BY REV. R. B. THURSTON.
The great and agitating question of our country is that concerning slavery. Beneath the whole subject there lies of course some simple truth, for all fundamental truth is simple, which will be readily accepted by patriotic and Christian minds, when it is clearly perceived and discreetly applied. It is the design of these pages to exhibit this truth, and to show that it is a foundation for a union of sentiment and action on the part of good men, by which, under the divine blessing, our threatening controversies, North and South, may be happily terminated.
To avoid misapprehension, let it be noticed that we shall examine the central claim of slavery, first, as a legal institution; afterwards, the moral relations of individuals connected with it will be considered. In that examination the term property, as possessed in men, will be used in the specific sense which is given to it by the slave laws and the practical operation of the system. No other sense is relevant to the discussion. The property of the father in the services of the son, of the master in the labor of the apprentice, of the State in the forced toil of the convict, is not in question. None of these relations creates slavery as such; and they should not be allowed, as has sometimes been done, to obscure the argument.
The limits of a brief tract on a great subject compel us to pass unnoticed many questions which will occur to a thoughtful mind. It is believed that they all find their solution in our fundamental positions; and that all passages of the Bible relating to the general subject, when faithfully interpreted in their real harmony, sustain these positions. It is admitted that the following argument is unsound if it does not provide for every logical and practical exigency.
The primary truth which is now to be established may be thus stated: All men are invested by the Creator with a common right to hold property in inferior things; but they have no such right to hold property in men.
Christians agree that God as the Creator is the original proprietor of all things, and that he has absolute right to dispose of all things according to his pleasure. This right he never relinquishes, but asserts in his word and exercises in his providence. The Bible speaks thus: “The earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof, the world and they that dwell therein, for he hath founded it. We are his people and the sheep of his pasture”–ourselves, therefore, subject to his possession and disposal as the feeble flock to us. Even irreligious men often testify to this truth, confessing the hand of providence in natural events that despoil them of their wealth.
Now, under his own supreme control, God has given to all men equally a dependent and limited right of property. Given is the word repeatedly chosen by inspiration in this connection. “The heavens are the Lord’s, but the earth hath he given to the children of men.” In Eden he blessed the first human pair, and said to them, in behalf of the race, “Replenish the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed.” This, then, is the original and permanent ground of man’s title to property; and the important fact to be observed is the specific divine grant . The right of all men equally to own property is the positive institution of the Creator. We all alike hold our possessions by his authentic warrant, his deed of conveyance.