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Antislavery Poetry from San Francisco

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The Pacific Appeal was the leading African American newspaper on the West Coast during the early 1860s.  A newly-published set of eight antislavery poems from the journal's inaugural 1862 volume captures the sense of expectancy within the African American community for the imminent end of US slavery.  These poems include the work of James Madison Bell, a San Francisco plasterer, brickmason, and poet.  Read more... 
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Slaves Bought and Sold (XHTML)

An anonymous religious antislavery tract published in Buffalo, New York during the 1840s. Digitized by the Antislavery Literature Project.

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<div class="Section1">
  <h2>Bible Against Slaveholders</h2>
  <h3>Friend of Freedom and the Perpetuity of the Union</h3>
  <p class="MsoBodyText"><b>This is an annotated edition of the original text of <i>Bible
    Against Slaveholders</i>,  a tract published in 1840 and reprinted in 1849 in
    Buffalo, New York.  No author is listed or has been  identified for this
    tract.  Original spelling, punctuation and page citations have been retained;
    minor typographic errors have been corrected.</b></p>
  <p class="MsoBodyText"><b>This electronic edition has been prepared for the
    Antislavery Literature Project, Arizona State University, a public education
    project working in cooperation with the EServer, Iowa State University.  
    Digitization has been supported by a grant from the Institute for Humanities
    Research, Arizona State University.  </b></p>
  <p class="MsoBodyText"><b>Editorial annotation by Joe Lockard.  Digitization and
    annotation research by April Brannon.  All rights reserved by the Antislavery
    Literature Project.  Permission for non-commercial educational use is granted.</b></p>
  <br clear="all"
style='page-break-before:always' />
  <p>            This anonymous tract was published twice, in
    1840 and again in 1849, in Buffalo, New York.  ‘Friend of Freedom and the
    Perpetuity of the Union,’ the unknown author of  <i>Bible Against Slaveholders</i>,
    paid for the printing of the tract at the <i>Buffalo Republican</i>, a
    newspaper that existed under various names during the 1840s and beyond. 
    Buffalo was a highly active antislavery city during this period, with a
    well-known vigilance committee that worked to transport fugitives across the
    border into Canada. </p>
  <p>This is a tract that in many ways
    represents the local character of the antebellum antislavery movement.  While
    the author exhibits significant familiarity with classical terms and dialogical
    rhetoric, the essay does not reference any text beyond the Bible.  It rehearses
    biblical argument with easy familiarity, indicating that the author was
    concerned primarily with religious arguments against slavery.  Like many
    religious antislavery texts during the antebellum period, the present tract is
    concerned to contradict citation of the Old Testament as providing license for
    the institution of slavery.  The author subordinates secular political
    arguments over slavery to religious argument and concludes that, even under
    threat of disunion, the iniquitous sin of slavery must be prevented from
    expansion through passive resistance. </p>
  <p><i>Bible Against Slaveholders</i> is rude-hewn religious antislavery argument written by an author who does not
    employ the theological vocabulary characteristic of Garrissonian abolitionism. 
    Its expressions are more attributable to the reform evangelical culture that
    abounded in western New York State during most of the first half of the
    nineteenth century.</p>
  <p>— Joe Lockard</p>
  <br clear="all" style='page-break-before:always' />
  <p class="MsoHeader">[page 2]</p>
  <p align="center" style='text-align:center'><b><span
style='font-size:14.0pt;letter-spacing:.95pt'>SLAVES BOUGHT AND SOLD!</span></b></p>
  <p align="center" style='text-align:center'><b><span
  <p align="center" style='text-align:center'><b><span
style='font-size:14.0pt;letter-spacing:.95pt'>READ AND EXAMINE</span></b></p>
  <p align="center" style='text-align:center'><b><span
  <p><span style='font-size:11.0pt;letter-spacing:-.8pt'>My
    doctrine </span><span style='font-size:11.0pt'>is &quot;— <span
style='letter-spacing:-.3pt'>That God hath made of one blood, all Nations </span><span
style='letter-spacing:.25pt'>of </span><span style='letter-spacing:-.7pt'>men,
    for to </span><span style='letter-spacing:.3pt'>dwell </span><span
style='letter-spacing:-.5pt'>on all the face </span>of <span style='letter-spacing:
.15pt'>the earth.&quot; — That the Negro </span><span style='letter-spacing:
.6pt'>is </span><span style='letter-spacing:-.8pt'>a man, and  that  which  </span><span
style='letter-spacing:.55pt'>is</span><span style='letter-spacing:-.2pt'> </span><span
style='letter-spacing:-.5pt'>the inalienable right </span>of <span
style='letter-spacing:-.55pt'>one man is also the right </span><span
style='letter-spacing:-.05pt'>of a</span><span style='letter-spacing:-.3pt'>ll
    men, — That Freedom </span><span style='letter-spacing:-.4pt'>and </span><span
style='letter-spacing:-.3pt'>Slavery are antagonistical principles</span>; <span
style='letter-spacing:-.15pt'>both cannot be right — that Freedom </span>is <span
style='letter-spacing:-.5pt'>right and Slavery wrong, therefore Slavery ought
    not to exist.</span></span></p>
  <p class="MsoBodyTextIndent2">As we were passing through your city we saw the
    above sign, and a man came out and accosted us, &quot;Have you slaves to sell?
