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H. B. (Henry Bidleman) Bascom.

The Methodist Church property case. Report of the suit of Henry Bascom, and others, vs. George Lane, and others, heard before the judges Nelson and Betts, in the Circuit Court, United States, for the Southern District of New York, May 17-20, 1851 online

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Online LibraryH. B. (Henry Bidleman) BascomThe Methodist Church property case. Report of the suit of Henry Bascom, and others, vs. George Lane, and others, heard before the judges Nelson and Betts, in the Circuit Court, United States, for the Southern District of New York, May 17-20, 1851 → online text (page 21 of 87)
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cipline, by which it was made a co-ordinate branch of the government, and placed
at the caprice of a majority, which claims that its mere will is the law of the
Church.

" Bishop Andrew, therefore, in refusing to resign his office, or otherwise yield to
this unwarranted assumption of authority on the part of the General Conference,
has taken a noble stand upon the platform of constitutional law, in defence of the
episcopal office and the rights of the South, which entitles him to the cordial appro-
bation and support of every friend of the Church ; and we hereby tender him a
unanimous expression of our admiration of his firmness in resisting the misrule of a
popular majority.

" Resolved, 6. That we cordially approve the course of the Southern and South-
western delegates of the late General Conference, in resisting with so much con-
stancy and firmness the encroachments of the majority upon the rights of the South,
and for so faithfully warning them against the tendency of those measures,
which we fear do inevitably draw after them the dissolution of our ecclesiastical
union.

" John Early, Thomas Crowder, jr., Wm. A. Smith, Abram Per.n, George W.
Nolley, Anthony Dibrell, H. B. Cowles, D. S. Doggett, Jos. H. Davis."

" The recommendation to change the sixth restrictive article was concurred in
eighty-one in favour, and none against it, and the whole report of the committee was
unanimously adopted by the conference."



112

The North Carolina Conference adopted the following report and resolutions :

" The committee to whom the resolution of the late General Conference, respect-
ing the alteration of the sixth restrictive rule, the report of the select Committee of
Nine, on the declaration of the Southern delegates, and the reports of numerous vo
luntary meetings both of ministers and people, within the bounds of North Carolina
Conference, were referred, beg leave to report :

" Your committee deeply regret the division of the Methodist Episcopal Church,
which the course of the majority in the late General Conference renders not only
necessary but inevitable. The unity of the Church, so long the boast and praise of
Methodism, was a feature greatly admired, and more than esteemed by Southern
Methodists. For its promotion and preservation they were willing to surrender any-
thing but principle vital principle. This they could not do ! this they durst not
do ! The course of the late General Conference demanded a submission on the
part of the ministers in the slaveholding conferences, which the Discipline did not
require, and the institutions of the South absolutely forbade. To have yielded,
therefore, would have opened a breach in Methodism wholly subversive of the
Church, and greatly mischievous to the civil community to have yielded would
have been ruin ! This, therefore, they refused to do ; absolutely refused ! With
the Discipline in their hands, sustained and upheld by it, they protested against the
proceedings of the majority, with an unfaltering and manly voice, declaring them to
be not only unauthorized, but unconstitutional. The protestation, however, just and
legal as it was, authorized and borne out by the Discipline, was altogether unavailing.
Nothing was left for the South to do, but to pass from under the jurisdiction of so
wayward a power, to the regulations and government of our old, wholesome, and
Scriptural Discipline. This, we sorrow when we say it, has opened a great gulf we
fear an impassable gulf between the North and the South. This consolation, how-
ever, if no other, they have the good Book of Discipline, containing the distinctive
features of the Methodist Episcopal Church, shall still lie on the South side. Com-
pelled by circumstances which could neither be alleviated nor controlled which
neither the entreaties of kindness nor the force of truth could successfully resist we
hesitate not to decide on being forever separate from those whom we not only esteem,
but love. Better far that we should suffer the loss of union, than that thousands, yea
millions of souls should perish.

" From the reports of quarterly meeting conferences and numerous voluntary
meetings within the bounds of the North Carolina Conference, both of ministers and
people, we feel assured that it is the mind of our people and preachers fully to sustain
the action of the Southern and South-Western delegates, as set forth in the Declara-
tion and Protest ; and therefore,

" 1. Resolved, That the time has come for the ministers of the Methodist Epis-
copal Church in the slaveholding States, to refuse to act in union with the North.

