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RICHARD MARQUESS WELLESLEY, K.G.
ETC. ETC. ETC.
In compliance with the wishes of the friends of the Abolition, I have revised the report of this speech, in order that the facts which I yesterday brought before Parliament, and which all admitted to be truly stated, nay, to have been rather understated than exaggerated, may be made known through the country. I believe these pages contain, as nearly as it is possible, what I spoke in my place.
To your Lordship they are inscribed with peculiar propriety, because you are one of the oldest and most staunch friends of this great question, and because your animated descriptions of the Parliamentary struggles in its behalf, at which you have assisted, and of the eloquence of other times which it called forth, have formed one of the most interesting of the many
conversations we have had upon the scenes of your earlier life. My own recollections do not reach so far back; but I have now been a zealous, though humble labourer, in the same cause upwards of six and thirty years; and it is truly melancholy to reflect that the Slave Trade still desolates Africa, while it disgraces the civilized world, hardly covering with less shame those who suffer, than those who perpetrate the enormous crime.—May we hope that at length the object of our wishes is about to be attained !
This Dedication is offered without your permission having been asked. It gives me an opportunity of faintly expressing that admiration of your truly statesman-like genius which all your countrymen feel who have marked your illustrious career in Europe as well as Asia ; and that gratitude for your past services which in the public mind never can exceed the affection of your private friends.
But I will confess that another motive contributes to this intrusion upon your retirement. During the years that the controversy has lasted, I have written and published many volumes upon it; this is the first page to which I have set my name; and I naturally feel desirous that it should have the advantage of appearing in company with one so incomparably more eminent.
MY LORDS,—I hold in my hand a petition from a numerous and most respectable body of your fellow citizens--the inhabitants of Leeds. Between 16 and 17,000 of them have signed it, and on the part of the other inhabitants of that great and flourishing community, as well as of the country at large in which it is situated, I can affirm with confidence that their statements and their prayer are those of the whole province whose people I am proud to call my friends, as it was once the pride of my life to represent them in Parliament. They remind your Lordships that between 18 and 19 millions have been already paid, and the residue of the 20 millions is in a course of payment to the holders of Slaves for some loss which it was supposed their property would sustain by the Emancipation Act; whereas, instead of a loss they have received a positive gain ; their yearly revenues are increased, and the value of their estates has risen in the market. Have not these petitioners—have not the people of England a right to state, that but for the firm belief into which a generous Parliament and a confiding country were drawn, that the Bill of 1833 would occasion a loss to the Planter, not one million, or one pound, or one penny of this enormous sum would ever have been granted to the owners of the slaves ? When it is found that all this money has been paid for nothing, have we not an equal right to require that whatever can be done on the part of the planters to further a measure which has already been so gainful to them, shall be performed without delay? Have we not an undeniable right to expect for the sake, not more of humanity towards the Negroes, than of strict justice to those whose money was so paid for nothing, under a mere error in fact, that we, we who paid the money, shall obtain some compensation? And as all we ask is, not a return of it, not to have the sums paid under mistake refunded, but only the bargain carried into full effect, when the Colonial Legislatures refuse to perform their part, are we not well entitled to eompel them? In a word, have not the people of England a right to demand that the Slavery which still exists under the name of Indentured Apprenticeship, shall forthwith cease, all pretext for continuing it, from the alleged risk of the sudden change or the Negro's incapacity of voluntary labour, having been triumphantly destroyed by the universal and notorious fact of the experiment of total emancipation having succeeded wherever it has been tried, and of the Negro working cheerfully and profitably where he has been continued an apprentice? In presenting this petition from Yorkshire, and these thirteen others from various parts of the country, I have the honour of giving notice, that as soon as the unfortunate and pressing question of Canada shall have been disposed of by the passing or the rejection of the Bill expected from the Commons, that is, in about a week or ten days, I shall submit a motion to your Lordships with the view of enabling you to comply with the earnest prayer of your countrymen, by fixing the period of complete emancipation on the first of August in this year, instead of 1840.