OBSERVATIONS ON SLAVERY.
THE Slavery which now so largely sub|sists in the American Colonies, is ano|ther mighty evil, which proceeds from the same corrupt root as War; for, however, it may be granted that some, otherwise, well disposed people in different places, particu|larly in these provinces, at first fell into the practice of buying and keeping Slaves, thro' inadvertency, or by the example of others; yet in the generality it sprang from an un|warrantable desire of gain, a lust for amas|sing wealth, and in the pride of their heart, holding an uncontroulable power over their fellow-men. The observation which the Apostle makes on War, may well be applied to those who compelled their fellow-men to become their slaves, they lusted, for wealth and power and desired to have, that they might consume it upon their lusts.
Page 28It is a very afflictive consideration, that notwithstanding the rights and liberties of mankind have been so much the object of publick notice, yet the same corrupt prin|ciples still maintain their power in the minds of most Slave Holders. Indeed nothing can more clearly and possitively militate against the slavery of the Negroes, than the several declarations lately published, with so great an appearance of solemnity, thro' all the co|lonies, viz.
We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their crea|tor with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pur|suit of happiness.
That all men are oy nature equally free and independent, and have certain inherent rights, of which when they enter into a state of society they cannot by any compact, deprive or divert their property, namely the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.
That after these, and other declarations of the same kind, have been so publickly made to the world, Slavery should continue in its full force in the Colonies; and even in some ca|ses, its bands should, by Law, be farther estab|lished,*
. is a great aggravation of that guilt
which has so long lain upon America; and which together with the blood of the Native Indians, so daringly spilt,†
. is likely to be one of the prinpcial causes of those heavy judgments, which are now so sensibly dis|played over the Colonies. Perhaps nothing will so sensibly teach us to feel for the afflic|tion of the oppressed Africans, as that our|selves partake of the same cup of distress, we have so long been instrumental in causing them to drink. If we look back to early times, and bring to our remembrance what we have heard from our fathers, relating to the first introduction of Negroes amongst us, we shall have reason to conclude, that there were but few of those concerned in those purchases, who were not in some measure acquainted with the dreadful cala|mities introduced in Guinea, in order to procure Slaves for the American Market. They had doubtless heard something of these accounts; they saw their afflicted fel|low-men, after being by the ravages of war deprived of all property, and cruelly rent
from every tender connection in their native land, brought to America, and there sold like beasts for burden or slaughter; yet we have too much reason to conclude that but little sympathy was extended to them, few, very few, even amongst professors, endea|voured, on their behalf,
To seek judgment, to relieve the oppressed; to plead for the father|less, and to judge for the widow; few mourned with those that mourned;
people saw their affliction and heared the doleful story of their particular cases with little or no fellow feeling, indifferency prevailed; there was too much of a joining in spirit with those who
had slain with the sword, and had carried into captivity,
arising from a secret satisfac|tion, at the prospect of having an opportuni|ty, thro' the Slaves labour, of encreasing their substance, and amassing much wealth, In the acquirement and possession of which, a proper regard not being had,
to the will of the Lord that reigneth,
there has been sent a curse
upon what they esteemed a bles|sing
; their riches have proved as wings to raise their children above truth and real hap|piness: The offspring of many of these are still living in idleness and pride; whilst others are rioting in dissipation and luxury. If the good and just father of mankind is now arisen to plead the cause of the oppressed Africans, and to bring the matter home to ourselves; who can say, what doest thou. Will not the Americans, amongst whom the
establishment of religious as well as civil liberty is the present and great object of con|sideration and debate, be a witness against themselves, so long as they continue to keep their Fellow-Inhabitants in such griev|ous circumstances, whereby they are not only deprived of their liberty, but of all property and indeed of every right what|soever?
