Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

of those unhappy people that are held as slaves, from generation to generation, down to the present day: it being an undeniable truth, that no rational creature can be any longer a slave, than while the force of war is operating upon him: and as before proved from Scripture, and moral justice, that every child of an African, born in America, or elsewhere, is born free: therefore, he suffers the same cruel force of fraud and power while continued under the galling yoke of slavery, as was exercised on his predecessors.

“ The lust of power, and the pride of conquest, have doubtless produced instances far too numerous of man enslaved by man. But we, in an enlightened age, have greatly surpassed, in brutality and injustice, the most iynorant and barbarous ages; and while we are pretending to the finest feelings of humanity, are exercising unprecedented cruelty. We have planted slavery in the rank soil of sordid avarice: and the product has been misery in the extreme. We have ascertained, by a course of experiments in cruelty, the least portion of nourishment requisite to enable man to linger a few years in misery; the greatest quantity of labour, which, in such a situation, the extreme of punishment can extort; and the utmost degree of pain, labour and hunger united, that the human frame can endure. In vain have such scenes been developed. The wealth derived from the horrid traffic, has created an influence that secures its continuance; unless the people at large shall refuse to receive the produce of robbery and murder.”

Q. 2. Under what name or descriptive mode of property are the slaves to be considered, in relation to the man who holds them as such ?

A. The slaves being taken by violence, either directly or indirectly, contrary to their own wills, and in direct opposition to all the power of self-defence, which they are capable of exerting, whether they are taken prisoners of war or stolen, or decoyed on shipboard by the slave merchant, and then forcibly confined and carried off ; it must be acknowledged, they are taken in a state of war, and considered by the captor as

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

a prize : therefore, the only true title and description of property they can possibly bear, is prize goods.

Q. 3. Is not the produce of the slave's labour likewise prize goods ?

A. It certainly is; for the man, who, by mere power and violence, without any just plea of right, not only holds them as slaves, but takes from then, in the same cruel and arbitrary manner, the proceeds of their labour, without their consent, thereby places himself in a state of continual and actual war with his slaves. And, moreover, as the stealing or taking a man by violence, and depriving him of his liberty, and reducing him to the wretched and helpless state of a slave, is the highest grade of felony, and is done purposely to profit by the slave's labour; therefore, the produce of the slave's labour is the highest grade of prize goods, next to his person.

Q. 4. Does the highway robber, that meets his fellow-citizen on the highway, and robs him of all the property he has in his present possession, and then leaves him at liberty, without injuring his person, commit as high an act of felony, as he that steals or buys, or takes a man by violence, and reduces him to the wretched and degraded state of a slave for life?

A. No! in no wise. Which answer is founded on the selfevident proposition, that it is more criminal to rob a man of his liberty and property, than only to rob him of his property.

Q. 5. Does it lessen the criminality and wickedness of reducing our fellow creatures to the abject state of slavery, and continuing them therein, because the practice is tolerated by the laws of the country we live in ?

A. No! by no means. Because, every rational creaturc knows, or ought to know, that no laws of men or nations, can alter the nature of immutable justice. The criminality remains as great in all cases of slavery, when inflicted without any criminality of the individual made a slave, under the sanction of law, as when it is not; and in some cases, greater: as in the instance of those governments, where they are not only guilty of the cruelty and oppression of reducing, by mere power, without any possible plea of right, their fellow crea

tures who have equally a right with themselves to liberty, and the purchase of redemption by a Saviour's blood, to the abject and wretched state of slaves, but are adding sin to sin, by making and continuing cruel laws to hold them still longer under the galling yoke.

Q. 6. Would it be right and consistent with justice and equity, for the legislatures of the several states, and others concerned, to make laws entirely to abolish slavery in their respective states ?

A. It would, doubtless, be entirely right, and perfectly consistent with equity and justice to make such laws; and nothing, I apprehend, can exculpate them from the charge of bloodguiltiness short of so doing: as, no doubt, many of the poor victims of slavery suffer daily to the shedding of their blood, under the hands of some of the cruel men who pretend to be their masters, because they do not at all times immediately submit to their cruel and arbitrary wills.

