« PoprzedniaDalej »
eedful is, for each Christian man, and for every Chrisarch, to stand up in the sacred majesty of such a solemn sony ; to free themselves from all connection with the
and utter a calm and deliberate voice to the world, AND TOE WORK WILL BE DONE.
Christianity demands the use of every available means for the intellectual and moral improvement of all orders and classes of men.
It enforces a most sacred respect for the purity of woman, the rights and duties and privileges of husband and wife, parent and child. It can sanction no laws, usages or expedients, designed to keep men in ignorance or degradation, of any kind or degree. How then can any Christian desire the continuance of the slave-holding system in our country? How can any speak in its defence, or publish apologies in its behalf, --the whole tendency of which is to prolong, if not to perpetuate the evils and abominations, which will never cease, while the system is sustained, and which Christianity can no more cherish, than it can sanctify adultery and murder ?
The Bible is for the slave, no less than for the master. Every word of God is to the slave as a man, as much as to any other man living. And after all that could be said of the opportunities afforded to learn the great truths of the Holy Scriptures, it is most certain, that there are obligations implied in the doctrines and precepts of the gospel, which it is impossible for slaves to fulfill.
We cannot pursue this investigation, consistently with the limits to which we may be expected to confine ourselves. It would be too much to anticipate the entire acquiescence of the more than five hundred members of this Convention of Congregational Ministers in every sentiment or form of expression; but we shall be much disappointed, if the premises upon which we confidently rest our conclusions do not receive a response from this body, which will give to this part of our Report the moral power of their unanimous concurrence and their cordial appra bation.
Such views of the Scriptures, together with an ardent love of liberty, have tended, from an early period in the history of the American people, to concentrate the thoughts and the efforts of enlightened and conscientious men, and, indeed, of whole communities in the free States, in opposition to slavery.
A brief account of what has been done under these influences for the extinction of slavery, not only in our own land, but in other parts of the world together with some suggestions in regard to methods of producing increased efforts in favor of universal emancipation, forms a part of the analysis of our subject.
In February, 1638, there came to Massachusetts from Tortugas, “a cargo of cotton, tobacco, salt and negroes.” How many of these last there were, is not known. Neither have we found any record of the feelings, which were expressed in regard to them; although there can be no doubt, that they were brought as slaves.* But in the Body of Laws adopted by the General Court of Massachusetts, in 1641, it is declared, that “there shall never be any bond slaverie, villinage, or captivitie amongst us, unless it be lawfull captives taken in just warres, and such strangers as willingly selle themselves or are sold to us. And these shall have all the liberties and Christian usages which the law of God established in Israell concerning such persons doeth morally require. This exempts none from servitude, who shall be judged thereto by authoritie.”
They are familiar facts—that when Thomas Keyson, (or, Kezar,) and James Smith imported a number of slaves into Massachusetts, in 1645, the citizens of Boston denounced them and all others engaged in the same traffic as “malefactors and murderers;" committed them to prison ;-bore public testimony against “the heinous crime of man-stealing;”-and ordered the negroes to be restored at the public charge to their native country,—the General Court at the same time, by letter, expressing their indignation at their wrongs; also, that, in 1652, the General Court of Rhode Island passed a well-considered law to this effect,-" That no black mankind or white being, shall be forced by covenant, bond, or otherwise, to serve any man, or his assigns longer than ten years"-and that the man that will not let them go free, or shall sell them away
elsewhere, to the end that they
may be enslaved to others a longer time, he or they shall forfeit to the Colony forty pounds." And equally familiar is the melancholy fact, that these honorable movements of the Fathers of New England, two centuries ago, were thwarted and overruled by the covetousness and despotic authority of the mother country. Their wise enactments were set aside, and their consciences and rights subjected to the capricious will of an unjust foreign government.
The spirit that claims for the African, as well as the European, the inalienable right of personal liberty, however it
* Collections of the American Statistical Association, Vol. I. p. 200.
may at times have been smothered by intrigue or overpowered by force, has never slumbered in New England. Enlightened and philanthropic minds have ever been awake and active. Ralph Sandiford, in 1729, and Benjamin Lay, in 1737, and how many others at earlier and later periods we know not, wrote and published facts on North American slavery which awakened intense feeling, and prepared the public mind for efficient action, whenever the independence of the colonies should present the opportunity. Still, it must be confessed, that the subject was then but imperfectly understood in its great moral bearings; and that not a few, while cherishing the philanthropic spirit of the gospel, were so far under the influence of temporary delusion, that they bought and sold their servants, with scarcely more consciousness of wrong-doing, than when they held an apprentice on the strength of legal indentures. Devout men felt little scrúple to do what Abraham and David and Philemon were believed to have done, and what the Holy Spirit was thought to have sanctioned. Yet they commiserated the slave, and spared no pains to raise him to an intellectual and spiritual elevation like their own.
But in 1774, when the day of our Independence began to dawn, the Legislatures of Rhode Island and Connecticut prohibited the importation of slaves within their respective bounds. Massachusetts abolished slavery within her limits in 1780, and embodied the act of abolition in the Bill of Rights prefixed to her constitution. New Hampshire and Vermont followed her example—the one in 1792 and the other in 1793—both providing constitutionally, for immediate abolition. Pennsylvania passed laws in 1780, for the gradual extinction of the system. Connecticut and Rhode Island did the same in 1784; New York in 1799, and 1817; and New Jersey in 1804. Maine, as an independent State, has never been contaminated with the evil. Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa, through the ordinance of 1787, have been spared its withering curse.
