[from] Bible Defence of Slavery
Josiah Priest
Glasgow, KY: 1853






  . . . It was from the lips of this man [Noah] that the everlasting God chose to announce the curse or malediction of servitude and slavery upon Ham and his race, as it is written, Gen. ix, 25—27.

  The reason of this terrible malediction of Noah upon his son Ham should be carefully sought after, or we may be led to accuse ere we may be aware of it, such a proceeding as being captious and unjust, which would be a lamentable circumstance to discover in the character of a man, who is named in Scripture as one among five of the holiest of the prophets, namely, Daniel, Job, Moses, Samuel and NOAH, see Ezek. xiv, 14, and Jer. xv, 1, and the holiest man upon the earth just prior to the flood.

  It appears from the Scripture, that immediately after the subsiding of the waters of the deluge, and


the ark had grounded on a small flat, or space of land, between the fingers of Mount Ararat, which fingers, or points, commence to divide at an altitude of about three miles above the common level of the earth, at the base of the mountain: we say it appears that Noah, as soon as the country had become drained of the waters, descended from the great ship of the flood down the mountain to the more level grounds of the country. On the side he went down, the mountain slopes off from the flat above named (which is about half a mile in width.—Porter), in a gradual manner, till lost in the country beyond, while on all the other sides it is a horrible series of ledges, perpendicular cliffs, and benches of everlasting stones and rocks, going up from the base of the mountains to the extreme points of the fingers, above spoken of, to the prodigious height of five and a half miles, where they are covered with unmelted snows of all ages since the flood.

  Fifteen cubits and upward did the waters of that deluge rise, even above the extreme points of the fingers of this mountain. See Gen. vii, 19, 20.

How dreadful was this! What a horrible abyss,
Where the winds, and the lightning and thunder,
Went down in the deep! Where ocean waves sleep,
And rent the vast deluge asunder.
Here rested alone old Neptune's salt throne
On the face of the watery star,
Around which, in glee, the fish of the sea
Played joyous in circles afar.
His horses stood near, in their pride, without fear
O'er the deluge's wide waters to roam,
Where at his nod they went forth with the god,
And paw'd with their feet the white foam.


  For a particular description of Mount Ararat, and the vast plains which lie at its base, in a semicircular form, extending as far as the eye can reach, as well as an account of the tradition of the natives, who are Mohammedans, respecting the great ship of the mountain, see Sir Robert Ker Porter's Travels in that country, ancient Tartary, Persia and Chaldea. This vessel, the great ship of the mountain, or the ark of Noah, according to Dr. Arbuthnot's computation, was equal in its tonnage to a fleet of eighty-one ships of a thousand tons each, and sixty-two tons over, which was sufficient to carry all the Scriptures state it did, and considerable to spare.

  From this lofty mountain range, Noah descended with his family, which, besides himself, consisted of only seven persons, who, as soon as he had found a place that suited him, settled there, and in a short time became a husbandman, or, in other words, a farmer. The place he selected, was doubtless, in the great vale which stretches out southeasterly from the foot of the mountain, where the ark grounded, some twenty miles, presenting to the eye an ocean of green foliage, which had but newly grown, after the receding of the waters, and presented to the voyagers a rapturous sight, who, for a year had been shut up in, the ark from the light of the sun, and for another year, no doubt, or even more, had remained on the mountain for the earth to dry, their descent, therefore, down to the green earth, was a joyous journey of some eight or ten miles only.

  It was from some cleft of this mountain, which was in latitude 35° north, that the dove found the


green olive leaf, she plucked and brought to a window of the ark, when she had been sent out the second time. It was on that mountain where all the animals, saved in the ark, were let loose, to roam in the forests, except such as were domesticated. There was heard the loud roaring of the lion, reverberating among the ledges of Mount Ararat, the bleat of the timid deer, the goat and, the sheep. From this place behemoth, the unicorn, or rhinoceros, the elephant, the camel, the giraffe, the wild ass, the fleet and beautiful horse, were turned loose, with all the hosts of the ark, each rejoicing, according to their natures, in their recovered liberties.

