This is RGI's first speech given in 1860 then again in 1864 with this part added after the abolition of slavery.
I HAVE endeavored thus far to show you some of the results produced by enslaving the human mind. I now call your attention to another terrible phase of this subject; the enslavement of the body. Slavery is a very ancient institution, yes, about as ancient as robbery, theft and murder, and is based upon them all.
Springing from the same fountain, that a man is not the owner of his soul, is the doctrine that he is not the owner of his body. The two are always found together, supported by precisely the same arguments, and attended by the same infamous acts of cruelty. From the earliest time, slavery has existed in all countries, and among all people until recently. Pufendorf said that slavery was originally established by contract. Voltaire replied, "Show me the original contract, and if it is signed by the party that was to be a slave I will believe you." You will bear in mind that the slavery of which I am now speaking is white slavery.
Greeks enslaved one another as well as those captured in war. Coriolanus scrupled not to make slaves of his own countrymen captured in civil war.
Julius Cæsar sold to the highest bidder at onetime fifty-three thousand prisoners of war all of whom were white. Hannibal exposed to sale thirty thousand captives at one time, all of whom were Roman citizens. In Rome, men were sold into bondage in order to pay their debts. In Germany, men often hazarded their freedom on the throwing of dice. The Barbary States held white Christians in slavery in this, the 19th century. There were white slaves in England as late as 1574. There were white slaves in Scotland until the end of the 18th century.
These Scotch slaves were colliers and salters. They were treated as real estate and passed with a deed to the mines in which they worked.
It was also the law that no collier could work in any mine except the one to which he belonged. It was also the law that their children could follow no other occupation than that of their fathers. This slavery absolutely existed in Scotland until the beginning of the glorious 19th century.
Some of the Roman nobles were the owners of as many as twenty thousand slaves.
The common people of France were in slavery for fourteen hundred years. They were transferred with land, and women were often seen assisting cattle to pull the plough, and yet people have the impudence to say that black slavery is right, because the blacks have always been slaves in their own country. I answer, so have the whites until very recently. In the good old days when might was right and when kings and popes stood by the people, and protected the people, and talked about "holy oil and divine right," the world was filled with slaves. The traveler standing amid the ruins of ancient cities and empires, seeing on every side the fallen pillar and the prostrate wall, asks why did these cities fall, why did these empires crumble? And the Ghost of the Past, the wisdom of ages, answers: These temples, these palaces, these cities, the ruins of which you stand upon were built by tyranny and injustice. The hands that built them were unpaid. The backs that bore the burdens also bore the marks of the lash. They were built by slaves to satisfy the vanity and ambition of thieves and robbers. For these reasons they are dust.
Their civilization was a lie. Their laws merely regulated robbery and established theft. They bought and sold the bodies and souls of men, and the mournful winds of desolation, sighing amid their crumbling ruins, is a voice of prophetic warning to those who would repeat the infamous experiment. From the ruins of Babylon, of Carthage, of Athens, of Palmyra, of Thebes, of Rome, and across the great desert, over that sad and solemn sea of sand, from the land of the pyramids, over the fallen Sphinx and from the lips of Memnon the same voice, the same warning and uttering the great truth, that no nation founded upon slavery, either of body or mind, can stand.
And yet, to-day, there are thousands upon thousands endeavoring to build the temples and cities and to administer our Government upon the old plan. They are makers of brick without straw. They are bowing themselves beneath hods of untempered mortar. They are the babbling builders of another Babel, a Babel of mud upon a foundation of sand. Nothwithstanding the experience of antiquity as to the terrible effects of slavery, bondage was the rule, and liberty the exception, during the Middle Ages not only, but for ages afterward.
The same causes that led to the liberation of mind also liberated the body. Free the mind, allow men to write and publish and read, and one by one the shackles will drop, broken, in the dust. This truth was always known, and for that reason slaves have never been allowed to read. It has always been a crime to teach a slave. The intelligent prefer death to slavery. Education is the most radical...