« AnteriorContinuar »
fever of patriotism, to hear his overstrained expressions, his ardent professions, and then to turn to the audience, who are boiling over with a zeal which induces them to swallow and applaud everything, without a disposition to ask whether there is sense or truth in what they hear. There are no other themes so exciting as religion and politics ; and having once taken our side in either, whether guided by chance or judgment, we are most of us easily carried away by an appeal to our prejudices. We believe that all that comes from our own side is true, just, and judicious, all that comes from our opponents, is false, unjust, unsound.
The free political institutions of our country depend for their duration upon the religious character of the people. I may say the existence of the country itself depends upon it. The Grecian, Roman, Venetian, and Genoese republics, besides being concentrated, and occupying a small extent of territory, were kept together by powerful passions, such as national pride and love of military glory, and at the same time restrained by severe and bloody laws. The Americans are perhaps the first people who can with truth be said to govern themselves. Our laws are mild, and depend, as well as our political institutions, upon public opinion for their support and enforcement. Unless, therefore, public opinion is guided by religious principle, our government can have no firm foundation. Our Union comprises such an extent of territory, and such diversities of interest, that nothing can keep it long entire but the disinterested philanthropy which religion inculcates.
It is in vain for a skeptic to say that a people may be moral without being religious. All the ideas of morality of our day are derived from the Christian religion. We have heard it said that the philosopher Hume, and in our own day Robert Owen and Frances Wright, were actuated by truly philanthropic and benevolent motives. This may be the case, but it was Christianity that first produced the enlightened state of public feeling in which all their ideas of morality originated. Morality is Christianity exemplified in action. The skeptic then wishes to remove the cause, and retain the effect; he wishes people to continue to act right, while he withdraws the motive for right action, much in the manner of the ignorant watchmaker, who should remove the spring from a watch, and expect the wheels to continue their regular motion. At the present day, ho se skeptics who bear the character of moral men, are men who act, or appear to act, in accordance with religious principles, but who do not hold themselves responsible for their action to the Being who alone knows their hearts. Constitutional good temper, pride, or regard to appearances are their springs of action. These are uncertain and limited in their operation. They afford very little restraint to ambition, love of power or accumulation, or to other selfish interests. They do not promote or supply the place of the extended philanthropy and disinterestedness which the state of our country requires, and which it is the great object of Christianity-love to God and to man—to enforce.
Christianity is eminently republican, since it placês all men upon the same level ; but its grand effect is, that it renders every individual responsible to his Creator and his own conscience alone for his actions. In a community where religion had its full effect, all government might be dispensed with ; since every one would act right with and labor to promote the public good without the restraint of law. On the other hand, in proportion as a community are free from religious restraint, they require that of law. A free government cannot long exist where the people are corrupt. Do we want an instance of a popular government not restrained by religious principle ? We need look no further back than to the history of the French Republic.
ART. III. - SLAVERY.
It has frequently been the case in the discussion of important subjects, that, while extreme opinions on both sides have been maintained with great warmth, the truth, which indeed lay between, was neglected by both parties. Thus, it
Thus, it appears to us, has it been with the recent discussions upon the subject of slavery. While, on the one side, public attention has been called to slavery as an evil and a sin, and the duty of relinquishing it at once has been urged upon the Southern people, while, on the other side, the system has been advocated, as not only defensible but valuable, as identified with the rights and the interests of the Southern States, few or none have been found among the writers of the day, who have calmly viewed it as an arrangement of human society, which, though imperfect and attended with great evils, is permitted by Providence to exist for a season, but which it is the duty of enlightened human beings to improve, so far as it may be susceptible of improvement, and, when circumstances shall permit, to abolish in a quiet and judicious manner, that other and better forms of social organization may then take its place.
To present the subjeet in this, which appears to us to be the correct point of view, is the design of this communication.
There is, throughout the world, a difference between the rich and the poor, the controllers and the controlled. Nor does this difference always correspond in practice with the name given it in theory. In many a log cabin of the South, the white man and his slave eat of the same coarse fare at the same coarse table. The one sleeps as comfortably as the other, the one works as hard as the other. To compare the difference between their conditions with that between the wealthier members of the Anti-Slavery Society and the white laborers in their streets, would give food for consideration. But let the difference in either case be compared with that between the Irish nobleman and his wild and starving tenantry, and it is seen to be far surpassed, while even this broad distinction would be exceeded by that which separates an Esterhazy from the thousands of his serfs.
