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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 5 of 87)
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lies ; and that until, and in, the General Conference of that year, as is hereinbefore
stated, all the travelling preachers in full connexion, who had travelled four years, be-
longing to the Church, had a seat in, and were members of, the General Conference ;
at which time, on the occasion of adopting the plan for a delegated General Confer-
ence, with constitutional powers limited by certain restrictions, as above detailed,
the said General Conference of travelling preachers established a Constitution, as
already stated, specifying who should compose, and defining the regulations and
powers belonging to, such delegated General Conference, and therein and thereby
providing that the General Conference should have full powers to make rules and
regulations for the Church, under six specified limitations and restrictions, com-
monly called the Restrictive Articles, which are fully set out in the Book of Discip-
line -by means whereof, the said general convention of travelling preachers, as
defendants submit they lawfully might do, committed the management of the said
Book Concern to such delegated General Conference, as to agents, or trustees,
under and subject to the limitation and restriction contained in the sixth of said
restrictive articles, which the defendants crave leave to read and refer to as a part
of this answer.

" And the defendants pray that said constitution and restrictive articles, es-
pecially the above-recited sixth restrictive article, may be taken as a part of this
answer ; and that they may have leave to read and refer to said constitution and
restrictive articles, and to the proceedings of said general convention of travelling
preachers, as a part also of this answer.

" And these defendants, further answering, say, that the recommendation of the
General Conference of 1844, contained in the aforesaid resolution embodied in the
so-called 'Plan of Separation,' to all the annual conferences, to authorize a change of
the sixth restrictive article, so that the first clause should read as in said resolution
specified, has not been concurred in by the constitutional majority of the members
of such annual conferences ; and that such recommendation has entirely failed :
that such recommendation was duly laid before all the annual conferences ; and that
they all voted thereon ; but, on canvassing the votes at the General Conference in



23

1848, which body had full power to determine the number of votes by the annual
conferences for altering such restrictive rule, it was ascertained and declared, that
the number of votes necessary to authorize such alteration had not been obtained ;
nor have the annual conferences at any time since authorized such change of said
article.

" And these defendants, for the proceedings of said General Conference, and the
particulars, in respect of such votes, crave leave to refer to the journal of that con-
ference, page 56, and to the Report of the Committee on the State of the Church,
being document L, recorded in the Journal of Reports of said General Conference.

"Wherefore, these defendants, as touching the allegations and claims in the plain-
tiffs' bill, with regard to the property denominated the ' Book-Concern,' and ; Char-
tered Fund,' and the moneys, effects, and credits pertaining thereto, insist and sub-
mit, that the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, is not entitled, at law or in equity,
to have a division of such property made, as claimed by said bill ; nor is such Church,
South, thus entitled to any share or portion thereof; nor are any of the ministers,
preachers, or members, attached to such Church, South, thus entitled to any portion
of the same ; and that they being no longer travelling preachers belonging to the
Methodist Episcopal Church could not be so entitled, without a constitutional
change in the said sixth restrictive article, which would authorize such division.

" And these defendants, further answering, deny, that at the time alleged by the
plaintiffs, or at any other time, the agents of the Book Concern at New- York, in
pursuance of the provisions or terms of said resolutions, called by the plaintiffs the
' Plan of Separation,' paid to the several annual conferences of the Methodist Episco-
pal Church, South, their proportion of the profits and income of the Book Concern,
as fixed and set apart by the said agents for the year 1845; and, in respect of such
allegation, these defendants say, that the portion of profits and income, alluded to by
the plaintiffs, which said book-agents paid to such annual conferences, had accrued
and been apportioned to such Southern conferences previous to the organization of
the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, whilst such conferences were connected
with the Methodist Episcopal Church ; and that such payment was made without
any reference whatever to the said so-called ' Plan of Separation.' And the defend-
ants admit, that, since the year 1845, the said agents have refused to pay to the
annual conferences, South, who have separated from the Methodist Episcopal Church,
as aforesaid, anything further from the profits or income of said Book Concern as,
these defendants submit, in justice and right, and according to their duty, said agents
ought to have done. And these defendants deny, that such annual conferences.
South, are legally entitled to any portion or share of such profits or income ; or that
the withholding thereof from them, by said agents, is in violation of their rights.

