Using Religion To Defend Slavery

My second post using clips from the Birth of Freedom video produced by the Acton Institute.  As historian Susan Wise Bauer, justly popular in home schooling circles for her superb The History of the Ancient World  and The History of the Medieval World, indicates in the video above, defenses of slavery based upon the Bible often confused descriptive passages of the Bible, written in ages where slavery was as common as complex machines are in ours, with prescriptive commands that slavery was right and just.   Additionally, defenders of slavery using the Bible did not work out fully the logical implications of their position.  For example, if Saint Paul’s comments regarding slavery meant that slavery was just, would absolute monarchies also be just based upon Paul’s statements to obey the authority of the Roman Empire?   If slavery was good based upon Saint Paul’s statements, did that mean that enslavement of whites was good since the vast majority of slaves Saint Paul would have had contact with would have been white?  Using the Bible to defend slavery leads to endless questions of this type as the abolitionists at the time pointed out.

Perhaps one of the more elaborate defenses of slavery using religion was that of Richard Furman in a letter to the Governor of South Carolina, John Lyde Wilson, in 1822.  A Baptist pastor, Furman was born in Esopus, New York in 1755.  A preacher of unusual power, he was appointed as the Baptist pastor of the High Hills of Santee Baptist Church in South Carolina at the age of 19.  An ardent patriot during the Revolution, he became pastor of the First Baptist Church in Charleston in 1787.

A strong believer in education, he founded literary societies, academies, literacy campaigns and local Bible and tract societies.  With his leadership, Baptists in South Carolina founded Columbian College in 1821, now known as George Washington University.

Furman began his career viewing slavery as an undoubted evil.  By the end of his career he owned slaves and had enlisted the Bible in defense of the “peculiar institution”. 

It would be easy to simply view Furman as a hypocrite and a monster.  However, such is not the case.  He was a highly educated man and a convinced Christian, and his life contained many charitable works, some of which were for blacks, slave and free alike.  The truly depressing fact while reading the very well written defense of slavery below, is the recognition that Furman in many ways was a very good man working very hard to defend the indefensible.  The attempted slave insurrection of Denmark Versey prompted Furman to write the letter.  Furman’s letter to the Governor of South Carolina: 


 WHEN I had, lately, the honour of delivering to your Excellency an Address, from the Baptist Convention in this State, requesting that a Day of Public Humiliation and Thanksgiving might be appointed by you, as our Chief Magistrate, to be observed by the Citizens of the State at large, in reference to two important recent events, in which the interposition of Divine Providence has been conspicuous, and in which the interests and feelings of our Citizens have been greatly concerned,–viz: The protection afforded them from the horrors of an intended Insurrection; and the affliction they have suffered from the ravages of a dreadful Hurricane–I took the liberty to suggest, that I had a further communication to make on behalf of the Convention, in which their sentiments would be disclosed respecting the policy of the measure proposed; and on the lawfulness of holding slaves–the subject being considered in a moral and religious point of view.

You were pleased, sir, to signify, that it would be agreeable to you to receive such a communication. And as it is incumbent on me, in faithfulness to the trust reposed in me, to make it, I now take the liberty of laying it before you.

The Political propriety of bringing the intended Insurrection into view by publicly acknowledging its prevention to be an instance of the Divine Goodness, manifested by a providential, gracious interposition, is a subject, which has employed the serious attention of the Convention; and, if they have erred in the judgment they have formed upon it, the error is, at least, not owing to a want of consideration, or of serious concern. They cannot view the subject but as one of great magnitude, and intimately connected with the interests of the whole State. The Divine Interposition has been conspicuous; and our obligations to be thankful are unspeakably great. And, as principles of the wisest and best policy leads nations, as well as individuals, to consider and acknowledge the government of the Deity, to feel their dependency on him and trust in him, to be thankful for his mercies, and to be humbled under his chastening rod; so, not only moral and religious duty, but also a regard to the best interests of the community appear to require of us, on the present occasion, that humiliation and thanksgiving, which are proposed by the Convention in their request. For a sense of the Divine Government has a meliorating influence on the minds of men, restraining them from crime, and disposing them to virtuous action. To those also, who are humbled before the Heavenly Majesty for their sins, and learn to be thankful for his mercies, the Divine Favour is manifested. From them judgments are averted, and on them blessings are bestowed.

 The Convention are aware that very respectable Citizens have been averse to the proposal under consideration; the proposal for appointing a Day of Public Thanksgiving for our preservation from the intended Insurrection, on account of the influence it might be supposed to have on the Black Population–by giving publicity to the subject in their view, and by affording them excitements to attempt something further of the same nature. These objections, however, the Convention view as either not substantial, or over-balanced by higher considerations. As to publicity, perhaps no fact is more generally known by the persons referred to; for the knowledge of it has been communicated by almost every channel of information, public and private, even by documents under the stamp of Public Authority; and has extended to every part of the State. But with the knowledge of the conspiracy is united the knowledge of its frustration; and of that, which Devotion and Gratitude should set in a strong light, the merciful interposition of Providence, which produced that frustration. The more rational among that class of men, as well as others, know also, that our preservation from the evil intended by the conspirators, is a subject, which should induce us to render thanksgivings to the Almighty; and it is hoped and believed, that the truly enlightened and religiously disposed among them, of which there appear to be many, are ready to unite in those thanksgivings, from a regard to their own true interests: if therefore it is apprehended, that an undue importance would be given to the subject in their view, by making it the matter of public thanksgiving; that this would induce the designing and wicked to infer our fear and sense of weakness from the fact, and thus induce them to form some other scheme of mischief: Would not our silence, and the omission of an important religious duty, under these circumstances, undergo, at least, as unfavorable a construction, and with more reason?

 But the Convention are persuaded, that publicity, rather than secrecy is the true policy to be pursued on this occasion; especially, when the subject is taken into view, in connexion with other truths, of high importance and certainty, which relate to it, and is placed in a just light; the evidence and force of which truths, thousands of this people, when informed, can clearly discern and estimate. It is proper, the Convention conceives, that the Negroes should know, that however numerous they are in some parts of these Southern States, they, yet, are not, even including all descriptions, bond and free, in the United States, but little more than one sixth part of the whole number of inhabitants, estimating that number which it probably now is, at Ten Millions; and the Black and Coloured Population, according to returns made at 1,786,000: That their destitution in respect to arms, and the knowledge of using them, with other disabilities, would render their physical force, were they all united in a common effort, less than a tenth part of that, with which they would have to contend. That there are multitudes of the best informed and truly religious among them, who, from principle, as well as from prudence, would not unite with them, nor fail to disclose their machinations, when it should be in their power to do it: That, however in some parts of our Union there are Citizens, who favour the idea of general emancipation; yet, were they to see slaves in our Country, in arms, wading through blood and carnage to effect their purpose, they would do what both their duty and interest would require; unite under the government with their fellow citizens at large to suppress the rebellion, and bring the authors of it to condign punishment: That it may be expected, in every attempt to raise an insurrection (should other attempts be made) as well as it was in that defeated here, that the prime movers in such a nefarious scheme, will so form their plan, that in case of exigency, they may flee with their plunder and leave their deluded followers to suffer the punishment, which law and justice may inflict: And that therefore, there is reason to conclude, on the most rational and just principles, that whatever partial success might at any time attend such a measure at the onset, yet, in this country, it must finally result in the discomfiture and ruin of the perpetrators; and in many instances pull down on the heads of the innocent as well as the guilty, an undistinguishing ruin.

