Delivered at the North Meeting-House in HARTFORD on the I2th Day of MAY, A.D. 1791

At the Meeting of the CONNECTICUT SOCIETY for the Promotion of FREEDOM, and the Relief of Per­sons unlawfully holden in BONDAGE.




VOTED, That the Reverend Doctor STILES return the Thanks of this Soci­ety to Mr. SWIFT, for his Oration this Day delivered, and request a Copy that it may be printed.




IN addressing a society instituted for the benevolent pur­pose of promoting the freedom of mankind, SLAVERY will be the proper theme of contemplation. So many vo­lumes have been written on this subject, that nothing new can be expected; yet the subject ought never to be deem­ed exhausted, while an individual of the human race is groaning in the shackles of servitude. The Divine, the Philosopher, and the Poet, have united in reprobating the impiety, demonstrating the immorality, and describing the cruelty, of this practice. No writer of genius and sensibility, has ever avowed the doctrine, and attempted its justification and support. Yet avarice has continued the practice in desiance of the clearest dictates of reason, and the most vigorous efforts of learning and humanity. The liberty, and happiness, of a large portion of the hu­man race, are sacrificed at the thrine of pride, ambition, and cruelty. One quarter of the globe has been depopula­ted [Page 4] by furnishing slaves for another. This reflection ex­cites the keenest pain when we consider that it is the pride, and the boast of this enlightened age, to excel former times in the improvements of literature, the refinement of man­ners, and the practice of the gentle and social virtues.

SUCH distant prospects of human woe can hardly be re­alized by persons who live in a country, where the consti­tution of government, the system of law, and the admini­stration of justice, secure to every member of the commu­nity the highest political felicity. But America, the ori­gin and theatre of the most extensive slavery known in any country, has peculiar reasons to attend to this alarm­ing subject, In America we have made unparrallelled ex­ertions in the defence of the rights of man, and the acquisi­tion of liberty and independence. On any part of this quarter of the globe shall we permit an unparrallelled vi­olation of those rights, so inestimable in the eyes of all mankind?

TO excite the sentiments of humanity, and animate us to a performance of our duty, let us concisely trace the history of slavery from the earliest period, to the present time. In exploring the records of past ages we are struck with the melancholy reflection, that history is chiefly em­ployed in detailing the miseries, that one part of mankind indict upon the other. Men in their most unpolished stare of simplicity, and barbarity, are in perpetual warfare and contention. Remotest history shews them divided into small tribes, inflamed against each other with the bitterest animosity, and delighting in deeds of heroism and martial enterprises—Prompted by revenge they frequently engage in the fiercest conflicts. Strangers to the feeble voice of pity, they exercise the severest cruelties toward their pri­soners—and those who escape the stroke of death are re­duced to the most ignominious slavery. The claim found­ed on the pretended right of conquest is unquestionably the origin of the practice and a practice that originates from the inhuman maxims of a barbarous age is contin­ued, and becomes established, in the progress to civili­zation, and government. New modes of acquisition are introduced, and the power is protected by force of law. The offspring of slaves are doomed to follow the condition of their unhappy parents, and when the events of war fail of furnishing the necessary supplies, a mart is opened for [Page 5] the fale of rational beings. These remarks are verified by the Grecian and Roman story. While those repub­lics, so long erioneously celebrated as the most excel­lent models of a free government, were exulting in the exercise of political liberty, they unjustly withheld from the greater part of the people inhabiting their territories the same invaluable blessing, and subjected them to all the severity of domestic slavery. When the iron hand of despotism had crushed the liberties of these republicks, and the Roman emperors tyrannized over the greatest part of the civilized world, this practice was not only continued, but was confirmed and guarded by senatorial decrees, and imperial edicts. The laws of the Roman republic, and empire, delegated to the matter an abso­lute power over the slave. The stare in legal considera­tion was deemed the property of the master as much as the beast of the field; and exposed to the most rigorous punishment, and excruciating torture, which whim, rage, and revenge could dictate. The sexes were restricted in forming that endearing connection, which might in some measure have alleviated their wretchedness—No marriages were permitted, unless the master was desirous of propagating slaves; and then the connection was founded upon his will, instead of the inclination of the parties. The master at pleasure with his own hand took away the life of a slave, without any form of trial; and without being responsible to any tribunal. If any of these wretches escaped the unrelenting hand of their ty­rants, and survived the period of their usefulness, or by sickness were rendered incapable of labor, they were exposed helpless, and alone, on an island in the Tiber, to perish by cold, and hunger. But to compleat our view of this iniquitous system of slavery, we must take into consideration the combats of the Gladiators—These were slaves who were trained for the parpose of furnish­ing a barbarous spectacle that could only he relished by a people who haw retined upon the principles of cruelty. The same Romans who were animated by the sublime eloquence of Cicero, who were charmed by the tender sentiments of Virgil, who were amused with the pleas­ing strains of Horace, and who were corrupted by the wanton descriptions of Ovid, crouded. the amphitheatre to behold their fellow men struggling in mortal fight; and smiled at their bravery, and heroism, exulted at their groans of anguish, and bestowed the loudest acclamations [Page 6]on those who met the fatal stroke, in the most elegant posture, and graceful manner.

