“Unity of the human race disproved by the Hebrew Bible”

Cartwright, Samuel A. Unity of the human race disproved by the Hebrew Bible. DeBow’s Review 4(2): 129-136. August, 1860.


{This article appeared in DeBow’s review, a Southern planters’ journal that was published from 1846-1884. The journal contained articles about agriculture, etc., but in the 1850s it also became a major advocate of slavery as a positive good. The article is an egregious example of the tortured logic by which slave owners justified their way of life. I probably shouldn’t dignify the arguments with responses, but I couldn’t help critiquing his translation of the key Hebrew phrase “naphesh chaiyah”. My comments are in curly brackets; the original editor’s comments are in square brackets. -AG}

[The following interesting and unique paper, from the pen of Dr. Samuel A. Cartwright, of New-Orleans, is contributed by him to the Review. It was prepared at the instance of certain gentlemen of Mississippi, Dr. Camp, of Canton, among the rest, who solicited recently the opinion of Dr. Cartwright upon the mooted question of the races of men. – Ed.]

Ethnology is the classification of races on the characteristic differences which distinguish them. That science proves that the negro differed as much from the white man three thousand years ago as he does now, and would of itself be sufficient to settle the question, if so many people, including the most of the divines in Europe and America, were not anxiously looking out every day for the negro to become white. The question is pressing home upon us too heavily to wait another three thousand years to prove whether the characteristic differences between the two races be permanent or not, as the time already past is not regarded by Prichard and others as sufficient.

Let us, therefore, abandon the slow, uncertain, and tortuous paths of proud Science, and seek to know what God has revealed on the subject. If we take the Hebrew Bible for a guide, and faithfully interpret it, there can be but one opinion on the question. That book positively affirms that there were, at least, two races of intellectual creatures with immortal souls, created at different times. Thus, in the 24th vers of the 1st chapter of Genesis “The Lord said, Let the earth bring forth intellectual creatures with immortal souls after their kind; cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind, and it was so.” In our English version, instead of “intellectual creatures with immortal souls,” we have only the words, “living creature,” as representing the Hebrew words, naphesh chaiyah*. The last word means “living creature,” and the word naphesh which invests chaiyah, or living creature, with intellectuality and immortality, is not translated at all, either in the Douay Bible or that of King James. But there it stands more durable than brass or granite, inviting us to look at the negro and the Indian, and then to look at that, and we will understand it. Neither the Catholic nor Protestant translators of the Bible seem to have had negroes in their mind’s eye when they were looking at the words naphesh chaiyah, or if they had, they took for granted that they were white men whose skins a tropical sun had blacked, and hence omitted to translate the words which embraced them. Mississippi and Louisiana are half full of negroes, and so is the Hebrew Bible, but our English version has not got a negro in it.

The translators surely thought that there must be some mistake in regard to the intellectuality and immortality of any earthly beings, created before Adam, and hence omitted to express the idea of intellectuality and immortality, which the original attached to such beings. After the inferior races, or inferior naphesh chaiyah were created, God said, “Let us make Adam (or a superior race of naphesh chaiyah) in our own image, and after our likeness, and let them have dominion over all things on earth :” including the negroes of course. Chapter 2, verse 7, says that Adam “became a living soul,” became a naphesh chaiyah. We understand by living soul a creature with intelligence and immortal mind. If the same words had been translated the same way in the 24th verse of the 1st chapter, we would have recognized two creations of intellectual and immortal beings at different times. But these words being merely rendered living creature, in the 24th verse of the 1st chapter, confounded the inferior naphesh chaiyah with the brutes mentioned in the same verse.

