|Welcome to the speech, On the Subject of the Iniquity of the Extension of Slavery (30 October 1856), by Rev. George B. Cheever, D.D. (1807-1890).
Prior to the 1861-1865 War, there were a number of Christian abolitionists who opposed slavery. Nowadays, their Biblical-based reasons are generally unknown.
This series of websites educates by making the text of their writings accessible. Whether or not you agree with their position, it is at least a good idea to know what it was!
This site in the series reprints the 30 October 1856 anti-slavery extension speech by Rev. George B. Cheever, D.D.
1856 was a Presidential election year, James Buchanan, pro-slavery, vs John Fremont, anti-slavery.
The South had caused a war of aggression against Mexico, to steal Texas and California for slavery, after Mexico for religious reasons, had banned slavery there. Now slavery was sought to be extended even more, into Kansas.
Conditions of war and violence existed in Kansas, as Southerners, slavers tried to force slavery into that territory. Southerners such as Jefferson Davis were determined, "We will be compelled to shoot, burn and hang." As verified by the U.S. House of Representatives' investigation, p 11, infra, Slavers committed voter fraud, and killed persons wanting honest elections. In one crucial election, among 2,905 eligible voters, 6,307 votes were cast, mostly pro-slavery!!
Cheever notes that instead of opposing the illegalities, the President was supporting them, pp 9 etc.
The printing custom of the time omitted a table of contents. One has been added for modern reader convenience.
Iniquity of the Extension of Slavery,
by George B. Cheever, D.D.
(Cincinnati: American Reform
Tract and Book Society, 1857)
BEFORE THE CITIZENS OF NEW YORK,
WE are grateful for the opportunity to address an assembly of our fellow-citizens in regard to the crime
of extending slavery, and especially on grounds of religious principle. We rejoice, bccause to that foundation the whole permanent opposition against slavery must come at last, and the sooner the better.
It is better, at whatever expense, to dig deep now, and lay our foundation on a rock, than with careless, costless labor for the present, to build upon the sand, and by-and-by, when the waves rise, and the storm
rages, see our structure dashed upon the billows [Matthew 7:24-27 allusion], and if we ourselves are spared, spared only for the confusion of digging over again, at a thousand-fold cost, our former work, to get below the sands, and in contact with primeval granite.
In the conflict against slavery, conscience and the
word of God are with us; yet we may not delude ourselves with the hope of an easy victory, since the battle is but begun; though with us it is half the victory to have a battle in earnest, and a battle on principle.
The enemies of freedom have always been afraid of that, afraid to look principle in the face, and have trembled whenever, casting their eye over the hosts marshaling on one side and the other, they have seen anywhere a brave flag floating to the breeze, with ETERNAL RIGHTEOUSNESS inscribed upon it, and the joyful rallying cry, In this we conquer! We have come at last to an issue upon principle, this
issue, slavery or freedom, the very issue which it has been the effort of the enemies of freedom to fight off; for any thing under heaven would be more acceptable to them than that; tariffs, naturalization laws, import or export taxes, foreign diplomacy, national quarrels, even a war with England, any thing, every tbing, they would rather battle about, and occupy the mind of the whole nation, than freedom and slavery, and the difference and choice between them.
But now it has come not only to the difference, but the choice. After fending off and parrying, this way and the other, to keep out this issue, to keep down even the
agitation of it, at length we are brought plump and full upon it, so that neither man, woman, nor child can mistake it. This, then, is the issue, an issue of eternal principle, and this is one point on which we desire to address you, namely, that righteousness is higher than policy, and must be the foundation of our policy, if we are ever to have rest [civil peace].
Righteousness must be the foundation of law, or law itself is but wickedness bolted, principled, consolidated, and worse than chaos. An arch of wicked principles, keyed with the key-stone of law, is something substantial, something reliable; it has a dreadful impregnability, durability, and power. It is order in wickedness, and wickedness in order. Every one of the materials of this wickedness, scattered in the wildest anarchy, and riding through the air in huge uproar, would be mindless and powerless for evil in the comparison.
Anarchy [i.e., not politicians' laws, only family rules and divine law] is a thousand times preferable to wicked law. Anarchy is the chaos described by [John] Milton [1608-1674], which, until it was bridged, only the devil dared attempt, or could cross; but when the materials were shoaled and surged into a solid consistency, and [politician] law and order [not divine law] reigned in solid arches, then there was a way, smooth, easy, inoffensive, down to hell.
The nations do not live by law, but righteousness. Not by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God doth man live. [Matthew 4:4; Luke 4:4.] Not law but righteousness, must be the rule; and if men pervert that, if rulers turn traitors to it; and undertake
to lead the people down to ruin by unrighteous [politician] law, or by perversion of righteous law into unrightoousness, then the people must revert to the original elements and covenant of power [the original grant], and take the thing into their own hands, as they did when they struck off the head of [British King] Charles the First, and as they did in California, when the fundamental law of the republic had been violated by those in power.
Now there has been a deliberate and monstrous treason of this kind transacted in our government [under President Pierce], not by a clique, not in a corner, not on a side issue, but in an endeavor to subvert the fundamental laws [Constitution] of the commonwealth [U.S.]; a treason, the greatest that can possibly be committed, because committed against the whole people, in a way in which the insanity of Nero's mad malignity is realized, in getting the neck of the people at one knot in the noose, and under foot; a treason that cuts the jugular vein, and lets out the life blood, and, if successful, would leave nothing but a trampled carcass, like the worn-out corpses of European despotisms.
It is the treason under the Constitution, of [the President] applying the power conferred by the Constitution, to enforce laws contrary to the Constitution, to sustain and enforce a legislative usurpation, a legislature whose members were constituted by violence and fraud [including election fraud], in transgression of the fundamental law [the Constitution] that underlies all our liberties, the law of republican representation by a free and pure election. It is a treason that only some one
co-ordinate branch of our own government could commit, for no private tndividual could accomplish it, nor could the government itself, or a party in the government, except by complicity and instrumentality of the executive [President Pierce] as its [slave power] tool.
