THE ANTI-SLAVERY EXAMINER
BY The American Anti-Slavery Society
No. 1. To the People of the United States; or, To Such Americans As Value Their Rights, and Dare to Maintain Them.
No. 2. Appeal to the Christian Women of the South.
No. 2. Appeal to the Christian Women of the South. Revised and Corrected.
No. 3. Letter of Gerrit Smith to Rev. James Smylie, of the State of Mississippi.
No. 4. The Bible Against Slavery. An Inquiry Into the Patriarchal and Mosaic Systems on the Subject of Human Rights.
No. 4. The Bible Against Slavery. An Inquiry Into the Patriarchal and Mosaic Systems on the Subject of Human Rights. Third Edition—Revised.
No. 4. The Bible Against Slavery. An Inquiry Into the Patriarchal and Mosaic Systems on the Subject of Human Rights. Fourth Edition—Enlarged.
No. 5. Power of Congress Over the District of Columbia.
No. 5. Power of Congress Over the District of Columbia. With Additions by the Author.
No. 5. Power of Congress Over the District of Columbia. Fourth Edition.
No. 6. NARRATIVE OF JAMES WILLIAMS, AN AMERICAN SLAVE.
No. 7. EMANCIPATION IN THE WEST INDIES.
No. 8. CORRESPONDENCE, BETWEEN THE HON. F.H. ELMORE, ONE OF THE SOUTH CAROLINA DELEGATION IN CONGRESS, AND JAMES G. BIRNEY, ONE OF THE SECRETARIES OF THE AMERICAN ANTI-SLAVERY SOCIETY.
No. 9. LETTER OF GERRIT SMITH, TO HON. HENRY CLAY.
No. 10. EMANCIPATION In The WEST INDIES, IN 1838.
THE CHATTEL PRINCIPLE THE ABHORRENCE OF JESUS CHRIST AND THE APOSTLES; OR NO REFUGE FOR AMERICAN SLAVERY IN THE NEW TESTAMENT. 1839.
No. 10. American Slavery As It Is: Testimony of a Thousand Witnesses.
No. 10. Speech of Hon. Thomas Morris, of Ohio, in Reply to the Speech of the Hon. Henry Clay.
No. 11. The Constitution A Pro-Slavery Compact Or Selections From the Madison Papers, &c.
No. 11. The Constitution A Pro-Slavery Compact Or Selections From the Madison Papers, &c. Second Edition, Enlarged.
No. 12. Chattel Principle The Abhorrence of Jesus Christ and the Apostles; Or No Refuge for American Slavery in the New Testament.
On the Condition of the Free People of Color in the United States.
No. 13. Can Abolitionists Vote or Take Office Under the United States Constitution?
Address to the Friends of Constitutional Liberty, on the Violation by the United States House of Representatives of the Right of Petition at the Executive Committee of the American Anti-Slavery Society.
THE ANTI-SLAVERY EXAMINER
VOL. I. AUGUST, 1836. NO. 1.
PEOPLE OF THE UNITED STATES;
OR, TO SUCH AMERICANS AS VALUE THEIR RIGHTS, AND
DARE TO MAINTAIN THEM.
A crisis has arrived, in which rights the most important which civil society can acknowledge, and which have been acknowledged by our Constitution and laws, in terms the most explicit which language can afford, are set at nought by men, whom your favor has invested with a brief authority. By what standard is your liberty of conscience, of speech, and of the press, now measured? Is it by those glorious charters you have inherited from your fathers, and which your present rulers have called Heaven to witness, they would preserve inviolate? Alas! another standard has been devised, and if we would know what rights are conceded to us by our own servants, we must consult the COMPACT by which the South engages on certain conditions to give its trade and votes to Northern men. All rights not allowed by this compact, we now hold by sufferance, and our Governors and Legislatures avow their readiness to deprive us of them, whenever in their opinion, legislation on the subject shall be "necessary[A]." This compact is not indeed published to the world, under the hands and seals of the contracting parties, but it is set forth in official messages,—in resolutions of the State and National Legislatures—in the proceedings of popular meetings, and in acts of lawless violence. The temples of the Almighty have been sacked, because the worshipers did not conform their consciences to the compact[B]. Ministers of the gospel have been dragged as criminals from the altar to the bar, because they taught the people from the Bible, doctrines proscribed by the compact[C]. Hundreds of free citizens, peaceably assembled to express their sentiments, have, because such an expression was forbidden by the compact, been forcibly dispersed, and the chief actor in this invasion on the freedom of speech, instead of being punished for a breach of the peace, was rewarded for his fidelity to the compact with an office of high trust and honor[D].
[Footnote A: See the Messages of the Governors of New-York and Connecticut, the resolutions of the New-York Legislature, and the bill introduced into the Legislature of Rhode Island.]
[Footnote B: Churches in New-York attacked by the mob in 1834.]
[Footnote C: See two cases within the last twelve months in New Hampshire.]
[Footnote D: Samuel Beardsley, Esq. the leader of the Utica riot, was shortly afterwards appointed Attorney General of the state of New-York.]
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"The freedom of the press—the palladium of liberty," was once a household proverb. Now, a printing office[A] is entered by ruffians, and its types scattered in the highway, because disobedient to the compact. A Grand Jury, sworn to "present all things truly as they come to their knowledge," refuse to indict the offenders; and a senator in Congress rises in his place, and appeals to the outrage in the printing office, and the conduct of the Grand Jury as evidence of the good faith with which the people of the state of New York were resolved to observe the compact[B].
[Footnote A: Office of the Utica Standard and Democrat newspaper.]
[Footnote B: See speech of the Hon. Silas Wright in the U.S. Senate of Feb. 1836.]
The Executive Magistrate of the American Union, unmindful of his obligation to execute the laws for the equal benefit of his fellow citizens, has sanctioned a censorship of the press, by which papers incompatible with the compact are excluded from the southern mails, and he has officially advised Congress to do by law, although in violation of the Constitution, what he had himself virtually done already in despite of both. The invitation has indeed been rejected, but by the Senate of the United States only, after a portentous struggle—a struggle which distinctly exhibited the political conditions of the compact, as well as the fidelity with which those conditions are observed by a northern candidate for the Presidency. While in compliance with these conditions, a powerful minority in the Senate were forging fetters for the PRESS, the House of Representatives were employed in breaking down the right of PETITION. On the 26th May last, the following resolution, reported by a committee was adopted by the House, viz.
"Resolved, that all Petitions, Memorials, Resolutions and Propositions relating in any way, or to any extent whatever, to the subject of Slavery, shall without being either printed or referred, be laid on the table, and that no further action whatever shall be had thereon." Yeas, 117. Nays, 68.
Bear with us, fellow countrymen, while we call your attention to the outrage on your rights, the contempt of personal obligations and the hardened cruelty involved in this detestable resolution. Condemn us not for the harshness of our language, before you hear our justification. We shall speak only the truth, but we shall speak it as freemen.
The right of petition is founded in the very institution of civil government, and has from time immemorial been acknowledged as among the unquestionable privileges of our English ancestors. This right springs from the great truth that government is established for the benefit of the governed; and it forms the medium by which the people acquaint their rulers with their wants and their grievances. So accustomed were the Americans to the exercise of this right, even during their subjection to the British crown, that, on the formation of the Federal Constitution, the Convention not conceiving that it could be endangered, made no provision for its security. But in the very first Congress that assembled under the new Government, the omission was repaired. It was thought some case might possibly occur, in which this right might prove troublesome to a dominant faction, who would endeavor to stifle it. An amendment was therefore proposed and adopted, by which Congress is restrained from making any law abridging "the right of the People, peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." Had it not been for this prudent jealousy of our Fathers, instead of the resolution I have transcribed, we should have had a LAW, visiting with pains and penalties, all who dared to petition the Federal Government, in behalf of the victims of oppression, held in bondage by its authority. The present resolution cannot indeed consign such petitioners to the prison or the scaffold, but it makes the right to petition a congressional boon, to be granted or withheld at pleasure, and in the present case effectually withholds it, by tendering it nugatory.
Petitions are to inform the Government of the wishes of the people, and by calling forth the action of the Legislature, to inform the constituents how far their wishes are respected by their representatives. The information thus mutually given and received is essential to a faithful and enlightened exercise of the right of legislation on the one hand, and of suffrage on the other. But the resolution we are considering, provides that no petition in relation to slavery, shall be printed for the information of the members, nor referred to a committee to ascertain the truth of its statements; nor shall any vote be taken, in regard to it, by which the People may learn the sentiments of their representatives.