During the past seventy years, the subject has been freely and ably discussed in the free States by theologians, such as Hopkins, Edwards, Channing, Wayland and Barnes; by able men also of other learned professions and by the people generally, in all its moral bearings, as well as its influence on the weal of the country and the destiny of the African. Neither its social, political, economical, nor religious aspects have been disregarded. Revelation and reason, history and philosophy, wit and common sense, legislation and associated action, have all been employed to enlighten the public mind, purify the popular sentiment, and direct the combined energies of the community to the early and complete annihilation of the mammoth
evil. And that its annihilation has not yet been effected, is less to be ascribed to any inherent defect in the conduct of these discussions, than to strong prejudices in favor of a time-honored iniquity, imbedded in the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eye, and the pride of life. Still, infirmity is inseparable from humanity in its present condition. From this infirmity flow misapprehensions of fact, mistakes of judgment, and errors in feeling and action. No man may claim infallibility for his opinions or movements, till he can claim exemption from the unhappy liabilities of our common nature. And allowing that whatever has been done to remove from us the curse of slavery, has been done with the purest regard to the good of man and the glory of God, it by no means follows, that all things have been done in perfect wisdom. The peculiar circumstances of the slave-holder which would tend to mitigate undue severity of judgment in his case may not at all times have been sufficiently considered ; and we are quite sure, that the peculiar circumstances of the slave, demanding the interposition of Christian benevolence in his behalf, have been too coldly regarded. Such as God has made man, physically, intellectually and morally, so does God deal with him, and so should he be dealt with by his fellow-men. He has not made him a machine, to be driven by the force of wind or steam, nor a brute to be urged on by the goad or the spear, nor a slave to go and come at a master's bidding, nor like Issachar to crouch down between two burdens; but he has made hin in his own image, and thereby rendered any assault on his personal rights a crime. To secure him against this, it should be enough to know that he is a MAN-the embodiment of whatever of intellectual or moral worth, God has seen fit to pour into the bosom of our world. Let the slave-holder as well as the slave be treated as a man. Let his misconceptions of the Law of God, his false views of the divine structure of human society, and of the rights of those whom he holds in servitude, be met in the spirit of kindness and brotherly love, and removed, if possible, by flooding his mind with new light. Let his intelligence be honored by the appliance of sound reasoning; let his sensibilities be moved by direct address to the noblest affections of his nature; and let his moral sense be reached, through his unquestioned relations to God and eternity—and if his errors be not at once overpowered, he may be ultimately won to faith in correct principles, and to a corresponding discharge of his relative duties.
Our confidence of success, however, must rest on God alone. His arm must bring deliverance to the bond-man ; and for this,
; his Spirit must illumine the mind and touch the heart of the taskmaster. It is our privilege and duty, however, to be la
borers together with Him ; nor is any man so elevated or depressed in the sphere of his action, so widely known or obscure ainong his fellow-men, so abounding in wealth or sunk in poverty, that he may not walk hand in hand with the Universal Ruler, in this pathway of high and holy achievement; for no man living is destitute of influence in the sphere where Heaven has placed him. The little Israelitish maid in the court of Syria is not a less important agent in the accomplishment of heaven's high purposes, than the Egyptian Pharaoh or the Chaldean monarch ; and it depends not on learning, wealth or fame to determine the nature or extent of the influence emanating from any single mind, and exerting control over other minds.
To the formation of a correct public sentiment, all labor and influence must be primarily directed. In a country like ours, where distinctions of rank, hereditary honors and exclusive privileges are all but unknown-where all opinions are freely canvassed, and adopted or rejected at pleasure, and where the day laborer uses the ballot box as effectively as the most emi. nent statesman, it is not possible to achieve so high a moral end, except through the enlightenment of the public mind, and the more thorough purification of the great heart of the Republic. Nor is this enlightenment and purification to be effected, but by the increased diffusion of the spirit of the gospel. In that spirit lies the germ, not only of all that is holy before God, but of all that is noble and beneficent in the actings of man's moral and spiritual nature. Let it possess all hearts, and become the universal regulator of human conduct, and the world is disenthralled, and at once mirrors forth the happiness of heaven.
To the diffusion of this spirit, every one is virtually pledged, who stands committed to the great interests of philanthropy. Every human tongue, indeed, is bound to take up heaven's message of love, and mingle its notes of "good will to men," with those of the angelic choir ; and whoever casts off the obligation, needs the remonstrances of fraternal love, and the teachings of Christian fidelity, to bring him back to duty and to God. But, whoever else may be dumb, when the cause of love to our neighbor needs exposition or enforcement, it is not the MINISTER OF Christ. Let his affections ever be stirred within him, and his mind awakened to the claims of downtrodden humanity, and his lips opened to pour forth the warnings of Heaven upon the oppressor, with its commands and entreaties to repentance and the abandonment of his evil ways. It is a subject that demands his earnest study, as involving the vitalities of the Christian faith, and the clearest practical demonstrations of the superiority of revealed religion; it demands