Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAP. VI. - An Essay on the Slavery and Commerce of the Human Species
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CHAP. VI. - Thomas Clarkson, An Essay on the Slavery and Commerce of the Human Species 
An Essay on the Slavery and Commerce of the Human Species, particularly the African, translated from a Latin Dissertation, which was Honoured with the First Prize, in the University of Cambridge, for the Year 1785, with Additions (London: J. Phillips, 1786).
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We proceed now to the consideration of the commerce: in consequence of which, people, endued with the same feelings and faculties as ourselves, were made subject to the laws and limitations of possession.
This commerce of the human species was of a very early date. It was founded on the idea that men were property; and, as this idea was coeval with the first order of involuntary slaves, it must have arisen, (if the date, which we previously affixed to that order, be right) in the first practices of barter. The Story of Joseph, as recorded in the sacred writings, whom his brothers sold from an envious suspicion of his future greatness, is an ample testimony of the truth of this conjecture. It shews that there were men, even at that early period, who travelled up and down as merchants, collecting not only balm, myrrh, spicery, and other wares, but the human species also, for the purposes of traffick. The instant determination of the brothers, on the first sight of the merchants, to sell him, and the immediate acquiescence of these, who purchased him for a foreign market, prove that this commerce had been then established, not only in that part of the country, where this transaction happened, but in that also, whither the merchants were then travelling with their camels, namely, Ægypt: and they shew farther, that, as all customs require time for their establishment, so it must have existed in the ages, previous to that of Pharaoh; that is, in those ages, in which we fixed the first date of involuntary servitude. This commerce then, as appears by the present instance, existed in the earliest practices of barter, and had descended to the Ægyptians, through as long a period of time, as was sufficient to have made it, in the times alluded to, an established custom. Thus was Ægypt, in those days, the place of the greatest resort; the grand emporium of trade, to which people were driving their merchandize, as to a centre; and thus did it afford, among other opportunities of traffick, the first market that is recorded, for the sale of the human species.
This market, which was thus supplied by the constant concourse of merchants, who resorted to it from various parts, could not fail, by these means, to have been considerable. It received, afterwards, an additional supply from those piracies, which we mentioned to have existed in the uncivilized ages of the world, and which, in fact, it greatly promoted and encouraged; and it became, from these united circumstances, so famous, as to have been known, within a few centuries from the time of Pharaoh, both to the Grecian colonies in Asia, and the Grecian islands. Homer mentions Cyprus and Ægypt as the common markets for slaves, about the times of the Trojan war. Thus Antinous, offended with Ulysses, threatens to send him to* one of these places, if he does not instantly depart from his table. The same poet also, in his‡ hymn to Bacchus, mentions them again, but in a more unequivocal manner, as the common markets for slaves. He takes occasion, in that hymn, to describe the pirates method of scouring the coast, from the circumstance of their having kidnapped Bacchus, as a noble youth, for whom they expected an immense ransom. The captain of the vessel, having dragged him on board, is represented as addressing himself thus, to the steersman:
It may not perhaps be considered as a digression, to mention in few words, by itself, the wonderful concordance of the writings of Moses and Homer with the case before us: not that the former, from their divine authority, want additional support, but because it cannot be unpleasant to see them confirmed by a person, who, being one of the earliest writers, and living in a very remote age, was the first that could afford us any additional proof of the circumstances above-mentioned. Ægypt is represented, in the first book of the sacred writings, as a market for slaves, and, in the * second, as famous for the severity of its servitude. ‡The same line, which we have already cited from Homer, conveys to us the same ideas. It points it out as a market for the human species, and by the epithet of “bitter Ægypt,” († which epithet is peculiarly annexed to it on this occasion) alludes in the strongest manner to that severity and rigour, of which the sacred historian transmitted us the first account.
But, to return. Though Ægypt was the first market recorded for this species of traffick; and though Ægypt, and Cyprus afterwards, were particularly distinguished for it, in the times of the Trojan war; yet they were not the only places, even at that period, where men were bought and sold. The Odyssey of Homer shews that it was then practised in many of the islands of the Ægœan sea; and the Iliad, that it had taken place among those Grecians on the continent of Europe, who had embarked from thence on the Trojan expedition. This appears particularly at the end of the seventh book. A fleet is described there, as having just arrived from Lemnos, with a supply of wine for the Grecian camp. The merchants are described also, as immediately exposing it to sale, and as receiving in exchange, among other articles of barter, “a number of slaves.”
It will now be sufficient to observe, that, as other states arose, and as circumstances contributed to make them known, this custom is discovered to have existed among them; that it travelled over all Asia; that it spread through the Grecian and Roman world; was in use among the barbarous nations, which overturned the Roman empire; and was practised therefore, at the same period, throughout all Europe.
[* ]Μὴ τἁχα ϖιϰρὴν Α’′ιγυπον ϗ̀ Κύπϱον ἴδηαι. Hom. Odyss. L. 17. 448.
[‡ ]L. 26.
[* ]Exodus. Ch. 1.
[† ]This strikes us the more forcibly, as it is stiled ἐυϱϱειην and ϖιριϰαλλεα, “beautiful and well watered,” in all other passages where it is mentioned, but this.