Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAP. IV. - An Essay on the Slavery and Commerce of the Human Species
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CHAP. IV. - 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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Having now collected the materials that are necessary for the prosecution of our design, we shall immediately enter upon the discussion.
If any man had originally been endued with power, as with other faculties, so that the rest of mankind had discovered in themselves an innate necessity of obeying this particular person; it is evident that he and his descendants, from the superiority of their nature, would have had a claim upon men for obedience, and a natural right to command: but as the right to empire is adventitious; as all were originally free; as nature made every man’s body and mind his own; it is evident that no just man can be consigned to slavery, without his own consent.
Neither can men, by the same principles, be considered as lands, goods, or houses, among possessions. It is necessary that all property should be inferiour to its possessor. But how does the slave differ from his master, but by chance? For though the mark, with which the latter is pleased to brand him, shews, at the first sight, the difference of their fortune; what mark can be found in his nature, that can warrant a distinction?
To this consideration we shall add the following, that if men can justly become the property of each other, their children, like the offspring of cattle, must inherit their paternal lot. Now, as the actions of the father and the child must be thus at the sole disposal of their common master, it is evident, that the authority of the one, as a parent, and the duty of the other, as a child, must be instantly annihilated; rights and obligations, which, as they are founded in nature, are implanted in our feelings, and are established by the voice of God, must contain in their annihilation a solid argument to prove, that there cannot be any property whatever in the human species.
We may consider also, as a farther confirmation, that it is impossible, in the nature of things, that liberty can be bought or sold! It is neither saleable, nor purchasable. For if any one man can have an absolute property in the liberty of another, or, in other words, if he, who is called a master, can have a just right to command the actions of him, who is called a slave, it is evident that the latter cannot be accountable for those crimes, which the former may order him to commit. Now as every reasonable being is accountable for his actions, it is evident, that such a right cannot justly exist, and that human liberty, of course, is beyond the possibility either of sale or purchase. Add to this, that, whenever you sell the liberty of a man, you have the power only of alluding to the body: the mind cannot be confined or bound: it will be free, though its mansion be beset with chains. But if, in every sale of the human species, you are under the necessity of considering your slave in this abstracted light; of alluding only to the body, and of making no allusion to the mind; you are under the necessity also of treating him, in the same moment, as a brute, and of abusing therefore that nature, which cannot otherwise be considered, than in the double capacity of soul and body.
But some person, perhaps, will make an objection to one of the former arguments. “If men, from the superiority of their nature, cannot be considered, like lands, goods, or houses, among possessions, so neither can cattle: for being endued with life, motion, and sensibility, they are evidently superiour to these.” But this objection will receive its answer from those observations which have been already made; and will discover the true reason, why cattle are justly to be estimated as property. For first, the right to empire over brutes, is natural, and not adventitious, like the right to empire over men. There are, secondly, many and evident signs of the inferiority of their nature; and thirdly, their liberty can be bought and sold, because, being void of reason, they cannot be accountable for their actions.
We might stop here for a considerable time, and deduce many valuable lessons from the remarks that have been made, but that such a circumstance might be considered as a digression. There is one, however, which, as it is so intimately connected with the subject, we cannot but deduce. We are taught to treat men in a different manner from brutes, because they are so manifestly superiour in their nature; we are taught to treat brutes in a different manner from stones, for the same reason; and thus, by giving to every created thing its due respect, to answer the views of Providence, which did not create a variety of natures without a purpose or design.
But if these things are so, how evidently against reason, nature, and every thing human and divine, must they act, who not only force men into slavery, against their own consent; but treat them altogether as brutes, and make the natural liberty of man an article of publick commerce! and by what arguments can they possibly defend that commerce, which cannot be carried on, in any single instance, without a flagrant violation of the laws of nature and of God?