  It was from this range of Mountain grandeur, that the shrill scream of the great eagle of the antediluvian world was heard, as he with his mate circled the dizzy heights of that tallest of the Armenian hills. Here were the notes of the first birds, after the flood, carolled forth, who were the parents of all the feathered race of the globe, except the fowls of the waters.

  But lest we digress too far in our imaginings, we will return again to Noah and his family, who had become agriculturists, as we have before said. Among other pursuits of husbandry, Noah planted on his land a vineyard, the seeds of which he brought, no doubt, together with all other seeds of use to man, from beyond the flood.

  It is very probable, that this first settlement of the Patriarch was made near the head waters of the Euphrates, as that river has its origin in the Ararat range of mountains, and runs in a south-easterly direction, emptying into the Persian gulf, by several


mouths, which gulf is but a bay of the Eastern, or Indian, ocean.

  There, at the head waters of that river, in a warm and genial clime, which compares with about the middle of North Carolina, surrounded by the beautiful scenery of the country, having the awful heights of Ararat in full view, the home of the ark, the last relic of the maritime architecture of the first ages of the earth, at rest in its glory; here it was that Noah set up his tents and began his labors, assisted by his sons and their wives. [See plate.]

  At this place, from necessity, his sons must have remained, at least, fifty years, till the children born in the respective families were grown up, and others born of these, and grown also, marrying with their own respective families, as did the children of Adam, at the beginning.

  It cannot be supposed for a moment, that Noah would allow the three distinct complexions, or races, of his family to mingle or amalgamate, for he knew it was God who bad produced, for a wise purpose, these very characters; amalgamation, therefore, would certainly have destroyed what God so evidently had ordained and caused to exist. The amazing fact of the existence of the three complexions, of his own sons, by the same mother, was to Noah a sufficient reason, even without a Divine revelation on the subject, that these were to be kept sacredly asunder, and pure from each other's blood forever. That this view of the subject was held as binding upon these families for many ages, we have no doubts—each dreading to break over a barrier which the Creator


had evidently placed between them; amalgamation, therefore, during the three hundred and fifty years of Noah's life after the flood, it is not likely often happened among them.

  But from the extreme fruitfulness of these families, there were produced, by the time fifty years had gone by, great multitudes of men, women and children, spreading out in all directions around the patriarch Noah, their common father; who, in cultivating the ground and fighting the wild beasts, which by this time had filled the wilderness, presented a great company of gigantic forest adventurers. These adventurers, in pursuing the game of the wilds, in all directions, for the sake of their flesh for food, and their skins for clothing, would naturally fall in with other tracts of arable lands, streams, lakes, brooks, and rivers; along the banks of which, wonderful discoveries of flowry vales and mountains would be made. Broad savannas, abounding with all kinds of beasts and fowls—the waters with fishes, and the wilderness with berries, fruits, roots and esculent herbs. Nuts of all trees, spices, gums, aromatics and balms, frankincense, myrrh, cinnamon, and odors, wild honey, grapes and flowry regions with perpetual verdure, could but captivate the hearts of these pioneers of the wilds of the Euphrates and Tigris.

  The news of such discoveries being continually reported through the settlements, excited the formation of new companies, who, planting other neighborhoods in all directions, soon to the delighted eyes of Noah and his sons, occupied a large district, with multitudes of white, red, and black inhabitants; who


were pushing forward the respective interests of their clans, or families, with all the zeal of a mighty host of new country adventurers, dressed, both men and women, as well as children, in the shaggy skins of such animals as they could overcome and destroy.