Our national executive [President] is chargeable with this dreadful treason, applying the power of the United States army to sustain the strength and enforce the dictates of a Legislature demonstrated to have been fraudulently and violently imposed upon the people, more fraudulently and villainously than if by foreign conquest; a Legislature created by villainy, fraud, and armed assault at the ballot-box.
It was the duty of the executive [President], as the appointed guardian of the fundamental laws of the commonwealth, and provisions of the Constitution, to have thrown himself, with the whole power of the State [Federal Government], against that usurpation; to have resisted and crushed it at once, and brought the perpetrators of so huge a treason to punishment.
The seeming advocacy and protection of such a crime [election fruad], such a perversion and destruction of the fundamental provisions on which the whole frame of our liberties is grounded; even the seeming advocacy, for a moment, is a thing to be dreaded and deprecated, because of so fearful an example, because this is the last stage of iniquity, ordinarily, by which a nation's liberties perish, falling into the hands of the usurper; and a fearful thing it is for a nation, yet young in years, and fresh in prin-
ciple and power, to look such a crime in the face, to endure the beginning of it, the shadow of it, or to be possibly quiet [passive] in the contemplation of it.
But instead of resisting these traitors, our national executive [President] has taken thoir part. He shields them with the whole weight of his patronage, prerogative, and authority. He adopts and sanctions [supports] the usurpation, and adds to its bitterness as territorial, the crushing force of the nation, binding it down upon the people. Instead of guarding the people by the Constitution, he has aided in trampling the people under the Constitution.
Instead of redressing their wrongs, he [the President] has even taken from them the means of defending themselves, and denounces, not the oppression as treason, but the defense against it. The Constitution gives him the power of the army at his disposal in certain cases, and he has taken that power to enforce submission to a usurpation, not while it was a question, or might have been, whether it were a usurpation or not, but after every step of it had been solemnly investigated by the [U.S.] House of Representatives, and the whole transaction pronounced by them to be a stupendous violence and fraud.
It adds a severity and atrocity to this treason, unparalleled, that the known and avowed purpose of it was the establishment of slavery in a Territory free from slave-law, and under the government of the United States, which government is constitutionally appointed and established for the establishment and
protection of freedom, and the securing of a free republican government as guarantied by the Constitution, which gives the government of the United States no authority to establish slavery, and does not permit the army of the United States to be employed for that purpose.
Will there be no impeachment for such [Presidential] treason, no punishment of it?
THE PEOPLE [of the U.S.] would have a right, in dealing with their executive [President] for such treason, to lay aside the common [normal] forms of law, as was done [under Cromwell] in the trial of Charles I. ; and such [alleged] treason [prosecution of illegal acts by a King or President] is never outlawed [not wrongful]; and therefore whenever they [the U.S. people] are ready to do it [prosecute President Franklin Pierce], though it should be years hence [as with Charles I., 24 years after his term began], they have the right; they may justly call the great delinquent [Franklin Pierce] to account, and punish such extraordinary crime in a suitable manner, without the express sanction of the Constitution or of statute-law.
But a people that will endure this [voting fraud], submissively, tamely, and not only allow the conspirators and the executive [President] in so mighty a fraud and villainy to go at large unimpeached, but will vote to sustain it, by voting for a POLITICAL PLATFORM, that not only recognizes its object, but builds it in as the central plank, and by refusing to vote for A MAN [Republican 1856 Presidential Nominee John Fremont] pledged to put a stop to this monstrous oppression, pledged against the extension of slavery; such a people certainly show that they deserve to be inslaved, that they are not worthy to keep the freedom God has bestowed upon them, that they are not capable of keeping it.
We [1856 Americans] sneer at the populace of France [only recently out of monarchy] and
Italy [still then under monarchy], as being not prepared for freedom [self-rule vs having a monarch]; but a people who will submit to such usurpation and despotism as this, for the sake of enslaving others, are themselves fit only to be slaves.
Neither France nor Italy have ever yet endured a usurpation, or voted for it, whose object was to make slaves of others, or to secure to three hundred thousand out of twenty millions the monopoly of governing the whole, by slave-extension and slave-law. The shame of such a vote, if such be the choice of our people (which may God in his mercy forbid), will be our shame, original and alone; sole and sovereign in it, over [worse than] all the nations of the earth.
It is these two enormous features in this iniquity of the extension of slavery, as now proposed and contemplated [under President Pierce], and in the measures by which its enforcement has been provided for, and by which it is to be carried out and sustained, these two, namely,
whereas it is demonstrated and forbidden in the word of God as a national iniquity and destruction; it is these two things, standing out in this proposed policy [by the Slave Power], as manifest as the Andes on our conti-
lient, as unmistakable as [Mount] Etna in volcanic blast, that put the conscience of every Christian man, every upright man, every man that fears [respects, obeys] God, and therefore fears nothing but sin against him, in angry and intense conflict against this policy.
And as the Christian conscience, the conscience of the whole community enlightened by the word of God, naturally seeks, and justly ought to find, an expression, an explosion, in the utterance of a faithful, fearless, and not a time-serving ministry, and as the word of God ought to have its batteries unmasked, and its shotted guns thundering agamst this wickedness, because, not only by the general law of righteousness ["love thy neighbor"] it is condemned, but God's word signs and seals it by name with his curse, and orders his ministers to speak out against it; therefore, unless the pulpit and the ministry also turn traitors to the Almighty as well as to mankind, they must speak, and at all hazards theywill speak, and no power on earth or in hell can prevent it, because God will have it [so].
He [God] never gave his word on this subject in vain, or to be sealed up in a Jesuitical silence, letting men go down to hell in politic, orthodox reserve and prudence, but though its proclamation were as revolutionary as one of the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, he would have it poured out. For when a nation undertakes to stop the mouth of God's word, and to say to the seers, See not, and to the Holy One of Israel, Cease from before us [Isaiah 30:10-11], this is such defiance of God, that
there can be no compromise with it, no endurance of it.
