Greatest Emancipations: Quote List

Greatest Emancipations: How the West Abolished Slavery by Jim Powell

The following is a list of quotes I found worth keeping, sharing, processing, writing about, or in general just enjoy.  As is typical, I will attempt to write about these quotes.  Either how they personally effected me, or just a couple interesting observations on it.


Introduction – Page 3
Even the most respectable British citizens owned slaves. For example, the Church of England (through its Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts) owned Codrington, a 710-acre sugar plantation on Barbodos that had about 270 slaves. Since about a third of the slaves died within three years because of harsh treatment and tropical diseases, the plantation had to keep buying more. To discourage slaves from running away, the plantation used hot branding irons to mark their chests. None of this appeared to bother church officials, not even the archbishop of Canterbury who was on the governing board responsible for the plantations.

Ch1, Could Slavery be abolished? – Pg 105
During the Renaissance, many Europeans either defended slavery or were silent on the subject. Neither Desiderius Erasmus nor Niccolo Machiavelli seems to have written anything about it. Thomas More described his vision of an ideal world in Utopia (1516), with slavery “a suitable station” for those captured in a war. Martin Luther believed slavery was essential for the survival of civilization.

Ch2, Ideas that Inspired the Abolitionists – Pg 23-24
When Western legal systems, like legal systems elsewhere, protected slavery, it wasn’t possible to make a legal argument against it. Defenders of slavery had kings, constitutions, statues and court cases on their side.
Similarly, it was difficult to make a religious argument against slavery when major organized religions were for it. The Bible has many passages acknowledging or supporting slavery. The Catholic church accepted slavery. Neither Martin Luther nor John Calvin, who both led the Protestant Reformation, rejected slavery. The American Great Awakening religious revival movement was spread in New England in 1740 by Massachusetts Congregational preacher Jonathan Edwards, who owned slaves and defended slavery.
In American South, defenders of slavery offered religious arguments to bolster their position. Albert Taylor Bledsoe, a Kentucky lawyer and Episcopal clergyman, was among the most prolific proslavery authors, and in his essay Essay on Liberty and Slavery (1856), he declared that “the very best men, whose lives are recorded in the Old Testament, were the owners and holders of slaves.” Abraham, for instance, was said to own more than 1,000 slaves. Bledsoe cited many passages from the Old Testament, and he noted that nothing in the New Testament supported the abolitionist view that slavery was always sinful.

Ch2, Ideas that Inspired the Abolitionists – Pg 24
The “something more” was the idea of individual rights, freedom from various kinds of interference. These were also referred to as natural rights, meaning that people were entitled to rights because they were human beings. Natural rights couldn’t be taken away legitimately by anyone – including a king, a judge or a legislature – as long as an individual respected wether people’s equal rights. This idea was first articulated in mid-seventeenth-century England, even as English merchants were playing an increasingly important pat in the slave trade. THe earliest champions of individual rights were the so-called Levellers who, during the English Civil War (1642-1651), advocated secure private property, free trade, freedom of association, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, a rule of law, a separation of powers and a written constitution to limit government power.

Ch2, Ideas that Inspired the Abolitionists – Pg 25
Among the Levellers, perhaps the most eloquent pamphleteer was Richard Overton. For instance, in October 1646, he wrote An Arrow against all tyrants and tyranny, shot from the prison of Newgate into the Prerogative Bowels of the Arbitrary House of Lords. “To every individual in nature is given an individual property by nature,” he declared, “not to be invaded or usurped by any. For every one as he is himself, so he hath a self propriety, else could he not be himself. . . . No man hath power over my rights and liberties and I over no man’s . . . For by natural birth all men are equally and alike born to like propriety, liberty and freedom.” This idea that an individual owns himself or herself had revolutionary implications.

Ch2, Ideas that Inspired the Abolitionists – Pg 25
The most fundamental kind of property, he explained, is ownership of one’s body. He insisted that a man “cannot enslave himself to any one, nor put himself under the Absolute, Arbitrary power of another, to take away his Life.” He viewed slavery as a “state of War between a Conqueror and a Captive.”

