Grandfather Moses and Abolitionism

“I want you to faithfully act in loving covenant loyalty, not mere empty ritual”
. –– my paraphrase of Hosea 6:6; quoted by Jesus in Matt 9:13 and 12:7
“Is this not the fast which I choose, To loosen the bonds of wickedness, To undo the bands of the yoke, And to let the oppressed go free And break every yoke?” –– Isaiah 58:6 NASB95

This Sunday morning I stood overlooking the woods in the falling snow atop Mt. Pleasant (Jessamine Co., Kentucky) at the church founded by my 3rd great-grandparents. Church had been called off due to the snow, but I was not alone, for spiritual communion with my saintly forefathers led me to ponder their roles in the struggles against slavery, prompting me to record this note re Christian activity in establishing godly principles into civil society.

My 3rd great-grandfather Moses Martin met Sarah/Sally Singleton, daughter of Manoah, who owned and worked several slaves in Jessamine Co., where he was also Magistrate / Justice of the Peace. Moses and Sally were original members starting the church meetings on the hill that became Mt. Pleasant church in the year of our Lord 1791 (officially established in 1801). Moses, a fine calligrapher who later became the church secretary, was chosen to write the stirring pioneer history of struggle for civil religious liberty leading up to the founding of the church as well as the Church Covenant, espousing Christian principles of loving societal responsibility. These important original documents are still in the hilltop church he helped found looking over the town of Liberty (est. 1794; now Keene) being built up around grandfather Manoah’s grist mill.

Moses fathered William Evans Martin (born 7 October 1812). Being opposed to slavery and desiring to leave the slave state of Kentucky, Moses and his family, with teen son William, moved (between 1825–1829) to pioneer what would be the new free state of Indiana. Somewhere in this time, Moses set the slaves free, not only his own but also the slaves of his wife Sarah (daughter of slavery proponent Manoah). Sarah took Moses’ emancipation ill, and some sort of strife (perhaps a kind of non-divorce separation) hurt their marriage. While they never divorced, and while it may reflect a contemporary burial practice of filling up plots in the order in which people died, Moses and Sarah are nonetheless not buried next to each other in the Old Hebron Cemetery, Washington Co., Indiana, a fact that could symbolize the suffering Moses was willing to undergo by his following Christian principles of love in emancipating all the slaves he could.

Such events as these were the American complement to contemporaneous efforts by that great soldier of Christ William Wilberforce (1759–1833) in waging his heroic and successful efforts to awaken the British Empire into abolishing the reeking sin of the slave trade (begun by another of my great-grandfathers, John Hawkins).

In Indiana, Moses’ son William Martin met and married (2 Nov 1837) Hannah Starbuck, daughter of George, a Fighting Quaker from Nantucket Island, Massachusetts (at least five grandfathers of Hannah had been colonial governors from the days of the first Puritan settlement of 1623).

George Starbuck became a noted leader and activist in the Underground Railroad, hiding and aiding escaping slaves. His house, a stop, or “station,” on the Railroad, later became a monument enshrining their bravely loving actions for the cause of liberty. Those slaves that reached George had to cross over the mighty Ohio River from Kentucky to freedom in Indiana.

A spiritual insight into the situation that escaping slaves endured is gained from such noted negro spirituals they sang as, “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.” The spirituals possessed a double-entendre not only of the afterlife but also of earthly civil/political liberation, with Christian activists like grandfather George being one of the “band of angels” helping escaping slaves.

“I looked over Jordan [e.g., the Ohio River], and what did I see coming for to carry me home? A band of angels coming after me, coming for to carry me home.”

“Many slaves in town and in plantations tried to run to a ‘free country’, that they called ‘my home’ or ‘Sweet Canaan, the Promised Land’. This country was on the Northern side of Ohio River, that they called ‘Jordan’. . . . The Underground Railroad (UGRR) helped slaves to run to free a country. A fugitive could use several ways. First, they had to walk at night, using hand lights and moonlight. When needed, they walked (‘waded’) in water, so that dogs could not smell their tracks. Second, they jumped into chariot, where they could hide and ride away. These chariots stopped at some ‘stations’, but this word could mean any place where slaves had to go for being taken in charge. So, negro spirituals like “Wade in the Water”, “The Gospel Train” and “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” directly refer to the UGRR.” (

Another secret spiritual included the lyrics, “I don’t have much time to linger here,” sung as slaves were communicating among themselves that they were preparing to escape that night. Hidden meaning is found in the famous negro spiritual, “Wade in the Water,” on the surface modeled after the healing at the Pool of Bethesda (cf. John 5:2–9), with a message of taking faithful personal initiative in actively moving from slavery to a new life of freedom. Even more specifically, it was sung also to encourage runaway slaves to walk in the water, instead of on land, in order to avoid dogs and trackers on their journey north.

Was my 2d great-grandfather William (son of Moses the emancipator and married to abolitionist Starbuck’s daughter) not also involved in the anti-slavery movement? I wish his grandson, my grandfather Fred Macy Martin, were still alive to ask what he knows. Further research will tell, but that may mean waiting for a personal interview with all of them at a future date.

