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Neque premendo alium me extuilisse velini. — Livy. 




J, W, SCOTT, PRINTER,,.. 1804, 


AS the subject of the following work has 
fortunately become of late a topic of conversa- 
tion, I cannot begin the preface in a manner more 
satisfactory to the feelings of the benevolent 
reader, than by giving an account of those hu- 
mane and worthy persons, who have endeavoured 
to draw upon it that share of the public attention 
which it has obtained. 

Among the well disposed individuals, of dif- 
ferent nations and ages, who have humanely 
exerted themselves to suppress the abject person- 
al 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 public 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 oc- 


casion, is now extant, and is a most perfect pic- 
ture of benevolence and piety. 

But his entreaties, by the opposition of ava- 
rice, 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 cause. 

The present age has also produced some zea- 
lous and able opposers of the colonial slavery. 
For about the middle of the present century, 
Johji Woolman and Anthony Benezet, two respec- 
table members of the religious society called 
Quakers, devoted much of their time to the sub- 
ject. The former travelled through most parts 
of North America on foot to hold conversations 
with the members of his own sect, on the im- 
piety 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,* and 
gave an hearty proof of his attachment to the cause 
by leaving the whole of his fortune in support 

* 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 Domi- 
nions. Besides several smaller pieces. 


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 them- 
selves in endeavouring to remedy the evil. But 
in the year 1754, the religious society, called 
Quakers, publicly testified their sentiments upon 
the subject,. * declaring, that u 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. 5 ' 

Impressed with these sentiments, many of 
this society immediately liberated their slaves ; 
and though such a measure appeared to be at- 
tended 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 lit- 
tle in an honorable 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 poses- 
sion 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 

* They had censured the African Trade in the year 1727, but 
had taken no public notice-, of the colonial slavery till this time* 

' A 2 


of justice ill this particular, either by retaining 
slaves in their possession, or by being in any man- 
ner 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 pos» 
session of an acknowledged Quaker* 

But though this measure appeared, as has 
been observed before^ to be attended with con- 
siderable loss to the benevolent individuals who 
adopted it, yet, as virtue seldom fails of obtain* 
ing its reward, it became ultimately beneficial. 
Most of the slaves* who were thus uncondition- 
ally 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 be 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 other circumstances it 
appeared, that their plantations were considera- 
bly more profitable, when worked by free men, 
than when worked, as before, by slaves j and that 
they derived therefore, contrary to their expecta- 
tions, a considerable advantage from their bene- 

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 Catholics, 
and of the Presbyterians and Independants, freed 
their slaves ; and there happened but one in- 
stance, 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 nega- 
tived 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 be- 
ing 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 circum- 
stances, we may reasonably expect to be pro- 
duced in time) let it be remembered, that the 
Quakers will have had the merit of its abolition. 
Nor have their brethren here been less assidu- 
ous 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 
enquired if any of their members are concerned 


in the iniquitous African trade. They have ap- 
pointed 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 impolitic and immoral, and 
generally acknowledged to have long disgraced 
our national character, is yet left to the unsup- 
ported 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 Li~ 

Nothing can be more clearly shewn, than that 
an inexhaustible mine of wealth is neglected in 
Africa, for the prosecution of this impious traf- 
fic ; that, if proper measures were taken, the 
revenue of this country might be greatly im- 
proved, its naval strength increased, its colonies 
in a more flourishing situation, the planters rich- 
er, and a trade, which is now a scene of blood 
and desolation, converted into one, which might 
be prosecuted with advantage and honor. 

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 unneces- 
sary. They are acting consistently with the prin- 
ciples 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 na- 
ture, of which they had been unjustly deprived 
I should feel myself unjust, were I to omit two 
zealous opposers of the colonial tyranny, con- 
spicuous at the present day. 

The first is Mr. Granville Sharp. This gen- 
tleman 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 me- 
tropolis 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 con- 
veyed, under cover of the night, to ships then 
lying in the Thames*, to be re-transported to the 
colonies, and to be delivered again to the plan- 
ters as merchantable goods. The humane Mr. 
Sharpe, was the means of putting a stop to this 
iniquitous traffic. Whenever he gained informa- 
tion of people in such a situation, he caused them 
to be brought on shore. At a considerable ex- 
pence he undertook their cause, and was instru- 
mental 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 conse- 
quently free. Nor did he interfere less honour- 
ably 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 colo- 
nies, 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 
fee to swell the preface into a volume : suffice it 
to say, that he has written several books on the 
subject, £nd one particularly, which he distin- 
guishes by the title of " A Limitation of slavery P 


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 griev- 
ances of slaves could be redressed ; but he was 
severely disappointed in his pursuits. He pub- 
lished 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 suffer- 
ing 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 ex- 
pressly appeared against it. One of them is intitled 



Gursory Remarks on Mr. Ramsay's Essay ;" 
the other an u Apology for Negro Slavery" On 
each of these I am bound as writing on the sub- 
ject, to make a few remarks. 

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 ho- 
nor 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 exagger- 
ated, or taken from the most dreary pictures 
that he could find, that it is absolutely below the 
truth ; that he must have omitted many in- 
stances of cruelty, which he had seen himself; 
and that they only wondered, how he could have 
written with so much moderation upon the sub- 
ject. They allow the Cursory Remarks to be ex- 
cellent as a composition, but declare that it is 
perfectly devoid of truth. 

But the cursory remarker does not depend so 
Biuch on the circumstances which he has ad- 
vanced, (nor can he, since they have no other 
existence than in his own brain) as on the instru- 
ment detraction. This he has used with the ut- 


most virulence through the whole of his publica- 
tion, 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 public in a malevolent manner, 
and without explanation, might essentially in- 
jure 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 him- 
self to the satisfaction of all parties, and has 
refuted him in every point. The name of this 
cursory remarker is Tahiti: a name, which I 
feel myself obliged to hand down with detesta- 
tion, as far as I am able ; and with a hint to 



future writers, that they will do themselvers 
more credit, and serve more effectually the cause 
which they undertake, if on such qccasions they 
attack the work, rather than the character of 
the writer, who affords them a subject for their 

Nor is this the only circumstance, which in- 
duces me to take such particular notice of the 
Cursory Remarks. I feel it incumbent upon me 
to rescue an injured person from the cruel as- 
persions 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 Negro 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 fol- 
lowing regulations. That the stealing of slaves 
from Africa should be felony. That the preme- 
ditated 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 
^.sufficient quantity of sound wholesome provisions 
is purchased. That they should not work on 
Sundays and other holy-days. That extra la- 
bour, 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 him- 
self, he could not have done it in a more effectu- 
al manner, than by this proposal of thesessaluta- 
ry regulations. For to say that slaves are hon- 
ourably obtained on the coast; to say that their 
treatment is of the mildest nature, and yet to 
propose the above-mentioned regulations as ne- 
cessary, 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, maybe 
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. Tohin^ and the Apologist 
for Negro Slavery. While on the other hand, 
those who have had as competent a knowledge 
of the subject, but not xht same interest as them- 
selves, have unanimously condemned it ; and 
many of them have written their sentiments up- 
on 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? Arc 
we to believe those, who are parties concerned, 
who are interested in the practice ? — But the 
question does not admit of a dispute. 

Concerning my own work, it; seems proper to 
observe, that when the original Latin Disserta- 


tion, as the title page expresses, was honoured 
by the University of Cambridge with the first 
of their annual prizes for the year 1785, I wai 
waited upon by some gentlemen of respectability 
and consequence, who requested me to publish 
it in English. The only objection which occur- 
red 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 public 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 al- 
low me to postpone it for a little time, till I was 
more in the habit of writing. They replied, that 
as the public 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 circum- 
stance could have induced me to offer an En- 
glish composition to the inspection of an host of 
critics : and I trust therefore that this circurn- 
stance will plead much with the benevolent read- 
er, in favour of those faults, which h@ may fimd 
m the present wqj&* 


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 academi- 
cal compositions are generally of a certain 
length) was that which was sent down to Cam- 
bridge, and honoured with the prize. I was de- 
termined however, upon consulting with my 
friends, to translate from the former. This has 
been faithfully done with but few * 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 disadvan- 
tages under which it must yet lie, as a transla- 
tion, 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 acquaint- 
ed with many,, both in the naval and military de- 
partments, as well as with several others, who 

* The instance of the Butch colonists at the Cape, in the 
first part of the Essay; the description of an African battle 9 
in the second ; and the poetry of a negro girl in the third, 
" are the only considerable additions that have been made* 


have been long acquainted with the American and 
West-Indian islands. The facts therefore which 
I have related, are compiled from the disinterest- 
ed accounts of these gentlemen, all of whom, I 
have the happiness to say, have coincided, in the 
minutest manner, in their descriptions. It must 
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 Wiat which is mentioned in the 240th 
page ; and this book was published in France, in 
the year 1777, by authority. 

I have now the pleasure to say, that the ac- 
counts 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, fcfc. They are confirm- 
ed by Sir Hans Sloan's Voyage to Barbadoes ; 
Griffith Hughes's History of the same island, 
printed 1750; an Account of North America, 
by Thomas Jeffries, 1761 ; all Benezetfs works, 
&c. &c. and particularly by Mr. Ramsay's Es- 
say 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 conse- 


quence 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 con- 
troversy 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 en- 
comiums cannot be bestowed, for standing forth 
in that noble and disinterested manner, in be- 
half 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 consi- 
deration, that only two months are allowed by 
the University for these their annual composi- 
tions. Should he however be unpropitious to 
my request, I must console myself with the re~ 
flection, (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 abi- 
lities would permit, the cause of injured inno- 

London, June lst y 1786, 



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 zuar. — Conjecture concerning their antiqui- 
ty. — Chap. III. The second class from piracy. — • 
Short history of piracy. — The dance karpcea. — 
Considerations from hence on the former topic. — > 
Three orders of involuntary slaves among the an- 
cients.— Chap. IV. Their personal treatment. — ■ 
Exception in Mgypi. — 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 JEsop. — 
Chap. VI. The ancient slave-trade. — Its antiqui- 
ty. — JEgypt the first market recorded for this spe- 
cies of traffic. — Cyprus the second. — The agreement 
of the writings of Moses and Homer on the sub- 
ject. — -The universal prevalence of the trade. — < 
Chap. VII. The decline of this commerce and sla- 
very in Europe.— The causes of their decline. — > 
Chap. VIII. Their revival in Africa.- — Short 
history of their revival.— Five classes of involunta- 
ry 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 ad- 
ventitious. — ^Government, its nature. — Its end.~-~ 
Chap. IV. Mankind cannot be considered as pro- 
perty* — An objection answered.-— -Chap. V. T)i* 
vision of the commerce into two parts, as it relates 
to those who sell, and those who purchase* 
man species into slavery.* — The right of the sellers 
examined with respect to the two orders of African 
slaves,, " of those who are publicly seized by virtue 
of the authority of their prince, and of those who 
Mre kidnapped by individuals" — Chap. VI. Their 
right with respect to convicts. — -From the propor- 
tion of the punishment to the offence — -from its ob- 
ject and end. — Chap. VII. Their right with res- 
pect to prisoners of xvar. — The jus captivitatis, 
or right of capture explained. — Its injustice- 
Farther explication of the right of capture, in an- 
swer to some supposed objections. — Chap. VIII. 
Additional remarks on the two orders that xvere 
first mentioned. — The number which they annual- 
ly contain. — A description of an African battle* — 
Additional remarks on prisoners of war. — On con- 
victs.—* Chap. IX. The right of the purchasers 
examined.*— Conclusion* 



The Slavery of the Africans in the European 

GHAP. I. Imaginary scene in Africa. — Ima- 
ginary 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 v — Hor- 
rid instance on the shore. — Chap. III. The condi- 
tion of their posterity in the colonies. — The lex nati- 
vitatis explained. — Ms injustice. — Chap. IV. The 
seasoning in the colonies. — The number that annu- 
ally die in the seasoning. — The employment of the 
survivors.- — The colonial discipline. — Its tendency 
to produce cruelty. — Horrid instance of its effect. — 
Immoderate labour, and its consequences. — Want of 
food and its consequences. — Severity audits conse- 
quences. — 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 in- 
ferior link of the chain of nature, as far as it re- 
lates to their genius, refuted. — -The causes of this 
apparent inferiority.- — Short dissertation on Afri- 
can genius. — -Poetry of an African girl. — Chap. 

VIII. The argument, that they are an inferior 
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 pur* 
chasers examined. — -Their comparisons unjust.— 
Their assertions, with respect to tl\e happy situa- 
tion of the Africans in the colonies, without foun- 
dation. — Their happiness examined with respect 
to manumission.- — With respect to holy-days.— 
Dances, &c. — An estimate made at St. Domin- 
go. — Chap. X. The right of the purchasers over 
their slaves refuted upon their own principles. — - 
Chap. XL Dreadful arguments against this com- 
merce and slavery of the human species. — How the 
Deity seems already to punish us for this inhuman 
violation of his laws.— ^Conclusion* 




£>lat)erp anB Commerce 






VV HEN civilized, as well as barbar- 
ous nations, have been found, through a long suc- 
cession 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 repeat- 
ed practice of ages from the remotest anti- 
quity, in its favour. Here then is an argu- 
ment, deduced from the general consent and 
agreement of mankind, in favour of the pro- 
posed 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 immediate- 
ly 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 hu- 
man nature is concerned, and the rights and liber- 
ties 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 man- 
ner as possible, a general view of it from its ear- 
liest appearance to the present day. 


The first, whom we shall mention here to have 
been reduced to a state of servitude, may be com- 
prehended in that class, which is usually denom- 
inated the Mercenary. It consisted of free-born 
citizens, who, from the various contingencies oi 
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. The Grecian f Thetes also were of this 
description, as well as those among the Romans, 
from whom the class receives its appellation, 
the \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 

* Genesis, Ch. 47. Leviticus xxv. v. 39, 40. 

f Od, Homer, fc>, 64a. 

J The mention of these is frequent among the classics; they 
were called in general mercenarily from the circumstances of their 
lire, as " quibis, non male prsecipiunt, qui ita jubent uti, ut mer- 
cenariis, operam exigendam, justa prcebenda.— -Cicero de off." 
But they are sometimes mentioned in the law books by the name 
of liberi, from the circumstances ©f their birth, to distinguish them 
from the alieni, or foreigners, as Justinian. D. 7. 8. 4. — fd. ai. 
1. 25. &c. &c, &c. 


