« AnteriorContinuar »
cotton, coffee, and sugar, should not be carried into execution, because it would be ruinous to the Ecclesiastical Establishment,
All these different Parties represented to His Majesty their respective opinions, and their Memorials were referred to the Council, by whom His Majesty was advised to suspend, in all their parts, the above-mentioned 4 Royal Cedulas, during the War, at the termination of which the several Petitions might be taken into consideration.
Your Majesty concurred in the opinion of the Council; hut, although the Royal Resolution to this effect was published on the 19th of December, 1806, it does not appear certain, that the corresponding Royal Cedula was issued. It is, however, perfectly certain, that the operation of the 4 above-mentioned Cedulas was suspended in the Province of Venezuela.
By the above description of the manner, periods, limitations, and places, under which the importation of Slaves into America has been permitted, at various periods, it will be seen that the Spanish Government was induced to permit this Traffic with great repugnance and subject to great restrictions; notwithstanding the open manner in which it was then carried on by other Nations. Nor could it be otherwise ; considering that such a Traffic was only conceded under the supposed necessity of African hands for the culture of the lands, and working of mines, throughout our American Possessions.
In fact, how could a Traflic of this nature, which, besides being contrary to reason and our customs, is not, and cannot be, consonant with true Christian charity, either in its origin, nature, or object;how could it, we ask, be looked upon in any other light thau with repug. nance, by Spain, the centre of the Catholic Religion ? Not, indeed, because we think that Slavery, in itself, is opposed to the principles of the Gospel ; fur, leaving out of view its having been established in the earliest times by the Law of Nations, in order more particularly to avoid a wanton effusion of blood in War, we find it tacitly approved of by St. Paul, in his Epistle to Philemon, and in the serious exhortations addressed by the same Apostle to the Slaves, in the 6th Chapter of his Epistle to the Ephesians, in which he exhorts them to serve their Masters with that simplicity and meekness with which they would serve Jesus Christ,-considering their's as an obligation inferior only to that which Children owe to their Parents, and of which he had before spoken.
Consistent with this doctrine are the dispositions of our National Laws, and particularly of the Code of the Indies, in which the good treatment, occupation of, and the assistance to be given to, this wretched portion of the human species, together with the means by which they might be enabled to recover their freedom, are distinctly stated ; a circumstance which renders the condition of our Slaves much better than, and entirely different from, that of the Slaves of antiquity. But we must not confound Slavery in general with the Traffic in question. When, indeed, we consider that those who employ their capitals in this detestable commerce, bave no other object in view than that of acquiring money; for which purpose they present themselves on the Coasts of Africa, and, by means of imposture and deceit, for some paltry consideration, and often by force, snatch from the bosom of their families those wretched Beings, and deprive them of their Country and their freedom, and condemn them to perpetual slavery :—when, again, we consider the barbarous treatment they receive on board the Vessels, their coarse and bad food, their nakedness, and, above all, their afflictions, fatigues, sorrow, despair, and infirmities, and lastly, their death,—the only rewards for their credulity and imbecility, or idiotcy ;-who is there who does not feel shocked, knowing that all this proceeds from, and has its origin ainongst, Nations who profess the true Religion ?
Nor let it be attempted, as it has been by many Politicians, who are friendly to the Traffic, to palliate this conduct, under the specious pretext, that hy such means alone can they be brought over to the true faith, and be freed from the greater misfortunes to which they would have been exposed, by the life they would have led, amidst the barbarism of their native Country; for, even granting that the motives ascribed by us to the Persons connected with this Traffic, are not the real ones, it cannot be denied that, even assuming the justice and truth of the latter assertions, it is inconsistent with the principles of sound theology, to do ill with the view or intention of producing good. Independently of whiclı, the Catholic Religion does not teach us to make Proselytes by means of violence or deceit; because the Converted should embrace the Faith from conviction and self-persuasion :-and hence St. Thomas has laid it down, in his Question, beginning with the words “ Quod libertates,” that the infant Children of Jews or Gentiles cannot properly be christened, according to the custom of the Catholic Church, without the consent of their Fathers, because it would be contrary to the principles of moral justice to deprive the latter of their natural rights, as arents. With how much more repugnance, therefore, ought we to look upon a Trade, which deprives Fathers, not only of their parental authority over their Children, but of the Children themselves; and which snatches them from their native Country, and deprives them for ever of the sight of their Parents, and of their liberty, -as is often the case, with regard to both sexes, when Negroes are exported from Africa, at a very early age, for the purpose of the Traffic ?