WHILE the Roman Emperors were sporting with the happiness, and trampling on the privileges of mankind, the barbarians of the North issued from their frozen re­gions, subverted the Roman empire and avenged the in­jured rights of humanity. The followers of Odin desert­ed their native wilds, and barren forests, for the cultivated fields and flowery gardens of Italy: they exchanged the bloody [...]ites, and horrid superstitions of the Druids, for the rational principles, and mild doctrines of christianity; they abandoned their sacred altars, and consecrated groves, for the sublime ceremonies, and splendid magnificence of the church. The conquerors were incorporated with the conquered; new forms of government arose, the laws were changed, and the feudal system was established: yet slavery maintained its ground, accompanied with all its horrors and cruelty.

BUT when the pure, and peaceable religion, of the meek and lowly JESUS, which taught the original equality of mankind, and brought life, and immortality to light, had spread its divine influence, a new aera commenced. The value of man was enlarged upon the scale of christian­ity, and it was deemed impious to treat a candidate for eternal happiness, in the character of a brute. The clergy exerted that amazing influence which they had obtained over mankind, in procuring for slaves their personal free­dom. But so gradual is the progress of truth, and so dif­ficult the abolition of long established customs, founded on the apparent interest of the most influential part of the community, that several centuries elapsed before the ex­tinction of domestic slavery was accomplished in it's pre­sent extent; for in some parts of Europe domestic slavery is not wholly extirpated.

IT will not be pretended that the introduction of chris­tianity, was the sole cause of this happy revolution. Other causes unquestionably combined th [...] effects in producing this salutary event. It is certain however that this reli­gion first suggested the idea of the wickedness, and injustice of the practice. It opened the door, and led the way, to the [...] of slaves. It's benevolent spirit pre­pared the mind, to acquire and practice upon principles [Page 7] that would terminate in the gradual abolition of servitude. When it was by experience discovered, that liberty was productive of the greatest political happiness to the com­munity, interest co-operated with religion to establish it upon the ruins of slavery. Before the promulgation of the christian religion, there existed the same political, and moral causes, to produce the abolition of this custom. Yet in pagan times, neither the voice of religion, or phi­losophy was heard in defence of the violated rights of hu­manity. We have therefore a right to say, that if the christian religion had never been promulgated, domestic slavery had never been abolished. It may claim the hon­our of originating in Europe, a political revolution of the greatest importance to the welfare of mankind. Such ben­eficial consequences, though of a temporal nature, are a conclusive evidence, that the religion from whence they flow is the gift of heaven.

WHILE the sacred light of the gospel was diffusing itself through the world, and meliorating the condition of man, a new religion broke forth from the East. Endowed with the boldest genius and most enterprising spirit, the Pro­phet of Arabia with the sword and koran denounced death or slavery against his opposers, and promised to his fol­lowers, eternal rewards of sensual pleasure, in the arms of beauty, in the gardens of paradise. The Caliph's dif­fused their religion, and extended their empire, with a rapidity never before known; and they threatened Eu­rope with the danger of turning the course of their pilgrimages, from the tomb of Jerusalem, to the Caa­ba of Mecca—The religion of the koran is as repug­nant, as the religion of the bible is favourable, to hu­man happiness. The moslems filled with a supreme con­tempt for all other religions, and inspired with an in­vincible zeal to propagate their own, have displayed the crescent on the greater part of the eastern continent, and have reduced to slavery the conquered nation who re­jected the faith of their prophet and the laws of the ko­ran. The establishment of polygamy has degraded the female sex from companions to slaves, and doom'd them to waste their youth, and beauty, in the gloomy man­sions of the Seraglio. A state very different from what the lovely sex enjoy in this country, where in conse­quence of their freedom, they exhibit the gentle vir­tues in their most amiable light, and give the highest [Page 8]polish to our manners, and the purest joy to domestic life. The Turks, who conquered the empire and bow­ed to the religion of Mahomet, have exhibited the blackest picture of human woe, and infamy, in the same countries, which once were the most splendid theatre of human glory and felicity. While christianity was gradual­ly abolishing domestic slavery, Islamism was striving to riv­et its shackles on all the nations of the earth. These piratical barbarians were perpetually making incursions into those christian countries, that were struggling for personal freedom; and plundered from the inhabitants the children of both sexes, to recruit the [...]nds of the Janizaries, and multiply, and vary the wanton pleasures of the lords of the Harems. In that unhappy country there is no prospect of restoring the rights of the peo­ple, unless by the utter extinction of the religion and government. Perhaps this event may not be far distant. Perhaps the inhabitants of the North will effect anoth­er revolution in the South, and the Ottoman empire fall by a female hand. Perhaps the imperial Catharine will display the Russian Eagle on the walls of Constantino­ple, banish the Turkish crescent to the deserts of Ara­bia and abandoning the frozen shores of the Baltic, establish her throne on the verdant, and blooming bor­ders of the sea of Marmara. Every benevolent mind wishes for the destruction of a government that is cal­culated to render the subjects poor and miserable, to suppress every principle that leads to improvement in manners, arts, and sciences, and to convert the most fertile countries into inhospitable deserts. The Euro­pean powers, actuated by narrow policy and illiberal jealousy, are combining to save such a government from impending ruin, and to prevent the accomplishment of an event, which would open to the curiosity of the learned, the venerable remains of oriental antiquity.

