THOUGHTS AND SENTIMENTS ON THE EVIL OF SLAVERY.
One law, and one manner shall be for you, and for the stranger that sojourneth with you; and there|fore, all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.
Numb. xv.16.—Math. vii.12.
AS several learned gentlemen of distinguished abilities, as well as eminent for their great humanity, liberality and candour, have written various essays against that infamous traffic of the African Slave Trade, carried on with the West-India planters and merchants, to the great shame and disgrace of all Christian nations wherever it is admitted in any of their territories, or in any place or situation amongst them; it cannot be amiss that I should thankfully acknowledge these truly worthy and humane gentlemen with the warmest sense of gratitude, for their beneficent and laudable endeavours towards a total suppres|sion of that infamous and iniquitous traffic of stealing, kid-napping, buying, selling, and cruel|ly enslaving men!
Page 2Those who have endeavoured to restore to their fellow-creatures the common rights of nature, of which especially the poor unfortunate Black Peo|ple have been so unjustly deprived, cannot fail in meeting with the applause of all good men, and the approbation of that which will for ever re|dound to their honor; they have the warrant of that which is divine: Open thy mouth, judge right|eously, plead the cause of the poor and needy; for the liberal deviseth liberal things, and by liberal things shall stand. And they can say with the pious Job, Did not I weep for him that was in trouble; was not my soul grieved for the poor?
The kind exertions of many benevolent and humane gentlemen, against the iniquitous traffic of slavery and oppression, has been attended with much good to many, and must redound with great honor to themselves, to humanity and their country; their laudable endeavours have been productive of the most beneficent effects in pre|venting that savage barbarity from taking place in free countries at home. In this, as well as in many other respects, there is one class of people (whose virtues of probity and humanity are well known) who are worthy of universal approbation and imitation, because, like men of honor and humanity, they have jointly agreed to carry on no slavery and savage barbarity among them; and, since the last war, some mitigation of slavery has been obtained in some respective districts of Ame|rica, though not in proportion to their own vaunt|ed claims of freedom; but it is to be hoped, that they will yet go on to make a further and greater reformation. However, notwithstanding all that has been done and written against it, that brutish barbarity, and unparalelled injustice, is still car|ried Page 3 on to a very great extent in the colonies, and with an avidity as insidious, cruel and oppressive as ever. The longer that men continue in the practice of evil and wickedness, they grow the more abandoned; for nothing in history can equal the barbarity and cruelty of the tortures and mur|ders committed under various pretences in mo|dern slavery, except the annals of the Inquisition and the bloody edicts of Popish massacres.
It is therefore manifest, that something else ought yet to be done; and what is required, is evidently the incumbent duty of all men of en|lightened understanding, and of every man that has any claim or affinity to the name of Christian, that the base treatment which the African Slaves undergo, ought to be abolished; and it is more|over evident, that the whole, or any part of that iniquitous traffic of slavery, can no where, or in any degree, be admitted, but among those who must eventually resign their own claim to any de|gree of sensibility and humanity, for that of bar|barians and russians.
But it would be needless to arrange an history of all the base treatment which the African Slaves are subjected to, in order to shew the exceeding wickedness and evil of that infidious traffic, as the whole may easily appear in every part, and at every view, to be wholly and totally inimical to every idea of justice, equity, reason and huma|nity. What I intend to advance against that evil, criminal and wicked traffic of enslaving men, are only some Thoughts and Sentiments which occur to me, as being obvious from the Scrip|tures of Divine Truth, or such arguments as are chiefly deduced from thence, with other such ob|servations as I have been able to collect. Some Page 4 of these observations may lead into a larger field of consideration, than that of the African Slave Trade alone; but those causes from wherever they originate, and become the production of slavery, the evil effects produced by it, must shew that its origin and source is of a wicked and cri|minal nature.
No necessity, or any situation of men, however poor, pitiful and wretched they may be, can war|rant them to rob others, or oblige them to be|come thieves, because they are poor, miserable and wretched: But the robbers of men, the kid|nappers, ensnarers and slave-holders, who take away the common rights and privileges of others to support and enrich themselves, are universally those pitiful and detestable wretches; for the en|snaring of others, and taking away their liberty by slavery and oppression, is the worst kind of robbery, as most opposite to every precept and injunction of the Divine Law, and contrary to that command which enjoins that all men should love their neighbours as themselves, and that they should do unto others, as they would that men should do to them. As to any other laws that slave-holders may make among themselves, as respect|ing slaves, they can be of no better kind, nor give them any better character, than what is implied in the common report—that there may be some honesty among thieves. This may seem a harsh comparison, but the parallel is so coincident that, I must say, I can find no other way of expres|sing my Thoughts and Sentiments, without ma|king use of some harsh words and comparisons against the carriers on of such abandoned wicked|ness. But, in this little undertaking, I must humbly hope the impartial reader will excuse such Page 5 defects as may arise from want of better educa|tion; and as to the resentment of those who can lay their cruel lash upon the backs of thousands, for a thousand times less crimes than writing against their enormous wickedness and brutal avarice, is what I may be sure to meet with.
However, it cannot but be very discouraging to a man of my complexion in such an attempt as this, to meet with the evil aspersions of some men, who say,
By some of such complexion, as whether black or white it matters not, I was early snatched away from my native country, with about eighteen or twenty more boys and girls, as we were playing in a field. We lived but a few days journey from the coast where we were kid-napped, and as we were decoyed and drove along, we were soon con|ducted Page 6 to a factory, and from thence, in the fa|shionable way of traffic, consigned to Grenada. Perhaps it may not be amiss to give a few re|marks, as some account of myself, n this trans|position of captivity.
I was born in the city of Agimaque, on the coast of Fantyn; my father was a companion to the chief in that part of the country of Fantee, and when the old king died I was left in his house with his family; soon after I was sent for by his nephew, Ambro Accasa, who succeeded the old king in the chiefdom of that part of Fantee known by the name of Agimaque and Assinee. I lived with his children, enjoying peace and tran|quillity, about twenty moons, which, according to their way of reckoning time, is two years. I was sent for to visit an uncle, who lived at a con|siderable distance from Agimaque. The first day after we set out we arrived at Assinee, and the third day at my uncle's habitation, where I lived about three months, and was then thinking of re|turning to my father and young companion at Agimaque; but by this time I had got well ac|quainted with some of the children of my uncle's hundreds of relations, and we were some days too ventursome in going into the woods to gather fruit and catch birds, and such amusements as pleased us. One day I refused to go with the rest, being rather apprehensive that something might happen to us; till one of my play-fellows said to me, because you belong to the great men, you are afraid to venture your carcase, or else of the bounsam, which is the devil. This enraged me so much, that I set a resolution to join the rest, and we went into the woods as usual; but we had not been above two hours before our troubles began, Page 7 when several great ruffians came upon us sudden|ly, and said we had committed a fault against their lord, and we must go and answer for it our|selves before him.
Some of us attempted in vain to run away, but pistols and cutlasses were soon introduced, threat|ening, that if we offered to stir we should all lie dead on the spot. One of them pretended to be more friendly than the rest, and said, that he would speak to their lord to get us clear, and de|sired that we should follow him; we were then immediately divided into different parties, and drove after him. We were soon led out of the way which we knew, and towards the evening, as we came in sight of a town, they told us that this great man of theirs lived there, but pretended it was too late to go and see him that night. Next morning there came three other men, whose lan|guage differed from ours, and spoke to some of those who watched us all the night, but he that pretended to be our friend with the great man, and some others, were gone away. We asked our keepers what these men had been saying to them, and they answered, that they had been asking them, and us together, to go and feast with them that day, and that we must put off seeing the great man till after; little thinking that our doom was so nigh, or that these villains meant to feast on us as their prey. We went with them again about half a day's journey, and came to a great multitude of people, having different music playing; and all the day after we got there, we were very merry with the music, dancing and singing. Towards the evening, we were again persuaded that we could not get back to where the great man lived till next day; and when bed|time Page 8 came, we were separated into different houses with different people. When the next morning came, I asked for the men that brought me there, and for the rest of my companions; and I was told that they were gone to the sea side to bring home some rum, guns and powder, and that some of my companions were gone with them, and that some were gone to the fields to do something or other. This gave me strong suspicion that there was some treachery in the case, and I began to think that my hopes of returning home again were all over. I soon became very uneasy, not knowing what to do, and refused to eat or drink for whole days together, till the man of the house told me that he would do all in his power to get me back to my uncle; then I eat a little fruit with him, and had some thoughts that I should be sought after, as I would be then missing at home about five or six days. I enquired every day if the men had come back, and for the rest of my companions, but could get no answer of any satis|faction. I was kept about six days at this man's house, and in the evening there was another man came and talked with him a good while, and I heard the one say to the other he must go, and the other said the sooner the better; that man came out and told me that he knew my relations at Agimaque, and that we must set out to-morrow morning, and he would convey me there. Ac|cordingly we set out next day, and travelled till dark, when we came to a place where we had some supper and slept. He carried a large bag with some gold dust, which he said he had to buy some goods at the sea side to take with him to Agimaque. Next day we travelled on, and in the evening came to a town, where I saw several Page 9 white people, which made me afraid that they would eat me, according to our notion as children in the inland parts of the country. This made me rest very uneasy all the night, and next morn|ing I had some victuals brought, desiring me to eat and make haste, as my guide and kid-napper told me that he had to go to the castle with some company that were going there, as he had told me before, to get some goods. After I was ordered out, the horrors I soon saw and felt, cannot be well described; I saw many of my miserable coun|trymen chained two and two, some hand-cuffed, and some with their hands tied behind. We were conducted along by a guard, and when we arrived at the castle, I asked my guide what I was brought there for, he told me to learn the ways of the browfow, that is the white faced people. I saw him take a gun, a piece of cloth, and some lead for me, and then he told me that he must now leave me there, and went off. This made me cry bitterly, but I was soon conducted to a prison, for three days, where I heard the groans and cries of many, and saw some of my fellow-captives. But when a vessel arrived to conduct us away to the ship, it was a most horrible scene; there was no|thing to be heard but rattling of chains, smack|ing of whips, and the groans and cries of our fel|low-men. Some would not stir from the ground, when they were lashed and beat in the most horri|ble manner. I have forgot the name of this in|fernal fort; but we were taken in the ship that came for us, to another that was ready to sail from Cape Coast. When we were put into the ship, we saw several black merchants coming on board, but we were all drove into our holes, and not suf|fered to speak to any of them. In this situation Page 10 we continued several days in sight of our native land; but I could find no good person to give any information of my situation to Accasa at Agima|que. And when we found ourselves at last taken away, death was more preferable than life, and a plan was concerted amongst us, that we might burn and blow up the ship, and to perish all to|gether in the flames; but we were betrayed by one of our own countrywomen, who slept with some of the head men of the ship, for it was com|mon for the dirty filthy sailors to take the African women and lie upon their bodies; but the men were chained and pent up in holes. It was the women and boys which were to burn the ship, with the approbation and groans of the rest; though that was prevented, the discovery was likewise a cruel bloody scene.
But it would be needless to give a description of all the horrible scenes which we saw, and the base treatment which we met with in this dread|ful captive situation, as the similar cases of thou|sands, which suffer by this infernal traffic, are well known. Let it suffice to say, that I was thus lost to my dear indulgent parents and relations, and they to me. All my help was cries and tears, and these could not avail; nor suffered long, till one succeeding woe, and dread, swelled up another. Brought from a state of innocence and freedom, and, in a barbarous and cruel manner, conveyed to a state of horror and slavery: This abandoned situation may be easier conceived than described. From the time that I was kid-napped and con|ducted to a factory, and from thence in the brut|ish, base, but fashionable way of traffic, consign|ed to Grenada, the grievous thoughts which I then felt, still pant in my heart; though my fears Page 11 and tears have long since subsided. And yet it is still grievous to think that thousands more have suffered in similar and greater distress, under the hands of barbarous robbers, and merciless task|masters; and that many even now are suffering in all the extreme bitterness of grief and woe, that no language can describe The cries of some, and the sight of their misery, may be seen and heard afar; but the deep sounding groans of thousands, and the great sadness of their misery and woe, under the heavy load of oppressions and calamities inflicted upon them, are such as can only be distinctly known to the ears of Jehovah Sabaoth.
This Lord of Hosts, in his great Providence, and in great mercy to me, made a way for my deliverance from Grenada.—Being in this dread|ful captivity and horrible slavery, without any hope of deliverance, for about eight or nine months, beholding the most dreadful scenes of misery and cruelty, and seeing my miserable com|panions often cruelly lashed, and as it were cut to pieces, for the most trifling faults; this made me often tremble and weep, but I escaped better than many of them. For eating a piece of sugar|cane, some were cruelly lashed, or struck over the face to knock their teeth out. Some of the stouter ones, I suppose often reproved, and grown hardened and stupid with many cruel beatings and lashings, or perhaps faint and pressed with hunger and hard labour, were often committing trespasses of this kind, and when detected, they met with exemplary punishment. Some told me they had their teeth pulled out to deter others, and to pre|vent them from eating any cane in future. Thus seeing my miserable companions and countrymen Page 12 in this pitiful, distressed and horrible situation, with all the brutish baseness and barbarity attend|ing it, could not but fill my little mind with horror and indignation. But I must own, to the shame of my own countrymen, that I was first kid-napped and betrayed by some of my own complexion, who were the first cause of my exile and slavery; but if there were no buyers there would be no sellers. So far as I can remember, some of the Africans in my country keep slaves, which they take in war, or for debt; but those which they keep are well fed, and good care taken of them, and treated well; and, as to their cloathing, they differ according to the custom of the country. But I may safely say, that all the poverty and misery that any of the inhabitants of Africa meet with among themselves, is far inferior to those inhospitable regions of misery which they meet with in the West-Indies, where their hard-hearted overseers have neither regard to the laws of God, nor the life of their fellow-men.
Thanks be to God, I was delivered from Gre|nada, and that horrid brutal slavery.—A gentle|man coming to England, took me for his servant, and brought me away, where I soon found my situation become more agreeable. After coming to England, and seeing others write and read, I had a strong desire to learn, and getting what as|sistance I could, I applied myself to learn reading and writing, which soon became my recreation, pleasure, and delight; and when my master per|ceived that I could write some, he sent me to a proper school for that purpose to learn. Since, I have endeavoured to improve my mind in read|ing, and have sought to get all the intelligence I could, in my situation of life, towards the state of Page 13 my brethren and countrymen in complexion, and of the miserable situation of those who are bar|barously sold into captivity, and unlawfully held in slavery.
But, among other observations, one great duty I owe to Almighty God, (the thankful acknow|ledgement I would not omit for any considera|tion) that, although I have been brought away from my native country, in that torrent of rob|bery and wickedness, thanks be to God for his good providence towards me; I have both ob|tained liberty, and acquired the great advantages of some little learning, in being able to read and write, and, what is still infinitely of greater ad|vantage, I trust, to know something of HIM who is that God whose providence rules over all, and who is the only Potent One that rules in the nations over the children of men. It is unto Him, who is the Prince of the Kings of the earth, that I would give all thanks. And, in some manner, I may say with Joseph, as he did with respect to the evil intention of his brethren, when they sold him into Egypt, that whatever evil intentions and bad motives those insidious robbers had in carrying me away from my native country and friends, I trust, was what the Lord intended for my good. In this respect, I am highly indebted to many of the good people of England for learning and prin|ciples unknown to the people of my native coun|try. But, above all, what have I obtained from the Lord God of Hosts, the God of the Christi|ans! in that divine revelation of the only true God, and the Saviour of men, what a treasure of wisdom and blessings are involved? How won|derful is the divine goodness displayed in those invaluable books the Old and New Testaments, Page 14 that inestimable compilation of books, the Bible? And, O what a treasure to have, and one of the greatest advantages to be able to read therein, and a divine blessing to understand *!
But, to return to my subject, I begin with the Cursory Remarker. This man stiles himself a friend to the West-India colonies and their inha|bitants, like Demetrius, the silversmith, a man of some considerable abilities, seeing their craft in danger, a craft, however, not so innocent and justifiable as the making of shrines for Diana, though that was base and wicked enough to en|slave the minds of men with superstition and ido|latry; but his craft, and the gain of those crafts|men, consists in the enslaving both soul and body to the cruel idolatry, and most abominable ser|vice and slavery, to the idol of cursed avarice: And as he finds some discoveries of their wicked traffic held up in a light where truth and facts are so clearly seen, as none but the most desperate villain would dare to obstruct or oppose, he there|fore sallies forth with all the desperation of an Page 15 Utopian assailant, to tell lies by a virulent con|tradiction of facts, and with false aspersions en|deavour to calumniate the worthy and judicious essayest of that discovery, a man, whose character is irreproachable. By thus artfully supposing, if he could bring the reputation of the author, who has discovered so much of their iniquitous traffic, into dispute, his work would fall and be less regarded. However, this virulent craftsman has done no great merit to his cause and the credit of that infamous craft; at the appearance of truth, his understanding has got the better of his ava|rice and infidelity, so far, as to draw the follow|ing concession:
By this, it would seem that he was a little ashamed of his craftsmen, and would not like to be ranked or appear amongst them. But as long as there are any hopes of gain to be made by that insidious craft, he can join with them well enough, and endeavour to justify them in that most aban|doned traffic of buying, selling, and enslaving men. He finds fault with a plan for punishing robbers, thieves and vagabonds, who distress their neighbours by their thrift, robbery and plunder, without regarding any laws human or divine, ex|cept the rules of their own fraternity, and in that Page 16 case, according to the proverb, there may be some honor among thieves; but these are the only peo|ple in the world that ought to suffer some punish|ment, imprisonment or slavery; their external complexion, whether black or white, should be no excuse for them to do evil. Being aware of this, perhaps he was afraid that some of his friends, the great and opulent banditti of slave-holders in the western part of the world, might be found guilty of more atrocious and complicated crimes, than even those of the highwaymen, the robberies and the petty larcenies committed in England. Therefore, to make the best of this sad dilemma, he brings in a ludicrous invective comparison that it would be
But again, when he draws a comparison of the many hardships that the poor in Great-Britain and Ireland labour under, as well as many of those in other countries; that their various dis|tresses are worse than the West India slaves—It may be true, in part, that some of them suffer greater hardships than many of the slaves; but, bad as it is, the poorest in England would not change their situation for that of slaves. And there may be some masters, under various cir|cumstances, worse off than their servants; but they would not change their own situation for theirs: Nor as little would a rich man wish to change his situation of affluence, for that of a beggar: and so, likewise, no freeman, however poor and distressing his situation may be, would resign his liberty for that of a slave, in the situa|tion of a horse or a dog. The case of the poor, whatever their hardships may be, in free coun|tries, is widely different from that of the West-India slaves. For the slaves, like animals, are bought and sold, and dealt with as their capri|cious owners may think fit, even in torturing and tearing them to pieces, and wearing them out with hard labour, hunger and oppression; and should the death of a slave ensue by some other more violent way than that which is commonly the death of thousands, and tens of thousands in the end, the haughty tyrant, in that case, has only to pay a small fine for the murder and death of his slave. The brute creation in general may fare better than man, and some dogs may refuse the crumbs that the distressed poor would be glad of; but the nature and situation of man is far su|perior Page 18 to that of beasts; and, in like manner, whatever circumstances poor freemen may be in, their situation is much superior, beyond any pro|portion, to that of the hardships and cruelty of modern slavery. But where can the situation of any freeman be so bad as that of a slave; or, could such be found, or even worse, as he would have it, what would the comparison amount to? Would it plead for his craft of slavery and op|pression? Or, rather, would it not cry aloud for some redress, and what every well regulated so|ciety of men ought to hear and consider, that none should suffer want or be oppressed among them? And this seems to be pointed out by the circumstances which he describes; that it is the great duty, and ought to be the highest ambition of all governors, to order and establish such po|licy, and in such a wise manner, that every thing should be so managed, as to be conducive to the moral, temporal and eternal welfare of every in|dividual from the lowest degree to the highest; and the consequence of this would be, the har|mony, happiness and good prosperity of the whole community.
