Henry K How.

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New-Brunswick, March 8, 1856.


Dear Sir :

I have just finished reading your reply to ray father's argument

before General Syuoi, entitled, " Slaveholding not Sinful." It was
brought to me this morning, and as it requires little thought and less
reflection to rebut your arguments, I shall at once proceed to the task.
I take the liberty to reply, because you refer to the "copyright
secured," and as that was done in my name and for my benefit, I am
of course an interested party, and can with propriety reply to your

Your first assertion worthy of notice is, that Dr. How has pub-
lished an argument " apologizing for, supporting, sustaining, giving aid
and comfort, in all its length and breadth, to the shocking and loath-
some system of human bondage as it exists in the United States."
Now, Sir, I reply that no candid, intelligent reader of the argument
could have come to such a conclusion, indeed, you, yourself, on the
very same page, contradict this assertion of yours, and your contra-
diction is contained in the following words. Addressing Dr. How, you
say : " I am quite aware that in terms you say but little of American
Slavery as such ;" and on your fourth page another contradiction of your
first charge, in these words : " Yet, so adroitly have you presented your
case, that if it had not been for certain modern expressions which you
made use of, found only in the present pro slavery vocabulary, we
might in fact have been led into the impression that it was, after all,,
only the ancient slavery that you was justifying." So you perceive,.
Sir, that by your last two you have contradicted yom first assertion)
and charge against Dr. How of " apologizing for, ^'.staining, supporting
and giving aid and comfort, in all its length and breadth, [email protected], the loath-
some system of human bondage as it exists in the United States."'
But, Sir, aside from your contradiction, your assei tior*! 1* not' true, and
exhibits either a misapprehension of the scope and spirit of Dr. How's
argument, or a wilful perversion of it. As I have quoted your


charge, now I shall give Dr. How's words as used at the commence-
ment of his argument. When speaking of slavery, he says: " We
admit that it is an evil much to be lamented, but we deny that it is a
sin against God or a crime against man."

Docs this look like "'apologizing for, supporting, sustaining, in all
its length and breadth" &c. Again, Sir, your charge is proved to be
unfounded by a quotation I shall now make from the 25th page of Dr.
How's argument, where he says, (speaking of the law forbiding to
teach the slaves to read,) "Permit me to remark that our Southern
Christian brethren are fully impressed with their duty to communicate
the Gospel to their slaves."

Then he quotes and endorses the following sentiment, published in
the Southern Presbyterian Review, at Columbia, S.C., where the writer
says, "It is, then, as plain as daylight that Christianity condemns all
laws of the State, and all ideas and practices of individuals which put
aside the immortality of the slave, or regard him in any other light
than that of a moral and responsible fellow creature of our own. Wo
have no hesitation in declaring that we accord with Judge O'Neall in
earnestly desiring the repeal, for example, of the law against teaching
the slave to read." Now, Sir, I could rest this point here with all
safety, but I will proceed to challenge you to quote one passage in the
whole of Dr. How's argument "apologizing for, supporting or sus-
taining " any act of injustice ever perpetrated by a slaveholder upon a
slave. To this, I know, Sir, you may reply that he has " apologized for,
supported and sustained " the holding of a slave, and that the holding of
a slave is unjust and a sin. But how pitiable would be such a reply.
It would be a begging of the question. Whether it is a sin to hold a
slave, is the question in dispute. You contend that it is a sin ;
Dr. How contends that it is not a sin. And you are an advocate and
a counsellor at-law, and have been as a Member of Congress a law-maker,
and have prosecuted and defended prominent criminal cases in the courts
of New-Jersey, and you know that a man is not to be pronounced
guilty until his guilt is proved, and without proof a matter at issue is
not to be decided.

Therefore, I call upon you to prove that slavcholding is a sin be-
fore you proceed to argue as though it were a sin ; or to draw
conclusions from arguments based upon the assumption that to hold a
slave is a sin.

