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Some Historical Account of Guinea, Its Situation, Produce, and the General Disposition of Its Inhabitants by Anthony Benezet

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or purchaseable. One, therefore, has no body but himself to blame, in
case he shall find himself deprived of a man, whom he thought he had, by
buying for a price, made his own; for he dealt in a trade which was
illicit, and was prohibited by the most obvious dictates of humanity.
For these reasons, every one of those unfortunate men who are pretended
to be slaves, has a right to be declared to be free, for he never lost
his liberty; he could not lose it; his Prince had no power to dispose of
him. Of course, the sale was _ipso jure_ void. This right he carries
about with him, and is entitled every where to get it declared. As soon,
therefore, as he comes into a country in which the judges are not
forgetful of their own humanity, it is their duty to remember that he is
a man, and to declare him to be free. I know it has been said, that
questions concerning the state of persons ought to be determined by the
law of the country to which they belong; and that, therefore, one who
would be declared to be a slave in America, ought, in case he should
happen to be imported into Britain, to be adjudged, according to the law
of America, to be a slave; a doctrine than which nothing can be more
barbarous. Ought the judges of any country, out of respect to the law of
another, to shew no respect to their kind, and to humanity? out of
respect to a law, which is in no sort obligatory upon them, ought they
to disregard the law of nature, which is obligatory on all men, at all
times, and in all places? Are any laws so binding as the eternal laws of
justice? Is it doubtful, whether a judge ought to pay greater regard to
them, than to those arbitrary and inhuman usages which prevail in a
distant land? Aye, but our colonies would be ruined if slavery was
abolished. Be it so; would it not from thence follow, that the bulk of
mankind ought to be abused, that our pockets may be filled with money,
or our mouths with delicacies? The purses of highwaymen would be empty,
in case robberies were totally abolished; but have men a right to
acquire money by going out to the highway? Have men a right to acquire
it by rendering their fellow-creatures miserable? Is it lawful to abuse
mankind, that the avarice, the vanity, or the passions of a few may be
gratified? No! There is such a thing as justice to which the most sacred
regard is due. It ought to be inviolably observed. Have not these
unhappy men a better right to their liberty, and to their happiness,
than our American merchants have to the profits which they make by
torturing their kind? Let, therefore, our colonies be ruined, but let us
not render so many men miserable. Would not any of us, who should--be
snatched by pirates from his native land, think himself cruelly abused,
and at all times entitled to be free? Have not these unfortunate
Africans, who meet with the same cruel fate, the same right? Are they
not men as well as we, and have they not the same sensibility? Let us
not, therefore, defend or support a usage which is contrary to all the
laws of humanity.

"But it is false, that either we or our colonies would be ruined by the
abolition of slavery. It might occasion a stagnation of business for a
short time. Every great alteration produces that effect; because mankind
cannot, on a sudden, find ways of disposing of themselves, and of their
affairs; but it would produce many happy effects. It is the slavery
which is permitted in America, that has hindered it from becoming so
soon populous as it would otherwise have done. Let the Negroes be free,
and, in a few generations, this vast and fertile continent would be
crowded with inhabitants; learning, arts, and every thing would flourish
amongst them; instead of being inhabited by wild beasts, and by savages,
it would be peopled by philosophers, and by men."

Francis Hutcheson, professor of philosophy at the university of Glasgow,
in his _System of Moral Philosophy_, page 211, says "He who detains
another by force in slavery, is always bound to prove his title. The
slave sold, or carried into a distant country, must not be obliged to
prove a negative, that _he never forfeited his liberty_. The violent
possessor must, in all cases, shew his title, especially where the old
proprietor is well known. In this case, each man is the original
proprietor of his own liberty. The proof of his losing it must be
incumbent on those who deprive him of it by force. The Jewish laws had
great regard to justice, about the servitude of Hebrews, founding it
only on consent, or some crime or damage, allowing them always a proper
redress upon any cruel treatment, and fixing a limited time for it;
unless upon trial the servant inclined to prolong it. The laws about
foreign slaves had many merciful provisions against immoderate severity
of the masters. But under christianity, whatever lenity was due from an
Hebrew towards his countryman, must be due towards all; since the
distinctions of nations are removed, as to the point of humanity and
mercy, as well as natural right; nay, some of these rights granted over
foreign slaves, may justly be deemed only such indulgences as those of
poligamy and divorce, granting only external impunity in such practice,
and not sufficient vindication of them in conscience."

