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William Pitt, THE YOUNGER. 1759-1806. 352. FROM HIS SPEECH ON THE ABOLITION OF THE SLAVE-TRADE,
April 2, 1792. I have shown how great is the enormity of this evil, even on the supposition that we take only convicts and prisoners of war. But take the subject in the other way; take it on the grounds stated by• the right honorable gentlemen over the way, and how does it stand? Think of EIGHTY THOUSAND persons carried away out of their country by we know not what means! for crimes imputed! for light or inconsiderable faults ! for debt perhaps ! for the crime of witchcraft! or a thousand other weak and scandalous pretexts! besides all the fraud and kidnapping, the villanies and perfidy, by which the slave-trade is supplied. Reflect on these eighty thousand persons thus annually taken off! There is something in the horror of it that surpasses all the bounds of imagination. Admitting that there exists in Africa something like to courts of justice; yet what an office of humiliation and meanness it is in us, to take upon ourselves to carry into execution the partial, the cruel, iniquitous sentences of such courts, as if we also were strangers to all religion, and to the first principles of justice! But that country, it is said, has been in some degree civilized, and civilized by us. It is said they have gained some knowledge of the principles of justice. What, sir, have they gained principles of justice from us? Their civilization brought about by us! Yes, we give them enough of our intercourse to convey to them the means, and to initiate them in the study, of mutual destruction. We give them just enough of the forms of justice to enable them to add the pretext of legal trials to their other modes of perpetrating the most atrocious iniquity. We give them just enough of European improvements to enable them the more effectually to turn Africa into a ravaged wilderness. Some evidences say that the Africans are addicted to the practice of gambling; that they even sell their wives and children, and ultimately themselves. Are these, then, the legitimate sources of slavery? Shall we pretend that we can thus acquire an honest right to exact the labor of these people? Can we pretend that we have a right to carry away to distant regions men of whom we know nothing by, authentic inquiry, and of whom there is every reasonable presumption to think, that those who sell them to us have no right to do so? But the evil does not stop here. I feel that there is not time for me to make all the remarks which the subject deserves, and I refrain from attempting to enumerate half the dreadful consequences of this system. Do you think nothing of the ruin and the miseries in which so many other individuals, still remaining in Africa, are involved, in consequence of carrying off so many myriads of people? Do you think nothing of their families which are left behind? of the connections which are broken? of the friendships, attach
ments, and relationships that are burst asunder! Do you think nothing of the miseries in consequence, that are felt from generation to generation? of the privation of that happiness which might be communicated to them by the introduction of civilization, and of mental and moral improvement? A happiness which you withhold from them so long as you permit the slave-trade to continue. What do you know of the internal state of Africa? You have carried on a trade to that quarter of the globe from this civilized and enlightened country; but such a trade, that, instead of diffusing either knowledge or wealth, it has been the check to every laudable pursuit. Instead of any fair interchange of commodities; instead of conveying to them, from this highly favored land, any means of improvement; you carry with you that noxious plant by which everything is withered and blasted; under whose shade nothing that is useful or profitable to Africa will ever flourish or take root. Long as that continent has been known to navigators, the extreme line and boundaries of its coasts is all with which Europe is yet become acquainted; while other countries in the same parallel of latitude, through a happier system of intercourse, have reaped the blessings of a mutually beneficial commeree.
But as to the whole interior of that continent you are, by your own principles of commerce, as yet entirely shut out: Africa is known to you only in its skirts. Yet even there you are able to infuse a poison that spreads its contagious effects from one end of it to the other, which penetrates to its very centre, corrupting every part to which it reaches. You there subvert the whole order of nature; you aggravate every natural barbarity, and furnish to every man living on that continent motives for committing, under the naine and pretext of commerce, acts of perpetual violence and perfidy against his neighbor.
There was a time, sir, which it may be fit sometimes to revive in the remembrance of our countrymen, when even human sacrifices are said to have been offered in this island. But I would peculiarly observe on this day, for it is a case precisely in point, that the very practice of the slave-trade once prevailed among us, Slaves, as we may read in Henry's History of Great Britain, were formerly an established article of our export.
“Great numbers,” he says, ported like cattle, from the British coast, and were to be seen exposed for sale in the Roman market.” It does not distinctly appear by what means they were procured; but, there was unquestionably no small resemblance, in this particular point, between the case of our ancestors and that of the present wretched natives of Africa — for the historian tells you that “adultery, witchcraft, and debt were probably some of the chief sources of supplying the Roman market with British slaves that prisoners taken in war were added to the number — and that there might be among them some unfortunate gamesters, who, after having lost all their goods, at length staked themselves, their wives, and their children.” Every one of these sources of slavery has been stated, and almost precisely in the same terms, to be at this
hour a source of slavery in Africa. And these circumstances, sir, with a solitary instance or two of human sacrifices, furnish the alleged proofs, that Africa labors under a natural incapacity for civilization; that it is enthusiasm and fanaticism to think that she can ever enjoy the knowledge and the morals of Europe ; that Providence never intended her to rise above a state of barba sm; that Providence has irrevocably doomed her to be only a nursery for slaves for us free and civilized Europeans. Allow of this principle, as applied to Africa, and I should be glad to know why it might not also have been applied to ancient and uncivilized Britain. Why might not some Roman senator, reasoning on the principles of some honorable gentlemen, and pointing to British barbarians, have predicted with equal boldness, “ There is a people that will never rise to civilization - there is a people destined never to be free - a people without the understanding necessary for the attainment of useful arts; depressed by the hand of nature below the level of the human species; and created to form a supply of slaves for the rest of the world.” Might not this have been said, according to the principles which we now hear stated, in all respects as fairly and as truly of Britain herself, at that period of her history, as it can now be said by us of the inhabitants of Africa ?
