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sequences of the washes and mercurial ointments by which they were made up for sale. A third was excessive labour, joined with improper food ; and a fourth, the extreme dissoluteness of their manners. These would both of them be counteracted by the impossibility of procuring farther supplies. It was the interest, they were told, of the masters, to treat their slaves with kindness and humanity; but it was immediate and present, not future and distant interest, that was the great spring of action in the affairs of mankind. Why did we make laws to punish men ? It was their interest to be upright and virtuous. But there was a present impulse continually breaking in upon their better judgment, an impulse which was known to be contrary to their permanent advantage. It was ridiculous to say that men would be bound by their interest, when present gain or ardent passion urged them. It might as well be asserted, that a stone could not be thrown into the air, or a body move from place to place, because the principle of gravitation bound them to the surface of the earth. If a planter in the West Indies found himself reduced in his profits, he did not usually dispose of any part of his slaves, and his own gratifications were never given up, so long as there was a possibility of any retrenchment in the allowance,
Mr. Wilberforce entered into a calculation in order to prove, that in many of the islands, and particularly in Jamaica, there was an increase of population among the slaves actually begun; and he deduced from the whole, that the births in that island at this moment exceeded the deaths by one thousand or eleven hundred per annum. Allowing however the number of negroes to decrease, there were other obvious sources that would insure the welfare of the West Indian islands : the waste of labour which at present prevailed ; the introduction of the plough and other machinery; the division of work, which in free and civilized countries was the grand source of wealth; and the reduction of the number of domestic servants, of whom not less than
of his negroes.
from twenty to forty were kept in ordinary families. But, granting that all these suppositions were unfounded, that every one of these succedanea should fail ; the planters would still be secured, and out of all question indemnify themselves, as was the case in every transaction of com. merce, by the increased price of their produce in the English market. The West Indians therefore, who contended against the abolition, were nonscited in every part of the argument. Did they say that fresh importation was necessary? He had shown, that the number of slaves might be kept up by procreation. Was this denied ? He asserted that the plough, horses, machinery, domestic slaves, and all the other inevitable improvements, would supply the deficiency. Was it persisted in that the deficiency could be no way supplied, and that the quantity of produce would diminish? He then reverted to the unanswerable argument, that the increase of price would make up their loss, and secure them against every possible miscarriage.
Mr. Wilberforce proceeded to answer incidental objections. In the first place he asserted, that the African trade, instead of being the nursery of our sailors, had been found to be their grave. A comparison bad with great industry been formed between the muster-rolls of the slave ships and those of the other branches of our commerce ; and it had been found, that more sailors had died in one year in the slave trade, than in two years in all our other trades put together. Three thousand one hundred and seventy seamen had sailed from Liverpool in 1787, and of these only fourteen hundred and twenty eight had returned. Information upon the subject had lately been received from the governor of Barbadoes, who stated in the course of his narrative, “ that the African traders at home were obliged to send out their ships very strongly manned, as well from the unhealthiness of the climate, as the necessity of guarding the slaves; and as they soon felt the burthen of the consequent expence, the
masters quarrelled immediately upon their arrival in the islands with their seamen, upon the most frivolous pretences, and turned them on shore, while many of these valuable subjects, sometimes from sickness, and sometimes from the necessity of entering into foreign employment for subsistence, were totally lost to their country." A farther objection that had been urged was, that if we abandoned the slave trade, it would only be taken up by the French; we should become the sufferers, and the evil would remain in its utmost extent. This was in deed a very weak and sophistical argument; and, if it would defend the slave trade, might equally be urged in favour of robbery, murder, and every species of wickedness, which, if we did not practice, others would pro. bably commit. The objection, however, he believed, had no foundation in fact. Mr. Necker, the present minister of France, was a man of ability and religion, and in his work upon the administration of the finances, had actually recorded his abhorrence of the slave trade ; and the king of France having lately been requested to dissolve a society formed for the express purpose of the abolition, had answered that he could not comply with what was desired, and that he on the contrary rejoiced in the existence of such a society.
Mr. Wilberforce proceeded in his arguments to shew, that no measure could in the present case be effectual, short of the entire abolition. The Jamaica report had recommended that no person should be kidnapped, or permitted to be made slaves contrary to the customs of Africa. Might they not be reduced to this state unjustly, and yet by no means contrary to the customs of Africa ? Besides how could we distinguish between the slaves justly and unjustly reduced to that condition ? Could we discover them by their physiognomy? If we could, was it believed that the British captains would by any regula. tions in this country be prevailed upon to refuse all those that had not been fairly, honestly, and uprightly enslaved ? Those who were offered to us for sale, were
brought, some of them, three or four thousand miles, and exchanged like cattle from one hand to another, till they reached the coast. What compensation then could be made to the rejected slaves for their sufferings? The argument was equally valid as to their transportation. The profit of the merchant depended upon the number that could be crowded together, and the shortness of the allowance. As to their ultimate situation, it would also semain. Slavery was the source of all sorts of degra. dation, and the condition of slavery could not even be meliorated, without putting an end to the hope of farther reinforcements. In fine, Mr. Wilberforce called upon his hearers to make all the amends in their power for the mischief they had done to the continent of Africa. He called upon them to recollect what Europe had been three centuries ago. In the reign of king Henry the Seventh, the inhabitants of Bristol had actually sold their children as an article of merchandize. The people of Ireland had done the same. Let then the same oppor. tunity of civilization be extended to Africa, which had done so much for our own islands. It might hitherto have been alledged in our excuse, that we were not acquainted with the enormity of the wickedness we suffer. ed; but we could no longer plead ignorance-it was directly brought before our eyes, and that house must decide, and must justify to the world and their consciences the facts and principles upon which their decision was formed.
EXPLICITLY delivered his sentiments upon the subject, and particularly thanked Mr. Wilberforce for having
chosen the only way in which it could be demonstrated, that they were warranted, in every ground of fact and of reason, in adopting the measure that was now recommended to them. He was satisfied that no argument, compatible with any idea of justice, could be assigned for the continuation of the slave trade; and at the samo time that he was willing to listen with candour and im. partiality to every thing that could be urged, he was sure that the principles from which his opinion was deduced were totally unalterable. He had examined the subject with the anxiety that became him, and investigated the different parts of it with all possible minuteness; and he averred, that it was sophistry, obscurity of ideas, and vagueness of reasoning, that alone could have hitherto prevented all mankind, those immediately interested in the question excepted, from agreeing in their opinion upon the subject. He differed from Mr. Burke with respect to the propriety of adopting these individual propositions. Let them be once entered upon the journals of the house, and it was almost impossible for them to fail in producing every beneficial consequence that could be desired. The mode in which the slave trade should ultimately be abolished was not now under discussion; but, whatever it were, Mr. Pitt trusted that the project now recommended to them would not prove the means of inviting foreign powers to supply our islands by a clandestine trade. When a debt was discovered to be founded upon the immutable principles of justice, it was impossible but the country had means to cause it to be paid. Should such an illicit proceeding be attempted. the only language which it became us to adopt was, that Great Britain had resources to enable her to protect her islands, and to prevent that traffic from being clandestincly carried on with them, which she had thought fit, from a regard to her character and her honour, to aban. don. It was highly becoming in Great Britain to take the lead of all other countries in a business of so great magnitude; and he could not but have confidence, that VOL. II.