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American slavery. Demonstrations in favor of Dr. Cheever, in Scotland (Volume 1) online

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Edinburgh, 19 January, 1860.
Rev, Dn. Cukever:

Rev. Deah Sir: We, whose names are licreto adliibited,
Ministers of the Gospel, OfTice-Bcarers, and otliers belong-
ing to the evangelical denominations of tliis City, desire to
give expression to our Christian sympathy with you in the
unefiual contest in which you are engaged with the abettors
of Slavery. We have no doubt that you have been raised
uj) in the providence of God to witness for his truth, re-
garding tlie rights and privileges of our colored Ijrothren
held in crutl bondage.

The struggle you are honored to maintain, of "Right
against Miglit," is but a part of the prolonged conflict
which we and our fathers waged with the pro-.slavery party
of this country, and which closed, as you know, in the
glorious emancipation of our slaves, and the extinction of
the accursed tralTic in human beings throughout all the
colonies of Great Britain.

Our experience assures us that, whoever stands forward
as the a8.sertcr of universal freedom, must be prepared for
the most dt-termined opposition of all who are interested
in the trampling down this the most sacred and inalienable
birthright of the human family. But our experience also
assures th:it, until the ministers of Christianity courage-
ously assume the post of leaders on the side of freedom in
the contest, and fearlessly assert God's truth against the
supporters and apologists of Slavery, the great sin against
which you are contending will never be abolished.

You have been called to suffer shame and wrong for the
part you have acted in this good cause. We doubt not
you laid your account with this at the outset, and counted
the cost ere you plunged into the strife. We honor you
for your manliness ; we sympathize with you in tlic trials




A large and innuential public meeting took
place on Thursday afternoon, in the Queen street
Hall, convened for the purpose of expressing sym-
pathy with the Rev. Dr. Cheever under the pain-
ful circumstances which that eminent divine has
lately been called on to occupy w^ith reference to
slavery. Among those on the platform were the
Lord Provost, Sir James Forrest, Sir John Mel-
ville, Rev. Dr. Candlish, Rev. Dr. Guthrie, Rev.
Dr. Alexander, Rev. Mr. Cullen, Rev. Jonathan
Watson, Kev. Mr. Graham of Newhaven, Rev.
Mr. Pulsford, Dr. Greville, Dr. Russell, Mr. J.
F. Macf irlan, Mr. H. D. Dickie, Counselor Fyfe,
Mr. Cruickshank, Mr. Burn Murdoch, Jr., Mr.
Snoedy, etc., etc. On the motion of Sir John
^Iclville, the Lord Provost was called to the
chair. The meeting having been opened with
prayer by Mr. Pulsford,


The Lord Provost briefly stated the object of
the meeting, which, he was happy to say, was not
of a very usual character in Edinburgh. They
were called together to express sympathy with a
Christian minister in very peculiar circumstances;
a man well known to the people of this country
by his writings, and by his admirable illustrations,
he believed the best of all others, of John Bun-
yan, and one who at the present time needed all
the sympathy and any encouragement that could
be given him. [Applause.] After remarking
that it was by no means uncommon or extraor-
dinary for the people of this country publicly to
express their approbation or disapprobation of
events in other lands, in proof of which he in-
stanced the case of the Jew boy, Mortara, and
the remonstrance they made in the case of those
who w^ere tried and imprisoned in foreign coun-
tries for reading the Bible, his lordship went on to
express his astonishment that, in the United States
of America, which vaunted so loudly of their free-
dom, civil, political, and religious, there should not
only be a toleration of the abominable system of
slavery, but that when Christian men opened their
mouths to condemn it, they were not only not
sympathized with, but were themselves condemned
by public opinion.

