We must not allow Negroes to be men, lest we ourselves should be suspected of not being Christians.

Charles-Lewis de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu (1689-1755) French political philosopher
The Spirit of Laws [De l’esprit des lois], Vol. 1, Book 15, ch. 5 (1748)

In a satirical set of justifications for slavery of Africans (an institution Montesquieu generally condemned).

This form of the phrase was commonly used by American abolitionists, e.g., used as an epigram in Lydia Maria Child, An Appeal in Favor of That Class of Americans Called Africans, ch. 6 (1836).

French original text:

Il est impossible que nous supposions que ces gens-là soient des hommes, parce que, si nous les supposions des hommes, on commencerait à croire que nous ne sommes pas nous-mêmes chrétiens.

Alternate translations:

It is impossible for us to suppose these creatures to be men, because allowing them to be men, a suspicion would follow, that we ourselves are not Christians.
[tr. Nugent (1758 ed.)]

It is impossible for us to assume that these people are men because if we assumed they were men one would begin to believe that we ourselves were not Christians.
[tr. Cohler/Miller/Stone (1989)]

Added on 29-Mar-23 | Last updated 29-Mar-23
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