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Christian Observer for 1829.
DOCUMENTS OF RELIGIOUS AND CHARITABLE SOCIETIES,
PRINTED BY ELLERTON AND HENDERSON,
FOR JANUARY, 1829.
[No. 20. Vol. ii.
The “ ANTI-SLAVERY MONTHLY REPORTER" will be ready for delivery on the first day of every month. Copies will be forwarded at the request of any AntiSlavery Society, at the rate of four shillings per hundred, when not exceeding half a sheet, and in proportion, when it exceeds that quantity. All persons wishing to receive a regular supply are requested to make application to the Secretary, at the Society's office, No. 18, Aldermanbury, and mention the conveyance by which they may be most conveniently sent. Single Copies may be had of all booksellers and newsmen, at the rate of 1d. per half-sheet of eight pages, or 2d. per sheet of sixteen pages.
A PICTURE OF THE NEGRO SLAVERY EXISTING IN THE MAU.
RITIUS.-ALEXANDER BARCLAY.-SOCIETY FOR CONVERSION OF SLAVES.
The Mauritius surrendered to His Majesty's arms in the month of December, 1810. Sir Robert Farquhar immediately became the governor of it, and continued to hold the appointment until June, 1823. He was absent from the colony, however, during the years 1818 and 1819, when the government of it was administered first by General Hall, and afterwards by General Darling; and he was succeeded, soon after his final departure, by Sir Lowry Cole, who held the office until a very late period.
The law of slavery which existed in this colony at the time of its capture consisted of two ordinances, one promulgated in 1723, and the other in 1767; which, while they armed the master with absolute power over the slave, afforded to the slave no effectual protection, scarcely even the shadow of protection, against its abuse. These ordinances, the substance of which will be found in the Anti-Slavery Reporter, No. 42, have formed the only slave code of the Mauritius from ihe period of their promulgation to the present time, with the exception of a slight modification, recently introduced by Sir Lowry Cole, to regulate the weight of the chains which the master, at his discretion, might impose on his slave.
Sir Robert Farquhar, indeed, gave many assurances to His Majesty's Government, as may be seen in the same Anti-Slavery Reporter, No. 42, that he had “ endeavoured in every practical instance to alleviate the burden of the slaves ;” nay, that it had happily been in his power “ by a series of measures to ameliorate their condition, and to bring into practice a system, for their treatment, which must lead to their benefit and comfort." - In short, he had done all in his power “ to better the condition and alleviate the oppression of the slave.”—These statements be reiterated, from his place in the House of Commons, with the most unhesitating confidence, on the ninth of May, 1826, when a committee to inquire into the slave trade and slavery of the Mauritius was obtained by Mr. Buxton. And yet, the fact is now unquestionable that, during the whole of his long administration, Sir Robert Farquhar did not adopt any series of measures, nor even any one measure, for ameliorating the condition and alleviating the oppressions of the slave population; and that even the single measure of a slave registry, ordained, partly with that view, and also with a view to the effectual suppression of the slave trade, by His Majesty's Government at home, became under the management of this functionary, (the cause of which we by no means pretend to fix) not only perfectly useless to its purpose, but a fruitful source of the most flagrant crimes, and an effectual protection of their guilty perpetrators. In the entire variance therefore from the actual facts of this island's history, not of the professions merely, but of the deliberately framed and official statements of Sir Robert Farquhar, on this supremely important object of his administration, we have, as it appears to us, an infallible test of the confidence to which he is entitled.
When Sir Robert Farquhar first assumed the government of the Mauritius, he transmitted to the Secretary of State an official return of its slave population for 1809, amounting to 60,000. At the same time he stated, that there then existed such a deficiency of labourers, that “ unless some means be speedily devised for supplying these colonies with hands, they cannot continue in cultivation, but must become deserts.”