We, sir, have long since emerged from barbarism - we have almost forgotten that we were once barbarians we are now raised to a situation which exhibits a striking contrast to every circumstance by which a Roman might have characterized us, and by which we now characterize Africa. There is indeed one thing wanting to complete the contrast, and to clear us altogether from the imputation of acting, even to this hour, as barbarians; for we continue to this hour a barbarous traffic in slaves; we continue it even yet in spite of all our great and undeniable pretensions to civilization. We were once as obscure among the nations of the earth, as savage in our manners, as debased in our morals, as degraded in our understanding, as these unhappy Africans are at present. But in the laspe of a long series of years, by a progression slow, and for a time almost imperceptible, we have become rich in a variety of acquirements, favored above measure in the gifts of Providence, unrivalled in commerce, preeminent in arts, foremost in the pursuits of philosophy and science, and established in all the blessings of civil society: we are in the possession of peace, of happiness, and of liberty; we are under the guidance of a mild and beneficent religion; and we are protected by impartial laws, and the purest administration of justice; we are living under a system of government, which our own happy experience leads us to pronounce the best and wisest which hås ever yet been framed; a system which has become the admiration of the world. From all these blessings we must forever have been shut out, had there been any truth in those principles which some gentlemen have not hesitated to lay down as applicable to the case of Africa. Had those principles been true, we ourselves had languished to this hour in that miserable state of ignorance, brutality, and degradation, in which history proves our ancestors to have been immersed. Had other nations adopted these principles in their conduct towards us; had other nations applied to Great Britain the reasoning which some of the senators of this very island now apply to Africa, ages might have passed without our emerging from barbarism; and we, who are enjoying the blessings of British civilization, of British laws, and British liberty, might at this hour have been little superior, either in morals, in knowledge, or refinement, to the rude inhabitants of the coast of Guinea.
If then we feel that this perpetual confinement in the fetters of brutal ignorance would have been the greatest calamity which could have befallen us; if we view with gratitude and exultation the contrast between the peculiar blessings we enjoy and the wretchedness of the ancient inhabitants of Britain; if we shudder to think of the misery which would still have overwhelmed us, had Great Britain continued to the present times to be the mart for slaves to the more civilized nations of the world, through some cruel policy of theirs, God forbid that we should any longer subject Africa to the same dreadful scourge, and preclude the light of knowledge, which has reached every other quarter of the globe, from having access to her coasts?
Charles JAMES Fox. 1749–1806. 353. FROM HI
SPEECH ON THE ADDRESS ON THE KING'S
SPEECH, Nov. 26, 1778. You have now two wars before you, of which you must choose one, for both you cannot support. The war against America has hitherto been carried on against her alone, unassisted by any ally; notwithstanding she stood alone, you have been obliged uniformly to increase your exertions, and to push your efforts in the end to the extent of your power, without being able to bring it to any favorable issue: you have exerted all your force hitherto without effect, and you cannot now divide a force found already inadequate to its object. My opinion is for withdrawing your forces from America entirely, for a defensive war you can never think of; a defensive war would ruin this nation at any time, and in any circumstances: an offensive war is pointed out as proper for this country; our situation points it out, and the spirit of the nation impels us to attack rather than defence: attack France, then, for she is your object. The nature of the war with her is quite different: the war against America is against your own countrymen — you have stopped me from saying against your fellow-subjects; that against France is against your inveterate enemy and rival. Every blow you strike in America is against yourselves; it is against
all ideas of reconciliation, and against your own interest, though you should be able, as you never will, to force them to submit. Every stroke against France is of advantage to you; the more you lower the scale in which France lays in the balance, the more your own rises, and the more the Americans will be detached from her as useless to them. Even your own victories over America are in favor of France, from what they must cost you in men and money; your victories over France will be felt by her ally. America must be conquered in France; France never can be conquered in America.
The war of the Americans is a war of passion; it is of such a nature as to be supported by the most powerful virtues — love of liberty and of country; and, at the same time, by those passions in the human heart, which give courage, strength, and perseverance to man
the spirit of revenge for the injuries you have done them; of retaliation for the hardships you have inflicted on them; and of opposition to the unjust powers you have exercised over them. Everything combines to animate them to this war, and such a war is without end; for, whatever obstinacy enthusiasm ever inspired man with, you will now find it in America; no matter what gives birth to that enthusiasm, whether the name of religion or of liberty, the effects are the same; it inspires a spirit that is unconquerable, and solicitous to undergo difficulty, danger, and hardship: and as long as there is a man in America, a being formed such as we are, you will have him present himself against you in the field.
The war of France is of another sort; the war of France is a war of interest: it was her interest first induced her to engage in it, and it is by that interest that she will measure its continuance. Turn your face at once against her; attack her wherever she is exposed, crush her commerce wherever you can, make her feel heavy and immediate distress throughout the nation: the people will soon cry out to their government. Whilst the advantages she promises herself are remote and uncertain, inflict present evils and distresses upon her subjects; the people will become discontented and clamorous : she will find the having entered into this business a bad bargain; and you will force her to desert an ally that brings so much trouble and distress, and the advantages of whose alliance may never take effect.
354. FROM HIS SPEECH ON THE OVERTURES OF PEACE FROM
THE FIRST CONSUL, Feb. 3, 1800. Now, sir, what was the conduct of your own allies to Poland ? Is there a single atrocity of the French, in Italy, in Switzerland, in Egypt, if you please, more unprincipled and inhuman than that of Russia, Austria, and Prussia, in Poland? What has there been in the conduct of the French to foreign powers; what in the violation of solemn treaties; what in the plunder, devastation, and dismemberment of unoffending countries; what in the horrors and murders per