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some time before this he had turned his mind very much to the condition of that oppressed and suffering people, and had corresponded and conversed on the subject with several persons possessing property in the Islands, and others in this country. The result of his inquiry was, that the state of the Negroes was a most. deplorable one, as well in a temporal as a spiritual point of view; and he therefore thought himself called upon by every principle of justice and of policy to excite if possible the attention of the public to this great question. This he did, in the first instance, by recommending it strongly to the Society, in the discourse which he addressed to them, to begin on their own trust-estate in Barbadoes a regular system of religious instruction, as an example to the planters, and to appropriate a portion of their funds to so
desirable a purpose. The suggestion at the time met with general approbation; and he was therefore induced early in the following year to lay before the Society a plan* which he had drawn up, and in which he had the concurrence of several of the Bench, and other intelligent friends, for carrying it into execution. It however very soon appeared that nothing would be done; -for a Committee, to whom, after much opposition, the question was referred, gave it as their opinion in a short sitting of four hours, that his Lordship merited the thanks of the
* This plan is now incorporated in “ an Essay," which he afterwards printed and published, “ towards the more effectual Civilization and Conversion of the Negro Slaves on the Trust Estate in Barbadoes, belonging to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts.” The reader will find it in his Volume of Tracts.
Society for the great pains and trouble he had taken, but that the circumstances of the Society rendered it at that time unadvisable to adopt the plan.
“ Thus,” says the Bishop, “ was a final period put at once to a most interesting and important subject, and the spiritual condition of near half a million of Negro Slaves decided in four hours. That the particular plan offered to the Society might stand in need of improvement, and that a better might have been substituted in its room, is very probable. I would have given my hearty vote for any wiser plan in preference to my own. It was not the mode, it was the measure, I had at heart. But that the discussion of this subject should have been entirely finished at one meeting, which every one expected would have taken up two or three; that no other plan should be
adopted or proposed, nor any one effectual measure taken for the conversion and salvation of near 300 Slaves, who were the immediate property of a religious Society, did, I own, a little surprise me. The Society had undoubtedly an opportunity of rendering their name illustrious in every part of the world, by beginning on their own plantation the civilization and conversion of the Negroes, and thereby at once shewing the possibility of it, and the method of doing it, and setting an example, which might excite the attention, and by degrees the imitation, of all the West-India proprietors. If this example be not set; if this attempt be not made by a Society, whose professed purpose is to propagate the Gospel in Foreign Parts' among Infidels and Heathens; by whom is there the least probability that it can or will be undertaken? It is not small difficulties, it is not great difficulties, that should have deterred us from an undertaking, in which our credit, our reputation, our interest, and the interests of religion, are so essentially concerned. Nothing less than an absolute demonstrable impossibility should have discouraged us from the attempt. This was the opinion of Bishop Gibson half a century ago, as expressed in the admirable Letters which he wrote upon this subject; and it is, I will venture to say, the opinion of every unprejudiced man in this kingdom, who has considered the subject with sufficient attention and sufficient sensibility.”