On the lawfulness of holding slaves, considering it in a moral and religious view, the Convention think it their duty to exhibit their sentiments, on the present occasion, before your Excellency, because they consider their duty to God, the peace of the State, the satisfaction of scrupulous consciences, and the welfare of the slaves themselves, as intimately connected with a right view of the subject. The rather, because certain writers on politics, morals and religion, and some of them highly respectable, have advanced positions, and inculcated sentiments, very unfriendly to the principle and practice of holding slaves; and by some these sentiments have been advanced among us, tending in their nature, directly to disturb the domestic peace of the State, to produce insubordination and rebellion among the slaves, and to infringe the rights of our citizens; and indirectly, to deprive the slaves of religious privileges, by awakening in the minds of their masters a fear, that acquaintance with the Scriptures, and the enjoyment of these privileges would naturally produce the aforementioned effects; because the sentiments in opposition to the holding of slaves have been attributed, by their advocates, to the Holy Scriptures, and to the genius of Christianity. These sentiments, the Convention, on whose behalf I address your Excellency, cannot think just, or well-founded: for the right of holding slaves is clearly established by the Holy Scriptures, both by precept and example. In the Old Testament, the Isrealites were directed to purchase their bond-men and bond-maids of the Heathen nations; except they were of the Canaanites, for these were to be destroyed. And it is declared, that the persons purchased were to be their “bond-men forever;” and an “inheritance for them and their children.” They were not to go out free in the year of jubilee, as the Hebrews, who had been purchased, were: the line being clearly drawn between them.*[See Leviticus XXV. 44, 45, 46, &c.] In example, they are presented to our view as existing in the families of the Hebrews as servants, or slaves, born in the house, or bought with money: so that the children born of slaves are here considered slaves as well as their parents. And to this well known state of things, as to its reason and order, as well as to special privileges, St. Paul appears to refer, when he says, “But I was free born.”

 In the New-Testament, the Gospel History, or representation of facts, presents us a view correspondent with that, which is furnished by other authentic ancient histories of the state of the world at the commencement of Christianity. The powerful Romans had succeeded, in empire, the polished Greeks; and under both empires, the countries they possessed and governed were full of slaves. Many of these with their masters, were converted to the Christian Faith, and received, together with them into the Christian Church, while it was yet under the ministry of the inspired Apostles. In things purely spiritual, they appear to have enjoyed equal privileges; but their relationship, as masters and slaves, was not dissolved. Their respective duties are strictly enjoined. The masters are not required to emancipate their slaves; but to give them the things that are just and equal, forbearing threatening; and to remember, they also have a master in Heaven. The “servants under the yoke” *[upo zugon Douloi: bond-servants, or slaves. Doulos, is the proper term for slaves; it is here in the plural and rendered more expressive by being connected with yoke—UNDER THE YOKE.] (bond-servants or slaves) mentioned by Paul to Timothy, as having “believing masters,” are not authorized by him to demand of them emancipation, or to employ violent means to obtain it; but are directed to “account their masters worthy of all honour,” and “not to despise them, because they were brethren” in religion; “but the rather to do them service, because they were faithful and beloved partakers of the Christian benefit.” Similar directions are given by him in other places, and by other Apostles. And it gives great weight to the argument, that in this place, Paul follows his directions concerning servants with a charge to Timothy, as an Evangelist, to teach and exhort men to observe this doctrine.

 Had the holding of slaves been a moral evil, it cannot be supposed, that the inspired Apostles, who feared not the faces of men, and were ready to lay down their lives in the cause of their God, would have tolerated it, for a moment, in the Christian Church. If they had done so on a principle of accommodation, in cases where the masters remained heathen, to avoid offences and civil commotion; yet, surely, where both master and servant were Christian, as in the case before us, they would have enforced the law of Christ, and required, that the master should liberate his slave in the first instance. But, instead of this, they let the relationship remain untouched, as being lawful and right, and insist on the relative duties.

 In proving this subject justifiable by Scriptural authority, its morality is also proved; for the Divine Law never sanctions immoral actions.

 The Christian golden rule, of doing to others, as we would they should do to us, has been urged as an unanswerable argument against holding slaves. But surely this rule is never to be urged against that order of things, which the Divine government has established; nor do our desires become a standard to us, under this rule, unless they have a due regard to justice, propriety and the general good.

 A father may very naturally desire, that his son should be obedient to his orders: Is he, therefore, to obey the orders of his son? A man might be pleased to be exonerated from his debts by the generosity of his creditors; or that his rich neighbour should equally divide his property with him; and in certain circumstances might desire these to be done: Would the mere existence of this desire, oblige him to exonerate his debtors, and to make such a division of his property? Consistency and generosity, indeed, might require it of him, if he were in circumstances which would justify the act of generosity; but, otherwise, either action might be considered as the effect of folly and extravagance.

If the holding of slaves is lawful, or according to the Scriptures; then this Scriptural rule can be considered as requiring no more of the master, in respect of justice (whatever it may do in point of generosity) than what he, if a slave, could consistently, wish to be done to himself, while the relationship between master and servant should still be continued.

In this argument, the advocates for emancipation blend the ideas of injustice and cruelty with those, which respect the existence of slavery, and consider them as inseparable. But, surely, they may be separated. A bond-servant may be treated with justice and humanity as a servant; and a master may, in an important sense, be the guardian and even father of his slaves.

 They become a part of his family, (the whole, forming under him a little community) and the care of ordering it and providing for its welfare, devolves on him. The children, the aged, the sick, the disabled, and the unruly, as well as those, who are capable of service and orderly, are the objects of his care: The labour of these, is applied to the benefit of those, and to their own support, as well as that of the master. Thus, what is effected, and often at a great public expense, in a free community, by taxes, benevolent institutions, bettering houses, and penitentiaries, lies here on the master, to be performed by him, whatever contingencies may happen; and often occasions much expense, care and trouble, from which the servants are free. Cruelty, is, certainly, inadmissible; but servitude may be consistent with such degrees of happiness as men usually attain in this imperfect state of things.

  Some difficulties arise with respect to bringing a man, or class of men, into a state of bondage. For crime, it is generally agreed, a man may be deprived of his liberty. But, may he not be divested of it by his own consent, directly, or indirectly given: And, especially, when this assent, though indirect, is connected with an attempt to take away the liberty, if not the lives of others? The Jewish law favours the former idea: And if the inquiry on the latter be taken in the affirmative, which appears to be reasonable, it will establish a principle, by which it will appear, that the Africans brought to America were, slaves, by their own consent, before they came from their own country, or fell into the hands of white men. Their law of nations, or general usage, having, by common consent the force of law, justified them, while carrying on their petty wars, in killing their prisoners or reducing them to slavery; consequently, in selling them, and these ends they appear to have proposed to themselves; the nation, therefore, or individual, which was overcome, reduced to slavery, and sold would have done the same by the enemy, had victory declared on their, or his side. Consequently, the man made slave in this manner, might be said to be made so by his own consent, and by the indulgence of barbarous principles.

