Excerpt from A History of the Struggle for Slavery Extension or Restriction in the United States, From the Declaration of Independence to the Present Day Human Slavery, as it existed in the pagan world, and especially in the infancy, vigor, and decline of Greek and Roman civilization, gradually died out in the advancing light of Christianity. When Columbus opened the New World to European enterprise and settlement, the serfdom of Russia and Hungary, and the mild bondage of Turkey - each rather an Asiatic or Scythian than a ...
Excerpt from A History of the Struggle for Slavery Extension or Restriction in the United States, From the Declaration of Independence to the Present Day Human Slavery, as it existed in the pagan world, and especially in the infancy, vigor, and decline of Greek and Roman civilization, gradually died out in the advancing light of Christianity. When Columbus opened the New World to European enterprise and settlement, the serfdom of Russia and Hungary, and the mild bondage of Turkey - each rather an Asiatic or Scythian than a European power - were the last remaining vestiges of a system which had pervaded, and mastered, and ruined, the vast empires of Alexander and the Caesars. The few ignorant and feeble dependents elsewhere held in virtual bondage by force rather of custom than of positive law, serve rather to establish than disprove this general statement. Lust of gold and power was the main impulse of Spanish migration to the marvelous regions beyond the Atlantic. And the soft and timid Aborigines of tropical America, especially of its islands, were first compelled to surrender whatever they possessed of the precious metals to the imperious and grasping strangers; next forced to disclose to those strangers the sources whence they were most readily obtained; and finally driven to toil and delve for more, wherever power and greed supposed they might most readily be obtained. From this point, the transition to general enslavement was ready and rapid. The gentle and indolent natives, unaccustomed to rugged, persistent toil, and revolting at the harsh and brutal severity of their Christian masters, had but one unfailing resource - death. Through privation, hardship, exposure, fatigue and despair, they drooped and died, until millions were reduced to a few miserable thousands within the first century of Spanish rule in America. A humane and observant priest (Las Casas, ) witnessing these cruelties and sufferings, was moved by pity to devise a plan for their termination. He suggested and urged the policy of substituting for these feeble and perishing "Indians" the hardier natives of Western Africa, whom their eternal wars and marauding invasions were constantly exposing to captivity and sale as prisoners of war, and who, as a race, might be said to be inured to the hardships and degradations of Slavery by an immemorial experience. The suggestion was unhappily approved, and the woes and miseries of the few remaining Aborigines of the islands known to us as "West Indies," were inconsiderably prolonged by exposing the whole continent for unnumbered generations to the evils and horrors of African slavery. The author lived to perceive and deplore the consequences of his expedient. The sanction of the Pope having been obtained for the African slave-trade by representations which invested it with a look of philanthropy, Spanish and Portuguese mercantile avarice was readily enlisted in its prosecution, and the whole continent, north and south of the tropics, became a slave-mart before the close of the sixteenth century. Holland, a comparatively new and Protestant state, unable to shelter itself from the reproaches of conscience and humanity behind a Papal bull, entered upon the new traffic more tardily; but its profits soon overbore all scruples, and British merchants were not proof against the glittering evidences of their success. But the first slave-ship that ever entered a North American port for the sale of its human merchandise, was a Dutch trading-vessel which landed twenty negro bondmen at Jamestown, the nucleus of Virginia, almost simultaneously with the landing of the Pilgrims of the Mayflower on Plymouth rock, Dec. 22d, 1620. The Dutch slaver had chosen his market with sagacity. Virginia was settled by Cavaliers - gentlemen-adventurers aspiring to live by their own wits and other men's labor - with the necessary complement of followers and servitors.
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