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Lecture II: the abstract principle of the institution of domestic slavery.

  • If the system be sinful, per se, the sin of it must be found in the principle
  • -- is the principle sinful? -- the principle defined -- objections to the term submission answered -- the effect of Mr. Jefferson's doctrine upon many conscientious persons in the Southern States.

I now propose to enter directly upon the inquiry, Is the institution of domestic slavery sinful? My plan will make it necessary, in this lecture, to limit the inquiry to the principle of the institution. If the institution be sinful, it must be so either in the abstract principle it involves, or in the specific form under which it embodies that principle, or in both. In either case, Mr. Jefferson's doctrine is verified; for if the abstract principle be wrong, then the institution which envelops the principle, and from which it derives its character, is of course wrong. It certainly is never right to act upon a wrong principle. Injustice, [32] as a principle, is confessedly wrong in itself, according to the ideas of all mankind. No form which an action can take will make it right, if it proceed upon an unjust principle. Hence, no circumstances can justify any man in knowingly doing an act of injustice. If the institution of domestic slavery envelops the idea of injustice, or any similar element, as its generic or abstract principle, in such case it would certainly be wrong both in principle and in practice; that is, wrong in itself; and we should, without scruple, abandon the controversy. But a similar conclusion will not follow from a contrary proposition; that is, it will not follow, that if the abstract principle of the institution be right, the institution itself is right; because the truth of a conditional proposition does not turn on the hypothesis, but on the consequent, as both true in itself and dependent upon the antecedent condition. That this is not the case in this instance is developed by the fact that the affirmative proposition involved in this conditional is, in itself, an absurdity, viz., “An abstract principle of action being right, the action itself is right.” This is absurd. For instance, justice, in itself, is a right principle of action, according to the ideas of all mankind; but it does not follow that all actions which proceed upon the principle of justice are right actions. A. justly [33] owes B. one hundred dollars: now, to enforce the payment of this money would be in itself a just act, because the money is honestly owed by A.; but if, in doing this, B. should take the last bed from under the wife and children of A., and deprive them of the last morsel of bread, the act itself would be a very wicked one, and he would be judged by mankind as but little less guilty than a highway robber, because this is a case in which the claims of benevolence march before the claims of mere justice. Not to respect the claims of benevolence in such a case is to act upon the principle of pure selfishness. This act, then, would envelop also a wrong principle — selfishness; and it is the nature of a wrong principle to spread the hue and poison of guilt over every act into which it enters. Truth, and its opposite, as principles, are striking examples. If we speak at all, we should speak the truth. Every utterance into which, in its proper, generic sense, the lie enters, even in the least degree, is a poisoned act; and he who does this, is to that extent a basely wicked man, however smooth his tongue or winning his manners. Guilt has poisoned his utterance; and if this vice be not speedily arrested in its progress, it will spread itself through the whole mass, and break down his entire moral constitution. But it does not certainly follow that all utterances which [34] are in themselves truths, are right utterances. There are many facts, to which, if we were to give utterance, we should only speak the truth, but at the same time we all know that they should lie buried (perhaps for ever) in the depths of our own hearts. To injure our neighbor by speaking the truth when no claim of paramount justice demanded it, and the claims of charity or kindness forbade it, would be a wicked act. For a child in a similar way to injure a parent would be the conduct of a demon. All such acts, though they envelop a right principle — truth — do at the same time envelop a wrong principle — malevolence; and it is the nature of wrong principle to stamp every act into which it enters with the character of guilt--it is wrong.

The conclusion we reach is this: If the abstract or generic principle of an action be wrong, the action itself is therefore wrong; but that, if the abstract principle be right, it does not follow that the action is therefore right, but that the action itself is either right or wrong, as may be determined by the presence or absence of certain other coincident principles; or, as we usually say, as may be determined by the circumstances.

