Dundee: 28 September 1846

Dundee, from the Fife Side of the Tay, from William Beattie, The Ports, Harbours, Watering-Places, and Coast Scenery of Great Britain. Illustrated by Views Taken on the Spot, by W.H. Bartlett(London: George Virtue, 1842), Vol II, between pp. 34 and 35

Following their lectures in Edinburgh, Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison travelled to Dundee to address a meeting on Monday 28 September at Bell Street Chapel, arranged at short notice – possibly because of the need to change venue. ‘The evening was very dark and stormy,’ reported Garrison, ‘but the hall was crowded, and the enthusiasm great.’1

We reproduce here the reports in the Dundee Advertiser and Dundee Courier. The Northern Warder reprinted the report from the Courier, but on another page carried an editorial which denounced the abolitionists, which is appended here, of interest especially since an article in an earlier issue of the Warder is dissected by Garrison in his speech.

A lot had happened since Douglass’ last visit to Dundee on 10 March – and the speakers devoted much of their speeches to discuss not only the recent inaugural meeting of the Evangelical Alliance in London, but also the deliberations of the General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland at the end of May. 

That March meeting appears to have been organised by Dundee Anti-Slavery Society. Not much is known about this organisation, which was formed in 1832, but it is evident that the chair of the Soiree, Alexander Easson, was an original committee member.2 Yet at this meeting, six months later, Easson proposed that a new Anti-Slavery Society be formed and ‘read the rules proposed for the purpose, which were unanimously agreed to.’ Perhaps the old society had dissolved in the meantime, or perhaps he was proposing the formation of a rival society because the old one had lost its way.

Among the other speakers at the meeting were James Robertson, Secretary of the Scottish Anti-Slavery Society, who had accompanied Douglass and Garrison from Edinburgh, and George Gilfillan, the minister of the Secession Church, School Wynd, who had welcomed Douglass to Dundee in January and March.

For an overview of Frederick Douglass’ activities in Dundee during the year see: Spotlight: Dundee.


Last night a public meeting was held in Bell Street Hall, to hear Messrs William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick douglass, on the relation of the Evangelical Alliance with the American slave-holding Churches and the Free Church, holding religious fellowship with slave-holders. Though the rain fell in torrents at the hour of the meeting, the Hall was filled ere the chair was taken. The platform was occupied by many of our influential citizens. Councillor Easson in the chair.

The CHAIRMAN, in opening the proceedings of the evening, said it was strange that, in a country where such sacrifices for the abolishing of slavery had been made, there should be found men who sought a palliation for it. Yet, such was the case; in an evil hour a Deputation had gone over from the Free Church to America to solicit money from the slave-holders. They had been warned against it, but, in the face of that warning, they took the money, and returned; and since then the united wisom of the Free Church had vindicated their doings. Since then another class had arisen – the Evangelical Aliance – and strengthened for a time the position of the Free Church and retarded the labours of the Abolitionists. A few members from America had got the Evangelical Alliance to overthrow all resolutions relative to slavery; these men formed an alliance between the Free Church and slavery. He regretted they had brought slave-holding in connexion with Christianity. Christianity taught benevolence, philanthropy, good-will to all men, and ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you;’ but slavery perverted all these, and gave support to a system disgraceful to humanity as well as to Christianity. He would not occupy farther the time of the Meeting, but would introduce Mr Lloyd Garrison.

Mr GARRISON, in addressing the meeting, assured them that, in obedience to Mr Easson’s admonitions, he would be as cautious, judicious, and temperate on the subject as was in his power to be; but one of their own poets had said, ‘On such a subject it was impious to be calm.’3 He could not talk mincingly on such matters. He came here not to alienate, but to win over to emancipation, and to accomplish such ends truth must be spoken, or his coming was in vain. He then alluded to the great doctrines of our common Redeemer, promulgated eighteen hundred years ago, and among these his injunctions to ‘let the prisoners go free,’ and yet over Christendom their sons had to travel to teach that it was sinful to make traffic of their fellow-men. (Cheers.) He then referred to an article in the Warder, announcing his coming to Dundee, – but, previous to reading this announcement, he would beg his friend, the Reverend Mr Robertson, Secretary to the Edinburgh Anti-Slavery Society, to read another announcement which would place him in higher estimation with the Meeting.

