Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAP. X. - An Essay on the Slavery and Commerce of the Human Species
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CHAP. X. - 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 have now taken a survey of the treatment which the unfortunate Africans undergo, when they are put into the hands of the receivers. This treatment, by the four first chapters of the present part of this Essay, appears to be wholly insupportable, and to be such as no human being can apply to another, without the imputation of such crimes, as should make him tremble. But as many arguments are usually advanced by those who have any interest in the practice, by which they would either exculpate the treatment, or diminish its severity, we allotted the remaining chapters for their discussion. In these we considered the probability of such a treatment against the motives of interest; the credit that was to be given to those disinterested writers on the subject, who have recorded particular instances of barbarity; the inferiority of the Africans to the human species; the comparisons that are generally made with respect to their situation; the positive scenes of felicity which they are said to enjoy, and every other argument, in short, that we have found to have ever been advanced in the defence of slavery. These have been all considered, and we may venture to pronounce, that, instead of answering the purpose for which they were intended, they serve only to bring such circumstances to light, as clearly shew, that if ingenuity were racked to invent a situation, that would be the most distressing and insupportable to the human race; it could never invent one, that would suit the description better, than the—colonial slavery.
If this then be the case, and if slaves, notwithstanding all the arguments to the contrary, are exquisitely miserable, we ask you receivers, by what right you reduce them to so wretched a situation?
You reply, that you buy them; that your money constitutes your right, and that, like all other things which you purchase, they are wholly at your own disposal.
Upon this principle alone it was, that we professed to view your treatment, or examine your right, when we said, that “* the question resolved 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.” Now, since it appears that this commerce, upon the fullest investigation, is contrary to “†the principles of law and government, the dictates of reason, the common maxims of equity, the laws of nature, the admonitions of conscience, and, in short, the whole doctrine of naturalreligion,” it is evident that the right, which is founded upon it, must be the same; and that if those things only are lawful in the fight of God, which are either virtuous in themselves, or proceed from virtuous principles, you have no right over them at all.
You yourselves also confess this. For when we ask you, whether any human being has a right to sell you, you immediately answer, No; as if nature revolted at the thought, and as if it was so contradictory to your own feelings, as not to require consideration. But who are you, that have this exclusive charter of trading in the liberties of mankind? When did nature, or rather the Author of nature, make so partial a distinction between you and them? When did He say, that you should have the privilege of selling others, and that others should not have the privilege of selling you?
Now since you confess, that no person whatever has a right to dispose of you in this manner, you must confess also, that those things are unlawful to be done to you, which are usually done in consequence of the sale. Let us suppose then, that in consequence of the commerce you were forced into a ship; that you were conveyed to another country; that you were sold there; that you were confined to incessant labour; that you were pinched by continual hunger and thirst; and subject to be whipped, cut, and mangled at discretion, and all this at the hands of those, whom you had never offended; would you not think that you had a right to resist their treatment? Would you not resist it with a safe conscience? And would you not be surprized, if your resistance should be termed rebellion?—By the former premises you must answer, yes.—Such then is the case with the wretched Africans. They have a right to resist your proceedings. They can resist them, and yet they cannot justly be considered as rebellious. For though we suppose them to have been guilty of crimes to one another; though we suppose them to have been the most abandoned and execrable of men, yet are they perfectly innocent with respect to you receivers. You have no right to touch even the hair of their heads without their own consent. It is not your money, that can invest you with a right. Human liberty can neither be bought nor sold. Every lash that you give them is unjust. It is a lash against nature and religion, and will surely stand recorded against you, since they are all, with respect to your impious selves, in a state of nature; in a state of original dissociation; perfectly free.
[* ]Page 56.
[† ]Page 115.