But this crafty author has also, in defence of his own or his employer's craft in the British West-India slavery, given sundry comparisons and descriptions of the treatment of slaves in the French islands and settlements in the West-Indies and America. And, contrary to what is the true case, he would have it supposed that the treat|ment of the slaves in the former, is milder than the latter; but even in this, unwarily for his own craft of slavery, all that he has advanced, can only add matter for its confutation, and serve to heighten the ardour and wish of every Page 19 generous mind, that the whole should be abo|lished. An equal degree of enormity found in one place, cannot justify crimes of as great or greater enormity committed in another. The various depredations committed by robbers and plunderers, on different parts of the globe, may not be all equally alike bad, but their evil and malignancy, in every appearance and shape, can only hold up to view the just observation, that
The farther and wider that the discovery and knowledge of such an enormous evil, as the base and villainous treatment and slavery which the poor unfortunate Black People meet with, is spread and made known, the cry for justice, even virtue lifting up her voice, must rise the louder and higher, for the scale of equity and justice to be lifted up in their defence. And doth not wis|dom cry, and understanding put forth her voice? But who will regard the voice and hearken to the cry? Not the sneaking advocates for slavery, though a little ashamed of their craft; like the monstrous crocodile weeping over their prey with fine concessions (while gorging their own rapacious appetite) to hope for universal freedom taking place over the globe. Not those inebri|ated with avarice and infidelity, who hold in de|fiance every regard due to the divine law, and who endeavour all they can to destroy and take away the natural and common rights and privi|leges of men. Not the insolent and crafty author for slavery and oppression, who would have us to believe, that the benign command of God in ap|pointing the seventh day for a sabbath of rest for the good purposes of our present and eternal wel|fare, Page 20 is not to be regarded. He will exclaim against the teachers of obedience to it; and tells us, that the poor, and the oppressed, and the heavy burdened slave, should not lay down his load that day, but appropriate these hours of sa|cred rest to labour in some bit of useful ground. His own words are,
But such is the insensibility of men, when their own craft of gain is advanced by the slavery and oppression of others, that after all the laudable exertions of the truly virtuous and humane, to|wards extending the beneficence of liberty and Page 21 freedom to the much degraded and unfortunate Africans, which is the common right and privi|lege of all men, in every thing that is just, law|ful and consistent, we find the principles of justice and equity, not only opposed, and every duty in religion and humanity left unregarded; but that unlawful traffic of dealing with our fellow-crea|tures, as with the beasts of the earth, still carried on with as great assiduity as ever; and that the insidious piracy of procuring and holding slaves is countenanced and supported by the govern|ment of sundry Christian nations. This seems to be the fashionable way of getting riches, but very dishonourable; in doing this, the slave-holders are meaner and baser than the African slaves, for while they subject and reduce them to a degree with brutes, they seduce themselves to a degree with devils.
But let their ignorance in some things (in which the Europeans have greatly the advantage Page 22 of them) be what it will, it is not the intention of those who bring them away to make them better by it; nor is the design of slave-holders of any other intention, but that they may serve them as a kind of engines and beasts of burden; that their own ease and profit may be advanced, by a set of poor helpless men and women, whom they despise and rank with brutes, and keep them in perpetual slavery, both themselves and children, and merciful death is the only release from their toil. By the benevolence of some, a few may get their liberty, and by their own industry and ingenuity, may acquire some learning, mechani|cal trades, or useful business; and some may be brought away by different gentlemen to free countries, where they get their liberty; but no thanks to slave-holders for it. But amongst those who get their liberty, like all other ignorant men, are generally more corrupt in their morals, than they possibly could have been amongst their own people in Africa; for, being mostly amongst the wicked and apostate Christians, they sooner learn their oaths and blasphemies, and their evil ways, than any thing else. Some few, indeed, may eventually arrive at some knowledge of the Christian religion, and the great advantages of it. Such was the case of Ukawsaw Groniosaw, an African prince, who lived in England. He was a long time in a state of great poverty and dis|tress, and must have died at one time for want, if a good and charitable Attorney had not sup|ported him. He was long after in a very poor state, but he would not have given his faith in the Christian religion, in exchange for all the kingdoms of Africa, if they could have been given to him, in place of his poverty, for it. Page 23 And such was A. Morrant in America. When a boy, he could stroll away into a desart, and prefer the society of wild beasts to the absurd Christianity of his mother's house. He was con|ducted to the king of the Cherokees, who, in a miraculous manner, was induced by him to em|brace the Christian faith. This Morrant was in the British service last war, and his royal convert, the king of the Cherokee Indians, accompanied General Clinton at the siege of Charles-Town.
These, and all such, I hope thousands, as meet with the knowledge and grace of the Divine cle|mency, are brought forth quite contrary to the end and intention of all slavery, and, in general, of all slave holders too. And should it please the Divine goodness to visit some of the poor dark Africans, even in the brutal stall of slavery, and from thence to instal them among the princes of his grace, and to invest them with a robe of ho|nor that will hang about their necks for ever; but who can then suppose, that it will be well pleasing unto him to find them subjected there in that dejected state? Or can the slave-holders think that the Universal Father and Sovereign of Man|kind will be well pleased with them, for the bru|tal transgression of his law, in bowing down the necks of those to the yoke of their cruel bondage? Sovereign goodness may eventually visit some men even in a state of slavery, but their slavery is not the cause of that event and benignity; and therefore, should some event of good ever hap|pen to some men subjected to slavery, that can plead nothing for men to do evil that good may come; and should it apparently happen from thence, it is neither sought for nor designed by the enslavers of men. But the whole business of Page 24 slavery is an evil of the first magnitude, and a most horrible iniquity to traffic with slaves and souls of men; and an evil▪ sorry I am, that it still subsists, and more astonishing to think, that it is an iniquity committed amongst Christians, and contrary to all the genuine principles of Christi|anity, and yet carried on by men denominated thereby.
In a Christian aera, in a land where Christiani|ty is planted, where every one might expect to behold the flourishing growth of every virtue, extending their harmonious branches with uni|versal philanthropy wherever they came; but, on the contrary, almost nothing else is to be seen abroad but the bramble of ruffians, barbarians and slave-holders, grown up to a powerful luxu|riance in wickedness. I cannot but wish, for the honor of Christianity, that the bramble grown up amongst them, was known to the heathen nations by a different name, for sure the depre|dators, robbers and ensnarers of men can never be Christians, but ought to be held as the abhor|ence of all men, and the abomination of all man|kind, whether Christians or heathens. Every man of any sensibility, whether he be a Christian or an heathen, if he has any discernment at all, must think, that for any man, or any class of men, to deal with their fellow-creatures as with the beasts of the field; or to account them as such, how|ever ignorant they may be, and in whatever situ|ation, or wherever they may find them, and whatever country or complexion they may be of, that those men, who are the procurers and hold|ers of slaves, are the greatest villains in the world. And surely those men must be lost to all sensibili|ty themselves, who can think that the stealing, Page 25 robbing, enslaving, and murdering of men can be no crimes; but the holders of men in slavery are at the head of all these oppressions and crimes. And, therefore, however unsensible they may be of it now, and however long they may laugh at the calamity of others, if they do not repent of their evil way, and the wickedness of their do|ings, by keeping and holding their fellow-crea|tures in slavery, and trafficking with them as with the brute creation, and to give up and sur|render that evil traffic, with an awful abhorrence of it, that this may be averred, if they do not, and if they can think, they must and cannot otherwise but expect in one day at last, to meet with the full stroke of the long suspended ven|geance of heaven, when death will cut them down to a state as mean as that of the most ab|jected slave, and to a very eminent danger of a far more dreadful fate hereafter, when they have the just reward of their iniquities to meet with.
And now, as to the Africans being dispersed and unsociable, if it was so, that could be no war|rant for the Europeans to enslave them; and even though they may have many different feuds and bad practices among them, the continent of Africa is of vast extent, and the numerous inha|bitants are divided into several kingdoms and principalities, which are governed by their re|spective kings and princes, and those are abso|lutely maintained by their free subjects. Very few nations make slaves of any of those under their government; but such as are taken prison|ers of war from their neighbours, are generally kept in that state, until they can exchange and dispose of them otherwise; and towards the west coast they are generally procured for the Eu|ropean Page 26 market, and sold. They have a great aversion to murder, or even in taking away the lives of those which they judge guilty of crimes; and, therefore, they prefer disposing of them otherwise better than killing them *. This gives their merchants and procurers of slaves a power to travel a great way into the interior parts of the country to buy such as are wanted to be disposed of. These slave-procurers are a set of as great villains as any in the world. They often steal and kidnap many more than they buy at first if they can meet with them by the way; and they have only their certain boundaries to go to, and sell them from one to another; so that if they are sought after and detected, the thieves are seldom found, and the others only plead that they bought them so and so. These kid-nappers and slave-procurers, called merchants, are a species of African villains, which are greatly corrupted, and even viciated by their intercourse with the Europeans; but, wicked and barbarous as they certainly are, I can hardly think, if they knew what horrible barbarity they were sending their fellow-creatures to, that they would do it. But the artful Europeans have so deceived them, that they are bought by their inventions of merchandize, and beguiled into it by their artifice; for the Europeans, at their factories, in some various manner, have always kept some as servants to them, and with gaudy cloaths, in a Page 27 gay manner, as decoy ducks to deceive others, and to tell them that they want many more to go over the sea, and be as they are. So in that re|spect, wherein it may be said that they will sell one another, they are only ensnared and enlist|ed to be servants, kept like some of those which they see at the factories, which, for some gew|gaws, as presents given to themselves and friends, they are thereby enticed to go; and something after the same manner that East-India soldiers are procured in Britain; and the inhabitants here, just as much sell themselves, and one another, as they do; and the kid-nappers here, and the slave-procurers in Africa, are much alike. But many other barbarous methods are made use of by the vile instigators, procurers and ensnarers of men; and some of the wicked and profligate princes and chiefs of Africa accept of presents, from the Europeans, to procure a certain number of slaves; and thereby they are wickedly instigated to go to war with one another on purpose to get them, which produces many terrible depreda|tions; and sometimes when those engagements are entered into, and they find themselves defeat|ed of their purpose, it has happened that some of their own people have fallen a sacrifice to their avarice and cruelty. And it may be said of the Europeans, that they have made use of every in|fidious method to procure slaves whenever they can, and in whatever manner they can lay hold of them, and that their forts and factories are the avowed dens of thieves for robbers, plunderers and depredators.
But again, as to the Africans selling their own wives and children, nothing can be more oppo|site to every thing they hold dear and valuable; Page 28 and nothing can distress them more, than to part with any of their relations and friends. Such are the tender feelings of parents for their children, that, for the loss of a child, they seldom can be rendered happy, even with the intercourse and enjoyment of their friends, for years. For any man to think that it should be otherwise, when he may see a thousand instances of a natural in|stinct, even in the brute creation, where they have a sympathetic feeling for their offspring; it must be great want of consideration not to think, that much more than meerly what is natural to animals, should in a higher degree be implanted in the breast of every part of the rational creation of man. And what man of feeling can help la|menting the loss of parents, friends, liberty, and perhaps property and other valuable and dear connections. Those people annually brought away from Guinea, are born as free, and are brought up with as great a predilection for their own country, freedom and liberty, as the sons and daughters of fair Britain. Their free sub|jects are trained up to a kind of military service, not so much by the desire of the chief, as by their own voluntary inclination. It is looked upon as the greatest respect they can shew to their king, to stand up for his and their own defence in time of need. Their different chieftains, which bear a reliance on the great chief, or king, exercise a kind of government something like that feudal institution which prevailed some time in Scotland. In this respect, though the common people are free, they often suffer by the villainy of their different chieftains, and by the wars and feuds which happen among them. Nevertheless their freedom and rights are as dear to them, as those Page 29 privileges are to other people. And it may be said that freedom, and the liberty of enjoying their own privileges, burns with as much zeal and fervour in the breast of an Aethiopian, as in the breast of any inhabitant on the globe.
But the supporters and favourers of slavery make other things a pretence and an excuse in their own defence; such as, that they find that it was admitted under the Divine institution by Moses, as well as the long continued practice of different nations for ages; and that the Africans are peculiarly marked out by some signal predic|tion in nature and complexion for that purpose.
This seems to be the greatest bulwark of de|fence which the advocates and favourers of slave|ry can advance, and what is generally talked of in their favour by those who do not understand it. I shall consider it in that view, whereby it will appear, that they deceive themselves and mislead others. Men are never more liable to be drawn into error, than when truth is made use of in a guileful manner to seduce them. Those who do not believe the scriptures to be a Divine revelation, cannot, consistently with themselves, make the law of Moses, or any mark or predic|tion they can find respecting any particular set of men, as found in the sacred writings, any reason that one class of men should enslave another. In that respect, all that they have to enquire into should be, whether it be right, or wrong, that any part of the human species should enslave an|other; and when that is the case, the Africans, though not so learned, are just as wise as the Eu|ropeans; and when the matter is left to human wisdom, they are both liable to err. But what the light of nature, and the dictates of reason, Page 30 when rightly considered, teach, is, that no man ought to enslave another; and some, who have been rightly guided thereby, have made noble defences for the universal natural rights and pri|vileges of all men. But in this case, when the learned take neither revelation nor reason for their guide, they fall into as great, and worse er|rors, than the unlearned; for they only make use of that system of Divine wisdom, which should guide them into truth, when they can find or pick out any thing that will suit their purpose, or that they can pervert to such—the very means of leading themselves and others into error. And, in consequence thereof, the pre|tences that some men make use of for holding of slaves, must be evidently the grossest perversion of reason, as well as an inconsistent and diaboli|cal use of the sacred writings. For it must be a strange perversion of reason, and a wrong use or disbelief of the sacred writings, when any thing found there is so perverted by them, and set up as a precedent and rule for men to commit wick|edness. They had better have no reason, and no belief in the scriptures, and make no use of them at all, than only to believe, and make use of that which leads them into the most abominable evil and wickedness of dealing unjustly with their fel|low men.
But this will appear evident to all men that be|lieve the scriptures, that every reason necessary is given that they should be believed; and, in this case, that they afford us this information:
And again, as all the present inhabitants of the world sprang from the family of Noah, and were then all of one complexion, there is no doubt, but the difference which we now find, took its rise very rapidly after they became dispersed and settled on the different parts of the globe. There seems to be a tendency to this, in many instances, among children of the same parents, having dif|ferent colour of hair and features from one ano|ther. And God alone who established the course of nature, can bring about and establish what va|riety he pleases; and it is not in the power of man to make one hair white or black. But a|mong the variety which it hath pleased God to establish and caused to take place, we may meet with some analogy in nature, that as the bodies of men are tempered with a different degree to ena|ble them to endure the respective climates of their habitations, so their colours vary, in some de|gree, in a regular gradation from the equator to|wards either of the poles. However, there are other incidental causes arising from time and place, which constitute the most distinguishing variety of colour, form▪ appearance and features, as peculiar to the inhabitants of one tract of Page 32 country, and differing in something from those in another, even in the same latitudes, as well as from those in different climates. Long custom and the different way of living among the several inhabitants of the different parts of the earth, has a very great effect in distinguishing them by a difference of features and complexion. These effects are easy to be seen; as to the causes, it is sufficient for us to know, that all is the work of an Almighty hand. Therefore, as we find the distribution of the human species inhabiting the barren, as well as the most fruitful parts of the earth, and the cold as well as the most hot, dif|fering from one another in complexion accord|ing to their situation; it may be reasonably, as well as religiously, inferred, that He who placed them in their various situations, hath extended equally his care and protection to all; and from thence, that it becometh unlawful to counteract his benignity, by reducing others of different complexions to undeserved bondage.
According, as we find that the difference of colour among men is only incidental, and equal|ly natural to all, and agreeable to the place of their habitation; and that if nothing else be dif|ferent or contrary among them, but that of fea|tures and complexion, in that respect, they are all equally alike entitled to the enjoyment of eve|ry mercy and blessing of God. But there are some men of that complexion, because they are not black, whose ignorance and insolence leads them to think, that those who are black, were marked out in that manner by some signal inter|diction or curse, as originally descending from their progenitors. To those I must say, that the only mark which we read of, as generally alluded Page 33 to, and by them applied wrongfully, is that mark or sign which God gave to Cain, to assure him that he should not be destroyed. Cain un|derstood by the nature of the crime he had com|mitted, that the law required death, or cutting off, as the punishment thereof. But God in his providence doth not always punish the wicked in this life according to their enormous crimes, (we are told, by a sacred poet, that he saw the wicked flourishing like a green bay tree) though he ge|nerally marks them out by some signal token of his vengeance; and that is a sure token of it, when men become long hardened in their wick|edness. The denunciation that passed upon Cain was, that he should be a fugitive and a vagabond on the earth, bearing the curse and reproach of his iniquity; and the rest of men were prohibited as much from meddling with him, or defiling their hands by him, as it naturally is, not to pull down the dead carcase of an atrocious criminal, hung up in chains by the laws of his country. But allow the mark set upon Cain to have con|sisted in a black skin, still no conclusion can be drawn at all, that any of the black people are of that descent, as the whole posterity of Cain were destroyed in the universal deluge.
Only Noah, a righteous and just man, who found grace in the sight of God, and his three sons, Japheth, Shem and Ham, and their wives, eight persons, were preserved from the universal deluge, in the ark which Noah was directed to build. The three sons of Noah had each children born after the flood, from whom all the present world of men descended. But it came to pass, in the days of Noah, that an interdiction, or curse, took place in the family of Ham, and that the Page 34 descendants of one of his sons should become the servants of servants to their brethren, the descen|dants of Shem and Japheth. This affords a grand pretence for the supporters of the African slavery to build a false notion upon, as it is found by his|tory that Africa, in general, was peopled by the descendants of Ham; but they forget, that the prediction has already been fulfilled as far as it can go.
There can be no doubt, that there was a shame|ful misconduct in Ham himself, by what is relat|ed of him; but the fault, according to the pre|diction and curse, descended only to the families of the descendants of his youngest son, Canaan. The occasion was, that Noah, his father, had drank wine, and (perhaps unawares) became ine|briated by it, and fell asleep in his tent. It seems that Ham was greatly deficient of that filial vir|tue as either becoming a father or a son, went in|to his father's tent, and, it may be supposed, in an undecent manner, he had suffered his own son, Canaan, so to meddle with, or uncover, his fa|ther, that he saw his nakedness; for which he did not check the audacious rudeness of Canaan, but went and told his brethren without in ridicule of his aged parent. This rude audacious behaviour of Canaan, and the obloquy of his father Ham, brought on him the curse of his grandfather, Noah, but he blessed Shem and Japheth for their decent and filial virtues, and denounced, in the spirit of prophecy, that Canaan should be their servant, and should serve them.
It may be observed; that it is a great misfor|tune for children, when their parents are not en|dowed with that wisdom and prudence which is necessary for the early initiation of their offspring Page 35 in the paths of virtue and righteousness. Ham was guilty of the offence as well as his son; he did not pity the weakness of his father, who was overcome with wine in that day wherein, it is likely, he had some solemn work to do. But the prediction and curse rested wholly upon the off|spring of Canaan, who settled in the land known by his name, in the west of Asia, as is evident from the sacred writings. The Canaanites be|came an exceeding wicked people, and were visit|ed with many calamities, according to the pre|diction of Noah, for their abominable wicked|ness and idolatry.
Chederluomer, a descendant of Shem, reduced the Canaanitish kingdoms to a tributary subjec|tion; and some time after, upon their revolt, in|vaded and pillaged their country. Not long af|ter Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboim, four kingdoms of the Canaanites were overthrown for their great wickedness, and utterly destroyed by fire and brimstone from heaven. The Hebrews, chiefly under Moses, Joshua and Barak, as they were directed by God, cut off most of the other Canaanitish kingdoms, and reduced many of them to subjection and vassalage. Those who settled in the north-west of Canaan, and formed the once flourishing states of Tyre and Sidon, were by the Assyrians, the Chaldeans, and the Persians succes|sively reduced to great misery and bondage; but chiefly by the Greeks, the Romans, and the Sa|racens, and lastly by the Turks, they were com|pleatly and totally ruined, and have no more since been a distinct people among the different na|tions. Many of the Canaanites who fled away in the Time of Joshua, became mingled with the different nations, and some historians think that Page 36 some of them came to England, and settled about Cornwall, as far back as that time; so that, for any thing that can be known to the contrary, there may be some of the descendants of that wicked generation still subsisting among the slave-holders in the West-Indies. For if the curse of God ever rested upon them, or upon any other men, the only visible mark thereof was always upon those who committed the most outrageous acts of vio|lence and oppression. But colour and complexion has nothing to do with that mark; every wicked man, and the enslavers of others, bear the stamp of their own iniquity, and that mark which was set upon Cain.
Now, the descendants of the other three sons of Ham, were not included under the curse of his father, and as they dispersed and settled on the different parts of the earth, they became also sun|dry distinct and very formidable nations. Cush, the oldest, settled in the south-west of Arabia, and his descendants were anciently known to the He|brews by the name of Cushites, or Cushie; one of his sons, Nimrod, founded the kingdom of Ba|bylon, in Asia; and the others made their de|scent southward, by the Red Sea, and came over to Abyssinia and Ethiopia, and, likely, dispersed themselves throughout all the southern and inte|rior parts of Africa; and as they lived mostly un|der the torrid zone, or near the tropics, they be|came black, as being natural to the inhabitants of those sultry hot climates; and, in that case, their complexion bears the signification of the name of their original progenitor, Cush, as known by the Hebrews by that name, both on the east and on the west, beyond the Red Sea; but the Greeks called them Ethiopians, or black faced Page 37 pleople. The Egyptians and Philistines were the descendants of Mizraim, and the country which they inhabited was called the land of Mizraim, and Africa, in general, was anciently called the whole land of Ham. Phut, another of his sons, also settled on the west of Egypt, and as the youngest were obliged to emigrate farthest, after|wards dispersed themselves chiefly up the south of the Mediterranean sea, towards Lybia and Mauri|tania, and might early mingle with some of the Cushites on the more southern, and, chiefly, on the western parts of Africa. But all these might be followed by some other families and tribes from Asia; and some think that Africa got its name from the King of Lybia marrying a daugh|ter of Aphra, one of the descendants of Abraham, by Keturah.
