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Title: An Essay on the Slavery and Commerce of the Human Species, Particularly the African - Translated from a Latin Dissertation, Which Was Honoured with the First Prize in the University of Cambridge, for the Year 1785, with Additions
Author: Clarkson, Thomas, 1760-1846
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "An Essay on the Slavery and Commerce of the Human Species, Particularly the African - Translated from a Latin Dissertation, Which Was Honoured with the First Prize in the University of Cambridge, for the Year 1785, with Additions" ***

from images generously made available by the Biblioth que nationale
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       *        *        *        *        *

_Neque premendo alium me extulisse velim_.--LIVY.


       *        *        *        *        *



The dignity of the subject of this little Treatise, not any persuasion
of its merits as a literary composition, encourages me to offer it to
your Lordship's patronage. The cause of freedom has always been found
sufficient, in every age and country, to attract the notice of the
generous and humane; and it is therefore, in a more peculiar manner,
worthy of the attention and favour of a personage, who holds a
distinguished rank in that illustrious island, the very air of which has
been determined, upon a late investigation of its laws, to be an
antidote against slavery. I feel a satisfaction in the opportunity,
which the publication of this treatise affords me, of acknowledging your
Lordship's civilities, which can only be equalled by the respect, with
which I am,

Your Lordship's,
much obliged,
and obedient servant,


       *        *        *        *        *

Books Printed and Sold by J. PHILLIPS,

AFRICAN SLAVES in the BRITISH Sugar Colonies.
By the Rev. J. RAMSAY, Vicar of Teston in
Kent, who resided many Years in the West-Indies.
In One Volume, Octavo. Price 5s bound,
or 4s in Boards.

An INQUIRY into the Effects of putting a Stop
to the African Slave Trade, and of granting Liberty
to the Slaves in the British Sugar Colonies.
By J. RAMSAY. Price 6d.

A REPLY to the Personal Invectives and Objections
contained in two Answers, published by
certain anonymous Persons, to an Essay on the
Treatment and Conversion of African Slaves, in
the British Colonies. By JAMES RAMSAY. Price 2s.

A LETTER from Capt. J.S. SMITH, to the
Rev. Mr. HILL, on the State of the Negroe Slaves;
to which are added an Introduction, and Remarks
on Free Negroes, &c. by J. RAMSAY. Price 6d.

THOUGHTS on the Slavery of the Negroes.
Price 4d.

The CASE of our Fellow-Creatures, the Oppressed
Africans, respectfully recommended to the serious
Consideration of the Legislature of Great-Britain,
by the People called Quakers. Price 2d.

A SERIOUS ADDRESS to the Rulers of America,
on the Inconsistency of their Conduct respecting
Slavery. Price 3d.

Colonies, in a short Representation of the calamitous
State of the enslaved Negroes in the British
Dominions. By ANTHONY BENEZET. Price 6d.

A Description of Guinea, its Situation, Produce,
and the general Disposition of its Inhabitants; with
an Inquiry into the Rise and Progress of the Slave
Trade, &c. By ANTHONY BENEZET. Bound 2s. 6d.

       *        *        *        *        *


As the subject of the following work has fortunately become of late a
topick of conversation, I cannot begin the preface in a manner more
satisfactory to the feelings of the benevolent reader, than by giving an
account of those humane and worthy persons, who have endeavoured to draw
upon it that share of the publick attention which it has obtained.

Among the well disposed individuals, of different nations and ages, who
have humanely exerted themselves to suppress the abject personal slavery,
introduced in the original cultivation of the _European_ colonies
in the western world, _Bartholomew de las Casas_, the pious bishop
of _Chiapa_, in the fifteenth century, seems to have been the
first. This amiable man, during his residence in _Spanish America_,
was so sensibly affected at the treatment which the miserable Indians
underwent that he returned to _Spain_, to make a publick remonstrance
before the celebrated emperor _Charles_ the fifth, declaring, that
heaven would one day call him to an account for those cruelties, which
he then had it in his power to prevent. The speech which he made on the
occasion, is now extant, and is a most perfect picture of benevolence
and piety.

But his intreaties, by opposition of avarice, were rendered ineffectual:
and I do not find by any books which I have read upon the subject, that
any other person interfered till the last century, when _Morgan
Godwyn_, a _British_ clergyman, distinguished himself in the

The present age has also produced some zealous and able opposers of the
_colonial_ slavery. For about the middle of the present century, _John
Woolman_ and _Anthony Benezet_, two respectable members of the
religious society called Quakers, devoted much of their time to the
subject. The former travelled through most parts of _North America_
on foot, to hold conversations with the members of his own sect, on the
impiety of retaining those in a state of involuntary servitude, who had
never given them offence. The latter kept a free school at
_Philadelphia_, for the education of black people. He took every
opportunity of pleading in their behalf. He published several treatises
against slavery,[001] and gave an hearty proof of his attachment to the
cause, by leaving the whole of his fortune in support of that school, to
which he had so generously devoted his time and attention when alive.

Till this time it does not appear, that any bodies of men, had
collectively interested themselves in endeavouring to remedy the evil.
But in the year 1754, the religious society, called Quakers, publickly
testified their sentiments upon the subject,[002] declaring, that "to
live in ease and plenty by the toil of those, whom fraud and violence
had put into their power, was neither consistent with Christianity nor
common justice."

Impressed with these sentiments, many of this society immediately
liberated their slaves; and though such a measure appeared to be
attended with considerable loss to the benevolent individuals, who
unconditionally presented them with their freedom, yet they adopted it
with pleasure: nobly considering, that to possess a little, in an
honourable way, was better than to possess much, through the medium of
injustice. Their example was gradually followed by the rest. A general
emancipation of the slaves in the possession of Quakers, at length took
place; and so effectually did they serve the cause which they had
undertaken, that they denied the claim of membership in their religious
community, to all such as should hereafter oppose the suggestions of
justice in this particular, either by retaining slaves in their
possession, or by being in any manner concerned in the slave trade: and
it is a fact, that through the vast tract of North America, there is not
at this day a single slave in the possession of an acknowledged Quaker.

But though this measure appeared, as has been observed before, to be
attended with considerable loss to the benevolent individuals who
adopted it, yet, as virtue seldom fails of obtaining its reward, it
became ultimately beneficial. Most of the slaves, who were thus
unconditionally freed, returned without any solicitation to their former
masters, to serve them, at stated wages; as free men. The work, which
they now did, was found to better done than before. It was found also,
that, a greater quantity was done in the same time. Hence less than the
former number of labourers was sufficient. From these, and a variety of
circumstances, it appeared, that their plantations were considerably
more profitable when worked by free men, than when worked, as before, by
slaves; and that they derived therefore, contrary to their expectations,
a considerable advantage from their benevolence.

Animated by the example of the Quakers, the members of other sects began
to deliberate about adopting the same measure. Some of those of the
church of England, of the Roman Catholicks, and of the Presbyterians and
Independants, freed their slaves; and there happened but one instance,
where the matter was debated, where it was not immediately put in force.
This was in _Pennsylvania_. It was agitated in the synod of the
Presbyterians there, to oblige their members to liberate their slaves.
The question was negatived by a majority of but one person; and this
opposition seemed to arise rather from a dislike to the attempt of
forcing such a measure upon the members of that community, than from any
other consideration. I have the pleasure of being credibly informed,
that the manumission of slaves, or the employment of free men in the
plantations, is now daily gaining ground in North America. Should
slavery be abolished there, (and it is an event, which, from these
circumstances, we may reasonably expect to be produced in time) let it
be remembered, that the Quakers will have had the merit of its

Nor have their brethren here been less assiduous in the cause. As there
are happily no slaves in this country, so they have not had the same
opportunity of shewing their benevolence by a general emancipation. They
have not however omitted to shew it as far as they have been able. At
their religious meetings they have regularly inquired if any of their
members are concerned in the iniquitous _African_ trade. They have
appointed a committee for obtaining every kind of information on the
subject, with a view to its suppression, and, about three or four years
ago, petitioned parliament on the occasion for their interference and
support. I am sorry to add, that their benevolent application was
ineffectual, and that the reformation of an evil, productive of
consequences equally impolitick and immoral, and generally acknowledged
to have long disgraced our national character, is yet left to the
unsupported efforts of piety morality and justice, against interest
violence and oppression; and these, I blush to acknowledge, too strongly
countenanced by the legislative authority of a country, the basis of
whose government is _liberty_.

Nothing can be more clearly shewn, than that an inexhaustible mine of
wealth is neglected in _Africa_, for prosecution of this impious
traffick; that, if proper measures were taken, the revenue of this
country might be greatly improved, its naval strength increased, its
colonies in a more flourishing situation, the planters richer, and a
trade, which is now a scene of blood and desolation, converted into one,
which might be prosecuted with _advantage_ and _honour_.

Such have been the exertions of the Quakers in the cause of humanity
and virtue. They are still prosecuting, as far as they are able, their
benevolent design; and I should stop here and praise them for thus
continuing their humane endeavours, but that I conceive it to be
unnecessary. They are acting consistently with the principles of
religion. They will find a reward in their own consciences; and they
will receive more real pleasure from a single reflection on their
conduct, than they can possibly experience from the praises of an host
of writers.

In giving this short account of those humane and worthy persons, who
have endeavoured to restore to their fellow creatures the rights of
nature, of which they had been unjustly deprived, I would feel myself
unjust, were I to omit two zealous opposers of the _colonial_ tyranny,
conspicuous at the present day.

The first is Mr. _Granville Sharp_. This Gentleman has particularly
distinguished himself in the cause of freedom. It is a notorious fact,
that, but a few years since, many of the unfortunate black people, who
had been brought from the colonies into this country, were sold in the
metropolis to merchants and others, when their masters had no farther
occasion for their services; though it was always understood that every
person was free, as soon as he landed on the British shore. In
consequence of this notion, these unfortunate black people, refused to
go to the new masters, to whom they were consigned. They were however
seized, and forcibly conveyed, under cover of the night, to ships then
lying in the _Thames_, to be retransported to the colonies, and to be
delivered again to the planters as merchantable goods. The humane Mr.
_Sharpe_, was the means of putting a stop to this iniquitous traffick.
Whenever he gained information of people in such a situation, he caused
them to be brought on shore. At a considerable expence he undertook
their cause, and was instrumental in obtaining the famous decree in the
case of _Somersett_, that as soon as any person whatever set his foot in
this country, he came under the protection of the _British_ laws, and was
consequently free. Nor did he interfere less honourably in that cruel
and disgraceful case, in the summer of the year 1781, when _an hundred
and thirty two_ negroes, in their passage to the colonies, were thrown
into the sea alive, to defraud the underwriters; but his pious
endeavours were by no means attended with the same success. To enumerate
his many laudable endeavours in the extirpation of tyranny and
oppression, would be to swell the preface into a volume: suffice it to
say, that he has written several books on the subject, and one
particularly, which he distinguishes by the title of "_A Limitation of

The second is the _Rev. James Ramsay_. This gentleman resided for
many years in the _West-Indies_, in the clerical office. He perused
all the colonial codes of law, with a view to find if there were any
favourable clauses, by which the grievances of slaves could be
redressed; but he was severely disappointed in his pursuits. He
published a treatise, since his return to England, called _An Essay on
the Treatment and Conversion of African Slaves in the British Sugar
Colonies_, which I recommend to the perusal of the humane reader.
This work reflects great praise upon the author, since, in order to be
of service to this singularly oppressed part of the human species, he
compiled it at the expence of forfeiting that friendship, which he had
contracted with many in those parts, during a series of years, and at
the hazard, as I am credibly informed, of suffering much, in his private
property, as well as of subjecting himself to the ill will and
persecution of numerous individuals.

This Essay _on the Treatment and Conversion of African Slaves_,
contains so many important truths on the colonial slavery, and has come
so home to the planters, (being written by a person who has a thorough
knowledge of the subject) as to have occasioned a considerable alarm.
Within the last eight months, two publications have expressly appeared
against it. One of them is intitled "_Cursory Remarks_ on Mr.
Ramsay's Essay;" the other an "_Apology for Negroe Slavery_." On
each of these I am bound, as writing on the subject, to make a few

The _cursory remarker_ insinuates, that Mr. Ramsay's account of the
treatment is greatly exaggerated, if not wholly false. To this I shall
make the following reply. I have the honour of knowing several
disinterested gentlemen, who have been acquainted with the West Indian
islands for years. I call them disinterested, because they have neither
had a concern in the _African_ trade, nor in the _colonial_
slavery: and I have heard these unanimously assert, that Mr.
_Ramsay's_ account is so far from being exaggerated, or taken from
the most dreary pictures that he could find, that it is absolutely below
the truth; that he must have omitted many instances of cruelty, which he
had seen himself; and that they only wondered, how he could have written
with so much moderation upon the subject. They allow the _Cursory
Remarks_ to be excellent as a composition, but declare that it is
perfectly devoid of truth.

But the _cursory remarker_ does not depend so much on the
circumstances which he has advanced, (nor can he, since they have no
other existence than in his own, brain) as on the instrument
_detraction_. This he has used with the utmost virulence through
the whole of his publication, artfully supposing, that if he could bring
Mr. _Ramsay's_ reputation into dispute, his work would fall of
course, as of no authenticity. I submit this simple question to the
reader. When a writer, in attempting to silence a publication, attacks
the character of its author, rather than the principles of the work
itself, is it not a proof that the work itself is unquestionable, and
that this writer is at a loss to find an argument against it?

But there is something so very ungenerous in this mode of replication,
as to require farther notice. For if this is the mode to be adopted in
literary disputes, what writer can be safe? Or who is there, that will
not be deterred from taking up his pen in the cause of virtue? There are
circumstances in every person's life, which, if given to the publick in
a malevolent manner, and without explanation, might essentially injure
him in the eyes of the world; though, were they explained, they would be
even reputable. The _cursory remarker_ has adopted this method of
dispute; but Mr. _Ramsay_ has explained himself to the satisfaction
of all parties, and has refuted him in every point. The name of this
_cursory remarker_ is _Tobin_: a name, which I feel myself
obliged to hand down with detestation, as far as I am able; and with an
hint to future writers, that they will do themselves more credit, and
serve more effectually the cause which they undertake, if on such
occasions they attack the work, rather than the character of the writer,
who affords them a subject for their lucubrations.

Nor is this the only circumstance, which induces me to take such
particular notice of the _Cursory Remarks_. I feel it incumbent
upon me to rescue an injured person from the cruel aspersions that have
been thrown upon him, as I have been repeatedly informed by those, who
have the pleasure of his acquaintance, that his character is
irreproachable. I am also interested myself. For if such detraction is
passed over in silence, my own reputation, and not my work, may be
attacked by an anonymous hireling in the cause of slavery.

The _Apology for Negroe Slavery_ is almost too despicable a
composition to merit a reply. I have only therefore to observe, (as is
frequently the case in a bad cause, or where writers do not confine
themselves to truth) that the work refutes itself. This writer, speaking
of the slave-trade, asserts, that people are never kidnapped on the
coast of _Africa_. In speaking of the treatment of slaves, he
asserts again, that it is of the very mildest nature, and that they live
in the most comfortable and happy manner imaginable. To prove each of
his assertions, he proposes the following regulations. That the
_stealing_ of slaves from _Africa_ should be felony. That the
_premeditated murder_ of a slave by any person on board, should
come under the same denomination. That when slaves arrive in the
colonies, lands should be allotted for their provisions, _in
proportion to their number_, or commissioners should see that a
_sufficient_ quantity of _sound wholesome_ provisions is
purchased. That they should not work on _Sundays_ and _other_
holy-days. That extra labour, or _night-work, out of crop_, should
be prohibited. That a _limited number_ of stripes should be
inflicted upon them. That they should have _annually_ a suit of
clothes. That old infirm slaves should be _properly cared for_,
&c.--Now it can hardly be conceived, that if this author had tried to
injure his cause, or contradict himself, he could not have done it in a
more effectual manner, than by this proposal of these salutary
regulations. For to say that slaves are honourably obtained on the
coast; to say that their treatment is of the mildest nature, and yet to
propose the above-mentioned regulations as necessary, is to refute
himself more clearly, than I confess myself to be able to do it: and I
have only to request, that the regulations proposed by this writer, in
the defence of slavery, may be considered as so many proofs of the
assertions contained in my own work.

I shall close my account with an observation, which is of great
importance in the present case. Of all the publications in favour of the
slave-trade, or the subsequent slavery in the colonies, there is not
one, which has not been written, either by a chaplain to the African
factories, or by a merchant, or by a planter, or by a person whose
interest has been connected in the cause which he has taken upon him to
defend. Of this description are Mr. _Tobin_, and the _Apologist
for Negroe Slavery_. While on the other hand those, who have had as
competent a knowledge of the subject, but not the _same interest_
as themselves, have unanimously condemned it; and many of them have
written their sentiments upon it, at the hazard of creating an
innumerable host of enemies, and of being subjected to the most
malignant opposition. Now, which of these are we to believe on the
occasion? Are we to believe those, who are parties concerned, who are
interested in the practice?--But the question does not admit of a

Concerning my own work, it seems proper to observe, that when, the
original Latin Dissertation, as the title page expresses, was honoured
by the University of Cambridge with the first of their annual prizes for
the year 1785, I was waited upon by some gentlemen of respectability and
consequence, who requested me to publish it in English. The only
objection which occurred to me was this; that having been prevented, by
an attention to other studies, from obtaining that critical knowledge of
my own language, which was necessary for an English composition, I was
fearful of appearing before the publick eye: but that, as they flattered
me with the hope, that the publication of it might be of use, I would
certainly engage to publish it, if they would allow me to postpone it
for a little time, till I was more in the habit of writing. They
replied, that as the publick attention was now excited to the case of
the unfortunate _Africans_, it would be serving the cause with
double the effect, if it were to be published within a few months. This
argument prevailed. Nothing but this circumstance could have induced me
to offer an English composition to the inspection of an host of
criticks: and I trust therefore that this circumstance will plead much
with the benevolent reader, in favour of those faults, which he may find
in the present work.

Having thus promised to publish it, I was for some time doubtful from
which of the copies to translate. There were two, the original, and an
abridgement. The latter (as these academical compositions are generally
of a certain length) was that which was sent down to Cambridge, and
honoured with the prize. I was determined however, upon consulting with
my friends, to translate from the former. This has been faithfully done
with but few[003] additions. The reader will probably perceive the Latin
idiom in several passages of the work, though I have endeavoured, as far
as I have been able, to avoid it. And I am so sensible of the
disadvantages under which it must yet lie, as a translation, that I wish
I had written upon the subject, without any reference at all to the
original copy.

It will perhaps be asked, from what authority I have collected those
facts, which relate to the colonial slavery. I reply, that I have had
the means of the very best of information on the subject; having the
pleasure of being acquainted with many, both in the naval and military
departments, as well as with several others, who have been long
acquainted with _America_ and the _West-Indian_ islands. The
facts therefore which I have related, are compiled from the
disinterested accounts of these gentlemen, all of whom, I have the
happiness to say, have coincided, in the minutest manner, in their
descriptions. It mud be remarked too, that they were compiled, not from
what these gentlemen heard, while they were resident in those parts, but
from what they actually _saw_. Nor has a single instance been taken
from any book whatever upon the subject, except that which is mentioned
in the 235th page; and this book was published in _France_, in the
year 1777, by _authority_.

I have now the pleasure to say, that the accounts of these disinterested
gentlemen, whom I consulted on the occasion, are confirmed by all the
books which I have ever perused upon slavery, except those which have
been written by _merchants, planters, &c_. They are confirmed by
Sir _Hans Sloane's_ Voyage to Barbadoes; _Griffith Hughes's_
History of the same island, printed 1750; an Account of North America,
by _Thomas Jeffries_, 1761; all _Benezet's_ works, &c. &c. and
particularly by Mr. _Ramsay's_ Essay on the Treatment and
Conversion of the African Slaves in the British Sugar Colonies; a work
which is now firmly established; and, I may add in a very extraordinary
manner, in consequence of the controversy which this gentleman has
sustained with the _Cursory Remarker_, by which several facts which
were mentioned in the original copy of my own work, before the
controversy began, and which had never appeared in any work upon the
subject, have been brought to light. Nor has it received less support
from a letter, published only last week, from Capt. J.S. Smith, of the
Royal Navy, to the Rev. Mr. Hill; on the former of whom too high
encomiums cannot be bestowed, for standing forth in that noble and
disinterested manner, in behalf of an injured character.

I have now only to solicit the reader again, that he will make a
favourable allowance for the present work, not only from those
circumstances which I have mentioned, but from the consideration, that
only two months are allowed by the University for these their annual
compositions. Should he however be unpropitious to my request, I must
console myself with the reflection, (a reflection that will always
afford me pleasure, even amidst the censures of the great,) that by
undertaking the cause of the unfortunate _Africans_, I have
undertaken, as far as my abilities would permit, the cause of injured

London, June 1st 1786.

       *        *        *        *        *


[Footnote 001: A Description of Guinea, with an Inquiry into the Rise
and Progress of the Slave Trade, &c.--A Caution to Great Britain and her
Colonies, in a short Representation of the calamitous State of the
enslaved Negroes in the British Dominions. Besides several smaller

[Footnote 002: They had censured the _African Trade_ in the year
1727, but had taken no publick notice of the _colonial_ slavery
till this time.]

[Footnote 003: The instance of the _Dutch_ colonists at the Cape,
in the first part of the Essay; the description of an African battle, in
the second; and the poetry of a negroe girl in the third, are the only
considerable additions that have been made.]

       *        *        *        *        *


       *       *       *       *       *


The History of Slavery.

    CHAP. I. Introduction.--Division of slavery into voluntary and
    involuntary.--The latter the subject of the present work.--Chap. II.
    The first class of involuntary slaves among the ancients, from
    war.--Conjecture concerning their antiquity.--Chap. III. The second
    class from piracy.--Short history of piracy.--The dance
    carpoea.--Considerations from hence on the former topick.--Three
    orders of involuntary slaves among the ancients.--Chap. IV. Their
    personal treatment.--Exception in Ægypt.--Exception at
    Athens.--Chap. V. The causes of such treatment among the ancients in
    general.--Additional causes among the Greeks and Romans.--A
    refutation of their principles.--Remarks on the writings of
    Æsop.--Chap. VI. The ancient slave-trade.--Its antiquity.--Ægypt
    the first market recorded for this species of traffick.--Cyprus the
    second.--The agreement of the writings of Moses and Homer on the
    subject.--The universal prevalence of the trade.--Chap. VII. The
    decline of this commerce and slavery in Europe.--The causes of
    their decline.--Chap. VIII. Their revival in Africa.--Short history
    of their revival.--Five classes of involuntary slaves among the
    moderns.--Cruel instance of the Dutch colonists at the Cape.

       *       *       *       *       *


The African Commerce or Slave-Trade.

    CHAP. I. The history of mankind from their first situation to a
    state of government.--Chap. II. An account of the first
    governments.--Chap. III. Liberty a natural right.--That of
    government adventitious.--Government, its nature.--Its end.--Chap.
    IV. Mankind cannot be considered as property.--An objection
    answered.--Chap. V. Division of the commerce into two parts, as it
    relates to those who sell, and those who purchase the human species
    into slavery.--The right of the sellers examined with respect to
    the two orders of African slaves, "of those who are publickly seized
    by virtue of the authority of their prince, and of those, who are
    kidnapped by individuals."--Chap. VI. Their right with respect to
    convicts.--From the proportion of the punishment to the
    offence.--From its object and end.--Chap. VII. Their right with
    respect to prisoners of war.--The jus captivitatis, or right of
    capture explained.--Its injustice.--Farther explication of the
    right of capture, in answer to some supposed objections.--Chap.
    VIII. Additional remarks on the two orders that were first
    mentioned.--The number which they annually contain.--A description
    of an African battle.--Additional remarks on prisoners of war.--On
    convicts.--Chap. IX. The right of the purchasers

       *       *       *       *       *


The Slavery of the Africans in the European

    CHAP. I. Imaginary scene in Africa.--Imaginary conversation with an
    African.--His ideas of Christianity.--A Description of a body of
    slaves going to the ships.--Their embarkation.--Chap. II. Their
    treatment on board.--The number that annually perish in the
    voyage.--Horrid instance at sea.--Their debarkation in the
    colonies.--Horrid instance on the shore.--Chap. III. The condition
    of their posterity in the colonies.--The lex nativitatis
    explained.--Its injustice.--Chap. IV. The seasoning in the
    colonies.--The number that annually die in the seasoning.--The
    employment of the survivors.--The colonial discipline.--Its
    tendency to produce cruelty.--Horrid instance of this
    effect.--Immoderate labour, and its consequences.--Want of food
    and its consequences.--Severity and its consequences.--The forlorn
    situation of slaves.--An appeal to the memory of Alfred.--Chap. V.
    The contents of the two preceding chapters denied by the
    purchasers.--Their first argument refuted.--Their second
    refuted.--Their third refuted.--Chap. VI. Three arguments, which
    they bring in vindication of their treatment, refuted.--Chap. VII.
    The argument, that the Africans are an inferiour link of the chain
    of nature, as far as it relates to their genius, refuted.--The
    causes of this apparent inferiority.--Short dissertation on African
    genius.--Poetry of an African girl.--Chap. VIII. The argument, that
    they are an inferiour link of the chain of nature, as far as it
    relates to colour, &c. refuted.--Examination of the divine writings
    in this particular.--Dissertation on the colour.--Chap. IX. Other
    arguments of the purchasers examined.--Their comparisons
    unjust.--Their assertions, with respect to the happy situation of
    the Africans in the colonies, without foundation.--Their happiness
    examined with respect to manumission.--With respect to
    holy-days.--Dances, &c.--An estimate made at St. Domingo.--Chap. X.
    The right of the purchasers over their slaves refuted upon their own
    principles.--Chap. XI. Dreadful arguments against this commerce and
    slavery of the human species.--How the Deity seems already to punish
    us for this inhuman violation of his laws.--Conclusion.

       *       *       *       *       *


    For _Dominique_, (Footnote 107) read _Domingue_.

    N. B. In page 18 a Latin note has been inserted by mistake, under
    the quotation of Diodorus Siculus. The reader will find the original
    Greek of the same signification, in the same author, at page 49.
    Editio Stephani.

       *        *        *        *        *





       *       *       *       *       *



       *        *        *        *        *


When civilized, as well as barbarous nations, have been found, through a
long succession of ages, uniformly to concur in the same customs, there
seems to arise a presumption, that such customs are not only eminently
useful, but are founded also on the principles of justice. Such is the
case with respect to _Slavery_: it has had the concurrence of all
the nations, which history has recorded, and the repeated practice of
ages from the remotest antiquity, in its favour. Here then is an
argument, deduced from the general consent and agreement of mankind, in
favour of the proposed subject: but alas! when we reflect that the
people, thus reduced to a state of servitude, have had the same feelings
with ourselves; when we reflect that they have had the same propensities
to pleasure, and the same aversions from pain; another argument seems
immediately to arise in opposition to the former, deduced from our own
feelings and that divine sympathy, which nature has implanted in our
breasts, for the most useful and generous of purposes. To ascertain the
truth therefore, where two such opposite sources of argument occur;
where the force of custom pleads strongly on the one hand, and the
feelings of humanity on the other; is a matter of much importance, as
the dignity of human nature is concerned, and the rights and liberties
of mankind will be involved in its discussion.

It will be necessary, before this point can be determined, to consult
the History of Slavery, and to lay before the reader, in as concise a
manner as possible, a general view of it from its earliest appearance to
the present day.

The first, whom we shall mention here to have been reduced to a state of
servitude, may be comprehended in that class, which is usually
denominated the _Mercenary_. It consisted of free-born citizens,
who, from the various contingencies of fortune, had become so poor, as
to have recourse for their support to the service of the rich. Of this
kind were those, both among the Egyptians and the Jews, who are recorded
in the sacred writings.[004] The Grecian _Thetes_[005] also were of
this description, as well as those among the Romans, from whom the class
receives its appellation, the [006]_Mercenarii_.

We may observe of the above-mentioned, that their situation was in many
instances similar to that of our own servants. There was an express
contract between the parties; they could, most of them, demand their
discharge, if they were ill used by their respective masters; and they
were treated therefore with more humanity than those, whom we usually
distinguish in our language by the appellation of _Slaves_.

As this class of servants was composed of men, who had been reduced to
such a situation by the contingencies of fortune, and not by their own
misconduct; so there was another among the ancients, composed entirely
of those, who had suffered the loss of liberty from their own
imprudence. To this class may be reduced the Grecian _Prodigals_,
who were detained in the service of their creditors, till the fruits of
their labour were equivalent to their debts; the _delinquents_, who
were sentenced to the oar; and the German _enthusiasts_, as
mentioned by Tacitus, who were so immoderately charmed with gaming, as,
when every thing else was gone, to have staked their liberty and their
very selves. "The loser," says he, "goes into a voluntary servitude, and
though younger and stronger than the person with whom he played,
patiently suffers himself to be bound and sold. Their perseverance in
so bad a custom is stiled honour. The slaves, thus obtained, are
immediately exchanged away in commerce, that the winner may get rid of
the scandal of his victory."

To enumerate other instances, would be unnecessary; it will be
sufficient to observe, that the servants of this class were in a far
more wretched situation, than those of the former; their drudgery was
more intense; their treatment more severe; and there was no retreat at
pleasure, from the frowns and lashes of their despotick masters.

Having premised this, we may now proceed to a general division of
slavery, into _voluntary_ and _involuntary_. The _voluntary_
will comprehend the two classes, which we have already mentioned;
for, in the first instance, there was a _contract_, founded
on _consent_; and, in the second, there was a _choice_ of
engaging or not in those practices, the known consequences of which
were servitude. The _involuntary_; on the other hand, will
comprehend those, who were forced, without any such _condition_ or
_choice_, into a situation, which as it tended to degrade a part of
the human species, and to class it with the brutal, must have been, of
all human situations, the most wretched and insupportable. These are
they, whom we shall consider solely in the present work. We shall
therefore take our leave of the former, as they were mentioned only,
that we might state the question with greater accuracy, and, be the
better enabled to reduce it to its proper limits.

       *        *        *        *        *


[Footnote 004: Genesis, Ch. 47. Leviticus XXV. v. 39, 40.]

[Footnote 005: The _Thetes_ appear very early in the Grecian
History.--kai tines auto kouroi epont'Ithakes exairetoi; he eoi autou
thentes te Dmoes(?) te; Od. Homer. D. 642. They were afterwards so much
in use that, "Murioi depou apedidonto eautous ose douleuein kata
sungraphen," till Solon suppressed the custom in Athens.]

[Footnote 006: The mention of these is frequent among the classics; they
were called in general _mercenarii_, from the circumstances of
their _hire_, as "quibus, non malè præcipiunt, qui ita jubent uti,
ut _mercenariis_, operam exigendam, justa proebenda. Cicero de
off." But they are sometimes mentioned in the law books by the name of
_liberi_, from the circumstances of their _birth_, to distinguish
them from the _alieni_, or foreigners, as Justinian. D. 7. 8. 4.
--Id. 21. 1. 25. &c. &c. &c.]

