Barton’s New Book Cites Slavery Defender as Christian Leader


David Barton has another new coming book out in addition to The Jefferson Lies (which is, as the title suggests, packed with lies). It’s called The Founder’s Bible and it’s both an NASB Bible and a collection of articles by Barton that intend to show that America is a Christian nation. Warren Throckmorton notes that one of the leaders Barton cites as showing American to be a Christian nation was also a staunch advocate for slavery.

One of the articles that is apparently going to be included in the book says this:

Subsequent generations routinely reaffirmed what Adams had declared, including South Carolina governor James Hammond, who in 1844 publicly described America as a Christian nation. Following that pronouncement, a small group openly censured him and demanded an apology. Shocked by that reaction, Hammond responded:

“Unhappily for myself, I am not a professor of religion – nor am I attached by education or habit to any particular denomination – nor do I feel myself to be a fit and proper defender of the Christian faith. But I must say that up to this time, I have always thought it a settled matter that I lived in a Christian land and that I was the temporary chief magistrate of a Christian people! That in such a country and among such a people I should be publicly called to an account, reprimanded, and required to make amends for acknowledging Jesus Christ as the Redeemer of the world, I would not have believed possible if it had not come to pass.”

But as Throckmorton points out, what Hammond is actually lamenting here is that anyone could possibly doubt that America is a Christian nation — and that slavery is a Christian institution. Hammond wrote:

It is impossible therefore to suppose that slavery is contrary to the Will of God. It is equally absurd to say that American slavery differs in form or principle from that of the chosen People. We accept the Bible terms as the definition of our slavery and its precepts as the guide of our conduct. We desire nothing more. Even the right to buffet which is esteemed so shocking finds its express license in the Gospel (1 Peter ii 20). Nay what is more, God directs the Hebrews to bore holes in the ears of their brothers to mark them when under certain circumstances they become perpetual slaves (Ex. Xxi: 6). I think then I may safely conclude and I firmly believe that American slavery is not only not a sin but especially commanded by God through Moses and approved by Christ through His Apostles. And here I might close its defence for what God ordains and Christ sanctifies should surely command the respect and toleration of Man. But I fear there has grown up in our time a Transcendental Religion which is throwing even Transcendental Philosophy into the shade a Religion too pure and elevated for the Bible which seeks to erect among men a higher standard of Morals than the Almighty has revealed or our Saviour preached and which is probably destined to do more to impede the extension of God’s Kingdom on earth than all the Infidels who have ever lived.*

And in a speech on the Senate floor, he said:

In all social systems there must be a class to do the menial duties, to perform the drudgery of life. That is, a class requiring but a low order of intellect and but little skill. Its requisites are vigor, docility, fidelity. Such a class you must have, or you would not have that other class which leads progress, civilization, and refinement. It constitutes the very mud-sill of society and of political government; and you might as well attempt to build a house in the air, as to build either the one or the other, except on this mud-sill. Fortunately for the South, she found a race adapted to that purpose to her hand. A race inferior to her own, but eminently qualified in temper, in vigor, in docility, in capacity to stand the climate, to answer all her purposes. We use them for our purpose, and call them slaves. We found them slaves by the common “consent of mankind,” which, according to Cicero, “lex naturae est.” The highest proof of what is Nature’s law. We are old-fashioned at the South yet; slave is a word discarded now by “ears polite;” I will not characterize that class at the North by that term; but you have it; it is there; it is everywhere; it is eternal.

The Senator from New York said yesterday that the whole world had abolished slavery. Aye, the name, but not the thing; all the powers of the earth cannot abolish that. God only can do it when he repeals the fiat, “the poor ye always have with you;” for the man who lives by daily labor, and scarcely lives at that, and who has to put out his labor in the market, and take the best he can get for it; in short, your whole hireling class of manual laborers and “operatives,” as you call them, are essentially slaves. The difference between us is, that our slaves are hired for life and well compensated; there is no starvation, no begging, no want of employment among our people, and not too much employment either. Yours are hired by the day, not cared for, and scantily compensated, which may be proved in the most painful manner, at any hour in any street in any of your large towns. Why, you meet more beggars in one day, in any single street of the city of New York, than you would meet in a lifetime in the whole South. We do not think that whites should be slaves either by law or necessity. Our slaves are black, of another and inferior race. The status in which we have placed them is an elevation. They are elevated from the condition in which God first created them, by being made our slaves. None of that race on the whole face of the globe can be compared with the slaves of the South. They are happy, content, unaspiring, and utterly incapable, from intellectual weakness, ever to give us any trouble by their aspirations. Yours are white, of your own race; you are brothers of one blood. They are your equals in natural endowment of intellect, and they feel galled by their degradation. Our slaves do not vote. We give them no political power. Yours do vote, and, being the majority, they are the depositories of all your political power. If they knew the tremendous secret, that the ballot-box is stronger than “an army with banners,” and could combine, where would you be? Your society would be reconstructed, your government overthrown, your property divided, not as they have mistakenly attempted to initiate such proceedings by meeting in parks, with arms in their hands, but by the quiet process of the ballot-box. You have been making war upon us to our very hearthstones. How would you like for us to send lecturers and agitators North, to teach these people this, to aid in combining, and to lead them?