" 2. Resolved, That we concur in the proposed alteration of the sixth restrictive
rule of the Discipline.

" 3. Resolved, That we concur in the recommendation to hold a convention in
Louisville, Kentucky, in May, 1845.

" 4. Resolved, That this conference elect delegates to said convention according to
the basis of representation recommended.

" 5. Resolved, That the action of the late General Conference, in the case of
Bishop Andrew, was a violation of the rule of Discipline on the subject of slavery,
and derogatory to the dignity of the episcopal office, by throwing it from under the
protection of law, and exposing it to the reproach and obloquy of misrule and lawless
power. The bishop, therefore, acted justly and honourably in resisting such action,
and declining obedience to the resolution of said conference ; and for thus guarding
and respecting the rights of the South, both of ministers and people, he is entitled to
our highest regards.

" All which is respectfully submitted.

" H. G. Leigh, S. S. Bryant, James Jameson, P. Doub, Bennet T. Blake, James
Reid, D. B. Nicholson, R. J. Carson, William Carter."

" The above report was unanimously adopted by the conference. On the question
of concurrence in altering the sixth restrictive rule, the vote was : ayes 68
nays none. S. S. BRYANT,

Secretary of North Carolina Annual Conference."



113

The following preamble and resolutions were adopted by the South Carolina
Conference :

" The committee to whom was referred the general subject of the difficulties
growing out of the action of the late General Conference on the case of Bishop
Andrew and brother Harding ; and, in particular, the report of the select committee
on the Declaration of the Southern and South- Western delegates of the General Con-
ference, as adopted by the conference, and the proceedings of numerous quarterly
conferences, and other meetings, in all parts of our annual conference district ; re-
spectfully offer the following report :

" It appears to your committee, on the evidence of numerous documents, and the
testimony of the preachers, in open conference, that in all the circuits and stations of
this conference district, the people have expressed their minds with respect to the
action of the General Conference, and the measures proper to be adopted in conse-
quence of that action. Resolutions to that effect have been adopted by the quar-
terly conferences of all the circuits and stations, without any exception ; and in
many, perhaps in most of them, by other meetings also, which have been called ex-
pressly for the purpose ; and in some of them, by meetings held at every preaching-
place where there was a society. And on all these occasions, there has been but one
voice uttered one opinion expressed from the sea-board to the mountains, as to the
unconstitutionality and injurious character of the action in the case above-named,
the necessity which that action imposes for a separation of the Southern from the
Northern conferences, and the expediency and propriety of holding a convention at
Louisville, Kentucky, and of your sending delegates to it, agreeably to the proposi-
tion of the Southern and South- Western delegates of the late General Conference.

" Your committee, also, have made diligent inquiry, both out of conference and
by calling openly in conference, for information from the preachers, as to the num-
ber, if any, of local preachers, or other official members, or members of some stand-
ing among us, who should have expressed, in the meetings or in private, a different
opinion from that which the meetings have proclaimed. And the result of this inquiry
has been, that, in the whole field of our conference district, one individual only has
been heard to express himself doubtfully, as to the expediency of a separate jurisdic-
tion for the Southern and South- Western conferences ; not even one as to the charac-
ter of the General Conference action. Nor does it appear that this unanimity of the
people has been brought about by popular harangues, or any schismatic efforts of any
of the preachers, or other influential persons ; but that it has been as spontaneous as
universal, and from the time that the final action of the General Conference became
known, at every place. Your committee state this fact thus formally, that it may
correct certain libellous imputations which have been cast on some of our senior min-
isters, in the Christian Advocate and Journal ; as well as for the evidence which it
furnishes of the necessity of the measures which are in progress for the relief of the
Church in the South and South- West.

