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Slavery and the Church

Brownson’s Quarterly Review, Oct. 1862

            There is no doubt that the majority of our Catholic population are strongly opposed to the abolitionists, and regard them very unjustly, however, as the real authors of the formidable rebellion now threatening our national life; but we should do them great injustice if we supposed them to be really in favor of negro slavery, or opposed on principle to emancipation.  We think their hostility to the abolitionists, since the breaking out of the civil war, very unwise, impolitic, uncalled for, and calculated to give aid and comfort to the enemies of the nation; but we also think it grows more out of their attachment to the Union, than out of any sympathy with slavery or with the rebels.

            Various causes have conspired to render Catholics hostile to the abolitionists.  The majority of Catholics in this country were, not unnaturally, attached to the Democratic party.  They were mostly from the oppressed classes in the mother country, and have naturally, on coming here, associated with that party that made the loudest professions of attachment to liberty and equality, and were, or appeared to be, the most liberal towards foreigners, and especially towards Catholics as naturalized citizens.  Besides, the great body of the Catholics migrating to this country, were democrats before their migration, and, by a very innocent mistake, assumed that the Democratic party here represented their previously imbibed democratic views and convictions.  The opposing party, whether called Federal, National Republican, or Whig, was always less lavish of its promises, both to Catholics and to foreigners, and in its policy, from the time of the elder Adams to our own day, has been apparently more Protestant and more native American.  These facts are sufficient to explain the general devotion of Catholics, especially Catholics of Irish birth or descent, to the Democratic party.  As that party gradually became a southern party, and strongly opposed to abolitionism, it was only natural that the Catholics who, though not its leaders, formed a very large proportion of its rank and file, should adopt its views, and follow its policy.

            Catholics, especially our Irish Catholics, are strong, not unfrequently intolerant partisans.  They have been made so by having been placed for three centuries under the necessity of defending their faith and nationality against Protestant England, seeking constantly to crush and annihilate both.  Deprived, to great extent, of education by the penal laws, and of their natural secular chiefs by apostasy or confiscation, they have made no means of defending themselves and protecting their faith and nationality, but by close party association and intolerance to their enemies, especially such as deserted, or showed symptoms of deserting their ranks.  Individual freedom of thought and action were necessarily subordinated to the exigencies of their faith and politics, and they were trained to act as far as possible as a party, according to party tactics, and to carry their points by acting as a great party-machine, sweeping away every thing before it.  To desert the party was to desert the church and the national cause, and to prevent desertion they were obliged to treat desertion of party as an abandonment of religion and nationality.  The deserter must be hooted, hunted down, rendered unable to live save by taking refuge in the ranks of the enemy.  Hence we often find Irish Catholics who regard apostasy from the Democratic party as little less criminal than apostasy from the church. 

            The leaders of the Democratic party, after the election to the presidency of General Pierce, having adopted the southern policy on the slave question, the Democratic Catholics followed them and their Catholic brethren in the southern states, and became strong and violent anti-abolitionists.  They, also, became such by their prejudices against the Puritanism and Sabbath-worship, to which they supposed the abolitionists in general to be addicted, and by the fact that the abolitionists themselves coupled with their abolitionism various other isms peculiarly offensive to Catholics,- disunionism, woman’s-rightsism, amalgamationism, free-lovism, socialism, and, worst of all, Englishism, at least were charged with doing so.  They were led by the Democratic press to regard the abolitionists as miserable fanatics, the enemies alike of religion and civilization, and to believe that the peace and safety of the Union required their suppression.  We can, then, easily explain their hostility to the abolitionists without supposing them to be in the least attached to slavery or desirous of perpetuating a social condition always warred against by the church.

            We went as far in our hostility to the abolitionists as any of our Catholic brethren have gone.  We regarded them as enemies to the Union of these states, and if not checked we thought them not unlikely to bring about secession or civil war.  From 1838 to 1857 we were among their sturdiest opponents, and in our own sphere, we have done as much as any other man in the country to set Catholics against the abolition movement.  Yet we know that all the time we were doing it we were an ingrained anti-slavery man, detesting slavery in every form, and desiring liberty for every man, whether white or black, yellow, red, or copper-colored.  We have seen nothing to convince us that what we know was true of ourselves is not equally true of the majority of our Catholic brethren.  The Union, or as we prefer to say, the national question with us always took, and still takes, precedence of the slavery question.  We have always believed, and we believe today, that liberty and humanity are more interested in maintaining the national integrity and the federal constitution unimpaired, than they are in the abolition of negro slavery.  So we have said and repeated any time during the last twenty years.  Herein we have differed, differ still, and probably always shall differ from the abolitionists.  They place the slavery question before all others, and prefer the division of the Union to a union with slave-holding states.  We have differed, still differ, and always shall differ from them on the question of negro equality.  They demand the recognition of the negro not only as a man, and as a free man, but as the political and social equal of the white man.  They are hardly willing to accept of emancipation unless coupled with negro equality, and we are hardly prepared to accept it if coupled with that equality.  We recognize in the negro a man, and assert for him in their plenitude all the natural rights of man, but we do not believe him the equal of the white man, and we would not give him in society with white men equality in respect to those rights derived not immediately from his manhood, but mediately from political or civil society, and in this we express, we apprehend, the general sentiment of the Catholic population of this country.