If Congress may thus dispose of petitions on one subject, they may make the same disposition of petitions on any and every other subject. Our representatives are bound by oath, not to pass any law abridging the right of petition, but if this resolution is constitutional, they may order every petition to be delivered to their door-keeper, and by him to be committed to the flames; for why preserve petitions on which no action can be had? Had the resolution been directed to petitions for an object palpably unconstitutional, it would still have been without excuse. The construction of the Constitution is a matter of opinion, and every citizen has a right to express that opinion in a petition, or otherwise.
But this usurpation is aggravated by the almost universal admission that Congress does possess the constitutional power to legislate on the subject of slavery in the District of Columbia and the Territories. No wonder that a distinguished statesman refused to sanction the right of the House to pass such a resolution by even voting against it[A]. The men who perpetrated this outrage had sworn to support the Constitution, and will they hereafter plead at the bar of their Maker, that they had kept their oath, because they had abridged the right of petition by a resolution, and not by law!
[Footnote A: Mr. J.Q. Adams, on his name being called, refused to vote, saying, "the resolution is in direct violation of the Constitution of the United States, and the privileges of the members of this House."]
This resolution not only violates the rights of the people, but it nullifies the privileges and obligations of their representatives. It is an undoubted right and duty of every member of Congress to propose any measure within the limits of the Constitution, which he believes is required by the interests of his constituents and the welfare of his country. Now mark the base surrender of this right—the wicked dereliction of this duty. All "resolutions and propositions" relating "in any way or to any extent whatever to the subject of slavery," shall be laid on the table, and "no further action whatever shall be had thereon." What a spectacle has been presented to the American people!—one hundred and seventeen members of Congress relinquishing their own rights, cancelling their own solemn obligations, forcibly depriving the other members of their legislative privileges, abolishing the freedom of debate, condemning the right of petition, and prohibiting present and future legislation on a most important and constitutional subject, by a rule of order!
In 1820, the New-York Legislature instructed the representatives from that state in Congress, to insist on making "the prohibition of slavery an indispensable condition of admission" of certain territories into the union. In 1828, the Legislature of Pennsylvania instructed the Pennsylvania members of Congress, to vote for the abolition of slavery in the district of Columbia. In vain hereafter shall a representative present the instructions of his constituents, or the injunctions of a sovereign state. No question shall be taken, or any motion he may offer, in any way, or to any extent, relating to slavery!
Search the annals of legislation, and you will find no precedent for such a profligate act of tyranny, exercised by a majority over their fellow legislators, nor for such an impudent contempt of the rights of the people.
But this resolution is no less barbarous than it is profligate and impudent. Remember, fellow countrymen! that the decree has gone forth, that there shall be no legislation by Congress, in any way, or to any extent whatever, on the subject of slavery. Now call to mind, that Congress is the local and only legislature of the District of Columbia, which is placed by the Constitution under its "exclusive jurisdiction in all cases whatsoever." In this District, there are thousands of human beings divested of the rights of humanity, and subjected to a negotiable despotism; and Congress is the only power that can extend the shield of law to protect them from cruelty and abuse; and that shield, it is now resolved, shall not be extended in any way, or to any extent! But this is not all. The District has become the great slave-market of North America, and the port of Alexandria is the Guinea of our proud republic, whence "cargoes of despair" are continually departing[A].
[Footnote A: One dealer, John Armfield, advertises in the National Intelligencer of the 10th of February last, that he has three vessels in the trade, and they will leave the port of Alexandria on the first and fifteenth of each month.]
In the city which bears the name of the Father of his country, dealers in human flesh receive licenses for the vile traffic, at four hundred dollars each per annum; and the gazettes of the Capital have their columns polluted with the advertisements of these men, offering cash for children and youth, who, torn from their parents and families, are to wear out their existence on the plantations of the south.[A] For the safe keeping of these children and youth, till they are shipped for the Mississippi, private pens and prisons are provided, and the UNITED STATES' JAIL used when required. The laws of the District in relation to slaves and free negroes are of the most abominable and iniquitous character. Any free citizen with a dark skin, may be arrested on pretence of being a fugitive slave, and committed to the UNITED STATES' PRISON, and unless within a certain number of days he proves his freedom, while immured within its walls, he is, under authority of Congress, sold as a slave for life. Do you ask why? Let the blood mantle in your cheeks, while we give you the answer of the LAW—"to pay his jail fees!!"
[Footnote A: Twelve hundred negroes are thus advertised for in the National Intelligencer of the 28th of March last. The negroes wanted are generally from the age of ten or twelve years to twenty-five, and of both sexes.]
On the 11th of January, 1827, the Committee for the District of Columbia, (themselves slaveholders) introduced a bill providing that the jail fees should hereafter be a county charge. The bill did not pass; and by the late resolution, a statute unparalleled for injustice and atrocity by any mandate of European despotism, is to be like the law of the Medes and Persians, that altereth not, since no proposition for its repeal or modification can be entertained.
The Grand Jury of Alexandria presented the slave trade of that place, as "disgraceful to our character as citizens of a free government," and as "a grievance demanding legislative redress;" that is, the interposition of Congress—but one hundred and seventeen men have decided that there shall be "no action whatever" by Congress in relation to slavery.
In March, 1816, John Randolph submitted the following resolution to the House of Representatives: "Resolved, That a Committee be appointed to inquire into the existence of an inhuman and illegal traffic of slaves, carried on in and through the District of Columbia, and to report whether any, and what measures are necessary for putting a stop to the same." The COMPACT had not then been formed and the resolution was adopted. Such a resolution would now "be laid on the table," and treated with silent contempt.
In 1828, eleven hundred inhabitants of the District presented a petition to Congress, complaining of the "DOMESTIC SLAVE-TRADE" as a grievance disgraceful in its character, and "even more demoralizing its influence" than the foreign traffic. The petition concluded as follows: "The people of this District have within themselves no means of legislative redress, and we therefore appeal to your Honorable body as the only one vested by the American Constitution with power to relieve us." No more shall such appeals be made to the national council. What matters it, that the people of the District are annoyed by the human shambles opened among them? What matters it, that Congress is "the only body vested by the American Constitution with power to relieve" them? The compact requires that no action shall be had on any petition relating to slavery.
The horse or the ox may be protected in the District, by act of Congress, from the cruelty of its owner; but MAN, created in the image of God, shall, if his complexion be dark, be abandoned to every outrage. The negro may be bound alive to the stake in front of the Capitol, as well as in the streets of St. Louis—his shrieks may resound through the representative hall—and the stench of his burning body may enter the nostrils of the law-givers—but no vote may rebuke the abomination—no law forbid its repetition.
The representatives of the nation may regulate the traffic in sheep and swine, within the ten miles square; but the SLAVERS of the District may be laden to suffocation with human cattle—the horrors of the middle passage may be transcended at the wharves of Alexandria; but Congress may not limit the size of the cargoes, or provide for the due feeding and watering the animals composing them!—The District of Columbia is henceforth to be the only spot on the face of the globe, subjected to a civilized and Christian police, in which avarice and malice may with legal impunity inflict on humanity whatever sufferings ingenuity can devise, or depravity desire.
And this accumulation of wickedness, cruelty and baseness, is to render the seat of the federal government the scoff of tyrants and the reproach of freemen FOREVER! On the 9th of January 1829, the House of Representatives passed the following vote. "Resolved, that the committee of the District of Columbia be instructed to inquire into the expediency of providing by law, for the gradual abolition of Slavery in the District, in such manner that no individual shall be injured thereby." Never again while the present rule of order is in force, can similar instructions be given to a committee—never again shall even an inquiry be made into the expediency of abolishing slavery and the slave-trade in the District. What stronger evidence can we have, of the growing and spreading corruption caused by slavery, than that one hundred and seventeen republican legislators professed believers in Christianity—many of them from the North, aye even from the land of the Pilgrims, should strive to render such curses PERPETUAL!
The flagitiousness of this resolution is aggravated if possible by the arbitrary means by which its adoption was secured. No representative of the People was permitted to lift up his voice against it—to plead the commands of the Constitution which is violated—his own privileges and duties which it contemned—the rights of his constituents on which it trampled—the chains of justice and humanity which it impiously outraged. Its advocates were afraid and ashamed to discuss it, and forbidding debate, they perpetrated in silence the most atrocious act that has ever disgraced an American Legislature[A]. And was no reason whatever, it may be asked, assigned for this bold invasion of our rights, this insult to the sympathies of our common nature? Yes—connected with the resolution was a preamble explaining its OBJECT. Read it, fellow countrymen, and be equally astonished at the impudence of your rulers in avowing such an object, and at their folly in adopting such an expedient to effect it. The lips of a free people are to be sealed by insult and injury!