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 j so there was another among the an- 
cients, composed entirely of those, who had suf- 
fered the loss of liberty from their own impru- 
dence. To this class may be reduced the Gre- 
cian Prodigals, who were detained in the service 
of their creditors, till the fruits of their labour 
were equivalent to their debts ; the delinquents, 
w T ho were sentenced to the oar ; and the Ger- 
man 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 unne- 
cessary : it will be sufficient to observe, that the 


servants of this class were in a far more wretch- 
ed situation, than those of the former ; their 
drudgery was more intense ; their treatment 
more severe ; and there was no retreat at plea- 
sure, from the frowns and lashes of their despo* 
tic 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 mention- 
ed ; for, in the first instance, there was a con- 
tract^ 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 situa- 
tion, 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 pre- 
sent work. We shall therefore take our leave of 
the former, as they were mentioned only, that 
we might state the question with greater accura- 
cy, and be the better enabled to reduce it to its 

proper limits, 

C % 



THE first that will be mentioned, of the 
involuntary i were prisoners of war. " It was 
a lav/, established from time immemorial among 
the nations of antiquity, to oblige those to under- 
go 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 prin- 
ciples 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 vanquish- 
ed in the field, and the wretched survivors, in 
both instances, to have been doomed to servi- 
tude ? It remains only now to observe, in shew- 
ing 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 gen- 
eral 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 re- 
mark, that the involuntary were of greater an- 
tiquity 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 individu- 
als ; and when government, after its establish- 
ment, 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 coun- 
try or another, to the present day.* 

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

* " Proud Nimrod first the bloody chace began, 

A mighty hunter, and his prey was man." 

Fofe 9 



BUT it was not victory alone, or any presup- 
posed right, founded in the damages of war, 
that afforded a pretence for invading the liberties 
of mankind; the honourable light, in which pi- 
racy 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," f says Thucy- 
dides, " 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 sup- 
port." 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 public or prU 
vate* In the former, whole crews embarked for 

f Thucydides. L. x. sub initio. 


the benefit of their respective tribes. They 
made descents on the sea coasts, carried off cat- 
tle, surprized whole villages, put many of the in- 
habitants to the sword, and carried others into 

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 husband- 
man alone. In this situation they sallied out up- 
on him, dragged him on board, conveyed him 
to a foreign market, and sold him for a slave. 

To this kind of piracy Ulysses alludes, in op- 
position 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 5 
Say, did they force thee from thy fleecy care, 
And from thy fields transport and sell thee here !** 

But no picture, perhaps, of this mode of de- 
predation, is equal to that, with which Xenophon 
presents us in the simple narrative of a dance* 

* Homer. Odyss, L, 15, 38;. 


He informs us that the Grecian army had con- 
cluded a peace with the Paphlagonians, and that 
they entertained their embassadors in conse- 
quence with a banquet, and the exhibition of va- 
rious feats of activity. " When the Thracians," 
says he, "had performed the parts allotted them 
in this entertainment, some iEnianian and Mag- 
xietian soldiers rose up, and accoutred in their 
proper arms, exhibited that dance, which is 
called Karpcea. 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 sight, in the character of a robber. 
The husbandman, having seen him previously 
advancing, snatches up his arms. A battle en- 
sues before the plough. The whole of this per- 
formance is kept in perfect time with the music 
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 rob- 
ber : in this case the scene is only reversed, as 
the latter is then bound and driven off by the 


It is scarcely necessary to observe, that this 
dance was a representation of the general man- 
ners 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 en- 
slaving 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, u that the hon- 
ourable light, in which piracy was considered in 
the times of barbarism, contributed not a little 
to the slavery of the human species." The rob- 
ber 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 fa- 
vour. These adventures therefore required all 
the skill, strength, agility, valour, and every 
thing, in short, that may be supposed to consti- 


tute heroism, to conduct them with success. 
Upon this idea piratical expeditions first came 
into repute, and their frequency afterwards, to- 
gether 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. 1 ^ 

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 them- 
selves under the mask of virtue. They excited 
a spirit of enterprize, of all others the most ir- 
resistible, as it subsisted on the strongest princi- 
ples of action, emolument and honour. Thus 
could the vilest of passions be gratified ^ith im- 
punity. People were robbed, stolen, murdered, 
under the pretended idea that these were reputa- 
ble adventures : every enormity in short, was 
committed, and dressed up in the habiliments of 

But as the notions of men in the less barba- 
rous ages, which followed, became more cor- 

* Thucydidea*. JL. i, sub initio.— Sextus Empiricus,-— Schol. 


rected and refined, the practice of piracy began 
gradually to disappear. It had hitherto been sup- 
ported on the grand columns of emolument and 
honour. When the latter therefore was remov- 
ed, it received a considerable shock ; but, alas ! 
it had still a pillar for its support 1 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 ; ma- 
ny were intercepted (some, in their pursuits of 
pleasure, others, in the discharge of their seve- 
ral occupations) by their own countrymen ; w T ho 
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 W£ can credit .* Aristophanes who 
never spared the vices of the times, were par- 
ticularly infamous for the latter kind of depreda- 
tion ; the Athenians were notorious for the for- 
mer; for they had practised these robberies to 
such an alarming degree of danger to indivi du- 

* Aristoph. Plut. A<5t. 2, Scene $. 


als, that it was found necessary to enact a % law, 
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 publicly 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 com- 
posed a third. 


IT will be proper to say something here con- 
cerning 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. 

Zenoph* Ato/av^o^ I-» x» 


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 ap- 
peal. 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 condi- 
tion, if considered in this point of view, was 
more tolerable. The ^Egyptian slave, though 
perhaps of all others the greatest drudge, yet if 
he had time to reach the * temple 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 ! 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 ! 

* Herodotus, L.. 5. 113. 


Bat though the persons of slaves were thus 
greatly secured in iEgypt, yet there was noplace 
so favourable to them as Athens! They were 
allowed a greater liberty of speech ; 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 Phiilippic, " that 
the condition of a slave, at Athens, was prefer- 
able to that of a free citizen, in many other coun- 
tries," But if any exception happened (which 
was sometimes the case) from the general treat- 
ment described ; if persecution took the place of 
lenity, and made the fangs of servitude more 
pointed than before, they had then their temple, 
like the iEgygtian, for refuge ; where the legis- 
lature was sp attentive, as to examine their com- 
plaints, and to order them, if they were found- 
ed 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 al- 
lowed an opportunity of working for themselves, 
and if their diligence had procured them a sum 
equivalent with their ransom, they could imme* 


diately, on. paying it down,* demand their free- 
dom 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 great- 
ly sweetened the draught, even of the most bit- 
ter slavery. 

Thus then, to the eternal honour of JEgypt 
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 ap- 
peal, they rendered their situation the most me- 
lancholy and intolerable^ that can possibly be con- 

* To this privilege Plautus alludes in his Casino^ where he 
introduces a slave, speaking in the following manner. 
" Quid tu me vero libertate territas ? 
Quod si tu nolis, filiusque etiam tuus 
Vobis invitis, atq amborum ingrains^ 
Una tibella liber possum feri. 


CHAP. V. > 

AS we have mentioned the barbarous and in- 
human 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 origi- 
nated, 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 con- I 
sideration, 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 stomas 
synonimous, soon caused them to be viewed in a 
low and despicable light, and as greatly inferior 
to the human species. Hence proceeded that 
treatment, which might not unreasonably be sup- 
posed to arise from go 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 roake them commodious in- 
struments 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 facul- 
ties ; and, by preventing those sparks of genius 
from blazing forth, which had otherwise been 
conspicuous ; it gave them the appearance of be- 
ing endued with inferior 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 servite day. 

Thus then did the commerce, by classing them 
originally with brutes, and the consequent treat- 
ment, 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 gene- 
rations, who received both the commerce and 

* Homer, Odys. P. ^%%, In the latest edition of Homer, 
the word, which we have translated senses, is A^ T t/ or virtue, 
but the old and proper reading is No 6c as appears from Plato 
de Legibui, en. 6, where he quotes it on a similar occcasion. 


treatment from their ancestors, and who had al- 
ways 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 inferior 
order of men, and perfectly void of understand- 
ing. Upon this principle it was, that the former 
treatment began to be fully confirmed and estab- 
lished ; 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 cir- 
cumstances 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 hav- 
ing united themselves under one common name 
and interest, began, from that period, to distin- 
guish the rest of the world by the title of barba- 
rians ; inferring by such an appellation, * "that 
they were men who were only noble in their own 
country ; that they had no right, from their na- 

* Aristotle, Polit, Ch, a, et inseq. 


ture, to authority or command ; that, on the con- 
trary, so low were their capacities, they were 
destined by nature to obey, and to live in a state 
of perpetual drudgery and subjugation." Con- 
formable 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 Asiatic 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 domestics; 
but the latter, as brutes and plants ;" 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 treat- 
ment, which they judged to be absolutely proper 
for people of this description, and that their slaves 
were uniformly those, whom they termed barba- 
rians ; being generally such, as were either kid- 
napped 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 fur- 
nished them for the sallies of caprice and passion. 

To refute these cruel sentiments of the anci- 
ents, and to shew that their slaves were by no 
means an inferior order of beings than them- 
selves, may perhaps be considered as an unne- 
cessary task ; particularly, as having shewn, that 
the causes of this inferior appearance were inci- 
dental, arising, on the one hand, from the com- 
bined 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 manj^ 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 argu- 
ments in the case before us ; but we decline their 
assistance. How then shall we begin ? Shall we 
enumerate the many instances of fidelity, pa- 
tience, or valour, that are recorded of the servile 
race ? Shall we enumerate the many important 
services, that they rendered both to the individu- 
als 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 gen~ 
ius only : we shall mention the names of those of 
a servile condition, whose writings, having escap- 
ed 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 superior to 
their own. 

The first, whom we shall mention here, is the 
famous JEsop. 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 man- 
ner of expression to be apprehended by the low- 
est capacities, and, *^ (what is considered as a 
victory in the art) an happy conjunction of utility 
and pleasure. 55 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 pre- 
ceptor, and as furnishing maxims of prudence 
and virtue, at a time when the speculative princl 

• Onine tulit punctvm, qui miscuit utile dulci. Horace. 


pies of philosophy are too difficult to he under- 
stood* Hence also having been introduced by 
most civilized nations into their system of edu- 
cation, they have produced that general benefit, 
to which we at first alluded. Nor have they been 
of less consequence in maturity > but particular- 
ly to those of inferior capacities, or little erudi- 
tion, 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 occasions. 

With respect to the latter consideration, which 
is easily deducible from hence, we shall only ap- 
peal to the wonderful effect, which the fable, pro- 
nounced by Demosthenes against Philip of Ma- 
cedon, 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 ci- 
tizens, when no other species of oratory could 

To these truly ingenious, and philosophical 
works of iEsop, we shall add those of his imi- 
tator Phcedrus, which in purity and elegance of 
style, are inferior to non^; We shall add also 
the Lyric Poetry r of Alciiian, 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 na* 
lure, or their understandings: and at the same 
time that they refute the principles of the anci- 
ents, they afford a valuable lesson to those, who 
have been accustomed to form too precipitate a 
judgment on the abilities of men : for, alas I 
how often has secret anguish depressed the spi- 
rits of those, whom they have frequently cen- 
sured, from their gloomy and dejected appear- 
ance I and how often, on the other hand, has 
their judgment resulted from their own vanity 
and pride I 



WE proceed'now to the consideration of the 
commerce: in consequence of which, people, en- 
dued with the same feelings and faculties as our- 
selves, were made subject to the laws and limi- 
tations of possession. 

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 pre- 
viously affixed to that order, be right) in the first 
practices of barter. The Story of Joseph, as re- 
corded 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 pusposes of traffic. The 
instant determination of the brothers, on the first 
sight of the merchants, to sell him, and the im- 
mediate acquiescence of these, who purchased 
him for a foreign market, prove that this com- 
merce had been then established, not only in that 


part of the country, where this transaction hap- 
pened, but in that also, whither the merchants 
were then travelling with their camels, namely, 
.iEgypt : and they shew farther, that, as all cus- 
toms 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 bar- 
ter, and had descended to the ^Egyptians, thro 9 
as long a period of time, as was sufficient to have 
made it, in the times alluded to, an established 
custom. Thus was iEgypt, in those days, the 
place of the greatest resort ; the grand ernpori* 
urn of trade, to which people were driving their 
merchandize, as to a centre : and thus did it af* 
ford, among other opportunities of traffic, 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 pira* 
cies, which we mentioned to have existed in the 
uncivilised ages of the world, and which, in fact, 


it greatly promoted and encouraged ; and it be- 
came, from these united circumstances, so fa- 
mous, as to have been known, within a few cen- 
turies from the time of Pharaoh, both to the 
Grecian colonies in Asia, and the Grecian 
islands. Homer mentions Cyprus and iEgypt 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. The same poet also, in his f hymn 
to Bacchus, mentions them again, but in a more 
unequivocal manner, as the common markets 
for slaves. He takes occasion, in that hymn y 
to describe the pirates' . method of scouring the 
coast, from the circumstance of their having kid- 
napped Bacchus, as a- noble youth,, for whom 
they expected an immense ransom. The cap- 
tain of the vessel, having dragged him on board* 
is represented as addressingliimself thus, to the 
steersman : 

a Haul in the tackle, hoist aloft the sail? 
Then take your helm, and w^tch the cloulitM gak ! 
To mind the captive prey,, be bur's the care,.. 
White you to 4vgyptv.or . to ; Cy pi-us- steer m m . - ■ 

* Hem. Odyss. L, 17. 44S. 

t L. 26. 

E 2 


There shall he go, unless his friends he'll tell, 
Whose ransom-gifts will pay us full as well.' 5 

It may not perhaps be considered as a digres- 
sion, to mention in few words, by itself, the won- 
derful concordance of the writings of Moses 
and Homer with the case before us : not that the 
former, from their divine authority, want addi- 
tional support, but because it cannot be unplea- 
sant to see them confirmed by a person, who, be- 
ing 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. JEgypt is represented, in the 
first book of the sacred writings, as a market for 
slaves, and, in the * second, as famous for the 
severity of its servitude, f The same line of 
Homer, which we have already referred to, con- 
veys to us the same ideas. It points it out as a 
market for the human species, and by the epi- 
thet of " bitter iEgypt," (J which epithet is pe- 
culiarly annexed to it on this occasion) alludes in 

* Exodus. Ch. i. 

f Vide note i st. page $$. 

\ This strikes us the more forcibly, as it is stiled M beautiful 
and well watered" in all other passages where it is mentioned, 
but this. 


the strongest manner to that severity and rigour, 
of which the sacred historian transmitted us the 
first account. 

But to return. Though iEgypt was the first 
market recorded for this species of traffic ; and 
though iEgypt, and Cyprus afterwards, were 
particularly distinguished for it, in the times of 
the Trojan war ; yet they were not the only pla- 
ces, 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 
^goean 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 de- 
scribed there, as having just arrived from Lem- 
nos, with a supply of wine for the Grecian camp. 
The merchants are described also, as immedi- 
ately 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 con- 
tributed to make them known, this custom is 
discovered to have existed among them j 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 there- 
fore, at the same period, throughout all Europe. 