            But we have said the national question with takes with us precedence of the slavery question.  We would not endanger the peace or union of these states in order to abolish slavery; nor would we suffer the national integrity to be destroyed for the sake of preserving slavery.  We hold slavery, whether we speak of its abolition or its preservation, subordinate to the Union, or the national existence and welfare.  When efforts either to abolish or to save slavery are incompatible with the preservation of the Union, we oppose them with all the zeal and energy we are master of.  We opposed abolition, except by the action of the slave-holding states themselves, prior to the breaking out of the rebellion, because we could not effect it without violating the constitution, and endangering the integrity of the nation; we demand the abolition of slavery, now, because without it we do not believe it possible to suppress the rebellion, vindicate the constitution, reestablish over the rebellious states the federal supremacy, and secure future peace and harmony between the North and the South.  We believe emancipation is now both a military and a political necessity.  Differing, as we have always differed, from the abolitionists, in their theoretical views, we are, owing to the change of circumstances, practically with them on the single question of emancipation, and therefore deem it unwise and even dangerous to continue our old hostility to them.  They are, at least, some of them, what we are not, conditional Union men.  They are willing to accept the Union with emancipation, and we are willing to accept emancipation for the sake of the Union.  They are conditional Union men, but unconditional abolitionists.  We are unconditional Union men, but conditional abolitionists.  We wish they were, like us, ready to accept the Union with or without slavery, but as we do not believe the Union possible with slavery, and as we want all the support for the Union we can get, we have no practical ground of quarrel with them, and can, up to a certain point, cooperate with them.

            We do not like a late speech by Mr. Wendell Phillips.  The spirit of that speech is: Let the government proclaim emancipation and I will support it; let it refuse to do so and I will not support it, but perhaps oppose it.  We say no such thing.  We are as much dissatisfied with the policy of the administration on the slavery question, as strongly opposed to its half-way measures, and to its deference to border-stateism, as he is or can be; but we must in order to save the nation, sustain the federal government.  Tell it plain truths, if you will, do all in your power to bring it up to your convictions, and to inspire it with wisdom and courage adequate to the wants of the country; but be loyal to the national cause, which it is its duty to defend and promote.

            The conditional loyalism of the extreme abolitionists, consisting of a few hundreds, at most of a few thousands of individuals, may be censurable, but it is far less so than the conditional loyalism of the border states, for liberty is more respectable than slavery, and a man can be more easily excused for insisting on conditions in favor of liberty than conditions in favor of property.  The least respectable species of property known to the laws of any state is property in slaves.  Your Davises and Wickliffes of Kentucky are excellent Union men so long as the Union protects, your Phillipses and Garrisons so long as it will abolish, slavery; but as it is always more respectable to restore men to their liberty than it is to deprive them or keep them deprived of it, save as a punishment for crime, we have a respect for the abolitionists who would free the slaves at the expense of the Union, that we have not for the border-state men, who would sooner sacrifice the Union than let their slaves go free.  Liberty is a right of all men, forfeitable only by crime, and all our natural instincts are in its favor, and revolt at slavery.  Liberty is the principle and end of all our institutions, and the only real fault you can find with any man for asserting and defending liberty for all men, is in respect of the mode or means he adopts to secure it.  He is right in principle and right in the end, and can be wrong as only to the means or medium.  But slavery is always an abnormal condition, sometimes to be borne with for a reason, as is a catarrh, a fever, a boil, rheumatism, or the gout, but never to be admired for its own sake, or regarded as an indication of moral and social health.  It is always a moral, political, and social evil, and repelled by all that is free, generous, noble, or respectable in human nature.  We confess, therefore, that we have a tolerance for the conditional loyalism of a Phillips which we have not and cannot have for a Wickliffe.

            Moreover, the conditional loyalism of the abolitionists is now, in the actual state of things, to say the least, perfectly harmless in practice, while that of the border states joins hands with the rebels, and is a grave obstacle to the suppression of the rebellion, and the preservation of the national life and the integrity of the national territory.  On the border-states policy, which has been thus far that of the administration, all clear-headed statesmen see that it is impossible to save the Union.  They see that it is necessary to make our election, either the Union and freedom, or slavery and no Union.  The preservation of both is no longer a possibility.  The abolitionist loves the Union, but he hates slavery more, and in contending today for the abolition of slavery, he is not warring against the Union, but contending for a measure absolutely necessary to its preservation.

