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
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