Illinois Staats-Zeitung -- October 11, 1861Archbishop Hughes on Abolition (Editorial)
We have read the long article published by Archbishop Hughes in his organ, The Metropolitan Record, as a protest against Mr. Brownson, whose comments on abolition appeared in the columns of yesterday's issue of this paper, and we shall now give the essentials of Archbishop Hughes' article, and add our comments.
In the opening paragraph the Archbishop makes the mistake of confounding with the old abolition the ever-increasing desire of a great part of our nation for the abolition of slavery. He perceives those who demand that the present crisis be utilized to do away with slavery as merely a "handful of old fanatical abolitionists" who regard the Constitution of the United States as a "pact with hell" and advocate that the Constitution be discarded and that slavery be abolished. He does not take into account that many thousands who previous to the outbreak of the Slaveholders Rebellion were against abolition and in favor of conscientiously sustaining constitutional guarantees to slavery, now, since the 2slaveholders are trampling upon the Constitution, demand that slavery be abolished, partly for military reasons and partly for political reasons; for a repetition of the Slaveholders Rebellion can be avoided only by the abolition of slavery. He does not realize that the aspect has been entirely changed by the Rebellion, that the slaveholders themselves have transferred the issue from the legal forum to the battlefield, and have abandoned it to the deadly thrusts of military laws.
Had the Archbishop thought of what we have just stated, he would probably have refrained from making uncouth gibes against abolitionists, whom he accuses of letting others do their (the abolitionist's) fighting, and whom he advises to form a brigade consisting of abolitionists and to join it when it goes to the front. Now it is true that there are not many abolitionists of the old school among our armed forces--because there are not many of that clan who are still living. But in our army there are thousands who earnestly desire that slavery be terminated by this War, and they have shown at Carthage, at Centerville, at Springfield, and at Hatteras that they know how to fight.3
The Archbishop attempts to refute Brownson's statement (which the South itself confirms) that slavery is the fundamental cause of the Rebellion, by advancing the following monstrous sophistries:
"Slavery existed since the Declaration of Independence, and before; if slavery could ever have become the cause of a civil war between the people, between the states, or between the inhabitants of the Colonies, the civil war would have begun eighty or a hundred and seventy years ago. Thus it follows that slavery cannot be the cause of this War."
What logic! We could just as well conclude: Patrick began drinking fusel oil in his early childhood; if fusel oil would have caused Pat's delirium tremens, he would have developed the disease in his childhood. Hence fusel oil cannot be the cause of the delirium tremens from which he is now suffering. The learned Archbishop should have known that American slavery did not come into prominence until after Whitney's invention of the cotton gin, that it gradually developed into a national economic power and thereby became a commanding political factor, and that it was not until it had attained this growth that it dared to 4take up the battle for political supremacy with the free states.
He admits that Christianity, and especially Catholicism, is opposed to slavery on principle; but he says that where African slavery once existed, or where the present slaveholder is not responsible for the enslavement of his slaves, the Church would do no more than demand that the slaveholders maintain a benevolent and paternal attitude toward their slaves, and that the slaves be loyal to their masters--until Divine Providence sees fit to change this social system.
Well--it is our opinion that now is the time Divine Providence saw fit to effect this change. Or is the Archbishop waiting for signs and miracles? According to our belief, the fact that these two social systems, free labor and slavery, have taken up arms against one another and are presently to be engaged in a battle of life and death is sufficient evidence that the hour has come. In the course of his article the Archbishop makes the superfluous admission that "the United States Government has the right to take the slaves from the slaveholders if military pressure demands it, but under no other conditions".5
There is much truth in the next paragraph of the Archbishop's article. He criticizes the old abolitionists for having hastily demanded that slavery be abolished without giving any attention to the problem of what should be done with the emancipated Negroes? However, the Archbishop does not tell us who is to blame for this neglect.
One certainly cannot blame fanatical idealists and enthusiasts, because they were the first ones to concern themselves with the problem of putting an end to slavery. They were entirely engrossed with the principle itself, and gave no thought to the manner or means of applying it. Had practical Americans taken up the problem of abolishing slavery, we would have known long ago how the emancipated Negro could be cared for.
Well do we know that not idealism, but practical statesmanship can solve the slave question. But it cannot be solved by continually advising people to keep their hands off the matter and await divine intervention, as the Archbishop suggests. And no one can contribute to the solution of the problem by 6repeating this admonition at this time when Providence has given the signals to act--the beating of the drum, the call of the trumpet, and the roar of the cannon.
No--it is the sacred duty of just men who exercise a powerful moral influence upon a part of the people, as Archbishop Hughes does, to request that the people abolish slavery, and thus they will arouse the American people to solve the great problem.
As soon as this problem is fully and honestly discussed, suitable proposals for its solution will be forthcoming, and the National Legislature will then be able to select the best ones.
I J, III C
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