Friday, June 26, 2020

Is the Institution of Slavery an Unqualified Evil?

For an answer to this question, let us turn to some sane voices from the past.

One of Spain’s best defenders of Christian tradition in the 19th century, Juan Donoso Cortes (1809-53), penned some words in the Spanish press that would get him banned from polite society today:

Slavery . . . is prior to society and has the same antiquity as the family; the former come from the latter by means of laws.  In the family the father was the lord and the children were the slaves.  . . .  slavery and family are spontaneous and necessary facts.  . . .  Equality among the classes is a revolutionary idea, and anyone who proclaims it rebels against history (Donoso Cortes: Readings in Political Theory, Ave Maria, Fl., Sapientia Press, 2007, pgs. 33-4).

Per Count Cortes, then, if we strike at slavery as inherently sinful, we also strike at the integrity of the family since the two institutions are so closely bound up with one another.  And this is precisely what we see in history, as both the antebellum abolitionists of the Northern States of the 19th century and their successors in the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement are openly hostile to the Christian idea of the family, even though they pay lip service to it.  This is how BLM intends to uphold their commitment to the family:

We make space for transgender brothers and sisters to participate and lead.

We are self-reflexive and do the work required to dismantle cisgender privilege and uplift Black trans folk, especially Black trans women who continue to be disproportionately impacted by trans-antagonistic violence.

Blessed Augustine (+430), the famous Bishop of Hippo in northern Africa, takes us a step further in answering our question on the nature of slavery.  In Book XIX, Chapter 15, of The City of God, he writes,

 . . . the condition of slavery is the result of sin. And this is why we do not find the word "slave" in any part of Scripture until righteous Noah branded the sin of his son with this name. It is a name, therefore, introduced by sin and not by nature.  . . .  by nature, as God first created us, no one is the slave either of man or of sin. This servitude is, however, penal, and is appointed by that law which enjoins the preservation of the natural order and forbids its disturbance; for if nothing had been done in violation of that law, there would have been nothing to restrain by penal servitude.

Very simply, if there were no sin, then slavery would be evil, through and through.  But since there is sin in the world, then there must be ways of restraining it and its effects.  Slavery is one of those restraints.  Rev Robert Lewis Dabney (1820-1898) says about this in his great Southern apologia, A Defense of Virginia and the South (p. 259),

Domestic servitude, as we define and defend it, is but civil government in one of its forms. All government is restraint; and this is but one form of restraint. As long as man is a sinner, and his will perverted, restraint is righteous. We are sick of that arrogant and profane cant, which asserts man's 'capacity for self-government' as a universal proposition; which represents human nature as so good, and democratic government as so potent, that it is a sort of miraculous panacea, sufficient to repair all the disorders of man's condition. All this ignores the great truths, that man is fallen; that his will is disordered, and therefore ought not to be his rule; that God, his owner and master, has ordained that he shall live under authority. What fruit has radical democracy ever borne, except factious oppression, anarchy, and the stern necessity for despotism?

In every society, there will be those who govern and those who are governed; man’s fall into sin makes this necessary.  The problem with our modern revolutionaries (be they French Jacobins, Yankee abolitionists, Russian Bolsheviks, BLM protestors, or those who style themselves conservatives) is that they want to deny the fall and place every person in the governing class and leave no one in the class of the governed.  As Rev Dabney points out, however, such action has never, and will never, end well.  This is why the South has defended hierarchy, including the institution of slavery.  This is why she has been right to do so.  And it is why all those who reject involuntary servitude of any kind as an unacceptable form of government, and why all those who join in the denunciation and destruction of Dixie’s past because of her association with a mild form of slavery, nakedly show themselves to be the enemies of God and of well-ordered civilization.

This does not mean that some form of slavery/involuntary servitude MUST be present in the world in any given age (and it is especially not the case that it must have a racial component or be perpetual in nature (the servitude should last only as long as the destructive rebelliousness of the sinful nature requires it)), only that it should not be ruled out forever based on abstract, a priori theories that reject the effects of the fall on mankind.  Circumstances could make it needsome somewhere, some day.


As a footnote, we offer the following accounts of slavery in world history that do not fit well with the current deceitful attempt to reduce it merely to the white man’s attempt to keep the black man down:

--The trade in hundreds of thousands of Irish slaves in the 17th hundredyear:

--The one million Christian Europeans who were enslaved by African Muslims from 1530-1780:, via

--A broader historical perspective from within the Orthodox Church:, via


Holy Ælfred the Great, King of England, South Patron, pray for us sinners at the Souð, unworthy though we are!

Anathema to the Union!

No comments:

Post a Comment