LIVING in the country where I see so few of the London papers, that I hardly know what passes in the world; but lately meeting with your letter, up­on the subject of slavery, in the General Evening Post of the 22d of November; and also those of your friend Africanus, in the preceding papers, which you re­fer to, I have sat down to make a few brief remarks upon this subject.

I observe that your letters, and all the writings that I have seen upon that side of the question, are in the same declamatory style, which may bespeak the compassion of your readers; but when subjects of such magnitude are brought before the public, wherein so many individuals are materially interested; and even the nation itself may be involved in the event, they ought to be fairly and dispassionately discussed.

The abolition of the slave trade, and the consequences at­tending it, which would evidently be the breaking up of the British sugar colonies, and the total ruin of a multitude of in­nocent families, is not a little thing. Neither are a few exag­gerated tales told by mariners, or others, who probably may not be competent judges of the polity of the princes of Africa; or the default of those towns which you mention, on which the depredations fall: or is an instance or two of such inhuman masters as Macmahon, if they are true, sufficient to found a law upon to abolish this trade.

There are various ways which supply the markets in Africa with slaves; but the convicts, which you seem to think the principal support of the trade, are very few, compared with oth­ers that are brought to market.

[Page 6] The slaves sold from the estates of the grandees, whose sole property they are, as much as other stock upon their planta­tions, or as much so as an English farmer by the law of Eng­land is entitled to the stock upon his estate, amount to a great number; but the principal source of the slave trade are the cap­tives taken in war, which is indeed often kindled by those ty­rannical princes upon small occasions, but generally arises from rebellion or default in the payment of tribute.

When a tribe is conquered they become tributary to the conqueror, and upon failure in the payment, the war is renew­ed, and the captives on either side are made slaves; but cer­tainly this practice is not founded upon their commerce with Europeans, as is often suggested by those who censure the trade. It was the common usage very many ages before the Europeans had any intercourse with Africa: the states of Carthage, at a very early time, after they grew powerful, obliged some Afri­can princes to pay them tribute, which was one source they had to get slaves; but the great commerce that the Carthagenians, Numidians, the Mauritanians, and others, who occupied the northern coasts of Africa, carried on with the Lybians or Ni­gritians, a people who inhabited the interior country that we now call Negroland, was the fountain from whence sprung the multitude of blacks which recruited their armies, and served for labourers and all servile purposes as well as commerce, as appears by the fragments of ancient history*.

But in regard to the custom of seizing and carrying off in­habitants for default in the payment of tribute, we have a very early instance from divine revelation.—Several nations of the African race, who held territories in Arabia, were tributary to the king of Elam, and paid him tribute regularly for a number of years, and then rebelled against him: upon which Chedor­laomer, the king of Elam or Persia, went out to war against them, and subdued them, and was carrying off his booty, of which the principal part was captives, when the patriarch Abra­ham, with his little army, met him. And this expedition was but three hundred and seventy-seven years after the flood.

[Page 7] Mr. Clarkson, a late writer on the commerce and slavery of the human species, cites Homer to prove that the slave trade was in practice in Egypt and Cyprus so long ago as the Trojan war; but he might have ascertained this fact upon much higher au­thority, and done more than hinted that Homer coincided with scripture in this point. Slaves are expressly mentioned as a part of the trade of antient Babylon*; they are also mentioned as part of the trade of Tyre, and of Haran, a city of Babylon, built by Nimrod, and in many other places, as will appear hereafter§. If we trace it further, we shall find that it was not only in practice among the heathen nations, but universally so among the worshippers of the true GOD. Abraham and Lot got slaves in Haran, when they were going to Canaan. The scripture calls these people the souls they got in Haran; but if they were not slaves, then Bishop Patrick, Dr. Whitby, and many other learned divines have been mistaken in their com­ment upon this text; and if Abraham's servants, of which he had a great multitude, were not slaves, it seems strange that they should be enumerated as Isaac's inheritance when he was offered in marriage to Rebecca**. We are also told, express­ly, that Pharaoh, king of the Egyptians, and Abimeleck, king of Gerer, or of the Philistians, both branches of Ham's family, gave Abraham sheep and oxen, and men servants and women servants††; and I believe nobody will doubt of those presents being the property of the king's who bestowed them upon Abra­ham. Hagar who was also an Egyptian, is expressly called the bondmaid or slave of Sarah, over whom Abraham tells her she had absolute power; and when she run away from her mis­tress, the angel of the Lord met her, and said to her, Hagar, re­turn to thy mistress and submit thyself unto her ‡‡. The scripture informs us that Isaac had such store of servants, that he was en­vied even by the Philistines; who abounded in slaves§§. When Jacob met his brother Esau, he ordered messengers to go for­ward to greet him, and press him to accept of a present of any [Page 8]thing he had, and thus enumerates his substance; I have so­journed with Laban, and I am possessed of oxen and asses, and men servants and maid servants *. When Joseph was carried into Egypt, slaves were bought and sold there in open market, which Mr. Clarkson admits. When Moses was going out of Egypt with the Israelites, it plainly appears that slaves were then bought and sold there, and that the Israelites were allowed to buy them to carry out with them. And when Moses form­ed his code of laws for the Israelites, he expressly points out a people of the same family, from whom he directs them to buy their hereditary slaves; and among the same laws, institutes the most humane precepts for their government§.

