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The Underground Railroad in Mercer!

     According to notice given, the Mercer County Anti Slavery Society, met at the Court House, in the borough of Mercer, on the 22nd ult., and was opened with prayer by the Rev. Mr. Wilson of West Greenville.  An appropriate address was delivered by the Rev. G.W. Clark of Mercer.

     On motion, Resolved, that the address of Mr. Clark be published in the papers of this county, and that Messrs. Wm. M. Smith and William F. Junkins, and James Kilgore, be a committee to superintend the publication.

On motion of Mr. Junkin it was resolved, that the Mercer County Anti Slavery Society, become auxiliary to the American Anti Slavery Society.  (The motion according to a clause in the constitution was laid over to be acted on the next regular meeting.)

On the motion of the Rev. Wilson, it was Resolved,  That this meeting adjourn to meet in this place on the 21st day of April next at 1 o’clock P.M.: And that all the societies in the county be requested to send delegates to the adjourned meeting.

JOHN HOGE, President

James Kilgore, Secretary  

A NOTE

To William M. Smith, William F. Junkin, James Kilgore

Gentlemen – At your request the address delivered before the Anti-Slavery Society, on the 22nd ult., has been prepared for the press.  The principle matter has been preserved, though some different arrangement has been made, some topics abridged, and others enlarged as appeared proper when committing it to paper.  No apology is necessary for the changes that has been made in the phraseology, and illustration employed, which, from its extemporassous character of the address it is found neither convenient nor desirable to retain.

Respectfully, &c.,

G.W. Clark

 

Anti-Slavery Address

“Honour all men” – 1 Peter 2:17

      These words of the Apostle Peter have been selected as a motto for my present remarks, because from the authority on which the command is received, it must be regarded as based on a first principle on morals, intimately connected with the doctrine of human rights.

There is something quite peculiar in these brief statements of duty, which meet the eye with such frequency in the New Testament. They all point silently, but touchingly to the benevolent regards man should cherish for his species, are full of a more than human kindness. They are the dictates of a morality to which the world was before a stranger, and even had a solitary uninspired man conceived sentiments so noble, it would have been useless to publish them on mere human authority. So uncommon and unexpected are the statements that they must needs have been ably sustained by argument, or never have gained the credence of mankind.  The only reason this is not the case in the present instance may be found in the fact that out motto is an injunction of the Almighty, it is for him to exercise authority and state the highest duty of man in the express form of law.

We very appropriately call the Christian scriptures a “revelation.” They are of a truth such; a revelation of the invisible Divinity – of a Redeemer, and a future state.  But these are not the only things revealed in the Bible, with no less propriety we call that record a revelation of man.  Viewed in the light of religious truth a new value is stamped on human nature – dying man in all his position and misery is seen vested with a worth that can be estimated only when we stand around the cross to witness the sufferings of Him who bought us with his blood.

In close connection with the relation, which unites man to his Maker, you find the most rational account of those bonds, which could unite the different members of the human race to each other.

When first “the mind of the Lord” was revealed, the Almighty speaking “once, yes twice to man” no doubt views as novel as they were tender and interesting were opened up to the world.  The first declaration to which I allude, affirms that “God hath made of one blood all nations of men to dwell on all the face of the earth.”  They are, however, diversified, and scattered, different in color, or habits of life, yet of one origin and common nature.  The other assures us the Redeemer became incarnates, in this sense was made even lower than the Angels, that, “He by the grace of God might taste death for every man.” Here you have the fountain of benevolence and good will to all men, the gushing forth of which will sweep aside all man made distractions giving to every man not only the name, but an acknowledged right to all the high prerogatives and privileges of a friend and brother. Pagans and Mohamedans who know neither God nor human nature, may make their absurd notions of “cast” or difference in external appearance, a reason for injuries inflicted on certain classes of their communities.  There is some apology for them. But shame on the Christian who copies after such a base example, and allows prejudice so utterly at variance with the most prominent features of revealed religion.  Let God, and not man, rebuke such inconsistency – “oppress not the poor” – dost thou wrong a human being he is thy brother? – Dost thou become accessory to his death by a grinding, wasting oppression which whelms the heart with many sorrows, and murders its hapless victims piece meal?

