"THE human mind," said Professor Miller, of Glasgow, "revolts at a serious discussion of the subject of slavery. Every individual, whatever be his country or complexion, is entitled to freedom."
Whilst the above is true, and readily seen by minds always accustomed to free institutions, and never blurred by opposite teachings and customs, yet the history of the past tells us, that where institutions [traditions of men] have been made familiar by use, hallowed by time, and sanctioned by the highest civil and religious authority, the human mind may be induced to embrace and practice that which is opposed to the noblest feelings of our nature, and the plainest principles of natural justice. Under such influences, the mother has been induced to throw her smiling babe into the arms of burning Moloch; and the father to stand with approving silence by, whilst its infant shrieks, amidst devouring flames, were drowned by the hoarse voice of Tophet's drums, and the frantic yells of religious devotees.
By such influence among the nations of antiquity, renowned for learning, intellectual strength and sagacity, the arbitrary murder of the wife by the husband, the child by the parent, have been regarded as lawful, and praised by the deluded populace. Idolatry, theft, adultery, every sin forbidden in the decalogue [Ten Commandments], have in different ages been sanctioned by law, and practiced by the people, as consistent with right, and even praiseworthy. How true are the words so often quoted:
"Vice is a monster of such frightful mien,
As to be hated needs but to be seen;
But seen too oft, familiar with her face,
We first endure, then pity, then embrace."
With the above facts before us, it is not a strange thing that slaveholding, when [un]sanctioned by the law of the land, rendered familiar by every day's occurrence, practiced by kind and beloved parents, and by revered Christian friends; apologized for
by the pastor from the sacred desk, with whose name and labors are associated our very hopes of heaven; and last of all, enforced by the judges of our civil courts, with sacred book in hand;with all these influences, goaded on by hearts too full of covetousness, and too fond of ease, it is not strange that even slaveholding should be deemed at least tolerable.
Nor will it be deemed a useless work to frame a serious and extended argument, to remove teachings engraven by the highest human authority, and the dearest associations.
"Even the slave-trade," says [Abbé Henri] Grégoire [1750-1831], "has been a subject of discussion for more than twenty years in the British Parliament; and so distinguished for talents and sophistry have been some of its abettors, that a refutation of their false reasoning became highly useful, and even NECESSARY."
Clarkson tells us the same inhuman practice [tradition] was not only sanctioned by the laws of the land, in his day, but defended as a religious institution. Though this foreign slave-trade is declared by the American Government to be piracy, and punishable with death; and though domestic slavery is in nature, practice and crime, the same as the foreign slave-trade, (viz.: the robbing innocent men and women of their natural liberty,) yet so numerous are its defenders, and so distinguished for talents and authority are some of its apologists, that "a refutation of their false reasoning is highly useful, and even necessary."
Although there are a multitude of persons, who, after all this pro-slavery teaching, do not feel satisfied, and say that "somehow or other it is not exactly right," yet they cannot tell definitely where and how it is forbidden. This want of definite knowledgeof ready weaponsdeprives them of courage to attack. If they had the armor, there would soon be thousands of valiant soldiers in the fieldsyea, upon the sunny plains of the South-we mean soldiers engaged only in a moral warfare.
Also, there is in the South a vast amount of teaching like the following: "In olden times there were some practices [traditions], such as concubinage, arbitrary divorce, and slavery, which God 'winked at'tolerated. The apostles got rid of the first two of these practices [traditions], but saw fit to continue the toleration of the latter." Taking the former for grantedas true, many suppose slavery is one of the things to be tolerated.
And we believe all those books written by anti-slavery men, on the principle and on the admission that God did tolerate some antichristian practices [traditions], and among others slavery, unrebuked in the Church, yet inculcated principles opposed to them, and such as would eventually wear
them outall such books, and all such teaching, we believe to be erroneous, and wholly inadequate to the end [goal]the removal of slavery. In despite of the most labored arguments, the people will still say and believe, that if these practices [traditions] were not sinful then, they are not sinful now; if Christians might practice them then, they may practice them now: the circumstances of time and place cannot change moral right or wrong.
We need, then, a different kind of teaching. And it was in view of the above facts that a worthy President of one of our Southern colleges said to me:
"We need an anti-slavery manual, giving a concise yet comprehensive Bible argument showing slavery to be sin; and one that we can put in the hands of every man in the South."
As a citizen of the Southas one who has been born and reared in the midst of slaveryas one who has lived and labored along with slaves from infancy to manhood, and who has seen slavery in its workings from its northern to its southern boundary, I believe the words of that President to be true. Prior to this, because God in his providence had thrown my lot in the land of slavery, and made me acquainted with its workings, and the feelings of those involved in it, I felt called and had consecrated my life to the work of preaching the gospel of love to all men, designed to remove that common enemy of religion, of virtue, of knowledge, and of human happinessslavery.
In 1844, I delivered in outline the argument contained in the following chapters, to some of the citizens of my native countyBracken county, Kentucky. In 1845, I delivered the same in Lewis county, to the congregation to which I now minister. In 1846, by request, I sent the whole argument to the "True American," in which, in a series of numbers, the argument was published.
At the suggestion of some friends, I have revised these numbers, and collected them into chapters in their present form. And as the whole is designed to be a kind of manual for the aid of those who are desirous to gather truth and facts on the all-absorbing question, I have felt free, for the sake of enforcing the original plan, to make some extracts from authors which have appeared since the publication of the original numbers.
Our argument is chiefly a Bible argument; because,
1. We need to enlist the conscience. Said a late writer, "The more I see of slavery, the more am I convinced that whenever we move against slavery, we should do so from the consideration that it is sin against God. For," said he, "whenever we lose
sight of this fact, we lose our hold upon conscience." The loss of this is a great loss. Facts prove that it is conscience that has nerved the arm, fired the heart, and emboldened the soul in all great struggles for truth and liberty. It has given permanency, as well as potency, to action. So great is the desire for popularity, and the unwillingness to meet opposition, that unless we can get men to feel that they owe a duty to their fellow-man, the cause of truth, and of Godthat unless they move forward in behalf of the oppressed, their own souls cannot be unspotted from guilt; even the non-slaveholder is apt to "hear slightly" the cries of patriotism and philanthropy.
With the slaveholder, who has hundreds and thousands invested in his slaves, unless we can awaken his consciencelay the hand upon his soul and cause it to tremble for its future and immortal interests, we shall find it difficult, if not impossible, to convince him that it is his duty, and for his good, that he should make a sacrifice of his present interests, and "let the oppressed go free."
2. The Bible, in our country, is the standard of right. Its decisions are final. And there is not a judge upon the bench, nor a jury in the land, who will decide in opposition to what are the generally received teachings of the Bible. If these teachings or interpretations be wrong, they will decide with them, because they understand them to be the teachings of the Bible. If, therefore, the common interpretation of the Bible be wrong, then there is the greater necessity that a correct interpretation be placed in the hands of every manof every jurorthat his decisions may not only be made in accordance with what he shall suppose to be the Bible, but also with truth and right.
3. We appeal to the Bible, because the apologists of slavery also appeal to it, and, as we believe, by false interpretations, make it to support despotism of the grossest form. We wish to see it free from such perversions. We wish to make no new or foreign interpretations, but simply tear off the false glosses that have been placed upon it, that it may shine with its original purity and righteousness.
In this exposition we have indulged a little in verbal criticisms. This we have done because much of the pro-slavery argument in the South, at least in Kentucky, is interwoven with, or built upon Greek and Hebrew criticisms. And I know that many persons seem to think the pro-slavery argument is strengthened, by the fact that it is backed by such an array of learning. In order to the greatest good, it is necessary to meet this array of learning,
and by this means expose the deceptions, that no soul be deluded, and that the advocates of freedom may have their positions strongly fortified, and their confidence unwavering. In our criticisms, we have endeavored to present them so that the common reader will see their force and propriety.
In order that the evil of slavery may be fully seen, we have also incorporated some facts, showing the evil effects of slavery upon general intelligenceupon the domestic and social relations of lifeupon the efficiency of the Church, and the purity of religion.
Its corrupting influence upon the gospel calls loudly for the interposition of every voice in the landof every lover of virtue, and of all who love the salvation of the soul of the master, as well as the slave. The Bible teaches us that the sum and essence of all religion is supreme love to God, and equal love to our neighbor; that there is no religion without this. See Luke x.27; Matt. xxii. 37-40.
And it is delusion to hope that we love God when we do not love our neighbor as ourselves; for, "He that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?" (John iv. 20.) "And if ye love me, keep my commandments." (John xiv. 15.) The practical teaching of slavery is the opposite of all this, and yet it is alleged to be in accordance with the religion of the Bible.
The purity of religion, then, and the salvation of the soul, require us to speak. Silence is treason to Godtreachery to man. We honestly believe that the policy of those who keep silence on this subject, in order that they may not waken the prejudice of the master, and thus have "access to master and slave," is as ruinous in practice, as it is corrupting in principle.
The Word of God (1 Cor. vi. 10) says, "Drunkards shall not enter the kingdom of heaven." This, of course, means a deliberate and unrepenting drunkard. Now, suppose some individuals, or denominations, in order not to awaken the prejudice of drunkards, and to get access to them, should apologize for drunkenness, saying it was a patriarchal practice [tradition], as in the case of those good men, Noah and Lot; or, if they did not apologize for it, say, "We will be silentwe will go along and preach the gospel, [a part of the gospel they mean, limiting the Bible to "Jesus loves you"] and let these licensed [widespread] sins alone;" saying pervertingly, "Be subject to the powers that be." What would be the consequence of such a policy? Drunkenness would be multiplied all over the land, and drunkards would go to the Judgment bar deluded by false teaching. By such a policy the gospel would be lowered [debased] in its claims,
and deprived of its power to purify society [cause national repentance]be converted into a mere "conscience-plaster," quieting the inebriate in his lust, until at the Judgment day he beholdsO my God! too latethat he is still in his sins; and with anguish of soul, he cries, Farewell, heaven! farewell for ever!!
Now, reader, the same scripture (1 Cor. vi. 10) which says drunkards shall not enter the kingdom of heaven, says also, No EXTORTIONER shall enter the kingdom of heaven. That slaveholding is the worst form of extortion, few will deny. To be silent, then, is to teach men that they may live in the worst species of extortion, and yet go to heaven. It is to deprive the gospel of its power to remove such sins; leave the poor slave ground down in ignorance; and cheat the master out of the salvation of his soul.
|Ed. Note: Such lying clergy will then become seen as liars, and be killed by their own parents. And any who survive will be ashamed of their past, deny being clergymen, and claim to be agriculturalists. Zechariah 13:2-5.
But tragically, two-thirds of the people will be dead, due to having been deceived during their lifetime by such lying clergymen. Zechariah 13:8.
Such clergymen had suppressed, concealed, refused to preach, essential parts of the Bible.
Romans 1:18. Warning had been given to beware of
an alternative "gospel," Galatians 1:6-9
deceitful clergymen, 2 Corinthians 11:13-15.
This message was not being adhered to in the South, the "Bible-Belt." Here, Rev. Fee is giving examples of clergymen misleading their congregations, then on slavery, now on . . . .
Oh, the criminality of such a course! Will not the blood of souls be required at the hands of those watchmen who refuse to speak, to warn the extortioner from his way? His blood will I require at their hands. (See Ezekiel xxxiii. 8.)
And would it not be better that the South should be without a gospel ministry, than with one which corrupts the Word of God, and allows practices [traditions] which as effectually exclude from heaven as heathen darkness itself ? I believe it. Moreover, if the South had not a delusive gospel, which now gives a partial quietus to conscience, she would soon seek a pure gospel, or a whole gospel; for "all that a man hath, will he give for his life." Let churches go, rather than delude them with false hopes, and corrupt the very standard of right. Christ and his apostles often left, if men would not hear the whole truth. Then, as we desire the purity of the gospel, and the never-dying soul of the master as well as the slave, we must in faithfulness speak.
