By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: American slavery, and the means of its abolition
Author: Ward, Jonathan
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "American slavery, and the means of its abolition" ***





The substance of the following Essay was delivered, in the form of an
Address, at Plymouth, N. H., May 5th, 1840; and is now published by the
particular request of those who heard it.



More than forty years ago the writer of the following pages read
Wilberforce’s publications on the slave trade, in which were described
the various methods of procuring the slaves in Africa, the horrors of
the “middle passage,” and their cruel treatment in the West Indies.
In perusing these statements of that great philanthropist and friend
of the injured African race, his feelings became, in some measure,
enlisted in favor of the colored people of our land, and in opposition
to the slavery upheld by our nation.

He was never sensible of feeling the prejudice against color, so often
manifested; but, in his intercourse with colored persons, treated them,
as he would others. And having them for many years as neighbors, and,
not unfrequently, as hired help, they were admitted to eat with the
family at the same table.

In 1824 he was invited to attend a political celebration on the 4th of
July. In declining the invitation, he noticed the inconsistency of our
conduct in celebrating our liberty, founded upon the principle that
all men are created free and equal, and proclaiming this “self-evident
truth,” and yet holding hundreds of thousands of our fellow men in
degrading bondage.

The next year, he was requested to preach on the 4th of July. The
sermon was, by request, printed. The following extract will show the
writer’s views respecting American slavery. “Our conduct in relation to
the Africans has been most inconsistent, absurd, and criminal. While
earnestly contending for the principle, that all men ought to be free
and equal, and risking every thing in opposing the claims of Great
Britain to _tax us_, we were, at the same time, holding in abject
slavery hundreds of thousands of our fellow beings, who, upon our own
principles, had an equal right with ourselves to enjoy the sweets
of liberty. How great guilt then has been contracted by enslaving,
and holding in bondage, and maltreating the poor negroes. And what
efforts ought to be made for their intellectual, moral and religious
improvement, and their emancipation, and their enjoyment of the rights
of freemen.”

Such being the feelings of the writer, he rejoiced to see attention
turned to the subject of slavery, and combined efforts making for its
removal. And, though he deeply regretted the harshness and severity
with which opposers of abolition movements, and even those who did not
engage in them, were treated, yet he was willing to countenance the
cause of abolition, hoping that this, in his view, very exceptionable
manner, would be gradually corrected. But, as it respects many of the
Abolitionists, he is sorry to say, his hopes have been disappointed.

Being, therefore, fully persuaded that the course alluded to is
injuring the cause both of religion and abolition, he ventures to point
out what he believes the word of God teaches to be “a more excellent
way.” And he will endeavor to do it kindly, and not needlessly to
wound the feelings of any, hoping to be guided by that wisdom which
is from above, and “is profitable to direct,” and which “is pure,
and peaceable, and gentle, and is without partiality, and without
hypocrisy,” and to present the subject as it will appear in the light
of the great day. And he requests the reader impartially to weigh what
is offered in “the balances of the sanctuary,” and to regard it so far
only as it corresponds with the teachings of the divine oracles.


The subject of American slavery, if rightly considered, must be to
every Christian, and every true patriot, a deeply interesting and
painful subject. That our country--which solemnly declared before God
and the world, that it is “self-evident” that “all men are created
equal, and are endowed with certain inalienable rights, as life,
liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” and which claims to be the
freest on earth, and the asylum of the oppressed--should, nevertheless,
hold in abject bondage millions of its own people, is a deep stain on
our national character. The holding of these unoffending fellow beings
under the rod of oppression is a great political and moral evil. It is
a flagrant violation of our professed principles of equal rights, and
manifestly inconsistent with the principles of our holy religion. No
one would be willing to be a slave himself, and, therefore, if he loved
others as himself, or was willing to do to others as he would have
others do to him, he could not hold others in involuntary slavery.

Slaves are held as _property_, at the disposal of their master, and
possess, strictly speaking, no legal rights, civil or religious, and,
if ever so much abused, can seek no redress in any court of justice.
They are in a great measure kept without the means of intellectual,
moral and spiritual improvement. And by sale and the removal of the
purchased slaves to a distant part of the country, the most endearing
ties are liable continually to be severed, and the nearest relatives,
husbands and wives, parents and children, and brothers and sisters, to
be torn from each other, and forever separated.

But the greatest of the evils of American slavery is the depriving of
its victims of the Bible and of the means of religion. Some slaves
do indeed attend public worship, and receive oral instruction. Some
masters also impart to their slaves religious instruction. And a few
are able to read. But, if I am rightly informed, teaching them to
read is penal in all the slave States, except Kentucky, and those
who do it are liable to punishment by fine or imprisonment, or both.
Consequently, they are effectually prevented from reading “the Holy
Scriptures, which are able to make them wise unto salvation through
faith which is in Christ Jesus.” And many, according to the testimony
of the Synod of South Carolina and Georgia, “are in the condition of

And though not much, comparatively, seems to be now said on this
subject by many advocates for emancipation, yet, what is the political
bondage, and all the other evils of slavery, compared with this?
What is all the temporal happiness, which can be enjoyed, compared
with the salvation of the soul, or eternal blessedness? And are all
the deprivations and misery, which can be endured in this short life,
comparable with eternal misery? “The sufferings of this present time,”
however great, “are not worthy to be compared with the glory which
shall be revealed” in saints, or with that “everlasting punishment”
which will be the portion of those who are “lost”.

