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CHAPTER IV - William Findley, Observations on “The Two Sons of Oil” (LF ed.) 
Observations on “The Two Sons of Oil”, Containing a Vindication of the American Constitutions, and Defending the Blessings of Religious Liberty and Toleration, against the Illiberal Strictures of the Rev. Samuel B. Wylie, edited and with an introduction by John Caldwell (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2007).
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Of subjection and allegiance to heathen princes—Law of Pennsylvania respecting murder vindicated—The occasion of making it—On the use of money and paying tribute—The government vindicated from the author’s charge of robbery—His claims for aliens, and their swearing oaths—Taking deeds for land—Provision for amending the constitution, and not punishing heresy—The author’s misrepresentation of the treaty with Tripoli examined—His misrepresentation of slavery in Pennsylvania refuted—The author demoralizes all the civil governments in the world.
The author says (p. 62) “But the saints accepted offices and places of trust under heathen princes; see the cases of Ezra, Nehemiah and Daniel, in the books called by their names.”
This objection I undertake to support. His dilemmas, indeed, might pass unanswered; but as he has nothing better to give in support of his cause, I will give them a place. They are as follows: “If the saints accepted offices, &c. we may conclude, either, first, that the power was legitimate; or, secondly, that offices may be held under illegitimate governments; or, thirdly, that the saints sinned in accepting them.” The illustration of these dilemmas I will pass over briefly. His supposition of the case of himself being a slave in Algiers, and being employed as president of a university, &c. as similar to the case of Daniel, in Babylon, is so absurd, that it would disgrace a school-boy. Captives made by the Barbary pirates, have their lives saved only for the sake of the ransom expected for their redemption, and are kept on hard fare, and at hard labour, to induce their friends to ransom them soon, and at high prices. Unless they conform to Mahometanism, they cannot be freed from their chains. The author, I presume, never read, even in romance, of a university in Algiers, much less of a christian slave being appointed the president of it, or to any other office. Imaginary cases may be introduced for illustration, but they ought to be imagined within the bounds of probability.
It is well known, that, according to the ancient customs of Asia, when a nation was taken captive, the people were not thereby made menial slaves, as in Algiers, but reduced to political slavery, and, for political reasons, removed from their native territory. But they were still subjects, in common with others, to the conqueror. To prevent the inducement which residing on the lands and in the cities of their fathers, would give them to revolt, they were removed to distant territories, to which they had no peculiar attachment. When the king of Assyria finally conquered the ten tribes, after they had revolted, he transplanted the inhabitants to the eastern parts of his vast empire, to a great distance from the land of their ancestors, and replaced them with captives from different nations of the east and north-cast—2 Kings xvii. 24 and when Sennacherib proposed to take Judah captive, from doing which he was only prevented by a miraculous interposition, he proposed to take them to a land flowing with milk and honey, like their own land—2 Kings xviii. 32. In both these cases they had before become tributary to the king of Assyria, and afterwards revolted. This was also the case with Judah, before Zedekiah was taken captive, and Jerusalem destroyed. The Jews, when captives in Babylon, were subjects, but not menial slaves. Except the removal to a distance from their own land, they were individually considered as free, and they remained a distinct people. Ezra has informed us, that they returned in their usual order, according to their families, not only with the priests and Levites, singers, &c. but the Nithinims, viz. those of the Canaanites who had agreed to do the necessary service of the sanctuary, and more than 7000 servants, male and female, that is, more than one seventh of the whole number, probably nearly equal to one slave to each family. It is well known that the judicial law not only tolerated but authorised the Israelites to procure and hold, in perpetuity, slaves from the nations around them; but not of their brethren, nor stolen. This political slavery in which the Jews were held in Babylon, is so different from the worse than menial slavery in Algiers, that I am astonished they should ever have been compared together. As well might the colonists before the revolution, be compared to slaves in Algiers.
I foresee, however, an objection may probably be taken from Dan. i. 34. where Nebuchadnezzar directs the master of eunuchs to select certain of the children of Israel, and of the king’s seed, and of the princes in whom there was no blemish, to be instructed in the laws of Chaldea, &c. This was the accomplishment of the prophecy of Isaiah to Hezekiah—Isaiah xxxix. 7. and no more than Samuel the prophet forewarned Israel that their own kings would do, if they persisted in the desire of having a king, like the nations around them, viz. a despot—1 Sam. viii. 10–18. I admit, however, that according to our ideas of slavery, these young men were slaves, while, at the same time, they were nobles; but no man in his senses will compare this kind of slavery to the mercenary and barbarous slavery in Algiers. However, these young men being thus selected, is an indubitable proof that the rest enjoyed personal liberty, except as to returning to their own land.
In page 63, the author says, “Any office may be held, or service engaged in, upon the following conditions, viz.
1st. “That the duties be right in themselves.” To this all agree.
2d. “That they be regulated by a just law.” I answer, that is matter of opinion. He undoubtedly, agreeably to his principles, believes that a just law would authorise punishing me as an heretic. A just law, agreeably to my opinion, would let both his head and mine stay on us, and afford us both time to repent to the eleventh hour.
3d. “That there be no other oath of office required, but faithfully to execute official duties.” This third rule affords a fair implication that the author would hold an office under the devil, or any of his servants, provided he got the salary, and the service to his mind. He will make no question of the right to bestow the office, if he gets the emolument. We have many others, at present, who act on the same principle. I wish to be informed, however, by the reverend author, how an office can be conferred by a person, who has no moral right to hold an office himself? This is a practical, and, therefore, an important question.
The author (p. 64, 65) states a case of being prisoner with the Indians, and, as their slave, assisting them in their lawful employment; but that connected with this they have a rule “that every morning and evening the officers shall take care that those under their respective charges shall pow wow, or worship the devil—Let an oath to support and maintain this little code, be made, by the community, an essential qualification for holding an office.”
“Now, supposing these two men are called to accept offices, in their respective tribes, may they both comply with good consciences?”
I have not inserted this case of illustration with a view to answer it, otherwise than to shew its absurdity. It only goes to shew the weakness of the author’s cause. Illustrations are not proofs of any thing; they are only introduced to explain or elucidate a case, but they can do this no further than the supposed case is similar to the real one, and founded on probability. In this case there is neither similarity nor probability. There is no similarity between the old organized governments of Babylon and Assyria, who were of old like a pool of water, and were the cradle of mankind, and of the arts, and were at all times civilized governments, and which eventually sunk by the excess of refinement and luxury, which always renders men effeminate; whose Magi or men famous for wisdom degenerated into self-seeking impostors, such as many of the christian clergy had done in the author’s standard period, and who even exceeded the eastern magicians, in the number of their fabulous miracles and sainted impostors. The Indians never were, in this country, civilized; they have always been barbarous, and all attempts hitherto to civilize them have proved abortive. And yet, strange to tell, they understand the law of nature better, and practice more agreeably to it, with respect to the religion of their follow men, than the author. According to my information, received from those who have dwelt long among their various tribes, either as prisoners, public agents, or traders, they believe that men are accountable only to the Great Spirit, the master of breath, for their religion; they respect a really religious man, and have often reproved christian prisoners for not living agreeable to the principles of their religion. They sometimes savagely barbecue and eat a portion of their enemies taken in war, but they never have obliged either christians, or other tribes, to attend their pow wows; doing so is absolutely contrary to their rules, which prevent strangers from attending them. Hence it is that we know nothing certain about them, and are liable to be imposed on. One respectable person, who had long been their prisoner, informed me, that knowing of an unusual stir, and numerous meetings, made interest to be secretly admitted, but saw no pow wow, but only a man preaching morality from the law of nature, as far as he understood it, with relation to their dependance on the Great Spirit for their success in hunting, &c. He taught them that the ghosts of women and children murdered in war would hant them, &c.
Why should the author have recourse to the unlettered savages for the support of his cause; and, in so doing, slander even them so egregiously, as by implication to charge them with a conduct, of which they never were guilty, and which is contrary to all their established rules? With equal justice may he, as he has done, suppose the primitive christians, approved commentators, and the reformers, to have testified in favour of his system, which, with the apostles, they have uniformly testified against. In this case, as well as the case of Algiers, there is neither similarity nor probability. Therefore it is a mere sophism to deceive the misinformed, analogous to the so called pious frauds which prevailed in the fourth and fifth centuries.
After the author has at length gone on to prove how much better the government of Babylon was, with respect to holding offices under it, viz. holding them under a despotic government, than a government of compact and law, he says (p. 64) the despotic governments require no oath of allegiance, which the others do. He concludes the paragraph by asserting, “Daniel had not, therefore, to swear to support an immoral constitution, for there was none.” In the next paragraph he says: “The office was either such as required allegiances to the constitution, or it did not. If the latter, it is the thing contended for, viz. that there was no immoral obligation connected with the office. If the former, he was perjured, not only by breaking it in several instances, but in taking it also, for he swore to a blank, i.e. to perform he knew not what; but there is no account of Daniel taking such obligation. Indeed it would have been inconsistent with the smiles of heaven, which he and others in office frequently enjoyed.”