Furthermore, a rightly constituted ministry, in connection with God's word and spirit, and with the church and people, are as the discbarging-rod at the focus of a galvanic battery, or a compound blow-pipe: they must let off the fire, the intensity, the burning shock; and it is not theirs alone, but the gathered, accumulating, and concentrated fire of conscience and conviction in the the whole community, that thus finds vent; and if, for fear of consequences, or through fear of man, they will not give it vent, or for a season hesitate, then, if they be the true prophets, it will be in them as a fire in their own bones, and they will be more weary with forbearing, than afraid of speaking; but if they are false prophets, the fire that they refuse to utter for God, will, at lengtb, however smoothly it may go with them for a season, consume them in behalf of God's justice.
There is no apology for silence. The iniquity of slavery is palpably, undeniably demonstrated in God's word, both by statutes and by precedents in its execution. Now these two things, every lawyer knows, coming together, and having the sanctity of age and repeated investigation and reiteration, constitute the strongest of all demonstrations. If a lawyer can refer back to cases in such and such reigns, where a statute, even if now disputed, has been illustrated by a great decision, on which the eye of the whole
people, and perhaps the gaze of other nations, was fixed, it is a great thing. It would take an almost insupposable amount of depravity and power to defy and reverse such a decision, supposing it to be just. There are some things as glaring as the sun, and no more to be denied than the shining of the sun at noonday.
And such are the decisions of God's law, and the precedents of his judgments in regard to slavery. Their light has been shining for ages, and it is a light diffused through all history, and enshrined and burning in separate urns, in so awful a manner, that a man must be an idiot or a madman who undertakes to deny it.
We have all the statutes in regard to domestic service, and all the definitions of oppression, and all the statutes against it; and then we have them illustrated in precedents, age after age, and at length in one grand and mighty indictment, and trial, and sentence, with the penalty announced and executed, in a tragedy of crime and wrath, so sublime and awful, that until the crucifixion, there was nothing on earth to compare with it.
For our determination of this question, Divine Providence has brought us to a point in the world's history, vhere all conceivable lines of argument and demonstration converge, from experience, from the fate of empires, from every array and variety of statistics, civil, political, economical, social, moral, religions; from the word and the providence of God; from our own experimental knowledge, forcing us on,
generation after generation, year after year, to more irresistible conviction. There is no subject in the world on which there is clearer light, or more impregnable argument, or a mightier body of it; and in six distinct branches of the investigation, I have already condensed the particulars, in a manner which on the present occasion it is impossible to survey.
The nature of the law of love, and of the divine ordinance of marriage would be enough to consider; for we have, in the crime of slavery, the violation at once of the first comprehensive moral law of Jehovah, binding us to one another and to himself, and of the particular central, guiding, and beautifying law of human society; both these forms of divine statute for our good, the act, precept, and habit of slavery, do utterly break up and destroy.
Then there is the nature of the parental relation, the sacredness of which is so ruthlessly violated, so annihilated, in making every new-born child the property of the maater and owner of the parents, thus exasperating the boundless avarice of the slaveholder and trader, aud exciting the eagerness, and increasing the demand of accumulating slave-power, by opening a perpetual channel of this wickedness in the breeding of slaves for traffic and gain, whose abominations are too gross and horrible even to be hinted at.
The lamented Professor B. B. Edwards, of Andover, once said, in a public sermon, tbat it would be like shaving off five feet of earth from a
vaat and festering grave-yard, if we should attempt to unvail those unspeakable moral enormities and horrors.
To think [as slavers do] of the possibility of a crime, and a system of crime, so horribly ingenious, and so ingeniously horrible, as to take these two divinely constituted forms of statute, personal authority, and domestic institutions, established for the purity and happiness of human society, and for its propagation and perpetuity in the same happiness, and to prostitute them into comprehensive commercial agencies of cruelty and depravity, obedient chartered commissioners of fraud and lust for the increase of property in hnman flesh, the very affections and passions of the human heart even in the inslaved being tortured into the diabolical service of inhumanity and avarice against themselves [and libels God's Word]!
The Scripture statutes in regard to service, and for the protection of personal freedom, are among the most remarkable things in the Old Testament; the judgments of God for their violation are among the most remarkable things of all Time, and their voice is of Justice to Eternity.
The characteristics of Hebrew law in behalf of servants, the jealous care with which the possibility of slavery is excluded, the combination of freedom, benevolence, generosity, and guardian-kindness, are sufficient, in a world of such raging depravity and despotism as shut in [regulated] the Hebrew people when these statutes were made, to prove them of divine inspiration. And perhaps the most
impious perversion and libel in all ages ever uttered against God's truth is that of sanctioning or licensing the iniquity of human slavery.
There never was such a thing as slavery among the Hebrews, nor ever any such thing as slave-legislation; they had no word in the language to signify a slave, nor did God ever permit any such word to be brought in; the heaven-taught dialect refused to entertain it. The word always and from the outset employed for servant is from the very word used to describe the occupation of our father Adam in tilling the ground; and labor was never disgraceful, but always honorable, among the Hebrews.
When they [the Hebrews] were about to be settled as a nation in Palestine, surrounded by heathen nations, that had among them the abominations of slavery, as of every other wickedness, in full blast, then, in preparation for such a settlement, and to guard against the temptation and the possibility of the introduction of slavery from [heathens] abroad, it became necessary to prepare that body of jurisprudence, by which, in every respect, their policy was to be determined in regard to this fundamental matter in human society.
And when it [the Bible legal system] was perfected [issued at Mt. Sinai, Exodus 20-23]; it was not, and is not now, as many seem to imagine, legislation for the regulation or neutralisation of slavory, as if any form of slavery had existed, or was permitted in their social system, but legislation absolutely and entirely against it, legislation in abhorrence of it, legislation condemning
and forbidding it under penalty of death. From the first grand statute,
down to the minutest specifications [details] of oppression, and the forms of imprecation against it, such as,
these laws are a blaze of light against this mighty [huge] sin.
