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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 9 of 87)
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" ' And every infant born in slavery after the above-mentioned rules are complied
with, immediately on its birth.

" ' 2. Every assistant shall keep a journal, in which he shall regularly minute down
the names and ages of all the slaves belonging to all the masters in his respective
circuit, and also the date of every instrument executed and recorded for the manumis-
sion of the slaves, with the name of the court, book, and folio, in which the said instru-
ments respectively shall have been recorded : which journal shall be handed down in
each circuit to the succeeding assistants.

" ' 3. In. consideration that these rules form a new term of communion, every person
concerned, who will not comply with them, shall have liberty quietly to withdraw him-
self from our society within the twelve months succeeding the notice given as afore-
said : otherwise the assistant shall exclude him in the society.

" ' 4. No person so voluntarily withdrawn, or so excluded, shall ever partake of the
supper of the Lord with the Methodists, till he complies with the above requisitions.

" ' 5. No person holding slaves shall, in future, be admitted into society or to the
Lord's supper, till he previously complies with these rules concerning slavery.

" ' AT. B. These rules are to affect the members of our society no farther than as they
are consistent with the laws of the States in which they reside.

" ' And respecting ovr brethren in Virginia that are concerned, and after due con*
sideration of their peculiar circumstances, we allow them two years from the notice
given, to consider the expedience of compliance or non-compliance with these rules.

" ' Quest. 43. What shall be done with those who buy or sell slaves, or give them away ?

" ' Ans. They arc immediately to be expelled : unless they buy them on purpose to
free them.' Pp. 42-44."

That your Honours will see was done by the conference which commenced its
meeting in December of 1784. It was the annual conference. There was no Gene-
ral Conference at the time it was first organized. It was the act of the body of the
Church represented by all its preachers.

The next annual conference met in 1785.



46

" 1785. At the annual conferences for 1785, it was concluded that the rule on

>lavorv. adopted at the Christmas Conference, would do harm. It was, therefore,

i to Misjx'iid its execution for the present, and a note to that effect was added

annual minutes for that year. The conferences, however, still expressed 'the

abhorrence' of 'the practice,' and a determination ' to seek its destruction

by all wise and prudent means.' P. 80."

This provision never re-appeared, as I am instructed, in any future discipline.
I turn now to page 20 of the first of the Proofs, which contains extracts on this
subject from Emory's History of the Discipline,

"For the provisions on this subject prior to 1784, see pp. 14, 15, 19, 21, 22. For
the rules adopted at the Christmas Conference, see pp. 43, 44. Not more than six
months had elapsed after the adoption of these last rules before it was thought neces-
sary to suspend them. Accordingly, in the annual minutes for 1785 the following
notice was inserted :

" ' It is recommended to all our brethren to suspend the execution of the minute
on slavery till the deliberations of a future conference ; and that an equal space of
time be allowed all our members for consideration, when the minute shall be put in
force.

" ' N. B. We do hold in the deepest abhorrence the practice of slavery ; and shall
not cease to seek its destruction by all wise and prudent means.'

"This note does not seem to refer to Question 43, (1784,) as it, with the same
answer, was retained in the Discipline of 1786. From this till 1796 no mention, it
would seem, was made of the subject except in the General Rules. (See p. 181.)"

From the General Rules of the Society I will read an extract : Discipline of
1840, p. 80 :

" There is only one condition previously required of those who desire admission
into these societies, ' a desire to flee from the wrath to come, and to be saved from
their sins.' But, wherever this is really fixed in the soul, it will be shown by its
fruits. It is therefore expected of all who continue therein, that they should con-
tinue to evidence their desire of salvation,

" First, by doing no harm, by avoiding evil of every kind, especially that which is
most generally practised ; such as,

" The taking the name of God in vain.

" The profaning the day of the Lord, either by doing ordinary work therein, or by
buying or selling.

" Drunkenness : or drinking spirituous liquors, unless in case of necessity.

" The buying and selling of men, women, and children, with an intention to en-
slave them.