This slavery and commerce, which had conti- 
nued 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, superior 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 multi- 
tude of little states, which sprang up from one 
great one at this sera, occasioned infinite bick- 
erings and matter for contention. There was 
not a state or seignory, which did not want alt 


the hands they could muster, either to defend 
their own right, or to dispute that of their neigh- 
bours. Thus every man was taken into the ser- 
vice : whom they armed they must trust: and there 
could be no trust but in free men. Thus the bar- 
rier 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 muster-* 
ed ; the Grecians, in short, in the heroic, were 
in the same situation in these respects as the 
feudal barons in the Gothic 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, w that all men 
were originally equal ; that the Deity was no re«? 
spector 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 Christie 
anity, from a conviction of its truth; and on 
those of their descendants afterwards, who, by 
engaging in the crusades , and hazarding their 
lives and fortunes there, shewed, at least, an at- 
tachment to that leligion. We find them accor- 
dingly 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, a pro 
amore Dei^ pro mercede animce. v 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 be- 
nevolence 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 conspic- 
uous in the west of Europe. What a glorious 
and important change I 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 ex- 
changed ; 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 la- 
bour, 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 crea*> 
tares also. 



BUT if men therefore, at a time when under 
the influence of religion they exercised their seri- 
ous thoughts, abolished slavery, how impious must 
they appear, who revived it ; and what arguments 
will not present themselves against their con- 
duct!* The Portuguese, within two centuries 
after its suppression in Europe, in imitation of 
those piracies, which we have shewn to have ex- 
isted in the uncivilized ages of the world, made 
their descents on Africa, and committing depre- 
dations on the coast, % Jirst carried the wretched 
inhabitants into slavery. 

• The following short history of the African servitude, is 
taken from Astley's Collection of Voyages, and from the uni- 
ted testimonies of Smyth, Andanson, 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 Africans. 

| 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 


This practice, however trifling and partial it 
might appear at first, soon became serious and 
general. A melancholy instance of the depravi- 
ty of human nature ; as it shews, that neither the 
laws nor religion of any country, however excel- 
lent 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 ma- 
ritime powers of Europe, soon followed the pira- 
tical 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 interior parts of the 

country, a retreat from the persecution of their 
invaders. But, alas, they were miserably disap- 
pointed ! There are few retreats, that can escape 

Jiow 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 exam-* 


the penetrating eye of avarice. The Europeans 
still pursued them ; they entered their rivers ; 
sailed up into the heart of the country ; surpriz- 
ed the unfortunate Africans again ; and carried 
them into slavery. 

But this conduct, though successful at first, de- 
feated 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 ac- 
cordingly deserted, as the coasts had been be- 
fore ; 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 posts ; 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 ; landed 
their merchandize ; and endeavoured, by a peace- 

* The Portuguese erected their first fort at D'Elmina, in the 
^■ear 1481, about forty years after Alonzo Gonzales had point- 
ed the Southern Africans out to his countrymen as articles of 


able deportment, by presents, and by every ap- 
pearance of munificence, to seduce the attach- 
ment 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 daz- 
zled 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 confi- 
dence, 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 ex- 
ecution, and of fixing them on such a permanent 
foundation, as should secure them future success. 
They had already discovered, in the different in* 
terviews obtained, the chiefs of the African 
tribes. They paid their court therefore to these, 
and so completely 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. T % his 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 extensive manner. Avarice 
therefore, which was too powerful for justice 
on this occasion, immediately turned the scale : 
wot only those, who were fairly convicted of 
pffences, were now sentenced to servitude 3 but 


even those who were suspected. New crimes 
were invented, that new punishments might suc- 
ceed. Thus was every appearance soon con- 
strued into reality ; every shadow into a sub- 
stance ; and often virtue into a crime. 

Such also was the case with respect to prison- 
ers of war. Not only those were now delivered 
into slavery, who were taken in a state of pub- 
lic enmity and injustice, but those also, who, 
conscious of no injury whatever, were taken in 
the arbitrary skirmishes of these venal sove- 
reigns. 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 commence* 
ment 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 consider- 
able portion of that sense of shame, which, till 
then, had been found a successful protector 

I 2 


against the sallies of vice. From that awful pe- 
riod, almost every expectation isv forlorn : the 
heart is left unguarded : its great protector is no 
more : the vices therefore, which so long encom- 
passed it in vain, obtain an easy victory : in 
crowds 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 des- 
potic sovereigns of Africa. They had once 
ventured to pass the bounds of virtue, and they 
soon proceeded to enormity. This was particu- 
larly conspicuous in that general conduct, which 
they uniformly observed, after any unsuccessful 
conflict. Influenced only by the venal motives 
of European traffic, they first made war upon 
the neighbouring tribes, contrary to every prin- 
ciple of justice ; and if, by the flight of the ene- 
my, or by other contingencies, they w T ere dis- 
appointed 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 escap- 
ing 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 sea- 
men of the different ships, by every possible ar- 
tifice, enticed others on board, and transported 
them to the regions of servitude. 

As these practices are in full force at the pre- 
sent day, it appears that there are four orders of 
involuntary slaves on the African continent ; of 
* convicts ; of prisoners of war ; of those, who 
are publicly seized by virtue of the authority of 
their prince ; and of those, who are privately 
kidnapped by individuals. • 

* In the ancient servitude, we reckoned convicts among the 
voluntary slaves, because they had it in their power, by a vir- 
tuous 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 traffic, no person whatever possesses such a 
power or choice* 


It remains only to observe on this head, that 
in the sale and purchase of thesey the African 
commerce or Slave Trade consists ; that they are 
delivered to the merchants of Europe in ex- 
change 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 transpor- 
tation and slavery have commenced. 

Having thus explained as much of the history 
of modern servitude, as is sufficient for the pro- 
secution of our design, we should have closed 
our account here, but that a work, just publish- 
ed, has furnished us with a singular anecdote of 
the colonists of a neighbouring nation, which we 
cannot but relate. The learned * author, hav- 
ing described the method which the Dutch colo- 
nists at the Cape make use of to take the Hot- 
tentots and enslave them, takes occasion, in ma- 
ny subsequent parts of the work, to mention the 
dreadful effects of the practice of slavery ; 
which, as he justly remarks, " leads to all manner 

* Andrew Sparrman, M. B. professor of Physic at Stock- 
holm, 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. 


of misdemeanors 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 ha- 
tred and spirit of vengeance constantly harbour- 
ed by the colonists, with respect to the fBo- 
shies-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 Bo- 
shies-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 con- 
venient) 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 discharg- 
ed by them will sometimes, as I have been assur- 
ed, go through the bodies of six, seven, or eight 
of the enemy at a time, especially as these latter 
f Boshies-man, or wild HttlcntoL 


know no better than to keep close together in a 

" 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, &c." 

With what horror do these passages seem to 
strike us I 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 destruc- 
tion ! 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 pro« 
vocation or necessity, but even make a diversion 
of their sufferings, and enjoy their pain. 







.S we explained the History of Slavery in 
the first part of this Essay, as far as it was neces- 
sary for our purpose, we shall now take the ques- 
tion 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 
fas explained in the history of slavery J 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 argu* 

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 monu- 
ments of this original equality of men. Hence 
then there was no rank, no distinction, no supe- 
rior. 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 com- 
mon) he collected what he chose without injury, 
and enjoyed without injury what he had collect- 


ed. Such was the first situation of mankind f* 
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 predatory 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 pre* 
servation 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 them- 
selves particular names from particular occurren* 
ces, began to be perfectly distinct from one an- 

As the individuals, of whom these societies 
were composed, had associated only for their de- 
fence, so they experienced, at first, no change 

* This conclusion concerning the dissociated state of man- 
kind, is confirmed by all the early writers, with whose descript- 
ions of primitive times no other conclusion it reconcileable* 


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 ; wander- 
ing only, in herds, as the earth gave them or re- 
fused them sustenance, and doing, as a public 
b$dy, what they had been accustomed to do as 
individuals before. This was the exact situation 
of the ^ Geta3 and Scythians, of the f Lybians 
and Gcetulians, of the % Italian Aborigines, and 
of the |j Huns and Alans. They had left their 
original state of dissociation, and had stepped 
into that, which has been described. Thus was 
the second situation of men a state of indepen- 
dent 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 commo- 
tions and tumults of intestine strife. For these 

* Justin. I,. 2. C. 3. 

f Saliust. Bell. Jug. 

\ Sailust. Bell. Catil. 

| Ammianus Marcellinus, L, 31, C. a. ct inseq. 


incoveniences 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 la- 
bour ; and government would at once afford a 
security to the acquisitions of the industrious, 
and heal the intestine disorders of the commu- 
nity, by the introduction of laws.. 

Such then were the remedies, that were gra- 
dually applied. The societies, which had hither- 
to seen their members, undistinguished either 
by authority or rank, admitted now of magistra- 
tical 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, who con- 
sisted of many and various nations, were exactly 
in this situation. They had advanced a step be- 
yond the Scythians, Gcetulians, and those, whom' 
we described before; and thus was the third 
situation of mankind a state of subordinate so- 

* Agri pro Numero Cultorum ab universis per vicos occu- 
pantur, quos mox inter se secundum dignationem partiuntur. 
Tactitus, C. 2,6. 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 primaeval societies , and by ^hat 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 neces« 
sity 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 fir$t, distinguished among men, 
were thoughts, that rxiust have had their charms. 
Let us suppose then, that these thoughts had 
worked so unusually on the passions of any par- 
ticular individual, as to have driven him to the 
extravagant design of obtaining the pre-emi- 
nence 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 coramand I Add tg> 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 go- 
ing 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 subordina- 
tion and government* 

The commentaries of Caesar afford us the fol- 
lowing accounts of the ancient Gauls. When 
any of their kings, either by death, or deposi- 
tion, 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, 

G % 


and every individual was free. The person up- 
on 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 va- 
lour the very assembly, that elected him, had 
themselves witnessed in the field; whose pru- 
dence, 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 determin- 
ed that he alone should possess authority, in 
whose virtues they could confide. Nor was this s 
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 confic nee 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 confirm- 
ed according to the majority of voices. They 
elected also, on these occasions, those only, 
whom their virtue, by repeated trial, had un- 
equivocally 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 jurisdic- 
tion. 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 supe- 
rior 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 ar- 
rived 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 govern- 
ments, now conspicuous in Europe, have un- 
deniably sprung. And we might appeal, as a 
further proof, to the Americans^ who are repre- 
sented 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 cus- 
toms prevailed among the different nations de- 
scribed, in their early state of subordinate so- 
ciety, 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 govern* 


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 specu- 
lation 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 
^contract ; because, in these primaeval subordi- 
nate societies, we have seen it voluntarily con- 

* The author has lately read a work, iotitled 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/ 9 


ferred on the one hand, and accepted on the 
other. We have seen it subject to various re* 
srictions. We have seen its articles, which 
could then only be written by tradition and use, 
as perfect and binding as those, which are now 

— •" it is to suppose it possible to call savages out of caves and 
deserts, to deliberate upon topics, which the experience and 
studies, and the refinements of civil life alone suggest. There- 
fore no government in the universe begun from this original.'* 
But there are no grounds for so absurd a supposition ; for go- 
vernment, 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 
Gaetulians before mentioned, and had felt many of the disad- 
vantages 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 deter- 
mined, in a matter of such importance, to be biassed by no 
opinion whatever, and much less to indulge himself in specu- 
lation. He was determined solely to adhere to fact, and, by 
looking into the accouuts 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 


committed to letters. We have seen it, in short, 
partaking of the feeder al nature, ^as much as it 
could in a state, which wanted the means of 
recording its transactions. 

It appears, thirdly, that the grand object of the 
contract, is the happiness of the people ; because 
they gave the supremacy to him alone, who had 
been conspicuous for the splendor of his abilities, 
or the integrity of his life : that the power of the 
multitude being directed by the wisdom and jus- 
tice of the prince, they might experience the most 
effectual protection from injury, the highest ad- 
vantages of society, the greatest possible hap- 

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 ha^ 
afforded him so much entertainment. 



HAVING nowcollected the materials that are 
necessary for the prosecution of our design, we 
shall immediately enter upon the discussion. 

If any man had originally been endued with 
power, as with other faculties, so that the rest 
of mankind had discovered in themselves an in- 
nate 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 na- 
ture 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 inferior 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 dis- 
tinction ? 

To this consideration we shall add the follow- 
ing, 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 founded in na- 
ture, 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 species. 

We may consider also, as a farther confirma- 
tion, that it is impossible, in the nature of things, 
that liberty can be bought or sold! It is neither 
saleable) nor pur chase able. 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 ac- 
countable for his actions, it is evident, that such 
a right cannot justly exist, and that human li* 
berty, of course, is beyond the possibility either 
of sale or purchase. Add to this, that, w hen ever 
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 ne- 
cessity of considering your slave in this abstract- 
ed 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 ob- 
jection to one of the former arguments. " If 
men, from the superiority of their nature, can- 
not be considered, like lands, goods, or houses, 
among possessions, so neither can cattle : for 
being endued with life, motion, and sensibility, 
they are evidently superior to these." But this 
objection will receive its answer from those ob- 
servations 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, be- 
cause, being void of reason, they cannot be ac* 
countable for their actions. 

We might stop here for a considerable time, 
and deduce many valuable lessons from the re- 
marks that have been made, but that such a cir- 
cumstance might be considered as a digression. 
There is one, however, which, as it is so intimate- 
ly connected with the subject, w T e cannot but de- 
duce. We are taught to treat men in a different 
manner from brutes, because they are so mani- 
festly superior 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 public com- 
merce ! and by what arguments can they possi- 
bly defend that commerce, which cannot be car- 
ried on, in any single instance, without a flag- 
rant violation of the laws of nature and of God ? 


' CHAP. V. 

THAT we may the more accurately examine 
the arguments that are advanced on this occa- 
sion, 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 pur- 
chase, the human species into slavery. To the 
former part of which, having given every pre- 
vious 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, u By the right of empire" it will, 
be answered; " because he possesses dominion 
and power by their own approbation and con- 
sent." But subjects, though under the domin- 
ion, 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 in- 
cidental 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 tyran- 
nize, if he can : he may alter the form of his 
government : he cannot, however, alter its na- 
ture and end. These will be immutably the 
same, though the whole system of its administra- 
tion 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 in- 
vades 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 lives and families to a 
wretched servitude ? He acts surely, as if the 
use of empire consisted in violence and op- 
pression ; 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 ju$~ 
tice> as established among men, " that no per» 

h 2 


son shall do harm to another without a previous 
and suffi ient 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 jus- 
tice of the prince, they may experience, in re* 
turn, the most effectual protection from injury, 
the highest advantages of society, the greatest 
possible happiness" 

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 pri- 
vate persons be justified who treacherously lie in 
wait for their fellow-creatures, and sell them 
into slavery ? What arguments can they possi- 
bly bring in their defence ? What treaty of em- 
pire can they produce, by which their innocent 
victims ever resigned to them the least portion 
of their liberty ? In vain will they plead the an* 
tifyuity of the custom : in vain will the honorable 
light, in which piracy was considered in the 
ages of barbarism, afford them an excuse. Im- 
pious and abandoned men ! ye invade the liber- 
ties of those, who, (with respect to your inrpi- 


ous selves) are in a state of nature, in a state of 
original dissociation perfectly independent , per- 
fectly yra?. 