  That Christian nations have not done all they might, or should have done, on a principle of Christian benevolence, for the civilization and conversion of the Africans: that much cruelty has been practised in the slave trade, as the benevolent Wilberforce, and others have shown; that much tyranny has been exercised by individuals, as masters over their slaves, and that the religious interests of the latter have been too much neglected by many cannot, will not be denied. But the fullest proof of these facts, will not also prove, that the holding men in subjection, as slaves, is a moral evil, and inconsistent with Christianity. Magistrates, husbands, and fathers, have proved tyrants. This does not prove, that magistracy, the husband’s right to govern, and parental authority, are unlawful and wicked. The individual who abuses his authority, and acts with cruelty, must answer for it at the Divine tribunal; and civil authority should interpose to prevent or punish it; but neither civil nor ecclesiastical authority can consistently interfere with the possession and legitimate exercise of a right given by the Divine Law.

f the above representation of the Scriptural doctrine, and the manner of obtaining slaves from Africa is just; and if also purchasing them has been the means of saving human life, which there is great reason to believe it has; then, however the slave trade, in present circumstances, is justly censurable, yet might motives of humanity and even piety have been originally brought into operation in the purchase of slaves, when sold in the circumstances we have described. If, also, by their own confession, which has been made in manifold instances, their condition, when they have come into the hands of humane masters here, has been greatly bettered by the change; if it is, ordinarily, really better, as many assert, than that of thousands of the poorer classes in countries reputed civilized and free; and, if, in addition to all other considerations, the translation from their native country to this has been the means of their mental and religious improvement, and so of obtaining salvation, as many of themselves have joyfully and thankfully confessed–then may the just and humane master, who rules his slaves and provides for them, according to Christian principles, rest satisfied, that he is not, in holding them, chargeable with moral evil, nor with acting, in this respect, contrary to the genius of Christianity.–It appears to be equally clear, that those, who by reasoning on abstract principles, are induced to favour the scheme of general emancipation, and who ascribe their sentiments to Christianity, should be particularly careful, however benevolent their intentions may be, that they do not by a perversion of the Scriptural doctrine, through their wrong views of it, not only invade the domestic and religious peace and rights of our Citizens, on this subject; but, also by an intemperate zeal, prevent indirectly, the religious improvement of the people they design, professedly, to benefit; and, perhaps, become, evidently, the means of producing in our country, scenes of anarchy and blood; and all this in a vain attempt to bring about a state of things, which, if arrived at, would not probably better the state of that people; which is thought, by men of observation, to be generally true of the Negroes in the Northern states, who have been liberated.

To pious minds it has given pain to hear men, respectable for intelligence and morals, sometimes say, that holding slaves is indeed indefensible, but that to us it is necessary, and must be supported. On this principle, mere politicians, unmindful of morals, may act. But surely, in a moral and religious view of the subject, this principle is inadmissible. It cannot be said, that theft, falsehood, adultery and murder, are become necesssary and must be supported. Yet there is reason to believe, that some of honest and pious intentions have found their minds embarrassed if not perverted on this subject, by this plausible but unsound argument. From such embarrassment the view exhibited above affords relief. [p19] The Convention, Sir, are far from thinking that Christianity fails to inspire the minds of its subjects with benevolent and generous sentiments; or that liberty rightly understood, or enjoyed, is a blessing of little moment. The contrary of these positions they maintain. But they also consider benevolence as consulting the truest and best interests of its objects; and view the happiness of liberty as well as of religion, as consisting not in the name or form, but in the reality. While men remain in the chains of ignorance and error, and under the domination of tyrant lusts and passions, they cannot be free. And the more freedom of action they have in this state, they are but the more qualified by it to do injury, both to themselves and others. It is, therefore, firmly believed, that general emancipation to the Negroes in this country, would not, in present circumstances, be for their own happiness, as a body; while it would be extremely injurious to the community at large in various ways: And, if so, then it is not required even by benevolence. But acts of benevolence and generosity must be free and voluntary; no man has a right to compel another to the performance of them. This is a concern, which lies between a man and his God. If a man has obtained slaves by purchase, or inheritance, and the holding of them as such is justifiable by the law of God; why should he be required to liberate them, because it would be a generous action, rather than another on the same principle, to release his debtors, or sell his lands and houses, and distribute the proceeds among the poor? These also would be generous actions: Are they, therefore, obligatory? Or, if obligatory, in certain circumstances, as personal, voluntary acts of piety and benevolence, has any man or body of men, civil or ecclesiastic, a right to require them? Surely those, who are advocates for compulsory, or strenous measures to bring about emancipation, should duly weigh this consideration.

 Should, however, a time arrive, when the Africans in our country might be found qualified to enjoy freedom; and, when they might obtain it in a manner consistent with the interest and peace of the community at large, the Convention would be happy in seeing them free: And so they would, in seeing the state of the poor, the ignorant and the oppressed of every description, and of every country meliorated; so that the reputed free might be free indeed, and happy. But there seems to be just reason to conclude that a considerable part of the human race, whether they bear openly the character of slaves or are reputed freemen, will continue in such circumstances, with mere shades of variation, while the world continues. It is evident, that men are sinful creatures, subject to affliction and to death, as the consequences of their nature’s pollution and guilt: That they are now in a state of probation; and that God as a Righteous, All-wise Sovereign, not only disposes of them as he pleases, and bestows upon them many unmerited blessings and comforts, but subjects them also to privations, afflictions and trials, with the merciful intention of making all their afflictions, as well as their blessings, work finally for their good; if they embrace his salvation, humble themselves before him, learn righteousness, and submit to his holy will. To have them brought to this happy state is the great object of Christian benevolence, and of Christian piety; for this state is not only connected with the truest happiness, which can be enjoyed at any time, but is introductory to eternal life and blessedness in the future world: And the salvation of men is intimately connected with the glory of their God and Redeemer.

 And here I am brought to a part of the general subject, which, I confess to your Excellency, the Convention, from a sense of their duty, as a body of men, to whom important concerns of Religion are confided, have particularly at heart, and wish it may be seriously considered by all our Citizens: This is the religious interests of the Negroes. For though they are slaves, they are also men; and are with ourselves accountable creatures; having immortal souls, and being destined to future eternal reward. Their religious interests claim a regard from their masters of the most serious nature; and it is indispensible. Nor can the community at large, in a right estimate of their duty and happiness, be indifferent on this subject. To the truly benevolent it must be pleasing to know, that a number of masters, as well as ministers and pious individuals, of various Christian denominations among us, do conscientiously regard this duty; but there is a great reason to believe, that it is neglected and disregarded by many.

 The Convention are particularly unhappy in considering, that an idea of the Bible’s teaching the doctrine of emancipation as necessary, and tending to make servants insubordinate to proper authority, has obtained access to any mind; both on account of its direct influence on those, who admit it; and the fear it excites in others, producing the effects before noticed. But it is hoped, it has been evinced, that the idea is an erroneous one; and, that it will be seen, that the influence of a right acquaintance with that Holy Book tends directly and powerfully, by promoting the fear and love of God, together with just and peaceful sentiments toward men, to produce one of the best securities to the public, for the internal and domestic peace of the State.

 It is also a pleasing consideration, tending to confirm these sentiments, that in the late projected scheme for producing an insurrection among us, there were very few of those who were, as members attached to regular Churches, (even within the sphere of its operations) who appear to have taken a part in the wicked plot, or indeed to whom it was made known; of some Churches it does not appear, that there were any. It is true, that a considerable number of those who were found guilty and executed, laid claim to a religious character; yet several of these were grossly immoral, and, in general, they were members of an irregular body, which called itself the African Church, and had intimate connection and intercourse with a similar body of men in a Northern City, among whom the supposed right to emancipation is strenuously advocated.

