An Appeal in Behalf of that Class of Americans Called Africans
by Lydia Maria Child

This is one of the oldest books I own. It is the first anti-slavery book published in America, 1833. It includes a brief history of Negro slavery, its effects on Africans, slaves, slave traders (man-stealers), slave owners, and others. Mrs. Child primarily uses moral arguments against slavery, as she should.

See my notes on Tongue of Flame: The Life of Lydia Maria Child by Milton Meltzer.

"No man of the least principle could for a moment think of engaging in such enterprises; and if he have any feeling, it is soon destroyed by familiarity with scenes of guilt and anguish. The result is, that the slave trade is a monopoly in the hands of the very wicked; and this is one reason why it has always been profitable." (19)

"Where none work but slaves, usefulness becomes degradation." (22)

"I simply mean that all who ground their arguments in policy, and not in duty and plain truth, are really blind to the highest and best interests of man." (32)

"Between ancient and modern slavery there is this remarkable distinction—the former originated in motives of humanity; the latter is dictated solely by avarice. The ancients made slaves of captives taken in war, as an amelioration of the original custom of indiscriminate slaughter; the moderns attack defenseless people, without any provocation, and steal them, for the express purpose of making them slaves. (38)

"Our slaveholders, in general, seem desirous to have the slave just religious enough to know that insurrections and murder are contrary to the maxims of Christianity; but it is very difficult to have them learn just so much as this, without learning more." (59)

"If a free colored person remain in Virginia twelve months after his manumission, he can be sold by the overseers of the poor for the benefit of the literary fund! (64)

"To complete the wrong, this unhappy class are despised in consequence of the very evils we ourselves have induced—for as slavery inevitably makes its victims servile and vicious, and as none but negroes are allowed to be slaves, we, from our very childhood, associate every thing that is degraded with the mere color; though in fact the object of our contempt may be both exemplary and intelligent." (66)

"Slavery is so inconsistent with free institutions, and the spirit of liberty is so contagious under such institutions, that the system must either be given up, or sustained by laws outrageously severe; hence we find that our slave laws have each year been growing more harsh than those of any other nation." (74—75)

"good men are apt to be quiet, and selfish men are prone to be active." (141)

Montesquieu said, "We must not allow negroes to be men, lest we ourselves be suspected of not being Christians." (148)

"We first debase the nature of man by making him a slave, and then very coolly tell him that he must always remain a slave because he does not know how to use freedom. We first crush people to the earth, and then claim the right of trampling on them forever, because they are prostrate. Truly, human selfishness never invented a rule, which worked so charmingly both ways!" (169)

"While commerce has carried books and maps to other portions of the globe, she has sent kidnappers, with guns and cutlasses to Africa. We have not preached the Gospel of peace to her princes; we have incited them to make war upon each other, to fill our markets with slaves." (170)

"Is there an American willing that the intellectual and learned should bear despotic sway over the simple and the ignorant? If there be such a one, he may consistently vindicate our treatment of the Africans." (176)

"We honor our forefathers because they rebelled against certain principles dangerous to political freedom; yet from actual, personal tyranny, they suffered nothing: the negro on the contrary, is suffering all that oppression can make human nature suffer. Why do we execrate in one set of men, what we laud so highly in another?" (194)

"The gold was never coined for which I would barter my individual freedom of acting and thinking upon any subject, or knowingly interfere with the rights of the meanest human being. The only true courage is that which impels us to do right without regard to consequences. To fear a populace is as servile as to fear an emperor. The only salutary restraint is the fear of doing wrong." (206—207)

"If a history is every written entitled "The Decay and Dissolution of the North American Republic," its author will distinctly trace our downfall to the existence of slavery among us." (212)

"Under all circumstances, there is but one honest course; and that is to do right, and trust the consequences to Divine Providence. "Duties are ours; events are God's." Policy, with all her cunning, can devise no rule so safe, salutary, and effective, as this simple maxim." (213)

Year Read: 1998


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