If, then, the abstract principle of the institution of domestic slavery be wrong, the institution itself is wrong, and ought to be abolished; but if [35] the principle be correct, the institution itself is or is not right, just as the circumstances of the case may or may not require that it be maintained; as in the case of any other act involving correct principle. The points to be settled, then, are--

I. Is the abstract or generic principle of dometic slavery right or wrong? And if it be right, then,

II. Is the system (so far as it is a system, simply) of domestic slavery, enveloping this abstract principle, justified by the circumstances of the case? If so, the system itself is also right. Whether many slaveholders or few, or any at all, are themselves doing right in the exercise of the legal functions of that relation, are questions foreign from the present inquiries, even on the hypothesis that the system itself is right. Their conduct, be it right or wrong, (and in many cases it is right, and in many others it is no doubt wrong,) does not at all affect the truth or error of the questions now before us. It is not with the conduct of individual men that we now deal; but with the act of that great being, the State--the system of African slavery established by law in the country — and with that profound principle of truth or error which not only makes it a system, but makes it a right system or a wrong system, as the case may be. [36]

The philosophy which prevails on the question before us has originated two schools — the abolitionist and the anti-slavery. The abolitionist maintain that the abstract principle of the system is wrong, and that therefore the system itself is wrong under all circumstances. The anti-slavery school agree with the abolitionist that the principle is wrong, but divide among themselves as to the conclusion they draw. Some hold that the institution itself is not wrong under all circumstances, and that therefore slaves may be held under it in given cases without guilt; and others, that the institution is wrong in itself, and should be abolished by the State, but that the holding of slaves under this wrong system is not an act in itself wrong in all cases.

A strict analysis of the subject will show that here is a strange medley of principles and conclusions. I shall be found to agree with each, and to disagree with each. I disagree with both on the abstract principle. Hence, I disagree with the abolitionists on the whole proposition. But I agree with the abolitionists that if the abstract principle be wrong, the institution is wrong in all cases. I say with them that all who grant the antecedent of this conditional are bound to admit the consequent. Hence I disagree with the antislavery school in admitting that the principle is [37] wrong; but in so far as they admit that the system may be right under given circumstances, or that slaves may be held under it without guilt, we agree. I stand, therefore, committed to the affirmative of the question, both in regard to the principle and to the institution, and hence proceed to discuss the question:

I. Is the abstract principle of domestic slavery right or wrong?

I have already noticed that the public mind has been so long abused on this subject, that it is usual for highly intelligent persons, who have no idea of affirming that the slaveholder is necessarily a sinner, to allow that slaveholding is wrong in principle. But this, to say the least, is a strange abuse of terms. The right or wrong of an action, in itself considered, is determined by the principle which it envelops, and the moral character of the actor is determined by his intention in the performance, or by his voluntary or involuntary ignorance of the principle. It is reasonable, therefore, to infer that the public attach no well-defined meaning to the phrase, the abstract principle of slavery. Its definite meaning, however, is indispensable in this investigation; and, indeed, on all occasions, if we would speak correctly, and avoid misapplication of this term. [38]

What, then, is the principle of the system of domestic slavery?

Observe that it is the principle for which we inquire. What, then, is the system itself? For (to speak with strict philosophical propriety) our idea of the system is the chronological condition of our idea of the principle, as our idea of the principle is the logical condition of our idea of the system. We must perceive an action before we can determine what is the principle of it, although we must have an antecedent knowledge of the principle before we can determine what character that principle gives to the action,

The system is made up of two correlative relations — master and slave. Here there are but two ideas — the idea of master and the idea of slave, as correlatives. These are all the ideas that enter into the system, as a system merely. Whatever abstract principle, therefore, this system envelops, is to be found in these two terms. It need not and should not be sought for anywhere else; for these two relations make the whole system. Without these it could not be a system of slavery; and with these, it is therein, and in virtue of that fact alone, a system of slavery. The answer to the question depends upon the meaning of these terms alone. What, then, is the correlative meaning of these terms? [39]

“master. The Latin is magister, compounded of the root of magis, major, greater; and the Teutonic, ster, Saxon, steoran, to steer.” The word, then, signifies a chief director--one who governs or directs either men or business. The leading idea is that of governor by his own will.

slave. The derivation of this word is not a settled question. There is no difficulty, however, in fixing the meaning--one who is subject to the will or direction of another.

