11 September: Wesley on slavery XI: ‘an absolute necessity’.

Wesley comes to an argument that might well be used today: that the capitalist – or the communist – system requires there to be poor workers who produce the food, the garments, the devices that we need or desire, and that’ the way things are, sad though it might be. If we paid these workers properly, the goods would cost more, the middlemen would rake off less profit.

Fifty years ago,* one meeting an eminent Statesman in the lobby of the House of Commons, said, “You have been long talking about justice and equity. Pray which is this bill; equity or justice?” He answered very short and plain, “D–n justice; it is necessity.” Here also the slave-holder fixes his foot; here he rests the strength of his cause. “If it is not quite right, yet it must be so; there is an absolute necessity for it. It is necessary we should procure slaves; and when we have procured them, it is necessary to use them with severity, considering their stupidity, stubbornness, and wickedness.”

   I answer, You stumble at the threshold; I deny that villainy is ever necessary. It is impossible that it should ever be necessary for any reasonable creature to violate all the laws of justice, mercy, and truth. No circumstances can make it necessary for a man to burst in sunder all the ties of humanity. It can never be necessary for a rational being to sink himself below a brute. A man can be under no necessity of degrading himself into a wolf. The absurdity of the supposition is so glaring, that one would wonder any one can help seeing it.

  • This was published in 1774, so around 1724.

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