Autograph Letter Signed ('N: Vansittart') from Chancellor of the Exchequer Nicholas Vansittart to Whig MP William Smith, discussing James Walker's 'Letters on the West Indies', and voicing approval for the spread of Walker's 'mild system' of slavery.

Nicholas Vansittart, 1st Baron Bexley (1766-1851), Tory Chancellor of the Exchequer [William Smith (1730-1819), Whig abolitionist; James Walker, Commissioner for Crown Estates in Berbice, Guyana]
Publication details: 
Downing Street [London]; 16 February 1818.
SKU: 13040

3pp., 12mo. Bifolium. Very good, on lightly-aged paper. An important letter, in which the serving Chancellor of the Exchequer puts his position concerning slavery (a subject of extreme importance to the British Treasury), siding with a prominent apologist for the practice, James Walker, one of the commissioners managing the Crown Estates at Berbice. Regarding 'Mr Walkers pamphlet' (London: Printed for Rest Fenner, Paternoster Row, 1818) Vansittart considers that 'the passages most likely to give offence are the anecdotes in pp.155 to 157 & the note in p.215 & that they had better be omitted'. (Vansittart's advice about the suppressinon of passages does not appear to have been followed. The anecdotes on pp.155-157 of the book relate, first, to a slave woman who attempted to hang herself after being flogged by her master, and was only cut down by the estate manager because she was 'worth a deal of money'; and, second, to the disapproval felt by the author's 'creole' hosts at his expression of concern over a negro boy being savaged by a dog. The note on p.215 points out that a writer describing an insurrection at Barbados, 'after mentioning that a great number of negroes had been killed, added that, happily, so far as he had then learned, there had been no lives [last word in italics] lost!') Vansittart also writes that he thinks that 'Mr W. had better dedicate his publication to the Commissioners for the Berbice Estates collectively than to any individual. It would be a compte Rendue of his principles of management, which would be becoming in the relation in which he stood towards them; while it would be less likely to involve questions about particulars expressions or passages.' (As it happens the book was dedicated to 'The Planters of Tobago and Antiqua, Islands distinguished among British Colonies in the official reports laid before Parliament, [...]'. Regarding Walker's general message, Vansittart has 'no doubt that the mild system which he recommends is gradually, though more slowly than we must wish, spreading itself in the West Indies; & I think that friendly advice with as little reproach as possible will be one of the best means of accelerating it.'