BUT we are to consider domestic slavery in those countries where there is a possibility, that our exertions may furnish relief. I have observed that in the chris­tian kingdoms of Europe, this custom was nearly abol­ished. It is remarkable that this event happened in Europe about the time of the discovery of America—a period when this practice was introduced into that quarter of the world, under circumstances of cruelty unknown to ancient nations. The black native of the [Page 9]burning climes of Africa, and the copper coloured sav­age of the wilds of America, have long mourned the day, when Columbus failed from Europe, on an enter­prise, which excited the wonder of his own, and has met with the applause of every succeeding age—An en­terprise which has been celebrated in the sublime strains of Barlow, whose song will transmit the same of the hero, and the poet, to remotest time.

AT this period America was peopled by a thousand tribes, speaking different languages, but all resembling each other by their uniformity of manners, and similarity of complexion. Excepting in a few instances, they seem­ed to be just emerging from a state of nature, and were in that early age of society, when they ranged the woods, and explored the streams in pursuit of prey, and fed at the table prepared for them by the hand of nature.—Like all savage nations, addicted to war, they gloried in their ardent heroism in battle, their indefatigable perse­verance in enterprize, their unshaken independence of mind, and their supreme contempt of death. When re­venge did not prompt them to the field, nor hunger impel them to the chase, they devoted themselves to the enjoy­ment of the Epicurean pleasure, of indolence of body, and tranquility of mind. Disdaining to labour, they peaceably slumbered away their time, while they devolved on their women the drudgeries of domestic life. A state of society which the romantic philosophers Roffeau, and Raynal, have preferred to the luxurious refinements, and polished pleasures of civilized life.

SUCH was the situation of the country when the Spaniards appeared on the coast—a nation whose avarice could be exceeded only by their inhumanity. Aided by the decisive superiority of their discipline, and the unknown thunder of their cannon, they impressed univer­sal terror upon the defenceless savages, who fell an easy prey to their victorious arms, and irresistable valour. The generous heart revolts at the idea, of describing the unparrallelled tortures, and agonies, which these people suffered, and wishes for the honor of human nature, that they were blotted from the page of history, and obliter­ated from the memory of mankind. When the hand of destruction was weary of its work, avarice suggested the [Page 10]idea of compelling the survivors to labour for the benefit of their oppressors. Dragged from their groves and streams, where they had lived in idleness, and freedom, and immured in the dreary caverns of mountains, they were doomed to waste their lives in digging for those pre­cious metals, whose imaginary value has been the source of infinite mischief to mankind. Unaccustomed to fa­tigue, and by the imbecility of their constitutions incapa­ble of sustaining the rigor of servitude, they melted away beneath the rod of oppression, with the same rapidity as they had been exterminated by the sword. In their de­plorable state, an advocate appeared to plead their cause. Las Casashas immortalized his name by his generous, but unsuccessful endeavours, to restore them to their natural rights in this world, and secure them eternal happiness in the world to come. But the interested views of his coun­trymen defeated all his benevolent plans, and induced them to adopt one of his proposals, which in the ardor of his zeal he did not thoroughly consider. He approved of the expedient of supplying the place of the Americans whom he wished to emancipate, by the importation of African slaves. This scheme was adopted, not with a view to relieve the Americans, but to recruit the country depopulated by rigor and cruelty, with a race of slaves, who by their strength of body and vigor of constitution should be capable of performing that hard service which had proved so fatal to the feebler savages of America.—The Emperor Charles the Fifth, who by his frequent wars and barbarous persecution of the protestant religion, during his long reign had rendered his extensive domini­ons a theatre of human calamity, granted to one of his favourites, the privilege of transporting a number of Af­rican slaves to his American colonies. This stroke of in­human policy introduced the practice, and it has been fol­lowed by all the European powers who had settlements in America. For in America only has the African been deemed an article of property, and adjudged to have for­feited his natural rights, on account of the blackness of his complexion, and the inferiority of his intellectual ca­pacity.

