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tion contains a logical error.
It is a clear petitio principii -a begging of the question in debate.
He assumes there is nothing against the golden rule, in keeping men in a state of slavery. But that is the very thing abolitionists deny, and the very question we are here to debate. And there is no other way for Dr. Rice to get his vindication of slavery over the golden rule, but to take the question, whether slave-holding is according to it, for granted; and apply the rule to master and slave as to men in different situations, equally innocent.
3. But there is a worse than logical error in this slaveholder's golden rule, manufactured by Dr. Rice. It contains a gross immorality.
The original precept, as it stands in the New Testament, is the most precious of all the practical rules which our Saviour taught, and is justly called "golden,” from the most precious of metals. Yet, in Dr. Rice's hands, it sanctions an immorality, by giving to the slave-holder the benefit of his own, and his father's wrong. My father wickedly locks a man up in a dungeon, and I keep him there. His exposition allows me to keep him in that “ situation," and only requires me to treat him as I might reasonably expect an indifferent man to treat me, who should find me in a dungeon through no fault of his own, without his connivance, and against his consent. He thus gives me the benefit of my father's wrong.
Or to drop the figure: Dr. Rice allows the present slave-holders, whose ancestors wickedly enslaved the present slaves, to adopt the sin of their fathers—to stand in it-to take the benefit of it, and yet stand on a moral equality with their slaves; applying the golden rule to them both as equally right in the eye of God's law.
Now it is a principle, not only of common justice, but of the common law, that “no man shall take the benefit of his own wrong.” If, for instance, you pull down the fence, and let your neighbor's cattle upon your own crops, in order to get damages; the law gives you no damages, because your crime is a part of the case, and you shall not have the bene
brother gives the slaveholder the benefit of his own wrong in keeping the man in slavery, and of the wrong act by which the kidnapper first placed him there: thus sanctioning, by Christianity, and the voice of a minister of Christ, a principle which is cast out of the court-house, as polluting the fountains of justice, and perverting and destroying men's rights. Thus he places Christianity in a position to be despised and trampled beneath the hoofs of the State, as having lower standard of rectitude, than that by which civil judges, advocates, and juries are bound, in trying the most paltry interests and questions of right.
Contrast now, Dr. Rice's vindication of the present slaveholders, on the ground that they did not make men slaves, but only kept those in slavery who were enslaved by their fathers; with the ground which Christ took, in a like case, against those who condemned their fathers for killing the prophets ; yet kept up the spirit of their fathers' crime, by persecuting the prophets of their own day, saying :-“ If we had lived in the days of our fathers we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets :" precisely as Dr. Rice, and his friends, the slave-holders, pretend to condemn the enslaving of freemen, while they agree in justifying the continuance of the crime upon the persons and descendants of the enslaved. What did the Saviour do, in adjusting the balance-sheet of sin with those Pharisees? Did he give them the slave-holders' exposition of the golden rule, which blinks the sin of both sire and son? Did he tell them that “they found the prophets a persecuted, hated, despised race; and they fulfilled the law of love by treating them as well as a persecuted race can reasonably expect to be treated ? No: never.
Instead of justifying the continuers of persecution who condemned its beginners, as Dr. Rice justifies the continuers of slavery who condemn the first enslavers: he took the sins of all the former generations, and laid them over upon the heads of the present. Christ took precisely the opposite ground to Dr.
Rice. Instead of giving that generation the benefit of the fathers' wrong, and their own, He laid upon it the woes of both:—“Fill ye up then the measure of your
fathers. That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed
the earth from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.” Verily, I say unto you
all these things shall come upon this generation." Such is Dr. Rice's golden rule, and such its contrast with the teachings of Christ.
I now speak directly and distinctly to the question :What was this ancient Hebrew bond-service upon which, as precedent, the justification of modern slavery is built. The discussion which we now enter upon may seem dry to some, but this subject, at least, is not dry in itself; and I earnestly commend it to your consciences for a patient hearing, as in the sight of God.
The ground which they take respecting the Old Testament bond-service is succinctly this:
1. “That God did expressly give permission to his people under the Old Dispensation to hold slaves."