But it may be reasonably supposed, that the most part of the black people in Africa, are the descendants of the Cushites, towards the east, the south, and interior parts, and chiefly of the Phu|tians towards the west; and the various revolu|tions and changes which have happened among them have rather been local than universal; so that whoever their original progenitors were, as de|scending from one generation to another, in a long continuance, it becomes natural for the in|habitants of that tract of country to be a dark black, in general. The learned and thinking part of men, who can refer to history, must know, that nothing with respect to colour, nor any mark or curse from any original prediction, can in any|wise be more particularly ascribed to the Africans than to any other people of the human species, so as to afford any pretence why they should be more evil treated, persecuted and enslaved, than Page 38 any other. Nothing but ignorance, and the dreams of a viciated imagination, arising from the general countenance given to the evil practice of wicked men, to strengthen their hands in wick|edness, could ever make any person to fancy otherwise, or ever to think that the stealing, kid|napping, enslaving, persecuting or killing a black man, is in any way and manner less criminal, than the same evil treatment of any other man of ano|ther complexion.
But again, in answer to another part of the pre|tence which the favourers of slavery make use of in their defence, that slavery was an ancient cus|tom, and that it became the prevalent and uni|versal practice of many different barbarous na|tions for ages: This must be granted; but not because it was right, or any thing like right and equity. A lawful servitude was always necessary, and became contingent with the very nature of human society. But when the laws of civiliza|tion were broken through, and when the rights and properties of others were invaded, that brought the oppressed into a kind of compulsive servitude, though often not compelled to it by those whom they were obliged to serve. This arose from the different depredations and robbe|ries which were committed upon one another; the helpless were obliged to seek protection from such as could support them, and to give unto them their service, in order to preserve themselves from want, and to deliver them from the injury either of men or beasts. For while civil society continued in a rude state, even among the esta|blishers of kingdoms, when they became power|ful and proud, as they wanted to enlarge their territories, they drove and expelled others from Page 39 their peaceable habitations, who were not so powerful as themselves. This made those who were robbed of their substance, and drove from the place of their abode, make their escape to such as could and would help them; but when such a relief could not be found, they were oblig|ed to submit to the yoke of their oppressors, who, in many cases, would not yield them any protec|tion upon any terms. Wherefore, when their lives were in danger otherwise, and they could not find any help, they were obliged to sell them|selves for bond servants to such as would buy them, when they could not get a service that was better. But as soon as buyers could be found, robbers began their traffic to ensnare others, and such as fell into their hands were carried captive by them, and were obliged to submit to their be|ing sold by them into the hands of other robbers, for there are few buyers of men, who intend there|by to make them free, and such as they buy are generally subjected to hard labour and bondage. Therefore at all times, while a man is a slave, he is still in captivity, and under the jurisdiction of robbers; and every man who keeps a slave, is a robber, whenever he compels him to his service without giving him a just reward. The barely supplying his slave with some necessary things, to keep him in life, is no reward at all, that is only for his own sake and benefit; and the very nature of compulsion and taking away the liberty of others, as well as their property, is robbery; and that kind of service which subjects men to a state of slavery, must at all times, and in every cir|cumstance, be a barbarous▪ inhuman and unjust dealing with our fellow men. A voluntary ser|vice▪ and slavery, are quite different things; but Page 40 in ancient times, in whatever degree slavery was admitted, and whatever hardships they were, in general, subjected to, it was not nearly so bad as the modern barbarous and cruel West-India slavery.
Now, in respect to that kind of servitude which was admitted into the law of Moses, that was not contrary to the natural liberties of men, but a state of equity and justice, according as the nature and circumstances of the times required. There was no more harm in entering into a covenant with another man as a bond-servant, than there is for two men to enter into partnership the one with the other; and sometimes the nature of the case may be, and their business require it, that the one may find money and live at a distance and ease, and the other manage the business for him: So a bond-servant was generally the steward in a man's house, and sometimes his heir. There was no harm in buying a man who was in a state of captivity and bondage by others, and keeping him in servitude till such time as his purchase was redeemed by his labour and service. And there could be no harm in paying a man's debts, and keeping him in servitude until such time as an equitable agreement of composition was paid by him. And so, in general, whether they had been bought or sold in order to pay their just debts when they became poor, or were bought from such as held them in an unlawful captivity, the state of bondage which they and their children fell under, among the Israelites, was into that of a vassalage state, which rather might be termed a deliverance from debt and captivity, than a state of slavery. In that vassalage state which they were reduced to, they had a tax of some service to Page 41 pay, which might only be reckoned equivalent to a poor man in England paying rent for his cottage. In this fair land of liberty, there are many thousands of the inhabitants who have no right to so much land as an inch of ground to set their foot upon, so as to take up their residence upon it, without paying a lawful and reasonable vassalage of rent for it—and yet the whole com|munity is free from slavery. And so, likewise, those who were reduced to a state of servitude, or vassalage, in the land of Israel, were not negoci|able like chattels and goods; nor could they be disposed of like cattle and beasts of burden, or ever transferred or disposed of without their own consent; and perhaps not one man in all the land of Israel would buy another man, unless that man was willing to serve him. And when any man had gotten such a servant, as he had entered into a covenant of agreement with, as a bond-servant, if the man liked his master and his service, he could not oblige him to go away; and it some|times happened, that they refused to go out free when the year of jubilee came. But even that state of servitude which the Canaanites were re|duced to, among those who survived the general overthrow of their country, was nothing worse, in many respects, than that of poor labouring peo|ple in any free country. Their being made hew|ers of wood and drawers of water, were laborious employments; but they were paid for it in such a manner as the nature of their service required, and were supplied with abundance of such necessaries of life as they and their families had need of; and they were at liberty, if they chose, to go away, there was no restriction laid on them. They were not hunted after, and a reward offered for their Page 42 heads, as it is the case in the West-Indies for any that can find a strayed slave; and he who can bring such a head warm reeking with his blood, as a token that he had murdered him—inhuman and shocking to think!—he is paid for it; and, cruel and dreadful as it is, that law is still in force in some of the British colonies.
But the Canaanites, although they were pre|dicted to be reduced to a state of servitude, and bondage to that poor and menial employment, fared better than the West-India slaves; for when they were brought into that state of servitude, they were often employed in an honourable ser|vice. The Nethenims, and others, were to assist in the sacred solemnities and worship of God at the Temple of Jerusalem. They had the same laws and immunities respecting the solemn days and sabbaths, as their masters the Israelites, and they were to keep and observe them. But they were not suffered, much less required, to labour in their own spots of useful ground on the days of sacred rest from worldly employment; and that, if they did not improve the culture of it, in these times and seasons, they might otherwise perish for hunger and want; as it is the case of the West-India slaves, by their inhuman, infidel, hard-hearted masters. And, therefore, this may be justly said, that whatever servitude that was, or by whatever name it may be called, that the ser|vice which was required by the people of Israel in old time, was of a far milder nature, than that which became the prevalent practice of other dif|ferent and barbarous nations; and, if compared with modern slavery, it might be called liberty, equity, and felicity, in respect to that abomina|ble, mean, beastly, cruel, bloody slavery carried Page 43 on by the inhuman, barbarous Europeans, against the poor unfortunate Black Africans.
But again, this may be averred, that the servi|tude which took place under the sanction of the di|vine law, in the time of Moses, and what was en|joined as the civil and religious polity of the peo|ple of Israel, was in nothing contrary to the natu|ral rights and common liberties of men, though it had an appearance as such for great and wise ends. The Divine Law Giver, in his good providence, for great and wise purposes intended by it, has always admitted into the world riches and pover|ty, prosperity and adversity, high and low, rich and poor; and in such manner, as in all their va|riety and difference, mutation and change, there is nothing set forth in the written law, by Moses, contrary, unbecoming, or inconsistent with that goodness of himself, as the wise and righteous Governor of the Universe. Those things admit|ted into the law, that had a seeming appearance contrary to the natural liberties of men, were only so admitted for a local time, to point out, and to establish, and to give instruction thereby, in an analogous allusion to other things.
And therefore, so far as I have been able to consult the law written by Moses, concerning that kind of servitude admitted by it, I can find no|thing imported thereby, in the least degree, to warrant the modern practice of slavery. But, on the contrary, and what was principally intended thereby, and in the most particular manner, as respecting Christians, that it contains the strongest prohibition against it. And every Christian man, that can read his Bible, may find that which is of the greatest importance for himself to know, im|plied even under the very institution of bond-ser|vants; Page 44 and that the state of bondage which the law denounces and describes, was thereby so in|tended to point out something necessary, as well as similar to all the other ritual and ceremonial services; and that the whole is set forth in such a manner, as containing the very essence and foun|dation of the Christian religion. And, moreover, that it must appear evident to any Christian be|liever, that it was necessary that all these things should take place, and as the most beautiful fabric of Divine goodness, that in all their variety, and in all their forms, they should stand recorded un|der the sanction of the Divine law.
And this must be observed, that it hath so pleased the Almighty Creator, to establish all the variety of things in nature, different complexions and other circumstances among men, and to re|cord the various transactions of his own provi|dence, with all the ceremonial oeconomy written in the books of Moses, as more particularly re|specting and enjoined to the Israelitish nation and people, for the use of sacred language, in order to convey wisdom to the fallen apostate human race. Wherefore, all the various things establish|ed, admitted and recorded, whether natural, mo|ral, typical or ceremonial, with all the various things in nature referred to, were so ordered and admitted, as figures, types and emblems, and o|ther symbolical representations, to bring forward, usher in, hold forth and illustrate that most amaz|ing transaction, and the things concerning it, of all things the most wonderful that ever could take place amongst the universe of intelligent beings; as in that, and the things concerning it, of the salvation of apostate men, and the wonderful be|nignity of their Almighty Redeemer.
Page 45Whoever will give a serious and unprejudiced attention to the various things alluded to in the language of sacred writ, must see reason to be|lieve that they imply a purpose and design far more glorious and important, than what seems generally to be understood by them; and to point to objects and events far more extensive and in|teresting, than what is generally ascribed to them. But as the grand eligibility and importance of those things, implied and pointed out in sacred writ, and the right understanding thereof, be|longs to the sublime science of metaphysics and theology to enforce, illustrate and explain, I shall only select a few instances, which I think have a relation to my subject in hand.
Among other things it may be considered, that the different colours and complexions among men were intended for another purpose and design, than that of being only eligible in the variety of the scale of nature. And, accordingly, had it been otherwise, and if there had never been any black people among the children of men, nor any spotted leopards among the beasts of the earth, such an instructive question, by the prophet, could not have been proposed, as this, Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? Then, may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil. Jer. xiii.23. The instruction intended by this is evident, that it was a convincing and forcible argument to shew, that none among the fallen and apostate race of men, can by any effort of their own, change their nature from the blackness and guilt of the sable dye of sin and polution, or alter their way accustomed to do evil, from the variegated spots of their iniquity; and that such a change is as impossible to be totally and radically Page 46 effected by them, as it is for a black man to change the colour of his skin, or the leopard to alter his spots. But these differences of a natural variety amongst the things themselves, is in every respect equally innocent, and what they cannot alter or change, was made to be so, and in the most eligible and primary design, were so intend|ed for the very purposes of instructive language to men. And by these extreme differences of co|lour, it was intended to point out and shew to the white man, that there is a sinful blackness in his own nature, which he can no more change, than the external blackness which he sees in another can be rendered otherwise; and it likewise holds out to the black man, that the sinful blackness of his own nature is such, that he can no more alter, than the outward appearance of his colour can be brought to that of another. And this is import|ed by it, that there is an inherent evil in every man, contrary to that which is good; and that all men are like Ethiopians (even God's elect) in a state of nature and unregeneracy, they are black with original sin, and spotted with actual trans|gression, which they cannot reverse. But to this truth, asserted of blackness, I must add another glorious one. All thanks and eternal praise be to God! His infinite wisdom and goodness has found out a way of renovation, and has opened a foun|tain through the blood of Jesus, for sin and for uncleanness, wherein all the stains and blackest dyes of sin and polution can be washed away for ever, and the darkest sinner be made to shine as the brightest angel in heaven. And for that end and purpose, God alone has appointed all the channels of conveyance of the everlasting Gospel for these healing and purifying streams of the Page 47 water of life to run in, and to bring life and sal|vation, with light and gladness to men; but he denounces woe to those who do not receive it themselves, but hinder and debar others who would, from coming to those salutary streams for life: Yet not alone confined to these, nor hinder|ed in his purpose by any opposers, HE, who can open the eyes of the blind, and make the deaf to hear, can open streams in the desart, and make his benignity to flow, and his salvation to visit, even the meanest and most ignorant man, in the darkest shades of nature, as well as the most learned on the earth; and he usually carries on his own gracious work of quickening and redeeming grace, in a secret, sovereign manner. To this I must again observe, and what I chiefly intended by this similitude, that the external blackness of the Ethiopians, is as innocent and natural, as spots in the leopards; and that the difference of colour and complexion, which in hath pleased God to appoint among men, are no more unbe|coming unto either of them, than the different shades of the rainbow are unseemly to the whole, or unbecoming to any part of that apparent arch. It does not alter the nature and quality of a man, whether he wears a black or a white coat, whether he puts it on or strips it off, he is still the same man. And so likewise, when a man comes to die, it makes no difference whether he was black or white, whether he was male or female, whe|ther he was great or small, or whether he was old or young; none of these differences alter the es|sentiality of the man, any more than he had wore a black or a white coat and thrown it off for ever.
Another form of instruction for the same pur|pose, may be taken from the slavery and oppres|sion Page 48 which men have committed upon one ano|ther, as well as that kind of bondage and servi|tude which was admitted under the sanction of the Divine law. But there is nothing set forth in the law as a rule, or any thing recorded there|in that can stand as a precedent, or make it law|ful, for men to practice slavery; nor can any laws in favour of slavery be deduced from thence, for to enslave men, be otherwise, than as unwarrantble, as it would be unnecessary and wrong, to order and command the sacrifices of beasts to be still continued. Now the great thing imported by it, and what is chiefly to be deduced from it in this respect, is, that so far as the law concerning bond-servants, and that establishment of servitude, as ad|mitted in the Mosaical institution, was set forth, it was thereby intended to prefigure and point out, that spiritual subjection and bondage to sin, that all mankind, by their original transgression, were fallen into. All men in their fallen deprav|ed state, being under a spirit of bondage, sunk into a nature of brutish carnality, and by the lusts thereof, they are carried captive and enslaved; and the consequence is, that they are sold under sin and in bondage to iniquity, and carried cap|tive by the devil at his will. This being the case, the thing proves itself; for if there had been no evil and sin amongst men, there never would have been any kind of bondage, slavery and oppression found amongst them; and if there was none of these things to be found, the great cause of it could not, in the present situation of men, be pointed out to them in that eligible manner as it is. Wherefore it was necessary that something of that bondage and servitude should be admitted into the ritual law for a figurative use, which, in Page 49 all other respects and circumstances, was, in it|self, contrary to the whole tenure of the law, and naturally in itself unlawful for men to practice.
Nothing but heavenly wisdom, and heavenly grace, can teach men to understand. The most deplorable of all things is, that the dreadful situ|ation of our universalde praved state, which all mankind lyeth under, is such, that those who are not redeemed in time, must for ever continue to be the subjects of eternal bondage and misery. Blessed be God! he hath appointed and set up a deliverance, and the Saviour of Men is an Al|mighty Redeemer. When God, the Almighty Redeemer and Saviour of his people, brought his Israel out of Egypt and temporal bondage, it was intended and designed thereby, to set up an em|blematical representation of their deliverance from the power and captivity of sin, and from the do|minion of that evil and malignant spirit, who had with exquisite subtilty and guile at first seduced the original progenitors of mankind. And when they were brought to the promised land, and had gotten deliverance, and subdued their enemies under them, they were to reign over them; and their laws respecting bond-servants, and other things of that nature, were to denote, that they were to keep under and in subjection the whole body of their evil affections and lusts. This is so declared by the Apostle, that the law is spiritual, and intended for spiritual uses. The general state of slavery which took place in the world, among other enormous crimes of wicked men might have served for an emblem and similitude of our spi|ritual bondage and slavery to sin; but, unless it had been admitted into the spiritual and divine law, it could not have stood and become an em|blem Page 50 that there was any spiritual restoration and deliverance afforded to us. By that which is evil in captivity and slavery among men, we are thereby so represented to be under a like subjec|tion to sin; but by what is instituted in the law by Moses, in that respect we are thereby repre|sented as Israel to have dominion over sin, and to rule over and keep in subjection all our spiritual enemies. And, therefore, any thing which had a seeming appearance in favour of slavery, so far as it was admitted into the law, was to shew that it was not natural and innocent, like that of dif|ferent colours among men, but as necessary to be made an emblem of what was intended by it, and, consequently, as it stands enjoined among other typical representations, was to shew that every thing of any evil appearance of it, was to be removed, and to end with the other typical and ceremonial injunctions, when the time of that dispensation was over. This must appear evident to all Christian believers; and since there|fore all these things are fulfilled in the establish|ment of Christianity, there is now nothing re|maining in the law for a rule of practice to men, but the ever abiding obligations, and ever bind|ing injunctions of moral rectitude, justice, equi|ty and righteousness. All the other things in the Divine law, are for spiritual uses and similitudes, for giving instruction to the wise, and under|standing to the upright in heart, that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
Among other things also, the wars of the Is|raelites, and the extirpation of the Canaanites, and other circumstances as recorded in sacred history, were intended to give instruction to men, Page 51 but have often been perverted to the most fla|grant abuse, and even inverted to the most no|torious purposes, for men to embolden them|selves to commit wickedness. Every possession that men enjoy upon earth are the gifts of God, and he who gives them, may either take them away again from men, or he may take men away themselves from the earth, as it pleaseth him. But who dare, even with Lucifer, the malignant devourer of the world, think to imitate the most High? The extirpation of the Canaanites out of their land, was so ordered, not only to punish them for their idolatry and abominable wicked|ness, but also to shew forth the honour of his power, and the sovereignty of him who is the only potent one that reigneth over the nations; that all men at that time might learn to fear and know him who is Jehovah; and ever since that it might continue a standing memorial of him, and a standard of honor unto him who doth accord|ing to his will among the armies of heaven, and whatever pleaseth him with the inhabitants of the earth. And, in general, these transactions stand recorded for an emblematical use and similitude, in the spiritual warfare of every true Israelite throughout all the ages of time. Every real be|liever and valiant champion in the knowledge and faith of their Omnipotent Saviour and Almighty Deliverer, as the very nature of Christianity re|quires and enjoins, knoweth the use of these things, and they know how to endure hardness as good soldiers of Jesus Christ. They have many bat|tles to fight with their unbelief, the perverseness of their nature, evil tempers and besetting sins, these Canaanites which still dwell in their land. They are so surrounded with adversaries, that Page 52 they have need always to be upon their guard, and to have all their armour on. They are com|manded to cast off the works of darkness, and to put on the whole armour of righteousness and light; and that they may be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. For it is required that they should be able to stand against the wiles of the devil, the powers of the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. And as their foes are mighty and tall like the Anakims, and fenced up to heaven, they must be mighty warriors, men of renown, valiant for the truth, strong in the faith, fighting the Lord's battles, and overcoming all their enemies, through the dear might of the Great Cap|tain of their salvation. In this warfare, should they meet with some mighty Agag, some strong corruption, or besetting sin, they are command|ed to cut it down, and with the sword of Samuel to hew it to pieces before the Lord. This, in its literal sense, may seem harsh, as if Samuel had been cruel; and so will our sins, and other sin|ners insinuate▪ and tell us not to mind such things as the perfect law of God requires. But if we consider that the Lord God who breathed into man the breath of life, can suspend and take it away when he pleaseth, and that there is not a moment we have to exist, wherein that life may not be suspended before the next: it was there|fore of an indifferent matter for that man Agag, when the Lord, who hath the breath and life of every man in his hand, had appointed him at that time to die, for his great wickedness and the murders committed by him, whether he was slain by Samuel or any other means. But what Samuel, the servant of the Lord, did in that in|stance, was in obedience to his voice, and in it|self Page 53 a righteous deed, and a just judgment upon Agag. And the matter imported by it, was also intended to shew, that all our Amalekite sins, and even the chief and darling of them, the ava|ricious and covetous Agags, should be cut off for ever. But if we spare them, and leave them to remain alive in stubborn disobedience to the law and commandments of God, we should in that case, be like Saul, cut off ourselves from the king|dom of his grace. According to this view, it may suffice to shew (and what infinite wisdom in|tended, no doubt,) that a wise and righteous use may be made of those very things, which other|wise are generally perverted to wrong purposes.
And now, as to these few instances which I have collected from that sacred hypothesis, where|by it is shewn, that other things are implied and to be understood by the various incidents as re|corded in sacred writ, with a variety of other things in nature, bearing an analogous allusion to things of the greatest importance for every Christian man to know and understand; and that the whole of the ritual law, though these things themselves are not to be again repeated, is of that nature and use as never to be forgot. And therefore to suppose, or for any Christians to say, that they have nothing to do with those things now in the right use thereof, and what was intended and imported thereby respecting themselves, would be equally as absurd as to hear them speaking in the language of devils; and they might as well say as they did, when speaking out of the demoniac, that they have nothing to do with Christ.
Having thus endeavoured to shew, and what, I think, must appear evident and obvious, that Page 54 none of all these grand pretensions, as generally▪ made use of by the favourers of slavery, to en|courage and embolden them, in that iniquitous traffic, can have any foundation or shadow of truth to support them; and that there is nothing in nature, reason, and scripture can be found, in any manner or way, to warrant the enslaving of black people more than others.
