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RIGHT HON. HENRY DUNDAS,
One of His Majesty's Principal Secretaries of Stațe.
WITH THE SKETCH OF A NEGRO CODE.
the Sketch I promised of my old African Code, if some friends from London had not come in
upon me last Saturday, and engaged me till noon this day; I send this pacquet by one of them, who is still here. If what I send be, as under present circumstances it must be, imperfect, you will excuse it, as being done near twelve years ago. About four years since I made an abstract of it; upon which I cannot at present lay my hands; but I hope the marginal heads will in some measure supply it.
If the African Trade could be considered with regard to itself only, and as a single object, I should think the utter abolition to be, on the whole, more advisable, than any scheme of regulation and reform. Rather than suffer it to continue as it is, I heartily wish it at an end. What has been lately
done, has been done by a popular spirit, which seldom calls for, and indeed very rarely relishes, a system made up of a great variety of parts, and which is to operate its effect in a great length of time. The people like short methods; the consequences of which they sometimes have reason to repent of. Abolition is but a single act. To prove the nature of the trade, and to expose it properly, required, indeed, a vast collection of materials, which have been laboriously collected, and compiled with great judgment. It required also much perseverance and address to excite the spirit, which has been excited without doors, and which has carried it through. The greatest eloquence ever displayed in the House has been employed to second the efforts, which have been made abroad. All this, however, leads but to one single resolve. When this was done, all was done. I speak of absolute and immediate abolition, the point, which the first motions went to, and which is in effect still pressed; though in this Session, according to order, it cannot take effect. , A remote, and a gradual abolition, though they may be connected, are not the same thing. The idea of the House seems to me, if I rightly comprehend it, that the two things are to be combined; that is to say, that the trade is gradually to decline, and to cease entirely at a determinate period. To məke the abolition gradual, the regulations must operate as a strong discouragement. But it is much to be feared, that a trade continued and discouraged, and with a sentence of death passed upon it, will perpetuate much ill blood between those, who struggle for the abolition, and those, who contend for an effectual continuance.
At the time when I formed the plan, which I have the honour to transmit to you, an abolition of the Slave Trade would have appeared a very chimerical project. My plan, therefore, supposes the continued existence of that commerce. Taking for my basis that I had an incurable evil to deal with, I cast about how I should make it as small an evil as possible, and draw out of it some collateral good.
In turning the matter over in my mind, at that time, and since, I never was able to consider the African Trade upon a ground disconnected with the employment of Negroes in the West Indies, and distinct from their condition in the plantations, whereon they serve. I conceived, that the true origin of the trade was not in the place it was begun at, but at the place of its final destination. I therefore was, and I still am, of opinion, that the whole work ought to be taken up together; and that a gradual abolition of Slavery in the West Indies ought to go hand in hand with any thing, which should be done with regard to its supply from the
Coast of Africa. I could not trust a cessation of I the demand for this supply to the mere operation
of any abstract principle, (such as, that if their
supply was cut off the Planters would encourage 1. and produce an effectual population,) knowing that I nothing can be more uncertain than the operation
of general principles, if they are not embodied in specifick regulations. I am very apprehensive, that so long as the Slavery continues some means for its supply will be found. If so, I am persuaded that it is better to allow the evil, in order to correct it, than by endeavouring to forbid, what we cannot be able wholly to prevent, to leave it under an illegal, and therefore an unreformed, existence. It is not that my plan does not lead to the extinction of the Slave Trade; but it is through a very slow progress, the chief effect of which is to be operated in our own plantations, by rendering, in a length of time, all foreign supply unnecessary. It was my wish, whilst the Slavery continued, and the consequent commerce, to take such measures as to civilize the Coast of Africa by the trade, which now renders it more barbarous; and to lead, by degrees, to a more reputable, and, possibly, a more profitable, connection with it, than we maintain at present.
I am sure that you will consider, as a mark of my confidence in yours and Mr Pitt's honour and generosity, that I venture to put into your hands a
scheme composed of many and intricate combinations, without a full explanatory preface, or any attendant notes, to point out the principles, upon which I proceeded, in every regulation, which I have proposed towards the civilization and gradual manumission of Negroes in the two hemispheres. I confess, I trust infinitely more (according to the sound principles of those, who ever have at any time meliorated the state of mankind) to the effect and influence of religion, than to all the rest of the regulations put together.
Whenever, in my proposed reformation, we take our point of departure from a state of Slavery, we must precede the donation of freedom by disposing the minds of the objects to a disposition to receive it without danger to themselves or to us. The process of bringing free Savages to order and civilization is very different. When a state of Slavery is that, upon which we are to work, the very means, which lead to liberty, must partake of compulsion. The minds of men being crippled with that restraint can do nothing for themselves; every thing must be done for them. The regulations can little to consent. Every thing must be the creature of
power. Hence it is, that regulations must be multiplied; particularly as you have two parties to deal with. The Planter you must at once restrain and support; and you must control, at the same time that you ease, the servant. This necessarily