November 1860: Edmund Ruffin on the benefits of slavery.

Fire-Eater Edmund Ruffin
Edmund Ruffin

While Edmund Ruffin was traveling through Virginia and fomenting secession, an essay of his had just been published in DeBow’s Review of November 1860. African Colonization Unveiled, an essay on the benefits of slavery for bringing Christianity to the savages, by Edmund Ruffin:

The pious and zealous missionary, Livingstone, spent the last five years of his labors and first sojourn in Africa principally among the people of a single heathen tribe, some hundreds of whom attended and guarded him through his long travel, provided for his sustenance, and who loved, confided in, venerated, and implicitly obeyed him. No Christian missionary was ever more devoted to, or unwearied in his holy work. No one ever had better facilities for operating on his bearers. They had many superstitions, but no religious creed preoccupied their minds, to the exclusion of the Christian doctrines which Mr. Livingstone tried to instill. They did not oppose or question anything that he told them. Probably they received, with a ready though barren belief, every Christian doctrine or article of Faith which he presented. Yet nothing made any abiding or effective impression.

In all these five years of daily effort, it does not appear, from Mr. Livingstone’s own report (in his published travels), that he succeeded in converting even one pagan to the Christian religion. If instead of merely preaching to deaf ears, and reasoning with brutish intellects, he had obtained from his friend, the chief of the tribe, a grant of a tract of land and 100 negro slaves, and had gone regularly to work as a planter, he would have been deemed (and most truly) still more a benefactor to the tribe, and especially to his slaves. If any instruction could have had effect, his example would on the neighboring savage people, and his, and other like operations would have been far more effective, even for his great and single object of making converts to Christianity, than any preaching alone.

Still one such moral oasis in the midst of the vast desert of African ignorance and barbarism, could have produced but slight and transient benefits. But if there were hundreds or thousands of such plantations, settled and cultivated by white masters and negro slaves, the owners, although seeking their own selfish object of gain only, would work more for the spreading of the Christian religion than all that ten times their number of mere preaching missionaries could effect, even though every one should be a Livingstone in ability, piety, zeal, endurance, and devotion to his holy work.

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