But I am aware that some of these arguments will weigh nothing against such men as do not believe the scriptures themselves, nor care to un|derstand; but let them be aware not to make use of these things against us which they do not be|lieve, or whatever pretence they may have for committing violence against us. Any property taken away from others, whether by stealth, fraud, or violence, must be wrong; but to take away men themselves, and keep them in slavery, must be worse. Skin for skin, all that a man hath would be give for his life; and would rather lose his property to any amount whatever, than to have his liberty taken away, and be kept as a slave. It must be an inconceivable fallacy to think otherwise: none but the inconsiderate, most obdurate and stubborn, could ever think that it was right to enslave others. But the way of the wicked is brutish: his own iniquity shall take the wicked himself, and he shall be holden with the cords of his sins: he shall die without instruction, and in the greatness of his folly he shall go astray.
Among the various species of men that com|mit rapine, and violence, and murders, and theft, upon their fellow-creatures, like the ravenous beasts of the night, prowling for their prey, there are also those that set out their heads in the open day, opposing all the obligations of civilization Page 55 among men, and breaking through all the laws of justice and equity to them, and making even the very things which are analogous to the obli|gations, which ought to warn and prohibit them, a pretence for their iniquity and injustice. Such are the insidious merchants and pirates that gladen their oars with the carnage and captivity of men, and the vile negociators and enslavers of the human species. The prohibitions against them are so strong, that, in order to break through and to commit the most notorious and flagrant crimes with impunity, they are obliged to oil their poisonous pretences with various per|versions of sundry transactions of things even in sacred writ, that the acrimonious points of their arsenic may be swallowed down the better, and the evil effects of their crimes appear the less. In this respect, instead of the sacred history of the Is|raelitish nation being made profitable to them, for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruc|tion in righteousness, as it was intended, and given to men for that purpose; but, instead thereof, the wars of the Israelites, the extirpation and subjection of the Canaanites, and other trans|actions of that kind, are generally made use of by wicked men as precedents and pretences to encourage and embolden themselves to commit cruelty and slavery on their fellow-creatures: and the merciless depredators, negociators, and enslavers of men, revert to the very ritual law of Moses as a precedent for their barbarity, cruelty, and injustice; which law, though devoid of any iniquity, as bearing a parallel allusion to other things signified thereby, can afford no precedent for their evil way, in any shape or view: what was intended by it is fulfilled, and in no respect, Page 56 or any thing like it, can be repeated again, with|out transgressing and breaking through every other injunction, precept, and command of the just and tremendous law of God.
The consequence of their apostacy from God, and disobedience to his law, became a snare to those men in times of old, who departed from it; and because of their disobedience and wicked|ness, the several nations, which went astray af|ter their own abominations, were visited with many dreadful calamities and judgments. But to set up the ways of the wicked for an example, and to make the laws respecting their suppres|sion, and the judgments that were inflicted upon them for their iniquity, and even the written word of God, and the transactions of his provi|dence, to be reversed and become and prece|dents and pretences for men to commit depreda|tions and extirpations, and for enslaving and ne|gociating or merchandizing the human species, must be horrible wickedness indeed, and sinning with a high hand. And it cannot be thought otherwise, but that the abandoned aggressors, among the learned nations will, in due time, as the just reward of their aggravated iniquity, be visited with some more dreadful and tremendous judgments of the righteous vengeance of God, than what even befel to the Canaanites of old.
And it may be considered further, that to draw any inferences in favour of extirpation, slavery, and negociation of men, from the written word of God, or from any thing else in the history and customs of different nations, as a precedent to embolden wicked men in their wickedness; cannot be more wicked, ridiculous, and absurd to shew any favour to these insidious negociators Page 57 and enslavers, than it would be to stand and laugh, and look on with a brutal and savage im|punity, at beholding the following supposition transacted. Suppose two or three half-witted foolish fellows happened to come past a crowd of people, gazing at one which they had hung up by the neck on a tree, as a victim suffering for breaking the laws of his country; and suppose these foolish fellows went on a little way in a bye path, and found some innocent person, not sus|pecting any harm till taken hold of by them, and could not deliver himself from them, and just because they had seen among the crowd of people which they came past, that there had been a man hung by the neck, they took it into their foolish wicked heads to hang up the poor innocent man on the next tree, and just did as they had seen others do, to please their own fancy and base foolishness, to see how he would swing. Now if any of the other people happened to come up to them, and saw what they had done, would they hesitate a moment to determine between them|selves and these foolish rascals which had done wickedness? Surely not; they would immedi|ately take hold of such stupid wicked wretches, if it was in their power, and for their brutish foolishness, have them chained in a Bedlam, or hung on a gibbet. But what would these base foolish wretches say for themselves? That they saw others do so, and they thought there had been no harm in it, and they only did as they had seen the crowd of people do before. A poor foolish, base, rascally excuse indeed! But not a better excuse than this, can the brutish enslavers and negociators of men find in all the annals of history. The ensnarers, negociators, and oppres|sors Page 58 of men, have only to become more aban|doned in wickedness than these supposed wretches could be; and to pass on in the most abomin|able bye paths of wickedness, and make every thing that they can see an example for their brutal barbarity; and whether it be a man hanged for his crimes, or an innocent man for the wretched wickedness of others; right or wrong it makes no difference to them, if they can only satisfy their own wretched and brutal avarice. Whether it be the Israelites subjecting the Canaanites for their crimes, or the Canaan|ites subjecting the Israelites, to gratify their own wickedness, it makes no difference to them. When they see some base wretches like them|selves ensnaring, enslaving, oppressing, whip|ping, starving with hunger, and cruelly tortur|ing and murdering some of the poor helpless part of mankind, they would think no harm in it, they would do the same. Perhaps the Greeks and Romans, and other crowds of barbarous na|tions have done so before; they can make that a precedent, and think no harm in it, they would still do the same, and worse than any barbarous nations ever did before: and if they look back|wards and forwards they can find no better pre|cedent, ancient or modern, than that which is wicked, mean, brutish, and base. To practise such abominable parallels of wickedness of en|snaring, negociating, and enslaving men, is the scandal and shame of mankind; And what must we think of their crimes? Let the groans and cries of the murdered, and the cruel slavery of the Africans tell!
They that can stand and look on and behold no evil in the infamous traffic of slavery must be Page 59 sunk to a wonderful degree of insensibility; but surely those that can delight in that evil way for their gain, and be pleased with the wickedness of the wicked, and see no harm in subjecting their fellow-creatures to slavery, and keeping them in a state of bondage and subjection as a brute, must be wretchedly brutish indeed. But so be|witched are the general part of mankind with some sottish or selfish principle, that they care nothing about what is right or wrong, any far|ther than their own interest leads them to; and when avarice leads them on they can plead a thousand excuses for doing wrong, or letting others do wickedly, so as they have any advan|tage by it, to their own gratification and use. That sottish and selfish principle, without con|cern and discernment among men is such, that if they can only prosper themselves, they care no|thing about the miserable situation of others: and hence it is, that even those who are elevated to high rank of power and affluence, and as be|coming their eminent stations, have opportunity of extending their views afar, yet they can shut their eyes at this enormous evil of the slavery and commerce of the human species; and, contrary to all the boasted accomplishments, and fine vir|tues of the civilized and enlightened nations, they can sit still and let the torrent of robbery, sla|very, and oppression roll on.
There is a way which seemeth good unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death. Should the enslavers of men think to justify themselves in their evil way, or that it can in any possible way be right for them to subject others to sla|very; it is but charitable to evince and declare unto them, that they are those who have gone Page 60 into that evil way of brutish stupidity as well as wickedness, that they can behold nothing of mo|ral rectitude and equity among men but in the gloomy darkness of their own hemisphere, like the owls and night-hawks, who can see nothing but mist and darkness in the meridian blaze of day. When men forsake the paths of virtue, righteousness, justice, and mercy, and become vitiated in any evil way, all their pretended vir|tues, sensibility, and prudence among men, how|ever high they may shine in their own, and of others estimation, will only appear to be but spe|cious villainy at last. That virtue which will ever do men any good in the end, is as far from that which some men call such, as the gaudy appear|ance of a glow-worm in the dark is to the in|trinsic value and lustre of a diamond: for if a man hath not love in his heart to his fellow-creatures, with a generous philanthropy diffused throughout his whole soul, all his other virtues are not worth a straw.
The whole law of God is founded upon love, and the two grand branches of it are these: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul; and thou shalt love thy neigh|bour as thyself. And so it was when man was first created and made: they were created male and female, and pronounced to be in the image of God, and, as his representative, to have domi|nion over the lower creation: and their Maker, who is love, and the intellectual Father of Spi|rits, blessed them, and commanded them to arise in a bond of union of nature and of blood, each being a brother and a sister together, and each the lover and the loved of one another. But when they were envied and invaded by the grand Page 61 enslaver of men, all their jarring incoherency arose, and those who adhered to their pernicious usurper soon became envious, hateful, and ha|ting one another. And those who go on to in|jure, ensnare, oppress, and enslave their fellow-creatures, manifest their hatred to men, and maintain their own infamous dignity and vassal|age, as the servants of sin and the devil: but the man that has any honour as a man scorns their ignominious dignity: the noble philanthropist looks up to his God and Father as his only sove|reign; and he looks around on his fellow men as his brethren and friends; and in every situation and case, however mean and contemptible they may seem, he endeavours to do them good: and should he meet with one in the desert, whom he never saw before, he would hail him my brother! my sister! my friend! how fares it with thee? And if he can do any of them any good it would gladden every nerve of his soul.
But as there is but one law and one manner pre|scribed universally for all mankind, for you, and for the stranger that sojourneth with you, and where|sover they may be scattered throughout the face of the whole earth, the difference of superiority and inferiority which are found subsisting amongst them is no way incompatible with the universal law of love, honor, righteousness, and equity; so that a free, voluntary, and sociable servitude, which is the very basis of human society, either civil or religious, whereby we serve one another that we may be served, or do good that good may be done unto us, is in all things requisite and agreeable to all law and justice. But the taking away the natural liberties of men, and compelling them to any involuntary slavery, or Page 62 compulsory service, is an injury and robbery contrary to all law, civilization, reason, justice, equity, and humanity: therefore when men break through the laws of God, and the rules of civilization among men, and go forth to steal, to rob, to plunder, to oppress and to enslave, and to destroy their fellow-creatures, the laws of God and man require that they should be suppressed, and deprived of their liberty, or perhaps their lives.
But justice and equity does not always reside among men, even where some considerable de|gree of civilization is maintained; if it had, that most infamous reservoir of public and abandoned merchandizers and enslavers of men would not have been suffered so long, nor the poor unfor|tunate Africans, that never would have crossed the Atlantic to rob them, would not have be|come their prey. But it is just as great and as heinous a transgression of the law of God to steal, kidnap, buy, sell, and enslave any one of the Africans, as it would be to ensnare any other man in the same manner, let him be who he will. And suppose that some of the African pirates had been as dextrous as the Europeans, and that they had made excursions on the coast of Great-Bri|tain or elsewhere, and though even assisted by some of your own insiduous neighbours, for there may be some men even among you vile enough to do such a thing if they could get money by it; and that they should carry off your sons and your daughters, and your wives and friends, to a perpetual and barbarous slavery, you would certainly think that those African pirates were justly deserving of any punishment that could be put upon them. But the European pirates and Page 63 merchandizers of the human species, let them belong to what nation they will, are equally as bad; and they have no better right to steal, kid|nap, buy, and carry away and sell the Africans, than the Africans would have to carry away any of the Europeans in the same barbarous and un|lawful manner.
But again, let us follow the European piracy to the West-Indies, or any where among Chris|tians, and this law of the Lord Christ must stare every infidel slave-holder in the face, And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. But there is no slave-holder would like to have himself enslaved, and to be treated as a dog, and sold like a beast; and therefore the slave-holders, and merchandizers of men, trans|gress this plain law, and they commit a greater violation against it, and act more contrary unto it, than it would be for a parcel of slaves to as|sume authority over their masters, and compel them to slavery under them; for, if that was not doing as they would wish to be done to, it would be doing, at least, as others do to them, in a way equally as much and more wrong. But our Di|vine Lord and Master Christ also teacheth men to forgive one another their trespasses, and that we are not to do evil because others do so, and to re|venge injuries done unto us, Wherefore it is better, and more our duty, to suffer ourselves to be lashed and cruelly treated, than to take up the task of their barbarity. The just law of God re|quires an equal retaliation and restoration for every injury that men may do to others, to shew the greatness of the crime; but the law of for|bearance, righteousness and forgiveness, forbids the retaliation to be sought after, when it would Page 64 be doing as great an injury to them, without any reparation or benefit to ourselves. For what man can restore an eye that he may have deprived another of, and if even a double punishment was to pass upon him, and that he was to lose both his eyes for the crime, that would make no repa|ration to the other man whom he had deprived of one eye. And so, likewise, when a man is car|ried captive and enslaved, and maimed and cru|elly treated, that would make no adequate repa|ration and restitution for the injuries he had re|ceived, if he was even to get the person who had ensnared him to be taken captive and treated in the same manner. What he is to seek after is a deliverance and protection for himself, and not a revenge upon others. Wherefore the honest and upright, like the just Bethlehem Joseph, cannot think of doing evil, nor require an equal retalia|tion for such injuries done to them, so as to re|venge themselves upon others, for that which would do them no manner of good, Such ven|geance belongeth unto the Lord, and he will ren|der vengeance and recompence to his enemies and the violaters of his law.
But thus saith the law of God: If a man be found stealing any of his neighbours, or he that steal|eth a man (let him be who he will) and selleth him, or that maketh merchandize of him, or if he be found in his hand, then that thief shall die. However, in all modern slavery among Christians, who ought to know this law, they have not had any regard to it. Surely if any law among them admits of death as a punishment for robbing or defrauding others of their money or goods, it ought to be double death, if it was possible, when a man is robbed of himself, and sold into captivity and Page 65 cruel slavery. But because of his own goodness, and because of the universal depravity of men, the Sovereign Judge of all has introduced a law of forbearance, to spare such transgressors, where in many cases the law denounces death as the punishment for their crimes, unless for those founded upon murder, or such abominations as cannot be forborn with in any civilization among men. But this law of forbearance is no altera|tion of the law itself; it is only a respite in order to spare such as will fly to him for refuge and forgiveness for all their crimes, and for all their iniquities, who is the righteous fulfiller of the law, and the surety and representative of men before God: and if they do not repent of their iniquity, and reform to a life of new obedience, as being under greater obligations to the law, but go on in their evil way, they must at last for ever lie under the curse and every penalty of the just and holy law of tht Most High. This seems to be determined so by that Great Judge of the law, when the accusers of a woman, taken in adultery, brought her before him, he stooped down as a man and wrote, we may suppose, the crimes of her accusers in the dust, and as the God of all intelligence painted them in their con|sciences, wherefore they fled away one by one, and the woman was left alone before him; and as there was none of her accusers in that case righteous enough to throw the first stone, and to execute the law upon her, she was, Bid to go and sin no more. But it is manifest that every crime that men may commit, where death is mentioned as the penalty thereof in the righteous law of God, it denotes a very great offence and a heinous trangression; and although, in many cases, it may Page 66 meet with some mitigation in the punishment, because of the forbearance of God, and the un|righteousness of men, it cannot thereby be thought the less criminal in itself. But it also supposes, where strict severities are made use of in the laws of civilization, that the doers of the law, and the judges of it, ought to be very righteous them|selves. And with regard to that law of men-stealers, merchandizers, and of slaves found in their hands, that whatever mitigation and for|bearance such offenders ought to meet with, their crimes denote a very heinous offence, and a great violation of the law of God; they ought, there|fore, to be punished according to their trespasses, which, in some cases, should be death, if the person so robbed and stole should die in conse|quence thereof, or should not be restored and brought back; and even then to be liable to every damage and penalty that the judges should think proper: for so it is annexed to this law and required, that men should put away evil from among them. But this cannot now extend to the West-India slavery: what should rather be re|quired of them, in their present case of infatua|tion, is to surrender and give it up, and heal the stripes that they have wounded, and to pour the healing balm of Christianity into the bleeding wounds of Heathen barbarity and cruelty.
All the criminal laws of civilization seem to be founded upon that law of God which was pub|lished to Noah and his sons; and, consequently, as it is again and again repeated, it becomes ir|reversible, and universal to all mankind. And surely your blood of your lives will I require: at the hand of every beast will I require it; and at the hand of man, at the hand of every man's brother, will I Page 67 require the life of man. Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man. If this law of God had not been given to men, murder itself would not, have been any crime; and those who punished it with death would just have been as guilty as the other. But the law of God is just, righteous and holy, and ought to be regarded and revered above all the laws of men; and this is added unto it: What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it. But it is an exceeding impious thing for men ever to presume, or think, as some will say, that they would make it death as a punish|ment for such a thing, and such a trespass; or that they can make any criminal laws of civiliza|tion as binding with a penalty of death for any thing just what they please. No such thing can be supposed; no man upon earth ever had, or ever can have, a right to make laws where a pe|nalty of cutting off by death is required as the punishment for the transgression thereof: what is required of men is to be the doers of the law, and some of them to be judges of it; and if they judge wrongfully in taking away the lives of their fellow-creatures contrary to the law of God, they commit murder.
The reason why a man suffers death for break|ing the laws of his country is, because he trans|gresseth the law of God in that community he be|longs to; and the laws of civilization are bind|ing to put that law in force, and to point out and shew a sufficient warrant wherefore he should suffer, according as the just law of God requires for his trespass; and then it is just and right that Page 68 he should die for his crime. And as murder is irreversibly to be punished with death, sometimes when it is not done, but only implied or even|tually intended, it even then requires death; and in this sense it becomes right to face our enemies in the field of battle, and to cut them off. And when spies and incendiaries rise up, or when re|bellions break forth, and the lives of the Sove|reign and others, and the good of the commu|nity is not safe while such pretenders and their chief supporters are suffered to live; then it may be lawful, in some cases, that they should die; but in cases of this kind there is generally more cowardice and cruelty than justice and mercy re|garded, and more discretionary power left for men to use their authority in, and to establish criminal laws or precedents than in any thing else. Hence we may find many of the different chiefs and kings in different parts of the world, in all ages, wading through a sea of blood to their thrones, or supporting themselves upon it, by desolating and destroying others; and we may find good and bad in all ages setting up wretched examples for men to be guided by; and herein we may find a David, a Solomon, a Cromwell, committing murder and death, and a Charles the Second committing a greater carnage upon more innocent people than those who suffered in the reign of a bloody Queen Mary; and even in a late rebellion there were many suffered in Britain, which, if they had been preserved to this mild reign, they would have been as good neighbours, and as faithful subjects, as any other. But among all pretences for taking away the lives of men by any form of law, that for religion is the most Page 69 unwarrantable: it is the command of God to suppress idolatry, and to break down the images and external pomp of gross superstition, but not to destroy men themselves: that persecution is murder if it takes away the lives of men for their religion, for it has nothing to do with what men may think with respect to their own duty; and if a man is foolish enough to make an image of wood or stone, and to worship it, or even to adore a picture, if he keeps it to himself, perse|cution has nothing to do with him.
The law of God forbids all manner of cove|tousness and theft: but when any thing is taken away by stealth, it is not like those injuries which cannot be restored, as the cutting off or wound|ing any of the members of the body; but it ad|mits of a possible restoration, whether the viola|tors can restore it or not as the law requires, so if a man owes a just debt it is not the less due by him if he has got nothing to pay it with; such trangressors ought to be punished according to their trespasses, but not with death: for the law of God is,
But whereas the robbing of others in any man|ner of their property is often attended with such cruelty and violence, and a severe loss to the suf|ferers, it may, in some cases, be thought that the law of God sufficiently warrants the taking away the lives of the aggressors; for the taking away of a man's property in general may be con|sidered as taking away his life, or at least the means of his support, and then the punishing the transgressors with death can only in that case be reckoned a constructive murder. Wherefore the transgressors ought to be punished severely; but never with any laws of civilization where death is concerned, without a regard to the law of God. Page 71 And when the law of God admits of a forbear|ance, and a kind of forgiveness in many things, it ought to be the grand law of civilization to seek out such rules of punishment as are best cal|culated to prevent injuries of every kind, and to reclaim the transgressors; and it is best, if it can be done, to punish with a less degree of severity than their crimes deserve. But all the laws of civilization must jar greatly when the law of God is screwed up in the greatest severity to punish men for their crimes on the one hand, and on the other to be totally disregarded *. When the Divine law points out a theft, where the thief should make restitution for his trespass, the laws of civilization say, he must die for his crime: and when that law tells us, that he who stealeth or maketh merchandize of men, that such a thief shall surely die, the laws of civilization say, in many cases, that it is no crime. In this the ways of men are not equal; but let the wise and just determine whether the laws of God or the laws of men are right.