Did we do otherwise, you would say we are "hirelings who flee when we see the wolf coming." But the good shepherd, the true pastor will stand by the sheep, and raise the warning voice, because he loves the sheep, and fears his God. (John x. 12.) We are free to say, we believe there are good and conscientious men who pursue the policy of saying nothing about the sinfulness of slavery. But charity for the men should not lead us to overlook their practice [tradition], which we believe to be delusive and ruinous. With these views, to remain silent is to be unloyal to God, and unfaithful to both master and slave.
This, then, dear reader, is our reason for speaking against a sin [un]sanctioned by law, and practiced by men we love.
We have endeavored to speak in a spirit of love and kindness; for we know the difficulties of those involved in slaveholding.
|Ed. Note: Note additional anti-extortion references, e.g.,
Luke 18:11, and
1 Corinthians 5:10-11.
The commandments are not to be added to nor subtracted from, Deuteronomy 4:2 and 12:32. This concept follows from the "original grant," Genesis 1:28, p 116 infra. Adding is invariably extortion, as nobody is authorized to add; subtraction can lead to extortion. Both are precluded.
We know the biasing effect of education, of example, of interest, and of prejudice. We know, too, the anxiety of an awakened conscience on the question of human rightsthe enslavement of our fellow-men, the brethren of Christ, and the children of our heavenly Father. We know the solicitude of those who really wish to know what is truth on this question, which is now the great question in Church and State. We have, therefore, written such truths as were effective in awakening our own minds, with the hope that they may be found useful to others.
Reader, our interests are identified with yours; and we have no motive to say or do any thing on this subject, but such as is drawn from duty to God and man. About this subject we may honestly differ; yet let us have charity for each other, and a mutual expression of our honest convictions of truth; remembering that it is by the free expression of opinion that the landmarks of truth are advanced; that "truth has nothing to fear from error, so long as she is left free to combat it," and that freedom of thought and liberty of speech are natural and constitutional rights.
Importance of The Question
"COMPARED with slavery," said Dr. Fuller, of South Carolina, "all other questions that agitate the minds of men in the United States are really trifling." The great point to be settled in reference to this question is, whether it is in itself sinful. As the standard of right and wrong in our country is the Bible, our decision of this question must be made by an appeal to the teaching of the Bible on the subject.
But before we can call in the decision of the Bible, we must define what is meant by slavery, or what relation constitutes a man a slave. Much confusion on this subject has arisen from the want of correct definitions.
"The term slave," says Dr. Johnson, "is derived from Slavi or Slavonians, who were subdued and sold by the Venitians, and signifies one mancipated or sold to a master." Mancipation, on the same authority, is involuntary obligationslavery. The Latin mancipium, from which the word mancipated is derived, signifies, (1) property, or right of perpetual possession, as lands; (2) a slave.
A slave, then, is one who, without his consent, is held as property, before and after he is of ageduring lifetime; and that in such a manner that he may acquire nothing, possess nothing, nor do any thing either for himself, his wife, his family, his church, his country, his God, but [except] with the consent of his master.
And slavery is that relation in which unoffending human beings are, without their consent, made and held as property for lifetime.
That the slave is thus held, and is one in this relation is proved
1. By the laws of slave States. "A slave is one who is in the power of a master, to whom he belongs. The master may sell
him, dispose of his person, his industry and his labor. He can do nothing, possess nothing, nor acquire any thing but what must belong to his master." (Code of Louisiana.)
"Slaves shall be deemed, sold, taken, and reputed to be chattels personal in the hands of their owners and possessors, their executors, administrators and assigns, to all intents, constructions and purposes whatsoever." (See Laws of South Carolina, Stroud, p. 22.)
2. From similarity of tenure with other property, in all slave States. What we hold as property, we use and dispose of as weplease, without consulting the will of said property. So, the will, interest, happiness or duties of the slave may be wholly disregarded.
3. From claim of the master. He claims his slave, not as a hireling, child or ward, but as his property.
Involuntary Service Not Slavery
To prevent confounding the above relation with those which are lawful and necessary, I remark:
I. All who perform involuntary service for others are not slaves; otherwise, unwilling jurors, or those citizens compelled to fight for a season the battles of their country, would be slaves. Much error and confusion have arisen from defining slavery to be merely involuntary servitude. Involuntary servitude is a part of slavery, but not the whole of it.
Dr. Fuller and Dr. Rice, (in substance,) with many other apologists for slavery, have assumed Paley's definition"an obligation to labor for the benefit of the master, without the contract or consent of the servant," as a correct definition of slavery. If this definition be correct, then, as a child is under obligation to perform service for the parent without contract or consent, there would be no difference between the relation which a child sustains to its parent and the relation which a slave sustains to his master. But this is not true; for,
(1.) The relation of child to parent is natural. That of the slave to the master is not. Freedom is the natural state of all men, so soon as they attain the age of manhood.
(2.) The relation or obligation of the child to the parent is only during the years of minority; but slavery is for life.
(3.) The child receives more than an equivalent for his services; but the slave does not receive any thing like an equivalent. Slavery is continued only for the supposed profits of extortion. If masters had to give equivalents to their slaves, slavery would soon cease.
(4.) The child, in its natural relation, may never be sold. To
|Ed. Note: Full Citation: George M. Stroud (1795-1875), A Sketch of the Laws Relating to Slavery in the Several States of the United States of America (Philadelphia: Kimber and Sharpless, 1827)|
sell is an abuse of the relation. But slavery makes one adult man the property of another man, and therefore liable at all times to be sold, as other property.
Do you say, "The master may have the power to sell, but he ought not to exercise it; and if he don't, then there is no harm done in holding the man as a slave?" We reply :
(1.) If it would be wrong for the master to exercise the power, then it was wrong in us to give him the power. We ought to give no man a power which it would be wrong for him to exercise. We ought not to tempt him to evil.
(2.) The liability of the sale of the slave does not depend alone upon the will of the master. The law has made that slave property, and the law holds him liable to sale as other property, irrespective of the wish of either him or his master. If the master is in debt, becomes bankrupt, the law seizes tbe slave, and sells him to the highest bidderthe husband from the wife, the wife from the husband, the parent from the child. Or if the master dies, then the law divides these toil-worn slaves to the heirs of the master. And these heirs by law, may sell, or separate these human beings, just as they do the hogs and cattle of their father. They are by law made property, subject to all the liabilities of property.
Do you say, "Pass a law forbidding slaves to be sold and families to be separated?" We reply:
(1.) You would pass an abolition act; for no man would buy a slave or slaves when he knew he would be compelled to keep that slave, irrespective of what his character might prove to be, or irrespective of the numbers that might increase on his hands.
(2.) With such a law, slavery never could have had an existence, unless all enslavers had become practical kidnappers, seizing men in a state of freedom, and each master for himself reducing his fellow-man to a state of slavery, which, Dr. Rice says, "was an unrighteous thing."
(3.) Such a law would really destroy slavery, and convert it into something elsea mere bond-service.
There is a relation regulated by law, in which human beings are not only held to involuntary service for life, but also are held as other property, liable to sale. This relation differs from other relations, and is, therefore, correctly designated by a different and specific term. That term is slavery. And the relation above alluded to is slavery. But a relation in which human beings were simply required to labor during life for another, without the latter having power to sell the servant; this relation
would be a different thinga mere oppressive bond-service. But we did not set out to discuss bond-service. Slavery, then, is not mere obligation to perform service.* It includes property tenure in man for life.
Apprentices and Serfs Not Slaves
II. All hirelings are not slaves. This relation is (1.) voluntary; (2.) for the mutual good of the laborer and employer; (3.) the rights of man as man are regarded and secured.
III. All apprentices are not slaves.
(1.) This relation is entered upon only as a bond-service during the period of minority in which the law and guardian take the natural and necessary relations of parent.
IV. The condition of the serf or villein is not slavery. As a fixture, he is confined to the glebe, but he may not be individually sold and deprived of his home, nor his wife, nor his children, nor of religious privileges on the Sabbath. The relation is indeed oppressive, and the government which inflicts the oppression commits sin in so doing. And if slavery and the condition of the serfs were precisely the same, slavery would also be sin, because it is not a natural relation, and is a robbery of the most precious of all boonsliberty.
V. Slavery is not mere bond-service for a definite period of time. The Jew might sell [hire, contract out out] himself, that is, his services, for six years, or until the year of jubilee. Still this was not slaveryit was voluntary servitude. And the purchaser might not sell the man. He had only a claim to his services for himself and family. In like manner, white men in America have sold [contracted out] their services for a time.
Nor was the condition of the poor Jew, who was sold for theft, until his work should pay the fine, that of American slavery.
(2.) For the mutual good of apprentice and master. To the apprentice a full equivalent is given for services rendered. Not so with the slave.
(3.) His rights as man are all the while regarded and secured. The apprentice is never regarded as in person the property of the master. All the master has, is a claim to his services for the season of minority, or for a term of years. He may not hold the apprentice beyond the proper period for contracting the marriage relation, nor may he sell the apprentice. Thus with the apprentice the marriage relation cannot be violated, nor other social and religious duties be interrupted. To confound this relation with slavery is to be guilty of the grossest fallacy.
* In this respect we believe the Biblical Repertory, 1836, pp. 279, 293, 294, is defective.
This was the obligation of a criminal to perform service for a definite period of time.
Folly of Confounding Different Relations with Slavery
Both of the above cases differ from that of a slave, in that the service of the slave is the involuntary service of an innocent man for a lifetime.
Now different relations or conditions should always be distinguished by different terms. Propriety and justice require it. And as "a definition of any thing is that which distinguishes it from every thing else," slavery is not defined, until it is distinguished from every thing else.
Great confusion is made, and false impressions given, even by anti-slavery men, in calling the bond-service of the Mosaic economy slavery, when in reality it was something else. It was simple bond-service, in which children were bound [apprenticed] by parents until they should be "of age," and in the case of adult servants, they bound themselves for a term of years, as we shall show. And if it is insisted that these servants were placed in the hands of the Jew without their wills being consulted, we shall show that the Jew might not hold the servant soin involuntary servitude. Mere bond-service is not slavery.*
But slavery is that relation in which one innocent man, without his consent, is made, for lifetime, the property of another, or others. The slave is held in such manner that his person, time, labor, and all natural rights may be controlled by his master, irrespective of the wish of the slave.
The question then is, whether this relation is sanctioned by the Bible.
* A late writer, referring to some valuable articles which he had written, says: We have sometimes used the terms slave and slavery in the preceding discussion, but any one can see that the Mosaic servitude had none of the characteristics of modern slavery. Why then, we ask, confound things entirely dissimilar by using the same terms? As long as our [pro-slavery] teachers [fraudulently] call the Mosaic servitude slavery, the people will be likely to infer that it is what it is called.
Mr. Barnes has done the same thingcalling that slavery which his previous definitions show is not real slavery.
THE PROPHECY CONCERNING CANAAN.
THE primitive grant given in Gen. i. 26 does not sanction slavery. There we are told that God gave to man dominion over the fish of the sea, the fowls of the air, the beasts of the field; but over man he [God] gave him [mankind] no dominion.
A like grant was given or continued to Noah after the flood. Gen. ix. 2. But over man he had no dominion. But some, even ministers of the gospel, and judges of our civil courts, in their instructions to grand juries, in vindication of African enslavement, plead Gen. ix. 25: "And he (Noah) said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren."
The argument drawn from this passage is as follows:"The text declares that the Canaanites were to be cursed for Ham's sin. The curse to be inflicted was enslavement by the descendants of Shem and Japheth. "We, as the descendants of Japhetic are enslaving the Canaanites, and are therefore doing right."
