Mary H. Eastman.

Aunt Phillis's Cabin Or, Southern Life As It Is online

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Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1862, by


in the Clerk's Office of the District Court for the Eastern District of

Transcriber's note: Minor typos in text corrected. Footnotes moved
to end of text.


A writer on Slavery has no difficulty in tracing back its origin. There is
also the advantage of finding it, with its continued history, and the laws
given by God to govern his own institution, in the Holy Bible. Neither
profane history, tradition, nor philosophical research are required to
prove its origin or existence; though they, as all things must, come
forward to substantiate the truth of the Scriptures. God, who created the
human race, willed they should be holy like himself. Sin was committed, and
the curse of sin, death, was induced: other punishments were denounced for
the perpetration of particular crimes - the shedding of man's blood for
murder, and the curse of slavery. The mysterious reasons that here
influenced the mind of the Creator it is not ours to declare. Yet may we
learn enough from his revealed word on this and every other subject to
confirm his power, truth, and justice. There is no Christian duty more
insisted upon in Scripture than reverence and obedience to parents. "Honor
thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long in the land which the
Lord thy God giveth thee." The relation of child to parent resembles
closely that of man to his Creator. He who loves and honors his God will
assuredly love and honor his parents. Though it is evidently the duty of
every parent so to live as to secure the respect and affection of his
child, yet there is nothing in the Scriptures to authorize a child
treating with disrespect a parent, though he be unworthy in the greatest

The human mind, naturally rebellious, requires every command and incentive
to submission. The first of the ten commandments, insisting on the duty
owing to the Creator, and the fifth, on that belonging to our parents, are
the sources of all order and good arrangement in the minor relations of
life; and on obedience to them depends the comfort of society.

Reverence to age, and especially where it is found in the person of those
who by the will of God were the authors of their being, is insisted upon in
the Jewish covenant - not indeed less required now; but as the Jews were
called from among the heathen nations of the earth to be the peculiar
people of God, they were to show such evidences of this law in their
hearts, by their conduct, that other nations might look on and say, "Ye are
the children of the Lord your God."

It was after an act of a child dishonoring an aged father, that the
prophecy entailing slavery as a curse on a portion of the human race was
uttered. Nor could it have been from any feeling of resentment or revenge
that the curse was made known by the lips of a servant of God; for this
servant of God was a parent, and with what sorrow would any parent, yea,
the worst of parents, utter a malediction which insured such punishment and
misery on a portion of his posterity! Even the blessing which was promised
to his other children could not have consoled him for the sad necessity. He
might not resist the Spirit of God: though with perfect submission he
obeyed its dictates, yet with what regret! The heart of any Christian
parent will answer this appeal!

We may well imagine some of the reasons for the will of God in thus
punishing Ham and his descendants. Prior to the unfilial act which is
recorded, it is not to be supposed he had been a righteous man. Had he been
one after God's own heart, he would not have been guilty of such a sin.
What must that child be, who would openly dishonor and expose an erring
parent, borne down with the weight of years, and honored by God as Noah had
been! The very act of disrespect to Noah, the chosen of God, implies wilful
contempt of God himself. Ham was not a young man either: he had not the
excuse of the impetuosity of youth, nor its thoughtlessness - he was himself
an old man; and there is every reason to believe he had led a life at
variance with God's laws. When he committed so gross and violent a sin, it
may be, that the curse of God, which had lain tranquil long, was roused and
uttered against him: a curse not conditional, not implied - now, as then, a
mandate of the Eternal.

Among the curses threatened by the Levites upon Mount Ebal, was the one
found in the 16th verse of the 27th chapter of Deuteronomy: "Cursed be he
that setteth light by his father or his mother." By the law of Moses, this
sin was punished with death: "Of the son which will not obey the voice of
his father or the voice of his mother," "all the men of his city shall
stone him with stones that he die." (Deut. xxi. 21.) God in his wisdom
instituted this severe law in early times; and it must convince us that
there were reasons in the Divine mind for insisting on the ordinance
exacting the most perfect submission and reverence to an earthly parent.

