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An Essay on Slavery and Abolitionism by Beecher

Because their measures are deemed inexpedient


the wisdom and rectitude of a given course, depend entirely on the _probabilities of success_. If a father has a son of a very peculiar temperament, and he knows by observation, that the use of the rod will make him more irritable and more liable to a certain fault, and that kind arguments, and tender measures will more probably accomplish the desired object, it is a rule of expediency to try the most probable course. If a companion sees a friend committing a sin, and has, from past experience, learned that remonstrances excite anger and obstinacy, while a look of silent sorrow and disapprobation tends far more to prevent the evil, expediency and duty demand silence rather than remonstrance.

There are cases also, where differences in age, and station, and character, forbid all interference to modify the conduct and character of others.

A nursery maid may see that a father misgoverns his children, and ill-treats his wife. But her station makes it inexpedient for her to turn reprover. It is a case where reproof would do no good, but only evil.

So in communities, the propriety and rectitude of measures can be decided, not by the rules of duty that should govern those who are to renounce sin, but by the probabilities of good or evil consequence.

The Abolitionists seem to lose sight of this distinction. They form voluntary associations in free

States, to convince their fellow citizens of the sins of other men in other communities. They are blamed and opposed, because their measures are deemed inexpedient, and calculated to increase, rather than diminish the evils to be cured.

In return, they show that slavery is a sin which ought to be abandoned immediately, and seem to suppose that it follows as a correct inference, that they themselves ought to engage in a system of agitation against it, and that it is needless for them to inquire whether preaching the truth in the manner they propose, will increase or diminish the evil. They assume that whenever sin is committed, not only ought the sinner immediately to cease, but all his fellow-sinners are bound to take measures to make him cease, and to take measures, without any reference to the probabilities of success.

That this is a correct representation of the views of Abolitionists generally, is evident from their periodicals and conversation. All their remarks about preaching the truth and leaving consequences to God--all their depreciation of the doctrine of expediency, are rendered relevant only by this supposition.

The impression made by their writings is, that God has made rules of duty; that all men are in all cases to remonstrate against the violation of those rules; and that God will take the responsibility of bringing good out of this course; so that we ourselves are relieved from any necessity of inquiring as to probable results.

If this be not the theory of duty adopted by this association, then they stand on common ground with those who oppose their measures, viz: that the propriety and duty of a given course is to be decided by _probabilities as to its results_; and these probabilities are to be determined by the _known laws of mind_, and the _records of past experience_.

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