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B. I grant, if this resolution should be perpetual, and extend to the West Indies, it would discourage the slave trade so far as the Americans are concerned in it, but it would be more effectually discountenanced and condemned if slavery was wholly abolished, and it cannot be consistently done without this. For, if it be wrong to import and buy them now, it was always wrong, and, therefore, they that are already slaves among us are injured, and unjustly enslaved, and we have made them our slaves without the least right, and ought to retract it and repair the injury done to them, so far as is in our power, by setting them free and compensating them otherwise so far as we are able. There is, therefore, a palpable inconsistency in resolving to import and buy no more slaves and yet refusing to let those go out free which we have already enslaved, unless there be some insuperable impediment
in the way.
The whole I have said concerning the unlawfulness of keeping the blacks in slavery, if the trade by which they are become our slaves be unlawful, may be illustrated by the following example :
A number of robbers invaded a certain province, and took off most of their goods and effects, and carried them to a neighboring province and sold them to the inhabitants, and the robbers finding this encouragement, continued the practice for many years. At length the people of the injured province applied to their neighbors, who had their goods of the robbers, and were now in possession of them, and asked them to restore what was taken from them by violence, and to which they had a good and indisputable right, it being impossible these robbers could give a right to what they had unjustly taken from them; but the people, in whose possession the stolen goods were found, utterly refused to deliver them up to the injured people who demanded them. They told them they had indeed been greatly injured, and they must condemn the robbers as very injurious and cruel in what they had done, but as they now had these goods in their own possession, they intended to keep them, and looked on themselves under no obligation to deliver them up, though they suffered so much and would probably perish for want of them; and they intended still to buy all the robbers should bring to them.
To this the injured replied, “By partaking with these robbers in receiving the goods at their hands, you practically justify their conduct, and must share with them in their guilt
. For by this means you encourage them, and are determined to go on to encourage them in this violence and rapine ; and by condemning them, you equally condemn yourselves, and must remain under this condemnation till you restore the goods we demand, and resolve never to purchase any thus taken from us by violence."
Upon this they determined to purchase no more of them, but refused to deliver up what they had already got in possession. But the oppressed told them, they did right in resolving to injure them no more in that way; but they were now very inconsistent with themselves, for if it were wrong to purchase any more, it was as wrong to withhold what they had already gotten in possession; and they had no other way to justify themselves in detaining their goods, and to be consistent, but by proceeding to take whatever those robbers should bring to them in future, and justifying themselves in so doing and the robbers in all their depredations. · A. This reasoning looks something plausible, I confess; but the Holy Scripture approves of making and keeping slaves, and this surely is sufficient to keep us in countenance.
B. I hope you will not appeal to the Holy Scripture in support of a practice which you and every one else must allow to be so inexpressibly unjust, inhuman, and cruel, as is the slave trade, and, consequently, so glaringly contrary to the whole tenor of divine revelation; and if the slave trade is such a gross violation of every divine precept, it is impossible to vindicate the slavery to which the Africans have been reduced by this trade from the Holy Scripture. Of this we have such a certainty, a priori, that would be a horrid reproach of divine revelation to pretend this practice can be supported by that, or even to look into it with any hope or expectation of finding any thing there in favor of it; and if there be any passages in the Bible which are capable of a construction in favor of this practice, we may be very certain it is a wrong
In a word, if any kind of slavery can be vindicated by the Holy Scriptures, we are already sure our making and holding the negroes our slaves, as we do, cannot be vindicated by any thing we can find there, but is condemned by the whole of divine revelation. However, I am willing to hear what you can produce from Scripture in favor of any kind of slavery.
A. You know that a curse was pronounced on the posterity of Ham for his wickedness, in the following words:* A servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren." He could not be a servant unto his brethren unless they made him so, or at least held him in servitude. The curse could not take place unless they executed it, and they seem to be by God appointed to do this, therefore, while we, the children of Japheth, are making such abject slaves of the blacks, the children of Ham, we are only executing the righteous curse denounced upon
them; which is so far from being wrong in us, that it would be a sin, even disobedience to the revealed will of God, to refuse to make slaves of them, and attempt to set them at liberty.
B. Do you think, my good sir, it was the duty of Pharaoh to make the Israelites serve him and the Egyptians, and to afflict them by ruling over them with rigor, and holding them in hard and cruel bondage, because God had expressly foretold this, and said it should be done? And was the Assyrian king blameless while he executed the judgments which God had threatened to inflict on his professing people? Did God's threatening them with those evils warrant this king to distress, captivate, and destroy them as he did? And will you say the Jews did right in crucifying our Lord, because by this they fulfilled the Scriptures, declaring that thus it must be? Your argument, if it is of any force, will assert and justify all this, and, therefore, I hope will be renounced by you, and by all who have the least regard for the Holy Scripture, with proper abhorrence.
