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,
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.