Page images

the freedom I use with you, far from originating in disrespect for your persons or station, disaffection to your sovereign or government, is the natural effect of the regard I entertain for you, and the zeal, which uniformly and irresistibly constrains me to exert myself, on all occasions, to promote, to the utmost extent of my power, the happiness of that great nation, of which I once was a member, and for which I still retain a partiality. To plead in behalf of one form of civil government, or to oppose another, is no part of my present design. Between men and measures, it is of importance ever to distinguish. Despotism, tyranny, cruelty, under what name soever it may appear, or in what form soever it may be assimilated and operate, I detest. To it I own myself a determined enemy. With it I am resolved to be eternally at war. I speak, I act from principle, not prejudice; from humanity and reason, not superstition or fanaticism. Actuated by a natural propensity to compassion for the distressed part of mankind, and zeal for the honour of human nature, as it subsists in every son and daughter of Adam. I feel, I cannot but feel an abhorrence of the commerce and slavery of mankind, in every quarter of the world. What! men and women sold and bought! Has the specific difference between the human kind,

and the brutal, ceased? Are men no longer men, but brutes? By whom are human beings bought, and by whom sold? By whom is the scandalous traffic carried on? Is there a people under heaven sufficiently barbarous and cruel to engage in it? Yes; and a nation called Christian too. Is not a part of your own mercantile interest concerned in it; and do you not allow, if not encourage them in it? A set of baptised infidels, Christian cannibals, among yourselves, are permitted, and with impunity too, to enslave, oppress, and murder, thousands of human beings, in Africa, and in the islands of America, and on the passage from the former to the latter every year.

British Legislators! permit me to remind you of what is greatly your duty and your interest: to you, and only you, an enslaved, an oppressed, a groaning, a dying race, in your West-India islands, look up for relief. Shall they, can they, look in vain? I pray, I hope not. You are men of feeling; men of honour; men of moral rectitude. Can you suffer your own flesh; can you suffer human nature, to be debased to a level with the brutal? Surely not. Of great antiquity; of universal authority, is the law, whosoever sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed. Why is the shedding of the blood of a man, not

the shedding of the blood of a brute, punished with death? To the law itself, the reason of it is immediately subjoined by the sacred historian; for in the image of God, adds he, made he man. What distinguished honours and prerogatives belong to human nature, in all to whom it appertains, and in whom it subsists! Essential, unextinguishable, eternal, is the distinction between the human species and the brutal. Has God unalterably distinguished, and shall man dare to confound them? To yourselves, gentlemen, I submit the great question, whether the commerce, and consequent slavery, of the unhappy Africans, in which a number of your subjects are concerned, do not, almost totally, destroy the natural distinction between men and brutes; and sink the former to an equality with the latter. Is human nature woefully degraded? Do you not feel for the degradation of it? What! not feel for the affront and abuse of your own nature! Your pretensions to honour, integrity, impartiality, and candour, are high, and, I trust, in most instances, just.

Do not misapprehend me. I am no anarchist or leveller. Gradations among men were known in earliest ages; and will obtain to the latest. Without subordination, I know, society cannot subsist. To distinctions and titles I am no ene

my. But for the natural, unalienable, common privileges of men, as men, in contradistinction, and in superiority to brutes, I plead; to my last breath, I will plead. The impressions made on my mind, by the unparalleled barbarities committed on the enslaved, oppressed, exiled sons of Africa, which I have witnessed, time is not sufficiently long to efface. I consider myself under peculiar obligations to attempt their relief, though I should attempt it in vain. May the sovereign Disposer of all human events put it in the hearts of those who have authority and power, to send them an effectual and speedy redress of their heavy grievances, and alleviation of their accumulated miseries! With this benevolent view, for this salutary purpose, as well as to accelerate the total abolition of the slave trade, I now address you. Have you not power to alleviate the miseries of the unhappy slaves in your own colonies? I know, all the world knows, you have. The property of the planters in their slaves, and dominion over them, have you not, by law, sanctioned? But have you made equal provision for the protection and safety of the poor slaves? You know, we all know, you have not. Remember, gentlemen, HE, who made, and is to judge, you and them, is no respecter of persons. The poor are as near, and as dear to him, as the rich. Is

not the will, the capricious, barbarous, cruel, bloody will of the masters, in fact, the law of the slaves? Wretched beings! How forlorn, how distressed, how cruel, is their lot! From what principle, for what purpose, did the sovereign Ruler of the universe, raise you to the honour, and invest you with the power, of legislators? Was it to encrease the misery of any part of the human species? Was it not rather to administer justice, afford protection, and promote the happiness of all under your jurisdiction, of what station or condition, country or complexion, soever, they be? Do not these things belong to the very nature, design, and end of civil government, be it monarchical, aristocratical, republican, or democratic? You know, that the primary design of society and civil law, is for the equal protection of the inhabitants of a state. Slavery, therefore, must be incompatible both with social law and society. Vain is it for you to object, that you have actually enacted laws in behalf of the slaves as well as their masters. True; but what is the amount of these laws? Are they impartial, fair, and adequate to the end which they are proposed to accomplish? To yourselves I submit the decision. You cannot, I know you cannot, without a blush, answer in the affirmative. Review your laws, still in force, for regulating your slaves in

« PreviousContinue »