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at least take to give us credial Chamber of
Him for our own enjoyments, by endeavouring to augment the happiness of others.
But let the Commercial Chamber of Nantes acknowledge, if they will not give us credit for these benevolent motives, that we at least take shame to ourselves, when we confess the guilt and cruelty of practices, of which we ourselves had by far the greatest share. We are the rather bound to endeavour to prevail on other nations to abstain from this inhuman traffic, because we cannot but be conscious, that we may have drawn others into it by our example; and therefore, that no small portion of the miseries of Africa may be justly chargeable on us. But, farther, were we to satisfy ourselves by merely withdrawing from the trade ourselves, surely there might be reason to fear, that other nations would occupy the void which should be caused by our retiring ; and thus, though we might have wiped away the bloody stain from the character of our own nation, Africa might profit nothing from the change, We were compelled, therefore, by the most sacred obligations of duty, to stand forward, and proclaim to the world the wickedness and cruelty of our former conduct; that, as we had been foremost in the crime, we might be most active and exemplary in our repentance. Animated by these generous and humane motives, we looked around for coadjutors. In whom was it so natural for us to hope to find them, as in your countrymen? Nor am I discouraged by the rejection of our proposal and the misconstruction of our motives, by the merchants of Nantes; the case was the same among ourselves. It is natural, that the old prejudices and errors should linger longest in the place where the Slave Trade had been carried on most extensively ; that they, whose friends and connexions had been concerned in the traffic, should cling to old opinions, and refuse to admit unpleasant truths. But, surely, we may expect better things from the higher classes of your countrymen. They stand on a higher level : their views extend farther and take a wider range. It is their office, therefore, and I trust they will fulfil its duties, to point the way to truth and wisdom; and it is theirs to provide against the evils which an obstinate adherence to ancient principles would infallibly produce; it is theirs to prevent the wealth of their country, that seed corn, which, sown in a proper soil, would bring forth an abundant harvest, from being consumed in speculations of injustice and cruelty, from which it would soon be driven by the execration of mankind. Encourage, rather, its employment in a legitimate commerce, in which every step that is taken, even in Africa itself, will open your way to new fields of enterprise, of boundless extent and inestimable produce. Your people not being yet informed concerning the nature of the Slave Trade, it might appear to you
expedient to treat the public mind gently, and propose its termi. nation after five years, rather than its immediate abolition, But I cannot doubt, that, thoroughly conversant as you are with the principles of commerce, you will see the inexpediency of suffering your merchants merely to enter into a traffic, which, in five years, you mean to abandon. If, indeed, I could suppose it possible that it could be intended to suffer the French Slave Trade to be carried on for five years, altogether without restriction, I should indeed shudder at the frightful consequences, which would probably follow, both in Africa and in the Western Hemisphere.
The very permission, combined with the condemnation which has been expressed of the trade, on moral grounds, would be equivalent to an acknowledgment, that prodigious profits were to be derived from it. For surely the merchants might reasonably infer, that, at the very moment when you had pronounced the trade unjust and inhuman, you would not have sanctioned it, even for five years, for any inconsiderable gain. Dreadful, indeed, might be the consequences. The eagerness of your traders, thus excited, and stimulated by the consciousness that they must make the most of the time allowed them, would draw your capital from other and better lines of commerce, to pour it into the African channel: Your ships and sailors, drawn from more salubrious climates, would press into this most pestilential of all voyages. The cruel avidity of the slave takers, in all their varied forms of fraud and violence, would be roused to tenfold exertions, and would increase in the same proportion the devastation and miseries of Africa. The eagerness of the planters to buy slaves, while they yet should be to be purchased, would produce vast importations of them into your colonies. And all this-that, at the end of five years, your planters, your merchants, your ship-owners,' your manufacturers, your artizans, (not a single individual of whom would suffer from the abolition of the Slave Trade, if it were now to take place,) might at the end of five years sustain a sudden reversion, a violent innovation, the suddenness of such commercial changes being that alone which has ever been deemed at all injurious.
But what must be expected to be the consequences in your West Indian empire? Remember the consequences which five years' increased importation of Slaves previously to 1789, combined, I grant, with other circumstances, produced in St. Domingo.' There behold an open volcano, with the lava scarcely cool which
"See Barre St. Venant's Colonies Modernes. The importation in 1789 and 1790 was 60,000. Arnould (Balance de Commerce) gives the importation of 1786, 1787, and 1788, at 30,000 each, making the importation of these fire years 150,000.
