Friday, November 18, 2011

Thomas Clarkson's Essay

When the wretched Africans are thus put into the hands of the second receivers, they are conveyed to the plantations, where they are totally considered as cattle, or beasts of labour; their very children, if any should be born to them in that situation, being previously destined to the condition of their parents. But here a question arises, which, will interrupt the thread of the narration for a little time, viz. how far their descendants, who compose the fifth order of slaves, are justly reduced to servitude, and upon what principles the receivers defend their conduct.

"Goree" or Slave Stick

Authors have been at great pains to inquire, why, in the ancient servitude, the child has uniformly followed the condition of the mother. But we conceive that they would have saved themselves much trouble, and have done themselves more credit, if instead of, endeavouring to reconcile the custom with heathen notions, or their own laboured conjectures, they had shewn its inconsistency with reason and nature, and its repugnancy to common justice. Suffice it to say, that the whole theory of the ancients, with respect to the descendants slaves, may be reduced to this principle, "that as the parents, by becoming property, were wholly considered as cattle, their children, like the progeny of cattle, inherited their parental lot."

Such also is the excuse of the tyrannical receivers before-mentioned. They allege, that they have purchased the parents, that they can sell and dispose of them as they please, that they possess them under the same laws and limitations as their cattle, and that their children, like the progeny of these, become their property by birth.

But the absurdity of the argument will immediately appear. It depends wholly on the supposition, that the parents are brutes. If they are brutes, we shall instantly cease to contend: if they are men, which we think it not difficult to prove, the argument must immediately fall, as we have already shewn that there cannot justly be any property whatever in the human species.

It has appeared also, in the second part of this Essay, that as nature made, every man's body and mind his own, so no just person can be reduced to slavery against his own consent. Do the unfortunate offspring ever consent to be slaves?-They are slaves from their birth.-Are they guilty of crimes, that they lose their freedom?-They are slaves when they cannot speak.-Are their parents abandoned? The crimes of the parents cannot justly extend to the children.

Thus then must the tyrannical receivers, who presume to sentence the children of slaves to servitude, if they mean to dispute upon the justice of their cause; either allow them to have been brutes from their birth, or to have been guilty of crimes at a time, when they were incapable of offending the very King of Kings.

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