Sir, you have, by misrepresentation, endeavored to place Dr. How
in a false position before the public, and to make him say things that
he did not say, and advocate points that he did not advocate. And
you, Sir, draw conclusions from his arguments when those arguments
do not tend to such conclusions. This I shall prove. First, you try
to make him apologize for the injustice and abuse of power that slave-
holders may inflict upon their slaves, and from the abuse of the
power and light to hold a slave, you argue that it is sin to hold a slave.
You do not discriminate between the just and proper use of a thing and
its unjust sinful abuse. And you, Sir, endeavor to make Dr. How ap-


pear as " apologizing for, supporting and sustaining, in all its length and
breadth," the unjust, sinful abuse of slaves. Whereas, he is only defend-
ing the just and proper use. If this principle were a correct one, that
it is right and proper to pronounce and treat as sinful everything or
anything because it has been abused, the enforcing of such a principle
would undermine the foundation upon which society rests, and destroy
the peace and harmony of every human relation that God has ex-
pressly ordained and instituted. lias not the relation of law-giver
and judge been abused ? Has not the marriage relation been abused ?
Has not the parental relation been abused ? And did not the devil
abuse, misapply, and pervert the Sacred Scriptures, when he tempted
Christ with a perverted passage of the Bible, to cast himself from the
pinnacle of the temple. ? And did you not, my dear Sir, abuse this
passage of the Sacred Scriptures, when you endeavored falsely to make
my father say that slavery is without " spot or wrinkle, or any such
thing?" Nothing would delight Satan more than to have the princi-
ple established that because a thing has been abused, therefore it is a sin
to use it. The Bible has been abused ; therefore it is a sin to use the
Bible. Such is I know the doctrine of those who would exclude the
Bible from popular use, and have it remain a sealed book. But the
mass of our people do not believe such doctrine, but consider that those
who preach thus are the devil's aid-de-camps, and do his dirty work.
Would you then pronounce as sinful the marriage, parental, and judi-
cial relations, and treat them as sinful. You would not, and ought
not ; therefore, you should not, on the ground of its abuse, pronounce
and treat as sinful, the relation and position of a slave bolder, only
because that relation and position has been abused. You only have a
right to pronounce sinful that which God has declared to be sinful ;
and until you have shown and proved conclusively, that slaveliolding
is a sin, you certainly have no right to argue upon the asumption
that it is a sin. Now, Sir, living in the daily practice of sin excludes
men from the communion of the Church, and exposes them to eternal
death, and often renders them obnoxious to the penalty of human law.
And you know, Sir, to expose men to the penalty of the law requires
more than the assumption that there is a law forbidding the act they have
committed; and requires strong proof also thai they have violated the
law, if there happens to be a" law forbidding the commission of the
act. How much more, Sir, does it require strong and conclusive
evidence of the violation of law, before you proceed to pronounce
as sinful, and place beyond the pale of the Church a large portion of
our Christian fellow citizens, and to blacken the memory of our ances-
tors ? and yet, Sir, you do not and cannot produce one express com-
mand or prohibition of the just and all-wise God against the holding of
a slave. The slaveholder has rights as well as the slave, and those
rights should be respected, and you should be very sure you do not
trample on his right to demand that you should produce God's law and
God's testimony before you pronounce him outside the pale of the


Churcli, or living in sin. Yes, " God's law and God's testimony, for if
they speak not according to these, "they are all dumb dogs."