And the fugitive-servant law in these [Bible Society Management] statutes is to be marked as in itself a shaft of lightning in reprobation of the same iniquity, and in protection of the poor oppressed servant against it; and it stands in such glaring contrast and condemnation against our own [fugitive-slave] law, that if a committee of politicians had been set to contrive a statute in the most direct and shameless opposition to that in which God's judgment is thus recorded, they could hardly have adopted any more efficient [blatant anti-Bible] terms [wording]. God's statute is this:
Nothing could be more absolute than the denial, by such a statute, of the possibility of property in man. And in illustration of this statute, as of all the rest, there breaks out such incidental light in the history,
that the study and comparison are interesting, convincing, and satisfactory to the last degree.
The encounter between David and Nabal [1 Samuel 25] throws a flood of light on this matter. “Who in the world is David?” said this surly, irritated prince of sheep-shearers, when David begged some sustenance for his followers: “there be many servants [employees], nowadays, that break away every man from his master [employer].” The manner of the complaint proves the anger of Nabal to think that such a tbing could be, and the servants get off with impunity. But no hint is given of any man undertaking, with marshals or otherwise, to recapture them, nor of any such thing as a [slave-catcher] posse comitatus
at the disposal of the master for this purpose, much less any advertisement of keen-scented blood-hounds trained to hunt them. Had there been such a thing as a fugitive-slave law against the servant, instead of one for his protection, Nabal's language would rather have been that of threatening than complaint.
But [instead] Nabal's language is that of a son of Belial, who is furious because there is no help for such insubordination against tyranny.
If we had [instead] heard him excusing himself for not supplying the wants of David's company, by telling him that he had lost so much of his valuable slave-property that he no longer could afford to be generous; [or] if we had heard him saying,
I say, if we had heard such a [plaintive] dialogue as that, it would have been much more in keeping with the [moral] state of a country
where the laws recognized the right of property in man. If Nabal had lived on the banks of the Ohio south side, we should certainly have had him complaining to David of the ease with which his slaves could run away from him, by just crossing the river.
Now, I say, these [above-cited Bible] statutes, so righteous in themselves, and expressed with such unmistakable explicitness [detail] and boldness, and illustrated so curiously and clearly in the course of the history, possess the still grander illustration of having great [societal] criminal trials decided according to them.
They [e.g., the divine actions to eliminate Ancient Judah] have the seal of God's own after-interpretation [of his above-cited statutes], in his tremendous judgments against the whole land for their violation. Nothing could be more complete and perfect than the chain of proo£.
Then [six centuries later], in the New Testament, you are to remember that the whole nation, and all persons, both Gentiles and Jews, to whom the word of God came, stood in the full blaze of all this light [Bible laws and national penalty for defiance] in the Old Testament [still valid] on this very subject, and therefore did not need to be taught anew the iniquity of slavery. Christian masters, when commanded to give unto their servants that which is just and oqual, had no authority whatever in regard to what was just and equal, but this same Old Testament, by which they found and knew that property in man was an impossible thing, except as villainy and crime, and that to take the children of their servants, and claim them as their property, for whom they had never paid one farthing to any crea-
ture, was to commit the crime of man-stealing, punishable, according to God's law [e.g., Exodus 21:16, Deuteronomy 24:7, 1 Cor. vi. 10], by death.
They [New Testament Christians] found that everywhere, no matter in what latitude, under what sky, the holders, claimants, and traders of men as property were men-stealers [due to continuing applicability of the Bible Society Management Laws], and that the essence of the crime runs on undiminished, from generation to generation, and not only undiminished, but increasing as it runs, so that an accepted inheritance of slaves, with the claim [allegation] of their being property asserted, is the inheritance and proprietorship of guilt, and a curse from the Almighty.
What need of one additional [reptitious, duplicative, redundant] word in the New Testament, when the Old was so full of unmistakable demonstration?
But then in the New, also, a flood of light breaks forth incidentally in the Epistle to Philemon. Paul had received Onesimus, a runaway slave, and instructed him in the gospel, and he was converted; a proof, by the way, that not the thrusting of men into slavery, but their running away from it, is the missionary institute, and the means of religion; as good a proof, at least, as any to be brought of God's appointment of slavery as the converting ordinance for Africa.
Paul tells Philemon plainly, that he would have retained Onesimus [Philemon 13], that is, freely, conscientiously, without the least scruple. Whom I would have retained; could have done it, and would have done it, because these divine and generous old Hebrew statutes were [applicable] right before his eye, and this glorious old fugitive-slave law [Deut. 23:15], commanding him NOT
to return unto his master the servant that had fled from his master unto him; and because, according to those statutes, Philemon had no more right of property in Onesimus than he had in the sun, moon, and stars, but the poor trembling fugitive belonged only to God and to himself, and Paul was bound to take care of him.
But, suppose Onesimus to have been Philemon's property; what then? Why, Paul the apostle might as well have retained a bundle of bank bills, or a cask of Spanish dollars, belonging to Philemon. And Paul must have said, Whom I would not have retained on any consideration whatever, and never thought of doing such a thing, but have advertised [advised, notified] you, brother Philemon, that you might prove your property, pay its charges, and take it away.
But Paul says, Whom I would have retained.
What? Paul the apostle, who was of such proud, incorruptible, and almost superfluous honesty, that he would not even receive a farthing for his preaching, but at this very time had his hands roughened and chapped with the toil of tent-making for his daily bread, and for payment of the rental of his own hired house, which he gave to the congregation for a meeting-house; Paul, who had written,
Paul, this apostle Paul, [would he] put his hand, as it were, into Philemon's pocket, and steal from him at least a thousand dollars; [would Paul] detain [steal] from him [Philemon] the most sacred thing in the shape of property on his plantation? Even the intention [coveting] was a burglary [sin].
But Paul really says, Whom I would have retained [Phil. 13], and would not have sent back at any rate, except only as a freeman, not now a servant, no longer a slave, nor to be treated as one, but a brother beloved [Phil. 16], who he was sure would be at once dispatched back to Paul himself, by Philemon, that he might minister to him in the gospel.
