ut it was not by stories of atrocious cruelty that the eyes of Parliament were open to the wickedness of slavery. What gave the death-blow to the system was the population returns, which showed the fact that while the free negroes were steadily advancing in number, the slaves were dying, off at a rate which was truly appalling that although only eleven out of the eighteen islands had sent them in, yet in these eleven islands the slaves had decreased in twelve years by no less than 60,219! namely, froni 558,194 to 497,975. Had similar returns been procured from the other seven colonies, including Mauritius, Antigua, Barbadoes, and Grenada, the decrease must have been little if at all less than 100,000. Now, it was plain to every one that if this were really so, the system could not last. The driest economist would allow that it would not pay to let the working classes be slaughtered. To work the laborious men of our West Indies to death might bring in a good return for a while, but could not be a profitable enterprise in the long run. Accordingly this was the main, we had almost said the only, topic of the debates on slavery in 1831 and 1832. Is slavery causing a general massacre of the working classes in our West India islands, or is it not? was a question worth debating in the pounds, shillings, and pence view, as well as in the moral one. And debated it was, long and fiercely. The result was the full establishment of the dreadful fact. The slaves, as Mr. Marryatt said, were dying like rotten sheep. Whatever there might have been said for West Indian slavery, this was to be said against it, that the slaves were dying of it. Then came emancipation. The tide at once turned.
Ewald, Alexander Charles, F. S. A. The and Times of William Ewart Gladstone. 5 vols. London: William Mackenzie, n.d. I, 73.
Last modified 4 April 2002