Brief exposure of the deplorable condition of the Hill Coolies,
in British Guiana and Mauritius,
and of the nefarious means by which they were induced to resort to these Colonies
"Under the colour of a Bill for protecting the Indian labourers, it
is proposed to legalize the importation of them into the colonies." ****** "Hundreds of thousands of poor helpless
women and children are now to be abandoned to want, that the growth of sugar in the West Indies may not languish."
It is in vain to shut our eyes to the calamities which impend on India. It
was in this manner that the Slave-trade crept in, under the shadow of Parliamentary regulation; a race was then begun between
abuses and legislation, in which legislation was always found to be in the rear. AND SO IT WILL BE WITH THE COOLEY TRADE.
We must tread the same circle; and, after years of the most poignant misery, come to the same result, that in the case of
the new, as of the old, trade, THE ONLY PATH OF SAFETY LIES IN ABSOLUTE PROHIBITION." Friend of India, Calcutta, 3rd
LONDON: HARVEY AND DARTON, GRACECHURCH STREET. BALL, ARNOLD AND CO., 31,
PATERNOSTER ROW; HATCHARD AND SON, 187, PICCADILLY; AND AT THE OFFICE OF THE BRITISH AND FOREIGN ANTI-SLAVERY SOCIETY, 27,
NEW BROAD STREET.
ABOUT THIS WORK
This pamphlet was drafted by the British Foreign and Anti-Slavery Society
in response to Lord John Russell's announcement that his cabinet was considering that the ban on the import of Indian laborers
to Mauritius be lifted. In an attempt to dissuade this action, the pamphlet describes John Scoble's account about the abuses
directed towards Indians uncovered during his trip to the West Indies for the Central Emancipation Committee. The pamphlet,
written in February 1840, also attempted to display the Mauritian planter's circumvention of Crown directives concerning the
importation of slaves and Indian laborers. Although Russell met with a delegation of the abolitionists, he confirmed that
the government would proceed with its intention of reopening the exportation of Indian laborers. With a few exceptions, the
exportation of indentured Indian labour to various British colonies lasted until January 1, 1920, when the last indentured
Indians in Fiji were released from their contracts. Transportation of indentured Indians to Guyana (then British Guiana) ended
The pamphlet was originally printed by Johnston and Barrett, Printers, 13
Mark Lane, London.
A BRIEF EXPOSURE, &c.
In sending the following statement to the press, my single object was to
fill up the hiatus left in the papers recently presented to the House of Commons respecting the Hill Coolies in British Guiana,
in return to an address moved by Mr. WILLIAM GLADSTONE on the 18th of February last. It appeared to me desirable that the
country should know that a large fund of information respecting the general treatment of the Coolies in that colony existed
besides the very partial, and, I have no hesitation in saying, because I am personally familiar with the facts, most unfair
representations made to the Home Government on the whole subject.
Before I visited Guiana in the early part of the year, 1839, the system of
concealment was adopted with admirable success: when, however, concealment was no longer possible, palliation and apology
were resorted to; and to me, were it not a source of deep sorrow that the exposure of the hardships and sufferings of the
wretched Coolies were treated with lightness, and that an attempt was made thereby to impose on the British public, it would
be infinitely amusing to observe the attempts of Governor Light, to account for his own ignorance of the facts brought to
light, the studied silence of his magistracy, and the conduct of the parties implicated in the guilty transactions to which
reference is made. The ridiculous attempt of his Excellency to fasten unworthy motives on me, in the part I felt it to be
my duty to take in the affair. I pass by as unworthy of observation. However much it may please the planters, it cannot injure
It was not my intention to have added my name to the statement, now given
to the public - not judging it to be necessary; but having submitted it to the perusal of some friends after it was in type,
they suggested the propriety of my doing so, and this must be my apology for the form in which it appears.
London, 28th February, 1840.
1.ORIGIN OF THE COOLIE SLAVE TRADE:
On the 4th January 1836, JOHN GLADSTONE, ESQ., addressed a letter to Messrs.
GILLANDERS, ARBUTHNOT & Co., of Calcutta, in which he says: "You will probably be aware that we are very particularly
situated with our negro apprentices in the West Indies, and that it is matter of doubt and uncertainty, how far they may be
induced to continue their services on the plantations after their apprenticeship expires in 1840.
This, to us, is a subject of great moment and deep interest in the colonies
of Demerara and Jamaica. We are, therefore, most desirous to obtain and introduce labourers from other quarters, and particularly
from climates similar in their nature." After giving a most glowing account of the colony -- the lightness of the labour required,
and the repose enjoyed by the people - their "schools on each estate for the education of children; and the instruction of
their parents in the knowledge of their religious duties" - (there are no schools on Vreed-en-Hoop, or Vriedestein!!)
he sums up all by observing, "it may be fairly said they pass their time agreeably and happily." Full of fears, however, for
the future, he adds, "It is of great importance to us to endeavor to provide a portion of other labourers, whom we might use
as a set-off, and, when the time for it comes, make us, as far as possible, independent of our negro population." He then
gives an order for 100 Coolies - "young, active, able-bodied people," to be bound to labour "for a period not less than five
years, or more than seven years," the wages not to "exceed four dollars per month," to provide themselves! To which communication
Messrs. GILLANDERS & Co., gave the following "encouraging" reply, on the 6th June, 1836; "within the last two years,
upwards of 2000 natives have been sent from this to the Mauritius, by several parties here, under contracts of engagements
for five years. The contracts, we believe, are all of a similar nature; and we enclose a copy of one, under which we have
sent 700 or 800 men to the Mauritius; and we are not aware that any greater difficulty would present itself in sending men
to the West Indies, the Natives being perfectly ignorant of the place they agree to go to, or the length of the voyage
they are undertaking." They then go on to state that the men selected for Mauritius, have "hardly any ideas beyond
those of supplying the wants of nature;" and, therefore, we suppose, more likely to become the dupes of the cunning knaves
who would entrap them into engagements, of the nature of which, they would be entirely ignorant. The "Dhangurs," they add,
in a subsequent part of their letter, "are always spoken of as more akin to the monkey than the man. They have no religion,
no education, and, in their present state, no wants, beyond eating, drinking and sleeping; and to procure which, they are
willing to labour." Fit subjects, truly, to be made slaves, and to cultivate the estates of JOHN GLADSTONE, ESQ., in
Demerara! Now what reply was made to the proposition of GILLANDERS AND Co.?
Did the wealthy planter express his indignation that the Indian labourers
were to be spirited away from their native land, under the idea that they were going to the "Company's Rabustie," to
be engaged in gardening?" Did he express his disgust that his agents should select such ignorant and wretched creatures as
the Dhangurs to practice deceit upon? No! On the 10th March, 1837, he and his friend, JOHN MOSS, Esq., of Liverpool,
gave Messrs. GILLANDERS & Co. to understand, that in the following May, they intended to forward the good ship
"Hesperus to take Coolies to Demerara," to the number of 150, and that should they have children to take with them, fifteen
or twenty may be sent in addition. "In Demerara," Mr. GLADSTONE adds, "the females are employed in the field as well
as the men; and if the female Coolies will engage to work there, a larger proportion may be sent, say two women to three men,
or, if desired, equal numbers; but if they will not engage to work there, then the proportion sent to the Isle of France,
of one female to nine or ten men, for cooking and washing, is enough!" It is enough to give these quotations to show the origin
of the Coolie slave-trade: and all we need add, is, that "ANDREW COLVILLE, Esq., ("a near connexion of Lord AUCKLAND'S")
and Messrs. DAVIDSONS, BARKLEY & Co. of London," joined their friend Mr. GLADSTONE in a similar commission
to Messrs. GILLANDERS & Co.
2. PROCEEDINGS OF THE GOVERNMENT.
It became necessary, in consequence of the state of the law in British Guiana,
which restricted contracts for labour to three years duration, that Mr. GLADSTONE and his friends should be accommodated
with an Order in Council to sanction their contracts for a period of five years, commencing on the arrival of the Coolies
in Demerara. This was complaisantly granted them by LORD GLENELG, with the concurrence of Sir JOHN HOBHOUSE,
and, of course the whole of her Majesty's then ministry. Under date of the 20th May, 1837, Mr. GLADSTONE writes GILLANDERS
& Co. "I have now made the necessary arrangements with the colonial department, and an Order in Council corresponding
with them will be immediately published." He then increases the order for Coolies from 150 to 200, (stating the tonnage of
the "Hesperus" to be 334,) but he adds, "If that number should be considered too many, do not reduce it under 150," and remember,
"one-third for the Messrs. MOSS, two-thirds for me." The Order in Council was of the most objectionable kind. It gave
a carte blanche to every villain in British Guiana, and every scoundrel in India to kidnap and inveigle into contracts for
labour for five years, in a distant part of the world, the ignorant and inoffensive Hindoo!