THE untutored African was safely sheltered in his na­tive woods, without fear of any foreign power till the time of the Portuguese discoveries. A short time after the splendid adventure of Columbus, Vasco de Gama [Page 11] completed those discoveries by steering round the Cape of Good Hope, and opening to his country the inexhaustible riches of the East. This event produced a revolution that changed the channels of commerce, and poured upon Europe the delicacies, and luxuries of the Indus and the Ganges. The Portuguese sirst imported the Africans into Europe, and made that miserable nation an article of traffic. They were followed by the Spanish, and all the commercial nations, for the purpose of supplying with slaves their American colonies. All eagerly engaged in a branch of trade that held out such lucrative profits as to slifle the feeble voice of compassion, and the unsupported claims of justice. In this manner the discovery of Ameri­ca has proved a most calamitous event to Africa, and has extended the slave trade to such a degree, as to call upon humanity, philosophy, and religion to combine their ex­ertions to abolish so destructive a custom. America is the only christian country where domestic slavery is tolerated in any considerable degree—May it be the glory of the present age to wipe away this reproach from our land.

To attempt a refutation of the arguments advanced in defence of this custom, in this enlightened period, and to this respectable auditory, would be a useless labour. Dif­fimilarity of complexion and inferiority of mind are argu­ments so far from justifying this conduct, that they serve to evince that the extreme baseness of the persons who advance them can only be exceeded by those who carry them into practice, by taking an unfair advantage of the weak and defenceless state of their fellow creatures, and doubling those misfortunes which it is pretended they have inherited as their portion from the God of nature.

THAT the condition of the African is meliorated by removing him from his native wilds to the cultivated fields of America will appear to be false upon an exami­nation of the fact. In their own country, before their re­treat was discovered by the European merchants, the sav­ages of Africa lived in the exercise of that freedom and independence which are natural to their state in society, and in the enjoyment of that repose and indolence which resulted from the warmth of their climate and the fertility of their foil. Tho destitute of the security of a well regu­lated government, and exposed to all the distresses of fre­quent wars; yet from their innocence and simplicity of [Page 12] manners they derived a felicity and tranquility of mind which are unknown to their barbarous oppressors, and which perhaps fall not so far short of the artificial pleas­ures of polished life as pride and vanity have pretended—Such was their situation in their own country. Let us consider the situation in which they are placed by the slave-trade. In order to realize the subject, let us con­template the scene which is now taking place on the vari­ous parts of the earth—Let us extend our prospect at once to the whole globe, and comprehend in one view all the miseries of this unfortunate people.

FROM the ports of commercial nations ships are con­stantly sailing to Africa, and the merchants at their ease are cooly calculating the accumulation of wealth which will accrue to them in proportion to the pain which they inflict upon their fellow men. On their arrival on the coast the natives are filled with fears and apprehensions of danger. As far through the country as the name of the white people has been heard, so far the alarm is founded. Actuated by the hopes of gain, many of the natives are induced to engage in the trade, and become the instru­ments of reducing their wretched brethren to slavery—They procure by theft or purchase, and sell for a trifling compensation, persons of every age, sex, and condition. When their cargo is completed the traders frequently close the business by detaining and carrying away those very natives who have furnished them with their slaves—a just punishment upon them for their barbarity, but which e­vinces our African traders to be as void of good faith as they are of humanity. Not only are individuals induced to commence robbers by this practice, but the kings and leaders of nations and tribes, are animated to undertake martial expeditions for the purpose of acquiring prisoners to sell for slaves. Through the barbarous realms of Afri­ca the [...]ble nations move from every side to mortal com­bat—the din of battle resounds—death and ruin mark their progress, and the vanquished who are taken prison­ers are reserved for distresses in comparison with which death may be deemed a blessing. The theft of the rob­ber and the depredation of the warrior extend to every quarter, and no place can be found for the enjoyment of safety and repose. The father can never enjoy peace and tranquility in the bosom of his family. He is hourly ex­posed to have his wife and children torn from his arms [Page 13] and transported to a country from whence they can never return. Such incidents so frequently happen that they are the perpetual theme of conversation. They can re­peat a thousand tales of the misfortunes of their friends and neighbours, which imprint the deepest gloom on their minds, and impress them with a constant fear and expecta­tion of suffering such unspeakable calamities.

