The African Slave Trade/Chapter 7
We have considered in the preceding chapters the cruelties and horrors of the slave trade; the desolating influence of the traffic upon Africa; the efforts made to abolish the evil; and the evidence of its continuance, and of the attempts to revive the trade.
It only remains for us to allude to some of the inevitable effects of reopening a traffic, so revolting to every feeling of humanity, every dictate of conscience, and every law of God.
There is no need of extended argument to show that the importation of Africans into this country would directly and fearfully augment that evil which already to so great an extent is paralyzing industry, blighting commerce, and destroying the best interests of society. The disastrous influence of American slavery upon agriculture, the mechanical arts, education, public virtue, religion, has been fully set forth by others. Measures have been proposed to mitigate the evils growing out of the system, and good men, North and South, have looked forward to the time when the nation would be relieved of this burden. But the revival of the foreign traffic will perpetuate and extend the system, and blast the hopes that have been entertained of its speedy removal. It will embarrass every measure for the elevation and improvement of those in bondage, tighten the chains of the oppressed, and discourage all effort at even gradual emancipation.
The establishment of the American slave trade would also be a source of irritation between the North and South. Already the ill feeling produced by the encroachments of slavery is sundering fraternal relations, impeding the progress of trade, and exasperating one portion of the community against another. And let this additional firebrand be thrown in, and the flames of animosity would be kindled over the whole country.
On the one side would be this evil, with its cruelties, its violation of all the principles of justice and humanity; and on the other the intelligence, moral rectitude, and Christian virtue of millions of freemen. And to suppose that these elements can lie quietly side by side, is to suppose an utter impossibility. Our system of education must be corrupted to the very core; our literature must be poisoned by the sentiments of the dark ages; all traces of right and justice must be obliterated from our statute books, and our religion must become a dead form, before such a result can be anticipated. Oil and water will not mingle. Barbarism and Christianity were not made to dwell together in peace.
We should also consider the inevitable effect of this evil upon the pulpits and churches of our land. Ministers of the gospel must either preach against this sin, or be corrupted and weakened by it. Professing Christians must oppose it, or yield to it. And what must be the character of a church for purity, efficiency, and spiritual power, that tolerates such an iniquity? What would be its influence in converting men to the principles of brotherly love, self-denial, faith, and holiness taught by our Saviour? Is it to be supposed that impenitent men will close their eyes to such gross inconsistencies?
Every man's common sense teaches him that the power of the gospel lies in its purity, and in its hostility to every form of sin. The instant it compromises with evil, it ceases to be the gospel of Jesus Christ.
In conclusion, it is the solemn duty of every American patriot and Christian to rise up and decree that, let the consequences be what they may, another slave shall never pollute our coast, and that, God helping them, they will resist now and for ever, every attempt to revive this accursed traffic. To allow ity is to increase and perpetuate the evils that to-day threaten the very existence of the republic. It puts in peril the American Union, and what is more, endangers the liberties of the whole nation. No greater calamity could befall us, no greater curse could smite us, than the reopening of the slave trade. War, pestilence, and famine might not damage us as much as this iniquity. For we might resist the war, and recover from the effects of the pestilence and famine, but this accursed thing strikes at the vitals of the republic. It breaks down the principles of the nation. It corrupts the morals, poisons the religion, and exposes us to the burning wrath of Jehovah.
Should we in this enlightened age sanction such a wickedness, we should deserve to perish. If the heroes of the American revolution saw the inconsistency of appealing to the God of freedom to,aid them in their struggle, and then turning round to put chains upon their fellow men, how much more glaring the inconsistency and stupendous the wickedness for us, while in the enjoyment of all the blessings of freedom, to use our power to enslave others, and deprive them of privileges that we would die rather than part with ourselves. And the meanness of such a course is as great as its guilt.
We appeal to the patriotism of American citizens, and we ask them whether they are willing to see this great republic, freighted with so many human hopes, blessed as it has been of heaven, sacrificed at the altar of this great iniquity? Shall we peril the brilliant prospects of the nation, provoke the wrath of God, become a hissing and a by-word throughout Christendom, by madly clinging to that which is evil, and only evil, and that continually? I know of no spectacle so full of cheering hope and moral sublimity, as to see this nation, to-day, rise up in her strength and declare that the slaver shall not touch our coast, that the virgin soil of the country shall not be polluted by the invasion of slavery, and that we will as speedily as possible throw off this burden from the ship of state, in order that, with every sail spread and the banner of freedom nailed to the mast-head, we may ride on triumphantly, fulfilling our great mission among the nations of the earth.
In this work there rests upon the church of Christ a vast responsibility. Every individual member is responsible for his opinion, his influence, and his action. And I believe that the American church has the power to decide this question. The slave trade and slavery can not stand against the united force of the pulpits and churches of the country. The triumph of Christianity will be the destruction of slavery.