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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 4 of 87)
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the several annual conferences, voting thereon in their primary capacities :

"That this constitution, embodying these restrictive articles, is still and during
the session of the General Conference of 1844, and at the time of the passage of the
resolutions called the ' Plan of Separation,' was the fundamental law of the
Church, as will be seen on reference to the Book of Discipline, pp. 21-23, edition of
1844 ; that the General Conference is the representative body above mentioned with
powers limited as aforesaid, to make rules and regulations for the government of the
Church. And these defendants, as they are further advised by counsel, believe and
submit, that these restrictive articles limit and restrain the exercise of the powers of
the General Conference to the enactment of rules and regulations for the Church, to
carry on throughout the whole work, the economy and purposes of its government,
as already settled ; prohibiting any change or alteration in any part or rule of such
government, so as to do away episcopacy, or destroy the plan of the itinerant
general superintendency of the Church ; that they prohibit the exercise of any
power by the General Conference to do away the privileges of the ministers,
preachers, or members, of trial by a committee, or before the society, and of an
appeal ; and also prohibit the General Conference, without the consent of three-
fourths of the whole body of ministers, to be expressed in their several annual confer-
ences, from appropriating the produce of the Book Concern, or Chartered Fund, to any
purpose other than for the benefit of the preachers belonging to the travelling
connexion of the Church, their wives, widows, and children. And the defendants,
therefore, further submit to this Honourable Court, whether the said resolutions,
denominated the ' Plan of Separation,' are not, in each and every of these
particulars, inconsistent with, and subversive of, said constitutional law of the

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Church, and in contravention of the limitations contained in the aforesaid restrictive
articles.

" And these defendants, further answering, submit, as further advised by counsel,
that even had the so-called 'Plan of Separation' been constitutional, or valid, it mere-
ly provided a prospective plan, which, without the happening of certain future con-
or on the failure of which conditions, or either of them, could never have,
xpress terms, and, as defendants say, was never intended to have, any force
or validity. And these defendants expressly aver that these conditions have not
happened ; and they therefore further insist and submit, that the said so-called ' Plan
. >f Separation' has always been inoperative ; has never had any force or validity ; and
is absolutely null and void.

And these defendants, further answering, say, that the so-called 'Plan of Sepa-
ration,' whether constitutional or not, was never ratified by the annual conferences
Therein named; and therefore gave the Southern annual conferences no authority to
act in the premises ; and hence, as the defendants submit .and insist, the Southern
annual conferences have, in all respects, as to the Church, South, acted on their own
responsibility, without any authority from the General Conference of 1844.

" And these defendants, further answering, say, that they admit the resolutions
set forth by the plaintiffs, commencing at folio 20 of their bill, were adopted at a
convention of delegates from annual conferences in the slave-holding States, assem-
bled at Louisville, in Kentucky, on the first day of May, 1845; but these defendants
deny, that the delegates composing that convention were elected on the basis, or ac-
cording to the authority, of said provisional 'Plan of Separation,' so called, or of
any resolutions of the General Conference of 1844; and especially do these defend-
ants deny, that said Louisville Convention, in adopting their said resolutions, or in
any proceedings had therein, acted under the provisional ' Plan of Separation,'
adopted by that General Conference, as is stated in one of such resolutions ; but, on
the contrary thereof, these defendants say, that said provisional plan did not confer
any authority upon that convention to adopt their said resolutions to organize the
new ecclesiastical connexion therein mentioned or to dismember the Methodist Epis-
copal Church; and, further, that the said convention was not convened by, or in pur-
suance of, any constitutional authority of that Church, or of its General Conference ;
and also, that the proceedings leading to, and the transactions of, the said Louisville
Convention, and which resulted in the organization of the Methodist Episcopal
Church, South, were occasioned and had, by such of the ministers and members of
the annual conferences in the slave-holding States, as have attached themselves to
the said Church, South, upon their own responsibility, and by their own unauthorized
hilst they repudiate the authority of the General Conference of the Methodist
Episcopal Church they refusing, and declaring their refusal, to submit to such
authority ; and that by revolutionary measures, tending to the dismemberment of the
Methodist Episcopal Church, and by insubordinate proceedings, unwarranted by said
' Plan of Separation,' so called, or by any authority of the Methodist Episcopal
Church, they did institute the said ' Methodist Episcopal Church, South,' as an inde-
pendent ecclesiastical organization, separate from the jurisdiction of the General
Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church ; and did solemnly declare such juris-
diction over them entirely dissolved. And, for some of the particulars of these facts
and allegations, these defendants ask leave to refer to the aforesaid declaration, pre-
sented on the 5th June, 1844, to the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal
Church, at its session in New- York, signed by fifty-one of the delegates in that con-
ference from slave-holding States, and who are now attached to said Church, South ;
which Declaration is recorded in the Journal of said General Conference, page 109;
also to the ' Protest in the case of Bishop Andrew,' hereinbefore referred to, presented
to said General Conference on the 6th day of said June, signed by such delegates
ind others, now attached to said Church, South ; also to the address to their consti-
tuents, the resolutions and proceedings of such delegates at their meeting in the city
of New-York, on the llth June, 1844; also to the correspondence between Bishop
Soule and Bishop Andrew, involving the request of the former to the latter, that he
should resume his episcopal functions, and his acceptance of that request, notwith-
standing the aforesaid resolution of the General Conference of 1844, in his case;
also to the proceedings of said Louisville Convention ; and also to the proceedings
of the body assuming to be a General Conference composed of delegates from annual
conferences attached to said Church, South, held at Petersburg, Va., in May, 1846.

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Wherefore, these defendants insist and submit, that the ' Methodist Episcopal Church,
South,' exists as a separate ecclesiastical communion, solely by the result, and in
virtue, of the acts and doings of the individual bishops, ministers, and members
attached to such Church, South, proceeding in the premises upon their own respon-
sibility ; and that such bishops, ministers, and members, have voluntarily withdrawn
themselves from the Methodist Episcopal Church, and have renounced all their rights
and privileges in her communion and under her government. And these defendants
deny that the annual conferences represented in said Louisville Convention, were, as
is erroneously stated in the first of the resolutions of the convention set forth by the
plaintiffs, constituted a separate ecclesiastical connexion under the provisional ' Plan
of Separation,' so called, aforesaid.

" And these defendants, further answering, admit, that at the time and place in that
behalf mentioned by the plaintiffs, a council of bishops of the Methodist Episcopal
Church, called by the plaintiffs ' Northern Bishops,' met and unanimously adopted
the resolutions commencing at folio 24 of the said bill ; but these defendants say, that
the same were, as well by the express terms thereof, as by the extent of any autho-
rity possessed by such council, or bishops, limited in their application and effect to the
administration of the said bishops ; which administration was, at that time, inter-
rupted, resisted and prevented, in the slave-holding States, by such portion of the
revolutionary measures above alluded to as had then occurred, and by kindred
measures of some of the present adherents of said Church, South. Moreover, these
defendants further state, that said bishops were amenable to the General Conference,
who have power to inquire into their administration, and expel them for " improper
conduct," if they see it necessary ; that the said provisional Plan was an act of the
General Conference, to whom said bishops were amenable ; and that the General
Conference had not then declared the said provisional Plan null and void. But these
defendants, with respect to those resolutions of the bishops, submit, that they can have
no influence or effect whatever upon the question of the alleged division of the Church ;
nor can any effect or virtue be attached to their acts or resolutions, tending to divide
or dismember the Church, or to warrant, in any sense, the allegation of the plaintiffs,
that by, or in virtue of, such resolutions, in conjunction with such other proceedings
as are alleged by the plaintiffs, or otherwise, the Methodist Episcopal Church ever
became divided into two distinct Methodist Episcopal Churches.

And these defendants, further answering, deny, that, by or in virtue of the proceed-
ings alleged in the said Bill of Complaint, or of any part thereof, or otherwise how-
soever, ' the Methodist Episcopal Church ' in the United States, as it had existed
before the year 1844, or as it at any time existed, was lawfully divided into two
distinct Methodist Episcopal Churches, in the manner alleged in said bill, or in any
other manner whatever. And these defendants submit, that the separation and
voluntary withdrawal from the Church of a portion of her bishops, ministers, and
members, as herein mentioned, was an unauthorized separation from the Church.

"And these defendants, further answering, say, that the so-called ' Plan of Separation'
was wholly prospective and contingent in its provisions ; and that the General Con-
ference of 1844 adopted the said provisional Plan in view of, and based the same
entirely upon, the declaration of the delegates from the annual conferences in the
slave-holding States hereinbefore mentioned, which alleged that certain acts of the
General Conference therein referred to, especially the act in the case of Bishop
Andrew, must produce a state of things in the South which would render a con-
tinuance of the jurisdiction of that General Conference over those conferences, incon-
sistent with the success of the ministry in the slave-holding States ; and, therefore,
the General Conference, by the said Plan, made provision for the adjustment of
relations between the Methodist Episcopal Church and her separating ministers and
members, to meet the emergency which might arise in the event of the contingency
thus predicted in such declaration, when a separation should occur by the act and
deed of the annual conferences in the slave-holding States, from the necessity of the
case. And these defendants are informed and believe, and therefore state, that,
independent of the aforesaid proceedings of the Southern delegates, which contri-
buted to such separation, the acts of the General Conference alone, and which are
thus complained of, did not produce a state of things in the South which rendered a
continuance of the jurisdiction aforesaid ' inconsistent with the success of the
ministry in the slave-holding States ;' nor was the separation of the ministers and
members now composing the Southern Church, occasioned solely because the annual



20

conferences in the slave-holding States found it necessary to unite in a distinct eccle-
siastical connexion ; but the way for such separation was prepared, and the same
was superinduced and consummated, by the revolutionary measures hereinbefore
referred to, and which were begun at the seat, and nearly at the time, of the session
of the said General Conference, before the predicted state of things in the South was,
or possibly could be, produced by any acts of the General Conference.

" Also, that the General Conference, by said provisional Plan, proposed, in the event
of the happening of the contingencies therein mentioned, regulations to be mutually
observed by the Methodist Episcopal Church, on the one part, and the prospective
new Church and the ministers and members thereof, on the other part, with respect
to the ' Northern boundary ' of such new Church, which required that such Northern
boundary should be fixed at the Northern extremities of those ' societies, stations, and
conferences,' a majority of whose members should, of their own free will and accord,
vote to adhere to the said Southern Church ; the due observance of which regula-
tions was, as these defendants insist and submit, a fundamental condition of said
provisional plan. And these defendants, as they are informed and believe, state, that
in this respect the said provisional Plan has been violated by the said Church, South,
and by the said separating bishops, ministers, and members now attached thereto, more
particularly in the instances following : The said bishops, Andrew and Soule, since
said Southern organization, stationed preachers in Cincinnati, within the territory of the
Ohio Annual Conference ; and in Northampton county, Virginia, within the district of
the Philadelphia Annual Conference ; both which annual conferences have always
remained attached to the Methodist Episcopal Church ; and the aforesaid body,
acting as the General Conference of the Church, South, sanctioned these doings of
said bishops, and also authorized the Virginia Annual Conference, which is claimed
as a member of the Church, South, to send ministers into the territory of the Balti-
more Annual Conference, which is still attached to the Methodist Episcopal Church.
And the said Methodist Episcopal Church, South, and the bishops, ministers, and
members attached thereto, as thus stated, have violated and disregarded said
so-called Plan.

" Also, that the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, at its
session held at Pittsburgh, Pa., in May, 1848, having, as these defendants submit,
and as they, according to their judgment and belief, state, full power and rightful
authority so to do, did find and declare, that the fundamental conditions of said
proposed Plan, so-called, had severally failed ; that the failure of either of them,
separately, was sufficient to render said so-called Plan null and void ; and that the
practical workings of said so-called Plan were incompatible with the great constitu-
tional provisions contained in said Book of Discipline ; and they, the said General
Conference, did also find and declare, the whole and every part of said provisional
Plan, so-called, to be null and void. And for the particulars hereof, these defend-
ants desire leave to refer to the proceedings of, and reports adopted by, said General
Conference of 1848 ; especially to its printed journal, pp. 73-85, 129, 130, and the
Final Report of the Committee on the State of the Church, adopted by said Con-
ference, and appended to its journal, pp. 154-164.

"Also, that the so-called ' Plan of Separation,' in no event authorized a division,
or reorganization of the Methodist Episcopal Church into two separate Churches ;
but provided regulations to be observed, on the happening of the contingencies
named in the so-called Plan, should the Southern annual conferences, on their own
responsibility, withdraw from the Methodist Episcopal Church, and unite in a dis-
tinct confederation.

" Wherefore, these defendants further insist and submit, that instead of the
division of the Methodist Episcopal Church into two distinct Churches, under and in
pursuance of said so-called Plan of Separation, as is alleged by the plaintiffs all
those bishops, ministers, and members, who have attached themselves, by their own
act and deed, to the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, including the plaintiffs,
and all those represented in or by them in said Bill of Complaint, have voluntarily
withdrawn from the Methodist Episcopal Church, and separated themselves from its
privileges and government ; and have thereby renounced and forfeited all right and
claim, at law or in equity, to any portion of the funds and property in question in
this cause.

" And these defendants, further answering, deny that, by force of the proceedings
alleged by the plaintiffs, or otherwise, the Methodist Episcopal Church, South,



21

became, was, or is entitled, at law or in equity, to any proportion of all, or any of,
the property, real or personal, or of all or any of the funds or effects, which, up to
the time of the separation, or any other time, belonged to the Methodist Episcopal
Church, in the United States, or elsewhere ; and especially do these defendants deny,
that the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, was, or is so entitled to any produce
of the Book Concern or Chartered Fund, or any property or funds pertaining thereto,
without any change or alteration of the sixth restrictive article above mentioned ; or
that, as erroneously alleged by the plaintiffs, a majority of three-fourths of all the mem-
bers of the several annual conferences which voted directly on the question in view of
a division of the property, has been obtained, infavour of any alteration of that article.

" And these defendants, with respect to the allegation of the plaintiffs, that ' said
property and funds of the Methodist Episcopal Church had been obtained and col-
lected by voluntary contribution, in which contribution the members of the Church,
South, contributed the largest portion of the same," deny, that, so far as the allega-
tion has reference to the property and funds of the Book Concern, in the city of
New-York, and its appendages, the same, or the greater portion thereof, have been
obtained by voluntary contribution ; and the defendants say, that the same were
originally obtained as is hereinafter stated ; but, in so far as the same were obtained
by voluntary contributions, on the rebuilding of the Book Concern when damaged
by fire, and in respect of any portion thereof contributed from the South, these
defendants state, that all such contributions were made, intended, and given for the
very object for which said Book Concern was then, and always had been, designed ;
that, on occasion of the contributions referred to, many others largely contributed,
who have since left the Church ; yet that any such separatists have never had, nor
presumed to make, a claim for their quota of such contributions ; nor, on that
account, as these defendants submit, can they, or the plaintiffs, or those whom the
plaintiffs represent, have or make any claim to recall the portion of donations they
have severally made by such voluntary gifts and contributions.

" And these defendants, further answering, admit, that before and on the 8th day
of June, 1844, with the qualification and exception hereinafter stated, relative to the
Chartered Fund and the Book Concern in the city of New- York, the Methodist
Episcopal Church owned and possessed large amounts of property in various parts
of the United States ; not, however, as the plaintiffs say, in addition to, but prin-
cipally consisting of, meeting-houses, parsonages, and other estates of that descrip-
tion. But these defendants deny, that, among other or any descriptions or claims
of property, there ever belonged to said Church, in the aggregate, or to its lay mem-
bership, what was and still is, denominated ' the Book Concern,' in the city of New-
York ; and these defendants say, that said Book Concern, with all houses, lots,
machinery, printing-presses, book-bindery, books, paper, debts, cash, and other
articles of property pertaining thereto, is now, and always has been, the property of
the preachers belonging to the travelling connexion of the Methodist Episcopal
Church, and their families ; but if any of such preachers do not, during life, continue
in such travelling connexion and in the communion, and subject to the government,
of the Methodist Episcopal Church, they forfeit, for themselves and their families,
all their ownership in, and all claim upon, said Book Concern, and the produce
thereof. And further, that the property of the said Book Concern, consist ing as afore-
said, amounts, in value, at the present time, to about the sum stated in the schedule
hereto annexed, marked A, which schedule contains a general statement of all the
assets and property pertaining to said Book Concern, and of the value thereof, on the
first day of January, 1849, as accurately as the same could then, or can now be
conveniently ascertained ; and which schedule is hereby referred to, and made a part
of this answer. And the defendants admit, that all said lands, property, and effects
pertaining to said Book Concern, and enumerated in said schedule, are in the pos-
session of the defendants, Lane and Scott, as agents for said Book Concern, who
have been duly appointed as such agents by the General Conference of the Metho-
dist Episcopal Church ; and the defendants state, that such agents are enabled to
hold said lands, and the buildings thereon and appurtenances, for the objects of said
Book Concern and the purposes of such agency, by virtue of an act of the Legisla-
ture of the State of New- York, entitled, ' An Act relative to the Methodist Book
Concern in the city of New York,' passed April 21, 1837, which has ever since
been, and still is, a valid law of the State of New-York, and of which the following
.s a copy, to wit :



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"'An Act relative to the Methodist Book Concern, in the city of New- York,
passed April 21, 1837.

" ' 1. It shall be lawful for Thomas Mason and George Lane, Agents for the
Methodist Book Concern, appointed by the General Conference of the Methodist
Episcopal Church, and their successors, as such agents, to take and hold real estate.
in trust for the purposes of such agency, and to demise and convey the same ; but
the value of such real estate so taken and held by them shall not exceed two hun-.
dred thousand dollars.

" ' 2. The real estate heretofore conveyed to Thomas Mason and George Lane,
as agents as aforesaid, shall be considered as part of the real estate to be held by
them, and their successors, as such agents, in trust as aforesaid.' Session Lau-s
of Neu>-York, of 1837 ; ch. 232, p. 220.

" And these defendants, further answering, state, that the said Book Concern
was originally commenced and instituted by travelling ministers of the Methodist
Episcopal Church, on their own capital, with the great design, in the first place, of
circulating religious knowledge ; by whom it was surrendered to the ownership of all
the travelling preachers in full connexion, and made subject to the control of all the
travelling preachers in their general convention, then called the General Conference ;
and it was agreed, from time to time, that the profits arising from the sale of the
books should be applied to pious and charitable objects, but principally to the sup-
port of travelling ministers and their families, until, in the General Conference of
1796, it was determined that the said moneys should, in future, be applied wholly
to the relief of travelling preachers, including such of them as were superannuated,
and the widows and orphans of such as were deceased ; one of the decisions of which
General Conference in that year was, ' the produce of the sale of our books, after
the book debts are paid, and a sufficient capital is provided for carrying on the busi-
ness, shall be regularly paid into the Chartered Fund ;' and the object of said fund
was for ' the relief of distressed travelling preachers, for the families of travelling
preachers, and for the superannuated and worn-out preachers, and the widows and
orphans of preachers.' That, from that time to the General Conference of 1808, no
other appropriation whatever was made of the proceeds of said Book Concern, but for
the benefit of travelling preachers of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and their fami-



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 4 of 87)