Speech delivered at the First Annual Meeting of the British India
Society, held at Freemason's Hall, London
, July 6, 1840.
In presenting a resolution relating to the effect of the cultivation of cotton in British India
upon slavery in the United States
, Mr. Phillips
It is now ten years since the friends of the negro in America
first put forth the demand for the unconditional abolition of slavery.
They thought they would have nothing more to do than to show that emancipation would be safe, that it would be just; and having proved that, that it would, in such a liberty-loving country, at once be cordially and willingly acceded to in every State from Maine
; but at the end of the long period of ten years they have done almost nothing.
Had it not been for their perseverance and zeal, the more devoted because of the difficulties they had met with, long, long ago they would have been put down, they must have folded their arms in despair, and have given up all hope of bloodless emancipation.
When they heard of the British India
Society and its objects, the news burst upon their ear, and was as startling and as grateful as must have been the first cry of land to Columbus
when he was plunged almost in despair.
[Cheers.] They through it saw again a peaceful hope for the slave, and then every friend of abolition rallied round it, and
placed their plan prominently before the country.
Many at first doubted: they deemed it but one more of the many fables to which India
had given rise; they deemed it a very fiction, but I trust through the exertions of the society they will find it-
Truth severe, in fairy fiction dressed.
If it is a fact that there are 24,000,000 acres within reach of the Ganges
, upon which cotton can be grown, now lying waste ; if it is true that there are 54,000,000 men anxious for labor, and that their services can be had for a penny or two-pence a day; if they can bring their cotton to Liverpool
at four-pence per pound,--how can slavery stand against it at a cost of a shilling a day?
Commerce is incompatible with slavery: in England
it has put down the system of villeinage; in France
it put an end to vassalage; it has done more than Christianity, of which it is a good forerunner.
It is one of the most immutable of truths, that the moment a free hand touches an article, that moment it falls from the hand of the slave.
Witness the beet sugar of France
; the moment it was made, her West India
colonists applied for protection against the eternal principles of commerce and freedom.
[Hear, hear!] So it was with indigo.
Formerly it was all slave produce; now, not an ounce of it is. I need not give further examples, for the principle is as immutable as the laws of Nature.
No article can be grown and manufactured at the same time by both free and slave labor.
The fathers of this country thought in the settlement of their independence they had put down slavery: but, unfortunately, in 1786, when it was about to cease, a small bag of cotton-seed was found in Carolina
; it was almost by accident put in the ground, and it was found that cotton could be grown, and so slavery was perpetuated.
only be maintained by monopoly; the moment she comes into competition with free labor, she dies.
Cotton is the corner-stone of slavery in America
; remove it, and slavery receives its mortal blow.
I am glad to see such a society grow up in the land of Clarkson
and of Wilberforce
, the great fathers of Antislavery.
I am glad that England
is awakening to a sense of her power, and I pray God she may arouse herself as one man, and exert that power for the sake of humanity all over the world.
It is not the fault of America
that slavery exists; it is the fault of England
that bribed her with £14,000,000 a year, and it is the price of cotton in the Liverpool
market that signs the death warrant of the poor slaves.
[Cheers.] There are a class of men in America
that would not listen to the voice of an angel, or to one risen from the dead.
The denunciations of O'Connell
are nothing to them, while the balance is on the right side of the ledger; they must have Antislavery preached in their counting-houses, or it will never be preached at all. [Cheers.
The only voice they will listen to is the 6Gazette
that publishes them bankrupts, and the auctioneer who knocks down their houses to the highest bidder.
It is England
that delays that day by paying them £14,000,000 annually for their support.
[Hear, hear!] One hundred per cent profit is better than the most eloquent lips that ever spoke.
You may think it strange for an American to speak thus of a system that is to make bankrupt one half of his country, and paralyze the other; but though I love my country, I love my countrymen more, and these countrymen are the colored men of America
[Cheers.] For their sakes I say, welcome the bolt that smites our commerce to the dust, if with it, by the blessing of God, it will strike off the fetters of the slave.
[Cheers. But I do not fear
from the incubus of slavery, and her beautiful prairies will beat the banks of the Ganges
from the incubus of slavery, and Yankee skill in the fruitful valleys of the South
will beat England
and British India
in any market in the world.
