Truth and Liberty – American Jubilee 1854

The Beginning of Slavery in North America

AMERICAN JUBILEE

Continuing a series of posts on the historical use of the Jubilee theme:
American Jubilee was the name of an abolitionist periodical (later renamed the Radical Abolitionist) published by William Goodell in New York during the 1850s. The motto of the publication was the Bible verse on the Year of Jubilee:

“PROCLAIM LIBERTY THROUGHOUT ALL THE LAND, UNTO ALL THE INHABITANTS THEREOF.”-Lev.25:10

Here are a few excerpts from the first issue of this periodical, March 1954. Illustrations are from the Afro-American Monument, circa 1897

PROSPECTUS

“The American Jubilee” proposes a proclamation of liberty throughout all the land, unto all the inhabitants thereof. It demands of the American Government, and the American People, the immediate and unconditional abolition of American slavery. It makes this demand on behalf of three millions of Americans already enslaved, on behalf of twenty millions more in the process of becoming enslaved, and on behalf of untold millions of their posterity, who must be enslaved for ages to come, unless American slavery be over thrown. It urges this demand in the name of humanity chattelized, republicanism disgraced, religion dishonored, the Holy Scriptures perverted, the Saviour blasphemed, the laws of nature and of nature’s God trampled under foot. It denies that the Federal Government, under the Federal Constitution, has either a moral or a political right to tolerate slavery, in any of the states belonging to the Federal Union, for a single day…

“The foundation of republican government is the right of every citizen, in his person and property, and in their management” –Jefferson

…It affirms that the constitution was formed by “the people of the United States,” (all of them), “to secure the blessings of LIBERTY for (themselves) and (their) posterity” without exception or distinction of race or color. And hence, no portion of “the people of the United States” can be constitutionally enslaved, and the desired object of the Constitution requires the Federal Government to “secure the blessings of liberty” to each and all of them.

If the Constitution is not available for these purposes, it is of no practical value, it is condemned by its own high professions, and the people have no alternative left them but to provide a better government for their own protection, or become the serfs of the petty oligarchy of one or two hundred thousand slaveholders, who are now suffered to control and insult a great nation.

The “American Jubilee” recognises a “higher law ” than mere human enactments. It affirms, with all the great writers on Common Law, that “statutes against fundamental morality are void;” that “no human laws have any validity if contrary to the law of God, and such of them as are valid derive all their force, mediately, or immediately, from this original”.

…All “just governments” are founded on the “inalienable right of all men to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”, we affirm the absolute illegality of American slavery…the object of this paper will be to unfold, explain, vindicate, and propagate these sentiments….

The first blood shed for American independence.

TRUTH AND LIBERTY

“AND ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” –John 8:32

In other words –Men must know and obey the truth in order to attain or preserve their liberties. This doctrine of the divine teacher is of wider application and of deeper philosophical and practical import than is commonly imagined. It is commonly applied only to religious truth and to spiritual freedom in the human soul… Natural life and spiritual life, civil liberty and spiritual liberty, resemble each other…

TRUTH lies at the basis of all real LIBERTY, civil or spiritual, and is their indispensable support, just as TRUTH everywhere, whether in the world of matter, or of spirit, forms the basis and support of everything healthful in human activity and existence. Mankind, from their inattention and want of reflection, are apt to overlook, to forget, or even to deny this.

There are devout and ardent religious persons who seem to account the time and the arrangements wasted and useless that are bestowed upon the attainment of any comprehensive and exact views of the foundational truths of religion… There are moralists, intent on great social reforms, philanthropists earnestly desiring of relieving human wretchedness, and especially, there are progressive politicians, proposing, in some way, the removing of political abuses, who have no idea of conforming their modes of activity to the great TRUTHS and LAWS which lie at the basis of human relations and activities. They pity as “impracticals” or deride as “abstractionists” those who count it essential to shape their measures in accordance with self-evident and demonstrable TRUTHS, acknowledged by all, or unassailable by any one; truths obviously controlling every thing in the domain of morals and politics, as certainly as the laws of chemistry or of mechanism control every thing within their appropriate spheres.

