Page images
PDF
EPUB

be written, and not give a detail of a thousandth part of the shockingly cruel things they have suffered, and are constanly suffering. Nor can they possibly be conceived of by any one who has not been an eye witness. And how little a part does he see! They who are witnesses to any part of this horrid scene of barbarous oppression cannot but feel the truth and propriety of Solomon's words: “So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun; and behold, the tears of the oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of the oppressors there was power, but they had no comforter. Wherefore I praised the dead which are already dead more than the living which are yet alive.” (Ec. iv. 1, 2.) Solomon never saw any oppression like this, unless he looked forward to this very instance in the spirit of prophecy.

A. Sir, there is one important circumstance in favor of the slave trade, or which will at least serve to counterbalance many of the evils you mention, and that is, we bring these slaves from a heathen land to places of gospel light, and so put them under special advantages to be saved.

B. I know this has been mentioned by many in favor of the slave trade; but when examined, will turn greatly against it. It can hardly be said with truth, that the West India islands are places of gospel light. But if they were, are the negroes in the least benefited by it? Have they any access to the gospel? Have they any instruction more than if they were beasts? So far from this, that their masters guard against their having any instruction to their utmost; and if any one would attempt any such thing, it would be at the risk of his life. And all the poor creatures learn of Christianity from what they see in those who call themselves Christians, only serves to prejudice them in the highest degree against the Christian religion. For they not only see the abominably wicked lives of most of those who are called Christians, but are constantly oppressed by them, and receive as cruel treatment from them as they could from the worst of beings. And as to those who are brought to the continent, in the southern colonies, and even to New England, so little pains are taken to instruct them, and there is so much to prejudice them against Christianity, that it is a very great wonder and owing to an extraordinary divine interposition, in which we may say

It can be proved that, since the war begun, a proposal was made to send some blacks who were qualified to teach Christianity into the southern colonies to teach the blacks there, and attempt to Christianize them; but the gentlemen who were better acquainted with the disposition of slaveholders in those parts discouraged the design, and said the masters of the blacks in general would not suffer any such thing.

God goes out of his common way, that any of them should think favorably of Christianity and cordially embrace it. As to the most of them, no wonder they are unteachable and get no good by the gospel, but they have imbibed the deepest prejudices against it from the treatment they receive from professed Christians; prejudices which most of them are by their circumstances restrained from expressing, while they are fixed in the strongest degree in their minds.

But if this was not the case, and all the slaves brought from Africa were put under the best advantages to become Christians, and they were in circumstances that tended to give them the most favorable idea of Christians and the religion they profess, and though all concerned in this trade, and in slavery in general, should have this wholly in view, viz., their becoming Christians, by which they should be eternally happy, yet this would not justify the slave trade, or continuing them in a state of slavery; for, to take this method to Christianize them would be a direct and gross violation of the laws of Christ. He commands us to go and preach the gospel to all nations, to carry the gospel to them, and not to go and with violence bring them from their native country without saying a word to them, or to the nations from whom they are taken, about the gospel or any thing that relates to it.

If the Europeans and Americans had been as much engaged to Christianize the Africans as they have been to enslave them, and had been at half the cost and pains to introduce the gospel among them that they have to captivate and destroy them, we have all the reason in the world to conclude that extensive country, containing such a vast multitude of inhabitants, would have been full of gospel light, and the many nations there civilized and made happy, and a foundation laid for the salvation of millions of millions, and the happy instruments of it have been rewarded ten thousand fold for all their labor and expense. But now, instead of this, what has been done on that coast by those who pass among the negroes for Christians,f has only served to produce and spread the greatest and most deep-rooted prejudices against the Christian religion, and bar the way to that which is above all things desirable — their coming to the knowledge of the truth, that they might be saved. So that, while by the murder

1

Which cannot be the case so long as they are held in a state of slavery, or they are brought away from their native country in the manner they are; so that the supposition is inconsistent, and destroys itself.