WHILE such horrors destroy the tranquility of the in­terior parts of the country, behold on every hand innu­merable troops are descending to the ports frequented by the christian traders. No language can describe the an­guish and despair which they experience when they are dragged from their native land and dearest friends, and transported to the place where they are exposed to sale. Imagine a father torn from the embraces of a distracted wife—children ravished from the arms of their parents, and lovers compelled to bid each other an everlasting fare­well. Perhaps they are all obliged to accompany each other in this scene of distress. Their tears, their lamen­tations and their intreaties would procure them relief were not the breasts of the traders steeled against the soft emo­tions of pity, and the generous sentiments of humanity. These victims of avarice are fold with less ceremony than the beasts of the field; they are stowed in the ships in a most uncomfortable situation, and loaded with shackles of iron. The father hears by turns the groans of a belov­ed son confined in chains, and the screams of his faithful wife and innocent daughters, struggling against the attacks of their brutal ravishers. Can there be a human heart that does not soften with compassion at the cries of anguish and exclamations of sorrow when the ships depart from the coast—when the slaves take a last view of their native crimes, to which they have no hopes ever to return—when they bid an eternal adieu to all that is dear to them, and find themselves involuntarily embarking on a voyage, the unknown terrors of which give full scope to the most gloomy exercise of the imagination. I seem to hear the melancholy found of a thousand voices united in deplor­ing their unspeakable calamities, and which re-echo for the last time in their native groves and wilds, which have often witnessed their joyous songs and innocent amuse­ments. But the African coast soon disappears, and they pursue their trackless path, to the region destined to be the theatre of their wretchedness. In their passage they form [Page 14] such dreary ideas of their future condition, that they vol­untarily deprive themselves of life to avoid approaching evil. Whenever they can break from their chains, ani­mated with the prospect of returning to their native coun­try, they plunge themselves into the ocean, and terminate at once their lives and their misfortunes. Not only do these ignorant savages put a period to their own exist­ence, but fired by rage and revenge they sometimes burst the bands that confine them and imbrue their hands in the blood of their oppressors. Instances have happened where the whole crew have fell victims to the rage and satiated the vengeance of their injured slaves. The Africans are there left alone in the ship without a pilot to direct their course. Imagine the horror of their condition—unskilled in the art of navigation—incapable of steering the ship, and driven before the winds they are exposed to the fury of the waves and depend on chance for relief. They wander round the ocean in the vain hopes of regaining their native shore till their food becomes exhausted and they perish by the unrelenting hand of famine.

WHEN the traders escape the storms of the ocean and the vengance of the Africans, and arrive in the West-India islands and those countries where there is a demand for their cargo, the sale of these unfortunate people com­pleats their wretchedness. In distributing them thro the plantations no regard is paid to the tender ties of consangui­nity and the sacred bonds of friendship. They are com­pelled to undergo a severity of servitude unparalleled in the annals of mankind. They are doomed in the burn­ing climes beneath a meridian sun to incessant labor and fatigue. When their strength is exhausted, and they tot­ter under their burdens the lash of the whip quickens them to the lash exertion of expiring life. They are denied a sufficient respite from their labors to rest their weary limbs and enjoy the necessary relaxation of repose. Their scanty subsistance is insufficient to supply the calls of nature and satisfy the cravings of hunger. Not only do their unfeel­ing masters refuse them a participation of the fruits of their labor, but they subject them to torture and cruelty which render life intolerable and at which humanity shudders. For the most trivial offences they inflict upon them the most barbarous punishments. In these countries nothing is more common than the sound of the whip and the screams and lamentations of the defenceless slays—when their bodies [Page 15] are gored with wounds and the blood flows in streams they are plunged into the ocean whose waves sharpen the pains with the keenest agony. Their barbarous oppressors are so far from compassionating their sufferings that they laugh at their miseries and mock at their calamities.

BUT these people do not always tamely submit to such unprovoked injuries. Sometimes the voice of revenge is heard amongst them—they suddenly rush to arms and re­taliate upon their masters all the cruelities they have re­ceived at their hands. Animated with sury and hatred they deal promiscuous destruction on all their foes and the bloodiest scenes of civil war are displayed. They spare neither age or sex—the blooming virgin and the helpless infant are involved in one common ruin. Whole families enjoying the fairest prospect of affluence and happiness are cut off at a stroke and swept to the dust—The ignorant insurgents after a short gratification of their revenge are vanquished and subjected to a repetition of cruelties be­yond the power of language to describe.

THIS unhappy nation exhausted by unremitting fatigue, depressed by the rigor of servitude and debilitated by the severity of punishment, drag on a melancholy uncomfor­table existence strangers to the pleasures of life. Their on­ly consolation is that the extreme torments they suffer in this life remove all apprehensions about a future state, and disarm death of those terrors which make such an impres­sion upon the minds of the rest of mankind, as to deprive them of the transitory pleasures of living by the perpetual fears of dying. To them the prospect of terminating life furnishes the pleasing consolation of terminating their wretchedness—To them the messenger of death is an angel of peace and they fondly believe that they shall have a day of retribution in another existence in their native land—The funeral rites of a slave are performed by his brethren with every mark of joy and gladness—They accompany the corse with the sound of musical instruments—They sing their songs and perform their dances around the grave and indulge themselves in mirth and pleasantry upon an occasion which the rest of the human race contemplate with horror and anxiety.

SUCH is a faint and imperfect picture of the miseries; which the slave trade inflicts upon the defenceless natives of [Page 16] Africa—Such is the melancholy condition to which they are reduced by those who exult in the blessings of civil government, and who boast the exercise of the virtues ofjustice and humanity. These sufferings and cruelties are experienced by them not to supply their oppressors with the necessaries of life, but solely to furnish them with the elegant conveniences, and superfluous luxuries of sensuality. The product of their labour becomes a prin­cipal article of merchandize; and the nations of the earth derive their most luxurious enjoyments from the unre­warded industry, and unparrallelled distresses of the Afri­can slaves. What must be our feelings when we consider, while we are regaling our senses and pampering our ap­petites upon the rich delicacies and varied luxuries of the Indian Isles, that their cultivation and growth have been ac­companied by the sighs, the tears, and the groans of thou­sands ofour fellow creatures.

