Slavery Consistent with Christianity (1853)by Rev Leander Ker
Slavery Consistent with Christianity (1853)
by Rev Leander Ker
PRINTED BY FINCH & O’CORMON, REPORTER OFFICE.
TO THE PUBLIC.
It is almost fifteen years since the following Lecture was delivered. Previous to its delivery I had resided several years in Florida where I had ample opportunities of seeing and judging of the Institution of Slavery and of the condition, character and treatment of the slaves. On my return to Pennsylvania, my native State, at the time when the question of Slavery was producing a high degree of excitement in Church and State, I was called upon by many, in both departments, for my opinions on the subject. And having, while in the South, given the question a thorough examination in its relation to and connexion with the word of God in the Old and New Testaments, which all Protestants profess to take for their sole and exclusive guides, on all great questions of religion and morality, I announced to the public, that I would, on a certain day, give, what I clearly believed to be the instructions of the Bible upon this subject. This was done, and a copy of the Lecture was called for publication. This was the first time, to my knowledge, of a public defence of the Institution of Slavery on the word of God.
A few years after, I published a second edition, by request, and since then I have received frequent solicitations from many sections of our country for another.
The defence is brief, simple and concise. The arguments are purely scriptural, not forced constructions from the sacred texts; but the true and unaltered texts themselves, arranged in their just and logical order—from the authority of “The Higher Law,” being in direct contradiction in this respect, to such production as “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” in which romantic fiction and gross misrepresentation occupy the place of truth, and by which, a mis-guided and false philanthropy is awakened, and sent abroad to elicit false sentiments, and set at work false principles, that, in their blind and ignorant career, may result in consequences the most fearful and fatal.
The despots and Monarchists of Europe, who dread nothing, at this time, so much, as the increasing and extending influence of our Republican Institutions—for they see in them a power which nothing earthly can resist—hail with rapture and delight, anything that throws a stigma, real or false, upon our country and our institutions. And believing, or affecting to believe, more firmly all the absurd fictions and sickly sentiment contained in “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” than they do in the Bible, their joy and rejoicing are unbounded; for they seem to think that from that “Cabin” they can get a club by which they will be able to dash out the brains of the young Western Lion of Liberty, scatter our institutions to the winds; divide our rich inheritance among themselves, and establish in our country the blessings of monarchy—that prefers white slaves to black.
And it is humiliating to the pride, and painful to the heart of every true American patriot, who loves his country and glories in her institutions, to witness the abject and servile sycophancy of some in our land, who, incapable of appreciating the blessings they enjoy, or despising them, will crawl to the feet of gilded despotism; lay their offerings upon its unholy shrine; pander to its appetites and lusts, and would sell their birthright, and barter their country’s honor, for a smile from a faded Duchess or Dowager; or for the honor of touching glasses with some poodle headed Lord of Great Britain.
I should prove recreant, indeed, in duty to God, my country and liberty, were I to write a book of a purely political, moral or religious character, which would, at this time, receive the flattering commendation of the aristocracy and monarchists of Europe, where religion is a mockery or a farce, or at best, an engine of State, in an unholy alliance with cruelty and oppression, where virtue is shamed into retirement and obscurity, and where morality is among the discarded relics of an obsolete age.
Constituted as the governments of Europe are, and governed by those principles that sustain them, and while we remain as we now are, there must ever be a state of negative or positive antagonism between us. It is more than idle to talk of a unity and harmony of principles, sentiments and feelings between the two Continents. As well expect concord and fellowship between Christ and Belial, as between the Spirits of Liberty and Despotism. Friendly relations between the European governments and ourselves, may and will exist—such only as the mutual and reciprocal benefits resulting from trade and Commerce can create: but beyond this, the governments of Europe, as governments, must entertain towards us an implacable hatred, and to destroy us and blot our name and nation from the earth, is the first and most cherished object of their hearts.
We are informed by high authority that Satan, the better to effect his wicked devices against us, sometimes transforms himself into an angel of light. And the enemies of liberty in Europe, and especially in England, acting on this principle, transform themselves into angels of benevolence and mercy, in order to sow the seeds of discord and disunion among us, and, if possible, divide our Union.
While utterly indifferent to the wretched condition of their slaves of tyranny and cruelty, their generous hearts are ever flowing with compassion for ours, whose condition is a hundred fold better than theirs. And they find but too many persons in this country the ready dupes and obsequious tools and instruments of their fanatical and infamous tactics.
When we contemplate the condition of the populace of Europe, especially that of England, the boasted land of religion and freedon, when we contemplate the condition of her suffering and destitute millions,—the condition of her operatives in her factories her fields and her coal mines; the condition of tens of thousands of her daughers, driven annually, by want and injustice, to crime and ruin: when we contemplate all this, can anything be more farsical, absurd or questionable on moral and religious grounds, than the late Stafford House movement, where the high-born dames of England, blind and indifferent to all the scenes of suffering, destitution and degradation around the, but full of mawkish sentimentalism and “Uncle Tom” philanthropy, assembled to devise ways and means to deliver the merry—and “laugh and grow fat” Negroes of America, three thousand miles from them!!! What benevolence! what transcendental philanthropy!!
But this is the benevolence that the spirit of despotism abroad, has assumed, in its present crusade against Republicanism, and is embraced, too, by many at home—a benevolence that cares as little for the real welfare of the slave as for his master.
Benevolence has become one of the trades of life, and men and women find it profitable. It requires no capital but impudence, and a pliant, easy, sliding conscience. It costs nothing—it spends nothing—it gives nothing, and sacrifices nothing but truth and honesty; and it pays well, while fools are plenty.
NEGROMANCY, the dark embodiment of this philanthropy, is a more profitable business than the Nicromancy of Seignor Blitz, or Herr Alexander.
This affectation, or affection, for Negro-ology, pervades every thing at this time—our very literature is becoming redolent of it; and the Muses deserting the pure and lofty heights of Parnassus, descend to revel in the odorous breezes of Congo.
There was a time, when philanthrophy, like charity began at home, and like charity, it labored and suffered in silence; shunning notoriety, and repudiating ostentation and gain. But now, notoriety and gain are its objects; and ostentation the manner of its procedure. Spurning the obscurity of home, where but little fame—and less gain—reward its labors, it seeks the most distant places for the fields of its operations, and its activity and zeal are in an inverse ratio to the wants and sufferings of the objects it would relieve.
There is much of this kind of philanthopy in the world at this time; and this is the kind exhibited in the drawing rooms of the Stafford House. But in all that proud and glittering throng, that concentration of mercy and compassion, not a voice is heard to plead for the many thousands of England’s sons and daughters, sires and matrons, suffering, starving and dying around them, whom the aforesaid mercy and compassion, if truly and properly directed, would relieve and save to an extent, known only to Him, who has commanded us to love our neighbors as ourselves.
But John Bull’s neighbors are those who are most remote from him, and John’s love is more for country and property than for persons.
The celebrated traveler, Dr. Clark, informs us that being once in a Greek Church in Russia, he saw a pious rascal who while devoutly telling his beads with one hand, was with the other deliberately picking the pockets of a fellow sinner beside him.
Thus with John Bull, while telling his hollow and worthless beads of philanthropy with his left hand, with the right he is plundering the Rajahs of India of their possessions and adding them to his dominions, to inflict upon them the curse of England bondage, which John, from long habit, having called liberty, believes to be such.
But pause a moment, Sir John, in your transatlantic benevolence to us, and let us reason together, if there be such a faculty in your national cranium, and, in the words of the good old Book, which you have too little respected, let me say to you, first—pull out, if you can, some—if not all the beams, that for centuries, have lain quietly and easily in your own eyes, and some of those beams are very large, ugly and crooked. Do this, and then you will be the better able to see and judge of the mote of Slavery in your brother’s eye: a mote, too, let me remind you, that you, by your cupidity and avarice—your “Amor sceleratus habendi,” (your insatiate love of universal plunder,)—have cast into it.
Chaplain U. S. A.
Fort Leavenworth, June, 1853.
From time immemorial, the origin of the negro, with the cause of his complexion and features, has been involed in mystery as dark as his hue—and to reveal which, seems almost as hopeless as his destiny. And were we able to arrive with absolute certainty at the former, it would go but a little way to alleviate the adverse circumstances of the latter. He appears to be an anomaly in the human family—the child of sorrow, and the recipient of wrong. And, like his fairer brethren, seemingly suffering the consequences of some act of transgression committed by his progenitor—the cup not yet being drained.
