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There does not appear to have been among the Romans, in early times, much distinction observed, either in working or living, between masters and servants. But in the more advanced ages of that great empire, when luxury and licentiousness encreased, the state of the unhappy slaves became most abject and wretched. And this debasement of their slaves, was the prelude and fore-runner of the downfal and final ruin of their empire. Are not such events recorded for examples and warnings to us? When we recollect the equity and humanity with which heathen nations, such as the Athenians, behaved towards their slaves, and on the other hand, the injustice with which slaves are now treated in countries, called Christian, must we not feel in a manner it is difficult to express? Vain is it to allege, that salutary laws have been enacted by the Christian powers, to regulate the conduct of masters to their slaves in the colonies. To talk of law here is nugatory and trifling; if not absurd. It is a melancholy truth, that the law which regulates the treatment of slaves, is the caprici. ous, often cruel, will of their masters. How defective, and how partial, and how seldom executed, are the colonial laws? I shall allow these laws to speak for themselves. For this purpose I introduce the following quotations. The law of Jamaica orders “every slave that shall run away, and continue absent from his master twelve months, shall be deemed rebellious.” And by another law, fifty pounds are allowed to those who kill, or bring in alive, a rebellious slave. But the law of Barbadoes exceeds even this; “ if any negroe, under punishment, by his master, or his order, for running away, or any other crime, or misdemeanor, shall suffer in life or member, no person whatsoever shall be liable to any fine therefor. But if any man of wantonness, or only of bloody-mindedness, or of cruel intention, wil. fully kill a negroe of his own, he shall pay into the public treasury, fifteen pounds sterling, and not be liable to any other punishment or forfeiture for the same.”
Similar to these, are the laws which, formerly, were in force in Virginia. “No slave shall be set free upon any pretence whatever, except for some meritorious services; to be adjudged and allowed by the governor and council. And where any slave shall be set free by his owner, otherwise than is herein directed, the church-wardens of the parish, wherein such negroe shall reside for the space of one month, are hereby authorised and required to take up and sell the said negroe by public outcry."
Nearly allied to this was another law of Virginia; " after two proclamations are issued, against slaves that run away, it is lawful for any person to kill and destroy such slaves, by such ways and means, as he shall think fit.” Bloody laws!
Of the State of the Slaves in the British West
WHEN we recollect the improved taste, and generous disposition, which are so conspicuous in the general character of the English nation, we are utterally at a loss to account for that severity, with which they treat their slaves in the West-India islands. That their slaves are better used than any other, cannot be pretended, That they are as well treated as some other slaves, is not a fact. That a nation which enjoys so much freedom, and is so much opposed to slavery at home, should tolerate it, in its cruelest forms abroad, is truly astonishing. But why do I talk of the nation? The greater and better
part of the nation are determined enemies to slavery, and every species of tyranny. But there is among them a set of interested, mercenary, cruel individuals, at whose infamous conduct, government seems, perhaps from mistaken, mercenary motives, to wink.
The owners of slaves appear to think, that as they are their property, for which they pretend to have paid an equivalent price, they have a right to dispose of them as they please. But all such reasoning is sophistical and delusory. An adequate price for human beings! Is there any proportion between millions of silver or gold, and a human soul? No. No man can possibly by any means acquire a right to treat another with injustice or cruelty. Even to treat an animal cruelly, is criminal.
every man is born free, is a dictate of reason and common sense. But these monsters of men, the proprietors of our West-India slaves, will have thousands of men and women to be born slaves. From father to son, by an imaginary hereditary title, slaves, without any choice or consent on their part, descend from generation to generation. What! Are men and women sunk to a level with horses and hogs ; houses and lands? The father considering them as his own, and his son's property, betimes sets the latter, yet a boy, over them, with a whip in his hand, to punish them as he pleases. Even this raw and inexperienced, inconsiderate and rash, perhaps cruel boy, may, with impunity, lash, lacerate, and torture them, when, and to what