 
the House were here defeated by their own witness on the 
substantive point, the alleged abatement, in practice, of two 
hours per diem, out of the statutable time ; which other wit- 
nesses also in the same examinations manifestly overthrew jf 

* Printed Report, p. 96. 

f Two other eminent and long resident proprietors, Mr. Graham and 
Mr. Richards,, while supporting the Committee's proposition as to the di- 
minution of labour from 12 to 10 hours, attempted to make it out, not by 
any change in the time of commencing and ending labour in the field, to 
which alone the Act relates, but in very different ways. 

The former (p. 56,) expressly says, " ivith regard to the hours ofluboury 
" those of ABLE people are much the same as they were when he came to the 
" island ;" that is, from day-light, which in this climate is generally from five 
" to six in the morning," &c. (adopting in part the sidereal errors liere in 
question.) But he adds, " the weakly people and children are indulged, both 
" as to the time of going to work in the morning, after dinner, and in leav- 
" ing off work in the evening; the average time that the able people work 
" will therefore be about ten hours in the twenty-four." (It is obvious that 
the word "able" in the last clause must be expunged, in order to make the 
testimony either intelligible or consistent with itself. It is perhaps an error 
of the press.) 

Here, the resort is to cast into an average with the full labours of the 
adults, the particular indulgences of the children and iveakly slaves; but to 
their case, this controversy as to the time of tield-labour does not at all re- 
late ; and there doubtless never was a time when some abatements were not 
unavoidably made in their favour. Supposing them now spared more than 
formerly, the improvement is no ease to the adult and able slaves. In tak- 
ing such weak and irrelevant ground, the witness shewed that he was 

in point of Time. 1 15 

for my business at present is only to rescue the day-light from 
the amputations attempted by the reporters, and my other 

If the hours of labour are the same that were prescribed by 
the Act, then field-work commences at five in the morning, 
and ends at seven in the evening; consequently is carried on 
during such a portion of the twilight as amounts on an aver- 
age to two hours ; for the sun is so long on an average below 
the horizon, between those points of limitation. Either then, 
what I have called an " adequate twilight," exists an hour 
morning and evening, making two hours daily ; or the work 
goes on during that fainter degree of crepuscular light, which 
the report, and the other authorities I am combating, call 

aware of no better on whiclihis calculation or estimate of ten hours could 
be sustained. 

Mr. liichards took another course. He said, the slaves, when he first came 
to the island (thirty-four years before), worked two hours more than now; 
but instead of shewing any such deduction from the legal standard, accord- 
ing to the assertion of tlie Committee, his statements, the usual fallacy as 
to the length of day excepted, shew like Mr. Graham's, that the present 
practice corresponds with that standard ; and he, like Mr. Harris, finds the 
improvement, in ascribing to the former planters the having worked their 
slaves full one hour before, and one hour after the day ; not however, in the 
cane pieces, but in " mak'wg dung and c(i7Ti/ing out gi-nss," (p. 71.) Whe- 
ther such employments are now included in, or added to the statutable time 
of field-labour, my readers will hereafter be enabled to judge. 

Thus we have the same proposition, that the hours of labour have been 
reduced to ten, maintained in the same report, from four different sets of pre- 
mises, all as irreconcilable with each other, as with the truth of the case : — 
the Committee dashingly strikes out an hour and a half from the legal stand- 
ard, by an alleged, but unspecified voluntary remission ; one of its witnesses 
dropping that standard, and substituting for it the limits of day-light, finds 
the improvement in ascribing to former practice two hours of field-work 
by night ; another finds it on the same premises, except that it is not field- 
work, but nightly dung making and grass carrying, that were the former sub- 
jects of excess ; and a third, expressly admitting the hours of labour to be 
unchanged, contends, 'that as the children and feeble are spared, their less 
share of labour should be taken into average w ith the full time of the adults. 
They all however more or less eke out the measure of alleged improvement 
by detracting from the length of day-light. 

I have not made a partial selection of these witnesses. I have quoted all 
who spoke with any specification, either as to the reduction of labour, o its 
actual periods. 

1 2 

1 16 Of the Excess of forced Labour. 

night or darkness. On either supposition, my opponents are 
short in their reckoning of daily labour, some by two hours, 
and all by at least an hour and a half; and on the former 
supposition, we have found the proportion we were in quest 
of; for the medium of true astronomical twilight being one 
hour and eighteen minutes morning and evening, we have to 
strike off from each only eighteen minutes, or thirty-six for 
the whole day, and the rest, being in the proportion of five to 
one, will be a crespuscular light adequate to all the labours of 
the field. 

But as my opponents may perhaps shift their ground, 
choosing the other alternative, and admitting that now, as here- 
tofore, the slaves work in what they call darkness, I will offer 
another criterion for ascertaining the proportion in question. 
At what time do free persons in the West Indies rise to their 
ordinary employments, whether without doors or within? 

Here also, fortunately, I have hostile testimony of no mean 
authority for my purpose. Mr. Dwarris has told us that " aL 
" classesrise at gun-fire, i. e.five o'clock in the morning,''* and he 
claims the admission of it from us anti-slavery writers, as due 
" in common candour"" to his side of the question. It would 
certainly be highly uncandid in me not to allow the claim ; for 
I well remember, that as often as I slept near enough to a fort 
to hear the morning-gun, I was awoke by that loud summons, 
if not previously roused by the plantation bells ; and that all 
classes of free persons, the very indolent excepted, then rise, 
I am far from disputing. I could not, indeed, have affirmed 
with certainty from my own recollection, whether the gun was 
uniformly fired at five, or whether it was not a little earlier or 
later, when the centinel perceived the first glimmering of twi- 
light in the east ; but I doubt not Mr. D.'s statement is correct ; 
and will therefore assume that five is invariably the true time 
of the morning-gun. To me it was like a warning voice to 
take care of my health and life ; for without the use of all the 
horse exercise that the twilight permitted, my constitution 
would not have endured, that, to me, most enervating climate 
for eleven years, or a fifth part of that term, finding as I did 

* See Note on p. 106-7, supra. 

m point of Time. 117 

more annoyance than benefit from exercise, except when the 
sun was below the horizon. Had the twilig;hts been as short 
as the planters now pretend, I should have escaped their pub- 
lic enmity, and the poor slaves would have lost a stedfast, 
though hitherto, alas! very unsuccessful advocate; for a quar- 
ter of an hour would hardly have sufficed for taking the cold 
bath, which I always did on rising, and for dressing and mount- 
ing my horse. I should therefore have had no morning exercise 
at all. When invoked by an advocate on the other side, I 
may pardonably thus far depart from the rule of stating nothing 
as a witness, and add also to the admission claimed from me, 
the following facts ; — that the morning twilight was long 
enough in general to afford me a ride of several miles at an 
easy pace, after taking the cold bath ; yet, the slaves were 
turned out from their huts so long before my outset, that I 
generally saw them at their work in the cane-pieces when 
passing ; and cannot recollect once hearing the plantation 
bells after I left my bed. If I ever did, it must have been 
very rarely. Of the evening twilight I made the same use, 
from the same necessity, and my rides were then often pro- 
tracted beyond the final close of daylight, in its widest sense ; 
yet the last living objects which I had light enough to dis- 
tinguish in my way, were usually negroes carrying on their 
heads bundles of grass they had collected, or standing with 
them at the works to await the inspection of the overseer at 
the evening grass throwing. It is needless, however, to prove 
that the potential duration of work after the setting, must be 
full as great as before the rising, sun. 

Mr. Dwarris and I then being agreed, that all classes (by 
which I understand him to mean, all who are free) rise at five, 
if not earlier \for what purposes do they rise so early ? Of course 
not for the pleasure of dressing in the dark, or by candle 
light. It must be to follow their various occupations, whe- 
ther active or sedentary ; for the exercise of which, therefore, 
we may certainly infer there is day-light enough at that hour. 
Yet as the sun never rises earlier than twenty-eight minutes 
after five, and sometimes as late as three minutes after six, 
and on an average at six o'clock, there could be no such 
light for an hour on a medium, and for about half an hour 

118 Oj the Excess of J'oieed LaLoitr 

at the very lowest point, if the crepuscle did not give it. It 
follows then, from the astronomical data which I have fur- 
nished, that the duration of the adequate, is to that of the 
entire twilight, upon a medium as sixty to seventy-eight, 
forming little less than four-fifths of the whole. At the equi- 
noxes, indeed, that proportion would not give adequate light 
quite so early as five, by a difference of about five minutes ; 
but this is a difference far too minute to prevent our taking, 
even at those seasons, five o'clock with sufficient accuracy, 
as the latest commencement of adequate day-light, in an at- 
mosphere where star-light is so clear that the planet Venus 
often casts a shadow behind an object opposed to it. The 
obvious general conclusion is, that the length of the day, 
measured by the duration of Hght, is for every practical purpose, 
fourteen hours instead of twelve, which some, and twelve and 
a half, which others of my opponents assign to it. 

It may naturally enough be supposed, that I have wasted 
my own time and that of my readers, by reasoning so much 
at large for the sake of this conclusion, or that of its corro- 
lary, that field-work comprises eleven hours and a half of the 
twenty-four, after the repeated admissions of both by the 
Jamaica legislature ; more especially when I add the recent 
and impressive, though tacit renewal of those admissions by 
the same authority. I mean in the correspondence between 
Mr. Huskisson when Colonial Secretary, and the Governor 
and Assembly of that Island, on the disallowance of the new 
Consolidation Act of 1826,* by which the old and still exist- 
ing limitations of field-labour were meant to be re-enacted ; 
for though the assembly applied itself elaborately to re- 
move the other objections ; his humane stricture on the 
oppressive duration of eleven and a half hours of daily labour 
in the field, is passed by without defence or notice. No man 
who considers the object and general spirit of those papers, 
can doubt for a moment that if the Assembly could have 

* See the printed papers presented to Parliament by His Majesty's com- 
mand in the year 1828, p. 4, &c. 

in point of Time. 1 19 

credibly stood by its own pretences of 1815, by alleging a 
voluntary abatement in practice of two hours, or one hour 
and a half, or even a much smaller improvement, the credit 
of it would have been eagerly claimed. It may seem even 
that I might have safely relied on Mr. Dwarris's admissions 
alone ; considering the official character in which he lately 
visited the Island, and that he is both a Jamaica planter, and 
a champion of the colonial cause. 

Certainly, had I no more to do than to satisfy considerate 
and impartial men, my labours in this, and most other parts 
of my work, might have been safely and greatly abridged. But 
when the reader considers the boundless and fatal credulity with 
which reiterated colonial impostures on these subjects, how- 
ever clearly refuted, have been received by a large part of the 
British public during more than forty years, on the impos- 
ing authority of legislative assemblies, and their banded par- 
tizans among us, he will perhaps feel with me that I have a 
double duty to perform ; not only to establish the true nature 
of the case, but to expose the fallacious and deceitful cha- 
racter of the means by which it has been hitherto contro- 
verted and disguised. With those by whom parties accused 
of odious oppressions, are heard with confidence as witnesses 
in their own defence, no ordinary impeachment of their credit, 
I admit, is likely to prevail. It may be in vain that I have 
in a hundred instances shewn their utter contempt of fair 
dealing and truth, by citing their own testimony and that 
alone against them : but the bold fictions last exposed, and 
the means of their exposure, were of so extraordinary a kind, 
that if not fatal to the future credit of colonial evidence on 
these subjects, it must be because the credulity which pa- 
tronizes their bad cause has no possible limit. It is a bold 
figurative censure sometimes passed on a man who disputes 
notorious truth, that he would " deny the light of day ;" but 
my antagonists and their witnesses have literally done so. 
In order to hide the true measure of their oppression, the light 
o/"(^rty has been actually and seriously denied. During two 
hours of the twenty-four, they have "put darkness for light, 
" and light for darkness.'' It was, I trust, therefore, no waste 
of time, to take issue with them on this point ; and invoke not 

120 Of the Excess of forced Labour 

only their own evidence and their own records as usual, but 
the sun in his course to contradict them. 

Having thus, I trust, precluded all rational doubt of the 
fact that field-work commences in practice as well as by law, 
at five in the morning, and ends at seven in the evening, I 
return to the estimate of those further portions of time which 
are taken from sleep and from rest, before the actual com- 
mencement of the daily field-work, and after its termination. 
Let it be supposed that Dr. Collins's advice is now generally 
attended to in practice, and that the bell is no longer rung, or 
other awakening summons given, an hour or two prematurely, 
but strictly as he recommended, when the twilight is very 
well ascertained. The supposition is sufficiently favourable ; 
for though, as he observes, there is difficulty in avoiding 
errors on the one side, there can obviously be little or none on 
the other ; and it must be at the peril of the negroes or watch- 
men, or both, if they are called too late to muster at the 
proper place and time ; but not if they are called too early. 
The latest moment to which they can be safely allowed to 
sleep is that which will leave them time to put on their clothes, 
to prepare themselves with what they have to carry to the 
field for the day, and to walk to the place of work, at what- 
ever part of the estate that may be. The time necessary, on 
an average, for all these preliminary occupations, can be a 
subject only of loose conjectural estimate ; but that half an 
hour or more, commonly intervenes between the coming out 
of all the individuals from their huts, and their general muster 
in the field, may be inferred even from a passage in " the West 
India Colonies" of Mr. M'Queen ; for truth sometimes peeps 
through a crevice in the most finished edifice of falsehood. 
This writer, who has the inconceivable confidence to deny that 
the driving method of coercion, a practice which his em- 
ployers still resolutely refuse to relinquish, has any existence, 
and to rail virulently at all who plead for its abolition, as 
liars and impostors, affects to refute us by the following 
statement. " The persons called drivers, so far from driv- 
" ing them to the Jield, leave their houses, and reach the 
" places tvhere they are to tvork, at least half an hour before a 
*' single negro turns out or approaches the place.'' (p. 256.) 

in point of Time. 121 

The proposition thus strangely contradicted and refuted 
was in words, cited I believe from a work of my own, viz. 
that the slaves were driven " to their loork, and at their work," 
wliich he here pretends to understand as if it meant that they 
were driven from their huts to the place at which they are 
mustered before the work commences; a statement that would 
have been almost as absurd as most of those by which Mr. 
M'Queen has insulted the understandings of his readers ; for 
it is manifest that if the negroes were mustered in that way, 
every individual, on turning out from his hut, must have a 
driver behind him to urge him forward. There must, in other 
words, be as many drivers as workmen. It was a miserable sub- 
terfuge, worthy of himself, to ascribe such a meaning to his op- 
ponent. But he here lets out in part the truth of the case, by 
noticing, for his deceitful purpose, the precession of the driver ; 
who of course does not go to the field half an hour before 
his human team, merely to enjoy a soliloquy prior to their 
arrival. The fact is, that he goes there as soon as he can 
after the bell-ringing, in order to give the second call with 
his whip ; thereby indicating the spot of the general muster ; 
and stays there to note the times of the successive arrivals of 
the slaves, which vary of course with the strength or speed 
of each, or their quickness in turning out from their huts, 
and to punish on the spot, those who arrive too late. 

Many of these observations as to the morning muster, 
apply equally to the evening dismission from the field, the 
twilight being equal in duration to the dawn. 

It is after that period that the slaves, when not taxed, as 
we shall see they often are, with further work for the mas- 
ter, have to " plod homeward their weary way," from the 
most distant part perhaps of a large estate, to their huts ; 
and subsequently to provide for themselves that evening meal, 
which usually supplies to them, as we have seen, the want of 
a dinner; and to provide also for the next morning's break- 
fast, if they are to have one. 

Strangers to the case cannot easily imagine how much, 
and what various incidental employment, these necessary 
duties of the evening involve. The negro, be it again remem- 
bered, though he may be a husband or a father, has no wife 
or children at home to prepare his meals for him on his re- 

122 Of the Excess qfj'uned Labour 

turn from the field ; nor has he, like our English labourers, 
money to lay out, and a baker's or chandler's shop to go 
to, where he can buy his food in a state fit for immediate 

Even where provisions are supplied to him from the plan- 
tation stores, he receives them in a state neither fit for eating, 
nor for any culinary process, without much previous prepara- 
tion. The most favourable case is an allowance ofjiour, or coni 
meal; but this, though leavened bread is a luxury unknown 
to him, must be kneaded of course, and made into a cake or 
dumpling, before he can boil or bake it. The articles more 
commonly served out, where vegetable food is allowed by the 
master, is unground Guinea or Indian corn, or maize, with 
their horny coats, or horse beans ; * and upon these he must 

* I must not here anticipate too largely the subject of subsistence, which 
properly belongs to subsequent chapter ; but as these statements may seem 
strange to many of my readers, I subjoin here the following extracts: — 
" It required," says Mr. De la Beche, " one thousand bushels of Guinea 
" corn to supply the negroes during the year ; the average crop of Guinea 
" corn on the estate is about 1400 bushels, so that near two-thirds of the 
" labour expended in this kind of cultivation was solely for their own 
" benefit." — (Here we have the standing fallacy, that raising his own food 
is for the slave's benefit, not the master's.) " It used," adds the same 
writer, " to be the custom to give every negro on the property a gallon of' 
" Guinea corn on the Sunday morning, when they had not been allowed the 
" previous Saturday for themselves ; but in consequence of having had 
" every Saturday given them out of crop during the last year, they have 
" not asked, and consequently have not received, any very great assistance 
^* from the corn store. About sixty persons, consisting of invalids, chil- 
" dren, the stock keepers, and domestics, receive a gallon of corn each per 
" week all the year round." — Notes, &c. p. 8, 9. 

These are the words, not of an unfeeling or sordid, but of a liberal and 
benevolent planter, in his account of the management of his own estate in 
Jamaica ; where, however, I understand that the slaves in general are sup- 
plied with no provisions except a few salt herrings from the master's store, 
but depend on their own grounds for support. If they are not on that ac- 
count the worse fed, which I will not here enquire, their evening and other 
labours out of gang, are of course not the less. 

As to the use of horse-beans in other colonies, I give the following extract 
from Dr. Collins : — " Horse-beans are given to the negroes on many estates 
" in the Windward Islands for their allowance. If ground into flour, or bruised 
■" in a mill, perhaps no great objection would attend their use ; but if other- 
" wise, they are an execrable food ; — for as it would be troublesome to the 

in point of Time. 1 23 

perform the process of trituration how he may ; for no mill of 
any kind is provided : he must grind or pound them laboriously 
between such large stones as he can find for the purpose, 
before he can knead them into a loaf or cake for the fire ; but 
more commonly, as appears from my last quotation, is con- 
tent to boil and eat them husks and all. As to the cassada 
or manioc, it requires both to be dried and rasped, or grated 
into meal, before any further preparation of it as food ; but 
this, with calavansa beans, and other native pulse or veget- 
ables, on which the negroes feed, are, I apprehend, very 
rarely if ever, supplied by the master. They belong, there- 
fore, to another and more onerous class of occupations, the 
gathering and bringing from the provision grounds, such arti- 
cles of supply. 

But these are by no means all the incumbrances on the 
period of pretended rest; for at what other time can they 
collect and carry home the wood they use for fuel, or the 
water which they want for culinary purposes, and to allay 
their thirst, on that and the following day ? 

Comparatively fortunate is the poor slave, especially in the 
Leeward Islands, who has a spring of water within two or 
three miles of his hut; and a great majority are obliged to 
resort for it to the plantation well at the works, where it is, 
for the most part, to be drawn from a great depth. If we add 
to these particulars of daily occurrence, the washing and 
mending their clothes, the keeping their flimsy huts and 
their working tools in repair, and the various other occasional 
occupations that naturally fall on men and women who are left 
in all such matters to shift for themselves, it will be plain 

" proprietor to dress daily so many of them as would serve his whole gang, 
" they are given out undressed ; and it is left to the negroes to do the best 
" they can with them. Now beans being of a close and flimsy texture, 
" and requiring a great deal of time and cookery to prepare them for the 
" stomach, and your negroes having very little of either to spare, they are 
" swallowed half boiled, or quite raw ; in which case they impart about as 
" much nourishment to the body as so many bullets," &c. He adds, " As 
" the negroes, contrary to an opinion which has been erroneously enter- 
" tained, are generally provided with very bad grinders, a great part of 
" the grain which is used for their diet is swallowed whole, and rendered in 
" the same state ; of course it is eaten to little purpose." — Practical Rules, 
&c. p. 97,98. 

124 Of the Excess of forced Labour 

that much time must be wanted to supply their own necessi- 
ties after the work of the field is ended. 

It is by no means universally true, however, that labour 
directly and unequivocally for the master's benefit, even out 
of crop, terminates with their dismission by the drivers. 

They then cease, it is true, to work in gang, the crop season 
excepted, till the following dawn ; but they have various 
evening services afterwards to perform on the master's ac- 
count, as well as their own ; and some of them of a very 
onerous kind. 

By far the worst of these solitary labours, is the tedious 
and fatiguing drudgery of grass-picking, Mr. Ramsay's ac- 
count of which is already before my readers ; and I have 
little if any thing to add to it, except a few explanatory re- 
marks ; and except that, as I waived all benefit from his testi- 
mony, because he was a foe to slavery, its verity remains to be 

Here, however, a distinction must be pointed out, of much 
real, though much more apparent importance. There are 
colonies, and Jamaica is one of them, in which this practice, 
though prevailing extensively, is not in its nature so onerous as 
in the Leeward Islands. They have so much land there in most 
plantations unfit for the growth of sugar, or on which there are 
not hands enough for extending to the utmost that most profit- 
able species of agriculture, that most planters have adopted 
the practice of laying out artificial grass pieces to provide 
provender for their horses, mules, and other working cattle : 
and many of them have also penns or grazing grounds, where 
their sheep and other live stock feed ; whereas in St. Christo- 
pher, and several others of our older and fully settled islands, 
almost every rood of land capable of raising exportable pro- 
duce, has long since been avariciously devoted to that pur- 

Of course, therefore, there is generally speaking, in such 
colonies, no room for grass pieces, except at a height on the 
mountain ridges too distant and steep for cultivation, and 
where there is but a short native sward, fit only for a few 
sheep or goats to browse upon. 

A consequence calamitous to the poor slaves is, that except 
in crop-time, when the canc-tops serve for provender, the 

in point of Time. 125 

horses, mules, cattle, and live stock of every kind, not even 
excepting the sheep and goats on most estates, are fed ex- 
clusively on native grass and weeds plucked stem by stem 
by the hands of the negroes ; and which they are obhged to 
search for in the hedge-rows, the ranges, the fallowed cane- 
pieces, and the steep sides of deep guts or ravines by which 
the country is copiously intersected. 

As vegetation in that climate is astonishingly quick, especi- 
ally in the rainy season, which begins about the close of the 
crop, these resources in general are much more copious than 
might be supposed ; but when a short drought occurs, the 
slaves are often obliged to ascend high into the mountain 
grounds of their own or the neighbouring estates, to find the 
ordinary tale of grass ; and on low-land plantations, many of 
which have no mountain ground at all, their task is peculiarly 
laborious. At best it is in a high degree oppressive; for the 
daily consumption of such green food by all the cattle and 
live stock of a plantation which have, generally speaking, 
out of crop-time no other subsistence whatever, a little corn 
imported for the horses excepted, must obviously be very 
great; and there is not a handful, or scarcely a stalk of it, 
that has not cost a stoop to some weary slave, besides long 
walks in its collection. 

This work has been naturally, but most inadequately com- 
pared to the Egyptian straw-gathering ; while in almost 
every other point, that ancient bondage, though called " an 
iron yoke and a furnace of affliction," affords a striking con- 
trast, rather than a parallel, to the slaverj'^ of the West Indies. 

The time allowed for this tedious labour of grass-picking 
in the Leeward and Windward islands, is, first, that noon-tide 
interval, not less falsely, in this case, called a respite, than a 
dinner-time, and all the twilight that remains from the dimis- 
sion in the evening, to the " grass-throwing," as it is termed, 
the true close of the daily labour for the master. 

Nor is this final process of very short duration ; for as the 
individuals of the gang finish their respective collection of 
such bundles as they hope may pass muster, and arrive with 
them at the homestall, naturally at very unequal times, ac- 
cording to their different degrees of strength, and of success 
in their wide-spread individual searches, many of them of 
course must wait long for the rest, in order to a simultaneous 

126* Of the Kxcess of forced Lahnur 

delivery of their bundles, at the same place. Yet the de- 
livery is required to be simultaneous ; for otherwise, the over- 
seer, to whom the important duty of inspecting the bundles 
is assigned, might have to stand an hour or more in the sun, 
or in the evening dew, or in the rain, to pass judgment on 
every slave, as he successively arrives. That judgment, too, 
I admit, would, sometimes be more severe than it is, if this 
practice were altered : for when the general amount of grass 
is thought sufficient, the overseer is able to connive a little at 
the scanty contribution of individuals, who plead either the 
ill success of their search, or fatigue, or ill health, to excuse 
the smallness of their respective bundles. 

The practice is, that when all the slaves have arrived, or 
are thought to have had sufficient time for the purpose, the 
driver, who always attends to punish delinquents on the spot, 
draws them up in line, each having his or her bundle or 
bundles on the head ; and then calls out the overseer, who 
goes leisurely along the line, examining every load, and if 
satisfied, simply directs it to be thrown down on the general 
heap; but if not, orders the instant punishment of the de- 
faulters, having regard to the degree of each particular de- 

This process being ended, the poor slaves may retire, to 
re-assemble in the field at two, if it be in the afternoon ; or if 
it be the evening grass-throwing, to prepare that meal which 
their luxury, we are told, makes them prefer to a dinner. 
Perhaps it will be surmised, that they have rather a better 
reason, than luxurious self-indulo-ence for declinino- to dine, 
especially in the grass-picking colonies, when dismissed on a 
distant cane-piece at noon, and obliged to reappear there, at 
the two-o'clock muster, under pain of immediately feeling 
the smart of the torturing cart whip. 

But after reading Mr. Ramsay's account, and these further 
illustrations of my own, neither of which, by my agreement, 
are to be taken as evidence, the reader may desire to see them 
sufficiently verified. I will, therefore, here adduce again, 
the unimpeached and indisputable testimony of Dr. Col- 

** The picking of grass," says that writer, " in situations 
" where it is most abundant, is a labour more felt and regretted 
" by the negroes than others much more severe ; yet, as the 

in point of Time. 127 

" cattle must be fed, it would be advisable to assign a certain 
" portion of the land to the production of Guinea-grass; a 
" little sacrifice of interest, is better than a oreat oneofneo^ro 
** comfort."* 

In another place he says, " The neglect of grass-picking, is 
" another frequent cause of punishment. On some estates, 
" it draws more stripes upon the negroes, than all their other 
*• offences put together ; as the lash seldom lies idle while the 
•' grass-roll is calling over. It is to be lamented, that this 
*' work is so essential, as not to be entirely dispensed with ; 
" for as it is to be performed when the negroes are retired 
" from the field, and no longer under the eye of the overseer, 
" or the driver, it is apt to be neglected. Besides, it en- 
" croaches much on the time allotted to their own use ; and even 
" aftei- they have with mtich trouble picked their bundles, they 
" are frequeuthj stolen from them by fnore artful and less 
*' industrious negroes, and their excuses, however just, are seldom 
" admitted to extenuate their fault." 

After again recommending the substitution of Guinea-grass, 
or other artificial grasses, to be cultivated on spots to be al- 
lotted to that purpose, he adds, " However, where there is 
" no waste ground that can be assigned to that use, or at 
" least not to a sufficient extent to supersede the necessity of 
" picking the natural grass out of the hedges, or cane-pieces, 
" the quotas which the negroes are assessed ought not to be 
" rigorously exacted from them. They who make default 
" but seldom should be overlooked, whilst they who offend 
*' more frequently, should only be compelled to repair their 
" neglect by bringing a double quantity at the next call. In 
" general they would do so, and you would profit more by the 
" fine than by the punishment, and your negroes would escape 
" the whip, which is too intemperately employed on this occa- 
" sion, as on others ; but the misfortune is, it is always at hand, 
" and therefore supplies the readiest means of punishing ; for 
" the overseer having such a summary mode of balancing 
" offences, never thinks of any other, which demanding fore- 
" sight, and taxing his recollection, would engage him in a 
" more complex system of government. "f 

Practical Rules, &c. p. 192-3. f Ibid. 204-5. 

128 0/ the Excess of' forced Labour 

Though Dr. ColHns does not expressly state that the whole 
of the noontide respite from the drivers is employed in grass- 
picking, and the subsequent attendance at the roll-calling for 
its delivery ; such I think may be fairly inferred to be the 
case, from different passages in his work, in addition to those 
I have here cited. He says, for instance, in his advice as to the 
intervals in the morning and mid-day. " At noon they must 
" have two full hours before they are summoned to throw their 
" grass ; and at night, if out of crop, they retire from the field 
" with the sun."* There could be no reason why the grass- 
throwino; should be reserved to the end of the allotted two 
hours, except that they would not, otherwise, always have 
sufficient time for collecting and bringing it in, without too 
much hurry and fatigue. And if the task generally or often 
employs two full hours at noon, it cannot well be supposed to 
employ less in the evening, when the slaves have been fa- 
tigued with the whole gang- work labours of the day. In 
point of fact, too, the quantity exacted at evening, is generally 
the largest ; because it is to serve all the stock through 
the night, and till the following noon. Dr. Collins says no- 
thing as to the time of grass-throwing in the evening ; but if 
the negroes ''retire from the field, (i.e. from the gang-work) 
" with the sun," which is, on a medium, six o'clock, and where 
grass-picking prevails, they are I believe often dismissed thus 
early, it may be inferred that the grass-throwing is not finish- 
ed on an average sooner than between seven and eioht ; and 
this perfectly accords with Ramsay's account, or shows 
at least that he used no exaggeration ; for his words are 
" about seven o'clock in the evening, or later, according to 
" the season of the year, when the overseer can find lei- 
" sure, they are called over by list to deliver in their second 
" bundles of grass," 

Mr. Ramsay, in the same account, may, when compared 
with Dr. Collins and most other colonial apologists, be 
thought more than sufficiently favourable to the planters ; for 
he spoke of the evening grass-picking, we have seen, as begin- 
ning " about half an hour before sunset,'" instead of their " re- 
" tiring with the sun' from the gang-work. Here, however, 

* P. 189. We must obviously read " should retire ;" but I will not cor- 
rect the typographical error. 

7)1 point o) Time. 129 

he was incorrect only in using general terms to describe what, 
though a very frequent, is a local and occasional, not the ge- 
neral practice. In St. Christopher, where he lived, the grass- 
picking is, for the reason I have given, pre-emiiiently tedious ; 
and when the weather has been more than usually dry, it is 
often necessary, especially on low-land estates, to dismiss the 
gang from the cane-pieces half an hour before sunset, in order 
that they may have time and light enough to collect bundles 
sufficiently large. By no other writer within my recollection 
is a dismission by the drivers before sunset alleged. 

And here I cannot but digress a moment to observe how 
fully, and in how many particulars, Dr. Collins's work, re- 
published by an eminent colonial agent and apologist of sla- 
very within the present century ; and first printed at least 
Jifteen years later than that of Mr. Ramsay, is found to con- 
firm his statements, and give a posthumous triumph to the 
character of that very worthy, but much calumniated 
man. In a passage that I omitted before, he had pointed 
out this further occasional aggravation of the miseries of 
grass-picking; " On their return from a neighbouring height, 
" often some lazy fellow of the intermediate plantation, with 
" the view of saving himself the trouble of picking his own 
" grass, seizes on them, and pretends to insist on carrying 
" them to his master for picking grass, or being found on his 
" grounds ; a crime that forfeits the bundle, and subjects the 
*' offender to twenty lashes of a long cart-whip of twisted 
" leather thongs. The wretch is fain to escape with the loss 
" of his bundle, &c. The hour of delivering in his grass ap- 
" proaches, while hunger importunately solicits him to re- 
•' member its call; but he must renew the irksome toil," &c.* 

Let this be compared with the lines I have printed with 
italics in the last extract from Dr. Collins. Indeed I hardly 
know a single stricture of Mr. Ramsay's on the oppressive 
treatment of slaves, that has not since his death been abun- 
dantly confirmed by writers of the same party with those 
who hooted him into his grave as a libeller and a liar. His 
only crime was the holding up to public abhorrence in this 

* P. 70. 

VOL. 11. K 

130 Of the E.ness of Juiced Labour 

country, a system of which they now admit that his general 
reprobation was just; since they now confess that when he 
wrote, and for twenty years after, the poor slaves were barba- 
rously oppressed, in practice as well as by law. 

On the Saturday evenings, the picking of grass must by 
an obvious necessity be enforced to much more than its usual 
extent, to rescue the sabbath, if in fact rescued, from that 
burthen. When we are told, therefore, that Saturday after- 
noon is given to the slaves for themselves, or for the working 
their own grounds, we should recollect that there is this 
heavy incumbrance upon it for the direct and unequivocal use 
of the master. To exempt the sabbath entirely, thrice the 
usual quantity must be thrown the evening before. 

The sabbath itself, however, is encroached upon for the same 
purpose, " no work is ever required of them by their master on 
*' Sundays," said the council and assembly of St. Christopher, 
" except the picking a bundle of giass on Sunday evenings, 
"■ which usually (they had the confidence to add) does not 
" require half an hour."* They meant it to be supposed, 
perhaps, that the grass springs in more abundant quantities 
on Sundays than other days; not, indeed, altogether to pre- 
vent the profanation of that day, but to enable the slaves to 
perform in half an hour what costs them three or four hours 
daily at other times. 

The reader may suppose that here, at least, there has pro- 
bably been some improvement, since the era of alleged atten- 
tion to the spiritual state of the black population commenced ; 
let him compare, then, this admission of 1789, with the latest 
statement on the subject, of equal authority, on the colonial 
side, which I extract from the examinations taken and trans- 
mitted by the council of Barbadoes, in 1824, in opposition to 
the reformations recommended by the crown and parliament. 

" It is usual, on most estates, for the negroes on Sunday 
" mornings to bring up with them a bundle of grass at eight 
" o' clock, and receive their allowances for that day, after 
"■ which they are never called upon to do any thing; and 
'* Saturday afternoons are very commonly given to them — 

* Privy Council Report on the Slave Trade, part 3, title Grenada and 
St. Christopher, A. No. 9. 

/// po'mt of Time. 131 

" that on some estates he has abolished the bringing of grass 
" on Sunday mornings, which, however, occupies a very short 
" time."* 

Here we have the same difficulties as in the account of 
the evening grass-throwing on Sundays at St. Christopher. 
If there is but one picking on the sabbath, it must be equal 
in quantity to two on other days, unless the cattle and stock 
are put on short allowance. And what are we to understand 
by " a very short time ?" If not nearly or full three hours, it 
would be a great and wanton hardship on the poor slaves to 
delay the grass-throwing till eight o'clock ; as well as a need- 
less violation of the sabbath, to make that the time for dis- 
tributing their allowances. It would be to rob them without 
profit to the master, of the time that they might have em- 
ployed, if earlier dismissed, in going to their provision 
grounds, or to the Sunday market, or in preparing for the 
latter after their usual time of rising, whether that was four 
or five o' clock. It is, therefore, a conclusion, not only the 
most natural, but the least unfavourable to the planter's 
humanity, that they cannot on an average gather and bring 
to the works grass enough for the use of the day, earlier 
than eight ; in other words, this " very short time" probably 
employs two or three hours of tedious and wearisome work. 
In the usual style of these admissions we are told of " bring- 
" ing with them a bundle of grass,'' as if they found it at their 
huts, and had nothing to do but to carry it, instead of having 
to roam over the whole estate to find and pluck it blade by 
blade. As this is the best case the Barbadoes council could 
dress up for use in this country, who can doubt that the 
acknowledged grievance of grass-picking is full as bad at this 
period as it was above forty years ago ? The same will be 
found to be the case in every point; or at least in all that I 
mean to investigate, the economical oppressions of the system. 

To this I will add another extract from an account still 
more recent, the work of June, 1829, to which I have before 
referred.f " Upon Sunday evenings all the negroes of both 

* Examination of Forster Clarke, Esq., a proprietor of a plantation in 
Barbadoes, and attorney for 19 estates of absentees. Printed Report, 108- 
f See supra, p. 29, 30. 

K 2 

132 Of the Excess of forced Labour 

*' sexes, except the children, have to muster with a bundle of 
'* grass for the cattle, which is cut from the open spaces which 
" divide the cane fields, and from other parts of the estate. 
" Upon some properties, this is required in the morning as 
" well as the evening."* 

As the drudgery of grass-picking is from local circumstances, 
considerably mitigated in Jamaica, and perhaps in some other 
colonies, it may be thought that the field-negroes there have 
more spare time for themselves. Though I am far from denying 
the importance of that distinction, the effect of much abridging 
the entire time of labour may be questioned ; not only be- 
cause the gang is in consequence detained longer, as we have 
seen, in the cane-fields, but because the same diversity of 
local circumstances leads to a larger reliance on native pro- 
visions, and gives the slaves consequently more work to do 
at their noontide and evening hours, in providing their own 
subsistence, than in places where they are chiefly sustained 
by imported articles of food. 

For proof of the former proposition, we need only to com- 
pare Mr. Ramsay's statements as to the times of dismission 
from the cane-pieces in St. Christopher, with those of colo- 
nial witnesses and writers, whose statements relate to Ja- 
maica ; for his authority, when on the extenuatory side, will 
not, I presume, be disputed ; and he represented the noontide 
respite as well as evening dismission to be earlier, and the 
former to be of longer d uration than any of the Jamaica gen- 
tlemen allege ; making the field-Work stop, according to va- 
riant usage on different plantations, at " eleven o'clock, or 
" noon,'' and the respite to vary from an hour and a half to 
near three hours ; and he dates the evening dismission, as we 
have seen, at half an hour before sun-set.t It would appear, 
therefore, that the noontide, as well as evening time of ab- 
sence from the gang-work, is longer on a medium by half an 
hour at the least, making together one hour in the day, at St. 
Christopher's than in Jamaica. 

* Observations upon the State of Negio Slavery in the Island of Santa 
Cruz, p. 89. 

t See supra, p. 70, 71. 

/// point of Ti/ne. J 33 

Mr. Beckforcl, says, " that there tlie slaves seldom continue 
" in the field out of crop after sunset, which is never later 
" than seven."* And even Mr. Bryan Edwards was content 
to say, " At sunset, or veri/ soon after, they are released for the 
" night;" he adds, " the drudgery of grass-picking so much 
" complained of in some of the islands to windward, being 
" happily unknown in Jamaica. "f The latter assertion is 
one of the very numerous instances in which that plausible, 
but most disingenuous defence of slavery, called a History 
of the West Indies, has misled not only the enemies of the 
negroes, but their friends. I confess that I was myself in 
this instance, deceived by it ; never having been in Jamaica, 
and not thinking it probable that the author, an eminent 
planter of the island, and long resident there, would have 
ventured to call a practice unknown there, if it had been in 
any degree commonly used. The fact, as I am now well in- 
formed is, that the distinction is rather in degree, than in 
kind ; for though the slaves in Jamaica have not, generally 
speaking, far to go for grass, or to collect it by such tedious 
pickings as in St. Christopher and other islands, they have 
to cut it, when grass pieces are planted for the purpose ; and 
when not, as is more commonly the case, to go through the 
common process of grass-picking as here described ; except 
that from its abundance, that process is not near so difficult 
and tedious as in those fully cultured and dry weather islands ; 
and however the grass is obtained, it is a duty of the slaves 
after their dismission from gang-work in the field, to go for 
it, and bring in their individual cuttings or collections to the 
homestall. The latter proposition seems to require no evi- 
dence ; for how otherwise could the horses and other working 
cattle, be provendered at night ? 

But happily, even here, I have express authority on the 
colonial side, to warrant my giving the result of anti-slavery 
information, (for such I admit it is) without any violation of 
my rule. I refer to an extract before given from the Jamaica 
Report of 1815, (supra, p. 115.) where one of the witnesses. 

* Remarks on the situation of Negroes in Jamaica, by Mr. Beckford 
p. 45. 

t Hist, of the West Indies, vol. ii. book 4. chap. .5. 

134 OJ the Excess of forced Labour 

Mr. Richards, noticed among the evening labours of the 
slaves, not only the making dung, but " carrying grass.'^ It 
is true he spoke of these as labours which formerly employed 
the slaves an hour after dark, but it was in that point alone 
that any improvement was alleged or hinted in this respect, 
by him or any other witness ; nor can any change be supposed 
that could have rendered the making dung and carrying grass 
less necessary than before, as parts of the ordinary labours 
of a sugar estate. They may be no longer performed after 
dark, though the various and vague uses of that term, and its 
correlatives, throughout the report, make it difficult to say 
whether any such change has, or even is affirmed to have 
taken place ; but if grass is still carried by the slaves of Ja- 
maica in the evening, it must be after seven o'clock ; and in 
order to be carried, it must be first collected and formed into 
bundles, whether by plucking or cutting. 

For these reasons, though I admit the drudgery of pro- 
viding food for the cattle and live stock, to be less onerous 
on the slaves in Jamaica than in some other colonies, it must 
even there, form no inconsiderable addition to the daily gang- 
work or labour in the cane- pieces; and I am strongly in- 
clined to believe that if the time it occupies could be ascer- 
tained, and added to the difference of gang-work time which 
I have noticed, the slaves of that island would be found lit- 
tle benefited by the distinction ; except by avoiding in a great 
degree the innumerable punishments inflicted in other colonies 
for deficiencies in their bundles of o rass. 

This, mdeed, is perfectly natural ; because the grand prac- 
tical principle pervading the whole system, and the necessary 
eflPect also of avarice long spurred on by commercial compe- 
tition, is the exaction from the poor slaves of the maximum 
of labour, that their time and strength can, without certain 
and speedy destruction, possibly afford. 

But let me now resume my computation of the actual 
time of labour. — It has been sufficiently shewn, I trust, that 
this, in the lightest season of work, would be most falla- 
ciously and inadequately estimated, by counting the hours only 
of the collective labours of the gang, under the driver's'coer- 
cion in the field ; though such is the uniform rule of the colonial 
apologists ; and it has been shewn to be the result of their 

in point of Time. 135 

own data, that even this rule, gives, on an average, not less 
than eleven hours and a half" in the twenty-four; except 
where the time is somewhat shortened in order to extend 
in an equal degree the harassing process of grass-picking. 

What addition, then, ought to be made, in a fair estimate, 
for what we cannot call the voluntary, or unforced, but may 
define, in general, as the solitary labours of the slaves, in order 
to distinguish them from those of the collected gangs, per- 
formed in the presence of the drivers,and by direct compulsion ? 

Some of their solitary toils, such as their walks to and 
from the place of the morning and afternoon muster, will, per- 
haps, be undisputed additions, at least to the charges on their 
time, and abridgments of their rest; because they are un- 
avoidable incidents to what the colonists allow to be " work 
/or the master.'' But I must take leave to difier from them 
in their common views of this subject ; and to add also to the 
amount, what the slaves have to do for their own subsistence ; 
though this is treated by my opponents as if it were mere re- 
laxation and rest ; or as if labour had no tendency at all to 
weary the frames of the slaves, except when its immediate 
subject is the raising or manufacturing of sugar.* 

• Though such views are too preposterous to deserve serious refutation, 
it may be right to shev? that they have been and still are gravely and ex- 
pressly maintained. They are plainly implied in all the numerous state- 
ments and calculations I have cited, which reduce the hours of labour to 
those which are assigned by the same authorities to gang-'work in the field ; 
or which count the time of labour from five in the morning to seven in the 
evening, deducting two hours and a half for breakfast and dinner ; and 
many of them we have seen, expressly call all the rest of the twenty-four 
hours, time of relaxation and rest. 

It may, however, be worth remarking here, that all the witnesses exa- 
mined before the Privy Council, who spoke to the times of respite or relax- 
ation, did so in answer to Q. A. No. 9, which was in the following terms : 
" Are any days or hours set apart in which the slaves may labour for them- 
" selves ?" and that it was in answering this question that they carefully 
took credit, not only for the Sabbath, and two days or three at Christmas, 
and for an occasional Saturday afternoon out of crop, but for the two hours 
respite at mid-day, and for an undefined portion of time after the evening 
dismission ; in other words, for all the time that the slaves do, or possibly 
can employ in raising their own provisions. They all, therefore, plainly 

136 Of the Excess of forced Labour 

Not doubting that all my readers who are not slave-mas- 
ters, will feel with me on this point, and think that the por- 
tions of time employed in the culture of provision grounds, 
or unavoidably spent in other occupations necessary to 
the slave's support, such as gathering and bringing home 
the produce of his ground, the preparing and dressing his 
food, collecting fuel, and drawing and carrying water, &c. 
ought to be included in our calculations of his daily toil, 
my only difficulty will be to shew, what in point of time is 
their actual amount; which, it is obvious, as to the daily 
respites from gang-work, can be averaged only by probable 

Let it be supposed that an hour must, on a medium, 
be wanted between the bell-ringing on the first approach 
of dawn, and the commencement of work in the cane- 
piece, and two hours for the various employments that 
must succeed its evening termination, before the slave can 
retire to sleep ; and let it be further supposed, that only 
one hour of the two at noon is employed, on an average, 
in any laborious way, where grass-picking is not required 
at that period. This, when we take into account the walks 
to and from the field at noon, of all who do not lie down on 
the spot, will be thought, I trust, a very moderate estimate. We 
shall if so, have to add four hours per diem of solitary labours, 
to the eleven hours and a half of gang-work ; making together 
fifteen hours and a half in the twenty-four : in which calcu- 
lation I regard the breakfast-time as entire and absolute rest. 
But to preclude all objection and doubt, and take every thing 
below the truth, I will strike off half an hour from that 
amount ; and suppose fifteen hours only to be the average 
time out of the crop-season, during which the negro is either 
at hard work in the field, or in bodily action of some other 

considered the slave when raising his own subsistence ds working "for him- 

Some of them went further, expressly giving the name of rest and " ex- 
" emption from labour," to that necessary toil. ' Sundays throughout the 
" year" said the agents and planters of Jamaica, " are days of rest which 
" they have entirely to themselves." " Sunday," said the Council of Barba- 
does, " is a day of course totally exempt from labour." Yet see supra, 131. 

in point of Time. 137 

kind, either for the master's immediate benefit, or his own 

Were we to stop here, we should have a truly appalling 
excess of oppression. Even in this climate, it would be so ; 
more especially if imposed on agricultural labourers ; and at 
all seasons of the year. How much more oppressive, then, in 
the Torrid Zone, where the native propensities of mankind 
are so strongly opposed to arduous long-continued toil ; and 
where the labourer, while working under the solar blaze, is 
subject to an exhausting perspiration, such as the English 
peasant is rarely annoyed by, even in our summer days. But 
the latter works on an averao;e not more than nine hours, as I 
shall hereafter fully shew. 

Much, however, of the sad story of the poor sugar-planta- 
tion slave is yet untold. We have hitherto considered only 
his labours out of the crop-season, when they are much the 
lightest in point of time. Let us next enquire what they are 
during that long-protracted West India harvest, called the 
time of crop. 

We have before seen that the comparative severity of 
forced labour during that large portion of the year, is uni- 
versally admitted ; and that its diurnal continuance is quite 
unlimited by law. The meliorating acts have prudently got 
rid of the subject, by leaving it wholly unnoticed, and con- 
fining their regulations to the season out of crop alone. 

During the crop-months, the planter's profits depend more 
even than they do at other seasons, on the quantum of labour 
that he compels his slaves to perform in a given time ; for 
there is danger of much detriment, both in the quality and 
quantity of his produce, if the canes are not cut and ground, 
and their juice manufactured by boiling, with all possible ex- 
pedition, as soon as they are ripe enough for the purpose; 
and the consequence is, that forced labour has no limits, but 
such as nature irresistibly prescribes. Both by day and by 
night the negroes are put to the full stretch of their physical 

Lest these propositions should be thought too strong at 
the outset, let me here cite a recent report of the venerable 
Church Society for promoting Christian Knoivledge. The Right 
Reverend Governors, who must have concurred, at least in 

138 Of the Excesa of forced Labour 

framing that report, will not be suspected of exaggeration ; 
and yet it has the following passage : — "The task of con- 
" veying religious instruction to uneducated adults is rendered 
*' doubly difficult in the case of the negro, who is kept to 
** hard labour at all seasons of the year, and works during 
" the harvest with the least possible intei'tnission."* 

I have already shewn the former proposition too well 
founded ; and shall soon prove the latter literally true. 

To enable my readers to judge what the practice generally 
is in the crop months, I will here cite, as I have done in re- 
spect of the labour out of crop, a few authorities relative to 
different sugar colonies, and at different periods, from the 
first public enquiries to the present time ; from which it will 
appear, as in the former case, that the practice is strikingly 
uniform throughout the West Indies, and has, during forty 
years at least, received no mitigation. 

To begin with the Privy Council Report and Parliamen- 
tary evidence of 1790. 

" Crop-time, our harvest," said the legislative council of 
Jamaica, " may be deemed hard labour, as the work in the 
" boiling houses is continued day and night."f 

" When I speak of the ease of labour," said Sir Ralph 
Payne, afterwards Lord Lnvington, who spoke chiefly of 
Antigua and St. Kitts), " I speak of it comparatively with 
" that of a day-labourer in England ;" (he had before made, 
as we have seen, that extravagant comparison) " and I 
" meant principally out of crop. Li crop time the labour is 
" certainly sever eS'X 

" A field negro," said Mr. Campbell, an eminent planter of 
Grenada, " is the same time at labour at crop-time, as out 
*' of crop-time ; but in Grenada and the other ceded islands, 
" we keep about the works and the boiling of sugar all night ; 
** from which circumstance, we commonly divide our gang 
" into three spells of boilers, people to attend the mill, fire- 
" men, and men to carry out cane-trash. This work requires 
" the labour of from twenty to thirty slaves, according to the 

* Report for 1828, p. 55. 

t Privy Council Report, Q. A. No. 36. 

t Commons Report of 1790, p. 442. 

ill point oj' Time. 139 

" number of coppers that are boiling. These spells are changed 
" at midnight, so that it only comes on every third night that 
" they lose their rest of six hours, and when estates are fully 
" slaved, there are often four spells."* 

Dr. Athill, a planter of Antigua, gave a detail of the num- 
ber of slaves necessary for the various works at the boiling 
house, and added, " they amount, in the whole, when all the 
** work, is going on with spirit, to between twenty and thirty 
" negroes, so that there are few left to cut the canes, drive 
" the cart, and do the other work, except on very well-handed 
" estates. "f 

That there were in this respect few " very well-handed," or 
to use Mr. Campbell's phrase, ^^ fully slaved estates," was 
manifest from the statements of almost every witness to whom 
the standing question, whether the Islands were sufficiently 
stocked with slaves, was put. The last cited witness, for ex- 
ample, said in answer to a question. Whether the estates in 
Antigua were to his knowledge, during his stay there, pro- 
perly stocked ? " By far the greater part were not ; some few 
" estates had perhaps more than they required. "J And he 
further stated, that " on some estates the canes are cut one 
" day and ground the next, from the planter not having 
" sufficient negroes to supplij the sugar works and the Jield at 
"the same time."^ Yet Antigua in this respect was gene- 
rally considered as one of the most fortunate of our islands. 
It is manifest, therefore, that the case of estates so " fully 
" slaved," as to supply four spells, must have been very rare 
indeed. If so before the abolition, it must of course be still 
rarer now. But as those who are still credulous enough to 
listen to the oft-told and oft-retracted tale, of humane im- 
provements, may doubt, perhaps, whether some expedient 
has not been found to relieve the wearied slaves from night 
labour after the toils of the day, I will show what the prac- 
tice still is, or was at least, so recently as 1825, on the deci- 
sive authority of Mr. De la Beche. 

Speaking of his own estate, he says, " During crop time, 
" which generally lasts about four months, |1 the negroes are 

* Ibid. 139. t Ibid. 328. | Ibid. 323. § Ibid. 339. 

II This should have been about Jive, unless the other planters I have 
to cite, are mistaken, or there is something peculiar on his estate. 

140 Of the Excess of forced Labour 

" in consequence of being but comparatively few on this 
" estate, divided into two spells, which relieve each other 
" every twelve hours, viz. at noon and at midnight ; thus al- 
" lowing half the night for work, and half for rest, during five 
'* days in the week ; the whole of the remaining two nights, 
" those of Saturday and Sunday, being their own hi/ laiv."* 
(I doubt not he might have added by practice, too, on his oivn 
estate, at least while he was there). In another place, he 
says, " On sugar estates, where the negroes are numerous, in 
" proportion to the land cultivated, the people are divided 
" into three and four spells during crop-time : on properties 
" where the numbers are not so great, into two."'!' 

Here, then, we have a clear admission that the case now is 
no better, if not worse, than it was forty years ago ; even on 
the estate of this liberal and benevolent planter. Even his 
slaves work eighteen hours out of the twenty-four in crop 
time ; and though he says they have the remainder for rest, 
he cannot mean, and I am sure did not desire to be understood, 
that they have six hoursybr sleep, before the renewal of their 
daily toil ; for the twelve hours which he regards as the night, 
comprise the whole interval between their evening dismission 
from field-work, and the morning muster ; and this, even if 
we should assign to both the hour of six, which I have shewn 
to be inconsistent with the most favourable colonial evidence, 
more especially during the summer solstice, to which the crop- 
months chiefly belong. Supposing, however, that the slaves 
who are dismissed from the field at six, and take then their 
six hours' spell at nightwork till midnight, are not mustered 
in the field till six the next morning, they obviously cannot 
have six hours intermediate rest, in any proper sense of 
that word ; as they have their supper to prepare, and the 
other ordinary and necessary functions of the evening to 
perform, and to walk to the morning rendezvous in the field, 
after their brief slumber has been disturbed by the rousing 

* Notes on the present condition of the slaves in Jamaica, p. 7. 
t Ibid. 22. 

I A new parliamentary document has, while I am revising these sheets for 
the printer, for the first time met my eye. It is entitled, " Protector of 

in point of Time. 141 

Ft has been alleged, as an extenuation of these oppressive 
hardships, that the more weakly slaves are commonly ex- 

Slaves Reports," and is printed by an order of the House of Commons 
of June 12th, 1829 ; and as it incidentally throws much light on this sub- 
ject of nocturnal labour in crop-time, I will insert some extracts from it 

Some limitation to that branch of oppression had been prescribed by one 
of the ordinances, that of September, 1826, emanating from the local au- 
thorities at Berbice, but under the positive direction of the crown, which 
has legislative power in that colony. It fixed, as the Protector observes 
(p. 17), no express limit to any other than field labour, and work on 
Saturday night, which is directed to end at ten o'clock. The Protector, 
however, supposed, that by the spirit and general intention of the ordi- 
nance, the same limitation ought to be extended to the other days of the 
week ; and finding the practice to be as often as planters thought fit, to 
work their slaves by spells through the night, without any remission of 
their daily labours either before or aftei", he submitted the point to the 
opinion of the fiscal, and king's advocate, the crown lawyers of the 

From the former he received in answer a very planter-like and argu- 
mentative opinion as to the necessities or convenience of the case; but no 
clear or consistent solution of the question arising on the ordinance in 
point of law; though he says, " The law of nature 7'equl?es u cessation 
" fioin labow at night after the toil of the day." 

The King's Advocate, Mr. Dalij, spoke more directly and satisfactorily ; 
saying that, " as the ordinance regulated the time for field-labour to be 
" from six o'clock in the morning till six o'clock in the evening, it was 
" never contemplated by its framers that the same slave should perform 
" his daily work in the field, and still be liable to labour during the night." 

The question immediately arose from the complaints of four female 
slaves to the protector, that after having been employed in cutting canes 
in the field during the day, they were, about nine o'clock at night, after 
they had gone to bed, called up to go and carry magoss from the mill ; 
that they were employed at that work all the night until ten o'clock the 
next day, when they had no " tie tie " (ligatures made from the cane trash 
to tie up the bundles of magoss) left to take the magoss from the mill ; 
that they were then employed to put magoss into the sun to dry for the 
firemen. That about five o'clock in the evening (i, e. of the second day), 
they went into the field to get the tie tie, and brought it home. That they 
then went to the manager, and told him thei/ ivere weary, and he answered, 
" Well, when the other people break off, you can go home." What that 
time was is not stated ; but it may be collected from the rest of the case, 
not sooner than twelve at niglit. The next morning they begged the 
manager to let them have thri'e additional hands to take away the magoss in 

142 Of' the Excess of forced Labour 

empted from the night-work. But granting this, what does 
it prove ? Only that the extremity of watching and toil attend- 

the mill-house, " but he said no, and told them to go and cut canes in the 

Such applications to the manager from the poor wearied females, who 
had had by their account, not more than three hours rest in thirty-six, 
may seem no great offence ; but for this they were not only deprived of 
their Christmas holidays, a severe punishment to the slaves, but kept in 
solitari/ confinement in the dungeon, or clarkliouse, with both, feet in the stocks 
for four days and nights. This complaint was in part denied by the mana- 
ger; but only as to the point of the women having been called up the first 
night at nine o'clock. lie merely alleged they were not called till twelve. 
The following is his whole defence : — 

" Alexander M'Donald, manager of Plantation Smithson's Place, having 
" heard the complaint of the slaves, Bella, Emma, Acconba, and Sybella, 
''denies the accusation against him for being called up at jijwe o'clock to 
*' carry magoss from the mill on the night of the 1 8th December last ; and 
" v)ith regard to their complaint of being in the stocks during the time 
" they wei-e in confinement at the holidays, says, he conceives it to be in ac- 
" cordance with the regulations, and that he had the power to do it," p. 20. 

He called three witnesses, his overseer and two slaves, who stated that it 
was the turn of those women to take a spell, and that it was at twelve o'clock 
not nine when they were called up. (Same page.) 

Here we find that there was no pretence of more than two spells. The 
women had to take their nightly turn at the mill from twelve o'clock at 
least, though not from nine, without any relief from the field-work of the 
preceding or the following day ; and were denied any rest on the evening 
of the last, till relieved at midnight by the other alternate spell with the 
rest of the gang. 

But the examination of Sandy, the head boiler, one of the defendant's 
witnesses, is well worth a further extract. 

Q. " When people work at the mill from the time it goes about at the 
" hours you have mentioned, (viz. sometimes at twelve at night, sometimes 
" at ten or eleven) until daylight the next morning, what becomes of them 
' afterwards? Do they go to work all next day, or do they break off and go 
" to sleep?" 

A. " J'hey never break off; they go on working all the next day." 

Q. " What are the hours for boiling sugar on Plantation Smithson's 
" Place." 

A. " We begin about four o'clock in tlie morning, and keep at it till 
" eight at night ; we then go to sleep, and I have to get up at eleven to 
" see them pot sugar. This takes about two hours." (Here the witness 
apparently speaks of the boilers only.) 

Q. " Do you go to sleep after this till four o'clock." 

A " No. I have to see the coppers cleaned." 

in point of Time. 143 

ing it are found to be such as the feeble cannot possibly endure. 
It is admitted that there is very commonly a want of hands to 
alleviate the general pressure by forming an adequate number 
of spells or reliefs. It would, therefore, be to wrong the under- 
standings, and even further to impeach the humanity of the 
planters, if we supposed that they would have only two spells 
or reliefs, instead of three, or three instead of four, at the night 
work, thereby subjecting their slaves so much oftener in the 
week, to such long continued watching and labour, if they 
could avoid it by employing a greater portion of their gangs 
capable of such arduous service. 

Q. " Do the other sugar boilers keep the same hours, or is it only the 
" head boiler that is required to see the sugar potted ?" 

A. "The other boilers are called up at the same time; but their duty is 
"to clean the coppers." (p. 20, 21.) 

Thus it appears that the boilers have not more than three hours' rest, or 
rather three hours of respite, in the twenty-four ; and another of the defend- 
ant's witnesses shew that the potters fare no better. 

Q. " What sort of people are the sugar potters ? I mean how old are 
" they." 

A. " I cannot say exactly how old they are. They are young Creoles, 
" both boys and girls.'' 

Q. " How long were these young Creoles employed to pot sugar on the 
" night you speak of." 

A. "They continued potting about three in the morning, when they went 
"home to sleep." (p. 20.) 

Such is the practice of night-work and day-work during crop in this 

Mr. M'Queen had the effrontery to assert, in 1825, that the former had 
been in general abolished. " Formerly it was a general custom during crop 
"to make sugar during the night. It is still in some places the practice, &c. 
" In a very short time night-work would be altogether unknown in the co- 
"lonies, were the planters left alone," &c. (p. 261, 2.) 

The reader, I hope, will remember that the same statements were made 
to Parliament forty years ago, yet by this latest official document on the 
subject, the practice appears to continue in rather more than the former 
degree of rigour, even in a colony where there was a legislative ordinance, 
by the plain intent of which night-work was prohibited. 

The Plantation Smithson's Place, was not the only one from which com- 
plaints were brought to the Protector ; but he found it in vain to prosecute, 
even for the cruel treatment of the poor women on that estate. " I have 
forborne," he says, in his report to the Governor, " to press this matter in 
" the shape of a prosecution; being apprehensive of failure," (p. 18.) no un- 
reasonable apprehension, certainly, as those who read the Fiscal's opinion, 
will admit. 

144 Of the Excess of forced Laliouv 

The apologists of night-work, nevertheless, are fond of 
telling us that only a small part of the gang is employed in it ; 
and Barclay's work, in its usual spirit, diminishes the number 
from between twenty and thirty, which was stated both by Mr. 
Athill and Mr. Campbell as its ordinary amount, to eighteen. 
It is added, that such was the proportion on an estate with 
two hundred labourers; evidently with an aim to convey the 
idea of there being so many effective workmen, though with 
an explanation, doubtless in reserve, that negroes or slaves were 
meant.* The inuendo to unwary European readers, is that 
the hardship is imposed but on a few of the many who are able 
to sustain it ; whereas West Indians well know that in a gang 
of all ages, scarcely one third, deducting the drivers, trades- 
men, and artificers, are strong enough for the heavier labours 
of the plantation, including the night-work in crop-time. 
With the same deceptious view, it is left unnoticed, that the 
eighteen or twenty-five in constant employ at the boiling- 
house, must be multiplied by the number of spells, in order to 
find the true amount of the labourers to whom night-work is 
assigned. Now the same author or authors, in an elaborate 
attempt to refute the Rev. Mr. Cooper, contend for the use in 
one instance at least, of four spells -f- ; supposing which, slaves 
employed on night-work would, on their own deceptious enu- 
meration be seventy-two; on the true one, about one hundred; 
and even the smaller number might be enough to prevent the 
exemption of one man or woman on the estate capable of sus- 
taining the work. ;|; 

Let it not be supposed, however, that the exposure of these 
fallacies is at all necessary to support my strictures on night- 
work. If the numbers coerced to its performance, were less 

* Barclay, p. 416. f Ibid. 414-15. 

X See the citation from Mr. de la Beche, supra, p. 139, 140. That gentle- 
man had two hundred and eight slaves on his estate, as appears by the public 
returns; yet he fairly ack no wleges his inability to muster more than two 
spells. If the curious attempt to refute Mr. Cooper above referred to, is 
thought to be founded in truth, we may see in it, that Mr. de la B. was im- 
posed on, and /low, in his own belief that four spells were in use on some 
other estates. They count double, it would appear, in Jamaica; making two 
spells amount to four. See the passage. 

in point of Time. 145 

than they miglit be, so much the more inexcusable would be 
the practice. If the numbers could be doubled, then instead 
of six hours watching and work by night, after the hard la- 
bours of the day, which even Mr. Barclay admits to be their 
lot thrice in the week, three hours would suffice. 

" The attendance of the spells, says Dr. Collins, should 
*' never be so far prolonged as to disallow of their taking a 
" few hours' rest every night ; as they can ill bear a long priva- 
" tion of sleep ; and under such circumstances will doze at 
" the mill or coppers, to the great danger of their fingers, if 
" not of their lives. As to the weaker negroes, they should 
** never do any night-work ; and in order to reconcile the 
" others on whom the labour will fall, to such an indulgence, 
" which will appear unjust and partial, you must make it up 
" to them in one way or other ; either by suffering them to 
" remain in their houses later in the morning, or by some 
" addition of food, or if that be not wanted, by extraordinary 
" clothing, which will in general go a great way towards 
" the satisfying them.* It is impossible to suppose, after 
reading such advice from this long-experienced planter, that 
exemptions of slaves in the great, or strong gangs, or of any 
but the very weakly, were usually made under the ordinary 
practice, t 

* Practical Rules, &c. p. 184-5. 

f That boys and girls are not generally exempted from these nocturnal 
duties, may appear from one of the descriptive passages of that new 
champion of the planters before noticed, who has assumed the guise of a 
novelist, (Marly, p. 39.) His hero is kept awake in his bed through the 
night by the various noises incident to the brisk labours of the adjoining 
boiling-house, and among them is enumerated " the squalling of near a 
" dozen of girls and boys, who were seated on the shafts of the gin, forcing 
" on the mules that turned the mill." These drivers are wholly omitted in 
Mr. Barclay's enumeration. 

Here let me quote again the pamphlet of Mr. Dwarris. " It should 
*' not escape attention," he says, " when speaking of the labour exacted 
" in crop-time (constantly dwelt upon by the abolitionists as oppressive 
" on account of its uncertain [he should have said euormoits^ duration), 
" that, as windmills are commonly used in the islands, there will ne- 
" cessarily be many days when the mill cannot work, for an unan- 


146 Of the Excess oj forced Labour 

Mr. De la Beche, while he admits, as we have seen, the 
severity of labour in crop-time, attempts to excuse the prac- 
tice, as all other colonial writers, with a striking uniformity- 
have done, by observing that the negroes are the best satisfied, 
and he might have added, like the rest, the healthiest also, 
at that season. He further informs us, that the negroes on 
pens and coffee properties, where they have no night-work, 
and no cane-holes to dig, and where it may be generally 
stated that the labour is lighter, consider themselves less for- 
tunate than those on sugar-estates, because the negroes seem to 
enjoy crop-time ; '* at least," he adds, '^ they are decidedly 
more merry then, than at any other period, except Christ- 

I am far from questioning the facts of this defence, or even 
the respectable author's candour in the use he makes of them ; 
for he had been only a year in the West Indies, and then, as 
it would appear, only in Jamaica, where I believe the slaves 
are, in general, better fed out of crop-time, than in most of 
the other colonies. But there probably was not one among 

" swerable reason, because there is no wind.'' — The West India Question, 
p. 17, 18. 

Does this gentleman, then, mean us to understand, that planters who 
have windmills, have not in general cattle-mills also, to be worked by 
mules or horses, when the former, for want of sufficient wind, or accidents, 
cannot be used ? That would be often to hazard the partial loss or dete- 
rioration of their ripened crops ; and is an improvidence, of which I 
believe there are few, if any examples. To have cattle-mills without a wind- 
mill, is a very common, nay, the most ordinary case in the Leeward Islands ; 
but the converse of it, is one which, though I was for eleven years resident 
there, I cannot recollect an instance of; and I well remember that the 
common-place economical argument against being at the charge of erecting 
a windmill, of which a great majority of the estates in the Leeward Islands 
are destitute, was, that though it would save much cattle labour, and con- 
sequent loss of live stock, it could not relieve the planter from the ne- 
cessity of keeping a competent number of mules or horses, as a safeguard 
to his crop, when calms or light winds prevailed. 

Were there not this latent fallacy in Mr. Dwarris's " unansiveruble^ 
argument, it would still shew how hard-driven he was for some extenua- 
tion of the practice. To what would it amount, but that planters abate 
some small part of the hard drudgery of their slaves, when physical necessity 
compels them to do so ? I believe it, — and I believe no more. 

