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from all employment on plantations, by a general act, which, being transmitted to England, was refused the Royal assent; and thus began the system of annual bills, to defraud the Crown of its negative voice. Each bill bound the planters, under severe penalties, to fill every situation in their employ with a white person. Those bills continued up to the last year, when the Governor refused his assent to the deficiency law, because it contained provisions of peculiar hardship respecting the absentees.
In all this history of exclusion and disqualification, it is cheering to meet with one exception. After the Maroon war in 1796, when the men of colour had distinguished themselves, so as to extort the unqualified approbation of the Assembly, and to command the hearty gratitude of the whole community, a bill was passed, allowing them to give evidence against white persons,-in cases of assault upon the witnesses themselves ! It graciously pleased those lords of the world to decree that the race, so nearly allied to themselves by blood, and to whose gallantry and faithful attachment they owed their existence, should no longer be kicked and beaten like dogs, without redress; but the privilege of giving evidence was strictly confined to the case of the person himself who was assaulted; and no mulatto could call another as his witness, if tried for any offence. These restrictions, and all others on the evidence of free people of colour, were done away in 1813; and in 1816 they were permitted to navigate their own vessels coastwise, which, ever since 1712, had been prohibited, by a law requiring vessels of a certain burden to be manned by whites. They were now also allowed to drive carts and hackney coaches, a right formerly withheld by the same spirit of curious and niggardly legislation. The restrictions upon bequests and devises were also repealed in 1813.
There still remain, however, the most grievous of all the disabilities under which the coloured race have been laid. They cannot exercise the elective franchise; they are excluded from all offices and places of trust; and, worse than all, they cannot serve in any case upon juries. Let us for a moment consider the effects of these disqualifications.
The mulattoes are subject to the laws made by the House of Assembly. By those laws they are regulated, governed, and taxed. But, rich and accomplished and intelligent as many of them are, they can neither sit in that house, nor exercise their voice in saying who shall sit there; nor in any way lift that voice, as free men should do, in any other than the notes of suppliant petition. And to whom is the unchecked dominion confided over this race of men, who must have no voice, either direct or indirect, in the councils that are to rule their destiny? To a rival colour; to a hostile caste; to the men who have created all these disabilities, in order to exclude them; to those who prove, by the very act of engrossing all the power over the degraded race, that they hate and fear them, and feel their subjection as necessary for their own security and ease. Let Christian people make the case their own, according to the favourite maxim of their religion-the maxim so often quoted, and so seldom followed. How would the people of England like to be ruled and taxed by a parliament all Irish-still more, by one all French or all American? But that bears a faint semblance to our case. Peace and fashion may reconcile us to Frenchmen; our interest, the fear of losing Ireland, and having England crippled, may even reconcile us to Irishmen; and the interests of trade may almost make us friends with the Americans. But between the people of colour and their representatives and rulers, there is no common tie, except that of humanity, which is outraged by the one party, and only remembered in the other, to show that it exasperates all animosities, and that cattle would be better treated than human beasts of burden. The hand of Providence has stamped on the oppressed a mark that cannot be effaced, and the Ethiopian must be washed white before his lot in being subject to the hostile caste can become so gentle as the case we have been supposing, of the English nation ruled by an American parliament, chosen in America, and not in England.
The exclusion from all places renders the deprivation of the elective franchise still more severe. The mulatto only feels the ruling powers, by coming in contact with his natural enemy; he only sees the constituted authorities of his country, when he looks at the hostile colour. Power is never mitigated by kindred feelings; on the contrary, it is exasperated by the instinctive sense of natural diversity, by all the factitious prejudices of customs and laws, and by all the feelings of fear which tyranny creates at once for its own augmentation, and its own punishment.
But look to the worst of all these disabilities. Whatever mulatto comes into a court of justice—a court by outward form resembling what elsewhere are courts in which justice presideshe comes among judges and jurors who are his natural enemies and oppressors. He is injured in his person, he is despoiled of his property, he is restrained of his liberty by a white man; his child or his wife is taken from him; his feelings are outraged ; his sense of honour—for all our cruelty has not rooted all sense of honour from the dingy bosom-his sense of honour is wounded—a sense the more exquisite that it has survived every
effort of his oppressor to extinguish it. In mockery, he is bid to bend his footsteps towards the halls of Justice, and tauntingly told that they fling open wide their gates to men of every complexion and every race. He hurries thither; the doors are blackened with the white clouds-of his foes; the ermine decks the shoulders—of his foes; the jury-box is filled with twelve-of his foes, --selected from the motley population he lives in, for the express purpose of doing injustice between him and his adversary. But we hear it said, “ this is insidious—there is no such pur
pose in the selection.” Why then, we would ask, is the selection made ? Answer us this, ye who charge us with distorting facts, or rather with perverting inferences. Answer and tell us, why the jury is to be purged of all colour, when the man of colour is tried ?-freed from all community of feeling and opinion with him, and made up of men expressly and avowedly taken because they have a common colour and origin with the mulatto's antagonist? Who can name another reason for choosing them all whites, except that, if chosen indiscriminately of the two hues, there would be jurors of the same race with the man of colour; whereas the principle is, to have them all of the white man's blood and lineage? Again, let the Christian wrong-doerfor whoso consents to wrong, doeth wrong-resort to the golden rule of his Master, and put himself in the place of his tawny brother. How should we, in Old England, like being tried for our lives by a French or an American jury, sitting under the superintendence of a French or American judge? But that is a poor approximation to the case in hand. Rather let us ask, how would you-Englishmen and whites as you are-like being tried by a jury all brown mulattoes, or all black negroes, with an African in the seat of the presiding judge? How would you like being told, not only that all your judges were not to be whites like yourself, but that not one of them was to be other than aliens to your name, and complexion, and race? You have already answered the question; you have, wherever you had the power, refused to be tried by judges, any one of whom bore the marks of the hostile colour ; and yet you desire the mulatto to think he has justice, when you try him by judges, every one of whom is taken from among his enemies and oppressors! In England, you suffer not the meanest foreigner, of the most hostile nation, or the most barbarous, to be tried by a jury of Englishmen; he must have at least one half of foreign race and birth. No matter from what lineage he is sprung, be it ever so base ; from what coast he has come hither, be it ever so hostile ; before what gods he bends, be they ever so savage ; by what barbarities his caste is disfigured, be they ever so revolting-he may be a rude idolater from New Holland, or a barbarous soldier of Mahomet, or a vile and pros
tituted adorer of the Juggernaut-he cannot be tried by an English tribunal. But the civilized mulatto, begotten by an English father, born in the bosom of an English settlement, trained, it may be, in the refinements of English society, is condemned by his fellow Christian, to be tried by a jury far more likely to do him injustice than the English could by possibility be to wrong any infidel on whose superstitious rites the sun ever rose; and he is yet further condemned to hear this fellow Christian boast, that he has done his unfortunate and unoffending brother justice.
