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in the slave market, at an age capable of labor; and “when through age or infirmity they had become incapable of working, they were again sent with other refuse to the market. They were often chained to their work in the field; and an underground cellar, for the imprisonment of slaves by night, was a necessary part of the farm buildings on a large plantation. The whole system was pervaded by the unscrupulous spirit characteristic of the power of capital. Slaves and cattle were placed on the same level. The slave and the ox were fed properly so long as they could work, because it would not have been good economy to let them starve; and they were sold like a worn-out plough-share when they became unable to work, because it would not have been good economy to maintain them longer.”
* Mommsen's History of Rome, Vol. II., p. 368. Prof. Döllinger, of Munich, a scholar of wide research, says, “The slave in Rome was a chattel and a posses. sion, had no individuality or ‘caput; whatever he earned belonged to his master, and he might be made a present of, lent, pawned, or exchanged. His union with a wife was no marriage, that is, was devoid of all its privileges and effects, and only a contubernium or cohabitation. A master might torture or kill his slave at will; there was no one to prevent his doing so, or to bring him to account. The modes of torture and punishment were various and cruel, and the ordinary punishment of death was crucifixion. One cruel infliction frequently resorted to for female slaves was chaining to a block of wood, which served the poor sufferer for a seat, and which she had to drag about with her day and night. Slaves in the country, who had to till the ground, were chained by the foot, and kept at night in an ergastulum, or underground room. The Roman law inflicted the punishment of death for killing a plough-ox, while the murderer of a slave was called to no account whatever.
“It is in vain one looks for anything like common human feeling in the Roman slave-law of republican times, and that of the earlier empire. The breaking up of slave families was entirely in the hands of the merchant or the owner; husband might be separated from wife, and mother from children, all dispersed and sold off into the houses of strangers and to foreign towns. Slavery is equivalent to death in the eye of the civil law, which does not admit the existence of a slave; which
This was the rule of even the best masters. We have it on the authority of Plutarch, that the elder Cato, the great economist of Rome, who sought to restrain the luxury of the nation, and to inspire its patriotism, this type of Roman virtue, taught, that as soon as slaves grew too old to do their tale of work, they should be sold off or otherwise disposed of, so as not to be a burden to the master. Having taken the work out of his servants as out of brute beasts, he turned them off in their old age.* Such was the cruel system of slavery, and such its inhuman practices, as established by usage and sustained by law throughout the Roman empire, when Christ appeared. Do you believe that his teachings, or those of his apostles, sanctioned this system of human chattelism 2 Where do you find that sanction ? Is it in Christ's announcement of his mission—“I am come to preach the Gospel to the poor; to preach deliverance to the captives; to set at liberty them that are bruised ; to preach the acceptable year [the Jubilee] of the Lord * Do you find the sanction of slavery in Christ's exposition of the law—“Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself?” Do you find it in his own heavenly rule of life—“Whatsoever ye would that men should to you, do ye even so to them 7”
entirely avoids and annuls the contract of a master with his slave; gives the slave no action at law against him; admits not of adultery being committed by or with one of them, and compels female slaves to surrender themselves to their mas. ter's lust against their will.” “The Gentile and the Jew,” Wol. II., pp. 259–264. * Plutarch, Life of Cato Major.
“I defy the most unfeeling planter to go, immediately after hearing these words, to the slave-market to buy slaves; and I defy the most resolute critic to maintain, after having read them, that the gospel does not condemn slavery.”* Do you then find the sanction of slavery in Paul's instructions to masters and servants, given in view of slavery as an existing state of society 7 Do you find anything that can be tortured into an approval of this system in the command—“Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal ; knowing that ye also have a master in heaven ; neither is there respect of persons with him.” + Do you find your gospel warrant for slavery in the warning of James to the rich and proud oppressors of that age—“Behold, the hire of the laborers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth ; and the cries of them which have reaped, are entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth of Aristotle, in his ethics, had attempted to establish slavery upon a philosophical principle, as an institution founded by nature in the distinctions of races and in the conditions necessary to human society. Against the opinion that the division of mankind into freemen and slaves is created by the law of force, and is therefore unjust, he argues, that some men are born as far inferior to others as the brute nature is below the human, and that such persons were designed by nature to be “the animated instruments” of the household and of society in procuring the necessaries and performing the labors of life. And since these instruments are not only necessary for procuring property, but are themselves a kind of property, he defines a slave to be “one who by the law of nature does not belong to himself, but who, though a man, belongs to another. He is the man of another man.”* Place this argument of the great publicist and ethical philosopher of Stagira, in favor of slavery, by the side of the teachings of Paul to masters and servants, and determine whether Paul so much as allows that manowning which Aristotle justifies and approves from the law of nature. Place the system of slavery itself as it existed in the Roman empire, side by side with the gospel of Christ, and answer to your own candid judgment, Do you believe that the gospel sanctions slavery 7 And then let your moral sense answer this further question —If the gospel did approve this system of man-owning, could you believe that the gospel came from God? When the nature of slavery is fairly understood, can infidelity devise a more telling and sneering accusation against the Bible than this—that it sanctions slavery, and sanctifies it as a divine institution ?
* Cochin, Results of slavery; Miss Booth's translation, p. 311. + Coloss. iv. 1., and Ephes. vi. 9. † James v. 4.
* See Aristotle's Polit. and his Nic. Ethics. Also, the admirable summary in Döllinger II., 227, and in Paul Janet, Histoire de la Philosophia Morale, I., 183.
To rebut this monstrous calumny upon the Bible, we have simply to examine the Bible itself, and to trace its influence upon the institution of slavery. But, before going into this examination, we must settle the meaning of terms, that there may be no evasion with regard to the result. What, then, is slavery When this question is asked of an American audience, it can refer to but one thing—the system of slavery as established by law in the Southern States. It is not some abstract relation of master and servant, concerning which we inquire, it is not some antiquated condition of Society that we are seeking to explore, it is not some speculative theory of the relations of capital and labor —it is the actual, concrete, definitive system before our eyes in the South ; and that which concerns us is not a usage without law, nor the abuses of a social system, nor the character of individual slaveholders—but the condition of slavery as defined by law. ‘Now, the essential fact in slavery is not the authority of the master over the servant, nor the dependence of the servant upon the master, nor the behavior of the individual master toward his servant, nor the physical condition and treatment of the slave, but the ownership of the slave vested in the master by law.