    or do you wish to buy?&quot;</p>
  <p><i>  Ardent. </i>Neither; we abhor all such business.</p>
  <p><i>Man. </i>There is no need to
    speak reproachfully of it. It is a legal business, carried on under the
    sanction of the public authorities. I claim to have just as much right to buy
    men, women and children, as my neighbor has to buy horses and cattle.</p>
  <p><i>Thoughtful. </i>The laws of the
    land may protect you in so doing; but they do not make it right, unless it is
    authorized by the laws of God, which we suppose you will scarcely claim.</p>
  <p><i>Man. </i>I believe that
    slaveholding is authorized by the Bible; and that, consequently, the buying and
    selling of slaves is authorized also. Was not Abraham a slaveholder?</p>
  <p><i>  Ard.</i> <i> </i>I think not. But, perhaps we shall
    need to define our terms. What is a slave?</p>
  <p><i>Man. </i>He is a &quot;chattel
    personal.&quot; He is not regarded as a person, but a thing. He has no rights
    and can have no property. Whatever he has in his possession belongs to his
  <p><i>Th.</i> <i> </i>I believe that
    is a correct definition of modern slavery, and nearly so of the ancient Roman
    slavery. The fundamental idea is that <i>slaves are not persons but things</i>,<i> </i>(thereby all the rights of pro­perty attach, even to the selling of men,
    women, children, and even babies by the pound, as is said to have been done.) 
    In this case I deny that slavery was authorized in the Old Testament or the New.</p>
  <p><i>Man. </i>You take bold ground.
    Had not Abraham bondman and bondwomen, born in his house, and bought with his
  <p class="Style1" align="left" style='text-align:left;line-height:normal'>[page 3]</p>
  <p class="Style1" align="left" style='text-align:left;line-height:
normal'><i>Th.</i> Yes; but, what was a <i>bondman in </i>Abraham's house? Was
    he considered as a <i>person, </i>having rights, like the white servants among
    us, capable of making contracts, capable of acquiring and holding property, and
    the like? If so, he was not a slave. For a slave is a <i>thing, </i>and not <i>a
    person. </i>A slave has no rights.</p>
  <p class="Style2"><i>   Man. </i>But I suppose the word <i>bondman </i>meant slave.</p>
  <p><i>Th. </i>The Hebrew word is <i>ebed, </i>which is commonly rendered <i>ser­vant. </i>David was the <i>ebed of </i>Saul,
    not his slave. Ziba was the <i>ebed </i>of Mephibosheth, but a man of<i> </i>wealth
    and importance. Jeroboam was the <i>ebed </i>of<i> </i>Solomon. It is used just
    as we use the word <i>servant, </i>to denote subordination and dependence, but
    not the degradation of  <i>persons </i>to  <i>things, </i>in which the essence
    of slavery consists.</p>
  <p class="Style2"><i>   Man. </i>But Abraham's servants
    were <i>bought </i>with his money.</p>
  <p class="Style1" align="left" style='text-align:left;line-height:normal'><i>   Th</i>. The word signifies, <i>acquired, got,
    procured. </i>Abraham pro­cured them with his money. And this is the way we
    procure white servants. The usual way to obtain a servant in patriarchal times
    is brought into view in that very ancient composition, the Book of Job, where,
    in respect to the leviathan, it is asked, &quot;Will he make a cove­nant with
    thee? wilt thou take him for a servant forever?&quot; The servant was bought,