But to return to your Reply. On the fourth page, you address Dr. How
thus : " You must have known that it was the slavery of this country,
over the disgusting exhibition of which the stars and stripes of free-
dom float in mockery — the slavery that exists in North Carolina, and
within the limits of the Classis seeking admission into the Dutch Church
— which that body shrunk from participating in. This, and this only,
was the slavery that you defended so valiantly, for this was the only
slavery in question, — none other needed defence. It is true, that in
making your onset upon the friends of freedom, you found it much
easier to raise a false issue than to defend the true one. The only
question was in regard to American Slavery, but to defend this, I pre-
sume, seemed too Herculean an undertaking to attempt directly, and so
you threw over it the flimsy mantles of Abraham and Paul, and coolly
transferred the scene of the conflict from the cotton fields and rice
swamps, the slave pens, the auction blocks and whipping posts of the
South, where it properly belonged, to the land of the olive and the
vine, where the Great Ruler of the Universe, for reasons of his own,
granted privileges to, and tolerated practices among, his peculiar peo-
ple, not sanctioned anywhere else before or since."" To this I answer
that Dr. How was well aware that it was the Classis of North Carolina
that the abolitionists and free churchmen were trying to keep out.
But he was also well aware that if the principle was proved and estab-
lished that to hold a slave was a sin, a malum per se, (a sin in and of itself,)
that it would be a sin to hold a slave all over the world, even in those
countries where it was not prohibited by law, and there made a malum
prohibitum., (that is, a sin only because the laws of the land forbid it.)
Accordingly he made, to quote his own words, his appeal " to the Scrip-
tures of truth, heartily assenting to the teachings of the confession of faith
of our Churcli, which says, ' AVe believe in the sufficiency of the Holy
Scriptures to be the rule of faith. "We believe that the Holy Scriptures
fully contains the words of God, and that whatsoever man ought to be-
lieve unto salvation is sufficiently taught therein. Therefore we reject
with all our heart whatsoever doth not agree with the infallible rules
which the Apostles have taught us, saying, 'Try the spirits, whether
they are of God; likewise, if there come any one to you and being not
of this doctrine, receive him not unto your house.'" And he knew
that when there was no law of God there could be no transgression, and
consequently no sin. Accordingly he affirmed that there was no law
of God forbidding the holding of a slave, and challenged them, and
now challenges the abolitionists to produce any ; and he proved in an ar-
gument that you have not answered that God bad authorized it in va-
rious parts of the world that he had sanctioned it. He had incorpo
rated master and slave by express terms within his covenant; that the
sign of the covenant was administered to both ; that the laws that God
gave through Moses recognized the light of a master to own slaves,
and to their services also; that Christ and his Apostles enforced these


laws ; and that, under the gospel dispensation, slaveholders and their
slaves were admitted to church membership ; that special commands
were given to regulate the intercourse between master and slave ; " and
that the Apostle* Paul and the angel Jehovah himself sent back to their
masters slaves who had runaway from them." He also showed that
Christ had said of a Roman Centurion who confessed that he held
slaves, " I have not seen so great faith, no, not in Israel." The Cen-
turion, mark it, was a Roman Centurion, not a Jew, and held slaves
under the Roman law that admitted of enormities and excesses, before
which the worst features of American Slavery appear _ as tender mer-
cies when compared with their diabolical cruelty. Still Christ, by this
act, although he condemned injustice and cruelty, acknowledged and
established" the fact that a man could be a Christian and yet hold slaves,
even under the tenor of the law that admitted of so great enormities.
Should not, therefore, every candid and unbiased mind come to the con-
clusion that we, who are no better than Christ and his Apostles, ought
not attempt to exclude Christian North Carolinians, who_ live under
and hold slaves under a far more humane law from Christian Church
connection, or pronounce that their holding of slaves is a sin. This
and other proofs derived from the practices of the early Christians were
adduced by Dr. How to prove that the principle or doctrine was not a
correct or true one ; that the buying of a slave, the using of a slave,
and the holding of a slave was a sinful practice, and that, therefore, the
holding of slaves by the people of the North Carolina Chassis was not
a sin, and because it was not a sin they should not be excluded on the
mere unproved pretext of its being sinful. Hoes not this bring the ar-
gument home to the North Carolina Classis. Can you understand this
position? If you can, do not again assert that Dr. How stood upon
any other ground, or maintained any other doctrine. _ So much for
Dr. How's position, and your misapprehension or misrepresentation
of it. .

