« PreviousContinue »
ount of ice-station, or to But he has he ch
or macadamize roads. He is not bound to show his pass or give an account of himself, or explain his means of subsistence, at the nearest police-station, or to take off his hat to every white man he meets in the streets. But he has no free agency. He cannot adopt any business or profession that he chooses; he cannot be an elector, except under very stringent limitations ; and as for becoming a Member of Congress, he might as well claim to succeed to the empire of China or an estate in the moon. But more than this, and worse than this, he must be content to be regarded as an outcast and a pariah by the drabcoloured philanthropists of Philadelphia and the Celtic aristocrats of New York. Not only is he not politically the equal of the white man, but he is socially far his inferior. He pays for his nominal freedom by an amount of hatred and contumely which is wholly unintelligible on this side of the Atlantic. His freedom bears a bitterer fruit than the slavery of his compatriots in the South; for the slave in the South is often the pet of his master, and is caressed with a fondness which would not be lavished on an equal or a rival race; while the negro at the North has to bear the whole pressure of that galling contempt with which men who have a certain position sneer down the attempts of those who vainly aspire to attain it. He is the victim alike of German rudeness and Irish brutality, and the practical aid which he obtains from his Abolitionist friends is of the slightest and coldest kind. His career is that of a poor devil born to be a waiter, a barber, or a porter; to be shut out of omnibuses and churches, jostled in the streets, and sworn at as an unseasonable intrusion on the everyday life of mankind !
How different his condition and prospects in the British Colonies! There his freedom is as secure in fact as it is admitted in theory. He is free to choose his own line of life, and fix the remuneration of his own labours. Not only a professional but an official career is open to his ambition. American visitors to the West Indies start to find the public peace maintained by black policemen, public justice dispensed by black magistrates, criminal trials proceeding before black jurymen, and sometimes laws passed by black members of the Legislature.* It is not for us to say whether this recognition of negro equality has not been premature, and caused by a generous impulse rather than from ripe reflection. We know it is not popular among the white inhabitants of our tropical colonies, who regard it as
* While touching upon the subject of the administration of justice in the West Indies, we would call attention to the simple and exhaustive system of civil procedure, framed by Sir Benjamin Pine, Lieutenant-Governor of St. Kitts, to relieve that colony of the complicated technicalities of English law.
st merited bilet in the men the net
unjust to themselves and as not merited by the negroes. Be this as it may, it is a fact, and a great fact, that in the dependencies of Great Britain, and in those dependencies alone, the negro and the mulatto are allowed to compete with the white man for the prizes of professional, mercantile, and official life. The tropical dependencies of Great Britain open to one million of men of every hue, from the deepest black to the lightest coffeecolour, the opportunities of wealth, elevation, and distinction; while six millions of the same race in the United States and the colonies of France or Spain vibrate between the condition of petted slaves and free pariahs. We admit that this English liberality is opposed to the prejudices of many among the white population. The middle and lower classes of English in the Colonies—those classes, in fact, which alone see much of the coloured races—are just as much prejudiced against them as are the mobs of New York and Philadelphia ; and we fear that there is less than there might be in the manner and deportment of the present generation of the free coloured races in America or the British Colonies to conciliate the attachment and good feeling of the whites. Still, despite the prejudices of its own subjects-despite the pertness, insolence, and incredible self-conceit of the coloured populations of African descent,—the British Government champions and protects these races, and educates them by kindness, by self-government, and by privileges, to the high responsibilities of Christian civilization. Grant everything that is said about the shortcomings of the free negro and his mulatto kinsman (and though inuch is exaggerated, much may be said with truth)-say that he is ungrateful (which is far from being universally true)-grant that he has degenerated in genuine courtesy and kindness from his servile forefathers (which is in many cases true)-grant that his self-conceit and self-assertion, combined with his laziness, his dilatory and imperfect style of work, and his indifference to the interests of his employer, often make him intolerable—yet are these shortcomings sufficient to justify a great nation in abandoning her own most distinctive policy, and allowing one million of human beings, whom she has wholly redeemed from slavery and partially redeemed from barbarism, to relapse, after an experiment of twenty-five years, into the slothful sensuality of Hayti or the primitive savageness of their African villages ? Surely, if the spectacle of a great work left incomplete is more mournful than the reflections suggested by a great design never undertaken, there could be no spectacle more painful to the philanthropist than the gradual barbarization of the African Creoles redeemed into partial civilization by the benevolent policy of
England. Let England-contented with an economical pleaonce withdraw her protection from her West India Colonies, a protection which costs her less than half a million sterling a-year, and they fall at once under some foreign Power. It is immaterial who this Power is, whether France, Spain, Holland, or the United States. From the moment that the Creole negro or mulatto passes under this new dominion, he sinks from the proud eminence of civilised freedom into a degradation as humiliating as slavery, but unrelieved by those compensations which often temper slavery. Nor is it easy to foresee the full amount of horrors which would result from this terrible revolution. The negro Creole is the descendant of various and dissimilar races; some warlike, spirited, and revengeful; others (perhaps the majority) inert, timid, unaggressive. But civilization before emancipation, and the enjoyment of civil rights since emancipation, have made the bold bolder and the timid less timid. Strangers seeking to impose new ordinances and greater restrictions upon the free coloured people of the British West Indies, would find that they had erroneously calculated on the timidity of a people who appreciated freedom sufficiently to fight for it. The savage resistance offered by these tribes to the reimposition of a dreaded yoke would revive the atrocities and the crimes of the Maroon war of days gone by. Either the negroes or the Europeans would in the end be extirpated ; in either case a mortal blow would be struck at civilization. The negroes left masters of the field would inaugurate a polity which must eventually repeat all the worst features of the Haytian Republic. The whites, bereft of negro aid, would have to renew the slave-trade, under another name, for the supply of that labour which in the tropics is indispensable to agriculture and domestic service. But we forbear to pursue this part of the subject further, knowing, as we do, that the curious revulsion of English feeling in regard to the negro race makes any allusion to their fate appear irksome and importunate.