3. THE DISCOVERY.
The Order in Council was issued the 12th of July, 1837; but it was not until
the 3rd of January, 1838, that the public in this country became aware of its existence, when it was denounced in the British
Emancipator as giving birth to a new slave- trade. In May, intelligence was received through the medium of the Calcutta
papers of the most painful nature, detailing the infamous conduct of the "Chokedars who were put on guard over
the Coolies, shipped for Demerara on board the Hesperus." One man died "in consequence of his having been kept
below;" and "the Coolies," it is added, were made to pay by the Chokedars, for the privilege of coming on deck! The same papers
state that "the agent for shipping these poor unfortunate people has stated that he is authorized to ship TEN THOUSAND!"
Private letters also corroborated the fact, that the Coolies "had to be forced
on board" the Hesperus - that "the hatches were bolted down," and that one man died from suffocation." It is stated also in
the same communication that the Whitby found difficulty in inducing the natives to go, and that force was required to
accomplish the object." These statements are made on the authority of the Rev. Mr. BOAZ, a Missionary in Calcutta.
It was subsequently discovered that the trade of kidnapping Coolies had been extensively carried on, and that prison depôts
had been established in the villages near Calcutta for the security of the wretched creatures, where they were most infamously
treated, and guarded with the utmost jealousy and care, to prevent their escape, until the Mauritian and Demerara slavers
were ready for their reception! A full account of the discovery of the kidnappers, their modes of procuring Coolie labourers,
and their places of retreat was inserted in the Asiatic Journal of Calcutta, 5th of July, 1838, copied from
the authenticated report of Sergeant FLOYD to the magistrates. It further appears, that through the exertions of a
Mr. DIAS, a magistrate, twenty of the kidnappers were punished, and one hundred and twenty-five Coolies
released from their grasp, who were described as "highly delighted" with their deliverance; and "as each group
left the office, they gave three or four hearty cheers, and showered down blessings on the magistrate's head." Ought not the
agents who employed these execrable kidnappers to have been punished? They most righteously deserved to have been placed by
the side of the villains they employed.
4. ARRIVAL OF THE COOLIES IN BRITISH GUIANA.
According to the official account, the number of Coolies shipped from Calcutta,
per Hesperus, was 155 men, five women, and ten children, in all 170 persons for Messrs. GLADSTONE and
MOSS; per Whitby, they were shipped, 250 men, seven women, and ten children, in all 267 persons, to the
care of JAMES MATTHEWS, Esq., attorney to ANDREW COLVILLE, Esq., and JOHN CAMERON, Esq., agent to Messrs.
GILLANDERS & Co., of Calcutta. The Coolies consigned to Mr. CAMERON, were disposed of to Messrs. DAVIDSONS,
BARKLEY & Co., and to JAMES BLAIR, Esq. The mortality on board the Hesperus, during her voyage,
was fourteen, of which number two are represented to have been drowned (suicides?) The mortality on board the Whitby,
amounted to four. There were consequently landed from both vessels 419 Coolies, which were distributed in the following manner,
|Vreed-en-Hoop (John Gladstone, Esq.)
|Vriedestein - - Ditto
|Anna Regina, (Messrs. Moss,)
|Belle Vue, (A. Colville, Esq.)
|Waterloo, (James Blair, Esq.)
|Highbury, (Messrs. Davidsons & Co.)
In all 407 persons, according to the official returns of the special magistrates,
printed by order of the House of Commons, 21st of February, 1840, No. 77, pp. 51, 52. This will show a difference in the numbers
landed and located upon the estates, of twelve Coolies, the cause of which cannot be gathered from the papers. It is of importance,
that this point should be cleared up.
5. CONDITION OF THE COOLIES AFTER ARRIVAL.
On the 30th of August, 1838, GOVERNOR LIGHT, having just made the
tour of the colony, writes to LORD GLENELG , as follows: - "From the reports I have received, and from my personal
observation, the Coolies appear satisfied with their position, and have not disappointed their employers." In another dispatch,
dated the 19th of November, 1838, his Excellency states, that "the general good health of the emigrants from
India, is equal to that of any other labourer in this colony," the Creole Negro, of course not excepted; and in this view
the assistant Colonial Secretary, Mr. WOLSELEY, concurs, for he appends to his general report on the state of the immigrants,
"The Coolies have acclimatized well, and have suffered no disadvantage by emigrating to this colony."
At a still later period, the 11th of January, 1839, Governor LIGHT, in a dispatch to LORD GLENELG, observes,
"If my information be correct, the Hill Coolies were accustomed to a marshy soil, to very low wages, and precarious scanty
food, and though on limited wages, in comparison with the free labourer, yet are as carefully protected from
oppression, and their complaints redressed as speedily, as those of other labourers!" He adds, "the Coolies
on Mr. GLADSTONE'S property, are a fine healthy body of men; they are beginning to marry or co-habit with the negresses,
and take pride in their dress; the few words of English they know, added to signs common to all, prove that `Sahib'
was good to them."
On the 30th day of January, 1839, Mr. Special Justice COLEMAN inspected
the Coolies on plantation Vriedestein, the property of JOHN GLADSTONE, Esq.,; and gives a most favourable report of
their condition. The labour required of them, only two-thirds of that expected from the late apprentices; and that "always
of the lightest work going on." Their allowances, as per contract. To be sure, their houses were "not in good repair," but
that is a matter of little importance in a colony where the climate is so "genial!" and where Governor LIGHT firmly
believed they had "more means of enjoyment than in their own country." Vreed-en-Hoop, another property of Mr. GLADSTONE'S,
was visited by Mr. Special Justice DELAFONS, on the 20th February, 1839; who reports, that the Coolies were "cheerful
and contented;" but, unlike their brethren on Vriedestein, they were compelled to perform the same description of labour as
the negro gang, and had one and a-half-guilder stopped out of their wages monthly, to be paid on their completing their servitude,
as per agreement. The deaths on Vriedestein, in eight months, two males; on the sick list ten: and on Vreed-en-Hoop,
in nine months, four males; on the sick list four.
On the 31st January, 1839, Mr. Special Justice COLEMAN inspected the
Coolies on Belle-Vue, the property of Mr. COLVILLE, and reports that they were "lodged in a large logie
built purposely for them," and were not required, or expected, to perform more than "two-thirds of the tariff of labour for
seven hours and a-half." He states the number of deaths in eight months, to have been nine males, and one female child; on
the sick list twenty. Mr. Special Justice MURE reports, the Coolies on Anna Regina, belonging to the Messrs. MOSS,
to be "very cheerful and contented," and that only one death had occurred in eight months. Mr. Special Justice ROSE
reports, that the Coolies on Waterloo, the property of JAMES BLAIR, Esq., "are apparently quite satisfied," and that
during a period of eight months, there had been four deaths, and fifteen were on the sick list. On plantation Highbury,
belonging to Messrs. DAVIDSONS & Co., visited by Mr. Special Justice MACLEOD, on the 31st of January, 1839,
he reports, the Coolies "cheerful and contented," and the number of deaths fifteen males, and two females, with from ten to
fifteen on the sick list. It thus appears, that the morality during a period of rather more than eight months after arrival,
on 419 Coolies had been thirty-eight, viz., thirty-five males and three females, and that seventy were usually on the sick
Up to this period, there was not a whisper to be heard in the colony of the
ill-treatment of the Coolies, although it must have been known to the special justices of the various districts in which the
Coolies were located, that they were frequently in the habit of running away from the estates, on the ground of alleged ill-treatment
and anxiety to return to their native land. It was known, that a large number had fled from Belle-Vue, and were
found on plantation Herstelling, on the opposite side of the river, where they declared that, in consequence
of the severity of the treatment they had endured from their manager, Mr. YOUNG, who accompanied them from India, they
would rather die than go back, and it was only when the promise was given that the individual complained of should be discharged,
that they returned to the estate. It is known also, that many fled at different times from plantation Vreed-en-Hoop,
and that two "Jummun and Pulton, who left on the 11th of October, 1838," were never afterwards discovered. The bodies of two
strange men were discovered about that time at Mahaica dead, in the bush; no doubt they were the missing Coolies; and the
female child, about ten years old, who was reported dead in Mr. Special Justice COLEMAN'S report, perished from the
dreadful effects resulting from the forcible violation of her person. An account of these things, and much more, that might
be mentioned, is carefully excluded from the reports; but we must not anticipate.
The real condition of the Coolies was brought to light, in consequence of
a paragraph which appeared in the columns of the British Emancipator of the 9th Jan., 1839, which had reached the colony.