Those means, therefore, which are necessary to secure the salvation
of the soul, ought to be esteemed more highly, and sought with far
more earnestness for ourselves and others, than any mere temporal
privileges, advantages and blessings; and to deprive the slaves of
these means of salvation is the worst feature in the slave system, and
incurs the deepest guilt. And when such is the system, it requires no
arguments to prove, that it ought to be immediately abolished.

Indeed many at the South have most explicitly condemned slavery, and
urged the necessity of its abolition. Mr. Jefferson, speaking of
slavery, said, “It destroys the morals of one part of the nation, and
the _amor patria_ (love of country) of the other. With the morals of
the people, their industry is also destroyed. And can the liberties of
a nation be secure, when we have removed their only basis--a conviction
in the minds of the people, that these liberties are the gift of God?
that they are not to be violated but with his wrath? Indeed I tremble
for my country, when I reflect that God is just; that his justice
cannot sleep for ever. The Almighty has no attribute which can take
sides with us in such a contest;” i. e. with the slaves. Patrick Henry
said, “It is as repugnant to humanity, as it is inconsistent with the
Bible, and destructive to liberty.” William Pinckney of Maryland said,
“Its continuance is as shameful as its origin.”

In 1818, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church _unanimously_
adopted a report on slavery, in which they say, “We consider the
voluntary enslaving of one part of the human race by another, as a
gross violation of the most precious and sacred rights of human nature;
as utterly inconsistent with the law of God, which requires us to
love our neighbor as ourselves; and as totally irreconcilable with the
spirit and principles of the gospel, which enjoins, that all things
whatsoever we would that men should do to us, we should do even so
to them. Slavery creates a paradox in the moral system; it exhibits
rational, accountable and immortal beings in such circumstances, as
scarcely to leave them the power of moral action. It exhibits them as
dependent on the will of others, whether they shall receive religious
instruction; whether they shall enjoy the ordinances of the gospel;
whether they shall perform the duties and cherish the endearments
of husbands and wives, parents and children, neighbors and friends;
whether they shall preserve their chastity and purity, or regard the
dictates of justice and humanity.

“Such are some of the consequences of slavery--consequences not
imaginary, but which connect themselves with its very existence.”

And they say further, “It is manifestly the duty of all Christians, who
enjoy the light of the present day--when the inconsistency of slavery,
both with the dictates of humanity and religion, has been demonstrated,
and is generally seen and acknowledged--to use their honest, earnest
and unwearied endeavors, as speedily as possible, to efface this blot
on our holy religion, and to obtain the complete abolition of slavery
throughout Christendom, and, if possible, throughout the world.”

Freedom is the right of the slave. And it is the duty of the master to
grant it, and to grant it immediately.

And, that emancipation is safe, and would be for the interest of
slaveholders, might be easily shown, and is clearly proved by the
result of the experiment in the West Indies. Free labor is manifestly
more profitable than slave labor. The African race possess kind, and
generous and grateful feelings; and if treated with humanity and
kindness, would labor much more faithfully as freemen for wages, than
as slaves under the cruel stimulus of the whip. And if emancipated,
there would be no fear of insurrection, or of the slaughter of the
whites. And the States, now feeling the withering influence of slavery,
would be much better cultivated and far more prosperous.

Though the result of the emancipation in the British West India Islands
has been, by some writers and papers, represented as unfavorable, yet,
according to the most authentic accounts, it has been successful. And
when difficulties have occurred, as has sometimes been the case, they
have been owing to the stupidity, or ill conduct of the planters.

The Rev. John Scoble of London--who had spent the greater part of the
last three years in the British West Indies, as an agent of the British
Anti-Slavery Society--at a meeting held in Boston, August 22, 1839,
gave a most interesting exposition of the results of the emancipation
of the slaves in these colonies, in answer to questions proposed to
him. A few extracts from his statements will be given, taken from the
Essex Register.

“From all which he had heard and seen, he was satisfied the experiment
of _complete emancipation_ had worked well for the owners of the
estates; and the prosperity of the colonies would be greatly increased
by it. Landed property, he said, had increased in value in Barbadoes
from 25 to 40 per cent. in some districts--and generally in the
colonies, from 5 to 25 per cent.”

“There had,” he said, “been a great improvement in the domestic
condition of the laborers--they enjoyed more comforts--their huts, or
rather _hovels_, which they formerly occupied, were giving place to
more comfortable habitations--they were not willing to wear the poor
and cheap clothes which their masters formerly furnished for them--many
of the women, instead of toiling in the fields, were now devoted to
household duties; and many children, who formerly had been compelled to
work in the fields, were now sent to school.

“Enquiries were made of Mr. Scoble, as to the willingness of the blacks
to labor for fair wages--as to the state of morals and religion among
them--how the aged and infirm poor were supported among them, &c.;
to all which Mr. S. gave the most satisfactory answers. In regard
to the state of _morals_, he said, crime had decreased since the
emancipation--and he stated many interesting facts in regard to the
number of persons confined in prisons in several colonies at his visits
in 1836, compared with the number in 1838. The number is now _only
about half as large_ as in former years, and most of the offences of
the negroes were misdemeanors, petty thefts,” &c.

