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holding is in itself sinful? What single text has he quoted ? Not one. Then what have I to answer?
His great argument, if argument it can be called, is this: Wicked masters treat their slaves cruelly; therefore the relation between master and slave is a sinful relation. By an argument precisely similar, as I have repeatedly stated, I can prove the conjugal relation in itself sinful. Many husbands treat their wives cruelly; therefore it is a sin to enter into the marriage relation. But he charges me with placing the relation between master and slave upon an equality with that of husband and wife. I do no such thing ; but I maintain, that he has no right to urge against the relation of master and slave, an argument which, if sound, will sweep away every other relation. His argument proves too much, and, therefore, proves nothing. He cannot consistently urge it, unless he is prepared to go the whole length with Robert Dile Owen, and sweep away entirely the marriage relation. In every other relation men distinguish between the relation itself and the particular laws by which it may be regulated, and the conduct of wicked men in the relation. Why does the gentleman so constantly insist upon an entire departure from an admitted principle, when he comes to reason concerning the relation between master and slave?
In Hindostan the wife is in law and in fact more degraded, than any slave on a southern plantation. Whilst compelled to yield to her lord implicit obedience, she is not permitted to enjoy the poor consolations of the Hindoo religion. She is believed to have no soul ; is degraded to the condition of a brute; and when her husband dies, she is burned upon his funeral pile. No slave is so degraded in the eyes of his master, unless he be an atheist. Shall we, then, argue, that, since in Hindostan the wife is the degraded slave of the husband; therefore, the relation is sinful? Nay, not only in Hindostan, but over a large portion of the globe, the wife is thus degraded. Still the conclusion does not follow, that the relation is sinful, because regulated by unjust and cruel laws.
This argument bears with equal force upon the parental
relation. Hindoo mothers expose their infants on the banks of the Ganges. Infanticide has been common in the islands of the South seas. The ancient Roman laws gave the father power over the life of his children. Shall we conclude, that, because the laws by which in different countries this relation has been regulated, are unjust and cruel, and because unfeeling parents have treated their children cruelly, therefore the parental relation is sinful ? Were I to reason thus, my logic would be quite as conclusive as that urged by Mr. Blanchard. His logic is indeed very sweeping. It stops not with destroying the relation of master and slave, but carries before it all the relations of life. It strikes at the foundations of civil government. For it is a fact, that the darkest pages of this world's history, are those which record the oppression, the tyranny, and the cruelty which have been practiced in the name and under the sanction of civil law. Nero practised all his cruelties by virtue of his office as a civil ruler; and all the forms of tyranny on earth, are but organized governments. Shall we say, what an abominable thing is civil government! how detestable the relation between ruler and subject! What crimes against God are committed under its sanction! How fearfully the innocent are made to suffer under its strong arm! Down with all civil government! The relation between ruler and subject is a sinful relation; therefore, wash your hands of it at once! To such results does this gentleman's principles of reasoning infallibly tend. His brethren, the abolitionists of the East, at least many of them, have carried out these principles, and do in fact denounce all civil government as in itself sinful, and every individual engaged in its administration, as a heinous sinner, because men have been oppressed and deprived of their rights by its operation! The gentleman's logic proves far more than he would be willing to admit. It begins with destroying the relation of master and slave, and ends with sweeping away the relations of husband and wife, parent and child, ruler and subject! All are swept away by
one fell swoop. What glorious liberty men will enjoy, when these principles shall have been carried out!
Such arguments, every intelligent hearer must at once perceive, prove nothing; are absolutely worthless. The question before us is not whether bad laws may be enacted to regulate a certain relation; or whether in that relation wicked men may be guilty of cruelty; but whether the relation itself obliges those who sustain it to act in this way. If Mr. B. can prove, that every master, or any master, is obliged to treat his slaves cruelly, I will forth with yield the question. If he cannot, then circumstances must determine whether, in any given case, the master is guilty of sin.