* Notes, &c. p. 8.21.22. 

in poinl of Time. 147 

the many long-experienced planters examined before parlia- 
ment or the privy conncil, who carefully added the facts of 
superior content, cheerfulness, and health in crop-time, to 
their admission of its severe labours, who was not conscious 
of two explanations, that would destroy the whole effect of 
that apology, one of which adds to the discredit of their general 
system. The first is, that the crop-months are to the inhabit- 
ants of the islands of all classes and colonies, the healthiest 
part of the year, and that the rainy and hurricane seasons, 
which begin after the crop, and terminate before its re-com- 
mencement, are those in which the epidemical diseases so 
frequently and fatally prevalent in that part of the world, 
usually occur. Diseases of debility, especially, which ill- 
fed slaves are naturally very liable to, prevail most at that 
season ; and it is then, also, that they are most frequently ex- 
posed to be chilled by the rains, which fall in torrents upon 
them during theirlaboursin the fields, drenching them through 
their flimsy garments in a minute, and most commonly when 
they are heated and copiously perspiring from the effects of 
their exertions ; for it may be added, that this is also the 
chief time of the holing process, the severest species of their 

The other and more important explanation, is one that the 
reader will be better able to appreciate when I have given an 
account of the general practice in regard to food ; but he will, 
perhaps, anticipate its nature, when possessed of a further 
extract from Mr. De la Beche ; " if," he says, " the canes 
" then, i. e. in crop-time, give them additional trouble, they 
'' amply compensate themselves ; for they eat as many as they 
'' phase, and drink as much hot and cold cane-juice as they think 
" proper," 8ic.* 

* All the witnesses I have above alluded to were not cautious enough to 
withhold this latter explanation. I will not here anticipate the evidence I have 
to adduce as to the great penury of food out of crop-time, and which will 
make it highly credible, that the addition of a beverage so nutritious as 
the juice of the cane, must produce very powerful effects ; counterpoising, 
perhaps, in general, the debilitating tendency of the additional labour and 
watching. Many planters, though they would not admit the inadequacy 
of subsistence out of crop, thought it advantageous to their cause to take 


148 Of the Excess of forced Labour 

But let us enquire what the additional time of labour in 
crop-time actually is. 

To suppose that the plantations in Jamaica, and the other 
colonies collectively, are so well supplied with slaves, that 
the number of spells they can conniionly afford is three, will 
be felt, after the remarks and evidence I have offered, to be 
more than sufficiently liberal. I doubt not it would be very 
far beyond the truth. Mr. Barclay'syb//r spells will be found 
on comparison, to correspond exactly with what Mr. De 
la Beche admits to be but two. But I will suppose three spells, 
for the sake of avoiding all disputable or disputed pre- 
mises, and taking every thing of that kind at the lowest. I will 
also suppose that the law as to the exceptions on the nights of 
Saturday and Sunday, is (very contrary to what anti-slavery 
writers allege) fairly adhered to in general practice ; though we 
have seen that even the Royal Ordinance at Berbice permits 
working on Saturday night till ten. Still, after these ample 
concessions, the result will be, that all the slaves employed in 
night-work, during the crop, labour on an average, in that 
season, above three hours and a half in the twenty-four, in ad- 
dition to their ordinary day's work. 

My calculation is this. From six in the evening, to six in 
the morning, the time of night-work, is twelve hours, which 
with the deduction of the nights of Saturday and Sunday, as 
claimed by Mr. De la Beche, gives sixty hours per week ; and 
the six hours from Friday at midnight, to six on Saturday 
morning being added, the amount is sixty-six, which divided 
by three, the supposed number of spells, gives twenty-two 
hours weekly to each spell, or three hours and forty minutes, 
per diem, during an entire working week of six days, in ad- 
dition to the daily labour. 

large credit for the restorative effects of tlie cane-juice during the boiling 
season. But the following extract from the work, of their great champion, 
Mr. Bryan Edwards, may here suffice: — 

" The time of crop in the sugar-islands is the season of gladness and 
" festivity to man and beast. So palatable, salutary, and nourishing is the 
"juice of the cane, that every individual of the animal creation drinking 
"freely of it, derives health and vigour from its use. The meagre and sickly 
" among the negroes exhibit a surprising alteration a few weeks after the mill 
" is set in action," he. — History of the West Indies, vol. ii. p. 221. 

in point of Time. 149 

To find the amount of this augmentation on an average 
of work throughout the year, we must next ascertain the or- 
dinary length of the crop-season. 

The Jamaica witnesses we have seen, made it five months ; 
and Mr. Bryan Edwards seems to fully confirm that estimate, 
for he says, " the canes should be ripe for the mill in the be- 
" ginning of the year, so as to enable the planter to finish his 
" crop by the latter end of May, except as to the canes that 
" are left to furnish cuttings or tops for planting." I am 
not aware that any writer or witness except Mr. De la Beche, 
has reduced the number of crop-months to "about four;" 
while it is stated by other authorities, often to extend to six. 
Mr. Gilbert Franklin for instance, stated in his evidence before 
the committee of the House of Commons, that " the crop of 
** sugar commonly begins from the 1st of January or February, 
** and continues till the beginning of June or July, according 
" as the estate is slaved ;" and Mr. Campbell says, that ** If 
" the estate is weakly handed, the crop must be begun as 
" early as the beginning of January, and continued till June 
" or July." 

*' Crop-time," (says Mr. M 'Queen) " extends from December 
*' till May ;" and even Mr. Barclay expressly admits, that 
" the crop- season lasts about five months," (p. 417.) He 
adds, indeed, what no other writer has alleged, that there 
are necessary intermissions of a week to put in the cane plants. 
If so, it shews that there are no hands to spare from the 
spells while the boiling process goes on. 

It will not, I presume, be thought, on comparison of these 
authorities, too large an estimate, if I take the crop-months 
as comprising in a general view, about five of the twelve; 
and if we spread the additional labour of three hours 
and forty minutes during that season over the whole year, 
the result will be an addition of more than an hour and a half, 
on a yearly average, to the fifteen hours that we have taken 
as the time of labour, or active exertion, out of the crop-sea- 
son ; making altogether about sixteen hours and a half in 
every twenty-four hours throughout the year ; with the excep- 
tions only, such as they are, of the Sundays, and two or three 
annual holidays. 

150 Of the Excess of forced Labour 

To make the account clearer, I will recapitulate the diffe- 
rent items, and place them in one connected view. 

Hours. Minutes. 

Time of labour out of crop, as limited by the 
Colonial Acts, and admitted to be the 
usage, from five in the morning till seven 
at night, deducting the two hours and a 
half for breakfast and dinner 11 30 

Half of the two hours' interval at noon, employ- 
ed in work on the negro gardens or provision 
grounds, &c., including walks to and from 
the field 1 

Mornings and evenings active employments 
before and after field-work, for the master 
or themselves, including going to and re- 
turning from the huts, estimated together 
at three hours, but taken at 2 30 

Annual average of the extra nocturnal work 

in crop-time 1 40 

16 40 

On the strictest review of this account, I can find no error 
in it on the aggravatory, but several on the extenuatory side. 
I have supposed one-half of the noontide respite to be time 
of absolute rest, and without even distinguishing the grass- 
picking colonies, where it affords no rest at all. In the crop- 
time, I have allowed nothing for the slave's own occupations 
after his dismission from the works at midnight, or six in the 
morning ; and where the spells are but two, certainly the 
more ordinary cases, my computation of night-work is short 
by one-third of the truth. Indeed, it is much more deficient 
if Mr. Barclay, and the evidence on oath cited by him (p. 415.), 
are correct; for they state, that even with four spells, each 
negro has 18 hours of night-work every week; and I have 
taken it as amounting, with three spells, only to 22 hours. 

I doubt not the fact to be, that the slaves have not in 
general so much rest in crop-time as five hours in the twenty- 

That the work is at least eighteen hours during that season, 

/// point of Time. 151 

I am now enabled to shew, from recent and express authority; 
and such as may suffice, perhaps, to satisfy those who will not 
take the trouble of following me closely through the details 
here given and demonstrated, for clearer views of the sub- 

Should any man, after all the evidence I have already 
offered, doubt whether the enormous amount of eighteen 
hours' of diurnal labour, between the tropics, is not more than 
avarice armed with irresistible power can impose, or patient 
human nature, during five successive months sustain, let 
him enquire for the Parliamentary papers before referred to, 
entitled " Trinidad Negroes," and printed by order of the 
House of Commons of the 14th of June, 1827, and he will 
find in it, (p. 33.), the following passage. " I feel called 
" on to explain more fully than I did, the opinion I gave as 
" to whether sugar-estates could be carried on entirely by 
" free labour; I do not think they could, in the manner the 
" work is carried on at present, making large quantities of sugar 
" in a given time; in many instances working eighteen hours 
" OUT OF TWENTY-FOUR ; wMcJi constaut labouT the free settlev 
" will not submit to, &;c. I have no doubt sugar-estates, carry- 
" ing on labour from sun-rise to sun-set, might be worked by 
" them;'&;c* 

Whose is this statement? not that of an anti-slavery writer, 
but of Mr. Mitchell of Trinidad, superintendent of the freene- 

* See the Parliamentary paper referred tp, p. 33. 

Nothing to this effect was said by him in his original examination ; unless, 
which seems more probable, it was suppressed by the honourable Board, as 
not fit for its purpose. But the superintendant, it appears, had been ex- 
amined at a former period, about eighteen months before, if the dates are 
correctly printed; and having then given an opinion, with which we are not 
furnished, as to the impracticability of substituting free labour for slavery, 
he thouglit it incumbent on him, it appears, to send, the next day, a letter to 
the governor, with this explanation of his evidence, as stated in the minutes; 
and the governor now laid it before the Board. Upon this Mr. Mitchell 
was called in again, and subjected to a cross-examination by his brother 
planters, the course of which marks the anxious desire of the honourable 
members to obtain some qualification of the awkward explanatory state- 
ment ; and marks also, the natural effect on the nerves of a witness, placed 
in a perilous dilemma between regard to truth and consistency on the one 
hand, and fear of being treated as an enemy to the common cause on the 

152 Of the Excess of forced Labour 

groes called American refugees, but a long-resident proprietor of 
a suo-ar-estate worked by his own slaves in that island ; and be, 
it well observed, a witness called and examined on the spot, by 
a committee of the Insular Council, for the purpose of excus- 
ing slavery, and opposing the humane orders of His Majesty's 

other. With all his too natural dread of offence, the witness could only be 
brought to qualify the terms of his letter as follows : — 

Q. " You stated in the same letter to the governor, that slaves on sugar- 
" estates worked, in many instances, eighteen hours out of the twenty-four. 
" Do you mean in these cases, to allude to the whole gang on the estate, 
" and to every day throughout the year ?" 

A. " I mean only in time of crop, and the people employed at the mill 
" and works." 

Q. " Is it a general custom in your quarter, on estates, to make the mill 
" and boiling-house gang work in crop-time, eighteen hours out of the 
" twenty-four ?" 

A. " I do not think it is the custom at present, but I think it was three 
" years ago." 

Q. " Do you know from your own observation, that this was the 
" case." 

A. " I have been told so." 

If the reader will compare this, with the extract I have given of his letter 
to the governor, he will agree with me, that the honourable examiners had 
better have left the matter where it stood. 

It was a miserable expedient to soften down into matter of opinion and 
information, the positive assertion in his explanatory letter; and into by-gone 
oppression, what had been expressly stated as \\\e present practice. Had it 
been otherwise, indeed, the explanation would have been useless and irrele- 
vant. But when it is added, that the witness had been twenty-two years a 
planter, that he was and had been resident eighteen years on his estate, in 
the quarter of North Naparima, of which he was also the commandant and 
sole magistrate, (see p. 2 and 35), and pre-eminently bound, besides, as 
superintendant of free negroes, to be accurate on such a subject, this sub- 
terfuge to get rid of a palpable and notorious truth, well known not only 
to the witness, but to every gentleman who heard him, must astonish every 
man not so well acquainted as I am with the ordinary style of West India 
evidence on this subject. 

Had there been the slightest doubt on the point, or any colour for sug- 
gesting a departure from the general practice in Trinidad, the witness would 
not have been let off so easily ; and many planters would have eagerly come 
forward to contradict the statement in his letter, or to prove that the oppres- 
sion had ceased to be in use ; but though many other planters were ex- 
amined, no other statement by, or question on the subject to, any other 
witness, is to be found throughout those long examinations. 

in point of Time. 1 53 

Government. The general tenor of his evidence will shew to 
those who read it, that the planters who called him were 
not mistaken in supposing him a good friend to their cause ; 
which was indeed also his own. 

If there were nothing worse in slavery than this cruel and 
murderous oppression of forcing men and women to work 
hard in a hot climate eighteen hours in the twenty-four, 
surely this would be enough for its condemnation by every 
mind in which West Indian prejudices have not obtunded 
the natural feelings of humanity and justice towards their 
degraded objects. 

I might enhance this general account of slave labour, by 
adding to its diurnal excess the amount of the time sub- 
ducted by laborious occupations from the rest of the Sabbath. 
But this is one of the topics which I have declined to enter 
upon, it having as a substantive article of oppression, and as pre- 
cluding the religious instruction of the slaves, been sufficiently 
discussed by other writers on the anti-slavery side. My 
readers, however, will not forget that the poor beings so merci- 
fully overworked during six days in the week, have but a very 
partial rest at best on the seventh. But without taking this 
aggravation into the account, I have sufficiently demonstrated, 
as I undertook in the present chapter to do, that slave labour 
is cruelly excessive in point of time. 

The general lesult of data wholly established by the 
evidence of my opponents, and of the calculations from them 
here submitted, is this, that the poor slaves have eighteen 
hours at the least, of coerced labour in every twenty-four, 
during the crop-season, and during the whole year on an 
average, above sixteen hours and a half. Unless the fairness 
can be denied of adding to the labour in gang under the 
drivers, solitary work, or laborious employments, directly or 
indirectly for the master's profit, or necessary for the supply 
of the slave's own personal wants, more than the estimate 
that I undertook to sustain, has been proved. Mr. Ramsay, 
forty years ago, averaged the labour at sixteen hours ; and I 
have shewn its true present amount, after every fairly de- 
mandable allowance, to be above sixteen hours and a half. 

My readers I trust will not censure the large demand 1 
have made on their patience, in this very important division 

154 Of the Excess uf forced Labour 

of my subject. To establish conclusively the true ordinary 
amount of forced labour in point of time, was to fix a datum 
of pre-eminent value, with every man, who wishes to form 
a right judgment, either on the actual state of slavery, or on 
the credit that fairly belongs to colonial witnesses and writers 
as to the facts they allege in its defence. We have in it, a 
criterion simple, homogeneous, and intelligible alike in every 
region of the globe. Nor are we embarrassed in its apphca- 
tion, by diversities real or alleged between places, persons, or 
times ; for, however the treatment of the slaves may vary in 
different sugar colonies, and under masters of different de- 
scriptions, their time of daily labour, in all those colonies, or 
all from which we have any public evidence on the sub- 
ject, will be found, when that evidence is fairly scrutinized 
to be very nearly, if not exactly the same. Nor is it al- 
leged that in this respect, the practice of the more hu- 
mane, differs very materially from that of the more rigorous 
planter. I recollect at least no such distinctions more 
important, than the giving or not giving a day, or half a 
day weekly, out of the crop-season to the slaves, in aid of the 
sabbath, for the culture of their own provision grounds. 

The result of these investigations is much enhanced in its 
importance, because it shews the utter futility of all the 
charges of indolence against the much calumniated African 
race, that are founded on a comparison between the effects of 
their industry when free, and the products of their forced 
labour when slaves. 

This is now the favorite theme of the planters and their 
controversial advocates. It is on this they mainly rely for 
averting all measures tending either to general or progressive 
enfranchisement. On this ground, they had the confidence 
to oppose at the Privy Council table, even the giving a right 
of self-redemption, to such slaves as might be industrious and 
fortunate enough, to be able to tender their full value as pro- 
perty, for the purchase of their freedom. 

Ye be idle, ye be idle, was the answer of Pharaoh to the 
oppressed Israelites, when complaining of their heavy drudgery. 
** They are idle, they are idle," is now the cry of far worse than 
Egyptian masters ; and for the same odious purpose, the ex- 
acting by means of an unjust slavery, a merciless excess of 

in point of Time. 155 

work. The special requisitions of God in the one case were 
resisted ; his sacred laws in the other, are set at nought, by 
the same false and insulting pretence. The Egyptian crite- 
rion of idleness, was the not gathering straw to make bricks. 
The West Indian, is far more rigorous ; it is unwillingness to 
work hard by day and by night, during sixteen or eighteen 
hours in the twenty-four. 

If idleness may be justly defined to be the want of due ex- 
ertion, we must fix the right standard of the latter, before we 
can fairly predicate idleness of exertions less in degree. But 
the colonists take a more convenient course. They are too 
prudent to tell us expressly how many hours daily they think 
a free man ought to work between the tropics ; because if less 
than the labour they inforce on their slaves, their estimate would 
be self-condemnation ; and if equal to it, might startle even the 
least considerate and humane ; and suggest views of their prac- 
tical standard, very different from those they desire to impress. 
They deem it better, therefore, to infer a want, of industry 
from the productive effects of free labour, than from its posi- 
tive or comparative amount. The Haytians are idle, be- 
cause they do not raise so much agricultural produce, as an 
equal number of slaves ; and cannot at all compete in sugar 
planting for exportation, with the slave masters of Jamaica, or 
Cuba. The free negroes in our own colonies, are idle be- 
cause they do not improve their condition by labouring 
in the cane-pieces in competition with the forced labour of 
slaves. Such reasoning obviously amounts to a tacit as- 
sumption of the whole matter in dispute. It assumes, thai 
the exaction of labour from the slaves, is not excessive ; and 
that the returns given for it in subsistence, are liberal or 
equitable enough to equal the reasonable expectations, or at 
least the potential earnings in other lines of industry, of 
freemen working in the same degree for hire. As the case really 
stands, it would be just as rational to chargeone of our own pea- 
sants with idleness, because his work does not equal in its effects 
that of a horse, or produce to him in wages what his employer 
earns by the use of his quadruped competitor. 

There is one very elaborate defence of slavery, in which 
reasoning less sophistical on this subject, might naturally be 
expected. I mean the reports of Major Moody, which I have 

156 Of' the Excess of forced Labour 

before cited and described.* Their main object is to defend 
the colonial system, on the principle that slavery is necessary 
for the culture of the sugar colonies ; because free negroes 
cannot be induced to submit to that degree of labour, or in 
his own favourite phrase, that ** stead)/ industry to which the 
slaves are compelled. 

To maintain and illustrate this doctrine, the Major brings 
forward numberless facts, alleged to be derived from his own 
observation and experience, not only in the West Indies, but 
other tropical regions, all designed to shew the want of ade- 
quate exertion, or " steady industry," in blacks or coloured 
persons of free condition ; and in his anxious depreciation of 
their industry, the time of their work is a measure of exertion 
to which he very commonly resorts. The very first datum there- 
fore to be fixed by him for the purpose of his comparison with 
slave labour, obviously should have been the ordinary time of 
the latter ; but his readers will be more successful in their 
researches than I have been, if they find that essential datum 
expressly supplied in any part of those folio volumes. 

There isan endless iteration in various forms and details, both 
of statements and reasonings, tending to shew the value of one 
of his terms of comparison ; but that of the other is no where 
that I can find expressly given ; and there are many places 
in which it must apparently have cost the Major much trouble 
to avoid committing himself by some clear, or at least intelli- 
gible, statement on that subject. 

This cannot but be thought exceedingly strange ; more es- 
pecially when it is added, that Major Moody affects to treat 
of slave labour systematically, and to write with the precision 
of a philosopher; in the developement of what he seems to re- 
gard as a new science ; or a new branch at least of political 
economy, discovered by himself, which he calls the ''philosophy 
of labour " The defect will be thought the more extraordinary, 
because he is perpetually taxing his antagonists, the irapugners 

* Supra, note on p. 48, 49. Let me here correct an error in that note, 
which is already printed. The colony, I now understand, in which the 
Major was long and extensively engaged as a planter, was not Demerara, 
but Berbice. 

in point of Time. 157 

of negro slavery, with want of accuracy and precision in their 
premises of fact, and in their views and reasonings on this 
very same subject ; and boasting of the great experience, and 
close investigation, that have enabled him to correct our 
errors. How surprising then that by leaving the ordinary 
time of slave labour undefined, he should have left out one 
of the first elements of his own calculations ; the very corner- 
stone of his entire system ! ! It is as if Euclid had proceeded 
to compare right angles with other angles, without first shew- 
ing what a right angle is ; or as if a writer on the rural econo- 
my of this country should undertake to demonstrate from his 
own experience, the superior advantages of one course of hus- 
bandry in comparison with another, and to that end should 
furnish us with numerous accounts and estimates as to the 
expences and returns of the course he disapproves ; leaving 
those of the course he recommends, altogether unstated.* 

* The only passages I can find in Major Moody's Reports, in which he 
possibly may be thought to have deviated from this strange course of pro- 
ceeding, are in pages 5Q and 57 of the Second Part of his Report ; wherein 
he attempts to demonstrate the impossibility of substituting free for forced 
labour, on the assumptions that free negroes will not work more than is 
necessary to obtain a mere subsistence, and that this can be obtained in a 
given colony by working land on their own account half an hour, or at 
most one hour per day. How then he argues are seven hours of further 
labour to be obtained by the white capitalist for raising exportable articles, 
without coercion? " It appears to me," he adds, " impossible to sup- 
" pose, that any previous habits of labour, or any degree of moral instruc- 
" lion, could ever have the effect of inducing any free negro, or Indian, to 
" work eight hours in a day for another man, in return for ordinary wages 
" in a country where the labourer could more easily obtain the same value 
" in substance, by working for himself only half an hour,^' &c. Throughout 
this part of his argument, he compares the assumed time of voluntary labour 
with eight hours per diem only of labour by constraint. 

Here then, the Major may be supposed to have furnished by clear impli- 
cation in one place, what ought to have been found by direct averment, or 
avowed assumption in a hundred, the important datum in question. He may 
be thought to have committed himself like his coadjutor in the same cause, 
Mr. M'Queen, as to the ordinary time of the slave's daily labour, and even 
gone much beyond that writer's bold misrepresentation, by reducing his 
maximum of nine hours, out of crop, to an average of eight hours at all 

But I will not, without strict necessity impute to this gentleman, who 

158 Of the Excess of forced Labour 

Having enabled my readers to supply this singular defect, 
in the " philosophy of labour," for themselves, and to understand 
v^rhat the planters mean by industry, I freely admit that such 
industry is not to be found, nor any exertions that at all ap- 
proximate to it, among negroes, or any other men who are free. 
If less than this is idleness, the latter I confess are idle, and 
likely ever to remain so. 1 concur with the superintendent 
of the American refugees, that " free labourers will not work 
eighteen hours out of the twenty-four."* They will not work 
with what the venerable Society for promoting Christian 
Knowledge justly calls "the least possible intermission."f In 
other words, they will not work themselves to death. 

Nor will the disparity ever be small enough to allow of any 
competition on commercial principles, between forced labour 
and free. Strijce off eight hours per diem from the five months 
of harvest, and six hours and a half from the annual average ; 
reduce the labour to an average of ten hours in the twenty- 
four, and cut off all those additions to it fraudulently dis- 
guised in the case of men who receive neither wages nor food 
from their masters, as time of rest, or of " work only for them- 
selves ;" give truth in short to all the false pretences I have 
refuted ; and it might still well be doubted, whether free men 

challenges repeatedly implicit credit to his testimony, on the score not only 
of his public duty as a commissioner, but on his military honour, that he 
meant to convey an impression so grossly repugnant to what he well knew 
to be the real fact of the case. He does not affirm, and could not of course mean 
to insinuate, that the slaves work no more than eight hours a day ; though 
certainly, those who read the passage may naturally enough so understand 
him ; especially as it would have been diminishing the force of his own 
economical views to reduce the slave labour to less than its true extent. 

He certainly might have doubled the strength of his argument by comparing 
the short labours ascribed by him to the free negroes and Indians, not with 
eight hours, but sixteen hours a day ; and preserved the precision of the 
philosopher together with the fidelity of a reporter, by stating the latter 
expressly as the average labours of the slaves; but that the planters would 
have been equally well satisfied with his official defence of their cause, is 
more than I dare venture to affirm. 

* Supra, p. 151. f Supra, 138. 

in point of Time. 159 

in equal numbers, would ever supply that long continuance 
of human labour that would yet remain for the slave. 

I firmly believe they would not ; because nine hours of 
work per diem on an average of the year, is all that is yielded 
by agricultural labourers in England ; because this is much 
more than the utmost incentives to industry have ever ob- 
tained from free-tillers of the soil in any tropical climate ; 
and because I am strongly inclined to think that the hardiest 
natives of the torrid zone cannot permanently sustain so 
much, without such a noxious pressure on their physical 
powers, as the self-conservatory instincts of nature imperiously 

The time of slave-labour, then, when shewn in its truly 
enormous extent, is a sufficient answer to those who impute 
indolence to free negroes, because they cannot sustain a com- 
petition with it in the growth of sugar or other exportable 
produce. But the defence will be found much stronger when 
it shall be shewn with what extreme parsimony the slaves 
are maintained. If they work twice as much as free-men 
will or ought to do, it is, be it remembered, without wages ; 
and the whole charge of their maintenance is, as I doubt not 
clearly to prove, not equal to one-fifth part of the wages or other 
means of support which a free-labourer may fairly demand, 
and by moderate industry in working for his own benefit ob- 
tain. In the grand article of human labour, therefore, the 
Haytian would have to contend with the Jamaica sugar 
planter, under a disparity of cost as ten to one. It is needless 
to add to such a contrast, his want of a mother country to 
bear almost all the charges of internal government in peace, 
and defence in war, to raise the price of his produce in Europe 
by monopolies and bounties, and to sustain him on every 
emergency, even by the sacrifice of her own agriculture, and 
her vital commercial interests, for his relief. 

The dearth of free-labour for raising tropical produce is, 
on these views, so far from furnishing any excuse for slavery, 
that it is, in truth, one of the many baneful effects for which 
that institution has to answer. It has reduced human labour 
to so vile a price, as to shut out from agricultural employment 
in the West Indies all but servile hands ; or confine the free 
at least to such branches of it as contribute little to the ad- 

160 Of the Excess ofjorced Labour in point of Time. 

vancement of the societies they belong to, and less to the 
commerce of Europe. The same course, as I shall shew, has 
excluded, in a great measure, from the plantations, most per- 
niciously to their soil, the use of working cattle, and those im- 
plements by which human labour is every where else economised , 
and its produce greatly improved. Is it asked why most of 
our old islands are exhausted, and their proprietors involved 
in almost universal ruin ? I answer, mainly because they are 
cursed with slavery ; and becajuse men who can be forced to 
work, eighteen hours in the twenty-four, are in the views of 
a short-sighted avarice, cheaper than horses and plows. 

But further to explain these truths, and for purposes far 
more important to humanity, I must now proceed to shew 
what the nature of that labour is, which has such enormous 
duration, and the barbarous means by which it is exacted. 




I HAVE already observed that the intensity of muscular ex- 
ertion, cannot be measured, like its duration, by any general 
scale or standard. When we wish to give any clear ideas of 
it, either positive or comparative, we are obliged to resort to 
the effect produced. The same, indeed, is the case in the 
mensuration of mechanical energies ; as when to shew the ope- 
rative force of a steam engine, we speak of a four-horse or a 
ten-horse power : the known effect of the one, serves to mea- 
sure and define the force of the other. So when we say, that 
a man has carried so many stone weight, has walked or run 
so many miles in a given time, or has threshed out in a day so 
many bushels of corn, we may form just ideas, comparative 
ones at least, of the easiness or intensity of his labours, be- 
cause we know how much other men usually carry, or walk, 
or thresh out, when they exert their strength in the same 
modes of action. But when the descriptions of human labour 
in question are not familiar to us, nor the effects produced by 
them commensurable with any known standard, even this re- 
sort is in great measure precluded. 

It is evident, therefore, that in the present division of my 
work, the same simple modes of demonstration that I have 
resorted to in the preceding sections cannot have place. I 
cannot establish or refute general propositions as to inten- 
sity or ease, by computing and comparing the effect of par- 
ticular admissions ; because neither the one nor the other have 
any determinate or clearly definable meaning. 

VOI-. II. M 

162 Of the forced Labour of Slaves 

Here, too, the restriction I have imposed on myself as to 
evidence, is more than ever disadvantageous ; for when the 
propositions in question turn on matter of opinion or judg- 
ment, rather than mere fact^ it cannot be expected that the 
case alleged on one side of the controversy, will often find 
any direct support by testimony on the other. When my 
antagonists state that the labour of the slaves in general is 
lighter easy, or that a particular process is so, they evidently 
involve matter of judgment with the tangible facts of the 
case ; and yet I am precluded by my gratuitous pledge from 
opposing to such assertions of those by whom the labour is 
imposed, the judgment of anti-slavery writers. 

These considerations entitle me the more, in this place, to 
an attentive audience, while I endeavour by fair, though some- 
times oblique, inferences from the hostile evidence I have to 
grapple with, to enable my readers in some degree to judge 
for themselves. 

Here let me, in the first place, avail myself of the obvious 
general probabilities of the case. Is it likely that those who 
have carried the exaction of labour to the utmost extremes 
in point of time, have been abstemious as to the degrees of im- 
mediate exertion ? The same irresistible force that compels 
a slave to watch and work eighteen hours out of the twenty- 
four in crop-time, and sixteen or more on an average of 
the year, might compel him as easily to exert himself during 
the time of work to the full measure of his strength ; at least 
while the driver is behind him : nor can any motive of for- 
bearance be assigned in the one case, that would not apply 
at least as forcibly in the other. 

Is the assessor's motive self-interest? That undeniably is 
best consulted by obtaining as much labour as possible in a 
given time. I know of no principle in which the sugar 
planters are more unanimous than that celerity in all their 
operations, especially in taking off the crop, is essential to 
their success. The great characteristic of bad management, 
in their views, is the want of energy and despatch ; and the 
standing excuse for it by managers, is the inequality of the 
gang or the strength, as it is called, to the quantity of cane- 
land under culture. Are we to suppose than that this defect, 
when it occurs, arises from a humane desire to spare the slaves 

in point of Inte.meness. 163 

in point of muscular exertion while they are actually at work 1 
That motive would rather dictate a reduction of the excessive 
time of work, than an abatement of its energy ; and it is ma- 
nifest that ccBteris paribus the one must be inversely as the 
other. The question should be regarded as relating chiefly, if 
not exclusively, to such work as is enforced by the driver's direct 
coercion ; and to retrench the time so employed would ob- 
viously be a much better, as well as more certain, alleviation, 
than a proportionate diminution of briskness and energy in 
the work itself, by giving to the slaves an earlier dismission, 
and so much more time at their own disposal, either for re- 
pose, or for those individual labours in their provision grounds, 
in which they are the immediate arbiters of their own ex- 

My inference then is, that the now-established long dura- 
tion of the work, furnishes a strong presumption of its gene- 
ral intensity. As the incontestable practice is to take all 
that nature can be made to yield in the one case, less is 
not likely to be exacted in the other. The indiscriminate 
mode of the coercion may indeed, and I shall hereafter prove 
that it does, reduce the exertions, of the more robust slaves 
somewhat below the maximum of what their hardy natures 
might for a time at least afford ; and the feebler part of the 
same gang, are pushed in an equal degree beyond what their 
constitutions can lastingly endure; but the driving cannot 
with any probability be supposed to be less urgent than what, 
upon an average estimate, the gang is thought able generally 
to sustain. 

Here I must open progressively the different parts of 
the case which I propose to prove ; and the statements in 
this instance must be my own ; for I am not aware that 
any one of my fellow-labourers has treated this part of 
the case distinctly, and with due specifications. But 
though I shall state nothing but what I certainly know to 
be true, in respect at least of the Island of St. Christopher, 
where I long resided, I desire no credit for any proposition as 
mine. Let all that I allege be regarded like the statements 
borrowed in a former chapter, from Mr. Ramsay, as the mere 
speech of an advocate ; and go for nothing, except so far as I 

M 2 

1G4 Of the forced Labour of Slaves 

shall be able to bring the facts home, by the testimony of my 
opponents, to the conviction of impartial readers. 

There are two ways in which labour may be too intense. 
The muscular effort may be too strenuous, or the movements 
too quick ; and, with the exception of hoUng the land, it is in 
the latter way chiefly that the predial slaves, independently of 
the oppressive duration of their labours, are over-worked in 
the sugar colonies.* 

" Holing" is the process of preparing land for the recep- 
tion of the cane plants : for which purpose it is laid out in 
rectilinear trenches of considerable depth, which are divided 
into equal sections of about two feet square, and the work is 
wholly performed by the hoe. Its difficulty consists chiefly 
in the hard texture of the soil, trodden down in the labours of 
the preceding crop, and baked by the heat of a tropical sun 
during about nine months of an intervening fallow. The sur- 
face is quite impenetrable by the spade, and equals in hard- 

* It is but fair to notice, that in this part of my subject, I shall have to 
correct sometimes not only the misrepresentations of opponents, but the 
misconceptions of some who were sincere friends to the cause I sap- 

It is, as I before remarked, from domestic slavery, that strangers visiting 
the West Indies, must generally derive their notions of the ordinary state and 
treatment of negroes ; the predial class, to which my present investigations al- 
most exclusively relate, being brought very little under their notice. To the 
former, they may not unnaturally ascribe languor and indolence ; because, it 
being a characteristic of Creole families to keep a superfluous number of do- 
mestic slaves, they have for the most part very little to do. The field ne- 
groes, also, may often be seen working with apparent langour. It is a 
natural effect of their weariness after the long continued labours of the day ; 
and it is in the evening chiefly that they are likely to be much under the 
observations of white persons, whether strangers or residents, who are 
not called by plantation duties to survey their labours in the cane pieces 
during the heat of the day. 

But the main source of honest errors on this subject, has been inattention 
to the distinction above pointed out. Casting the hoe, and carrying loads, 
are the chief general forms of labour ; but the former, in holing, the most 
ordinary process, cannot be rapid, because the exertion is great ; and the 
loads being for the most part not very heavy, the quickness of movements 
lias not excited the attention it deserves ; though I shall prove it to be op- 
pressively great. 

in point of Intenseness. 165 

ncss those soils to which our labourers apply the pick-axe. 
The hoe, therefore, for effectual penetration, must be raised 
above the workman's head, and brought down with a vigorous 
stroke ; and it will be found that almost every colonial witness 
or writer, who ascribes easiness to plantation labours in ge- 
neral, admits this large branch of them to be severe. 

One of these writers, indeed, when speaking of it, suggests 
an ingenious extenuation ; but in doing so, indirectly confesses 
that, to beholders at least, the work of holing is arduous 
enough to excite compassion. *' When negroes become mas- 
** ters of their work," he says, " as much may be done by 
" sleight as labour; and a constant habitude makes that fa- 
'* miliar, which, to a looker-on, would be considered as a haid- 
*' ship under tohich both spirits and strength must soon siic- 
" cumb."* That the planters deem the process of holing to 
be not only in appearance, but in reality, severe labour, is 
manifest, even from the apologies they offer for it ; such as 
that the stronger negroes are those which are selected to form 
what is called the holing gang ; and that they are very com- 
monly sustained under that species of labour, by spirituous 

" Holing," said Mr. Campbell of Grenada, ** is the most 
" severe work out of crop."t '' About the middle of Augiist," 
said the same witness, " many of the strongest of the gang 
" (commonly about forty, more or less, according to their 
" strength) go to holing the land necessary for the following 
** crop."]: ** We often give them while holing," he states in 
another place, " twice a day weak grog." 

Mr. Baillie's account is to the same effect. — "I have al- 
** ways considered the holing of land as the hardest labour 
" on a plantation ; and that is generally the priiicipal jiart 
" of the work out of crop season." " It is always done by 
" the ablest of the gang, and the hohng of land generally 
** commences in the month of August, and continues to the 
" beginning of January." " The negroes employed in holing 
" have generally a certain allowance of bread ; and very fre- 
" quently spirits, mixed with water."§ 

* Beckford's Remarks upon the Situation of Negroes in Jamaica, p. 44. 
t Commons' Report of 1790, p. 140. J Ibid. 139. § Ibid. 188. 

166 Of the forced Labour of Slaves 

" The stoutest and most able," advises Dr. Collins, " should 
" work by themselves, without any regard being had to their 
** sex, for though men are supposed to possess, and generally 
" do possess, more strength than women, it is not universally 
" so," &c. " To your ablest negroes, therefore, which is 
" called the strong gang, may be assigned the rudest labour 
" of the plantation, such as holing, stumping or hoe-plough' 
" ing." " As this part of your gang," he adds, " is loaded 
" with a harder service, it will be proper to distinguish them 
" with greater indulgence. They must either have more 
" time allotted to their own use, or you must give them some 
" extraordinary food ; some biscuits, and grog, with or without 
" molasses daily, or rather twice a day."* 

That such should be the practice, and such the medical advice, 
may seem strange to European minds. That bread and biscuit 
are more than ordinary sustentation to hard-working slaves, 
though strictly true, is more than I have yet enabled my readers 
to conceive : and though a draught of ale or porter, we know, 
may not only enliven and animate the labourer for the moment, 
but serve to maintain his strength by its nourishing qualities ; 
spirituous liquors can obviously promote the former purpose 
alone ; and at> the probable expence of permanent health 
and vigour. In the West Indies, copious perspiration 
abridges no doubt the temporary influence, and is likely to 
aggravate the ill effects of the subsequent revulsion. But 
where the efforts to be excited are strenuous, and very trying 
to the strength and spirits, such a short-lived stimulant may 
be useful, at least as a substitute for that painful and more 
enervating stimulant the cart-whip, by the effects of which the 
vital current may be sometimes lessened, as well as the spirits 
depressed. We might reasonably infer, therefore, from the 
means used and recommended, the severity of the exertions 
to be obtained. But I will not further multiply authorities 
or reasonings on this point. When planters admit any species 
of slave labour to be severe enough to be fit only for the more 
robust, and to require extraordinary artificial support, it can- 
not be doubted tp be intense, in a positive, as well as com- 
parative view. 

* Practical Rule^, &c. 176, 7. 

/// point of I/Uensenes.s. 167 

Other kinds of labour in the cane-pieces are severe, though 
in a considerably less degree than holing ; and it is admitted, 
even by Mr. Dwarris, that able and cautious apologist of the 
system, that in a general view they are more toilsome than 
those of the English peasant. " The field labour," he says, 
** is truly represented as severe ; hut so is ploughing and hedging 
" and ditching in England, though, I admit, 7iot quite in the 
" same degree ; as agriculture here is in a state of' greater per- 

The intensity of the labourof the slaves, in other cases, chiefly 
consists in the celerity of movements, with which they are 
compelled to perform it. In working under the drivers, not 
in line, as in the holing process, but in file, as in carrying 
out dung, or bringing canes to the mill, their motions, to 
speak in military terms, are either in quick or double-quick 

Let me instance the operation of dunging, as it is called. 
The usage is to carry out the manure in baskets into the cane- 
pieces, which are often of very steep ascent, and to throw an 
equal portion of it into each particular cane-hole. Some of 
the colonial witnesses have alleged that it is previously brought 
from the homestall as near to the cane-pieces as carts can 
approach. If this were generally, and 1 am sure it is not, 
or at least was not, universally true, the relief would be 
but partial on many or most estates in the islands, that I 
am best acquainted with ; for many of their more distant 
cane-pieces are too highly and abruptly elevated to be easily 
accessible by wheel-carriages. But to let this pass, it is at 
least admitted that the slaves have much of this labour to 
perform, and that the dung-baskets are universally carried 
on their heads. Many planters also confess it to be a species 
of labour comparatively, at least, severe. 

'* The manure used in the West Indies," said Mr. Tobin, 
" is not spread on the ground as it is in England, but is 
*' carried and placed carefully round each plant separately, so 
" that wheelbarrows or carts could not be used for that pur- 
" pose after the canes are come up ; but the manure is gene- 

West India Question, p. 17. 

168 Of' the forced Labour of Slaves 

" rally carried in carts, and made into heaps at proper dis- 
" tances on the land before it is holed, in order to save as much 
" labour as possible to the negroes,"* 

Question to Mr. Willock of Anligua, — " What part of the 
" cultivation of an estate do you conceive to be most laborious 
" to a negro ?" 

Answer. — " Throwing out dung in baskets." 

Q. ** Describe the basket, the weight and the manner in 
" which it is carried." 

A. " To the best of my recollection, the basket with the 
" dung does not weigh above twenty-five pounds." 

Q. " When they are carrying this dung, do they do it with 
" ease to themselves?" 

A. " They always work very cheerfully on those occasions, 
*'for I generally give them grog"f 

The reader will perhaps wonder that carrying a weight of 
twenty-five pounds, should be thought to require that the 
bearer should be sustained or exhilarated, as in the holing 
process, by spirituous liquors ; but my next quotation, which 
pre-eminently deserves his attention, will probably lessen his 

Sir Ashton Warner Byam, a gentleman of deservedly high 
estimation in the colonial circles, was called as a witness by 
the West India petitioners ; and gave his testimony zealously 
in their favour, as the readers of my former volume may re- 
member.;!: He was a man of distinguished talents as a law- 
yer, who had been Attorney General of the Leeward Islands, 
and he was a proprietor and practical sugar planter in Grenada, 
where he held, I think, the same professional office. A more 
intelligent or respectable witness on both branches of the case, 
the practice, as well as the law of slavery, could not be found 
or desired by those on whose behalf he was called. 

Sir Ashton was examined particularly by the Committee, as 
to the practice of carrying out dung; and the following were 
the questions and answers as they appear in the printed 

* Common's Report of 1790, p. 267. f Ibid. 348. 

J See Vol. I. p. 1-16. 

in point of Intenseness. 169 

Q. "Do you not apprehend that the work of holing the 
" land for the canes, and of dunging the holes, is a labour 
" which would be generally reckoned severe?" 

A. " It is certainly the most laborious employment in the 
** cultivation of the land ; and if it was constantly continued 
" through the year, I should think it harder than I should 
" wish to put negroes to." 

Q. " Are you sufficiently acquainted with the detail of the 
" plantation labour, to ascertain the weight of those baskets 
" of dung which the negroes carry on those occasions?" 

A. " The weight varies probably on different plantations, 
" and must vary according to the state of the dung used, 
" supposing the same baskets filled. I cannot speak with 
" any certainty as to the number of pounds ; but the weight 
" is so little inconvenient to the slaves, who carry that and 
" all other burthens on the head, that it is a pretty general 
" practice, as far as my observation has gone, for the slaves to 
" run, or go in a quick pace, when they are carrying the dung." 

Q. " Do you then mean to say, that the pace of slaves on 
" these occasions is regulated by their own discretion, and 
" not by that of the overseers or drivers ?" 

A. *' I do not mean to say, that the slaves if left to themselves 
" would constantly use that pace ; but conceive that the practice 
" would not prevail among the drivers, if it was found severe or 
" unreasonable." 

Q. " Do you apprehend that that species of labour is what 
" the negroes perform with as much willingness as their other 
" common employments ?" 

A. " I never heard them complain of it ; though I have no 
" doubt if they were asked they would prefer weeding of canes 
" or any lighter work."* 

To the discerning reader, the style as well as the sub- 
stance of this testimony will suggest very useful reflec- 
tions ; and teach him what glosses he is to expect even 
from very respectable men, when speaking or writing under 
the strong influence of prejudice, of self-interest, and of rcr 
gard to their own credit as planters, in the accounts they 
give of this system. Had it not been for the cross question 

* Commons' Report of 1790, p. 123-4. 

1 70 Of the forced Labour of Slaves 

as to the drivers' coercion, put by an abolitionist member of 
the Committee, the very circumstance that constitutes the in- 
tenseness of the work, would have seemed fair evidence of its 
lightness ; and when the respectable witness was driven to 
shew the fallacy of his own inference in that respect, he 
shifted his ground we see, and resorted to one not less falla- 
cious ; assuming that the drivers could and would moderate 
the pace as reason and lenity required. 

As to the general moderation of the driver's exactions and 
discipline, the reader has already seen much, and shall see 
more hereafter ; but that a practice which Sir Ashton himself 
described as universal, and a departure from which must 
obviously throw back the necessary business of the plant- 
ation, depends on the discretion of those executive agents, 
was a suggestion that I need not perhaps stop to refute. The 
drivers are bad enough, as many of their employers have often 
admitted, and still admit ; but however they may abuse the 
discretionary powers they possess over individuals, the quan- 
tity of work to be performed by the whole gang in a given 
time, is not and cannot be in their arbitrement ; but in that 
only of the proprietor or his manager, who calculates of course 
on the degree of despatch that custom has established. The 
driver, at his own peril, must see that the cane-piece is manured 
within the time allowed for it ; and if the ordinary rapid pace 
of the dung-carriers is necessary for that purpose, to this he 
must obviously adhere, whether it is severe on the slaves or 

As to the slaves not being heard to complain, the ar- 
gument could weigh with European ignorance alone. To 
complain, even of extraordinary modes of oppression, and 
which the owner may be supposed not to have authorized, is 
a perilous experiment ; but to remonstrate against what cus- 
tom has established as the ordinary duties of the gang, would 
be regarded as mutiny, and punished not only by tlie cart- 
whip, but perhaps even by the musket or the gibbet. My 
opponents nevertheless often resort to such pleas, though they 
are just as reasonable as it would be in a violator who had 
gagged his victim, to infer her willingness, from her not calling 
out for assistance. Sir Ashton we see, admitted that the 
slaves would probably have expressed their dislike to thiw 

in point of' Li tenseness. 171 

labour if they had been enabled by a question safely to do so ; 
and how indeed could he have said otherwise, after admitting 
that the work was severe? Yet in what could its severity 
consist, if the baskets as he represented were light, except in 
the quickness of the pace? — But the question of severity 
apart, we here have an admission which must be felt to 
be conclusive, that in this species of labour at least, the 
running, or going in a quick pace, with the burthens, is the 
general practice. 

In respect of the alleged hghtness of the load, the planters 
have varied much from each other in their different accounts ; 
and as it is truly alleged by the last cited witness, that there 
must, from the nature of the case, be great varieties in its ac- 
tual weight, I will not attempt to form any average estimate. 
The briskness of the long continued motion would be enough, 
even with the small weight of twenty-five pounds which Mr. 
Willock incredibly assigned to the dung and basket, to make the 
day's work extremely oppressive ; and that such was his view 
is evident, since he considered it as the very hardest work of a 
plantation. I will only add the following paragraph of advice 
from Dr. Collins. " As seldom as possible should dung be 
" removed when wet ; for in that state, to its own weight is 
" superadded that of the water, perhaps equally great; and 
" the negroes will be vexed by the drippings from their 
" baskets. — In dry weather, and when the dung is dry, a 
" a negro will carry twice as much of it, and with more ease 
*' to himself than in other circumstances. At that time they 
** may be required to fill their baskets, and they will be less 
" harassed by the excess of weight than by the fatigue of 
" walking."* In the experienced author's judgment then, 
both are harassing ; and the latter is so, even when the 
weight is not excessive. 

We have now obtained another datum from which to 
reason as to the probable intensity of slave labour in general. 
I inferred it before from the oppressive exactions in point of 
time ; and the admitted severity of forced labour in some of 

* Practical Rules, p. 195. 

172 Of the forced Labour of Slaves 

its branches, strengthens the same inference as to the rest. 
The common end being to obtain from a limited number of 
slaves all the exertion they are capable of for the master's 
profit, and it being established that he does not spare them 
in point of time, nor as to one or two kinds of ordinary work 
at least, in point of intensity, it is highly improbable that in 
the other operations of the estate, their utmost potential efforts 
in a given time are not fully exacted. Least of all is this 
probable in the labours of the crop season ; when celerity of 
operation is admitted to be of the utmost importance, both to 
the quantity and quality of the crop ; and when the duration 
of labour is so great that the attempts to justify it are rested 
on absolute necessity alone. 

" When the canes," says Mr. Beckford, " are in a state of 
" perfection, they should be got off with as much celerity as 
*' possible : for expedition, in the time of harvest, is of in- 
" finite consequence to the quality, as well as the quantity 
" of the produce. Should any delay at this particular time 
" be occasioned, a drought might consequently supervene, 
*' which would make at least a daily, if not an hourly diminu- 
" tion of crop."* He proceeds to give further reasons for 
despatch ; and shews afterwards, by animated descriptions of 
the different processes of the grinding season, that the prin- 
ciple is well followed up in practice. — "The labourers are 
" now prepared for the expected harvest, &c. The shell is 
" heard with a shrill alarm to call them forth, as it echoes 
*' among the hills, &c. The overseer is anxious to give his 
" orders to commence the crop ; he is the first in the field : 
" the driver follows with his knotted stick, and his whip 
" slung carelessly across his shoulder ; the latter walks brisklj/ 
" to the place of labour ; the negroes follow, and he shews 
" them upon what part of the piece to begin. The tops of the 
" canes are now in a constant tremor, the yellow swarths are 

* Descriptive Account of the Island of Jamaica, vol. ii. p. 9. This is the 
same writer, whose remarks on the situation of, the negroes, &c., I have 
before more than once quoted. He is in both works equally zealous in his 
defence of slavery, and the slave trade. 

hi point of Intenseness. 173 

" strewed upon the ground, and vigour and dispatch are oh- 
" served in every hody, and apparent in every hand." " The 
*• driver, with an authoritative voice, cautions them to cut the 
" canes close, and not to waste too much of the top, &c. ; he 
" keeps them in a regular string before him, and takes care 
" to chequer the able with the weak, that the labour may not 
" be too light for the first, nor too heavy for the last ; he in- 
" timidates some, and encourages others ; and too often, per- 
" haps, a tyrant in authority, imposes on the timid, and suffers 
" the sturdy to escape."* 

Perhaps the humane reader will see nothing to admire in 
all this ; especially when he considers that the poor men and 
women are thus kept to work all the day under the blaze of 
a tropical sun ; not to mention their precedent and subsequent 
night-work ; and that it lasts about five months in the year. 
But Mr. Beckford tells us, " that the time of crop, particularly 
" the commencement of it, exhibits a very lively and a pleasing 
" scene, and every living creature seems to be in spirits and 
" in expectation. "'f- 

He adds, that " not only the negroes are alert and cheerful, 
" but that the cattle and mules, recovered from the fatigue 
" of the planting season, appear to be fresh and vigorous ; 
*' nor do they seem to require the encouragement of the voice, 
" nor to dread the thunders of the whip ; for this instrument 
" of correction, whether it be in the hands of the cartman, 
" the mule-boy, or the negro-driver, is heard in either case 
" to resound among the hills, and upon the plains, and to 
" awaken the echoes wherever the reverberations of the lash 
•' shall pass. "J 

* Ibid. p. 47-8. t Ibid. 50-51. 

X I almost fear that this description of West Indian pastoral music 
may suggest a doubt, whether I am not quoting, instead of an op- 
ponent, a friend in disguise. I, therefore, beg leave to exemplify the ge- 
neral spirit of the work, by the following extracts from this planters' con- 
cluding remarks, in defence of the now reprobated African slave trade. — 
" As the fate of the colonies seems to be now involved in the popular ques- 
" tion of an abolition of the slave trade, I shall defer my observations upon 
" this subject until ihephnnzi/ of the moment shall be abated, and the voice 

174 Of tlie forced Labour of Slaves 

I do not mean to dispute this writer's assertion, that the 
slaves, as well as the cattle and mules, are all exhilarated and 
invigorated in crop-time, or at least as he observably puts it 
" at the commencement" of the crop. I have already noticed 
the cause of that phenomenon ; and the extract from the work 
of Mr. Bryan Edwards, which I have given, may suffice to 
prevent any surprise from it ; at least as to the biped la- 

The effect of such an addition to the food of the slaves, as 
cane-juice, in countervailing the debilitating tendency of 
night-watching, and an increase of many hours in the diurnal 
duration of labour, will prepare the reflecting mind to believe 
what I shall demonstrate hereafter, the great insufficiency of 
their ordinary sustenance at other periods of the year. 
The same effect, from feeding on the cane-tops, appears to be 
more transitory with the working cattle, from Mr. Beckford's 
account ; for speaking of their work in crop-time, he says, 
" What this labour is, their reduced and lank situation, will, 
" I fear, sufficiently explain." What are we to infer from 
this ? not certainly that the labour of the slaves is not also 
much enhanced ; for the contrary has been shewn : the ob- 
vious and true conclusion is, that the change of food is greater 
and more influential with the negroes, than with their quad- 
ruped fellow-drudges. The latter out of crop, are not left to 
raise their own provisions, at such scanty periods as remain 
between forced labour and repose. They have always had 
enough to eat, though of less nutritious food than the cane- 

It may be useful in this place, to compare the system of 
foreign sugar planters with our own. There is a striking si- 
milarity, or rather identity between them in almost every 

" of reason shall allay that tempest which a measure so replete with danger 
" cannot fail to excite ;" and in respect of the slaves' condition, " I shall, I 
" hope, be excused if I dwell a little upon the seeming misery of their situ- 
" ations, and then contrast the subjection of their lives with the needi/ inde- 
" pendencij of the poor of England." " The negroes are slaves by nature." 
" They have no idea of the charms of liberty," (Descriptive Account, &;c. 
vol.ii. p. 49.) 

in point of Intenseness. 175 

point. Indeed, I am aware of no exception to the rule; nor is 
it strange ; for if the common object is to obtain from the 
slaves the maximum of potential exertion ; and if this has been 
discovered long since, (as I maintain it has by general experi- 
ment, and constant competition for the cheapest production 
of the article, throughout the West India islands,) it was na- 
tural, and almost inevitable, that there should soon be a general 
uniformity of means ; more especially when it is considered 
that by temporary conquests and cessions, the islands for the 
most part have frequently interchanged their sovereigns and 
their planters. 

I will, therefore, here introduce some citation^ from a 
French author of great eminence, M.Barre de St.Venant. 
I am well entitled, under my general self-imposed restriction, 
to cite him ; for he was not only a planter, and a champion 
of colonial slavery, and of the slave trade, but one whose work 
was highly extolled by all the French colonists ; and contri- 
buted not a little to lead on and confirm Buonaparte in the 
cruel and perfidious policy he adopted on the peace of Amiens 
for the restitution of slavery at St. Domingo, and in the other 
colonies of France. 

I shall quote from the original work before me, published 
at Paris in 1802, of which I believe we have no published trans- 
lation ; but will give my extracts in English. — " The labour 
" of those who cut the canes has some resemblance to that of 
** reapers; but it is much greater and more animated, even upon 
" the smallest sugar estates, than upon the most extensive 
" farm, by the number and the rapidity of the carts loaded with 
" canes, which arrive at a gallop at the mill, by those which 
" carry the fuel (cane-trash) for the furnace, and green-herb 
" (cane-tops) for the cattle, by the number of the men, and 
" that of the labouring cattle." After describing the cattle- 
mills, he says, " six mules are harnessed to two levers, or 
" sweeps ; they set off at full gallop, go round and give a 
" horizontal movement to the central cylinder, the cogs of 
" which turn the two others. They then insert the bundles 
" of canes between the cylinders ; they pass and repass be- 
" tween them. About fifty barrels of cane-juice are expressed 
** during the day, &c. — It may be conceived from this, that 

176 Of t he forced Labour of Slaves 

** the swiftness of the mules must be very great ; in fact they 
" run over eighty toises in a minute. 

'^ This movement is prodigious ; but that of the boihng- 
" house, which is contiguous, is still more surprising. Under 
" an exterior gallery are two or four men, who alternately 
" work and rest. With the forks which they take up the 
" fuel with, they feed the furnace tvithout cessation," &c.* 

I will add from the same author his account of the night- 
works and relays ; as it will shew the uniformity of that 
species of oppression in the French, as well as the English 
colonies. " The grinding commences ordinarily on Monday, 
" and does not cease till Saturday at midnight ; it recom- 
" mences on Sunday at midnight, and so continues till its 
" termination ; and proceeds by day as well as night, with- 
" out intermission either of the movements or the fires. — 
" The workmen of the mill, and those of the boihng-house, 
" are fixed to them for twenty-four hours successively. A 
" like number of those who are in the fields come to relieve 
" them at midnight. In so succeeding each other they keep 
" turn and turn; and when the gang is not numerous it is 
" necessary sometimes that they return to the night-work one 
" day in three." 

It would appear from this that three spells were the lowest 
number in use in the French islands ; whereas we have seen 
that in our own, there are often no more than two, and that 
though, in computing the time of work, I have gratuitously 
supposed them to be three, on an average, there are probably 
very few estates which have so many. — " Some persons," he 
says, " have wished to divide the station (at the works) of 
" twenty- four hours into two parts, the one from midnight 
" to noon, the other from noon to midnight." — " The ne- 
" groes," he adds, (in the true spirit of our own colonial 
apologists,) " have resisted so wise an arrangement ; it is 
" opposed to their tastes, their habits, and their nocturnal 
" courses ; it obliges them to re-appear too often, and they have 

* Des Colonies Modernes sous La Zone Torride, Sec, par M. Barrt' de 
St. Venant. Paris, 1802. p. 369. 371-2. 

in point of Lilenseness, 1 77 

" preferred an arduous station of four and twenty hours, to an 
" easier one of twelve." ** That," he observes, " which is 
"most surprising is, that instead of resigning themselves to 
** sleep or to rest, when the midnight has released them from 
"' their posts, one may see them run to a distance of two or 
" three leagues, to pass the rest of the night in dances, or 
" orgies, with their mistresses, and appear in the field at Jive 
" o'clock in the morning to cut the canes ; the women as well as 
" the men." * 

These passages, when stripped of their glosses and exag- 
gerations, and reduced to their true import, contain nothing 
incredible or surprising. The choice is between a respite of 
five hours at the utmost every night, and unbroken rest 
during two nights in three ; and as during the respite of five 
hours the poor negroes would not have time to visit their 
wives, or mistresses, as the author calls them, who often re- 
side on other estates, and to prepare, also, their meals for the 
same or the following day, they may naturally enough prefer 
the latter alternative. — Those English planters who have only 
two spells, do not and cannot give their slaves any such 
choice ; because as the same negroes have to take the spells 
every second day, they would have to purchase an entire 
night's rest, by watching and working for thirty-six, or ra- 
ther thirty-seven hours, without intermission. 

I say " rather for thirty-seven," because though I have taken 
six in the morning as the time of returning to the day-work, 
it was for the purpose of meeting the planters on their own 
admission, that each negro who keeps spell loses six hours of 
rest every night. In fact the field-work, in, as well as out of 
crop, commences at five, as this French author fairly admits. 
" In this instant, he adds, (i. e. at the midnight dismission) 
** the negro is the most free of human beings ; no modesty, 
" no decency, no human consideration, no fear, no moral sen- 
" timent restrains him ; the marriage faith is no curb for him ; 
** he is carried away by an impetuous passion ; the fatigue of 
*^ the day is forgotten, nothing stops him, he runs where his 
" desires call him ! The negro must be of all the human spe- 

* Ibid. p. 379. 

1 78 Of the forced Labour of Slaves 

" cies the being the strongest, the most robust, and vivacious, 
" for in the hot cUmates he is capable of the most extreme cor- 
" poreal efforts, &,c. He will pass eight days without sleep, 
" and sleep afterwards like a marmott ; he will pass from the 
" excess of labour, or of agitation, to that of inertness, or 
" absolute repose, without his temperament or his physical 
*' constitution being altered."* 

Thus did M. Barre de St. Venant attempt to palliate op- 
pression by exaggerating the capacities of the unfortunate 
victims to sustain it ; but he had no motive for over-stating 
the, oppression itself; and neither in the duration of night- 
work, nor its intensity, the points for which I cite him, does 
he at all exceed the truth. In respect of the former, he falls 
short even of what I have proved to be the practice in the 
English colonies at the present day ; as the reader will per- 
ceive if he turns back and compares with these extracts my 
citations in the last chapter as to night-work in Jamaica. 

In respect of the nocturnal habits of the sleepless slaves, 
M. Barre's misrepresentation, the high colouring of a French 
stile apart, is only such as our own planters continually 
resort to. Like them, he ascribes to the slaves at large, 
that which is true only in respect to a few individuals 
among them, chiefly the drivers and headmen, whose robust 
constitutions and better sustentation, (the consequence often 
of their oppressions on their weaker brethren, the drudges of 
the field,) may enable them sometimes to indulge their pas- 
sions, during a respite which the common herd of drudges 
can employ only in repose. If two or three among the former 
are known on a single night in the week to visit their wives 
or mistresses on a distant plantation, it is quite enough with 
these colonial gentlemen, whether French or English, to war- 
rant such general statements as to the negroes at large. Such 
fallacies are their ordinary means of deceiving their credulous 
European readers. 

The West Indian witnesses before the Privy Council, and 
the House of Commons, were not interrogated as to the celerity 

Ibid, 379. 380. 

in point of Intenseness. 179 

of the different operations in crop-time; and prudently for- 
bore to volunteer any statements on that subject. They all 
admitted in general terms, that the work at that season, was 
laborious ; but left it ambiguous whether they meant as to its 
intenseness, or only its duration. One or two of them, how- 
ever, gave comparative statements, from which much may be 
inferred confirmatory of the preceding accounts. 

Dr. Athill of Antigua, being asked. " Is or is not the cut- 
" ting of canes one of the most laborious, services of the plan- 
" tation ? Answered, it is laborious, but I do not think one 
" of the most laborious ; it is performed with such alacrity, 
" and good spirits, that it seems trifling."* Whether any 
thing is meant by the alacrity of work in men with a driver 
behind them, except that they work in quick time, the reader 
may judge from the instructive testimony of Sir Ash ton War- 
ner Byam, which I have cited in regard to the carriage of 
dung ;f and as to the good spirits, in crop-time, see my quo- 
tations from Mr. Beckford, and Mr. Edwards.;{: But the cutting 
of canes, is here admitted to be laborious; and this obviously 
must be, not from the vigorous stroke of the hatchet merely, 
which the same witness tells us, in the same place, the wo- 
men are as equal to as the men, but from its brisk and hur- 
ried repetition. 

Another witness, Mr. Campbell of Grenada, says " the cut- 
" ing of the canes is not hard labour," but adds, " the feed- 
" ^^'S ^f ^he mill, and the vjork done by the firemen, are the 
" most laborious operations."^ Here the same remark ap- 
plies ; for there can be no great muscular exertion in placing 
the canes, which are within reach, between the cylinders, or 
in forking bundles of cane-trash into the furnaces or copper 
holes, if done in moderate time. It is the celerity of the in- 
cessant operation that constitutes the fatigue. The rapid re- 
volution of the cylinders as described by M. Barre de St. Ve- 
nant, makes it necessary to supply fresh canes incessantly, 
and such is the quick consumption of the dry cane trash and 

* Commons Report of 1790, p. :V2d. 

X Supra, p. 169. § Commons Report of 1790, p. 139. 

N 2 

180 Of lliejorccd Labour oj Slaves 

wowra, that to feed the fires orco])per holes with them, is hke 
feeding a furnace with paper. The driving of the cattle also, 
and removal of the magoss, or bruised canes from the cylinders 
of the mill, must keep pace with the rapidity of its motions. 
Every process, in short, of the harvest is in general marked by 
what the planters choose to call " alacrity and animation.'^ 

If the reader can still doubt, after fairly weighing the effect 
of these colonial authorities, whether the labour of the slaves 
is intense in point of exertion, as well as time, I would request 
him again to consider the probabilities of the case ; remem- 
bering that the extreme duration of the toil, increased largely 
in crop-time, is not more within the compelling power of the 
master exercised by his drivers, than the briskness of the la- 
bour itself, that his profit depends most materially on dispatch 
and that the number of slaves, is admitted to be often inade- 
quate, especially in crop time, to the necessary operations of 
the estate. The reducing them to six or five hours' respite in 
the twenty-four, and withholding even that portion of rest 
from the boilers, &c., would be still more opprobrious than it 
is, if we supposed that any possible increase in the briskness 
of the work might shorten its oppressive duration. 

I conclude, then, from the evidence which I here adduced, 
which applies to all the most ordinary species of labour, and 
from this general reasoning also, that the toil of the slaves is 
for the most part intense, either from the vigour or briskness 
of their work. 

To compare it, in this respect, demonstratively with that 
of English peasants, is not easy, fur reasons which I have al- 
Iready assigned; but I can truly assert, that except in the 
bustle of our reapers in the corn harvest, (which one of my 
authorities admits is not so great, as that of the cane cutters,) 
I have seen nothing equal in this country in point of briskness 
to what is called the " alacrity and animation,'" of negroes 
in many of their employments. I have often seen our agri- 
cultural labourers at their different operations, and if I 
were even to strike out of the account, the important power 
of pausing, to ease their sensations, or recruit their strength, 
at their own arbitrament, without feeling or fearing the lash 
of a driver, I should still say, that their labours are lighter, 

/// point of lnlenseness. 181 

because in general much slower, than those of the plantation 

But were this doubtful, the vast difference of climate would 
at once decide the question. In the one case, vigorous ac- 
tion is at most seasons compensated by genial warmth ; in 
the other, the fatigue is always aggravated by the waste of a 
copious perspiration. This important consideration is by 
the apologists of the system most unfairly thrown out of the 
account. Because the negro can, and the European cannot 
endure, a long exposure to the broiling sunbeams, with little 
or no inconvenience in a state of rest, they assume that the 
same distinction is equally felt under arduous or brisk ex- 

" An European," says Mr. Beckford, " who would be al- 
" most dissolved, were he to work beneath the vertical ardours 
" of a tropic sun, does not always consider, when he expresses 
" his surprise that the negroes should be obliged to labour in 
" such an intensity of heat, that the climate is congenial to 
" their natui'al feelings, and that the careful benevolence of 
•* Providence has thickened their skins, to enable them to 
" bear, what would otherwise be insufferable : he is too apt 
" to judge of then- constitutions and feelings by his own."* 

Yes, a benevolent Providence has enabled them, as I have 
before admitted, to bear an exposure to the sun ; because that 
is the lot of their nativity ; but not to endure, without noxious 
effects, excess of labour, though in their native climate, be- 
cause from this, the same Providence has naturally exempted 
them by the luxuriant fertility of the soil. It is not nature, 
but the selfishness, the avarice and oppression of their fellow- 
men, which alone can make it necessary ; and from such 
sources of evil it has not pleased the Almighty to guard his 
creatures in this probationary state. 

Do these writers wish us to believe that the negro is not, 
like the white man, subject to a noxious waste of the fluids 
by brisk motion and excessive heat united ? Or is it requir- 
ed that I should prove this law of our common nature also, 
by the testimony of their own partizans ? If it be, I am able 

Descriptive Account of Jumaica, vol.ii. GG, 66. 

1 S2 Of the forced Labour of Slaves 

to do so. Doctor Collins, in noticing the sudden check of 
perspiration as a frequent cause of the maladies of the slaves, 
says the effect is " to check the perspiration, which descends 
" in torroits when the negroes are in health and at work.''* 

Surely then, it is right, in this respect at least, to " judge of 
" the constitutions and feelings of these poor creatures by our 
" own," though such sympathies are repressed by their mas- 
ters ; and to add to the enormous duration, and the intensity 
of their work, the exhausting influence of the climate, in the 
estimate we form of their suft'erinss. 

I will not dismiss this branch of my subject without again 
confessing, that some of my fellow-labourers have adopted 
views of it different from my own ; alleging that the enormous 
protraction of the work unavoidably diminishes the energy 
with which it is performed : and one or two anti-slavery 
writers have pushed that plausible theory so far as to contend, 
that what is gained in time is lost in effect, and that free 
men exerting themselves willingly, will perform- in a given 
time more work than slaves. 

Those who have held such opinions were, with only two 
exceptions that I recollect, personally strangers to the system ; 
and all of them practically so; and, therefore, perhaps did 
not estimate sufficiently high the efficacy of the driving whip. 
They were also naturally willing to adopt and propagate views 
that tended to reconcile the disuse of brutal coercion with the 
self-interest of the planters. Nor can it be altogether untrue, 
that the slaves often work, with comparative languor at least, 
in the more laborious toils of the field, after they have been 
long continued ; for weariness and exhaustion, when felt by 
the gang at large, will naturally relax the common exertions, 
in spite of all that the terror of the driver's voice, or actual in- 
flictions of his whip, can do to prevent it. The frequent prac- 
tice of giving the extraordinary nutrition of a piece of bread 
or a ship biscuit and a draught of grog, to recruit the strength 
and raise the spirits of the slaves under those heavier opera- 
tions, sufficiently proves that this is found to be the case. 
Neither is it to be denied, that there is a most improvident 
waste of work and diminution of its general effect, through 

* Practical Rules, &.C., p. .08, 

in point of Intensentss. 183 

the heedless and indiscriminate way in which it is exacted, 
and the neglect of mechanical aids. The slave, I admit, if 
arbiter of his own exertions, might economise them so as 
to produce in a given time a greater effect with much less 

But no deduction that can reasonably be made on any or all 
of these grounds, will serve so far to reduce the general ener- 
gies of slave-labour, in regard at least to the actual pressure 
on the workmen, as to make them bear any comparison with 
the greatest ordinary exertions of free men in similar kinds 
of labour, either in this or any other country. The dispa- 
rity in point of time, however, is at once the most important, 
and the most susceptible of clear investigation. This, there- 
fore, I shall proceed to demonstrate in the following chapter. 




