An Appeal to the Christian Women of the South

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APPEAL TO THE CHRISTIAN WOMEN OF THE SOUTH

Angelina Emily Grimké

APPEAL TO THE CHRISTIAN WOMEN OF THE SOUTH

BY A.E. GRIMKÉ.

“Then Mordecai commanded to answer Esther, Think not within thyself
that thou shalt escape in the king’s house more than all the Jews. For
if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there
enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place:
but thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth
whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this. And
Esther bade them return Mordecai this answer:—and so will I go in
unto the king, which is not according to law, and if I perish, I
perish
.” Esther IV. 13-16.

Respected Friends,

It is because I feel a deep and tender interest in your present and
eternal welfare that I am willing thus publicly to address you. Some
of you have loved me as a relative, and some have felt bound to me in
Christian sympathy, and Gospel fellowship; and even when compelled by
a strong sense of duty, to break those outward bonds of union which
bound us together as members of the same community, and members of
the same religious denomination, you were generous enough to give me
credit, for sincerity as a Christian, though you believed I had been
most strangely deceived. I thanked you then for your kindness, and
I ask you now, for the sake of former confidence, and former
friendship, to read the following pages in the spirit of calm
investigation and fervent prayer. It is because you have known me,
that I write thus unto you.

But there are other Christian women scattered over the Southern
States, a very large number of whom have never seen me, and never
heard my name, and who feel no interest whatever in me. But I feel
an interest in you, as branches of the same vine from whose root I
daily draw the principle of spiritual vitality—Yes! Sisters in Christ
I feel an interest in you, and often has the secret prayer arisen
on your behalf, Lord “open thou their eyes that they may see wondrous
things out of thy Law”—It is then, because I do feel and do pray
for you, that I thus address you upon a subject about which of all
others, perhaps you would rather not hear any thing; but, “would to
God ye could bear with me a little in my folly, and indeed bear with
me, for I am jealous over you with godly jealousy.” Be not afraid
then to read my appeal; it is not written in the heat of passion
or prejudice, but in that solemn calmness which is the result of
conviction and duty. It is true, I am going to tell you unwelcome
truths, but I mean to speak those truths in love, and remember
Solomon says, “faithful are the wounds of a friend.” I do not
believe the time has yet come when Christian women “will not endure
sound doctrine,” even on the subject of Slavery, if it is spoken to
them in tenderness and love, therefore I now address you.

To all of you then, known or unknown, relatives or strangers, (for you
are all one in Christ,) I would speak. I have felt for you at this
time, when unwelcome light is pouring in upon the world on the subject
of slavery; light which even Christians would exclude, if they could,
from our country, or at any rate from the southern portion of it,
saying, as its rays strike the rock bound coasts of New England and
scatter their warmth and radiance over her hills and valleys, and from
thence travel onward over the Palisades of the Hudson, and down the
soft flowing waters of the Delaware and gild the waves of the Potomac,
“hitherto shalt thou come and no further;” I know that even professors
of His name who has been emphatically called the “Light of the world”
would, if they could, build a wall of adamant around the Southern
States whose top might reach unto heaven, in order to shut out the
light which is bounding from mountain to mountain and from the hills
to the plains and valleys beneath, through the vast extent of our
Northern States. But believe me, when I tell you, their attempts will
be as utterly fruitless as were the efforts of the builders of Babel;
and why? Because moral, like natural light, is so extremely subtle in
its nature as to overleap all human barriers, and laugh at the puny
efforts of man to control it. All the excuses and palliations of this
system must inevitably be swept away, just as other “refuges of lies”
have been, by the irresistible torrent of a rectified public opinion.
“The supporters of the slave system,” says Jonathan Dymond in his
admirable work on the Principles of Morality, “will hereafter be
regarded with the same public feeling, as he who was an advocate for
the slave trade now is.” It will be, and that very soon, clearly
perceived and fully acknowledged by all the virtuous and the candid,
that in principle it is as sinful to hold a human being in bondage
who has been born in Carolina, as one who has been born in Africa.
All that sophistry of argument which has been employed to prove, that
although it is sinful to send to Africa to procure men and women as
slaves, who have never been in slavery, that still, it is not sinful
to keep those in bondage who have come down by inheritance, will be
utterly overthrown. We must come back to the good old doctrine of our
forefathers who declared to the world, “this self evident truth that
all men are created equal, and that they have certain inalienable
rights among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
It is even a greater absurdity to suppose a man can be legally born
a slave under our free Republican Government, than under the petty
despotisms of barbarian Africa. If then, we have no right to enslave
an African, surely we can have none to enslave an American; if it is a
self evident truth that all men, every where and of every color are
born equal, and have an inalienable right to liberty, then it is
equally true that no man can be born a slave, and no man can ever
rightfully be reduced to involuntary bondage and held as a slave,
however fair may be the claim of his master or mistress through wills
and title-deeds.

