The Project Gutenberg EBook of The History of the Rise, Progress and Accomplishment of the Abolition of the African Slave Trade by the British Parliament (1808), Vol. I, by Thomas Clarkson
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Title: The History of the Rise, Progress and Accomplishment of the Abolition of the African Slave Trade by the British Parliament (1808), Vol. I
Author: Thomas Clarkson
Release Date: May 25, 2004 [EBook #12428]
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THE HISTORY OF THE RISE, PROGRESS, AND ACCOMPLISHMENT OF THE ABOLITION OF THE AFRICAN SLAVE-TRADE BY THE BRITISH PARLIAMENT.
BY THOMAS CLARKSON, M.A.
IN TWO VOLUMES.
THE RIGHT HONOURABLE WILLIAM, LORD GRENVILLE, THE RIGHT HONOURABLE CHARLES, EARL GREY, (LATE VISCOUNT HOWICK), THE RIGHT HONOURABLE FRANCIS, EARL MOIRA, THE RIGHT HONOURABLE GEORGE JOHN, EARL SPENCER, THE RIGHT HONOURABLE HENRY RICHARD, LORD HOLLAND, THE RIGHT HONOURABLE THOMAS, LORD ERSKINE, THE RIGHT HONOURABLE EDWARD, LORD ELLENBOROUGH, THE RIGHT HONOURABLE LORD HENRY PETTY, THE RIGHT HONOURABLE, THOMAS GRENVILLE, NINE OUT OF TWELVE OF HIS MAJESTY'S LATE CABINET MINISTERS, TO WHOSE WISE AND VIRTUOUS ADMINISTRATION BELONGS THE UNPARALLELED AND ETERNAL GLORY OF THE ANNIHILATION (AS FAR AS THEIR POWER EXTENDED) OF ONE OF THE GREATEST SOURCES OF CRIMES AND SUFFERINGS, EVER RECORDED IN THE ANNALS OF MANKIND; AND TO THE MEMORIES OF THE RIGHT HONOURABLE WILLIAM PITT, AND OF THE RIGHT HONOURABLE CHARLES JAMES FOX, UNDER WHOSE FOSTERING INFLUENCE THE GREAT WORK WAS BEGUN AND PROMOTED, THIS HISTORY OF THE RISE, PROGRESS, AND ACCOMPLISHMENT OF THE ABOLITION OF THE SLAVE TRADE IS RESPECTFULLY AND GRATEFULLY INSCRIBED.
No subject more pleasing than that of the removal of evils—Evils have existed almost from the beginning of the world—but there is a power in our nature to counteract them—this power increased by Christianity—of the evils removed by Christianity one of the greatest is the Slave-trade—The joy we ought to feel on its abolition from a contemplation of the nature of it—and of the extent of it—and of the difficulty of subduing it—Usefulness also of the contemplation of this subject.
I scarcely know of any subject, the contemplation of which, is more pleasing than that of the correction or of the removal of any of the acknowledged evils of life; for while we rejoice to think that the sufferings of our fellow-creatures have been thus, in any instance, relieved, we must rejoice equally to think that our own moral condition must have been necessarily improved by the change.
That evils, both physical and moral, have existed long upon earth there can be no doubt. One of the sacred writers, to whom we more immediately appeal for the early history of mankind, informs us that the state of our first parents was a state of innocence and happiness; but that, soon after their creation, sin and misery entered into the world. The Poets in their fables, most of which, however extravagant they may seem, had their origin in truth, speak the same language. Some of these represent the first condition of man by the figure of the golden, and his subsequent degeneracy and subjection to suffering by that of the silver, and afterwards of the iron, age. Others tell us that the first female was made of clay; that she was called Pandora, because every necessary gift, qualification, or endowment, was given to her by the Gods, but that she received from Jupiter at the same time, a box, from which, when opened, a multitude of disorders sprung, and that these spread themselves immediately afterwards among all of the human race. Thus it appears, whatever authorities we consult, that those which may be termed the evils of life existed in the earliest times. And what does subsequent history, combined with our own experience, tell us, but that these have been continued, or that they have come down, in different degrees, through successive generations of men, in all the known countries of the universe, to the present day?
But though the inequality visible in the different conditions of life, and the passions interwoven into our nature, (both which have been allotted to us for wise purposes, and without which we could not easily afford a proof of the existence of that which is denominated virtue,) have a tendency to produce vice and wretchedness among us, yet we see in this our constitution what may operate partially as preventives and correctives of them. If there be a radical propensity in our nature to do that which is wrong, there is on the other hand a counteracting power within it, or an impulse, by means of the action of the Divine Spirit upon our minds, which urges us to do that which is right. If the voice of temptation, clothed in musical and seducing accents, charms us one way, the voice of holiness, speaking to us from within in a solemn and powerful manner, commands us another. Does one man obtain a victory over his corrupt affections? an immediate perception of pleasure, like the feeling of a reward divinely conferred upon him, is noticed.—Does another fall prostrate beneath their power? a painful feeling, and such as pronounces to him the sentence of reproof and punishment, is found to follow.—If one, by suffering his heart to become hardened, oppresses a fellow-creature, the tear of sympathy starts up in the eye of another, and the latter instantly feels a desire, involuntarily generated, of flying to his relief. Thus impulses, feelings, and dispositions have been implanted in our nature for the purpose of preventing and rectifying the evils of life. And as these have operated so as to stimulate some men to lessen them by the exercise of an amiable charity, so they have operated to stimulate others, in various other ways, to the same end. Hence the philosopher has left moral precepts behind him in favour of benevolence, and the legislator has endeavoured to prevent barbarous practices by the introduction of laws.
In consequence then of these impulses and feelings, by which the pure power in our nature is thus made to act as a check upon the evil part of it, and in consequence of the influence which philosophy and legislative wisdom have had in their respective provinces, there has been always, in all times and countries, a counteracting energy, which has opposed itself more or less to the crimes and miseries of mankind. But it seems to have been reserved for Christianity to increase this energy, and to give it the widest possible domain. It was reserved for her, under the same Divine Influence, to give the best views of the nature, and of the present and future condition of man; to afford the best moral precepts, to communicate the most benign stimulus to the heart, to produce the most blameless conduct, and thus to cut off many of the causes of wretchedness, and to heal it wherever it was found. At her command, wherever she has been duly acknowledged, many of the evils of life have already fled.