Some Thoughts on Slavery & Liberty by American Revolutionaries
The colonists are by the law of nature freeborn, as indeed all men are, white or black. No better reasons can be given for enslaving those of any color
than such as Baron Montesquieu has humorously given as the foundation of
that cruel slavery exercised over the poor Ethiopians, which threatens one
day to reduce both Europe and America to the ignorance and barbarity of
the darkest ages. Does it follow that 'tis right to enslave a man because he is
black? Will short curled hair like wool instead of Christian hair, as 'tis
called by those whose hearts are as hard as the nether millstone, help the
argument? Can any logical inference in favor of slavery be drawn from a
flat nose, a long or a short face? Nothing better can be said in favor of a
trade that is the most shocking violation of the law of nature, has a direct
tendency to diminish the idea of the inestimable value of liberty, and makes
every dealer in it a tyrant, from the director of an African company to the
petty chapman in needles and pins on the unhappy coast. It is a clear truth
that those who every day barter away other men's liberty will soon care
little for their own. To his cause must be imputed that ferocity, cruelty, and
brutal barbarity that has long marked the general character of the sugar
islanders. They can in general form no idea of government but that which in
person or by an overseer, the joint and several proper representative of a
creole and of the devil, is exercised over ten thousand of their fellow men,
born with the same right to freedom and the sweet enjoyments of liberty
and life as their unrelenting taskmasters, the overseers and planters.
--John Otis, "Of the Natural Rights of Colonists," 1764
Single acts of tyranny may be ascribed to the accidental opinion of the day; but a series of oppressions . . . too plain proof a deliberate systematical plan of reducing us to slavery. . . . Let no act be passed by any one legislature, which may infringe on the rights and liberties of another.
-- Thomas Jefferson, A Summary View of the Rights of British America, 1774.
He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating it's most
sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never
offended him, captivating and carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation hither. this
piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers, is the warfare of the
Christian king of Great Britain. [determined to keep open a market where
MEN should be bought and sold,] he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this
execrable commerce [determining to keep open a market where MEN
should be bought and sold]: and that this assemblage of horrors might want
no fact of distinguished die, he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he had deprived them, by murdering the people upon whom he also obtruded them: thus paying
off former crimes committed against the liberties of one people, with
crimes which he urges them to commit against the lives of another.
-- Thomas Jefferson, from the rough draft of the
Declaration of Independence, 1776.