Dr. Candlish, who was received with loud
cheers, then addressed the meeting. After refer-
ring to the private manner in which the movement
in behalf of Dr. Cheever had been hitherto gone
about, and to the drawback necessarily incident to
this, he said, that if the cause with which that emi-
nent man was identified had been broujiht before


the community of Scotland in the way in which
such cases ordinarily were, it was his impression
that the steam would have been up long ago,
and a national enthusiasm would have been kin-
dled. It was, however, now made abundantly
plain that Dr. Cheever was suflVring for his faith-
fulness in advocating the cause of emancipation,
and that the movement now making on his behalf
on this side of the Atlantic had his thorough
^■■anction, and that of the large and overwhelming
majority of his congregation. Having adverted
to the attempt made, during his absence on sick
leave, by some of the wealthier portion of Dr.
Cheever's congregation, to get him to resign in
consequence of his preaching on the subject of
slavery, and to the failure of this attempt. Dr.
Candlish next stated that these parties now with-
held all support from the congregation, and ob-
served that the tendency, if not the design, of all
their proceedings was, that Dr. Cheever should be
shut up to the necessity of abandoning the promi-
nent position which he held as pastor of the
Church of the Puritans in New-York. And it is
(continued Dr. Candlish) for the purpose of ena-
bling Dr. Cheever to continue in this position, and
to continue in it without the risk of being trou-
bled from year to year, that the movement is
made by his friends and his congregation, and that
we are asked to aid in it. The object of that
movement is not merely to provide for the pass-
ing year, but to provide such a sum as shall ena-
ble the Church of the Puritans to clear them-
selves of all encumbrances, and so to maintain its
position as a church, in whose pulpit Dr. Cheever


thunders his anathemas against all sin, and the sin
of slavery among others. [Cheers.] I do trust
that, now that this cause has been fairly brought
under our notice in this public way, we shall give
to it our most cordial sympathies, and 5«hal], with
one heart and one hand, combine to support Dr.
Cheever in his influential position. [Cheers.]
Among other questions, this has sometimes been
asked : Is it not strange that in such a city as
New-York, and in such a country as America, and
especially in the North, where, although public
sentiment is to a large extent, I fear I may say de-
bauched, by the political entanglements in which
the North is involved with the South — where, not-
withstanding this, there is notoriously a very large
and influential anti-slavery party — how comes it,
some say, that Dr. Cheever is not sustained by
the friends of the anti-slavery cause in the States
of America themselves 1 and how comes it that
when, as is alleged, there are a good many minis-
ters — not a very large proportion, for even those
most favorable to the clergy of America admit
that it is a very small proportion — but while there
is a considerable body of ministers in the North-
ern States of America who are avowedly anti-
slavery, and who make no hesitation about declar-
ing their sentiments — how comes it that Dr.
Cheever, in particular, should suffer more than
they do ? I confess I had some difficulty on this
very point myself when the matter was first
brought under my notice ; but on getting inform-
ation upon it from the American newspapers, not
from those favorable to Dr. Cheever, but chiefly
from one newspaper rather hostile to him, and more

a:mericax slavery. 13

especially from reading Dr. Cheever's own book,
"God against Slavery," I got the enigma or rid-
dle thoroughly solved, fori found that the peculiar
offense of Dr. Cheever consists, not in holding
abstractly anti-slavery views, or in propounding
them, but that his peculiar offense is that he
launches f )rth, with an eloquence worthy of the
old masters of oratory in Greece — with an elo-
quence, I would almost say, rivaling the denun-
ciations of the prophets, in so far as uninspired
eloquence can rival that of inspiration — he sets
himself not merely to the general advocacy of
emancipation, but he sets himself tooth and nail
against the measures of the American Legislature
sanctioning, promoting, and extending slavery ; he
sets himself practically to work against the Kan-
sas atrocity, against the Fugitive Slave Law ; he
sets himself against every f jrm by which the Leg-
islature of America has been abetting and en-
couraging the evil ; and he does so in the way just
of strong and pointed appeal to the consciences of
all American citizens, calling upon them to exer-
cise their political franchise, as in the sight of God,
and against this abominable sin. [Loud cheers.]
This is his special offense ; and here, I believe, he
stands almost alone among the ministers of Ame-
rica. I believe he might have gone on denouncing
slavery in the abstract as long as he chose, and in
pronouncing anathemas against it, and preaching
up emancipation in the abstract; but here he
comes home to men's bosoms, to men's business,
and to men's purses — he comes home to them as
citizens, and he calls upon them to consider that
they are responsible for the enormous sin which