The gentleman told you truly, that when a man is contending for the truth, his arguments will be consistent one with another. I am happy to be able, now, to apply his principle to himself, that you may see the very awkward predicament in which he has placed himself. He has occupied his time, partly in relating isolated cases of cruelty, practiced by wicked masters, several of which have been proved untrue, and none of which have any applicability to the question under discussion; and partly in telling you what slave-holding is. How has he defined or described slave-holding? By enumerating the worst laws of ancient Greece and Rome, and of some of the southern States, and asserting that these laws are the thing itself. He insists that those laws are essential to the existence of slavery—that the relation cannot exist without them. Let him only prove this, and I give up the question. If the relation of master and slave cannot exist without cruel laws and inhuman treatment, away with it. Let us, then, inquire whether these things are essential to the existence of the relation.
But, first, mark how differently the gentleman reasons concerning this relation and others. He insists that all the bad laws which are made to regulate the relation of master and slave, are essential to its existence; but when I refer to the cruel laws by which other relations have been regulated, he at once distinguishes between the bad laws and the relation.
When I ask, in view of the degrading laws, by which, over so large a portion of the earth, the marriage relation has been regulated, whether it is in itself sinful, he finds no difficulty in admitting that the laws are wrong, and the relation right. Although he makes the recognition of marriage, by the civil law, essential to its validity, yet he does not condemn the relation because the laws are bad.
And when he is pointed to the bad laws by which the relation of parent and child has often been regulated, does he contend that those laws are essential to the relation ? By
The civil law recognizes the relation and regulates it; and he finds no difficulty in discriminating between the relation, as recognized by law, and the particular laws for for its regulation.
But the gentleman may tell you, that these relations are right, because instituted by God; whereas the relation of master and slave is wholly the creature of law, and consequently all the cruel laws are part and parcel of the thing itself. I reply, that organized civil government—the relation between ruler and subject is not properly a natural relation, but is established by men. Will it be pretended, that all the oppressive laws, and all the tyranny connected with civil government, are essential to the relation between ruler and ruled? Civil government, we know, is, in a sense, of divine appointment; and the relations belonging to it are right. Mr. B. finds no difficulty in distinguishing between the relation of governor and governed, and the ten thousand had laws by which men have sought to regulate this relation. The truth is, that in regard to all relations, whether natural or constituted by the organization of human society, there is a broad distinction to be made between each relation, and the laws enacted for its regulation. Why, then, I ask, must the relation of master and slave be confounded and identified with all the particular laws enacted for its regulation ? Are we, for the special accomodation of abolitionism, to reason about this relation as we do about no other? Does it require special advantages in order to sustain its claims?
Let it be kept in mind, that if anything which is essential to the relation of master and slave, be taken from it, the relation itself ceases to exist. Now it is a fact, that according to the slave laws of Rome the master had unlimited power over the life of the slave. This, Mr. B. says, was rather a custom than a law. I will read the law on this point, as quoted by the Biblical Repository, from the Justinian Code. This is a New-England publication; it comes from a region where, it is said, the spirit of freedom prevails. I read in vol. 6. p. 419. “ All slaves are in the power of their masters, which power is derived from the law of nations; for it is equally observable among all nations, that masters have had the power of life and death over their slaves; and that whatsoever is acquired by the slave, is acquired for the master." Now Mr. B. contends, that all the slave laws are essential to the existence of slavery. Then if the power over the life of the slave be taken from the master, the relation must cease to exist; because one of its essential features has been destroyed. If, then, his principles are correct, Kentucky is actually a free State ; for there the master has not power over the life of his slaves; and, therefore, an essential feature of the relation being wanting, the relation itself does not exist ! This argument applies with equal force to most, if not all, the other slave-holding States ; for in no one of them, I believe, has the master any such power. Consequently, we reach the conclusion, that they are all free States !
Again. The law forbidding slaves to be taught to read, we have been told, is essential to the existence of slavery. But in Kentucky there is no such law; therefore Kentucky is a free State! And it is a fact, that, years before New York abolished slavery, a law was passed for having the slaves instructed. Though, according to Mr. B.'s logic, slavery was abolished when that law was passed! yet it is a fact, that the relation between master and slave existed there for a number of years after the law was passed. I might give other examples, were it necessary.