  The result of this inquiry and reasoning, on the subject of slavery, brings us, sir, if I mistake not, very regularly to the following conclusions:–That the holding of slaves is justifiable by the doctrine and example contained in Holy writ; and is; therefore consistent with Christian uprightness, both in sentiment and conduct. That all things considered, the Citizens of America have in general obtained the African slaves, which they possess, on principles, which can be justified; though much cruelty has indeed been exercised towards them by many, who have been concerned in the slave-trade, and by others who have held them here, as slaves in their service; for which the authors of this cruelty are accountable. That slavery, when tempered with humanity and justice, is a state of tolerable happiness; equal, if not superior, to that which many poor enjoy in countries reputed free. That a master has a scriptural right to govern his slaves so as to keep it in subjection; to demand and receive from them a reasonable service; and to correct them for the neglect of duty, for their vices and transgressions; but that to impose on them unreasonable, rigorous services, or to inflict on them cruel punishment, he has neither a scriptural nor a moral right. At the same time it must be remembered, that, while he is receiving from them their uniform and best services, he is required by the Divine Law, to afford them protection, and such necessaries and conveniencies of life as are proper to their condition as servants; so far as he is enabled by their services to afford them these comforts, on just and rational principles. That it is the positive duty of servants to reverence their master, to be obedient, industrious, faithful to him, and careful of his interests; and without being so, they can neither be the faithful servants of God, nor be held as regular members of the Christian Church. That as claims to freedom as a right, when that right is forfeited, or has been lost, in such a manner as has been represented, would be unjust; and as all attempts to obtain it by violence and fraud would be wicked; so all representations made to them by others, on such censurable principles, or in a manner tending to make them discontented; and finally, to produce such unhappy effects and consequences, as been before noticed, cannot be friendly to them (as they certainly are not to the community at large,) nor consistent with righteousness: Nor can the conduct be justified, however in some it may be palliated by pleading benevolence in intention, as the motive. That masters having the disposal of the persons, time and labour of their servants, and being the heads of families, are bound, on principles of moral and religious duty, to give these servants religious instruction; or at least, to afford them opportunities, under proper regulations to obtain it: And to grant religious privileges to those, who desire them, and furnish proper evidence of their sincerity and uprightness: Due care being at the same time taken, that they receive their instructions from right sources, and from their connexions, where they will not be in danger of having their minds corrupted by sentiments unfriendly to the domestic and civil peace of the community. That, where life, comfort, safety and religious interest of so large a number of human beings, as this class of persons is among us, are concerned; and, where they must necessarily, as slaves, be so much at the disposal of their masters; it appears to be a just and necessary concern of the Government, not only to provide laws to prevent or punish insurrections, and other violent and villanous conduct among them (which are indeed necessary) but, on the other hand, laws, also, to prevent their being oppressed and injured by unreasonable, cruel masters, and others; and to afford them, in respect of morality and religion, such privileges as may comport with the peace and safety of the State, and with those relative duties existing between masters and servants, which the word of God enjoins. It is, also, believed to be a just conclusion, that the interest and security of the State would be promoted, by allowing, under proper regulations, considerable religious privileges, to such of this class, as know how to estimate them aright, and have given suitable evidence of their own good principles, uprightness and fidelity; by attaching them, from principles of gratitude and love, to the interests of their masters and the State; and thus rendering their fidelity firm and constant. While on the other hand, to lay them under an interdict, as some have supposed necessary, in a case where reason, conscience, the genius of Christianity and salvation are concerned, on account of the bad conduct of others, would be felt as oppressive, tend to sour and alienate their minds from their masters and the public, and to make them vulnerable to temptation. All which is, with deference, submitted to the consideration of your Excellency.

With high respect, I remain, personally, and on behalf of the Convention,

 Sir, your very obedient and humble servant, RICHARD FURMAN. President of the Baptist State Convention.


17 Responses to Using Religion To Defend Slavery

  1. Kevin in El Paso says:

    Obviously I missed the recent headline describing any living person who can spell both words “moral” and “compass,” let alone put them together, actually defending slavery.

    Perhaps you intend to dissect the reverend’s presumably learned discourse? I’ll need the cliffnotes, or some other reason to waste my time on the concept of slavery as a moral undertaking. Does this apply to moral instruction needed by anyone?

  2. bill bannon says:

    Catholicism’s place in slavery was not the one of Catholic quick internet written versions and not the list (which they are based on) of anti slavery bulls that Pope Leo XIII and another Pope gave in the 19th century… with simply Catholic laity disobeying and Popes objecting.
    John T. Noonan dispels that myth in “A Church That Can and Cannot Change”/ Nortre Dame/ 2005. What Pope Leo XIII left out of his list of anti slavery bulls was the late 15th century Popes who gave perpetual slavery as a right to Spain and Portugal when new natives resisted them in the new world. One can clearly see the beginning of this turbo charge of imperialism online in “Romanus Pontifex” 1453 by Pope Nicholas V (a follow up to his “Dum Diversas” which it is referring to) in the middle of the 4th large paragraph…see words in caps for essence:

    “We [therefore] weighing all and singular the premises with due meditation, and noting that since we had formerly by other letters of ours granted among other things free and ample faculty to the aforesaid King Alfonso — to invade, search out, capture, vanquish, and subdue all Saracens and pagans whatsoever, and other enemies of Christ wheresoever placed, and the kingdoms, dukedoms, principalities, dominions, possessions, and all movable and immovable goods whatsoever held and possessed by them and to REDUCE THEIR PERSONS TO PERPETUAL SLAVERY, and to apply and appropriate to himself and his successors the kingdoms, dukedoms, counties, principalities, dominions, possessions, and goods, and to convert them to his and their use and profit…(then at the end of the bull a fateful voiding of future bulls for the Portuguese crown)…And if anyone, by whatever authority, shall, wittingly or unwittingly, attempt anything inconsistent with these orders we decree that his act shall be null and void…Therefore let no one infringe or with rash boldness contravene this our declaration, constitution, gift, grant, appropriation, decree, supplication, exhortation, injunction, inhibition, mandate, and will. But if anyone should presume to do so, be it known to him that he will incur the wrath of Almighty God and of the blessed apostles Peter and Paul.”

    Noonan points out that three subsequent Popes in the latter part of the 15th century confirmed the above for Portugal after Pope Nicholas V passed on and Pope Alexander VI in 1593 repeated the same rights for Spain as that bull divided the world between Spain and Portugal. You will remember that Alexander VI was in some ways the worst Pope we ever had in terms of scandal.
    In the Catholic Universities, theologians had a number of just causes for slavery and unforetunately one was already in the decretals (born to a slave mother) and was mentioned by Aquinas in the Supplement to the ST on Marriage (of a slave):

    “children follow the mother in freedom and bondage; whereas in matters pertaining to dignity as proceeding from a thing’s form, they follow the father, for instance in honors, franchise, inheritance and so forth. The canons are in agreement with this (cap. Liberi, 32, qu. iv, in gloss.: cap. Inducens, De natis ex libero ventre) as also the law of Moses (Exodus 21).”
    Supplement to the Summa Theologica
    Question 52 article 4 (“I answer that” section).

    Religious orders had slaves as England was in the process of stopping slavery.

    Noonan: “In 1792, six French Sulpicians arrived in Maryland, and one of them,
    Ambrose Marechal, leased a former Jesuit parish in Bohemia, where among other business in 1793 he sold “Philis and her infant 3 weeks old for 35 pounds, and a month later sold Clara, Philis other child, 4 years old for five pounds. Marechal thought the proceeds belonged to the Sulpicians as profits of the estate, like the crops, the increase of stock, and firewood not fit for building. The Jesuits (organized as regular clergy since their suppression by the Pope in 1773) objected: like timber the Negroes belonged to the landlord. No objection was registered as to the sales, not even that separating Philis and Clara.” …A Church That Can and Cannot Change”/ pages 91-92/ John T. Noonan Jr.

    Noonan goes on to note that Marechal later became archbishop of Baltimore and argued with the Jesuits over property and Marechal reported to the Vatican pertaining to the dispute that concerning the wealth of the Jesuits: “They have about 500 African men bound in slavery to them, of whom the mean price is about 200 scudi.” And he goes on to note in the next sentence the large number of animals they also own. He is saying all this to get Rome to side with his contention that the Jesuits have property that rightly belongs to the Diocese since the Jesuits at that time were not an order (suspended) but were in the interim regular clergy.

