Slavery as an Educational Power

Slavery as an Educational Power

The National Anti-Slavery Standard was established in 1840 by the husband and wife team of Lydia and David Child, who both were affirmed abolitionists as well as recognized successful writers (Lydia Child was the author of the poem “over the river and through the woods”). Using the motto “Without Concealment–Without Compromise” the Standard sought to extend the rights of slaves across the country. It implied not only suffrage rights for colored males, but also advocated suffrage for women. With perhaps the exception of William Lloyd Garrison’s Liberator, also published by the Society, the Standard was the most influential voice for abolition leading up to the Civil War.

Slavery as an Educational Power

The slaveholders are ever seeking to cover the wickedness of their system by the pretense that it has a tendency to elevate the African from barbarism to the plane of civilization and Christianity. The President of the Republic of Liberia appears to take a different view of the matter. With every opportunity to form a correct judgment, he says, in his last message to the Legislature:

“My fear and anxieties for the last five or six years have been that the moral, intellectual and industrial training of a majority of the immigrants who may arrive here from the United States, as well as that of our posterity, bred and born in this country, will not keep pace with the advancement of the aborigines in those elements of individual and national greatness . In order to show that these fears and anxieties are not unfounded, I have only to state what is pretty generally known in Liberia, that there are thousands of natives, living within the jurisdiction of this Republic, who are intellectually in advance of at least one-half of the immigrants that arrive here annually from the United States”

This is very important testimony. President Benson proceeds to recommend that the Legislature look into the matter, and satisfy themselves whether the emigrants from the United States or the aboriginal inhabitants of the Republic have contributed most, in proportion to their numbers, to the wealth of the nation and the resources of the government.

National Anti-Slavery Standard was the official weekly newspaper of the American Anti-Slavery Society, an abolitionist society founded in 1833 by William Lloyd Garrison and Arthur Tappan to spread their movement across the nation with printed materials. Frederick Douglass was a key leader of this society and often addressed meetings at its New York City headquarters.
The Evening Post makes these very sensible observations upon the text thus furnished:

“The conclusion to which President Benson has arrived is corroborated by what we know of the history of oppressed races under all governments. The nearer oppression comes to absolute slavery, the more it degrades and demoralizes those who endure it. The dreadful despotism of the Roman Empire, combined with a system of domestic slavery, brought the people of Italy to that state of miserable degeneracy which made them, with all their civilization, an easy prey to the savage invaders of the north. If the character of the Greeks of the present day be wanting in certain manly and noble elements, it is because these were trodden out by centuries of oppression. We might give still more familiar examples of modern families of mankind which have had their finer qualities stunted and kept from growth under the rigorous climate of despotism. Those who are treated like brutes cannot be expected to behave like men. Slavery is no proper stage in the transition from barbarism to civilization; it develops none of the capacities of a race for a high degree of intellectual and moral energy; on the contrary, it embrutes, petrifies, stupefies those who wear its yoke.

“What President Benson says of the progress made in civilization by the aboriginal Africans on the Liberian coast is most creditable to their natural docility of character. Of all savage races the negro is, perhaps, that which most easily receives and best retains the impressions made by improved social institutions, which is most easily reclaimed from its original wildness and least likely to relapse, and which conforms most readily to the influences of the peaceful, kindly and affectionate morality embodied in the Christian religion. It bears enslavement better than most other races, but, like other races, its spirit is broken by it and its capacities sadly dwarfed and narrowed.

“Slavery, then, is no school for the improvement of the black race; on the contrary, it is a hindrance to its advance in civilization.”

Source: National Anti-Slavery Standard, June 25, 1859

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