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more clearly, the singular and highly reprehensible want of any certain statistical information on this most
deduction had been, that the gross numbers exceeded, in those proportions, the Slaves actually on the island. But the grounds of deduction being exemptions, or allowances, claimed by the parties, either on the score of poverty, as the Reports seem to intimate, or such exemptions as the Poll-Tax Acts are said to allow, the explanation is quite foreign to the purpose. The difficulty to be explained was a sudden increase of the numbers actually returned by the owners, who could have no reason for charging themselves in the poll tax with near 11,000 Slaves more than they actually possessed ; or for doing themselves a greater wrong in this way in 1811, than in the preceding or following year.
Besides, the Assembly itself must have known, in December 1816, as well as in December 1817, the true nature and effect of these population accounts. Why then at the former period did it exhibit them, and found elaborate arguments upon them, leading to important moral and political conclusions, unless they really furnished in some degree a fair criterion of the progress or decline of their Slave population?
True it is, their former Report did not hold out the tax rolls as containing an accurate account of all the Slaves in the island; but the inaccuracy was spoken of in very tender terms in that Report, compared with those of the last. Then, it was said, "they shew a number somewhat under the truth :" now, "that the actual number greatly exceeds what appears on them." And this is represented as having always been quite notorious: but it was then said, and it is not now retracted, that the errors being "always of the same kind, thsy were sufficiently accurate for comparing different periods." The whole of the Assembly's argument rested on the representation, that though they were not accurate, they were pretty equably somewhat below the true amount, and therefore served the purpose of comparison well enough. But it is plain, that if instead of the actual returns, or the gross assessments founded on them, the reduced assessments were to be taken, there could be no such interesting and important of all colonial subjects. It results from the last Report, that the population accounts which were set forth and reasoned upon in the former Report, are wholly unworthy of confi
equability; because we see that the deductions founded on reasons foreign to the actual change of numbers, fluctuated from 6600, to 10,000 in a single year. Besides, if the reduced assessment was taken for 1811, so of course it ought to have been for every other year of the fifteen that were compared together; whereas in all the rest, with the exception of 1810, the amounts of the gross returns were taken. There was a good reason for that exception, as there was no poll tax on Slaves in that year. But why was 1811 to be excepted, and taken at the reduced amount? The former Report, indeed, found a reason for it; but a reason that now turns out to have been untrue. We were desired "to put out of the question 1809, 1810, and 1811; because in two of these years there was no polllax." Means were found of disproving this; and now the Assembly reduces the assertion to one year,which is 1810; without, however, noticing, much less apologising, for its former strange misstatements.
It was certainly not very clear why, because the returns of two years were said to be wanting, three should be struck out of the list; and it is now still less evident why, because there is no tax-roll for 1810, that of IB 11 should be taken at the reduced, instead of the gross assessment. Such, however, is the latest expedient for getting rid of the extraordinary returns of that year, and of the misrepresentation by which the were first explained.
In the review of this subject, it should never be forgotten that the Assembly, in December 1815, bad it not in its choice wholly to suppress those population-returns, though it now discredits them. They had been, by the agent of the island, made a powerful use of, both with his Majesty's Government, and with the British public, being alleged to manifest the non-existence of contraband Slave Trade in Jamaica, as well as a progressive advance in its native population, and in the humane treatment of the Slaves.
dence; that they do not even furnish that approach to a comparative estimate of the increase or der crease at different periods, since the Abolition, which they were before alleged to supply; and that there are no possible means of tracing back, during the twelve years that have since elapsed^ the progressive effects of that important commercial revolution, the Abolition of the Slave Trade, in the greatest of our sugar colonies.
The Directors may remember, that from the polltax returns, as set forth in the Assembly's Report of December, 1815, the Slaves then in that island were stated to be 313,814. According to the ratio of decrease in the two last preceding years, they must have been reduced in 1817, to about 310,000*. But the returns under the Register Act in that year, imperfect though they probably are, amount: to 34.5,252 f, being a difference of 35,252; or an addition of about one ninth part to the probable amount of the last poll-tax returns. •
Your Committee will not stop to inquire whether the reasons now anxiously assigned by the Assembly for this great difference between the accounts it formerly exhibited, and the result of the returns made under the Register Act, are sufficient to pre
* The Report does not furnish the poll-tax returns for 1816 «r 1817; but from the pains it takes to guard against the suspicion of unlawful importations on account of the now discovered access of population, those returns would most probably have been given if they had tended to lessen its apparent magnitude.
t See the last Report, Papers, No. IV. p. 273.
elude the suspicion, which seems to be apprehended. But that the difference far exceeded any previous notions of that legislative body itself, may be fairly assumed from the language of its Report in December, 1815. When it then spoke of the Poll-Tax Returns, " shewing a number somewhat under the "truth," who can understand it as having in view a deficiency so enormous as a ninth part of the whole slave population f It would have been a perfect mockery in that case to reason, as it confidently did, from those returns to a progressive decrease of the loss by mortality, and to the absence of slavetrade. The Report triumphantly inferred, "That "mortality during seven years (which had elapsed "since the Abolition) had produced an average loss "of only 1430, on an average population of 318,820, "not quite one half per cent*." But how idle and preposterous would such an inference have been seen to be, had it been understood that the annual census was incorrect to a degree that might amount to no less than eleven per cent, on the entire population; or twenty-two times the admitted decrease. The whole loss, during the seven years, was demonstrated to be only about 10,013; but the inaccuracy of the data in a single year is now found to be above 35,000!! !— Such, as now confessedly appears, was the extravagant looseness of the premises on which the British Government and Parliament were taught four years ago to rely; not indeed as perfectly accurate, but
* Report of 1815, p. 30./
sufficiently so for the purpose of comparing different periods together, and evincing thereby the progressive i mprovement in the treatment of Slaves in Jamaica, as well as the absence of illicit importation!
Instead, however, of acknowledging the error- in the former Report, and disclaiming the baseles reasoning contained in it, the Assembly would now treat the discovery made by the late returns as a matter of no importance; and a fact which every one previously knew, who knew any thing of the subject; nay, which would be unworthy of notice, but for the danger of misrepresentation by the African Institution, or the friends of the Register Bill!!!
"The cause of this excess," says the last Report, ** is familiar to all who are acquainted with the subject, "and it would not have been necessary to refer to it, "were it not desirable that no pretext should be left "for the unfounded clamour with which the honour u and character of this island have been assailed by "that party in England whose mischievous designs "against the whole colonial system, have led them to, "resort to every possible misrepresentation, and con"struction of our conduct and proceedings*'."
It certainly was much easier to renew these idle invectives, than to defend the former Report, upon the facts that are now disclosed. It was politic also to suppose, that the Poll-Tax Returns, and not the unfair use made of them, by the Assembly itself, would be the subject of adverse remark. But had
* Report in Papers, No. IV. p. 272.