Slavery and the Making of AmericaDrawing of a sermon at the First African Church in Richmond, Virginia
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Courtesy of Library of Congress, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, African American Pamphlet Collection
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Photo of the text of the speech THE HAND OF GOD WITH THE BLACK RACE
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Document Description
Alexander McGill's speech to the Pennsylvania Colonization Society uses an argument drawn from religion not to support the institution of slavery per se, but to suggest that the temporary bondage of Africans in America is an act of divine providence. According to McGill, God brought Africans into slavery so they might adopt the culture of Christian civilization and carry it back to Africa.

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II. The Apostle claims for the Maker of all men the right to govern them, in the control of their vicissitudes; "hath determined the times before appointed;" that is, the dates, or events of history -- turning points in the progress of nations. Probably the form of expression here was shaped by a reference, inevitable with the educated Jew, to that precise determination of time, with which the special providence of God had ruled the destiny of Israel. "Know of a surety," said the Most High to Abram, when "an horror of great darkness fell upon him,"--"that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; and also that nation, whom they shall serve, I will judge: and afterwards shall they come out with great substance," (Gen. xv. 13, 14.) It is only because they were a visibly covenanted people that their "times" are thus explicitly mentioned; all other nations and races of men are led, and overruled, and destined, with equal precision of times, by the councils of Him, who hath made them all of one blood. The illustrious progeny of Shem and the obscure descendants of Ham, are as perfectly alike, in the parental forecast of their common Maker, as they are alike in the weakness of their birth, the necessities of their life, and the dust to which they moulder

Indeed, these "last times" of ours would summon us to see, in the chronicles of the most abject posterity that ever sprung from the uncovenanted sires of mankind, a similarity of lot to the great covenanted race of old, which no other nation or race ever exhibited in its annals. The Africans in our country are strangers and servants "in a land that is not theirs." They are here for a special purpose, just as surely as my text is true, that a special providence controls the times which measure events for any people. That special purpose resembles the end for which

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If ever "the times before appointed," in the lot of any people, unfolded themselves, their continuance and their limitation, alike in significant events, the condition of the black man here shows that neither a perpetual bondage, nor an immediate abolition, is the will of God concerning him. It is the schooling of slaves in this Republic which Heaven decreed for slavery, when Virginia, South Carolina, and Georgia, all implored the British Crown in vain to spare these colonies the curse of its infliction; and the tutelage is to last until the enslaved are able and willing to carry back to their own land the spoils of a Christian civilization.

Slavery itself is no school. It only degrades and destroys the children of men. Even the chosen race of Israel, who went down to Egypt, with a cultivation which the second man in the kingdom was not ashamed to own and introduce to the court of Pharaoh, could not endure the servitude of three generations after Joseph, without sinking so low as to hug their chains and reproach their deliverer, and carry with them, in their exodus, a spirit so besotted as to require nearly half a century of time in the wilderness, to fit them for Canaan. Look at slavery by itself in Africa. No where else on the globe has it had the same time and chance to work out its own legitimate results. There, pre-eminently, it is the patriarchal institution; and proves what it can do, to complete the family, and give the structure of society a solid basis, and a beautiful gradation. There it is, that the king of Dahomey first rung the changes, which have been so eloquently repeated at Charleston and New Orleans, that the social fabric is not perfect, without a substratum of involuntary bondage, a pedestal of living souls, to be bought and sold forever, like the beasts of burden. Fetish idolatry, cannibal cruelty, the horrid barracoon, the stifling middle
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