  3. Kevin in El Paso says:

    I’ll grant you, this day after Tax Day, that Obama is doing his best to make slaves of us all. Other than than, I fail to comprehend the value in the discussion.
    And given the decidedly autocratic, politically tone-deaf bent to our national legislature of late, I am not sure I want anyone reminded that at one time reasonable men could reach different conclusions about the matter of chattel slavery and still be considered reasonable!

  4. Donald R. McClarey says:

    Cardinal Dulles had a review of Noonan’s book in 2005 in First Things. Here is the portion of the review which dealt with slavery:

    “More than half of the book deals with slavery, a subject that Noonan has researched in considerable detail. Slavery was practiced by almost every known society until modern times. Throughout the biblical era, Noonan shows, slavery was taken as a given, although the Israelites practiced rather mild forms of slavery and did not permanently enslave their compatriots. Jesus, though he repeatedly denounced sin as a kind of moral slavery, said not a word against slavery as a social institution. Nor did the writers of the New Testament. Peter and Paul exhort slaves to be obedient to their masters. Paul urges Philemon to treat his converted slave Onesimus as a brother in Christ. While discreetly suggesting that he manumit Onesimus, he does not say that Philemon is morally obliged to free Onesimus and any other slaves he may have had.

    For many centuries the Church was part of a slave-holding society. The popes themselves held slaves, including at times hundreds of Muslim captives to man their galleys. Throughout Christian antiquity and the Middle Ages, theologians generally followed St. Augustine in holding that although slavery was not written into the natural moral law it was not absolutely forbidden by that law. St. Thomas Aquinas, Luther, and Calvin were all Augustinian on this point. Although the subjection of one person to another (servitus) was not part of the primary intention of the natural law, St. Thomas taught, it was appropriate and socially useful in a world impaired by original sin.

    The leaven of the gospel gradually alleviated the evils of slavery, at least in medieval Europe. Serfdom did not involve the humiliation and brutality people today ordinarily associate with slavery. Moral theologians recognized that slaves, unlike mere chattels, had certain rights even against their masters, who no longer had over them the power of life and death, as had been the case in pagan antiquity.

    For St. Thomas, slaves (servi) had the right to food, sleep, marriage, and the rearing of their children. Provision had also to be made for them to fulfill their religious duties, and they were to be treated with benevolence. With the conquest of the New World and the enslavement of whole populations of Indians and Africans, theologians such as Bartolomé de Las Casas and Cajetan began to object to the injustices of subjecting conquered peoples and of engaging in the lucrative slave trade. Some prominent Catholics of the early nineteenth century, including J.M. Sailer, Daniel O’Connell, and the Comte de Montalembert, together with many Protestants, pressed for the total abolition of slavery.

    Throughout this period the popes were far from silent. As soon as the enslavement of native populations by European colonists started, they began to protest, although Noonan gives only a few isolated examples. Eugene IV in 1435 condemned the enslavement of the peoples of the newly colonized Canary Islands and, under pain of excommunication, ordered all such slaves to be immediately set free. Pius II and Sixtus IV emphatically repeated these prohibitions. In a bull addressed to all the faithful of the Christian world Paul III in 1537 condemned the enslavement of Indians in North and South America. Gregory XIV in 1591 ordered the freeing of all the Filipino slaves held by Spaniards. Urban VIII in 1639 issued a bull applying the principles of Paul III to Portuguese colonies in South America and requiring the liberation of all Indian slaves.

    In 1781 Benedict XIV renewed the call of previous popes to free the Indian slaves of South America. Thus it was no break with previous teaching when Gregory XVI in 1839 issued a general condemnation of the enslavement of Indians and Blacks. In particular, he condemned the importation of Negro slaves from Africa. Leo XIII followed along the path set by Gregory XVI.

    Although the popes condemned the enslavement of innocent populations and the iniquitous slave trade, they did not teach that all slaves everywhere should immediately be emancipated. At the time of the Civil War, very few Catholics in the United States felt that papal teaching required them to become abolitionists.

    Bishop John England stood with the tradition in holding that there could be just titles to slavery. Bishop Francis P. Kenrick held that slavery did not necessarily violate the natural law. Archbishop John Hughes contended that slavery was an evil but not an absolute evil. Orestes Brownson, while denying that slavery was malum in se, came around to favor emancipation as a matter of policy.

    In 1863 John Henry Newman penned some fascinating reflections on slavery. A fellow Catholic, William T. Allies, asked him to comment on a lecture he was planning to give, asserting that slavery was intrinsically evil. Newman replied that, although he would like to see slavery eliminated, he could not go so far as to condemn it as intrinsically evil. For if it were, St. Paul would have had to order Philemon, “liberate all your slaves at once.” Newman, as I see it, stood with the whole Catholic tradition. In 1866 the Holy Office, in response to an inquiry from Africa, ruled that although slavery (servitus) was undesirable, it was not per se opposed to natural or divine law. This ruling pertained to the kind of servitude that was customary in certain parts of Africa at the time.

    No Father or Doctor of the Church, so far as I can judge, was an unqualified abolitionist. No pope or council ever made a sweeping condemnation of slavery as such. But they constantly sought to alleviate the evils of slavery and repeatedly denounced the mass enslavement of conquered populations and the infamous slave trade, thereby undermining slavery at its sources.”

  5. bill bannon says:

    Dulles does a neat trick which is to again leave out the late 15th century Popes and secondly Dulles studiously does not notice if the anti slavery Popes followed up with interdict when Catholic countries ignored them.
    I read that Dulles piece long ago in First Things and it is not good reviewing when you seem not to have read what Noonan wrote. Dulles simply copied from Leo XIII or a drivative thereof which was the problem all along. It is as though Dulles skimmed the Noonan book…missed the central point of the late 15th century and thus skipped from Aquinas to Las Casas who was early 16th century… and then went to Leo’s encyclical and took on the reviewing assignment thinking no one would really read the Noonan book with close attention.

    Dulles fails to mention and Noonan does mention that the Canary Island case was a Pope objecting to slavery on Canary islands because the people in question were baptized. You can see that from the document itself online. That same Pope,EugeneIV,later gave Portugal the right to conquer those Canary islands which were infidel in 1436 in a separate “Romanus Pontifex” from Nicholas’ fateful one of 1453.

    Dulles goes on to tell of Pope Paul III issuing a bull against slaving in 1537 in the new world but he fails to mention why it was necessary (the late 15th century Popes had given carte blanche to enslave if the gospel was resisted) and further Dulles misses (which Noonan had documented) that ten years later, that same Paul III praised domestic slavery within Italy.

    Read the Noonan book and you will have done more than Dulles did. You can see from my piece above that Noonan documented the sale of a woman away from her child by the Sulpicians with the Jesuits taking that conduct for granted while Dulles goes on in cover up style about how the gospel alleviated the details of slavery. Please read Noonan, a Federal judge…one used to evidence and not used to making things look better than they were. What we did on sexual abuse was not new. We have done it with history on topics like slavery.

  6. Donald R. McClarey says:

    Bill, in the ongoing struggle against Islam it was commonplace for both sides to enslave captives taken in war until they were redeemed through the payment of a ransom. I think that is different from perpetual chattel slavery based upon race. One feature of the enslavement of muslim captives is that they normally had to be freed if they converted to Christianity. Romanus Pontifex was part of Nicholas V’s attempts to launch a crusade as the Ottoman Turks were finishing off Constantinople.