" Fighting, quarrelling, brawling, brother going to law with brother ; returning
evil for evil ; or railing for railing ; the using many words in buying or selling.

" The buying or selling goods that have not paid the duty.

" The giving or taking things on usury, i. e., unlawful interest.

" Uncharitable or unprofitable conversation: particularly speaking evil of magis-
trates or of ministers.

" Doing to others as we would not they should do unto us."

I have read sufficient to show how it was then considered. On page 21 of the
First of the Proofs we have the following :

' 1796. The following section was introduced on the subject :
" Quest. What regulations shall be made for the extirpation of the crying evil of
African slavery ?

"Arts. 1. We declare that we are more than ever convinced of the great evil of
the African slavery which still exists in these United States, and do most earnestly
recommend to the yearly conferences, quarterly meetings, and to those who have the
oversight of districts and circuits to be exceedingly cautious what persons they admit
to official stations, to require such security of those who hold slaves, for the eman-
cipation of them, immediately or gradually, as the laws of the States respectively,



47

nnd the circumstances of the case, will admit ; and we do fully authorize all the
yearly conferences to make whatever regulations they judge proper, in the present
case, respecting the admission of persons to official stations in our Church."

We call your Honours' attention to this because it is one of the strongest expres-
sions made use of to meet the difficulty. In case of future admissions to official
station, security was to be required of those who held slaves for the emancipation
of them, immediately or gradually, as the laws of the States respectively, and the
circumstances of the case, will admit.

" '2. No slaveholder shall be received into society till the preacher who has the
oversight of the circuit has spoken to him freely and faithfully on the subject of
slavery.

" ' Every member of the society who sells a slave shall immediately, after full
proof, be excluded the society. And if any member of our society purchase a slave,
the ensuing quarterly meeting shall determine on the number of years in which the
slave so purchased would work out the price of his purchase. And the person so
purchasing shall, immediately after such determination, execute a legal instrument
for the manumission of such slave, at the expiration of the term determined by the
quarterly meeting. And in default of his executing such instrument of manumission,
or on his refusal to submit his case to the judgment of the quarterly meeting, such
member shall be excluded the society. Provided also, that in the case of a female
slave, it shall be inserted in the aforesaid instrument of manumission, that all her
children who shall be born during the years of her servitude, shall be free at the fol-
lowing times, namely ; every female child at the age of twenty-one, and every male
child at the age of twenty-five. Nevertheless, if the member of our society execut-
ing the said instrument of manumission, judge it proper, he may fix the times of
manumission of the children of the female slaves before mentioned at an earlier age
than that which is prescribed above.

" ' 4. The preachers and other members of our society are requested to consider
the subject of negro slavery with deep attention till the ensuing General Con-
ference : and that they impart to the General Conference, through the medium of
the yearly conferences, or otherwise, any important thoughts upon the subject, that
the conference may have full light, in order to take further steps towards the eradi-
cating this enormous evil from that part of the Church of God to which they are
united.'

" 1800. The following new paragraphs were inserted :

" ' 2. When any travelling preacher becomes an owner of a slave or slaves, by any
means, he shall forfeit his ministerial character in our Church, unless he execute, if
it be practicable, a legal emancipation of such slaves, conformably to the laws of the
State in which he lives.

" ' The annual conferences are directed to draw up addresses for the gradual eman-
cipation of the slaves, to the legislatures of those States in which no general laws
have been passed for that purpose. These addresses shall urge, in the most
respectful, but pointed manner, the necessity of a law for the gradual emancipation
of the slaves ; proper committees shall be appointed, by the annual conferences, out
of the most respectable of our friends, for the conducting of the business ; and the
presiding elders, elders, deacons, and travelling preachers, shall procure as many
proper signatures as possible to the addresses, and ' give all the assistance in their
power in every respect to aid the committees, and to further this blessed under-
taking. Let this be continued from year to year, till the desired end be accom-
plished.'

" 1804. The following alterations were made :

" The question reads, ' What shall be done for the extirpation of the evil of
slavery!'

