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promote the interest of the society, where it exists, or the general interest and happiness of the human race. From these sources, arguments may be drawn to persuade the people to reform their general sentiments and to change their laws; but until that be done the private right of property, ought, as far as the law or custom extends, to be considered inviolable. Still there is an important distinction between this and other kinds of property. The right of the master in the slave is truly a mere civil and not a natural right.—The right of the owner in the common, or as we may say, natural subjects of property is a natural right and is every where respected and supported by the laws of nature as well as of society. The right of the master ceases the moment he passes with his slave into a country or state, where there is no law or custom to support it; or unless, as in the United States, there is some provision to protect his property in the slave accompanying him. So a slave escaping into such a state becomes free, unless a provision have been made, enabling the master to reclaim him. But if a slave owner remove with his slave into a state tó réside where there is no law to protect his right, it ceases at once, and the slave becomes ipso facto free;
because the laws of that state protect all men alike in their natural rights.
The passage, a part of which is quoted in the text, ought to be recited at large, that it may meet that execration which it deserves from every lover of mankind, every friend of morality and religion.
“ As to the right of slavery, I look upon it as a point completely settled, that: all right is founded upon power, and all obligation upon self interest. What right have we to sieze and castrate a horse or an ox, and condemn the one to perpetual slavery and the other to slaughter? The question about the abstract right of making slaves is a futile discussion.- If one being has the power of subjecting another to his dominion, service and control, and can do it with perfect impunity, why should he not? Let the answer to this question be given, and pursued to its ultimate term, and the dispute is at an end.' In fact, throughout all nature, this is the law. I have greatly changed my opinion on this, and many other subjects in consequence of thirty years' observation, and reflection. I do not treat it now as an abstract but a practical question."
And can this beso? Is all right resolved into power, and all moral obligation, into self interest ? Let us examine this question.—If one being has the power of subjecting another to his dominion, service, and control, and can do it with perfect impunity, why should he not? And he might have added, on his own principle-If self interest requires, he is under an obligation to do it. We will answer the question, why should he not? and pursue it to its ultimate term.
But first let it be premised, that the being having the power, and the being to be subjected, are both human beings.-For I have too much respect for the human race, of which I happen to be one, to place them in the same grade of being and of rights, with oxen and horses. I answer then,-Power merely, gives no right, because every man, as a moral being, is by the laws of social nature, under a moral obligation, not only to abstain from such acts as are immediately or in their general tendency, injurious to others, but to do that which tends to promote the interest and happiness of his fellow men, including himself, according to the relations in which he stands connected with them.
But says the author--All obligation is founded upon self interest -a man is under no obligation to abstain from any act by which his own present interest will, in his view, be promoted, however injurious to others, provided only that he can do it with perfect impunity. If he cannot do it with perfect impunity, it may injure instead of promoting his interest, and so be a violation of his obligation.
To this I answer-If by self interest the author means the isolated interest of the individual, it is not true, when asserted as the foundation of moral obligation. To say that a man_is, in any strict sense, under an obligation to himself, is absurd. If one person owes a duty or is under an obligation, on the one hand it must, necessarily, be to some person, on the other, who has a corresponding right-a right to demand the performance of that duty. I am here speaking of duties of perfect obligation, as sufficient for the present purpose. If the duty and the right, as sometimes happens, unite in the same person the duty merges and becomes extinct.—In a word, to say that all obligation is founded upon self interest, in this isolated sense, is to assert, that one man can be under no obligation to another.—But if by self interest the author means an expanded interest, which is co-extensive and identifies itself with all the social relation of which the individual makes a constituent part, it does indeed put an end to the dispute but by giving a full and decided negative to his conclusion.
“ The dispute about the abstract right of making slaves is a futile discussion.” But ihe dispute is not about a mere abstract, but, a practical right—the right of one man to reduce another to slavery. Let it always remain an abstract right never to be carried into practice, and the discussion will be as futile as the right.
“ In fact," concludes the author, “throughout the whole system of nature this is the law.”—that is,—" that all right is founded upon power"—that the stronger shall subject the weaker,--and is man then like the brutes, subject only to the law of instinct ? are the laws of morality and the benevolent
precepts of religion u mere imposition? What a triumphant defence of all the villains, public and private, that have ever infested society—of all the tyrants civil and ecclesiastical, who have existed from the days of Nimrod down to the present period of the holy alliance - I ask the author's pardonof all who have been able to exercise their villainies and their tyranny with perfect impunity.—Those who have not been able, I suppose the author will allow, to have been guilty of a miscalculation of their power; and that they might justly suffer the penalties due for such criminal miscalculation.