Mr Robertson then read a letter given Mr Garrison by the spontaneous impulse of the Coloured Abolitionists in America, enumerating the services Mr Garrison had done to Emancipation, and the dangers, difficulties, and privations he had voluntarily undergone to forward the cause. The paper concluded with some resolutions relative to the American Abolitionists’ view of the Free Church and the slave oney, one of which run thus, –

Resolved, that we regard it (the Free Church) in its present position as anti-Christian, and its leaders as wolves in sheep’s clothing, its places of worship not as temples of the true God,  but dens of oppression and cruelty.

(Great cheering and faint hisses.) Mr Garrison resumed – This was his introduction to the meeting, and he felt he could not have a better one.

He next read an article from the Northern Warder.4 The article alluded to called him many names. It covered him with epithets from the crown of the head to the sole of the foot; but among these names there had never been included that of slave-holder, and, so long as they did not call him that, he cared not for their names.

Mr Garrison alluded to the strength which good principles gain from the result of labour, and the more they fought in the battle against slavery the stronger would they rise from the conflict. There was little fear of a good and true man wearying in the cause of emancipation; but the Free Church had stolen money and struck hands in fellowship with American slave-holders and adulterers, and it felt indignant at being told to send back the money. (Cheering and hisses.) The Free Church had endeavoured to distort this subject; but the question was in regard to the Churches admitting slave-holders – those that made barter of their fellow-men – that would not allow them Bibles to read – these were the Churches he spoke against. Who was it that reproached the Free Church at present? It was not the slave-holder, – it was not the soul-buyer that said, I have some more money for the Free Church kneaded the Evangelical dough relative to slavery.

He then read another extract from the Warder, in which the writer lectured him on the use of gentleness;  but the next moment became himself guilty of the most foul-mouthed epithets.

He then referred to the Scriptural defence of slavery resorted to by the American slave-holders and the Free Church, and said, if such doctrines were promulgated in the Bible, he would put it in the fire, and so would the Meeting he addressed; if men could bring a book to prove that we should be made slaves, men would burn that book, and endeavour to become men. Nature, reason, and the aspiration of the heart, declared a better religion. But there was no such doctrine in the Bible; and for eighteen years he had held it forth as an anti-slavery book. Names had now lost their former significations. In olden times the day was when it was declared that man was to give up all and follow Christ, but, that their kingdom of darkness may not be molested, the American slave-holder and the Free Church of Scotland had changed such names. The man who defended slavery from the doctrines of the Bible was no Christian, but an Infidel.

He then read a farther extract from the Warder, relative to a speech delivered by him at Exeter Hall, in which the writer of the article animadverted on the principles advocated by him, but did not tell what he said. He then quoted the portion of the speech alluded to, and held that, had his words been made use of by the Warder, they would have exposed the writer of the article as an unprincipled man. There was nothing baser on American soil that that poor Editor’s jugglery.

He then referred to the false aspersions thrown out by the Northern Warder on George Thompson.5 These aspersions had been long since proved to be false; but the Editor continued to use them, knowing well, while he did so, he was doing a malevolent deed. Mr Garrison, after a long and able defence of Mr Thompson, introduced Mr Douglass to the Meeting, and sat down amidst much applause.

Mr DOUGLASS, on coming forward, was received with loud and continued cheering. He thanked the people of Dundee for the reception which they had given him upon this and former occasions. The state of things had changed considerably since me met them about six months ago. Since that time the General Assembly of the Free Church had met, and the Evangelical Alliance – an alliance composed of all the orthodox Churches in England and America – had met, conferrred, and separated. From what had been done at the Evangelical Alliance, it was to be found that the intercourse which the Free Church held with the American slave-holding Churches had produced a baneful effct on the minds of many ministers not belonging to her communion.

Mr Douglass then entered into a lengthened detail of the manoeuvres practised by the American ministers, in order to get every sentence condemnatory of slavery erased from the Alliance’s records. In narrating the procedure of that body, he excited considerable laughter from the manner in which he gave an account of their proceedings, and their anxiety to discover whether slavery was a sin or not. That body met as was said for opposing Popery and other heresies, but by their actions they had stultified themselves and brought disgrace on the name of Christianity. The Church of Rome, bad as she was, was by far more respectable than the blood-stained Churches of America, whose members and ministers were man-stealers, and as such guilty of every vice that could disgrace our fallen nature. One fault that was found with the Church of Rome was, that she kept the Bible from the laity, but the American slave-holding Churches, to which the Alliance had succumbed, had prohibited three millions of their fellow-countrymen from learning to read the Word of God. He blamed Doctors Hinton, Wardlaw, and several others, who were termed eminent divines, for yielding so far to the pertinacity of the American clergymen, as these individuals, with their previous knowledge, sinned against the light that was in them.

