Page images
PDF
EPUB

Before entering upon an analysis of the condition of servants under these two states of society, we will consider the import of certain terms which describe the mode of procuring them.

IMPORT OF “BU Y,” AND " BOUGHT WITH MONEY."

As the Israelites were commanded to “buy” their servants, and as Abraham had servants “ bought with money,” it is argued that servants were articles of property. The sole ground for this belief is the terms themselves. How much might be saved, if in discussion, the thing to be proved were always assumed. To beg the question in debate, would be vast economy of midnight oil and a great forestaller of wrinkles and grey hairs! Instead of protracted investigation into Scripture usage, with painful collating of passages, to find the meaning of terms, let every man interpret the oldest book in the world by the usages of his own time and place, and the work is done. And then instead of one revelation, they might be multiplied as the drops of the morning, and every man have an infallible clue to the mind of the Spirit, if he only understood the dialect of his own neighborhood! What a Babel-jargon it would make of the Bible to take it for granted that the sense in which words are now used is the inspired sense, David says, “ I prevented the dawning of the morning, and cried.” What, stop the earth in its revolution! Two hundred years ago, prevent was used in its strict Latin sense to come before, or anticipate. It is always used in this sense in the Old and New Testaments. David's expression, in the English of the nineteenth century, would be “Before the dawning of the morning I cried.". In almost every chapter of the Bible, words are used in a sense now nearly or quite obsolete, and sometimes in a sense totally opposite to their present meaning. A few examples follow : "I purposed to come to you, but was let (hindered) hitherto." " And the four beasts (living ones) fell down and worshipped God,”—“Whosoever shall offend (cause to sin) one of these little ones,”—“Go out into the highways and compel (urge) them to come in,”—“Only let your conversation (habitual conduct) be as becometh the Gospel,”—“ They that seek me early (earnestly) shall find me,”—“So when tribulation

ness, would be a trumpet call, summoning from bush and brake, highway and hedge, and sheltering fence, a brotherhood of kindred affinities, each claiming Abraham or Noah as his patron saint, and shouting, “My name is legion.” What a myriad choir and thunderous song.

or persecution ariseth by-and-by (immediately) they are offended.” Nothing is more mutable than language. Words, like bodies, are always throwing off some particles and absorbing others. So long as they are mere representatives, elected by the whims of universal suffrage, their meaning will be a perfect volatile, and to cork it up for the next century is an employment sufficiently silly (to speak within bounds) for, a modern Bible Dictionary maker. There never was a shallower conceit than that of establishing the sense attached to a word centuries ago, by showing what it means now. Pity that fashionable mantuamakers were not a little quicker at taking hints from some Doctors of Divinity. How easily they might save their pious customers all qualms of conscience about the weekly shiftings of fashion, by proving that the last importation of Parisian indecency now flaunting on promenade, was the very style of dress in which the pious Sarah kneaded cakes for the angels, and the modest Rebecca drew water for the camels of Abraham's servants. Since such fashions are rife in Broadway now, they must have been in Canaan and Padanaram four thousand years ago!

The inference that the word buy, used to describe the procuring of servants, means procuring them as chattels, seems based upon the fallacy, that whatever costs money is money; that whatever or whoever you pay money for, is an article of property, and the fact of your paying for it proves it property. The children of Israel were required to purchase their first-born from under the obligations of the priesthood, Num. xviii. 15, 16; Ex. xiii. 13; xxxiv. 20. This custom still exists among the Jews, and the word buy is still used to describe the transaction. Does this prove that their first-born were, or are, held as property? They were bought as really as were

servants. (2.) The Israelites were required to pay money for their own souls. This is called sometimes a ransom, sometimes an atonement.

Were their souls therefore marketable commodities ? (3.) Bible saints bought their wives. Boaz bought Ruth. “So Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of Mahlon, have I purchased to be my wife.” Ruth iv. 10. Hosea bought his wife. “So I bought her to me for fifteen pieces of silver, and for an homer of barley, and an half homer of barley.” Hosea iii. 6. * Jacob bought his wives Rachael and Leah, and not having money, paid for them in labor-seven years a piece. Gen. xxix. 15–29. Moses probably bought his wife in the same way, and paid for her by his labor, as the servant of her father. Exod. ii. 21. Shechem, when negotiating with Jacob and his sons for Dinah, says, “Ask me never so much dowry and gift, and I will give according as ye shall say unto me.” Gen. xxxiv. 11, 12. David purchased Michal, and Othniel, Achsah, by performing perilous services for their fathers. 1 Sam. xviii. 25—27; Judg. i. 12, 13. That the purchase of wives, either with money or by service, was the general practice, is plain from such passages as Ex. xxii. 17, and 1 Sam. xviii. 25. Among the modern Jews this usage exists, though now a mere form, there being no real purchase. Yet among their marriage ceremonies, is one called “marrying by the penny.” The coincidences in the methods of procuring wives and servants, in the terms employed in describing the transactions, and in the prices paid for each, are worthy of notice. The highest price of wives (virgins) and servants was the same. Comp. Deut. xxii. 28, 29, and Ex. xxii. 17, with Lev. xxvii. 2—8. The medium price of wives and servants was the same. Comp. Hos. iii. 2, with Ex. xxi. 32. Hosea seems to have paid one half in money and the other half in grain. Further, the Israelitish female bought servants were wives, their husbands and masters being the same persons. Ex. xxi. 8, Judg. xix. 3, 27. If buying servants proves them property, buying wives proves them property. Why not contend that the wives of the ancient fathers of the faithful were their "chattels," and used as ready change at a pinch ; and thence deduce the rights of modern husbands ? Alas ! Patriarchs and prophets are followed afar off! When will pious husbands live up to their Bible privileges, and become partakers with Old Testament worthies in the blessedness of a husband's rightful immunities! Refusing so to do, is questioning the morality of those“ good old patriarchs and slaveholders, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”

This use of the word buy, is not peculiar to the Hebrew. In the Syriac, the common expression for “the espoused,” is “the bought.” Even so late as the 16th century, the common record of marriages in the old German Chronicles was, “ A BOUGHT B.”

