British Colonial Developments, 1774-1834

By Vincent Harlow; Frederick Madden | Go to book overview

9
CIRCULAR DISPATCH FROM THE DUKE OF PORTLAND TO WEST INDIA GOVERNORS 23 April 17981

MY LORD or SIR,

From the manner in which the Legislature of--received the Resolution of the House of Commons of the 6th of April 1797, relative to the negroes in His Majesty's plantations in the West Indies, I have the fullest confidence, that both the Council and Assembly will have entered upon and prosecuted the subject with that assiduity and attention, which its importance requires. The knowledge and information of the individuals, who compose the Legislature, peculiarly qualify them to investigate the subject, and to ascertain the best means to be pursued for obtaining the object proposed by the Resolution, an object which embraces the great and permanent interests of the Island, and the securing them against all possible contingencies. A consideration of such moment will of course direct and lead the wisdom of the Legislature, as a body, to make a minute investigation into the causes, which at present retard the population of negroes in the West Indies, and to the adoption of those means, which are most likely to counteract and prevent those effects in future. Under this conviction, when I first called the attention of the Legislature to the Resolution in question, I refrained from accompanying it with any suggestions of my own. But, as there are some points which appear to me to have a tendency very materially to promote the ends proposed, I will transmit them herewith for your serious consideration, and in order that you may communicate them to such of the principal members of both branches of the Legislature, as possess your confidence, and who, from their acquaintance with the temper and disposition of their colleagues, and resident proprietors of the Island, may be best enabled to advise and co-operate with you in regard to the measures, which it may be judged expedient to bring forward with a view to their being carried into effect. I am willing to believe that the wisdom and energy of the Legislature may have already led them to the consideration of some of the propositions I have suggested, as well as to others of a superior efficacy, but I notwithstanding hold it to be my duty in the course of the proceeding, to lay before you whatever appears to me essentially to promote the wise and benevolent intentions which dictated the Resolution of the House of Commons, confiding in your judgment and discretion, as to the time and mode of bringing them forward, and to your personal exertions, and those of your friends, in disposing the Assembly to give them a

____________________
1

Draft in C.O. 5/267, pp. 109-13. 'Secret.'

-541-

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