12 September: Wesley upon slavery XII: several mistakes

Preston-next-Wingham

Wesley confronts a number of arguments used by slave masters to justify the practice. This field had recently been planted with cabbages by machine, but in the mid-eighteenth century the seed would have been sown, the rows kept clear of weeds, all by hand. Not all the poor in England were as well off as Gilbert White’s parishioners in Selbourne, living in hovels and working long days for the gentry who may well have stolen their land. But lie was infinitely harder for the exiled slaves.

  “Furnishing us with slaves is necessary for the trade, and wealth, and glory of our nation.” Here are several mistakes. For, First, wealth is not necessary to the glory of any nation; but wisdom, virtue, justice, mercy, generosity, public spirit, love of our country. These are necessary to the real glory of a nation; but abundance of wealth is not. But, Secondly, it is not clear that we should have either less money or trade, (only less of that detestable trade of man-stealing,) if there was not a Negro in all our islands, or in all English America. It is demonstrable, white men, inured to it by degrees, can work as well as them; and they would do it, were Negroes out of the way, and proper encouragement given them. However, Thirdly, I come back to the same point: Better no trade, than trade procured by villainy. It is far better to have no wealth, than to gain wealth at the expense of virtue. Better is honest poverty, than all the riches bought by the tears, and sweat, and blood, of our fellow-creatures.

 “However this be, it is necessary, when we have slaves, to use them with severity.” What, to whip them for every petty offence, till they are all in gore blood? to take that opportunity of rubbing pepper and salt into their raw flesh? to drop burning sealing-wax upon their skin? to castrate them? to cut off half their foot with an axe? to hang them on gibbets, that they may die by inches, with heat, and hunger, and thirst? to pin them down to the ground, and then burn them by degrees, from the feet to the head? to roast them alive? When did a Turk or a Heathen find it necessary to use a fellow-creature thus?

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