" Your committee also consider it due to state, that it does not appear that the
action of the General Conference in the cases of the bishop and of brother Harding,
proceeded of ill-will, as of purpose to oppress us ; nor of any intended disregard of
the authority of the Scriptures or of the Discipline, as if to effect the designs of a
politico-religious faction, without warrant of the Scriptures, and against the Disci-
pline and peace of the Church : but they consider that action as having been produced
out of causes which had their origin in the fanatical abolitionism of Garrison aad
others ; and which, being suffered to enter and agitate the Church, first in New-Eng-
land, and afterwards generally at the North, worked up such a revival of the anti-
slavery spirit as had grown too strong for the restraints of either Scripture or Disci-
pline, and too general through the Eastern, Northern, and North- Western conferences
to be resisted any longer by the easy, good-natured prudence of the brethren repre-
senting those conferences in the late General Conference. Pressed beyond their
strength, whether little or much, they had to give way ; and reduced (by the force of
principles which, whether by their own fault or not, had obtained a controlling power)
to the alternative of breaking up the Churches of their own conference districts, or
adopting measures which they might hardly persuade themselves could be endured
by the South and South- West, they determined on the latter. The best of men may
have their judgments perverted ; and it is not wonderful that, under such stress of
circumstances, the majority should have adoped a new construction of both Scripture



114.

and Discipline, and persuaded themselves, that in pacifying the abolitionists, they
were not unjust to their Southern brethren. Such, however, is unquestionably the
character of the measures they adopted ; and which the Southern Churches cannot
possibly submit to. unless the majority who enacted them coxild also have brought us
to a conviction that we ought to be bound by their judgment, against our consciences
and calling of God, and the warrant of Scripture, and the provisions of the Discipline.
But while we believe that our paramount duty in our calling of God, positively for-
bids our yielding the Gospel in the Southern States, to the pacification of abolitionism
in the Northern ; and the conviction is strong and clear in our own minds, that we
have both the warrant of Scripture and the plain provisions of the Discipline to sus-
tain us ; we see no room to entertain any proposition for compromise, under the late
action in the cases of Bishop Andrew and brother Harding, and the principles avowed
for the maintenance of that action, short of what has been shadowed forth in the re-
port of the select committee which we have had under consideration, and the mea-
sures recommended by the Southern and South- Western delegates at their meeting
after the General Conference had closed its session.

" Your committee do, therefore, recommend the adoption of the following reso-
lutions :

" 1. Resolved, That it is necessary for the annual conferences in the slaveholding
States and Territories, and in Texas, to unite in a distinct ecclesiastical connexion,
agreeably to the provisions of the report of the select committee of nine of the late
General Conference, adopted on the 8th day of June last.

" 2. Resolved, That we consider and esteem the adoption of the report of the
aforesaid committee of nine, by the General Conference, (and the more for the una-
nimity with which it was adopted,) as involving the most solemn pledge which could
have been given by the majority to the minority and the Churches represented by
them, for the full and faithful execution of all the particulars specified and intended
in that report.

" 3. Resolved, That we approve of the recommendation of the Southern dele-
gates, to hold a convention in Louisville, on the 1st day of May next, and will elect
delegates to the same on the ratio recommended in the address of the delegates to
their constituents.

" 4. Resolved, That we earnestly request the bishops, one and all, to attend the
said convention.

" 5. Resolved, That while we do not consider the proposed convention compe-
tent to make any change or changes in 'the Rules of Discipline, they may neverthe-
less indicate what changes, if any, are deemed necessary under a separate jurisdic-
tion of the Southern and South-Western conferences. And that it is necessary for
the convention to resolve on, and provide for, a separate organization of these con-
ferences under a General Conference to be constituted and empowered in all respects
for the government of these conferences, as the General Conference hitherto has been
with respect to all the annual conferences according to the provisions and intentions
of the late General Conference.

" 6. Resolved, That as, in common with all our brethren of this conference dis-
trict, we have deeply sympathized with Bishop Andrew in his afflictions, and believe
him to have been blameless in the matter for which he has suffered, so, with them,
we affectionately assure him of our approbation of his course, and receive him as not
the less worthy, or less to be honoured in his episcopal character, for the action
which has been had in his case.

" 7. Resolved, That we recognise in the wisdom and prudence, the firmness and
discretion, exhibited in the course of Bishop Soule, during the General Conference
as well as in former instances, wherein he has proved his devotion to the great prin-
ciples of constitutional right in our Church nothing more than was to be expected
from the bosom friend of Asbury and M'Kendree.

