Montesquieu

It is time to seek the true ori­gin of the right of sla­very. It must be based on the nature of things : let us see whe­ther there are cases where it deri­ves from that.

In every des­po­tic govern­ment it is very easy to sell one­self ; there poli­ti­cal sla­very obli­te­ra­tes, as it were, civil liberty.

Mr. Perry1 says that Muscovites sell them­sel­ves quite rea­dily. I am sure of the rea­son, which is that their free­dom is worth nothing.

In Achim2 eve­ryone tries to sell him­self. Some of the prin­ci­pal lords3 have no fewer than a thou­sand sla­ves, who are among the prin­ci­pal mer­chants, who also have many sla­ves under them, and these many more ; they are inhe­ri­ted and tra­ded. In these sta­tes free men, too weak against the govern­ment, try to become the sla­ves of those who tyran­nize the govern­ment.

And that is the ori­gin, just and consis­tent with rea­son, of that very mild right of sla­very one finds in some coun­tries, and it must be mild because it is based on the free elec­tion which a man, for his own pur­po­ses, makes of a mas­ter, which crea­tes a reci­pro­cal conven­tion bet­ween the two par­ties.

The State of Russia, by Jean Perry, Paris, 1717, in-12°.

[Aceh, a province in Sumatra.]

Nouveau Voyage autour du monde, by William Dampierre [Dampier], vol. III, Amsterdam, 1711.