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The Argument for Slavery

The institution of "slavery" has had many configurations over the centuries - chattel slavery of Africans in Brazil had a path to citizenship that was largely absent in the USofA short of manumission, and the modern slavery in the Sahel is also a bit difficult to tease out.

As an institution, slavery ignored alike age, sex, race and condition. Under the Roman republic and empire, it held in impartial bondage the subtle Greek, the fierce Briton, the tawny Moor, and the dark Ethiopian. Slavery among the Romans existed jure gentium and jure civili, and no one was a slave jure naturae, so nothing hindered a slave becoming a freedman. This change of condition was effected by what is called manumission, (manumissio) inasmuch as the master released the slave from his own power—a right, which seems to have belonged to the master from the earliest times, although mention is found, that before Servius Tullius, the manumission formed the basis of no claim to citizenship. The taint of servile blood was in part removed by one descent, and the second or third generation was deemed sufficiently pure for admission into the senate and the orders of nobility.

In most countries of the world, especially in former times, the persons of the slaves were the absolute property of the master, and might be used or abused, as caprice or passion might dictate. Under the Jewish law, a slave might be beaten to death by his master, and yet the master go entirely unpunished, unless the slave died outright under his hand. Under the Roman law, slaves had no rights whatever, and were scarcely recognized as human beings; indeed, they were sometimes drowned in fish-ponds, to feed the eels.

Andrew Burnaby [Travels through the Middle Settlements in North-America, in the Years 1759 and 1760 - London, 1775), wrote of the Virginian squirearchy, "Their authority over their slaves renders them vain and imperious, and entire strangers to that elegance of sentiment, which is so peculiarly characteristic of refined and polished nations. Their ignorance of mankind and of learning, exposes them to many errors and prejudices, especially in regard to Indians and negroes, whom they scarcely consider as of the human species; so that it is almost impossible, in cases of violence, or even murder, committed upon those unhappy people by any of the planters, to have the delinquents brought to justice..."

The South, instead of being converted to anti-slavery, took the extreme ground, never before held, that slavery was a divine institution. The anti-slavery movement was largely a religious movement that made an esthetic judgement that slavery was evil, but the masters in slave times could quote scripture. There are of course dozens of Bible translations, and some translate the word as "slave" and others as "servant". The words slave and servant are somewhat synonymous, and differ in being derived from different languages; the one from Slavonic, the other from the Latin, just as feminine and womanly are respectively of Latin and Saxon origin.

The Bard wrote "The Devil can cite Scripture for his purpose". The slave masters found the Scriputers explicitly declared the doctrine of the obedience of slaves to their masters in the words of Lord Jesus Christ; and the arguments of its opposers were characterized as doting sillily about questions and strifes of words, and therefore unworthy of reply and refutation.

"However, you may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you. You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land. You may treat them as your property, passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance. You may treat your slaves like this, but the people of Israel, your relatives, must never be treated this way." (Leviticus 25:44-46 NLT)

"If you buy a Hebrew slave, he is to serve for only six years. Set him free in the seventh year, and he will owe you nothing for his freedom. If he was single when he became your slave and then married afterward, only he will go free in the seventh year. But if he was married before he became a slave, then his wife will be freed with him. If his master gave him a wife while he was a slave, and they had sons or daughters, then the man will be free in the seventh year, but his wife and children will still belong to his master. But the slave may plainly declare, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children. I would rather not go free.’ If he does this, his master must present him before God. Then his master must take him to the door and publicly pierce his ear with an awl. After that, the slave will belong to his master forever." (Exodus 21:2-6 NLT)

"When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she will not be freed at the end of six years as the men are. If she does not please the man who bought her, he may allow her to be bought back again. But he is not allowed to sell her to foreigners, since he is the one who broke the contract with her. And if the slave girl’s owner arranges for her to marry his son, he may no longer treat her as a slave girl, but he must treat her as his daughter. If he himself marries her and then takes another wife, he may not reduce her food or clothing or fail to sleep with her as his wife. If he fails in any of these three ways, she may leave as a free woman without making any payment." (Exodus 21:7-11 NLT)

