Slavery

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If there breathe on earth a slave,
Are ye truly free and brave? ~ James Russell Lowell

Slavery is a form of forced labour in which people are held under the involuntary control of others, and required to work under legal penalty. Most notably, from the 16th to the 19th centuries, millions of people were taken from Africa to the Americas to work there.

Quotes[edit]

Man is free; yet we must not suppose that he is at liberty to do everything he pleases, for he becomes a slave the moment he allows his actions to be ruled by passion. The man who has sufficient power over himself to wait until his nature has recovered its even balance is the truly wise man, but such beings are seldom met with. ~ Giacomo Casanova
No man can put a chain about the ankle of his fellow man without at last finding the other end fastened about his own neck. ~ Frederick Douglass
The danger of the past was that men became slaves. The danger of the future is that men may become robots. ~ Erich Fromm
The good man, though a slave, is free; the wicked, though he reigns, is a slave... ~ Augustine of Hippo
None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free. ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Without self knowledge, without understanding the working and functions of his machine, man cannot be free, he cannot govern himself and he will always remain a slave. ~ G. I. Gurdjieff
Slavery is founded in the selfishness of man's nature — opposition to it, in his love of justice. ~ Abraham Lincoln
You mean the whites are intellectually the superiors of the blacks, and, therefore have the right to enslave them? Take care again. By this rule, you are to be slave to the first man you meet, with an intellect superior to your own. ~ Abraham Lincoln
This is a world of compensation; and he would be no slave must consent to have no slaves. Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves; and, under a just God, can not long retain it. ~ Abraham Lincoln
If there breathe on earth a slave,
Are ye truly free and brave?
If ye do not feel the chain,
When it works a brother's pain,
Are ye not base slaves indeed,
Slaves unworthy to be freed? ~ James Russell Lowell
If there breathe on earth a slave,
Are ye truly free and brave?
If ye do not feel the chain,
When it works a brother's pain,
Are ye not base slaves indeed,
Slaves unworthy to be freed? ~ James Russell Lowell
They are slaves who fear to speak
For the fallen and the weak;
[...]
They are slaves who dare not be
In the right with two or three. ~ James Russell Lowell
Man is not free to watch impassively the enslavement and dishonor of men, nor their struggles for liberty and honor. ~ José Martí
For the prime design of society is the extension of the operation of law, and the equal treatment and protection of the citizens. Slavery, therefore, being the negation of law, cannot arise from law, or be compatible with it. As far as slavery prevails in any community, so far must that community be defective in answering the purposes of society. ~ Rev. James Ramsay
Slavery is an unnatural state of opression on the one side, and of suffering on the other; and needs only to be laid open or exposed in its native colours, to command the abhorrence and opposition of every man of feeling and sentiment. ~ Rev. James Ramsay
I shall choose friends among men, but neither slaves nor masters. And I shall choose only such as please me, and them I shall love and respect, but neither command nor obey. And we shall join our hands when we wish, or walk alone when we so desire. ~ Ayn Rand
Although they may be poor, not a man shall be a slave. ~ George Frederick Root
If slavery, barbarism and desolation are to be called peace, men can have no worse misfortune. ~ Baruch Spinoza
If any should be slaves, it should be first those who desire it for themselves, and secondly, those who desire it for others. ~ Abraham Lincoln
  • I did more for the Russian serf in giving him land as well as personal liberty, than America did for the negro slave set free by the proclamation of President Lincoln. I am at a loss to understand how you Americans could have been so blind as to leave the negro slave without tools to work out his salvation. In giving him personal liberty, you have him an obligation to perform to the state which he must be unable to fulfill. Without property of any kind he cannot educate himself and his children. I believe the time must come when many will question the manner of American emancipation of the negro slaves in 1863. The vote, in the hands of an ignorant man, without either property or self respect, will be used to the damage of the people at large; for the rich man, without honor or any kind of patriotism, will purchase it, and with it swamp the rights of a free people.
    • Alexander II, emperor of Russia, conversation with Wharton Barker, Pavlovski Palace (August 17, 1879); reported in Barker, "The Secret of Russia's Friendship", The Independent (March 24, 1904), p. 647.
  • The dominion of bad men is hurtful chiefly to themselves who rule, for they destroy their own souls by greater license in wickedness; while those who are put under them in service are not hurt except by their own iniquity. For to the just all the evils imposed on them by unjust rulers are not the punishment of crime, but the test of virtue. Therefore the good man, although he is a slave, is free; but the bad man, even if he reigns, is a slave, and that not of one man, but, what is far more grievous, of as many masters as he has vices; of which vices when the divine Scripture treats, it says, “For of whom any man is overcome, to the same he is also the bond-slave.”
