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cation to you.
On the subject of what has been is graciously pleased to signify his termed the compulsory manumis. approbation of the advance which sion of slaves, this act not pro. has been made towards a better fess to adopt the measures suggest. system of law; but, in reference ed by his majesty's government. It to this subject, I am to observe that is, therefore, weedless to institute this law appears to contemplate the any comparison between those mea. admission of the evidence ot slaves, sures and the enactment of this law; in those cases of crimes only, in but upon that subject, I may, per. which they are usually either the haps, at no distant period, have oc. actors or the sufferers, excluding casion to make a further communi. their evidence in other cases,-a
distinction which does not seem to On the subject of gratuitous rest on any solid foundation. There manumissions, and manumissions is not any necessary connexion be. effected by voluntary contracts, this twen the baptism of a witness and act requires that in all cases secu his incredibility. The rule, which rity shall be given for the mainte. requires that two slaves, at the least, nance of the slave. In the case of shall consistently depose to the testamentary manumissions, the es. same fact, on being examined apart, tate of the testator is to be liable before any free person can be con. to the payment of an annuity of victed on slave testimony, will £10 for the support of the slave, if greatly diminish the value of the he should become incapable of general rule. In some particular maintaining himself. These regu. cases, such, for example, as the lations must, of course, operate as case of rape, such a restriction a great discouragement to enfran. might secure impunity to offenders chisements in all cases. Without of the worst description. The reincurring this inconvenience, an jection of the testimony of slaves, effectual security might have been twelve months after the commission taken against the abuse of eman. of the crime, would be fatal to the cipating slaves incapable, from their ends of justice in many cases, nor age or infirmities, of procuring is it easy to discover what solid adtheir own subsistence.
vantage could result from it in any It is to be feared that serious in. case. convenience may arise from the If the owner of a slave is con. neglect of the proposal, to provide victed of any crime on the testi. a piethod by which a slave could mony of that slave, the court has ascertain what particular person no power of declaring the slave was entitled to receive the price of free, although it may exercise that bis freedom. In the case of plan. power when the conviction protation slaves, the title is usually ceeds on other evidence. Highly the same with the title to the land important as it is, to deprive a itself, and cases are stated to have slave of every motive for giving occurred, in which a slave has lost false evidence against his owner, the whole earnings of his life by that object might be secured with. paying the price of his liberty to out incurring the inconvenience of The wrong person.
leaving the slave in the power of On the important subject of the an owner convicted of the extreme evidence of slaves, his majesty abuse of his authority.
In rejecting the proposal for es- The provisions for the prevention tablishing a record of the names of excessive labour, contemplate of all slaves sufficiently instructed the working the slaves for eleven to be competent witnesses, the hours and a half daily out of crop, colonial legislature appear to have and place no limit to the continu. neglected the means of providing ance of their work during cropa cheap and effectual encourage. time. Considering the climate in ment to good conduct, and of in which the labour is to be performed, vesting the religious teachers of and that, after the work of the field the slaves with a powerful and is over, there will yet remain to be legitimate influence over them. done many offices not falling within
His majesty has observed with the proper meaning of the term great satisfaction, various provi. “labour,” I should fear that the sions in this act for the improve. exertions of the slaves, if exacted ment of the condition of the slaves, up to the limits allowed by this law, which originated exclusively with would be scarcely consistent with a the colonial legislature. Among due regard for the health of the them I have particularly to advert labourer. to the clause requiring the gratui.
The crimes of murder and rape, tous baptism of slaves, and to the when committed on the persons of regulation by which slaves are al. slaves, are most properly made lowed one day in each fortnight punishable by death : but if these to cultivate their provision.grounds, enactments are to be understood, exclusive of Sundays, except du. not as declaratory of existing laws, ring the time of erop, the smallest but as introductory of new laws, number of days to be allowed in then it is obvious that there are one year being twenty-six. It other offences which might be permay, perhaps, however, be neces. petrated on the persons of the sary that some more effectual means slaves, against which the same should be devised for enforcing obe punishment should have been de. dience to this law.