Amongst some of the greatest transgressors of the laws of civilization, those that defraud the public by forgery, or by substituting or falsifying any of the current specie, ought to have their lives or their liberties taken away; for although they may not do any personal injury, they commit the greatest robbery and theft, both to indivi|duals and the whole community. But even in the suppression of those, men have no right to add or Page 72 diminsh any thing to the law of God, with respect to taking away their lives. Wherefore, if the law of God does not so clearly warrant, that they should die for their theft, it, at least, fully war|rants that they should be sold into slavery for their crimes; and the laws of civilization may justly bind them, and hold them in perpetual bondage, because they have sold themselves to work iniquity; but not that they should be sold to the heathen, or to such as would not instruct them: for there might be hope, that if good in|struction was properly administered unto them, there might be a possible reformation wrought upon some of them. Some, by their ingenious assiduity, have tamed the most savage wild beasts; it is certainly more laudable to tame the most brutish and savage men, and, in time, there might be some Onesimus's found amongst them, that would become useful to reclaim others. Those that break the laws of civilization, in any flagrant manner, are the only species of men that others have a right to enslave; and such ought to be sold to the community, with every thing that can be found belonging to them, to make a commuta|tion of restitution as far as could be; and they should be kept at some useful and laborious em|ployment, and it might be at some embankation, or recovering of waste ground, as there might be land recovered on rivers and shores, worth all the expence, for the benefit of the community they belonged to. The continuance of that criminal slavery and bondage, ought to be according to the nature of their crimes, with a reference to their good behaviour, either to be continued or pro|tracted. Such as were condemned for life, when their crimes were great, and themselves stubborn, Page 73 might be so marked as to render their getting away impossible without being discovered, and that the very sight of one of them might deter others from committing their crimes, as much as hanging perhaps a dozen of them; and it might be made so severe unto them, that it would ren|der their own society in bondage, almost the only preferable one that they could enjoy among men. The manner of confining them would not be so impracticable as some may be apt to think; and all these severities come under the laws of men to punish others for their crimes, but they should not go beyond the just law of God; and neither should his laws be suspended, where greater tres|passes are committed.
In this sense every free community might keep slaves, or criminal prisoners in bondage; and should they be sold to any other, it should not be to stran|gers, nor without their own consent; and if any were sold for a term of years, they would naturally be|come free as soon as their purchase could be paid. But if any man should buy another man without his own consent, and compel him to his service and slavery without any agreement of that man to serve him, the enslaver is a robber, and a de|frauder of that man every day. Wherefore it is as much the duty of a man who is robbed in that manner to get out of the hands of his enslaver, as it is for any honest community of men to get out of the hands of rogues and villains. And how|ever much is required of men to forgive one ano|ther their trespasses in one respect, it is also mani|fest, and what we are commanded, as noble, to resist evil in another, in order to prevent others doing evil, and to keep ourselves from harm. Therefore, if there was no other way to deliver a Page 74 man from slavery, but by enslaving his master, it would be lawful for him to do so if he was able, for this would be doing justice to himself, and be justice, as the law requires, to chastise his master for enslaving of him wrongfully.
Thence this general and grand duty should be observed by every man, not to follow the multi|tude to do evil, neither to recompence evil for evil; and yet, so that a man may lawfully defend himself, and endeavour to secure himself, and others, as far as he can, from injuries of every kind. Wherefore all along, in the history of mankind, the various depredations committed in the world, by enslaving, extirpating and destroy|ing men, were always contrary to the laws of God, and what he had strictly forbidden and com|manded not to be done. But insolent, proud, wicked men, in all ages, and in all places, are alike; they disregard the laws of the Most High, and stop at no evil in their power, that they can contrive with any pretence of consistency in doing mischief to others, so as it may tend to promote their own profit and ambition. Such are all the depredators, kidnappers, merchandizers and en|slavers of men; they do not care, nor consider, how much they injure others, if they can make any advantage to themselves by it. But whenever these things were committed by wicked men, a retaliation was sought after, as the only way of deliverance; for he who leadeth into captivity, should be carried captive; and he which destroy|eth with the sword, should die with the sword. And as it became necessary to punish those that wronged others, when the punishers went beyond the bounds of a just retaliation, and fell into the same crimes of the oppressors, not to prevent Page 75 themselves from harm, and to deliver the oppres|sed and the captive, but to oppress and enslave others, as much as they before them had done, the consequence is plain, that an impending over|throw must still fall upon them likewise. In that respect, so far as conquerors are permitted to be|come a judgment and a scourge to others, for their enormous transgressions, they are themselves not a bit the more safe, for what they do, they often do wickedly for their own purpose; and when the purpose of Divine Providence, who rais|ed them up, is fulfilled by them, in the punish|ment of others for their crimes; the next wave thereof will be to visit them also according to their wickedness with some dreadful overthrow, and to swallow them up in the sea of destruction and oblivion.
History affords us many examples of severe re|taliations, revolutions and dreadful overthrows; and of many crying under the heavy load of sub|jection and oppression, seeking for deliverance. And methinks I hear now, many of my country|men, in complexion, crying and groaning under the heavy yoke of slavery and bondage, and pray|ing to be delivered; and the word of the Lord is thus speaking for them, while they are bemoan|ing themselves under the grievous bonds of their misery and woe, saying, Woe is me! alas Africa! for I am as the last gleanings of the summer fruit, as the grape gleanings of the vintage, where no cluster is to eat. The good are perished out of the earth, and there is none upright among men; they all lie in wait for blood; they hunt every man his brother with a net. That they may do evil with both hands earnest|ly, the prince asketh, and the judge asketh for a re|ward; and the great man he uttereth his mischievous Page 76 desire: so they wrap it up. Among the best in Africa, we have found them sharp as a briar; among the most upright, we have found them sharper than a thorn-hedge in the West-Indies. Yet, O Africa! yet, poor slave! The day of thy watchmen cometh, and thy visitation draweth nigh, that shall be their perplexity. Therefore I will look unto the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salva|tion; my God will hear me. Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy; though I be fallen, I shall yet arise; though I sit in darkness, the Lord shall yet be a light unto me. I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against him, until he plead my cause, and execute judgment for me, and I shall behold his righteousness. Then mine enemies shall see it, and shame shall cover them which said unto me, Where is the Lord thy God, that regardeth thee: Mine eyes shall behold them trodden down as the mire of the streets. In that day that thy walls of deliverance are to be built, in that day shall the decree of slavery be far removed.
What revolution the end of that predominant evil of slavery and oppression may produce, whe|ther the wise and considerate will surrender and give it up, and make restitution for the injuries that they have already done, as far as they can; or whether the force of their wickedness, and the iniquity of their power, will lead them on until some universal calamity burst forth against the abandoned carriers of it on, and against the cri|minal nations in confederacy with them, is not for me to determine? But this must appear evi|dent, that for any man to carry on a traffic in the merchandize of slaves, and to keep them in sla|very; or for any nation to oppress, extirpate and destroy others; that these are crimes of the greatest Page 77 magnitude, and a most daring violation of the laws and commandments of the Most High, and which, at last, will be evidenced in the destruc|tion and overthrow of all the transgressors. And nothing else can be expected for such violations of taking away the natural rights and liberties of men, but that those who are the doers of it will meet with some awful visitation of the righteous judgment of God, and in such a manner as it cannot be thought that his just vengeance for their iniquity will be the less tremendous because his judgments are long delayed.
None but men of the most brutish and depra|ved nature, led on by the invidious influence of infernal wickedness, could have made their set|tlements in the different parts of the world dis|covered by them, and have treated the various Indian nations, in the manner that the barbarous inhuman Europeans have done: and their esta|blishing and carrying on that most dishonest, un|just and diabolical traffic of buying and selling, and of enslaving men, is such a monstrous, auda|cious and unparallelled wickedness, that the very idea of it is shocking, and the whole nature of it is horrible and infernal. It may be said with confidence as a certain general fact, that all their foreign settlements and colonies were founded on murders and devastations, and that they have continued their depredations in cruel slavery and oppression to this day: for where such predomi|nant wickedness as the African slave-trade, and the West Indian slavery, is admitted, tolerated and supported by them, and carried on in their colonies, the nations and people who are the supporters and encouragers thereof must be not only guilty themselves of that shameful and aban|doned Page 78 evil and wickedness, so very disgraceful to human nature, but even partakers in those crimes of the most vile combinations of various pirates, kidnappers, robbers and thieves, the ruffians and stealers of men, that ever made their appearance in the world.
Soon after Columbus had discovered America, that great navigator was himself greatly embar|rassed and treated unjustly, and his best designs counteracted by the wicked baseness of those whom he led to that discovery. The infernal conduct of his Spanish competitors, whose lead|ing motives were covetousness, avarice and fana|ticism, soon made their appearance, and became cruel and dreadful. At Hispaniola the base per|fidy and bloody treachery of the Spaniards, led on by the perfidious Ovando, in seizing the peaceable Queen Anacoana and her attendants, burning her palace, putting all to destruction, and the innocent Queen and her people to a cruel death, is truly horrible and lamentable. And led on by the treacherous Cortes, the fate of the great Montezuma was dreadful and shocking; how that American monarch was treated, be|trayed and destroyed, and his vast extensive em|pire of the Mexicans brought to ruin and deva|station, no man of sensibility and feeling can read the history without pity and resentment. And looking over another page of that history, sensi|bility would kindle into horror and indignation, to see the base treacherous bastard Pizarra at the head of the Spanish banditti of miscreant depre|dators, leading them on, and overturning one of the most extensive empires in the world. To recite a little of this as a specimen of the rest: It seems Pizarra, with his company of depreda|tors, Page 79 had artfully penetrated into the Peruvian empire, and pretended an embassy of peace from a great monarch, and demanded an audience of the noble Atahualpa, the great Inca or Lord of that empire, that the terms of their embassy might be explained, and the reason of their coming into the territories of that monarch. Atahualpa fearing the menaces of those terrible invaders, and thinking to appease them by complying with their request, relied on Pizar|ra's feigned pretensions of friendship; accord|ingly the day was appointed, and Atahualpa made his appearance with the greatest decency and splendor he could, to meet such superior beings as the Americans conceived their inva|ders to be, with four hundred men in an uni|form dress, as harbingers to clear the way before him, and himself sitting on a throne or couch, adorned with plumes of various colours, and al|most covered with plates of gold and silver, en|riched with precious stones, and was carried on the shoulders of his principal attendants. As he ap|proached near the Spanish quarters the arch fa|natic Father Vincent Valverde, chaplain to the expedition, advanced with a crucifix in one hand and a breviary in the other, and began with a long discourse, pretending to explain some of the general doctrines of Christianity, together with the fabulous notion of St. Peter's vicegerency, and the transmission of his apostolic power con|tinued in the succession of the Popes; and that the then Pope, Alexander, by donation, had in|vested their master as the sole Monarch of all the New World. In consequence of this, Atahualpa was instantly required to embrace the Christian religion, acknowledge the jurisdiction of the Page 80 Pope, and submit to the Great Monarch of Cas|tile; but if he should refuse an immediate com|pliance with these requisitions, they were to de|clare war against him, and that he might expect the dreadful effects of their vengeance. This strange harangue, unfolding deep mysteries, and alluding to such unknown facts, of which no power of eloquence could translate, and convey, at once, a distinct idea to an American, that its general tenor was altogether incomprehensible to Atahualpa. Some parts in it, as more obvious than the rest, filled him with astonishment and indignation. His reply, however, was temper|ate, and as suitable as could be well expected. He observed that he was Lord of the dominions over which he reigned by hereditary succession; and, said, that he could not conceive how a fo|reign priest should pretend to dispose of territories which did not belong to him, and that if such a preposterous grant had been made, he, who was the rightful possessor, refused to confirm it; that he had no inclination to renounce the reli|gious institutions established by his ancestors; nor would he forsake the service of the Sun, the immortal divinity whom he and his people re|vered, in order to worship the God of the Spa|niards, who was subject to death; and that with respect to other matters, he had never heard of them before, and did not then understand their meaning. And he desired to know where Val|verde had learned things so extraordinary. In this book, replied the fanatic Monk, reaching out his breviary. The Inca opened it eagerly, and turning over the leaves, lifted it to his ear: This, says he, is silent; it tell tells me nothing; and threw it with disdain to the ground. The Page 81 enraged father of ruffians, turning towards his countrymen, the assassinators, cried out, To arms, Christians, to arms; the word of God is insulted; avenge this profanation on these im|pious dogs.
At this the Christian desperadoes impatient in delay, as soon as the signal of assault was given their martial music began to play, and their at|tack was rapid, rushing suddenly upon the Pe|ruvians, and with their hell-invented enginery of thunder, fire and smoke, they soon put them to flight and destruction. The Inca, though his nobles crouded round him with officious zeal, and fell in numbers at his feet, while they vied one with another in sacrificing their own lives that they might cover the sacred person of their Sovereign, was soon penetrated to by the assassin|ators, dragged from his throne, and carried to the Spanish quarters. The fate of the Monarch increased the precipitate flight of his followers; the plains being covered with upwards of thirty thousand men, were pursued by the ferocious Spaniards towards every quarter, who, with de|liberate and unrelenting barbarity, continued to slaughter the wretched fugitives till the close of the day, that never had once offered at any re|sistance. Pizarra had contrived this daring and perfidious plan on purpose to get hold of the Inca, notwithstanding his assumed character of an ambassador from a powerful monarch to court an alliance with that prince, and in violation of all the repeated offers of his own friendship. The noble Inca thus found himself betrayed and shut up in the Spanish quarters, though scarce aware at first of the vast carnage and destruction of his people; but soon conceiving the destruc|tive Page 82 consequences that attended his confinement, and by beholding the vast treasures of spoil that the Spaniards had so eagerly gathered up, he learned something of their covetous dispo|sition: and he offered as a ransom what asto|nished the Spaniards, even after all they now knew concerning the opulence of his kingdom: the apartment in which he was confined was twenty-two feet in length and sixteen in breadth, he undertook to fill it with vessels of gold as high as he could reach. This tempting proposal was eagerly agreed to by Pizarra, and a line was drawn upon the walls of the chamber to mark the stipulated height to which the treasure was to rise. The gold was accordingly collected from various parts with the greatest expedition by the Inca's obedient and loving subjects, who thought nothing too much for his ransom and life; but, after all, poor Atahualpa was cruelly murdered, and his body burnt by a military in|quisition, and his extensive and rich dominions devoted to destruction and ruin by these merci|less depredators.
The history of those dreadfully perfidious me|thods of forming settlements, and acquiring riches and territory, would make humanity tremble, and even recoil, at the enjoyment of such ac|quisitions and become reverted into rage and in|dignation at such horrible injustice and barba|rous cruelty,
But as I said before, it is surely to the great shame and scandal of Christianity among all the Heathen nations, that those robbers, plunderers, destroyers and enslavers of men should call them|selves Christians, and exercise their power under any Christian government and authority. I would have my African countrymen to know and understand, that the destroyers and ensla|vers of men can be no Christians; for Christian|ity is the system of benignity and love, and all its votaries are devoted to honesty, justice, hu|manity, meekness, peace and good-will to all men. But whatever title or claim some may as|sume to call themselves by it, without possessing any of its virtues, can only manifest them to be the more abominable liars, and the greatest ene|mies unto it, and as belonging to the synagogue of Satan, and not the adherers to Christ. For the enslavers and oppressors of men, among those that have obtained the name of Christians, they are still acting as its greatest enemies, and con|trary to all its genuine principles; they should therefore be called by its opposite, the Anti|christ. Such are fitly belonging to that most dissolute sorceress of all religion in the world:
The learned and ingenious author of Britannia Libera, as chiefly alluding to Great Britain alone, gives some account of that great evil and wick|edness carried on by the Christian nations, re|specting the direful effects of the great devasta|tions committed in foreign parts, whereby it would appear that the ancient and native inha|bitants have been drenched in blood and op|pression by their merciless visitors (which have formed colonies and settlements among them) the avaricious depredators, plunderers and destroyers of nations. As some estimate of it,
This seems to be verified too much in their pre|sent situation: for however wide they have ex|tended their territories abroad, they have sunk into a world of debt at home, which must ever remain an impending burden upon the inhabi|tants. And it is not likely, by any plan as yet adopted, to be ever paid, or any part of it, without a long continued heavy annual load of taxes. Perhaps, great as it is some other plan, more equitable for the good of the whole com|munity, if it was wanted to be done, and with|out any additional taxes, might be so made use of to pay it all off in twenty or thirty years time, and in such manner as whatever emergencies might happen, as never to need to borrow any money at interest. The national debt casts a sluggish deadness over the whole realm, greatly stops ingenuity and improvements, promotes idle|ness and wickedness, clogs all the wheels of com|merce, and drains the money out of the nation. If a foreigner buys stock, in the course of years that the interest amounts to the principal, he gets it all back; and in an equitable time the same sum ever after, and in course must take that money to foreign parts. And those who hold stock at home, are a kind of idle drones, as a Page 88 burden to the rest of the community: whereas if there were no funds, those who have money would be obliged to occupy it in some improve|ments themselves, or lend it to other manufac|turers or merchants, and by that means useful employments, ingenuity and commerce would flourish. But all stock-jobbing, lotteries, and useless business, has a tendency to slavery and oppression; for as the greater any idle part of the community is, there must be the greater labour and hardships resting upon the industrious part who support the rest; as all men are al|lotted in some degree to eat their bread with the sweat of their brow; but it is evil with any people when the rich grind the face of the poor. Lotte|ries must be nearly as bad a way of getting mo|ney for the good of a nation, as it is for an in|dividual when he is poor, and obliged to pawn his goods to increase his poverty, already poor. On the reverse, if a nation was to keep a bank to lend money to merchants and others, that na|tion might flourish, and its support to those in need might be attended with advantage to the whole; but that nation which is obliged to bor|row money from others, must be in a poor and wretched situation, and the inhabitants, who have to bear the load of its taxes, must be greatly burdened, and perhaps many of those employed in its service (as soldiers and others) poorly paid. It was otherwise with the people of Israel of old; it was the premise and blessing of God to them, That they should lend unto many nations, but should not borrow.
But when a nation or people do wickedly, and commit cruelties and devastations upon others, and enslave them, it cannot be expected that they Page 89 should be attended with the blessings of God, neither to eschew evil. They often become in|fatuated to do evil unawares; and those em|ployed under their service sometimes lead them into debt, error and wickedness, in order to en|rich themselves by their plunder, in committing the most barbarous cruelties, under pretences of war, wherein they were the first aggressors, and which is generally the case in all unnatural and destructive disputes of war. In this business mo|ney is wanted, the national debt becomes in|creased, and new loans and other sums must be added to the funds. The plunderers abroad send home their cash as fast as they can, and by one means and another the sums wanted to borrow, are soon made up. At last when the wars sub|side, or other business calls them home, laden with the spoils of the East or elsewhere, they have then the grand part of their business to ne|gociate, in buying up bank stock, and lodging their plunder and ill-got wealth in the British or other funds. Thus the nation is loaded with more debt, and with an annual addition of more interest to pay, to the further advantage of those who often occasioned it by their villainy; who, if they had their deserts, like the Popish inqui|sitors, are almost the only people in the world who deserve to be hung on the rack.
But so it happens in general, that men of ac|tivity and affluence, by whatever way they are possessed of riches, or have acquired a greatness of such property, they are always preferred to take the lead in matters of government, so that the greatest depredators, warriors, contracting companies of merchants, and rich slave-holders, always endeavour to push themselves on to get Page 90 power and interest in their favour; that what|ever crimes any of them commit they are seldom brought to a just punishment. Unless that some|thing of this kind had been the case, 'tis impos|sible to conceive how such an enormous evil as the slave-trade could have been established and carried on under any Christian government: and from hence that motly system of government, which hath so sprung up and established itself, may be accounted for, and as being an evident and universal depravity of one of the finest con|stitutions in the world; and it may be feared if these unconstitutional laws▪ reaching from Great-Britain to her colonies, be long continued in and supported, to the carrying on that horrible and wicked traffic of slavery, must at last mark out the whole of the British constitution with ruin and destruction; and that the most generous and tenacious people in the world for liberty, may also at last be reduced to slaves. And an Ethio|pian may venture to assert, that so long as sla|very is continued in any part of the British do|minions, that more than one-half of the legisla|ture are the virtual supporters and encouragers of a traffic which ought to be abolished, as it cannot be carried on but by some of the most abandoned and profligate men upon earth.
However, the partizans of such a class of men are generally too many and numerous, whose viciated principles from time to time have led the whole nation into debt, error and disgrace; and by their magnetic influence there is a general support given to despotism, oppression and cru|elty. For many have acquired great riches by some insidious traffic or illegal gain; and as these become often leading men in governments, vast Page 91 multitudes by sea and land pursue the same course, and support the same measures; like ad|venturers in the lottery, each grasping for the highest prize; or as much enamoured with any infamous way of getting riches, as the Spaniards were with the Peruvian vessels of gold. And when ambitious and wicked men are bent upon avarice and covetousness, it leads them on to commit terrible cruelties, and their hearts be|come hardened in wickedness; so that even their enormous crimes sink in their own estimation, and soften into trivial matters. The house-breakers and highwaymen, petty depredators, think nothing of any mischief or cruelty that they can do, so as they can gain their end and come off safe; but their villainy and crimes appear to other men as they ought to do, and if they can be detected, and taken hold of, they will meet with such punishment as they justly deserve for their crimes. But it is otherwise with the Colo|nians, the great depredators, pirates, kidnappers, robbers, oppressors and enslavers of men. The laws as reaching from Great-Britain to the West-Indies, do not detect them, but protect the opu|lent slave-holders; though their opulence and protection by any law, or any government what|soever, cannot make them less criminal than vio|lators of the common rights and liberties of men. They do not take away a man's property, like other robbers; but they take a man himself, and subject him to their service and bondage, which is a greater robbery, and a greater crime, than taking away any property from men whatsoever. And, therefore, with respect to them, there is very much wanted for regulating the natural rights of mankind, and very much wrong in the Page 92 present forms of government, as well as much abuse of that which is right.
