Page images

judged most convenient by the two governments.

5. The cost of provisions and forage for the British troops shall be placed to the account of the Portuguese government, from the day of the landing of the said troops in Portugal, and shall cease to be placed to that account from the day of their departure, or of their passing the frontiers of Portugal.

6. Her royal highness the infanta regent of Portugal having consented that on this, as on former occasions, the forts of St. Julien and of Bugio shall be occupied by the British troops, it is agreed that the said occupation shall continue so long as the auxiliary army shall remain in Portugal. Those forts shall be, from time to time, duly provisioned by the Portuguese government, or by the British commissariat on account of the Portuguese go. vernment, in the same manner as is provided in the foregoing ar ticles with respect to the auxiliary


Arrangements shall be made between the government of Portugal

and the commander of the British army, for the carrying on of the service of the pratique, of the police of the harbour, and of the customs, by the proper officers of the Portuguese government, usually employed for those purposes. A list of these officers shall be given to the British commanding officer, and they shall be strictly under his command in all that may relate to military service, and to the defence of the forts.

7. His Britannic majesty requiring, on the part of his ally, only that which is indispensably necessary for insuring the proper

maintenance of his troops, and for the good of the common service, declares that he will not bring forward any pecuniary claims whatever against the Portuguese government, on account of the assistance furnished by his majesty on this occasion to Portugal, beyond what is specified in the preceding articles.

8. The stipulations of this convention shall remain in full force until the two high contracting parties shall mutually agree to make any change therein.

9. The present convention shall be ratified, and the ratifications shall be exchanged in London, inthe space of six weeks from the date hereof, or sooner if possible.

In witness whereof, the respective plenipotentiaries have signed the same, and have affixed thereto the seals of their arms.

Done at Brighthelmstone, the 19th day of January, in the year of our Lord 1827.

[blocks in formation]

Despatch from the Right Hon. Wm.

Huskisson, his Majesty's Principal Secretary of State for the Colonial Department, to Major-General Sir John Keane, K. C. B., Lieutenant-Governor of Jamaica, sent down by him in a Message to the Hon. House of Assembly, on Fri. day the 16th November, 1828.

Downing-street, Sept. 22.

SIR,-The act passed by the governor, council, and assembly of Jamaica, in the month of December, 1826, entitled, "An act to alter and amend the Slave-laws of this island," having been referred by his majesty in council to the lords of the committee of privy

council for the affairs of trade and foreign plantations, that committee have reported to his majesty in council their opinion that this act ought to be disallowed. The order of his majesty's council, approving that report, and disallowing the act, will be transmitted to you by the earliest opportunity.

In obedience to the commands of his majesty in council, I proceed to communicate to you the grounds of his majesty's decision upon this subject.

The privy council did not submit to his majesty their advice that this act should be disallowed without great reluctance. The great import. ance of the subject has been fully estimated, and his majesty has perceived with much satisfaction the advances which the colonial legis. lature have made in many respects, to meet the recommendations conveyed to them in lord Bathurst's despatch of the 11th of May, 1826; but, however much his majesty may have been desirous to sanction these valuable improvements in the slave code of Jamaica, it has been found impossible to overcome the objections to which other enactments of this law are open. I am commanded to express to you his majesty's earnest hope, that upon a deliberate review of the subject, the legislative council and assembly will be disposed to present for your assent another bill, devested of those enactments which have prevented the confirmation of the present act.

Among the various subjects which this act presents for consideration, none is more important in itself, nor more interesting to every class of society in this king. dom, than the regulations on the subject of religious instruction.

The 83rd and the two following clauses must be cosidered as an invasion of that toleration to which all his majesty's subjects, whatever may be their civil condition, are alike entitled. The prohibition of persons in a state of slavery, assuming the office of religious teachers, might seem a very mild restraint, or rather a fit precaution against indecorous proceedings; but, amongst some of the religious bodies who employ mis. sionaries in Jamaica, the practice of mutual instruction is stated to be an established part of their dis. cipline. So long as the practice is carried on in an inoffensive and peaceable manner, the distress produced by the prevention of it will be compensated by no public ad. vantage.