Ch2, Ideas that Inspired the Abolitionists – Pg 34
Ideas about natural rights and nonviolence were morally compelling, but if they failed to help people prosper, it’s doubtful they would have found much support. FOr thousands of years, slavery was viewed as a source of wealth. Living in London, the owners of British Caribbean plantations flaunted their elegant clothes, fine carriages, palatial mansions and extravagant parties. Like the Venetians who had profited from slave-based sugar plantations on Cyprus, and like the ancient Athenians who had profited from slaves captured in foreign wars, these plantation owners were convinced their business couldn’t be sustained without slavery. They didn’t just view slavery as cheaper than market compensation for workers. They were convinced that nobody would do hard work unless chained and whipped. They planters believed that their way of life was at stake.

Ch2, Ideas that Inspired the Abolitionists – Pg 36
Turgot had the power to abolish corvee – a tas hated by the peasants. A remnant of serfdom, the corvee originated as a feudal obligation for peasants to perform a certain amount of labor without pay. The corvee became a demand that peasants work as much as 14 days a year on the king’s roads, breaking, carting and shoveling stones. Often this came at the worst time, such as when peasants were busy with their harvest. Landlords, who stood to gain more from roads, contributed nothing. As might be expected, forced labor resulted in poor work and terrible roads.

Ch2, Ideas that Inspired the Abolitionists – Pg 38
“The pride of man makes him love to domineer, and nothing mortifies him so much as to be obliged to condescend to persuade his inferiors. Wherever the law allows it, and the nature of the work can afford it, therefore, he will generally prefer the service of slaves to that of freemen.” Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations

Ch2, Ideas that Inspired the Abolitionists – Pg 39
Although ideas about natural rights were crucial in the epic campaigns against slavery because they provided compelling arguments not found in religion or constitutional law, they probably wouldn’t have prevailed if slave societies outperformed free societies. That ordinary people could be both free and prosperous proved to be an irresistible idea.

Ch3, Haiti and the First Successful Slave Revolt – pg 61
Toussaint summoned his nephew Moise and accused him of encouraging the revolt. Moise and another officer were executed. Toussaint’s obsession with power seems to have deranged his mind, because in subsequent speeches he denounced Moise and warned that others who defied him would share his fate.

Ch4, British Abolitionists Peaceful Campaign against Slavery – Pg 77
What Clarkson learned about the trans-Atlantic voyages was utterly at odds with accounts offered by slave-trading interest.s “The slaves who had been described as rejoicing in their captivity,” he explained, “were so wrung with misery at leaving their country, that it was the constant practice to set sail in the night, lest they should know the moment of their departure. With respect to their accommodation, the right ankle of one was fastened to the left ankle of another by an iron fetter; and if they were turbulent, by another on the wrists. Instead of the apartments described, they were placed in niches, and along the decks, in such a manner, that it was impossible for any one to pass among them, however careful he might be, without treading upon them. Instead of the scent of frankincense, the stench was intolerable. The allowance of water was so deficient that the slaves were frequently found gasping for life and almost suffocated. With respect to their singing, it consisted of songs of lamentation for the loss of their country.”  – Thomas Clarkson The History of the Rise, Progress and Accomplishment of the Abolition of the African Slave Trade by the British Parliament

Ch4, British Abolitionists Peaceful Campaign against Slavery – Pg 78-79
[Thomas Clarkson] determined that more British seamen died on slave ships then in all other areas of British shipborne commerce combined.  Clarkson concluded that far from being an essential “nursery for seamen,” as proslavery interests claimed, “it was their grave.” My comments: Detestable behavior breeds detestable behavior.  Is it any wonder that when some of the worst aspects of humanity were displayed in slavery that more people died?

Am I not a Man and a Brother?
Josiah Wedgewood

Ch5 British Diplomats and Commanders Struggle to Stop the Slave Trade – pg 95
“Morals were never well taught by the sword” – Robert Stewart, Viscount Castlereagh

Ch5 British Diplomats and Commanders Struggle to Stop the Slave Trade – pg 95
In 1815 he persuaded European nations to sign a declaration that “the commerce known by the name of the African slave trade is repugnant to the principles of humanity and universal morality.” – Robert Stewart, Viscount Castlereagh