JAMES MATTHEWS, Esq., after allowing three weeks to elapse to put his house in order, requested the Governor to appoint
a commission of inquiry into the condition of the Coolies on Belle-Vue, with the view of proving that the statements in the
Emancipator were false and scandalous. It was to have been a very snug affair, but Mr. SCOBLE, being at that time in the colony,
and having been privately informed of the intended investigation, determined to be present at the proceedings. The evidence
taken by the Commissioners, though of the most partial and limited nature, established the general accuracy of the report
which had been made, and was the means of bringing to light the hidden horrors of the system which had been pursued on Belle-Vue.
To detail the whole of the iniquities practiced on the wretched Coolies on that estate would fill a volume. It will be sufficient,
to say that the general manager of the estate, Mr. RUSSELL, SHARLIEB, the manager of the Coolies, and Dr. NIMMO,
a relation of Mr. GLADSTONE, the medical man of the estate, as well as of Vriedestein and Vreed-en-Hoop, were all indicted
and convicted of brutal assaults, before the Inferior Criminal Court of British Guiana, and either fined or imprisoned! One
incident however connected with the sick-house on Belle-Vue must not be omitted; it is taken from an account given by an eye-witness
of the melancholy scene. "The spectacle," he writes, "presented to the observer, in the sick-house was heart-rending! The
house itself was wretchedly filthy, the persons and the clothes of the patients were filthy also; the poor sufferers had no
mats nor mattresses to lie on; a dirty blanket was laid under them and their clothes wrapped together formed a kind
of a pillow.
In one room where there were raised boards for the accommodation of seven
persons only, eleven were confined -- four of them lying on the floor. The squalid wretchedness of their appearance, their
emaciated forms, and their intense sufferings from disease and sores, were enough to make the heart bleed! In the second room
were found a worse class of patients. The scene in this chamber beggars description; out of the five confined there, two were
dead, and one of the remaining three cannot long survive; should the others ultimately recover, it will be by a miracle --
their bones appeared ready to protrude through their skins! (these three died shortly after.) When the magistrate inquired
by signs of the miserable creature who appeared to be near death, what food he was allowed -- he pulled out some hard brown
biscuit from under his head, and exhibited it!! The Coolies confined in other apartments appeared in the same state as those
confined in the first chamber; in one of them was a man whose limbs have become contracted by disease since he came to the
estate. In fact, you may suppose, that it must have been misery in perfection to have drawn from Mr. WOLSELEY this
observation:-- "I never saw such a dreadful scene of misery in my life as is now to be seen in the sick-house. I have
been in a great many hospitals on various estates for the last twenty years; but I never saw such a melancholy scene!!
But lest it should be suspected that the description is overwrought, attention
is called to the remarks of Sir M. MCTURK, one of the Commissioners appointed by the Court of Policy, to visit the
estates on which the Coolies were placed, and to report thereon. In his place in the Court of Policy, he said, "He would now
say that, before that inquiry, it had often been his lot to witness scenes of distress, of acute bodily suffering, and deep
affliction; but such unalleviated wretchedness, such hopeless misery as he beheld in that hospital, never before had he seen,
nor could he have imagined that it existed in this colony. The Coolies in it were not suffering merely from sores; they
had mortified ulcers, their flesh rotting on their bones, their toes dropping off. Some of them were in a dangerous state
from fever, and all were in the utmost despondency." And this appalling statement was corroborated by the Commissioners
in their official report. On Belle-Vue, they say, "twenty have died from diseases contracted in the colony,
and twenty-nine are now in a wretched state from ulcers, many of whom, in all probability, will die; and should they survive,
they will (some of them) be rendered unfit to support themselves, from the loss of their toes, and part of their feet
-- the sick-house presents a spectacle pitiable to behold. These poor people are in a state of great misery, and from
whatever cause it may have sprung, the effects are so appalling, that humanity calls loudly for the interference of
the executive." The consequence of this appeal was, after considerable opposition from Mr. MATTHEWS, the attorney
of the estate, and Dr. NIMMO, the medical attendant, they were removed to the colonial hospital, and placed under the
humane care, and skilful treatment of Dr. SMITH, the physician of the establishment.
It is to be regretted that Mr. COLVILLE, to whom the government imparted
the information relative to the treatment of the Coolies on his estate, instead of expressing his warm indignation against
the brutal system of oppression practised there by his agents, should have sought to extenuate, if not to justify, their criminal
deeds. (Vide Par. Pap. No. 463, p.98) But that gentleman should be told that when his portion of the Coolies arrived
in Demerara, there was no building prepared for their reception; that the sick-house was emptied of its patients, to make
room for them; and that in four rooms in that sick-house, the whole eighty-two Coolies were thrust, men, women, and children,
without regard to delicacy or decency, together; and kept in that loathsome den for nearly three months, before a shed could
be erected for their shelter! And let that gentleman be told also, that the whip, the bamboo, and the dungeon, were constantly
resorted to, to compel labour or to gratify revenge. And further, he should know that the schoolmaster BERKLEY, who
first hinted the cruelties that were practiced on miserable Coolies, after having his stock wantonly killed, has been driven
from the estate, without payment of the miserable sum due to him for salary; and is now the victim of a most bitter persecution
on the part of every manager in the district! Happily, however, for the cause of humanity, and probably, for the interests
of Mr. COLVILLE, the atrocious conduct of his agents has been partly made known; but who shall say that similar atrocities
may not again be perpetrated? There are not always to be found in the colony, men who have the courage to expose and denounce
the evils which exist. The last report of the special magistrate, dated 1st November, 1839, states the mortality to have been,
up to that period, twenty-two males, besides the murdered girl!
Let us now take a glance at Vreed-en-Hoop, the property of
Mr. GLADSTONE. We find, that in consequence of a communication made to the Governor that the Coolies on that estate
were ill-treated, an inquiry was ordered into the circumstances. The result of the first inquiry is summed up by Mr. YOUNG,
the Government Secretary, in a letter, addressed, by order of his Excellency, to JAMES STUART, Esq., the attorney to
the property; and is as follows:--
Government Secretary's Office, 2nd May, 1839
. A report having reached the Governor that the Coolies
of Vreed-en- Hoop had been flogged, and that two of them, in consequence of ill-treatment, had fled from the estate, and had
since perished in the neighbourhood of Mahaica, his Excellency directed a court of inquiry, consisting of three stipendiary
magistrates, to be assembled for the purpose of ascertaining the truth of the report. I am now directed to recapitulate to
you the facts elicited by the investigation; to inform you of the ultimate measures which have been determined on; and to
suggest to you such a course of proceeding, on your part, towards the individuals whose conduct is implicated in these transactions,
as, in his Excellency's opinion, humanity towards the Coolies, and a due regard of the reputation of the colony at large,
render just and necessary.
As you were yourself present at the court of inquiry,
it is not, perhaps, necessary to set forth in detail the whole of the evidence, (of which, however, you may obtain a perusal
at this office, should you desire it); in the margin will be found the names of the witnesses who speak to the facts which
I am now to recapitulate.
"The Coolies were locked up in the sick-house; saw them
the day after they were flogged; their backs were swollen; they were in the sick-house for two days after the flogging." --
"When they run away and are stubborn, they get two or
three lickings; they are flogged with a cat-o'-nine-tails; they were tied with a rope round the post, and were licked on the
bare back." -- Alexander.
"They appeared to me as severely punished as my matties
were, during the apprenticeship; when flogged, they were flogged with a cat, the same as was formerly in use; they brought
all from the sick house together, and took them to the negro-yard to be flogged; they were tied to a post." -- Rose.
"The Coolies were locked up in the sick house, and next
morning they were flogged with a cat-o'-nine-tails; the manager was in the house, and they flogged the people under his house;
they were tied to the post of the gallery of the manager's house; I cannot tell how many licks; he gave them enough. I saw
blood. When they were flogged at manager's house, they rubbed salt pickle on their backs."-- Elizabeth Caesar.
"I think two of the Coolies were brought into the hospital
to have their backs dressed; I rubbed them with camphor and high wines; the backs were bruised. The first time seven Coolies
were locked up; the second, six Coolies."-- Betsey Ann, Sick Nurse.
"Their hands were tied behind their backs; they were
beaten with a rope; ten times they lick them; heard them complain to manager; Mr. Jacobs lick Modun every day. When licked,
they put the breast to the post with hands stretched out; some tie the hands before, some behind. Coolies run away because
they are licked." -- Narrain.
His Excellency desires me to observe, that although some
of the other witnesses, as well as those whose names are mentioned in the margin, in other parts of their evidence, give a
description, perhaps, somewhat less revolting than that contained in the foregoing extracts, yet the fact of flogging and
confinement having been inflicted is proved beyond all dispute.