it so lately poured forth! Do not you hear the inward thundere ings of the mountain ? Do you not see the ascending smoke that issues from the crater? Do they not warn you against beginning again to increase so rapidly the importations into your remaining islands, lest in them also the same fatal consequences should follow? When your mansion is already hot with the fire that rages in a dwelling so near you, is it a time to be annually bringing in, though but for five years, fresh ship loads of combustibles ? Surely your sounder policy would be to use the precious interval, that is yet afforded you, in laying the foundations of those changes, which might gradually improve the condition of the slave population in your West Indian islands from its present state, to the condition of a comfortable and happy peasantry. Thus you would render them the means of your security, instead of being, as they now are, the sources of your weakness, and the object of your alarm. Nothing so obstructs the introduction of those beneficial changes as the continual influx of new Negroes recently torn from their native land, burning with indignation and longing for revenge, fresh from the horrors of a slave ship and the abominable indignities of a negro sale;' in short, under the full impression of all their insufferable wrongs. And can you hope to make any amicable settlement with the St. Domingo Negroes, when you are thus proving to them that you regard the negro race as out of the pale of humane feeling or even of moral obligation ? Must you not be inspiring them with an invincible longing to fly to the assistance of their countrymen, to enable them to burst their bonds ? Whereas your exhibiting a decisive proof, that you were at length become sensible of the wrongs of Africa, and willing to redress them, might open a way to an amicable settlement with the immense island of St. Domingo, and a connexion with her improved population, far more profitable to France than any which can be expected under the old system of management.
Forgive me, Prince, for asking the question-If it be not unworthy of statesmen and of patriots to catch at the breath of present popularity by humoring the prejudices and errors of the day, instead of calling your misguided people from the paths of error, into the ways no less of sound policy than of justice and humanity ? Surely, if the people of France, from ignorance, do now wish to enter into the Slave Trade, yet, when once they shall have become acquainted with its real character, they will acknowledge no obligation to their rulers for having complied with that wish. When, hereafter, they shall have seen its enormities; when they
See Pinkard's Notes on the West Indies, vol. iii. pp. 353-358.
shall have discovered its impolicy, “We had been misled,” they will hereafter say, “ into believing, that the Africans were incurably stupid, indolent, and savage, inferior, both in intellectual and moral qualities, to the rest of mankind : that Africa, in short, afforded no openings for a commercial connexion with more civilized nations ; but, to our astonishment, we now learn, that, in all these particulars, the very contrary is the truth, more especially as to the Africans of the interior. We learn this from the publications of the Slave Traders themselves,' before the fear of abolition had led them to calumniate the Africans. Still more, we learn it from the recent reports of the very travellers, who, to their shame, had been seduced into a sort of half defending of the Slave Tradefrom Park and Golberry. We find, that, except so far as the social intercourse of the Africans was poisoned, and their manners and habits corrupted by the Slave Trade, they are eminently gentle, well disposed, and industrious. Their country abounds in native products and valuable minerals, especially in gold. With these articles for barter, the populous districts and large cities of the interior of Africa would create a new and immense demand for the products of our soil and the fruits of our industry. We were ignorant of all these commercial advantages that were offered to us on the one hand, as, on the other, we were strangers also to those enormities of the Slave Trade, which are now laid open to our view. But could you, to whom all these things were known, could you pay so poor a compliment either to our understandings or our hearts; could you so little provide for our interests or our honor, as to humor our ignorance and our prejudices, instead of endeavouring to enlighten the one and remove the other? And when, from the higher elevation which you occupied, your prospect was not darkened by the clouds which obstructed our view, and when a way into the interior of Africa was opened to your eyes ; a way broad and safe, though too long untrodden, for the entrance of an innocent and honorable commerce; how could you rather, in compliance with the mercenary avidity of a few misguided individuals, re-open those base and bloody paths, the reproach of civilized and Christian Europe ? How could you endeavour to build up again that barrier which the Slave Trade had erected against the entrance into Africa of light and knowledge, when some breaches had already been made in it, and you were called on to join in razing it to the ground ?”
Such, Prince, I cannot doubt, will be the feelings, such the language of your people, in a few short years; whatever, from a misconception of facts, may be their present sentiments and views.
* See a few short extracts in the Appendix.
Recognise, then, and occupy your true station. Take, then, that lead in this generous and politic enterprise, which becomes the character of an enlightened and liberal people. Act in a manner worthy of the antiquity and greatness of your Empire. If you conceive that the disinterestedness and liberality of your motives, and your being free from all external influence, will appear more clear by your not mixing any stipulations concerning the Slave Trade with the general negociation, take your measures separately. But let us not be disappointed in the hopes we had formed, that your influence would be used with the other European Nations. Be, rather, the continental head of the brotherhood of Justice and Beneficence. It was formerly customary for princes to celebrate the birth of a son, or any other acceptable event, by some act of mercy or munificence. So let the æra of the restoration of your Sovereign to the throne of his ancestors be marked, in the page of history, as the æra, also, at which Africa was delivered from her tormentors, and her much injured population were restored to the enjoyment of their just claim to the rights and privileges of the human species.