And, First, to the captains employed in this trade. Most of you know the country of Guinea; several parts of it, at least, between the river Senegal and the kingdom of Angola. Perhaps, now, by your means part of it is become a dreary, uncultivated wilderness, the inhabitants being all murdered or carried away, so that there are none left to till the ground. But you well know how populous, how fruitful, how pleasant it was a few years ago. You know, the peoplewere not stupid, not wanting in sense, considering the few means of improvement they enjoyed. Neither did you find them savage, fierce, cruel, treacherous, or unkind to strangers. On the contrary, they were, in most parts, a sensible and ingenious people. They were kind and friendly, courteous and obliging, and remarkably fair and 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 foment on purpose. You have seen them torn. away,--children from their parents, parents from their children; husbands from their wives, wives from their beloved husbands, 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,-them who had souls immortal as your own; only some of them leaped into the sea, and resolutely stayed under water, till they could suffer no more from you. You have stowed them together as close as ever tehy could lie, without any regard either to decency or convenience. And when many of them had been poisoned by foul air, or had sunk under various hardships, you have seen their remains delivered to the deep, till the sea should give up his dead. You have carried the survivors into the vilest 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.
And this equally concerns every gentleman that has an estate in our American
plantations; yea, all slave-holders, of whatever rank and degree; seeing
men-buyers are exactly on a level with men-stealers. 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 they are honestly come by.
Otherwise you are a 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 pockets, house-breaking, or robbery upon
the highway. You know they are procured by a deliberate series of more
complicated villany (of fraud, robbery, and murder) than was ever practised
either by Mahometans or Pagans.
You therefore are guilty, yea, principally 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 elsew , here,
lies upon your head... - O, whatever it costs, put a stop to its cry before it
be too late: Instantly, at any price, were it the half of your goods, deliver
thyself from blood-guiltiness! ... Do not hire another to shed blood; do not pay
him for doing it! Whether you are a Christian or no, show yourself a man! ...
Perhaps you will say, "I do not buy any Negroes; I only use those left me by my
father." So far is well; but is it enough to satisfy your own conscience? Had
your father, have you, has any man living, a right to use another as a slave?
... It cannot be, that either war, or contract, can give any man such a property
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
creature, as soon he breathes the vital air; and no human law can deprive him of
that right which he derives from the law of nature. ... 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
From Thoughts Upon Slavery, 1774.