Today in History:

Address to Christians on Slavery

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The following is an excerpt from an Address to Christians regarding the inconsistency of admitting Slave-Holders to Communion and Church membership. Originally puslished in 1831, in Philadelphia, the document attempts to outline the differences between the slavery of the Bible and the slavery that was practiced in the Southern States. As the North grew industrialized, the South became more dependent on physical labor to keep pace with the demand for raw goods. By the early 1830s the idealogy was diverging between the two regions.

The servile condition among the ancients was essen¬tially different in its character from the state of negro slavery. The two conditions have scarcely any thing common, but the name. The Helots of Sparta could not be sold beyond the bounds of their little state. “They were the farmers of the soil at fixed rates which the pro¬prietor could not raise without dishonour. Hence they had the power of acquiring wealth." They were the servants of the state rather than of individuals. "At Athens, where the lenient treatment of slaves was pro¬verbial, the door of freedom was widely open; and those who were unlucky enough to meet a cruel master, might fly to the temple of Theseus, from whence they were not taken without an investigation of their complaints. If the ill treatment was found to be real, they were either enfranchised or transferred to merciful hands." The slaves of the island of Crete exchanged situations with their masters, once a year, at the feast of Mercury; and cruelty and injustice were prohibited by law. The Egyp¬tian slave might flee to the temple of Hercules, and find safety from the cruelty and persecution of his master. Among the Romans, the authority of the master over the servant was regulated by the same laws as that of the father over his son, with this difference in favour of the servant, that if he were once manumitted, he ever after¬wards remained free; while the father might sell his son, a second and a third time into slavery.

The servile class among the ancients were often superior in intellectual attainments to their masters. They were not restrained, by law or usage, from the acquisition of knowledge; neither were they excluded from the privilege of giving testimony, even against their masters. When cruelly treated, they had a right to prefer their grievances to the civil authorities, and the magistrates were bound to hear and redress their wrongs.

But the negro slave of the United States is deprived of all these advantages. He has no rights of his own; they are all merged in the dominion of his master. He is not a competent witness against a white person; has no tribunal to which he can legally resort for justice; no asylum to which he may flee from cruelty and persecution, and find safety. He is, in most cases, no better than an outlaw in the midst of a civilized and christian community; de¬prived by legislative enactments of the advantages of intellectual culture; debased and brutalized by a system the most odious and revolting to humanity that the world ever beheld; and stigmatized as unworthy of the common rights of man, because of the degradation which this system must necessarily produce. These, then, are some of the features which distinguish the servile condition known among heathen nations, from the absolute and hopeless slavery of the African race, in this christian country — this land of liberty and equal rights — this asy¬lum for the oppressed of all nations.

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