  But lest we should wander too far, on account of the exuberance of the subject, we will return to the chief matter in hand, and this is the case of Ham and his people. In order to do this, we shall find it necessary to return again to the dwelling of Noah, and his plantation, at the time when, as yet, his sons and their families had not gone from thence, in quest of new places of settlement. In doing this, we will not forget the vineyard, which NOAH planted first of all, after the resting of the ark, and his removal out of it, down the mountain Ararat, from which, in its season, he gathered the grapes, and pressing out the juice of the same, drank, and became inebriated, or inclined to sleep—as we disallow of his being wickedly drunk at all.

  That he was thus affected, is not much to be wondered at, as Noah was, at the time of this occurrence, more than six hundred years old, when the weakness of old age must have began to unstring the iron nerves of antediluvian origin, such as characterized all the people before the flood. Now, during the effect of the wine, which doubtless was in its unfermented condition, like the new juice of apples, Noah fell asleep, as any old man would have done, after drinking so invigorating a draught. This took place in his tent, when, during the sleep, from some involuntary motion of his limbs, his robe, mantle, or


garment, which it appears was but loosely cast about him, became deranged, and fell from his person, while in a recumbent and unconscious condition, there alone in his repose.

  Why, or on what account, Ham came to intrude on the sacredness of his father's rest, is not known; but so it was. At this juncture, the two other sons of Noah, Japheth and Shem, were not far off; for, when Ham had been within the tent, and had seen the condition of his father, he was noticed by them to rush out in a state of very great excitement, yelling and exploding with laughter. But as soon as the fit had somewhat abated, Shem and Japheth made inquiry, respecting the cause of so much mirth and uproar, when they were seized with a fearful consternation of mind, and finding a garment of sufficient size, they extended it between their persons, and went backward into the tent, when they spread it over their father, and retired in silence. See Gen. ix, 23.

  The delicate and thoughtful manner in which the two brothers treated their father, on this distressing occasion, is sufficient evidence of their views of the awful conduct of Ham, showing that they considered what he had done was a crime of the deepest dye; a transaction, if perpetrated at the present time, would mark the actor as a character of the basest and lowest kind.

  But if the two brothers, Shem and Japheth, were shocked at the behavior of Ham, what were the feelings of his father, when he came to know the fact? From what followed, we learn that the Patriarch was


deeply grieved on account of the reckless impiety of Ham, as well as offended on his own personal behalf; for, on calling this son before him, Noah said, by the spirit of PROPHESY, words too terrible to fall from a parents lips, without a reason entirely resistless. The words which he pronounced, and was moved thereto by the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Ghost, contained in them a CURSE, a dreadful CURSE, which not only covered the person and fortunes of Ham, but that of his whole posterity also, to the very end of time, for aught that appears to the contrary.

  For an account of this appalling anathema, see Genesis ix, 24—27, as follows: "And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him: and he said, cursed be Canaan (Ham); a servant of SERVANTS shall he be unto his brethren. And he said, blessed be the Lord God of Shem; and Canaan (Ham) shall be his servant. God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan (Ham) shall be his servant."

  But lest the reader should become perplexed, respecting the application of this anathema, on account of the text above referred to being, in the English, "cursed Canaan," instead of "cursed Ham," as it should have been translated; we state that the Arabic copy of the book of Genesis, which is a language of equal authority with the Hebrew, and originally the very same, reads "cursed Ham," the father of Canaan, a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren.

  In this sense it has ever been understood by all


commentators, in every age, on the sacred writings. Bishop Newton thus understood the passage, who also refers the reader to the Arabic Bible for the true reading, as does Adam Clark.

  Newton maintains, page 19, at considerable length, that the curse of Noah upon Ham, had a general and an interminable application to the whole Hamite race, in placing them under a peculiar liability of being enslaved by the races of the two other brothers.

  Were not the above opinion the truth on that point, it would be a difficult matter to view the Divine procedure in that case otherwise than unjust; for why should Canaan, who was the youngest son of Ham, be selected from among the four to be cursed, and laid under a peculiar liability to be enslaved in his posterity, more than the other three brothers, for the act of their father. But when that Scripture is read and understood, as the Arabic records and understands it, the subject becomes plain, simple, and straight before us. HAM is the man who is denounced with his posterity, who were to become the slaves of the posterities of the two other races, and among themselves; for the text says, they should be the "servants of servants," as well as the servants of the hired servants of the other races, as is the fact in all countries, and has ever been thus.