– “The voice of they brother’s blood crieth to God from the ground.” Do you behold the poor wretch “sitting in darkness, bound in affliction, and iron” doomed to the unrequited labor and toil of perpetual servitude, merely to satiate the avaricious desires, the cursed lust of gain which rankles in the bosom of his vaunting superior. He is thy “brother for whom Christ died.”

This is the tender and affecting view of human relations, ever recognized in the word of God. And it is in view of this we are commanded to “honour all men.”  To honour a thing is rightly to estimate its worth, and to have our regards proportioned to it’s real value.  Apply this to man. Estimate his value by his Maker’s love, his Redeemer’s sufferings, his relation to this, and the world to come, and you will not fail to perceive that to honour him as he deserves, we must cordially respect his claims, growing out of these relations feel anxiety for his welfare, and ever hold ourselves ready, if need be, to sacrifice ease, honor, and worldly emolument to rescue a being endowed with such awful capacities of good and evil from the grasp of the destroyer.

These remarks have an intimate connexion with the subject I am requested to bring before the meeting.  That of American Slavery.  And it is frankly confessed to you, that some Knowledge of the “oppressors wrongs, the proud mans coatumely.”  The insult that has been added to injury, and practiced by beings claiming to be men and Christians, has filled me with honest indignation, and made me impatient for this opportunity, fully to declare my settled conviction, and sentiments on a subject, which deeply affects both our duty and interest.

We know it is an exciting subject; of all others the most so.  To the generous, and humane it must be full of deep and painful interest, much time need not be spent to define what slavery is, or to show the repulsive features of a system which degrades and brutalizes beings made in the image of God, to things, “to goods and chattels,” held subject to sale and transfer at the will of him who calls them his property.  This we unhesitatingly pronounce a system of villainy and robbery, the legitimate offspring of covetousness. Yes, this is the very principle of the fallen human nature in which the spirit of slavery “lives and moves, and has its being.”

     We will take a two-fold view of the subject. First, it is a national evil or calamity, which demands an immediate remedy. Secondly, it is a moral evil or sin against God.

     That the Slavery of the Southern States materially affects not only the present peace and prosperity of the nation, but her security also, cannot be doubted by any man of reflection, he sees that it has not an influence, but tends directly against, the best interests of society; that it lays its withering grasp on every bud of promise. Strikes the chill of death to the very heart of Republicanism, and blots out the fondest hopes of the philanthropist whether at home or abroad, who, but for this deadly Upas, had looked upon the noble institutions of this country, as the light of the world and the rich inheritance of generations yet unborn.

But to mark more particularly the national evils which flow from this polluted fountain.  Notice the effect on the value of free labor. This is so painfully experienced by the lower classes of operatives in slave-holding communities and districts contiguous to the, that hundreds of honest but indigent men, can scarcely gain subsistence.  It is a notorious fact that laborers at the south, who have not trades, with few exceptions drag out their lives in wretchedness and want. But few there gain the golden mein of competency, the state at once most happy, and flavorful for real improvement.  Now what is the cause of this? Is any one ready to say it is want of ambition, or energy that prevents these poor people from rising to circumstances of comfort. The supposition in some cases may be true. But pray, how comes it that there is less energy in a poor mans character at the south than at the North?  This should be accounted for, and it is easily done, when we remember that a mans unavoidable circumstances if long continued, will naturally adapt this character to his condition.  The poor at the south whether White or Black, labor under every disadvantage and if want of ambition ensue, that also is chargeable to the same source which “IS EVIL AND ONLY EVIL CONTINUALLY.”

