Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

tucky; and see what thanks he will get for defending slavery, while he condemns its laws? No: this he will never do. He knows the Kentuckians are not be imposed upon thus. And I rest the matter here in clear sun-light. Slavery being the creature of the laws; the laws being repealed, repeals slavery. And admitting the cruelty of the laws, he admits the sinfulness of the thing itself, which is created by them. And for a man to say that he is opposed to the cruel slave laws, and not to slavery itself, is to utter the most palpable solecism of which language is capable.

But, leaving my opponent, I wish to give you half an hour's argument on this very point, to show you that slavery in law is slavery in fact;—that every slave is held by the noose of the chattel statute; and therefore to pretend opposition to the laws, while defending slave-holding, is simply absurd.

My first proposition (already adverted to) is, that the most cruel of all slave laws is the law which makes men slaves.

I put it to your plain understandings as men, whether it be not so; whether this view is, as he says, an idiosyncrasy in me, and that my common sense is uncommon? He declares slave-holding in itself to be sinless; but the laws regulating slavery, to be unjust and cruel. Now, of two States; let one adopt the South Carolina law, making human beings property. Take but this one law, and let it have free course and full application, so that when the statute comes to your house, it makes

you
all

property-husband, wife and child—so that whether you are permitted to remain together until morning, depends not upon your own wills, but upon the will of your master. Let this single statute be the sole slave law in that State.

Now, let another State adopt every slave law in the code, excepting this one. I ask you, to which of these States would you go to live? Would

you go where the law just makes yourself

, wife and children, property ? or would you go where the laws forbid you to read, to take by will, etc., etc., etc., but do not make you property? Which would

you choose as a place of residence? I aver that

you

would go where you would be a man, though persecuted and afflicted, rather than go where you are made a brute on sight. Now I am not under the necessity of stating the case so strongly as this. Instead of comparing the chattelizing statute with all the rest, take any one law which he calls cruel, and compare it with this ; and if the law which makes the slave be equally cruel, slave-holding is sin. Say that in Indiana, laborers are forbidden to read and write ; but in Illinois, they are simply made chattels; which law would be the most cruel ? But Dr. Rice admits the cruelty of the law forbidding to read; and reason and nature proclaims the other more so. If, therefore, my brother is a fair-minded and Christian man, honestly opposed to those less cruel laws; if he values his consistency a straw, he will openly confess himself an abolitionist—that he hates slavery from his heart's core, and we will go out and lecture together against oppression. If he will not, I regret it, and that is all I can say.

I will speak farther in this behalf. For this moral citadel of slavery, this main idea of the sinlessness of slavery, with the sinfulness of its laws, meets us, in some form, at every turn and step of this argument.

He says, in his last General Assembly's Report, whose authorship he acknowledges, " The question between us and the abolitionists, is, not whether the laws by which, in the several States, slavery is regulated, are just and righteous. Many of them are sadly defective, and some of them are oppressive and unjust in a high degree.Rice's Lectures, p. 12.

Observe here, the milk and sugar expression, “many" (of these dishumanizing statutes) “are sadly defective." Surely, this is handling slavery with silk gloves.

This idea, that the laws of slavery are sinful, but that slavery is not sinful, is the last strong-hold of the slaveholders. But, by the blessing of God, this rampart shall not cover their retreat. The covering is too narrow where

the

with to wrap them, and the bed too short for their repose, These very laws are slavery in fact; and unless his object is to throw dust in your eyes, he cannot help acknowledging it. I prove it, thus:-- The Legislatures of these States hold their sessions annually or biennially, and these cruel laws, which they make, are laws which they mean to use. This Mississippi code, which I have before me, shows how the slave codes are made. They consist of laws enacted from time to time, by the several Legislatures. Laws and parts of laws have from time to time been repealed showing that the laws which do remain, are living laws, and not dead; that they are enforced

upon person of the slave. And these laws are made to enforce the chattel principle, which he says is not a wrong principle. Now I contend that it is sinful; because these cruel laws, made to regulate slavery, are made necessary by the first law, which makes man property; and are included in it. If there be any legal gentleman here, (and I see several,) he will tell you that any grant of power by the Legislature always includes the means and the power to enforce it. For example—a law is passed at Columbus, by the Legislature, incorporating an Orphan Asylum, and authorizing trustees to hold the property. The charter does not read thus:—We incorporate A, B, and C, to establish an Orphan Asylum, and we hereby declare that John Dix shall carry the hod, and Bill Dixon shall burn the brick, and Jedediah Burch shall lay them. But the first law includes all the powers necessary to its proper execution.