If these instances from divine writ need the corroboration of profane history, I recommend the reader to the various rela­tions of the ancient slave feasts, namely the Sacae [...], the Saturna­lia, &c. among the Babylonians, the Assyrians, the Greeks, the Romans, &c.

From these general hints, which the limits of this letter will not admit of enlarging, we may fairly infer, that the traffic in slaves is of very early date, and that it was considered as a legal commerce under the law of Moses. And if we trace it further with an unbiassed mind, we shall find that it was not abolished under the gospel; but, on the contrary, St. Paul frequently ex­horts servants in their duty to their masters, in these words. Servants obey your masters according to the flesh, and not with eye­service . Servants be obedient to your masters according to the flesh, &c. ** Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he is called ††. Let as many as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honor ‡‡. In his epistle to Titus he says, Exhort servants to be obedient unto their masters, and please them well in all things, not answering again, and not purloining, but shewing all good fidelity §§. Servants be subjects to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the frow­ard ‖‖. St Paul mutually admonishes masters respecting their [Page 9]duty to their servants*: and he is so explicit in both, that it needs no comment; but he never once hints to his disciples that it is the duty of Christians to emancipate their slaves.

These exhortations are contained in the epistles and discours­es which St. Paul addresses to the people of the Greek cities and churches of Asia Minor, Greece and Macedonia, that is Ephesus, Colosse, Thessilonica, Corinth, Achaia, Smyrna, Pontus, Galatia, Phrygia, Cappadocia, Bythinia, Athens, &c. where missionaries were employed to propagate christianity, and where a multitude of slaves were held as property. In the little city of Athens only, they reckoned no less than four hundred thousand slaves, who were treated in this city with more hu­manity than in other places; yet by the Greeks in general they were considered as an inferior people, and by the Lacedemoni­ans in particular they were used with a severity offensive to human nature. Aristotle, as Mr. Clarkson remarks, advised Alexander to treat his Barbarians with rigor; suggesting that they could not bear gentle usage, but it is very evident that Aristotle does not speak of Greeks or Jews, but of the African slaves in Alexander's army; whom, I say, the Greeks looked upon in a very degraded light, but not more so, by calling them Barbarians, for even St. Paul frequently distinguishes them by that appellation, which looks as if that name was not a term of reproach.

The Lacedemonians began their commerce in slaves at a ve­ry early period with the Mauritarians, and other states on the northern coasts of Africa, who spread it all over the Mediterra­nean, and many other places, and it continued among the Car­thagenians, the Phenicians, and their successors, and is at this day in a flourishing condition in the states of Barbary, and in the dominions of the king of Morocco, and all over the em­pire of the grand Seignor.

[Page 10] Therefore if slavery should be abolished by all the nations in Europe, it is evident that even that would not put an end to it; and if it is annihilated in the British dominions only, it can answer no other purpose, but to ruin a great many unoffend­ing families, and to increase the sugar colonies of France, Spain, Portugal, Holland, &c. upon the downfall of ours. It ought to be considered too, that our slave trade is not of that magnitude that is suggested by its opposers, and that it bears no proportion to that of other nations. Cooke tells us in the first volume of his voyages, page 30, among his remarks at Rio Janeiro, that in that province alone there were six hundred and twenty-nine thousand negroe slaves belonging to the Portu­gueze, which is near double the number that there is in all the British plantations; others say; that the Spanish colonies require an annual supply of seventy or eighty thousand, but it is an undoubted fact, that the slaves imported into the Portugueze colonies in America are more than double of those imported into the British plantations. Guthrie says, they import about fifty thousand slaves annually into the Brazils, and it is suppo­sed that about twenty thousand are imported annually into the British colonies. The Portugueze having their slaves at a low­er rate from their African colonies than the English can get theirs, may be the reason that their sugars are cheaper; but I wish I could impute it to another cause, which is suggested by some, namely, That the Portugueze treat their slaves with more humanity than other nations, and therefore get more labor from them.