" In paragraph 1 (1796) instead of ' more than ever convinced,' we have ' as much
as ever convinced;' and instead of 'the African slavery which still exists in these
United States,' we have ' slavery.'

" In paragraph 4, (3 of 1796,) respecting the selling of a slave, before the words
1 shall immediately,' the following clause is inserted : ' except at the request of the
slave, in cases of mercy and humanity, agreeably to the judgment of a committee of



48

the male members of the society, appointed by the preacher who has charge of the
circuit.'

" The following new proviso was inserted in this paragraph : ' Provided also, that
if a member of our society shall buy a slave with a certificate of future emancipa-
tion, the terms of emancipation shall, notwithstanding, be subject to the decision of
the quarterly meeting conference.' All after ' nevertheless ' was struck out, and the
following substituted : ' The members of our societies in the States of North Caro-
lina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee, shall be exempted from the operation
of the above rules.' The paragraphs about considering the subject of slavery and
petitions to legislatures, (namely, No. 4 of 1796, and No. 6 of 1800,) were struck out,
and the following added :

"'5. Let our preachers, from time to time, as occasion serves, admonish and exhort
all slaves to render due respect and obedience to the commands and interests of
their respective masters.'

" 1808. All that related to slaveholding among private members (see 2 and 3 of
1796) struck out, and the following substituted :

'"3. The General Conference authorizes each annual conference to form their own
regulations relative to buying and selling slaves.'

" Paragraph 5 of 1804 was also struck out.

" 1812. Paragraph 3 of 1808 was altered so as to read,

" '"Whereas the laws of some of the States do not admit of emancipating of slaves,
without a special act of the legislature ; the General Conference authorizes each
annual conference to form their own regulations relative to buying and selling
slaves.'

" 1816. Paragraph 1 (see 1796) was altered so as to read,

" ' 1. We declare that we^are as much as ever convinced of the great evil of slavery ;
therefore no slaveholder shall be eligible to any official station in our Church here-
after, where the laws of the State in which he lives will admit of emancipation, and
permit the liberated slave to enjoy freedom.'

" 1820. Paragraph 3, (see 1812,) leaving it to the annual conferences 'to form
their own regulations about buying and selling slaves,' was struck out.

" 1824. The following paragraphs added :

" ' 3. All our preachers shall prudently enforce upon our members the necessity of
teaching their slaves to read the word of God ; and to allow them time to attend
upon the public worship of God on our regular days of divine service.

" ' 4. Our coloured preachers and official members shall have all the privileges
which are usual to others in the district and quarterly conferences, where the usages
of the country do not forbid it. And the presiding elder may hold for them a
separate district conference, where the number of coloured local preachers will
justify it.

" ' 5. The annual conferences may employ coloured preachers to travel and
preach where their services are judged necessary ; provided that no one shall be so
employed without having been recommended according to the Form of Discipline,'
Pp. 274-279."

We now come down, if your Honours please, to the journal of the General Con-
ference of 1840, page 56 of the first of the Proofs, and we approach to the very acts
of dissension. We read these parts of the evidence with a view to show the actual
state of the difficulty in which the society found itself in 1844, and whether there
was a permanent or serious difficulty, or not.

" MAY 2. O. Scott of the New-England Conference, presented a petition from
persons residing in New- York on the subject of slavery. On the presenting of this
petition, J. Early moved the appointment of a standing Committee on Slavery, to
whom all papers, petitions, and memorials, upon that subject, shall be referred.
Adopted. Ordered that the committee consist of twenty-eight members, one from
each annual conference, and appointed by the respective delegations.

" FRIDAY, MAY 8. E. Dorsey presented the memorial of the stewards and others
of Westmoreland circuit, Baltimore Conference, complaining of the action of the
Baltimore Annual Conference, in refusing to elect to ordination local preachers, on
the single ground of their being slaveholders.



49

" The memorial was read, and ineffectual efforts made to procure other reference.
After discussion it was, on motion, referred to a select committee of nine to consider
and report thereon."

Your Honours will permit me to explain that the Westmoreland Circuit was in
Virginia, but connected with the Baltimore Conference.