    There are many passages in Romanus Pontifex that indicate that the war against the Saracens, muslims, was the prime concern of the Pope:

    “Moreover, since, some time ago, it had come to the knowledge of the said infante that never, or at least not within the memory of men, had it been customary to sail on this ocean sea toward the southern and eastern shores, and that it was so unknown to us westerners that we had no certain knowledge of the peoples of those parts, believing that he would best perform his duty to God in this matter, if by his effort and industry that sea might become navigable as far as to the Indians who are said to worship the name of Christ, and that thus he might be able to enter into relation with them, and to incite them to aid the Christians against the Saracens and other such enemies of the faith, and might also be able forthwith to subdue certain gentile or pagan peoples, living between, who are entirely free from infection by the sect of the most impious Mahomet, and to preach and cause to be preached to them the unknown but most sacred name of Christ, strengthened, however, always by the royal authority, he has not ceased for twenty-five years past to send almost yearly an army of the peoples of the said kingdoms with the greatest labor, danger, and expense, in very swift ships called caravels, to explore the sea and coast lands toward the south and the Antarctic pole.”

    Removing the bull from its historical context distorts what the Pope was trying to accomplish: destroy Islamic power in Africa and Asia and convert the populations to Christianity.

  7. bill bannon says:

    You paint a prettier picture but you didn’t get it from Romanus Pontifex which is the cat’s meow on what Romnaus Pontifex was about.
    Giving it an exclusive purpose concerning Islam which makes it seem more religious is distortive when the text does not support that is what is happening? Imperialistic converting of all foreign peoples is what is happening by force of arms….something Vatican II now forbids in the strictest terms.

    Pope Nicholas discerned three groups as the document progresses and only one of those groups was the Saracens. He obviously saw slaves in person by that time and discerned that Blacks from lower Africa had zero to do with Saracens.

    The text shows that Pope Nicholas distinquishes between the Saracens and the people of lower Africa and…and… a group living between who also are not Islamists (third paragraph) and all are to be conquered even lower Africa which had no record of attacking Iberia as the Moors did so the self defense thing is not relevant with them.

    You will recurringly see a couplet…”Saracens and other infidels”…”enemies and infidels” and no where does Nicholas restrict slavery to male soldiers…prior to his reign, the decretals…Church law… as I showed above in Aquinas allowed for the slavery of women and their children who would then follow them in slavery.
    Throughout the centuries, this would be the loophole whereby slavery perdured…a canon law that said children followed the mother if she was a slave. The other just titles for slavery were capture in a just war/ selling one’s children to feed one’s other children (Tomas Sanchez)/ self selling of self to pay debt as with endentured servants. The loophole Portugal used was to buy blacks that were captured in a presumably just war in the interior of Africa.
    The sellers said the war was just. Your mutual fund tells you they never trade in and out of Playboy Enterprises; you are allowed to take their word for it.

    Romanus Pontifex first paragraph:

    “not only restrain the savage excesses of the SARACENS AND OF OTHER INFIDELS, enemies of the Christian name, but also for the defense and increase of the faith vanquish them and their kingdoms and habitations, though situated in the remotest parts unknown to us, and subject them to their own temporal dominion..”

    second paragraph:

    “also to bring into the bosom of his faith the perfidious enemies of him and of the life-giving Cross by which we have been redeemed, namely the SARACENS AND ALL OTHER INFIDELS WHATSOEVER, [and how] after the city of Ceuta, situated in Africa, had been subdued by the said King John to his dominion, and after many wars had been waged, sometimes in person, by the said infante, although in the name of the said King John, against the enemies and infidels aforesaid

    Thrid paragraph which now talks of conquering three distinct groups which will be repeated near the ending:

    “to aid the Christians against the Saracens and other such enemies of the faith, and might also be able forthwith to subdue certain gentile or pagan peoples, living between, who are entirely free from infection by the sect of the most impious Mahomet…he has not ceased for twenty-five years past to send almost yearly an army of the peoples of the said kingdoms with the greatest labor, danger, and expense, in very swift ships called caravels, to explore the sea and coast lands toward the south and the Antarctic pole”

    paragraph 4…future undiscovered lands perhaps motivated by the very remoteness of Antartica mentioned mention of Saracens…just infidels and pagans:

    “all those provinces, islands, harbors, and seas whatsoever, which hereafter, in the name of the said King Alfonso and of his successors and of the infante, in those parts and the adjoining, and in the more distant and remote parts, can be acquired from the hands of INFIDELS OR PAGANS, and that they are comprehended under the said letters of faculty.”

    Next to the last paragraph then mentions the three groups while forbidding non Portuguese to bring things to those three groups:

    “that they do not by any means presume to carry arms, iron, wood for construction, and other things prohibited by law from being in any way carried to the Saracens, to any of the provinces, islands, harbors, seas, and places whatsoever, acquired or possessed in the name of King Alfonso, or situated in this conquest or elsewhere, to the SARACENS, INFIDELS, OR PAGANS…”

  8. Donald R. McClarey says:

    Bill, I think the document is clear that crusade is what the Pope had in mind. Of course it also helps to have some knowledge of the period and of the pontificate of Nicholas V. The encroaching threat of Islam consumed the pontificate of Nicholas V as it did the pontificates of most of the Popes of this time. Nicholas V viewed the explorations being undertaken by the Portugese as a prime opportunity to spread Christianity and make an end run around Islam. To attempt to read this bull as the Pope giving permission to found a slave trade or a slave empire is ahistoric. The Pope was attempting to encourage the Portugese in their endeavors, and hence that is why he granted them a monopoly in these territories.

    How Nicholas V would have dealt with long term slavery based on race is suggested by his bull in 1449 overturning statutes of the city of Toledo discriminating against Conversos, Catholics of Jewish Ancestry, on the grounds that “all Catholics are one in body according to the teaching of our faith.”

  9. bill bannon says:

    I’ll end briefly too. Were Pope Nicholas only about crusade, he would not have promised all the lands and assets of conquered countries to the Portuguese with the conquered people being perpetual slaves…unless there is a new definition of crusade that I never saw. And you then in your paradigm have the conquered males being slaves and the women and chidren as free as you and me. That is an odd picture of a conquered country with two classes of people…free women and enslave males. Sounds like the beginning of women’s lib. Romanus Pontifex said “perpetual slavery” not slavery til ransom as you said way above as you tried to subsume it under war practices.
    Pope Nicholas did not envision what the slave trade would become just as Henry Ford did not picture the New Jersey Turnpike and people being maimed in accidents… but he was responsible in great measure for giving slavery it’s license from Heaven prior to Protestantism and its justifications of slavery. And you are ignoring the text of Romanus Pontifex and its listing of two groups at first and its eventual listing of three groups of which Islamists were only one.

    A previous bull of “Unam Sanctam” mistook the two swords the disciples told Christ they had in the gospel… as saying that the Pope had both a secular sword and a relgious sword….power over the Church and power over the world. In the actual text of the gospel, scholars now feel Christ was exasperated with the two disciples taking His reference to swords as literal and so Christ says “Enough”. “Unam Sanctam” said Christ was saying that the “enough” meant that the two swords for the Pope are sufficient in the sense of over the Church and one over the world…the most dire misinterpretation of Christ that perhaps ever occurred.

