« 上一頁繼續 »
war be denied without denying the right of government itself? The prevention of injury, which is the immediate object of a war of resistance, is scarcely more important than reparation, the immediate object of a war of redress; and both of these objects are secondary to the grand design of all just war, the support of government. A nation would soon find itself without power to protect her citizens if she should allow her territory to be invaded and laid waste, without resistance ; and so she would, also, if after the destruction of life and property at home or abroad, she should make no effort to obtain redress and prevent a repetition of the injury. Nor in many cases can a government extend the least protection to individuals, if it has a right to defend them only when it is present to prevent the injury. The sole defense which it can offer to their commerce, or to their persons when absent from their country, is dependent on the right of war after the injury has been done, and reparation refused. Hence a government has the same right to hold the sword over the heads of other nations in token of its determination to vindicate the rights of its citizens, which the civil magistrate has to maintain the sanctity of the law by subjecting criminals to its penalties. It is absurd to suppose foreigners exempted from this liability and allowed to exult in liberty, to commit every outrage without restraint, and without punishment. We have taken this cursory view of certain conditions under which it is right for the “powers that be,” to destroy human life, for the sake of establishing this right as a general principle. We claim it to be a plain corollary from the divine institution of human government, that life may be justly taken in vindication and support of the laws; for nothing is more certain than the dependence of civil government on this right for its ex
istence and power to answer the ends of its existence. And we feel authorized to charge all deniers of the rights of capital punishment, of the forcible suppression of domestic insurrection, and of war with foreign powers, with a logical denial of the right of civil government itself. Their position leads by irresistible inference to the grossest errors of the non-resistants. Starting with the doctrine that life is inviolable, and that the intentional destruction of life is always murder, to what other conclusion can they come, than that civil government is a usurpation, and that God intended man should be controlled by moral influence alone in this world 2 If the enemies of society are not liable to the loss of life for their crimes and criminal attempts, no restraint can be exercised over them, and no penalty, however mild, can be inflicted. They will not suffer themselves to be seized and imprisoned by the nerveless arm that dare not strike; and there will in fact, and from necessity, be no such thing as government, which, by supposition, God has ordained. We attach the greater value to the views here expressed, on account of the extensive prevalence in our country of loose sentiments on the important subjects of law and penalty, and in regard to the powers and duties of government to restrain and punish public enemies, both domestic and foreign. A morbid conscience may be discovered in both good and bad men in respect to the destruction of human life in support of law, good order, public tranquillity, and the rights and liberties of the people. Many a mob is treated with a dangerous indulgence through a misgiving on the part of the executive, or officers in command, as to the moral right of discharging fire-arms upon the crowd. The same diseased mental action is seen in the frequent pardons extended by governors and legislatures to the most guilty and desperate criminals. The spirit which thus unnerves the arm of public justice, and increases the insecurity of property and life, in the case of every citizen, paralyzes also the arm of the nation. Every people ought to be so trained in morals and in moral intelligence that they can distinguish between just and unjust wars. They will then enter with alacrity and energy on such as their consciences approve, and shun others in which they can not expect the blessing of heaven. At present we are pained to see how recklessly nations embark in war on ascertaining the expediency of the measure, without inquiring for any surer test of its justice. They seem to think any expedient war is just, while perhaps the best part of the people are in doubt of the lawfulness of any war. There is nothing like a hearty national feeling, opposed to one war and enthusiastic for another, out of a nice regard for justice. The inquiry: Is this war just 2 seems not to be raised. What bravery, what achievements, what laurels, can such a nation boast It was not so with the patriots of the Revolution. They were not at a loss to distinguish a rightful war from a contest for plunder and fame—and they were not scrupulous to maintain their civil and religious freedom by the destruction of those who would have subjugated them. Had the preachers of those times been nonresistants—shuddering at the shedding of blood in the support of good government—we might to this day have been governed, but not by rulers of our own choice, and been fighting, not our own battles, but those of the mother country. Nothing is more perverting and paralyzing than a morbid conscience ; a con
science which regards just and noble actions as possible crimes, and the execution of legal penalties as acts of revenge and cruelty. Moral codes may, in certain particulars, be too broad, although the chief danger is, that they will be too contracted and lax. When public opinion pronounces lawful acts, unlawful, those who are better informed become liable to undeserved imputations of loose views, and of immoral conduct. The noblest actions are regarded as unchristian and even inhuman. In the diseased eye of the people, the duties of magistrates and soldiers can not be discharged by a good man, with a good conscience; and Washington signing the death-warrant of Andre is a monster. The lovers of order and law, the Christian ministers and people of the land, who insist on a prompt suppression of mobs, and a firm infliction of penalties on criminals, are stigmatized as barbarians. Religion is dishonored by the pusillanimity of Christians, who, through a morbid conscience, dare not strike for their country, nor in support of the laws, noreven to expel a robber from their dwellings; and also by the low estimate which the people put on the faithful and vigorous administration of government by Christian rulers. The prevalence of just views of the divine authority of civil government, and of the propriety of sustaining the laws, and of accomplishing the ends of law, by inflicting death when milder measures are insufficient, would not only impart greater security to every social interest and rescue society from a multitude of disorders, but save Christianity from reproach for her teachings, and for the conduct of her enlightened disciples as men and magistrates.