Ch6 The United States and the Military Strategy for Abolition – pg 119
“Slavery is such an atrocious debasement of human nature, that its very extirpation, if not performed with solicitous care, may sometimes open a source of serious evils.” – Benjamin Franklin in ~1787

Ch6 The United States and the Military Strategy for Abolition – pg 119
In 1790 [Benjamin] Franklin presented Congress with a petition urging emancipation for “those unhappy men who alone in this land of freedom are degraded into perpetual bondage.” Georgia congressman James Jackson countered with the claim that the Bible approved of slavery. Franklin responded with a parody of Jackson’s arguments, published in the Federal Gazette, a local newspaper. The parody was supposedly written by a Sidi Mehemet Ibrahim, an Algerian, denouncing efforts to end the enslavement of European Christians. “If we cease our Cruises against the Christians,” the author wrote, “how shall we be furnished with the Commodities their Countries produce? If we forbear to make Slaves of their People, who in this hot Climate are to cultivate our Lands? Who are to perform the common Labours of our City, and in our Families? Must we then be our own Slaves?” This might have been Franklin’s last blast; he died in April 1790.

Ch6 The United States and the Military Strategy for Abolition – pg 124
South Carolina senator John C. Calhoun, perhaps the most vehement defender of slavery, declared: “Many in the South once believed that slavery was a moral and political evil. That folly and delusion are gone. We see it now in its true light, and regard it as the most safe and stable basis for free institutions in the world.”

Ch6 The United States and the Military Strategy for Abolition – pg 124
[William Lloyd Garrison] began publishing The Liberator on January 1st, 1831. A four-page weekly appearing every Friday, each page was 14 by 9 1/4 inches with four columns per page. In his editorial, Garrison declared: “I will be as harsh as truth, and as uncompromising as justice. On this subject, I do not with to think, or speak, or write, with moderation. No! No! Tell a man whose house is on fire, to give a moderate alarm; tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hands of the ravisher; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen; —but urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present. I am in earnest—I will not equivocate—I will not excuse—I will not retreat a single inch–AND I WILL BE HEARD.”

Ch6 The United States and the Military Strategy for Abolition – pg 125
South Carolina senator William G. Preston warned, “Let an abolitionist come within the borders of South Carolina, if we catch him, we will try him, and notwithstanding all the influence of all the governments on earth, including the Federal Government, we will hang him.” In Mississippi, men merely suspected of being abolitionists were hanged. Worried that Garrison might be kidnapped since he often worked till midnight at his Merchant’s Hall office, neighborhood blacks formed patrols to follow him on his three-mile walk home and make sure he was safe.

Ch6 The United States and the Military Strategy for Abolition – pg 126-127
Presbyterians refused to preach against slavery, as did a majority of Baptist ministers. In 1836, the General Conference of the Methodist Church ordered members “wholly to refrain from the agitating subject which is now convulsing the country.” Garrison despaired that “I am forced to believe that, as it respects the greater portion of professing Christians in this country, Christ has died in vain.”

Ch6 The United States and the Military Strategy for Abolition – pg 127
The next day, a proslavery mob burned the place down, and the day after that they burned down an orphanage for black children that had been built by the Society of Friends.

Ch6 The United States and the Military Strategy for Abolition – pg 133
President Andrew Jackson asked Congress for a law prohibiting the mailing of “incendiary publications intended to instigate the slaves to insurrection.”

Ch6 The United States and the Military Strategy for Abolition – pg 133
A principal deal maker for the Compromise of 1850 was Henry Clay, who had remarked: “I am myself a slaveholder, and I consider that kind of property as inviolable as any other in the country.”

Ch6 The United States and the Military Strategy for Abolition – pg 134
In an August 26, 1852, Senate speech, Charles Sumner of Massachusetts denounced the Fugitive Slave Law. He declared that it “offends against the Divine law. No such enactment is entitled to support. As the throne of God is above every earthly throne, so are his laws and statues above all the laws and statutes of man. To question these is to question God himself. . . . I AM BOUND TO DISOBEY THIS ACT.”

Ch8 Brazil’s Resourceful Abolitionists – pg 163
By the early nineteenth century, Brazil had become the largest market for slaves. Since slavery had existed there for some 300 years and had an immense influence on Brazilian society and government, Brazilians believed their country couldn’t exist without slavery.


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