Posted by Helen on October 12, 1997 at 14:13:18:
In response to Gracechurch Street and radical politics, written by Helen on October 07, 1997 at 10:38:23
Further to the above:
a lot of the pamphlets are about slavery - it was a time when the abolition question was being debated hotly in England, and these give both sides of the question. You get a lot of people arguing for slavery because it is already in existence and we can't change the status quo. Others argue that slavery is essential to the economic welfare of Great Britain, and therefore nothing can be done to change the situation - for these people the slaves really don't exist as humans and have no rights.
And then there is this argument:
The West Indies are very hot, and abundantly supplied with food. Therefore work for food, shelter and clothing is unnecessary: no-one would do a day's labour for wages because they wouldn't need the income, as peasants in England do. Therefore, we need them to be slaves. But, we could change this situation without destroying the economy. All we need to do is to train these people to want to buy lots of useless goods at expensive prices. They will then want to work for the money for luxury goods, and we can free them and make them workers, thus keeping capitalism flourishing.
isn't that wonderful???
However, this pamphlet is bound with another, which is a very simple anti-slavery pamphlet. The author says that he had never considered slavery to be an issue, and had always been a follower of prevailing beliefs about the economic necessity of slavery. Then he was appointed governer of a small island (Santa Lucia, I think). He went out there and was appalled by the treatment of slaves, who were beaten, chained, etc etc. He lists some appalling atrocities. As he says, how can anyone possibly experience this situation and not be revulsed? Therefore he did all he could on the island to ameliorate the situation (but could not abolish slavery). He ends, obviously, calling for abolishment. It's very bizarre, you think "well, they couldn't help it, it's the past" - but then you come across something like this, which shares the same concept of basic human rights for all which we have today.
On a lighter note: the reform pamphlets contain more of the same arguments about not changing the status quo. One argues that it is impossible to give all men the vote because "if you claim that everyone deserves the right, then you must include women and children, which of course is ridiculous" (ha ha ha). Others express a great dread of a revolution like the French one, and many argue that it is a tribute to the British character that we don't have such things...
Finally, there is one written by an American, casting an eye on the British system and finding it wanting compared to the American one. The British M.P. who was the original owner has read it industriously, underlining and making rude comments. Finally, at some particularly obnoxious point he writes "Bah!" in the margin, and obviously flung the book down in disgust, because the rest of the pages are unannotated.
Hope you found this interesting!
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