    • Augustine of Hippo, The City of God (early 400s), IV, 3
    • Variant translation: The good man, though a slave, is free; the wicked, though he reigns, is a slave, and not the slave of a single man, but — what is worse — the slave of as many masters as he has vices.
  • “Whoever steals a man and sells him, and anyone found in possession of him, shall be put to death."
  • In the United States one cannot sell himself as a peon or slave -- the law is fixed and established to protect the weak-minded, the poor, the miserable. Men will sometimes sell themselves for a meal of victuals or contract with another who acts as surety on his [sic] bond to work out the amount of the bond upon his [sic] release from jail. Any such contract is positively null and void and the procuring and causing of such contract to be made violates these statutes.
    • Attorney General Francis Biddle (1941). "Circular No. 3591, Re: Involuntary Servitude, Slavery, and Peonage." Francis Biddle to All United States Attorneys, Dec. 12, 1941, File 50-821, Record Group 60, Department of Justice, National Archives.
  • Personally I believe the bicentenary offers us a chance not just to say how profoundly shameful the slave trade was – how we condemn its existence utterly and praise those who fought for its abolition, but also to express our deep sorrow that it ever happened, that it ever could have happened and to rejoice at the different and better times we live in today.
  • Slavery, throughout its entire existence in the United States, is none other than the most barbarous, unprovoked and unjustifiable war of one portion of its citizens against another portion, the only conditions of which are perpetual imprisonment and hopeless servitude, or absolute extermination, in utter disregard and violation of those eternal and self-evident truths set forth in our Declaration of Independence.
  • I would not have a slave to till my ground,
    To carry me, to fan me while I sleep,
    And tremble when I wake, for all the wealth
    That sinews bought and sold have ever earn'd.
  • Slaves cannot breathe in England; if their lungs
    Receive our air, that moment they are free;
    They touch our country, and their shackles fall.
    • William Cowper, in The Task (1785), Book II, line 40, The Timepiece.
  • Plato defined a slave as one who accepts from another the purposes which control his conduct. This condition obtains even where there is no slavery in the legal sense. It is found wherever men are engaged in activity which is socially serviceable, but whose service they do not understand and have no personal interest in.
  • I have often been utterly astonished, since I came to the north, to find persons who could speak of the singing, among slaves, as evidence of their contentment and happiness. It is impossible to conceive of a greater mistake. Slaves sing most when they are most unhappy. The songs of the slave represent the sorrows of his heart; and he is relieved by them, only as an aching heart is relieved by its tears. At least, such is my experience. I have often sung to drown my sorrow, but seldom to express my happiness. Crying for joy, and singing for joy, were alike uncommon to me while in the jaws of slavery. The singing of a man cast away upon a desolate island might be as appropriately considered as evidence of contentment and happiness, as the singing of a slave; the songs of the one and of the other are prompted by the same emotion.
    • Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave (1845).
  • I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false, and incur my own abhorrence. From my earliest recollection, I date the entertainment of a deep conviction that slavery would not always be able to hold me within its foul embrace; and in the darkest hours of my career in slavery, this living word of faith and spirit of hope departed not from me, but remained like ministering angels to cheer me through the gloom. This good spirit was from God, and to him I offer thanksgiving and praise.
    • Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave (1845).
  • No man can put a chain about the ankle of his fellow man without at last finding the other end fastened about his own neck.
    • Frederick Douglass, Speech at Civil Rights Mass Meeting, Washington, D.C. (22 October 1883).
  • Slavery was the wickedest thing in the world, the greatest curse the earth had ever felt... The sin of slavery is so clearly written out, and so much talked against, that if any one says he don't know, and has not heard, he must, I think, be a liar.
    • John Dumont (1849), a former slaveholder and former master of Sojourner Truth. As quoted in Olive Gilbert & Sojourner Truth (1878), Narrative of Sojourner Truth, a Bondswoman of Olden Time, page 124
  • Slavery is disheartening; but Nature is not so helpless but it can rid itself of every last wrong. But the spasms of nature are centuries and ages and will tax the faith of shortlived men. Slowly, slowly the Avenger comes, but comes surely. The proverbs of the nations affirm these delays, but affirm the arrival. They say, "God may consent, but not forever." The delay of the Divine Justice — this was the meaning and soul of the Greek Tragedy, — this was the soul of their religion.
    • Ralph Waldo Emerson, in "The Fugitive Slave Law" , Lecture in New York City (7 March 1854), The Complete Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1904), p. 238.