    indeed, but he was bought of himself, and became a servant by contract. So it
    seems to be contemplated it might be among the Israelites. &quot;If a sojourner
    or stranger wax rich by thee, and thy brother that dwelleth by him wax<b> </b>poor,
    and <i>sell himself </i>unto the stranger.&quot; <i>Slaves </i>are never bought
    of themselves, but of some other. Abraham might also have procured servants of
    his heathen neighbors, by way of redeeming captives taken in war, on the easy
    condition of their becoming permanent members of his family, and there enjoying
    the substantial benefits of freedom, which they could not hope to do among
    their enemies. Wives also were <i>bought. </i>Jacob gave fourteen years'
    personal service for his. David bought his wife of the king her father, by his
    military services. To betroth a wife among the Israelites was to <i>buy </i>her,<i> </i>by paying a sum of money, or goods to her father. Joseph bought the people
    with food to be servants unto Pharaoh.  But they were not made slaves. They
    were only to pay Pharaoh a large rent for their land.</p>
  <p><i>Ard. </i>Would any slaveholder
    now treat his slaves as Abraham did his servants? He put arms into their hands,
    and intrusted them with the guardianship of his person. They were to be his
    heirs, in case of the failure of children, in preference to other relations.
    The oldest ser­vant of Abraham's house was a person of great consideration, to
    whom Isaac was in some respects subordinate, even at the age of forty years.
    And Abraham thought it necessary to bind him by an oath that <i>he </i>would
    not marry Isaac to any of the daughters of the land. There is no evidence that
    Abraham sold any of them, or gave them away, or treated them in any respect
    like slaves.</p>
  <p>[page 4]</p>
  <p><i>   Th.</i> If Abraham's service was slavery, his servants
    had an easy method of emancipating themselves. It was but to refuse a
    compliance with some of the religious obligations which his family were
    required to observe, and they would at once be excluded from his family, and turned
    out of his house. No, they must have been sub­stantially like the servants of
    whom the apostle<sup>,</sup> speaks. &quot;Now I say that the heir, as long as
    he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of
    all.&quot; Of course, the servant differs nothing from a child in his minority.
    But as a child in his minority is very differ­ent from a slave, so also the
    servitude which is authorized by the Scriptures is very different from slavery.</p>
  <p><i>Man. </i> But Moses found
    slavery in existence, and made laws to regulate it.</p>
  <p><i>   Th</i>.  Moses found a<i> </i>system of servitude in
    existence, not slavery, and made laws to regulate it which are not found in
    modern slave countries.  Servants could make intermarriages with other members
    of the family, and become heirs with the children. &quot;A wise servant shall
    have rule over<i> </i>a son that causeth shame, and shall have part of the
    inheritance among the brethren.&quot; Servants were not allowed to be separated
    from their wives and children; they were invited guests at all the national and
    family festivals of the household in which they resided; they were under the
    same religious  instruction, and under the same civil laws with their masters.
