Alexander T. (Alexander Taggart) McGill.

The hand of God with the black race : a discourse delivered before the Pennsylvania Colonization Society online

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Online LibraryAlexander T. (Alexander Taggart) McGillThe hand of God with the black race : a discourse delivered before the Pennsylvania Colonization Society → online text (page 1 of 2)
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" And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of
the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of
their habitation." — Acts xvii. 26.

Institutes of natural religion are condensed with admirable skill, in this
text and its connections. And as propounded here, they are alike adap-
ted to lead the heathen forward, and the Christian backward, with profitable
lessons. The cogeney with which they shut up the refined idolaters of
Athens to "Jesus and the resurrection," is reciprocated now, by the force
with which the Gospel sends us back to these dictates, as required in its
own progress and triumph. Events of history add new interest to this
reciprocal tie of nature and inspiration every day. The light of reason,
the voice of revelation, and the finger of Providence, combine as they never
combined before, to call our attention to these four things which the
analysis of this portion fairly presents to us.

1st. Tlie unity of our whole race as it sprung from, the hand of its
Maker: 2nd. The special Providence which governs the times or
events of any people: 3rd. TJie special Providence which fixes their
place in the world : Uh. The manifest aim, alike of creation and
Providence, in dealing with all races, to bring men at last to the
knowledge of Himself

I. In the very same year — the year 1620 — there came to this continent
two portions of the human race, the most opposite, in all respects, that could be
found on the face of the earth. The one was white, and the other was black ;
the one was free, the other captive ; the one was enlightened, the other igno-
rant ; the one was elevated with the best intelligence that ever dawned
upon the world, the other debased with the darkest delusions that ever
invaded our guilty nature. The one were so much the masters of their
own destiny, that the raging elements of the sea, the frowning terrors of

the wilderness, a barren coast, a savage hostility before them, and a
haughty despotism behind them, could not hinder them, with scanty means
and scanty numbers, from achieving, in less than two hundred years, results,
which no other ten centuries ever attained, for the most favored people
under heaven. The other were so much the mere products of time and
chance, that they seemed to have no destiny whatever. Though sprung
upon the richest soil beneath the sun, and carried to the fairest clime and
culture of a new world, there was no mastery of anything laid to their
hands with all the exuberance of material advantage ; but prone, passive,
and helpless, they could hardly compete with the beasts of the field, in the
dignity of a chattel indenture ; which constituted their only bill of rights
among the children of men. These two opposite portions were the pilgrims
who came to Plymouth in the Mayflower; and the first cargo of African
slaves that came to Jamestown, Virginia, in a Dutch man-of-war.

The Puritans who came here were the best of that name ; and the Afri-
cans who came were the worst, probably, of that name, being the negroes
of the coast, always found to be the most depraved and abused in Africa.
It is singular that these arrivals occurred in the same year; and singular,
that the best specimens of humanity, and the worst, should be placed
simultaneously in this land, on which men of all lands have been made to
look ever since, with surpassing interest. As if "the Maker of us all"
would summon the whole earth to witness on this magnificent theatre, not
the boast of Americans themselves, the experiment of self-government, the
movements of regulated liberty, the progress of a model and mighty Re-
public ; but to witness the truth of the first proposition of my text, that,
"He hath made of one blood all nations of men."

This collocation, side by side, in the same twelvemonth, of the most
exalted and the most debased, of what we call the human species, has
surely not resulted, in what would have been the result of a start together,
of two diverse and repellant progenies, in the original of their being.
Remember, what was then considered the superior race, in view of both
the hemispheres ; the proudest coevals which the Puritans had upon the
face of the globe — the Spaniards. How have we distanced them, in arts,
and arms, and riches, and power ; until a stranger to history might almost
as well question, whether the Spaniard, any more than the African, has