  • I do not see how a barbarous community and a civilized community can constitute a state. I think we must get rid of slavery or we must get rid of freedom.
  • But this is slavery, not to speak one's thought.
    • Euripides, The Phoenician Women, line 392; reported in David Grene and Richmond Lattimore, eds., The Complete Greek Tragedies (1958), vol. 4, p. 392.
  • In the 19th century inhumanity meant cruelty; in the 20th century it means schizoid self-alienation. The danger of the past was that men became slaves. The danger of the future is that men may become robots. True enough, robots do not rebel. But given man’s nature, robots cannot live and remain sane, they become "Golems”; they will destroy their world and themselves because they cannot stand any longer the boredom of a meaningless life.
    • Erich Fromm, The Sane Society (1955), Ch. 9: Summary — Conclusion, p. 102
    • Fromm is here referencing a statement made by Adlai Stevenson at Columbia University in 1954, which he had quoted earlier in the work: "We are not in danger of becoming slaves any more, but of becoming robots.”
  • If one looks across the expanse of history, one cannot help but notice a curious sense of identification between the most exalted and the most degraded; particularly, between emperors and kings, and slaves. Many kings have surrounded themselves with slaves, appoint slave ministers-there have even been, as with the Mamluks of Egypt, actual dynasties of slaves. Kings surround themselves with slaves for the same reason they surround themselves with eunuchs: because the slaves and criminals have no families or friends, no possibility of other loyalties-or at least that, in principle, they shouldn't. But in a way, kings should really be like that too. As many an African proverb emphasizes: a proper king has no relatives either, or at least, he acts as if he does not. In other words, the king and slave are mirror images, in that unlike normal human beings who are defined by their commitments to others, they are defined only by relations of power. They are as close to perfectly isolated, alienated beings as one can possibly become.
  • As soon as slavery fired upon the flag it was felt, we all felt, even those who did not object to slaves, that slavery must be destroyed. We felt that it was a stain to the Union that men should be bought and sold like cattle.
    • Ulysses S. Grant (June 1878), as quoted in Around the World with General Grant (1879).
  • Did not Jesus condemn slavery? Let us examine some of his precepts. "Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them", Let every slaveholder apply these queries to his own heart; Am I willing to be a slave —Am I willing to see my wife the slave of another — Am I willing to see my mother a slave, or my father, my sister or my brother? If not, then in holding others as slaves, I am doing what I would not wish to be done to me or any relative I have; and thus have I broken this golden rule which was given me to walk by".
  • None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.
  • Are we disposed to be the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation? For my part, I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery; and in proportion to the magnitude of the subject ought to be the freedom of the debate. It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at truth, and fulfill the great responsibility which we hold to God and our country.
  • Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!
  • I can understand the poor and stupid voting for Marxism or one of its fashionable variants. If you've no hope of being other than a slave, you may as well opt for the most efficient form of slavery.

̈*The Greeks used the slaves, with which their frequent wars supplied them, in all kinds of menial and laborious occupations, and a notion that such occupations could not be filled without slaves, became so familiar, that even their acutest philosophers seem never to have doubted its accuracy or justice. A commonwealth, says Aristotle, consists of families, and a family to be complete must consist of freemen and slaves, and in fixing on the form of government, which according to him would be most perfect, and conduce the most to the happiness of mankind, he requires that his territory should be cultivated by slaves of different races and destitute of spirit, that so they may be useful for labor, and that the absence of any disposition to revolt may be securely relied on. 2 The condition of Africa is now in this particular, much like that of Greece then. One of the late travellers was explaining to an African chief that there are no slaves in England. "No slaves," exclaimed their auditor, "then what do you do "for servants?"

  • It is to meekness that Christ summons his followers: Learn from me, for I am meek and lowly of heart. Yes, he was meek. He did indeed carry lightly the heavy burden that far exceeded the powers of a human being, indeed, of humankind. But when someone, at the same time as he himself is carrying this heaviest burden, has the time and the willingness and sympathy and self-sacrifice to concern himself unceasingly with others, to help others, to heal the sick, to visit the miserable, to rescue the despairing-is he not carrying the burden lightly! He carried the heaviest burden in solicitude, solicitude for fallen humankind; but he carried it so lightly that he did not quench a smoking wick or break a bruised reed. As the prototype was, so also ought the follower to be. Thus, if the one who does not know today what he is going to have tomorrow, if he, in accordance with the Gospel test (since Christ did not come into the world in order to abolish worry about making a living by bringing prosperity), does not worry about tomorrow, then he is indeed carrying the heavy burden lightly. If someone who is born a slave, if he, according to the apostle’s fervent admonition (for Christ did not come in order to abolish slavery, even though that will follow from it) is not concerned about freedom and only if it is offered chooses to be free-then he is carrying the heavy burden lightly.
