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This new work was seriously begun with the American Revolution. The world had, here and there, attempted it before, but without success.
It was attempted in England, in the seventeenth century, but the agricultural population were too weak to perform their share of it. The soil, or the greater part of it, was in the hands of the nobility, and its cultivators were too poor and too dependent. The work failed, or rather was suspended, adjourned. This country had been discovered. The land here was unappropriated. Its cultivators became its owners. The agricultural population here became, therefore, independent proprietors, without ceasing to be laborers. Their influence, and a powerful influence too, was therefore capable of being thrown into the scale, not, as in England, against the laborers in towns, cities, and factories, but against the power of any dominant class.
Our Revolution was effected not in favor of men in classes ; not in favor of orders or estates; but in favor of man, men as integers. It marks a new epoch in human progress. The influence of capital, or the moneyed power, as the ruling power, had then ceased to be legitimate. Man, not Money, was then to be sovereign; and the whole people, not the business men merely, were to hold the reins of government. But this was not fully understood at the time. Alexander Hamilton and his party thought matters stood as they ever had done, and that the moneyed power was still the legitimate sovereign. They were doubtless sincere. They had not that order of mind which is first to discern when old watch-words change their meaning. The country, in consequence of the war of the Revolution, was embarrassed with a national debt, and the aid of the business men was needed to pay it off. A national bank was therefore established, and the Money-King suffered to wear the crown yet longer. In 1800, an effort was made to dethrone the Money-King, and enthrone the People, and attended with partial, which would have been complete, success, had it not been for the war of 1812. That war plunged us again into debt, and made it necessary, in 1816, to recall the money power. The debt is now paid off; the nation owes not a cent; and the great contest has recommenced between capital and labor, or more properly, between Man and Money; - between the moneyed power supported by the business men, and the entire people sustained by a majority of the agricultural and mechanical population.
It is not likely that this contest will be immediately ended, yet we cannot doubt the final result. Modern civilization has brought up the nobility against the king, and maintained them ; it has brought up the business men against the nobility, enfranchised capital and capitalists, and sustained them; it now brings up the laborer, that portion of the plebeian class whose enfranchisement was adjourned, so as not to prejudice the interests of capital; and shall it fail now? It shall not. Humanity, from the depths of her universal being, utters the word, it shall not fail. The struggle may be long, arduous, and perhaps bloody; the oppressed may have to groan yet longer; the friends of Humanity may experience more than one defeat; but they will never give over the struggle, or despair of ultimate success. They have been too long victorious, and too often have they gained the victory, in darker days than these and with feebler forces than they now have at their command, to despair, or “ bate a jot of heart or hope.”
All classes, each in turn, have possessed the government; and the time has come for all predominance of class to end; for Man, the People to rule. To this end all modern civilization has been tending, and for this it gives valiant battle to-day. Its forces appear to us as numerous, as well disciplined, as skilfully drawn up in battle array, as ever; and unless God has changed his purposes, and inverted the order of his Providence, it shall come off conqueror; and Man be redeemed ; and the work for his friends henceforth
cease to be the melioration of society, and become that of perfecting the individuals of each successive generation, as they appear in time and pass off into eternity. This done, and the wish of the workingmen is fulfilled; the visions of the prophets are realized; and the prayers of the philanthropist are heard in heaven, and answered on the earth.
Art. VI. — Slavery. By WILLIAM E. CHANNING. 4th
Edition, Revised. Boston: James Munroe & Co. 1836. 16mo. pp. 187.
We have not introduced this little volume of Dr. Channing's for the purpose of reviewing it. It has been too widely circulated, and too generally read, to permit such a purpose to be either necessary or proper. The public have long since made up their minds respecting its merits, and are quietly giving it the high rank it deserves. In our opinion, though not wholly unexceptionable, it is the best book that the present discussion of slavery among us has called forth, and the only one, we have met, that we can read with anything like general satisfaction. With its general estimate of slavery, its lofty moral tone, and its profound reverence for the rights of man, we sympathize with our whole soul; but some of its special views, and the traces of a doctrine tending somewhat to centralization, which we here and there discover, and of which we believe the author to be unconscious, we cannot entirely approve.
We place this work at the head of this article merely for the purpose of testifying in general terms our high appreciation of its merits, and because it gives us an occasion of expressing our own views at some length on the subject of slavery. The subject of slavery is fairly before the public, and it must be met. However much we may regret its agitation at this time, when all thoughts should be turned to the settling of the financial affairs of the nation, we must suffer it to be discussed, and take part in its discussion. We would merely add, let it be discussed calmly, without passion, and in a truly Christian spirit.
We say without any hesitation, that we are wholly and totally opposed to slavery, and that we do not consider it any question at all with the American people, whether it be a good or an evil. We believe that question is decided by the Declaration of Independence, and forever put at rest. To attempt to prove that slavery is wrong, that it is not to be perpetuated, and that it ought to be abolished, as soon as it can be, is to insult every true American's mind and heart, and that too, whether he live north or south of Mason's and Dixon's line. We have much mistaken the character of our Southern brethren, if there be one among them, that will for one moment contend that slavery is the proper estate of a man.
That man has no absolute right to hold his brother man in slavery, is but a necessary inference from the fact that slavery is wrong. It can never be right, no man can ever have the right, to do wrong. Every slave-holder, then, ought to do all he can do to rescue his fellow beings, whether black or white, from the servitude in which he finds them, or to which he may have reduced them. If slavery be wrong, his duty is plain. He must, if in his power, remove it. Here is no room for dispute, no need of argument.
Again, we hold that slavery must and will be abolished. The whole force of modern civilization is against it, and before the onward march of that civilization it must be swept away. To this result we do not believe that our Southern brethren are opposed. Some of them may believe that slavery is fixed upon them forever, may believe that its abolition is impossible, and therefore may undertake to invent good reasons for its continuance; but secretly none of them love it, and the immense majority of them would rejoice to be rid of it.
But while we contend that slavery is wrong, that it is wrong to hold slaves, and that the slave-holder ought to labor with all his power for its abolition, we do not agree with our friends the Abolitionists, in denouncing slave-holders, and in declaring that no slave-holder can be a Christian. Reformers should war against systems, not against men.
Paul was always careful to have it understood, that he did not “ wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” For ourselves, we have learned that men may profit by institutions opposed to the best good of Humanity, without necessarily being bad men. Many practices, which, in one view of the case, strike us as altogether wrong, in another point of view, appear to us as excusable, if not even as justifiable. The older we grow, the more we see, — we speak personally, — the less and less are we disposed to be censorious. The world is not all wrong, everything is not out of place, and every man is not a devil. Thank God! we every day acquire fresh faith in human virtue ; and while we bate nothing in our zeal or efforts for progress, we become able to look with more and more complacency on the world, and to feel that, of all God's prophets, we are not the only one that is left alive. There are more than we who have not bowed the knee to Baal.
If slave-holding were purely an individual act, we confess, we should doubt the possibility of the slaveholder's being a good man, save at the expense of his intelligence. But slave-holding, in our Southern States, for instance, is not an individual but a social act. Slavery is not an individual but a social institution, and society, not the individual conscience alone, is responsible for it. The question is not, Is slaveholding wrong? but, Can a man who adheres to, and