We have only the author’s assertion, that the king of Babylon required no oath of allegiance, and that the government had no law but the will of the sovereign. This is not the case in the most despotic governments. In these the sovereign is so much above the laws, that he changes them when he pleases. This was the case with the rescripts of the Roman emperors, when they were at the height of despotism, and, in the author’s opinion, of perfection. He has indeed counted largely on the credulity of those for whom he wrote, when he asserted that the king of Babylon required no oath of allegiance, when he conferred a trust. How stands the fact?
After the same king of Babylon had carried Jehoiachin and other captives to Babylon, he made Zedekiah his deputy or governor over Judea, with the title of king. In conferring that trust he required an oath of allegiance. For breaking this oath Zedekiah forfeited the smiles of heaven, and procured its destructive frowns. The inspired writer says (2 Chron. xxxvi. 13.) speaking of the sins of Zedekiah, “And he also rebelled against king Nebuchadnezzar, who had made him swear by God.” To the same purpose see Ezekiel, chap. xvii. from the 11th to the 18th verse, wherein Zedekiah is most severely reproved for breaking his oath of allegiance to the king of Babylon. v. 18. “Seeing he despised the oath by breaking the covenant, when lo, he had given his hand, and done all these things, he shall not escape. Therefore, thus saith the Lord God, as I live, surely mine oath, which he hath broken, even it will I recompense on his own head,” &c. When we compare this with the pathetic, impressive, and prophetical exhortations of the weeping prophet Jeremiah to Zedekiah, to fulfil his allegiance to the king of Babylon, we will probably be convinced, that in taking that oath, and giving his hand, he had the smiles, i.e. the approbation of heaven; and that in breaking it, he had its high disapprobation. Of this oath we are only incidentally informed, through the breach of it, but it proves that the king of Babylon was in the habit of requiring such; that is to say, that it was the law of the kingdom to require an oath of allegiance when a public trust was conferred.
That oaths were required and given, as the highest assurance of confidence, in conferring trusts and pledging friendship, from the early ages of the world, is evident, from the history of the patriarchs in the books of Moses. It is authorised by the law of nature, the law of Moses, by the gospel, and by the highest possible imitable example, viz. the example of God Almighty; with this difference, that because he could swear by no greater, he swear by himself, and because he is infinitely the greatest, men and angels swear by him. To bind Zedekiah the more firmly to perform his oath, Nebuchadnezzar changed his name from Mettaniah, to what imports the righteousness of God. The Universal History, and others, inform us, in addition to what the Bible does, that oaths were in use and sacred among the Gentile nations from time immemorial. We know they were awfully so among the Greeks and Romans. The author himself will admit, that the term sacrament, which christians apply to baptism and the Lord’s supper, as seals of the covenant of grace, is taken from the oath of fidelity given by the Roman officers and soldiers to that heathen and idolatrous government. That the Saviour, when he healed the centurion’s servant, highly approved of his faith, but did not censure him for holding the military command under that oath, nor tell him to resign it. The centurion, who was directed by an angel to send for the apostle Peter to instruct him more perfectly, enjoyed the smiles of heaven while he was under an oath of allegiance, and while an emperor reigned, little, if at all, inferior in wickedness to Nero, viz. Caligula. The apostle’s instructions are on record, but in none of them is he told to renounce his allegiance to the Roman government. This centurion enjoyed the smiles of heaven in an extraordinary measure before he received the divine mission of the apostle Peter, who taught him the blessed doctrine of Christ crucified, &c. but not a word about the immoral government to which he had sworn allegiance, nor a caution to renounce his allegiance; nor did the apostle Paul give any such advice to the centurion, who treated him courteously when he guarded him on his passage to Rome, and during his shipwreck on his way, to support his solemn and legal appeal to the supreme court of the empire, while the monster Nero was emperor.
The author (p. 63) has assigned another reason why Daniel did not take an oath to the king of Babylon. “The monarch was the legislator; his will was the law of the realm. Daniel v. 19. “Whom he would he slew, and whom he would he kept alive.”
Has not the author, in this instance, proved too much. When Israel chose to be governed by a king, like the nations around them, viz. a despot, as all the kings in Asia had then become; God, as their king, severely reproved them for their choice, and by his prophet warned them of the result. I Sam. viii. 10–22. After this, we never hear of a king who thought proper to take a man’s life, by applying for this purpose to the courts of justice instituted by the judicial law. Nebuchadnezzar was a mighty conqueror. History says he governed from India to the pillars of Hercules, i.e. the Straits of Gibraltar. When he took Jerusalem, which had most perfidiously rebelled, he slew the king’s sons before his eyes, and whom besides he thought proper. This was agreeable even to the modern law of nations, as they, after rebelling contrary to the solemn oath of their king, and holding out during a long siege, contrary to the advice of Jeremiah the prophet, were taken without conditions. Was this worse than David did with the Ammonites? See 2 Sam. xii. 31. “And he (David) brought forth the people that were therein, and put them under saws, and under harrows of iron, and under axes of iron, and made them pass through the brick kiln; and thus did he unto all the cities of the children of Ammon.” The children of Ammon never had taken an oath to David with the divine approbation, as Zedekiah had done to the king of Babylon. I vindicate neither of them. The scripture records the fact with respect to David, but makes no apology for his conduct in this instance. The Bible taken, even as a common history, is the most candid and impartial history that ever was wrote. In matters of fact, it has no favourites, and makes no apologies.
To come to the emperors to whom the author impliedly ascribes infallibility, as they were the first who pretended to give authority, by their civil sanction, to the law of the most high God, they had precisely the character given to the king of Babylon; whom they would they slew, and whom they would they kept alive. Constantine slew his own son Crispin, and afterwards his wife, a number of the nobles, his brother-in-law, after he had promised him protection, and his sister’s son of twelve years old, without a form of trial, for which, at Rome, he acquired the name of the second Nero. He sometimes exposed prisoners, taken in war, to wild beasts for amusement, and shed as much blood in war, probably, as the king of Babylon, and grievously oppressed the empire. Theodosius, a better man I admit, than Constantine, in a passion massacred the inhabitants of Thessalonica, his own subjects, and committed other excesses. He shed much blood in war, but it was principally for the necessary defence of the empire, not in a struggle for empire, like Constantine. Yet the author acknowledges their authority, and compares them to good Josiah, &c. Was their murder and oppression the less criminal, because they were christians, and had usurped the authority of Christ over his own house?
In short, the prophet Jeremiah writes by divine direction to the captives in Babylon, and exhorts them (Jer. xxix. 4–7) to be good subjects, to marry, to plant, to build, to seek the peace of the city, and to pray unto the Lord for it, for in the peace thereof you shall have peace. Very similar this to the apostle Paul’s directions in 1 Tim. ix. 1–3. “I exhort, therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men: for kings, and for all that are in authority, that we lead a quiet and peaceable life, in all godliness and honesty.” Here the testimony of an eminent prophet and apostle agrees in giving their united testimony, that allegiance expressed in every proper manner, to such powers as we receive protection from, and as God, in his providence, has set over us, is both our duty and interest. When they withdraw their protection, the allegiance ceases of course; yet this is not admitted by the author’s political heads of the church of Christ on earth. They frequently have claimed allegiance where they have withdrawn protection from, and made war on such as would not worship the image they had set up, viz. human authority substituted in place of the divine.
An oath of allegiance, which God calls mine oath, and my covenant, was exacted from Zedekiah, on being appointed governor, with the title of king, of the small territory of Judea, afterwards but a small portion of the province on that side of the river Euphrates. Of this oath and covenant of allegiance to the king of Babylon, God highly approves, and by his prophets exhorts, in the most pathetic manner, to the faithful fulfilling of it, and denounces and executes desolating judgments for the breach of it, and commands the captives to be good subjects, not only in their outward practice, but in their prayers to God, for the welfare of the government to whom they were captives; and they enjoyed the smiles of heaven in doing so.
Daniel was appointed to, and accepted of the of the office of chief governor of the extensive and powerful province of Babylon, including the seat of empire, and of chief justice of the empire, implied by “sitting in the king’s gate,” viz. the supreme seat of judgment. Yet the author assures us, on his own authority only, that he took no oath of allegiance, or that if he did, he was perjured, and could not enjoy the smiles of heaven. Now we are assured he did enjoy the smiles of heaven, that the king of Babylon was in the habit of requiring such an oath, on conferring a trust, that God approved of giving it, and punished the breach of it, and smiled on those who took and fulfilled it. By what authority then can the author say, that the king of Babylon did not require an oath of allegiance from Daniel, or that if he gave it, he was perjured, and could not enjoy the smiles of heaven?
How opposite to Jeremiah the prophet is the author. Jer. 27. from the first to the last verse, God asserts his sovereign right to dispose of all nations of the earth, and dispose of them to whom he will, and declares that he has given into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar all the kings and their dominion and property, before named, to serve him, and his son, and his son’s son, until the time of his land, viz. of the fall of the Babylonish empire come.
In the 12th verse the prophet applies particularly to Zedekiah and the Jews, saying, “Bring your neck under the king of Babylon, and serve him and his people, and live.” “Why will you die, thou and thy people, by the sword, by the famine, &c.—Therefore, hearken thou not unto the words of the prophets, who speak unto you, saying, Ye shall not serve the king of Babylon, they prophecy a lie unto you.”
