THE apologies that are being put forth in this country in behalf of slavery and polygamy, now that these institutions are known to exist in lands subject to the jurisdiction of United States, would be amusing if they did not relate to a serious matter. Here, for example, are some statements from an article contributed to The Independent, on “Slavery and Polygamy in the Sulu Archipelago,” by E. M. Andre, Belgian consul at Manila:—
“The slavery which exists on the islands is so different from that which Americans were accustomed to in the South before the war of the rebellion, that it deserves another term to define it. A Moro chief who owns slaves is more like a master who has hired a dozen or two mechanics or laborers by the year to work his place. He has no rights over them, except to see that they work for him, for which he in turn must give them proper food, clothing, shelter, and protection. He has no right to sell them as a man would his cattle, nor are there any slave markets such as were found in this country half a century ago.” (Italics hours.)
It is confessed in this that the Sulu slave owner has a “right,” “to see that they [his slaves] work for him.” In other words, he has a “right” to force certain other people of the island to work for him. But the Constitution says, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” (Italics ours.)
That it is a different slavery in some respects from that formerly practised in America, may be true enough; but that is not the point. The point is, that it is directly contrary to the Constitution; and that an institution which is in violation of this fundamental law, and of natural rights, and that has been made doubly odious by the most terrible of civil wars, is not tolerated by the Government, and apologized for in the public press, of this country.
Mr. Andre goes on to show that it would be practically impossible to abolish this Sulu slavery; a law prohibiting it “would not change matters materially,” etc. But this if it is so, constitutes no reason for setting aside the Constitution of the United States.
Of polygamy in this new American possession the writer speaks thus:—
“Polygamy is not as active an institution as some are led to believe. Among the poor it is rarely practised, and the chief incentive among the chiefs is for perpetuating their rule and authority. If the children are born by the first wife, the chief takes another in order that the authority will stay in his family. He does not put away his first wife, but frequently recognizes her only as his lawful wife. Again, it is the one who bears him children which he practically acknowledges. There are no harems such as you find in Turkey and other  Oriental countries. The wives of all the freedom to come and go, and are merely required to show due respect to their husband and his family.”
Would not this be acceptable to the American people as a basis upon which to allow polygamy in Utah? If not, why say anything in its defense?
The fact that it is of most significance in connection with all this, is that such efforts should be made to cast a favorable light upon institutions which in principle are altogether bad. When a thing is bad in principle, the safe and only wise course is to consider its possibilities for evil rather than to paint it in colors which will make it less repulsive.
To this defense of the system of slavery and polygamy in Sulu, it is quite fitting that the writer should join the statement that “It would be the means of exciting the enmity of the priests, and in the end it would precipitate one of their bloody ‘holy wars.’ But great good can be accomplished by endeavoring to raise their morals.”
From first to last in this movement to extend the national jurisdiction over an alien people wedded to un-American institutions, nothing has been said to encourage gospel missionary effort among that people, but much is being said to discourage it. If it is a movement which does not combine with true gospel work; and that is for the simple reason that it does not harmonize with gospel principles.