Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

orders. All pripces who are disposed to become tyrants must probably approve of this opinion, and be willing to establish it : but is it not a dangerous one? since, od that principle, if the tyrant commands his army to attack and destroy, not only an upoffending neighbour nation, but even his own

subjects, the army is bound to obey. A negro i slave, in our colonies, being commanded by his

master to rob or murder a veighbour, or do any

other immoral act, may refuse, and the magistrate but will protect him in his refusal. The slavery then

of a soldier is worse than that of a negro! A conscientious officer, if not restrained by the appre. hension of its being imputed to another cause, may indeed resign, rather than be employed in an

unjust war; but the private men are slaves for life;. this and they are perhaps incapable of judging for them

selves. We can only lament their fate : and still
more that of a sailor, who is often dragged by force
from his honest occupation, and compelled to im-
brue his hands in, perhaps, innocent blood. But
methinks it well behoves merchants (men more en-
lightened by their education, and perfectly free from
any such force or obligation), to consider well of
the justice of a war, before they voluntarily engage
a gang of ruffians to attack their fellow-merchants
of a neighbouring nation, to plunder them of their
property, and perhaps ruin them and their families,
if they yield it; or to wound, maim, or murder
them, if they endeavour to defend it. Yet these,
things are done by Christian merchants, whether a
war is just or unjust ; and it can hardly be just on

both sides. They are done by English and American 3 merchants, who, nevertheless, complain of private

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

theft, and hang by dozens the thieves they have taught by their own example.

It is high time, for the sake of humanity, that a stop were put to this enormįty. The United States of America, though better situated than any European nation to make profit by privateering (most of the trade of Europe with the West Indies passing before their doors) are, as far as in them lies, endeavouring to abolish the practice, by offering, in all their treaties with other powers, an article, en. gaging solemnly, that in case of future war, no privateer shall be commissioned on either side; and that unarmed merchant ships, on both sides, shall pursue their voyage unmolested. This will be a happy improvement of the law of nations. The hu. mane and the just cannot but wish general success to the proposition. With unchangeable esteem and affection, I am, my dear friend, ever yours,

B. FRANKLIN.

ON THE SLAVE TRADE. READING in the newspapers the speech of Mr. Jackson in congress, against meddling with the affair of slavery, or attempting to mend the condition of slaves, it put me in mind of a similar speech, made about one 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 show that men's interests operate, and are operated on, with surprising similarity, in all countries and climates, whenever they are under similar circunstances. The African speech, as translated, is as follows:

“ Alla Bismillah, &c. God is great, and Mahomet is his prophet. .“ Have these erika considered the consequences of granting their petition ? If we cease our craises against the Christians, how shall we be furnished with the commodities their countries produce, and which are so necessary for us? If we forbear to make slaves of their people, who, in this hot climate, are to cultivate our lands? Who are to per. form 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 ? We 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 plun. dering 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. Aud 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 they must there be subject to. They will vot embrace our holy religion; they will not adopt our manners : our people will not pollute themselves by intermarrying with them. Must we maintain them 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 countries ? 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 pleases, seized and confined in ships of war, condemned not only to work, but to fight for small wages, or a mere subsistence, pot better than our slaves are allowed by us. Is their condition then · made worse by their falling into our bands ? No: they have only exchanged one slavery for another; and I may say a better : for here they are brought into a land where the sun of Islamism gives forth its light, and shines in full splendour, and they have an opportunity of making themselves acquainted with the true doctrine, and thereby saving their immortal souls. Those who remain at home have not that bappiness. Sending the slaves home then would be sending them out of light into darkness.... i

“ 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 flourish as a free state. But they are, I doubt, too little disposed to 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 in 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 safety. They are not liable to be impressed 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 tease us with their silly petitions, have, in a fit of blind zeal, freed their slaves, it was not generosity, it was not hu. manity, that moved them to the action; it was from the conscious burtben 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) | Masters, treat your slaves with kindness

Slaves, serve your masters with cheerfulness and fidelity,' clear proots 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

« ZurückWeiter »