In a subsequent letter written on the 28th of July, 1812, after he had had upwards of a year and a half to examine and ascertain the fact, he asserted that the annual reports of the last seven years shewed “ yearly diminution in the numbers of the blacks of five cent." And on the ground of this progressive destruction of human life, he laboured to convince Lord Liverpool that the Slave Trade ought to be, and must be, continued in the colonies under his government, “ where slavery," he said, “ is the very soul of their existence, and where universal torpor and poverty must reign without it;" adding, that “ without a fresh importation of slaves, these islands, as I am given to understand, and am led to believe, cannot continue in cultivation and produce, but must become desert.” Nay, he again pressed the subject with increased earnestness on the attention of Lord Liverpool, actually affirming, that “ without the Slave Trade, or some other substitute or remedy, these colonies promise to be shortly annihilated; and the inhabitants are likely to be rendered desperate, if the supply of slaves be refused them.”
But notwithstanding this extraordinary rate of decrease, affirmed so distinctly by Sir Robert Farquhar in 1812, and said to be grounded on official reports, yet, when in 1815 (only six years subsequent to the former enumeration in 1809) a census of the slaves was taken, their number was found to amount to 87,352. That this should be the effect of natural increase in a colony which in 1809 contained 60,000 slaves, and where the population in 1812 was still decreasing, according to Sir Robert Farquhar, at the rate of 5 per cent. per annum; and where moreover in 1815 the males exceeded the females in the proportion of
Letter of Sir R. Farquhar to Lord Liverpool, dated the 8th of January, 1811. 56,684 to 30,668, Sir Robert Farquhar must have seen was altogether impossible. The difference it was obvious could only have arisen from importation. For even if we reckon the annual decrease by mortality at no more than an average rate of 2500, which is below Sir Robert Farquhar's official statement of it, we shall be forced to assume, that in the first five years of his administration, an importation of upwards of 42,000 slaves must have taken place into that single island. And yet we cannot trace in the letters of Sir Robert Farquhar any notice of this circumstance; although the results of the registration of 1815 must have forced it upon the observation of any man not wilfully blind, and must have seemed to call on his part for at least some attempt at explanation.
But it is foreign to our present purpose to pursue the pregnant topic of the Mauritius Slave Trade, of which Sir Robert Farquhar was, in the first instance, so powerful and so zealous an advocate, and for which he seems long to have retained the tenderness of an early friend-ship. We therefore postpone that part of the case, however strongly its aggravated nature tempts us to enter upon it, in order to pursue the object of giving a faithful picture of the state of slavery, as it has existed in the Mauritius since that colony came under the rule of this country.
In the Anti-Slavery Reporter, No. 42, we have already shewn what the state of slavery in the Mauritius has been in point of law; and it may be summed up in two words,—the unmeasured power of the master,—and the utter destitution of all legal right or protection in the slave. We shall now direct the view of our readers to what has been, and we fear, still is the practice of slavery in that colony.*
Progress of Population in the Mauritius. We shall begin with an attempt, though it must of necessity be an imperfect one, to ascertain the probable extent of the destruction of human life which has been regularly proceeding in this colony. We might here produce the testimony of numerous living witnesses, but this, though strong and decisive, would necessarily be too vague for our purpose. At present therefore we shall confine ourselves to the less disputable evidence of statistical returns.
By a report from Sir Robert Barclay, the collector of the internal taxes, dated November 29, 1823, it appears that the slave population of the district of Port Louis amounted, in 1822, to 7456 males and 3669 females, in all 11,125.t By a return of the interments of slaves, occurring in this same district, during the years 1815 to 1820 inclusive, the number of deaths amounted to 6565, being nearly at the rate of one death yearly in every ten or eleven persons, or about ten per cent. of deaths per annum; the ordinary mortality of Europe being not more than an average, on all ages, of from two to three per cent. per annum.
Now it has never been asserted, that there is any thing unfavourable to negro life in the climate of the Mauritius generally, or of the Port Louis district in particular. The contrary indeed may be proved by the returns of the whole free black and coloured population of the island
* Reporter, No. 3, p. 20,
+ Papers of May 30, 1825, No. 361.