In answer to this position, I reply: There is no proof that the Africans we are enslaving are Canaanites. The burden of proof rests with the affirmative; and inasmuch as they vindicate slavery, not on the ground that it is a natural relation, and necessary, but only on the ground of permission from God, they must show positively a permission from God, and then that these Africans among us are the people whom we are permitted to enslave by the authority of the above text. This cannot be done, while there is proof abundant that they are not the Canaanites. The Canaanites were Asiatics, living in the land of Canaan, and are the people who afterwards settled the islands of the Mediterranean, and are well known not to have been either in their physiognomy or color like our Africans.*
|Ed. Note: For background on the "original grant" conceptdating back thousands of years, to "Garden of Eden"Genesis 1:28 era and reaffirmed in Psalm 8:6-8 andHebrews 2:6-8, see e.g.,
p 10, supra, and
Rev. John Rankin, Letters (1823), p 100
Rev. Theo. D. Weld, Bible Against Slavery (1837), pp 28-30
James Birney, Bulwarks (1840), p 29
Lysander Spooner, Slavery (1845), p 14
Rev. Parker Pillsbury, Forlorn Hope (1847), p 8
Rev. John Fee, Non-Fellowship (1849), p 6
Rev. John G. Fee, Sinfulness of Slavery (1851), p 10
Edward C. Rogers, Slavery Illegality (1855), pp 28-33
Sen. Charles Sumner Barbarism (1860), p 132
Rev. Parker Pillsbury, Acts (1883), p 365.
The "original grant" was rulership, dominion, over the earth, fish, fowl, herbs, THINGS, NOT people. See also p 116, infra.
* Many seem to think the dark complexion and peculiar form of the negro are badges of Noah's curse, and that their [alleged] feeble intellects unfit them for freedomthat these are evidences that God designed the negroes to be slaves. We often hear these sentiments proclaimed among us from men in high places. On the subject of color, form, and intellectual capacity, see Appendix, letter A [not included here].
Again: Their language was as different from that of the people on the western coast of Africa, as the Hebrew is from ours, or ours from the Hottentot, or any Indian language.
But if we admit, what is not true, that the people we are enslaving are the Canaanites, still the text furnishes no justification of our enslavement of them; the text being only a prophecy, and a mere prophecy never justifies those who fulfil it; otherwise the Egyptians who oppressed the Hebrews,Ishmael, of whom it was predicted, "his hand will be against every man, and every man's hand against him,"Judas who betrayed Christ, and the Jews who crucified him, were innocent; for it was foretold that they would do these things.
Once more: The prophecy in the text has had its fulfilment long since:
First, in the subjugation of the Canaanites by the Jews, who were the descendants of Shem;
Second, by the Greeks and Romans, who were the descendants of Japheth, and now by the Turks; and needs not our enslavement of a different people to secure its fulfilment. Then, so far as this text is concerned, we have no more right to enslave the black man, than the white man.
|Ed. Note: The duty is to do what the law says, not merely copy what people do, are said to do, or predicted to do. The standard is what the law says, defines as within legal and constitutional limits. To find out what laws say, do not compare with tradition, with practice, with prophecy, with what people do. Read the law. Here is why:
Law is designed for a purpose. That is, it is
|what ought to be done is fixed by a standard . . . whether it usually is complied with or not.Texas & Pac Ry v Behymer, 189 US 468, 470; 23 S Ct 622, 623; 47 L Ed 903 (U.S. Supreme Court, 1903).|
A practice [or tradition] not based upon any rule of law [or Constitution] must be reversed and rejected, Biafore v Baker, 119 Mich App 667; 326 NW2d 598 (1982); The T. J. Hooper, 60 F2d 737, 740 (CA 2, 1932). Such "practice" must be superseded and ended.
|designed to disrupt nonconforming practice or behavior (even prophecied behavior), says U.S. v City of Los Angeles, 595 F2d 1386, 1391 (CA 9, 1979).|
THE next reliance, in defense of American slavery, is the practice [tradition] of the patriarchs.
Here it is assumed, first, that the patriarchs held slaves; and Gen. xiv. 14, xvii. 12, and other like passages, are plead as proof.
And second, as they were good men, and God did not openly censure their practice [tradition], therefore we may do as they did.
Meaning of Different Hebrew Words
In the first position, it is assumed that the word servant, bond-man and bond-maid, mean slave,one held as property, without his consent, before and after he is of age; whereas, the Hebrew word,
which is translated servant, like our word servant, simply denotes one who does service for another, without regard
to the time for which, or the principles upon which, he does service. The service may be voluntary, or it may be involuntary; it may be for a limited time, or it may be for an unlimited, time. The import of the word must be determined by the connection in which it is usedby historical facts, or by laws defining the servant's condition. A servant in Ohio, and a servant in Kentucky, may mean very different relations. The term +13 which we translate servant and bondman, "nowhere in the Scriptures of necessity implies slavery." So says Barnes. Like our word servant, it does not of necessity mean one held as property, without his consent, before and after he is of age.
Take, for example, Isa. xlii.1: "Behold my servant whom I uphold; mine elect in whom my soul delighteth: I have put my Spirit upon him, he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles," The word servant here is applied to Christ. Are we to infer, therefore, that he was a slave, doing compulsory or unwilling service, and held as an article of property, liable to barter and sale? Surely not.
Again, in 1 Kings xii. 7, we have these words of the counsellors to [King] Rehoboam: "If thou wilt be a servant unto this people this day, and wilt serve them, and answer them, and speak good words unto them, then they will be thy servants for ever." Here, and in verse 4th, preceding, was a declaration that the people, owning themselves and their property, and as free as we are, would voluntarily labor for the good of [King] Rehoboam, if he would for them.
The subjects of [Kings] Saul and David, who paid a tribute or tax, were called servants; see 1 Sam. viii. 17; 1 Chron. xxi. 3. Once more, see Joshua ix. 23: "Now, therefore, ye are cursed, and there shall none of you be freed from being bondmen, and hewers of wood and drawers of water for the house of my God." The word bondmen here, has been quoted as evidence that the Gibeonites were slaves to the Israelites; that they held the Gibeonites as individual property, with absolute control. But we shall show that even bondman here does not mean a slave. For if we read Joshua x. 1-5, Ezra ii.70, 2 Sam. xxi. 1-14, we learn that the Gibeonites were not the individual property of the Israelites, owned and controlled by individuals, but that they as a people lived as a distinct tribe or nation, having their own property and families; and as a tax, or revenue to the house of God, a part of them, the Nethinims, (those who did the temple service,) were required to do a certain kind and amount of labor "for the house of my God." Even these Nethinims, who were the part of the
Gibeonites doing the temple service, lived in their own cities; see Neh. vii. 73. Thus we see their bond service [taxpaying via a "draft"] "was a requirement of the law [special one-time treaty], that they should perform a certain amount of labor for the house of Godnot for individual Israelites.*
[It was] A service like to that which we may be required to pay to our government in military service; or that which subjugated nations pay as a tax to their king, or similar to that which the people of England pay to the Established Church, only it was paid in labor. Bush, in his Notes on Exod. xxi. 2, says:
"The word servant is applied to the serving of worshippers, of tributaries, of domestics, of Levites, of sons to a father, of subjects to a ruler, of hirelings, of soldiers, of public officers, &c. And to interpret it slave or to argue, from the fact of the words being used to denote domestic servants, that they were made servants by force, worked without pay, and held as articles of property, would be a gross and gratuitous assumption."
Then the mere fact that the patriarchs had servants, does no more prove that these servants were slaves, than the fact that a farmer in Ohio has a body of servants [employees] in his employ, proves that they are slaves. More will be said on this when we come to the Mosaic institution [pp 30-72], where servitude was regulated by the law.
But secondly, it is maintained that the patriarchs not only had servants, but servants bought with money; and these must have been slaves. We reply, that to buy in the days of the patriarchs and Mosaic institutions, as it has been with us, did not give absolute ownership, or unlimited control, in all cases. The word buy in English, and (18 in Hebrew, which is the word we translate "to buy," are modified, or limited in their signification, by the laws of the land where they are used, and the subjects to which they are applied. See Biblical Repository, April No. 1844, page 308.
Examples in illustration of this rule. When a Jew or stranger bought a piece of land under the Mosaic economy, that Jew or stranger had not absolute ownership or unlimited control. He
* Though that service was not slavery, its requirement was without divine sanction. God had commanded the Israelites to slay every thing in the land of Canaan. But because the "Princes of the congregation swore unto the Gibeonites, that they would not destroy them;" yet as these Gibeonites had lied unto the princes, Joshua and the princes required a tax of bond service of them, to the house of God [Joshua 9:3-27]. Yet we are told that this whole transaction was without "counsel from the mouth of the Lord." [Joshua 9:14.] Indeed, contrary to his previous command. So [Rev. William H.] Brisbane in loco. So there was no authority for exacting this bond service.
had the use of the land, until the year of jubilee, when it reverted to the original owner. See Lev. xxv. 24. Such, doubtless, was the tenure in man. By the law, his service was secured until the year of jubilee, when all went out free. See Lev. xxv. 10: "Ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land, and to all the inhabitants thereof: ye shall return every man to his family." When a Hebrew servant was bought, the master had not absolute or unlimited control, but simply a claim to his services for six years; see Exod. xxi. 2.
So with us, when immigrants to this country are sold [hired out] for their passage money, they are sold for a definite period of time, and the man who buys them has a claim upon their services for a few months or years; then they are free men, having all the while their natural rights protected. The immigrant received an equivalent for his labor, and when the stipulated service was performed, he went free, though he had been bought. He received his price or hire himself and that beforehand, and was therefore said to be bought.
Boaz bought Ruth, (Ruth iv. 10;) Hosea bought his wife, (Hos. iii. 2;) Jacob his; but it does not follow, that because these were bought, they were, therefore, held as slaves.
Nehemiah and his brethren bought some of their brethren from the Persians, (see Nehem. v. 8,) but they were not held as slaves, though bought. We learn from the record, that they were restored to freedom immediately: moreover, the law would not permit them, they being Jews, to be held longer than six years; see Exod. xxi. 2. Though bought, they were not held as slaves; nor is there a particle of evidence that the servants of patriarchs were held in involuntary servitude, a day after they had attained the age of freemen. It is wholly an assumption for men to say they did. It cannot be proved, and the burden of proof lies with those who take the affirmative. Neither the word servant nor the word buy, proves that those doing service for the patriarchs were slaves. "Nothing but historic facts and laws defining the condition or relation of those doing service, can prove that they were slaves." (R. Bishop, D.D.)
Now, having shown the signification of the word buy, even admitting that the patriarchs might, or did buy children of their parents, still, in the absence of all proof to the contrary, it is fair to infer that the patriarchs followed the general custom of the world by giving liberty to man when he attained the age of a freeman. If they bought adults, there is no proof that they bought of a third person, for servants might, and did sell themselves, (Lev. xxv. 47)agree [contract] to perform service for a given term of years.
One more text remains to be noticed. "And Abraham took Sarah his wife, and Lot his brothers son, and all their SUBSTANCE that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran, and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan." Gen. xii. 5. Although the term substance is here used to denote all their property, and a distinction made between their substance and the souls gotten or proselyted in Haran, some persons overlooking this distinction, have labored to show that these souls were held as property also, and that the Hebrew word %:3 means to purchase as absolute property.
The Hebrew word %:3, a form of which is here rendered "gotten" means to induce or prepare; and "gotten" is to be here understood in the same sense that a missionary of the present day "gets" another to go with him to India, or China. The word is here used in the plural form; and designates the persons whom Abraham, Lot and Sarah had proselyted, or induced to forsake their idolatry and go with them as a colony into Canaan; and as such were fit subjects to receive the "seal of the righteousness of faith."
"The word is used (Gen. ii. 2) to signify the finishing of God's creation. It expresses (Gen. v. 1) God's work in fashioning the man, whom he had created, according to his own image and likeness. It is used (Ezekiel xviii. 31) to express the work of regeneration or restoring, in a sinner, the lost image of his Maker. In the passage before us, it expresses the instrumentality of a prophet, and his pious wife and nephew, in the conversion of the souls whom they brought with them from Haran." (S. Crothers.)
The passage in the Targum of Jonathan is thus rendered: "The souls whom they had made proselyte in Haran." The Targum of Jerusalem: "The souls proselyted in Haran." [Saint] Jerome [340-420 A.D.], one of the most learned of the Christian Fathers, renders it thus: "The persons whom they had proselyted."
