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7 «Ari;K sruEET, and I'l )ti(i.tMi iKMi »Tiu:Kr.

Entered according to Act of Congress, in the 5ear 18(53,

By Theophilus Parsons,

In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the District of Massachusetts.






S L A V E 11 Y

TiiKRE are none who deny that slavery, in some way,
and iu s(Jine sense, is the jirincipal cause of our civil
war. For they who — ahroad or at home — allei^e that
it is caused hy the actual and profound diversity between
the two sections of tjje country as to their inti-rests, their
habits, and their character, do not deny that this <liversity
.«iprin;^s maiidy from the existence of slavery in one only
of the parties. And they who account lor it by the auL^ry
ami persistent vehemence of abolitionism, will not deny
that if there were no shivery to Ik? abolisluMl there could
be no abolitionism. It is not however worth while to
use many words in proving a fact, which the map of our
country demonstrates.

IJiit if it be certain that slavery in S(»me way is the
centnil cause of the civil war, it is by no means certain
how, or why, this cause has prtnluced this etlect. If I
otier for consideration the views I hold on this subject,
it is be<-ause in this country public opini«»n is a soverei;zn
power, and the Innublest etl'ort to intnMluce into this
((pinion what seems to tb«^ offerer an element of Irutli,
mav at least be pardoiieil.

U'liat then is Slavery? Its f((undution is the jxtwer
t»l" (•••ntrollin;r any man without his consent and ctmcur-
rciH'c. The absolute ownershij) by one man of another
man as it exists at the South, is only the |>crfection
and consummation (»f this principle. There are coses
where immaturity demands guidance, or crime deserves
j>unislim«iil. Puitin;; these cases aside, wherever this
principh' exists and operates, and in whatever degree it
exists, there is that wlw<'h nuiy be called the essence of
Slavi'vy. We are a<'custome<l to confine the name to
absolute ownersliip. Nor lio I insist that the use of the


word slavery should be extended, if only I am understood
as believing that this relation of man to man is but the
completion of a relation which exists in a greater or a
less degree when any man possesses the right to coerce
another into labor for his benefit, without the consent of
that other.

It might seem that this is, in some sort, the condition
of all men ; for even in this busy land, few work except-
ing because they must. But, if we take an extreme
case, it is one thing to be able to say to a man. Work for
me on the terms which I offer, or starve, leaving it to him
to starve if he chooses, and a very different thing, to have
the right to say to him, Work for me on my terms or no
terms, because I command you. These two things differ
in essence ; they are as different, as non-slavery and
slavery. The phrase in our Constitution, " held to labor,"
marks the distinction between one who is held to labor,
and one who is persuaded or induced to labor. This
phrase is, as it was intended to be, an exact definition of
a slave.

If it happens that these words present this idea to any
reader for the first time, it may seem to him visionary, un-
real, and unpractical. And certainly such an idea as that
a legal right of thus compelling service is itself a wrong,
scarcely existed upon earth until a few generations ago.
If it existed in some minds, and was uttered by some
voices, it had nowhere prevalence or recognition. And
to-day it can hardly be said to have definite expression
and acknowledged truth in the old world. All class-right
is, to some extent, opposed to it ; and indeed is founded
upon its opposite. And yet, history, if we permit it to
throw the light of the past upon the present, may teach
us that mankind in all its progress, has been constantly ad-
vancing towards this end, towards the liberation of the hu-
man mind from the thought, and of the human heart from
the desire, of standing over a brother-man as his master and
his owner. And a reason why that goodness which has
ever led and watched the advancing footsteps of our race
has guided them in this direction, is, that in proportion as
the thought and desire of ruling over our brother pass
away, they are replaced by the thought and the desire of


Standing by his side and working with liiin tor a common

Let us oast a glance — a very brief and rapid glance —
at tiie past. Beginning where history begins, we see
nnfiualitied and unquestioned despotism ; now good and
now evil, utterly diverse iu character and influence, but
always unquestioned, and unimpeded. This was and is
the (Jriental idea of government ; Gibbon remarks that
Eastern languages have no words to express any other
mode of goveriuncnt. At length Greece arose, and un<ler
the leading of Alexander, conquered. It was the con-
cpiest of KurojMi over Asia ; of a European way of think-
in;! over Oriental thought ; it was a sti'p away from the
Oriental idea that despotism was the only cognizable form
of govermnent.