    There was not one law for the master, and another for the servant, as in all
    slave countries. Ser­vants might be parties to a suit at law for the recovery
    of their rights; and they could give testimony in courts of justice where
    masters were concerned.</p>
  <p><i>Man. </i>But Moses says:
    &quot;Both thy bondmen and thy bondmaids, which thou shalt have, shall be of
    the heathen that are round about you; of them shall ye buy bondmen and
    bondmaids-they shall be your bondmen forever.&quot; Is not that authority to
    buy slaves?</p>
  <p><i>Th. </i>The word rendered, <i>bondmen<b> </b></i>signifies <i>servants</i>;<i> </i>the word ren­dered <i>buy </i>signifies <i>procure. </i>— And we are not obliged by the language, when divested of the
    wrong ideas derived from our familiarity with slavery, to understand it as
    meaning any more than this: &quot;Both thy male and female&quot; servants,
    which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen<sup> </sup>that are round about
    you; (and not of your Hebrew brethren;) of them shall ye procure men servants
    and maid servants-of such shall be your permanent servants in all ages.&quot; </p>
  <p>    <i>Ard.  </i>Did Moses authorize the buying and selling
    of slaves?</p>
  <p><i>    Th. </i>The institutions of Moses provide for persons
    selling them­selves to be servants, that is, hiring themselves out to be
    permanent servants, for a sum paid in advance; and also for fathers selling
    their daughters to be wives, and thus providing them with a dowry.  But there
    seems to be no trace of any toleration of slave trading. The possibility that
    such a thing might be attempted appears to be pro­-</p>
  <p>[page 5]</p>
  <p>vided for. &quot;He that stealeth a man, and selleth him, or
    if he be<sup> </sup>found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death.&quot;</p>
  <p><i>   Man. </i>Were not the Israelites slaves in
  <p><i>Th. </i>They were under great
    oppression there, for which their oppressors were severely punished; but not
    slaves according to your definition. They resided by themselves in the land of
    Goshen, in permanent dwellings, in their own distinct and separate families.
    They held their possessions independently, and owned a large amount of
    property, which does not appear to have been claimed by their masters. They
    kept arms, and were fully equipped when they left Egypt.<i> </i>They had their
    own government, and laws, and magistrates. They appear to have<sup>-</sup>been
    called out, a given portion of the men at a time, to labor in the public works.
    And the great oppression consisted in their being required to perform too much
    labor for the king. They appear to have had time to learn and practise several
    of the fine arts. There is no complaint that their women were subject to any
    personal outrages, nor to any species of cruel treatment, save that which Pha­raoh
    judged to be necessary for his own safety, the destruction of their male
    children. They were abundantly supplied with the necessaries and comforts of
    life, as they afterwards alleged in their complaints when in the wilderness.
    Instead of being allowed &quot;a quart of corn a day,&quot; as some slave-holding
    states now provide, they &quot;sat by the flesh pots, and did eat bread to the
    full.&quot; They also did &quot;eat fish freely, and cucumbers, and melons, and
    leeks, and onions, and garlic.&quot; No restrictions seem to have been placed
    on their intellectual and moral improvement, or the free exercise of their
    religion, till they asked leave to go away in a body three days' journey into
    the wilderness, with all they possessed. And then the king seems to have
    refused chiefly from the fear that they would not return. If such was the
    bondage of Egypt, so decidedly condemned and so severely punished; if it was so
    mild, compared with modern slavery; is it credible that God would authorize any
    thing like modern slavery, among a people whom he so abundantly enjoins not to
    oppress<sub> </sub>the stranger, nor to forget that they had been strangers in
    the land of Egypt?  I cannot think it credible.</p>
  <p><i>Ard. </i>And then, there was a
    year of jubilee, of which it is said: &quot;And ye shall hallow the fiftieth <i>year, </i>and proclaim liberty through­out all the land, unto <i>all </i>the
    inhabitants thereof.''</p>
  <p><i>Th. </i>And there was another
    direction, which the modern advocates of slavery do not like to have us obey.