To justify this wanton violation of the rights of humani­ty, the tyrants' plea of necessity is advanced. It is said that in no other way can the cultivation and improve­ment of the most fertile countries be accomplished. It is painful to remark that this necessity has arisen from ex­treme cruelty—that the mode of treatment which the Af­ricans have experienced, has rendered it necessary to de­populate Africa of thousands of the inhabitants annually, in order to supply the number that are destroyed in Amer­ica. Had they been treated with mildness and clemency, and protected in the enjoyment of liberty by just and equal laws, without doubt their population would have furnished a sufficient number of hardy and vigorous la­bourers to cultivate the ground in the most profitable man­ner. It is a universal observation applicable to nations and individuals, that the value of the labor of their slaves increases in proportion to the kindness and humanity with which they are treated. A most powerful induce­ment to check the progress of cruelty, and establish a mild and generous rule of government. But short-sighted ava­rice has overlooked such important advantages because they appeared remote, and has prefered the immediate acquisition of property to the welfare and happiness of the human race. It is a mortifying truth that the English in their West-India islands have exceeded any other na­tion in the cruel treatment of their slaves. It is astonish­ing that a people who know the blessings of a government [Page 17] which remained unrivalled till the establishment of the constitution of the United States, should be guilty of cru­elties so repugnant to the spirit and principles of their government. This circumstance will call to remem­brance many events in the late war that gave birth to the American Empire. The unparrallelled cruelties exercis­ed towards the prisoners of war, by which many of our brethren suffered all the tortures of cold, hunger, and death, will be an eternal stigma on their national charac­ter; and the names of Howe and Clinton will be as infa­mous to future times as the names of Nero and Domitian.

HAVING contemplated the progress and extent of slave­ry in different ages and countries, we may with pleasure turn our attention from such dreary objects to the consid­eration of it in our own country. Here a very different scene will be exhibited. In the settlement of this State, our ancestors were animated by the principles of justice and benevolence. They obtained their title to the territo­ry by fair purchase, and not by conquest—They never shed the blood of the natives but in self defence—They never attempted to reduce them to a state of servitude, or deprive them of their freedom; but they took them under their generous protection, and endeavoured to bestow up­on them the blessings of a mild government and a pure religion. Though the importation of African slaves was permitted, yet it was never authorised by law—They were under the protection of government, and their treat­ment was always distinguished by that mildness and clem­ency which accorded with the characters of their masters. If there can be any compensation for the want of liberty, there can be no doubt but that their situation was made preferable to what it had been in their own country—And most clearly much greater profits have been derived from their services under this mild usage, than in those coun­tries where they met with contrary treatment.

THE Legislature has lately interposed in this State, and has enacted a statute founded in tne highest wisdom and the best policy, which in its operation will not only even­tually produce the abolition of slavery, but will secure to the Africans in this country the inestimable blessing of lib­erty, against every species of encroachment and violation. Our own citizens are prohibited from embarking in this [Page 18] iniquitous traffic. No slaves may be imported by any persons whatever, and heavy penalties and denounced against those who send any Africans who have been eman­cipated from slavery, from this state to any other country. While we justly bestow such encomiums upon the laws and manners of our country, our regard to truth compels us with reluctance to observe that there are some individu­als so destitute of humanity, that they have stained the honour, and violated the laws of their country, by embark­ing in this infamous commerce. In a very few initances, persons have transported some emancipated Africans to the West-Indies or southern states, and sold them for slaves. An African who has thus been twice deprived of his lib­erty, seems to excite a double share of compassion. The villain who is capable of such baseness and cruelty, must be hardened in the ways of iniquity and regardless of the principles of justice.

BUT we have some consolation for the few instances of this kind which have happened, from the circumstance that they have given birth to the institution of a society which will prevent their repetition. Animated with the purest sentiments of benevolence, and anxious to soften the woes of human life, the society which I have the honor to address was established for the noble purpose not only of combining its exertions with other societies of a similar nature, to procure the general abolition of slavery, but also to furnish relief to persons unjustly held in bondage, and incapable of claiming the protection of the law.

