The very existence of slavery, as long as it is permitted, must be a heavy reproach to this country [England], and a discredit to the age which can tolerate it. Whatever a Machiavellian in politics or commerce may urge to the contrary, slavery and the slave-trade ought to be abolished, because they are inconsistent with the will of God.
Death is natural to a man, but slavery unnatural; and the moment you strip a man of his liberty you strip him of all his virtues: you convert his heart into a dark hole, in which all the vices conspire against you.
No matter with what solemnities he may have been devoted upon the altar of slavery, the moment he touches the sacred soil of Britain, the altar and the god sink together in the dust, and he stands redeemed, regenerated, and disenthralled, by the irresistible genius of universal emancipation.
The unavoidable tendency of slavery everywhere is to render labour disreputable: a result superlatively wicked, since it inverts the natural order, and destroys the harmony of society. Black slavery is rife in Brazil, and Brazilians shrink with something allied to horror from manual employment. In the spirit of privileged classes of other lands, they say they are not born to labour, but to command. Ask a respectable native youth of a family in low circumstances why he does not learn a trade and earn an independent living, ten to one but he will tremble with indignation, and inquire if you mean to insult him! Work! work! screamed one; we have blacks to do that. Yes, hundreds and hundreds of families have one or two slaves, on whose earnings alone they live.
What can the utmost humanity of the master do for the slave? He may feed him well, clothe him well, work him moderately; but, my lords, nothing that the master can do for his slave, short of manumission, can reinstate him in the condition of man. But the Negro Slave in the West Indies!my lords, you may pamper him every day with the choicest viandsyou may lay him to repose at night on beds of rosesbut, with all this, he is not in the condition of man; he is nothing better than a well-kept horse. This is my notion of slavery.
Bishop Samuel Horsley: Speech in the House of Lords.
A man, not having the power of his own life, cannot by compact, or his own consent, enslave himself to any one, nor put himself under the absolute arbitrary power of another, to take away life when he pleases.
The effect of slavery is completely to dissolve the connection which naturally exists between the higher and lower classes of free citizens. The rich spend their wealth in purchasing and maintaining slaves. There is no demand for the labour of the poor; the fable of Menenius ceases to be applicable; the belly communicates no nutriment to the members: there is an atrophy in the body politic. The two parties, therefore, proceed to extremities utterly unknown in countries where they have mutually need of each other. In Rome the oligarchy was too powerful to be subverted by force; and neither the tribunes nor the popular assemblies, though constitutionally omnipotent, could maintain a successful contest against men who possessed the whole property of the state. Hence the necessity for measures tending to unsettle the whole frame of society and to take away every motive of industry; the abolition of debts, and the agrarian laws,propositions absurdly condemned by men who do not consider the circumstances from which they sprung. They were the desperate remedies of a desperate disease. In Greece the oligarchical interest was not in general so deeply looted as in Rome. The multitude, therefore, often redressed by force grievances which, at Rome, were commonly attacked under the forms of the constitution. They drove out or massacred the rich, and divided their property. If the superior union or military skill of the rich rendered them victorious, they took measures equally violent, disarmed all in whom they could not confute, often slaughtered great numbers, and occasionally expelled the whole commonalty from the city, and remained, with their slaves, the sole inhabitants.
Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay: Mitfords Greece, Nov. 1824.
I affirm, then, that there exists in the United States a slave-trade, not less odious or demoralizing, nay, I do in my conscience believe, more odious and more demoralizing, than that which is carried on between Africa and Brazil. North Carolina and Virginia are to Louisiana and Alabama what Congo is to Rio Janeiro. The slave States of the Union are divided into two classes, the breeding States, where the human beasts of burden increase and multiply and become strong for labour, and the sugar and cotton States, to which those beasts of burden are sent to be worked to death. To what an extent the traffic in man is carried on we may learn by comparing the census of 1830 with the census of 1840. North Carolina and Virginia are, as I have said, great breeding States. During the ten years from 1830 to 1840 the slave population of North Carolina was almost stationary. The slave population of Virginia positively decreased. Yet both in North Carolina and Virginia propagation was during these ten years going on fast. What then became of the surplus? Look to the returns from the Southern States, from the States whose produce the right honourable Baronet proposes to admit with reduced duty or with no duty at all; and you will see. You will find that the increase in the breeding States was barely sufficient to meet the demand of the consuming States. In Louisiana, for example, where we know that the negro population is worn down by cruel toil, and would not if left to itself keep up its numbers, there were in 1830 one hundred and seven thousand slaves; in 1840 one hundred and seventy thousand. In Alabama the slave population during these ten years much more than doubled; it rose from one hundred and seventeen thousand to two hundred and fifty-three thousand. In Mississippi it actually tripled: it rose from sixty-five thousand to one hundred and ninety-five thousand. So much for the extent of this slave-trade.
