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An Essay on Slavery and Abolitionism by Beecher

By the advocates of Abolitionism


apprehensions many would regard as needless, and exclaim against such melancholy predictions. But in a case where the whole point of duty and expediency turns upon the probabilities as to results, those probabilities ought to be the chief subjects of inquiry. True, no one has a right to say with confidence what will or what will not be; and it has often amazed and disturbed my mind to perceive how men, with so small a field of vision,--with so little data for judging,--with so few years, and so little experience, can pronounce concerning the results of measures bearing upon the complicated relations and duties of millions, and in a case where the wisest and best are dismayed and baffled. It sometimes has seemed to me that the prescience of Deity alone should dare to take such positions as are both carelessly assumed, and pertinaciously defended, by the advocates of Abolitionism.

But if we are to judge of the wisdom or folly of any measures on this subject, it must be with reference to future results. One course of measures, it is claimed, tends to perpetuate slavery, or to end it by scenes of terror and bloodshed. Another course tends to bring it to an end sooner, and by safe and peaceful influences. And the whole discussion of duty rests on these probabilities. But where do the laws of mind and experience oppose the terrific tendencies of Abolitionism that have been portrayed? Are not the minds of men thrown into a ferment, and excited by those

passions which blind the reason, and warp the moral sense? Is not the South in a state of high exasperation against Abolitionists? Does she not regard them as enemies, as reckless madmen, as impertinent intermeddlers? Will the increase of their numbers tend to allay this exasperation? Will the appearance of a similar body in their own boundaries have any tendency to soothe? Will it not still more alarm and exasperate? If a movement of a minority of such men attempt to alter the laws, are not the probabilities strong that still more unjust and oppressive measures will be adopted?--measures that will tend to increase the hardships of the slave, and to drive out of the community all humane, conscientious and pious men? As the evils and dangers increase, will not the alarm constantly diminish the proportion of whites, and make it more and more needful to increase such disabilities and restraints as will chafe and inflame the blacks? When this point is reached, will the blacks, knowing, as they will know, the sympathies of their Abolition friends, refrain from exerting their physical power? _The Southampton insurrection occurred with far less chance of sympathy and success._

If that most horrible of all scourges, a servile war, breaks forth, will the slaughter of fathers, sons, infants, and of aged,--will the cries of wives, daughters, sisters, and kindred, suffering barbarities worse than death, bring no fathers, brothers, and friends to their aid, from the North and West?

And if the sympathies and indignation of freemen can already look such an event in the face, and feel that it would be the slave, rather than the master, whom they would defend, what will be the probability, after a few years' chafing shall have driven away the most christian and humane from scenes of cruelty and inhumanity, which they could neither alleviate nor redress? I should like to see any data of past experience, that will show that these results are not more probable than that the South will, by the system of means now urged upon her, finally be convinced of her sins, and voluntarily bring the system of slavery to an end. I claim not that the predictions I present will be fulfilled. I only say, that if Abolitionists go on as they propose, such results are _more_ probable than those they hope to attain.

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