Menochius, who wrote before our present translation of the Bible, renders it, "Quas de idolatraria converterent:" "Those whom they had converted from idolatry." (Quoted from [Theodore D.] Weld's Bible Argument .)
|Ed. Note: Full Citation: Samuel Crothers (1783-1856), Strictures on African Slavery (Rossville, Ohio: Abolition Society of Paint Valley, 1833)|
The "souls gotten," then, means those whom they had induced to forsake idolatry, and go with them to the worship of the true God.
That the souls gotten could not have been slavespersons held as property without their consent, before and after agewill be clear from the facts which wo now proceed to notice.
And, 1st. The employment and situation of the patriarchs.
|Ed. Note: Full Citation: Joannes Stephanus Menochius (1532-1607), Commentarii Totius s. Scripturae, Ex Optimis Quibusque Authoribus Collecti (Lugduni: Francisci Comba, 1703)|
They were wandering shepherds, going from country to country, amidst hostile tribes, and having no more power than one man. They had no confederacies as we have. There was no league of States to oppress their poor as we have. They could not call to their aid the military power of a nation to suppress the first instincts of nature. They could not call to their aid the voice of the magistrate, the prison, the fetter, to restrain their fellow-man from efforts to be a man, and not a chattel. The servant could go where, when, and as he chose, just as a voluntary subject of one of the chiefs of our western wilds now can.
What would Abraham do with three hundred and eighteen trained or armed servants, led to Dan, the extreme point of the province? What would one of our Southern slaveholders do with three hundred and eighteen of their full-grown slaves at Buffalo, in New-York, or Detroit, in Michigan, with but a step between them and Canada? Think you they would be forced back to be the property of, and labor for the gain of a master who had no power to compel themwho could call no other force than that of a single individual to subjugate them? No! such would be contrary alike to reason and facts.
And could we look upon Abraham as the man "doing justice and judgment," (Gen. xviii. 19,) who would, either by his own arm, or by law, compel three hundred and eighteen of his fellow-men to go into bondage, and toil for his individual good, or that of his family? Would not this be selfishness in the extreme?
Away then with such charges of selfish oppression. I consider it a reproach alike upon the pious patriarch and upon that God whose darling attributes are goodness, justice, and mercy.
Circumcision of Servants
Second factproving that the servants of the patriarchs were not slavespersons deprived of personal ownership, without their consent, both before and after age: It is a fact that all males were circumcised; which, in the case of every adult, must have been voluntary, in order to be valid before God.
All must be circumcised. Gen. xvii. 13: "He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised; and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant." Exod. xii. 44: "Every man's servant [employee] that is bought [hired] for money, when thou hast circumcised him, then shall he eat thereof," i. e. of the passover.
Now, in every adult this must have been voluntary. (1.) From the very nature of the covenant. In this covenant he "chose the Lord to be his God;" and voluntarily agreed to be his willing servant, just as an individual, who now receives the rite
|Ed. Note: For more examples, see
Rev. John Rankin, Letters (1823), pp 76-79
Harriet Beecher Stowe, Key (1853), pp 115-116|
of baptism, if an adult, must receive it willingly, in order to be valid. In it he willingly chooses the Lord to be his God. No one would think of compelling an individual to be baptized, or to take the covenant, otherwise "it would be the seal of a lie," and "God abhors the sacrifice where not the heart is found;" yet the servant must be circumcised. The law, as seen above, required it; and if he was not, "that soul shall be cut off from his people," saith the Lord. (See Gen. xvii. 14.) Then the patriarchs could have none in their service, save those who were circumcised, and thus were incorporated into the Church of God; and this Church, from the very nature of its organization, might have none but willing members. If he should refuse to be circumcised and become a member of the Church, he must leave the patriarchs. He must, then, have been voluntary in his stay and in his services. If he had received circumcision when a child, then, when he had attained the age of accountability, he must voluntarily accept and acknowledge this circumcision; for "the God of Jacob would not accept the worship of any other than a willing heart."
(2.) The testimony of [Moses] Maimonides [1135-1204], one of the most celebrated of the Jewish Rabbins, who was called "the eagle of the doctors, and the lamp of Israel." He says: "If the master receive a grown slave, and he be unwilling, his master is to bear with him, to seek to win him over by instruction, and by love and kindness, for one year; after which, should he refuse so long, it is forbidden longer than twelve months, and the master must send him back to the strangers whence he came; for the God of Jacob will not accept any other than the worship of a willing heart." (Quoted in Stroud's Sketches, page 63, from Gill's Exposition.)
No Mention of Them as Property
Third fact. No mention is made of the servants of the patriarchs being considered as property.
Some suppose, from Gen. xxvi. 14, that Isaac had slaves. "He had possession of flocks and possession of herds, and great store of servants." Notice in the text, that whilst it is said he had possession of flocks, and possession of herds, it is not said he had possession of servants, but (Heb. %v9 %y"3) much service, or many servants [employees]; just as a large farmer in Ohio would have many servants; or as rich shepherds in Oregon, where their wandering life, amid wandering tribes, would forbid the possibility of holding men as property against their will. The servants of the patriarchs are often spoken of, when the greatness or strength of the patriarchs is recorded; just as the greatness
|Ed. Note: Full Citation: John Gill (1697-1771), An Exposition of the Old Testament in Which Are Recorded the Original of Mankind, of the Several Nations of the World, and of the Jewish Nation in particular; the Lives of the Patriarchs of Israel, the Journey of That People from Egypt ... Their Laws ... Their Government ... Their Several Captivities and Their Sacred Books of Devotion (London: George Keith, 1762)|
or strength of a king is spoken of, by noticing a list of his goods, together with the number of his soldiers. The mere fact that they were mentioned along with cattle, sheep, &c., no more proves them to have been property than quadrupeds, or without souls or reason. By the same mode of reasoning, in Exodus xx. 10, we should prove the man's wife to be his property, held like his ox. She was not property. He had no right to sell her. She was a companion, to him, and not to any other man. Yet she was not property, otherwise she might be sold as other property.
Where, as in Gen. xxxi. 16-18, Joshua xxii. 8, 2 Chron. xxxii. 27-29, wealth is alluded to, no slaves are enrolled as property. Whilst sheep, and oxen, and silver, &c., are recorded, servants are not mentioned.
No Record of Their Sale
Another fact showing that the servants of the patriarchs were not held as slaves, is this: No record is given of the sale or barter of a single servant, in the history of all the patriarchs. Nor is there any record of their being given away. Pharaoh, Laban, and others, living in heathen lands, gave servants to Abraham and others. But the example of idolaters is no rule for Christians. No record can be found of the patriarchs giving away their servants When Abraham gave gifts to Abimelech, he gave sheep and oxen, but no servants.
Some maintain, from Gen. xxiv. 36, that Abraham gave his servants to Isaac; yet in that same chapter we are told, in verses 34 and 52, that Eliezer was Abraham's servant, and not Isaac's. "I am Abraham's servant," says Eliezer. "And it came to pass," says Moses, "when Abraham's servant heard their words, he worshipped the Lord," &c. Now, when it is said in verse 36, that Abraham "hath given to him (i.e. Isaac) all that he hath," both Moses and Eliezer the servant must have known that he held no property in his servants; but that they were simply either hirelings, or persons bound for a season.
Again: We know he did not literally give a11 he had to Isaac, for in Gen. xxv. 6 we are told "he gave gifts to the sons of his concubines," "and sent them away." And if his servants were slaves, owned by him as property, with this last fact before us, the language in Gen. xxiv. 36 would not of necessity imply that Abraham gave away his slaves. If he had literally given all, then he would have had nothing to give to the sons of the concubines. But the first inference, that his servants were not regarded as property, and therefore not given away, is, we think, the correct view. If Abraham had considered his servants
as property, and lawfully so, why did he not take Hagar, when his wife became displeased with her, and sell hertrade her to some slave merchant? Why did he not do this instead of supplying her wants out of his own house, and sending her away to go whither she chose? If Abraham had considered the "bondwoman," Sarah's maid, as his slave, and her and hers his property, as some D.D.'s would fain make us believe, why did he not take Ishmael, the son of his bond-woman, and sell him to some slave-trader, instead of giving him "gifts and sending him away?" Gen. xxv. 6. Had he done so, is there a man living that believes he would have been styled, by a justice and mercy-loving God, "the father of the faithful,""the man doing justice and judgment?" No! no!
Nor is there any evidence that Isaac considered those who followed him from place to place, amidst hostile tribes, as property;not even so much as to give them to his sons. "Would Isaac transfer them to Esau, who had sold his birth-right?" Certainly not, says J. L.Wilson, D.D.
When Jacob went down into Padan-aram to seek his fortune, he went alone, and had to sell himself as a servant during seven years for his beloved Rachel. Gen. xxix. 20.
In the schedule of his property, when he came out of Padan-aram, no servants are mentioned. [Flavius] Josephus [37 A.D. - 100 A.D.] says that the handmaids of Leah and Rachel "were by no means slaves, but, however, [employees] subject to their mistress." Antiq. B. i. ch. 19, § 8.*
When he gave gifts to Esau his brother, he gave no slaves. When he went down into Egypt, he took no slaves with him, Dr. Junkin
|Ed. Note: Referring to George Junkin (1790-1868), The Integrity of our National Union, vs. Abolitionism: An Argument from the Bible, in Proof of the Position That Believing Masters Ought to be Honored and Obeyed by Their Own Servants, and Tolerated In, Not Excommunicated From, the Church of God: Being Part of a Speech Delivered Before the Synod of Cincinnati, on the Subject of Slavery, September 19th and 20th, 1843 (Cincinnati: R.P. Donogh, 1843)|
to the contrary notwithstanding. The souls that went with him were "the souls that came out of the loins of Jacob"his children and grandchildren. Gen. xlvi. 26, 27; Exodus i. 5. See also Relations and Duties of Masters and Servants, by J. L. Wilson, D.D., pp. 17, 18.
Case of Joseph
Fourth and, last fact. The patriarchs considered slavery morally wrongyes, sinful in the sight of God. And here we will introduce the testimony of Joseph, who had some personal
|Ed. Note: Full citation: Joshua Lacy Wilson (1774-1846), Relations and Duties of Servants and Masters (Cincinnati: I. Hefley, 1839)|
* And if these handmaids of Rachel and Leah had been slaves, the historic fact that Laban held them as such, before and when he gave them to Jacob as his concubines, was no more evidence that slaveholding was right, than that idolatry was right. We learn from the Bible that Laban was an idolater.
And if Jacob received these handmaids as slaves, and held them as such, this would be no more evidence that slaveholding was right or is right, than that concubinage was or is right; for Jacob had concubines.
experience in the matter. As a matter of complaint, a violation of his own rights, and guilt in those who had thus violated them, he says in the anguish of his soul,
He felt that to be taken without his consent and forced into bondage, though done by the common law of the land, was THEFT,a violation of his rights, which God by nature had given him; and all the sophisms of the world could not have convinced him to the contrary.
All the pro-slavery men of Egypt could not have convinced him that he was better off (when the wants of his body only were supplied,) than in a state of freedom. He had a soul to be fed as well as a body,a soul which, like that of every other man, by nature hungered and thirsted for liberty.
|"I indeed was stolen away out of the land of the Hebrews; and here also have I done nothing, that they should put me in the dungeon." Gen. xl. 15.|
What cared he for the luxuries of Pharaoh's table, when he could not take the wonted fare of frugal industry, spiced with the sweets of liberty?
What cared he for the splendor of Pharaoh's courts when the plains of Judea could not be roamed in innocency, and the tent, where dwelt a pious father, lived in his remembrance?
What cared he for the pageantry of Egypt's temples, where was worshipped in unmeaning ceremony the spotted calf, whilst the smoke of Hebron's altar was unseen, and the worship of God under his own vine and fig tree denied him?