       *        *        *        *        *


The first that will be mentioned, of the _involuntary_, were
_prisoners of war_.[007] "It was a law, established from time
immemorial among the nations of antiquity, to oblige those to undergo
the severities of servitude, whom victory had thrown into their hands."
Conformably with this, we find all the Eastern nations unanimous in the
practice. The same custom prevailed among the people of the West; for as
the Helots became the slaves of the Spartans, from the right of conquest
only, so prisoners of war were reduced to the same situation by the rest
of the inhabitants of Greece. By the same principles that actuated
these, were the Romans also influenced. Their History will confirm the
fact: for how many cities are recorded to have been taken; how many
armies to have been vanquished in the field, and the wretched survivors,
in both instances, to have been doomed to servitude? It remains only now
to observe, in shewing this custom to have been universal, that all
those nations which assisted in overturning the Roman Empire, though
many and various, adopted the same measures; for we find it a general
maxim in their polity, that whoever should fall into their hands as a
prisoner of war, should immediately be reduced to the condition of a

It may here, perhaps, be not unworthy of remark, that the
_involuntary_ were of greater antiquity than the _voluntary_
slaves. The latter are first mentioned in the time of Pharaoh: they
could have arisen only in a state of society; when property, after its
division, had become so unequal, as to multiply the wants of
individuals; and when government, after its establishment, had given
security to the possessor by the punishment of crimes. Whereas the
former seem to be dated with more propriety from the days of Nimrod; who
gave rise probably to that inseparable idea of _victory_ and
_servitude_, which we find among the nations of antiquity, and
which has existed uniformly since, in one country or another, to the
present day.[008]

Add to this, that they might have arisen even in a state of nature, and
have been coequal with the quarrels of mankind.

       *        *        *        *        *


[Footnote 007: "Nomos en pasin anthropois aidios esin, otan polemounton
polis alo, ton elonton einai kai ta somata ton en te poleis, kai ta
chremata." Xenoph. Kyrou Paid. L. 7. fin.]

[Footnote 008:

"Proud Nimrod first the bloody chace began,
A mighty hunter, and his prey was man."


       *        *        *        *        *


But it was not victory alone, or any presupposed right, founded in the
damages of war, that afforded a pretence for invading the liberties of
mankind: the honourable light, in which _piracy_ was considered in
the uncivilized ages of the world, contributed not a little to the
_slavery_ of the human species. Piracy had a very early beginning.
"The Grecians,"[009] says Thucydides, "in their primitive state, as well
as the contemporary barbarians, who inhabited the sea coasts and
islands, gave themselves wholly to it; it was, in short, their only
profession and support." The writings of Homer are sufficient of
themselves to establish this account. They shew it to have been a common
practice at so early a period as that of the Trojan war; and abound with
many lively descriptions of it; which, had they been as groundless as
they are beautiful, would have frequently spared the sigh of the reader
of sensibility and reflection.

The piracies, which were thus practised in the early ages, may be
considered as _publick_ or _private_. In the former, whole
crews embarked for the benefit[010] of their respective tribes. They
made descents on the sea coasts, carried off cattle, surprized whole
villages, put many of the inhabitants to the sword, and carried others
into slavery.

In the latter, individuals only were concerned, and the emolument was
their own. These landed from their ships, and, going up into the
country, concealed themselves in the woods and thickets; where they
waited every opportunity of catching the unfortunate shepherd or
husbandman alone. In this situation they sallied out upon him, dragged
him on board, conveyed him to a foreign market, and sold him for a

To this kind of piracy Ulysses alludes, in opposition to the former,
which he had been just before mentioning, in his question to Eumoeus.

"Did pirates wait, till all thy friends were gone,
To catch thee singly with thy flocks alone;
Say, did they force thee from thy fleecy care,
And from thy fields transport and sell thee here?"[011]

But no picture, perhaps, of this mode of depredation, is equal to that,
with which[012] Xenophon presents us in the simple narrative of a dance.
He informs us that the Grecian army had concluded a peace with the
Paphlagonians, and that they entertained their embassadors in
consequence with a banquet, and the exhibition of various feats of
activity. "When the Thracians," says he, "had performed the parts
allotted them in this entertainment, some Aenianian and Magnetian
soldiers rose up, and, accoutred in their proper arms, exhibited that
dance, which is called _Karpoea_. The figure of it is thus. One of
them, in the character of an husbandman, is seen to till his land, and
is observed, as he drives his plough, to look frequently behind him, as
if apprehensive of danger. Another immediately appears in fight, in
the character of a robber. The husbandman, having seen him previously
advancing, snatches up his arms. A battle ensues before the plough. The
whole of this performance is kept in perfect time with the musick of the
flute. At length the robber, having got the better of the husbandman,
binds him, and drives him off with his team. Sometimes it happens that
the husbandman subdues the robber: in this case the scene is only
reversed, as the latter is then bound and driven, off by the former."

It is scarcely necessary to observe, that this dance was a
representation of the general manners of men, in the more uncivilized
ages of the world; shewing that the husbandman and shepherd lived in
continual alarm, and that there were people in those ages, who derived
their pleasures and fortunes from _kidnapping_ and _enslaving_
their fellow creatures.

We may now take notice of a circumstance in this narration, which will
lead us to a review of our first assertion on this point, "that the
honourable light, in which _piracy_ was considered in the times of
barbarism, contributed not a little to the _slavery_ of the human
species." The robber is represented here as frequently defeated in his
attempts, and as reduced to that deplorable situation, to which he was
endeavouring to bring another. This shews the frequent difficulty and
danger of his undertakings: people would not tamely resign their lives
or liberties, without a struggle. They were sometimes prepared; were
superior often, in many points of view, to these invaders of their
liberty; there were an hundred accidental circumstances frequently in
their favour. These adventures therefore required all the skill,
strength, agility, valour, and every thing, in short, that may be
supposed to constitute heroism, to conduct them with success. Upon this
idea piratical expeditions first came into repute, and their frequency
afterwards, together with the danger and fortitude, that were
inseparably connected with them, brought them into such credit among the
barbarous nations of antiquity, that of all human professions, piracy
was the most honourable.[013]

The notions then, which were thus annexed to piratical expeditions, did
not fail to produce those consequences, which we have mentioned before.
They afforded an opportunity to the views of avarice and ambition, to
conceal themselves under the mask of virtue. They excited a spirit of
enterprize, of all others the most irresistible, as it subsisted on the
strongest principles of action, emolument and honour. Thus could the
vilest of passions be gratified with impunity. People were robbed,
stolen, murdered, under the pretended idea that these were reputable
adventures: every enormity in short was committed, and dressed up in the
habiliments of honour.

But as the notions of men in the less barbarous ages, which followed,
became more corrected and refined, the practice of piracy began
gradually to disappear. It had hitherto been supported on the grand
columns of _emolument_ and _honour_. When the latter therefore
was removed, it received a considerable shock; but, alas! it had still a
pillar for its support! _avarice_, which exists in all states, and
which is ready to turn every invention to its own ends, strained hard
for its preservation. It had been produced in the ages of barbarism; it
had been pointed out in those ages as lucrative, and under this notion
it was continued. People were still stolen; many were intercepted (some,
in their pursuits of pleasure, others, in the discharge of their several
occupations) by their own countrymen; who previously laid in wait for
them, and sold them afterwards for slaves; while others seized by
merchants, who traded on the different coasts, were torn from their
friends and connections, and carried into slavery. The merchants of
Thessaly, if we can credit Aristophanes[014] who never spared the vices
of the times, were particularly infamous for the latter kind of
depredation; the Athenians were notorious for the former; for they had
practised these robberies to such an alarming degree of danger to
individuals, that it was found necessary to enact a law[015], which
punished kidnappers with death.--But this is sufficient for our present
purpose; it will enable us to assert, that there were two classes of
_involuntary_ slaves among the ancients, "of those who were taken
publickly in a state of war, and of those who were privately stolen in
a state of innocence and peace." We may now add, that the children and
descendents of these composed a third.

       *        *        *        *        *


[Footnote 009: Thucydides. L. 1. sub initio.]

[Footnote 010: Idem.--"the strongest," says he, "engaging in these
adventures, Kerdous tou spheterou auton eneka kai tois asthenesi trophes."]

[Footnote 011: Homer. Odyss. L. 15. 385.]

[Footnote 012: Xenoph. Kyrou Anab. L. 6. sub initio.]

[Footnote 013: ouk echontos po Aischynen toutou tou ergou pherontos de
ti kai Doxes mallon. Thucydides, L. 1. sub initio. kai euklees touto
oi Kilikes enomizon. Sextus Empiricus. ouk adoxon all'endoxon touto.
Schol. &c. &c.]

[Footnote 014: Aristoph. Plut. Act. 2. Scene 5.]

[Footnote 015: Zenoph. Apomnemon, L. 1.]

       *        *        *        *        *


It will be proper to say something here concerning the situation of the
unfortunate men, who were thus doomed to a life of servitude. To
enumerate their various employments, and to describe the miseries which
they endured in consequence, either from the severity, or the long and
constant application of their labour, would exceed the bounds we have
proposed to the present work. We shall confine ourselves to their
_personal treatment_, as depending on the power of their masters, and
the protection of the law. Their treatment, if considered in this light,
will equally excite our pity and abhorrence. They were beaten, starved,
tortured, murdered at discretion: they were dead in a civil sense; they
had neither name nor tribe; were incapable of a judicial process; were
in short without appeal. Poor unfortunate men! to be deprived of all
possible protection! to suffer the bitterest of injuries without the
possibility of redress! to be condemned unheard! to be murdered with
impunity! to be considered as dead in that state, the very members of
which they were supporting by their labours!

Yet such was their general situation: there were two places however,
where their condition, if considered in this point of view, was more
tolerable. The Ægyptian slave, though perhaps of all others the greatest
drudge, yet if he had time to reach the temple[016] of Hercules, found a
certain retreat from the persecution of his master; and he received
additional comfort from the reflection, that his life, whether he could
reach it or not, could not be taken with impunity. Wise and salutary
law![017] how often must it have curbed the insolence of power, and
stopped those passions in their progress, which had otherwise been
destructive to the slave!

But though the persons of slaves were thus greatly secured in Ægypt, yet
there was no place so favourable to them as Athens. They were allowed a
greater liberty of speech;[018] they had their convivial meetings, their
amours, their hours of relaxation, pleasantry, and mirth; they were
treated, in short, with so much humanity in general, as to occasion that
observation of Demosthenes, in his second Philippick, "that the
condition of a slave, at Athens, was preferable to that of a free
citizen, in many other countries." But if any exception happened (which
was sometimes the case) from the general treatment described; if
persecution took the place of lenity, and made the fangs of servitude
more pointed than before,[019] they had then their temple, like the
Ægyptian, for refuge; where the legislature was so attentive, as to
examine their complaints, and to order them, if they were founded in
justice, to be sold to another master. Nor was this all: they had a
privilege infinitely greater than the whole of these. They were allowed
an opportunity of working for themselves, and if their diligence had
procured them a sum equivalent with their ransom, they could
immediately, on paying it down,[020] demand their freedom for ever. This
law was, of all others, the most important; as the prospect of liberty,
which it afforded, must have been a continual source of the most
pleasing reflections, and have greatly sweetened the draught, even of
the most bitter slavery.

Thus then, to the eternal honour of Ægypt and Athens, they were the only
places that we can find, where slaves were considered with any humanity
at all. The rest of the world seemed to vie with each other, in the
debasement and oppression of these unfortunate people. They used them
with as much severity as they chose; they measured their treatment only
by their own passion and caprice; and, by leaving them on every
occasion, without the possibility of an appeal, they rendered their
situation the most melancholy and intolerable, that can possibly be

       *        *        *        *        *


[Footnote 016: Herodotus. L. 2. 113.]

[Footnote 017: "Apud Ægyptios, si quis servum sponte occiderat, eum
morte damnari æque ac si liberum occidisset, jubebant leges &c."
Diodorus Sic. L. 1.]

[Footnote 018:

"Atq id ne vos miremini, Homines servulos
Potare, amare, atq ad coenam condicere.
Licet hoc Athenis.
Plautus. Sticho."

[Footnote 019:
"Be me kratison esin eis to Theseion
Dramein, ekei d'eos an eurombou prasin
menein" Aristoph. Horæ.

Kaka toiade paskousin oude prasin
Aitousin. Eupolis. poleis.]

[Footnote 020: To this privilege Plautus alludes in his _Casina_,
where he introduces a slave, speaking in the following manner.

"Quid tu me verò libertate territas?
Quod si tu nolis, siliusque etiam tuus
Vobis _invitis_, atq amborum _ingratiis_,
_Una libella liber possum fieri_."

       *        *        *        *        *


As we have mentioned the barbarous and inhuman treatment that generally
fell to the lot of slaves, it may not be amiss to inquire into the
various circumstances by which it was produced.

The first circumstance, from whence it originated, was the
_commerce_: for if men could be considered as _possessions_;
if, like _cattle_, they could be _bought_ and _sold_, it
will not be difficult to suppose, that they could be held in the same
consideration, or treated in the same manner. The commerce therefore,
which was begun in the primitive ages of the world, by classing them
with the brutal species, and by habituating the mind to consider the
terms of _brute_ and _slave_ as _synonimous_, soon caused
them to be viewed in a low and despicable light, and as greatly
inferiour to the human species. Hence proceeded that treatment, which
might not unreasonably be supposed to arise from so low an estimation.
They were tamed, like beasts, by the stings of hunger and the lash, and
their education was directed to the same end, to make them commodious
instruments of labour for their possessors.

This _treatment_, which thus proceeded in the ages of barbarism,
from the low estimation, in which slaves were unfortunately held from
the circumstances of the commerce, did not fail of producing, in the
same instant, its _own_ effect. It depressed their minds; it numbed
their faculties; and, by preventing those sparks of genius from blazing
forth, which had otherwise been conspicuous; it gave them the appearance
of being endued with inferiour capacities than the rest of mankind. This
effect of the _treatment_ had made so considerable a progress, as
to have been a matter of observation in the days of Homer.

For half _his_ senses Jove conveys away,
_Whom_ once he dooms to see the _servile_ day.[021]

Thus then did the _commerce_, by classing them originally with
_brutes_, and the consequent _treatment_, by cramping their
_abilities_, and hindering them from becoming _conspicuous_,
give to these unfortunate people, at a very early period, the most
unfavourable _appearance_. The rising generations, who received
both the commerce and treatment from their ancestors, and who had always
been accustomed to behold their _effects_, did not consider these
_effects_ as _incidental_: they judged only from what they
saw; they believed the _appearances_ to be _real_; and hence
arose the combined principle, that slaves were an _inferiour_ order
of men, and perfectly void of _understanding_. Upon this
_principle_ it was, that the former treatment began to be fully
confirmed and established; and as this _principle_ was handed down
and disseminated, so it became, in succeeding ages, an _excuse_ for
any severity, that despotism might suggest.

We may observe here, that as all nations had this excuse in common, as
arising from the _circumstances_ above-mentioned, so the Greeks
first, and the Romans afterwards, had an _additional excuse_, as
arising from their own _vanity_.

The former having conquered Troy, and having united themselves under one
common name and interest, began, from that period, to distinguish the
rest of the world by the title of _barbarians_; inferring by such
an appellation, "that they were men who were only noble in their own
country; that they had no right, from their _nature_, to authority
or command; that, on the contrary, so low were their capacities, they
were _destined_ by nature _to obey_, and to live in a state of
perpetual drudgery and subjugation."[022] Conformable with this opinion
was the treatment, which was accordingly prescribed to a
_barbarian_. The philosopher Aristotle himself, in the advice which
he gave to his pupil Alexander, before he went upon his Asiatick
expedition, intreated him to "use the Greeks, as it became a
_general_, but the _barbarians_, as it became a _master_;
consider, says he, the former as _friends_ and _domesticks_;
but the latter, as _brutes_ and _plants_;"[023] inferring that
the Greeks, from the superiority of their capacities, had a
_natural_ right to dominion, and that the rest of the world, from
the inferiority of their own, were to be considered and treated as the
_irrational_ part of the creation.

Now, if we consider that this was the treatment, which they judged to be
absolutely proper for people of this description, and that their slaves
were uniformly those, whom they termed _barbarians_; being
generally such, as were either kidnapped from _Barbary_, or
purchased from the _barbarian_ conquerors in their wars with one
another; we shall immediately see, with what an additional excuse their
own vanity had furnished them for the sallies of caprice and passion.

To refute these cruel sentiments of the ancients, and to shew that their
slaves were by no means an inferiour order of beings than themselves,
may perhaps be considered as an unnecessary task; particularly, as
having shewn, that the causes of this inferiour appearance were
_incidental_, arising, on the one hand, from the combined effects
of the _treatment_ and _commerce_, and, on the other, from
_vanity_ and _pride_, we seem to have refuted them already.
But we trust that some few observations, in vindication of these
unfortunate people, will neither be unacceptable nor improper.

How then shall we begin the refutation? Shall we say with Seneca, who
saw many of the slaves in question, "What is a _knight_, or a
_libertine_, or a _slave_? Are they not names, assumed either
from _injury_ or _ambition_?" Or, shall we say with him on
another occasion, "Let us consider that he, whom we call our slave, is
born in the same manner as ourselves; that he enjoys the same sky, with
all its heavenly luminaries; that he breathes, that he lives, in the
same manner as ourselves, and, in the same manner, that he expires."
These considerations, we confess, would furnish us with a plentiful
source of arguments in the case before us; but we decline their
assistance. How then shall we begin? Shall we enumerate the many
instances of fidelity, patience, or valour, that are recorded of the
_servile_ race? Shall we enumerate the many important services,
that they rendered both to the individuals and the community, under whom
they lived? Here would be a second source, from whence we could collect
sufficient materials to shew, that there was no inferiority in their
nature. But we decline to use them. We shall content ourselves with some
few instances, that relate to the _genius_ only: we shall mention
the names of those of a _servile_ condition, whose writings, having
escaped the wreck of time, and having been handed down even to the
present age, are now to be seen, as so many living monuments, that
neither the Grecian, nor Roman genius, was superiour to their own.

The first, whom we shall mention here, is the famous Æsop. He was a
Phrygian by birth, and lived in the time of Croesus, king of Lydia, to
whom he dedicated his fables. The writings of this great man, in
whatever light we consider them, will be equally entitled to our
admiration. But we are well aware, that the very mention of him as a
writer of fables, may depreciate him in the eyes of some. To such we
shall propose a question, "Whether this species of writing has not been
more beneficial to mankind; or whether it has not produced more
important events, than any other?"

With respect to the first consideration, it is evident that these
fables, as consisting of plain and simple transactions, are particularly
easy to be understood; as conveyed in images, they please and seduce the
mind; and, as containing a _moral_, easily deducible on the side of
virtue; that they afford, at the same time, the most weighty precepts of
philosophy. Here then are the two grand points of composition, "a manner
of expression to be apprehended by the lowest capacities, and, (what is
considered as a victory in the art) an happy conjunction of utility and
pleasure."[024] Hence Quintilian recommends them, as singularly useful,
and as admirably adapted, to the puerile age; as a just gradation
between the language of the nurse and the preceptor, and as furnishing
maxims of prudence and virtue, at a time when the speculative principles
of philosophy are too difficult to be understood. Hence also having been
introduced by most civilized nations into their system of education,
they have produced that general benefit, to which we at first alluded.
Nor have they been of less consequence in maturity; but particularly to
those of inferiour capacities, or little erudition, whom they have
frequently served as a guide to conduct them in life, and as a medium,
through which an explanation might be made, on many and important

With respect to the latter consideration, which is easily deducible from
hence, we shall only appeal to the wonderful effect, which the fable,
pronounced by Demosthenes against Philip of Macedon, produced among his
hearers; or to the fable, which was spoken by Menenius Agrippa to the
Roman populace; by which an illiterate multitude were brought back to
their duty as citizens, when no other species of oratory could prevail.

To these truly _ingenious_, and _philosophical_ works of Æsop,
we shall add those of his imitator Phoedrus, which in purity and
elegance of style, are inferiour to none. We shall add also the Lyrick
_Poetry_ of Alcman, which is no _servile_ composition; the
sublime _Morals_ of Epictetus, and the incomparable _comedies_
of Terence.

Thus then does it appear, that the _excuse_ which was uniformly
started in defence of the _treatment_ of slaves, had no foundation
whatever either in truth or justice. The instances that we have
mentioned above, are sufficient to shew, that there was no inferiority,
either in their _nature_, or their understandings: and at the same
time that they refute the principles of the ancients, they afford a
valuable lesson to those, who have been accustomed to form too
precipitate a judgment on the abilities of men: for, alas! how often has
_secret anguish_ depressed the spirits of those, whom they have
frequently censured, from their gloomy and dejected appearance! and how
often, on the other hand, has their judgment resulted from their own
_vanity_ and _pride_!

       *        *        *        *        *


[Footnote 021: Homer. Odys. P. 322. In the latest edition of Homer, the
word, which we have translated _senses_, is _Aretae_, or
_virtue_, but the old and proper reading is _Noos_, as appears
from Plato de Legibus, ch. 6, where he quotes it on a similar occasion.]

[Footnote 022: Aristotle. Polit. Ch. 2. et inseq.]

[Footnote 023: Ellesin hegemonikos, tois de Barbarois despotikos krasthar
kai ton men os philon kai oikeion epimeleisthai, tois de os
zoois he phytois prospheresthai. Plutarch. de Fortun. Alexand. Orat. 1.]

[Footnote 024: Omne tulit punctum, qui miscuit utile dulci. Horace.]

       *        *        *        *        *


We proceed now to the consideration of the _commerce_: in
consequence of which, people, endued with the same feelings and
faculties as ourselves, were made subject to the laws and limitations of

This commerce of the human species was of a very early date. It was
founded on the idea that men were _property_; and, as this idea was
coeval with the first order of _involuntary_ slaves, it must have
arisen, (if the date, which we previously affixed to that order, be
right) in the first practices of barter. The Story of Joseph, as
recorded in the sacred writings, whom his brothers sold from an envious
suspicion of his future greatness, is an ample testimony of the truth of
this conjecture. It shews that there were men, even at that early
period, who travelled up and down as merchants, collecting not only
balm, myrrh, spicery, and other wares, but the human species also, for
the purposes of traffick. The instant determination of the brothers, on
the first sight of the merchants, _to sell him_, and the immediate
acquiescence of these, who purchased him for a foreign market, prove
that this commerce had been then established, not only in that part of
the country, where this transaction happened, but in that also, whither
the merchants were then travelling with their camels, namely, Ægypt: and
they shew farther, that, as all customs require time for their
establishment, so it must have existed in the ages, previous to that of
Pharaoh; that is, in those ages, in which we fixed the first date of
_involuntary_ servitude. This commerce then, as appears by the
present instance, existed in the earliest practices of barter, and had
descended to the Ægyptians, through as long a period of time, as was
sufficient to have made it, in the times alluded to, an established
custom. Thus was Ægypt, in those days, the place of the greatest resort;
the grand emporium of trade, to which people were driving their
merchandize, as to a centre; and thus did it afford, among other
opportunities of traffick, the _first market_ that is recorded, for
the sale of the human species.

This market, which was thus supplied by the constant concourse of
merchants, who resorted to it from various parts, could not fail, by
these means, to have been considerable. It received, afterwards, an
additional supply from those piracies, which we mentioned to have
existed in the uncivilized ages of the world, and which, in fact, it
greatly promoted and encouraged; and it became, from these united
circumstances, so famous, as to have been known, within a few centuries
from the time of Pharaoh, both to the Grecian colonies in Asia, and the
Grecian islands. Homer mentions Cyprus and Ægypt as the common markets
for slaves, about the times of the Trojan war. Thus Antinous, offended
with Ulysses, threatens to send him to one of these places, if he does
not instantly depart from his table.[025] The same poet also, in his
hymn to Bacchus[026], mentions them again, but in a more unequivocal
manner, as the common markets for slaves. He takes occasion, in that
hymn, to describe the pirates method of scouring the coast, from the
circumstance of their having kidnapped Bacchus, as a noble youth, for
whom they expected an immense ransom. The captain of the vessel, having
dragged him on board, is represented as addressing himself thus, to the

"Haul in the tackle, hoist aloft the sail,
Then take your helm, and watch the doubtful gale!
To mind the captive prey, be our's the care,
While you to _Ægypt_ or to _Cyprus_ steer;
There shall he go, unless his friends he'll tell,
Whose ransom-gifts will pay us full as well."

It may not perhaps be considered as a digression, to mention in few
words, by itself, the wonderful concordance of the writings of Moses and
Homer with the case before us: not that the former, from their divine
authority, want additional support, but because it cannot be unpleasant
to see them confirmed by a person, who, being one of the earliest
writers, and living in a very remote age, was the first that could
afford us any additional proof of the circumstances above-mentioned.
Ægypt is represented, in the first book of the sacred writings, as a
market for slaves, and, in the [027]second, as famous for the severity
of its servitude. [028]The same line, which we have already cited from
Homer, conveys to us the same ideas. It points it out as a market for
the human species, and by the epithet of "_bitter_ Ægypt,"
([029]which epithet is peculiarly annexed to it on this occasion)
alludes in the strongest manner to that severity and rigour, of which
the sacred historian transmitted us the first account.

But, to return. Though Ægypt was the first market recorded for this
species of traffick; and though Ægypt, and Cyprus afterwards, were
particularly distinguished for it, in the times of the Trojan war; yet
they were not the only places, even at that period, where men were
bought and sold. The Odyssey of Homer shews that it was then practised
in many of the islands of the Ægean sea; and the Iliad, that it had
taken place among those Grecians on the continent of Europe, who had
embarked from thence on the Trojan expedition. This appears particularly
at the end of the seventh book. A fleet is described there, as having
just arrived from Lemnos, with a supply of wine for the Grecian camp.
The merchants are described also, as immediately exposing it to sale,
and as receiving in exchange, among other articles of barter, "_a
number of slaves_."

It will now be sufficient to observe, that, as other states arose, and
as circumstances contributed to make them known, this custom is
discovered to have existed among them; that it travelled over all Asia;
that it spread through the Grecian and Roman world; was in use among the
barbarous nations, which overturned the Roman empire; and was practised
therefore, at the same period, throughout all Europe.

       *        *        *        *        *


[Footnote 025: me tacha pikren Aigypton kai Kypron idnai. Hom.
Odyss. L. 17. 448.]

[Footnote 026: L. 26.]

[Footnote 027: Exodus. Ch. 1.]

[Footnote 028: Vide note 1st. (Here shown as footnote 025).]

[Footnote 029: This strikes us the more forcibly, as it is stiled
_eurreiten_ and _perikallea_, "_beautiful and well watered_,"
in all other passages where it is mentioned, but this.]

       *        *        *        *        *


This _slavery_ and _commerce_, which had continued for so long
a time, and which was thus practised in Europe at so late a period as
that, which succeeded the grand revolutions in the western world, began,
as the northern nations were settled in their conquests, to decline,
and, on their full establishment, were abolished. A difference of
opinion has arisen respecting the cause of their abolition; some having
asserted, that they were the necessary consequences of the _feudal
system_; while others, superiour both in number and in argument, have
maintained that they were the natural effects of _Christianity_.
The mode of argument, which the former adopt on this occasion, is as
follows. "The multitude of little states, which sprang up from one great
one at this Æra, occasioned infinite bickerings and matter for
contention. There was not a state or seignory, which did not want all
the hands they could muster, either to defend their own right, or to
dispute that of their neighbours. Thus every man was taken into the
service: whom they armed they must trust: and there could be no trust
but in free men. Thus the barrier between the two natures was thrown
down, and _slavery_ was no more heard of, in the _west_."

That this was not the _necessary_ consequence of such a situation,
is apparent. The political state of Greece, in its early history, was
the same as that of Europe, when divided, by the feudal system, into an
infinite number of small and independent kingdoms. There was the same
matter therefore for contention, and the same call for all the hands
that could be mustered: the Grecians, in short, in _heroick_, were
in the same situation in these respects as the _feudal barons_ in
the _Gothick_ times. Had this therefore been a _necessary_
effect, there had been a cessation of servitude in Greece, in those
ages, in which we have already shewn that it existed.

But with respect to _Christianity_, many and great are the
arguments, that it occasioned so desirable an event. It taught, "that
all men were originally equal; that the Deity was no respecter of
persons, and that, as all men were to give an account of their actions
hereafter, it was necessary that they should be free." These doctrines
could not fail of having their proper influence on those, who first
embraced _Christianity_, from a _conviction_ of its truth; and
on those of their descendents afterwards, who, by engaging in the
_crusades_, and hazarding their lives and fortunes there, shewed,
at least, an _attachment_ to that religion. We find them
accordingly actuated by these principles: we have a positive proof, that
the _feudal system_ had no share in the honour of suppressing
slavery, but that _Christianity_ was the only cause; for the
greatest part of the _charters_ which were granted for the freedom
of slaves in those times (many of which are still extant) were granted,
"_pro amore Dei, pro mercede animæ_." They were founded, in short,
on religious considerations, "that they might procure the favour of the
Deity, which they conceived themselves to have forfeited, by the
subjugation of those, whom they found to be the objects of the divine
benevolence and attention equally with themselves."

These considerations, which had thus their first origin in
_Christianity_, began to produce their effects, as the different
nations were converted; and procured that general liberty at last,
which, at the close of the twelfth century, was conspicuous in the west
of Europe. What a glorious and important change! Those, who would have
had otherwise no hopes, but that their miseries would be terminated by
death, were then freed from their servile condition; those, who, by the
laws of war, would have had otherwise an immediate prospect of servitude
from the hands of their imperious conquerors, were then
_exchanged_; a custom, which has happily descended to the present
day. Thus, "a numerous class of men, who formerly had no political
existence, and were employed merely as instruments of labour, became
useful citizens, and contributed towards augmenting the force or riches
of the society, which adopted them as members;" and thus did the greater
part of the Europeans, by their conduct on this occasion, assert not
only liberty for themselves, but for their fellow-creatures also.

       *        *        *        *        *


But if men therefore, at a time when under the influence of religion
they exercised their serious thoughts, abolished slavery, how impious
must they appear, who revived it; and what arguments will not present
themselves against their conduct![030] The Portuguese, within two
centuries after its suppression in Europe, in imitation of those
_piracies_, which we have shewn to have existed in the _uncivilized_
ages of the world, made their descents on Africa, and committing
depredations on the coast,[031] _first_ carried the wretched
inhabitants into slavery.