     The slave-holder is generally the employer, and he estimates the value of labor simply by the expense of his Slaves.  If by course and sparing diet, joined by almost nakedness, his Slaves can be kept for 12 ½ or 13 cents per day, a small trifle must be added sufficient, in ordinary life to pay the purchase money, and this in Slave-holding communities is the price of a days work. Owing to this the labourer, destitute of capital, must of necessity, live much as does the subject Slave.  – And yet we are gravely told the free colored people are so stultified that they don’t get rich or rise to eminence at the South.  Oh consistency!  “Thou art a precious jewel!”

     The Political Economist will doubtless feel that any system, however propped up by prejudice, and sustained by law, which throws all the resources of wealth into the hands of a few, to the sensible, and irreparable injury of the many, cannot be tolerate, but at the expense of the national prosperity.

Again, that which injuriously affects the honor of the national character abroad is a national evil. Slavery does this! It is really ridiculous to hear our would-be great men declaim about “national honour.”  The glory of the country – the flag of liberty – the spirit of Republicanism” while they are known to support a system of oppression and tyranny worse than ever, disgraced this old world.  The fact cannot be concealed that, where once honored we are disrespected, and if things keep their present course we may soon receive the contempt of every enlightened State in Europe. Would you know how the world NOW regards the consistency of American character? You must not go for information to the fulsome speeches of southern politicians go rather to the most popular, ably conducted political and religious periodical of Britain and neighboring Kingdoms.  From these you will learn that while friends manfully rebuke our folly, and exhort to reformation, enemies deride and Despots sneeringly point to the “beauties of Liberty.”  The liberty of one mans wrong abuse, and torture within an ace of his life a fellow subject, for the ostensible reason, that the victim of his avarice and cruelty is “found gulty of a skin not covered like his own.”  – That he may do this not only with impunity, but in perfect keeping with American honour – the principles of Republicanism, and the LOVE OF LIBERTY – if this state of things is necessary, who covets the distinctions of being an American citizen!

     Not him who has a spark of generous feeling in his bosom who despises meanness, and looks with manly adherence on whatever tends to degrade and brutalize his species.  And shall we tamely consent to have our glory thus tarnished, our name become a hissing, and byword, a stigma of reproach and contempt!  Shall

“ICHABOLD” be written on the banner of our country?  It must not, shall not be, that what our father’s bought so dearly should be sacrificed without an effort; No “my country with all thy faults I love thee still.”  Will ye labour, and pray, and hope for thy deliverance from the cruel power of thy enemy.

If be allowed that any institution, however legalized, whose obvious tendency is to weaken, dishonor, and destroy the very existence of the body politic, is a national evil; without doubt SLAVERY is such an evil, and as such, ought to be remedied by legislative enactments. When then, as friends of the oppressed and down trodden slave, we disclaim all interference with the party politics of the day, while we demur against having our principles desecrated, by pressing them into the service of aspiring political demagogues, we do not, (and may God forbid we ever should) loose sight of the fact that it belongs to the National, and State governments to undue the heavy burdens they have imposed on more than two million of American citizens, and to do this in their appropriate capacity, by the authority and law.

But our chief concern is with the immorality of Negro Slavery.  And let it be distinctly understood that we speak of PRACTICAL SLAVERY, and not some indefinable abstraction.  I know nothing about Sinning in the abstract, but presume, it is a peculiarity in the politico-metaphysical theology of Slave-holding Ecclesiastics, and to them is readily submitted the task of convicting their hearers, who for years have ACTUALLY robbed and spoiled God’s suffering poor, of sin in the abstract, and when that is done they will probably repent in the same way.  We have not so learned duty, or studied the principles of moral obligation. We estimate the moral character of the slave master as it is embodied and set forth in action, which may be compared with established principles of righteousness.  If the supporters of any system manifest a reckless

disregard for the sights of [line cut off] ers too generally, we pronounce that system IMMORAL IN

CHARACTER, AND DEMORALIZING IN TENDENCY. But a few facts need be remembered to convince

us of the flagrant injustice and guilt of American Slave-holders.  The following statements will show that the owner (what a name) has, and can have ABSOLUTELY NO RIGHT to the unrequited labor of the Slave. That in keeping back the hire of the labourer, he DEFRAUDS HIS BROTHER, disobeys God, and outrages every feeling of enlightened humanity.

