British Colonial Developments, 1774-1834

By Vincent Harlow; Frederick Madden | Go to book overview
is regulated: the Committee of the House of Commons, on the other hand, has been appointed in consequence of the numerous petitions which have been presented for the abolition of slavery; and has been directed to consider and report upon the measures which it may be expedient to adopt, for the purpose of effecting the extinction of slavery throughout the British dominions, at the earliest period compatible with the safety of all classes in the colonies, and in conformity with the Resolutions of this House on the 15th May 1823. . . .It is indeed, in the opinion of His Majesty's Government, deeply to be regretted that the measure which they had proposed for the improvement of the condition of the slaves has not met with the cheerful concurrence of the colonists, since it seems to them that by affording a remedy for the worst of the practical evils of the present system, by holding out a prospect that the slaves might be able gradually to purchase their freedom, the cordial adoption of the Order in Council of the 2nd of November might have been accepted as a settlement of the question. . . .It will, of course, be your study to impress upon all classes within your Government a just sense of the position in which they are placed, and of the duties which it imposes upon them. To the planters you will explain, that the vote of the House of Commons implies no departure from the principles sanctioned by the Resolutions of 1823; that no violent change in the existing form of society is contemplated, but that, on the contrary, the object to which the labours of the Committee will be directed, will be, that which Parliament has always recognized as the end to be aimed at, in all that has been done on this subject, namely, the substitution, as soon as it can be effected without any shock or convulsion, of a system of free for one of forced labour. To the slaves, on the other hand, you will give the assurance of His Majesty's most earnest solicitude for their welfare; but you will explain to them, that any attempt on their part to wrest by force from their masters advantages to which they have no legal claim, can have no other effect than to draw down upon them the severest punishment, and to postpone the accomplishment of that which is intended for their benefit. . . .
41
EDWARD STANLEY: RESOLUTIONS MOVED IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS, 14 May 18331
1. That it is the opinion of this Committee that immediate and effectual measures be taken for the entire abolition of slavery through-
____________________
1

Hansard, vol. xvii, 1230-1. The ambiguity in the status of apprenticeship came as an anti-climax at the end of a speech in which he had spoken strongly of the failure of the colonial legislatures to ameliorate slavery along the lines

-587-

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