The minutes of the court have been referred to Stipendiary
Justice Coleman (who was not on the commission of inquiry) in a letter, of which I annex a copy, and you will perceive that
he has been instructed to adjudicate upon the cases, or to refer them, for trial, before the Supreme Court of Criminal Justice,
as may be most consistent with his own judgement, and the laws in force.
His Honour the Sheriff of Berbice, who is acquainted
with the Hindostanee language, has been summoned from Berbice, in order to assist in interpreting the complaints of the Coolies,
and for the purpose of conveying to them an explanation of the punishment which Captain Coleman is enabled, by law, to award
against any one who shall, in future, at any time, commit similar outrages on their persons. His Excellency confidently expects
your entire concurrence in the above measures, for the punishment of the wrongs these strangers have hiterto sustained; and,
under this expectation, I am to suggest to you, that, although a legal tribunal can visit Mr. Sanderson and Mr. Jacobs (either
or both, as the evidence may appear to the court to justify such a sentence) with punishment for what the Coolies of Vreed-en-Hoop
have, hitherto, wrongly suffered, yet, that the most efficient protection, for the future, can best be afforded, by your dismissal
of Messrs. Sanderson and Jacobs.
Mr. Sanderson, as the resident manager, either did know,
or ought to have known of these transactions; under the most charitable supposition, his ignorance must be esteemed highly
Of Mr. Jacobs' unfitness to retain any authority over
the Coolies of Vreed-en-Hoop, there cannot be a doubt; and it is reported that, pending the investigation, he brutally assaulted
one of them, and that he is, at this moment, on his trial, before Stipendiary Magistrate Mure, for the offence. It has also
been reported to the Governor, that the wages due to the Coolies, are paid to the interpreter Jacobs, on their behalf, a practice
which his Excellency considers may have been a source of discontent. I have, &c.,
(Signed) H.E.F. YOUNG,
James Stuart, Esq., Government Secretary.
of Plantation Vreed-en-Hoop.
To this communication, the attorney sent a scornful reply, and refused to
accede to his Excellency's request. The investigation, however, led to the trial and conviction of JACOBS for assault
on the persons of five Coolies, and the sentence of the court, was a fine of £20 sterling, and one month's imprisonment in
George-town Jail. Subsequently to this, JACOBS was again tried for another assault on a Coolie, and fined 30 shillings
by the Court. A third assault was proved against him, and a fine of forty shillings inflicted. These convictions were deemed
sufficient by those who originated the proceedings, and to establish the fact, that as part of the regular discipline of the
estate, the wretched Coolies were most cruelly whipped and injured. But this was only part of the system: JACOBS was
also proved to have mulcted the Coolies of their money, which the wretched creatures paid to him instead of a threatened beating.
A list of thirty-one cases is given in the report of the Commissioners, who were thus robbed of their hard earned money to
the extent of 28½ dollars at various times. The amount of punishment inflicted on the Coolies first and last, must have been
enormous, and yet because there was no legal evidence to prove that SANDERSON, the general manager of the estate, had
personally directed the flogging, either in the house or in the field, he was retained in his situation.
To suppose that for twelve months, these things could have occurred under
his own eye, and he not know it, must be to disqualify him for the situation he holds, and ought of itself to have been a
sufficient reason for his immediate dismissal from office. But he is too good a manager, in the colonial sense of the term,
to be lost, so he still represents his wealthy master on plantation Vreed- en-Hoop. And now what does Mr. GLADSTONE
do, when put in possession of the documents, forwarded to him by the government, containing the melancholy details referred
to? Why, like Mr. COLVILLE, he has not one word of commiseration to expend on the Coolies; but a great deal of indignation
against Messrs. SCOBLE and ANSTIE, to whom reference no doubt is made, in the following passage: -- "The people
continued cheerful and contented; but evil disposed persons have recently gone among them, and have endeavoured
to create a bad and dissatisfied feeling, in which they have partially succeeded, as it is at present too generally the case
in England, where similar effects are produced by the Chartists and others, among the lower
classes."-- (Vide letter dated 3rd August, 1839.) Perhaps, as the letter which contains this paragraph, was addressed
to the Marquess of NORMANBY, and to his noble colleague in office, Lord JOHN RUSSELL; so that Mr. SCOBLE, and
his friend, Mr. ANSTIE, find themselves in grand company indeed, and, of course, will thank Mr. GLADSTONE for
the honour done them!
The number reported dead on Vreed-en-Hoop, on the 1st of November,
1839, was nine, and two absent, who, no doubt, perished in the bush at Mahaica, eleven in all; and thirteen were then on the
sick list. The general treatment of the Coolies on Vriedestein, has been the same as on Vreed-en-Hoop, and the
mortality greater, in proportion to the number settled there, viz.: eight males, to the 1st of November, 1839, when there
were five on the sick list. The original number placed the two estates, the latter end of May, 1838, was 104, and the mortality
has been nineteen in a period of eighteen months, in addition to the fourteen who perished on the voyage from Calcutta, and
who formed part of the original number of 170 shipped on the joint account of Messrs. GLADSTONE and MOSS.
In reviewing the foregoing facts, one cannot fail being struck, first, by
the circumstance, that so much oppression, cruelty, and misery, should have escaped the attention of managers, attorneys,
magistrates, and even the executive itself, for nearly twelve-months; and that it should have been left to a visitor to the
colony, to expose successfully the horrid truths which are now submitted to public attention; secondly, that these things
should have occurred on the estates of two men of princely wealth, who affirm that they gave their agents the most positive
instructions -- that the Coolies entrusted to them should be treated with the greatest imaginable tenderness and care! Thirdly,
that when the facts of the inhuman treatment of the Coolie labourers are brought to the knowledge of these gentlemen, they
either affect to palliate or deny them, or to justify their agents; and to characterise those who have been providentially
the means of dragging the offenders to justice, as among the most infamous men; and, fourthly, that they should have had the
audacity to appeal to the Government of this country, to allow them, and others like them, to introduce, ad libitum,
as many thousands of the natives of Hindostan, as will enable them effectually to coerce the labour of the negro freemen,
and still further, to enrich themselves at the expense of the liberty and happiness of mankind!
On plantation Highbury, notwithstanding the favourable reports
of the treatment of the Coolies there, the mortality has been very great, viz. seventeen males and one female, and twelve
reported on the sick list, the 1st of November, 1839. From this estate, as well as those already mentioned, the Coolies have
repeatedly run away. On one occasion, sometime in April or May last year, upwards of twenty of them cut their way, due east,
for many miles through the bush, in the hope of reaching Bengal! When in the presence of those they know to be their friends,
and really interested in their welfare, they give full vent to their feelings, and exhibit their real sentiments, and with
tears and clasped hands, and in broken English, entreat to be sent back to their native country and to their kindred from
whom they have been wantonly separated.
On plantation Anna Regina, the deaths have been two; and on
plantation Waterloo, five are reported dead, and three on the sick list, on the 1st of November, 1839. Thus, then, it appears
from official documents, that out of the 437 Coolies shipped at Calcutta, eighteen died on the voyage to Demerara; and that
out of the 419 settled on the various estates referred to in May, 1838, sixty-four have died from various diseases, two have
perished in the bush, and one has been murdered; making a total of sixty-seven deaths in eighteen months, being about one-sixth
of the whole! It may be added that there is no legal provision made for the restoration of such of the Coolies as may survive
the period of their Indentures to India!
6. MEASURES OF THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT:
In consequence of the facts
brought to light in early part of the year 1838, as to the true character of the Order in Council of the 12th July, 1837,
and the public indignation felt at the proceedings of the planters, in Mauritius and elsewhere, and their agents, and kidnappers
in India, the Government declared its intention on the 20th July, of that year, to rescind the obnoxious Order in Council;
and Sir John Hobhouse stated, in the course of last session of Parliament, that not only had Her Majesty's ministers put an
end to the traffic in Coolies, but that the Governor-General of India had anticipated them, and had issued a prohibition against
the further exportation of Hill Coolies. The humanity and justice of these measures were not less honourable to the Government
than they were satisfactory to the public.
Notwithstanding the Order in Council of the
12th July, 1837, admitting the introduction into British Guiana of Hill Coolies, under indentures of five years, had been
rescinded, the proprietary body in the early part of last year, obtained a vote by means of the financial representatives
of the colony, seconded by the zealous exertions of the governor, of the enormous sum of £400,000 sterling, to be devoted
exclusively to the increase of their stock of labourers; and, subsequently, passed an ordinance, similar to the Colonial Passengers'
Bill, now under the consideration of the House of Commons, with the view of securing the concurrence of the Home Government,
in their gigantic immigration scheme.