† For they have no way to get an idea of a Christian but from the apppearance and conduct of the Europeans or Americans, in the practice of all their unrighteousness, cruelty, profaneness, and debauchery.

ing or enslaving millions of millions they have brought a curse upon themselves and on all that partake with them, they have injured in the highest degree innumerable nations, and done what they could to prevent their salvation and to fasten them down in ignorance and barbarity to the latest posterity. Who can realize all this and not feel a mixture of grief, pity, indig. nation, and horror, truly ineffable? And must he not be filled with zeal to do his utmost to put a speedy stop to this sevenheaded monster of iniquity, with all the horrid train of evils with which it is attended ?

And can any one consider all these things, and yet pretend to justify the slave trade, or the slavery of the Africans in America ? Is it not impossible that a real Christian who has attended to all this should have any hand in this trade? And it requires the utmost stretch of charity to suppose that any one ever did or can buy or sell an African slave with a sincere view to make a true Christian of him.*

It has been often said in vindication of the slave trade, that the blacks are so cruel to each other that they would put their captives to death if they could not sell them, so that they who buy them save their lives and do them the greatest kindness. And, at the same time, this trade is of the greatest adrantage to the West India islands and the Southern States, and to all in connection with them, for white men cannot do the business which is done by the blacks in those hot climates, so that, were not the blacks introduced and improved, all this labor, and the produce of it, must cease.

ANSWER. These suggestions may be a sufficient vindication of the slave trade with the interested and inattentive, but the impartial and judicious will see with how little reason and truth they are urged, when they have attended to the following observations:

There is no evidence that those people did kill their captives, in general, which they took in war, but the contrary evident from the account given of them by those Europeans who have travelled and lived longest among them. They represent those nations which have not been corrupted by the whites to be, in general, industrious, friendly, and hospitable, and, in a great measure, happy in the enjoyment of society and the comforts of life. (See " A short Account of that part of Africa inhabited by the Segroes," printed at Philadelphia, 1762.) And there is abundant evidence from history, and testimonies incontestable, that these nations have been encouraged and induced to carry on most of their wars, for more than a century past, by the Europeans and Americans, that they might get captives to sell to traders in the souls and bodies of men ; and where this trade has been the means of saving one life, it has destroyed millions. Therefore, if professing Christians, instead of encouraging them in their cruelty, and tempting them to destroy, captivate, and sell each other, had taken as inuch pains to teach them humanity and benevolence as they have to reduce millions to a state of slavery worse than death, they might have saved as many lives as now they have been the means of destroying.

Besides, the cruelty of those savages to each other is no warrant to the slave trader to buy those supposed victims, and put them into a state of slavery which, by their own confession, is worse than death. This, surely, is not an act of mercy, but of cruelty. The voice of mercy and humanity is against selling them as slaves. Who does not know that "one who was the means of preserving a man's life, is not, therefore, entitled to make him a slave, and sell him as he does a piece of goods”?

As to other suggestions, viz., that the blacks are necessary to cultivate the

.

A. All this seems to be little to the purpose, since it was granted, in the beginning of our conversation, that the slave trade, as it has been carried on, is not to be justified. But what is this to the question we proposed to consider, which is, whether it be wrong to hold the blacks we have among us in a state of slavery, or ought to set them free without delay. To this you have said little or nothing as yet.

B. All I have said upon the slave trade to show the unrighteousness, the cruelty, the murder, the opposition to Christianity and the spread of the gospel among the Africans, the destruction of whole nations and myriads of souls which are contained in this horrid practice, has been principally with a view to a more clear and satisfactory determination of the question before us, which you have now renewedly proposed, for I think the following proposition may be advanced as undeniable, viz., if the slave trade be unjustifiable and wrong, then our holding the Africans and their children in bondage is unjustifiable and wrong, and the latter is criminal in some proportion to the inexpressible baseness and criminality of the former. For,