Before we enter upon the question before us, it may neither be irrelevant, nor unprofitable to devote part of our time to an inquiry respecting the origin of this part of the human race. And turning aside from all the theories on the subject, we will go to the Bible, and see whether it sheds any light on this dark, and inexplicable question.
I therefore call your attention to certain transactions recorded in the ix. Chapter of Genesis, from the 18th verse to the end, as follows:
“And the sons of Noah that went out of the Ark were Shem, Ham and Japheth: and Ham is the father of Canaan. These are the three sons of Noah; and of them was the whole earth overspread. And Noah planted a Vineyard, and began to be a husbandman, and he drank of the wine, and was drunken. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without. And Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered their father, and saw not their father’s nakedness. And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him: and he said cursed be Canaan, a servant of servants shall be he unto his brethren. And he said blessed be the Lord God of Shem: and Canaan shall enlarge Japheth, he shall dwell in the tents of Shem, and Canaan shall be his servant.”
The first thing that claims our attention in this narrative, is the names of the three sons of Noah. In simple and primitive times, names were not as now, arbitrary and unmeaning terms, but were descriptive of the moral and physical qualities of the persons and things to which they were applied: this was a universal custom among all nations of antiquity. And Ham denoted black or burned. Ham! it is black! We assume the fact then, and we will furnish the reason immediately—that this name was given to the younger son of Noah because of his color; and we may easily conceive that Neah would exclaim Ham! on seeing his son for the first time.—And it could not be expected that Noah would regard this child with the same paternal tenderness with which he regarded the others: and this may go very far to explain, if not palliate, the conduct of Ham in exposing his father’s shame: and the resentment that would be superadded upon Noah’s mortification, on discovering the offender, would well prepare the mind of the father for uttering those imprecations “loud and deep” upon his graceless child.
Permit me here to make a few remarks on the nature and extent of this curse; which may appear too severe to be just, and too cruel to have received the sanction and approbation of Heaven.—You must consider that this crime of Ham was the first transgression recorded after the flood, and probably the first committed; and you must remember, in the next place, that Noah now was to the world what Adam was, when created—the official head—the Vicegerent of Heaven—and, therefore, the first deliberate and wilful offence, as in the case of Adam, according to the moral government of God, must be punished with the utmost rigor of law. I do not consider the intoxication of Noah, on this occasion, as criminal, because he must have been ignorant of the nature of wine—never, perhaps, having tasted any before: and, in the last place, you must bear in mind that the crime of disobeying, insulting and mocking parents, is second only to disobeying, insulting and mocking God; and, under the law, such a son or daughter was to be stoned to death.
Next came the names of Shem and Japheth; and that Japheth was white, and Shem red, will appear evident from the following facts. The three quarters of the globe were divided among the three sons of Noah; to Ham was assigned Africa, to Shem Asia, and to Japheth Europe: and to this day, the three colors of our race are to be found in these three divisions, denoting the origin whence they came.
True, Canaan settled on the Eastern Coast of the Mediteranean Sea, but neither does this, nor the fact that he and his posterity, might be brown or yellow, invalidate our general argument.—We know that Ham settled in Egypt; and there is every reason to suppose that his brethren and their posterity, would show but little favor to him and his posterity, but would very soon avail themselves of all the real and supposed privileges that the curse, denounced upon Ham and his posterity, gives them, and would expel them from the rich lands of the Nile into the Southern and less desirable sections of Africa.
To substantiate these scriptural facts respecting the origin of the negro, permit me to give you a tradition which I found among the Seminole Indians in Florida, as follows: “When the Great Spirit had created the earth and all its animals, he concluded to make man, who should be lord and master of the whole. But as the first man he made was black, and not being well pleased with him, he proceeded to make a second, whom he made red; but not being satisfied with the improvement, he created a third—and him he made white, with whom he was well pleased. The Great Spirit then presented to these men three boxes—the first of which contained books, the second bows and arrows, and the third hoes and axes. And as the white man was the Great Spirit’s favorite, he had the first choice; and he selected the box of books. The red man was allowed the second choice—who took the bows and arrows: and the negro had to take the hoes and axes; and now, say these Indians, the white man lives by books, the red man by hunting, and the black man by labor—and such they believe to be the will of the Great Spirit—hence the reason why these Indians would never receive teachers and missionaries among them. And there has been recently discovered a nation of negroes in central Africa, holding the same tradition; both traditions acknowledging the superiority of the white man over the other two, as well as the inferiority of the black to the red.
We will now advance a physiological argument in support of what has already been said, containing the reason for the color of the negro.
There is every reason to believe that an additional curse was inflicted on the earth by the flood, and that very great changes must have been produced in the physiology of the earth—in her climate and atmosphere. God did curse the ground when Adam sinned: and from the fearful increase of crime, both in quantity and quality, he found it necessary to increase and extend the course, in such a manner, that, by multiplying the physical disabilities in the way of obtaining the necessaries of life, as well as by multiplying the causes tending to the abreviation of human life, there would be a diminution in crime individually and collectively: and as in wisdom and benevolence, he inflicted the first curse on the earth, so also in wisdom and benevolence, he inflicted the second, because the first was insufficient. And after the infliction of the last curse on the ground, he tells Noah that he would no more curse it for man’s sake.
When God determined to destroy the old world by a flood, and to change the character of the earth, by increasing or creating physical disabilities not existing before—he would find it necessary to change also the physical economy of the human family, or at least a part of that family, in order that they might be prepared to meet this contemplated contingency. And it is a well establisehd fact, which the science of physiology fully explains, that the negro, in virtue of his peculiar constitution, color and temperament, is well adapted to the tropical and torrid regions. And this we conceive to be the reason of his color and temperament. This argument will have due weight with the honest and intelligent physiologist. But perhaps some who cannot perceive, or will not admit, the argument, will smile at such an exposition: to such I would remark, if God accommodates the polar bear to his habitation of endless ice and snow, and qualifies the stormy petral for its ocean home, would he show less wisdom and benevolence in fitting man by temperament and otherwise, for a residence under the burning line?
The sum of our physiological argument is this—God found it necessary to curse the ground the second time, as already stated—and not willing that any part of his footstool should be uninhabited, especially so valuable a part as the tropical regions, must prepare a part of the human family by constitutional and physical organization and temperament, to meet with safety the physical and climatic changes and influences consequent upon the latter curse. Now we know that the negro is fitted every way, both fora tropical residence and for tropical labor. And the fact is well established, that just in proportion as he recedes from warm climates, just in such proportion does he degenerate. And I have no hesitancy in venturing the assertion, that the tropics will never be successfully cultivated by free and voluntary labor: because there are two causes to prevent this; the enervating influence of climate producing such a lassitude, mental as well as physical, which even cupidity and avarice cannot always shake off—and the second is, the munificence of nature spontaneously avarice cannot always shake off—and the second is, the munificence of nature spontaneously affords a sufficiency for the few and simple wants of nature. And the tropical regions never have been successfully cultivated but by servile labor.
But perhaps some will think, that I would infer from the preceding argument, that Ham and his posterity were created for slavery; to this I answer, no—no more than I believe and teach that God created the antediluvians for the pleasure of drowning them, or the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorah for the pleasure of burning them, or a part of the human family for the pleasure of damning them. There is a great different between what God desires and commands men to do, and what they perform; and his will and purposes are not always fulfilled. His will is that man should keep his commandments and love one another, which is not always done; and his pleasure is that all men might be saved through his son, who has tasted death for every man, and who offers pardon, life and heaven to all—for all are under condemnation, and yet many will go away into everlasting perdition. Men who talk and write in magnificent phrase about the omnipotency, omnisciency and omnipresence of God, take it always for granted, that Jehovah makes these abstract qualities the rule of his conduct, overlooking the great fact that God is a moral not a physical being, and that he makes fixed and eternal moral principles, not physical ones, the rule of his conduct. And having created us rational and intelligent beings, he acts towards us on such rational and intellectual principles as we can understand. He, therefore, created Ham for a peculiarity of climate, which he contemplated in the destruction of the world; but the conduct of Ham, with the curse upon him and his posterity, were all incidents by the way, and were no more a part of the divine plan and arrangement, than murder, theft and injustice occurring under the moral government of God, is a part of that government. Ham, like Adam, brought himself into his sad silemma—both having been created for better things: nor are they the only specimens of our race who have frustrated the will and purpose of their Creator, though they are the only two whose delinquencies have reached so far and wide.
