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NOTWITHSTANDING the many publications which have appeared on the subject of Slave Emancipation, and the interest that has arisen out of that subject among almost all classes of the English people, yet few persons, even of those who have taken the greatest share in the disquisitions which it has caused, seem to be at all informed of the general state of society in the West India Islands.
By the general state of society, it is meant to include the habits and manners of all ranks, from the rich slave owner to his slave; and although the author did not set out with this intention, the following pages will enable the reador to form a pretty correct idea of these
habits and manners. The public, or a portion of it, will have an opportunity of learning that negro slaves are not worked and flogged alternately, at the option and caprice of their masters, as many good christians imagine, who have signed petitions for emancipating them; that they have their pastimes as well as toils, their pleasures as well as pains; and that they smile as often, and laugh as heartily, as the labouring people of this or any equally happy country.
At the same time it is to be feared that the general reader will be displeased at the too frequent declamations against the Reformers of Transatlantic morals and politics, (the very subversion of slave policy is their avowed object); but he will recollect that the wealth of the rich, in the colonies, is slaves, secured to them in the first place by the laws of England; and that to tamper
with the feelings of these slaves must produce alarm, consternation, and hatred in the minds of their owners, mingled with no small portion of indignation at what they consider ignorance and presumption on the part of the Reformers; whether with or without justice, is not here to be argued. Let him imagine a band of the most conscientious, religious, church-going people in England exerting their influence, moral, political, and spiritual, to prevail on all that part of the community which has no property in land, to petition the government to pass an agrarian law for the benefit of the lowest class, and let him see that this band have every chance of success;—he will forgive the irritated feelings of the Jamaica planters. Much has been done to temper or modify their language; to have suppressed it altogether, would have been an injustice to the colonists.
Some explanation seems likewise necessary for the coarseness of the negro expressions, and for the nonsense into which they torture texts of scripture, and scraps of the church service. It must, perhaps, suffice to say, that all has been done in this picture from the life ; and that without it the general reader would not have a correct idea of the subject intended to be represented. The author himself disavows every intention of attempting ridicule on these occasions, and appeals for the fidelity of his picture to the proprietors and dwellers in Jamaica.