|Original Title:||Traite des nègres|
|Volume and Page:||Vol. 16 (1765), pp. 532–533|
|Author:||Louis, chevalier de Jaucourt (biography)|
|Translator:||Stephanie Noble [University of New Hampshire]|
|Original Version (ARTFL):||Link|
This text is protected by copyright and may be linked to without seeking permission. Please see http://quod.lib.umich.edu/d/did/terms.html for information on reproduction.
|Citation (MLA):||Jaucourt, Louis, chevalier de. "Slave trade." The Encyclopedia of Diderot & d'Alembert Collaborative Translation Project. Translated by Stephanie Noble. Ann Arbor: Michigan Publishing, University of Michigan Library, 2007. Web. [fill in today's date in the form 18 Apr. 2009 and remove square brackets]. <http://hdl.handle.net/2027/spo.did2222.0000.114>. Trans. of "Traite des nègres," Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, vol. 16. Paris, 1765.|
|Citation (Chicago):||Jaucourt, Louis, chevalier de. "Slave trade." The Encyclopedia of Diderot & d'Alembert Collaborative Translation Project. Translated by Stephanie Noble. Ann Arbor: Michigan Publishing, University of Michigan Library, 2007. http://hdl.handle.net/2027/spo.did2222.0000.114 (accessed [fill in today's date in the form April 18, 2009 and remove square brackets]). Originally published as "Traite des nègres," Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, 16:532–533 (Paris, 1765).|
Slave trade is the purchase of Negroes made by Europeans on the coasts of Africa, who then employ these unfortunate men as slaves in their colonies. This purchase of Negroes to reduce them into slavery is a negotiation that violates all religion, morals, natural law, and human rights.
According to an Englishman of today, who is full of enlightenment and humanity, the Negroes did not become slaves by any right of war; nor did they voluntarily sacrifice themselves to slavery. Therefore, their children are not born as slaves. Everyone knows that Negroes are being purchased from their princes, who believe they have the right to own their freedom. Everybody is also aware that merchants transport these Negroes as if they were merchandise, either to their colonies or to America, where they are put on display to be sold.
If a trade of this kind can be justified by a moral principle, then there is absolutely no crime, however atrocious, that cannot be legitimized. Kings, princes, and magistrates are not owners of their subjects; therefore they are not entitled to their subjects’ freedom, nor do they have the right to sell anyone into slavery.
Moreover, nobody has the right to buy these subjects or to call himself their master. Men and their freedom are not objects of commerce; they can be neither sold, nor purchased, nor bought at any price. Thus, a man must blame only himself if his slave escapes. He paid money for illicit merchandise, even though all laws of humanity and equity forbid him to do so.
Thus, each of those unfortunates who are merely considered slaves, has the right to be declared free since he never lost his freedom and never could. Furthermore, neither his prince, nor his father, nor anybody else in the world has the ability to own this freedom. Accordingly, the purchase of it is worthless: this Negro does not, nor could he ever, deprive himself of his natural right. He carries it everywhere, and can demand that he be allowed to enjoy it wherever he goes. It is thus an obvious inhumanity that, in the free country to which the Negro is transported, judges do not immediately decide to liberate him by declaring that he is free, as he is the judges’ fellow man and has a soul like theirs.
There are some authors who set themselves up as political legal experts and who boldly say that questions relating to a society’s condition must be decided by its national laws. They also argue that when a man is denoted a slave in America, he must remain a slave when he is transported to Europe. However, this results in deciding the rights of humanity by despicable civil laws, as Cicero said. Must not the magistrates of a nation, out of consideration for another nation, have any regard for their own species? Is it their deference to a law, which obliges them to nothing, that forces them to trample on the Law of Nature, which obligates all men in all times and places? Is there any law that is as necessary as the external laws of equity? Can one raise the question of whether a judge is more obligated to observe them, than to respect the arbitrary and inhumane customs of colonies?
One might say that these colonies would be quickly ruined if the slavery of Negroes were abolished. If this is true, must we then presume that the Negro population must be horribly wronged for us to enrich ourselves, or provide for our luxury? It is true that robbers’ purses would be empty if stealing were put to an end: but do men have the right to enrich themselves in such cruel and criminal ways in the first place? What gives a bandit the right to steal from passer-bys? Who is permitted to become wealthy by robbing his fellow men of their happiness? Is it legitimate to strip the human species of its most sacred rights, only to satisfy one’s own greed, vanity, or particular passions? No...European colonies should be destroyed rather than create so many unfortunates!
However, I do not believe that the abolition of slavery would ruin the European colonies. Their commerce would temporarily suffer: I wish for this. Since the outcome is always affected by new situations, one could not immediately follow another system. However, many other advantages would result from this abolition.
It is this trade of Negroes, it is the usage of servitude, which prevented America from being populated as promptly that it could have. If one frees the Negroes, in a few generations this vast and fertile country will have an infinite number of inhabitants. The arts and talents will flourish there, and instead of being barely populated by savages and ferocious beasts, America will be populated by industrious men only. It is freedom, it is also industry that will be the real sources of abundance. As long as a population conserves this industry and this freedom, there will be nothing to fear. Industry, just out of necessity, is ingenious and inventive. It finds a thousand different ways to procure riches, and if one of these channels of opulence gets blocked, a hundred others immediately open.
Sensitive and generous souls would undoubtedly applaud these reasons in the name of humanity, but the avarice and greed that dominate the earth, will always refuse to listen to them.