"When, after the deluge," says Josephus, "the earth was settled in its
former condition, Noah set about its cultivation; and when he had planted
it with vines, and when the fruit was ripe, and he had gathered the grapes
in the season, and the wine was ready for use, he offered a sacrifice and
feasted, and, being inebriated, fell asleep, and lay in an unseemly
manner. When Ham saw this, he came laughing, and showed him to his
brothers." Does not this exhibit the impression of the Jews as regards the
character of Ham? Could a man capable of such an act deserve the blessing
of a just and holy God?

"The fact of Noah's transgression is recorded by the inspired historian
with that perfect impartiality which is peculiar to the Scriptures, as an
instance and evidence of human frailty and imperfection. Ham appears to
have been a bad man, and probably he rejoiced to find his father in so
unbecoming a situation, that, by exposing him, he might retaliate for the
reproofs which he had received from his parental authority. And perhaps
Canaan first discovered his situation, and told it to Ham. The conduct of
Ham in exposing his father to his brethren, and their behaviour in turning
away from the sight of his disgrace, form a striking contrast." - _Scott's

We are told in Gen. ix. 22, "And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the
nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without;" and in the
24th, 25th, 26th, and 27th verses we read, "And Noah awoke from his wine,
and knew what his younger son had done unto him; and he said, Cursed be
Canaan, a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren. And he said,
Blessed be the Lord God of Shem, and Canaan shall be his servant. God shall
enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem, and Canaan shall
be his servant." Is it not preposterous that any man, any Christian, should
read these verses and say slavery was not instituted by God as a curse on
Ham and Canaan and their posterity?

And who can read the history of the world and say this curse has not
existed ever since it was uttered?

"The whole continent of Africa," says Bishop Newton, "was peopled
principally by the descendants of Ham; and for how many ages have the
better parts of that country lain under the dominion of the Romans, then of
the Saracens, and now of the Turks! In what wickedness, ignorance,
barbarity, slavery, misery, live most of the inhabitants! And of the poor
negroes, how many hundreds every year are sold and bought like beasts in
the market, and conveyed from one quarter of the world to do the work of
beasts in another!"

But does this curse authorize the slave-trade? God forbid. He commanded the
Jews to enslave the heathen around them, saying, "they should be their
bondmen forever;" but he has given no such command to other nations. The
threatenings and reproofs uttered against Israel, throughout the old
Testament, on the subject of slavery, refer to their oppressing and keeping
in slavery their own countrymen. Never is there the slightest imputation of
sin, as far as I can see, conveyed against them for holding in bondage the
children of heathen nations.

Yet do the Scriptures evidently permit slavery, even to the present time.
The curse on the serpent, ("And the Lord God said unto the serpent, Because
thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle and above every beast
of the field,") uttered more than sixteen hundred years before the curse of
Noah upon Ham and his race, has lost nothing of its force and true meaning.
"Cursed is the ground for thy sake: in sorrow shalt thou eat of it, all the
days of thy life," said the Supreme Being. Has this curse failed or been

Remember the threatened curses of God upon the whole Jewish tribe if they
forsook his worship. Have not they been fulfilled?

However inexplicable may be the fact that God would appoint the curse of
continual servitude on a portion of his creatures, will any one _dare_,
with the Bible open in his hands, to say the fact does not exist? It is not
ours to decide _why_ the Supreme Being acts! We may observe his dealings
with man, but we may not ask, until he reveals it, Why hast thou thus done?