His conditional loyalism, as things stand, is practically unconditional loyalism.  Whatever may have been the cause of the rebellion, it is now possible to suppress it, and guard against its recurrence only by appealing to the anti-slavery sentiment of the country, or the American love of liberty.  We need the sympathy and aid of humanity, and humanity will not aid us while we are seeking to perpetuate the grossest outrage upon her rights and dignity.  The fault of the administration is, that it has not understood this; it has not felt the pulsations of the large human heart, or been aware that the strength of men is in the strength of man.  In the most fearful national crisis it has conceived of nothing higher, nobler, stronger, than the tricks and combinations of second and third rate politicians.  It has had no inspirations of genius, no sense of humanity, no understanding of the great moral laws of nations, no consciousness of the presence of God in human affairs. There has been as little genius in our administration as in our generals on the battle-field.  In both we have had what democracy gives, common-place, respectable, laborious industry, honest intentions, but no statesman who comprehends the power of an idea, no general at the head of our army who comprehends the value of the dash, the enthusiasm, the morale of his troops.  The abolition of slavery, as a military and political necessity, should have followed on the heels of the attack on Sumter, and been proclaimed in the president’s first call for troops to put down the rebellion.  That abolition sooner or later must come, or the United States have ceased to exist, is now no longer a question.  It is idle, therefore, to make war today on the abolitionists, when, in order to save the Union, we must go practically as far as any of them insist on going.

            Catholics have not been quicker than others, we confess, to see the altered circumstances of the country, which have entirely changed the position of the abolition question.  Ten years ago to demand of the federal government the abolition of slavery, was to endanger the peace and safety of the Union.  To do it today is to demand the means of saving the Union and the national life.  Here is the difference.  This difference is not fully appreciated by Catholics any more than by a large number of non-Catholics.  The archbishop of New York, who we may have good reason for believing, is a strong anti-slavery man, in his famous article against us last October, did not see it, nor did he see it in his efforts while abroad to manufacture public opinion in Europe against the immediate emancipation of American slaves, the purpose for which he was sent by his friend the secretary of state, or at least one of the purposes.  His article proves him nearly as short-sighted and as weak a statesman as Mr. Seward himself.  He, in his article, writes as if the rebellion had made no change in the bearing of the slavery question, as if it was necessary to continue to let off our double batteries on the one side against the abolitionists of the North and on the other against the “fire-eaters” of the South, as the New York Herald has constantly done, and continues to do.  There was a time when this was wise and just, when it was patriotic and statesmanlike; but it has ceased to be so when the business of the nation was not to ward off but to suppress rebellion.  The course taken by the archbishop and his organ, the New York Herald, had the effect of preventing Catholics from perceiving and appreciating the new and altered state of the question, and if the Union should be ultimately lost, few men in the country will have incurred a heavier responsibility for it then he.  No man has contributed more to keep up old party divisions, and to prevent the union of our people and government on a straight-forward and decided policy, such as the crisis demanded.  We doubt not his loyal intentions, but had he been decidedly loyal, he could not have done us more harm.  It is owing to the policy he has defended at home and abroad, that we are in our present condition, and that, at the time we are writing(Sept. 3rd), the rebels are threatening our capital instead of possessing theirs.  We wish, therefore, that while he insisted upon the people of his charge being loyal, and while he ordered, what he has not done, prayers for the success of our arms, he had judged it compatible with his duty to have refrained from interfering in the party strifes and political intrigues which have brought us to the brink of destruction.  He has helped make confusion worse confounded, and done what was in him to place his church and our poor Catholic people, on the question of slavery, in a false position.  Yet, could our Catholic population have been left to follow their Catholic instincts unwarped by politicians, and could they have been permitted to see that the abolition question had changed its bearing, and had become a question of saving, not of endangering the Union, they would have proved that they are Americans in their love of liberty, and in their detestation of slavery.