But after all, it may be said, our fathers were certainly mistaken,
for the Bible sanctions Slavery, and that is the highest authority.
Now the Bible is my ultimate appeal in all matters of faith and
practice, and it is to this test I am anxious to bring the subject
at issue between us. Let us then begin with Adam and examine the
charter of privileges which was given to him. “Have dominion over the
fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living
thing that moveth upon the earth.” In the eighth Psalm we have a still
fuller description of this charter which through Adam was given to
all mankind. “Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy
hands; thou hast put all things under his feet. All sheep and oxen,
yea, and the beasts of the field, the fowl of the air, the fish of the
sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas.” And after
the flood when this charter of human rights was renewed, we find no
additional
power vested in man. “And the fear of you and the dread of
you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and every fowl of the air,
and upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of
the sea, into your hand are they delivered.” In this charter, although
the different kinds of irrational beings are so particularly
enumerated, and supreme dominion over all of them is granted, yet
man is never vested with this dominion over his fellow man;
he was never told that any of the human species were put under his
feet;
it was only all things, and man, who was created in the image
of his Maker, never can properly be termed a thing, though the
laws of Slave States do call him “a chattel personal;” Man then, I
assert never was put under the feet of man, by that first charter
of human rights which was given by God, to the Fathers of the
Antediluvian and Postdiluvian worlds, therefore this doctrine of
equality is based on the Bible.

But it may be argued, that in the very chapter of Genesis from which I
have last quoted, will be found the curse pronounced upon Canaan, by
which his posterity was consigned to servitude under his brothers Shem
and Japheth. I know this prophecy was uttered, and was most fearfully
and wonderfully fulfilled, through the immediate descendants of
Canaan, i.e. the Canaanites, and I do not know but it has been through
all the children of Ham but I do know that prophecy does not tell us
what ought to be, but what actually does take place, ages after it
has been delivered, and that if we justify America for enslaving
the children of Africa, we must also justify Egypt for reducing
the children of Israel to bondage, for the latter was foretold as
explicitly as the former. I am well aware that prophecy has often been
urged as an excuse for Slavery, but be not deceived, the fulfilment of
prophecy will not cover one sin in the awful day of account. Hear
what our Saviour says on this subject; “it must needs be that offences
come, but woe unto that man through whom they come”—Witness some
fulfilment of this declaration in the tremendous destruction, of
Jerusalem, occasioned by that most nefarious of all crimes the
crucifixion of the Son of God. Did the fact of that event having been
foretold, exculpate the Jews from sin in perpetrating it; No—for
hear what the Apostle Peter says to them on this subject, “Him being
delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye
have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain.” Other
striking instances might be adduced, but these will suffice.

But it has been urged that the patriarchs held slaves, and therefore,
slavery is right. Do you really believe that patriarchal servitude was
like American slavery? Can you believe it? If so, read the history
of these primitive fathers of the church and be undeceived. Look at
Abraham, though so great a man, going to the herd himself and fetching
a calf from thence and serving it up with his own hands, for the
entertainment of his guests. Look at Sarah, that princess as her name
signifies, baking cakes upon the hearth. If the servants they had were
like Southern slaves, would they have performed such comparatively
menial offices for themselves? Hear too the plaintive lamentation of
Abraham when he feared he should have no son to bear his name down
to posterity. “Behold thou hast given me no seed, &c, one born in my
house is mine heir.” From this it appears that one of his servants
was to inherit his immense estate. Is this like Southern slavery? I
leave it to your own good sense and candor to decide. Besides, such
was the footing upon which Abraham was with his servants, that he
trusted them with arms. Are slaveholders willing to put swords and
pistols into the hands of their slaves? He was as a father among his
servants; what are planters and masters generally among theirs? When
the institution of circumcision was established, Abraham was commanded
thus; “He that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you,
every man-child in your generations; he that is born in the house,
or bought with money of any stranger which is not of thy seed.” And
to render this command with regard to his servants still more
impressive it is repeated in the very next verse; and herein we may
perceive the great care which was taken by God to guard the rights
of servants
even under this “dark dispensation.” What too was the
testimony given to the faithfulness of this eminent patriarch. “For I
know him that he will command his children and his household after
him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord to do justice and
judgment.” Now my dear friends many of you believe that circumcision
has been superseded by baptism in the Church; Are you careful to
have all that are born in your house or bought with money of any
stranger, baptized? Are you as faithful as Abraham to command
your household to keep the way of the Lord? I leave it to your own
consciences to decide. Was patriarchal servitude then like American
Slavery?

But I shall be told, God sanctioned Slavery, yea commanded Slavery
under the Jewish Dispensation. Let us examine this subject calmly and
prayerfully. I admit that a species of servitude was permitted to
the Jews, but in studying the subject I have been struck with wonder
and admiration at perceiving how carefully the servant was guarded
from violence, injustice and wrong. I will first inform you how these
servants became servants, for I think this a very important part of
our subject. From consulting Horne, Calmet and the Bible, I find there
were six different ways by which the Hebrews became servants legally.

1. If reduced to extreme poverty, a Hebrew might sell himself, i.e.
his services, for six years, in which case he received the purchase
money himself. Lev. xxv, 39.

