Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. Volume 3.
Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865.

Fragment on Pro-slavery Theology [1]

[October 1, 1858?]

Suppose it is true, that the negro is inferior to the white, in the gifts of nature; is it not the exact reverse justice that the white should, for that reason, take from the negro, any part of the little which has been given him? ``Give to him that is needy'' is the christian rule of charity; but ``Take from him that is needy'' is the rule of slavery.


The sum of pro-slavery theology seems to be this: ``Slavery is not universally right, nor yet universally wrong; it is better for some people to be slaves; and, in such cases, it is the Will of God that they be such.''

Certainly there is no contending against the Will of God; but still there is some difficulty in ascertaining, and applying it, to particular cases. For instance we will suppose the Rev. Dr. Ross [2] has a slave named Sambo, and the question is ``Is it the Will of God that Sambo shall remain a slave, or be set free?'' The Almighty gives no audable answer to the question, and his revelation---the Bible---gives none---or, at most, none but such as admits of a squabble, as to it's meaning. No one thinks of asking Sambo's opinion on it. So, at last, it comes to this, that Dr. Ross is to decide the question. And while he consider[s] it, he sits in the shade, with gloves on his hands, and subsists on the bread that Sambo is earning in the burning sun. If he decides that God Wills Sambo to continue a slave, he thereby retains his own comfortable position; but if he decides that God will's Sambo to be free, he thereby has to walk out of the shade, throw off his gloves, and delve for his own bread. Will Dr. Ross be actuated by that perfect impartiality,Page  205 which has ever been considered most favorable to correct decisions?

But, slavery is good for some people!!! As a good thing, slavery is strikingly perculiar, in this, that it is the only good thing which no man ever seeks the good of, for himself.

Nonsense! Wolves devouring lambs, not because it is good for their own greedy maws, but because it [is] good for the lambs!!!


[1]   AD, IHi. The date assigned by Nicolay and Hay has been retained in the absence of evidence to the contrary.

[2]   Lincoln probably refers to the Reverend Frederick A. Ross, whose Slavery Ordained of God (Philadelphia, 1857) and numerous speeches on the subject placed him among the forefront of clergymen defending the peculiar institution.