Jamaican Family Search Genealogy Research Library


1832-1833 Emancipation,

 "Universal idleness would be the consequence"

[By its obstinate refusal to accede to virtually any propositions arising in Britain, the House of Assembly arrived at a situation which had exhausted alternatives, fanciful and impractical ideas of secession from the Crown notwithstanding. An impatient Government, mindful of continuing pressure for other reforms at home and with the backing of a newly reformed Parliament, proceeded to its 'ultimate accomplishment'.]

Jamaica, 25th April, 1832
[From a Resolution of the House of Assembly]

--that they [1] ascertain what are the ultimate views of the Imperial Government, by what means and what time they propose to carry them into effect, and in what state His Majesty's Ministers expect to leave this island, should they ever by any possibility completely obtain their object of emancipation.
[Jamaica. CO 137/186]
[1] A committee of the Speaker and Abraham Hodgson appointed by the Assembly to travel to England and present the Assembly's views at the new session of Parliament.

Jamaica, 6th August, 1832
[From Governor Mulgrave [1] to Howick [2]. Private]

--I am curious to see what your plan for the settlement of the emancipation question is, and when it comes I shall of course give it my best attention and let you know what I think of its practicability.  I expect to collect much information in the course of my tour through the island which I am going to commence in about a fortnight.  Of course as yet I know little more of my own knowledge than I did when I left England - and it is not a question upon which I would take the opinion of the planters.  But I am afraid that you will find one difficulty in the immediate settlement of the question which no ingenuity on the plan itself could counteract--it is the unanimous opinion of all the English employes in the island, military and legal, those who have been round in circuits or service, that the slaves are not yet fit for it, that they  would have no idea of free labour, and that universal idleness would be the consequence of emancipation. This I repeat is the opinion of disinterested people who have had an opportunity or observation--it will be my object to examine into this with a hope that they may turn out to be wrong.  There has been some excitement amongst the slaves the last few days from an idea that some person has given them that I have come out with emancipation in my pocket--at the Review near Kingston I was followed about by a greater number of slaves than was ever collected before in the island.  I have been taking means to find out how general this mistaken idea is, and then I shall know whether it is necessary to adopt any steps for correcting it.
[Jamaica. CO 137/188]
[1] Earl of Mulgrave, newly appointed; Governor 1832-1834
[2] Henry Howick (later Lord Grey) Parliamentary Under Secretary at the Colonial Office

Jamaica, 15th September, 1832
[From the Jamaica Courant & Public Advertiser]

"An Enemy to Cant and Humbug" - to the Freeholders of Jamaica

We have arrived, fellow sufferers, at the crisis of our fate.  We must assert our rights as men and as denizens of this beautiful island, or we must lose our independence and become slaves of our fellow countrymen in England.
The first right we must assert is the right of governing ourselves--you have all heard of meetings of the Slave Emancipators--you see how totally they overlook our rights and interests - how they condemn and proscribe us as it were - blast us with calumnies - hold us up to the people of Europe as tyrants and butchers, and say we are unfit to make laws for this country.  One noble personage, Lord Grosvenor, knows no law which authorises slavery and wonders that our slaves are not emancipated!   This lord is worth a thousand pounds a day and lords it finely over us--his hundred thousands would make thousands comfortable.  His starving countrymen may think of this, and he would fain blind their eyes with his humanity - his slave-emancipating mania!--see what Wilberforce has done with cant and rigmarole and lies reiterated.  Look at his proselytes, Buxton [1] and Otway Cave [2] and tender hearted Brougham, [3] and all the other worthies who are so crazy to make laws for us and our slaves.  The perseverance of this old man has effected half the miseries we have endured.

Mr. Brougham and his gang (some of them from a feeling of affection to the East India Company) are trying every effort to destroy us.  We take them to be ignorant, conceived, interested intermeddlers in our business.  They are all this and mischievous to boot. They seek our ruin, perhaps not equally from the same motive; but they all seek it - one from interest - a second from the vanity of having and using influence - a third from a fanatic feeling - a fourth because he is mad and must do mischief - a fifth from spite--the cant of Wilberforce and the sublime trash of Mr. Brougham and his colleagues--You have as much talent and as much courage, thank God, as any of the King of England's subjects, and quite as much humanity as the pretenders of Great Britain.

[1] Thomas Buxton, M.P.
[2] Robert Otway Cave, M.P.
[3] Henry,  Lord Brougham

London, 29th November, 1832
[From Memorial of Barrett and Hodgson, the Jamaica Delegates to the House of Lords]

Our constituents suffer alike from financial and political oppression.  The extravagant and disproportionate revenue extorted from our agricultural products has already reduced to poverty our wealthiest families--
But our greatest adversary has been the prodigious increase of the Slave Trade--the cheapness of new slave labour encouraged the owners of fresh soils constantly to extend the cane cultivation; enlarged supply increased consumption, and the increased consumption led to new plantations and to substantial importations of Negro labourers.

