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some twenty-five slaves, who, if sold, would have brought an average of $500 each, when Joshua Leavitt was editing the N. Y. Evangelist; that he was provoked with the paper, on account of the editor's denouncing slavery as a sin, but continued to take it on his wife's account, “ until,” said Leftwick," I should be ashamed to tell you what harrowings of conscience, and what horrid images followed me, even in my sleep, till I resolved to free every slave I had. From that hour, I have slept as sweet as a child, and if I had had ten thousand slaves, I would have emancipated them every morning since; though," he added, " I know, and my friends will tell you, that I love money full as well as my neighbors."
Facts of this kind—and there are thousands, are their own argument. They are the voice of nature in the first born elements of man proclaiming war against the grinding tyranny of personal slavery, with God and conscience on their side. You may cloud the solemn truth that holding slaves is a sin with prejudice, or darken it by reproach ; or dazzle and confound it with the ecclesiastical subtleties of trained polemicism, and wire-drawn argument; yet, there it stands, bold, honest, open, and uncompromising ; and its voice will be heard, and obeyed, when the flimsy and carping objections which may be heaped upon it are perished, passed away and forgot.
In resuming, as I now do, the direct argument to prove that slave-holding is sin, I wish to observe that one of my
friend's propositions, to wit: that the minds of men apprehend and admit general principles in morals, is generally, though by no means universally true. Even at the present day, when truth is eclipsed and overborne by the practical corruptions of society, it is yet true, with exceptions, that the soul constructed upon the model of God's law, will bear witness to those moral principles which are the elements and substance of that law. The exceptions are those minds which are biassed by corruption or interest; those who cannot see right principles through a guinea. It is by reason of this principle that slave-holders themselves testify that emancipation is a blessing
and slavery a curse. And I present, as my next direct argument the following:
That holding innocent men in slavery is a sin, is proved by the action of those slave State legislatures and grateful masters, who have emancipated slaves for meritorious services.
Every such emancipation (and these have been many) is proof that the legislature and the individual emancipator, know that slavery is an evil, and liberty a good.
Does it require argument to show that they know also that inflicting an evil upon unoffending persons, and withholding good which is their right is sin? This is precisely what slave-holders are doing to their slaves and their slave-holding is therefore sin.
They make liberty a reward for the most meritorious services, and slavery the punishment for certain kinds of crime; what then is the moral character of depriving a man of that which is in itself a reward, and inflicting upon him what is in itself a curse? If I hang an innocent man, I am myself a murderer; if I deprive an innocent man of his goods, I am a robber. What am I, if I deprive him of his liberty—a possession brighter than gold, and dearer than life? A slave-holder! I know it is said that, though liberty is of priceless value to them who have enjoyed and can appreciate it, it is less important to those who have always been slaves and know no other state. But it is slaves who are freed for meritorious services. Liberty is thus solemnly declared to be the highest boon which can be bestowed on slaves. He then who holds slaves in slavery, holds them in deprivation of what slave State legislatures have declared a blessing and a good to them ;—and he holds them thus bereft, without pretence of crime on their part. Slave-holders, therefore, by granting freedom as a reward, admit that every slaveholder is punishing the innocent—and punishing the innocent is sin.
But, they say: “We did not deprive the slaves of liberty but we found them so.”
spiring with vexation, the slave-holder asked his honor “ what evidence would be sufficient?" "Nothing," said Judge Harrington, “nothing short of a bill of sale from the Almighty will enable you to take that man from this Court as your property ?" The man-holder was obliged to relinquish all hope of his victim. He had not power, personally, and unaided by the laws, to re-enslave his fugitive.
Thus, gentlemen, while men are in a state of nature, anterior to society, slavery cannot exist, and does not. Among the hundred Islanders, no one can enslave ten by his individual force. He must ally force with fraud, and bring cunning to the aid of cruelty. He must first mould and concentrate the individual force of the whole hundred into a government, and, by dexterous management, wield that for the enslavement of his ten. This is precisely what he does ; and thus, under the name of government, and the sacred forms of law, he achieves an object which, had he attempted it by his own single strength, would have cost him his life, as a despicable and impotent tyrant, and pirate upon the persons
This is "going with a multitude to do evil.” And this is slave-holding.
The slave-holder does not rest his claim to his fellow.man upon his own prowess or force; but feels about for some system of slave-legislation, which he may take advantage of to compel his slaves to bear his burdens—thus wielding the power of the whole hundred to enslave his ten, What then is holding slaves by law, but " going with a multitude to do evil ?” Is not this precisely the case of the American slaveholder at this day? But my
brother tells you, over and again, that the question is not whether kidnapping and enslaving men is right; he therefore contends that such illustrations as that of one man using the power of an hundred to enslave ten, are not relevant. The question, he says, is whether holding these kidnapped persons and their descendants in slavery is sin; or, in his own words; whether, holding persons in slavery, who are already enslaved, be sinful? That is true enough;
master chooses to part them. But if I come to own a man and his wife, are they not already separated so far as the nuptial tie bound them, and ready to be sold apart whenever I will to sell them ? Suppose I sell the woman, and the purchaser goes to get her; has he anything to do but lead her off? Is there anything to be done to separate her from her husband? Obviously nothing. She ceased, by the theory of slavery, to be her husband's wife, when she became my woman. The property principle is stronger in law and practice than the marriage principle, and prevails over it. And brother Rice is here to maintain, that when I have fairly bought the woman, she is mine. Slave-holding is not sinful. He gives me God's permission to hold her: and they are separated by the naked fact that they are property.
True, God may not punish in hell the slave man and woman, who, being prohibited marriage, take up together, and are true to each other; but no thanks are due to slavery that he does not, for if he followed either its laws or its practice, he would declare the parents unmarried, and illegitimate their children. What candor, or sense, therefore, can there be in declaring that slaves may be and are married, in the open face of the fact that marriage has never
slaves from the times of Aristotle down. I read from the learned Dr. Robertson's History of Charles V., p. .13, Note 9:
Of slaves, he says— They were not originally permitted to marry. Male and female slaves were allowed and even encouraged to cohabit together. But this union was not considered as' a marriage; it was called contubernium, not nuptiae or matrimonium." And again :
6 All the children of slaves were in the same condition of their parents, and became the property of the master. Slaves were so entirely the property of their masters, that they could sell them at pleasure. While domestic slavery continued, property in a slave was held in the same manner with that which a person
had in any other moveable.” So was slavery in Greece: so was it in Rome: so is it today in Kentucky. What was slavery then is slavery now.