[Footnote A: A debate was allowed on a motion to re-commit the report, for the purpose of preparing a resolution that Congress has no constitutional power to interfere with slavery in the District of Columbia; but when the sense of the House was to be taken on the resolution reported by the committees, all debate was prevented by the previous question.]
"Whereas, it is extremely important and desirable that the AGITATION on this subject should be finally ARRESTED, for the purpose of restoring tranquillity to the public mind, your committee respectfully recommend the following resolution."
ORDER REIGNS IN WARSAW, were the terms in which the triumph of Russia over the liberties of Poland was announced to the world. When the right of petition shall be broken down—when no whisper shalt be heard in Congress in behalf of human rights—when the press shall be muzzled, and the freedom of speech destroyed by gag-laws, then will the slaveholders announce, that TRANQUILLITY IS RESTORED TO THE PUBLIC MIND!
Fellow countrymen! is such the tranquillity you desire—is such the heritage you would leave to your children? Suffer not the present outrage, by effecting its avowed object, to invite farther aggressions on your rights. The chairman of the committee boasted that the number of petitioners the present session, for the abolition of slavery in the District, was only thirty-four thousand! Let us resolve, we beseech you, that at the next session the number shall be A MILLION. Perhaps our one hundred and seventeen representatives will then abandon in despair their present dangerous and unconstitutional expedient for tranquilizing the public mind.
The purpose of this address, is not to urge upon you our own views of the sinfulness of slavery, and the safety of its immediate abolition; but to call your attention to the conduct of your rulers. Let no one think for a moment, that because he is not an abolitionist, his liberties are not and will not be invaded. We have no rights, distinct from the rights of the whole people. Calumny, falsehood, and popular violence, have been employed in vain, to tranquilize abolitionists. It is now proposed to soothe them, by despoiling them of their Constitutional rights; but they cannot be despoiled alone. The right of petition and the freedom of debate are as sacred and valuable to those who dissent from our opinions, as they are to ourselves. Can the Constitution at the same time secure liberty to you, and expose us to oppression—give you freedom of speech, and lock our lips—respect your right of petition, and treat ours with contempt? No, fellow countrymen!—we must be all free, or all slaves together. We implore you, then, by all the obligations of interest, of patriotism, and of religion—by the remembrance of your Fathers—by your love for your children, to unite with us in maintaining our common, and till lately, our unquestioned political rights.
We ask you as men to insist that your servants acting as the local legislators of the District of Columbia, shall respect the common rights and decencies of humanity.—We ask you as freemen, not to permit your constitutional privileges to be trifled with, by those who have sworn to maintain them.—We ask you as Christian men, to remember that by sanctioning the sinful acts of your agents, you yourselves assume their guilt.
We have no candidates to recommend to your favor—we ask not your support for any political party; but we do ask you to give your suffrages hereafter only to such men as you have reason to believe will not sacrifice your rights, and their own obligations, and the claims of mercy and the commands of God, to an iniquitous and mercenary COMPACT. If we cannot have northern Presidents and other officers of the general government except in exchange for freedom of conscience, of speech, of the press and of legislation, then let all the appointments at Washington be given to the South. If slaveholders will not trade with us, unless we consent to be slaves ourselves, then let us leave their money, and their sugar, and their cotton, to perish with them.
Fellow countrymen! we wish, we recommend no action whatever, inconsistent with the laws and constitutions of our country, or the precepts of our common religion, but we beseech you to join with us in resolving, that while we will respect the rights of others, we will at every hazard maintain our own.
In behalf of the American Anti-Slavery Society.
S.E. CORNISH, Executive Committee.
JOSHUA LEAVITT, /
ABRAHAM L. COX, /
AMOS A. PHELPS, /
LA ROY SUNDERLAND, /
THEO. S. WRIGHT, /
ELIZUR WRIGHT, JR. /
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Published by the American Anti-Slavery Society, corner of Spruce and Nassau Streets.
THE ANTI-SLAVERY EXAMINER.
VOL. I. SEPTEMBER 1836. No. 2.
CHRISTIAN WOMEN OF THE SOUTH,
BY A.E. GRIMKE.
"Then Mordecai commanded to answer Esther, Think not within thyself that thou shalt escape in the king's house more than all the Jews. For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place: but thou and thy father's house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this. And Esther bade them return Mordecai this answer:—and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to law, and if I perish, I perish." Esther IV. 13-16.
It is because I feel a deep and tender interest in your present and eternal welfare that I am willing thus publicly to address you. Some of you have loved me as a relative, and some have felt bound to me in Christian sympathy, and Gospel fellowship; and even when compelled by a strong sense of duty, to break those outward bonds of union which bound us together as members of the same community, and members of the same religious denomination, you were generous enough to give me credit, for sincerity as a Christian, though you believed I had been most strangely deceived. I thanked you then for your kindness, and I ask you now, for the sake of former confidence, and former friendship, to read the following pages in the spirit of calm investigation and fervent prayer. It is because you have known me, that I write thus unto you.
But there are other Christian women scattered over the Southern States, and of these, a very large number have never seen me, and never heard my name, and feel no personal interest whatever in me. But I feel an interest in you, as branches of the same vine from whose root I daily draw the principle of spiritual vitality—Yes! Sisters in Christ I feel an interest in you, and often has the secret prayer arisen on your behalf, Lord "open thou their eyes that they may see wondrous things out of thy Law"—It is then, because I do feel and do pray for you, that I thus address you upon a subject about which of all others, perhaps you would rather not hear any thing; but, "would to God ye could bear with me a little in my folly, and indeed bear with me, for I am jealous over you with godly jealousy." Be not afraid then to read my appeal; it is not written in the heat of passion or prejudice, but in that solemn calmness which is the result of conviction and duty. It is true, I am going to tell you unwelcome truths, but I mean to speak those truths in love, and remember Solomon says, "faithful are the wounds of a friend." I do not believe the time has yet come when Christian women "will not endure sound doctrine," even on the subject of Slavery, if it is spoken to them in tenderness and love, therefore I now address you.
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To all of you then, known or unknown, relatives or strangers, (for you are all one to Christ,) I would speak. I have felt for you at this time, when unwelcome light is pouring in upon the world on the subject of slavery; light which even Christians would exclude, if they could, from our country, or at any rate from the southern portion of it, saying, as its rays strike the rock bound coasts of New England and scatter their warmth and radiance over her hills and valleys, and from thence travel onward over the Palisades of the Hudson, and down the soft flowing waters of the Delaware and gild the waves of the Potomac, "hitherto shalt thou come and no further;" I know that even professors of His name who has been emphatically called the "Light of the world" would, if they could, build a wall of adamant around the Southern States whose top might reach unto heaven, in order to shut out the light which is bounding from mountain to mountain and from the hills to the plains and valleys beneath, through the vast extent of our Northern States. But believe me, when I tell you, their attempts will be as utterly fruitless as were the efforts of the builders of Babel; and why? Because moral, like natural light, is so extremely subtle in its nature as to overleap all human barriers, and laugh at the puny efforts of man to control it. All the excuses and palliations of this system must inevitably be swept away, just as other "refuges of lies" have been, by the irresistible torrent of a rectified public opinion. "The supporters of the slave system," says Jonathan Dymond in his admirable work on the Principles of Morality, "will hereafter be regarded with the same public feeling, as he who was an advocate for the slave trade now is." It will be, and that very soon, clearly perceived and fully acknowledged by all the virtuous and the candid, that in principle it is as sinful to hold a human being in bondage who has been born in Carolina, as one who has been born in Africa. All that sophistry of argument which has been employed to prove, that although it is sinful to send to Africa to procure men and women as slaves, who have never been in slavery, that still, it is not sinful to keep those in bondage who have come down by inheritance, will be utterly overthrown. We must come back to the good old doctrine of our forefathers who declared to the world, "this self evident truth that all men are created equal, and that they have certain inalienable rights among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." It is even a greater absurdity to suppose a man can be legally born a slave under our free Republican Government, than under the petty despotisms of barbarian Africa. If then, we have no right to enslave an African, surely we can have none to enslave an American; if it is a self evident truth that all men, every where and of every color are born equal, and have an inalienable right to liberty, then it is equally true that no man can be born a slave, and no man can ever rightfully be reduced to involuntary bondage and held as a slave, however fair may be the claim of his master or mistress through wills and title-deeds.
