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Suppose we should by law enact that the weaker half should be slaves, that we would exercise over them the authority of masters, prohibit by law their instruction, and concert among ourselves the means for holding them permanently in their present situation. In what manner would this alter the moral aspect of the case ?

A law, in this instance, is merely a determination of the stronger party to hold the weaker party in bondage ; and a contract with each other, by which their whole power is pledged to each individual, so far as it shall be necessary, in order to enable him to hold in bondage his portion of the weaker party.

Now I cannot see that this in any respect changes the nature of the parties. They remain, as before, human beings, possessing the same intellectual and moral nature, holding the same relations to each other and to God, and still under the same unchangeable law, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. By the act of holding a man in bondage, this law is violated. Wrong is done, moral evil is committed. In the former case it was done by the individual; now it is done by the individual and the society. Before the formation of this compact, the individual was responsible only for his own wrong; now he is responsible both for his own, and also, since he is a member of the society, for all the wrong which the society binds itself to uphold and render perpetual.

The Scriptures frequently allude to the fact, that wrong done by law, that is, by society, is amenable to the same retribution as wrong done by the individual. Thus, Psalm xciv. 20–23:

“Shall the throne of iniquity have fellowship with Thee, which frame mischief by a law, and gather themselves together against the soul of the righteous, and condemn the innocent blood ? But the Lord is my defence; and my God is the rock of 'my refuge. And he shall bring upon them their own iniquity, and shall cut them off in their own wickedness; yea, the Lord our God shall cut them off.” So also Isaiah x. 1-4: “ Wo unto them that decree unrighteous decrees, and that write grievousness which they have prescribed ; to turn aside the needy from judgment, and to take away the right from the poor of my people, that Widows may be their prey, and that they may rob the fatherless! And what will ye do in the day of visitation, and in the desolation which shall come from far? to whom will ye flee for help? and where will ye leave your glory? Without me they shall bow down under the prisoners, and they shall fall under the slain. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.” Besides, persecution for the sake of religious opinion is always perpetrated by law; but this in no manner affects its moral character.

There is, however, one point of difference, which arises from the fact that this wrong has been estab. lished by law. It becomes a social wrong. The individual, or those who preceded him, may have surrendered their individual right over it to the soci. ety. In this case it may happen that the individual cannot act as he might have acted if the law had not been made. In this case the evil can only be eradicated by changing the opinions of the society, and thus persuading them to abolish the law. It will however be apparent that this, as I said before, does not change the relation of the parties either to each other or to God. The wrong exists as before. The individual act is wrong: The law which protects it is wrong. The whole society, in putting the law into execution, is doing wrong Before, only the individual, now, the whole society becomes the wrong-doer, and for that wrong both the individual and the society are held responsible in the sight of God.

I have thus endeavored as clearly as possible to illustrate my views upon the question-is slavery a moral evil? understanding by these terms, wrong, or violation of moral law. The consideration of the second meaning of the phrase I must reserve for another occasion.

It may, perhaps, be proper for me here to state, once for all, that in these remarks and those that may follow, I speak as the organ of no party and of no sect. I belong to none. I am not and I never have been connected with any abolition society, and I believe that I have read as much on one side of this question as on the other. I write what seem to me the simple dictates of my individual understanding and conscience, enlightened I hope by the teachings of the Holy Scriptures. Nay, I may claim that the doctrines which I have advanced are by necessity involved in the character which I hold as an American citizen. I do not know that I have uttered a single sentiment which is not comprehended in the notable words which form the introduction to our Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident,” (that is, so evident that they are, from the

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principles of the human mind, admitted as soon as they are stated,) “ that all men are created equal,(that is, equal in right to use the endowments of the Creator as they choose, though not equal in endowments,) “ that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights,” (that is, rights from which they cannot be rightfully alienated,)“ and that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” I do not know how else in so few words I could express my opinions on this subject. I am, my dear brother, yours with

every

sentiment of regard,

THE AUTHOR OF THE MORAL SCIENCE.

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LETTER III.

TO THE REV. RICHARD FULLER, D. D.

MY DEAR BROTHER

In my last letter, I endeavored to show that the right of slavery, if it exists, is not only the right “to oblige another to labor for our benefit, without his contract or consent," but also the right to use all the means necessary for the establishment and perpetuity of this right. Wherever slavery is established by law, I believe this power is conferred by society upon the master, and therefore it would be absurd to suppose that it is not generally exercised. I also attempted to show that when we

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assert or deny that slavery is a moral evil, the terms “moral evil," are susceptible of two very dis- . similar meanings. They may mean either wrong, violation of right, transgression of moral law; or they may mean the guilt that attaches to the person doing the wrong.

I endeavored also to show that, taken in the first of these senses, slavery is, from the very nature of the case, essentially a moral evil-that it is a violation of the rights of man, and a transgression of that law under which all human beings are created, “ Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself;” and that the moral character of the relation is the same, whether the master be the captor or the purchaser of the slave ; whether his power be upheld by his own individual prowess, or by the combined authority of society.

I proceed now to consider the second meaning of the assertion-slavery is or is not a moral evil. We now mean by this assertion, that whoever holds a fellow-man in bondage is guilty of sin. To this assertion let us now direct our attention.

Supposing a moral law to exist, our guilt in violating it, as well as our virtue in obeying it, depends in the first place upon our knowledge of its existence. If we have never known that such a law has been enacted, we may be free from guilt though we violate it. If, on the other hand, we know of its existence, and, with adequate knowledge of our duty, violate it, we incur, without mitigation, the guilt of our transgression.

Again, the guilt of violating a moral law must depend not only upon our knowledge, but upon our opportunities for the acquisition of knowledge. Two men may both violate a law in ignorance,

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