Their object was, not merely to draw labourers from the smaller West India
colonies, and from Europe, but principally from Africa and Hindostan. Hence they had actually provided for the support of
a resident agent in Calcutta, and for another on the western coast of Africa! This scheme was recommended to the acceptance
of the Home Government, with all the zeal of a partizan by the executive; but it did not meet with the anticipated success.
Lord NORMANBY, in a dispatch, dated 15th August, 1839, which did him honour, conveyed the intelligence to the colony,
that her Majesty had been pleased to disallow the immigration ordinance, and, in reference to that part of it which proposed
to import Africans and Hill Coolies, observes:-- “With regard to the introduction of labourers from India, more
than enough has already passed to render her Majesty's government decidedly hostile to every such project, and the laws now
in force in different presidencies would effectually prevent the execution of this part of the scheme. We are not
less opposed to the plan of recruiting the negro population of the West India colonies from Africa. No precaution which
has been, or which could be devised would prevent such a measure from giving a stimulus to the internal slave-trade on that
continent, or from bringing discredit on the sincerity of the efforts made by this nation for the suppression of that system
of guilt and misery." On what grounds then, we ask, does the government now propose to relax the prohibition on the
export of Coolies in the case of Mauritius? Are the planters of that colony more worthy of the confidence than those of Guiana?
Are they more honourable and humane? We assert not: then why the preference?
8. SUBSEQUENT MOVEMENTS OF THE PLANTERS.
The restless activity
of this powerful body, supported as it is by a corrupt and venal press, in the colonies, and by a well-paid band of agents
in this country, was never more manifest than at the present moment, or directed to more unworthy objects. Convicted again,
and again, of the grossest mis-statements respecting the conduct of the free negros -- the state of the crops -- and the general
prosperity of the colonies, they continue to assert the absolute ruin of these possessions of the Crown, and call upon the
Government to give them laws to coerce labour under a state of freedom, and to place the administration of the laws entirely
in their own hands by the removal of the Stipendiary Magistrates; and to allow them to import, to an unlimited extent, and
under contracts of service for five years, the natives of India, that they may be able to reduce the wages of their late slaves
to the minimum point, and thus force them, once more, under their cruel and despotic sway.
In consequence of their exertions and misrepresentations, there is the most
imminent danger at the present moment, that the Coolie slave-trade will be revived, and that the measures for which the abolitionists
of this country have striven so long, and so zealously, will give place to others of the most objectionable kind. Already
has it been announced in parliament, by LORD JOHN> RUSSELL, that the restriction imposed on the exportation of Hill
Coolies, so far as they relate to Mauritius, are to be abandoned, and the intimation has been received with unbounded joy
by the felon-planters of that colony. In the papers, which have just been printed by order of the House of Commons, we learn
by a letter, dated Mauritius, the 11th of June, 1839, that the planters "yesterday received the gratifying intelligence, that
SIR WILLIAM NICOLAY submitted a despatch to the Council here, by which it appears that the ministry apprise him of
a bill which would be laid before Parliament, authorising the introduction of Coolies, and permitting them to engage
for FIVE YEARS. "This intelligence," it is added, "has spread universal joy throughout the colony, and `nous sommes saurés,'
escapes the lips of the least sanguine!" Whatever might have been the intention of the ministers of the Crown, they were not
able, during the last session, to carry such a measure, neither the house nor the country would have permitted such an iniquitous
scheme to be carried into effect. One fact is clear, however, that the admirable Order in Council of the 7th of September,
1838, regulating contracts in the Crown colonies, and which limited their duration to one year, and provided
that where the labourers had been "induced to enter into the same by ANY FRAUD, MISAPPREHENSION, MISREPRESENTATION, OR
CONCEALMENT," the same should be void; and which further required, that all contracts, to be valid, must henceforth be
made, not at Calcutta and elsewhere, but in the colonies to which the labourers might resort, in the presence of the proper
authorities, and under the forms therein set forth, was to be set aside in Mauritius, within a few months after it had gone
into effect! And now what the Government dared not, or could not do last session, they propose to do this: Lord JOHN RUSSELL,
will relax the restrictions on this infamous traffic in the persons of men, and throw open India, once more, to the Mauritians,
who have ever shown themselves as destitute of every human sympathy, as they have proved themselves regardless of all laws
human and divine!
In the papers which have been recently laid before parliament, which embrace
but a very small part of the proceedings relative to the Hill Coolies in Mauritius, and are consequently extremely defective
in the information they contain, will be found enough to convince the most sceptical of the inhumanity and wickedness of the
doings of the Mauritian planters. The whole system has been characterized by the grossest fraud and cruelty, and has been
sustained by the most infamous tyranny and oppression. How were the Coolies in Mauritius obtained previously to the restrictions
being laid on? Mr. F.R. PRINSEP, secretary to the government of India, in an official report on the subject, states:
"The methods adopted for procuring labourers to engage for service in colonies and places beyond sea, are productive of serious
frauds, and have led to much oppression, and," he further observes, "the system is a source of injury and abuse, rather than
of benefit to the labourers, in the form in which it is at present carried on." The governor, Sir WILLIAM NICOLAY,
in referring to the same subject in a despatch to Lord GLENELG, dated 21st May, 1839, observes, "That very nefarious
practices have been resorted to, in many instances, in order to procure labourers for embarkation for this island,
is beyond all doubt," and Mr. Special Justice ANDERSON asserts in one of his letters to the governor, that "many of
them have actually been KIDNAPPED from their own country, which," he adds, "they have ALL been induced to leave, under
circumstances of GROSS FRAUDS." To go into the history of all those "frauds," would be to detail circumstances, second
only in atrocity to those connected with the African slave-trade. The fact is established beyond dispute, that multitudes
have been kidnapped -- forced into prison-depôts until the Mauritian slavers were ready to receive them-hurried on board-put
under hatches and guards-robbed and pillaged of the advances made to them by the Maurtian agents in Calcutta
-- shipped in large numbers on board vessels, without the requisite accommodation, food, or medical attendance- brought under
the most fraudulent contracts to labour for years on scanty wages, and scanty fare-separated from their families and from
their homes-compelled to perform the hardest agricultural labour known, at the discretion of their masters and without the
protection of an upright, impartial, and efficient magistracy.
It is difficult to ascertain when the first shipment of Coolies to Mauritius
took place, or the exact number of them which has been, at various periods introduced. It appears that from the 1st of August,
1834, to the 24th October, 1838, there were received from Calcutta 13,243 Coolies, viz., 12,994 men; 198 women; and fifty-one
children. From the 1st June, 1837, to the 22nd June, 1838, there were shipped from Cochin 308 Coolies, supposed
to be all males. From the 1st June 1837, to 24th June, 1838, there were shipped from Pondicherry 5058 Coolies,
supposed to be all males. From the 1st June, 1837, to the 25th August, 1838, there were shipped from Rajahmundy
441 Coolies, viz., 434 men and seven women; making a total of 19,050 -- viz., 18,794 men, 205 women, and fifty-one children.
But it is quite clear, from the petition addressed to her Majesty by the planters and others, dated 18th May, 1839, that a
much larger number of Coolies had been introduced. The 100 persons who signed that document state, that within the "last four
years" they had "caused to be brought from British India upwards of 20,000 native Indian labourers." It is stated, by some
parties, that the whole number introduced cannot be much short of 30,000!
With respect to the mortality which has occurred since the arrival of the
Indians at Mauritius, the statements are various. It is, however, admitted by the Governor, to have been great, and to have
been "the source of deep regret" to him. In a despatch, dated 31st Dec., 1838, the Colonial Secretary (Mr. Dick) thus writes:--
"The mortality which has prevailed among the Indian labourers, as well on their voyage as after their arrival here,
and more particularly on some estates and establishments, has been the source of deep regret to his Excellency. Mr. Special
Justice Anderson, states the mortality of the Coolies in Port Louis, to amount to eight or nine per cent., per annum! This
would be equal to the destruction of the whole number of Coolies introduced every twelve years!!
Out of the 19,050 Coolies introduced, of which we have any account in the
papers before me, only 205 were women! It is easy to conceive, that, from this frightful disparity of the sexes, the most
horrible and revolting depravity and demoralization must necessarily ensue; and that such large masses of ignorant and degraded
beings must carry with them a most corrupting influence on others.
