Friday, May 9, 2014



Slavery arose at an early period of the world's history, out of the accident of capture in war. It was found by savages more profitable to make slaves out of prisoners of war than to kill them. The history of all the oriental nations, including the Jews, shows that they had their slaves. Reading the Homeric poems, passages are often found testifying that he who was made a prisoner was also made a slave. Aristotle defended the institution. So did Plato, he only asking that no Greek should be so placed.

In fact all of the Greek philosophers refused to believe the holding of one's fellow man in bondage wrong, on the score of morals. Aristotle declared that the institution was just and right, on the ground of a diversity of race, dividing mankind into the free and the bond by nature. The civilized world denies the doctrines of these ancient minds, as witnessed by acts of manumission wherever Christianity is known.

Let no man think that American slavery was the first, the only or even the most severe. By this I would not be guilty of apologizing for its presence in this country or for those men, among the many who held slaves, who so wickedly abused that institution. But duty compels the statement which is now made: Others, than Negroes have been skives. Others than Negroes have suffered the extreme and brutal affliction which often repaid the obedient service of those poor individuals who happened to be under the "ban."

Such were the Helots in Sparta, the Penestae in Thessaly, the Bithynians at Byzantium and the Thracians of Thrace. Grecian history teaches that these were slaves, that these were freed, and that these became the equals, in every respect, of those who
once held them in bondage. Can our slavery be compared with theirs? The Helots, the Penestae and the Bithynians, though being the property and at the disposal of their owners, could not be sold out of the country or separated from their families, and were even capable of acquiring property. It is said that numbers of them were encouraged in cultivating their intellects,
especially where proven to have natural ability. None of these slaves were Negroes.

The Thracian parents who sold their children into slavery were not of the Hamitic line. Strabo declares that notwithstanding these Thracians' degradation and notorious barbarousness, both
as to language and manners, still to these prehistoric Thracians belong the Muses and the cultivation of music, Orpheus, Musaeus Thamyris and Eumolpus; thus proving that it does not necessarily follow that the man enslaved is inferior intellectually to the enslaver. It is impossible, however, in a talk so limited to treat, as elaborately as desired, Grecian slavery. It was said by Demosthenes that the slave in Athens was better off than the free citizen of many other countries.

ROMAN SLAVERY differed in many particulars from that of Greece. All men, by natural law in Rome, were free; and to be anything else was contrary to that law. However, by the law of nations, a captive, instead of being slain, was called servus quasi servatus. Also a free man had power to sell himself. The early history of the Romans tells us that the owner had the power of punishing and even putting to death his slave. Whenever Vedius Pollio got mad he dashed such slaves as displeased him into his
fish ponds to feed his lampreys, and when the polite Augustus, the emperor, was told about this slave-holder's conduct, the severest punishment the emperor inflicted upon him was the destruction of the pond.

Under Claudius extreme cruel treatment of slaves was forbidden, and in selling them parents could not be separated from children; the same was true concerning brothers and sisters. The children of a female slave followed the status of the mother. A slave could not contract marriage, and no legal relation was recognized between parent and child. The harboring of a runaway slave was illegal. Persons in good circumstances kept an immense number, one person often owning two hundred; to have a large number being a matter of ostentation.

Originally, as here, the slave was allowed to own nothing, he and all he acquired being his master's. But when a slave commenced to work in the “trades", as in this country, a certain part of his gains was given him as his own, which he might keep until it amounted to sufficient to purchase his freedom. Justinian and Christianity did much towards the overthrow and extinction of slavery, but failed to accomplish it, and slavery continued even after the fall of the empire.

During the middle ages this "curse" merged into a mitigated condition called serfdom, which prevailed all over Europe, the taint of which has not even yet been entirely wiped out. Though early modern times stopped the selling of slaves in Europe, the Mohammedan nations would, as often as they captured a Christian of Europe, sell him into Asia or Africa. Many of the brightest minds of Europe can trace their ancestry back to the home of the serf. Instead of being ashamed of his low condition, he is thankful that he is not despised because of a God-fixed position, but honored because he is found to possess innate qualities powerful enough to lift him up out of the black night of serfdom into the broad daylight of citizenship.

The slaves of the Romans were not Negroes. The term of slave is taken from the word Slavonic: the Slavonians, many of them being made bondsmen, were called by the name slave.

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