The word translated buy, is, like other words, modified by the nature of the subject to which it is applied. Eve said, “I have gotten (bought) a man of the Lord." She named him Cain, that is bought. "He that heareth reproof, getteth (buyeth) understanding," Prov. xv. 32. So in Isa. xi. 11. “The Lord shall set his hand again to recover (to buy) the remnant of his people.” So Ps. lxxviii. 54. “He brought them to this mountain which his right hand had purchased," (gotten.) Jer.xiii. 4. “Take the girdle that thou hast got" (bought.) Neh. v. 8. “We of our ability have redeemed (bought) our brethren that were sold to the heathen.” Here" bought” is not applied to persons reduced to servitude, but to those taken out of it. Prov. 8. 22. “ The Lord possessed (bought) me in the beginning of his way.” Prov. xix. 8. “He'that getteth (buyeth) wisdom loveth his own soul.” Finally, to buy, is a secondary meaning of the Hebrew word Kānā.

Even at this day the word buy is used to describe the procuring of servants, where slavery is abolished. In the British West Indies, where slaves became apprentices in 1834, they are still “ bought.” This is the current word in West India newspapers. Ten years since servants were bought in New-York, as really as in Virginia, yet the different senses in which the word was used in the two states, put no man in a quandary. Under the system of legal indenture in Illinois, servants now are bought Until recently immigrants to this country were bought” in great numbers. By voluntary contract they engaged to work a given time to pay for their passage. This class of persons called “redemptioners,” consisted at one time of thousands. Multitudes are “bought" out of slavery by themselves or others. Under the same roof with the writer is a “servant bought with money." A few weeks since, she was a slave; when "bought” she was a slave no longer. Alas! for our leading politicians if "buying" men makes them “chattels.” The Whigs say that Benton and Rives are “bought” by the administration ; and the other party, that Clay and Webster are“ bought” by the Bank. The histories of the revolution tell us that Benedict Arnold was “ bought” by British gold. When a northern clergyman marries a rich southern widow, country gossip thus hits off the indecency, “The cotton bags bought him." Sir Robert Walpole said, “Every man has his price, and whoever will pay it, can buy him," and John Randolph said, “ The northern delegation is in the market; give me money enough, and I can buy them;" both meant just what they said. The temperance publications tell us that candidates for office buy men with whiskey; and the oracles of street tattle, that the court, district attorney, and jury, in the

[ocr errors]

* The following statute is now in force in the free state of Illinois—"No negro, mulatto, or Indian, shall at any time purchase any servant other than of their own complexion: and if any of the persons aforesaid shall presume to purchase a white servant, such servant shall immediately become free, and shall be so held, deemed and taken."

late trial of Robinson were bought, yet we have no floating visions of “chattels personal,” man auctions, or coffles.

The transaction between Joseph and the Egyptians gives a clue to the use of “buy” and “ bought with money.” Gen, xlvii. 18—26. The Egyptians proposed to Joseph to become servants. When the bargain was closed, Joseph said, “Behold I have bought you this day,” and yet it is plain that neither party regarded the persons bought as articles of property, but merely as bound to labor on certain conditions, to pay for their support during the famine. The idea attached by both parties to “buy us,” and “behold I have bought you,” was merely that of service voluntarily offered, and secured by contract, in return for value received, and not at all that the Egyptians were bereft of their personal ownership, and made articles of property. And this buying of services in this case it was but one-fifth part) is called in Scripture usage, buying the persons. This case claims special notice, as it is the only one where the whole transaction of buying servants is detailed—the preliminaries, the process, the mutual acquiescence, and the permanent relation resulting therefrom. In all other instances, the mere fact is stated without particulars. In this case, the whole process is laid open. (1.) The per

bought,” sold themselves, and of their own accord. (2.) Obtaining permanently the services of persons, or even a portion of them, is called "buying " those persons. The objector, at the outset, takes it for granted, that servants were bought of third persons S; and thence infers that they were articles of property. Both the alleged fact and the inference are sheer assumptions. No instance is recorded, under the Mosaic system, in which a master sold his scrvant. That servants who were “ boughtsold themselves, is a fair inference from various passages of Seripture.

In Leviticus xxv. 47, the case of the Israelite, who became the servant of the stranger, the words are, “ If he SELL HIMSELF unto the stranger." The same word, and the same form of the word, which, in verse 47, is rendered sell himself, is in verse 39 of the same chapter, rendered be sold; in Deut. xxviii. 68, the same word is rendered “be sold.” “ And there ye shall BE SOLD unto your enemies for bond-men and bond-women and No MAN SHALL BUY You.” How could they “ be soldwithout being bought ? Our translation makes it nonsense. The word Mākar rendered “ be sold" is used here in the Hithpael conjugation, which is generally reflexive in its force, and, like the middle voice in Greek, represents what an indi

sons

« PreviousContinue »