My last word must be on behalf of the Natives. When, thirty years ago, a few among us were impelled to take up the cause of the victims of the modern white slavery in Europe, we were told that in our pleadings for principles of justice and for personal rights, we ought not to have selected a subject in which are concerned persons who may deserve pity, but who, in fact, are not so important a part of the human family as to merit such active and passionate sympathy as that which moved our group. To this our reply was: “We did not choose this question, we did not ourselves deliberately elect to plead for these persons. The question was imposed upon us, and once so imposed, we could not escape from the claims of the oppressed class whose cause we had been called to take up. And generally, (we replied,) the work of human progress has not consisted in protecting and supporting any outward forms of government, or the noble or privileged classes, but in undertaking the defence of the weak, the humble, of beings devoted to degradation and contempt, or brought under any oppression or servitude.”
It is the same now. My father was one of the energetic promoters of the Abolition of Slavery in the years before 1834, a friend of Clarkson and Wilberforce. The horror of slavery in every form, and under whatever name, which I have probably partly inherited, has been intensified as life went on. It is my deep conviction that Great Britain will in future be judged, condemned or justified, according to her treatment of those innumerable coloured races, heathen or partly Christianized, over whom her rule extends, or who, beyond the sphere of her rule, claim her sympathy and help as a Christian and civilizing power to whom a great trust has been committed.
It grieves me to observe that (so far as I am able to judge) our politicians, public men, and editors, (with the exception of the editors of the “religious press,”) appear to a great extent unaware of the immense importance of this subject, even for the future peace and stability of our Empire, apart from higher interests. It will be “imposed upon them,” I do not doubt, sooner or later, as it has been imposed upon certain missionaries and others who regard the Divine command as practical and sensible men should do: “Go ye and teach all nations.” All cannot go to the ends of the earth; but all might cease to hinder by the dead weight of their indifference, and their contempt of all men of colour. Dr. Livingstone rebuked the Boers for contemptuously calling all coloured men Kaffirs, to whatever race they belonged. Englishmen deserve still more such a rebuke for their habit of including all the inhabitants of India, East and West, and of Africa, who have not European complexions, under the contemptuous title of “niggers.” Race prejudice is a poison which will have to be cast out if the world is ever to be Christianized, and if Great Britain is to maintain the high and responsible place among the nations which has been given to her.