The prohibition of meetings for religious worship, between sun-set and sun-rise, will, in many cases, operate as a total prohibition, and will be felt with peculiar severity by domestic slaves inhabiting large towns, whose ordinary engage. ments on Sunday will not afford leisure for attendance on public worship before the evening. It is impossible to pass over, without remark, the invidious distinction which is made, not only between Protestant Dissenters and Roman Catholics, but even between Protestant Dissenters and Jews. I have, indeed, no reason to suppose that the Jewish teachers have made any converts to their religion among the slaves, and probably, therefore, the distinction in their favour is merely nominal; still it is a preference, which, in principle, ought not to be given by the legislature of a Christian country.

The penalties denounced upo persons collecting contribu

from slaves, for purposes either of charity or religion, cannot but be felt, both by the teachers and by. their followers, as humiliating and unjust. Such a law would affix an unmerited stigma on the religious instructer; and it prevents the slave from obeying a positive precept of the Christian religion, which he believes to be obligatory on him, and which is not inconsistent with the duties he owes to his master. The prohibition is, there fore, a gratuitous aggravation of the evils of his condition.

It may be doubtful whether the restriction upon private meetings among the slaves without the knowledge of the owner, was intentionally pointed at the meetings for religious worship. No objection, of course, could exist to requiring that notice should be given to the owner or manager whenever the slaves attended any such meetings; but, on the other hand, due security should be taken that the owner's authority is not improperly exerted to prevent the attendance of the slaves.

I cannot too distinctly impress upon you, that it is the settled pur. pose of his majesty's government, to sanction no colonial law which needlessly infringes on the religious liberty of any class of his majesty's subjects; and you will understand that you are not to assent to any bill, imposing any restraint of that nature, unless a clause be inserted for suspending its operation until his majesty's pleasure shall be known.

Having thus adverted to this most important branch of the general subject, I proceed to inquire how far the suggestions contained in Lord Bathurst's despatch of the 11th of May, 1826, have been fol

lowed in the act under conside


The council of protection, established under the 33d clause of this act, cannot be considered as an ef fectual substitute for the office of a distinct and independent protector. The council in each parish will consist of those individuals over whom the protector was to exercise his superintendence. Their duties are limited. to the simple case of extreme bodily injury, and are to be discharged only "if they think proper." The periodical returns required from the protector upon oath, are not to be made by the council of protection, nor are they even bound to keep a journal of their proceedings. No provision is made for executing the duties of the office in different parts of the colony upon fixed and uniform principles, and the number of persons to be united in this trust is such as entirely to destroy the sense of personal and individual responsibility.

In the provisions for the due ob. servance of Sunday, I remark that the continuance of the markets on that day till the hour of eleven, is contemplated as a permanent regulation. It is, however, impossible to sanction this systematic violation of the law prevailing in every other Christian country. the proposals transmitted by Lord Bathurst to his grace the duke of Manchester, a temporary departure from this rule was permitted, but only as a relaxation required by peculiar and transitory circumstances.


The clauses denouncing penalties on persons employing their slaves to labour on Sunday, are expressed with some ambiguity, so as to leave it doubtful whether the penalty

will be incurred at any other time than during crop, or for any work excepting that required about the mills. Neither is it clear that an owner, procuring his slaves to work on Sunday by persuasion, or by any other means than those of direct compulsion, would violate the law. I do not perceive that provision is made for those cases of unavoid. able necessity, which would create an exception to the general rule.

Punishment inflicted by the domestic authority of the owner are not required to be made the subject of a report to any public officer, nor does the law require that any interval should elapse between the commission of the crime and the infliction of the punishment. The presence of free witnesses at the infliction of punishments is not declared necessary, nor would the law be broken, whatever might be the severity of the punishment, if it were inflicted by any other me. thod than that of whipping or im. prisonment. The use of the whip in the field is not forbidden. Wo. men are not exempted from punish. ment by flogging. Nor is any presumption of guilt to arise, if the slave shall make a "probable, particular, and consistent" charge against his owner, confirmed by the exhibition of his person bearing the marks of recent and illegal punishment.