1. The descendents of Africa were received into the British colonies in this country, as the proceeds of a traffic known to be both unjust and cruel.  – The colonists either stole them from Africa, or knowingly purchased them from men-stealers. On the plainest principles, then, the first nominal owners never in either case, had any right of property in the parents of the present slaves.  They had, and could acquire, no right to the descendants of those they UNRIGHTEOUSLY oppressed. They have tried to silence the clamor of a guilty conscience by assuming, that although it is not exactly right for a Christian to STEAL nor even purchase of a THIEF, yet the right of ownership begins with the children of the enslaved, and strengthens in after generations, as the blood of the stolen ceases to flow in the veins of their “PROPERTY.”  A species of extensive systematized robbery, reaching in its effects beyond the life of the first sufferer, may then become a “domestic institution,” with which the stranger may not intermeddle. It is probably some such view as this that has led the worshippers of this Idol at the North and South to rest in the doctrine that what is WRONG in PRINCIPLE may yet be RIGHT in PRACTICE.

You need not but apply the principle assumed to another case to see its absurdity. Does the thief who steals cattle, though he should feed and take care of them, even better than the Planter does his field slaves acquired by so doing a right either to them or the stock they may produce? Certainly not.  And the government on restoring the property to the rightful owner would scarcely think of making an appropriation to remunerate the unfortunate man for all his trouble and expense.  Now where is the difference in the two cases? Not in the NATURE OF THE RIGHT acquired, but in the extent, and turpitude of the crime committed. The slaver has just as much right to the descendants of the enslaved, as the thief has to the stock of stolen cattle, and that is just no right at all.

Nor could the former claimants transfer to their heirs any better right than they had themselves; so that the right of one man to the body, and soul of another, is now just what it has always been, the right of a thief to what has been stolen, nor can a lapse of ages alter the essential injustices of the procedure.

As moral principles are investigated and understood it will be perceived, and felt to be as sinful to enslave a man born in America, as one born in Africa.  The sophistry of argument long resorted to by those who connive at this sin, will be swept away as other “refuge of lies” have been by the force of corrected public opinion.  However ungrateful the event may be to some, the mind of the sober inquirer must be led back the rational doctrine of our forefathers, who proclaimed to the world this “self-evident truth that all men are created equal, and endowed with certain in alienable rights, among which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Why does the enlightened world view the slave-trade as an enormous sin?  Chiefly because it is felt that native Africans are born free, with natural right to liberty.  And were it not long for long accustomed habit of thinking it would appear, as it really is, more absurd to suppose a man can be born a slave in Republican America, that this should be a natural state of man under petty despotisms of Africa.  While it remains “self evident” that liberty is the natural right of one, it is equally so of all, nor can any be rightfully reduced to a state of slavery.

To conclude this part of the subject.  It is wrong to practice fraud, injustice and cruelty – to oppress the poor – to withhold from the laborer his hire – to disregard the cause of the widow and the fatherless – to break in upon the domestic relations of parent and child, husband and wife – putting asunder what God hath joined together – then is Slavery wrong.  If it is sin to disobey God, to set aside every principle of chastity and honor – to enhance the depravity of beings already vile, and introduce universal licentiousness among all classes of society – if these things of ought of moral turpitude attached to them, then is slavery a sin. “And shall I not visit for these things saith the Lord, shall I not be avenged of such a nation as this!” well might the sagacious Jefferson declare “I tremble for my country when I remember that God is just.”

And yet we must be told by Bishops and D.D.’s that slavery is sanctioned by the Bible – men with sacred titles to their names, set their seals to a system of legalized robbery, would then baptize this monster, charged [—] every b— [missing line] is susceptible, in the fount of religious truth, and throw the protecting arm of the church around this, their beautiful “Domestic Institution.”  What can more pain and astonish us than to see men resorting to the Bible for an apology for the injuries their avarice prompts them to afflict on others? Who but trembles, to see a man charged with wrong going up to the very judgment seat of an equal God to plead his sanction, to the deeds of villainy and injustice? “Oh! My soul, come not thou into their secret, their assembly, mine honour be not thou united!”

