The Pro-Slavery Argument of Bernard Romans, 1776 (A Concise Natural History of East and West Florida Pages: 104-112)

The Pro-Slavery Argument of Bernard Romans, 1776
(A Concise Natural History of East and West Florida Pages: 104-112)

The late foolish, not to call them cruel, attempts of settling East Florida by whites from Europe (i mean as well from England as
from the Levant) are likewise a very absolute conviction of the necessity of having Negroe slaves; but as some people who
are able to purchase, slaves, run away with the notion of the unlawfulness of holding a property in Negroes, and who are
perhaps not a little milfed by the silly pamphlet published in some of the colonies called “an address to the inhabitants of
the British settlements in America upon slave keeping, &c.” have attempted to settle without Negroes at all; i cannot in
conscience forbear to give my advice to all adventurers in Florida, who desire to improve a plantation for their benefit, not
to forget these useful though inferior members of society; not but poor families may live in plenty, and by honest labour
acquire a comfortable and easy situation in life as may be wished for, but until their industry helps them to the means of
buying one slave and so on till they get more it will be vanity for them to hope for an accumulation of wealth. Do we not
see Solomon’s words fully verified in Negroes? A servant will not answer though he understand. The very perverse nature
of this black race seems to require the harsh treatment they generally receive, but like all other things, this is carried into
the extreme; far be it from me to approve or recommend the vile usage to which this useful part of the creation is subjected
by some of our western nabobs,’ but against the Phyllis of Boston (who is the Phoenix of her race) i could bring at least
twenty well known instances of the contrary effect of education on this fable generation. Treachery, theft, stubborness, and
idleness, the first in the more northern Negroes, and the three last in the Ebo, Angola, and Benin slaves are such consequences
of their manner of life at home as to put it out of all doubt that these qualities are natural to them and not originated by their
state of slavery. Had Montesquieu been well acquainted with the American colonies, he would not have made use of any
argument so much below so great a man as the one quoted in the above named enthusiastical production, which seems
calculated to procure a greater number of vagabonds than we are already pestered with.

I think no man ought to be allowed the manumission of his slave except he be bound for his good behaviour and industry,
and idle free blacks ought to be sold for the good of the community. The anecdotes of the sublimity of Negroes sentiments
in their own country are very similar to my anecdote of a savage shooting himself because his mother reprimanded him, or
another doing the same because he lost his all at play. Mr. Le Peivre has mentioned the making sugar in Cochin China, by
free men, but it has not been observed, that those free men make small quantities, and sell it at the low rate they do, only
because others who employ slaves in the time or in the adjacent countries, sell them at that price, which may be easily proved,
and consequently oblige the others to do the same; nor that these free men live on the same diet as our slaves, and who will
lay that Cochin Chinese sugar after exportation sells at a more reasonable rate than Javan, Martinique, Jamaica, or any eastern
or western sugar does. Have not all the endeavours of the several Legislatures in the West Indies to introduce more white or
free people proved abortive, by reason of their general inability for labour in those climates? Is it not therefore better to employ those, who labour at a fimilar work in their own sultry country, and in a state of slavery too, than to make victims of men who
can by no means be qualified for the fatigue of a southern plantation. We have known not long ago sugars 8cc, as cheap in
the West Indies as in the East it is the increase of consumption in Europe and North America that renders it dear: I affirm that
in America, neither sugar, rice nor indigo can be made by whites at three times the price it is made now by the blacks, and
also affirm that the West India lands are distributed among all nations with any reservation, than they are on the continent
of British North America. Can any one lay that the favourites of mankind (i mean liberty and property) are any where enjoyed
in Africa? The rhapsodical opinion that the earth produces more when worked by free men than by slaves may do in theory
but not in practice; the contrary is easily made to appear; and i am certain from the nature of the climates, that the same
colonies when cultivated by free men would not produce one tenth part of what they do now; as for an equal distribution of
property it is like Harrington’s Oceans: or Sir Thomas More’s Utopia.