In (Jreece and Homo, whatever were the abuses of
certain ages, there was alwjiys the preteijee, and oHen the
|-eality of governing by law. And then the feudal system
ad\anced so far as to give every nuin his place. For it
gave to every man his riglits, such a.«< they were, and to
no nuin the right of abs<irbing all other rights into his
own. Tiio feudal system had serfs, but not slaves.

The feudal system gri'W, flourished, decayed, ami is
passing away. A sl«'p further forward was jM)ssible ;
Jiut not |)OHsible in Europe. Ages whieh had greatly
varied tlie institutions of feudalism, had indurated them
an<l the systeui of lliou;.'ht and feeling adapte<I to them;
and ehttiied them all with steel, nu»re impenetrable than
the mail her warrinr-i onee wore. Not in Eur<»pe e<)uM
tlie next step l>e taken, — and America was discoven-d.
An<l in or near the same age came the great diseov«'ry
of gunpowder, wliicli has made it imj)ossible tliat tin;
scenes Eroissart so loves to paint, where a few mailed
knights routed and slaughtere<l at their pleasure mobs of
pea.santry, sh«)uld ever be repcatctl. And tiie compass
which led Columbus to America was given as the means
of a commerce which has already begmi its work of
binding the luitions into unity. And the press was given,
to give wings to thought. And all these discoveries
were gifts of the same g(»o<lness and were given for the
same end, as that for America wiw discovered and


peopled. This end was — to express it in the fewest
words — that consent might take the place of compulsion^
in all the ranks and regions and work of human society.

To this end this nation was planted in the home made
ready for it ; fostered until it was ready to live in
independence, and then gifted with independence. It
was ready for nationality, and became a nation. And
then came the gi'eat American Invention, — greater in
worth, in wisdom, and in its beneficent influence over the
whole future, than all those I have above enumerated ;
the invention of a Constitution.

The word is not a new one. It was applied to political
institutions before we used it, and is now so applied else-
where. But, in its American sense, and in its purpose
and its work, a Constitution had no existence, until it
was called into being for our needs, and our good ; called
into being by the progress of humanity, and for that

It would of course be difficult, or rather, impossible, to
give here a full exposition of the grounds on which an opin-
ion rests, that may seem to many, extravagant. This will
not be attempted. But some illustration of it may be
derived from a comparison between the national feeling
in this country, and that in Europe, on one point ; it is,
the loyalty of the nation.

There are those who think this word rightly used in
Europe, with an exact and definite sense ; but that here it
can only be used in a kind of figurative or rhetorical sense.
I think otherwise. Loyalty is everywhere a supreme
political virtue ; if it can have no existence here, we are
most unfortunate. If there be only one form of go\ern-
ment in which it can exist, the sooner that form of
government becomes ours, the better for us and for our

The Avord loyal is the English form of the latin legalis.
The feudal vassal, of every rank, was sworn to be fidelis
et legalis, or faithful and loyal, to his superior. Legalis
is the adjective form of the substantive, lex, law. The
oath then was that he woidd in good faith acknowledge
and defend all the rights which the law gave to his
superior, apd obey all the commands which the law


This is the orig-inal iMea, or tlio abstract idea, of loyahy.
It perhaps never entered into the minds of the masses,
and at all events it soon took the form of personal
loyalty. Nor is it difficult to see how this occurred and
why it was well that it should occur.

