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A History of American Christianity by Bacon

It was also republished at Richmond


The

historical value of the paper from which these brief extracts are given, as illustrating the attitude of the church at the time, is enhanced by the use that was made of it. Published in the form of a review article in a magazine of national circulation, the recognized organ of the orthodox Congregationalists, it was republished in a pamphlet for gratuitous distribution and extensively circulated in New England by the agency of the Andover students. It was also republished at Richmond, Va. Other laborers at the East in the same cause were Joshua Leavitt, Bela B. Edwards, and Eli Smith, afterward illustrious as a missionary,[273:1] and Ralph Randolph Gurley, secretary of the Colonization Society, whose edition of the powerful and uncompromising sermon of the younger Edwards on "The Injustice and Impolicy of the Slave Trade and of the Slavery of the Africans" was published at Boston for circulation at the South, in hopes of promoting the universal abolition of slavery. The list might be indefinitely extended to include the foremost names in the church in that period. There was no adverse party.

At the West an audacious movement of the slavery extension politicians, flushed with their success in Missouri, to introduce slavery into Illinois, Indiana, and even Ohio, was defeated largely by the aid of the Baptist and Methodist clergy, many of whom had been southern men and had experienced the evils of the system.[273:2] In Kentucky and Tennessee the

abolition movement was led more distinctively by the Presbyterians and the Quakers. It was a bold effort to procure the manumission of slaves and the repeal of the slave code in those States by the agreement of the citizens. The character of the movement is indicated in the constitution of the "Moral Religious Manumission Society of West Tennessee," which declares that slavery "exceeds any other crime in magnitude" and is "the greatest act of practical infidelity," and that "the gospel of Christ, if believed, would remove personal slavery at once by destroying the will in the tyrant to enslave."[274:1] A like movement in North Carolina and in Maryland, at the same time, attained to formidable dimensions. The state of sentiment in Virginia may be judged from the fact that so late as December, 1831, in the memorable debate in the legislature on a proposal for the abolition of slavery, a leading speaker, denouncing slavery as "the most pernicious of all the evils with which the body politic can be afflicted," could say, undisputed, "_By none is this position denied_, if we except the erratic John Randolph."[274:2] The conflict in Virginia at that critical time was between Christian principle and wise statesmanship on the one hand, and on the other hand selfish interest and ambition, and the prevailing terror resulting from a recent servile insurrection. Up to this time there appears no sign of any division in the church on this subject. Neither was there any sectional division; the opponents of slavery, whether at the North or at the South, were acting in the interest of the common country, and particularly in the interest of the States that were still afflicted with slavery. But a swift change was just impending.


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