So I follow in my forefathers’ footsteps, also being led to oppose the forces of slavery today, of which there are various kinds. One is that of legislated practical servitude to and dependence on what may be termed Statism (whether Humanist, pseudo-Christian theocracy, or neopagan). Such Statism erects a self-perpetuating political bureaucracy that legislates theft by confiscatory taxation in order to practice redistributionism whereby they aggrandize the state and addict those to whom they redistribute wealth, making them dependent on the state. Thus are both the middle and lower classes enslaved to the governing class, the former has the fruit of their labour unwillingly confiscated while the latter receives stolen largess creating the enslavement of dependency.

Another form of slavery, in the midst of the general oppression and Dhimmitude of a pseudo- theocratic Shari‘ah state, is a more directly forced Islamic slavery now in global resurgence. Philosopher-publisher Father Richard John Neuhaus observes: “you prick the Christian conscience . . . and get Wilberforce’s crusade to end slavery in Britain and dominions [and, I add, the American abolitionists’ crusade]; you prick the Islamic conscience in the same time, and you get Mulay Isamail’s declaration that he cannot tamper with the place God assigned for unbelievers” (“The Public Square,” First Things [June-July 2007]). The current revival of Islam still properly believes and acts in faithful observance of these Qur’anic revelations today.

Human beings are still in bondage in Sudan and elsewhere in the Islamic world (see, e.g., Robert Spencer, “The Persistence of Islamic Slavery“). Places like Muslim Pakistan still practice child slave auctions.

For example, consider the creeping imposition of Shari‘ah Law and violent spread of imperialistic Islam not only in Sudan but also in Nigeria. The history of the former Islamic empire in northeast Nigeria sets a precedent for their revival in current Nigerian practices. Slavers preferred the “booty” of young women and children valuable as concubines and eunuchs. Islamic law provides for the sexual interests of Muslim men by allowing as many concubines as their fortunes allow. Young boys were often mutilated to create eunuchs, who would bring higher prices in the slave markets of the Middle East. Only a small number of the boys survived after the mutilation. History repeats itself as Christian women are kidnapped and forced to “marry” Muslim men today.

But a modern Underground Railroad is run by Christian Solidarity International (CSI) facilitating the redemption and other mass liberation of many thousands of Christian slaves in Southern Sudan suffering under rapacious Arab Muslim masters from the North, showing that our activism and support of groups like CSI and iAbolish can make a difference (603 Southern Sudanese slaves were just liberated at the end of November).

C. S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia showed, e.g., in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (although censored from the latest film), an Islamic-style system of state-condoned slavery, with the central government of the Lone Islands cooperating with the piratical slavers supplying human merchandise in exchange for the “crescent” coins of the robed and turbaned buyers for the Calormene Empire in a way similar to real-world historical practices of the Barbary Pirates supplying the Islamic Caliphate. Slavery in The Lone Islands was overthrown by the godly soldier of Aslan, King Caspian, as has similarly occurred in our world. In A.D. 1620, my 9th great-grandfather, Admiral Sir Richard Hawkins (son of John, founder of the triangular English slave trade), led a naval expedition against the piratical Muslim slavers of the Barbary Coast, and so in A.D. 1805 did President Thomas Jefferson and the United States Marine Corps, whose hymn commemorates this liberation from slavery in its first stanza, “. . . to the shores of Tripoli, we will fight our country’s battles on the land as on the sea.” (On an interesting side note, the term leathernecks used for U.S. Marines derives from this event when they wore stout leather collars as armour against the terrible beheading strokes of Muslim scimitars.)

Thus does my family heritage within the historic struggle of Christians to liberate captives strengthen the task of doing my part to create theological foundations for a strong Christian civilization that will overcome both our major competitors for the future of this earth: the growing movement toward tyrannical Statism enslaving lower classes to a blasphemous god-state as well as the current revival of Islamic political culture bringing increased return not only to Dhimmitude but also to both sexual and chattel slavery in places like Nigeria and Sudan.

The highest form of faithful action in loyalty to the covenant is to obey the Double Love Command: 1) love Trinity, love Christ; 2) love Their elect Community image, the Church of Israel, the Body of Christ. The Second Great Commandment (2GC) includes the requirement to give assistance to your fellow covenant member in his physical need. As the Loyal/Faithful Samaritan obeyed the 2GC by helping his Judaean fellow covenant member (Luke 10:25–37), so did Christian abolitionists like grandfather Starbuck help rescue their fellow Christians enslaved and suffering, and so, if we want to love God, be faithful to the covenant and obey the 2GC, must we today help persecuted and enslaved Christians, the global Church lying beaten and robbed in the ditch like the fellow Israelite the Samaritan helped. All Christians have a choice: they can, like grandfather George, belong to the “band of angels” helping their suffering fellow Christians, or they can shut their eyes and be “No-good Samaritans” in danger of judgement.

“Rescue the weak and needy; Deliver them out of the hand of the wicked.” (Psalms 82:4 NASB95)
“Learn to do good; Seek justice, Reprove the ruthless, Defend the orphan, Plead for the widow.” (Isaiah 1:17 NASB95)
“If you hold back from rescuing those taken away to death, those who go staggering to the slaughter; 12 if you say, ‘Look, we did not know this’––does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it? And will he not repay all according to their deeds?” (Proverbs 24:11–12 NASB95)

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