I should also be glad to have it fairly pointed out, how Great-Britain is to be supplied with West-India produce when this scheme takes place, as it is now become a necessary of life. Who are we to stipulate with for those supplies; and are we sure that we can pay for them in the produce and manufactures of this country? Shall we suffer nothing by having several millions consumed among foreigners which is now spent among ourselves; and is it not a matter worthy of consideration, how far our navy may be affected when this great branch of trade is lopped off; which now returns annually three or four millions sterling to Great-Britain. Or can there be many people so vi­sionary, as to think the project of Dean Tucker eligible, that is, [Page 11]of replacing this trade by establishing sugar colonies among the natives of Africa, or going to Cochin China for sugar. When this scheme takes place, is will be time to look out for the ac­complishment of the Dean's prophecy, which he desires may never be forgotten, and therefore I, for one, record it, which is as follows:

That in the course of half a century, Great-Britain and Ire­land, and all Europe, if they please, may be supplied with West-India produce; without slaves, without colonies, without govern­ments, without forts or men of war, and without officers and con­tracts *.

I know that the Dean, as well as Mr. Ramsay and some others, who have wrote upon this subject, are impressed with an opinion, that the enlargement of slaves would make the West-India produce come cheaper to the consumer, and that negroes in that condition would become more useful to Great-Britain, and more profitable to the owners of plantations than they are now; that they of course would get into the habits of Europeans, and having families of their own, would be encour­aged to do more labour. But experience informs those who have made the trial, so far as respects their having families, that it has just the contrary effect: that there is a greater surplusage from the labour of one single man in the course of the year, than from the labour of another with the assistance of a wife and children, and that this is the general observation. Therefore it is, as some of you, gentlemen, remark, that the most ava­ricious planters always chuse to buy a much greater proportion of males for their plantations; and that it falls mostly to the lot of indigent planters to buy females. Still I think this a great op­pression, and requires a better regulation, for I do not see why a negro slave should not have every comfort in human life that is consistent with his duty and the safety of his master. But we have no example of a body of negroes under their own gov­ernment, or in a state of freedom, making a figure in agricul­ture or useful arts. If we look into Africa among their coun­trymen, we shall find nothing that favors this opinion. If we have recourse to the African islands, or other places, where [Page 12]negroes form the community, we shall find a parcel of in­dolent, improvident miserable wretches, who out of a state of warfare with their neighbors, know not how to employ their time. If we form our judgment by the customs and manners of Europeans, who are bred up in different habits, and naturally of a different bent of mind, the parallel will not be just. Several historians of good authority inform us, that the natives of interior Africa remain, in general, at this day, in the same rude situation that they were in two thousand years ago; that they have made no progress in science, and even in agriculture they do no more than what is extorted from them; but trust to spontaneous fruits and other adventitious supplies for their support; that in general they live promiscuously with their women, and have nothing of humanity about them but the form: and that wherever any civilization is found among them upon the frontiers, it is owing to the trade which you censure. If we look into the deportment of negroes that have come more within our own sphere of knowledge; who have had oppor­tunity of improving by the customs of white people, [...] still perceive the same indolence and the same improvidence.

During the late war with America, some of the United States to the northward emancipated their slaves, and those slaves having lived in the habit of industry, under humane masters, one would naturally think they would be able to pro­vide for themselves when they had their freedom; but ask any candid man from that country, and he will tell you, that more than half of them are become vagabonds in this short space of time, and but very few of them are able to provide for them­selves. A small colony of negroes, not less than four or five thousand were transported from the states of America, on the late peace, to Nova-Scotia, who had every privilege of British subjects; lands assigned them for an inheritance; allowed to chuse officers among themselves, and assisted with rations from government; yet now, in the course of a few years are dwind­led away and coming to nothing.—It is well known how the city of London, and the country about it, was lately infested with American negroes. Now I appeal to any gentleman un­der whose particular inspection they came, whether one in a hundred of them would apply steadily to labour; or was fit to [Page 13]take care of himself. Some instances came to my own know­ledge of able bodied negroe men that found employ in the country; but never worked longer, than till they got a little money in their pockets, and then got off to spend it, and never provided cloaths for winter, or scarce enough to cover their nakedness in summer; and wherever they gained a settlement became a burthen to the parish.