As a concrete, master means one who is governing in some particular instance or form by his own will; and slave, one who is so governed in some particular instance. But these are abstract terms. The ideas they convey may be conceived and held in the mind, apart from any particular application of the one or the other. And whether they are considered as abstract or concrete terms, they are correlatives — the one implies the other.

A system of slavery is a state or order of things established by law or custom, in which one set of men are the masters to a given extent, and another are the slaves to that extent.

Domestic slavery is an instance in which the order or state of things constituting the system itself, is made a part of the family relation. The head of the family is the master, and the slave is subject, as to the use of his time and labor, to the [40] control of the master, as the other members of the family. Domestic slavery, therefore, is one of the forms of the general system of slavery. The system has existed under various forms. The ancient system of villanage in England, of serfdom in Russia, the peon system of Mexico, as well as domestic slavery in the United States, are all examples of slavery proper. This leads us to remark that the terms master and slave are not only abstract but general abstract terms: general, because the abstract ideas they convey are common to each of these conditions. Each of these systems is pervaded by generic principles or ideas, which classify the whole as belonging to the same genus — system of slavery. The abstract principle of slavery is therefore the general idea, which is enveloped alike in each and every form or system of slavery. Hence, as the abstract idea of master is governing by one's own will, and that of slave is submission or subjection to such control; and as a system of slavery is a condition into which these ideas enter in correlation — it follows that the abstract principle of slavery is the general principle of submission or subjection to control by the will of another. This is the fundamental idea which is common to every form of slavery. No condition into which this does not enter as a fundamental idea is a state of slavery. Every condition [41] into which it enters is a state of slavery to the extent in which it does so enter.

Submission or subjection to control by the will of another being our definition of the abstract principle of the system of slavery, two questions arise: First--Is this a correct definition? and second--If it be correct, is it a sound, legitimate principle, which may and ought to be adopted in practice, whenever it may be wise to do so?

First--Is the definition correct?

