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But if all these may be fairly confuted, and the African slave trade, and the consequent treatment of those who are by means of this reduced to slavery, can be justified, and shown to be consistent with justice, humanity, and universal benevo. lence, then the whole of this consequence will be obviated, and all the supposed guilt of injuring our fellow-men in the highest degree, and of shedding rivers of innocent blood, will be wiped away as a mere phantom, and vanish as the baseless fabric of a night vision. It is earnestly to be desired, therefore, if this be possible, that some able, disinterested advocate for the slave trade, if such a one can be found, would step forth and do it. But if there be no such man, let the interested, and those who are in this traffic, and the slavery of the Africans arise and show it to be just and benevolent, if they
We will promise you a candid and patient hearing, for we desire to justify you if it were possible. If this can be done to the satisfaction of all, it would remove from our minds a set of painful feelings, which cannot be easily described, and dissipate a gloom which now hangs heavy upon us, in the view of the exceeding depravity, unrighteousness, and cruelty of men who, for a little gain, will deluge millions in slavery and blood, with an unfeeling heart, and their eyes fast shut against the glaring light which condemns their horrid deeds, and in the painful prospect of the dreadful vengeance of Heaven for such daring outrage against our fellow-men, our brethren. But, until this be done, this business must be unavoidably viewed in the most disagreeable, odious, horrible light by us. And we must be suffered to consider, and lay before the public, some of the great aggravations which attend the continuation of this practice by us in these United States. When the inhabitants of these states found themselves necessarily involved in contentions with Britain in order to continue a free people, and had the distressing prospect of a civil war, they, being assembled in Congress, in October, 1774, did agree and resolve, in the following words: “ We will neither import, nor purchase any slave imported, after the first day of December next; after which time we will wholly discontinue the slave trade, and will neither be concerned in it ourselves, nor will we hire our vessels, nor sell our commodities or manufactures, to those who are concerned in it." This reasonable, noble, and important resolution was approved by the people in general, and they adhered to it through the war, during which time there was much publicly said and done which was at least an implicit and practical declaration of the unreasonableness and injustice of the slave trade and of slavery in general. It was repeatedly declared in Congress, as the language and sentiment of all these states, and by other public bodies of
" that we hold these truths to be selfevident, that all men are created equal ; that they are endowed with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” “ That all men are born equally free and independent, and have certain natural, inherent, and unalienable rights, among which are, the defending and enjoying life and liberty, acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety. By the immutable laws of nature, all men are entitled to life and liberty,” etc. The Africans, and the blacks in servitude among us, were really as much included in these assertions as ourselves, and their right, unalienable right to liberty, and to procure and possess property, is as much asserted as ours, if they be men; and if we have not allowed them to enjoy these unalienable rights, but violently deprived them of liberty and property, and still taking as far as in our power all liberty and property from the nations in Africa, we are guilty of a ridiculous, wicked contradiction and inconsistence, and practically authorize any nation or people, who have power to do it, to make us their slaves. The whole of our war with Britain was a contest for liberty, by which we, when brought to the severest test, practically adhered to the above assertions, so far as they concerned ourselves at least; and we declared in words and actions that we chose rather to die than to be slaves, or have our liberty and property taken from us. We viewed the British in an odious and contemptible light, purely because they were attempting to deprive us by violence in some measure of those our unalienable rights; but if at the same time, or since, we have taken or withheld these same rights from the Africans or any of our fellow-men, we have justified the inhabitants of Britain in all they have done against us, and declared that all the blood which has been shed in consequence of our opposition to them is chargeable on us. If we do not allow this, and abide by the above declarations, we charge ourselves with the guilt of all the blood which has been shed by means of the slave trade, and of an unprovoked and most injurious conduct in depriving innumerable Africans of their just, unalienable rights, in violently taking and withholding from them all liberty and property, holding them as our own property, and buying and selling them as we do our horses and cattle, reducing them to the most vile, humiliating, and painful situation. This whole contest, it must be again observed, was suited to bring and keep in our view, and impress on our minds, a deep and lasting sense of the worth of liberty, and the unrighteousness of taking it from any man, and, consequently,
of our unrighteousness and cruelty towards the Africans. If it were known that the wise Governor of the world had determined to take some method to convince us of the injustice of the slave trade and of the slavery of the Africans, and manifest his displeasure with us for it, and use means suited to reform us, could we conceive of any measures which might be better suited to answer this end than those which have actu. ally taken place in this war, considered in all the circumstances of it? It would be thought impossible that every one who then was, or had been, active in reducing the Africans to the abject and suffering state in which they are in the West Indies, and even among us, should not reflect upon it with selfcondemnation, regret, and horror, had not experiment proved the contrary. And while we execrated the British for taking our men and ordering them to be transported to the East Indies, and for crowding so many of our people into prisons and prison ships, — where they died by thousands, without any relief or pity from them, — was it possible for us not to reflect upon our treatment of the Africans, in transporting so many thousands of them from their native country to a land of slavery, while multitudes, being crowded and shackled in our ships have died on their passage, without one to help or pity them? Could any avoid seeing the righteous hand of God stretched out against us, and retaliating our unrighteous, cruel treat. ment of them in a way suited to strike conviction into our minds of our guilt, and of the righteous displeasure of Heaven with us for these horrid deeds wbich had been done by us? Surely we had good reason to espouse the language of the brethren of Joseph, in a similar case: “ We are verily guilty concerning our brethren the Africans, in that we saw the anguish of their souls under our cruel hands; and they besouch: us, and cried for pity, but we would not hear; therefore is this distress come upon us." Is it possible that the Americans should, after all this, and in the face of this light and conrie. tion, and after they had obtained liberty and independence for themselves, continue to hold hundreds of thousands of their fellow-men in the most abject slavery!- and not only so, bet, notwithstanding their resolutions and declarations, renew and carry on the slave trade, and from year to year convey thou. sands of their fellow-men from their native country to a state of most severe and perpetual bondage? This would have been thought impossible, was it not known to be true in fact; and who can describe the aggravated guilt which the Americans have brought upon themselves by this? If this was a Heaven. daring crime of the first magnitude before the war with Brit. ain, how much more criminal must we be now, when, instead of regarding the admonitions of Heaven and the light and conviction set before us, and repenting and reforming, we persist in this cruel practice! What name shall be given to their daring presumption and hardiness, .who, from a thirst for gold, have renewed this trade in slaves, in the bodies and souls of men, and of those whom they employ in this inhuman, horrid business?