The worst thing which can befall a man is to be
delivered up to the unchecked dominion of his own self-
hood, before that self-hood is raised and regenerated into
the perception and the love of kioht. '' Lord of himself,
a heritage of woe," he cannot then but abuse the mastery
he possesses, to his own destruction. But when he is
j)r('[)are<l voluntarily to submit himself to the law of
right, and lets this law ripen into a love for his neigh-
bor and his neighbor's rights, then a relief from exter-
nal C(>mpulsion is the best thing which can happi-n.
Therefore, that Divine Providence, which by the neces-
sity of an infinite goo<lness seeks always the higlu'st
good, is ever watchful to advance as far as nuiy be the
preparation of man for this gift, an<l to give it as he is
prepared, and to withhold it in tin* degree in whicii he is
not prejiarcd. IJetween (iod and man, as between man
an<l man, consent is better than roMi'ii-SioN, an<l all
progress is from compulsicm to consent.

l$ut the chihl is ne<'essarily subject to coercion, 1)cchusc
necessarily immature, and unready for self-control. Antl in
the earliest nations wjjich hi>tory tells us of, in the childiiood
of man, this inunalurity was universal, and so comj)lete
tlial iniiversal desj)otism was necessary, and jM-rmitted. As
the nec«'ssity grew less, despotism was mtwlified ; but in
the ohl world, we have no evidence yet, that the people ari^
prepared for a safe <leliverance from a controlling jM)wer.
Tlie time nuiy come, jMtssibly it may be near, bnt it has
not come yet. The common phrase '* King, by the grace
of (iod," is not without its meaning and its trntlj. It is
of the grace, or mercy of (iotl, that kings aw gi\en to
those who need kings.

We see the mastery of the father o\er the chihl, made
tender and usefid by the parental love which the Father
of us all awakens in all at the birth of the child. And
so where it is necessary fi>r a people to have a king, or per-
sonal sovereign, governing in his own right, it is as ueces-


sary and useful that there exist among the people a strong
sense of personal loyalty. And it exists in Europe.
Weakened certainly, passing away possibly, but it has
not yet passed away.

And to what can we be loyal ? Let me ask another
question, to what are they in England — to take England
for our illustration — to what are they loyal ? To their
Queen. No one who has been there, or has listened to
the description of what they saw and heard who have
been there, can doubt that there is — not everywhere — but
in vast masses of the English people, an intense feeling of
loyalty to their Queen. A loyalty which would stir their
hearts to their depths and arm their hands with every
weapon they could grasp in her defence. And what is
their Queen ? A symbol and a personification of all law-
ful authority. In the theory of their law, she is its
source ; the judges of the law are her representatives, the
ministers of the law her servants. She is their personal
sovereign ; and she impersonates the sovereignty of tlie
state ; the preservation of all order ; and the protection of
all property, all industry, all prosperity.

I do not suppose that in all men's minds there is a de-
finite intellectual apprehension of this fact, or that such
ideas are recognized by them as the foundation of their
loyalty. But in many minds these ideas exist, and in
more hearts this feeling would have power. Let there be
a threat to-morrow of an uprising which should shatter
the throne, and multitudes of the English — great multi-
tudes — I know not how many, I do not even assert,
although I believe a great majority of the English, would
feel that if the throne went down, revolution, convulsion,
conflict and distress would fill the land. For they would
feel that if the throne went down, there would go down
with it, for them, the foundation of all law, and all se-
curity for order or for property.

But what have we to be loyal to ? No personal sover-
eign, reigning in his own right. What then have we ?

When our fathers bent to the work of giving form and
order to our nationality, they did not begin with the ap-
pointment of a personal sovereign ; but with something
very different. They selected those whom they thought


their bc«t and wisest, and onmniisisioned them to ronfor
to;;et]ier and discover tlu' fundameutal liLdits for which all
law exists, and which underlie and sn>tain and promote
all social good ; and the principles from which these
riglits forever flow. And then to devise the best forms
and rules for a government which should forever acknowl-
edge an<l secure these riidits by a constant observance of
these princi|^4es. And the fabric in which all this is con-
taincil and exj)ressed and defined, they called a Constitu-
tion. Tlicre it storxl, the child of their own will.
Embodying the best wisdom they had ; and resting on the
consent of all. There it strxxl, aiicl thank rio<l there it
stan«ls. And this substitution of a written Constitution,
so created, ami so founded, is, in my nmst profound belief,
the greatest political st»'j) ever yet taken in luuuan pn»-
gress, and a step which He who loves us inlinitely will
never permit to be retracted.