descended from the same Adam, with the Anglo-Saxon. We have not
been able, with all the neglect and wrong of the relation, so to distance
the black man. Bound to the chariot wheels of our own progress, by an
original hap, which made him a clog, that we would gladly have pushed
off nl every stadium of our career, he has notwithstanding ascended steadily
the car itself; and in spite of the reluctance of every party professing to
be friend or foe, thai darkened, trampled, outcast portion of humanity
has become, in one sense, of fearful import, master of our destiny as a
nation ; although even in point of numbers, not one sixth part of the
whole, and in point of rank, not one ninth of this sixth part be yet free
from the bondage to which they were imported originally. Great as we
are and proud as we have been, the question of our existence in the eyes
of the whole world depends on the solution of the problem, what to do
with the black race. And we perish among the nations, if that solution
be made on any other terms, than a full recognition of the simple truth
which is here affirmed, that they are of one blood with ourselves.

Since the tumult began of that civil war which now afflicts us, I have
not heard at all from that ethnological school, which, for some twelve or
thirteen years, had been steadily diffusing in the Southern mind a contra-
diction of eternal truth, in this particular. With the exception of a few
infidels at the North, and these imported for the most part from Europe,
the tractarians of this school belong entirely to the South; and even there
they have been met by certain able Christian teachers, such as Bachman,
and Smyth of Charleston, with unanswerable power.

It is far beyond our limits here, and might appear distrustful to the lone
sufficiency of God's word, to dwell on the suffrages of science ; as if the
signature of the Holy Ghost depended, for its authentication, upon any
lucubrations of man. Physiology, at the lowest degree of the scale, among
creatures, will show how the animal man must be the same, in view of his
structure, constitution and habits ; birth, life and death ; every thing that
touches a visible existence on the earth. Philology, at a higher grade,
tells us how identical he must be, in the common possession of a faculty,
which no other visible creature possesses, that of imparting his thoughts,
by the articulate and connected utterances of language. Moral Philos-
ophy, rising higher yet, evinces how perfectly the same he is, in the sense


of right and wrong, true and false ; on which the responsibilities of time,
and the retributions of eternity are made alike to hinge. And then, at
a higher elevation still, the history of men will prove, that families, tribes,
and nations, in all times, and all places of the earth, have been developed
by the same causes ; and made to rise or fall by the same influences, for
good or evil. In short, the simple and sublime averment of the text, on
which alone our faith reposes, even if it were but the word of man, would
subsidize all that man discovers, in the confirmation of its truth.

II. The Apostle claims for the Maker of all men the right to govern
them, in the control of their vicissitudes ; "hath determined the times before
appointed;" that is, the dates, or events of history — turning points in the
progress of nations. Probably the form of expression here was shaped by
a reference, inevitable with the educated Jew, to that precise determination
of time, with which the special providence of God had ruled the destiny
of Israel. "Know of a surety," said the Most High to Abram, when
"an horror of great darkness fell upon him," — "that thy seed shall be a
stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall
afflict them four hundred years ; and also that nation, whom they shall
serve, I will judge : and afterwards shall they come out with great substance,"
(Gen. xv. 13, 14.) It is only because they were a visibly covenanted
people that their "times" are thus explicitly mentioned ; all other nations
and races of men are led, and overruled, and destined, with equal precision
of times, by the councils of Him, who hath made them all of one blood.
The illustrious progeny of Shem and the obscure descendants of Ham, are
as perfectly alike, in the parental forecast of their common Maker, as they
are alike in the weakness of their birth, the necessities of their life, and
the dust to which they moulder.