Q. 7. Would it not give just occasion for those who still have slaves in their possession, and especially to such as have lately purchased them, at a dear rate, to complain of wrong in thus taking from them, without their consent, what they esteem as their real property?

A. The making and enforcing such laws cannot possibly give just occasion for any such complaint; as it is impossible for any man to gain any just property in a rational being, as a slave, without his consent; for, neither the slave dealer nor the planter have any moral right to the person of him they style their slave, to his labour, or to the produce of it; so, they can convey no right in such person, nor in the produce of his labour to another; and whatever number of hands they may pass through, (if the criminal circumstances appertaining thereto be known to them at the time of the transfer,) they can only have a criminal possession; and the money paid either for the slave or for the produce of his labour, is paid to obtain that criminal possession, and can confer no moral right whatever; and if the death of the person called a slave, be occasioned by the criminal possession, the criminal possessor is

guilty of murder ; and we who have knowingly done any act which might occasion his being in that situation, are accessaries to the murder, before the fact; as by receiving the produce of his labour, we are accessaries to the robbery after the fact. Therefore, I conceive, it must appear clear and agreeable to truth and justice, that a man who should dare to be so hardy as to buy a fellow creature, whose liberty is withheld from him by violence and injustice, ought not only to be obliged to set him free, and to forfeit the purchase money, but likewise to make full satisfaction to the person he had injured, by such purchase.

Q. 8. As the Legislature of the State of New York has passed a law, declaring that every child, born in this state of a woman held as a slave, shall be free, the males at twentyeight years of age, and the females at twenty-five; can such a law be considered as doing full justice to that injured people?

A. Although such might have been the unjust bias, that too generally prevailed on the minds of the inhabitants of this State, at the time of making the law alluded to in the query, that it was the best step the Legislature could then take; nevertheless, in my opinion, it fell very far short of doing them that full justice to which they are entitled; for, as all children born of white women in this state, are free at the age of twenty-one and eighteen years, according to their sex, and as the Africans and their descendants are not here in their own wills, nor agreeable to their own choice, but wholly in consequence of the will and pleasure of the white citizens of this State ; therefore, it is impossible, in point of justice, that any disadvantage or penalty should attach to them, as a consequence of their being here : but as free born men and women, they have a right to demand their freedom at the same age as other citizens; and to deny them of it, is depriving them of their just right.

Q. 9. What measures can be adopted by the Legislature and citizens of New York, in order to exculpate themselves from the guilt of that atrocious crime of holding the Africans and their descendants so long in slavery?

A. The least that can be done, in order to effect the salutary end contemplated by the query, would be to declare freedom to every slave in the state, and to make provision by law for the education of all minors that are in a state of slavery; compelling their masters, or those who have the charge of them, to instruct them so as to keep their own accounts, and that they be set at liberty, the males at twenty-one and females at eighteen years of age : and further, that some lawful and reasonable step be taken, to compensate such slaves as have been held in bondage beyond that age, for such surplus service.

Q. 10. By what class of the people is the slavery of the Africans and their descendants supported and encouraged ?

A. Principally by the purchasers and consumers of the produce of the slaves' labour; as the profits arising from the produce of their labour, is the only stimulus or inducement for making slaves.

“ The laws of our country may indeed prohibit us the sweets of the sugar cane," and other articles of the WestIndies and southern states, that are the produce of the slave's labour, unless we will receive it through the medium of slavery; they may hold it to our lips, steeped in the blood of our fellow creatures, but they cannot compel us to accept the loathsome potion. With us it rests, either to receive it and be partners in the crime, or to exonerate ourselves from guilt, by spurning from us the temptation. For let us not think, that the crime rests alone with those who conduct the traffic, or the Legislature by which it is protected. If we purchase the commodity, we participate in the crime. The slave dealer, the slave holder, and the slave driver, are virtually the agents of the consumer, and may be considered as employed and hired by him, to procure the commodity. For, by holding out the temptation, he is the original cause, the first mover in the horrid process; and every distinction is done away by the moral maxim, That whatever we do by another, we do ourselves.

“ Nor are we by any means warranted to consider our indi

« PoprzedniaDalej »