xml/lby.00044.xml Icons of Liberty: "Liberty"

James Haughton, "Liberty," Liberty Bell (1849)

Transcribed from pages 253-262 of the Liberty Bell, for the year 1849.

Liberty is the priceless gift of God. Deprived of its beams, all animated nature languishes, and pines, and dies. Basking in its glorious sunshine, all creation is filled with light, and life, and joy. Man—who stands preeminent among the mighty works of God on earth—is but little elevated above the most grovelling things, when slavery spreads its malign influences over his soul; his noble nature is then degraded, and he becomes a miserable creature whose highest pleasures consist in such occasional snatches of sensual indulgence, as he can win from the watchfulness of his oppressors. Liberty—this great and glorious gift—ought to be as inalienable as it is priceless. But, unhappily, the thirst of gain and the lust of power, counteract this law of the Creator; so that, even in the present day of general enlightenment, a large portion of the human family are kept in a condition at everlasting war with their nature, and the aspirations of their souls. But the eternal principle can never be entirely eradicated. The slave is ever rebelling, more or less energetically, according as the oppressor has been more or less successful in repressing the god-like aspirations of his victim. The eternal principles of truth and justice are ever found in opposition to tyranny, and making good their claims on the hearts and affections of mankind. Hence there is a steady progress towards the overthrow of all slavery and all oppression of man by his fellows. However remote may be the period—however distant the day when that happy consummation shall take place,—men must be false to their own convictions who do not believe it is on the wing—who have no faith in the blessed realization. It is strange that so many should yet be found who have no just appreciation of these sentiments. Perhaps man is the only animal who is thus false to his own nature. He alone has the temerity to run counter to the will of the Creator, by striving to blot out of the minds of his fellows, all knowledge of the rights and privileges granted by their common Father. And is it not melancholy to think that, in this impotent attempt, men professing the mild and the enlightening doctrines of the Christian religion, occupy the foremost rank?

Slavery in one shape or other appears to have helped to degrade the human race and depress it in the scale of civilization, from the remotest periods of time. But, however desolating in its effects, when practiced in the early ages of the world and by Mahomedan and heathen nations, it had yet some redeeming features. The slave was not utterly embruted, his mind was in a degree allowed to expand, and the energies and affections of his nature had room to exhibit themselves. He might yet raise himself in the social scale, and become a man among his fellows.

On professing Christians (but practical Atheists) rest the deep humiliation, and black iniquity, of stealing their fellow creatures, and essaying by every art in their power, to blot out the glorious attributes of our noble humanity, and render the being of like high destiny with themselves, a machine, devoid of all those hopes and aspirations, which are man's most glorious privilege.

Americans—upon you and upon your land, rests the deepest stain in relation to this great sin. Other portions of the civilized world have opened their eyes to their guilt in this matter; and have endeavored to make restitution for centuries of wrong-doing. Why do not you also, come forward as honest men, and give freedom to your captives? How is it, that free born Americans, who pride themselves that their social institutions are in advance of most other nations, are willing to submit to the just—because well-deserved—contempt of the whole world—professing to be the freest people on earth while they hold in fetters three millions of men? Americans, you must see the glaring inconsistency of this conduct, and however reckless you may be of consequences, it is impossible that a people so intelligent as you are, should not perceive that such a state of things has an inevitable tendency to blast your prospects in the future, and to destroy all your usefulness as pioneers of freedom to the human race.

Independently altogether of the fearful and desolating darkness which the customs and the laws of your Slave States entail upon your bondmen, and which must inevitably undermine your greatness as a people, there is superadded to these, all over your dominion, an element of discord and of national weakness, such as must—and at no distant day either—reckoning according to the ages of nations, bring desolation and woe upon your land. I refer to the ungodly prejudice against color, which seems to be a very portion of the being of your white population. Can you believe that a race of colored men, flesh of your flesh, and bone of your bone, can grow amongst you, gradually becoming enlightened, by drinking at the same fountains of science, whose living waters enrich your own minds, and yet be contented to live as aliens in the land which God has given them, as well as you, to dwell in? The supposition is ridiculous. As you sow, so shall you reap. You are sowing discord; you will assuredly reap an abundant harvest, if you do not alter your course in time, and act more justly to your brethren in the sight of him who formed and fashioned his children as he pleased; and tinged their complexions with different hues, for purposes inscrutable to us; but which it is impious in us to attempt to contravene.

Americans, it is unmanly—it is childish of you, thus to endeavor, with puny efforts, to plant your feet upon human rights, and to overturn those great principles of truth and justice which God has planted in the heart of man. You may for awhile retard their progress by your dams of power and prejudice; but the stream will still flow from its unfailing source; the waters will accumulate; they will overleap all obstructions; and, like a resistless torrent, they will bear down all opposition; and you, and your sons and your daughters, and your pleasant fields, and your beautiful palaces, will lie buried beneath the ruins; and this great desolation will be acknowledged by mankind, as but a righteous judgment upon a nation of hypocrites, who wilfully and deliberately trampled on those natural and divine laws, which cannot be broken by individuals or nations, with impunity.

Will you then continue to court destruction by being thus unfaithful to your high mission as enlighteners of your race? You are cursed by slavery; arise, and cast it from you forever! Even if the noble determination should prove pecuniarily injurious to some of you, duty calls for it at your hands. But such would not necessairly or eventually be the result. Slavery must be a curse in a pecuiniary, as well as in a moral sense. The labor of slaves, being forced labor, must be comparatively unproductive. A passive, if not an active opposition, must result from the endeavor to obtain from unpaid workmen a full amount of labor. The superior prosperity of your free, over your slave States, taking into full consideration all the advantages and disadvantages of soil and climate in each, is a sufficient proof that the slave system in your Southern States, is adverse to your national prosperity. Your pertinacious adherence to such a system of injustice, in despite of the scorn of the rest of mankind, and in opposition to the spirit of your own Constitution, and the earnest entreaties of a large numver of your own most intelligent and worthy fellow citizens, is surely an anomaly not easily accounted for.

What reason can be assigned for the existence of slavery in America and in other lands, seeing that it is a system destructive of happiness, destructive of honor and honesty, and destructive of wealth? May not its existence be attributed to the love of POWER? Man is fond of the exercise of authority over his fellows. This power, once obtained, is seldom relinquished willingly. It is the source of many, or most of the evils which exist in the world. Men should guard against its acquisition by any of their fellows, with a jealous care. It is an engine of oppression in civil and religious matters, of an overreaching and most unsparing character. It is the most mischievous agent in riveting the chains of tyranny and superstition on the bodies and minds of men, which exists. It ought to be contended against by all men who desire that rational, that enlightened, that just laws,—laws in accordance with God's truth, and man's interest,—should be administered among men.

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