British West Indies- Amelioration Proposals

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Amelioration refers to the act of relieving ills, and changing for the better.

The West India Interest was made up of planters who lived in the colonies and those in the mother colonies. The London Society for the gradual abolition of slavery was formed in 1823. The society wanted amelioration to be made a part of the government’s policy, to be enforced by law and to be followed by abolition (at an early date). Thomas Fowell Buxton, the chief parliamentary spokesman on slavery introduced in 1823 his famous resolution that slavery “ought to be gradually abolished throughout the British colonies”. However, the West India Interest was determined to undermine the activities of the anti-slavery society. In order to prevent the abolition of slavery, they decided to draft their own amelioration proposals. The proposals seemed reasonable so Buxton, not knowing the true intentions of the West India Interest, withdrew his resolution. The amelioration proposals put forward by the West India Interest were accepted and George Canning the foreign minister put forward the Amelioration bill based on these proposals.

Reasons for the West India Interest Amelioration Proposals.
1. They wanted to appease the humanitarians.
2. Undermine the efforts of the abolitionists.
3. Forestall the abolition of slavery.
4. Improve the conditions under which the slaves lived.
Responses to the Amelioration Proposals.
PLANTERS.
They fiercely resisted and rejected the amelioration proposals in all colonies. For example: 1. The assembly in Barbados arrayed that the slave laws were already lenient. 2. Trinidad planters asked that the proposals be withdrawn. 3. The 1820 revised slave code in Jamaica violated the proposals: slaves could not receive religious instruction, church services were forbidden and slaves could not preach without their owner’s consent. SLAVES.

The slaves believed the proposals meant freedom had been granted but was being withheld which resulted in many of the revolts. For example: Demerara Revolt.

Reasons the Amelioration Failed.
1. Planters strongly opposed it.
2. The planter dominated assemblies resented what they perceived as the unnecessary interference in the internal affairs of their colonies by the British Parliament. 3. The planter dominated legislators in the crown colonies tended to ignore the proposals, feeling justified about their attitude on the grounds that the slave revolt in Demerara had confirmed about the dangers of the proposals. 4. There was not enough officials in the crown colonies to supervise the enforcement of the amelioration laws and those who had the responsibility were either slave owners or sympathetic to the slave owners. 5. Many planters feared the amelioration would erode their control over the slaves and that slave insubordination would be encouraged. They claimed that amelioration was a violation of their rights to their property in slaves. 6. In territories like Barbados and the Leeward, the Planters claimed that slave conditions were good and did not need improvement. So they objected to the policy.

The Emancipation Act.
Clauses of the Emancipation Act.
1. Slavery should be abolished throughout the British Empire. 2. Slaves were to stay on the plantation and serve apprenticeship. In the case of domestic slaves, this was for four years and six years for field slaves. 3. Apprentices were to work for their masters for 40 ½ hours per week without wages. Any additional hours, they were to be paid. 4. Twenty million pounds were given to the planters as compensation money to be shared among them according to the number of slaves they owned. 5. Children under 6 years old on August 1, 1834 were to be freed immediately. 6. Planters were to continue to provide food, clothing and medical care for apprentices. In absence of food, provision grounds should be provided and time to cultivate them. 7. Apprentices could not...
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