"And these defendants, further -answering, admit, that the body assuming to act
as the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, holden at,
Petersburg, Va., in May, 1846, proceeded to appoint the commissioners as stated in
said bill, and for the purposes therein stated ; and the defendants also admit, that
the body aforesaid adopted the resolutions commencing at folio 34 of the plaintiffs'
bill ; but these defendants submit and insist, that such resolutions are entirely nuga-
tory in their effect upon the property and funds therein referred to, and the matters
pertaining to the same.

" And the defendants admit that said commissioners have made the applications
to these defendants and James B. Finley, and the requests of them, in the said bill
stated ; and that these defendants have refused to act in the premises ; and they say,
they have thus refused for the reasons and on the grounds herein set forth.

" The defendants also admit, that the plaintiffs have not been enabled to induce
the said book-agents nor the Methodist Episcopal Church nor the commissioners
named by the plaintiffs to pay to the Church, South, any portion or share of said
property and funds, except as aforesaid ; but the defendants deny, that said Church,
South, is lawfully entitled to any proportionate or other share of said property or
funds, as provided by said ' Plan of Separation,' so-called, or otherwise.

" And the defendants admit, that the plaintiffs are members of the Methodist Epis-
copal Church, South, and that they are preachers belonging to the travelling con-
nexion of said Church, South ; but these defendants deny, that, as such, they, or
any or either of them, have any personal interest in the real estate, personal pro-
perty, debts or funds above-mentioned ; or in any property, debts or funds, if any,
now holden by the Methodist Episcopal Church, through these defendants, or any



24

of them, as agents or trustees, appointed by the General Conference of the Metho-
dist Episcopal Church, or otherwise.

And these defendants, further answering, say, that they have not sufficient
knowledge or information, either to admit or deny, whether the allegations in the
plaintiffs' bill respecting the number of preachers belonging to the travelling con-
nexion of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, and the number in the member-
ship of that Church, are true or not ; and the plaintiffs are, therefore, left to make
such proof thereof as they may be able and advised to do ; these defendants, how-
rver, according to their belief, say, that such numbers have been over-stated by the
plaintiffs.

" And these defendants, further answering, deny, that the preachers belonging to
the travelling connexion of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, or any or either
of them, have a direct and personal, or other legal or equitable interest, in the same
right with the plaintiffs, or otherwise, in said property, situated and held as herein-
before stated, or in any part or portion thereof, to any amount whatever. And the
defendants utterly deny that the lay membership of the Church, South, whether in
number as stated by the plaintiffs, or otherwise, are parties in interest in the subject-
matter of the plaintiffs' bill, or have, or ever had, any pecuniary interest in the said
funds or property.

" And these defendants, further answering, admit, that these defendants are mem-
bers of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and are preachers belonging to the travel-
ling connexion of that Church, and that each of them has a personal interest in the
said property and funds ; but these defendants state, that such interest is the same
only as is held in common by all the preachers in the travelling connexion of the
Methodist Episcopal Church, and depends upon the contingency of their remaining
in that connexion. And these defendants admit that the defendants, Lane and Scott,
have the custody and control by law, and by virtue of their appointment as agents
of the Book Concern by the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church,
of all the said property and effects of the said Book Concern.

" And these defendants, further answering, say, that they have no certain know-
ledge thereof, but, according to their information and belief, they deny, that the
plaintiffs have brought their said bill by the authority, and under the direction, of all
the annual conferences and travelling preachers, or members, in said Church, South.
And these defendants claim and insist upon the same benefit and advantage of this
objection to the right of said plaintiffs to bring said bill, as if the same were inter-
posed by plea, or demurrer, or m other proper manner.