THE contemplation of such sublime principles must ex­pand every heart with the warmest rapture and purest de­light. Humanity is exalted to it's highest exercise when it feels for the whole human race and prompts to actions which have for their object the glory and felicity of future ages. It is a pleasing consideration that the liberal senti­ment so prevalent at this period is invigorated and diffus­ed by the mild spirit of christianity. That religion which has produced such an astonishing difference of character between ancient and modern times, and has so greatly bettered the condition of mankind by abolishing domestic slavery in Europe, still continues to extend the operati­on of principles that are highly favourable to human hap­piness. It is a truth which ought not to be omitted, that the ambassadors of this holy religion, animated by the [Page 19] genuine spirit of the heavenly doctrines which they teach, and filled with a becoming zeal to promote the immortal welfare of their fellow-creatures, have taken an active and decided part in favour of the defenceless tribes of Africaf. What benefits may not civil society expert from the gen­erous exertions of a class of men who labour to restore mankind to their natural rights in this world, in order to prepare them for eternal felicity in the world to come.

HAVING taken a concise view of the origin, the pro­gress and the present state of slavery, we are to consider what measures can be suggested, adopted, and executed to accomplish the important purpose of its abolition. In our own State a punctual observance of the laws in being will eventually answer the design. As there are some persons in all countries so destitute of the principles of virtue that they will practice every expedient to elude and contravene the laws, it may be necessary not only to attend to the punctual execution of them, but also to interest the pub­lic opinion against such nefarious conduct. To designate the persons who pursue this commerce, and brand them with some public mark of infamy, may reach offenders in certain cases which are beyond the animad version of law—and there are but few so hardened as to brave that universal reproach and contempt which in a short time the general voice of mankind will denounce against those who engage in this iniquitous branch of business. The principles that constitute the basis of the government of the United States will infallibly produce an extinction of sla­very throughout the empire, as soon as will be compati­ble with the safety of the public and the welfare of the slaves themslaves. And I am fully convinced that the pe­riod is not remote when the whole world will assent to the truth of the proportion, that in every species of manufac­ture, and in every mode of cultivating the earth, the labor of freemen will be far more profitable than the labour of slaves.

BUT every bosom glows with a desire to furnish a relief commensurate to the injury. All wish that some plan might be adopted to procure the universal establishment of liberty for this people—How can so desireable a purpose be accomplished? Shall we apply to the supreme power of the empire, and request their interposition witn foreign nations in favour of this people that liave so long been [Page 20] the object of contempt and indifference. Vain would be such an interposition on the part of our government—The kings and princes of the earth who have so long slumber­ed on their thrones in idleness and luxury, will be deaf to every measure that is calculated to augment the happiness of mankind by the extension of liberty. No measure can be attended with success unless it be directed to a univer­sal dissemination of the principles of liberty and inde­pendence, and to animate and rouse all mankind to a general exertion in reclaiming their natural rights and privileges.

IT is astonishing that rational beings have so long sub­mitted to governments which are so far from being cal­culated to promote the general good, that they are de­structive to the happiness of the subjects, and involve them in greater trouble and confusion than would be experi­enced in a state of nature. The more information the people obtain, and the more they reflect on their degrada­tion and their servile obedience to a few who sport with their wretchedness and ruin, the stronger will be their induce­ment to struggle for a restoration of their natural rights, and the enjoyment of the security of a well regulated gov­ernment. Let us see whether mankind are not hastening to accomplish this purpose. For a long time the eastern world has experienced no capital revolution—Knowledge has been spreading on all sides and preparing the minds of men for some great event. The present kingdoms of Eu­rope were founded upon the ruins of the Roman empire. The unwieldy despotism of that extensive government seems to have thrown a langour on the human mind, to have enseebled the vigor of genius and suppressed the power of imagination. The conquerors, ignorant of the arts of peace, established their governments upon the same military principles which led them from the cold regions of the North to the delicious climes of the South. When men are united in society and protected by government, the necessary consequence is, a gradual progression in the civilization of manners and the improvements of literature. Such has been the progress in Europe; and that country has exhibited a most striking contrast between the man­ners, the customs, and the literature of the dark ages, and the eighteenth century. Printing has furnished every na­tion with so many monuments of literary excellence, that it has become impossible that they should revert to that [Page 21] state of ignorance and barbarism which followed the sub­version of the imperial power of Rome. The progress of learning has expanded the fire of genius, enlarged the com­prehension of the mind, and unfolded a very different i­dea of the rights of man from that which was entertained at the formation of the present governments of Europe. In this progress religion has been refined and purified from the dross of Pagan idolatry, and the absurdities of enthusiastic ignorance. No more do we see the flames of persecution blazing through Europe, nor hear the groans of wretched victims resounding thro the horrid dungeons of the inquisition. The world has at length discovered this self-evident proposition, that faith in matters of reli­gion is incapable of legal coercion—that uniformity of o­pinion can never be established, and that variety is not inconsistent with the happiness of the people and the sta­bility of government. A difference of opinion in point of speculation has ceased to be criminal, and the sacred right of private judgment is universally acknowledged. No more do the deepening glooms of superstition spread a torpor over the intellectual faculties, and deaden the springs of active life—No more do the flights of enthusi­asm prompt to the wild deeds of faction, and the incohe­rent ravings of mistaken devotion—No more does hypoc­risy assume the mask of piety and the garb of innocence, for the purpose of imposing upon the simplicity and the credulity of the ignorant—No longer is the merit of man estimated by high pretensions of sanctity and extreme austerity of manners. But while superstition, enthusiasm, and hypoc­risy are retiring to the regions of primeval darkness, be­hold the mild beams of liberality, candour, and charity, are unfolding upon us in a blaze of glory, and commenc­ing their universal and eternal reign, The standard of merit is founded upon vigor of understanding—extent of information—and purity of character. While these sentiments are prevailing, it is necessary that an alteration should take place in government correspondent to the im­provements of mankind.