It will, I think, readily be perceived, that Mr. Cooper has fallen into this error from a misconception of the position, that utility is the foundation of all obligation, which is true only, if understood of general, and social utility, the general good, and which includes the good of each individual capable of obligation. But he has confined it to the isolated good of the individual actor; an error, to the very verge of which Mr. Paley has sometimes pushed his principles of moral philosophy.
This passage of the author wus intended as a defence of the slave holders in the United States; but surely those slave holders will feel themselves under little obligation to him for placing their defence upon a principle, that will equally justify their slaves, and make it a duty, if they think it can be done with impunity, that is, with success, to attempt their own emancipation by force,—and which will, in the same manner, justify each individual slave in the murder of his master.
They have a better—they have a just desence in their situation ; a situation derived to them from their ancestors, and in ducing which they had no participation ; a situation in which the law of self preservation, a law of necessity, forbids a general emancipation, that must inevitably prove the ruin both of the master and the emancipated slave, and reduce the country to something worse than a mere desert,—nor has it been found an easy—if a possible-thing to introduce any gradual emancipation, which shall prove safe and effectual.
Of the right of Opinion.
A private opinion, while confined to the breast of an individual, does not belong to the cognizance of human laws, or of human tribunals. It is a matter between the individual and his conscience, and is cognizable only by the Great Searcher of the human heart. It has never been claimed by any human tribunal, except that of the Romish Church. The Pope, the head of that Church, who claims to be God's Vicegerent on earth, claims also the right and power to search the human heart. Accordingly the Court of Inquisition, a tribunal erected by the authority of the Pope, have assumed, as a right which they exercise, an authority to compel, by the most excruciating tortures, any person suspected of secretly entertaining any opinion inserted in their catalogue of heresies, to confess that opinion, and recant the same, upon which, they sometimes dismiss him on penance; sometimes, as a favor, suffer him to perish in their prisons; or, if he obstinately refuse to recant, they condemn him to perish in the flames. But so gross is the absurdity of the claim, that in the present age, and with those for whom I write, to attempt a refutation, would be like an attempt to heighten the splendor of the meridian sun by the feeble light of a candle.
I shall, therefore, assume it as an incontrovertible positionas a first principle that the right of private opinion, which is, in fact, no other than the right of private judgment, upon any subject presented to the mind, is a sacred right, with which society can, on no pretence, authoritatively interfere, without a violation of the first principles of the law of nature. But when a man extends this right, and assumes the liberty of acting upon it, his actions become subject to human control, as they may be injurious to others, injurious to the community. The right of private opinion still remains sacred, while the right of acting upon it is, like all other rights, and for the same reasons, subject to be controlled by political and civil regulations. The right of merely propagating an opinion is a matter of great delicacy and can rarely be subject to civil restraint. The right of acting in this case, as here proposed to be discussed, presents a two-fold division agreeable to the subjects, on which it is exercised. First, religious liberty, or the liberty of a man to act agreeable to his religious opinions; and secondly, the liberty of political opinion. I might have introduced a third division,The right of moral opinion ; but this is nothing more than that natural liberty, of which sufficient has been said in former chapters.
It may appear to some, that little need be said on the subject of religious liberty ; but a moment's reflection will convince any one that no subject has occasioned more disputes in the world, or produced a greater variety of conflicting opinions, which have brought the most cruel calamities on mankind. Nor is there, it is believed, a nation in the old world, in which religious liberty is allowed in its full and just extent. Religious liberty has been denominated “Liberty of conscience," and “ The rights of conscience” always with a reference to the same subject.—It is properly defined to be, “The liberty which a man has of discussing and maintaining his religious opinions and of worshiping God in that way and manner, which he believes in his conscience to be most acceptable to his Maker, without being liable on that account to any degradation, penalties, or disqualifications, civil or political. Strictly just as this definition may appear to us in this land of liberty ; however consistent with the true spirit of religion and the best interests of mankind, civil and moral, there are nations calling themselves .christians, who would deem it a blasphemous heresy, and condemn to the stake any one who dare to maintain it. Many of them tolerate dissenters from the national Church, under various restrictions and disqualifications. Even in England, that boasted land of liberty, dissenters from the