Yesterday we witnessed child labour in XIX Century England, but exploitation is still with us. I read recently that Garment Workers in England are still receiving no more than a fraction of the National Minimum Wage, legally established since 1999, and exploitation is rife elsewhere in the fashion industry world-wide. Here is John Wesley on slavery and justice. His first sentence sets out with great clarity why slavery is evil. Following on from that realisation, there should be action: give liberty to whom liberty is due … every child of man. The prayer that follows is also a homily that every one of us should reflect upon, for slavery, or near slavery, still exists in different forms and we all benefit from poor people’s suffering.
Liberty is the right of every human creature, as soon as he breathes the vital air; and no human law can deprive him of that right which he derives from the law of nature.
If, therefore, you have any regard to justice, (to say nothing of mercy, nor the revealed law of God,) render unto all their due. Give liberty to whom liberty is due, that is, to every child of man, to every partaker of human nature. Let none serve you but by his own act and deed, by his own voluntary choice. Away with all whips, all chains, all compulsion! Be gentle toward all men; and see that you invariably do unto every one as you would he should do unto you.
O thou God of love,
thou who art loving to every man, and whose mercy is over all thy works;
thou who art the Father of the spirits of all flesh, and who art rich in mercy unto all;
thou who hast mingled of one blood all the nations upon earth;
have compassion upon these outcasts of men, who are trodden down as dung upon the earth!
Arise, and help these that have no helper, whose blood is spilt upon the ground like water!
Are not these also the work of thine own hands, the purchase of thy Son's blood?
Stir them up to cry unto thee in the land of their captivity; and let their complaint come up before thee;
let it enter into thy ears!
Make even those that lead them away captive to pity them,
and turn their captivity as the rivers in the south.
O burst thou all their chains in sunder; more especially the chains of their sins!
Thou Saviour of all, make them free, that they may be free indeed!
In the years leading to the French Revolution of 1789 there were abolitionists striving to find a way to free the slaves in France’s American and Caribbean colonies and terminate the slave trade. Two such were Jacques Pierre Brissot and the Swiss pastor Benjamin Sigismond Frossard.
Before all that the two men met in Lyon, where Frossard was a pastor and member of academic societies. Brissot was edified by Frossard’s preaching, and at the Lord’s Supper was struck by the realisation that ‘it was indeed the meal and the sign of equality’.
Frossard himself referred to the liturgy as a bridge between slave and master where all people came to profess that they are equal.
Brissot was guillotined in 1793, as the revolution turned in upon itself, and Frossard returned to Switzerland. Although the National Assembly in Paris abolished slavery, Napoleon reinstated the practice, which had never gone away because the Assembly was unable to enforce its decrees across the Atlantic.
My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; and ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?
The source for this post is FROSSARD AND THE ABOLITION OF SLAVERY: A MORAL DILEMMA by Barbara Saunderson.
Slavery might have been legal but that did not make it just. From the first paragraphs of Thoughts upon Slavery.
Slavery imports* an obligation of perpetual service, an obligation which only the consent of the master can dissolve… It generally gives the master an arbitrary power of any correction, not affecting life or limb. Sometimes even these are exposed to his will, or protected only by a fine, or some slight punishment, too inconsiderable to restrain a master of a harsh temper. It creates an incapacity of acquiring anything, except for the master’s benefit. It allows the master to alienate+ the same, in the same manner as his cows and horses. Lastly, it descends in its full extent from parent to child, even to the last generation.
The beginning of this may be dated from the remotest period of which we have an account in history. It commenced in the barbarous state of society, and in process of time spread into all nations. It prevailed particularly among the Jews, the Greeks, the Romans, and the ancient Germans; and was transmitted by them to the various kingdoms and states which arose out of the Roman Empire. But after Christianity prevailed, it gradually fell into decline in almost all parts of Europe. This great change began in Spain, about the end of the eighth century; and was become general in most other kingdoms of Europe, before the middle of the fourteenth.
+ legally confiscate unto himself, so that the slave may own nothing.