The Spaniards began their settlements in the West Indies and America, by depredations of rapine, injustice, treachery and murder; and they have continued in the barbarous practice of devastation, cruelty, and oppression ever since: and their principles and maxims in planting co|lonies have been adopted, in some measure, by every other nation in Europe. This guiltful me|thod of colonization must undoubtedly and im|perceptibly have hardened men's hearts, and led them on from one degree of barbarity and cruelty to another: for when they had destroyed, wasted and desolated the native inhabitants, and when many of their own people, enriched with plun|der, had retired, or returned home to enjoy their ill-gotten wealth, other resources for men to la|bour and cultivate the ground, and such other laborious employments were wanted. Vast ter|ritories and large possessions, without getting in|habitants to labour for them, were of no use. A general part of what remained of the wretched fugitives, who had the best native right to those possessions, were obliged to make their escape to places more remote, and such as could not, were obliged to submit to the hard labour and bond|age of their invaders; but as they had not been used to such harsh treatment and laborious em|ployment as they were then subjected to, they were soon wasted away and became few. Their proud invaders found the advantage of having their labour done for nothing, and it became their general practice to pick up the unfortunate strangers that fell in their way, when they thought they could make use of them in their service. Page 93 That base traffic of kidnapping and stealing men was begun by the Portuguese on the coast of Africa, and as they found the benefit of it for their own wicked purposes, they soon went on to commit greater depredations. The Spaniards followed their infamous example, and the African slave-trade was thought most advantageous for them, to enable themselves to live in ease and affluence by the cruel subjection and slavery of others. The French and English, and some other nations in Europe, as they founded settle|ments and colonies in the West-Indies. or in America, went on in the same manner, and joined hand in hand with the Portuguese and Spaniards, to rob and pillage Africa, as well as to waste and desolate the inhabitants of the west|ern continent. But the European depredators and pirates have not only robbed and pillaged the people of Africa themselves; but, by their insti|gation, they have infested the inhabitants with some of the vilest combinations of fraudulent and treacherous villains, even among their own people; and have set up their forts and factories as a reservoir of public and abandoned thieves, and as a den of desperadoes, where they may en|snare, entrap and catch men. So that Africa has been robbed of its inhabitants; its free-born sons and daughters have been stole, and kidnapped, and violently taken away, and carried into cap|tivity and cruel bondage. And it may be said, in respect to that diabolical traffic which is still carried on by the European depredators, that Africa has suffered as much and more than any other quarter of the globe. O merciful God! when will the wickedness of man have an end?
Page 94The Royal African Company (as is is called, ought rather to be reversed as unworthy of the name) was incorporated 14th Charles II. and im|powered to trade from Salle in South Barbary to the Cape of Good Hope, and to erect forts and factories on the western coast of Africa for that purpose. But this trade was laid open by an act of parliament, Anno 1697, and every private merchant permitted to trade thither, upon pay|ing the sum of ten pounds towards maintaining the forts and garrisons. This Company, for se|curing their commerce, erected several factories on the coast; the most remarkable are these, viz. on the North part of Guinea, James Fort, upon an island in the River Gambia, Sierra Le|ona, and Sherbro; and on the South part of Guinea, viz. on the Gold Coast, Dick's Cove, Succunda, Commenda, Cape Coast Castle, Fort Royal, Queen Anne's Point, Charles Fort, Anna|mabo, Winebah, Shidoe, Acra, &c. In all these places it is their grand business to traffic in the human species; and dreadful and shocking as it is to think, it has even been established by royal authority, and is still supported and carried on under a Christian government; and this must evidently appear thereby, that the learned, the civilized, and even the enlightened nations are become as truly barbarous and brutish as the un|learned.
To give any just conception of the barbarous traffic carried on at those factories, it would be out of my power to describe the miserable situa|tion of the poor exiled Africans, which by the craft of wicked men daily become their prey, though I have seen enough of their misery as well as read; no description can give an adequate Page 95 idea of the horror of their feelings, and the dreadful calamities they undergo. The treache|rous, perfidious and cruel methods made use of in procuring them, are horrible and shocking. The bringing them to the ships and factories, and subjecting them to brutal examinations stripped naked and markings, is barbarous and base. The stowing them in the holds of the ships like goods of burden, with closeness and stench, is deplora|ble; and, what makes addition to this deplorable situation, they are often treated in the most bar|barous and inhuman manner by the unfeeling monsters of Captains. And when they arrive at the destined port in the colonies, they are again stripped naked for the brutal examination of their purchasers to view them, which, to many, must add shame and grief to their other woe, as may be evidently seen with sorrow, melancholy and despair marked upon their countenances. Here again another scene of grief and lamenta|tion arises;—friends and near relations must be parted never to meet again, nor knowing to whence they go. Here daughters are clinging to their mothers, and mothers to their daughters, bedewing each others naked breasts with tears; here fathers, mothers, and children, locked in each others arms, are begging never to be se|parated; here the husband will be pleading for his wife, and the wife praying for her children, and entreating, enough to melt the most obdu|rate heart, not to be torn from them, and taken away from her husband; and some will be still weeping for their native shore, and their dear relations and friends, and other endearing con|nections which they have left behind, and have been barbarously tore away from; and all are Page 96 bemoaning themselves with grief and lamentation at the prospect of their wretched fate. And when sold and delivered up to their inhuman purchasers, a more heart-piercing scene cannot well take place. The last embrace of the be|loved husband and wife may be seen, taking their dear offspring in their arms, and with the most parental fondness, bathing their cheeks with a final parting endearment. But on this occasion they are not permitted to continue long, they are soon torn away by their unfeeling masters, en|tirely destitute of a hope of ever seeing each other again; and no consolation is afforded to them in this sorrowful and truly pitiable situa|tion. Should any of them still linger, and cling together a little longer, and not part as readily as their owners would have them, the flogger is called on, and they are soon drove away with the bloody commiseration of the cutting fangs of the whip lashing their naked bodies. This last exercise of the bloody whip, with many other cruel punishments, generally becomes an appendage of their miserable fate, until their wretched lives be wore out with hunger, naked|ness, hard labour, dejection and despair. Alas! alas! poor unhappy mortal! to experience such treatment from men that take upon themselves the sacred name of Christians!
In such a vast extended, hideous and predomi|nant slavery, as the Europeans carry on in their Colonies, some indeed may fall into better hands, and meet with some commiseration and better treatment than others, and a few may become free, and get themselves liberated from that cruel and galling yoke of bondage; but what are these to the whole, even hundreds of thousands, held Page 97 and perpetrated in all the prevalent and intoler|able calamities of that state of bondage and exile. The emancipation of a few, while ever that evil and predominant business of slavery is continued, cannot make that horrible traffic one bit the less criminal. For, according to the methods of pro|curing slaves in Africa, there must be great rob|beries and murders committed before any eman|cipation can take place, and before any lenitive favours can be shewn to any of them, even by the generous and humane. This must evidence that the whole of that base traffic is an enormous evil and wicked thing, which cries aloud for re|dress, and that an immediate end and stop should be put to it.
The worthy and judicious author of the Histo|rical account of Guinea, and others, have given some very striking estimates of the exceeding evil occasioned by that wicked diabolical traffic of the African slave-trade; wherein it seems, of late years, the English have taken the lead, or the greatest part of it, in carrying it on. They have computed, that the ships from Liverpool, Bris|tol and London have exported from the coast of Africa upwards of one hundred thousand slaves annually; and that among other evils attending this barbarous inhuman traffic, it is also compu|ted that the numbers which are killed by the treacherous and barbarous methods of procuring them, together with those that perish in the voy|age, and die in the seasoning, amount to at least an hundred thousand, which perish in every yearly attempt to supply the colonies, before any of the wretched survivers, reduced to about sixty thou|sand, annually required as an additional stock can be made useful. But as the great severities and Page 98 oppressions loaded upon the wretched survivors are such that they are continually wearing out, and a new annual supply wanted; that the vast carnage, and the great multitude of human souls that are actually deprived of life by carrying on that iniquitous business, may be supposed to be even more than one hundred thousand that perish annually; or supposing that to be greatly less than it is, still it is so great that the very idea is shocking to conceive, at the thought of it sensi|bility would blush, and feeling nature absolutely turn pale.
For though this world is not the place of final retribution, yet there is an evidence maintained in the course of Divine Providence, that verily there is a God that judgeth in the earth. That Page 101 nations may continue long, with a considerable degree of worldly prosperity, and without seem|ing to be distinguished by remarkable calamities. when their wickedness is become very great and prevalent; yet it is no way inconsistent to assert, (and what sacred history warrant us to conclude) that their judgment slumbereth not. Had one been among the Canaanites a few years before the Israelites entered their country, or in Babylon a little before Cyrus encamped against it, he would have beheld a people in a state of great worldly prosperity, and in much security, notwithstand|ing that the judgments of God were ready to seize upon them. Great and destructive wars are kindled up from time to time, whereby multi|tudes of mankind are swept away from the face of the earth, and the wealth of nations are ex|hausted. Famine, pestilence and earthquakes have often spread terror, desolation and misery among the inhabitants of the world. Nor are there wanting instances of remarkable national distresses as a judgment for their wickedness, by a variety of other causes. Though men cannot easily be prevailed with to regard these as the operation of the hand of God, the scriptures, which contain the rules and history of Divine Pro|vidence, represent these as inflicted for the sins of nations, and not merely as casual things, for which no account can be given. And therefore some of these causes which may seem natural, and which have begun to make their appearance, and the annual destructions thereof, which are constantly heard of in some part or other, may be considered as tokens of God's judgments against the British empire, and a variety of them might be named; such as loss of territory and Page 102 destructive wars, earthquakes and dreadful thun|ders, storms and hurricanes, blastings and de|structive insects, inclement and unfruitful seasons, national debt and oppressions, poverty and dis|tresses of individuals, &c. For his own iniquity shall take the wicked himself; and who can tell what dreadful calamities may yet befal to a people responsible for so great a share of iniquity as in that part which they carry on of the African slave-trade alone.
But while ever such a horrible business as the slavery and oppression of the Africans is carried on, there is not one man in all Great-Britain and her colonies, that knoweth any thing of it, can be innocent and safe, unless he speedily riseth up with abhorrence of it in his own judgment, and, to avert evil, declare himself against it, and all such notorious wickedness. But should the contrary be adhered to, as it has been in the most shameful manner, by men of eminence and pow|er; according to their eminence in station, the nobles and senators, and every man in office and authority, must incur a double load of guilt, and not only that burden of guilt in the oppression of the African strangers, but also in that of an impending danger and ruin to their country; and such a double load of iniquity must rest upon those guilty heads who withhold their testimony against the crying sin of tolerating slavery. The inhabitants in general who can approve of such inhuman barbarities, must themselves be a species of unjust barbarians and inhuman men. But the Page 104 clergy of all denominations, whom we would con|sider as the devout messengers of righteousness, peace, and good-will to all men, if we find any of them ranked with infidels and barbarians, we must consider them as particularly responsible, and, in some measure, guilty of the crimes of other wicked men in the highest degree. For it is their duty to warn every man, and to teach every man to know their errors; and if they do not, the crimes of those under their particular charge must rest upon themselves, and upon some of them, in such a case as this, that of the whole nation in general; and those (whatever their respective situation may be) who forbid others to assist them, must not be very sensible of their own duty, and the great extensiveness and importance of their own charge. And as it is their great duty to teach men righteousness and piety; this ought to be considered as sufficiently obvious unto them, and to all men, that nothing can be more contrary unto it, than the evil and very nature of enslaving men, and making mer|chandize of them like the brute creation.
The higher that any man is exalted in power and dignity, his danger is the more eminent, though he may not live to see the evil that may eventually be contributed to his country, because of his disobedience to the law and commandments of God. All men in authority, and kings in ge|neral, who are exalted to the most conspicuous offices of superiority, while they take upon them|selves to be the administrators of righteousness and justice to others, they become equally respon|sible for admitting or suffering others under their authority to do wrong. Wherefore the highest offices of authority among men, are not so desira|ble as some may be apt to conceive; it was so considered by the virtuous queen Anne, when she was called to the royal dignity, as she declared to the council of the nation, that it was a heavy weight and burden brought upon her. For kings are the ministers of God, to do justice, and not to bear the sword in vain, but to revenge wrath upon them that do evil. But if they do not in such a case as this, the cruel oppressions of thousands, and the blood of the murdered Africans who are slain by the sword of cruel avarice, must rest upon their own guilty heads in as eventually and plain a sense as it was David that murdered Uriah; and therefore they ought to let no companies of insi|dious merchants, or any guileful insinuations of wicked men, prevail upon them to establish laws of iniquity, and to carry on a trade of op|pression and injustice; but they ought to consider such as the worst of foes and rebels, and greater enemies than any that can rise up against their Page 106 temporal dignity. From all such enemies, good Lord, deliver them! for it is even better to lose a temporal kingdom, than only to endanger the happiness and enjoyment of an eternal one.
Nothing else can be conceived, but that the power of infernal wickedness has so reigned and pervaded over the enlightened nations, as to in|fatuate and lead on the great men, and the kings of Europe, to promote and establish such a horri|ble traffic of wickedness as the African slave trade and the West-India slavery, and thereby to bring themselves under the guilty responsibility of such awful iniquity. The kings and governors of the nations in general have power to prevent their subjects and people from enslaving and oppressing others, if they will; but if they do not endeavour to do it, even if they could not effect that good purpose, they must then be responsible for their crimes; how much more, if they make no endea|vours towards it, even when they can, and where no opposition, however plausible their pretences might be, would dare to oppose them. Where|fore, if kings or nations, or any men that dealeth unjustly with their fellow-creatures, to ensnare them, to enslave them, and to oppress them, or suffer others to do so, when they have it in their power to prevent it, and yet they do not, can it ever be thought that God will be well pleased with them? For can those which have no mercy on their fellow-creatures, expect to find mercy from the gracious Father of Men? Or will it not rather be said unto them, as it is declared, that he who leadeth into captivity, shall be carried captive, and be bound in the cords of his own iniquity: Though hand join in hand the wicked shall not go unpunished; for sin and wickedness is the destruction of any people.Page 107 And should these nations, in the most obnoxious and tenacious manner, still adhere to it as they have done, and continue to carry on in their colo|nies such works and purposes of iniquity, in op|pression and injustice against the Africans, no|thing else can be expected for them at last, but to meet with the fierce wrath of Almighty God, for such a combination of wickedness, according to all the examples of his just retribution, who can|not suffer such deliberate, such monstrous ini|quity to go long unpunished.
There is good reason to suppose, that it was far from the intention of Ferdinand, king of Spain, to use his new subjects in America in the brutal and barbarous manner that his people did; and happy for the credit of that nation, and the honor of mankind, even among the profligate adven|turers which were sent to conquer and desolate the new world, there were some persons that retained some tincture of virtue and generosity, and some men of the greatest reputation of both gentlemen and clergy, which did not only remonstrate, but protest against their measures then carried on. And since that iniquitous traffic of slavery has commenced and been carried on, many gen|tlemen of the most distinguished reputation, of different nations, and particularly in England, have protested and remonstrated against it. But the guileful insinuations of avaricious wicked men, which prevailed formerly, have still been continued; and to answer the purposes of their own covetousness, the different nations have been fomented with jealousy to one another, least ano|ther should have the advantage in any traffic; and while naturally emulous to promote their own am|bition, they have imbrewed their hands in that Page 108 infamous commerce of iniquity; and by the insi|dious instigation of those whose private emolu|ment depends on it, the various profligate adven|turers, from time to time, have acquired the sanc|tion of laws to support them, and have obtained the patronage of kings in their favour to encour|age them, whereby that commerce of the most notorious injustice, and open violation of the laws of God, hath been carried on exceedingly to the shame of all the Christian nations, and greatly to the disgrace of all the monarchs of Europe. The fact speaks itself: And destruction shall be to the workers of iniquity. The bold and oftensive en|slavers of men, who subject their fellow-creatures to the rank of a brute, and the immolate value of a beast, are themselves the most abandoned slaves of infernal wickedness, the most obnoxious ruffi|ans among men, the enemies of their country, and the disgrace of kings. Their iniquity is wrote in the light as with a sun-beam, and engraven on the hardest rock as with the point of a diamond, that cannot be easily wiped away: But the wicked shall fall by their own wickedness. And, neverthe|less, by the insidious instigations of those who have forsaken the amiable virtues of men, and have acquired the cruel ferocity of tygers and wild beasts, they have not only polluted them|selves with their iniquity, but their base treachery has brought shame and guilt upon some of the most exalted and most amiable characters in the world. And, therefore, that no evil may happen unto those who have been so shamefully beguiled and betrayed by the vile instigations of wicked, profligate, inhuman men, and that no shame and guilt may rest upon him, who standeth in the greatest eminence of responsibility, I would ever Page 109 desire to pray; let all the prayers of the wise and pious be heard for the king, and for his wise counsellors, and the great men that stand before him; for kings and great men stand in the most perilous situation of having the crimes of others imputed to them; wherefore kings have need of all your prayers, that the counsel of the wicked may not prevail against them, for these are the worst foes, and most terrible enemies, both to yourselves and to your sovereign. Righteous|ness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.
In this advanced aera, when the kings of Eu|rope are become more conspicuous for their manly virtues, than any before them have been, it is to be hoped that they will not any longer suffer themselves to be imposed upon, and be beguiled, and brought into guilt and shame, by any insti|gations of the cunning craftiness and evil policy of the avaricious, and the vile profligate ensla|vers of men. And as their wisdom and under|standing is great, and exalted as their high dig|nity, it is also to be hoped that they will exert themselves, in the cause of righteousness and jus|tice, and be like the wisest and the greatest mo|narchs of old, to hearken to the counsel of the wise men that know the times, and to the righte|ous laws of God, and to deliver the oppressed, and to put an end to the iniquitous commerce and slavery of men. And as we hear tell of the kings of Europe having almost abolished, the in|fernal invention of the bloody tribunal of the in|quisition, and the Emperor and others making some grand reformations for the happiness and good of their subjects; it is to be hoped also that these exalted and liberal principles will lead them Page 110 on to greater improvements in civilization and felicitation, and next to abolish that other diabo|lical invention of the bloody and cruel African slave-trade, and the West-Indian slavery.
But whereas the people of Great-Britain having now acquired a greater share in that iniquitous commerce than all the rest together, they are the first that ought to set an example, lest they have to repent for their wickedness when it becomes too late; lest some impending calamity should speedily burst forth against them, and lest a just retribution for their enormous crimes, and a con|tinuance in committing similar deeds of barba|rity and injustice should involve them in ruin. For we may be assured that God will certainly avenge himself of such heinous transgressors of his law, and of all those planters and merchants, and of all others, who are the authors of the Afri|cans graves, severities, and cruel punishments, and no plea of any absolute necessity can possibly excuse them. And as the inhabitants of Great-Britain, and the inhabitants of the colonies, seem almost equally guilty of the oppression, there is great reason for both to dread the severe ven|geance of Almighty God upon them, and upon all such notorious workers of wickedness; for it is evident that the legislature of Great-Britain patronises and encourages them, and shares in the infamous profits of the slavery of the Africans. It is therefore necessary that the inhabitants of the British nation should seriously consider these things for their own good and safety, as well as for our benefit and deliverance, and that they may be sen|sible of their own error and danger, lest they pro|voke the vengeance of the Almighty against them. For what wickedness was there ever risen up so Page 111 monstrous, and more likely to bring a heavy rod of destruction upon a nation, than the deeds com|mitted by the West-Indian slavery, and the Afri|can slave trade. And even in that part of it car|ried on by the Liverpool and Bristol merchants, the many shocking and inhuman instances of their barbarity and cruelty are such, that every one that heareth thereof has reason to tremble, and cry out, Should not the land tremble for this, and every one mourn that dwelleth therein?
The vast carnage and murders committed by the British instigators of slavery, is attended with a very shocking, peculiar, and almost un|heard of conception, according to the notion of the perpetrators of it; they either consider them as their own property, that they may do with as they please, in life or death; or that the taking away the life of a black man is of no more account than taking away the life of a beast. A very melancholy instance of this happened about the year 1780, as recorded in the courts of law; a master of a vessel bound to the Western Colo|nies, selected 132 of the most sickly of the black slaves, and ordered them to be thrown overboard into the sea, in order to recover their value from the insurers, as he had perceived that he was too late to get a good market for them in the West-Indies. On the trial, by the counsel for the owners of the vessel against the underwriters, their argument was, that the slaves were to be considered the same as horses; and their plea for throwing them into the sea, was nothing better than that it might be more necessary to throw them overboard to lighten their vessel than goods of greater value, or something to that effect. These poor creatures, it seems, were tied two and Page 112 two together when they were thrown into the sea, lest some of them might swim a little for the last gasp of air, and, with the animation of their ap|proaching exit, breath their souls away to the gracious Father of spirits. Some of the last par|cel, when they saw the fate of their companions, made their escape from tying by jumping over|board, and one was saved by means of a rope from some in the ship. The owners of the vessel, I suppose, (inhuman connivers of robbery, slavery, murder and fraud) were rather a little defeated in this, by bringing their villainy to light in a court of law; but the inhuman monster of a cap|tain was kept out of the way of justice from get|ting hold of him. Though such perpetrators of murder and fraud should have been sought after from the British Dan in the East-Indies, to her Beershebah in the West.