    &quot;Thou shalt not deliver unto his master the servant which is escaped from
    his master unto thee.&quot;</p>
  <p><i>Man. </i>You<i> </i>had better
    take care what you do, when you are within<sub>.</sub> the reach of
  <p><i>Th. </i>We mean to obey God,
    in relation to this matter, as well as all others; and bear testimony against
    oppression and cruelty. And we do not think you have any right to complain of
    us for doing so.</p>
  <p>[page 6]</p>
    Man. </i>&quot;Slavery was prevalent at the coming of Christ; but he issued no
    command with regard to it; the apostles nowhere assailed it; the Gospel does
    not proclaim liberty to the slave.&quot;</p>
  <p><i>  Th.</i> I cannot but wonder that you should use such
    language, if you have read the New Testament. It brings to mind the
    annunciation of the object of his coming, which is put into the mouth of our
    Lord, by the prophet: &quot;The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the
    Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto to the meek; he hath sent me
    to bind up the broken-hearted, <i>to proclaim liberty to the captives, </i>and
    the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to pro­claim the acceptable
    year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that
  <p><i>Man. </i>But I cannot think it
    a sin to hold slaves, because the New Testament gives precepts to regulate the
    conduct both of masters and slaves. &quot;Servants, be obedient to them that
    are your masters accord­ing to the flesh.&quot; &quot;Exhort servants to be
    obedient unto their own masters, and to please them well in all things.&quot;</p>
  <p> <i>Th. </i>With reference to
    these precepts, I have two remarks to make.  One is that nothing is here said
    about <i>slaves. </i>The Greek word is <i>doaloi, </i>servants. The relation of <i>master </i>and <i>servant<b> </b></i>may be, very proper, and the relation
    of <i>master </i>and <i>slave </i>not be sanctioned at all. The proper Greek
    for <i>slave is andrapodon. Doulos, </i>servant, is used in the New Testament,
    very much as the Hebrew <i>ebed, </i>(ser­vant,) is in the Old. It is evident,
    to any who examine the New Testament, that those who are called <i>douloi </i>were
    regarded as <i>persons, </i>and not as <i>things; </i>they possessed property
    of their own, were capable of making contracts, of owing debts to others, and
    having debts due to them; their wives and children were theirs, and not their
    masters. None of these things apply to modern slaves. Paul called himself a <i>doulos,
    servant, </i>of Jesus Christ, which was a title of honor. But his declaring it
    to be the same condition in which the heir is, during his minority, shows that
    it meant a man in a subordinate station, and not a mere chattle. But there is
    another remark to be made respecting these commands: They mention the duty of
    the servant, without deciding whether it is right for him to be held<sup> </sup>in
    that condition.  It is the duty of those who are held <sup> </sup>as slaves; to
    be obedient to the lawful commands of those to whom, in the providence of God,
    they are subordinate. But that does not prove it right for them to be held in
    that condition. Christianity found Nero exercising the most cruel tyranny at
    Rome; and it says, to the Christians of that city: &quot;Let every soul be
    subject unto the higher powers; for there is no power but of God; the powers
    that be are ordained of God.&quot;  Did this prove that the government of Nero
    was right and no sin?</p>
  <p><i> Man. </i>But Christianity
    gives precepts to masters also; and thus recognizes that relation. </p>
  <p><i>  Th</i>. It gives precepts for, the treatment of <i>servants. </i>But I do not</p>
  <br clear="all"
style='page-break-before:always' />
  <p> [page 7]</p>
  <p>admit that it therefore recognizes slave-holding as no sin.
    It says, indeed, &quot;Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and
    equal; knowing that ye also have a master in heaven.&quot; <i>Just </i>and <i>equal; </i>what is that, but a fair equivalent for their service? Can it be just and
    equal to compel them to labor without wages, and refuse to pay them for their
  <p><i>Man. </i>I consider the case
    of Onesimus as good proof. When Paul sent him, back to Philemon, he practically
    recognized the right of taking up runaway slaves, and sending them back to
    their masters.</p>
  <p><i>Th. </i>This case seems to be
    strangely misunderstood. Philemon had embraced the Gospel. His servant Onesimus
    had run away, apparently in his debt. By the preaching of Paul, Onesimus was
    converted to Christianity. Paul speaks as if he might have retained him for the
    service of the Gospel; but he chose to have Philemon do his duty in discharging
    him, of his own accord, and not by compul­sion. He sends him therefore, and
    exhorts Philemon to receive him, &quot;<i>not now as a servant, </i>but above a
    servant, a brother beloved, especi­ally to me; but how much more unto
    thee.&quot; Was that to receive him as a slave? He said, &quot;If thou count
    me, therefore, a partner, receive him as myself,&quot; that is receive him as a
    partner, a companion, not as a slave. And he expresses the greatest confidence
    that he would do his duty in the case: &quot;Having confidence in thy
    obedience, I wrote unto thee, knowing that thou wilt also do more than I
    say.&quot;  If all men, now held as slaves, were treated as Paul asks Onesimus
    might be, the reproach of slavery would no longer rest upon our country.</p>
  <p><i>Ard. </i>How do you pretend to
    reconcile slave-holding with our Savior's golden rule, &quot;Whatsoever ye
    would that men should do to you, do ye even so them; for this is the law and
    the prophets!&quot;­</p>
  <p><i>   Man. </i>That means, I suppose, that we should do what
    is best for others, considering their situation, character, and circumstances.