Christian nation indeed.

Comments

  1. raven says

    Hammond:

    It is impossible therefore to suppose that slavery is contrary to the Will of God. It is equally absurd to say that American slavery differs in form or principle from that of the chosen People.

    Hammond is right here. Slavery is all through the bible, old and new testament. Jesus the godman himself gives instructions on how to beat your slaves.

    We settled that question by ignoring the bible and doing what we thought was right. Quite sensible and done all the time.

  2. cjtotalbro says

    Barton’s reaction upon finding out he is grossly, demonstrably wrong, again: “Nuh uh”.

  3. Dennis N says

    Aside from all of the horrid, backward, sheep herder nonsense in the Bible, the thing I find most offensive about it is the inordinate amount of time wasted by billions studying it. Do we really need another full reprint of the Bible? What is the opportunity cost down through history, all of the myriad other and better books that could have been being read? I stress out enough as is about the length of my ever-growing to-read list, I’m not going to go back and repeatedly re-read a boring hodge-podge of genealogies like that thing.

  4. d cwilson says

    In all social systems there must be a class to do the menial duties, to perform the drudgery of life. That is, a class requiring but a low order of intellect and but little skill. . . . We use them for our purpose, and call them slaves.

    Wow.

    So, in other words, the poor (and poor black people in particular) exist to serve the wealthy.

    Sounds like he’d be perfectly at home in the Romney campaign.

    Hammond’s speech is also a perfect example of why many poor whites in the south were willing to fight and die for the cause of slavery. Even ignorant, inbred dirt farmers need someone to look down on.

  5. lofgren says

    I must say that up to this time, I have always thought it a settled matter that I lived in a Christian land and that I was the temporary chief magistrate of a Christian people!

    So Barton’s evidence that we are a Christian nation is that other people have been equally ignorant in the past.

  6. tubi says

    If they knew the tremendous secret, that the ballot-box is stronger than “an army with banners,” and could combine, where would you be?

    If only….

  7. Akira MacKenzie says

    So, in other words, the poor (and poor black people in particular) exist to serve the wealthy.

    It’s not just the opinion of rich assholes either. A couple of years back I was treating myself to Macanudo Hampton Court at a local cigar shop one Sunday morning, and there were about a dozen, white, middle-aged, middle-class, male, pipe-smokers were sitting around and chatting politics. One of them said that “education was not a right” and if you’re parents could not afford to make sure you could read or write–well, “Somebody has got to be the janitors.”

    Furthermore he also said that anyone who receives welfare ought to be made to wear prison orange jumpsuits, live in a barracks, take all of their meals in a “chow line,” and be made to work on public construction projects. Yeah, didn’t we have a word for people like that? Started with a “S” and ended in a “lavery.” We had a big debate in the 19th century about, some people even died over it, what was it called again…?

    Not one of this fellows challenged him. Indeed, he was praised all around for this opinions. Rather than make a scene and invite the ire of the local constabulary, I packed up my things and left. I don’t go to that tobacconist anymore. The crowd seems a little too dangerous for my taste.

  8. Chiroptera says

    If there was one founding principle upon which the United States was based, it was the principle of bending over backwards to accomadate Southern slave owners.

    Barton just quoted the wrong part, s’all.

  9. Sastra says

    I always find it interesting to read the eloquent arguments of people defending the indefensible. They usually do a petty good job of it, too — if you grant them the background assumptions they’re working from. If black people really were in fact “(a) race inferior to (the white race), but eminently qualified in temper, in vigor, in docility, in capacity to stand the climate, to answer all her purposes” — sort of like house elves without Dobby the rebel — then Hammond’s argument isn’t a bad one.

    But the facts of the matter are otherwise. And how do we best establish these facts to a general consensus? Not through religion, that’s for sure. One person’s understanding and translation of God can only fight someone else’s understanding and translation of God on the no-win battlefield of Faith — or on the might-makes-right battlefield of the battlefield. Let Hammond instead try to keep on defending his background assumptions on secular ground. He would get crushed.