  It is not our opinion that for this one act of Ham that dreadful curse fell upon him and his race. It was not for that one act alone, but on account of his whole character and nature (which one act was, however, in awful keeping with his previous life), that the curse of slavery was entailed on his race.


  That the character of Ham's life, up to the time when he committed that unchaste, unfilial, and unholy deed, had been but a continued scene of sin and outrage, is strongly intimated in the words made use of by Noah, when he denounced him, and said "cursed Ham," not cursed be Ham, as the English translators have rendered it, supplying the word be, as if he had not been thus prior to that time. The word be is not in the original, nor is it needed in the English translation.

  The words, cursed Ham, therefore, signify, in the Hebrew, that he had been always a bad person, even from childhood; for let it not be forgotten that Ham, at the very time he did that act, was more than a hundred years old. All the powers of his mind were as matured then as they ever could be; the deed, therefore, was but a trait of the gigantic negro's general life and character. Had Ham, on discovering the condition of his patriarchal father in his sleep, retired abashed and sorrowful, and had kept the thing to himself; or had related what had taken place with downcast eyes and real mortification, it would have been the evidence of the good intentions and pious state of his heart and temperament of mind, as well as, in a degree, would have argued well in relation to his former character. The curse, therefore, against Ham and his race was not sent out on the account of that one sin only. But as the deed was heinous, and withal was in unison with his whole life, character and constitutional make, prior to that deed, the curse, which had slumbered long, was let loose upon him and his posterity, as a general thing, placing


them under the ban of slavery, on account of his and their foreseen characters.

  Noah did not and could not, as a holy and good man, have pronounced that curse in a vindictive and furious manner upon Ham. No, this he did not do; it was very far from being thus. When the great Patriarch was moved upon by the Holy Ghost to speak as he did on that occasion, we have no doubt but he did it with real pain and sorrow of heart, and yet it must be done, as it was dictated by the influence of the Eternal's mandate.

  Might we be allowed to imagine the state of Noah's feelings on that occasion, and also to give words to those feelings, they would be as follows: "Oh Ham, my son, it is mot for this one deed alone which you have just committed that I have, by God's commands. thus condemned you and your race; but the Lord has shown me that all your descendants will, more or less, be like you, their father, on which account it is determined by the Creator that you and your people are to occupy the lowest condition of all the families among mankind, and even be enslaved as brute beasts, going down in the scale of human society, beyond and below the ordinary exigencies of mortal existence, arising out of war, revolutions and conflicts, for you will and must be, both in times of peace and war, a despised, a degraded and an oppressed race."

  God, therefore, foreseeing the end from the beginning, saw good to direct the mind of Noah, who was a prophet, to declare to the world what should come to pass concerning all his sons, as well as Ham, in


the most specific and particular manner. By this procedure, God has set up, as it were, way marks and data, by which, in after ages, men should come to see, know and believe in the veracity of his word, as spoken by his prophets, on account of the fulfillment of the same, in every iota thereof; not only in relation to the destinies of Noah's three sons, but in all things else.

  On the subject of a child's treating its parents with intended disrespect, see the opinion of God himself; Deut. xxvii, 16, who, in that place says, "CURSED be he that setteth light by his father or his mother, and all the people shall say amen." This sin, the treating a father or mother disrespectfully, was, by the law of Moses, punished with death. See Deut. xxi, 18—21. Consequently, according to this law, Ham was morally worthy of death.

  But lest the reader may suspect that this terrible character of Ham is almost if not entirely imaginary, we shall, as promised some pages above, give the history of that deed of his from the pen of Josephus. See Jewish Antiquities, chap. vi, book i, p. 22, as follows: "When after the deluge the earth was settled in its former condition, Noah set about its cultivation; and when he had planted it with vines, and when the fruit was ripe and he had gathered the grapes in the season, and the wine was ready for use, he offered a sacrifice and feasted, and being inebriated fell asleep and lay naked in an unseemly manner. When Ham, his youngest son, saw this, he came LAUGHING and showed him to his brothers."

