William W. (William Weston) Patton.

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Reprinted J icith alterations, from the Charter Oak.








The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions
has come in collision with the rising anti-slavery sentiment of the
world. The great organ of the Congregational and Presbyterian
churches of America, the eldest-born 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, and as fur-
nishing no bar to admission into the church — that slaveholders have
been honored and endorsed by election as corporate members and
missionaries, that 'robbery' fof 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
Iheir supervision, into which slaveholders are unhesitatingly receiv-
ed. It will be observed that I have not spoken of a 'collision be-
iween the American Board and 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-
tism, and had an influence in the process of education. But this
anti-slavery cause has grown into its present position of importance
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-
sons, induced presbyteries, associations, 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
Uie slave had come. 'For the oppression of the poor, for the sigh-


irtg of the needy, now will I arise, said the Lord; I will set him in
safety from hiai 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 itas
Sarah did the son ofHagar, 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 bonduien 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 'our^ 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 IBoard comes altogether from this hated and
anathematized anti-slavery society. Cut this is wholly incor-
rect, for

1. There is now no national anti-slavery society aW
abolitionists, as at the head of the enterprize. 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 ecclesiasii(;al 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 anti 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, and have 'gone
down,' as Garrison said, not into oblivion, but 'into the hearts of
the people.' Thousands not nominally connected with them, 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 remonstrance just received from Scotland,
having been adopted by the Gla.-^gow Emancipation Society's Cora-
luittee, after receivit)gthe Report of the American Board :

'•So far as the influence of this Report may extend, it can but
work evil, and only evil, to the cause of Liberty and Christianity.
Its tendency appears to us to be to establish principles subversive
of the foundation of moral government, viz:

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

2. That a wrong done to man is le.-^s sinful, in proportion as it
becomes 'iniimately interwoven with the relations and uioveaient*
of the social system.'

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

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 wish 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 thieres, or to be par-
takers with adulterers.'

John Murray, ^ ^ . • »
\AT Si • } Secretaries.

Wm. Smeal, 5


It may seem singular to some, that the Board should be singled
out 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, and I
may also add, the Home Missionary Society. Look at the facts in
the case. The Bible Society professes to do its utmost to give the
Bible to the world. In this land are three millions of slaves, desti-
tute ofthe Bible, and forl)ia'den by law to have it. What has the
Bible Society said or done ahont this fact, which comes directly
within the scope of their operations? As far as I can learn, a&50-
lutely nothing. The public has yet to learn froui 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 States who were
willing to receive it, with aco(»vofthe Scriptures, while they knew
that there were two hundred and fifty thousand families, or one-sixth
of all the families in the land, and nearly one half of 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 Priests and the Pope are most heartily cursed because
they withhold the Bible from the common people. Why is there
such studied silence about the guilt of Protestants at the South,
who will not permit their slaves to have the Bible ? There are but
two millions of Catholics in this country kejit without the Bible,
and there are three millions of slaves in the same destitute condi-
tion. Why speak so boldly and frequently ofthe former, and shrink
timidly into silence about the latter? More aiight be said concern-


jng this Society, were their conduct the particular subject of these


Look now at the Tract Society. It has been pretty well chastis-
ed of late tor its immorality in altering the facts of history and the
sentiments of authors, and it may seem cruel to inflict new atripea
on a fresh accouul— but the truth musit out. This Society professes
to act through the press in promoting holiness and overthrowing
siu. In the prosecution of this laudable design, it has published
tracts against adultery, theft, sabbath-breakirjg, lotteries, gambling,
intemperance, &c. Did there ever issue from their 'Hou e.' how-
ever, a tract against the great ciiuie of majisteating , or slaveholding?
Never, Why not ? It surely is a sin, a couimou sin, a great sin,
forbidden by every principle of the Bible, and moreover prevalent
in our land. Yet the Committee never would issue a tract
on that subject, no, not one of the mildest kind — they would
not administer a homoepathic dose! One gentleman offered to
place in their hands fifty dullars to be proposed according to cua-
torn, asa premium for the best tract on that subject, but they alto-
gether scouted the idea.

The connection of the Home Missioniiry Society with slavehold-
ing. arises fiom their aiding churches in the slave States, into which
slaveholders, remaining such, are received. Thus the money 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
has increased fourfold.

These facts, new as they may be to some, have been familiar to
intelligent abolitionists for years, and have caused greatgrief. Tliey
loved the objects for which these societies wereloiuied. and they
loved the poor slave, yet here stood the benevolent associations of
the day leagued together against the skive, striking hands with his
oppressors, and practically endorsing the oppression What were
they to do ? What they did — determine that this state of things
should be reversed, that the community should be made to see that
opposition to oppression was a part of the Gospel, and that every
Society which undertook to carry the Gospel, should understand
that their influence and action should be against slavery, vviienevHr
they metitinthe prosecution of their work. Abolitionists (though
often charged with it) never asked benevolent societies to ibrsake
their appropriate object, and to become anti slavery societies. They
only asked that, as they met slavery, in their respective Jidiis, in ifte
regular prosecution of their work, they would aci against it, and not
for it — would preach an anti-slavery, not a pro-slavery Gospel.

*A number of years since, the sum of $5000 was guaranteed to the Bible Socie-
ty, on condition it should be used in su|pplyin«r the slaves wiih ihe Word of
God. The dunution was rejected '. In 1841, a Bible Agent was arrested in New-
Orleans for ofteriiig the Bible to a slave W hen brought before the Court he
pleaded ignorance of the law, and was on that {rrouiid ideated, the Judge declar-
ing that the Agent hid but just escaped the penitentiary, and warning him never
to repeat his act, an assurance to winch effect, was given by the Agent, or the N.
Orleans Society. Yet the American Bible Society never remonstrated, never ad-
verted to this interfereoce with their object.


