Page:The Bible Against Slavery (Weld, 1838).djvu/15

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.


holding. All are put on a level, and whelmed under one penalty—DEATH. This somebody deprived of the ownership of a man, is the man himself, robbed of personal ownership. Joseph said, "Indeed I was stolen away out of the land of the Hebrews." Gen. xl. 15. How stolen? His brethren sold him as an article of merchandize. Contrast this penalty for man-stealing with that for property-stealing, Ex. xxii. If a man had stolen an ox and killed or sold it, he was to restore five oxen; if he had neither sold nor killed it, two oxen. But in the case of stealing a man, the first act drew down the utmost power of punishment; however often repeated, or aggravated the crime, human penalty could do no more. The fact that the penalty for man-stealing was death, and the penalty for property-stealing, the mere restoration of double, shows that the two cases were adjudicated on totally different principles. The man stolen might be past labor, and his support a burden, yet death was the penalty, though not a cent's worth of property value was taken. The penalty for stealing property was a mere property penalty. However large the theft, the payment of double wiped out the score. It might have a greater money value than a thousand men, yet death was not the penalty, nor maiming, nor branding, nor even stripes, but double of the same kind. Why was not the rule uniform? When a man was stolen why was not the thief required to restore double of the same kind—two men, or if he had sold him, five men? Do you say that the man-thief might not have them? So the ox-thief might not have two oxen, or if he had killed it, five. But if God permitted men to hold men as property, equally with oxen, the man-thief could get men with whom to pay the penalty, as well as the ox-thief, oxen. Further, when property was stolen, the legal penalty was a compensation to the person injured. But when a man was stolen, no property compensation was offered. To tender money as an equivalent, would have been to repeat the outrage with intolerable aggravations. Compute the value of a man in money! Throw dust into the scale against immortality! The law recoiled from such supreme insult and impiety. To have permitted the man-thief to expiate his crime by restoring double, would have been making the repetition of crime its atonement. But the infliction of death for man-stealing exacted the utmost possibility of reparation. It wrung from the guilty wretch as he gave up the ghost, a testimony in blood, and death-groans, to the infinite dignity and worth of man,—a proclamation to the universe,