Books: Margin of Evil

SINS OF THE FATHERS: A STUDY OF THE ATLANTIC SLAVE TRADERS, 1441-1807 by James Pope-Hennessy. 286 pages. Knopf. $7.95.

In Benito Cereno, Herman Melville's parable about slavery, the moody, vaguely ailing captain of a Spanish slave ship is asked: "What has cast such a shadow upon you?" He replies simply: "The Negro." In the long aftershadow of centuries, that answer, says James Pope-Hennessy, still holds true for all men.

Pope-Hennessy, authorized biographer of Queen Mary, grandson and biographer (Verandah) of a British colonial governor, is not a formal historian; his book is a stark, sometimes emotional act of moral scrutiny. From brutal start...

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