Imatges de pÓgina
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what less unfavorable light. We grant that everyman is, by birth, entitled to freedom; that he has a natural and inalienable right to govern himself, to regulate his own affairs, and to enjoy the rewards of his own industry. But we know, that up to a certain age, every person is subject to the authority and control of the parent, as absolutely as the slave to that of the master. His education, his whole course, and all the circumstances of his life, are directed by the parent's will; and all the avails of his industry go to the parent's advantage. Up to that period, the child, civilly considered, has no will and no existence of his own ;-in other words, he has none of that self-control, and none of those civil rights, which belong to every free citizen. Now, we ask, is this right! Unquestionably it is ; because the good of the child, and the welfare of the community require it.

But who shall determine precisely when the point shall be fixed, at which the child becomes the man,-master of himself and a citizen of the state ? One is as capable of sell-government at twenty years of age, as another at twenty-five; and is it not unjust to keep him in bondage ? Is it said, we have a Divine command on this subject, -" Children, obey your parents?” So we have the Divine command, —“ Servants, be obedient to your masters." But, who shall decide how long a person shall be considered as a child ? The point of transition is differently fixed in different countries; and the Bible leaves the matter altogether undetermined. It must evidently be left for decision to common sense, either of individual parents, or as embodied in the laws of the country.

Here then we have an instance, to which nobody objects, of the limitation of the principle of universal freedom, according to the dictates of common sense. Now let us suppose there is a legal provision for extraordinary cases, by virtue of which the parent, on account of the incompetency of his son to manage his own concerns, may continue to hold and treat him as a ininor, after he has passed the ordinary period of minority. If the evidence of the son's incompetency is clearly made out, is there any injustice in his being still held and treated as a minor? Is there not the same reason for it, as for his being so held and treated before he arrived at the age of manhood ? Analogous cases are by no means of rare occurrence. A man is addicted to intemperance. He becomes morose and cruel, abuses his wife and children, threatens to burn bis dwelling, and reduces his family to a state of starvation. A guardian is appointed; and the right of entire self-control, and of managing his property, is taken away. Is there any injustice here? Again ;-a man discovers symptoms of insanity, of such a nature that his friends no longer feel safe in his presence. Perhaps he has not, hitherto, committed any offensive act; he has injured no man's person, he has destroyed no man's property. But he shows a strong disposition to injure himself and his neighbors; and that disposition is every day increasing. Now, must they wait till he plunges a knife into their bosoms, or burns down their houses over their heads? Or may they on such grounds, take him into custody, in anticipation of the evil? Unquestionably they may take him into custody. Nor would the case be essentially different, if the insanity were not of the head, but of the heart. Whatever the law might pronounce on this point, common sense and common justice would sanction and require the sanie treatment.

Hence it is evident, that the right of self-control or of liberty, with which every man is vested by nature, has its limitations that are to be determined by common sense alone. Cases do actually and almost daily occur, in which the public good and the good of the individual himself, require that he should be divested of that natural right, either partially or altogether. And the grand principle involved here is, that an abstract individual right, can never be allowed to contravene the rights of the community.

For the same reason, every citizen of the state is obliged to yield up to the state a portion of his freedom, for the common good. It may be said that he does it voluntarily, and that he receives an equivalent--the protection of the laws. The former, however, is more than questionable in many cases which frequently arise ; and as for the latter, many an individual regards the equivalent he receives as about as fair, as the corn-meal and bacon of the slave, in exchange for bis liberty. These considerations will suffice to convince us, it is believed, of the truth of one or the other of two things,—either, that there is something radically wrong in almost the whole operation of the machinery of civil society; or, that very great caution is to be used in the application of abstract principles, taken singly and alone, as if they were strictly absolute and universal.

We are now prepared to attend to the question–To what extent is the slave-bolder to be regarded as guilty of violating the principles of justice and humanity, in retaining in bondage a number of his fellow creatures, whom necessity, perhaps, and not his own choice, has thrown upon his hands ? He regards them, and the laws of his state regard them, and a majority of his countrymen regard them, as a species of minors, incapacitated by all their feelings and habits, to govern themselves and regulate their affairs in a manner consistent either with their own good or the good of the com

ommunity. Are we told that they are not considered as mizors, but as property ? Where, in principle, is the difference ? A parent may bind out his child, and a guardian may bind oui his ward, in consideration of an equivalent,—and how, in the abstract, does this differ from selling ?-during the whɔle period of their minority. Now, if the slave is practically incapable of properly governing himself, if he is not in a condition to be safely entrusted with his freedom, and especially if the civil

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law and public sentiment declare this to be the fact,—does it not, to say the least, pulliate the master's offence in holding him in servitude? Let us not be understood to justify slavery, least of all, the practice of buying and selling slaves. We do not mean even to vouch for the correctness of the prevalent opinion, that slaves are almost universally incapable of properly and safely regulating their own affairs as freemen. It niay be wrong. But, allowing it to be so, is not an opinion so general entitled to some consideration ; and is the slave holder to be denounced as a tyrant and a felon for adopting it as true, and following the course which he, at all events, believes that it sanctions? We believe the slave-holder to be pursuing an unjust and criminal course—not so much in refusing, under present circumstances, to emancipate his slaves, since he sincerely deems bimself bound to retain them in servitude, not by considerations of personal interest alone; but for the same reasons and in the same manner as a father or a guardian is bound to retain in his hands the natural rights of the minor ;-we regard, as the main ground of his guilt, his refusal to prepare them, by proper instructions, to receive into possession the precious boon of liberty, and then to place them where they can enjoy it. This is the object at which every slaveholder in the country ought, even on his own principles, most sedulously to aim; and this is the only point to which the philanthropists of the country can reasonably hope to bring him. So much for the guilt of the slave-holder.

