« AnteriorContinuar »
plies his table, furnishes his wardrobe, builds his * houses, adorns his equipage, provides his amuse
ments. It is not the estate, but the labour employed upon it, that pays his rent. All that he does, is to distribute what others produce; which is the least part of the business.
Nor do I perceive any foundation for an opinion, which is often handed round in genteel company, that good usage is thrown away upon low and ordinary minds; that they are insensible of kindness, and incapable of gratitude. If by“ low and ordinary minds,” are meant the minds of men in low and ordinary stations, they seem to be affected by benefits in the same way that all others are, and to be no less ready to requite them : and it would be a very unaccountable law of nature if it were otherwise,
Whatever uneasiness we occasion to our domestics, which neither promotes our service, nor answers the just ends of punishment, is manifestly wrong; were it only upon the general principle of diminishing the sum of human bappiness.
By which rule we are forbidden,
1. To enjoin unnecessary labour or confinement from the mere love and wantonness of domination :
2. To insult our servants by harsh, scornful, or opprobrious language ; 3. To refuse them any harmless pleasures :
And, by the same principle, are also forbidden causeless or immoderate anger, habitual peevishness, and groundless suspicion.
Slavery. The prohibitions of the last chapter extend tu the treatinent of slaves, being founded upon a principle independent of the contract between masterand servants.
I define slavery to be “ an obligation to labour for the benefit of the master, without the contracı or consent of the servant."
This obligation may arise, consistently with the law of nature, from three causes :
1. From crimes.
In the first case the continuance of the slavery, as of any other punishment, ought to be proportioned to the crime; in the second and third cases, it ought to cease, as soon as the demand of the in. jured nation, or private creditor, is satisfied.
The slave-trade upon the coast of Africa is not excused by these principles. When slaves in that country are brought to market, no questions, I believe, are asked about the origin or justice of the vender's title. It may be presumed therefore, that this title is not always, if it be ever, founded in any of the causes above assigned.
But defect of right in the first purchase is the least crime with which this traffic is chargeable. The natives are excited to war and mutual depredation, for the sake of supplying their contracts, or furnishing the market with slaves. With this the wickedness begins. The slaves, torn away from parents, wives, children, from their friends and companions, their fields and flocks, their home and country, are transported to the European settlements in America, with no other accommodation on shipboard than what is provided for brutes. This is the second stage of cruelty; from which the miserable exiles are delivered, only to be placed, and that for life, in subjection to a dominion and system of laws, the most merciless and tyrannical that ever were tolerated upon the face of the earth; and from all that can be learned by the accounts of the people upon the spot, the inordinate authority which the plantation-laws confer upon the slaveholder is exercised by the English slave-holder especially, with rigour and brutality.
But necessity is pretended; the name under which every enormity is attempted to be justified. And, after all, what is the necessity? It has never been proved that the land could not be cultivated there, as it is here, by hired servants. It is said that it could not be cultivated with quite the same conveniency and cheapness, as by the labour of slaves ;
and correct the enormities, which too to perceive
by which means, a pound of sugar, which the planter now sells for sixpence, could not be afforded under sixpence-halfpenny ;-and this is the necessity.
The great revolution which has taken place in the Western World, may probably conduce (and
who knows but that it was designed?) to accelerate of the fall of this abominable tyranny; and now that
this contest, and the passions which attend it, are no more, there may succeed, perhaps, a season for reflecting, whether a legislature which had so long lent its assistance to the support of an institution replete with human misery, was fit to be trusted with an empire the most extensive that ever obtained in any age or quarter of the world.
Slavery was a part of the civil constitution of most countries, when Christianity, appeared; yet no passage is to be found in the Christian Scriptures, by which it is condemned or prohibited. This is true; for Christianity, soliciting admission into all nations of the world, abstained, as behoved it, from intermeddling with the civil institutions of any. But does it follow, from the silence of Scripture concerning them, that all the civil institutions which then prevailed were right ? or that the bad should not be exchanged for better ?
Besides this, the discharging of slaves from all obligation to obey their masters, which is the consequence of pronouncing slavery to be unlawful, would have had no better effect, than to let loose one half of mankind upon the other. Slaves would have been tempted to embrace a religion, which asserted their right to freedom; masters would hardly have been persuaded to consent to claims founded upon such authority; the most calamitous of all contests, a bellum servile, might probably have ensued, to the reproach, if not the extinction of the Christian name.
The truth is, the emancipation of slaves should be gradual, and be carried on by provisions of law, and under the protection of civil government. Christianity can only operate as an alterative. By the mild diffusion of its light and influence, the minds of men are insensibly
ness, or accident, have introduced into their public establishments. In this way the Greek and Ro. man slavery, and since these, the feudal tyranny, has declined before it. And we trust that, as the knowledge and authority of the same religion advance in the world, they will banish what remains of this odious institution.
Professional assistance. This kind of beneficence is chiefly to be expected from members the legislature, magistrates, medical, legal, and sacerdotal professions.
1. The care of the poor ought to be the principal object of all laws; for this plain reason, that the rich are able to take care of themselves.
Much has been, and more might be, done by the laws of this country, towards the relief of the im. potent, and the protection and encouragement of the industrious poor. Whoever applies himself to collect observations upon the state and operation of the poor-laws, and to contrive remedies for the imperfections and abuses which he observes, and digests these remedies into acts of parliament; and conducts them, by argument or influence, through the two branches of the Legislature, come municates his ideas to those who are more likely to carry them into effect; deserves well of a class of the community so numerous, that their happiness forms a principal part of the whole. The study and activity thus employed, is, charity in the most meritorious sense of the word.
2. The application of parochial relief is intrusted, in the first instance, to overseers and contract. ors, who have an interest in opposition to that of the poor, inasmuch as whatever they allow them comes in part qut of their own pocket. For this reason, the law has deposited with justices of the peace a power of superintendence and control : and the judicious interposition of this power is a most
useful exertion of charity, and ofttimes within the he ability of those who have no other way of serving
their generation. A country gentleman of very moderate education, and who has little to spare from his fortune, by learning so much of the poorlaw as is to be found in Dr. Burn's Justice, and by furnishing himself with a knowledge of the prices of labour and provision, so as to be able to estimate the exigencies of a family, and what is to be expected from their industry, may in this way, place out the one talent committed to him, to great account.
3. Of all private professions, that of medicine puts it in a man's power to do the most good at the least expense. Health, which is precious to all, is to the poor invaluable : and their complaints, as agues, rheumatisms, &c. are often such as yield to medicine. And, with respect to the expense, drugs at first hand cost little, and advice costs nothing, where it is only bestowed upon those who could not afford to pay for it.
4. The rights of the poor are not so important or intricate, as their contentions are violent and ruinous. A lawyer or attorney, of tolerable knowledge in his profession, has commonly judgment enough to adjust these disputes, with all the effect, and without the expense, of a lawsuit; and he may be said to give a poor man twenty pounds, who prevents his throwing it away upon law. A legal man, whether of the profession or not, who, together with a spirit of conciliation, possesses the confidence of his neighbourhood, will be much resorted to for this purpose, especially since the great increase of costs has produced a general dread of going to law.
Nor is this line of beneficence confined to arbi. tration. Seasonable counsel, coming with the weight which the reputation of the adviser gives it, will often keep or extricate the rash and uninformed out of great difficulties.
Lastly, I know not a more exalted charity than that which presents a shield against the rapacity or persecution of a tyrant.
5. Betwixt argument and authority (I mean that authority which fows from voluntary respect, and