This imagined dialogue between an American slave owner and the Bible appeared in the Frederick Douglass Paper on July 9, 1852.
For Frederick Douglass’ Paper
SLAVEHOLDER: I have taken you up, my friend, to find out what you really decide on the subject, so much controverted, and of so much importance to myself. Is there anything you can honestly find fault with in this institution, as exhibited on my plantation, for instance. I take care of my slaves, as tho’ they were my own children. I feed and clothe them well: I look after their welfare in every respect, up to the best of my ability: see that their houses are dry, clean and comfortable: work them much less than any of my neighbors, so much so that they threaten to harass me with compliance with existing customs, and even talk of legislative interference: their health is carefully attended to: they hear the gospel every Sabbath, and have meetings among themselves, as often as they please out of working hours. I do not say these things to praise myself, for I know it is my duty to look after their well-being to the utmost of my ability. In short, I seek to carry out towards them, or to all men, the golden rule. “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” For you, my friend, have taught me to consider them as such. – Now answer my question, put in other words, thus: Do you condemn Slavery absolutely, and without reason?
BIBLE: “Thou shalt not steal.”
SLAVEHOLDER: Steal! I abhor the thought! Steal! what do you mean? Ah, I know; you refer to the abolitionist doctrine, that a slaveholder as such, is a thief, a man -stealer. But let me tell you, my good friend, that I have nothing to do with the slave-trader. Twenty of my slaves were left me by my father’s will. My land needed more hands, and I paid handsomely (my neighbors said I gave too much for all but one) for the fifteen I have added to them during the last five years. This money is generally considered a fair equivalent for their labor, and what dishonesty is there in such a transaction as this?
BIBLE: “Be not partaker of other men’ s sins.” – 1. Tim. v, 22.
SLAVEHOLDER: Why, I thought that belonged to ministers. I see, however, that it is a principle binding on all Christians. But how does it apply to me, and such as me? You seem to mean me to consider for myself. Ah, you point back to the trade, and say I sanction it, by receiving, as the abolitionists would say, stolen men . I confess, that if the trade were as bad as they represented it, the charge would be just. but they are benefitted by the exchange of countries. They were, to sum up all their miseries in one, ignorant of the gospel in their own land. Here they hear of the Savior, and many are saved by faith in Him.
BIBLE: “As some affirm that we say, Let us do evil, that good may come, whose damnation is just.” – Rom. iii. 8.