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COME-OUTISM AND COME-OUTERS. [NOVEMBER,
ed. We are not so solicitous to settle this question as we are to determine the more fundamental one-what decides the slave-holder's guilt? This we have ascertained to be LIGHT. There is however still another consideration which materially affects the character of the slave-holder. A man may hold slaves and have ample light pertaining to slavery; he may not only fully understand its outrageous wickedness, but he may abhor it most heartily, yet he may under peculiar circumstances hold slaves, and not thereby be implicated in the sin of slavery. Such a person would not be a slave-holder in spirit. Cases such as the one here supposed are no doubt extremely rare, and should never be adduced with any view to abate the guilt of slave-holding. They are properly introduced only in 'a critical analysis of the slave-holding character.
We next examine the position that the real slave-holders are the people of the free states, and particularly the members of the churches in the free states. This position is maintained with great earnestness, and evidently no small reliance is placed upon it as a stepping stone to still further and bolder positions. It should be understood that the ground which we have already been over is only the starting point in an advance movement projected upon a grand scale, and terminating in the startling doctrines-dissolution of the Union, and subversion of the Church.
If slavery is portrayed as such an atrocious sin, it is only that the slave-holder may be painted in blacker colors; and if the slave-holder be represented as the incarnation of all vileness and all crime, it is only that the ulterior question may be sprung upon us-who is the slave-holder? Who is the worse than fiend-the cradle-plunderer, the woman-whipper, the man-stealer? He is not, we are confidently told, the Louisiana planter or the South Carolina master; the true, genuine, unadulterated SLAVE-HOLDER lives where there are no slaves-in the free states. In this position there is doubtless much truth, and, we think, not a little error. Perhaps it is worth sifting. The general principle we admit--that northern countenance is the main support of slavery. We admit that the pro-sla very spirit exists extensively throughout the free states, and that it is if possible worse, more shameful, more diabolical, than slavery itself. All this was believed and proclaimed long before Come-outism had an existence.
We must protest however against the indiscriminate condemnation of the entire north. We contend that the dam. ning guilt of pro-slavery should rest just where it belongs.
It must not be taken for granted that every living soul in the free states that does not echo the shibboleths of Come-outism is friendly to slavery. We really have the charity to believe that there is a goodly number of anti-slavery people in the non slave-holding states, (or as our friends would have it--the slave-holding states proper) and we are visionary enough to think that they are exerting a vast and most salutary influWe further believe that their numbers and influence are rapidly increasing, and that their incessant blows, both political and moral, are telling prodigiously upon the battlements of oppression. For ourselves we think altogether too seriously of the charge of pro-slavery, to fling it out broad-cast over the cities and villages, the hamlets and townships of the free states, heedless whether it falls upon those who are in no sense deserving of it. In such a case we lean to mercy. We call for strict construction. We throw the burden upon the accuser-we demand proof. If there are pro-slavery people at the north, let it be known who they are, let them be singled out by classes at least if not by individuals. We will then consent with all our hearts to have the proper label fastened upon them-whether they be in Churches or out of them. But we must insist that the pro-slavery class does not constitute all the people of the free states.
How shall it be determined who at the north are pro-slavery and who, if any, are anti-slavery? Come-outism has a patent method of settling this vexed question, which certainly operates most summarily, but we cannot say that we are pleased at all with the principles upon which it proceeds. It is too much like those threshing machines which do most rapid execution and in a most tearing way, but at an enormous waste of the precious grain. It works in this wise. First all that belong to the two great political parties in the north are proslavery and slave-holders, albeit some of the Come-outers themselves are distinguished members of one or both of these parties! Next the liberty party is pre-eminently proslavery, and shelters beneath its hypocritical garb the most villainous brotherhood of slave-holders that can be found--outside of the Church! Then if there be any people in the free states that don't belong to either of these parties, and are not come outers, let them not think that they will escape the bann. Peradventure they belong to some Church, and if so they are at the nadir of pro-slavery abominations. If however they should be pretty thorough going infidels, and, with no special sympathy for the slave, should yet be ready to join in the cry
"down with the churches"--they may perchance escape the charge of being pro-slavery. By this process it will be seen that the whole population of the free states are included in the condemnation of slave-holding. Before we could admit this, we should beg leave to file in a bill of exceptions. First we should set off the liberty party-quite a respectable body in size, and far more respectable in anti-slavery character and merits. We should next set off a class of persons, somewhat numerous and deservedly respectable, who are associated with no anti-slavery body and with no political party, and who yet give the weight of their high character and powerful talents to the anti-slavery cause. The men of whom we speak are those who are engaged in some elevated pursuit, or occupy some commanding position, which makes each individual of them a host in himself. They may be eminent theologians, as the late Dr. Channing; they may be poets, as the noble Longfellow; they may be men of literary or scientific pursuits, who, in their own way, wield their mighty weapons in favor of universal freedom. Let them continue thus to bear down upon American slavery with their single energy, and we will pronounce them friends of the slave, though they never mingle in the strife of politics, nor figure on an abolition platform, nor swell the hoarse clamor of Comeoutism. To these we should add individuals, not a few, still connected with the two great political parties, whose hostility to slavery we cannot question, however we may doubt the wisdom of their course. This class is rapidly increasing, and particularly in one of the parties its accumulating influence promises a speedy emancipation of the party from the southern yoke.