Though I maintain, and I trust have proved, that the labours 
of the slaves are, for the most part, excessive in point of inten- 
sity, as well as cruelly so in point of time, it is in the latter 
respect alone, that I propose to compare them with those of 
our English peasants ; because, for reasons already assigned, 
it is in point of time alone that the positive amount of each 
can be measured or defined ; and consequently the difference 
between them clearly ascertained. 

It will be recollected, I hope, that the strange comparison 
between the most oppressed and degraded beings that the sun 
ever saw, and the peasantry of England, was no idle choice 
of mine ; but what the planters and their advocates have 
been bold enough to challenge. Their folly, however, in pro- 
voking it, and especially in that worst article of their prac- 
tical oppression, a murderous excess of labour, is so surprising, 
that it may be right to shew, by some further quotations, 
how frequent such temerity has been, and still is among them ; 
lest I should be suspected of using unfairly against the many, 
the extreme rashness of the few. 

" The work of the negro slave in Jamaica," said the agent 
and planters of that island before the Committee of Privy 
Council, " is far less than that of a labourer in Britain."* 

Piivy Council Report, part 3, title Jamaica, Q. A. No. 36. 

Comparison of Slave Labour, $;c. 185 

Q. to Mr, Gilbert Francklyn. " Upon consideration of food, 
" labour, &c., have you been able to make any comparison 
** between the condition of negroes in the West Indies, and 
" that of poor labourers in this country," &c. ? 

A. " I do not conceive that the poor of any country are 
" better provided for, or live happier, than the generality 
" of negroes upon plantations in the West Indies ; their labour 
" is slight;' &c.* 

Q. to Mr. James Baillie. " In general is the labour of the 
" slaves proportioned to their ability, or can it be considered 
** as severe ?" 

A, " It is always in proportion to their ability, and cannot 
" be considered as severe, when compared to the labour of the 
" lower order of people in Europe.i- On the whole 1 am con- 
'* vinced, that the labour of a negro slave, taken throughout 
** the whole year, is by no means so severe as that of an 
" English labourer.''^ 

See also the evidence of Sir Ralph Payne, afterwards Lord 
Lavington, formerly quoted expressly and strongly to the same 
effect. § 

These statements were made, be it remembered, at a time 
which the recent champions of the colonies, and the Jamaica 
Assembly itself, admit to have been a period of much 
indefensible severity in the treatment of slaves ; and when, 
among other now repudiated oppressions, they are admitted to 
have been worked to excess. Is it then also admitted by my 
present antagonists, that the comparison with English la- 
bourers must, in respect to that period at least, be abandoned? 
By no means : they insist upon it still ; and are so far from 
retracting the statements of 1790 which I have cited, as un- 
true in respect of the then existing case, that they quote them 
triumphantly, as the testimony of respectable witnesses given 
before Parliament, and worthy therefore of peculiar credit. 
Nay, that Goliah of the colonial host, Mr. M'Queen, arraigns 
me and my fellow labourers of unfairness, in not always bring- 
ing forward this former evidence, on the very point now in 
question. " The labour of the slaves," he says, " is child's 

* Commons Report of 1790, p. 91-2. f Ibid. 187. 

X Evidence of Mr. Tobin, same Report, 266. § Supra, p. 22, 23. 

186 Comparison of the Labour of Slaves 

''play, compared to the loork performed by the labourers in 
" this coujitry. Theij do not know what hard labour is; and 
" it is not a little remarkable, that the enemies of the colonies 
" are now bringing forward in support of their theories, that 
" very evidence taken before Parliament, which they formerly 
" either concealed or denied, which went to prove, that one 
" European free man did as much luork in one day as three 
" negroes. ^^* 

Should any reader still doubt, whether I am fairly taking 
issue with my opponents in general of the present day, on these 
bold comparative statements, I need only refer him to the 
printed Report of the Council of Barbadoes of July 22, 1823, 
published and widely circulated by their agent here in the 
following year, in which it is maintained as stoutly as ever, 
that the condition of the slave is not only equal in point of 
comfort, but superior to, that of the labouring class in this 

In fact, few colonial witnesses, or writers, among the many 
who have spoken and written on the subject in any stage of 
the controversy, have been prudent enough not to challenge 
or invite the same extravagant comparison. One of the latest 
of them, Mr. Dwarris, has alone, I think, noticed the topic 
with a discreet forbearance, by saying, " I am not of the num- 
" ber of those who will compare the predial slave to the 
" English labourer, in the latter's day of manly health and 
** strength.":]; 

Let me proceed then to take up this gage thrown down by 
almost all my antagonists, and to state what are the ordinary 
portions of working time, which the best wages obtain from the 
ablest agricultural labourers in England. 

Most of my readers probably know well what these cus- 
tomary portions are. But from a desire to obtain the most ac- 
curate and particular information on the subject, for the use of 
those who are not conversant with rural affairs, T wrote for it 
long since to two geatlemen of landed property, and much intel- 
ligence, the one in Cambridgeshire, the other in Leicestershire, 

* West India Colonies, &c. p. 258-9. 

f Report of a Committee of the Council of Barbadoes, juiblislicd by Sior, 
Loudan, 1824, p. 23-4, &c. 
t The West India (iueslion, tVc., p, 20, 

with that of English Peasants. 187 

both experienced farmers on their own estates ; and their ac- 
counts received by me in answer, agree in the following state- 
ment; which I will, therefore, transcribe, 

" The time which the day-labourers in husbandry usually 
'* continue at their work, may on an average throughout the 
" year, be estimated at nine hours per diem." 

" From Michaelmas to Christmas, making allowance for 
" the different lengths of the days, they come to their work, 
" one day with another, at seven in the morning, and leave it 
" at five in the afternoon. Deducting two hours and a half 
" for meals, going, and coming, there will remain seven hours 
" and a half of clear labour. The same estimate may be made 
" for the following quarter. From Lady-day to Midsummer, 
*' they come to their work at six o'clock, and leave it at the 
" same hour in the evening ; but as the season is warmer, 
" they are a longer time absent from their work (about three 
" hours), which will leave nine hours for work. In the other 
" quarters, as the hay-season and the harvest comprehend the 
" greater part of it, their wages are considerably higher, and 
" more work is done ; and it may fairly be estimated that 
" from to Michaelmas, a labourer, after all de- 
" ductions for meals, going and coming, and every other cause 
** of absence, is twelve hours at his work, one day with ano- 
*' ther. The average hours of work, in these several portions 
" of the year, will amount to nine hours per diem, viz. 

Hours per diem. 
" Michaelmas to Christmas - - 7| 

" Christmas to Lady-day - - - 7| 
" Lady-day to Midsummer - - 9 

" Midsummer to Michaelmas - - 12 

36 — which, 
" divided by four, gives an average of nine hours." 

A highly intelligent friend who resides in Kent, and has 
long farmed lands of his own there, has since confirmed this 
estimate to me on his own experience and observation. I be- 
lieve it, therefore, to be accurate, and applicable (with small 
variations arising- from difference of latitude and modes of a«:ri- 
cultural operations) to every part of tlie kingdom ; except 
that, from the present unfortunate circumstances of the 

188 Comparison of the Labour of Slaves 

country, in respect of the poor laws, and want of full em- 
ployment, the time of labour, in many places, is now mate- 
rially reduced. 

What, then, are the comparative results ? They are, that 
the time of the slave-labour, to the time of the free-labour, is, 
on an average of the whole year, as sixteen, at least, to nine ; 
that the minimum of the former, much exceeds the maximum 
of the latter; that in the crop-season of five months' duration, 
the West India slave has but one-half at most of the diurnal 
respite which the English labourer enjoys, even in the labo- 
rious harvest quarter, viz. six hours, (not to say five only,) in- 
stead of twelve. 

The only consideration that can be alleged to alleviate, in 
any degree, this contrast, is that the English labourer, like 
the slave, has to walk to and from his place of daily work, 
though he has not his meals to prepare from a raw state, and 
dress, as a further abridgment of his daily respites ; still less 
to renounce his dinner, that he may have time to raise his 
food. But if the reader thinks that some allowance should 
be made for his walks, to make the comparison, in all respects, 
unobjectionable in regard to times of rest, let it be remem- 
bered that, in taking sixteen hours as the annual average of 
the slave's occupations, for the purpose of this comparison, I 
have gratuitously struck off the fraction of forty minutes 
from the result of a calculation in which I had previously taken 
every doubtful or disputable portion of those occupations at 
the lowest probable estimate : let it be remembered also, that I 
have left Sabbath-work wholly out of the account. If, ne- 
vertheless, some abatement of the vast difference should be 
claimed in respect of the English labourer's walks, or any 
other ordinary addition to the time of actual work for his 
employer, the claim might be largely allowed, without any 
material benefit to the case of my opponents, or prejudice to 
my own. Enough of indisputable fact would remain to make 
the contrast enormously great. 

I might safely even here restore to the possession of my oppo- 
nents, most of the artful glosses, fallacies and impostmes, 
which, by reviewing their own evidence, I have wrested from 
their hands. Supposing the noontide, as well as the morning re- 
spite, to be time of actual rest, the field-work to begin and end 
at six, instead of five and seven, and no necessary employment to 

ivith that of English Feasants. 189 

precede the driver's morning muster, or follow his evening 
dismissal ; nay, supposing we were generally to adopt that 
gross standing sophism of my opponents, in their delusive 
use of the terms labour and I'e^t, including in the former only 
the work enforced by the whip for the direct immediate profit 
of the master, and giving the name of rest or leisure to every 
other employment, however fatiguing, of men and women 
who have to provide for their own support ; and were we more- 
over to reduce the labours of a five-months' harvest to the lowest 
amount that the most disingenuous colonist has alleged, — still 
the time of slave-labour between the tropics, woould be found 
very largely to exceed all that the best wages and competi- 
tion for employment can obtain from the free peasantry of 
England. But when the reader contemplates the real dura- 
tion of slave-work as demonstrated in a former chapter, recol- 
lecting, at the same time, that it is exacted from both sexes 
alike ; and that, while the English peasant is recruited every 
week by an inviolable Sabbath rest, the poor field-negro has, 
for the most part, on that day, little more than a change of 
work ; he will, I doubt not, feel both astonishment and in- 
dignation at those bold impositions on the British public, 
which have called for these comparative views. 

The comparison, after all, or rather the shocking and op- 
probrious contrast, would be very imperfect, if we were to 
look no further than the respective times of labour. Two 
considerations of vast importance remain to be taken into the 
account, viz. the different climates in which the work is to be 
performed, and the distressing means by which that of the 
West Indies is enforced. 

The latter is so momentous a subject, and involves so many 
kinds of pernicious and odious oppression, that it would be 
wrong to treat of it incidentally, merely as an aggravation of 
the general excess of toil. It well deserves to be the subject 
of a separate division in this work ; especially as I have to 
redeem it, like the rest, from gross controversial falsehood. 
But let me here observe, by the way, that a given duration 
of work, which might be moderate if regulated by the will of 
each individual workman, as to its modes, its continuity, and 
its pauses, might become excessive and intolerable, when in- 

190 Comparison of tJie Lahoni of Slaves. 

discriminately enforced on a great number of men and women 
of different degrees of strength, by the coercion or present 
terror of the whip. Postponing this sad topic for the present, 
let us look for a moment at the extreme inequality between 
a given portion of field-labour performed in England, and the 
same portion of it in the torrid zone. 

Here I must request my readers to look back on my pre- 
liminary remarks on this subject, and the authorities by which 
they were supported.* We have seen what are the instinctive 
universal propensities of the human race, in respect of labour 
or repose between the tropics, and the strong reasons we have 
for believing that these propensities were implanted in us by 
the gracious Author of our frames, for self-conservatory ends. 
He who does nothing in vain, nothing unwisely, has been 
fairly shewn by my zealous antagonist. Major Moody, to have 
provided a triple natural safeguard against voluntary excess of 
labour under a vertical sun, by the great bounty of nature in 
the production of food in that climate, by the aversion which 
all men naturally feel there to long continued labour in the 
sun, and by their love of repose and of the shade ; whereas 
in England, field-labour, unless pushed beyond the strength 
of the workman, is at most seasons opposed by no such 
propensities, but by a vicious love of idleness in the ill-re- 
gulated mind, alone. Though labour, when a necessary task, 
is in some degree every where unpleasant, many independent 
and affluent men here, often take from choice as much bodily 
exercise, though of a different kind, as the day-labourers 
around them : but the master in a hot climate, though a 
native of it, is like his servant, prone to indolence or bodily 
inaction. It is the case with white Creoles to a proverb ; and 
is admitted, even by men of their own party in this contro- 
versy, to be their general characteristic. 

What, then, are we to conclude as to the point in ques- 
tion ? Are habits that violently controul our natural propen- 
sities, more easy than those which fall in with them ? Is 
excessive labour less oppressive to the mind and body of the 
slave, because it is what his nature strongly revolts at, and 

See Chiipter H 

with that of English Peasants. 191 

because it deprives him during the solar hours of that rest and 
refreshment in the shade, which are his main desire and de- 
light ? Or are there such benign virtues in the driving whip, 
that they sustain hi# strength, exhilarate his spirits, and con- 
vert repugnance and pain, into animal gratification ? Either 
these absurdities are truths, or the same continuity of field- 
labour which our peasantry sustain, would be in a high de- 
gree irksome and severe to the slaves of a sugar estate. 
What, then, must be its duplication ! ! What less than it 
really is to a large part of them, exhaustion and weakness, 
sickness, and premature death ? 




Section I. — Preliminary Remarks. 

One of the many difficulties which an advocate of the unfor- 
tunate slaves has to encounter, is that of determining what part 
of the premises he has to reason upon may be safely assumed ; 
and what part of them it may be necessary or expedient to 
prove ; or rather to prove anew ; for on the one hand he may 
be thought needlessly to trespass on the patience of his 
readers ; and on the other hand maybe prejudiced by doubts 
that may have been produced in their minds through stale and 
often refuted, but boldly reiterated falsehoods. 

If in any part of the case, I might now be relieved from this 
difficulty, it would seem to be the odious practice of driving ; 
for though an account of it, which I published near twenty- 
eight years ago, was then boldly denied by the colonial party, 
and was arraigned of falsehood and calumny, even by some 
respectable colonial proprietors in their parliamentary places, 
it has been since so clearly confirmed by many of the planters 
themselves, and their partizans, that its veracity might be 
supposed to be placed quite beyond the reach of contradiction 
or doubt. The practice too has become, if we except some 
idle glosses on its actual nature, a subject not only of avowal, 
but of tenacious defence, by the colonial assemblies, and their 
controversial champions in this country. Nor is there one of 
the reformations proposed by his Majesty's government, in 

hy which Slave Labour is enforced. 193 

pursuance of the resolutions of parliament, to which a more 
general and obstinate opposition has been given, than that of 
laying aside the driving whip. 

Ought I then to detain my readers by now adducing evi- 
dence to shew that the slaves are really driven? I feel that 
the tolerably well informed part of them will regard it as a 
most superfluous work ; but so very important is this part of 
the case, and so formidable are the powers of bold and artful 
misrepresentations, when the impostures of the press are 
seconded by a thousand self-interested tongues, that I dare 
not eveii in this instance leave any inlet to scepticism, when I 
can close it by irrefragable proofs. 

I will, therefore, in the first place describe this brutal method 
of coercion in the very words of the description which I gave 
of it to the public, in a work long since out of print, early in 
the year 1802 ; it is ofl'ered, I beg my readers again to ob- 
serve, not as matter of evidence ; but as merely an exposition 
of the case, which I undertake to prove. I think it better and 
fairer in this instance, as I did in quoting Mr. Ramsay's 
pamphlet, to shew exactly what the statements that led to 
the long continued and yet subsisting controversy originally 
were, than to substitute any terms that are new. 

It was with almost equal fulness published in an Appendix, 
No. 5, to my former volume; but as that book, which has been 
long, like the former, out of print, is not likely to be in the 
possession of all who may read the present, and as the state- 
ment is one which I shall here have to support by evidence, as 
well as to apply and reason upon, it is excusable, and per- 
haps necessary, to give the extract again. 

Section II. — Driving described. 

My account of the practice was as follows : — " Every man 
" who has heard any thing of West India affairs is acquainted 
" with the term negro drivers, and knows, or may know, that 
" the slaves in their ordinary field-labour are driven to their 
*' work, and during their work, in the strict sense of the term 
" driven as used in Europe ; though this statement no more 

vor,. 11. o 

194 Of the cruel and 'pernicious Means 

" implies that the lash is incessantly, or with any needless 
" frequency, applied to their backs, than the phrase to drive 
" a team of horses imports, that the waggoner is continually 
" smacking his whip." " It is enough for my purpose, that 
" in point of fact no feature of West India slavery is better 
" known, or less liable to controversy, or doubt, than this es- 
" tablished method in which field-labour is enforced." (So I 
certainly thought when penning those paragraphs for the pub- 
lic. I had not then sufficiently learnt of what temerity in 
assertion my opponents were capable when their bad cause 
required it.) " But a nearer and more particular view of this 
" leading characteristic may be necessary to those who have 
" never seen a gang of negroes at their work." 

" When employed in the labour of the field, as for example 
" in holeing a cane-pieee, i. e. in turning up the ground into 
" parallel trenches for the teception of the cane-plants, the 
" slaves of both sexes, from twenty perhaps to fourscore in 
" number, are drawn out in a line, like troops on a parade, 
"■ each with a hoe in his or her hand ; and close to them in the 
" rear is stationed a driver, or drivers, in number duly pro- 
" portioned to that of the gang. Each of the drivers, who are 
" always the most vigorous and active negroes on the estate, 
" has in his hand, or coiled round his neck, from which by ex- 
** tending the handle it can be disengaged in a moment, a 
" long thick and strongly plaited whip, called a cart-whip ; 
" the report of which is as loud, and the lash as severe, as 
" those of the whips in common use with our waggoners ; and 
" which he has authority to apply at the instant when his eye 
" perceives an occasion, without any previous warning. Thus 
" disposed, their work begins, and continues without inter- 
" ruption for a certain number of hours, during which at the 
*' peril of the drivers an adequate portion of land must be 
" holed." 

" As the trenches are generally rectilinear, and the whole 
" line of holers advances together, it is necessary that every 
" hole or section of the trench should be finished in equal 
^' time with the rest ; and if any one or more negroes were 
" allowed to throw the hoe with less rapidity or energy than 
" their companions in other parts of the line, it is obvious 

bif tvliich Slave Labour is enforced. 195 

*' that the work of the latter must be suspended, or else such 
" part of the trench as is passed over by the former will be 
" more imperfectly formed than the rest. It is, therefore, 
" the business of the drivers not only to urge forward the 
" whole gang with sufficient speed, but sedulously to watch 
*' that all in the line, whether male or female, old or young, 
" strong or feeble, work as nearly as possible in equal time, 
*• and with equal effect. The tardy stroke must be quicken- 
" ed, and the languid invigorated, and the whole line made 
** to dress, in the military phrase, as it advances : No breath- 
** ing time, no resting on the hoe, no pause of langour, to 
" be repaid by brisker exertion on return to work, can be 
" allowed to individuals. All must work or pause to- 
" gether." 

" I have taken this work, (it was added,) as the strongest 
" example : but other labours of the plantation are conducted 
'' on the same principle, and as nearly as may be practicable, 
" in the same manner. When the nature of the work does 
" not admit of the slaves being drawn up in line abreast, 
*' they are disposed, when the measure is feasible, in some 
" other regular order, for the facility of the driver's super- 
" intendance and coercion. In carrying the canes, for instance, 
" from the field to the mill, they are marched in files, each 
" with a bundle on his head, and with the driver in the rear : 
" His voice quickens their pace, and his whip when neces- 
" sary urges on those who attempt to deviate, or loiter on 
" their march."* 

Section. III. — Denials and misrepresentations of the practice 
stated and refuted. 

Cavils were made by different antagonists at some parts of 
this description, which I will not stop particularly to notice, 
because they have been either grounded on palpable miscon- 
structions, and mutilations of the text, or related to circum- 
stances obviously of no importance. But some colonial pro- 

* The Crisis of the Suoar Colonies. Hatchavd, 1802, p. 9 to 12. 

o 2 

,1 96 Of the cruel and pernicious Means 

piietors of great respectability, declared in the House of 
Commons, soon after the appearance of the work, in general 
terms, that the account was false ; or at least that they were 
so informed and so believed; though the more ordinary course 
then, as now, was to pretend that the driver did not, and 
" dared not use his whip ; that it was a mere symbol of his 
" office, like the staff or laced hat of a parish beadle, and 
** that he was a mere superintendant of the work. 

Mr. Dallas, in his history of the Maroon war, a work 
that soon after appeared, asserted on his own experience in 
Jamaica, that the driver's whip was a mere emblem of 
office. He affected to advise the planters to lay it aside, 
in order to avoid insidious misrepresentations of the business 
of the driver, " unhickili/ so called,'' and to propose that in its 
stead he " should have a laced hat, and a lono- staff like a 
drum-major's."* Others again, like the Barbadoes Assembly 
at this period, thinking such impostures too gross, asserted 
only that restrictions were imposed on the driver's power or 
practice of whipping. " The overseer (meaning as the con- 
" text shews, the driver), is never permitted to inflict any 
" punishment, except an occasional lash during the time of 
" work ; and that is generally given over the clothes. "+ 

The same pretexts, inconsistent and absurd though they 
are, and often refuted by myself and others on the most de- 
cisive evidence, are still in current use among the apologists 
of slavery ; and have again been brought forward, with more 
than ordinary boldness, by that highly favoured and munifi- 
cently rewarded champion of the planters, Mr. M'Queen. 

1 have cited from that writer already,;}: his idle attempts to 
disprove the driving practice, on the ground of the driver's 
precession to the place of labour at the dawn. But he does 
not stop there; he has the inconceivable confidence to add, 
'' loherever they go, or whatever theij are about, he goes before 

* Hist, of the Maroons, vol. ii. p. 419—20. 

t Evidence of Mr. Kerby, a planter of Antigua ; Report of 1790, p. 309. 
(See Admiral Edwards's testimony that they in general " icorkcd nuked.'" 
Same Report, p. 412.) He meant no doubt to the waist, which is still a very 
ordinary case. 

X Supra, p. 120. 

hij which Slave Labour is enforced. 197 

" them, and stands before them, and not behind them ; nor dare 
*' he use a whip to any one unless he is commanded.''* 

Lest it should be supposed that I take advantage of the 
rashness of this dashing pensioner of tlie planters, to prejudice 
his employers unfairly jf and that he has here exceeded his 
instructions, let nie also quote a concurrent authority no less 
respectable than that of the council and assembly of St. Vin- 
cent, in a solemn address to their Governor, Sir Charles Bris- 
bane, dated the 4th September, 1823, which was officially 
transmitted in answer to Earl Bathurst's circular letter, recom- 
mending to them reformations of their slave code, and is still 
referred to by some of my opponents as a paper of great au- 

" It is true," they say, " that on most plantations the 

* West India Colonies, &,c. p. 256. 

f Having mentioned this writer more than once as a mercenary antago- 
nist, employed by the assemblies and planters, and largely paid by them for 
his pre-eminent zeal in their service, it may be right to apprise my readers, 
that the fact of his liberal retainers, is far from being matter of secrecy or re- 
serve in the sugar colonies. His rewards have been repeatedly announced 
in strains of eulogy by various newspapers there; and I have now before me, 
the Jamaica Courant of April 2Q, 1828, in which the fact of his having 
received in one instance 3000/. sterling is noticed in a different stile. 
*' iou Master M' Queen have received 3000/. sterling )?ione>/," and again, 
^' You Master M'Queen are the hired advocate of slavery.^' 

That this should be cast in his teeth in the West Indies, where no 
printer dares commonly insert a single line in opposition to the common 
cause, may seem somewhat strange. The explanation is, that Mr. M'Queen is 
thus contemptuously treated for having censured the alleged communica- 
tion to a Jamaica printer of the Duke of Manchester's private letter 
to Lord Bathurst, and for his opposition to Mr. Beaumont and his pamphlet 
entitled, " Compensation to Slave Owners ;" a work which, it is added, " has 
" obtained the sanction of all liberal men in Jamaica," and " their most 
" flattering testimonials of their approval, Jiot by a sum of money. Master 
" M'Queen, for endeavouring to persuade the people of Great Britain, that 
" slavery is a choice blessing of humanity ; an attempt as hopeless as it is dis- 
" graceful, arid which every reasoning man must laugh at." 

The dupes of this writer's incessant misrepresentations and railings against 
me, and all the opponents of slavery, will here see what is thought of their 
understandings where the real case is known ; and may, perhaps, lose some 
of their confidence in tlic Glasgow Courier, Blackwood's Magazine, the 
Morning Journal, and other ordinary vehicles of his mercenary labours. 

J 98 Of the cruel and pernicious Means 

" driver, as he is called {for the West Indians have been ex- 
" tremely wfortunate in terms,) or the negro overseer, who is 
" always promoted to this situation for his superior intelligence 
" honestly, and humanity, whose employment is to collect the 
" labourers in the field, and to superintend them at their 
" work, carries this cart-whip in his hand as a symbol of his 
" authority. Itis his business to repairto the placeoflabourearly 
" in the morning, and by the crack of his whip, to give notice 
" to the negroes that it is time for them to assemble, as well as 
" of the place where their presence is required. The same use is 
" made of the whip at noon and atnight, as a signal that they 
" may give up work and retire to their homes. But the reading 
'•' of the 18th section of the slave act, already quoted, must 
" be convincing proof that this driver is neither required, nor 
" permitted to punish the negroes under his charge at his 
" will and pleasure : for the legislature which restrained its 
" use in the overseer of the estate, to whom such an extensive 
" and valuable property is often solely entrusted, and forbids 
" his inflicting more than ten stripes, unless the proprietor or 
" his representative be present, could never have contemplat- 
" ed that the negro driver was to whip at his own discretion. 
" The truth is, that no such practice being allowed, the legislature 
" did not provide against that which never did, and never 
" COULD HAPPEN. A good disposed negro has nothing to 
'' fear from the driver; and one of a different character has only 
'' to dread a representation of his negligence or improper behaviour 
*' to the manager at noon^ or in the evening, xvhen he makes his 
" report of the business of the day^ ^'c* 

Here we have Mr. McQueen not only confirmed, but, I 
must confess, much surpassed, in those merits which have 
earned for him such high colonial plaudits, and munificent 
rewards. The passage well deserves particular and close at- 
tention, as an instructive specimen of the candour and veracity 
to be looked for in West Indian documents on these sub- 
jects, even when they emanate from the highest local au- 

* Communication from Sir Charles Brisbane, governor of St. Vincent 
&c. and joint reply of the Council and Assembly; printed by C. M. Willick, 
London, and largely distributed by the West India party here, p. 43, 44. 

hif which Slave Labour is enforced. 190 

The argumentative part of the imposition is curious enough. 
Because these colonial legislators had so far complied with 
the long-continued solicitations of the mother country, as not 
to leave the most cruel excesses in the use of the vindictive 
whip, without any legal restraint, we are gravely desired to 
infer that they could not mean to permit the use of the coer- 
cive or driving Mvh\p at all ; though it is, in their own estimate, 
as we shall presently see, the main spring of their agri- 
cultural system. It would be just as fair and as rational to 
infer, that because parliament, a few years ago, at the instance 
of Mr. Martin, made a law to restrain wanton cruelty towards 
horses and other working cattle, it could not mean to permit 
coachmen or carmen to use whips in their ordinary business ; 
and, consequently, that any such practice as the driving coach 
or cart-horses with whips, must have been unknown at the 
time in this country. 

What were the prohibitions to which these gentlemen 
refer ? To quote them from their own context, they are, 
" That, in order to restrain arbitrary punishment, no slave on 
" any plantation or estate shall receive more than ten stripes 
" at one time, and for one offence, unless the owner, attorney, 
" guardian, executor, administrator, or manager of such plan- 
" tation or estate, having such slave under his care, shall be 
" present ; and no such owner, &c. shall on any account 
" punish a slave with more than thirty-nine stripes, at one 
" time, or for one offence, &.c. under a penalty not less than 
" 15/., or more than 30/. for every such offence, to be re- 
" covered," &,c.* 

The same idle restrictions had been long before enacted in 
other colonies ; but none of their authors have been ingenious 
enough to make this use of them ; and some of their cham- 
pions, while taking ample credit for such laws, recognize, 
nevertheless, the subsisting use of the driver's whip, and de- 
fend it as a necessary practice. 

These lawgivers of St. Vincent, it will be observed, virtually 
admit that if the driver had the power of whipping, in any 
degree, by his own authority, it was a power that ought to 

Ibid. p. 30. 

200 Of the cruel and pernicious Means 

have been abolished ; and also that its abolition was not within 
the purview of their enactments. In the latter admission, 
there certainly was nothing gratuitous ; for what are the 
sanctions in the clause they cite ? Pecuniaiy penalties only, 
to he recovered by legal proceedings. The offences in contem- 
plation, therefore, could only have been those committed by 
free persons ; whereas the drivers are universally slaves, 
against whom no such proceedings could have place. Had 
it been meant to restrain them, corporal punishments only 
would, as usual, have been ordained for their transgressions. 

But it is confessed that there was no such meaning ; and 
these honourable legislators gravely desire the British public 
to believe, that it was merely because it had never entered ** into 
" their contemplation''' to suppose that the drivers coidd ever use 
their whips at all, except by the manager's order on their return 
to the homestall. '-They did not provide against that which never 
" did, and never could happen ! ! .'" 

We must conclude, then, if we admit their excuse or ex- 
planation, or, indeed, if we would acquit them of direct and 
flagrant falsehood, that they had never, during a controversy 
of above thirty years continuance, in which they themselves 
had been earnestly engaged, heard a word of that which has 
so long been a prominent charge against their system among 
anti-slavery writers ! ! This is the more surprising, because 
they do me the honour to notice, in the same paper, my la- 
bours in this cause, though in no complimentary strains ; 
and I am certainly guiltless of having omitted, in any of my 
writings, to bring forward the driving practice with the strong 
reprehension that it deserves. 

If the charges of their opponents had been unknown, we 
must, to support their veracity, further suppose them igno- 
rant, that gentlemen of their own party, aye, and planters of 
their own small island, had strangely alleged and censured 
the general practice of this thing, *' which never did and never 
'* could happen /" They had not, we must presume, ever read 
or heard of, that far-famed work, the " Practical Rules" of 
their late fellow-colonist, and fellow-planter. Dr. Collins ! I 
beseech the reader, if only for curiosity's sake, to collate with 
this assertion of the St. Vincent's Council and Assembly, 

by which Slave Labour is enforced. 201 

some of the passages I have already cited from that work ;* 
and among them the following extract. 

" The consequence of which (i. e. of the gang being badly 
" assorted in respect of strength) is that either the weaker 
" negroes must retard the stronger ones, or your drivers, in- 
" sensible of the cause of their backwardness, or not weighing 
" it properly, will incessantly urge them, either with stripes or 
" threats, to keep up with the others, by which means they are 
** overwrought, and compelled to resort to the sick-house." 

" Incessantly urging them with stripes !" visionary and pre- 
posterous idea ! cruel and audacious calumny on a system 
which the author was himself engaged in, and which he in- 
sidiously affected to extenuate ! Why Dr. Collins, you well 
knew that the drivers never did, or ever could give them a 
a stripe when at their work at all. It is solemnly asserted by 
the honourable legislators of St. Vincent, the very island in 
which you lived thirty years, that the infliction of a single 
stroke by the driver's authority, is a thing that " never did, and 
" never could happen." Such a practice never was heard of by 
any planter of that island ; — never entered into the contem- 
plation of its lawgivers, as a possible case, against which they 
had to provide ! 

But Dr. Collins's strange libels on the system he had been 
so long engaged in, went still further. " Sorry am I to say 
*' (he tells us in another place) that by much too frequent 
" use hath been made of this instrument," (the cart-whip) 
" and that it is often employed to a degree which, by inducing 
" a callosity of the parts, destroys their sensibility, and ren- 
" ders its further application of little avail. It is not unusual 
" to arm the negro drivers with it, and to leave the use of it to 
" their discretion : of course it is administered, neither ivith im- 
" partiality, nor judgment ; for it is generally bestowed with 
" rigour on the weakest negroes of the gang, and on those who 
" are so unfortunate as not to be in favour with this sub-despot : 
" and that too frequently on any part of the naked body,f or the 
" head, whilst the more able negroes, who sometimes deserve 
" it, escape with impunity. Now as this cannot easily be 

* Supra, p. 39 & 98. f See supra, p. 196. 

202 Of the cruel and pernicious Means 

" prevented while the whip remains in such hands, I would 
" propose to banish it entirely from the field, and to allow 
" the driver to carry thither only a small stick or switch, and 
" that rather as an ensign of authority than as an instrument 
" of correction, as I am informed hath been practised on some 
" estates in Barbadoes."* 

I beg the reader to observe that this long experienced 
planter of St. Vincent, was obliged to resort to another colony 
for even a hearsay example of any exception to a practice which 
the legislators of St. Vincent have the superlative confidence 
to represent as one that could not enter into their contem- 
plation, because it never existed ! 

That he was misinformed, even as to the supposed excep- 
tion, will not be doubted, when I have added the further 
evidence on this subject, which we are furnished with on no 
less authority than that of the Council of Barbadoes itself, in 
the report before cited, dated the 22nd July, 1823, and pub- 
lished by their agent in this country. 

That honourable body, and the witnesses examined by 
them, were certainly desirous enough of denying every prac- 
tice repugnant to the feelings of the British people, that could, 
with any colour of probability, be denied. Among other 
points, the practice of driving, was one they much laboured 
to extenuate : and at no small expence of truth ; but not hav- 
ing the nerves of their St. Vincent neighbours, they did not 
venture to deny the driver's power of whipping; still less to 
speak of it as a thing unknown, and beyond the range of 
their imagination. They thought it enough to assert that 
the power extended only to a certain number of lashes at a 

For this purpose, Foster Clarke, Esq. one of their witnesses, 
deposed as follows : — " The overseers of the field-work, or as 
" they are often called dri\ers, are permitted at no time to give 
" a negro more than six stripes ivith a cat. If the obstinacy and 
" aiiru/i/ conduct of any negro requires a greater punishment, he 
*' is reported to the manager.'"-\ 

* Practical Rules, 201-2. 

t Report of the Barbadoes Council, &c. of July 22, 1823. Printed in 
Loudon, 1824, p. 110. 

h}f which Slave Labour is enforced. 203 

William Sharp, Esq., another witness, is thus reported to 
the same effect. " Saith, that the driver is restrained in his 
" authoritij. He is not allowed to iirftict more than six stripes ; if' 
" greater punishment is necessary/, the ojjhider is reported to the 
" manager.''* 

Strange extenuation this, supposing it to be true ! Only 
six stripes at a time in the use of the driving whip on human 
beings ! ! ! Why if a carman or ploughman were to give as 
many to his horses for every halt, or bad movement, every 
spectator would exclaim against his barbarity, and be ready, 
perhaps, to take him before a magistrate for an offence against 
Mr. Martin's Act. 

But that to which I would beseech the particular attention 
of my readers, is the astonishing contrast between these de- 
fensive representations of the general practice in Barbadoes, 
and the cotemporary statements from the council and assembly 
of the neighbouring island of St. Vincent ; and from that 
champion of all the colonies, who stoutly affirms " that the 
" driver dares not use a whip to any one, unless lie is commanded." 
The legislature or people of Barbadoes, among others, lauded 
and paid him for that bold perversion of truth, while the 
cotemporary report of their own council thus clearly proved 
it to be such ! 

To be sure the West Indians, if not " extremely unfortu- 
nate," as the St. Vincent paper tells us, " in their terms" must 
have been so in their friends, and in the apologists of their 
own body ; for we have also seen what Mr. De la Becbe has 
more recently published on this subject; availing himself, no 
doubt maliciously, like their enemies, of this unlucky mis- 
nomer, to persuade the British public that the drivers really 
do drive. 

" Then it is," says he (viz. in the morning muster), " that 
" the negroes suffer xno^i from the driver's whip, J'ur he unfor- 
" tunatehj can, upon his own authority, injlict punishment on 
'' those tvho are not in time, thus makitig him the judge of an 
" excuse that might appear quite valid to the manager. "f Strange 

Iljid. p. 1 IG. t See the quotation more at large, supra, 98. 

204 Of the cruel and pernicious Means 

and suicidal calumniator of a system he is himself engaged 
in ! What more could he have said if he had been called as 
a witness by the anti-slavery party expressly to discredit and 
disgrace the distinguished M'Queen, and the honourable St. 
Vincent legislators ? 

Let me quote, however, another passage from the same 
recent authority. " With few exceptions, the drivers on Ja- 
" maica estates carry either whips or cats : on some they are 
" little used, but I am afraid thei/ are not alwai/s mere symbols 
" oj authority, &c. On estates where the whip is permitted 
" as a stimulus to labour, the driver stands near the negroes 
" when at work, and has the power of inflicting punishment at 
" his oivn discretion upon those who may appear to him to be 
" idle ; a power, as may easily be imagined, liable to much 
" abuse, and one which should be abolished ; it being no 
" more than common justice that enquiry should be instituted 
" previous to punishment, setting aside the revolting idea of 
" impelling human beings to their labour by the whip."* 

Another experienced planter, Mr. Stewart of Jamaica, in a 
work that issued from the press in the same year (1823) with 
the St. Vincent's legislative address, thus writes : " However 
" averse a proprietor may be to the too free use of the whip, 
" abuses will prevail while it is suffeped to be used at all. 
** Even an overseer cannot, if he was so disposed, effectually 
•* controul the unjust and arbitrary exercise of it by the 
" drivers, zvho are too generally hard hearted and partial in 
'* their distributions of the minor punishments they are autho- 
" rised to inflict. A driver may maltreat and persecute in a 
" petty way the unfriended slave against whom he has a grudge, 
" while he connives at the faults of those whom he wishes to 
" favour."f The same writer, speaking of the sensations of a 
newly arrived plantation assistant, called a bookkeeper, from 
Europe, says : " He finds himself placed in a line of life, where 
*' to his first conception every thing wears the appearance of 
*' barbarity and slavish oppression. He sees the slaves as- 

* Notes, &c. by Mr. De la Beche, p. 20. 21. 

f " View of the past and present state of the Island of Jamaica, by Mr. 
Stewart." Edinburgh, 1823. App. 346. 

hy xohkh Slave Labour in enforced. 205 

" senibled in gangs in the fields, and kept to their work hy the 
" terror of the whips borne by black drivers, certainly not the 
" most gentle of human kind," &c.* 

Had Mr. Stewart meant to expose in all points the false- 
hood of the cotemporary statements of the St. Vincent's Coun- 
cil and Assembly, how could he have done it more effectually? 
The much-extolled drivers '' chosen for distinguished humanity" 
are not only, we find, authorized to whip at their discretion, 
but too generally abuse their power. They are hard-hearted, 
as well as partial and unjust. And who can doubt that such 
must be the ordinary effect of an office, the daily and hourly 
business of which is the inflicting pain on their fellow-crea- 
tures? The discerning reader could hardly have overlooked 
the anxiety of the honourable St. Vincent's legislators, to var- 
nish the characters of their drivers, in connection with state- 
ments, which if true, made their humanity of no account. 

Should I be supposed to pay more attention than is due to 
this report, considering the numerous impostures of the same 
kind that I have the painful duty to expose, let me remark, 
that it was a public document highly extolled in the colonial 
circles here ; though I can truly say that the passage cited does 
not exceed in misrepresentation its account of the system in 
many other parts not within the scope of this work. It was not 

* Ibid. p. 192. 

In quoting this writer as an opponent, I should be unjust not to add, that 
he is a far more candid one than almost any other whose works I have cited, 
with the exception of Mr. De la Beclie and Dr. Collins ; and that though 
his habits as a planter, and his connections with West Indians, have led him 
into great partiality (unconsciously perhaps) in many parts of his work, his 
intentions, as I believe, were good. That I am nevertheless entitled to use 
his authority as a partizan of the colonies in this controversy is manifest 
from the general spirit of his work ; and the following extracts may suffice to 
prove it. " Such improvements in the slave-laws, as can with perfect safety 
" be made at the present moment, should be carried into effect, not by the 
" Imperial Parliament, as has been strongly recommended, but by the co- 
" lonial legislators to whom belongs the right of regulating all matters con- 
" nected with their internal policy," &c. " Tliose who would persuade the 
" British Parliament to legislate for the colonies may be very well meanino- 
" people, but unquestionably they are not aware of the consequences of 
" what they recommend." — p. 247. 

206 Of the cruel and pernicious Means 

only boasted of as a most powerful and satisfactory defence of 
the common cause ; but some respectable West India mer- 
chants and proprietors (themselves no doubt deceived, as too 
many of them unfortunately are, in respect of the real case) 
sent copies of it to anti-slavery friends, whom they good- 
naturedly hoped to convert by it. I myself had the honour 
of such a present, from gentlemen of whose good intentions 
I am almost as sure, as I am of the utter insincerity and 
falsehood of the composition they so much valued. Let me 
then in return direct their attention further, both to the ex- 
treme ai'tfulness, and manifest falsehood of its contents. 

" There is no party or individual," the report adds, " in 
*' the colony, who is not willing to take from the hands of the 
" driver, that tvhich he is only alloiced to carry as a mark of his 
" authority. But the time and the mode must be left to those 
" only who know how difficult ; nay, how dangerous, it is to 
" make the most immaterial alteration in a system built upon 
" the unsolid foundation of influence and opinion. The time 
" is still far distant %vhen it would be either prudent or safe to 
" hint to this class of persons, that they are no longer amenable 
" to corporal punishment, restrained and guarded even as the 
" application of it noiu is.''* 

Surely these gentlemen must estimate very meanly the 
understandings of the people of England, when they hope to 
delude them by flimsy and contradictory pretences like these ! 
" A mark of his authoriti/ F' Why, if they tell truth, the 
driver has no authority to mark. He is a mere inspector and 
reporter. If the sight of the whip were necessary to remind 
the poor slaves of their liability to corporal punishment, it 
would suffice as well for that purpose to plant it before them 
in the field, as to put it in the driver's hand. Nay, much 
better ; for as the driver's station is in the rear, it must be in 
general unseen by them during their work. 

The same idle pretence has elsewhere taken a different, and 
perhaps still more inconsistent turn, though on what may 
possibly be supposed better authority. Mr. Dwarris in his 
pamphlet, called " The West India Question," says, " the cart- 

■ r. 4G, 7. 

btj which Slave Laboio^ is enforced. 207 

" whip, either as an instrument of punishment, or as a sym- 
*' bol of authority, has grown out of use. The cat-o'nine-tails 
" which is used in the British army, is substituted for it."* 

Where and when was this substitution, and this disuse ? 
and upon what evidence does this public functionary hazard 
such assertions? Certainly he cannot speak from his own 
experience or observation ; for he closed his circuit through 
the different islands as a commissioner in January, 1824,'|' 
and has not, as I understand, since visited the West Indies ; 
and it appears undeniably from the authorities I have quoted, 
among others from the reluctant, but candid admissions of 
Mr. De laBeche, a brother planter of the same island, Jamaica, 
who was there till the end of 1824, and published here in 
1 825, that the use of the cart- whip, not as a sijmbol merely, but 
as " a stimulus to labour" then continued to be " general 
" among the planters of that colony. With very few excep- 
" tio/is, the drivers on Jamaica estates, carry either whips or 
** cats; on some they are little used," &c.;|: 

Is still more recent evidence desired ? A Jamaica news- 
paper, the Watchman, of December oth, 1829, nearly the 
latest date of any accounts from that island, is this moment 
laid on my table, while I am correcting the proof of the pre- 
sent sheet for press ; and I extract from it the following para- 
graph. — " That the whip is still in use on some estates in 
" Jamaica, we fear is but too true ; but on the other hand, 
" we are glad to say that some estates have abolished the 
" system of corporal punishment altogether ; and these plant- 
" ations, we are informed, yield as fair returns to the pro- 
" prietors as when conducted on the old execrable system. 
" Some of the estates to which we refer are those of Mr. Wild- 
" man and Mr. De la Beche.'" No others are specified ; and 
those who know the pre-eminent characters in point of hu- 
manity of both these proprietors, will be at no loss to conjec- 
ture the cause. They had both within a few years visited 
Jamaica, for the sake of witnessing and improving the condi- 
tion of their slaves. 

« P. 16. + Tliii-d Report, 94. 

X Notes, &c. p. 20. And see the quotation, supra, p. 203, 4. 

208 Of the cruel and pernicious Means 

As to the substitution of the cat for the whip, Mr. Dwarris 
doubtless had never read the debates in the Jamaica Assem- 
bly, in December, 1826, though they were republished in 
several of our own newspapers,* or he would have known, that 
this very substitution, which he represents as actually made, 
in terms of universal import, was then proposed and power- 
fully advocated to no purpose; being rejected by a majority 
of 28 to 12, in that most respectable of West India assem- 

Mr. Dwarris, like most of his fellow-labourers, takes care 
in mentioning the cat-o'nine-tails, to tell us " that it is used 
" in the British army." If he could add, that it is used on 
the backs of innocent soldiers, and of their wives and daughters 
too, at the discretion of the drummers, and to quicken the 
privates in working for the profit of the officers, by whom 
alone its use could be controuled, the two cases would have 
some similarity ; but, otherwise, the precedent of our flog- 
ging convicted thieves in our gaol-yards, or at the cart's-tail, 
would have been equally to his purpose. 

The allusion, however, when coming from the pen of this 
planter-commissioner, is not without its use. The idle and 
hackneyed palliation manifests in what spirit he reports, and 
writes. The stress laid on the alleged substitution, will also 
enable those who reason as well as read, to estimate the sin- 
cerity of the pretence, that the carrying the whip in the field 
is merely symbolical, and meant only to operate on the ima- 
gination of the slaves. If so, where would be the boasted im- 
provement ? As a symbol, the cart-whip would be not less 
harmless, and from long-formed associations of ideas, far 
more efficacious, than the cat. Aye, and in its true use more 
merciful ; for the report of the whip in the rear often suffices 
without its smart ; whereas the cat can admonish only by its 
actual inflictions. 

My readers will probably think am mis-spending their time 
by these comments, after citing so much direct and decisive 
evidence as to the actual and still existing practice; especially 
as I have shewn them,' that the pretences I am combating 

* Tliey are given from the Jamaica newspapers in the Anti-Slavery Re- 
porter, No. 21. 

hy which Slave Labour is enforced. 209 

were advanced with equal confidence forty years ago. But 
strong facts require strong proofs ; and it is, I feel, a fact 
requiring no ordinary force of evidence, that the practice is of 
the utmost notoriety throughout the British West Indies, while 
thus publicly denied in England, by the respectable authorities 
I have cited ; especially that of the St. Vincent's Council and 
Assembly. I will not, therefore, abstain from adducing some 
further cotemporary evidence, given by the most zealous 
partizans and accredited advocates of the sugar-colonies at 

And first, that of Alexander M'Donnell, Esq. secretary to 
the committee of the inhabitants of Demarara, an author, from 
his talents, as well as from the official character in which he 
writes, of no small account. In his work, entitled " Consi- 
deratiotis on Negro Slavery," 8cc. t this gentleman notices, 
among other topics, the driving method of coercion ; and does 
he countenance his fellow-labourer of the same colony, Mr. 
McQueen, or the St. Vincent legislators, or Mr. Dwarris, by 
denying its existence ? So much the contrary, that he em- 
ploys his most strenuous efforts to reconcile the acknowledged 
fact of its continuance, with that pretence, to support which 
is the main drift of his work, namely, that slavery is in a 
state of great and progressive improvement. 

The whole of his ninth chapter is systematically and elabo- 
rately devoted to that end. He distinguishes for the purpose 
four stages in the supposed progress of amelioration, or rather 
four distinct states of slavery; for as to the first, he admits 
it to be the extremity of unmitigated oppression, that which 
exists in colonies still supplied by the slave trade. The se- 
cond, he says, " presents a very great amelioration, as the 
" supply by traffic is stopped, and the slaves have to be reared, 
" instead of being purchased ;" from which he plausibly, 
however untruly, infers a great improvement in their 
treatment. This, which upon his own premises is the first 
advance in their condition, he maintains to have already 
taken place. The third state, is the siibstitutioti of task 
work for the driving whip; and to this he confesses, that 

* See supra, p. 25. 
VOL. 11. P 

210 Of the cruel ami pernicious Means 

they have not yet arrived ; and attempts to apologize for 
it, on the very ingenious pretext, that reformation is rendered 
unsafe by the only means which can possibly produce it ; 
the interposition of the mother country. 

But let me give his own words. " Seventeen years have 
" not elapsed since the abolition of the slave trade ; and so 
" great has been the improvement, that I regard the negroes 
" in the West Indies at nearly at the end of what I have termed 
*' the second state of slavery. They can participate in the 
*' full enjoyment of physical comforts." — (Would to God that 
this were true ! The shocking mortality in that very colony of 
all the inhabitants of which this gentleman is the official 
organ too clearly attests the contrary.) " They, however," 
he adds, "are not yet so far advanced as to perform their labour 
" without the presence of a coercing power : this desirable object 
" has been unavoidably delayed, from an unfortunate notion 
" which has taken possession of their minds, that it is con- 
" trary to the wish of those in authority in this country, that 
" they should work at all. Could this fatal delusion be re- 
" moved, together with the injurious effects resulting from 
" intemperate discussion, I confidently predict, that in a very 
" short time they would attain the third state," i. e. an exemp- 
tion from driving ; or to use the author's own words, " whejt 
" the whip that most repulsive characteristic of slavery no longer 
" is used as a stimulus to labour.'^' 

I will not digress so far as would be necessary to illustrate 
the modesty of this excuse for the continuance of driving by 
this organ of the committee of all the inhabitants of Demarara. 
I will only ask, if the negroes there, are under the influence 
of the delusion stated, (which I believe to be just as true as 
the boldest of the extravagant fictions I am refuting,) who 
inspired them with it ? who, but those who told them every 
day in their resolutions, published in every newspaper of the 
colony, and fatally in one instance led them to believe, that 
the mitioations of their state recommended by the British 
Government actually meant emancipation ? 

If, indeed, the views of this writer are correct, the slaves 

See the wliole of Cliapter IX., and jiartirularly p. 204 fo 207 

(n/ whkh Slave Labour is enforced. 211 

might have lield the notion he ascribes to them, without mis- 
take ; for he reasons elaborately to prove, that the Trinidad 
order, which forbids the use of the whip for " coercing labour," 
virtually amounts to emancipation. He deduces from what 
he calls a strict analysis of the order, the conclusion, that 
" the tvhip is not to be used at any time for the purpose of coercing 
" the negroes to work ; and if such," he adds, " were its in- 
** tention, the result must be considered as emancipation at 
" once.'" It is true, he afterwards admits, that this con- 
struction is not consistent with the spirit of the order ; and 
that " it was intended merely to express, that the whip was 
" not to be used on the spot as an instrument of compelling 
" the negroes by its exhibition to perform the labour." But 
is he content with the regulation even in that qualified sense ? 
By no means ; not even as it respects the women! Adopting 
this interpretation, he maintains still the impracticability of 
reconciling a disuse of the driving-whip, with the " con- 
" tinuance of the present system, as society is constituted in 
" the West Indies," and this I freely admit to him ; for the 
present system, as I have shewn, is to exact from the unfortu- 
nate slaves of both sexes, a most cruel and destructive excess 
of labour, such as the self-preservatory resistance of oppressed 
nature will not permit them to yield, except to the irresistible 
force of brutal coercion . 

*' This compulsion," he adds, " is the characteristic dis- 
" tinction, the unavoidable attendant, and beyond all coni- 
^ parison the most repulsive feature of slavery. Deeply, in- 
" deed, should I rejoice if nuj experience would warrant me in ad- 
" mitting, that it could as yet be dispensed with.'' 

When Mr. M'Donnell represents this driving method, as 
'' the characteristic distinction, and the unavoidable attendant 
" of slavery," he must be ignorant, or suppose his readers to 
be so, of what slavery was, and is, in antient and modern Eu- 
rope, in Africa, and in the East, where driving was never 
known,* and must have strangely forgot what the practice is 
in many cases, even in those sugar colonies of which he was 

Soo my forinff voUinu-, [).4G., and in various othor places. 
H 2 

212 Of t lie cruel ami pernicious Means 

the oflficial organ; for if negroes will not work without a driver 
behind them, how are their separate labours performed, when 
they are dispersed for the picking of grass, or when they are 
employed at the mill and copper-holes, and in the boiling- 
house ? 

They are driven only when they are employed in gang ; 
for then only can the presence of one or two whips impel a 
numerous body. To assign a driver to every isolated indi- 
vidual^ or to a few labourers in each detached operation at 
the works, would be to sacrifice labour itself to the means of 
its compulsion. This "characteristic," therefore, " of slaverj/'' 
is lost, this " unavoidable attendant" of it, is avoided, even 
by the sugar-planter himself, whenever his own interest or 
convenience demand the laying it aside. There is no present 
impending whip to operate " in terrorem" in some of the most 
essential parts of the business of the plantation ; and yet that 
business is done ; and yet the planters would persuade us, 
that without a present whip nothing can be done in the 

That so much would not be done without it I am far indeed 
from meaning to deny. This is the true and only cause of 
its being so tenaciously retained. 

Here let me pause, and request the reader's attention to the 
general character of this controversy as it is maintained on 
the part of the colonies. There is no part of their system, the 
reader now I trust sees, however flagrant and notorious, that 
they scruple to deny the existence of, whenever it suits their 
convenience. Has it been decisively proved against them, 
has it been publicly confessed by their own partizans and 
witnesses, and by their legislative bodies, even in cotemporary 
reports ? their intrepid contempt of truth is not at all im- 
paired : their next controversial piece boldly re-asserts the 
same convicted and repudiated falsehoods ; and not only so, 
but arraigns the veracity and integrity of those who have 
presumed to quote against them their own admissions. 

They add, as I have before observed, the fraudulent artifice 
of leaving unnoticed the quotations themselves. In my re- 
marks on this driving method in my former volume, and in 
earlier publications, I cited some of the very authorities here 
presented to my readers, especially that of Dr. Collins; and 

hij wlikh S/ace Labour is enj'oiced. 213 

to the credit of none of them has any of my op|jonents ven- 
tured ever to object. Yet that broad denial of the driver's 
authority, and of the whole practice of driving which I have 
cited from Mr. M'Queen, is ushered in by him with the fol- 
lowing exclamation, " When will the anti-colonial furty tell 
" the truth, the ichole truth, and nothing hut the truth I Never 
" while they can substitute falsehood or misrepresentation for it. 
And proceeding to quote a statement that " the slaves whe- 
" ther male or female are driven to hard labour by the im- 
** pulse of the cart-whip;" he subjoins, " this is either tvholli/ 
"false or the facts are misrepresented. The slaves are not driven 
** to their work," Sfc. as in my former quotation. 

In what other case were men ever heard with patience, not 
to say with favour, after the facts they solemnly denied have 
been proved under their own hands, or from their own lips ? 
But the case of the poor slaves of the West Indies is unpa- 
ralleled in all its circumstances. Their own mouths are gagged 
by tremendous laws, and more tremendous manners. Their 
voluntary advocates, and their witnesses, are persecuted and 
hunted down with calumny and clamour ; and their oppres- 
sors are listened to with a strange credulity, in spite of every 
demonstration that any human evidence, their own confessions 
included, can afford of the truths they inconsistently deny. 
The gross impostures that are exposed and confessed to-day 
are brought forward with as much confidence to-morrow, as if 
they had never been detected j and unhappily obtain credit 
anew on the same exploded authorities. 

To undeceive men who are resolved to be deceived, is a 
vain attempt. There is a large part of the upper and middle 
circles of this community, a formidably large one, to whose 
eyes the light of truth on these subjects is too painful ever 
to be admitted. But let me remind the rest of my country- 
men, that if they wilfully resist conviction, when it is pressed 
upon them by evidence beyond dispute, complaisance for a 
West Indian friend or connection, will form no excuse with 
Him who is the Searcher of hearts, and the equal Judge of the 
whole earth. They will not be less guilty of that cruel op- 
pression which they would not lend their aid to terminate, be- 
cause they refused impartially to exercise the understandings 

214 Of the cruel and peniiciuiis Means 

he has piven them in distinouishino- between truth and 

Those, let me add, who defend their conduct on premises 
that they know to be false, virtually admit that it is not to be 
fairly defended ; and, therefore, as I have demonstrated, not 
only in respect of the driving method, but many of the es- 
sential points both in the law and practice of slavery, the 
utter falsehood of those defensive pretexts in which the colo- 
nists could not be mistaken, I am entitled to maintain that 
they are conscious of, and virtually confess the oppressive and 
indefensible nature of the system in which they are engaged. 
Those who can conscientiously side with them must differ in 
moral judgment, not only with the accusers, but the accused. 

Section IV. — The cruel and pernicioits nature and effects of 
the practice stated and proved. 

Having rescued this part of the case from bold misrepre- 
sentation, and proved that the immoderate labour of the field- 
negroes is still extorted by the driving-whip ; and not merely 
by its terror, but by its actual inflictions, I proceed to point 
out some of the pernicious effects. These have in part been 
already incidentally noticed and proved ; but the miseries 
resulting from a mode of private despotism not more repulsive 
to the feelings of Englishmen, than remote from their experi- 
ence, demand a distinct and full investigation. 

Driving is the most peculiar characteristic of West Indian 
slavery and, as I have always held, the most opprobrious part 
of the system. I will here in the first place, transcribe my 
own earliest public strictures on the subject, rather than 
give them in a new form of expression. It will serve at least 
to shew the consistency of my present views with those which 
I submitted to the public nearly eight-and-twenty years ago. 
Besides, in this instance, I might fairly contend, were it ne- 
cessary, that some credit is due to those long since promul- 
gated opinions, though I decline to claim it for the testimony, 
of an avowed and zealous adversary of the system. When 
any hypothesis, propounded and supported by reasoning 
a priori, is found to agree with the predicted result of ex- 

bi) which Slave Labour is enforced. 215 

peiiments, not previously made, we feel that its truth is ren- 
dered highly probable ; and on the same principles my views 
of the terrible effects of the driving-whip might now claim 
credit, for it was upon them that I foretold to the public 
with the utmost confidence in March 1802, the indomitable 
resistance of the negroes of St. Domingo to the extremest 
efforts of Buonaparte, at a time when his inexorable purpose 
to restore slavery in that island was sustained by the then 
gigantic power of France, unopposed by any foreign enemy, 
and devoted to that single object. 

" Among the various powerful feelings, (I then said) which 
" will combine a large community of negroes inured by a ten 
" years' experience to the habits of freedom, with an aversion 
" perfectly irreconcileable to their former state, there is one 
" which claims particular attention. It is one which will pro- 
" bably occasion much obstinacy in the attempt to refix their 
" fetters ; while it creates an equal pertinacity of resistance 
" I mean that antipathy to their former labours which has 
" been already so visible in the negroes of St. Domingo. 
" Man is naturally indolent, and impatient of bodily restraint. 
'' Though spurred by his hopes and fears into activity, and 
" often to the most ardent exertions, he is with diflaculty bent 
" to the yoke of uniform and persevering labour. The sug- 
" gestions of foresight, however, are very powerful impulses, 
" especially when seconded by habit ; and the great Author of 
" our nature has conferred on them a mild as well as a right- 
*' ful dominion. When we bow to the golden sceptre of rea- 
" son, obedience has many facilities, and its pains many mi- 
" tigations. Nature is not thwarted more rudely than the 
" rational purpose demands ; and the mind, while it urges on 
" the material frame, cheers it in return with refreshing and 
" invigorating cordials. 

'* Look at the most laborious peasant in Europe, and if you 
" please the most oppressed : he is toiling, it is true, from pain- 
*• ful necessity; but it is a necessity of a moral kind, acting 
" upon his rational nature ; and from which brutal coercion 
" differs as widely as a nauseous drench in the mouth of an 
" infant from the medicated milk of its mother. 

"■ Is the impelling motive fear of want, or dread of a master's 

216 Of the a uel and pernicious Means 

" displeasure ? yet he sees on the other hand the approbation 
" and reward attainable by exertions whereof the degree is at 
" least for the moment spontaneous. Self-complacency al- 
" leviates his toil ; and hope presents to his view the hearty 
" well-earned meal, the evening fire-side, and perhaps the 
" gratifications of the husband or the father, in promoting the 
" well-being of those dearest to his heart. Is his work fa- 
" tiguing ? he is at liberty at least to introduce some little va- 
*' rieties in the modes, or breaks in the continuity of it, which 
" give him sensible relief. He can rest on his spade, or stay 
" the plow a moment in the furrow ; can gaze at a passing 
" object; or stop a brother-villager to spend a brief interval in 
" talk. 

" To the reflecting mind these little privileges will not ap- 
" pear unimportant, when compared with the hard and cheer- 
" less lot of the field-negro. He is not at liberty to relax his 
" tired muscles, or beguile his weariness, either by voluntary 
" pauses in labour, or by varying its mode : he must work on 
" with his fellow-slaves, let fatigue or satiety groan ever so 
" much for a moment's respite, till the driver allows a halt. 

" But far more deplorable is the want of all those animat- 
" ing hopes, that sweeten the toil of the European peasant. 
*' To the negro slave, driven to his work, his involuntary ex- 
*' ertions, as they can plead no merit, can promise in general 
" no reward. His meal will not be more plentiful, nor his cot- 
" tage better furnished, by the fruits of his utmost toil. As 
" to his wife and children, they can hardly be called his own : 
" Whether the property of the same or a different owner, it is 
" upon the master, not himself, that their subsistence and 
" well-being depend. 

" The negro, therefore, casts his hoe from no impulse but 
" that of fear ; and fear brought so closely and continually 
" into contact with its object, that we can hardly allow it 
" to rise above brutal instinct, and call it natural foresight, 
" without ascribing to the docility of the horse an equal 
" elevation. The other great and pleasing spring of human 
" action, hope, is entirely cut oft". 

" When these peculiar circumstances are duly considered, 
" the rooted aversion of the free negro to his former labours 
" cannot excite surprise. It is unnecessary to suppose that 

hij which Slave Labour is enforced. 217 

" they were excessive in degree, for in their kind, they were 
" too irksome to be by the most patient of our race con- 
" tentedly endured, or remembered without abhorrence. 
" Neither is it necessary to suppose that the impending lash 
" was, in the ordinary routine of field-duty, often actually 
" inflicted. The human team might, when well broken, move 
" on so regularly, as to make the whip in the hand of a 
" humane driver little more than a mere ensign of authority ; 
" yet the sense of perpetual constraint and ever-goading 
" necessity, would be much the same. The motive would 
" still be instant fear, though producing from habit a re- 
" gular and equable movement. It might be admitted, 
** even without danger to the argument (though I am sorry 
** to say not without doing violence to truth, as well as pro- 
" bability), that this coarse actuation of the physical powers 
" of the human frame by an external mind, interested in 
" their effect, was in general not pushed to excess, but was 
" an impulse as leniently and wisely regulated as that of 
" reason, when guided by the sympathies of the soul with 
** the same body to which nature has allied it. Nay, we 
" might overlook the inevitable frequency of such excesses 
" as masters of narrow or unfeeling minds may be expected 
" to practice ; and suppose that, in the time or measure of 
" work, avarice, armed with an unlimited power, never ex- 
" acted too much, nor ever made too little allowance for oc- 
" casional or particular weakness ; in other words, that while 
" thrones in Europe too rarely find possessors fit to govern, 
" the sceptre of a plantation falls into the hands of none but 
" Antonines and Trojans ; still we should see in this manner 
" of enforcing work, and in the general circumstances of 
" West Indian bondage, enough to account for a strong an- 
" tipathy in the breast of the enfranchised negro to his former 
" state, and its attendant labours." * 

Reasoning upon these premises, I predicted an event of 
the French expedition against the Negroes of St. Domingo, 
which appeared at the time not only highly improbable to 
the European public, but hardly within the limits of pos- 

* Crisis of the Sugar Colonies. Ilatchard, March, 1802, p. 38 — 52. 

218 Of the cruel a)id pernicious Means 

sibility. And yet how amply has the prediction been veri- 
fied ! All that a colossal power, beneath whose sway Europe 
lay prostrate, could do to frustrate it, was tried in vain. The 
military prowess of France, the consummate perfidy of Buo- 
naparte, his relentless vengeance, his atrocious barbarities, 
unexampled in any former recorded crimes of man, were all 
found to be impotent, when opposed in the breasts of the 
devoted Haytians by their recollections of the driving-whip. 

It will be perceived, on a comparison of the extract here 
given from the Crisis of the Sugar Colonies, with the pas- 
sages cited from Mr. M'Donnell, that my inferences would 
be sufficiently supported even by that writer's admissions. 
I did not assume, as he imagines his opponents to do, that 
whipping was " incessantly inflicted." I did not reason even 
on the incontestible fact of its great frequency ; but from that 
ever impending power and terror of the whip, which he de- 
fends, and I'epresents as essential to the system ; and I sub- 
mit to the feelings, or rather to the cool judgment, of my 
readers, whether this, were it all, would not be enough to 
make such a mode of coercion not only degrading to human 
nature, but in a high degree cruel and pernicious. I did not 
even assume, for the purpose of my argument (though I as- 
serted the fact, as I have ever done in all my writings on 
slavery), that the quantum of labour enforced either by the 
smart or terror of the whip was excessive ; but I have now 
demonstrated that it really is so, and to the utmost possible 
degree of relentless, avaricious oppression. 

This fatal effect of such brutal coercion I have always regard- 
ed, as by far the worst among the manifold mischiefs of which 
the driving-whip is productive. It compels these devoted 
victims of avarice to labour beyond their strength ; it is the 
main source of the diseases to which they are subject ; it hur- 
ries a large proportion of them prematurely to their graves ; 
and by its effect on the women, prevents that native increase, 
which would otherwise repair all the waste of life that the 
other severities of the system occasion, among a race pre- 
eminently hardy and prolific. Witness the often-attested, 
well-proved, and, I believe, uncontested fact, that where 
driving is not practised, the native slave population is always 
found to increase. 

l>ij rvhkh Slave Labour is enforced. 219 

But the same oppressive effect of this mode of coercion is 
the true cause of that pertinacity with which tlie sugar-plan- 
ters maintain it. They admit, as we have seen, its offensive 
character; they profess an earnest desire to abohsh it as a 
theme of reproach with those whom they call their enemies ; 
and yet, they obstinately refuse its abolition ; and why, but 
because they know, that the same quantity of forced labour 
cannot otherwise be obtained ? 

I have already admitted, that the slaves will not work to 
that extremity of exertion to which, not the presence of the 
whip merely, but its painful inflictions, coupled with its in- 
cessant terrors impel them ; but I maintain, that this efficacy 
of the driving method, is the worst of its effects. It conduces 
to the present profits of the planters ; but is unspeakably 
cruel and destructive to the slaves. 

But let us look more distinctly at the iniquities and the 
miseries, directly and indirectly, produced by this practice, 
which are greater than can be easily described or conceived. 

We have seen what colonial writers have admitted, as to 
the despotism, and the partiality with which the drivers are 
apt to exercise their powers. " They are," according to Mr. 
Stewart, " too generally hard-hearted, and partial in the 
** minor punishments they are authorized to inflict. They may 
" maltreat and persecute the unfriended slave against whom 
*' they have a grudge."* " They have the use of the whip," 
says Dr. Collins, " at their discretion, and of course it is ad- 
" ministered neither with impartiality nor judgment ; it is 
" generally bestowed with rigour on the weakest negroes of 
" the gang, and on those who are so unfortunate as not to be 
" in favor with this sub-despot."t " The driver," says Mr. 
De la Bec/ie, " has the power of inflicting punishment at his 
" own discretion upon those who may appear to him to be 
" idle ; a power as may be easily imagined liable to much 
" abuse."! 

These, be it always remembered, are not the statements of 
anti-slavery writers, but of planters and apologists of the sys- 
tem ; and what appalling accounts do some of them give of 

Supra, p. :204. f Supra, p. 201. J Ibid. 204. 

220 Of the cruel and pernicious Means 

the effects ! "^The whip," says Dr. Collins, " is often em- 
" ployed to a degree, which by inducing a callosity of the 
" parts, destroys their sensibility, and renders its further ap- 
" plication of little avail ;"* and Mr. Beckford makes a similar 
remark, " When a negro becomes familiarized to the whip, he 
'* no longer holds it in terror."f 

What, I beg the compassionate reader to reflect, must be 
the sufferings of the poor beings before it comes to this? How 
exquisite must have been the tortures endured by the reiterated 
incisions of the tremendous cart-whip, the protracted miseries 
of the wide excoriations, the long sufferings of the healing 
process, often interrupted in its progress by new flagellations, 
and by continued labours in the meantime, before the human 
frame can have so completely lost its sensibility, as no longer 
to shrink from the most torturous mode of punishment that 
cruelty has, perhaps, ever inflicted without speedy destruction 
of life. 

