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resemblance, in this particular point, between the case of our ancestors and that of the present wretched natives of Africa -for the historian tells us that “adultery, witchcraft, and debt were probably some of the chief sources of supplying the Roman market with British slaves—that prisoners taken in war were added to the number—and that there might be among them some unfortunate gamesters who, after having lost all their goods, at length stake themselves, their wives and their children." Every one of these sources of slavery has been stated, and almost precisely in the same terms, to be at this hour a source of slavery in Africa. And these circumstances, Sir, with a solitary instance or two of human sacrifices, furnish the alleged proofs that Africa labours under a natural incapacity for civilization : that it is enthusiasm and fanaticism to think that she can ever enjoy the knowledge and the morals of Europe ; that Providence never intended her to rise above a state of barbarism ; that Providence has irrevocably doomed her to be only a nursery for slaves for us free and civilized Europeans. Allow of this principle, as applied to Africa, and I should be glad to know why it might not also have been applied to ancient and uncivilized Britain. Why might not some Roman Senator, reasoning on the principles of some honourable gentlemen and pointing to British barbarisms, have predicted with equal boldness, “ There is a people that will never rise to civilization—there is a people destined never to be freema people without the understanding necessary for the attainment of useful arts; depressed by the hand of nature below the level of the human species ; and created to form a supply of slaves for the rest of the world.” Might not this have been said, according to the principles which we now hear stated, in all respects as fairly and as truly of Britain herself, at that period of her history, as it now can be said by us of the inhabitants of Africa ?
We, Sir, have long since emerged from barbarism--we have almost forgotten that we were once barbarians—we are now raised to a situation which exhibits a striking contrast to every circumstance by which a Roman might have characterized us, and by which we now characterize Africa. There is, indeed, one thing wanting to complete the contract, and to clear us altogether from the imputation of acting even to this hour as barbarians ; for we continue to this hour a barbarous traffic in slaves; we continue it even yet in spite of our great and undeniable pretensions to civilization. We were once as obscure amongst the nations of the earth, as savage in our manners, as debased in our morals, as degraded in our understandings, as these unhappy Africans are at the present. But in the lapse of a long series of years, by a progression slow, and for a time, almost imperceptible, we have become rich in a variety of acquirements, favoured above measure in the gifts of Providence, unrivalled in commerce, pre-eminent in arts, foremost in the pursuits of philosophy and science, and established in all the blessings of civil society; we are in the possession of peace, of happiness, and of liberty; we are under the guidance of a mild and beneficent religion; and we are protected by impartial laws, and the purest administration of justice; we are living under a system of government which our own happy experience leads us to pronounce the best and wisest which has ever yet been framed ; a system which has become the admiration of the world. From all these blessings we must for ever have been shut out, had there been any truth in those principles which some gentlemen have not hesitated to lay down as applicable to the case of Africa. Had those principles been true, we ourselves had languished to this hour in that miserable state of ignorance, brutality, and degradation, in which history proves our ancestors to have been immersed. Had other nations adopted these principles in their conduct towards us, had other nations applied to Great Britain the reasons which some of the senators of this very island now apply to Africa, ages might have passed without our emerging from barbarism ; and we, who are enjoying the blessings of British civilization, of British laws, and British liberty, might at this hour have been little superior, either in morals, in knowledge, or refinement, to the rude inhabitants of the Coast of Guinea.
If then we feel that this perpetual confinement in the fetters of brutal ignorance would have been the greatest calamity which could have befallen us; if we view with gratitude and exultation the contrast between the peculiar blessings we enjoy and the wretchedness of the ancient inhabitants of Britain ; if we shudder to think of the misery which would still have overwhelmed us had Great Britain continued to the present times to be the mart for slaves to the more civilized nations of the world, through some cruel policy of theirs, God forbid that we should any longer subject Africa to the same dreadful scourge, and preclude the light of knowledge, which has reached every other quarter of the globe, from having access to her coasts !