lands in those hot climates, since the whites are not able to labor there, it may be observed, that there is not the least evidence of this, but much of the contrary. Whites are healthy, and do the labor in the East Indies which blacks do in the West, in the same climate, and that to much greater advantage, of which authentic accounts have been published. The truth is, most of the whites which are born in the Southern States, or the West Indies, are not educated to labor, but great part of them in idleness and intemperance. The blacks are introduced to do the work, and it is thought a disgrace for a white person to get his living by labor. By this means, the whites in general are vicious, and all imbibe such a haughty and tyrannical spirit by holding so many slaves, that they are above labor, and many of them rather a plague than a blessing to all about them. And whole families are ruined forever by means of this slavery. Whereas, if African slaves had never been introduced, or this slavery were now abolished, and every man had his farm or plantation, - no more than he could cultivate to the best advantage by the help of his children and perhaps a few hired men, this would introduce industry, temperance, and economy, the land would produce much more than it does now, and the country be filled with industrious, virtuous inhabitants, happy themselves, and blessings to all around them, instead of the comparatively few families now, many of which are a burden to the earth, and a disgrace to human nature. This brings the words of Solomon fresh to mind : “ There is a time when one man ruleth over another to his own hurt.” (Ec. viii. 9.)

We cannot hesitate to say, this sage observation is verified in the most striking manner, and to the highest degree, in the slavery under consideration. It is an unspeakable hurt to the public, to the commonwealth. If it is inconsistent with republican principles, and tends to overthrow the liberties of those states, and introduce monarchy and tyranny, to have such slavery tolerated among us, and so many petty sovereigns and lords ruling over a number of vassals with despotic sway, their children naturally imbibe those arbitrary principles and grow up as untit to be useful members of those free, republican states, as do the children of the most haughty monarch on the globe. And those men rule over themselves to their own hurt, and the hurt, the misery, and ruin of their families, temporal and eternal. But if it should still be thought by any, or it be in fact true, that those climates cannot be cultivated by whites, let it be remembered that this is no justification of the horrid slave trade and slavery now practised, but it is a good reason why the whites should abandon the places where they cannot live unless it be on the blood of others as good as themselves, and renounce the business which is carried on in the exercise of so much unrighteousness and cruelty. If the blacks only can labor there, the lands are theirs by right, and they ought to be allowed to possess them as freemen, and enjoy the fruit of their labor.

First. If they have been brought into a state of slavery by unrighteousness and violence, they having never forfeited their liberty or given any one a right to enslave and sell them, then purchasing them of these piratical tyrants, and holding them in the same state of bondage into which they, contrary to all right, have brought them, is continuing the exercise of the same unrighteousness and violence towards them. They have yet as much a right to their liberty as ever they had, and to demand it of him who holds them in bondage; and he denies them their right, which is of more worth to them than every thing else they can have in the world, or all the riches the unjust master does or can possess, and therefore injures them in a very high degree every hour he refuses or neglects to set them at liberty. Besides, –

SECONDLY. Holding these blacks in a state of slavery is a practical justification of the slave trade, and so brings the guilt of that on the head of him who so far partakes in this iniquity as to hold one of these a slave who was unrighteously made so by these sons of violence. The old adage, " the partaker is as bad as the thief,” carries such a plain truth in it that every one must discern it, and it is certainly applicable to this case.

It is impossible to buy one of these blacks and detain him a slave, without partaking with him who first reduced him to this state and put it in his power thus to possess him, and practically justifying him for so doing, so as to bring upon himself the guilt of first enslaving him. It is not, therefore, possible for any of our slavekeepers to justify themselves in what they are doing, unless they can justify the slave trade. If they fail here, they bring on themselves an awful degree of the guilt of the whole.

THrdly. By keeping these slaves, and buying and selling them, they actually encourage and promote the slave trade; and therefore, in this view, keeping slaves and continuing to buy and sell them is to bring on us the guilt of the slave trade, which is hereby supported. For so long as slaves are bought and possessed, and in demand, so long the African trade will be supported and encouraged.

A. But there is a stop put to the importation of slaves into the American colonies, as they have resolved no more shall be bought. This being the case, the keeping those we have among us in slavery is no encouragement to the slave trade.

« PreviousContinue »