"Hog and hominy" was not a compensation for liberty. There was to him no equivalent for plundered rights and lost manhood. And I venture the declaration that if some of our advocates for slavery, who, with Bible in hand, learnedly and sanctimoniously plead for oppression, were for a season, like Joseph, deprived of their libertytheir wills made to bow to the wills of others, and their bodies to toil for the luxury, the ease or gain of another, liable to be imprisoned by the whim of a woman, or torn from their homes by the cupidity of manthey would soon learn whether slavery is morally wrongwhether a man in enslaving can "love his neighbor as himself"whether he can do unto others as he would they should do unto himin a word, whether the Bible condemns slavery or not.
Not only did Joseph believe slavery to be wrong, but his brethren who detained him and sold him into bondage believed they had sinned against Joseph and against God, (not merely against their father,) when they said "one to another, We are GUILTY concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul, when he besought us, and we would not hear; therefore is this distress come upon us." Gen. xlii. 21. "What shall we
speak? or how shall we clear ourselves?" "God hath found out the iniquity of thy servants." Gen. xliv. 16.
"We are guilty concerning our brother." What! guilty, when they had placed him in a land where he was "better clothed and better fed" than in the land of his choice; and "better provided for" than he could do for himself? Yes, they were; for in so doing they had deprived him of personal ownershipthe foundation of all rights;his personal security, without which all others were comparatively useless;his liberty, the dearest of all rights. "We are guilty . . . in that we saw the anguish of Ins soul, when he besought us, and we would not." What! is it sinfula matter of guilt, to disregard the desires and entreaties of a fellow-being ? Yes, it is, when they are lawful, and we have ability to relieve; for "thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself," says God.
"God hath found out the iniquity of thy servants."
Yes, man may, before his fellow-man, whilst in prosperity, hide the conviction that slavery is wrong, and "go joined hand in hand with the throne of iniquity;" but when the hour of trial comes, and he is made to answer before God, then he will confess that slavery is wrong.
No other argument is necessary to refute the whole system of slavery, than this one case of the enslavement of Joseph. If it was wrong for his brethren to kidnap him, and if it was wrong for those Midianites and Egyptians to continue to rob him of his rightshis liberty, then it is just as wrong to continue to rob any other unoffending man of his liberty. We are all the children of one Father.
The second inference drawn from the [alleged] practice [tradition] of the patriarchs is, that "what they, as good men, did without open rebuke from God, we may do."
Now, if it were even really true that the patriarchs held slaves, the record of the historic fact, without any express disapprobation of it from God, would be no evidence that slavery is right, or that we may do as they did.
The historic fact that Abraham had two wives, without any expressed disapprobation from God, is no evidence that polygamy is right, or that we may do as he didhave two or more wives.
The historic fact that Abraham and Isaac practiced deception (the latter palpably lying) to Abimelech concerning their wives, without any express disapprobation from God, is no evidence
that lying was or is now rightthat we may now practice it towards our neighbors.
The historic fact that Noah got drunk, without any express disapprobation from God, is no evidence that drunkenness is right, or that we may do the same now.
Is the historic fact that the brethren of Joseph sold him to the Ishmaelites, and thus made a slave of him, without any express disapprobation from God, evidence that the sale of innocent men is right, or that brothers may sell their own brothers into hopeless and returnless bondage? No! is the response of every man. Yet, absurd as is the position, that we may do what the patriarchs did, it is the main argument of the apologists for slavery, as drawn from the [alleged] practice [tradition] of the patriarchs.
If, then, we will justify slaverythe robbing of innocent men, women, and children of those natural rights which God has given to one man as much as to any otherwe must show that such robbery is consistent with the eternal principles of justice and right,with the principles of that law of God by which we shall be judged. The mere example of erring men like ourselves is not sufficient.
If, then, it were even true that the patriarchs really held slaves, it does not follow that we may hold them.
ANOTHER Bible institution plead in defense of American slavery, is the servitude established by Moses amongst the Jews, as recorded in Lev. xxv. 44-46: "Both thy bondmen and thy bondmaids, which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen that are round about you; of them shall ye buy bondmen and bondmaids. Moreover, of the children of the strangers that do sojourn among you, of them shall ye buy, and of their families that are with you, which they begat in your land; and they shall be your possession. And ye shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them for a possession: they shall
SERVITUDE UNDER THE MOSAIC ECONOMY.
Argument from Lev. xxv. 44-46; Its Fallacy
be your bondmen for ever; but over your brethren, the children of Israel, ye shall not rule one over another with rigor."
The argument drawn from this passage is this: "God permitted the Jews to enslave the heathen around them. What he permitted to the Jew is lawful to us; therefore we may enslave the Africans."
In replying to this very popular argument, we shall notice
I. The points in the text relied upon.
I. The points in the text relied upon, as proof that the Jews by God's permission held slaves. They are (1.) The word "BONDMEN." (2.) "BUY." (3.) "INHERITANCE and "POSSESSION." (4.) "FOR EVER."
Do these prove the existence of slavery!
The term "bondmen" does not, as may be seen,
1st. By those passages of Scripture collated under that term in our third chapter. By examination of those passages, every reader of English may see, that the term is applied to the Gibeonites; a people living in their own cities, owning themselves, having protection of person, property, and character, for the defense of which they made alliances with Israel against their enemies. A portion of their males were required by law to do a certain kind of service for the temple, "the house of my God." The persons set apart for this work were called Nethinims. The nation or people, required by law to furnish these laborers, were called bondmen. (See Josh. ix. 23.) The term bondman, then, does not. necessarily denote a slave, but one bound by law to the performance of labor; and generally for a definite or fixed period of time, as six years, or to the year of jubilee. The term, as often used in the Bible, is similar in its import to our term bound boy, or bound girl. The term may be applied to one required by law to perform military duty for the good of the nation, or to the man in Europe who may be required by law to support the Church, or house of God.
The term bondman, as used even to denote the service of the Hebrews in Egypt, does not mean slave. The Hebrews there, save Joseph when first sold, were not slaves; they were not the individual property of the Egyptians. As subjects of government, an oppressive tax in labor was required by law of the
II. The nature of the servitude instituted.
III. The design of the institution.
IV. The people to whom it was permitted.
Proofs That Bondmen Were Not Slaves
|Ed. Note: See also Harriet Beecher Stowe, in Key (1853), pp 115-120.|
male Hebrews. The proof that even they were not slaves is
(1.) They dwelt as a separate people in the land of Goshen. See Exod. viii. 22; Gen. xlvi. 34. They were not the property of individuals, as our slaves are. They owned themselves, their wives and children, and lived with them in separate families. Exod. xii. 7-22; Acts vii. 20; Exod. x. 23.
(2.) They owned "flocks, and herds, and very much cattle." Exod. xii. 32-38.
(3.) They had officers, and framed State or national laws peculiar to themselves. Exod. v. 19, xii. 21.
(4.) Their elders seem to have had command of their own time, as they collected from time to time to deliberate upon national affairs, and went in associated capacities to negotiate with Pharaoh. Exod. iii. 16, iv. 28.
(5.) Their females doubtless had their own time, and employed it in their own domestic affairs. When Pharaoh's daughter would procure a nurse for Moses, she hired a Hebrew woman, saying, "Take this child away and nurse it for me, and I will give thee thy wages." Exod ii. 9. These facts, with others that might be enumerated, prove that their bond service consisted simply in a requirement by law that their males should pay an oppressive tax in labor [cf. the modern military "draft"], just as the subjects of the Pasha of Egypt now do, only it is not so grievous as was that of the Israelites. But note this: even for this oppression, which was not so great as that of the Africans in our country, (for here a man may not own himself, the wife of his bosom, or child of his body,) God heard the cry of his people, and avenged their wrongs, with fire that played in their pathway, with blood that rolled in their rivers, with death that brooded in their chambers. And would God teach that people, whose memories were yet fresh with the visitations of his wrath upon the oppressor, to institute a system of bondage still more gallingone that would reach even to the soul? Believe not, reader, that he designed that the word bondman, as here used, should denote a slave.
2d. Every reader of the original Hebrew knows that the word +13, ebed, a form of which is here rendered bondman, is generally translated servant, and denotes one who performs service for another, without regard to the time for which, or principle upon which he does service. The word +13 servant alone does not determine the nature of the servitude; for it may mean
(1.) One who performs of his own choice a willing service for God; as, Christ for God. Isa. xlii. 1.
(2.) Those voluntarily doing service for their fellow-men, yet owning themselves. See 1 Kings xii. 7; Ex. xxi. 5.
(3.) Those who pay tax or tribute for the support of government. See 1 Kings xii. 7; 1 Sam. viii. 17.
(4.) To designate military officers, see 2 Kings v. 6; yet from the first verse we learn that he was captain of the host of the king of Syria.
(5.) As a term of respect, like our word " Sir," "Humble Servant;" as in Gen. xliv. 24 and xlii. 10. Yet Jacob and his sons were residents of another country; not even the subjects of the Egyptian government; much less the property of any individual.
(6.) Those who are deprived of personal ownership without their consent, before and after ago, those who are slaves, as in the case of Joseph. Gen. xxxix. 17.
(7.) And, lastly, those who, as in Josh. ix. 34, are required by law to perform service for the house of God, yet owning themselves, having personal protection, protection of property, character, all absolute rights,paying only, like other subjects, a tax or revenue.
The connection in which the term is used, the nature of the subject to which it is applied, or the law of the land, only can fix the import which is to be applied to it. It may be asked, then, why have our translators translated the word +13 by the term bondman? We answer, from the connection, they saw the service to be rendered was fixed, or regulated by law; but not, therefore, slavery, as we have already seen.
The term may be used also to distinguish the relation of the +13 (ebed) from that of the +*1: (sakir) or hired servant. Much has been said about these terms being used in the Bible in contradistinction; and the difference between them has been inferred to be the relation of slave and hireling, or freeman. That there was a difference, and an important one, no man denies. But that that difference was the relation of slave and freeman, we do deny, There was a difference.
(1.) The +*1: (hired servant) labored during a period, fixed not by law, but by special contract. He seems not to have engaged longer than a day, or at farthest three years. See Deut. xxiv.14, 15; com. Isa. xvi. 14.
(2.) He was paid daily, or at short intervals. Deut. xxiv. 14, 15.
(3.) He had no connection with the family where he labored, and might be uncircumcised. Exod. xii. 44, 45.
The relation of the +13 might be entirely different, though not that of a slave.
(1.) His term of service (when that service was not the punishment of theft*) was fixed by law at six years, or it might be until the year of jubilee, as seen in Exod. xxi. 2; Lev. xxv. 54.
(2.) Instead of daily wages, he received a sum agreed upon at the beginning of his engagement. This was called "the money of his purchase." See Lev. xxv. 51. If a minor, the money probably went to his father. See Exod. xxi. 7. He received also a home, food, and clothing. If he left at the end of six years, he was furnished liberally out of the flock, the floor, and the wine press.' Deut. xv. 14.
(3.) He was circumcisedbecame a member both of his master's family and of the Church of God. This was the condition of becoming an +13. See Exod. xii. 44, compared with verse 48. Thus he became a Jewwas "made a Jew," and became entitled to the privileges of a Jew. See Esther viii. 17.
A bond servant, then, is one whose time of service is fixed by law. The master may have only a leasehold title to his service, for a given time, as with our bound boy or bound girl.
The Word Buy
We now notice the word "BUY." For the import of this word we again refer our readers to our third chapter, where it is examined. The original word is %18 (kanah). Its primary signification is to procure, to obtain. The law of the land, and nature of the subject to which it is applied, determine the nature of the tenure acquired. Using it in its primary sense, Eve said, (Gen. iv. 1,) "I have gotten (?(?#8) a man from the Lord." She accordingly named him Cain, (=?P8H,) that is, obtained, acquired. But we do not understand that she paid a price, nor that there was a transfer of ownership, nor that Cain was held as property. Again, Prov. xv. 32: "He that heareth reproof, getteth ((#*8) understanding." Here there is not a transfer of ownership. The nature of the subject forbids it.