Subjection is the being put under the control of another. Submission is the delivery of one's self to the control of another. The one implies the consent of the rill, and the other does not. That subjection is an idea which fulfils the condition of slavery will not be disputed by any. Hence our definition is sufficiently wide to embrace that which is conceded by all. But our definition gives much greater breadth to the principle. It takes in submission as well as subjection. It assumes that. the willing or the nilling of the subject of this form of control does not necessarily enter into the principle which logically defines it. lie who is subjected to such control is a slave; and he who submits to such control is not the less so. This principle might therefore be still further generalized--control by the will of another, with its correlative idea submission or subjection only implied. [42] But we prefer to define it in the terms employed, as being more likely to be appreciated in the sense intended. Are we correct in giving this wide compass of meaning to the principle in question? Do we assume too much when we say that a man is not the less a captive, and subject to the control of the captor, because he voluntarily gives himself up as such? Is a man then the less a slave who voluntarily consents to be controlled by the will of another? The popular use of terms in all languages shows that mankind have conceded this point. They all apply the idea of slave to such a case. Nay, more, they furnish a constructive meaning of the term based upon this meaning. They call a man a “slave to his passions,” who has voluntarily given himself up to be controlled in his future volitions by his passions as the subjective motive of his actions. “No bondage is more grievous than that which is voluntary,” says Seneca. “To be a slave to the passions is more grievous than to be a slave to a tyrant,” says Pythagoras. “No one can be free who is intent on the indulgence of evil passions,” says Plato. And Cicero says, “All wicked men are slaves.” St. Paul, Rom. VI. 16, uses the term in the same sense, and with the greatest propriety: “Know ye not that to whom ye yield yourselves servants [δούλους, slaves] to obey, his [43] servants [slaves] ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or obedience unto righteousness?” (See Dr. A. Clarke, in loc.) And again, Ephesians VI. 5-7: “Servants, [δοῦλοι,] be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your hearts 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 to men.” Doing the will of Gold — with good will. We must certainly understand that it was the duty of those slaves to give both assent and consent to their condition, as a thing coming to them in the order of God's providence, and pleasing to him; and therefore serve their masters with the same willing obedience, because therein they were serving the Lord. For these persons, we may suppose, were originally made slaves by subjection. They are exhorted to submit themselves not only to the particular commands of their masters, but also to their providential condition. The commands of their masters might be obeyed from mere prudential considerations. In this case, their obedience would be without the religious element. Paul exhorts them to religious obedience. Many, no doubt, obeyed: gave the consent of their wills, as they gave the assent of their [44] understandings; and hence, cheerfully submitting to their providential condition as from the Lord, they obeyed their masters “in singleness of heart as unto Christ.” They submitted, as any other good man submits, with consent as well as assent to his providential condition, and goes forth to the duties of that condition with a cheerful heart. Their condition was therefore changed from that of subjection to one of submission, and for as long a time as God might be pleased to continue it. Did they, by reason of such submission, cease to be slaves? Certainly not. They were slaves when in a state of subjection. They were not the less so when, from the high Christian motives commanded by the apostle, their condition was changed to one of submission. Be this, however, as it may, the following case is decisive of the whole question. The ancient Jew, who gave himself into slavery, was not the less a slave because he did it voluntarily; and the Mosaic law provided that such should be held and treated as slaves in perpetuity. See Exodus XXI. 5, 6 : “And 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: he shall also bring him unto the door, or to the door-post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an awl; and he shall serve him for [45] ever.” Thus the law of God made a man a slave who became so by his own voluntary act. A state of submission, therefore, to control by the will of another, is no less a state of slavery than a state of subjection. If the state itself be one of slavery, the idea, submission, which makes it so, is in this case an element of the system. Hence, the true philosophical definition of the principle, as before stated, is control by the will of another, with its correlative (subjection, or submission, as the case might be) implied. It may be the one; it may be the other; and whichever it is in a given case, is the mere logical accident of that case, and does not at all affect the principle itself.

As the whole of the abstract idea of the system of slavery is to be found in the terms master and slave in correlation; and submission and subjection to control by the will of another is the whole idea contained in the correlative sense of these terms, (certainly nothing more and nothing less,) the definition given is the whole, and nothing more, of the abstract principle of the institution. Whoever is in this condition is to that extent a slave. *Whatever system envelops this principle — it matters not what form it may take, what coincident principles it may include, or what name may be given to it, or how far the practical working of this principle may be modified — it is nevertheless [46] to the extent that this principle enters into it a system of slavery. It may be a wise system, because it is a necessary means for the accomplishment of some desirable end; or it may be an unwise system, because it is a means unsuited to the end proposed. But neither hypothesis will at all affect the principle. That is the same in the one case as in the other; that is, whether it be abused or properly used, the principle itself is the same. But can it be properly used at all? This leads to the second inquiry — Is this a sound, legitimate principle, which may and should be adopted in practice whenever it may be wise to do so?

We need not scruple to admit that if injustice or any similar idea should be found to enter as an element into the abstract principle, it is a poisoned principle, upon which no honest man will allow himself to act. But is this the case? Doubtless, there may be injustice in slavery, as in every system which has persons for its subjects: that is, any master acting under the authority of this system may perpetrate great injustice; but we maintain that when he does so he introduces a principle foreign to the system, and for which he is individually responsible: he does that which mars the character of the whole performance, and stamps his own personal conduct with the guilt of injustice. [47]

However carelessly many persons are accustomed to speak on this subject, yet we may assure ourselves that a little reflection will satisfy any candid mind that the principle is a legitimate one, and cannot with any degree of propriety be regarded as sinful. It will readily occur to all intelligent minds, that this principle enters more or less as an essential element into every form of human government. No government can be appropriate to human beings, in their present fallen condition, that does not embody this generic element in a greater or less degree.