But after all, it may be said, our fathers were certainly mistaken, for the Bible sanctions Slavery, and that is the highest authority. Now the Bible is my ultimate appeal in all matters of faith and practice, and it is to this test I am anxious to bring the subject at issue between us. Let us then begin with Adam and examine the charter of privileges which was given to him. "Have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth." In the eighth Psalm we have a still fuller description of this charter which through Adam was given to all mankind. "Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet. All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field, the fowl of the air, the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas." And after the flood when this charter of human rights was renewed, we find no additional power vested in man. "And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and every fowl of the air, and upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea, into your hand are they delivered." In this charter, although the different kinds of irrational beings are so particularly enumerated, and supreme dominion over all of them is granted, yet man is never vested with this dominion over his fellow man; he was never told that any of the human species were put under his feet; it was only all things, and man, who was created in the image of his Maker, never can properly be termed a thing, though the laws of Slave States do call him "a chattel personal;" Man then, I assert never was put under the feet of man, by that first charter of human rights which was given by God, to the Fathers of the Antediluvian and Postdiluvian worlds, therefore this doctrine of equality is based on the Bible.
But it may be argued, that in the very chapter of Genesis from which I have last quoted, will be found the curse pronounced upon Canaan, by which his posterity was consigned to servitude under his brothers Shem and Japheth. I know this prophecy was uttered, and was most fearfully and wonderfully fulfilled, through the immediate descendants of Canaan, i.e. the Canaanites, and I do not know but it has been through all the children of Ham, but I do know that prophecy does not tell us what ought to be, but what actually does take place, ages after it has been delivered, and that if we justify America for enslaving the children of Africa, we must also justify Egypt for reducing the children of Israel to bondage, for the latter was foretold as explicitly as the former. I am well aware that prophecy has often been urged as an excuse for Slavery, but be not deceived, the fulfillment of prophecy will not cover one sin in the awful day of account. Hear what our Saviour says on this subject; "it must needs be that offences come, but woe unto that man through whom they come"—Witness some fulfillment of this declaration in the tremendous destruction of Jerusalem, occasioned by that most nefarious of all crimes the crucifixion of the Son of God. Did the fact of that event having been foretold, exculpate the Jews from sin in perpetrating it; No—for hear what the Apostle Peter says to them on this subject, "Him being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain." Other striking instances might be adduced, but these will suffice.
But it has been urged that the patriarchs held slaves, and therefore, slavery is right. Do you really believe that patriarchal servitude was like American slavery? Can you believe it? If so, read the history of these primitive fathers of the church and be undeceived. Look at Abraham, though so great a man, going to the herd himself and fetching a calf from thence and serving it up with his own hands, for the entertainment of his guests. Look at Sarah, that princess as her name signifies, baking cakes upon the hearth. If the servants they had were like Southern slaves, would they have performed such comparatively menial offices for themselves? Hear too the plaintive lamentation of Abraham when he feared he should have no son to bear his name down to posterity. "Behold thou hast given me no seed, &c., one born in my house is mine heir." From this it appears that one of his servants was to inherit his immense estate. Is this like Southern slavery? I leave it to your own good sense and candor to decide. Besides, such was the footing upon which Abraham was with his servants, that he trusted them with arms. Are slaveholders willing to put swords and pistols into the hands of their slaves? He was as a father among his servants; what are planters and masters generally among theirs? When the institution of circumcision was established, Abraham was commanded thus; "He that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man-child in your generations; he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger which is not of thy seed." And to render this command with regard to his servants still more impressive it is repeated in the very next verse; and herein we may perceive the great care which was taken by God to guard the rights of servants even under this "dark dispensation." What too was the testimony given to the faithfulness of this eminent patriarch. "For I know him that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord to do justice and judgment." Now my dear friends many of you believe that circumcision has been superseded by baptism in the Church; Are you careful to have all that are born in your house or bought with money of any stranger, baptized? Are you as faithful as Abraham to command your household to keep the way of the Lord? I leave it to your own consciences to decide. Was patriarchal servitude then like American Slavery?
But I shall be told, God sanctioned Slavery, yea commanded Slavery under the Jewish Dispensation. Let us examine this subject calmly and prayerfully. I admit that a species of servitude was permitted to the Jews, but in studying the subject I have been struck with wonder and admiration at perceiving how carefully the servant was guarded from violence, injustice and wrong. I will first inform you how these servants became servants, for I think this a very important part of our subject. From consulting Horne, Calmet and the Bible, I find there were six different ways by which the Hebrews became servants legally.
1. If reduced to extreme poverty, a Hebrew might sell himself, i.e. his services, for six years, in which case he received the purchase money himself. Lev. xxv, 39.
2. A father might sell his children as servants, i.e. his daughters, in which circumstance it was understood the daughter was to be the wife or daughter-in-law of the man who bought her, and the father received the price. In other words, Jewish women were sold as white women were in the first settlement of Virginia—as wives, not as slaves. Ex. xxi, 7.
3. Insolvent debtors might be delivered to their creditors as servants. 2 Kings iv, 1.
4. Thieves not able to make restitution for their thefts, were sold for the benefit of the injured person. Ex. xxii, 3.
5. They might be born in servitude. Ex. xxi, 4.
6. If a Hebrew had sold himself to a rich Gentile, he might be redeemed by one of his brethren at any time the money was offered; and he who redeemed him, was not to take advantage of the favor thus conferred, and rule over him with rigor. Lev. xxv, 47-55.
Before going into an examination of the laws by which these servants were protected, I would just ask whether American slaves have become slaves in any of the ways in which the Hebrews became servants. Did they sell themselves into slavery and receive the purchase money into their own hands? No! Did they become insolvent, and by their own imprudence subject themselves to be sold as slaves? No! Did they steal the property of another, and were they sold to make restitution for their crimes? No! Did their present masters, as an act of kindness, redeem them from some heathen tyrant to whom they had sold themselves in the dark hour of adversity? No! Were they born in slavery? No! No! not according to Jewish Law, for the servants who were born in servitude among them, were born of parents who had sold themselves for six years: Ex. xxi, 4. Were the female slaves of the South sold by their fathers? How shall I answer this question? Thousands and tens of thousands never were, their fathers never have received the poor compensation of silver or gold for the tears and toils, the suffering, and anguish, and hopeless bondage of their daughters. They labor day by day, and year by year, side by side, in the same field, if haply their daughters are permitted to remain on the same plantation with them, instead of being as they often are, separated from their parents and sold into distant states, never again to meet on earth. But do the fathers of the South ever sell their daughters? My heart beats, and my hand trembles, as I write the awful affirmative, Yes! The fathers of this Christian land often sell their daughters, not as Jewish parents did, to be the wives and daughters-in-law of the man who buys them, but to be the abject slaves of petty tyrants and irresponsible masters. Is it not so, my friends? I leave it to your own candor to corroborate my assertion. Southern slaves then have not become slaves in any of the six different ways in which Hebrews became servants, and I hesitate not to say that American masters cannot according to Jewish law substantiate their claim to the men, women, or children they now hold in bondage.
But there was one way in which a Jew might illegally be reduced to servitude; it was this, he might he stolen and afterwards sold as a slave, as was Joseph. To guard most effectually against this dreadful crime of manstealing, God enacted this severe law. "He that stealeth a man and selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death[A]." As I have tried American Slavery by legal Hebrew servitude, and found, (to your surprise, perhaps,) that Jewish law cannot justify the slaveholder's claim, let us now try it by illegal Hebrew bondage. Have the Southern slaves then been stolen? If they did not sell themselves into bondage; if they were not sold as insolvent debtors or as thieves; if they were not redeemed from a heathen master to whom they had sold themselves; if they were not born in servitude according to Hebrew law; and if the females were not sold by their fathers as wives and daughters-in-law to those who purchased them; then what shall we say of them? what can we say of them? but that according to Hebrew Law they have been stolen.
[Footnote A: And again, "If a man be found stealing any of his brethren of the children of Israel, and maketh merchandise of him, or selleth him; then that thief shall die, and thou shalt put away evil from among you." Deut. xxiv, 7.]
But I shall be told that the Jews had other servants who were absolute slaves. Let us look a little into this also. They had other servants who were procured in two different ways.
1. Captives taken in war were reduced to bondage instead of being killed; but we are not told that their children were enslaved. Deut. xx, 14.
2. Bondmen and bondmaids might be bought from the heathen round about them; these were left by fathers to their children after them, but it does not appear that the children of these servants ever were reduced to servitude. Lev. xxv, 44.
I will now try the right of the southern planter by the claims of Hebrew masters over their heathen slaves. Were the southern slaves taken captive in war? No! Were they bought from the heathen? No! for surely, no one will now vindicate the slave-trade so far as to assert that slaves were bought from the heathen who were obtained by that system of piracy. The only excuse for holding southern slaves is that they were born in slavery, but we have seen that they were not born in servitude as Jewish servants were, and that the children of heathen slaves were not legally subjected to bondage even under the Mosaic Law. How then have the slaves of the South been obtained?