"Cursed is every one who loves not the Lord Jesus Christ." Are not all
these curses recorded, and will they not all be fulfilled? God has
permitted slavery to exist in every age and in almost every nation of the
earth. It was only commanded to the Jews, and it was with them restricted
to the heathen, ("referring entirely to the race of Ham, who had been
judicially condemned to a condition of servitude more than eighteen hundred
years before the giving of the law, by the mouth of Noah, the medium of the
Holy Ghost.") No others, at least, were to be enslaved "forever." Every
book of the Old Testament records a history in which slaves and God's laws
concerning them are spoken of, while, as far as profane history goes back,
we cannot fail to see proofs of the existence of slavery. "No legislator of
history," says Voltaire, "attempted to abrogate slavery. Society was so
accustomed to this degradation of the species, that Epictetus, who was
assuredly worth more than his master, never expresses any surprise at his
being a slave." Egypt, Sparta, Athens, Carthage, and Rome had their
thousands of slaves. In the Bible, the best and chosen servants of God
owned slaves, while in profane history the purest and greatest men did the
same. In the very nation over whose devoted head hung the curse of God,
slavery, vindictive, lawless, and cruel slavery, has prevailed. It is said
no nation of the earth has equalled the Jewish in the enslaving of negroes,
except the negroes themselves; and examination will prove that the
descendants of Ham and Canaan have, as God foresaw, justified by their
conduct the doom which he pronounced against them.

But it has been contended that the people of God sinned in holding their
fellow-creatures in bondage! Open your Bible, Christian, and read the
commands of God as regards slavery - the laws that he made to govern the
conduct of the master and the slave!

But again - _we_ live under the glorious and new dispensation of Christ; and
He came to establish God's will, and to confirm such laws as were to
continue in existence, to destroy such rules as were not to govern our

When there was but one family upon the earth, a portion of the family was
devoted to be slaves to others. God made a covenant with Abraham: he
included in it his slaves. "He that is born in thy house, and he that is
bought with thy money," are the words of Scripture. A servant of Abraham
says, "And the Lord has blessed my master greatly, and he is become great,
and he hath given him flocks and herds, and silver and gold, and
men-servants and maid-servants, and camels and asses."

The Lord has called himself the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. These
holy men were slaveholders!

The existence of slavery then, and the sanction of God on his own
institution, is palpable from the time of the pronouncing of the curse,
until the glorious advent of the Son of God. When he came, slavery existed
in every part of the world.

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came from heaven and dwelt upon the earth:
his mission to proclaim the will of God to a world sunk in the lowest
depths of iniquity. Even the dear and chosen people of God had departed
from him - had forsaken his worship, and turned aside from his commands.

He was born of a virgin. He was called Emmanuel. He was God with us.

Wise men traveled from afar to behold the Child-God - they knelt before
him - they opened their treasures - they presented to them gifts. Angels of
God descended in dreams, to ensure the protection of his life against the
king who sought it. He emerged from infancy, and grew in favour with God
and man. He was tempted but not overcome - angels came again from heaven to
minister to him. He fulfilled every jot and tittle of the law, and entered
upon the duties for which he left the glories of heaven.

That mission was fulfilled. "The people which sat in darkness saw great
light, and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is
sprung up."

Look at his miracles - the cleansing of the leper, the healing of the sick,
the casting out unclean spirits, the raising of the dead, the rebuking of
the winds and seas, the control of those possessed with devils - and say,
was he not the Son of God - yea, was he not God?

Full of power and goodness he came into the world, and light and glory
followed every footstep. The sound of his voice, the glance of his eye, the
very touch of the garment in which his assumed mortality was arrayed, was a
medicine mighty to save. He came on an errand of mercy to the world, and he
was all powerful to accomplish the Divine intent; but, did he emancipate
the slave? The happiness of the human race was the object of his coming;
and is it possible that the large portion of them then slaves could have
escaped his all-seeing eye! Did he condemn the institution which he had
made? Did he establish universal freedom? Oh! no; he came to redeem the
world from the power of sin; his was no earthly mission; he did not
interfere with the organization of society. He healed the sick servant of
the centurion, but he did not command his freedom; nor is there a word that
fell from his sacred lips that could be construed into a condemnation of
that institution which had existed from the early ages of the world,
existed then, and is continued now. The application made by the
Abolitionist of the golden rule is absurd: it might then apply to the
child, who _would have_ his father no longer control him; to the
apprentice, who _would_ no longer that the man to whom he is bound should
have a right to direct him. Thus the foundations of society would be
shaken, nay, destroyed. Christ would have us deal with others, not as they
desire, but as the law of God demands: in the condition of life in which we
have been placed, we must do what we conscientiously believe to be our duty
to our fellow-men.

