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the other to forbid those acts of indulgence and beneficence which are considered inconsistent with the permanence and security of the system. For all that protection which every subject has a right to expect from the government that is set over him, and for nearly all that salutary control which it is the business of civil government to exert over the actions of its subjects, the black man must look not to the state, but to his master.
The master upon his plantation is a petty monarch, with the powers of an African or Oriental despot; the negroes upon his soil are his subjects. If he needs a military force to suppress an insurrection of his subjects, or to compel their obedience, the state comes to his aid. If one of his slaves commits some crime particularly dangerous not to him only or to his plantation, but to the public considered as consisting of white men, the state takes the work of trial and punishment into its own hands. If his administration of his power becomes in certain particulars too oppressive, or in certain particulars too lax and beneficent, the state counteracts that “evil example” by the infliction of penalties upon him. If he abdicates his power, the state will commit that power to some other person. The state considers the blacks as a barbarous hostile population which it utterly refuses to take under its protection; and it tolerates their existence within its boundaries only on the condition that all the most essential duties of government, in respect to them, shall be performed by individuals sustaining towards them the relation of proprietorship.
Such is the system of society-the structure and
arrangement of civil relations—which in fifteen of these United States is established under the name of slavery. The institution is entirely and essentially barbarous. No form of government on earth is more at war with every just conception of the nature of man and of his rights as a member of society. All that I know of the ordinary operation of this form of government, in its influence on industry, on morals, on all the interests of the individual and of the commonwealth, is in harmony with its theory. And in proportion to the progress of civilization among the enslaved portion of society, the intrinsic wickedness of that mode of government becomes more glaringly evident, and more offensive to the moral sensibilities of mankind. The system of arrangements for the government of the negroes was established long ago, when the ancestors of those negroes, captured in the ambushes and fights of hostile tribes on the banks of the Zaire and the Gambia, were introduced by crowded shiploads into dependent and feeble colonies under the relentless legislation of the mother country. In that
In that age those arrangements might have seemed to be excused by the plea that there was no other way of dealing with savages so desperate, under the sense of recent enslavement, and so ignorant even of the language of their masters; though even then they must have been condemned, by a thoughtful sense of justice, as inexcusable. But now the atrocity of those arrangements stands out in strong relief against the sky before the gazing world ; for now the negroes are as native to the soil as their masters; and notwithstanding that tyrannical opposition to their im
provement and progress which is kept up by the state and generally by the individual masters, they are slowly but steadily rising towards a level with the superior race in all the essentials of civilization, and are already as unlike the barbarians that were brought from Africa, as the high-bred Virginian lady, than whom, perhaps, there lives no specimen of womanhood more admirable, is unlike her fair ancestor, warranted “incorrupt,” who was sold to a planter husband some two hundred and thirty years ago, for one hundred and twenty pounds of tobacco.
The question before us is not whether the political system which puts the black population of the southern States into the power of individual masters, absolute and irresponsible, and which studiously withholds from them all human rights, is consistent with the law of God. Nor is it the question whether the free people of those States, in their sovereignty, ought to enter at once upon the longneglected work of reforming their barbarous institutions. Nor are we to inquire here respecting the duty of the slave-whether he owes any allegiance to the state which refuses to protect him or to recognize him as a man--whether in all circumstances he retains the right which our national legislation, our diplomacy, and our last war with Great Britain have challenged for all mankind, the right of expatriating himself and renouncing his allegiance to the government under which he was born--whether, or in what circumstances, he may rise up with his brethren in bondage to throw off the yoke, to assert their freedom, and to form a new constitution. Nor have I any occasion here to answer the question
whether I may rightfully give shelter, and food, and clothing to a fugitive from Virginia, and money to help him on his way to Jamaica or to Canada.* The only question is, What has Christianity to do with the reformation of this whole order of things, which is known by the name of slavery? And, in particular, what has Christianity, in the form of church government, to do in the business of setting right the wrongs of so wicked a system of social order ?
One of the embarrassments incident to this mode of communicating with the public, is the necessity of breaking up a discussion of an important and complicated subject into weekly chapters, and thus separating parts that ought to be presented in close
* An anonymous friend, who writes to me from New York, says, “ At this moment, I am called upon to aid a poor fugitive with his wife and five children, who have escaped the mere relation, having arrived from Virginia last evening. As this is a case of frequent occurrence, will Dr. Bacon please to indicate my duty in the next Evangelist ?"
The proposer of this case of conscience is probably capable of seeing that his question has no bearing whatever on the subject of the present discussion. Yet, that I may not seem to treat even the writer of an anonymous letter with neglect, I will answer his question frankly. If a“ fugitive with his wife and five children” were to come to me with the confession that he had run away from the mere relation of servitude, and not from any unkind, oppressive or unchristian treatment on the part of his master, and should ask me to help him with money, I should probably esteem that fugitive a shiftless vagabond ; I should tell him that by his own showing he had no occasion to run away, and that if he had expressed a reasonable desire to emigrate to some other country, his master would doubtless have put him in the way of helping himself instead of depending on charity : and I should probably reserve my sympathy and my aid for those fugitives who run away from actual and specific oppression. And if I should find that the case of this fugitive from the mere relation of servitude is “a case of frequent occurrence,” I should think much better of the masters, and much worse of the slaves, than I now do.
connection with each other. But to this disadvantage I submit, for the sake of speaking to thousands at once. The further discussion of the question, this week, would make too long an article. I can only indicate, as with a word, the intended course of the discussion, asking the reader to wait patiently till he is sure he understands me.
What has Christianity—what has the church to do with slavery? Nothing—and yet everything. In one sense—in one mode of action-nothing. In another sense, and by another kind of influence, everything
WHAT HAS CHURCH GOVERNMENT TO DO WITH SLAVERY!
The question respecting what Christianity, and particularly the Christian church, has to do with forms of civil government, and with those relations of man to man which exist in the structure of society-is, at the present day, at least as important as the question respecting what the state has to do with Christianity. What the state has to do with the church, is pretty well understood in this country, and is in the way to be understood throughout the world. What the church has to do with the state is not, in all quarters, so well understood. And yet, is it not self-evident that if, as we hold, the state is to let the church alone, the church on the other hand must let the state alone? The views which I have been led to entertain on this subject, are