Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAP. II. - An Essay on the Slavery and Commerce of the Human Species
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CHAP. II. - 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 have thus traced the situation of man from unbounded liberty to subordination, it will be proper to carry our inquiries farther, and to consider, who first obtained the pre-eminence in these primœval societies, and by what particular methods it was obtained.
There were only two ways, by which such an event could have been produced, by compulsion or consent. When mankind first saw the necessity of government, it is probable that many had conceived the desire of ruling. To be placed in a new situation, to be taken from the common herd, to be the first, distinguished among men, were thoughts, that must have had their charms. Let us suppose then, that these thoughts had worked so unusually on the passions of any particular individual, as to have driven him to the extravagant design of obtaining the preeminence by force. How could his design have been accomplished? How could he forcibly have usurped the jurisdiction at a time, when, all being equally free, there was not a single person, whose assistance he could command? Add to this, that, in a state of universal liberty, force had been repaid by force, and the attempt had been fatal to the usurper.
As empire then could never have been gained at first by compulsion, so it could only have been obtained by consent; and as men were then going to make an important sacrifice, for the sake of their mutual happiness, so he alone could have obtained it, (not whose ambition had greatly distinguished him from the rest) but in whose wisdom, justice, prudence, and virtue, the whole community could confide.
To confirm this reasoning, we shall appeal, as before, to facts; and shall consult therefore the history of those nations, which having just left their former state of independent society, were the very people that established subordination and government.
The commentaries of Cæsar afford us the following accounts of the ancient Gauls. When any of their kings, either by death, or deposition, made a vacancy in the regal office, the whole nation was immediately convened for the appointment of a successor. In these national conventions were the regal offices conferred. Every individual had a voice on the occasion, and every individual was free. The person upon whom the general approbation appeared to fall, was immediately advanced to pre-eminence in the state. He was uniformly one, whose actions had made him eminent; whose conduct had gained him previous applause; whose valour the very assembly, that elected him, had themselves witnessed in the field; whose prudence, wisdom and justice, having rendered him signally serviceable, had endeared him to his tribe. For this reason, their kingdoms were not hereditary; the son did not always inherit the virtues of the sire; and they were determined that he alone should possess authority, in whose virtues they could confide. Nor was this all. So sensible were they of the important sacrifice they had made; so extremely jealous even of the name of superiority and power, that they limited, by a variety of laws, the authority of the very person, whom they had just elected, from a confidence of his integrity; Ambiorix himself confessing, “that his people had as much power over him, as he could possibly have over his people.”
The same custom, as appears from Tacitus, prevailed also among the Germans. They had their national councils, like the Gauls; in which the regal and ducal offices were confirmed according to the majority of voices. They elected also, on these occasions, those only, whom their virtue, by repeated trial, had unequivocally distinguished from the rest; and they limited their authority so far, as neither to leave them the power of inflicting imprisonment or stripes, nor of exercising any penal jurisdiction. But as punishment was necessary in a state of civil society, “it was permitted to the priests alone, that it might appear to have been inflicted, by the order of the gods, and not by any superiour authority in man.”
The accounts which we have thus given of the ancient Germans and Gauls, will be found also to be equally true of those people, which had arrived at the same state of subordinate society. We might appeal, for a testimony of this, to the history of the Goths; to the history of the Franks and Saxons; to the history, in short, of all those nations, from which the different governments, now conspicuous in Europe, have undeniably sprung. And we might appeal, as a farther proof, to the Americans, who are represented by many of the moderns, from their own ocular testimony, as observing the same customs at the present day.
It remains only to observe, that as these customs prevailed among the different nations described, in their early state of subordinate society, and as they were moreover the customs of their respective ancestors, it appears that they must have been handed down, both by tradition and use, from the first introduction of government.