And Philemon being a Christian, Paul would not even seem to suspect him of such an atrocity as that of claiming property in an immortal being, and a child of God. If he had had the least suspicion of Philemon having such a kind of [vile, atheistic] Christian conscience, as would permit him to hold property in man [worse than a child molester], you would never have seen Paul intrusting one of his OWN converted children to such a man's tender [sarcastic, meaning depraved] mercies.
Now these things being so, and God's judgment against slavery standing out so prominently in both dispensations, Old and New, shall any man dare to conceal or withhold these utterances? Ought not the pulpits of our country to break forth in denunciation of this crime [slavery], if the people are seen plunging into it? Would you not expect a universal, spontaneous explosion, a line of batteries kindled into incessant, living fire against such wickedness?
Will politicians undertake to bring before the people the view of this wickedness in the word of God? A political speech made out of such materials, proof-texts from the prophets and the
books of Kings, would expose the speaker to a strait-jacket and a lunatic asylum. Will those do it [teach slavery sinfulness], who say that religion indeed is a good thing in the abstract, but in politics it only makes men mad?
Who will do it [teach the sinfulness of slavery], if the ministers of God's word will not?
And does not God distinctly say that the people should seek, and have a right to expect, the divine law at their [clergy] mouths? [Malachi 2:7]
Do the people desire such daubing [clergy concealment of moral truths]? Degraded indeed must their tastes be, as well their moral sensibilities, if they do.
We have a vulgar expression that answers precisely to the rude language of the prophet, and describes, in the modern pulpit, what made the prophet [Ezekiel] disgusted and angry with the old [clergy]; it is soft soap [blarney, flattery], and the application of it is exactly this daubing with untempored mortar, instead of calling things by their right names.
Suppose a man, anxious to avoid political offense, yet unwilling to finish the long prayer without some reference, in some way, to the iniquity of the times, should carefully arrange his language thus:
the word oppression too bold, and quite inexpedient, lest it rouse up a political exasperation in the minds of the hearers; would not such carefulness be deemed contemptible, or can it consist with power, or can the thunders of God's word possibly make any escape, any development under it [will God's point be made by such vague wording]?
No, my friends; and if you ever expect a clear sky, a firmament in which God's stars may shine brightly and peacefully down to bless you, if you ever hope for stars without stripes, then must the thunder have room to roar and reverberate, and the lightning must have free play; and if it seem to be a storm, it is only to give you a clear atmosphere, pnrified of its noxious elements, and an unclouded heaven above you to pour down light.
Here, then, we stand, and this is our vindication against the miserable cant, that like damaged fireworks, unfit for any noble pnrpose, sputters and snivels in some political and semi-religious newspapers against the turning of the light of God's word upon the nation's sins.
But no vindication whatever is needed if men will but turn to the word of God itself, and for a moment confront the glaring blaze of argument and wrath against the wickedness of slavery. No man can put himself under that light, and any longer dream of innocently and safely evading the responsibility of utterance.
tive vengeance, standing out so plainly forbidden in his law, and comprehending not only the iniquity of personal oppression, but the huge, entangling, daring guilt, wholesale, national, of UNRIGHTEOUS LAW, fabricated for the mischief, and enforced by [politician] government; and the immediate action of God in regard to it being concentrated and bodied forth in a nation's ruin [Ancient Judah's abolition], that nation standing now in the sight of the universe, not only on the record in God's word, but trenched and scarred with God's thunder, a wandering [nationless Jews] omnipresent form, blasted and blackened [oft persecuted], before the conscience of the world, as a terror and a warning [of the penalty of committing persecution, slavery], there is no excuse either for ignorance or inattention.
The demonstration [permanent national penalty] has a voice like the sound of many waters. Predictions and fulfillments call to each other across a thousand years.
Can any thing be plainer than this? What then shall we say as to the application of the precedent, and the light [insight] that comes down from it, upon our own sin, danger, and duty, when the iniquity specified, as the form of covenant-breaking not to be forgiven, is revealed as precisely the same with that which it is now proposed to enthrone as the presiding genius [law] of the United States government!
A thousand years after these awful [solemn] predictions [circa 1440's B.C.E.], at the very point of their fulfillment [circa 597 B.C.E.], we find the Almighty himself referring back to that same covenant, and pouring out his unrestrained wrath for the last culminating violation of it, in the attempted establishment of SLAVERY!
Is there no light [information] here, nothing that stands in our way, nothing that constitutes an absolute authority, not to be questioned for a moment, and
a determination for us as plain as if God Almighty spake this very day from heaven?
Nay, these prodigies of corporate [society-wide] crime and its punishment, being so palpable, so that, wherever a roused conscience gazes, if in waking thoughts of national guilt and retribution, or in thoughts from the visions of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men, the spirit of a dead nation passes before the face, and fear and trembling enter into the soul because of it, and in stillness, in silence, the voice of God is heard; these things being so, and the nations so solemnly warned, that an archangel floating across the firmament with a drawn sword in his hand could not be a more awful sign; the people, the country, the government, that shall new, under [despite] such demonstrations [warnings, penalties], take up this crime, repeat this iniquity, enshrine it as a sacred thing, set up this Dagon, this Baal, this Moloch, and weave its worship into law and policy, stand in a more defiant and impious attitude toward the Almighty, than any nation that ever existed on the face of the earth.
And if this iniquity is sustained by tho voice [votes] of the people, the nation [U.S.A.] is seen uprising [rebelling] in the sight of the nations, and proclaiming, O thou Sovereign of the Universe, depart from us, for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways! Well do we know that this iniquity is forbidden in thy word, and visited with thy vengeance, but as for us, we will practice it [do it anyway]!
If God and his word be thus defied, it were [would be] absurd
to suppose that either the letter or the spirit of the freest Constitution upon earth will be in the least regarded.