If I have here given a true characteristic of negroes, which I think is agreeable to the general opinion of mankind who are acquainted with them; then their enlargement would not have the effect that you seem to expect from it. But if you can make it plainly appear, that it would be for the interest of pro­prietors to emancipate their slaves, there would be no need of parliamentary aid to accomplish your point. Or could you prove what you assert, viz. that their manumission would be of public utility, I have no doubt but administration would find ways and means to raise fourteen or fifteen millions sterling to compensate the proprietors.

Still, if the object of your society is nothing more than the re­gulation of the slave trade, and to obtain an act of parliament for the express purpose of binding masters and slaves in their duty to each other, I should think that every man would unite to promote it: or, if this trade is as you affirm, contrary to all laws human and divine, no man would oppose the annihilation of it; but to make this appear, there must be something more than mere assertion; or pervertion of texts, or suppression of parts of texts to serve your purpose.

It has been too much the practice of those who have wrote on your side the question, in order to make their argument more specious, to accommodate passages of scripture to their own convenience, and do not seem to have so sacred a regard to truth as they ought to have, who profess to write only to serve the cause of humanity, and I am sorry to observe, that even Mr. Sharp, the president of your society, is not free from cen­sure in this point. In his book, entitled, The just Limitations of Slavery, he is endeavouring to prove that this commerce is incompatible with the will of GOD; and in one place cites a pas­sage from the 23d chapter of Deuteronomy, the 14th and 15th verses, which he gives us in these words. That though the Jews [Page 14]were permitted by the law of Moses to keep slaves, yet there was no inherent right of service implied from this permission; because whenever the slave could escape, he was esteemed free, and it was absolutely unlawful for any man to deliver him up again to his mas­ter. This is a strange doctrine for a legislature to advance, who makes it death for any man to steal or withhold a slave from his lawful master. But before we censure the lawgiver for in­consistency, let us examine the text, and see whether Mr. Sharp has given us a just interpretation of it. It is the 15th verse that is alluded to; but it is thus introduced in the 14th verse. For the Lord thy God walketh in the midst of thy camp to deliver thee, and give up thine enemies before thee. Then in the 15th verse are these words. Thou shalt not deliver unto his master, the servant which escapes from his master unto thee. Now I think it must appear plain to any candid reader, that the text refers to servants that escaped from the enemy, who encompassed Moses's camp. It was good policy, and agreeable to the custom of all nations to succour deserters.

In the appendix, page 22, Mr. Sharp says, that the Israelites were expressly permitted by the law of Moses to give a bill of divorce to their wives, whenever they pleased, and to marry other women, and from hence concludes, that the laws of Moses are not consistent with natural equity. But this is not a fair repre­sentation of the text which we find in the first verse of the 24th of Deuteronomy, where we may see that this law does not allow of a divorce whenever the husband pleased; but only upon a breach of the marriage covenant; so this is not sufficient to mark the law of Moses with injustice*.

In the 36th page, Mr. Sharp quotes the 23d verse of the 7th chapter of the 1st of Corinthians, in these words: Ye are bought with a price, be not therefore the servants of men; as if St. Paul was enticing servants to run away from their masters. But the words of the text are these. You are bought with a price, be not ye the servants of men? which the context fully explains.

The bounds of a letter will not permit of my following Mr. Sharp any further at present; but I cannot conclude this letter [Page 15]without remarking the same disingenuity in Mr. Clarkson; who also misleads his readers in some material historical facts. In his essay upon the slavery and commerce of the human species, he asserts, page 38, That it is necessary for a man to be free, to be a Christian. But I deny this to be scripture doctrine. We are positively assured, that all men are alike in the sight of GOD. Jew or Greek, Barbarian or Scythian, bond or free.