" And these defendants, George Lane and Levi Scott, further answering, say, that
the schedule hereto annexed, marked A, contains a full, particular and just account
of all the real estate, personal estate, goods, debte, money and effects of every sort
or kind, held by them, or either of them, as agent or agents, trustees, or members,
of the Methodist Episcopal Church, so far as such account can, at the present time,
be conveniently made up ; and the same comprises all the assets and property per-
taining to said Book Concern.

" And these defendants, Nathan Bangs and George Peck, admit, that, by the
terms of the resolutions already referred to, they, together with James B. Finley,
were appointed by the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, of
1844, held at New- York, commissioners, for the purposes stated in such resolutions,
in the event aforesaid of their becoming operative ; but say, that they have not re-
ceived any other appointment or authority as commissioners, or otherwise, to act
upon the part of said General Conference, or said Church, with any commissioners
on the part of the South, in relation to any division, distribution, or settlement of the
property herein referred to, or of any so-called ' Church property.' And these
defendants, Bangs and Peck, further say, that inasmuch as the said resolutions, de-
nominated the ' Plan of Separation,' have never had any validity, and have been
declared null and void, in the manner hereinbefore stated they admit they have re-
fused to act, as such commissioners under those resolutions, in any settlement or
division of any property.

" And the defendants submit that the plaintiffs are not entitled to the relief or de-
cree prayed for in said Bill of Complaint, or to any other relief or decree against
these defendants, touching the matters in said bill set forth.

" And these defendants, in answering, further say, that as they are advised by
counsel and believe, and therefore submit, the claim of the Methodist Episcopal



25

Church, South, to a pro rata portion of the funds and property in question in this
suit, is not clear, but on the contrary must be conceeded to be at least doubtful in
law, and that these defendants cannot safely pay or deliver over the same to them,
or their agents lawfully constituted, without their first having their rights therein and
thereto established, and without the sanction and authority of a court of law ; and
they therefore pray, that, in any event, they may be protected from all injury in the
premises ; that their rights and duties therein may be established, and all proper
costs, counsel fees, commissions, and expenses of every kind, may be allowed to
them under the decree of this Honourable Court.

MR. LORD, A replication has been filed to this answer which it is not necessary
to read.

Since these proceedings began, we have had to lament the death of Dr. Bascom,
one of the parties to this suit. Dr. William A. Smith has been substituted in the
place of Bishop Bascom. I have the consent of my friends on the other side, dated
the 14th of May, and if your Honours please I move that an order be made, making
this substitution as of to-day.

THE COURT, Take your order.

MR. LORD, If your Honours please, in introducing these proofs I may say that
they are mostly, if not altogether, documents to be introduced by consent. We
have on each side consented that the Book of Discipline of the Methodist Episcopal
Church, printed in 1840, which was the book in force at the time of the Conference
of 1844, shall be considered in evidence. And we have printed those extracts which,
on leading the book, we considered to bear upon the case, and which your Honours
will find in the Book of Proofs, No. 1 . If the gentlemen on the other side think
theie is any other part that is material to the case, they can read it to the Court. We
also, in regard to such historical facts as may bear on this controversy, have on each
side agreed to refer to Emory's History of the Discipline of the Church ; and further,
we have marked our extracts and printed them.

