CIRCULAR DISPATCH FROM LORD BATHURST TO CERTAIN WEST INDIA GOVERNORS, 28 June 18161
You will have observed that the Slave Register Bill, which at the close of the last session was brought in and read the first time in the House of Commons, has not during this session been introduced into Parliament. This forbearance however has not arisen either from any doubt of the expediency of some measure being adopted of this description, or of the right of Parliament to require a registration of slaves in the colonies, and to enforce obedience to such a provision. The 18 Geo. 3rd. cap. 12, which makes an exception, proves the general right of legislation over the colonies, and if some clauses of the Slave Register Bill, as it was introduced at the close of the last session, transgress the limits which Parliament prescribed to itself by that Act, no difficulty would arise in making such alterations as would obviate that objection, and leave the Bill equally efficient. The intention of again introducing the Bill this session was suspended mainly in consequence of the assurances given by His Majesty's Government that there existed a sincere disposition in the several legislative bodies in the West Indies to pass an Act in their respective Assemblies for this important object; and I thought myself authorized to give these assurances from all the communications which I officially received from Jamaica and the Leeward Islands, and from the declarations made by those in this country who are most likely to be well informed of the sentiments and disposition of the colonies in question.
Under these circumstances, His Majesty's Ministers were anxious to discourage the agitation of this question again in Parliament, lest it might give occasion for irritation and alarm, and provoke an opposition to the adoption of some measure on this subject in the Legislative Assemblies which they confidently hope will not now be experienced. I must therefore rely on you to bring this question forward before the House of Assembly of--in such a manner as will be most likely to ensure to it an early attention and a successful result.
You will in the outset make it to be clearly understood that it is not the manumission but the registration of slaves which this measure purports to effect. You will distinctly disclaim any intention on the part of His Majesty's Government hereby to propose an emancipation of slaves; and you will impress as strongly as possible upon those whom it may concern that the confounding a measure for the registration____________________