" Is there not some chosen curse,
Red with uncommon wrath, to blast these men,”who owe their riches to such aggravated, detestable crimes, now necessarily involved in carrying on this trade? And is not Heaven frowning upon us now ?
We are as yet disappointed in our expectations of peace, prosperity, and happiness, in consequence of liberty and independence. Instead of rising to honor, dignity, and respect among the nations, we have suddenly sunk into disgrace and contempt. Our trade labors under great disadvantages, and is coming to nothing. We have lost our money, having parted with the greatest part of it, not to pay our debts, but for foreign luxuries or unnecessaries, and those things which might have been manufactured among ourselves. Our public and private debts are not paid, but are increasing. A spirit of discontent and murmuring, and jealousy of our rulers, and complaining . of them, has spread among us, and in some places insurrections, and open, violent opposition to government, have taken place, which have proceeded to plunder and shedding blood. Divisions and contentions have taken place among ourselves, and seem to be hastening to universal consusion and anarchy. There is a general complaint of evil times; and where is the family or man to be found which does not sensibly share in the general calamity, and is not involved in some peculiar difficulty ? The British are so far from being at peace with us, that they have done much to bring on the before-mentioned evils. They are attempting to ruin our trade as much as is in their power, and refuse to deliver up to us the western posts, which we claim, and put on a hostile appearance, which may soon issue in an open war.
The Indians are making war upon us, and kill and captivate the inhabitants of the western settlements, and threaten to be yet a more dreadful scourge to us. The Algerines, without any provocation, are captivating our ships, and carry our men into slavery; and we have no power to redeem them, or to put a stop to their further depredations. The State of Rhode Island, in particular, — which, as has been shown, has had a distinguished hand in the slave trade, — is fallen into a disagreeable and very calamitous situation.
Great animosities and contentions with each other have arisen. They are divided into parties, and biting and devouring one another
. Public injustice is established by law. They have lost their credit abroad, and are become the subject of ridicule, reproach, and contempt. Their trade and all business are discouraged, and almost ruined; and Newport, the metropolis, is fast going to poverty and inevitable ruin, unless some unfore. seen event should take place to prevent it. Wherefore is all this come upon us so suddenly, and in such a remarkable and unexpected manner? Is not the hand of God very visibly stretched out against us? And must there not some Achan be found with us, which has provoked the Most High to bring all this evil upon us, after he had wrought for us and delivered us in such a remarkable manner, and which must be put away before we can reasonably expect to prosper? And is not the renewal of the slave trade, and our continuing to hold so many thousands of our fellow-men in slavery, one principal ground of the divine displeasure ? Surely none can doubt of this who view it in the light in which it has been represented above. Other sins and follies have been the means of the evils which are come upon us, such as idleness, intemperance, luxury, and extravagance, in a variety of ways, a neglect to encourage and carry on manufactories, and discourage the importation of unnecessary foreign articles, and opposition to the imposts proposed by Congress, etc. But may not this folly and infatuation itself be justly considered as a judgment which has come upon us, as the just consequence of our persisting in this aggravated, capital, and horrid crime? If this trade and the slavery of the Africans can be vindicated, and proved to be consistent with ourselves, just, and laudable, we again declare we wish to see it done. But if this cannot be done, — and we must be allowed at present to be confident it cannot, - then there is no other hopeful way to escape yet greater evils but by repentance and reformation. Of what importance, then, is it that all ranks and orders of men among us should turn their attention to this matter, and repent, and do works meet for repentance, by reforming and exerting themselves in their several places, and, according to their advantages and abilities, entirely to suppress this evil practice! Is it not to be wished that the convention of these states, now sitting at Philadelphia, may take this matter into serious consideration, and at least keep it in view, while they are forming a system of government, that the supreme power of these states may be able effectually to interpose in this affair? If the above representation be in any way agreeable to the truth, in vain are the wisest counsels and the