Sunday, May 14, 2006

Editorial on Slavery Commending Col. Charles Carroll

Editorial in The Catholic Mirror against Emancipation, quoting Col. Charles Carroll with approval: The Catholic Mirror, February 28, 1863, p. 4.

(Historical Context: Maryland Catholics tended to believe that slavery was Biblical and beneficial to the slave, if not the slave-owner. This editorial was not signed, but would not have been published without the approval of Archbishop Francis Patrick Kenrick of Baltimore, because The Mirror was the official organ of his diocese.)


“Two years ago, there was not a happier people on earth than the slaves, as a body, in our Southern States. Of course, in making such an assertion, we mean to compare class with class always. We can readily understand the horrible idea of a New England farmer in supposing himself and his wife and children to be reduced to the hard fate of slavery; and we suppose that his mental comparison makes the slaves what he and his would be transplanted to their position. . . . .

The Southern slaves were born to their lot; and they and their fathers before them were slaves, so far as we can trace their history. What more cruel or abominable slavery can there be on earth than that which yet exists among the African tribes themselves? What man, like the king of Dahoney, sheds the blood of thousands of human victims in honor of the manes of his fathers? Have the American slaves been degraded by being placed in their present condition? Surely not. But have they not been elevated by it? Let any sane man compare their condition with that of the mass of African negroes, or even with the emancipated negroes of the West Indies, and he will find it as clear as day-light, that they have been elevated, vastly elevated.

Now, we say, many American slaves are as good Christians as any living man. In the Catholic Church, they are taught sedulously all the truths of Christianity. They are taught that, though their bodies be dark, their souls, when free from sin, are white and unspotted, and that in the world to come, they will find the portals of heaven as open to them as to their masters. From our earliest infancy to this day, we have participated with slaves in family prayer, and in the reception of the holy sacraments of the Church. We have knelt side by side with them at the foot of the altar; we have prayed for them when living; we have prayed for them dead; and we have asked their prayers likewise. In childhood we took lessons in Christian doctrine in their midst; what has been taught to us has been taught to them. The difference in worldly condition, it is perfectly understood, makes no difference in the eyes of our common Lord and Master, who assigned to us respectively, our places here, and who will assign to the place hereafter, not in relation to present condition, but in relation to fidelity in His service.

We do not wish to put any false gloss upon slavery. It is a hard lot for any human being. But so is a life of poverty, labor, deprivation, and destitution, and yet such is the lot of untold millions who are called free. The American slave, so far, has never known destitution; starvation has never stared him in the face; gaunt famine is altogether unknown—He rarely lives a life of excessive labor. As a general rule in all America, two hired white laborers will do quite as much work as three slaves,--not infrequently thrice as much.—Slave labor is not even economical, as most slave-owners well know.

We would call attention to an extract from the will of one of our most eminent citizens, and largest slaveowners, recently deceased, going the rounds to our daily papers:

‘I have always regarded slavery as a great evil, producing injury and loss in grain-growing States, to the whites principally,--an evil for which we are not responsible who now hold slaves, considering that God in His wisdom, placed them here, or permitted them to be introduced. My experience and full convictions are, that as long as we have that class of labor among us, there are as a mass better cared for and happier, than if they were free and providing for themselves. I therefore give all my slaves to my children, with these positive injunctions: that none of them shall be sold except among themselves, and except for those crimes for which they would be purchased by the laws of the State, and for gross insubordination. I also direct that they shall continue to have the advantages of the religious instruction they now receive, and their morals and habits be watched over like those of children. (Italics ours—Eds., Mir.) It may hereafter be found avisable to move them to the South to cultivate cotton, where the climate is more congenial to their health, while it removes them from the pernicious influences of the low whites who now corrupt them. In this way they may be made profitable, and eventually a fund provided to establish them at some future day in Africa or the West Indies. It is my wish that my children shall not transmit them to any of my grandchildren.” (From the Will of Col. Charles Carroll, of Doughoregan Manor.)

This is the language of the Old-School Catholic gentleman, and of the great slave-owner. This is spoken in the spirit of the Church, in the spirit of humanity, in the spirit of Christian benevolence.

How different the animus from that which pervades the destructive and malignant school of the Abolitionists! A Governor of Massachusetts would have the negroes turned loose upon their masters to slay them and their families, but he warns these negroes that though they escape from slavery, they shall find no home in Massachusetts! He counsel leads the poor creatures only to their own destruction. And he is but a typical man of his party. Cruel, bloody, heartless, these men—Andrews, Sumners, Butlers—wage a double war upon the whites and blacks of the South—trumpeters of destruction—while they take care to keep their own persons far away from the dangers they are so ready to invoke upon others, to carry out their mad and wicked designs.”



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