            Even the archbishop himself is opposed to slavery in the abstract, and declared himself so to M. Augustin Cochin in Paris, and he was a few years ago regarded by his friends here as a decided anti-slavery man, especially when his particular friends William H. Seward and Thurlow Weed were accounted anti-slavery men.  His article against us we presume was inspired by those gentlemen, who persuaded him to adopt their policy of saving the Union by conciliating the party in arms against it, and by convincing them that we are determined to suppress the rebellion without disturbing the existing relation of master and slave- a policy which we should expect from such men as Weed and Seward, but which ought not to have been entertained a moment by the archbishop of New York.  It is the policy of narrow-minded and short-sighted politicians, not of a broad-minded and far-sighted statesman.  There is nothing in it to command the respect of minds superior to common-place.  Still we protest against regarding the archbishop as in any sense a pro-slavery man.  He may not be a statesman; he may not be able in political matters to rise above routine; he may not be always careful and exact in his expressions; but he is a Catholic prelate, a Christian, a man, and he must sympathize with freedom.  Still more earnestly do we protest against its being concluded from any thing he has said or done, that Catholics, especially Irish Catholics, are in favor of or not opposed to negro slavery.  We need but recollect the shout of universal indignation they raised against their favorite and countryman, John Mitchell, when he intimated his desire to own a plantation in Tennessee or Alabama, “well stacked with fat negroes.”  O’Connell, their representative man, refused to receive contributions to the repeal rent from southern slaveholders, so strongly opposed was he in principle to slaveholding.  It is the boast of the Irish that their nation was the first in the world to abolish slavery, and it would be absurd to suppose that a people that has been in a chronic rebellion of seven hundred years’ standing in favor of liberty, can be otherwise than opposed to slavery, and friendly to the oppressed everywhere.

            The Catholic population of this country have been unfavorable to the agitation of  slavery in the free states, because they have not believed the federal government could emancipate the slaves without violating the constitution.  It has been their respect for the constitution, not their love of slavery, that has made them anti-abolitionists.  They are still opposed to the abolitionists on the same ground.  We must concede to them that in this they were right, and that the federal government could not legally emancipate the slaves under the peace powers of the constitution.  But that government has constitutionally both peace powers and war powers.  Its war powers are as constitutional as its peace powers; and under its war powers, or rights of war, jura belli, it has the right or the power to declare the slaves free.  It can do it legally and constitutionally as a war measure.  In asking the government to do it now as a war measure, we ask no violation of the constitution, and in no respect invade the sacredness of the rights of property it guaranties.  Neither congress nor the administration could have done it before the civil war broke out, for the rights of war come into play only when war exists.

            The mistake of our Catholic brethren, and of a large proportion of our countrymen generally, arises from their not distinguishing between the rights of peace and the rights of war, and not understanding that in a civil war the government has against the rebels all the rights of a sovereign, and in addition all the rights of a belligerent.  The sovereign loses by the rebellion none of his rights as sovereign, and is absolved by it, in relation to the rebels, of all duty of protection, whether of life, liberty, or property.  Till they submit, they are out of his protection, and, in case the rebellion assumes the dimensions of a civil war, he has against them all the rights of war as recognized by the law of nations, jus gentium, that he would have were they a foreign enemy.  When they have thrown down their arms and submitted, the sovereign has no longer the rights of war against them, but simply the rights of peace.  Hence the punishment he can inflict on them after their submission, after the war is over, is determined by the peace powers, and not by the war powers of the constitution.  War no longer existing, only the peace powers can be lawfully exercised.

            These distinctions are important, and if they had been clearly understood and appreciated in the beginning, we should have been spared the strange anomalies

we have seen in both congress and the administration.  The administration seems to have had no lawyer in its service, capable of advising it, and has acted as if its war powers were controlled by its peace powers, and while waging war against the rebels it has required its generals to conduct it on peace principles.  It need not surprise no one that they have everywhere failed, and that after fifteen months of bloody and severe fighting, we are not so far advanced as we were in the commencement.  The administration has seemed to proceed on the supposition that while fighting the rebels it owed them the protection it owed them in time of peace, and was as much bound to protect them as it is to protect loyal citizens.  Congress, while it did not hesitate to raise armies, arm and equip them to shoot down rebels, hesitated about the right to confiscate their property, and a more complete stultification on the part of both congress and the executive then the confiscation bill actually passed cannot easily be imagined.  The president refused to sign a bill confiscating the realty of the rebels for any longer period than the natural life of the person attained, and yet signed a bill which confiscates absolutely and forever their personal property.  The constitution makes no distinction between the two classes of property.  If it is unconstitutional to confiscate real property for a longer period than the traitor’s natural life, it is equally unconstitutional to confiscate for a longer period his personal property.  If it is not unconstitutional to confiscate forever the personal property, it cannot be to confiscate the real.  The whole difficulty on the part both of congress and the administration grows out of the lack of clear views of the distinction between the rights of peace and the rights of war.  If congress in passing a law defining and punishing treason, is acting under the rights of peace, it is restricted in its action by the specific clauses in the constitution; but in passing a confiscation act as a war measure, it is acting under the rights of war, and is restricted only by the law of nations, and its own judgment of what is expedient or inexpedient.