Indeed, these "last times" of ours would summon us to see, in the
chronicles of the most abject posterity that ever sprung from the unco-
ven anted sires of mankind, a similarity of lot to the great covenanted
race of old, which no other nation or race ever exhibited in its annals.
The Africans in our country are strangers and servants "in a land that is
not theirs." They are here for a special purpose, just as surely as my
text is true, that a special providence controls the times which measure
events for any people. That special purpose resembles the end for which

the visible seed of Abraham were consigned to bondage inEgypt — culture,
preparation, a temporary bondage, to be terminated, and gloriously
terminated ; not, I hope and pray, with judgments on this nation, as the
plagues, and the spoils, and the overthrow, avenged the quarrel of His
covenant on the tyrant and taskmasters of Egypt ; but in the way of re-
leasing and sending back to their own land a people, who came to us utterly
destitute of every thing that mortal and immortal man requires ; and go
from us ladened with every benefit and blessing which can exalt a people
in the life that now is, and save them in the life that is to come.

If ever " the times before appointed," in the lot of any people, unfolded
themselves, their continuance and their limitation, alike in significant events,
the condition of the black man here shows that neither a perpetual bondage,
nor an immediate abolition, is the will of God concerning him. It is the
schooling of slaves in this Republic which Heaven decreed for slavery,
when Virginia, South Carolina, and Georgia, all implored the British
Crown in vain to spare these colonies the curse of its infliction ; and the
tutelage is to last until the enslaved are able and willing to carry back
to their own land the spoils of a Christian civilization.

Slavery itself is no school. It only degrades and destroys the children
of men. Even the chosen race of Israel, who went down to Egypt, with
a cultivation which the second man in the kingdom was not ashamed to
own and introduce to the court of Pharaoh, could not endure the servi-
tude of three generations after Joseph, without sinking so low as to hug
their chains and reproach their deliverer, and carry with them, in their
exodus, a spirit so besotted as to require nearly half a century of time in
the wilderness, to fit them for Canaan. Look at slavery by itself in Africa.
No where else on the globe has it had the same time and chance to work
out its own legitimate results. There, pre-eminently, it is the patriarchal
institution ; and proves what it can do, to complete the family, and give
the structure of society a solid basis, and a beautiful gradation. There it
is, that the king of Dahomey first rung the changes, which have been so
eloquently repeated at Charleston and New Orleans, that the social fabric
is not perfect, without a substratum of involuntary bondage, a pedestal of
living souls, to be bought and sold forevei*, like the beasts of burden.
Fetish idolatry, cannibal cruelty, the horrid barracoon, the stifling middle


passage, the anguish of outraged humanity, without one pang of pity in
the human breast, are but a portion of the fruits which slavery of itself
confers upon the civilization of men.

Give it, if you please, a better opportunity than its own heathen parent-
age at home; transfer it to a Christian community, without imparting to
it Christian culture ; and see if centuries of experiment will not leave the
slave as degraded as ever, and the master himself a monster of selfish,
cruel, and impure desires. The history of Jamaica will give us proof.
In the course of the first three hundred years of its history, about half of
which there was Spanish rule, and the other half English, the masters,
whether Spanish or English, conceived it to be incompatible with the re-
lation of slavery to give the blacks any religious instruction. At the end
of this period, eight hundred thousand slaves had been imported into that
island from Africa, and not one half this number could then be counted ;
more than half the number from time to time had sunk beneath the lash of
cruelty. The rigors of bondage were too hard, even for the prolific in-
crease of a serving race. When slavery is "under tutors and governors
till the time appointed," as in Egypt of old, it multiplies its people with
prodigious increase. And wherever it is bonded for perpetuity, as in
Jamaica of the last century, and Cuba of this, it perishes with its victims ;
as if the God that made us could not bear the sight of it beneath his
heavens. Thirty insurrections in Jamaica occurred in the lapse of one
hundred and forty years ; scarcely a vestige of Christianity existed even
among the whites, and the blacks themselves were worse than most of the
Africans at home. " I speak from my own knowledge," said Mr. Edwards
(historian of the West Indies) from his place in the House of Commons,
"when I say they are cannibals, and that instead of listening to a mission-
ary, they would certainly eat him." When the British mind was at length
awakened earnestly, (to the calls of humanity and decency, in dealing with
this dependency, and did send the Christian missionary, the rancor of those
English masters became furious, tore down the chapels with violence, and
persecuted the man of God, as if he had come with the torch of the incen-
diary, instead of the redeeming light of the Gospel. Such was slavery, even
in the bosom of Christendom, when left to work out its own "times" and