A form of control, clearly embodying the idea of government, and at the same time conferring absolute freedom, is a solecism. If men would uniformly govern themselves aright by their own wills, there could be no necessity for government, or room for its exercise, at least in the sense in which we now understand the term. A government adapted to such a people, I allow, might be without the element of physical control, so indispensable in human governments. It would be (compared to human) a modification of government — if government it might be called — for which our language supplies no term. We cannot conceive it to be appropriate to any intelligences this side of the “spirits of just men made perfect in heaven.” These, we conceive, are sufficiently [48] intelligent to understand clearly and correctly all the duties appertaining to the various relations they sustain, and so perfected in moral feeling as to fulfil these duties from the impulses of their own spontaneous volitions. Government, as it may be understood and applied to such intelligences, must be essentially different from that which is appropriate to beings of arbitrary volition; and who, therefore, should be held to accountability in the exercise of their freedom by the most rigid restrictions from penal sanctions. To these latter a government that did not embody the principle of slavery would be no government at all.

Authoritative control, with its correlative, (according to the more general classification given,) is the abstract principle of slavery. But a state of freedom is the opposite of a state of slavery. The abstract principle of a state of freedom or Liberty is, therefore, the opposite to that of slavery. Hence self-control is the abstract principle of freedom, as its opposite--control by another--is the principle of slavery.

Now every government adapted to fallen beings whose personal or mental liberty consists in arbitrary volition, is necessarily a combination of these two opposite elements — the principle of freedom and the principle of slavery. Either of these entering alone into the system of government, [49] would in the end defeat the legitimate object of government — the happiness of the people, If the government were based upon the principle of freedom alone, allowing every man the unrestricted liberty of self-control, the wildest anarchy would result: if to avoid this the opposite principle should be adopted, allowing no liberty of self-control, but subjecting all to control by the will of another, it would be found as impracticable as the other was disastrous, and, as far as successful, only appropriate to idiots and infants. A good government is such a harmonious union of these opposing elements, as adapts it to the wants of the people. For as, in chemistry, elements in opposite states of electricity unite and form valuable compounds, so in political science, antagonistic principles enter necessarily into the composition of government. Tie character or kind of the government is defined by the ratios in which these elements enter into its formation. If the principle of slavery enter very largely into the government, in a highly consolidated form, it is then an absolute monarchy or military despotism. If the exercise of this supreme power is distributed among the heads of families, it assumes the patriarchal or domestic form. If this principle enter in a less degree, but still in a much greater degree than the principle of self-control, some one of the [50] forms of constitutional monarchy or hereditary aristocracy will result. If these opposite principles enter into the government in somewhat equal ratios, it is then a democratic republic — a well-balanced government — such as ours is designed to be. Hence we see that God has rendered the blessing of civil freedom inseparable from the presence and operation of the principle of slavery. Such is the present arrangement, that government can no otherwise secure freedom to its subjects than by abridging them to a certain extent of self-control; or, in other words, government must place its subjects under the operation of the principle of slavery in some things, the more effectually to secure their practical freedom in other things. And the citizen who may be determined not to submit to this order of things, and shall persist to do, from the action of, a depraved will, what the State--his master--says he shall not do, will, sooner or later, find himself reduced to a condition of most abject slavery, within the walls of a public prison.