But to the point – we are often referred to the prophetic malediction – “Cursed be Canaan, a servant of servants shall he be” &c.  This precious morsel in a slave holders Bible – a real opiate for his already seared conscience.  Because it is supposed the descendents of Ham are under the curse of the Almighty, it is thought that every indignity, and insult may be heaped upon them with impunity.  But this, like every other covering for iniquity, is found to be “narrower than that a man can wrap himself in it.”  There happens to be at least two palpable mistakes in the use made of this malediction, if indeed it be such, and not pure prediction.  The first is it’s the wrong application.  It was pronounced against Canaan – fell not on any of the African tribes, but on the Canaanites, who were made servants, or destroyed by the children of Israel.

But even granting, what is not true, that is the direction of the curse pronounced.  That it was designed for Africa, that curse has long since spent its force.  A richer display of goodness and love now characterizes the province of the Almighty. – The fullness of time has now come, and the grace of God which brings salvation unto all men hath appeared – here curses are turned to blessings, the anathemas of the former dispensation arrested and repealed.  No nation is now under the curse, in as much as in Christ all the families of the earth are to be blessed.  The curse of God’s displeasure poured out, like a fiery stream, on any class of men for the enormity of their crimes, blasting, and withering all in its course, is at length absorbed in the river of His mercy, ready to gush forth in healing streams to cheer and bless the most despised and down-trodden of our guilty race.  Yet we are told the Patriarchs were slave-holders, and the licentious villain, polluted with deeds of nameless crime, as he drives his own children to market, will even call Abraham his brother, and tell you how God prospered those pious slaveites!  Oh shame!  Where is my blush? Who but feel indignant to have such abuse and scandal heaped upon the worthy dead.  The Bible sanctioned Slavery! The man who says it, charges God foolishly – it is a libel on that precious book. We defy any honest man with but a moderate share of science, or even of common sense to read the history of the Jews, and their laws – then to read the history of Southern slavery in connection with the laws of the States concerned, and say there is any real resemblance between Patriarchal servitude and American Slavery. Only want of time prevents me from exposing more fully the unfairness of the constructions that have been forced on different passages of divine truth, and the futile sophistry of guilty men who have woven the spider’s web to cover their sin.  We can only now notice one other reference to scripture authority and must for the present leave the subject. This is an appeal to the Apostolic writings, and greatly rested in by those who make it – 1st we are reminded that Paul sent back a runaway to his master.  2nd. That he enjoyed submission to his master’s will on all believing slaves, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the forward, These statements, are of course, admitted.  It is further granted that the slavery practiced by the Romans was flagrantly sinful – but, we deny the inference that these facts are any evidence that the Apostle recognized and approved of the then existing relation of master and slave. Paul speaks of the duty of a slave to obey the command of the master, however unjust, and cruel he may be, and because there is a moral obligation on the one part to obey, it is straightaway inferred that there is a moral right on the other to issue these commands.  But unhappily for this effort to reduce a wrong thing to a right, there is no connection between the conclusion and premise.  The duty of the oppressed to bear the injustice and cruelty, the abuse and insolence of his self constituted owner, so far as establishing the right of such treatment shows most conclusively from the very manner in which the duty is enjoyed, that the wrong, the guilt of the master was distinctly recognized. The Christian slave is instructed to submit to the arbitrary dictum of his master, on the noble principles of nonresistance of injuries.  By so doing he copies the example of him who “when he was reviled, he reviled not again, when he suffered, he

threatened not.” But, while the Bible teaches the bondsman that he is not his own avenger, it also assures him

“God hears the signing of the prisoner, and instructs him to commit his cause to one that judgeth righteously,” remembering him who hath said, “vengeance belongeth unto me, I will repay saith the Lord.”  – Paul teaches servants the same duty that Christ taught his disciples, viz: – “That ye resist not evil, but when smitten on the one check to turn the other also” and he no more thought the right of the oppressor, than the Savior thought the right of those ungodly wretches who first lighted up the fires of persecution to smite his unoffending disciples with the fist of wretchedness.  Whatever is said of the duty of the slave, the great question [—] be [magle?]  guilt [line cut off] apologize for this enormous sin you must go to some other system of morals then that contained in the Christian scriptures.