An European will outlive a Creole by means of his more regular life, not otherwise, and who knows not that Negroes attain
with all their labour a much higher age than the generality of idle Whites. The foolish argument of the shortness of the
Jewish history, as well as lugging in the practice of Polygamy by the head and shoulders (although the text quoted is not to
the purpose) is too mean to be refuted. Let not therefore the narrow system of morality adopted by some of our contemporary
enthusiastical Philosophers restrain us from properly using this naturally subjetted species of mankind; the impossibility of
an European’s bearing the requisite labour in those climes is now so well acertained as not to require any elucidation, nor
can any one pretend to say, that the posterity ot Europeans born in the torrid Zone ought to bear its inclemency; what labour
can we expect from men brought up in ease and affluence? It is pretended that that our employing slaves is contrary to the
precepts of the founder of our most holy religion, when he says: “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself;” i need not make
use of the confined ideas of the ancient Jews, who thought that the title of neighbour did not extend to any thing beyond
their own nation. I will then affirm, that there is a fivefold state of slavery, not only known or permitted; but commanded in
God’s holy word. 1st. Those who are condemned to slavery for their crimes, which we but too often experience to be the
case with the slaves imported to us from Africa. 2ly. Those that are taken in war, which is the most general way among the
Negroes to furnish us with slaves, and who would be murdered; did we not induce their conquerors by our manufactures
and money to shew them mercy. 3ly. Those who are sold by their Parents, which custom obtains among many people
even the refined and civilized Chinese, not to mention some christians, but most among the Negroes. 4ly. Those who sell
themselves or are sold for debts, or other wants, which not only the Negroes, but our own laws justify. 5ly. Those who are
born in slavery. I need not seek assistance from the laws actually in force among us to prove the first; Noah in Genesis,
chap. 9, v. 25, 27, condemns Ham to slavery for the crime he had committed, and in Exodus, chap. 22, V. 3, God commands
us that, “If the Sun be risen upon a thief, it shall unto him be a crime of blood, for he should make full restitution, if he have
nothing, let him be sold for his theft.”

Here let me remind my reader, how much easier the slavery of our Negroes is, than the cruel captivity of those, who
for their misdemeanors are condemned to the chain, the wheelbarrow or the gallies. For the second read Joshua, chap.
9, v. 23. Does not Excdus, chap. 21, V. 7, shew, that a man might sell his child as a servant, only giving the maid servant
a privilege above men servants? In the fourth case i think that (without leaving the point in view) i may ask, does not the
soldier sell his liberty to his sovereign, or other Prince for his pay be it for a time or for life? Proverbs, chap. II, v. 29, tell
us, “That the fool shall be servant to the wise of heart.” Chap. 22, v. 7, The rich ruleth over the poor and the borrower shall
be servant to the lender.” Does not Jesus himself, Math. chap. 18. v. 25 make use of a parable fully to my purpose? when
he says: “But for as much as he had not to pay, his Lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife and children and all that
she had, and payment to be made.” Exodus chap. 21, v. 4, tells us that; “if the master have given his servant a wife, and
they have born him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her masters.” For the perpetuity of slavery read
Leviticus chap. 25, v. 39, to 47, how absurdly is Montesquieu again quoted, when in his L. 10, C. 3, he speaks of a conquered nation, who through necessity are made slaves in their own country: every one knows that such conquered people, who
are suffered to remain at home at first under oppression, ought by degrees to be made free subjects,, their good behaviour
being their ransom; but who, even among those relined moralists, would emancipate his slave without some reward either
private or publick? How Tacitus comes to be so pat to the purpose of this acute Philosopher i have not been able to learn;
nor is the quotation from the universal history, or Mr. Robertson of any more force: Since we are able then to get slaves
in a lawful manner, why should we now be restrained from buying them to cultivate our grounds, when all nations at all
times have enjoyed that privilege? Had not the well known Christian Doctor of the Colossian Church a slave called Onesimus?
did not this slave run away (after having, as usual with slaves, robbed his master) come to Rome and go to see St. Paul?

Paul treated him kindly, instructed, converted, and baptised him and sent him back to his master with a letter full of godly
eloquence to persuade Philemon to forgive his slave and re-establish him in his favour, but by no means an exhortation,
much less an order to set him free. It is not religion then nor christian charity that forbids us to have slaves, but it commands
us the duties we are to fulfil towards them, instrucing them to obey us, and us to use them as a part of the reasonable
creation. Who knows not, that the Spaniards are so much slaves that they can not well be more so, were they bought by
their King: And who, that is acquainted in the Spanish dominions, knows not, that a modern Iberian does himself more
honour by saying (Sai Blanca) i, e. I am a white man, than if he exclaimed, i am Noble! Shall after what i have said, this
Rhapsodist with his confined ideas, send us to some modern system of religion, or say, that i have offered any thing
contrary to the sublime doctrine of the author of christianity? Had this anonymous writer instead of playing with the word
slavery, told us, that the Northern colonies had no occasion for Negroes’ he would have said more, than all he has advanced
in his futile publication. A Negroe at the Mississippi is reckoned to bring in his masler an hundred dollars per annum, besides
his share towards all the provision consumed in the family; Negroes in general are used with more lenity than in Carolina.

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