BEHOLD that spirit of liberty which led the Americans to empire and fame, and laid the foundation of a govern­ment which will be the glory of the present, and the admi­tion of future ages has crossed the atlantic and flies like the electric flame from breast to breast, and kingdom to kingdom. An important revolution is commencing—a new order of things is begun. In the kingdom of France [Page 22] we have witnessed a change in government without a parallel in history. The people inspired by the cool voice of reason, have by a deliberate act resumed their natural rights, and have the fairest prospect to establish a constitu­tion of government upon the broad basis of general liber­ty, which will secure to them the enjoyment of peace and prosperity. The lives and property of the citizens are no more dependent on the will of the sovereign, and his man­dates are no longer the laws of the land. The Bastile that detestable instrument of tyrrany, that public infuse upon human nature, where so many persons have languish­ed away a miserable existence in the gloomy mansions of a dungeon, is levelled with the dust. What heart is not animated to behold the same French Nation who had long trembled at the sound of the name of the Bastile, now in­spired by the flame of liberty, marching with the firmness and intrepidity of heroes to the attack of despotism in the center of her capital. History has never exhibited a more glorious triumph of liberty over arbitrary power.

THE same spirit pervades the various kingdoms of Eu­rope. From the shores of the atlantic to the confines of Asia, the minds of men are inspired with that spark of li­berty which was kindled by nature, and the flame of op­position is ready to burst on their unfeeling oppressors. The sovereigns of Europe behold from their tottering thrones, these alarming prospects with the deepest fear and concern. Even the Ottoman Despot, who from a capital calculated by nature to be the Emporium of commerce, and the mistress of the world, has long distributed misery and distress, thro his extensive dominions, now views with horror and amazement, the spirit of freedom reviving among his subjects—Perhaps that fame may be rekindled, which produced such wonders in the flourishing period of the Grecian republics.

IT is impossible to predict what will be the event of this prospect, that is unfolding to our view—But we may with­out the spirit of prophecy, venture to assert that the world is on the eve of a great revolution—that if the forms of government are not materially altered, yet the spirit of them will be retined and sublimated, and conformed to the interest and welfare of the human race—That sovereigns will no longer dare to sport with the feelings, and trifle with the happiness of their subjects—That they will find [Page 23] their own preservation and security dependent upon an im­partial administration of justice—The state of the human mind most unquestionably renders necessary such a revolu­tion, and we may anticipate the accomplishment of it, with exultation and delight.

THE illustrious head of the American Empire may contemplate with ineffable rapture, the extensive blessings flowing to all mankind, from a revolution in which he bore a principal share—Elevated to the supreme magistracy, by the unanimous voice of millions, as a reward for his faith­ful services, and supported by the applause and approba­tion of a grateful and prosperous nation, he surveys with conscious superiority the hereditary monarchs of Europe, trembling on their thrones of despotism, and sustaining their authority by force, and fear amid the tears, the groans, and the execrations of their wretched subjects and vassals.

OUR pleasure in beholding this glorious prospect opening upon mankind, is heightened by the consideration, that the fable tribes of Africa will participate of the common blessings—That spirit of enquiry, and that liberality of sentiment which are prompting mankind to a general struggle for liberty and happiness, will comprehend for their object, every nation on the globe.—Within a few years past, no subject has more warmly engaged the attention of the lite­rary world, than African slavery—and the writings of the divine, the philosopher, the poet, and the novelist concur in reprobating the practice in terms of equal severity—The rapid and extensive diffusion of these generous sentiments, will in a short time produce the total extirpation of a slavery which has exhibited the most complicated system of baseness and cruelty, that ever insulted the dignity of human nature. Let us combine our exertions in accelerat­ing the accomplishment of this happy event—while our hearts are elevated at the pleasing scene, let us address the FATHER of MERCIES with this humble supplication—that all people may be restored to the safe and peaceable enjoyment of their natural rights and privileges—that do­mestic and national slavery may be abolished thro the the world—and that civil government may be every where established upon the broad and permanent basis of political liberty, and the general good, and flourish till time shall be no more.

This keyboarded and encoded edition of the work described above is co-owned by the institutions providing financial support to the Text Creation Partnership. This Phase I text is available for reuse, according to the terms of Creative Commons 0 1.0 Universal. The text can be copied, modified, distributed and performed, even for commercial purposes, all without asking permission.