"When a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod so hard that the slave dies under his hand, he shall be punished. If, however, the slave survives for a day or two, he is not to be punished, since the slave is his own property." (Exodus 21:20-21 NAB)

"Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ."(Ephesians 6:5 NLT)

"Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honour, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed. 2And they that have believing masters, let them not despise them, because they are brethren; but rather do them service, because they are faithful and beloved, partakers of the benefit. These things teach and exhort. If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; 4He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, 5Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself." (1 Timothy 6:1-5 KJV)

"The servant will be severely punished, for though he knew his duty, he refused to do it. “But people who are not aware that they are doing wrong will be punished only lightly. Much is required from those to whom much is given, and much more is required from those to whom much more is given.”" (Luke 12:47-48 NLT)

The Southern slave States had little or no agency in the first introduction of Africans into this country; this was achieved by the Northern commercial States and by Great Britain. Wherever the climate suited, slavery was profitable and flourished; where the climate was unsuitable, slavery was unprofitable, and died out. Most of the slaves in the Northern States were sent southward to a more congenial clime. Upon the introduction into Congress of the first abolition discussions, by John Quincy Adams, and Joshua Giddings, Southern men altogether refused to engage in the debate, or even to receive petitions on the subject.

Southern men had never made the inquiry whether the system were fiindamentally wrong, but they judged it by its fruits, which were beneficent to them. When therefore they were charged with upholding a moral, social, and political evil; and its immediate abolition was demanded, as a matter not only of policy, but also of justice and right, their reply was,

"... we have never investigated the subject. Our fathers left it to us as a legacy, we have grown up with it; it has grown with our growth, and strengthened with our strength, until it is now incorporated with every fibre of our social and political existence. What you say concerning its evils may be true or false, but we clearly see that your remedy involves a vastly greater evil, to the slave, to the master, to our common country, and to the world.

We understand the nature of the negro race; and in the relation in which the providence of God has placed them to us, they are happy and useful members of society, and are fast rising in the scale of intelligence and civilization, and the time may come when they will be capable of enjoying the blessings of freedom and self-government. We are instructing them in the principles of our common Christianity, and in many instances have already taught them to read the word of life. But we know that the time has not yet come; that this liberty which is a blessing to us, would be a curse to them. Besides, to us and to you, such a violent disruption would be most disastrous, it would topple to its foundations the whole social and political edifice.

"Moreover, we have had warning on this subject. God, in his providence, has permitted the emancipation of the African race in a few of the islands contiguous to our shores, and far from being elevated thereby to the condition of Christian freemen, they have rapidly retrograded to the state of pagan savages. The value of property in those islands has rapidly depreciated, their production has vastly diminished, and their commerce and usefulness to the world is destroyed."

Whatever reasons might be offered for emancipation, from an improvement of our freed slaves, was far more than counterbalanced by its failure in the West Indies, and the constantly increasing value of the labor of the slave. If, when the planters had only a moiety of the markets for cotton, the value of slavery was such as to arrest emancipation, how must the obstacles be increased when they had the monopoly of the markets of the world?

King Cotton cared not whether he employed slaves or freemen. It was the cotton, not the slaves, upon which his throne was based. Experiments made to increase the production of cotton, by emancipating the slaves employed in its cultivation, had been a total failure. It was his policy, therefore, to defeat all schemes of emancipation. The venal politician was always eager to bend the knee to his call, and assumed the form of saint or sinner, as the service may demand.

But Jefferson said himself, speaking of a possible revolution in the fortunes of master and slave, "The Almighty has no attribute which can take sides with us in such a contest." But Lincoln observerd, "I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just and that His justice cannot sleep forever."




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Page last modified: 08-09-2017 18:22:06 ZULU