MR. CHOATE, With the right reserved to both parties of looking beyond them, I
suppose 1

MR. LORD, Yes, sir, with the same right reserved to both parties of looking
beyond them. We also refer to the printed journals of the several General Confer-
ences of the Church, for the years 1840 and 1844, which were Conferences common
to the two Churches, and to the journals of the Conference of 1848 ; all of which we
have agreed to admit in evidence. The Conference of 1848 of course bore a differ-
ent relation, a very different relation, to the subject, we suppose, than those of 1840
and 1844. We also refer to the manuscript journals of the several General Confer-
ences of the same Church, prior to 1840, which are accessible to both solicitors at the
Methodist Book Concern, in the city of New- York, which shall be held and consi-
dered to be duly authenticated and verified by proof ; and extracts from any part of
them shall be admitted as evidence, and either party shall be at liberty to refer to
and read them with the same effect as if the original had actually been produced in
proof. In introducing this evidence to the Court, I shall not take the course of read-
ing the book through, but I shall introduce each distinct portion as it bears upon the
points of the case, as they are presented in our brief of the points of the argument.
The first to which I shall refer are those in relation to the Book Concern. I shall
refer your Honours to the pages, so that they may be marked as I proceed. I refer
to page 30 of the Book of Proofs, No. 1, which are proofs common to both parties.



26

The Book of Proofs, No. 2, contains proceedings which we introduce in evidence t'~>
show the acts of the portion of the Church with which we are more especially
connected. The stipulation in regard to the admission of that is in the preface to
the book in these words :

" The plaintiffs in this cause, by their solicitor, propose and consent to the follow-
ing documents and papers, and the matters therein stated, as further evidence in this
action.

" And the defendants, by their solicitor, consent that said documents and papers
be read in evidence, to show the proceedings therein detailed of the various bodies
and members thereof, and persons, as such proceedings are by those bodies, members,
and persons, respectively for themselves reported.

" But the defendants, except as above, do not admit any statements of alleged
matters of fact or of opinion, or any of the arguments in said documents or papers
contained.

" The Discipline of the ' Methodist Episcopal Church, South,' may be referred to
as containing the doctrines, and rules of government and discipline of said organiza-
tion."

Turning to page 30 of Book of Proofs, No. 1, I read as follows. It is an extract
from the Book of Discipline of 1840 :

" Of the Printing and Circulating of Books, and of the profits arising therefrom.

" 1. The principal establishment of the Book Concern shall be in the city of New-
York ; and there shall be such other establishments as the General Conference may
deem expedient." P. 198.

" 28. The profits arising from the Book-Concern, after a sufficient capital to
carry on the business is retained, shall be regularly applied to the support of the de-
ficient travelling preachers and their families, the widows and orphans of preachers,
&c. The general book-steward shall every year send forward to each annual con-
ference an account of the dividend which the several annual conferences may draw
that year ; and each conference may draw for its proportionate part on any person
who has book-money in hands, and the drafts, with the receipt of the conference
thereon, shall be sent to the general book-steward, and be placed to the credit of the
person who paid the same." Pp. 207, 208.

Now, if your Honours please, I turn to the history and origin of this Book Con-
cern, as given in Dr. Emory's History of the Discipline. His History I would ex-
plain is in the form of annals. He gives the history of the alterations in the Disci-
pline at each successive General Conference, or other authorized act of the Church.
I quote from page 17 of the Book of Proofs, No. 1.

" Of the printing and circulating of Books, and of the Profits arising therefrom.

" 1800. The form of questions and answers laid aside, and the whole section
remodelled as follows :

" 1. Ezekiel Cooper is appointed the superintendent of the Book Concern, who
shall have authority to regulate the publications, and all other parts of the business,
according to the state of the finances from time to time. It shall be his duty to
inform the annual conferences if any of the preachers or private members of the so-
ciety neglect to make due payment. He may publish any books or tracts which, at
any time, may be approved of or recommended by the majority of an annual con-
ference, provided such books or tracts be also approved of by the book committee,
which shall be appointed by the Philadelphia Annual Conference. He may reprint
any book or tract which has once been approved and published by us, when, in hi?
judgment, the same ought to be reprinted. Let his accounts and books be examined
by the Philadelphia Conference at the time of the sitting of the said conference.