Upon what just principle we ask can individuals and large classes be branded slave-holders, who openly proclaim their hostility to slavery, and who are most assiduously laboring for its abolition?
But we come now to the position of the churches in the free states. The corner stone of all that is said against the churches is avowedly this-they are the bulwarks of slavery. This sentiment borrowed from an eminent individual* who himself falls under the bann of proscription, who emancipated his slaves at the south only to come to the north and be a ten fold more criminal slave-holder--this sentiment is employed in a
James G. Birney.
sense and for a purpose the farthest possible from that originally intended.
The language was designed to express in a forcible manner the actual support and defence which slavery derives from the churches on account of their general opposition to the antislavery movement. It does not necessarily imply that the churches mean or aim to be the bulwarks of slavery, but simply that they are so, while at the same time their being so involves them in various degrees of guilt determined by their circumstances.*
A church, as well as an individual, may occupy a position where the influence it exerts will be in favor of an existing wrong. This may well be deplored as a great evil, it may properly be condemned, and the church may not be held guiltless for its position and influence. Yet this should not be a signal for denouncing that church as corrupt and apostate. This is a case which calls not for proscription, extermination and destruction, but for patience, kindness, forbearance and instruction.
We grant then that the churches are the bulwarks of slavery. But what shall we infer from this? Come-outism infers that they are so in a sense which implies the last degree of guilt and corruption. Why infer this? Does the mere fact of being a defense of slavery prove that that position is deliberately chosen, and that influence knowingly and purposely exerted? This cannot be, for it has already been demonstrated that the character of a relation or position does not of itself and necessarily decide the character of those who sustain it. If being the bulwark of slavery unavoidably implied the purpose to be so, the fact of so being could never be made use of as a motive to abandon the bulwark position. If a church or individual meant to defend slavery, it would be worse than vain to ply them with the consideration that they were upholding slavery. This would be to encourage not to dissuade them; it would be fuel to their zeal, not inducement to repentance. But it is well known that the fact of being the bulwarks of slavery has operated powerfully to multiply anti-slavery Churches. In many instances Churches at the north have not seen their responsibility in reference to slavery, they have not been awake to the fact that their silence or inaction was a powerful support of the system with all its horrid oppressions, and indeed it has been difficult often to convince them that this was true; but when they have been convinced they have promptly shown anti-slavery colors.
This is not designed as a representation of all the Churches at the north. We believe however it has been the case with many. What will be said of such Churches? They were the bulwarks of slavery, and, we are willing to admit, not wholly guiltless for so being. But were they as corrupt and antiChrist as the most obstinately pro-slavery Church, that defends slavery as a Bible institution, and grows more violent as antislavery light increases around them?
Here then we differ widely from the Come-outer. He contends that both Churches are equally corrupt because both are the bulwarks of slavery. We make a broad distinction between them. He uses the charge only to expose the hopeless depravity and utter apostacy of the Churches. We employ it to wake up and enlighten the Churches in regard to their position, in order to induce them to forsake it.
The Come-outer "laughs us to scorn," as the people did Christ when He said "she is not dead but sleepeth." They know that the Churches are corrupt--dead. We ask what is the proof? So far as the Churches at the north are decidedly pro-slavery, deliberately vindicate the institution, or apologize for the slave-holder, we pronounce them corrupt, and can have no Christian fellowship with them. Let these be proscribed and not all.
We shall examine hereafter the method by which Comeoutism determines what Churches are pro-slavery. At present we only contend that all must not be reckoned So, because some are. All the Churches in the free states are not to be held responsible for those which continue to be the bulwarks of slavery. If half or two thirds of the northern Churches were fully anti-slavery, the remainder would constitute bulwarks strong enough to defend and maintain slavery. The mere continuance therefore of slavery does not prove any thing as to the number of Churches which compose its fortifications. Assuming however that the Churches generally of the free states are the bulwarks of slavery, we ask, what shall be done with them? Come-outism replies-demolish the bulwarks! Can slavery be reached while entrenched behind the bulwarks? Tear them down first. We would give different counsel. Assail slavery directly, and at the same time strive with gentleness and Christian faithfulness to impress the Churches with their obligations. By kind entreaty seek to win them and enlist their heads and hearts in the cause of human rights. So far as we succeed in this we shall not only demolish a bulwark but we shall erect a powerful battery. We entertain the