Perhaps some may feel a difficulty with the declaration, that the will and purposes of God are not always fulfilled; but a simple explanation will remove this difficulty. The expressed law of God to man, contains his will and purpose, and that law is the rule of God, nor does he act contrary to it. And that law has a two-fold purpose towards every man—to reward him if he does well, and punish him if he does evil—this is the will and purpose of God towards every man; to save and glorify every member of the human family, on condition of their acceptance of his son, or destroying them forever without remedy if they do not: the first is the choice of God, the latter an alternative, but an alternative he will as certainly execute as he will fulfill the former. Here then is a two-fold will and purpose on the part of God towards all men, and one or the other he will fulfill, and nothing can prevent him; hence he says, “I will do all my purpose.” But he cannot execute both these purposes in one individual, because this involves a contradiction, a thing morally and physically impossible to God. Take an example. When the Son of God wept over Jerusalem, it was his wish and purpose to save her, at least he says so—and we cannot for a moment believe him insincere; this was his first will and purpose—as it always is the first will and purpose of God to save men: but, as the Jews would not gather themselves for safety, under the outspread wings of the Almighty, he executed to the uttermost, his latter will and purpose in their destruction. Hence, not only is the purpose of God defeated, but the purpose he would most willingly fulfiill, and the one he would not, he executes.—Theologians seem to have lost sight of these simple truths and facts, in their fanciful speculations on abstract sovereignty and omnipotency, in which they have not only lost themselves, which would be a small loss, were it the only loss—but they have involved the whole system of moral science and christianity, in darkness, doubt and mysticism, as to render it no longer attractive and desirable.
We will call your attention back again to a few more particulars in the ix. chapter of Genesis, 26th and 27th verses. “Blessed be the Lord God of Shem, and Canaan shall be his servant.”
In the Asiatic courts and harems, black mutes and eunuchs are preferred as slaves, who are literally the servants of Shem, and servants too under the most painful and humiliating circumstances. But the mast remarkable prediction in this memorable transaction is contained in the 27th verse. “God shall enlarge the borders of Japeth; he shall dwell in the tents of Shem, and Canaan shall be his servant.”
It is a settled point now that our American Indians are the descendants of the Asiatics, or the children of Shem—and we know that the Europeans are the children of Japeth. And God did literally enlarge the borders of Japeth, when he raised up Columbus to discover America. And now, we, the posterity of Japheth, are literally dwelling in the tents or places of Shem, and Canaan is our servant.
But it is worthy of remark and of digression from our subject, that this prediction of the enlargement of the borders of Japheth, and his dwelling in the tents of Shem, are in our own day receiving a further fulfillment.
In looking at the blessing pronounced, Japheth was ultimately to have the pre-eminence even to the supplanting of Shem. Now, this has been fulfilled to the letter in our own country; and it is is about to be fulfilled too in Asia.
The two greatest powers in Europe, or the world, Russia and England, are making rapid inroads upon the Asiatic provinces: the latter at this time controls little less than two hundred millions of people in that section of the globe. While the Russian eagle, as hungry and insatiable as Albion’s lion, is whetting his bill and pluming himself for a flight, and a banquet on the lend of Shem, the fate of Asia is inevitable. The tents of Shem there, as here, will be occupied by his younger brother—and that obscure and unknown spot on which this memorable prediction was uttered, will witness its final consummation. Let the infidel and sceptic look at these facts.
Canaan, it is said in the 25th verse, “shall be a servant of servants to his brethren.” This is a singular prediction, but most singularly fulfilled, as I have seen both in the South and West Indies, where, on large cotton, coffee or sugar plantations, the slaves are divided into companies with a leader over them of their own color, who is also a slave, and is responsible to his overseer or master. And these leaders, in general, are far more severe to their fellow slaves than their masters or overseers are.
And, in some parts of the West Indies, many free negroes are owners of many slaves, who were formerly slaves themselves.
Nor is this all—for Canaan was to be a servant to his brethren, Shem and Japheth—all of which I have seen fulfilled, as the Creeks, Cherokees and Seminoles have many slaves among them.
These facts satisfy my own mind of the truth of our theory; and they are submitted to your consideration.
It may be necessary for the information of some of our hearers, to make some remarks relative to the first introduction of slaves into this country.
The first slaves brought here, were prisoners taken in war among the African tribes, and, according to the universal custom among all savage nations, these prisoners had, by the fortune and rules of war, forfeited life and liberty, and were at the mercy of their captors to be killed, sold into slavery, or retained for their pleasure or service, just as passion, interest or caprice might rule them. The same privilege was also given to the Jews by a law of the commonwealth of Israel. Those Africans, then, who were first imported into this country, were not made slaves by that transaction: it was the fortune of war, that made them such: they were the property of their conquerers, who availed themselves of the privileges which the usages of war give; and who preferred selling to killing them. Now keep in mind that these prisoners had, as already stated, lost all personal liberty forever, by the fortune of war, and that they were as much the property of their captors as any other property their captors had; there was neither violence nor wrong done in selling them; and whether there was any wrong done in buying them, resolves itself into this simple question, whether it would have been better to have suffered those prisoners to have been butchered in cold blood, or buy them, and thereby save their lives: by the latter alternative their condition remained as it was; but by the former it was a death with no alternative. This is the question at issue, and like all similar questions, its answer will depend upon the moral temperaments of the casuists who agitate it. There are but few men, however, who will not prefer the loss of liberty to the loss of life; for this simple and allsufficient reason, that the captive may recover his liberty—but from death’s domain there is no return.
These, then, were the circumstances under which slavery was introduced into our country. But afterward the most iniquitous measures were adopted to procure the requisite number—measures that none but a demon incarnate, would either use or justify—and measures too, still pursued. But we must discriminate justly between the manner in which slaves were first obtained, and subsequently procured.
But, seeing they are among us, let us see whether the retaining of them in slavery is consistent with Christianity or not. And we are assured that a question of such importance, can be answered in no other way than by a reference to scriptural statement, and scriptural practice.
But I am well aware of the difficulty that lies in our path, from the fact that scriptural statements and examples are often lost sight of and disregarded when sectarian and partizan measures are to be carried into effect, and men find it very convenient to erect a standard, and frame rules founded on abstract Biblical propositions, and inferential deductions that shall suit their purposes, and arm them with authority to carry out all their plans, and justify themselves in all their conduct; although, by so doing, they nullify some of the first and best Christianity, as well as violate the essential laws of humanity, of which all persecutions for conscience’s sake are the proof. The Bible is very far from being the only rule of faith and practice, even among Protestants; else why so many different faiths? so many antagonistical systems of theology? So many contradictory forms of church policy? and last, but not least, so much wrath, contention, strife and rangling, all about words—which discussion only darkens, and explanations mystify? and the church of Christ, that should be the focus of peace, holiness and love, resembles the arena of vulgar politics.
To the “law and the testimony” we will go, and from them take nothing by example and precept.
And the first example of slavery we have here, is in the family of Abraham, “the father of the faithful”—the church of Christ—nor could the whole number of his slaves have been small, seeing he had three hundred and eighteen born in his house, or BOUGHT WITH HIS MONEY, that were fit for war. So then, even father Abraham was a trafficer in human flesh.
The next prominent example we have is Job, whose slaves must have amounted to several thousands; and yet this man had the most honorable testimony of his God, as being “a perfect and upright man, one that feared God and eschewed evil.” Now, if to hold slaves is among the greatest of sins, as the anti-slavery party affirm it is, then God’s testimony respectpecting Job’s eschewing evil, is false and hypocritical, and, according to the standard of Abolitionists, for graduating the degrees of criminality that attaches itself to slaveholders, Job must have been the greatest sinner in the land of “Uz”—and Satan the greatest fool for trying to get one already so securely his own. But the abolitionists must pardon us for prefering the testimony of God to their affirmations.
But it may be replied that these cases are not in point, because they existed before the giving of the law. Well, then, to the law let us go: and here we find Moses, under the direction of God authorizing slavery and legislating for it. Read the enactments on the subject.
See Exodus xxi. Chap., beginning at the 2d verse.
“If thou buy an Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve thee; and in the seventh he shall go out free, for nothing. If he came in by himself, he shall go out by himself; if he were married, then his wife shall go out with him.
“If his master have given him a wife, and she have borne him children, the wife and children shall be her master’s; he shall go out by himself.
“And if the servant shall say I love my master, my wife and my children; I will not go out free: then his master shall bring him unto the Judges; he shall also bring him unto the door, or the door posts; and his master shall bore his ear through with an awl, and he shall serve him forever.”