            So of emancipation.  Congress has no right to enact and the executive has no right to proclaim emancipation in any of the states held to be still existing as states, as a peace measure, or under the rights of peace, for under the rights of peace neither has any jurisdiction in the case.  Neither can touch it, save under the rights of war, as a war measure.  But as a war measure neither is restricted by the peace powers of the constitution, or is restricted at all, except by the jus gentium or law of nations, regulating civilized warfare.  The government is free to adopt the measure or not, as it judges expedient.  It can, unquestionably, adopt it as a war measure, without any violation of the constitution; for the constitution itself confers on it all the rights of war recognized by the law of nations.  Hence our Catholic brethren need have no constitutional scruples as to the emancipation of the slaves, as a war measure.  While the civil war lasts, the government, either the president, as commander-in-chief of the army and navy, or congress, or both, have the clear constitutional right to adopt the measure, and the slaves so freed would be recognized as free by the law of nations; for the law of nations recognizes manumission, and treats the manumitted as free; as legally emancipated.

            Catholics, no doubt, have to some extent, been prejudiced against emancipation as a policy, by the misrepresentation which has obtained respecting the horrors of San Domingo, and the selfish apprehension that the freed negroes would come North and compete with them in the northern labor market.  This touches not the right of the government to adopt emancipation, but the expediency of doing so.  The horrors of San Domingo, we may remark in passing, were occasioned not by emancipating, but by refusing to emancipate the slaves.  If the proclamation of emancipation should excite fears of a servile insurrection, it would not be a thing to alarm us, as it would only compel the rebels to keep at home, to protect their own wives and children, their houses and plantations, those forces which they are now able to employ in the field against the government, and in cutting the throats of loyal citizens.  This would be a reason for adopting, not for refusing to adopt the measure.  We must not suffer our maudlin sentimentality to ruin our country, and cause the destruction of the nation.  We should be much better pleased to see the rebel troops employed in protecting southern homes, and southern property, than in killing the flower of our youth, and carrying sorrow and bereavement into the bosom of every loyal family in the land.  Our sympathies are with the loyal, not the disloyal, and we weep more for the family bereaved of a father, a son, or a brother, by a foul murder, than we do for the murderer about to expiate his crimes on the gallows.  Our modern sympathy with rogues and criminals; our misdirected humanity, and our mis-named philanthropy, are giving us over a prey to the spoiler.  Let us learn to respect the experience of mankind.  The fear that the freed negroes will come North as competitors in the market with white labor, is one Christian men should not indulge, and is also an unfounded fear.  They come North now, because they cannot remain free at the South, but let the southern states be free soil, and they will prefer to remain in those states, for the climate is more congenial to them, and they have strong local attachments.  Besides, it is probable, when the war is over, if successful for the Union, provision will be made to facilitate the migration of the colored population to a still more southern region, outside of the United States, where there will be no prejudices of color, to keep them forever an inferior class.

            These things, no doubt, have operated to make Catholics unfriendly to the policy of emancipation, but they do not prove that they are in favor of perpetuating negro slavery on this continent.  The great body of the Catholics at the North, though by no means partial to the negro race, are anti-slavery in sentiment.  For various reasons, given heretofore in these pages, they have more sympathy, or imagine they have more sympathy, with the southern people, aside from their present rebellion, and criminal attitude toward the nation, than with the people of the North, especially of New England; but they are not pro-slavery men, and when they think seriously on the subject, wish that slavery should not be perpetuated.  We have, in our intercourse with them, found very few Catholics in the southern states even, who did not profess to us a dislike of  slavery, and in Charleston, New Orleans, and St. Louis, we have expressed in public, strong anti-slavery sentiments to Catholic audiences, and been applauded to the echo for them.  Catholics in the seceded states have, no doubt, been tainted with the political heresy of state sovereignty, and have therefore supposed that they owe a paramount allegiance to their state, and are bound to obey her when she secedes; but we have not found them, in general, favorable to slavery.  They do not like northern interference with what is called the peculiar “institution” of the South, but more because a contravention of state sovereignty, then because hostile to slavery.  There is, while we are writing, confined in Fort Warren, living on government rations, a southern Catholic gentleman, one of the most intimate and highly esteemed friends we ever had, and one of the most noble-minded and honorable men we have ever been acquainted with, who never owned a slave, and who has more than once assured us that he could never reconcile it to his feelings or to his conscience to be a slave-holder.  He was disloyal to the Union, only because he held the doctrine of state sovereignty, and believed that the Union in using force to coerce a seceding state, outrages and denies that sovereignty.  A more loyal man, according to his understanding of loyalty, never lived, and in opposing, in his capacity as lawyer, and member of the legislature of his state, the action of the federal government in its attempts to coerce a seceding state, he was, in his own mind, opposing simply usurpation, not legitimate authority.  The Catholics in the southern army are fighting not to perpetuate slavery, but to sustain state sovereignty.  They are wrong, and yet the doctrine of state sovereignty is virtually insisted on by more than one of our northern governors, as strenuously as by them.  The federal government has to combat state sovereignty in the loyal, hardly less than in the disloyal states.  Hence so many of its embarrassments.

