Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAP. V. - An Essay on the Slavery and Commerce of the Human Species
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CHAP. V. - 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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That we may the more accurately examine the arguments that are advanced on this occasion, it will be proper to divide the commerce into two parts; first, as it relates to those who sell, and secondly, as it relates to those who purchase, the human species into slavery. To the former part of which, having given every previous and necessary information in the history of servitude, we shall immediately proceed.
Let us inquire first, by what particular right the liberties of the harmless people are invaded by the prince. “By the right of empire,” it will be answered; “because he possesses dominion and power by their own approbation and consent.” But subjects, though under the dominion, are not the property, of the prince. They cannot be considered as his possessions. Their natures are both the same; they are both born in the same manner; are subject to the same disorders; must apply to the same remedies for a cure; are equally partakers of the grave: an incidental distinction accompanies them through life, and this—is all.
We may add to this, that though the prince possesses dominion and power, by the consent and approbation of his subjects, he possesses it only for the most salutary ends. He may tyrannize, if he can: he may alter the form of his government: he cannot, however, alter its nature and end. These will be immutably the same, though the whole system of its administration should be changed; and he will be still bound to defend the lives and properties of his subjects, and to make them happy.
Does he defend those therefore, whom he invades at discretion with the sword? Does he protect the property of those, whose houses and effects he consigns at discretion to the flames? Does he make those happy, whom he seizes, as they are trying to escape the general devastation, and compels with their wives and families to a wretched servitude? He acts surely, as if the use of empire consisted in violence and oppression; as if he, that was most exalted, ought, of necessity, to be most unjust. Here then the voice of nature and justice is against him. He breaks that law of nature, which ordains, “that no just man shall be given into slavery, against his own consent:” he violates the first law of justice, as established among men, “that no person shall do harm to another without a previous and sufficient provocation;” and he violates also the sacred condition of empire, made with his ancestors, and necessarily understood in every species of government, “that, the power of the multitude being given up to the wisdom and justice of the prince, they may experience, in return, the most effectual protection from injury, the highest advantages of society, the greatest possible happiness.”
But if kings then, to whom their own people have granted dominion and power, are unable to invade the liberties of their harmless subjects, without the highest injustice; how can those private persons be justified, who treacherously lie in wait for their fellow-creatures, and sell them into slavery? What arguments can they possibly bring in in their defence? What treaty of empire can they produce, by which their innocent victims ever resigned to them the least portion of their liberty? In vain will they plead the antiquity of the custom: in vain will the honourable light, in which piracy was considered in the ages of barbarism, afford them an excuse. Impious and abandoned men! ye invade the liberties of those, who, (with respect to your impious selves) are in a state of nature, in a state of original dissociation, perfectly independent, perfectly free.
It appears then, that the two orders of flaves, which have been mentioned in the history of the African servitude, “of those who are publickly seized by virtue of the authority of their prince; and of those, who are privately kidnapped by individuals,” are collected by means of violence and oppression; by means, repugnant to nature, the principles of government, and the common notions of equity, as established among men.