Slavery in America, "Land of the Free"

NATIONAL SINS PERSONAL

POLITICAL sins are personal sins, and none the less so for their being national sins. National sins are visited with national punishment, in the present world; but, beside this, God holds politicians, statesmen, and voters, personally accountable for their participation in national sins, and they will be punished for them, in the future state, unless they repent of them, just as certainly as they will be punished for any other sins. The probability is, that among American citizens, as many souls will be found, at the Day of Judgment, at the left hand side of the judge, on account of their iniquitous votes at the ballot box, as on account of any other sins. The judge will say to them: “Inasmuch as ye did it not unto one of the least of these, ye did it not unto me.”

God says: “He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God.” “Judges and officers shalt thou make in all thy gates which the Lord thy God giveth thee, and they shall judge the people with just judgment.” A man sneers at this. He is afraid of mixing up religion with politics. He pretends to have persuaded himself that he can “do more good” by voting for another description of candidates–perhaps, in a way of “choosing the least of two evils.” But God will not accept such flimsy excuses, not hold them guiltless in breaking his plain and explicit commandments. Unless “orthodox, evangelical Christianity” be a delusion, such voters must repent of such voting, or lose their souls.

“Be not deceived, God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap.”

He that persists in voting for devils, even though it be for ” the least of two devils”, may expect to take up his portion with the objects of his choice.

A Church Divided

WHAT CAN BE DONE?

True friends of liberty, and indeed the majority of reflecting and intelligent men, in the free states, appear to be overwhelmed and astounded by the audacity of the Nebraska iniquity in Congress, and in their perplexity seem looking each other in the face, and inquiring “What can be done? What measures shall we adopt? What course shall we pursue? What shall be done next?”

If the inquiry looks in the direction of mere expediency, such as worldly wisdom would suggest, such as have been for a long time employed, such as have amused and deluded their projectors, such as have, at length, signally failed, we answer unhesitatingly– nothing at all.

The more of these, the worse. To these, we owe, mainly, our discomfiture. In preference to any further chess-board evolutions in the game of expediency, “their strength is to stand still” and let the tide of shame and destruction roll over them and their country, without complaining.

But if the inquiry seeks after duty, and asks, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? What will please God? What will constitute obedience to his plain requirements?” the answer is exceedingly simple. The first measure is repentance. The second is, works meet for repentance. And both these are to be defined and ascertained, in the light of the Divine commandments.

“Seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, –judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.”

Here is moral suasion, and something more; something for the people and their government to be persuaded to do.

“Undo the heavy burden”

“Let the oppressed go free”

“Break every yoke.”

“Then shall thy light break forth in the morning, and thy health shall spring forth speedily.”

“Execute judgment between a man and his neighbor. ”

“Execute judgment in the morning (that is, timely, early) and deliver the spoiled out of the hand of the oppressor.”

“Proclaim liberty throughout the land, to all the inhabitants thereof.”

“Hate the evil, and love the good, and establish judgment, in the gate.”

…For a neglect of these plain commandments of God, or for partial, temporary, and temporising compliances with them, the ten tribes first, and Judah and Benjamin afterward, went into captivity in Babylon.

In 1856 the Republican Party was anti-slavery.

The same God lives and reigns still. His command is as intelligible and direct to the American people and the American government now, as it was to the Hebrews in the times of their prophets. Here, then, is work to be done. Work that ought to have been done, long ago. Work that ought to be done, now. …these commandments admit of no evasion, so substitute, no revision. They are not to be amended, but simply obeyed. They require the liberation of the oppressed, not their transportation to another country; THE LIBERATION OF THE ENSLAVED…break every yoke! Deliver the spoiled! Proclaim Liberty! This is the mandate, nothing less, nothing else, nothing more.