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CHAP. I. - 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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AS we explained the History of Slavery in the first part of this Essay, as far as it was necessary for our purpose, we shall now take the question into consideration, which we proposed at first as the subject of our inquiry, viz. how far the commerce and slavery of the human species, as revived by some of the nations of Europe in the persons of the unfortunate Africans, and as revived, in a great measure, on the principles of antiquity, are consistent with the laws of nature, or the common notions of equity, as established among men.
This question resolves itself into two separate parts for discussion, into the African commerce (as explained in the history of slavery) and the subsequent slavery in the colonies, as founded on the equity of the commerce. The former, of course, will be first examined. For this purpose we shall inquire into the rise, nature, and design of government. Such an inquiry will be particularly useful in the present place; it will afford us that general knowledge of subordination and liberty, which is necessary in the case before us, and will be found, as it were, a source, to which we may frequently refer for many and valuable arguments.
It appears that mankind were originally free, and that they possessed an equal right to the soil and produce of the earth. For proof of this, we need only appeal to the divine writings; to the golden age of the poets, which, like other fables of the times, had its origin in truth; and to the institution of the Saturnalia, and of other similar festivals; all of which are so many monuments of this original equality of men. Hence then there was no rank, no distinction, no superiour. Every man wandered where he chose, changing his residence, as a spot attracted his fancy, or suited his convenience, uncontrouled by his neighbour, unconnected with any but his family. Hence also (as every thing was common) he collected what he chose without injury, and enjoyed without injury what he had collected. Such was the first situation of mankind;* a state of dissociation and independence.
In this dissociated state it is impossible that men could have long continued. The dangers to which they must have frequently been exposed, by the attacks of fierce and rapacious beasts, by the prœdatory attempts of their own species, and by the disputes of contiguous and independent families; these, together with their inability to defend themselves, on many such occasions, must have incited them to unite. Hence then was society formed on the grand principles of preservation and defence: and as these principles began to operate, in the different parts of the earth, where the different families had roamed, a great number of these societies began to be formed and established; which, taking to themselves particular names from particular occurrences, began to be perfectly distinct from one another.
As the individuals, of whom these societies were composed, had associated only for their defence, so they experienced, at first, no change in their condition. They were still independent and free; they were still without discipline or laws; they had every thing still in common; they pursued the same manner of life; wandering only, in herds, as the earth gave them or refused them sustenance, and doing, as a publick body, what they had been accustomed to do as individuals before. This was the exact situation of the * Getæ and Scythians, of the † Lybians and Gœtulians, of the ‡ Italian Aborigines, and of the ∥ Huns and Alans. They had left their original state of dissociation, and had stepped into that, which has been just described. Thus was the second situation of men a state of independent society.
Having thus joined themselves together, and having formed themselves into several large and distinct bodies, they could not fail of submitting soon to a more considerable change. Their numbers must have rapidly increased, and their societies, in process of time, have become so populous, as frequently to have experienced the want of subsistence, and many of the commotions and tumults of intestine strife. For these inconveniences however there were remedies to be found. Agriculture would furnish them with that subsistence and support, which the earth, from the rapid increase of its inhabitants, had become unable spontaneously to produce. An assignation of property would not only enforce an application, but excite an emulation, to labour; and government would at once afford a security to the acquisitions of the industrious, and heal the intestine disorders of the community, by the introduction of laws.
Such then were the remedies, that were gradually applied. The societies, which had hitherto seen their members, undistinguished either by authority or rank, admitted now of magistratical pre-eminence. They were divided into tribes; to every tribe was allotted a particular district for its support, and to every individual his particular spot. * The Germans, who consisted of many and various nations, were exactly in this situation. They had advanced a step beyond the Scythians, Gœtulians, and those, whom we described before; and thus was the third situation of mankind a state of subordinate society.
[* ]This conclusion concerning the dissociated state of mankind, is confirmed by all the early writers, with whose descriptions of primitive times no other conclusion is reconcileable.
[* ]Justin. L. 2. C. 2.
[† ]Sallust. Bell. Jug.
[‡ ]Sallust. Bell. Catil.
[∥ ]Ammianus Marcellinus. L. 31. C. 2. et inseq.
[* ]Agri pro Numero Cultorum ab universis per vicos occupantur, quos mox inter se secundum dignationem partiuntur. Tacitus. C. 26. de Mor. Germ.