Was I not right in saying that this is a great people? Whatever may be its vices, we are not at liberty to speak of it with disdain. If the Americans know how to make a fortune, they know, also, how to make a noble use of their fortune; accused with reason, as they are, of being too often preoccupied with questions of profit, we have seen them retrenching much of their luxury since the commercial crisis, yet economizing very little in their charities. The budget of the churches and religious societies remained intact at the very time that embarrassment was everywhere prevailing. I cannot help believing that there are peculiar blessings attached to so many voluntary sacrifices which carry back the mind to the early ages of Christianity. We may be sure that the religion that costs something, brings something also in return.
[Footnote A: It seems that I have understated the truth; but I prefer to do so; I wish, above all, to avoid exaggeration.]
THE CHURCHES AND SLAVERY.
This leads me to examine a side of the American question upon which, attention is, naturally fixed at the present time; how is it that the iniquities of slavery are maintained among this charitable and liberal people? how is it that such iniquities have subsisted under the influence of so powerful a Christian sentiment? Can it be true that Christians have deserted the cause of justice? Has the Gospel had the place which belongs to it, in the great struggle that is going on between the North and the South? yes; or no. This is perhaps the point of all others most important to clear up; first, because it is the one on which the most errors have accumulated; next, because it is the one most closely connected with the final solution; for this solution will not be happy, if the Gospel has no hand in it.
To judge rightly, let us approach and endeavor to comprehend the true position of those whose conduct we seek to appreciate. See the South, for example, where the almost universal opinion is favorable to slavery, where governors write dithyrambics on its benefits, where many Christians have succeeded in discovering that it is sanctioned by the Gospel, where men of sincerity are now placing their impious crusades in behalf of its extension under the protection of God, where numerous preachers expound in their own way the celebrated text “Cursed be Canaan!” Do not these sentiments of the South, detestable as they are, find, to a certain point, their explanation and excuse in the circumstances in which the South is placed?
The power of surroundings is incalculable. If we ourselves, who condemn slavery, and are right in so doing, had been reared in Charleston; if we had led a planter’s life from our earliest infancy; if we had nourished our minds with their ideas; if we considered our monetary interests menaced by Abolitionism; if the image of more fearful perils, of violent destructions and massacres, appeared to haunt our thoughts; if the political antagonism between the North and the South came to add its venom to the passions already excited within us, is it certain that we ourselves should no be figuring at the present time among the desperadoes who are firing upon the ships of the Union, and attempting the foundation of a Southern Confederacy?