Drunkenness, Avarice, and Violence by John Wesley

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Bob Dylan Roof

I've been drinking and wanted to return to my roots. I just finished reading Thoughts Upon Slavery by John Wesley, founder of Methodism. After detailing the peacefulness of the Islamic Mandigos and the justice of the primitive communists in Benin, Wesley launches into an incredible description of the procurement of slaves. Here we see not guns, germs, and steel, but rather drunkenness, avarice, and violence as the means of white injustice and superiority:

2. It was some time before the Europeans found a more compendious way of procuring African slaves, by prevailing upon them to make war upon each other, and to sell their prisoners. Till then they seldom had any wars; but were in general quiet and peaceable. But the white men first taught them drunkenness and avarice, and then hired them to sell one another. Nay, by this means, even their Kings are induced to sell their own subjects . So Mr. Moore, factor of the African Company in 1730, informs us: "When the King of Barsalli wants goods or brandy, he sends to the English Governor at James's Fort, who immediately sends a sloop. Against the time it arrives, he plunders some of his neighbours' towns, selling the people for the goods he wants. At other times he falls upon one of his own towns, and makes bold to sell his own subjects. " So Monsieur Brue says, "I wrote to the King," (not the same,) "if he had a sufficient number of slaves, I would treat with him. He seized three hundred of his own people, and sent word he was ready to deliver them for the goods. " He adds: "Some of the natives are always ready" (when well paid) "to surprise and carry off their own countrymen. They come at night without noise, and if they find any lone cottage, surround it and carry off all the people." Barbot, another French factor, says, "Many of the slaves sold by the Negroes are prisoners of war, or taken in the incursions they make into their enemies' territories. Others are stolen. Abundance of little Blacks, of both sexes, are stolen away by their neighbours, when found abroad on the road, or in the woods, or else in the corn-fields, at the time of year when their parents keep them there all day to scare away the devouring birds." That their own parents sell them is utterly false: Whites, not Blacks, are without natural affection! ‚Äč

Wesley then proceeds through numerous passages of shaming and moral indignation, carefully exculpating the innocent and noble negro from the crimes of slavery while damning the white man. I wanted to believe that here was a truly god-fearing man bent on ridding the world of an intolerable sin, but instead found myself focusing on very familiar concepts that persist in the secular west. Wesley not only suggests that Africans are the equals of Europeans (an acceptable Christian conclusion), but even advances the notion that they are superior in many cases. He passes over the instances where African kings enslaved their own subjects (which he documents in the pamphlet) without moral commentary. This approach has innumerable analogs in the current discussions about Africa, e.g., the Congo, and demonstrates that overcivilized Christian man's pathological will to self-annihilation was already stirring in the 18th century.