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lators of any state have right to make laws to restrain their subjects from the practice of piracy, in any place whatever. and to punish men, when convicted of this crime, though committed in places, in other respects, out of their jurisdie tion. But it is to be hoped there are but few, very few, ci*. izens in this state who now think the slave trade is, in itsell. innocent and lawful. Are not all who have acquainted them. seives with the nature, circumstances, and manner of this trade, and are willing to consider it impartially, fully convinced that it is one of the most flagrant instances of open violation of all the rights of mankind — of inhumanity, cruelty, and murder that have ever been perpetrated by any civilized nation? It would fill voluines fully to display the unrighteousness, the horrible cruelty, and blood-bed which have been the attendants and consequences of this inhuman traffic, by which millions of our fellow-men bave been, contrary to all right, and in the most cruel manner, forced from their native country and all dear connections, and sold into most ignominious, abject slavery, there to wear out a wretched life, and leave their children in the same miserable state. And many thousands of them have been murdered by the barbarous treatment of them on board the ships, or after they have been sold. This, therefore, will not be attempted here; but the reader is referred to what has been written on the subject in a number of late publications.
It is well known that the inhabitants of this state have had a greater hand in the slave trade than any other on this continent, and, therefore, must have incurred the greatest share of the guilt. And what can we do less than say, "We will do so no more" ? Is not this the only hopeful way to escape the vengeance that now hangs over our heads? This trade has been carried on many years by the connivance, at least, if not the encouragement, of the legislature. How proper, how important is it, then, that they should now arise and bear testimony against it, and do all in their power to abolish it forever - that they should be the first in setting the good example. and show their approbation of the wise and noble resolution of congress in the beginning of our struggle for liberty! To sit still now, and be silent, is to neglect the best opportunity to wash our hands, as far as possible, from the blood that otherwise must be found in them, and prevent impending wrath bursting on our heads.
Let us, then, with one voice, say to our fathers who shall convene in the next general assembly, “ Arise, for this work belongeth unto you. We will be with you. Deal courageously, and do it, and the Lord shall be with the good.”
II. It was urged, that it is improper for this state to take up the matter, and prohibit the slave trade, since it has been laid before congress by a petition from the general meeting of Friends in Philadelphia, desiring that, in their wisdom, they would enter upon some measures to put a stop to it; and that honorable body have it now under their consideration.
This appears so far from an objection, that it is rather a strong argument for making such a law without delay. For this is so far from dictating to congress, or taking it out of their hands, that it would be the most express and proper approbation of their resolve just mentioned, and will tend to strengthen their hands in so good a work, if they be disposed to do all they can to prevent the revival of that pernicious trade, of which we must not entertain the least doubt.
The legislature are to be honored and applauded for the measure they have taken gradually to abolish slavery in this state. There have been strong objections, however, against the law lately made for that end, particularly that clause of it which obliges the towns, where the blacks who are to be free shall be born, to be at the charge of their education till they be of age, or can maintain themselves. It is said, this lays an unreasonable burden on the few towns where most of the slaves are, while the greater part of the state will be at little or no charge; whereas it ought to be laid equally on the whole state, as it is by the connivance or neglect of the state that the slavery of the Africans has been introduced and continued among us.
If this objection be well founded, the honorable general assembly may, and doubtless will, make such amendment in that particular as wholly to remove the complaint. But let it be remembered, that since this evil practice has been so long continued, and got such deep root among us, it cannot be expected it may be eradicated and abolished without great difficulty, and so that no one shall suffer by it more than another. And as it is so important and necessary — in order to do justice to the injured Africans, and promote the public good, and our acting a consistent part, who have been such mighty advocates for our own liberty — that liberty should be restored to them, ought we to think much of a little expense, or of doing more than we think is our equal part, in order to answer such important ends ? Besides, it will be said, with some appearance of justice, at least, that the towns where there are the most slaves ought to be at most of the expense necessary for the removal of this evil, as they have the greatest share of guilt, and have had the most advantage by it, if slavery be, indeed, any advantage; but if it be not, let the masters free
all their slaves who are so young as to have children, and save both the state and the town from the expense of educating their children. For, if all such were freed immediately, it is presumed there are not two in a hundred who would not maintain themselves and their children, and educate them as well, at least, as white children in general are educated, might they have an equal chance with the whites to get a living.
This suggests a proposal which has been made, and may not be unworthy of consideration. Why need the towns be at any expense to educate these freed children of slaves? Why ought not this to be laid on the slaveholders themselves? They can educate them with little expense, and be paid by their labor, before they be of age. But, if the children do not repay them, they will be more than paid by the profit of their parents' labor. What right have these masters to make their slaves wear out the prime of life in their service, and turn their children on the public for maintenance? If they do not choose to maintain and educate their children, let them free their slaves, that they may support themselves and their children, and be no charge to the masters or the public.
Moreover, if the law obliged the masters to educate the children of their slaves, another objection made against it, as it now stands, would be obviated, viz., that it is rather an encouragement to masters to hold their servants in slavery, as they are freed from the expense and trouble of educating their children; whereas, if they were obliged to support and educate them, this would be a motive with many to free their servants, and so promote the professed design of the law - the freedom of slaves.
