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This is a legitimate topic of general interest, and it assumes a preponderating importance to the people of the Southern American States, when the fact is taken into consideration that a general league against the institution of African slavery has been entered into and consummated between most of the civilized nations of the earth, and public opinion in many of the sister States of our own National Union has taken the same direction. The result is, to have arraigned the slaveholding States before the mighty bar of public opinion, on the charge of holding, as property, more than ten hundred millions of dollars' worth of what does not belong to them, which is and never can be the property of man; and this charge embraces, within its scope, the crimes of theft, robbery, rapine, and cruelty.
The time has come when the South must enter her plea of defence, not because the accusers are foreign nations, of which it may justly be said, before their charges are entertained, “Physician, heal thyself,” but because our accusers are among our own brethren, bound to us by freedom's holiest associations and religion's most sacred ties.
The author of the “ Studies on Slavery” has the double advantage of a full comprehension of the subject both in its Northern and Southern aspect. Born and educated in the former, and qualified by a long residence in the latter section of our Union, he is amply qualified to weigh the prejudices, the teachings, and the arguments of the one,
against the facts, the justifications, the religious and political sanctions of the other.
Mr. Fletcher has not only marshalled into his line of impregnable defence the mandates and sanctions of the Sacred Writings concerning the slave institutions, but he has drawn powerful auxiliaries from the sources of ancient history. His exegesis of biblical passages, in the original languages in which they were communicated by inspiration to the world, shows his sound scholarship, as well as his reverence of the literal sense and specific meaning of God's holy and unimpeachable standard and rule of life and action.
The author has also analyzed the fountain of Moral Philosophy, and detected the bitter waters of error so industriously infused by the eloquent and magical pens of such writers as Dr. Samuel Johnson, Dr. Paley, Dr. Channing, Dr. Wayland, Mr. Barnes, and others. He has confined himself to the moral and ethical bearings of the question, scarcely touching upon its political aspects,—a course calculated to render the book far more useful to the dispassionate seekers after truth, who may belong to different political sects.
Neither time nor labour has been spared in the authorship of the work; and it is believed that, while it is written with candour and calmness, it will be received by the people of the North as well as of the South as a sincere and enlightened endeavour to seek for truth, and thus allay the tumultuous and disorganizing fanaticism of those who have not had opportunity to study the subject, and are incapable of acting upon it with understanding and true decision.
PHILOSOPHY knows no obligation that binds one man to another without an equivalent. If one man could be subjected to another, who is not bound to render any thing in return, it would be subversive to good morals and political justice. Such a relation cannot exist, only so far as to reach the immediate death of the subjected. But it has been the error of some good men to suppose that slavery presented such a case.
It has been their misfortune also to receive the following succedaneums as axioms in the search for truth :
“ All men are born equal.”
The conscience infallibly distinguishes between right and wrong."
“No man is under any obligation to obey any law when his conscience dictates it to be wrong.'
“The conscience empowers any man to nullify any law; because the conscience is a part and parcel of the Divine mind.”
Slavery is wholly founded on force.”
Slavery originates in the power of the strong over the weak.”
“Slavery disqualifies a man to fulfil the great object of his being."
“ The doctrines of the Bible forbid slavery.”
“There is no word, either in the Old or the New Testament, which expresses the idea of slave or slavery.”
“Slavery places its subjects beyond moral and legal obligation: therefore, it can never be a legal or moral relation.”
“Slavery is inconsistent with the moral nature of man.”
"To hold in slavery is inconsistent with the present state of morals and religion.”
“ Slavery is contrary to the will of God.”
Averments of this order are quite numerous. Fanatics receive them; and some others do not distinguish them from truths.
At any age, and in any country, where such errors are generally adopted, and become the rules of political action, morals and religion are always in commotion, and in danger of shipwreck: for, although, where man has only approached so far towards civilization that even the enlightened can merely perceive them as rudimental, yet the great principles that influence human life, morality and religion, are, everywhere, and always have been the same.
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