            The fact is, the political heresy of state sovereignty is not confined to the states in arms against the government, and, save a few arbitrary acts, this war has been conducted by the federal government as the agent of the states, rather than as the supreme government of the land.  We have never accepted the true issue.  We have accepted, at least acted on, state sovereignty principles, and have not dared to assert national principles.  Our state governors have acted and are acting as much on state sovereignty principles as Pickens, Brown, Pettus, or Moore.  Our federal government has acted less as a supreme national government, than has the so-called confederate government itself.  Neither side is true to itself.  We owe our embarrassments, and our reverses, to our failure to oppose national sovereignty to state sovereignty, and the rebels owe their successes to their disregard of the state sovereignty principle on which they justify their rebellion.  Here is the reason why, as yet, neither side has gained a decisive victory.  The real question at issue is not slavery or abolition, but are the United States a nation, one political people possessing national sovereignty in its plenitude, or are they a mere aggregation of sovereign states?  The emancipation of the slaves is, in our judgment, a necessary war measure which the government should adopt without a moment’s delay, but the real question is between national sovereignty and state sovereignty, and till that question is met squarely and fairly, there will be nothing settled.  It is because this issue was not made up at first, because, while the southern states asserted for itself each its own sovereignty, the federal government failed to make a clear and distinct assertion of the national sovereignty, that our own confessors found themselves obliged to give absolution to their penitents, who, by a law of their state, took up arms against the Union.

In the unsettled state of the controversy, they could do no less.  Catholics were generally attached to the Democratic party, and that party has generally asserted state sovereignty.  Our own writings have done not a little to accredit that doctrine among Catholics, for when we had the most influence with them, we held, defended, and labored to prove, that the sovereignty is not in the nation, in the states united, but in the states severally.  We maintained that heresy for years, and it was only when we saw some of its practical developments, that we began slowly to distrust and abandon it.  Catholics generally adopted it, and many of them hold it still.  Prior to the outbreak of the civil war, a Catholic newspaper published in Ohio was in favor of the South, and defended decidedly secession principles.  After the war broke out, it professed to defend the Union, not indeed on national principles, but on state sovereignty principles.  Ohio, it said, having declared for the Union, it was bound, as loyal to Ohio, to sustain the federal cause.

            No arguments, for these reasons, can be deduced form the conduct of Catholics  to prove that the church is not opposed to slavery.  Moreover, it is seldom safe to infer the doctrine or the spirit of the church from the practice of Catholics.  Nothing is more certain than that the church condemns the African slave trade, and did condemn it before the discovery of this continent before Columbus, when first carried on by the Portuguese.  Yet Catholics were the first importers of slaves into this continent, and Catholics, or nominal Catholics, Portuguese, Spanish, or Hispano-Americans are still the principle slavers, and, save the United States, the only Christian countries in which slavery now exists are Catholic countries.  All the Protestant states, and France, whose government is neither Catholic nor Protestant, have abolished slavery in their colonies, and even schismatic Russia is freeing her serfs, while Spain, Portugal, and Brazil retain negro slavery.  Yet it is in spite of the church they do it, as it is in spite of the church that Catholics continue in all countries practices their religion condemns.

            The church, it is true, does not teach with modern abolitionism that slavery is always, everywhere, and under all circumstances, a sin in the individual slaveholder; for she gives absolution to the slaveholder, without demanding as its condition the manumission of his slaves, providing he accuses himself only of simple slaveholding.  This proves that she does not regard slaveholding as necessarily a sin, or a sin per se, in every individual slaveholder.  But it does not follow from this that she approves of slavery, that she does not oppose it, or that she does not regard it as a moral, political, and social wrong, which every individual, according to his lights and means, is bound to do all that he can to mitigate or abolish.  Not every individual who participates in a social wrong, and even derives advantages from it, is necessarily a sinner, for often his participation may be a social necessity, and may be innocent on his part, because he sees and intends no wrong in it.  Despotism is a great moral, political, and social wrong, but not therefore is every man living under a despotism a sinner, who derives advantages from it, or who does not engage in efforts to overthrow it- efforts which might be fruitless, or which might result in more evil than good.  Every man who reduces or aids in reducing a freeman to slavery, is a sinner; but a man who has inherited slaves from his parents or his ancestors, may retain them in bondage without sin, although it is probable that ordinarily he does not.  Such is the doctrine of the church as we collect it from her practice and the teaching of her moral theologians.

            But the church does not and cannot tolerate what is called chattel slavery- the slavery recognized and sustained by the laws of the southern states, for she regards as a man, and treats as a person, the humblest African slave.  She restricts the bondage to reasonable or moderate bodily service, asserting at all times, in all places, and under all circumstances, the moral freedom of the bondsman.  The bondsman is for her a man, a moral being, with a conscience of his own, which the master may not under any pretense whatever invade.  She places the bondsman and the master under one and the same moral and spiritual law; and makes each alike accountable for his own deeds before the divine tribunal.