It appears then, that the two orders of slaves, 
which have been mentioned in the history of the 
African servitude, " of those who are publicly 
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 oi government, and the common 
notions of equity, as established among men. 



WE come now to the third order of involunta- 
ry slaves, u 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 propor- 
tioned to the offence, and what is its particular 
object Mid end? 

To decide the first, we may previously ob- 
serve, that the African servitude comprehends 
banishment^ & deprivation of liberty^ and many 
corporal sufferings. 

On banishment^ the following observations 
will suffice. Mankind have their local attach- 
ments. 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 sup- 
ported : 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 founc^ their 
thoughts unusually directed, by some impulse or 
other, to their native spot ; and from the exam- 
ple 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 tie& 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 concor- 
dance 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. Thi.s regard is par- 
ticularly 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 sight of others 
of their countrymen, whom fortune places in 
their way ! what an eagerness do they shew to 
serve them, though not born on the same parti- 
cular spot, though not connected by consan- 
guinity or friendship, though unknown to them 
before 1 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 j 
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 con- 
tains the spot, in which they were born and nur- 
tured ; 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 cir- 
cumstances to the account, that it is no inconsi- 
derable 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 in- 
stances, that even death is to be preferred. How 
many could be named here, who, having suffer- 
ed the loss of liberty, have put a period to their 
existence ! How many, that have willingly un- 
dergone the hazard of their lives to destroy a 
tyrant ! How many, that have even gloried to 
perish in the attempt ! How many bloody and 
public wars have been undertaken (not to men- 
tion the numerous servile insurrections, with 
which history is stained) for the c^use of free- 
dom ! 

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 sun 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 depri- 
vation 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 na- 
ture, must those act, who apply this, the seve- 
rest of human punishments, to the most insigni- 
ficant offence I yet such is the custom with the 
Africans : for, from the time, in which the Eu- 
ropeans first intoxicated the African princes with 
their foreign draughts, no crime has been com- 
mitted, no shadow of a crime devised, that has 
not immediately been punished with servitude. 

But for what purpose is the punishment appli- 
ed? Is it applied to amend the manners of the 
criminal, and thus render him a better subject? 
No, for if you banish him, hq can no longer be 
a subject, and you can no longer therefore be so- 
licitous 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 
tnight 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 melan- 
choly-thought ! the more crimes his subjects 
commit, the richer is he made ; the more aban- 
doned the subject, the happier is the prince 1 

Neither can we allow that the punishment thus 
applied, tends in any degree to answer the public 
happiness ; for if men can be sentenced to sla- 
very, 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 public, 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 jus- 
tice of their cause, we shall examine the princi- 
ple oh which it subsisted among the ancients. 
But as this principle was the same among all na- 
tions, and as a citation from many of their histo- 
ries 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 na- 
tions. It was so called from the universal con- 
currence of nations in the custom. It had two 
points in view, the persons of the captured^ and 
their effects ; both of which it immediately sen- 
tenced, without any of the usual forms of law, to 
be the property of the captors. 

The principle, on which the law was establish- 
ed, was the right of capture* When any of the 
contending parties had overcome their oppo- 
nents, and were about to destroy them, the right 

1 Jure Gentium servi nostri sunt, qui ab hostibus capiuntur. 

Justinian, L. i. 5, j. t. 


was considered to commence ; aright, which the 
victors conceived themselves to have to recall 
their swords, and from the consideration of hav- 
ing 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, says he, from the following circum- 
stance. It was usual with our commanders to 
take them prisoners, and sell them : now this cir- 
cumstance implies, that they must have been 
previously preserved, and hence the name." 
Such then was the right of capture. It \vas a 
right, which the circumstance of taking the van-* 
quished, that is, of preserving them alive, gave 
the conquerors to their persons. By this right, 
as always including the idea of a previous pre- 
servation from death, f the vanquished were 
said to be slaves ; and, " as all slaves," says Jus« 
tinian, " are themselves in the power of others, 
and of course can have rrothing of their own, so 
their effects followed the condition of their per- 
sons, and became the property of the captors." 

* Ssrvorum appellatio ex eo fluxit, quod imperatores nostri 
captives vendere, ac per hoc servare, nee occidere solent. 

f Nam sive xictoxibus jure captivitath servissent, &c, Justin 
L> 4. 3. et passim apud scriptorts aniiquoa. 


To examine this right, by which the vanquish- 
ed were said to be slaves, we- shall use the words 
of a celebrated Roman author, and apply them 
to the present case. ^ u If it is lawful," says 
he, to deprive a man of his life, it is certainly 
not inconsistent with nature to rob him ; ?1 to rob 
him of his liberty. We admit the conclusion to 
be just, if the supposition be the same : we al- 
low, if men have a right to commit that, which 
is considered as n greater crime, that they have 
& 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 law- 
ful to kill, but on necessity. Had there been a 
necessity, where" had the wretched captive sur- 
vived 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 con- 
clusion is therefore false. The captors had no 
right to the lives of the captured, and of course 
none to their liberty : -^hey had no right to their 
blood, and of course none to their service. Their 
right therefore had no foundation in justice. If 
was founded on a principle, contrary to the law 
of nature, and of course contrary to that law, 

* Neque est contra naturam spoliare eum, si possis, quern 
fconestum est necars, Cicero de officiis. L. 3. 6. 


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 Chris- 
tianity, 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 horrors. 

But the advocates for slavery, unable to defend 
themselves against these arguments, have lied 
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, (suppo- 
sing the war to be just and the opponents in a 
state of nature) upon the principles of repara- 
tion 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 

i 2 


that these principles were applied by the ancients 
to their prisoners of war j that their effects were 
confiscated by the right of reparative,- and their 
-persons by the right of punishment" 

But such a presumption is false. The right 
of capture was the only argument^ that the an- 
cients adduced in their defence. Hence Poly- 
bias : " What must they, (the Mantinenses) 
suffer, to receive the punishment they deserve ? 
Perhaps it will be said, that they must be sold, 
xvhen they are taken , with their wives and chiU 
dren into slavery : But this is not to be consider- 
ed 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 victo- 
rious, inflicted slavery alike. But if the offend* 
ing 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 con- 
tradictor)^ as it supposes the agressor to have & 
right, which the injured only could possess. 

Neither is the argument less fallacious than 
the presumption, in applying these principles, 
which in a public war could belong to the public 


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 con- 
sideration, which they made with the Carthagin- 
ians, when the latter, defeated at Zama, sued 
for a peace. It consisted of three articles. * 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 

? i. Ut liberi suis legihus vivcrent. Livy, L. 30. 37,, 

2, Decern millia talentum argenti descripta pensionibtts 
sequis in annos quinquaginta sclverent. Ibid. 

3. Et naves rostratas, praster decern triremes, traderent, 
elephantosque, quoshaberent domitos; neque domarent alios i 
Bell una neve in Africa, neve extra Africans, injussu P. R, 
gerercnt, &c. Ibid. 


punishment. With these terms they complied and 
the war was finished. 

Thus then did the Romans make that distinc- 
tion between private and piiblic war, which was 
necessary to be made, and which the argument is 
fallacious in not supposing. The treasury of the 
vanished was marked as the means of repara- 
tion ; and as this treasury was supplied, in a 
great measure, by the imposition of taxes, and 
was wholly, the property of the public, so the pub- 
lie made the reparation that was due. The ele- 
phants also, and ships of war, which were mark- 
ed as the means of punishment were public pro- 
perty ; and as they were considerable instru- 
ments of security and defence to their posses- 
sors, and of annoyance to an enemy, so their 
loss, added to the restrictions of the treaty, op- 
erated as a great and public 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 alrea- 
dy received, by their own confession in the trea- 
ty, a sufficient satisfaction : Not upon these prin- 
ciples, because they were inapplicable to individ- 
uals : the legionary soldier in the service, of the 
injured, who took his prisoner, was not the per- 


son, to whom the injury had been done, any more 
than the soldier in the service of the agressors, 
who was taken, was the person, who had commit- 
ccNhe offence : but they were retained in servitude 
by the right of capture ; because, when both par- 
ties had sent their military into the field to de- 
termine the dispute, it was at the private choice 
of the legionary soldier before-mentioned, whe- 
ther he would spare the life of his conquered op- 
ponent, when he was thought to be entitled to 
take it, if he had chosen, by the laws of wan 

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 stale 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 injur- 
ed 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 public, and the public 
alone are to experience the consequences of their 
injustice. For as no particular member of the 
community, if considered as an individual, i% 


guilty, except the person, by Whom the injury 
was done, it would be contrary to reason and jus- 
tice, to apply the principles of reparation and 
punishment, which belong to the people as a col- 
lective body, to any individual of the communi- 
ty, who should happen to be taken. Now, as 
the principles of reparation and punishment are 
thus inapplicable to the prisoners, taken in a pub- 
lic 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 servi- 
tude, which arises from those, that are unjust P 
Which arises from those African wars, that relate 
to the present subject? The African princes, 
corrupted by the merchants of Europe, seek eve- 
ry opportunity of quarreling with one another. 
Every spark is blown into a flame ; and war is 
undertaken from no other consideration, than that 
ef procuring slaves ; while the Europeans, on the 
other hand, happy in the quarrels which they have 
thus excited, supply them with arms and ammuni- 


tion for the accomplishment of their horrid pur* 
pose* Thus has Africa, for the space of two 
hundred years, been the scene of the most in- 
iquitous and bloody wars ; and thus have many 
thousands of men, in the most iniquitous manner, 
been sent into servitude. 



WE shall beg leave, before we proceed to the 
arguments of the purchasers, to add the follow- 
ing 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 publicly seized by virtue of the authority 
of their prince, compose together, at least, ^ nine 

* 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 pur- 
pose 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 far- 
ther 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. 
7 he 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, 1 hey are generally such 
es are kidnapped, or sold by their tyrants, after the destruction 


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 injus- 
tice 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 estab- 
lished 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. 

©f a village. In short, 1 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 con- 
sequence the trade itself, were it possible to suppose convicts 
or prisoners of war to be justly sentenced to servitude, is ac- 
countable for ninety-nine in every hundred slaves, whom it 
supplies. It is an insult to the public, to attempt to palliate 
the method of procuring them.** 



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 in- 
stance, 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 ,i whom they may 
pursue and take at pleasure, is so shocking, that 
it need only be mentioned, to be instantly repro- 
bated by the reader. 

The order of slaves, which is next to the for- 
mer in respect to the number of people whom it 
contains, is that of prisoners of war. This or- 
der, if the former statement be true, is more in- 
considerable 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 
faid, that where ten are taken, he has every rea- 
son to presume that an hundred perish. In some 


of these skirmishes, though they have been be- 
gun for the express purpose of procuring slaves^ 
the conquerors have suffered but few of the van- 
quished to escape the fury of the sv/ord ; 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 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 

* The writer of the letter of which this is a faithful ex- 
tract, and who was known to the author of the present Essay, 
was a long time on the African coast. He had once the mis- 
fortune to be shipwrecked there, and to be taken by the na- 
tives, 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 Af- 
ricans, 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. 


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 ne- 
groes 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 mast-head a numerous 
body approaching, with apparently but little or- 
der, 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 di- 
rectly to close fighting with their spears, lances, 
and sabres. Many of the invaders were mount- 
ed on small horses; and both parties fought for 
about half an hour with the fiercest animosity, 
exerting much more courage and perseverence 
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 terror, 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 occa- 
sion, and as we were within two or three hun- 
dred yards of them, their cries and shrieks 
affected us extremely. We had got up our an» 
chor 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 can- 
non 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 w r hen we fired, and 
cried most lamentably for mercy. Having now 
effectually favoured their retreat^ we stood back-* 

K 2 


wards and forwards, and took x 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 re- 
sidue 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 con- 
siderable 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 commu- 
nity, 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 kidnappped ; and who do 


not additionally convey, when we consider them 
as prisoners of war, an idea of the most com- 
plicated scene of murder. 

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

It has been shewn already, that the punish- 
ment of slavery is inflicted from no other motive, 
than that of gratifying the avarice of the prince, 
a consideration 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 of- 
fence, as to afford an additional proof of its in- 
justice. We shall add now, as a second argu- 
ment, its disproportion from its continuance : 
and we shall derive a third from the considera- 
tion, that, in civil society, every violation of 
the laws of the community is an offence against 
the stated 

* Were this not the case, the government of a country 
eouldhave no right to take cognizance of crimes, and punish 
Ihem, but every individual, if injured, would havs a right 


Let us suppose then an African prince, dis- 
daining 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, a that by exhibiting an example 
of terror, he may preserve that happiness of the 
public, 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 govern- 
ment." 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 an- 
swered, "for the benefit of any individual xv horn 
he pleases to appoint" we deny it to be just. 
The * state alone is considered to have been in- 
jured, and as injuries cannot possibly be trans- 

to punish the aggressor with his own hand, which is contrary 
to the notions of all civilized men, whether among the an- 
cients or the moderns. 

* This same notion is entertained even by the African prin- 
ces, who do not permit the person injured to revenge his in- 
jury, or 10 receive the convict as his slave. But if the very 
person who has been injured, does not possess him> much less 
eught any other person whatsoever. 


f erred) the state alone can justly receive the ad- 
vantages of his labour. But if the African 
prince, when he thus condemns him to labour 
for the benefit of an unojfended individual, should 
at the same time sentence him to become his 
property ; that is, if he should make the person 
and life of the CQnvict at the absolute disposal of 
him, for whom he has sentenced him to labour ; 
it is evident that, in addition to his former in* 
justice, 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 delin- 
quents, as a punishment, among many of the 
states of Europe. These delinquents are sen- 
tenced 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 public work ; because, as the crimes they 
have committed are considered to have been 
crimes against the public, no individual can just- 
ly 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 punish- 
ment as a man ; whereas in that, which addition- 
ally includes the idea of property, and to under- 
go which, the delinquent must previously change' 
his nature, and become a brute; there is an in- 
constancy, which no arguments can reconcile, 
and a contradiction to every principle of nature, 
which a man need only to appeal to his own feel- 
ings immediately to evince. And we will ven- 
ture 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, w T hom he has a power of sen- 
tencing to labour for the benefit of an unoffend* 
ed individual, and much less whom he has a 
right to sell. 