the Legislature of the States is committing, in not
merely tolerating slavery where it exists, but in
building for it bulwarks to preserve and perpetu-
ate the institution, and in opening up new fields,
through bloodshed and violence, for the entering
in and triumphing of it on the free soil of the
States of America. [Loud cheers.] This is the
head and front of Dr. Cheever's offending, and we
will at once see that this places him in a some-
what peculiar position.

Dr. Candlish then referred to three classes of
anti-slavery men in America ; first, those who
bear a milk-and-water testimony ; second, those
who, opposed as they may be to slavery, can not
be expected to enter very cordially into a measure
bearing even in the slightest degree on ecclesias-
tical organization, or upon the maintenance of a
minister belonging to another church ; and third,
those who, opposed to slavery out and out, and
more or less distinctly on Christian grounds, take
up the position that they ought to enlighten the
public mind on the subject, but ought not to inter-
fere either by force — as John Brown had been doing
— or by any thing approaching political agitation,
which unquestionably was the offense of Dr. Chee-
ver ; and said that none of these classes could be
expected to sympathize much with Dr. Cheever in
his present position, or in the effort now making
to secure his position in the Church of the Puri-
tans. Now, there can be no question (continued
Dr. Candlish) that Dr. Cheever stands out, I don't
say as the martyr John Brown, but as a confessor
of this great principle — and I hold it to be a great
principle — that the opponents of slavery in Ame-


rica are bound to make their opposition to it tell
on the hustings — [cheers] — that they are bound to
make their opposition to slavery tell through the
ballot-box — that they are bound to testify to their
fellow-citizens every where that those who hold the
reins of power, and those who, in the last resort,
rule their country, are responsible for the measures
that are drawing down upon America, if America
pause not, the righteous indignation of Him who
will have all men to be free. [Loud cheers.]
Having made this explanation as to Dr. Ciieever's
position, will you allow me just to advert for a little
to Dr. Cheever's way of advocating the anti-
slavery cause. I thoroLighly agree with Dr. Chee-
ver, that all men in America who hold the truth
on this subject are bound to be energetically ac-
tive, not merely testifying, but acting and calling
upon all their fellow-citizens to act too. Why,
some years ago, there might be some pretense for
saying that it was enough for anti-slavery men in
America to bear testimony against slavery, to cir-
culate information on the subject, and to endeavor,
through the press and otherwise, to leaven the pub-
lic mind with sound views ; there might be some
shadow of pretense for this some years ago, when,
as it seemed, the line was drawn, and slavery was
limited and pent up — pent up within a certain
space, within which there was some prospect that
it might die out in course of time — that enlight-
ened views might come to prevail, and that slave-
ry might expire under the influence of truth ; but
the course of things has been entirely and alto-
gether altered since slavery has taken the aggres-
sive — since slavery in America, not content with


being tolerated in the places to which it was re-
stricted, became aggressive in the worst sense —
aggressive not merely in a lawful way, through
the Legislature, in procuring the passing of such
infamous acts as the Fugitive Skive Law — but ag-
gressive by the bowie-knife and the rifle, [cheers,]
as witness a senator shot on the floor of the Sen-
ate; aggressive, moreover, by force of arms, as
witness the atrocities and illegal proceedings that
have disgraced the province of Kansas. [Re-
newed cheers.] And, worst than all, these move-
ments of slavery, so far from having been checked
by the general Legislature of America, are getting
the countenance of that Legislature, so that such
enormities as those of Kansas, confessedly illegal
as tliey are, are really supported and upheld by
the whole force of the United States army.
[Cheers.] Now, in these circumstances, the case
has been altogether altered ; and as to any hope
which might have been entertained of the evil
being pent up in certain localities, and silently and
gradually disappearing under the progress of en-
lightened views, these must be given up ; for we
have here a hostile power — hostile to liberty, hos-
tile to God, and hostile to man — raising itself in
increased strength, drawn forth, not from above,
but from beneath, bursting the bounds within
which it was hoped it had been fettered, and com-
ing forth to pollute the free air of the North,
and to debauch men's minds all over America,
and by sheer force of arms, and by the sheer
force of importunity in the Legislature, threat-
ening to break up the Union, and to compel the
free soil of America to be stained by the curse