I beg permission to read to the meeting the message of one who may justly be considered a far higher authority than any who have spoken from this platform; and observe, this is not an after-thought.
It is not a new project, for years back it had the devoted advocacy of Cropper
, and fifteen years ago, Clarkson
, in a private letter to a friend, suggested it as the only remedy for slavery in the transatlantic world.
You will pardon me for reading a portion of the speech the venerable Clarkson
prepared in writing, and intended to deliver at the opening of the General Antislavery Convention
My dear friends, you have a most difficult task to perform; it is neither more nor less than the extirpation of slavery from the whole world.
Your opponents who appear the most formidable are the cotton and other planters in the southern parts of the United States; who, I am grieved to say, hold more than two million of their fellow-creatures in the most cruel bondage.
Now we know of these men, that they are living in the daily habits of injustice, cruelty, and oppression, and may be therefore said to have no true fear of God, nor any just sense of religion.
You cannot, therefore, expect to have the same hold upon the consciences of these that you have upon the consciences of others.
How then can you get at these so as to influence their conduct?
There is but one way; you must endeavor to make them feel their guilt in its consequences.
You must endeavor, by all justifiable means, to affect their temporal interests.
You must endeavor, among other things, to have the produce of free tropical labor brought into the markets of Europe, and undersell them there; and if you can do this, your victory is sure.
Now that this is possible, that this may be done, there is no question.
The East India Company alone can do it of themselves, and they can do it by means that are perfectly moral and pacific, according to your own principles,--namely, by the cultivation of the earth, and by the employment of free labor.
They may, if they please, not only have the high honor of abolishing slavery and the slave trade, but the advantage of increasing their revenue beyond all calculation: for, in the first place, they have land in their possession twenty times more than equal to the supply of all Europe with tropical produce; in the second place, they can procure, not tens of thousands, but tens of millions of free laborers to work; in the third, what is of the greatest consequence in this case, the price of labor with these is only from a penny to three half-pence a day. What slavery can stand against these prices?
I learn, too, from letters which I have seen from India, and from the Company's own reports, that they have long been engaged — shall I say providentially engaged?--in preparing seeds for the cultivation of cotton there.
Now, if we take into considerations all these previous preparations (by which it appears that they are ready to start), and add to this the consideration that they could procure, not tens of thousands, but tens of millions of free laborers to work,--_ I speak from authority,--I believe that if they would follow up their plans heartily and with spirit, according to their means, in the course of six years they would materially affect the price of this article at market, and in twelve that they would be able to turn the tide completely against the growers of it in the United States.
And here I would observe that this is not a visionary or fanciful statement.
Look at the American newspapers; look at the American pamphlets which have come out upon this subject; look at the opinion of the celebrated Judge Jay on this subject also: all, all confess, and the planters too confess — but the latter with fear and trembling — that if the East India Company should resolve upon the cultivation of tropical products in India, and carry it to the extent to which
they would be capable of carrying it, it is all over with American slavery.
Gentlemen, I have mentioned these circumstances, not with a view of dictating to you any particular plan of operations, but only to show you the possibility of having your great object accomplished, and this to its fullest extent; for what I have said relatively to the United States is equally applicable to Cuba, Brazil, and other parts of the South American continent,--and besides, the East India Company have twenty times more land than is sufficient to enable them to compete with them all.
The proprietors and conductors of the American
newspapers, to which Mr. Clarkson
refers, are the agents of the banks, and the agents of the slave-holders.
It is not their policy to endeavor to raise and secure a high price in the market of Liverpool
, for fear the eyes of Great Britain
should be turned to her possessions in the East
, where, as they express it, there are no doubt exhaustless resources for the cultivation of cotton; for they see that if the attention of Great Britain
were directed to that quarter, America
would lose the market and slavery together.
[Hear, hear!] Twice they thought the deathblow was given to the system in America
, and twice have they been disappointed.
But take care, in carrying out this plan, that the protection thrown over India
does not bring forth into life weeds as well as flowers.
Take care that slavery does not gather strength with the rest of your institutions which will be strengthened in India
; and that it does not, as it has done in America
, monopolize the resources of another world in the East
This is the only danger that can be anticipated in the progress of this society.
Take care that in driving our cotton from your shores, you do not admit a single pound that i equally blood-stained with our own.