Page images
PDF
EPUB

numerous.

In this trade great improvements might be introduced, were we properly to attend to, and encourage them. Consider the vast continent of Africa, the extent of coast within the limits of our trade by act of parliament, (from Port Sallee in Barbary, to the Cape of Good Hope, both inclusive) an extent of near three thousand leagues, most advantageously situated for commerce, the inland parts rich in gold, and other very valuable commodities beyond description, watered with innumerable rivers navigable for many leagues up the country, the soil amazingly fruitful, and the people

From a concurrence of such circumstances what advantages may not be expected ? The French were fully sensible of this, and in the year 1701 presented a memorial to their government wherein they alledge, “their West “ India Islands cannot subsist, unless due encouragement “ is given to the African trade;" in consequence of which they had many privileges granted them then, and a few years ago, the bounties and exemptions allowed to them for that trade were estimated very little short of 45,000l. annually. If France has deemed this trade of such importance to her, it must be of much greater to us, who may be said to subsist only as a maritime power.

In the name then of the British merchants trading to Africa, in the name of our country and colonies, let me humbly address the government to make this trade more the object of their attention ; which in it's present state is productive of so many ad

vantages, For the number of ships employed and other particulars, the Appendix is Teferred to, that the thread of the argument may not be broken by inserting them

[merged small][ocr errors]

[ 7 ] vantages, and is capable of great improvement, both by removing those difficulties, under which it at present labours, and by carrying into execution many plans that might be suggested. In what light then but in that of enemies to their country can we look on those, who, under the specious plea of establishing universal freedom, endeavour to strike at the root of this trade, the foundation of our commerce, the support of our colonies, the life of our navigation, and first cause of our national industry and riches ? What vain pretence of liberty * can infatuate people to run into so much licentiousness, as to affert a trade is unlawful, which custom immemorial, and various acts of parliament have ratified and given a fanction to ? Could they support their enthusiastic arguments from scripture, antient usage, or the laws of the land, the African trade would soon be effe&tually ruined, for at present the richest adventurers in it are such men, as would scorn to be engaged in any pursuit, but what the laws of God and man would fully fanctify; and were this trade contrary

to

;

[ocr errors]

*

in this part of the work

of the work; and indeed this being only a brief state of facts, (all which are or can be proved) and the Appendix containing most of those proofs, that will probably be the longest of the two. — See letter (A) in the Appendix.

One of the French kings, through a sort of vanity peculiar to that nation, issued an edict, that throughout his realm the Franks, as free by name, should be all declared freemen : yet the king of France remains a most despotic monarch, and his people the worst of Naves; and the legality of foreign Navery is admitted there, for by a law in France, no African Nave can be imported without a security of his being sent back again in two or three years at farthest. The last step we should be wise enough to follow : the first our Gracious King can never. take, as it implies a manifest absurdity.

a

to those laws, were it even cruel or inhuman, near a million of money might be withdrawn from it in a short time, and a stagnation of cash at home, and utter ruin in our colonies abroad must inevitably ensue.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

CH A P. : II.
The LEGALITY of the AFRICAN TRADE.
N this head I shall leave declamation to my opponents,

, w hose cause requires the Aorid force of oratory for one plain reason-because it has no truth to support it. They have indeed the specious, and I the invidious fide of the question : they attack the tender feelings of misinformed humanity. ; I appeal to striet justice, arising from custom immemorial and positive laws: it were enough for me, were. I totally to drop the consideration of justice, and apply to the law only as it now stands, but I disclaim the one without the other, and to prove that neither have as yet abolished the idea of slavery, or established that of universal freedom, in a summary way I shall barely state plain facts and argue from them."

The earliest ages had their * slaves, both taken in war and purchased with money, and it has been the universal practice of not only every barbarous but every civilized nation. By the law of Moses the Israelites might purchase slaves from the heathens, and even their own people might become slaves

to

* For.a more ample discussion of this, see the Appendix letter B. where Mercator's letters, and observations on them are inserted, as they would take up too much room here.

to their brethren. · The Gibeonites who gained a prðmise of peace, and obtained a league by craft from the princes of the congregation, were yet consigned to perpetual slavery, and made “hewers of wood, and drawers of water “unto all the congregation,” in which state they continued until the total destruction of Jerusalem.

Jesus Christ, the faviour of mankind and founder of our religion, left the moral laws and civil rights of mankind on their old foundations : his kingdom was not of this world, nor did he interfere with national laws : he did not repeal that of flaves, nor affert an universal freedom, except from fin : with him bond or free were accepted, if they behaved righteously. In the year of Christ 692, the laws of flaves were fettled on the foundation of the holy fcriptures by Ina, king of the West Saxons, from which people's rights we now claim, and enjoy several privileges, as Gavelkind in Kent, &c. confirmed by William the Conqueror. Mahomet, the false prophet, and eftablisher of as false a religion, was the first who enfranchised flaves with a political view of drawing them over to his party. From the earliest accounts of our own country, there were flaves here ; from the time of the Druids, who, according to the customs of the ancient Gauls, sometimes sacrificed them to their God Woden, to the landing of the Romans, who are said to have worn out the * hands and bodies of the Britons, with clearing the woods and embanking the marshes : then again under the

*C

Saxon * See Cambden's Britannia, and Brown's posthumous works.

[ocr errors]

Saxon feudal tenures, which were of the severest kind, to the time of William the Conqueror, who introduced the Norman feudal system, which was of a milder nature ; as, from a century before that time to the year 1318, charters granted to settlers in cities, and power created by wealth gained by commerce, tended to bring mankind to a nearer cquality ; but still there was no formal interposition of the legislature to prohibit personal servitude ; and both at, and ever since that time, even English subjects by their feudal tenures were still slaves by the laws of England, till 12 Car. II. c. 24 : which shews that the laws concerning free British subjects did not consider even our native flaves for their object : and if they did not, it follows of course, that no laws, either before or since that time, can consider foreign saves as their object ; because as they are not expresly named in any part of our statute laws, any more than our own native flaves were in those laws, which concerned the free British subjects, they therefore surely cannot claim being included ; as, in that case, they would enjoy rights superior to those of any natural born British subject.

There does not at present, in any one country of the world, exist a law that abolishes slavery, or declares the necessity of universal freedom : and in our try, which we boast to be the seat of freedom, two of the greatest lawyers we have had, gave their opinion, that " slaves do not in the least alter their situation or ftate, “ either by being christencd, or coming into England.”

The See Robertson's Progress of Society, Hume, &c.

V

own Coun

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »