diderot on savage europeans


SAVAGE EUROPEANS! Ye doubted at first whether the inhabitants of the regions you had just discovered were not animals which you might slay without remorse, because they were black, and you were white. You almost envied them the knowledge of God, your common Father. Most horrid thought! But when you had permitted them also to raise their hands and eyes to heaven; when you had initiated them in your ceremonies and mysteries; made them join in their prayers and offerings, and in the hopes of a future slate, afforded by one common religion; when you had acknowledged them to be your brethren; was not the general horror redoubled, at seeing you trample under foot the ties of this sacred consanguinity? You have put them more upon an equality with yourselves; and yet you go to distant parts in order to buy and sell them! You sell them, too, as you would a base herd of cattle! In order to repeople one part of the globe, which you have laid waste, you corrupt and depopulate another…. English, French, Spaniards, Dutch, or Portuguese, let me suppose I am conversing with one of you about a treaty concluded between two civilised nations; and that I should ask him, what kind of compensation he imagines may have been agreed upon in the exchange you have made? He will think it to consist in gold, provisions, privileges, a town, or a province; while, on the contrary, it consists in a greater or less number of your fellow creatures, which the one gives up to the other to dispose of at pleasure. But such is the infamy of this unnatural contract, that it doth not even present itself to the ideas of the contracting parties.

An anonymous Diderot, on the history of settlements and trade, found in Abbe Raynal’s Philosophical and Political History, 1770.

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