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himself. I offer this fact as a striking proof that it is worse than a jest, it is an unpardonable delusion, to fancy that there ever has existed a doubt of the right of Parliament to give the colonies laws.
But I am told, that granting the right to be ours, we ought to shrink from the exercise of it when it would lead to an encroachment upon the sacred rights of property. I desire the House to mark the short and plain issue to which I am willing to bring this matter. I believe there is no man, either in or out of the profession to which I have the honour of belonging, and which, over all others, inculcates upon its children an habitual veneration for civil rights, less disposed than I am, lightly to value those rights, or rashly to inculcate a disregard of them. But that renowned profession has taught me another lesson also; it has imprinted on my mind the doctrine, which all men, the learned, and the unlearned, feel to be congenial with the human mind, and to gather strength with its growththat law, above and prior to all the laws of human law-givers, for it is the law of God that there are some things which cannot be holden in property, and above every thing else, that man can have no property in his fellow
creature. But I willingly avoid those heights of moral arguments, where, if we go in search of first principles, we see eternal fogs reign, and “ find no end in wandering mazes lost.” I had rather seek the humbler regions, and approach the level plain where all men see clear, where their judgments agree, and common feelings knit their hearts together; and standing on that general level, I ask, what is the right which one man claims over the person of another, as if he were a chattel, and one of the beasts which perish? Is this that kind of property which claims universal respect, and is clothed in the hearts of all with a sanctity which makes it inviolable? I resist the claim; I deny the title: as a Lawyer, I demur to the declaration of the right; as a man, I set up a law superior in point of antiquity, higher in point of authority than any which men have framed—the law of nature; and if you appeal from that, I set up the law of the Christian dispensation, which holds all men equal, and commands that you treat every man as a brother! Talk to me not of such monstrous pretensions being decreed by Acts of Parliament, and recognized by treaties ! Go back a quarter of a century to a kindred contest, when a long and painful struggle ended in an immortal triumph. The self same arguments were urged in defence of the Slave
Trade. Its vindication was rested upon the rights of property, as established by Laws and by Treaties; the right to trade in men was held to be as clear then, as the right to hold men in property is held to be clear now. For twenty-five years,
I am ashamed to repeat for twenty-five years, to the lasting disgrace of the Parliment, the African Slave traffic was thus defended; and that which it was then maintained every one had a right to do, is now denounced by our laws as piracy, and whoso doeth it shall be hanged as a felon.
There cannot be a more appalling picture presented to the reflecting mind, than that of a people decreasing in numbers. To him who can look beyond the abstract numbers, whose eye is not confined to the mere tables and returns of population, but ranges over the miseries of which such a diminution is the infallible symptom; it offers a view of all the forms of wretchedness, suffering in every shape, privations in unlimited measure—whatever is most contrary to the nature of human beings, most alien to their habits, most averse to their happiness and comfort—all beginning in slavery, the state most unnatural to man; consummated through various channels in his degradation, and
leading to one common end, the grave. Show me but the simple fact, that the people in any country are regularly decreasing, so as in half a century to be extinct; and I want no other evidence that their lot is that of the bitterest wretchedness; nor will any other facts convince me, that their general condition can be favourable or mild.
I cannot here withhold from the House the testimony of the protector of slaves, to the happiness of their condition.
" I cannot,” says that judicious officer, “ refrain from remarking on the contented appearance of the Negroes; and, from the opportunites of judging which I have, I think that generally they have every reason to be so.' I would not have this protector placed in the condition of the very happiest of this contented tribe, whose numbers are hourly lessening, and whose lives are spent in committing crime and in receiving punishments. No, not for a day would I punish his error in judgment, by condemning him to taste the comforts which he describes, as they are enjoyed by the very luckiest of those placed under his protection. But such testimony is not peculiar to this officer. Long before his protectorate commenced, before he even came
into this world of slavery and bliss, of bondage and contentment, the like opinion had been pronounced in favour of West Indian felicity.
I hold in my hand the evidence of Lord Rodney, who swore before the Privy Council that he never saw an instance of cruel treatment;that in all the islands, “and,” said his Lordship, “I know them all,” the Negroes were better off in cloathing, lodging, and food, than the poor at home, and were never in any case at all overworked. Admiral Barrington, rising in ardour of expression as he advanced in knowledge, declares that he has often wished himself in the condition of the slaves. Neither would I take the gallant admiral at his rash word, sanctioned though it be by an oath. I would not punish his temerity so severely as to consign him to a station, compared with which he would in four and twenty hours have become reconciled to the hardest fare on the most crazy bark that ever rocked on the most perilous wave; or even to the lot which our English seamen are the least inured to—the most disastrous combat that ever lowered his flag in discomfiture and disgrace. But these officers confined not their testimony to the condition of slavery; they cast its panoply around the Slave Trade itself. They were just as liberal in behalf of the Guinea