Fifty years ago, Dr. Adam Clarke, the learned commentator of the Bible, from deep reading in the Hebrew, Arabic, and Coptic languages, was forced to the conclusion that the creature which beguiled Eve was an animal formed like man, walked erect, and had the gift of speech and reason. He believed it was an orang-outang and not a serpent. If he had lived in Louisiana, instead of England, he would have recognized the negro gardener. Eve was a new comer, and had evidently been questioning, out of curiosity, the gardener about the tree with the forbidden fruit. The ophidian Bimana begins his reply to her questions with an exclamation of astonishment, rendered aye! In our version, equivalent to “Is it possible”. Can it be that Elohim has said you are not to eat of every tree in the garden? Ye shall not die, but in the day you eat thereof you will be as gods, knowing good and evil.

We are told, in the 19th verse of the second chapter, that all the creatures were brought before Adam to receive names, and that what he called every living creature that was the name thereof. What these names were, appears afterward. The names he gave very often contained an abridged history of the thing itself shut up in the name – a sealed book to those who did not know the thing, and intended so to be, until, perhaps, thousands of years’ experience had enabled man to acquire the key of knowledge to unlock and read the book. The first one of these names, enclosing within the name a history of the thing named, occurs in the 1st verse of the 3rd chapter of Genesis. It is Nachash. That is the name of the creature which beguiled Eve. The history of the creature is enclosed in the name, under cover of a bundle of ideas, so incongruous and disconnected as not to be understood until, in the revolutions of ages, sufficient knowledge of the thing named had been acquired by experience to furnish the key to unlock the book. We see around it the serpent – the charmed – the enchanted – watching closely – prying into designs – muttering and babbling without meaning – hissing – whistling – deceitful – artful – fetters – chains – and a verb formed from the name, which signifies to be or to become black. Any good overseer would recognize the negro’s peculiarities in the definition of Nachash, and the verbs connected with it, if read to him from a Hebrew lexicon.

But you may ask, is not the first part of Genesis a narration of events that could not possibly have been witnessed by any human being, and of what value can it be in the search of Truth? It would be of no more value than Sinbad the Sailor, if the narration did not prove itself by containing within itself the truth sought for. We are in search of the truth about negroes, whether they belong to the Adamic race or not.

The Bible tells certain facts about negroes, which none but the best informed planters and overseers know at the present day. The most learned divines are ignorant of them, not because they cannot read Hebrew, but because they cannot read Hebrew re-writ in the negro. Planters and overseers read it in the negroes, but don’t know that it is Hebrew, and that their evidence, if they could read Hebrew, would prove, in any court of justice, to the satisfaction of any jury, that the writer of Genesis knew more about negroes than they did. A star in the East has lately appeared, throwing much light on the first chapter of Genesis, by making plain to all observers a lot of inferior races, pure terrigenae, including giants, created before Adam. C. Blanchard Thompson, of New England, a Hebrew scholar of the first-class, after immigrating to Missouri, made the discovery, that if the 24th verse of the 1st chapter were literally and fully translated, it would save the necessity of torturing Scripture and scientific truth to procure a white father and mother for the Missouri negroes and the Missouri Indians. But Thompson, with all his learning, is far behind the pensman of the book of Genesis in his knowledge of that character. He did not know that the most stupid negro is not only more subtle than any beast of the field, but has much more subtlety in many matters than the wisest white men generally have. He will find some overseers in Louisiana and Mississippi who are aware of the fact. For instance, a negro can read an overseer much better than his master can, and can instinctively tell whether he is a man of courage, or can be imposed on or not, or whether he can see through a negro as the negroes see through him. The writer of Genesis knew it, and expressed the fact in that bundle of ideas, or epitomized history of the negro character, shut up in the name he gave to the creature, which Eve met with in the garden of Paradise. The year before Washington was born, Charlevoix recorded in French, from observation of negro slaves in the West India Islands, the same thing recorded in Hebrew upward of five thousand six hundred years previously, relative to the same people. Charlevoix says (vol. ii., page 499, book the 12th, “Histoire d l’Isle Espagnole ou de S. Domingue”): “Ils ont tres habiles dans l’art de dissimuler eque le plus stupide negre, dans le chose les plus communes, est pour son maitre un mystere impenetrable tandis qu’ils le perce a jour avec une facilite surprenante.”

