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Historical Document
"Defense of Slavery in Virginia"

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Soon after the start of the French and Indian War, a Reverend Peter Fontaine, replying to a query from his brother Moses as to the Christian ethics of "enslaving our fellow creatures," wrote that "to live in Virginia without slaves is morally impossible."

While noting that "the Negroes are enslaved by the Negroes themselves," Fontaine acknowledged that "It is, to be sure, at our choice whether we buy them or not." Yet he placed blame for the slave trade on "the Board of Trade at home" in Britain for preventing the Assembly from passing "a duty upon them which would amount to a prohibition."

Fontaine further explained that "unless robust enough to cut wood, to go to mill, to work at the hoe, etc., you must starve or board in some family where they both fleece and half starve you," thus forcing would-be "merchants, traders, or artificers" to "purchase some slaves and land" and become planters. He reasoned that for the cost of hiring "a lazy fellow," one could "add to this £ 7 or £ 8 more and you have a slave for life."

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Related Entries:
John Riley on Washington's position in 18th century Virginia
John Ferling on Washington as a slave owner in Virginia
John Ferling on Washington's attitudes towards slaves
Virgina recognizes slavery

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