of slavery. [Cheers.] The time has now, there-
fore, fully come for Christian men and Christian
churches, acting upon this belief, and especially in
the whole of the Northern States, and for awaking
to a sense of their responsibility in connection
with the exercise of their political rif^hts. Dr.
Candlish here referred to Dr. Cheever's volume,
" God against Slavery," and stated that, after
having read it, he found that there was no ground
for the supposition that Dr. Cheever entertained
ultra or extreme views on the subject of slavery,
or advocated the cause in an injudicious spirit, but
heartily subscribed to every sentence and word in
this noble work, as he thought it was fitted to carry
conviction, and ultimately to enlist the enthusiasm
of every friend of the Gospel, as well as of every
friend of the slave. He further stated, that a
considerable portion of the volume was taken up
with Mr. Cheever's defense of himself against the
allegation of political preaching, because he de-
nounced slavery, pointed out the national sin of
which they were guilty, and declared that it would
bring down on the land that tolerated it the judg-
ments of heaven ; and showed, by an appeal to
the Old Testament prophets, and especially J ere-
miah, that the same charge could be brought
against them as had been brought against him ;
for Jeremiah, in the most emphatic and indignant
terms, denounced this very sin of man-stealing,
man-selling, and slaveholding, on its first entrance
systematically into the land of Israel and of Ju-
dah, as filling up the cup of Judah's iniquity. Dr.
Candlish quoted from Dr. Cheever's work in illus-
tration of this, and also for the purpose of show-


ing that Dr. Cheever held no extreme views in
regard to the sin of slaveholding, in the sense that
he would make no allowance for any circumstances
that might hinder a man from getting rid of the
possession of slaves, but who, at the same time,
were not regarded or treated by him as such, but
that his statements in this respect were singularly
cautious, candid, and charitable. He also referred
to the address sent by the General Assembly of
the Free Church of Scotland to the Presbyterian
Church of America in 1846, on the subject of
slavery — the views of which, in substance, corres-
ponded with those of Dr. Cheever, said that the
reply of the American Presbyterian Church was
to the effect, that they would beg them not to
trouble them any more about this matter ; and
returning to Dr. Cheever's book, said he believed
they had in this book a conclusive proof that no
such a thing as slavery — nothing approaching to a
man stealing another and holding him as goods and
chattels — existed in the nation of Israel down to
the very eve of the Babylonish captivity, when
the institution of slavery filled up the measure of
Judah's iniquity. For that service ihey owed Dr.
Cheever inestimable thanks. The system that
prevailed among the Jews was not a system of
buying and selling men ; it was a system of a
man purchasing a man for himself, and for a lim-
ited time, and nothing more ; and there was no-
thing in the slightest degree analogous in it either
to man-stealing, or to man-selling, or to slave-
holding, the sin with which America was chargea-
ble at this moment ; and those who were standing


up to denounce this great national sin deserved
the sympathy of the community of Great Britain.
Evidently matters are coming (said Dr. Cand-
lish) to a crisis in America. Talk as they may
about the risk of the Union being dissolved, most
plain it is that the parties of the North and the
South, the free and the slave parties of America,
must now either come to an understanding, or
they will be met by an earthquake or volcano.
I do not find that Dr. Cheever advocates any very-
extreme views, even as regards abolition itself.
The stress of his book is against the iniquity of
those laws and proceedings that tend to defend
and extenuate slavery. So far as I recollect, he
refers to abolition much in this way — that if there
were proclaimed a law that after fifty years there
should be a jubilee, as there was in the land of
Israel, great good would be done. Of course, I
understand, that Dr. Cheever means this, that he
is clear for a law for proclaiming a jubilee at the
end of fifty years, when all should go forth free;
but he is for instant, immediate abolition, as
much as I or any man could be who advocates
immediate abolition. [Cheers.] He would in-
stantly abolish any thing like a right to sell or buy
men — any thing like a right to disqualify men
from entering into the domestic relations of life
— any thing like a restraint upon the education of
any man — any thing like interference with his civil
rights, or that reduced men to mere goods and
chattels. [Cheers.] All that, of course, must bo
instantly and immediately abolished ; but what I
undertand him to mean is, that if this were done
instantly and immediately, there would be time