' 2. It shall be the duty of every presiding elder, where no book-steward is ap-



27

pointed, to see that his district be fully supplied with books. He is to order such
books as are wanted, and to give direction to whose care the same are to be sent ;
and he is to take the oversight of all our books sent into his district, and to account
with the superintendent for the same. He is to have the books distributed among
the several circuits in his district, and is to keep an account with each preacher who
receives or sells the books ; and is to receive the money, and to forward it to the
superintendent. When a presiding elder is removed, he is to make a full settlement
for all the books sold or remaining in his district ; and is also to make a transfer to
his successor of all the books and accounts left with the preachers in the district, the
amount of which shall go to his credit, and pass to the debit of his successor.

" 3. It shall be the duty of every preacher, who has the charge of a circuit, to see
that his circuit be duly supplied with books, and to take charge of all the books which
are sent to him, from time to time, or which may be in his circuit ; and he is to ac-
count with the presiding elder for the same. When a preacher leaves his circuit, he
must settle with the presiding elder for all the books he has disposed of; he is also
to make out an inventory of all that are remaining unsold, which shall be collected
at one place ; the amount of which shall go to his credit, and be transferred to his
successor, who is to take charge of the same. If the preacher who has the charge
of the circuit be negligent in dispersing the books, the presiding eWer shall commit
the charge of the books to another.

" 4. The superintendent of the book business may, from time to time, supply the
preachers with books in those circuits which are adjacent or convenient to Philadel-
phia, and settle with them for the same : in such cases the regulations respecting the
presiding elders are not to apply.

" 5. In all cases where books are sent to distant places, the presiding elders or
preachers shall be allowed to put a small additional price on such books as will best
bear it, in order to pay the expense of freight or carriage ; but the addition must not
be more than what is necessary to defray such expenses.

" 6. Every annual conference shall appoint a committee or committees to examine
the accounts of the presiding elders, preachers, and book-stewards, in their respec-
tive districts or circuits. Every presiding elder, minister, and preacher, shall do
everything in their power to recover all debts due to the Concern, and also all the
books belonging to the Concern, which may remain in the hands of any person with-
in their districts or circuits. If any preacher or member be indebted to the Book
Concern, and refuse to make payment, or to come to a just settlement, let him be
dealt with for a breach of trust, and such effectual measures be adopted for the
recovery of such debts as shall be agreeable to the direction of the annual confer-
ences respectively.

" 7. There shall be no drafts made upon the Book Concern till its debts are dis-
charged, and a sufficient capital provided fox carrying on the business ; after which,
the profits arising from the books shall be regularly paid to the chartered fund, and
be applied, with the annual income of the funded stock, to the support of the dis-
tressed travelling preachers and their families, the widows and orphans of preach-
ers, &c.

" 8. It shall be the duty of the preacher or preachers who travel with any of the
bishops, if he or they be authorized by the superintendent of the Book Concern, to
act as an agent in the settlement of accounts, collecting money, or in transacting any
business belonging to the Book Concern." Pp. 258-260.

In 1804, while the conference consisted of all the preachers, it was altered to
read in this way, pp. 19, 20, Book of proofs, No. 1.

" 1804. 7. The profits arising from the Book Concern, after a sufficient capital to
carry on the business is retained, shall be regularly applied to the support of the
distressed travelling preachers and their families, the widows and orphans of preach-
ers, &c. The general book-steward, shall every year send forward to each annual
conference an account of the dividend which the several annual conferences may
draw that year ; and each conference may draw for their proportionate part, on any
person who has book money in hand, and the drafts, with the receipt of the confer-
ence thereon, shall be sent to the general book-steward, and be placed to the credit
of the person who paid the same. But each annual conference is authorized,
at all events, to draw on the general book-steward for one hundred dollars." Pp.
261, 262.



28

Your Honours will observe the change to be, that the profits were not to be paid
into the Chartered Fund, but to be distributed by the agencies of the annual confer-
ences ; and it thus remained, in substance, until the rule was adopted as it now stands
in the Discipline of 1840.

The nest subject, extracts in relation to which I will read, is the Conferences, An-



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 5 of 87)