William W. (William Weston) Patton.

The American board and slaveholding (Volume 1) online

. (page 1 of 6)
Online LibraryWilliam W. (William Weston) PattonThe American board and slaveholding (Volume 1) → online text (page 1 of 6)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook



|: \<^' 'Mil \/ /^

^ ♦.-..•* .•«>'*■

<4 ,^ ^*\p.^ '*^!^^K0r%


^^ .oo- "^p.







Reprinted, with alterations, from the Charter Oak,








The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions
has coiue in collision with the rising anti-slavery sentiment of the
world. The great organ of iho Congregational and Presbyterian
churches of America, the eldest-boru of the sisterhood of benevolent
.-ocieties, has come in collision with the greatest of modern reforms.
The friends of the slave declare that the influence of the Board has
been with the oppressor and against those who are laboring and
praying for the deliverance of the down-trodden — that the crime of
claiming property in man has been extenuated, excused, and even
defended, as consistent with a good Christian character, andasiur-
nishing no bar to admissiouinto the church — that slaveholders have
been honored and endorsed by election as corporate members and
n)issionaries, that 'robbery' (of the slave) has been received as 'sac-
rifice,' by the indiscriminate solicitation and reception of funds
among slaveholders, and that churches have been established under
their supervision, into which slaveholders are unhesitatingly receiv-
ed. It will be observed that I have not spoken of a 'colhsion be-
tween the American Board find the Anti-Slavery Society,' which is
the heading of a series of articles on this subject in the New York
Evangelist. I know of no reason why the parties should be so de-
scribed, unless it be to excite prejudices against the anti-slavery
cause. It has often seemed to me that a portion of the prominent
ministers and church members owed the anti-slavery cause a deep
grudge, which they were determined eternally to cherish, because
they were not its parents. The other benevolent societies were be-
gotten in their presence, or at least they were on hand at the bap-
ti.sm, and had an influence in the jjrocess of education. But this
anti-slavery cause has grown into its present position ofimportanca
without their concurrence and despite their opposition. It never
asked their permission to be born, nor to live after it was born, and
when they frowned upon it, it would not die. They moved earth
against it, (that is, the ecclesiastical earth,) and for various rea-
f'ons, induced presbyteries, as.'ociations, synods, assemblies,
and conventions, to denounce the infant cause and to strangle
it while in the cradle. But the set time for the deliverance of
t.he slave had come. 'For the oppression of the poor, for the sigh-

ing of the needy, now will I arise, said the Lord; I will set him iti
safety from hitn that puffeth at him.' God smiled, and it grew and
became a giant. But these individuals can never forget that, by
their own guilty reluctance, they have been deprived of the honor
of originating and carrying forward this cause, and they regard ita^
Sarah did the son of Hagar, when she said, 'Cast out this bondwo-
man and her son, for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir
with my son, even with Isaac,' or, paraphrased and applied, it would
read thus : 'Cast out from your sympathies, your prayers, your
meetings, your alms, the bondmen in this land and the society which
professes to care for them : for the bondman's society shall not be
admitted to the churches, along with 'owr' Bible, Tract and Mission
Societies.' There are many who have not yet become convinced
that good can come out of Nazareth, and supposing that the mass
of the church still sympathize with them, would fain represent that
the opposition to the Board comes altogether from this hated and
anathematized anti-slavei'y society. 13ut this is wholly incor-
rect, for

1. There is now no national anti-slavery society recognized hy all
abolitionists, as at the head of the enlerprizc. 2, No anti-slavery
society, as such, has memorialized the Board on the subject of sla-
very. 3. The memorialists are not all members of an anti-slavery
society. 4. Many ecclesiastical bodies have, since the meeting of
the Board, protested against its doctrine and report. 5. Remon-
strances of a similar nature have come from Canada and from
over the Atlantic. Deny it as they may, the Board has pla-
ced itself across the channel along which the united and rising
and swelling anli slavery sentiment of the WORLD is rushing.
The despised band of 'fanatics' has increased to an army, and accor-
ding to prophecy, 'the little one has become a thousand, and the
small one a strong nation.' Their words of truth have been
scattered like living coals on the conscience, atid have 'gone
down,' as Garrison said, not into oblivion, but 'into the hearts of
the people.' Thousands not non)inally connected with then), stand
ready to act decidedly when the issue comes. Let this be plainly
understood, and in its corroboration let me quote the concluding
portion of an indignant remonstratice just received from Scotland,
faaving been adopted by the Glasgow l^lmancipation Society'sCom-
inittee, after receiving the Report of the American Board :

