Search      Hot    Newest Novel
HOME > Biographical > Harriet Beecher Stowe > CHAPTER X. WHAT IS TO BE DONE?
Font Size:【Large】【Middle】【Small】
The thing to be done, of which I shall chiefly speak, is that the whole American church, of all denominations, should unitedly come up, not in form, but in fact, to the noble purpose avowed by the Presbyterian Assembly of 1818, to seek the entire abolition of slavery throughout America and throughout Christendom.

To this noble course the united voice of Christians in all other countries is urgently calling the American church. Expressions of this feeling have come from Christians of all denominations in England, in Scotland, in Ireland, in France, in Switzerland, in Germany, in Persia, in the Sandwich Islands, and in China. All seem to be animated by one spirit. They have loved and honored this American church. They have rejoiced in the brightness of her rising. Her prosperity and success have been to them as their own, and they have had hopes that God meant to confer inestimable blessings through her upon all nations. The American church has been to them like the rising of a glorious sun, shedding healing from his wings, dispersing mists and fogs, and bringing songs of birds and voices of cheerful industry, and sounds of gladness, contentment and peace. But, lo! in this beautiful orb is seen a disastrous spot of dim eclipse, whose gradually widening shadow threatens a total darkness. Can we wonder that the voice of remonstrance comes to us from those who have so much at stake in our prosperity and success? We have sent out our missionaries to all quarters of the globe; but how shall they tell their heathen converts the things that are done in Christianized America? How shall our missionaries in Mahometan countries hold up their heads, and proclaim the superiority of our religion, when we tolerate barbarities which they have repudiated!

A missionary among the Karens, in Asia, writes back that his course is much embarrassed by a suspicion that is afloat among the Karens that the Americans intend to steal and sell them. He says:

I dread the time when these Karens will be able to read our books, and get a full knowledge of all that is going on in our country. Many of them are very inquisitive now, and often ask me questions that I find it very difficult to answer.

No, there is no resource. The church of the United States is shut up, in the providence of God, to one work. She can never fulfil her mission till this is done. So long as she neglects this, it will lie in the way of everything else which she attempts to do

She must undertake it for another reason,—because she alone can perform the work peaceably. If this fearful problem is left to take its course as a mere political question, to be ground out between the upper and nether millstones of political parties, then what will avert agitation, angry collisions, and the desperate rending the union? No, there is no safety but in making it a religious enterprise, and pursuing it in a Christian spirit, and by religious means.

If it now be asked what means shall the church employ, we answer, this evil must be abolished by the same means which the apostles first used for the spread of Christianity, and the extermination of all the social evils which then filled a world lying in wickedness. Hear the apostle enumerate them: “By pureness, by knowledge, by long-suffering, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left.”

We will briefly consider each of these means.

First, “by Pureness.” Christians in the Northern free states must endeavor to purify themselves and the country from various malignant results of the system of slavery; and, in particular, they must endeavor to 251abolish that which is the most sinful,—the unchristian prejudice of caste.

In Hindostan there is a class called the Pariahs, with which no other class will associate, eat or drink. Our missionaries tell the converted Hindoo that this prejudice is unchristian; for God hath made of one blood all who dwell on the face of the earth, and all mankind are brethren in Christ. With what face shall they tell this to the Hindoo, if he is able to reply, “In your own Christian country there is a class of Pariahs who are treated no better than we treat ours. You do not yourselves believe the things you teach us.”

Let us look at the treatment of the free negro at the North. In the States of Indiana and Illinois the most oppressive and unrighteous laws have been passed with regard to him. No law of any slave state could be more cruel in its spirit than that recently passed in Illinois, by which every free negro coming into the state is taken up and sold for a certain time, and then, if he do not leave the state, is sold again.

With what face can we exhort our Southern brethren to emancipate their slaves, if we do not set the whole moral power of the church at the North against such abuses as this? Is this course justified by saying that the negro is vicious and idle? This is adding insult to injury.

What is it these Christian states do? To a great extent they exclude the colored population from their schools; they discourage them from attending their churches by invidious distinctions; as a general fact, they exclude them from their shops, where they might learn useful arts and trades; they crowd them out of the better callings where they might earn an honorable livelihood; and, having thus discouraged every elevated aspiration, and reduced them to almost inevitable ignorance, idleness and vice, they fill up the measure of iniquity by making cruel laws to expel them from their states, thus heaping up wrath against the day of wrath.

If we say that every Christian at the South who does not use his utmost influence against their iniquitous slave-laws is guilty, as a republican citizen, of sustaining those laws, it is no less true that every Christian at the North who does not do what in him lies to procure the repeal of such laws in the free states is, so far, guilty for their existence. Of late years we have had abundant quotations from the Old Testament to justify all manner of oppression. A Hindoo, who knew nothing of this generous and beautiful book, except from such pamphlets as Mr. Smylie’s, might possibly think it was a treatise on piracy, and a general justification of robbery. But let us quote from it the directions which God gives for the treatment of the stranger: “If a stranger sojourn with you in your land, ye shall not vex him. But the stranger that dwelleth among you shall be as one born among you: thou shall love him as thyself.” How much more does this apply when the stranger has been brought into our land by the injustice and cruelty of our fathers!

We are happy to say, however, that the number of states in which such oppressive legislation exists is small. It is also matter of encouragement and hope that the unphilosophical and unchristian prejudice of caste is materially giving way, in many parts of our country, before a kinder and more Christian spirit.

