Online edition of Shunpiking
IN THEIR OWN WORDS
At unwcar, there was great opposition from the usa, Britain, Canada and other Western countries to providing reparations for their shared histories of slavery and colonialism and the consequences that stemmed from these systems of exploitation, oppression and degradation. x
As noted in the July/August 2001 issue of New African magazine "they wish to only affirm that slavery and the slave-trade are an appalling tragedy in the history of humanity… but they say that slavery was legal at the time so it cannot be called a crime against humanity." In this way, they seek to avoid paying of reparations. Indeed, the "legality" of slavery during the era of slavery is a central plank in the West’s case against reparations. However, here is a sampling of what was actually said and written at that time. For a more complete compilation see "Just an ‘appalling tragedy’?" New African, July/August 2001.
However we look at the question, the right to enslave is null and void, not only because it is illegitimate, but also because it is absurd and meaningless. The words ‘slavery’ and ‘right’ are contradictory.
—1755: Jean-Jaques Rousseau, French philosopher
This purchase is a business which violates religion, morality, natural law, and all human rights. There is not one of those unfortunate souls who does not have the right to be declared, since in truth he never lost his freedom; and he could not lose it, since it was impossible for him to lose it; and neither his prince, nor his father, nor anyone else had the right to dispose of it.
— 1765: Louis de Jaucort, contributor to Diderot’s Encyclopedia
No one is born a slave; because everyone is born with all his original rights. No one can become a slave; because no one, from being a person, can, in the language of the Roman law, become a thing or subject of property. The supposed property of the master in the slave, therefore, is a matter of usurpation, not of right.
—1769: Adam Ferguson, Scottish philosopher in his book Institutes of Moral Philosophy.
[The slave trade is] the greatest practical evil which has ever afťicted the human race. [He promised without delay] to restore Africans to the level of human beings.
No nation in Europe has plunged so deeply into this guilt as Great Britain.
— 1792: William Pitt (the Younger), British prime minister, 1783-1801 & 1804-1806.
If all the crimes which the human race has committed from the creation down to the present day were added together in one vast aggregate, they would scarcely equal the amount of guilt which has incurred by mankind in connection with this diabolical slave trade.
— 1844: Lord Palmerston
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