But now on the other hand, look at the trial of immediate emancipation,
without preparing the slave for freedom, by the education for which the
purpose of God brought him here, a savage in chains. Would you pre-
fer to see him attaining "liberty and equality," by himseif, without mix-
ture of blood, on the soil which he had tilled for generations, by the sweat of
his brow and the lash of his overseer ? Look at Jlavti; where the fetters
of slavery were broken off at once, by the Constituent Assembly of France.
In less than half a century her industry and commerce were annihilated ;
the Sabbath, the family, and the school, were abolished; the missionaries
of the cross — Baptist, Methodist and Episcopalian — were expelled with
bitter persecution ; thousands of free blacks from the United States,
almost as many as have gone to Liberia since its origin, in less than twenty
years had sunk to the same besotted level ; and at length a despot was
enthroned, with barbaric pomp, and remorseless tyranny, and the worship
of devils for his creed ; until the whole community seemed to touch the
bottom of a degradation, as foul and hideous as ever had been revealed in
the land of their African fathers. We hail with gladness a revolution for
the better which has lately occurred ; but the annals of Hayti have already
given the indelible lesson, that a republic of black men erected at once,
by an unschooled and Unprepared emancipation, is but a pilloried equality,
set up for a gazing stock and a scorn among the nations of the earth.

But would you prefer to see him attain liberty and equality in the home
of his master ; to see the dominant and the subjugated races remain upon
the same soil, with die same immunities of social, civil and political rights,
and of course, amalgamation, like that of the Norman and the Saxon
races ; which has invariably followed this blending of people, however
opposite the original stocks ? Look at Mexico; where the proud Castil-
iau, the subjugated Indian, and the barbarous African slave, were all made
free and equal just about one generation, or thirty-t(vvo years ago; by a
single decree, to meet what was considered "a military necessity. '' More
than half of the whole population is already mixed blooded ; and just as
amalgamation advances, degradation deepens; anarchy prevails; laws,
constitutions, and the ballot box are a mockery ; wave after wave of mili-
tary despotism has left that Republic, of more than eight million souls, on
the fairest region under heaven, for the acquisition of wealth and glory,


without money, without credit, without commerce, without union, without
religion, until at length the ambition of Spain, herself, seeks to remand
the abject people to their old repudiated thraldom.

These are some providential indications beside us, that neither slavery
perpetuated, for its own sake, nor slavery abolished, before its subjects are
educated for freedom, will comport with the determination of God our
Maker, in "the times before appointed," for the African people in these
United States. It is slavery at school, which he intends, in allowing slavery
at all in such a nation as this — at school, for a limited time to be measured
by the bondmen's own susceptibilities — at school, in the bosom of that-
Christian civilization which speaks the English language and its idioms of
regulated liberty — at school, with an obligation on the masters to be their
teachers, and to hasten the tuition — at school, for all the world besides, to
follow this tutelage ; not with a similar oppression as in these Noi'thern
States, which makes the freedman despised among freemen, as long as he
differs in color ; nor yet with an alloy of the dominant race, which his con-
stitution repels, and his prejudice abhors ; but with that inevitable exodus
from the house of bondage, to a land that is their own, which colonization
proposes to guide and furnish, and succor and defend.

III. This leads me to the third point in the teaching of the text — that
special providence which fixes the place of each people on the face of the
earth, "the bounds of their habitation." The most obvious proof of this,
in regard to the people of which we speak at present, and one which forces
itself upon the candor of all unprejudiced men, is the stamp of features,
and structure of skin, which God has made to dwell within the tropics of
our globe. The longest line of descent from the slave, as originally im-
ported, has not altered these claims of our equator upon her sable sons
and daughtei\s ; nor failed to remind us, that their dispersion over North
America is really a forced migration, even in the sunny South; and much
more in the Boreal frosts of Canada. Stupor, and squalor, rheumatism,
and consumption, prey upon these exiles, just in proportion as they ascend
our latitudes ; even with all the animation that freedom, whether allowed
or snatched, can impart to their nature. No one, it seems to me, who
watches the negro, anywhere upon our temperate zone, in the dead of


winter, can help a surmise, that the God of nature has another destination
in store for the development of his constitutional energies.

