Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 13, 1971

The Racial Problem In America - II.

Bryan Vinson

Campbell gave brief attention to the critical condition existing as relating to slavery in the M.H. of 1832, and a little more in 1835. The extent of this initial attention was directed toward a solution to which he subscribed — the emancipation and colonization of the slaves on a gradual basis, by freeing and colonizing young negroes.

"We have all the means and all the facilities to settle this matter forever, if we choose. We can do justice to the South and to the North, and we can do justice to the master and the slave, as well as show mercy; but justice first — mercy afterwards. We may have, we can have, ten millions surplus revenue for fifteen or twenty years to come, and all the wheels of government move on as smoothly as they now do — yea, more smoothly. Public and private interests will all flourish more by appropriating ten millions per annum in exporting and colonizing young negroes somewhere in Africa, or on the American continent, than by cutting down the revenue to the mean of our national expenditures.

Could I wish for political influence, or political talent, or for the standing of any man in this nation, it would be for one purpose, and but for one — viz. to call to the South and to the North to unite for their own temporal salvation, and that of their children, in one grand scheme of doing justice and showing mercy to master and slave. Had `I the forensic eloquence of a Demosthenes, and the political popularity of a Washington, they should be consecrated to the salvation of this nation from the greatest evils, which, every day accumulating, will sooner or later (and sooner perhaps than anyone imagines) burst on the heads of our beloved offspring, with a fury exasperated in the ratio of their delay, and as irresistible as death."

After discussing further his views of the suggested utility of this scheme, he had subscribed to, he concludes with this language:

"But by all that is desirable in our national union, harmony, peace, and prosperity, let all debates, pamphlets, and speeches on the abstract questions now debated be suppressed; and in the spirit of our federal constitution let us go to work to do justice to the South, North, East, and West, to master and to slave, and all will be well. We can do it — only begin right and persevere. It is not my business to do more than I have done in courtesy to numerous solicitations on the subject — merely to make these suggestions. There are wiser heads and abler hands, to whom we would most earnestly and respectfully tender these hints, hoping that the ten thousand blessings in store for him or them who will save our land from ruin, will induce some Calhoun, Clay, or Webster, or some other mighty spirit, to turn his or their attention to this greatest and best political undertaking.

On the political arena various efforts were made to stay the rising tide of passion in the years immediately following, and compromise measures were enacted to effect such an end. But such were only delaying actions. The fervent and revolutionary spirit of the Northern Abolitionists would not yield to any assuagement. The New England Clergy were busily engaged in inflammatory propaganda. Occupying a position of such commanding influence with brethren, and as editor of the most influential periodical among them, Campbell was being increasingly pressed to align himself with the Anti-slavery movement, or with the Southern side of the raging controversy. He was not pro-slavery in that he favored its continuance in the South. He was emphatically opposed to the radical abolitionism that was to a very decided degree spearheaded by the clergy. He wrote many articles in the late forties, and I have read them in the M.H. From them a few excerpts are in order, insofar as they relate to the thinking that has come about in this day. He delivered the scriptures from the tortured construction to which they were subjected as holding that slavery was condemned therein. He showed clearly and conclusively that slavery existed from the early period of time under every age with divine sanction. To this proof there is no need to take recourse in this article. Slavery has been removed from our land, at least in the form it then had. In a sense, and to a degree, it now exists in the fact that too many are, by government decree, being forced to work and support those who will not work. This is in direct contravention of the apostolic edict that "if they will not work, neither shall they eat."

But on the underlying and basic contention of the abolitionist agitators that all men are born free and equal he had some relevant and pointedly pertinent statements. In the M.H. of 1845 we quote the following footnote from page 262:

"We will not moot a question here which I have never yet seen discussed, though it may have been, involving differences providentially occurring in the circumstances of nativity, justifying or criminating the treatment of persons in a way consonant or not consonant with those providential diversities. Paul had providential and political rights from being born in Tarsus, which he would not have had, had he been born in Nazareth. To divest him of these rights, would have been to do him wrong. Therefore, all men are not born free and equal according to political rights. But we shall slide off into abstractions after the manner of our times and of our political demagogues, and probably might be found conflicting with as popular and as senseless a saying as any political aphorism of this age. It is dangerous to a man's reputation for common sense, to conflict with certain consecrated sayings. But as it is a human and not a divine aphorism, I, being somewhat adventurous, will presume to say, that, to affirm , all men to be born free and equal, is neither naturally nor politically more correct than to say that all men are born white and virtuous. All men are not born equal in any sense of the word involving political legislation, the subject on hand, nor are all men born politically or providentially free; for freedom is a political term in the sense of our Bill of Rights.