Again, it is used to denote a leasehold title to service, for a given period of time, as in Exod. xxi. 2: "If thou buy or procure ((#8;) a Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve, and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing." Here the law of the
* The Hebrews, as we do, graduated penalties according to the magnitude of offence. Theft of an ox was punished with a greater penalty than the stealing of a sheep. Hence, when one was sold for theft, it was until bis services should bring the amount required.
land limits the acquisition to a leasehold title during six years. "He was not to be held as a possession, but a mere temporary subject." "You own not the man, but his service, for a limited period."
Also, Lev. xxv. 4754. Here was a tenure of service until the year of jubilee; and the servant sold himself, or his service, until the year of jubilee. Let the reader turn to the passages and read for himself. Now this leasehold service, for a definite period of time was the service bought by the Jews, of the "heathen round about them." And this is the signification of the word (+13) buy, as used in the text under consideration.
The word is also used in a secondary sense, to denote transfer of ownership and absolute control; as in Gen. xlix. 30, where Abraham is said to have bought the field and cave of Ephron the Hittite; and also where the people are said to have bought corn of Joseph. In the latter case the nature of the subject admitted the transfer of ownership; and the laws of the land did not limit the manner of use or time of ownership.
But, as we shall see, they did restrict both in the case of the $,7servant. Then the form of %18 (kanah) used here (y#8A~) should be rendered according to ite primary importprocure. And the reading of the 44th verse is this: "Both thy servant men and servant maids shall be of the heathen round about you; of, or from them, shall ye procure servant men and servant maids." Or if we will use the word buy, then we must use it as it is used in Exod. xxi, 2, and other places, denoting leasehold titlea claim to his service for a definite period. We use it so, when we say we have bought an Irish emigrant, who was too poor to pay his passage money. We have simply a claim to his service, until he shall have rendered an equivalent for the money we have advanced.
We next notice the words POSSESSION and INHERITANCE.
"Ye shall take them for a possession." A living divine says this word is "invariably used to signify ownership in landed estate; not transient, but permanent possessions." Now, we shall show, from the Word of God, that it is not so.* We do not
* The same author (Dr. Junkin) says the word, as here used, denotes perpetuity of property in man. And yet in immediate connection, he says, "I have not said it is right to hold man as property. Neither," says he, "as I suppose, has God affirmed it to be right. All I affirm is, that God's law has permitted it to Israel."
Reader, do you believe God would permit, and incorporate into an established law for his people, what he knew to be wrong? For if it be
deny that possession, when applied to land, houses, and the like, denotes property tenure, and may designate absolute control.
Neither the term possession nor inheritance always denotes property possession. See 2 Sam. xx. 1: "We have no part in David, neither have we inheritance in the sons of Jesse. The word translated inheritance means, they would have no interest in or connection with David, or rather his son Rehoboam.
Again, the reader is requested to notice Isa. xiv. 1, 2, where the prophet, speaking of the return of the Jews from captivity in Babylon, says:
"The strangers (the Babylonians) will be joined with them, and they shall CLEAVE to the house of Jacob; and Israel shall possess them in the land of the Lord for servants and handmaids," &c.The truth declared here is, that many of the Babylonians would embrace the Jewish religionwould cleave to Jacob of their own choice, and to do so would have to become members of Jewish families, and be circumcised; "would be induced to become proselytes, to be willing to accompany them to their own homes and to become their servants there." See Barnes' comment on this passage.
Here POSSESSION denotes the willing or voluntary service the Babylonians would render to the Jews, and thus become willing "captives," or subjects to those who were once in bondage to the Babylonians. Here the Jews did not literally capture these strangers and compel them to involuntary servitude; but these strangers "clave unto Jacob."
>> Possession, then, may denote the interest which one person may have in the voluntary service of another, and that not of a slave or chattel. Remember this.
Once more, under this head, see Gen. xlvii. 11:
|Ed. Note: Full Citation of Rev. Dr. Albert Barnes' book: Inquiry into the Scriptural Views of Slavery (Boston, Philadelphia: B. Perkins; Perkins & Purves, 1846)|
"And Joseph placed his father and brethren, and gave them a possession in the land of Egypt."
In what sense had they possession in the land of Egypt? Answer: In the sense of having it to live in or use for a season, as the connection teaches us. In verse 4, they (the brethren of Joseph) said unto Pharaoh, "For to sojourn in the land are we come." Not literally to possess the land of
"not right," it must have been wrong. The Doctor says, God has no where sanctioned slavery, but that he tolerates slavery. "Now toleration," says he, "implies that the thing is viewed as an evil;" and yet he claims that the evil should be permitted in the Church of God. See pamphlet, pp. 38, 43, 71.
For a full exposition of the Doctor's false positions and false reasonings, see a review of his pamphlet on the subject of slavery, by Rev. T. E. Thomas, of Hamilton, Ohio.
Pharaoh. And Pharaoh said to Joseph, "The land of Egypt is before thee; in the best of the land make thy father and brethren to dwellnot possess. Here their possession consisted in the use of the land, as a place to sojourn, and procure sustenance.
So the possession of the Jew consisted in the USE OF THE SERVANTa claim to his [contract employee] service for a definite periodnot a literal property tenure in his person. This we think will be clear to any mind by noticing Lev. xxv. 45:
"Moreover, of the children of the strangers that do sojourn among you, of them shall ye buy [hire], and of their families that are with you, which they begat in your land; and they shall be your possession."
By reading the first part of the chapter, you will see that this law was prospective of. what the Jew should do when he entered the land of Canaan. At that time strangers would be dwelling in the land with families born there. They would become property holders, and might even buy [hire] a Jew, (Lev. xxv. 47,) and there was "one manner of law for the stranger as for the Jew." Lev. xxiv. 22.
Now who sold these free property holders, with their rights equally protected with those of the Jew? The Jew dare not seize him and sell him. This would be punished with death, as we shall hereafter see.
There was no power to sell these strangers dwelling iin the land of Judea, but their own. Evidently then they sold their service for six years, or to the year of jubilee. Yet this voluntary service is called a possession, in the same verse. This is a strong point, and there is no escaping it; for the Jews as certainly were to procure their servants [employees] from among the strangers living and born in their land, as from the nations around them.
Should the purchaser [supervisor] die before the time expired, then the [employee] servant or stranger would continue to serve the children or family of the Jew, until the amount of service contracted for should be rendered. The phrase, "inheritance for your children after you," includes also the idea that generation after generation, the descendants of the then living Jews should procure their servants [employees] from amongst these strangers. And thus he would become an inheritance to the children.
"Possession and inheritance," here, evidently mean the service which the Jews would regularly procure from those Gentiles around them and amongst them; the Gentiles or strangers voluntarily rendering it.
Other writers suppose that Moses, by saying to the Jews, "they shall be your possession and inheritance," meant simply this: "Your supply of service, to you and your children, shall continually be from the strangers among you and the nations around you." This view will not be con-
tradictory to the aboveis only another mode of expressing it, and as we shall hereafter see, will suit the contextthe subject matter about which Moses was speaking.
It has been stated, that a possession did not go out at the jubilee. This is not true, as may be seen by examining Lev. xxvii. 16-21. If you doubt, read the reference.
The Word For Ever
Let us now notice the last point in defense of slavery, as drawn from the passage under consideration. It is the term FOR EVER. This is supposed to be a "clincher," and to fix, or teach the nght of perpetual property in man. Such is not the doctrine or duty here taught, as I hope to make plain to every reader. And whilst I shall address myself chiefly to the reader of English, yet I remark:
1. Every reader of the original Hebrew knows, that the words, as spoken by Moses, are these: "Always,""for ever with them shall ye serve yourselves,"('$"3~ 2%x .-3-) or "always ye shall serve yourselves with them." That is, as long as ye shall procure servants, ye shall precure them from among the heathen.*
2. Every English reader who has a copy of the Polyglott Bible, published by the American Bible society, can see in the margin most of the same correction. Then, if he will go back a few verses and notice the connection, he will see that this rendering or translation harmonizes with the subject about which Moses was speaking. He was not speaking about perpetuity of property in man, but ABOUT THE CLASS OF NATION OF PEOPLE FROM WHOM THEY SHOULD ALWAYS GET THEIR SERVANTS. Accordingly, he says:
"Both thy servant-men and servant-women, (or "bondmen and bondmaids,") which ye shall have, shall be of the heathen round about you""ye shall always serve yourselves with them: but over the children of Israel ye shall not rule," &c.;as though he had said, the heathen are the class of people from whom ye shall obtain your servants, for thereby they will be brought into the church, and made acquainted with the true God.
Reader, pause until the above truth is fixed in your mind. Let this truth be remembered, and the argument will always swing clearthe great difficulty be removed.
Again, we must see that Moses did not design to teach perpetual property in man, because
* Barnes, in his late work on Slavery, speaking concerning this text, says: "All that is fairly implied in this text is, that the permanent provision for servants [employees] was, not that they were to enslave or employ their brethren, the Hebrews, but that they were to employ foreigners."
(1.) Neither the master nor the slave could live "for ever," or perpetually. But does the objector say, "He meant by for ever as long as the master and servant lived?" Then I say that he, like Dr. Junkin, at once admits that for ever is here to be used in a limited sensethe point claimed in our next remark. And according to the argument of the objector, for ever may be limited, not merely to the year of jubilee, but to one day, or to six months; for the servant and master may both die within that time.
Year of Jubilee
(2.) Moses knew the jubilee would necessarily limit, and close the period of service of the servant; and could not therefore have meant to teach (even if his words were arranged as men generally read them) perpetual property in man. In the preceding part of the chapter [Leviticus 25], (verse 10,) we have the institution of the jubilee given by himself to the same people in these words:
"Ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land, unto all the inhabitants thereof; it shall be a jubilee unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return EVERY man unto his family." ((": -,-, to all inhabiting her; that is, the land.)
Now liberty being proclaimed to all the inhabitants thereof, and "every man returned to his family," how could any be held in perpetual bondage?
Nor is the phrase, "to all those inhabiting her," or "to all the inhabitants thereof," to be limited to Jews only, as some [pro-slavers] teach. The Bible usage of the word "inhabitants," means, most generally, all those living in a land or place, whether Jews or Gentilesland possessors or not. It is used often to denote all that dwell upon the earth.
Ps. xxxiii. 8: "Let all the inhabitants of the earth stand in awe of Him," that is, God.
Also, verse 14: "He," the Lord, "looketh upon all the inhabitants of the earth."
Again, it is used to denote Gentiles as well as Jews, inhabiting the same land. 1 Chron. ix. 2: "Now the inhabitants that dwelt in their possessions in their cities, were, the Israelites, the priests, Levites, and the Nethinims." Here the Nethinims, though Gentiles, were called inhabitants of the land. Barnes, in his work on Slavery, speaking of the import of the Hebrew word which in the text is translated inhabitants, says,
"The word is used in the Bible eleven hundred times, and there is no word which would more naturally embrace all that abode in a country from any cause whatever. Any dweller, any inhabitant, any one who resides in a place, any one who sojourns, any one who remains only for a short time, or any one who has
a permanent residence, would be embraced by this word."
The term then included all living in the land, and that were bound in any way to service.
(3.) Another fact, proving that the Gentile servants went out at the jubilee. Every one becoming an $,3, or bond servant had to be circumcised. Gen. xvii. 13; Exod. xii. 44. In so doing, he became a Jew, (Esther viii. 17,) and entitled to the privileges of a Jew. See [Augustin] Calmet [1672-1757], Art. "Proselyte."
Drs. Lardner and Jennings believe there were none who could with propriety be styled proselytes, save those who fully embraced the Jewish religion.
|Ed. Note: By Augustin Calmet: Dictionnaire Historique, Critique, Chronologique, Geographique et Litteral de la Bible (Paris: Chez Emery, 1730); transl. Dictionary of the Holy Bible: Historical, Critical, Geographical, and Etymological: With an Ample Chronological Table of the History of the Bible, Jewish Calendar, Tables of the Hebrew Coins, Weights and Measures (Charlestown [Mass.]: Samuel Etheridge, 1812; London: C. Taylor, 1823; Boston: Crocker and Brewster, 1832; London: Holdsworth & Ball, 1835), etc.|
"These engaged themselves to receive circumcision and to observe the whole law of Moses. Thus they were admitted to all the privileges of the people of the Lord."Watson.