2. “ That he could not have done this if slave-holding had been sinful in itself."
3. “That therefore, American slave-holding is not in itself sinful, and those who would treat it as sinful by setting church discipline against it are in error."
Now it would seem obvious, at a glance, that this reasoning carries some fatal defect in it. God
the Israelites “ express permission” to borrow jewels from the Egyptians, expecting not to return them. Therefore, according to my brother's argument, it cannot be sinful in itself to borrow without intending to return.
So God gave permission to buy free laborers in Judea who had become poor :
“ If thy brother be waxen poor and be sold unto thee." Levit. xxv, 39. Therefore, according to my friend's reasoning, the Bible sanctions the buying of free laborers who have waxen poor in Ohio at this day. How can he manifest such horror at taking a free man and reducing him to slavery ; (which he seems almost to make a merit of condemning ;) when if his doctrine be true that Jewish bond-servants were slaves, then God permitted this very thing—to reduce a freeman who had waxed poor to slavery?
But I object formally to the sum total of the ground which they take.
I object to their main proposition: “ That God did expressly give permission to his people under the Old Dispensation to hold slaves ;” That it is equivocal; and that it is not true. I object to their second proposition to wit: “ That slave-holding cannot be sinful in itself because God once permitted it ;” as false, so far as derived from the first; and also as not true in the absolute sense in which they use it. And I object to their practical inference in favor of American slavery, as drawn from two errors, and like its parents, itself erroneous. And I further object to their whole position as essentially pro-slavery—and as meaning nothing unless it means to vindicate oppression from the Word of God.
I have objected to their main proposition; “ That God permitted slavery, as equivocal. It may mean that God permitted slavery with approbation ; or that He permitted it as He does murder, merely in the sense of not hindering it. Why not say, “justify" if he means it; and certainly you justify, in court, the man whom you pronounce “not guilty." If he proves slave-holding to be not sinful in itself; does he not justify it? Why then say“ permit?” Why not say at once,“ God did expressly justify slavery under the Old Dispensation ?" O, but that would not please the North. Well, then : why not say that God“ permitted slavery” merely in the sense of “not hindering,” as he does other crimes ; and this permission can give no possible sanction to Kentucky slavery? That, again, would not please the South. So the equivocal word “ permit is chosen, if not to please both North and South, at least, to displease neither.
The northern man takes up this Debate and reads from
Dr. Rice, “ that God expressly permitted slavery ;' and he understands it to mean, some such permission as he gave to recorded evils—that is, in the sense of not hindering a qualified slavery for temporary purposes; while the southern man will think that the same words niean, that the Bible justifies slavery, out and out. I deeply disapprove of an equivocal expression, selected to hit the whole United States' population right between wind and water—a word which lies midway between right and wrong—a phrase lodged in the vacuum of betweenity, on no side of nothing.
I have heard that there is a little prairie animal, of the gopher species, which has a northern and a southern end to his hole, so that in sultry and hot weather, when it is desirable to raise the wind,” if it blows north, he opens the south end of his burrow; and when south, the north end; and, besides the advantage of shifting his position to suit the wind, such an arrangement, in case of pursuit, is marvelously convenient for the purpose of dodging responsibility. [A laugh.]
My friend's position seems to me to have a northern and southern end, so that the occupant can have the advantage of standing in either, as it suits the exigencies of his case. With his southern brethren, “God permitted slave-holding," is to mean, that he permitted it as a worthy practice of worthy men; but at the north end, only that God permitted slave-holding, as he directed wars of extermination against the Canaanites, or some like event, which ended long ago, with its divine license.
I object, therefore, to this half-and-half phrase—“God permitted slavery"—that it is equivocal. When a southern man, like J. C. Postell, says, that the Bible justifies slavery, I understand him. Every body understands him. When an abolitionist
says, that God condemns slave-holding, he is equally explicit. But when a man, somewhere between North and South, says, that “God permitted slavery," he may mean, that He permitted it as an evil ; or he may mean, that He permitted it approvingly, as what was fit to be done.