I will next proceed to an examination of those laws which were enacted in order to protect the Hebrew and the Heathen servant; for I wish you to understand that both are protected by Him, of whom it is said "his mercies are over all his works." I will first speak of those which secured the rights of Hebrew servants. This code was headed thus:
1. Thou shalt not rule over him with rigor, but shalt fear thy God.
2. If thou buy a Hebrew servant, six years shall he serve, and in the seventh year he shall go out free for nothing. Ex. xx, 2[A].
[Footnote A: And when thou sendest him out free from thee, thou shalt not let him go away empty: Thou shalt furnish him liberally out of thy flock and out of thy floor, and out of thy wine-press: of that wherewith the Lord thy God hath blessed thee, shalt thou give unto him. Deut. xv, 13, 14.]
3. If he come in by himself, he shall go out by himself; if he were married, then his wife shall go out with him.
4. If his master have given him a wife and she have borne him sons and daughters, the wife and her children shall be his master's, and he shall go out by himself.
5. If the servant shall plainly 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, and he shall bring him to the door, or unto the door-post, and his master shall bore his ear through with an awl, and he shall serve him forever. Ex. xxi, 3-6.
6. If a man smite the eye of his servant, or the eye of his maid, that it perish, he shall let him go free for his eye's sake. And if he smite out his man servant's tooth or his maid servant's tooth, he shall let him go free for his tooth's sake. Ex. xxi, 26, 27.
7. On the Sabbath rest was secured to servants by the fourth commandment. Ex. xx, 10.
8. Servants were permitted to unite with their masters three times in every year in celebrating the Passover, the feast of Pentecost, and the feast of Tabernacles; every male throughout the land was to appear before the Lord at Jerusalem with a gift; here the bond and the free stood on common ground. Deut. xvi.
9. If a man smite his servant or his maid with a rod, and he die under his hand, he shall be surely punished. Notwithstanding, if he continue a day or two, he shall not be punished, for he is his money. Ex. xxi, 20, 21.
From these laws we learn that Hebrew men servants were bound to serve their masters only six years, unless their attachment to their employers, their wives and children, should induce them to wish to remain in servitude, in which case, in order to prevent the possibility of deception on the part of the master, the servant was first taken before the magistrate, where he openly declared his intention of continuing in his master's service, (probably a public register was kept of such) he was then conducted to the door of the house, (in warm climates doors are thrown open,) and there his ear was publicly bored, and by submitting to this operation he testified his willingness to serve him forever, i.e. during his life, for Jewish Rabbins who must have understood Jewish slavery, (as it is called,) "affirm that servants were set free at the death of their masters and did not descend to their heirs:" or that he was to serve him until the year of Jubilee, when all servants were set at liberty. To protect servants from violence, it was ordained that if a master struck out the tooth or destroyed the eye of a servant, that servant immediately became free, for such an act of violence evidently showed he was unfit to possess the power of a master, and therefore that power was taken from him. All servants enjoyed the rest of the Sabbath and partook of the privileges and festivities of the three great Jewish Feasts; and if a servant died under the infliction of chastisement, his master was surely to be punished. As a tooth for a tooth and life for life was the Jewish law, of course he was punished with death. I know that great stress has been laid upon the following verse: "Notwithstanding, if he continue a day or two, he shall not be punished, for he is his money."
Slaveholders, and the apologists of slavery, have eagerly seized upon this little passage of scripture, and held it up as the masters' Magna Charta, by which they were licensed by God himself to commit the greatest outrages upon the defenceless victims of their oppression. But, my friends, was it designed to be so? If our Heavenly Father would protect by law the eye and the tooth of a Hebrew servant, can we for a moment believe that he would abandon that same servant to the brutal rape of a master who would destroy even life itself. Do we not rather see in this, the only law which protected masters, and was it not right that in case of the death of a servant, one or two days after chastisement was inflicted, to which other circumstances might have contributed, that the master should be protected when, in all probability, he never intended to produce so fatal a result? But the phrase "he is his money" has been adduced to show that Hebrew servants were regarded as mere things, "chattels personal;" if so, why were so many laws made to secure their rights as men, and to ensure their rising into equality and freedom? If they were mere things, why were they regarded as responsible beings, and one law made for them as well as for their masters? But I pass on now to the consideration of how the female Jewish servants were protected by law.
1. If she please not her master, who hath betrothed her to himself, then shall he let her be redeemed: to sell her unto another nation he shall have no power, seeing he hath dealt deceitfully with her.
2. If he have betrothed her unto his son, he shall deal with her after the manner of daughters.
3. If he take him another wife, her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish.
4. If he do not these three unto her, then shall she go out free without money.
On these laws I will give you Calmet's remarks; "A father could not sell his daughter as a slave, according to the Rabbins, until she was at the age of puberty, and unless he were reduced to the utmost indigence. Besides, when a master bought an Israelitish girl, it was always with the presumption that he would take her to wife." Hence Moses adds, "if she please not her master, and he does not think fit to marry her, he shall set her at liberty," or according to the Hebrew, "he shall let her be redeemed." "To sell her to another nation he shall have no power, seeing he hath dealt deceitfully with her;" as to the engagement implied, at least of taking her to wife. "If he have betrothed her unto his son, he shall deal with her after the manner of daughters, i.e. he shall take care that his son uses her as his wife, that he does not despise or maltreat her. If he make his son marry another wife, he shall give her her dowry, her clothes and compensation for her virginity; if he does none of these three, she shall go out free without money." Thus were the rights of female servants carefully secured by law under the Jewish Dispensation; and now I would ask, are the rights of female slaves at the South thus secured? Are they sold only as wives and daughters-in-law, and when not treated as such, are they allowed to go out free? No! They have all not only been illegally obtained as servants according to Hebrew law, but they are also illegally held in bondage. Masters at the South and West have all forfeited their claims, (if they ever had any,) to their female slaves.
We come now to examine the case of those servants who were "of the heathen round about;" Were they left entirely unprotected by law? Horne in speaking of the law, "Thou shalt not rule over him with rigor, but shalt fear thy God," remarks, "this law Lev. xxv, 43; it is true speaks expressly of slaves who were of Hebrew descent; but as alien born slaves were ingrafted into the Hebrew Church by circumcision, there is no doubt but that it applied to all slaves;" if so, then we may reasonably suppose that the other protective laws extended to them also; and that the only difference between Hebrew and Heathen servants lay in this, that the former served but six years unless they chose to remain longer; and were always freed at the death of their masters; whereas the latter served until the year of Jubilee, though that might include a period of forty-nine years,—and were left from father to son.
There are however two other laws which I have not yet noticed. The one effectually prevented all involuntary servitude, and the other completely abolished Jewish servitude every fifty years. They were equally operative upon the Heathen and the Hebrew.
1. "Thou shall not deliver unto his master the servant that is escaped from his master unto thee. He shall dwell with thee, even among you, in that place which he shall choose, in one of thy gates where it liketh him best: thou shall not oppress him." Deut. xxxiii; 15, 16.
2. "And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim Liberty throughout all the land, unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubilee unto you." Deut. xxv, 10.
Here, then, we see that by this first law, the door of Freedom was opened wide to every servant who had any cause whatever for complaint; if he was unhappy with his master, all he had to do was to leave him, and no man had a right to deliver him back to him again, and not only so, but the absconded servant was to choose where he should live, and no Jew was permitted to oppress him. He left his master just as our Northern servants leave us; we have no power to compel them to remain with us, and no man has any right to oppress them; they go and dwell in that place where it chooseth them, and live just where they like. Is it so at the South? Is the poor runaway slave protected by law from the violence of that master whose oppression and cruelty has driven him from his plantation or his house? No! no! Even the free states of the North are compelled to deliver unto his master the servant that is escaped from his master into them. By human law, under the Christian Dispensation, in the nineteenth century we are commanded to do, what God more than three thousand years ago, under the Mosaic Dispensation, positively commanded the Jews not to do. In the wide domain even of our free states, there is not one city of refuge for the poor runaway fugitive; not one spot upon which he can stand and say, I am a free man—I am protected in my rights as a man, by the strong arm of the law; no! not one. How long the North will thus shake hands with the South in sin, I know not. How long she will stand by like the persecutor Saul, consenting unto the death of Stephen, and keeping the raiment of them that slew him, I know not; but one thing I do know, the guilt of the North is increasing in a tremendous ratio as light is pouring in upon her on the subject and the sin of slavery. As the sun of righteousness climbs higher and higher in the moral heavens, she will stand still more and more abashed as the query is thundered down into her ear, "Who hath required this at thy hand?" It will be found no excuse then that the Constitution of our country required that persons bound to service escaping from their masters should be delivered up; no more excuse than was the reason which Adam assigned for eating the forbidden fruit. He was condemned and punished because he hearkened to the voice of his wife, rather than to the command of his Maker; and we will assuredly be condemned and punished for obeying Man rather than God, if we do not speedily repent and bring forth fruits meet for repentance. Yea, are we not receiving chastisement even now?
