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ART. III.—THE ANTI-SLAVERY RECORD OF THE
During the latter part of our great struggle for national independence, another was opened which sought the prevalence of a more spiritual and scriptural religion. A nation and a denomination were born in those struggles, and both the United States and the Freewill Baptists were the offspring of freedom. Slavery was not then fully understood, though its victims were found in every
state of the Union. It was soon banished from New England, and compelled to retire gradually from other northern states before the onward march of liberty. The “ordinance of 1787” excluded it forever from the upper valley of the Mississippi, and when the Constitution was adopted, almost every one believed that it would ultimately disappear. Consequently the people gave their attention to the pressing wants of a new country; and, while the state was perfecting its government and developing its resources, and the church was caring for the local and general interests of religion, all were unmindful of the growing power of slavery. It is true, there were horrid dreams of the wrongs it was committing, and sad forebodings of a coming retribution ; but what to do, no one was prepared to say, and all seemed waiting for time to work a or develop a remedy. The people of the free states were
more than half aroused by the danger of slavery extension, but the “Missouri compromise" allayed their fears, and the dark night of their quiet slumbers continued as before.
It was the clarion voice of Garrison, in 1830, that broke the long repose, when he uttered that simple but startling truth, “ Immediate emancipation is the right of the slave and the duty of the master.” Slavery then held more than 2,000,000 of human beings as chattel property, and the number was increasing at the rate of 30 per cent. every ten years. These men, women and children were bought and sold, torn away from friends and kindred, fed and clothed, as the interest or caprice of their masters might dictate, driven by the lash to their daily tasks, in
tentionally kept in ignorance, and allowed “no rights that white men are bound to respect.” Slavery had indeed become a power in the land, and this power was exercised for its perpetuity and extension. Six new slave states had been admitted into the Union, and slaveholders had filled the Presidential chair thirtyfour years during the forty-two years since the Constitution was adopted. And in nearly the same proportion had all the prominent places of trust been filled by men identified with the interests of slavery. Instead of believing slavery to be an evil that must retire before the increasing light of Christian civilization, as the founders of our government believed, statesmen and divines were beginning to claim that it was a blessing to the race, both white and black, an institution of the Bible and approved by God. Such was slavery in fact and pretension, when Garrison and a handful of abolitionists entered upon an uncompromising warfare against it. After suffering imprisonment in Baltimore for Christ's sake, he returned to Boston and established the Liberator, whose weekly utterances led to earnest discussion. The light began to shine, the wrongs of slavery were exposed, and the responsibility of its continuance was charged in part upon the North as well as upon the South.
Opposition was at once awakened ; abolitionists were denounced, and their scheme of emancipation was declared to be folly and madness. But the agitation went on, gathering strength and numbers to the cause of freedom. The people generally were not then interested in the question, but individuals ofevery class, especially Christians, were discussing its merits. Not satisfied with individual effort, they began to take counsel together and unite their strength; and in 1833 the American AntiSlavery Society was organized. One of the noble pioneers in that organization was a Freewill Baptist minister, who was afterwards a frequent contributor to the Morning Star. From that time onward, the denomination began to take an increasing interest in the cause of emancipation.
No sooner did patriotic and pious men begin to look into the institution of slavery, to ascertain its social and moral bearings, than the slaveholders began to show their alarm. “Let us alone,” was the cry from the South, and “Let us alone,” was the democratic echo from the North. Investigation was absolutely refused, and all inquiry into the subject was regarded as insulting. No person of anti-slavery utterances could remain in the South, and continued threats and open abuse deterred others from going there. In this state of affairs, the first and the only work that could be done was to enlighten the people on the subject of slavery, to create a public sentiment against it, to give expression to that sentiment, and to induce the people of the free states to withhold from it all countenance and
support. Succeeding in this, it was believed that slaveholders would be persuaded or compelled to listen to reason, accept the right, and free their slaves.
Anti-slavery men very naturally looked to the American church for co-operation; but here they were met by some who were the devotees of slavery, and claimed that it was a political institution, acknowledged and sustained by the Constitution and laws of the nation. The frightful cry of “politics—abolitionists are meddling with politics,” kept many crutious Christians from identifying themselves with the anti-slavery movement.