_Page_ 85. It is pleaded, that "In some barbarous nations, unless the
captives were bought for slaves, they would be all murthered. They,
therefore, owe their lives, and all they can do, to their purchasers;
and so do their children, who would not otherwise have come into life."
But this whole plea is no more than that of _negotium utile gestum_ to
which any civilized nation is bound by humanity; it is a prudent
expensive office, done for the service of others without a gratuitous
intention; and this founds no other right, than that to full
compensation of all charges and labour employed for the benefit of

A set of inaccurate popular phrases blind us in these matters; "Captives
owe their lives, and all to the purchasers, say they. Just in the same
manner, we, our nobles, and princes, often owe our lives to midwives,
chirurgeons, physicians," &c. one who was the means of preserving a
man's life, is not therefore entitled to make him a slave, and sell him
as a piece of goods. Strange, that in a nation where the sense of
liberty prevails, where the christian religion is professed, custom and
high prospects of gain can so stupify the conscience of men, and all
sense of natural justice, that they can hear such computations made
about the value of their fellow-men, and their liberty, without
abhorrence and indignation.

_James Foster_, D.D. in his _discourses on natural religion_ and _social
virtue_ also shews his just indignation at this wicked practice; which
he declares to be "_a criminal and outrageous violation of the natural
right of mankind_." At _page_ 156, vol. 2 he says, "Should we have read
concerning the Greeks or Romans of old, that they traded with a view to
make slaves of their own species, when they certainly knew that this
would involve in schemes of blood and murder, of destroying, or
enslaving each other; that they even fomented wars, and engaged whole
nations and tribes in open hostilities, for their own private advantage;
that they had no detestation of the violence and cruelty, but only
feared the ill success of their inhuman enterprises; that they carried
men like themselves, their brethren, and the off-spring of the same
common parent, to be sold like beasts of prey, or beasts of burden, and
put them to the same reproachful trial, of their soundness, strength,
and capacity for greater bodily service; that quite forgetting and
renouncing the original dignity of human nature, communicated to all,
they treated them with more severity, and ruder discipline, than even
the _ox_ or the _ass_, who are _void of understanding_--should we not,
if this had been the case, have naturally been led to despise all their
_pretended refinements of morality_; and to have concluded, that as they
were not nations destitute of politeness, they must have been _entire
strangers to virtue and benevolence_?

"But notwithstanding this, we ourselves (who profess to be christians,
and boast of the peculiar advantage we enjoy, by means of an express
revelation of our duty from heaven) are, in effect, these very untaught
and rude heathen countries. With all our superior light, we instill into
those, whom we call savage and barbarous, the most despicable opinion of
human nature. We, to the utmost of our power, weaken and dissolve the
universal tie, that binds and unites mankind. We practise what we should
exclaim against, as the utmost excess of cruelty and tyranny, if nations
of the world, differing in colour, and form of government, from
ourselves, were so possessed of empire, as to be able to reduce us to a
state of unmerited and brutish servitude. Of consequence, we sacrifice
our reason, our humanity, our christianity, to an unnatural sordid gain.
We teach other nations to despise, and trample under foot, all the
obligations of social virtue. We take the most effectual method to
prevent the propagation of the gospel, by representing it as a scheme of
power and barbarous oppression, and an enemy to the natural privileges
and rights of men.

"Perhaps all that I have now offered, may be of very little weight to
restrain this enormity, this aggravated iniquity; however, I still have
the satisfaction of having entered my private protest against a
practice, which, in my opinion, bids that God, who is the God and Father
of the Gentiles, unconverted to christianity, most daring and bold
defiance, and spurns at all the principles both of natural and revealed



in the


of MARCH 19, 1767.


Permit me, in your paper, to address the members of our assembly on two
points, in which the public interest is very nearly concerned.