It may now be fit, as principles alone, how incontrovertible ever, are rarely appealed to with effect, to ask what interest we have in perpetuating such grievances as these—what safety there is in keeping up such a cause of offence in all people of colour ? And this question may best be solved by inquiring into the importance of the coloured order. Their numbers in Jamaica alone are said to exceed 30,000, and those of the free blacks 10,000. They therefore greatly exceed the whites in numerical force; and the mulattoes form one half of the militia-being, from the necessity of the case, freely intrusted with the possession of arms. But how much more important an aspect do those numbers—those armed numbers—wear, when we reflect that they stand between a handful of whites and the sable myriads of African slaves by whom they are surrounded, daily and nightly, in town and in country, in the house and in the field, and to whose divisions and want of concert, but, more than all, want of arms and of leaders, that handful owes its prolonged existence in the Charaibean Seas. Moreover, by natural and political causes, the numbers of the whites are daily decreasing; by the like causes, the mulattoes are on the increase. Then let the wealth of the degraded caste be taken into account. Their property is now reckoned at upwards of three millions. One gentleman of that colour has L.150,000 of his own; another, a white planter, left as much to his coloured children; a third left L.200,000 in the same way, and a fourth gave L.200,000 to a mulatto friend who survived him, and L.50,000 to a black woman. Among the petitioners who made the late forcible appeal to Parliament, through Dr Lushington, three inhabitants of one parish were possessed of property to the amount of L.120,000. This is a body of men, we may rest assured, who will wax great in wealth as well as strong in numbers; and it becomes us to think betimes whether it consists best with our interest, and with our safety, to have them for our allies or our enemies.
The existence of the grievance is too palpable to be denied; the planters, therefore, essay to mitigate the asperity of its features ; and, failing in this too, they would fain persuade us that the true
remedy is by sending the coloured men to seek redress individually at the hands of the Colonial Assemblies, from which they are by law excluded.
“Go," say they, “and bring in private “ naturalization bills, as if you were aliens. The fees are now 6 diminished, and by paying your attorneys heavy costs, you
maygradually, and one by one, succeed to the enjoyment of your “just and natural rights. To this the answer is easy, and it is decisive. If the remedy be fit to mention, it must be commensurate with the mischief. Who, then, recommends bringing in eight thousand naturalization bills ? But all-all would pass as a matter of course. Is it so? Then what better reason can you give for the obvious process of consolidating all the 8000 bills into one general act? The honourable-minded among the mulattoes feel an honest repugnance to seek this kind of relief, which the wealthy only can obtain; while, from partaking in it at all, the poor are for ever excluded—the poor upon whom the oppression of the disabling laws presses by far the most severely.
We have said much on this painfully interesting question ; yet the subject remains unexhausted. The Legislature of the mother country has been powerfully appealed to; the whites of the colonies have begun to feel its pressure; there have, within the two last years, been petitions from the whites in parishes of Jamaica, bearing to their Assembly, and to us at home, the unsuborned testimony of most unsuspected witnesses against one of the worst practical evils which the destruction of the grand evil of all, the African Slave Trade, has left behind it. Threats are much objected to by the Islands, and justly, if any one ever launched such threats at them. But there is a difference between a threat and a warning-a vain, braggart menace, and a fair, open, timely notice. The duty of the Imperial Legislature is to act as the rights of its colonial subjects and the safety of the state demand; and to discharge its own functions for the common good, if the Colonial Assemblies forget or abandon theirs. Incident to this high duty towards the Empire, is another towards the Assemblies, the neglect whereof would give these jealous bodies just cause of complaint. It is fitting to give them due intimation of what must be done in England, if nothing be done in the West Indies. Then, there is a wide difference between acting upon this solemn warning and doing the just things which will render all proceedings here unnecessary, and basely yielding to the menace of an adversary, and doing wrong to escape from his anger. Let not the Assemblies then any longer neglect this warning. It has oftentimes been given, no doubt, and by a power most slow to follow it up—but followed up it will and it must be, unless right and justice have ceased to find favour in the sight of England.