OWNERSHIP IN MAN.—THE OLD TESTAMENT SLAVERY.
“Therefore all things whatsoever
ye would that men should do to you, do
ye even so to them; FOR THIS IS THE LAW AND THE PROPHETS.”
The rain still poured down in the morning, making it agreeable to us that we had the prospect of an uninterrupted forenoon for our conversation.
So when we found ourselves together again in the course of the forenoon, by the fire, we opened the discussion.
Mr. North inquired what I understood by the term “owning a fellow-creature.”
“I understand by it,” I replied, “a right to use, and to dispose of, the services of another, wholly at my will. That will must be subject to the whole law of God, which includes the golden rule. I do not mean by it that a man owns the body of a man in such a sense that he can maim it at will, or in any way abuse it. Ownership in men is power to use their services and to dispose of them, at will.”
“Now,” said he, “who gives you a right to go to Africa or to a slave auction and to say to a human being, ‘I propose to own you.’ How would you like to have a black man come to you in a solitary place and say, ’My dear Sir, I propose to own you. Henceforth your services are subject to my will.’?”
“As to Africa,” said I, “and making slaves of those who are now free, we cannot differ. As to the other part of your question, I will carry the illustration a little further, and in doing so, will answer you in part. How would you like to have some Michael O’Connor come to you and say, ’Mr. North, I propose to hire you and pay you wages as my body-servant, or my ostler.’ Why should you not consent? If you do not, why should you hire Mike himself to serve you in either of those capacities? What has become of the golden rule, if you hire a man to do work for you which you would not be hired to do?
“You are feasting with a company of friends; and your domestics, below, hear your cheerful talk, and feel the wide difference between your state and theirs. Why do you not go down and say, ’Dear fellow-creatures, go up and take our places at table, and let us be servants’? Does the golden rule require that? Inequalities in human conditions are a wise and benevolent provision for human happiness, so long as men are dependent on one another, as they are and ever must be. Some are so constituted by an all-wise God that they are happier to be in subordinate situations. Mind is lord; and they, seeing and feeling the superiority of others, gladly attach themselves to them as helpers, to be thought for and protected, and to enjoy their approbation. There is nothing cruel in this, unless it be cruel not to have made all men equal. There are important influences growing out of these relationships of superiors and inferiors,—gentleness, kindness, benevolence, in all its forms, on the one hand, and on the other, respect, deference, love, strong attachments and identification of interests.