Similar testimony is furnished in a letter, published in the New York
Journal of Commerce, from Mr. Gurney, an English Quaker gentleman, who
has lately visited some of the Windward Islands.

He says, “Landed property _has risen, and is still rising in
value_--being decidedly of greater value now than it was six years ago.
In Antigua it seems to be a clear point, that the property _without_
the slaves, is now of equal value with the property _and_ the slaves,
six years ago, or before emancipation.

“A similar remark applies with still greater force to St. Kitts. R.
Claxton, the Solicitor General there, told me that he would not take
£6,000 now for a property which cost him only £2,000 six years ago.
Indeed, many planters spoke of what they receive in the shape of
compensation, as quite a gratuity.

“The unfavorable reports which have been spread of the working of
freedom, have generally arisen from persons who are anxious to lay hold
of landed property at a cheap rate. A clear proof that all is doing
well, is unintentionally given by a gentleman in Antigua, who cries
down the system, as having ruined the West Indies, while he strives to
purchase all the landed property he can.

“The _comforts_ of the negroes are immensely increased. They are
providing themselves with good food and clothing. The evidence of
this fact is abundant in every island which we visited. No proof of
it can be stronger than the almost doubling of the imports within the
last two years. On the whole there cannot be the shadow of doubt that
the substantial property of the colonies which we visited is on the


I shall now inquire how slavery may be abolished in our land. This is
the most difficult part of the subject; and on which I imagine there
is, in reality, a great diversity of opinion, even among abolitionists.

There are three ways, and three only, in which it is contemplated that
it can be removed; by insurrection--the action of Congress--or the
action of the slave States. Probably all would deprecate an attempt on
the part of the slaves to obtain their liberty by insurrection. This,
if ultimately successful, would be attended with much bloodshed and
misery, and a vast loss of life, both of the colored people and of the

Some suppose, that Congress have power to abolish slavery in the slave
States. They have undoubtedly power to abolish it in the District of
Columbia, and in the Territories. And the constitution might be so
amended as to give Congress power to abolish slavery within the States
where it exists. But, as it now stands, it appears to me that it does
not give Congress any such power. Whatever may be said, and though the
constitution does not name slaves or slavery, it manifestly sanctions

Among other provisions, that respecting representation in Congress
is conclusive, where “_three-fifths of all other persons_,” besides
citizens--who are to be reckoned in apportioning the number of
representatives--can only mean slaves. And when the constitution went
into operation, while the framers were alive and among the leading
politicians of the day, the representatives were chosen in this
proportion in the slave States; and have always continued to be thus

And Congress were forbidden by the constitution to prohibit the foreign
_slave trade_ within twenty years. And when these twenty years were
expired, Congress immediately passed laws to put a stop to this trade.
But, how absurd to suppose that the constitution forbid Congress to
abolish the _slave trade_ within twenty years, and yet, gave that body
power to abolish _slavery itself_ immediately!

But it is pleaded, that this power is given to Congress in the fifth
article of the amendments, where it is said, “No person shall be
deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law.” And
does this refer to slaves? Manifestly not. Can persons be _deprived_
of that which they do not possess? To deprive a person of something,
implies that he _possessed_ it. And do slaves possess liberty, or
property? And can they be deprived of property, when they have none?
And would an article have been adopted by Congress and the States, so
manifestly contrary to other parts of the constitution? But it is said,
that the most liberal construction ought to be given to the clause in
favor of liberty. True, when there can be any reasonable doubt as to
the real meaning of a constitution or law. But where the meaning is
_plain_, there is no room for _construction_.

And when we have substantial and efficient weapons enough, it is not
good policy to seize those which are feeble, and which may be wrested
from us, and turned against us.

But, if slavery must be abolished by the action of the slave States,
then it is an important question--How can they be brought to put forth
this action? This they will not do till they are convinced that their
duty, their interest, or their safety, _or all these_, demand the
emancipation of their slaves. It is evident then, that _arguments_ must
bring them to the adoption of this measure. These may be addressed to
their reason, their conscience, their interest and their fears; and
more especially, to the two former.[A]

But by whom, and in what manner, must these arguments be addressed to
them? Are there those among themselves, who will do this work, and
labor effectually to convince the people of the slaveholding States,
that they ought immediately to “break every yoke?”

As there is so much in those States from self-interest, education, long
cherished habits, and familiarity with slavery, to lessen the evil in
the public estimation, and counteract the efforts and influence of
those who might desire its abolition, an external force from the free
States is necessary to bear upon this fearful evil. And that this force
may be powerful and effectual, it must be _combined_ and general. It
must be a _united_ testimony against slavery.

How then can this union in sentiment and action be secured? Those
who attempt to secure this object need to be “wise as serpents, and
harmless as doves.” Meekness, prudence and decision are all highly
necessary. The more difficult the object to be attained, the more
needful are wisdom, prudence and firmness. A fiery zeal not tempered
with meekness may do much injury, by irritating those whom we would
wish to gain, and exciting in them prejudice, and thus repelling them
instead of gaining them. And there is great danger of this.