'•So far as the influence of this Re|)ort may extend, it can but
work evil, and oft^t/ evil, to the cause of Liberty and Christianity.
Its tendency appears to ua to be to establish principles subversive
of the foundation of moral government, viz:

1. That holding and using human beings as property, and breed -
ingand trading in slaves, are consistent with a 'credible profession
of Christianity,' and that ceasing from these sins, is not included in
the Gospel idea of 'Repentance and Faith in Jesus Christ.'

2. 'J'hat a wrong done to man is less sinful, in proportion ns it
becomes 'inumately interwoven with the relations and movements-
of the social system.'

3. That slaveholders, polygamists, concubines, thieves and rob-
bers, become less guilty and more worthy of Christian confulenca

and respect, in proportion as their numbers increase, and as they
are enabled to band together and to pass laws to legalize and justi-
fy their evil deeds, and make them essential elements of the social

These principles seem to us to constitute the basis of this Report.
On behalf of the Committee of the Glasgow Emancipation Society,
we therefore v\ish to record our earnest protest against it; and
against the slaveholding religion which the Board and iis supporters
are seeking to propagate among the heathen, as the religion of Him
who came to 'break every yoke and let the oppressed go free,' and
who forbids iiis followers to 'join hands with thieves, or to be par-
takers with adulterers.'

John Murray, ? c- . • m
A»7., c , , } Secretaries.
Wm. omeal, J


It may seem singular to some, that the Board should be singled
nut from the circle of societies, and made the object of special at-
tack ; — and it may be asked, 'are they sinners above all other soci-
eties, because they have suffered such things?' In reply, and to
the other societies, I may say, 'I tell you nay; but except ye re-
pent, ye shall all likewise perish,' in the esteem of the friends of the

For my own part, I am free to confess, that the connection of the
Board with slaveholding has not been more reprehensible, and per-
haps not as much so, as that of the Bible and Tract Societies, andl
may also add, the Home Missionary Society. Look at the facts in
the case. The Bible Society professes to do its utmo.st to give the
Bible to the world. In this land are three millions of slaves, desti-
tute ofthe Bible, and forbidden by law to have it. What has the
Bible Society said or done about this fact, which comes directly
witliin the scope of their operations? As far as I can learn, «6so-
lutely nothing. The public has yet to learn from any of their annu-
al reports, or from the speeches at their anniversaries, that such a
fact is true. A few years since, the Society announced that it had
.supplied all the destitute families in the United St;it«;s who were
willing to receive it, with acopy of the Scriptures, vvliile they knew
that there were two hundred and fifty thousand fauiilies, or one-sixth
of all the families in the land, and nearly one half ol the destitute.
families in the country, who had not even had the Bible offered to
them! In their reports and Anniversary Addresses, the Roman
Catholic Priesfs and the Pope are most heartily crjrsed because
they withhold the Bible from the coujuioti peofile. Why is there
such studied sileiice about the guilt of Protestants at the South,
who will not permit their slaves to have the Bible ? There are but
two millions of (;;atho!ics in this country kef)! without the Bible,
and there are three uiillions of .-iaves in the same destitute condi-
tion. Why speak so boldly and frequently ofthe former, and shrink
timidly into silence about the latter? More might be said concern-



ing this Society, were their conduct the particular subject of lltes*-

Look now at the Tract Society. It has been pretty well chastis-
ed ofl;ite lor its immorality inalteriug the facts of history and the
seotiinents of authors, and it may seem cruel to inflict new stripes
on a fresh account— but the truth must out. This Society professes
toact through the press in promoting holinesvS and overthrowing
sin. In the prosecution of this laudable design, it has published
tracts against adultery, theft, sabbath-breaking, lotteries, gambling,
intemperance, &.c. Did there ever issue from their 'Hou e,' how-
ever, a tract against the great ciime o finanstcating, or siaveholding T
Never, Why not ? It surely is a sin, a common sin, a great sin,
forbidden by every principle of the Bible, and moreover prevalent
in our land. Yet the Conmiittee never wnuld issue a tract
on that subject, no, not one of the mildest kind — they would
not administer a honjcepathic dose! One gentleman oilered to
place in their hands tifiy dollars to be proposed according lo cus-
tom, as a premium for the best tract on that subject, but they alto-
gether scouted the idea.