W*! live in the beginrnng of an age, of whi<h the
characteristic, politically, will be <-onstitutional n'jtubli<'au
government. We are (n\\y at its beginning: and already
discern (pieslicuis we ku(»w not how to solve, difliculties we
know not how to meet, misciiiefj* we know not how to
prevent. More, very many more, will come up as time
rolls on. Hilt this age, like every other of those in his-
tory, will gradually — perhaps slowly and thn»ugh much
error and misfortiun' — develop itself into the forms best
adapted for the fullest operntitMi of its dominant principle.
And that principle is and will renuiin, the substitution oi
Consent for Compul>ion.

Let me gj) back again to England for a moment. L«'t
us compare Kngli>h loyalty with (»ur own. as to its grounds
and its reasonableness. They are loyal to their sover-
eign. Victoria, as cjueen, as mother, and as uuitron,
commanils the respect of all in Amerii-a. When her son
was here, nothing struck me m(»re, and I may say nothing
touchcil me more, than the way in which that feeling was
expressed. It set-med as if we lelt that the excellence of
English malronliood sat, in lu-r person, on the throne of
England. Not a word wouhl I say, not a feeling have I
which w«tuld suggest n word in derogation of this a<'-
knowle(l;:ment. Hut she nuist <lie. Her sou, whatever


may be hoped of liira, has as yet only given a promise of
excellence. He too must die. And the lives of his suc-
cessors must be subject to vicissitudes, of which history,
and none more plainly than the History of England, tells
the sad tale. When Victoria's uncle, George IV., sat
on the throne, the loyalty of England was shocked, and
almost killed, by his w^ickedness, and selfishness, and the
unconcealed foulness of his life and character. When
such another sits there, that loyalty may have a deeper,
even a fatal wound. To such chances and such perils
the personal loyalty of England must submit.

And through all these ages — if we do not prove un-
worthy of so great a blessing — will stand our Constitution.
Not, as some in Europe w^ho speak of it suppose, because it
is fixed and crystallized into forms which may be broken
but cannot change. The exact opposite of this is the
truth. It is a living organism. It invites and provides
for change. It desires all changes, in all time, which
shall make it ever more able to perform its gi'eat func-
tions. But it carefully provides that these changes shall
come only as a common demand, shall be matured by a
common deliberation, and rest on a common consent ;
common, not universal, for that it is too Avise to demand.

That it must be far easier to be loyal when the object of
our loyalty is a person, is certain. It must be a great re-
lief to the human mind, in a certain condition, to have
those principles of order, law, and right, to which
loyalty is due, impersonated in one who can be recognized
and approached. But the providence of God, as it is
manifested in the progress of humanity, seeks to lift the
human mind above the condition in which it requires this
relief, this assistance. And the great question for us this
day, is, whether the American mind and character are
lifted to the height of our own institutions. If not, we
need, and if we need we shall have, a king.

The very foundation of our existence as a nation is
mutual desire, common consent. It has been too little
noticed, that this nation stands alone on earth in one
characteristic. What other great nation exists, or ever
has existed, from the days of Nimrod the hunter of men,
to this day, which did not acquire its growlli and more or


less of its dominion, by conquest, by compulsion ? Various
have been the forms and modes of this compulsion ; but,
in some form, it has existed everywhere. Our nation
alone was formed without one atom of this element.
And if Texas and California seem to have been added by
conquest, it was perhaps the introduction of a new ele-
ment ; and it was, at all events, the conquest of tlie land
only, and not of the people ; and when the sparse popula-
tion we found there grew into a sulhcieut magnitude, it
was at their own request that they were admitted to an
equal share of all our rights, all our advantages, all our
sovereignty. The idea of conquest and sulijugation seems
to me utterly foreign to the nature and working and life
of our political institutions.

lint it may be asked how can we compel the rebels
to return witliin tlie Union, without conrpu'st and subjuga-
tion. AVliat right have we to cim,j<»l tljcm at all, if the
very essential characteristic of our institutions is consent,
instead of compulsion.

Before a government can be carried f»n uj)on the prin-
ciple of consent, it must be clearly and practically
understood, that consent is perfectly consistent with ro/i-
trart^ an<l the <»bligations springing from contract.