But Africa needs him, still more than he need- Africa. She stretches
forth her hands, not for the races, that can but touch her shore, and could
but subjugate her people; but for the return of her own children, to the
latest generations. She says, in her own peculiar sense, to the North give
up, to the South keep not back, bring my sons from far and ray daughters
from the ends of the earth. That poor mother of slaves came out of the
original chaos, a solitary continent ; which of all other divisions of the
globe, is the least susceptible of benefit from strangers. If you look at
her shape on the map of the world, you see it rounded and concentrated
upon itself; without peninsulas, and inland seas, entering from the ocean,
with the reach of commerce and its civilizing influence to her inmost
recesses, showing that nothing can redeem and exalt her, but forces from
within, the attainment of art and science, and religion, by her own returned
and indigenous populations. She has but one mile of coast for every six
hundred and twenty-three miles of surface; while Europe has one mile of
coast for every hundred and fifty-six miles of surface — evincing that the
advantage of Europe, in emerging from barbarism to the glory of Christian
civilization, is four times as great, by the very lines of the earth, which
become "the bounds of her habitation."

And it is not. surely, because the vast interior of Africa is a sterile
waste, that her mighty contour fences off, in this way, the keels and canvas
of the nations. Discoveries every year, by Living-tone, Barth, Burton,
Andersson, and other truthful adventurers, prove that her soil is rich beyond
comparison, that her rivers are deep enough and long enough to bear the
freight of empires on their bosom; and in short, that she needs only the
elevation of man by the interaction of men, who can stand her suns and
breathe her vapours, to become the garden of this globe, and bless all the
ends of the earth with her inexhaustible abundance.

It is the land of promise at this moment of sublunary time. Discoveries
have exhaused the new world. This hemisphere is booked within and
without by an indefatigable topography, which henceforth may rest, till
the planet itself is changed. But Africa now fixes on herself that curious
and restless and excited gaze, which America has held, for three centuries


and a half, and which has never failed in history to draw after it the tides
of immigration, and the utmost energies of human enterprize. Shall the
instincts of humanity be powerless, because it is an old world that is now
thrown open to enlightened men ? Shall the migratory impulse of manly
souls be repressed, because a mother, instead of a daughter, pleads, and
the plea reaches from ten thousand cemeteries of ancestral pride, for one
race alone to return, and take the last El Dorado, which the measuring
line of man's adventure can reach upon the face of the earth ?

Conceive it possible that when Columbus, Raleigh, and Hudson, had
reported this continent of ours to the people of Europe, some intimation
had been given, that only one particular race of that continent could live
and thrive in this one — some intimation but half as palpable as that which
designates the black man for Africa; think you, that particular people
would have hesitated to venture on the magnificent inheritance which God
had given to them alone ? Would they not have risen up in a day and
rushed upon their destination here until not a soul was left to linger, where
any other race competed for the bounds of a habitation ? And can it be,
that even if the black man were equal to the white man here in social,
civil, and political advantages, he would stay an hour to compete for
places and positions, when empires of wealth and happiness and glory on
the earth, are thrown open to him yonder without a rival ?

Let it not be said that he returns to a land of reprobation. There is
no curse on Africa, to preclude the utmost grandeur aud felicity, in the
future of her races. Egypt may have a doom still resting upon her, and


Online LibraryAlexander T. (Alexander Taggart) McGillThe hand of God with the black race : a discourse delivered before the Pennsylvania Colonization Society → online text (page 1 of 2)