This is a remarkable document. Its author, the democratic governor of the most democratic state in this democratic country—the favorite of that party which goes for the largest liberty, in a commonwealth where that party meets with scarce a show of opposition, in a republic whose most honored instrument declares that all men have an inalienable right to liberty, boldly announces to the world his position thus, “come what may, we are resolved that our SYSTEM OF DOMESTIC SLAVERY SHALL st AND,”—a system which utterly deprives of liberty about half the people of the commonwealth—yea, he affirms that slavery is essential to the perfection of the social state, is “the foundation and corner-stone of every well designed and durable republican edifice,” and is enjoined on men by the express command of Jehovah : and this in an age when the church of Rome, that nursing mother of human despotisms, has been constrained, through her acknowledged head, to condemn slavery, and the Bey of Tunis has pronounced it inhuman, and resolved to wash his hands of its guilt.
The reasons of these extraordinary positions are obvious.
Slavery is fast becoming the scorn and contempt of the civilized world. It is almost universally condemned as an outrage on the rights of man and the precepts of God. The church condemns it. The philanthropist condemns it. The man of the world, when uninterested in its favor, condemns it. The literature of the world with its thousand voices and omnipresent influence condemns it. These all especially condemn its existence under a government whose whole foundation rests on the
* Gov. Hammond's Letters on Southern Slavery, addressed to Thomas Clarkson, the English Abolitionist.
demnation of the whole world, is like “the scorpion girt by fire.” The burning disapprobation of the world it is hard to endure. Slaveholders are uncommonly sensitive to the opinions of men, and writhe before the pointing finger of scorn. A large part of them—that part as a general rule who are “determined that slavery shall stand”—cultivate that feudal spirit of honor which makes them shrink from the name, even when they shrink not from the reality of oppression and cruelty. They therefore make a desperate effort, like this of Gov. Hammond, to reverse the world's dread sentence respecting slaveholding; and stoutly affirm that slavery is a beneficent institution, sanctioned and recommended by its happy effects on both masters and slaves and by the laws and commands of the benevolent God. There is another strong reason which compels these men to this extraordinary course, viz. the movements of conscience in the slaveholding communities themselves. Good men in the slaveholding communities—and they are not few, as we hope and believe—and indeed all men there, whose humanity and natural sense of justice are not wholly quenched by selfish interest or passion, with the enormities and atrocities of the slave system transpiring all around them, and light from free institutions and free discussion blazing on the hideous character of the system, can not but see and feel that it is a very bad system—a system of enormous evil to masters, and of enormous wrong to servants. Under this impression, they hope and pray, and, by some preparatory steps and some feeble and indirect methods, labor, to a limited extent, for its removal. To meet this difficulty, to quell this dangerous foe within, to correct, and strengthen, and lull to rest the misguided, and weak, and aroused consciences of these men, the McDuffies and Calhouns and Hammonds, having utterly seared their own consciences respecting this subject by a determination to uphold slavery at all hazards, take the high and bold ground, that slavery is a most righteous and benevolent institution— an institution, not only permitted, but expressly sanctioned and commanded by God—an institution, not only not inconsistent with our national proclamation of the rights of man, and with the spirit of our free government, but absolutely essential to the preservation of republican liberty—an institution, which, so far from being unjust and cruel, promotes, far more than a system of free labor, the social, civil, and religious interests of all classes—an institution, therefore, not only to be tolerated, but to be cherished and perpetuated by every friend of his country and every servant of God.
Thus by urgent motives both from without and within, these determined upholders of slavery are urged on to this bold and extraordinary position.