" 8. Resolved, That, in common with the whole body of our people, we approve
of the conduct of our delegates, both during the General Conference, and sub-
sequently.

" 9. Resolved, That we concur in the recommendation of the late General Con-
ference for the change of the sixth article of the restrictive rules in the book of Dis-
cipline, so as to allow an equitable pro rata division of the Book Concern.

" W. Capers, W. Smith, H. Bass, N. Talley, H. A. C. Walker, C. Belts, S. W.
Capers, S. Dunwody, R. J. Boyd, Committee."

8*



115

The Indian Mission Conference adopted the following resolutions :

" The committee to whom was referred the action of the late General Conference
relating to an amicable division of the Methodist Episcopal Church in the United
States, beg leave to report the following resolutions for adoption by the confer-
ence :

" 1. Resolved, That we concur in the proposed alteration in the sixth restrictive
article of the Discipline.

" 2. Resolved, That we approve of the course pursued by the minority of the late
General Conference.

" 3. Resolved, That we elect delegates to represent the Indian Mission Conference
in the contemplated convention to be held in Louisville, Kentucky, in May next.

" 4. Resolved, That this conference do deeply deplore the necessity for division
of any kind in the Methodist Episcopal Church ; and that we will not cease to send
up our prayers to Almighty God for his gracious interposition, and that he may
guide the affairs of the Church to a happy issue.

" J. C. BERRYMAX, Chairman."

"The above report having been read, was taken up section by section, and dis-
posed of as follows : The first resolution was adopted, ayes 14 ; nays 1. The second
resolution was adopted, ayes 1 1 ; nays 3 ; declined voting, 4. The third resolution
was adopted, ayes 16. The fourth resolution was adopted, ayes 17. The preamble
and resolutions were then adopted by the conference as a whole.

" The conference then proceeded, in accordance with the third resolution, to elect
delegates to attend the proposed convention in Louisville, in May next. On count-
ing the votes, it appeared that the whole number of votes given was twenty-one, of
which number William H. Goode had received twenty, Edward T. Peery eighteen,
scattering four. Whereupon, W. H. Goode and E. T. Peery, having received a
majority of all the votes given, were declared duly elected. D. B. Gumming was
then elected reserved delegate.

" The following resolutions were on the next day unanimously adopted, at the re-
quest of the delegates elect :

" ' Resolved, That in view of the condition of the Church, at the present trying
crisis, the members of this conference will, when practicable, as near as may be, at
the hour of twilight, in the evening of each day, until the close of the approaching
convention at Louisville, meet each other at a throne of grace, and devoutly implore
the blessing of God upon our assembled delegates in the discharge of their important
duties.

" 'Resolved, That the Friday preceding the opening of said convention, be set
apart as a day of fasting and supplication to Almighty God for the continued unity,
peace, and prosperity of the Methodist Episcopal Church ; and that our members
throughout this conference be requested to join us in the devotions of that day.

" 'WM. H. GOODE,
E. T. PEERY.' "

The following preamble and resolutions were unanimously adopted by the Georgia
Conference :

" The committee appointed to take into consideration the difficulties of the Church,
as growing out of the action of the General Conference in the case of Bishop An-
drew, and to submit some recommendations to the annual conference for their adop-
tion, beg leave to report :

" The action of the majority in the last General Conference of the Methodist Epis-
copal Church, in the cases of Bishop Andrew and the Rev. Mr. Harding, has rendered
it indispensable that the conferences, within whose limits slavery exists, should cease
to be under the jurisdiction of that body. They must either abandon the people col-
lected under their ministry, and committed to their pastoral care, and the vast and
widening field of missionary labour among the slaves a field to which their attention
is imperatively called by their sympathies as Christians, their sense of ministerial
obligation as preachers of the Gospel, and their interests and duties as citizens or
they must live under the control of an ecclesiastical body, separate and distinct from,
and independent of, the conferences lying within the States and Territories where
slavery is not allowed by law. In view of the relations before stated, that distinct



116

organization is required by a necessity strict and absolute, and upon that issue we
place it, before the Church and the world. The exigence which brings it upon us,
arose, not out of our acts or designs ; no collateral considerations of expedience
abated our zeal in withstanding it ; no collateral issues upon points involved, affected
our determination to maintain the unity of the Church under one organization as
heretofore existing ; no pride of opinion, speculative differences, nor personal mo-
tives, have conducted us to this conclusion. We did not seek to effect any changes
in the doctrine or Discipline of our Church ; we did. not ask any boon at the hands
of the General Conference, nor any exemption from the operation of the laws which
were common to the whole Connexion ; and whatever consequences, affecting the
Church or the civil community, may result from our movement, we confidently look
for acquittal to the judgment of posterity, and the decision of the sober and unpreju-
diced among our contemporaries.