This was the law concerning Hebrew servants, and in this law we see a feature which has ever been regarded as the most abhorrent in slavery, and that is, that husbands could be torn from their wives, and fathers from their children; and that hard condition could only be avoided by another condition equally hard, which was that the husband and father became a slave for life, or until after the year of Jubilee, after his six years of servitude had expired.
But the children of Israel were freely allowed to purchase slaves of the heathen around them, and these slaves were to serve them during their natural lives; and they were allowed to take as many slaves in war as they were able, except in those cases in which the whole nation was devoted to the sword by the command of God.
Slavery, then, in all its features, was in full existence among the Jews, and sanctioned by the divine law. And by that law a man and all his family could be sold for debt, and had to serve until the year of Jubilee; when a general emancipation took place among Jewish slaves and debtors, and all things became as they were: but as this occurred only every fifty years, thousands must have been born and died in a state of slavery even of the Jewish nation.
But it may be said that this was under the law, and not in accordance with the Gospel dispensation, which proclaims “liberty to the captive,” &c.
Let us then go to the New Testament and see what it says—for under that dispensation we now are—and that, and that alone, is the law rule of our conduct; and most cheerfully and willingly do I commit the whole burden of this question, with all its issues, on this ground.
There never was, since the world began, a truer and firmer friend to man, and civil and religious liberty, than St. Paul, after his conversion to Christianity, and yet he taught any thing but the doctrine of abolitionism; it received neither encouragement nor sanction from him, but the contrary. But let him speak for himself. Read first Corinthians, vii. chap., 20th and 21st verses:
“Let every man abide in the calling wherein he was called. Art thou called, (converted,) being a servant, care not for it; but if thou mayest be free, use it rather.”
Here it is necessary to explain, that certain over-zealous and ignorant persons among the first converts, thought and taught that Christianity nullified all conditions and social stations of life, and of evil society.
Taking the idea of a community of goods from what had existed a little while at Jerusalem, in the first heat and fervor of religious enthusinsm among the first converts there, they identified this with Christianity, and taught it as one of its doctrines and duties, and from a misapprehension of Gospel liberty and privilege, they considered that converted slaves were no longer under obedience to their masters, especially if those masters were unconverted Gentiles—and that converts were not required to obey heathen Magistrates and Governers. Both these errors Paul labors in this epistle to rectify; by teaching that it is not the design or tendency of the gospel to abrogate any of the institutions of society, political or natural, but, leaving them just as it finds them, it rectifies all existing evils and abuses pertaining to them, by rectifing the human will, enlightening the human conscience, and purifying the human heart, and ultimately removing all external evils by destroying all internal ones. This he taught; and all this is comprehended in this great moral principle, viz:—
“Let every man abide in whatever calling—an honest one of course—in which he is called—converted.”
And to the servants or slaves who were converted in servitude, be not discontented with your condition, and obey your master in all things; but, if you can, by any lawful means, obtain your liberty, do so. Now, all that is implied in this privilege, is just simply the recognition of custom everywhere in use where slavery existed; by which freedom was obtained, as the slave and master could agree upon terms.
Hear Paul again to the Ephesians, vi. chap., and 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th verses:
“Servants be obedient to your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of heart as unto Christ. Not with eye service as men pleasers, but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. With good will doing service as to the Lord and not unto men, knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free.”
There are a few points in this quotation that demand particular attention—such as, “the servants of Christ doing the will of God from the heart—with good will doing service as to the Lord, and not unto men.” Now, what is this but the admission that slavery as existing in the apostle’s days, received the approbation of God, and was in unison with his will. And we remark in view of this quotation, that the existence of slavery, instead of being nullified by the gospel, was actually sanctioned by it; and to the natural and civil obligations already resting upon the slave to obey his master, is superadded the higher authority of moral and religious obligation. And the relationship existing between master and servant, is placed upon new and more sacred grounds than ever; over and around which the gospel of peace and love throws her fostering influence; and sheds the light of her countenance upon it. See, also, Collossians, iii. chap., and 22d verse, and 1 Peter, ii. chap., and 18th verse, in which the same doctrine is inculcated by both Paul and Peter. And we wish you to observe, that, in these epistles, these two eminent apostles connect the duties and obligations of servants with all the other duties of life; the civil, the conjugal, the parental and the filial: thereby showing that all these relationships, duties and obligations, have all come under the supreme authority of the obligation to obey the gospel; and that they are all alike sanctioned and sustained by the gospel dispensation: and, therefore, by a just and logical deduction, to tamper in any way with slaves, so as to excite them to revolutionary action, or cause them to render an unwilling obedience to their masters, is just as criminal, and as much a disregard of the authority of God and Christ, as it would be to excite to rebellion, citizens against their governors, wives against their husbands, and children against their parents. The abolitionists may plead humanity and religion in justification of all they say and do, and they may be honest and conscientious too, but here are the law and the testimony of the head of the church: here are unequivocal scriptural facts and precepts, which no sophistry can entangle, no ingenuity can weaken, and no explanation destroy. But alas! how often is scripture set aside or compromised by men calling themselves Christians, and assuming the ministerial robe, in order to establish and carry out their own systems of false philanthropy and religion. We know—for such is the history of our race—that men have violated every precept in the Christian religion, and all for religion; and every principle of humanity, for humanity: and that the demon of malignity on the altar of benevolence, has ever held his richest and sweetest banquets: and we know also, that even honesty and conscience, when not guided by truth and knowledge, are as terrible and desolating in their career, as the worst passions of the human heart. How important then, to have the revealed will of God, and how necessary that we should be guided, in all things involving the deepest consequences, by its positive and unequivocal precepts alone. But whenever we undertake to hunt for the will and purposes of God in his word, and which he has not revealed to us, you may rest assured that ninety-nine times out of every hundred, we return from the investigation with our own wills, and with our own purposes, which we mistake for the will and purposes of God; and it is then and there, where we least expect it, that pride has been most triumphant, and Satan most successful over us.
We will give you one extract more from the writings of Paul on this subject—one which, of itself, is sufficient to settle the question, were there nothing more—contained in his first epistle to Timothy, from the first to the sixth verse of the vi. chapter:
“Let as many servants as under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honor, that the name of God be not blasphemed. And they that have believing masters, let them not despise them; because they are faithful and beloved, partakers of the benefit. These things teach and exhort. If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; he is proud, knowing nothing; but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railing, evil surmisings, perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness; from such withdraw thyself.”
In meditating upon this passage, we are almost disposed to believe that the inspired Apostle had the whole phalanx of abolitionists in prospective, and that he was present, in spirit, at one of their conventions; for certainly never were the characters of a set of men so truly and faithfully drawn; every feature and lineament here given, is true to the living characters and conduct of these men.
How perfectly applicable is this “doling about questions and strifes of words” to our modern abolitionists. See what a variety of questions and measures distract their councils and assemblies! What a changing of grounds—what a veiling of purposes—and what a winding and counterwinding of designs—and, in order to allay the fears and vigilance of the south, what a shrinking from, and a denial of, the sentiments of their doctrine; so that no man in their ranks, who is in office or desires one, will avow himself an abolitionist. And as some men—their agents and lecturers, are handsomely paid, for their incendiary labors, they may, and do—no uncommon mistake—“suppose that gain is godliness.” The picture is complete, and there is no mistake in finding the living portraits.
From such men Timothy was commanded to withdraw himself; and as a minister of the Lord, he was to teach and exhort servants to be obedient to their masters—and Paul calls these instructions “wholesome words—even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
We will now give you one important fact from the writings of St. Paul, which proves beyond all controversy that he was practically, as well as in sentiment, opposed to the principles and doctrines of modern abolitionists. The fact to which I allude is recorded in his epistle to Philemon, one of the christian converts, and a fellow laborer with St. Paul. This Philemon’s servant Onesimus, ran away from his master and came to Paul, under whose instructions he was converted to Christianity. Now, how does Paul act under the circumstances? I should like to put the question to the president of an abolition convention, and to all abolitionists in general, who do not only conceal absconding negroes, but devise ways and means to release them from their masters. But how did the great champion of the cross—this great, this true philanthropist act? He sends the servant back to his master—a christian apostle, acting under the seal and commission of Prince Emanuel, sends back a christian slave to a christian master.
