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COMPROMISES AND THE CONGREGATIONAL CHURCHES OF GEORGIA.
Americans are much addicted to settling difficulties by compromises; but these compromises, in State and Church, especially in regard to slavery, have so often been the sacrifice of principle to expediency that the word has come to have a sinister meaning—implying such a sacrifice; and they have so often proved failures as to show them to be unwise, even as a matter of expediency.
A brief sketch of some of these past compromises, with their motives and failures, may throw some light upon the compromise proposed for the Congregational churches in Georgia.
These have usually been made from more than one motive:
1. One strong plea is that the expediency is so urgent that a small sacrifice of right is justifiable. In that celebrated law case of Shylock the Jew versus Antonio the merchant, so ably reported by William Shakespeare, Esq., this reason was plainly stated. The defendant’s attorney, Bassanio, in order to avert from his client the dreadful forfeit of a pound of flesh taken nearest his heart, appealed to the judge:
Wrest once the law to your authority;
To do a great right, do a little wrong.”
The “wise young judge” knew the law, human and divine, too well to grant this plea.
But that plea had its influence in securing the adoption of the Federal Constitution. Among other difficulties in the way, a constructive guarantee of slavery seemed necessary to secure the assent of some of the Southern States. How strong the plea! Slavery was wrong to be sure, but the terrible seven years’ war was ended, and a great nation was ready to come into existence! The compromise was made and the Union was formed. But did the compromise save it? No! The “pound of flesh” was at last the price. After a struggle of seventy-two years the crisis came, Sumter was fired upon and the compromise was found to be a failure. “A pound of flesh!” Nay, the flesh and blood of a million of men saved the Union.
2. Another motive for a compromise is the expectation that while it is all that can be done now, it will be a step towards the ultimate. This was strongly urged in that first compromise. It was said that the Declaration of Independence, the enthusiasm for liberty, and the world-wide boast of equal rights, must work a universal consent to the abrogation of slavery. Jefferson voiced the general sentiment when he said: “I think a change is already perceptible since the origin of the present revolution. The way I hope is preparing, under the auspices of heaven, for a total emancipation.” But slavery grew stronger, instead of weaker, under the compromise, and from time to time required more compromises, and