'J'lie connection of the Home Missionary Society with siavehold-
ing, arises fiom their aiding churches in the slave States, into which
slaveholders, remaining such, are received. Thus the nujney of
abolitionists is used to build up pro-slavery churches, just such as
have cursed the South, and sanctified the system and practice, till ii
inas increased fourfold.

These facts, new as they may be to some, have been familiar to
intelligent abolitionists for yeais, and have caused great grief. They
loved the objects for which tin se socieiies were loinied, and they
loved the poor slave, yet iiere stood the benevolent associations of
the day leagued together against the slave, striking hands with his
oppressors, and practically endorsing the oppression What were
they to do ? What they did — determine that llfis slate of things
should be reversed, that the community slioidd be niade to see that
opposition to oppression was a part ol'the Gospel, and that every
Society which undertook to carry the Cospel, should understand
that their influence and action should be against slavery, whenever
liiey met it inthe prosecution of their work. Abolitionists (ti)ough
often charged with it) never asked benevolent socieiies to forsake
iSieir appropriate object, and to become ami slavery societies. They
only asked that, as they met slavery, in their respective Jii Ids, in the
regular prosecutiori of their work, they would act agamat it, and not
for it — would preach an anti-slavery, not a pro-ijlavery Gospei.

*A number of years since, the sum of |5000 wasguarantcocS to the Bible Socie-
ty, on condition tint it should be used in t:ii|iply!ng the slaves with (he Word of
Hjod. The donation was rejected .' In 1841, a Bible Apent was arrested in Now
Orleans for oflfering the Bible to a slave When brouf:ht before the Court h»
pleaded ignorance of the law, and was on that ground released, the Judga declar-
ing that the Agent had but just escaped the penitentiary, and warnmg him never
to repeat his act, an assurance to which effect, was given by the Agent, or the N.
Orleans Society. Yet the American Bitble Society uever remou6trated, never adr
verted to this juterforoace nith thair object.


This question will naturally and properly be asked at this stage of
our inquiries. The answer may be given in a few words. Why,
when many cases of a similar nature are pending, do the parties
agree to have only one tried in the courts ? Because the final de-
cision ofthat will settle the others, as they all stand or fall together.
In like manner the Benevolent Societies occupy a similar position,
and ifthe comuiuriity can be so enlightened that under the nifluence
of public opinion, one ofthe number shall bo brought on to right
ground, the others must follow. The American Board was selected
because the facts in connection with it, providentially called the at-
tention of abolitionists to it, and as they began there, so they con-
tinue to strike at this pillar of slaveholding, hopirig ihat soon suc-
cess will crown their efforts, and thus the way be prepared for all
the Societies to esert, as called for, a wholesome anti-slavery influ-


For fome years past, abolitionists have been remonstrating witfs
the Board for their connection with slaveholding, by honorary and
corporate members, slaveholding missionaries, funds derived froni-
i:J!paid toil, and the like : but during the last two years, these top-
ics have attracted but little attention, compared with the notice ta-
ken of a fact known for many years to the 'Prudential Committee'
ofthe Board, but only recently discovered by the religious public.
It will be the best staled in the langi^age of those who in 1844 me-
morialized the Board on the subject.

" Your memoria!i«ts are informed that slavery is actually tolera-
ted in the churches under the pationage of the Board among tho
(^'hoctavvs and other Indian tribes, by the admission of slaveholding

The Committee, to whom the memorial was referred, reported'
that year only in pari, requesting a year for opportunity to ascer-
tain ail the faciG, and to present their final report, but stating that
"they see no reason to charge the missionaries among the Chce-
taws, or any where else, with either a violation or neglect of duty.'

