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WEST INDIES AS THEY ARE,
ON SLAVERY, TREATMENT OF THE SLAVES, REMARKS ON THEIR FOOD, CLOTHING, LABOUR, &c.
SLAVERY is undoubtedly and confessedly one of the greatest evils that ever was inflicted on the human race, and has been considered as the greatest curse by all nations, in all ages of the world; it therefore will not bear reasoning upon, and if considered in the abstract, cannot be defended for a single moment; for as we are all descended from the same parents, and are commanded in the Scriptures to consider all men as brethren, certainly no man (however rich and powerful he may be) has a shadow of a right to make his brother a Slave. That Slavery has existed however in all ages, must be confessed by every one who is acquainted with either sacred or profane history; for very soon after the flood, we find Noah, one of our great progenitors, uttering a curse on a part of the pos
terity of his younger son Ham, for an act of wickedness committed by him against his father, in these words: "Cursed be Canaan, a servant of servants (or rather a Slave) shall he be unto his brethren;" which prophetic curse we find was in part fulfilled by the posterity of Jacob, on the Canaanites, the greater part of whom were destroyed or enslaved in the Holy Land. We find from the Levitical law, in the same sacred volume, that the Israelites were also allowed to purchase Slaves from the people of the surrounding nations, whose bondage was made perpetual, with that of their descendants, though they could not hold any of their own nation or brethren as bond-men, but only as hired servants, and they were always rendered free at the year of jubilee.*
The Assyrians also, and subsequently to them the Greeks and Romans, generally enslaved those they took in war, and most of the descendants of those taken were also enslaved, being born in that state under the laws. But we must not forget that these latter were heathens, who had no clear views of an immortal state were never blessed with the divine example and precepts of a Saviour, who commands all his followers to do unto others as they would be done unto. In the Slavery of these ancient *Note 1. See Appendix.
nations also, there were many mitigating circumstances, for it was generally confined to those above mentioned,* and the Slaves had many privileges, and some rights as to property; they often also obtained their freedom from kind masters, and some of them were much noticed for their good conduct and great talents; their descendants moreover were sometimes promoted to places of trust and honour. This was particularly the case amongst the Greeks and Romans, as we learn from their historians and poets; and we know that when the Roman empire became Christianised, Slavery was gradually abolished.
It was reserved for modern times, for men calling themselves Christians, and nations professing the religion of the meek and lowly Jesus, to carry this heaviest curse inflicted on the human race to its highest pitch, and to trade in Human Flesh;—to trade, I say, in Human Flesh; for the merchants under the sanction of different governments sent, and too many do still send, out their vessels and captains to distant and pestilential climes to stir up discord, and let loose the dogs of war, for the purpose of purchasing the prisoners, poor unfortunate beings, (who, as well as themselves, are entitled to be heirs of immortality,) with more satisfaction, and much greater *Note 2. See Appendix.
ardour, than ever the subjects of King Solomon shewed in searching for the gold of Ophir! Sufficient praise cannot be bestowed upon those good and great men who were the principal cause of the Abolition of the Slave Trade, as far as England is concerned, as thereby some part of the foul stain, thrown upon this enlightened country, was effaced, and the bondage of the Slaves in the different West Indian Islands, belonging to Britain, was somewhat assuaged, some of the harsher and more cruel features being done away with by the Slaves having become more valuable, and not easily replaced in case of death. Still however much remains to be done, both in a physical and religious point of view, before the Negroes can be said to approximate to, even the lowest, and worst paid poor of the British Islands.
That I may not however alarm the colonists, and the proprietors and merchants in this country, who have vested interests (many of them perhaps almost their all) in the colonies, I would at once observe that I am no friend to immediate emancipation, for various and weighty One principal reason is, that those of our fellow subjects who emigrated to those unhealthy parts of the British empire, did so under the encouragement of the government, who confirmed to them by charter whatever property
they might acquire, in full right, as much as if they had had lands or merchandise in England: however therefore the mind may revolt at the sale of Human Beings, those possessed of them have an undoubted right to be remunerated, by some means or other, before the Negroes can be emancipated.
A second reason is, that were the government of this country favourably inclined to immediate emancipation, and consequently to remuneration, they have it not in their power to do so; for with the immense debt already on their hands, and which presses so heavily on all classes of the people, they would hardly venture to load them with one hundred and twenty or thirty millions more, as a satisfaction to the holders of West India property; for that is about the value, which those moderate gentlemen in the colonies, set on their ill-gotten wealth.
A third and most weighty reason is, that were the government willing to emancipate, and able to remunerate, it would be a great and incalculable injury to the Slaves themselves; for they are generally speaking in so barbarous and unenlightened a state, so devoid of education and religion, that anarchy, confusion, warfare and blood, would be the dreadful effects of the too hasty and mistaken boon.