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proved to be incompatible with the natural rights of man, contrary to the principles of religion and morality, founded in extreme injustice, and the cause of many cruelties. Shall it be said, that this horrid complexioned trade must be continued, because, if we give it up, other nations will take possession of it ? Every person, but those swayed by a sordid interest, will scout the idea.
“However, suppose other nations should not follow the example of Britain, but still continue the inhuman traffick. We have done our duty, by doing all we could to put an end to the evils of slavery. When we are convinced of the justness and propriety of certain actions, we do not allow ourselves to be influenced by probable conjectures about the conduct of others; no, we act in consequence of what seems to us to be just and right. The prohibition of the Slave trade is just and right; this let us endeavour to obtain, without troubling ourselves about the manner in which other nations may act. But, (as is well expressed in the propositions, one good consequence of prohibiting the importation of slaves into the British West Indies will be, a decrease of the mass of wickedness and misery, attending the trade, in the same proportion that the waste of slaves in our islands, bears to the supply of other European settlements.
“ A bad cause is supported by bad arguments. The friends to the Slave trade adduce, in proof of the injustice and impolicy of its abolition, the late insurrection at St. Domingo. That such an insurrection of the slaves has existed, cannot be denied ; that many lives have been lost, and much damage done, must be lamented; but this insurrection was owing to a principle inherent in every man, and proves only, “that a slave watches his opportunity to get free.” The revolution in France reached their West India settlements ; the people of colour wished to partici
pate equal privileges with the whites; which the latter were unwilling to grant them, notwithstanding the French National Assembly had decreed, if I mistake not, that both should enjoy all the rights of free citizens. This gave occasion to animosities and quarrels, and the slaves, thinking it the favourable moment to get free, rebelled, and retaliated upon their masters, for the many hardships which they had endured. But no such evil can be dreaded from the abolition of the Slave trade, as we do not aim at the emancipation of the slaves in the British West Indies, but only wish that the future importation of them, from Africa, may be prohibited. Let the slave-holder use those now in his possession with humanity and kindness, and he will have no cause to be afraid of an insurrection. In vain do the white inhabitants of the British West Indies say, they are kind and humane masters, and their slaves happy in their present situation. The application to government for an additional military force, the purchase of arms for themselves, and the associations entered into by the whites, are proofs in point, that so far from being humane, as they would make us believe, they are severe task-masters, who rule their slaves with a rod of iron. Did the West Indian planter treat his slaves in the manner servants are treated in England, they would at all times be the faithful defenders of his life and property. Besides, the prohibition of the importation of slaves from Africa could be no incitement to the slaves in the British West Indies to rebel, but rather the contrary; as it will be an inducement to the slave-holder to use his slaves better, knowing that he is precluded from a future supply.
“ To say then, that the principle of liberty, which excites the slave to gain his freedom, had no existence previous to the discussions and transactions which have passed upon the subject in England, is very unjust. This is a
principle of nature which every human being has, in a greater or less degree, and, unless this principle be totally destroyed by severe and tyrannical treatment, it will shew itself upon every proper occasion.
" Let the friends to the abolition of the Slave trade act with firmness and moderation ; let them take every opportunity to disseminate through Britain a knowledge of this iniquitous traffick, and, as the cause they espouse is that of humanity and justice, there are strong reasons to believe, that their generous exertions will in time prove successful.”
The Chairman having finished this luminous and comprehensive speech, the several propositions which he brought forward were successively put to the vote, and it was unanimously
Resolved,—That it appears to us,
I. That the exercise of the Slave trade, upon the coast of Africa, has a necessary tendency to encourage and perpetuate the vicious usages and institutions which prevail in that country; and to obstruct other commercial intercourse with the inhabitants, as well as all improvements in their moral character and civil condition.
II. That the sufferings of the Slaves in the middle pas. sage are inseparable from the trade.
III. That it is contrary to uniform experience, and to the known laws of nature, that any class of human beings, who are properly treated, and placed in a climate suiting with their constitution, should not be able to keep up their numbers.
IV. That consequently, to prohibit the future importation of slaves into the British West Indies, is only to lay the planters under a necessity of forming and executing proper dispositions and regulations in favour of the Negroes
already in those islands, which dispositions and regulations, without such necessity, we conceive will not be formed, or if formed, will not be executed.
V. That whereas it is alleged, that the charges brought against the Slave trade are founded in extreme cases of cruelty and misconduct; in the conclusions above stated, these cases are not in any manner relied upon, although it be an additional objection to the trade, that it admits the possibility, the impunity, and, as we fear, the frequency of such examples.
VI. That it is a weak excuse for a bad practice to say, that if we do not pursue it others will; but that even this excuse is inapplicable to the present case, because the prohibiting of the importation of slaves into the British West Indies, whether the example be followed by other nations or not, will diminish the mass of wickedness and misery attending the trade, in the proportion that the waste of slaves in our islands bears to the supply of other European settlements.
VII. That the late insurrection at St. Domingo, proves only, “that a slave watches his opportunity to get free.”
VIII. That the existence of this principle cannot, without extreme injustice, be ascribed to the discussions and transactions which have passed upon the subject in England.
IX. That a petition to Parliamnt, stating the above reasons, and praying the Abolition of the Slave trade, be now proposed, and that after receiving the signatures of such inhabitants of the town and neighbourhood as choose to subscribe it, the members for the city be requested to present the same to the House of Commons.
X. That the thanks of this meeting be given to the Rev. Archdeacon Paley, for his excellent speech and conduct in the chair.
WILLIAM PALEY, Chairman.
A petition containing the substance of these resolutions being also approved of by the meeting, and signed by a number of the inhabitants, was presented to the House of Commons, on the 27th of the same month.
CORRESPONDENCE OF MR. ROBERTSON AND ARCHDEACON
PALEY, ON AN ALLEGED LITERARY DEPREDATION.
[From the Gentlema. 's Magazine, vol. Ixii. 1792.]
“ Thou shalt not steal.”
Catechism by Paley, p. 34.
Marlborough-street, Feb. 12. MR. URBAN, When the press teems with innumerable publications in every department of literature, it is no wonder that many of them are mere compilations; the observations, arguments, and opinions, of preceding writers, thrown together into one general mass, and presented to the publick under some new and ostentatious title. We have volumes after volumes, collected from the works of the most eminent authors, filled with heterogeneous fragments, which distract and confound the reader's memory and imagination, and consequently leave no useful impression on the mind. Some dealers in this piratical commerce take every opportunity they can seize, for converting the works of others to their own emolument. With this view, they mangle and pillage them in an arbitrary manner, till they have either made the original composition appear to the utmost disadvantage, or devour it, as rapaciously as the harpies devoured the provisions of Æneas and his companions.