when this murderous, soul-destroying system shall have been overthrown. . . . To measure the propriety of language, we must first examine1 the character of the system, or the nature of the object, against which it is directed. If we see a person wilfully abusing the goods of an individual, we may reprehend him, but with comparative mildness. If we see him maiming, or in any way maltreating another man's cattle, we may increase the severity of our rebuke. But if we see him violating all the social and sacred relations of life,—daily defrauding a number of his fellow-creatures of the fruits of their toil, calling them his property, selling them for money, lacerating their bodies, and ruining their souls,—we may use the strongest terms of moral indignation. Nor is plain and vehement denunciation of crime inconsistent with the most benevolent feelings towards the perpetrators of it. We are sustained in these positions by the example of Christ, and the apostles, and the prophets, and the reformers. . . . I should oppose this Society even were its doctrines 2 harmless. It imperatively and effectually seals up the lips of a vast number of influential and pious men, who, for fear of giving offence to those slaveholders with whom they associate, and thereby leading to a dissolution of the compact, dare not 3 expose the flagrant enormities of the system of slavery, nor denounce the crime of holding human beings in bondage. They dare not lead to the onset against the forces of tyranny; and if they shrink from the conflict, how shall the victory be won? I do not mean to aver, that, in their sermons, or addresses, or private conversations, they never allude to the subject of slavery; for they do so frequently, or at least every Fourth of July. But my complaint is, that they content themselves with representing slavery as an evil,—a misfortune,—a calamity which has been entailed upon us by former generations,4— and not as an individual crime, embracing in its folds robbery, cruelty, oppression and piracy. They do not identify the criminals; they make no direct, pungent, earnest appeal to the consciences of men-stealers. . . . Singular enough, I have been almost as cruelly aspersed5 by ministers of the gospel and church-members as by any
This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
1 Thoughts, p. 15.
2 Ibid., p. 19.
3 i. e., the Union.
4 ‘The present generation [at the South] are no more responsible for the existence of slavery than for swamps, pine barrens, or any other physical blemish of soil or local insalubrity’ (Harrison Gray Otis, in letter of Oct. 17, 1831, cited above, p. 242).
5 Thoughts, p. 9.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.
An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.