Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

right of property in the slave, provide for their own execution, while those which seem to protect the slave, do not.

My argument is this:-Because slavery in law is slavery in fact, he who condemns the law, must, to be consistent, condemn the thing. Now the laws which guard and enforce the owner's right of property in slaves, provide means for their own execution, by rewarding prosecutors, informers, and slave-catchers.

But there is no such provision to enforce the laws made to prevent cruelty to the slaves. Thus the Mississippi code gives to a Choctaw Indian fifteen dollars for catching a runaway, and fifteen dollars to the United States Indian Agent who brings him in.— Alden of Van Hoesen, chap. 92, sect. 38. The United States Agent is made the catch-pole, or devil's-paw, (pardon the expression,) of the State Legislature, and paid fifteen dollars for bringing home a fugitive negro, betrayed by an Indian. So there is a law, that if

you

allow a slave to set up type, you are fined ten dollars. And if the sheriff does not enforce this law, he is fined fifty dollars-one-half to the prosecutor, and the other to the county. Thus the laws which are made for the master, oil their own wheels.

Another law gives the patrol (and the patrol are all who are able to bear arms) six dollars each, for taking up negroes found abroad without a pass, and whipping them fifteen lashes.—Alden of Van Hoesen, chap. 83, sec. 3. But if the patrol turns angel, (I never can think of my friend's Hagar case without laughing,) and brings in an outlying slave, the law gives him thirty dollars.-A. & V. H., chap. 92, sec. 36.

But there is nothing to insure the enforcement of the law professing to be for the slave's protection. [Reads Miss. code, Digest, 755, sec. 44, which enacts that no cruel or unusual punishment shall be inflicted on the slave.] "Unusual" means, of course, that the punishment must transcend and outrage public opinion in the neighborhood. This law pays no informer, or prosecutor, or costs of suit, but stands on the statute book like a broken tea-cup, with the whole side towards the front of the shelf—for show, and not for use.

But without this, its vagueness would destroy it. It leaves the cruelty of slave-punishments to be determined by custom and use: a curious way to define punishment. And then, if any man is rich and bold enough to prosecute the master to conviction, the slave is taken from one master, and sold to another.

By this transaction his misery may or may not be abated. It may but take him, like the fox in the fable, from flies that are full, to deliver him to flies that are empty. He may get a better master, and he may a worse. It certainly takes the slave from a master to whose passions he is accustomed, and delivers him over to one with whose temper he is unacquainted; and “the price obtained for his sale shall be paid over to his master from whom he is taken.” There is nothing reserved to pay the costs, or the prosecutor, or expenses of the suit. The protection of the slave is, therefore, left to the precarious and gratuitous sympathy of fallen human nature! This is the slave's actual condition. Is it sin to hold him in it?

But again. It is plain that slavery in law is slavery in fact, from the circumstance that the penal code of slave States, which is designed for men, does not take effect on slaves. A law of Mississippi declares, that the criminal code shall not be so construed as to extend to slaves. A similar law exists in Kentucky, passed in 1802. It is enacted that," when punishment for any offence shall be confinement in the penitentiary, such punishment shall be considered as applicable to free persons only."

Thus the slave is so far completely imbruted as not even to be punished with men for his crimes. But, does he therefore escape punishment? By no means. There is another penal code, viz: that executed upon mischievous brutes, whose penalties are whipping, selling, and killing; and by this code is discipline dealt out to slaves! I do not say it is actually made lawful to kill slaves. Excepting fugitives who resist, or will not stop when hailed, it is unlawful. But I say

that the slave is left under the penal code applicable to incorrigible brutes, whom men do whip, and sell, and kill. For slaves there is a slave law-a law suited to men who are advertised and sold with swine. This is degradation complete. Stript of even the privilege of being punished as men. They are not governed as if they were men: and, if the slave is a man, no thanks are due to slavery for it. So far as it can, it dishumanizes and imbrutes him.

[Time expired.

[MR. RICE'S THIRD SPEECH. ] Gentlemen Moderators and Fellow Citizens :

I certainly do not desire, that any who hold views on this subject in accordance with mine, should give expression to their feelings of approbation. I will not, however, find fault with those who differ from

me, for pursuing this course. Such manifestations may be necessary to supply the gentleman's lack of argument. He has now spoken two and a half hours for the purpose of proving, that slave-holding is in itself sinful ; he and I agree that the Bible is the only rule by which any thing can be proved sinful; and yet during the two and a half hours he has made not one reference to that infallible rule !