  • Racial segregation must be seen for what it is — and that is an evil system, a new form of slavery covered up with certain niceties of complexity.
  • If the inexpressible cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail. We will win our freedom because the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demands.
  • I have a dream: that one day, right down in Georgia and Mississippi and Alabama, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to live together as brothers.
  • I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal." I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.
  • We've got to stay together and maintain unity. You know, whenever Pharaoh wanted to prolong the period of slavery in Egypt, he had a favorite, favorite formula for doing it. What was that? He kept the slaves fighting among themselves. But whenever the slaves get together, something happens in Pharaoh's court, and he cannot hold the slaves in slavery. When the slaves get together, that's the beginning of getting out of slavery. Now let us maintain unity.
  • "When Charles Darwin entered the world 200 years ago, there was one clear and simple answer to the slave's question. All men were men and brothers, because all were descended from Adam. By the time Darwin had reached adulthood, however, opinions around him were growing more equivocal [...] By the mid-19th-century, many influential voices denied that the enslaved African was a brother, and it was broadly taken for granted that as a man, he was of an inferior sort to his white master".
  • If A. can prove, however conclusively, that he may, of right, enslave B. Why may not B. snatch the same argument, and prove equally, that he may enslave A? You say A. is white, and B. is black. It is color, then; the lighter, having the right to enslave the darker? Take care. By this rule, you are to be slave to the first man you meet, with a fairer skin than your own. You do not mean color exactly? You mean the whites are intellectually the superiors of the blacks, and, therefore have the right to enslave them? Take care again. By this rule, you are to be slave to the first man you meet, with an intellect superior to your own. But, say you, it is a question of interest; and, if you can make it your interest, you have the right to enslave another. Very well. And if he can make it his interest, he has the right to enslave you.
  • The foregoing history may not be precisely accurate in every particular; but I am sure it is sufficiently so, for all the uses I shall attempt to make of it, and in it, we have before us, the chief material enabling us to correctly judge whether the repeal of the Missouri Compromise is right or wrong.
    I think, and shall try to show, that it is wrong; wrong in its direct effect, letting slavery into Kansas and Nebraska—and wrong in its prospective principle, allowing it to spread to every other part of the wide world, where men can be found inclined to take it.
    This declared indifference, but as I must think, covert real zeal for the spread of slavery, I can not but hate. I hate it because of the monstrous injustice of slavery itself. I hate it because it deprives our republican example of its just influence in the world—enables the enemies of free institutions, with plausibility, to taunt us as hypocrites—causes the real friends of freedom to doubt our sincerity, and especially because it forces so many really good men amongst ourselves into an open war with the very fundamental principles of civil liberty—criticising the Declaration of Independence, and insisting that there is no right principle of action but self-interest.
  • Judge Douglas frequently, with bitter irony and sarcasm, paraphrases our argument by saying: "The white people of Nebraska are good enough to govern themselves, but they are not good enough to govern a few miserable negroes!"
    Well! I doubt not that the people of Nebraska are and will continue to be as good as the average of people elsewhere. I do not say the contrary. What I do say is that no man is good enough to govern another man without that other's consent. I say this is the leading principle, the sheet-anchor of American republicanism. Our Declaration of Independence says: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."
    I have quoted so much at this time merely to show that, according to our ancient faith, the just powers of governments are derived from the consent of the governed. Now the relation of master and slave is pro tanto a total violation of this principle. The master not only governs the slave without his consent, but he governs him by a set of rules altogether different from those which he prescribes for himself. Allow ALL the governed an equal voice in the government, and that, and that only, is self-government.
  • Slavery is founded in the selfishness of man's nature — opposition to it, in his love of justice. These principles are an eternal antagonism; and when brought into collision so fiercely, as slavery extension brings them, shocks, and throes, and convulsions must ceaselessly follow. Repeal the Missouri Compromise — repeal all compromises — repeal the Declaration of Independence — repeal all past history, you still can not repeal human nature. It still will be the abundance of man's heart, that slavery extension is wrong; and out of the abundance of his heart, his mouth will continue to speak.
  • Little by little, but steadily as man's march to the grave, we have been giving up the OLD for the NEW faith. Near eighty years ago we began by declaring that all men are created equal; but now from that beginning we have run down to the other declaration, that for SOME men to enslave OTHERS is a “sacred right of self-government.” These principles can not stand together. They are as opposite as God and mammon; and whoever holds to the one, must despise the other.
