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my thoughts have been anxiously employed for upwards of twenty years, and I have omitted no convenient opportunity of publicly expressing my sentiments concerning their situation, the necessity of improving it, and the mode in which that melioration of their condition might and ought to be carried into effect. Almost immediately after my appointment to the see of London, I addressed a Letter to the Planters and Proprietors in the islands, intreating them to pay a little more regard to their Negro Slaves than they had hitherto done; and more particularly to make some better provision for their instruction in the principles of morality and religion. Some years after this, I had the good fortune to recover, by a Chancery suit, an estate in Yorkshire, belonging to WILLIAM AND MARY COLLEGE IN VIRGINIA, which had been bequcathed to it by the great Mr. Boyle, for the advance or propagation of the Christian religion among Infidels; a purpose which had been attempted, but had completely failed. Having therefore obtained a decrce in my favour, I was called upon by the Court of Chancery, as one of the trustees of that charity, to propose some other charitable institution in the room of Mr. Boyle's, but approaching as near as possible to his original idea. Accordingly, after very mature consideration, I recommended an establishment for the conversion and .
Teligious instruction and education of the Negro Slaves in the British West-India Islands, as being in itself an object of the greatest utility and importance, and perfectly conformable to Mr. Boyle's pious and benevolent intentions of imparting the blessings of Christianity to Heathens inhabiting his Majesty's dominions.
The proposal was approved by the Lord Chancellor Thurlow, a society for the purpose was formed, a royal charter obtained for its incorporation, and the Bishop of London for the time being was appointed the President of it. This society has accordingly from that time to the present been exerting its best endeavours to promote the great ends of its institution, and has sent out several missionaries to different islands in the West Indies, who have made some progress in their respective missions. But the scanty revenues of the society, the extreme difficulty of finding a sufficient number of clergymen properly qualified for so laborious and arduous a task, the various discouragements and obstacles they met with in the execution of their office, and the vast disproportion of their means of instruction to the immense numbers to be instructed, have hitherto confined the good effects of their labours within a narrow compass, and rendered a more extensive plan, a more liberal establishment, more effectual aid and encouragement, indispensably necessary to the accomplish
() ment of the great object in view. It is to obtain this aid and this encouragement, that I now take the liberty of once more addressing you, Gentlemen, on this very interesting subject; and from an event of the highest importance which has recently taken place, I am led to hope that the present moment is peculiarly favourable to my application to you on this occasion, and can scarce fail of rendering it completely successful.
You will easily imagine that the event I allude to is the abolition of the Slave Trade to the coast of Africa by the legislature of Great Britain. I do not at all mean to enter here into the merits of that great question. It is now decided by a vast majority of both Houses of Parliament, and is become a law of the land, which we are, all bound to obey. I hope and trust that every acrimonious sentiment, which was felt by the contending parties in that long and painful conflict, is already, or will be very soon completely extinguished, and the most perfect harmony and good understanding re-established between the islands and the mother-country. The only reason of my introducing the mention of the subject here is to point out how forcibly it bears upon the proposition I have now to lay before you, and what a powerful additional argument it furnishes in favour of carrying immediately into effect that most important measure.
By the Act of Parliament which has passed, prohibitingany further importation of Negro Slaves from the coast of Africa, you have now evidently no other resource left, for keeping up a stock of slaves sufficient for the cultivation of your lands, but the natural increase of the Negroes at this time in the islands. Your great object, therefore, must of course be to promote and encourage this increase by every means in your power. Now of these means, the most practicable and most effectual, beyond all controversy, will be the very expedient here proposed; namely, THE CAREFUL AND ASSIDUOUS INSTRUCTION OF YOUR SLAVES, BOTH CHILDREN AND ADULTS, IN THE PRINCIPLES OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION, AND A STRICT ATTENTION TO THE REGULATION OF THEIR MORAL CONDUCT. This may perhaps appear at the first view a strange assertion, but it is nevertheless perfectly true, and capable of the strictest proof, from the most authentic documents transmitted from the islands themselves to this Government.
These documents are to be found principally in that large and valuable body of evidence, THE REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE OF PRIVY COUNCIL, appointed in the year 1788 to examine into the nature of the Slave Trade. In them you will find it asserted, by a great number of most respectable West-India Proprietors, and in a variety of official
letters and papers laid by them before the Committee, that one of the greatest and most fatal obstructions to the natural increase of the Negro Slaves in the British Islands, is the promiscuous and unbounded illicit commerce of the two sexes, in which the Negro Slaves are permitted to indulge themselves without any check or restraint. This is a fact universally admitted ; and it is equally admitted, that unless an effectual stop is put to this licentiousness of manners, the increase of the native Negroes by births will never be sufficient to keep up that stock of Negroes which the cultivation of the islands requires. This obstacle, then, must in some way or other be removed ; and in what way can this be most effectually done?
Penal laws may certainly be enacted by the colonial legislatures, prohibiting illicit connections among the Negroes, and requiring them to be united by legal matrimony to one wife. But human laws, it is to be feared, will be but a feeble barrier to the ardent and impetuous passions of an African constitution, and very incompetent to contend with the strength of inveterate and long indulged habits of vice.
These can only be subdued by moral restraints, by new principles infused into the mind, by the powerful influences of divine grace, by the fear of God, and the dread of future punishment,