EXTREMELY SCARCE 1823 PARLIAMENTARY RECORDS ON SLAVERY
(SLAVERY) (PARLIAMENT). Slaves. Papers Presented Pursuant to Address; viz. Acts of Colonial Legislatures for Registry of Slaves. Ordered, by the House of Commons, to be Printed, 27 February 1823. WITH: Slave Population. Papers and Returns, Presented Pursuant to Address, Relating to the Slave Population of Dominca, Grenada, St. Vincent, Barbadoes, Antigua, Tobago, Demerara, Berbice, St. Christopher, Trinidad, and Mauritius. Ordered, by the House of Commons, to be Printed, 4 March 1823. (London): House of Commons, 1823. Two volumes. Folio, period-style three-quarter dark blue morocco, marbled boards and endpapers, uncut. $5500.
Rare 1823 Parliamentary acts and colonial reports on slavery in the British colonies of the Caribbean, two exceptional volumes of laws and papers, printed by order of the House of Commons in February and in March 1823, providing precise documentation on the taxation, commerce and legal governance of slavery, and an implicit, sometimes chilling record of its human misery.
“In the century and a half of the slave trade… between three and four million Africans were transported out of their homelands to the New World in British ships… it was the single largest abduction in human history.” By the early 1800s, “the British Empire was, overwhelmingly, an empire of soldiers and… nearly a million Caribbean slaves” (Schama II:416, 405). Following passage of the 1807 Act for the Abolition of the British Slave Trade, most British colonies in the Caribbean established registries to monitor legally held slaves. Subsequently, abolitionists such as William Wilberforce argued in Parliament for “a bill relative to the registry and regulation of slaves,” hoping to expose the planters’ continuing inhumane treatment, but opposition denounced this “interference with the local legislation of the colonies” (Annual Register, 1816). After long debate, the 1819 Slave Registration Act was passed, requiring a central record of any commercial transaction or transport between islands involving slaves to be sent to the London registry.
Subsequently the Colonial Secretary issued additional instructions to its governors, whose effect is seen in these two rare volumes, ordered by the House of Commons in February and March of 1823. Volume I contains “copies of all ACTS of the Colonial Legislatures, and, also, of all Orders, Proclamations, or other Regulations, for establishing the Registration of Slaves in His Majesty’s Foreign Settlements,” along with certain laws enacted by the Dutch (A2), including laws passed in the Bahamas, Barbados and other colonies from 1816-23. Volume II contains reports on “the number of Slaves imported under licenses, or otherwise, since the 1st of January 1808… together with the places from which they were brought” (A2), as submitted to Downing Street from Grenada, Barbados, Antigua, Trinidad and elsewhere. Included are “Papers and Returns” on the taxation and legal sale of slaves, their births, baptisms, marriages and burials, and a record of free slaves and runaways. Also noted are executions, such as that of one slave “for the murder of his mistress” and the sale of another to pay for expenses at the inquest (C3). Similar reporting continued until the abolishment of slavery in 1834. OCLC lists no copies. See Harvard Law Catalog, 300.
Light dampstaining and small closed tears to gutter of title pages and some leaves, without affecting text. A very nearly fine collection central to the history of slavery, in two handsomely bound volumes.