nounced. The enactment requiring a The rules for the prevention monthly inspection of the provision. of mutilation, and other cruelties, grounds, and the delivery of an however just and valuable in prin. adequate supply of provisions, when ciple, would, I should fear, lose there is not a sufficient quantity of much of their efficacy in practice, such grounds, is calculated to pro. from the peculiar complexity of the duce the most beneficial effects, process which is to be observed in and might be rendered still more bringing the offender to justice. valuable by some alteration in the In the cases supposed of the dis. terms of the oath, which are sus- memberment or mutilation of a ceptible of a construction remote slave, fine and imprisonment would from the real intention of the seem a very inadequate punish. framers of the law. Great advan. ment. tage may be anticipated from the The rules on the subject of runaregulations for the support of the ways claiming to be free, and re. mothers and nurses of large fami. specting slaves carried from place lies, and for the protection of old to place for sale, seem well adapt. and infirm slaves.
ed to prevent the recurrence of serious abuses. The provisions of framed with an extreme laxity of the trial of slaves in criminal cases, expression, and have an appear. would also appear to be a material ance of severity which I am perimprovement on the former law. suaded was not really contemplated I perceive, however, that the evi. by the framers of this law. dence of slaves in such trials is to The definition of the offence of be admitted against slaves. It is Obeah will be found to embrace not said that such evidence shall many acts, against which it could be admitted for them, although, not have been really intended to of course, this must bave been the denounce the punishment of death. intention. It is to be regretted that The definition of the crime of pre. no provision is made for securing paring to administer poison is also the attendance of judges, regularly so extensive, as to include many educated to the legal profession, innocent, and even some meritoon slave trials.
rious acts. Thus, also, the offence It remains to notice those parts of possessing materials used in the of this act which provide for the practice of Obeah, is imperfectly punishment or the prevention of described, since no reference is crimes committed by slaves. made to the wicked intention in
The crime of harbouring runaways which alone the crime consists. may be punished with much more The owner of a slave condemned severity, when the offender is a to death or transportation is in all slave, than when he is a free man,- cases to be indemnified at the pub. a distinction which reverses the es- lic expense for the loss of his protablished principle of justice, that perty. His majesty's government the malignity of crimes is enhanced have repeatedly expressed their by the superior knowledge and disapprobation of this rule of law. station of the criminal.
It weakens the motives for main. In many cases, both the nature taining good domestic discipline, and amount of the punishment to and for preventing the commission be inflicted on the offending slave of crimes by the authority of the are referred exclusively to the dis owner. It is unjust to indemnify cretion of the court. I am not any man at the public expense, for aware of any necessity for so un. a loss in wbich his own culpable limited a delegation of authority. neglect of duty may have involved
Among capital crimes, are enu. him. To the slave it is unjust to merated rebellion and rebellious deprive his owner of all pecuniary conspiracy. As these are terms interests in the preservation of his unknown to the law of England, life ; and when the crime of the it is not fit they should remain on slave is, as it often may be, the di. the statute-book without some legis. rect consequence of the owner's lative definition of their meaning. positive misconduct, it is in the
Felony seems to be generally highest degree impolitic to relieve declared capital, when committed the owner from the loss. The by slaves. The case of the cler. power of remitting the sentences of gyable felonies is not noticed. slaves condemned to hard labour
The enactments, by which as. for life, is to be exercised only sault, or offeringv iolence to a free when the slave evinces in every person, are declared capital, are respect a complete reformation of manners. I fear that few men un. The following are the clauses dergo such a total change of cha- contained in the law which refers to racter as this, under any circum- the sectarians : stances, and that a prison is among 83. And whereas it has been the last places in which it is to be found that the practice of ignorant, expected. Independently of this superstitious, or designing slaves, consideration, I apprehend that this of attempting to instruct others, clause may in some degree dero. has been attended with the most gate from the power, which, under pernicious consequences, and even his majesty's instructions, you pos. with the loss of life : Be it enacted, sess, of pardoning offenders, or re- That any slave or slaves found mitting their punishments.