Christ alludes to slavery, but does not forbid it. "And the servant abideth
not in the house forever, but the son abideth ever. If the Son therefore
shall make you free, you are free indeed."

In these two verses of the Gospel of St. John, there is a manifest allusion
to the fact and condition of slaves. Of this fact the Saviour took
occasion, to illustrate, by way of similitude, the condition of a wicked
man, who is the slave of sin, and to show that as a son who was the heir in
a house _could_ set a bondman free, if that son were of the proper age, so
he, the Son of God, could set the enslaved soul free from sin, when he
would be "free indeed." Show me in the history of the Old Testament, or in
the life of Christ, authority to proclaim _as a sin_ the holding of the
race of Ham and Canaan in bondage.

In the times of the apostles, what do we see? Slaves are still in bondage,
the children of Ham are menials as they were before. Christ had come, had
died, had ascended to heaven, and slavery still existed. Had the apostles
authority to do it away? Had Christ left it to them to carry out, in this
instance, his revealed will?

"Art thou," said Paul, "called being a slave? care not for it; but if thou
mayest be made free, use it rather. Let every man abide in the same calling
wherein he is called." "Let as many servants as are under the yoke count
their own masters worthy of all honor, that the name of God and his
doctrines be not blasphemed. And they that have believing masters, let them
not despise them, because they are brethren, but rather do them service,
because they are faithful and beloved, partakers of the benefit."

It is well known and often quoted that the holy apostle did all he could to
restore a slave to his master - one whom he had been the means of making
free in a spiritual sense. Yet he knew that God had made Onesimus a slave,
and, when he had fled from his master, Paul persuaded him to return and to
do his duty toward him. Open your Bible, Christian, and carefully read the
letter of Paul to Philemon, and contrast its spirit with the incendiary
publications of the Abolitionists of the present day. St. Paul was not a
fanatic, and therefore _could not be_ an Abolitionist. The Christian age
advanced and slavery continued, and we approach the time when our fathers
fled from persecution to the soil we now call our own, when they fought for
the liberty to which they felt they had a right. Our fathers fought for it,
and our mothers did more when they urged forth their husbands and sons, not
knowing whether the life-blood that was glowing with religion and
patriotism would not soon be dyeing the land that had been their refuge,
and where they fondly hoped they should find a happy home. Oh, glorious
parentage! Children of America, trace no farther back - say not the crest of
nobility once adorned thy father's breast, the gemmed coronet thy mother's
brow - stop here! it is enough that they earned for thee a home - a free, a
happy home. And what did they say to the slavery that existed then and had
been entailed upon them by the English government? Their opinions are
preserved among us - they were dictated by their position and
necessities - and they were wisely formed. In the North, slavery was
useless; nay, more, it was a drawback to the prosperity of that section of
the Union - it was dispensed with. In other sections, gradually, our people
have seen their condition would be more prosperous without slaves - they
have emancipated them. In the South, they are necessary: though an evil, it
is one that cannot be dispensed with; and here they have been retained, and
will be retained, unless God should manifest his will (which never yet has
been done) to the contrary. Knowing that the people of the South still have
the views of their revolutionary forefathers, we see plainly that many of
the North have rejected the opinions of theirs. Slaves were at the North
and South considered and recognized as property, (as they are in
Scripture.) The whole nation sanctioned slavery by adopting the
Constitution which provides for them, and for their restoration (when
fugitive) to their owners. Our country was then like one family - their
souls had been tried and made pure by a united struggle - they loved as
brothers who had suffered together. Would it were so at the present day!