    Pope Nicholas was the next step for the two swords; he actually carried that two fold purpose out with a nation. He saw himself capable of giving the world to Portugal due to his dominion over the secular sword and that they must convert others during that conquest as an integral part of conquest. Soon after Nicholas, in 1493, a Spanish Pope who had more children as Cardinal than the average NFP person today…Alexander VI… divided that entire world between Spain and Portugal each getting half of the world and that Pope gave the longitude they were to go by which oddly resulted in Brazil being Portuguese and the rest of South America being Spanish. It had nothing to do with Islam whatsoever. He was Spanish himself and was making sure the Portuguese did not get the whole world thanks to Nicholas. And the same rights of invasion and dominance and perpetual slavery were given Spain as were in Romanus Pontifex for the Portuguese (Noonan)…including the right of taking assets of those who resisted the gospel which Niall Ferguson of Harvard and Oxford in his recent best seller, “The Ascent of Money”, notes allowed a priest accompanying the conquistadors to hand a Bible to the leader of those natives in Peru as constituting preaching the gospel and see if he resisted the gospel; the leader did not open the bible…perhaps he could not read Latin and it was very lengthy. Anecdotes say that he threw it on the ground and that constituted resisting the gospel. Spain was subsequently to take that kingdom and all their silver for over 200 years from that area…at first with paid labor and later with local slaves and then after that black slaves….all of whom were easily maimed from falling stones in that type of mining and that silver and Mexico’s were 44 percent of Spain’s budget by the end of the 16th century and thus of the Inquisition’s budget…and Spain still waned before Britain due to her European wars. Ferguson quotes an Augustinian monk, Fray Antonio de la Calancha writing in 1638 AD: ” Every peso coin minted in Potosi(Peru)has cost the life of ten Indians who have died in the depths of the mines.”

    Historical context? Romanus Pontifex must be seen as the logical outgrowth of the mistake within Unam Sanctam…that the Pope literally owns the world in the name of Christ and so can give it to a nation that will conquer and convert under the threat of arms. That is how Filipinos and their country came to be named not after one of their heroes… but in honor of Phillip II of Spain who conquered them… much as Islam still threatens to conquer for God. God’s Providence removed throughout history land from the papacy… perhaps precisely in order to correct those several bulls.

  10. Donald R. McClarey says:

    Presuming to know God’s providence is a tricky business Bill. But for the actions of the Popes in sponsoring crusades across the centuries I have little doubt but that Islam would have conquered Europe. Perhaps God had the Popes assume secular authority during those centuries in order to prevent this. The answer to these type of questions will be in the next world.

    In regard to my point about Nicholas V and his overturning of the decrees against Conversos, I would note that in 1462 Pius II condemned the enslavement of baptized natives in the Canary Islands, calling slavery itself a great crime. Sublimus Dei of 1537 can thus be considered an application of the teaching regarding baptized natives and applying it to the non-baptized. Since readers of this thread might be unfamiliar with the text of Sublimus Dei I quote it in full:

    “To all faithful Christians to whom this writing may come, health in Christ our Lord and the apostolic benediction.

    The sublime God so loved the human race that He created man in such wise that he might participate, not only in the good that other creatures enjoy, but endowed him with capacity to attain to the inaccessible and invisible Supreme Good and behold it face to face; and since man, according to the testimony of the sacred scriptures, has been created to enjoy eternal life and happiness, which none may obtain save through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, it is necessary that he should possess the nature and faculties enabling him to receive that faith; and that whoever is thus endowed should be capable of receiving that same faith. Nor is it credible that any one should possess so little understanding as to desire the faith and yet be destitute of the most necessary faculty to enable him to receive it. Hence Christ, who is the Truth itself, that has never failed and can never fail, said to the preachers of the faith whom He chose for that office ‘Go ye and teach all nations.’ He said all, without exception, for all are capable of receiving the doctrines of the faith.

    The enemy of the human race, who opposes all good deeds in order to bring men to destruction, beholding and envying this, invented a means never before heard of, by which he might hinder the preaching of God’s word of Salvation to the people: he inspired his satellites who, to please him, have not hesitated to publish abroad that the Indians of the West and the South, and other people of whom We have recent knowledge should be treated as dumb brutes created for our service, pretending that they are incapable of receiving the Catholic Faith.

    We, who, though unworthy, exercise on earth the power of our Lord and seek with all our might to bring those sheep of His flock who are outside into the fold committed to our charge, consider, however, that the Indians are truly men and that they are not only capable of understanding the Catholic Faith but, according to our information, they desire exceedingly to receive it. Desiring to provide ample remedy for these evils, We define and declare by these Our letters, or by any translation thereof signed by any notary public and sealed with the seal of any ecclesiastical dignitary, to which the same credit shall be given as to the originals, that, notwithstanding whatever may have been or may be said to the contrary, the said Indians and all other people who may later be discovered by Christians, are by no means to be deprived of their liberty or the possession of their property, even though they be outside the faith of Jesus Christ; and that they may and should, freely and legitimately, enjoy their liberty and the possession of their property; nor should they be in any way enslaved; should the contrary happen, it shall be null and have no effect.

    By virtue of Our apostolic authority We define and declare by these present letters, or by any translation thereof signed by any notary public and sealed with the seal of any ecclesiastical dignitary, which shall thus command the same obedience as the originals, that the said Indians and other peoples should be converted to the faith of Jesus Christ by preaching the word of God and by the example of good and holy living.”

  11. bill bannon says:

    Paul III whom you quoted above was not quite as consistent as you would like. He did not want enslavement based on conquering as the previous Popes did (see below). Yet Noonan found a later motu proprio of the same Pope Paul III “Statutorum almae urbis Romae libri quinque (Liber bullarum 19 v.)1548…11 years later than 1537 which stated: “from a multitude of slaves,inheritances are augmented.” Remember that Catholic moral theology until 1960 (Tommaso Iorio,S.J….Theologia Moralis…5th printing 1960)still contained several just titles for slavery in general and I actually regret that but accept it and that Leviticus 25 does mean at minimum that in some eras of debilitated economy and political structure, it can be existent morally and that John Paul II erred in calling it “intrinsic evil” in section 80 of “Splendor of the Truth” (the ordinary magisterium can err in morals…see Ludwig Ott/ end paragraph of section 8 of the intro to Fundamentals of the Catholic Faith) (see section 40 of Evangelium Vitae for John Paul’s rather unconventional estimation of the severe within the OT as not coming from God).
    The Jesuit Salvatore Brandi centuries later in 1903 said that Paul III in the above motu proprio praising slavery was referring to mild slavery but as Noonan noted…he offered no proof.

    And I would urge intelligent readers to look at that one sentence within the piece that Donald presented just above:

    “notwithstanding [[whatever may have been]] or may be said to the contrary, the said Indians and all other people who may later be discovered by Christians, are by no means to be deprived of their liberty”.

    Pope Paul III is referring in the double bracketed words above to a series of 5 Popes minimum at the end of the 15th century whom Leo XIII left out of his encyclicals on the papal history with slavery and which Dulles left out of his First Things piece.

    And it was not just Pope Nicholas V and Alexander VI but included Pope Calixtus III who incorporated Romanus Pnotifex and its “perpetual slavery” (not temporary) into his own Inter Caetera 1456 as did Sixtus IV 1481 and then Pope Leo X confirmed Romanus Pontifex in writing for the Portuguese in 1514.

    We…Leo XIII and Cardinal Dulles… leave that out much as we tried leaving out many things in modern times related to the present revived scandal in the media. Opacity is over for us and for Goldman Sachs and Toyota and for everyone. But it works as long as people do not read micro history.
    But that is what the media specializes in making people read.

    Gone for real. Slavery topics kill weekends.

  12. Donald R. McClarey says:

    Paul III in 1545 abrograted the ancient privilege of slaves claiming freedom under a certain statue in Rome. From what I can glean online this abrogation had much to do with his desire to reduce the number of vagrants and homeless who had flocked to Rome. In 1548 he allowed the use of Muslim slaves, recall the whole crusade idea, in the Papal states.