I do not mean, indeed, to ascribe such shocking effects 
wholly, or chiefly, to the punishments of which the drivers 
are the arbiters. I understand the authors 1 have cited as 
including in the causes of them, and for the most part having 
directly in view, the more heavy flagellations of a penal kind, 
inflicted at the homestall by the immediate order of the ma- 
nager or overseer ; but beyond doubt, the far more numerous 
inflictions of the drivers during the work, must tend power- 
fully to the progressive insensibility they speak of; and what 
is, perhaps, of more importance, to the moral insensibility of the 
masters, and to the severe punishments they ordain. A slave 
accustomed to feel the smart of the driver's whip for slackness, 
whether real or imputed, in his ordinary work, is not thought 
likely to be deterred from repeating offences deserving punish- 
ment, by a slight or moderate infliction of the same corporal 
pain ; and women also lose in such cases, the compassion due 
to their sex, from a knowledge, that their natural timidity and 
sensibility have been in great measure worn off by the harsh 
discipline of the field. Hence doubtless, in no small degree, 
the extreme severity with which the cart-whip is so often ap- 

* Ibid. 

f Remarks on the situation of Negroes in Jamaica, p. 40. 

by %vhuh Slave Labour is enforced. 221 

plied by order of the manager or overseer ; and for offences 
commonly of no greater magnitude than desertion, or even 
truantcy of a day's duration. Many managers think it not too 
much in such cases to inflict a cart-whipping, in its regular and 
terrible form, on women as well as men, to the full extent of the 
thirty-nine lashes allowed by law, and even to order, that 
they shall be severely applied ; which amounts, perhaps, to 
torture as intense as the human frame is well capable of feel- 
ing.* Such masters might truly, however inadequately, 
allege in their defence, that it would be idle to order a few 
lashes, when the fugitive or truant might probably have 
escaped as many from the driver's hands, even by a day's ab- 
sence from the field. The exemplary effect would be wholly 
lost ; and the offender, if long absent, would in consequence of 
the fault, avoid not only the pains of hard labour, but lessen, 
perhaps, on the whole, his or her sufferings by the whip. 

Some of the apologists of the driving method tell us, that 
without it, punishments by the master's order for neglect of 
work, would be more frequent. Possibly they might for some 
time ; at least if the master attempted to exact, in the mode 
of task-work, the same extent of daily toil as the driving- 
whip had before enforced ; but he would probably soon find this 
impracticable ; and be glad to relieve himself by moderation in 
the tasks, from the endless and' fruitless drudgery of sitting 
in judgment every day, between a large proportion of his 
slaves and the accusing drivers, now in truth become only 
superintendants of their work. The evil might thus cure 
itself; and if the punishments were more frequent in the 
mean time, they would for the reasons assigned, be less 
severe. They would also be more equal and impartial; for 
the master's interest, if not his feelings, would be on the side 

* I will not here cite any of the numberless proofs to be found of such 
severity in the official accounts laid before, and printed by, parliament, 
for cruelty in punishments is one of the topics I have declined, though 
obliged here and elsewhere to advert to it as incidental to the subject of 
labour. Whoever wishes for full satisfaction, as to the frequency of such 
severities, need only read the extracts from those parliamentary documents 
given in the Anti-slavery Reports. But in an appendix which I have pro- 
mised upon other views, the above statements will be sufficiently verified. 

222 Of the cruel (Did peitikious Means 

of equality and justice. He would not have like those sub- 
despots, the drivers, among their fellow-slaves, connexions, 
and attachments, and rivalships, and enmities to warp him, 
either in the apportionment of labour to individuals, or the 
punishment of their defaults. 

Reasonably do those planters whom I have cited and have 
yet to cite, as to the ordinary conduct of the driver, consider 
the abuse of his power as a natural consequence of his au- 
thority. Their express testimony was not necessary to prove 
it ; for it would be strange to suppose, that men destitute of 
religious and moral education, are guarded by native feelings 
of humanity and justice, against those abuses to which arbi- 
trary power in the best of hands commonly seduces its pos- 
sessors ; and that, those feelings too are proof against the ob- 
durating influence of habit, among men whose daily and 
hourly business it is to impose harsh restraints, and inflict 
severe punishments with their own hands, upon their fellow- 

We expect no such incorruptible virtue in our public exe- 
cutioners or gaolers ; nor are we much surprised, when we 
read reports of the apathy with which men, even in a liberal 
profession, regard the cruel treatment of pauper lunatics, long 
placed under their own immediate charge ; still less at the 
obduracy of the keepers they employ. Where then is that 
moral charter to be found, that exempts the enslaved negro- 
driver, from the corrupting influence of habits still more inve- 
terate, and more directly opposed to every benevolent feel- 
ing ? Certainly not, if our planters are to be believed, in their 
African extraction, or sympathy with their own injured race ; 
for we are incessantly told, though 1 confess untruly, that 
they make, when free, the worst of masters ; and even in 
slavery are tyrants to each other. 

" That negroes are cruel to one another," says Mr. Beck- 
ford, '* cannot be denied ; they will assassinate without com- 
" punction," &:c. " I have observed that new negroes are par- 
" ticularly fond of power ; and will exert it as if accustomed 
" to severity ; and when raised to the authority of drivers, will 
" be more despotic and inhuman than the Creoles are."* 

* Ueniui'ks, ^v.c. p. 87-8. 

hij ivhich Slave Labour is enforced. 223 

The distinction may be doubted ; but that both are cruel, and 
their abuses not likely to be restrained by the overseers, he 
shews in several parts of his work. 

" I am sorry to observe," he says " that punishments in 
" Jamaica, are often inflicted upon the bodies of the negroes 
" without discretion, and very frequently rather to gratify re- 
" venge, than for the sake of example. An overseer who is 
" addicted to drink, will not make any discrimination in the 
" absence of reason, between the generally laborious and ac- 
" cidentally idle, and there are drivers upon some plantations 
" rvho ivill sleep over the work of the negroes committed to their 
^' charge ivhen the white people are absent, but who will use the 
" ivhip tvithout necessity/ as soon as one shall appear in sight. 
" I am willing to believe that it is sometimes meant as a 
" warning; but why make a mockery of punishment, or suffer 
" that to be considered as sport to an able negro, that intimi- 
" dates and consequently becomes pain to those who are sick 
*' and weakly ? I am convinced that custom and bad exam- 
" pie have a fatal influence upon the conduct of the genera- 
" lity of white people in Jamaica ; many of whom imagine 
" that the appearance of discipline is a spur to labour, and 
" that negroes will not work unless roused by the sound 
" of the whip."* 

I hope my readers will remember that this was written by 
a defender of slavery, and the slave-trade : and at a time too 
when the power of the drivers to use the whip, was as boldly 
denied by some eminent planters, as it is by the legislators of 
St. Vincent's, and by the accredited champions of all the co- 
lonies, in the present day. 

Mr. Stewart, after the passage which I have cited from his 
wook, (supra, p. 133,) as to the partiality and injustice of the 
driver, adds, " He makes a shew, by way of saving appear- 
" ances of equal severity to both, (i. e. to a slave whom he 
" favours, and one whom he dislikes,) . but by the dextrous 
" command he has of the whip, he has it in his power to in- 
" flict either a very slight, or a very severe punishment. On 
*•' such occasions, the persecuted slave is too often afraid to 

Romnrk<, JvC. p. 41, 4'2, in the notes. 

224 Of the cruel and pernicious Means 

" complain to his master; thinking it would lead to renewed 
*^ persecutions ; and though there are doubtless men in the 
" situation of overseers who would not permit such barbari- 
*' ties were they aware of them, it is equally true that there 
" are others who will support the authority of their drivers, 
" however iniquitously exercised.* 

It is not from harshness or violence of temper, alone that 
these coarse and degraded agents of despotic authority, are 
prone to abuse their power among the negroes whom they 
drive. They have not only their friends, and their enemies, 
their mistresses, and their rivals in the gang, but fellow-slaves 
who sometimes work for them on Sundays, or carry to mar- 
ket articles they have for sale; while others, no doubt, may 
have been found unwilling so to entitle themselves to favour ; 
and can it be doubted that such considerations often unfairly 
impel or withhold the lash, while they are following the poor 
drudges in the field ? 

By no conceivable means can injustice and cruelty in the 
exercise of the driver's discretionary powers, while they are 
suffered to exist, be controuled. For this also I have quoted 
the authority of Mr. Stewart. But how can it be questioned 
by any thinking mind ? Among all the idle pretences by 
which the odious system has been palliated and disguised, 
there is none more self-evidently preposterous than that the 
manager or overseer, unavoidably absent from the field during 
great part of the day, can judge between the drivers and the 
driven, so as to check partiality and oppression in each indi- 
vidual instance. If the poor slave, whipped up repeatedly 
during the work, for not throwing his hoe with sufficient ce- 
lerity or momentum, were bold enough to complain on return- 
ing to the homestall, against a man who is to drive him again 
in the morning, and during every day of his life, how is he to 
prove his case ? 

Let it be supposed. that his fellow-labourers are so daringly 
generous as to be willing to support the charge ; yet how 
can this testimony avail him ? They were each intent on 

* Stewart's View of the Past and Present State of Jamaica, App. 346, 347. 
t Supra, p. 132. 

by which Slave Labour is enforced. 225 

his own particular share of the work ; and can no more 
determine wlietlicr the complainant was in fault, than a 
private soldier in line upon parade, whether the other men 
shouldered or presented their arms with precision, or dressed 
with due correctness. The accused driver himself is the only 
competent witness; and were the statement of the injured 
slave to prevail against his denial of the charge, this species 
of subordination, so essential in the eyes of our planters, could 
not possibly be maintained. 

The idea of a manager holding a tribunal at the end of the 
day's work to hear and try the complaints of fifty or a hundred 
negroes, or as many of them as may think the whip had been 
in some instances needlessly applied to their backs, is prepos- 
terous. It may serve, like the other extravagant fables of the 
colonists, to deceive European readers, who will not stop to rea- 
son on these painful subjects ; but a few moments of reflection 
will suffice to shew that it is quite incredible. If managers and 
overseers were the very reverse of what they in general are, if 
they were the most intelligent and industrious of mankind, such 
judicial functions would be more than enough to occupy all 
their time, and exhaust all their energies ; whereas the duties 
they are really expected to perform, are confessedly fully equal 
to, if not surpassing, any ordinary powers. Committing as they 
unavoidably do, the details of the field work, implicitly to the 
drivers, their general inadequacy to the various important la- 
bours which belong to the agricultural and manufacturing bu- 
siness of a plantation, and the government of its'multudinous 
gang, is nevertheless universally admitted. 

It may be useful here to give a few specimens of what my 
antagonists state as to the great personal consequence of the 
drivers ; and as to the character of those white agents by 
whom they are said to be controuled. 

Let me quote in the first place, The Jamaica Planter's 
Guide, published in 1823, by " Mr. Thomas Roughlej/, nearly 
" twenty years a sugar planter in Jamaica." So he is de- 
scribed in his title page; and his readers will find him a 
thorough-paced defender of the system he had so long admi- 
nistered. He is, to use a reigning phraseology, a perfect 
ultra \n his attachment to the cause of slavery ; and in his 
enmity to all who oppose it. This writer says " The most 

VOL. 11. Q 

226 Of the cruel and pernicious Means 

" important personage in the slave population of an estate is 
" the head driver. He is seen carrying with him the emblems 
" of his rank and dignity, a polished staff, or wand with 
" prongy crooks on it to lean on, and a short handled tangible 
" whip ; his office combining within itself a power, derived 
'* principally from the overseer, of directing all conditions of 
" slaves relative to the precise work he wishes each gang or 
" mechanic to undergo or execute, &c. There are so many 
" points to turn to, so many occasions for his skill, vigilance, 
" steadiness and trustworthiness, that the selection of such 
" a man fit for such a place requires circumspection and an 
" intimate knowledge of his talents and capacity. A bad or 
" indifferent head driver, sets almost every thing at variance, 
" injures the negroes, and the culture of the estate : He is 
" like a cruel blast that pervades every thing, and spares no- 
*' thing," &c.* 

This experienced manager proceeds to shew us the various 
evils resulting from the faults of the drivers; but among them 
we do not find any mention of troublesome appeals to the 
manager or overseers ; and his language plainly shews that it 
is not from the complaints of the slaves, but from the effects 
only on their disposition and conduct, that the abuses of 
driving are to be discovered. '* When the drivers are ill- 
" disposed, he, the overseer (which in Jamaica means the 
" head manager), will perceive the negroes likewise so : the 
" work will not be carried on agreeably to his dictates : 
*' things suffer in general : the slaves run away, or are in- 
" clined to be turbulent, &.C. : they even aim," he adds, " at 
" the existence of the white people. The root, then, of this 
*' evil must be struck at, and the head driver and his abettors 
" sent to public punishment."* 

The words of an apologist cannot more intelligibly shew 
that the pretence of an intimate daily superintendance and 
controui of this ** sub-despot," as Dr. Collins calls him, in 
the particular cases of oppressed individuals, is utterly un- 
founded. He is known only by his general and aggregate 
fruits ; the general ill-will, discontent, and despair of the 

Jamaica Planters' Guide, p. 1. f Ibid. 8Q, 83. 

hi^ which Slave Labour is enforced. 227 

uafortunate gang, when his tyranny is pushed to excess, are 
the only indications of their sufferings that can commonly 
meet the master's notice. Injured individuals, instead of 
daring to complain of the driver, run away ; and like a 
bad minister, or rather like a cruel gaoler, the only remedy 
is his removal, or punishment, when his general maladminis- 
tration becomes so visible as to call for that which is a kind 
of revolution on the estate. 

Is it likely, that even in such extreme cases, the remedy is 
often applied, or that the drivers are controuled even when 
complaints can be tried ? To determine that question, it will 
be useful next to shew what my opponents confess as to the 
ordinary character of managers or overseers. 

Let us mark the candid avowal of Mr. De la Beche on this 
subject : — " I by no means wish to state that the overseers 
** always lean to the side of justice, believing that not one- 
" half of them are qualified to wield the powers that under 
" existing circumstances must necessarily be entrusted to 
" them."* 

*' If an overseer," says Mr. Stewart, " be a man of educa- 
" tion and feeling, and that feeling has not been extinguished 
" by habits certainly not calculated to soften the heart or 
" improve the manners, he has it in his power to impart 
" much good in his situation. He may soften the hardships 
" of the slaves, and render their toils more easy ; he may 
" hear and redress their complaints, &c. It would be a 
" happy circumstance for the slaves if such characters were 
" more common than they are among this class of persons; 
" but the chief ambition of too many is rather who shall 
" make the largest crops, the finest quality of sugar, &c., 
" than who shall govern the slaves placed under their care 
** with the greatest moderation and humanity." 

As to the ordinary " education and feelings" of the overseers 
or head managers in Jamaica, the same writer is painfully 
instructive ; but his statements and remarks are too long 
for insertion here. They extend from the 188th to the 195th 
page of his work, and are well worthy of the attention of such 

* See the quotation at large, supra, p. 74. 
Q 2 

228 Of the cruel and peniicious Means 

readers as desire to have just ideas of the situation of plan- 
tation slaves, so far as respects the character of their im- 
mediate masters, in the very ordinary case of the owners' 
absence in Europe. The general effect is, that the men who 
lill the situations of overseers in Jamaica are promoted to 
them from those of book-keepers, in which they must pre- 
viously have served five or six years; and the account which 
he gives of the situations, treatment, and habits of the latter, 
during that long novitiate, is in the highest degree revolting 
and appalling. The negro slaves themselves are hardly more 
despised than these " voluntary slaves," as Mr, Stewart ra- 
ther inaptly calls them ; inaptly, because they are commonly 
poor ignorant lads, sent out from the mother country under 
indentures, their will to enter into which preceded all know- 
ledge of the degraded and miserable state they were to be 
sent to. The appellation " book-keepei" is strangely *' mis- 
placed ;" for as the same author observes, " a man who had 
•' never seen an account book in his life, may yet be a very 
" expert book-keeper." But it probably serves, and was no 
doubt intended to do so, like the tricks of a recruiting Ser- 
jeant, to seduce into the plantation bonds many a raw strip- 
lino-, who would have spurned at the more proper name of a 
white negro-driver. 

Mr. Stewart thinks, and 1 agree with him, that such of 
them as have received but little education, who "have been 
*• accustomed from their earliest years to a rustic and drudg- 
" ino hfe, who in short have directed the plough, or wielded 
" the pitchfork, in their native country, are not so much to 
" be sympathised with, as those who have been liberally 
" educated." 

But I doubt, whether he is right in supposing, as he seems 
to do, that liberality of education in these unfortunate youths, 
would qualify better for the office of overseers, such of them as 
may live to attain it; for in proportion to the refinement of 
former feelings and ideas, must probably be not only the pain, 
but the corrupting and obdurating effects of the situation to 
which they are forced to submit, and the harsh duties they 
have to perform. The more violence that is done to liberal 
and virtuous feelings at the outset, the greater will be their 
ultimate ruin. Mr. Stewart, indeed, admits, that if the better 

h[l wJtich Slaue Labour is enforced. 229 

educated youth, docs not find resource and consolation during 
his painful and degrading service, by reading at his solitary 
hours, he is likely *' to contract low depraved habits," to re- 
nounce his better feelings, and " become seared loith a reckless 
" apathj/." Now, that he should resort sufficiently to such 
an antidote, is, upon our author's premises, not very likely ; 
for he tells us, that the poor book-keeper has little time that 
he can possibly give to reading ; that even Sunday is not alto- 
gether his own ; and that " it would be unpardonable to allow 
" books to interfere with the business of the estate." 

The colonial advocates often appeal to our national feelings, 
by asking, whether it is probable, that in a white population, 
constantly recruited from this country, the slave-masters should 
generally be found to have left their native humanity and libe- 
rality on this side of the Atlantic ? At the same time we are 
told, not very consistently, that Europeans very often, I think, 
by some it is said, genera/lj/, are more severe masters than the 
Creole whites. I believe, that this latter plea, is not wholly 
unfounded in fact ; but the answer to both is, that before 
Europeans become slave-masters on a plantation, they are 
long, howsoever reluctantly at first, trained and hackneyed 
to the administration of its odious discipline ; and that, when 
virtuous propensities are subdued by temptation, and yield to 
habitual controul, it is natural in this, as in other cases, that 
the moral victim should not only lose his former sensibility, 
but pass beyond others in the vices he once abhorred. The 
more force it requires to strain the bow, the further the arrow 
flies. We are not surprised to find in women, who have 
thrown off, from strong temptations perhaps at first, the re- 
straints of their native modesty and virtue, a degree of im- 
pudence and profligacy, beyond that of the coarser sex. 

Whatever be the causes, the fact, that West India overseers 
are too commonly of a harsh and unfeeling character, is at- 
tested beyond dispute. To the authorities that I have cited, 
I might add many more. Even iMr. Roughley, that most de- 
termined defender of the general system, sufficiently discloses 
that truth. His censures on the overseers, indeed, are chiefly 
pointed at their morose and tyrannical conduct towards the 
unfortunate book-keepers ; but if it could be doubted, whether 
the same disposition must be felt by their still more helpless 

230 Of the cruel and pernicious Means 

dependents with black skins, one of his own incidental re- 
marks would remove it ; " his temper is soured by frequent 
" casualties of this nature, (i. e. by frequent breaches with 
" his white assistants,) and vents itself often with terrible 
" consequences upon the slaves under him.'"* He speaks, in- 
deed, of such men chiefly, as *' Overseers, of the old school;" 
but while he illustrates their savage conduct by recent and 
shocking instances, he does not tell us, that any new school is 
generally established ; and his anxious advice to absent pro- 
prietors, to change their ordinary choice of attornies and other 
agents, sufficiently betrays his consciousness of the leverse. 
The whole of his long chapter on plantation attornies and 
agents is, on this and other subjects, highly instructive ; at 
least when read as the language of a man, who had been for 
twenty years an administrator of the system, and whose 
anxious endeavour it is to reconcile it to the feelings of the 
British public. 

But let me not deal unfairly with the overseers and managers. 
It is not solely, nor chiefly, to misconduct on their parts, that 
the cruelties of the driving system are to be ascribed. These 
strictures on their characters are cited only to shew, that a 
humane controul on their part, of the driver's conduct in the 
ordinary use of the coercing whip, which I have shewn to be 
for the most part impracticable, is not likely to be often at- 
tempted, at a grievous expense of their time and ease, even to 
the small extent in which such controul is possible. Without 
even taking into account the indolence and love of ease, to 
which men of all descriptions are proverbially prone in that 
country, enough has been shewn of the case, to make such 
very onerous humanity hopeless. Implicit confidence in the 
drivers, is the manager's or overseer's only easy chair ; and he 
must be a man of very active benevolence, who should be 
willing to resign it, as often as would be necessary to decide 
such differences even as are capable of fair investigation, 
between the drivers and the driven. To encourage com- 
plaints, would be to make his office more laborious than that 
of the driver himself. 

* Jamaica Planters' Guide, p. 51. f See Chapter I. throughout. 

hy which Slave Labour is etif arced. 23 1 

Besides, the overseers are not generally at liberty to consult 
their own feelings, but are impelled to exact such an excess 
of labour as is incompatible with humane restrictions on the 
driver's coercive discipline. " There are not wanting attornies," 
says Mr. Stewart, " who, anxious to outdo their predecessors 
" in the magnitude of the crops, and thereby forward their 
" own interest and reputation, too often act as a stimulus, 
" instead of a restraint on this impolitic and unfeeling zeal of 
" the overseers, by continually reminding them of the quan- 
" tum of produce, and of work they expect."* 

I wish this intelligent writer had not stopped here. He 
might have shewn how the attornies, in their turn, are stimu- 
lated to the same avaricious oppression by the proprietors 
resident in this country, and their commercial consignees. 

Why are the attornies remunerated in proportion only to 
the quantities of sugar they consign? The general, and I 
believe in Jamaica the only, reward of their services, is a 
commission on the produce shipped. I think it is either a 
guinea per hogshead, or 5 per cent. A premium on the pre- 
servation, and native increase of the slaves, or even a draw- 
back on the commissions when the deaths exceed the births, 
would have widely different effects ; but I never heard of 
any instance of such a humane departure from the general 
practice; and believe, that no such exception to it is_any 
where alleged. 

Section V. — The only remedy for these mischiefs, compatible 
with forced labour, is individual task-work. 

Here I have to open a most lamentable, and at the same 
time a most undeniable part of the case — the unjust and 
cruel effects of a wholesale method of coercion, which like 
the bed of Procrustes, levels almost all inequalities of health 
and strength, or makes them sources of inevitable miseries, 
at least to the weaker slaves. 

Let the reader look back on my description of driving, as 
extracted from my earliest publication on slavery, and on the 

* Ibid. p. 188. 

232 Of the cruel and pertiicioias Means 

decisive authorities by which I have evinced its correctness ; 
and he will see, that the want of discrimination between the 
different deorees of strength of the individual labourers of both 
sexes, driven forward together in line or file, is one of its most 
prominent but essential mischiefs. If the standard of forced 
exertion, in point of time and intensity, were reduced to the 
capacity of the weakest, there might in this respect, be no 
ground of complaint ; but I have shewn, that it is on the con- 
trary, such, as without experience we should hardly believe, 
the strongest could long endure. 

Dr. Collins after confirming, as has been shewn, my stric- 
tures on this cruel consequence of the driving method, nearly 
in the very words I used, suggests to the planters a remedy, 
or rather a palliative, which further marks the character of the 
general practice. " In order that the weak may not work 
" too much, nor the strong too little, it is advisable to di- 
" vide your force into a greater number of sections or gangs," 

Inadequate as this expedient must prove, the partial im- 
provement has not been generally if any where adopted. It 
appears from Mr. De laBeche and Mr. Stewart, and even from 
Mr. Roughley's accounts, that the number of sections or gangs 
now in use, is not greater than it was when Dr. Collins pub- 
lished his valuable work. 

Conscious that the remedy would be at best but partial. Dr. 
Collins speaks favorably of the only effectual one, the disuse 
of driving, and substitution of task-work, when possible; a 
change which had been recommended by example in many 
parts of the American continent. He shews how much it 
would tend to encourage, as well as ease the labourers; whereas 
nothing, as he observes, " can depress them more than a tire- 
" some routine of duty, which presents no prospect of end, 
" relief, or recompense. "f He regarded task-work, indeed, as 
not inmost cases practicable ; though the reasons he assigns 
for it, seem not very easy to comprehend, and even to be at 

* Practical Rules, 176, &c. See extract, p. 55, 6, supra, 
t Practical Rules, p. 179. 

by which Slave Labour is enjurced. 233 

variance with his own views in the context. But my readers 
shall judge of his meaning from his own language. 

" The misfortune is," he says, " that the rule is applicable 
" only to a very few ; from the necessity of dividing our ne- 
" groes, as above recommended, into several gangs, and the 
" various kinds of work which they have respectively to exe- 
" cute, and the fluctuation of their numbers from day to day 
" by sickness or other circumstances, which rejects every idea 
" of their labouring universally on such a system ; but when- 
" ever it is found practicable in any case, it ought to be done, 
" The several kinds of business assigned to the strong gang 
" are of that description, and of course subject to such regu- 
" lation, as you have the same power to execute the same 
" service daily ; for should any of your strong gang fall sick, 
" or give out at their work, you have the means of replacing 
" them, by occasional draughts from your middle gang, which 
** will contain some negroes robust enough to supply their 
" place, until they return to their labour ; so as always to keep 
'' up the number of holers."* 

The solution of the apparent difficulty in these passages, I 
conceive to be this : Dr. Collins had in view, when he recom- 
mended task-work, the assessment of a daily portion of the 
work required, not on each individual slave, but on the collective 
gang. His habits as a planter, and long-resident colonist, 
naturally led him to that use of the word ; for task- work is a 
well-known term in the West Indies ; and means the perform- 
ing a given portion of work by contract, when the slaves are 
hired for the purpose, of a master who is not the owner of the 
soil ; and it is chiefly in use in the laborious process of holeing, 
which Dr. Collins appears clearly by the context to have had 
chiefly in view. The owner of the slaves, commonly called a 
** task-work,"or'* jobbing-gang," contracts to hole for a given 
price, so many acres of land ; and our author probably meant, 
that the great gang of the estate might be tasked collectively, 
with adequate portions of the same species of work, to be ac- 
complished in a limited time. But did he also mean, that the 
driver's immediate coercion should be withdrawn ? If not. 

Ibid. p. 178,9. 

234 Of the cruel and pernicious Means 

there would be little, if any, diminution of the evils, which he 
wished to remove. The task-work gangs in use, are worked 
under the contractor's own drivers ; and it is agreed on both 
sides, that their condition is not better, but rather worse, than 
that of the plantation slaves. 

It is probably now of great practical importance to mark 
well the distinction between collective, and individual task- 
woik ; for in some of the colonies, where the crown has legis- 
lative authority, driving is now prohibited by law ; and it is 
said, that it is accordingly laid aside in practice, and task- 
work adopted in its stead ; an innovation, the effects of which, 
the planters will of course be desirous to depreciate. But it is 
highly probable, not only from the long established use of the 
term, but from the regard of managers to their own ease and 
convenience, that where such a substitution has been made, 
the tasks have been assessed, not on each individual slave, 
but on the gangs that had usually worked together ; e. g. that 
they should hole a particular cane-piece, or a certain propor- 
tion of it, in a given time. Such a method cannot be ex- 
pected to operate satisfactorily, or not to be attended with 
some highly inconvenient effects ; for how are individuals to 
enforce from each other their fair contributions to the accom- 
plishment of the general task ? 

It is not very uncommon for a small number of workmen in 
this country, mutually to contract with their employer to 
perform a given service by their united efforts for a common 
reward ; as to cut down a field of hay, at a certain price per 
acre ; but they are, or suppose themselves to be, of nearly 
equal capacity ; and can depend on each other for equal exer- 
tion, because a failure in it is what they would have power to 
punish, if not in the division of the price, at least by reproach, 
and by an exclusion from such associated undertakings in 
future. But in a gang of slaves, of very unequal degrees of 
strength, and whose union in work is neither by choice, nor of 
brief duration, but imposed on them for hfe by authority they 
cannot resist, there can be no security whatever for a fair and 
equal contribution to the common task, though all may have 
the same interest in obtaining by its speedy accomplishment 
an earlier dismission from the field. Endless quarrels among 

by which Slave Labour is eiij'orced. 235 

themselves, and incessant appeals to the master, must be ex- 
pected to ensue. 

I am far from thinking, that the dismission of the Whip 
from the field would not still be a benefit, especially when 
use had taught them the advantages of fair and amicable 
co-operation ; but it is individual task-vVork alone, impartially 
and moderately assessed by the master, that can form such a 
substitute for driving as to produce the proper effects, by 
giving to every slave a fair and adequate interest in his or her 
own exertions. 

This, however, would impose new and onerous duties on 
the managers and overseers ; and it was therefore, I presume, 
that Dr. Collins seems not to have extended his views t6 so 
important an improvement as that of individual task-work; for 
he was fully impressed as appears in various parts of his work, 
with the extreme difficulty to be encountered in every reforma- 
tion of the established system, that would demand from its 
white administrators much additional energy in the discharge 
of their important functions ; or from the proprietors an ex- 
pensive addition to the number of those important agents. 
The allotting to each working individual in a gang of 150 or 
200 slaves daily, or even weekly, his or her separate task, 
and taking cognizance of its due performance' or neglect, 
would certainly be a new burthen on the management of no 
trivial amount, and such as that well-informed writer probably 
thought it in vain to propose. 

The dreadful alternative, hovv'ever, of adhering to the pre- 
sent method of brutal coercion is such as it would be well 
worth every sacrifice to avoid ; for it is not only an opprobrious 
degradation of our species, and cruel injustice When applied to 
innocent men, but largely and unavoidably destructive of their 
health and lives. 

One of its indisputably Cruel and murderous effects demands 
particular notice, and has not hitherto, I think, met with the 
attention it deserves. I mean the impossibility of r^'conciling 
with the system, in a multitude of cases, the allowance of such 
alleviations or temporary suspensions of labour to individuals, 
as sickness or weakness may render necessary for the recovery 
of health and the preservation of life. 

Even in this temperate and healthy climate it is not uncom- 

236 Of' the cruel ami pernicious Means 

nion that languor, weariness, and debility, proceeding from no 
apparent cause, are the first symptoms of a serious disease. 
Hard working people of both sexes, sometimes find themselves 
unfit to go to their ordinary work ; or are obliged during the 
progress of it, to pause, sit down, or retire, from sensations that 
they can ill explain ; though to resist them, might not only 
be painful but dangerous. With men and women working 
under a vertical sun, in a climate where the first sense of 
disease is often but a brief prelude to its crisis, such cases 
cannot but be very frequent ; yet, to allow the slaves to re- 
main in their huts, or to suspend or quit their work in the 
field, on the plea of weakness or weariness alone, would be 
incompatible with the driving system. Such pleas would be 
perpetually brought forward, if they were always or often to 
prevail ; for that the poor people dislike the toil they are driven 
to, and would always obtain a suspension of it if they could, 
will hardly, I presume, be doubted. 

Should any authorities be desired for such natural conse- 
quences of forced labour, or to shew that fatal effects often un- 
avoidably result from overruling the plea of weakness or sick- 
ness when truly alleged, better evidence of both cannot be 
desired than what has been furnished by that long-experienced 
planter and physician, Dr. Collins. 

" You must expect," says he, ** that your negroes, from a 
" constant desire of sparing themselves, will under different 
" pretexts, be for changing their divisions, and taking a sta- 
" tion where they are required to do less, as you will find them 
" all desirous of doing no more than they can avoid. You 
" must necessarily check these attempts, unless you are satis- 
" fied, that there is a real necessity for indulging them, by 
" such evidence of their impaired strength, as you can no longer 
" doubt."t 

He is here speaking in reference to his proposed classifi- 
cation, and the desire to pass from the strong into the 
weaker gang ; but on the ordinary claims of indulgence, 
or exemption from work, he speaks more copiously in his 

* P. 184. 

by which Slave Labour is enforced. 237 

chapter on the sick, a few extracts from which may suf- 
fice : 

" Sorry am I that the subject requires me to say, that no 
" part of negro management has been more neglected, or erro- 
" neously performed, than that which regards the treatment 
" of the sick. I have seen many slaves that were compelled 
" to persevere at their work, who ought to have been in the 
" hospital. This may have arisen sometimes from the im- 
" patience of the master to advance his work ; but I believe 
" much more generally, from the difficulty which he is under, 
" of distinguishing real from affected illness ; for when labour 
" presses, all would be ill to escape the field ; and it is not at 
" all times in the power of the doctor to discover the impo- 
" sition."* 

He proceeds, in that and the following chapter, to give 
such an account of the general neglect of the sick, and the 
ordinary state of the hospitals and sick-houses, as would be 
well wortli the perusal of those who have been taught to be- 
lieve, that the humanity of masters, and their regard to their 
own interest, are sufficient pledges for the good treatment of 
the slaves ; but this part of the system well deserves a separate 
consideration, and L will here extract only one passage or two 
that are in point to my immediate subject ; as they shew to what 
miseries the poor slaves will submit to escape from the driving- 

'' It is in vain to dissemble," says he, " that the sick are 
" but too frequently neglected ; for the hospital being rather 
*' a disgusting scene, charged with unpleasant odours, and 
" occupied by offensive objects, it is no wonder that men 
" should neglect a duty the performance of which is attended 
" with painful emotions." "The negroes are overlooked or for- 
•* gotten, they linger in misery and pine in neglect, and if 
" they recover, you may be assured it is nature that has car- 
" ried them through the disorder. "f 

Even with the improvements which he in this respect suo"- 
gests, the hospital would be apparently a most deterring abode. 
It is in fact a prison, which he says, should be " secured by 

P. 236. t Ibid. p. 253-4. 

238 Of the cruel and pernicious Means 

" bars OK jealousies to prevent the escape of the negroes ;" and 
to prevent the nurses' connivance at their going out by night, 
he advises to have the key of the outer door brought in the 
evening to the manager's house. He states also, that " it is 
" usual on many estates, when the negroes are in the hospital, 
"to give them no other food than what their friends sup- 

All this would seem to make the hospital, or sick-house, as 
it is more usually called, no very desirable retreat. Yet, he 
says, " If your humanity disposes you to be very indulgent to 
*' your negroes, or if their labour be at all severe, &c., your 
" sick-house will probably be crowded with complainants, 
"some of whom will be really ill, while others only affect to 
" be so, either from natural indolence of disposition, or from 
" their having overslept themselves, being afraid of going to 
" the field, lest they should be punished for the delay. It is 
" your business to ascertain from which of these causes their 
" presence in the hospital arises ; and this is a task of no or- 
" dinary difficulty ; as every art will be used to mislead and 
" deceive you."* 

He proceeds to give suggestions as to the best means of 
lessening this difficulty, and therein observes, " You will find 
" others, who without any illness to which you can give a 
" name, have notwithstanding a claim to your indulgence, 
" for they have been harassed by the preceding day's work, 
" and feel languid and exhausted. This happens frequently 
" to very old negroes, whose constitutions are not very robust, 
** and may happen to others, even of the strongest, after great 
" exertions and hard continued work for too great length of 
*' time. You may the more safely indulge them with the sick- 
*' house, under the assurance, that they will remain there no 
" longer than is really necessary for their recovery." 

" Some negroes may be really indisposed, though they are 
" without any of the symptoms which indicate indisposition, 
" but as it is impossible for you to judge with certainty in 
" suqh cases, and as the business of the plantation could be 
" veiy ill-performed, if you were indiscriminately to indulge 

Ibid. p. 259. 

by which Slave Labour is enforced. 239 

" all who prefer rest to labour, you must be governed by the 
" general habits and reputation of the negro, &c. You may 
" expect to be often deceived ; but if a man is to to err, it 
" should be on the side of humanity."* 

Those who have ever allowed themselves to be deceived by 
the impostures of other colonists, surely cannot read passages 
like this without astonishment. " How," they may reasona- 
ably exclaim, ** do the planters attempt to reconcile such fea- 
" tures of their system, with the accounts they give us of the 
" lightness of slave labour, of the hilarity with which it is per- 
" formed, and of the copious leisure and manifest comforts 
" and recreations, nay the dissipation and luxury, which are 
" enjoyed by the labouring slave ?" I answer they do not at- 
tempt it at all. They are too prudent to notice the admis- 
sions of men of their own party, whose credit they know it 
is in vain to impeach, especially such men as Dr. Collins. 
They have a less hopeless game to play ; like that of the counsel 
for a defendant in a desperate case, who is too prudent to state 
and answer the evidence he has to grapple with, but endea- 
vours to draw off the attention of the jury from its effect by 
lauding the general character and conduct of his client, and by 
insidious imputations on the plaintiff. They rely on the inat- 
tention or forgetfulness of the British public in a long and 
wearisome controversy ; and hope, not I fear in vain, that 
bold generalities of assertion, however irreconcilable with the 
established facts, mixed up with incessant railings against their 
opponents, as fanatics, enthusiasts, and incendiaries, will 
supply the place of sound or consistent argument, and fair 

But those impartial minds who feel it a duty in this cause 
of helpless and oppressed multitudes to reason before they de- 
cide, will see enough even in the last extracts I have given, to 
beat down all the sophistry, and all the falsehood of their op- 
pressors ; for what must be the irksomeness of that labour, 
what the severity of that discipline, to escape from which a 
loathsome hospital, and close imprisonment, is so cov€ted an 
asylum, that the slaves resort to falsehood, and artful imposture. 

Ibid. p. 260, 261, 262. 

240 Of the cruel and pernicious Means 

at the peril of the cart-whip, to obtain it ! What must be 
thought here of the audacious comparison with the state of 
the free peasantry of England ! The wages of our agricultural 
labourers are often lamentably low, and their comforts scanty 
enough ; but when were they found desirous to exchange their 
employment in the field, to obtain, under the pretence of sick- 
ness, admission into our hospitals, or the parish workhouses? 
the worst of which are most desirable abodes when com- 
pared to a plantation sick-house. 

What I would chiefly here draw the attention of my readers 
to, however, is the admitted ordinary difficulty, and frequent 
impossibility of distinguishing between real and pretended in- 
capacity for labour ; and this not by the drivers only, but by 
the proprietor or his manager, and even by the medical prac- 
titioner, called the doctor of the estate. If it is hard or im- 
possible for them to determine in the case of the slave who 
asks as*' an indulgence," and a boon, an exchange of the field 
for the hospital, on the score of debility or disease, whether 
the plea is well or ill founded, surely it must be still more out 
of the power of the drivers, to decide such a question during 
the long protracted labours of the day, when individuals of 
the gang under their discipline, work with langour, and 
allege bodily indisposition as the cause, I do not indeed find 
it any where alleged that the driver's authority extends to 
the allowance of any such excuse, so as to dismiss them from 
the field. I believe he has no such power ; and as to that of 
sparing them in their share of the forced exertions,let the reader 
recollect what I have beforecited from the same high authority, 
" your drivers, insensible of the cause of their backwardness, or 
" )iot iveighi)ig it properli/,ivill incessantly urge them ivith stripes 
" or threats to keep up tcith the others, bj/ trhich mea)is thetj are 
" overwrought ami compelled to resort to the sick-house ;" i. e. on 
their return to the homestall. 

Let not the drivers bear unjustly the whole reproach of this in- 
sensibility, for how could they possibly distinguish, if permit- 
ted to do so, between real inability and disinclination for the re- 
quisite exertion, when it is admitted that that the latter is so 
general, as always to furnish a probable motive for dissimulation; 
and that the former is frequently so well feigned as to deceive 
the most intelligent and expert ? In all probability it is often 

hi) whkli S/ave Labour is enforced. 241 

truly alleged in the field during work by the very individuals 
who had been refused the asylum of the sick-house when 
they craved it from the manager in the morning ; and is the 
driver to receive an appeal from that judgment? He has a 
certain force committed as effective to his direction : at his 
own peril of servile punishment, the appointed work must be 
accomplished by the gang ; and were he to spare any indivi- 
dual who alleges incompetency to his proper share of it, the 
common task could not be fully performed. 

It is not then to be imputed to the drivers, nor always to 
the overseer or manager, nor even to the doctor, if he is 
consulted,* when a feeble or sick slave, is driven all day long 
to the most arduous exertions under a tropical sun, kept to his 
labours till raidnip;ht, and oblioed to resume them at the ear- 
liest dawn, though all the while diseased and exhausted nature 
is pleading earnestly for repose. The fault is inherent in the 
unnatural and opprobrious system of coercion itself; and could 
no other cause be assigned for the shocking waste of life upon 
sugar estates, in a race uncommonly robust and prolific, this 
might be enough amply to account for it. 

I might further enlarge on this odious practice of driving, 
I might shew by evidence equally beyond dispute, its perni- 
cious effects on the weaker sex, especially in their times of 
pregnancy. I might shew how incompatible it is with all the 
proper incentives to virtuous industry, how infallibly it produces 
an aversion to voluntary labour, destroys every germ of civiliz- 
ation, precludes advances in moral and intellectual character. 

* Doctor Collins, indeed, censures, and not without reason, the frequent 
conduct of medical practitioners in such cases : " He (the doctor) pops 
" into the hospital and questions the sick; when, if the pulse neither in- 
" dicates fever, nor the frequency of evacuations a flux, he concludes there 
" is no disorder, and the negro is dismissed to the field ; yet even by this 
" attendance, superficial as it is, he earns dearly enough the slender 
"stipend that is allowed him. (p. 254.) Dearly indeed! since he must 
" either be the daily dupe of his unfortunate patients, to the ruin of his 
" own credit and practice, or risk the subjecting them by his errors to un- 
"just and cruel, and even to fatal effects. I have heard such men 
" complain of this branch of their duty as an intolerable burthen on their 
" feelings." 

N OL, II. U 

242 Of the cruel and pernicious Means, ^c. 

hardens the heart of the master, and brutifies the slave. But 

these topics may be pretty safely left to the reflections of 

every considerate reader ; and I ought not, without necessity, 

to extend the limits of a work, that is already, I fear, too 

bulky for the time and patience of active and influential 





Section I. — This Proposition shewn to be highli/ probable 
from the Nature of the Case. 

Having demonstrated that the forced labour on sugar es- 
tates is oppressively severe, in all the various views I have 
taken of it, in its duration, its intensity, and the means of 
its exaction, and that the consequences are highly cruel and 
pernicious ; I have next, in pursuance of the plan proposed, 
to state " the ordinary treatment of the slaves in respect of 
" food, clothing, and other necessaries, under the general head 
" of maintenance :" and first, as to the most important article, 

But here, as in the preceding branches of my subject, I 
have, prepossessions to encounter, as well as bold and artful 
and assiduous misrepresentations of the actual practice, to 
refute ; I will, therefore, again request my readers to reflect 
on the inherent probabilities of the case, before I state the 
facts to them, and adduce the evidence. 

It was shewn that the natural and inevitable tendency of 
the master's avarice or selfishness, armed with irresistible 
power, and even of his necessities, consequent on the eager 
competition that has long prevailed between planters, both 
British and foreign, in the supply of the European markets 
with sugar, must be to cheapen the forced labour era- 
ployed in its production, to a degree highly oppressive upon 

R 2 

244 The Slaves art 

the helpless enslaved workmen by whom the commodity is 
raised. From this consideration and others, it was inferred 
a priori, that the exaction of forced labour was likely to 
have been pushed to excess ; and I trust that the inference 
has now been abundantly confirmed by such evidence of the 
fact as no candid mind can resist. 

Now, the same reasoning tends, and with equal force, to 
raise a high probability that the slaves are too penuriously 
maintained : for as the cost of their maintenance is a deduction 
from the annual proceeds of the estate, the lessening of this 
must be dictated by the same motives, or enforced by the 
same economical necessity, as the aggravation of the labour. 
Subsistence has not improperly been called " the wages of the 
" slave;" and a reduction in the rate of wages is a saving 
expedient at least as likely to be adopted by employers who 
have power for the purpose, as an increase in the quantum 
of work. Where the labourers are free, it is when competition 
presses on the master for oeconomy, his first, because his most 
easy, if not only resort : but even in the treatment of slaves, 
it is easier to withhold than to exact ; and especially when 
the quantum of forced labour already imposed is too great to 
be easily sustained. 

Nor will this argument lose any of its force, if we suppose 
the slave to be chiefly or wholly maintained in respect of 
food, by means of his own labour, in raising provisions for 
himself; because the time and capacity for work allotted to 
that purpose, might otherwise be employed for the master's 
more direct and immediate profit, in the enlargement of his 
crops. It will be a perfectly fair, as well as the simplest and 
clearest, view of the subject, to regard the whole value of the 
maintenance, however supplied, as a deduction from the 
actual or potential proceeds of the estate. 

When slaves are kept for the master's convenience, luxury, 
or state, not his agricultural or manufacturing profit, there 
is little or no temptation to subject them to any excess of 
labour ; but only to stint them in their maintenance. This 
was, for the most part, the case in that slavery which is 
noticed in the apostolic writings ; and we consequently find 
a precept opposed to the latter mode of oppression, " Masters 
give unto your servants that which is just and equal," but no 

very scatitUy nudntaincd. 245 

specific prohibition of imposing on them an undue quantum of 
work. With the sugar planter, on the contrary, whose profit 
from the labour of his slaves is his sole object in acquiring 
or keeping such property, the temptation to a selfish abuse of 
power is not only in the withholding what is just and equal, 
but in pushing the forced labour to excess. 

In one view, indeed, the planter may be thought the most 
likely to exceed on the withholding, or penurious side; es- 
pecially when money is to be paid for the articles of main- 
tenance that he has to provide ; for avarice is often seen to 
prompt men to be sparing in their immediate pecuniary dis- 
bursements, even at a great expence of their future gains. 

The sugar planter's temptations on this side, are much 
enhanced by the great number of slaves he has to maintain. 
If, like English farmers, he had but three or four labourers 
constantly in employ, the difference between a moderate and 
severe economy in their subsistence, might be a saving little 
worth his attention; but having perhaps two hundred ne- 
groes, to be fed throughout the year, the saving a few pounds 
of flour or grain in the weekly rations of each individual, or 
the labour of half a day weekly in the time allowed for raising- 
provisions, is felt by him as an important object. Let it be 
supposed that four pounds of flour per week ought to be 
added to the actual allowances, in order to make them, in 
a humane or equitable view, sufficient; and that this quantity 
of imported flour would cost a shilling. If so, the planter 
saves by the present scantiness of his rations, ten pounds 
every week, and no less than five hundred and twenty pounds 
yjer annum. 

Can it be thought, then, that the same men who, whether 
from avaricious views, or by the constraint of their own ne- 
cessities, have imposed on their slaves a cruel excess of la- 
bour, forcing them to work on an average sixteen hours and 
upwards, and often eighteen hours in the twenty-four, and 
depriving them in great measure of their sabbath rest, have 
resisted the stronger and nearer temptation of saving large 
sums, or gaining much exportable produce, by a too parsi- 
monious scale of subsistence, or too scanty an allowance of 
time for raising it ? 

No counterpoise to the temptation can be suggested in the 

246 The Slaves are 

one case, that does not exist in the other, to at least an equal 
degree. As to feelings of humanity, these, while unspoiled 
by habitual violence done to them in practice, might be ex- 
pected to oppose rather more strongly any excess on the 
exacting, than on the withholding side ; because the neces- 
sary means of giving effect to the former, are more actively 
and manifestly cruel, and more revolting to liberal minds. 
The sufferings of the hungry or ill-fed slave may not present 
themselves to the master's eyes or ears ; but to force from 
him exertions beyond what his nature can sustain without 
distress, the whip must be ruthlessly employed. 

It is enough, however, for my present purpose to contend, 
that where the one species of economical abuse prevails in 
a cruel degree, the other is not likely to be absent ; and 
having proved to what a truly enormous excess the forced 
labour of slaves is carried on suoar estates, I am entitled to 
infer tbe great probability that their maintenance is not li- 
beral ; but in a high degree the reverse. " The same fountain 
does not cast forth at the same time sweet waters and bitter :" 
nor can we expect that the same masters who covetously and 
cruelly overwork their helpless bondsmen, deal out to them 
with a humane and liberal hand, the maintenance which is 
the price of their service. 

Having looked thus far at the inherent probabilities of the 
case, let us next see what is the extent of past and present 
controversy as to the actual facts of it. 

Section II. — Extent of Co)tlroversy on lids Subject. 

It was shewn in my former volume (p. 89 — 100), that in 
a very comprehensive class of ordinary cases, the inadequacy 
of subsistence was put out of dispute, by the express ad- 
missions of the colonists, the statements of their assemblies, 
and the recitals of their laws. When the planters are ne- 
cessitous and embarrassed in their circumstances, their slaves, 
it was admitted, are not only scantily fed, but often subjected 
to absolute want. Now a large proportion of the sugar- 

oery scantily maintained. 247 

planters are at all times necessitous and embarrassed ; as 
was abundantly shewn from the same authorities.* 

It may seem therefore that there can be no question at issue 
between the colonial and anti-slavery parties as to sufficient 
or scanty feeding, that is not qualified with reference to the 
master's circumstances, or his ability to provide an adequate 
supply of food. But to assume this, would be to suppose the 
colonial party concluded by their own admissions or state- 
ments; and held to the vulgar rule of consistency in their 
propositions and reasonings; whereas the apologists of slavery 
seem to think that the difficulty of their undertaking entitles 
them always to play fast and loose with their own premises, 
and to contradict themselves and their employers as to matters 
of fact, and of argumentative deduction also, as often as it 
suits their purpose. Many of them, in this instance, notwith- 
standing the express admissions I have referred to, have 
stoutly maintained, and continue to assert, in the most univer- 
sal and unqualified terms, that the slaves are abundantly fed ; 
and have even derided, as absurd and incredible, every con- 
trary statement by anti-slavery writers. 

Should any reader, a stranger to this new style of contro- 
versy, ask, " then how do they dispose of the testimony given 
on their own side, when quoted against them ?" I answer (as 
before, in regard to labour,) by leaving it wholly unnoticed. 
Like able generals in the improved art of war, they dash 
forward for the sake of immediate effect, with their full force of 
intrepid assertion and abuse, regardless of the strong positions 
before surrendered by themselves or their copartizans which 
the enemy holds in their rear. 

Sometimes they practice a still more dexterous and daring 
manoeuvre, of which their professed reply to my first volume, 
under the name of Mr. Alexander Barclay, furnishes many 
examples. It is to treat a statement of their own party when 
cited against them, not as a quotation, but as a mere ipsediiit 
of the opponent who cites it ; and then give it a bold contra- 
diction ; leaving the reader wholly unaware that it was 
grounded on authority they were bound by, or on any 
evidence at all. By this honest stratagem it is concealed 

* \'ol. i. pp. 89 — 99, and Appendix tliereto, No.I\^ 

248 The Slaves are 

from the readers of Mr. Barclay's work, that I had cited in 
proof of the propositions last referred to, such high colonial 
authorities as Sir William Young, Mr, Barham, Dr. Collins, 
Mr. Bryan Edwards, the petitions of the Jamaica Assembly, 
and the Act of the Legislature of all the Leeward Islands; 
though I not only cited them all, but used their very lan- 
guage, to shew the perennial prevalence of distress and ruin 
among the planters of the sugar colonies ; and the sad effects 
of the master's debts and necessities on the subsistence of 
the slaves. My opponent has the superlative confidence to 
treat the proposition, that the slaves suffer in those very ordi- 
nary cases, as if it stood on my suggestion alone ; next to 
oppose to it his own unsupported assertions : and then to rail 
at me for havino; advanced so groundless a charge.* 

Having to deal with such antagonists, it is not easy for me 
to say what the limits of this controversy now are ; what 
points may be taken as conceded, and what are still in dispute. 
According to all the colonial authorities cited in my former 
volume, and many more that I could add to them, I might 
fairly assume as an admitted fact, that the slaves of indigent 
and embarrassed planters are often " scanted in their main- 
" tenance," i. e. left ill-clothed, under-fed, and half-starved ; 
and it seemed that, in respect of such cases, I had only to 
contend, as I did in my former volume, that the excuse de- 
rived from the master's necessities is, in its principle, unsound. 

This I maintained, and still maintain ; because it is unjust 
and inhuman to hold men in slavery, to work them hard, and 
take all the fruits of their labour, and yet leave them in want 
of food, in order that the master's debts may be paid, or the 
coercion of his mortgagees prevented ; because, also, it is ad- 
mitted, and quite undeniable, that the slaves could provide 
sufficiently for their own subsistence, if land enough and time 
enough were allowed to them for the purpose ; and further, 
because the colonial legislatures might (as that of the Leeward 

* See my first volume of this work, pp. 89 — 100, and tlie Appendix, 
No. TV. and Mr. Barclay's " Examination" of it, pp. 70 — 74. Let any 
reader who doubts whether such fraudulent artifices as I have here ascribed 
to ray opponents are really and systematically practised by them, fairly 
compare the two works in the places here referred to. 

very sccnitili/ maiiilained. 249 

Islands did, though by a law obsolete in practice) make the 
expense of their maintenance a primary charge on the produce 
of their labours. 

So I argued ; and the arguments are to this hour un- 
answered. But now the colonists, by their new champion, 
discard their own former premises ; and, instead of defending 
the once acknowledged case, or noticing the proofs of it that 
I cited against them, turn round on me, and stoutly deny that 
it has, or ever had, any existence. Let me again place one or 
two of the former admissions under the eyes of my readers, and 
with them these strange retractations. " Whereas (said the 
" preamble of the meliorating act of the Leeward Islands) many 
'^persons have often been prevented from supplying their slaves 
" with sufficient food andclothing, by the encumbered state of their 
"property; those plantations and slaves being sometimes charged 
" with mortgages or other incumbrances to so great an amount as 
" to leave no surplus &jc. for the riecessary subsistence of their 
" slaves ; and merchants have been discouraged from selling pro- 
" visions or clothing to persons in doubtful or embarrassed circum- 
" stances, to the very great distress and danger of the slaves, and 
** also to the manifest prejudice of mortgagees or other creditors, 
" whose securities may, in very great measure, depend upon the 
" lives or good condition of such slaves.''* 

Many years later, and seven years after the abolition of the 
slave trade, the Council and Assembly of Antigua recognized 
in substance the continuance of the same case ; stating as an 
excuse for the non-execution of a law, prescribing certain al- 
lowances of provisions for the plantation slaves (a default 
which they were driven by parliamentary investigations to ad- 
mit), that " many proprietors, though very desirous of com- 
" plying with the provisions of the law, were prevented from 
" so doing by the unavoidable difficulties under ivhich they la- 
" boured,'' and " that there were many planters ivho had it not 
" in their power to icithhold any part of the produce of their 
^' plantations from their creditors." f 

* See Vol. I. p. 92, and the Act itself, in papers, printed by order of the 
House of Commons, June 8, 1804, H 24. 

t See Vol. I. p. 100, and Papers of July 1'2, 1815, p. 14'.'. 

'250 The Slaves are 

And what said the assembly of Jamaica ; an island which 
the authors of Barclay's Practical View delight to resort to 
for their asserted facts, treating a defence of its system, even 
in points confessedly peculiar to it, as a sufficient one for all 
the sugar colonies ? " It is to save our oion labourers from 
" absolute want that ive solicit the interposition of our Sovereign/' 
&,c. " Thej/ will not be peisuaded that their masters are innocent 
" of their miseries ; and their rage and despair may involve our 
*' country in anarchy and blood.'" — " From the impossibility oj 
" giving the usual comfoiis to their labourers, all are exposed to 
" the eff^ects of convulsions," &c. *' It is enough for us to allude 
" to them, without opening up their horrors." Again, " The pro- 
" prietor sickens at the additioiud labour of his people, while he is 
" unable to give them the usual remuneration of their toil."* 

Such were some of the statements, such the painful con- 
fessions, of these legislative bodies, which I cited and relied on; 
and Dr. Collins was shewn to have confirmed them in a way 
the most impressive : for he laboured to convince his unfortu- 
nate brother planters, that it was their duty to surrender 
their estates to their creditors, when unable to feed their slaves 
sufficiently, rather than relieve themselves from their difficul- 
ties, or take the chance of doing so, at the cost of" the blood of 
" their oicn species." 

I certainly was of the same opinion ; and thought moreover 
that it was a reproach to the colonial legislatures to have left 
open that " horrid" alternative, as Dr. Collins justly called it, 
by not compelling the planters, in whatever circumstances, to 
give a sufficient maintenance to their slaves, while working 
hard for their profit. 

But we were all, it seems, dreaming of phantoms that had 
no real existence ! for the colonists now assure us, by the pen 
of Mr. Alexander Barclay, that slaves do not suffer at all in 
such circumstances, and from the nature of the case cannot pos- 
" sibly do so ;" that the mortgagees are the real proprietors, 
and would supply them if the master in possession could not ; 
but that, in point of fact, planters, however " miserably dis- 

* Ibid. p. 90, 90, 91, and the original public document there referred to, 
being a petition from the Jamaica Assembly to the Prince Hegent inl811,&c. 

vnfii sea II tilt/ mainlaiiied. 251 

" tressed themselves," never do curtail the comforts of their 
slaves."* " Quo teneam vnltus, mutantem Protea nodoV — 
To argue with these opponents on their own ever-shifting pre- 
mises, is like painting a canielion. 

They are not content, however, I repeat, with the privilege 
of self-contradiction, even in its most glaring forms ; but with 
matchless assurance, arraign of falsehood and defamation any 
antagonist who ventures to quote against them such former 
statements of themselves, their co-partizans, or employers. 
Shamelessly sinking the fact that such quotations were made, 
or any other authority adduced against them, they ascribe to 
his misrepresentation and malice the very statements and con- 
fessions he cites. The style in the passages here referred to, 
as in many other instances of these most disingenuous 
evasions, is, "il/r. Stephe>isaijs," " Mr. Stephen himself acknoiv- 
" ledges,'' &c. and hotv can the mortgages, as Mr. Stephen says, 
" affect the slaves so seriously," 8cc. Nay, the practical 
remedies which I had suggested for the often-acknowledged 
mischief, though borrowed from the Act of the Leeward 
Islands itself, and recommended by me on the authority of that 
precedent, are characterised as " neiv attd dangerous schemes and 
" innovations, founded on ignorance and false assumptions, and 
" on fallacious theories, applied by enthusiasts in England to a 
"foreign communitj/, of the state of ivhich they are entirely ig- 
" norant."-\ 

If the indignation and disgust which colonial slavery, when 
truly pourtrayed, must excite in every liberal mind, were 
capable of augmentation, surely it would be found in these 
contemptible shifts, and fraudulent artifices, to which its 
apologists are driven. X 

* Barclay's Practical View, &c. pp. 70 — 74. f Ibid. p. 72. 

X Let it not be supposed that 1 have selected this as one of the strongest 
specimens to be found in this work of Mr. Barclay, though put forth and 
widely circulated by the colonial party, and boasted of by them as a satis- 
flictory reply to my former volume. Let any man select at random from 
his 491 pages any one in which my former volume is referred to, and then 
collate the commentary with the text, and with its immediate context; and 
I will undertake to shew to him either some manifest suppression or muti- 
lation of my statements or arguments, some gross perversion of their mean- 
ing, or at least some evasion or palpable sophistry in the reply affected to 
be (jiven to nie. 

252 The Slaves are 

Leaving such replies to the understanding and feelings of 
my readers, and resting on the very authoritative and decisive 

By far the largest part of Mr. Barclay's Practical View, like the kindred 
work of Mr. M'Queen, relates to topics which I have declined the discus- 
sion of in this volume, for reasons already assigned ; and I have no desire 
to exceed my proposed limits for the sake of replying more generally to 
such antagonists, who have virtually put themselves out of the lists, by 
violating every law of legitimate controversy. But among the noble and 
honourable planters resident here, who have made themselves responsible 
for Mr. B.'s work, by patronizing it, at least, and promoting its circulation, 
there are some, perhaps, who are more than by profession friendly to the 
})ioral and religious interests of their slaves ; and who may think conse- 
quently that, when advocating these, at least, I ought not to have been 
unfairly treated. I will therefore depart from my general rule, so far as to 
ask whether they are prepared to approve and abide by such a disingenuous 
and evasive defence of their moral characters, in the relation of slave-owners, 
as is to be found in the following extracts. 

In noticing a distinction between the West India slave laws, and our old 
English law of villeinage, the former regarding the mother's servile state 
as deciding that of the children, the latter the state only of the father, I liad 
remarked that if the law of villeinage governed the case, the marriage of 
slaves would have been anxiously promoted, instead of being discouraged ; 
because without it no title to the issue could^ in right of the father, be made, 
and being illegitimate they would, by the law of villeinage, be free ; whereas, 
by the colonial law, the issue of an unmarried black woman, though by a 
white man, are slaves, and belong to her master. I inferred, " that instead 
" of sending out and employing as managers, overseers, and book-keepers, 
" single men in the heat of youth, and giving them a range of intercourse 
" among the female slaves, icnrcstranied by disfavour or reproach, and encou- 
" raged by general example, married men, or men of strict morals or decent 
" manners, at least, would have been preferred for suck situations." — Deline- 
ation of Slavery, vol. i. p. 1 24. 

Now what is Barclay's answer to this ? Suppressing entirely the context, 
and leaving unnoticed the occasion of the stricture, he cites, with inverted 
commas, the first clause of the above passage, omitting the words above 
printed in italics ; and says, " The planters, complains Mr. Stephen, send 
" out and employ as managers, overseers, and book-keepers, single men 
" in the heat of youth," as if that had been the only charge against them ; 
and then asks, " Can the planters find married men to go out to the West 
" Indies with their families, or can the planters be reasonably required, from 
" apprehension of immoral practices, to give all their servants the means of 
" marrying and of supporting families ? Do the masters in England, where 
" living is less expensive, act thus to their servants ?" And there he leaves 
the defence of his honovirable employers. 

Had the quotation been fairly made, his readers would have seen that not 

rcri/ sc(titlilij iiutintaiiied. 253 

colonial testimonies here cited and referred to, I will assume as 
an established and well-admitted truth, that when the master 
is necessitated and embarrassed, i.e. on a large proportion of 
sugar estates, the slaves, though worked as hard or harder than 
ever, are often very insufficiently fed ; or, to use the words of 
that eminent planter and colonial champion the late Sir Wil- 
liam Young, " the pressure of mortgages and personal need" 
induce the planters " to scant and overwork their slaves -y* or 
the reader may substitute, if he pleases, the more explanatory 
concession of Mr. Bruithwaite, late agent of Barbadoes : — 
" The allowance of corn to a negro must depend on the cir- 
*' cumstances of his master. If the planter fails in his own 
" crop of corn, he must purchase. Should the price demanded 
" be more than he is able to pay, his negroes must suffer. To 
" a planter in debt there may be a fatal difference to his negroes 
" whether corn is at five, ten, or fifteen shillings per bushel ; 
" as he may have credit for one hundred pounds, but not for 
*' double or treble that sum."|^ 

Now what man not inured to the practical system can think 
this a defensible part of it ? The labourer who is constrained 
to work, and does work most arduously, for the benefit of a 
particular master, is doomed to suffer hunger, and in a degree 

the sending out young men, but the allowing them to exercise, without dis- 
favour or reproach, their irresistible power of debauching the female 
slaves, to which their youth and single state must strongly dispose them, was 
the gist of the charge thus dexterously evaded ; a charge made by almost 
every writer on one side of this controversy, and admitted by every writer 
on the other who has ventured to touch on the subject; being, in fact, too 
notorious for contradiction. But his readers then would have anticipated 
the reply, that his comparison with English masters is preposterous and 
insulting ; that as the managers are not domestic servants, no family incon- 
venience, but the sordid economies alone of a sugar-plantation forbids their 
marrying ; that no English landlord requires his steward or bailiff to live 
unmarried ; and, above all, that such agents here, have no power of con- 
straining, by the exercise of a despotic and tremendous power, the female 
peasants on the estate to gratify their libidinous desires. There are never- 
theless few masters among us, I trust, who would suffer the seduction of 
their female servants by a bailiff or steward to pass uncensured or un- 

* Vol. I. p. 95. 

f Privy Council Report, part iii. title Barbadoes, 2 A, No. 5. 

254 The Slaves are 

that may be fatal to his frame, because that niastei- is in debt, 
and because the whole marketable produce of the labour is 
paid over to his creditors. The slave is starved, to save the 
owner from a foreclosure or execution ! If this be right, or if 
the legislators who permit it are guiltless, then the infamous 
Mrs. Brownrigg, who was hanged in this country for starving 
her apprentices, and another wretched female who recently 
suffered here for the same crime, were perhaps condemned very 
unjustly. Their excuse was probably not worse than that of 
the embarrassed planters who starve their slaves ; unless neces- 
sitous circumstances deserve less allow^ance in a low station 
than in a high one. 

This species of oppression is doubtless the most grievous, 
generally speaking, on deeply encumbered estates ; but it is 
not with a view to such cases alone, numerous though they 
are, that I have adduced these well-established facts. They 
evince clearly, what many on this side of the Atlantic may 
find it hard to believe, notwithstanding the express testimony 
on the colonial side which I have cited, and have still to cite. 
They shew that, under some circumstances at least, British 
planters are capable of subjecting their hard-worked labourers 
to famine, and holding fast the chain of slavery, at the cost, 
to repeat the strong, but just language of Dr. Collins, " of the 
" blood of their oicn species.^' It will therefore be the less 
difficult to believe, that under ordinary degrees of tempta- 
tion, the same gentlemen have reduced the maintenance to a 
degree at which justice and humanity revolt. That this is 
the case, even under the most ordinary circumstances, I main- 
tain, and undertake to prove. 

Here the apologists of the system and their opponents have 
been very widely at variance. Their general propositions, at 
least, have been remote as the north and south poles from 
each other. On the one side, the maintenance has been 
alleged to be not only adequate, but liberal ; on the other, to 
be in all points, comprising the vital one of provisions, op- 
probriously scanty and sordid. The one party, as we have 
seen, has excepted the case of indigent owners ; the other not 
even the most affluent. 

But wide though the controversy is, I trust to decide it to 

very scant ih/ mainlained. 255 

the satisfaction of every impartial judgment, by the testimony 
of my opponents themselves. 

My plan and means for doing so, will be, first, to overthrow 
the false case set up on the part of the colonies, by a com- 
parison of the general and very laudatory accounts of some of 
their witnesses, with the less uncandid general accounts or 
admissions of others ; and next, to shew and establish the 
true case, by a collocation of the specific statements and de- 
tails given by the same and other witnesses and writers on the 
colonial side, as to the actual allowances of food and other 
necessaries, periodically given to plantation slaves by their 

Sufficient specimens of the general statements of my op- 
ponents are already before my readers.* I need only ask 
them to remember, that those laudatory testimonies applied 
as strongly to the maintenance of the slaves, our present sub- 
ject, as to the degree of their ordinary labour, in which I have 
shewn them to have been extravagantly opposite to truth. I 
will not encumber my work with further citations to the same 
effect, though multitudes of them might easily be given ; for 
what professed apology for slavery can we open, without find- 
ing boasts that the unfortunate subjects of that state are 
amply, and even superabundantly maintained? Many of those 
writers are not content to stand on the defensive on this point; 
but actually seem to rely on the alleged good feeding, and liberal 
maintenance in all respects, of these poor beings, as an ade- 
quate compensation for their harsh and perpetual bondage. 

That, in respect of food, these pretences were in a great 
degree unfounded, and opposite to truth, has already been 
shewn. They were false, at least, in predicating of the slaves 
at large, that which could be true only of such whose masters 
either were not so poor and embarrassed as to be under a 
strong temptation to scant them ; or had virtue enough to 
resist that temptation, by surrendering their estates to cre- 
ditors, that their slaves might be sufficiently fed. How far 
the former description of planters is from being large enough 
to characterize the general case, I have enabled my readers to 
judge ; and as to the latter, I am not aware of any specimen 

* See supm, p. 21 to 23. 

266 The -S/aves are 

of it that was ever known or alleged. But even if limited to 
the practice of wealthy or prosperous planters, those state- 
ments would confessedly require many and wide exceptions ; 
for it is admitted, that from other causes than the master's 
poverty and want of credit, viz, from his parsimony, or from 
want of industry in the slaves themselves, (a pretext which I 
shall hereafter consider and repel,) these poor labourers are 
often scantily fed ; aye, and to a degree destructive of their 
health and of their lives. 