This practice, however trifling and partial it might appear at first,
soon became serious and general. A melancholy instance of the depravity
of human nature; as it shews, that neither the laws nor religion of any
country, however excellent the forms of each, are sufficient to bind the
consciences of some; but that there are always men, of every age,
country, and persuasion, who are ready to sacrifice their dearest
principles at the shrine of gain. Our own ancestors, together with the
Spaniards, French, and most of the maritime powers of Europe, soon
followed the _piratical_ example; and thus did the Europeans, to their
eternal infamy, renew a custom, which their _own_ ancestors had so
lately exploded, from a _conscientiousness_ of its _impiety_.

The unfortunate Africans, terrified at these repeated depredations, fled
in confusion from the coast, and sought, in the interiour parts of the
country, a retreat from the persecution of their invaders. But, alas,
they were miserably disappointed! There are few retreats, that can
escape the penetrating eye of avarice. The Europeans still pursued them;
they entered their rivers; sailed up into the heart of the country;
surprized the unfortunate Africans again; and carried them into slavery.

But this conduct, though successful at first, defeated afterwards its
own ends. It created a more general alarm, and pointed out, at the same
instant, the best method of security from future depredations. The banks
of the rivers were accordingly deserted, as the coasts had been before;
and thus were the _Christian_ invaders left without a prospect of
their prey.

In this situation however, expedients were not wanting. They now formed
to themselves the resolution of settling in the country; of securing
themselves by fortified ports; of changing their system of force into
that of pretended liberality; and of opening, by every species of
bribery and corruption, a communication with the natives. These plans
were put into immediate execution. The Europeans erected their
forts[032]; landed their merchandize; and endeavoured, by a peaceable
deportment, by presents, and by every appearance of munificence, to
seduce the attachment and confidence of the Africans. These schemes had
the desired effect. The gaudy trappings of European art, not only caught
their attention, but excited their curiosity: they dazzled the eyes and
bewitched the senses, not only of those, to whom they were given, but of
those, to whom they were shewn. Thus followed a speedy intercourse with
each other, and a confidence, highly favourable to the views of avarice
or ambition.

It was now time for the Europeans to embrace the opportunity, which this
intercourse had thus afforded them, of carrying their schemes into
execution, and of fixing them on such a permanent foundation, as should
secure them future success. They had already discovered, in the
different interviews obtained, the chiefs of the African tribes. They
paid their court therefore to these, and so compleatly intoxicated their
senses with the luxuries, which they brought from home, as to be able to
seduce them to their designs. A treaty of peace and commerce was
immediately concluded: it was agreed, that the kings, on their part,
should, from this period, sentence _prisoners of war_ and _convicts_
to _European servitude_; and that the Europeans should supply them, in
return, with the luxuries of the north. This agreement immediately took
place; and thus begun that _commerce_, which makes so considerable a
figure at the present day.

But happy had the Africans been, if those only, who had been justly
convicted of crimes, or taken in a just war, had been sentenced to the
severities of servitude! How many of those miseries, which afterwards
attended them, had been never known; and how would their history have
saved those sighs and emotions of pity, which must now ever accompany
its perusal. The Europeans, on the establishment of their western
colonies, required a greater number of slaves than a strict adherence to
the treaty could produce. The princes therefore had only the choice of
relinquishing the commerce, or of consenting to become unjust. They had
long experienced the emoluments of the trade; they had acquired a taste
for the luxuries it afforded; and they now beheld an opportunity of
gratifying it, but in a more extentive manner. _Avarice_ therefore,
which was too powerful for _justice_ on this occasion, immediately
turned the scale: not only those, who were fairly convicted of offences,
were now sentenced to servitude, but even those who were _suspected_.
New crimes were invented, that new punishments might succeed. Thus was
every appearance soon construed into reality; every shadow into a
substance; and often virtue into a crime.

Such also was the case with respect to prisoners of war. Not only those
were now delivered into slavery, who were taken in a state of publick
enmity and injustice, but those also, who, conscious of no injury
whatever, were taken in the _arbitrary_ skirmishes of these _venal_
sovereigns. War was now made, not as formerly, from the motives of
retaliation and defence, but for the sake of obtaining prisoners alone,
and the advantages resulting from their sale. If a ship from Europe came
but into sight, it was now considered as a sufficient motive for a war,
and as a signal only for an instantaneous commencement of hostilities.

But if the African kings could be capable of such injustice, what vices
are there, that their consciences would restrain, or what enormities,
that we might not expect to be committed? When men once consent to be
unjust, they lose, at the same instant with their virtue, a considerable
portion of that sense of shame, which, till then, had been found a
successful protector against the sallies of vice. From that awful
period, almost every expectation is forlorn: the heart is left
unguarded: its great protector is no more: the vices therefore, which so
long encompassed it in vain, obtain an easy victory: in crouds they pour
into the defenceless avenues, and take possession of the soul: there is
nothing now too vile for them to meditate, too impious to perform. Such
was the situation of the despotick sovereigns of Africa. They had once
ventured to pass the bounds of virtue, and they soon proceeded to
enormity. This was particularly conspicuous in that general conduct,
which they uniformly observed, after any unsuccessful conflict.
Influenced only by the venal motives of European traffick, they first
made war upon the neighbouring tribes, contrary to every principle of
justice; and if, by the flight of the enemy, or by other contingencies,
they were disappointed of their prey, they made no hesitation of
immediately turning their arms against their own subjects. The first
villages they came to, were always marked on this occasion, as the first
objects of their avarice. They were immediately surrounded, were
afterwards set on fire, and the wretched inhabitants seized, as they
were escaping from the flames. These, consisting of whole families,
fathers, brothers, husbands, wives, and children, were instantly driven
in chains to the merchants, and consigned to slavery.

To these calamities, which thus arose from the tyranny of the kings, we
may now subjoin those, which arose from the avarice of private persons.
Many were kidnapped by their own countrymen, who, encouraged by the
merchants of Europe, previously lay in wait for them, and sold them
afterwards for slaves; while the seamen of the different ships, by every
possible artifice, enticed others on board, and transported them to the
regions of servitude.

As these practices are in full force at the present day, it appears that
there are four orders of _involuntary_ slaves on the African
continent; of [033]_convicts_; of _prisoners of war_; of
those, who are publickly seized by virtue of the _authority_ of
their prince; and of those, who are privately _kidnapped_ by

It remains only to observe on this head, that in the sale and purchase
of these the African commerce or _Slave Trade_ consists; that they
are delivered to the merchants of Europe in exchange for their various
commodities; that these transport them to their colonies in the west,
where their _slavery_ takes place; and that a fifth order arises
there, composed of all such as are born to the native Africans, after
their transportation and slavery have commenced.

Having thus explained as much of the history of modern servitude, as is
sufficient for the prosecution of our design, we should have closed our
account here, but that a work, just published, has furnished us with a
singular anecdote of the colonists of a neighbouring nation, which we
cannot but relate. The learned [034]author, having described the method
which the Dutch colonists at the Cape make use of to take the Hottentots
and enslave them, takes occasion, in many subsequent parts of the work,
to mention the dreadful effects of the practice of slavery; which, as he
justly remarks, "leads to all manner of misdemeanours and wickedness.
Pregnant women," says he, "and children in their tenderest years, were
not at this time, neither indeed are they ever, exempt from the effects
of the hatred and spirit of vengeance constantly harboured by the
colonists, with respect to the [035]Boshies-man nation; _excepting such
indeed as are marked out to be carried away into bondage_.

"Does a colonist at any time get sight of a Boshies-man, he takes fire
immediately, and spirits up his horse and dogs, in order to hunt him
with more ardour and fury than he would a wolf, or any other wild beast?
On an open plain, a few colonists on horseback are always sure to get
the better of the greatest number of Boshies-men that can be brought
together; as the former always keep at the distance of about an hundred,
or an hundred and fifty paces (just as they find it convenient) and
charging their heavy fire-arms with a very large kind of shot, jump off
their horses, and rest their pieces in their usual manner on their
ramrods, in order that they may shoot with the greater certainty; so
that the balls discharged by them will sometimes, as I have been
assured, go through the bodies of six, seven, or eight of the enemy at a
time, especially as these latter know no better than to keep close
together in a body."--

"And not only is the capture of the Hottentots considered by them merely
as a party of pleasure, but in cold blood they destroy the bands which
nature has knit between their husbands, and their wives and children,

With what horrour do these passages seem to strike us! What indignation
do they seem to raise in our breasts, when we reflect, that a part of
the human species are considered as _game_, and that _parties of
pleasure_ are made for their _destruction_! The lion does not
imbrue his claws in blood, unless called upon by hunger, or provoked by
interruption; whereas the merciless Dutch, more savage than the brutes
themselves, not only murder their fellow-creatures without any
provocation or necessity, but even make a diversion of their sufferings,
and enjoy their pain.

       *        *        *        *        *


[Footnote 030: The following short history of the African servitude, is
taken from Astley's Collection of Voyages, and from the united
testimonies of Smyth, Adanson, Bosman, Moore, and others, who were
agents to the different factories established there; who resided many
years in the country; and published their respective histories at their
return. These writers, if they are partial at all, may be considered as
favourable rather to their own countrymen, than the unfortunate

[Footnote 031: We would not wish to be understood, that slavery was
unknown in Africa before the _piratical_ expeditions of the
_Portuguese_, as it appears from the _Nubian's Geography_,
that both the slavery and commerce had been established among the
natives with one another. We mean only to assert, that the
_Portuguese_ were the first of the _Europeans_, who made their
_piratical_ expeditions, and shewed the way to that _slavery_,
which now makes so disgraceful a figure in the western colonies of the
_Europeans_. In the term "Europeans," wherever it shall occur in
the remaining part of this first dissertation, we include the
_Portuguese_, and _those nations only_, who followed their

[Footnote 032: The _Portuguese_ erected their first fort at
_D'Elmina_, in the year 1481, about forty years after Alonzo
Gonzales had pointed the Southern Africans out to his countrymen
as articles of commerce.]

[Footnote 033: In the ancient servitude, we reckoned _convicts_
among the _voluntary_ slaves, because they had it in their power,
by a virtuous conduct, to have avoided so melancholy a situation; in the
_African_, we include them in the _involuntary_, because, as
virtues are frequently construed into crimes, from the venal motives of
the traffick, no person whatever possesses such a _power_ or

[Footnote 034: Andrew Sparrman, M.D. professor of Physick at Stockholm,
fellow of the Royal Academy of Sciences in Sweden, and inspector of its
cabinet of natural history, whose voyage was translated into English,
and published in 1785.]

[Footnote 035: Boshies-man, or _wild Hottentot_.]

       *        *        *        *        *

End of the First Part.

       *        *        *        *        *





       *        *        *        *        *


As we explained the History of Slavery in the first part of this Essay,
as far as it was necessary for our purpose, we shall now take the
question into consideration, which we proposed at first as the subject
of our inquiry, viz. how far the commerce and slavery of the human
species, as revived by some of the nations of Europe in the persons of
the unfortunate Africans, and as revived, in a great measure, on the
principles of antiquity, are consistent with the laws of nature, or the
common notions of equity, as established among men.

This question resolves itself into two separate parts for discussion,
into _the African commerce (as explained in the history of
slavery)_ and _the subsequent slavery in the colonies, as founded
on the equity of the commerce_. The former, of course, will be first
examined. For this purpose we shall inquire into the rise, nature, and
design of government. Such an inquiry will be particularly useful in the
present place; it will afford us that general knowledge of subordination
and liberty, which is necessary in the case before us, and will be
found, as it were, a source, to which we may frequently refer for many
and valuable arguments.

It appears that mankind were originally free, and that they possessed an
equal right to the soil and produce of the earth. For proof of this, we
need only appeal to the _divine_ writings; to the _golden age_
of the poets, which, like other fables of the times, had its origin in
truth; and to the institution of the _Saturnalia_, and of other
similar festivals; all of which are so many monuments of this original
equality of men. Hence then there was no rank, no distinction, no
superiour. Every man wandered where he chose, changing his residence, as
a spot attracted his fancy, or suited his convenience, uncontrouled by
his neighbour, unconnected with any but his family. Hence also (as every
thing was common) he collected what he chose without injury, and enjoyed
without injury what he had collected. Such was the first situation of
mankind; [036]a state of _dissociation_ and _independence_.

In this dissociated state it is impossible that men could have long
continued. The dangers to which they must have frequently been exposed,
by the attacks of fierce and rapacious beasts, by the proedatory
attempts of their own species, and by the disputes of contiguous and
independent families; these, together with their inability to defend,
themselves, on many such occasions, must have incited them to unite.
Hence then was _society_ formed on the grand principles of
preservation and defence: and as these principles began to operate, in
the different parts of the earth, where the different families had
roamed, a great number of these _societies_ began to be formed and
established; which, taking to themselves particular names from
particular occurrences, began to be perfectly distinct from one another.

As the individuals, of whom these societies were composed, had
associated only for their defence, so they experienced, at first, no
change in their condition. They were still independent and free; they
were still without discipline or laws; they had every thing still in
common; they pursued the same, manner of life; wandering only, in
_herds_, as the earth gave them or refused them sustenance, and
doing, as a _publick body_, what they had been accustomed to do as
_individuals_ before. This was the exact situation of the Getæ and
Scythians[037], of the Lybians and Goetulians[038], of the Italian
Aborigines[039], and of the Huns and Alans[040]. They had left their
original state of _dissociation_, and had stepped into that, which
has been just described. Thus was the second situation of men a state of
_independent society_.

Having thus joined themselves together, and having formed themselves
into several large and distinct bodies, they could not fail of
submitting soon to a more considerable change. Their numbers must have
rapidly increased, and their societies, in process of time, have become
so populous, as frequently to have experienced the want of subsistence,
and many of the commotions and tumults of intestine strife. For these
inconveniences however there were remedies to be found.
_Agriculture_ would furnish them with that subsistence and support,
which the earth, from the rapid increase of its inhabitants, had become
unable spontaneously to produce. An _assignation_ of _property_
would not only enforce an application, but excite an emulation,
to labour; and _government_ would at once afford a security
to the acquisitions of the industrious, and heal the intestine
disorders of the community, by the introduction of laws.

Such then were the remedies, that were gradually applied. The
_societies_, which had hitherto seen their members, undistinguished
either by authority or rank, admitted now of magistratical pre-eminence.
They were divided into tribes; to every tribe was allotted a particular
district for its support, and to every individual his particular spot.
The Germans[041], who consisted of many and various nations, were
exactly in this situation. They had advanced a step beyond the
Scythians, Goetulians, and those, whom we described before; and thus was
the third situation of mankind a state of _subordinate society_.

       *        *        *        *        *


[Footnote 036: This conclusion concerning the dissociated state of
mankind, is confirmed by all the early writers, with whose descriptions
of primitive times no other conclusion is reconcileable.]

[Footnote 037: Justin. L. 2. C. 2.]

[Footnote 038: Sallust. Bell. Jug.]

[Footnote 039: Sallust. Bell. Catil.]

[Footnote 040: Ammianus Marcellinus. L. 31. C. 2. et. inseq.]

[Footnote 041: Agri pro Numero Cultorum ab universis per vicos
occupantur, quos mox inter se secundum dignationem partiuntur. Tacitus.
C. 26. de Mor. Germ.]

       *        *        *        *        *


As we have thus traced the situation of man from unbounded liberty to
subordination, it will be proper to carry our inquiries farther, and to
consider, who first obtained the pre-eminence in these _primoeval
societies_, and by what particular methods it was obtained.

There were only two ways, by which such an event could have been
produced, by _compulsion_ or _consent_. When mankind first saw
the necessity of government, it is probable that many had conceived the
desire of ruling. To be placed in a new situation, to be taken from the
common herd, to be the first, distinguished among men, were thoughts,
that must have had their charms. Let us suppose then, that these
thoughts had worked so unusually on the passions of any particular
individual, as to have driven him to the extravagant design of obtaining
the preeminence by force. How could his design have been accomplished?
How could he forcibly have usurped the jurisdiction at a time, when, all
being equally free, there was not a single person, whose assistance he
could command? Add to this, that, in a state of universal liberty, force
had been repaid by force, and the attempt had been fatal to the usurper.

As _empire_ then could never have been gained at first by
_compulsion_, so it could only have been obtained by _consent_;
and as men were then going to make an important sacrifice,
for the sake of their _mutual_ happiness, so he alone could
have obtained it, (not whose _ambition_ had greatly distinguished
him from the rest) but in whose _wisdom, justice, prudence_,
and _virtue_, the whole community could confide.

To confirm this reasoning, we shall appeal, as before, to facts; and
shall consult therefore the history of those nations, which having just
left their former state of _independent society_, were the very
people that established _subordination_ and _government_.

The commentaries of Cæsar afford us the following accounts of the
ancient Gauls. When any of their kings, either by death, or deposition,
made a vacancy in the regal office, the whole nation was immediately
convened for the appointment of a successor. In these national
conventions were the regal offices conferred. Every individual had a
voice on the occasion, and every individual was free. The person upon
whom the general approbation appeared to fall, was immediately advanced
to pre-eminence in the state. He was uniformly one, whose actions had
made him eminent; whose conduct had gained him previous applause; whose
valour the very assembly, that elected him, had themselves witnessed in
the field; whose prudence, wisdom and justice, having rendered him
signally serviceable, had endeared him to his tribe. For this reason,
their kingdoms were not hereditary; the son did not always inherit the
virtues of the sire; and they were determined that he alone should
possess authority, in whose virtues they could confide. Nor was this
all. So sensible were they of the important sacrifice they had made; so
extremely jealous even of the name of superiority and power, that they
limited, by a variety of laws, the authority of the very person, whom
they had just elected, from a confidence of his integrity; Ambiorix
himself confessing, "that his people had as much power over him, as he
could possibly have over his people."

The same custom, as appears from Tacitus, prevailed also among the
Germans. They had their national councils, like the Gauls; in which the
regal and ducal offices were confirmed according to the majority of
voices. They elected also, on these occasions, those only, whom their
virtue, by repeated trial, had unequivocally distinguished from the
rest; and they limited their authority so far, as neither to leave them
the power of inflicting imprisonment or stripes, nor of exercising any
penal jurisdiction. But as punishment was necessary in a state of civil
society, "it was permitted to the priests alone, that it might appear to
have been inflicted, by the order of the gods, and not by any superiour
authority in man."

The accounts which we have thus given of the ancient Germans and Gauls,
will be found also to be equally true of those people, which had arrived
at the same state of subordinate society. We might appeal, for a
testimony of this, to the history of the Goths; to the history of the
Franks and Saxons; to, the history, in short, of all those nations, from
which the different governments, now conspicuous in Europe, have
undeniably sprung. And we might appeal, as a farther proof, to the
Americans, who are represented by many of the moderns, from their own
ocular testimony, as observing the same customs at the present day.

It remains only to observe, that as these customs prevailed among the
different nations described, in their early state of subordinate
society, and as they were moreover the customs of their respective
ancestors, it appears that they must have been handed down, both by
tradition and use, from the first introduction of _government_.

       *        *        *        *        *


We may now deduce those general maxims concerning _subordination_,
and _liberty_, which we mentioned to have been essentially
connected with the subject, and which some, from speculation only, and
without any allusion to facts, have been bold enough to deny.

It appears first, that _liberty_ is a _natural_, and
_government_ an _adventitious_ right, because all men were
originally free.

It appears secondly, that government is a [042]_contract_ because,
in these primeval subordinate societies, we have seen it voluntarily
conferred on the one hand, and accepted on the other. We have seen it
subject to various restrictions. We have seen its articles, which could
then only be written by tradition and use, as perfect and binding as
those, which are now committed to letters. We have seen it, in short,
partaking of the _federal_ nature, as much as it could in a state,
which wanted the means of recording its transactions.

It appear thirdly, that the grand object of the _contrast_, is the
_happiness_ of the people; because they gave the supremacy to him
alone, who had been conspicuous for the splendour of his abilities, or
the integrity of his life: that the power of the multitude being
directed by the _wisdom_ and _justice_ of the prince, they
might experience the most effectual protection from injury, the highest
advantages of society, the greatest possible _happiness_.

       *        *        *        *        *


[Footnote 042: The author has lately read a work, intitled Paley's Moral
and Political Philosophy, which, in this one respect, favours those
which have been hinted at, as it denies that government was a contract.
"No social compact was ever made in fact,"--"it is to suppose it
possible to call savages out of caves and deserts, to deliberate upon
topicks, which the experience and studies, and the refinements of civil
life alone suggest. Therefore no government in the universe begun from
this original." But there are no grounds for so absurd a supposition;
for government, and of course the social compact, does not appear to
have been introduced at the time, when families coming out of their
caves and deserts, or, in other words, quitting their former
_dissociated_ state, joined themselves together. They had lived a
considerable time in _society_, like the Lybians and Gætulians
before-mentioned, and had felt many of the disadvantages of a want of
discipline and laws, before government was introduced at all. The author
of this Essay, before he took into consideration the origin of
government, was determined, in a matter of such importance, to be
biassed by no opinion whatever, and much less to indulge himself in
speculation. He was determined solely to adhere to fact, and, by looking
into the accounts left us of those governments which were in their
infancy, and, of course in the least complicated state, to attempt to
discover their foundation: he cannot say therefore, that upon a very
minute perusal of the excellent work before quoted, he has been so far
convinced, as to retract in the least from his sentiments on this head,
and to give up maxims, which are drawn from historical facts, for those,
which are the result of speculation. He may observe here, that whether
government was a _contract_ or not, it will not affect the
reasoning of the present Essay; since where ever the contract is
afterwards mentioned, it is inferred only that its object was "the
_happiness of the people_," which is confessedly the end of
government. Notwithstanding this, he is under the necessity of inserting
this little note, though he almost feels himself ungrateful in
contradicting a work, which has afforded him so much entertainment.]

       *        *        *        *        *


Having now collected the materials that are necessary for the
prosecution of our design, we shall immediately enter upon the

If any man had originally been endued with power, as with other
faculties, so that the rest of mankind had discovered in themselves an
_innate necessity_ of obeying this particular person; it is evident
that he and his descendants, from the superiority of their nature, would
have had a claim upon men for obedience, and a natural right to command:
but as the right to empire is _adventitious_; as all were
originally free; as nature made every man's body and mind _his
own_; it is evident that no just man can be consigned to
_slavery_, without his own _consent_.

Neither can men, by the same principles, be considered as lands, goods,
or houses, among _possessions_. It is necessary that all
_property_ should be inferiour to its _possessor_. But how
does the _slave_ differ from his _master_, but by _chance_?
For though the mark, with which the latter is pleased to
brand him, shews, at the first sight, the difference of their
_fortune_; what mark can be found in his _nature_, that can
warrant a distinction?

To this consideration we shall add the following, that if men can justly
become the property of each other, their children, like the offspring of
cattle, must inherit their _paternal_ lot. Now, as the actions of
the father and the child must be thus at the sole disposal of their
common master, it is evident, that the _authority_ of the one, as a
_parent_, and the _duty_ of the other, as a _child_, must
be instantly annihilated; rights and obligations, which, as they are
sounded in nature, are implanted in our feelings, and are established by
the voice of God, must contain in their annihilation a solid argument to
prove, that there cannot be any _property_ whatever in the _human

We may consider also, as a farther confirmation, that it is impossible,
in the nature of things, that _liberty_ can be _bought_ or
_sold_! It is neither _saleable_, nor _purchasable_. For
if any one man can have an absolute property in the liberty of another,
or, in other words, if he, who is called a _master_, can have a
_just_ right to command the actions of him, who is called a
_slave_, it is evident that the latter cannot be accountable for
those crimes, which the former may order him to commit. Now as every
reasonable being is accountable for his actions, it is evident, that
such a right cannot _justly_ exist, and that human liberty, of
course, is beyond the possibility either of _sale_ or _purchase_.
Add to this, that, whenever you sell the liberty of a man,
you have the power only of alluding to the _body_: the _mind_
cannot be confined or bound: it will be free, though its
mansion be beset with chains. But if, in every sale of the _human
species_, you are under the necessity of considering your slave in
this abstracted light; of alluding only to the body, and of making no
allusion to the mind; you are under the necessity also of treating him,
in the same moment, as a _brute_, and of abusing therefore that
nature, which cannot otherwise be considered, than in the double
capacity of _soul_ and _body_.

But some person, perhaps, will make an objection to one of the former
arguments. "If men, from _superiority_ of their nature, cannot be
considered, like lands, goods, or houses, among possessions, so neither
can cattle: for being endued with life, motion, and sensibility, they
are evidently _superiour_ to these." But this objection will
receive its answer from those observations which have been already made;
and will discover the true reason, why cattle are justly to be estimated
as property. For first, the right to empire over brutes, is
_natural_, and not _adventitious_, like the right to empire
over men. There are, secondly, many and evident signs of the
_inferiority_ of their nature; and thirdly, their liberty can be
bought and sold, because, being void of reason, they cannot be
_accountable_ for their actions.

We might stop here for a considerable time, and deduce many valuable
lessons from the remarks that have been made, but that such a
circumstance might be considered as a digression. There is one, however,
which, as it is so intimately connected with the subject, we cannot but
deduce. We are taught to treat men in a different manner from brutes,
because they are so manifestly superiour in their nature; we are taught
to treat brutes in a different manner from stones, for the same reason;
and thus, by giving to every created thing its due respect, to answer
the views of Providence, which did not create a variety of natures
without a purpose or design.

But if these things are so, how evidently against reason, nature, and
every thing human and divine, must they act, who not only force men into
_slavery_, against their own _consent_; but treat them altogether
as _brutes_, and make the _natural liberty_ of man an article
of publick commerce! and by what arguments can they possibly
defend that commerce, which cannot be carried on, in any single
instance, without a flagrant violation of the laws of nature and of God?

       *        *        *        *        *


That we may the more accurately examine the arguments that are advanced
on this occasion, it will be proper to divide the _commerce_ into
two parts; first, as it relates to those who _sell_, and secondly,
as it relates to those who _purchase_, the _human species_
into slavery. To the former part of which, having given every previous
and necessary information in the history of servitude, we shall
immediately proceed.

Let us inquire first, by what particular right the _liberties_ of
the harmless people are invaded by the _prince_. "By the _right
of empire_," it will be answered; "because he possesses dominion and
power by their own approbation and consent." But subjects, though under
the dominion, are not the _property_, of the prince. They cannot be
considered as his _possessions_. Their _natures_ are both the
same; they are both born in the same manner; are subject to the same
disorders; must apply to the same remedies for a cure; are equally
partakers of the grave: an _incidental_ distinction accompanies
them through life, and this--is all.

We may add to this, that though the prince possesses dominion and power,
by the consent and approbation of his subjects, he possesses it only for
the most _salutary_ ends. He may tyrannize, if he can: he may alter
the _form_ of his government: he cannot, however, alter its
_nature_ and _end_. These will be immutably the same, though
the whole system of its administration should be changed; and he will be
still bound to _defend_ the lives and properties of his subjects,
and to make them _happy_.

Does he defend those therefore, whom he invades at discretion with the
sword? Does he protect the property of those, whose houses and effects
he consigns at discretion to the flames? Does he make those happy, whom
he seizes, as they are trying to escape the general devastation, and
compels with their wives and families to a wretched _servitude?_ He
acts surely, as if the use of empire consisted in violence and
oppression; as if he, that was most exalted, ought, of necessity, to be
most unjust. Here then the voice of _nature_ and _justice_ is
against him. He breaks that law of _nature_, which ordains, "that no
just man shall be given into slavery, against his own _consent_:"
he violates the first law of _justice_, as established among men,
"that no person shall do harm to another without a previous and
sufficient _provocation_;" and he violates also the sacred
condition of _empire_, made with his ancestors, and necessarily
understood in every species of government, "that, the power of the
multitude being given up to the wisdom and justice of the prince, they
may experience, in return, the most effectual protection from injury,
the highest advantages of society, the greatest possible

But if kings then, to whom their own people have granted dominion and
power, are unable to invade the liberties of their harmless subjects,
without the highest _injustice_; how can those private persons be
justified, who treacherously lie in wait for their fellow-creatures, and
sell them into slavery? What arguments can they possibly bring in
their defence? What treaty of empire can they produce, by which their
innocent victims ever resigned to them the least portion of their
_liberty_? In vain will they plead the _antiquity_ of the
custom: in vain will the _honourable_ light, in which _piracy_
was considered in the ages of barbarism, afford them an excuse. Impious
and abandoned men! ye invade the liberties of those, who, (with respect
to your impious selves) are in a state of _nature_, in a state of
original _dissociation_, perfectly _independent_, perfectly

It appears then, that the two orders of slaves, which have been
mentioned in the history of the African servitude, "of those who are
publickly seized by virtue of the authority of their prince; and of
those, who are privately kidnapped by individuals," are collected by
means of violence and oppression; by means, repugnant to _nature_,
the principles of _government_, and the common notions of
_equity_, as established among men.

       *        *        *        *        *


We come now to the third order of _involuntary_ slaves, "to
convicts." The only argument that the sellers advance here, is this,
"that they have been found guilty of offences, and that the punishment
is just." But before the equity of the sentence can be allowed two
questions must be decided, whether the punishment is _proportioned_
to the offence, and what is its particular _object_ and _end_?

To decide the first, we may previously observe, that the African
servitude comprehends _banishment_, a _deprivation_ of _liberty_,
and many _corporal_ sufferings.

On _banishment_, the following observations will suffice. Mankind
have their _local_ attachments. They have a particular regard for
the spot, in which they were born and nurtured. Here it was, that they
first drew their infant-breath: here, that they were cherished and
supported: here, that they passed those scenes of childhood, which, free
from care and anxiety, are the happiest in the life of man; scenes,
which accompany them through life; which throw themselves frequently
into their thoughts, and produce the most agreeable sensations. These
then are weighty considerations; and how great this regard is, may be
evidenced from our own feelings; from the testimony of some, who, when
remote from their country, and, in the hour of danger and distress, have
found their thoughts unusually directed, by some impulse or other, to
their native spot; and from the example of others, who, having braved
the storms and adversities of life, either repair to it for the
remainder of their days, or desire even to be conveyed to it, when
existence is no more.

But separately from these their _local_, they have also their
_personal_ attachments; their regard for particular men. There are
ties of blood; there are ties of friendship. In the former case, they
must of necessity be attached: the constitution of their nature demands
it. In the latter, it is impossible to be otherwise, since friendship is
founded on an harmony of temper, on a concordance of sentiments and
manners, on habits of confidence, and a mutual exchange of favours.

We may now mention, as perfectly distinct both from their _local_
and_ personal_, the _national_ attachments of mankind, their
regard for the whole body of the people, among whom they were born and
educated. This regard is particularly conspicuous in the conduct of
such, as, being thus _nationally_ connected, reside in foreign
parts. How anxiously do they meet together! how much do they enjoy the
fight of others of their countrymen, whom fortune places in their way!
what an eagerness do they show to serve them, though not born on the
same particular spot, though not connected by consanguinity or
friendship, though unknown to them before! Neither is this affection
wonderful, since they are creatures of the same education; of the same
principles; of the same manners and habits; cast, as it were, in the
same mould; and marked with the same impression.