While this evil [slavery] was growing [smalling, beginning in Virginia with not more than twenty slaves], and in its [pre-cotton gin] days of struggle, the Constitution was brought in [adopted, written, ratified] as a powerful locomotive to drag the heavy lumbering train up the inclined plain it had to encounter; but the moment it reached the summit, and began its descent on the other side, then the whole order of things was reversed, and now the train drives the locomotive, slavery drives the Constitution headlong, and if it stops, will go over it. The brakes are taken off, all regard to consequences cast aside, and we are rushing downward with a speed that begins to be measured by plunges, and rival despotic gambols, from one administration to another.
Will nothing rouse us up? Will nothing rally us, to throw ourselves upon God's righteousness, and make our last impregnable stand there?
There is a time, beyond which, if we pay no regard to principle, if we will not be moved by the most sacred obligations of truth and religion, we shall be roused by the demonstration that all is lost, by the shipwreck of our own interests, by the sword cutting through our own vitals, but roused too late.
There must be something of [moral] principle, or when there is nothing but interest, God himself will desert us forever.
The aggressions and iniquities, by which the fundamental principles and safeguards of our own Constitution, as well as the truths of the word of God, are scouted [ridiculed] and beaten down, call for resistance now, tenfold more strongly than ever any thing of wrong or wickedness our  revolutionary fathers had to endure.
And the determination on the part of the slave-power is resolute, never to cease advancing, till, from being the creature of mere local and municipal statutes [Southern politician-passed laws], expatriated and branded [as evil] in the free States, slavery shall
be nationalized, shall have the whole catholicity of freedom [crushing it everywhere], protected by national and international law, empowered for transit [the slave trade and slave-catching], and free to reside in [expand into] Pennsylvania, in Maine, in all New England, as now in Alabama, in South Carolina, in Virginia; and then indeed shall the roll-call of slaves be sounded at the foot of [the national freedom symbol the] Bunker Hill Monument, and the whole army force of the United States will be on hand, if necessary, to preserve the muster [Slave-Power gloating] from disturbance.
But will there be peace? Will the perfecting of this despotism give us quiet?
Ah, there is a force, that neither we, nor the roll-callers of their property in human flesh, have calculated, or ever can calculate. There is the word of God, breaking in clearer and dearer light, the clouds of misinterpretation dispersed, the perverse sophistry that has distorted these glorious scriptures abandoned, and the intense blaze of God's attributes against oppression acknowledged.
Then there is the might [power] of conscience, struggling the more violently the more it is insulted and oppressed; a pent-up force, that will break out [succeed in some future election], and then, meeting a savage opposition [from psycho slavers], will kindle the whole country into flames.
This land will be the scene of sufferings such as no nation under heaven ever passed through since the Jews perished from their inheritance, if the people make choice of slavery as the presiding genius [law] of their policy. In garments rolled in blood comes on the day of decision, if that be the election of the people [in the 1856 Pesidential Election, Buchanan vs Fremont].
The injustice and cruelty, which, with such thoughtless selfishness you [voters] have dealt out to a helpless race, and which you determine to make the ruling policy of new empires [as slavery expands forever], and of millions on millions in generations to come, foredoomed by your determination [votes], will be a treasure of wrath to yourselves and your children.
Swiftly is the harvest gathered in these latter years, and rapidly the causes of retribution do their work.
Hardly three hundred years have elapsed since Spain was the very first and proudest among the nations; and Spain set the first [bad] example of enslaving Africans in this hemisphere, and in her colonial possessions never has abandoned this guilt; and to what a gulf of degradation has she descended, and through what misery groped!
But if retribution be measured by the light [Bible laws teaching] sinned against, tben the cup of wrath which we must drink, if, instead of repenting of our sin and shame, we glory in it, will be more dreadful than God ever put to the lips of any other people.
We had fondly hoped that God had chosen us, as a people, to perform a great work of freedom and benevolence on the earth, and by the spread of the gospel to break every yoke, and give liberty to the oppressed all over the world.
But instead of God's priesthood to a world, to raise up the foundations of many generations, we propose to become the slave-owners, slave-breeders, and slave-traders of mankind,
and this to be our Christianizing mission!
Did the heavens or the earth ever witness such madness! What is to prevent (Bishop Butler once asked), what is to prevent a whole nation from becoming mad, as well as individuals, except God keep them? Was there any anomaly or enormity in the French Revolution more astounding than this?
To behold such a people [America, "Bible-Belt"), madly renouncing this pomp and prodigality of God's grace, and, in the sight of those nations of the Old World, that are struggling
for the bare life of liberty and gazing toward us with interest, anxiety of desire, and hope, contradicting and repelling the very first elements of liberty, and in defiance of God, and in scorn of the whole world's prayers, denying the principles on which all our greatness thus far, and the possibility of its continuance, and of the world's freedom and happiness, are founded, and applying the whole force of government, and the will and sovereignty of the people, to the ESTABLISHMENT OF SLAVERY as the missionary method of Christianity, and most perfect form of social and civil existence in the world!
And, indeed, how is it possible that the nation should not start [react, jerk, jump] back in horror and affright from the gulf of such iniquity and ruin?
As often as I think of this subject in this light, there rises before my mind the sublime and glowing picture of our future destiny as a nation, if happily we be found obedient to God, drawn by the venerated and now sainted Secretary of the American Board, Jeremiah Evarts [1781-1831], the last gift of his devout spirit to his loved country. I remember his computation of the future teeming millions of the West, and of the
amazing responsibility of those who now decide the nature of their institutions, and the molding of their character. Would to God that such an appeal could come, now, this very moment, to the heart and conscience of every elector [voter].
Look earnestly, steadily, at what is depending [on the election process]. The Territories over which you now deliberate for extending slavery, or excluding it from them, will have, in the progress of two or three generations, more than a hundred millions of inhabitants. Think what it is to set slavery there, to fasten this cancer at the heart of a hundred millions, to inoculate their domestic and civil institutions with this plague!