Let us now go back and resume the main question where we left it. Let us granı, for argument sake, that the master is totally unjustifiable in retaining possession of the slave a single hour; and that he is, consequently, bound by every principle of justice, to send him out free forthwith and unconditionally. What follows? Is it any thing to the purpose, that scores of philanthropists traverse those portions of the country where not a slave exists, and continually pour forth against the slave-holder the language of violent dennnciation ? Suppose that, in a hundred families in the city of New Orleans, the crime of infanticide were practised. What would be the advantage of weekly proclamations, in New York, Boston, Baltimore and Philadelphia, of the enormity of the crime? If these noisy declaimers would go, in the soberness of reason and the zeal of a good cause, to those families themselves, and there labor, at the very root of the evil to effect its extirpation, they would deserve the thanks of the community, and might more reasonably hope for success?

But what is the object to be accomplished? The universal emancipation of the slaves. This is desired by all, perhaps with equal ardor. And what has the guilt of the slave-holder to do with our duty, in relation to it? That is his concern ; ours is, to find and follow the most effectual way of removing the evil. If we have any thing to do with his guilt, it is, that we go and urge on him repentance and reformation. But it must be our first care, to restore the injured slave to the enjoyment of freedom. And the question is-How can this be done? Let it be admitted that his right to liberty is paramount and unconditional. Still, how can that right be effectually secured to him ? This is the inquiry which we are to make; here is the point at which we are to aim. The master says, “ I will not and cannot emancipate my slaves, unless they are transported; my hands are bound, if not by considerations of common safety, at least by the laws of the state." We see the iruth of the assertion. We know that he will not do it, and that he has no civil power to do it. The door of immediate and unconditional emancipation is closed and barred by the hand of law. What sliall we, philanthropists, do? Run from Dan to Beersheba, and rail against the slave-holder, taking care, however, to keep clear of his territoreies? Shall we not rather apply ourselves to the task of emancipating our enslaved countryinen, in a way which the laws and the safety of the country leave open, and which, in fact, will be most productive of good to themselves?

Just at this point the Colonization Society comes in, and proposes a plan which precisely meets the difficulty. It unties, in a manner, the hands of the master, and furnishes him the means of liberating his slaves without violating the law or endangering the public safety; and it points both the liberated slave and the free black to a place of refuge from the tyranny of prejudice, un-Christian perhaps, but irremediable Then, to the land of their fathers, it offers to transport them, and to guarantee to them the rights of freemen--and the means of an honorable, an afiluent, and a happy independence. Such, at all events, are the views and expectations of the friends of the Colonization Society.

They believe, moreover, that the course pursued by them, exactly coincides with the spirit and precepts of Christianity, in relation to slavery. They read the New Testa!nent and find frequent allusions to slavery; but no where on its pages do they find, in reference to it, the language of denunciation and harsh rebuke. And why? Why does not Paul denounce it, and labor for its im. mediate extirpation? Why does he not pursue the same course in reference to this, that he does in reference to fornication, covetousness, and many other vices ? Not, certainly, because it was less a moral evil then, than it is now ;- but because, unquestionably, hie deemed it expedient to leave this, as he did many other things, to be brought about by the progressive influence of the religion he inculcated. That is, he deemed it expedient to resort, not to violent measures, but to measures whose operation, though slow, would nevertheless, be safe and sure. The former, he knew, could have no other than a mischievous effect, under the existing state of society ; but the latter would infallibly lead, at length, to the desired result. We leave our readers to make the application for themselves.

P.

To the Editor of the Spirit of the Pilgrims.

Sır,—The following is a copy of a letter in the hand-writing of President Edwards on the subject of Lay-preaching. The publication of it will be gratifying to many. The letter is in possession of one of the descendents of the excellent author.

L. W. Andover, July, 1833.

Northampton, Jay 18, 1742. MY DEAR FRIEND,

I am fully satisfied by the account your Father has given me, that you have lately gone out of the way of your duty, and done that which did not belong to you, in erhorting a public congregation. I know you to be a person of good judgement and discretion, and therefore can with the greater confidence put it to you to consider with yourself, what you can reasonably judge would be the consequence, if I and all other ministers should approve, and publicly justify, such things, as Laymen's taking it upon them to exhort after this manner ? If one may, why may not another ? and if there be no certain limits or bounds, but every one that pleases, may have liberty, alas ! what should we soon come to? If God had not seen it necessary that such things should have certain limits and bounds, he never would have appointed a certain particular order of men to that work and office, to be set apart 10 ii, in so solemn a manner, in the name of God : the Head of the church is wiser than we, and knew how to regulate things in his church.

'Tis no argument that such things are right, that they do a great deal of good for the present, and within a narrow sphere; when at the same time, if we look on them in the utmost extent of their consequences, and on the long run of events, they do teu times as much hurt as good. Appearing events are not our rule, but the law and the testimony. We ought to be vigilant and circumspect, and look on every side, and as far as we can, to the further end of things. God may if he pleases, in his sovereign Providence, turn that which is most wrong to do a great deal of good for the present; for he does what he pleases. I hope you will consider the matter, and for the future avoid doing thos. You ought to do what good you can, by private, brotherly, humble admonitions and counsels; but 'tis too much for you to exhort public congregations, or solemnly to set yourself, by a set speech, to counsel a room full of people, unless it be children, or those that are much your inferiors, or to speak to any in an authoritative way. Such things have done a vast deal of mischief in the country, and have hindred the work of God exceedingly. Mr. Tennent has lately wrote a letter to one of the ministers of New-England, earnestly to dissuade from such things. Your temptations are exceeding great: you had need to have the prudence and humility of ten men. If you are kept humble and prudent, you may be a great blessing in this part of the land, otherwise you may do as much hurt in a few weeks as you can do good in four years. You

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