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Art. III. A Defence of the Wesleyan Methodist Missions in the
West Indies'; including a Refutation of the Charges in Mr. Mar. · ryat's “ Thoughts on the Abolition of the Slave Trade, &c." and
in other Publications; with Facts and Anecdote illustrative of the • Moral State of the Slaves, and of the operation of Missions. By · Richard Watson, one of the Secretaries to the Committee for the Management of the Westleyan Methodist Missions. 8vo. pp.
163. Price 3s. 6d. Blanshard. 1817. THERE is a class of men, whom no vigour of reasoning can
move, and no plea of sensibility can subdue. The world to come, is not a world that they can see. They have but one species of vision, and the utmost extent of the field by which that solitary faculty is bounded, is comprised in one little circleself. Over this verge there is not a single object, whether natural, moral, or political, that swells beyond Liliputian insignifi-cance ; not one that could produce a momentary inattention to the glitter or a momentary vacillation to the impulse of the potent agents within that magic circle. There, every object is magnificent and commanding, and speaks with the voice of a God; but without that little circumference, to their eye all is impotency. To a lamentable extent, it must be admitted, the world is made up of such diminutive circles. So mucbo so, that we apprehend every man who has had any considerable esperience of the world, will acknowledge that the attempt to convince the interested, the prejudiced, and the bigoted, by higher and nobler considerations than they have ever felt, is nearly as hopeless an effort as to introduce a larger circle within the circumference of a smaller. Tbis is too much to expect even from the ample details and powerful argüments of the pamphlet before us.
We consider the understandings of the individuals for whom it is intended, as placed in peculiarly unfortunate circumstances for the consideration of the very important and solemn questions involved in the controversy; and, indeed, if we are to judge from the specimens before the public, we should infer that they are oppressed by a total incapacity to sympathize with either the sublimity or the magnitude of those considerations with which this subject is surrounded. Were they yet open to the infuence of reasoning the most correct and weighty, or could they feel only one chord in their constitution vibrating to the secret but wighty touch of pity, or could they but recognise the authoritative voice of eternal justice, or bad they but intelligence to comprehend the first and simplest lessons of Divine benevolence, we should cherish the gratifying hope that full conviction would be forced upon them, however unacceptably, by this able advocate, and that an eternal cessation of hostilities against the cause of humanity, of benevolence, of religion, and
of justice, would be the consequence. Yet, should the great body of West India proprietors" still be found the practical, though'not the avowed enemies of justice; of reason, and of piety, there is one consideration which would help to sustain that hope by which our tenderest sympathies will, we trust, continue both vigorous and alert."" ***** A work of so much mercy cannot be placed under the protection of tlie public sentiment of the people in this country in vain : nor will the Parliament of Great Britain allow undertakings so dear to humanity and piety, to be obstructed by calumny and clamour. The appeal which, when the bodily wrongs only of the sons of Africa · were in question, rpused every feeling of humane interest in the
Parliament and people of Great Britain, will not be less powerful, when connected with the immortal interests of the mind, and the solemnities of Eternity :-Am I not a man and a brother?':p. 161. - That there should be men who can persuade themselves, and endeavour to persuade others, that they really disbelieve Christianity, in despite of all the distinct evidences by which its claims are enforced, when the individuals themselves have really never considered those evidences at all, would be amusing, were not the consequences of the disbelief too awful to allow of such a feelings and it would be a matter of grave astonishment, when viewed with respect to their rationality, were we not previously informed, that the true cause of this hostility is a prior hostility on the part of Christianity against the predominant passions of the human heart. There are secret and powerful reasons which induce a wicked man, à priori, to wish he may find Christianity untrue. But such cases do no credit to the cause with which they are associated, and no discredit to the principles of that religion by which such opposition is excited. The element of that religion is obviously too pure and too celestial for them, and we know the rest. That there should be persons capable of extenuating the enormous guilt of the system of the West Indian slavery, and incapable of discerning the justice, or the policy, or the charity, which singly and unitedly demand the me. lioration of the state of those unhappy beings, labouring under the twofold wretchedness of corporeal and mental bondage, we cease to wonder when we recollect the sentiment of the heathen poet :
