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PRELIMINARY ESSAY

ON THE

OPPRESSION

OF THE

EXILED SONS OF AFRICA.

CHAP. I.

General View of the Slavery of Modern Times.

I AM now entering on a painful task. Callous in the extreme must the person be, who is not hurt by the most cursory recital of the cruelties and barbarities, under which the unhappy exiled Africans languish. In the estimation of mankind, liberty eyer is of incalculable value. To men of every country and of every complexion, the yoke of bondage must be galling. The wretched Africans are not merely enslaved; they are, in instances innumerable, oppressed, and starved, and tormented, and murdered. That the accounts of these cruelties, which have already been published, and I am to bring forward in the se

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quel of this essay, and in my poem, should to. many appear incredible, does not in the least surprise me. They really seem almost to exceed belief. Had I not seen with

my own eyes

what I am to tell, I probably should have found some difficulty in giving full credit to the report of such shocking barbarities; barbarities which debase human nature far beneath the brutal. And what is any thing I have seen, in comparison of what the omnipresent and omniscient God beholds ! But, while I recollect the tragical scenes at which I have been present, and in which, alas! I performed my part, my soul recoils ; tremor seizes my whole frame; I can hardly restrain my knees from smiting one against another, while my blood hangs shivering in my veins.

Such was my abhorrence at the iniquitous scenes, which duty obliged me to witness, that I voluntarily relinquished, from conscientious motives, and in opposition to the advice and persuasion of my friends, both of the religious and irreligious character, a lucrative situation in Antigua, and threw' myself on that all-beneficent providence, which hitherto has provided for me, and, I trust, will provide for me in all time coming. Though I treated the slaves un

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der my charge with some degree of lenity, the recollection of my situation, as a slave-dealer, and a West-India planter, still excites in my breast the most painful sensations, and pierces me with many sorrows.

Often, with a mixture of sensations and feelings, which it is not easy to express, do I recollect the beauty and fertility of Africa; the humanity and hospitality I have experienced from its inhabitants ; and the base returns I have made to them ; distributing among them toys, and trinkets, and ardent spirits, to purchase slaves, or, if they were not ready, to provoke the different nations to go to war, in order to procure them for us. Never, to my latest moments, can I forget the beauties and luxuriance of that picturesque country, and the happiness of its inhabitants. Whithersoever I turned my eyes, it had the appearance of a terrestrial Paradise. What lofty trees, crowned with never-fading green; vernal groves, fragrant flowers, dewy lawns, limpid streams, enchanting landscapes; and a thousand other beauties! After all my travels, in both the old and new worlds, I do not hesitate to say, this is the most beautiful and the most fertile country I ever beheld. When I have seen its happy inhabitants reclining under the lofty palm-trees, I could not forbear to think of the first human pair in their paradisical residence. What simplicity in their dress, and in their manners! How innocent, benevolent, and hospitable! When I traversed their woods, and, on a certain occasion, a particular adventure placed me fully in their power, they, in the kindest manner, invited me to their homely habitations, and treated me, not as an enemy, but as a friend ; not as a stranger, but as a relative. Yet, horrid thought! tormenting reflection! this very people, in midst of remonstrances, and lamentations, and shrieks, sufficient to pierce the mountains and the rocks, I have torn and dragged from their happy country, and from their nearest and dearest relatives and connexions. The dishonourable, base methods we used to accomplish our infernal designs, are a disgrace to human nature. Every sentiment of honesty and honour we seemed totally to have forgot. Day and night my mind continues to be haunted by the image of those unhappy victims to our avarice and ambition. Methinks, I now see them dragged, with the most vigorous reluctance and resistance on their part, from their beloved habitations, on which they cannot forbear to look back; and, while they look back, tears flow in copious streams down their furrowed cheeks; and their heaving breasts sufficiently indicate the inexpressible anguish which they feel within.

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No sex, no station, no age is spared. Does the hungry lion pity his mangled prey? No. No more are those unhappy beings pitied. Children are torn from their distracted parents ; parents from their screaming children; wives from their frantic husbands; husbands from their violated wives; brothers from their loving sisters ; sisters from their affectionate brothers. See them collected in flocks, and, like a herd of swine, driven to the ships. They cry, they struggle, they resist; but all in vain. No eye pities; no hand helps. Into the hold of the vessel they are forced. Their limbs, already wounded and lacerated, and bloody, are loaded with heavy chains. Such numbers are compressed within so small a space, that the air almost immediately becomes pestilential; from the putrid effluvia of which they contract diseases, which, in a very short time, terminate in death. What effect has this on the traders, and crews of the vessels? Does it occasion remorse and grief? Not the smallest. The corps is, with the utmost indifference, thrown

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