The abolition of slavery, and the retrieval of specie in this colony,
are the subjects on which I would bespeak their attention.--

Long and serious reflections upon the nature and consequences of slavery
have convinced me, that it is a violation both of justice and religion;
that it is dangerous to the safety of the community in which it
prevails; that it is destructive to the growth of arts and sciences; and
lastly, that it produces a numerous and very fatal train of vices, both
in the slave and in his master.

To prove these assertions, shall be the purpose of the following essay.

That slavery then is a violation of justice, will plainly appear, when
we consider what justice is. It is truly and simply defined, as by
_Justinian, constans et perpetua voluntas ejus suum cuique tribuendi_; a
constant endeavour to give every man his right.

Now, as freedom is unquestionably the birth-right of all mankind,
_Africans_ as well as _Europeans_, to keep the former in a state of
slavery, is a constant violation of that right, and therefore of

The ground on which the civilians who favour slavery, admit it to be
just, namely, consent, force, and birth, is totally disputable; for
surely a man's own will and consent cannot be allowed to introduce so
important an innovation into society, as slavery, or to make himself an
outlaw, which is really the state of a slave; since neither consenting
to, nor aiding the laws of the society in which he lives, he is neither
bound to obey them, nor entitled to their protection.

To found any right in force, is to frustrate all right, and involve
every thing in confusion, violence, and rapine. With these two, the last
must fall; since, if the parent cannot justly be made a slave, neither
can the child be born in slavery. "The law of nations, says Baron
_Montesquieu_, has doomed prisoners to slavery, to prevent their being
slain; the _Roman_ civil law permitted debtors, whom their creditors
might treat ill, to sell themselves. And the law of nature requires that
children, whom their parents, being slaves, cannot maintain, should be
slaves like them. These reasons of the civilians are not just; it is not
true that a captive may be slain, unless in a case of absolute
necessity; but if he hath been reduced to slavery, it is plain that no
such necessity existed, since he was not slain. It is not true that a
free man can sell himself, for sale supposes a price; but a slave and
his property becomes immediately that of his master; the slave can
therefore receive no price, nor the master pay, &c. And if a man cannot
sell himself, nor a prisoner of war be reduced to slavery, much less can
his child." Such are the sentiments of this illustrious civilian; his
reasonings, which I have been obliged to contract, the reader interested
in this subject will do well to consult at large.

Yet even these rights of imposing slavery, questionable, nay, refutable
as they are, we have not to authorise the bondage of the _Africans_. For
neither do they consent to be our slaves, nor do we purchase them of
their conquerors. The _British_ merchants obtain them from _Africa_ by
violence, artifice, and treachery, with a few trinkets to prompt those
unfortunate people to enslave one another by force or stratagem.
Purchase them indeed they may, under the authority of an act of the
British parliament. An act entailing upon the _Africans_, with whom we
are not at war, and over whom a British parliament could not of right
assume even a shadow of authority, the dreadful curse of perpetual
slavery, upon them and their children for ever. _There cannot be in
nature, there is not in all history, an instance in which every right of
men is more flagrantly violated._ The laws of the antients never
authorised the making slaves, but of those nations whom they had
conquered; yet they were heathens, and we are christians. They were
misled by a monstrous religion, divested of humanity, by a horrible and
barbarous worship; we are directed by the unerring precepts of the
revealed religion we possess, enlightened by its wisdom, and humanized
by its benevolence; before them, were gods deformed with passions, and
horrible for every cruelty and vice; before us, is that incomparable
pattern of meekness, charity, love and justice to mankind, which so
transcendently distinguished the Founder of christianity, and his ever
amiable doctrines.

Reader, remember that the corner stone of your religion, is to do unto
others as you would they should do unto you; ask then your own heart,
whether it would not abhor any one, as the most outrageous violater of
that and every other principle of right, justice, and humanity, who
should make a slave of you and your posterity for ever! Remember, that
God knoweth the heart; lay not this flattering unction to your soul,
that it is the custom of the country; that you found it so, that not
your will; but your necessity, consents. Ah! think how little such an
excuse will avail you in that aweful day, when your Saviour shall
pronounce judgment on you for breaking a law too plain to be
misunderstood, too sacred to be violated. If we say we are christians,
yet act more inhumanly and unjustly than heathens, with what dreadful
justice must this sentence of our blessed Saviour fall upon us, "_Not
every one that saith unto me Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of
heaven, but he that doth the will of my Father which is in heaven."_
Matth. vii. 21. Think a moment how much your temporal, your eternal
welfare depends upon an abolition of a practice which deforms the image
of your God, tramples on his revealed will, infringes the most sacred
rights, and violates humanity.