. Quid non mortalia pectora cogis,
Auri sacra fames? and the sentiment of far higher authority,“ The love of money « is the root of all evil.”-But that there should be men professing to adınit both the truth of Christianity and the immortality of the African slave, the moral wretchedness of the slave population of the West India Islands, and the immense importance of religious instruction, and above all, and what we could hardly have expected, the obligations of Christians to impart the truths of their religion, who yet inveigh bitterly and strenuously, and with a zeal worthy of a better cause, against the humble efforts of a class of benevolent Christians whose place cannot be supplied, nor their labours superseded by the more authoritative sect, must we confess remain with us, on every principle of reason, and justice, and religion, for ought we see, (and we are far enough from feeling entire complacency in the system of the Wesleyan Methodists,) a matter of grievous astonishment; yet not of astonishment only. The absurdity in point of reason, the contradiction in point of acknowledged principle, the impolicy in regard to secular interest, and the tremendous guilt in point of moral responsibility, involved in the conduct of the anti-mission party, we must do our effort briefly to display, from this excellent pamphlet, for the information of the British public, and for the conviction, if that were in any degree a hopeful object, of all West India gentlemen. There is a revolting absurdity in admitting the moral necessities of the slave, and rejecting the only supply which is offered to meet those neces. sities. It is to reject food because it is not of the finest and choicest quality, and because it is neither cooked nor served up in the most elegant and fashionable style. The opposers of East India Missions bad a greater semblance of reason on their side,-We beg pardon, we oughtfrather to say, a less glaring ahsurdity. . They never went the length of concession to which the anti-mission party in the West Indies have been led.
Their artifices and argument were less refined and subtle. They boldly and at once attempted, both in and out of Parliament, though to be sure by several rather ill-fated efforts, to establish the innocence, and if we did not mistake several memorable speakers and writers, laboured to prove the superiority of Hindoo superstitions over all others*. Their experience (and many of them had lived long in India) had by no means convinced thein of the necessity of imparting Christianity to a people whose morality was affirmed to be equal to our own, their piety superior, and their shasters all but as good. All this looked like argument; at least it presented widely different grounds, and demanded first of all that the opponents in that contest should be convinced of the Divine authority of the Christian Revelation. · But our West Indian opponents do not pretend to resist the cause of missions on such grounds.
They own the Africans are vicious, so much so as to require sometimes the infliction of very summary punishmentt, and to
* In such a connexion the term superstition means the same as in Hume's History of Great Britain. R.
+ See “ West Indian Sketches,” No. 1, 3, and 5. Also 6 Dr. “ Pinkard's Notes on the West Indies."
Justify universal and almost incessant flagellation, and that not of the most gentle kind, extorted from the reluctant hand of the compassionate proprietors. They readily acknowledge the extreme ignorance of the slaves, even of the existence of a Supreme Being and a future state ; their proneness to Obeah, or sorcery of the inost hateful description, the prevalence of drunkenness, promiscuous cohabitation, and cruelty, and their disposition to revolt. These, as Mr. Watson sufficiently shews, are the leading features of their character, where the Missionaries have not been able to extend their influence, or 'where their laudable exertions have been resisted and counteracted. Yet the effort to instruct them in the knowledge of God, to impart to them the Bible and books of wholesome knowledge, to elevate their habits into something like human, and their minds into a state a little inore resembling moral beings, to open their path to an equality of intellectual and religious privilege and enjoyment with the Whites, provokes, how absurdly let the candid of all denominations judge, the heavy displeasure and the cruel resentment of nearly ali the proprietors and public functionaries in almost all the islands. Of this the details in the pamphlet before us, afford but too conclusive evidence.
