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auxiliary society among his people. Occasionally he made some little reference to the subject in his public preaching ; but, as there were usually slaves in the congregation, and as he knew how readily some persons might take offence, his allusions to the “delicate subject," as the Southrons call it, were few and slight. By marriage he had become the master of one or two families of slaves. He felt it to be his duty—and his wife's views were entirely coincident with his—to make those persons free, as soon as it could be done with a fair prospect of improving their condition. Accordingly, he says, “we watched the progress of the Colony at Liberia for several years; and, in the mean time, used means to prepare our slaves for freedom. As soon as we were satisfied that they had better prospects there of doing well for themselves, than they could have with us, we encouraged them to go; gave them such an outfit as our means afforded, and sent them to the Colony." These slaves, eleven in number, sailed from Norfolk, on board the Indian Chief, in February, 1826; and were among the first of the slaves manumitted for the purpose of sending them to Africa.
Not long after the going forth of these freed-men, and while the excitement, naturally produced in the neighborhood by such an event, had not yet entirely subsided, our author commenced a series of essays on slavery, in the Family Visitor, a religious paper, which had some circulation among the families of his charge. The third number of this series contained an energetic exposition of the inconsistency between slavery, as constituted by the statutes of
Virginia, and the requisitions of the law of love. It gave great offence to those members of the congregation, who had been previously dissatisfied with their pastor's liberating his own slaves; and as Mr. Paxton was well understood to be the author, great efforts were made to create a general disaffection towards him. Immediately on receiving official information that an opposition had been organized against him, he resigned his charge, “ leaving the Cumberland congregation to obtain a pastor whose opinions might agree with their own."
Such was the occasion of the letters before us. They were written soon after the author's resignation of his pastoral charge, but have remained unpublished these six years, because the author, unwilling to do anything rashly, yielded to the advice of certain friends, who thought that on account of existing excitement, some little time should be allowed to pass before they were given to the public.” We confess that ur judgment differs from that of Mr. Paxton's cautious friends. To us it seems that this little book could have done no great harm, and might have done great good in the six years during which it has been shut up in the author's desk. To us it seems, too, that the excitement of the occasion would have caused the book to be read with interest by many who now may never read it at all.
The first of these letters contains a narrative of facts, relating to the occasion on which the book was written. The second treats of ministerial prudence, and exposes the folly of supposing, that whenever offence is taken at a minister's preaching or conduct, he is of course to be regarded as having
acted imprudently. The third refutes the notion, so common at the South, that all discussion on such a subject is to be avoided as dangerous, and shows that the danger of slavery itself is such as cannot be augmented by temperate and candid discussion. The fourth exhibits the origin and nature of negro slavery in the United States, and compares it with the slavery which formerly existed in England. The fifth shows how slavery violates the principles on which all our boasted political institutions are founded ; and inquires what sentence is pronounced upon it by the law of nature. The five following are an investigation of the teachings of Scripture in respect to the morality of slavery. The eleventh and twelfth exhibit some of the evil tendencies of slavery; and argue very strongly that no Christian, of enlightened views, can lend the sanction of his example to a system fraught with such tendencies. The thirteenth refutes some of the arguments most commonly offered in vindication of slavery. The fourteenth and fifteenth are devoted to the inquiry, “ What must we do with our slaves?" Our author's own example has shown the favorable opinion with which he regards the efforts of the Colonization Society; yet, he is far from thinking, as some seem to think, that nothing ought to be done except as the emancipated are carried to Liberia. He proposes several plans for the removal of the colored population, and obviously regards the separation of the two races as important to the well-being of both; yet he doubts whether the removal of all is practicable, and brings arguments to show that the emancipated slaves might become, in time, even in the midst of the
country which they now occupy, industrious and happy free laborers. He shows, with much clearness, what can be done by individual slaveholders to promote the general abolition of the system ; and, in the sixteenth letter, concludes with an eloquent array of “ motives to immediate effort,” drawn from the doctrine of God's retributive dispensations, and from the certainty that dreadful judgments must fall upon a country so laden as ours with the guilt of slavery, unless they are averted by a speedy repent
This book is a fair specimen of that sort of discussion on the subject of slavery, which we wish to see more of. The author does not bluster, like some eminent philanthropists in our part of the country; he does not attempt to mystify and madden the minds of inflammable readers, with the stereotype talk about “ immediate abolition;" he writes like a man who knows whereof he affirms, and who knows precisely what prejudices and errors he has undertaken to combat; he aims directly at the instruction and conviction of those slaveholders who imagine that there is no wrong in slavery, and that nothing is to be done but to hand down the system, just as it is, to other generations ;—and such is the coolness and clearness, and at the same time the pungency, of his statements and arguments, that slaveholders, meeting with the book, cannot refuse to read, and reading, cannot easily avoid being convinced. We hope the book may have a wide circulation in that part of the country for which it was especially designed. We hope it may be replied to; and that the author may thus have occasion to come out again, with his
strong appeals to undeniable facts and self-evident principles.
In saying all this, however, we do not make ourselves responsible for everything which the author has said. Here and there, if it were worth our while, we might find fault with a position or an argument; but those slips and errors—if they are such-do not affect the great conclusions to which he wishes to conduct his readers. For example: we have our doubts whether the exegesis by which he would get rid of some passages of Scripture often adduced in defence of slavery, is in every instance correct. Yet the general position, that the Bible does not justify or authorize slavery, he defends successfully; for he brings forward the great principles of Christian morality, and applies them to the question in such a manner as leaves no doubt on the mind of the unbiased reader, that, whatever difficulties there may be with the exegesis of particular passages, the Bible is irreconcilably at war with such a constitution of society.
Taking leave, now, of Mr. Paxton and his book, but not of the subject, we propose to occupy a few pages with a scriptural inquiry respecting the morality of slavery.
To many who will read these pages, the question is one of direct practical importance. We have readers, not a few, who are the hereditary masters of bondmen, or who live in the midst of a slaveholding community. And besides these, many of our readers in our own part of the country, will probably be living, by and by, where the laws establish slavery, and where every man, whose circumstances permit