Enough, I hope, has been asserted, to prove that slavery is a violation
of justice and religion. That it is dangerous to the safety of the state
in which it prevails, may be as safely asserted.

What one's own experience has not taught; that of others must decide.
From hence does history derive its utility; for being, when truly
written, a faithful record of the transactions of mankind, and the
consequences that flowed from them, we are thence furnished with the
means of judging what will be the probable effect of transactions,
similar among ourselves.

We learn then from history, that slavery, wherever encouraged, has
sooner or later been productive of very dangerous commotions. I will not
trouble my reader here with quotations in support of this assertion, but
content myself with referring those, who may be dubious of its truth, to
the histories of Athens, Lacedemon, Rome, and Spain.

How long, how bloody and destructive was the contest between the Moorish
slaves and the native Spaniards? and after almost deluges of blood had
been shed, the Spaniards obtained nothing more than driving them into
the mountains.--Less bloody indeed, though, not less alarming, have been
the insurrections in Jamaica; and to imagine that we shall be for ever
exempted from this calamity, which experience teaches us to be
inseparable from slavery, so encouraged; is an infatuation as
astonishing as it will be surely fatal:--&c. &c.






Before the SOCIETY For the PROPAGATION of the GOSPEL, at the anniversary
meeting on the 21st of _February_, 1766.

From the free-savages, I now come (the last point I propose to consider)
to the savages in bonds. By these I mean the vast multitudes yearly
stolen from the opposite continent, and sacrificed by the colonists to
their great idol, the GOD OF GAIN. But what then? say these sincere
worshippers of _Mammon_; they are our own property which we offer up.
Gracious God! to talk (as in herds of cattle) of property in rational
creatures! creatures endowed with all our faculties; possessing all our
qualities but that of colour; our brethren both by nature and grace,
shocks all the feelings of humanity, and the dictates of common sense.
But, alas! what is there in the infinite abuses of society which does
not shock them? Yet nothing is more certain in itself, and apparent to
all, than that the infamous traffic for slaves directly infringes both
divine and human law. Nature created man free, and grace invites him to
assert his freedom. In excuse of this violation, it hath been pretended,
that though indeed these miserable out-casts of humanity be torn from
their homes and native country by fraud and violence, yet they thereby
become the happier, and their condition the more eligible. But who are
You, who pretend to judge of another man's happiness? That state, which
each man, under the guidance of his Maker, forms for himself, and not
one man for another? To know what constitutes mine or your happiness, is
the sole prerogative of Him who created us, and cast us in so various
and different moulds. Did your slaves ever complain to you of their
unhappiness amidst their native woods and deserts? Or, rather, let me
ask, did they ever cease complaining of their condition under you their
lordly masters? where they see, indeed, the accommodations of civil
life, but see them all pass to others, themselves unbenefited by them.
Be so gracious then, ye petty tyrants over human freedom, to let your
slaves judge for themselves, what it is which makes their own happiness.
And then see whether they do not place it in the return to their own
country, rather than in the contemplation of your grandeur, of which
their misery makes so large a part. A return so passionately longed for,
that despairing of happiness here, that is, of escaping the chains of
their cruel task-masters, they console themselves with feigning it to be
the gracious reward of heaven in their future state, which I do not find
their haughty masters have as yet concerned themselves to invade. The
less hardy, indeed, wait for this felicity till over-wearied nature sets
them free; but the more resolved have recourse even to self-violence, to
force a speedier passage.

But it will be still urged, that though what is called human happiness
be of so fantastic a nature, that each man's imagination creates it for
himself, yet human misery is more substantial and uniform throughout all
the tribes of mankind. Now, from the worst of human miseries, the savage
Africans, by these forced emigrations, are intirely secured; such as the
being perpetually hunted down like beasts of prey or profit, by their
more savage and powerful neighbours--In truth, a blessed change!--from
being hunted to being caught. But who are they that have set on foot
this general HUNTING? Are they not these very civilized violaters of
humanity themselves? who tempt the weak appetites, and provoke the wild
passions of the fiercer savages to prey upon the rest.




