« السابقةمتابعة »
REPLY TO THE PHILANTHROPIST.
large; but I am quite as well satisfied that there are still more who make to you their unavailing plea, and whom it were far better to assist than to overlook for distant objects of charity, however noble your efforts for the oppressed of other nations may be. These 'poor ones come to you with a claim which, one would think, philanthropy could not deny. Their famished looks and wasted forms are God's seal upon the righteousness of their cause; telling you in language which he who runs may read, that your brother at home is dying for want of bread; and that you cannot close your ear upon
cry, and hope for the blessing Christ has promised to bestow upon those who feed the hunger and clothe the nakedness of one of the least of his children' in this world.”
After I had said this we walked on in silence for some time.
I had reason to believe, from his manner, that what I had said was not very agreeable to him; but I did not feel condemned for my words. I only discovered another illustration of that truth which has passed into a proverb: “Good men even do not always love to be reproved."
I continued by saying, “I believe it is quite common for us all to be more affected by distress at a distance, than by the misery around our own doors. I have seen a minister of the Gospel punish a slave who was a member of his own church, on Sunday morning, for a trifling offence, and go into the pulpit
and deliver one of the most affecting discourses on the state of the heathen world I ever heard. His tears were a pledge of his sincerity.” “But, sir, you would not call him a Christian, would you ?” exclaimed Mr. — with some astonishment.
“I would not hastily conclude," I said, “that he was not a good man ; for I have known many instances to the same effect no less striking. We must make proper allowances for the power of custom and inveterate habits. I will not say that I am a better man than you because I was more deeply affected by the sight of those hungry children than you were.
You have long been familiar with such
But I will say, that I do not believe there are many slaveholders in America who would not have given them assistance.
“ There is a circumstance connected with the state of society in England, which I find many good men here seem entirely to overlook, but which to me is inexpressibly painful : it is the cruel burdens under which that portion of your population which you call the lower classes' are suffering. I do not speak of the very lowest class who live by begging, although the London Quarterly estimates that in Great Britain the paupers compose one sixth part of the whole people. But I speak of that great class who are shut out from all intercourse with the better and more intelligent portions of society, and deprived of those high and powerful motives to exertion and advancement so necessary in elevating the charac
RESULT OF WEST INDIA EMANCIPATION. 109
ter. The emancipation of 800,000 slaves in the British colonies was very noble, considered as an act of humane legislation; and the result has been all that the friends of that act could have anticipated. This is the united voice of hundreds who have gone there to see the working of the experiment; and Parliament has confirmed their statements that freedom has worked well.
« But still there is a consideration connected even with this glorious act not a little painful. The £20,000,000 which were the price of taking off the fetters of colonial slaves, have only increased the burdens of the already crushed working classes of England. That great sum has swollen the national debt, before so enormous, still more; and there is some force in the saying of the Chartists, that the English people have paid the throne £20,000,000 for sending ships to the colonies to bring back castaside negro fetters, to be fastened upon themselves at home.
“ These facts are known throughout the civilized world, and they detract from the credit of that act in the estimation of other nations. Consistency is one of the greatest reflex powers on earth; and you cannot get the world to give you all the credit you claim for West India emancipation, as long as op pression weighs so heavily upon your own people.
“I very well know that many who were the principal agents in effecting this emancipation, are labouring with equal zeal in overturning abuses at
home; but during the few weeks I have been in England, I have been struck with the insensibility of philanthropists here, to those terrible oppressions which lie like an incubus upon the mass of you people, and which render England so odious in the eyes of other enlightened and free nations. I only wish that the reformers who have accomplished the liberation of the negro, would go on and subvert the great structure of East India despotism ; and at the same time deliver the English people from the galling fetters which bind them and their children.
“The government under which you live stands in great need of reformation. It is a government of privileges and monopolies; the few are born, as O'Connell says, 'booted and spurred, to ride over the many. The working classes are degraded and oppressed. All but the privileged orders are taxed from their birth to their death. The midwife that assists in bringing the child into the world ; the swaddling clothes in which the infant is wrapped ; every mouthful of pap or of bread which it eats during its journey through life; every rag of clothes it puts on, and, at last, the winding-sheet and the coffin in which it is laid in its mother earth : all are taxed to pamper a haughty aristocracy, a political church, and the privileged orders.
“ And to the eye of an American there is something in all this as hostile to the great principles of human rights and philanthropy, as there ever was in West India or any other slavery. I do not say this
in a censorious spirit; I would not justify slavery in any part of the world, by English oppression; but I am sorry the world should have so far lost the beneficial influence of the great act of colonial emancipation by the inconsistencies of Great Britain.”
Why, sir,” he replied, “there is much in the state of English society which we all lament; but there is nothing like slavery; nothing which can be called a direct violation of human rights; nothing calculated to arouse the indignation or awaken the sympathy of a philanthropist, as in the untold abominations of American slavery.”
“I differ from you," I remarked," on these points. I can prove from English documents which I have read (the Evidence on the Factory Bill, for example), that there are multitudes of the English operatives who labour more hours a day, at harder and more prostrating work, with less food and poorer clothing, and subject to more abuse, than the American slaves.”
By this time we had arrived at Freemasons' Hall. The venerable Thomas Clarkson was just getting out of his carriage, supported by two of his friends. He had come from his home in Ipswich, in his 81st year, to preside over “ the World's Convention." The Hall was filled with delegates from every part of the civilized world, and many of the most illustrious men of Europe were present. The Convention was called to order by Mr. Blair, late