200-year old text challenges modern-day slavery and racism

A controversial antislavery pamphlet has been republished inadvance of next year's Bicentenary of the Abolition of the SlaveTrade Act. Originally available in 1774, John Wesley's ThoughtsUpon Slavery challenged those in the society of his day to wake upto the evils of slavery.

John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church and celebratedpreacher, was well known as an opponent of slavery. He wroteThoughts Upon Slavery to confront the widespread acceptance ofslavery and to call for the abolition of the Slave Trade Act.Although he never lived to see this happen, his writings andpreaching were instrumental in the abolitionist movement.

Thoughts Upon Slavery has been reproduced with additionalbiographical details, including links to resources and informationon the current set all free campaign to combat modern forms ofslavery. The book also contains the reprint of a letter written byWesley to William Wilberforce, offering encouragement in hisopposition to slavery, written six days before Wesley's death in1791.

Naboth Muchopa, Methodist Secretary for Racial Justice said; 'It isessential that we remember that the slave trade is not dead. Wecannot turn a blind eye to the modern forms of slavery thatsurround us such as people trafficking, immigrants being paid slavewages and unfair trade laws that force countries into poverty anddebt. The Methodist Church today must go back to Wesley and hiscall to name the evil that we would term 'racism' and shame us ofour contemporary ills.'

The pamphlet was considered highly controversial when it was firstpublished because of the common and often unchallenged acceptanceof slavery, which was highly lucrative for Britain and itscolonies. But Thoughts Upon Slavery is not simply a moral argumentabout the evils of slavery; it offers an insight into the wayslaves were treated and the conditions under which they were forcedto live. Wesley discusses the gross punishments suffered bydisobedient slaves and the rewards offered to those who killed orcaptured slaves who had run away.

At one point he quotes Sir Hans Sloane; 'After they are whippedtill they are raw all over, some put pepper and salt upon them;some drop melted wax upon their skin; others cut off their ears,and constrain them to broil and eat them.'

All this leads Wesley to ask; 'Where is the justice of taking awaythe lives of innocent, inoffensive men; murdering thousands of themin their own land, by their own countrymen; many thousands, yearafter year, on shipboard, and then casting them like dung into thesea; and tens of thousands in that cruel slavery to which they areso unjustly reduced?'.

Other resources available for the 2007 bicentenary include a set ofseven posters jointly produced by the Methodist Church and set allfree. The posters feature images of abolitionists and freedomfighters, together with their thoughts on the slave trade.