In the above, the smiles of heaven are connected with submitting to the authority of the king of Babylon, of which we know by the case of Zedekiah, that taking an oath of allegiance was one instance of obedience required and approved of by God, and the breach of it called rebellion by the authority of God Almighty. The author, however, in his superior wisdom, has chosen his lot with the false prophets, and may be addressed in the words of the prophet Ezek. chap. xxviii. 3. “Behold thou art wiser than Daniel,” &c. The above applies equally to the cases of Zerubbabel, Ezra, Nehemiah, Mordecai, three of them successively governors of Judea, and the fourth prime minister of Persia, and to all similar cases. God, by the prophet, expressly gave the dominion to Babylon for three generations, and after this gave it to Cyrus, king of Persia, without express limitation of duration, but with a prophetic intimation that it should pass to the Greeks, to whose authority, in the person of Alexander, it was transferred.
All authors, whether divine, moral, or political, whose works I have had an opportunity of perusing, except the author’s, agree in maintaining that allegiance and protection are inseparably relative terms, and that their relation is founded in moral honesty, viz. the moral law of nature. The author not only reverses this universally established doctrine in theory, but in practice; he and those for whose benefit he professes to write, have, and still continue to receive protection from the government of Pennsylvania, which has been distinguished for hospitality to strangers, agreeably to the directions of the apostle, ever since it became a colony. This principle was carefully introduced by Mr. Penn, its original founder, and not less carefully cultivated by the state government.1 Of this the reverend author, and those who adhere to his system, are standing witnesses. But what is the return made for this protection? It is not allegiance. It is not even quiet and inoffensive acquiescence. It is perversion, slander, and sedition. This, indeed, is a high charge, which ought not to be made on light grounds. If I do so, the candid reader will condemn me; therefore I am responsible for the charge.
I pass over his insidious, but trifling objections to the oaths administered to jurors, &c. &c. (p. 54) as unworthy of notice or reply, but cannot pass over his note on the criminal code of Pennsylvania, p. 55.
“In no case does the violation of the divine law appear more flagrant, than in the law of Pennsylvania, respecting murder. God expressly commands, in the most pointed manner, Gen. ix. 6. ‘Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed.’ And, Numb. xxxv. 31. ‘Moreover, ye shall take no satisfaction for the life of a murderer, which is guilty of death; but he shall be surely put to death.’ Verse 23. ‘And the land cannot be cleansed of the blood that is shed therein, but by the blood of him that shed it.’
“The divine law distinguishes between manslaughter and murder; but not between murder of the first degree, and murder of the second. How flatly contradictory to the law of God, is the law of Pennsylvania, which declares, that, after April 22, 1794, ‘No crime whatsoever (except murder of the first degree) shall be punished with death, in the state of Pennsylvania.’ See Read’s Digest, page 288. How could a juror, who was a Bible believer, act in this case?”
I am very sorry that I cannot avoid saying, that the author, in the above paragraph, has indulged in asserting an absolute and palpable falsehood.
He says the divine law, probably meaning that the peculiar law of Moses distinguishes between murder and manslaughter. I say, and say it with confidence, that it does not. It neither mentions nor distinguishes between manslaughter and the most innocent accidental homicides; between a man being “killed by the axe slipping off the helve,” (Deut. xix. 5) nor the case where the “man lies not in wait, but God delivers him into his hand; then I will appoint thee a place whither he shall flee. But if a man come presumptuously upon his neighbour, to slay him with guile; thou shalt take him from mine altar, that he may die”—Exod. xxi. 13, 14. “But if he thrust him of hatred, or hurl at him by laying of wait, that he die; or in enmity smite him with his hand, that he die: he that smote him shall surely be put to death; for he is a murderer: the revenger of blood shall slay the murderer, when he meeteth him. But if he thrust him suddenly without enmity, or have cast upon him any thing without laying of wait; or with any stone, wherewith a man may die, seeing him not, and cast it upon him, that he die, and was not his enemy, neither sought his harm; then the congregation shall judge between the slayer and the revenger of blood according to these judgments”—Numbers xxxv. 22–24. “But if any man hate his neighbour, and lie in wait for him, and smite him mortally, that he die, and fleeth into one of those cities, then the elders of his city shall send and fetch him hence,” &c.
On these extracts from the law of Moses, I observe, that they do not fully correspond with that given to the sons of Noah. They very materially restrain the power of the avenger of blood, both by the institution of the cities of refuge, and courts of justice. The penalties for the breach of the moral law being no part of the law itself, but incidentally becoming necessary, because of transgression, to enforce obedience to it; they are chargeable according to circumstances, and the will of the legislature.
I have before observed, that the law respecting the punishment of murder given to the sons of Noah, was the best that the then state of society would admit. That all penalties being positive and changeable institutions, agreeable to the will of the legislature, a different and improved criminal code was given by Moses. And by the same rule, every nation taking the moral law, applicable for their own circumstances, for their guide, have a right to enact such penalties as are necessary to protect their people in living quiet and peaceable lives in godliness and honesty, agreeable to the prayer which the apostle directed to be offered up by the churches.
The legislature of Pennsylvania very properly exercised this right, and accommodated her criminal code agreeably to circumstances, and the state of society. But was their decision contrary to the moral law? No, it was not. Was it contrary to the judicial law of Moses? No, it was not. It was an improvement of it, and no doubt such as it would have been, if circumstances had been equal. But why did not the author state the law of Pennsylvania as any honest man would have done? He quoted the introductory or heading line, repealing other criminal laws, and gave it out for the law itself respecting murder, and falsified the law of Moses to give plausible currency to his seditious slander of the law of Pennsylvania.
No crime, except murder in the first degree, shall be punished with death. All murder which shall be perpetrated by means of poison, or by laying in wait, or by any kind of witful, deliberate, and premeditated killing, or which shall be committed in the perpetration, or attempt to perpetrate, arson, rape, or burglary, shall be deemed murder in the first degree.
The above is the law of Pennsylvania for punishing murder, of which he has not inserted one word. He has only inserted a negative introductory line, which applies more particularly to other crimes formerly punished by death, than to murder, for it made no change in the punishment of murder, nor abatement of it. The definition of murder to be punished with death, includes the definition of the law of Moses, with the addition of poisoning, and without the exception in favour of the master who killed his servant. The law of Moses, in every instance, shews the greatest detestation of shedding human blood, but distributes the punishments, as it pleased divine wisdom to entrust to fallible judges in that state of society. For the same reason, two witnesses were indispensably necessary, under that law, to convict a murderer. In the present state of society, Pennsylvania, and all the other states (except one) make no exception in favour of the master who wilfully and deliberately kills his slave, and all of them are convicted on the testimony of one positive witness; hence the law of Pennsylvania is more severe against murder than the judicial law. It is similar to the law of England, and both in a degree copied from the law of Moses, adapted to change of circumstances. Murder is defined by the law of England to be “a person of sound memory and discretion, unlawfully killing any reasonable creature, in being, and under the king’s peace, with malice aforethought, either express or implied.” Torture was not admitted in the judicial law, but it was introduced among christians in the dark ages, and applied to several real or supposed crimes, especially against heresy, under the notion of punishing sin.
Murder, in the English law, is called felonious homicide. In the judicial law all manslaying, short of murder, is considered as one kind of homicide, and equally punished with death, if caught by the avenger; or, if he escapes, with banishment to the city of refuge, except the master who slew his servant, for whom the punishment, in the most aggravated cases, was a fine. The Roman civil laws, however, which generally prevailed among christian nations, and the common law of England, distinguish homicides into different classes, such as justifiable, excusable, and felonious; and those are again subdivided and punished according to their different degrees of criminality. But whoever kills a man, however innocently or justifiably, must stand his trial as a murderer, and bear the burthen of proof to vindicate himself. This, no doubt, for good reasons, was not the case with the judicial law. In prosecutions under it, the burthen of proof lay on the prosecutors, who must produce two positive witnesses to prove the fact.
The English law, &c. also distinguish felonious homicides into different classes, viz. treason, murder, and manslaughter. The last they define to be the unlawful killing of another, without malice, either express or implied, but in a sudden passion, or in some unlawful act, without any known malice aforethought, or premeditated intention. Such would, under the judicial law, have been entitled to their refuge, and protected from the avenger, equally with more innocent homicides. This embraces most of the cases of homicides that take place in unpremeditated quarrels, frays, &c. and unfortunately it has been applied to the case of duels. Men of sobriety and reflection, both in England and this country, have long lamented, that through the aversion of juries to take men’s lives, murderers frequently escaped with only the punishment of manslaughter, viz. a slight touch on the hand with a hot iron, which, from habit, has come to be attended with little or no disgrace. Forfeiture of estate is mentioned, but seldom executed, even in England, and cannot in this country, where that kind of royal robbery of families is constitutionally forbid, even in cases of treason. All whipping, cropping, burning the hand, &c. which disguises or maims the body of a man, is also forbidden by our laws. This rendered it necessary to enact some other punishment for manslaughter, that it might not escape, and also that murder, in doubtful cases, might not escape altogether, under the name of manslaughter. They did not, for this purpose, abate the punishment of murder, nor qualify the definition of it, but to render it more detestable, called it by the opprobrious name of “murder in the first degree;” and on the same principle, to render manslaughter, in the higher grades of it, more detestable, they called it “murder in the second degree.” And instead of a slight burn on the hand, at the discretion of the executioner, who might easily be bribed, the delinquent must be condemned to a period of imprisonment and hard labour, for a term, not exceeding fourteen years—no trifling punishment. When the criminal code was revised, the judges were authorised to offer this in preference of death, to some who were liable for crimes committed under the former law to death; some of them refused the exchange.