From the experience of others, we may deduce a proper application to ourselves: We read Jerm. xxxiv, 8. that the Jewish people, a little before the Babylonian Capti|vity, acknowledged the duty which lay upon them, of proclaiming liberty to those of their brethren who had been forceably kept in servitude, beyond the term limited by the Mosaic Law; for the performance of which they had made a covenant before the Lord; but upon the danger appearing to be over, by the retreat of the king of Babylon, they caused the servants and hand-maids whom they had let go free, to return, and brought them again into subjection. Where-upon the prophet pronounces the judgment, threatned by the Lord, against those who had thus falsified their covenant, Chap. xxxiv, II.
Ye have made a covenant before me, but ye turned and polluted my name, and caused every man his servant, and every man his hand-maid—to return and brought them into subjection.
There|fore, thus faith the Lord,
Ye have not
hearkned unto me, in proclaiming liberty every one to his brother, and every man to his neighbour; behold I proclaim a li|berty for you, faith the Lord, to the sword the pestilence and the famine.
Here it may not be necessary to repeat what has been so fully declared in several modern publications, of the inconsistence of slavery with every right of mankind, with every feeling of humanity, and every pre|cept of Christianity; nor to point out its in|consistency with the welfare, peace and pro|sperity of every country, in proportion as it prevails; what grievous sufferings it brings on the poor Negroes; but more especially what a train of fatal vices it produces in their lordly oppressors and their unhappy offspring. Nevertheless for the sake of some who have not met with, or fully considered those former publications, and in ho•es that some who are still active in support of slave|ry, may be induced to consider their ways, and become more wise, the following sub|stance of an address or expostulation made by a sensible Author, to the several ranks of persons most immediately concerned in the trade, is now republished.
And, first, to the Captains employed in this trade. Most of you know the country of Guinea, perhaps now by your means, part of it is become a dreary uncultivated wilder|ness; the inhabitants being murdered or car|ried away, so that there are few left to till
the ground; but you know, or have heared, how populous, how fruitful, how pleasant it was a few years ago. You know the peo|ple were not stupid, not wanting in sense, considering the few means of improvement they enjoyed. Neither did you find them savage, treacherous, or unkind to strangers. On the contrary they were in most parts a sensible and ingenious people; kind and friendly, and generally just in their dealings. Such are the men whom you hire their own countrymen, to tear away from this lovely country; part by stealth, part by force, part made captives in those wars which you raise or soment on purpose. You have seen them torn away, children from their parents, pa|rents from their children: Husbands from their wives, wives from their beloved hus|bands; brethren and sisters from each other. You have dragged them who had never done you any wrong, perhaps in chains, from their native shore. You have forced them into your ships, like an herd of swine,*Page 34
them who had souls immortal as your own. You have stowed them together as close as ever they could lie, without any regard either to decency or conveniency—And when many of them had been poisoned by soul air, or had sunk under various hard|ships, you have seen their remains delivered to the deep, till the sea should give up his dead.You have carried the survivors into the vi|lest slavery, never to end but with life: Such slavery as is not found among the Turks at Algiers, no, nor among the heathens in America.
Page 35May I speak plainly to you? I must. Love constrains me: Love to you, as well, as those you are concerned with. Is there a God? You know there is. Is he a just God? Then there must be a state of retribution: A state where|in the just God will re ward every man accord|ing to his work. Then what reward will he render to you. O think betimes! before you drop in eternity: Think how,
He shall have judgment without mercy, that shew|ed no mercy.
Are you a man? Then.
you should have a human heart. But have you indeed? What is your heart made of? Is there no such principle as compassion there? Do you never feel another's pain? Have you no sympathy? No sense of human woe? No pity for the miserable? When you saw the flowing eyes, the heaving breast, or the bleeding sides and tortured limbs of your fellow-creatures. Was you a stone or a brute? Did you look upon them with the eyes of a tiger? When you squeezed the agonizing creatures down in the ship, or when you threw their poor mangled re|mains into the sea, had you no relenting? Did not one tear drop from your eye, one sigh escape from your breast? Do you feel no relenting now? If you do not, you must go on, till the measure of your iniquities is full. Then will the great God deal with you, as you have dealt with them, and re|quire all their blood at your hands. And at that day it shall be more tolerable for So|dom and Gomorrah than for you: But if your heart does relent; though in a small degree, know it is a call from the God of love. And to-day, if you hear his voice, harden not your heart— To day resolve, God being your helper to escape for your life—Regard not money: All that a man hath will he give for his life. Whatever you lose, lose not your Soul; nothing can countervail that loss. Immediately quit the horrid trade: At all events be an honest man.