As to the general treatment of the Coolies in Mauritius, but one opinion
can be entertained by the friends of humanity. Independently of the evidence derived from private sources, on which implicit
reliance can be placed, which represents the state of the Coolies as deplorably wretched, and their hardships and sufferings
even greater than those endured, by the negroes when slaves, the fact of their having become the prey of the MAURITIAN
PLANTERS would be sufficient to justify the worst apprehensions that could be entertained on that point. One honest functionary
in Mauritius, Mr. Special Justice ANDERSON, has spoken out upon this point in opposition to those who would have us
believe that the Coolies in that colony are treated with "humanity and kindness;" and, we have no doubt, in opposition to
his own interests and personal ease and comfort. In his letters to Governor NICOLAY, dated the 19th and 30th of November,
1839, he states, that those whom he had examined in Port Louis, were "overworked," were subjected to severe "personal chastisement,"
were without proper shelter and "lodging accommodation," were deprived of necessary medical attendance and care when suffering
from disease, and in other ways seriously injured and abused, insomuch that he says, "it is a source of astonishment to me,
that any body of freemen, whatever may have been their former condition, should have borne, with the patience and forbearance
which the Indian labourers at Port Louis have displayed, the bitter disappointment which must have attended their introduction
into this island," and, he adds, "to induce them to come here, their ignorance is worked upon in India by the most
false and deceitful representations, and the robbery and pillage which has been practised on them at Calcutta, would scarcely
be credited, if the fact was not established by the most convincing testimony. They reach this colony after having been robbed
of six months pay, which is advanced, (or said to be advanced,) in India; and when here, their comfort is in every way neglected,
while they are compelled by the engagements to which their own ignorance, or the avarice of others have bound them, to toil
during five years for a recompense bearing no proportion to the work to which they are subjected, when compared with the common
estimation of the value of labour in this colony, or to the sum which they would earn if they had the free disposal of their
In view of these facts the writer of this article would, earnestly call on
every philanthropist in the kingdom, to use his utmost exertions and influence, in public and in private, to prevent the relaxation
of the restrictions to which reference has been made; and to urge on the government the paramount importance of maintaining,
in all its integrity, the Order in Council of the 7th September, 1838; and to demand that all the fraudulent contracts into
which the Coolies have been induced to enter, whether in Mauritius or Guiana, shall be immediately cancelled, and the unfortunate
victims of cupidity be permitted to return home. And that the parties whether in India, who have been guilty of entrapping
them into fraudulent contracts, or in the colonies, who have injured and oppressed them, shall be brought to condign punishment.
This would be a useful lesson to the planters. It would teach them to husband their own resources, and would procure for the
emancipated negroes the consideration and care which are their due, for so long as the planters in the British Colonies can
calculate upon the cultivation of their estates by the introduction of adult labourers, they will be as careless of the general
welfare of their peasantry, in future, as they have been reckless of the lives of their slaves in times past.
Note.-The Parliamentary Papers which should
be consulted on the subject, treated of in the foregoing statement, are as follows, viz., No. 180, 2nd March, 1838; No. 232,
in continuation; No. 463, 1839. Hill Coolies in British Guiana, No. 77, 1840, in continuation, and No. 58, 1840, Mauritius;
and to the information contained in these documents should be added, that which may be found in the columns of the British
Emancipator, from the 29th May to the 2nd October, 1839, and in Number 4, of the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Reporter,
dated 26th February, 1840.
P.S. Whilst the foregoing statement was passing through the press,
the Committee of the British and Foreign Anti-slavery Society presented a Memorial to Lord JOHN RUSSELL on the subject to
which it refers. The deputation who presented the Memorial to his Lordship, were as follows, viz.:-Sir CHARLES STYLE, Bart.,
M.P.; DANIEL O'CONNELL, Esq., M.P.; EDWARD BAINES, Esq., M.P.; Dr. HODGKIN, and Messrs. W. BALL, G. STACEY, H. TUCKETT, D.
TURNBULL, C.F. BROWN, J. BEAUMONT, R. RUSSELL, C. PHIPPS, JOHN SCOBLE, and J.H. TREDGOLD. In the interview had with his Lordship,
it was understood that the government would persevere in their intention of relaxing the restrictions on the exportation of
Coolies to Mauritius within certain limits. This is deeply to be regretted; let but the friends of humanity, however, be on
the alert, and the design may yet be defeated.
The following is a copy of the Memorial presented:--
To the Right Honorable Lord JOHN RUSSELL, M.P.,
Her Majesty's Principal Secretary of State for the Colonies.
THE COMMITTEE of the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery
Society, have learnt with deepest regret, that it is your Lordship's intention to recommend to the Queen in Council, to relax
the existing restrictions upon the exportation of Hill Coolies from Hindostan, so far as they affect Mauritius, and that initiative
measures have already been introduced to the attention of the House of Commons for the accomplishment of that purpose.
In approaching your Lordship, for the purpose of respectfully
submitting to your Lordship's consideration, the reasons which induced them to give to the contemplated measure, their most
earnest and determined opposition, the Committee beg to assure your Lordship, that they are governed only by a sincere desire
to secure the native Inhabitants of the East from injustice and oppression, and the recently emancipated Negroes in Mauritius,
the full enjoyment of that liberty which has been obtained for them at so costly a sacrifice to the British nation.
1. The Committee would remind your Lordship of the fact,
that the Mauritian Planters have always been conspicuous for their daring violation of the laws under which they are placed;
for their disloyalty to the Crown of these realms; and for their unwearied opposition to the humane measures of the Home Government,
intended for the benefit and protection of their late bondsmen, as a decisive proof that no confidence can be placed in their
good faith and honour, and that no substantial justice can be obtained at their hands for the Asiatic Labourer, or the emancipated
Negro; and they are further confirmed in this view of the case by the notorious fact, that for the most part, the Authorities
in Mauritius are influenced by the predominant party there, which is known to be hostile to British Laws and to British Rule,
and to be violently opposed to the full and fair development of the great measure of freedom lately bestowed on the Negroes.
2. The opposition to the facts which have come to their
knowledge, the Committee can place no reliance whatever on the general statements put forth by interested parties, representing
the Coolies at present in Mauritius, as happy in their condition, and as having no wish to change it. Independently of other
evidence, in their opinion, it is impossible to conceive, that these wretched persons can be contented with their lot, when
it is remembered that large numbers of them were conveyed to Mauritius, under the most fraudulent pretences;-without regard
to the equality of sexes, to the separation of families to their social elevation, or to their moral welfare, and forcibly
brought under contracts for labour, for long periods of time at the smallest rate of wages. And in their judgement also, it
would be contrary to the universal experience of mankind, to believe that they can be happy, when it is known, that the parties
who introduced them into that colony, were influenced only by the sordid purposes of gain, and by the avowed intention of
coercing the labour, and of keeping down the wages of the Negroes in a state of freedom.
3. As the Committee would earnestly deprecate the further
introduction of Hill Coolies into any of the emancipated colonies, as fraught with the most injurious consequences morally
as well as otherwise, to the existing labouring population, and as, therefore, calculated immeasurably to impede their advance
in civilization and religion; they would respectfully submit to your Lordship that, on this ground also, the Mauritian planters
are least of all fit to be entrusted with the care of the ignorant and degraded natives of Hindostan, inasmuch as they have
shown themselves not only utterly regardless of, but entirely opposed to the education of their late slaves in morals and
4. The Committee are firmly persuaded that the proposed
measure, instead of inducing the Mauritian planters to act upon just and equal laws, and to depend on the exercise of humane
treatment and good faith towards their present labourers, for the cultivation of their estates, will cause them to rely on
unjust and adventitious expedients for the accomplishment of their objects, and will have the effect of reviving the traffic
in the persons of men which no enactments in this country, however humanely intended, can prevent, or even control. It appears
also to the Committee, that the necessary consequence of the relaxation of the restrictions on the exportation of Coolies
to Mauritius, must lead to a similar measure in favour of British Guiana and Trinidad; an event, which they would greatly
deplore, as fatal to the interests of humanity and destructive of the hopes they have cherished in connection with the freedom
of the slave.
5. The pretence that the natives of India would be benefited
by the proposed measure, the Committee venture respectfully to deny. In order effectually to relieve the suffering and oppressed
Hindoos, they humbly conceive a series of enlightened, humane, and comprehensive laws must be substituted for those which
exist; and the present system of mis-government be entirely abandoned. All partial expedients to relieve the misery which
so extensively prevails in that vast country, can, in their judgement, only have the effect of retarding the introduction
of those searching reforms which the exigencies of the people, and the prosperity and security of the empire so immediately
and peremptorily require.
6. The distance of Mauritius from the controlling power
of the home government, and the consequent difficulty and delay in obtaining information relative to the evils which exist
in that colony, and of applying early and efficient remedies to them, has been felt by your lordship's predecessors in office;
whilst the signal success of the Mauritian planters, in carrying on their nefarious schemes in frustrating the measure of
government, and in displacing its officers and in obtaining an immense sum of money as compensation for slaves which had been
feloniously introduced, by means the most fraudulent, fully justify, in the opinion of the Committee, the alarm they feel
as to the consequences which will result from the projected measure.
