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THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY

ASTOR, LENOK AND TILDEN FOUNDATIONS,

1898.

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GREAT number of PETITIONS* were presented,

praying for the ABOLITION of the SLAVE TRADE.

The Right Honourable Mr. DUNDAS presented one from the Inhabitants of the City of Edinburgh, and SIR WATKIN Lewas one from the Livery of London in Common Hall assembled.-Referred to the Committee on the Slave Trade.

Mr. WILBER FORCE moved that all the Evidence given on this Trade be referred to the Committee, -Ordered.

He then moved the Order of the Day, which was " for 66 the House to resolve itself into a Committee of the whole 6 House, to consider of the circumstances of the African « Slave Trade.”

* The whole number of Petitions presented to this Day, was 508.
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The House resolved itself into a Committee accordingly, SIR WILLIAM DOLBEN in the Chair:

Mr. WILBERFORCE.-In entering on the great business of this day, a business in itself of the first importance, and which, after having so long occupied the minds of men, is at this moment the subject of universal expectation and solicitude, it is natural to imagine that I must feel no small degree of diffidence and apprehension. It is, however, a satisfaction to me to reflect, that it will not be necessary for me to take up so much of the time of the House, as I have felt myself compelled to do on former occasions ; for besides that I might well be content to leave the task of enforcing the proposition I shall bring forward, to the greater abilities and more powerful eloquence of those by whom I have the honour to be supported, the whole of this subject has been already so thoroughly investigated ; every part of it has been fo canvassed and scrutinized, that it may be sufficient for me now merely to refer you: to our past discussions, and to spare the House and myself the pain of a laborious and minute detail. · I have before had occafion to remark, that nothing has: tended more to prevent the impartial and candid consideration. of our arguments, than the indiscriminate censures which have sometimes been really cast on the whole body of West Indians. There may have been those who, suffering their passions to hurry them to hafty and immature conclusions, have connected with the eyils of the fyftem, the personal character of every individual embarked in it, as being closely and inseparably al-fociated; the charge ralhly brought has been indignantly repelled; heat and acrimony have prevailed on both sides, reproaches and invectives have been mutually retorted, parties have been formed with all their consequent effects of prejudice and bitterness, the West Indians in this state of things have grown incapable of listening dispassionately to the voice of reason, and many perhaps of the very best and most benevolent amongst them have been the most warm, because most conscious of the injustice of the accusations they deemed cast

on.

on them, and resenting and spurning at them with emotions of honeft disdain.

The House will do me the justice to recolle&t, whatever may have been said to the contrary, that this is a language I have never held, nor have I been kept from it by motives of decorum or of personal civility; it is a language to which in my heart I have never assented, and which has always appeared to me not only injudicious and impolitic, but contrary to truth and justice, and to what abundant experience has taught us of the nature of the human mind: and I the rather make this declaration at the outset of my speech, in order, that if in the courfe of what I shall fay on a subject which cannot but excite the strongest emotions in any man who is not dead to the feelings of his nature, any over-warm or too general expressions should escape me, it may be understood what are the cool deliberate opinions of my mind. I wish to speak the words of conciliation ; I wish particularly to call on the Gentlemen of the West Indies to accompany me in my progress; I call upon them to investigate with me fully and fairly the various evils arising from the Slave Trade, and those evils especially, which belong to the West Indies. If I can but bring them to do so, I am persuaded we cannot differ in the result: I cannot but believe that they will acknowledge the defects of their own system, and deplore the evils with which it fo abounds; for Sir, though I have acknowledged that there are many Owners of Slaves of benevolent tempers and generous hearts, who would be glad to use their absolute power for purposes of kindness and beneficence, yet this must not reconcile us to the fystein of West Indian Navery itself; pregnant as it is witls great and innumerable miseries. A Trajan and an Antoninus do not reconcile me to a despotic monarchy; we should diftinguith in these cases between what belongs to the person and what belongs to the system ; we should rejoice indeed in a fplendid exception to the ordinary character of tyranny; but not allow ourselves to be thereby reduced into an approbation of tyranny.

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Yet even under a Trajan and an Antoninus the fatal effects of this system were but too discernible, though more flagrant and palpable under a Nero and Caligula. An impartial West Indian, therefore, instead of being incensed by the frankness of my investigation, should rather join me in it, and allist me in tracing the mischiefs to their proper source ; these will appear by no means greater than might be expected from considering the various circumstances of the present case. It has been justly remarked, that aristocracy is a worse form of government than monarchy, because the people have been subject to many tyrants instead of one ; but if this be true, what shall we say to the present case, where despotic power is not the privilege of high birth, or of extraordinary eminence, or wealth, or talents, but where it is an article to be bought at market like any other commodity, by every man who has £8.40 in the world. There is often an elevation and liberality of mind produced by the consciousness of superior rank and consequence and authority, which serve in some degree to mitigate the fierceness of unrestrained power, and counteract the evils of which it is naturally productive ; but when it comes into the possession of the base and the vulgar, the evils will then be felt in their fullest extent. The causes of this we will not stop to examine, but the truth itself is important, and it bears directly on the present question. It fuggests to us the wretched state of the Slaves in the West Indies, where they are often liable to the uncontrouled domination of men of all ranks, understandings, tempers, often perhaps of the most ignorant and worthless, and meanest of the human race. This is no picture of the imagination, but the very sentiment which the scene itself impresses on the mind of a judicious observer. Every man almost who can have a horse here, might be possessed of a slave there ; who is there that confiders this, but must expect to find scenes of wretchedness and cruelty, on which it is impoflible to look, without shame and indignation?

But let us recollect, that this is not the whole of the present cafe ; for of the more opulent and more liberal West India pro

liberal Wef India pro

prietors

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