Dr. Adair, an experienced West India physician, and a 
witness brought forward before the Privy Council Committee 
by the agents of Antigua, assigned as one of the causes of 
mortality and decline of population among plantation slaves 
" the scantiness, and sometimes the bad qualitij of their food ;'' 
and added, for though " industrious slaves have generally so 
" many other resources as (independent of their weekly 
" allowance) to procure them not only the necessaries, but 
" (to them) the luxuries of life, yet it too frequently happens, 
'* that in the distribution of provisions a proper distinction is 
" not made between them and the indolent and thrijtless, so 
"that the latter by their improvidence are rendered tvorth/ess, 
" and even noxious, bij habits of depredation," 

The Doctor added, " But in barren soils, and during long 
" droughts, when the grounds allotted to each slave are not 
" productive, even the industrious slave may suffer ; when a 
" proper compensation is not made by an increase of the 
" weekly allowance, and by giving them food nutritive and 
" invigorating, in proportion to their labour. Though this 
" distress may undoubtedly sometimes be otving to inattention, 
" or ill-judged parsimonij, yet it more frequently proceeds fom 
" real inability to apply an adequate remedy, from the scarcity, 
" or bad quality of imported provision."^ 

Here we have a clear, well-attested fact, with a very ques- 
tionable, as well as imperfect excuse. The most industrious 
slave, i. e. he who adds to the enormous tale of daily work for 
the master, every possible further exertion for his own support, 
may, and often does suffer from hunger and inanition, and 

* Privy Council Repoi't, title Antigua, No. 11. 

mry scaiitilij maintained. 257 

consequent diseases ; and this confessedly sometimes through 
the cruel parsimony of the master. 

That want is often the lot of" indolent or had negroes, idlers, 
or vagrants," Sic. (terms which always, in the plantation 
vocabulary, comprise those who are not hardy enough to 
endure all the severities of their state,) was virtually admitted 
by almost every witness, and by some of them in express 
terms. " 7'Ae good negroes," said Mr. Douglas, ''live in 
" plenii/ ; the vagrants are oj'ten in want, and it is impossible to 
" prevent //."* 

It is not, however, by these exceptions alone, important and 
comprehensive though they are, that the statements I refer to 
have been impeached. They have been already shewn to 
have been since totally abandoned and retracted by the 
colonists themselves ; for they related to a time long antece- 
dent to the abolition of the slave trade, subsequent to which, 
as we are now told, liberality, kindness, and attention to the 
preservation of the slaves, had their commencement. 

Whether the now alleged improvements are less fictitious in 
respect of maintenance, than I have shewn them to be in the 
article of labour, remains to be seen. In neither point would 
there have been any need of, or any room for improve- 
ments, if the account with which Parliament was deluded in 
1790 had been true. But it is with the actual former case, 
not the fabulous one, that we must compare the present, in 
order to ascertain whether any improvements have been really 
made; and it is important, in other views also, to shew in 
every branch of my subject, to what an extent the mother 
country was deceived by the colonists, as to the true nature of 
a system which she is alleged to have concurred in, and to be 
bound, at theexpenceof her purse and her conscience, to uphold. 

I will not therefore be content with falsifying the general 
proposition, that the slaves were liberally and abundantly fed : 
I will shew in detail the shameful reverse ; but will first op- 
pose to it colonial testimony of a general kind, in reference to 
the time of that assertion, as well as to a later period. 

No evidence to that purpose can be more impressive than 
the statements and remarks of Dr. Collins, written several 

* Commons' Report of 1790, p. -289. 

258 The Slaves are 

years after the latest date of the parliamentary evidence. 
There is hardly a paragraph in his whole chapter on diet which 
I might not here use with advantage ; and I regret that the 
whole is much too long for insertion : but I desire the reader's 
particular attention to the following extracts. 

In reasoning anxiously to persuade his brother planters of 
the West Indies at large, to be more liberal in their allow- 
ances of food, he urges their own self-interest, in " the greater 
" labour which a well-fed negro is capable of executing, in 
" proportion to one who is half-starved, and in his exemption 
** from disease, and its possible consequence, death ; for I 
" avow it boldly," he adds, " melancholy experience having 
" given me occasion to make the remark, that a great number of 
" negroes have perished annually by diseases produced by inani- 
" tion. To be convinced of this truth, let us trace the effect 
" of that system which assigned for a negro's weekly allow- 
" ance six or seven pints of flour or grain, with as many salt 
" herrings, and it is in vain to conceal, what we all^ knoio to be 
" true, that in many of the islands they did not give more. 

" With so scanty a pittance, it is indeed possible for the soul 
" and body to be held together for a considerable portion of 
" time, provided a man's only business be to live, and his 
" spirits be husbanded with a frugal hand ; but if motion 
" short of labour, much more labour itself, and that too in- 
" tense, be exacted from him, how is the body to support 
" itself? What is there to thicken and enrich the fluids — 
" what to strengthen the solids, to give energy to the heart, 
" and to invigorate its pulsations ? Your negroes may crawl 
" about with feeble, emaciated frames ; but they will never 
" possess, under such a regimen, that vigour of mind and tone 
" of muscles which the service of the plantation demands. 
'* Their attempts to wield the hoe prove abortive ; they shrink 
" from their toil ; and, being urged to perseverance by stripes, 
"you are soon obliged to receive them into the hospital; 
" whence, unless your plan be speedily corrected, they depart 
" but to the grave.* 

Is it an anti-slavery writer, an enemy to the colonies, (as my 
opponents call every advocate for the poor slaves,) that writes 

* Practical Rules, 87, 88. 

verij scinitilij mai/itaiiied. 259 

thus? or is it a man ignorant of the system, and prejudiced 
against it? No ; it is a very eminent long-experienced West 
India planter and physician, who had resided more than 
twenty years in the West Indies, and who, even in this work, 
was an apologist not only of slavery but the slave trade. He 
it is, who avows the horrible truth that great numbers, every 
year, of these wretched fellow-creatures, while working in- 
tensely for the profit of their masters, are, by their sordid and 
cruel parsimony, killed through inanition ; i.e. slowly starved 
to death. 

" It may possibly be urged in palliation of this practice, 
" (adds Dr. Collins) that in cases of such short allowance 
" as I have mentioned above, negroes do not depend upon 
" that solely for their subsistence ; but that they derive con- 
" siderable aid from little vacant spots on the estate, which 
" they are allowed to cultivate on their own account. Though 
" frequently otherwise, this may sometimes be the case ; yet 
" even there, it is to be observed that such spots in the low- 
" land plantations are capable of producing only for a part of 
" the year ; either through the drought of the season or the 
" sterility of the soil ; and when that happens, the negro is 
*' again at his short allowance ; and, having no honest means 
" of ekeing it out to make it square with the demands of 
" nature, he is compelled to pilfer. His first depredations are 
" directed to canes, which are nearest at hand, and abound 
'' with a sweet and nutritious juice. For the purpose of con- 
" cealment he penetrates into the cane piece, &c. He next ex- 
** tends his ravages to substances more solid, and robs your 
" poultry yard, &c. Is there any thing extraordinary in all 
" this ? Far from it ; such conduct is perfectly natural, I was 
"going to say justifiable: yet when the delinquent is de- 
" tected and apprehended, he is severely whipped, and chain- 
" ed, and confined. But neither chains, nor stripes, nor con- 
" finement can extinguish hunger. The first moment of his 
" release he returns to the same practices, and, dreading a 
** similar punishment, on the apprehension of discovery, he 
*' absconds into the canes, the woods, or among the negroes 
" of some distant plantation, where he remains concealed, 
" until being at length ferretted out by rewards and re-taken, 
" he undergoes a repetition of the same discipline, which co- 

s 2 

260 The Slaves are 

" operating with scanty nourishment, and with colds con-^ 
*' tracted by exposure to the weather during his desertion, it 
" is ten to one but he falls into a distempered habit, which 
** soon hurries him out of the world. 

" Now this was set down as a vicious incorrigible subject, 
" and his death is deemed a beneficial release to the estate : 
" but if we consider the matter more closely, we shall see 
" reason to suspect that the offences of this unfortunate slave 
" did not arise so much from his natural bad disposition, as 
" from the misery of his situation, and the misconduct of his 
" master, who has in fact been his murderer, by withholding 
" from him a subsistence equal to the demands of nature," &c. 
" The truth is, being reduced to the alternative either of 
" starving or stealing, he embraces the latter, only as the least 
" evil of the two ; and thus provides for his stomach at the 
" expence of his posteriors. Some negroes, however, either 
" of more timorous complexions, who out of I'espect to their 
" skins hold a cart-whip in abhorrence, or who, having a 
*' greater faculty of fasting, resist better the impulses of ap- 
" petite, struggle on with their short fare, until impoverished 
" nature, manifesting itself in the shape of some visible dis- 
" order, gives them a title to the sick-house, where they are 
" indulged with all the facilities in the world to die." 
(p. 90, 91.) 

After such extracts, it may be thought that my undertaking 
to shew from authenticated details, what the ordinary main- 
tenance specifically was and is, so far as respects provisions, 
might have been spared ; but as the subject is of vast im- 
portance to the interests of humanity, and as a full explana- 
tion of the practice will throw much light on the sordid 
character of plantation economy in general, and expose the 
gross impostures that have been used in its defence, I must 
adhere to that part of my plan. 

Section III. — Different modes of feeding the slaves in 
different colonies. 

Here 1 must remind my readers of a distinction formerly 
made between two different classes of sugar colonies, which 

very sca/iti/i/ maintained. 261 

vary materially from each other in their ordinary modes of 
slave subsistence. 

Upon most estates in Jamaica, and many in those wind- 
ward islands which are sometimes called the new or ceded 
colonies, the slaves, for the most part, depend for their food 
on the produce of provision-grounds, allotted to them indivi- 
dually, and cultivated by each slave on his or her own ac- 
count, on the Sunday, and at such other portions of daily or 
weekly time as may be left at their own disposal after the 
master's enormous demands for their labour in the cane 
pieces, and at the sugar works, are satisfied. But in the Lee- 
ward Islands, comprising Antigua, St. Christopher, Montser- 
rat, Nevis, and Tortola,* the slaves are, generally speaking, 
and on many estates exclusively, fed by provisions imported or 
bought by the master, and served out to them in weekly 
rations ; the cultivatable lands there being so fully occupied in 
cane planting, and so subject besides to long droughts, (which 
are destructive to native provisions, much more than to the 
hardy and succulent sugar cane) that there are either no suffi- 
cient allotments of land to spare for the slaves, or none that 
can be depended on for their support. The former, for brevity 
sake, I will call the home-fed, and the latter the foreign-fed 

Barbadoes is of a middle character ; the slaves being fed by 
rations from the master's stores, but chiefly on provisions 
grown on his account, and cultivated by the compulsory 
labour of the gang at large ; and I understand the same to be 
the general practice in Demerara and Berbice. 

It is further, however, necessary to premise, for the clearer 
apprehension of some of the evidence I have to adduce, that 
even in the foreign-fed colonies, we hear of the negroes' pro- 
vision grounds, often dignified by the name of gardens; be- 
cause on many upland plantations, there are ridges of land 
between the cane pieces and the wooded mountain-tops, too 
sterile and steep for sugar culture, or for any other purpose 

* Many estates, however, in Tortohi, have provision-grounds that are 
allotted to the slaves for their support. 

262 The Slaves are 

than allotments to the slaves for what are called mountain 
provision-grounds ; and which, from their great altitude and 
the adjacency of the woods, are less subject to drought than 
the lands below. On the lowland estates also, there are com- 
monly "gi</ sides,'' i.e. the steep borders of wash courses, 
and other broken bits of land unfit for cane-planting, which 
the slaves of course are allowed to make such use of as a few 
of them are able to do. There are also commonly a few 
square yards of vacant ground dividing the negro huts, 
which the occupiers may plant if they please ; but which 
generally serve only for yards and passages between the hut^. 
A calabash tree, from which the culinary and other vessels of 
the slaves are supplied, or some other tree, is sometimes seen 
there, and sometimes a few wild plantains or bananas, 
which, when intermixed with the huts, give the group a 
pretty appearance at a distance; but those arid little spots 
furnish in no degree, or a most minute one at best, any arti- 
cles of food. 

All these petty portions of soil collectively, where there 
are no mountain provision-grounds, are capable of con- 
tributing in so very trivial a degree to the support of the 
gang at large, and the attempts of the few individuals 
who endeavour to raise articles of food from them, are so 
often wholly frustrated by droughts, that in an estimate of 
the general means of subsistence, they may fairly be thrown 
out of the account. They have been so indeed by such laws of 
the Leeward Islands, as regulate the allowances of food by the 
masters ; and even by the more candid of the colonial wit- 
nesses and writers. Nor are the mountain provision-grounds 
in those colonies a resource of much importance; except on a 
very few estates, where from local circumstances they are 
more accessible, and more productive than common. In ge- 
neral, they make such small returns of the inferior articles 
of food they yield, and cost such of the slaves as are able 
to cultivate them so much fatigue and detriment to their 
health, from exposure to the chill air and drizzling rains of 
the mountains, and from the temptation to eat their produce 
before it is ripe, that I have heard it disputed as a doubtful 
question between experienced planters in St. Christopher, 

very scantily maintained. 263 

whether the possession of them is, on the whole, any advan- 
tage whatever to an estate. 

For these general distinctions, like the rest, I subjoin some 
authorities ; in pursuance of my ordinary plan to leave no- 
thing that I state notorious, though its truth may be un- 

* " Jamaica and some of the ceded islands feed their negroes at less ' 
*' expence than the Leeward Islands, because they have great tracts of land 
" which are wholly devoted to raising provisions for their negroes, which is 
" not the case in the latter, where, in general, the subsistence of the negroei 
" depends on articles of food imported." (Evidence of Mr. Spooner, agent 
for Grenada and St. Christopher. Privy Council Report, A. No. 7.) 

" The estates in the old windward islands, are not, in general, of above 
" one half the extent they are in the ceded islands. They are of course 
" worse appointed in provision-grounds; and as the climate of these islands 
" is much more uncertain, vert/ little dependanct can he placed on their sea- 
" S071S ; therefore it is not above one year in three that their provisions an- 
^'' swerJ' (Evidence of James Baillie, Esq. Commons' Report of 1790, 
p. 203.) 

Privy Council Query, A. No. .5. "Are negro slaves fed at their master's 
*' expence, or by their own labour ? and when fed by their masters, with 
" what are they fed, and in what quantities ?" 

Extract of the Answer of the Council and Assembly of Nevis. " Negroes 
*' are fed at the expence of the master. The articles of their food are flour, 
" pease, beans, oatmeal, Indian corn or Guinea corn, together with salt 
" provisions." N.B. None of these articles are raised in the island. 

Extract of the Answer of the Council and Assembly of Antigua. " Negro 
" slaves are universally fed in this island, at their master's expence, with 
" Indian corn, beans, rice, flour, yams and potatoes, they have likewise a 
" number of salted herrings or salted fish, with a quantity of dried salt al- 
" lowed them." 

The answers from Montserrat were nearly to the same effect. All these 
answers add, as will be presently shewn, the quantities of ordinary allow- 
ance by the master, and also mention the small pieces of ground or gar- 
dens allotted to the slaves, and their asserted power of adding to their 
subsistence by means of them, and by other voluntary labours ; but it would 
be premature to cite in this place more than is necessary to shew the gene- 
ral dependance, in those islands, on imported food. 

" In Grenada we gave no provisions to a healthy slave, (except herrings 
^' or salt fish) without their own provision-grounds should fail them. Ne- 
" groes are fed differently on different islands. In Grenada, where the 
" estates are large and have a great deal of new ground, it has universally 
" been the custom to allot so much land to each negro, for himself, his 
" wife, and children, as was thought sufficient to maintain them." &c. 

264 Of the Snhsislence 

Section IV. — Of the mode and measure of subsistence in the 
home-fed colonies. 

It is obvious that where the subsistence of the slaves is 
wholly or chiefly derived from the produce of provision 
grounds allotted to them individually, and cultivated by what 
may be called, though improperly, their voluntary labour, 
the actual ordinary quantity of their daily or weekly food 
cannot be clearly ascertained. It must depend on a variety 
of different circumstances ; such as the extent and quality of 
the land allotted to them, its position in respect of proximity 
to, or remoteness from their huts, or the cane-pieces on which 
they work, the period of the year, and the kind of weather 

(Evidence of Alexander Campbell, Esq. Commons" Report of 1790-, 
p. 141.) 

But even in some of the Iiome-J'ed colonies, the planters, either from a 
topical scarcity of provision grounds, or dislike to spare time enough for 
their culture, often take the feeding of their slaves on themselves ; supplying 
them either with imported grain and flour, or with native provisions raised 
by other planters, or on their own estates upon the master's account. 

" In Burhadoes (said Mr. Braithvvaite, agent for that island,) they have 
" a constant allowance of food from their masters. Their food is Guinea 
" or Indian corn raised in the country, and ground, at their master'sexpence ; 
" and ground provisions such as plantains, yams, potatoes. Besides this 
" they have maize, rice and salted provisions imported." (For the rest of 
his answer, see supra, p. 244.) 

" The custom with respect to the feeding of slaves (said the Governor of 
" St. Vincent,) differs upon different estates. In general they are fed 
" partly by their own labour, and partly by the assistance of their mas- 
" ters," &c. (Evidence of Governor Seton of St. Vincent, Privy Council 
Report, St. Vincent Q. A. No. 5.) " Upon some plantations they are fed 
" almost entirely with ground provisions the produce of their own labour." 
(Ibid. A. No. 7.) 

" The slaves are fed at the expence of the owners in general, except in 
" some cases where time is given to them in lieu of food, to work for them- 
" selves in cultivating the grounds furnished to them by their owners ; 
" which Creoles and other slaves, having been long in the country, usually 
" prefer. (Same Report, Dominica, Q. A. No. .5. Evidence of Messrs. 
Bruce, Gillon, and Eraser.) 

in the Home-fed Colonies. 265 

that has preceded, as being favourable to vegetation or the 
reverse ; and above all on the quantum of time allowed by 
the master, and what is called the industry of the slave, or 
more truly speaking, his capacity in point of bodily strength 
to work more or less on his provision ground, in addition to 
his forced labour under the drivers. 

To find a medium quantity among all these diversities, of 
the food actually obtained in the home-fed colonies, is mani- 
festly impossible. It would be so, even if the evidence I 
have restricted myself to had been candid and impartial ; 
for a planter himself could hardly furnish the necessary data, 
even from his own particular estate. It is, therefore, chiefly 
in respect of the J'u7-eig]i -Jed colonies, that I shall be able to 
establish, by clear and direct testimony, the ordinary scale 
of subsistence ; and to shew from them its great inadequacy 
when the slave depends wholly or chiefly on rations served 
out to him by the master. There, also, the food is often 
of a kind the nutritive value of which we can in great 
measure estimate upon data familiar to my readers ; whereas 
some species of the indigenous provisions which constitute 
the food of the slaves when raised by themselves, are known 
to us only by name. 

I must be content, then, to prove, in respect of the home-fed 
colonies, from circumstantial evidence, and by inferences from 
acknowledged facts, that the subsistence is, at least very often, 
and in some comprehensive cases, greatly deficient ; and to 
shew a high probability that its ordinary amount is much 
less than justice and humanity require. 

This has already in some measure appeared from quotations 
I have given, especially from the authority of Dr. Collins in 
his truly valuable work •* for his strictures were not confined 
to the practices of the foreign-fed colonies ; and St. Vincent, 
which was probably prominently in his view, because his 
property and long residence had been there, was one where 
home-feeding chiefly prevailed. The master's allowances or 
rations, which he describes as so scanty, were partially and 
occasionally in use in that island, as they were also in other 

Supra, p. 258, 9, Sec. 

26(j Of the Subsist ettce 

home-fed colonies ; for many plantations in them, as we have 
seen, have no provision-grounds ; and even in the most sea- 
sonable places, those grounds sometimes fail from droughts, 
hurricanes, and other causes.* If, therefore, I shall be able 
to shew that when the planter in such cases feeds his slaves 
wholly from allowances, his standard of sufRciency is not less 
scanty and sordid than that of the foreign-fed colonies, it 
will afford a fair inference that his allotments of provision- 
grounds, and of time for their culture are not regulated by 
more liberal feelings. It appears clearly, from Dr. C.'s advice 
and strictures as to feeding in general, that he included in 
his views colonies in which the home-feeding system was at 
least partially in use ; and that in them the method of feeding 
by weekly rations was often preferred by the choice of the 
masters ; for he takes pains to persuade them that the former 
is more beneficial to themselves ; " When the estate from its 
" extent, or the quality of its soil or situation, will admit of 
" it, certain portions of ground should be allotted to the 
" negroes to plant with provisions, instead of giving them a 
" weekly allowance ; and this is undoubtedly the best way 
" of providing for their wants if thej/ are duly superintended 
" in the culture of their grounds," &,c. (p. 100.) 

He explains how intimate and particular that superintend- 
ance ought to be ; and adds, that without it " the provision 
"grounds will be found very much neglected, and the negroes 
" as much at a loss for provisions as if they had no ground 
" at all." 

He holds it indispensably necessary in order to prevent 
this, that one afternoon in each week, besides the Sunday, 
should be set apart for the culture of the provision-grounds ; 
and that the employment of it should not be trusted to the 
slaves themselves ; but that immediately after the dinner hour 

* See the authorities quoted above, p. 263. " Hurricanes occasion such 
" a temporary scarcity of provisions as approaches nearly to a famine. In 
" the islands which have been visited with this scourge, every production 
" is swept from the face of vegetable nature, and that which the earth in 
" part conceals from its researches, is yet so much injured as to be capa- 
" ble of being preserved only for a very short time." (Collins, 114.) 

in the Home-fed Colonies. 267 

and grass-throwing, the Ust being called, they should be 
accompanied to the grounds not only by the drivers, but the 
overseer, who should walk round all the allotments, directing 
his attention to each, and seeing every slave properly em- 
ployed on his or her proper ground ; and afterwards, by a se- 
cond visit to each allotment, ascertain that proper use has 
been made of the time by each individual, and bestow 
praise or rebuke accordingly. After all, he admonishes the 
proprietor or chief manager, that he must not trust implicitly 
to the information or reports of the overseer ; but must him- 
self acquire a knowledge of the several allotments, and their 
respective owners, and visit them from time to time to ascer- 
tain the truth of the reports by the evidence of his own senses ; 
for he adds, " that there is no part of the overseer's duty 
" that he is more apt to neglect than this ; though nothing 
" can be more essential to the health and welfare of the 
" gang, who can no otherwise obtain an abundant supply of 
" provisions than by a diligent culture of their grounds." 
(p. 102, 3.) 

Now, if we consider how very onerous these duties must 
be on the overseers and managers, we might have well in- 
ferred, without the express testimony of this experienced 
planter, that they are in general left unperformed ; and the 
self-fed slaves consequently often exposed to a distressing 
scarcity of provisions. 

Let it not, however, be supposed that all this laborious 
superintendance, and a right application, in consequence, of 
the weekly afternoon, would, in Dr. Collins's judgment, suf- 
fice. He plainly enough admits that Sabbath work must 
be superadded, though he felt it not right to recommend for 
that day the like means of coercion ; for he adds, " 1 say 
" nothing of Sunday : that being a day of rest or recreation, 
" they have a right to dispose of it as they think proper ; but as 
" they cannot be more innocently or beneficially employed than 
" on their provision-grounds, every encouragement should be 
" held out to them to apply their time in that way, by slight 
" rewards or honorary distinctions, which, if conferred upon such 
' ' as comply with your wishes, may induce others to follow their 
" example." (p. 104, 5.) 

Such precepts from an apologist of slavery, may surprise 

268 Of the Subsistence 

those who have listened to the recent tales of the planters ; 
but the day of religious hypocrisy was not then arrived ; the 
policy of seducing from the cause of the poor negroes their na- 
tural allies, by persuading the pious part of the public that the 
interests of Christianity might be reconciled with avaricious 
despotism and a brutalizing bondage, had not yet been adopt- 
ed ; and the systematic desecration of the Sabbath, even by 
compulsory means, was therefore freely avowed.* 

Doctor Collins was so far from representing that an af- 
ternoon weekly, however well employed, would suffice with- 
out Sabbath work in addition, to keep the slaves from want, 
that he recommended the giving the half day in the middle 
of the week, instead of the Saturday (on which day it is al- 
ways given when at all) for the provision-grounds ; in order 
that the slaves might have tivo weeklt/ periods at a convenient 
distance from each other for bringing home the produce on their 

Religion is one of the topics that I have left to other pens : 
but Sabbath-breaking has an inseparable connection with this 
subject of subsistence from the provision-grounds ; for if Sun- 
day now, as my opponents have the face to assert, is "strictlij a 
day of rest "X how can those grounds be cultivated, and their 
produce brought home, so as to yield an adequate support 1 

* " Besides this, (i. e. besides compelling the slaves to work on their 
" grounds on the Saturday afternoon) it was the universal custom on a Sun- 
" day morning at about nine o'clock, for the manager or overseer to go 
" over the grounds, call out the lists, and see who were in their grounds ; 
" as it was generally the orders of the owner or manager for the negroes 
" to go to their grounds." (Evidence of that very eminent planter and 
zealous defender of the system, the late Mr. Campbell of Grenada, Com- 
mons' Report of 1790, p. 142.) The same witness being asked, (p. 179,) 
"Are they compelled to labour at their own grounds?" answered, "Yes." 

f "One afternoon of every week, exclusive of Sunday, must be allowed 
" for the cultivation of their grounds. I should prefer Wednesday or 
" Thursday to any other for that purpose ; because, being in the middle of 
" the week, it enables your negroes when returning from their labour to 
" bring home as many provisions as will serve them until Sunday, and on 
" Sunday they may stock themselves until the middle of the week, which, 
" where the grounds are remote from the negro houses, is no small advan- 
'• tage." (Collins, p. 104.) 

X Barclay's Introduction, p. 23. 

i/i the Jlome-J'ed Colonies. 269 

If, when Dr. Collins wrote, and Mr. Campbell and others 
testified, a day and a half \oeekU) were necessary for their cul- 
tivation, how has half a day weekly, or one day in every 
fortnight, which the last and now subsisting Jamaica act 
prescribes,* become sufficient for the purpose ? Unless the 
grounds, like the clouds when dropping manna on the Is- 
raelites, yield more plentifully in favor of the Sabbath, its 
newly acquired rest, must, if real, have reduced sufficiency 
to one third of enough. 

That there has been such a reduction, I am indeed far 
from beheving ; but it is only because I believe, or rather 
certainly know, that these new pretences are wholly false. 
The poor field-negroes work as hard on that day as ever; 
because, as some of their religious instructors have truly 
stated the case, " ihey must either profane the Sabbath or 

It is clear, at least upon the authorities here cited, that 
the Sabbath rest must be surrendered, and incessant labour 
consequently submitted to, or the subsistence, where the 
slaves are self-fed, must fall short. Now that the latter 
alternative will be often hazarded, and actually incurred, by 
the weaker slaves at least, of both sexes, after such severe 
continuous labour for six days as I have shewn to be exacted 
from them, will hardly be doubted. Even the laborious walk 
to and from the provision-grounds must, in many cases, suf- 
fice to deter the poor slave from going to them, and make 
him or her truant to the Sunday task. In Jamaica they are 
very commonly distant several miles from the homestall, and 
on hills of steep ascent. Mr. de la Beche notices that his 
own were on a mountain at a distance often miles. f 

Prudent therefore, (however harsh and profane) is that prac- 
tice which Mr. Campbell stated to be universal in Grenada ; the 

* Act of December 1816, sect. 4. 

f Notes, &c. p. 9. See also Beckford's Account of Jamaica, vol. ii. 
p. 152, " If their grounds beat a considerable distance from the planta- 
" tion, as they often are, to the amount of five or seven miles or more, the 
'' journey backwards and forwards, makes this rather a day of labour and 
" fatigue, than of enjoyment and rest." 

270 Of the Subsistence 

sending them onSundaysto their work on the provision-grounds 
under the overseers and drivers ; but that it was not very 
common elsewhere was asserted by other witnesses ;* and we 
may indeed infer from Dr. CoUins's advice that it was at 
least not universal when he wrote. It is probably less so 
now, from the effect of that new policy to which I have ad- 
verted . 

That to many, at least, of the slaves in the home-fed 
colonies, the provision-grounds at all times yield at best 
but a precarious and insufficient support, is clearly dedu- 
cible from that valuable body of evidence to which I have 
so often referred, the examinations before the House of 
Commons and the Privy Council, the only pubhc evidence 
we have that enters into any particular account of the 
system ; for when the planters spoke of the abundance 
of food derived from the provision-grounds, they commonly 
qualified it by the exceptions not only of drought and hurri- 
canes, but also of slaves that were " bad, worthless, idle, or ill- 
" disposed," terms the import of " which Dr. Collins has well 
taught us how to understand. It is the "industrious" slaves 
only we are told that never suffer want, except when the mas- 
ter's necessities, or droughts, or hurricanes are the causes.i" 

The plain English is, that those only whose moral and phy- 
sical constitutions are patient and hardy enough to endure 
incessant labour, may, where the provision-grounds are abun- 
dant and seasonable, have a sufficiency of food. 

The Dutch formerly had a method of treating vagrants 
and other offenders against the police more ingenious than is 
our tread-mill discipline. The man was put into a bath, in 
which the water reached his chin, and a stream was con- 

* See Mr. Tobin's evidence Com. Report of 1790, p. 277. 

f " Coercion," said Mr. Tobin (where last cited) " is unnecessary to in- 
" duce an industrious well-disposed negro to turn such grounds to the best 
" advantage." 

See also Mr. Douglas, as before quoted. The good negroes live in plenty ; 
the vagrants "are often in want; and it is impossible to prevent it." 

" The situation of slaves wlui are industrious, (said Sir Ashton Byam) is 
"comfortable and happy." (Ibid. 115.) And he excepts (p. 105) as to 
the sufficiency of the provision-grounds, " worthless and idle negroes, which 
" are probably to be found in all gangs oj" slaves." 

in the Home-Jed Colonies. 271 

stantly adding to it. He had a pump handle put into his 
grasp, by the incessant working of which he could pump out 
as much water as flowed in ; but not much more. He had 
to choose therefore, between hard work and drowning. The 
situation of the self-feeding slave, when not driven to his 
provision-grounds on the Sabbath, is much the same ; except 
that want, not drowning, is the consequence of his inaction ; 
and that, as it is a consequence not so immediate, foresight as 
well as industry is necessary for his preservation. 

If it be asked whether, upon these views, I regard the sub- 
sistence in the home-fed colonies, as on the whole more in- 
adequate than in those of the other description, 1 answer, 
No. On the contrary, I believe, that in the former, generally 
speaking, the slaves are less scantily fed ; and that the abler 
part of them often have a sufficiency of vegetable food in 
point of quantity, though in quality, for the most part, ill adapt- 
ed to the support of hardworking men ; whereas the quan- 
tity also is grossly inadequate where the slaves depend wholly 
on the masters' allowances ; as I shall decisively prove when 
I proceed to delineate the practice in the foreign-fed islands. 

In Jamaica, I believe, the case to be for the most part, much 
better than in any of our other sugar colonies. It is not 
because the planters are more liberal ; for in clothing and 
other necessaries, their slaves are not a whit better provided, 
as I shall show, than those of other islands; nor is their 
slavery, in other respects, more lenient either in practice or in 
law ; but there is, in most districts of that island, a much greater 
quantity than elsewhere of seasonable land fit for the growth 
of provisions, and unemployed in the culture of canes; so that 
few of the planters there comparatively, are under any great 
temptation to stint their slaves improperly in the quantity of 
their allotments, or to assign them in a barren soil ; though 
they often lie at an oppressive distance from the home stall. 
The best provision-grounds, however, will not suffice to pre- 
vent want, unless time and strength enough are allowed for 
their cultivation. And though it is obvious that where the 
means of culture are the same, the better the lands, the 
larger, ccBteris paribus, is likely to be the supjjly, I see not 
how the weaklier slaves in Jamaica, or in colonial language, 
the less industrious, can be exempted from often suffering 

272 Of the Subsistence 

under a scarcity of food ; though in a less degree, perhaps, 
than those in other colonies. That they suffer generally and 
severely, when their masters are in embarrassed circumstances, 
we have seen to be fully admitted by the Jamaica assembly 
itself; and the cause presumedly is, that planters, when forced 
to push their cane culture to the uttermost, for the relief of 
their own necessities, allow a less proportion of time to their 
slaves for raising their own provisions. 

One writer, the Rev. Mr. Bickell, who is well worthy of 
confidence on these subjects, has distinguished the case of 
this island so widely from the rest, as to admit that, though 
the quantity of the food is very bad, much, generalhf speaking 
cannot be objected to the quantiti/ of it. The concession, of course, 
has been eagerly cited by the colonists ; and with their usual 
unfairness. Suppressing the words " gencralli/ speaking," and 
the context, that " the ti)ne alloived them for raising their pro- 
" visions is not by any means sufficient,'' which shows that 
the general case, especially with the more weakly slaves, was, 
in the writer's contemplation, subject to very numerous ex- 
ceptions ; they triumphantly exclaim, " attd so the negroes 
" have a sufficient quantity of food'' They add, "-and savoury 
"food," because the same writer had elsewhere spoken, of their 
pots of boiled vegetables seasoned with a small portion of salt 
fish, as being savoury, though hehad at the same time described 
the ordinary food of the slaves to be such " as an English 
-pauper " would reject, and, think hardly ft for human and rational 
" beings." Having thus fairly dealt with his authority, they 
say, " this we should hope will be glad news to Mr. Ste- 

I must admit that there is one fortunate peculiarity in 
Jamaica, if we may take the acton such authority as Bar- 
clay's, which may make the case of the more feeble slaves 
not so distressful there, as in other home-fed colonies ; for it 
is stated that " calaloo or wild spinage grows as a weed in 
" the cane-fields ; and that a certain yam grows wild in the 
" fields that have been thrown out of cultivation and it is 

* See and compare Barclay's Practical View, p. 439, witli ihe Rev. 
Mr. Bickell's West Indies as they are, p. 10, 11. 56, 57. 

in the Home-Jed Colonies. 273 

" added that from November till April these are the princi- 
" pal dependence of such indolent improvident creatures as 
" will do nothing for themselves." I must dissent indeed, 
from the encomiums contained in the same work on yams as 
pleasant food, or fit to be compared with the potatoes of Irish 
labourers, for the sustentation of hard working men ; espe- 
cially in reference to the wild yams here spoken of, which Mr. 
Bickell's condemnation of by the name of " negro yamsT 
most strictly applies to. It is, I am well informed, to use his 
expression, " hoggish food," having a harsh stringy texture, 
far exceeding that of the worst cultivated yams, with much 
less of their nutritious substance. I nevertheless, confess 
that these, or even wild spinage, may allay the fierce cravings 
of hunger ; and consequently that the lot of the indolent and 
improvident, in plain English, the feeble and over-worked 
slaves, may not be quite so bad in Jamaica, as in places where 
such resources, or the uncultivated cane pieces which pro- 
duce them, are not to be found. But we have here an incau- 
tious avowal that even in Jamaica those slaves whose provi- 
sion grounds from what is called indolence or improvidence, 
do not yield them the means of subsistence, find no resource 
in allowances from their provident masters ; but are left to 
depend for their food on such supplies as the casual bounty 
of nature may afford ; and that for five or six months in the 
year. This is certainly '^ no news," s.i\\\ less '' good news, to 
Mr. Stephen." 

Whatever advantages the slaves in Jamaica, or in other 
home-fed colonies, may have in comparison with those which 
depend on imported provisions, there is one admitted counter- 
poise, in the occasional famines to which long droughts and 
hurricanes expose them. 

Six successive hurricanes in Jamaica within eight years, 
had according to the statement of its agent and planters 
before the committee of Privy Council, been destructive by 
partial famine and disease, oi " many thousands of negro slaves."* 
Mr. Hibbert estimated the loss at 1 5,000,f and many other 

* Privy Council Report, title Jamaica, Q. A. No. 30. 
f Commons Report of 1790, p. 396. 
VOL. 11. T 

274 Of the Subsistence 

witnesses ascribed to the same species of calamity the de- 
cline or non-increase of the black population, chiefly through 
the consequent devastation of the provision grounds. 

" It is hardly possible (said Mr. Gr-egg) for the planter to 
" provide against the dreadful effects of famine ; and I should 
" not be surprised in case of a hurricane happening in the 
" ensuing season, to hear of some dreadful catastrophe simi- 
" lar to that which lately happened in Jamaica and Antigua, 
" by which twentij-three thousand slaves perished."* 

These probably were much exaggerated statements; for their 
objects were to shew the necessity of the slave trade, and of 
opening a direct commercial intercourse with the North Ame- 
rican States. But Dr. Collins also, as we have seen, (supra 
p. 266.) notices the calamitous effects of hurricanes in general 
as an occasional cause of " scarcity, and approaching nearly 
" to a famine, producing consequences fatal to the slaves." 
He differed, however, so far from Mr. Gregg, as to hold the 
guarding against them by the planter to be not only possible 
but easy.^l- 

That similar effects are produced by long droughts, has 
before been noticed and proved. On the whole, it may be 
affirmed, that though in the home-fed colonies, the slaves' 
subsistence is commonly the least scanty, it is at the same 
time the most subject to occasional and particular failure ; 
and that feeding by rations from the master's stores, being 
the more certain and equable, is the best for those who re- 
quire most support, the feebler part of the gang. 

That indigenous food should be raised when possible, 
I admit, and on humane as well as economical views ; for 
such sustenance is likely to be less sparingly given in 

* Ibid. 234. 

f " A prudent man ought never to be without a resource adapted to 
" the emergency, which should be provided at the approach of the hur- 
" ricane season. Nothing is better for that purpose than the Indian corn 
" of America ; because if wanted it will afford a good food for the ne- 
" groes ; and if not wanted for them it may be given instead of oats to 
" the horses and mules, of which a great quantity would otherwise be 
" consumed ; so that no loss whatever can possibly ensue from the salutary 
" precaution." (p. 114.) 

in the Home-fed Colonies. 275 

ordinary eases, than that which the master has to buy ; but 
there can be no good reason for leaving the supply of it to 
the care of the slave himself; and it is a flagrant incon- 
sistency in those who tax the negroes with indolence and 
improvidence, to commit to their own prudence and volun- 
tary exertions, the vital interest of their subsistence. 

If lam asked, "what then should be done?" I answer, 
Native provisions for their support should be raised by the 
common labour of the gang on the master's account, as is 
the practice in Barbadoes ; and meted out in adequate 
weekly rations from his stores ; though land might at the 
same time be allotted to those whose voluntary industry 
might be employed upon it, to the improvement of their 
own condition. Such, I doubt not, would be the genaral 
system in the home-fed colonies, if it had not been found 
inconvenient, or thought indecorous, to drive the slaves on 
the Sabbath ; and a better mode, therefore, of exacting seven 
days of labour weekly, to obtain the first, through their urgent 
sense of their own necessities, by leaving to each individual 
the task of raising his own food on that day. 

We are frequently told that half a day's labour in a week, 
or the amount of a week's labour in a year, will suffice to 
furnish the slaves with an abundance of food. 1 quoted my 
West India opponents to that effect in my former volume, 
when arguing with them upon their own premises, in aggra- 
vation of the injustice and cruelty of leaving their slaves to 
suffer hunger and famine, when their owners were needy and 
embarrassed, merely because land and time were avariciously 
withheld from them. Those propositions are now cited against 
me, in various places, by Mr. Barclay, as if they had been 
originally mine, and advanced on my own authority. It is 
true that I gave them more credit and countenance than they 
deserved ; but expressly because I found what seemed to me 
a satisfactory confirmation of those estimates of my opponents 
in a State Paper published by President Boyer at Hayti, in 
which half an hour's daily labour was said to suffice there for 
a week's subsistence. I now believe that I had mistaken 
the President's meaning. He was comparing, not the specific 
produce of agricultural industry with the time employed in 

T 2 

276 Of the Subsistence 

raising it ; but the high price of human labour in that coun- 
try, with the general cheapness of food there.* If I had 
been controverting an opponent's premises, such a mistake 
would have been less venial ; but I had a right to argue ex 
concessis, without very carefully if at all considering whether 
the adopted proposition was correct. 

The quantity of labour requisite to produce a given quan- 
tity of food must obviously be widely different in Hayti, 
where the cane lands, proverbially once the most productive 
of any in the West Indies, are now applicable to that pur- 
pose, from what it is in the old British colonies, where the 
cane plant ingrosses all the soil rich enough to produce sugar 
to advantage. I was, therefore, wrong, even on my own 
former view of the authority, in supposing that the Haytian 
estimate tended to support that which I borrowed from my 
opponents, which I now believe to have been as deceptious as 
their statements usually are. 

Indeed, they practically show their own sense of its ex- 
treme inadequacy ; for if half a day weekly will suffice, and 
if they give that time, as they generally pretend they do on 
Saturday, then what becomes of all the excuses for suffering 
and recommending, not to say enforcing, the working in the 
provision grounds on the Sabbath ? and how comes it that 
advocates for humane improvements, like Dr. Collins, recom- 
mend the systematic encouragement of that practice as es- 
sential to the well-being of the unfortunate drudges them- 
selves ? It is also, let us remember, admitted that the daily 
respite of two hours at noon is often applied by the poor 
wearied drudges to what on the estimate in question, would 
be a needless purpose. 

* The words, as quoted in my former volume, p. 90., were " L'tiomme qui 
" travnille une demi heure par jour, ohtient nn suhsistance, pendant vne 
semaine." I cannot now find the paper referred to ; but think the words 
" pendant une semaine," would have been improper and unintelligible, if 
the specific produce of the labour, as I supposed, had been in view. 
Indeed, in that island where much of the vegetable food in use is of 
spontaneous and perennial growth, the ratio between the labour and the 
specific produce, could hardly be any subject of estimate. 

in the Foreign-fed Colonies. 277 

The fact is, that my opponents grossly exaggerated, in 
the estimates referred to, the productive power of labour, 
even when employed on the best soil ever allotted to the 
slaves, and when aided by seasonable weather. At the same 
time they forgot their own exceptions of droughts, hurri- 
canes, and periods of the year in which the provision grounds 
are very scantily if at all productive. 

But it is high time I should proceed to the next division 
of my subject ; and shew more clearly what is the actual 
quantum of food, and what the colonial standard of suffici- 
ency, by ascertaining its amount, when dealt out by the 
master himself in articles that he has imported or bought. 

Section 5. — Of the subsistence in foreign-fed colonies, in 
respect of its ordinary nature and amount. 

Here it will much assist the reader in rightly comprehend- 
ing and weiohino; the evidence which I have to adduce, to 
shew him, first, upon what specific points the parties to the 
abolition controversy were originally at issue on this subject; 
and how far they agreed in their statements. 

For this purpose 1 cannot do better than to cite, on the 
one hand, Mr. Ramsafs Essay ; and on the other hand Mr. 
Tobin's " Cursory Remarks" on that work ; for these, as 
before observed, may be considered as the original pleadings, 
or allegations of the contending parties, when they first ap- 
peared at the public bar in this country as accusers and 
defenders of colonial slavery, on the question of abolishing 
the slave trade. 

In the present division of my subject, their statements are 
of the more importance, because both Mr. Ramsay and Mr. 
Tobin had long resided in the foreign-fed colonies of St. 
Christopher and Nevis, to which, in consequence, their ac- 
counts had a special reference ; and both went into details as 
to the ordinary allowances of food in those islands ; more 
especially in the former, where the pre-eminent and then un- 
diminished fertility of the cane-lands had made the feeding 
with imported grain far more exclusive, and dependence on 

278 Of the Subsistence 

the master's rations more absolute, than in any other part of 
the West Indies. 

If it were true, as my opponents commonly maintain, that 
whatever enhances the present profits of the planter, promotes 
also the comfort and welfare of his slaves, the subsistence given 
at that period in St. Christopher, would form far too favourable 
a specimen of the general case ; for the pre-eminent value of 
the sugar of that island is notorious ; and so fertile then was 
its soil, that some estates were known to produce from three 
to four hogsheads, of a ton weight, for every acre they 
planted ; nay, one or two plantations, near the town of 
Basseterre, were generally said to have yielded, in a good 
season, five such hogsheads per acre. But as I am far from 
admitting, either that the slave is in general benefited by the 
master's wealth, or that his wealth can be with certainty in- 
ferred from the productiveness of his crops, I desire only that 
the selection of St. Christopher, the colony with which I am 
best acquainted, may not be thought unfair towards the 
foreign-fed colonies at large. 

I could wish to extract all that Mr. Ramsay said on the 
subject of feeding; for it is highly impressive; but it will 
suffice for the only use 1 desire to make of his work, to 
quote merely the details he gave as to the ordinary weekly 
allowances from the master. He stated, " that they varied on 
" different plantations, from one to .three pounds of grain, 
** under the Jiominal measure of from two to eight pints ; 
** that a few plantations went near to five pounds, and one or 
" two as far as six ; and that the slaves always received from 
" three to eight herrings a week,"* But he alleged instances 
of parsimony much below this general scale of subsistence, 
cruelly inadequate though it must be seen to be. 

Mr. Tobin, in his reply, said, " I shall not differ greatly 
" from Mr. Ramsay, when I assure my readers that the general 
'' allowance, on a tolerably well regulated plantation, is as 
" follows, viz. out of crop time from six to nine pints of flour, 
" oatmeal, rice, pease, &c., and from six to eight salted Scotch 
" herrings, for a week, to each slave above the age of a suck- 

Ramsay's Essays, p. 70. 80. 

/// the Foreign-fed Colonics. 279 

" ling infant. During grinding season, whicli lasts from four 
" to live months, this allowance is perhaps reduced to from 
" four to six pints of flour, &c., and to from four to six her- 
" rings." He added, " exclusive of this regular allowance, 
" it is customary, on most plantations, to give each negro at 
" breakfast time, during the rainy time of the year, a ship 
" biscuit, with a draught of molasses and water, which is dis- 
" tributed in the field. This breakfast allowance is in general 
" extended to the negro children through the whole year. I 
*' will, however, drop for the present," he added, " all extra 
" indulgences, and suppose the average allotvonce of' each slave 
" through the tv/iole year, to he, weekly, six pints of Jiour, ^c, 
" and six herrings."* 

This, Mr. Tobin proceeded to maintain, proved the slaves to 
be as well fed as our British labourers ; a proposition at which 
my readers will doubtless be much surprised ; and which shall 
hereafter receive the attention it well deserves. Meantime 
an explanatory remark or two may be wanted on Mr. T.'s 
premises ; which, though he regarded them as nearly con- 
curring with those of his opponent, seem to differ from them 
not a little. Jfpitits were to be taken as equivalent to pounds, 
it is manifest that the medium of Mr. Tobin was the maximum 
of Mr. Ramsay; whose larger allowances, besides, were ascribed 
to only one or two plantations ; whereas Mr. Tobin spoke of 
all " tolerably well reg^ulated" ones. The latter, however, 
guarded himself by a note, as follows : — " In speaking of re- 
" gulation, allowances, &c. I wish them to be understood as 
" adopted by such estates as have f allot under my oivn imme- 
" diate inspection. In a few, perhaps, the treatment of the 
" slaves may not have been so liberal ; and in others, I have 
" not the vanity to doubt but they may have been much 
*' more so." 

This disclaimer of vanity seems to shew that by inspection 
we must understand direction, either as owner or attorney ; 
and the doubtful terms as to other estates, plainly import that 
the author disavowed any certain knowledge of their allow- 
ances. If, then, we suppose, that in speaking of " tolerably 

Cursory Remarks, p. 58-9. 

280 Of the Sulmalcuce 

well regulated plantations," he had in his view the standard 
of feeding on those of which he was the owner or attorney, 
the apparent difficulty of understanding him is lessened, or 
removed. Mr. Ramsay's maximum may have been the true 
medium of allowances on those estates; and the difference may 
have been chiefly in their different views as to the compara- 
tive numbers of those " well regulated plantations," and 
others of an opposite character. The alleged approximation 
and great apparent difference of the two accounts may, how- 
ever, partly have arisen from the various terms of quantity 
employed ; for though Mr. Ramsay had given the amount of 
the allowances both by weight and measure, his opponent, 
saying nothing as to weight, resorted to the pint measure 
only. The former also had spoken of the pints as nominal 
ones, with a meaning well known at the time *, and clearly 
had in view such as were greatly below the standard pint of 
this country, and had no uniform dimensions. This appears 
from his general, though indefinite proportions, between the 
numbers of pints and pounds ; for though he stated both as 
varying on different estates, we find those proportions in 
general given by him as nearly two pints to one pound ; 
whereas a pint of flour weighs only about fourteen ounces. 
Mr. Tobin neither repelled nor noticed the imputation of 
false measurement ; and yet, strangely enough, chose to give 
his quantities by the impeached pint measure alone, avoiding 
the criterion of weight altogether. Nevertheless, he soon 
after tacitly assumed, in his comparison of these allowances 
with the subsistence of English labourers, that the pint of 
flour, or even of unground Indian corn or beans, is equal to a 
pound of the former ; though if so, the plantation pint must, 
instead of falling short of the English standard, exceed it by 
one seventh part at the least. It would follow also, on that 
assumption, that the difierence between the two accounts, in- 
stead of being small, was nearly as two to one. 

* It was one among the charges against the planters on this head, that to 
conceal in some degree the extreme scantiness of the allowances, many of 
them reduced the wooden measure of this denomination to mucli less than 
an actual pint. 

in the Foreign-fed Colonies. 28 1 

But as it is not incumbent on nie to vindicate the consis- 
tency of a writer whom I quote only as an opponent, let it be 
supposed that his statement was, in effect, widely different 
from Mr. Ramsay's; and let it be further supposed, if my 
readers please, that Mr. Ramsay's fell much below, and that 
Mr. Tobin's did not at all exceed, the true ordinary rates of 
subsistence. The question then will be, whether six pints, or 
seven at the most, of whole Indian corn, or even of wheaten 
flour, and about as many salt herrings per week, are enough 
for the subsistence of a hard-workino- man ? 

We have seen already Dr. Collins's opinion on that point. 
His decisive authority, if it did not confirm the account of Mr. 
Tobin, showed that it was at least sufficiently favorable to the 
planters. " It is vain to conceal what we all know to be 
" true, that in many of the islands they did not give more 
" than six or seven pints of flour or grain, with as many her- 
" rings, for a negro's weekly allowance ;" and he was so far 
from thinking, like Mr. Tobin, this rate of subsistence to be 
sufficient, that he treated the allowance as a scanty pittance, 
such as may indeed possibly suffice " to hold soul and body 
" together" for a considerable time, with men " whose only 
" husijiess is to live ;" but so inadequate to sustain them under 
hard labour, that he expressly ascribes to its scantiness the 
shocking mortality of which he had long been a melancholy 
witness. " I aver it boldly, that a great number of negroes 
" have perished aiinually by diseases, produced by inanition,"* 

Authority, perhaps, will be thought superfluous to prove 
that such must be the effect of restricting hard-working men 
in an exhausting climate, or any climate on earth, to four- 
teen ounces or less of vegetable food per diem, even were it 
the most nutritive and best prepared food of that description ; 
whereas we have seen that six or seven pints weekly of un- 
ground Indian corn or horse beans, the nutritious part of 
which must weigh much less than an equal measure of flour, 
are very often the subjects of this scanty allowance. 1 believe 
they are much the more common. 

The salt herrings can hardly be at all taken into the account 

* Practical Rules, p. 87. cited moie fully supra, p. 238. 

282 Of the Subsistence 

as nutritious food ; nor are they considered as such by the 
planters themselves. Several of them admitted, that the 
herrings serve merely to give a flavour or seasoning to their 
vegetable diet, when boiled into a mess, or, in the Creole 
phrase, a pot. " As to the animal part of their food, (says 
" Dr. Collins) the portion is small indeed, consisting of salt 
" fish or herrings. Though a great deal of nourishment can- 
" not be expected to reside in either of them, yet as they are 
" much coveted by negroes, and impart a relish to their vege- 
" tables, they cannot be dispensed with." He, therefore, in 
that view alone, " as the only good purpose they answered," 
recommended the continuance of their use, only in the then 
ordinary quantities ; and was of opinion, that there should 
be no increase of them ; while he earnestly advised the 
planters to adopt a more generous supply in the other articles 
of food.* In fact, the herrings, in the state in which they are 
very commonly imported, and still more when progressively 
served out, often, many months after their arrival, are little 
better than a mass of foetid matter, containing as little nutri- 
ment as the brine in which they lie ; but the negroes are fond 
of them, and the more, I believe, from that strong, and to 
European organs, offensive flavour, to which use has given a 
zest. They are desired chiefly, no doubt on account of the 
salt, with which they are so fully impregnated, that it 
forms no small part of their substance. Some travellers in 
Africa tell us that this article is there in high request, and 
sells in the interior for an extravagant price ; and the powerful 
craving of human appetite for salt, has been noticed by se- 
veral writers as an instinctive propensity, implanted in us on 
account of the great usefulness of that article in the digestive 
process, and its tendency to the preservation of health. I 
doubt much whether the same quantity of salt in a pure state 
would be less nutritive than the herrings ; but perhaps it 
would not be much cheaper to the master ; and probably not 
so acceptable to the slaves. 

Though it may reasonably be assumed, that Mr. Tobin's 
account, confirmed by the long subsequent one of Dr. Collins, 

* Practical Rules, p. 115. 

in the Foreign-fed Colonies. 283 

was at least sufficiently favorable to the planters at large, 
several of them, when called as witnesses in their own cause, 
stated the ordinary allowances of grain or flour at a consider- 
ably higher rate ; but on a fair review of their evidence, the 
most credible general result will be found to be, that the 
average of six or seven pints and as many herrings weekly, 
was rather above than below the actual practice. A compa- 
rison, even of the most authoritative statements, those of the 
Colonial Assemblies and their public agents, variant and dis- 
cordant though they were, will lead to the same conclusion.* 

* See the examinationti on this subject in reports of the Privy Council 
and Parliamentary Committees on the Slave Trade. The standing Q. A. 
No. 5. in the former, as to the allowances of food in different colonies ; 
was answered not only by their public agents here, but by many of the 
Governors, Councils, and Assemblies, whose written answers were prepared 
in the West Indies, and transmitted officially to the Secretary of State. 

" The quantity distributed is different upon different estates ; I believe 
" in none less than a pint a day and a herring to season their pots with, 
" which is given to every 7nan, wo/nan, and child, on the estate, except in- 
^'fants; and many of them have double allowances ; such as 7)iillvjrights, 
" masons, carpenters, boilers," S)-c. (Extract from answer of Mr. Spooner, 
agent for St. Christopher.) 

" The quantity of food given to them varies in different plantations," ^c. 

" It runs in general f7-oni four to nine pints per week, given to every negro 
" except infants, whose mothers have an additional allowance for them from 
" their birth, equal to one half of their own. Every negro also has from 
" four to eight salted herrings, mackerel, or shads per week." — Extract from 
answer of the Council and Assembly of St. Christopher. 

" The quantity of grain to each negro is from eight to twelve pints ; and 
" of yams and potatoes, from twenty-five to thirty per week." — Extract from 
answer of the Council and Assembly oi Antigua. 

" Their allowance consists of from four to eight pints per iveek of grain, 
" and from four to eight he? rings furnished by the master." — Extract from 
answer of the Council and Assembly of Montserrat. 

" The negroes are fed at the expence of their master. The articles of 
" their food are flour, pease, rice, oatmeal, Indian corn, or Guinea corn, 
" together with salt provisions. In the crop-time the quantity allowed them 
" varies from four to six pints of the above mentioned provisions, and six 
" British herrings, or other salt provisions equivale7it thereto, per week. — 
" They have likewise an unbounded licence of drinking what quantity of raw 
" cane liquor they please, and two pints of boiled cane liquor are generally 
" given to each negro per diem ; but out of tlie crop-time the quantity 
" allowed them varies from eight to nine pints of the above provisions 

284 Of the Subsistence 

It will not, I presume, be doubted, that those public bodies 
and officers, in their statements to the privy council, and par- 
liamentary committees, made the best case that could plausi- 
bly be set up by them, on this very interesting subject. Their 
object was to avert the abolition of the slave-trade ; and for 
that purpose they had to repel the charge that the alleged 
necessity of importing new negroes in order to maintain the 
labouring population, arose mainly from their over-working and 
under-feeding their slaves. They were also speaking in de- 
fence of their own individual conduct, as well as the credit of 
their fellow-colonists at large : all the misrepresentations 
therefore, in such evidence, and all i^s deceptious views and 
colourings, must, in reason, be looked for on the defensive 

It is equally reasonable, in reviewing the evidence of self- 
interested witnesses who differ in their accounts, to regard 
the statements least favourable to the common self-interest, 
as approaching nearest to the truth. Another observation to 
which such testimony is liable, will, I am sure, be felt to be of 
great weight, by those who are professionally accustomed to 
the examination of evidence for the establishment of contro- 
verted facts : there is a wise and equitable principle which 
pervades our law of evidence, that of estimating proofs, with 

"per week, icith the quantity of suit provisions before mentioned, together 
" with a certain daily allowance of toddy and a ship biscuit for break- 
" fast." — Answer to the same query of the Council and Assembly of Xevis. 

It is in respect of the above four islands alone that I find any specifica- 
tion of the quantities of imported food by those legislative bodies. 

As, to consult brevity, I have not extracted the entire answers, except in the 
case of Nevis, it is proper to notice that the other respondents in like manner 
took credit for the cane juice and liquor in crop-time ; and most of them 
also, for what the slaves, as they alleged, might earn by their own labour, 
on the spots of ground allotted to them ; nor did they in general forget, 
occasional distributions of grog or toddy during hard work, or some extra 
allowances of salt provisions in the Christmas holidays. These paltry 
make weights, have been or shall be sufficiently noticed. The allowances 
may fairly be said, in a general view, to have constituted the entire sub- 
sistence ; for on estates where it was in any degree aided by the advantage, 
very rare in those islands, of provision-ground allotments, worthy of being 
at all taketi into account, the allowances were proportionally less. 

in the Foreign-J'ed Colonies. 285 

I'eference to the power of proving, which the party adducing 
them must possess, supposing his allegations to be true. 
Hence the well-known practical rule, of distrusting, and in 
many cases absolutely rejecting, a degree of evidence other- 
wise sufficient, when the party offering it has better evidence 
in his power, which he does not produce. 

Now if Mr. Ramsay's account of the ordinary allowances 
had been untrue, or if the statements of those witnesses or 
writers who represented the rations of imported food as ma- 
terially larger, had been correct, the one might have been 
refuted, and the other established beyond dispute, by the pro- 
duction of books and papers to be found in every West-India 
counting-house : such as the invoices of stores shipped here 
for the use of particular estates, and the accounts or abstracts 
transmitted by the managers or attornies to the proprietors in 
this country, from which the amount of American or other pro- 
visions purchased on the spot would have appeared. Indeed, 
the former alone would at that time have most commonly 
sufficed ; for flour or grain, as well as all the other supplies, 
were then chiefly imported from Europe. To have shewn, 
even in respect of a few estates, that their annual supplies of 
flour or grain, when compared with their numbers of slaves, 
amounted to a given rate of subsistence per head, would have 
been far more satisfactory than the loose parol estimates given 
by individual planters, some of which carried the allowances 
materially above the accounts that I have cited. 

The agents and the West Indian Committee would of course 
have been readily supplied with such documentary evidence, 
had it suited their purpose to call for it ; and the individual 
proprietors who were brought forward to attest their own 
liberality in feeding their slaves, might have brought their 
invoices and plantation accounts in their hands to support 
their statements, if true. 

My recent antagonist, Mr. Barclay, has noticed the exist- 
ence of such evidence in this country ; and has strangely 
enough affected to suppose that it is within the reach of anti- 
slavery writers, or of the public at large. '' Of this truth," he 
says, viz. that planters, " hoivever distressed, Jiever curtail the 
" comforts of their slaves;" — (an assertion, be it remembered, 
in which he is at direct variance with every man of his 

286 Of the Subsistence 

own party who has ever written or spoken on the subject,) 
*• it is in the power of any one who wishes to satisfy himself, 
" by calling on any respectable West India house in London, 
•* and comparing the quantity of clothing, salt provisions, rice, 
" flour, medicines, &c. furnished in prosperous times and the 
" present.*" 

How a man, wishing to pry into such circumstances upon 
anti-slavery principles, would be received by those " respect- 
" able West India houses," I leave the reader to guess : — but 
that all the evidence their counting-houses could supply 
would have been at the command of the West India Com- 
mittee, for the support of the colonial petitions in Pailiament, 
will not be doubted. Nor can we think so ill of the profes- 
sional talents of the eminent counsel and solicitors by whom 
the case of the petitioners was conducted, as to believe that 
those sources of evidence were overlooked, while the long agi- 
tated question of subsistence was depending. But " facts 
" are stubborn things," and written proofs, forgery apart, in- 
tractable ones. Such evidence, therefore, could not have 
been safely and usefully invoked. 

In one instance, abolitionists had access to a document, 
being a public one, by which the parol evidence of their op- 
ponents, on this very subject of imported food, was put to the 
test ; and the result is very impressive. It had been stated 
before the Committee of Privy Council by the agent of Ja- 
maica and other gentlemen of that island, that " the common 
" allowance of herrings there for the food of their slaves, was 
" from twenty to twenty-five barrels per annum, for every 
" hundred negroes, allages included ;" but it was found, from 
official accounts of imports afterwards called for and ap- 
pended to the report, that the average quantity of herrings 
imported into Jamaica during the five next preceding years, 
viz. from 1783 to 1787 inclusive, was only 21,089 barrels ; 
which, supposing even the plantation slaves to be the only 
consumers, amounted, according to their then numbers, to 
less than half the quantity of the alleged consumption. 
Taking into account the very large use of that article of 

* P. 11, 12. 

in tlie Foreign-Jed Colonies. 287 

import by the poorer whites, the free coloured people and 
domestic slaves, the statement was probably excessive by 
two-thirds at the least.* 

To this line of argument I shall have occasion to recur 
when I speak of the amount of clothing, all the articles of 
which are still imported from this country : though it is un- 
true that the same is now the case with flour, or other vege- 
table food, as Mr. Barclay insinuates. But the colonial party 
have other means of supplying in all respects this remarkable 
defect in their evidence by documentary proofs, as to the time 
present as well as the past ; and till they do so, their parol 
evidence, even were it more consistent, would weigh little in 
reflecting minds. 

What argument, however, can be more impressive than 
Dr. Collins's too tardy discovery of the real case, in his 
public appeal to the consciences of his brother planters. " It 
" is in vain to conceal what we all know to be true," &.c. — Yes, 
they " all knew this to be true :" yet they all long stood 
as petitioners before the Privy Council and Parliament, aver- 
ring and producing witnesses to prove that their slaves were 
sufficiently, nay liberally and superabundantly fed ; and all 
concurred in crying down before the British public, as libel- 
lers and liars, those who had humanity and courage enough 

* See Mr. Wilberforce's letter to his constituents of Yorkshire, 1807 ; 
where these public documents are cited and discussed. 

'\'^ain attempts were made in reply by the Jamaica Assembly to bolster 
up this refuted falsehood, on the pretence that a large quantity, not included 
in the official returns, had been imported from America ; but it was shown 
in my second letter to Mr. Wilberforce in defence of his Slave Registra- 
tion Bill in 1816, that the subsidiary statement, like the primary one, was 
unfounded in truth. 

Gladly, no doubt, would the Assembly on that occasion have supported 
its own credit if possible, by adducing in its elaborate Report such written 
evidence as was abundantly at hand. To have shewn from official docu- 
ments, e. g. the recorded accounts of receivers or trustees, or even from 
plantation books, or accounts current with consignees, that herrings had 
been supplied in the alleged proportion, even on a few estates, would have 
countenanced the impeached statement; and might have resolved detected 
imposture into venial mistake, as to the ordinary average supply. But no 
such evidence was adduced ; and it is not hard to divine the cause. 

288 Of the Subsistence 

to affirm the contrary. And yet the same men expect again 
to be believed, when upon the same kind of evidence they 
renew the same impostures. What better grounds have we 
now for beUeving that the slaves, at this moment, are suffici- 
ently fed, or that they are not still suffering the same terrible 
consequences of inanition and hunger, that were so impres- 
sively described by Dr. Collins ? If improvements, and ade- 
quate improvements, in this respect have taken place, where 
and when were they made ? 

Subsequent writers on the colonial side have prudently 
shunned the only fields in which they could be closely grap- 
pled with in this branch of the controversy. They have ob- 
served a discreet silence as to the amount of such improvements, 
and the actual scale of subsistence, in the foreign-fed colonies, 
where alone it can be ascertained, and where only we have 
public evidence to refer to in respect of its former amount. 
They affect to defend the planters at large, without limitation 
of place, against the charge of under-feeding their slaves ; 
but all their alleged facts, and all their reasonings, relate to 
Jamaica, or other home-fed colonies. I am not aware, at 
least, that any one apologist of the system, since the abolition 
of the slave trade, has ventured to tell us what the allow- 
ances from the master are in the Leeward islands, to which in 
that respect the former evidence almost exclusively applied. 

This omission is the more observable, especially in those 
who have professed to answer my former volume, because the 
strictures on this important subject contained in it, as inci- 
dental to my review of the slave laws, had special reference 
to the Leeward islands, and none at all to the case of the 
home-fed colonies ; except by way of contrast with the liberal 
sustentation at the Bahamas, where sugar was no longer 

I there shewed the insufficiency of food under which the 
slaves suffered, and often perished, in five of our sugar colonies 
at least, from authority not to be questioned ; that of their own 
interior legislatures, convened in a general council and as- 

See Vol. I. p. 93 to 100, and Appendix thereto, No. 3, p. 464 to 468. 

in the Foreign-fed Colonies. 289 

semhly of all the leeward islands at St. Christopher in 1798, 
for the purpose of amending their slave laws ; and also the 
inadequacy and failure of the enactments then made to remedy 
the acknowledged mischief. 

As that volume, now long out of print, will probably not 
be in the possession of many who may read the present, I 
subjoin the rates of allowance prescribed and expressly re- 
cognised as humane and liberal ones, by an act of that legis- 
lative body. They were either " 7ii7ie pints of corn or beans 
"per week, or eight pints oj" pease, or wheat or ryejiour, or In- 
** dian corn meal, or nine pints of oatmeal, or seveii pints of rice, 
" or eight pounds of biscuit." Certain weights of native pro- 
visions, not as additions, but further alternatives, were also 
prescribed; and with them, or with either of these rations, one 
pound and a quarter of herrings, shads, mackarel, or other 
salted provisions, per week* ; and the act allowed a reduction 
of one-fifth part of these scanty allowances in crop-time ; i. e. 
during five months of the twelve. 

We have here, therefore, a standard of what was deemed 
" humane or liberal" feeding in those islands, and held out as 
creditable to their meliorating code, ten years later than the 
period which the witnesses whom I have cited referred to. I 
may truly say, indeed, sixteen years later ; for this act was 
laid before Parliament in 1804, as being amongst the best 
and most recent fruits of his Majesty's recommendations to 
the assemblies, pursuant to an address of Parliament of 1797, 
to pass protecting slave laws ; nor am I aware, that in any 
one of those islands the standard has been raised by any 
subsequent law. In St. Christopher the same scale of allow- 
ances was expressly re-enacted only three years ago. 

As I shall have more use to make of this act in the present 
division of my work, it is proper to apprize my readers of a 
peculiarity attending its enactments in respect of food, which 

* See the act printed with other colonial information as to meliorating 
laws, by order of the House of Commons, of 8th of June, 1801, title 
Leeward Islands, 15 H: 


290 Of the Subsistence 

distinguishes it very materially from most other parts of the 
meliorating codes of the Leeward Islands, as well as of the 
other sugar colonies. In those enactments, its authors, or at 
least a respectable majority of them, were in earnest, and 
wished to be obeyed. 

