Page images

consideratione a vinculo servitutis absolvitur, irritum habeatur," etc.

The second Council of Macon, in 585, expressed its strong displeasure at the interference of the civil magistrates with the manumission authorized by the church, and enjoined it upon the bishops to take cognizance of such cases. "Indignum est enim, ut hi qui in sacrosancta ecclesia jure noscuntur legitimo manumissi, aut per epistolam, aut per testamentum, aut per longinquitatem temporis libertatis jura fruunter, a quolibet injustissime inquietentur. Et quicumque a nobis de libertis latum decretum, superbiæ ausu prevaricare tentaverit, irreparabili damnationis suæ sententia feriatur.”

The fourth Council of Toledo, in 633, assumed the defence both of the liberty and of the property of the freedmen committed to church patronage. “Liberti qui a quibuscumque manumissi sunt, atque ecclesiæ patrocinio-commendati existunt, sicut regulæ antiquorum patrum constitueruut, sacerdotali defensione a cujuslibit insolentia protegantur ; sive in statu libertatis eorum, seu in peculio quod habere noscuntur.” How beautiful an office for the Christian minister, to protect the freedman from insolence and wrong!

The curious reader will find collated in Balmes' Protestantism and Catholicity, a large number of decrees by various councils, authorizing the sale of the property of the church for the redemption of captives, denouncing man-stealing as a crime, and regulating the treatment of slaves by the dictates of justice and humanity. With much imperfection of method, and some serious exceptions in fact, the church of the middle ages was in spirit hostile to slavery, and devoted to its abolition.

In 1102, the Council of London pronounced the slave trade infamous. “Ne quis illud nefarium negotium quo hactenus in Anglia solebant homines sicut bruta animalia venundari, deinceps ullatenus facere præsumat."



In the foregoing discussion I have confined myself to Biblical interpretations and historical testimony, as combining to show the anti-slavery spirit of the Bible. But I cannot dismiss these sheets without a word upon the present duty of Christian patriots in regard to slavery in these United States. I fear much from the prevailing disposition even of the known friends of the slave, to leave the system of slavery to the issue of the war. If the war shall be protracted until the Slave States are all held by the military forces of the government, and until a new order of society can be constructed under military protection, no doubt slavery will be exterminated by the war. But if the war shall stop short of this, or if Congress shall repeal the Confiscation Act and other laws that have favored emancipation, it will be found that the liberation of tens of thousands of slaves is not the abolition of slavery.

If Louisiana or Georgia should speedily return to their loyalty to the Union, what shall hinder the revival of their slave code, even against those whom the Proclamation of January 1st, 1863, declared free, but who have not escaped from the hand of their masters? And the President's theory of guaranteeing to each loyal State the integrity of its local institutions, might place him in the false position of rebuilding that which his proclamation sought to destroy. At all events there must be a collision of courts and of powers, if not of arms, growing out of such complications.

From the very commencement of the war, it has seemed to me that each seceded State, by the act of secession, had vacated its organic existence, and that all State laws and institutions had

ceased to be, throughout the area of the rebellion, which now reverts to the government of the United States to be administered by territorial laws. Thus it is made impossible for slavery to exist again after the war: being prohibited in the territories of the United States, it would never be instituted in the States to be hereafter erected out of those territories, and it must speedily die in the border States.

But this is not the theory of the administration in the conduct of the war; and, therefore, considering the uncertainties of war, it behooves all Christian patriots to labor directly and earnestly for the overthrow of slavery through the facilities which the war opens for that end. If the sagacious recommendation of the President in his last annual message—bating the length of time for its consummation--could be urged through Congress and the State legislatures, ratifying the liberty of all persons made free in the course of the war, and decreeing abolition with compensation, as a measure of the organic national law, all danger of the reorganization of slavery and of the slave power after the war, would be effectually removed. There is here a great work for Christian sentiment and action, and we must take heed, lest in waiting for events, we lose our opportunity.


« PreviousContinue »