Here it is observable, that the author has palmed a line, repealing other criminal laws, on his readers, for the law of Pennsylvania, providing for the punishment of murder. And to aid him in his deception, took advantage of its being entered as an introduction to that law, not to repeal it, as he insinuates, but to prepare the way for giving it more explicit force. He artfully conceals the definition of murder, and, to give the deception the greater force, he profanely quotes the texts of scripture before mentioned, to countenance, if not an assertion, at least a disingenuous implication, that Pennsylvania does not punish murder with death, equal to what is required by the law of God, but takes satisfaction for murder, which they do not do.
I am justified in saying, that though the author has, in numerous instances, discovered want of candour, or that he wrote without due information, or understanding the subject, this is a case that admits of no apology; in no case does the author’s want of candour appear more flagrant, than in this instance. How flatly contrary to the law of God is his perversion of truth and candour, in order to deceive others, and disturb the public peace.
If any should think the above too severe, I ask, Is there not a cause? There is cause sufficient in the statement of the case, which is aggravated by the effects it has had.
But it is not in this instance alone that the author seditiously slanders the government and people of the United States. This is done in a lesser or greater degree in every one of his seven reasons why he cannot homologate our governments. Besides the case last noticed, every instance in which he calls them immoral and illegitimate, i.e. bastard governments, is a slander. None had ever any claim on us but Great Britain, by which we were indeed considered as illegitimate or bastard governments, while deemed by them in a state of rebellion. But since that question was decided in favour of the United States, Britain herself, and all other nations, have, and do, acknowledge and treat with them as legitimate moral governments; and at a time when all the governments of Europe have been charging each other with immorality, &c. the United States escape clear from any such charge, except from the author.
In page 69, he supposes us to object—“But you make use of the money which receives its currency from their sanction; and you support them by paying tribute, &c. Why not swear allegiance, hold offices,” &c.
To this he answers, “We make use of the money, to be sure, but when we give an equivalent for it, by industry or otherwise, it is our own property; and, another man’s stamping his name upon our coats, is no reason why we should throw them away.”
What contemptible sophistry! What analogy is there between one individual stamping his name on another man’s coat, to claim a currency to it, and the giving currency to money? This is one of the highest sovereign acts of government. It is authorised by law, and, in monarchies, stamped with the image and superscription of the sovereign. In republics it is stamped as authorised according to law, otherwise it is not money. The laws of the United States have authorised a particular coinage of their own, and adopted by law some foreign coins, to which they have affixed a legal value, and for which it shall pass. Both are money by the sovereign authority, and not like an unauthorised individual stamping his name on another man’s coat.
He adds: “It must be granted, also, that we do support them, by paying tribute, &c. So do we the robber, unto whom we give a part, to save the remainder. But will it, therefore, follow, that I may legally swear allegiance to him, or become one of his officers in the business of robbery and plunder!”
Another wonderful illustration, by which the American governments are designated robbers. Did ever the American government rob any man? No. The very insinuation of this is a seditious slander. The author knew that the sedition law was repealed before he wrote his book, but the same authority can renew it again.2 Robbers, if ever they are so generous as not to take all, give no equivalent for what they take. For what small tribute the author pays in this state, which goes wholly to making roads and bridges, or for court houses, courts, &c. the protection and accommodation of which the author and all aliens enjoy, as fully and freely as citizens do, is a full and ample equivalent, which they accept of, and enjoy. They pay no direct tax for the expense of the civil government of the state—this is paid out of another fund, which arose from the state doing more than her share during the distressing period of the war with Britain; of this, the hard earnings of the citizens, in other times, the author, &c. enjoy their proportion, without any equivalent, and they pay none to support the federal government. In England, from which we have copied much of our jurisprudence, allegiance is divided into two kinds, namely, the natural allegiance of natives, which they consider as perpetual, and the local and temporary allegiance, which is incidental to aliens. We have required hitherto only this last, for we have as yet made no law against expatriation, either of native or alien, but freely protect aliens without their giving allegiance. I have already shewn that all approved commentators on the Bible, or on civil and common law, and all moral and political writers, consider it a first principle or established moral maxim, that protection necessarily draws allegiance—that they are morally connected together—that they cannot be separated. This being the case, I recommend to the author to examine the questions over again, on more correct moral principles. In so doing, he will find he has been mistaken; that the state has not robbed them; that it has received nothing but for an ample equivalent; that it did not seize their persons to bring them within their power, nor put them in fear, nor take from them, in this situation, money or goods. This is the legal technical definition of robbery. He will find also, from his own statement, that those whose cause he advocates, intruded themselves within our territory, enjoyed protection to their persons and property, and to their industry in acquiring property—And by his advice refuse allegiance, the only moral return for those very valuable benefits; but instead thereof spurn at the hand that received them when they were strangers, and fed and protected them without receiving the equivalent, which the law of nature, and nature’s God requires. If he does this impartially, he will certainly be convinced that he has cast the charge of robbery on the wrong side—that by the decision of the moral law, himself, and those whom he advocates, are the robbers, in receiving protection without an equivalent, and not the government, from whom they have experienced protection and forbearance, but no violence. He certainly would be convinced of the fallaciousness and indecency of his next illustration in the same page:
“Should a robber meet me on the high way, and, upon finding that I had no money, put his bayonet to my breast; and should it appear evidently, that he intended to kill me, unless I would solemnly engage to take, or send him, a certain sum of money, in a given time, say fifty dollars, ought I not to comply?”
This, as an abstract question, has been decided differently by casuists, but what has it to do with the United States? Did they act the part of robbers in such a manner as he describes? The insinuation is a slander, too absurd and too ridiculous to require further notice.
His fifteenth supposed objection is: “But you are mostly aliens, and have no business with our governmental affairs.” This is an objection of his own framing. No country in the world has received aliens with more freedom, nor admitted them to the participation of all their privileges with more liberality. But we will hear his own reply to it.
“Admitting that we were all aliens, what does this prove? ‘The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof.’—Ps. xxiv. 1. We are moral subjects of the Lord of the whole earth. While we maintain true and faithful allegiance to him, and conscientiously obey his laws, we have a right to live in any part of his dominions, where, in his providence, he may please to cast our lots. We ought not to infringe upon any of the rights of others, &c.——We meddle not with your governmental affairs, farther than their morality or immorality is concerned. We have a right to give our opinion. We do so, and the reasons on which it is founded.”
How are we to understand the author? Does he profess to come with a divine mission? Let him then shew the proofs of his apostleship. He contradicts the most explicit language of the apostles of Christ, and of the law of Moses, which he professes to substitute for the moral law, as has been already shewn. That he patronizes a practice, and practices himself, totally repugnant to the practices of the patriarchs, the prophets, Christ and his apostles, the primitive christians, the witnesses during the dark ages, the martyrs and reformers, has been heretofore shewn. He ought to work greater miracles than any of these have done, before he succeeds in overturning their doctrines, and condemning their practice. The moral law being addressed to every individual (or, to use the author’s words, “every man necessarily possesses it”) and the gospel, both in its promises and precepts, as well as the instructive examples it records—these are addressed to the people of the United States, as well as others, and they have received from God the same powers of reason and judgment as other men, and are equally accountable to him for the exercise of it.
Though the earth, with dominion over the creatures, be given in a general grant to the human family, yet that it is not so given to be held in common but to be distributed according to certain established rules, is evident from scripture, reason, and the history of nations. This distribution is of two kinds—national and individual. The property of all the individuals which compose the nation, is the property of the government of the nation, so far as is necessary to provide for its protection against the claims or invasion of other nations, robbers or intruders; but it is distributed and appropriated to individuals, in such proportions, and subject to such rules, as the laws of each nation prescribe. This is essentially necessary to civil society, agriculture, &c. No alien nor foreigner has any right to intrude himself, or interfere with the property and enjoyments of the nation or individuals, further or otherwise than the law of the nation authorises.
There is one exception to this rule. If by providential distress through shipwreck, or any other unavoidable cause, strangers are left on our territory, we must treat them with hospitality, and protect them until they have an opportunity to return to their own country. This is a moral duty, binding individuals as well as nations; any thing further depends on moral discretion. In the positive institution of government given to Israel, they are enjoined to be kind to the stranger—but it was provided that strangers, under that law, could never hold land in fee simple. The land was entailed to the Israelites and their families in an unalienable perpetuity; it could not even be mortgaged but for a very short period; therefore, under that law, strangers could never hold real property, nor were they assured of liberty. In the very prosperous times of Israel, numerous strangers resorted to them; king David had numbered them, for what purpose we are not informed, but Solomon made them slaves to the public soon after his father’s death. When he began to build the temple, he put fourscore thousand of them to be hewers in the mountains, and threescore and ten thousand to be bearers of burthens, and three thousand six hundred to be overseers to set the people to work—2 Chron. ii. 17, 18. The gospel teaches not to be neglectful to entertain strangers; but no law obliges states to encourage aliens voluntarily to settle among them. This depends on the discretion of the civil society. If they followed the example of Solomon, they would employ them in public works.