_Adanson_ (M.) his account of the country on the rivers _Senegal_ and
_Gambia_, 14. Extraordinary fertility, _ibid._ Surprising vegetation,
15. Beautiful aspect of the country, 16. Good disposition of the
natives, _ibid._

_Advertisements in the New-York Journal_, for the sale of slaves, 158.
Also in the news-papers of _London_, 160.

_Africa_, that part from whence the Negroe slaves are brought, how
divided, 6. Capable of a considerable trade, 143.

Alien (every) or stranger coming within the King's dominion, becomes a
subject, 148.

Antientest account of the Negroes, 41. Were then a simple innocent
people, 43.

_Angola_, a plentiful country, 39. Character of the natives, 40.
Government, _ibid._


_Barbadoes_ (laws of) respecting Negroe slaves, 170.

_Barbot (John)_ agent general of the _French African Company_, his
account of the _Gold Coast_, 25. Of the _Slave Coast_, 27.

_Bosman (William)_ principal factor for the _Dutch_ at _D'Elmina_, his
account of the _Gold Coast_, 23. Of the _Slave Coast_, 27.

_Brue (Andrew)_ principal factor of the _French African Company_, his
account of the country on the river _Senegal_, 7. And on the river
_Gambia_, 8.

_Benin_ (kingdom of) good character of the natives, 35. Punishment of
crimes, 36. Order of government, _ibid._ Largeness and order of the city
of _Great Benin_, 37.

_Britons_ (antient) in their original state no less barbarous than the
_African_ Negroes, 68.

_Baxter (Richard)_ his testimony against slavery, 83.


Corruption of some of the Kings of _Guinea_, 107.


_De la Casa_ (bishop of _Chapia_) his concern for the _Indians_, 47. His
speech to _Charles_ the Fifth Emperor of _Germany_ and King of _Spain_,
48. Prodigious destruction of the _Indians_ in _Hispaniola_, 51.

_Divine principle_ in every man, its effects on those who obey its
dictates, 14.


_Elizabeth_ (Queen) her caution to captain Hawkins not to enslave any of
the Negroes, 55.

_English_, their first trade on the coast of Guinea, 52.

_Europeans_ are the principal cause of the wars which subsist amongst
the Negroes, 61.

_English_ laws allow no man, of what condition soever, to be deprived of
his liberty, without a legal process, 150. The danger of confining any
person without a warrant, 162.


Fishing, a considerable business on the Guinea coast, 26. How carried
on, _ibid._

_Foster (James)_ his testimony against slavery, 186.

_Fuli_ Negroes good farmers, 10. Those on the _Gambia_ particularly
recommended for their industry and good behaviour, _ibid._

_France_ (King of) objects to the Negroes in his dominions being reduced
to a state of slavery, 58.


_Gambia (river)_8, 14.

_Gloucester_ (bishop of) extract of his sermon, 195.

_Godwyn (Morgan)_ his plea in favour of the Negroes and Indians, 75.
Complains of the cruelties exercised upon slaves, 76. A false opinion
prevailed in his time, that the Negroes were not objects of redeeming
grace, 77.

_Gold Coast_ has several European factories, 22. Great trade for slaves,
_ibid._ Carried on far in the inland country, _ibid._ Natives more
reconciled to the Europeans, and more diligent in procuring slaves,
_ibid._ Extraordinarily fruitful and agreeable, 22, 25. The natives
industrious, 24.

_Great Britain_, all persons during their residence there are the King's
subjects, 148.

_Guinea_ extraordinarily fertile, 2. Extremely unhealthy to the
Europeans, 4. But agrees well with the natives, _ibid._ Prodigious
rising of waters, _ibid._ Hot winds, _ibid._ Surprising vegetation, 15.


_Hawkins_ (captain) lands on the coast of Guinea and seizes on a number
of the natives, which he sells to the Spaniards, 55.