Many of our schools and colleges are willing to receive the colored applicant on equal terms with the white. Some of the Northern free states accord to the colored free man full political equality and privileges. Some of the colored people, under this encouragement, have, in many parts of our country, become rich and intelligent. A very fair proportion of educated men is rising among them. There are among them respectable editors, eloquent orators, and laborious and well-instructed clergymen. It gives us pleasure to say that among intelligent and Christian people these men are treated with the consideration they deserve; and, if they meet with insult and ill-treatment, it is commonly from the less-educated class, who, being less enlightened, are always longer under the influence of prejudice. At a recent ordination at one of the largest and most respectable churches in New York, the moderator of the presbytery was a black man, who began life as a slave; and it was undoubtedly a source of gratification to all his Christian brethren to see him presiding in this capacity. He put the questions to the candidate in the German language, the church being in part composed of Germans. Our Christian friends in Europe may, at least, infer from this that, if we have had our faults in times past, we have, some of us, seen and are endeavoring to correct them.

To bring this head at once to a practical conclusion, the writer will say to every individual Christian, who wishes to do something for the abolition of slavery, begin by 252doing what lies in your power for the colored people in your vicinity. Are there children excluded from schools by unchristian prejudice? Seek to combat that prejudice by fair arguments, presented in a right spirit. If you cannot succeed, then endeavor to provide for the education of these children in some other manner. As far as in you lies, endeavor to secure for them, in every walk of life, the ordinary privileges of American citizens. If they are excluded from the omnibus and railroad-car in the place where you reside, endeavor to persuade those who have the control of these matters to pursue a more just and reasonable course. Those Christians who are heads of mechanical establishments can do much for the cause by receiving colored apprentices. Many masters excuse themselves for excluding the colored apprentice by saying that if they receive him all their other hands will desert them. To this it is replied, that if they do the thing in a Christian temper and for a Christian purpose, the probability is that, if their hands desert at first, they will return to them at last—all of them, at least, whom they would care to retain.

A respectable dressmaker in one of our towns has, as a matter of principle, taken colored girls for apprentices, thus furnishing them with a respectable means of livelihood. Christian mechanics, in all the walks of life, are earnestly requested to consider this subject, and see if, by offering their hand to raise this poor people to respectability and knowledge and competence, they may not be performing a service which the Lord will accept as done unto himself.

Another thing which is earnestly commended to Christians is the raising and comforting of those poor churches of colored people, who have been discouraged, dismembered and disheartened, by the operation of the fugitive slave law.

In the city of Boston is a church, which, even now, is struggling with debt and embarrassment, caused by being obliged to buy its own deacons, to shield them from the terrors of that law.

Lastly, Christians at the North, we need not say, should abstain from all trading in slaves, whether direct or indirect, whether by partnership with Southern houses or by receiving immortal beings as security for debt. It is not necessary to expand this point. It speaks for itself.

By all these means the Christian church at the North must secure for itself purity from all complicity with the sin of slavery, and from the unchristian customs and prejudices which have resulted from it.

The second means to be used for the abolition of slavery is “Knowledge.”

Every Christian ought thoroughly, carefully and prayerfully, to examine this system of slavery. He should regard it as one upon which he is bound to have right views and right opinions, and to exert a right influence in forming and concentrating a powerful public sentiment, of all others the most efficacious remedy. Many people are deterred from examining the statistics on this subject, because they do not like the men who have collected them. They say they do not like abolitionists, and therefore they will not attend to those facts and figures which they have accumulated. This, certainly, is not wise or reasonable. In all other subjects which deeply affect our interests, we think it best to take information where we can get it, whether we like the persons who give it to us or not.

Every Christian ought seriously to examine the extent to which our national government is pledged and used for the support of slavery. He should thoroughly look into the statistics of slavery in the District of Columbia, and, above all, into the statistics of that awful system of legalized piracy and oppression by which hundreds and thousands are yearly torn from home and friends, and all that heart holds dear, and carried to be sold like beasts in the markets of the South. The smoke from this bottomless abyss of injustice puts out the light of our Sabbath suns in the eyes of all nations. Its awful groans and wailings drown the voice of our psalms and religious melodies. All nations know these things of us, and shall we not know them of ourselves? Shall we not have courage, shall we not have patience, to investigate thoroughly our own bad case, and gain a perfect knowledge of the length and breadth of the evil we seek to remedy?

The third means for the abolition of slavery is “Long-suffering.”

Of this quality there has been some lack in the attempts that have hitherto been made. The friends of the cause have not had patience with each other, and have not been able to treat each other’s opinions with forbearance. There have been many painful things in the past history of this subject; but is it not time when all the friends of the slave should adopt the motto, “forgetting the things that are behind, and reaching 253forth unto those which are before”? Let not the believers of immediate abolition call those who believe in gradual emancipation time-servers and traitors; and let not the upholders of gradual emancipation call the advocates of immediate abolition fanatics and incendiaries. Surely some more brotherly way of convincing good men can be found, than by standing afar off on some Ebal and Gerizim, and cursing each other. The truth spoken in love will always go further then the truth spoken in wrath: and, after all, the great object is to persuade our Southern brethren to admit the idea of any emancipation at all. When we have succeeded in persuading them that anything is necessary to be done, then will be the time for bringing up the question whether the object shall be accomplished by an immediate or a gradual process. Meanwhile, let our motto be, “Whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same things; and if any man be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto him.” “Let us receive even him that is weak in the faith, but not to doubtful disputations.” Let us not reject the good there is in any, because of some remaining defects.

We come now to the consideration of a power without which all others must fail,—&ldqu............
Join or Log In! You need to log in to continue reading

Login into Your Account

  Remember me on this computer.

All The Data From The Network AND User Upload, If Infringement, Please Contact Us To Delete! Contact Us
About Us | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Tag List | Recent Search  
©2010-2018, All Rights Reserved