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Proceedings and Debates of the 1864 Constitutional Convention
Volume 102, Volume 1, Debates 543   View pdf image (33K)
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543
slavery. The doors of the Abrahamic cove-
nant were thrown wide open to all the world,
and if all the world had availed themselves
of this opportunity to become " my servants,"
"my people," Hebrews, and therefore the
chosen people of God, the continuance of sla-
very in the world would have become practi-
cally impossible. Then, sir, I repeat that the
effect of the law was to abolish rather than to
extend or perpetuate slavery.
Bow unlike the slave code of Maryland as
it existed twelve months ago, which took
away from the master all power to liberate
his slave. And yet men of learning have the
audacity to compare American with Hebrew
slavery, and by instancing the latter they
would pronounce the former a divine institu-
tion, which of right ought to be perpetuated ;
when at the same time they must know that
in tine one case the servant enjoyed personal
liberty and in the other he did not, and the
effect of one slave code was to abolish slavery
and of the other to perpetuate it through all
time.
Mr. President, before I leave this part of
nay subject, I desire to throw out another con-
sideration which I think is worthy of the at-
tention of the Convention. The decalogue is
the whole sum and substance of the moral
law by which the Jews were .to be governed.
They had also their ceremonial law, and the
law which I have just read is a part of what
I think may be termed their judicial law.
Now, sir, though it be true that it was the
same great Law Giver who enacted for
the governance of the Jews both the
moral and the judicial law, yet infinite
wisdom saw it to be necessary that these
two codes should coincide only so far as
to be conducive to the great ends in view,
and that as they were intended for very dis-
tinct purposes, they must of necessity in many
things vary. The moral law was perfectly
good, and, to use the language of a great
commentator, "commanded everything spir-
itually good in its utmost perfection, and
tolerated nothing wrong in the smallest de-
gree;" but, sir, the sentence of this law was
to be passed only at the court of high Heaven,
where kings and subjects, masters and slaves,
rich men and beggars are together to be tried
in a body, and where there can be no ine-
quality that we know of, except in the moral
character of the parties to be tried. The sentence
of the judicial law, on the contrary,
while at the same time it commanded nothing
morally bad, and forbid nothing morally
good, was to be pronounced by a civil mag-
istrate, and therefore did not insist on the
same perfection. It had respect to the condi-
tion of things as they existed at the time,
and supposed the existence of some evils or
wrongs which could not be eradicated with-
out a miracle, and it only went so far as to
provide against the worst effects of those evils
or wrongs.
Sometimes the judicial law would come in
conflict with a strict interpretation of the
moral law; and this occurs even at the pre-
sent day, as with a single illustration I can
make appear. The moral law says, "thou
shalt not steal,"—this means not only that
it is wrong to rob a bank or purloin a ten-
penny nail, but it means also that we shall in
all things deal honestly with our fellows, and
never take anything from our neighbor with-
out rendering unto him a full equivalent
therefor; yet under the sanction of the judi-
cial law at the present day, a sheriff may col-
lect fees from a party on whom he is serving
a writ of fieri facias, without returning to
that party any equivalent. Here the judicial
law of our State comes in conflict with the
moral law without sin, though a party re-
ceives injury thereby, because the conflict to
all human apprehension is absolutely neces-
sary. But, sir, whenever this conflict can
be avoided it ought to be avoided, tor not to
do so is to be guilty of a violation of God's
will, which all legislatures of Christians pro-
fess to try to avoid.
At the time of the enactment of the law of
Moses, slavery was almost universal in the
world. It was an established institution
everywhere, and if the wisdom of Almighty
God deemed it better to regulate and abolish
by a slow process this institution, rather than
to abolish it at that time by the hand of vio-
lence, and at a single blow, does it follow of
necessity that there is no evil in it, and that
we ought net to abolish it? The necessity
for the conflict between the moral and judi-
cial law at that time is apparent, but as there
is no such necessity at the preseat day that
enjoins upon us the continuance of slavery;
as any sort of slavery in the United States
has long since been unnecessary for the hap-
piness of the slave or indeed his master, I
think I shall be able to show that it need not
becontinued, and that the further continu-
ance of it is a moral evil, and for that reason,
if for no other, it ought to be abolished.
Sir, I think our reason is at fault when we
attempt, to justify slavery, because in the laws
of the Jews there was a provision tor the
regulation of it, for the control of it, for the
removal of many of the evil consequences
likely to grow out of it, and for the gradual
abolition of it. A knowledge of the existence
of such law ought rather to create in our
minds an aversion to the institution and &
desire for its earliest practicable abolition.
And inasmuch as the necessity for its exist-
ence in any form has, with the progress of
civilization, been done away with, it necessa-
rily becomes a moral evil, and the further
continuance of it a great social and political
wrong.
Now, I propose very briefly, to notice the
last of the three propositions put forth by the
friends of slavery in justification of the con-
tinuance of that institution. The Saviour of


 
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Proceedings and Debates of the 1864 Constitutional Convention
Volume 102, Volume 1, Debates 543   View pdf image (33K)
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