But, if this argument were not so fraught with absurdity and impiety as it really is, and it were granted to be forcible with respect to all upon whom the mentioned curse was denounced, yet it would not justify our enslaving the Africans, for they are not the posterity of Canaan, who was the only son of Ham that was doomed to be a servant of servants. The other sons of Ham and their posterity are no more affected with this curse than the other sons of Noah and their posterity. Therefore, this prediction is as much of a warrant for the Africans' enslaving us, as it is for us to make slaves of them. The truth is, it gives not the least shadow of a right to any one of the children of Noah to make slaves of
of their brethren.*
A. The people of Israel were allowed by God to buy and make slaves from the nations that were 'round about them, and the strangers that lived among them, - which could not bave been the case if this was wrong and unjust, — and why have not we an equal right to do the same?
B. And why have not we an equal right to invade any nation and land, as they did the land of Canaan, and destroy them all, men, women, and children, and beasts, without sava ing so much as one alive? It was right for the Israelites to do this, because they had a divine permission and direction to do it, as the God of Israel had a right to destroy the seven nations of Canaan in what way he thought best, and to direct whom he pleased to do it. And it was right for them to make bond-servants of the nations round them, they having an express permission to do it from him who has a right to dispose of all men as he pleases. God saw fit, for wise reasons, to allow the people of Israel thus to make and possess slaves; but is this any license to us to enslave any of our fellow-men, any more than their being allowed to kill the seven nations in Canaan is a warrant to us to kill any of our fellow-men whom we please and are able to destroy, and take possession of their estates? This must be answered in the negative by every one who will allow himself a moment's reflection. God gave many directions and laws to the Jews which had no respect to mankind in general; and this under consideration has all the marks of such a one. There is not any thing in it, or relating to it, from whence can be deduced the least evidence that it was designed to be a regulation for all nations through every age of the world, but every thing to the contrary. The children of Israel were then distinguished from all other nations on earth; they were God's peculiar people, and favored on many accounts above others, and had many things in their constitution and laws that were designed to keep up their separation and distinction from other nations, and to make the special favor of Heaven towards them more apparent to all who had any knowledge of them; and this law respecting bondage is suited to answer these ends. This distinction is now at an end, and all nations are put upon a level; and Christ, who has taken down the wall of separation, has taught us to look on all nations as our neighbors and brethren, without any respect of persons, and to love all men as ourselves, and to do to others as we would they should treat us; by which he has most effectually abolished this permission given to the Jews, as well as many other institutions which were peculiar to them.
* If it should be asked, “Why should Canaan be singled out from the other sons of Ham, and cursed for the sins of his father? May we not conclude that the curse fell on all Ham's posterity, and that Canaan only is mentioned as including all the rest ?”– it must be answered, Yo, by no means; we have no warrant to do this. The father sinned, and God might justly have cursed all his posterity; but, in his wisdom and sovereign goodness, he cursed only one branch of the family; and how effectually this has taken place the Scripture informs us.
Besides, that this permission was not designed for all nations and ages will be very evident if we consider what such a supposition implies; for if this be so, then all other nations had a right to make slaves of the Jews. The Egyptians had a right to buy and sell them, and keep them all in bondage forever, and the nations round about Canaan had a right to bring them into bondage, as they sometimes did, and the Babylonians and Romans had a good warrant to reduce them to a state of captivity and servitude. And the Africans have a good right to make slaves of us and our children; the inhabitants of Great Britain may lawfully make slaves of all the Americans, and transport us to England, and buy and sell us in open market as they do their cattle and horses, and perpetuate our bondage to the latest generation; and the Turks have a good right to all the Christian slaves they have among them, and to make as many more slaves of us and our children as shall be in their power, and to hold them and their children in bondage to the latest posterity. According to this, every man has a warrant to make a bondslave of his neighbor whenever it lies in his power, and no one has any right to his own freedom any longer than he can keep himself out of the power
of others. For instance: if the blacks now among us should, by some remarkable providence, have the power in their hands to reduce us, they have a right to make us and our children their slaves, and we should have no reason to complain.
This would put mankind into such a state of perpetual war and confusion, and is so contrary to our loving our neighbor as ourselves, that he who has the least regard for his fellowmen, or the divine law, must reject it, and the principle from which it flows, with the greatest abhorrence. Let no Christian, then, plead this permission to the Jews, to make bondslaves of their neighbors, as a warrant to hold the slaves he has made, and, consequently, for universal slavery.
A. But what will you do with those passages in the New Testament which are in favor of slavery, and suppose Christian masters to have Christian slaves, - and the masters are so far from being directed to free them that it is supposed they may hold them in bondage, and their mutual duties in this relation are inculcated ? Paul, the apostle, is so far from being disposed to have servants made free, that he says, “ Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honor.” (1 Tim. vi. 1.) And in the following words supposes that believing masters had servants, whom he exhorts to serve such masters with the more cheerfulness, out of respect to their Christian character.
B. Before I make a direct answer to this I beg leave to remind you, that, whatever other kind of slavery these passages will vindicate, they certainly will not support the slave trade, and that slavery of the negroes into which they have been brought by this trade, which is manifestly unrighteous from beginning to end; and, therefore, can be nothing to our present purpose, viz., to justify Christian masters among us in holding the blacks and their children in bondage.