Because a few Christian pulpits and a few religious papers were recreant to the great principles of liberty; and because many churches and ministers did not come up at once and fully to the line of duty, radical men in the anti-slavery cause took ultra ground, and were unjustifiably severe in opposing what they were pleased to call “ the church and clergy.” Pro-slavery men took advantage of this also, and, applying the language of extremists to all emancipationists, called them “infidels,” and charged them with the design of overthrowing the government and the institutions of religion. Pious men, and clergymen especially, unwilling to be classified with Garrison and Phillips, Wright and Pillsbury, in their sweeping denunciation, stood aloof from the enterprise, though timidly desiring the abolition of slavery.
Under these circumstances, the troubled waters of public excitement became so deeply agitated that every religious journal was constrained to notice the spreading agitation, and take its position on the question. About three months after the organization of the Anti-Slavery Society-Feb. 27, 1834-the
Morning Star, a weekly paper, owned and controlled by the denomination, came out with a leading editorial headed “ Slavery
and Abolition.” That the record we are now giving may be a faithful one, enough will be quoted from that first utterance of the Star to show its spirit and purpose. After admitting that slavery is an evil to society, and after stating the views of abolitionists, the Star says,
Now many things appear plausible in theory, and, viewed in an abstract manner, seem perfectly just and right, which, nevertheless, are found false and injurious in practice. Such, it is apprehended, is immediate emancipation. Abstract justice would say, “liberate the blacks immediately.” But sound practical jurisprudence would first inquire whether the blacks would be benefited by immediate emancipation-whether this, under the existing circumstances, would most effectually promote their happiness. If not, some other course would be preferable. The present state of the blacks, their intelligence, their habits, their relation to the whites, past and future, in case of emancipation, would render them incapable of providing for their own happiness—they could no more do it than an insane person. Now who would think it expedient to allow insane men personal liberty? .... But some abolitionist will probably say, “you advocate slavery.” True sir, we prefere slavery to that which is worse. We prefer servitude, if it makes the community more happy than liberty. Yet we hate slavery, and wish to see it abolished ; though not abolished under such circumstances as would make the remedy worse than the disease.
The course pursued by some emancipators is greatly to be regretted. It is feared that the cause of freedom will be more injured by their rashness than it can be benefited by their good intentions. We wish them success in doing good, but their motto should be changed, if they intend to have it regarded in practice.
In conclusion we would say, let the slaves be liberated as fast as they can become prepared to use their freedom in promoting their own happiness, without injuring the community ; and let all who have been partakers in the affair, be equal partners in preparing them to enjoy liberty, and in effecting their emancipation.
If it is humiliating to read the above extracts from the first utterance of our denominational organ on the anti-slavery agitation, it is gratifying to know that then, and then only, was the light of our Star darkness. A few weeks after the publication of that well-meant article, the author,* who was the office editor, was removed by death. In supplying the vacancy, the Publishing Committee, with Rev. David Marks their agent, at once committed the Morning Star, in outspoken language, to the cause of freedom. Objections were made by some of its patrons, but in June following, the New Hampshire Yearly Meeting, the largest and most numerously attended meeting of all our annual gatherings,
Resolved, That we highly approve of the proceedings of the Publishing Committee and Book Agent, who have charge of the establishment, and recommend to all our brethren and friends to patronize the Morning Star.
From that day to this, the organ of the Freewill Baptists has been one of the most bold and uncompromising anti-slavery papers in the land, as we shall hereafter see by the confession of both friends and foes.
As the spirit of the Reformation manifested itself in different countries of Europe at about the same time, and as the fires of American patriotism were a kind of spontaneous combustion in 1776, so there was a readiness on the part of Freewill Baptists, in almost every free state, without consultation or comparison of views, to rally for the slave, as soon as the banner of freedom was unfurled. This was a coincidence worthy of note. The Bible doctrines of free will, free salvation and free communion, had been fondly cherished, and it was very natural that the denomination should at once declare its faith in the freedom of
The anti-slavery agitation began among us in the family circle, in social interviews, and by the wayside, as friends met or journeyed together. This kind of interest necessarily preceded all public declarations. But the pulpit could not be long silent after its occupants had become convinced that slavery was a sin, and one for which the people were responsible. The ministry did speak, and the word took effect. It would be hardly just and proper to specify individuals in this connection, as so many entered the field at about the same time to labor and suffer in the