€" It is readily granted,” says Mr. W.“ that in some of the colonies pot only have no persecuting laws ever been enacted against the Wesleyan Missionaries, but they have been greatly encouraged, not only by many planters, but by the local Governments. Antigua, Nevis, St. Christopher's, and some others, are among these exceptions ; but what do they prove, except that the persecutions directed against the Missionaries, (the same not merely in seco and doctrine, but in some instances the same identically) in other islands, were the result of prejudice and religious intolerance alone, and can find no justification in the conduct of the sufferers, whose doctrine and manner of life could surely be as well estimated in Antigua, Nevis and, St. Christopher's, as in Jamaica, St. Vincent's, Barbadoes, Dominica, and Tortola."" p. 74.
After referring to a number of iniquitous and persecuting laws enacted in several of the Islands, Mr. Watson says,
( Where no persecuting laws have existed, they (the Missionaries) have often been attacked by mobs, chiefly of whites, or those under their immediate control, and in many cases without being able to obtain re. dress from the colonial magistracy. In Barbadoes the only redress that could be obtained in a case of riot, and an attempt to pull down the chapel, was an observation from a Magistrate, that, “the offence was committed against Almighty God, and therefore he could take no cognizance of it.” The most violent, and in some instances very singular means have been resorted to to obstruct their labours. Of the latter kind was the stratagem devised in Barbadoes, to operate on the superstition of the lower classes, who were informed, that in Vol. VII. N. S.
case they went to the Methodist chapel, they should not be buried in the church yard.” :: • Among the former we regret to rank, the punishment of slaves for the crime of listening to the only men who would instruct them in the way to heaven.' pp. 76–77.
We subjoin the statement of several of the Missionaries themselves. The deep interest it will excite in the breast of our readers, for these excellent men, will be a sufficient apology for so long an extract. It is only a specimen of much more of the same description contained in Mr. W.'s pamphlet ; and we believe, upon good grounds, by no means a full display of the atrocities committed upon the Missionaries.
• In Tortola, Spanish Town, and all the group of little Keys or Islands from Anagedo to Jost Van Dykes, there was not one Church nor any place of worship of any kind, except the Methodist chapel : por did any clergyman perform divine service the greater part of the time I was there. I mentioned this circumstance in a letter to the Committee for our Missions. The letter was published in the Magazine for August, 1815.
A Devonshire clergyman, whose son went down in the same packet with me to Tortola, saw the printed letter, and sent an extract of it to his son. The extract was this, " I find religion has made a great alteration for the better among the blacks, but among the whitcs fornication, adultery, and neglect of all religion, are reigning sins." In consequence of this, a magistrate, the clergyman's son, and two more fell upon me in the open street, beat me unmercifully, and laid open my head with the butt end of a whip; they would certainly have killed me that day, but Providence by a little circumstance preserved me; and I carried my life in my hand for many weeks after. I brought this cause regularly before the court of Grand Sessions ; but, though it was done in the street in the open day, yet the grand jury could find no bill, and I was obliged to pay half the cost, for bringing a matter frivolous and vexatious before the court. But they asked and obtained leave of the judge to present me, and though they had no other evidence than the extract of a written letter, they soon found a bill, and I was put to the bar, and tried for writing a libel on the community. The facts were acknowledged to be true, but then, the said truth was a libel. Not being ready for trial they endeavoured to postpone it, and to throw me into prison until the next sessions : but this being over-ruled, the indictment was quashed. --The magistrate who assaulted me sat on the bench."
Signed) MR. BROWNELL. :.“ When I was at St. Vincent's, U. H. Esq. a magistrate and one of the members of council for the Island, was celebrating St. Patrick's day with other gentlemen of the Island. I was informed afterwards that they had intended committing the depredations I am going to relate, before the light appeared; but in this they were disappointed, for they did not arrive till about sun-rise. Then this gentleman headed some officers of the Buffs, (a regiment then at St. Vincent's) with other gentlemen of the Island, and accompanied by the band of that regiment, came down to our chapel. The first thing they