Exodus 21:16: "Whoever steals a man and sells him, and anyone found in possession of him, shall be put to death." The eighth precept of the Decalogue [Exo. 20:15; Deut. 5:19] is sufficient to prove the same moral principle. If he who steals my purse, my coat, or my horse, be guilty of an immorality, he cannot be innocent who robs me of my father, my brother, my wife, or my child. Likewise, an inspired Apostle says in his Epistle to Timothy (1 Tim. 1:9): "Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient—for MAN STEALERS—and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine.” Man stealing is classed with the most detestable crimes. It is considered not only reprehensible among the ancient Hebrews, but a moral evil, in every age, and in every nation. From the text, I lay before you the following proposition: The practice of buying, holding, or selling our unoffending fellow creatures as slaves is immoral. The text will certainly support this proposition, according to the common principles of law, the receiver of stolen goods, if he know them to be such, is deemed guilty as well as the thief. The slave holder never had a right to force a man into his service, or to retain him, without an equivalent. To sell him, therefore, is to tempt another to sin, and to dispose of that, for money, to which he never had a right.
The proposition does not militate against slavery under every form. A man who injures society may forfeit liberty, and even life: He may deserve slavery in the fullest sense of the word, in order that his punishment may be a sanction to the law—may be an example to others—and may compensate, as much as possible, for the injuries done to society. "Innocent fellow creatures" is not to be understood in a moral, but in a political sense. As the subjects of Jehovah’s government, we are all guilty, and deserve to perish. We have merited eternal imprisonment from him. But, in relation to civil society, men are deemed innocent unless they have violated its laws. These are assuredly entitled to personal freedom.
- Alexander M’leod, Negro Slavery Unjustifiable, A Discourse (New York, 1802), at http://www.covenanter.org/McLeod/negro.htm.