The author, indeed, claims a right to live in any part of his (God’s) dominions, where in his providence he may please to order his lot. This he claims from his conscientious faithfulness to Christ Jesus. Paul was as confident as the author, while he was under the influence of an erring conscience. But how did providence order their lot so as to claim independent rights? Were they cast on our shores by shipwreck, or were they specially commissioned by God? If in either these ways, they can shew the proofs of it. But if they came voluntarily, to better their worldly condition, they derive no more claim from providential protection in this case, than the man who enjoys providential protection in the act of robbing or stealing. Most nations hold their lands by prescriptive possession, from times unknown or uncertain. The United States alone hold theirs by fair moral purchase. What the inhabitants had not formerly purchased from the proprietor of Pennsylvania, the legislature purchased from him during the revolution, for 130,000l. which was honestly paid, as well as the Indian rights, which they afterwards purchased. The United States purchased from Britain, by treaty, in lieu of the expenses and depredations of the war, to which near $3,000,000 were added by an after treaty. Their claim to a pre-emption of the Indiana territory, the proceeds of which they appropriated to pay the debts of the war, which it is never likely to amount to—it has not yet amounted to sufficient to pay the expenses accrued by purchasing the actual rights from Indians, and annuities engaged to them, and the surveying, protection, &c. The New-Orleans, &c. was purchased, in order to get a peaceable outlet to the ocean, for $15,000,000, and the rights of the inhabitants secured. In short, no nation can shew such a fair moral right of property to the territory they possess. They hold none by conquest; they did not even avail themselves of the right of conquest from the Indians, though they were twice subdued; but purchased from them at a fair price, only when they chose to sell, and add an annuity to make it their interest to continue at peace. Yet the author, &c. who he says are aliens, invalidate our title. I would not have distinguished aliens, if he had not introduced them with a superior claim, independent of the government.
No nation ever had, or can have, a clearer moral title to their territory, than the United States. The foundation of civil government is laid on the law of nature, and all approved commentators agree that the fifth commandment contains an abstract of all relative duties among men, as all other relations flow from the relation of parents and children, or partake in a certain degree of its nature. Nations, like families, have their rules and rights. It is my moral duty to receive into my family, and relieve a stranger in distress. But if he sows sedition in my family, and says I have no moral right to govern it—that, therefore, even my lawful commands ought not to be obeyed; that by enforcing them for the support of the family, I act the part of a robber with my bayonet at his breast, &c. I certainly have a right, and it is my duty, to refuse to continue to support him in my family. This is just the case with civil government, with respect to seditious and slanderous aliens, and they have the further right, for the peace of the citizens, to punish them.
If our government has no moral right to govern, it has no moral right to hold or dispose of land, to coin money, take legal testimony, or make decisions in law; nor the citizens who hold land under warrants or patents from the government, to hold them, nor to transfer them to others, nor others to hold it under such transfer—testimony taken or decisions made under immoral authority and laws, cannot be valid. The author and his aliens, however, appear to have made or found a new moral law, suited to their own convenience, to justify them in taking all the benefits of government, and refusing the corresponding relative duties enjoined by divine authority. If the government is immoral, all its official acts are so likewise; not only its grants of land, judicial decisions, &c. but even its protection of the aliens must also be immoral.
The author (p. 69) in his ninth supposed objection—for he makes the objections, which he means to answer himself, to his own mind—says, “You swear oaths administered by them, and hold deeds of land, &c. whose validity rests entirely upon their sanction.”
Not to follow the author through his metaphysical refinements about oaths and deeds, I will inform him, that a deed gives no title in law, further than it is founded on an original grant from the government, and finally confirmed by its patent. Is it possible that the author has wrote with so little information, as not to know that a deed is a conveyance, from one citizen to another, of his own right to the thing conveyed; but that a patent, is the transfer from the government itself, and that unless founded on this, as directed by law, all deeds are a nullity; and that so are all testimonies taken on oath otherwise, or by other authority, than the government authorises. An oath, not taken as the law directs, is no lawful testimony. A man may commit perjury, for which he is accountable to God, but not to a municipal court, which did not require or authorize such testimony; but if proved, it will prevent the person thus perjured in the sight of God, from being admitted as a witness thereafter in any court, because it affects his moral character. Therefore, infallible in his judgment, and immense in his knowledge, as the author represents himself to be, every deed for land which he or his friends purchase, depends for its validity on the moral authority of the government under which it is held. If it has no moral right to grant it, they have no moral right to hold the grant; and that what they receive as money, in this or any other country, is money, no further than the government has made it so. That counterfeiting it would subject him to the penalty of death, but not to the more severe penalty of treason, as in Britain, from whence he came. This being the doctrine of the moral law, that an oath, without acknowledging the authority of the magistrate, is no testimony, and of the municipal law of all civilized nations, and the law between civilized nations and the citizens of each, and consequently the law of God, agreeably to his former decisions.
I will here take a concise notice of his fourteenth objection, likewise, I presume, of his own making, namely—“But the constitution makes provision for its own amendment,” &c. He answers, “The representatives must take an oath to support the constitution.——This oath we have formally shewn to be immoral,” &c.
What! is it really immoral to give the security of an oath to act agreeable to the law of nature, which the author has assured us every man possesses, and which obliges all men, and all governments, to pursue their own happiness? Is it immoral to support the social compact, until it is by common consent revised? Is it immoral to engage to support the government, while it protects you? If so, he should have recourse to such a government as that of the Medes and Persians formerly was, who affecting to be gods, and infallible, could not revise their own most iniquitous decrees, not even to save Daniel from the lions, or the Jews from massacre. In this instance he objects to one of the best principles of the government, and the most agreeable to the moral law of nature. In page 71 he has objected to the voice of the majority deciding on governmental affairs, without informing us to whose decision we shall have recourse, in such cases. We know, from what is before noticed, that he prefers the decision of a despot, such as Nebuchadnezzar was (p. 64) to the decision of a republican government. With these principles, he ought not to have sought an asylum in a republican government, whose principles, agreeable to the advice of the apostle, is, “if it be possible, to live peaceably with all men.”
I have passed over some of the author’s objections to the governments of the United States, thinking them so evidently unfounded, as not to require notice; but understanding they had weight with some, I will give them a brief review.
In page 49, he says, “The good people of the United States of America, concentered by representation in the senatorial council and chief magistrate, disclaimed the religion of Jesus, and cast away the cords of the Lord’s anointed, in the ratification of the treaty of peace and friendship with the Bey of Tripoli!
“The American plenipotentiary availed himself of it, as an important circumstance in the article of negociation, that the American government was not predicated upon the christian religion; and, consequently, a government that the bey might safely treat with. Take it in the words of the treaty itself. ‘The government of the United States of America, is not, in any sense, founded on the christian religion. It has, in itself, no character of enmity against the laws and religion of Mussulmen.’ And, what is further worthy of notice, by the sixth article of the federal constitution, this treaty is made the supreme law of the land! Must it not be dishonouring to Christ,” &c.
The constitution does not say this treaty alone; as, by way of eminence, it says, “all treaties that are made, or that shall be made hereafter, shall be the supreme law,” &c. What he has quoted as the treaty, is no article of it. It stipulates nothing to be performed on either side, nor any engagement of any kind; therefore the senate did not ratify it. They only ratified, or could ratify, the treaty or mutual engagements. If these were agreeable to the instructions given to the minister, the senate was morally bound to ratify it; and they were morally bound to redeem our captives from the most cruel slavery and death, with as little delay as possible. The words quoted by the author are inserted by the negociator as the preamble to the treaty, at his own discretion. It is not easy to believe, that the author was so badly informed as not to know that the formal preamble, or introduction, to a treaty or law, is no obligatory part or article of the treaty or law itself. If he was so, any attorney or member of a legislature could have informed him. He maintains the solemn league and covenant to be binding on this country, but surely he will not say that the introductory preamble to it, descriptive only of the character of the parties contemplated to be engaged in it, and not at all of the then colonies, is an article of the covenant, and binding on this country. The words quoted by the author are in like manner descriptive of the character of the United States, given by the negociator, who had himself suffered long and cruel slavery in Algiers, where he saw the exit of many of his fellow captives. He well knew the long rooted and deadly enmity that still subsisted between the Barbary powers and the christians, on or near the Mediterranean coast, viz. since the inhuman persecution, robbery and expulsion of the Moors from Spain, Portugal, &c. and their barbarous treatment from the inquisition. At that period, the king of Spain reigning over a great proportion of Italy also, was the most formidable power in Europe; but Spain has ever since rapidly declined in population and power. The Barbary powers have sometimes made a short truce with them, but no treaty of peace. They are all popish powers, and it is from these the character of christian governments are taken by the Barbary powers; to avoid this prejudice, well known to the negociator, he stated this character.
The articles of the treaty were ratified, our captives ransomed, and the treaty faithfully fulfilled on our part; but the negociator was recalled, and not since employed. On the first breach of the treaty by Tripoli, the United States renounced it and went to war, which produced the release of other captives, and another treaty, to which no such preamble was annexed. This is a plain statement of facts. It remains with the candid reader to judge if this was “disclaiming the religion of Jesus, and casting away the cords of the Lord’s anointed,” by the United States, in their representative character. If it does, what does the author’s setting the crown of Christ’s kingdom, which is not of this world, on the head of a mortal man, viz. a prince of this world, with the same power exclusively to ratify and sanction the laws of the most high God, as he has with respect to civil laws, amount to? The government of the United States recalled their ambassador, and did not employ him again, though he had suffered and done much in their service; and they, in making a new treaty, renounced the supposed offensive introduction. Candour would have thought this a sufficient atonement for error, if it was one; but the author passes this unnoticed. So much for matter of fact. I will now give my own opinion.
