« AnteriorContinuar »
any court of justice where grave practical questions, like the one we are now discussing, were being tried ?
Let us turn now from these pigeon-hole definitions, to those who have described slavery as a simple reality-a living fact. In introducing the following quotations, I have two objects in view: 1. to show that slavery and slave-holding are the same all the world over; and 2. to show what slavery is—to show that those who speak of different kinds of slavery—who suppose that one kind of slavery existed in the times of Moses, and another in our own times, are in error; I wish to show that there is but one kind of slavery, the property holding of men. My brother will tell you that, in Roman slavery, the master had the life of the slave in his power. This is a small item in the condition of a slave, and it was rather a custom than a law. It did not exist after the time of Antoninus Pius, in the second century. It was abolished by the Cornelian law; and was no part of the civil law of which Justinian was the founder and father, and which is never spoken of in the courts as dating back of the code of Justinian, A. D. 527. The Roman civil law first hardened slavery into a regular slave code, and the point I make, is, that nowhere on earth, has legal slavery been any thing else but what it is to-day among us. differ slightly in its incidents, in different ages; but it is by no means certain that Roman masters were worse than American. Corrupt Christians are not necessarily merciful
But however kind or Christian the master, the slave is property, and follows the laws of property. This condition is a legal identity the world over, and the tie which binds him to it the same.
So was it among the ancient Greeks. Aristotle says, “with Barbarians the family consists of male and female slaves, but to the Greeks belongs dominion over the Barbarians, because the former have the understanding requisite to rule: the latter, the body only to obey.” He calls the slave a "living instrument in the hands of the master: as the instrument is an inanimate slave.” That is slavery! I trust we
shall become familiar with this ground idea. For in defining a slave of his own days, Aristotle has exactly depicted the slavery of the present. The “Barbarians,” thus declar. ed by this leading and most influential mind of antiquity to be slaves by nature, included all the ancestors of the present American people, viz: the ancient Germans, Danes, AngloSaxons, Britons, Picts and Scots. And the principle of the Greek slave code was precisely the same with that of American slavery, viz: the property-holding of men. The slaves were “living instruments” in the hands of their masters.
These "Barbarians” however, in spite of the opinion of Aristotle, show themselves as capable as Greeks of holding slaves. I quote from Gibbon. “The Goth, the Burgundian, or the Frank who returned from a successful expedition, dragged after him a long train of sheep, oxen, and human captives. The youths of an elegant form were set apart for domestic service. The useful mechanics and servants employed their skill for the use or profit of their masters." That is, they were property, subject to the incidents of property.
Perhaps the Romans were the first who rigidly legalized and defined slavery. And as the Apostles planted churches under Roman law, and as American slavery, after European, has taken its ground idea and leading feature from the Roman civil code, it is necessary to enlarge a little upon Roman slavery.
“From the time of Augustus to Justinian,” says a careful modern writer (Prof. Edwards), “we may allow three slaves to one freeman: we shall thus have a free population in Italy of 6,944,000 : and of slaves 20,832,000. Total, 27,766,000.”
The state and condition of these slaves is thus laid down by Dulany, a legal authority of Maryland :
“By the (Roman) civil law, slaves were esteemed merely as the chattels of their masters : they had no name but what the master was pleased to give them for convenience. They were not capable of personal injuries cognizable by the law. They could take neither by purchase nor descent, could have no heirs, could make no will. The fruits of their labor and industry belonged to their masters. They could not plead nor be impleaded, and were utterly excluded from all civil concerns. They were incapable of marriage, not being entitled to the considerations thereof. The laws of adultery did not (among themselves) affect them. They might be sold, transferred, mortgaged, pawned. Partus sequitur ventrem, was the rule indiscriminately applied to slaves and cattle. And this too, was not only the civil law, but the law of nations. Nostri servi sunt qui ex nostris ancillis nascuntur; and so was their incapacity of marriage on the principle above explained.”—1. Harris and McHenry, 561.