Page 37This equally concerns every merchant who is engaged in the Slave-trade. It is you that induce the African villain to sell his countrymen; and in order thereto, to steal, rob, murder men, women and children without number: By enabling the English villain to pay him for so doing; whom you over pay for his execrable labour. It is your money, that is the spring of all, that impow|ers him to go on, so that whatever he or the African does in this matter, is all your act and deed. And is your conscience quite re|conciled to this? Does it never reproach you at all? Has gold entirely blinded your eyes and stupified your heart? Can you see, can you feel no harm therein? Is it doing as you would be done to? Make the case your own.
Matter! (said a Slave at Liverpool to the merchant that owned him) what if some of my countrymen were to come here, and take away my mistress, and master Tommy and master Billy, and carry them into our country and make them slaves, how would you like it?
His answer was worthy of a man:
I will never buy a slave more while I live.
O let his resolution be yours! Have no more any part in this detestable business. Instantly leave it to those unfeeling wretches,
Who laugh at humanity and compassion.
And this equally concerns every Person who has an estate in our American plantati|ons: Yea all Slave-holders of whatever rank
and degree; seeing menbuyers are exactly on a level with menstealers. Indeed you say,
I pay honestly for my goods; and I am not concerned to know how they are come by.
Nay, but you are: You are deeply concerned, to know that they are not stolen: Otherwise you are partaker with a thief, and are not a jot honester than him. But you know they are not honestly come by: You know they are procured by means nothing near so innocent as picking of poc|kets, house breaking, or robbery upon the highway. You know they are procured by a deliberate series of more complicated villainy, (of fraud, robbery and murder,) than was ever practised either by Maho|metans or Pagans; in particular by mur|ders of all kinds; by the blood of the inno|cent poured upon the ground like water. Now it is your money that pays the mer|chant, and thro' him the captain and African butchers. You therefore are guilty: Yea, prin|cipally guilty, of all these frauds, robberies, and murders. You are the spring that puts all the rest in motion; they would not stir a step without you.—Therefore the blood of all these wretches, who die before their time, whether in their country or else where, lies upon your head. The blood of thy brother, (for whether thou wilt believe it or no, such he is in the sight of him that made him) crieth against thee from the earth, from the ship and from the waters.
O! what ever it cost, put a stop to its cry, be|fore it be too late. Instantly, at any price, were it the half of thy goods, deliver thyself from blood guiltiness! Thy hands, thy bed, thy furniture, thy house, thy land, are at present stained with blood. Surely it is enough; accumulate no more guilt: Spill no more the blood of the innocent! Do not hire another to shed blood! Do not pay him for doing it! Whether thou art a christian or no, shew thy self a man; be not more savage than a lion or a bear.
Perhaps thou wilt say.,
I do not buy any negroes: I only use those left me by my father.
But is it enough to satisfy your own consceience! Had your father, have you, has any man living, a right to use another as a slave? It cannot be, even setting revela|tion aside. It cannot be, that either war, or contract, can give any man, such a pro|perty in another as he has in his sheep and oxen: Much less is it possible, that any child of man, should ever be born a slave. Liberty is the right of every human crea|ture, as soon as he breathes the vital air. And no human law can deprive him of that right, which he derives from the law of nature. If therefore you have any regard to justice, (to say nothing of mercy, nor of the revealed law of God,) render unto all their due. Give liberty to whom liberty is due, that is to every child of man, to every partaker of human nature. Let none serve
you but by his own act and deed, by his own voluntary choice. Away with ships, chains and all compulsion. Be gentle towards all men. And see that you invariably do unto every one, as you would he should do unto you.