If men therefore are thus separately attached to the several objects
described, it is evident that a separate exclusion from either must
afford them considerable pain. What then must be their sufferings, to be
forced for ever from their country, which includes them all? Which
contains the _spot_, in which they were born and nurtured; which
contains their _relations_ and _friends_; which contains the
whole body of the _people_, among whom they were bred and educated.
In these sufferings, which arise to men, both in bidding, and in having
bid, adieu to all that they esteem as dear and valuable,
_banishment_ consists in part; and we may agree therefore with the
ancients, without adding other melancholy circumstances to the account,
that it is no inconsiderable punishment of itself.

With respect to the _loss_ of _liberty_, which is the second
consideration in the punishment, it is evident that men bear nothing
worse; that there is nothing, that they lay more at heart; and that they
have shewn, by many and memorable instances, that even death is to be
preferred. How many could be named here, who, having suffered the
_loss_ of _liberty_, have put a period to their existence! How
many, that have willingly undergone the hazard of their lives to destroy
a tyrant! How many, that have even gloried to perish in the attempt! How
many bloody and publick wars have been undertaken (not to mention the
numerous _servile_ insurrections, with which history is stained)
for the cause of _freedom_!

But if nothing is dearer than _liberty_ to men, with which, the
barren rock is able to afford its joys, and without which, the glorious
fun shines upon them but in vain, and all the sweets and delicacies of
life are tasteless and unenjoyed; what punishment can be more severe
than the loss of so great a blessing? But if to this _deprivation_
of _liberty_, we add the agonizing pangs of _banishment_; and
if to the complicated stings of both, we add the incessant _stripes,
wounds_, and _miseries_, which are undergone by those, who are
sold into this horrid _servitude_; what crime can we possibly
imagine to be so enormous, as to be worthy of so great a punishment?

How contrary then to reason, justice, and nature, must those act, who
apply this, the severest of human punishments, to the most insignificant
offence! yet such is the custom with the Africans: for, from the time,
in which the Europeans first intoxicated the African princes with their
foreign draughts, no crime has been committed, no shadow of a crime
devised, that has not immediately been punished with _servitude_.

But for what purpose is the punishment applied? Is it applied to amend
the manners of the criminal, and thus render him a better subject? No,
for if you banish him, he can no longer be a subject, and you can no
longer therefore be solicitous for his morals. Add to this, that if you
banish him to a place, where he is to experience the hardships of want
and hunger (so powerfully does hunger compel men to the perpetration of
crimes) you force him rather to corrupt, than amend his manners, and to
be wicked, when he might otherwise be just.

Is it applied then, that others may be deterred from the same
proceedings, and that crimes may become less frequent? No, but that
_avarice_ may be gratified; that the prince may experience the
emoluments of the sale: for, horrid and melancholy thought! the more
crimes his subjects commit, the richer is he made; the more
_abandoned_ the subject, the _happier_ is the prince!

Neither can we allow that the punishment thus applied, tends in any
degree to answer _publick happiness_; for if men can be sentenced
to slavery, right or wrong; if shadows can be turned into substances,
and virtues into crimes; it is evident that none can be happy, because
none can be secure.

But if the punishment is infinitely greater than the offence, (which has
been shewn before) and if it is inflicted, neither to amend the
criminal, nor to deter others from the same proceedings, nor to advance,
in any degree, the happiness of the publick, it is scarce necessary to
observe, that it is totally unjust, since it is repugnant to
_reason_, the dictates of _nature_, and the very principles of

       *        *        *        *        *


We come now to the fourth and last order of slaves, to _prisoners of
war_. As the _sellers_ lay a particular stress on this order of
men, and infer much, from its _antiquity_, in support of the
justice of their cause, we shall examine the principle, on which it
subsisted among the ancients. But as this principle was the same among
all nations, and as a citation from many of their histories would not be
less tedious than unnecessary, we shall select the example of the Romans
for the consideration of the case.

The law, by which prisoners of war were said to be sentenced to
servitude, was the _law of nations_[043]. It was so called from the
universal concurrence of nations in the custom. It had two points in
view, the _persons_ of the _captured_, and their _effects_; both
of which it immediately sentenced, without any of the usual
forms of law, to be the property of the _captors_.

The principle, on which the law was established, was the _right of
capture_. When any of the contending parties had overcome their
opponents, and were about to destroy them, the right was considered to
commence; a right, which the victors conceived themselves to have, to
recall their swords, and, from the consideration of having saved the
lives of the vanquished, when they could have taken them by the laws of
war, to commute _blood_ for _service_. Hence the Roman lawyer,
Pomponius, deduces the etymology of _slave_ in the Roman language.
"They were called _servi_[044], says he, from the following
circumstance. It was usual with our commanders to take them prisoners,
and sell them: now this circumstance implies, that they must have been
previously _preserved_, and hence the name." Such then was the
_right of capture_. It was a right, which the circumstance of
_taking_ the vanquished, that is, of _preserving_ them alive,
gave the conquerors to their persons. By this right, as always including
the idea of a previous preservation from death, the vanquished were said
_to be slaves_[045]; and, "as all slaves," says Justinian, "are
themselves in the power of others, and of course can have nothing of
their own, so their effects followed the condition of their persons, and
became the property of the captors."

To examine this right, by which the vanquished were said to be slaves,
we shall use the words of a celebrated Roman author, and apply them to
the present case[046]. "If it is lawful," says he, "to deprive a man of
his life, it is certainly not inconsistent with nature to rob him;" to
rob him of his liberty. We admit the conclusion to be just, if the
supposition be the same: we allow, if men have a right to commit that,
which is considered as a greater crime, that they have a right, at the
same instant, to commit that, which is considered as a less. But what
shall we say to the _hypothesis_? We deny it to be true. The voice
of nature is against it. It is not lawful to kill, but on
_necessity_. Had there been a necessity, where had the wretched
captive survived to be broken with chains and servitude? The very act of
saving his life is an argument to prove, that no such necessity existed.
The _conclusion_ is therefore false. The captors had no right to
the _lives_ of the captured, and of course none to their
_liberty_: they had no right to their _blood_, and of course
none to their _service_. Their right therefore had no foundation in
justice. It was founded on a principle, contrary to the law of nature,
and of course contrary to that law, which people, under different
governments, are bound to observe to one another.

It is scarce necessary to observe, as a farther testimony of the
injustice of the measure, that the Europeans, after the introduction of
Christianity, exploded this principle of the ancients, as frivolous and
false; that they spared the lives of the vanquished, not from the sordid
motives of _avarice_, but from a conscientiousness, that homicide
could only be justified by _necessity_; that they introduced an
_exchange_ of prisoners, and, by many and wise regulations,
deprived war of many of its former horrours.

But the advocates for slavery, unable to defend themselves against these
arguments, have fled to other resources, and, ignorant of history, have
denied that the _right of capture_ was the true principle, on which
slavery subsisted among the ancients. They reason thus. "The learned
Grotius, and others, have considered slavery as the just consequence of
a private war, (supposing the war to be just and the opponents in a
state of nature), upon the principles of _reparation_ and
_punishment_. Now as the law of nature, which is the rule of
conduct to individuals in such a situation, is applicable to members of
a different community, there is reason to presume, that these principles
were applied by the ancients to their prisoners of war; that their
_effects_ were confiscated by the right of _reparation_, and
their _persons_ by the right of _punishment_."--

But, such a presumption is false. The _right of capture_ was the
only argument, that the ancients adduced in their defence. Hence
Polybius; "What must they, (the Mantinenses) suffer, to receive the
punishment they deserve? Perhaps it will be said, _that they must be
sold, when they are taken, with their wives and children into
slavery_: But this is not to be considered as a punishment, since
even those suffer it, by the laws of war, who have done nothing that is
base." The truth is, that both the _offending_ and the _offended_
parties, whenever they were victorious, inflicted slavery
alike. But if the _offending_ party inflicted slavery on
the persons of the vanquished, by what right did they inflict it? It
must be answered from the presumption before-mentioned, "by the right of
_reparation_, or of _punishment:_" an answer plainly absurd
and contradictory, as it supposes the _aggressor_ to have a
_right_, which the _injured_ only could possess.

Neither is the argument less fallacious than the presumption, in
applying these principles, which in a _publick_ war could belong to
the _publick_ only, to the persons of the _individuals_ that
were taken. This calls us again to the history of the ancients, and, as
the rights of reparation and punishment could extend to those only, who
had been injured, to select a particular instance for the consideration
of the case.

As the Romans had been injured without a previous provocation by the
conduct of Hannibal at Saguntum, we may take the treaty into
consideration, which they made with the Carthaginians, when the latter,
defeated at Zama, sued for peace. It consisted of three articles[047].
By the first, the Carthaginians were to be free, and to enjoy their own
constitution and laws. By the second, they were to pay a considerable
sum of money, as a reparation for the damages and expence of war: and,
by the third, they were to deliver up their elephants and ships of war,
and to be subject to various restrictions, as a punishment. With these
terms they complied, and the war was finished.

Thus then did the Romans make that distinction between _private_
and _publick_ war, which was necessary to be made, and which the
argument is fallacious in not supposing. The treasury of the vanquished
was marked as the means of _reparation_; and as this treasury was
supplied, in a great measure, by the imposition of taxes, and was,
wholly, the property of the _publick_, so the _publick_ made
the reparation that was due. The _elephants_ also, and _ships of
war_, which were marked as the means of _punishment_, were
_publick_ property; and as they were considerable instruments of
security and defence to their possessors, and of annoyance to an enemy,
so their loss, added to the restrictions of the treaty, operated as a
great and _publick_ punishment. But with respect to the
Carthaginian prisoners, who had been taken in the war, they were
retained in _servitude:_ not upon the principles of _reparation_
and _punishment_, because the Romans had already received,
by their own confession in the treaty, a sufficient satisfaction:
not upon these principles, because they were inapplicable
to _individuals:_ the legionary soldier in the service of the
injured, who took his prisoner, was not the person, to whom the
_injury had been done_, any more than the soldier in the service of
the aggressors, who was taken, was the person, who had _committed the
offence:_ but they were retained in servitude by the _right of
capture_; because, when both parties had sent their military into the
field to determine the dispute, it was at the _private_ choice of
the legionary soldier before-mentioned, whether he would spare the life
of his conquered opponent, when he was thought to be entitled to take
it, if he had chosen, by the laws of war.

To produce more instances, as an illustration of the subject, or to go
farther into the argument, would be to trespass upon the patience, as
well as understanding of the reader. In _a state of nature_, where
a man is supposed to commit an injury, and to be unconnected with the
rest of the world, the act is _private_, and the right, which the
injured acquires, can extend only to _himself:_ but in _a state
of society_, where any member or members of a particular community
give offence to those of another, and they are patronized by the state,
to which they belong, the case is altered; the act becomes immediately
_publick_, and the _publick_ alone are to experience the
consequences of their injustice. For as no particular member of the
community, if considered as an individual, is guilty, except the person,
by whom the injury was done, it would be contrary to reason and justice,
to apply the principles of _reparation_ and _punishment_,
which belong to the people as a collective body, to any individual of
the community, who should happen to be taken. Now, as the principles of
_reparation_ and _punishment_ are thus inapplicable to the
prisoners, taken in a _publick_ war, and as the _right of
capture_, as we have shewn before, is insufficient to intitle the
victors to the _service_ of the vanquished, it is evident that
_slavery_ cannot justly exist at all, since there are no other
maxims, on which it can be founded, even in the most equitable wars.

But if these things are so; if slavery cannot be defended even in the
most _equitable_ wars, what arguments will not be found against
that servitude, which arises from those, that are _unjust?_ Which
arises from those African wars, that relate to the present subject? The
African princes, corrupted by the merchants of Europe, seek every
opportunity of quarrelling with one another. Every spark is blown into a
flame; and war is undertaken from no other consideration, than that
_of procuring slaves:_ while the Europeans, on the other hand,
happy in the quarrels which they have thus excited, supply them with
arms and ammunition for the accomplishment of their horrid purpose. Thus
has Africa, for the space of two hundred years, been the scene of the
most iniquitous and bloody wars; and thus have many thousands of men, in
the most iniquitous manner, been sent into servitude.

       *        *        *        *        *


[Footnote 043: _Jure Gentium_ servi nostri sunt, qui ab hostibus
capiuntur. Justinian, L. 1. 5. 5. 1.]

[Footnote 044: _Serverum_ appellatio ex eo fluxit, quod imperatores
nostri captivos vendere, ac per hoc _servare_, nec occidere

[Footnote 045: Nam sive victoribus _jure captivitatis_ servissent,
&c. Justin, L. 4. 3. et passim apud scriptores antiquos.]

[Footnote 046: Neque est contra naturam spoliare eum, si possis, quem
honestum est necare. Cicero de officiis. L. 3. 6.]

[Footnote 047: 1. Ut liberi suis legibus viverent. Livy, L. 30. 37. 2.
Decem millia talentum argenti descripta pensionibus æquis in annos
quinquaginta solverent. Ibid. 3. Et naves rostratas, præter decem
triremes, traderent, elephantosque, quos haberent domitos; neque
domarent alios; Bellum neve in Africa, neve extra Africam, injussu P. R.
gererent, &c. Ibid.]

       *        *        *        *        *


We shall beg leave, before we proceed to the arguments of the
_purchasers_, to add the following observations to the substance of
the three preceding chapters.

As the two orders of men, of those who are privately kidnapped by
individuals, and of those who are publickly seized by virtue of the
authority of their prince, compose together, at least[048], nine tenths
of the African slaves, they cannot contain, upon a moderate computation,
less than ninety thousand men annually transported: an immense number,
but easily to be credited, when we reflect that thousands are employed
for the purpose of stealing the unwary, and that these diabolical
practices are in force, so far has European _injustice_ been
spread, at the distance of a thousand miles from the factories on the
coast. The _slave merchants_, among whom a quantity of European
goods is previously divided, travel into the heart of the country to
this amazing distance. Some of them attend the various markets, that are
established through so large an extent of territory, to purchase the
kidnapped people, whom the _slave-hunters_ are continually bringing
in; while the rest, subdividing their merchandize among the petty
sovereigns with whom they deal, receive, by an immediate exertion of
fraud and violence, the stipulated number.

Now, will any man assert, in opposition to the arguments before
advanced, that out of this immense body of men, thus annually collected
and transported, there is even _one_, over whom the original or
subsequent seller can have any power or right? Whoever asserts this, in
the first instance, must, contradict his own feelings, and must consider
_himself_ as a just object of prey, whenever any daring invader
shall think it proper to attack _him_. And, in the second instance,
the very idea which the African princes entertain of their villages, as
_parks_ or _reservoirs_, stocked only for their own convenience,
and of their subjects, as _wild beasts_, whom they may pursue
and take at pleasure, is so shocking, that it need only be
mentioned, to be instantly reprobated by the reader.

The order of slaves, which is next to the former in respect to the
number of people whom it contains, is that of prisoners of war. This
order, if the former statement be true, is more inconsiderable than is
generally imagined; but whoever reflects on the prodigious slaughter
that is constantly made in every African skirmish, cannot be otherwise
than of this opinion: he will find, that where _ten_ are taken, he
has every reason to presume that an _hundred_ perish. In some of
these skirmishes, though they have been begun for the express purpose of
_procuring slaves_, the conquerors have suffered but few of the
vanquished to escape the fury of the sword; and there have not been
wanting instances, where they have been so incensed at the resistance
they have found, that their spirit of vengeance has entirely got the
better of their avarice, and they have murdered, in cool blood, every
individual, without discrimination, either of age or sex.

The following[049] is an account of one of these skirmishes, as
described by a person, who was witness to the scene. "I was sent, with
several others, in a small sloop up the river Niger, to purchase slaves:
we had some free negroes with us in the practice; and as the vessels are
liable to frequent attacks from the negroes on one side of the river, or
the Moors on the other, they are all armed. As we rode at anchor a long
way up the river, we observed a large number of negroes in huts by the
river's side, and for our own safety kept a wary eye on them. Early next
morning we saw from our masthead a numerous body approaching, with
apparently but little order, but in close array. They approached very
fast, and fell furiously on the inhabitants of the town, who seemed to
be quite _surprized_, but nevertheless, as soon as they could get
together, fought stoutly. They had some fire-arms, but made very little
use of them, as they came directly to close fighting with their spears,
lances, and sabres. Many of the invaders were mounted on small horses;
and both parties fought for about half an hour with the fiercest
animosity, exerting much more courage and perseverance than I had ever
before been witness to amongst them. The women and children of the town
clustered together to the water's edge, running shrieking up and down
with terrour, waiting the event of the combat, till their party gave
way and took to the water, to endeavour to swim over to the Barbary
side. They were closely pursued even into the river by the victors, who,
though they came for the purpose of _getting slaves_, gave no
quarter, _their cruelty even prevailing over their avarice_. They
made no prisoners, but put all to the sword without mercy. Horrible
indeed was the carnage of the vanquished on this occasion, and as we
were within two or three hundred yards of them, their cries and shrieks
affected us extremely. We had got up our anchor at the beginning of the
fray, and now stood close in to the spot, where the victors having
followed the vanquished into the water, were continually dragging out
and murdering those, whom by reason of their wounds they easily
overtook. The very children, whom they took in great numbers, did not
escape the massacre. Enraged at their barbarity, we fired our guns
loaden with grape shot, and a volley of small arms among them, which
effectually checked their ardour, and obliged them to retire to a
distance from the shore; from whence a few round cannon shot soon
removed them into the woods. The whole river was black over with the
heads of the fugitives, who were swimming for their lives. These poor
wretches, fearing _us_ as much as their conquerors, dived when we
fired, and cried most lamentably for mercy. Having now effectually
favoured their retreat, we stood backwards and forwards, and took up
several that were wounded and tired. All whose wounds had disabled them
from swimming, were either butchered or drowned, before we got up to
them. With a justice and generosity, _never I believe before heard of
among slavers_, we gave those their liberty whom we had taken up,
setting them on shore on the Barbary side, among the poor residue of
their companions, who had survived the slaughter of the morning."

We shall make but two remarks on this horrid instance of African
cruelty. It adds, first, a considerable weight to the statements that
have been made; and confirms, secondly, the conclusions that were drawn
in the preceding chapter. For if we even allow the right of capture to be
just, and the principles of reparation and punishment to be applicable
to the individuals of a community, yet would the former be unjust, and
the latter inapplicable, in the present case. Every African war is a
robbery; and we may add, to our former expression, when we said, "that
thus have many thousands of men, in the most iniquitous manner, been
sent into servitude," that we believe there are few of this order, who
are not as much the examples of injustice, as the people that have been
kidnapped; and who do not additionally convey, when we consider them as
prisoners of war, an idea of the most complicated scene of murder.

The order of _convicts_, as it exists almost solely among those
princes, whose dominions are contiguous to the European factories, is
from this circumstance so inconsiderable, when compared with either of
the preceding, that we should not have mentioned it again, but that we
were unwilling to omit any additional argument that occurred against it.

It has been shewn already, that the punishment of slavery is inflicted
from no other motive, than that of gratifying the _avarice_ of the
prince, a confederation so detestable, as to be sufficient of itself to
prove it to be unjust; and that it is so disproportionate, from its
_nature_, to the offence, as to afford an additional proof of its
injustice. We shall add now, as a second argument, its disproportion
from its _continuance:_ and we shall derive a third from the
consideration, that, in civil society, every violation of the laws of
the community is an offence against the _state_[050].

Let us suppose then an African prince, disdaining for once the idea of
emolument: let us suppose him for once inflamed with the love of his
country, and resolving to punish from this principle alone, "that by
exhibiting an example of terrour, he may preserve that _happiness of
the publick_, which he is bound to secure and defend by the very
nature of his contract; or, in other words, that he may answer the end
of government." If actuated then by this principle, he should adjudge
slavery to an offender, as a just punishment for his offence, for whose
benefit must the convict labour? If it be answered, "for the benefit of
the state," we allow that the punishment, in whatever light it is
considered, will be found to be equitable: but if it be answered, "for
the benefit of any _individual whom he pleases to appoint_," we
deny it to be just. The state[051] alone is considered to have been
injured, and as _injuries cannot possibly be transferred_, the
state alone can justly receive the advantages of his labour. But if the
African prince, when he thus condemns him to labour for the benefit of
an _unoffended individual_, should at the same time sentence him to
become his _property_; that is, if he should make the person and
life of the convict at the absolute disposal of him, for whom he has
sentenced him to labour; it is evident that, in addition to his former
injustice, he is usurping a power, which no ruler or rulers of a state
can possess, and which the great Creator of the universe never yet gave
to any order whatever of created beings.

That this reasoning is true, and that civilized nations have considered
it as such, will be best testified by their practice. We may appeal here
to that _slavery_, which is now adjudged to delinquents, as a
punishment, among many of the states of Europe. These delinquents are
sentenced to labour at the _oar_, to work in _mines_, and on
_fortifications_, to cut and clear _rivers_, to make and
repair _roads_, and to perform other works of national utility.
They are employed, in short, in the _publick_ work; because, as the
crimes they have committed are considered to have been crimes against
the publick, no individual can justly receive the emoluments of their
labour; and they are neither _sold_, nor made capable of being
_transferred_, because no government whatsoever is invested with
such a power.

Thus then may that slavery, in which only the idea of _labour_ is
included, be perfectly equitable, and the delinquent will always receive
his punishment as a man; whereas in that, which additionally includes
the idea of _property_, and to undergo which, the delinquent must
previously change his nature, and become a _brute_; there is an
inconsistency, which no arguments can reconcile, and a contradiction to
every principle of nature, which a man need only to appeal to his own
feelings immediately to evince. And we will venture to assert, from the
united observations that have been made upon the subject, in opposition
to any arguments that may be advanced, that there is scarcely one of
those, who are called African convicts, on whom the prince has a right
to inflict a punishment at all; and that there is no one whatever, whom
he has a power of sentencing to labour for the benefit of an unoffended
individual, and much less whom he has a right to sell.

Having now fully examined the arguments of the _sellers_[052], and
having made such additional remarks as were necessary, we have only to
add, that we cannot sufficiently express our detestation at their
conduct. Were the reader coolly to reflect upon the case of but
_one_ of the unfortunate men, who are annually the victims of
_avarice_, and consider his situation in life, as a father, an
husband, or a friend, we are sure, that even on such a partial
reflection, he must experience considerable pain. What then must be his
feelings, when he is told, that, since the slave-trade began,
[053]_nine millions_ of men have been torn from their dearest
connections, and sold into slavery. If at this recital his indignation
should arise, let him consider it as the genuine production of nature;
that she recoiled at the horrid thought, and that she applied instantly
a torch to his breast to kindle his resentment; and if, during his
indignation, she should awaken the sigh of sympathy, or seduce the tear
of commiseration from his eye, let him consider each as an additional
argument against the iniquity of the _sellers_.

       *        *        *        *        *


[Footnote 048: The total annual exportation from Africa, is estimated
here at 100,000 men, two thirds of whom are exported by the British
merchants alone. This estimate is less than that which is usually made,
and has been published. The author has been informed by disinterested
people, who were in most of the West India islands during the late war,
and who conversed with many of the most intelligent of the negroes, for
the purpose of inquiring by what methods they had originally been
reduced to slavery, that they did not find even two in twenty, who had
been reduced to that situation, by any other means than those mentioned
above. The author, desirous of a farther confirmation of this
circumstance, stopped the press till he had written to another friend,
who had resided twenty years in the West-Indies, and whose opinion he
had not yet asked. The following is an extract from the answer. "I do
not among many hundreds recollect to have seen but one or two slaves, of
those imported from Africa, who had any scars to shew, that they had
been in war. They are generally such as are kidnapped, or sold by their
tyrants, after the destruction of a village. In short, I am firmly of
opinion, that crimes and war together do not furnish one slave in an
hundred of the numbers introduced into the European colonies. Of
consequence the trade itself, were it possible to suppose convicts or
prisoners of war to be justly sentenced to servitude, is accountable for
ninety-nine in every hundred slaves, whom it supplies. It an insult to
the publick, to attempt to palliate the method of procuring them."]

[Footnote 049: The writer of the letter of which this is a faithful
extract, and who was known to the author of the present Essay, was a
long time on the African coast. He had once the misfortune to be
shipwrecked there, and to be taken by the natives, who conveyed him and
his companions a considerable way up into the country. The hardships
which he underwent in the march, his treatment during his captivity, the
scenes to which he was witness, while he resided among the inland
Africans, as well as while in the African trade, gave occasion to a
series of very interesting letters. These letters were sent to the
author of the present Essay, with liberty to make what use of them he
chose, by the gentleman to whom they were written.]

[Footnote 050: Were this not the case, the government of a country could
have no right to take cognizance of crimes, and punish them, but every
individual, if injured, would have a right to punish the aggressor with
his own hand, which is contrary to the notions of all civilized men,
whether among the ancients or the moderns.]

[Footnote 051: This same notion is entertained even by the African
princes, who do not permit the person injured to revenge his injury, or
to receive the convict as his slave. But if the very person who has been
_injured_, does not possess him, much less ought any other person

[Footnote 052: There are instances on the African continent, of
_parents_ selling their _children_. As the slaves of this
description are so few, and are so irregularly obtained, we did not
think it worth our while to consider them as forming an order; and, as
God never gave the parent a power over his child to make him
_miserable_, we trust that any farther mention of them will be

[Footnote 053: Abbè Raynal, Hist. Phil. vol. 4. P. 154.]

       *        *        *        *        *


It remains only now to examine by what arguments those, who
_receive_ or _purchase_ their fellow-creatures into slavery,
defend the _commerce_. Their first plea is, "that they receive
those with propriety, who are convicted of crimes, because they are
delivered into their hands by _their own magistrates_." But what is
this to you _receivers_? Have the unfortunate _convicts_ been
guilty of injury to _you_? Have they broken _your_ treaties?
Have they plundered _your_ ships? Have they carried _your_
wives and children into slavery, that _you_ should thus retaliate?
Have they offended _you_ even by word or gesture?

But if the African convicts are innocent with respect to you; if you
have not even the shadow of a claim upon their persons; by what right do
you receive them? "By the laws of the Africans," you will say; "by which
it is positively allowed."--But can _laws_ alter the nature of
vice? They may give it a sanction perhaps: it will still be immutably
the same, and, though dressed in the outward habiliments of
_honour_, will still be _intrinsically base_.

But alas! you do not only attempt to defend yourselves by these
arguments, but even dare to give your actions the appearance of lenity,
and assume _merit_ from your _baseness_! and how first ought
you particularly to blush, when you assert, "that prisoners of war are
only purchased from the hands of their conquerors, _to deliver them
from death_." Ridiculous defence! can the most credulous believe it?
You entice the Africans to war; you foment their quarrels; you supply
them with arms and ammunition, and all--from the _motives of
benevolence_. Does a man set fire to an house, for the purpose of
rescuing the inhabitants from the flames? But if they are only
purchased, to _deliver them from death_; why, when they are
delivered into your hands, as protectors, do you torture them with
hunger? Why do you kill them with fatigue? Why does the whip deform
their bodies, or the knife their limbs? Why do you sentence them to
death? to a death, infinitely more excruciating than that from which you
so kindly saved them? What answer do you make to this? for if you had
not humanely preserved them from the hands of their conquerors, a quick
death perhaps, and that in the space of a moment, had freed them from
their pain: but on account of your _favour_ and _benevolence_,
it is known, that they have lingered years in pain and agony, and have
been sentenced, at last, to a dreadful death for the most insignificant

Neither can we allow the other argument to be true, on which you found
your merit; "that you take them from their country for their own
convenience; because Africa, scorched with incessant heat, and subject
to the most violent rains and tempests, is unwholesome, and unfit to be
inhabited." Preposterous men! do you thus judge from your own feelings?
Do you thus judge from your own constitution and frame? But if you
suppose that the Africans are incapable of enduring their own climate,
because you cannot endure it yourselves; why do you receive them into
slavery? Why do you not measure them here by the same standard? For if
you are unable to bear hunger and thirst, chains and imprisonment,
wounds and torture, why do you not suppose them incapable of enduring
the same treatment? Thus then is your argument turned against
yourselves. But consider the answer which the Scythians gave the
Ægyptians, when they contended about the antiquity of their
original[054], "That nature, when she first distinguished countries by
different degrees of heat and cold, tempered the bodies of animals, at
the same instant, to endure the different situations: that as the
climate of Scythia was severer than that of Ægypt, so were the bodies of
the Scythians harder, and as capable of enduring the severity of their
atmosphere, as the Ægyptians the temperateness of their own."

But you may say perhaps, that, though they are capable of enduring their
own climate, yet their situation is frequently uncomfortable, and even
wretched: that Africa is infested with locusts, and insects of various
kinds; that they settle in swarms upon the trees, destroy the verdure,
consume the fruit, and deprive the inhabitants of their food. But the
same answer may be applied as before; "that the same kind Providence,
who tempered the body of the animal, tempered also the body of the tree;
that he gave it a quality to recover the bite of the locust, which he
sent; and to reassume, in a short interval of time, its former glory."
And that such is the case experience has shewn: for the very trees that
have been infested, and stripped of their bloom and verdure, so
surprizingly quick is vegetation, appear in a few days, as if an insect
had been utterly unknown.

We may add to these observations, from the testimony of those who have
written the History of Africa from their own inspection, that no country
is more luxurious in prospects, none more fruitful, none more rich in
herds and flocks, and none, where the comforts of life, can be gained
with so little trouble.

But you say again, as a confirmation of these your former arguments, (by
which you would have it understood, that the Africans themselves are
sensible of the goodness of your intentions) "that they do not appear to
go with you against their will." Impudent and base assertion! Why then
do you load them with chains? Why keep you your daily and nightly
watches? But alas, as a farther, though a more melancholy proof, of the
falsehood of your assertions, how many, when on board your ships, have
put a period to their existence? How many have leaped into the sea? How
many have pined to death, that, even at the expence of their lives, they
might fly from your _benevolence_?

Do you call them obstinate then, because they refuse your favours? Do
you call them ungrateful, because they make you this return? How much
rather ought you receivers to blush! How much rather ought you receivers
to be considered as abandoned and execrable; who, when you usurp the
dominion over those, who are as free and independent as yourselves,
break the first law of justice, which ordains, "that no person shall do
harm to another, without a previous provocation;" who offend against
the dictates of nature, which commands, "that no just man shall be given
or received into slavery against his own consent;" and who violate the
very laws of the empire that you assume, by consigning your subjects to

Now, as a famous Heathen philosopher observes, from whose mouth you
shall be convicted[055], "there is a considerable difference, whether an
injury is done, during any perturbation of mind, which is generally
short and momentary; or whether it is done with any previous meditation
and design; for, those crimes, which proceed from any sudden commotion
of the mind, are less than those, which are studied and prepared," how
great and enormous are your crimes to be considered, who plan your
African voyages at a time, when your reason is found, and your senses
are awake; who coolly and deliberately equip your vessels; and who spend
years, and even lives, in the traffick of _human liberty_.