  • "A house divided against itself cannot stand". I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other.
  • In giving freedom to the slave we assure freedom to the free, — honorable alike in what we give and what we preserve.
  • I have always thought that all men should be free; but if any should be slaves, it should be first those who desire it for themselves, and secondly, those who desire it for others. When I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.
    • Abraham Lincoln, in an address to an Indiana Regiment passing through Washington (17 March 1865); The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln Volume VIII.
  • As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy. Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is no democracy.
    • Abraham Lincoln, in notes for a speech from a fragment presented by to the Chicago Veterans Druggist's Association in 1906 by Judge James B. Bradwell, who claimed to have received it from Mary Todd Lincoln. Collected Works, 2:532.
  • Viewing the success awarded to opening up the new country as a development of Divine Providence in relation to the African family, the mind naturally turns to the probable influence it may have on negro slavery, and more especially on the practice of it by a large portion of our own race... We claim a right to speak about this evil, and also to act in reference to its removal, the more especially because we are of one blood. It is on the Anglo-American race that the hopes of the world for liberty and progress rest. Now it is very grievous to find one portion of this race practicing the gigantic evil, and the other aiding, by increased demands for the produce of slave labor, in perpetuating the enormous wrong.
  • If there breathe on earth a slave,
    Are ye truly free and brave?

    If ye do not feel the chain,
    When it works a brother's pain,
    Are ye not base slaves indeed,
    Slaves unworthy to be freed?
  • They are slaves who fear to speak
    For the fallen and the weak
    ;
    They are slaves who will not choose
    Hatred, scoffing, and abuse,
    Rather than in silence shrink
    From the truth they needs must think;
    They are slaves who dare not be
    In the right with two or three.
  • Man is not free to watch impassively the enslavement and dishonor of men, nor their struggles for liberty and honor.
  • Who really is the faithful and discreet slave whom his master appointed over his domestics, to give them their food at the proper time? Happy is that slave if his master on coming finds him doing so!
    • Matthew 24:45,46
    • The above phrase is quoted in isolation, which make it likely to be misunderstood. In context, the whole topic speaks about the Second Coming of Christ from Matthew 24:36 to Matthew 24:46:
      • Compare the following Variant translation of the bible passage The Day and Hour Unknown in the NIV bible version: "But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns."
      • As it is evident in the theological context, Jesus was not talking about the historical slavery. He made a comparison in which he is the master and his followers are the spiritual servants.
  • Execrable son! so to aspire
    Above his brethren, to himself assuming
    Authority usurp'd, from God not given.
    He gave us only over beast, fish, fowl,
    Dominion absolute; that right we hold
    By his donation; but man over men
    He made not lord; such title to himself
    Reserving, human left from human free.
  • If the trade is at present carried on to the same extent and nearly in the same manner, while we are delaying from year to year to put a stop to our part in it, the blood of many thousands of our helpless, much injured fellow creatures is crying against us. The pitiable state of the survivors who are torn from their relatives, connections, and their native land must be taken into account. I fear the African trade is a national sin, for the enormities which accompany it are now generally known; and though, perhaps, the greater part of the nation would be pleased if it were suppressed, yet, as it does not immediately affect their own interest, they are passive. {...] Can we wonder that the calamities of the present war begin to be felt at home, when we ourselves wilfully and deliberately inflict much greater calamities upon the native Africans, who never offended us?. "Woe unto thee that spoilest, and thou wast not spoiled when thou shalt cease to spoil, thou shalt be spoiled.
    • John Newton (1797), former slave-trader who later became an abolitionist. . Alluding to the biblical verse in Isaiah 33:1. As quoted in The Works of the Rev. John Newton... to which are Prefixed Memoirs of His Life (1839), Vol. 2, U. Hunt., page 438
  • I should be inexcusable, considering the share I have formerly had in that unhappy business, if, upon this occasion, I should omit to mention the African slave-trade. I do not rank this amongst our national sins, because I hope, and believe, a very great majority of the nation earnestly long for its suppression. But, hitherto, petty and partial interest prevail against the voice of justice, humanity and truth. This enormity, however, is not sufficiently laid to heart. If you are justly shocked by what you hear of the cruelties practised in France, you would, perhaps, be shocked much more, if you could fully conceive of the evils and miseries inseparable from this traffic, which I apprehend, not from hearsay, but from my own observation, are equal in atrocity, and, perhaps superior in number, in the course of a single year, to any or all the worst actions which have been known in France since the commencement of their revolution. There is a cry of blood against us; a cry accumulated by the accession of fresh victims, of thousands, of scores of thousands, I had almost said of hundreds of thousands, from year to year.