It is entirely obvious that a government, to secure the highest amount of happiness to its subjects, must be adapted to their social and moral condition. This adaptation, as before intimated, can only be effected by the ratios in which the antagonistic elements of liberty and of slavery shall [51] enter into the composition of the government. Now this is virtually the position, after all, of a no less distinguished abolitionist and literary man than Dr. Wayland, the author of your text. On the subject “of the mode in which the objects of society are accomplished,” after bringing to view the different forms of government--“wholly hereditary” --“partly hereditary” --“partly elective” --and “wholly elective” --he asks, Which of these is the preferable form of government? “and adds. The answer must be conditional. The best form of government for any people, is the best that its present moral and social condition render practicable. A people may be so entirely surrendered to the influence of passion, and so feebly influenced by moral restraint, that a government which relied on moral restraint could not exist for a day. In this case a subordinate and inferior principle yet remains--the principle of fear; and” the only resort is to a government of force, or a military despotism. “Now what is all this but a statement of the great truth which we have already discussed, only in different terms, that a government over a people, in the moral and social condition described by Dr. Wayland, which relied upon” moral restraint, “that is, upon the principle of self-control,” could, not exist for a day; “and that for such a people, the only resort is to a government of force, or a [52] military despotism” --that is, the highest conceivable form or system of slavery. Now this is said, by Dr. Wayland, after waging a relentless war against both the principle and practice of slavery! Is not this an instance in which a great and honest mind, having adopted certain false notions in an-tagonism with the system of slavery, wars against this system; whilst, at the same time, this system is underlaid, even in his own method of reasoning, by a vast mine of fundamental principles which, in spite of him, give it both being and activity? Why need one so learned as Dr. Wayland allow the truth to escape his notice, because in one connection it wears the livery of one form of words, and in another connection very properly assumes the livery of a different form of language?

To proceed: History informs us of many such communities as those defined by Dr. Wayland, to which any other form of government would be entirely inappropriate but the one he calls a government of force or a military despotism, “which is none other than the very highest form of slavery. And your own good sense, young gentlemen, must assure you that it would be grossly absurd to confer on reckless boys of fifteen, or a mass of stupid pagans, all the rights of free citizens of this great republic. No: the one class should be retained under the slavery (for let [53] us not scruple to call things by their right names) of authoritative control by their parents; and the other should be subjected to the operation of the same general principle by the State. And to adopt Dr. Wayland's own language on this point — suicidal as it is to him — we add, in regard to such citizens as are” entirely surrendered to the influence of passion, “that after a government of force has been established, and habits of subordination have been formed, while the moral restraints are yet too feeble for self-government, an hereditary government, which addresses itself to the imagination, and strengthens itself by the influence of domestic connections and established usage, may be as good a form of government as they can sustain. As they advance in intellectual and moral cultivation, it may advantageously become more and more elective; and in a suitable moral condition, it may be wholly so.” Now, to vary the language in which these important facts are expressed, so as to bring out the great philosophical principles which so evidently underlie them, we would say, that when the government adapted to an ignorant and depraved people has operated under wise appliances to form habits of subordination among the masses, a modification of the elements of government is indicated as best suited to their condition. Some one of the forms of [54] hereditary government may be adopted. In this government, the principle of slavery is made to operate less actively, and there is. more room for the play of the opposite principle of self-control. But as the moral principle is yet too feeble for self-government proper, it is still held in strong check by its antagonistic principle — the principle of slavery. As they advance in intellectual and moral cultivation, a further modification of the relative operation of these principles is indicated as proper. It may become more and more elective: that is, more and more of a democratic republic; and in a suitable moral condition it may be wholly so: that is, a government in which the principle of slavery and the principle of liberty operate in about equal ratios. We call this a well-balanced government. If it fulfil this condition, it is because these opposing principles so check and counterpoise each other that the government is not likely to be unbalanced. One holds the other in equilibrio. The principle of self-control is in such vigorous operation among the masses, and so craned up to a vigilant activity by coincident forces derived from intelligence and interest, that the principle of slavery — control by the will of another, which in this instance is the will of the majority--is not competent, according to the theory of this government, to override and crush the [55] liberties of the country. On the other hand, the principle of slavery, which is the great practical force of the government, enfeebled as it is by a prevailing popular enthusiasm for the widest freedom, and deriving no present aid from interest, finds this deficiency so fully supplied by the fact that its impersonation is the will of the majority, that it is competent to resist the most violent shocks which may come up from the misguided self-control of the masses. How often have we seen, in the history of our glorious republic the excited passions of the masses, misdirecting their power of self-control, sweep like a hurricane over the bosom of our political sea, and lash the waters into a storm that threatened to engulf the hopes of the nation! But so vital and so active was that principle which constitutes the true force of the government, that that great ideal, the State--the “Ship of state!” --outrode the tempest in. perfect safety; and last, as first, the flag of liberty still streamed from the mast-head.