But by the second of these laws a still more astonishing fact is disclosed. If the first effectually prevented all involuntary servitude, the last absolutely forbade even voluntary servitude being perpetual. On the great day of atonement every fiftieth year the Jubilee trumpet was sounded throughout the land of Judea, and Liberty was proclaimed to all the inhabitants thereof. I will not say that the servants' chains fell off and their manacles were burst, for there is no evidence that Jewish servants ever felt the weight of iron chains, and collars, and handcuffs; but I do say that even the man who had voluntarily sold himself and the heathen who had been sold to a Hebrew master, were set free, the one as well as the other. This law was evidently designed to prevent the oppression of the poor, and the possibility of such a thing as perpetual servitude existing among them.
Where, then, I would ask, is the warrant, the justification, or the palliation of American Slavery from Hebrew servitude? How many of the southern slaves would now be in bondage according to the laws of Moses; Not one. You may observe that I have carefully avoided using the term slavery when speaking of Jewish servitude; and simply for this reason, that no such thing existed among that people; the word translated servant does not mean slave, it is the same that is applied to Abraham, to Moses, to Elisha and the prophets generally. Slavery then never existed under the Jewish Dispensation at all, and I cannot but regard it as an aspersion on the character of Him who is "glorious in Holiness" for any one to assert that "God sanctioned, yea commanded slavery under the old dispensation." I would fain lift my feeble voice to vindicate Jehovah's character from so foul a slander. If slaveholders are determined to hold slaves as long as they can, let them not dare to say that the God of mercy and of truth ever sanctioned such a system of cruelty and wrong. It is blasphemy against Him.
We have seen that the code of laws framed by Moses with regard to servants was designed to protect them as men and women, to secure to them their rights as human beings, to guard them from oppression and defend them from violence of every kind. Let us now turn to the Slave laws of the South and West and examine them too. I will give you the substance only, because I fear I shall trespass too much on your time, were I to quote them at length.
1. Slavery is hereditary and perpetual, to the last moment of the slave's earthly existence, and to all his descendants to the latest posterity.
2. The labor of the slave is compulsory and uncompensated; while the kind of labor, the amount of toil, the time allowed for rest, are dictated solely by the master. No bargain is made, no wages given. A pure despotism governs the human brute; and even his covering and provender, both as to quantity and quality, depend entirely on the master's discretion[A].
[Footnote A: There are laws in some of the slave states, limiting the labor which the master may require of the slave to fourteen hours daily. In some of the states there are laws requiring the masters to furnish a certain amount of food and clothing, as for instance, one quart of corn per day, or one peck per week, or one bushel per month, and "one linen shirt and pantaloons for the summer, and a linen shirt and woolen great coat and pantaloons for the winter," &c. But "still," to use the language of Judge Stroud "the slave is entirely under the control of his master,—is unprovided with a protector,—and, especially as he cannot be a witness or make complaint in any known mode against his master, the apparent object of these laws may always be defeated." ED.]
3. The slave being considered a personal chattel may be sold or pledged, or leased at the will of his master. He may be exchanged for marketable commodities, or taken in execution for the debts or taxes either of a living or dead master. Sold at auction, either individually, or in lots to suit the purchaser, he may remain with his family, or be separated from them for ever.
4. Slaves can make no contracts and have no legal right to any property, real or personal. Their own honest earnings and the legacies of friends belong in point of law to their masters.
5. Neither a slave nor a free colored person can be a witness against any white, or free person, in a court of justice, however atrocious may have been the crimes they have seen him commit, if such testimony would be for the benefit of a slave; but they may give testimony against a fellow slave, or free colored man, even in cases affecting life, if the master is to reap the advantage of it.
6. The slave may be punished at his master's discretion—without trial—without any means of legal redress; whether his offence be real or imaginary; and the master can transfer the same despotic power to any person or persons, he may choose to appoint.
7. The slave is not allowed to resist any free man under any circumstances, his only safety consists in the fact that his owner may bring suit and recover the price of his body, in case his life is taken, or his limbs rendered unfit for labor.
8. Slaves cannot redeem themselves, or obtain a change of masters, though cruel treatment may have rendered such a change necessary for their personal safety.
9. The slave is entirely unprotected in his domestic relations.
10. The laws greatly obstruct the manumission of slaves, even where the master is willing to enfranchise them.
11. The operation of the laws tends to deprive slaves of religious instruction and consolation.
12. The whole power of the laws is exerted to keep slaves in a state of the lowest ignorance.
13. There is in this country a monstrous inequality of law and right. What is a trifling fault in the white man, is considered highly criminal in the slave; the same offences which cost a white man a few dollars only, are punished in the negro with death.
14. The laws operate most oppressively upon free people of color[A].
[Footnote A: See Mrs. Child's Appeal, Chap. II.]
Shall I ask you now my friends, to draw the parallel between Jewish servitude and American slavery? No! For there is no likeness in the two systems; I ask you rather to mark the contrast. The laws of Moses protected servants in their rights as men and women, guarded them from oppression and defended them from wrong. The Code Noir of the South robs the slave of all his rights as a man, reduces him to a chattel personal, and defends the master in the exercise of the most unnatural and unwarrantable power over his slave. They each bear the impress of the hand which formed them. The attributes of justice and mercy are shadowed out in the Hebrew code; those of injustice and cruelty, in the Code Noir of America. Truly it was wise in the slaveholders of the South to declare their slaves to be "chattels personal;" for before they could be robbed of wages, wives, children, and friends, it was absolutely necessary to deny they were human beings. It is wise in them, to keep them in abject ignorance, for the strong man armed must be bound before we can spoil his house—the powerful intellect of man must be bound down with the iron chains of nescience before we can rob him of his rights as a man; we must reduce him to a thing; before we can claim the right to set our feet upon his neck, because it was only all things which were originally put under the feet of man by the Almighty and Beneficent Father of all, who has declared himself to be no respecter of persons, whether red, white, or black.
But some have even said that Jesus Christ did not condemn slavery. To this I reply, that our Holy Redeemer lived and preached among the Jews only. The laws which Moses had enacted fifteen hundred years previous to his appearance among them, had never been annulled, and these laws protected every servant in Palestine. That he saw nothing of perpetual servitude is certain from the simple declaration made by himself in John, viii, 35. "The servant abideth not in the house for ever, the son abideth ever." If then He did not condemn Jewish temporary servitude, this does not prove that he would not have condemned such a monstrous system as that of AMERICAN slavery, if that had existed among them. But did not Jesus condemn slavery? Let us examine some of his precepts. "Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them." Let every slaveholder apply these queries to his own heart; Am I willing to be a slave—Am I willing to see my husband the slave of another—Am I willing to see my mother a slave, or my father, my white sister, or my white brother? If not, then in holding others as slaves, I am doing what I would not wish to be done to me or any relative I have; and thus have I broken this golden rule which was given me to walk by.
But some slaveholders have said, "we were never in bondage to any man," and therefore the yoke of bondage would be insufferable to us, but slaves are accustomed to it, their backs are fitted to the burden. Well, I am willing to admit that you who have lived in freedom would find slavery even more oppressive than the poor slave does, but then you may try this question in another form—Am I willing to reduce my little child to slavery? You know that if it is brought up a slave, it will never know any contrast between freedom and bondage; its back will become fitted to the burden just as the negro child's does—not by nature—but by daily, violent pressure, in the same way that the head of the Indian child becomes flattened by the boards in which it is bound. It has been justly remarked that "God never made a slave," he made man upright; his back was not made to carry burdens as the slave of another, nor his neck to wear a yoke, and the man must be crushed within him, before his back can be fitted to the burden of perpetual slavery; and that his back is not fitted to it, is manifest by the insurrections that so often disturb the peace and security of slave-holding countries. Who ever heard of a rebellion of the beasts of the field; and why not? simply because they were all placed under the feet of man, into whose hand they were delivered; it was originally designed that they should serve him, therefore their necks have been formed for the yoke, and their backs for the burden; but not so with man, intellectual, immortal man! I appeal to you, my friends, as mothers; Are you willing to enslave your children? You start back with horror and indignation at such a question. But why, if slavery is no wrong to those upon whom it is imposed? why, if, as has often been said, slaves are happier than their masters, freer from the cares and perplexities of providing for themselves and their families? why not place your children in the way of being supported without your having the trouble to provide for them, or they for themselves? Do you not perceive that as soon as this golden rule of action is applied to yourselves, that you involuntarily shrink from the test; as soon as your actions are weighed in this balance of the sanctuary, that you are found wanting? Try yourselves by another of the Divine precepts, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." Can we love a man as we love ourselves if we do, and continue to do unto him, what we would not wish any one to do to us? Look too, at Christ's example, what does he say of himself, "I came not to be ministered unto, but to minister." Can you for a moment imagine the meek, and lowly, and compassionate Saviour, a slaveholder? do you not shudder at this thought as much as at that of his being a warrior? But why, if slavery is not sinful?