    And it is clearly best for most slaves to be kept in that condition; for they
    cannot take care of themselves.</p>
  <p><i>   Ard. </i>They prove that they can, by taking care of
    themselves and their masters, too, in many cases. But that would acknowledge
    that all who would be better off in freedom, should be set free.</p>
  <p><i>   Man. </i>I<i> </i>doubt whether any would be better
  <p><i>   Ard. </i>Suppose you test the sincerity of your
    principles by changing places with them. Would you be willing to be shut up for<i> </i>a season, and then be sold to the highest bidder? Would you be willing to
    be chained in a company, and be driven with a whip to the sugar planta­tions,
    and there be worked, as those you sell are worked, till they are exhausted, and
    die? Just put the case to yourself; and put yourself in their place, and see
    what you ought to do.</p>
  <p><i>   Man. </i>&quot;Slavery is the corner-stone of our
    republican edifice.&quot;</p>
  <p><i>   Ard. </i>Out upon such republicanism. The republican
    edifice erected by our revolutionary fathers, has the contrary as its
    foundation. They say: &quot;We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all
    men are</p>
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  <p>[page 8] </p>
  <p>created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with
    certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit
    of happiness.&quot; If these truths are self-evident, in the light of nature,
    they are equally clear according to the word of God. That affirms that God
    &quot;hath made of one blood all nations of men, for to dwell on the face of
    the earth.&quot; Here, then, we, take our stand, with the Bible in one hand,
    and the declaration of our fathers in the other; and we fearlessly affirm, that
    every pretended grant of the right of property in human beings, is self-evidently
    null and void; and every assertion of such a right is usurpation and robbery.</p>
  <p><i>Man. </i>Such declarations are
    mere rhetorical flourishes. Nobody believed them at the time.</p>
  <p><i>Th</i>. I<i> </i>am not
    willing to think that it was so. I believe them to be true, according to the natural
    import of their language, and I honor the patriots who put forth such a
    declaration before the world; and I think it eminently disgraceful for their
    posterity to maintain the con­trary now.</p>
  <p><i>Man.</i> We must have slaves in
    our warm regions to perform the <sup>­</sup>labor necessary to support human
    life. If they were free, they could not be hired to do it, and the land would
    become desolate.</p>
  <p><i>Th.</i> Better so, than live
    in the continual violation of the laws of God and man. &quot;Woe unto him that
    buildeth his house by unrighteousness, and his chambers by wrong; that useth
    his neighbor's service without wages, and giveth him not for his work&quot;
    &quot;Rob not the poor because he is poor; neither oppress the afflicted in the
    gate; for the Lord will plead their cause, and spoil the soul of those that
    spoiled them.&quot; I should suppose you would sometimes think as Mr. Jeffer­son,<b> </b>himself a slaveholder, said: &quot;I tremble for my country, when I reflect
    that God is just, and that his justice cannot sleep forever. The Almighty has
    no attribute which can take sides with us.&quot;</p>
  <p>    <i>Man.</i> I am astonished at such sentiments. <i>Slaveholders</i> will not tolerate them; secession, rebellion, and division of the Union will be
    the result, if persevered in.</p>
  <p><i>   Ard. </i>Away with your threats of rebellion,
    secession, and disunion — remember the Whisky Rebellion and Shay's War — in
    later times, Nullification. Will not freemen, now as then, stand by the U<span
style='font-size:10.0pt'>NION</span>. Try it­ —</p>
  <p><i> Th. </i>Hold,<i> </i>hold,
    brother! &quot;In meekness admonish those that oppose themselves.&quot;
    Although I admit that slaveholding, in these United States <i>is sin</i>;<i> </i>the
    vilest transgression of the laws of God, and the principles of the constitution
    of. these United States, that ever had a legal existance, yet we must remember
    the slaveholding mind is darkened by reason of its existance, therefore we must
    bear with their taunts and threats. But as you love your country, your fellow
    men and our free institutions, do nothing to extend or perpetuate the system of
    slaveholding; or in any way be partaker of its iniquity. — The love you bear
    your fellow men at the south,<i> </i>and their children yet unborn, — DEMAND IT
    AT YOUR HANDS! </p>