To conclude, this is the evil with which we are to grapple.  Though our sketch has been hurried and imperfect, some of its ugly features have been discovered.  How is it to be remedied?

Some seem to think the evil may be modified and still retained with safety, Christianity, they say, when properly introduced will correct whatever prevailing evils are found in society, and from the progress of Christianity at the South, the increase of churches, ministers and religious prints, we have reason to hope the condition of the slave will be so much meliorated, that the disgrace and immorality of the system will by this means be abolished.  It is readily granted that the Gospel where properly introduced is a powerful corrective; its heavenly genius is to mould and fashion both public and private character after its own lovely image.

Why then has the enormity of this sin been increasing instead of lessening in Christian states and parishes?

Why have chains and shackles been forged for human limbs beneath the very shade of the sanctuary?  Plainly, because wherever slavery exists at the South, the ax is not laid at the root of the tree, that it may be hewn down and destroyed; Christianity is not “PROPERLY” introduced.  The fundamental principles of morals are there so perverted that the Gospel cannot have “free course,” or produce those extensive moral transformations it was designed to effect.  If Southern religious prints give a correct account of the ministerial qualifications demanded by that portion of the church, and furnish us any clue to matter and manner of Southern preaching, what is called Christianity there, surely, is something different from the “pure religion” of the Bible.

It is mutilated, imperfect, and garbled Christianity, stooping to a vile compromise with the world. The reproofs of the Gospel, and the discipline of the church are administered partially.

The testimony of God against the oppressor is cautiously withheld.  The language in which the Almighty rebukes this crying abomination must seldom, if ever be read in a “Southern pulpit.”  It savers too much of the fanaticism of Abolitionists, and would quite exasperate some of those “VERY PIOUS MEN” (pardon the expression, it is a quotation) who satiate themselves on luxuries, for which they compel others to toil without wages. God says to his watchmen, cry aloud, spare not.  Lift up your voice like a trumpet, and show my people their transgressions, the house of Jacob their sins.” But their practice seems to say, not so Lord, it will not due to tell these rich planters, pillars in the church as they are, that it is wrong to oppress the poor, that their legalized adultery is a sin against which the wrath of God is ready to be poured out. It wont due to tell them that Negroes are men & have an undoubted right to receive at their hands justice, compassion, humanity and brotherly kindness. On these and kindred subjects the lips of the preacher are hermetically sealed. Will not Jehovah pronounce a woe against such Shepard’s in Israel?  And as anciently complain, “They are dumb as dogs that cannot bark,” Christianity itself in the hands of such apostles will never, no never, remove the sin of which we speak.

Besides, the evil is such in nature that it cannot be essentially modified or altered, but must be destroyed, root and branch.  Emancipation then, either immediate or remote is the only consistent remedy that has ever been proposed.  In the present state of our country and the world “nothing human is more certain” than that slavery in the United States must terminate.  We believe that it ought in a way, which the wisdom of those immediately concerned may dictate, to terminate immediately. To the safety and expediency of this course, did time permit we would summon as a witness, the dictates of human nature, the providence of God, and matter of fact. But must now leave the subject to your own reflections, only asking both those who favor and who oppose to read, examine and pray over this painfully interesting subject – it is one over which we have slumbered already to long, and a voice from the miseries of the hapless slave. Solemn as the death-chime of souls, now sounds in our ears, saying “what meanest thou, Oh sleeper! Arise, and call on thy God that we perish not.”

The Western Press Saturday 4 March 1837.

Transcribed: Mark Painter


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