7. For these reasons the Committee earnestly entreat
your Lordship, and your Lordship's colleagues in office, not to advise her Majesty, to sanction the relaxation of the restrictions
referred to, but to maintain them inviolate; and to order such measures to be immediately taken, as shall restore to their
families and to their homes, those wretched Coolies who have been fraudulently introduced into Mauritius, and are held to
service contrary to the Order in Council of the 7th September, 1828.
(Signed W. BALL,
Chairman of the Committee.
British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society,
27, New Broad Street, 28th
JOHNSTON & BARRETT, Printers, 13, Mark Lane.
Copy of letter from John Gladstone, Esq. to Messrs. Gillanders, Arbuthnot & Co.
Liverpool, 4 January 1836
I met with an accident here about three weeks ago, which confined me to the
house, from which I am now recovering, and hope in a few days to be able to return to Edinburgh; this will account to you
for using my son's pen for writing in place of my own.
I observe by a letter which he received a few days ago from Mr. Arbuthnot,
that he was sending a considerable number of a certain class of Bengalees, to be employed as labourers, to the Mauritius.
You will probably be aware that we are very particularly situated with our Negro apprentices in the West Indies, and that
it is a matter of doubt and uncertainty how far they may be induced to continue their services on the plantations after their
apprenticeship expires in 1840. This to us is a subject of great moment and deep interest in the colonies of Demerara and
Jamaica. We are therefore most desirous to obtain and introduce labourers from other quarters, and particularly from climates
something similar in their nature. Our plantation labour in the field is very light; much of it, particularly in Demerara,
is done by task-work, which for the day is usually completed by two o'clock in the afternoon, giving to the people all the
rest of the day to themselves.
They are furnished with comfortable dwellings and abundance of food; plantations,
the produce of the colony, being the most common, and preferred generally by them; but they have also occasionally rice, Indian
corn, meal, ship's biscuits, and a regular supply of salt cod-fish, as well as the power of fishing for themselves in the
trenches. They have likewise an annual allowance of clothing sufficient and suitable for the climate; there are schools on
each estate for the education of the children, and the instruction of their parents in the knowledge of religious duties.
Their houses are comfortable, and it may be fairly said they pass their time
agreeably and happily. Marriages are encouraged, and when improper conduct on the part of the people takes place, there are
public stipendiary magistrates who take cognizance of such, and judge between them and their employers. They have regular
medical attendance whenever they are indisposed, at the expense of their employers. I have been particular in describing the
present situation and occupation of our people, to which I ought to add, that their employment in the field is clearing the
land with the hoe, and, where required, planting fresh canes. In the works a portion are occupied in making sugar, and in
the distilleries, in which they relieve each other, which makes their labour light. It is of great importance to us to endeavour
to provide a portion of other labourers, whom we might use as a set-off, and, when the time for it comes, make us, as far
as it is possible, independent of our negro population; and it has occurred to us that a moderate number of Bengalees, such
as you were sending to the Isle of France, might be very suitable for our purpose; and on this subject I am now desirous to
obtain all the information you can possibly give me. The number I should think of taking and sending by one vessel direct
from Calcutta to Demerara would be about 100; they ought to be young, active, able-bodied people. It would be desirable that
a portion of them, at least one-half, should be married, and their wives disposed to work in the field as well as they themselves.
We should require to bind them for a period not less than five years or more
than seven years. They would be provided with comfortable dwellings, food, and medical assistance; they would also, if required,
be provided with clothing, or wages to provide themselves, which, for the able-bodied, would not exceed four dollars per month,
and in that proportion for females and their children as they grow up; a free passage would be given to them to Demerara,
where they would be divided, and 20 to 30 placed on one plantation. I do not know whether the class referred to are likely
to be of a particular caste, and under the influence of certain religious feelings, and also restricted to any particular
kind of food; if so, we must endeavor to provide for them accordingly. You will particularly oblige me by giving me, on receipt,
all the information you possibly can on this interesting subject; for, should it be of an encouraging character, I should
immediately engage for one of our ships to go to Calcutta, and take a limited number to Demerara, and from thence return here.
On all other subjects I refer you to letters from the house; and always am,
Dear Sirs, yours truly
Since writing so far it has occurred to me, that in bringing Lascars from
India security is required that they shall be returned to the country. I do not know whether this would extend to any particular
caste being brought to the West Indies, or whether it is applicable in the instance you have mentioned of those sent to the
Mauritius. Several importations from the Madeiras and Azores have taken place into Demerara, and so far with good effects
on the minds of the blacks.
SOURCE: Parliamentary Papers, LII No. 180, 1837-38. MF41.413-414.
Copy of letter from Messrs. Gillanders, Arbuthnot & Co. to John Gladstone, Esq.
Calcutta, 6 June 1836.
We beg to acknowledge your letter of the 4th January, referring to your desire
to procure natives from this part of the world to work upon your estates in the West Indies, and in some degree render you
independent of the Negro population at the termination of the present system; and it is with regret that at the time the letter
under reply was written you were suffering from an accident, the effects of which, however, we hope ere this are entirely
Within the last two years upwards of 2,000 natives have been sent from this
to the Mauritius, by several parties here, under contracts of engagement for five years. The contracts, we believe, are all
of a similar nature; and we enclose copy of one, under which we have sent 700 or 800 men to the Mauritius; and we are not
aware that any greater difficulty would present itself in sending men to the West Indies, the natives being perfectly ignorant
of the place they agree to go to, or the length of the voyage they are undertaking. The tribe that is found to suit best in
the Mauritius is from the hills to the north of Calcutta, and the men of which are all well-limbed and active, without prejudices
of any kind, and hardly any ideas beyond those of supplying the wants of nature, arising it would appear, however, more from
want of opportunity than from any natural deficiency, of which there is no indication in their countenance, which is often
one of intelligence. They are also very docile and easily managed, and appear to have no local ties, nor any objection to
leave their country.
In the event of your determining to introduce these people in the West Indies
and sending a ship for them, a contract such as the one enclosed, if approved of, or modified or enlarged as you may think
necessary, may be entered into with any number of men you would wish us to procure, and this contract upon landing the men
in the West Indies and being registered at the Police-office, would, we conclude, give your managers sufficient power to insist
upon their performing any reasonable task they may be set to. Such has been the case in the Mauritius, and in one or two instances
where the men have been idle or lazy, they have been punished by the competent authority. It would perhaps avoid after-discussion
were the currency in which the men will be paid, and its equivalent value with the rupee, stated in the contract. The best
period for procuring and shipping the men is in our cold season, between the months of November and April, and the instruction
to procure the men should precede the ship about two months, to give time to collect them; we should of course not be able
to find a cargo for the ship, but some morghy rice might be sent, which with a little care would keep for three years.
The security taken by government here upon taking natives to England is to
protect the East India Company from loss in the event of natives being left in England without the means of subsistence or
of finding their way back, in which case the Company are bound to provide for them until a passage to India can be procured,
but no guarantee is required upon sending men elsewhere; as however the colonial government will probably make the importer
enter into an agreement that these men shall be no burden to the colony, a provision is made in the contract to withhold so
much of their allowances as will pay their passage back, should it be found necessary to discharge them before their period
of service has expired.
We fear we should not find so many as half of the number provided with wives;
as, however, our friends at the Isle of France have always discouraged the men being so accompanied, we are not very well
able to say how far the women might be induced to go.
Our letters from the Isle of France speak very favourably of the men hitherto
sent, many of whom our friends write to us have their task completed by two o'clock, and go home, leaving the Negroes in the
We are not aware that we can say any more on this subject, unless we add,
that in inducing these men to leave their country, we firmly believe we are breaking no ties of kindred, or in any way acting
a cruel part.
The Hill tribes, known by the name of Dhangurs, are looked down upon by the
more cunning natives of the plains, and they are always spoken of as more akin to the monkey than the man. They have no religion,
no education, and, in their present state, no wants beyond eating, drinking, and sleeping; and to procure which they are willing
to labour. In sending men to such a distance, it would of course be necessary to be more particular in selecting them, and
some little expense would be incurred, as also some trouble; but to aid any object of interest to you, we should willingly
give our best exertions in any manner likely to be of service.
We are, &c.
Gillanders, Arbuthnot & Co.
P.S.-- You will observe, upon reading over the form of our contract,
that it is registered in our Police-office, and authenticated by one of the magistrates, in whose presence the document is
signed, after the nature of it has been explained to the parties in their own language.
