On March 8, 1775, Thomas Paine publishes “African Slavery in America” in the Pennsylvania Journal and Weekly Advertiser

That some desperate wretches should be willing to steal and enslave men by violence and murder for gain is rather lamentable than strange. . . . The managers of that trade themselves, and others, testify that many of these African nations inhabit fertile countries, are industrious farmers, enjoy plenty and lived quietly, averse to war, before the Europeans debauched them with liquors, and bribed them against one another, and that these inoffensive people are brought into slavery, by stealing them, tempting kings to sell subjects, which they have no right to do, and hiring one tribe to war against another to catch prisoners. By such wicked and inhuman ways the English are said to enslave toward one hundred thousand yearly; of which thirty thousand are supposed to die by barbarous treatment in the first year; besides all that are slain in the unnatural wars excited to take them. So much innocent blood have the managers and supporters of this inhuman trade to answer for to the common Lord of all.

This reflects contemporary consciousness at least circa 1775 that the trans-Atlantic slave trade was illegal at least at the international level.


Reference: Randall Robinson, The Debt: What America Owes to Blacks (2000) at p. 24.

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