    • John Newton (1797), former slave-trader who later became an abolitionist. As quoted in The Works of the Rev. John Newton... to which are Prefixed Memoirs of His Life (1839), Vol. 2, U. Hunt, pages 429-230.
  • If Americans should now turn back, submit again to slavery, it would be a betrayal so base the human race might better perish.
  • I shall choose friends among men, but neither slaves nor masters. And I shall choose only such as please me, and them I shall love and respect, but neither command nor obey. And we shall join our hands when we wish, or walk alone when we so desire.
  • You have among you many a purchas'd slave,
    Which, like your asses and your dogs and mules,
    You use in abject and in slavish parts,
    Because you bought them.
  • Vis tu cogitare istum, quem servum tuum vocas, ex isdem seminibus ortum eodem frui caelo, aeque spirare, aeque vivere, aeque mori!
  • If slavery, barbarism and desolation are to be called peace, men can have no worse misfortune. No doubt there are usually more and sharper quarrels between parents and children, than between masters and slaves; yet it advances not the art of household management to change a father's right into a right of property, and count children but as slaves. Slavery, then, and not peace, is furthered by handing, over the whole authority to one man.
  • It remains to point out the advantage of a knowledge of this doctrine as bearing on conduct, and this may be easily gathered from what has been said. The doctrine is good, (1) Inasmuch as it teaches us solely according to the decree of God, and to be partakers of the Divine nature, and so much the more, as we perform more perfect actions and more and more understand God. Such a doctrine not only completely tranquilizes our spirit, but also shows us where our highest happiness or blessedness is, namely, solely in the knowledge of God, whereby we are led to act only as love and piety shall bid us. We may thus clearly understand, how far astray from a true estimate of virtue are those who expect to be decorated by God with high rewards for their virtue, and their best actions, as for having endured the direct slavery; as if virtue and the service of God were not in itself happiness and perfect freedom. (2) Inasmuch as it teaches us, how we ought to conduct ourselves with respect to the gifts of fortune, or matters which are not in our power, and do not follow from our nature. For it shows us that we should await and endure fortune's smiles or frowns with an equal mind, seeing that all things follow from the eternal decree of God by the same necessity... (3) This doctrine raises social life, inasmuch as it teaches us to hate no man, neither to despise, to deride, to envy, or to be angry with any. Further, as it tells us that each should be content with his own, and helpful to his neighbor, not from any womanish pity, favor, or superstition, but solely from the guide of reason, according as the time and occasion demand... (4) Lastly, this doctrine confers no small advantage on the commonwealth; for it teaches how citizens should be governed and lead, not so as to become slaves, but so that they may freely do whatsoever things are best.
  • Slavery is in itself an arrogant denial of human rights, and by no human reason can the power to establish such a wrong be placed among the attributes of any just sovereignty.
  • I am a poor, ignorant man . . . but I have heard of the Declaration of Independence, and have read the Bible. The Declaration says all men are created equal, and the Bible says God has made us all of one blood. I think . . . we are entitled to good treatment, that it is wrong to hold men in slavery.
    • Arthur Tappan, an elderly black man who spoke at the New York City Anti-Slavery Society in 1833. As quoted by Stern, Joseph (1941), Science & Society, Vol 5, p. 168. See also Ottley, Roi (1948), Inside Black America, p. 14.
    • The quotation "God has made us all of one blood." is a reference to the New Testament Book Acts of the Apostles where Paul of Tarsus says about God: "And [he] hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring." (Acts, 17:26-28 King James Version) The one blood is Adam and Eve, for "God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them." (Genesis, 1-27 New International Version)
    • According to the New International Version the poets in this bible passage "From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’" (Acts, 17:26-28 New International Version) are the the Cretan philosopher Epimenides and the Cilician Stoic philosopher Aratus.
  • As soon as men live entirely in accord with the law of love natural to their hearts and now revealed to them, which excludes all resistance by violence, and therefore hold aloof from all participation in violence — as soon as this happens, not only will hundreds be unable to enslave millions, but not even millions will be able to enslave a single individual.
  • I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain't I a woman?
    • Ain't I a Woman? (1851), by Sojourner Truth (ca.1797-1883), a woman born into slavery who later became a prominent abolitionist.
  • Does any one suppose a slave trade would help their civilization? Is it not plain that she must suffer from it; that civilization must be checked; that her barbarous manners must be made more barbarous; and that the happiness of her millions of inhabitants must be prejudiced with her intercourse with Britain? Does not every one see that a slave trade carried on around her coasts must carry violence and desolation to her very center?