"WEDNESDAY, MAY 13. On motion of J. A. Collins, the report of the Committee
on the Judiciary, of 1836, in relation to a memorial from Westmoreland and Lancas-
ter circuits, Baltimore Conference, was referred to the committee raised on the
memorial from Westmoreland circuit to this Conference.

"THURSDAY, MAY 21. N. Bangs, chairman of the Committee on Slavery, present-
ed a report, which was read.

" O. Scott stated that the minority of the committee had a report which they
wished to present. Moved that the report of the majority be laid on the table for
the present. Carried.

' It was then moved that the report of the minority be read. After discussion, it
was moved to lay this on the table. Carried.

" On motion, the report of the Committee on Slavery was again taken up. The
first resolution accompanying the report was read.

" Moved to adjourn. Lost.

" 0. Scott, rising to speak, and intimating that he would probably extend his re-
marks beyond fifteen minutes, it was, on motion, resolved to suspend the rule re-
stricting a speaker to fifteen minutes, so as to permit brother Scott to proceed at his
own discretion.

" Moved to adjourn. Lost.

" After brother Scott had proceeded some time with his remarks, he gave way for
a motion to adjourn, which prevailed ; and Conference adjourned, to meet to-morrow
morning, at half-past eight o'clock."

THE COURT, Where was that Conference held 1

MR. LORD, In the city of Baltimore. It commenced on the 1st of May, 1840.
MR. REVERDY JOHNSON, The Conference of 1844 was held in this city.
MR. LORD continued to read as follows :

' FRIDAY MORNING, MAY 22. Conference proceeded to the consideration of the
unfinished business of yesterday, it being the first resolution accompanying the report
of the Committee on Slavery. The discussion was renewed.

" On motion, Conference resolved, that when it adjourned, it adjourn to meet this
afternoon, at three o'clock.

' During the debate, brother Crowther being on the floor, and having spoken fifteen
minutes, a motion was made that he have liberty to proceed with, and conclude his
remarks. For this, a substitute was moved in these words, That the rule restricting
speaking to fifteen minutes be suspended during the discussion of the subject before
the Conference. Lost.

" The question recurring upon the original motion, it was withdrawn by the
mover, but was immediately renewed and adopted."

I pass on to page 67 of the first of the Proofs for the continuation of the proceed-
ings of this Conference :

" MAY 28. W. Capers, chairman of the Committee on the Address from the
Wesleyan Methodist Connexion, made a report, accompanied with letters to the
British and Canada Conferences, which were read. Moved to adopt the report and
letters." (See appendix, Documents B. and C.)

" O. Scott called for a division on adopting the letter to the British Conference.
H. Slicer moved to recommit the report. Lost. J. T. Mitchell offered the following
resolution, which was adopted : ' Resolved, That the committee revise the letter
to the British Conference, so as to refer to our literary institutions, and to the inter-
change of representatives.'

" The question was then taken on adopting the report of the committee.

4



50

" 1. On the letter to the British Weslcyan Conference, a division was called for ;
and on motion, that part which does not refer to slavery was adopted. " That part
relatincr to slavery w;is also adopted ; one hundred and fourteen voting in the affirma-
iiid eighteen in the negative."

] now propose to read extracts from some documents which in these proceedings
have been referred to ; first, that which begins on page 58 of the first of the Proofs,
and next, that which begins on page 64, which express the sentiments of the Confer-
ence at that period.

MK. JOHNSON, JUN., read the following extract :

" Extract from Address of the Bishops to the General Conference of the Methodist

Episcopal Church.

" In a body so numerous as the Methodist connexion, embracing twenty-eight an-
nual conferences, extended over these United States and Territories, and connected
with different civil and domestic institutions, it is hardly expected that all should see
' eye to eye' relative to the meaning and administration of the Discipline of the
Church, or the fitness and expediency of measures which may be adopted in con-
formity to such a state of things.