The next year, (Sept. 1845,) at Brooklyn, the Committee made
tiieir final report, aduiitting the facts charged, but proceeded in a
labored argument to justify tlie practice of receiving .slaveholders
to the mission churclies, which reportthe Board unanimously adop-
ted. Upon this point, the friends of the slave take issue with the
Board, contending that no aldve- holder, properly so called, ought to
be admitted at the present day to the church of Christ.

If there be any guilt in the connection of the mission churches
with slaveholding, the Board has made that guilt its own, by sol-
emnly and unanimously endoisii.'g it as right, and putting forth a
document in justification thereof. They have acted intelligently
and deliberately. The Committee took a year to ascertain the
facts, and the Board had a year iu which, an the supposition tli«


facts alleged were correct, to study their Bible, to seek light in pray-
er, and to revolve the subject in all its phases, before their minds.
The twelve months passed, and the Board reassembled to record
their judgment, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred
and forty-five, being thirty eight-years and six months after the Brit-
ish Parliament declared the slave-trade to be piracy, thatslavehold-
ing was not an overt sin, which ought to exclude its perpetrator
from the churches under their care ! It would seem that the bare
statement of the position taken was sufficient to reveal its atrocity,
and to commend its defenders to the Roman Catholic Bishop, Bar-
tholomew de las Casus, (who is said to have first proposed the es-
tablishment of a regular system of commerce in the inhabitants of
Africa,) as his faithful followers and copyists. It seems to have
been the lot of slavery always to have enjoyed the protection of the


It will be proper to make some reference to this document, as
containing the latest exposition of the views of the Board.*

It is cheerfully to be stated at the outset, that many commenda-
Ide rebukes of slavery, as a system, are contained in that document.
I have not room to quote th«m, but my readers may rely upon my
word, that the systarn is unequivocally denounced and branded asun-
righteousand unchristian. I find rm fault with the Board for a with-
holding of opinion or for erroneous doctiine quoad hoc. But 1 may
be permiledto niquire, whattlu? pages so occupied have to do with
the simple, point submitted ? The memorialists had not requested
the Board to denounce the system, had not complained that the mis-
sion churches defended </ie .si/s^em ; but they asked the Board to
ppeaii out concerinng the practice, to rebuke the personal, individu-
al sin o( shive-holding. Why, then, does this famous report, laud-
ed by many as the very essence of wisdom, entirely avoid a discus-
sion of what constitutes s\t\\e-holdi7ig, as a personal act or practice,
and whether itinvolves sin in all cases ? These topics would have
been in place and to the point, but their discussion would have se-
riously embarrassed the Committee and the Board. Unanimity
was the idol before which every ihing was sacrificed. Therefore, the
system wasdenouriced andthe practiceincidentallydefended. When
a report on slavohoiding ran satisfy and unite men whose senti-
ments are so dissimilar as those of Prof. Stowe and Dr. Wisner,
there must be a double meaning or an obscure meaning lo the doc-

The main argument of the Report, after all, consists of the intro-

*I see that the Einniici[>ator speaks as though the Prudential Committee had ta-
ken astep in advance oi the late actionof the Foard in consequence of a circular
letter having been sent to the missionaries. 'I'he following extract from a letter
received by the writer, from one of the Prudential < ommittee, will set that rumor
right. He writes under date of March 9th : — "The Circular to the Cherokees,
&c.,Mis«ion;iries, is probably an old silfiir. \Vc have done nothing new about
that ca>e." From this it appears tliat, if Secretary Green has written such a let-
t«r to the missionaries as the Emaucipator states, be has doue eo wholly on his
individual authority.


ductioti, in which five principles are stated as binding upon all \vh<3'
conduct missions. The Jirst refers to the New Testament, as the
only inf-illible cuide iu propagating the Gospel, and regulating the
discipline of Churches. To this I fully assent, with the remark,
that we are rather to seek for the principles on which the Apostles
acted, than for the specific things done, as the former are univer-
sally applicable, while the latter are of no authority, beyond their
peculiar circumstances and occasions For instance, while Chris-
tians seek among the facts of the New Testament for the principles
of Church Government, they do not feel bound to adopt the spe-
cific arrangen)enls iu all their minutiae, which then obtained; and in
accordance with thisview, we find that no denomination conforms,
in all it? regulations, to the primitive n)odel. The Apostles acted in
view of the age in which they lived, and the country where the
churches were located, and if we imitate them, not according to 'the
letter which killeth,' but according to 'the spirit which giveth life,'
we also shall act in view of the present age, and of present conn-