2. A father might sell his children as servants, i.e. his daughters,
in which circumstance it was understood the daughter was to be the
wife or daughter-in-law of the man who bought her, and the father
received the price. In other words, Jewish women were sold as white
women
were in the first settlement of Virginia—as wives, not as
slaves. Ex. xxi, 7.

3. Insolvent debtors might be delivered to their creditors as
servants. 2 Kings iv, 1

4. Thieves not able to make restitution for their thefts, were sold
for the benefit of the injured person. Ex. xxii, 3.

5. They might be born in servitude. Ex. xxi, 4.

6. If a Hebrew had sold himself to a rich Gentile, he might be
redeemed by one of his brethren at any time the money was offered; and
he who redeemed him, was not to take advantage of the favor thus
conferred, and rule over him with rigor. Lev. xxv, 47-55.

Before going into an examination of the laws by which these servants
were protected, I would just ask whether American slaves have become
slaves in any of the ways in which the Hebrews became servants. Did
they sell themselves into slavery and receive the purchase money into
their own hands? No! Did they become insolvent, and by their own
imprudence subject themselves to be sold as slaves? No! Did they steal
the property of another, and were they sold to make restitution for
their crimes? No! Did their present masters, as an act of kindness,
redeem them from some heathen tyrant to whom they had sold
themselves
in the dark hour of adversity? No! Were they born in
slavery? No! No! not according to Jewish Law, for the servants who
were born in servitude among them, were born of parents who had sold
themselves
for six years: Ex. xxi, 4. Were the female slaves of
the South sold by their fathers? How shall I answer this question?
Thousands and tens of thousands never were, their fathers never
have received the poor compensation of silver or gold for the tears
and toils, the suffering, and anguish, and hopeless bondage of their
daughters. They labor day by day, and year by year, side by side, in
the same field, if haply their daughters are permitted to remain on
the same plantation with them, instead of being as they often are,
separated from their parents and sold into distant states, never again
to meet on earth. But do the fathers of the South ever sell their
daughters
? My heart beats, and my hand trembles, as I write the awful
affirmative, Yes! The fathers of this Christian land often sell
their daughters, not as Jewish parents did, to be the wives and
daughters-in-law of the man who buys them, but to be the abject slaves
of petty tyrants and irresponsible masters. Is it not so, my friends?
I leave it to your own candor to corroborate my assertion. Southern
slaves then have not become slaves in any of the six different ways
in which Hebrews became servants, and I hesitate not to say that
American masters cannot according to Jewish law substantiate their
claim to the men, women, or children they now hold in bondage.

But there was one way in which a Jew might illegally be reduced to
servitude; it was this, he might be stolen and afterwards sold as a
slave, as was Joseph. To guard most effectually against this dreadful
crime of manstealing, God enacted this severe law. “He that stealeth a
man and selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be
put to death.” [1] As I have tried American Slavery by legal Hebrew
servitude, and found, (to your surprise, perhaps,) that Jewish law
cannot justify the slaveholder’s claim, let us now try it by illegal
Hebrew bondage. Have the Southern slaves then been, stolen? If they
did not sell themselves into bondage; if they were not sold as
insolvent debtors or as thieves; if they were not redeemed from a
heathen master to whom they had sold themselves; if they were not
born in servitude according to Hebrew law; and if the females were
not sold by their fathers as wives and daughters-in-law to those who
purchased them; then what shall we say of them? what can we say of
them but that according to Hebrew Law they have been stolen.

But I shall be told that the Jews had other servants who were absolute
slaves. Let us look a little into this also. They had other servants
who were procured in two different ways.

1. Captives taken in war were reduced to bondage instead of being
killed; but we are not told that their children were enslaved Deut.
xx, 14.

2. Bondmen and bondmaids might be bought from the heathen round about
them; these were left by fathers to their children after them, but
it does not appear that the children of these servants ever were
reduced to servitude. Lev. xxv, 44.

I will now try the right of the southern planter by the claims of
Hebrew masters over their heathen slaves. Were the southern slaves
taken captive in war? No! Were they bought from the heathen? No! for
surely, no one will now vindicate the slave-trade so far as to
assert that slaves were bought from the heathen who were obtained by
that system of piracy. The only excuse for holding southern slaves
is that they were born in slavery, but we have seen that they were
not born in servitude as Jewish servants were, and that the children
of heathen slaves were not legally subjected to bondage even under the
Mosaic Law. How then have the slaves of the South been obtained?

I will next proceed to an examination of those laws which were enacted
in order to protect the Hebrew and the Heathen servant; for I wish you
to understand that both are protected by Him, of whom it is said
“his mercies are over all his works.” I will first speak of those
which secured the rights of Hebrew servants. This code was headed
thus:

1. Thou shalt not rule over him with rigor, but shalt fear thy
God;

2. If thou buy a Hebrew servant, six years shall he serve, and in
the seventh year he shall go out free for nothing. Ex. xxi, 2. [2]

3. If he come in by himself, he shall go out by himself; if he were
married, then his wife shall go out with him.

4. If his master have given him a wife and she have borne him sons and
daughters, the wife and her children shall be his master’s, and he
shall go out by himself.

5. If the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my

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