One expression of yours in this connection is worthy of notice, in
order to invalidate the strength of Dr. How's argument you proceed to
cast discredit upon some of his principal witnesses. Christ you dare
not attempt to discredit. His testimony and practice was far above
your impeachment. But the head of the visible Church, under the
old dispensation, and the Apostle to the Gentiles, come in for a share
of sneering abuse. "The flimsy mantles of Abraham and Paul,'"
" Flimsy," aye ! " a reed shaken by the wind." The conduct and prac-
tice of Abraham and Paul was flimsy, was it ? The practices of Abra-
ham and the teaching and conduct of Paul, were indeed two of the
mantles that Dr. How threw over American Slavery, and safe and hap-
py are they who come under the mantle of their protection. Abraham
and Paul need no eulogium from me. Neither of them were sinless,
but then the one lived in the possession of slaves, sanctioned by God
in the express word of His Covenant, and the other spoke as he was
moved by the Holy Ghost. Their conduct in such cases was neither
flimsy or impeachable. I have tried to, but cannot escape from draw-


ing tins meaning from your expression. If you intend to say that
the example of Abraham and of Paul was inapplicable to the point in
dispute, you should have said that " American Slavery was flimsily
covered by the mantles of Abraham and Paul." And if you intended
to say that Dr. How had applied the example and teaching of Abraham
and Paul in an imperfect and clumsy manner, you should have said "cov-
ered in a flimsy manner by the mantles of Abraham and Paul." So,
Sir, I cannot relieve my mind from the conviction that you have given
utterance to an infidel sentiment.

Proceeding a little further with the quotation I have made from your
argument, I find that you say God "granted privileges to, and tolera-
ted practices among, his peculiar and chosen people, not sanctioned any
where else, before or since." From your words, " not sanctioned any
where else, before or since," it is very proper for us to conclude that
these privileges were sanctioned then and there, ; and that the then you
speak of, was under Abraham and was under Christ and his apos-
tles, and that the there was the land of the olive and the vine, or in
other words, Canaan and Judea. Accordingly it is proper for us to
conclude that you say that God sanctioned practices in Canaan and
Judea under the old dispensation or Abrahamic Covenant, and in Judea
under his apostles, and the early Christians, that he does not sanction
now. It is slavery that you are writing about in this connection. There-
fore you have admitted that God sanctioned slavery then and there.
This is just what Dr. How asserted, and by this admission you
have lost your whole case, for God never sanctioned sin.
If, therefore, God never anywhere or at any time sanctioned sin, but
has sanctioned slaveholding, I am sure it cannot be a sin now and
here. Can the same facts that are adduced in favor of slaveholding
be adduced in favor of those practices that you refer to as permitted
then but now forbidden by God. Can it be said of polygamy that
it was sanctioned and never forbidden ? Can it be said of concubinage
that it was sanctioned and never forbidden ) No; nothing of the kind
can be said with truth; but it can be said of slaveholding that it was
sanctioned and never forbidden ; and besides, I would have you to re-
member that there is a vast difference between a permission and a sanc-
tion. A man may permit his child to spend his dollar for sjme foolish
toy, and yet never approve or sanction the foolish expenditure. I
have noticed already the contradiction that you are guilty of on this.
fourth page, wherein you assert differently and contrary to what you as-
serted on the first page of your argument relating to apologizing, &c. r
&c. I will now proceed to notice a term, at the use of which you ap-
pear to take great umbrage, to wit : the term " abolitionist;" a word that,
with the help of Cruden's Concordance, you could not find in the Scrip-
tures. As you say you could not find it, I will not dispute it ; neither
can you find their doctrine, or their precepts taught or sanctioned in the
Sacred Scriptures; but, Sir, if you will look at 1 Tim. vi. chap., 1 to 5,
jou will find their precepts and practices condemned in the following
words : —


"1. Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own
masters worthy of all honor, that the name of God and his doctrine be
not blasphemed.

" 2. And they that have believing masters, let them not despise them,
because they are brethren ; but rather do them service, because they are
faithful and beloved, partakers of the benefit.

"3. If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words,
even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is
according to godliness;

" 4. He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and
strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings,

" 5. Perverse disputing^ of men of corrupt minds, ami destitute of the
truth, supposing that gain is godliness : from such withdraw thyself."