As I have already said, I believe an immense step was
t{ikcn in the progress of our race, by the establishment of
our nationality, furausc this uatioiuility is founded u|)on
the principle of musfut, and aill fmr in>titutinns ami laws
and usages must rest upon consent,

I now say, that consent moans nothing until something
is consented to ; or, in other words, something is agreed
ui)on ; or, again, consent comes into effect and a<'tual
existence, when there are agreenients, made by and
between consenting parties ; made with their consent
and concurrence. An«l then a nationality founde<l u|K)n
consent, nuist have as its very essence, the right and the
power of enforcing agreements, or c«»ntracts, made by the
consent of the parties.

For example. No man in Ma>.-achusettii is obliged to
buy or to sell anything excepting at his own pleasure an<l
by his own free choice. But if he c<nisnifs to buy or to
sell, and makes an agreement l<j that eti'ect, then he is


held absolutely, and if need be coercively, to his obliga-
tion ; that is, to deliver what he sells when he is paid, or
to pay for what he buys.

It must be perfectly obvious, that national institutions
cannot be founded upon and characterized by the principle
of consent, unless it is a part of that principle, embodied
in the consent of the whole nation, that when consent
ripens into contract^ there shall exist the right, the power
and the duty of enforcing the contract-obligation.

We apply and test this principle continually, in the
smaller matters of every-day occurrence. We are now
testing the same principle on the largest scale.

All the States, and all the persons in every State, have
agreed to our national existence and our national insti-
tutions. No matter whether they have formally expressed
their consent, by oath, or voting, or otherwise. They
have lived under them ; profited by them ; received their
share of the good derived from them. And common
sense as well as common law holds them to be estopped
from denying their consent ; their contract.

Rebellion is the last and most consummate violation of
contract-obligation. It is the violation by force of the
contract which is the foundation on which our nationality
rests, and therefore upon which all order, all society, all
contract-obligation rests. And therefore it is a violation
of contract against which the whole force of the nation
should be thrown, with a concentration of all its might,
aCid with unfaltering energy, and unrelenting determina-
? But conquest and subjugation do not enter into my idea
of 'either our right or our duty; for this plain reason. We
fight only against rebellion ; against the rebels only be-
cause they are and as they are rebels. And as soon as
the rebellion is suppressed, as soon as they cease to be
rebels, they return again within the Constitution ; within
its obligations, within its penalties for whatever crimes
they have comniitted, but also within its protection.

To regard them not as rebels, but as enemies in the
same sense in which strangers at war with us would be
our enemies, is to declare that rebellion has succeeded ;
has done its work ; has separated them from us.


it" consent was tlie foinulatiou of our natiouality, so it
>va.s of tlie Constitution wliicli drives to it iorm and det'ui-
tion. The very lieurt and essence of this constitution, as
of every State Constitution, is, that it is the voluntary
work of all, the expression of tlie common will, resting
upon common consent ; and so terminating in a common
contract, an<l a common obligation.

The heart and essence of all constitutional republicanism
is Consent. The heart and essence of all slavery is
CoMi'Ui.sioN. History does not exhibit, and the mind of
nwm cannot conceive, a more absolute political antagonism,
than that between constitutional republican government,
and slavery. Hence this war. For this war is nothing
else than tliis antagonism, uttering its voice, casting otV its
disguise, taking uj) all the weapons of conflict, and seeking
success by FoiujE. The war, with all its fury, its slaugh-
l«r, its hatred, and its sacrilice, is but a revehiti<Mi of the
war, eternally existing, between the two principles of
Freedom and Slavery.

Ami yet our national const imt ion recognizes and pro-
tects sla\ery. It does so ; and it was nuule to do so Ibr a
-ullicient reason. When our fathers fnimed it, they
louiid slavery not otdy existing, but universally ditfused ;
-tronger in some places than in others, but wh(dly ab>ent
ahnosl n<»where. Tiuy tbuud als«), that wherever sla\ery
existed, there c<>-e\isted with it, some knowle<lge (»f its
( haracter. ami something (»f the fear and of the dislike
I hat character should inspire. Three courses, and only
ihree, were ojien to them. To aiuuidon tin' pur|K»se of a

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