* Having now fully examined the arguments 
of the sellers, 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 re- 
flect 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 con- 
siderable pain. What then must be his feelings, 
when he is told, that, since the slave-trade be- 
gan, f 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 na- 
ture * that she recoiled at the horrid thought, 
and that she applied instantly a torch to his 
breast to kindle his resentment ; and if, during 

* 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 white 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 unnecessary. 

f Abbe Raynal, Hist. Phil. vol. 4. P. *54* 


his indignation, she should awaken the sigh of 
sympathy, or seduce the tear of commiseratipn 
from his eye, let him consider each as an addi- 
tional argument against the iniquity of the sel- 



IT remains only now to examine by what ar- 
guments those, who receive or purchase their 
fellow-creatures into slavery, defend the com- 
merce* Their first plea is, " that they receive 
those with propriety, who are convicted of crimes, 
because they are delivered into their hands by 
their oxvn 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 I 
Have they carried tjour 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 Afri- 
cans," you will say ; " by which it is positively 
allowed. v — 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 Af- 
ricans 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 senten- 
ced, at last, to a dreadful death for the most in- 
significant offence. 

Neither can we allow the other argument to 
be true, on which you found your merit ; u that 
you take them from their country for their own 
convenience ; because Africa, scorched with in- 
cessant heat, and subject to the most violent rains 
and tempests, is unwholesome, and unfit to be 
inhabited." Preposterous men I do you thus 
judge from your own feelings ? Do you thus 
judge from your ov/n constitution and frame ? 
But if you suppose that the Africans are incapa- 
ble 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 an- 
swer which the Scythians gave the ^Egyptians* 
when they contended about the antiquity of their 
original, * " That nature, when she first dis- 
tinguished countries by different degrees of heat 

* Justin. L. 2. C. i. 


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 ./Egypt, so were the bodies of the Scy- 
thians harder, and as capable of enduring the 
severiry of their atmosphere, as the ^Egyptians 
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 lo- 
custs, and insects of various kinds ; that they 
settle in swarms upon the trees, destroy the ver- 
dure, consume the fruit, and deprive the inha- 
bitants of their food. But the same answer 
may be applied as before ; " that the same kind 
Providence, who tempered the body of the ani- 
mal, tempered also the body of the tree ; that 
he gave it a quality to recover the bite of the lo- 
cust, 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 surprisingly 
quick is vegetation, appear in a few days, as if 
an insest had been utterlv 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 gain- 
ed 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 agairst 
their will." Impudent and base assertion 1 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 exist- 
ence ? How many have leaped into the sea? How 
many have pined to death, that, even at the ex- 
pence of their lives, they might fly from your be* 
nevolence % 

Do you call them obstinate then, because they 
refuse your favours ! Do you call them ungrate- 
ful, because they make you this return ? How 
much rather ought you receivers to blush ! How 
much rather ought you receivers to be considered 

T *> 


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, u that no person shall 
do harm to any other^ without a previous provoca- 
tion ;" who offend against the dictates of nature, 
which commands, " that no just man shall be giv- 
en or received into slavery against his own con- 
sent ;" and who violate the very laws of the em- 
pire that you assume, by consigning your subjects 
to misery. 

Now, as a famous Heathen philosopher ob- 
serves, from whose mouth you shall be convict- 
ed, * " there is a considerable difference, whe- 
ther an injury is done, during any perturbation of 
mind, which is generally short and momentary ; 
or whether is is done with any previous medita- 
tion and design ; for, those crimes, which pro- 
ceed from any sudden commotion of the mind, 
are less than those, which are studied and pre* 
pared, 55 how great and enormous are your crimes 
to be considered, who plan your African voyages 
at a time, when your reason is sound, and your 
senses are awake ; who coolly and delibe- 
rately equip your vessels ; and who spend years, 
and even lives, in the traffic of human liberty* 

• Cicero <k Officii^ JL* x, C« & 


But if the arguments of those, who sell or delu 
ver 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 evi- 
dent that this commerce , is not only beyond the 
possibility of defence, but is justly to be account- 
ed wicked, and justly impious, since it is contra- 
ry 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 reli- 






JLJ.AVING confined ourselves wholly, in 
the second part of this Essay, to the consideration 
of the commerce, we shall now proceed to the con- 
sideration of the slavery that is founded upon it. 
As this slavery will be conspicuous in the treat- 
ment, 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 conspi- 
cuous point of view, we shall throw a considera- 
ble 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 unques- 


tionable facts, might not unreasonablybe presum- 
ed to have been presented to our view, had we 

been really there. % 

%. \ « 

And first, let us turn our eves to the*cloud of 
dust that is before us. It seems to advance ra- 
pidly, 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 enquire of that melancholy 
African, who seems to walk dejected near the 
shore ; whose eyes are stedfastly fixed on the ap-^ 
proaching 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 w r ere last 
night drawn up upon the plain which you see be- 
fore you, where they were branded upon the 
breast with an hot iron; and when they had un- 
dergone the whole of the treatment which is cus- 
tomary 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 tenor 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 prison- 
ers of war. As soon as the ships that are be- 
hind 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 sur- 
vive their liberty. The person fahom 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 transac- 
tion happened. 

li 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 de- 
spair, 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 ex- 
pected. The king, exasperated at this circum- 
stance, immediately sentenced him to slavery. 
His wife and children, fearing lest the tyrant 
should extend the punishment to themselves, 
zvhich is not unusual, fled directlty 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 lan- 
guage, which no person in this part of Africa 
can understand, and their features, as you per- 
ceive, 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 stip- 
ulated number of slaves. He accordingly sur- 
rounded, and set fire to one of his own villages 
in the night, and seized these people, who were 
unfortunately the inhabitants, as they were escap- 
ing 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 pur- 
chased 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 moun- 
tains, through barren sands and inhospitable 
woods for many days together, they were obliged 
to carry water and provisions with them. Not- 
withstanding 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 

When this relation was finished, and we had 
been looking stedfastly for some tin*.* on the 
crowd that was going by, we lost sight of that 
peculiarity of feature, which we had before re- 
marked. We then discovered that the inhabi- 
tants 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 me- 
lancholy reflections, the whole body of slaves 
had entirely passed us. We turned almost in- 
sensibly to look at them again, when we discov- 
ed an unhappy man at the end of the train, w r ho 
could scarcely keep pace with the rest. His feet 
seemed to have suffered much from long and 
constant travelling, for he was limping painfully 

" This man, resumes the African, has trav- 
elled 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 
by two slave hunters ^ who sold him in the morn- 
ing to some country merchants for a bar of ircn 
These drove him with other slaves, procured al- 
most in the same manner, to the nearest market, 
where the English merchants, to whom the train 
that. has jiist 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 de- 
lay, that he has fallen into the hands of the 
Christians. \ 

u And now, as I have mentioned the name of 
Christians, a name, by which the Europeans dis- 
tinguish themselves from us, I could wish to be 
informed of the meaning which such an appella- 
tion 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 Christi- 
anity, 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 talk- 
ing ? Do you not see the tears that now trickle 
down my cheeks ? and yet these hardened Chris- 
tians are unable to be moved at all : nay, they 
will scourge them amidst their groans, nnd even 
smile, while they are torturing them to death. 
Happy, happy Heathenism J which can detest 
the vices of Christianity, and feel for the dis- 
tresses 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 per- 
secution 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 5 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 re- 
markable 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 luxu- 
ries 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 south - 
ren 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 sympa* 

M 2 


thize with you in your distress. He would be 
enraged at the conduct of his countrymen, and 
resist their tyranny." — 

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 atmo- 
sphere resound with their prayers and impreca- 



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 circum- 
stance 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 wretch- 
ed Africans undergo, from the time of their em- 

When the African slaves, who are collected 
from various quarters, for the purposes of sale, 
are delivered over to the receivers y they are con- 
ducted in the manner above described to the 
ships. Their situation on board is beyond all 
description: for here they are crowded, hun- 
dreds of them together, into such a small com- 
pass, as would scarcely be thought sufficient to ac- 
commodate twenty, if considered as free men. 
This confinement soon produces an effect, that 
may be easily imagined. It generates a pesti- 
lential air, which, co-operating with bad provi- 
sions, occasions such a sickness and mortality 


among them, that no less than * twenty thousand 
are generally taken off in every yearly transporta- 

Thus confined in a pestilential prison, and al- 
most entirely excluded from the cheerful face of 
day, it remains for the sickly survivors to linger 
out a miserable existence, till the voyage is finish- 
ed. But are no farther evils to be expected in 
the interim particularly if we add to their alrea- 
dy wretched situation the indignities that are dai- 
ly offered them, and the regret which they must 
constantly feel, at being for ever forced from 
their connexions ! These evils are but too appar- 
ent. Some of them have resolved, and, notwith- 
standing the threats of the receivers^ have carried 
their resolves into execution, to starve them- 
selves to death. Others, when they have been 
brought upon deck for air, if the least opportuni- 
ty has offered, have leaped into the sea, and ter- 
minated their miseries at once. Others, in a fit 

* It is universally allowed, that at least one fifth of the ex- 
ported 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 loose the greatest number in the voyage, but par- 
ticularly 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. 


of despair, have attempted to rise, and regain 
their liberty. But here what a scene of barbari- 
ty 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 shock- 
ing 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 ex- 

But this is not the only inhuman treatment 
which they are frequently obliged to undergo ; 
for if there should be any necessity, from tempes- 
tuous weather, for lightening the ship ; or if it 
should be presumed on the voyage, that the pro- 
visions will fall short before the port can be made, 
they are, many of them, thrown into the sea, with- 
out any compunction of mind on the part of the 
receivers, and without any other regret for their 
loss, than that which avarice inspires. Wretch- 
ed survivors ! what must be their feelings at such 
a sight i 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 prefered to their unoffending countrymen. 


But indeed so lightly are these unhappy people es- 
teemed, that their lives have been even taken 
away upon speculation : there has been an in- 
stance, * within the last five years, of one hun- 
dred 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 in- 

But if the ship should arrive safe at its 
destined port, a circumstance which does not al- 
ways 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 sub- 
jected to the inspection of other brutal receiver s, 
who examine and treat them with an inhumanity, 

* This instance happened in a ship, commanded by one 
Collingwood. On the aoth 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 up- 
on short allowance. The excuse which this execrable wretch 
made on board for his conduct, was the following, " that if the 
slaves , zvho ivcrc then sickly, had died a natural death , the loss would 
have been the owner s ; hut as they ivere thrown alive into the-sea ) it 
'would fall upon the underwriters*" 


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 se- 
parated from her husband, or the mother from 
her son : and if these cruel instances of separa- 
tion should happen ; if relations, when they find 
themselves about to be parted, should cling toge- 
ther ; 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 men- 
tioning 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 cru- 

Ielties, 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 integ* 
rity, and who was at that time in the place where 
the transaction happened. " Not long after," 
says he, (continuing his account) " the perpetra- 
tor of a cruel murder, committed in open day 
light, in the most public part of a town, which 
was the seat of government, escaped every other 
notice than the curses of a few of the more hu- 
mane 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, ob- 
served 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. Mov- 
ing forwards a few yards, he fell down again - 9 
and this being taken as a proof of his sullen per- 
verse spirit, the enraged officer furiously repeat- 

* This gentlemen 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 con- 
cerned. He was so obliging as to furnish him with the writ- 
ten 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 comhias 


ed 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 inhu- 
man sharks, with which the harbour then aboun- 
ded. These voracious fish were supposed to 
have followed the vessels from the coast of Af- 
rica, in which ten thousand slaves were imported 
in that one season, being allured by the stench, 
and daily fed by the dead carcasses thrown over- 
board on the voyage. 5 ' 

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 defend- 
ed 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 un- 
noticed 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 receiv- 
ers. Their crime has been already estimated ; 
and to reason farther upon it, would be unne- 



eessary. 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 rea- 
der of sensibility will anticipate them in his own 



WHEN the wretched Africans are thus put 
into the hands of the second receiver^ they are 
conveyed to the plantations, where they are to- 
tally 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 

Authors have been at great pains to inquire, 
why, in the ancient servitude, the child has uni- 
formly followed the condition of the mother. 
But we conceive that they would have saved 
themselves much trouble, and have done them- 
selves 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 w T hole theory of the ancients, with re- 


spect to the descendants of slaves, may be redu- 
ced 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 re- 
ceivers 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 limi- 
tations as their cattle, and that their children, 
like the progeny of these, become their property 
by birth. 

But the absurdity of the argument will imme- 
diately appear. It depends wholly on the sup- 
position, 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 re- 
duced to slavery against his own consent. Do 
the unfortunate offspring ever consent to b# 


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 abondoned ? The 
crimes of the parents cannot justly extend to the 

Thus then must the tyrannical receivers^ who 
presume to sentence the children of slaves to 
servitude, if they mean to dispute upon the jus- 
tice 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 in- 
capable of offending the very King of Kings. 

N % 



BUT to return to the narration. When the 
wretched Africans are conveyed to the planta* 
lions, 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 servi- 
tude are completed : It is the time which an Af- 
rican must take to be so accustomed to the colo- 
ny, 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 be- 
come verified, * twenty thousand of those, who 

* One third of the whole number imported, is often com- 
puted to be lost in the seasoning, which, in round numbers, 
will be 2,7000. 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 


are annnally imported, dying before the season- 
ing 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 calcu- 
lation 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 
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 survi- 
vors are thus enabled to endure the usual task 
of slaves, they are considered as real and sub- 
new land in the colony. In the French windward islands of 
Martinico, and Guadaloupe, which are cleared and highly cul- 
tivated, and in our old small islands, one fourth, including re* 
fuse 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 
30000 to make it free from all objection. 

* 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 
>rears from their embarkation. 


stantial supplies. * From this period therefore 
we shall describe their situation. 

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 at- 
tend their families. This employs them till mid- 

* That part of the account, that has been hitherto given, 
extends to all the Europeans and their colonists, who are con- 
cerned 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 employ- 
ment 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 sucl* 
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. 


night, 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 ne- 
cessary 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 ordi- 
nary 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 * compu- 
tation. 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 

* 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. 


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. In this manner they go on, with little or 
no respite from their work, till the season crop is 
over, when the year (from the time of our first 
description) is completed. 

f To support a life of such unparalleled drudg- 
ery, 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 w T ithin 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 arc 

* An hand or arm being frequently ground off. 

f The reader will scarcely believe it, but it is a fact, that a 
slave's annual allowance from his master, for provisions, cloth- 
ing, medicines when sick, &c. is limited, upon an average, t* 
thirty shillings. 


frequently so pressing, as not to suffer them to 
wait, till they can really enjoy them. 