In page 206, he is speaking in favor of a system which some have advanced, namely, that white men and negroes do not differ from each other in complexion or hair, but only according to the climate they live in; and in support of this hypothesis, he says, we cannot have a more striking instance of this, than in the Jews, who are scattered over the face of the whole earth; yet have preserved themselves distinct from the rest of the world by their re­ligion, as they never intermarry with any but those of their own sect, so they have no mixture of blood in their veins, that they should differ from each other: and yet their complexion is different according to the country they reside in. But if we investigate this point, we shall find it not founded in fact. Moses married an Ethiopian woman*; Joseph married an Egyptian woman, from whence sprung the two tribes of Ephraim and Manassah, who of course were mingled nations, that is, a mixture of Egyptian and Hebrew blood. King Solomon had at least one wife that was an African, and many other foreign women, which most probably was imitated by his subjects. The Jews were scat­tered over all the dominions of Ahasuerus, who is called Ar­taxerxes, which contained a hundred and twenty-seven provin­ces, extending from Ethiopia to India; and there is a plain intimation in the book of Esther, that when they had rest from their enemies, they mingled with the natives of the land. Be this as it will, the Jews are continually upbraided by the prophets for intermarrying with the Egyptians, the Canaan­ites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, &c.

In page 245 of the same book, Mr. Clarkson says, that St. Paul having converted Onesimus, who was a fugitive slave of Phi­lemon, sent him back to his master with this address. I send him back to you, but not in his former capacity, not now as a servant, [Page 16]but above a servant, a brother beloved. In this manner I beseech you to receive him, for though I could enjoin you to do it, yet I had rather it should be a matter of your own will than of necessity. Now if we look into the 16th verse of St. Paul's epistle to Phi­lemon, we shall find a very material part of that verse suppres­sed, which plainly shows that Onesimus did continue in his for­mer capacity, that is, Philemon's servant in the flesh, though he had become his brother according to the bond of christianity.

After all Mr. Sharp will say, that though this commerce may have the voice of the people, or of the whole world in its fa­vor, and divine revelation to support it, yet it is inconsistent with natural equity for one man to be a slave to another.

Many things occur in the course of Providence that may have this appearance to our inadequate ideas of Divine justice. What shall we then say? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. Shall the thing formed say unto him that formed it, why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, to make one vessel unto honor and another unto dishonor?

Eve disobeyed the command of GOD, and her punishment was to bring forth children in sorrow; but her innocent poster­ity were doomed to suffer, and do suffer the same affliction.

When the serpent seduced Eve to taste the forbidden fruit, he walked erect, and spoke with a human voice; but as a pun­ishment for his crime, he was doomed to crawl upon his belly and lick the dust, and be deprived of the form he had appeared in before, and his issue have continued in that degraded state to this day.

All the posterity of Adam feel the effect of the curse denoun­ced upon him. And can we believe that the posterity of Cain alone, who committed such an atrocious act, should escape pun­ishment?

Ham committed a crime for which it pleased GOD to curse Canaan. How shall we reconcile this to natural equity? Or, does it appear to be greater injustice to punish the whole family of Ham for their father's crime, and yet I think, upon a full in­vestigation of this point, it will appear, that the whole of Ham's posterity participated in the curse.

Much might be said to elucidate this subject; but the bounds prescribed to this letter, will not admit of entering farther into [Page 17]it at present. I am, however, of opinion, that upon a full in­vestigation it will appear,

1. That slavery commenced soon after the curse was denoun­ced upon Canaan.

2. That the name of Canaan may be interpreted, to imply the whole family of Ham; without distorting scripture.

3. That the original settlement of Ham's family was in Afri­ca, Arabia and Babylon.

4. That the first instances of men being bought and sold, or held as hereditary servants, were in the countries where Ham's family settled.

5. That this family, as has been observed, were particularly pointed out by the law of Moses to serve the Israelites as slaves. They are called the heathen round about them; but the mingled nations that descended from Abraham and Lot, who were also round about the Israelites, and idolators too, yet were not in that predicament.

6. That the commerce in slaves within the dominion of Great-Britain is founded upon, and supported by acts of parliament.

7. That this commerce in its various operations, is at present a great nursery for seamen, and under proper regulations would be much greater, notwithstanding some unfavorable circum­stances attending the navigation.

8. And above all, That this trade, under suitable restrictions and limitations, would be a more effectual means of civilizing negroes, than all the visionary plans for establishing sugar co­lonies in Africa, Cochin China, or New Guinea.