Now, this is as far as the science of free government, so called, has been carried into practical operation; and in this we cannot fail to see that the restraining and controlling principle of slavery is still in vigorous operation. We call it, by way of eminence, a free government; and so it is, relatively to other forms, a very free government. But [56] then it is only relatively, not absolutely, so; for if it were rendered entirely free, by excluding the operation of the principle of slavery altogether, it would be reduced at once to a form of government which authorizes every man to do in all things and in all respects just as he might please to do — a guaranty which in the present state of fallen human nature it could never make good, and, therefore, virtually it would be no government at all.

Seeing that the abstract principle of slavery enters necessarily and essentially as an element into every form of civil government, it is worse than idle to affirm that it is wrong, per se. But more than this, it has the sanction of Jehovah: for government, of which we have seen it is a necessary element, is expressly declared in Holy Scripture to be his ordinance. It entered largely into the theocracy by which he governed the Jewish nation; and indeed is equally prominent in the government which he exercises over all man-kind, if we take it in its wide sense as comprehending the ultimate rewards and punishments that await us in a future state. How imbecile then is it to say of the system of slavery that it is wrong in the abstract — wrong in principle! How little do men consider what they affirm in this declaration! Certainly no man in his senses [57] will gravely affirm of an essential principle of government that it is wrong! We repeat, then, it is really time that certain politicians, as well as ecclesiastics, had learned to chasten their language on this subject. They have already accomplished incalculable mischief. They have conceded that to the folly of fanaticism which, if it were true, would render domestic slavery, with every other form of civil government, wholly indefensible, and their supporters the objects of the pity and scorn of the civilized world.

There are many among ourselves who, though they are not sufficient metaphysicians to detect and expose the error of a conclusion, are sufficiently candid to admit that if the conceded dogma of Jefferson be true, domestic slavery can never be justified in practice by any circumstances whatever; and they have pious feeling enough to prompt them to great hesitation in supporting the institution in view of this admission, although they are pressed to do so by circumstances of urgent duty to the slaves themselves. In this state of things there arises in many sensitive minds a most painful state of feeling. Pressed on the one hand by what is assumed to be correct principle, and on the other by the claims of a high moral necessity,--the necessity of governing and providing for their slaves, which they erroneously suppose to [58] be in conflict with right principle,--they really find themselves in a most embarrassing situation, from which they sigh to be released. Many such have quietly retired from the State of their nativity and choice as their only alternative. (This may account for more of those removals, usually attributed to worn-out lands, than many of our politicians wot of.) Others remain, it is true, but it is rather an act of subjection than submission. Citizens of this class (and it is not a small class) are of course always liable to become the victims of any fanatical movement on the subject of slavery that may be afoot in the land. To all this mischief, the speakers and writers in question have contributed their full share. Yea, for myself, I doubt not they have contributed much more to dissatisfy the religious community of the South--the large majority of the whole population — than all the abolitionists of the North put together. It is doubtless the magic of their names which at present enables the M. E. Church (the most regular and well-defined anti-slavery, if not indeed abolitionist, association this day existing in the country) to maintain its footing in the District of Columbia, the States of Delaware and Maryland, and along the northern border of Eastern and through a large part of Western Virginia, together with a portion of Kentucky and Missouri. [59] It is the authority of their names, also, which so disquiets the feelings of many good people in the whole country as to make them the victims of the political legerdemain of certain politicians, who, under cover of free-soilism “fugitive slave law,” and “Nebraska” excitements, are overriding their rights and insulting the whole country before the civilized world; and who, last though not least, are daily oppressing the African population by the incubus of a morbid sensibility in regard to them, which utterly prevents the system under which they live from any thing like a reasonable participation in the progress of civilization. In view of these facts, we again assume that it is really time they had learned to chasten their language on the subject of African slavery. Public opinion in the whole country must soon become intolerant of so great an abuse of the truth.

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