I trust we shall no longer continue this commerce, to the destruction of every improvement on that wide continent, and shall not consider ourselves as conferring too great a boon in restoring its inhabitants to the rank of human beings. I trust we shall not think ourselves too liberal, if, by abolishing the slave-trade, we give them the same common chance of civilization with other parts of the world, and that we shall now allow to Africa the opportunity—the hope—the prospect of attaining to the same blessings which we ourselves, through the favourable dispensations of Divine Providence, have been permitted, at a much more early period, to enjoy. If we listen to the voice of reason and duty, and pursue this night the line of conduct which they prescribe, some of us may live to see a reverse of that picture, from which we now turn our eyes with shame and regret. We may live to behold the natives of Africa engaged in the calm occupations of industry, in the pursuits of a just and legitimate commerce. We may behold the beams of science and philosophy breaking in upon their land, which, at some happy period in still later times, may blaze with full lustre; and joining their influence to that of pure religion, may illuminate and invigorate the most distant extremities of that immense continent. Then may we hope that even Africa, though last of all the quarters of the globe, shall enjoy at length, in the evening of her days, those blessings which have descended so plentifully upon us in a much earlier period of the world. Then also will Europe, participating in her improvement and prosperity, receive an ample recompense for the tardy kindness (if kindness it can be called) of no longer hindering that continent from extricating herself out of the darkness which, in other more fortunate regions, has been so much more speedily dispelled.
Nos primus equis oriens afflavit anhelis; Illic sera rubens accendit lumina Vesper." Then, Sir, may be applied to Africa, those words, originally used indeed with a different view :
“ His demum exactis
Purpurea." It is in this view, Sir,-it is an atonement for our long and cruel injustice towards Africa, that the measure proposed by my honourable friend most forcibly recommends itself to my mind. The great and happy change to be expected in the state of her inhabitants is, of all the various and important benefits of the abolition, in my estimation incomparably the most extensive and important.
I shall vote, Sir, against the adjournment; and I shall also oppose to the utmost every proposition which in any way may tend either to prevent, or even to postpone for an hour, the total abolition of the slave-trade; a measure which, on all the various grounds which I have stated, we are bound, by the most pressing and indispensable duty, to adopt.
Roman Catholic Emancipation
House of Commons, May 13th, 1805 DIFFERING, Sir, as I do, from the honourable gentleman who proposed this motion, and differing also in many respects from several of those who have opposed it, I feel it necessary to state shortly, but distinctly, the views, the motives, and the grounds upon which that difference of opinion is founded. But in doing this, I cannot refrain from expressing, in the first instance, the very great satisfaction I feel at the temper and the moderation with which the motion was introduced, and with which for so many reasons, I am particularly desirous that the discussion should be conducted. Happy am I also that the manner in which the subject has been introduced has relieved me from the necessity of entering at large into those general principles and grounds which, when the question was discussed before, I felt myself compelled to do.
I observe with pleasure that the application made by the petitioners has not been advanced as a claim of right, but of expediency. I observe also, with equal pleasure, that the honourable gentleman has argued it upon that ground; not that I mean to infer that the honourable gentleman has abandoned the opinion he held upon that subject, but that in the application of the principles which have governed his conduct he has thought proper to discuss the question upon the ground of expediency. That is the ground upon which I feel the measure ought alone to be discussed; for I cannot allow that, at any time, under any circumstances, or under any possible situation of affairs, it ought to be discussed or entertained as a claim or question of right. I, Sir, have never been one of those who have held that the term emancipation is, in the smallest degree, applicable to the repeal of the few remaining penal statutes to which the Catholics are still liable. But, possibly, in my view of the grounds of expediency, I may think it to be much more contradistinguished from the question of right than the honourable gentleman does. He seems to consider that there is only a shade of difference between the expediency and the right; whereas my view of the difference is broad, evident, and fundamental. I consider right as independent of circumstances, and paramount to them, while expediency is connected with circumstances, and, in a great measure, dependent upon them.
With regard to the admission of the Catholics to franchises, to the elective franchise, or to any of those posts and offices which have been alluded to, I view all these points as distinctions to be given, not for the sake of the person and the individual who is to possess them, but for the sake of the public, for whose benefit they were created, and for whose advantage they are to be exercised. In all times, therefore, and upon every occasion, whether relating to the Roman Catholic or the Protestant dissenter, to the people of Ireland, or to the people of England, I have always, from a due regard to the constitution, been of opinion that we are bound to consider, not merely what is desired by a part, but what is best and most advantageous for the whole. And therefore it is, that I think it not sufficient to show that what is demanded is not likely to be prejudicial, but that it is proper to take a comprehensive view of all the circumstances connected with it, whether they relate to the time at which the measure is proposed, the manner in which it is discussed, or the effect that is likely to follow from the discussion. That, Sir, is my view of contemplating the propriety of acceding to the wishes of the Catholics, or of refusing them. It was upon that principle that I felt satisfaction in the repeal of those laws against the Catholics which