I know it is in vain to quote scriptural precepts and examples, against the proceedings of bigots and fanatics, for they regard these as little as their brethren, the scribes and pharasees, regarded the law of Moses, though, they were forever prating about that law, and yet violating its every precept—so is it in these latter days: and the Son of God himself, were he again to appear on earth as he did, before, would, I fear, be treated no better.
On the broad and all sustaining grounds then, of scriptural precept, scriptural authority, and scriptural example, I take my stand, in defence of slavery, and fearlessly meet its opponents. Planting my right foot on the bible, and my left on the constitution of my country, I cheerfully and confidently abide the result.
The present controversy then is not between us and the abolitionists—but between then, and Paul, or rather between them and Christ, in which position I leave them. Abolitionists tell us that no slave-holder can be a Christian. But here again they and Paul are at issue. Paul tells us that there are believing masters, as well as believing servants, and that both are the servants of Christ. Will the abolitionists unchristianise Paul and Peter and Timothy? They all sanctioned the existence of slavery in the primitive church; and it devolves now upon the abolitionists to show when these precepts authorising slavery were revoked, and that too by the same authority that first gave them.
Again, the abolitionists have declared that those churches in which slavery exists, “are the Synagogues of Satan.” Modest assurance truly! So then, the Corinthian, the Ephesian and the Collosian’s churches, and all the others which the apostles planted, were the synagogues of Satan! Fanaticism sometimes plays strange pranks with her votaries, and places them in awkard and ridiculous attitudes. And there is nothing like religious fanaticism to make men play the fool on the largest and broadest scab of folly and madness, where their insane words and actions are sufficient to provoke
“The loudest laugh of Hell.”
And yet none talk so much about duty and the will of God as they; while they overlook the fact, that the word of God is the will of God to us, and that, outside the circumference of that revelation, we are as profoundly ignorant of his will as the infant of an hour. And they overlook another fact, which is, that the positive and unequivocal precepts and commands of God, contain the sum of our duties to him and our fellow men, and only when we perform these duties in obedience to him, we do the will of our Heavenly Father, and then, and only then, do we work righteousness—the righteousness of God in Christ.
But it is no uncommon thing for men to mistake their own wills for the will of God, and their fierce and malignant passions for zeal for the glory of God. Their duty is identified with the performance of their wills and the gratification of their unhallowed passions, and doctrines the most absurd, conduct the most irrational, and deeds the most unchristian, are advanced, exhibited and performed: and this is self-righteousness; for self is the source of it all—a righteousness which few can understand, though many have it—a righteousness that, in the judgment of the sanctuary, “is filthy and rotten rags.”
Slavery, then, instead of being prohibited by Christianity and her first teachers, was actually sanctioned by her and them—and, therefore, Abolitionism is anti-scriptural and anti-Christian. Nor was the right and Christian propriety of holding slaves ever called in question until modern times—in which men have discovered more than God ever revealed, and have imposed more upon the church and the world than ever God enjoined—while they have erected other standards and tests of Christian character than what the son of God has furnished. The gospel, both in its letter and spirit, is almost as much made void by the traditions and inventions of man, as was the law, by the traditions of the Elders, the Scribes and the Pharisees. And while these pests of the Jewish commonwealth were daily trampling the law under their feet, they were still appealing to Moses and to that law; and so is it now. It is the cry of “Lord, Lord”—but a disregard of What that Lord enjoins.
We ask you, then, if we have not, by scriptural fact and argument, demonstrated that Slavery is consistent with Christianity? And that there is nothing morally wrong in holding slaves.
I have no personal motive in conducting the question to such a conclusion. Time was, when I entertained sentiments just the opposite of those here expressed; but they were the sentiments of education, ignorance and prejudice. But a question of such tremendous magnitude must be considered as becomes its importance: and as I early adopted the plan of carrying every question and difficulty, involving important results to the word of God, refusing to take the dogmas and authoritative opinions of any man or set of men; to the Bible I went, and the result you have, given you to-day. My mind is now completely at rest on this subject; for I rest on scriptural fact and scriptural argument—On “Thus saith the Lord.”
But, though we have clearly demonstrated that slavery is consistent with Christianity, yet I am willing to change the form of the question, and meet the anti-slavery party on the grounds of concession, that slavery is an evil; I am willing to allow them so much—and yet defend its existence also, on Biblical grounds, and by scriptural examples. This may appear as a solicism; but let us try it. There are more truths in the Bible than were ever dreamed or conceived in out lean and sterile systems of theology, on which, if mortal souls feed alone, they will become as lean and sterile too. The masterly and arbitrary opinions of men have set bounds to that book whose depths are fathomless, and whose stores and treasures are exhaustless.
There are certain evils of a social character, that may exist in combination with the essential elements of social life—to destroy which, by hasty and violent measures, is a far greater evil; and, in such cases, the existing and lesser evil is under the protection of Heaven.
The novelty and boldness of this position may startle you, but it is susceptible of the clearest demonstration from the word of God.
When the children of Israel became tired of their theocracy, and captivated with the pomp and pageantry of regal government, they demanded a king from Samuel. Now this was downriight rebellion against God, and so he informed Samuel, who, in turn, informed Israel, declaring that their request was a political rejection of God. But, as both nations and individuals can only be cured sometimes of their folly by letting them have their own ways, God, at length, yielded to their impornuities, and, after informing them what a king would do unto them, granted them one. And although such a change in the political economy of Israel, was in direct opposition to the will of God, (so much for the Divine right of kings,) yet, when a regal government was established in Israel, and when everything became adapted to that form of government, and when the safety, the prosperity, and the happiness of all became identified and interwoven with the existence and preservation of that government and of the king, then woe to him who raised his regicide hand against the “Lord’s anointed.” And, now that which was contrary to the mind and will of God, receives his protection and approbation.
Take another example. When John the Baptist commenced his public ministrations, among the many who came to him for advice and counsel, were some soldiers of the Roman army, then quartered in Judea, saving unto him, “And what shall we do?” Now, when we consider that war is one of the greatest evils of our world, that it is in direct opposition to the letter and spirit of the gospel of peace, life and love; and that John came to prepare the way for that gospel, by removing the obstructions out of the way, the greatest of which is war; when we consider all these things, it would have been expected that John would have commanded these soldiers to throw down their arms, desert their colors, return to their homes, and “learn war no more.” Such would have been the answer from a member of a “Non-resisting society,” had the world been wise enough then to have had one. But what was John’s answer—“Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely, and be content with your wages.” Here observe that the latter clause in these instructions to the soldiers, is equivalent to a command to remain in the army and pursue the trade of war; and the former part was a rule for their observance while not engaged in active warfare. Had John commanded these soldiers to desert their ranks, he would have been arrested for treason and rebellion; and the Roman Tribunes would have spared Herod the crime of murdering the foreunner of Christ. They would have put him to death for other and better reasons than to gratify a wicked mother and a silly daughter.
That war is an evil of the highest magnitude, is true; that it is contrary to the letter and spirit of the gospel, is equally true; and that the spirit of the gospel will eventually exterminate war, by exterminating the evil passions of men, that generate war, is no less true. But until the spirit of the gospel becomes the spirit of the nations, and the principles of the gospel, the laws of nations, wars, sometimes, will be unavoidable, and armies will be necessary. I mean defensive wars, for aggressive wars are always wrong, and never justifiable. And, therefore, to require men and nations to lay down their arms, and disband their armies, while the spirit of war is still in their hearts, is attempting to heal a great and sore disease by attacking the effect instead of the cause.
Take another example in support of our position. The Scribes and Pharisees, with that craft, cunning and dupliciiy, always characteristic of religious and political Jesuits, employed every stratagem to entrap the Redeemer, so as to commit himself on some great question of religion or politics, came to him on one occasion, and with the subtlety of their father, the Devil, intending to take him by surprise, thus addressed, him: “Master, we know that thou regardest not the person of any man, and carest for no man, but teachest the way of God truly; tell us therefore, is it lawful to give tribute to Cæsar or not? Shall we give? or, shall we not give?”
It is not possible to conceive a more deep-laid and cunningly contrived scheme to entrap an innocent person, than this, which was the master-piece of deceit of these serpents and vipers, as John truly called them. There is the insiduous manner of address, the appeal of human vanity, the delicate and subtle flattery, that Delilah, that has destroyed stronger Sampsons than he of old.