The general object, indeed, of these, as of the other colo- 
nial legislators, was to avert the abolition of the slave trade, 
by what the West India Committee, and the agents here, had 
anxiously recommended to them as the only possible means ; 
the passing such laws as might, through their popular effect 
in this country, paralyze the efforts of the abolitionists, by 
producing a hope that slavery might be effectually mitigated 
and terminated, without the abolition of the trade, or any 
other parliamentary measures.* But the oppression of scanty 
feeding had at that time been carried to a more than ordinary 
degree of severity by many planters in those islands, especially 
in St. Christopher, whose half-famished slaves had become, in 
consequence, nuisances to their neighbours, by breaking their 
canes for food, and other depredations. It was, therefore, 
and I hope also from better motives, the sincere desire of the 
more respectable members of the general council and assem- 
bly to fix a minimum of the weekly allowances, on as large a 
scale, and with regulations as effectual, as could be proposed 
with any hope of general concurrence. But they met with an 
opposition so formidable, that they were obliged, in some 
measure, to give way to it ; and the scale of subsistence ulti- 
mately enacted, shamefully low though it is, was not carried 
without great difficulty. I have in my possession a printed 

* See the resolutions of the committee, and the letters of Sir William 
Young inclosing them, in papers printed by order of the House of Com- 
mons of June 8th, 1804. H. 58, 59. 

The General Assembly of the Leeward Islands were so far from disguising 
their motives, that they thought it an essential preliminary to have a copy 
of the resolutions of the West India Committee, then called " the Com- 
" mittee of Planters and Merchants" in this country; and Sir William 
Young's letter transmitting the same, officially laid before them ; and they 
accordingly addressed the governor for that purpose, before they proceeded 
to business ; as if on purpose to show that they meant to act merely in 
conformity to the advice of their partizans in England. See the same 
papers, H. p. 38. 

in the Foreign- fed Colonies. 291 

report of their deliberations, published at the time on the 
spot, whereby it appears that there were many obstinate 
divisions, upon motions, to reduce, by a weekly pint or two, 
the scanty allowances at last adopted. 

Hence alone, as I doubt not, arises the peculiar usefulness 
of this act, in throwing light on the actual practice. Had its 
purposes been wholly ostensible and illusory, like the ordinary 
enactments of the meliorating laws, we should most probably 
have found the prescribed allowances two- fold more liberal or 

There was naturally, however, no objection on either side, 
to take all the credit before the English public that could, 
without cost, be obtained ; and therefore the preamble recited 
the object to be " to compel all persons to treat their slaves 
" with that humanity which is generally prevalent in these 
" islands." No more can be necessary to satisfy every mind, 
that the enactments were not less liberal than the best exist- 
ing practice. 

But scanty though those statutable allowances are, I stated, 
in my former volume, that they had not in fact been given ; 
and that the act had proved a dead letter, like the other 
meliorating laws. I cited, in proof of it, the authority of 
Mr. Caines, an eminent planter of St. Christopher, who, some 
years after, had the humanity and courage, though resident 
in that island, to publish a pamphlet there, stating that fact, 
and remonstrating with his brother planters on the subject. 
I cited further, an express admission of the Council and 
Assembly of Antigua, in 1815, that the prescribed allow- 
ances had not been given, and offering as an excuse for it, the 
poverty of the planters ; and I added what was, if possible, 
still more decisive, that the provisions of the act for securing 
its own execution, by public returns on oath from the different 
plantations, had, as appeared by the answers to official en- 
quiries made in pursuance of a parliamentary address, been 
every where, and universally neglected, from the first promul- 
gation of the act, without a single prosecution for any such 

These statements being undenied and unanswered by my 
opponents, I may surely now assume, as incontrovertible, 
that in the Leeward Islands at least, the general allowances 

u 2 

292 Of the Subsistence. 

to the slaves are still less than their own laws prescribe ; and if 
so they are probably not larger than those which Dr. Collins so 
strongly reprobated as cruelly and destructively scanty, viz., 
six or seven pints per week ; for if we deduct the fifth part 
during five months of crop-time, from the prescribed weekly 
rations of nine pints, the annual average of the legal allowances 
will not exceed eight. 

It is by no means necessary, however, that I should insist 
on any such inferiority in the practical to the legal standard ; 
for what European reader can contemplate the latter, without 
compassionate and indignant emotions ? With the nutritive 
powers, as human food, of some of the alternative articles, we 
are, indeed, happily unacquainted in this country; but the 
les:islature of the Leeward Islands havino- considered its 
weekly rations of unground corn and horse beans as equiva- 
lent to eight pints of flour, or eight pounds of biscuit, (i. e. 
the hard and heavy ship biscuit in use by the most economi- 
cal mariners, for none other is ever given to the slaves,) we 
are furnished with an unexceptionable medium, whereby to 
estimate the rest. The allowances, in whatever form, are 
only equal to eight pints of flour, or eight pounds of ship- 
biscuit weekly ; and this is the whole subsistence of hard- 
working men, with the addition only of one pound and a 
quarter of salt herring, which, as we have seen to be admitted, 
has no nutritious value, but is used as seasoning only. 

I shall hereafter compare this miserably inadequate sub- 
sistence with the ordinary consumption of food by English 
agricultural labourers; and also with the allowances of food 
to persons who are sustained here at public expense ; and the 
result will be found demonstrative of the cruel parsimony of 
sugar planters, in a degree far beyond what most of my readers 
may be prepared to expect. In the meantime it may be right 
to remind those who have read my former volume, that the 
allowances prescribed by law in the Bahamas, where the curse 
of sugar planting has ceased with the capacity of the soil to 
sustain it, were shown to be in comparison with those of the 
Leeward Islands in the proportion of near two to one. 

It is but fair to admit, in this place, that the advice of Dr. 
Collins did not extend to so large an increase of the ordinary 
allowances, as I shall maintain that humanity clearly required, 
nor quite so large as the Bahama legislature has prescribed. 

in the Foreign-fed Colonies. 293 

" When your negroes are fed with an allowance, and have that 
" only to depend upon, you ought not to give less than ten or 
*' twelve pints a week to each grown 7iegio.''* 

But it is impossible, I think, to read his work throughout 
without ascribing this very abstemious exhortation to his 
ordinary policy of prescribing no more costly correctives of 
the existing system than such as he hoped his brother plan- 
ters might be persuaded, for their own interest, to adopt. He 
well knew, that, compared with the general practice, ten or 
twelve pints per week would be a very important attainment 
for the slave ; and he knew also, full well, how hard it would 
be to reconcile the additional expence attending any such im- 
provement with that rigid economy in the management of a 
sugar estate, which necessity dictates to most planters, and 
avarice strongly suggests to them all. The slave trade, it 
should be observed, in his further excuse, was then still in 
existence, and seemed to have finally triumphed over its op- 
ponents. Dr. C. therefore evidently calculated upon its con- 
tinuance, for which he had been, and seems still to have been, 
an advocate. His advice, consequently, was adapted to a 
state of things in which the preservation of the slaves was not 
an object of any clearly demonstrative necessity, and he did 
not hope that very costly sacrifices for the attainment of it 
could be recommended with any hope of effect. 

Whether this defence, or rather this explanation, of his 
views be satisfactory or not, the increase of subsistence that 
he advised was clearly inadequate to the demands of justice 
and humanity ; though full large enough to condemn, on his 
authority, the still subsisting legal standard, and still more 
the actual practice, in the Leeward Islands. In proof of this 
I will now add, however needlessly, to the practical legislative 
estimate of the Bahamas, that of Jamaica. 

In the last consolidated slave act of that island, section 69, 
a regulation is made for the subsistence of slaves while con- 
fined as criminals in the workhouses or gaols. The keepers 
are commanded, under a penalty of ten pounds for every ne- 
glect, " to provide and give to every slave a sufficient quan- 

Practical Rules, p. 92. 

294 Of the Subsistence 

" tity of good and wholesome provisions daily, that is to say, 
"■ not less than one quart of unground Guinea or Indian corn, 
" three pints of the flour or meal of either, or three pints of 
" wheat flour," (or substitutes needless to specify in native 
vegetables) " and also one herring or shad, or other salted 
" provisions equal thereto."* Comparing like articles with 
like, we have here quantities from two-fold to three-fold 
greater than the allowances of the Leeward Islands; and 
greater by one-third, at least on a medium, than those recom- 
mended by Dr. Collins, the herrings or other seasonings of 
the vegetable diet excepted, which are the same in all. 

Did the Jamaica legislature, in giving these at the public 
expence, expressly as " sufficient quantities'^ of food, intend a 
large superfluity, as a bounty to criminals ? or do men require 
thrice as much food in prison, as when they are working hard 
in the cane-pieces through the day ? 

Before I dismiss this subject of subsistence in the foreign- 
fed colonies, it may be proper to notice the resources which 
" industrious" negroes were said even there to possess, for 
adding to their means of subsistence, by cultivating those 
mountain provision-grounds which belong to some estates, and 
those small spots of broken ground which are unavoidably 
left to them, even in the fully planted and dry weather Lee- 
ward Islands ; and also by their gathering grass and brush- 
wood for sale in the markets. 

Though Mr. Tobin, in his reply to Ramsay, did not scruple 
to maintain that the master's allowances, supposing them to 
be no more than six pints of flour and six herrings weekly, 
were enough for the slave's support, and ventured to compare 
them in a way I shall hereafter remark upon, with the sub- 
sistence of English labourers,t he afterwards, when examined 
as a witness before the Committee of the House of Commons, 
seems to have thought it expedient, like others, to take these 
alleged resources of voluntary industry into the account. ;]: 

* See the act in papers printed by order of the House of Commons, of 
June 10, 1818. 

f Cursory Remarks 59, 60. 

I Commons Report of 1790, p. 236. Q. " Is the quantity of food al- 
lowed to the negroes sufficient for " their support?" A. " The quantity of 

in the Foieign-fed Colonies. 295 

Mr. Thomas, of Nevis, made the same make-weight means 
a part of his estimate. 

Q. " Is the food allowed to the negroes, in your judgment, 
" proper and sufficient for their support ? A. " No doubt 
" the food is proper; and with regard to the quantity, I must 
" say that it is a bare sufficiency for their support; but it is, 
" at the same time to be understood, that no master depends 
" wholly on that allowance which he weekly gives out, nor 
" does the negro rely upon it, as he has many advantages if 
" industrious and well disposed."* 

It would be far better, I believe, for the poor slaves in the 
foreign-fed colonies collectively, if these " many advantages 
" of the industrious and well disposed'' had no existence. The 
benetit of them, such as they are, belongs to a very few, com- 
pared with the whole number of slaves ; and those few are 
commonly the individuals who have the least need of them, 
viz. the drivers and the other head negroes, or tradesmen ; for 
these generally if not always, I believe, receive double allow- 
ances*, though they have by far the lightest labours. Yet, in 
the controversial use of these alleged " advantages," they are 
usually magnified beyond all rational bounds, and treated as 
if they were, or might be, enjoyed by the whole mass of the 
plantation slaves. They have served often to veil the true 
extent of the general oppression in respect of food, from the 
eyes of the British people ; and from those also, perhaps, of 
many proprietors resident in this country, who have no per- 
sonal knowledge of the case. 

What are these '^advantages?'' — Mr. Thomas, like almost 
every other colonist who has condescended to specify them, 
referred to the " produce of the slave's own allotment of pro- 
" vision ground, his power of selling it in the markets, of 
" raising hogs, goats, and poultry ;" (he might, in reference 

" provisions allowed to the negroes may be sufficient for their support : but 
" it is always understood, both by the master and the slave, that they are not 
" to depend entirely on the provisions allowed them, but are expected to 
" add something to them by their own industry." 
* Commons Report of 1790, p. 250. 

296 Of the Subsistence 

to ordinary field negroes, as fairly have added horses and 
cows,) and added, that " negroes wlio live on estates adjacent 
*' to towns, have further advantages, derived from selhng grass 
*' and fuel to the inhabitants." 

In the latter particular he spoke more accurately and fairly 
than most gentlemen of his party, for they in general would 
lead their European readers to believe, that not this very 
limited decription only, but all the slaves, even in the largest 
colonies, have markets within reach, at which all the grass 
and fuel they can collect, as well as the ground provisions 
they may have to spare, and the live stock they may raise, 
can always be sold. This species of delusion has probably 
derived much countenance from the hasty conclusions and 
reports of gentlemen who, on visiting the islands, have seen 
many negroes bringing to town such articles for sale, or stand- 
ing with them in the markets, without the means of knowing 
that they were the slaves only of neighbouring estates, or on 
whose account they sold ; and without, perhaps, reflecting 
how very small the amount of such traffic must be, and how 
trivial the number engaged in it, when compared with that of 
the whole black population. A few further facts, and a little 
plain reasoning, therefore, on this subject, may be useful. 

In the first place, as, with the exceptions of grass or fodder, 
and fuel, all these marketable articles must be derived from 
the slaves' labours, at times allotted to himself, and on his 
own allotment of provision ground, it is clear that where he 
has not time and strength enough for such labours, or where 
he has no productive provision ground allotted to him, these 
alleged advantages, except as above, can have no existence, 
be his disposition to industry what it may. Now it has been 
already shown, that supposing a surplus of time and strength 
beyond what are appropriated to the master's use, to be left 
to the slaves for these commercial purposes of their own 
(which the readers of my chapter on labour, will I trust be 
satisfied cannot be the case, except with negroes of more 
than ordinary vigour), the allotments of provision grounds in 
the old Leeward Islands are neither large enough, nor season- 
able and accessible enough, nor fertile enough, to form any 
considerable basis for these advantages, or even for the most 

in the Foreign-fed Colonies. 297 

part to furnish the slave with any material addition to the 
food so scantily supplied by the master.* 

* In addition to the evidence already cited, the following may be worth 
extracting. " Many of the estates,^' said the same witness last cited, " have 
" no mountain ground at all; in consequence of which the proprietor gives a 
" greater allowance of food." Q. " Can you say what is the greatest 
" allowance given where there is no mountain ground ? " A. " The allow- 
" ance out of crop-time is greater than during the crop-season ; but I believe 
" eleven pints of grain per week, besides an equal number of herrings, is 
" the greatest allowance." — Evidence of Mr. Thomas. Commons Report 
of 1790, p. 258. 

The same witness being asked " are the islands of St. Christopher and 
" Nevis liable to frequent or severe droughts," — answered, " They are 
" very much so ; and I believe suffered much from this cause during the 
" last two years ; for during the whole eight months that I was last abroad, 
"■ there fell but twice any thing of rain that might be called a hard shower." 
Ibid. p. 255. 

It is obviously impossible to form any general estimate of the deductions 
that should be made from the resource of the provision grounds where any 
such are allotted, on account of these frequent droughts, both terms being 
quite indefinite; but that no material increase of allowance is commonly 
given on this account is manifest, since neither this nor any other witness 
distinguished it, or took it into account, even when stating the maximum of 
allowance without any limitation of seasons. As Mr. Thomas stated 
eleven pints to be the greatest allowance when there are no provision 
grounds at all, being an increase upon his own estimate of only two ninth 
parts at most, it may be confidently assumed that the increase, on account 
of occasional droughts must, if any, be very small indeed. 

But the act of the Leeward Islands is more decisive on this point ; for it 
allows no diminution of the prescribed rations in any islands under the 
government on account of the much magnified advantages in question, on 
estates near the towns ; nor, except in the Virgin Islands, on account of the 
provision grounds, however productive ; unless when they are " under culti- 
" vation in the owner's time," i. e. when they are cultivated by the gang on 
the master's account, at times that would otherwise be employed in sugar 
planting. As to the Virgin Islands, where alone in that government pro- 
vision grounds allotted to the slaves for their own use, are on many estates 
seasonable, and considerable in point of extent, the act allows expressly on 
that account, a diminution of imported or dry provisions out of crop, " in 
" the proportion only of one fifth part," and that only on condition that the 
owner " shall give and allow to each slave as much land and time, as shall 
" with his labour thereon for such time, be likely to produce the value of 
" the dry or salted provisions deducted." A proviso also is added in 
respect of the same excepted i'slands, that if the value shall not be actually 

298 Of the Subsistence 

But I would, in the next place, and more particularly, call 
the attention of my readers to the grossness of those impos- 
tures which represent these poor drudges in general, as deriving 
from their sales in the markets, any adequate or material 
addition to the master's supplies. This resource, if some of 
the colonial fabulists were believed, furnishes them with an 
abundance of the comforts of life, and even its luxurious 
superfluities. They grow rich even, we are gravely told, if 
industrious, from this profitable marketing ! ! 

Supposing the commodities in a great degree attainable in 
the foreign-fed, or even in the home-fed colonies, — where 
are the markets for 80,000 negro chapmen in Barbadoes, 
20,000 in St. Christopher, and 330,000 in Jamaica? and 
whence come the buyers ? 

Jamaica, as we learn from Mr. Bryan Edwards, is one 
hundred and fifty miles in length, by forty miles of medium 
breadth, giving an area of 3750 square miles, intersected by 
high mountains ; and it contains, by the same authority, 
eight towns, being about one to 469 square miles. If the 
towns were equally distributed over the whole area, and each 

produced, the difference shall be made good to the slave. (See sect. 2. p. 16, 
of the Papers before referred to.) If in the most favoured spots of the foreign- 
fed colonies, and under the most successful culture of the provision-grounds, 
they supply only one-fifth of the necessary food, it was not without reason 
that they were in ordinary circumstances thrown out of the account. 

The same act more directly shews the insignificancy of the ordinary allot- 
ments of provision-grounds in many, or most parts of the government; for 
it enacts, that " Owners shall allot to every slave capable of working the 
*' same, a piece or spot of good well-laying land oi forty feet square at least, 
" immediately round or close to his liouse, \i the same can be done without pull- 
" ing down or injuring any other negro house ; and if it cannot be so done, 
" then shall allot the same quantity of land in some part of the plantation 
" commodious for his working the same, provided there is so much land not 
"usually planted in canes; and if not, an annual compensation of equal 
" value." (Same Act, sect. 6.) 

Negro houses are usually placed in the driest parts of the estate. Let 
the reader then add to these views the frequent droughts destructive of all 
vegetation, 6x(iept that of the hardy sugar-cane ; and Mr. Baillie's admission 
that " provision grounds do not answer in those islands more than one year 
" in three ;" and he will be able to estimate the value of this boasted resource 
of industry, which is the necessary basis of all the rest, excepting only the 
trivial supply of a neighbouring town with firewood and grassv 

in the Foreign-fed Colonies. 299 

town centrical to its respective district, (the reverse of which 
may be seen by inspecting any map of the island, for the towns 
are all upon, or very near the coast) still it must be manifest 
that a very small proportion only of the estates could be so 
near to any town, as to make it possible for the slaves to walk 
to it with their merchandize, and return, even on the Sabbath, 
supposing also the whole of that day to be at their own dis- 
posal for the purpose. 

I will follow the same author in some other statistics of a 
more changeful kind, not knowing that they are to be found 
ni the work of any more recent opponent. 

Mr. Edwards has furnished us with the numbers of houses 
contained in five of the eight towns he mentions ; apparently 
not thinking the remaining three worth the same notice. 
Port Royal he stated to contain about two hundred houses ; 
Savannah-la-Mar, from sixty to seventy ; Montego Bay, two 
hundred and twenty-five ; Falmouth, including two adjoining 
villages, two hundred and twenty ; and Kingston, the chief 
town, the importance of which he extols, 1666. If they were 
all cast together, they would not exceed in extent many a 
market-town in this country. 

But let us next look at his account of their free population. 
That of Kingston alone was given by him, and he stated it to 
be 6639 whites, and 3280 free coloured people. 

If we suppose the other towns, the houses in which are 
given, to have been peopled in an equal proportion to the 
buildings, we shall have about 14,017 free inhabitants of towns 
of all ages ; with a small surplus for the three other towns^ 
whose houses are not numbered. Let the whole be taken at 
15,000, and every man, woman, and child among them sup- 
posed to be a customer at the Sunday markets ; then taking 
the slaves, as they were estimated at the same period, by the 
same authority, only at 250,000, we shall have, instead of 
many buyers to support a single chapman, near seventeen 
chapmen to serve a single weekly buyer. 

If we look at the statistics of other colonies, as furnished 
in the same volume, the case will be found no better. Every 
where the free inhabitants of the towns are too few to make 
their common demand for articles sold in the negro-markets 
exceed the supply from adjacent or neighbouring estates ; 

300 Of the Subsistence 

though the superior or abler slaves of those estates, are, 
generally speaking, the only sellers, except a few from more 
distant parts on Sundays. 

To regard this marketing, therefore, as a resource import- 
ant to the whole mass of plantation slaves throughout the 
respective colonies, would be to adopt a very gross delusion. 

The articles brought to town by the slaves for sale on their 
own account, are chiefly, and except on Sundays, exclusively, 
grass, fodder, and brushwood for fuel ; all of which their ne- 
cessities commonly oblige them to sell at prices oppressively 
low. A large bundle of either, laboriously collected and car- 
ried on the head to town at nightfall, after the toils of the 
day, will produce perhaps to the weary bearer, less than 
three-pence sterling. 

As to the vegetables and fruit, fowls or other live stock, 
that are seen on sale by negroes, either in their market-place 
or elsewhere, on any other day of the week than Sunday, it 
may be with certainty concluded that the goods belong to the 
masters ; and are sold on their account. 

The following extract, from the evidence of Sir Ashton 
Warner Byam, may serve suflBciently to confirm these re- 
marks. Q. " How are persons residing in the towns of the 
" different islands, and who have no plantations, supplied 
" with grass, fodder, and vegetables ? " A. " The slaves of 
*' the neighbouring plantations bring grass and fodder every 
" evening after their hours of work, to the towns for sale, for 
" their own benefit ; and vegetables are brought by the slaves 
" to market on Sundays, for their own benefit; but on the 
" other days we purchase vegetables from the slaves, sent in 
" by the proprietors of gardens, to be sold for their master's 
" benefit."* It may be added, that no small number of 
negroes, who are seen as sellers, even in the Sunday markets, 
are notoriously the agents of their managers or overseers ; 
and a still larger proportion are selling for the drivers, and 
other head negroes, of the estates from which they come. 

But to recur to the impracticable distance of the markets, 
that undenied, and undeniable obstacle to their use by a great 
proportion of the slaves in every colony. 

* Commons' Report of 1790, p. 106. 

in the Foreign-fed Colonies. 301 

No witness, and no writer, to my knowledge, has pretended 
that this circumstance is taken into account, so as to increase 
the allowances of slaves where the market is remote. Sir 
John Orde, indeed. Governor of Dominica, in his evidence 
before the Privy Council, noticed that such a difference was 
just. " In an island," he says, " where some have not a foot 
" of land to spare near their estates, and others the greatest 
" quantity ; where some are near a market, and others can 
" scarce possibly get at one, it would be hard, perhaps, to 
*^ oblige all owners to give the same food to their slaves," * 
Certainly, if enough was given, where there was no ground or 
market, there might have been some diminution where there 
was a concurrence of both. But I have shewn the insuffi- 
ciency of the ordinary allowances, except when aided by these 
" advantages," to have been admitted ; and yet it was not pre- 
tended that the ordinary rations were increased in the absence 
of them. One or two witnesses only alleged a small increase, 
when provision grounds were wanting, or unproductive; but 
not one of the many, who defined those rations, asserted that 
they were greater on estates distant from a market. The act of 
the Leeward Islands too which allows for the one, is quite silent 
as the other; and it allows for provision grounds, in the way 
only of diminution, from the prescribed subsistence where they 
are, not by any addition where they are not, possessed. It is a 
pregnant proof of how little these boasted marketing advan- 
tages were in the minds of those who could estimate them 
best, that the vicinage of a town was not at all taken into 
account in framing such a law. 

The fact is, that the colonists, throughout the whole of this 
painful controversy, have practised that species of unfairness, 
which they impute without reason to their opponents. They 
accuse us perpetually of raising an unjust prejudice against 
them, by citing particular instances of cruelties, which, as they 
allege, are very rare. Our answer, to which no sound reply 
has ever been given, is, that our means of proving them only, 
not the facts themselves are rare, and that considering the 
systematical exclusion of all the natural evidence of such 
facts, and all fair means of their public investigation, the 

* Privy Council Report, title Dominica, Q. A. 5. 

302 Of the Subsistence 

proof of a few, makes in a high degree probable the existence 
of very many. 

They, on the other hand, never fail to generalize every 
alleviation of slavery that circumstances, however partial or 
particular, may produce. If a few drivers or tradesmen ac- 
quire a little property, it is brought forward as a proof, that 
the field negroes in general possess, or may by industry acquire 
it ; if an odious character is under peculiar circumstances, 
and for some atrocious cruelty towards his slaves, brought to 
justice, they blazon it as a proof that protecting slave laws in 
general are fairly executed ; and in the present instance the 
local occasional advantages of a few, are made a cloak for a 
starving parsimony towards the many. 

Should these frivolous attempts to disguise or extenuate the 
cruel oppression prevalent in the foreign-fed colonies as to their 
scanty allowances, be thought worth any further answer, let 
it be observed, that Dr. Collins, to whom the nature and 
amount of these pretended aids of the subsistence given by 
the master were well known, considered them as too trivial, 
partial, and uncertain, to be worth any distinction or excep- 
tion, either in his strictures on the existing scantiness of the 
master's allowances, or in his estimate of their necessary in- 
crease. Had they formed any ordinary or general resource, 
he could not have reasoned as he did on the famishing insuf- 
ficiency of the weekly rations of " six or seven pints of flour or 
" grain, with as mani/ salt herrings" regarding them as the 
only nutriment; nor could he have asserted, as he solemnly 
did, on his own " melancholij experience, that a great number of 
tt jiegroes perished, annually by diseases produced by inanitionJ" 

I will here conclude my account of that second grand head 
of general oppression under which these hapless fellow-crea- 
tures labour and perish, a distressful penury of food. 

I might justly add to it very serious strictures on the 
quality of their provisions ; for few I believe will suppose a 
diet wholly vegetable, well fitted to sustain the strength, and 
give full permanent support to the constitutions, of hard- 
working men ? The proper or necessary quantity of admix- 
ture of animal food is a different question ; but it may fairly 
be said, without any material qualification, that the common 
field-negroes have none at all ; for as to the wretched modicum 

in the Foreign-Jed Colonies. 303 

of salt herring, or the brine it is dissolved in, we have seen, 
that even the apologists of the system admit it to be of no 
nutritious value, and to serve only as seasoning to the vegetable 
messes which they boil. The pretence that they frequently eat 
animal food of their own raising, such as fowls and pork, if 
applied to the common field-negroes, is not only false but pre- 
posterous ; nor have many of my opponents ventured to 
suggest it, even when raising and exaggerating to the utmost 
every actual or occasional resource. It is true, that the head- 
negroes, who have double allowances, and possess various ad- 
vantages besides, sometimes have a fowl or two, a pig, sheep 
or goat of their own raising; but even with them it would be 
deemed a strange extravagance to feed on such costly luxuries. 
They dispose of them in the markets ; and buy more necessary, 
or at least cheaper articles, with the price. As to Mr. Bar- 
clay, who gravely places in the ordinary bills of fare of the 
Jamaica slaves in general, /ish, and land-crabs, I will leave 
the reply to those who may think Gulliver or Munchausen 
worthy of serious refutation. From such fables, however, we 
may learn the consciousness of their authors, that the want 
of animal food was a hardship not easy to defend. 

But supposing vegetable food alone to suffice, the kinds of 
it most commonly allowed to the slaves are indefensibly bad. 
I remember well, that when, during a scarcity and apprehen- 
sion of famine in this country, the poor were in many places 
reduced to eat potatoes and rice, as partial substitutes for 
wheaten bread, their common complaint was, that such food, 
" though it filled the stomach, was not hearty enough to work 
upon." How much less substantial the horse-beans, or un- 
ground Indian corn, or the wild yams, coUaloo or spinage, the 
ochras, or other flimsy flatulent vegetables, on which the poor 
hard-worked negro is often driven to subsist, without any fa- 
rinaceous food at all. 

That men and women so subsisted, while working sixteen 
hours in the twenty-four, should neither maintain their num- 
bers, nor live out half their days, can excite no surprise : 
but it may reasonably be a subject of wonder, that the loss by 
mortality among them is not much greater than it is ; or rather 
than it appears to be. If we had returns of the black popu- 
lation, distinguishing the common field-negroes, from the less- 

304 Of the Subsistence in the Foreign-fed Colonies. 

worked and better-fed part of the plantation gangs, and from 
the domestic slaves, the loss would be found much better 
proportioned to the power of the producing causes than the 
miserably defective register acts now enable us to discover. 

But there are in our patient and plastic natures, means 
of accommodation to the pressure of necessity, far beyond 
what without experience would be easily believed. Witness 
the long fasts, during the laborious hunting excursions, of the 
North American Indians ; and the preservation of ship- 
wrecked mariners, who have lived for weeks on a morsel of 
biscuit to each man per day. It is not strange then that, with 
the important aid of habit early or slowly formed, slaves have 
been brought to live long and work hard, under such a penury 
of food as has been here described. Happily perhaps for the 
lower classes in civilized society, it has not yet been ascer- 
tained by experiment, in the case oi free persons, how much 
labour, with how little food, human nature may be trained to 
endure for many successive years ; or even in vigorous frames, 
for the ordinary term of life. But this problem has in the 
sugar colonies been practically solved ; and I have here given 
the sad results of its solution. 


Section VI. — The Subsistence of the Slaves shewn from com- 
parative views to be extremely scanty and inadequate. 

Having now shewn what is the ordinary amount of food 
allowed to the slaves, when they depend wholly on the mas- 
ter's allowances for their support, I proceed to demonstrate 
more clearly its great and cruel insufficiency. 

This to most of my readers may appear a superfluous task; 
but so imposing has been the hardihood of misrepresentation 
by the colonial party on this subject, that its further exposure 
may be useful. They have alleged, as I have shewn, not only 
that the sustentation of the slaves is copious and liberal, but 
that it is more so than that of the labouring poor, in this and 
other European countries ; and have found gentlemen of 
high character to support by their public testimony, those 
extravagant propositions. Let me shew then how widely 
they are refuted in those statements, both positive and com- 
parative, by the data now established. 

For this purpose, I will first compare the amount of the 
weekly allowances by the master, where the slaves are sub- 
sisted in that mode, with the ordinary consumption of agricul- 
tural labourers in this country ; next with that of other de- 
scriptions of persons, who are fed by rations at the public 
expense ; and afterwards with the subsistence, of slaves in 
other countries, or under other circumstances, as far as I can 
find satisfactory information on that subject. The comparison 
cannot be extended in so direct a manner to the home-fed 
colonies ; because the quantum of food obtained by slaves 
who raise their own provisions, cannot be ascertained, or re- 
duced to an^r probable average. But I refer to the reasons 
already given for believing, that though the case from local 
circumstances is, in a general view, probably not so bad in 
Jamaica, or perhaps in some other colonies of that description, 
as where the subsistence is immediately and wholly a charge 
on the planter's purse, the same avaricious principle, by with- 
holding a sufficient allowance of time, and exhausting the 
strength of the slaves in forced labour for the master, pro- 
duces in a great degree the same oppressive effects. 


306 The Insitlfkieiicy of the Subsistence 

I have noticed before, that Mr. Tobin defended the weekly 
allowances, on the assumption that they did not average more 
than six pints of corn or meal, and six herrings ; and main- 
tained that such subsistence was equal to that which an 
English labourer could purchase by his weekly earnings. 
My readers must be curious to know how so strange a pro- 
position was made out; and I will, therefore, give the argu- 
ment in his own words. 

" A negro for himself, his wife and four children, receives 
" thirty-six pints of flour, &c. and thirty-six herrings. The 
" labourer earns six shillings a week to support himself, his 
" wife and his four children. With his six shillings he purchases 
'* a bushel of wheat; he carries it to the mill, and brings home 
" two-thirds, or say even three-fourths, of it in flour. He has 
" therefore at most, but forty-eight pints of flour to divide 
" among his family ; or two pints a week each more than the 
" negro ; which difference is amply made up by the negro's 
" herrings." * 

Strange enough is this mode of comparing the two cases ; 
and stranger still the premises tacitly assumed for the purpose. 
The simplest, if not the only fair subjects of comparison, ob- 
viously would have been the quantum of food allowed to one 
working slave, and the value in subsistence of the wages 
earned by one free labourer. To resort to the cases of fami- 
lies, therefore, was at best needlessly to embarrass the ques- 
tion ; but it was certainly highly convenient and necessary 
for the author's purpose, to multiply the slave's rations six- 
fold, by assigning to him a wife and four children all too 
young for work, and to reduce the food of the freeman derived 
from his wages in the same proportion, by assigning to him 
a like family. If such cases were the most ordinary ones in 
either country, or equally common in both, the selecting them 
for the purposes of this comparison might not have been un- 
fair ; but even in England, the labourers who have wives and 
four children under the age of work are comparatively few ; 
and in the West Indies it would be a large estimate to say 
that it is the case of one field-negro in a thousand ; as the 
known state of their population may suffice to prove. In re- 

* Cursory Remarks, p. 60. 

sheivnjroiu comparative Views. 307 

gard therefore to the ordinary case of the labouring classes, 
in both countries, the comparison was irrelevant as well as 
deceptions. But it was built also on groundless assumptions. 
A labourer's family here, comprising so many young children, 
rarely if ever depends on the father's wages alone for sup- 
port. If the wife and children cannot contribute to it, the 
parish for the most part does so. In many or more districts, 
the havino; even two children under the working aae, consti- 
tutes systematically a claim on the overseers. 

The assumption on the other side of the account, that the 
planter multiplies his allowances to his slave, when a father, 
by the number of his family, giving him, in addition to his 
own weekly rations, equal ones for the wife and every child, 
was still more unfounded. No such practice does, or ever did 
exist ; and I recollect no assertion of it by any witness, or any 
other writer, on the colonial side. The most that is done, or 
alleged to be done, in such cases, is the giving some additional 
allowance to the mother, and even this I believe is rare, except 
when she has an infant to suckle. 

Few comparatively among the common field-negroes have 
wives, or women recognised and steadily cohabiting with 
them as such ; and when they have, the wife receives her own 
allowance without the husband's intervention or controul. 
She commonly works as hard as he does ; and requires an 
equal measure of subsistence ; nor can he derive any benefit 
from her allowances, unless she chooses to aggravate her 
own wants, by the voluntary alleviation of his. As to the 
weaned children in foreign-fed colonies, they are most com- 
monly fed, till of an age for work, by the master, and not the 
parents. Their food is generally prepared for them in the 
way that is called " j)ot feeding," by a nurse or old woman 
appointed to take care of them, who receives the materials 
from the stores. But even where the practice is different, the 
parents can derive no benefit from a child's allowance, which 
is as much less than an adult's, as its necessities are estimated 
to permit. 

These statements, it should be observed, relate only to the 
foreign-fed colonies, where the slaves depend on the master's 
rations for support. But so did Mr. Tobin's also. Would his 
premises, however, or his comparison, have been more sustain- 

X 2 

308 Tke Insufficiency of the Subsistence 

able, if applied to colonies where the slaves raise their own sub- 
sistence from the provision-grounds ? By no means. On the 
contrary, the case there is still worse in respect of slaves who 
have children too young for work ; because the father or mother, 
or both, if they would not see their infants in want of food, must 
raise enough for them as well as themselves, none being allowed 
by the master, and no additional time being given to the parents 
on that account. I venture to state these two last facts on 
private information only ; but such as I can entirely rely upon. 
It cannot be expected that I should be able to cite the express 
evidence of opponents for every negative proposition ; and here 
the information seems to me not only very credible in its na- 
ture (for where the only stores that the planter provides for 
his slaves in general are salt herrings, it would be highly in- 
convenient and troublesome to purchase vegetable food for 
the daily use of the children alone), but to derive strong con- 
firmation from the silence of colonial witnesses and writers on 
this subject. The same persons who have admitted, in general 
terms, as to Jamaica and other home-fed colonies, that the 
slaves raise all their own provisions, herrings excepted, would 
not have omitted to add the exception of food purchased for 
the children, or to inform us that the parents were allowed 
extra time to raise it for them, if such had been the case ; but 
I find neither of these practices any where taken credit for ; 
or any distinction made between slaves who have, and those 
who have not families, as to the time allowed them for what 
is called '' working for themselves." 

But let us return to Mr. Tobin's comparison: — the only 
one that has descended from vague generalities into specifica- 
tions with which it is possible to grapple. 

To find fault with his assumed rate of wages, may seem 
hardly worth while ; but wages, I conceive, were averaged too 
low at six shillings, though he took wheat at six shillings a 
bushel. The author also took care to add in a note that the 
price was sometimes as high as eight or nine shillings ; but 
omitted to notice that wages commonly rose in proportion. 
The part of England, with the agricultural state of which I 
am best acquainted, the north-western districts of Buck- 
inghamshire, is one in which the condition of the farmers 
and their labourers, is, from -the general poverty of the soil, 

shetvn from comparative Views. 309 

and other known causes, rather below, tlian above, the average 
of the kingdom at large ; yet there, while I write, wheat is 
at about six shillings a bushel, and full wages at nine shil- 
lings a week. If these proportions be not more than com- 
monly in the labourer's favour, Mr. Tobin's premises were in 
this respect also erroneous, to the extent of no less than one- 
third part : he should have allowed to the English labourer a 
bushel and a half, instead of a bushel per week, as what his 
wages might purchase. 

To his proposition, that the wheat, when reduced into flour, 
will lose one-fourth of its bulk, T object only the manifest in- 
consistency of his not making any such deduction from the 
negro's allowance ; though this, as we have seen, even on his 
own authority in his parliamentary evidence, consists often of 
Guinea or Indian corn, and other unground grain; and fre- 
quently, as other planters admitted, of horse-beans. 

But my readers will probably think that errors of one-third 
and one-fourth part, might well have been left unnoticed, 
after those gigantic ones which multiplied the slave's allow- 
ance by six, and divided by the same number the produce of 
the free labourer's wages, affecting the comparison as between 
single men, in the ratio of twelve to one. Had his premises 
and reasoning been correct, the consequences would strangely 
have been, that in his English family case, there would have 
been too little food by five-sixths ; or too much in his West 
India family case, in the same proportion ; but as to the un- 
married labourers in the respective countries, the contrast, 
very adversely to his purpose, would have been inverted. In 
England, each single labourer would have gained enough to 
feed six mouths ; in the West Indies, enough only for his 

Mr. Tobin's criterion, however, if fairly applied to the clearly 
intelligible case of single men, is one of the simplest and best 
that can bo found to determine, either in a positive or com- 
parative view, the sufficiency of the slave's subsistence. I will 
therefore endeavour to ascertain more truly and accurately 
than he did, the nutritious value of the slave's allowances on 
the one hand, and the quantity of like nutriment that the free 
nuui may purchase with his wages on the other. What the 

310 The Insufficiency of the Subsistence 

latter does purchase, and consume, is a different consideration, 
but one which I shall afterwards notice. 

The first step in such an enquiry is to reduce, if we can, the 
nutritious value of the food in both cases, to a known and 
common standard ; which must be that of wheat flour ; being 
the article on which our labourers are chiefly fed, and which 
alone is sometimes common to them and the slaves ; and the 
nutritive value of which also, we well know from experience in 
this country. This problem however, cannot be easily solved, 
so as to do full justice to my own side of the controversy ; not 
only because the horse beans, and the unground Indian or 
Guinea corn, &,c,, are here unknown as articles of human food, 
but because the colonial evidence leaves it wholly uncertain in 
what proportions respectively to the flour those articles con- 
stitute the ordinary rations of the slaves. I must in conse- 
quence be content to rely on evidence by which the colonial 
side of the question was, as there is every reason to believe, 
unduly and greatly favoured. 

The act of the Leeward Islands, as we have seen, takes 
nine pints of whole corn or beans, as equivalent to eight pints 
of wheat flour ; for in professing to enforce the adequate sub- 
sistence of slaves, that was the ratio in which the act allowed 
the different articles to be commuted, at the masters' election, 
for each other. This, I conceive, to have much disparaged the 
flour; for I cannot believe that a pint of unground Guinea 
corn, Indian corn, or beans, can yield as much nutriment to 
the human frame within one ninth part, as a pint of wheaten 
flour separated from the bran ! 

I will adhere, however, to my ordinary rule of not taking 
into my calculations any thing that I cannot support by colo- 
nial authority. Let it be supposed therefore that the allow- 
ances, in whatever form given, are equal in point of nutrition 
to eight ninth parts of so much wheat flour. I will be content 
further to sujjpose that the number of pints given weekly, on 
an average of all seasons of the year, is seven ; which being a 
pint per diem, will simplify computation, and I will waive the 
deduction of one ninth part, since it cannot be ascertained in 
what degree corn and beans constitute the food. On the 
other hand let the salt herring, as for reasons already given it 
fiirly may, hv. fairly thrown out of the account. Let it be 

sheivti from comparative Views. 311 

supposed then that the slaves in the foreign-fed colonies 
receive, on an average, a subsistence equal to fourteen ounces 
of wheaten flour per diem; for this is the utmost weight of a 
pint of flour. 

What proportion, let us next enquire, does this bear to the 
quantity of the same article which an English agricultural 
labourer can obtain from his wages ? As the rates of vvaoes 
vary greatly in different parts of the country, and at different 
seasons of the year, and in a considerable degree with the 
price of bread, and are now unhappily blended with parochial 
allowances from the poor rates, their average cannot be clearly 
ascertained: but if we suppose an unmarried labourer so con- 
stantly employed as to make no calls on the parish, to receive 
nine shillings per week when wheat is at six shillings per 
bushel, it will not, 1 conceive, be too favourable a view of the 
general case. At that price flour will be about three half pence 
per pound. His wages then, if laid out in flour, would pro- 
duce him seventy-two pounds per week, or ten pounds, four 
ounces and a half per day. Difference in his favour when com- 
pared with the slave, sixty five pounds fourteen ounces weekly, 
and nine pounds six ounces and a half d-aily; being about 
eleven and a half to one. 

If we take the amount in bread, instead of flour, the differ- 
ence will be still greater ; for without any trouble, or cost for 
kneading or baking, the English labourer may obtain for the 
same wages seventy eight pounds and three ounces of good 
well baked bread ;* whereas the poor slave has no baker's shop 
to resort to ; but must work up the raw and gross materials of 
his allowance into an eatable form, how he may, at a cost of 
time and labour he can very ill afford, and with a certain loss 
in its nutritious powers from its crude and hasty preparation. 

* I take here the weight of the quartern loaf at four pounds five ounces 
and a half, and the price at sixpence, being the right proportion to the as- 
sumed price of wheat, viz. six shillings per bushel. These were the prices 
when this calculati9n was long since made ; and wages at the same place 
were nine shillings per week ; but both have since been, and I believe 
are, materially different. To fix the present rates would hardly be worth 
delay, as such data obviously can have no general and stable accuracy. 
Let the reader then make whatever allowances or corrections he thinks 
reasonable. INIy argument can abundantly spare abatements. 

312 The Imujjiciencij oj the Subsistence 

We have seen thata piece of bread, or a ship's biscuit, is so much 
more strengthening to him than his ordinary food, that it is 
given as a cordial to sustain him in the most arduous kinds of 
work ; and that eight pounds of this latter article weekly is 
by the act of the Leeward Islands, regarded as an equivalent 
for the raw allowances. 

While these facts demonstrate the utter falsehood and ex- 
travagance of the common though strange pretext of my op- 
ponents, that the slave's condition, as to means of subsistence, 
is equal to that of the free labourer in this country ; they fall 
short, it may be said, of proving that the former is in fact 
more scantily fed than the latter ; for the English labourer 
does not, and cannot spend all his wages in bread or flour. 

Certainly not, I admit; nor if he is a single man, one half 
perhaps of his weekly nine shillings ; but it is because he 
spends the rest in a manner more to his comfort, or more at 
least to his mind. He adds to his bread and flour, pudding, 
fat bacon and cheese, of which our cottagers are no small con- 
sumers ; and not only some tea and sugar, but occasionally 
some butcher's meat, though in portions I am sorry to admit 
but scanty. He spends something too, and often much more 
than is prudent, in that wholesome beverage malt liquor. 
These, and other humble luxuries, to which the poor negro is 
equally a stranger, vary the modes of the free labourer's sub- 
sistence ; but should this be thought in any point doubtful, 
or unimportant, still the substantial fact remains, that he has 
nine shillings a week for his labour, equal to the purchase of 
seventy-two pounds of flour, while the negro has only seven 
pints of flour, weighing each fourteen ounces, or their esti- 
mated value in other articles of an inferior kind. 

" But the peasant has also to find his own clothes.'" Granted ; 
and he does find them, of a kind and in a quantity so very far 
superior to those which the planter allows to his slaves, that it 
may be safely affirmed, the clothing of six of them does not 
cost as much as that of one free labourer. I shall prove this 
clearly in a subsequent division of the subject of maintenance. 
There is no point in which the contrast between the two states 
is at once so striking, and so clearly beyond dispute. 

"The labourer has also rent to pay for his cottage," it is 
added. Doubtless; and a serious charge it would some- 

shewn from comparative Views. 313 

times be, if to be defrayed out of liis ordinary weekly wages. 
It is commonly provided for by his extra gains at harvest time, 
and other incidental resources, v.hicii my opponents leave out 
of the account. They reason most inconsistently in doing so; 
for they value against the poor slave, whose time is not his 
own during sixteen hours out of the twenty four, every pos- 
sibility of adding to his subsistence by voluntary industry 
during the remainder, and on the Sabbath days ; and yet al- 
low to the English labourer however industrious, no such 
means of adding to his ordinary wages ; though, with the full 
enjoyment of tlie Sabbath rest, he has fifteen hours on an 
average on the other six days not employed in his master's 

Have these gentlemen, besides, never heard of working "by 
" the great" or " the piece" and of the great increase of wages 
that a man of superior industry may earn that way? or do 
they suppose, that there are no other means by which a 
thrifty handworking man in this country may employ his 
spare time to advantage ? Every labourer has not, I admit 
with concern, a garden to his cottage, or any other piece of 
ground that he can cultivate ; though such advantages are 
attainable here by prudent and industrious peasants, more 
generally, and in a far greater degree than by a great ma- 
jority of the slaves in our foreign fed colonies ; and there are 
various other means by which such men occasionally may, 
and do, add to their domestic comforts ; especially when 
seconded by the good conduct of their wives and children. 
That a great number of our single, and many even of our 
married labourers, neglect all such means, and loiter away 
their many evening hours, or spend them at an ale-house, is 
too true ; but even their ability to do this, might afford a con- 
clusive argument that they are not distressed like the poor 
negro, by actual hunger, or scantiness of food. 

Medical care in sickness, another topic of comparison often 
brought forward by my opponents, shall be hereafter dis- 
cussed : — they seem not to know that it is here provided by 
the parish, or by public hospitals. But my immediate subject 
is food; and it may be fairly assumed, that this first and most 
urgent demand of nature, will not be left unsatisfied, the 
wages sufficing to answer it, though the clothes should be 

314 The Insujfkiencj/ of the Subsistence 

unbought, and the landlord and apothecary unpaid. It is 
amply enough, therefore, for my present purpose, to have 
proved that the labourer's wages will procure for him, if not 
an abundance of provisions, at least ten or eleven times as 
much in quantity, and far better in kind, than those to which 
the poor negro is restricted. 

Means, however, are not wanting to prove more directly 
that our agricultural labourers, in fact, consume a much 
greater quantity of provisions than the plantation slave is 
allowed ; as well as of a far more wholesome and nutritious 

In the present depressed state of agriculture, the overseers 
in many country parishes the most overburthened with poor, 
have, with the concurrence of the neighbouring magistrates, 
established a standard for the minimum of allowances from 
the poor rates to labourers out of employment, or who can 
find work only on the parish account, or at such low wages as 
must be aided from the parochial purse; in which standard 
they have adopted, as the basis of calculation, the ratio of a 
half peck loaf weekly, for each individual in the labourer's 
family, however young, that depends on him for support, as 
indispensably necessary to keep them from actual want. 
When the wages will not purchase so much bread, the differ- 
ence is made good from the rates. 

Now a half-peck loaf contains eight pounds eleven ounces 
of good wheaten bread ; which is one pound three ounces and 
a half per diem for each individual, the children included: 
whereas the adult hard-working slave, as we have seen, has 
only fourteen ounces of raw flour for each day ; or such a 
quantity of corn or horsebeans, as, notwithstanding the esti- 
mate of the Leeward Island assembly, can hardly be deemed 
an adequate commutation. 

For further satisfaction on this interesting subject, I have 
taken pains to learn, through the best channels of information, 
the experience of village bakers, what quantity of bread our 
country labourers actually consume in ordinary cases ; and 
find by several concurrent accounts, that a single man gene- 
rally consumes at least three quartern loaves weekly, with a 
quantity of flour in addition, equal to half of another quartern 
loaf; and that in families, the consumption is at the rate of 

shewn from comparative Views. 315 

two quartern loaves weekly for each individual, children in- 
cluded, without reckoning the flour, which they purchase to 
be prepared for family use in other forms of food. 

Though by no means necessary for my present purpose, it 
ought not to be left out of the account, that where the man 
works hardest, he requires the most support. Now let it be re- 
collected, that the average time of the free labourer's work, is 
not more than nine hours in twenty-four; while that of the 
slave, in crop-time, is twice as much ; and on an average of the 
whole year, sixteen. It should also be remembered that the 
one, is performed in a climate where the frame, at most sea- 
sons, loses little by perspiration ; the other, where the waste 
from that cause is always so great as to demand an increased 

To shew the difference made by these causes, when com- 
bined, I might adduce the case of our own labourers in time of 
harvest; for they are then, in many places, fed by the em- 
ployer ; and I have been astonished to hear from friends 
engaged in agriculture, of the large quantities their workmen 
consume at that season, not merely of their ordinary provi- 
sions, but of animal food, which they have little of at other 
seasons, and of that nutritious beverage, beer, to which the 
poor negro is at all times a stranger. When they feed them- 
selves at their own charge, they probably may live less freely ; 
but a much higher rate of wages in harvest-time enables 
them to supply, as they doubtless do in a great degree, those 
enlarged demands of nature, which are consequent on an in- 
creased intensity and duration of their work, combined with 
the heat of the season. 

I will not pursue further this comparison, as there is, in 
truth, after all, nothing homogeneous in the subjects. When 
the English labourers are forced to live on unground Guinea 
corn and horse-beans, to toil during sixteen hours in the 
twenty-four, and watch and work through the remaining 
eight on alternate nights, for five months in the year ; when 
they cannot rest even on the Sabbath-day, and when their 
wives and children, instead of being helpmates, under their 
own domestic government and protection, are, like themselves, 
the property of a master, on whom, and not their parents, 
their well or ill being wholly depends ; in a word, when our 

316 The Insu()iciencij ofthe Subsistence 

soil is tilled not by free fellow-subjects, but by the most de- 
graded and oppressed of slaves, it will be time enough to 
compare their different situations as to the quantity of food. 
At present a comparison, in that respect, of the field negroes, 
with the draught cattle in their owner's stables, would be, 
in a just view fairer, and rather more illustrative. I deem it, 
nevertheless, not unimportant to shew how clearly my op- 
ponents, who have had the strange boldness to compare the 
two conditions, would be refuted by their own evidence, even 
if we were to estimate the state of a rational, a moral, and 
immortal being by the standard of the manger or the trough. 

I will not content myself, however, with having thus re- 
torted on the planters the comparison they have rashly pro- 
voked. Let them turn, if they will, from our free and self- 
maintained peasantry, to our criminal vagrants and felons, 
when fed at the public charge. Let them ransack our houses 
of correction and our gaols; and find there, if they can, any 
parallel to that cruel parsimony with which they feed their 
innocent hard-working slaves. 

For this purpose an abundance of authoritative information 
may be found in an appendix to the seventh printed Report 
of the Committee of the Society for the Improvement of 
Prison Discipline, &c. ; from which 1 extract the following- 
particulars : — 

In the Bedfordshire Penitentiary, each prisoner is allowed 
two pounds of bread daily ; and if at hard labour a quart of 
soup for dinner is added. 

In the Cambridge Countij Gaol and House of Correction, 
every prisoner on hard labour is allowed three pounds of bread 
daily, and a pint of small beer. 

In the Leicestershire House of Correction, the allowances 
are two pounds of bread per day, and three pints of gruel. 
Those prisoners who are at hard larbour, have in addition 
daily one pint of new milk at breakfast, and twice a week a 
pint of good meat soup at dinner, instead ofthe gruel. 

In the Gloucestershire Countij Gaol and Petiitentiary, the 
dietary for prisoners who labour is as follows — one pound 
and a half of the best bread daily, and for breakfast, one 
ounce and a half of oatmeal, with salt, leeks, or other vege- 
tables in season, made into gruel. They have, in addition, for 

shtwn fioni comparative Views. 317 

their dinners, on Tuesdays and Fridays, three quarters of a 
pint of peas made into a soup with legs and shins of beef; on 
Mondays and Saturdays two pounds and a half of potatoes ; 
on Sundays and Wednesdays two ounces and a half of rice, 
and two ounces of oatmeal made into soup, with legs and 
shins of beef; and on Thursdays half a pound of beef without 
bone, and one pound of potatoes. 

In the Millbank General Penitentiary their allowances are — 
for breakfast, a quarter of a pint of milk mixed with water, 
and boiled with half an ounce of flour, together with half a 
pound of bread. For supper the same articles. For dinner, 
on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, six ounces of beef, ex- 
clusive of bone and loss of weight in boiling, with half a pint 
of the broth made therefrom, one pound of potatoes, and half 
a pound of bread. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, 
one quart of the preceding day's boiling liquor, thickened 
with Scotch barley, rice, potatoes, or peas ; with the addition 
of cabbage, turnips, or other cheap vegetables, one pound of 
boiled potatoes, and half a pound of bread. On Saturday 
two ounces of cheese, and one pound of bread, with onions. 

The dietaries of various other prisons are specified in the 
same report ; and though there are considerable differences be- 
tween them, both in the qualities and quantities of food, the 
most parsimonious subsistence to be found among them, with 
one or two exceptions, cannot be regarded as less in their 
nutritious value than two pounds of bread per diem, being 
more than two-fold that of the hard-worked negro slaves, 
while the average is greatly higher. 

Anothor example of prison feeding in this country, that of 
the House of Correction at Brixton, has met my eye, just as I 
am revising this sheet for the press ; and is well worth adding, 
because it was the subject of discussion at a very recent 
public meeting of the Surry Magistrates, in which the suffi- 
ciency of the regulated allowance for prisoners in general, and 
the necessity of increasing them for health's sake to such as 
were compelled to labour in the tread-mill, were fully consi- 
dered, and with the benefit of medical advice. 

The ordinary allowances were admitted to be as follows : — 
Ten and a half pounds of bread, ten and a half pints of gruel, 
ten and a half pints of soup, one pound of beef, and five and 

318 The hisuffiaency oj llie Subsistence 

a half pounds of potatoes, weekly, to each individual ; boys and 
girls included. But the surgeon, with the concurrence of the 
visiting magistrates, had ordered large additions in a great 
number of cases, to prisoners who were put to labour on the 
mill ; and this was censured by one or two of the gentlemen 
present at the meeting, as a wasteful and impolitic excess, 
tending to make the prison, in the present bad times for the 
poorer classes, an object rather of desire than terror. The 
surgeon, therefore, was called on for explanations ; and he gave 
them so much to the satisfaction of the meeting in general, 
that the subject was dropped. He admitted that the esta- 
blished allowances were in general sufficient ; but stated, that 
the visiting magistrates had concurred with him in ordering 
the additional food, because the labours which the prisoners 
had to undergo were snch as could not be borne in all cases 
on those ordinary allowances ; adding, that he had tried ex- 
periments, for the purpose of convincing himself that the pri- 
soners in question were suffering from the effects of the labour 
and the insufficient diet ; and had found that in many instances 
they had lost twelve or fourteen pounds in the weight of their 
bodies, before he ordered for them the extra allowance.* 

What the amount of daily labour producing these effects is 
at Brixton, I am not able to state ; as the account I cite from 
is silent on that subject ; but the Report of the Society, before 
referred to, states the time of work in other prisons as less 
on a medium than eight hours per day. In the Bedfordshire 
Penitentiary, for instance, we are told that the prisoners work 
nine hours a day in summer, eight hours in the spring, and 
six hours in winter, averaging seven hours and forty minutes ; 
and these penal labours are probably no where of much longer 

Let us look, then, at the shocking and opprobrious result. 
The English vagabond or felon, when imprisoned for his 
crimes, has a subsistence which, upon the lowest general esti- 
mate that can be found, is at least two-fold superior in nutri- 
tious value to that of the poor West Indian jVegro, whose 

* I refer to the proceedings of the meeting as reported in the Morning 
Chronicle of January 13th, 1830 

shewn from comparative Views. 319 

freedom has been forfeited by no crime of his own; but solely 
by the deep, pubhckly acknowledged, legislatively recorded, 
crime of this enlightened Christian land, perpetrated against 
himself or his African progenitors. The one is thus fed while 
in idleness. When forced to labour his subsistence is still 
larger The other, though his forced and permanent labours 
are twice as great, has at best not half the food. Yet, the 
former allowances are limited by the necessity of the case, the 
necessity of saving him from wasting of the body, from debility, 
sickness, and death. What, then, must be the consequences 
of giving less than half the subsistence to the ultra-laborious 
slaves ? What they actually are, my readers have sufficiently 
seen. They cannot be better summed up than in the em- 
phatic words before cited, from Dr. Collins, and well worth 
repetition : — " With so scanty a pittance, it is, indeed, possible 
''for the soul aud body to be held together a considerable time" 
&c. ; hut the negroes, the weaklier sort at least, " crawl about 
" with foeble emaciated frames, — their attempts to ivield the hoe 
" prove abortive, theij shrink from their toil, and being urged to 
** perseverance by stripes, you are soon obliged to receive them 
'' into the hospital, lohence, unless your plan be speedily corrected, 
" they depart but to the grave.'" " I aver it boldly, melancholy 
" experience having given me occasion to make the remark, that a 
" great number of negroes have perished annually by diseases 
" produced by inanition.'^ 

It remains to compare, as I proposed, the parsimonious al- 
lowances of the sugar planter, with the subsistence of slaves, 
in other countries, or under other circumstances, not present- 
ing to the master the same temptations to a sordid and relent- 
less ceconomy. 

Here let me, in the first place, refer again to the statements 
in my former volume, as to the allowances in the Bahamas ; 
where from the failure of the sugar-cane and other exportable 
products of agriculture, the land and the labour of slaves are 
not of too much value to be largely employed by the owners 
in raising indigenous food. It was shewn that the subsistence 
of slaves there, compared with that of the Leeward Islands, is 
in the proportion of about two to one, while the labour is 
lighter, perhaps in nearly the same proportion ; and that the 

320 The Lisujicienci/ of ihe Subsktence 

happy effects had been manifested by a rapid increase of 
population, and a copious progressive enfranchisement.* 

The same statutable allowances which I there cited from an 
act of the Bahamas of 1797, are prescribed by the last act of 
the same legislature, passed in January 1824. The master is 
required to give to every slave above the age of ten, one peck 
of Indian or Guinea corn, or twenty-one pints of wheat flour 
per week; while the law of the Leeward Islands still prescribes 
as humane and liberal subsistence, nine pints of the one, and 
eight pints of the other, f 

The last Consolidation Act of Jamaica, that of December, 
1816, clause 69, furnishes an express standard of sufficiency 
in the case of slaves confined in the workhouses and gaols 
of that island. The keepers are required to give to every 
slave in their custody, " a sufficient quantity of good and 
" wholesome provisions daily ; that is to say, not less than one 
" quart of unground Guinea or Indian corn, or three pints of 
" the flour or meal of either, or three pints of wheat flour, 
" or certain specified commutations in other vegetable articles, 
" with one herring or shad. J" 

What clearer or more authoritative condemnation of the 
masters in the foreign-fed colonies, and their law-givers too, 
can be desired ? Their allowances of food to hard-working 
negroes, even if the general practice conformed to the melio- 
rating law, would be less by about one-half, than the quanti- 
ties here prescribed as the minimum of adequate support to 
the same people when in gaol. That the council and assem- 
bly of Jamaica were highly competent judges on the subject 
will not be denied ; nor will it be supposed that their estimate 
of sufficiency was purposely excessive. They could not mean 
to encourage desertion and other offi^nces, and aggravate need- 
lessly the public expence, by a superfluous liberality in the 
rations. Yet if these are not more than sufficient, the slaves 

* Appendix to Vol. I. No. III. 

f See the Act of Bahamas, rarHumentary P(q)ers, presented hy His 
Majesty's command, in 1825, Clause II., and the Act of the Leeward 
Islands, before referred to. 

X See the Act in the Paliamentary Papers printed by order of the 
House of Commons, of the lOth of June 1818, p. 66. 

shewn from comparative Views. 321 

in the Leeward Islands must be half starved ; and would be so, 
even were their allowances increased in the degree that Dn 
Collins ventured to recommend. He advised that they should 
be raised to ten or twelve pints weekly, when the slaves de- 
pended wholly upon them ; but even this, if the Jamaica esti- 
mate be right, would be from seven to nine pints less than 
enough. Had that writer possessed the power of legislation, 
he would, I doubt, not have thought the same. 

Let us next look at the practice of slave masters in the 
United States of North America. For this, I may consistently 
quote anti-slavery authority, for it respects not our own colo- 
nies, but is a statement of the Manumission Society of New 
York, which certainly had no wish to magnify the liberality 
of American slave masters. " The planters of South Carolina, 
" allow to each slave per week a peck of Indian corn, five 
" pounds of bacon, and a pint of molasses ; but in the upper 
'* country where provisions are more abundant, the few slaves 
" there fare nearly as well as their masters. They are neither 
•' tasked in their work, nor limited in their provisions." 

By not being tasked in their work, we must obviously 
understand not over-worked ; and it is certain that the slaves 
in that country are not driven. As they are also sufficiently 
fed, we have an adequate explanation of the fact, that instead 
of the declining progress of population which has always cha- 
racterized our sugar colonies, the negro slaves in Carolina, a 
far less healthy climate for African constitutions, have a rapid 
native increase. 

If I do not pursue these comparative views into the sugar 
colonies of foreign powei"s, it is not because I believe the sub- 
sistence there to be as scanty as in our own ; but because the 
modes of it are for the most part so dissimilar to those which 
are in use in the British West Indies, especially in our foreign- 
fed islands, as to preclude any clear comparison between them. 
It is an admitted fact that in the Portuguese and Spanish 
colonies the slaves are better treated in all respects, than in 
our own ; but as to their subsistence, it is derived chiefly, if 
not wholly, from their own provision grounds, which are every- 
where in those colonies abundant ; and so is the time which 
they have for their own use. " In some parts of the Brazils," 
says the Privy Council Re|)ort, " the slaves are allowed two 

VOL. II. ^ 

322 The Imujiuiency of the Subsistence 

'* days in the week to work for themselves." * Superstition 
also is friendly to this degraded class in the bigoted catholic 
colonies of Portugal and Spain, from the number of church 
holidays in which they are absolved from work in the master's 

The system in the French islands is more analogous to our 
own ; and it is evident from the regulations of Le Code Noir, 
that over-working and under-feeding were there frequent 
enough to demand, and obstinate enough to elude, the re- 
straints of law. The former species of oppression has been 
alleged by some of our colonists to exceed that of the British 
planters ; which I do not believe, because I cannot conceive 
the possibility of any such excess ; but it is admitted by the 
same authorities in general, that the feeding is better. " The 
" French," says Dr. Collins, " who have been so much cele- 
" brated for their better treatment of their slaves, excel us in 
*' nothing so much as in the articles of feeding and clothing ; 
" for in some respects they do not treat them so well, as they 
" punish offences with greater severity, and work them harder 
" than we do ; but then offences occur rarely, and their capa- 
" city for labour is much greater where provisions are abun- 
" dantly supplied; as they are in the French islands." f 

But little stress is to be laid, in a moral view, on these diver- 
sities between the practice of sugar planters, whether British 
or foreign. They depend chiefly on differences of local cir- 
cumstances; and wherever the driving system prevails, the 
same oppressive principle, the result of commercial competi- 
tion, directs the use of it in whatever various forms; namely 
that of exacting as much of work, with as little ex pence for 
the labourer's support, as in the eye of a rigidly calculating 
oeconomy, is thought to be at all compatible with the pre- 
servation of the gang. The natural consequence also is every 
where the same. Individual avarice pushed on by competition 
frequently overshoots its mark ; and by an excess of exaction, 
or of parsimony, or of both, beyond what nature can sustain, 
produces on many plantations a waste of life, more than 
enough to counterbalance the native increase on others, and 

* Privy Council Report, Part IV. title Portugal. 
f Practical Rules, p. 92. 

shewn from comparative Views. 323 

make the tide of population refluent in the colony at large, 
except when kept up by the slave trade. 

After all, there is no subject of comparison in respect of 
food, nor any single fact in relation to it, more painfully im- 
pressive, than the more liberal and abundant subsistence to 
which the poor Africans are accustomed in their native land. 
This, like every other part of the case, was a subject of gross 
and fatal misrepresentation on the part of the West India com- 
mittee, and the slave-traders with whom they made common 
cause, before the committee of privy council and parliament. 
Because famines, partial ones at least, have been known in 
Africa, it was held forth, in defence of the slave-trade, that 
its victims were carried from a state of want and hunger into 
plenty ; and even that they sold themselves for food.* Many 
a credulous dupe of colonial impostures was led to believe that 
they actually had the benefit of a transition from scanty and 
precarious, into abundant and sure subsistence. Some of the 
West India writers had the confidence to treat this alleged 
benefit as a compensation for slavery and exile. 

But in this, as in most other instances, the valuable volume 
I have so often quoted, brought the truth clearly, though tar- 
dily to light ; and proved, as usual, that the real case was the 
very reverse of the alleged one. Dr. Collins has shewn, in 
the most satisfactory and decisive way, that instead of the 
African captives exchanging hunger for fulness of bread, they 
had, by a difficult, and often deathful process, to exchano;e 
the full feeding of their native land and their Pagan masters, 
for the starving pittances of food to which the avarice of their 
Christian-English purchasers reduced them in the sugar co- 

I refer here chiefly to his chapter on the " Seasoning of 
" Negroes," and that " oii Diet.'' From the latter I have 
already extracted abundantly enough to shew how inade- 
quately, in the experienced author's judgment, the slaves in 
general were fed ; and in his chapter on the seasoning of new 
negroes, we find him expostulating more strongly still against 
the same murderous parsimony in their case, on account of 
the full feeding to which they were accustomed in their native 

» See Vol. I. .%! to 363, and 380, 381. 
Y 2 

324 The Insufficiency of the Subsistence 

land. That treatment of new negroes, while the African 
slave-trade prevailed, which was called their " seasoning," was 
in fact a training, not only to hard work, but to scanty diet, 
to both of which they were equally unaccustomed prior to 
their exile ; and the reducing them to the ordinary subsistence 
of the Creole or seasoned slave, was, it appears, a difficult, 
and often too hurried a part of the process, from the effects 
of which great numbers of them perished. " The most fre- 
" quent error in the feeding of new negroes is the not giving 
" them enough. Having been accustomed in their own country 
" to eat until their stomachs are so full as to contain no more, 
" they ill brook limitation," &c.* Again, " an error in this 
" respect bears particularly hard on new negroes, because they 
" are not formed to habits of temperance, and have little' inclina- 
" tion to learn them on their arrival among us."-\ 

And what was the intemperance from which these poor 
creatures were to be weaned ? The author tells us, that it was 
no more than a plentiful use of vegetable food. " The diet 
" should be, as near as possible such as they have been ac- 
" customed to in their own country, where yams and plantains 
" generally constitute the principal part of it ; but whatever 
** is given to them, it should be with a liberal hand.";}: 

Though it is probably true that the natives of Africa near 
the coast live chiefly on those articles, and rice, it appears, 
from the accounts of those who have visited the interior of that 
continent, that they have in most places, if not every where, 
no small addition of animal food. But they have, as is here 
admitted, an abundance, at least of vegetable diet, notwith- 
standing the easy, not to say indolent lives they lead : and 
they are accustomed, we find, to such plentiful meals, as to 
require a breaking-in of a severe, and often fatal kind, before 
their natures can be made to endure the short allowances of 
their West India Christian masters. 

In my former volume I took occasion frequently to compare 
the condition of the British colonial slave, in point of law, with 
that of the English bondmen called villeins, and of the slaves 
in Greece and Rome, and other countries in ancient and mo- 
dern times : and few were the points of comparison in which 

* Practical Rules, p. 59. f Ibid- 59, (iO. t Ibid. 68. 

shewn from comparative Views. 325 

the result was not shewn to be opprobrious to the laws of our 
West India islands. In the present division of my work there 
has been little or no room for similar illustrations, because 
the aconomical oppressions of the sugar colonies, to which I 
confine myself, are quite siii generis, or have no precedents, at 
least within my knowledge, either in practice or principle, in 
any case that ancient or modern writers have described. 