Very few people in the Southern States at the present day, know that the tribes of negroes which make the best slaves were, before they became the slaves of the white man, the slaves of a serpent; charmed and electrified by the serpent – the worshippers of the serpent. But Charlevoix knew it and Moreau de Saint Mery (see his “Description of Isle Saint Domingue,” vol. i. page 30 – Philadelphia, 1797) knew it, and recorded the fact as above stated; and 45 to 50 pages of the same work will be found to contain a description of the snake-worship, and the wonderful charm the serpent exercises over them.

Nearly all the ancestors of the negroes now in the United States, were the slaves of the serpent before they became slaves of Christian white men. They worshipped their snake-master, believed that the serpent-god was all wise, all-powerful, and very wicked. At the present day there are half a million of slaves of the serpent in Hayti. As soon as the philanthropic British, to get the indigo culture of Hayti transferred to British India, contrived to rob the negroes of their white masters, they returned to the worship of the serpent. Soulouque, although called emperor, was the abject slave of the serpent, and so was his wife and all his subjects. The serpent, in every neighborhood, governs them more absolutely and tyrannically than any white man ever governed them. The serpent is kept in a box, carefully guarded by the conjurers. They are thrown into an ecstatic state by touching the box or coming near the serpent, and in that state of ecstasy or temporary alienation of the mind, they make known the orders of the snake divinity. From 1843 to 1849, the orders were to kill the mulattoes and take their property from them. Afterward, the orders were to regard all negroes who could read or write, or wore good clothing, to be regarded and treated as mulattoes. For proof of these facts, see a work written by Gustan d’Alaux, entitled “L’Empereur Soulouque,” Paris, 1856. The little book shut up in the name of the creature which beguiled Eve, contains an epitome of the principal distinguishing characteristics of the negro race, recorded by Charlevoix, in 1856, and gives clearer conceptions of the negro character than our most experienced planters and overseers have got. We learn from it, that Adam selected his slaves from that portion of the naphesh chaiyah, or inferior races, who had the hardest masters in the world – the serpents. The people of the United States followed Adam’s example, without knowing it, and got their slaves from the serpent-worshippers. The seventy-two who translated the Bible into Greek, rendered the word Nachash by Ophiz, a serpent. There were so many meanings to the word, they were puzzled to tell which to choose. Dr. Clarke thought that orang-outang would have been a better choice than serpent, for the name of a black creature, formed like a man, with the gift of speech and reason, a great deal of cunning, yet playful and good-natured, walking erect, a sorcerer, and a slave to something that charmed it. If the seventy-two had lived in our day, they would have rendered the word Nachash, as the great Hebrew scholar of the East, but now of the West, C. Blanchard Thompson, has rendered it, by the word negro. We have in the Northwest a tribe of Indians called Snakes. The name was intended to be significant of some peculiar trait in their character.