Again, it has been said, the Apostle Paul did not condemn Slavery, for he sent Onesimus back to Philemon. I do not think it can be said he sent him back, for no coercion was made use of. Onesimus was not thrown into prison and then sent back in chains to his master, as your runaway slaves often are—this could not possibly have been the case, because you know Paul as a Jew, was bound to protect the runaway, he had no right to send any fugitive back to his master. The state of the case then seems to have been this. Onesimus had been an unprofitable servant to Philemon and left him—he afterwards became converted under the Apostle's preaching, and seeing that he had been to blame in his conduct, and desiring by future fidelity to atone for past error, he wished to return, and the Apostle gave him the letter we now have as a recommendation to Philemon, informing him of the conversion of Onesimus, and entreating him as "Paul the aged to receive him, not now as a servant, but above a servant, a brother beloved, especially to me, but how much more unto thee, both in the flesh and in the Lord. If thou count me therefore as a partner, receive him as myself." This then surely cannot be forced into a justification of the practice of returning runaway slaves back to their masters, to be punished with cruel beatings and scourgings as they often are. Besides the word [Greek: doulos] here translated servant, is the same that is made use of in Matt. xviii, 27. Now it appears that this servant owed his lord ten thousand talents; he possessed property to a vast amount. Onesimus could not then have been a slave, for slaves do not own their wives, or children; no, not even their own bodies, much less property. But again, the servitude which the apostle was accustomed to, must have been very different from American slavery, for he says, "the heir (or son), as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all. But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father." From this it appears, that the means of instruction were provided for servants as well as children; and indeed we know it must have been so among the Jews, because their servants were not permitted to remain in perpetual bondage, and therefore it was absolutely necessary they should be prepared to occupy higher stations in society than those of servants. Is it so at the South, my friends? Is the daily bread of instruction provided for your slaves? are their minds enlightened, and they gradually prepared to rise from the grade of menials into that of free, independent members of the state? Let your own statute book, and your own daily experience, answer these questions.
If this apostle sanctioned slavery, why did he exhort masters thus in his epistle to the Ephesians, "and ye, masters, do the same things unto them (i.e. perform your duties to your servants as unto Christ, not unto me) forbearing threatening; knowing that your master also is in heaven, neither is there respect of persons with him." And in Colossians, "Masters give unto your servants that which is just and equal, knowing that ye also have a master in heaven." Let slaveholders only obey these injunctions of Paul, and I am satisfied slavery would soon be abolished. If he thought it sinful even to threaten servants, surely he must have thought it sinful to flog and to beat them with sticks and paddles; indeed, when delineating the character of a bishop, he expressly names this as one feature of it, "no striker." Let masters give unto their servants that which is just and equal, and all that vast system of unrequited labor would crumble into ruin. Yes, and if they once felt they had no right to the labor of their servants without pay, surely they could not think they had a right to their wives, their children, and their own bodies. Again, how can it be said Paul sanctioned slavery, when, as though to put this matter beyond all doubt, in that black catalogue of sins enumerated in his first epistle to Timothy, he mentions "menstealers," which word may be translated "slavedealers." But you may say, we all despise slavedealers as much as any one can; they are never admitted into genteel or respectable society. And why not? Is it not because even you shrink back from the idea of associating with those who make their fortunes by trading in the bodies and souls of men, women, and children? whose daily work it is to break human hearts, by tearing wives from their husbands, and children from their parents? But why hold slavedealers as despicable, if their trade is lawful and virtuous? and why despise them more than the gentlemen of fortune and standing who employ them as their agents? Why more than the professors of religion who barter their fellow-professors to them for gold and silver? We do not despise the land agent, or the physician, or the merchant, and why? Simply because their professions are virtuous and honorable; and if the trade of men-jobbers was honorable, you would not despise them either. There is no difference in principle, in Christian ethics, between the despised slavedealer and the Christian who buys slaves from, or sells slaves to him; indeed, if slaves were not wanted by the respectable, the wealthy, and the religious in a community, there would be no slaves in that community, and of course no slavedealers. It is then the Christians and the honorable men and women of the South, who are the main pillars of this grand temple built to Mammon and to Moloch. It is the most enlightened in every country who are most to blame when any public sin is supported by public opinion, hence Isaiah says, "When the Lord hath performed his whole work upon mount Zion and on Jerusalem, (then) I will punish the fruit of the stout heart of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his high looks." And was it not so? Open the historical records of that age, was not Israel carried into captivity B.C. 606, Judah B.C. 588, and the stout heart of the heathen monarchy not punished until B.C. 536, fifty-two years after Judah's, and seventy years after Israel's captivity, when it was overthrown by Cyrus, king of Persia? Hence, too, the apostle Peter says, "judgment must begin at the house of God." Surely this would not be the case, if the professors of religion were not most worthy of blame.
But it may be asked, why are they most culpable? I will tell you, my friends. It is because sin is imputed to us just in proportion to the spiritual light we receive. Thus the prophet Amos says, in the name of Jehovah, "You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities." Hear too the doctrine of our Lord on this important subject; "The servant who knew his Lord's will and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes": and why? "For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required; and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more." Oh! then that the Christians of the south would ponder these things in their hearts, and awake to the vast responsibilities which rest upon them at this important crisis.
I have thus, I think, clearly proved to you seven propositions, viz.: First, that slavery is contrary to the declaration of our independence. Second, that it is contrary to the first charter of human rights given to Adam, and renewed to Noah. Third, that the fact of slavery having been the subject of prophecy, furnishes no excuse whatever to slavedealers. Fourth, that no such system existed under the patriarchal dispensation. Fifth, that slavery never existed under the Jewish dispensation; but so far otherwise, that every servant was placed under the protection of law, and care taken not only to prevent all involuntary servitude, but all voluntary perpetual bondage. Sixth, that slavery in America reduces a man to a thing, a "chattel personal," robs him of all his rights as a human being, fetters both his mind and body, and protects the master in the most unnatural and unreasonable power, whilst it throws him out of the protection of law. Seventh, that slavery is contrary to the example and precepts of our holy and merciful Redeemer, and of his apostles.
But perhaps you will be ready to query, why appeal to women on this subject? We do not make the laws which perpetuate slavery. No legislative power is vested in us; we can do nothing to overthrow the system, even if we wished to do so. To this I reply, I know you do not make the laws, but I also know that you are the wives and mothers, the sisters and daughters of those who do; and if you really suppose you can do nothing to overthrow slavery, you are greatly mistaken. You can do much in every way: four things I will name. 1st. You can read on this subject. 2d. You can pray over this subject. 3d. You can speak on this subject. 4th. You can act on this subject. I have not placed reading before praying because I regard it more important, but because, in order to pray aright, we must understand what we are praying for; it is only then we can "pray with the understanding and the spirit also."
1. Read then on the subject of slavery. Search the Scriptures daily, whether the things I have told you are true. Other books and papers might be a great help to you to this investigation, but they are not necessary, and it is hardly probable that your Committees of Vigilance will allow you to have any other. The Bible then is the book I want you to read in the spirit of inquiry, and the spirit of prayer. Even the enemies of Abolitionists, acknowledge that their doctrines are drawn from it. In the great mob in Boston, last autumn, when the books and papers of the Anti-Slavery Society, were thrown out of the windows of their office, one individual laid hold of the Bible and was about tossing it out to the ground, when another reminded him that it was the Bible he had in his hand. "O! 'tis all one," he replied, and out went the sacred volume, along with the rest. We thank him for the acknowledgment. Yes, "it is all one," for our books and papers are mostly commentaries on the Bible, and the Declaration. Read the Bible then, it contains the words of Jesus, and they are spirit and life. Judge for yourselves whether he sanctioned such a system of oppression and crime.