    But I fear there has grown up in our time a Transcendental Religion which is throwing even Transcendental Philosophy into the shade a Religion too pure and elevated for the Bible which seeks to erect among men a higher standard of Morals than the Almighty has revealed or our Saviour preached and which is probably destined to do more to impede the extension of God’s Kingdom on earth than all the Infidels who have ever lived.

    I got a little kick out of this “blame the Transcendentalists” tactic in defense of Christian Truth. It’s so quaint to modern ears. Today we know you blame the atheists, the pagans, and the Muslims for seducing folks from the path of righteousness.

  10. Akira MacKenzie says

    Sastra @ 9

    I think that this line you quoted is telling: “…which seeks to erect among men a higher standard of Morals than the Almighty has revealed or our Saviour preached…”

    So Hammond is admitting that the morality of his God is less than perfect? It reminds me of Doug Wilson, the presuppositionalist pastor that Hitchens debated (and got WAY to friendly with), when he smugly chides atheists for using Christian values (i.e. Wilson asserts that all genuine morality is the invention and monopoly of his faith) when they bring up the topic of Biblical atrosities.

    So, Doug, you’ve just inadvertently proven that Christianity is self-refuting. Congratulations!

  11. regexp says

    Christian nation indeed.

    It should be noted that thanks to James Hammond – some the few surviving letters of the era that describes homosexual acts survive. Between Hammond and another man (who later became a Judge) written by the two.

  12. Childermass says

    “…James Hammond, who in 1844 publicly described America as a Christian nation. Following that pronouncement, a small group openly censured him and demanded an apology.”

    Thank Mr. Barton for documenting that in 1844 it was hardly universally accepted that the U.S. was a “Christian nation.”
    Of course he is too clueless to realize what he just did.

    That Hammond’s Christianity features God-ordained and proud slaveholding of “inferior” races, I just got to wonder if this is a Christianity that a “Christian Nation” is supposed to refer to. As response #11, the Hammond was homosexual as well which is something that right-wing kooks generally consider to be unchristian.

    Reference for the homosexuality

  13. konrad_arflane says

    …the man who lives by daily labor, and scarcely lives at that, and who has to put out his labor in the market, and take the best he can get for it; in short, your whole hireling class of manual laborers and “operatives,” as you call them, are essentially slaves.

    Why, that sounds almost… Communist.

  14. The Lorax says

    He was right about one thing; in this country, the oppressed masses can vote by the “quiet voice of the ballot-box” and make changes to better things for them. If things get out of hand, someone other large group will become oppressed, and they will take their turn at the box, once again to balance things out.

    There’s a word for that. I believe it’s called a “democracy”.

  15. says

    Is my reading wrong, or did he just threaten to forment socialist uprising in the North if they tried to free his slaves? Also, he outright said that human morality was higher than Gods. Seems a strange person for modern Christians to be quoting even without the whole unpleasant slavery connection.

  16. kermit. says

    I think some folks are misreading Hammond. I was raised Southern Baptist, and my first interpretation of his complaint that some people wanted to establish a morality that was higher than God’s was not that he is admitting this is possible, but rather that their major sin was in asserting this was even comprehensible. For him, talking to the folks he imagined himself to be talking to, this would have gone without saying. Which is why you people missed it.

    My response to him would have been “Why yes. We not only desire to do this, but it is relatively easy. My morality has little room for the slavery, rape apologetics, child abuse, genocide, arrogance, and intolerance of all sorts as your god would have us commit. We only have to follow the Golden rule to reject all of that. Morality is not a list of behaviors demanded by your imaginary and magical bronze-age tyrant. It’s how we treat other people.”

  17. thompjs says

    I read the first line as “comic book”

    Would have been a truer statement wouldn’t you think?

  18. John Phillips, FCD says

    In all social systems there must be a class to do the menial duties, to perform the drudgery of life. That is, a class requiring but a low order of intellect and but little skill. . . . We use them for our purpose, and call them slaves.

    Though in his favour, at least he articulates more honestly than today’s GOP does about what they actually believe and attempt to bring about. This was only too apparent in Anne Romney’s, to me, disdainful attitude when asked on TV about Mits’ tax returns, i.e. the common people have no need to know and they should just trust their betters. The only difference is, that through fear and demagoguery, promoted so admirably by the likes of Limbaugh and Faux News, they have actually managed to get a lot of what Hammond would likely consider little better than equivalent to a ‘slave’ class to support them. Idiocracy here we come.

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