"Foreign servants, as well as Hebrew servants, were to be initiated into the Hebrew religion; and, when willing, they were to be received as members of the Hebrew community; and thus received, they were entitled to all the privileges and immunities of native Hebrewsfor there was to be but one law for the converted stranger and the native Hebrew."C. E. Stowe, D. D.
Would these proselytes, these adopted Jews bo defied the privileges of the jubilee? Would it not be a solemri farce to adopt these Gentiles into the church, and then cut them off from the privileges of the church?
Nor will it avail any thing to say,
"This release was a civil institution; and because the servant was brougbt into the church, and entitled to all the privileges of the church, it does not therefore follow that he was entitled to all civil privileges."
To this we reply,
[1.] we have already seen that this year of release secured freedom to all, and it matters not whether it was a civil or a religious institution. It put an end to servitudethe point now under consideration.
2. The institutions of sabbatical years and the jubilee were pre-eminently religious institutions, as certainly so as our Sabbath now is. The Gentile servant then, being adopted into the church, would be entitled to the privileges of the church. If the Jewish servant went out free at the year of release, the proselyte did also.
Again, the jubilee was typical. "The jubilee commencing on the great day of the atonement, typified the acceptable year of the Lord, (Luke iv. 18, 19,) the gospel dispensation." This is a general admitted fact with commentators. The atonement was typical of that atonement or propitiation, which was made for the "sins of the whole world." 1 John ii. 2. The glad sound of the liberty trumpets was a type of that gospel dispen-
sation, which is "good tiding of great joy to ALL PEOPLE." Luke ii. 10. Now, is this atonement and this gospel liberty offered to Gentiles as well as Jews? Every Bible reader knows it is. So was the sound of the jubilee trumpets to the Gentile servants, as well as to Jews.
One design of the jubilee, says Calmet, was to prevent perpetual slavery. Hear his words:
"The object of the jubilee was to prevent the rich from oppressing the poor, and from reducing them to perpetual slavery."[Flavius] Josephus [37 A.D. - 100 A.D.], who was a Jew and lived before the final destruction of the Mosaic economy, says that even the ear-bored servant, who in Exod. xxi. 6 is said to "serve for ever," went free at the jubilee. These are his words:
"If any one be sold to one of his own nation, let him serve him six years, and on the seventh let him go free; but if have a son by a woman servant in his purchaser's house, and if, on account of his good will to his master, and his natural affection to his wife and children," (not by force as we [southern slavers] do,) "he will be servant still, let him be set free only at the coming of the year of Jubilee; and let him then take away with him his
children and wife, and let them be free also."
And note this: all agree, even Dr. Junkin himself, that the woman serving the purchaser was a Gentile; yet not only did this husband, who is said to "serve for ever" go free, but this Gentile woman and her children; proving two points:
(1) that the word for ever is sometimes used in a limited sense; and
(2) that the Gentiles, as well as Jews, went out free at the jubilee.
By consequence Moses could not, in the text under consideration, have designed to teach perpetuity of property in man; but simply the class of people from whom they should procure their servants.
"The language which is employed in Lev. xxv. 46, 'they shall be your bondmen for ever,' does not of necessity imply that this refers to the perpetual bondage of the individual slave. It could not at all events be literally true, nor is it necessarily meant even that the individual was to be a slave till his death."
The same language precisely is used of the Hebrew servant who had his ear bored, yet we have seen that he went out free at the jubilee. If limited in the one case, it may be in the other.
The two following authorities are given by Barnes:
Rabbi Solomon says, "Thou shalt proclaim liberty to the servants whether the ear had been perforated with an awl or not, or whether the six years had not been completed from the time when they were purchased."
Maimonides [1135-1204] says, "The servant who was sick as the year of jubilee comes in, becomes free.
|When a servant who sells himself, or who was sold by the court," (this was done for theft, Exod. xxii. 3,) "made an attempt to escape, he was held to make up for these years, but he was set at liberty at the year of jubilee," "The year of jubilee made all servants free without exception."|
This, says Barnes, is the opinion of the most distinguished Jewish Rabbins, and in his book he gives the authorities.
Cruden, on the word eternal, says: "The words eternal, ever-lasting, and for ever, are sometimes taken for a long time, and are not to be understood strictly; as for example Gen. xvii. 8. "And in many other portions of Scripture, and in particular when the word for ever is applied to the Jewish rites and privileges, it commonly signifies no more than the standing of that commonwealth, or until the coming of the Messiah. Exod. xii. 14-17; Num. x. 8."
Gesenius says: "The term is often applied to the Jewish priesthood, to the Mosaic ordinances, to the possession of the land of Canaan, to the time of service to be rendered by a slave [employee]."
Parkhurst says that (2-&3 olam) for ever denotes "sometimes the period of time to the jubilee," and cites Exod. xxi 6, Deut. xv. 17, as proof.
The learned Bishop [Samuel] Horsley says: "The man is ignorant of Jewish technical terms, who does not know that the term for ever, as used in this text, (Lev. xxv. 46,) means no more than to the year of jubilee." Quoted by Thomas.
Then, take which reading we willeither our common version, as given by King James, or the reading as above given, (and found in the language in which Moses spake it,)we are forced in either case to use the word for ever in a secondary or restricted sense, denoting uniformity of custom, and limited duration. Such usage is common with us, and in the Bible. No phrases are more common with us than these:
"The Northern preachers are for ever harping on slavery."
"My relations in Ohio are always teasing me about my slaves."
"Such an one is for ever dabbling in politics."
"When I go to the city of , I always put up at the Broadway Hotel."
John Q. Adams is for ever troubling Congress with his abolition petitions."
In these, and like examples, we use the word for ever and always, denoting uniformity of custom [tradition] or practice, as long as the parties meet or live. So it is sometimes used in the Bible.
Thus, 1 Kings xii. 7. The counsellors said to Rehoboam, "the people will be thy servants for ever." Now the counsellors did not expect Rehoboam to live as king perpetually, nor that the people as subjects would live perpetually. All that any
man here understands by the term for ever, is that continually, as long as the parties lived or existed, the people would serve him. The case is a very clear one, and much to the point under consideration.
Again, 1 Chron. xxiii. 13, we are told that Aaron and his sons were set apart "to burn incense before the Lord for ever." Now, neither Aaron nor his sons lived perpetually to offer incense; and two of them, Nadab and Abihu, were consumed by fire from the Lord for their impiety. [Lev. 10:1-2; Num. 3:4]. What then is there meant by the term for ever? This, as every reader must clearly seethat continually, as long as they lived, this work should be their duty and employ.
Again, 1 Sam. xxvii. 12, Achan said concerning David, "therefore he shall be my servant forever;" that is, soldier in my employ; for, in ch. xxviii. 2, Achish said to David, "Therefore will I make thee keeper of mine head for ever"that is, my body guard. Here again, for ever means continually, and as long as the parties should live, David should thus serve Achish.
Once more: "Elisha said to Gehazi, The leprosy of Naaman shall cleave unto thee and unto thy seed for ever.'' 2 Kings v. 27. Now, we do not understand that the disease of leprosy would go with them into the "spirit world;" but that continually, and as long as they lived, it should be upon them.
So continuallyas long as the Jews existed as a nation, and did procure servants, they were to procure them from the heathen round about them. Whilst the above is true, this also is true: The primary signification of for ever is perpetual durationunlimited duration; and such we are always to understand when it is used, unless the nature of the subject to which it is applied, the connection in which it is used, or the [Bible] laws of the land forbid. Then, like other words, it may be restricted. This every scholar knows.
Now in the case before us, the connection, and laws of fhe land previously instituted, positively forbid that we should use it, save in that secondary, or restricted sense, so often used in tlie Bible. The connection shows that Moses was simply teaching the Jews the class of people from whom they should procure their servants [employees]; and the jubilee previously instituted, together with other laws defining the nature of the servitude, proves that Moses had no design here to teach absolute ownership, and perpetuity of possession in man; but this:
"Both thy bondmen and bondmaids [employees] shall be of the heathen round about you; ye shall always serve yourselves with them, for thereby the heathen will be profited by being brought into the church, and God glorified."
The institution was not a selfish system, securing the good of the Jew
at the expense of the heathen. The good was mutual; but especially was the good of the heathen servant secured. This we shall see, by noticing the nature of the servitude to be rendered.
II. NATURE OF THE SERVITUDE.
In deciding whether slavery was found in the Mosaic economy, we must keep distinctly before our minds what constitutes slavery. We must be careful not to confound slavery with other relations that are lawful and innocent. It is an abuse of language, and it is dishonesty in reasoning, to apply the same term to relations entirely distinct in nature and effects.
That only is slavery, as you saw in our first chapter, which includes involuntary service, and property tenure in man. Was this found in the servitude regulated and defined by the laws of Moses?
We answer, it was not. The servitude in the case of adults was entered upon voluntarily, and the purchaser [employer] had no property tenure in man, but only a claim to his service for a definite period of time, as men now  have in apprentices, or bound boys. Much depends upon sustaining this position, which we believe may be clearly and forcibly done.
The reader will be aided in seeing it by remembering that words and phrases vary in their import in different ages and countries.
We are now  in the habit of attaching the idea of absolute property to any thing which is said to be bought. But, as we have shown, in the days of Moses, as it used to be in our own country, when an individual bound himself by law to perform service for another for six years, or until the year of jubilee, this voluntary engagement was often expressed by the varied forms of the verb to buy. The servant [contract employee] who bound himself to perform service to certain periods of time for a certain amount, was said to be sold, and the master [employer] or man by whom his services were engaged, was said to have bought him; yet the servant was voluntary. Thus,
THE JEW SOLD HIMSELF.
Moses, speaking to the children of Israel, said:
"And if a sojourner or stranger wax rich by thee, and thy brother that dwelleth by him wax poor, and SELL HIMSELF to the stranger or sojourner by thee," &c. Lev. xxv. 4, 7.
Here the Jew engaged his services only until the year of jubilee, as you will see by reading the verses that follow. The Jew received [in advance] the wages due for his service; for if at any time, between that and the jubilee, he wished to redeem himself lie could do so by "giving again
the price of his redemption, out of the money that he was bought for." (v. 61.)
Again, in verse 39, we have the case of a Jew who sold himself to a fellow Jew. In our present translation the language is, "If thy brother that dwelleth by thee be waxen poor, and. be sold unto thee," &c. By the words "be sold," is to be understood that he "sold himself," for,
1. In the original Hebrew, the same word ($/# nimkar) is used which is used in verse 47, and there translated "sell himself."
2. He had committed no crime for which he should be sold by the judges; but was, like the Jew described in verse 47, poor, and wanted something for himself and familya home until the jubilee; and such he got, as the context shows. It is clear then, that the Jewish servant [employee] was voluntary in his servitude even when he was said to "be sold."
So, under the Mosaic economy,
THE STRANGER OR GENTILE SOLD HIMSELF.
In the same chapter from which we have been quoting (Lev. xxv. 45) will be found these words:
"Moreover, of the children of the stranger that do sojourn among you, of them shall ye buy [hire], and of their families that are with you, which they begat in your land; and they shall be your possession."
These strangers dwelt among the Jews just as Germans and Irish do among the native citizens of our Republic. They might become property holders, and even buy a Jew just as a Jew might buy a stranger; that is, his service [employment] up to a given time. See Lev. xxv. 47, as above quoted.
The property and liberty of these strangers were protected equally with those of the Jew.
"Ye shall have one manner of law, as well for the stranger as for one of your own country; for I am the Lord your God." Lev. xxiv. 28.
"Thou shalt neither vex a stranger nor oppress him;" and this enforced by the consideration, "for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt."
Exod. xxii. 21.
