Thomas Paine – African Slavery in America (1775)

  • It’s more depressing than bizarre that some people would be willing to steal & enslave men by violence & murder for gain.
    • Many civilized & Christian people approve this savage practice is contrary to nature, principles of justice & humanity, as well as good policy.
  • Traders in men must know how wicked the slave trade is, especially if they pay attention to reasoning and their own hearts.
    • They have to shun, stifle & sacrifice their consciences & integrity to earn money off of slavery.
    • The managers of the trade claim that the many of these Africans come to the slave trade through their simplicity.
    • Nearly 100,000 Africans are enslaved yearly & 30,000 of those die in the first year of enslavement due to the shabby treatment. Never mind all those killed in unnatural wars that feed into the slave trade.
    • Many of the slaves aren’t even POWs. If they were, the moral complexion of the industry & use of the slaves would be totally different.
      • Some will claim that POWs are legally taken in the same way that we can use the law to execute people, deprive them of their property, etc.
        • But would it be fine to enslave men in this manner without them deserving it.
      • Those enslaving these people are in the same basket as robbers who steal people. They can’t claim ignorance because those enslaving & selling them know fully well what’s going on.
        • By their claim of justice, any man having his freedom stolen from him deserves to have it restored to him.
    • What’s most shocking is using Scriptures to justify this practice. They’ll claim that the practice was permitted to the Jews.
      • Using the Jewish example doesn’t work because they had to wage war with others to survive. If their situation resembled the current situation, it would be forbidden to them.
      • The Jews never had permission to catch & enslave people who had never injured them in the first place.
      • Since the Reformation, all distinctions of nations & privileges of one above all others has ceased. Christians are taught to treat all neighbors as themselves & man-stealing doesn’t seem like something people want to have happen to themselves.
    • Many will look at ancient history for examples of the modern slave trade. A lot of nations enslaved POWs. But we’re talking about enslaving people who are not POWs. There was no war, no provocation, no design of conquest. Just to catch inoffensive people is the height of inhumanity & injustice.
      • These people aren’t convicted of forfeiting freedom. They still have the right to it & any government interested in justice would set them free & punish those who punished them.
      • Think about what’s going on. They are selling husbands away from wives, children from parents, etc. This is a violation of sacred & natural ties. It opens the way to adultery, incest & terrible consequences.
        • It’s even more horrific that children born from slaves are automatically slaves. Even if the parents justly slaves, why should the child be born as a slave for life?
        • You may as well advocate for murder, robbery as for this practice. It contradicts conscience & humanity to do so.
  • I’m asking Americans to consider the following:
    • 1 – Let’s think of the consistency of thought of holding thousands of slaves while claiming that they are being enslaved by the British.
    • 2 – How just is our claim to freedom when we have done the complete opposite to these African slaves?
    • 3 – Should we not immediately discontinue it & renounce it with grief & abhorrence?
    • 4 – What should we do with those enslaved already?
      • To turn the old & sick free would not be just. They should be kept humanely.
      • But what should be done with those able to continue working?
        • Prudent men & legislators should perhaps give them land with possible rents. But families should be kept together.
        • We should give them civil protection & that would give them an interest in public welfare & assist in promoting it.
    • 5 – The past treatment of Africans must make them hate Christians. We must look like inhumane savages to them. Aren’t we bound by our duty to the Redeemer to repair the injuries done in his name? Christians in the early days worked really hard to spread the religion. We should make amends to give Christ’s cause a good name. It will win people over & purge our religion & society of this sin.

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