Transcript

The Black Poor Committee:
Indians, Smeathman and Sierra Leone
T1/634, no. 2012


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Batson's Coffeehouse
Friday the 4th August 1786.
Mr. Andrews
Mr. Peters
Mr. Shaw
Mr. Hanway in the Chair
Read the Minutes of the last Committee and confirmed the same.
Mr. Taylor the Clerk reported that he had read to the Blacks the Paper which Mr. Hanway had put into his hands, viz.
Nothing can be more apparent than the sincerity of Government with regard to the Black Poor. It is at the same time most evident that the Lords of the Treasury reserve to themselves the Right of judging what is most fit and proper to be done respecting the Interests of the State, and the most effectual means of preserving the said Black Poor in whatever Place or Country they shall be settled.
Africa is too well known ˆ in the World to be the Country where the Natives professedly make a traffick of buying and selling one another, and in consequence of this inhuman and antichristian Commerce, thousands and tens of thousands are annually transported to work in Plantations in distant Countries. The English, the French, Spaniards, Portuguese and Hollanders carry on this Trade, and when this false Principle is to erase is known only to the great God who governs the World.
With regard to the Committee for the Black Poor, it appears that there is no Place on the whole Coast of Africa where there can be any solid Security against Slavery. To depend on Arms what is a Small number of Men to do against a great force? But the notion of carrying Arms beyond a certain limitation implies a hostile Settlement, whereas Government certainly never meant any thing, but what is friendly, founded upon Principles of liberty and Sacred Rights which may, be derived from a Solemn Compact and Agreement for the security of such liberty, and consequently whatever is right to be done it is presumed Government will do.

With respect to the deceased Mr. Smeathman, he had the art of telling his Story very well and represented things in the most favourable light, but in the latter days of his life he avowed his Intention of trafficking in Men, so far that he would buy though he would not sell. The Committee thought that his Judgment misled him, if not his heart; and if he had not changed his mind or said that he would acquiesce in the Sentiments of the Committee, the Committee would have certainly dropped any further connection with him. What his real Designs were when he should have landed in that Country and had nothing farther to hope or fear from the Committee, will be a subject for strong suspicion in the Breast of every Man concerned as long as they live. There were many other reasons why Mr. Smeathman would not have been considered as a fit and proper Person to be intrusted with the conduct of such an Enterprise, but he was the only one that offered, and since his death no one has appeared as a fit substitute, every one acquainted with the country hitherto thoughts of being either actually engaged in the Slave Trade, or entertaining an opinion as if it were not possible to make a Settlement without slaving. Indeed this was the language that Mr. Smeathman held only that he would upon no consideration sell the Man that he should buy, but unluckily nobody believed or had faith in such a Doctrine. To buy and forego all the advantages of selling was not credible. There is another great ambiguity respecting the Coast of Africa. The various accounts given leave many doubts. Mr. Smeathman himself brought from thence a Constitution which lasted him but a little while, and always seemed to be more anxious about his medical knowledge and Medicine Chest than his Tools for husbandry. To all appearance there will be much greater security for liberty and life and the Comforts arising from freedom and health in his Majesty's Dominions in New Brunswick than there can possibly be in any Part of the Coast of Africa. And the more as every comfort and necessary will be provided as setting off both of Food & Raiment; and consequently with suitable labour in a soil professedly capable of producing the Necessaries of life, the comforts of it may be handed down from Generation to Generation under all the advantages of distributive Justice, the exercise of Humanity and obedience to be laws of Christ which may be found in that Country, the peaceful Government of which must be a security beyond any which the most sanguine hope can suggest respecting Africa.

/Signed/
2d. Aug[us]t 1786. J Hanway

That the Blacks seemed very well pleased and satisfied with the justice of the Remarks but on putting the Question individually to them the number of those inclined to go to New Brunswick was comparatively small, being only 67 of whom 5 afterwards retracted.

Resolved
That from the general view of the Disposition of the Blacks it is not probable that any Decision will be come to, unless they are permitted to go to Sierra Leona carrying with them such a number of Arms as the Lords of the Treasury shall think to entrust them with.
Resolved
That this Committee approves in the fullest manner possible of the Letter written by Mr. Peters to Mr. Steele for a Conference with the Lords of the Treasury as it may be a means of bringing this Knotty Business to some conclusion, it being already trained out to a tedious length.
Resolved
That for the Execution of this Enterprise it is absolutely necessary that the Lords Comm[isioner]s of the Treasury should appoint a fit and proper Person to take the charge of it and to see it executed in the best manner practicable.

Resolved
That the Lords Comm[issione]rs of the Treasury be informed that there are among the Blacks 23 East Indians who have been brought over in the King's Ships, 23 in the East India Company's Ships and 4 in foreign Ships, and that they seem disposed to mix with the Blacks and to accompany them to Africa in case their Lordships should have no objections, the greatest Part of them having been here 2, 3 and 4 years, some of them 8 years and some 24 years.
Resolved That a Copy of these Minutes be carried to George Rose Esq[ui]r[e].

Adjourned to Wednesday the 9th. Inst.


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