This question willnatnmlly 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 of that will settle the others, as they all stand or fall together.
In like manner the Benevolent Societies occupy a similar position,
and if the community can be so enlightened that under the uifluence
of public opinion, one of the number shall be 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, hoping that soon suc-
cess will crown their efforts, and thus the way l)e prepared for all
the Societies to exert, as called for, a wholesome anti-slavery influ-


For forae years past, abolitionists have been remonstrating witK
the Board for their connection with slaveholding, by honorary and
corporate members, slaveholding missionaries, fundd derived from
unpaid 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'
of the Board, but only recently discovered by the religious public.
It will be the best stated in the language of those who in 1844 me-
morialized the Board on the subject.

" Your memorialists are informed that slavery is actually tolera-
ted in the churches under the patronage of the Board among the
Choctaws and other Indian tribes, by the admission of slaveholding

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

The next year, (Sept. 1845,) at Brooklyn, the Committee made
their final report, admitting the facts charged, but proceeded in a
labored argument to justify the practice of receiving slaveholders
to the mission churches, which reportthe Board unanimously adop-
ted. Upon this point, the friends of the slave take issue with the
Board, contending that no slave //oWe?-, 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 endoising 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 in which, on the supposition th«


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
tlieir indgnient. 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 Casas. (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-
ble rebukes of slavery, as a system, are contained in that document.
1 have not room to quote them, but my readers may rely upon my
word, that the system is unequivocally denounced and branded as un-
righteous and unchristian. I find no fault with the Board for a with-
holding of opinion or for erroneous doctrine quoad hoc. But [ rnav
be permiled to inquire, what the 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 the system ; but they asked the Board to
speak out concerning the practice, to rebuke the personal, individu-
al sin of slave-Z/oWinff. 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\a\'e-holdi7ig, as a personal act or practice,
and whether it involves sin in all cases ? Tliese topics would have
been in place and to the point, but their discussion would have se-
riously embarrassed the Committee and the Board. Unan'mity
was the idol before which e\ery ihing was sacrificed. Therefore, the
system wasdenounced andthe practice incidentally defended. When
a report on slaveholding can 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 to the doc-

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

*I see that the Emancipator speaks as though the Prudential Committee had ta-
ken a step in advance of the late action of the Roard in consequence of a circular
letter havingbeen senttothc missionarifs. The following extract from a letter
received by the writer, from one ()f the Prudential ( ommittee, will set that rumor
right. He writes under date of March 9th : — "The Circular to the Cherokees,
A-c, Missionaries, is probably an old affair. We have done nothing new about
that case." From this it appears that, if Secretary Green has written .such a let-
ter to the missionaries as the Kmaucipator fetate.s, be has done eo wholly on his
individual authority.

duction, in which five principles are stated as binding upon all who*
conduct missions. The first refers to the New Testament, as the
only infallible guide in pri)pagating the Gospel, and regulating the
discipline of Churches. To this 1 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 arrajigements in all their minutiEe, which then obtained ; and in
accordance with this view, we find that no denomination conforms,
in all it? regulations, to the primitive model- The Apostles acted in
view of the age in which ihey 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 coun-

The second principle laid down in the Report, is thus expressed —
*' The primary object aimed at in missions, should be to bring men
to a saving knowledge of Christ, by making known to them the way
of salvation through his cross. It has regard to individual charac-
ter, and is an object simple in itself, and purely spiritual." To this,
also, rightly interpreted, 1 cordially assent. Let me ask, however,
^vhetheI 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 ofallsin .' 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 of slave/toWwff is an 'individual,' personal afffiir, per-
taining to a man's 'spiritual' interests, as the slaveliolder will real-
ize at the last day ; and one ground of our complaint is that the
Board in dealing with slaveholding, abanaons the very principle
here laid down, by denouncing </te system, while it defends the indi-
ridual practice. What we desire, is, that the missionaries will go to
each individual and call nponhira 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 cautiously defined.

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 to be administered to all such among the
heathen. This is an important point, and should be calmly viewed.
Whetherl would assenttoii. depends entirely upon the interpreta-
tion put upon it. The assertion made is a sweeping one, and in its
present nnqualified foim,can with difficulty, if at all, be maintained.
One thing is certain, none of the Pastors and Chnrches who patron-
ize the Board, practice according to their own rule. They not only,
require a Christian experience and life previous to admission into


their churches, but also an orthodox creed. They will admit that
a person might give evidence of piety, who, nevertheless, by some
perversity of intellect or education, did not believe in the full divini-
ty of the Saviour. Yet they would not hesitate to refuse admission
to such a person, on the ground of a general principle that must be
sustained. Now, why be strict as to the theory of religion, and lax
as to its practice ? VVhy 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 but one to which the convert can belong, and where, conse-
qnently, 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 oft" from any such retreat, by the universal terms
of their proposition. The inference is indeed particular, the conclu-
sion specifies, by way of application, the heathen, but ihe 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 ibr 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 the Board are endeavoring to defend the con-
duct of the missionaries among the Choctaws, by putting forth a
principle which, as stated, they do not themselvrs receive.

But let us examine this point farther, for abolitionists are not afraid
to look the Report lull in the face, though they are olten told that
it ought to satisfy them to know that it was nnanimonsly 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 this extraordinary document. I
might safely admit the truth of this third proposition, and even of
the application made to the case of the Choctaw slaveholders, and
yet entirely dissent from the doctrine of the Board. I might admit

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Online LibraryWilliam W. (William Weston) PattonThe American board and slaveholding (Volume 2) → online text (page 1 of 6)