But our lives are accounted of no value, we are hunted after as the prey in the desart, and doomed to destruction as the beasts that perish. And for this, should we appeal to the inhabitants of Eu|rope, would they dare to say that they have not wronged us, and grievously injured us, and that the blood of millions do not cry out against them? And if we appeal to the inhabitants of Great-Britain, can they justify the deeds of their conduct towards us? And is it not strange to think, that they who ought to be considered as the most learned and civilized people in the world, that they should carry on a traffic of the most bar|barous cruelty and injustice, and that many, even among them, are become so dissolute, as to think slavery, robbery and murder no crimes? But we will answer to this, that no man can, with impu|nity, steal, kidnap, buy or sell another man, Page 113 without being guilty of the most atrocious vil|lainy. And we will aver, that every slave-holder that claims any property in slaves, or holds them in an involuntary servitude, are the most obnoxious and dissolute robbers among men; and that they have no more right, nor any better title to any one of them, than the most profligate and noto|rious robbers and thieves in the world, has to the goods which they have robbed and stole from the right owners and lawful possessor thereof. But should the slave-holders say that they buy them; their title and claim is no better then that of the most notorious conniver, who buys goods from other robbers, knowing them to be stole▪ and accordingly gives an inferior price for them. According to the laws of England, when such connivers are discovered, and the property of others unlawfully found in their possession; the right owners thereof can oblige the connivers to restore back their property, and to punish them for their trespass. But the slave-holders, universally, are those connivers, they do not only rob men of some of their property, but they keep men from every property belonging to them, and compel them to their involuntary service and drudgery; and those whom they buy from other robbers, and keep in their possession, are greatly injured by them when compared to any species of goods whatsoever; and accordingly they give but a very inferior price for men, as all their vast estates in the West-Indies is not sufficient to buy one of them, if the rightful possessor was to sell himself to them in the manner that they claim possession of him. Therefore let the inhabitants of any civilized nation determine, whether, if they were to be treated in the same manner that Page 114 the Africans are, by various pirates, kidnappers, and slave-holders, and their wives, and their sons and daughters were to be robbed from them, or themselves violently taken away to a perpetual and intolerable slavery; or whether they would not think those robbers, who only took away their property, less injurious to them than the other. If they determine it so, as reason must tell every man, that himself is of more value than his property; then the executors of the laws of civilization ought to tremble at the incon|sistency of passing judgment upon those whose crimes, in many cases, are less than what the whole legislature must be guilty of, when those of a far greater is encouraged and supported by it wherever slavery is tolerated by law, and, con|sequently, that slavery can no where be tolerated with any consistency to civilization and the laws of justice among men; but if it can maintain its ground, to have any place at all, it must be among a society of barbarians and thieves, and where the laws of their society is, for every one to catch what he can. Then, when theft and robbery becomes no crimes, the man-stealer and the conniving slave-holder might possibly get free.
But the several nations of Europe that have joined in that iniquitous traffic of buying, selling and enslaving men, must in course have left their own laws of civilization to adopt those of barba|rians and robbers, and that they may say to one another, When thou sawest a thief, then thou con|sentest with him, and hast been partaker with all the workers of iniquity. But whereas every man, as a rational creature, is responsible for his actions, and he becomes not only guilty in doing evil Page 115 himself, but in letting others rob and oppress their fellow-creatures with impunity, or in not delivering the oppressed when he has it in his power to help them. And likewise that nation which may be supposed to maintain a very considerable degree of civilization, justice and equity within its own jurisdiction, is not in that case innocent, while it beholds another nation or people carrying on persecution, op|pression and slavery, unless it remonstrates a|gainst that wickedness of the other nation, and makes use of every effort in its power to help the oppressed, and to rescue the innocent. For so it ought to be the universal rule of duty to all men that fear God and keep his commandments, to do good to all men wherever they can; and when they find any wronged and injured by others, they should endeavour to deliver the en|snared whatever their grievances may be; and should this sometimes lead them into war they might expect the protection and blessing of hea|ven. How far other motives may appear eligible for men to oppose one another with hostile force, it is not my business to enquire. But I should suppose the hardy veterans who engage merely about the purposes of envying one another con|cerning any different advantages of commerce, or for enlarging their territories and dominions, or for the end of getting riches by their con|quest; that if they fall in the combat, they must generally die, as the fool dieth, vaunting in vain glory; and many of them be like to those who go out in darkness, never to see light; and should they come off alive, what more does their honour and same amount to, but only to be like that antediluvian conqueror, who had Page 116 stain a man to his own wounding, and a young man to his hurt. But those mighty men of renown in the days of old, because of their apostacy from God, and rebellion and wickedness to men, were at last all swallowed up by an universal deluge for their iniquity and crimes.
But again let me observe, that whatever civi|lization the inhabitants of Great-Britain may en|joy among themselves, they have seldom main|tained their own innocence in that great duty as a Christian nation towards others; and I may say, with respect to their African neighbours, or to any other wheresover they may go by the way of commerce, they have not regarded them at all. And when they saw others robbing the Africans, and carrying them into captivity and slavery, they have neither helped them, nor opposed their oppressors in the least. But instead thereof they have joined in combination against them with the rest of other profligate nations and people, to buy, enslave and make merchandize of them, because they found them helpless and fit to suit their own purpose, and are become the head carriers on of that iniquitous traffic. But the greater that any reformation and civilization is obtained by any nation, if they do not maintain righteousness, but carry on any course of wick|edness and oppression, it makes them appear only the more inconsistent, and their tyranny and op|pression the more conspicuous. Wherefore be|cause of the great wickedness, cruelty and injus|tice done to the Africans, those who are greatest in the transgression give an evident and undu|bious warrant to all other nations beholding their tyranny and injustice to others, if those nations have any regard to their own innocence and vir|tue, Page 117 and wish to maintain righteousness, and to remain clear of the oppression and blood of all men; it is their duty to chastize and suppress such unjust and tyrannical oppressors and enslavers of men. And should none of these be found among the enlightened and civilized nations, who main|tain their own innocence and righteousness, with regard to their duty unto all men; and that there may be none to chastize the tyrannical oppressors of others; then it may be feared, as it has often been, that fierce nations of various insects, and other annoyances, may be sent as a judgment to punish the wicked nations of men. For by some way or other every criminal nation, and all their confederates, who sin and rebel against God, and against his laws of nature and nations, will each meet with some awful retribu|tion at last, unless they repent of their iniquity. And the greater advantages of light, learning, knowledge and civilization that any people en|joy, if they do not maintain righteousness, but do wickedly, they will meet with the more severe rebuke when the visitations of God's judgment cometh upon them. And the prophecy which was given to Moses, is still as much in force against the enlightened nations now for their wickedness, in going after the abominations of heathens and barbarians, for none else would at|tempt to enslave and make merchandize of men, as it was when denounced against the Israelitish nation of old, when they departed, or should depart, from the laws and statutes of the Most High. The Lord shall bring a nation against thee, from far, from the ends of the earth, as swift as the eagle flieth, a nation whose tongue thou shalt not understand, &c. See Deut. xxviii.
Page 118But lest any of these things should happen to the generous and respectuful Britons, who are not altogether lost to virtue and consideration; let me say unto you, in the language of a wise and eminent Queen, as she did when her people were sold as a prey to their enemies: That it is not all your enemies (for they can be reckoned nothing else), the covetous instigators and car|riers on of slavery and wickedness, that can in any way countervail the damage to yourselves, to your king, and to your country; nor will all the infamous profits of the poor Africans avail you any thing if it brings down the avenging hand of God upon you. We are not saying that we have not sinned, and that we are not deserv|ing of the righteous judgments of God against us. But the enemies that have risen up against us are cruel, oppressive and unjust; and their haughtiness of insolence, wickedness and iniquity is like to that of Haman the son of Hammedatha; and who dare suppose, or even presume to think, that the inhuman ruffians and ensnarers of men, the vile negociators and merchandizers of the human species, and the offensive combinations of slave-holders in the West have done no evil? And should we be passive, as the suffering mar|tyrs dying in the flames, whose blood crieth for vengeance on their persecutors and murderers; so the iniquity of our oppressors, enslavers and murderers rise up against them. For we have been hunted after as the wild beasts of the earth, and sold to the enemies of mankind as their prey; and should any of us have endeavoured to get away from them, as a man would naturally fly from an enemy that way-laid him; we have been pursued after, and, by haughty mandates and Page 119 laws of iniquity, overtaken, and murdered and slain, and the blood of millions cries out against them. And together with these that have been cruelly spoiled and slain, the very grievous af|flictions that we have long suffered under, has been long crying for vengeance on our op|pressors; and the great distress and wretchedness of human woe and misery, which we are yet lying under, is still rising up before that High and Sovereign Hand of Justice, where men, by all their oppression and cruelty, can no way pre|vent; their evil treatment of others may serve to increase the blow, but not to evade the stroke of His power, nor withhold the bringing down that arm of vengeance on themselves, and upon all their connivers and confederators, and the par|ticular instigators of such wilful murders and inhuman barbarity. The life of a black man is of as much regard in the sight of God, as the life of any other man; though we have been sold as a carnage to the market, and as a prey to profli|gate wicked men, to torture and lash us as they please, and as their caprice may think fit, to mur|der us at discretion.
And should any of the best of them plead, as they generally will do, and tell of their humanity and charity to those whom they have captured and enslaved, their tribute of thanks is but small; for what is it, but a little restored to the wretched and miserable whom they have robbed of their all; and only to be dealt with, like the spoils of those taken in the field of battle, where the wretched fugitives must submit to what they please. For as we have been robbed of our na|tural right as men, and treated as beasts, those who have injured us, are like to them who have Page 120 robbed the widow, the orphans, the poor and the needy of their right, and whose children are rioting on the spoils of those who are begging at their doors for bread. And should they say, that their fathers were thieves and connivers with en|snarers of men, and that they have been brought up to the iniquitous practice of slavery and op|pression of their fellow-creatures and they can|not live without carrying it on, and making their gain by the unlawful merchandize and cruel sla|very of men, what is that to us, and where will it justify them? And some will be saying, that the Black people, who are free in the West Indies, are more miserable than the slaves;—and well they may; for while they can get their work and drudgery done for nothing, it is not likely that they will employ those whom they must pay for their labour. But whatever necessity the ensla|vers of men may plead for their iniquitous prac|tice of slavery, and the various advantages which they get by it, can only evidence their own in|justice and dishonesty. A man that is truly ho|nest, fears nothing so much as the very impu|tation of injustice; but those men who dare not face the consequence of acting uprightly in every case are detestable cowards, unworthy the name of men; for it is manifest that such men are more afraid of temporal inconveniencies than they are of God: And I say unto you, my friends, be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do; but I will forwarn you whom you shall fear: Fear him, who, after he hath killed, hath power to cast into hell. Luke xii.4, 5.
But why should a total abolition, and an uni|versal emancipation of slaves, and the enfranchise|ment of all the Black People employed in the cul|ture Page 121 of the Colonies, taking place as it ought to do, and without any hesitation, or delay for a moment, even though it might have some seem|ing appearance of loss either to government or to individuals, be feared at all? Their labour, as freemen, would be as useful in the sugar colonies as any other class of men that could be found; and should it even take place in such a manner that some individuals, at first, would suffer loss as a just reward for their wickedness in slave-dealing, what is that to the happiness and good of doing justice to others; and, I must say, to the great danger, otherwise, that must eventually hang over the whole community? It is certain, that the produce of the labour of slaves, together with all the advantages of the West-India traffic, bring in an immense revenue to government; but let that amount be what it will, there might be as much or more expected from the labour of an equal increase of free people, and without the im|plication of any guilt attending it, and which, otherwise, must be a greater burden to bear, and more ruinous consequences to be feared from it, than if the whole national debt was to sink at once, and to rest upon the heads of all that might suffer by it. Whereas, if a generous encouragement were to be given to a free people, peaceable among themselves, intelligent and industrious, who by art and labour would improve the most barren situations, and make the most of that which is fruitful; the free and voluntary labour of many, would soon yield to any government, many greater advantages than any thing that sla|very can produce. And this should be expected, wherever a Christian government is extended, and the true religion is embraced, that the bles|sings Page 122 of liberty should be extended likewise, and that it should diffuse its influences first to fertilize the mind, and then the effects of its benignity would extend, and arise with exuberant blessings and advantages from all its operations. Was this to be the case, every thing would increase and prosper at home and abroad, and ten thousand times greater and greater advantages would arise to the state, and more permanent and solid bene|fit to individuals from the service of freemen, than ever they can reap, or in any possible way enjoy, by the labour of slaves.
But why this diabolical traffic of slavery has not been abolished before now, and why it was introduced at all, as I have already enquired, must be greatly imputed to that powerful and pervading agency of infernal wickedness, which reigneth and prevaileth over the nations, and to that umbrageous image of iniquity established thereby; for had there been any truth and right|eousness in that grand horn of delusion in the east, which may seem admirable to some, and be look|ed upon by its votaries as the fine burnished gold, and bright as the finest polished silver, then would not slavery, cruelty and oppression have been abo|lished wherever its influence came? And had the grand apostacy of its fellow horn, with all its li|neaments been any better, and endowed with any real virtue and goodness, whom its devotees may behold as the finest polished diamond, and glis|tening as the finest gems, then would not slavery and barbarity have been prohibited and forbidden wherever the beams of any Christianity arose? Then might we have expected to hear tidings of good, even from thou who are gone to repose in the fabulous paradise of Mahomet? Page 123 Then might we have looked for it from those who are now reclined to slumber in assimulation with the old dotards of Rome, or to those who are fallen asleep and become enamoured with the scarlet couch of the abominable enchantress dyed in blood? And as well then might we not expect tenderness and compassion from those whom the goddess of avarice has so allured with her charms, that her heart-sick lovers are become reversed to the feelings of human woe; and with the great hurry and bustle of the russet slaves employed in all the drudgeries of the western isles, and mari|time shore, in the cruel and involuntary service of her voluptuousness, having so dazzled their eyes, and bereaved them of all sensibility, that their hearts are become callous as the nether mill|stone, fierce as the tygers, and devoid of the na|tural feelings of men? From all such enchant|ments we would turn away, and fly from them as from the ravenous beasts of prey, as from the weeping crocodiles and the devouring reptiles, and as from the hoary monsters of the deep.
But we would look unto you, O ye multitude in the desart! against whom there is no enchant|ment, neither any divination whatever, that can prevail against you! for in your mouth there is no error or guile to be found, nor any fault be|fore the throne of God. And what! though your dwellings be in all lands, and ye have no nation or kingdom on earth that ye can call your own, and your camp be surrounded with many enemies, yet you have a place of defence, an invincible fortress, the munitions of rocks for your refuge, and the shield of your anointed is Almighty; and behold his buckler is strong, and his sceptre is exalted on high, and the throne Page 124 of his dominion and power ruleth over all. But in the day that we shall be spoken for, if we find you a wall, we would build upon you a palace of silver; and if you find us a door, inclose us with boards of cedar, for we long, and would to God that we longed more, to enter into your fortress, and follow you to your happy retreat. Then might we, like you, stand undaunted before our foes, and with more than heroic sullenness at all their cruel tortures, highly disdain their rage, and boldly dare them to do their worst. For you, O ye friends of the Most High, when you die, when ye are persecuted and slain, when you fall in the combat, when you die in the battle, it is you! only you, that come off conquerors, and more than conquerors through him that loved you! And should it yet be, as it has often been, that your foes might pursue you with their usual arrogance and persecuting rage, and cause you to die cruelly veiled in a curtain of blood, lo! your stains are all washed away, and your wounds and scars will soon be healed, and yourselves will be then invested with a robe of honor that will shine in whiteness for ever new, and your blood that was shed by the terrific rage of your foes, will testify against them, and rise up in grandeur to you, as an enfringement of gold floating in glory, and as his robe of honor which flames in eternal crimson through the heavens. But we envy no man, but wish them to do good, and not evil; and we want the prayers of the good, and where|ever they can to help us; and the blessing of God be with all the promoters of righteousness and peace.
But wherefore, O beloved, should your watch|men sit still, when they hear tell that the enemy is invading all the out-posts and camp of the Bri|tish Page 125 empire, where many of your dwellings are? Are they all fallen asleep, and lying down to slum|ber in assimilation with the workers of iniquity? Should not those who are awake, arise, and give the alarm, that others may arise and awake also? And should not they who feareth the name of the Lord, and worship in his holy temples, Let judg|ment to run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream? But why think ye prayers in churches and chapels only will do ye good, if your charity do not extend to pity and regard your fellow creatures perishing through igno|rance, under the heavy yoke of subjection and bondage, to the cruel and avaricious oppression of brutish profligate men; and when both the injur|ed, and their oppressors, dwell in such a vicinity as equally to claim your regard? The injurers, oppressors, enslavers, and murderers of others, eventually bring a curse upon themselves, as far as they destroy, injure, and cruelly and basely treat those under their subjection and unlawful bondage. And where such a dreadful pre-emi|nence of iniquity abounds, as the admission of laws for tolerating slavery and wickedness, and the worst of robberies, not only of men's proper|ties, but themselves; and the many inhuman murders and cruelties occasioned by it: If it meets with your approbation, it is your sin, and you are then as a conniver and confederator with those workers of wickedness; and if you give it a sanction by your passive obedience, it manifests that you are gone over to those brutish enemies of mankind, and can in no way be a true lover of your king and country.
Wherefore it ought to be the universal endea|vour, and the ardent wish, of all the lovers of Page 126 God and the Saviour of men, and of all that de|light in his ways of righteousness, and of all the lovers of their country, and the friends of man|kind, and of every real patriot in the land, and of every man and woman that dwelleth therein, and of all those that have any pretence to cha|rity, generosity, sensibility and humanity, and whoever has any regard to innocence and virtue, to plead that slavery, with all its great and hei|nous magnitude of iniquity, might be abolished throughout all the British dominions; and from henceforth to hinder and prohibit the carrying on of that barbarous, brutish and inhuman traffic of the slavery and commerce of the human spe|cies, wherever the power and influence of the British empire extends. And in doing this, and always in doing righteously, let the glory and ho|nour of it be alone ascribed unto God Most High, for his great mercy and goodness to you; and that his blessings and unbounded beneficence may shine forth upon you, and upon all the promoters of it: and that it may with great honours and advantages of peace and prosperity be ever rest|ing upon the noble Britons, and upon their most worthy, most eminent and august Sovereign, and upon all his government and the people under it; and that the streams thereof may run down in righteousness even to us, poor deplorable Africans.
And we that are particularly concerned would humbly join with all the rest of our brethren and countrymen in complexion, who have been grie|vously injured, and who jointly and separately, in all the language of grief and woe, are hum|bly imploring and earnestly entreating the most respectful and generous people of Great-Britain, that they would consider us, and have mercy and Page 127 compassion on us, and to take away that evil that your enemies, as well as our oppressors, are doing towards us, and cause them to desist from their evil treatment of the poor and despised Afri|cans, before it be too late; and to restore that justice and liberty which is our natural right, that we have been unlawfully deprived and cruelly wronged of, and to deliver us from that capti|vity and bondage which we now suffer under, in our present languishing state of exile and mi|sery. And we humbly pray that God may put it into the minds of the noble Britons, that they may have the honor and advantage of doing so great good to many, and to extend their power and influence to do good afar; and that great good in abundance may come down upon them|selves, and upon all their government and the people under it, in every place belonging to the British empire. But if the people and the le|gislature of Great-Britain altogether hold their peace at such a time as this, and even laugh at our calamity as heretofore they have been wont to do, by making merchandize of us to enrich themselves with our misery and distress: we sit like the mourning Mordecai's at their gates cloathed in sackcloth; and, in this advanced era, we hope God in his Providence will rise up a deliverance for us some other way; and we have great reason to hope that the time of our deli|verance is fast drawing nigh, and when the great Babylon of iniquity will fall.
And whereas we consider our case before God of the whole universe, the Gracious Father and Saviour of men; we will look unto him for help and deliverance. The cry of our affliction is al|ready gone up before him, and he will hearken Page 128 to the voice of our distress; for he hears the cries and groans of the oppressed, and professes that if they cry at all unto him, he will hearken unto them, and deliver them. For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, now will I arise saith Jehovah, and will set him in safety from him that puffeth at him▪ or that would ensnare him. (Psa. xii.5.) And I know that Jehovah will main|tain the cause of the afflicted, and the right of the poor. (Psa. cxl.12.) Wherefore it is our duty to look up to a greater deliverer than that of the British nation, or of any nation upon earth; for unless God gives them repentance, and peace to|wards him, we can expect no peace or deliver|ance from them. But still we shall have cause to trust, that God who made of one blood all the nations and children of men, and who gave to all equally a natural right to liberty; that he who ruleth over all the kingdoms of the earth with equal providential justice, shall then make enlargement and deliverance to arise to the grie|vously injured, and heavy oppressed Africans from another place.