And as to its nature, ask any Englishman who has ever travelled in the Southern States. Jobbers go about from plantation to plantation looking out for proprietors who are not easy in their circumstances, and who are likely to sell cheap. A black boy is picked up here; a black girl there. The dearest ties of nature and of marriage are torn asunder as rudely as they were ever torn asunder by any slave captain on the coast of Guinea. A gang of three or four hundred negroes is made up; and then these wretches, handcuffed, fettered, guarded by armed men, are driven southward, as you would driveor rather as you would not drivea herd of oxen to Smithfield, that they may undergo the deadly labour of the sugar-mill near the mouth of the Mississippi. A very few years of that labour in that climate suffice to send the stoutest African to his grave. But he can well be spared. While he is fast sinking into premature old age, negro boys in Virginia are growing up as fast into vigorous manhood to supply the void which cruelty is making in Louisiana. God forbid that I should extenuate the horrors of the slave-trade in any form! But I do think this its worst form. Bad enough is it that civilized men should sail to an uncivilized quarter of the world where slavery exists, should there buy wretched barbarians, and should carry them away to labour in a distant land: bad enough! But that a civilized man, a baptized man, a man proud of being a citizen of a free State, a man frequenting a Christian church, should breed slaves for exportation, and should see children gambolling around him from infancy, should watch their growth, should become familiar with their faces, and should then sell them for four or five hundred dollars a head, and send them to lead in a remote country a life which is a lingering death, a life about which the best thing that can be said is that it is sure to be short,this does, I own, excite a horror exceeding even the horror excited by that slave-trade which is the curse of the African coast. And mark: I am not speaking of any rare case, of any instance of eccentric depravity. I am speaking of a trade as regular as the trade in pigs between Dublin and Liverpool, or as the trade in coals between the Tyne and the Thames.
Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay: Speech in the House of Commons, Feb. 26, 1845, on the Sugar Duties.
The essence of slavery, the circumstance which makes slavery the worst of all social evils, is not in our opinion this, that the master has a legal right to certain services from the slave, but this, that the master has a legal right to enforce the performance of those services without having recourse to the tribunals. He is a judge in his own cause. He is armed with the powers of a magistrate for the protection of his own private interest against the person who owes him service. Every other judge quits the bench as soon as his own cause is called on. The judicial authority of the master begins and ends with cases in which he has a direct stake. The moment that a master is really deprived of this authority, the moment that his right to service really becomes, like his right to money which he has lent, a mere civil right, which he can enforce only by a civil action, the peculiarly odious and malignant evils of slavery disappear at once.
Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay: Introd. Report upon the Indian Penal Code: Macaulays Works Complete, Edited by his Sister, Lady Trevelyan, 1866, 8 vols. 8vo, vii. 460.
How great a part the Roman Catholic ecclesiastics subsequently had in the abolition of villenage we learn from the unexceptionable testimony of Sir Thomas Smith, one of the ablest Protestant counsellors of Elizabeth. When the dying slaveholder asked for the last sacraments, his spiritual attendants regularly adjured him, as he loved his soul, to emancipate his brethren for whom Christ had died. So successfully had the Church used her formidable machinery that, before the Reformation came, she had enfranchised almost all the bondmen in the kingdom except her own, who, to do her justice, seem to have been very tenderly treated.
Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay: History of England, vol. i. ch. i.
The genie had at first vowed that he would confer wonderful gifts on any one who should release him from the casket in which he was imprisoned; and during a second period he had vowed a still more splendid reward. But being still disappointed, he next vowed to grant no other favour to his liberator than to choose what death he should suffer. Even thus, a people who have been enslaved and oppressed for some years are most grateful to their liberators; but those who are set free after very long slavery are not unlikely to tear their liberators to pieces.
No man can make another man to be his slave unless he hath first enslaved himself to life and death, to pleasure or pain, to hope or fear: command those passions, and you are freer than the Parthian king.