After Cain killed his brother, he went into the land of Nod, inhabited by some one or more of the inferior races, and took a wife. In process of time, a very general amalgamation occurred between the Adamic and the inferior races. That they were black is inferred from the mark they put upon Cain. The hybrids were so exceedingly wicked that the Lord determined to destroy them by a flood. For fifteen hundred years, the Adamic race had appropriated the term man and mankind exclusively to itself. During these fifteen hundred years, whenever we see the term man in our English translation, we will find Adam in Hebrew. Mr. Jefferson used the term MEN, in the Declaration of Independence, in its original Hebrew sense. There is no word as a generic term meaning man in the Choctaw language. A Choctaw is a nockane, a white man a na-hoo-loo. The abolition delusion is founded upon the error of using the word man in a generic sense, instead of restricting it to its primary specific sense. But after a large part of the Adamic race had been corrupted by amalgamation with the inferior races, the term man was used to designate the hybrids, and the term god to designate the pure-blooded white man. It was not intended to destroy the typical species of the naphesh chaiyah. They were saved, in the ark, under the designation of living creatures. The term man or mankind was not applied to them. It is repeatedly said, in the Bible, that Ham is the father of Canaan. The word father is evidently used in the sense that the Catholics apply it to the Pope, papa or father meaning a head man, manager, or overseer of the Nachash race, domesticated in Noah’s house. There were four tribes or species under his direction – Cush, Misraim, Phut, and Canaan, called the sons of Ham. It is evident that Ham was not their natural father, or they his natural children, because some of them were plural. None of the four species or races which Ham had charge of in the ark, belonged to the Nachash or snake-worshipping race, except Canaan. And how do we know that Canaan was a Nachash? Twenty years ago, I published a paper entitled “Canaan identified in the Ethiopian.” The negroes brought from the Gold Coast into America, and their descendants, I studied in the cotton and cane field, in sickness and in health, under good masters and bad, and at the dissecting table. What I thus learned in the book of Nature, I found, to my great surprise, had been revealed more than five thousand years previously, in the Hebrew Bible. I discovered that they had no resentments for being flogged, as other people have; that liberty makes them miserable instead of happy; that the submit themselves to slavery; sell one another into slavery; are protected by a law of their nature, like mules, against being overworked; that they were slaves by mind, or slaves by nature. All of which are plainly expressed in those Hebrew words which relate to the Nachash, to Canaan and his descendants. Thus we find one tribe of the Canaanites, the Gideonites, selling themselves into slavery, and even practicing the deceptions of the Nachash to induce the Jews to buy them, as they still do, on the Gold Coast. That Canaan and the Nachash are the same, is proved by the fact, that all the best slaves – those which cannot be seduced from their masters, which require no military force to keep them in subjection, no prisons to hold them, or chains to bind them – come from those tribes in Africa that worship the serpent, are slaves of the serpent, and are charmed by that reptile. They have all got their heads thrown back on the atlas. They are all knee-benders, literally and metaphorically, knee-benders in mind and body. None of them can straighten their knees. When at work in the fields, they do not stoop like white people; their heads being thrown back, their knees bent, their legs bowed out, their feet flat, hips thrown upward, their abdomens are brought parallel with the earth, as if moving over its surface on their bellies. “Upon thy belly shalt thou go,” said Elohim to the Nachash. We have only to look at them eating the bread which they prefer to all other kinds of bread, the ash-cake, and to witness their fondness for the ashes, and eating dust by the handfuls, to see re-written upon living negroes, a translation of the Hebrew word, “and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life.” The iron wire-muzzle that used to be so common, fastened and locked around the negro’s mouth and face, to prevent him from eating dust, has gone pretty much out of use since the negro has been brought more immediately into the light of civilization and Christianity. But even yet, they are the only people in the world who are the victims of that peculiar disease called dirt-eating, cachexia Africana, or negro consumption. Long ago I wrote a treatise on it. I proved it to be a disease of the mind, occurring in consequence of the negro not being properly governed, and his falling back under the empire of his indigenous superstition. Happily, as foretold, the seed of the woman is bruising the head of the serpent, and Christianity is setting the poor negro free from slavery to that evil spirit, which seizes upon him whenever he gets beyond the hearing of the crack of the white man’s whip.

*{Note: The same phrase appears in Gen 1:20 and 1:21, when God was creating water creatures. So by Cartwright’s interpretation of naphesh chaiyah, there must also have been intellectual, immortal sea creatures. Mermen? Or is he thinking of dolphins? It’s also in Gen. 2:19, where it makes no sense if translated his way. See also Ezekiel 47:9. Chaiyah can mean living thing, but it can also be an adjective meaning living. Naphesh can mean “soul”, but it can also mean “creature”.

A complete list of all appearances of the phrase in the Hebrew Bible: Gen 1:20, Gen 1:21, Gen 1:24, Gen 1:30, Gen 2:7, Gen 2:19, Gen 9:10, Gen 9:12, Gen 9:15, Lev 11:10, Lev 11:46, Eze 47:9. -AG}

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