In all these respects the provisions of this act fall short of the recommendations of his majesty's government. It remains to notice other provisions upon the subject of punishment, which have been originally suggested by the colonial legislature.

The act appears to sanction an unlimited delegation of the power of punishment, so that even a fel

low slave might be intrusted with it, provided that the correction does not exceed ten lashes. In the presence of the owner or manager thirty-nine lashes may be inflicted by his authority--an extent of power which cannot be necessary, and which might probably be the source of serious abuse.

The 37th section of this act authorizes private persons to commit their slaves to prison in the public workhouses of the island, without the warrant of a justice of the peace; and the preceding section, the 36th, enables the gaoler, as well as the owner, to inflict pun. ishment by whipping in prison without trial. It is difficult to perceive the necessity for such an extension of domestic authority, and if unnecessary, it is plainly objectionable.

The fine of £10 for inflicting repeated punishments for the same offence can scarcely be incurred in any case, since no record is to be kept ascertaining the grounds of any particular punishment, and the party accused may impute to his slave whatever offences he may think proper, without the necessity of proving them. The fine on a workhouse-keeper inflicting an excessive number of lashes, is £10—a punishment which may, in some cases, be entirely disproportionate to so serious an offence.

The complaint, which the slave is authorized to make before any three magistrates, would not, I should fear, be a very effectual means of redress. As they must always be three proprietors of the same parish, there is a manifest danger of the influence of local partialities. As every groundless complaint is to be punished, it is to be feared, that many well-founded

complaints will not be preferred. The mere failure of evidence in support of a complaint is surely not enough to justify the punishment of the party complaining. The owner should be bound to prove that the complaint was malicious or frivolous.

On the subject of marriage, I observe that no security is taken against the possible case of the unreasonable or capricious refusal of the owner to consent. By confining the power of celebrating marriages to the clergy of the established church, every other class of religious teachers are deprived of the means of exercising a salu tary influence over the minds of their disciples; and probably the Roman Catholic priests may be entitled to say, that such an enactment takes away from them a right which, by the common law, they enjoy in every part of his majesty's dominions to which the marriage act of George II. does not extend. The necessity of undergoing an examination by a clergyman of the established church, as to the nature and obligations of the mar. riage contract, is not very apparent, and might, perhaps, operate as a serious impediment to the forma tion of such connexions. It is dif. ficult to understand how the range of inquiry respecting the "obliga. tions" of the marriage contract is to be limited, since that expression may be supposed to embrace a large variety of moral and religious considerations, with which the slave population in its present state must be very imperfectly con.


I observe that this act does not require that any registry should be kept of the marriages of slaves, nor even that any periodical returns

should be made of the number of such marriages.

On the subject of the separation of relatives, the word "family" is left without a definition. It is susceptible of so many different meanings, that it would seem peculiarly necessary to ascertain the precise sense in which it is used. The rule laid down in this law seems also to require some better sanction. It is simply a direction to the provostmartial; but if he should disobey that direction, it is not provided that the sale should be void. A provision appears to be wanting, for enabling the officer to ascertain whether any particular slave is or is not a member of the family.


The property of slaves is left by this law in an unprotected state. No action is given to them, or to any person on their behalf, for the defence or recovery of it. The single case in which any remedy is provided, is that in which the pro. perty of the slave is taken away, No mention is made of that much more important class of cases, in which property may be withheld. The slave could not under this law recover a debt, nor obtain damages for the breach of a contract. mode of proceeding by information for penalties before three justices of the peace, is a remedy to which hardly any one would resort, for the act does not give the amount of the penalty, if recovered, to the injured party, and the slave himself could not make the complaint, except upon the condition of receiving a punishment if the justices should deem it groundless. The slaves are also excluded by the terms of this law from acquiring any interest in land-a restriction which would appear at once impolitic and unne cessary.

« PreviousContinue »