  From this evidence, the fact of Ham having treated


his father with great disrespect and wicked levity, is fairly made out, and therefore deserves the character we have described as his, and the punishment awarded to him and his race, both judicial and as a result of his and their natures.

  But says one, we have always held that this curse of Noah, as it is called, upon the negro race, was a kind of unmeaning rhapsody of the father of Ham, and long ago became obsolete and perfectly nugatory. To unhinge, therefore, a notion so fraught with lightness and falsehood, we exhibit the following, from the pen of inspiration, and having a strong relation in kind and character, so far as relates to the curses of God, or denunciations of the Highest, which he has seen fit to publish in the annals of truth—the Holy Scriptures, we bring them to view as parallels to the case of the denunciation of Ham, believing as fully in their perfect accomplishment as we do in that of the curse of Noah upon Ham and his race.

  The first case of the kind which occurs on the sacred page, is found Gen. iii, 14, and reads as follows: "And the Lord God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field: upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life." This curse on the serpent, which was uttered more than sixteen hundred years before the curse of Noah upon Ham and his race, has lost nothing of its force and true meaning, though vastly more ancient and prolix in its interpretation, as commonly understood.

  A second case, in the character of a curse, is found


in the same chapter, as above, at the 17th verse, respecting the ground, which, on account of Adam's sin, in hearkening to his wife's counsel, was cursed, so that it is supposed to have been far less prolific, from the time of that sin to the flood, and from the flood to this day, than it would otherwise have been had it not been thus cursed by the Supreme Being. The exact form or words of this curse are as follows: "Cursed is the ground for thy sake, in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life." Has this curse failed of being continually fulfilled in all ages, though vastly more ancient than the curse of Noah upon his son Ham—and were all equally judicial?

  No man discredits the complete accomplishment of the patriarch Jacob's predictions respecting the fortunes of his twelve sons, in their posterities. See Gen. xlix, from the 3d to the 27th verse inclusive, where the wonderful and specific history of that prophet's foresight is related.

  Add to the above the terrible curses of God, by the mouth of Moses, upon the whole Hebrew or Jewish tribes, if they forsook the law, which in process of time they did: and how awfully and perfectly those curses were fulfilled, all men know. For a history of those curses or judicial acts of God, see the entire chapter, the 28th of Deuteronomy. Now, with all this before our eyes and impressed upon our belief, are we to undervalue the same kind of inspiration because it is found to affect a subject on which some men have made up their minds not to believe, namely, the curse of Noah, or God's judicial act upon Ham,


and his foresight of the slavery of that race, as shown to Noah, and say it was thus intended?

  The appointment of this race of men to servitude and slavery was a judicial act of God, or, in other words, was a divine judgment. There are three evidences of this, which are as follows:

  FIRST—The fact of their being created or produced in a lower order of intellectuality than either of the other races (as we shall prove in due order), their forms, natures or passions agreeing therewith, is evidence of the preordination of their fate as slaves on the earth, as none but God could have done or determined this thing.

  SECOND—The announcement of God by the mouth of Noah, relative to the whole race of Ham, pointing out in so many words, in the clearest and most specific manner, that they were adjudged to slavery, as we have already shown from the book of Genesis, agreeing with the first witness as above, namely, that they were foreordained and appointed to the condition they hold among men by the divine Mind, solely on account of the foreseen character they would sustain as a race, who, therefore, were thus judicially put beneath the supervision of the other races.

  THIRD—The great and everywhere pervading fact of their degraded condition, both now and in all time, more or less, is the very climax-witness that, in the above conclusion, we are not mistaken—namely, that the negro race, as a people, are judicially given over to a state or peculiar liability of being enslaved by the other races.