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knowing, voluntarily does wrong, is guilty for the full amount of that wrong; and, at the bar of God, he must answer for it. The only plea in abatement of guilt is, that a man has not the means of knowing better; or, that it is physically out of his power to obey the precept. But, while this abatement may be pleaded when it actually exists, it furnishes ground for no plea of abatement be. yond the precise limits of its existence. If therefore a man allow that slavery is a violation of right-a violation of the law, “ Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself”—before he can plead that he is guiltless, he must show that he has done, and is doing, every thing in his power to discon. tinue and make reparation for the wrong.
Once more. In what I have said above, I have alluded to the course which a slaveholder might be supposed to pursue, and be innocent of the guilt of slavery. I have, however, in these remarks, referred only to his conduct as an individual. There remains yet to be considered his duty as a member of society. If the laws are wrong, he, as a member of society, is bound to exert his full con. stitutional power to effect their abolition. If the moral sentiment of the State is wicked, he is bound to labor with his whole power to correct it. If his fellow-citizens oppress him, he is called upon by every sentiment of manliness, constitutionally to resist this oppression. If they oppress his fellow. men, he is bound by every sentiment of philan. thropy to defend the oppressed and raise up the down-trodden. Unless he do this, he cannot, as a member of the society, be free from the guilt of the wrong which the society perpetrates. There is, however, no opportunity in this letter to discuss this part of the subject. It may present itself again, at a later period of our inquiry.
In the above remarks I have endeavored to illustrate the principles by which the personal guilt of holding a man in bondage may be modified. In what degree they apply to the case of every separate individual, can be known only to the Searcher of hearts. You and I, however, my brother, believe in the moral corruption of the human soul.
We have been taught by the Bible that men are by nature influenced by direful passions and unholy lusts; by an insane love of wealth and a reckless desire for power. We know, too, how universally these corrupt affections darken the understanding and stupify the conscience. Taking these truths into view, we may form some estimate of the proportion of cases in which, on the above principles, the holding of slaves does or does not involve guiltiness; in how far insensibility to duty results from a want of knowledge, and in how far it results from a selfish and sinful indisposition to know the truth. You, who are well acquainted with slavery in all its phases, can form, I presume, a more correct judgment in this matter than myself. thing, however, there can be no doubt. So far as slavery is a wrong perpetrated by society, no modification of guilt can arise from the want of power to remedy it. The power resides in the society. Its members have placed themselves in their present position in regard to slavery. They can, whenever they please, change that position. And for not changing it, every member of the so,
Of one ciety who has not exerted his full constitutional power to remove it, must at the bar of God be held guilty.
I am, my dear brother, yours with every senti. ment of Christian affection
THE AUTHOR OF THE MORAL SCIENCE.
TO THE REV. RICHARD FULLER, D. D.
MY DEAR BROTHER
my last two letters I have attempted to show what I mean when I assert that slavery is a moral evil. I have wished to make it clear that slavery, or the holding of men in bondage, and “obliging them to labor for our benefit, without their con. tract or consent," is always and everywhere, or, as you well express it, semper et ubique, a moral wrong, a violation of the obligations under which we are created to our fellow-men, and a transgression of the law of our Creator, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself ; that, however, while this is true, it is also true that the guilt of any individual doing this wrong may be modified by his means of obtaining a knowledge of his duty, and also by the laws of the community of which he
chance to be a member.
The objection to this view of the subject is founded on the precept and example of the Old
and New Testaments. With pleasure I proceed to consider the argument on this part of the question. Believing as we both do that the Bible is a perfect rule of duty, if we can ascertain what it teaches, we may reasonably hope that our opinions may yet coincide. In this letter I propose to ex. amine the argument derived from the Old Testa. ment alone.
Your view, I think, may be briefly expressed as follows: Slavery was sanctioned in the Old Testa. ment; and, since the Old Testament is a revela. tion from God, and since He would not sanction any thing morally evil, therefore slavery is not a moral evil.
Before, however, I proceed to consider this argu- . ment, permit me to remark, that I do not perceive in the views which I have expressed any thing at variance with the teachings of the Old Testament. I will briefly explain my opinions on the subject :
I grant, at once, that the Hebrews held slaves from the time of the conquest of Canaan, and that Abraham and the patriarchs had held them many centuries before. I grant also that Moses enacted laws with special reference to that relation. Of the nature of these laws it may be convenient to speak shortly. I wonder that any one should have had the hardihood to deny so plain a matter of record. I should almost as soon deny the delivery of the ten commandments to Moses.
Granting all this, I do not see that it contradicts aught that I have said. I believe slavery then, as now, to have been wrong, a violation of our obli. gations to man, and at variance with the moral laws of God. But I believe that God did not see
fit to reveal his will on this subject, nor indeed on many others, to the ancient Hebrews. He made known to them just as much of his moral law as he chose, and the law on this subject belonged to the part which he did not choose to make known. Hence, although they did what was in itself wrong, yet, God not having made known to them his will, they were not guilty.
But more than this. God saw fit to institute peculiar relations between the Hebrews and the inhabitants of Canaan, relations such as he has never instituted between any other portions of the human family. When the iniquity of the Canaanites was full, God gave them and their lands and possessions, by special revelation, to the Hebrews. The Hebrews were authorized by a divine commis. sion to invade their territory, to take possession of their houses and fields, and slay without mercy
the inhabitants. The limitation and extent of this grant were definitely marked out. They were, , however, directed to pause before the work of dem struction was fully completed, lest the land, being deserted of its inhabitants, should be overrun by beasts of prey. Still, the people within these limits remained under the primitive curse.
The Hebrews were authorized to destroy them, and seize upon their land whenever they needed it. The authority to take them as slaves seems to me to be a part of this original, peculiar, and I may perhaps say anomalous grant.
But this grant was made to one people, and ta one people only, the Hebrews. It had respect to one · people only, the Canaanites. It can be of force at no other time, and to no other people. If the Jews