Naturally men are born neither bond nor free; they are born of necessity. On page 234 of this same volume he says:

"As American citizens, the members of our churches have the same political rights with the members of all other communities. They may become "Whigs" or "Democrats", "Liberty" or "Pro-Slavery Men", according to the views of political expediency and propriety. On these views we all have our opinions. When called upon to express mine, I do freely and without reserve. I neither compromise nor conceal anything.

For myself, I greatly prefer the condition and prospects of the Free to the Slave states; especially as respects the white portion of their population. Much as I may sympathize with a black man, I love the white man more. As a political economist, and as a philanthropist, I have many reasons for preferring the prospects and conditions of the Free to the Slave States; but especially as a Christian, I sympathize much more with the owners of slaves, their heirs, and successors, than with the slaves they possess and bequeathe. These opinions I express as freely in Georgia as in Ohio and Pennsylvania, and frequently hear them expressed by the owners themselves."

From this one can readily see that his views engaged the persuasion that the lot of the slave owner was esteemed as more to be lamented than that of the slave. This could hardly have been true on the assumption that slavery was essentially wrong morally, and in all instances, acted with injustice toward the slave. The morbid and unreasonable sentimentality which characterized the abolitionists of that day has been revived in the present day as touching the assumed equality of all men. It has invaded the ranks of the brethren, and is well-entrenched within the philosophy of the social gospelers. Nothing is more subversive of the strength and enduring virtue of the gospel of Christ, and the consequent responsibility of the church to the world, than the idea the church is to be involved in the political and social issues and problems of the present. Campbell has something to say of this principle as bearing on the abolition movement of that time:

"But the technically denominated abolitionist is quite a different personage. His opposition to slavery is not because of its merely economical bearings and effects, nor because of the domestic inexpediency of the system. He regards slavery as morally wrong in its very essence. The slaveholder is, with him, a man-stealer, and the avails of his slave-labor robbery. He thinks it morally right to make use of all the powers of association with Turk, Jew, or Infidel, to put it down — peaceably if he can, forcibly if he must. He is one who would dismember the church and dissolve the union for the sake of annihilating the immoral and unholy relation. This is that definition of an abolitionist in reference to whom I have said, as a Christian no man could be an abolitionist; I might, perhaps, also to have added, nor an American citizen The gospel is not a system of morality for the moral improvement of any nation or state. It contemplates something more sublime and salutary. It gives life to the "dead in trespasses and sins". It creates anew in Christ Jesus. Its legitimate product is a new creature The church, we repeat, cannot constitutionally undertake to reform the state, so far as not in the church, is composed of men in the flesh — men who live in obedience to all the lusts and passions of the animal men. To attempt to adorn such with Christian morality by any association for temporal ends and objects, is as absurd as for a missionary to attempt the reformation of an American Indian by substituting for his blanket and trinkets a fashionable suit of broadcloth. This will make him a buffoon rather than a gentleman We have room at present only to add, that while the church has no direct power or authority either from its head, or from the scope, design, and spirit of the institution to attempt the reformation of the state, or to unite with any worldly or political party to effect a revolution, or a change in its institutions; it has an immense power upon every community by the reflex light of the gospel through its example."

With one other brief quotation from this writer I shall be through with the quotations from these eminent men. Campbell, on the point of equality had this further remark to make:

"I am fully aware, that there is a text in some Bibles that is not in mine. Professional Abolitionists have made more use of it than any passage in the Bible. It came, however, as I trace it, from Saint Voltaire, and was baptized by Thomas Jefferson, and since almost universally regarded as canonical authority — "All men are born free and equal". This is genuine coin in the political currency of our generation. I am sorry to say, that I have never seen two men of whom it is true. But I must add, I never saw the Siamese twins, and, therefore, will not dogmatically say that no man ever saw proof of this sage aphorism."

A few personal observations may be made by me, I trust, as bearing on this subject, and with particular regard to the current conditions now prevailing in the area of race relations. Continuing and increasing pressure is being exerted by the force of law, as interpreted by bureaucrats, to fuse the two races into one homogenous society. The thrust of the whole effort springs from the assumed truth that all men are born free and equal. The testimony of these men above quoted lies wholly against such a contention, and I know of no one, or ones, today more competent to speak on this point than they. That, as Lincoln affirmed, all are equal in some respects I readily and sincerely believe to be true. As human creatures, distinguished from the lower creation there is a kind of equality that characterizes all men. That equality embraces the possession and exercise of certain rights — yes, inalienable rights-simply because all men are created in the image of God. As such there is the right to be taught of God, to know God and to be untrammeled in the exercise of the right to serve and worship Him. Further, the sacredness of human life stems from being the creature made in His image, and thus life, and its support by all the necessities secured by one's own labor, is a right to be vouchsafed to all men. With Lincoln, and Campbell, I believe in the relative superiority and inferiority, respectively, of the white and black races. This belief is not the product of prejudice, but one created and sustained by the evidence existing competent to support such a conclusion. The history of the two races over the centuries bears indubitable proof of this position by the superior attainments of the one over the other. In an effort to counter this the apology has been offered to the effect that the white race has not helped the negro race as it should, and, therefore, they have not equaled the progress and accomplishments of the white race. The question immediately arises, requiring an answer, who helped the white race? By their own efforts this race has demonstrated a measure of intellectual ability which reflects a stature, the absence of which would be necessarily construed as the lack of such mental capabilities. If, then, what the white man has done is an index of his capacity, then what the African race has done — both in Africa and here — is an index of his capacity; therefore, the capacities of the two races reflect a decided disparity.

