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An Essay on Slavery and Abolitionism by Beecher

You shall be punished with personal odium


If,

then, it be true, that attacks on the character and motives of the advocates of opinions are entirely irrelevant and not at all necessary for the discovery of truth; if injury inflicted on character is the most severe penalty that can be employed to restrain freedom of opinions and freedom of speech, what are we to say of the state of things in this nation?

Where is there a party which does not in effect say to every man, "if you dare to oppose the principles or practices we sustain, you shall be punished with personal odium?" which does not say to every member of the party, "uphold your party, right or wrong; oppose all that is adverse to your party, right or wrong, or else suffer the penalty of having your motives, character, and conduct, impeached?"

Look first at the political arena. Where is the advocate of any measure that does not suffer sneers, ridicule, contempt, and all that tends to depreciate character in public estimation? Where is the partisan that is not attacked, as either weak in intellect, or dishonest in principle, or selfish in motives? And where is the man who is linked with any political party, that dares to stand up fearlessly and defend what is good in opposers, and reprove what is wrong in his own party?

Look into the religious world. There, even those who take their party name from their professed liberality, are saying, "whoever shall adopt principles

that exclude us from the Christian church, and our clergy from the pulpit, shall be held up either as intellectually degraded, or as narrow-minded and bigoted, or as ambitious, partisan and persecuting in spirit. No man shall believe a creed that excludes us from the pale of Christianity, under penalty of all the odium we can inflict."

So in the Catholic controversy. Catholics and their friends practically declare war against all free discussion on this point. The decree has gone forth, that "no man shall appear for the purpose of proving that Catholicism is contrary to Scripture, or immoral and anti-republican in tendency, under penalty of being denounced as a dupe, or a hypocrite, or a persecutor, or a narrow-minded and prejudiced bigot."

On the contrary, those who attack what is called liberal Christianity, or who aim to oppose the progress of Catholicism, how often do they exhibit a severe and uncharitable spirit towards the individuals whose opinions they controvert. Instead of loving the men, and rendering to them all the offices of Christian kindness, and according to them all due credit for whatever is desirable in character and conduct, how often do opposers seem to feel, that it will not answer to allow that there is any thing good, either in the system or in those who have adopted it. "Every thing about my party is right, and every thing in the opposing party is wrong," seems to be the universal maxim of the times. And it is the remark of some of the most intelligent foreign travellers among us, and of our own citizens who go abroad, that there is no country to be found, where freedom of opinion, and freedom of speech is more really influenced and controlled by the fear of pains and penalties, than in this land of boasted freedom. In other nations, the control is exercised by government, in respect to a very few matters; in this country it is party-spirit that rules with an iron rod, and shakes its scorpion whips over every interest and every employment of man.

From this mighty source spring constant detraction, gossiping, tale-bearing, falsehood, anger, pride, malice, revenge, and every evil word and work.


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