"Slavery is According to Reason": The Mobberly Diaries, Part II, August 1823

Dublin Core


"Slavery is According to Reason": The Mobberly Diaries, Part II, August 1823


Slavery--Religious aspects; Slavery--Justification; Slavery and the church--Catholic Church


Br. Joseph Mobberly offers a biblical justification of slavery and denies men are born free in the eyes of God. Continued in GSA144.


Joseph P. Mobberly, SJ Papers


Diary Part II, Box 1, Folder 7, p. 26-32, Joseph P. Mobberly, SJ Papers, Booth Family Center for Special Collections, Georgetown University

The Joseph P. Mobberly Papers have been digitized in their entirity by Georgetown Univeristy Library. To browse the collection visit Digital Georgetown.


Georgetown Slavery Archive

The Mobberly Diaries were previously hosted by the Jesuit Plantation Project.




Adam Rothman, Elsa Barraza Mendoza, Jesuit Plantation Project


Georgetown University Library











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[Page 26]

Slavery is according to Reason
All men are free --God never made one man to serve another.*  I should be glad to know whence this text comes. I can find it no where but in the mouths of modern sages. If we examine this unlimited principle of freedom by the divine economy displayed in the creation we shall find it incorrect. In the beginning God created the heaven and the Earth but he did not create them independent of each other. They essentially depend on one another. "Fecitque Deus duo luminaria magna: luminare majus ut praeesset diei: et luminare minus, ut praeesset nocti." (Gen 1. 16). God created the Angels but he placed a chief at the head of them,

*L'homme est né libre, et partout il est dans les fers." Rousseau

[Page 27]
and established different orders among them such as Thrones, Dominations, Principalities and powers (Coloss 1. 16). The Lion rules the forest, being Master and King of all the family of Quadrapeds. The eagle flies thro the boundless void and commands respect from all the feathered tribes: the fathomless deep is not without its kings and masters that rule over and prey upon the weaker tribes of the finny race. Man, being the noblest work of God's Creation is constituted Master and King over all living creatures and this creature, man, whom all creatures obey, must show due respect and submission to the great Master and King of the Universe. But how is this creature man to be governed? We know it is

[Page 28]
not good for man to be alone; he must have a help like unto himself ( Gen 2. 18 )-- and therefore he must live in Society. It seems that Society is necessary to his very existence and so the almighty has strongly intimated in the above passage of holy writ. But a society supposes the necessity of different orders to compose it. All cannot command-- All cannot obey. Some must command and others must obey. We cannot reasonably suppose that God has his agents in the Celestial hierachy, and that he never intended to have any on earth. The Angels of God are Beings much superior to man and therefore stand in less need of rulers to preside over them. It seems there were Chieftains

[Page 29]
in Heaven before the fall of Lucifer and his Associates; and we know that God established Society on Earth before the fall of man. But if Society was deemed necessary for those perfect creatures who were the cherished friends of God, how much more is it necessary for fallen man who is filled with boisterours passions, and is prone to evil from his youth? (Gen 8.21).

"Man is born free." This proposition duly limited is good; but when taken as it is by many in its widest sense it is bad. It is of Faith that every man is a Free Agent and has it in his power to choose good or evil. Thus far is reasonable and the strength of this observation is daily and hourly forced

[Page 30]
upon the mind of every rational creature. Man is so perfectly free in this respect, that no power on earth can compel him to do a wicked act unless he will. This has been sufficiently tested by the invincible constancy of whole legions of martyrs. But how far shall this principle of liberty be extended? Shall we unite and exclaim with modern Sophisters, Liberty and Equality? This however, will not do: it had a fair trial in the French Revolution and there it completely failed. Instead of Liberty, they found chains, and were made to serve under the lash of a cruel Despot; and in lieu of Equality, they experienced more inequality,

[Page 31]
than France ever saw before.

These men wish to meliorate the condition of the human race: nay, their zeal is so great that they will stop at no sacrifice in order to place human nature in the highest state of perfection. But such a zeal cannot be approved inasmuch as it is unwise and aims and impossibilities. They would have the present order of nature to be perfect in a higher degree, than God himself would have it. It is difficult to say how far they wish this principle of Liberty to extend. It is plain that they wish it not to stop precisely at the point of temperate Liberty. They will have all

[Page 32]
men to be free and all to be equal. But this is not practicable without introducing an unbounded licentiousness, and overturning the fundamental principles of good government.*We know it is the will of Heaven that one man should be subject to another. It is according to right reason that the wife obey the husband because being the weaker of the two she depends on him for support and protection. "Et sub viri potestate eris & ipse dominabitur tibi."- For thesame reason children must obey their parents. "Honoria patrem tuum & matrem tuam ut sis longaevus super terram quam Dominus Deus dabit tibi."-(12).

*Mr. Lock has observed that, "where there is no law, there is no freedom." Encyc. or Dic. Vol. 10 p. 22
-Margin: Gen. 3. 16
-Margin: Exod. 20. 12

[Page 33]
For a similar reason servants are bound to obey their masters. "Servi obedite Dominis carnalibus cum timore & tremore in simplicitate cordis vestri sicut Christo."-

-Margin: Ephes. 6. 5.



Joseph P. Mobberly, SJ Papers , “"Slavery is According to Reason": The Mobberly Diaries, Part II, August 1823,” Georgetown Slavery Archive, accessed July 18, 2024, https://slaveryarchive.georgetown.edu/items/show/158.