#412: William Wilberforce and Slavery
Wilberforce Samuel Sir John Eliot. Leo Tolstoy. Real Christianity William Wilberforce 4. William Wilberforce William Wilberforce 3. William Wilberforce 5.
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The Speech of William Wilberforce, Esq. Vindiciae Britannicae. Christianity Interested in the Dismissal of Ministers. Ramsay 5. The Correspondence of William Wilberforce.
Volume 1 of 2 William Wilberforce 4. The duty and safety of an immediate emancipation William Wilberforce 3. A practical view of the prevailing religious system of professed Christians, in the higher and middle classes in this country, contrasted with real Christianity William Wilberforce 0. A practical view of the prevailing religious system of professed Christians, in the higher and middle classes in this country, contrasted with real Christianity.
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Complete ed William Wilberforce 0. A practical view of the prevailing religious system of professed Christians, in the higher and middle classes in this country; contrasted with real Christianity.
With a memoir, by T. Price William Wilberforce 0.
A Letter to William Wilberforce, Esq. A Practical View William Wilberforce 0. Might we not have hoped, that the slaves of this Protestant and free nation, might have had some compensation made to them, for the evils of their temporal bondage, by a prospect being opened to them of a happier world hereafter, a world of light and liberty?
by Stephanie Byrd
It is however, most of all astonishing, that our opponents attempt to vindicate the slave trade on grounds of religion also. The only argument which they urge with, the slightest color of reason is that slavery was allowed under the Jewish dispensation. The Jews were exalted by the express designation of heaven to a state of eminence above the strangers who sojourned among them, and the heathen who dwelt around them, from either of whom, as a mark of their own dominion, God, who has a right to assign to all his creatures their several places in the scale of being, allowed them to take bondmen and bondwomen, treating them, however, with kindness, remembering their own feelings when they were slaves in Egypt, and admitting them to the chief national privileges, to the circumcision, to the passover, and other solemn feasts, and thus instructing them in the true religion.
Besides this, the slaves were to be set free at the year of Jubilee, or every fiftieth year, a command which was alone sufficient to prevent their accumulating in any great number. But they who thus urge on us the Divine toleration of slavery under the Jewish Theocracy, should remember that the Jews themselves were expressly commanded not to retain any of their own nation, any of their brethren in slavery, except as a punishment, or by their own consent; and even these were to be set free on the return of the sabbatical, or the seventh year.
Inasmuch therefore, as we are repeatedly and expressly told that Christ has done away all distinctions of nations, and made all mankind one great family, all our fellow creatures are now our brethren; and therefore the very principles and spirit of the Jewish law itself would forbid our keeping the Africans, any more than our own fellow subjects, in a state of slavery.
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But even supposing, contrary to the fact, that our opponents had succeeded in proving that the slave trade was not contrary to the Jewish law, this would only prove that they would be entitled to carry it on if they were Jews, and could, like the Jews, produce satisfactory proof that they were the chosen people of God. But really it would be consuming your time to no purpose, to enter into a formal proof, that fraud, rapine, and cruelty, are contrary to that religion, which commands us to love our neighbor as ourselves, and to do to others as we would have them do to us.
I cannot persuade myself that our opponents are serious in using this argument, and therefore I will proceed no farther with this discussion. Besides, even granting that it were possible for any of them to be seriously convinced that Christianity does not prohibit the slave trade, I should still have no great encouragement to proceed, for, it may be prejudice, but I cannot persuade myself that they are so much under the practical influence of religion, that if we should convince their understandings, we should alter their conduct.
But let us endeavor to make the case our own, and to consider what it would be to live in a country subject to such continual depredations by night, and such treachery by day. These evils affect the whole condition of society; they poison the happiness of every family, nay, it may almost be said of every individual in the community. All the nameless but sweet enjoyments comprised within the idea of home, to all of which security is necessary, are at once destroyed; and Parke assures us that no people taste these pleasures with a higher relish than the Negroes.
Consider the intensity of the sufferings which the slave trade occasions in Africa, and the number of the sufferers; remember throughout what an immense extent these evils prevail, and the time they have continued. To this vast mass of African misery, add up all the various evils of the middle passage.
See there the husband and father, wife and mother, who have been torn from the dearest objects of their affections, and are now carried away, they know not whither, in their floating prison. Take in, their never having been before at sea, their confinement, their posture, with all the other distressing particulars of their situation; is not too much to say that you see them enduring exquisite bodily suffering. But, much more, consider the sorrows of the mind; see them dying of a broken heart, from, the loss of their friends and country, from their remembrance of the past, and their prospect for the future.
In this state forced to bear the coarse brutality of the sailors, and urged by stripes, with a stomach loathing food, to eat; and with limbs galled with fetters, to dance; while their hearts are wrung with agony.
Consider then that in every individual slave ship there are most likely multitudes of these wretched beings; many of them men, as Mr. Parke tells us, of some education; some of them men of considerable rank in their own country: but the whole cargo, as it is hatefully termed, consists of husbands and wives, of parents and children—all had a home—all had relatives. But to the sufferings of the wretched slaves themselves, we must add those of the sailors also, who are too often treated with extreme barbarity.
Of the latter, there are not a few who, though their lives are spared, lose their health, their sight, or the use of their limbs, not merely from the unwholesome nature of the climate of Africa, but from various peculiarities attendant on the slave trade. Nor ought we to omit the moral injury which our country sustains from the number of persons who are rendered ferocious and unfeeling by the hardening nature of their constant occupation. It would be difficult to add up the different items, much less to discover the precise sum of the misery which may fairly be placed to the account of the slave trade in the West Indies.
Here, however, let me first remark, and it ought to have been observed in the case of Africa likewise, the slave trade is justly chargeable with the prevention of all that domestic happiness and social comfort and prosperity which would follow from the introduction of the domestic system which it naturally supersedes.
There is still, however, another class of evils on which I have occasionally touched, which will appear of the highest amount to all considerate men, to whom the bed interests of their country are dear, and who have been accustomed to trace the operation of those causes which have led to the decline and fall of nations. These are the moral evils both of the slave trade, and even, still more, because of greater extent, of the system of West Indian slavery.