Abolitionists have dwelt so much upon the horrors of slavery, and seen
the sufferings of the slaves, and the cruelties inflicted upon them so
often depicted in lively colors, that their feelings have been deeply
enlisted in behalf of these degraded and suffering fellow beings. And
if others do not appear to feel for them as they do, they are in dancer
of indulging wrong feelings towards them, and condemning them with
great severity. And when their sympathy is so strongly excited, they
are liable to be swayed entirely by it, and not duly to regard the
sober dictates of reason, or the precepts of the Bible.

Some seem to be so absorbed in this subject, as to regard every other
evil, and every other enterprise, of comparatively small concernment;
and appear to feel, that, if this evil be removed from our land, the
judgments of Heaven must be averted, and we shall enjoy prosperity; and
that all ought, therefore, to be mainly concerned for the removal of
this one great evil. Hence some of this class, who were professors of
religion, appear to have lost, in a great measure, their interest in
the cause of Christ. And I fear that many have, in this way, suffered
in their religious feelings.

Some have said, that abolitionism is Christianity, and that
abolitionists are Christians. But this is setting up a standard of
Christian character, manifestly not warranted by the holy Scriptures,
and is crying peace to many, to whom God has said “there is no peace.”
Wicked men do not become good men by becoming abolitionists. And
it must be dangerous to their immortal interests, and provoking to
God, to flatter them that, because they are engaged in the abolition
enterprise, they are Christians, or are doing God an acceptable
service, while they are in heart his enemies, and are in rebellion
against him. And yet, some professing Christians appear to have a more
cordial union with such, than with others who are not united with them
in this enterprise, though engaged in other benevolent enterprises, and
in the cause of Christ, and appear to be devoted Christians. But is
this right? And will it meet the approbation of the God of heaven? If
they themselves neglect other benevolent enterprises, should they not
“cast the beam out of their own eye” before they attempt to “pull the
mote out of their brother’s eye?”

We should, as far as possible, estimate every _cause_, and every
_interest_, as _God_ estimates them. And there are other very great
and crying sins in our land beside slaveholding. Sabbath breaking,
neglect and contempt of divine institutions and of the authority of
God, disregard of the divine oracles, infidelity, licentiousness,
intemperance, selfishness, supreme devotedness to the world, and our
treatment of the Indian tribes, are all crying sins of our land. And
should slavery be abolished, I should have no hope that the judgments
of Heaven would be averted without a general reformation: this all
ought to endeavor to promote, and to set themselves against _all_ these
evils, and to help remove them, so far as their influence can reach.

All Christians should duly estimate, and engage in the support of every
benevolent enterprise. But some zealous abolitionists take little
interest in these enterprises, and especially in the missionary cause;
and not unfrequently have articles and observations been published,
which were calculated to discredit it in the minds of the community.

But is not the cause of missions far more important than the cause of
abolition in our land? What is the emancipation of _three millions_,
compared with the civilization and christianizing of SIX HUNDRED
MILLIONS, multitudes of whom are equally or more degraded than the
slaves of the South?

Let Christian abolitionists, therefore, especially, feel the importance
of meeting _all_ their responsibilities, as they must answer it
to God in the great day, and not withdraw their support from, or
throw obstacles in the way of any good cause, but afford it their
cordial countenance and coöperation. In this way they will recommend
their principles to others. And let them cultivate deep piety and
deep humility, and “in lowliness of mind esteem others better than
themselves.” And then they will not be so ready to condemn others with
severity, as has been a too common practice, and by which the cause has
been, I am fully persuaded, greatly injured and retarded.

Denunciation, or heaping upon others opprobrious epithets, or bringing
against them charges which they believe to be unjust, is not the way
to convince or gain them. No person of any consideration would treat
a friend thus, whom he considered in fault, and whom he wished to
convince and reclaim.

And are the public attacks, which are so often made upon ministers and
churches, calculated to subserve the cause of religion or of abolition?
And have those who make them, seriously inquired, and satisfied their
own minds, that such charges will meet the approbation of God? Though
the churches are not so pure, nor the ministers so devoted as they
ought to be; yet it may be doubted whether there are purer churches,
or more devoted ministers in any other country. In the time of Isaiah,
God’s ancient church was doubtless less pure than are our churches; and
yet God said to her, “He that toucheth you, toucheth the apple of mine
eye”--and “every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou
shalt condemn.”

Some abolitionists have appeared disposed to condemn all ministers and
professing Christians, who did not act with them, as “pro-slavery,” and
unworthy of confidence. Though I have no doubt many abolitionists have
disapproved of such a course, yet I have seen little disapproval of it
expressed. Perhaps they thought it would injure the cause to censure
those who were engaged in it, and would not be _expedient_. But that
“wisdom, which is without _partiality_,” will lead us to condemn what
is wrong in _friends_, as well as others. Such an impartial course is,
I believe, the way to secure the divine approbation and blessing. As I
am a professed abolitionist,[B] and, as remarks have been made, and
resolutions passed at abolition meetings, which will apply to ministers
much better than myself, representing them as unworthy of support, I
cannot feel it to be right to pass such things in silence. Whatever
be their design, they are calculated to destroy the influence of
ministers, and to _destroy souls_. For, let the impenitent hearers of
such ministers believe these representations, and their preaching will
do them no good. Probably when making these remarks, and passing these
resolutions, the authors thought they were doing right; but perhaps on
sober reflection, and in their _closets_, away from excitement, those
who are Christians will feel differently, and be convinced that a
more conciliatory course would be better. Hoping that this may be the
effect, I here set down a few of the things to which I have alluded.