The second principle laid down in the Report, is thus expressed —
" The primary object aimed at in missions, should be to bring men
to asaving knowledge of Christ, by makingknown to them the way
of salvation through his cross. It has regard to individual charac-
ter, and is an object simple in itself, and puiely spiritual.'' To this,
also, rightly interpreted, I cordially assent. Let me ask, however,
whether a man is brought to 'a saving knowledge of Christ,' by
being kept in ignorance of his sins '! Does not repentance make a
part of the religion of Christ, and does not repentance consist in a
hearty renunciation of all sin ? Is it no sin to deny liberty to a fel-
low man — to claim property in a fellow-man — to practically maintain
the horrible chattel principle, with regard to human beings ? We
are urged to remember that Christianity 'has regard to the individu-
al character,' that the object of Missions is 'purely spiritual.' Yes,and
this practice ofalaveholding is an 'individual,' personal atfair, per-
taining to a man's 'spiritual' interests, as the slaveholder will real-
ize at the last day ; and one ground of our complaint is that the
Board iu dealing with slaveholding, abanoons the very principle
here laid down, by denouncing f/te system, while it defends the indi-
zidual practice. What we dc-^ire, is, that the missionaries will go to
each individual and call upon him to cease to do evil, instead of wast-
ing words about the general system Thus viewed, it will be found
that opposition to slaveholding, andto all oppression, comes strictly
within the limits of that 'primary object,' so cantiouslydefined.

The third position affirms that baptism and the Lord's supper, are
designed for all who give credible evidence of repentance and faith
in Christ, and are of course tube administered to all such among tho
heathen. This is an important point, and should be calmly viewed.
Whether I would assent to it. depends entirely upon the interpreta-
tion put upon it. The assertion made is a swee{)ing one, and in its
present unqualified fo»m, can with difficulty, if at all, be maintained.
One thing is certain, none ofthe Pastorsand Churches who patron-
ize the Board, practice according to their own rule. They not only
require a Christian experience and life previous to adnussion into


their churches, bnt also an orthodox creed. They will admit that
a person might give evidence of piety, who, nevertheless, by some
perversity ofintellect or education, did not believe in the full divini-
ty ofthe Saviour. Yet they would not hesitate to refuse admission
to such a person, on the ground of a general principle th;U must be
sustained. Now, why be strict as to the theory of religion, and lax
as to its practice ? Why reject a man for an error in his creed, and
admit him notwithstanding an error in his life ? But it will be said
that the Report alludes to the churches among the heathen, where
there is bui one to which the convert can belong, and where, conse-
quently, the rules must be less strict. To this I answer, less strict,
if you please, as to creeds, but not as to morals. But the Board
have cut themselves off from any such retreat, by the universal terras
of their proposition. The inference is indeed particular, the conclu-
sion specifies, by way of application, the heathen, but the premises
are without qualification or limit. "As the ordinances of baptism
and the Lord's Supper are obviously designed by Christ to be
the means of grace for all who give credible evidence of repentance
and faith in him," &c. There is no explaining away this doctrine,
so explicitly stated, without giving up the whole Report as inconclu-
sive and erroneous, for it is the foundation of the whole. I boldly
state, then, that the third 'fundamental' principle of the Report is
practically repudiated by every chuich and pastor who sustains the
Board, and that ihe Board are endeavoring to defend the con-
duct ofthe missionaries among the Choctaws, by putting forth a
principle which, as stated, they do not themselves receive.

But let us examine this point farther, for abolitionists are not afraid
to look the Report full in the face, though they are often lold that
it ought to satisfy them to know that it was unanimonsly adopted by
a body of great and wise men, composed of Doctors of Divinity,
Professors and Presidents of Colleges and Theolological Semina-
ries, and Honorables and Excellencies.* But the old adage may be
true here, 'Great men make great mistakes.' We need notfear, then,
to consider well all the positions of tliis extraordinary document. I

1 3 4 5 6

Online LibraryWilliam W. (William Weston) PattonThe American board and slaveholding (Volume 1) → online text (page 1 of 6)