  • The true way to virtue is by withdrawing from temptation; let us then withdraw from these wretched Africans those temptations to fraud, violence, cruelty, and injustice, which the slave trade furnishes. Wherever the sun shines, let us go round the world with him, diffusing our benevolence; but let us not traffic, only that we may set kings against their subjects, subjects against their kings, sowing discord in every village, fear and terror in every family, setting millions of our fellow creatures a-hunting each other for slaves, creating fairs and markets for human flesh through one whole continent of the world, and, under the name of policy, concealing from ourselves all the baseness and iniquity of such a traffic
  • God Almighty has set before me two great objects, the suppression of the slave trade and the reformation of manners (morality).
  • For the prime design of society is the extension of the operation of law, and the equal treatment and protection of the citizens. Slavery, therefore, being the negation of law, cannot arise from law, or be compatible with it. As far as slavery prevails in any community, so far must that community be defective in answering the purposes of society. And this we affirm to be in the highest degree the case of our colonies. Slavery, indeed, in the manner wherein it is found there, is an unnatural state of opression on the one side, and of suffering on the other; and needs only to be laid open or exposed in its native colours, to command the abhorrence and opposition of every man of feeling and sentiment.
    • Rev. James Ramsay, Anglican priest and leading abolitionist. An Essay on the Treatment and Conversion of African Slaves in the British Sugar Colonies (1784), p. 16.

Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989)[edit]

  • But this momentous question, like a fire bell in the night, awakened and filled me with terror.
    • Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Holmes, April 22, 1820.—The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Paul L. Ford, vol. 10, p. 157 (1899). Jefferson refers to the Missouri question, whether to admit Missouri as a slave state but prohibit slavery in the rest of the Louisiana Purchase. Holmes was a representative from Massachusetts from 1817 to March 15, 1820, when he resigned to attend the Maine constitutional convention. He was elected to the Senate from Maine and served from June 13, 1820, to 1827, and 1829–1833.
  • Fellow-citizens, we cannot escape history. We of this Congress and this administration, will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No personal significance, or insignificance, can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass, will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation. We say we are for the Union. The world will not forget that we say this. We know how to save the Union. The world knows we do know how to save it. We—even we here—hold the power, and bear the responsibility. In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free—honorable alike in what we give, and what we preserve. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best, hope of earth.
    • Abraham Lincoln, annual message to Congress, December 1, 1862; in Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (1953), vol. 5, p. 537.
  • I do not understand that because I do not want a negro woman for a slave I must necessarily want her for a wife. My understanding is that I can just let her alone.
    • Abraham Lincoln, fourth debate with Senator Stephen A. Douglas, Charleston, Illinois, September 18, 1858; in Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (1953), vol. 3, p. 146. Lincoln used similar wording in a speech in Springfield, Illinois, June 26, 1857: "Now I protest against that counterfeit logic which concludes that, because I do not want a black woman for a slave I must necessarily want her for a wife. I need not have her for either. I can just leave her alone".—Collected Works, vol. 2, p. 405 (1953).
  • Those arguments that are made, that the inferior race are to be treated with as much allowance as they are capable of enjoying; that as much is to be done for them as their condition will allow. What are these arguments? They are the arguments that kings have made for enslaving the people in all ages of the world. You will find that all the arguments in favor of kingcraft were of this class; they always bestrode the necks of the people, not that they wanted to do it, but because the people were better off for being ridden. That is their argument, and this argument of the Judge is the same old serpent that says you work and I eat, you toil and I will enjoy the fruits of it. Turn in whatever way you will—whether it comes from the mouth of a King, an excuse for enslaving the people of his country, or from the mouth of men of one race as a reason for enslaving the men of another race, it is all the same old serpent, and I hold if that course of argumentation that is made for the purpose of convincing the public mind that we should not care about this, should be granted, it does not stop with the negro.
    • Abraham Lincoln, speech at Chicago, Illinois, July 10, 1858; in Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (1953), vol. 2, p. 500.
  • Whenever [I] hear any one, arguing for slavery I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.
    • President Abraham Lincoln, speech to 140th Indiana regiment, March 17, 1865; in Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (1953), vol. 8, p. 361.
  • All socialism involves slavery…. That which fundamentally distinguishes the slave is that he labours under coercion to satisfy another's desires.
    • Herbert Spencer, "The Coming Slavery", The Contemporary Review, April 1884, p. 474. This essay was reprinted in chapter 2 of his book, Man vs. the State (1884).
  • Not only do I pray for it, on the score of human dignity, but I can clearly forsee that nothing but the rooting out of slavery can perpetuate the existence of our union, by consolidating it in a common bond of principle.