The editor of “The Liberator” published the following declaration:

  “Christianity indignantly rejects the sanctimonious pretensions of
  the great mass of the clergy in this land. It is becoming more and
  more apparent, that they are nothing better than hirelings, in the
  bad sense of the term, that they are blind leaders of the blind,
  spiritual popes, dumb dogs that cannot bark, that they love the
  fleece better than the flock. Their overthrow is registered in the
  scroll of destiny.”

At the meeting of the Grafton County Anti-Slavery Society, holden at
Littleton, N. H. January 29th and 30th, 1840, the following resolutions
were passed, though not without opposition:

  “_Resolved_, That the slave system of this country derives its chief
  and essential support from the nominally free States; and that the
  citizens of New Hampshire are as deeply implicated in the guilt of
  slaveholding as those of any other State in the Union.

  “_Resolved_, That the only way in which the citizens of New Hampshire
  can exculpate themselves from the guilt of slaveholding, is to
  countenance and support the Anti-slavery enterprise.”

Here it is asserted, that the citizens of New Hampshire are as deeply
implicated in the guilt of slaveholding as those of any of the slave
States; and that the _only way_ in which they can exculpate themselves
from this guilt, “is to countenance and support the Anti-slavery
enterprise.” As the guilt of all sin must be removed in the same
way--and this is said to be the only way to remove this guilt--it
would seem, that all who “countenance and support the Anti-slavery
enterprise” are exculpated from the guilt of _all their sins_, as they
cannot be exculpated from the guilt of _one_ sin, and not of _all_ sin.

I presume that those who adopted this resolution did not reflect,
that it would lead to such a conclusion. They probably thought,
that the citizens of New Hampshire could not give evidence of
sincere repentance, unless they should “countenance and support the
Anti-slavery enterprise.” But if this is their _only way_ to afford
such evidence, and to be exculpated from this guilt, do not all who
“countenance and support the Anti-slavery enterprise” afford such
evidence, and thus show that they are exculpated from the guilt of this
sin, and consequently, from the guilt of _all_ sin?

At the annual meeting of the Merrimack County Anti-Slavery Society,
January 14th, 1840, the following resolutions were adopted:

  “_Resolved_, That the abolition enterprise is the cause of God,
  and that those professed ministers of the gospel who treat it with
  opposition or indifference, are recreant to their high trust as
  ambassadors of Christ--hypocritical in their professions of love
  to man, and are unworthy the confidence and support of a Christian

  “_Resolved_, That all those who support professed ministers of
  the gospel who refuse to wield their pulpit influence against the
  diabolical system of American slavery, are guilty of supporting that

At a meeting of “a number of the friends of the slave, from different
parts of the State,” at Concord, January 22d--the day after the meeting
of the Convention of Congregational and Presbyterian Ministers and
Churches--the following resolution, among others, was adopted:

  “_Resolved_, That at the present stage of the Anti-slavery
  enterprise, those ministers professing to be the ministers of
  Christ, who do not fearlessly and boldly advocate the immediate
  and unconditional emancipation of the slaves of this country, are
  unworthy the countenance or support of the Christian community.”

These and similar resolutions which have been passed in other
places, doubtless refer to all ministers who do not openly join with
abolitionists, and thus “countenance and support the Anti-slavery

Are such attacks calculated to do ministers good, or to promote the
cause of Christ, or the cause of abolition? Though we are commanded
to “bless those that curse us,” yet even good men do not like to be
reproached, and will not be pleased with those who assail them with
opprobrious language. Especially, if instead of being treated according
to the direction of the Saviour in the 18th of Matthew they are
_publicly assailed_, they will be very liable to be irritated. And, if
by such attacks any cause them to sin, they will be guilty themselves.
And, if they duly considered what a dreadful thing even the least sin
is, as committed against an infinite and holy God, they would dread to
commit it themselves, or to lead others into it.

Though David was a good man, the irritating language and conduct of
Nabal so provoked him, that, had it not been for the prudent and mild
conduct of Abigail, he would have destroyed the whole family.

Rehoboam lost a great part of his kingdom by forsaking the counsel of
the old men who stood before Solomon his father, who advised him to
“speak good words to the people,” and following the counsel of the
young men, and “answering the people roughly.”

Such conduct in abolitionists is inconsistent with their own professed
principles--with the spirit and precepts of the gospel--with the
counsel of wise and good men--and with the teachings of experience.

The great principles upon which they rest their plea for the slave,
are--that we ought to love others as ourselves, and do to others as we
would have them do to us. But would _they_ be willing to have others
thus publicly assail _their_ character. When thus assailed, they show
plainly that they would not. If, therefore, they loved others as
themselves, they could not do thus.

A man’s _character_ is dearer to him than _property_. “A good name is
rather to be chosen than great riches.”

  ----“Who steals my purse
  Steals trash----
  But he who filches from me my good name,
  Robs me of that which not enriches him,
  But makes me poor indeed.”

Should some persons injure the property, or cast filth upon the
clothes of one who was the object of their dislike, every one would
condemn such conduct as becoming only a mob. And yet it is a far
greater injury to have the character vilified and reproached.