The strangers, then, were freemen, with their rights as well protected as those of the Jew; yet of, or from among these strangers, sojourning in their land, and born in their land, did the Jew buy or procure [hire] his servants [employees]. Now, who sold these freementhat is, their service to a given time? There was no power in Judea, as we shall see hereafter, aside from themselves, that dare do it. Who sold these freemen?
Will you try to evade the point by saying, it was the children of these sojourners that were sold to the Jew? Then we reply:
1. The proof lies with you.
2. If they were, then the Jew was required by law to circumcise the child. See Gen. xvii. 12. This made the child a Jew, "entitled to all the prerogatives of a Jew."Watson.
And as they had "one manner of law, as well for the stranger as for one of their own country," it is clear that this child, like the child of the Jew, and like a bound child in our land, went out free when it attained the age of a freeman. And there is no proof to the contrary. And we do not deny the right of a parent to place his child in a bond service. But,
3. The inference is as clear, that the phrase "children of the stranger," in this verse, means adult strangers, as that the phrase "children of Israel," in the next verse, means adult Israelites. And then, to settle all doubt, the verse explains itself, by telling us that these persons, designated by the phrase "children of the stranger," had families, which they "begat in your land." And as it is a thing unheard of for babies to have families, it is clear that by the phrase "children of the stranger" is meant adult strangers.
Then take it either way, whether the Jew bought parent or child, in neither case did he buy one who was already a slave. Many, even of those who are anti-slavery men, believe that those servants bought or procured from among the heathen, were, when first bought by the Jew, slaves, but afterwards became free by force of the Jewish laws and region.
Yet here is a case where the stranger was a free man, and as certainly sold himself (that is, his services [as employee] for a definite period of time) as ever a Jew did. Had these "strangers" or "sojourners" been slaves, they could not have either sold themselves, that is, their service, nor that of their families. Yet, from both these strangers and their families were the Jews to procure help or service. They must therefore have been freemen in order to sell themselves, that is, their service [as employees] for a given time.
I ask again, who sold these strangers? There was no power in Judea that dare do it. Flaming from Mount Sinai came the law: "He that stealeth a man, and selleth him, or if he be found in his hands, he shall surely be put to death." Exod. xxi. 16. [Deuteronomy 24:7]. "God's cherubim and flaming sword guarding the entrance to the Mosaic system."
But do you say this means that one man should not steal a servant or slave from another man? Then we answer:
1. It would have been written, he that stealeth a servant or slavenot, "he that stealeth a man."
2. The Hebrew word ("11 ganabh) is one that means, not merely secret purloining, but also open violence and robbery. It is
the word used in Gen. xl. 15, where Joseph says, "I indeed was stolen away out of the land of the Hebrews." It is the word that is used to designate the robbery of libertythe chattelizing of man.
[Rabbi Solomon] Jarchi [1040-1105], one of the oldest of the Jewish commentators, gives the import of this stealing and making merchandise of men, thus:
"Using a man against his will, as a servant lawfully (i.e. by human law) purchased; yea, though he should use his services ever so little, only to the value of a farthing, or use but his arm to lean on to support him, if he be FORCED so to act as a servant, the person compelling him but once to do so shall die as a thief, whether he has sold him or not." Quoted from Bush's commentary.
Involuntary servitude could not enter Israel by sanction of her [Bible vs. politician] laws. It was death to rob a man of his liberty, or even to hold him after he was robbed by others. Oppression in its slightest form was guarded against.
3. If the command had recognized the right of property in man by the master, and waa simply guarding the property of the master, then it would have demanded a different penalty. It would have atoned for the crime by requiring, as in other cases, a property punishment. It was a principle in the Jewish law, that where property was taken, the thief should return an increased amount of property; and if he had not the property, then he was to be sold until his services would pay the amount. See Exod. xxii. 1-3.
But where liberty was taken, and thus violence done to manhood and the image of God, then death was the penalty. When a man murdered his fellow-man, he robbed him of liberty; did violence to manhood, and the image of God. So, when he enslaved him, as he inflicted on him a like wrongrobbed him of liberty, did violence to manhood and the image of Godon the aggressor was indicted a like penaltydeath.
Here, whilst yet at the foot of the smoking mount [Exod. 19:18], where was heard the voice of the Almighty [Exod. 20:1], inscribed as it were upon the frontlet of the nation's existence, was the foundation truth, man as man owns himself. And as personal ownership is the dearest of all rightsthat in which all others inhere, it should be guarded by the severest of all penaltiesdeath.
By all then that was dear to a Jew in time and in eternity, he dare not seize the stranger, or rob him of his liberty. The stranger, then, must have sold himself.
But do you say, although the Jew might not seize the stranger and enslave him, yet he might buy those who had already been seized and enslaved by the nations around them?
We answer, the above command (Exod. xxi. 16) [and Deuteronomy 24:7] as
effectually excluded slaveholding as it did slavemaking. It punished the perpetuation of the crime with the same penalty that it did the beginning of it. Not only he that stealeth and selleth a man, "but if he be FOUND IN HIS HANDS, he shall be put to death."*
If the Jew had not first stolen himif some other had stolen him and sold him to the Jew, yet if this stolen man was "found in his hands "if the Jew was found guilty of perpetuting the crime, he was alike to be punished with death.
Now, this truth was consistent with reasonthe standard of justice the world over. The world has decided that the sharer or withholder of stolen goods is as guilty as the original thief. How would it lookoh! how would it look in the eyes of Justice, for Moses to make a law forbidding the Jews to steal horses, yet giving them another law allowing them to buy those that they knew were stolen.
That man owns himself the Jew knew; and fresh before his mind was the vindication of this sacred right, by that stretched-out arm of the Almighty, that scattered the corpses of the Egyptian oppressors like stranded wrecks upon the bosom of the Red Sea. [Exod. 14:28].
The Jew, then, no more dare touch a stolen man (that is, with intention to continue him in slavery) than he dare seize a free man, and enslave him. The participant would be just as criminal as the first perpetrator of the act. And it did not then, any more than now, require the wisdom of a Solomon to see it.
But do you again say, the slaves sold to the Jews were captives, taken in war by tho surrounding nations? To this we reply:
(1.) The position lacks one essential thing, and that is, proof. It is mere assertion.
(2.) This is only another name for kidnapping, or man-stealingis indeed the way slaves are now kidnapped on the coast of Africa. And the American people say it is piracya crime which they say, as the Jewish law did, shall be PUNISHED WITH DEATH. It is not, and never was right. And if the Jew did get
* The passage in Deut. xxiv. 7 is a specific law, having reference to Jews only, whilst the above is a general law, having reference to all men.
The position of Dr. Rice, and many of the American people, is that to seize a man in a state of freedom, and enslave him, is an "unrighteous thing;" but if another man haa seized the enslaved one, and robbed him of his liberty, then we, by transferring to the robber a little money, may continue to rob the enslaved one of his liberty, and be blameless. How absurd! See Dr. Rice's debate with President Blanchard.
his servants in that way, the slaves NOW living in our land were not obtained in that way. They are unoffending persons. The example of the Jew, then, would be worth nothing to us. But,
(3.) The text (Lev. xxv. 45) which we have now under consideration, tells us that the Jew was not only to procure his serants from the heathen round about them, but also from among those strangers born and dwelling peacefully in the land of the Jew. Then, when these strangers became servants to the Jews, they must have done so voluntarily. And there is no evidence that the servants who came from the nations round about them came in any other way. Indeed, as we have seen, the law of Moses forbids that they should come in any other way.
Then it was not only true that the Jew in becoming a servant did so voluntarilysold himself, that is, his service to a given periodbut the
stranger did so also. This is an important trutha truth which frees the Mosaic servitude from one of the essential elements of slaveryinvoluntary servitude.
We have nothing to say against voluntary servitude [employment]. I have it from good authority, that one of the vealthiest men that ever lived in Maysville, Kentucky, was a "stranger"sold himself, that is, his services, for seven years, that he might get to America, and have a little to start on.
So a poor Jew or Gentile might wish a home, where he could receive, first, the "purchase money," (Lev. xxv. 51,) then a good home, where, as we shall see, his person, his rights were protected, shielded from marauding tribes by the "God of battles." But voluntary servitude, however long, is not slavery.
Again, in noticing the nature of the servitude under the Mosaic economy, we remark: Whether the servant of the Jew was voluntary in the commencement of his servitude or not, sure we are, from the foregoing facts, he was in the continuance of it. If it were admitted that the servant was bought of a heathen master who enslaved him and sold him without his consent, it does not follow that the Jew held him as sucha slave, because he had bought him with money. Nehemiah bought some of his brethren of the Persians, but did not hold them as slaves. The law forbade it. The context proves it. (Nehem. v. 8.)
A Hebrew might buy a fellow Hebrew, but he might not hold him as a slave. He had only a leasehold title to his service. Lev. xxv. 39; Exod. xxi. 2.*
* The Jew might not deem it a sin to redeem the slave from slavery, by placing him in a bound service, where, by law, his personal safety was securedhis religious wants, and eventually his entire liberty; as in the
The American people have frequently bought fellow Americans who were taken captives by pirates or enemies. But these captives were not held as slaves by the Americans. And it is clear, that if a Jew even bought a slave, he could not continue to hold him as a slaveone doomed to involuntary servitude.
The testimony of [Moses] Maimonides [1135-1204], a Jewish Rabbi, as quoted in our third chapter, is very pertinent, and proves the position. Turn and see his words, page 25. From this Jewish writer this much is clear, that whether the servant bought was first subjugated by the heathen master, and sold without his consent to the Jew, or whether he was one that came from among the heathen, and sold himself, that is, his service [employment], he might not in either case continue to be a servant without his consent. Unwilling service of an adult and innocent man might not exist in Israel.
The above position may be shown again from the rite of circumcision. Every servant ($,7) must necessarily be circumcised. See Gen. xvii. 12; Exod. xii. 44. If the servant refused to be circumcised, or eat leavened bread during the feast, or touched any unclean thing, and refuse to be cleansed with the "water of separation," he was "cut off," excluded from Israel.
Gen. xvii. 14; Exod. xii. 19; Num. xix. 16. The master could not hold a servant without these rites were complied with; and all that a servant need to do, in order to be [out] from under the control of his master, was to refuse circumcision; or, in case of trespass upon the ceremonial laws, refuse to be cleansed.
But especially on the nature of the covenant do we rely for proof. In this covenant he chose the Lord to be his God. To compel an adult to receive the covenant, would be mockery before God; just as it would be to compel an individual now to receive the rite of baptism.
|"The God of Jacob will not accept any other than the worship of a willing heart." "By circumcision to boys, and baptism to girls, each of them by this received (as it were) a new birth; so that those who were before slaves now became free."Calmet.|
It is preposterous, then, to talk about slavery being found in connection with such laws.
Under this head, we may add these additional truths: They were required to
observe the Sabbath,
Were these duties enforced by fear of pains and penalties? Were they driven from
celebrate the various feasts, and
attend three times a year at Jerusalem.
case of bound boys [apprentices] with us [1850's]. In this case the Jew would not be a slave-holderonly a redeemer and guardian. But we believe the former argument the correct one.
all parts of the land three times a year to Jerusalem, and there made to offer up mock petitions in woeful jargon with the prayers of their masters; then again driven away by thousands, like beasts of burden, to their fields of toil? Was this the passport to the communion of saints? For the sake of his own, and the character of God, let no man say he believes it.
Facilities for Escape of Servants
Again, we prove the [alleged] servitude, in continuance at least, must have been voluntary, by the peculiar opportunities and facilities the servants had for escape.
Three times a year was every man required to appear at Jerusalem before the Lord, and each one with an offering. See Deut. xvi. 16, 17.
Now, in attending these feasts many of them would be nearly a week in their journey up there [to Jerusalem], a week at each feast, and several days in returning. How did the [alleged Hebrew] slaveholders get their [alleged] ten, fifty, or a hundred slaves up to Jerusalem?
Did they send for their neighbors to help drive them?