Covenanters and Slavery - Part Five: Consequences of Slavery for Nations and Individuals

By Angela Wittman

Pastor McLeod continues to lay out the injurious results for a nation (America in particular) and its people which tolerate and practice enslavement of their fellow human beings. As you read this excerpt from Negro Slavery Unjustifiable (printed in the early 1800s), look at America as it is today in 2011 and you will see how the awful effects of our historical past of tolerating slavery still bears fruit today. Clearly this is an evil which God has judged and one which we need to fully repent of. [Emphasis in bold text is mine. AW]
6. The last argument I shall use for confirming the doctrine of the proposition, shall be taken from the pernicious consequences of the system of slavery.

To this manner of reasoning there can be no valid objection, if it be kept within proper boundaries. That evil consequences follow a certain practice is not always a decisive evidence that the practice is wrong; but it is a sufficient reason for us to pause, and examine it in the light of truth. If we be required, in the divine law, to pursue this path, we must obey, leaving the consequences to his management who commands us. If it be in itself lawful, but not requisite, evil consequences presenting themselves would teach us not to proceed. But if it really be a forbidden path, the pernicious effects of travelling it are additional warnings against continuing in it any longer.

Ministers are commanded to preach the gospel, though it should prove the occasion of submitting many to tribulation in this life, and be to many a savour of death unto death in the next. It was lawful for the Apostle to the Gentiles to eat whatsoever meat was sold in the shambles; but if his using this liberty would have been productive of evil consequences, he would have instantly desisted from the practice. 1 Cor. 8:13.

If, then, from a lawful practice, it be expedient to desist, because, although to ourselves useful, it is detrimental to others, it is certainly our duty to relinquish a system which is dubious in its nature. When we have presumptive evidence that we are fundamentally wrong, evil consequences are decisive against us; and, as in the case before us, when other evidences condemn the practice, its pernicious consequences loudly demand that from it we should immediately desist.

Please take note that Pastor McLeod is calling for the immediate end to fellow human enslavement. This evidence does serious damage to the argument that the slaveholders in the Confederacy would have eventually ended human slavery without the interference of the Northern States (or as they like to put it "The War of Northern Aggression"). When one is in serious violation of God's Holy Law, it is always Biblically wise to immediately desist instead of continuing to profit while putting forth a pretense of regulating or incrementally ending the offense out of existence. This timeless truth also holds true for the pro-life movement which should be united in demanding the prompt end of prenatal child-killing (abortion).
1. This practice has a tendency to destroy the finer feelings, and render the heart of man more obdurate. The butcher, long inured to slaughter, is not hurt at the lowing of the oxen or the bleating of the lambs which he is about to kill.[5] Nor is the common executioner much agitated in his work of blood, whether the victim be innocent or guilty. The slave may roar under the lash of his master, without commanding the least sympathy. The slave-holder views all the Ethiopian race as born to serve. His heart is steeled against them. Nor is the transition great to become hard-hearted to all men. "The whole commerce between master and slave is a perpetual exercise of the most boisterous passions—the most unremitting despotism on the one part, and degrading submission on the other. The parent storms—the child looks on, catches the lineaments of wrath, puts on the same airs in the circle of smaller slaves, gives a loose to the worst of his passions; and thus nursed, educated, and daily exercised in tyranny, cannot but be stamped by it with odious peculiarities. The man must be a prodigy who can retain his manners and morals undepraved by such circumstances."[6]

2. It debases a part of the human race, and tends to destroy their intellectual and active powers. The slave, from his infancy, is obliged implicitly to obey the will of another. There is no circumstance which can stimulate him to exercise his own intellectual powers. There is much to deter him from such exercise. If he think or plan, his thoughts and plans must give way to those of his master. He must have less depravity of heart than his white brethren, otherwise he must, under this treatment, become thoughtless and sullen. The energies of his mind are left to slumber. Every attempt is made to smother them. It is not surprising that such creatures should appear deficient in intellect.

Their moral principles also suffer. They are never cultivated. They are early suppressed. While young, the little tyrants of their master’s family rule over them with rigour. No benevolent tie can exist between them. The slave, as soon as he can exercise his judgment, observes laws to protect the life, the liberty and the property of his master; but no law to procure these for him. He is private property. His master’s will is his rule of duty. We have no right to expect morality or virtue from such an education and such examples.

3. Another evil consequence is the encouragement of licentiousness and debauchery.

The situation of the blacks is such as to afford every encouragement to a criminal intercourse. This is not confined to the blacks themselves, but frequently and shamefully exists between them and their masters. The lust of the master may be gratified and strengthened by intercourse with the slave, without fear of prosecution for the support of the offspring, or the character of the mother. The situation of these women admits of few guards to their chastity. Their education does not strengthen it. In the Southern States, illicit connection with a negro or mulatto woman is spoken of as quite a common thing. No reluctance, delicacy or shame appear about the matter. The number of mulattoes in the Northern States prove that this evil is also prevalent among their inhabitants, It is usually a concomitant of slavery.

4. This leads to a fourth lamentable consequence—the destruction of natural affection.

An irregular intercourse renders it difficult for the father to ascertain his proper offspring. Among the slaves themselves marriage is a slender tie. The master sells the husband to a distance from his wife, and the mother is separated from her infant children. This is a common thing. It must destroy, in a great measure, natural affection. Nor is the evil confined to the slaves. Their master, in this instance, exceeds them in hardness of heart. He sees his slave nursing an infant resembling himself in colour and in features. Probably it is his child, his nephew, or his grand-child. He beholds such, however, not as relatives, but as slaves, and rejoices in the same manner that he doer, in viewing the increase of his cows or his horses.[7]

5. Domestic tyranny, which exists as a correlative to domestic slavery, is a nursery for civil tyrants. Powerful must be the force of other principles, and singular the combination of circumstances, which can render an advocate for domestic slavery a sincere friend of civil liberty. Is it possible? If he can buy, sell, and enslave for life, any individual of the human race, for no reason but self-interest, I should be unwilling to trust him with the affairs of a nation, Had he it in his power to do it with impunity, and did it appear conducive to his interest, or gratifying to his ambition, he would become as really a despot as the most arbitrary monarch.