Some justify such language from the denunciations of the Saviour
against the Scribes and Pharisees, and his calling them hypocrites. But
when any can, like the Saviour, know the hearts of others, and know to
whom to apply such epithets, then they may use them. And they may take
the lash, and compel others to do what they think they ought to do, and
plead the example of Christ, who, with a scourge, drove the buyers and
sellers out of the temple.

A good cause does not need such weapons to support it, and will only
be injured by their use. And when any resort to them, they will be
suspected of being conscious of the weakness of their cause, or of
being under the influence of a wrong spirit. When a person is conscious
that he is strong in _argument_, he will feel no need of such base
weapons, and will not use them, if he is in the exercise of a right
spirit.[C] For it is contrary to the spirit of the gospel, and to the
instructions of the Bible. The spirit of the gospel is a meek, kind,
benevolent spirit, and undissembled goodwill to all. And, if in full
exercise, men would love others as themselves; “and love worketh no
ill to his neighbor.” But to pursue a course which directly tends to
injure the character, and to destroy the peace and usefulness of a
good man, is working the greatest evil to him, and is contrary to the
instructions of the Bible, and the way there pointed out to convince
and gain others: “A soft tongue breaketh the bone.” This we are here
taught will have the greatest effect. “A soft answer turneth away
wrath, but grievous words stir up anger.” “The servant of the Lord
must not strive; but be gentle unto all men; in meekness instructing
those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them
repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.” This is most explicit,
and teaches, that, if we would gain others, we must be gentle towards
_all_ men without any exception, in meekness instructing them. “Speak
not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his
brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth
the law,” by practically condemning the law for prohibiting such

“Whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the
council; but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of
hell-fire.” This is a most solemn declaration. “Judge not, and ye
shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned.” “But
why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy
brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ.”
“Let us not, therefore, judge one another any more: but judge this
rather, that no man put a stumbling-block, or an occasion to fall,
in his brother’s way;” which he would do by harshly judging and
condemning, and thus irritating him. “I beseech you, that ye walk
worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness
and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love,
endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” “Let
all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil-speaking,
be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another,
tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake
hath forgiven you,” “Put them in mind to speak evil of no man, to be no
brawlers, but gentle, showing _all meekness unto all men_.”

What a picture St. James gives of the terrible effects of an unbridled
tongue. And an unbridled _pen_ is more dangerous. “The tongue is an
unruly evil, full of deadly poison. The tongue is a fire, a world of
iniquity, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on
fire of hell.” “Wherefore, laying aside all malice, and all guile,
and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings--be pitiful, be
courteous; not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing, but
contrariwise, blessing.” Jude says, that even “Michael the archangel,
when contending with the devil, durst not bring against him a railing
accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee.”

It is therefore extremely manifest, that evil-speaking, or assailing
the character of brethren in the ministry, or in the church, or even
others--except by kind and faithful reproof, for evident faults--is
contrary to the instructions of the word of God, and is wrong. The
Bible allows us to reprove others plainly for their sins, with
meekness, and in love, but not with harshness, or opprobrious language.

And this is agreeable to the counsel of the wisest and best of men.

Mr. Adam, an eminently pious minister in England, who died in 1784,
in his “Thoughts on Religion,” says, “We should study only the good
of others, let them do what they will to us. If I aim at the real
spiritual improvement of those I converse with, I shall never say any
thing to irritate or vex them, but keep a constant guard on myself.
Speaking evil of others at all, unless it be to prevent mischief to
religion, or our neighbor, proceeds from pride. Say all the good you
can of all; but if you would have ill spoken of any, turn that office
to the devil.”

Cudworth said, “_Truth_ and _love_ are two of the most powerful things
in the world, and when they both go together, they cannot easily be
withstood. The golden beams of truth, and the silken cords of love
twisted together, will draw men on with a sweet violence, whether they
will or no.”

“Certainly,” says Bishop Hall, “God abides none but charitable
dissensions; those that are well grounded and well governed; grounded
upon just causes, and governed with Christian charity and wise
moderation; those whose beginning is equity, and end is peace. If
we must differ, let these be the conditions; let every one of God’s
ministers be ambitious of that praise which Gregory Nazianzen gave to
Athanasius; to be an adamant to them that strike him, and a loadstone
to them that dissent from him; the one not to be moved with wrong,
the other to draw those hearts which disagree. So the fruit of
righteousness shall be sown in peace of them that make peace. So the
God of peace shall have glory, the church of God rest, and our souls,
unspeakable joy and consolation in the day of the appearing of our Lord

“It is,” says a respectable writer, “impossible to entertain sentiments
of true friendship, towards those whom we are in the practice of
maligning every day.” Milner, in his Church History, says, “Satire and
invective are plants of rapid growth in the malignant soil of human

Rev. Mr. Jenkins, in his remarks on the Report submitted to the
Senate of the United States, on the petitions presented to Congress,
praying that the mails might not be transmitted through the country
on the Sabbath, says, “They who are honestly concerned to preserve
the sanctity of the Sabbath, can cherish no other than sentiments
of heart-felt kindness towards the author of this report. Their
disagreement with him on a subject of such vital and enduring interest,
would prove it the offspring of some of the very lowest principles
which govern human conduct, were it to lead them to return railing for

Some attempt to justify harsh language from the example of Luther. But
besides the change in the times and the style of controversy, it ought
to be recollected that Luther himself _condemned_ what they adduce
as a _justification_ for the use of such language. “In my books of a
polemical nature,” said he, “I avow, that I have been more violent and
bitter than suits my religion and my robe.”

