The Education of the Negro Prior to 1861 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 402 pages of information about The Education of the Negro Prior to 1861.

William Jay, a son of the first Chief Justice of the United States, and an abolition preacher of the ardent type, later directed his attention to these conditions.  The keeping of human beings in heathen ignorance by a people professing to reverence the obligation of Christianity seemed to him an unpardonable sin.  He believed that the natural result of this “compromise of principle, this suppression of truth, this sacrifice to unanimity,” had been the adoption of expediency as a standard of right and wrong in the place of the revealed will of God.[1] “Thus,” continued he, “good men and good Christians have been tempted by their zeal for the American Colonization Society to countenance opinions and practices inconsistent with justice and humanity."[2] Jay charged to this disastrous policy of neglect the result that in 1835 only 245,000 of the 2,245,144 slaves had a saving knowledge of the religion of Christ.  He deplored the fact that unhappily the evil influence of the reactionaries had not been confined to their own circles but had to a lamentable extent “vitiated the moral sense” of other communities.  The proslavery leaders, he said, had reconciled public opinion to the continuance of slavery, and had aggravated those sinful prejudices which subjected the free blacks to insult and persecution and denied them the blessings of education and religious instruction.[3]

[Footnote 1:  Jay, An Inquiry, etc., p. 24.]

[Footnote 2:  Ibid., p. 25.]

[Footnote 3:  Jay, An Inquiry, etc., p. 26.]

Among the most daring of those who censured the South for its reactionary policy was Rev. John G. Fee, an abolition minister of the gospel of Kentucky.  Seeing the inevitable result in States where public opinion and positive laws had made the education of Negroes impossible, Fee asserted that in preventing them from reading God’s Word and at the same time incorporating them into the Church as nominal Christians, the South had weakened the institution.  Without the means to learn the principles of religion it was impossible for such an ignorant class to become efficient and useful members.[1] Excoriating those who had kept their servants in ignorance to secure the perpetuity of the institution of slavery, Fee maintained that sealing up the mind of the slave, lest he should see his wrongs, was tantamount to cutting off the hand or foot in order to prevent his escape from forced and unwilling servitude.[2] “If by our practice, our silence, or our sloth,” said he, “we perpetuate a system which paralyzes our hands when we attempt to convey to them the bread of life, and which inevitably consigns the great mass of them to unending perdition, can we be guiltless in the sight of Him who hath made us stewards of His grace?  This is sinful.  Said the Saviour:  ’Woe unto you lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge:  ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered."’[3]

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The Education of the Negro Prior to 1861 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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