This situation, of a want of the common ne- 
cessaries of life, added to that of hard and con- 
tinual 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 beencollecting, ap- 
pears 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 attend- 
ed with bad effects. It enables them to behold 
instances of cruelty without commisseration, 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 inferior, though shocking 
barbarity, that have taken place without any oc- 


casion at all : * the very slitting 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 se- 
verity 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 hept by a certain colonist, as an auxiliary to 
the lash. In this the poor victim of the master's 
resentment was enclosed, and placed sufficiently 

* " A boy having received six slaves as a present from his 
father, immediately slit their ears, and for the following rea- 
son, 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, con- 
sistently with his own feelings, represent that treatment as 
mild, at which we, who have never been used to see them, 
should absolutely shudder. 


near a fire, to occasion extreme pain, and con- 
sequently shrieks and groans, until the revenge 
of the master was satiated, without any other 
inconvenience on his part, than a temporary sus- 
pension of the slave's labour. Had he been 
flogged to death, or his limbs mutilated, the in- 
terest of the brutal tyrant would have suffered a 
more irreparable loss. 

a 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 
crue^ 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 fa- 

Such then is the general situation of the un- 
fortunate Africans. They are beaten and tor- 
tured 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 man- 
ner 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 re- 
dress, without a hope that their situation will 
be changed, unless death should terminate the 

Having described the general situation of these 
unfortunate people, we shall now take notice of 
the common consequences that are found to at- 
tend it, and relate them separately, as they result 
either from long and painful labour, a want of 
the common necessaries of life, or continual 

Oppressed by a daily task of such immoderate 
labour as human nature is utterly unable to per- 
form, .many of them run away from their mas- 
ters. 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 it- 
self, 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 despotic rage, and accepts a re- 
ward 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 of six months from the lash of 
tyranny is- death. 

* In this case he is considered as a criminal against the state. 
The marshallt an officer answering to our sheriff, superintends 
his execution, and the master receives the value of the slave 
from the public treasury. We may observe here, that in all 
cases were the delinquent is a criminal of the state, he is exe- 
cuted, 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 ajz/ry. 


But this law is even mild, when compared with 
another against the same offence, which was in 
force some time 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 fugi- 
tive slaves either alive or dead* The following 
Instance was given us by a person of unquestion- 
able 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 wil- 
derness 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 re- 
ward. 9 ' 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 im- 


posed upon them ; nor is that, which is the re- 
sult of a scanty allowance of food, less to be 
lamented. The wretched African is often so 
deeply pierced by the excruciating fangs of hun- 
ger, as almost to be driven to despair. What 
is he to do in such a trying situation ? Let him 
apply to the receivers. Alas I 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 I 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 mag- 
nitude, 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 5 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 be-en used j 
and, horrid to relate ! the very knife has not 
been overlooked in the fit of phrenzy. Ears 

o 2 


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 
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, despot- 
131% 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 despera- 
tion* They creep out clandestinely by night, and 
go in search of food into their master's, or some 
neighbouring plantation. But here they are al- 
most 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, 

* Particularly in Jamaica. These observations were made 
by disinterested people, who were there for three or four years 
during the late war. 


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 sub- 
jected to the lash, and unmercifully whipt and 
beaten on every trifling occasion, have been 
found to resist their opposers* Unpardonable 
crime I that they should have the feelings of na- 
ture I that their breasts should glow with re- 
sentment 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 conse- 
quence ? — 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 va- 
lued at a price, that would scarcely purchase 
an horse ; that the master has a power of mur- 
dering his slave, if he pays but a trifling fine ; 


and that the murder must be attended with un- 
common circumstances of horror, if it even pro- 
duces an enquiry. 

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 pos- 
terity, to tremble at the frown of tyrants I how 
ought they to perpetuate thy name, as venera- 
ble, to the remotest ages, who has secured, 
even to the meanest servant, a fair and impar- 
tial trial I 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 / Execra- 
ble 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 ser- 
vant of your pleasures : but these unfortunate 
men, from whom you derive your very plea- 
sures and your fortunes, you torture, mutilate, 
murder at discretion ! Sleep then you receivers, 
if you can, while you scarcely allow these un- 
fortunate people to rest at all ! feaft 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 ava- 
rice ought to shudder, and which humanity must 
detest ! 



SOME people rnay suppose, from the me- 
lancholy account that has been given in the pre- 
ceding 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 as- 
sertions, and that our description of the general 
treatment of slaves has been greatly exaggerat- 

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 hu- 
man being could possibly support it long.' 1 Me- 
lancholy truth I the wretched Africans generally 
perish in their prime. Let them reflect upon 
the prodigious supplies that are annually requir- 
ed, and their argument will be nothing less than 
a confession, that the slavery has been justly de- 


They appeal next to every man's own reason, 
and desire him to think seriously, whether, 
" self-interest will not always restrain the mas- 
ter 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 characteristics of 
more than half the world ? 

— But, to come more closely to the present 
case, self interest will be found but a weak bar- 
rier 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 effect. 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 can- 
not 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 re- 


sistance they have frequently found, that their 
passion has entirely got the better of their inte- 
rest^ 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 regulat- 
ed passions, are so frequently blind to their own 

But if passion may be supposed to be generally 
more than a balance for interest, how must the 
scale be turned in favour of the melancholy pic- 
ture exhibited, when we reflect that self preser- 
vation 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 pre- 
sent situation by violence ; that they are perpet- 
ually at war in their hearts with their oppressors, 
and are continually cherishing the seeds of re- 


venge ; it is evident that even avarice herself, 
however cool and deliberate, however free from 
passion and caprice, must sacrifice her own sor- 
did 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 sole- 
ly to every man's sober judgment to determine, 
what it might probably be, he would con- 
clude, 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 instan- 
ces of cruelty to slaves, as recorded by various 
writers. It is said that some'of these are so in- 
conceivably, and beyond all example inhuman, 
that their very excess above the common mea- 
sure 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 mas- 
ter 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 stagger- 
ed 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 of justice in 
this very country ; that it happened within the 
last five years ; that hundreds can come forward 
and say, that they heard the melancholy evidence 
with tears; what bounds is he to place to his be- 
lief ? 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 public court, as an authentic specimen of the 
treatment which the unfortunate Africans under- 
go, and at the same time, as an argument to 

* The action was brought by the owners against the under- 
writers, to recover the value of the murdered slaves. It was 
tried at Guildhall 


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. 



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 con- 

You say that a great part of your savage treat* 
ment 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 specific, 
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 per- 
ish I How much rather ought you receivers to 
be considered as robbers yourselves, who cause 
these unfortunate people to be stolen I And 
how much greater is your crime, who are robbers 
of human liberty I 

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 com- 
mon sense ! Have the wretched Africans for- 
mally resigned their freedom ? Have you any 
other claim upon their obedience, than that of 
force ? If then they are your subjects, you vio- 
late the laws of government, by making them 
unhappy. But if they are not your subjects, 
then, even though they should resist your pro- 
ceedings, they are not rebellious* < 

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 in- 
serted it in the colonial laws, and that you pun- 
ish by authority. But do you allude to that 
execrable code, that authorises murder f 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 possess ? 

Or, — What do you say to that daily unmerit- 
ed severity, which you consider only as common 
discipline ? Here you say that the Africans are 

p 2 


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, hos~ 
pitable : qualities, which all the African histori- 
ans allow them eminently to possess. If then 
they are vicious, they must have contracted ma- 
ny of their vices from yourselves ; and as to 
their own native vices, if any have been import- 
ed with them, are they not amiable, when com- 
pared 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 rea- 
soning, which is always applied, when the former 
is confuted; " that the Africans are an inferior 
link of the chain of nature, and are made for 

This assertion is proved by two arguments ; 
the first of which was advanced also by the an- 
cients, and is drawn from the inferiority of their 

Let us allow then for a moment, that they ap- 
pear to have no parts, that they appear to be void 
of understanding. And is this wonderful, when 
you receivers depress their senses by hunger I 
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, can- 


not 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 com- 
mon 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 ho- 
nors, or a lasting fame 1 These principles have 
all a wonderful effect upon the mind. They call 
upon it to exert its faculties, and bring those 
talents to the public 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 Afri- 
cans 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 suffer- 
ings will have an end. 

Such then is the nature of this servitude, that 
we can hardly expect to find in those, who under* 
go 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 can- 
not be surprized if a sullen gloomy stupidity 
should be the leading mark in their character ; 
or if they should appear inferior to those, who 
do not only enjoy the invaluable blessings of free- 
dom, 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 coun^ 
try 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 ca- 

It appears then, from the circumstances that 
have been mentioned, that to form a true judg- 
ment of the abilities of these unfortunate people, 
we must either take a general view of them be- 
fore 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 b& 
any reason to suppose, that they are at all infe* 
rior to others in the same situation, the argument 
will then gain some of that weight and import-* 
ance, 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 sav- 
age 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 ap* 


pears from the Nubian's Geography, the writings 
of Leo, the Moor, and all the subsequent histo- 
ries, which those, who have visited the African 
continent, have written from their own inspec- 
tion. Hence three conclusions ; that their abili- 
ties 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 what- 
ever, 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 de- 
scribed. 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 import- 
ance : 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 opportuni- 
ties that may be afforded them, let it be remeir 


bered that even their most polished situation 
may be called barbarous, and that this circum- 
stance, 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 ex- 
cellence 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 proficien- 
cy is certainly less ; but not less in proportion to 
their time and opportunity of study ; not less, be- 
cause they are less capable of attaining them T 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 music are such, as to have been 
generally noticed. They play frequently upon a 
variety of instruments, without any other assist- 


ance 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 conspi- 
cuous. Every occurrence, if their spirits are 
not too greatly depressed, is turned into a song. 
These songs are said to be incoherent and non^ 
sensical. 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 har- 
mony 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 re- 
moved, 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, 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 sbld with other slaves. She had 
no school education there, but receiving some 
little instruction from the family, with who m 
she was so fortunate as to live, she obtained such 
a knowledge of the English language within six- 
teen 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. 

* Phillis Wheatley, negro slave to Mr. John Wheatley, of 
Boston, in New-England. 


*From an HYMN to the EVENING. 

" FilPd 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. 

a Aurora hail ! and all the thousand dies, 
That deck thy progress thro J 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. 

* Lest it should be doubted whether these Poems are genu- 
ine, we shall transcribe the names of those, who signed a cer- 
tificate of their authenticity. 

His Excellency Thomas Hutchinson, Governor. 

The Honorable Andrew Oliver, Lieutenant Governor); 

The Hon. Thomas Hubbard, The Rev. Chas. Chauncy, D, D. 

The Hon. John Ervmg, The Rev. Mather Byles, D. D. 

The Hon. James Pitts, The Rev. Ed. Pemberton, D. D. 

The Hon. Harrison Gray, The Rev. Andrew Elliot, D. D. 

The Hon. James Bowdoin, The Rev. Sam. Cooper, D. D. 

John Hancock, Esq. The Rev. Samuel Mather, 

Joseph Green, Esq. The Rev. ]ohn Moorhead, 

Richard Carey, Esq, Mr, John Wheatley, her master. 



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

u Imagination ! who can sing thy force, 

Or who describe the swiftness of thy course? 

Soaring through air to find the bright abode, 

Th 7 empyreal palace of the thundering God, 
We on thy pinions can surpass the wind, 
And leave the rolling universe behind : 
From star to star the mental optics 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 Afri- 
can 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 en* 
lightened Europeans would have occasion to 

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 be- 
fore described, two persons, above mediocrity 
in the literary way, are as many a3 can be ex- 
pected 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 expec- 

<L 2 


tations in life to excite their genius. This has 
been constantly and solemnly asserted by the 
pious Benezet,* whom we have mentioned be- 
fore, 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 de- 
clared, that he could never find a difference be- 
tween their capacities and those of other people ; 
that they were as capable of reasoning as any in- 
dividual 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 speci- 
mens of as fine productions. 

Thus then does it appear from the testimony 
of this venerable man, whose authority is suffici- 
ent of itself to silence all objections against Af- 
rican 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^ 
s*nd the same opportunities of improvement, 

'■* In the Prelate, 


they would be equal, in all the various branches 
of science, to the Europeans, and that the ar- 
gument that states them " to be an inferior link 
of the chain of nature, and designed for servi- 
tude," as far as it depends on the inferiority of 
their capacities^ is wholly malevolent and false.* 

* As to Mr. Hume's assertions with respect to African ca- 
city, 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 attempt- 
ed to be proved, " that the Africans, are an in* 
ferior link of the chain of nature, and are de- 
signed 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 con- 
tend that the Africans, from these circumstances, 
are the descendants of f Cain : others, that they 
are the posterity of Ham ; and that as it was de- 
clared by divine inspiration, that these should be 
servants to the rest of the world, so they are de- 
signed for slavery ; and that the reducing of 
them to such a situation is only the accomplish- 
ment of the will of heaven : while the rest, con- 
sidering them from the satne circumstances as a 
totally distinct species of men, conclude them 
to be an inferior 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 

* Genesis, ch. iv. 15, 

o-t The human species. 189 

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 ©f 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 : by 
which it was foretold that the Canaanites, a part 
of the posterity of Ham, should serve the pos- 
terity of Shem and Japhat. Now how does it ap- 
pear that these wretched Africans are the descen- 
dants 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 writ- 
ings from giving any such account, that they 
shew the assertion to be false. They shew that 

* Genesis, ch. ix, 35, $6, 37. 


the * descendants of Cash were of the colour, 
to which the advocates for slavery allude ; and of 
course, that there was no such limitation of co- 
lour to the posterity of Canaan, v or the inherit- 
ors of the curse. 

Suppose we should now shew, upon the most 

undeniable evidence, f that those of the wretch- 

* - 

* Jeremiah says, ch. xiii. 23, " Can the ^Ethiopian change 
his colour, or the leopard his spots ? ,J Now the word, which 
is here translated JEthioplan, is in the original Hebrew " the 
descendant of Cusb," which shews that this colour was not con- 
fined to the descendants of Canaan, as the advocates for slavery 

f 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 incontrovertably peopled by the pos- 
terity 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 na- 
tions in that part of the world are descended from him ; at 
least more than from any other person." Jesepbus says, " that 


cd Africans, who are singled out as inheriting 
the curse, are the descendants of Cusli or Phut ; 
and that we should shew farther, that but a sin- 

Phut ivas th» founder of the nations in Libya, and the people were 
tailed <j)«po/ Phut." Antiq. L. I. c. 7. " By Lybia he un- 
derstands, as the Greeks did, Africa in general : for the particu- 
lar country called Lybia Proper, was peopled by the Lubim, or 
Lehabim, one of the branches from Mizraim, AtCttifA. %£ ov 
A/Cvsc, Chron. Paschale, p. 39. 