There is one historical book, however, with which, as 
Christians, we are familiar, that furnishes an exception to 
these remarks. The slavery of the Israelites in Egypt, the 
nature of which may be collected from many passages in the 
Bible, partook, towards its close at least, of ceconomical op- 
pression. Though not driven, they were tasked in the manu- 
facture of bricks ; and an increase of their labours, by 
compelling them to gather straw for the purpose, which had 
before been furnished by their employers, was a hardship of 
which they bitterly complained. They were scattered over 
the land gathering straw, and yet the exacted tale of bricks 
was not diminished. The striking resemblance between this 
grievance and the grass-picking drudgery of the sugar co- 
lonies, has been noticed by anti-slavery writers ; and the two 
cases have other resemblances sufficiently impressive. The 
new hardship was a penal infliction by royal authority, con- 
sequent on the first interposition of Moses and Aaron ; and 
was imposed on the pretence, that to favour idleness was the 
tendency and object of their mediation, and that the pious 
motives alleged by them were a mere subterfuge. " Where- 
" fore do ye let the people from their works ? " — " Get ye unto 
" i/our burthens." — " They be idle; therefore they cry, saying 
" Let us go and sacrifice to our God." — •" Let there more work 
" be laid upon the men, that they may labour therein ; and let 
" them not regard vain tvords." — *' Ye shall no more give the 
" people straw to make bricks ; let them go and gather straw for 
^' themselves." 

Again to the complaining people it was said, by the inex- 
orable monarch, " Ye are idle, ye are idle; therefore ye say, 
" Let us go and sacrifice to the Lord ; go therefore now and 
" ivork ; for there shall no straw be given you ; yet shall ye de- 
" liver the tale of bricks."* 

* See Exodus, chap. v. 

326 The Insufficiencij of the Subsistence 

" There is nothing new under the sun." If any man doubts 
whether the apologies of modern slave masters furnish a con- 
firmation of this proverb, let him turn to the many defences 
of Sabbath work, in our sugar colonies, or to the voluminous 
reports of Major Moody, in which, " the^ be idle, they be idle," 
is the perpetual burthen of the song ; and " wherefore do ye 
" let the people from their roork,'' the as constant expostula- 
tion with all who, in obedience to the general behests of the 
Most High, would alleviate the burthens, or promote the civil, 
moral and religious welfare of the much oppressed negroes. 

We have no account of the former tasks of the Israelites 
which were thus aggravated. The tale of bricks is not spe- 
cified ; but brick-making in its nature could not have been 
very laborious work ; and neither this nor straw-gathering 
could well extend into the night. 

But the comparison in point to my immediate purpose, is 
the liberality of subsistence with which this forced work of 
Egypt was repaid to the enslaved labourers. They had abun- 
dance of flocks and herds, and the fruitful land of Goshen 
was their own. They were able so largely to indulge in ani- 
mal as well as vegetable food, that the " flesh pots of Egypt," 
were long a subject of deep regret, and impious murmuring, 
after they were delivered from their bondage. " The whole 
" congregation murmured against Moses and Aaron in the 
" wilderness, and said unto them, would to God we had died 
" by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat 
" by the flesh-pots, and when we did eat bread to the full.* 

I am unaware that there is any account in English writers, 
of the ordinary subsistence of the bondmen formerly called 
villeins in this country ; but enough has come down to us 
respecting their general condition, and the manners of the 
times, to furnish a strong presumption, that scantiness of 
food was not among the hardships of their lot. 

The villeins in gross, or personal bondmen, probably par- 
took of the abundance which reigned in the mansions of the 
feudal chiefs, their masters, who did not, like West India 
planters, spend their slave-raised revenues in a distant land, 
but made it their pride, as well as policy, to maintain great 

'* Numbers, Cliap. xvi. ver. 2. and 3. 

shewn from comparative Views. 327 

numbers of their retainers and vassals in attendance upon 
them at their castles and country seats. Of their great con- 
sumption of animal food, on festive occasions, we have many 
striking accounts ; and may well infer that the ordinary sur- 
plus of provisions from the baron's table alone must have fur- 
nished an abundant supply to their servile domestics. 

But the great mass of the ancient bondmen were villeins 
regardant, i. e. attached to the manor, who raised their own 
provisions, having ample allotments of land for their own use 
and benefit, and giving in return only such a portion of la- 
bour as by their common contributions at stated periods, suf- 
ficed for the culture of the lord's particular domain. Those 
personal, or, as they were called, base services, assessed, no 
doubt, originally at the lord's arbitrament on the individual 
bondmen, or on their holdings within the manor, seem always 
to have been very moderate ; probably because the arable part 
of the lord's domain, cultivated on his own account, was gene- 
rally very small, compared with the number of the villeins at- 
tached to the manor, and the amount of their collective hold- 
ings. The lands retained in his own hand were, for the most 
part, pasture or waste, and woodlands, and in the use of these 
his servile tenants were permitted, with various modifications, 
to share. The plough and waggon or wain were in universal 
use from the earliest period of our authentic history. We 
derive even their names from our Saxon ancestors, and plough- 
lands, in Doomsday Book and other ancient records, is the 
ordinary definition of lands under tillage. 

Such being the case, and working-cattle and pasture being 
abundant, the lords had no temptation to exact from their 
predial bondmen any excess of manual labour ; still less, to 
make it the substitute, as in our sugar colonies, for all those 
beneficent mechanical means by which the primteval curse has 
been mitigated in the culture of the soil. On the contrary, 
they had much more servile labour at command than they 
could profitably employ ; and a sufficient proof of it is the easy 
terms on which the base services were every where progres- 
sively commuted for small payments in money, corn, or other 
articles, or for fines upon death or alienation, the original 
sources, no doubt, of most of our modern quit-rents and co- 
pyhold fines. 

328 The Insujfficiencif of the Subsistence 

A still stronger proof, perhaps, of the same fact, or at least 
of the moderation of the personal service among manorial 
villeins, is the great facility with which the lords gave or 
connived at their enfranchisement ; for either by express ma- 
numission, or such acquiescence in their use of free privi- 
leges as amounted to enfranchisement by construction of law, 
the whole class, once forming the chief part of our population, 
were converted, without any legislative measures, into free- 

By a coternporary progress, their lands also became free in 
fact, though not in name, being still said to be held at the 
will of the lord, as under the denomination of copyholds they 
are to this day ; but in effect by a perpetual customary tenure, 
which the law upheld against him. His customary payments, 
indeed, were left to him ; but excess in their assessment was 
restrained, even when by custom they were arbitrary, as fines 
on death or alienation. Some personal duties also remained 
as they still do, under the names of homage, suit and service, 
but they soon ceased to be burthensome on the tenants, and 
dwindled into a mere occasional attendance for the purposes 
of presentments, &c. at the baronial courts. 

Now what I would infer from these facts is, that men who 
thus rose rapidly from bondage into independence and territo- 
rial wealth, could not, during the process, have been subjected 
to an oppressive penury of food, and of the other necessaries 
of life. The wants of nature were, doubtless, satisfied from the 
produce of their industry before they made those payments 
to the lord which became so regular and so long continued a 
commutation for the labour of the manorial villeins as to grow 
into prescriptive right. 

That the slaves in Greece and Rome were not in general 
scantily fed, may be inferred from many passages in clas- 
sical writers, to some of which I have referred in my former 
volume.* Freedom was very often purchased by means of the 
slave's j9ecw//ww, or property of his own acquiring; and that 
.ts acquisition most commonly arose from savings out of the 
master's allowances, might be fairly inferred from the charac- 
teristic sketch of Seneca, if we had no other information on 

* See title Redemption, p. .'^79, ^'c. and the authorities tjiere cited. 

sheivn from comparative Views. 329 

the subject. " Slaves," he says, " pay as the price of their 
" emancipation the money which they have defrauded their 
" stomachs to amass."* Terence alludes to the same absti- 
nence among the slaves, practised doubtless from the same 
motive, when he puts into the mouth of one of that hapless 
order the remark that what a brother slave had with difficulty 
saved out of his allowance ounce by ounce, was destined 
by him as a nuptial present to his master's son, and would be 
wasted by the wife.f Cicero also apparently had the same 
frugal abstinence as ordinary means of obtaining freedom in 
view, when he says that a slavery of six years is longer than 
slaves, made such by captivity in war, if frugal and indus- 
trious, usually sustain. J 

Now if the means of paying for enfranchisement could be 
prepared by frugality or abstinence, in the use of the custom- 
ary allowances of food from the master, these of course could 
not be inadequate to the urgent wants of nature, but must in 
some degree have exceeded them ; for few, if any, would have 
endured willingly, the present pangs of hunger to obtain the 
distant chance of future benefit. When we are told by Seneca, 
that the peculium was accumulated as the price of freedom, 
" ventre fraudato;" it is not necessary or natural to under- 
stand more than that they subducted for that purpose, and 
sold, part of the food allowed for their support. 

Among the numberless falsehoods by which West India 
slavery long has been, and still is defended, I am not aware that 
any pen or tongue has alleged a similar economy, for that or 
any purpose, among the plantation slaves. We are told, and 
most fallaciously told, that some of them acquire property, and 
a degree of wealth sufficient to buy their freedom, by means 

* Mancipia peculium suum quod comparaverunt ventre fraudato pro 
capite nuraerant. Senec. Epis. 80. 

t Quod ille unciatim vix de demenso suo, suum defraudans genium 
comparsit miser, id ilia universum abripiet. Ter. Phorm. i. 1. 9. 

\ Et enim P. C cum in spem libertatis sexemiio post simul ingressi, 
diutiusque servitutem perpessi quam captivi frugi et diligentes solent. 
PhUl. viii. 11. 

Capth'i, or war slaves, must here be imderstood emphatically ; for the 
vernte, or slaves born in the master's family, were treated with much 
greater lenity and favour. 

33X) The Insufficioici/ of the Subsistence 

of voluntary industry ; " most fallaciously," because the cases 
alleged in proof of it, sup|DOsing them real, are too few to be of 
any account in a general estimate of the condition of the slaves 
at large; and especially when it is considered that every source 
of authentic information as to such cases, must have been 
open to those who wished to adduce them in their defence of 
the general system. But that slaves of any description, 
make savings and acquire property out of the master's allow- 
ances of food or other necessaries, was probably thought too 
bold a tictiou ; for I find it no where asserted by any of my 

Some of my readers perhaps here may recollect the fabu- 
lous accounts they have seen of the wealth possessed by these 
poor beings, and the countenance that may seem to be given 
to such tales by the endeavours of his Majesty's government, 
in pursuance of the parliamentary resolutions to establish 
savings banks for the slaves in the different colonies, where 
they may deposit their money, and let it accumulate with in- 
terest for their future benefit; or as a fund for the purchase 
of their freedom. It may be remembered also that there has 
been strong opposition by the planters, now avowedly abetted 
by the West India committee, to the granting of a right of 
redemption, or what they call " compulsory manumission," on 
the alleged apprehension that the right would be exercised 
so extensively as often to deprive the planters of labourers 
whom they could not spare ; and it may be thought, that 
such views and measures are hard to reconcile with the ex- 
treme parsimony on the master's part, and the great destitution 
and sufferings of the slaves which have been here developed 
and proved. 

I acknowledge the apparent difficulty ; but it arises, like 
every other which an advocate of colonial reformation has to 
encounter, from the general ignorance of the European public, 
our statesmen not excepted, and the gross misrepresentations 
of the West Indian party, as to the true nature of the case. 

The statements that were made to parliament as to the 
wealth of plantation slaves by some of the colonial witnesses 
in 1790, were more extravagant if possible than the accounts 
of their labour and food. Fifty, a hundred, even two hundred 
and five hundred pounds sterling were spoken of by eminent 

shewn from comparative Views. 33 i 

planters, as sums they had known to have been accumulated 
by negroes on their own estates ; and those statements were 
generally so introduced as to imply, that they were fair indi- 
cations of the condition in point of property of the plantation- 
slaves at large. One of the witnesses, the agent of Grenada 
and St. Kitts, in reply to the question," Does it often happen 
'• that negroes acquire and possess considerable property?" 
states as follows. " If 400/. or 500/. may be called consider- 
" able property, they sometimes possess that sum, but more 
" frequently the sum they possess does not exceed 200/. or 
" 300/,," which would seem to imply that such sums were 
within the reach of the slaves generally. {Privy Council lie- 
port, Grenada, S^c. A. No. 10, 11.) 

It was not solely by invention or gross exaggeration, that 
such accounts were calculated to deceive ; for one fallacy will 
be found to pervade them all. In every case distinctly stated, 
and therefore likely to have some foundation in truth, the 
usual artifice was practised of suppressing the all important 
distinction between the common drudges of the field, and 
those comparatively fortunate and highly privileged slaves 
who are not driven, but drive ; or who have been taught me- 
chanical arts for the purposes of the estate, and are known by 
the name of tradesmen or headmen. I have noticed before 
that the head negroes commonly receive double allowances 
from the master, and that the drivers have ample means of 
turning their powers of punishment to account at the expence 
of their hapless inferiors. As to the carpenters, coopers, ma- 
sons, &.C. they are sometimes able by working for their own 
benefit at times unoccupied by the master's service, to ob- 
tain money or other gainful rewards, especially when they are 
near to a town. 

What would be thought of a man, who undertaking to in- 
form the public in some foreign country of the condition of 
our labouring poor, should select examples of property ac- 
quired by carpenters, blacksmiths, wheelwrights, and other 
artificers in some of our country towns, and urge them as evi- 
dence of the liberality of the wages that our agricultural 
labourers obtain ? Certainly that he reasoned very idly, if 
the wide difference between the plowman's and mechanic's 
remuneration were known ; but if unknown and suppressed by 

332 The Insufficiency of the Subsistence 

him, very deceitfully too. Now in the parliamentary evi- 
dence, here referred to, the subject of enquiry was the state of 
plantation-slaves at large ; but the specimens brought forward 
by the witnesses of considerable property acquired, were all 
taken from amono; the drivers and other headmen or trades- 
men ; and that important distinction was in almost every in- 
stance suppressed, until elicited on cross-examination by anti- 
slavery members of the committee.* 

Yet even with all the advantages of that superior class, their 
possession of any property worth a boast by the master's must 
be extremely rare, for with a selection of willing witnesses 
from every colony, the specified cases were very few, com- 
monly but one by each witness, and they were for the most 
part driven to admit that they knew of no more ; for which 
two of them found a very convenient reason ; namely that the 
negroes in general conceal their wealth. -f- 

Of the existence of hidden riches, like the supposed stores 
of the alchymists, the belief is much easier than the proof or 
the refutation. In the few instances given there was ostenta- 
tion rather than concealment on the part of the possessors, nor 
is it easy to conceive how a slave could invest his property so 
as to retain the command over it without his master's know- 
ledge, and his assistance too. He might to be sure bury his 

* See, for instance, and compare, in the Commons Report of 1/90, 
p. 187. with 201.; p. 105, 6. with 120. ; p. 30/. with 311.; p. 436. with 443. 
See also p. 93. 

f Q. Have you known frequent instances of negroes being possessed of 
considerable property ? 

A. In a small Island like that on which I chiefly resided, it is not to be 
supposed that such instances should frequently occm*. Besides negroes 
in general are very jealous of letting their owners or managers know 
what property they really do possess. Evidence of Mr. Tobin of St. 
Christopher and Nevis, Same Report, 278. 

Q Can you speak particularly of the quantity of property possessed by 
any particular individual among the negroes ? 

A. In general, the negroes conceal their money and do not choose to 
be considered as rich. Evidence of Mr. FranUyn, who spoke of and had 
resided in all the Islands from Barbadoes to St. Christopher. Same Rep. 
93. He mentioned the instance of JefFery, a carpenter, whom he believed 
to have been worth six or seven hundred pounds, but though he said he 
believed many of the negroes to be possessed of a great deal of property, 
he could mention no other case. 

shewn from comparative Vieios. 333 

money in the earth ; but is under too much constant observa- 
tion and restraint to make the practice common, without fre- 
quent detection. The discovery of a slave's buried treasure 
would be so happy a topic for slave masters, that it would 
have found a tongue in every West India circle, and a place 
in every West India testimony or pamphlet, had such a pheno- 
menon occurred in any colony during the last forty years, or 
been handed down by older tradition ; but no such discovery 
has ever been heard of in the course of this long controversy. 
I doubt very much, therefore, whether the head negroes 
or tradesmen, the only plantation-slaves who can often ac- 
quire a little property, are at all given to conceal it. From 
their general character, they are much more likely to spend it 
in dress, and other modes of self-indulgence ; except the pru- 
dent and well principled few, who may save for a purpose 
that demands publicity, the purchase of liberty for them- 
selves, their wives or children. Nevertheless as such laud- 
able objects of saving and accumulation, may sometimes 
excite the industry, and favour the prudence, of individuals 
among the superior class of the plantation-slaves, and well 
disposed domestics, the institution of savings Banks was a 
measure properly included in the improvements, adopted or 
recommended by the crown.* 

* I confess that it was one tvhich I did not regard with unmixed satis- 
faction, because it had an obvious tendency to countenance the misrepre- 
sentations I am now repelling, and favor the false views of slavery which 
its apologists propagate in this country, by raising a notion that slaves in 
general have property to save. I thought it on that account a device of 
the enemy ; and ignorant as I still am who suggested the plan to Mr. 
Canning, have not yet relinquished that surmise. But it was not for the 
friends of the slaves to oppose a measure, the direct operation of which, 
as far as it might have any effect at all, was to promote their industry and 
welfare. Besides, it was probable that the result of such institutions 
would tend ultimately rather to dispel, than support delusion ; by shewing 
that by this test, at least, the imposing statements as to the large amounts 
of slaves' property in general, received no confirmation. Such has 
been the event wherever Savings Banks have been formed ; though it 
would have been much more instructive as evidence of the real case, if a 
discrimination had been made in the books of every bank between plan- 
tation and other slaves as depositors, and among plantation slaves, be- 
tween the drivers and tradesmen on the one hand, and the common 
field negroes on the other. Under the latter description, I am confident 

334 The Inmlficiena/ of the Subsistence 

But the assemblies, for the most part, seem to have fore- 
seen that these institutions would be like spies, to report the 
nakedness of the land, and discredit all their impostures, as 
to the wealth of their slaves. A more probable reason, at 
least, cannot be suggested, for their contumacious conduct in 
a particular in which compliance would, on their own princi- 
ples, have cost them nothing. 

The refusal of the council and assembly of St. Vincent was 
accompanied with a laboured apology, the modesty and sin- 
cerity of which place it quite on a par with the passages 
which I have cited from the same paper, as to the disuse 
of the cart-whip.* " No one circumstance can possibli/ expose 
" the genuine ignorance of the party noio interfering with the 
"■ slave taivs, and regulations, more than the proposal for esta- 
" blishing savings banks for their property.'^ 

This may be just for ought I know. If I am mistaken in 
the suspicion before noticed, the proposal most probably arose 
from great ignorance in its authors, as to the abject and des- 
titute condition of the poor beings they meant to benefit; and 
Mr. Canning, I doubt not, adopted, if he did not devise the 
measure, under that ignorance ; but I cannot call it genuine. 
It was not a natural blindness, but an artificial and spurious 
darkness, created by these honourable legislators themselves, 
and their fellow-labourers in other colonies, whose impostures 
had extinguished the light of truth so totally, as to make it 
credited that the slaves were rich. But the ignorance which 
they proceed to impute explicitly, is somewhat of a different 

that very few and insignificant, if any, deposits would have been found, 
even in the largest colonies. The want of such discrimination where 
the banks have been established by the King's authority, was probably an 
oversight, for which the friends of the slaves, and I among them, 
deserve to be censured ; for I believe the defect has not hitherto been 
pointed out by us to any of His Majesty's Ministers. However, the 
omission of such distinctions is a point of very small moment ; as in none 
of the colonies excepting Trinadad and Berbice, do any deposits whatever 
appear to have been made ; and the number of depositors in both these 
colonies does not exceed ten or twelve. They were made chiefly either 
either by headmen among the Government slaves, or by women, the 
purity of whose means may be doubted. Papers presented by commnnd in 
1828, under the heads Trinidad and Berbice. 
* See supi-a p. 197- to p- 204. 

shewn from comparative Vieivs. 335 

kind. " The negroes are generally intelligent, and they know 
" enough of calculation to prevent themselves being imposed 
" upon in the bargains they make ; but their arithmetic has 
" not reached either simple or compound interest. Their ideas 
" of wealth do not go beyond personal possession. No miser of 
" any age or country ever knew more delight in hanging 
" over his hoards of money, than does the negro in handling 
" his little pouch of dollars or Johannes. It would not be 
" gold or silver to him if he could not every day of his life 
" know and approach tlie place of its deposit." 

After a sarcasm on Mr. Wilberforce and Mr. Buxton, it is 
added, that the negroes " not onlij conceal possession of money 
"from ivhife persons, hit generallij from their nearest relatives 
" and friends y* This may remind us of FalstafF's rogues in 
Kendal green. But perhaps these gentlemen use divining rods. 

Now if it be doubted, whether the whole of this was not 
mere grimace and artifice, to hide the true reasons of refusal ; 
if this, I say, be doubted by any of my readers, merely 
because the paper comes from a dozen gentlemen or more 
forming the legislature of a slave colony and addressing the 
crown through their governor, let him turn back to my 
former remarks on the same document, and be satisfied. 

It remains to notice the other difficulty that was suggested, 
that of explaining why, if the negroes in general are really 
destitute of property, planters should be so much alarmed as 
they appear to be, at what they call compulsory manumission, 
i. e. allowing the slaves to redeem themselves if they can, at a 
full price, with their own money ? 

It might be a sufficient explanation, perhaps, to say, that 
though common field-negroes very rarely, if ever, could avail 
themselves of such a privilege, some of the drivers and 
tradesmen occasionally might, and the planters have not un- 
truly alleged, that the place of a useful man of that descrip- 
tion might not always be easy to fill by purchase. As to the 
injustice and cruelty of making the merits and value of a ser- 
vant rivets for his chains, they do not jar against the feelings 
of West India slave masters in general, sufficiently to make 

* Communication to Sir Charles Brisbane, &c. Governor of St. Vin- 
cent, and joint reply of the Council and Assembly, p. 85, G. 

336 The Insufficiency of the Subsistence 

them give up that objection. Moreover, it is felt by the co- 
lonial proprietors, that to admit this right of redemption, 
would be to recognize a principle, which, however narrow the 
immediate practical operation of the privilege may be, they 
much dislike, and regard with unreasonable fears. Mitiga- 
tions of slavery they know how to deal with ; especially while 
left to assemblies and West India juries; but the dissolution 
of the state itself, is quite another thing ; and not self-interest 
only, but pride, revolts at the novelty of having the awful 
relation of master severed ajjainst their will. The command 
of another man's destiny for life, however terrible to the sub- 
ject of such power, is palatable and self-exalting to its proud 
possessor. These are doubtless among the feelings and the 
motives which have actuated the West India committee, 
under its new Leader, in avowedly making common cause with 
the assemblies in opposing the right of redemption. 

But the noble chairman and members, I doubt not, were 
urged to that harsh and illiberal course, chiefly by the influ- 
ence of the resident planters ; who again are pushed on by in- 
dividuals of their own body, and by the cry of the lower whites 
in the colonies, excited in very many cases by feelings to 
which the noble Marquis and his colleagues may be strangers. 
A man must have lived in the West Indies, and not merely 
as a transient guest, to conceive and appreciate all the mo- 
tives that may make slave-masters averse to compulsory 
manumission. Some of them, perhaps, may be guessed at, 
when I hint that irredeemable property in a female may be 
the only security against her infidelity in the mind of a jealous 
master ; and that to set loose a tongue which is now tied 
both by terror and by law, might be very inconvenient to 
those to whose crimes its silence gives impunity, or whose 
reputation it has power to blast. It was a wise Roman law, 
that an enfranchised slave should not be heard as a witness to 
any fact which arose before his manumission. 

The fear of vengeance, even, may sometimes make a master 
relentlessly averse to manumission, because it is by the ser- 
vile condition of the dreaded enemy only, that he or she can 
certainly be kept at a distance, or otherwise effectually re- 
strained. A gentlemen suspects that a female domestic, 
his property, is resolved to poison him : he determines, there- 

slieivn from comparative Vieios. 337 

fore, that she shall be sent to another island, and kept there 
in bondage till her death or his. Her husband, to save her 
from exile, and separation from her children, finds the means 
of offering to pay a very large price for her freedom, but it is 
refused : the most respectable mediation, from persons who 
have no doubt of her innocence, is fruitless ; and the master, 
taking what he thinks the surest course, sells her for a small 
price to a resident of the island to which he sent her with 
a condition in the bill of sale, that she shall never be enfran- 
chised, but that the property shall revert to him, and the 
price be forfeited, if ever she returns. * 

It is plain, that to an owner under such circumstances, the 
right of redemption would be in a high degree formidable and 
odious : but there are various cases of much more frequent 
occurrence, that will amply account for the clamours raised in 
the West Indies against the measure in question, without 
supposing any sincere apprehension in the minds of the 
planters, that there is wealth enough among the slaves col- 
lectively, to make the redemption inconveniently large. 

Such indeed might be the case if they, like the Grecian 
and Roman slaves, from whose case I have digressed, were 
able, by any possible self-denial, to save, from the subsistence 
allowed by their masters, the price of future freedom ; but the 
feet is, as we might well infer from the frequency of self-re- 
demption by such means in Greece and Rome, that their slaves 
were much more liberally maintained than those of English 

* As this will serve for illustration of possible motives in a master's 
mind, though the case were quite imaginary, I cannot be required to 
prove that such a one ever existed ; but it is a real case that came before 
the Court of King's Bench in St. Christopher, while I practised at the bar 
in that Island. The husband went to tlie foreign Island to which the 
woman had been sent (I think it was St. Eustatius) a:nd induced the pur- 
chaser there to sell her to him by the temptation of a high price, then 
executed a manumission valid by the law of the place, with the proper 
testimonials of which she returned as a free women to St. Christopher. 
If there was any thing wrong in the stratagem, I must confess having 
shared the blame of it. The former master seized her as his slave and I 
obtained a habeas corpus, contending that the condition in the bill of 
sale was void in law, or avoided by the effect of the enfranchisement- 
and a majority of the judges being of that opinion, she was dischargexl. 

VOL. ir. z 

338 The Insujficiencj/ of the Subsistence 

More disect evidence of that fact may be adduced in respect 
of the Roman slaves at least, from the notices we find in 
classical writers, of their actual allowances of food, which ap- 
pears to have been of two kinds ; the monthly distribution of 
grain which was called demensum, and the diurnal rations, or 
diaria ; the former being the mode of feeding most in use, and 
universally so, I apprehend, among the agricultural or rural 
slaves, and the latter only among the town slaves or domestics.* 

The demensum was so much the prevalent mode, that the 
term is commonly used by classical writers, as meaning gene- 
rally a slave's allowance. It will be very interesting therefore, 
to ascertain, if we can, its ordinary amount ; and there is little 
or no difficulty in this, except that the reduction of Roman 
into European measures, is a problem, in the solution of which, 
learned writers have differed much and very widely from each 

The demensum was an allowance of wheat or other grain, 
consisting, according to the best authorities, of five jnodii per 
month to each slave ; and to this, as appears from a well-known 
passage in Terence, some money was usually added ; for he 
speaks of the receiving five modii and five denarii, as known 
characteristics of the servile condition .-j- One learned com- 
mentator has, on no apparent authority, reduced the allowance 
of grain from five modii to four, j: but others have either ad- 
hered to the statement of five as the established usage, or re- 
garded it as varying from four, or four and a half, to five, 
according to the produce of the annual crops, or the greater 
or less degree of liberality in the master. § We may therefore 
reasonably assume, that five modii were considered as the 
proper standard of allowance ; and that when the quantity was 

* Cum servis urbana diaria rodere mavis. Hor. Epis. i. 14. 4. 

t Servus est; quinque modios accipit, et quinque denarios. Terence in 
Phormio, 11,9. Taking the denarius at 8!|f/. sterling, its generally re- 
ceived value, the money allowance was 3s. 7id. per month. 

X See Donatus on this passage of Terence. 

§ Et hie erat menstruus canon, quatuor vel qninque modiorum in sin- 
gulis. Laurentius Pignorius, de Servis. The same writer cites Cfelius 
Aurelianus, as saying, Sic demensum variavit aliquando, modo enim 4, 
modo 4 J, modo 5 modiorum fuit, prout ferebant et amionse ratio et domi- 
norum qua splendor qua sordes. 

shewn from comparative Views. 339 

lessened to four, or four and a half, it was regarded as a scan- 
tiness discreditable to the master, unless excused by a general 
scarcity or failure of the harvest. 

What then were the contents of the modius, when reduced 
to our English cubical standard ? Though commonly translated 
a bushel, it was, I admit, a measure of far less capacity than 
the one known to us by that name ; though the degree of in- 
feriority is a subject on which classical writers are much at 
variance with each other. If we refer to the word modius in 
Ainsworth, we shall find it estimated by him, when applied to 
the measurement of corn and like substances, at a peck and a 
half English ; and he follows therein the learned Budaus, the 
first authority on such subjects. Dr. Adams, in his Roman 
Antiquities, says that " it was the third part of a cubic foot, 
*' or somewhat more than a peck English." But for this 
he quotes no authority. 

The Encyclopsedia Britannica, in its comparative tables of 
Roman and English measures, follows Dr. Adams in all 
points ; except in making the modius simply an English peck, 
omitting the " somewhat more." 

If, amidst these variant estimates, I take the demensum at 
five modii, and the modius at a peck only, it will be at least 
sufficiently abstinent ; and we shall have five pecks, or eighty 
pints of grain for the monthly allowance ; being two pints and 
nearly two-thirds of a pint per diem, or about twenty pints 
per week. This is about three times the amount of the sub- 
sistence which I have shewn to be in the Leeward Islands 
that of the negro slave, when dependent for support on the 
master's allowances alone. 

It should not, however, be supposed that the Roman slave 
had nothing beyond his demensum of corn ; or no taste of 
humble luxuries at his meals. We have seen on the best clas- 
sical authority (for such I may well call on a subject like this 
the traits of living manners, given by a dramatic poet for the 
ears of his cotemporaries) that to the five modii were added 
five denarii or Roman pence; which, as the denarius was equal 
to eight pence three farthings of our money, amounted to 
three shillings and seven pence three farthings ; a sum exceed- 
ing five-fold the monthly cost of the negro's salt herrings- 
We have seen also that the Roman slaves had wine at their 

z 2 

340 The Insufficienci/ of the Subsistence 

meals, provided at the master's charge, and in very liberal 
quantities.* Oil, too, vpas among the luxuries of which they 
ordinarily partook.f On the whole, it is a fair and moderate 
estimate, that the treatment of the Roman slave, in point of 
subsistence, was three-fold better than that of the British co- 
lonial slave ; while his labour, as there is every reason to believe, 
was very far less severe. 

That his lot was thus enviably distinguished from that of 
the plantation negroes, might be satisfactorily inferred, even 
from the silence of classical authorities, as to oppressions like 
these ; for though the satirists and moralists of Rome did not 
leave unnoticed in their works abuses of the master's power, 
and though the imperial codes contaip many provisions to 
restrain them, I am not aware of a single passage in either, 
tending to shew that starving their slaves, or withholding 
from them adequate means of support, was an ordinary or 
known species of oppression. The same is the case as to an 
excessive and destructive exaction of labour. No Roman 
writer, I believe, has exposed any such avaricious excess ; nor 
do the imperial ordinances or rescripts, among their provisions 
for the mitigations of slavery, and multitudinous notices of 
the state, contain any thing that indicates the prevalence of 
such an abuse. :|; If the force of this inference is not felt, let 
the Code Noir of France, the Cedulas of the Spanish Govern- 
ment, as to its colonial slavery, the servile codes of the Danish 
West India Islands, and of our own, be consulted ; and it will 
be found that the first, the anxious, and very difficult advance 
towards improvement in all, was to limit the labours, and 
enlarge the subsistence of the slaves ; in other words, to curb, 
if possible, the oppressive avarice of the masters. 

In fact, there were neither motives nor means with the 
landlords or farmers of Italy, for any degree of severity in 
these respects, at all approaching to that of our sugar colonies. 
The heavier labours of the field were all performed by horses, 

* See my forirer volume, p. 342, &c. and the authoi-ities there cited. 

•f Cato de Re Rustica. 

t If I am mistaken in these negative propositions, as I very possibly 
may, Mr. Barclay or some of his learned coadjutors will no doubt cor- 
rect me, by citing any passages that recognize or point at either of those 
specific modes of oppression by the Roman masters. 

sheion from comparative Views. 34 1 

oxen, and other working cattle, and by means of the plough, 
the wain or cart, the harrow, and other instruments of hus- 
bandry , like our own ; * and much of the agricultural work 
that was left to human hands, not only will bear no compa- 
rison with the arduous toils of the cane-piece, but was pro- 
bably lighter on the whole than that of our English peal 
sants. Most of the various processes in the vineyards and 
olive-grounds, the management of bees, and the tending of 
sheep and cattle, in which no small proportion of the rural 
slaves in Italy were chiefly engaged, could not be labours of 
an arduous kind. 

Nor were their hours of relaxation taxed with the charge 
of raising food for their own support. The Roman masters 
had not hit upon that ingenious invention reserved for our 
sugar planters, of adding the stimulus of hunger to that of 
the whip, by leaving hard-worked and weary men to provide for 
their own subsistence at intervals nominally left to them for re- 
freshment or repose, and calling this " working for themselves." 
Their provisions, as we have seen, were raised or purchased 
by the master ; and supplied regularly to the slaves, in such 
quantities as not only exempted them from hunger, but en- 
abled them very often, by a sparing use of their food, to save 
the means of purchasing their own enfranchisement. 

The latter well-attested fact would, if it stood alone, be 
enough for the purpose of these comparisons. It might serve 
to deprive the avaricious oppression of the sugar colonies of 
the oft-urged, though contemptible plea, that it once had an 
example in the Pagan world, of a system as opprobrious as 
its own. 

' It would be idle to quote authorities for facts like these, as no man 
at all acquainted with the Latin classics can be at a loss for them. As to 
the plough drawn by oxen, its use was so early general, that the word 
jugerum, the Roman acre, is thought to be derived from jugum bourn, a 
yoke of oxen ; being the supposed quantity of land that one yoke of oxen 
should plough up in a day. 




In tlie testimony on the colonial side, before the privy council 
and parliamentary committees, it was strongly affirmed, as we 
have seen, not only that the slaves were abundantly fed, and 
moderately or very lightly worked, but also that they were 
sufficiently and properly clothed at the master's expence. 

Some of the West India witnesses, indeed, qualified the 
last proposition by a reference to the climate ; thereby making 
their standard of sufficiency very indefinite, though appa- 
rently meaning to admit, that the ordinary amount of clothing 
was not such as would suffice in this country. But others 
spoke without any such qualification ; and if we refer to their 
evidence in the reports, they will be found for the most part 
to have stated the supply of clothing to be adequate, if not 
even liberal and redundant.* 

• It is due to IMr. Drathicaite, the then agent of Darhadoes, to notice 
that he spoke with more candour on this point, as we have seen he did 
in respect of food, than most of his copartizans. " Taking the island 
" throughout, I do not upon the wliole, think they are sufficiently clothed; 
" hut in a hot climate, I do not think this a point of much importance." 
{Prifij Council Report Barhudoes, Q. A. No. 6.) 

Tlie Agents for Antigua were also, in their answer to this query, pretty 
moderate. " Slaves are allowed every year a blanket and a quantity of 
" Osnaburghs, and coarse woollens for making themselves clothing ; little 
" clothing being thought requisite in a West India climate," and Dr. Adair 
in respect of the same island, was content to say, "In general the clothing 
" is sufficient to preserve them from the inclemency of the season ; but I 

The Alloxoances of Clothing insufficient. 343 

Fortunately, however, for the cause of truth, several of the 
examiaants were led into specifications and details, as to the 
kinds and quantities of clothing annually supplied ; and by 
these we are enabled to judge what their standard of suffici- 
ency actually was ; for in their respective accounts of par- 
ticulars, numerous though they were, we shall find but little 

It appears from them that the proprietors, with the ex- 
ception of some who are too indigent or penurious to have 
regular yearly supplies of clothing from this country, distri- 
bute to their slaves one suit per annum, or else the materials 
for making it ; in general only the latter ; and that it consists 
of the following articles: — To the men, a short jacket of 
coarse and flimsy woollen, called baize or bamboo, and 
breeches or trowsers of Osnaburg, or other coarse linen ; and 

" think there are some instances in which the masters are too sparing." 
(Ibid, same query.) 

Not so, the Coimcil and Assembly of the island ; for they said *' In 
** damp and low situations, they are clothed with woollen clothes, and in 
" dry situations with a lighter stuff called Osnaburghs. Such is the prac- 
" tice. No laws have ever been passed in this island for enforcing due 
*' care of the slaves, as from the humanity exercised towards them by 
" their owners, it has never been found necessary to pass a law for that 
" purpose." (Ibid.) 

The Council and Assemhhj of St.Cliristopher, and several other respond- 
ents, had recourse to the old distinction between " well-disposed" and 
" ill-disposed," i. e. able, and weakly slaves, "(rood well-disposed negroes 
** are in respect of clothing, as they are in respect of food : they have al- 
*' ways plenty. A bad ill-disposed negro, were you to give him a ward- 
" robe every week, would soon make away with them." (Ibid, title 
Grenada and St. Christopher). 

" In general tlie negroes in Jamaica," said the agent of that island and 
his joint respondents, Messrs. Long and ChisJiolme " are well clothed, and 
" there are very few sugar estates where the negroes do not from their 
*' own private earnings provide themselves with extra clothes for Sun- 
" days and holidays." (Ibid, title Jamaica.) 

Q. By the Committee of the House of Commons to James Baillie, 
Esquire. " In general is there a sufficient supply of food and clothing for 
" negro slaves." A. " / have always found the greatest abundance in all 
*' the islands I have been in." (Commons Report of 1/90, p. 18/.) 

After citing so full and comprehensive an answer from this very 
eminent West India merchant and planter, it would be a useless trespass 
on the reader's time, to shew by how many other proprietors of different 
colonies, the suiriciency of clothing was affirmed. 

344 The Allowances of Clothing 

sometimes, not always, a coarse worsted cap or hat. To the 
women, a short jacket or wrapper, and a petticoat of the 
same linen, and a like quantity of the baize or bamboo for a 

Such was, and still is, the scanty yearly supply in the Lee- 
ward Islands. Their meliorating act of 1798, recently re- 
enacted in St. Christopher, seemed to provide a small increase, 
by enacting that owners should give twice in the year, one jacket 
made of woollen cloth, and one pair of trowsers of Osnaburghs 
to the male slaves, and one wrapper of woollen cloth and one 
petticoat to the females. But it is provided, that if any owner 
should think proper to furnish the slave with a good and suf- 
ficient blanket, and a hat or cap, the same should be in lieu of 
one suit of such clothes.f This, it will be seen, would make 
little or no difference in the slave's favour, compared with the 
former practice as here stated. He must lose the blanket, and 
cap or hat, to get a second annual suit of the rest ; and the 
linen jackets are omitted. The legislators nevertheless dis- 
covered their consciousness that many masters were likely to 
withhold even these scanty allowances ; for a section follows, 
requiring them under a penalty of 1001., to declare annually 

* " They have as much Osnaburghs or coarse linen as make a jacket 
" and breeches for the men, and a jacket and petticoat for the women ; 
" with an allowance of woollen cloth, and generally hats or caps, at least 
" once a year." (Evidence of Mr. Tobin, Commons Report of 1790, 
p. 263.) 

" All such estates as have a credit in England, usually have sent to 
" them a sufficient quantity of coarse baize, and also a sufficient quantity 
" of coarse linen called Osnabm'ghs, and many of them have warm worsted 
" caps also, sent out to them, and proper hats for their watchmen. To 
^' each negro man is given a quantity of baize sufficient to make him a 
" blanket or covering, and also as much of the Osnaburghs as will make 
" him a short jacket and trowsers ; and to each female as much as will 
" make a short wrapper and petticoat, with also a sufficient quantity of 
" the baize for the purpose before specified." (Evidence of Mr. Thomas, 
Ibid. p. 249.) 

" They are clothed annually ; the master gives them a hat, a frock and 
" trowsers, or shift and petticoat, a woollen jacket and a blanket." (Evi- 
dence of IMr. Robinson of Dominica, P. C. Report, Q. A. No. 6.) 

It is needless to quote other accounts, for their specifications are all 
nearly in the same words, and all to the same effect. 

t See the act before cited, sect. 7- 

are shamefullj/ insufficient. 345 

on oath before the chief courts of the Islands, that such cloth- 
ing had been furnished to their slaves. But the act in this, 
as in other parts, was a dead letter. It has been ascertained 
by official returns, that no such oaths have been made, and no 
prosecutions instituted for default of them.* 

No other act of assembly has, in these islands, or any other 
sugar colony to my knowledge, provided any express regula- 
tions whatever on this subject ; for such surely I need not call 
enactments, that " every owner shall annually allow and give 
" to his slaves decent and sufficient clothingf^'f or " shall give 
" iheui good and sufficient clothing "% or " shall once in] every 
" year give them proper and sufficient clothing, to be approved of 
•' by the justices and vestry of the parish." § The Jamaica legis- 
lature indeed, has added that the owner or master " shall an- 
" nually give in an account on oath, of the nature and quantity 
" of clothing actually sei-ved to each slave on the plantation, to 
*' the justices and vestry " under the penalty of 100/. ; and the 
Grenada Act had a similar provision, with reference to its 
boasted but soon abandoned institution, the public guardians 

* In the Danish island of Santa Cruz, also, this subject has been regu- 
lated by law, and the author before cited, in his account printed but a few 
months ago, says, " The legal annual allowance of clothing for each man is 
" seven yards of Osnaburgh, which will make a shirt and a pair of trowsers ; 
" and tliree and a half yards of a coarse kind of woollen cloth, called bam- 
** boo, which is usually made into a coat or cloak. The allowance for the 
" women is the same, except that they have an additional yard of Osna- 
" burgh ; and the children receive a quantity proportioned to their size. 
" Each man and woman receives a blanket every two years." (Observ- 
ation on the State of Negro Slavery, &c. p. 16.) 

We have here a new specimen of the close similarity, not to say absolute 
identity, between the oeconomies of foreign planters and our own ; the 
effect, as I have before observed, of a uniformity of the sordid and op- 
pressive principles on which their common system is built. 

The author says (p. 15), that the negroes of Santa Cruz are as well 
clothed as any that he saw in the six other colonies he visited (which I 
understand to have comprised several of our Leeward Islands) ; and he 
might have added, that their allowance of clothing from their masters was 
nearly in quality and quantity the same, being the very cheapest and least 
that, without reducing the poor slaves to absolute nudity, it was possible 
for avarice to adopt. 

f Grenada Act of 179S, sect. 3. 

X Dominica Act of 1/99, sect. 1. 

§ Last Jamaica Consolidation Act of ISlfi, sect. 7- 

346 The Allowances of Clothing 

of slaves. It could hardly be supposed that such enactments 
were designed to have any operation, except in England, even 
if we had no proof to the contrary; but in answer to official 
enquiries it has appeared, that no such returns in either colony 
were ever made, and that no prosecution for omitting them 
ever took place. 

The existing practice, as to clothing, is not better in this 
respect in the sugar colonies at large, than it was described to 
be forty years ago by the colonial witnesses here cited, as may 
certainly be inferred from the statements of some of my oppo- 
nents, and the very observable silence of others. 

The report of the council of Barbadoes, of 1823, is the only 
public document within my knowledge from any part of the 
West Indies, that contains any specific information equally 
recent on this subject, and we are told in it, " that the cloth- 
" ing for every man, is a Pennistone jacket, an Osnaburgh 
** shirt and trowsers, and a woollen cap or hat. The women 
*' have a full-sized jacket of Pennistone, an Osnaburgh petti- 
" coat, a handkerchief, and a woollen cap or hat. On some 
" estates they have a check chemise besides ; and the children 
" besides, have an annual suit."* (The Pennistone is the same 
kind of coarse flimsy woollen with the bamboo or baize.) 

The Jamaica examinations of 1815, are strikingly defective 
in this respect; since it was a standing interrogatory by the 
examiners to the old planters, what improvements had taken 
place within their recollection, in respect of clothing, as well 
as labour, &.c. and though the several examinants enter into 
some specifications as to other particulars, they give none at 
all as to past or present allowances oj' clothes. They either 
leave that article wholly unnoticed, or say that they believe 
there has been some improvement in that respect ; or at most, 
assert in the vaguest general terms, that there has been such 
an improvement since they first knew the island ; without 
venturing to specify in what it consists, f 

But here my antagonist, Barclay, ventures to supply the de- 
fect ; for in his strictures on the Rev. Mr. Bickell's work, he 

* See the printed Report before referred to, p. 107. 

f See the Report of these examinations at large, printed for Richard- 
son in ISlfi, and entitled "Further Proceedings of tiie • Assembly of 
" Jamaica." 

ore shamefullij htsujficient. 347 

extracts some jDassages, in which that gentleman states the 
allowances of clothing in Jamaica ; and by his reply to them, 
manifestly admits enough to show that the practice is no bet- 
ter there at this time, than we have seen it to be, and to have 
been forty years ago, in other colonies.* 

* Practical Views, &c. p. 434 to 437. The following are the extracts 
from ]Mr. Bickell, as they stand in Mr. Barclay's pages : " The more 
" common clothing for men and women is coarse blue baize, and coarse 
" Osnaburghs, with coarse hats and woollen caps. Of the baize enough is 
" given to the men for a surtout, and to the women for a petticoat, of the 
" Osnaburghs enough for two shirts and two pair of trowsers to the men, 
" and for two shifts and a petticoat or two for the women. They 
" generally make them up themselves : they have also a man's hat each, 
" of very inferior quality, with one or two woollen caps. This is generally 
" served out once a year." 

Again, (in a contrast between the clothing of English peasants and 
that of the negroes) Mr. Bickell is cited as saying ; " but what has the 
" slave ? He has for his best, from his master, as I before observed, a 
" large baize surtout, which hangs about him like a sack, and would aa 
" well fit any man you please as himself j and moreover, a pair of coarse 
" trowsers, and coarse shirt of Osnaburghs, which, with the coarsest kind 
" of hat, is his sole wardrobe ; for this is the general livery or badge of 
" slavery. The negro women are clothed as much inferior to our poor 
" women ; and both negro men and negro women are without stockings 
" or shoes, and generally go in a half-dressed state, viz. without coats or 
" gowns, the women's petticoats up to their knees; and very often before 
" fresh supplies are given out, many of them are in a very ragged state 
" and some almost in a state of nudity." 

Such, so far as Mr. Barclay found it convenient to cite it, was Mr. 
Bickell's account of the clothing : and this is Mr. Barclay's reply : " Mr. 
*' Bickell, I presume, had not heard or been informed, that in addition to 
" the articles he enumerates, it is common, at least on many plantations, 
" to give the negroes an allowance of linen check, and on all a cotton 
" handkerchief to each slave, with thread, needles, &c. Hoav a woman 
"receiving so large an allowance as he states of coarse strong clothing, 
" three suits yearly, can yet Jjefore fresh supplies be given out, be in a 
" state of nudity, I am at a loss to conjecture ; as also why a negro, as he 
" makes up his own clothes, should make his surtout to hang about him 
" like a sack. But the greatest hardship of all is, that the negroes icorking 
" under a vertical sun, should go in a half dressed state, ivithout coats or 
" gowns or shoes and stockings." 

My readers here, I trust, will not overlook the artful and evasive style of 
this commentator ; his assuming the fact of additions on many planta- 
tions, for which there is no authority but his own; his converting two very 
imperfect suits into three entire ones ; or his dextrous insinuation that the 
semi-nudity of the slaves, and the want of shoes and stockings are matter 

348 The Allowances of Clolhhig 

If the utter insufficiency of such supplies can be doubted, 
we may here, as usual, find a very authoritative judgment on 
this point in the instructive volume of Dr. Collins. He is 
silent indeed as to any allowances of clothing, except the bam- 
boo or woollen cloth variously formed into a coat or jacket, or 
a loose cloak or wrapper, both by males and females ; and he 
speaks of this, as if it were the only article of clothing allowed 
by the master, or which he deemed of any importance. He 
says, " The customary allowance of negro clothing has gene- 
" rally been two yards and a quarter, or two yards and a half 
" of a coarse woollen stuf, known in many of the islands by 
" the name of bamboo, to grown negroes ; and less in proportion 
" to smaller ones. If they had more, it was usually purchased 
" with their own money ; which many of them were well able 
•* to effect. Within these few years however, a more liberal 
" treatment hath begun to prevail in that respect, as in others, 
" with regard to negroes, though there are at present but too 
" many who adhere to their former penurious regimen." * 
" Negroes," he adds, " who have only a bamboo such as I 
" have described, are under the necessity of making use of it 
" on all occasions. During the day, when the sun shines with 
" intemperate ardour, it is wrapped about their loins, which it 
" relaxes and enfeebles; when the rain falls, it is extended 
'* over their heads and the upper part of their bodies, where 
" like a sponge it imbibes and retains the moisture, the greater 
" part of the day : At night, when the negroes retire from 
" labour to their repose, the same bamboo retaining the 

of choice with them, rather than hardships. On the latter points I shall 
soon have to shew the cruelty of the practice, and the unfeeling sophistry 
of the defence. But what I cite him here for, is to shew his virtual ad- 
mission of all the facts material to support my last proposition in the text, 
as to the practice in Jamaica. It is not denied that the men have but one 
coat of baize, here called a surtout, and the women neither coats nor 
gowns, and if the women can make two petticoats out of their allowance 
of Osnaburghs, it is, we see, by so shortening them that tliey reach only 
to the knees. 

* Practical Rules, p. 121. 

Let it be observed that this was written ten years at least after most of 
the testimonies 1 have cited, which affirmed in strong general terms the 
sufficiency or abundance of clothing ; and as long after all those to whicli I 
have here conformed in stating the particulars. 

are shamefully insufficient, 349 

" contents which it had absorbed in the course of the day, is 
** resorted to as a defence against the cold, or the attacks of 
" the musquitoes, and covers them when they sleep. From 
" such a situation we may naturally infer that the health of 
*' your negroes will suffer," &c. — " Fluxes are the frequent 
" consequence, and what thej/ are we all know ; as well as that 
" negroes are more afflicted with them than the whites ; an 
" effect undoubtedly owing to the want of something to defend 
" them from the inclemencies of the air during the hours of 
" sleep." 

After some further reasoning to this effect, he concludes, 
" there is the greatest reason to believe, that many diseases 
" are induced, and of course some lives lost, by a neglect of 
" the article of clothing."* 

I need scarcely attempt to fortify this judgment of so very 
eminent and long experienced a planter and medical practi- 
tioner ; but if it be true that cleanliness conduces much to 
health, and the want of it to sickness, there are some further 
remarks which should not be omitted. 

Imagination cannot well conceive any thing more filthy and 
oflfensive than the woollen garment, which, as a wrapper by 
day and a blanket by night, has covered the naked body of a 
working negro in the West Indies for a year, or for as many 
successive months as its rags can be made to hang together ; 
often clinging to his skin during his mid-day labours, when 
the perspiration is so profuse, that our author elsewhere de- 
scribes it in the strong language of '^ descending in torrents" 
from his frame. The effluvia from a gang of slaves, when a 
man is near to them, are too strong for any nostrils, unhabi- 
tuated to this nuisance, easily to sustain. The disgust, it 
may be added, which this and other circumstances, incident 
to their wretched want of clothing, excite, tends naturally to 
augment the personal contempt and antipathy to these de- 
graded beings j the sad effects of which they, in a multitude 
of ways, experience. 

Dr. Collins also shews, that to the feelings of the negrce>, 
as well as to their health, the same sordid deficiency is in no 

• Ibid. 121, 2, 3. 

350 The AUoivonces of ClotJiing 

slight degree annoying. " That negroes are particularly sen- 
" sible of the cold, and impatient under a very moderate de- 
" gree of it, we may be convinced, by observing them when 
" they crawl out of their huts in the morning, torpid and 
" shivering, and incapable of exertion, until warmed and in- 
" vigorated by the influence of the ascending sun. It is then 
" that they stand peculiarly in need of clothing, and a warm 
"jacket is less an object of luxury than of prime necessity."* 

Here we have an answer to those gentlemen who excused 
the scanty allowances of clothing by the warmth of the 
climate. Here, also, we may learn to appreciate the candour 
and humanity of Mr. Barclay, who, though by his own ac- 
count of himself, an experienced planter, affects to ridicule, on' 
the same ground, the considering the want of coats, gowns, 
shoes, and stockings, as a hardship. 

If the health or comfort of the slaves were in a tolerable de- 
gree attended to, they ought, in fact, to have a larger, instead 
of a much less supply of clothing than country labourers in 
England. They should have warm woollen suits of garments 
to protect them from chill when turned out in the morning, 
and during their nocturnal watches ; and changes of linen, or 
cotton garments, for the sake of cleanliness and decency, 
during their raid-day labours in the field. 

Dr. C, however, knew too well the rigid economy inherent 
in the sugar planting system, to venture on prescribing such 
costly improvements as these on the general practice. The 
improvements he does recommend, under this head, will at 
once shew, that he was a sufficiently abstinent reformer ; and 
that in the accounts I have adopted, as to the ordinary allow- 
ances, more than ample justice has been done to the planters. 
His advice is to give, instead of the bamboo wrapper, which, 
having little breadth, is ill adapted to cover the body, either 
in the day or night, " a pair of small warm white blankets, of 
" low price, or one large one, to serve for three or four years 
" as a night covering, not to be taken out of the house ; and 
" for the day, a strong woollen jacket, like that worn by 
'* sailors, of the value of about six or seven shillings, every 

• Ibid. 123. 

are shamefully insiifficktit. 351 

" year, with a Dutch cap or coarse hat, and two pair of 
" trowsers or petticoats according to the sex ; all which" he 
adds, " would not cost more than eighteen or twenty shillings 
" sterling." 

" Some persons," he says, " instead of a jacket give shirts, 
" of Osnaburgh.s, checks, or some other coarse hnen ;" but such 
a substitute for the jacket he condemns, as not defending the 
body from cold, and for other reasons ; adding, however, that 
*' the shirts are not to be proscribed altogether, for they who 
" are willing to incur the expense, may he indulged in it, and de- 
" serve praise for their liberality."* The liberality of not leaving 
these poor creatures, as usual, without a shirt to their backs! ! ! 
Who, but a West India slave-master, would not regard such 
praise as an ironical affront ? But Dr. C. knew full well the 
class of men he was addressing. He ventures, however, to ad- 
vise, that the negro clothing should be sent from this country 
ready made, or made into garments on the plantation before 
it is delivered to the slaves, instead of giving out the materials 
only, which, he says, many planters do. We have seen that 
they still do so, at least in Jamaica ; and Dr. C. points out 
consequences of the niggardly expedient, more serious than 
the comfortless and awkward ill-fitting of the clothes, which 
excited derision from Mr. Barclay ; observing, that " the poor 
" and improvident part of the gang, being neither able to do 
" the work themselves, nor to pay for its being done by others, 
" commonly dispose of the materials for a trifle, and go about 
" naked throughout the year ; their nudities only being half con- 
" cealed by rags;"-\ 

My readers will probably think with me, that a sale of 
the clothes is not necessary to explain these appearances, 
at least during great part of the year, when they regard the 
quality and quantity of the materials allowed ; viz. two or 
three yards of a flimsy woollen, too narrow to wrap round 
the body without a seam, to serve a full grown man for a year, 
as his only covering at night, and his only upper garment by 
day.J But how happens it that these rags never met the 
eyes of those witnesses whom the colonists have brought for- 

* Ibid, 126. t Practical Rules, 124 to 127- 

t Ibid. 121 to 124, &c. 

352 The Allowance of Clothing 

ward at different times to prove that their slaves are decently, 
comfortably, and abundantly clothed, without notice of such 
very common exceptions ? 

Our author further recommends, that in giving the mate- 
rials only, which he seems to admit may be safe with the 
more sensible negroes, *' there should be added to the cloth, 
thread, tape, and buttons, which, purchased at the stores on 
the spot, are very expensive." We find, therefore, that even 
these essential articles are not within the scope of the sugar 
planter's ordinary liberality. The poor slaves must buy them 
for himself; and doubtless, also, needles and scissors, and the 
other necessary implements of a tailor's calling; or manage 
without them how he can. Keally, if under such circum- 
stances, he makes botching work of his new trade, and forms, 
according to Mr. Bickell's description, something more like 
an open sack, than a jacket or surtout that fits him, the 
sarcasm of Mr. Barclay will hardly turn our pity into con- 
tempt ; nor shall we harshly condemn the poor fellow, if to 
escape from the difficulty and expense, and to save time he 
can very ill spare, he sells the allowance of bamboo that 
might very scantily and comfortlessly clothe him. 

Should the reader be desirous to know what is the value of 
all this pitiful excess of pinching parsimony to the planter, 
the same instructive guide will enable me to gratify his curi- 
osity. " There is (says Dr. C.) an advantage in sending the 
" unwrought materials, arising from the bounty of two pence 
" a yard on the exportation of British manufactures of that 
" quality ;" which, he adds, '* will nearly pay for the labour 
" of working them up into clothing :"* i. e. if the planter will 
employ, as he recommends, the sempstresses on the estate for 
the purpose. Now, this bounty on two and a quarter yards 
of bamboo amounts just to four pence halfpenny; but the 
planter finds a better course, than that of giving up to his 
slaves, what he has received at their expence from the people 
of England, by sending their clothes unmade. He casts the 
burthen of making them upon the poor slaves themselves, to 
whom the thread, tape, and buttons, &.c. must cost a much 
larger sum ; and puts the four pence halfpenny in his pocket. 

• P. 12;. 

are shamefully insufficient. 353 

Mr. Barclay, indeed, tells us that " on many plantations 
** the master gives thread, needles, (Sfc." Be it so ; though we 
have only his word for it. Then, on some plantations, the 
master, perhaps, gives up the odd halfpenny to the slave, re- 
taining a groat only of the bounty to himself; while on other, 
and most plantations, he pockets the whole of that important 
saving, and finds it a satisfactory compensation for seeing his 
slaves with their scanty clothes ill-made or in rags. Such 
facts, though minute, are important, as exemplifying the 
general spirit of sordid parsimony which pervades the oppres- 
sive system in all its details. 

On considering what Dr. Collins stated, as to the actual 
allowances of clothing, and the very scanty improvements he 
ventured to recommend, we might suppose him not misin- 
formed as to the commencement of a more liberal treatment 
than that which he describes and condemns, without much 
improving our general views of the case. But the more 
liberal treatment in this respect, which he spoke of as having 
begun to prevail, must have been, like several other incipient 
improvements, with the suggestion of which he attempted to 
conciliate his brethren, either purely ideal, or very short- 
lived, as well as extremely partial ; for I can venture to assert 
that the annual supplies of clothing are not at this day, gene- 
rally speaking, materially, if at all better, than those which 
he condemned. I assert it with the more confidence, because 
if the evidence I have adduced is not satisfactory, the planters 
have easy and decisive means of proving the true facts of the 
case. All their supplies of clothing are sent from this 
country. Let them produce, then, their invoices or the ac- 
counts of their merchants, containing the quantities of clothing 
shipped annually for the use of their estates ; and shew from 
them, compared with the numbers of their slaves, whether 
the allowances of clothes to each were greater than we have 
seen them to have been forty years ago. 

Those to whom this subject is new, and still more those who 
have heard the condition of the poor slaves compared, to its 
advantage, with those of our well clad peasants, may be apt to 
exclaim, on reading the details I have given, " Surely these 
<' enumerations of the poor negro's habiliments must be in- 
,, complete ! Where is the change of garments, or the Sun- 


354 The Allowances of Clothing 

" day's dress, for church going? Where is the smock-frock, 
" or great coat, or the female gowns and cloaks ? You must 
" have forgot, at least, the shifts, shirts, and neckcloths, and, 
" above all, the stockings and shoes .'" 

But, perhaps, it may be thought these things are less de- 
sirable, or less necessary to the slave than to the freeman ; or 
in the West Indies than here. No such defence, I lament 
to say, can be offered for the want of any one of thera ; and 
yet all are certainly wanting. Even the smock-frock or cloak 
would often be a great comfort and benefit to the poor slave, 
or Dr. Collins was mistaken ; for, in addition to the passages 
I have cited, he shews in other places, that chills from the 
night air, and from the sudden and heavy showers to which 
the slaves are exposed in the field, are frequent causes of 
disease among them. An outer garment, ther'efore, for occa- 
sional use would clearly be not less desirable for them than 
for our peasants. 

As to the other desiderata here mentioned, the English 
labourer might dispense with them better than the negro 
slave ; for in a hot climate, cleanliness is obviously more im- 
portant to comfort and health than in a cold one ; and no free 
man in the West Indies, whether white or black, or however 
poor, nor even any domestic slave, is unprovided with a change 
of washing garments. 

The admitted universal destitution of shoes, deserves more 
particular remarks. A planter would as soon think of giving 
them to his sheep or dogs, as to his field negroes. Mr. Barclay, 
we have seen, affects to ridicule the treating the want of shoes 
as a hardship ; and yet it may truly be affirmed, that there is 
no article, the want of which is a more frequent source of suf- 
fering and distress to these hapless fellow-beings. Their feet 
are peculiarly exposed to external injuries in the dust of their 
burning soils, from insects which penetrate the skin, and from 
the formidable thorns of the caxtus or prickly pear, by a fence 
of which the cane pieces are usually bordered; and from other 
thorny shrubs and trees which abound in that climate. They 
suffer also in Trinidad, and other new colonies, and in a 
greater degree, by the frequent collisions of their naked feet 
with the stumps and roots of hardwood trees, and thorny 
brushwood, which they have to clear away or pass through. 

are shamefully insufficient. 355 

In Trinidad, especially, I have heard of instances in which a 
large proportion of the entire gang has been disabled by ulcers 
arising from those causes. But even in the oldest and best 
cleared islands, the loss of toes, from external injuries, is so 
frequent, that judging by what I have seen in St. Chris- 
topher, I verily believe and will hazard the assertion, that no 
large gang could be turned out and inspected, in which 
individuals so dismembered would not be found. 

But it is not on my own credit, or that of any fellow- 
labourer, that I desire any fact may be taken. Let me ex- 
tract, therefore, the following further passages from Dr. Col- 

" As much of the service of negroes is lost to the planta- 
" tion by their sores, as by all their other complaints put to- 
" gether ; and this is unavoidable, from the exposed state of 
" their extremities. A negro moves with his naked feet at all 
" hours of the day or night, ivith a careless step, as if he were 
" under the protection of shoes ; no wonder then if they should 
"suffer by accidents. Sometimes the toe encounters a stone, 
" which deprives it of a nail in an instant ; sometimes a piece of 
" glass cuts deep info the foot; or a thorn penetrates to the bone. 
" These are casualties that must necessarily be numerous."* 

After prescribing the proper methods of treatment in such 
cases, the Doctor adds, " Newly imported negroes have a 
** strong disposition to ulcerate on the slightest injury to their 
" legs or feet, &c. But if negroes newly imported, even into 
" a dry and healthy island, be subject to ulcerate on slight 
" injuries, they are much more so when removed to is- 
" lands where, from the abundance of wood, there is a great 
" quantity of rain ; or where they are attached to new settle- 
" ments, and much employed in cutting down trees and the 
" clearing of land. In such circumstances, many lives are lost, 
" merely by ulcers originating from injuries; no greater per- 
'' haps than chigoes, (a small insect that penetrates and breeds in 
" the foot) but aggravated by the putrid disposition of the tu- 
" moiirs, into the most horrid ulcers, which nothing can resist or 
" remedy ; for they continue their ravages on the limb, eating the 
"flesh away from the bones, one toe dropping off after another, 

* Practical Rules, 43G, 7. 

A A 2 

356 The Allowances of Clothing 

" until the whole foot, and probably life itself, yields to the dis- 
" ease. Nor are these unfortunate cases very rare, though the 
" issue may not be quite so fatal ; for on estates lately settled, it 
" is not unusual to have a third, or a half of the negroes confined 
" to the house by sores, or loorking in the fields with bandages 
" about their legs," &c. " It is, indeed, a melancholy prospect 
" to a planter in the commencement of his settlement when his 
" means are few, and his wants urgent, to have his progress re- 
*' tarded by the large proportion of negroes that will be disabled 
" in that way.'"* 

May these passages meet the eye of some of those well- 
meaning, but grossly deluded public characters, who were in- 
duced to advocate the removal of slaves to new settled 
colonies, as a change for their own benefit. 

Other, and still more terrible consequences, are sometimes 
felt by the poor negroes from the want of any protection to 
their feet. The cramp, tetanus, or locked-jaw, the most ex- 
cruciating disease perhaps to which the human frame is liable, 
and which commonly ends in a too tardy death, is more often 
produced by a puncture or other slight wound, or even bruise 
in the foot, than any other cause.t From the great fre- 
quency of such accidents, that terrible effect would probably 
be much more common than it is, if the negroes had not 
learnt, from experience, the good, though rather painful pre- 
cautions, of burning the wounded part with ardent spirits or 
beating it if on the soal of the foot, with a shingle or other 
piece of wood, long enough to produce inflammation. It is, 
nevertheless, by no means uncommon to hear of slaves being 
lost in that dreadful way ; and from such slight hurts in the 
feet as shoes would have prevented. 

** Surely," some readers may exclaim, " Dr. Collins, while 
" stating such cruel consequences of the want of shoes, did 
'* not omit to recommend the use of them ?" Yes, I must 
answer, he did ; but doubtless, because he well knew such a 
recommendation would be vain. To raise the allowances, 
even in such a small degree, that the whole expence of cloth- 
ing should not, by his estimate, exceed eighteen or twenty 

* Ibid. 442, 3. 

t See Practical Rules, title Locked Jaw, 359 to 363. 

are shamefully insufficient. 357 

shillings sterling per annum, for each adult slave, was evi- 
dently, in his judgment, no easy work, from the anxious strain 
of advice addressed to the planter's feelings and self-interest 
by which he laboured to recommend it ; but to give shoes to the 
gang, would alone, probably, more than double that entire 
expence. Neither he nor any other planter, however liberal, 
ever thought of such a costly innovation. No colonial wit- 
ness or writer, to my knowledge, not even Mr. James 
M'Queen, has been bold enough to assert, that shoes have 
ever constituted, any where, an item of plantation supplies 
for the slaves ;* and if so gross a falsehood should be ad- 
vanced, official returns of the exports from this country 
would clearly demonstrate its falsehood. 

Even Mr. Barclay, as we have seen, admits the fact, that 
the poor slaves are wholly destitute of stockings and shoes ; 
replying to the charge only by deriding it as a subject of 
complaint on behalf of *' negroes working under a vertical sun,'^ 
as if the only use of shoes were to protect the feet from cold. 

It is thus that he, or rather the noble and honorable slave 
proprietors who have suborned and given currency to his im- 
postures, continually play upon the ignorance and credulity 
of the European public. Who can read the extracts I have 
last made from Dr. Collins without being shocked at finding 
an article of parsimony, pregnant with such cruel conse- 
quences as he describes, treated with unfeeling levity, or jus- 
tified by mean evasion. 

And here let me remark what ought to have been earlier 
noticed, that these apologists are so far from venturing to 

* The following extract from the answer of the Council and Assembly 
of St. Christopher to the Privy Council enquiries, will hardly be thought 
an exception ; and I know of no other in which shoes are mentioned at 
all. " Their clothing consists of blanketing, Osnaburgh, check, Hol- 
" land, coarse linen, caps, and watchcoats. On some estates hats and 
" shoes are added for the principal negroes," i. e. the drivers and sugar 
boilers, &c. who need them least. But if even these ever experience such 
liberahty from the master, it must be very rare. Dr. Collins recom- 
mends giving to these superiors of the gang a few articles of clothing not 
assigned to the vulgar herd, such as a couple of shirts of Dowlas or Irish 
linen, and a hat of somewhat superior quality (p. 129), but not a word 
even on their behalf, as to stockings or shoes. 