Two and a half hours to prove by a certain rule the sinfulness of a relation, without one reference to the rule! Surely the gentleman stands in need of the applause of his friends. Thus far he has been employed in telling us what slave-holding is. tery it must be ! How incomprehensible! Nor does it appear, that he has yet completed his description or definition of it. Perhaps he will occupy another half hour on this point. If it requires so long a time to tell what slaveholding is, how long will it require to prove it sinful ? For the present, I will follow the gentleman in his erratic

Slave-holding, if we are to believe him, is in itself a most abominable thing. The question very naturally arises--if it be such as he has described it, why debate the question before us at all? One would think, it is only

What a mys

course.

necessary to state what it is, to cause every decent man to loathe it. Then why discuss it? Why not simply state what it is, and go home? One of two things is true: either the relation of master and slave is not in itself what the gentleman represents it, or his friends were guilty of great folly in challenging me to the discussion of it. If the people are so besotted as not to see at a glance its detestable character, there is no use in debating it.

The gentleman repeats the assertion, that the marriage relation cannot exist among slaves; and he tells of a Mr. S., who, in going through a marriage ceremony for them, after the words, “ till separated by death,” added, “or some other cause beyond your control.” In most cases, he tells us, there is not even the form of marriage. How has he ascertained this fact? Admitting it true, does it follow that there is no valid marriage among slaves? Will the gentleman tell us what particular form of marriage was prescribed for the Jews? With what ceremonies were Isaac and Rebecca married? Where in the Scriptures is any particular formulary prescribed ? and what officer is designated to solemnize marriage ? Every one acquainted with the Bible, knows that no particular ceremonies are required, and no officer appointed to solemnize marriage.

But he appeals to the ceremonies at the marriage of Samson, who had a procession and a feast of seven days. Why not go to an earlier period, and inform us by what ceremonies the old patriarchs were married? I presume, he will not deny, that their marriages were valid. But if all the ceremonies connected with Samson's marriage, are essential to the validity of the relation, I fear that very few of us are validly married; for not many, it is presumed, had a procession and a feast of seven days. Mr. B. is quite scandalized that I should deny the necessity of any particular forms or ceremonies to the validity of marriage. I have called for the Bible law on the subject; and he has not yet produced it; and Paul says, “ Where there is no law, there is no transgression.” The gentleman's argument is, that because the laws of the slave-holding States do not recognize the marriage of slaves, their marriage is not valid, and their children are illegitimate. The truth of this proposition I deny; because the Bible (and marriage is a divine institution) nowhere makes the recognition of the civil law essential to marriage. I assert, that the marriage of slaves is, in God's law, as valid as that of their owners, and it is as truly a violation of that law to separate the former, as the latter. But all this is aside from the question, whether the relation between master and slave is in itself sinful.

The gentleman has twice spoken of my Lectures on Slavery as a part of this debate, and as a kind of forestalling of public sentiment. Those Lectures, when delivered, were designed for publication; and the propriety of publishing them became still more apparent, in consequence of the manner in which they were misrepresented and caricatured by certain editors of abolitionist papers in this city. I presume, it will scarcely be questioned, that I had the right to publish them. Moreover, their publication placed before Mr. B. my arguments, and afforded him a fair opportunity to be fully prepared to refute them. He ought not, therefore, to complain.

Mr. Smylie, he says, is competent to testify to the fact, that two-thirds of the professors of religion in the slave-holding States, hold slaves for the sake of gain. I am at a loss to know how any man can be competent to bear testimony concerning the motives of all those persons. Doubtless, there are many masters whose sole object is gain; but it is not true, that professing Christians generally traffic in slaves for gain. To say so, would be to slander the church of Christ.

He tells a story concerning a sexton of the Presbyterian church in Danville, Ky., who was sold by his master, a member of the church, away from his wife, into Jessamine county. The man's name was Richard. I have had some acquaintance in Danville; and I do not remember to have heard of this Richard, or of any such occurrence. By the way, Jessamine county is not very far from Danville. I

« AnteriorContinuar »