LETTER TO DR. RYLAND, Of Northampton, England, on the Controversy between Dr. Hopkins and Rev. Abraham Booth.
NEWPORT, November 24, 1797. Rev. AND DEAR Sir: I thank you for your kind communication, (without date,) accompanied with two parcels, containing Mr. Scott's “ Warrant and Nature of Faith in Christ," together with four pamphlets, of the chief of which you are the author; and Mr. Booth's “ Reign of Grace," which came to hand on the 1st instant.
I had before seen all the pamphlets you have sent to me, except your sermons to your congregation at Northampton, on your leaving them, and have been much gratified and pleased with them. Mr. Hall was an amiable, excellent man. I read your discourse at the ordination of Mr. Fawkner, to my church, which was highly approved by them. I have for a number of years been acquainted with your character and writings; and you have had my affectionate esteem and good will. Messrs. Fuller, Sutclif, and Pearce, of Birmingham, have also much of my esteem and love.
I have been surprised, and not a little grieved, to find that Mr. Booth's “ Glad Tidings” has been reviewed and highly approved and recommended in the Evangelical, Missionary, and Gospel Magazines; and in the latter (I think, for I have them not by me now) a passage is selected from him, as very excellent, which appeared to me to be senseless, evasive, and contradictory. I presumed you could not approve of that book, and was confirmed in my opinion by a piece inserted in the Evangelical Magazine, of which I concluded you was the author, which evidently had reference to Mr. Booth’s publication, and was calculated to sap the whole foundation of it. As it is not by me now, I cannot refer to the number nor the signature.
You did not think proper to mention Mr. Booth's book; and I perceive he is so popular a writer that it is thought not best expressly to oppose him. When Mr. Scott wrote, he, as Mr. B. observes, tacitly directed it against various things in his “Glad Tidings;" not thinking it best, openly and expressly, to "mention and oppose him and his book. I think we should not be so cautious in America.
Let the goodness of Mr. Booth's heart and life, and his abilities, be what they may, his theory of Christianity and religious exercises is wholly selfish; which is as opposite to true religion as darkness is to light, as sin to holiness. In support of this selfish religion he has written his “Glad Tidings.” Is he not therefore to be blained ? And ought he not to be withstood to the face ? Besides, it may be asked, Can the utmost Christian candor and charity reconcile with Christian uprightness and benevolence an attempt to expose and condemn an author, as perverting the gospel, by artsully transcribing here and there a sentence of his, while he wholly overlooks the arguments which the author thought sufficient to support his assertions ?
It appears he was on the same selfish, inconsistent plan when he wrote his " Reign of Grace.” He says nothing in the whole treatise, that I have observed, inconsistent with a wholly selfish religion, and repeatedly asserted that which necessarily implies it. He says, (p. 248,) " It is self-evident that the rigor of the sanctions of the law of God can never be loved by a person obnoxious to its condemning power, etc. Fallen man, therefore, cannot love God, but as he is revealed in a Mediator,” etc. See, to the same purpose, pp. 268, 270.
It is reinarkable that Mr. B. should repeatedly assert in his “ Glad Tidings,” that if a sinner were made in the least degree holy, a friend to God and his law, previous to his pardon and justi. fication, he would stand in no need of free pardon and justifi. cation by the righteousness of Christ alone, for he has some. thing of his own to recommend him to the favor of God; and on this ground only, condemn the author he mentions as perverting the gospel, because he asserted that sinners must approve of the law of God, etc., antecedent to their believing in Christ; and at the same time wholly neglect the reasons which that author gave, that the sinner, though renewed to holiness, could not by this be recommended to the favor of God, but stood in as much need of free pardon wholly on account of the atonement of Christ, as he would do were he not thus renewed. It is remarkable, I say, that he should say and do all this, when he had, in his "Reign of Grace," asserted the contrary, over and over again, viz., that no degree of holiness of the sinner can avail in the least degree for his pardon and justification. See pp. 96, 175, 176, 178, 183, 188, 189, 190, 191, 202, 226, 276, 277, 278, 317, 374, 375. Had be recollected this, and believed, when he wrote his “Glad Tidings," he would not have censured the author he mentions, as be has done, without knowing that he really censured himself, at least, as much.
He grants and asserts, that all men who are not justified by the righteousness of Christ are guilty, unrighteous, wicked, and accursed. (pp. 175, 176, 178.) And why may not sinners in this state, and of this character, be properly denoni. nated ungodly, though regenerate? If so, the word on which he so much relies is given up, and Mr. Scott and others are to be justified in their interpretation of Rom. iv. 5, 6.
Mr. B. asserts, that previous to pardon and justification, a sinner must become poor in spirit, and approve of the gospel, (pp. 8, 66, 94, 100;) must be sensible he deserves damnation, (p. 103;) must believe, trust in Christ, and receive him, and the blessings of the gospel ; must look to Christ for salvation, etc. (pp. 132, 137, 143, 144, 157, 214, 215, 252, 329, 336, 339, 353, 354.) And yet he constantly insists upon it that no terms or conditions are proposed as necessary to take place antecedent to the sinner's justification; and that the sinner, previous to his justification, and until he is justified, is under the power of pride and enmity against God, and is actuated by the tem. per, and bears the very image, of the devil. (p. 190.) Is it possible to reconcile these glaring inconsistencies?