If the Saviour is correct in testifying that his kingdom was not of this world, and practicing accordingly during the whole course of his ministry, and the apostles guided immediately by the Holy Ghost in supporting that testimony, both by their practice and doctrine, I cannot find wherein the honest old seaman has greatly erred. Wherein does the mighty error consist? It is according to the author, in saying that the “American government was not predicated upon the christian religion, and consequently a government that the bey might safely treat with.”—Or that “the government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the christian religion. It has in itself no character of enmity against the laws and religion of Mussulmen.”
Honest old captain O’Brien,3 the negociator, might have been wrong, in point of expedience, in speaking at all on this subject; but supposing it was necessary that he should speak as the patriarchs in Egypt did, in telling they had a younger brother, at which their good father Jacob was grieved, what should he have said? Suppose he had answered more to the author’s mind, viz. that the government of the United States was predicated on the christian religion, and possessed enmity to the government of Mussulmen, &c. In so doing he would have told a lie, and scandalized the christian religion. Whoever says that any civil government is predicated on the christian religion, in so far contradicts the dying testimony of the divine Jesus, declaring that his kingdom was not of this world. Civil governments being founded on the moral law of nature, can lawfully possess no enmity against other governments founded on the same law.
We are not well got over one objection, not only to the defects of our government, but to its moral existence, till we meet with another. Page 49—“The major part of the states recognize the principle of slavery, some partially, and others without yet taking any steps towards its abolition.
“Strange it is, indeed, that in a land of such boasted liberty, such horrid inhumanity should be tolerated! It is contrary to the declaration of independence, and most of the state constitutions.——Is it not strangely inconsistent, that the constitution, the paramount law of the land, should declare all men to be free, and the laws, pretended to be constitutional, doom a certain portion of them to hopeless bondage, and subject them to the wanton barbarity of savage and inhuman masters, who, in many instances, treat their brutes with more tenderness?——Indeed, it is too shocking to find advocates among any, but those whose conscience is seared with a hot iron.——But, supposing the Scripture silent on the subject, it is even impolitical and dangerous. What interest has the man, whom I unjustly detain, to work for me, seeing he receives scarcely any other compensation for his labour, than a hungry belly and hard blows? By what tie is he bound to spare my life, seeing I rob him of that which is dearer than life itself?——Of this barbarous traffic, the judicatories of our church have given their pointed disapprobation, and all approving of, or engaging in it, are excluded her communion.”
Strange, astonishingly strange, indeed, to hear an author, who is the avowed champion for the moral obligation of the judicial law, declaim against slavery in such terms. That law, the perpetual and universal obligation of which he advocates, as binding on all nations, at least on all christian nations, even to putting them to death for the breach of it, says, “Both thy bondmen and thy handmaids, which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathens that are round about you; and of them shall you buy bondmen and handmaids. Moreover, of the strangers that sojourn among you, of them shall ye buy, and of their families that are with you, which they beget in your land, and they shall be your possession: and ye shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them for a possession. They shall be your bondmen forever.”
The above, if the law of Moses is, agreeably to the system of the author, to be divided into judicial and ceremonial, cannot belong to the ceremonial part. It was a civil regulation, and unalterable. It could not be changed while that system continued. The master probably might set his bond servants, i.e. slaves, or their children, free, if he pleased; but the government could not interpose to set them free, nor to protect them from violence and oppression, nor avenge even their murder on their master. They were the inheritance of their children forever. They were not, however, to be of their brethren, but of the heathen around them, and of the strangers, viz. aliens that sojourn among them. Of those Solomon took 153,600 for servants to be carriers of burthens and hewers of timber for the temple and his other buildings. Now this law is neither repealed nor mitigated in the New Testament, otherwise than by the whole peculiar law of Moses being abolished. It is not only not repealed, but servants, viz. slaves, are strictly enjoined “to be obedient to their own masters, not only to the good and gentle, but even to the froward. Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honour, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed. And they that have believing masters, let them not despise them.”—1 Tim. vi. 12. Paul the apostle, sending Onesimus back to his master, reduced this doctrine to practice. In writing to the Corinthians, he tells those under the yoke of slavery, art thou called, being a servant, care not for it, &c.
The author says—“Of this barbarous traffic the judicatories of our church have given their pointed disapprobation; and all approving of, or engaging in it, are excluded her communion.”
How strangely inconsistent is the Rev. Mr. Wylie. By what authority have the judicatories of his church excluded slave-holders, and all approvers of it, from their communion? If this has any relation to the kingdom of heaven, they have virtually excluded Job, Abraham, and all the patriarchs, acting under the moral law of nature, aided by occasional revelations from heaven. They have likewise excluded Moses, and all who obeyed the law given by him, and also the apostles and the primitive church; but what is still more extraordinary, they have virtually excluded Constantine and the council of Nice, and the other orthodox emperors, and his standard ecumenical councils. They have, in fact, added a condition of holding communion with God, in his ordinances, which Christ and his apostles never enjoined. May they not as well institute a new ordinance, or sacrament? Surely it requires the same divine authority to institute an indispensable condition of holding communion with God, in an ordinance, that it does to institute an ordinance itself.
The United States, formerly British colonies, never enacted laws to promote “this barbarous traffic.” They had not by charter, nor did they claim, the right of regulating commerce. Queen Elizabeth was deceived when, with hesitation and reluctance, she permitted capt. Hawkins to import them into the British colonies. She was assured it would better their condition. The colonies had no power to prevent it. Good governor Oglethrope did every thing he could to prevent it in Georgia, but without effect.4 In Pennsylvania, the legislature not having it in its power to controul the British commercial laws, laid ten pounds of a tax on every original indenture or sale of a slave in that state. This was evaded by taking them to other colonies to sign the indentures. This was considered as a heavy grievance by the province, but unavoidable.
I arrived in Pennsylvania in August, 1763, and was not inattentive to the state of the country, particularly with regard to slavery; and though I was then but a lad, I considered both the moral and political effects of slavery on a country; nor was I wholly unacquainted with the history of slavery in the earlier periods of the world. My parents had taught me to read my Bible, and I had read some ancient history. I had then the world before me, and Providence my guide, where to choose my place of rest. The Carolinas at that time appeared the most inviting, and from there I had the most encouraging offers, and, I believe, the most sincere invitations. My aversion to slavery determined me to decline these advantageous proposals, and to hold my own plough, hoe my own corn, and reap my own grain in Pennsylvania, rather than raise a family in a place where slavery prevailed. I determined to have no slaves, and I never have had any. I contributed, as far as I believed it to be my duty, in both private and public life, to promote the abolition of slavery. This will be testified by all those acquainted with me. But I never thought of consigning the patriarchs, who had slaves in abundance, nor the apostles, who acknowledged the relation of master and slave, and prescribed their relative duties, to the devil.
No nation in the world ever made such exertions to abolish slavery, as the United States has done. In the general convention which proposed the federal constitution, a vote was carried, by a large majority, to vest in congress the power of preventing the importation of foreigners. So great was the aversion to slavery, that slave is not named in that instrument. Some states declared their dissent from the union, if that vote was carried into effect. A separation of the union, threatened the dissolution of the whole. This produced a bargain. The vote was rescinded on condition that the importation of foreigners should not, for twenty years, be prevented, or taxed higher than ten dollars each. I voted in congress myself against levying this impost, because it must have been laid equally on all foreigners. The constitution did not recognize slaves; and because the state made laws in the mean time to prevent the trade.
Pennsylvania, and other states, had long before this time, viz. as soon as they had it in their power, made laws to prevent the importation of slaves. That state went still further; she enacted a law for the internal abolition of slavery. When this law was passed, the event of the war was doubtful, and much of the territory laid waste by the enemy, or his savage allies.
This was the most important exertion for the suppression of slavery, it is believed, that ever had been made by any nation in the world. It would be tedious to relate the difficulties which the legislature had to combat, in passing that law. They arose from opposite questions, viz. self-interest and religion. Self-interest said it was robbery. Religion founded on mistake, viz. on the same ground taken by the author, said it was contrary to the law of the most high God, and, to support this assertion, applied the text from the law of Moses before quoted, the examples of the patriarchs, &c. which had so much influence, as at the next election to turn out many, I believe most of the members who voted for the abolition law; several of whom were never elected again. Those, however, who were elected in their place, had so much understanding as to know, that they had no authority to make men, once free, return to slavery, viz. to enact an ex post facto law. They did not attempt to repeal the abolition law, notwithstanding the numerous petitions for that purpose; but believing that too short a time had been given to record slaves, they extended the time to the distant counties, which, by indulging those (who, agreeably to the author’s opinion, obstinately adhered to the law of Moses, as if it had been the law of Pennsylvania, refused to submit to the abolition law) with an opportunity to change their minds, and record their slaves. This prevented the freedom of many slaves.