  13. Joe Hargrave says:

    “in the ongoing struggle against Islam it was commonplace for both sides to enslave captives taken in war until they were redeemed through the payment of a ransom. I think that is different from perpetual chattel slavery based upon race.”

    Bingo! Are we really supposed to be all torn up about this?

    It’s a commonplace that classical and chattel slavery were two different institutions, and that the sort of slavery resulting from war between Christendom and Islam was far more representative of the former than the latter.

    This obsession, moreover, with “INFIDELS AND PAGANS” has nothing to do with black slavery. Infidels meant Muslims. Pagans could have meant any number of non-Muslim ENEMIES of the Church.

    None of the people of Africa or the Americas were thought of in such a way, as is made obvious by the long series of Papal bulls that were for some reason summarily dismissed at the beginning of this discussion.

    The Church wouldn’t have condemned chattel slavery in the New World over and over again if she didn’t see a difference. There’s no “contradiction” and there’s no “mistake.” The mistake is on the part of those who fail to understand the difference between what an “enemy of the Church” is, and what they aren’t.

    The “mistake” is on the part of liberals and others with a political agenda attempting to re-open old wounds by judging the past by modern standards – modern standards which are hardly any better, given the 40 million plus innocent children this country has seen legally murdered since 1973.

  14. bill bannon says:

    Read detail before you post on detail. Saracens, infidels, and pagans are separated by commas in e.g. the last paragraph of Romanus Pontifex and could not therefore be identical and below Pope Paul III will name them (“Indians of the West and the South”) within that generation as he corrects the earlier bulls.

    Secondly it is the Pope, Paul III, who contradicted the five above mentioned Popes during the same time in history (Paul III was the brother of Pope Alexander VI’s mistress, Giulia Farnese)and that presents a difficulty for theories like yours of that time having different standards.
    Paul III had different standards than the Popes who just preceded him immediately which means that at that time, there were two standards as to perpetually enslaving conquered blacks and native Americans if they resisted the gospel.
    So there is not one standard of enslaving in 1536 and prior; that is why Paul III wrote his bull in 1537. There were 265 Popes throughout history and relatively few took a stand against slavery and bulls in some centuries meant little beyond the immediate Pope unless they were backed up with interdict for those countries who ignored them and Paul III even did not interdict Spain or Portugal in their ignoring of him. Popes for centuries needed Kings just to have the papal territories survive and that made political bulls weak. Venice and its Bishops and priests totally ignored a papal interdict during that time of the Renaissance. That is why Pio Nono did not condemn France in the 19th century for the 2nd Opium war in China; he needed her to defend the papal territory which she did but then it was soon lost again anyway and France as papal rep within China in the second opium war both opened China to missionaries at the end of a gun but also forced the British opium trade on China simultaneously. Current Popes speak bravely against wars because current Popes get nothing from modern nations…ancien regime Popes were always dependent on nations and rarely backed up bulls with interdict so that a bull was permanent only if nations gained from what it said as in the case of Portugal and Spain who were not about to listen to an Italian Pope after a Spanish one had given them conquering rights and enslavement rights.

    And it is Paul III who further refutes your no blacks involved theory in Paul III’s own words regarding who the previous Popes gave permission to enslave. Here are the words of Paul III in 1537:

    ” The enemy of the human race, who opposes all good deeds in order to bring men to destruction, beholding and envying this, invented a means never before heard of, by which he might hinder the preaching of God’s word of Salvation to the people: he inspired his satellites who, to please him, have not hesitated to publish abroad that the Indians of the West and the South, and other people of whom We have recent knowledge should be treated as dumb brutes created for our service, pretending that they are incapable of receiving the Catholic Faith.”

  15. bill bannon says:

    Pope Nicholas V by the way gave the right to perpetually enslave those who resisted the gospel. He did not say that natives were incapable of receiving the gospel so that Paul is also dealing with a further lower level of evil which had crept in since Nicholas…ie that natives were incapable of receiving the gospel. Apparently Spanish and Portuguese were running into an unforeseen problem:
    if natives accepted the gospel according to Nicholas, they were not to be enslaved and that meant that believers would interfere for example in Iberia taking specific land en masse since there existed believing natives on that land. Apparently the solution was to say that natives were too dumb to believe and thus the conquistadors were actually probably trying to undo even Nicholas V caveat that implied that natives accepting the gospel could not be enslaved or stolen from.
    Paul III did not issue an interdict to back up his words but he did issue a brief, Pastorale Officium, of excommunication mentioning the King of Castile and Aragon ….but Spain protested and so he rescinded it.

  16. Joe Hargrave says:


    Ok. I’m going to try and be nice about this, because I admit, I could have some reading comprehension deficiency that isn’t allowing me to see your point.

    I would ask you to follow your own advice, and read the bloody details before you criticize others for not having read them.

    This is what you quote:

    “We, who, though unworthy, exercise on earth the power of our Lord and seek with all our might to bring those sheep of His flock who are outside into the fold committed to our charge, consider, however, that the Indians are truly men and that they are not only capable of understanding the Catholic Faith but, according to our information, they desire exceedingly to receive it.”

    First of all, what is the evil being done here? The evil is that there men – probably the Conquistadors and others, were trying to use the supposed idiocy of the natives to justify their enslavement. The whole purpose of this bull is to REFUTE THAT IDEA. He goes on to say:

    “Desiring to provide ample remedy for these evils, We define and declare by these Our letters… that, notwithstanding whatever may have been or may be said to the contrary, the said Indians and all other people who may later be discovered by Christians, are by no means to be deprived of their liberty or the possession of their property, even though they be outside the faith of Jesus Christ; and that they may and should, freely and legitimately, enjoy their liberty and the possession of their property; nor should they be in any way enslaved; should the contrary happen, it shall be null and have no effect.”

    Is there something about this that is unclear to you?




    Someone here has severe reading comprehension deficiencies. It could be me. But I think it’s you. And I don’t know if you are motivated by anti-Catholic bigotry or you really just don’t understand the plain and simple meaning of words. You work that out for yourself.

  17. bill bannon says:


    Your first post criticized my reading of words from not Paul III who you cite immediately above but from “Romanus Pontifex” by Pope Nicholas V and the words were: “Saracens, infidels and pagans” which you sought to conflate into “muslims” only. I responded to that.

    Now your above and second post is talking about an entirely different bull by an entirely different Pope as though that is one you were writing about in the first post as to the detail problem that I alleged as to those words and it was not. Your first post was about the words “infidels and pagans” within the 1453 bull not the 1537 bull by another Pope.

    You now are quoting Pope Paul III in 1537 who was opposing two of the Popes and one of the conquistadors: A. the error of the Popes prior to him who gave the right of perpetual slavery IF..IF…IF… natives resisted the faith….and B. error two (the one you mention) of those (probably conquistadors)who even wanted to go beyond what Pope Nicholas V had given them: which was the right to enslave those who resisted the gospel. They wanted to also enslave simply all natives who seemed to them too dumb to accept the gospel.
    Why did the conquistadors want to go further than enslaving perpetually those who resisted the gospel?? Probably because too many natives with clergy help were not resisting the gospel which meant that according to Pope Nicholas V who gave them the right to enslave those who resisted…it meant that they could not enslave all natives and that would leave them with land distribution problems because historically the conquistadors took vast areas for themselves and their descendants…the best land tracts; and therefore allowing some natives to hold onto their homes because they did not resist the gospel would get in the way of that land system which was later referred to as the “encomienda” system and that system is the reason there is so much poverty in South America today according to some authors like Trevor-Roper I believe it was.

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