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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 69

Compensation Paid on Abolition of Slavery

Compensation Paid on Abolition of Slavery.

The chief of these precedents relied upon is that of the twenty millions paid to the slaveowner. A moment's consideration will show that it has no analogy whatever to the case of the licensed victualler. The slaveholder held his slave, not for a year only, but in perpetuity; the slave was his to live or die, his wife was his, the children and remotest progeny were his; he could work him without wages; he could rend asunder the domestic relations of husband and wife, father and child; the slave was his as utterly as were his ox, or his ass, or anything else that was his; in life he could sell him, and, on his own death, he could bequeath him to whom he pleased. Emancipation actually took away altogether, and for ever, the owner's property, guaranteed to him by laws which had been in force for some hundreds of years. What analogy is there, between his case and that of the publican, from whom nothing is taken away, not even an imaginary vested interest in a year's renewal?

It has been the fashion to boast of this compensation given to the slaveowner, as a noble and liberal act; but if it was really due, where was the nobility or liberality in giving it? In my opinion the giving it was a weak, and even a wicked thing. For nearly 300 years the negro had been robbed of his liberty, worked without pay, reduced to the condition of a beast; all this being made clear, the conscience of the nation decreed his emancipation; but before he was freed the man who had inflicted all the horrors of page 7 slavery upon him, must be paid to let go his clutch! So wrong-headed John Bull paid him twenty million pounds, and has never done boasting of it since. What he ought to have done was to have paid to the emancipated slave, turned naked into the world, the compensation which he mistakingly bestowed on the man who had wronged him. And now we are asked to repeat the same folly and injustice; the liquor trafficker has inflicted, and still inflicts on the world, evils immeasurably greater than the slave ever suffered; he has for long weary years filled our gaols, lunatic asylums, and refuges with his victims, crowded our streets with the most pitiful forms of vice, blasted the prospects of the heathen nations by doging, with his poison, the footsteps of the missionary, and now, when the community says all this must cease, he says "yes, but not till I am compensated!"