A History of
The Defense of Slavery
In AmericaLarry E. Tise
(University of Georgia)"The Oracular Decisions of God have positively declared that the Slave-Trade is intrinsically good and licit, [and that the holding of slaves] is perfectly consonant to the principles of the Law of Nature, the Mosaic Dispensation, and the Christian Law" wrote one Raymond Harris in Scriptural Researches on the Licitness of the Slave-Trade. Thus, he said, slavery has "the positive sanction of God in its support."
For more than two hundred years, the pro-slavery elements used the Bible in their defense --- along with the concept of the Ennoblement of the Heathen --- that slaves' lives in America were in every way superior to their lives in Africa, especially since here they were subjected to "Christian influences."
The author of Proslavery is careful not to define 18th and 19th century religionists as racist per se --- but the core of the book is an analysis, by means of computer, of the background, activities, and teachings of 275 leading pro-slavery ministers of the day. The surprising revelation is that they came from all over the United States, not just the South. Further, that they came from all religions --- Presbyterian (almost 30 percent), Episcopalian (20 percent), and Baptist (17 percent); as well, Unitarian, Roman Catholic, and Jewish.
Appeal to the natural order seems to be the most common plea of the pro-slavery people. Since Abraham owned slaves, "our Imitation of him in this Moral Action is as warrantable as that of [adopting] his Faith. God set different Orders and Degrees of Men in the World ... some to be High and Honourable, some to be Low and Despicable," wrote John Saffin. "Servants of sundry sorts and degrees, bound to obey; yea, some to be born Slave, and so to remain during their lives."
Reading this makes us wonder when the "inerrant" Fundamentalists --- those who believe every word in the Bible to be absolute law --- will petition Congress to rescind Article XIII of the Constitution, and so reinstitute slavery and slaveholding, since the Bible so clearly defines it as part of the divine order, vide Leviticus 25:
Both thy bondmen, and thy bondmaids, which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen that are round about you; of them shall ye buy bondmen and bondmaids. Moreover of the children of the strangers that do sojourn among you, of them shall ye buy, and of their families that are with you, which they begat 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 for ever.--- A. W. Allworthy
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