But if the arguments of those, who _sell_ or _deliver_ men
into slavery, (as we have shewn before) and of those, who _receive_
or _purchase_ them, (as we have now shewn) are wholly false; it is
evident that this _commerce_, is not only beyond the possibility of
defence, but is justly to be accounted wicked, and justly impious, since
it is contrary to the principles of _law_ and _government_,
the dictates of _reason_, the common maxims of _equity_, the
laws of _nature_, the admonitions of _conscience_, and, in
short, the whole doctrine of _natural religion_.

       *        *        *        *        *


[Footnote 054: Justin, L. 2. C. 1.]

[Footnote 055: Cicero de Officiis. L. 1. C. 8.]

       *        *        *        *        *






       *        *        *        *        *

 Having confined ourselves wholly, in the second part of this Essay, to
the consideration of the _commerce_, we shall now proceed to the
consideration of the _slavery_ that is founded upon it. As this
slavery will be conspicuous in the _treatment_, which the
unfortunate Africans uniformly undergo, when they are put into the hands
of the _receivers_, we shall describe the manner in which they are
accustomed to be used from this period.

To place this in the clearest, and most conspicuous point of view, we
shall throw a considerable part of our information on this head into the
form of a narrative: we shall suppose ourselves, in short, on the
continent of Africa, and relate a scene, which, from its agreement with
unquestionable facts, might not unreasonably be presumed to have been
presented to our view, had we been really there.

And first, let us turn our eyes to the cloud of dust that is before us.
It seems to advance rapidly, and, accompanied with dismal shrieks and
yellings, to make the very air, that is above it, tremble as it rolls
along. What can possibly be the cause? Let us inquire of that melancholy
African, who seems to walk dejected near the shore; whose eyes are
stedfastly fixed on the approaching object, and whose heart, if we can
judge from the appearance of his countenance, must be greatly agitated.

"Alas!" says the unhappy African, "the cloud that you see approaching,
is a train of wretched slaves. They are going to the ships behind you.
They are destined for the English colonies, and, if you will stay here
but for a little time, you will see them pass. They were last night
drawn up upon the plain which you see before you, where they were
branded upon the breast with an _hot iron_; and when they had
undergone the whole of the treatment which is customary on these
occasions, and which I am informed that you Englishmen at home use to
the _cattle_ which you buy, they were returned to their prison. As
I have some dealings with the members of the factory which you see at a
little distance, (though thanks to the Great Spirit, I never dealt in
the _liberty_ of my fellow creatures) I gained admittance there. I
learned the history of some of the unfortunate people, whom I saw
confined, and will explain to you, if my eye should catch them as they
pass, the real causes of their servitude."

Scarcely were these words spoken, when they came distinctly into sight.
They appeared to advance in a long column, but in a very irregular
manner. There were three only in the front, and these were chained
together. The rest that followed seemed to be chained by pairs, but by
pressing forward, to avoid the lash of the drivers, the breadth of the
column began to be greatly extended, and ten or more were observed

While we were making these remarks, the intelligent African thus resumed
his discourse. "The first three whom you observe, at the head of the
train, to be chained together, are prisoners of war. As soon as the
ships that are behind you arrived, the news was dispatched into the
inland country; when one of the petty kings immediately assembled his
subjects, and attacked a neighbouring tribe. The wretched people, though
they were surprized, made a formidable resistance, as they resolved,
almost all of them, rather to lose their lives, than survive their
liberty. The person whom you see in the middle, is the father of the two
young men, who are chained to him on each side. His wife and two of his
children were killed in the attack, and his father being wounded, and,
on account of his age, _incapable of servitude_, was left bleeding
on the spot where this transaction happened."

"With respect to those who are now passing us, and are immediately
behind the former, I can give you no other intelligence, than that some
of them, to about the number of thirty, were taken in the same skirmish.
Their tribe was said to have been numerous before the attack; these
however are _all that are left alive_. But with respect to the
unhappy man, who is now opposite to us, and whom you may distinguish, as
he is now looking back and wringing his hands in despair, I can inform
you with more precision. He is an unfortunate convict. He lived only
about five days journey from the factory. He went out with his king to
hunt, and was one of his train; but, through too great an anxiety to
afford his royal master diversion, he roused the game from the covert
rather sooner than was expected. The king, exasperated at this
circumstance, immediately sentenced him to slavery. His wife and
children, fearing lest the tyrant should extend the punishment to
themselves, _which is not unusual_, fled directly to the woods,
where they were all devoured."

"The people, whom you see close behind the unhappy convict, form a
numerous body, and reach a considerable way. They speak a language,
which no person in this part of Africa can understand, and their
features, as you perceive, are so different from those of the rest, that
they almost appear a distinct race of men. From this circumstance I
recollect them. They are the subjects of a very distant prince, who
agreed with the _slave merchants, for a quantity of spirituous
liquors_, to furnish him with a stipulated number of slaves. He
accordingly surrounded, and set fire to one of his own villages in the
night, and seized these people, who were unfortunately the inhabitants,
as they were escaping from the flames. I first saw them as the merchants
were driving them in, about two days ago. They came in a large body, and
were tied together at the neck with leather thongs, which permitted
them to walk at the distance of about a yard from one another. Many of
them were loaden with elephants teeth, which had been purchased at the
same time. All of them had bags, made of skin, upon their shoulders; for
as they were to travel, in their way from the great mountains, through
barren sands and inhospitable woods for many days together, they were
obliged to carry water and provisions with them. Notwithstanding this,
many of them perished, some by hunger, but the greatest number by
fatigue, as the place from whence they came, is at such an amazing
distance from this, and the obstacles, from the nature of the country,
so great, that the journey could scarcely be completed in seven moons."

When this relation was finished, and we had been looking stedfastly for
some time on the croud that was going by, we lost sight of that
peculiarity of feature, which we had before remarked. We then discovered
that the inhabitants of the depopulated village had all of them passed
us, and that the part of the train, to which we were now opposite, was a
numerous body of kidnapped people. Here we indulged our imagination. We
thought we beheld in one of them a father, in another an husband, and in
another a son, each of whom was forced from his various and tender
connections, and without even the opportunity of bidding them adieu.
While we were engaged in these and other melancholy reflections, the
whole body of slaves had entirely passed us. We turned almost insensibly
to look at them again, when we discovered an unhappy man at the end of
the train, who could scarcely keep pace with the rest. His feet seemed
to have suffered much from long and constant travelling, for he was
limping painfully along.

"This man," resumes the African. "has travelled a considerable way. He
lived at a great distance from hence, and had a large family, for whom
he was daily to provide. As he went out one night to a neighbouring
spring, to procure water for his thirsty children, he was kidnapped by
two _slave hunters_, who sold him in the morning to some country
merchants for a _bar of iron_. These drove him with other slaves,
procured almost in the same manner, to the nearest market, where the
English merchants, to whom the train that has just now passed us
belongs, purchased him and two others, by means of their travelling
agents, for a _pistol_. His wife and children have been long
waiting for his return. But he is gone for ever from their sight: and
they must be now disconsolate, as they must be certain by his delay,
that he has fallen into the hands of the _Christians_".

"And now, as I have mentioned the name of _Christians_, a name, by
which the Europeans distinguish themselves from us, I could wish to be
informed of the meaning which such an appellation may convey. They
consider themselves as _men_, but us unfortunate Africans, whom
they term _Heathens_, as the _beasts_ that serve us. But ah!
how different is the fact! What is _Christianity_, but a system
of _murder_ and _oppression_? The cries and yells of the
unfortunate people, who are now soon to embark for the regions of
servitude, have already pierced my heart. Have you not heard me sigh,
while we have been talking? Do you not see the tears that now trickle
down my cheeks? and yet these hardened _Christians_ are unable to
be moved at all: nay, they will scourge them amidst their groans, and
even smile, while they are torturing them to death. Happy, happy
Heathenism! which can detest the vices of Christianity, and feel for
the distresses of mankind."

"But" we reply, "You are totally mistaken: _Christianity_ is the
most perfect and lovely of moral systems. It blesses even the hand of
persecution itself, and returns good for evil. But the people against
whom you so justly declaim; are not _Christians_. They are
_infidels_. They are _monsters_. They are out of the common
course of nature. Their countrymen at home are generous and brave. They
support the sick, the lame, and the blind. They fly to the succour of
the distressed. They have noble and stately buildings for the sole
purpose of benevolence. They are in short, of all nations, the most
remarkable for humanity and justice."

"But why then," replies the honest African, "do they suffer this? Why is
Africa a scene of blood and desolation? Why are her children wrested
from her, to administer to the luxuries and greatness of those whom they
never offended? And why are these dismal cries in vain?"

"Alas!" we reply again, "can the cries and groans, with which the air
now trembles, be heard across this extensive continent? Can the southern
winds convey them to the ear of Britain? If they could reach the
generous Englishman at home, they would pierce his heart, as they have
already pierced your own. He would sympathize with you in your distress.
He would be enraged at the conduct of his countrymen, and resist their

But here a shriek unusually loud, accompanied with a dreadful rattling
of chains, interrupted the discourse. The wretched Africans were just
about to embark: they had turned their face to their country, as if to
take a last adieu, and, with arms uplifted to the sky, were making the
very atmosphere resound with their prayers and imprecations.

       *        *        *        *        *


The foregoing scene, though it may be said to be imaginary, is strictly
consistent with fact. It is a scene, to which the reader himself may
have been witness, if he has ever visited the place, where it is
supposed to lie; as no circumstance whatever has been inserted in it,
for which the fullest and most undeniable evidence cannot be produced.
We shall proceed now to describe, in general terms, the treatment which
the wretched Africans undergo, from the time of their embarkation.

When the African slaves, who are collected from various quarters, for
the purposes of sale, are delivered over to the _receivers_, they
are conducted in the manner above described to the ships. Their
situation on board is beyond all description: for here they are crouded,
hundreds of them together, into such a small compass, as would scarcely
be thought sufficient to accommodate twenty, if considered as _free
men_. This confinement soon produces an effect, that may be easily
imagined. It generates a pestilential air, which, co-operating with, bad
provisions, occasions such a sickness and mortality among them, that not
less than _twenty thousand_[056] are generally taken off in every
yearly transportation.

Thus confined in a pestilential prison, and almost entirely excluded
from the chearful face of day, it remains for the sickly survivors to
linger out a miserable existence, till the voyage is finished. But are
no farther evils to be expected in the interim particularly if we add to
their already wretched situation the indignities that are daily offered
them, and the regret which they must constantly feel, at being for ever
forced from their connexions? These evils are but too apparent. Some of
them have resolved, and, notwithstanding the threats of the
_receivers_, have carried their resolves into execution, to starve
themselves to death. Others, when they have been brought upon deck for
air, if the least opportunity has offered, have leaped into the sea, and
terminated their miseries at once. Others, in a fit of despair, have
attempted to rise, and regain their liberty. But here what a scene of
barbarity has constantly ensued. Some of them have been instantly killed
upon the spot; some have been taken from the hold, have been bruised and
mutilated in the most barbarous and shocking manner, and have been
returned bleeding to their companions, as a sad example of resistance;
while others, tied to the ropes of the ship, and mangled alternately
with the whip and knife, have been left in that horrid situation, till
they have expired.

But this is not the only inhuman treatment which they are frequently
obliged to undergo; for if there should be any necessity, from
tempestuous weather, for lightening the ship; or if it should be
presumed on the voyage, that the provisions will fall short before the
port can be made, they are, many of them, thrown into the sea, without
any compunction of mind on the part of the _receivers_, and without
any other regret for their loss, than that which _avarice_
inspires. Wretched survivors! what must be their feelings at such a
sight! how must they tremble to think of that servitude which is
approaching, when the very _dogs_ of the _receivers_ have been
retained on board, and preferred to their unoffending countrymen. But
indeed so lightly are these unhappy people esteemed, that their lives
have been even taken away upon speculation: there has been an instance,
within the last five years, of _one hundred and thirty two_ of them
being thrown into the sea, because it was supposed that, by this
_trick_, their value could be recovered from the insurers[057].

But if the ship should arrive safe at its destined port, a circumstance
which does not always happen, (for some have been blown up, and many
lost) the wretched Africans do not find an alleviation of their sorrow.
Here they are again exposed to sale. Here they are again subjected to
the inspection of other brutal _receivers_, who examine and treat
them with an inhumanity, at which even avarice should blush. To this
mortifying circumstance is added another, that they are picked out, as
the purchaser pleases, without any consideration whether the wife is
separated from her husband, or the mother from her son: and if these
cruel instances of separation should happen; if relations, when they
find themselves about to be parted, should cling together; or if filial,
conjugal, or parental affection, should detain them but a moment longer
in each other's arms, than these _second receivers_ should think
sufficient, the lash instantly severs them from their embraces.

We cannot close our account of the treatment, which the wretched
Africans undergo while in the hands of the _first receivers_,
without mentioning an instance of wanton, barbarity, which happened some
time ago; particularly as it may be inserted with propriety in the
present place, and may give the reader a better idea of the cruelties,
to which they are continually exposed, than any that he may have yet
conceived. To avoid making a mistake, we shall take the liberty that has
been allowed us, and transcribe it from a little manuscript account,
with which we have been favoured by a person of the strictest integrity,
and who was at that time in the place where the transaction
happened[058]. "Not long after," says he, (continuing his account) "the
perpetrator of a cruel murder, committed in open day light, in the most
publick part of a town, which was the seat of government, escaped every
other notice than the curses of a few of the more humane witnesses of
his barbarity. An officer of a Guinea ship, who had the care of a number
of new slaves, and was returning from the _sale-yard_ to the
vessel with such as remained unsold; observed a stout fellow among them
rather slow in his motions, which he therefore quickened with his
rattan. The slave soon afterwards fell down, and was raised by the same
application. Moving forwards a few yards, he fell down again; and this
being taken as a proof of his sullen perverse spirit, the enraged
officer furiously repeated his blows, till he expired at his feet. The
brute coolly ordered some of the surviving slaves to carry the dead body
to the water's side, where, without any ceremony or delay, being thrown
into the sea, the tragedy was supposed to have been immediately finished
by the not more inhuman sharks, with which the harbour then abounded.
These voracious fish were supposed to have followed the vessels from
the coast of Africa, in which ten thousand slaves were imported in that
one season, being allured by the stench, and daily fed by the dead
carcasses thrown overboard on the voyage."

If the reader should observe here, that cattle are better protected in
this country, than slaves in the colonies, his observation will be just.
The beast which is driven to market, is defended by law from the goad of
the driver; whereas the wretched African, though an human being, and
whose feelings receive of course a double poignancy from the power of
reflection, is unnoticed in this respect in the colonial code, and may
be goaded and beaten till he expires.

We may now take our leave of the _first receivers_. Their crime has
been already estimated; and to reason farther upon it, would be
unnecessary. For where the conduct of men is so manifestly impious,
there can be no need, either of a single argument or a reflection; as
every reader of sensibility will anticipate them in his own feelings.

       *        *        *        *        *


[Footnote 056: It is universally allowed, that at least one fifth of the
exported negroes perish in the passage. This estimate is made from the
time in which they are put on board, to the time when they are disposed
of in the colonies. The French are supposed to lose the greatest number
in the voyage, but particularly from this circumstance, because their
slave ships are in general so very large, that many of the slaves that
have been put on board sickly, die before the cargo can be completed.]

[Footnote 057: This instance happened in a ship, commanded by one
Collingwood. On the 29th of November, 1781, fifty-four of them were
thrown into the sea alive; on the 30th forty-two more; and in about
three days afterwards, twenty-six. Ten others, who were brought upon the
deck for the same purpose, did not wait to be hand-cuffed, but bravely
leaped into the sea, and shared the fate of their companions. It is a
fact, that the people on board this ship had not been put upon short
allowance. The excuse which this execrable wretch made on board for his
conduct, was the following, "_that if the slaves, who were then
sickly, had died a natural death, the loss would have been the owners;
but as they were thrown alive into the sea, it would fall upon the

[Footnote 058: This gentleman is at present resident in England. The
author of this Essay applied to him for some information on the
treatment of slaves, so far as his own knowledge was concerned. He was
so obliging as to furnish him with the written account alluded to,
interspersed only with such instances, as he himself could undertake to
answer for. The author, as he has never met with these instances before,
and as they are of such high authority, intends to transcribe two or
three of them, and insert them in the fourth chapter. They will be found
in inverted commas.]

       *        *        *        *        *


When the wretched Africans are thus put into the hands of the _second
receivers_, they are conveyed to the plantations, where they are
totally considered as _cattle_, or _beasts of labour_; their
very children, if any should be born to them in that situation, being
previously destined to the condition of their parents. But here a
question arises, which, will interrupt the thread of the narration for a
little time, viz. how far their descendants, who compose the fifth order
of slaves, are justly reduced to servitude, and upon what principles the
_receivers_ defend their conduct.

Authors have been at great pains to inquire, why, in the ancient
servitude, the child has uniformly followed the condition of the mother.
But we conceive that they would have saved themselves much trouble, and
have done themselves more credit, if instead of, endeavouring to
reconcile the custom with _heathen_ notions, or their own laboured
conjectures, they had shewn its inconsistency with reason and nature,
and its repugnancy to common justice. Suffice it to say, that the whole
theory of the ancients, with respect to the descendants slaves, may be
reduced to this principle, "that as the parents, by becoming
_property_, were wholly considered as _cattle_, their children,
like _the progeny of cattle_, inherited their parental lot."

Such also is the excuse of the tyrannical _receivers_
before-mentioned. They allege, that they have purchased the parents,
that they can sell and dispose of them as they please, that they possess
them under the same laws and limitations as their cattle, and that their
children, like the progeny of these, become their property _by

But the absurdity of the argument will immediately appear. It depends
wholly on the supposition, that the parents are _brutes_. If they
are _brutes_, we shall instantly cease to contend: if they are
_men_, which we think it not difficult to prove, the argument must
immediately fall, as we have already shewn that there cannot justly be
any _property_ whatever in the _human species_.

It has appeared also, in the second part of this Essay, that as nature
made, every man's body and mind _his own_, so no _just_ person
can be reduced to slavery against his own _consent_. Do the
unfortunate offspring ever _consent_ to be slaves?--They are slaves
from their birth.--Are they _guilty_ of crimes, that they lose
their freedom?--They are slaves when they cannot speak.--Are their
_parents_ abandoned? The crimes of the parents cannot justly extend
to the children.

Thus then must the tyrannical _receivers_, who presume to sentence
the children of slaves to servitude, if they mean to dispute upon the
justice of their cause; either allow them to have been _brutes_
from their birth, or to have been guilty of crimes at a time, when they
were incapable of offending the very _King of Kings_.

       *        *        *        *        *


But to return to the narration. When the wretched Africans are conveyed
to the plantations, they are considered as _beasts of labour_, and
are put to their respective work. Having led, in their own country, a
life of indolence and ease, where the earth brings forth spontaneously
the comforts of life, and spares frequently the toil and trouble of
cultivation, they can hardly be expected to endure the drudgeries of
servitude. Calculations are accordingly made upon their lives. It is
conjectured, that if three in four survive what is called the
_seasoning_, the bargain is highly favourable. This seasoning is
said to expire, when the two first years of their servitude are
completed: It is the time which an African must take to be so accustomed
to the colony, as to be able to endure the common labour of a
plantation, and to be put into the _gang_. At the end of this
period the calculations become verified, _twenty thousand_[059] of
those, who are annually imported, dying before the seasoning is over.
This is surely an horrid and awful consideration: and thus does it
appear, (and let it be remembered, that it is the lowest calculation
that has been ever made upon the subject) that out of every annual
supply that is shipped from the coast of Africa, _forty thousand
lives_[060] are regularly expended, even before it can be said, that
there is really any additional stock for the colonies.

When the seasoning is over, and the survivors are thus enabled to endure
the usual task of slaves, they are considered as real and substantial
supplies. From this period[061] therefore we shall describe their

They are summoned at five in the morning to begin their work. This work
may be divided into two kinds, the culture of the fields, and the
collection of grass for cattle. The last is the most laborious and
intolerable employment; as the grass can only be collected blade by
blade, and is to be fetched frequently twice a day at a considerable
distance from the plantation. In these two occupations they are jointly
taken up, with no other intermission than that of taking their
subsistence twice, till nine at night. They then separate for their
respective huts, when they gather sticks, prepare their supper, and
attend their families. This employs them till midnight, when they go to
rest. Such is their daily way of life for rather more than half the
year. They are _sixteen_ hours, including two intervals at meals,
in the service of their masters: they are employed _three_
afterwards in their own necessary concerns; _five_ only remain for
sleep, and their day is finished.

During the remaining portion of the year, or the time of crop, the
nature, as well as the time of their employment, is considerably
changed. The whole gang is generally divided into two or three bodies.
One of these, besides the ordinary labour of the day, is kept in turn at
the mills, that are constantly going, during the whole of the night.
This is a dreadful encroachment upon their time of rest, which was
before too short to permit them perfectly to refresh their wearied
limbs, and actually reduces their sleep, as long as this season lasts,
to about three hours and an half a night, upon a moderate
computation[062]. Those who can keep their eyes open during their
nightly labour, and are willing to resist the drowsiness that is
continually coming upon them, are presently worn out; while some of
those, who are overcome, and who feed the mill between asleep and awake,
suffer, for thus obeying the calls of nature, by the loss of a
limb[063]. In this manner they go on, with little or no respite from
their work, till the crop season is over, when the year (from the time
of our first description) is completed.

To support[064] a life of such unparalleled drudgery, we should at least
expect: to find, that they were comfortably clothed, and plentifully
fed. But sad reverse! they have scarcely a covering to defend themselves
against the inclemency of the night. Their provisions are frequently
bad, and are always dealt out to them with such a sparing hand, that the
means of a bare livelihood are not placed within the reach of four out
of five of these unhappy people. It is a fact, that many of the
disorders of slaves are contracted from eating the vegetables, which
their little spots produce, before they are sufficiently ripe: a clear
indication, that the calls of hunger are frequently so pressing, as not
to suffer them to wait, till they can really enjoy them.

This, situation, of a want of the common necessaries of life, added to
that of hard and continual labour, must be sufficiently painful of
itself. How then must the pain be sharpened, if it be accompanied with
severity! if an unfortunate slave does not come into the field exactly
at the appointed time, if, drooping with sickness or fatigue, he appears
to work unwillingly, or if the bundle of grass that he has been
collecting, appears too small in the eye of the overseer, he is equally
sure of experiencing the whip. This instrument erases the skin, and cuts
out small portions of the flesh at almost every stroke; and is so
frequently applied, that the smack of it is all day long in the ears of
those, who are in the vicinity of the plantations. This severity of
masters, or managers, to their slaves, which is considered only as
common discipline, is attended with bad effects. It enables them to
behold instances of cruelty without commiseration, and to be guilty of
them without remorse. Hence those many acts of deliberate mutilation,
that have taken place on the slightest occasions: hence those many acts
of inferiour, though shocking, barbarity, that have taken place without
any occasion at all: the very slitting[065] of ears has been considered
as an operation, so perfectly devoid of pain, as to have been performed
for no other reason than that for which a brand is set upon cattle,
_as a mark of property_.

But this is not the only effect, which this severity produces: for
while it hardens their hearts, and makes them insensible of the misery
of their fellow-creatures, it begets a turn for wanton cruelty. As a
proof of this, we shall mention one, among the many instances that
occur, where ingenuity has been exerted in contriving modes of torture.
"An iron coffin, with holes in it, was kept by a certain colonist, as an
auxiliary to the lash. In this the poor victim of the master's
resentment was inclosed, and placed sufficiently near a fire, to
occasion extreme pain, and consequently shrieks and groans, until the
revenge of the master was satiated, without any other inconvenience on
his part, than a temporary suspension of the slave's labour. Had he been
flogged to death, or his limbs mutilated, the interest of the brutal
tyrant would have suffered a more irreparable loss.

"In mentioning, this instance, we do not mean to insinuate, that it is
common. We know that it was reprobated by many. All that we would infer
from it is, that where men are habituated to a system of severity, they
become _wantonly cruel_, and that the mere toleration of such an
instrument of torture, in any country, is a clear indication, _that
this wretched class of men do not there enjoy the protection of any
laws, that may be pretended to have been enacted in their favour_."

Such then is the general situation of the unfortunate Africans. They are
beaten and tortured at discretion. They are badly clothed. They are
miserably fed. Their drudgery is intense and incessant and their rest
short. For scarcely are their heads reclined, scarcely have their bodies
a respite from the labour of the day, or the cruel hand of the overseer,
but they are summoned to renew their sorrows. In this manner they go on
from year to year, in a state of the lowest degradation, without a
single law to protect them, without the possibility of redress, without
a hope that their situation will be changed, unless death should
terminate the scene.

Having described the general situation of these unfortunate people, we
shall now take notice of the common consequences that are found to
attend it, and relate them separately, as they result either from long
and painful _labour_, a _want_ of the common necessaries of
life, or continual _severity_.

Oppressed by a daily task of such immoderate labour as human nature is
utterly unable to perform, many of them run away from their masters.
They fly to the recesses of the mountains, where they choose rather to
live upon any thing that the soil affords them, nay, the very soil
itself, than return to that _happy situation_, which is represented
by the _receivers_, as the condition of a slave.

It sometimes happens, that the manager of a mountain plantation, falls
in with one of these; he immediately seizes him, and threatens to carry
him to his former master, unless he will consent to live on the mountain
and cultivate his ground. When his plantation is put in order, he
carries the delinquent home, abandons him to all the suggestions of
despotick rage, and accepts a reward for his _honesty_. The unhappy
wretch is chained, scourged, tortured; and all this, because he obeyed
the dictates of nature, and wanted to be free. And who is there, that
would not have done the same thing, in the same situation? Who is there,
that has once known the charms of liberty; that would not fly from
despotism? And yet, by the impious laws of the _receivers_, the
absence[066] of six months from the lash of tyranny is--_death_.

But this law is even mild, when compared with another against the same
offence, which was in force sometime ago, and which we fear is even now
in force, in some of those colonies which this account of the treatment
comprehends. "Advertisements have frequently appeared there, offering a
reward for the apprehending of fugitive slaves either alive or
_dead_. The following instance was given us by a person of
unquestionable veracity, under whose own observation it fell. As he was
travelling in one of the colonies alluded to, he observed some people in
pursuit of a poor wretch, who was seeking in the wilderness an asylum
from his labours. He heard the discharge of a gun, and soon afterwards
stopping at an house for refreshment, the head of the fugitive, still
reeking with blood, was brought in and laid upon a table with
exultation. The production of such a trophy was the proof _required by
law_ to entitle the heroes to their reward." Now reader determine if
you can, who were the most execrable; the rulers of the state in
authorizing murder, or the people in being bribed to commit it.

This is one of the common consequences of that immoderate share of
labour, which is imposed upon them; nor is that, which is the result of
a scanty allowance of food, less to be lamented. The wretched African is
often so deeply pierced by the excruciating fangs of hunger, as almost
to be driven to despair. What is he to do in such a trying situation?
Let him apply to the _receivers_. Alas! the majesty of _receivership_
is too sacred for the appeal, and the intrusion would be
fatal. Thus attacked on the one hand, and shut out from every
possibility of relief on the other, he has only the choice of being
starved, or of relieving his necessities by taking a small portion of
the fruits of his own labour. Horrid crime! to be found eating the
cane, which probably his own hands have planted, and to be eating it,
because his necessities were pressing! This crime however is of such a
magnitude, as always to be accompanied with the whip; and so
unmercifully has it been applied on such an occasion, as to have been
the cause, in wet weather, of the delinquent's death. But the smart of
the whip has not been the only pain that the wretched Africans have
experienced. Any thing that passion could seize, and convert into an
instrument of punishment, has been used; and, horrid to relate! the very
knife has not been overlooked in the fit of phrenzy. Ears have been
slit, eyes have been beaten out, and bones have been broken; and so
frequently has this been the case, that it has been a matter of constant
lamentation with disinterested people, who out of curiosity have
attended the markets[067] to which these unhappy people weekly resort,
that they have not been able to turn their eyes on any group of them
whatever, but they have beheld these inhuman marks of passion,
despotism, and caprice.

But these instances of barbarity have not been able to deter them from
similar proceedings. And indeed, how can it be expected that they
should? They have still the same appetite to be satisfied as before, and
to drive them to desperation. They creep out clandestinely by night, and
go in search of food into their master's, or some neighbouring
plantation. But here they are almost equally sure of suffering. The
watchman, who will be punished himself, if he neglects his duty,
frequently seizes them in the fact. No excuse or intreaty will avail; he
must punish them for an example, and he must punish them, not with a
stick, nor with a whip, but with a cutlass. Thus it happens, that these
unhappy slaves, if they are taken, are either sent away mangled in a
barbarous manner, or are killed upon the spot.

We may now mention the consequences of the severity. The wretched
Africans, daily subjected to the lash, and unmercifully whipt and beaten
on every trifling occasion, have been found to resist their opposers.
Unpardonable crime! that they should have the feelings of nature! that
their breasts should glow with resentment on an injury! that they should
be so far overcome, as to resist those, whom _they are under no
obligations to obey_, and whose only title to their services consists
in _a violation of the rights of men_! What has been the
consequence?--But here let us spare the feelings of the reader, (we
wish we could spare our own) and let us only say, without a recital of
the cruelty, _that they have been murdered at the discretion of their
masters_. For let the reader observe, that the life of an African is
only valued at a price, that would scarcely purchase an horse; that the
master has a power of murdering his slave, if he pays but a trifling
fine; and that the murder must be attended with uncommon circumstances
of horrour, if it even produces an inquiry.

Immortal Alfred! father of our invaluable constitution! parent of the
civil blessings we enjoy! how ought thy laws to excite our love and
veneration, who hast forbidden us, thy posterity, to tremble at the
frown of tyrants! how ought they to perpetuate thy name, as venerable,
to the remotest ages, who has secured, even to the meanest servant, a
fair and impartial trial! How much does nature approve thy laws, as
consistent with her own feelings, while she absolutely turns pale,
trembles, and recoils, at the institutions of these _receivers_!
Execrable men! you do not murder the horse, on which you only ride; you
do not mutilate the cow, which only affords you her milk; you do not
torture the dog, which is but a partial servant of your pleasures: but
these unfortunate men, from whom, you derive your very pleasures and
your fortunes, you torture, mutilate, murder at discretion! Sleep then
you _receivers_, if you can, while you scarcely allow these
unfortunate people to rest at all! feast if you can, and indulge your
genius, while you daily apply to these unfortunate people the stings of
severity and hunger! exult in riches, at which even avarice ought to
shudder, and, which humanity must detest!