But the author mentions a certain “portion of them being doomed to hopeless bondage.” I deny the charge; at least, as far as it relates to Pennsylvania, it is an infamous slander. No law of the state has doomed any man, or class of men, to hopeless bondage. There were, indeed, slaves in Pennsylvania, under the English government. Those being already by law the property of their owners, the legislature could not interfere more than they could do with real estates. Such interference would have been an ex post facto law—a law made after the act was done. The principle is abhorrent both to the laws of God and man. Preparatory to the abolition law, the importation of slaves had been prohibited, and after it all are born equally free. This could not have been done under the Jewish law, and it is certainly all that human laws could do, and more, it is believed, than ever has been done by any other nation. This state legislature redeemed thousands now living, and many thousands yet unborn, from hopeless slavery, but never doomed any one to it. By the Jewish law, these were to be the property of their masters and their posterity for ever. The owners of slaves from other states cannot retain them in Pennsylvania, and the law cannot be repealed; doing so would be ex post facto.
There cannot now be a slave in this state but what is upwards of thirty years of age. The Society of Friends (Quakers) who, with their peculiar system of church discipline, have incorporated municipal regulations for their own sect; had set their slaves free before the declaration of independence. Many were of the same opinion. I was informed, that early in the last century, the Presbyterians took up the question in Synod, but the majority were of opinion that it belonged to the civil laws to provide the remedy. That as keeping of slaves was not made a term of communion by the apostles, they had no authority to make it so. Many of them, however, discouraged slavery. Hence it was that Pennsylvania contained fewer slaves than any of the adjoining states; but on account of the scarcity of hands during the war, a trade had commenced of introducing them from Maryland, &c. which was happily stopped by the abolition law. Several attempts were made to purchase the remaining slaves, at the expense of the public. The last that was, or perhaps will be made, was about ten years since, when a bill for that purpose passed the numerous branch, but was postponed by the other till their number would be taken, which was ordered. When this was done, it appeared that there were but a few hundred of them in the state, and many of these old and frail, who were of no more use to their masters, who enjoyed their labour in their best days, and with whom they lived better than they would do in a poorhouse, at the public expense. Very many of the younger slaves had procured their freedom by bargain; in doing which they were encouraged, and some of them assisted, by the Abolition Society. It was, therefore, judged inexpedient to tax the citizens, in many cases, to enrich the masters at the expense of their neighbours who had never held slaves. How many slaves has the author’s society set free, or assisted in purchasing their freedom, as the Quakers did?
If, however, the author’s assertion be true, “that they are subjected to the wanton barbarity of savage and inhuman masters, who, in many instances, treat their brutes better,” it is lamentable. But he ought to have produced instances of it. Those who persevered for twenty years in England, in opposing the barbarous slave trade, did not rest their plea in general charges. They stated and proved numerous facts. I have resided near half a century in this country, eighteen years of it in Maryland, and in the parts of Pennsylvania adjoining, where slaves were the most numerous of any part I have known in Pennsylvania; and before I had a house of my own, I resided in some families, and very pious families too, who held a number of slaves, and was very intimate in others; and I was myself then opposed to slavery, as I have been ever since; but I did not, like the author, oppose it with slander and declamation, but with such views as I had of expediency, and of the moral law, and the gospel. I was, however, powerfully combatted with the judicial law, the examples of the patriarchs, and of the ancient civilized nations; nor was the curse on Canaan forgotten. These peoples consciences were not seared as with a hot iron, as the author asserts; they were all professors, and, several of them at least, distinguished for piety. They paid a religious attention to the apostle’s directions for the treatment of slaves. None of the slave-holders, with whom I have ever had the opportunity of being acquainted, “give them scarcely any other compensation for their labour, than a hungry belly and hard blows,” as the author asserts. I declare I never saw a slave receive one hard blow from his master, nor any complain of a hungry belly. The masters that keep them hungry must be fools for their own interest. A hungry belly will perform little labour. They were generally well fed, and comfortably clothed.
Slaves in the southern states, on account of their number, probably fare worse; yet I am assured, from undoubted authority, that they are sufficiently fed, and that since independence, their condition has been greatly ameliorated with respect to the lash of the overseer, which was chiefly connected with the raising tobacco, and which is now happily, in a degree, superceded by the more agreeable labour of raising cotton; which being done chiefly by task, affords much leisure to industrious slaves to work for themselves, on land allotted to them. They raise sweet potatoes and other truck, with which they feed hogs, poultry, &c. with the last of which they frequently supply their masters, at a price. In speaking of hungry bellies, as the reward of labour, the author must have had some other country in his eye. He no doubt might have seen it in Britain, which is frequently dependent on the United States for bread. His thoughts, indeed, might have been occupied with the cruelty practiced on slaves in the British sugar islands, where, it has been a result of calculation, that it was more profit to work a slave to death in two or three years, and purchase others, than to permit them to propagate, and to which, before the slave trade was at last happily abolished, they imported 57,000 new slaves in two years.
He says the major part of the states recognize the principle of slavery. I am at a loss to know where he found that recognition. It is not in their constitutions he admits, and I do not recollect to observe it in any of their laws, except those of South Carolina, which has, on that subject, adopted the Jewish law so far as not to consider the most wilful and barbarous killing of a slave, by his master, to be murder. Virginia, in several counties of which slaves are the majority, as well as Pennsylvania, early interdicted the introduction of slaves, either by land or water. Slavery was hung like a mill-stone about the neck of the colonies by the British naval and commercial laws; they were obtained and held by contract under those laws, and the state legislatures have no authority to impair the obligation of contracts. If they had they would be tyrants, and, according to the author’s favourite phrase, immoral, or illegitimate governments. They would at least be despotic ones.
I was not in the legislature which, with so much difficulty, and in such doubtful times, nobly passed the abolition law, not indeed equally perfect as their wishes or their first attempt, but so perfect as to give a notable example to other states—but I was in it when much was done to ameliorate their condition, to prevent their being sent out of the state, or their families separated to a distance. Their laws in this, and, it is believed, in all other states but one, protect their persons equal to freemen. In eight out of the thirteen old states, provision is made for the final abolition of slavery. In the Ohio state it never existed, and in all the Indiana territory, contemplated to be eight states, of which one is now a state, and three are organized territories, provision is made against the introduction of slaves. Over the cession of North Carolina, viz. the state of Tennessee—the cession from Georgia, viz. Mississippi territory, obtained on contract, and New-Orleans and Louisiana obtained by treaty, congress had no such power, but has prevented their increase by importation. The author is, therefore, certainly mistaken, in asserting that the majority of the states recognize the principles of slavery, when it is certain that no states, recorded in history, ever made such exertions to extirpate that evil entailed on them by the British government; and while that government had taken the lead in the slave trade, and made an interference in it by other nations, for more than a century past a cause of war, and procured by treaty the right of supplying the colonies of other nations with slaves from Africa, we do not hear of the Reformed Presbytery in Britain testifying against it. I believe it is not even noticed in their judicial testimony. But the reverend author, who, with some other brethren, have instituted a presbytery under that name in this country, makes holding slaves a term of christian communion, which the apostles did not do, nor their own brethren in Britain.
The author certainly could have been but a few years in the country when he wrote the above base character of it. I presume he himself met with that hospitality that belongs to the American character. I am sure he has met with protection and a free press. He had not certainly so good an opportunity to know the treatment received by slaves, almost immediately after his landing, as I have had in near half a century, with an extensive opportunity of observing and conversing on the subject with people of all ranks and situations of life. My testimony and his being opposite, one of us must be wrong. Mine being of the negative kind, is not conclusive; his being affirmative, ought to be supported by facts applicable at least to the majority of the states. A few solitary facts will not establish a national character—but he has given none. Instances may be found in all countries, of even parents treating their children barbarously; but that does not establish a national character.
The apostle taught servants to be obedient to their own masters, not only to the good and gentle, but to the froward; and says, “art thou called, being a servant, care not for it;” and practically confirms this doctrine by sending Onesimus back to his own master.
But the doctrine of the author is, that they ought not to work for their master, nor to spare his life—that the master robs him of what is dearer than life itself. He calls on the philosopher to execrate, and the philanthropist to shed a tear over this state of things.
Could he do more to contradict the apostle Paul, or to promote the insurrection of slaves against their masters, and to repeat the shocking scenes of St. Domingo in the United States?5 That the enjoyment of liberty is to be preferred to the risk of life, when there is a rational probability of securing liberty by that risk, has been verified by the conduct of the United States; but that life should be risked or lost for liberty, without any prospect of securing it, is contrary to the opinion and practice of the generality of mankind, and to the doctrine of the gospel. On the author’s principles, it is the duty of slaves to assassinate their masters, and to take away their own lives also, in preference to living in slavery. This is not the opinion of Moses and the patriarchs, nor of the apostles of Christ.