(signed) G., A.& Co.
SOURCE: Parliamentary Papers, LII No.232, 1837-38. MF41.413-14
Copy Form of Contract
Between the undersigned _______________ acting on behalf of _____________
of Mauritius, and the natives whose names are hereunto affixed, the following agreement has been entered into by the several
parties binding themselves to the observance of the conditions thereof:
1. The natives agree to proceed to the Isle of France, to work as labourers
there, upon a sugar estate, the property of _________________ and to remain there, if required, for the time of five years.
2. The passage of the natives to the Mauritius shall be paid by ______________who
shall also provide a passage again to this country, at the end of five years, for each native who may then wish to return;
but if any individual, from any cause, should be discharged or leave the employment of before the expiration of five years,
such individual shall have no claim on him for a passage.
3. The pay of the natives shall be fixed at the rate of five rupees per month
for each man. The labour required from them will be that of digging holes, weeding canes, working in the sugar-house, repairing
roads and bridges, or otherwise making themselves useful, according to their ability, as may order them; the quantity of daily
labour required from each to be fixed by the manager of the property; the pay of one sirdar shall be fixed at seven rupees
per month, and that of one mate six rupeess, and boys at three rupees per month.
4. As _________________ must be responsible to government that the nativess
shall not be a burden to the colony, in the event of their being discharged or leaving their employments, one rupee per month
shall be retained from the pay of each individual, until there shall be a sufficient sum to provide a passage for each to
Calcutta; should no such contingency take place, the money shall be restored at the end of five years.
5. In addition to the pay as above fixed, food and clothing shall be supplied
to each as follows -- Fourteen chettacks of rice (about 2lbs.), two ditto of dholl*, two ounces of salt, and some oil and
tamarind, daily; and annually for each, clothing as follows; two dhooties, two blankets, one jacket, and one cap.
6. Each individual shall receive six months pay in advance, for which he
shall give an acknowledgement here; their pay to commence from the date of their going on board the ship.
7. The nature of this agreement (which shall be registered at the police)
is such, that each native is individually responsible for the observance of its conditions by every one whose mark it bears;
and it is further agreed, that while in hospital, from sickness or any other cause, the pay is stopped during such time.
* Something like dried split peas
SOURCE: Parliamentary Papers, LII No. 180, 1837-38. MF41.413-14
From the British Emancipator of the 9 January 1839
I SEE the British public has been deceived with the idea that the Coolies
are doing "well;" such is not the fact; the poor friendless creatures are miserably treated, at least I can speak confidently
of plantation Bellvue. On this estate they have made two attempts to escape, as they say, to go to Calcutta. In the first,
22 succeeded by night to cross the river, landing on the opposite shore; they attempted to explore the woods, but after undergoing
much fatigue and hunger, they were retaken at the back of plantation Herstelling, and conveyed again to the estate. In the
last attempt they were discovered by the watch of the night, and driven back. I saw a gang of them last week in custody of
the police, who were taking them to the public buildings; their offence I did not learn. I inquired of Mr. Berkeley, who is
a teacher on the place, respecting food; he said they had enough of rice, and I think "fat" or lard. Deaths, he said, more
than ten have died on this place, Bellevue, and the manager (Russell) refuses to give a rag of clothes to bury them in. I
had one of these Coolies in my own place, who is capable of saying a few words in English; he told me, "Russell no good; Coolie
sick salt, salt no more." He was all but naked; and a friend present gave him a few old raiments, which seemed highly to please
him. They are paid here with the Company's rupees, five rupees a month. Is not this scandalous? They have been offered by
the merchants two bits a piece for them. I do not believe they can get its value in the colony. Ought not the planters to
be compelled to give their value in Demerara silver currency? I have also heard that two from Gladstone's estate escaped through
the bush, and were captured by Captain Falant, at Fort Island, in the Essequibo River, and brought back to the plantation.
Surely these things are far frombeing "well;" the one alluded to above told me, "Calcutta better."
SOURCE: Parliamentary Papers, XXXIX NO. 463, 1839. MF42.266-67
Copy of Letter from Andrew Colvile, Esq., to the Right
Honourable Henry Labouchere.
9, Fenchurch-buildings, 29 July 1839.
My dear Sir,
I have to acknowledge the receipt of the papers relating to the state of
the coolies on Bellevue estate, which I have read with attention.
In the absence of that further information which may be expected by the next
packet, I do not feel competent to form a decided opinion upon the medical treatment of the patients; but I understand, from
a gentleman who has recently arrived from the colony, and who was there during the investigation of the 9th March, that Dr.
Nimmo complains of the evil effects of an order issued by the late Governor, Sir J.C. Smith, declaring that, according to
the construction of the Abolition Act, neither the manager nor the medical attendant on an estate were at liberty to confine
the sick to the wards of the hospital. The consequences of this are stated to be the absence of everything like hospital regulations,
and great difficulty in inducing the sick to follow out any regular course of treatment, either in point of medicine, food,
or regimen; and, if this be so, I am glad to learn that the poor people have been removed to the public hospital in George
Town, where, I presume, they will be subject to proper hospital regulations. I have learnt farther, from the same gentleman,
that the assault of which I regret to find Dr. Nimmo guilty, arose from this state of things: I am told that, upon visiting
the estate, he met one of the patients to whose sores he had applied a certain dressing. Upon examining him he found that
not only had he left the hospital in disregard of his advice, but he had removed the medical dressing, and had applied one
of his own. In his irritation Dr. Nimmo, very improperly, no doubt, struck him a single blow with his riding cane, and desired
him to go back to the hospital, and have his wound properly dressed.
With respect to the more serious assaults by the interpreter, I regret both
that this should have happened, and that the necessity for his services should have saved the individual from part of the
punishment awarded to him; but I cannot omit to observe, with reference to the memorandum dated 14th May 1839, and signed
H.E.F. Young, that the declaration of the interpreter there referred to was made by him in a private examination, when anxious
to bring forward everything that might extenuate his offence, and justify his release from confinement; that he was wholly
silent upon this point when confronted with Mr. Russell on his trial; and that upon the trial his want of veracity was proved
by his denial of having confessed to Mr. Russell that he had beaten the coolie. When I oppose to this declaration, so made
by the interpreter, the denial upon oath, by Mr. Russell, of his having ever authorized him to beat the coolies, I cannot
consider the interpreter entitled to much credit.
With respect to any suspicion which may exist of want of care on the part
of the manager, it should not be forgotten that the extreme jealousy exercised against everything like restraint or coercion
of the people, by the manager of an estate, would render it difficult, or rather impossible, for him to enforce that cleanliness
and early attention to the extraction of the chigoes, which, if it had been adopted, would have prevented the bad sores, with
which so many of the coolies have been unhappily afflicted.
I take the liberty to enclose extracts from my letters to my agent, containing
the instructions which I have from time to time given regarding the coolies. If you will be kind enough to take the trouble
to read them, I hope you will consider that I have not been deficient in taking precautionary measures for their proper care
and comfort; though I sincerely lament the extent of the mortality and sickness, from whatever causes they may prove, upon
a minute and careful investigation, to have arisen.
I have, &c.
(signed) A. Colvile.
SOURCE: Parliamentary Papers, XXXIX, NO. 463, 1839. MF42.266-67
Chartists and Abolitionists
This reference from Colvile refers to the Chartist movement which demanded
universal male suffrage, ballot voting, annual parliaments and equal representation, and an end to property requirements for
members of Parliament. In 1838, with the publication of the People's Charter, this movement had considerable strength among
the working class throughout Great Britain. The connection between chartists and abolitionists varied between antagonism and
support. On occasion, chartists had disrupted anti-slavery meetings to bring awareness to their issues. Anti-slavery movements
were seen to be strongest among the middle class, and chartists voiced the opinion that the abolitionists cared more for the
black slave than the working poor in Britain. However, while some antagonism existed, both movements shared a similar philosophy,
and both causes shared members. For instance, Joseph Sturge, one of the founders of the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society,
was also involved with the Chartist movement.
Sir John Cam Hobhouse
Lord Broughton served as president of the board of control for India from
1835 to 1841 and again from 1846 to 1852. During the early establishment of the indenture system Sir Hobhouse was not opposed
to the scheme, and had replied to Gladestone that the Indian Government would not interfere with his plans.
A member of the Whig party, John Russell had become head of the Colonial
Office in September 1839 from Lord Normanby. He believed that while the export of labour to British Guiana had been a failure,
sufficiently stringent regulations should protect Indians going to Mauritius under a one year contract of indenture. This
belief was based on the opinion that coolies travelling to Mauritius would receive higher wages and better conditions than
what were available in India.