Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub
[blocks in formation]

minority prevailing over the majority”' (ante, ii. 292), was not likely to wish that our plantations should be tyrannically governed. The man who, “in company with some very grave men at Oxford, gave as his toast, “Here's to the next insurrection of the negroes in the West Indies": (post, iii. 228), was not likely to condemn insurrections in general. The key to his feelings is found in his indignant cry, ‘How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes?' (16.) He hated slavery as perhaps no man of his time hated it. While the Quakers, who were almost the pioneers in the Anti-slavery cause, were still slaveholders and slave-dealers, he lifted up his voice against it. So early as 1740, when Washington was but a child of eight, he had maintained the natural right of the negroes to liberty and independence.' (Works, vi. 313.) In 1756 he described Jamaica as 'a place of great wealth and dreadful wickedness, a den of tyrants and a dungeon of slaves.' (16. vi. 130.) In 1759 he wrote - Of black men the numbers are too great who are now repining under English cruelty.' (Ib. iv. 407.) In the same year, in describing the cruelty of the Portuguese discoverers, he said : We are openly told that they had the less scruple concerning their treatment of the savage people, because they scarcely considered them as distinct from beasts; and indeed, the practice of all the European nations, and among others of the English barbarians that cultivate the southern islands of America, proves that this opinion, however absurd and foolish, however wicked and injurious, still continues to prevail. Interest and pride harden the heart, and it is in vain to dispute against avarice and power.' (Ib. v. 218.) No miserable sophistry could convince him, with his clear mind and his ardour for liberty, that slavery can be right. “An individual,' he wrote (post, iii. 230), 'may, indeed, forfeit his liberty by a crime; but he cannot by that crime forfeit the liberty of his children.' How deeply he felt for the wrongs done to helpless races is shown in his dread of discoverers. No man had a more eager curiosity, or more longed that the bounds of knowledge should be enlarged. Yet he wrote :- I do not much wish well to discoveries, for I am always afraid they will end in conquest and robbery.' (Croker's Boswell, p. 248.) In his Life of Savage, written in 1744, he said (Works, viii. 156) :-'Savage has not forgotten ... to censure those crimes which have been generally committed by the discoverers of new regions, and to expose the enormous wickedness of making war upon

barbarous

[blocks in formation]

barbarous nations because they cannot resist, and of invading countries because they are fruitful. ... He has asserted the natural equality of mankind, and endeavoured to suppress that pride which inclines men to imagine that right is the consequence of power.' He loved the University of Salamanca, because it gave it as its opinion that the conquest of America by the Spaniards was not lawful (ante, i. 527). When, in 1756, the English and French were at war in America, he said that such was the contest that no honest man could heartily wish success to either party.... It was only the quarrel of two robbers for the spoils of a passenger' (ante, i. 356, note 4). When, from political considerations, opposition was raised in 1766 to the scheme of translating the Bible into Erse, he wrote :—*To omit for a year, or for a day, the most efficacious method of advancing Christianity, in compliance with any purposes that terminate on this side of the grave, is a crime of which I know not that the world has yet had an example, except in the practice of the planters of America—a race of mortals whom, I suppose, no other man wishes to resemble' (ante, ii. 31). Englishmen, as a nation, had no right to reproach their fellow-subjects in America with being drivers of negroes; for England shared in the guilt and the gain of that infamous traffic. Nay, even as the Virginian delegates to Congress in 1774 complained :-'Our repeated attempts to exclude all further importations of slaves from Africa by prohibition, and by imposing duties which might amount to prohibition, have hitherto been defeated by his Majesty's negativethus preferring the immediate advantages of a few British corsairs to the lasting interests of the American States, and to the rights of human nature, deeply wounded by this infamous practice.' Bright's Speeches, ed. 1869, i. 171. Franklin (Memoirs, ed. 1818, iii. 17), writ

i ing from London in 1772, speaks of the hypocrisy of this country, which encourages such a detestable commerce by laws for promoting the Guinea trade; while it piqued itself on its virtue, love of liberty, and the equity of its courts in setting free a single negro.' From the slightest stain of this hypocrisy Johnson was free. He, at all events, had a right to protest against the yelps' of those who, while they solemnly asserted that among the unalienable rights of all men are liberty and the pursuit of happiness, yet themselves were drivers of negroes.

[blocks in formation]
« EdellinenJatka »