There were no slaves in the ark. The sons of Noah had equal rights. We know not how slavery was introduced among them; but we know that by noticing those belonging to Abraham, who, little more than four hundred years after, had 318 born in his house, trained for war, which, allowing the usual proportion of women, children, old men, &c. unfit for war, will amount to near about 2000 slaves in his possession. Going a little further, we find his two grandsons, Esau and Jacob—the first coming to meet the other with 400 (no doubt trained servants) and Jacob making a present to him of as many slaves as conducted five droves of different kinds of cattle, along with the cattle themselves. We afterwards find that the patriarch Job had very many slaves. His 500 yoke of oxen would require as many men to work them, besides such as attended to his other very numerous flocks, and a very great household. We cannot, therefore, estimate his slaves at less than 6000; they might have been many more. We cannot, however, consider these to be all as miserable as the author represents them to be. We are little acquainted with that state of society, but have reason to believe, that to get into the servitude of a good master, was a privilege. There were some, whose service Job would not accept of. Of such he says, “they dug up mallows by the bushes, and juniper roots for their meat; whose fathers I would have disdained to have set with the dogs (probably shepherds) of my flocks.” I conclude from this, that to be servants to such as could protect and provide for their sustenance, was probably in those ages a privilege. Throughout the Bible, servants were slaves, except the hired servant of the law of Moses.
I admit, however, that there is something in the slavery of the Africans more disagreeable in its consequences, and more unjustifiable in its origin, than the ancient slavery; but I do not admit that they are treated with equal cruelty as the slaves of Greece or Rome, or of the Jews. That slavery in the United States is also a mighty political evil, is admitted. We did not need to be informed of this by the reverend author; but we wish he would inform us how to get clear of it, without worse consequences.
I have stated before, that what of the moral law is incorporated in the judicial law, is binding on all men. Of this kind is Exod. xxiii. 1. “Thou shalt not raise a false report; put not thine hand with the wicked, to be an unrighteous witness;” and seditions and revilings are ranked among the works of the flesh in the New Testament. If the author had examined the subject maturely, before he wrote, and searched the authentic records, his mistake might be set to the account of weakness; but if he did neither of these, it arose from a worse principle.
With respect to the abolition of internal slavery in the southern states, it is a difficult question, over which congress has no controul. Mr. Jefferson, the late president of the United States, when governor of Virginia, before our independence was acknowledged, proposed a plan for the gradual abolition of slavery in the United States; but the horrid consequences of the abolition of slavery in the great island of St. Domingo (sufficient to make the ears of those who hear of it to tingle) teach a serious lesson of caution. The slaves there first extirpated their former masters, then butchered the people of different shades of colour; and now, after near twenty years have elapsed, are butchering each other in support of contending chiefs. Christianity, as far as it prevailed in the world, promoted the amelioration of slavery. When the Roman empire became christian, some salutary laws were made in their favour; but none, by even the emperors to whom the author indirectly ascribes infallibility, to abolish slavery. The crusades, and a mistaken opinion that the end of the world was at hand, made way for the freedom of many slaves, but it was not finally abolished in the west of christendom, till the sixteenth century, when queen Elizabeth, as landlord, abolished it in the royal domains. In almost every instance it was abolished by the masters voluntarily, or for a valuable consideration, and not by governmental acts. It still prevails in the east of christian Europe (in Russia, Poland, and some parts of Germany) where the common people, i.e. slaves, there called serffs, are transferred with the soil, like the trees that grow on it. No christian states have exerted their legislative authority in this cause, in so short a time, to so great an extent, as the people of the United States. But for this, instead of praise, they receive slander from the author. The liberal policy of Pennsylvania, in abolishing slavery, and ameliorating the condition of such as could only be set free by their masters, and the disinterested conduct of the Quaker masters, at a great expense to them, has been treated with high approbation by European writers; but the author has not found ground for approbation on this, nor any other acts of the people, or the governments. They have, in his opinion, no authority to give or enforce even a command lawful in itself, viz. to free a slave.
Yet I must admit, that though he has declared the American government to be immoral and illegitimate, he gives them some commendation.
He says, (p. 51) “But, as we have stated our objections to the civil constitutions of these states, candour requires us to declare, at the same time, that we consider the American government, with all its evils, the best now existing in the christian world.” I only observe here, that I know of but one world of the human family, of which Adam was the primeval progenitor, and the first federal representative; and, with the apostle Paul and the author, I know of but one moral law of nature, common to, and possessed by, the whole family of mankind.
But the author goes on to say—“And, if we know the sentiments of our own souls upon this subject, desire nothing more than its reformation, happiness, and prosperity.”
From the above, taken in connexion with the rest of his system, he practically disowns all the civil governments that are, or ever were in the world. He disowns, demoralizes, and bastardizes all the American governments so far, as to assert, that they can give no lawful command; that in levying taxes, for necessary uses, they act the part of robbers; and, at the same time solemnly declares, that, with all their evils, they are the best in the christian world. Consequently, all the civil governments of the christian world are more immoral and more illegitimate, i.e. greater bastards, than the United States. He also considers the government of the Roman empire as immoral and illegitimate, and will not allow us to believe that the apostle Paul meaned what he said, when, in explicit language, he enjoined the church to obey the powers that be; to pay them tribute as a debt morally due; to honour the few who administered the government, and to pray for them, and all in authority under them; and when he appealed to them and availed himself of the privileges of their laws—Nor the apostle Peter, in his general directions to the christian churches, when he enjoins them to “submit to every ordinance of men, for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king as supreme; or unto governors, or unto them that are sent by them.” Consequently he disowns all the governments of the Gentile nations; they all had, one time or other, their monsters, like Nero, who, however, did not reign five years well, as he did; nor were degraded and condemned to death for their crimes, as he was.
One government, indeed, was immediately instituted by God, of which he became the immediate king or supreme magistrate. In this government, certain offences against the moral law were subjected to the decision of those who acted as civil judges under Jehovah, as the immediate sovereign of that theocracy, or immediate government of God. But other offences against the moral law were tolerated, so far as to be withheld from the cognizance or punishment of the civil courts. Of these slavery was one, and for this the author demoralizes the governments of the United States in a higher tone of crimination than almost any thing else. The Jews were not authorised to punish any idolatry but such as was expressly defined, and committed by persons expressly described, and within a territory expressly limited by divine authority. For not going beyond the limits prescribed by Jehovah to that government, of which he condescended to be the immediate sovereign, the author demoralizes the governments of the United States. Other instances might be mentioned, but the above is sufficient to demonstrate that the author, to be consistent, could not have acknowledged, or, to use his own words, homologated the peculiar government of Israel. Nor could he have acknowledged the government of Constantine, Theodosius, &c. They indeed punished for many things; for doing which they had no authority from the law of God; but they also patronized certain kinds of idolatry, such as relicks, pilgrimages, and tradition, which they set above, or, at least made equal to, the laws of the most high God; and they were themselves the high priests of Jupiter, viz. of the heathen idolatrous religion, while at the same time they had usurped the headship of, and sovereignty over, the church of Christ. Certainly, on the author’s principles, he could not homologate such a government, or do any thing that would amount to a tessera of obedience to it. Consequently, as far as known, there never has been a civil government in the world, which the author, on his declared principles, could have acknowledged as a moral or legitimate government, or even whose lawful commands ought to have been obeyed. I will conclude with a quotation from a learned and judicious commentator, Scott.
Exod. xxi. 2—“In these ways, slavery had been, or would soon be, introduced among them; even that of their brethren as well as strangers: and God did not see good in the judicial law totally to prohibit this, and several other things which are not agreeable to the perfect demands of the moral law, which is the standard of every action, whether right or wrong in itself. In the government of nations, legislators must judge how far it is practicable, expedient, or conductive to the grand ends of magistracy, to require all that is right, and forbid all that is wrong, under penal sanctions: and in this respect, Israel was like other nations. Indeed, the moral and judicial law were enacted by the same Lawgiver, and coincided, as far as infinite wisdom saw it to be conducive to the grand ends in view: but as they were intended for such distinct purposes, they must in many things vary. The moral law commanded every thing spiritually good in its utmost perfection, and tolerated nothing wrong in the smallest degree: but the sentence of it is reserved ‘to that day, when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ.’ The judicial law commanded nothing morally bad, and forbade nothing morally good; but as sentence according to it would be pronounced by the civil magistrate, it did not insist on the same perfection: and, besides that, it enjoined nothing concerning the state of the heart, except as the intentions could be judged of by words and actions; it had also respect to the situation, character, and peculiar circumstances of the nation to be governed; and supposed the existence of some evils which could not be eradicated without a constant miracle; and provided against their effects.—This distinction, carefully attended to, will account for many things seemingly tolerated in the Mosaic law, which are condemned in the New Testament; and not only there, but in the moral law of ‘loving our neighbour as ourselves.’—They are not sanctioned, but merely suffered, because of the hardness of the people’s hearts, or on some account to prevent worse consequences. Slavery was almost universal in the world: and though like wars, it always proceeded of evil, and was generally evil in itself; yet the wisdom of God deemed it better to regulate, than to prohibit it: yet we should not judge of the practice itself by these judicial regulations, but by the law of love.”
[1. ]William Penn (1644–1718): Quaker founder of Pennsylvania.
[2. ]Sedition Acts passed by Congress in 1798 made it a crime to criticize the government or the president. They had expired or been repealed by 1802.
[3. ]Richard O’Brien (1758–1824), American naval officer, negotiated a treaty, in 1796, between the United States and Tripoli.
[4. ]James Edward Oglethorpe (1696–1785): English philanthropist and founder of the colony of Georgia.
[5. ]“Shocking scenes of St. Domingo” refers to the slave insurrections on the island of Hispaniola in response to the principles of the French Revolution. Haiti proclaimed independence from France in 1804.