The distinguished Christian poet, Cowper, in a letter to Rev. John
Newton, said, “No man was ever scolded out of his sins. The heart,
corrupt as it is--and because it is so--grows angry if it be not
treated with some management and good manners, and scolds again. A
surly mastiff will perhaps bear to be poked, though he will growl
even under that operation, but if you touch him roughly, he will
bite. There is no grace that the spirit of self can counterfeit with
more success than a religious zeal. A man thinks he is fighting for
Christ, and he is fighting for his own notions. He thinks that he is
skilfully searching the hearts of others, when he is only gratifying
the malignity of his own; and charitably supposes his hearers destitute
of all grace, that he may shine the more in his own eyes by the
comparison. When he has performed this notable task, he wonders that
they are not convicted. He has given it to them soundly, and if they do
not tremble and confess that God is in them of a truth, he gives them
up as reprobate, incorrigible, and lost forever. But the man that loves
me, if he sees me in an error, will pity me, and endeavor calmly to
convince me of it, and persuade me to forsake it. If he has great and
good news to tell me, he will not do it angrily and in much heat and
discomposure of spirit. It is not therefore easy to conceive on what
ground a minister can justify a conduct which only proves that he does
not understand his errand. The absurdity of it would certainly strike
him, if he were not himself deluded.”

Ministers undoubtedly sometimes greatly injure their usefulness by
their harshness of expression, and the want of a kind and conciliatory
address. The abolition enterprise is often said to be “the cause
of God,” and a “holy cause.” If so, it ought surely to be defended
and sustained by “spiritual,” and not “carnal weapons.” And some
of the advocates of the cause deeply feel this. William Ladd, the
distinguished Advocate of Peace, in a letter addressed some months
since to an Anti-slavery Meeting in Portsmouth, which he was invited
to attend, says, “If I were present among you, I should say--let
every thing be done in LOVE, not only to the poor down-trodden slave,
but to his oppressor, and to the slaves of prejudice, ‘forbearing
threatening.’ The chains of the slave may be melted off by the fire of
love, but they cannot be severed by the sledge hammer of violence.”

Many abolitionists, instead of manifesting the meek, mild and
forbearing spirit of Him who, “when he was reviled not again,” have
too often displayed the spirit of party politicians. But even some of
the politicians of the day seem to be convinced of the impropriety of
treating opponents with rudeness. After the close of a four weeks’
session of the Legislature of Rhode Island, in 1838, it was said, “Not
an angry or offensive personality has been uttered by any member.”

At an editorial convention held last season at Columbus, Ohio, the
following resolutions were passed:

  _Resolved_, That in the opinion of this Convention, there is one
  plain standard of editorial propriety from which no man ought to
  depart, i. e. nothing should be esteemed justifiable in editorial
  intercourse, which would be clearly condemned in the intercourse of
  private gentlemen. And, therefore

  _Resolved_, That in the opinion of this Convention, in all editorial
  discussions concerning politics and other subjects of public
  disputation, all opprobrious epithets, offensive personal allusions,
  and harsh attacks on private reputation, ought to be carefully

These testimonies are surely amply sufficient to show the impropriety
of the course which I have disapproved, in the estimation of
respectable, and wise, and good men. But I will add one more.

Said an eminent missionary among the heathen, “Until a minister feels
as our Saviour did on his last return to Jerusalem, when he wept as he
said, ‘O that thou hadst known,’ &c., he is not in a fit state of mind
to repeat a single denunciation from his master’s lips.”

Is not this the spirit which we all need? And were this spirit
generally possessed by professing Christians, and Christian ministers,
how much of that “wrath of man which worketh not the righteousness
of God,” and contention and unchristian feeling, and attacks on each
others’ reputation would be prevented; and how rapidly would the cause
of truth, of righteousness, and of benevolence advance. The weapons
of truth and love would then be wielded with mighty power, and with
astonishing success.

Even slaveholders would hardly be able to resist such powerful weapons.
Mr. Chester, editor of the Christian Journal at New York, speaking
of Rev. John Rankin, a distinguished abolitionist, says, “He was
born, educated, and brought into the ministry in Tennessee, and has
been an abolitionist, I might perhaps say, from his birth. Twenty,
or twenty-five years ago he was a member of an Abolition Society in
that State. His abolition principles and feelings never lead him to
indulge in bitterness towards slaveholders, or opponents of any kind.
And such is his kindness, such the deep tone of his feeling, that few
slaveholders--though often pressed with the most earnest appeals--have
ever parted with him but with increased respect.”

Last year there was published an account of the visit of a minister
of the Quaker denomination to a slave trader in Virginia, given by
the visiter himself, which strikingly illustrates the influence of
faithful, but kind remonstrance. Being accompanied to his house by
a friend, he says, “I found he was considered, independent of his
employment, of a ferocious disposition. His countenance looked fierce.
I offered him my hand, feeling nothing in my heart but love towards
him as a man. I endeavored in a tender, feeling, but decided manner
to open the subject that brought me to his house, telling him I came
in behalf of the poor colored people. I requested him to pause for
a moment, and endeavor as much as possible to place his own parents
and nearest relatives in the very situation of those poor slaves he
had at times purchased and sold again, thereby separating the nearest
connections far from each other. He appeared to hear me patiently,
and tried to justify his conduct, but with coolness and deliberation.
But in time he cast away all his weapons of defence. He gave it as
his opinion that before twenty years were passed away, slavery would
be brought to a final close, if the work was rightly gone about. He
assured us of his determination to quit his business, and acknowledged
the gratitude he felt for the visit; and took his leave of us in an
affectionate manner.” I have given only a very brief sketch of this
interesting visit, as published in the ‘Herald of Freedom.’