If all these considerations be deemed sufficient to induce a determination of at once putting an end to the Slave-trade, on the ground of its immorality, those resulting from policy and a wise ecovomy are not of lesser weight and importance. It is not to be wondered at, that the various Concessions made in regard to this Trade, and which have been mentioned in the former part of this Report, have always been framed under the influence of one or other of the two latter considerations; for, with regard to the first of them, the repeated demands for the importation of Negroes lias been always looked upon with, apprehension, lest their increasing numbers might endanger the security of the White Population : bence, in the Royal Cedulas alluded to, directed to the Captains General, Intendants and other Public Authorities in America, an injunction is laid upon them to transmit certain periodical Returns of the Negroes imported, together with an Account of the various circumstances under which they were imported, their number, age, and sex, the destination given to them after their arrival, and the number of them existing in the various Villages and Plantations, as well as in the Towns, together with many other circumstantial details specified in those Cedulas.
Fortunately, the good system which has prevailed in America for the education and discipline of the Negroes, has preserved public order and tranquillity; but our fears cannot, on that account, be dismissed with regard to their probable conduct hereafter.
of all the blessings which Nature has imparted to Man, none is more esteemed, none is inore tenaciously cherished, than that of liberty. This feeling is innate, and, being produced by a natural cause, can never become extinguished. On the other hand, the longer that the People have lost their liberty, the stronger becomes in them their anxiety to recover it. Hence the resentment or hatred of the Negroes against their Masters, however kindly they may be treated by them, whether as Slaves or as their own kindred. This hatred, which extends to the Castes, the offspring of Negroes, has augmented the number of our Enemies to such a degree, as to place the white part of the Population in a precarious and insecure situation, particularly in the Islands, where they are in greater numbers. And if they should succeed, at some future period, in breaking down the barriers which have hitherto kept them in a state of subordination, no one can doubt for a moment, but that they will spare neither pains nor means, however atrocious, to shake off for ever the detested yoke under which they now groan, in order to recover the enjoyment of their liberty, and the possession of all its blessings.
Nor is this a vain alarm, or a groundless apprehension :-it is a truth which the experience of times, now no more, has placed beyond contradiction. For, should we even reject the examples of the War between the Romans and their rebel Slaves; or of that which, being carried on with Slaves, served to consolidate the Throne of the Caliphs in the East; or of the evils which the armed Slaves inflicted generally throughout Europe, but especially in Germany, France, and Sicily; and lastly, should we even refuse to avail ourselves of the authorities of the Father Juan Marquez, and of Juan de Solorzano, Antonio Herrera, and other political Historians who have written upon the subject; it would be sufficient to recollect the yet recent events in the French Island of St. Domingo, where a united Body of Negroes committed every species of outrage and ferocity, to regain their liberty and independence; and which extended, at the same time, to our own Possessions, a portion of the evils which afflicted that Island.
Another consideration may be added, which augments the wellfounded motives for apprehension, namely, the notions and maxims which the modern Philosophers have taken care to disseminate, since, and even before, the period of the French Revolution, declaiming with all their night against Slavery,-a conduct, in itself, highly Jaudable and meritorious, if a real love for humanity had moved them to it, and not the pervicious object of wishing to establish a nomival equality in the World, which would be destructive of the order and subordination that are so necessary to the existence and happiness of society.