358 The Allowances of Clothing are shamefully insufficient. 

quarrel with that important work of Dr. Collins, or dispute 
its very authoritative statements, though condemnatory of their 
cruel system in almost every page, that while they generally 
observe a prudent silence whenever it is quoted against them, 
the editors of the work called Mr. Barclay's, with a refined 
liypocrisy, affect to speak of Dr. Collins in terms of great ap- 
plause, call his work " an excellent one," take credit to their 
party for its republication by Mr. Hibbert, and tell us " that 
" it is in the hands of every intelligent overseer in Jamaica, and 
" highly valued hi/ them as a guide.* They only desire us to 
believe that his censures, which they confess " to have been 
" too well merited," have had the right effect, and that 
" though there may he enough to find fault with yet," the 
abuses he pointed out have been, for the most part, reformed. 
I demand, in what single particular they have been so ? I 
have already proved, from the latest public authorities on 
their own side of the controversy, that every avaricious abuse 
for which I have cited his work, is still in general practice. 
Let them instance one that is not so. Certainly it will not be 
found in the article of clothing ; and as it is admitted that 
their slaves still go barefoot, by what physical changes can 
the cruel consequences have ceased ? 

The free negroes of Hayti, whose condition my opponents 
labour very hard to disparage, form in this point, as in all 
others, a contrast to their enslaved brethren. I cited in a 
former work, a public official table of exports from New York 
alone, to that island, for a single year, containing 60,000 
pairs of shoes. Besides which, shoes, as I have been credibly 
informed, are now largely manufactured in Hayti itself. 

As to our English country labourers, with whom my 
opponents have the assurance to compare their filthy, half- 
naked, and unshod drudges, I doubt not, that their annual 
expenditure, in this single article of shoes alone, equals or ex- 
ceeds the whole expence of all the clothing collectively given 
to a plantation slave. 

* Barclay, 30). 




That men who are thus inadequately fed and clothed are not 
less penuriously dealt with in other respects, may be easily 
believed. That they are better lodged, however, might perhaps 
be surmised ; because it is admitted on all hands that their huts 
are for the most part built by themselves ; and I could cite 
many inviting accounts given by their masters, both of their 
houses and furniture, in which, with the usual craft of my op- 
ponents, they ascribe to the poor field-negroes in general, what 
is partially true only of the drivers and other head men. 

But here again Dr. Collins is an instructive guide, '' Our 
" dwellings, he says, are inaccessible both to rain and wind. 
*' But the huts of negroes which imperfectly possess the former 
" advantage, are totally destitute of the latter ; every agitation 
" of the air being felt in them, and that with an effect pro- 
" portioned to the state of the body when exposed to its cur- 
" rent." This too he considers as a frequent cause of sickness ; 
and exhorts their masters to assist them in building better 
habitations. As to furniture, he says, " It is proper to give 
*' them something to sleep upon, that they may be kept from 
" the ground. At present a board is sometimes given to them 
" for that purpose, and sometimes not. Instead of it I would 
** recommend a bedstead, composed of boards six feet four 
" inches long, and three or four wide, planed on one side, and 
" supported at the distance of eighteen inches from the 
"ground," &c. 

* P. 132, 3. 

360 The Slaves are also 

Here, as usual, he feared to alarm the rigid economy of the 
masters ; and therefore added, " of these bedsteads, an in- 
'• different plantation carpenter will make three in a day, 
" and the cost of each, in boards, nails, and labour, will not 
" be more than ten or twelve shillings." " The negroes," he 
further observes, " are accustomed to hard lodgings ; yet to 
** render them more comfortable, and to prevent the flesh being 
*' annoyed in the conflict between the bones and the boards, 
" they may be covered with banana mats, preferably to pads 
" made with the leaves." * 

Such is the lodging, which like the food and labour, so 
many respectable witnesses pronounced to be proper, liberal, 
and superior to that of the peasantry, or the lower class of 
people of every description, in this country. A hut that is 
weather proof, and a board with a coarse mat to receive the 
negro's weary limbs by night, are recommended as important 
improvements ; though here, to say of a poor man that "he has 
" not a bed to lie npon' is thought a very moving image of 

In this particular, the errors of strangers or transient guests, 
in their accounts of the West Indies, may be easily produced 
by what I have reason to believe is a very ordinary imposition. 
If on visiting a planter they shew any curiosity to see the huts 
of the slaves, commonly called the negro-houses, they are 
conducted by their entertainer, to two or three in the group 
which are the habitations of the drivers, carpenters, masons, 
or other tradesmen, the chiefs of the gang, whose many com- 
parative advantages I have frequently noticed ; and in these, 
though on a cursory outside view not very distinguishable from 
the other negro huts, the strangers may find appearances 
of humble comfort both as to the dwelling and its furniture; 
which they are naturally led to regard as fair examples of the 
general case ; though the huts of the common drudges, which 
it would be rudely prying to enter, would excite only com- 
passion and disgust. 

It may be supposed, too, by such transient observers, that 
every slave has his or her separate hut, or has no other in- 
mates than a husband or wife and children ; but this would be 

* P. HO. 

very badly lodged. 361 

very wide from the truth ; and I mention it for the sake of 
future visitors of the West Indies, who may wish to form just 
notions on this subject; for they may without danger of 
offence silently count the number of the huts, and may easily 
learn that of the slaves on a particular estate ; and they will, 
I doubt not, be a good deal surprised, at the great dispropor- 
tion between them, after every allowance for the probable 
number of the latter who have relatives naturally in the same 
household. The fact is, that small and frail though these 
tenements are, no small proportion of the common field- 
negroes are too poor and helpless to build one ; and are glad 
to chum with their relations or comrades how they may. 

Strangers might also learn to estimate the degree of regard 
that is paid to the domestic comforts and lodgings of slaves, 
by what may be observed of the ordinary accommodations 
of those who live in their masters' houses, whether in the 
country or in town ; for the want of appropriated lodgings, 
or of bedsteads and bedding, is not peculiar to the plantation 
negroes ; the domestic slaves, who are much more within a 
stranger's notice, being in this respect as ill provided. It is 
generally thought enough to allow them to lie down on the floor 
of the hall, or some other sitting room if there be one, without 
carpet or matting, or any other bed clothes than their wrapper 
or flimsy blanket. The exhibition often thus presented to the 
eye of a guest, if he passes through this common dormitory 
in the morning before the sleepers are turned out, has em- 
ployed the facetious powers of some of my opponents, the 
superficial West India tourists. Perhaps the gallant officers 
and other distinguished guests, who were led into such strange 
mistakes, did not, when they slept on shore, rise early enough 
in the morning to catch this trait of colonial manners; or 
might suppose that their kind hosts were more tender and 
liberal to their plantation slaves than to their domestics. 

If, after all, I do not in this and other points satisfactorily 
account for their mistakes, let it be remembered that the at- 
tempt is quite gratuitous ; for whether their testimony was 
sincere or not, I have proved it to have been grossly erroneous. 




The only remaining topic which, on my plan of delineating 
only the (economical oppressions of the system, calls for some 
distinct notice, is the treatment of slaves when sick ; and this 
has been in some measure anticipated as incidental to the 
subject of labour.* 

The witnesses brought forward on the part of the colo- 
nies, of course did not omit to represent this branch of treat- 
ment, like all the rest, as highly humane and liberal. I will 
not weary my readers here with particular citations, because 
they would furnish few or no details, from the examination 
of which I might refute, or teach European minds how to 
estimate, those laudatory generalities. I will merely refer to 
the answers given from the different colonies and their agents 
to the 11th and 12th standino; interroo-atories of the Com- 
mittee of Privy Council ; admitting that if true they were 
satisfactory enough ; nay such as might lead our own poor, 
when sick, to wish themselves lodged in a plantation sick- 
house, hothouse, or hospital ; for such it has been variously 
called^ by the colonial witnesses and writers in England ; 
though I do not remember to have heard it dignified by the 
name of hospital, in any West India island. 

If the slaves have good treatment when sick, it is in this 
receptacle they must find it ; for it is not alleged, I think. 

See supra, p. 23". to 239. 

Harsh and unfeeling Treatment of the Sick. 363 

that they are ever attended at their own homes ; and we have 
already seen, that on the first apparent symptom of illness, 
whether real or feigned, viz. inability to work, the complain- 
ant is sent to and confined in the sick house, till the manager, 
with or without the doctor's advice, disallows the plea, or 
holds him recovered, and sends him again to the field. 

Nor is this indiscriminate consignment to the hospital, if 
we must so call it, of all who cannot or will not persist in 
their daily work, regarded as a practice to be condemned, 
even by the most humane colonial advocates for improve- 
ments in the general system. Dr. Collins expressly points it 
out as one of the manager's duties. *' To the hospital thus 
" prepared and provided" (i. e. with proper ventilation, sepa- 
rate rooms, and more attendants than a helpless superannu- 
ated negro nurse, improvements which he earnestly re- 
commends,) " all your negroes who are absent from the 
" field, or from other services of the plantation, are to repair 
" every morning ; and thither the list-board or plantation-roll 
" must be brought, after the overseer has called the list, and 
" noted the absentees. You will therefore make it your first 
" care, after rising in the morning, to look into the sick- 
" house, to see that all the absentees are there, or to inform 
*' yourself where they are ; for if indisposed they should be in 
" the hospital ; if well, in the field."* 

I do not impute to the respectable author any inconsistency 
with his own principles in approving of such a practice. His 
object was, though mine is not, to defend colonial slavery, as 
an institution fit to be upheld ; and I must in candour allow, 
that this alternative of the field or the sick-house is, like many 
other severities, a necessary consequence of the cruel institu- 
tion itself, while it is permitted to exist. Where the proper 
incentives to labour, wages, or other remunerations depending 
on its steadiness, are wanting, every man would avoid it if he 
could ; still more when it is excessive, and to be performed 
tinder the whip of a driver ; and, consequently, when the only 
available plea for a suspension of it is sickness, that plea, 
whether true or false, would be continually advanced, if the 

* Practical Rules, 258, 9. 

364 Harsh and luifeeling 

allowance of it were not productive of consequences, hardly 
less irksome or distressing than the labour itself. 

We have seen how very frequently, even as the practice 
stands, pretences of sickness are made ; and how extremely 
difficult it often is to distinguish between real and affected 
maladies : * what then would the case be, if instead of being 
sent to, and locked up in, a narrow and loathsome prison, 
such as Dr. Collins has described the sick-house to be, ** a 
" disgusting scene, charged with unpleasant odours, and occupied 
" Ay offensive objects;" a place so repulsive to human nature, 
that he half absolves the manager and physician for neglect- 
ing their most important duties, by shrinking from the 
" painful emotions" which the bare entering into it excites; 
the sick or complaining negro were allowed to retire to his 
own hut, to have there the society of his wife, children, and 
connections, to be cheered and nursed by their affectionate 
care while confined to his pallet ; and to enjoy during conva- 
lescence, relaxation in the open air ? 

Such, I need not say, are the consolations of our own pea- 
sants, when visited with sickness ; and severe must be the 
sufferings which compel them to renounce the domestic scene, 
and resort to an hospital for cure, when the case demands it ; 
notwithstanding the assiduous attention, with the great, and 
to them luxurious comforts, to be found in such asylums, the 
boasts of British liberality and benevolence. But then, it is 
not from incessant labour, and the cart-whip, that they pre- 
sent a refuge. 

It is in truth a bitter derision to call these benignant insti- 
tutions of ours, and the plantation sick-house, by the same 
name. If we look only to the medical treatment in them the 
contrast is extreme. " That business," says Dr. Collins, " is 
" committed to the joint labours of the attendant doctor and 
" the sick nurse ; the former of whom makes his ordinary 
" visit once or twice a week at the most. He pops into the 
" hospital and questions the sick ; when, if the pulse neither 
" indicates a fever, nor the frequency of stools a flux, he con- 
" eludes there is no disorder, and the negro is dismissed to 

* Supra, p,238. 

Treatment of the Sick. 365 

" the field. Yet even by this attendance, superficial as it is, 
"he earns dearly enough the slender stipend that is assigned 
" to him."* 

He does so indeed ; for awful is the reponsibility to his 
own conscience for the dismission, if his hasty judgment is 
erroneous. It may be in effect a sentence of death to the 
poor patient, which it will be the driver's duty to execute. 
Yet I have heard experienced West India practitioners feel- 
ingly lament the dilemma in which the plantation doctor is 
placed. If he is humane enough to withhold, in every doubt- 
ful case, his sanction for treating the complaint as an impos- 
ture, he may indeed save many a real invalid from an unjust 
whipping, or an immediate coercion of labour, which he cannot 
sustain without danger to his life ; but must often, on the 
other hand, give effect to the artifices of his unfortunate 
patients, and encourage a needless resort to the sick-house ; 
a line of conduct by which he is pretty sure to lose the con- 
fidence and good will of the manager, and most probably the 
medical charge of the estate. 

For such consequences of the dilemma I can produce no ex- 
press authority ; but who that reads Dr. CoUins's chapters on 
the sick and on the hospital, or even the extracts I have 
given from them, will doubt of their frequent occurrence ? He 
strongly and repeatedly states there, and in other places, as 
we have partly seen, the extreme difficulty of distinguishing 
between the real, and the imaginary or pretended, diseases of 
slaves. What, indeed, can be more obvious, when the patient, 
from whose mouth alone many of the symptoms must be 
learnt, is always liable to the suspicion of intending to de- 
ceive ! Yet we may collect, even from the last extract, that 
such difficult discrimination is the most ordinary business 
of the plantation doctor. 

But even when the disorder is unequivocal and severe, we 
learn from the same authority that the poor patients have 
very little of medical attention to compensate their painful 
confinement in the sick house. " If the complaint be well 
" ascertained, no man would refuse to permit his slave to lie 

* Practical Rules, 254. 

366 Harsh and mifeeling 

" down ; but even in that case there is still much to condemn, 
" for where negroes are labouring in the hospital under severe 
" complaints, they are not commonly attended as they ought 
*' to be."* " They are overlooked, (he says) and forgotten ; 
" they linger in misery, and pine in neglect ; and if they re- 
" cover, you may be assured it is nature that has carried them 
" through the disorder. "f 

He exposes the general insufficiency, not only of the 
Doctor, but the nurse. " It has been usual to select for that 
" purpose such as are infirm and superannuated for other 
" labour." Though he afterwards remarks, " The best ne- 
" gro of your gang is not too good for the office. "4; 

It may be conceived what the attention must be of a 
weakly old woman, unfit for ordinary labour, to all the pa- 
tients, male and female, in a crowded sick-house, such as he 
states it often to be, especially when epidemic fluxes and 
fevers prevail, without any other assistant to administer the 
medicines; and when, as he further shews, it is no small 
part of her duty to keep them all safely locked up, and to 
watch against their escape. " There should be only one 
" outlet, which ought to be before the nurse's room, who 
" is to keep the keys, and to let the negroes in and out when 
" required. At night the outer door should be locked by one 
" of your house negroes, who is to bring the key into the 
" house, lest the nurse should absent herself from her charge, 
" or connive at the escape of some of her favourites. "§ 

She has, however, some artificial aids in this turnkey part 
of her province ; for the " windows," he tells us, " should be 
'^Jortijied with bars or jealousies, to prevent the escape of the 
" negroes ;|| and that in each of the apartments of the men 
" and women there should be a pair of stocks, to punish the 
" refractory: or xohere they have been guilty of any other offence, 
" or sometimes merely to keep them iti a recmnbent posture, when 
" they have sores, which you will find a difficulty to heal other- 
*' wise."** 

My readers, perhaps, will be ready to question whether I 

* Ibid. p. 237. t Ibid. p. 264. % P. 255. 

§ Ibid. II P, 255. *» P. 265. 

Treatment of the Sick. 367 

am not by mistake describing a gaol, or house of correction 
for rogues and vagabonds, instead of an hospital for the sick. 
It is, indeed, worse by far than any such place of penal con- 
finement known in this country ; and is often used purely for 
that purpose, as may appear from this further quotation. 
" It is not the sick only, but sometimes the negroes in health, 
" whose offences are too light to require the dungeon, that are 
" put into the hospital, as a place of security, where they suffer 
" a privation of amusements, and are forthcoming to thisir 
labour." " This," Dr. Collins adds, " is a veiy eligible mode 
" of punishing, superior far to the whip, and will be found an 
" effectual substitute for it."* 

No doubt the whipping must be severe to be more terrible 
than imprisonment in such a place as he describes : but it is 
not always a substitution. The sick-house is the general re- 
ceptacle also of those offenders, who have been so cruelly 
lacerated by the cart-whip, that they are long incapable of 
work ; for our author, in his chapter on discipline, says, " As 
" to that tremendous application of the cart-whip, ivhich con- 
" fines the delinquent to the sick-house for five or six weeks, the 
" offence ought to be very weighty indeed, that can call for 
" and justify it." And among its ill effects he mentions, 
" the injury which the sufferer's constitution may sustain by 
" a long confinement in an uncomfortable position, with his 
" body naked, and sometimes insufficiently nourished. "-f- 

Among the comforts, therefore, which a poor debilitated 
and dejected slave finds to sustain his or her spirits in this 
sole receptacle of all the sick, are the shocking exhibitions of 
frames excoriated, torn, and deeply gashed with the merciless 
cart-whip, the groans of the wretched sufferers, and the re- 
flection that like tortures may be his or her own portion after 
recovery. Perhaps the fugations or the thefts for which they 
have been thus dreadfully punished, were the effects of a ne- 
cessity, well known to the poor sick spectator, who expects, 
in his turn, to be subjected to it, when the superior hardihood 
of his now disordered body no longer enables him to avoid the 
miseries of hunger, by sustaining incessant toil. 

* P. 205. t P. 209. 

368 Harsh and unfeeling 

It may naturally excite surprise, that planters should thus 
immure together the unoffending sick, the suspected impos- 
tors, and the convicts, so to call them, of their own dread tri- 
bunals ; and still more, that the humane Dr. Collins should 
acquiesce in, and even approve the practice. The fear of in- 
fection, it would seem, might alone suffice to prevent it. But 
the solution of this difficulty, as of every other, will be found 
in that master-key to the whole system, the pinching, niggardly 
parsimony on which the master's profits, from sugar planting, 
and most commonly his escape from ruin, are felt by him to 
depend. A second house, strong enough for the safe custody 
of prisoners, would add to the expense of erecting and uphold- 
ing plantation buildings ; an addition more than most proprie- 
tors can or will afford ; and would require also the constant 
time of at least a single slave or keeper. It is ceconomical, 
therefore, in more ways than one, to make the sick-house an- 
swer all the purposes of a gaol, and the sick nurse the functions 
of a gaoler; except that there is a small dark dungeon, the 
construction of which, of course, costs very little, for the 
punishment rather than custody, of great and hardened 
offenders, in which the stocks and chains, with a strong lock 
on the door, make a keeper needless. 

Dr. Collins, however, it is just to remark, recommended an 
improvement in this respect; though, with his usual in- 
dulgence for the pernicious habits and necessities of the 
planters, he does not alarm them by insisting upon it, or cen- 
suring this ordinary use of the sick-house. Speaking of run- 
away slaves, when brought back, he recommends, that in- 
stead of the cruel whippings in use, " they should be secured 
" in the hospital, or some other place of safety, of which there 
" should be one appropriated for that purpose on every plan- 
" tation ;" * though, in another passage before cited, he, 
without any such suggestion, recommends conjinement in the 
sick-house, in all cases of offences too light to require the dun- 

In another point he will be thought, less excusably, to have 
adhered to his conciliatory or compromising maxims ; for he 

P. 207. 

Treatme/it of the Sick. 369 

states, without proper censure, and even expressly counte- 
nances in some degree, ji further opprobrious peculiarity in 
many of these plantation hospitals, that of their sick in- 
mates being left by the master without any allowance of food 
for their support. I have before briefly noticed the passage ; 
but justice, if not to my author, at least to my subject, seems 
to require that I should here give it at large.* 

Let those who have listened with credulity to the tales and 
reasonings of my antagonists, and especially to that specious 
argument, incessantly urged by them during forty years, that 
the planter's self-interest in preserving^his slaves is a sufficient 
pledge for their good and humane treatment, pause a moment 
on the last-cited fact ; and ask their own understandings, 
whether masters, who really fed their slaves sufficiently when 
in health, from regard to their preservation, or any other mo- 
tive, would leave them destitute of food, or dependant on 
the casual ability and kindness of their friends for a supply of 
it, when labouring under disease and debility, and confined 
within the walls of a sick-house.f 

* " It is usual on many estates, when the negroes are in the hospitals, 
" to give them no other food than what their friends supply. If they 
" are provident people, and well connected, it may be sufficient, and they 
" may be trusted to be fed in that way, where their complaints are such 
" as to allow of your being indifferent to the quality of their food. But 
" there are many disorders wherein pepper pot and salt herrings are im- 
" proper, and many negroes who, if abandoned to the assistance of their 
" friends, would run a risk of being starved : therefore it becomes ex- 
" pedient to hav6 food prepared every day for the sick, or such as are in 
" the hospital, which is to be distributed according to their several 
" wants." (Practical Rules, p. 264, 5.) 

f I cannot forbear remarking that this plausible but most fallacious 
argument, drawn from the master's self-interest, was used in this very 
case of the plantation hospitals, and in reference to the very island in 
which Dr. Collins resided at the time ; but was combined with statements 
^videly different from those which he several years after gave to the 
public : " There is a house allotted for the reception of the sick, &c. ; 
" medicines proper for their different complaints are administered wider 
" the direction of the physician, and panada, gruel, sago, or other food 
" supplied them by their masters. This is the common custom of the 
" country, which however is not established by law, but by that sense of 
" self interest, exclusive of any considerations of humanity, which seldom 

VOL. IV. n B 

370 Harsh and unfeeling 

Even if we could suppose this resource, in the sympathy of 
their poor fellow-slaves, never to fail, though Dr. Collins ad- 
mits the contrary, what heart, unhardened by the exercise of 
this iron system, would not revolt at the thought of such in- 
justice and oppression ! But it is the hard lot of these unfor- 
tunate fellow-creatures, as 1 have before had occasion to re- 
mark, to have every probable or possible resource taken into the 
account of avarice against them; and magnified also in amount 
by its selfish optics. Their provision grounds, however sterile, 
their power of working for themselves in their diurnal respites 
from the driver's coercion, however brief, or on the Sabbath, 
the unavoidable licence of sucking the cane juice in crop-time, 
the picking grass or brushwood for sale at a Sunday market ; 
and now, as we also find, the sympathy of their fellow-slaves, 
when they are shut up without food in a sick-house, are all 
valued, and greatly overvalued, in the master's arbitrament 
between himself and them, when regulating the subsistence 
which he is bound in conscience to provide for them. 

After such views as have been opened of the hospital oeco- 
nomy, the parsimonious remuneration of the doctor, and the 
consequent bad quality and quantity of the medical succour 
which the poor patients receive, are topics that I need not 
dilate upon; though Dr. Collins censures both with more than 
his ordinary freedom; and no man who reads his chapters 
" on the sick and on the hospital," will hesitate to adopt his 
conclusion, that ** when the patients recover, we may be as- 
" sured it is nature that has carried them through the dis- 
" order;" or, to dissent from his remark, that ^' in the sick- 
" house, theij are indulged with all the facililies in the world to 
" die:'* 

That they have no bedsteads or bedding there, may be 
thought of the less moment, because we have seen their cus- 
tomary destitution of such articles when in health ; yet a 
reader who has ever walked through the wards of one of our 
own hospitals, and observed how well the ease and comfort of 
the poor patients are there provided for, far exceeding what 

"falls to be a sufficient inducement to men to he careful of their property." 
(Privy Council Report, St. Vincent, A. No. 12. Evidence of Governor 
Seton, a West India Planter.) 
* P. 91. 

Treatment of the Sick. 371 

they are used to at their own honies, may feel a struggle be- 
tween risibility and indignation, when he finds our author 
recommending in these hospitals of the plantations, the pro- 
viding the sick negroes with a deal board to sleep upon, and « 
blanket large enough to wrap round their bodies.* 

He was as far from meaning any ironical insinuation by this 
advice, as from being an enthusiast in philanthropy, or a rash 
innovator, or a man of anti-slavery principles j witness his re- 
mark on the same sleeping accommodations, when he recom- 
mended them as improvements in the negro huts, — " upon 
*' such a bed a slave sleeps more soundly, notwithstanding 
*' what the mind may fiction of his miseries, than a despot on 
" down, being but little corroded with care, and not at all dis- 
" turbed with the dreams of liberty." f 

* See p. 256. 

t Dr. Collins has added to his chapter on the hospital a particular 
enumeration of the ordinary diseases of slaves, with medical rules for 
their treatment ; and from these it would be easy to deduce much con- 
firmation of the general truth, that excessive labour, and bad or scanty 
aliment are the main causes of that shocking mortality and infecundity 
on sugar estates, by which the black population is in most colonies retro- 
gressive, and every where kept from its natural increase among the most 
prolific of the human race. But I will not enlarge on topics of a tech- 
nical kind, and will cite only what he says of a disease which he truly 
states to be very common on West India estates, and also one of the 
most obstinate and troublesome that negroes are aflSicted wth, viz. 
" the mal d'estomac/i, or dirt-eating:" — " This," he says, " is an effect of 
** relaxation, and its natural concomitant an impoverished state of tlie 
" blood, arising commonly from a mean and unsuhstuntial diet, not, as 
** hath been generally imagined, from the eating of dirt ; which, though 
■" it may aggravate the evil, and if habitually persisted in, may render it 
*' altogether incurable, is, I believe, seldom the primary cause of it." 
(p. Ml.) 

Whether a morbid state of the stomach is the cause or the effect of 
eating dirt, they are so generally found together, that the very names are 
convertibly used, and even by our author himself, to mark the same disease ; 
and whether bad feeding is the proximate, or only the primary cause, of 
the negro thus satisfying the cravings of the stomach, is of no moral im- 
portance. It is so pernicious a custom, and so apt to spread among the 
slaves who witness it, that Mr. Beckford proposed to treat it as a public 
crime, and that the offenders should be transported from the colony, 
though he at the same time calls it " a singular affection which proceeds 
" from a depravity of appetite or icant of food ; and one that is incorri- 
" gible." (Remarks upon the Situation of Slaves in Jamaica, p. 95.) 

Those who are versed in the slave controversies will recollect how 

B JJ 2 

372 Harsh and unfeeling 

I will close my extract from his very important volume, as 
to the treatment of the slaves in sickness, with a passage or 
two, which may give some little relief, perhaps, to the feelings 
df ray readers. " They are able to endure (he says) with few 
" expressions of pain, the accidents of nature which agonize white 
" people. It is certainly a very great advantage to he able to 
''face death, the inevitable lot of all, as they do, not only without 
" dismal/, but ivith an indifference which stoics have endeavoured 
" in vain to affect.'^* 

He ascribes in some measure to the same cause, the fact, 
that fevers, so destructive to the whites in the West Indies, 
are rarely fatal to the slaves. He regards the terror to which 
the former are subject when seized with a fever, as tending 
greatly to aggravate the disease, and produce a fatal termina- 
tion. The negroes, he says, " though no great reasoners, are 
" acute observers ; and it is a common saying with them that 
" 'fear kills Baivkra/ but from this danger negroes are res- 
" cued by their insensibility, as they are without any such 
" fear, having never speculated on the subject of death, and 
" neither apprehending nor caring much about /'^''f 

Another colonial opponent, whom I have frequently cited, 
Mr. Beckford, notices the same characteristic ;J but no fur- 
much the colopial apologists and witnesses have laboured to repel the 
charges of abolitionists on this subject : yet I can truly say that the resi- 
dent colonists, in their conversation on the other side of the Atlantic, 
generally ascribed the disease, like these authors, to the very obvious 
and natural cause of bad feeding ; and facts very strikingly supported 
that easy solution ; for on plantations in which the treatment in that 
respect was notoriously bad beyond the ordinary practice, dirt-eating was 
pre-eminently common and destructive ; and when the estate passed into 
more liberal hands this malady was in general stopped in its progress 
and cured. 

Another fact of a very curious kind stated by Dr. Collins seems to in- 
dicate a more general constitutional effect of the same cause, though he 
does not point out their connection : " The blood of negi'oes is of an 
" uncommonly dilute texture, possessing in numerous cases scarcely colour 
" enough to tinge linen." (p. 203.) 

Let this be collated with a passage formerly quoted from his chapter 
on diet : " What is there to enrich and thicken the fluids, u'hat to strengthen 
" the solids, to give energy to the heart and to invigorate its pulsations ?" 

♦ P. 234. t P. 302. 

t " Few negroes consider death in this light [as an evil]. I never 

Treatment of the Sick. 373 

tlier authority for it can be wanted, than that of a gentleman 
who had for twenty years visited multitudes of the sick and 
dying among this unfortunate class. 

They are not, therefore, among those who, through the fear 
of death, are all their lives long subject to bondage. In com- 
pensation for many of the natural evils of human life, which 
oppression has aggravated, and worse artificial ones which it 
has created, it has given them a deliverance from that thraldom 
of rational nature, more perfect than philosophy or even reli- 
gion itself, has often conferred. Nor can this create surprise, 
after such views of their human destiny as are here deli- 
neated, from the original drafts of their masters. For my 
own part, I can truly say, that I never saw the corpse of a 
common field-negro carried out for interment, without the 
same kind of emotion, though of course much stronger in 
degree, with which I have seen, during a hard frost in London, 
the lifeless body of an emaciated horse, who had dropped 
down in the hackney-man's harness. " Poor wretch, thou art 
at rest. I am glad thy toils and sufferings are ended !" 

" knew one who did, or who either dreaded it by anticipation, or who was 
" apprehensive when it was hovering near." (Descriptive Account of 
Jamaica, vol. ii. p. 390.) 




Having shewn, both in positive and comparative views, the 
oppressive excess of labour exacted from the plantation slaves, 
and the extreme parsimony of that maintenance which is the 
only return for it, under the several heads of food, clothes, 
lodging, and medical care in sickness, I will now endeavour 
to ascertain the entire cost of that maintenance to the master. 

This is a point on which the planters and their apologists 
have for the most part deemed it best to be silent. In other 
respects, they anxiously exhibit before the public eye, the 
various charges incident to the growth and manufacture of 
sugar, with great particularity and precision ; but the ex- 
pense of maintaining their slaves, is an item in the account of 
which they are not so ostentatious. It is rarely noticed by 
them without necessity ; and never but in a very vague and 
general way. Such has been their negligence, or their good 
policy, from the first outset of the abolition controversy; and 
such it continues to be. 

Mr. Ramsay's statement was that the whole annual ex- 
pense of a slave's maintenance to his owner, the particulars of 
which he detailed, was on too many plantations not more than 
1/. 6s., to which his antagonist Mr. Tobin opposed the follow- 
ing statement. " There are few West India proprietors I be- 
" lieve but would esteem themselves very good oeconomists, 
" could they maintain a negro for four times the sum men- 
' tioncd by Mr. Ramsay/' 

llie iv/iole Expence of the Maintenance estimated. 375 

The difference between the two statements is not so wide I 
apprehend as it seems to be ; for Mr. Ramsay, writing and 
pubhshing in England, properly gave his estimates in sterling 
money ; but Mr. Tobin apparently understood, or chose to 
treat this estimate, as referring to the current money of the 
Leeward Islands. I understand, therefore, Mr. Tobin's state- 
ment to have meant that the whole expense was not less 
than 5^. 4s. currency, which at the then medium of exchange, 
being 175 per cent., was equal to 21. I9s. 5d. sterling. 

For clearing this controverted ground, the committee of 
privy council adopted the following standing interrogatory. 
" What is the annual expense of the maintenance of a negro man, 
" woman, and child at different ages respectively ;" and as it was 
transmitted, like the rest, to the legislative bodies in every co- 
lony, and addressed personally to their agents here, and to some 
eminent planters of almost every island, it may be concluded 
that clear and precise information could hardly fail to be ob- 
tained. But from some of the colonies, Jamaica especially, 
the return was a mere ignoramus ; and where any informa- 
tion was given, it was only by a vague general estimate or 

The common excuse given for the want of more satisfactory 
or definitive answers, was that the slaves were chiefly, or 
partly maintained from the produce of the provision grounds ; 
for which reason the Jamaica agent and planters, said " the 
" question was not properly applicable to that island,^' and the 
council of the island, though they noticed the salt herring per 
day, and the quantities of corn, &c. given by the master, 
where provision grounds cannot be allowed to them, or when 
the seasons happen to fail, said nothing at all as to the value 
or cost of the articles so given. 

Now it is manifest that such excuses were insufficient, and 
the answers all evasive. If the cost of native provisions could 
not be valued, it was because they in fact cost the master 
nothing at all ; nothing at least that he can retain to his own 
profit, or rightfully withhold ; and nothing, therefore, that he 
can fairly take credit for in stating an equitable account be- 
tween himself and his slaves. The land is allotted to them 
only because it is fit for no other use ; and the labour is their 
own, not his ; unless he has a right to work them in some 

876 The whole Expeuce of 

other way for his own profit, on the Sabbath, and at other 
seasons of rest allowed to them by law. The item of food, 
therefore, when raised on the estate by the slaves' own time, 
should in justice have been left out of the account. But if 
not, the want of certainty as to that article formed no good 
reason for silence as to the cost of the other articles of main- 
tenance, the amount of which was clearly known ; viz. the 
herrings, the clothing, and the medical attendance that are 
supplied from the master's purse. 

In the foreign-fed colonies the excuse was more palpably 
bad, because dependency on the master's allowances of food 
is there the general case ; and any material aid from the pro- 
vision grounds forms, in some islands, but a rare exception. 
Yet there also, the actual expense of feeding was a fact uni- 
formly withheld ; and with it that of clothing, and all the other 
items of actual disbursement ; and nothing better was obtained 
than loose general estimates of the whole annual expense. 

That these estimates were, by all the colonial assemblies, 
carried as high as they could be without trespassing too much 
against credibility, will hardly be doubted, if we regard the 
nature and objects of the controversy ; still less, when we 
advert to the spirit with which those honourable bodies met 
the other enquiries into their interior system, abundant ex- 
amples of which have been furnished from the same very im- 
portant report. 

One of the foreign-fed colonies, indeed, like Jamaica, gave 
no estimate at all, and assigned rather an extraordinary 
reason for it. " No particular accounts" said the Council and 
Assembly of Montsekrat, " having been kept on any estates, 
" ive cannot ascertain this point.'" What ! no invoices or bills 
of parcels of stores imported, or bought from the insular mer- 
chants, no accounts with the doctor, &c., and no plantation 
books for the information of absent owners, on any estate in 
that island ! It was passing strange, if true. 

But from most other colonies of that class general conjec- 
tural estimates were returned, instead of the particulars or en- 
tire amount of actual expenditure, which, unless all their 
planters were as strangely careless as those of Montserrat 
alleged themselves to have been, they could very easily have 
furnished. Exaggeration of course being the common object. 

the Maiiilenance eslimated. 377 

tliey all, in various degrees, exceed the truth ; though to 
magnify the charge on the master, some of them expressly 
include, not only the partial and occasional aid from the 
slave's own provision ground, but the cane-juice he drinks in 
crop-time, and even taxes paid to the colonial treasuries, 
merely because the number of a man's slaves regulates the 
assessments upon him. Yet I might safely rely even on the 
highest of these estimates, and still more on their medium 
amount, in proof of the unexampled and truly oppressive 
vileness to which the price of human labour has been reduced 
in the sugar colonies. The extracts in the subjoined note will, 
I trust, support this proposition, to the conviction of the most 
incredulous reader,* for if these estimates from all the foreign- 

* At N^evis, the answer of the Council and Assembly was : " The ex- 
" pense of maintaining a man or woman, independent of the produce of 
" their grounds, cane-juice, molasses, ike. is about six pounds per annum. 
" With these, it may be valued at fifteen pounds. The maintenance of 
" children may be calculated at from two thirds to one half of the above 
" sums." Currency being here meant, which is now worse by one half 
than sterling, but was then as 1 75 to 100, these valuations respectively 
were equal to about 3/. Ss. and 8/ 6*. sterling money ; but the smaller 
sum only, subject to the reduction for children, can fairly be regarded, 
supposing this estimaie right in other points, as maintenance given at the 
master's expense. The cane-juice, indeed, if he could possibly withhold 
it from them, might add somewhat to his sugar ; but he is indemnified 
for its loss, as we have seen, by a reduction of the rations in crop-time. 

The Council and Assembly of Ant'tgua said : " This expense must be 
" different in the different islands, and it is certain that it is different on 
" different estates in this island ; and it very often depends upon the im- 
" portation or scarcity of the articles of food, and not less frequently on 
" the weather in general. The average maintenance of a slave, for food 
" and clothing, in health and sickness, cannot be estimated at less than 
" four pounds sterling per annum." The language here pretty plainly 
shews, that such supplies as provision grounds in some situations, and in 
favourable seasons, might afford, were not left out of the accoimt. 

" The annual expense of each slave, one with another" (said the Coun- 
cil of Barbadoes), " will be at least five pounds." And the Governor 
gave the same estimate, explaining it as current money, which at that 
island is forty per cent, worse than ours ; consequently the value given is 
3/. 11*. bd. sterling. 

From St. Christopher the answer of the Council and Assembly was, 
" In this island, where there is but little country provision raised, and 
" therefore the piincipal part of the negro's food must be imported, 
** which of late years comes very high to the planter, the average expense 

378 The xchole Expence of 

fed colonies, that sent any estimate at all, are compared 
together, it will be found that their medium amount is 
3/. 175. 7^J. sterling per annum ,• and if we were to suppose 
this not beyond the truth, allowing all that they unfairly in- 
cluded in those estimates, it would give somewhat less than 
one shilling and sixpence sterling, as the whole weekly charge 
of a slave's maintenance. This is one-sixth part of the wages 
of the English peasant, taking the latter at nine shillings per 
week ; but with just allowances, the contrast would be still 
greater; for since the slaves' clothing is brought from Eng- 
land, and his imported food also, either from England or 
North America, the cost of freight, insurance, and other mer- 
cantile charges, must make those articles much dearer in the 
West Indies than they are in this country. 

Bad though the case was upon these premises, in fact it 
was, and I firmly believe still is, much worse ; and had the 
query of the Privy Council been fairly answered, the result, 
I doubt not, would have been a much nearer confirmation of 
Mr. Ramsay. He will be thought, however, sufficiently con- 
firmed, perhaps, by these estimates ; his own having related 
not to all, but " too many" plantations^ with an admission that, 
on others the allowance of food was considerably greater. 
The assemblies naturally took the highest degree of liberality 
that was known, for their general average ; and when men 
choose to give us estimates and generalities, withholding ac- 
counts and particulars which they have power to produce, it 
is reasonable to consider on which side their statements are 
most likely to err. Individual witnesses called on the side of 
t]\Q colonies, were not more explicit than their assemblies. As 
to the important particulars of clothing and imported food, it 
is striking to observe, that no one planter among the many 
who were examined by the Committees of Privy Council and 
of Parhament, thought fit to state what the annual expense 
actually had been on his own or any other estate ; and that, 
when interrogated as to the entire charge of the slaves' main- 

" of a negro in sickness and in health amounts to about 81. currency, ex- 
" elusive of taxes," (i. e. about 41. Ms. sterling). See for all these ex- 
tracts, the Privy Council Report, Q. A. No. 7, under the names of the 

respective colonies. 

the Maintenance estimated. 379 

tenance, their uniform course was to say they could not tell, 
or to offer only such vague estimates as I have here extracted, 
though it was perfectly easy for them to ascertain with the 
utmost exactness from documents in every proprietor's posses- 
sion or power, and from the accounts of their consignees in 
this country, what the clothing had cost, and also in the 
foreign-fed colonies, the cost of the imported food. 

This suppression, as to the article of clothing at least, will 
not be hard to account for, if we recollect the discoveries that 
Doctor Collins afterwards made incidentally in the course of 
his friendly advice to his brother planters. They shew that the 
whole expense of clothing for an adult slave must have been 
considerably less than a pound sterling per annum; since the 
improvement which he anxiously recommended, includino- 
blankets, were to raise it by his estimate to not more than 
eighteen, or at the most to twenty shillings, in the whole.* 

* Lest it should be thought tliat Dr. CoUins's estimate was erroneously 
low, or supposed that greater liberality now prevails, I subjoin the fol- 
lowing account of the negro clotliing, charged in the accounts of the 
consignees of a sugar plantation for the year 1825. It is a perfectly fair, 
if not too favourable a specimen of such accounts, many of which, as 
well as tliis, have been passed in my own office, as a Master in Chancery. 
9 Dozen mens' and womens* best negro hats, at 20,y. 

1 Dozen ditto - - - _ . 

2 Dozen boys' and girls' ditto - . . 
12 Mens' fine, with bands and buckles, at 4*. 9d. 

3 Pieces flax Osnaburgs, 438, at 6irf. 
3 Ditto Ditto . _ - - 
3 Ditto Ditto 436 - - - 

12 Pieces best indigo dyed blue field-negro clothing, 52 at 
624 yards, 16§ 

Thread, shipping charges, &c. - - 

6 Blue cloth jackets lined with serge 
20 Yards of flannel, at 1*., 1/. — 4 dozen caps, at 9^., 1/. I65. 

Wrapper and charges - _ - . 

The whole number of slaves, as may be computed from the hats, was 
estimated at 156; and there was no motive for more than ordinary 
economy. Yet the whole expence will be found to have been less than 
twelve shillings for each slave. 

We hear of the great expence of supplies from this country to West 
India estates ; but how smaU a part of them are for the use of the slaves ! 

- 9 

- 1 

- 1 


- 2 17 

- 11 

8 1 

- 11 

8 1 

- 11 

7 1 

- 42 

18 a 



2 17 

s. 2 



4 a 


16 3 

380 The whole Expence of the Maintenance 

It is to be regretted, that the other data, withheld by the 
colonial witnesses, the charge of subsistence especially, have 
not been supplied by Dr. Collins, or any other writer whom I 
am at liberty to quote as an authority.* 

The enth-e invoices for the year, in the same account, amounted to 
467/. 7s. Id. 

Should any of my opponents object to this account, as not a fair spe- 
cimen, let them produce those of other consignees, as they easily may, if 
it will serve their cause, for the last five years ; and shew if they can, 
greater liberality in any West India colony. 

* The Reverend Mr. Bickell, being a writer on the anti-slavery side, is 
not one whom I can cite in a direct way consistently with my rule, but 
when his statements are quoted controversially by a well-accredited co- 
lonial champion like Mr. Barclay, and their truth only in part denied by 
him, I may fairly cite "--his fellow-labourer, and his antagonist together, to 
shew the virtual admission of the rest. 

Now Mr. Bickell contrasted the oppressively parsimonious returns 
made to the slave for his labour, with the value of the labour itself ; 
and for that purpose he gave, with the most particular details, both sides 
of the account, carrying to the master's credit, not only every ordinary, 
but every occasional expence for the slave's support or benefit, and every 
thing that can be alleged to fall within that description ; and he made 
the whole amount of that expence to be 6/. 1*. Jamaica currency, or 
about 4/. 65. \\(h sterling per annum. — West Indies as they are, p. 244. 

The results of his calculations were, that the master, taking the value 
of the labour at a much lower rate than is paid for it to the owners of 
slaves when hired out by them, clears at least 20/. Jamaica currency per 
annum by every working slave, and consequently is fully reimbursed in 
seven years for the price at which he bought his gang, even supposing 
it as high as 140/. per slave. 

These conclusions being thought by the planters invidious, are 
anxiously combated by their champion, Mr. Barclay, who taxes his re- 
verend opponent with exaggeration, and endeavovu's to shew errors in 
his account ; but on on one side of it only. He attempts to prove that the 
value of the labour is over-rated, but not that the expences of the slave's 
maintenance are in any respect put too low. (See p. 424 to 426.) To add 
to the latter, would obviously have been as much to his purpose as to 
diminish the former, and more for the master's credit : his not objecting 
to the estimate of those expences, therefore, is equivalent to an admis- 
sion that it was at least sufficiently high. 

In fact, as this Jamaica planter, and those who employed him, well 
knew, Mr. Bickell had given credit to the master for more than his actual 
expences. He must have valued the clothing and other imported articles 
apparently at the retail prices at which they were sold in the island, in- 
stead of their wholesale cost to the master, when imported by himself ; 
and he had included in his amount of 6/. 1,?. currency, a rent of 1/. IO.s'. 

iompured Willi thai of free Lahour. 381 

It will, however, be abundantly sufficient for my purpose 
to assume, that the general estimates furnished from so many 
quarters, were not below the truth. If so, the cost of human 
labour to the colonial and English agriculturist respec- 
tively, so far as that cost arises from maintenance or wages, 
would be in the proportion of one to six, supposing the 
weekly time of work the same in both cases. But if, instead 
of computing by the week or year, we take the number of 
working hours, it results from the comparison in my sixth 
chapter, that the disparity is, in fact, twice as great; and that 
for a given return in maintenance or wages, the labour of the 
slave is to that of the free-man, in the truly enormous ratio of 
twelve to one. 

On the fullest consideration, I can see no ground on which 
the truth of this very important general deduction can be 
fairly impeached or questioned. To the plea that the planter 
is burthened with the support of those slaves who cannot 
work, as well as those who do, I have already in part re- 
plied. It has been shewn to be true only in respect of that 
small proportion of a West India gang which consists of 
weaned children under six years of age ; since children above 
that age do enough for the the master's benefit to compensate 
a larger support than he gives.* Be it observed, moreover, 
that most of the estimates which I have cited regard the 
adults only : that discrimination as to children, which the 
standing query asked for, was given from no colony but 
Nevis ; and there it was admitted that the maintenance of 
children was less expensive than that of adults by a difference 
of from one-third to one-half. 

As to slaves, too feeble for the labours of the cane-piece 
from old age, accident or infirmity, they are, in general, hardly 
less useful to the master than those in the prime of life ; for 
the important duties of watchmen, which must otherwise be 
performed by younger and stronger men, are principally 

for the provision-land, which he onght not to have done ; for it is no 
cost to the master, or diminution of his profit, that he gives the use of 
that, which would otherwise be useless to himself. 

* " It does not require more than five or six years before they are 
" capable of labour ; little, indeed, at that tender age, yet sufficient to 
" defray the expences of their own support." — Collins, p 17^. 

382 The whole Expence of the Maintenance 

theirs ; and severe enough is this service, as Mr. Beckford in 
his smaller work has abundantly shewn. The passage is too 
long to be conveniently extracted ; but it proves the lot of 
these poor invalids to be the reverse of idleness or ease ; and 
often so very painful and distressing, that no feeling mind can 
read his account of it without emotion.* 

As to the wives, for the support of whom also some of my 
opponents strangely claim credit in these accounts between 
slaveand master, they earn their scanty maintenance, as we 
have seen, not less laboriously than their husbands, except for 
a brief period, before and after child-birth; and even then, in 
a degree that much exceeds in value the charge of their sub- 

But such pleas, were they true, would not at all dimi- 
nish the vast difference between the cost of slave labour and 
free ; for the English agriculturist also is burthened, and in a 
far greater degree, with the support of those who yield him no 
work in return. The aged and infirm, and the children too, 
when the family is too large for the father's means, or when 
he is taken from or deserts them, are maintained by our land- 
holders and farmers, through their large contributions to the 
poor-rates. In the same view, that boasted and magnified 
item in the planter's scanty account, his medical charges for 
the sick, or doctor's allowance, is no peculiar burthen on th« 
slave-holder; for the free labourer, when sick, has medical 
aid, as well as general support from the parish. 

There are, I admit, distinctions which most materially 
lessen, if not wholly reverse, this ceconomical disparity in a 
view to the master's profit ; but they are such as cannot be 
included in any estimate, positive or comparative, of the slave's 
compensation for his forced labours, on principles of hu- 
manity and justice. 

One of them is the enormous amount of human labour ex- 
pended upon sugar estates. The English farmer does not 
employ a tenth part of the number of hands on a like quan- 
tity of arable land in culture ; and if the planter were to pay 
for his forced work at the rate of English wages, his expences 

* See Beckford's Remarks on the situation of Negroes in Jamaica, 
p. 16 to 20. 

compared with that of free Labour. 383 

in that article, per acre, would probably exceed the farmer's, 
in the proportion of twenty to one. But these are among the 
bad consequences of the oppressive system, not justificatory 
or extenuatory causes. It is the unjust and cruel parsimony 
with which the slaves are maintained, and the excessive 
amount of their forced work, that induces the planter to pre- 
fer their labour, in most oases, to that of cattle, and to the use 
of the plough and other machinery by which human hands 
might be spared. 

The planter also has to buy, not only his land and stock, 
but his labourers ; and the English agriculturist happily has 
not this latter charge to sustain. Interest on the purchase- 
money of the slaves, I admit, therefore, must be added to the 
charge of their maintenance before the planter can count his 
gains by their labour. But it is neither my duty, nor my ob- 
ject, to maintain that the system is gainful ; or to shew that 
the planters might always provide adequately for the subsist- 
ence and well-being of their slaves out of profits which they 
make, beyond interest on the capital employed. 

I freely admit, what, indeed, I have heretofore publicly al- 
leged and proved, that sugar-planting by slave labour is, on 
the whole, a losing game ; a lottery, in which, though there are 
many prizes, and some high ones, the blanks so largely out- 
number them as to make the result to the adventurers, col- 
lectively, great and certain loss. The spirit of gambling 
makes the chances sell for much more than their real value. 
By a majority, therefore, of the individuals who hold them, it 
may always be truly alleged that they are not enabled, by the 
returns of their estates, more liberally to maintain their slaves. 
But then I utterly deny the validity of this excuse, for the 
insufficiency of their support. 

We have seen, indeed, that the colonial party, while admit- 
ting that slaves often suffer grievously, and perish for want of 
food, think it enough to ascribe it to the master's indigence 
and embarrassments, apd to the low returns of his produce, 
compared with the heavy charges upon his estate ; and reason, 
as if these circumstances formed a sufficient defence. They 
are so confident in that false view, as to retort upon us 
anti-slavery writers the charge of inhumanity, and reproach 
us with augmenting the sufferings of our sable protegees, 

384 The Planter's Poveity no Excuse 

whenever we oppose measures profitable to the planters. Our 
opposition, even to the cruel licence of transporting their 
slaves to new colonies, has been thus censured ; because, as 
the master's circumstances might be improved by it, the 
slaves, as is most fallaciously inferred, would be better sus- 

On the contrary I know of no truth more demonstrable, 
though to the uninformed it may seem paradoxical, than 
that the interests of the plantation slave are, under the exist- 
ing system, directly opposed to, instead of being the same 
with his master's ; and that the more profitable his work at 
present is, the worse, cseteris paribus, he is likely soon to be' 

Nor will this appear at all strange, if we keep in view two 
characteristics of this unhappy relation, which almost every 
writer on the state of the British sugar colonies has noticed, 
and consider for a moment what must be their natural effects ; 
I mean the very great frequency with which the slaves and 
the estates they belong to pass to new owners by sales ; and 
the almost universal non-residence of proprietors who can 
afford to live in Europe. That the prosperity which produces 
the latter effect is adverse to the welfare of the slaves, will 
not, I presume, be disputed ; and it is equally true, though 
not so obvious, that whatever raises the marketable value of 
a sugar plantation, when sold, tends to increase the sufferings 
of its enslaved cultivators under the new owner. The higher 
the price he has paid, the larger of course the amount of in- 
terest to be made good on a capital, (for the most part bor- 
rowed,) out of the future proceeds ; and the less the ability to 
act liberally or humanely in the future maintenance of the 
slaves. The effect might, indeed, be harmless to them, if 
there were equability or permanence in those causes which 
affect the price of such property ; but there is no subject of 
speculation more unsteady in its returns than a sugar estate ; 
and yet none of which present or recent productiveness so 
exclusively governs the price. 

* See the Appendix, No. 3. to my former volume, in wliich these pre- 
texts are noticed, and the views they rest upon shewn to be wholly delu- 

for his Economical Oppressions. 385 

Whether these views are admitted or not, no European mo- 
ralist »vill maintain, that the high price paid for a slave or for 
the estate he works upon, diminishes the obligation to give 
him an adequate subsistence ; yet if the excuse of the 
planter's poverty is valid, a man might justify his giving his 
slaves no subsistence at all, and actually starving them to 
death ; merely by his own improvidence, in contracting for 
the extravagant price at which his plantation was bought. 

It is clear, nevertheless, from many passages which I have 
cited, that the lax moralists, who conduct and defend West 
India slavery, entertain very different views on this subject. Nor 
can it be doubted, that many proprietors, who, from residence 
on their estates, cannot be deceived as to the real facts of the 
case, find a sedative for their own consciences, in the sense of 
those difficulties under which it is, and always has been, their 
ordinary lot to labour. 

Doctor Collins plainly was aware of the prevalence of such 
self-deception ; for he reasoned anxiously to remove it, as an 
obstacle to the very inadequate mitigations that he ventured 
to recommend of the oppressive general economy. " As to 
" those who are unfortunately in such a situation, with re- 
*' spect to incumbrance and credit, as to be disabled from 
" supplying their negroes as they ought, it behoves them to 
*' consider, whether, by the utmost their undue savings can 
*' effect, they can possibly be retrieved from their embarrass- 
" ments ? And if they can, they ought seriously to ponder on 
*' the consequences by which their relief is to be obtained ; 
*' that it must be by the blood of their own species ! A horrid 
" thought ; and if they cannot, how much better would it be 
** for them to surrender at once their property to their cre- 
" ditors," &c.* 

* Practical Rules, p. 12. 

If Dr. Collins had addressed this reasoning in private to any friend of 
the description he gives, he might probably have had this reply — " What 
" v'onld my negroes gain, by the final sacrifice of all my own hopes in 

" life through the surrender you advise ? Messieurs and 

" my mortgagees, you know, are too wise to become planters themselves, 
" ^nd they will, therefore, sell my estate ; nor can it be expected they 
" will write off any part of the debt to profit and loss account, while 
" they have any hojie to realize the whole Thoy \vill find, as usual, some 


386 The Planter's Poverty no Excuse, 

Readers unconnected with slavery, will not dissent from this 
advice. They will admit, that neither the high prices paid 
by the proprietor for his land and slaves, nor the number of 
them he has to maintain, nor his bad returns, nor his debts, 
nor his necessities, from whatever causes arising, can justify 
or excuse that oppressive parsimony which has been proved 
to characterize the whole system of the sugar planters ; and to 
have prevailed from a time when no such ground of apology 
could be in general found, except from permanent causes, in- 
herent to the wretched system itself. 

" speculative purchaser, some thrifty manager, perhaps, who has by 
" parsimony saved a small sum, and is ambitious of being a proprietor. 
" He will pay his all on account of the debt, hoping to raise the rest from 
" future produce ; will take the chances that I renounce, of better crops 
" and prices; and to improve them, will push the estate to the uttermost, 
" The negroes will be worse fed, and harder worked, perhaps, than now, 
" and probably punished with a severity that I have never exercised, by 
" a new master who is a stranger to their habits and character. I will 
" keep the possession, therefore, while I can, in the hope of better 
" times." 

The excuses here stated are, in point of fact, well founded on ordinary 
experience ; and I know that similar ones have satisfied the consciences 
of some such unfortunate men. I have heard it from their own lips. 




Am I asked what are my practical conclusions, from the 
shocking and opprobrious facts established in this and my 
former volume ? What can they be, but one, — that the effec- 
tual interposition of Parliament should not a moment longer 
be delayed ? 

Enough was known before ; more than enough was incon- 
trovertibly proved ; nay, enough was always admitted or un- 
denied ; to make the legislative toleration of this slavery a 
disgrace to the British and Christian name. Iniquity, indeed, 
of every kind, loses in human detestation, what it gains in 
mischief, by wide, unreproved diffusion, and by age. We sin 
remorselessly, because our fathers sinned, and because multi-r 
tudes of our own generation sin, in the same way with- 
out discredit. But if ever those most flagitious crimes of 
Europe, slave-trade and colonial slavery, shall cease to be 
tolerated by human laws, and live in history alone, men will 
look back upon them with the horror they deserve ; and 
wonder as much at the depravity of the age that could esta- 
blish or maintain them, as we now do at the murderous rites 
of our pagan ancestors, or the ferocious cannibal manners of 
New Zealand. 

There is enough in the simplest conception of personal 
hereditary slavery, to revolt every just and liberal mind^ inde- 
pendently of all aggravations to be found in its particular 
origin, or in abuses of the master's powers. But how much 
should sympathy and indignation be enhanced, when the 
cruel perpetual privation of freedom, and of almost every civil 
and human right, is the punishment of no crime, nor the 

(^ c 2 

388 Concluding and Practkal Reflections. 

harsh consequence of public hostility in war, but imposed 
upon the innocent and helpless, by the hand of rapacious 
violence alone; and maintained for no other object but the 
sordid one of the master's profit, by the excessive labour to 
which they are compelled ? 

Were our merchants to send agents to buy captives from 
the bandits in the forests of Italy, or from the pirates on 
the Barbary coast, and sell them here as slaves, to work for 
our farmers or manufacturers ; and were the purchasers to 
claim, in consequence, a right to hold these victims of rapine 
and avarice, with their children, in bondage for ever, and to 
take their work, without wages ; what would it be but the 
same identical case we are contemplating, except that the 
captives were of a different complexion ? Yet the bandits 
and pirates are hanged ; and their vendees, in the case sup- 
posed, would have less to apprehend from actions or indict- 
ments for false imprisonment, than from the vengeance of in- 
dionant multitudes. It certainly, at least, would not be ne- 
cessary, for the purpose of their deliverance, to prove to the 
British Parliament or people, that the poor captives were 
overworked, . underfed, driven with whips to their work, 
punished in a brutal way for every real or imputed fault, and 
by such complicated oppressions, brought in great numbers 
prematurely to their graves. 

But an advocate of the unfortunate Negroes, in the present 
day, has to address himself to many who have so far sur-^ 
rendered their judgment to colonial imposture, and their moral 
feelings to colonial influence and example, as almost to doubt 
whether personal slavery is an evil, or its unjust imposition a 
crime. It was not, therefore, without necessity, that I have 
torn from that social monster the screen which distance and 
falsehood had cast before him ; and exhibited him to the eyes 
of the British people in his true and hideous forms. 

Having now performed that painful and invidious task ; 
having shewn by decisive evidence, what the slavery of the 
sugar colonies really is, both in law and practice ; I will not 
Avaste the time of my readers, by offering any arguments in 
proof that such a state should no longer be suffered to exist. 
It would indeed be worse than idle; it would be insulting 
their understandinos and their hearts to do so. It would be 

Concluding and Practical Reflections. 389 

supposing in them a perfect insensibility to every moral obli- 
gation. That personal slavery should find apologists and pa- 
trons among the people of England, is strange, and oppro- 
brious enough ; especially at the present day, when we hail 
with enthusiasm the march of civil liberty in every foreign 
land, and are scarcely satisfied with its perfection in our own : 
but if our love of freedom, be thus grossly inconsistent, I trust 
our national humanity, will be more impartial ; and that, though 
many among us, who profess to detest slavery, civil or personal, 
in Greece and Spain, and Portugal and Algiers, have defended 
its far heavier yoke in the sugar colonies, — all who are not 
principals, or accomplices in the cruel and murderous oppres- 
sions which I have here delineated, will view them with ab- 
horrence. I will anticipate, then, no dissent by any disinte- 
rested reader from my conclusion, that this most odious system 
ought to exist no more. 

The means, the time and the manner of its abolition, are 
subjects on which I may perhaps be expected to add some 
practical suggestions. It was my design to do so; and the 
preparations I have already made for it, have very greatly 
added to the delay of the present publication ; for I found it 
impossible to open my views on those points in a manner 
adequate to their importance, and the most likely to be useful, 
without entering at some length into subjects of collateral 
controversy ; since on some of them misconceptions widely pre- 
vail, and stand opposed to principles on which all right mea- 
sures must be founded. 

To repel the claim of compensation or indemnity to tho 
planters in the case of enfranchisement, at least in its extra- 
vagant extent, and as matter, not of favour but of right; to 
demonstrate the frivolity and impotence of the measures al- 
ready adopted or proposed, in pursuance of the parliamentary 
resolutions of May 1823, and the absurdity of pretending to 
prepare the poor negroes better for the use of freedom, by pro- 
tracting their brutalizing bondage; to expose the shameful in- 
consistency of this pretext, with the still training their issue 
from the birth to the same degrading and corrupting slavery, 
and with retaining in that state multitudes of adults, whose 
present fitness for freedom is not, and cannot be disputed ; to 
rcfutt the bkiuderouh. and preposterous ijnputations on secta- 

390 Concludhig and Practical Reflectioits. 

rian missionaries ; and expose the vile hypocrisy of the plant- 
ers in affecting a zeal for orthodoxy, as a mere cloak for 
anti-christian persecution, and for driving away, on that pre- 
tence, the pious self-devoted teachers, by whose humble and 
laborious efforts almost exclusively, the poor slaves have 
hitherto been in any degree brought within the Christian 
pale ; to shew the utter hopelessness of reconciling, with in- 
cessant labour extorted by the whip, religious or any other 
kind of intellectual culture and improvement ; to refute the 
calumnies that have been propagated by the oppressors of the 
African race, as to their general character and conduct in a 
state of freedom ; and herein to expose the many misrepresent- 
ations of facts and fallacious reasonings of Messrs. Moody, 
M'Kenzie, and others as to the interesting case of Hayti ; — 
these, and other corrections of prevalent errors and impostures, 
have employed my pen so largely, that were I to persist in 
the purpose of adding my discussion of those topics to the 
present volume, its bulk would be likely to preclude every 
hope of its utility ; at least at the present very critical period. 
Should such discussions be necessary, my preparations for 
them will not I trust be thrown away. I may submit my 
views on them to the public in a supplementary tract ; espe- 
cially the arguments which, I have thrown together to prove 
that the claim of compensation, (which, by a strange solecism 
in morals, is advanced as a bar to the demands of justice to- 
wards those from whom it is not pretended that any compen- 
sation is due,) is founded upon false premises and sophistical 
conclusions ; and that even as between the mother country 
and the planters, the claim has no sound foundation. The 
leading answer to it indeed will be pretty obvious to reasoning 
minds, upon the case which I have here established ; and I 
will offer a brief view of it here. 

If the value of slavery consists in the power of working the 
negroes to excess, and with a parsimony in their maintenance 
at which humanity revolts, where is the act of parliament or 
other national measure by which such treatment is sanctioned, 
and the profit arising from it virtually guaranteed ? Can we 
be said to have been accomplices in that of which we did not 
know ; and the existence of which, when we inquired into it, 
was solemnly denied ? 

Concluding and Practical Reflections. 391 

As between the injured Africans and us, we have been 
accomplices with their oppressors ; and, though not in pari 
(lelicto, would be equally bound to compensate, if their wrongs 
did not exceed all possibility of compensation ; for wrong- 
doers may be justly answerable for consequences they neither 
meditated nor foresaw. But upon what principle can one of 
two offenders claim an indemnity from the other, for the con- 
sequences of their mutual act, even if there had been full 
complicity between them ? In that case there might perhaps 
be an equitable claim to a contribution ; but even to this, there 
would be a decisive bar, if the party claiming it had de- 
ceived his accomplice, and led him inconsciously into that 
part of the wrong from which the whole damage arose. A. 
concurs with B. in putting on board a ship clandestinely a 
trunk containing prohibited goods, without the master's 
privity. They are such as subject the ship to forfeiture ; 
and she is accordingly seized and condemned j but A. did 
not know that the goods were of a prohibited kind ; and 
B., who did know it, had led him to believe that they 
were only such as were liable to an export duty, the non- 
payment of which would not affect the ship. Both are 
liable to make good the loss to the owners : but a claim by B. 
for a contribution from A. would be manifestly groundless 
and unjust. 

Not less so in the present case, the claim of the West India 
planters. Had their representations been true, there would 
have been no loss to compensate ; for they assured us that 
their slaves were so very lightly worked, and so abundantly 
maintained, that their state, in an economical view, was equal 
to, if not more advantageous to them than, freedom. If so, 
we had reason to expect that the liberty we concurred in the 
privation of, might soon be restored, without loss to their 
owners ; and such, in fact, were the expectations under which 
the parliament and government of this country were per- 
suaded to act. No man at all acquainted with the abolition 
controversy can suppose that, without such a delusion, the 
slave trade would have survived, nearly twenty years, the privy 
council and parliamentary inquiries ; and slavery twice as 

It is enough, however, that, as the case stands, slavery 

392 Concluding and Practical Reflections. 

would be of no value to the planter, if the economical oppres- 
sions were not to be continued, together with the slavery itself; 
and this, the facts I have demonstrated evince beyond dispute. 
Are we bound, then, to compensate for the loss of sixteen 
hours' labour in the twenty-four, to thoge who led us to believe 
they took but eight or nine ? or to make good the vast dif- 
ference between free wages and the miserable maintenance of 
a slave, to those who told us the latter was so liberal as to 
make no such difference at all ! This and more we must do, 
if we admitted the extravagant claim of payment for the slaves 
and the estates, at the prices they would now be valued at : 
whereas, could the course be effectually taken of reducing the 
work, and raising the maintenance of slaves to what the 
planters affirmed, and still affirm, to be their actual amount, the 
claim of compensation might be allowed, without adding a 
cypher to the minister's budget. 

I may be told, perhaps, that some of my fellow-labourers 
have been ready to admit the principle of compensation. Yes, 
and so were the friends of Antonio, the merchant of Venice, 
to " pay the bond thrice and let the merchant go," when 
they feared that the alternative must be the " pound of flesh." 
But I know full well that the bond will not thus be cancelled ; 
and, therefore only, like Portia, demand that its validity shall 
be a subject of previous adjudication. Let it not, however, 
be understood, that I am at all indisposed to treat the case of 
the planters with all possible favour and indulgence that may 
consist with a performance of our duty to the slaves. The 
admission of their claims as of right, and the granting aid 
and relief to them, from a liberal and kind consideration of the 
pressure that may arise from a change of system not less due 
from them than from ourselves, are questions of a very dif- 
ferent kind ; and though I am prepared to demonstrate that 
all the difficulties of their present situation in the old colonies, 
as well as all the inconvenience and loss to which the abo- 
lition of slavery may expose them, are the fruits of their per- 
tinacious suppwt of the slave trade alone, after the first calls 
for its suppression ; I am not only willing, but desirous, that 
they should, even at a serious expence to the revenue and 
commerce of the country, be supported and relieved. 

Mr. Pitt, in the debate of April 1791, took the same impov- 

Concluding and Practical Rcfieciions. 393 

tant distinction, and in the same identical case : for the indem- 
nity of the planters, as a condition of the abolition of the 
slave-trade, was then as strongly insisted upon, as now it is 
in respect of the abolition of slavery ; and on the same 
grounds : but he repelled the claim of right with unanswerable 
arguments, which I desire to invoke ; though the bar to it, 
which I have suggested in the present case, did not in that 
arise. But he reserved the consideration of what might be 
granted as matter of liberality if loss should prove to have 
been incurred by the public. 

Here, however, I anxiously desire the attention of the legis- 
lature, and particularly of his Majesty's ministers, if any of 
them should think these sheets worth their perusal, to one 
most important caution. If support or relief is to be given to 
the planters upon an abolition of slavery, or with a view to that 
measure, the only way in which it can be conveniently, im- 
partially, and effectually administered, is by a well-regulated 
remission of duties on the importation of sugar, founded on 
and adapted to the principle, not that the people should buy 
that article cheaper, or that the consumption should be in- 
creased ; but that the planter should obtain a better price for 
it, in proportion to his loss by a diminished production, in 
consequence of the reduction of labour. 

While slavery continues, every advance of the planters' profits, 
is an instigation to keep up and increase, if possible, the pres- 
sure on the slaves. But in the event ofan emancipation, whether 
immediate and general, or progressive, the case would be re- 
versed ; and the more of import duties we had then to remit, the 
larger would be the means of compensating the planter, with- 
out increased burthens on the people of these united kingdoms, 
for the diminution of his produce. If the concurrence of the 
planters could have been hoped for, the best means of obtain- 
ing it would perhaps have been by proportioning the remis- 
sion of duties on the produce of the colonies respectively, to 
their respective advances in the work of emancipation ; in 
other words to their reduced production. If Mr. Canning 
■were living, he could attest for me that these are not new 
suggestions from my pen. I had long entertained a belief, 
that by such a system, some of the smaller colonies might 
have been induced willintily to emancipate their slaves. 

394 Concluding and Practical Reflections. 

It was to such a system that I looked, from the first, for the 
cessation of slavery after the abolition of the trade. The pros- 
pect was dismally clouded, if not tinally shut out, by the most 
unwise and most inconsistent acquisition of new sugar colo- 
nies, after that measure took place. But even this bad and 
unprincipled course of policy is, perhaps,