I am, &c. CANDIDUS.
[Page 18]


DUDLY CROFTS, Esq was possessed of a negroe slave in the West-Indies, born on his own plantation, who served him in the capacity of his servant. Mr. Crofts was made a captain of the new raised forces in North-America, for the expedition against Canada. He, by the indulgence of the colonel, permitted the said slave to act as a drummer in his company, though never inlisted, the captain all the while re­ceiving his pay as being his servant. On his returning from that expedition to England, the captain and his slave were taken on board a merchant ship by a French privateer, but the slave was returned to the captain by the French commissary, as one of the king of England's officers, though it seems the commis­sary's agent signed a passport (which the slave hath now in his hand) signifying that he was exchanged as a prisoner of war, and by the commissary was returned to his master, the captain. Since this the captain hath thought fit to send this slave back to his plantation at Barbadoes, ordering him on board a ship, where he was hand-cuffed, to prevent an escape; however, by some means the fellow got to shore, and is commencing an action against his master for this usage, alledging that as he was in England he is become a freeman.

N. B. The slave, whilst in the West-Indies had been bap­tized by the permission of his master.

Query, Whether the captain's property is altered by his slave's being in England, or whether the captain having ap­pointed [Page 19]him his drummer or the commissary's passport, alters the case?

2. Can the captain compel him to return to the West-Indies, or does a slave, by being in England, become a freeman, so as to maintain an action for his wages, or can the owner sue any person who detains him for the loss of his service?

A. I am of opinion that captain Croft's negroe, by his com­ing to, and residing with his master in England, or by being baptized, does not gain his freedom; and that the owner of a negroe in England has a right to send him to the plantations, or wheresoever else he thinks fit; and that such owner, in case the slave will not obey his commands, has a right to use all necessary force.

I am also of opinion, that the captain's negroe, by his serv­ing as a drummer in his company, did not thereby gain his liberty, as he never was inlisted in his majesty's service, accord­ing to the articles of war; nor do I think that the negroe's be­ing returned by the French commissary, as one of the king's officers, makes any alteration in the case; as in fact, he was not then an officer of the king, nor could such negroe, if he had run away from that service, have been punished by martial law, therefore I am of opinion, that such negroe is the captain's pro­perty, and that he may sue any person who detains him for loss of service.


A. Bought a slave in Jamaica and brought him to London, and from thence let him out to a master of a ship. A. dies, making B. his executor, who received from the master of the ship the wages the slave had earned in the lifetime of the testa­tor; the slave brings an action against the master of the ship for these wages.

Query, Can he maintain the said action?

A. I am of opinion, that the executor is entitled to the wages. The right to the slave on his coming to England not being al­tered, but remaining as it was before, therefore the master or his representatives are entitled to his service, and the profits which have been thereby made, and no action can be maintain­ed against the master of the ship.

[Page 20]

Sir John Strange's opinion, Master of the Rolls.

I am of opinion, that the executor is entitled to the wages, and that the payment to the executor will be a proper defence and answer for the master of the ship, to the action now depend­ing against him.


The opinions of the Lords Chancellors, Hardwicke and Talbot.

In order to rectify a vulgar error, that slaves become free by their being in England or Ireland, or from being baptized, the Attorney and Solicitors Generals opinions were taken, which were as follows:

We are of opinion, that a slave coming from the West-Indies to Great-Britain or Ireland, with or without his mas­ter, doth not become free, and that his master's property or right in him is not thereby determined or varied; and that baptism doth not bestow freedom on him, or make any al­teration in his temporal condition in these kingdoms. We are also of opinion, that his master may legally compel him to return again to the plantations.


Since which, on the strength of these opinions, in the year 1763, a black boy, the property of one Rice, a broker, against whom a commission of bankrupt had been awarded and issued, was publicly sold by auction, by the assignees, under the com­mission, as part of the bankrupt's effects.

A copy of Lord Mansfield's speech in the case of Somerset and Knowles.