The Colonies were easily reconciled to the abolition of a barbarous commerce, which the advanced civilisation of the age no longer permitted to exist.; but they have thought, and apparently with reason, that the philanthropists should not have been satisfied with the extinction of the British Trade--

Since the abolition of the English trade, which was completed in 1808, millions of Africans have been transported from their home to Cuba, Porto Rico, Martinique, Guadeloupe, Louisiana, Surinam and the Brazils--

It is submitted that the partial success of the English abolitionists has, instead of diminishing the Slave Trade, added vastly to its extent and its enormities, while it cannot be denied that our own colonies have sunk into almost irretrievable ruin, from inability to contend with the cheap labour of foreign competitors--
Sugar notoriously produced from the labour of slaves, recently dragged out of Africa, has not only glutted the Continent, but it has also been admitted into British ports; and encouragement has been given to the introduction of East India Sugar for home consumption, much of which is produced by saves. Thus it appears that the Mother Country, having declared itself the enemy of the Slave Trade, is unable or unwilling to complete the abolition it had begun, that indemnification and protection have been withheld from the colonies, and that they have been uselessly sacrificed--

It is the long established belief of the inhabitants of Jamaica that the primary cause of all their injuries is to be sought for in commercial rivalry and blind or pretend philanthropy, acting on a weak and irresolute government--we are not ignorant that the faction adverse to the colonies has in some measure succeeded in excluding us from the regard and commiseration of the English people.  We are represented as the outcasts of civilization - as the oppressors and persecutors of the miserable African, and where we had the right to ask for sympathy and succour we have had the mortification to find our misfortunes met by a portion of our fellow subjects with the triumph and ridicule of declared enemies--

We do not for a moment acknowledge that Jamaica can be cited to the bar of English opinion to defend her laws and customs--we must not conceal from Your Lordships that until sufficient funds are appropriated to indemnify their constituents, the Assembly of Jamaica will hearken to no propositions which are meant to lead to emancipation--

Should compensation be refused, we finally and humbly require that the Island of Jamaica be separated from the parent country--absolved from her allegiance to the British Crown--
[Jamaica. CO 137/186]

London, 7th January, 1833
[From Government's reply to the Jamaica delegation]

His Majesty's Government refused to discuss a series of propositions which not only involve an avowed intention on the part of the British Colonists of Jamaica "to resist by all means within their power" certain measures which it is assumed His Majesty by the advice of Parliament may be pleased to adopt, but which also require from His Majesty the dismemberment of His Majesty's dominions--
[Jamaica. CO 137/186]

Jamaica, 17th April, 1833
[From Governor Mulgrave to Goderich, Private and Confidential]

--the real cause for the dissolution [of the House of Assembly] was simply my conviction of their decided determination not to take one step in advance of the Slavery question.
--a denial of the right of the Imperial Parliament to interfere in any respect with their slaves--and--upon every occasion a disposition the most opposed to the furtherance of "those measures to the ultimate accomplishment of which the British Parliament is pledged".
[Jamaica. CO 137/188]

Jamaica, 26th April, 1833
[From Governor Mulgrave to Goderich]

I feel it my duty not only to call Your Lordship's attention to the state of anxiety and excitement --produced in this colony, and which I know to be not without foundation, but most earnestly to press upon your consideration the too probable dangers of a premature announcement of emancipation before the proper means are organized of checking opposition and maintaining order.
It is impossible not to foresee that the moment of the first announcement would be one of very great risk, particularly as the plan--at the same time exceeded the fears of the whites, and did not come up to the expectations of the slaves.  Some of the colonists already talk of open resistance; this I certainly do not much dread, but there is no doubt that there would be those short sighted enough to enjoy at the moment any disturbance on the part of the negroes arising from disappointment which these persons, despairing of their own prospects would consider as some consolation from its entailing embarrassment on the British Government--
--I am sure Your Lordship will see that whilst the notions of the negroes are so far from settled on this point, and there is so much doubt as to their cheerful acquiescence in the change, how particularly important it is that the new system of restraint should be well organized before the old one is at all relaxed.
The unvarying tenor of all my communications on this subject to Your Lordship--has always been to urge the necessity as a preliminary step of having such a force at command as to overawe all opposition.
[Jamaica. CO 137/188]

Jamaica, 6th July, 1833
[From Governor Mulgrave to Stanley [1]

[Arrives news of the Government's plan for emancipation]-- The excitement during the last few hours was very great, and, in the absence of any correct understanding of the proposed measure, the most contradictory rumours were widely diffused.  The language of the white inhabitants of Kingston was, I understand, violent and inflammatory, and there was no project of resistance so insane as not at first to find some advocates.  This I imagine to have been the ebullition of the moment, and however inveterate their opposition ay continue, I do not anticipate that at present it will break out into open resistance.  But in the meantime the misconstruction amongst the slaves extended to both extremes, some believing that they were already free, others that all change in their condition was postponed for 12 years.  These erroneous impressions, both equally dangerous to the present tranquillity of the country, it was my endeavour at once to correct, and--I had reason to believe from the manner in which the report most unfavourable to their hopes originated, that amongst those disaffected to the Mother Country there would be no disinclination to the excitement of such a degree of insubordination amongst the negroes as would, they thought, throw discredit on the interference of the British Government.
[Jamaica. CO 137/189]

Jamaica, 5th August, 1833
[From Governor Mulgrave to Stanley]

--I am happy to be able to say that the modifications which the measure [emancipation plan] had received, and particularly the increased amount of compensation has very much dissipated that dissatisfaction which I was obliged to announce in my Despatch of the 6th ultimo, and I trust that amongst the great body of colonists a better spirit is beginning to prevail, whilst the conduct of the Negroes is at present all that could be wished, and they seem inclined to wait with exemplary patience till I am enabled to communicate to them the result of His Majesty's gracious intentions in their favour.
[Jamaica. CO 137/188]

Jamaica, 26th October, 1833
[From Governor Mulgrave to Stanley]

[Follows a meeting of the House of Assembly]--I am happy to be able to state from what I can collect as having passed on that occasion that there does not appear to have been, on the part of any member, any professed determination to resist the main principles of the British Act.  Much difference of opinion seems to have prevailed upon the members as to the course in the first instance to be adopted, and likewise as to the tone to be assumed in the protest they intend to place upon record against any interference with their internal legislation.  The proceeding which was finally carried was to refer the subject to a special committee without pledging the House to anything precise--delay most undesirable--but I, as yet, see no reason to apprehend that the ultimate decision of the House will be favourable to the settlement of the question.
[Jamaica. CO 137/189]

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