Now my friend comes before that Presence in which we all shall stand at judgment, and tells Him and us that he honestly believes that slavery is not sinful, but that the laws regulating it are cruel and unjust. Now I aver that because slavery includes these cruel laws and makes them necessary, therefore it is, in itself, sinful and cruel. Besides, it strikes me as utterly absurd, to oppose the laws regulating slavery, after conceding, as sinless, the right to hold slaves. Why, after you have struck down my manhood, by making me a slave, by a law which regards my wife and my babes

as cattle and swine; after you have stolen the fire of my being, you may freely trample on the cinders that are left. Give me back my humanity, or do what you will with the rest. I care not how much whipping, and lacerating, and burning you inflict; the more the better, since it will be the

sooner over.

Gentlemen; you are not, you cannot be insensible to this truth: nor could my brother be, were it not for the searing, petrifying influence of long familiarity with slavery.Southern men may be, many, perhaps are, better than myself. But he must be seared and callous who does not see that the law which makes slavery, is more cruel than that which regulates it.

Let me tell you, fellow citizens, when they have cannonized slave-holding as sinless, and set it up in the church of God; when they have persuaded us that they have God's warrant for the property-holding of man, be he colored or white; for keeping him in slavery, because his ancestors were enslaved by others; seizing his infants for slaves as soon as born;-Oh! sirs, they well know that all the rest of slavery follows. They know that the property power, by fatal necessity, draws every other slave law after it! Does not the gentleman know that if the State of Indiana, or any other State, should enact and enforce a law making its laborers property, that all the other laws of slavery would fol. low of course? Aye; my friend knows, and God knows, that such is the quality of human nature, that when you have put a bridle in the mouth, and a saddle upon the back, of one man, and vaulted another into the saddle, with whip in hand, and spur on heel, and placed the reins fully within the gripe of the rider, it is but insulting misery to cry “Pray, sir, don't use him as a horse."

He is property:-You have made him property; and he will be used as property.

So the slave-holders understand this matter, and they ask no better champion than Dr. Rice. Go read his argument at the evening slave-quarter; at the cotton-gin; at the auc

[ocr errors]

tion stand, in the Excḥange Coffee House in New Orleans; and, wherever heard, it will be greeted by the slave-holder with triumph, and by his slaves with despair. “Give us God's permission to own men," say the holders, and we will take care of the rest.

Mark well, I beseech you, the inconsistency and absurdity of his position. He is opposed to the slavery-regulating laws, yet justifies as sinless the law which creates that

very slavery, for regulating which, he condemns other laws as cruel: as if to regulate were worse than to create it. Now, as a matter of fact, all the other laws are made to carry out the chattel principle—the property-holding law. I read from the Mississippi code: “When any sheriff, or other officer, shall serve an attachment upon slaves, horses, or other live stock," &c. The law goes on to give leave to provide food, and charge it upon the execution. Now, ab uno disce omnes. (holding up the statutes.) Every other slave statute is, like this, a mere carrying out of the property-holding power.

Sheriffs' advertisements, also, show that slaves are held in fact as property. I recollect that the daughter of a southern judge, from South Carolina, whom I met in Cherry street, Philadelphia, said that she had a young slave girl as a personal servant, whom, by stealth, she had taught to read. She treated her kindly, and supposed her happy. Coming unexpectedly into the room one day, where the girl was, she was surprised to find her in tears.

“What has happened," said she “ that you are sobbing so?" The girl pointed with her finger, to a newspaper, which she had been reading, where slaves were advertised to be sold with some hogs.“Why, mistress," said she, “they put us on a level with the swine.” Now, is not the slavery of the statute the slavery of fact? This girl had suffered no cruel usage, yet was she not a chattel? How absurd is this pretence of condemning cruel slave laws, and justifying slavery, which is more cruel.

Again: That legal slavery is the actual slavery, is evident from the fact that the laws made to guard the owner's

« AnteriorContinuar »