            She denies with all her divine energy that man has or can have dominion or property in man, and therefore that one man can have any right to exact the bodily service of another, save in consideration of benefits conferred.  God, St. Augustine teaches, and in this gives the real doctrine of the church, gave to man dominion over the irrational creation, but not over the rational.  Hence the first governors of mankind, he says, were called pastors, not lords, pastores non domini.  One may owe service to another, as the son owes service to the father, and even the wife to her husband; but this does not imply that one is the lord of another, that is his owner or proprietor. “The relation of master and slave,”  said Mr. Calhoun to us, in one of his long conversations with us in 1840-’41, “is indefensible.  We never call our people our slaves, but speak of them as our people.  The relation between them and us is that of guardian and ward.  We are their guardians, and they are our wards, and we defend the relation on the ground that they are virtually minors, and incapable of acting or providing for themselves.”  We cite his words, because he so far agrees with the church, that he repudiates the doctrine that one man can be the lord, owner, or proprietor of another, and concedes that the master owes to the servant an equivalent for the services he exacts.  In calling the slave a ward, he plainly concedes that he is a person, and therefore logically entitled to all the rights essential to personality.

            The church always insists on Christian marriage for the slave, and in doing so insists that he is a person, not a thing, a moral agent, not a simple chattel; for according to her, marriage is a sacrament, and none but persons endowed with free will can be its recipients.  Marriage, she teaches, is also a contract, a free voluntary contract, and therefore none but persons capable of contracting can enter into the marriage relation, and the common doctrine of her theologians is, that the contrahentes or contracting parties are the ministers of the sacrament of matrimony, and none but persons can be the minister of a sacrament.  Certainly, the church holds bondsmen are capable of Christian marriage, and she treats infidelity to the marriage relation in slaves precisely as she does in freemen.  In treating the bond as capable of Christian marriage, she asserts them to be persons, therefore capable of family, and hence of a domicile, all of which is incompatible with chattel slavery.  Hence we find chattel slavery, after the introduction of Christianity, gradually disappearing from all christianized Europe.  The doctrine of the church necessarily, where it was received, if it did not at once free the slave, converted him from a thing to a person, from a chattel slave to a villein or serf; whence in time, he became a free peasant, or freeman.

            The church is therefore necessarily opposed to slavery as it exists in our southern states, for, notwithstanding the fine theory of wardship developed by Mr. Calhoun, slavery in them all is chattel slavery.  Legally the slaves are things, property, not persons, at least as to all civil relations, though in criminal relations the law, by an inconsistency that operates to his advantage, and to the advantage of the master, treats the slave as a person, and holds him to be capable of crime.  The law recognizes no Christian marriage between slaves, no family of slaves, or rights of family, and the master seldom respects in them the relation of husband and wife or parent and child.  He claims to own both the male and the female, and he regards their offspring as he does the increase of his flocks and herds.  The man and woman are regarded as united only temporarily, or so long as it may suit the convenience or pleasure of their owners, and they themselves usually consider their union only as transitory.  Hence our missionaries do not treat it as marriage, except when the parties are Catholics, and have been married by a Catholic priest.  To a Catholic mind the state in which the slaves are living is far more revolting than the violent rending asunder of family ties; for it is a state incompatible with the practical observance of Christian morality.  The almost universal concubinage which takes the place of marriage among the slaves is a thing the church does not and cannot tolerate; and were Christian marriage introduced and legally recognized among them, it would instantly relieve southern slavery of one of its greatest horrors, put an end to its chattel character, and convert it into serfage or villanage, and makes the slaves adscripti glebae, fixed to the realty- the first step in the process from slavery to freedom.  Their moral and personal rights, with the rights of family, would soon follow, and the opportunity for improvement and gradual elevation in the social scale, in some measure, be secured.  Villanage may coexist with Christian marriage, chattel slavery cannot.