They, no doubt, expected, that, as the Redeemer came in the character of a deliverer, and also a kieg, that he would at once have told them to pay no tribute to Cæsar; and then they would have accused him to Cæsar for rebellion: or, should he answer in the affirmative, then they could accuse him of imposture and hypocricy. Either way they had him sure; and how they must have chuckled with delight at the certainty of success this time. But how must they have stared at him, and one another, when he said, “Shew me a penny.” And what a suppressed whisper must have run round this circle of serpents. “A penny? why, what is the fellow going to do with a penny?” And when the penny was presented to him, and the question asked, “Whose image and superscription are these;” and being told, “Cæsar’s,”—how confounding and crushing the declaration—“Render to Cæsar the things that are Cæsar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”
Look, then, at the facts and circumstances of the case before us. Here we see the Redeemer, the son of God, sovereign Lord of all, and to whom every knee most ultimately bow, submitting and requiring submission, to what?—to a government whose policy was founded in blood, cruelty and rapine—a government as opposite in spirit and principle to the kingdom of Christ, as good is to evil—and a government too, at that very time, by taxation and oppression, that was squeezing the life and soul out of the very nation, which the son of God came to redeem—and carrying the principle of his obedience so far too, to that heathen empire and emperor, as to work a miracle, to obtain the necessary sum to pay the required tax—yes, to that same Cæsar who is to receive his eternal doom and destiny from his lips.
The parable of the tares and the wheat is another example in proof of our position; and is, perhaps, more in point than any of the others that have been cited; as it is a full illustration of our position, and of the condition of slavery at this time in our country, which has become so incorporated and interlaced with the whole fabric of social life, domestic, civil, and political, identifying its very existence, that to abolish slavery by immediate emancipation, would he to tear up society by the roots—and would be the destruction of master and servant—or a practical exemplification of attempting to separate the tares from the wheat. And, therefore, if slavery is an evil, it is like those evils contained in the foregoing examples given from the word of God—and is under the eye and protection of Heaven for the present; and, therefore, abolitionists should pause and reflect, lest they be found fighting against God.
These examples, which we have drawn from the word of God, contain a vast fund of instruction to all, especially to statesmen who have the welfare of their country at heart; but to none would they prove so profitable as to abolitionists, if they would but study them.
Do nothing before the time; and wait for the “fullness of time,” by watching “the signs of the times,” is a safe and wise rule; but in this helter skelter and headlong age, it is lost sight of; and men who are too lazy to learn, too stupid to understand, and too impatient to wait, substitute zeal for knowledge, and action for wisdom, prudence and talent—and their fanaticism assures them that God stands committed to second all their plans and purposes.
We will now proceed to file our objections the doctrine of abolitionism. We object to it in the first place, because what it demands is legally and politically unjust. We have disposed of the moral division of this question on biblical grounds, as we will now look at its legal and political aspect. Slaves, as property, are as much legitimated by legislative enactments and safeguards, as any species of property in our country, in lawful possession; and, therefore, it is the height of presumption and injustice to ask the slave-holder to surrender up this species of property, which gives to his other property whatever value it may possess. It is the insolent demand of rank agrarianism. On what principle, then, can the abolitionists rest this demand? They have neither biblical, legal nor constitutional grounds on which to base this demand, for all three are against them; because, when the several states entered into a national confederacy, and when each surrendered up certain rights and powers, the slave-holding States demanded and received the privilege of being unmolested by the General Government of the Confederacy in the permission to retain their slaves; and therefore, by the terms of the compact, the sentiments and demands of the abolitionists, is an impudent, illegal, and unconstitutional intermeddling with the sacred, legal and political rights of others—rights that are secured to them by the Bible, the laws and constitution of their country. And it is sheer mockery, and little short of blasphemy to cover such proceedings and designs with the specious and imposing names of philanthropy and religion. More blood has been shed, more injustice committed, and more cruelty perpetrated, under these names, than in any other way.
But, say the abolitionists, by construction and expediency we can make abolitionism constitutional and right.
The doctrine of construction and expediency, when adopted as the rule of interpretation and action, will destroy any constitution that ever was framed by God or man, and has done it. It is one of the most potent and convenient powers in the world, for it will give you any thing you please, how you please, when you please, and where you please. It is the genteel, the patriotic, and religious mode of gratifying pride, ambition, or any other unsanctified passion of the human mind. It can reconcile all contradictions, render practicable all impossibilities, authorize all kinds of absurdities, sanction all kinds of fooleries, and justify all kinds of cruelties. What has not this doctrine of construction and expediency done with the word of God? and with the church of Christ? It has made the former utter sentiments and doctrines the most absurd—and led to practice the most irrational, not to say wicked—and establish “isms” impossible to folly herself—while it has made the latter an arena for eccleciastical gladiators to display their skill and bravery in, for the amusement and amazement of those who have no more to do, and no more sense than to gaze at men, who might he more wisely employed. Yes, and it has taught men and Christian men, the art of hating and biting one another scientifically and systematically. So much for construction and expediency.
I object to abolitionism, in the second place, because it is intimately connected with, and leads to amalgamation. It is now proposed to give the blacks all civil and political rights and privileges: but there are certain social rights and privileges which are essential to perfect freedom, and which men value as highly as they do the others: and by giving to the blacks the former, is giving them a right to demand the latter, which is, to sit with you at your tables, to lodge with you in your chambers, to mingle and participate in your social amusements, and to take your daughters and sisters to be their wives, and give their daughters to be your wives. And how can you withhold from them those privileges which you give to all others? If you emancipate, you must also amalgamate. You must go the whole extent of the principle of liberty and privilege, if you begin—otherwise you compromise the matter, and deceive the blacks.
Amalgamation must necessarily follow from the doctrines of the abolitionists, and this we know that some of them contend for—and ask where is the impropriety of amalgamation? In reply to this we contend that there is something more than prejudice of color, absurd custom, and arbitrary taste against it. That there is a moral impropriety in the amalgamation of the two colors or races, even if that amalgamation were made legal, the following facts will sufficiently prove. It is a well established fact, that the offspring of white and black parents, is a degenerate offspring, physically and mentally inferior to either of their parents; and the worthlessness of mulattoes has become a proverb where they are known; and their offspring again is still more degenerate, being generally subject to scurvy and other loathsome diseases; and exhibiting an almost total absence of mental and physical energies. And here nature seems to interpose her insuperable law, for the female of the third remove from white and black parents, called the quadroon, is rarely known to have offspring to white men. The degeneracy, then, of the offspring from amalgamation is downward and rapid, until that offspring ceases: and thus God, by signs and evidences not to be mistaken, has forbid the amalgamation of the two races.
I object to it, in the third place, because it is founded upon, and tends to agrarianism. That morbid and sentimental philanthropy which, at a distance, and in imagination, contemplates the difference between the slave and his master, may soon turn its compassionate eye to more proximate inequalities of life, rank and riches; and demand that the millionaires and others of less fortunes, divide with the children of poverty and want: insisting that as “all men are born free and equal,” it is no more than right, and the will of God, that they also live free and equal. And it would be quite as just and reasonable to make that a religious and political question as abolitionism.
I object to it, in the fourth place, because it would be an act of positive inhumanity to the negroes; for there is no class of beings on earth so incompetent to provide for, and take care of, themselves, as the slaves of the south. And this is natural and inevitable, from the fact of being provided for, and taken care of, from infancy till death; and, therefore, to turn them loose with no more experience than they have, would be like a parent turning his helpless children out upon the world to get along as well as they could. And look at the condition of the free blacks here in the north, where they have been free for two or three generations, and what are the facts in reference to their habits and characters? How do they live? Your cellars, your corn houses, your poultry yards can answer that question. And go to New York, and there, in her negro population, you will see the utmost limits of moral degradation, and physical destitution. And emancipate the slaves of the south, and the result would be, that while a few would resort to voluntary labor, the great mass of them would become idle and profligate, and, allured by that mistaken philanthropy which set them free, they would bend their steps northward.
And, therefore, I object to it, in the fifth place, because an influx of free negroes from the south, would have a most pernicious and disastrous influence upon the honest, industrious and virtuous poor, residing on the confines of now slave-holding States. Those blacks, finding that they must work or starve, would, in order to get employment, work for lower wages than the white man received, who would be thrown out of employ; and pauperism, and its concomitant taxes, would rapidly increase; and for one thief you now have, you would have five or ten—and loafers, beggars and vagabonds in proportion; with your jails, and alms-houses filled to overflowing.
I object to it, in the sixth place, because its doctrines are at war with the order and constitution of God’s economy.