2. Pray over this subject. When you have entered into your closets, and shut to the doors, then pray to your father, who seeth in secret, that he would open your eyes to see whether slavery is sinful, and if it is, that he would enable you to bear a faithful, open and un-shrinking testimony against it, and to do whatsoever your hands find to do, leaving the consequences entirely to him, who still says to us whenever we try to reason away duty from the fear of consequences, "What is that to thee, follow thou me." Pray also for that poor slave, that he may be kept patient and submissive under his hard lot, until God is pleased to open the door of freedom to him without violence or bloodshed. Pray too for the master that his heart may be softened, and he made willing to acknowledge, as Joseph's brethren did, "Verily we are guilty concerning our brother," before he will be compelled to add in consequence of Divine judgment, "therefore is all this evil come upon us." Pray also for all your brethren and sisters who are laboring in the righteous cause of Emancipation in the Northern States, England and the world. There is great encouragement for prayer in these words of our Lord. "Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it to you"—Pray then without ceasing, in the closet and the social circle.
3. Speak on this subject. It is through the tongue, the pen, and the press, that truth is principally propagated. Speak then to your relatives, your friends, your acquaintances on the subject of slavery; be not afraid if you are conscientiously convinced it is sinful, to say so openly, but calmly, and to let your sentiments be known. If you are served by the slaves of others, try to ameliorate their condition as much as possible; never aggravate their faults, and thus add fuel to the fire of anger already kindled, in a master and mistress's bosom; remember their extreme ignorance, and consider them as your Heavenly Father does the less culpable on this account, even when they do wrong things. Discountenance all cruelty to them, all starvation, all corporal chastisement; these may brutalize and break their spirits, but will never bend them to willing, cheerful obedience. If possible, see that they are comfortably and seasonably fed, whether in the house or the field; it is unreasonable and cruel to expect slaves to wait for their breakfast until eleven o'clock, when they rise at five or six. Do all you can, to induce their owners to clothe them well, and to allow them many little indulgences which would contribute to their comfort. Above all, try to persuade your husband, father, brothers and sons, that slavery is a crime against God and man, and that it is a great sin to keep human beings in such abject ignorance; to deny them the privilege of learning to read and write. The Catholics are universally condemned, for denying the Bible to the common people, but, slaveholders must not blame them, for they are doing the very same thing, and for the very same reason, neither of these systems can bear the light which bursts from the pages of that Holy Book. And lastly, endeavour to inculcate submission on the part of the slaves, but whilst doing this be faithful in pleading the cause of the oppressed.
"Will you behold unheeding, Life's holiest feelings crushed, Where woman's heart is bleeding, Shall woman's voice be hushed?"
4. Act on this subject. Some of you own slaves yourselves. If you believe slavery is sinful, set them at liberty, "undo the heavy burdens and let the oppressed go free." If they wish to remain with you, pay them wages, if not let them leave you. Should they remain teach them, and have them taught the common branches of an English education; they have minds and those minds, ought to be improved. So precious a talent as intellect, never was given to be wrapt in a napkin and buried in the earth. It is the duty of all, as far as they can, to improve their own mental faculties, because we are commanded to love God with all our minds, as well as with all our hearts, and we commit a great sin, if we forbid or prevent that cultivation of the mind in others, which would enable them to perform this duty. Teach your servants then to read &c., and encourage them to believe it is their duty to learn, if it were only that they might read the Bible.
But some of you will say, we can neither free our slaves nor teach them to read, for the laws of our state forbid it. Be not surprised when I say such wicked laws ought to be no barrier in the way of your duty, and I appeal to the Bible to prove this position. What was the conduct of Shiphrah and Puah, when the king of Egypt issued his cruel mandate, with regard to the Hebrew children? "They feared God, and did not as the King of Egypt commanded them, but saved the men children alive." Did these women do right in disobeying that monarch? "Therefore (says the sacred text,) God dealt well with them, and made them houses" Ex. i. What was the conduct of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, when Nebuchadnezzar set up a golden image in the plain of Dura, and commanded all people, nations, and languages, to fall down and worship it? "Be it known, unto thee, (said these faithful Jews) O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the image which thou hast set up." Did these men do right in disobeying the law of their sovereign? Let their miraculous deliverance from the burning fiery furnace, answer; Dan. iii. What was the conduct of Daniel, when Darius made a firm decree that no one should ask a petition of any man or God for thirty days? Did the prophet cease to pray? No! "When Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house, and his windows being open towards Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime." Did Daniel do right thus to break the law of his king? Let his wonderful deliverance out of the mouths of the lions answer; Dan. vii. Look, too, at the Apostles Peter and John. When the rulers of the Jews, "commanded them not to speak at all, nor teach in the name of Jesus," what did they say? "Whether it be right in the sight of God, to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye." And what did they do? "They spake the word of God with boldness, and with great power gave the Apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus;" although this was the very doctrine, for the preaching of which, they had just been cast into prison, and further threatened. Did these men do right? I leave you to answer, who now enjoy the benefits of their labors and sufferings, in that Gospel they dared to preach when positively commanded not to teach any more in the name of Jesus; Acts iv.
But some of you may say, if we do free our slaves, they will be taken up and sold, therefore there will be no use in doing it. Peter and John might just as well have said, we will not preach the gospel, for if we do, we shall be taken up and put in prison, therefore there will be no use in our preaching. Consequences, my friends, belong no more to you, than they did to these apostles. Duty is ours and events are God's. If you think slavery is sinful, all you have to do is to set your slaves at liberty, do all you can to protect them, and in humble faith and fervent prayer, commend them to your common Father. He can take care of them; but if for wise purposes he sees fit to allow them to be sold, this will afford you an opportunity of testifying openly, wherever you go, against the crime of manstealing. Such an act will be clear robbery, and if exposed, might, under the Divine direction, do the cause of Emancipation more good, than any thing that could happen, for, "He makes even the wrath of man to praise him, and the remainder of wrath he will restrain."
I know that this doctrine of obeying God, rather than man, will be considered as dangerous, and heretical by many, but I am not afraid openly to avow it, because it is the doctrine of the Bible; but I would not be understood to advocate resistance to any law however oppressive, if, in obeying it, I was not obliged to commit sin. If for instance, there was a law, which imposed imprisonment or a fine upon me if I manumitted a slave, I would on no account resist that law, I would set the slave free, and then go to prison or pay the fine. If a law commands me to sin I will break it; if it calls me to suffer, I will let it take its course unresistingly. The doctrine of blind obedience and unqualified submission to any human power, whether civil or ecclesiastical, is the doctrine of despotism, and ought to have no place among Republicans and Christians.
But you will perhaps say, such a course of conduct would inevitably expose us to great suffering. Yes! my christian friends, I believe it would, but this will not excuse you or any one else for the neglect of duty. If Prophets and Apostles, Martyrs, and Reformers had not been willing to suffer for the truth's sake, where would the world have been now? If they had said, we cannot speak the truth, we cannot do what we believe is right, because the laws of our country or public opinion are against us, where would our holy religion have been now? The Prophets were stoned, imprisoned, and killed by the Jews. And why? Because they exposed and openly rebuked public sins; they opposed public opinion; had they held their peace, they all might have lived in ease and died in favor with a wicked generation. Why were the Apostles persecuted from city to city, stoned, incarcerated, beaten, and crucified? Because they dared to speak the truth; to tell the Jews, boldly and fearlessly, that they were the murderers of the Lord of Glory, and that, however great a stumbling-block the Cross might be to them, there was no other name given under heaven by which men could be saved, but the name of Jesus. Because they declared, even at Athens, the seat of learning and refinement, the self-evident truth, that "they be no gods that are made with men's hands," and exposed to the Grecians the foolishness of worldly wisdom, and the impossibility of salvation but through Christ, whom they despised on account of the ignominious death he died. Because at Rome, the proud mistress of the world, they thundered out the terrors of the law upon that idolatrous, war-making, and slave-holding community. Why were the martyrs stretched upon the rack, gibbetted and burnt, the scorn and diversion of a Nero, whilst their tarred and burning bodies sent up a light which illuminated the Roman capital? Why were the Waldenses hunted like wild beasts upon the mountains of Piedmont, and slain with the sword of the Duke of Savoy and the proud monarch of France? Why were the Presbyterians chased like the partridge over the highlands of Scotland—the Methodists pumped, and stoned, and pelted with rotten eggs—the Quakers incarcerated in filthy prisons, beaten, whipped at the cart's tail, banished and hung? Because they dared to speak the truth, to break the unrighteous laws of their country, and chose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, "not accepting deliverance," even under the gallows. Why were Luther and Calvin persecuted and excommunicated, Cranmer, Ridley, and Latimer burnt? Because they fearlessly proclaimed the truth, though that truth was contrary to public opinion, and the authority of Ecclesiastical councils and conventions. Now all this vast amount of human suffering might have been saved. All these Prophets and Apostles, Martyrs, and Reformers, might have lived and died in peace with all men, but following the example of their great pattern, "they despised the shame, endured the cross, and are now set down on the right hand of the throne of God," having received the glorious welcome of "well done good and faithful servants, enter ye into the joy of your Lord."