            The fathers of the church usually treat slavery as a penalty, as a punishment for crime or sin, not as a penalty for original sin, for original sin is the sin of the race, and all men alike have incurred its penalty, the free as well as the bond.  Remotely, slavery may no doubt be traced to original sin, as may all social evils; but the fathers of the church do not mean that, when they assert the penal and therefore expiatory character of slavery.  They have in mind the jus gentium or the law of nations as asserted by Roman jurisprudence.  The law of nations as enforced by the Roman courts, recognized the lawfulness of the slavery of captives taken in a just war, and treated it as a commutation of the punishment of death which they had incurred.  “Indeed from the natural law all men are born from the beginning free,”(trans.) say the Institutes of Justinian.  “Servitus autem est constitutio juris gentium, qua quis dominio alieno contra naturam subjicitur.  Servi autem ex eo appellati sunt, quod imperatores captivos vendere, ac per hoc servare nec occidere solent.” The law of nations, as originally interpreted, allowed the sovereign to put to death the subjects of a foreign prince taken captive in a just war.  This rested on the principle that the entire nation against which a prince may lawfully wage war, has forfeited its existence, and the prince may lawfully slay any of its subjects that he can get hold of.  We see traces not a few of this in the Old Testament.  But, if the conqueror could lawfully destroy the nation, or put the captives taken in war to death, he could, of course, spare their lives and inflict on them the milder punishment of selling them into slavery; and hence slavery would in some sense be an act of mercy, inasmuch as it saved them from the extreme penalty incurred, as the Roman jurists asserted.  It was in this way that slavery was introduced, and on this ground it was recognized by the law of nations, though confessedly contrary to nature, the natural law, or the natural freedom with which all men were originally born.

            It will  be seen from this that slavery, as a constitution of the law of nations, is justified only on the ground that it is a penalty- a punishment for crime.  The citizens or subjects of a state or nation were considered as solidaires with the state itself, and answerable jointly and severally for its offenses.  This idea of slavery as a penalty for sin, the sin of the slaves themselves, or the nation, or of their forefathers, is that recognized by the Christian fathers.  They, therefore, exhort the slaves to bear their servitude patiently, and to make it, as they may, a means of expiating their sin, and of promoting their own sanctity and final glorification in Christ.  Slavery or servitude, as a penalty for crime, the only slavery we ever find countenanced, in principle, by the law of nations, or the fathers, the church has never, to our knowledge, condemned; and it is not condemned even by our extreme abolitionists.  It is condemned by nobody, except certain theorists, who condemn all punishment, and deny that man can be justly compelled to expiate any offense of which he may have been guilty.  The fathers and doctors of the church have never, to our knowledge, approved or favored involuntary servitude, except as a penalty or expiation.  But through the influence of Christian principles, developed and applied first by the church and then by Christian society, the law of nations which justified slavery, the slavery of captives, has been greatly modified.  That law centuries since has ceased to permit captives taken in war to be either put to death or to be reduced to slavery.  Prisoners taken in war might, late in the middle ages, indeed, be held to ransom, but in all Christian nations they are all required to be set at liberty on the return of peace, and the victorious prince seeks indemnification for his wrongs and expenses from the nation through its government, not from subjects or citizens individually.  This change in the law of nations, which sweeps away every vestige of the slavery known to that law in Roman jurisprudence, is due to the church, and therefore we have the right to say that she is opposed to slavery.

            The children of slaves were held to be slaves on the ground that their parents had lost their personality, were chattels, simply property, and their increase, like the increase of any other kind of property, was the property of the master.  This, in ancient times, was less remarked than it would be in modern times, because the ancients indulged less in slave breeding than the moderns, reared comparatively few slaves, and relied chiefly on fresh captives taken in war to keep up the supply of the slave market.  But the church, wherever she gained a footing and acquired a predominating influence, exerted herself to put and end to the practice of punishing the innocent offspring for the real or supposed crimes and offenses of the parents.  She did it by treating the bond as persons, not as things,     and insisting in the right of Christian marriage, which, as we have said, logically implies the right of family and domicile.  The prelates of the church, far less the common people, do not always see or suspect at once all the consequences which follow from the principles they assert, when teaching or accepting Christianity, and thus often tolerate or find excuses for continuing practices the church, when her principles are fully developed and carried out, decidedly condemns.  Some of them have not much logical capacity to boast of, for not every prelate is a great man, though filling a great office; some of them are indolent, and are quite willing to let things go on as they found them, and spare themselves the labor and trouble of reforming them; some see clearly enough what is needed, but they see also so many difficulties in the way of effecting it, or are so persuaded that society is not ripe for it, that they are appalled by the magnitude of the work to be done, and shrink from undertaking it; some see, undertake, and by their rashness, imprudence, or want of judgment or tact, only make bad worse; so it is that centuries elapse before evils, confessed to be evils, are redressed.  It is only when God sends a man of genius, who may or may not pertain to the hierarchy, as he sent prophets under the old dispensation, that much real advance is ever effected in the practical development and application of Catholic principles.  Yet from time to time he does send the man of genius, and, though ill-received at first, and looked upon as a restless agitator, as a disturber of the peace, and a seditious fellow, he gradually succeeds in making his voice heard.  His words are listened to, and his rich and living thoughts enter into the heart of his age, and become the patrimony of his race.  Then the old is changed, the new development is installed, the world advances, and ameliorations long demanded are effected.

            We know the principles of the church, and we are not confined to the applications made of them by our predecessors.