       *        *        *        *        *


[Footnote 059: One third of the whole number imported, is often computed
to be lost in the seasoning, which, in round numbers, will be 27000. The
loss in the seasoning depends, in a great measure, on two circumstances,
viz. on the number of what are called refuse slaves that are imported,
and on the quantity of new land in the colony. In the French windward
islands of Martinico, and Guadaloupe, which are cleared and highly
cultivated, and in our old small islands, one fourth, including refuse
slaves, is considered as a general proportion. But in St. Domingo, where
there is a great deal of new land annually taken into culture, and in
other colonies in the same situation, the general proportion, including
refuse slaves, is found to be one third. This therefore is a lower
estimate than the former, and reduces the number to about 23000. We may
observe, that this is the common estimate, but we have reduced it to
20000 to make it free from all objection.]

[Footnote 060: Including the number that perish on the voyage, and in
the seasoning. It is generally thought that not half the number
purchased can be considered as an additional stock, and of course that
50,000 are consumed within the first two years from their embarkation.]

[Footnote 061: That part of the account, that has been hitherto given,
extends to all the Europeans and their colonists, who are concerned in
this horrid practice. But we are sorry that we must now make a
distinction, and confine the remaining part, of it to the colonists of
the British West India islands, and to those of the southern provinces
of North America. As the employment of slaves is different in the two
parts of the world last mentioned, we shall content ourselves with
describing it, as it exists in one of them, and we shall afterwards
annex such treatment and such consequences as are applicable to both. We
have only to add, that the reader must not consider our account as
_universally_, but only _generally_, true.]

[Footnote 062: This computation is made on a supposition, that the gang
is divided into three bodies; we call it therefore moderate, because the
gang is frequently divided into two bodies, which must therefore set up
alternately _every other night_.]

[Footnote 063: An hand or arm being frequently ground off.]

[Footnote 064: The reader will scarcely believe it, but it is a fact,
that a slave's annual allowance from his master, for provisions,
clothing, medicines when sick, &c. is limited, upon an average, to
thirty shillings.]

[Footnote 065: "A boy having received six slaves as a present from his
father, immediately slit their ears, and for the following reason, that
as his father was a whimsical man, he might claim them again, unless
they were marked." We do not mention this instance as a confirmation of
the passage to which it is annexed, but only to shew, how cautious we
ought to be in giving credit to what may be advanced in any work written
in defence of slavery, by any native of the colonies: for being trained
up to scenes of cruelty from his cradle, he may, consistently with his
own feelings, represent that treatment as mild, at which we, who have
never been used to see them, should absolutely shudder.]

[Footnote 066: In this case he is considered as a criminal against the
state. The _marshal_, an officer answering to our sheriff,
superintends his execution, and the master receives the value of the
slave from the publick treasury. We may observe here, that in all cases
where the delinquent is a criminal of the state, he is executed, and his
value is received in the same manner; He is tried and condemned by two
or three justices of the peace, and without any intervention of a

[Footnote 067: Particularly in Jamaica. These observations were made by
disinterested people, who were there for three or four years during the
late war.]

       *        *        *        *        *


Some people may suppose, from the melancholy account that has been given
in the preceding chapter, that we have been absolutely dealing in
romance: that the scene exhibited is rather a dreary picture of the
imagination, than a representation of fact. Would to heaven, for the
honour of human nature, that this were really the case! We wish we could
say, that we have no testimony to produce for any of our assertions, and
that our description of the general treatment of slaves has been greatly

But the _receivers_, notwithstanding the ample and disinterested
evidence, that can be brought on the occasion, do not admit the
description to be true. They say first, "that if the slavery were such
as has been now represented, no human being could possibly support it
long." Melancholy truth! the wretched Africans generally perish in their
prime. Let them reflect upon the prodigious supplies that are
_annually_ required, and their argument will be nothing less than a
confession, that the slavery has been justly depicted.

They appeal next to every man's own reason, and desire him to think
seriously, whether "self-interest will not always restrain the master
from acts of cruelty to the slave, and whether such accounts therefore,
as the foregoing, do not contain within themselves, their own
refutation." We answer, "No." For if this restraining principle be as
powerful as it is imagined, why does not the general conduct of men
afford us a better picture? What is imprudence, or what is vice, but a
departure from every man's own interest, and yet these are the
characteristicks of more than half the world?--

--But, to come more closely to the present case, _self-interest_
will be found but a weak barrier against the sallies of _passion_:
particularly where it has been daily indulged in its greatest latitude,
and there are no laws to restrain its calamitous effects. If the
observation be true, that passion is a short madness, then it is evident
that self-interest, and every other consideration, must be lost, so long
as it continues. We cannot have a stronger instance of this, than in a
circumstance related in the second part of this Essay, "that though the
Africans have gone to war for the express purpose of procuring slaves,
yet so great has been their resentment at the resistance they have
frequently found, that their _passion_ has entirely got the better
of their _interest_, and they have murdered all without any
discrimination, either of age or sex." Such may be presumed to be the
case with the no less savage _receivers_. Impressed with the most
haughty and tyrannical notions, easily provoked, accustomed to indulge
their anger, and, above all, habituated to scenes of cruelty, and unawed
by the fear of laws, they will hardly be found to be exempt from the
common failings of human nature, and to spare an unlucky slave, at a
time when men of cooler temper, and better regulated passions, are so
frequently blind to their own interest.

But if _passion_ may be supposed to be generally more than a
ballance for _interest_, how must the scale be turned in favour of
the melancholy picture exhibited, when we reflect that
_self-preservation_ additionally steps in, and demands the most
_rigorous severity_. For when we consider that where there is
_one_ master, there are _fifty_ slaves; that the latter have
been all forcibly torn from their country, and are retained in their
present situation by violence; that they are perpetually at war in their
hearts with their oppressors, and are continually cherishing the seeds
of revenge; it is evident that even _avarice_ herself, however cool
and deliberate, however free from passion and caprice, must sacrifice
her own sordid feelings, and adopt a system of tyranny and oppression,
which it must be ruinous to pursue.

Thus then, if no picture had been drawn of the situation of slaves, and
it had been left solely to every man's sober judgment to determine, what
it might probably be, he would conclude, that if the situation were
justly described, the page must be frequently stained with acts of
uncommon cruelty.

It remains only to make a reply to an objection, that is usually
advanced against particular instances of cruelty to slaves, as recorded
by various writers. It is said that "some of these are so inconceivably,
and beyond all example inhuman, that their very excess above the common
measure of cruelty shews them at once exaggerated and incredible." But
their credibility shall be estimated by a supposition. Let us suppose
that the following instance had been recorded by a writer of the highest
reputation, "that the master of a ship, bound to the western colonies
with slaves, on a presumption that many of them would die, selected an
_hundred and thirty two_ of the most sickly, and ordered them to be
thrown into the sea, to recover their value from the insurers, and,
above all, that the fatal order was put into execution." What would the
reader have thought on the occasion? Would he have believed the fact? It
would have surely staggered his faith; because he could never have heard
that any _one_ man ever was, and could never have supposed that any
_one_ man ever could be, guilty of the murder of _such a
number_ of his fellow creatures. But when he is informed that such a
fact as this came before a court[068] of justice in this very country;
that it happened within the last five years; that hundreds can come
forwards and say, that they heard the melancholy evidence with tears;
what bounds is he to place to his belief? The great God, who looks down
upon all his creatures with the same impartial eye, seems to have
infatuated the parties concerned, that they might bring the horrid
circumstance to light, that it might be recorded in the annals of a
publick court, as an authentick specimen of the treatment which the
unfortunate Africans undergo, and at the same time, as an argument to
shew, that there is no species of cruelty, that is recorded to have been
exercised upon these wretched people, so enormous that it may not
_readily be believed_.

       *        *        *        *        *


[Footnote 068: The action was brought by the owners against the
underwriters, to recover the value of the _murdered_ slaves. It was
tried at Guildhall.]

       *        *        *        *        *


If the treatment then, as before described, is confirmed by reason, and
the great credit that is due to disinterested writers on the subject; if
the unfortunate Africans are used, as if their flesh were stone, and
their vitals brass; by what arguments do you _receivers_ defend
your conduct?

You say that a great part of your savage treatment consists in
punishment for real offences, and frequently for such offences, as all
civilized nations have concurred in punishing. The first charge that you
exhibit against them is specifick, it is that of _theft_. But how
much rather ought you _receivers_ to blush, who reduce them to such
a situation! who reduce them to the dreadful alternative, that they must
either _steal_ or _perish_! How much rather ought you _receivers_
to be considered as _robbers_ yourselves, who cause these
unfortunate people to be _stolen_! And how much greater is
your crime, who are _robbers of human liberty_!

The next charge which you exhibit against them, is general, it is that
of _rebellion_; a crime of such a latitude, that you can impose it
upon almost every action, and of such a nature, that you always annex to
it the most excruciating pain. But what a contradiction is this to
common sense! Have the wretched Africans formally resigned their
freedom? Have you any other claim upon their obedience, than that of
force? If then they are your subjects, you violate the laws of
government, by making them unhappy. But if they are not your subjects,
then, even though they should resist your proceedings, they are not

But what do you say to that long catalogue of offences, which you
punish, and of which no people but yourselves take cognizance at all?
You say that the wisdom of legislation has inserted it in the colonial
laws, and that you punish by authority. But do you allude to that
execrable code, that _authorises murder_? that tempts an unoffended
person to kill the slave, that abhors and flies your service? that
delegates a power, which no host of men, which not all the world, can

Or,--What do you say to that daily unmerited severity, which you
consider only as common discipline? Here you say that the Africans are
vicious, that they are all of them ill-disposed, that you must of
necessity be severe. But can they be well-disposed to their oppressors?
In their own country they were just, generous, hospitable: qualities,
which all the African historians allow them eminently to possess. If
then they are vicious, they must have contracted many of their vices
from yourselves; and as to their own native vices, if any have been
imported with them, are they not amiable, when compared with yours?

Thus then do the excuses, which have been hitherto made by the
_receivers_, force a relation of such circumstances, as makes their
conduct totally inexcusable, and, instead of diminishing at all, highly
aggravates their guilt.

       *        *        *        *        *


We come now to that other system of reasoning, which is always applied,
when the former is confuted; "that the Africans are an inferiour link of
the chain of nature, and are made for slavery."

This assertion is proved by two arguments; the first of which was
advanced also by the ancients, and is drawn from the _inferiority of
their capacities_.

Let us allow then for a moment, that they appear to have no parts, that
they appear to be void of understanding. And is this wonderful, when,
you _receivers_ depress their senses by hunger? Is this wonderful,
when by incessant labour, the continual application of the lash, and the
most inhuman treatment that imagination can devise, you overwhelm their
genius, and hinder it from breaking forth?--No,--You confound their
abilities by the severity of their servitude: for as a spark of fire, if
crushed by too great a weight of incumbent fuel, cannot be blown into a
flame, but suddenly expires, so the human mind, if depressed by rigorous
servitude, cannot be excited to a display of those faculties, which
might otherwise have shone with the brightest lustre.

Neither is it wonderful in another point of view. For what is it that
awakens the abilities of men, and distinguishes them from the common
herd? Is it not often the amiable hope of becoming serviceable to
individuals, or the state? Is it not often the hope of riches, or of
power? Is it not frequently the hope of temporary honours, or a lasting
fame? These principles have all a wonderful effect upon the mind. They
call upon it to exert its faculties, and bring those talents to the
publick view, which had otherwise been concealed. But the unfortunate
Africans have no such incitements as these, that they should shew their
genius. They have no hope of riches, power, honours, fame. They have no
hope but this, that their miseries will be soon terminated by death.

And here we cannot but censure and expose the murmurings of the
unthinking and the gay; who, going on in a continual round of pleasure
and prosperity, repine at the will of Providence, as exhibited in the
shortness of human duration. But let a weak and infirm old age overtake
them: let them experience calamities: let them feel but half the
miseries which the wretched Africans undergo, and they will praise the
goodness of Providence, who hath made them mortal; who hath prescribed
certain ordinary bounds to the life of man; and who, by such a
limitation, hath given all men this comfortable hope, that however
persecuted in life, a time will come, in the common course of nature,
when their sufferings will have an end.

Such then is the nature of this servitude, that we can hardly expect to
find in those, who undergo it, even the glimpse of genius. For if their
minds are in a continual state of depression, and if they have no
expectations in life to awaken their abilities, and make them eminent,
we cannot be surprized if a sullen gloomy stupidity should be the
leading mark in their character; or if they should appear inferiour to
those, who do not only enjoy the invaluable blessings of freedom, but
have every prospect before their eyes, that can allure them to exert
their faculties. Now, if to these considerations we add, that the
wretched Africans are torn from their country in a state of nature, and
that in general, as long as their slavery continues, every obstacle is
placed in the way of their improvement, we shall have a sufficient
answer to any argument that may be drawn from the inferiority of their

It appears then, from the circumstances that have been mentioned, that
to form a true judgment of the abilities of these unfortunate people, we
must either take a general view of them before their slavery commences,
or confine our attention to such, as, after it has commenced, have had
any opportunity given them of shewing their genius either in arts or
letters. If, upon such a fair and impartial view, there should be any
reason to suppose, that they are at all inferiour to others in the same
situation, the argument will then gain some of that weight and
importance, which it wants at present.

In their own country, where we are to see them first, we must expect
that the prospect will be unfavourable. They are mostly in a savage
state. Their powers of mind are limited to few objects. Their ideas are
consequently few. It appears, however, that they follow the same mode of
life, and exercise the same arts, as the ancestors of those very
Europeans, who boast of their great superiority, are described to have
done in the same uncultivated state. This appears from the Nubian's
Geography, the writings of Leo, the Moor, and all the subsequent
histories, which those, who have visited the African continent, have
written from their own inspection. Hence three conclusions; that their
abilities are sufficient for their situation;--that they are as great,
as those of other people have been, in the same stage of society;--and
that they are as great as those of any civilized people whatever, when
the degree of the barbarism of the one is drawn into a comparison with
that of the civilization of the other.

Let us now follow them to the colonies. They are carried over in the
unfavourable situation described. It is observed here, that though their
abilities cannot be estimated high from a want of cultivation, they are
yet various, and that they vary in proportion as the nation, from which
they have been brought, has advanced more or less in the scale of social
life. This observation, which is so frequently made, is of great
importance: for if their abilities expand in proportion to the
improvement of their state, it is a clear indication, that if they were
equally improved, they would be equally ingenious.

But here, before we consider any opportunities that may be afforded
them, let it be remembered that even their most polished situation may
be called barbarous, and that this circumstance, should they appear less
docile than others, may be considered as a sufficient answer to any
objection that may be made to their capacities. Notwithstanding this,
when they are put to the mechanical arts, they do not discover a want of
ingenuity. They attain them in as short a time as the Europeans, and
arrive at a degree of excellence equal to that of their teachers. This
is a fact, almost universally known, and affords us this proof, that
having learned with facility such of the mechanical arts, as they have
been taught, they are capable of attaining any other, at least, of the
same class, if they should receive but the same instruction.

With respect to the liberal arts, their proficiency is certainly less;
but not less in proportion to their time and opportunity of study; not
less, because they are less capable of attaining them, but because they
have seldom or ever an opportunity of learning them at all. It is yet
extraordinary that their talents appear, even in some of these sciences,
in which they are totally uninstructed. Their abilities in musick are
such, as to have been generally noticed. They play frequently upon a
variety of instruments, without any other assistance than their own
ingenuity. They have also tunes of their own composition. Some of these
have been imported among us; are now in use; and are admired for their
sprightliness and ease, though the ungenerous and prejudiced importer
has concealed their original.

Neither are their talents in poetry less conspicuous. Every occurrence,
if their spirits are not too greatly depressed, is turned into a song.
These songs are said to be incoherent and nonsensical. But this proceeds
principally from two causes, an improper conjunction of words, arising
from an ignorance of the language in which they compose; and a wildness
of thought, arising from the different manner, in which the organs of
rude and civilized people will be struck by the same object. And as to
their want of harmony and rhyme, which is the last objection, the
difference of pronunciation is the cause. Upon the whole, as they are
perfectly consistent with their own ideas, and are strictly musical as
pronounced by themselves, they afford us as high a proof of their
poetical powers, as the works of the most acknowledged poets.

But where these impediments have been removed, where they have received
an education, and have known and pronounced the language with propriety,
these defects have vanished, and their productions have been less
objectionable. For a proof of this, we appeal to the writings of an
African girl[069], who made no contemptible appearance in this species
of composition. She was kidnapped when only eight years old, and, in the
year 1761, was transported to America, where she was sold with other
slaves. She had no school education there, but receiving some little
instruction from the family, with whom she was so fortunate as to live,
she obtained such a knowledge of the English language within sixteen
months from the time of her arrival, as to be able to speak it and read
it to the astonishment of those who heard her. She soon afterwards
learned to write, and, having a great inclination to learn the Latin
tongue, she was indulged by her master, and made a progress. Her
Poetical works were published with his permission, in the year 1773.
They contain thirty-eight pieces on different subjects. We shall beg
leave to make a short extract from two or three of them, for the
observation of the reader.

_From an Hymn to the Evening_[070].

"Fill'd with the praise of him who gives the light,
And draws the sable curtains of the night,
Let placid slumbers sooth each weary mind,
At morn to wake more heav'nly and refin'd;
So shall the labours of the day begin,
More pure and guarded from the snares of sin.
----&c. &c."

       *       *       *       *       *

_From an Hymn to the Morning_.

"Aurora hail! and all the thousand dies,
That deck thy progress through the vaulted skies!
The morn awakes, and wide extends her rays,
On ev'ry leaf the gentle zephyr plays.
Harmonious lays the feather'd race resume,
Dart the bright eye, and shake the painted plume.
----&c. &c."

       *       *       *       *       *

_From Thoughts on Imagination_.

"Now here, now there, the roving _fancy_ flies,
Till some lov'd object strikes her wand'ring eyes,
Whose silken fetters all the senses bind,
And soft captivity involves the mind.

"_Imagination!_ who can sing thy force,
Or who describe the swiftness of thy course?
Soaring through air to find the bright abode,
Th' empyreal palace of the thund'ring God,
We on thy pinions can surpass the wind,
And leave the rolling universe behind:
From star to star the mental opticks rove,
Measure the skies, and range the realms above.
There in one view we grasp the mighty whole,
Or with new worlds amaze th' unbounded soul.
----&c. &c."

       *       *       *       *       *

Such is the poetry which we produce as a proof of our assertions. How
far it has succeeded, the reader may by this time have determined in his
own mind. We shall therefore only beg leave to accompany it with this
observation, that if the authoress _was designed for slavery_, (as
the argument must confess) the greater part of the inhabitants of
Britain must lose their claim to freedom.

To this poetry we shall only add, as a farther proof of their abilities,
the Prose compositions of Ignatius Sancho, who received some little
education. His letters are too well known, to make any extract, or
indeed any farther mention of him, necessary. If other examples of
African genius should be required, suffice it to say, that they can be
produced in abundance; and that if we were allowed to enumerate
instances of African gratitude, patience, fidelity, honour, as so many
instances of good sense, and a sound understanding, we fear that
thousands of the enlightened Europeans would have occasion to blush.

But an objection will be made here, that the two persons whom we have
particularized by name, are prodigies, and that if we were to live for
many years, we should scarcely meet with two other Africans of the same
description. But we reply, that considering their situation as before
described, two persons, above mediocrity in the literary way, are as
many as can be expected within a certain period of years; and farther,
that if these are prodigies, they are only such prodigies as every day
would produce, if they had the same opportunities of acquiring knowledge
as other people, and the same expectations in life to excite their
genius. This has been constantly and solemnly asserted by the pious
Benezet[071], whom we have mentioned before, as having devoted a
considerable part of his time to their instruction. This great man, for
we cannot but mention him with veneration, had a better opportunity of
knowing them than any person whatever, and he always uniformly declared,
that he could never find a difference between their capacities and those
of other people; that they were as capable of reasoning as any
individual Europeans; that they were as capable of the highest
intellectual attainments; in short, that their abilities were equal, and
that they only wanted to be equally cultivated, to afford specimens of
as fine productions.

Thus then does it appear from the testimony of this venerable man,
whose authority is sufficient of itself to silence all objections
against African capacity, and from the instances that have been
produced, and the observations that have been made on the occasion, that
if the minds of the Africans were unbroken by slavery; if they had the
same expectations in life as other people, and the same opportunities of
improvement, they would be equal; in all the various branches of
science, to the Europeans, and that the argument that states them "to be
an inferiour link of the chain of nature, and designed for servitude,"
as far as it depends on the _inferiority of their capacities_, is
wholly malevolent and false[072].

       *        *        *        *        *


[Footnote 069: Phillis Wheatley, negro slave to Mr. John Wheatley, of
Boston, in New-England.]

[Footnote 070:
Lest it should be doubted whether these Poems are genuine, we shall
transcribe the names of those, who signed a certificate of their

His Excellency Thomas Hutchinson, Governor.
The Honourable Andrew Oliver, Lieutenant Governor.

The Hon. Thomas Hubbard
The Hon. John Erving
The Hon. James Pitts
The Hon. Harrison Gray
The Hon. James Bowdoin
John Hancock, Esq.
Joseph Green, Esq.
Richard Carey, Esq.
The Rev. Cha. Chauncy, D.D.
The Rev. Mather Byles, D.D.
The Rev. Ed. Pemberton, D.D.
The Rev. Andrew Elliot, D.D.
The Rev. Sam. Cooper, D.D.
The Rev. Samuel Mather
The Rev. John Moorhead
Mr. John Wheatley, her Master.

[Footnote 071: In the Preface.]

[Footnote 072: As to Mr. Hume's assertions with respect to African
capacity, we have passed them over in silence, as they have been so
admirably refuted by the learned Dr. Beattie, in his Essay on Truth, to
which we refer the reader. The whole of this admirable refutation
extends from p. 458. to 464.]

       *        *        *        *        *


The second argument, by which it is attempted to be proved, "that the
Africans are an inferiour link of the chain of nature, and are designed
for slavery," is drawn from _colour_, and from those other marks,
which distinguish them from the inhabitants of Europe.

To prove this with the greater facility, the _receivers_ divide in
opinion. Some of them contend that the Africans, from these
circumstances, are the descendants of Cain[073]: others, that they are
the posterity of Ham; and that as it was declared by divine inspiration,
that these should be servants to the rest of the world, so they are
designed for slavery; and that the reducing of them to such a situation
is only the accomplishment of the will of heaven: while the rest,
considering them from the same circumstances as a totally distinct
species of men, conclude them to be an inferiour link of the chain of
nature, and deduce the inference described.

To answer these arguments in the clearest and fullest manner, we are
under the necessity of making two suppositions, first, that the
scriptures are true; secondly, that they are false.

If then the scriptures are true, it is evident that the posterity of
Cain were extinguished in the flood. Thus one of the arguments is no

With respect to the curse of Ham, it appears also that it was limited;
that it did not extend to the posterity of all his sons, but only to the
descendants of him who was called Canaan[074]: by which it was foretold
that the Canaanites, a part of the posterity of Ham, should serve the
posterity of Shem and Japhet. Now how does it appear that these wretched
Africans are the descendants of Canaan?--By those marks, it will be
said, which distinguish them from the rest of the world.--But where are
these marks to be found in the divine writings? In what page is it said,
that the Canaanites were to be known by their _colour_, their
_features_, their _form_, or the very _hair of their heads_,
which is brought into the account?--But alas! so far are the
divine writings from giving any such account, that they shew the
assertion to be false. They shew that the descendants of Cush[075] were
of the colour, to which the advocates for slavery allude; and of course,
that there was no such limitation of colour to the posterity of Canaan,
or the inheritors of the curse.

Suppose we should now shew, upon the most undeniable evidence[076], that
those of the wretched Africans, who are singled out as inheriting the
curse, are the descendants of Cush or Phut; and that we should shew
farther, that but a single remnant of Canaan, which was afterwards
ruined, was ever in Africa at all.--Here all is consternation.--

But unfortunately again for the argument, though wonderfully for the
confirmation that the scriptures are of divine original, the whole
prophecy has been completed. A part of the descendants of Canaan were
hewers of wood and drawers of water, and became tributary and subject to
the Israelites, or the descendants of Shem. The Greeks afterwards, as
well as the Romans, who were both the descendants of Japhet, not only
subdued those who were settled in Syria and Palestine, but pursued and
conquered all such as were then remaining. These were the Tyrians and
Carthaginians: the former of whom were ruined by Alexander and the
Greeks, the latter by Scipio and the Romans.

It appears then that the second argument is wholly inapplicable and
false: that it is false in its _application_, because those, who
were the objects of the curse, were a totally distinct people: that it
is false in its _proof_, because no such distinguishing marks, as
have been specified, are to be found in the divine writings: and that,
if the proof could be made out, it would be now _inapplicable_, as
the curse has been long completed.

With respect to the third argument, we must now suppose that the
scriptures are false; that mankind did not all spring from the same
original; that there are different species of men. Now what must we
justly conclude from such a supposition? Must we conclude that one
species is inferiour to another, and that the inferiority depends upon
their _colour_, or their _features_, or their _form_?--No--We
must now consult the analogy of nature, and the conclusion will be this:
"that as she tempered the bodies of the different species of men in a
different degree, to enable them to endure the respective climates of
their habitation, so she gave them a variety of colour and appearance
with a like benevolent design."

To sum up the whole. If the scriptures are true, it is evident that the
posterity of _Cain_ are no more; that the curse of _Ham_ has
been accomplished; and that, as all men were derived from the same
stock, so this variety of appearance in men must either have proceeded
from some interposition of the Deity; or from a co-operation of certain
causes, which have an effect upon the human frame, and have the power of
changing it more or less from its primitive appearance, as they happen
to be more or less numerous or powerful than those, which acted upon the
frame of man in the first seat of his habitation. If from the
interposition of the Deity, then we must conclude that he, who bringeth
good out of evil, produced it for their convenience. If, from the
co-operation of the causes before related, what argument may not be
found against any society of men, who should happen to differ, in the
points alluded to, from ourselves?

If, on the other hand, the scriptures are false, then it is evident,
that there was neither such a person as _Cain_, nor _Ham_, nor
_Canaan_; and that nature bestowed such colour, features, and form,
upon the different species of men, as were best adapted to their

Thus, on which ever supposition it is founded, the whole argument must
fall. And indeed it is impossible that it can stand, even in the eye of
common sense. For if you admit the _form_ of men as a justification
of slavery, you may subjugate your own brother: if _features_, then
you must quarrel with all the world: if _colour_, where are you to
stop? It is evident, that if you travel from the equator to the northern
pole, you will find a regular gradation of colour from black to white.
Now if you can justly take him for your slave, who is of the deepest
die, what hinders you from taking him also, who only differs from the
former but by a shade. Thus you may proceed, taking each in a regular
succession to the poles. But who are you, that thus take into slavery so
many people? Where do you live yourself? Do you live in _Spain_, or
in _France_, or in _Britain_? If in either of these countries,
take care lest the _whiter natives of the north_ should have a
claim upon yourself.--But the argument is too ridiculous to be farther

Having now silenced the whole argument, we might immediately proceed to
the discussion of other points, without even declaring our opinion as to
which of the suppositions may be right, on which it has been refuted;
but we do not think ourselves at liberty to do this. The present age
would rejoice to find that the scriptures had no foundation, and would
anxiously catch at the writings of him, who should mention them in a
doubtful manner. We shall therefore declare our sentiments, by asserting
that they are true, and that all mankind, however various their
appearances are derived from the same stock.

To prove this, we shall not produce those innumerable arguments, by
which the scriptures have stood the test of ages, but advert to a single
fact. It is an universal law, observable throughout the whole creation,
_that if two animals of a different species propagate, their offspring
is unable to continue its own species_. By this admirable law, the
different species are preserved distinct; every possibility of confusion
is prevented, and the world is forbidden to be over-run by a race of
monsters. Now, if we apply this law to those of the human kind, who are
said to be of a distinct species from each other, it immediately fails.
The _mulattoe_ is as capable of continuing his own species as his
father; a clear and irrefragable proof, that the scripture[077] account
of the creation is true, and that "God, who hath made the world, hath
made of one blood[078] all the nations of men that dwell on all the face
of the earth."

But if this be the case, it will be said that mankind were originally of
one colour; and it will be asked at the same time, what it is probable
that the colour was, and how they came to assume so various an
appearance? To, each of these we shall make that reply, which we
conceive to be the most rational.

As mankind were originally of the same stock, so it is evident that they
were originally of the same colour. But how shall we attempt to
ascertain it? Shall we _Englishmen_ say, that it was the same as
that which we now find to be peculiar to ourselves?--No--This would be
a vain and partial consideration, and would betray our judgment to have
arisen from that false fondness, which habituates us to suppose, that
every thing belonging to ourselves is the perfectest and the best. Add
to this, that we should always be liable to a just reproof from every
inhabitant of the globe, whose colour was different from our own;
because he would justly say, that he had as good a right to imagine that
his own was the primitive colour, as that of any other people.

How then shall we attempt to ascertain it? Shall we look into the
various climates of the earth, see the colour that generally prevails in
the inhabitants of each, and apply the rule? This will be certainly free
from partiality, and will afford us a better prospect of success: for as
every particular district has its particular colour, so it is evident
that the complexion of Noah and his sons, from whom the rest of the
world were descended, was the same as that, which is peculiar to the
country, which was the seat of their habitation. This, by such a mode of
decision, will be found a dark olive; a beautiful colour, and a just
medium between white and black. That this was the primitive colour, is
highly probable from the observations that have been made; and, if
admitted, will afford a valuable lesson to the Europeans, to be cautious
how they deride those of the opposite complexion, as there is great
reason to presume, _that the purest white[079] is as far removed from
the primitive colour as the deepest black_.

We come now to the grand question, which is, that if mankind were
originally of this or any other colour, how came it to pass, that they
should wear so various an appearance? We reply, as we have had occasion
to say before, either _by the interposition of the Deity_; or _by
a co-operation of certain causes, which have an effect upon the human
frame, and have the power of changing it more or less from its primitive
appearance, as they are more or less numerous or powerful than those,
which acted upon the frame of man in the first seat of his

With respect to the Divine interposition, two epochs have been assigned,
when this difference of colour has been imagined to have been so
produced. The first is that, which has been related, when the curse was
pronounced on a branch of the posterity of _Ham_. But this argument
has been already refuted; for if the particular colour alluded to were
assigned at this period, it was assigned to the descendants of
_Canaan_, to distinguish them from those of his other brothers, and
was therefore _limited_ to the former. But the descendants of
_Cush_[080], as we have shewn before, partook of the same colour; a
clear proof, that it was neither assigned to them on this occasion, nor
at this period.

The second epoch is that, when mankind were dispersed on the building of
_Babel_. It has been thought, that both _national features and
colour_ might probably have been given them at this time, because
these would have assisted the confusion of language, by causing them to
disperse into tribes, and would have united more firmly the individuals
of each, after the dispersion had taken place. But this is improbable:
first, because there is great reason to presume that Moses, who has
mentioned the confusion of language, would have mentioned these
circumstances also, if they had actually contributed to bring about so
singular an event: secondly, because the confusion of language was
sufficient of itself to have accomplished this; and we cannot suppose
that the Deity could have done any thing in vain: and thirdly, because,
if mankind had been dispersed, each tribe in its peculiar hue, it is
impossible to conceive, that they could have wandered and settled in
such a manner, as to exhibit that regular gradation of colour from the
equator to the poles, so conspicuous at the present day.