" The sons of Phut settled in Mauritania, where was a coun- 
try called Phutia, and a river of the like denomination, Mauri- 
tania?, Fluvius usque ad praesens Tempus Phut dicitur, omnisq ; 
circa eum Regio Phutensis. Hieron, Tradit. Hebrcese — Am- 
nem, quern vocant Put" Pliny, L. 5. c. 1. Some of this family 
settled above iEgypt, near iEthiopia, and were styled Tro- 
glodyte, QxJ g J a rpayXoferai Syncellus, p. 47. " Many 
of them passed inland, and peopled the Mediterranean coun* 

In process of time the sons of Chus also, (after their expul- 
sion from Egypt) made settlements upon the sea coast of Afri- 
ca, and came into Mauritania, Hence we find traces of them 
also in the name of places, as Churis, Chusares, upon the coast : 
And a river Chusa, and a city Cotta, together with a promonto- 
ry, 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 erup- 
tion 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 


gle 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 pro- 
phecy has been completed. A part of the de- 
scendants of Canaan were hewers of wood and 
drawers of water, and became tributary and sub- 
ject 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 

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 be- 
ing, as I imagine, of the race of Phut. The very country 
upon the river Gambia on one side, is at this day called Phufa 
of which Bluet, in his history of Juba Ben Solomon, gives an ac- 


its application,) because those who were the ob- 
jects of the curse, were a totally distinct people : 
that it is false in its proofs because no such dis- 
tinguishing marks, as have been specified, are to 
be found in the divine writings ; and that 3 if the 
proof could be made out, it would be now inap- 
plicable, 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 origi- 
nal ; that there are different species of mean. 
Now what must we justly conclude from such a 
supposition ! Must we conclude that one species 
is inferior to another, and that the inferiority cle- 
pends 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 de- 

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 accom- 


plished ; and that, as all men were derived from 
the same stock,- so this variety of appearance in 
men must either have proceeded from some in- 
terposition 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 pow- 
erful 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 I 

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 stich colour, features, and form, 
upon the different species of meii, as were best 
adapted to their situation. 

Thus, on whichever 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 sub- 
jugate your own brother: if features , then you 
must quarrel with all the world ; if colour , where 
are you to stop I It is evident, that if you tra- 
vel from the equator to the northern pole, you 
will find a regular gradation 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 P 
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 ridicu- 
lous to be farther noticed. 

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 ap- 
pearance, are derived from the same stock. 

To prove this, we shall not produce those in- 
numerable arguments, by which the scriptures 
have stood the test of ages, but advert to a single 
fact. It is an universal law, observable through- 
out the whole creation, that if two animals of a 
different species propagate, their offspring is una- 
ble 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 dis- 
tinct species from each other, it immediately 
fails. The rnulattoe is as capable of continuing 
his own species as his father ; a clear and irre- 
fragable proof, that the '^scripture account of the 

* 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 4 
never &uppose 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 re- 
futed by the celebrated Captain Cooke, who shewed that the 


creation is true, and that " God, who hath made 
the world, hath made of '* one blood all the na- 
tions of men that dwell on all the face of the 

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 proba- 
ble 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 as- 
certain it? Shall we Englishmen say, that it Was 
the same as that which we now find to be peeu- 

traject between the continents of Asia and America, \Vas afc 
short as some, which people in as rude a state have been actual- 
ly known to pass. This affords an excellent caution against 
an ill-judged and hasty censure of the divine writings, becau&e 
every difficulty which may be started, cannot be instantly 
cleared up. 

* The divine writings, which assert that all men were de- 
rived from the same stoci, shew also, in the same instance of 
^tfsby p. 190, that ; some sof them hid chaesged tk&r original 

R 2 


liar 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 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 ; be- 
cause 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 pecu- 
liar 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 beem 


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 
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 ef 
feet upon the human frame, and have the power 
of changing it more or less from its primitive ap* 
pearance, as they are more or less numerous or 
powerful than those, which acted upon the frame 
of man in the first seat of his habitation* 

With respect to the Divine interposition, two 
epochs have been assigned, when this difference 
of colour has been imagined to have been so pro- 

* The following are the grand colours discernible in man- 

kind, between which there are many shades ; 

White } r Copper 

[—Olive— i 
Brown J C ?kck 


duced. 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 cokmfr 
alluded to were assigned at this period, it was 
assigned to the descendants of CanatM^ to distin- 
guish them from those of his other brothers, and 
was therefore limited to the former. But the de- 
scendants of * Cush, as we have shewn before, 
partook of the satne 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 c&kitr 
itiight 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, 

* See note, p. i'96. To this We ifray add, that the rest of 
the descendants of Hafn y as far as they can be traced, are now 
also black, as well as many of the descendant* t>f Sbtm* 


would have mentioned these circumstances also, 
if they had actually contributed to bring about 
so singular an event ; secondly, because the con- 
fusion 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 dis- 
persed, each tribe in its peculiar hue, it is im- 
possible to conceive, that they could have wan- 
dered and settled in suchja manner, as to exhibit 
that regular gradation of colour from the equa- 
tor to the poles, so conspicuous at the present 

These are the only periods, which there has 
been even the shadow of a probability for assign- 
ing ; and we may therefore conclude that the pre- 
ceding observations, together with such circum- 
stances 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 there- 
fore from that incidental co-operation of causes 7 
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 upoa 
the subject. These we shall submit to the peru- 
sal 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 in* 
to two parts, or lamina ; the exterior and thine sf", 
called by the Greeks Epidermis, by the Romans 
Cuticula, and hence by us Cuticle ; and the inte- 
rior, called by the former Derma, and by the 
latter Cutis, or true skin. Hence they must ne- 
cessarily have supposed, that, as the true shin 
was in every respect the same in all human sub- 
jects, however various their enternal 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 d ay ; which coagulated substance adhered 


%o firmly to the Cuticle, as in all former anatomi- 
cal 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-trans?- 
parent ; 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 invariabfy the same, that the mucosum 
corpus was the seat of colour. 

This has been farther confirmed by all subset 
quent anatomical experiments, by which it ap- 
pears, that, whatever is the colour of this inter- 
mediate 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 de- 
gree, 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 ima- 
gine, 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 * ob- 
servations no maxim is more true in physiology, 
than that on the mucosum corpus depends the co- 
lour of the human body ; or, in other words, 
that the mucosum corpus being of a different co- 
lour in different inhabitants of the globe, and ap- 
pearing 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 co-operate in 
producing this different appearance, they pro- 

* Diseases have a great effect upon the mucosum corpu* t 
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 de- 
monstration, 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. 


cluce it by acting upon the mucosum corpus , 
which, from the almost incredible manner in 
which the * cuticle is perforated, is as accessible 
as the cuticle itself. These causes are probably 
those various qualities of things, which, combin- 
ed with the influence of the sun, contribute to 
ibrm what we call climate. For when any per- 
son considers, that the mucous substance, be- 
forementioned, 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 hypo- 
thesis, and he must adopt it without any hesita- 
tion, as the genuine cause of the phenomenon. 

This fact, f of the variation of the mucous 
substance according to the situation of the 
place, has been clearly ascertained in the numer- 
ous anatomical experiments that have been made ; 
in which, subjects of all nations have come un- 
der consideration. The natives of many of the 
kingdoms and isles of Asia, are found to have 

* The cutaneous pores are so excessively small, that one 
grain of sand, (according to Dr. Lewenhoeck's calculations) 
Would cover many hundreds of them. 

f 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 lorjr established In diifcreni latitudes.. 


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 inhabit- 
ants 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 epidemic complexion, 
prevalent among them, is nearly of the colour 
of the pickled Spanish olive ; while in this coun- 
try, and those situated nearer the north pole, It 
appears to be nearly, if not absolutely, white. 

These are * facts, which anatomy has estab- 
lished ; 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 in- 
vented 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 

* We beg leave to return our thanks here to a genleman, 
eminent in the medical line, who furnished us with the 
abovementioncd facts. 


themselves have been obliged, almost as soon as 
they have proposed them, to acknowledge them 

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 mountans, in the neighbour- 
hood 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 codling shades, and a moist 
atmosphere from their continual exhalations, by 
which the ardour of the sun is considerably abat* 
ed. 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 metallic parti- 


cles, which are continually exhaling from the 
bowels of the earth, is ascribed the different de- 
gree of blackness, by which some African na- 
tions are distinguishable from each other, tho> 
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 co- 
lour; 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 succes- 
sion from thence to the poles ; and to paint theih 
with the same colour which prevails in the re- 
spective 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 per- 
haps in the appearance of some of the countries 
through which it ran, though the difference 
would consist wholly in shades of the same co« 


The argument therefore, which is brought 
against the hypothesis, is so far from being an 
objection, that we shall consider it as 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 
shades of the same colour in the inhabitants of 
the same parallel. 

Td 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 eli- 
mates, their children, born there, are of a differ-* 
ent colour from themselves ; that is, lighter in the 
first, and darker in the second instance. 

* 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 
thac they should be like the old established inhabitants of the 
parallel, into which they have lately come, 

£ 2 


As a proof of the first, we shall give the words 
of the Abbe Raynal, in his admired publication, 
*| " The children, 5 ' says he, " which they, (the 
Africans J procreate in America, &re not so black 
as their parents were. After each generation 
the difference becomes more palpable. It is pos- 
sible, that after a numerous succession of gene- 
rations, the men come from Afr ' i would not 
be distinguished from those of the country, into 
which they may have been transplanted," 

This circumstance we have had the pleasure 
of hearing confirmed by a variety of persons, 
who have been witnesses of the fact ; but parti- 
cularly by many f intelligent 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 them- 
selves have constantly observed it, but that they 
have heard it observed by others. 

* Justamond*8 Abbe Raynal, v. 5. p. I )$. 

f 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 m themselves wnce they 
«am« to England* 


Neither is this variation in the children from 
the colour of their parents improbable. The 
children of the blackest Africans are born * white. 
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 varia- 
tion in the children from the colour of their pa* 
rents is an event, which must be reasonably ex- 
pected: for being born white, and not having 
equally powerful causes to act upon them in 
•older, as their parents had in the hotter climates 
which they left* it must necessarily follow, that 
the same effect 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 

ei This circumstance, which always happens, shews that 
they are descended from the same parents as ourselves; for had 
they been a distinct specks 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 hfotk 


country at an early age into colder regions, have 
been * observed to be of a lighter colour than 
those who have remained at home till they ar- 
rived at a state of manhood. For having under- 
gone 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, in the Philosophical 
Transactions. f " The Spaniards who have in- 
habited 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 bar- 

* This observation was communicated to us by the gentle* 
man in the medical line, to whom we returned our thanks hf 
certain anatomical facts. 

f Philos, Trans. No. 476- sect, 4. 


Parous 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 f late writer, who describing 
the African coast, and the European settlements 
there, has the following passage. " There are 
several other Portuguese settlements, and one 
of some note at Mitomba, a river in Sierra Leon* 
The people here called Portuguese, are princi- 
pally persons bred from a mixture of the first 
Portuguese discoverers with the natives, and now 
become, in their complexion and ivooly 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 

t Treatise upon the Trade from Great Britain to Africa.* 
hy an African merchant. 


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 ob- 
servations 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 deter- 
mined period of succeeding time* 

But though these facts seem sufficient of them- 
selves 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 strike 
ing 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 is white, the Portuguese 
swarthy, the Armenian olive, and the Arabian 
copper ; \n short, that there appear to be as ma- 
ny different species of Jews^ as there are coun- 
tries in which they reside. 

To these facts we shall add the following ob- 
servation, that if we can give credit to the an- 
cient historians in general, a change from the 
darkest black to the purest white must have act- 
ually been accomplished. One instance, per- 
haps, may |be thought sufficient, f Herodotus 
relates, that the Colchi were black, and that they 
had crisped hair. These people were a detach- 
ment of the JKthiopian 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 

* 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. 

t Herodotus. Euterpe, p. 8®. Editio Stephani, printed 


same author informed us of this circumstance, 
we should have thought it * strange, that a peo- 
ple of this description should have been found 
in such a latitude. Now, as they were undoubt- 
cdly settled there, and as they were neither so 
totally destroyed, nor made any such rapid con- 
quests, as that history should notice the event, 
there is great reason to presume, that their de- 
scendants 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 f fair Circas* 

* This circumstance confirms what wc said in a former rote 
p. 309, 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 

f Suppose, without the knowledge of any historian, they 
had made such considerable conquests, as to have settled them- 
ielves 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 CoUhis y who are black 


As we have now shewn it to be highly proba- 
ble, from the facts which have been advanced, 
that climate is the cause of the difference of co- 
lour which prevails in the different inhabitants of 
the globe, we shall now shew its probability from 
so similar an effect produced on the mucous sub* 
stance 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 phenomenon may be caused. 

This probability may be shewn in the case of 
freckles, which are to be seen in the face of chil- 
dren, 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 mu- 
cous substance of the face, and drying the accu- 
mulating fluid. This uccumulating'fluid, or per- 
spirable matter, is at first colourless ; but being 
exposed to violent heat, or dried, becomes brown. 
Hence, the mucosum corpus being tinged in va- 
rious 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 ah 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 con- 
tiguous 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 seat 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 there- 
fore 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 forci- 
bly and universally on the mucous mbstance 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 gl 


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 child- 
ren 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 m another; that Noah 
and his sons were probably of an. olive com- 
plexion ; than tihose ©f their descendants, wh® 


went farther to the south, became of a deeper 
olive or copper ; while those, who went still far- 
ther, 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, be- 
came 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 'gen- 
erations, degenerate into the same colour. 

Having now replied to the argument, " that 
the Africans are an inferior link of the chain of 
nature, 1 ' as far as it depended on their capacity 
and colour 1 we shall now only take notice of an 
expression, which the receivers before-mention- 
ed are pleased to make use of, " that they are 
made for slavery." 

Had the Africans been made for slavery, or tQ 
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 

©# TWi BtfttfAtf SPECIES. 221 

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 inciden- 
tal: for in what volume of nature or religion is 
it written, that one society of men should breed 
skives for the benefit of another I Hor ia 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, which so frequently drives them to the 
horrid extremity of finishing their own existence. 
Nor would they have been endowed with a con- 
templative 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 

m Tlte-ret are a peculiar people among those transported: 
from Africa to the colonies* who immediately on receiving 
punishment, destroy themselves, T&m i& & fk* w&€& tfcfc 
nnivtr* are unable to contradict. 

1? 2 


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 per- 
ceive the intention of your punishment, your se- 
verities 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 facul- 
ties by the severity of your discipline, have re- 
duced men, who had once the power of reason, 
to an equality with the brute creation. 



THE reader may perhaps think, that the re- 
ceivers have by this time expended all their ar- 
guments, but their store is not so easily exhaust- 
ed. 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 milita- 
ry ; 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, nndthat they are much happier in the co- 
lonies 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. In- 
deed 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, a*e but empty decla- 

It ts said r first, of military punishment®, that 
they are more severe than those which the Afri- 
cans undergo. But this is a bare assertion with- 
out 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 our- 
selves, and to fill up those important considera- 
tions, which we have just said that the receivers 
had omitted. 

That military punishments are severe we con- 
fess, 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 com- 
parison. The soldier is never punished but after 
a fair and equitable trial, and the decision of a 
military court ; the unhappy African, at the dis- 
cretion of his lord. The one * knows what 
particular conduct will constitute an offence ; 
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 

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 ? 

* 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. 