    • Attributed to George Washington, John Bernard, Retrospections of America, 1797–1811, p. 91 (1887). This is from Bernard's account of a conversation he had with Washington in 1798. Reported as unverified in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989).

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations[edit]

Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 715-16.
  • Servi peregrini, ut primum Galliæ fines penetraverint eodem momento liberi sunt.
    • Foreign slaves, as soon as they come within the limits of Gaul, that moment they are free.
    • Bodinus, Book I, Chapter V.
  • Lord Mansfield first established the grand doctrine that the air of England is too pure to be breathed by a slave.
  • No more slave States and no more slave territory.
    • Salmon P. Chase, Resolutions Adopted at the Free-Soil National Convention (Aug. 9, 1848).
  • Cotton is King; or Slavery in the Light of Political Economy.
    • David Christy, title of book (pub. 1855), the phrase "Cotton is King" was later used by James H. Hammond in the US Senate in March, 1858, and Gov. Manning of South Carolina, in a speech at Columbia, S. C. (1858).
  • It [Chinese Labour in South Africa] could not, in the opinion of His Majesty's Government, be classified as slavery in the extreme acceptance of the word without some risk of terminological inexactitude.
  • Nimia libertas et populis et privatis in nimiam servitutem cadit.
    • Excessive liberty leads both nations and individuals into excessive slavery.
    • Cicero, De Republica, I. 44.
  • Fit in dominatu servitus, in servitute dominatus.
    • He is sometimes slave who should be master; and sometimes master who should be slave.
    • Cicero, Oratio Pro Rege Deiotaro, XI.
  • Corrupted freemen are the worst of slaves.
  • Resolved, That the compact which exists between the North and the South is a covenant with death and an agreement with hell; involving both parties in atrocious criminality, and should be immediately annulled.
  • The man who gives me employment, which I must have or suffer, that man is my master, let me call him what I will.
  • The very mudsills of society. * * * We call them slaves. * * * But I will not characterize that class at the North with that term; but you have it. It is there, it is everywhere, it is eternal.
  • Whatever day
    Makes man a slave, takes half his worth away.
    • Homer, The Odyssey, Book XVII, line 392. Pope's translation.
  • [England] a soil whose air is deemed too pure for slaves to breathe in.
    • Capel Lofft, Reports, p. 2. Margrave's Argument. (14 May 1772).
  • The air of England has long been too pure for a slave, and every man is free who breathes it.
    • Lord Mansfield. Said in the case of a negro, James Somersett, carried from Africa to Jamaica and sold.
  • Where bastard Freedom waves
    Her fustian flag in mockery over slaves.
    • Thomas Moore, To the Lord Viscount Forbes, written from the City of Washington.
  • And ne'er shall the sons of Columbia be slaves,
    While the earth bears a plant, or the sea rolls its waves.
  • Englishmen never will be slaves; they are free to do whatever the Government and public opinion allow them to do.
  • Disguise thyself as thou wilt, still,
    Slavery! said I—still thou art a bitter draught.
  • By the Law of Slavery, man, created in the image of God, is divested of the human character, and declared to be a mere chattel.
    • Charles Sumner, The Anti-Slavery Enterprise, address at New York (9 May 1859).
  • Where Slavery is there Liberty cannot be; and where Liberty is there Slavery cannot be.
    • Charles Sumner, Slavery and the Rebellion, speech before the New York Young Men's Republican Union (Nov. 5, 1864).
  • They [the blacks] had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.
    • Roger B. Taney, The Dred Scot Case. See Howard's Rep, Volume XIX, p. 407.
  • Slavery is also as ancient as war, and war as human nature.
    • Voltaire, Dictionnaire philosophique portatif ("A Philosophical Dictionary") (1764), Slaves.
  • I never mean, unless some particular circumstances should compel me to do it, to possess another slave by purchase, it being among my first wishes to see some plan adopted by which slavery in this country may be abolished by law.
  • That execrable sum of all villanies commonly called the Slave-trade.
  • A Christian! going, gone!
    Who bids for God's own image?—for his grace,
    Which that poor victim of the market-place
    Hath in her suffering won?
  • Our fellow-countrymen in chains!
    Slaves—in a land of light and law!
    Slaves—crouching on the very plains
    Where rolled the storm of Freedom's war!
  • What! mothers from their children riven!
    What! God's own image bought and sold!
    AMERICANS to market driven,
    And bartered as the brute for gold!
  • Time-servers are the cowering slaves of slaves,
    Alone on earth, who serves the Lord is free,
    Each soul shall win the gift that it most craves;
    Seek God, my soul — God shall your portion be!

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