These are the only periods, which there has been even the shadow of a
probability for assigning; and we may therefore conclude that the
preceding observations, together with such circumstances as will appear
in the present chapter, will amount to a demonstration, that the
difference of colour was never caused by any interposition of the Deity,
and that it must have proceeded therefore from that _incidental
co-operation of causes_, which has been before related.

What these causes are, it is out of the power of human wisdom positively
to assert: there are facts, however, which, if properly weighed and put
together, will throw considerable light upon the subject. These we shall
submit to the perusal of the reader, and shall deduce from them such
inferences only, as almost every person must make in his own mind, on
their recital.

The first point, that occurs to be ascertained, is, "What part of the
skin is the seat of colour?" The old anatomists usually divided the skin
into two parts, or lamina; the exteriour and thinnest, called by the
Greeks _Epidermis_, by the Romans _Cuticula_, and hence by us
_Cuticle_; and the interiour, called by the former _Derma_,
and by the latter _Cutis_, or _true skin_. Hence they must
necessarily have supposed, that, as the _true skin_ was in every
respect the same in all human subjects, however various their external
hue, so the seat of colour must have existed in the _Cuticle_, or
upper surface.

Malphigi, an eminent Italian physician, of the last century, was the
first person who discovered that the skin was divided into three lamina,
or parts; the _Cuticle_, the _true skin_, and a certain
coagulated substance situated between both, which he distinguished by
the title of _Mucosum Corpus_; a title retained by anatomists to
the present day: which coagulated substance adhered so firmly to the
_Cuticle_, as, in all former anatomical preparations, to have come
off with it, and, from this circumstance to have led the ancient
anatomists to believe, that there were but two lamina, or divisible
portions in the human skin.

This discovery was sufficient to ascertain the point in question: for it
appeared afterwards that the _Cuticle_, when divided according to
this discovery from the other lamina, was semi-transparent; that the
cuticle of the blackest negroe was of the same transparency and colour,
as that of the purest white; and hence, the _true skins_ of both
being invariably the same, that the _mucosum corpus_ was the seat
of colour.

This has been farther confirmed by all subsequent anatomical
experiments, by which it appears, that, whatever is the colour of this
intermediate coagulated substance, nearly the same is the apparent
colour of the upper surface of the skin. Neither can it be otherwise;
for the _Cuticle_, from its transparency, must necessarily transmit
the colour of the substance beneath it, in the same manner, though not
in the same degree, as the _cornea_ transmits the colour of the
_iris_ of the eye. This transparency is a matter of ocular
demonstration in white people. It is conspicuous in every blush; for no
one can imagine, that the cuticle becomes red, as often as this happens:
nor is it less discoverable in the veins, which are so easy to be
discerned; for no one can suppose, that the blue streaks, which he
constantly sees in the fairest complexions, are painted, as it were, on
the surface of the upper skin. From these, and a variety of other
observations[081], no maxim is more true in physiology, than that _on
the mucosum corpus depends the colour of the human body_; or, in
other words, that the _mucosum corpus_ being of a different colour
in different inhabitants of the globe, and appearing through the cuticle
or upper surface of the skin, gives them that various appearance, which
strikes us so forcibly in contemplating the human race.

As this can be incontrovertibly ascertained, it is evident, that
whatever causes cooperate in producing this different appearance, they
produce it by acting upon the _mucosum corpus_, which, from the
almost incredible manner in which the cuticle[082] is perforated, is as
accessible as the cuticle itself. These causes are probably those
various qualities of things, which, combined with the influence of the
sun, contribute to form what we call _climate_. For when any person
considers, that the mucous substance, before-mentioned, is found to vary
in its colour, as the _climates_ vary from the equator to the
poles, his mind must be instantly struck with the hypothesis, and he
must adopt it without any hesitation, as the genuine cause of the

This fact[083], _of the variation of the mucous substance according to
the situation of the place_, has been clearly ascertained in the
numerous anatomical experiments that have been made; in which, subjects
of all nations have come under consideration. The natives of many of the
kingdoms and isles of _Asia_, are found to have their _corpus
mucosum_ black. Those of _Africa_, situated near the line, of
the same colour. Those of the maritime parts of the same continent, of a
dusky brown, nearly approaching to it; and the colour becomes lighter or
darker in proportion as the distance from the equator is either greater
or less. The Europeans are the fairest inhabitants of the world. Those
situated in the most southern regions of _Europe_, have in their
_corpus mucosum_ a tinge of the dark hue of their _African_
neighbours: hence the epidemick complexion, prevalent among them, is
nearly of the colour of the pickled Spanish olive; while in this
country, and those situated nearer the north pole, it appears to be
nearly, if not absolutely, white.

These are facts[084], which anatomy has established; and we acknowledge
them to be such, that we cannot divest ourselves of the idea, that
_climate_ has a considerable share in producing a difference of
colour. Others, we know, have invented other hypotheses, but all of them
have been instantly refuted, as unable to explain the difficulties for
which they were advanced, and as absolutely contrary to fact: and the
inventors themselves have been obliged, almost as soon as they have
proposed them, to acknowledge them deficient.

The only objection of any consequence, that has ever been made to the
hypothesis of _climate_, is this, _that people under the same
parallels are not exactly of the same colour_. But this is no
objection in fact: for it does not follow that those countries, which
are at an equal distance from the equator, should have their climates
the same. Indeed nothing is more contrary to experience than this.
Climate depends upon a variety of accidents. High mountains, in the
neighbourhood of a place, make it cooler, by chilling the air that is
carried over them by the winds. Large spreading succulent plants, if
among the productions of the soil, have the same effect: they afford
agreeable cooling shades, and a moist atmosphere from their continual
exhalations, by which the ardour of the sun is considerably abated.
While the soil, on the other hand, if of a sandy nature, retains the
heat in an uncommon degree, and makes the summers considerably hotter
than those which are found to exist in the same latitude, where the soil
is different. To this proximity of what may be termed _burning
sands_, and to the sulphurous and metallick particles, which are
continually exhaling from the bowels of the earth, is ascribed the
different degree of blackness, by which some _African_ nations are
distinguishable from each other, though under the same parallels. To
these observations we may add, that though the inhabitants of the same
parallel are not exactly of the same hue, yet they differ only by shades
of the same colour; or, to speak with more precision, that there are no
two people, in such a situation, one of whom is white, and the other
black. To sum up the whole--Suppose we were to take a common globe; to
begin at the equator; to paint every country along the meridian line in
succession from thence to the poles; and to paint them with the same
colour which prevails in the respective inhabitants of each, we should
see the black, with which we had been obliged to begin, insensibly
changing to an olive, and the olive, through as many intermediate
colours, to a white: and if, on the other hand, we should complete any
one of the parallels according to the same plan, we should see a
difference perhaps in the appearance of some of the countries through
which it ran, though the difference would consist wholly in shades of
the same colour.

The argument therefore, which is brought against the hypothesis, is so
far from being, an objection, that we shall consider it one of the first
arguments in its favour: for if _climate_ has really an influence
on the _mucous substance_ of the body, it is evident, that we must
not only expect to see a gradation of colour in the inhabitants from the
equator to the poles, but also different[085] shades of the same colour
in the inhabitants of the same parallel.

To this argument, we shall add one that is incontrovertible, which is,
that when the _black_ inhabitants of _Africa_ are transplanted
to _colder_, or the _white_ inhabitants of _Europe_ to _hotter_
climates, their children, _born there_, are of a _different
colour from themselves_; that is, lighter in the first, and
darker in the second instance.

As a proof of the first, we shall give the words of the Abbé
Raynal[086], in his admired publication. "The children," says he, "which
they, (the _Africans_) procreate in _America_, are not so
black as their parents were. After each generation the difference
becomes more palpable. It is possible, that after a numerous succession
of generations, the men come from _Africa_ would not be
distinguished from those of the country, into which they may have been

This circumstance we have had the pleasure of hearing confirmed by a
variety of persons, who have been witnesses of the fact; but
particularly by many intelligent[087] Africans, who have been parents
themselves in _America_, and who have declared that the difference
is so palpable in the _northern provinces_, that not only they
themselves have constantly observed it, but that they have heard it
observed by others.

Neither is this variation in the children from the colour of their
parents improbable. _The children of the blackest Africans are born
white_[088]. In this state they continue for about a month, when they
change to a pale yellow. In process of time they become brown. Their
skin still continues to increase in darkness with their age, till it
becomes of a dirty, sallow black, and at length, after a certain period
of years, glossy and shining. Now, if climate has any influence on the
_mucous substance_ of the body, this variation in the children from
the colour of their parents is an event, which must be reasonably
expected: for being born white, and not having equally powerful causes
to act upon them in colder, as their parents had in the hotter climates
which they left, it must necessarily follow, that the same affect cannot
possibly be produced.

Hence also, if the hypothesis be admitted, may be deduced the reason,
why even those children, who have been brought from their country at an
early age into colder regions, have been observed[089] to be of a
lighter colour than those who have remained at home till they arrived at
a state of manhood. For having undergone some of the changes which we
mentioned to have attended their countrymen from infancy to a certain
age, and having been taken away before the rest could be completed,
these farther changes, which would have taken place had they remained at
home, seem either to have been checked in their progress, or weakened in
their degree, by a colder climate.

We come now to the second and opposite case; for a proof of which we
shall appeal to the words of Dr. Mitchell[090], in the Philosophical
Transactions. "The _Spaniards_ who have inhabited _America_
under the torrid zone for any time, are become as dark coloured as our
native _Indians_ of _Virginia_, of which, _I myself have
been a witness_; and were they not to intermarry with the
_Europeans_, but lead the same rude and barbarous lives with the
_Indians_, it is very probable that, in a succession of many
generations, they would become as dark in complexion."

To this instance we shall add one, which is mentioned by a late
writer[091], who describing the _African_ coast, and the
_European_ settlements there, has the following passage. "There are
several other small _Portuguese_ settlements, and one of some note
at _Mitomba_, a river in _Sierra Leon_. The people here
called _Portuguese_, are principally persons bred from a mixture of
the first _Portuguese discoverers_ with the natives, and now
become, in their _complexion_ and _woolly quality_ of their
hair, _perfect negroes_, retaining however a smattering of the
_Portuguese_ language."

These facts, with respect to the colonists of the _Europeans_, are
of the highest importance in the present case, and deserve a serious
attention. For when we know to a certainty from whom they are descended;
when we know that they were, at the time of their transplantation, of
the same colour as those from whom they severally sprung; and when, on
the other hand, we are credibly informed, that they have changed it for
the native colour of the place which they now inhabit; the evidence in
support of these facts is as great, as if a person, on the removal of
two or three families into another climate, had determined to ascertain
the circumstance; as if he had gone with them and watched their
children; as if he had communicated his observations at his death to a
successor; as if his successor had prosecuted the plan, and thus an
uninterrupted chain of evidence had been kept up from their first
removal to any determined period of succeeding time.

But though these facts seem sufficient of themselves to confirm our
opinion, they are not the only facts which can be adduced in its
support. It can be shewn, that the members of the _very same
family_, when divided from each other, and removed into different
countries, have not only changed their family complexion, but that they
have changed it to _as many different colours_ as they have gone
into _different regions of the world_. We cannot have, perhaps, a
more striking instance of this, than in the _Jews_. These people,
are scattered over the face of the whole earth. They have preserved
themselves distinct from the rest of the world by their religion; and,
as they never intermarry with any but those of their own sect, so they
have no mixture of blood in their veins, that they should differ from
each other: and yet nothing is more true, than that the _English
Jew_[092] is white, the _Portuguese_ swarthy, the _Armenian_
olive, and the _Arabian_ copper; in short, that there appear
to be as many different species of _Jews_, as there are countries
in which they reside.

To these facts we shall add the following observation, that if we can
give credit to the ancient historians in general, a change from the
darkest black to the purest white must have actually been accomplished.
One instance, perhaps, may be thought sufficient. _Herodotus_[093]
relates, that the _Colchi were black_, and that they had _crisped
hair_. These people were a detachment of the _Æthiopian_ army
under _Sesostris_, who followed him in his expedition, and settled
in that part of the world, where _Colchis_ is usually represented
to have been situated. Had not the same author informed us of this
circumstance, we should have thought it strange[094], that a people of
this description should have been found in such a latitude. Now as they
were undoubtedly settled there, and as they were neither so totally
destroyed, nor made any such rapid conquests, as that history should
notice the event, there is great reason to presume, that their
descendants continued in the same, or settled in the adjacent country;
from whence it will follow, that they must have changed their complexion
to that, which is observable in the inhabitants of this particular
region at the present day; or, in other words, that the _black
inhabitant of Colchis_ must have been changed into the _fair

As we have now shewn it to be highly probable, from the facts which have
been advanced, that climate is the cause of the difference of colour
which prevails in the different inhabitants of the globe, we shall now
shew its probability from so similar an effect produced on the _mucous
substance_ before-mentioned by so similar a cause, that though the
fact does not absolutely prove our conjecture to be right, yet it will
give us a very lively conception of the manner, in which the phænomenon
may be caused.

This probability may be shewn in the case of _freckles_, which are
to be seen in the face of children, but of such only, as have the
thinnest and most transparent skins, and are occasioned by the rays of
the sun, striking forcibly on the _mucous substance_ of the face,
and drying the accumulating fluid. This accumulating fluid, or
perspirable matter, is at first colourless; but being exposed to violent
heat, or dried, becomes brown. Hence, the _mucosum corpus_ being
tinged in various parts by this brown coagulated fluid, and the parts so
tinged appearing through the _cuticle_, or upper surface of the
skin, arises that spotted appearance, observable in the case recited.

Now, if we were to conceive a black skin to be an _universal
freckle_, or the rays of the sun to act so universally on the
_mucous substance_ of a person's face, as to produce these spots so
contiguous to each other that they should unite, we should then see, in
imagination, a face similar to those, which are daily to be seen among
black people: and if we were to conceive his body to be exposed or acted
upon in the same manner, we should then see his body assuming a similar
appearance; and thus we should see the whole man of a perfect black, or
resembling one of the naked inhabitants of the torrid zone. Now as the
feat of freckles and of blackness is the same; as their appearance is
similar; and as the cause of the first is the ardour of the sun, it is
therefore probable that the cause of the second is the same: hence, if
we substitute for the word "_sun_," what is analogous to it, the
word _climate_, the same effect may be supposed to be produced, and
the conjecture to receive a sanction.

Nor is it unlikely that the hypothesis, which considers the cause of
freckles and of blackness as the same, may be right. For if blackness is
occasioned by the rays of the sun striking forcibly and universally on
the _mucous substance_ of the body, and drying the accumulating
fluid, we can account for the different degrees of it to be found in the
different inhabitants of the globe. For as the quantity of perspirable
fluid, and the force of the solar rays is successively increased, as
the climates are successively warmer, from any given parallel to the
line, it follows that the fluid, with which the _mucous substance_
will be stained, will be successively thicker and deeper coloured; and
hence, as it appears through the cuticle, the complexion successively
darker; or, what amounts to the same thing, there will be a difference
of colour in the inhabitants of every successive parallel.

From these, and the whole of the preceding observations on the subject,
we may conclude, that as all the inhabitants of the earth cannot be
otherwise than the children of the same parents, and as the difference
of their appearance must have of course proceeded from incidental
causes, these causes are a combination of those qualities, which we call
_climate_; that the blackness of the _Africans_ is so far
ingrafted in their constitution, in a course of many generations, that
their children wholly inherit it, if brought up in the same spot, but
that it is not so absolutely interwoven in their nature, that it cannot
be removed, if they are born and settled in another; that _Noah_
and his sons were probably of an _olive_ complexion; that those of
their descendants, who went farther to the south, became of a deeper
olive or _copper_; while those, who went still farther, became of a
deeper copper or _black_; that those, on the other hand, who
travelled farther to the north, became less olive or _brown_, while
those who went still farther than the former, became less brown or
_white_; and that if any man were to point out any one of the
colours which prevails in the human complexion, as likely to furnish an
argument, that the people of such a complexion were of a different
species from the rest, it is probable that his own descendants, if
removed to the climate to which this complexion is peculiar, would, in
the course of a few generations, degenerate into the same colour.

Having now replied to the argument, "that the Africans are an inferiour
link of the chain of nature," as far as it depended on their
_capacity_ and _colour_, we shall now only take notice of an
expression, which the _receivers_ before-mentioned are pleased to
make use of, "that they are made for slavery."

Had the Africans been _made for slavery_, or to become the property
of any society of men, it is clear, from the observations that have been
made in the second part of this Essay, that they must have been created
_devoid of reason_: but this is contrary to fact. It is clear
also, that there must have been, many and evident signs of the
_inferiority of their nature_, and that this society of men must
have had a _natural right_ to their dominion: but this is equally
false. No such signs of _inferiority_ are to be found in the one,
and the right to dominion in the other is _incidental_: for in what
volume of nature or religion is it written, that one society of men
should _breed slaves_ for the benefit, of another? Nor is it less
evident that they would have wanted many of those qualities which they
have, and which brutes have not: they would have wanted that _spirit
of liberty_, that _sense of ignominy and shame_[096], which so
frequently drives them to the horrid extremity of finishing their own
existence. Nor would they have been endowed with a _contemplative
power_; for such a power would have been unnecessary to people in
such a situation; or rather, its only use could have been to increase
their pain. We cannot suppose therefore that God has made an order of
beings, with such mental qualities and powers, for the sole purpose of
being used as _beasts_, or _instruments_ of labour. And here,
what a dreadful argument presents itself against you _receivers_?
For if they have no understandings as you confess, then is your conduct
impious, because, as they cannot perceive the intention of your
punishment, your severities cannot make them better. But if, on the
other hand, they have had understandings, (which has evidently appeared)
then is your conduct equally impious, who, by destroying their faculties
by the severity of your discipline, have reduced men; who had once the
power of reason, to an equality with the brute creation.

       *        *        *        *        *


[Footnote 073: Genesis, ch. iv. 15.]

[Footnote 074: Genesis, ch. ix. 25, 26, 27.]

[Footnote 075: Jeremiah says, ch. xiii. 23, "Can the Æthiopian change
his colour, or the leopard his spots?" Now the word, which is here
translated _Æthiopian_, is in the original Hebrew "_the descendant of
Cush_," which shews that this colour was not confined to the descendants
of _Canaan_, as the advocates for slavery assert.]

[Footnote 076: It is very extraordinary that the advocates for slavery
should consider those Africans, whom they call negroes, as the
descendants of _Canaan_, when few historical facts can be so well
ascertained, as that out of the descendants of the four sons of Ham, the
descendants of Canaan were the only people, (if we except the
Carthaginians, who were a colony of Canaan, and were afterwards ruined)
who did not settle in that quarter of the globe. Africa was
incontrovertibly peopled by the posterity of the three other sons. We
cannot shew this in a clearer manner, than in the words of the learned
Mr. Bryant, in his letter to Mr. Granville Sharp on this subject.

"We learn from scripture, that Ham had four sons, _Chus, Mizraim, Phut_,
and _Canaan_, Gen. x. 5, 6. _Canaan_ occupied _Palestine_, and the
country called by his name: _Mizraim, Egypt_: but _Phut_ passed deep
into _Africa_, and, I believe, most of the nations in that part of the
world are descended from him; at least more than from any other person."
_Josephus_ says, "_that Phut was the founder of the nations in Libya,
and the people were from him called (phoutoi) Phuti_." Antiq. L. 1. c.
7. "By _Lybia_ he understands, as the _Greeks_ did, _Africa_ in general:
for the particular country called _Lybia Proper_, was peopled by the
_Lubim_, or _Lehabim_, one of the branches from _Mizraim_, (Labieim ex ou
Libnes) Chron. Paschale, p. 29.

"The sons of _Phut_ settled in _Mauritania_, where was a country called
_Phutia_, and a river of the like denomination. Mauritaniæ Fluvius usque
ad præsens Tempus _Phut_ dicitur, omnisq; circa eum Regio _Phutensis_.
Hieron. Tradit. Hebroeæ.--Amnem, quem vocant _Fut_." Pliny, L. 5. c. 1.
Some of this family settled above Ægypt, near Æthiopia, and were styled
Troglodytæ. (phoud ex ou troglodotai). Syncellus, p. 47. Many of them
passed inland, and peopled the Mediterranean country."

"In process of time the sons of _Chus_ also, (after their expulsion from
Egypt) made settlements upon the sea coast of _Africa_, and came into
_Mauritania_. Hence we find traces of them also in the names of places,
such as _Churis, Chusares_, upon the coast: and a river _Chusa_, and a
city _Cotta_, together with a promontory, _Cotis_, in _Mauritania_, all
denominated from _Chus_; who at different times, and by different
people, was called _Chus, Cuth, Cosh_, and _Cotis_. The river _Cusa_ is
mentioned by _Pliny_, Lib. 5. c. 1. and by _Ptolomy_."

"Many ages after these settlements, there was another eruption of the
_Cushites_ into these parts, under the name of _Saracens_ and _Moors_,
who over-ran _Africa_, to the very extremity of Mount Atlas. They passed
over and conquered _Spain_ to the north, and they extended themselves
southward, as I said in my treatise, to the rivers _Senegal_ and
_Gambia_, and as low as the _Gold Coast_. I mentioned this, because I do
not think that they proceeded much farther: most of the nations to the
_south_ being, as I imagine, of the race of _Phut_. The very country
upon the river _Gambia_ on one side, is at this day called _Phuta_, of
which _Bluet_, in his history of _Juba Ben Solomon_, gives an account."]

[Footnote 077: When America was first discovered, it was thought by
some, that the scripture account of the creation was false, and that
there were different species of men, because they could never suppose
that people, in so rude a state as the Americans, could have transported
themselves to that continent from any parts of the known world. This
opinion however was refuted by the celebrated Captain Cooke, who shewed
that the traject between the continents of Asia and America, was as
short as some, which people in as rude a state have been actually known
to pass. This affords an excellent caution against an ill-judged and
hasty censure of the divine writings, because every difficulty which may
be started, cannot be instantly cleared up.]

[Footnote 078: The divine writings, which assert that all men were
derived from the _same stock_, shew also, in the same instance of
_Cush_, (Footnote 075), that some of them had changed their original

[Footnote 079: The following are the grand colours discernible in
mankind, between which there are many shades;

White }         { Copper
Brown }         { Black

[Footnote 080: See note, (Footnote 075). To this we may add, that the
rest of the descendants of _Ham_, as far as they can be traced, are now
also black, at well as many of the descendants of _Shem_.]

[Footnote 081: Diseases have a great effect upon the _mucosum corpus_,
but particularly the jaundice, which turns it yellow. Hence, being
transmitted through the cuticle, the yellow appearance of the whole
body. But this, even as a matter of ocular demonstration, is not
confined solely to white people; negroes themselves, while affected with
these or other disorders, changing their black colour for that which the
disease has conveyed to the _mucous_ substance.]

[Footnote 082: The cutaneous pores are so excessively small, that one
grain of sand, (according to Dr. Lewenhoeck's calculations) would cover
many hundreds of them.]

[Footnote 083: We do not mean to insinuate that the same people have
their _corpus mucosum_ sensibly vary, as often as they go into another
latitude, but that the fact is true only of different people, who have
been long established in different latitudes.]

[Footnote 084: We beg leave to return our thanks here to a gentleman,
eminent in the medical line, who furnished us with the above-mentioned

[Footnote 085: Suppose we were to see two nations, contiguous to each
other, of black and white inhabitants in the same parallel, even this
would be no objection, for many circumstances are to be considered. A
black people may have wandered into a white, and a white people into a
black latitude, and they may not have been settled there a sufficient
length of time for such a change to have been accomplished in their
complexion, as that they should be like the old established inhabitants
of the parallel, into which they have lately come.]

[Footnote 086: Justamond's Abbe Raynal, v. 5. p. 193.]

[Footnote 087: The author of this Essay made it his business to inquire
of the most intelligent of those, whom he could meet with in London, as
to the authenticity of the fact. All those from _America_ assured him
that it was strictly true; those from the West-Indies, that they had
never observed it there; but that they had found a sensible difference
in themselves since they came to England.]

[Footnote 088: This circumstance, which always happens, shews that they
are descended from the same parents as ourselves; for had they been a
distinct species of men, and the blackness entirely ingrafted in their
constitution and frame, there is great reason to presume, that their
children would have been born _black_.]

[Footnote 089: This observation was communicated to us by the gentleman
in the medical line, to whom we returned our thanks for certain
anatomical facts.]

[Footnote 090: Philos. Trans. No. 476. sect. 4.]

[Footnote 091: Treatise upon the Trade from Great Britain to Africa, by
an African merchant.]

[Footnote 092: We mean such only as are _natives_ of the countries which
we mention, and whose ancestors have been settled there for a certain
period of time.]

[Footnote 093: Herodotus. Euterpe. p. 80. Editio Stephani, printed

[Footnote 094: This circumstance confirms what we said in a former note,
(Footnote 085), that even if two nations were to be found in the same
parallel, one of whom was black, and the other white, it would form no
objection against the hypothesis of climate, as one of them might have
been new settlers from a distant country.]

[Footnote 095: Suppose, without the knowledge of any historian, they had
made such considerable conquests, as to have settled themselves at the
distance of 1000 miles in any one direction from _Colchis_, still they
must have changed their colour. For had they gone in an Eastern or
Western direction, they must have been of the same colour as the
_Circassians_; if to the north, whiter; if to the south, of a copper.
There are no people within that distance of _Colchis_, who are black.]

[Footnote 096: There are a particular people among those transported
from Africa to the colonies, who immediately on receiving punishment,
destroy themselves. This is a fact which the _receivers_ are unable to

       *        *        *        *        *


The reader may perhaps think, that the _receivers_ have by this
time expended all their arguments, but their store is not so easily
exhausted. They are well aware that justice, nature, and religion, will
continue, as they have ever uniformly done, to oppose their conduct.
This has driven them to exert their ingenuity, and has occasioned that
multiplicity of arguments to be found in the present question.

These arguments are of a different complexion from the former. They
consist in comparing the state of _slaves_ with that of some of the
classes of _free_ men, and in certain scenes of felicity, which the
former are said to enjoy.

It is affirmed that the punishments which the Africans undergo, are less
severe than the military; that their life is happier than that of the
English peasant; that they have the advantages of manumission; that they
have their little spots of ground, their holy-days, their dances; in
short, that their life is a scene of festivity and mirth, and that they
are much happier in the colonies than in their own country.

These representations, which have been made out with much ingenuity and
art, may have had their weight with the unwary; but they will never pass
with men of consideration and sense, who are accustomed to estimate the
probability of things, before they admit them to be true. Indeed the
bare assertion, that their situation is even comfortable, contains its
own refutation, or at least leads us to suspect that the person, who
asserted it, has omitted some important considerations in the account.
Such we shall shew to have been actually the case, and that the
representations of the _receivers_, when stripped of their glossy
ornaments, are but empty declamation.

It is said, first, of _military punishments_, that they are more
severe than those which the _Africans_ undergo. But this is a bare
assertion without a proof. It is not shewn even by those, who assert it,
how the fact can be made out. We are left therefore to draw the
comparison ourselves, and to fill up those important considerations,
which we have just said that the _receivers_ had omitted.

That military punishments are severe we confess, but we deny that they
are severer than those with which they are compared. Where is the
military man, whose ears have been slit, whose limbs have been
mutilated, or whose eyes have been beaten out? But let us even allow,
that their punishments are equal in the degree of their severity: still
they must lose by comparison. The soldier is never punished but after a
fair and equitable trial, and the decision of a military court; the
unhappy African, at the discretion of his Lord. The one knows what
particular conduct will constitute an offence[097]; the other has no
such information, as he is wholly at the disposal of passion and
caprice, which may impose upon any action, however laudable, the
appellation of a crime. The former has it of course in his power to
avoid a punishment; the latter is never safe. The former is punished for
a real, the latter, often, for an imaginary fault.

Now will any person assert, on comparing the whole of those
circumstances together, which relate to their respective punishments,
that there can be any doubt, which of the two are in the worst
situation, as to their penal systems?

With respect to the declaration, that the life of an _African_ in
the colonies is happier than that of an _English_ peasant, it is
equally false. Indeed we can scarcely withhold our indignation, when we
consider, how shamefully the situation of this latter class of men has
been misrepresented, to elevate the former to a state of fictitious
happiness. If the representations of the _receivers_ be true, it
is evident that those of the most approved writers, who have placed a
considerable share of happiness in the _cottage_, have been
mistaken in their opinion; and that those of the rich, who have been
heard to sigh, and envy the felicity of the _peasant_, have been
treacherous to their own sensations.

But which are we to believe on the occasion? Those, who endeavour to
dress _vice_ in the habit of _virtue_, or those, who derive
their opinion from their own feelings? The latter are surely to be
believed; and we may conclude therefore, that the horrid picture which
is given of the life of the _peasant_, has not so just a foundation
as the _receivers_ would, lead us to suppose. For has he no
pleasure in the thought, that he lives in his _own country_, and
among his relations and friends? That he is actually _free_, and
that his children will be the same? That he can never be _sold_ as
a beast? That he can speak his mind _without the fear of the lash_?
That he cannot even be struck _with impunity_? And that he
partakes, equally with his superiours, of the _protection of the
law_?--Now, there is no one of these advantages which the
_African_ possesses, and no one, which the defenders of slavery
take into their account.

Of the other comparisons that are usually made, we may observe in
general, that, as they consist in comparing the iniquitous practice of
slavery with other iniquitous practices in force among other nations,
they can neither raise it to the appearance of virtue, nor extenuate its
guilt. The things compared are in these instances both of them evils
alike. They call equally for redress[098], and are equally disgraceful
to the governments which suffer them, if not encourage them, to exist.
To attempt therefore to justify one species of iniquity by comparing it
with another, is no justification at all; and is so far from answering
the purpose, for which the comparison is intended, as to give us reason
to suspect, that the _comparer_ has but little notion either of
equity or honour.

We come now to those scenes of felicity, which slaves are said to enjoy.
The first advantage which they are said to experience, is that of
_manumission_. But here the advocates for slavery conceal an
important circumstance. They expatiate indeed on the charms of freedom,
and contend that it must be a blessing in the eyes of those, upon whom
it is conferred. We perfectly agree with them in this particular. But
they do not tell us that these advantages are _confined_; that they
are confined to some _favourite domestick_; that not _one in an
hundred_ enjoy them; and that they are _never_ extended to
those, who are employed in the _cultivation of the field_, as long
as they can work. These are they, who are most to be pitied, who are
destined to _perpetual_ drudgery; and of whom _no one whatever_
has a chance of being freed from his situation, till death
either releases him at once, or age renders him incapable of continuing
his former labour. And here let it be remarked, _to the disgrace of
the receivers_, that he is then made free, not--_as a reward for
his past services_, but, as his labour is then of little or no
value,--_to save the tax_[099].

