« AnteriorContinuar »
meaning: “Cursed be Canaan the servant (Taic); a house-servant (oirétic) shall he be to his brethren”:— i. e., he shall be in a menial condition. Some would interpret this prophetic imprecation by the relative position of the Hamitic, the Japhetic, and the Shemitic nations, in the march of civilization. “To the nations of the race of Ham was accorded an inferior and subservient position in the great programme of the world's progress: that of pioneers subserving the material wealth and secular advancement of mankind.” There is a general historic truth in this view, and yet Rawlinson justly assigns to the earlier Hamitic nations a higher role in the world's drama. “Egypt and Babylon–Mizraim and Nimrod—both descendants of Ham—led the way, and acted as the pioneers of mankind in the various untrodden fields of art, literature, and science. Alphabetic writing, astronomy, history, chronology, architecture, plastic art, sculpture, navigation, agriculture, textile industry, seem, all of them, to have had their origin in one or other of these two countries.”f This author furnishes many cogent arguments for the Hamitic origin of the primitive people of Babylon, which, — indeed, is distinctly asserted in Genesis x. 8. But he gives special prominence to the discovery, in the most ancient remains of Chaldea, of a form of speech older than the known Babylonian language, “whose vocabulary is decidedly Cushite, or Ethiopian.” The Seed of Ham were the progenitors of the mightiest empires of the old world.” The great orientalist of the College of France takes a middle ground between these two views of the relation of the Hamitic nations to human progress. According to Ernest Renan, the Chinese in eastern Asia, the Cushites and Hamites in western Asia, and in Africa, were the earliest civilized races; but their civilization was stamped with a materialistic character—the religious and poetic instincts but little developed, with little artistic feeling, but a great aptitude for the manual arts, and for the exact and practical sciences. These Cushite and Hamitic civilizations disappeared before the advance of the Shemitic and the Arian types, which, though at first greatly inferior to the former in external civilization, in material works, and in the science of organization which makes great empires, yet infinitely surpassed them in vigor, courage, and the genius of poetry and religion. Yet Renan concedes to the Hamitic nations, for a long period, “the monopoly of commerce, navigation, and industrial arts.”f In a word, then, the curse of Noah was not pronounced upon “the seed of Ham,” but only upon Canaan ; or if intended for “the seed of Ham,” it was not in any sense, and never has proved to be in fact, a curse of personal slavery. It cannot, with logical or historical fairness, be applied to the existing negro races.
*Dr. Leonard Bacon, New Englander, 1862, pp. 353, 354. + History of the Five Great Monarchies, I., p. 75.
* History of the Five Great Monarchies, I., pp. 64, 65. + Histoire Générale et Système Comparé des Langues Sémitiques. Vol. I., pp. 500–503. Third edition, Paris, 1863.
THE STATUTES OF MOSES IN REGARD TO SERVANTS.
EVERY competent scholar, be he Jew or Christian, knows that the idea of property in man, of a human chattel, is entirely unknown to the Mosaic code. Among the Jews, a price was sometimes paid in advance for the use and control of a servant, and such a servant was said to be. “bought with money;” and so, too, money was paid to the father in consideration of the hand of a daughter.” Yet neither wife or servant thus “bought with money,” became the legal property of the possessor, but the servant, as well as the wife, was a person still, with rights guarded by religion and by law. Among the Hebrews, involuntary servitude, whether a penalty for debt or a misfortune of war, had nothing in common with the chattelism of more recent times. Under the Mosaic code, the relation of master and servant was So hedged round by laws in the interest of the servant, and was so often broken up by the periodical manumission of the bondman, that chattel slavery, or the permanent and unmitigated ownership of man in man, was clearly impossible. The ablest writers upon the Hebrew economy, such as the learned Jew, Dr. Mielzimer, of Copenhagen, Heinrich Ewald, of Göttingen, a great authority in Hebrew antiquities, Prof. Joseph L. Saalschütz, of Königsberg, whose works on the Mosaic polity are of the highest standing, Joseph Salvador, the Rabbinical scholar of Paris—men versed in the Hebrew language and in Jewish customs— agree in this: that the laws of Moses nowhere recognize the right of property in man, nor concede to the master an absolute proprietorship over the person of his servant. The term generally used in the Mosaic code to designate one in a servile condition, was “a common name for all who stood in a dependent or subordinate relation. It had not the degrading sense which we connect with the words slave or bondman; but it often had the mild significancy which we associate, in certain relations, with the word servant.” Nor was there any other term in use among the Hebrews which would correspond with our use of the term slave, to denote one held in the possession of another as his property. “The Mosaic law knows nothing of slavery in the sense of considering freeman and slave as beings holding an opposite relation to each other in respect to their dignity as men, and on a scale of civil and social rights. The Hebrew language has no word for stigmatizing by a degrading appellation one part of those who owe service, and distinguishing them from the rest as ‘slaves,’ but only one term for all who are under obligation to render service to others. For males, this is Ebed, servant, man-servant; properly, laborer; for females, Shifchah, Ama, maid-servant, maid. Among a people who occupied themselves with agriculture; whose lawgiver, Moses, and whose kings, Saul and David, went immediately from the herd and from the plough to their high vocation, there could be nothing degrading in an appellation taken from “labor.” The laws respecting servants protect in every regard their dignity and their feelings as men. They by no means surrendered these to the arbitrary will of the masters, as in other ancient and modern states in which slavery and thralldom have prevailed.” The terms buying and selling, applied to one form of contract under which Hebrew servants were procured,t mislead the reader of the English Bible, who associates with these words the idea of the transfer of an article of property for a consideration in money. But the Hebrew term for this “buying ” is as indeterminate as the word for “servant.” It strictly means to get for one's self, to gain, to acquire, to obtain, without reference either to
* This custom prevails among eastern nations at this day. Dr. Perkins states that “wives are purchased among the Nestorians, as they were in the days of Jacob—the price ranging from five to fifty or one hundred dollars, according to the standing and charms of the person. It is not considered proper for the father of the bride, who receives the purchase money, to appropriate it to his private purposes, but to expend it in furnishing her with wedding garments. –Residence in Persia, p. 236.
* Mielziner, Die Verhältnisse, p. 11; or Am. Theo. Review, Vol. III., p. 231. The term here referred to (Ehed) is derived from a verb which signifies to labor; s. g., “six days mayst thou labor;” or to serve, e. g., servants of the king.
* Saalschütz, Das Mosaiche Recht, Kap. 101: “Dienende.” See also in Bib. Sacra, Vol. XIX., p. 33.
# Ex. xxi. 2. “If thou buy a Hebrew servant.” The learned Jewish doctor, M. Kalisch, of London, translates this, “When thou acquirest a servant;” and he adds, “there exists in Hebrew no word for slave in the sense of an individual who is considered merely as an instrument: the Hebrew word means merely laborer, and the most privileged favorites of God are called ‘servants of God.”—Commentary on Erodus.