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 happi- 
ness. If the representations of the receivers be 
true, it is evident that those of the most ap- 
proved writers, who have placed a considerable 
share of happiness in the cottage,, have been mis- 
taken 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 
QwuGmntry v a&(iamQVig\\i& relations and friends 
That he is actually free, and that his children 
wiH be the same ? That he can never be sold as 


a beast? that he can speak his mind without the 
fear of the lash P That he cannot even be struck 
with impunity P And that he partakes, equally 
with his superiors, of the protection of the law ? 
Now, there is no one of these advantages which 
the African possesses, and no one which the de- 
fenders 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 practices 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 re- 
d ress, and are equally disgraceful to the * govern- 

* 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 permis- 
sion 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 punish- 
ed as rebellious* 


merits which sutler them, if not encourage them 
to exist. To attempt therefore to justify one 
species of iniquity, by comparing it with ano- 
ther, 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 honor. 

We come now to those scenes of felicity, 
which slaves are said to enjoy. The first advan- 
tage which they are said to experience, is that of 
manumission. But here the advocates for slavery 
conceal an important circumstance. They ex- 
patiate 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 perfect- 
ly agree with them in this particular. But they 
do not tell as that these advantages are confined; 
that they are confined to some favourite domes- 
tic; 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 perpetu al drudg- 
ery -, 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 incapa- 


ble 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. 

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 liberali- 
ty of the receivers. But people must not be led 
away by agreeable and pleasant sounds. They 
must not suppose that these gardens are made 
fox flowers ; or that they are places of amuse- 
ment, in which they can spend their time in bot- 
anical researches and delights. Alas, they do 
not furnish them with a theme for such pleasing 
pursuits and speculations ! They must be cultiv- 
ated in those hours, which ought to be apropri- 
ated to f rest ; arid they must be cultivated, not 

* 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 repair- 
ing fences, or in doing some trifling work on a scanty allow- 
ance. For to free a field negro, so long as he can work, is a 
maxim, which, notwithstanding the numerous boasted manu- 
missions, no master ever thinks of adopting in the colonies. 

f They must be cultivated always on a Sunday, and fre- 
quently in those hours which should be appropriated to sleeps 
m the wretched possessors must be inevitably starved. 



for an amusement, but to make up, if it be pos- 
sible, the great deficiency in their weekly allow- 
ance of provisions. Hence it appears, that the 
receivers have no merit whatever in such an ap- 
propriation 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 week- 
ly 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 ex- 
perience, 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 re- 
corded to the immortal honour of the receivers. 
We wish we eould 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 


has bat one in * Jiffy-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 deceiv- 
ed, 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 gen- 
erally supposed to enjoy on such convivial occa- 
sions. 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 ex- 

* They are allowed in general three holy-days at Christmas, 
but in Jamaica they have two also at Easter, and two at Whiu 
suntide ; 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 sup- 
position, that the receivers do not break in upon the after*, 
noons, 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 far their masters ; but 
such an holy-day, that if they do not employ it in the cultir- 
ation of their little spots, they must be starved, 


cites them to convivial society, that they proceed 
rather from an uncommon depression of spirits, 
which makes them even sacrifice their * rest, 
for the sake of experiencing for a moment a 
more joyful oblivion of their cares. For sup- 
pose any one of the receivers, in the middle of 
a dance, were to address his slaves in the follow- 
ing manner ) " Africans ! I begin at last to feel 
for your situation ; and my conscience is severe- 
ly hurt, whenever I reflect that I have been re- 
ducing 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 bro- 
ken by the intolerable share of labour which I 
have hitherto imposed upon you. I will there- 
fore 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 motion- 

* 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. 


less in an instant ? Which interrupts the fes- 
tive scene ? their country ?- transporting 

sound ! Behold ! they are now flying from 

the dance : you may see them running to the 
shore, and frantic as it were with joy, demand- 
ing with open arms an instantaneous passage to 
their beloved native plains. 

Such are the colonial delights, by the repre- 
sentation of which the receivers would persuade 
us, that the Africans are taken from their coun- 
try 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 — 4o bathe, to dance,—* 
to keep holy-day, — >to he jovial — But there is 
something so truly ridiculous in the attempt to 
impose these scenes of felicity on the public, as 
scenes which fall to the lot of slaves, that the 
receivers must have been driven to great extren> 
ities, 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 superior happi» 
ness consist? In those real scenes, it must be 
replied^ which have been just mentioned ; for 

u 2 


these, by the confession of the receivers, con- 
stitute 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 plea- 
sure 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 princi- 
ple, 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 plea- 
sures of manumission f Or that he might taste 
the charms of liberty with a greater relish ? Nor 
is the assertion less false in every other consider- 
ation. 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 P — 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 la- 
bour immediately to succeed their recreations, 
and no overseer to receive them under the dis- 
cipline of the lash ? — If these there fore 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 unwilling- 
ness 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 judgf: of another 
man's happiness ? That state which each man 5 

* Bishop of Glocester's sermon, preached before the so- 
ciety for the propagation of the gospel, at the anniversary 
meeting, on the aistof February, 1766. 


under the guidance of his maker, forms for him- 
self, 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 part." 

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 coun- 
try 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, per- 
haps, in an happy moment, when you are dealing 
out to them their provisions for the week : and 
are but little aware, that, though the counten- 
ance 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 man- 
ner : were you to shew us that they are * pro- 
tected at all ; or that even one in a thousand of 
those masters have f suffered death, 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. 

* 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. 

f Tzuo instances are recorded by the receivers, out of about 
fifty thousand, where a white man has suffered death for the 
murder of a negroc ; 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* 


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 Jives. 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 expe- 
rienced 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 
delight ? 

Nor is the assertion of the receivers less lia- 
ble 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 * demon- 
stration of joy. 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 in- 
dulgent 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 ty- 
ranny and oppression. 

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 

* A negroe funeral is considered as a curious sight, and is 
attended with singing, dancing, music, and every circum^ 
stance that can shew the attendants to be happy on the occa« 



one of the western colonies of the Europeans, 
* six hundred and fifty thousand slaves were im- 
ported within an hundred years ; at the expira- 
tion of which time, their whole posterity were 
found to amount to one hundred and forty thou- 
sand. This fact will ascertain the treatment of 
itself. For how shamefully must these unfortu- 
nate people have been oppressed ? What a dread- 
ful havock must famine, fatigue, and cruelty, 
have made among them, when we consider, that 
the descendants of six hundred and fifty thou* 
san d people in the prime of life, gradually im- 
ported within a century, are less numerous than 
those, which only f ten thousand would have 
produced in the same period, under common 

* 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 Colonic de St. Domingue y published by authority in 17770 

f Ten thousand people under fair advantages, and in a soil 
congenial to their constitutions, and where the means of sub- 
sistence 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 ia 
the other, will be more conspicuous. 


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, sensi- 
ble of the miseries of a servile state, they re- 
solve to wear out, as fast as they possibly can, 
their unfortunate slaves, that their miseries may 
the sooner end, and that a wretched posterity 
maybe prevented from sharing their parental 
condition. Now, whether this is the plan of 
of reasoning which the receivers adopt, we can« 
not take upon >is to decide ; but true it is, that 
the effect produced is exactly the same, as if they 
had reasoned wholly on this benevolent principle. 



WE have now taken a survey of the treat- 
ment 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 the severity, we allotted the remaining 
chapters for their discussion. In these we con- 
sidered 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 arc 
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 briag such 
circumstances to light, as clearly shew, thai 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, not- 
withstanding all the arguments to the contrary, 
are exquisitely miserable, we ask you receivers^ 
by xvhat right you reduce them to so wretched a 
situation ? 

You reply, that you buy them ; that your mo- 
ney 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 pro- 
fessed to view your treatment, or examine your 
right, when we said, that " * the question re- 
solved itself into two separate parts for discus- 
sion ; into the African commerce, as explained 
in the history of slavery.* and the subsequent 

* Page 71. 


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 of law and 
government, the dictates of reason, the common 
piaxims of equity, the laws of nature, the admoni- 
tions of conscience, and, in short, the whole doc- 
trine 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 princi- 
ples, 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 ta 
require consideration. But who are you that 
have this exclusive charter of trading in the li- 
berties of mankind ? When did nature, or rather 
the Author of nature, make so partial a distinc- 
tion between you and them ? When did He say, 
that you should have the privilege of selling 
others, and that others should not have the pri- 
vilege of selling you ? 

*Pagc i a 7. 


Now since you confess, that no person what- 
ever has a right to dispose of you in this manner, 
you must confess also, that those things are un- 
lawful 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 treat- 
ment? Would you not resist it with a safe con- 
science ? 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 Afri- 
cans. They have a right to resist your proceed- 
ings. 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 con- 

X 2: 


sent. 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 disso- 
ciation ; perfectly free* 



HAVING now considered both the commerct 
and slavery, it remains only to collect such argu- 
ments as are scattered in different parts of the 
work, and to make such additional remarks, at 
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 in- 
ferior 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 reason- 
able 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 pa- 
rents, 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 Gbey 
your parents. Now, if you should all answer 
as we could wish, if you should all answer 
consistently with reason, nature, and the reveal- 
ed 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 otvn use 
and convenience ; he must instantly cease to be ac- 
countable 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 so- 
cial duty must receive, how considerably Christi- 
anity 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 


•ertain 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 sys- 
tem of religion, which appears to resist the natu- 
ral rights of men, and to give a sanction to bru- 
tality and murder ? / 

But, as we are now mentioning Christianity 5 
we must pause for a little time, to make a few 
remarks on the arguments which are usually de- 
duced from thence by the receivers, in defence 
of their system of oppression. For the reader 
may readily suppose, that, if they did not hesi- 
tate 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 v 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, * not noav as a ser- 
vant, 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 wiil> 
than of necessity" 

It appears that the same Onesimtis, 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 Collossians, and was after«» 
wards 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 

* JEpist. to Philemon, 

<ht THE HUMAN SFEClfiS. 251 

not furnish us with one for the abolition of slav- 
ery. But the reason is obvious. Slavery at the 
time of the introduction of the gospel was uni- 
versally prevalent, and if Christianity had abrupt- 
ly declared, that the millions of slaves should 
have been made free, who were then in the world, 
it would have been universally rejected, as con- 
taining doctrines that were dangerous, if not de- 
structive, 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 u you shall neither buy, nor sell, nor 
possess a slavey' it is evident that in its general 
tenor, it sufficiently militates against the custom. 

The, first doctrine which it inculcates, is that 
of brotherly love* It commands good will to- 
wards men. It enjoins us to love our neighbors 
,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 be- 
nevolence, who reduces an unfortunate person 
against his wrll 9 to the most insupportable of 
all human conditions ; who considers him as his 
private property , and treats him, not as a bro- 
ther, nor as one of the same parentage with him- 
is elf y but as an animal of the brute creation f 


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 ac- 
count for his actions, whose actions are not at 
his own disposal ? This is the case with the ^ 
proper slave. His liberty is absolutely bought 
and appropriated ; and if the purchase is just 
and equitable ', he is under the necessity of per- 
petrating 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 prejudi- 
ces, and occasioned its abolition. Hence one, 
among many other proofs, that Christianity was 

* The African slave is of this description ; and we could 
wish, in all our arguments on the presert subject, to be under- 
stood as having spoken only of proper slaves 1 he slave who 
is condemned to the oar, to the fortifications, and other pub- 
lic 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. 


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 estab- 
lished, 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 preach- 
ed unto every creature, and bring it into con- 
tempt, but you oppose its tenets also : first, be- 
cause you violate that law of universal benevo" 
lence, which was to take away those hateful dis- 
tinctions of Jew and Gentile, Greek and Bar- 
barian, 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, tho 5 
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 determin- 
ed. This we may reasonably apprehend to be the 
case : and we have * shewn, 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 entire- 
ly got the better of their avarice, and they have 
murdered, in cool blood, every individual, with- 
out 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, in- 
cluding the victors and vanquished, might be 
supposed to perish. Now, as the annual ex- 
portation 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 publicly seized by virtue of 
the authority of their prince, compose together, 
at least, nine-tenths of the African slaves, it fol- 
lows, 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 ser- 
vitude, and it will immediately appear that no 
less than sixty thousand people annually perish in 

*5 See the description of an African battle, p. ixi* 


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 trav- 
elling to the ships. Many of these unfortunate 
people have a journey of one thousand miles to 
perform on foot, and are driven like sheep thro' 
inhospitable woods and deserts, where they fre- 
quently die in great numbers, from fatigue and 
want. Now if to those, who thus perish on the 
African continent, by war and travelling, we sub- 
join '* those, who afterwards perish on the 
voyage, and in the seasoning together, it \yill ap- 
pear that, in ev^ery yearly attempt to supply the 
colonies, an hundred thousand mast 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 mur- 
der of so many and innocent persons I What 
punishment is not to be expected for such mon- 
strous 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, 

"* The lowest computation is 40,000, see p. 151. 
T 2 


annually murdered, ascend the celestial man- 
sions, 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 I Do we allude to that awful day, 
which shall surely come, when the master shall 
behold his murdered negro 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 punish- 
ment, which may be inflicted on them here, as 
members of a wicked community ? For as a 
body politic, if its members are ever so numer- 
ous, may be considered as an whole, acting of 
itself, and by itself, in all aifairs 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. 

u Now, whether we consider the crime, with 
respect to the individuals immediately concern- 
ed in this most barbarous and cruel traffic, or 
whether we consider it as * patronized and en- 

* 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. 


couraged 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 wicked- 
ness,— a crime, which being both of individu- 
als 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 unpunished.* 

But alas ! he seems already to have interfered 
on the occasion ! The f violent and supernatu- 
ral agitations of all the elements, which, for a 
series of years, have prevailed in those Europe- 
an settlements, where the unfortunate Africans 
are retained in a state of slavery, and which 
have brought unspeakable calamities on the in- 
habitants, and public losses on the states to 
which they severally belong, are so many awful 
visitations of God for this inhuman violation of 

* Sermon preached before the University of Cambridge, 
by the Rev. Peter Peckard. 

f The first noted earthquake at Jamaica, happened June 
the 7th i6o2r, when Port Royal was totally sunk. Thiswat 
succeeded by one in the year 1697, and by another in the year 


his laws. And it is not perhaps unworthy of re- 
mark, that as the subjects of Great Britain have 
two thirds of this impious commerce in their 
own hands, so they have suffered in the same 
proportion, or * more severely than the rest. 

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 ha- 
bituated 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 confi- 
dence, that the Europeans have richly deserved 
them all ; that the fear of sympathy, which can 
hardly be restrained on other melancholy occa- 
sions, seems to forget to flow at the relation of 
these ; and that we can never, with any shadow 
of justice, wish prosperity to the undertakers of 

172a, from which time in the present, these regions of the 
globe seem to have been severely visited, but particularly dur- 
ing 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. 

* The many ships of war belonging to the British navy, 
which were lost with all their crews in these dreadful hurri- 
canes, will sufficiently prove the fact. 


those, whose success must be at the expence of 
the happiness of millions of their fellow-crea- 

But this is sufficient. For if liberty is only an 
adventitious right ; if men are by no means su- 
perior 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 con- 
science, 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 God.