for such a gradual preparation as ^YOu^d make the
ultimate establishment of equal rights for all
Americans a safe and practicable thing. [Hear,
hear.] I don't for my own part think, and I don't
think Dr. Cheever believes, that any thing of that
sort is now practicable. 1 believe it has — as it
was in the case of our own West Indian colonies
— come to be a question of now or never. [Cheers.]
Instant and immediate abolition will be carried,
or America is gone. Events are thickening ; and
I believe that the event that has been announced
within these few days of the execution of John
Brown, is the first blow of the axe that is to be
laid to the root of the noxious tree of slavery.
[Cheers.] I believe that that event — I know it,
indeed, for I have evidence of it in the American
newspapers — is raising men in the North, even
those who were apt to be passive and quiescent
— even those who had great doubts about John
Brown's proceedings — is rousing them to a fer-
ment of indignation ; and in the very first meet-
ing of Congress the two parties met — the party
demanding inquiry of the North as to John
Brown's expedition, met by the party demanding
inquiry of the South as to the proceedings in
Kansas. Let them meet, and let them fight it
out ! [Loud cheers.] Of that expedition of John
Brown, which ended so fatally, I am not now to
speak. Let every one remember, however, that
that expedition is a fruit of the atrocities of Kan-
sas. [Cheers.] There, John Brown was exas-
perated, if ever man was. There, by the loss of
two noble sons, and by other inflictions too much
almost for humanity to bear, this man was roused


— 1 had almost said roused perhaps to madness ;
but no ! — all about his proceedings bear the aspect
of calm, deliberate, temperate judgment. There
is no bloodthirstiness, no desire for violence. There
is simply a desire to emancipate some, more or
less, of his poor oppressed fellow-men. [Cheers.]
In the expedition he played a high game ; and he
has lost and paid the forfeit in the loss of his two
sons and that of his own life. I am not here to
discuss the question as to the expedition. One
may ask of that terrible execution of John Brown :
What less could Virginia have done — Virginia,
backed as it was by the whole power of the
United States ? There is one thing I will state,
namely : surely that man was entitled to be tried
by the whole of the United States, and not by-
one particular province of it ; it may have been
law, but I spoak of justice. But supposing that
the State of Virginia could not do otherwise than
execute John Brown, I would just say that in the
same sense I would be called upon to admit of the
days of old that, with the power held by Lauderdale
and his crew, they could not do otherwise than
execute A.rgyle, Guthrie, and the men who fought
at the Pentlani.ls. [Cheers.] And, then, if I am
asked about the expedition, I would be very
much inclined to say, that if I am to shrink from
answering whether it was treason or not, whether
it was defensible or not for men to rise, I must
have shrunk in the days of old from the question
put, under the pressure perhaps of the " boots,"
whether I condemned the rising of Both well Brig
as rebellion and treason — yea or nay. [Cheers.]
I am very much inclined to put the two in the


same category, [renewed cheers ;] and I would
be as loath to condemn John Brown as I would
be loath to condemn the rising of Bothwell Brig,
[continued cheers ;] and, therefore, I hold that
just as the blood of these martyrs — martyrs for
Christ's Crown and Covenant in these days of old,
kept alive the spirit of liberty, even when the

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Online LibraryHelen DouglassAmerican slavery. Demonstrations in favor of Dr. Cheever, in Scotland (Volume 1) → online text (page 1 of 5)