When any people contend for equal rights, justice and fairness requires the assumption by them of a corresponding responsibility. We cannot divorce "right" and "responsibility ," and the measure of the one is tied to the measure of the other. The right of suffrage renders incumbent on all who exercise it the responsibility to inform themselves to the point of being competent in the exercise of this right. One cannot equate human rights and social rights. The former are inalienable; the latter are the creation of birth and other circumstantial matters. Within any given race there are many levels of society, and economics is a potent factor in establishing these levels. If another man can, by his ability and contribution to the well-being of society, earn more than I can, he is entitled to the fruits of his efforts. The fact that I should be of a different race does not erase this principle. But economic status is not the only, or, properly, the principal factor in determining the social status of a person. The qualities which enter into the formation of a character, and give imprint to the personality of one are multiple; they are intellectual, moral, cultural and religious. Persons of like interests are mutually attracted, and these interests are born of these qualities of character. The long reach of time has made its contribution to the character of races as well as to individual members of each race. Heredity is a very potent factor in the formation of the physiology, the physiognomy, and, too, the phrenology of a person. And, I believe, also, of races.

Several months ago two brethren had articles published, in which the first favored racial segregation, and to which the latter responded. In his response he questioned that God made the races different, even suggesting by implication that God only made man without making the races of man. From such an implied thought, I wondered if he thinks God made the first tree, and was not responsible for the oak, the pine, the ash, and other trees that bless our land! The only mutation in the color of the black race in America from those who came here from Africa has been wrought by the injection of other blood into the race. Climatic conditions have not lightened his complexion in three hundred years. The fact that God made the races distinct and different affords me competent reason for believing it to be the best interest of each race to remain thus distinct, and thereby maintain their ethnic differences. I join Lincoln in the fervent desire — most desiring — the separation of the two races. This is for the good of both, and the amalgamation, blending and miscegenation of the two will mark the utter ruin of this nation. It will be an irretrievable ruin, with moral, economic social, intellectual, and, yes, national and international consequences ensuing in wholly irreparable harm.

The educational standards of the public schools is declining, the moral climate is putrid, and from what cause? The integration of the races. The whites cannot pull the negro up intellectually and morally, but these can pull those down — and this is happening with catastrophic rapidity. Vulgarity and lucid obscenities are having a field day with no restraint in sight. Intermarriage of the races is becoming the accepted thing today. Rape goes either unapprehended, or, if so, lightly punished, if at all. Many columns could be written descriptive of conditions and developments of this sort, but such would not awaken the American people. Moral stupor has taken possession, induced by ignorance, greed, infidelity and lasciviousness. Why write as I have done? Primarily, in response to a provocation wrought by the charge that I am a White Supremeist. This is one thing with which I have been charged, to which I plead guilty. I never censured a person for being born what he is, nor do I feel constrained to treat unjustly one of another race. But with Lincoln, I would say, that, because I would not make one a slave, that is no reason for making such my wife! I do not believe that because it is wrong to take advantage of a Negro in any dealings I might have with him, that I am thereby under obligation to treat him as my social equal.

Further, the fact that Jew and Gentile, male and female, bond and free are all one in the provisions made and the conditions imposed for salvation and redemption in Christ, does not mean that there are no distinctions to be made in other areas of human relations. The sickly, shallow and inane reasoning (if such can be called reasoning) of some who would make a belief in racial integration a mark of piety is disgusting in the extreme. What can one do about it? I can do as Lincoln recommended — I can let them alone, and hope that they will leave me alone. Many of them today will take all they can get from you, but are unwilling to work. I know some exceptions, and these I respect. Others of either race I do not.

There is not evident any genuine indication of a national awakening to the perils facing our country, and especially this one. But Christians can live as God would have them live under the most unfavorable conditions and unfriendly governments, though difficult it may be. This being possible, we should so live as those who look for a better country, and for a city whose builder and maker is God.

— Route 3, Longview, Texas