guilty of preaching and teaching I have thus explained, at length, as Anabaptists, or otherwise, with the cusiderations which have im. out a permission from their owner, posed on his majesty's government and the quarter sessions for the the necessity of submitting to his parish in which such preaching or majesty their advice that this act teaching takes place, shall be punshould be disallowed. It cannot ished in such manner as any three but be a subject of deep regret to magistrates may deem proper, by them, that their sense of public whipping, or imprisonment in the duty has prevented their adopting a workhouse to hard labour. different course; but I trust that, 84. And whereas, the assembling upon a serious and deliberate re. of slaves and other persons, after view of the subject, the gentlemen dark, at places of meeting belong. of the Legislative Council and As. ing to dissenters from the es. sembly of Jamaica will themselves tablished religion, and other per. be disposed to admit, that the de. sons professing to be teachers of cision which has been adopted was religion, has been found extremely inevitable. The preceding remarks dangerous, and great facilities are will show that this act has not been thereby given to the formation of disallowed upon any slight grounds. plots and conspiracies, and the "The many wise and beneficent health of the slaves and other per. provisions which it contains have sons has been injured in travelling been fully appreciated, although to and from such places of meeting they have not been thought suffi. at late hours in the night : Be it cient to compensate for the irrepa. further enacted, by the authority rable injury which the best interests aforesaid, that from and after the of the colony might sustain, from commencement of this act, all such some of the enactments to which I meetings between sunset and sun. have particularly referred. Even rise shall be held and deemed un. were the law unobjectionable on lawful ; and any sectarian, dis. every other ground, it would be senting minister, or other person impossible to surmount the difficulty professing to be a teacher of re. presented by the clauses for re. ligion, who shall, contrary to this straining religious liberty.--I have act, keep open any such places of the honour to be, Sir, your most meeting between sunset and sunobedient humble servant,
rise, for the purpose aforesaid, or (Signed) HUSKISSON. permit or suffer any such nightly Lieutenant-Governor
assembly of slaves therein, or be Sir John Keane, K. C. B., fc. present thereat, shall forfeit and
pay a sum, not less than £20, nor whereas, an ample provision is ai. exceeding £50, for each offence, ready made by the public, and by to be recovered in a summary man. private persons, for the religious ner, before any three justices, by instruction of the slaves : Be it warrant of distress and sale ; one enacted, by the authority aforesaid, moiety thereof to be paid to the that from and after the commence. informer, who is hereby declared a ment of this act, it shall not be law. competent witness, and the other ful for any dissenting minister, re. moiety to the poor of the parishligious teacher, or other person in which such offence shall be com. whatsoever, to demand or receive mitted ; and, in default of payment any money or other chattel whatthereof, the said justices are hereby soever from any slave or slaves empowered and required to com- within this island, for affording such mit such offender or offenders to slave or slaves religious instructhe common gaol, for any space of tion, by way of offering contributime not exceeding one calendar tions, or under any other pretence month. Provided always, that no. whatsoever ; and if any person or thing herein contained shall be persons shall, contrary to the true deemed or taken to prevent any intent and meaning of this act, of. minister of the Presbyterian Kirk, fend herein, such person or persons or licensed minister, from perform. shall, upon conviction before any ing divine worship at any time be. three justices, forfeit and pay the fore the hour of eight o'clock in the sum of £20 for each offence, to evening at any licensed place of be recovered in a summary man. worship, or to interfere with the ner, by warrant of distress and celebration of divine worship ac sale, under the hands and seals of cording to the rites and ceremonies the said justices, one moiety there. of the Jewish and Roman Catholic of to be paid to the informer, who religions.
is hereby declared a competent 85. And whereas, under pretence witness, and the other moiety to the of offerings and contributions, large poor of the parish in which such sums of money and other chattels offence shall be committed; and, have been extorted by designing in default of payment, the said men, professing to be teachers of justices are hereby empowered religion, practising on the igno. and required to commit such offen. rance and superstition of the ne. der or offenders to the common gaol, groes in this island, to their great for any space of time not exceed. loss and impoverishment ; and ing one calendar month.
The chambers commenced their Gentlemen, session on the 5th February, 1828 ; It is always with equal satisfac. nearly every member was present, tion that I see you meet about my and the speech of the king was throne, and that I come to make delivered as follows: