Abigail Adams on Slavery and Union

I’ve finished David McCullough’s riveting John Adams, and I’m continuously struck by Adams moral fortitude, discipline, and character as he fulfilled a variety of economic and political roles in the birth pangs of America. I’ve been especially intrigued by McCullough’s differentiation between Adams’ view of America – land-owning, thrify, plain, honest, pious, and somewhat rural – and Thomas Jefferson’s view – slave-owning, indebted, lavish, cosmopolitan, and Enlightened. Surely there are generalities here, but it has been fascinating nonetheless, and I hope to reflect more on it in the future.

Abigail Adams, wife to the second President, was known as an emotional and intellectual symbiote for Adams, the “ballast in his ship.” I was struck by her words in a letter to her sister:

I firmly believe, that if I live ten years longer, I shall see a division of the Southern and Northern states, unless more candor and less intrigue, of which I have no hopes, should prevail. (p. 434)

What is most striking is to remember that Abigail was writing in 1792, seventy-three years before the Civil War would end. Further, before a trip to France when John was the foreign minister there, Abigail had never set foot outside of her county, and travel terrified her. That leads me to conclude that the well-read Mrs. Adams had not only read of the differences between North and South, but some of her experiences with Southern gentlemen & ladies led her to a fairly certain conviction. The context doesn’t appear to be only, or merely, slavery; but also various forms of other cultural differences.

Clearly, the “War Between the States” was addressing differences that were a long time in coming.

Slavery in the New Testament

roman-slave-masterDear Zion,
In our sermon series looking at God’s transforming grace in the book of Colossians, we note in chapter three, verse twenty-two: “Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything… Masters, treat your slaves justly and fairly…” (Colossians 3:22; 4:1). Slaves?! Reading along about how the Lord wants us to live in the power of Christ’s resurrection (Col. 3:1-4), and how that power should transform our families (Col. 3:18-21), it can be jarring to come to these verses and hear the Apostle Paul talk about slavery. Why doesn’t Paul scream out against slavery? Is he condoning it? Why does Scripture speak this way? Continue reading