_Hottentots_ misrepresented by authors, 101. True account given of these
people by Kolben, 102. Love of liberty and sloth their prevailing
passions, 102. Distinguished by several virtues, 103. Firm in alliances,
_ibid._ Offended at the vices predominant amongst christians, 104. Make
nor keep no slaves, _ibid._

_Hughes (Griffith)_ his account of the number of Negroes in Barbadoes,
85. Speaks well of their natural capacities, 86.

Husbandry of the Negroes carried on in common, 28.

_Hutcheson (Francis)_ his declaration against slavery, 184.


_Jalof_ Negroes, their government, 9.

_Indians_ grievously oppressed by the Spaniards, 47. Their cause pleaded
by Bartholomew De la Casa, 48. Inland people, good account of them, 25.

_Ivory Coast_ fertile, &c. 18. Natives falsely represented to be a
treacherous people, _ibid._ Kind when well used, 19. Have no European
factories amongst them, 21. And but few wars; therefore few slaves to be
had there, 22.


Jury, Negroes tried and condemned without the solemnity of a jury, 174.
Highly repugnant to the English constitution, 176. Dangerous to those
concerned therein, _ibid._


Laws in Guinea severe against man-stealing, and other crimes, 106.


_Mandingoe_ Negroes a numerous nation, 11. Great traders, _ibid._
Laborious, 11. Their government, 13. Their worship, _ibid_. Manner of
tillage, _ibid._ At Galem they suffer none to be made slaves but
criminals, 20.

_Maloyans_ (a black people) sometimes sold amongst Negroes brought from
very distant parts, 27.

Markets regularly kept on the Gold and Slave Coasts, 30.

_Montesquieu's_ sentiments on slavery, 72.

_Moor (Francis)_ factor to the African company, his account of the
slave-trade on the river Gambia, 111.

Mosaic law merciful in its chastisements, 73. Has respect to human
nature, _ibid._


National wars disapproved by the most considerate amongst the Negroes,

_Negroes_ (in Guinea) generally a humane, sociable people, 2. Simplicity
of their way of living, 5. Agreeable in conversation, 16. Sensible of
the damage accruing to them from the slave-trade, 61. Misrepresented by
most authors, 98. Offended at the brutality of the European factors,
116. Shocking cruelties exercised on them by masters of vessels, 124.
How many are yearly brought from Guinea by the English, 129. The numbers
who die on the passage and in the seasoning, 120.

_Negroe_ slaves (in the colonies) allowed to cohabit and separate at
pleasure, 36. Great waste of them thro' hard usage in the islands, 86.
Melancholy case of two of them, 136. Proposals for setting them free,
129. Tried and condemned without the solemnity of a jury, 174.

_Negroes_ (free) discouragement they met with, 133.


_Portugueze_ carry on a great trade for slaves at Angola, 40. Make the
first incursions into Guinea, 44. From whence they carry off some of the
natives, _ibid._ Beginners of the slave-trade, 46. Erect the first fort
at D'Elmina, _ibid._


_Rome_ (the college of cardinals at) complain of the abuse offered to
the Negroes in selling them for slaves, 58.


_Senegal_ (river) account of, 7, 14.

Ship (account of one) blown up on the coast of Guinea with a number of
Negroes on board, 125.

Slave-trade, how carried on at the river Gambia, 111. And in other parts
of Guinea, 113. At Whidah, 115.

Slaves used with much more lenity in Algiers and in Turkey than in our
colonies, 70. Likewise in Guinea, 71. Slavery more tolerable amongst the
antient Pagans than in our colonies, 63. Declined, as christianity
prevailed, 65. Early laws in France for its abolishment, 66. If put an
end to, would make way for a very extensive trade through Africa, 143.
The danger of slavery taking place in England, 164.

_Sloane_ (Sir Hans) his account of the inhuman and extravagant
punishments inflicted on Negroes, 89.

_Smith (William)_ surveyor to the African company, his account of the
Ivory Coast, 20. Of the Gold Coast, 24.


VIRGINIA (laws), respecting Negro slaves, 172. _Virginia_ (address to
the assembly) setting forth the iniquity and danger of slavery, 189.


WALLACE (_George_) his testimony against slavery, 180.

_West Indies_, white people able to perform the necessary work there,

_Whidah_ (kingdom of) agreeable and fruitful, 27. Natives treat one
another with respect, 29.

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