Stroud's Study of Slavery
George McDowell Stroud (1795-1875) played a small role in America's recognition of the horrors of slavery. He wrote a seminal compendium of the laws--state by state--related to the institution which was the primary cause of America's most tragic period, the War Between the States.
A Sketch of the Laws Relating to Slavery in the Several States of the United States of America was published in his hometown of Philadelphia in 1827. Although the study is quite objective, the author certainly found the moral justification of the institution of slavery to be not only lacking, but utterly absent. In truth, the author's personal feelings are manifested in the preface, which he closes with a lengthy quotation from President Jefferson's Nots on Virginia:
"The whole commerce between master and slave," says he, "is a perpetual exercise of the most boisterous passions--the most unremitting despotism on the one part, and degrading submissions on the other. Our children see this, and learn to imitate it; for man is nan imitative animal. If a parent had no other motive, either in his own philanthropy or his self-love, for restraining the intemperance of passion towards his slave, it should always be a sufficient one that his child is present. Bu generally, it is not sufficient. The parent storms, the child looks on, catches the lineaments of wrath, puts on the same airs in the circle of smaller slaves, gives a loose to his worst passions, and thus nursed, educated, and daily exercised in tyranny, cannot but be stamped by it, with obious peculiarities."
During the war, Stroud published the "broadside" pictured above and quoted below. Although the title suggests a an argumentative stance, with the presumption that slavery and Christianity were mutually exclusive, the tone of the actual publication is extremely objective. Obviously, Stroud felt no need to argue for the opposition between Christianity and holding others in slavery; he rightly recognized that the facts should speak for themselves. Although the settling of this matter involved immeasurable pain and bloodshed, it is a fact that no country today which traces its roots to the Judeo-Christian tradition allows slavery today. (Such cannot be said of all so-called "world religions.")
Copies of Stroud's volume are available on the internet from antiquarian book dealers. A digital version is also available online for those who would like to read portions of the text.
To the Editor of North American and U.S. Gazette,
From several pamphlets recently published and extensively circulated, it has become evident that a new issue in Pennsylvania party politics has been inaugurated, viz. : Whether Negro slavery, as it is maintained in the Southern States now in rebellion against the national Government, is consistent with the Christian religion?
I deem it proper, therefore, in order that every one may be enabled to judge for himself on this important subject, to give a very brief summary of the legal incidents of southern slavery. Every part and parcel of this summary may be authenticated by the statutes of one or other of those States, and the reported decisions of their highest courts of judicature.
It is a fundamental principle of Negro slavery that a slave is a thing-a chattel wholly under the dominion of his master, subject to be bought and sold precisely as if he were a horse or a mule. He may be fed and clothed much or little as his master may prescribe-may be compelled to labor as well on one day as another, and as hard and as long as his master may direct.
The slave has no legal right whatever-cannot own any thing, may be forbidden all society with his fellows, may be kept in the most abject ignorance, is not allowed to be instructed to read, is without any legal provision for acquiring a knowledge of his religious duties, incapable of a lawful marriage, denied all authority over those who are admitted to be his natural offspring, liable to have them at any age torn from him, without the slightest consultation or deference to his judgment or his feelings and liable himself to be torn from them and from their mother, with whom he has been permitted and encouraged to cohabit as his wife. He may be thus ruthlessly carried to a returnless distance, no only from his children and their mother, but from all else that he may hold dear.
The law also expressly sanctions his master in beating him with a horsewhip or cowskin, in chaining him, putting him in irons, compelling him to wear pronged iron collars, confining him in prison, hunting him with dogs, and when outlawed, as he may be for running away, he may be killed by any one to whom he may refuse to surrender.
The whole of this summary I pledge myself to maintain in its literal and full extent, according to the law of one or another of the Southern Slave-holding States.
Geo. M. Stroud
Philadelphia, Sept. 15, 1863