December, 1860: Dr. Scull takes on Dr. Cartwright on human unity

James D. B. DeBow
James D.B. DeBow

In December, 1860, James DeBow was gracious enough to publish a rebuttal of S.A. Cartwright’s August article, in which the author claimed Biblical warrant for African slavery on the grounds that blacks were a separate and inferior creation from true, white humans. As with the first article, I’ve transcribed this one entirely, and give excerpts here.

From DeBow’s Review, December 1860:

ART. IV.-DR. CARTWRIGHT ON THE NEGRO RACE. THE August number of “ De Bow’s Review” contains an essay on ethnology, and predicates, that God “ created, at different times, two races of intellectual creatures with immortal souls.” The treatise is the composition of Dr. S. A. Cartwright, of the city of New-Orleans, and has the commendation of the editor of the “ Review.”

The word “ nachash” (serpent, Gen. iii.) is certainly, by Dr. Cartwright, very impertinently rendered, when he tells us it means “ a negro gardener.” Perhaps the Dr. here merely tells us what he wishes to believe, and not what the Scriptures teach; and, doubtless, the moment he gives the matter a second thought, he will perceive his error, and allow the respective professions the privilege to explain things peculiar to them.
The LXX. render “ nachash” ophis, that is, serpent. The translation in question was made 300 years B. C. After this, 360 years, St. Paul (2 Cor. xi. 3) informs us that it was a serpent which deceived Eve. “But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent (ophis) beguiled Eve.” And finally, in Rev. xii. 9, xx. 3, the serpent (ophis) is called the “ devil, and Satan ;” and, in the Vulgate (A. D. 390), St. Jerome translates “ nachash” (G-en. iii. 1) serpens. Now, as the historical meaning of a word must, necessarily, be its true meaning, the translators of St. James’ version of the Scriptures, committed no error when they rendered “nachash” serpent.
“And a verb, formed from the name [‘ nachash’ serpent], which signifies to be or to become black.” Our author here might have thought of Cham, or Ham, which means hot, warm; but never does the verb “nachash” mean “ to become black.”

The negro is a descendant of Ham, and migrated to Egypt, and hence, that country is called, in the Scriptures, the land of Ham. Many of the Canaanites, the offspring of Ham, to avoid Joshua, lied to Numidia. The curse pronounced, by Noah, on Ham, took effect in Canaan, and made his children abject slaves, Gen. ix. 25; and, as the Africans are such, their Canaanitish origin is no longer problematic. If, in this matter, we be correct, then Providence uses the slaveholder as Israel before him, and as an instrument of punishment. But as slavery, in any of its aspects, is irrelevant to the unity of the human race, we shall here drop it. Of all species and varieties of men slaves have been made; and, hence, there can be no necessary connection between servitude and the unity of man.
But does the Bible teach that God did, at different times, create two genera of intellectual creatures, and with immortal soul ? If it does, the Bible contradicts itself. This it could not do, and yet be the word of God.

The redemption of man and the unity of the human race, the Scriptures connect indissolubly. “ By one man sin entered into the world” (Rom. v. 12) ; and as in him all die (1 Cor. xv. 22), so, in like manner, we shall reign in life by one Jesus Christ (Rom. v. 17), and in him be made alive (1 Cor. xv: 22).
Bruno, who, in an investigation of the most ancient sayings concerning the origin of the human family, attempted to prove (from Gen. i. 26, and v. 1, 2) that God originally formed several persons of each sex, admitted that, in the 2d and 3d chapters, no such evidence could be found without doing violence to language; and yet the passages in the 1st and 5th chapters agree with those in the 2d and 3d, if they are not wrested from their natural meaning.

The legitimate effect of the Scriptures bespeaks for them a consideration, which the .intelligent and philanthropic cannot reasonably and honorably withhold. Their hold on mankind will not readily be weakened, because thus they bind man to man, and man to his God.
* We take issue with the writer here, and do not understand Dr. Cartwright to intend any assault upon the Sacred Scriptures.-ed.

Dr. Scull is far from an abolitionist here, but he does suggest, at least, that slavery is not the ordained condition of any race, and that all human beings share a common nature.

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