Rev. Levi Hart Calls for an End to Slavery
… If the Slave Trade is contrary to the law of nature, which is the law of God, it is more than time it was effectually prohibited, and until that is done we are accountable to God for all the sufferings which we bring upon the unhappy Negroes… .
Of all the enjoyments of the present life that of liberty is the most precious and valuable, and a state of slavery the most gloomy to the generous mind—to enslave men, therefore, who have not forfeited their liberty, is a most atrocious violation of one of the first laws of nature, it is utterly inconsistent with the fundamental principle and chief bond of union by which society originally was, and all free societies ever ought to be formed. …
Could it be thought then that such a palpable violation of the law of nature, and of the fundamental principles of society, would be practiced by individuals and connived at, and tolerated by the public in British America! This land of liberty where the spirit of freedom glows with such ardor.—Did not … facts compel me, I could never believe that British Americans would be guilty of such a crime.—I mean that of the horrible slave trade, carried on by numbers and tolerated by authority in this country. …
What have the unhappy Africans committed against the inhabitants of the British colonies and islands in the West Indies, to authorize us to seize them, or bribe them to seize one another, and transport them a thousand leagues into a strange land, and enslave them for life? …
Let us for once put ourselves in the place of the unhappy Negroes. …Go, mothers, weep out your sorrows on the necks of your beloved daughters whom you have nursed with so much care, and educated with such delicacy; now they must go to a distant clime, to attend the nod of an imperious mistress, covered with rags and filth (if covered at all) they must descend to the most servile and intolerable drudgery, and every the least symptom of uneasiness at their hard usage, meet the frowns and suffer the merciless lash of a cruel master.
Is it not high time for this colony to wake up and put an effectual stop to the cruel business of stealing and selling our fellow men…?
Who can count us the true friends of liberty as long as we defend, or publicly connive at slavery.—
When, O when shall the happy day come, that Americans shall be consistently engaged in the cause of liberty, and a final end be put to the awful slavery of our fellow men?
Source: Levi Hart, “Liberty Described and Recommended: in a Sermon Preached to the Corporation of Freemen in Farmington,” September 24, 1774
Reverend Levi Hart was born in Southington, Connecticut in 1738 and died in 1808 in Preston, Connecticut (now a part of Griswold). He graduated from Yale College in New Haven and was ordained in Preston in 1762.
Rev. Hart preached this sermon to the freemen (men who were accepted as voting members of the town) in Farmington in 1774. He calls for the end of the slave trade and slavery in the British colonies. Colonists were talking about independence from England. The Continental Congress was then meeting in Philadelphia. The idea of freedom and liberty was in the air.
Rev. Hart preached that the colonists could not call for their own liberty while they had enslaved others. He asks his listeners to put themselves in an enslaved African person's shoes, to imagine the terror they experienced at being captured and enslaved. He asks what these African people did to deserve this treatment.
Connecticut's General Assembly prohibited the slave trade soon after at its meeting held in New Haven from October 13 to November 4, 1774.
"Negro" was an accepted term for Black person in this period. It is no longer used today.