If only what it has been at the South, are you ready to fasten even such a measure of blasting and of misery, where otherwise there might be such unbounded prosperity and happiness? Little more than two centuries have passed since slavery was planted among us , and to-day enough land has been worn out by it to make ten States as large as Massachusetts. Will you fasten that process on these fair and virgin Territories?
But what is that [compared] to the doctrines that accompany it [slavery], and the corruption of morals, and the perversion of truth, and the reign of terror, and the repression of freedom of opinion and of speech, and the despotism of an oligarchy of the worst principles on which ever yet any oligarchy under heaven was grounded, the principles of property in human flesh. An oligarchy of commerce, of landed property, of political power by rank or title,
any thing the world ever saw, is more endurable, is less odious, concentrates less of cruelty, immorality and injustice.
And by what hallucination can any man avoid seeing and knowing that this is the cancer and the plague which it is proposed to fasten on the vitals of our new and growing empire? Have not all these miseries and evils been realized, and are they not all increasing, where slavery has been tried, and is now the ruling policy?
And by what process of self-deception, or false reasoning, or imagination, can any man suppose that these same results will not follow and be perpetual, if by law we extend this iniquity of slavery over the vast domain [the U.S. West] in regard to which we are now called to determine the policy?
Are there any new causes to come in hereafter, to prevent, subdue, or neutralize it? Has not every thing been tried—divine truth, economical demonstration, the remonstrance of the world, the religious conscience, the array of inevitable consequences?
Will God interpose? Does He not say that, in a plain case like this, where he has been warning, and commanding, and intreating, and forbidding, for centuries, rising up early, and sending anew his prophets, and making the demonstrations in his word every day more cogent, he will laugh at your calamity, and mock when your fear cometh? [Proverbs 1:26.]
the despotic oligarchy, for whose sake, through the entanglement [falsely-supposed similarity] of your property-interests with theirs, and the debasement of your moral principles by theirs, you are willing to hazard such experience for a new generation—is not that class, whose selfish continuance in power depends on the continuance of that very immorality and misery, increasing along with it?
And are not the prices of slaves, and the temptation to slave-breeding and trading, increasing at the same time, along with the [Southerners' immoral] conviction of the necessity of still extending this [slave] power [into the West and beyond], in order to save it [slavery]?
Where is the element, either of conscience, or opposing act, or resistance, to come in, with any more hope of success, fifty years hence, than now? What imagined potency have you in reserve, what wand or talisman that you can wave, and think that, among a hundred millions of men under the dominion of this iniquity, you can subdue it, or turn it back, if now, with all your light, and conviction, and means, you are unwilling or unable to stop the awful experiment?
What form of exorcism do you mean to rely upon, to put down the devils you will have called up, a thousand then, to a hundred now? There never was such madness.
And if any among us as a people go into it without reflection, without thoroughly considering what it is we are doing, then, such infamous and cruel carelessness, such selfish gambling with the interests of future and present millions, thrown upon
our responsibility for guardianship, only makes the crime ten thousand times worse.
Then, too, we have had at our command already the greatest forces of resistance and defense for freedom that we ever can have. Our Declaration of Independence, hitherto the hugest colossal maul [hammer], under God's word, that the angel of freedom himself could swing againat the thrones of tyranny, and beat upon the heads of the ferocious and cunning despots of humanity is [disrespectfully treated as] no better than a feather dipped in olive-oil.
You have already traitors among yourselves to belie its principles, and scout [ridicule] and scorn its noble truths and sentiments as idle vaporings and abstractions [see p 36, supra].
The very scaling-Iadders [moral principles], by which you had risen to the conquest of [made] a citadel of freedom [the U.S.] for the world, the enemies of that freedom, running up by means of them [those same moral principles] under the guise of friends, and conquering the garrison [politicians change from 1776 pro-freedom to 1850's pro-slavery views] in their turn, have flung backward on the groaning and terrified multitudes crushed by them.
They [slavers] take your very doctrines of popular sovereignty [majority rule], and convert them into a netvork of usurpation and of tyranny, more subtle, more knotted, more implacable, and in league with the power put at their command, constituting a despotism more hopeless, because the vaunted principles of your democracy [freedom and voting] have been perverted into its [tyranny's] support, than all the Nimrods, or Napoleons, or even houses of Hapsburg [emperors] in Austrian sublimity of oppression, ever invented.
to enforce laws, which they themselves have declared to be infamous, barbarous, unconstitutional, and fit only to be broken; ready to enforce them, under the pretense that they are laws, unrepealed.
And your executive [in four months, James Buchanan] will still be ready, sustained by the Senate, and with the United States army put at his control, and the power of selecting and commissioning his own creatures [civil servants] to do his bidding, to enforce obedience to a pretended Territorial Legislature, constituted by open violence and fraud, and demonstrated by the House of Representatives [p 11, supra] to be a monstrous usurpation, branded as such by them in their official govemmental capacity. Your executive will be ready to compel obedience to that usurpation, because elected on that very assurance, and [falsely] asserting that [corruptly installed] Legislature to be the existing [Kansas] government, and because the people [of Kansas] on whom it is enforced are forcibly prevented [by the U.S. Army] from expressing their rejection of it.
And under the protection of the executive the tools and agents of this slave-tyranny, the framers of this usurping Legislature and its laws, will still insert and maintain, in the very body and heart of them, provisions of law rendering their repeal impossible, except on pain and penalty of treason, making it a crime against the State, either to express opinions against this tyranny, or to hold conventions of the people to deliberate upon it, and by constitutional and peaceful means repudiate and throw it off.
Never, in the history of mankind, was any en-
croachment on men's liberties, or any form of usurpation, under the sanction [approval] of a boasted free government, so clinched, and clamped, and guarded. It is a prison, with the doors barred and locked, and the keys inside. It is a combination-lock of tyranny, on the despot's safe, with the Constitution itself shut up in it, from the people, not for them; and the boldest pick-locks can not draw the bolts, because the whole construction bristles with United States bayonets, defending it, and it is treason even to attempt the rescue.