This statement, easily verified by reference to the Roman code itself, shows clearly the following facts :
That Roman slavery was a practical and deliberate placing of human beings in the legal and social condition of the brute creation. Nothing can be added to the provisions of this code to herd human beings with brutes. It is not possible to make them brutes, because they are men-but what human skill, armed with power, can do, is here done to dishumanize and imbrute human beings.
The Roman slave code, as you all see, was a complete repeal of all God's laws regulating human society. In obeying God, it was neccessary to violate the slave-code :-and he who obeyed the slave-code trampled upon God's law. Is slave-holding sinful ?
See how perfectly the American and Roman slave systems coincide ;-I read from the same authority who is contrasting English villeinage with slavery :
“Villeins were capable of marriage because capable of the civil rights annexed to it by the laws of England, and the invariable principle of these laws being, that the issue should follow the state and condition of the father. If a villein took a free woman to wife, their issue were villeins. If a free man took a neif to wife, their issue were free. Slaves were incapable of marriage by the civil law, because incapable of
the civil rights annexed to it. And the rule of that law was that the issue a female slave, should follow the state and condition of the mother.”—1. Harris and McHenry, p. 560.
The serfdom, of Europe, was the lowest condition of human beings in civil society. Yet how infinitely below the serf of Europe is the slave! Yet this is Roman, English and American law. There is a case reported in Maryland, (Harris and McHenry,) where a testator died, and, by his will, freed his slaves and bequeathed them property. The question in court was, as they were slaves at the time of his death, could they take under the will? It was decided they could not, and the property bequeathed to them escheated to the State. This establishes the point that the Roman code and the American code are identical and the slave-condition the same.
I request you to bear in mind just where this discussion pauses. I will continue from this point. [Time expired.
[MR. RICE'S FIRST SPEECH.] By the correspondence which has been read in your hearing, you have learned the origin of this debate. It did not originate with me. I had no desire whatever to engage in a public discussion of the claims of abolitionism; yet should the discussion of this agitating question be properly conducted, much good, I doubt not, will result. Multitudes of well meaning and intelligent persons who as yet have formed no definite opinion, need and desire information on the subject; and surely it is not the true interest of any to believe that which is false, especially on a subject of so much practical importance. True, we are often told, especially by political editors, that public discussions of moral and religious subjects, convince no one; and yet none are more clamorous than they in favor of political discussions. By what process of reasoning they reach the conclusion that the truth is gainer by the discussion of political questions, but not of those of a moral and religious character, I leave them to determine.
I am happy to meet Mr. Blanchard on the present occasion, not as an individual, but as the chosen representative of the abolitionists of this city, selected by ten of their most respectable men. We have the right to conclude, that now full justice will be done to their cause ; that if the claims of abolitionism can be sustained, it will now be done. I rejoice that the debate, as published, will be circulated both in the slave-holding and in the free States—that now at length the abolitionists will have the opportunity of spreading their strongest arguments before the slave-holders, as well as before the public generally.
It is important that the audience keep distinctly before their minds the question we have met to discuss, to wit: Is slave-holding in itself sinful, and the relation between master and slave a sinful relation ? I was truly surprised to hear the gentleman speak forty minutes without reaching the question, and twenty more without defining what he means by slave-holding! I had expected to hear from a gentleman so long accustomed to discuss this subject, at least something in the way of argument, during the first hour, but it is passed, and the definition is not completed !
I am perfectly aware of the prejudices I must encounter in the minds of some of the audience, from the fact that I stand opposed, in this discussion, to those who claim to be par excellence the friends of liberty, and particularly of the slave. To remove such prejudices from the minds of the candid, I will state precisely the ground I intend to occupy ; and, if I mistake not, before this debate shall close, it will be considered at least a debateable question, whether the abolitionists are entitled to be considered the best friends of the slave.
1. The question between us and the abolitionists, is not whether it is right to force a free man, charged with no crime, into slavery. The gentleman bas indeed presented the subject in this light. He has told you, that I am about