If this were the spirit generally displayed, and this the course
pursued even by professors of religion among abolitionists, how long
would it be before they would be joined by the great mass of the people
in the free States, and by many in the slave States? But so much of
a contrary spirit has been manifested, and such a different course
pursued, that it has produced irritation, and excited prejudice in the
minds of very many who would otherwise have cordially united in efforts
for the removal of slavery.

It was stated in the ‘Herald of Freedom,’ that emancipation was
universally popular in New York in 1827. And the same feeling, I
presume, then pervaded New England generally.

Though Wilberforce in his zealous, and untiring, and finally successful
efforts to abolish the slave trade, manifested the spirit which I have
here recommended, yet others who were engaged with him, manifested
a different spirit, and pursued a different course, which tended to
embarrass this great philanthropist, and to retard the progress of the
cause in which he was engaged.

“The contest,” says his biographer, “in behalf of abolition, was
throughout conducted by Mr. Wilberforce in a spirit of conciliation
towards the supporters of the trade. Some amongst the West Indian body
were his personal friends, and of all ‘we should not forget,’ he writes
to Dr. Currie, ‘that Christian candor is due to those who carry it
on. There may be, I doubt not, amongst them, many men of enlarged and
humane minds. I trust that you have done me the justice to acquit me of
having adopted any such indiscriminate and false judgment as that you

His prospect of speedy success seemed to be encouraging. “The sympathy
of the country was too much aroused to be patient of delay. Public
meetings, and petitions numerously signed, multiplied both in England
and Scotland.” But the levelling principles of the French revolution
began to spread and were favored by many abolitionists, which excited
great prejudice against their cause. “You will see Clarkson,” writes
Mr. Wilberforce to Lord Muncaster; “caution him against talking of the
French revolution, it will be ruin to our cause.” “Clarkson,” writes
Dr. Milner, “will tell you that he had a long conversation with me. I
wish him better health, and better notions in politics; no government
can stand on such principles as he appeals to, and maintains. I am very
sorry for it, because I see plainly, advantage is taken of such cases
as his, in order to represent the friends of abolition as levellers.
This is not the only instance where the converse of a proposition does
not hold; levellers certainly are friends of abolition. Great mischief
had then already risen to the cause. ‘What business had your friend
Clarkson,’ asked Dundas ‘to attend the Crown and Anchor last Thursday?
He could not have done a more mischievous thing to the cause you have
taken in hand.’

“The seed which had been so freely scattered by the revolutionary
politics of some leading abolitionists had sprung up into a plentiful
harvest of suspicion. ‘People connect,’ writes Mr. Clark, ‘democratical
principles with the abolition of the slave trade, and will not hear it

On this reverse, Mr. Wilberforce made the following reflections,
displaying a humility worthy the imitation of every abolitionist,
and of every Christian:--“Oh, may not this have been because one so
unworthy as I undertook this hallowed cause, (Uzzah and the ark,) and
carried it on with so little true humility, faith, self-abasement, and
confidence in God through Christ? No principles but the principles
of the gospel should be connected with the abolition of slavery.
And if we would expect the blessing of God upon this enterprise, it
must be conducted in the spirit of his gospel, and in conformity to
the precepts of his word. And without his blessing we shall labor in

And is a dependence on God’s aid and blessing duly felt? If thus
felt, it will lead to the cultivation and exemplification of a right
spirit--the spirit not merely of humanity, or sympathy, or party zeal,
but of real vital piety, which will seek supremely the glory of God,
the honor and permanency of his institutions, the advancement of his
cause in the world, and the disenthralment and salvation of those
around us, who are slaves to sin, and in bondage to Satan; and the
conversion of the benighted heathen, as well as the emancipation and
elevation of the slaves of our own beloved country. And then the car of
liberty, and the chariot of the gospel will move on with majestic and
mighty power.


[A] These were manifestly the views of those who formed the American
Anti-Slavery Society in 1833. For in the second article of the
constitution, they say of the Society, “It shall aim to convince all
our fellow citizens, by arguments addressed to their understandings and
consciences, that slavery is a heinous sin in the sight of God,” &c.

[B] I am a member of the New Hampshire State Anti-Slavery Society.

[C] Though we are commanded “earnestly to contend for the faith once
delivered to the saints,” yet the unkind and censorious spirit, and
harsh language often displayed in theological disputes, has excited
great prejudice, and led many to condemn _all_ religious controversy.

[D] Life of Wilberforce, pp. 112, 113, 111, 110, 126, 130.


  Italicized text is surrounded by underscores: _italics_.

  Obvious typographical errors have been corrected.

  Inconsistencies in hyphenation have been standardized.

  Archaic or variant spelling has been retained.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "American slavery, and the means of its abolition" ***