And when you say that popular sovereignty [majority rule] is as good and just for freemen as for slaveholders, and that under it you will yourselves enter this contested land [Kansas], and settle, with your [anti-slavery] principles, the expression of your principles is treason, even if you get there; but you can not get there; the slave-owners may go there, and carry and work their slaves, but you can not go there and work your principles; their slaves are [treated by the federal government as] a property more sacred and inviolable under these accursed laws, than your [pro-freedom moral] principles; their slave-properties are the principles of the whole usurpation [and the purpose of the election fraud done by the South and its "Border Ruffians"], and they mean to make them the principles of the nation, with universal right of transit [unlimited expansion].
But your [pro-freedom moral] principles are a contraband [banned] article, and there is no free highway or river in this vaunted country of the free, on which you will be permitted to sail or to travel, if freedom be your known purpose, and if, in obedience to the [Second Amendment] article in your own Constitution, you maintain the freeman's
guarantied and inseparable right of personal liberty—the [Second Amendment] right to bear arms.
Without [due] process of law, by the agent [civil service or military] of your own executive [President, Attonrey General, Army, police, etc.], your weapons shall be taken from you, and you shall be put under arrest.
The United States Army itself, in this case, is only not a band of Border Ruffians [Southern vote-fraud committers under outgoing President Pierce], because it has got into the heart of the country, and is become a band of settled, legalized, commissioned ruffians [accessories aiding and abetting the vote fraud committers], under the great seal of the usurpers at Washington.
Was there ever a usurpation of this kind that turned backward, or revolutionized itself in the moment of complete success, or when the voice of a corrupted, besotted, mad people, accepted it, and sanctified it?
In the nature of things, in the nature of despotism, above all, a slave-despotism, there can be no pause, nor faltering, and there will be none. If the people of the United States say, by their popular vote, that they will have
slavery (already thus thrust upon their bleeding Territories) nationalized, be sure that they will have it, with a vengeance. There will be no more let or hinderance to its power.
And our Constitution, as well as our Declaration of Independence, will have lost its sacred protecting influence. We might have appealed to that in season [in a timely manner]; but if, under it, we admit that our government has the right to establish and enforce slavery in the Territories, belonging to us, we cut ourselves off forever from the use of that instrument, and from all appeal to it, in behalf of freedom, as any more sacred in its rights than slavery. We can never ground a revolution [referring to finally enforcing the Constitution] anywhere, no more here, or in Maine, than in Kansas or Missouri, on the instrument which we admit, by our own votes, if we vote for the extension of slavery, gives the government authority to establish it. We make slavery national, the moment we record this [1856 Presidential Election] vote.
And of this [slave] power, and concerning this all-devouring gulf to which we are advancing, it may be said, it has been proved, that it never takes a step backward, nulla vestigia retrorsum. Onward you go, if you give way at this juncture, and no power on earth can stop you.
And if the religion and conscience of the country can not make you firm now, to stand where you are, and hold your own, what hope is there, especially if the conscience is becoming every day more and more warped, and the religion more corrupt, as no man
can deny that it must be by the progress [expansion] of slavery, what hope is there, that you can rely upon it at any future time, when things got worse and worse, and the iniquity is more and more sanctified by law, and under law defended by the perversion of Christianity itself, what hope, to resist, to revolutionize, to make head [way] against the evil?
When it comes to that, that the pressure of this despotism is felt upon us, and becauseourselves, we are ready to resist it, though we could not resist it for others who pleaded for our help, but on the contrary would vote to fasten it on them [ignoring the command, “love thy neighbor”], then it will be too late.
God's vengeance for such selfishness will have come, and we shall receive, and God himself will compel us to drink, the poisoned chalice we have commended to the lips of our groaning fellow-beings.
Out of such selfishness men may call upon God, but he will not hear them; for while he called upon them, out of mercy and justice to show mercy and renounce oppression, they would not hear him, but trusted in oppression, and stayed themselves thereon.
Therefore shall this very iniquity be your ruin. And when in the time of your trouble you are compelled to cry, Arise and save us, then will God answer, as in the same case of old [slavery in Ancient Judah], Where are thy gods that thou
hast made thee? Let them arise, if they can save thee in the time of thy trouble! [Jeremiah 2:27-28.]
But we do not intend to be caught with such a despairing outcry. We seek God now while he may be found, and we call upon him while he is near. He has given us an impregnable vantage-ground and battery of resistance in his word, against the extension of slavery, and here we plant ourselves resisting, and here we stand, and here will we stand resisting, and if we seem to suffer a temporary defeat, it shall only be as the recoil of our own orduance, a step backward, to command a new onset, and a new fire.
We had rather go down with liberty, than sit upon the throne with slavery. And fervently we sympathize with the declaration of the noble patriot, Lord Erskine, that we would rather die upon our knees, thanking God that for the protection of the oppressed, and the safety of our country, we had been made the instruments of denying and reprobating this wickedness, than live to the age of Methuselah for letting it pass unexposed and unrebuked.
Related Books by Rev. Cheever
Freedom of the Pulpit,
The Senate, and the Press,
For The Preservation of Freedom to Mankind (June 1856)
God Against Slavery (1857)
Responsibility of the Church and Ministry
Respecting the Sin of Slavery (Boston: J. P. Jewett Pub, 1858)
The Fire and Hammer of God's Word
Against the Sin of Slavery (May 1858)
The Curse of God Against Political Atheism:
With Some of the Lessons of the Tragedy at Harper's Ferry:
A Discourse Delivered in the Church of the Puritans,
New York, on Sabbath Evening, Nov. 6, 1859
(Boston: Walker, Wise, 1859)
Protest Against the Robbery of the Colored Race
by the Proposed Amendment of the Constitution
(New York: R. J. Johnston, 1866)
Related Writings by Other Authors
Roman Catholic Anti-Slavery Material
T. Weld's Slavery Conditions
J. Fee's Anti-Slavery Manual
P. Pillsbury's Acts of the Anti-Slavery Apostles
W. Patton's Pro-slavery Interpretations
of the Bible: Productive of Infidelity
H. B. Stowe's Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin