Letter to Oliver Cowdery, circa April 1836

to their circumstances or conditions?  I mean particularly those who have  never travelled in the South, and  scarcely seen a negro in all their life.  How any community can ever be ex cited with the chatter of such persons —boys and others who are too indo lent to obtain their living by honest in dustry, and are inca[p]able of pursuing  any occupation of a professional na ture, is unaccountable to me. And  when I see persons in the free states  signing documents against slavery, it  is no less, in my mind, than an array  of influence, and a declaration of hos tilities against the people of the South!  What can divide our Union sooner,  God only knows!
After having expressed myself so  freely upon this subject, I do not doubt  but those who have been forward in  raising their voice against the South,  will cry out against me as being un charitable, unfeeling and unkind— wholly unacquainted with the gospel  of Christ. It is my privilege then, to  name certain passages from the bible,  and examine the teachings of the an cients upon this matter, as the fact is  uncontrovertable, that the first mention  we have of slavery is found in the ho ly bible, pronounced by a man who  was perfect in his generation and  walked with God. And so far from  that prediction’s being averse from the  mind of God it remains as a lasting  monument of the decree of Jehovah,  to the shame and confusion of all who  have cried out against the South, in  consequence of their holding the sons  of Ham in servitude!
“And he said cursed be Canaan; a servant  of servants shall he be unto his brethren.  And he said, Blessed be the Lord God of  Shem; and Canaan shall be his serva[n]t.— God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell  in the tents of Shem: and Canaan shall be  his servant.”—Gen, 8: 25,26,27.
Trace the history of the world from  this notable event down to this day,  and you will find the fulfilment of this  singular prophecy. What could have  been the design of the Almighty in  this wonderful occurrence is not for  me to say; but I can say, that the  curse is not yet taken off the sons of  Canaan, neither will be until it is af fected by as great power as caused it  to come; and the people who interfere  the least with the decrees and purposes  of God in this matter, will come under  the least condemnation before him;  and those who are determined to pur sue a course which shows an opposi tion and a feverish restlessness against  the designs of the Lord, will learn,  when perhaps it is too late for their  own good, that God can do his own  work without the aid of those who are  not dictated by his counsel.
I must not pass over a notice of the  history of Abraham, of whom so much  is spoken in the scriptures. If we can  credit the account, God conversed  with him from time to time, and direct ed him in the way he should walk,  saying, “I am the Almighty God:  walk before me and be thou perfect.”  Paul says that the gospel was preach ed to this man. And it is further said,  that he had sheep and oxen, men-ser vants and maid-servants, &c. From  this I conclude, that if the principle  had been an evil one, in the midst of  the communications made to this holy  man, he would have been instructed  differently. And if he was instructed  against holding men-servants and  maid-servants, he never ceased to do  it; consequently must have incurred  the displeasure of the Lord and there by lost his blessings—which was not  the fact.
Some may urge, that the names  man-servant and maid-servant, only  mean hired persons who were at liber ty to leave their masters or employers  at any time. But we can easily settle  this point by turning to the history of  Abraham’s descendants, when gov erned by a law given from the mouth  of the Lord himself. I know that  when an Israelite had been brought in to servitude in consequence of debt, or  otherwise, at the seventh year he went  from the task of his former master or  employer; but to no other people or  nation was this granted in the law to  Israel. And if, after a man had serv ed six years, he did not wish to be  free, then the master was to bring him  unto the judges, boar his ear with an  awl, and that man was “to serve him  forever.” The conclusion I draw  from this, is that this people were led  and governed by revelation and if  such a law was wrong God only is to  be blamed, and abolitionists are not  responsible.
Now, before proceeding any farther,  I wish to ask one or two questions:— Were the apostles men of God, and did  they preach the gospel? I have no [p. 290]
JS, letter, Kirtland, OH, to Oliver Cowdery, Kirtland, OH, ca. Apr. 1836; Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate, Apr. 1836, pp. 289–291.