February 17, 2013
An Unknown Free Black Author Describes Slavery In 1789
Yes—and it is said we are men, it is true; but that we are men addicted to more and worse vices than those of any other complexion; and such is the innate perverseness of our minds that nature seems to have marked us out for slavery.—Such is the apology perpetually made for our masters and the justification offered for that universal proscription under which we labor. But I supplicate our enemies to be, though for the first time, just in their proceedings toward us, and to establish the fact before they attempt to draw any conclusions from it. Nor let them imagine that this can be done by merely asserting that such is our universal character. It is the character, I grant, that our inhuman masters have agreed to give us and which they have so industriously and too successfully propagated in order to palliate their own guilt by blackening the helpless victims of it and to disguise their own cruelty under the semblance of justice. Let the natural depravity of our character be proved—not by appealing to declamatory in¬vectives and interest representations, but by showing that a greater proportion of crimes have been committed by the wronged slaves of the plantation than by the luxurious inhabitants of Europe, who are happily strangers to those aggravated provocations by which our passions are every day irritated and incensed. Show us that, of the multitude of Negroes who have within a few years transported themselves to this country, and who are abandoned to themselves; who are corrupted by example, prompted by penury, and instigated by the memory of their wrongs to the commission of crimes show us, I say (and the demonstration, if it be possible, cannot be difficult), that a greater proportion of these than of white men have fallen under the animadversions of justice and have been sacrificed to your laws. Though avarice may slander and insult our misery, and though poets heighten the horror of their fables by representing us as monsters of vice—that fact is that, if treated like other men, and admitted to a participation of their rights, we should differ from them in nothing, perhaps, but in our possessing stronger passions, nicer sensibility, and more enthusiastic virtue.
Before so harsh a decision was pronounced upon our nature, we might have expected—if sad experience had not taught us to expect nothing but injustice from our adversaries—that some pains would have been taken to ascertain what our nature is; and that we should have been considered as we are found in our native woods rend not as we now are—altered and perverted by an inhuman political institution. But instead of this, we are examined, not by philosophers, but by interested traders; not as nature formed us, but as man has depraved us—and from such an inquiry, prose¬cuted under such circumstances, the perverseness of our dispositions is said to be established. Cruel that you are! you make us slaves; you implant in our minds all the vices which are in some degree inseparable from that condition; and you then impiously impute to nature, and to God, the origin of those vices, to which you alone have given birth; and punish in us the crimes of which you are yourselves the authors.
More here. (Note: At leas t one daily post throughout February will be devoted to African American History Month)
Posted by Azra Raza at 06:43 AM | Permalink