Your indignation at the term abolitionist has lead you into the use
of hard names, and you have been pleased to apply the elegant and
classical term "doughface" to such men of the North as are willing
to accord to their Southern fellow-citizens all rights that are not con-
trary to the Constitution of the United States. Certainly, Sir, if you
like to roll the word "doughface" like a sweet morsel under your
tongue, I am willing, and I shall use the term " abolitionist " where-
ever it is deserved and applicable; and that it was applicable, pointedly,
intensely applicable to certain members of the Dutch Synod, can bo
proved by the language of some of them as reported in the New- York
Tribune of June 16, 1855, when it stated that Dr. Wyckoff of Al-
bany, and Dr. Bethune of Brooklyn, opposed the introduction of the
Classis on the ground that it would make disturbance in the Church.
And now I quote: "the other objection was, that slavcholding was a
sin, and that we ought not to hold communion with slaveholders."
This opposition was raised by the Rev. Isaac Duryea of Schenectady,
who said "I can say that my inmost soul shrinks from the idea of our
extending the fellowship of our church to slavcholding churches, as I
shrink from the touch of the torpedo."

And that the term abolitionist is applicable to all who make the non-
holding of slaves a test and condition of Church Communion, 1 can
easily prove. The spirit and language of the abolitionist in the
Church is this — Do away with slavery among you and we will admit
you ; hold slaves and we will not admit you. Thus they make the hold-
ing or not holding of slaves a test and condition of church member-
ship, and require the abolition of slavery before admitting them to
organized union. One word more: you charge Dr. TTow with making
an onset upon the friends of freedom. The charge is unqualifiedly
false. The false friends of freedom made the onset upon him. Thej
attacked his report which was in favor of admitting the Classis into the
Church. He knew it was not a sin to hold a slave, and it had never
in the Dutch denomination been made a test of church union and
membership, and he did not suppose that there was any man in the
Dutch Church so fanatical as to 'say that it was. The onset was made
upon Dr. How. He did not commence the controversy, but it has


always been the habit of those who make a disturbance without a
cause to charge the disturbance or trouble to those who are most inno-
cent of it.

This conduct of yours is like the conduct of the Frenchman with
the red-hot poker, who rushed into the street and demanded of the
first man lie met that he would let him run the poker into his body
just six inches. This the man very decidedly declined. "Let me run
it in four inches?" said the Frenchman. " No!" said the man. "Let
me run it in two, then ?" " No !" said the man. "Let me run it in
one?" "No!" replied the man earnestly, "you shall not run it in at
all !" " Vel den," said the Frenchman, " Pay me for heating the
poker !" Now you have charged Dr. How with making the onset. Next
you will sav that the Classis of North Carolina made all the disturbance by
paying the Dutch Church so great a compliment as to ask to be united.
But to another point found upon your fourth page at the bottom, you say
" It was American Slavery then, and not Jewish Slavery that you
were endeavoring to introduce into the Dutch Church." Introduce in-
to the Dutch Church, indeed, as though it had not been introduced
there already, and long, long ago; and besides it was a Dutch ship in
1620 that first introduced negro slaves into this country.* Is it not
a fact well known to every well informed man, that ministers, elders,
deacons, and church members, belonging to the Dutch Church, both
in New-Jersey and the State of New-York, held slaves? And it is also a
fact that slaves are now held by communicants belonging to the Dutch
Church. But, Sir, it is not true that Dr. How was trying to introduce
slavery into the Dutch Church, any more than he was trying to intro-
duce Christianity into the Dutch Church. Christianity existed in the
Dutch Church, and would remain there whether the North Carolina
Classis came in or not. Slavery existed in the Dutch Church and
would remain there whether the North Carolina Classis and their slaves
came in or not. It is true that slavery is likely to die out in the Dutch
Church. And so too is pure Christianity likely to die out, should the rulers
of the Church with the consent of the people, prescribe laws that Christ
never prescribed. I have already noticed your contradiction and also
your abuse of Scripture, on the top of your fifth page, where you en-
deavor to make Dr. How say that American Slavery is without " spot
or wrinkle, or any such thing." So I will proceed to notice an ad-
mission of yours that completely takes the foundation from under your
castle of error, and tumbles it to the ground. You admit that the rela-

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Online LibraryHenry K HowSlaveholding not sinful: → online text (page 1 of 5)