And as we look for our help and sure deliver|ance to come from God Most High, should it not come in an apparent way from Great-Britain, whom we consider as the Queen of nations, let her not think to escape more than others, if she con|tinues to carry on oppression and injustice, and such pre-eminent wickedness against us: for we are only seeking that justice may be done to us, and what every righteous nation ought to do; and if it be not done, it will be adding iniquity to iniquity against themselves. But let us not sup|pose that the inhabitants of the British nation will adhere to the ways of the profligate: For such is Page 129 the way of an adulterous woman; she eateth, and wipeth her mouth; and saith, I have done no wick|edness. But rather let us suppose, That whereas iniquity hath abounded, may righteousness much more abound. For the wickedness that you have done is great, and wherever your traffic and colonies have been extended it is shameful; and the great injustice and cruelty done to the poor Africans crieth to heaven against you; and therefore that it may be forgiven unto you, it cries aloud for universal reformation and national repentance. But let it not suffice that a gracious call from the throne is inviting you, To a religious observance of God's holy laws, as fearing, lest God's wrath and indignation, should be provoked against you; but in your zeal for God's holy law, because of the shameful transgression thereof, every man every woman hath reason to mourn apart, and every one that dwelleth in the land ought to mourn and sigh for all the abominations done therein, and for the great wickedness carried on thereby.
And now that blessings may come instead of a curse, and that many beneficent purposes of good might speedily arise and flow from it, and be more readily promoted: I would hereby pre|sume to offer the following considerations, as some outlines of a general reformation which ought to be established and carried on. And first, I would propose, that there ought to be days of mourning and fasting appointed, to make enquiry into that great and pre-eminent evil for many years past carried on against the Heathen nations, and the horrible iniquity of making merchandize of us, and cruelly enslaving the poor Africans: and that you might seek grace and repentance, and find mercy and forgiveness before God Omnipotent; and that he may give Page 130 you wisdom and understanding to devise what ought to be done.
Secondly, I would propose that a total aboli|tion of slavery should be made and proclaimed; and that an universal emancipation of slaves should begin from the date thereof, and be car|ried on in the following manner: That a pro|clamation should be caused to be made, setting forth the Antichristian unlawfulness of the sla|very and commerce of the human species; and that it should be sent to all the courts and na|tions in Europe, to require their advice and as|sistance, and as they may find it unlawful to carry it on, let them whosoever will join to prohibit it. And if such a proclamation be found ad|visable to the British legislature, let them pub|lish it, and cause it to be published, through|out all the British empire, to hinder and pro|hibit all men under their government to traffic either in buying or selling men; and, to pre|vent it, a penalty might be made against it of one thousand pounds, for any man either to buy or sell another man. And that it should require all slave-holders, upon the immediate informa|tion thereof, to mitigate the labour of their slaves to that of a lawful servitude, without tortures or oppression; and that they should not hinder, but cause and procure some suitable means of in|struction for them in the knowledge of the Chris|tian religion. And agreeable to the late royal Proclamation, for the Encouragement of Piety and Virtue, and for the preventing and punishing of Vice, Profaneness and Immorality; that by no means, un|der any pretence whatsoever, either for them|selves or their masters, the slaves under their subjection should not be suffered to work on the Sabbath days, unless it be such works as necessity Page 131 and mercy may require. But that those days, as well as some other hours selected for the purpose, should be appropriated for the time of their in|struction; and that if any of their owners should not provide such suitable instructors for them, that those slaves should be taken away from them and given to others who would maintain and in|struct them for their labour. And that it should be made known to the slaves, that those who had been above seven years in the islands or else|where, if they had obtained any competent de|gree of knowledge of the Christian religion, and the laws of civilization, and had behaved them|selves honestly and decently, that they should im|mediately become free; and that their owners should give them reasonable wages and mainte|nance for their labour, and not cause them to go away unless they could find some suitable employment elsewhere. And accordingly, from the date of their arrival to seven years, as they arrive at some suitable progress in knowledge, and behaved themselves honestly, that they should be getting free in the course of that time, and at the end of seven years to let every honest man and woman become free; for in the course of that time, they would have sufficiently paid their owners by their labour, both for their first pur|pose, and for the expences attending their edu|cation. By being thus instructed in the course of seven years, they would become tractable and obedient, useful labourers, dutiful servants and good subjects; and Christian men might have the honor and happiness to see many of them vieing with themselves to praise the God of their salva|tion. And it might be another necessary duty for Christians, in the course of that time, to Page 132 make enquiry concerning some of their friends and relations in Africa: and if they found any intelligent persons amongst them, to give them as good education as they could, and find out a way of recourse to their friends; that as soon as they had made any progress in useful learning and the knowledge of the Christian religion, they might be sent back to Africa, to be made useful there as soon, and as many of them as could be made fit for instructing others. The rest would become useful residentors in the colo|nies; where there might be employment enough given to all free people, with suitable wages ac|cording to their usefulness, in the improvement of land; and the more encouragement that could be given to agriculture, and every other branch of useful industry, would thereby en|crease the number of the inhabitants; without which any country, however blessed by nature, must continue poor.
And, thirdly, I would propose, that a fleet of some ships of war should be immediately sent to the coast of Africa, and particularly where the slave trade is carried on, with faithful men to di|rect that none should be brought from the coast of Africa without their own consent and the ap|probation of their friends, and to intercept all merchant ships that were bringing them away, until such a scrutiny was made, whatever nation they belonged to. And, I would suppose, if Great-Britain was to do any thing of this kind, that it would meet with the general approbation and as|sistance of other Christian nations; but whether it did or not, it could be very lawfully done at all the British forts and settlements on the coast of Africa; and particular remonstrances could be Page 133 given to all the rest, to warn them of the conse|quences of such an evil and enormous wicked traffic as is now carried on. The Dutch have some crocodile settlers at the Cape, that should be cal|led to a particular account for their murders and inhuman barbarities. But all the present gover|nors of the British forts and factories should be dismissed, and faithful and good men appointed in their room; and those forts and factories, which at present are a den of thieves, might be turned into shepherd's tents, and have good shep|herds sent to call the flocks to feed beside them. Then would doors of hospitality in abundance be opened in Africa to supply the weary travellers, and that immense abundance which they are en|riched with, might be diffused afar; but the cha|racter of the inhabitants on the west coast of Afri|ca, and the rich produce of their country, have been too long misrepresented by avaricious plun|derers and merchants who deal in slaves; and if that country was not annually ravished and laid waste, there might be a very considerable and profitable trade carried on with the Africans. And, should the noble Britons, who have often supported their own liberties with their lives and fortunes, extend their philanthropy to abo|lish the slavery and oppression of the Africans, they might have settlements and many kingdoms united in a friendly alliance with themselves, which might be made greatly to their own ad|vantage, as well as they might have the happiness of being useful to promoting the prosperity and felicity of others, who have been cruelly injured and wrongfully dealt with. Were the Africans to be dealt with in a friendly manner, and kind instruction to be administered unto them, as by Page 134 degrees they became to love learning, there would be nothing in their power, but what they would wish to render their service in return for the means of improving their understanding; and the present British factories, and other settlements, might be enlarged to a very great extent. And as Great-Britain has been remarkable for ages past, for encouraging arts and sciences, and may now be put in competition with any nation in the known world, if they would take compassion on the inhabitants of the coast of Guinea, and to make use of such means as would be needful to enlighten their minds in the knowledge of Chris|tianity, their virtue, in this respect, would have its own reward. And as the Africans became re|fined and established in light and knowledge, they would imitate their noble British friends, to improve their lands, and make use of that indus|try as the nature of their country might require, and to supply those that would trade with them, with such productions as the nature of their cli|mate would produce; and, in every respect, the fair Britons would have the preference with them to a very great extent; and, in another respect, they would become a kind of first ornament to Great-Britain for her tender and compassionate care of such a set of distressed poor ignorant peo|ple. And were the noble Britons, and their august Sovereign, to cause protection and encour|agement to be given to those Africans, they might expect in a short time, if need required it, to re|ceive from thence great supplies of men in a law|ful way, either for industry or defence; and of other things in abundance, from so great a source, where every thing is luxurious and plenty, if not laid waste by barbarity and gross ignorance. Page 135 Due encouragement being given to so great, so just, and such a noble undertaking, would soon bring more revenue in a righteous way to the British nation, than ten times its share in all the profits that slavery can produce *; and such a laudable example would inspire every generous and enterprizing mind to imitate so great and worthy a nation, for establishing religion, justice, and equity to the Africans, and, in doing this, would be held in the highest esteem by all men, and be admired by all the world.
These three preceding considerations may suf|fice at present to shew, that some plan might be adopted in such a manner as effectually to relieve the grievances and oppression of the Africans, and to bring great honour and blessings to that nation, and to all men whosoever would endea|vour to promote so great good to mankind; and it might render more conspicuous advantages to the noble Britons, as the first doers of it, and greater honour than the finding of America was at first to those that made the discovery: Though several difficulties may seem to arise at first, and the good to be sought after may ap|pear as remote and unknown, as it was to explore the unknown regions of the Western Ocean; Page 136 should it be sought after, like the intrepid Colum|bus, if they do not find kingdoms of wealth by the way, they may be certain of finding treasures of happiness and peace in the end. But should there be any yet alive deserving the infamy and character of all the harsh things which I have ascribed to the insidious carriers on of the slavery and commerce of the human species, they will certainly object to any thing of this kind being proposed, or ever thought of, as doing so great a good to the base Black Negroes whom they make their prey. To such I must say again, that it would be but a just commutation for what cannot be fully restored, in order to make resto|ration, as far as could be, for the injuries already done to them. And some may say, that if they have wages to pay to the labourers for manufac|turing the West-India productions, that they would not be able to sell them at such a price as would suit the European market, unless all the different nations agreed to raise the price of their commodities in proportion. Whatever bad neighbours men may have to deal with, let the upright shew themselves to be honest men, and that difficuly, which some may fear, would be but small, as there can be no reason for men to do wrong because others do so; but as to what is consumed in Great-Britain, they could raise the price in proportion, and it would be better to sip the West-India sweetness by paying a little more money for it (if it should be found needful) than to drink the blood of iniquity at a cheaper rate. I know several ladies in England who refuse to drink sugar in their tea, because of the cruel in|juries done to the Black People employed in the culture of it at the West-Indies. But should it Page 137 cost the West-Indians more money to have their manufactories carried by the labour of freemen than with slaves, it would be attended with greater blessings and advantages to them in the end. What the wages should be for the labour of free|men, is a question not so easily determined; yet I should think, that it always ought to be some|thing more than merely victuals and cloaths; and if a man works by the day, he should have the three hundredth part of what might be estimated as sufficient to keep him in necessary cloaths and provisions for a year, and, added to that, such wages of reward as their usefulness might require. Something of this kind should be observed in free countries, and then the price of provisions would be kept at such a rate as the industrious poor could live, without being oppressed and screwed down to work for nothing, but only barely to live. And were every civilized nation, where they boast of liberty, so ordered by its govern|ment, that some general and useful employment were provided for every industrious man and wo|man, in such a manner that none should stand still and be idle, and have to say that they could not get employment, so long as there are barren lands enough at home and abroad sufficient to employ thousands and millions of people more than there are. This, in a great measure, would prevent thieves and robbers, and the labour of many would soon enrich a nation. But those employed by the general community should only have their maintenance either given or estimated in money, and half the wages of others, which would make them seek out for something else whenever they could, and half a loaf would be better than no bread. The men that were em|ployed Page 138 in this manner, would form an useful mi|litia, and the women would be kept from a state of misery and want, and from following a life of dissolute wickedness. Liberty and freedom, where people may starve for want, can do them but lit|tle good. We want many rules of civilization in Africa; but, in many respects, we may boast of some more essential liberties than any of the civi|lized nations in Europe enjoy; for the poorest amongst us are never in distress for want, unless some general and universal calamity happen to us. But if any nation or society of men were to observe the laws of God, and to keep his com|mandments, and walk in the way of righteous|ness, they would not need to fear the heat in sul|try hot climates, nor the freezing inclemency of the cold, and the storms and hurricanes would not hurt them at all; they might soon see bles|sings and plenty in abundance showered down up|on their mountains and vallies; and if his bene|ficence was sought after, who martials out the drops of the dew, and bids the winds to blow, and to carry the clouds on their wings to drop down their moisture and fatness on what spot so|ever he pleaseth, and who causeth the genial rays of the sun to warm and cherish the productions of the earth in every place according to that temperature which he sees meet; then might the temperate climes of Great-Britain be seen to vie with the rich land of Canaan of old, which is now, because of the wickedness of its inhabitants, in comparison of what it was, as only a barren desart.
Particular thanks is due to every one of that hu|mane society of worthy and respectful gentlemen, whose liberality hath supported many of the Black Page 139 poor about London. Those that honor their Maker have mercy on the poor; and many blessings are upon the head of the just: may the fear of the Lord prolong their days, and cause their memory to be blessed, and may their number be encreased to fill their expectation with gladness; for they have not only commiserated the poor in general, but even those which are accounted as beasts, and imputed as vile in the sight of others. The part that the British government has taken, to co-operate with them, has certainly a flattering and laudable ap|pearance of doing some good; and the fitting out ships to supply a company of Black People with clothes and provisions, and to carry them to settle at Sierra Leona, in the West coast of Africa, as a free colony to Great-Britain, in a peaceable alliance with the inhabitants, has every appear|ance of honour, and the approbation of friends. According to the plan, humanity hath made its appearance in a more honorable way of coloni|zation, than any Christian nation have ever done before, and may be productive of much good, if they continue to encourage and support them. But after all, there is some doubt whether their own flattering expectation in the manner as set forth to them, and the hope of their friends may not be defeated and rendered abortive; and there is some reason to fear, that they never will be settled as intended, in any permanent and peaceable way at Sierra Leona.
This prospect of settling a free colony to Great-Britain in a peaceable alliance with the inhabit|ants of Africa at Sierra Leona, has neither alto|gether met with the credulous approbation of the Africans here, nor yet been sought after with any prudent and right plan by the promoters of Page 140 it. Had a treaty of agreement been first made with the inhabitants of Africa, and the terms and nature of such a settlement fixed upon, and its situation and boundary pointed out; then might the Africans, and others here, have embarked with a good prospect of enjoying happiness and prosperity themselves, and have gone with a hope of being able to render their services, in return, of some advantage to their friends and benefac|tors of Great-Britain. But as this was not done, and as they were to be hurried away at all events, come of them after what would; and yet, after all, to be delayed in the ships before they were set out from the coast, until many of them have perished with cold, and other disorders, and se|veral of the most intelligent among them are dead, and others that, in all probability, would have been most useful for them were hindered from going, by means of some disagreeable jea|lousy of those who were appointed as governors, the great prospect of doing good seems all to be blown away. And so it appeared to some of those who are now gone, and at last, hap hazard, were obliged to go; who endeavoured in vain to get away by plunging into the water, that they might, if possible wade ashore, as dreading the prospect of their wretched fate, and as be|holding their perilous situation, having every prospect of difficulty and surrounding danger.
What with the death of some of the original promoters and proposers of this charitable un|dertaking, and the death and deprivation of others that were to share the benefit of it, and by the adverse motives of those employed to be the conductors thereof, we think it will be more than what can be well expected, if we ever hear Page 141 of any good in proportion to so great, well-designed, laudable and expensive charity. Many more of the Black People still in this country would have, with great gladness, embraced the opportunity, longing to reach their native land; but as the old saying is, A burnt child dreads the fire, some of these unfortunate sons and daugh|ters of Africa have been severally unlawfully dragged away from their native abodes, under various pretences, by the insidious treachery of others, and have been brought into the hands of barbarous robbers and pirates, and, like sheep to the market, have been sold into captivity and slavery, and thereby have been deprived of their natural liberty and property, and every connec|tion that they held dear and valuable, and sub|jected to the cruel service of the hard-hearted brutes called planters. But some of them, by various services either to the public or to indi|viduals, as more particularly in the course of last war, have gotten their liberty again in this free country. They are thankful for the respite, but afraid of being ensnared again; for the Euro|pean seafaring people in general, who trade to foreign parts, have such a prejudice against Black People, that they use them more like asses than men, so that a Black Man is scarcely ever safe among them. Much assiduity was made use to perswade the Black People in general to embrace the opportunity of going with this company of transports; but the wiser sort declined from all thoughts of it, unless they could hear of some better plan taking place for their security and safety. For as it seemed prudent and obvious to many of them taking heed to that sacred en|quiry, Doth a fountain send forth at the same place Page 142 sweet water and bitter? They were afraid that their doom would be to drink of the bitter wa|ter. For can it be readily conceived that go|vernment would establish a free colony for them nearly on the spot, while it supports its forts and garrisons, to ensnare, merchandize, and to carry others into captivity and slavery.
Above fifty years ago, P. Gordon, in his Geo|graphy, though he was no advocate against sla|very, complains of the barbarities committed against the Heathen nations, and the base usage of the negroe slaves subjected to bondage as brutes, and deprived of religion as men. His remark on the religion of the American islands, says:
To put an end to the nakedness of slavery and merchandizing of men, and to prevent murder, extirpation and dissolution, is what every righte|ous nation ought to seek after; and to endeavour to diffuse knowledge and instruction to all the hea|then nations wherever they can, is the grand du|ty of all Christian men. But while the horrible traffic of slavery is admitted and practiced, there can be but little hope of any good proposals meet|ing with success anywhere; for the aban|doned carriers of it on have spread the poison of their iniquity wherever they come, at home and abroad. Were the iniquitous laws in support of it, and the whole of that oppression and injustice abolished, and the righteous laws of Christianity, equity, justice and humanity established in the room thereof, multitudes of nations would flock to the standard of truth, and instead of revolting away, they would count it their greatest happi|ness to be under the protection and jurisdiction of a righteous government. And in that respect, in the multitude of the people is the King's honour; but in the want of people, is the destruction of the Prince.
We would wish to have the grandeur and fame of the British empire to extend far and wide; and the glory and honor of God to be promoted by it, and the interest of Christianity set forth among all the nations wherever its influence and power can extend; but not to be supported by Page 144 the insidious pirates, depredators, murderers and slave-holders. And as it might diffuse know|ledge and instruction to others, that it might receive a tribute of reward from all its territo|ries, forts and garrisons, without being oppres|sive to any. But contrary to this the wickedness of many of the White People who keep slaves, and contrary to all the laws and duties of Chris|tianity▪ which the Scriptures teach, they have in general endeavoured to keep the Black People in total ignorance as much as they can, which must be a great dishonor to any Christian government, and injurious to the safety and happiness of rulers.
But in order to diffuse any knowledge of Chris|tianity to the unlearned Heathens, those who un|dertake to do any thing therein ought to be wise and honest men. Their own learning, though the more the better, is not so much required as that they should be men of the same mind and principles of the apostle Paul; men that would hate coveteousness, and who would hazard their lives for the cause and gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
And hence we would agree in this one thing with that erroneous philosopher, who has lately wrote An Apology for Negro Slavery,
But I shall add another observation, which I am sorry to find among Christians, and I think it is a great deficiency among the clergy in general, when covetous and profligate men are admitted amongst them, who either do not know, or dare not speak the truth, but neglect their duty much, or do it with such supineness, that it becomes good for nothing. Sometimes an old woman selling matches, will preach a bet|ter, and a more orthodox sermon, than some of the clergy, who are only decked out (as Mr. Turnbul calls it) with the external trappings of religion. Much of the great wickedness of others lieth at their door, and these words of the Prophet are applicable to them: And first, Page 147 saith the Lord, I will recompence their iniquity, and their sin double; because they have defiled my land, they have filled mine inheritance with the carcases of their detestable and abominable things. Such are the errors of men. Church, signifies an assembly of people; but a building of wood, brick or stone, where the people meet together, is generally cal|led so; and should the people be frightened away by the many abominable dead carcases which they meet with, they should follow the multitudes to the fields, to the vallies, to the mountains, to the islands, to the rivers, and to the ships, and com|pel them to come in, that the house of the Lord may be filled. But when we find some of the covetous connivers with slave-holders, in the West-Indies, so ignorant as to dispute whether a Pagan can be baptized without giving him a Christian name, we cannot expect much from them, or think that they will follow after much good. No name, whether Christian or Pagan, has any thing to do with baptism; if the requisite qualities of knowledge and faith be found in a man, he may be baptized let his name be what it will. And Christianity does not require that we should be deprived of our own personal name, or the name of our ancestors; but it may very fitly add another name unto us, Christian, or one anointed. And it might as well be answered so to that question in the English liturgy, What is your name?—A Christian.
Page 148And let me now hope that you will pardon me in all that I have been thus telling you, O ye in|habitants of Great-Britain! to whom I owe the greatest respect; to your king! to yourselves! and to your government! And tho' many things which I have written may seem harsh, it cannot be otherwise evaded when such horible iniquity is transacted: and tho' to some what I have said may appear as the rattling leaves of autumn, that may soon be blown away and whirled in a vortex where few can hear and know: I must yet say, al|though it is not for me to determine the manner, that the voice of our complaint implies a ven|geance, because of the great iniquity that you have done, and because of the cruel injustice done unto us Africans; and it ought to sound in your ears as the rolling waves around your circum-am|bient shores; and if it is not hearkened unto, it may yet arise with a louder voice, as the rolling thunder, and it may encrease in the force of its volubility, not only to shake the leaves of the most stout in heart, but to rend the mountains before them, and to cleave in pieces the rocks under them, and to go on with fury to smite the stoutest oaks in the forest; and even to make that which is strong, and wherein you think that your strength lieth, to become as stubble, and as the fibres of rotten wood, that will do you no good, and your trust in it will become a snare of infatuation to you!