" It has been the constant aim and united endeavour of your general superintend-
ents to preserve uniformity and harmony in these respects ; and, as far as practi-
cable, prevent conflicting action in all the official bodies in the Church. But
although we record, with unfeigned gratitude to the God of all grace and consolation,
the general peace, and harmony, and prosperity of the body since your last session, it
becomes our painful duty to lay before you some exceptions to this happy and
prosperous condition.

" At the last session of the General Conference the subject of slavery and its
abolition was extensively discussed, and vigorous exertions made to effect new
legislation upon it. But after a careful examination of the whole ground, aided by
the light of past, experience, it was the solemn conviction of the Conference that the
interests of religion would not be advanced by any additional enactments in regard
to it.

" In your Pastoral Address to the ministers and people at your last session, with
'.^eat unanimity, and, as we believe, in the true spirit of the ministers of the peace-
ful Gospel of Christ, you solemnly advised the whole body to abstain from all abolition
movements, and from agitating the exciting subject in the Church. This advice was
in perfect agreement with the individual as well as associated views of your superin-
tendents. But, had we differed from you in opinion, in consideration of the age,
wisdom, experience, and official authority of the General Conference, we should
have felt ourselves under a solemn obligation to be governed by your counsel. We
have endeavoured, both in our official administration, and in our private intercourse
with the preachers and members, to inculcate the sound policy and Christian spirit
of your Pastoral Address. And it affords us great pleasure to be able to assure you,
that our efforts in this respect have been very generally approved, and your advice
cordially received and practically observed in a very large majority of the annual con-
ferences, as will more fully appear to you on the careful examination of the journals
of those bodies for the last four years. But we regret that we are compelled to say,
that in some of the Northern and Eastern conferences, in contravention of your
Christian and pastoral counsel, and of your best efforts to carry it into effect, the
subject has been agitated in such forms, and in such a spirit, as to disturb the peace
of the Church. This unhappy agitation has not been confined to the annual confer-
ences, but has been introduced into quarterly conferences, and made the absorbing
business of self-created bodies in the bosom of our beloved Zion. The professed
object of all these operations is to free the Methodist Episcopal Church from the
' great moral evil of slavery,' and to secure to the enslaved the rights and privileges
of free citizens of these United States. How far the measures adopted, and the
manner of applying those measures, are calculated to accomplish such an issue, even
if it could be effected by any action of ecclesiastical bodies, your united wisdom will
enable you to judge.

" We cannot, however, but regard it as of unhappy tendency that either individual
members or official bodies in the Church, should employ terms and pass resolutions

4*



51

of censure and condemnation on their brethren, and on public officers and official
bodies, over whose actions they have no legitimate jurisdiction. It requires no very
extensive knowledge of human nature to be convinced that if we would convert our
fellow-men from the error of their ways, we must address them, not in terms of
crimination and reproach, but in the milder language of respect, persuasion and
kindness.

" It is justly due to a number of the annual conferences in which a majority, or a
very respectable minority, of the members are professedly abolitionists, to say that
they occupy a very different ground, and pursue a very different course from those
of their brethren who have adopted ultra principles and measures in this unfortunate,
and, we think, unprofitable controversy. The result of action had in such confer-
ences on the resolution of the New-England Conference, recommending a very
important change in our general rule on slavery, is satisfactory proof of this fact, and
affords us strong and increasing confidence that the unity and peace of the Church
are not to be materially affected by this exciting subject. Many of the preachers
who were favourably disposed to the cause of abolition, when they saw the extent
to which it was designed to carry these measures, and the inevitable consequence of
their prosecution, came to a pause, reflected, and declined their co-operation. They
clearly perceived that the success of the measures would result in the division of the
Church ; and for such an event they were not prepared. They have no disposition
to criminate their brethren in the South, who are unavoidably connected with the
institution of slavery, or to separate from them on that account. It is believed that
men of ardent temperament, whose zeal may have been somewhat in advance of
their knowledge and discretion, have made such advances in the abolition enterprise
as to produce a reaction. A few preachers and members, disappointed in their ex-
pectations, and despairing of the success of their cause in the Methodist Church,
have withdrawn from our fellowship, and connected themselves with associations



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 9 of 87)