ePub 版

One, reflection more and I will end this long rambling letter. Almost all the parts of our bodies require some expense.

The feet demand shoes; the legs stockings; the rest of the body clothing: and the belly a good deal of victuals. Our eyes, though exceedingly useful, ask, when reasonable, only the cheap assistance of spectacles, which could not much impair our finances. But the eyes of other people are the eyes that ruin us. If all but diyself were blind, I should want neither fine clothes, fine houses, nor fine furniture.


READING in the newspapers the speech of Jir. Jackson in Congress, against meddling with the affair of slavery, or attempling to mend the condition of slaves, it put me in mind of a similar speech, made about an hundred years since, by Sidi Mehemet Ibrahim, a member of the Divan of Algiers, which may be seen in Martin's account of his consulship, 1687. It was against granting the Petition of the sect called Erika or Purists, who prayed for the abolition of piracy and slavery, as being unjust.--Mr. Jackson does not quote it; perhaps he has not seen it. If, therefore, some of its reasonings are to be found in his eloquent speech, it may only shew that men's interests operate, and are operated on, with surprising similarity, in all countries and climates, whenever they are under similar circumstances. The African speech, as translated, is as follows :

* Alla Bismillah, &c. God is great, and Mahomet is his prophet.

- Have these Erika considéred the consequences of granting their petition?

“If we cease our cruises against the Christians, how shall we be furnished with the commodities their countries produce, and which are so necessary for use? If we forbear to make slaves of their people, who, in this hot climate, are to cultivate our lands? Who are to perforin the common labours of our city, and of our families? Must we not then be our own slaves ? And is there not more compassion and more favour due to us Mussulmen, than to those Christian dogs ? -- \Ve have now above fifty thousand slaves in and near Algiers. This number, if not kept up by fresh supplies, will soon diminish, and be gradually annihilated. If, then, we cease taking and plundering the infidel ships, and making slaves of the seamen and passengers, our lands will become of no value, for want of cultivation ; the rents of houses in the city will sink one half; and the revenues of government, arising from the share of prizes, must be totally destroyed ?and for what? To gratify the whim of a whimsical sect, who would have us not only forbear making more slaves, but even manumit those we have. But who is to indemnify their masters for the loss? Will the state do it? Is our treasury sufficient? Will the Erika do it? Can they do it? Or would - they, to do what they think justice to the slaves, do a greater injustice to the owners? And if we set our slaves free, what is to be done with them? Few of them will return to their native countries ; they know too well the greater hardships tliey must there be subject to. They will not embrace our holy religion; they will not adopt our manners : our people will not pollute themselves by intermarrying with them. Must we maintain thena as beggars in our streets; or suffer our properties to be the prey of their pillage ? For men accustomed to slavery, will not work for a livelihood, when not compelled-And what is there so pitiable in their present condition ? Were they not slaves in their own coun


tries? Are not Spain, Portugal, France, and the Italian states governed by despots, who hold all their subjects in slavery, without exception ? Even England treats her sailors as slaves, for they are, whenever the government pleaseș, seized, and confined in ships of war, condemned not only to work, but to fight for small wages, or a mere subsistence, not better than our slaves are allowed by us. Is their condition then made worse by their falling into our hands ? No: they have only exchanged one slavery for another; and I may say a better ; for here they are brought into land where the sun of Islamism gives forth its light and shines in full splendor, and they have an opporļúnity of making themselves aequainted with the true doctrine, and thereby saving their inmortal souls Those who remain at home have not that happiness. Sending the slaves home, then, would be sending them out of light into darkness.

“I repeat the question, what is to be done with them? I have heard it suggested, that they may be planted in the wilderness, where there is plenty of land for them to subsist on, and where they may fourish as a free state. But they are, I doubt, too little disposed lo labour without compulsion, as well as too ignorant to establish good government: and the wild Arabs would soon molest and destroy, or again enslave them. While serving us, we take care to provide them with every thing; and they are treated with humanity. The labourers of their own countries, are, as I am informed, worse fed, lodged, and clothed.. The condition of most of them is therefore already mended, and requires no farther improvement. Here their lives are in safely. They are not liable to be im. pressed for soldiers, and forced to cut one another's Christian throats, as in the wars of their own countries. If some of the religious mad bigots who now teaze us with their silly petitions, have, in a fit of blind zeal, freed their slaves, it was not generosity, it was not humanity that moved them to the action; it was from the conscious burthen of a load of sins, and hope, from

the supposed merits of so good a work, to be excused from damnation. How grossly are they mistaken, in imagining slavery to be disavowed by the Alcoran? Are not the two precepts, to quote no more,

is Mas. ters, treat your slaves with kindness-Slaves, serve your masters with cheerfulness and fidelity," clear proofs to the contrary? Nor can the plundering of infidels be in that sacred book forbidden; since it is well known from it, that God has given the world, and all that it contains, to his faithful Mussulmen, who are to enjoy it, of right, as fast as they can conquer it. Let us then hear no more of this detestable propo. sition, the manumission of Christian slaves, the adoption of which would, by depreciating our lands and houses, and thereby depriving so many good citizens of their properties, create universal discontent, and provoke insurrections, to the endangering of government, and producing general confusion. I have, therefore, no doubt that this wise council will prefer the comfort and happiness of a whole nation of true believers, to the whim of a few Erika, and dismiss their petition.

The result was, as Martin tells us, that the Divan came to this resolution : " That the doctrine, that the “ plundering and enslaving the Christians is unjust, " is at best problematical ; but that it is the interest of " this state to continue the practice, is clear; there. , « fore, let the petition be rejected.”--And it was rejected accordingly.

And since like motives are apt to produce, in the minds of men, like opinions and resolutions, may we not venture to predict, from this account, that the petitions to the parliament of England for abolishing the slave-trade, to say nothing of other legislatures, and the debates upon them, will have a similar conclusion.

March 23, 1790



By the original law of nations, war and extirpation were the punishment of injury. Humanizing by degrees, it admitted slavery instead of death: a farther step was the exchange of prisoners instead of slavery ; another, to respect more the property of private persons under conquest, and be content with acquired dominion. Why should not this law of nations go improving? Ages have intervened between its several steps : but as knowledge of late increases rapidly, why should not those steps be quickened? Why should it not be agreed to, as the future law of nations, that in any war hereafter the following description of men should be undisturbed, have the protection of both sides, and be permitted to follow their employments in security ? viz.

1. Cultivators of the earth, because they labour for the subsistence of mankind.

2. Fishermen, for the same reason.

3. Merchants and traders in unarmed ships, who ACcommodate different nations by communicating and exchanging the necessaries and conveniences of life.

4. Artists and mechanics, inhabiting and working in open towns.

It is hardly necessary to add, that the hospitals of enemies should be unmolested-they ought to be as. sisted. It is for the interest of humanity in general, that the occasions of war, and the inducements to it, should be diminished. If rapine be abolished, one of the encouragements to war is taken away; and peace therefore more likely to continue and be lasting.

The practice of robbing merchants on the high seas a reninant of the ancient piracy--though it may be

« 上一頁繼續 »