With the same artifice is mention also made of the little spots, or
_gardens_, as they are called, which slaves are said to possess
from the _liberality_ of _the receivers_. But people must not
be led away by agreeable and pleasant sounds. They must not suppose that
these gardens are made for _flowers_; or that they are places of
_amusement_, in which they can spend their time in botanical
researches and delights. Alas, they do not furnish them with a theme for
such pleasing pursuits and speculations! They must be cultivated in
those hours, which ought to be appropriated to rest[100]; and they must
be cultivated, not for an amusement, but to make up, _if it be
possible_, the great deficiency in their weekly allowance of
provisions. Hence it appears, that the _receivers_ have no merit
whatever in such an appropriation of land to their unfortunate slaves:
for they are either under the necessity of doing this, or of
_losing_ them by the jaws of famine. And it is a notorious fact,
that, with their weekly allowance, and the produce of their spots
together, it is often with the greatest difficulty that they preserve a
wretched existence.

The third advantage which they are said to experience, is that of
_holy-days_, or days of respite from their usual discipline and
fatigue. This is certainly a great indulgence, and ought to be recorded
to the immortal honour of the _receivers_. We wish we could express
their liberality in those handsome terms, in which it deserves to be
represented, or applaud them sufficiently for deviating for once from
the rigours of servile discipline. But we confess, that we are unequal
to the task, and must therefore content ourselves with observing, that
while the horse has _one_ day in _seven_ to refresh his limbs,
the happy _African_[101] has but _one_ in _fifty-two_, as
a relaxation from his labours.

With respect to their _dances_, on which such a particular stress
has been generally laid, we fear that people may have been as shamefully
deceived, as in the former instances. For from the manner in which these
are generally mentioned, we should almost be led to imagine, that they
had certain hours allowed them for the purpose of joining in the dance,
and that they had every comfort and convenience, that people are
generally supposed to enjoy on such convivial occasions. But this is far
from the case. Reason informs us, that it can never be. If they wish for
such innocent recreations, they must enjoy them in the time that is
allotted them for sleep; and so far are these dances from proceeding
from any uncommon degree of happiness, which excites them to convivial
society, that they proceed rather from an uncommon depression of
spirits, which makes them even sacrifice their rest[102], for the sake
of experiencing for a moment a more joyful oblivion of their cares. For
suppose any one of the _receivers_, in the middle of a dance, were
to address his slaves in the following manner: "_Africans!_ I begin
at last to feel for your situation; and my conscience is severely hurt,
whenever I reflect that I have been reducing those to a state of misery
and pain, who have never given me offence. You seem to be fond of these
exercises, but yet you are obliged to take them at such unseasonable
hours, that they impair your health, which is sufficiently broken by the
intolerable share of labour which I have hitherto imposed upon you. I
will therefore make you a proposal. Will you be content to live in the
colonies, and you shall have the half of every week entirely to
yourselves? or will you choose to return to your miserable, wretched
country?"--But what is that which strikes their ears? Which makes them
motionless in an instant? Which interrupts the festive scene?--their
country?--transporting sound!--Behold! they are now flying from the
dance: you may see them running to the shore, and, frantick as it were
with joy, demanding with open arms an instantaneous passage to their
beloved native plains.

Such are the _colonial delights_, by the representation of which
the _receivers_ would persuade us, that the _Africans_ are
taken from their country to a region of conviviality and mirth; and that
like those, who leave their usual places of residence for a summer's
amusement, they are conveyed to the colonies--_to bathe_,--_to
dance_,--_to keep holy-day_,--_to be jovial_.--But there
is something so truly ridiculous in the attempt to impose these scenes
of felicity on the publick, as scenes which fall to the lot of slaves,
that the _receivers_ must have been driven to great extremities, to
hazard them to the eye of censure.

The last point that remains to be considered, is the shameful assertion,
that the _Africans_ are much _happier in the colonies, than in
their own country_. But in what does this superiour happiness
consist? In those real scenes, it must be replied, which have been just
mentioned; for these, by the confession of the receivers, constitute the
happiness they enjoy.--But it has been shewn that these have been
unfairly represented; and, were they realized in the most extensive
latitude, they would not confirm the fact. For if, upon a
recapitulation, it consists in the pleasure of _manumission_, they
surely must have passed their lives in a much more comfortable manner,
who, like the _Africans at home_, have had no occasion for such a
benefit at all. But the _receivers_, we presume, reason upon this
principle, that we never know the value of a blessing but by its loss.
This is generally true: but would any one of them make himself a
_slave_ for years, that he might run the chance of the pleasures of
_manumission_? Or that he might taste the charms of liberty with
_a greater relish_? Nor is the assertion less false in every other
consideration. For if their happiness consists in the few
_holy-days_, which _in the colonies_ they are permitted to
enjoy, what must be their situation _in their own country_, where
the whole year is but one continued holy-day, or cessation from
discipline and fatigue?--If in the possession of _a mean and
contracted spot_, what must be their situation, where a whole region
is their own, producing almost spontaneously the comforts of life, and
requiring for its cultivation none of those hours, which should be
appropriated to _sleep_?--If in the pleasures of the _colonial
dance_, what must it be in _their own country_, where they may
dance for ever; where there is no stated hour to interrupt their
felicity, no intolerable labour immediately to succeed their
recreations, and no overseer to receive them under the discipline of the
lash?--If these therefore are the only circumstances, by which the
assertion can be proved, we may venture to say, without fear of
opposition, that it can never be proved at all.

But these are not the only circumstances. It is said that they are
barbarous at home.--But do you _receivers_ civilize them?--Your
unwillingness to convert them to Christianity, because you suppose you
must use them more kindly when converted, is but a bad argument in
favour of the fact.

It is affirmed again, that their manner of life, and their situation is
such in their own country, that to say they are happy is a jest. "But
who are you, who pretend to judge[103] of another man's happiness? That
state which each man, under the guidance of his maker, forms for
himself, and not one man for another? To know what constitutes mine or
your happiness, is the sole prerogative of him who created us, and cast
us in so various and different moulds. Did your slaves ever complain to
you of their unhappiness, amidst their native woods and desarts? Or,
rather, let me ask, did they ever cease complaining of their condition
under you their lordly masters? Where they see, indeed, the
accommodations of civil life, but see them all pass to others,
themselves unbenefited by them. Be so gracious then, ye petty tyrants
over human freedom, to let your slaves judge for themselves, what it is
which makes their own happiness, and then see whether they do not place
it _in the return to their own country_, rather than in the
contemplation of your grandeur, of which their misery makes so large a

But since you speak with so much confidence on the subject, let us ask
you _receivers_ again, if you have ever been informed by your
unfortunate slaves, that they had no connexions in the country from
which they have forcibly been torn away: or, if you will take upon you
to assert, that they never sigh, when they are alone; or that they never
relate to each other their tales of misery and woe. But you judge of
them, perhaps, in an happy moment, when you are dealing out to them
their provisions for the week; and are but little aware, that, though
the countenance may be cheered with a momentary smile, the heart may be
exquisitely tortured. Were you to shew us, indeed, that there are laws,
subject to no evasion, by which you are obliged to clothe and feed them
in a comfortable manner; were you to shew us that they are
protected[104] at all; or that even _one_ in a _thousand_ of
those masters have suffered death[105], who have been guilty of
_premeditated_ murder to their slaves, you would have a better
claim to our belief: but you can neither produce the instances nor the
laws. The people, of whom you speak, are _slaves_, are your own
_property_, are wholly _at your own disposal_; and this idea
is sufficient to overturn your assertions of their happiness.

But we shall now mention a circumstance, which, in the present case,
will have more weight than all the arguments which have hitherto been
advanced. It is an opinion, which the _Africans_ universally
entertain, that, as soon as death shall release them from the hands of
their oppressors, they shall immediately be wafted back to their native
plains, there to exist again, to enjoy the sight of their beloved
countrymen, and to spend the whole of their new existence in scenes of
tranquillity and delight; and so powerfully does this notion operate
upon them, as to drive them frequently to the horrid extremity of
putting a period to their lives. Now if these suicides are frequent,
(which no person can deny) what are they but a proof, that the situation
of those who destroy themselves must have been insupportably wretched:
and if the thought of returning to their country after death, _when
they have experienced the colonial joys_, constitutes their supreme
felicity, what are they but a proof, that they think there is as much
difference between the two situations, as there is between misery and

Nor is the assertion of the _receivers_ less liable to a refutation
in the instance of those, who terminate their own existence, than of
those, whom nature releases from their persecutions. They die with a
smile upon their face, and their funerals are attended by a vast
concourse of their countrymen, with every possible demonstration of
joy[106]. But why this unusual mirth, if their departed brother has left
an happy place? Or if he has been taken from the care of an indulgent
master, who consulted his pleasures, and administered to his wants? But
alas, it arises from hence, that _he is gone to his happy country_:
a circumstance, sufficient of itself, to silence a myriad of those
specious arguments, which the imagination has been racked, and will
always be racked to produce, in favour of a system of tyranny and

It remains only, that we should now conclude the chapter with a fact,
which will shew that the account, which we have given of the situation
of slaves, is strictly true, and will refute at the same time all the
arguments which have hitherto been, and may yet be brought by the
_receivers_, to prove that their treatment is humane. In one of the
western colonies of the Europeans, [107]six hundred and fifty thousand
slaves were imported within an hundred years; at the expiration of which
time, their whole posterity were found to amount to one hundred and
forty thousand. This fact will ascertain the treatment of itself. For
how shamefully must these unfortunate people have been oppressed? What a
dreadful havock must famine, fatigue, and cruelty, have made among them,
when we consider, that the descendants of _six hundred and fifty
thousand_ people in the prime of life, gradually imported within a
century, are less numerous than those, which only _ten thousand_[108]
would have produced in the same period, under common advantages,
and in a country congenial to their constitutions?

But the _receivers_ have probably great merit on the occasion. Let
us therefore set it down to their humanity. Let us suppose for once,
that this incredible waste of the human species proceeds from a
benevolent design; that, sensible of the miseries of a servile state,
they resolve to wear out, as fast as they possibly can, their
unfortunate slaves, that their miseries may the sooner end, and that a
wretched posterity may be prevented from sharing their parental
condition. Now, whether this is the plan of reasoning which the
_receivers_ adopt, we cannot take upon us to decide; but true it
is, that the effect produced is exactly the same, as if they had
reasoned wholly on this _benevolent_ principle.

       *        *        *        *        *


[Footnote 097: The articles of war are frequently read at the head of
every regiment in the service, stating those particular actions which
are to be considered as crimes.]

[Footnote 098: We cannot omit here to mention one of the customs, which
has been often brought as a palliation of slavery, and which prevailed
but a little time ago, and we are doubtful whether it does not prevail
now, in the metropolis of this country, of kidnapping men for the
service of the East-India Company. Every subject, as long as he behaves
well, has a right to the protection of government; and the tacit
permission of such a scene of iniquity, when it becomes known, is as
much a breach of duty in government, as the conduct of those subjects,
who, on other occasions, would be termed, and punished as, rebellious.]

[Footnote 099: The expences of every parish are defrayed by a poll-tax
on negroes, to save which they pretend to liberate those who are past
labour; but they still keep them employed in repairing fences, or in
doing some trifling work on a scanty allowance. For to free a
_field-negroe_, so long as he can work, is a maxim, which,
notwithstanding the numerous boasted manumissions, no master _ever
thinks of adopting_ in the colonies.]

[Footnote 100: They must be cultivated always on a _Sunday_, and
frequently in those hours which should be appropriated to _sleep_,
or the wretched possessors must be inevitably _starved_.]

[Footnote 101: They are allowed in general three holy-days at Christmas,
but in Jamaica they have two also at Easter, and two at Whitsuntide: so
that on the largest scale, they have only seven days in a year, or one
day in fifty-two. But this is on a supposition, that the receivers do
not break in upon the afternoons, which they are frequently too apt to
do. If it should be said that Sunday is an holy-day, it is not true; it
is so far an holy-day, that they do not work for their masters; but such
an holy-day, that if they do not employ it in the cultivation of their
little spots, they must _starved_.]

[Footnote 102: These dances are usually in the middle of the night; and
so desirous are these unfortunate people of obtaining but a joyful hour,
that they not only often give up their sleep, but add to the labours of
the day, by going several miles to obtain it.]

[Footnote 103: Bishop of Glocester's sermon, preached before the society
for the propagation of the gospel, at the anniversary meeting, on the
21st of February, 1766.]

[Footnote 104: There is a law, (but let the reader remark, that it
prevails but in _one_ of the colonies), against mutilation. It took
its rise from the frequency of the inhuman practice. But though a master
cannot there chop off the limb of a slave with an axe, he may yet work,
starve, and beat him to death with impunity.]

[Footnote 105: _Two_ instances are recorded by the
_receivers_, out of about _fifty-thousand_, where a white man
has suffered death for the murder of a negroe; but the receivers do not
tell us, that these suffered more because they were the pests of
society, than because the _murder of slaves was a crime_.]

[Footnote 106: A negroe-funeral is considered as a curious sight, and is
attended with singing, dancing, musick, and every circumstance that can
shew the attendants to be happy on the occasion.]

[Footnote 107: In 96 years, ending in 1774, 800,000 slaves had been
imported into the French part of St. Domingo, of which there remained
only 290,000 in 1774. Of this last number only 140,000 were creoles, or
natives of the island, i. e. of 650,000 slaves, the whole posterity were
140,000. _Considerations sur la Colonie de St. Dominique_,(See
errata--should be read as "_St. Domingue_") published by authority
in 1777.]

[Footnote 108: Ten thousand people under fair advantages, and in a soil
congenial to their constitutions, and where the means of subsistence are
easy, should produce in a century 160,000. This is the proportion in
which the Americans increased; and the Africans in their own country
increase in the same, if not in a greater proportion. Now as the climate
of the colonies is as favourable to their health as that of their own
country, the causes of the prodigious decrease in the one, and increase
in the other, will be more conspicuous.]

       *        *        *        *        *


We have now taken a survey of the treatment which the unfortunate
_Africans_ undergo, when they are put into the hands of the
_receivers_. This treatment, by the four first chapters of the
present part of this Essay, appears to be wholly insupportable, and to
be such as no human being can apply to another, without the imputation
of such crimes, as should make him tremble. But as many arguments are
usually advanced by those who have any interest in the practice, by
which they would either exculpate the treatment, or diminish its
severity, we allotted the remaining chapters for their discussion. In
these we considered the probability of such a treatment against the
motives of interest; the credit that was to be given to those
disinterested writers on the subject, who have recorded particular
instances of barbarity; the inferiority of the _Africans_ to the
human species; the comparisons that are generally made with respect to
their situation; the positive scenes of felicity which they are said to
enjoy, and every other argument, in short, that we have found to have
ever been advanced in the defence of slavery. These have been all
considered, and we may venture to pronounce, that, instead of answering
the purpose for which they were intended, they serve only to bring such
circumstances to light, as clearly shew, that if ingenuity were racked
to invent a situation, that would be the most distressing and
insupportable to the human race; it could never invent one, that would
suit the description better, than the--_colonial slavery_.

If this then be the case, and if slaves, notwithstanding all the
arguments to the contrary, are exquisitely miserable, we ask you
_receivers, by what right_ you reduce them to so wretched a

You reply, that you _buy them_; that your _money_ constitutes
your _right_, and that, like all other things which you purchase,
they are wholly at your own disposal.

Upon this principle alone it was, that we professed to view your
treatment, or examine your right, when we said, that "the question[109]
resolved itself into two separate parts for discussion; into the
_African_ commerce, as explained in the history of slavery, and the
subsequent slavery in the colonies, _as founded on the equity of the
commerce_." Now, since it appears that this commerce, upon the
fullest investigation, is contrary to "_the principles[110] of law and
government, the dictates of reason, the common maxims of equity, the
laws of nature, the admonitions of conscience, and, in short, the whole
doctrine of natural religion_," it is evident that the _right_,
which is founded upon it, must be the same; and that if those
things only are lawful in the sight of God, which are either
virtuous in themselves, or proceed from virtuous principles, you _have
no right over them at all_.

You yourselves also confess this. For when we ask you, whether any human
being has a right to sell you, you immediately answer, No; as if nature
revolted at the thought, and as if it was so contradictory to your own
feelings, as not to require consideration. But who are you, that have
this exclusive charter of trading in the liberties of mankind? When did
nature, or rather the Author of nature, make so partial a distinction
between you and them? When did He say, that you should have the
privilege of selling others, and that others should not have the
privilege of selling you?

Now since you confess, that no person whatever has a right to dispose of
you in this manner, you must confess also, that those things are
unlawful to be done to you, which are usually done in consequence of the
sale. Let us suppose then, that in consequence of the _commerce_
you were forced into a ship; that you were conveyed to another country;
that you were sold there; that you were confined to incessant labour;
that you were pinched by continual hunger and thirst; and subject to be
whipped, cut, and mangled at discretion, and all this at the hands of
those, whom you had never offended; would you not think that you had a
right to resist their treatment? Would you not resist it with a safe
conscience? And would you not be surprized, if your resistance should be
termed rebellion?--By the former premises you must answer, yes.--Such
then is the case with the wretched _Africans_. They have a right to
resist your proceedings. They can resist them, and yet they cannot
justly be considered as rebellious. For though we suppose them to have
been guilty of crimes to one another; though we suppose them to have
been the most abandoned and execrable of men, yet are they perfectly
innocent with respect to you _receivers_. You have no right to
touch even the hair of their heads without their own consent. It is not
your money, that can invest you with a right. Human liberty can neither
be bought nor sold. Every lash that you give them is unjust. It is a
lash against nature and religion, and will surely stand recorded against
you, since they are all, with respect to your _impious_ selves, in
a state of nature; in a state of original dissociation; perfectly free.

       *        *        *        *        *


[Footnote 109: See Part II Chapter I second paragraph.]

[Footnote 110: See Part II Chapter IX last paragraph.]

       *        *        *        *        *


Having now considered both the _commerce_ and _slavery_, it
remains only to collect such arguments as are scattered in different
parts of the work, and to make such additional remarks, as present
themselves on the subject.

And first, let us ask you, who have studied the law of nature, and you,
who are learned in the law of the land, if all property must not be
inferiour in its nature to its possessor, or, in other words, (for it is
a case, which every person must bring home to his own breast) if you
suppose that any human being can have _a property in yourselves_?
Let us ask you appraisers, who scientifically know the value of things,
if any human creature is equivalent only to any of the trinkets that you
wear, or at most, to any of the horses that you ride: or in other words,
if you have ever considered the most costly things that you have valued,
as _equivalent to yourselves?_ Let us ask you rationalists, if man,
as a reasonable being, is not _accountable_ for his actions, and
let us put the same question to you, who have studied the divine
writings? Let us ask you parents, if ever you thought that you possessed
an _authority_ as such, or if ever you expected a _duty_ from
your sons; and let us ask you sons, if ever you felt an impulse in your
own breasts to _obey_ your parents. Now, if you should all answer
as we could wish, if you should all answer consistently with reason,
nature, and the revealed voice of God, what a dreadful argument will
present itself against the commerce and slavery of the human species,
when we reflect, that no man whatever can be bought or reduced to the
situation of a slave, _but he must instantly become a brute, he must
instantly be reduced to the value of those things, which were made for
his own use and convenience; he must instantly cease to be accountable
for his actions, and his authority as a parent, and his duty as a son,
must be instantly no more_.

Neither does it escape our notice, when we are speaking of the fatal
wound which every social duty must receive, how considerably
Christianity suffers by the conduct of you _receivers_. For by
prosecuting this impious commerce, you keep the _Africans_ in a
state of perpetual ferocity and barbarism; and by prosecuting it in such
a manner, as must represent your religion, as a system of robbery and
oppression, you not only oppose the propagation of the gospel, as far as
you are able yourselves, but throw the most certain impediments in the
way of others, who might attempt the glorious and important task.

Such also is the effect, which the subsequent slavery in the colonies
must produce. For by your inhuman treatment of the unfortunate
_Africans_ there, you create the same insuperable impediments to a
conversion. For how must they detest the very name of _Christians_,
when you _Christians_ are deformed by so many and dreadful vices?
How must they detest that system of religion, which appears to resist
the natural rights of men, and to give a sanction to brutality and

But, as we are now mentioning Christianity, we must pause for a little
time, to make a few remarks on the arguments which are usually deduced
from thence by the _receivers_, in defence of their system of
oppression. For the reader may readily suppose, that, if they did not
hesitate to bring the _Old_ Testament in support of their
barbarities, they would hardly let the _New_ escape them.

_St. Paul_, having converted _Onesimus_ to the Christian
faith, who was a fugitive slave of _Philemon_, sent him back to his
master. This circumstance has furnished the _receivers_ with a
plea, that Christianity encourages slavery. But they have not only
strained the passages which they produce in support of their assertions,
but are ignorant of historical facts. The benevolent apostle, in the
letter which he wrote to _Philemon_, the master of _Onesimus_,
addresses him to the following effect: "I send him back to you, but not
in his former capacity[111], _not now as a servant, but above a
servant, a brother beloved_. In this manner I beseech you to receive
him, for though I could _enjoin_ you to do it, yet I had rather it
should be a matter of your _own will_, than of _necessity_."

It appears that the same _Onesimus_, when he was sent back, was no
longer _a slave_, that he was a minister of the gospel, that he was
joined with _Tychicus_ in an ecclesiastical commission to the
church of the _Colossians_, and was afterwards bishop of
_Ephesus_. If language therefore has any meaning, and if history
has recorded a fact which may be believed, there is no case more
opposite to the doctrine of the _receivers_, than this which they
produce in its support.

It is said again, that Christianity, among the many important precepts
which it contains, does not furnish us with one for the abolition of
slavery. But the reason is obvious. Slavery at the time of the
introduction of the gospel was universally prevalent, and if
Christianity had abruptly declared, that the millions of slaves should
have been made free, who were then in the world, it would have been
universally rejected, as containing doctrines that were dangerous, if
not destructive, to society. In order therefore that it might be
universally received, it never meddled, by any positive precept, with
the civil institutions of the times; but though it does not expressly
say, that "you shall neither buy, nor sell, nor possess a slave," it is
evident that, in its general tenour, it sufficiently militates against
the custom.

The first doctrine which it inculcates, is that of _brotherly
love_. It commands good will towards men. It enjoins us to love our
neighbours as ourselves, and to do unto all men, as we would that they
should do unto us. And how can any man fulfil this scheme of universal
benevolence, who reduces an unfortunate person _against his will_,
to the _most insupportable_ of all human conditions; who considers
him as his _private property_, and treats him, not as a brother,
nor as one of the same parentage with himself, but as an _animal of
the brute creation?_

But the most important doctrine is that, by which we are assured that
mankind are to exist in a future state, and to give an account of those
actions, which they have severally done in the flesh. This strikes at
the very root of slavery. For how can any man be justly called to an
account for his actions, whose actions are not _at his own
disposal?_ This is the case with the _proper_[112] slave. His
liberty is absolutely bought and _appropriated_; and if the
purchase is _just and equitable_, he is _under the necessity_
of perpetrating any crime, which the purchaser may order him to commit,
or, in other words, of ceasing to be _accountable for his actions_.

These doctrines therefore are sufficient to shew, that slavery is
incompatible, with the Christian system. The _Europeans_ considered
them as such, when, at the close of the twelfth century, they resisted,
their hereditary prejudices, and occasioned its abolition. Hence one,
among many other proofs, that Christianity was the production of
infinite wisdom; that though it did not take such express cognizance of
the wicked national institutions of the times, as should hinder its
reception, it should yet contain such doctrines, as, when it should be
fully established, would be sufficient for the abolition of them all.

Thus then is the argument of you _receivers_ ineffectual, and your
conduct impious. For, by the prosecution of this wicked slavery and
commerce, you not only oppose the propagation of that gospel which was
ordered to be preached unto every creature, and bring it into contempt,
but you oppose its tenets also: first, because you violate that law of
_universal benevolence_, which was to take away those hateful
distinctions of _Jew_ and _Gentile_, _Greek_ and _Barbarian,
bond_ and _free_, which prevailed when the gospel was introduced;
and secondly, because, as every man is to give an account of
his actions hereafter, it is necessary that he should be _free_.

Another argument yet remains, which, though nature will absolutely turn
pale at the recital, cannot possibly be omitted. In those wars, which
are made for the sake of procuring slaves, it is evident that the
contest must be generally obstinate, and that great numbers must be
slain on both sides, before the event can be determined. This we may
reasonably apprehend to be the case: and we have shewn[113], that there
have not been wanting instances, where the conquerors have been so
incensed at the resistance they have found, that their spirit of
vengeance has entirely got the better of their avarice, and they have
murdered, in cool blood, every individual, without discrimination,
either of age or sex. From these and other circumstances, we thought we
had sufficient reason to conclude, that, where _ten_ were supposed
to be taken, an _hundred_, including the victors and vanquished,
might be supposed to perish. Now, as the annual exportation from
_Africa_ consists of an hundred thousand men, and as the two
orders, of those who are privately kidnapped by individuals, and of
those, who are publickly seized by virtue of the authority of their
prince, compose together, at least, nine-tenths of the _African_
slaves, it follows, that about ten thousand consist of convicts and
prisoners of war. The last order is the most numerous. Let us suppose
then that only six thousand of this order are annually sent into
servitude, and it will immediately appear that no less than
_sixty-thousand_ people annually perish in those wars, which are
made only for the purpose of procuring slaves. But that this number,
which we believe to be by no means exaggerated, may be free from all
objection, we will include those in the estimate, who die as they are
travelling to the ships. Many of these unfortunate people have a journey
of one thousand miles to perform on foot, and are driven like sheep
through inhospitable woods and deserts, where they frequently die in
great numbers, from fatigue and want. Now if to those, who thus perish
on the _African_ continent, by war and travelling, we subjoin
those[114], who afterwards perish on the voyage, and in the seasoning
together, it will appear that, in every yearly attempt to supply the
colonies, an _hundred thousand_ must perish, even before _one_
useful individual can be obtained.

Gracious God! how wicked, how beyond all example impious, must be that
servitude, which cannot be carried on without the continual murder of so
many and innocent persons! What punishment is not to be expected for
such monstrous and unparalleled barbarities! For if the blood of one
man, unjustly shed, cries with so loud a voice for the divine vengeance,
how shall the cries and groans of an _hundred thousand_ men,
_annually murdered_, ascend the celestial mansions, and bring down
that punishment, which such enormities deserve! But do we mention
punishment? Do we allude to that punishment, which shall be inflicted on
men as individuals, in a future life? Do we allude to that awful day,
which shall surely come, when the master shall behold his murdered
negroe face to face? When a train of mutilated slaves shall be brought
against him? When he shall stand confounded and abashed? Or, do we
allude to that punishment, which may be inflicted on them here, as
members of a wicked community? For as a body politick, if its members
are ever so numerous, may be considered as an whole, acting of itself,
and by itself, in all affairs in which it is concerned, so it is
accountable, as such, for its conduct; and as these kinds of polities
have only their existence here, so it is only in this world, that, as
such, they can be punished.

"Now, whether we consider the crime, with respect to the individuals
immediately concerned in this most barbarous and cruel traffick, or
whether we consider it as patronized[115] and encouraged by the laws of
the land, it presents to our view an equal degree of enormity. A crime,
founded on a dreadful pre-eminence in wickedness,--a crime, which being
both of individuals and the nation, must sometime draw down upon us the
heaviest judgment of Almighty God, who made of one blood all the sons of
men, and who gave to all equally a natural right to liberty; and who,
ruling all the kingdoms of the earth with equal providential justice,
cannot suffer such deliberate, such monstrous iniquity, to pass long

But alas! he seems already to have interfered on the occasion! The
violent[117] and supernatural agitations of all the elements, which, for
a series of years, have prevailed in those European settlements, where
the unfortunate _Africans_ are retained in a state of slavery, and
which have brought unspeakable calamities on the inhabitants, and
publick losses on the states to which they severally belong, are so many
awful visitations of God for this inhuman violation of his laws. And it
is not perhaps unworthy of remark, that as the subjects of Great-Britain
have two thirds of this impious commerce in their own hands, so they
have suffered[118] in the same proportion, or more severely than the

How far these misfortunes may appear to be acts of providence, and to
create an alarm to those who have been accustomed to refer every effect
to its apparent cause; who have been habituated to stop there, and to
overlook the finger of God; because it is slightly covered under the
veil of secondary laws, we will not pretend to determine? but this we
will assert with confidence, that the _Europeans_ have richly
deserved them all; that the fear of sympathy, which can hardly be
restrained on other melancholy occasions, seems to forget to flow at the
relation of these; and that we can never, with any shadow of justice,
with prosperity to the undertakers of those, whose success must be at
the expence of the happiness of millions of their fellow-creatures.

But this is sufficient. For if liberty is only an adventitious right; if
men are by no means superiour to brutes; if every social duty is a
curse; if cruelty is highly to be esteemed; if murder is strictly
honourable, and Christianity is a lye; then it is evident, that the
_African_ slavery may be pursued, without either the remorse of
conscience, or the imputation of a crime. But if the contrary of this is
true, which reason must immediately evince, it is evident that no custom
established among men was ever more impious; since it is contrary to
_reason, justice, nature, the principles of law and government, the
whole doctrine, in short, of natural religion, and the revealed voice of

       *        *        *        *        *


[Footnote 111: Epist. to Philemon.]

[Footnote 112: The _African_ slave is of this description; and we
could wish, in all our arguments on the present subject, to be
understood as having spoken only of _proper slaves_. The slave who
is condemned to the oar, to the fortifications, and other publick works,
is in a different predicament. His liberty is not _appropriated_,
and therefore none of those consequences can be justly drawn, which have
been deduced in the present case.]

[Footnote 113: See the description of an African battle (Footnote 049).]

[Footnote 114: The lowest computation is 40,000, (Footnote 060).]

[Footnote 115: The legislature has squandered away more money in the
prosecution of the slave trade, within twenty years, than in any other
trade whatever, having granted from the year 1750, to the year 1770, the
sum of 300,000 pounds.]

[Footnote 116: Sermon preached before the University of Cambridge, by
the Rev. Peter Peckard.]

[Footnote 117: The first noted earthquake at Jamaica, happened June the
7th 1692, when Port Royal was totally sunk. This was succeeded by one in
the year 1697, and by another in the year 1722, from which time to the
present, these regions of the globe seem to have been severely visited,
but particularly during the last six or seven years. See a general
account of the calamities, occasioned by the late tremendous hurricanes
and earthquakes in the West-Indian islands, by Mr. Fowler.]

[Footnote 118: The many ships of war belonging to the British navy,
which were lost with all their crews in these dreadful hurricanes, will
sufficiently prove the fact.]

       *        *        *        *        *


       *        *        *        *        *

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