And what, in each case, is the foundation of this difference? The right of property. “How,” exclaims the Anti-Slavery reformer, “ property in man!" If one is born to the gratification of every wish, and to the use of more money than he can either spend or waste, while a thousand of his neighbors are born to semi-starvation - this is the order of society, founded on the sacred rights of property ; it must not be disturbed ; away, ye rash levellers, who would interfere with it! But if, while one possesses the means of living in a pple and moderate manner, without manual labor, some twenty or thirty others work under his direction, and in return have abundant food and clothing, with kind treatment in health, and every attention in sickness; this is too much for modern philanthropy to bear. The idea of right, of property, as connected with such an abominable state of things, is spurned indignantly; and all the bad epithets of the English language are applied profusely to the monster who prefers feeding and clothing himself and his slaves to starving himself, and sending them forth to starve.
Turn not from our page, indignant reader! We are no friends to the slave system. We possess no slaves, and we trust, never shall, though we can imagine motives of kindness which might induce us to assume the relation of master.
We are opposed to slavery, however ; but we do not think it necessary to shut our eyes, or refuse our pen to truth and common sense, on whatever side of the subject they may appear to lie. In the preceeding remarks we have appeared to countenance slavery, by comparing it with those institutions which the world generally acknowledges as proper to be maintained. May not
different construction be put upon our language, by supposing that we disapprove these institutions, this vast difference between rich and poor, as involving evils kindred to those of slavery itself?
What,” it is replied, “you are an Agrarian. You would have all property at once equally divided. You would have the rich all beggared, and the poor all intoxicated with sudden wealth.” Excuse us. Such is not our principle. Between the opinions, we have fancied to be ascribed to us, is our real position. We regard slavery as one in a series of imperfect arrangements, which for a time must be endured, but which enlightened men and Christians ought to be doing their best to improve, temperately, gradually, peaceably, and with good nature ; arrangements too, which are yielding, with more or less rapidity, before the influence of science and of the Christian religion.
In a savage state, men are all equal. In emerging from this state, talents and industry, or less worthy causes, create differences of station. Certain possessions, which were at first common, become guarantied to individuals. One acquires by force or cunning an ascendancy over others, and becomes a master over slaves, or a chief over followers, or a king over subjects. As civilization advances, these distinctions increase, till some few, most aspiring and most successful, have reached the highest point of wealth and power. The difference between these, and the individuals at the foot of the hill, is now of course greatest. But a change now
The lowest, who have not yet risen, begin to rise. The highest can rise no higher, and begin to fall, or at least remain stationary, while others approach their level. Civilization now advances with rapidity. It is no longer the civilization of the few, but of the many. Its tendency is to restore equality; and if we could look for perfectibility in man, this would be the result. But thuogh entire equality is neither possible, por, as man is constituted, desirable, it may appear on examination, that a much nearer approach to it may and will be made, than is generally anticipated. Wide as the distinctions are which yet exist in New England, there prevails in the Northern States more of equality, than could have been conceived of by an enlightened man of the sixteenth century, as reconcilable with the good order of society. And there was more of equality existing in England then, than would have been thought safe by the barons who extorted Magna Charta from King John. Society is improving. We cannot decide how far it shall improve, but far be it from us to mark as unalterable the limits it has now attained, to say to the human mind, and to the spirit of liberty, “ Thus far shall ye go, and no farther.”
It is very evident, however, that if society be thus indefinitely improvable, the process to which it should be subjected, must be a gradual one. It must keep pace with the progress of knowledge. It is thus that the most important advances have been made. It is thus that the only solid conquests have been gained. The cause of liberty has advanced in England ever since the iron days of William the Conqueror. The exceptions to this general assertion are to be found in those instances where improvement had been carried beyond the capacity of the age to bear, and where a retrograde movement necessarily followed. Thus the triumphs of the barons and people, who placed Henry the Fourth upon the throne, led to the anarchy of the “ Wars of the Roses, and eventually to the despotism of the Tudors. Thus the premature revolution, which deprived Charles the First of his life, resulted in the single sway of Cromwell, and afterwards in the worse tyranny of Charles the Second. Where the progress of liberty was most gradual, there it was most sure. In the hard struggles under John and Henry the Third, the people gained little at a time, but what they gained they kept. That, which the sudden energy of the people failed to accomplish in their shortlived commonwealth, has been attained, or is in the course of attainment, in a series of deliberate and majestic movements, the revolution of 1688,- the establishment of the Hanoverian line in place of the Stuarts; the American Revolution, which had its effects in England as well as here,
as well as here, and those great triumphs of the people, by which our own day has been distin