On Monday, the 22d June, in Trinity term, 1772, the Court of King's Bench proceeded to give judgment in the case of Somerset and Knowles, upon the return of the Habeas Cor­pus. Lord Mansfield first stated the return; and then spoke to the following purport:

We pay due attention to the opinion of Sir Philip Yorke and Mr. Talbot, in the year 1729, by which they pledged themselves to the British planters for the legal consequences of bringing negroe slaves into this kingdom, or their being bap­tized; which opinion was repeated and recognized by Lord [Page 21]Hardwicke, sitting as chancellor, on the 19th of October 1749, to the following effect: he said, ‘That trover would lay for a negro slave: that a notion prevailed, that if a slave came into England, or became a christian, he thereby became emancipated; but there was no foundation in law for such a notion: that when he and Lord Talbot were attorney and solicitor general, this notion of a slave becoming free by be­ing baptized prevailed so strongly, that the planters indus­triously prevented their becoming christians: upon which their opinion was taken; and upon their best consideration they were both clearly of opinion, that a slave did not in the least al­ter his situation or state towards his master or owner, either by being christened or coming to England: that though the statute of Charles II. had abolished tenure so far, that no man could be a villein regardant; yet if he would acknowledge himself a villein in gross in any court of record, he knew of no way by which he could be entitled to his freedom, with­out the consent of his master.’ We feel the force of the inconveniences and consequences that will follow the deci­sion of this question: yet all of us are so clearly of one opinion upon the only question before us, that we think we ought to give judgment without adjourning the matter to be argued be­fore all the judges, as usual in the habeas corpus, and as we at first intimated an intention of doing in this case. The only question then is, Is the cause returned sufficient for the remanding him? If not, he must be discharged. The cause returned is, the slave absented himself and departed from his master's ser­vice, and refused to return and serve him during his stay in Eng­land; whereupon, by his master's orders, he was put on board the ship by force, and there detained in secure custody, to be carried out of the kingdom and sold. So high an act of dominion must derive its authority, if any such it has from the law of the kingdom where executed. A foreigner can­not be imprisoned here on the authority of any law ex­isting in his own country. The power of a master over his servant is different in all countries, more or less limited or extensive, the exercise of it therefore must always be regulated by the laws of the place where exercised. The state of slavery is of such a nature, that it is incapable of being now introduced [Page 22]by courts of justice upon mere reasoning, or inferences from any principles natural or political; it must take its rise from positive law; the origin of it can in no country or age be traced back to any other source. Immemorial usage preserves the memory of positive law long after all traces of the occasion, reason, authority, and time of its introduction, are lost, and in a case of so odious a nature as the condition of slaves must be taken strictly. The power claimed by this return was never in use here: no master ever was allowed here to take a slave by force to be sold abroad because he had deserted from his service, or for any other reason whatever; we cannot say, the cause set forth by this return is allowed or approved of by the laws of this kingdom, and therefore the man must be discharged.

Parish of Thames Ditton, against St. Luke's, Chelsea.

A special case reserved at the sessions came on for the de­termination of the court of King's Bench, in Easter term last.

The case was, Charlotte Howe, a negroe girl, was bought in America by Captain Howe as a slave, and by him brought to England in 1781: that in November 1781, Capt. Howe went to live in the said parish of Thames Ditton, and took this girl with him, and she continued with him there in his service till the 7th June 1783, when he died, soon after which she was bap­tized at Thames Ditton, by the name of Charlotte Howe. That she continued after his death to live with Mrs. Howe, his widow and executrix, who afterwards removed to Chelsea, and she continued to live with her there as before, for five or six months, when she left Mrs. Howe; that she was all this time childless, and unmarried, and removed by Ditton to Chelsea, as having served the last 40 days in that parish.

In this case Lord Mansfield very particularly took occasion to declare, that the public were generally mistaken in the deter­mination of the court of King's Bench, in case of Somerset the negroe, which had been often quoted, for nothing more was then determined, than that there was no right in the master forcibly to take the slave and carry him abroad. That the ge­neral question, whether the master might not sue any one who entertained him in his service, or for wages, was not before the court, nor was it held that the baptizing such slave made any [Page 23]alteration in his freedom, or that on setting foot in this coun­try he instantly became emancipated. Therefore the only ques­tion on the habeas corpus in that case was, whether the master might forcibly compel the slave to go out of this kingdom? when it was determined he could not.

Blackstone, v. i. c. 14. p. 425.

The law of England acts upon general and extensive prin­ciples. It gives liberty, rightly understood, that is, protection, to a Jew, a Turk, or a Heathen, as well as to those who profess the true religion of Christ; and it will not dissolve a civil ob­ligation between master and servant, on account of the altera­tion of faith in either of the parties: but the slave is intitled to the same protection in England before, as after, baptism; and whatever service the heathen negroe owed to his American master, the same is he bound to render when brought to Eng­land and made a Christian.


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