We have not a particle of faith in their sincerity. We have no idea that they really believe slavery to be consistent with human rights or beneficial to human interests. We do not believe that they expect it to be perpetual. They know that it must perish before the progress of truth and piety. But we believe that they expect by it to gratify their avarice and love of power, and are determined at all hazards to uphold it as long as possible. Therefore, they take this high moral ground, as that on which they can make the longest defense, before the world, and before those among slaveholders who have humanity and conscience.
We both mourn and exult to see them take this ground. We mourn at such an exhibition of human inconsistency, falsity and wickedness. We exult at the folly and madness by which the enemies of human freedom defeat their own design. For, we believe that they have made an effort whose recoil will be immensely greater than its onward movement. They have made a wretched mistake as to the best mode of counteracting the opinion of the world. The very best thing they can do for this end, is to hold still and say nothing. We believe too, that, from lack of experimental acquaintance with a good man's conscience, they have greatly underrated the strength of good men's consciences in the slave states, and could have done nothing better fitted to arouse and arm that strength against slavery and its defenders.
These letters of Gov. Hammond embrace a great variety of topics. He first speaks of the slave trade, which he condemns, evidently not because he deems it intrinsically evil, but because of the manner in which it has been and is conducted. He speaks of the act of Parliament which prohibited that trade, as constituting the basis of what Mr. Clarkson esteems the glory of his life. He shows his courtesy and sympathy with philanthropy, by sneering at this venerable and world-honored and divinely honored philanthropist, for what he is pleased to consider the failure of the opposition to the slave trade. “I hope,” says he, “you have not lived too long for your own happiness, though you have been spared to see that in spite of all your toil and those of your fellow laborers, and the accomplishment of all that human agency could do, the African slave trade has increased threefold under your own eyes—more rapidly perhaps than any other ancient branch of commerce—and that your efforts to suppress it have effected
nothing more than a threefold increase of its horrors. There is a God who rules the world—allpowerful—far-seeing. He does not permit his creatures to foil his designs.” He takes no account of the truth, that the demand for slaves and the means of procuring them, have increased twenty fold perhaps, since the passage of that act; and that the slave trade, without that act, instead of increasing threefold, which he asserts and we doubt, would probably have increased twenty fold. Nor does he take any account of the immense moral influence of that act of Parliament, which branded this trade before the world as wicked, inhuman, and by logical consequence, condemned slavery itself. Gov. H. next speaks of prescriptive right; and argues, that, as the Englishman's title to his land is good, though ultimately founded on the unjust and rapacious acts of a Norman or Saxon conqueror, so the slaveholder's title to his slaves is good, though they descend from those who were kidnapped in Africa. He does not seem to perceive that his illustration is made correct (or parallel) only by supposing the Englishman's title to be good, even though (were that possible) the originally defrauded Briton was constantly present to claim his ravished land. For, each human being has an inalienable right to liberty, whatever his descent. Each babe of a slave coming from God's hand, and made a slave by being “born into slavery,” as it is called, is stolen as truly as the kidnapped African ; and slavery in each individual case exists only by a continual theft. Gov. H. has no liking for human coöperation with God, in removing or ameliorating the condition of the human race, and says, that it “would be well for us to leave the Almighty to perfect his own works and fulfill his own covenants.” This may be
Vol. III. 72
slaveholding theology. But in the free states we have a way of thinking, that the law, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself,” is to be fulfilled by active as well as passive obedience. We wonder if Gov. H. would have his rule of non-interference with Divine Providence applied, not only to slavery, but also to the tariff, which he says plunders the slave states for the benefit of the free states. Gov. H. in the next place affirming that the great question respecting American slavery is, whether it is a sin, according to the Holy Scriptures, endeavors to prove that it is not only not a sin but a duty These are his words. “American slavery is not only not a sin, but especially commanded by God through Moses, (American slavery commanded by God through Moses 11) and approved by Christ through his apostles.” His Excellency does not inform us how a divine permission or even command to the Israelites to enslave the divinely doomed Canaanites, authorizes and commands the Americans to enslave the Africans. We infer, as Gov. H. seems to have a logical mind, that he carries out his logic consistently, and holds, that the command given to the Israelites to exterminate the Canaanites and possess their lands, makes it an imperative duty for the Georgians to exterminate or drive out the Indians and possess their lands; and for the Texans to deal in the same manner with the Mexicans; and indeed for any man who happens to desire another's lands and has the power, to exterminate or drive off that other man and his samily, and seize upon his lands. We presume also that his Excellency adopts other conclusions which follow logically from his “scriptural doctrine,” viz. that might makes right; that it is the right and duty of his slaves, if they think they have the power, to enslave his Excellency, and of the