Their flattering and seductive voices bave penetrated even into the ears of the most ignorant Nations, and are now repeated with enihusiasm by all those who, however unable they may be to understand them, cannot do less than interpret what is said in their own favour. These delusive principles, which have been promulgated with unrestrained freedom, in as many writings, proclamations, and periodical works, as have been published under the various Systems of Government that have existed, during the 6 years of your Majesty's captivity, are the impelling causes of the dissentions now existing in different Provinces of America, and of the occasional disturbances and revolts which bave occurred on the part of the Negroes, particularly in the Caracas and The Havana. And if, thanks to the vigilance of the Chiefs, and the activity of the good Spaniards, these disturbances have been quelled in their origin, it is still to be apprehended that the fire is not extinguished, but only smothered; and whoever knows the character of these People, and the state of violence in which they live, will not deny that there exists amongst them the seeds of future mischief and rebellion.
The example of the Island of St. Domingo roused the apathy of the British Government upon this subject : they inquired into the state of the Traffic; they examined the Population of their Colonies; and, alarmed for the security of them, should the importation of Slaves into them continue, they decreed the abolition of it.
The Persons who advocate a further prolongation of this illicit Traffic assert, that there cannot be any comparison between the English and the Spanish Colonies; for that, in the latter, the Population of White Men greatly exceeds that of the Blacks, while the reverse is the case with the former. They thence infer, that we are not in the same danger; and, comparing Jamaica with the Island of Cuba, as the most abundant in Slaves, they form their estimate of Population chus: that in Jamaica there are 40,000 Whites to 400,000 Blacks; and that in Cuba there are 270,000 Wbites to 212,000 Blacks; and, consequently, that the Blacks in the English Colonies exceed the Whites in the ratio of 1 to 10, wbilst, in our Colonies, the Blacks, on the contrary, do not equal the Whites in number.
The British Minister Plenipotentiary at this Court has endeavoured to controvert this statement, by representing that, in the preceding calculation, erroneous data are introduced; for that, amongst the Whites, there ought to have been included the free Persons of Colour, who, having similar interests to secure, form av effective part of the military and agricultural force of the Country, and would have considerably increased the comparative amount of the white part of the Population.
Perhaps it may be said, that to establish this proposition, is to have recourse to an exaggerated mode of reckoning; for, according to the Returns of approximative numbers, received from the Island of Cuba, it contained in 1811, 274,000 whites, 114,000 free Persons of Colour, and 212,000 Slaves. But it is to no purpose that we should endeavour to ascertain the truth of this proposition; since, in order to be guided by positive data, it would be necessary to have before us the Statistical 'Tables of both Populations. Be this, however, as it may, it is certain that, by shewing that in the English Colonies a greater danger existed from the Slaves, we do not prove the propriety of disregarding the dangers which may exist in our own; and, should it even be true, that we possess greater and better means of guarding against and remedying the evils which inight possibly befall our Colonies in this respect, it is certainly a much sounder policy to foresee and to prevent them, than to correct them after they have occurred.
It now remains to be considered, what effect the entire Abolition of the Slave-trade might have upon the agriculture of the Americas. The Council have reserved this point until the last, in consequence of its being the one on which the Persons opposed to the Abolition, principally rely for the strength of their argument.
These Persons begin by asserting, that the English Cabinet, in adopting and supporting the Abolition of the Trade, were not actuated either by the feelings of humanity, or by the Laws of nature, but by the desire to insure the security and dependence of their Colonies; that, in insisting as they have done with the other Powers of Europe, and with so much ardour too, upon the Abolition being generally adopted, they have unbecoming and interested views; that they calculate that, if any Nation possessing Colonies should not abolish the Slave-trade, its continuance of it would be productive to them of great disadvantages, by its being enabled to undersell them in their Colonial products. To this it is added, that the Abolition would deprive us of many great advantages, and cause
us very serious losses; that those advantages consist in the considerable