One of the leading doctrines of abolitionists, is the silly and ideal sentiment of perfect equality, to which they would bring all things in social life. But, in this, they are waging a hopeless war against the arrangements and dispensations of God; for there is not a single fact or analogy in either the world of matter nor the world of mind, to support this silly and ideal sentiment. There is no such thing, as absolute equality any where—nor can such a thing exist among the creatures of God any more than absolute independence. Nor is it equality, but inequality, that produces order and harmony in the universe of God.
The three sons of Noah were not equal—nor were the blessings pronounced upon Shem and Japheth equal. Japheth was, by the conditions of that blessing, made superior to Shem—and that superiority he does and ever will retain. Japheth has the start of Shem, and he will keep it; and Shem has the start of Ham, and he will keep that too. And so it is with all the divisions and subdivisions of the three great families of man.
One of these three general divisions must be the head of universal society, and the other the tail or foot—and Japheth was, from the beginning, constituted the head, and the head he now is, and the head he will ever remain. See how this prediction, uttered more than four thousand years ago, is literally fulfilled and still fulfilling! Who would not fear God for his power—love him for his goodness, and trust his promises and his grace!! And from the beginning Ham was made the foot of universal society, and the foot he will ever be, as certainly as Japheth shall continue to be the head. I do not conceive that Ham’s locality, in the great body politic or social, of the world, was the result of his crime. This, I believe, was all arranged by the divine mind, before that crime was committed, and arranged irrespectively of that crime: because the body social can no more exist without a head and foot than the body individual can: but the depredation, the infamy, the hard bondage, the bitter servitude of Ham and his posterity—these were and are the consequences of his crime: this is the curse pronounced upon him. That this view of the subject is correct, we have only to look at the locality of Shem: he was made then, and is still inferior to Japheth. What crime did he commit that made him his brother’s inferior? What offence against his father and his God was he guilty of, that his tents must be occupied by his supplanting brother? None. He committed none; nay, he assisted Japheth in the performance of the same meritorious deed; and yet he is not, and never was Japheth’s equal. The three sons of Noah, then, were intended to represent the three grand divisions of universal society. Japheth the head, Shern the middle, and Ham the foot; and this order was made by Jehovah as in the case of Jacob and Esau, without respect to the good deed of the one, or the bad deed of the other; and this order will continue to mark and distinguish the posterity of Noah, until the end of the world. Christianity will not alter this arrangement; all she will do for Ham will be to roll away his reproach—his degradation and the curse pronounced upon him—but the foot he will ever be, and be ever subject to his brethren; but he will be as useful and as necessary in the great social body of the world, as Japheth the head. And when Christianity has finished her work—when she has enlightened all—subdued all, and sanctified all—then Ham shall no longer envy Japheth, and Japheth shall no longer vex or oppress Ham. The head shall not say to the foot I have no need of thee, nor the foot say to the head I have no reed of thee. The four quarters of the world—the east and the west, the north and the far distant south—must all become the dominions of Japheth. The signs of the times, the stirring events of the day, all tend rapidly to this consummation. How silly, then, to talk about social and political equality.
Society, in all ages and nations, resembles a snake with its head and tail—the tail may now be where the head was—but the head is still as far in advance of the tail, as at the beginning; nor can the tail ever overtake the head. And just so is it with the fabric of society. The servants of the nobility of Europe are, at this time, in possession of more intelligence, and more of the comforts and elegancies of life, than the nobility five hundred years ago knew or enjoyed, and yet the difference between them is as great now as it was then; or, according to our figure, the tail of European society is now where the head once was; but the two extremities are as far apart as ever. The poor now, in many countries, are better fed, clothed and lodged, than were the rich a few centuries ago; but still the gulf is as wide between the two classes as ever. And so it is with the learned and the ignorant.
Christianity has no hostility to, or quarrel with, this constitution of society, and this distinction of classes, as many of her ignorant professors and teachers imagine and affirm; nor is it her purpose to destroy or level these distinctions; nor could she do it, if she would, for the causes producing these things, are beyond her reach, lying in the constitution of mind which God has given to man. The object of Christianity is to improve all, and make all happy, by making them contented with whatever station or lot Providence has assigned them. And as she found slavery on earth, with the other institutions of society; and interwoven with them all, and, as she did not forbid it then, she may permit it even to the end of the world, and amid all the splendors of the millenial noon: And under her benign and improving influence, the condition of the slave may and will be such, that even liberty could present no charms to him; for we have known instances in which emancipated slaves have returned to voluntary slavery.
But many make slavery and cruelty synonymous and convertible terms. That they are sometimes found in connection, is no more proof that they are one and inseparable, than is the fact that tyranny is sometimes found in connection with government, and infidelity sometimes in the conjugal state; and treachery sometimes with friendship, and cruelty sometimes with parents—a proof that all these are one and inseparable. These are incidental evils, and not necessarily coonected with, or growing out of, these institutions. And the object of Christianity is not to abolish these institutions, but only the evils that may be found in connection with them; and to place the institutions themselves on loftier and better grounds than they ever knew. The governmental upon stronger and safer, the conjugal upon holier and tenderer, the friendlier upon truer and firmer, and the parental upon loftier and nobler, and as she connected slavery with all these, from the beginning, under the all-pervading sanction of moral obligation, she may do so until her mediatorial reign shall cease.
In closing this lecture, I would address a few words to abolitionists, not so much for the purpose of admonition, for fanaticism of every kind, is invulnerable to argument, and insensible to entreaty, as it is reckless of consequences, but in order to vindicate the character of the slave-holders of the South.
The abolitionists, as a body, are most grossly ignorant of the condition of the slaves. Nine-tenths of them have never been in a Slave State; and those of them who have been there have gone for the purpose of “cllecting facts” to report at the next annual Convention; or, if not for this purpose, they have passed through the slave states with the volocity of modern travelling, with as little opportunity for correct observation as the Trollopes, the Halls, the Hamiltons, and the Maryatts, who have given us the slang of Mississippi Boatmen—the profanity of low bar-rooms, and the vulgarity of grooms and ostlers, as specimens of American manners and republican gentility.
Such hasty and inconsiderate generalizations, is proof of an uneducated mind; a want of discrimination, or a most disingenuous and unmanly heart. And because some monsters in the south, though they are few and far between, treat their slaves with inhumanity, just as some husbands, parents and masters in the North, and everywhere else, treat their wives, children and apprentices with cruelty, these sage abolitionists generalize the conclusions from those isolated cases that such are the universal treatment of the slaves; and, in their meetings, they report accordingly.
In this they are equal to those veracious tourists, those pinks of English chivalry, of whom we have spoken.
Now, it would by nothing more than what the lex talionis, the law of retaliation, would authorize, if a committee were appointed in the South to send agents to the North “to collect facts” of husbands abusing their wives, parents their children, and masters their apprentices, and the whole reported in Convention, published in the Newspapers, and the scenes stamped on pocket handkerchiefs, and extensively circulated. These are the beauties and delicacies of fanaticism.
Now, I can truly say, that, during several years’ residence in the South, I have lived in families owning hundreds of negroes, and never saw any unnecessary severity, or wanton cruelty; but, on the contrary, ever saw the slaves treated with kindness and humanity, indeed, often with more than was judicious. And here I would inform the abolitionists that they are depriving the slaves of many privileges and advantages, by their incendiary doings. They are the worst enemy the slave now has.
It has been my painful duty to officiate on funeral occasions, while in the South, and never have I seen grief so deep and genuine as that of the slaves whose master or mistress had gone to the place appointed to all living.
We have said that the abolitionists are grossly ignorant of the present condition of the slaves in the South, and their treatment, and no doubt much of their hostility is the result of their ignorance.