It remains for us only to briefly notice the arguments founded on the incongruity between the actual state of the British Colonies and the standard of their theoretical excellence. We recur to the old 'plea of confession and avoidance. We admit many of the allegations advanced; we deny only the inferences deduced from their admission. We admit that we have not so much reproduced as travestied the English Constitution in Canada and Australia. We admit that the Church in the Colonies is oftener a slip of “feeble Anglicanism'than a sturdy branch of the old Church at home. But we cannot recognise in these facts any good reasons for abandoning the Colonies. On the contrary, these seem to us to prove the necessity of making the connexion between England and her dependencies even closer than it is. The Legislative Council, and the whole constitution of the Colonies, are more democratic than with us, because there do not as yet exist the elements of an aristocratic class. The majority of the colonists either were themselves or are the sons of men who at one time of their lives were day-labourers or artisans. They have attained to wealth, but they have never acquired education, or the manners which can only belong to a fixed social position. Moreover, in the present scarcity of population, the possession of land does not confer the same status which it does in old and densely-peopled countries; and it is continually changing owners. But as the country becomes more populous and more wealthy—as profitable investments for capital offer themselvesa higher class of settlers flows in, with better education, ampler means, and more refined manners. By degrees a class springs up superior to the rest, not only in property, but in those attributes which make property respected. Knowledge, manners, and property combined, constitute a natural aristocracy. And it is hard to suppose that an aristocracy which to these elements of influence adds English pluck and resolution will not win political power for itself. The examples of the United States, of New South Wales, of Victoria, and of Canada, present grave warnings of the contrary tendency. But we believe that an aspect of things which is normal in the United States is temporary and transient in our Australian and American colonies. In the United States—at least in the Northern part of the Union—the career of a public man and the character of a politician are held generally in disrepute. To be a Member of Congress and an influential leader of parties by no means proves a man to be honest or respectable. The vague phraseology of the American Constitution, and the loose morality of universal suffrage, explain this. The increasing licence of successive years further explains it. The mob-indeed, the lowest portion of the mob-has got the whole political power into its hands; and the tendency of each year's immigration is to swell the numbers and the power of the mob. In Australia the immigration is not so uniform in character. There are gentlemen colonists in that dependency. At present they are outnumbered and outvoted. But there is the nucleus of a less degenerate party, which will become more powerful with the progressive settlement of the colony, with the accumulation and distribution of wealth, and with the division of labour. But what is of still greater moment—there exists among the richer Australian colonists a strong Conservative feeling. Many of them are fully alive to the mischiefs and
dangers dangers of universal suffrage, and the political system which it creates. They know that these evils need not be more than temporary; and they are anxious to abbreviate the necessary term of their duration. A still more hopeful sign is the Conservatism of the poorer class of voters themselves. Poverty is everywhere comparative. The poverty of the Australian labourer is competence and almost affluence contrasted with that of his English compeer. And it is astonishing to see how imperceptibly Conservative a class becomes which never feels the pangs of indigence, and which has the opportunity of acquiring opulence. Whatever the shibboleths of party disputes in the Australian colonies may be—whatever the Radical cries imported from England--the mass of the people are as Conservative as a love of property and a respect for property can make them.* Whatever the political or social dangers, arising out of the power of the mob, may be in Australia, it is certain that they are more likely to be increased than diminished by a severance of the colony from England; for every year adds to the education and self-respect of those English classes which resort to Australia while it is an English colony, but which would resort to it less frequently, or not at all, did it cease to be an English colony. And every year also adds to that love of England and English traditions which temporary distress may deaden or temporary exasperation may sour, but which it is difficult to kill outright in any English bosom. While England and her colonies are parts of one empire, her emigrants will go forth carrying with them that love of country and that pride in her greatness—that devotion to the person and the authority of the Sovereign-which every national crisis, from the Indian mutiny to the death of the Prince Consort, and the recent distress in our manufacturing districts, has signally illustrated. If these dependencies be severed from England, her emigrants will be the irritated and disgusted classes of her people, going forth to leaven the fermentation of Australian discontents with their own bitterness, and to assist in perpetuating a rancour which will end in making the rupture irreparable.
On the whole, then, what should we gain by the emancipation of our Colonies from the gentlest and easiest sway ever exercised? We should save some millions a year on the Army and Navy Estimates. We should have some millions a year which we now spend on Colonial defences by sea and by land. That would be our gain. But what should we lose? The friendship and devo
* Even while we write, we learn that in Victoria an important effort has been made to correct the evils of manhood suffrage. This affords a remarkable instance of Power redressing its own abuses.'