Page images

the number of idle citizens, he was obliged to admit 200,000 of them, along with their wives and children, to share in the sportula. Under the Antonines, the recipients of public aid increased to the number of half a million.

Many others, shrinking on the one hand from a life of idleness, and debarred on the other, from honest toil by the stigma cast upon it, betook themselves to corrupting professions, such as pantomimes, hired gladiators, political spies, panders, astrologers, and religious charlatans.

The debauchery of morals was the worst feature of slavery. Reinforced from various parts of Europe, Africa, and Asia, the slaves contributed each his favorite vice to swell the common tide of depravity. All soon became indoctrinated in the iniquity of their companions. Denied the privileges of lawful wedlock, they plunged into the lowest depths of sensuality. Mothers had ceased to train their own children. They had neither inclination nor capacity for such duties-the race of Cornelias had disappeared. The instruction of youth of both sexes was confided to slaves. For the social degradation to which they were subjected, they were amply avenged by the moral degradation in which they involved their pupils. Excluded from civic honors and preferment, they wielded their brief authority over the youths committed to their care with terrible effect by initiating them into every species of vice. Denied

1 Dio Cass. LV., 10.

2 The Gentile and the Jew, II., 281.

the privilege of bearing arms, the bondmen used with consummate skill the weapons of lying, deceit, and treachery. Taught from childhood, by their accommodating teachers, to regard no law but that of their own whims, the Roman youth of both sexes grew up proud, insolent and overbearing; and the first victims of their caprice were often the slaves themselves. Many a bondwoman received on her naked breast the sharp point of the stilletto, darted at her by her haughty and imperious mistress.' In a word, the homes of the rich and noble were hotbeds of moral corruption.

Nor do the Mohammedans in Africa exhibit less greed in our day in reducing their fellow-beings to the yoke of slavery, nor less cruelty in the treatment of them than did the Romans in Pagan times.

Livingstone, Cameron,3 and still more recently Cardinal Lavigerie, Archbishop of Carthage, who is furnished with information by his missionaries, declare that at least 400,000 negroes are annually carried into bondage in Africa by Mussulman traders, and that fully five times that number perish either by being massacred in the slave-hunt, or from hunger and hardship on the journey. Thus the lives or liberty of upwards of two millions of the human race are each year sacrificed on the altars of lust and mammon.

1See Cardinal Wiseman's Fabiola, Ch. IV.

2 The last journals of Dr. Livingstone. London, 1874. 3 Across Africa.

Conference delivered in Paris, 1888.

The line of march taken by the caravans bearing their human freight from Equatorial Africa to the slave-markets, can be easily traced by the bleaching bones of the unfortunate victims who succumbed to famine and fatigue on the way.

In consequence of this iniquitous commerce, entire villages in the interior of Africa are depopulated, and extensive districts are made desolate by the organized incursions of these traffickers in human flesh.



Among the many social blessings conferred by Christianity, her successful efforts in the mitigation of the excesses of slavery and in the gradual emancipation of the slave, will justly hold a conspicuous place.

The Church did not deem it a part of her mission hastily to sever, or rudely to disturb, the relations that she found subsisting between master and man. She encountered slavery in every land. The bondmen were, in most places, largely in excess of the free population. They were regarded rather as chattels than as human beings, and were looked upon as an indispensable element of family life. With such ideas ruling the world, a violent crusade against slavery would cause a universal upheaval of society; it would involve the commonwealth in bloodshed, and would be disastrous to the slaves. themselves. The Apostles and their successors pursued a policy that, without injustice, violence or revolution, led to the gradual emancipation of slaves.

They succeeded in lightening the chain, in causing it to relax its hold day by day, till it fell harmless from the limbs of the captives.

Their first step toward manumission was to Christianize the slave, to emancipate him from the thraldom of his passions and the darkness of error, and to admit him to the glorious liberty of a child of God. Before his elevation to the Papacy, and while yet a monk, Gregory the Great, in walking through the streets of Rome, observed a number of slaves exposed for sale in the market-place. Struck by their fair complexion and long flaxen hair, he heaved a deep sigh and remarked: "What a pity that persons of such exterior beauty should not be interiorly enlightened with the illumination of faith and adorned with the gifts of grace!" He then asked who they were and whence they came. "They are Angles" (or English), was the reply. "They are well-named,” he quaintly added, "for they have the faces of angels. They must become the brethren of the angels in heaven." This anecdote shows that their conversion was the first and dominant desire of Gregory's heart. He wished them to enjoy "the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free;"" for he well knew that spiritual bondage is far more galling than chains of iron, and that Christian liberty is the best preparation for civil emancipation. But while solicitous for the conversion, Gregory was equally zealous for the enfranchisement

[blocks in formation]
« EelmineJätka »