The subject of slavery was agitated among them; many difficulties occurred,
but they were all settled - and, they thought, effectually. They agreed
then, on the propriety of giving up runaway slaves, unanimously. Mr.
Sherman, of Connecticut, "saw no more impropriety in the public seizing and
surrendering a slave or servant than a horse!" (Madison's Papers.) This was
then considered a compromise between the North and South. Henry Clay and
Daniel Webster - the mantle of their illustrious fathers descended to them
from their own glorious times. The slave-trade was discontinued after a
while. As long as England needed the sons and daughters of Africa to do
her bidding, she trafficked in the flesh and blood of her fellow-creatures;
but our immortal fathers put an end to the disgraceful trade. They saw its
heinous sin, for they had no command to enslave the heathen; but they had
no command to emancipate the slave; therefore they wisely forbore farther
to interfere. They drew the nice line of distinction between an unavoidable
evil and a sin.

Slavery was acknowledged, and slaves considered as property all over our
country, at the North as well as the South - in Pennsylvania, New York, and
New Jersey. Now, has there been any law reversing this, except in the
States that have become free? Out of the limits of these States, slaves are
property, according to the Constitution. In the year 1798, Judge Jay, being
called on for a list of his taxable property, made the following
observation: - "I purchase slaves and manumit them at proper ages, when
their faithful services shall have afforded a reasonable retribution." "As
free servants became more common, he was gradually relieved from the
necessity of purchasing slaves." (See Jay's Life, by his son.)

Here is the secret of Northern emancipation: they were _relieved from the
necessity_ of slavery. Rufus King, for many years one of the most
distinguished statesmen of the country, writes thus to John B. Coles and
others: - "I am perfectly anxious not to be misunderstood in this case,
never having thought myself at liberty to encourage or assent to any
measure that would affect the security of property in slaves, or tend to
disturb the political adjustment which the Constitution has made respecting

John Taylor, of New York, said, "If the weight and influence of the South
be increased by the representation of that which they consider a part of
their property, we do not wish to diminish them. The right by which this
property is held is derived from the Federal Constitution; we have neither
inclination nor power to interfere with the laws of existing States in this
particular; on the contrary, they have not only a right to reclaim their
fugitives whenever found, but, in the event of domestic violence, (which
God in his mercy forever avert!) the whole strength of the nation is bound
to be exerted, if needful, in reducing it to subjection, while we recognize
these obligations and will never fail to perform them."

How many more could be brought! opinions of great and good men of the
North, acknowledging and maintaining the rights of the people of the South.
Everett, Adams, Cambreleng, and a host of others, whose names I need not
give. "Time was," said Mr. Fletcher in Boston, (in 1835, at a great meeting
in that city,) "when such sentiments and such language would not have been
breathed in this community. And here, on this hallowed spot, of all places
on earth, should they be met and rebuked. Time was, when the British
Parliament having declared 'that they had a right to bind us in all cases
whatsoever,' and were attempting to bind our infant limbs in fetters, when
a voice of resistance and notes of defiance had gone forth from this hall,
then, when Massachusetts, standing for her liberty and life, was alone
breasting the whole power of Britain, the generous and gallant Southerners
came to our aid, and our fathers refused not to hold communion with
slaveholders. When the blood of our citizens, shed by a British soldiery,
had stained our streets and flowed upon the heights that surround us, and
sunk into the earth upon the plains of Lexington and Concord, then when he,
whose name can never be pronounced by American lips without the strongest
emotion of gratitude and love to every American heart, - when he, that
slaveholder, (pointing to a full-length portrait of Washington,) who, from
this canvass, smiles upon his children with paternal benignity, came with
other slaveholders to drive the British myrmidons from this city, and in
this hall our fathers did not refuse to hold communion with them.

"With slaveholders they formed the confederation, neither asking nor
receiving any right to interfere in their domestic relations: with them,
they made the Declaration of Independence."

To England, not to the United States, belongs whatever odium may be
attached to the introduction of slavery into our country. Our fathers

Online LibraryMary H. EastmanAunt Phillis's Cabin Or, Southern Life As It Is → online text (page 1 of 24)