" The General Conference violated the law of the Church : first, by confirming
the decision of the Baltimore Conference, suspending the Rev. Mr. Harding from his
connexion with that conference as a travelling preacher therein, because he would
not give freedom to slaves, which by the laws of the land he could not manumit ;
and secondly, by passing a resolution intended to inhibit Bishop Andrew from the
exercise of his episcopal functions for the same reasons ; in both cases contrary to
the express provisions of the Discipline, which allows preachers to hold slaves
wherever they are not pennitted by the laws of the land to enjoy freedom when
manumitted ; and in both cases striking an effective blow at the fundamental principle
of the economy of Methodism, as it destroys that general itinerancy of the preachers,
which is its most distinguished peculiarity ; for under their decision, preachers hold-
ing slaves in conferences where by the law of the Discipline they are allowed so to
do, may not be transferred to conferences within whose limits slavery does not exist.

" By the same decision, both preachers and lay-members holding slaves are thrown
into an odious and dishonoured caste, the first deprived of office therefor, and the
religious character of both impeached, and thrown under suspicion thereby ; to which
must be added, as an evil not lightly to be regarded, nor slightly overlooked, that
in connexion with the fanatical movements of abolitionists in the North, East, and
West, it is well fitted to excite slaves to disaffection and rebellion, making it impera-
tive upon governments and citizens to prohibit all communication between slaves and
preachers, who either teach such doctrine, or impliedly admit it to be true by sub-
mitting to such dishonour and deprivation. Secondly. That in the case of Bishop
Andrew, the General Conference have violated the Discipline of the Church and in-
vaded personal rights, which are secured by the laws of every enlightened nation, if
not by the usages of every savage people on earth. They tried and sentenced Bishop
Andrew without charges preferred, or a cognizable offence stated. If it is even ad-
mitted that they intended to charge him with ' improper conduct,' as a phrase used
in the Discipline to embrace every class of offences for which a bishop is amenable
to the General Conference, and on conviction liable to be expelled, they did not for-
mally prefer that charge ; if they intended to specify his ' connexion with slavery,' as
the substantive offence under that charge, a ' connexion with slavery' is not a cogni-
zable offence under any law of our Church, written or unwritten, statutory or prescrip-
tive, and the only ' connexion with slavery' attempted to be established in his case,
is expressly permitted by the Discipline in section 10th, part 3d, on slavery. If they
claimed the right to declare in their legislative capacity, that ' such a connexion with
slavery' was an offence in a bishop, they could only extend it to him retrospectively
by ex post facto enactment, and even then it was not promulgated until the very mo-
ment in which they pronounced his sentence by a majority vote. But we cannot
admit that the framers of our Discipline ever intended to subject a bishop to the
monstrous injustice of being liable to be expelled by the General Conference, exercis-
ing original jurisdiction, for an impropriety short of immorality or official delinquency,
whilst they so cautiously secured his official and personal rights in all cases where
that body has appellate cognizance of charges for positive immoralities ; and we are
confident that a fair and rational construction of the 4th and 5th questions, and their
answers in the 4th section of the 1 st chapter of the Discipline, will make ' improper
conduct,' in the answer to the 4th question, and ' immorality,' in the 5th, descriptive
of the same class of offences in the mind of the lawmaker, who could never have
intended to subject that venerable officer to expulsion for offences so light, that they



Online LibraryH. B. (Henry Bidleman) BascomThe Methodist Church property case. Report of the suit of Henry Bascom, and others, vs. George Lane, and others, heard before the judges Nelson and Betts, in the Circuit Court, United States, for the Southern District of New York, May 17-20, 1851 → online text (page 21 of 87)