6. This practice is calculated to bring down the judgments of God on societies and individuals.

The toleration of slavery is a national evil. It is the worst of robberies sanctioned by law. It is treason against Heaven—a conspiracy against the liberties of his subjects. If the Judge of all the earth shall do right, he cannot but punish the guilty.

Nations, as such, have no existence in a future state: they must expect national judgments in the present. Distributive justice will measure their punishment according to their criminality. O America, what hast thou to account for on the head of slavery! Thou alone, of all the nations now on the earth, didst commission thy delegates, in peace, and in security from the over-awing menaces of a tyrant, or of factions, to form thy Constitution. Thou didst possess, in a peculiar sense, the light of reason, of science, of revelation, of past argumentation, and of past experience. Thou hadst thyself formerly condemned the principle, and, in the most solemn manner, made an appeal to heaven for the justice of thy cause. Heaven heard, and answered agreeably to thy wishes. Yet thou didst contradict a principle so solemnly asserted. Thou hast made provision for increasing the number and continuing the bondage of thy slaves. Thy judgments may tarry, but they will assuredly come.[8] Individuals are also in danger. Those who live "without God in the world" may have temporal judgments inflicted upon them for the part they have acted in the encouragement of slavery; but the time of retribution is in the world to come. Even real Christians, the guilt of whose sins is removed through the atonement of Jesus, but who have learned the way of the heathen so far as to confirm to the wicked practice of buying, selling, and retaining slaves, have a right to expect severe corrections. Psalm 89:30-32. In proportion as they have an opportunity of ascertaining duty, will their danger increase, unless they cheerfully sacrifice interest to it. He who knows his master’s will, and doeth it not, shall be beaten with many stripes. Luke 12:47. I speak to you who parley with this temptation—you who, in defiance of conviction, are determined to go on in the paths of self-interest. In this very path you may meet correction. Your treasures are not secure. There is a God; and while godliness continues to have the promise of the life which now is, as well as that which is to come,[9] those who continue to practise on the system of slavery may expect to suffer loss. Watch them close: they may one day elude your vigilance, and escape with your treasure. The enslaved Hebrews were allowed to escape with the jewels of the Egyptians. You may lose, in a similar manner, as much of your property as you have withheld from them of their earnings whom you retain in bondage. If not, God has it in his power to send mildew and blasting upon your crops—murrain and pestilence among your herds—until you sustain a greater loss than you would have suffered by giving liberty to your slaves. I should think it a favourable evidence, though not a conclusive argument, that God has a regard for you, if you are thus chastised for your oppression of your brethren. But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.[10]


[5] Frequent attendance in the slaughter-house is supposed calculated to blunt the feelings of humanity. By the laws of England, a butcher is not admitted to sit on a jury, lest he should not be sufficiently delicate in cases of life and death.

[6] Jefferson’s Notes, Query 18.

[7] "It is far from being uncommon to see a southern gentleman at dinner, and his reputed offspring, a slave, waiting at the table. ‘I myself,’ says a gentleman of observation, ‘saw two instances of this kind; and the company would very facetiously trace the features of the father and mother in the child, and very accurately point out their more characteristic resemblances. The fathers, neither of them blushed, nor seemed disconcerted. They were called men of worth, politeness and humanity. The Africans are said to be inferior, in point of sentiment and feeling, to white people. The African labours night and day to collect a small pittance to purchase the freedom of his child. The white man begets his likeness, and, with much indifference, sees his offspring in bondage and misery, and makes not one effort to redeem his own blood."—Morse’s Universal Geography, p. 66.

[8] The Declaration of Independence has these words: "We hold these truths to be self-evident—that all men are created equal—that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights—that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—that to secure these rights governments are instituted among men." The negroes are created equal with the whites according to this instrument. Their liberty is an unalienable right. But this nation has taken away this unalienable right from them. And although the nation declares that government is instituted to preserve this right, the government still continues to deprive them of it. The United States, according to the late census, taken in 1801, hold 875,626 of the human race in slavery. They have, even in the Constitution of the general government, twelve years after the Declaration of Independence, made provision for the increase of the number. Art. 1 Sect. 9 "The migration or importation of such persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall nor be prohibited by the Congress prior to the year 1808." They have thus, inconsistently, constitutionally authorised a continuance of the worst of robberies. Very few of the States have made any adequate provision for the emancipation of their slaves. But the State of South-Carolina has exceeded her sister States in endeavours to perpetuate this impious practice. What language can express the political inconsistency of a people who have inserted in a republican constitution of government the following section? Constitution of South-Carolina, Art. 1. Sect. 6. "No person shall be eligible to a seat in the House of Representatives unless he is a free white man. If a resident in the election district, be shall not be eligible to a seat in the House of Representatives unless he be legally seized and possessed, in iris own right, of a settled freehold estate of five hundred acres of land, and TEN NEGROES." To tolerate slavery is an evil of no small magnitude; to give it a national recommendation is still more inexcusable; but to render it a condition without which no man can represent, in the legislature, the district in which he lives, exceeds any thing on record in the annals of nations. This Constitution was adopted as late as the year 1790.

[9] 1 Timothy 4:8.

[10] Hebrews 12:8.

To be continued...

Originally published at Ladies Of The Covenant.