This is an important subject, and should be well understood.—During my residence in the South, which was several years, I for the most part spent my time on large cotton and sugar plantations, on which were hundreds of negroes; and I went there with the prejudice and feelings of the North in reference to slavery, and I looked in vain for those scenes of horror and cruelty of which I had read and heard in my childhood; but I saw them not. I found to my surprise that the slaves of the South—and this I solemnly affirm—are better fed and better lodged than the free negroes of the North; and these slaves are far happier than the others. See them where you will, in the field, or in their quarters, you see them happy, merry and contented; and instead of the midnight sighs and groans issuing from their quarters, of which we are told so much, I can appeal to Heaven that I have never heard any thing but the merry laugh, ringing on the midnight air. And more, they are not only better fed and lodged and clothed, as well as happier, than the free blacks of the North, but they are ten times more polite, mannerly, genteel, intelligent and moral, than those dogged impudent, insolent, profane and filthy creatures that swarm about the towns and cities of the North, and from which our Jails and Alm-houses receive such large accessions. Another fact: the slaves of the South do not labor as hard as the white laborers of the North do. The former have their tasks assigned them, and when their tasks are done they may play or work for themselves. And I have known them, or the active ones among them, to finish their tasks againts three or four o’clock in the afternoon; and then they had the cool of the day to labor for themselves; and for this purpose every cabin, every head of a family, has a lot of ground allowed him, on which he raises whatever he chooses—corn, or cotton, or vegetables, or tobacco—the whole of which he is allowed; and hence, there are slaves in the South who have made as much money as would buy themselves, and strange to say, not one in twenty avail themselves of this opportunity. I have said that the slaves in the South are more moral than the blacks at the North. This is indeed true. The former are more lively and inquiring; and in point of morals, they are decidedly superior to the free blacks of the North. You see none of that profligacy, drunkenness and brutality, and hear none of that obscenity and profanity among the slaves of the South which you see and hear among the others. And I have always discovered that those slaves who were truly religious, were always the most devoted to their masters and their interests; and upon inquiry, I have universally found that they were perfectly contented with their condition, snd had no wish to be free; because they were well taken care of, and would be well provided for when old and infirm. Nor are the slaves destitute of religious instruction. In this respect they are well provided for. There are white preachers who are employed for the exclusive purpose of preaching to, and instructing the slaves. And the masters find that religion makes their slaves more faithful, dutiful and useful. Hence, policy and interest, no less than humanity and religion, dictate to the masters to treat their slaves well. How often have I seen the deep sympathy and interest the slaves take and manifest in their master’s affairs and fortunes—how they would exult when their masters were prosperous and successful! and how deeply would they sympathise—how sad and silent when afflictions or misfortunes overtake their master’s families. All these things I have seen and much more of a similar character than I can describe. How little do our brawling abolitionists know of the condition—the happy condition—of the slave; and how little do they know the amount of mischief they are doing.
We repeat again, they are the worst enemy the slave has. And not only an enemy to the slave, but an enemy to their—country—an enemy to law, order and humanity.
Once more, the opinion that the existence of slavery has a tendency to harden the heart, and destroy the noble and generous feelings of the soul, is as destitute of truth as ever falsehood was. Where do we find such exhibitions of disinterested hospitality, uncalculating generosity, ardent friendship, spontaneous kindness, honor, sincerity, love and affection, with noblest magnanimity, as among the sons and daughters of the south? Would to God the abolitionists were baptized with the spirit of these qualities!
And I have often beheld the graceful and accomplished lady of the south in the hut of the sick and dying negro, ministering that assistance and comfort, which derive half their efficacy from the hand and the voice that impart them; and which woman is so ready, and knows so well, how to administer. And, perhaps, at the very time they were doing these things, in soothing the pains of the body, or the worse pains of the mind, and smoothing the dark path of the dying, their sisters of the north were holding conventions, preparing reports, forming committees of correspondence, drawing up remonstrances against their sisters of the south, and denouncing slavery as a heaven-daring sin, and slave-holders as the chief of sinners: or listening to some “godly young man” with brains as thin and shallow as his beard, and whose sphere of knowledge extends no further than the circle of his neighborhood, delivering himself of a rhapsody of solemn nonsense and falsehood, respecting a subject that he and his gaping and admiring audience knew as little as the Kahn of Tartary does of the policy and government of this country. And what is the worth of all this masculine and feminine talking and vaporing? Is a single slave set free?—not one. Is the first breach made on the rampart of slavery? no. Are the fetters of the relaxed? no—but rather tightened and increased. Abolitionism, then, is as foolish as it is wicked, lawless and reckless: and the time will come when it will be regarded as wicked and absurd as “witch burning” is now; though the time was when that was considered a holy and righteous measure.
I say nothing of the indelicacy of woman stepping out of the quiet walks of domestic life, to which alone her God has consigned her—and to which alone her nature adapts her; and obtruding her person and voice where those of man should alone be seen and heard. I say nothing of the impropriety as well as unfitness of women engaging in public scenes and public affairs of any kind. This is actually unsexing herself, and compromising, if not destroying that mystic influence, that sacred charm, that halo of divinity, which her Creator has thrown around her; and which, more than any thing else, holds the wickedness of this world in awe and restraint, but which too much public exposure degrades, and familiarity destroys. And I say nothing of the downright immodesty of woman teaching, by her example, the first practical lessons of amalgamation. But I forbear, and by forbearance respect them more than they respect themselves. It is only by keeping inside the domestic circle, that woman’s powers and influence can be preserved and felt. Stepping beyond this, she leaves them all behind: and the decrease of her influence, her love and respect will ever be, just in proportion to the extent of her aberrations from the domestic sanctuary.
Woman mistakes her station in life, she mistakes her position in society, she mistakes the way of meeting her destiny and its corresponding responsibilities, of “being a help meet to man”—and she mistakes the measure of her influence on society and the world, in supposing that, on the public theatre of life, and amid scenes of public activity, she could increase her influence and usefulness.
This is called the “age of benevolence,” and some persons appear to have gone mad with the love of benevolence, at least they are mad with every body who will not be as benevolent as themselves; and, by abuse, scurrility and persecution prove how benevolent they are. They can talk of nothing but “benevolence.” This is the “Shibboleth” of the age, and of all sects and parties. A world of charms and enchantments dwells in this single word. And justice, judgment, truth, righteousness, yea, and humanity itself, are often sacrificed on the altar of this popular deity. This benevolence has exploded the doctrine of all future punishment, and allowing men to enjoy themselves here, and play the fool and devil up to “the top of their bent,” will carry them to the paradise above, to revel in eternal enjoyments there.
There are hundreds of abolitionists—I quote their own language—who are so benevolent, that they could see every slave owner butchered in cold blood by his slaves, his family ruined and beggared, and the entire south turned into a waste howling wilderness, And the parliament of England was so benevolent of late as to wring twenty millions sterling from her oppressed, starving and over-wrought population at home, to emancipate her slaves in the West Indies, which slaves labored less, and were better fed, clothed and lodged, than half the operatives of England; by which their masters were ruined, the condition of the slaves made rather worse; and the poor laborer of England must work harder, eat less, and sleep less, in order to raise those 20,000,000, by which nobody was benefited but the agents who managed this ridiculous farce. This is benevolence with a vengeance.
Time would fail me in noticing all such benevolent transactions of this age. The age of humbugs would be a more appropriate designation.
There are other features in the question of slavery that are of great importance, on which I have not touched, as they belong rather to the statesman and political economist than the divine and moralist. We have considered the question only in its moral, legal and constitutional bearing, and found ourselves sustained by the truth of God, the laws and constitution of our country. Emancipation would be the ruin of the South, and the ruin of the South would involve the ruin of the North: and the abolitionists would be ruined by the consummation of their wishes. But I apprehend no such an event. Any one who has watched the movements of the age, must have discovered that one excitement, whether political or religious, is soon run down by another. These are nothing more than “hobbies,” and be the ostensible objects what they may, political or religious, power and place are the goal for which the riders aim. But where there are so many riders, and all equally acquainted with the tricks of the turf, they jockey each other out of the course, and out of the purse: then another hobby (alias anti) of some kind, must be procured; and another race, another failure. This, to the philosophic and and close observer of human nature and human life, is cause of more amusement than alarm. For certainly it is cause of rejoicing and thanksgiving to see demagogues of any kind tripping up each other’s heels. And give me many demagogues, or give me none: one may destroy a country—many destroy each other.
In conclusion, let me urge upon you the necessity of ever viewing calmly and dispassionately all those agitating measures that distract our country. Never be led away by first appearances; nor let the magic words “benevolence, philanthropy and religion,” charm you into every ephemeral excitement and movement of the day. “In your patience, possess ye your souls.” “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.”
In our country, where freedom of opinion is every man’s right and privilege, there will be all kinds of opinions expressed, and all kinds of movements and excitements got up: but their existence will, and must be transient. “Abreath can make them, and a breath unmake.”
The endless tide of public opinion rolls ceaselessly on, and each wave is swallowed up, by the succeeding. And what though that ocean, at times looks stormy rough and angry, and threatens destruction to all upon it: it is but the effervescence of our young, vigorous and healthy, American spirit, that sparkles, flashes, explodes and dies—the mere foam upon the surface while underneath, lies the pure, clear, deep fountain of sober thought, and vigorous intellect, with moral excellence, that, in the hour of our country’s extremity, will supply every needed aid. Amen.
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