British Colonial Developments, 1774-1834

By Vincent Harlow; Frederick Madden | Go to book overview

[A similar petition was presented at the same time by the manufacturers and shipowners of Bristol, which concludes with the allegation:]

That, since the restrictions lately laid on the trade to Africa by the British legislature, no less than forty sail of vessels have been fitted out for that coast in the states of New England; and that the trade is also carrying on to a considerable extent by the ships and manufactures of France, with the capitals and on account of merchants residing in Great Britain, to the emolument of the French, the injury of this country, and in proof that, whatever may be the restrictions in these kingdoms, the slave trade cannot be abolished. . . .


5
JAMAICA: RESOLUTIONS OF A JOINT COMMITTEE, 3 December 1789, AND PETITION OF THE ASSEMBLY, 5 November 1790

3 December 17891

Your committee, appointed to meet a committee of the Council in a free conference, to inquire into and report their opinion what steps are necessary to be taken with regard to the slave trade, in consequence of the information received from the agent of this island of the proceedings had in the House of Commons, during the last session of Parliament, in respect of the slave trade,2 have accordingly met, and have taken the examinations of several persons, and have agreed to the following resolutions. . . .

[They declare that abolition would not promote humanity, but increase the practice of killing the infirm, the rejected, and the unsaleable. They meet the argument of heavy mortality among British seamen by asserting that 'we have reason to believe that since the late Regulating Act the mortality of British seamen in the slave trade has decreased nearly one half'.]

3. That it is the opinion of the joint committee, that the loss of negroes, which is sometimes sustained in the voyage from Africa, as well as in the harbours of this island between the days of arrival and sale, and which has been stated to happen from the mode of transporting them from the coast, being a remediable grievance, affords no argument for a total suppression of the slave trade. . . .

[No reliable opinion is possible as to whether the Regulating Act has reduced slave mortality on the Middle Passage: estimates vary from 23/4 to 353/8 per cent.]

5. That it is the opinion of the joint committee, that the number of slaves at present in this island are about 250,000; of which, according to the best inquiries that can be made concerning the proportion of

____________________
1
Journals of the Assembly of Jamaica, vol. viii, Jamaica 1804, pp. 524-5.
2
That Pitt, Fox, and Burke had supported Wilberforce had alarmed the West Indian Assemblies. These resolutions were followed on 10 December by a Remonstrance by Council and Assembly to the Houses of Parliament denouncing the threatened breach of solemn engagements under which they had embarked their fortunes and asserting the inviolability of their private property and fundamental constitutions 'which do not give omnipotence to a British Parliament'.

-533-

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