Mr Douglass then gave an account of the proceedings at last Free Assembly, and the behaviour of Doctors Candlish and Cunningham at it. This account called forth bursts of laughter, mixed with a few hisses. Dr Cunningham, he said, was one of the most straightforward men in the Assembly. He was the one that went the whole figure – not one of your Dr Candlish sort of folks who use gentle circumlocutions to varnish a bad cause.

He caught eagerly at Dr Duncan‘s distinction between slave-holding and slave-having, and brought forward a supposition that, were Parliament to enact that, from and after the 1st July next year, the servants of every master should become his slaves, the masters would not be to blame for their being slave-holders. In this manner he attempted to justify the American man-stealers, because, as he said, they were compelled to be what they were from the circumstances in which they were placed.

Should Parliament enact that the people of this country should become worshippers of Juggernaut, would Dr Cunningham be one of those who would run and fall down before that idol? If he did not do that, his reasoning about the powers of Parliament would be the most fallacious that could be imagined. In fact, it appeared to him that Dr Cunningham was one of those men who would not confine slavery to the Blacks, if he found it serve his purpose to extend it to the Whites; and that he would have no more scruple in ordering any of them – their wives, their sons, and daughters – to mount the auction block than he would have in commanding any of the African race to do so.

The Free Church showed plainly, notwithstanding certain protestations which she had made against slavery, that she welcomed slave-holders and held communion with slave-holding ministers. A short time ago, one Dr Smyth, a clergyman from a slave-holding State, – one who desecrates the rite of marriage by performing it in any manner most agreeable to the slave-master, – thus setting at nought that text, ‘What God has joined, let no man put asunder,’ that man had the honour of preaching at the time alluded to in Dr Chalmers’s pulpit. That would tell finely in America, and the slave-holding Churches there could congratulate themselves that, though they had abandoned the principal doctrines of the Bible, they still had the countenance of the principal doctors and eminent divines in the Free Church and among the Evangelical Alliance. Though the Evangelical Alliance had declared against the abolition of slavery, that body by no means represented the feelings of the Christian community in England and Ireland.

The Free Church had fraternized with the slave-holders but the people of Scotland, he was assured, were sound at the core. That people did not belong to those who put their hand to the plough and looked back. Many of the Free Church members were as hostile as any of them to the plans their clergy had adopted in relation to this question, and he was glad in being able to inform them that an Anti-Slavery Society had been formed in the bosom of the Free Church itself. Some time ago, a noble stand against the slavery system was made upon this very platform, and he witnessed with the utmost indignation the respectfully worded petition, drawn up by the leaders in that movement, treated with contempt by the Free Assembly.

Mr Douglass, after calling upon the members of the Free Church to use every means to make their clergy retrace their steps and send back the money, and if they refused to do that, to leave the body as one – that by fraternizing with slave-holders and man-stealers had no right to assume to itself the title of Christian – sat down amidst repeated rounds [of] applause.

The CHAIRMAN said, that it had been agreed on by a number of friends of the abolition of slavery to establish an Anti-Slavery Society in this place, and, with their permission, he would read the rules which had been drawn up by a Committee of their number. The rules having been read and agreed to.

The Reverend Mr GILFILLAN said, he appeared tonight to move, not to speak – for, at this late hour, he supposed that were he to speak they would begin to move. (Laughter.) Mr Gilfillan then proposed a resolution to the effect, That this Meeting view with the deepest indignation the conduct of the Evangelical Alliance in so far as slavery is concerned, and that they declare their conviction that their acts on that subject do not accord with the views of the inhabitants of Dundee. The resolution was then put to the vote, when almost all the persons in the Hall held up their hands in its favour. On taking the vote against it, three or four held up their hands, amidst derisive laughter.

Mr GARRISON then made some observations on the hardships to which men of Colour, British subjects, were exposed on going to America; and, after giving votes of thanks to thim, Mr Douglass, the Chairman, and others, the Meeting broke up.

Dundee, Perth and Cupar Advertiser, 29 September 1846


Last night a public meeting was held in Bell Street Hall, to listen to addresses by Messrs William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass, on the subject of American Slavery, the present position of the Free Church, and the recent proceedings of the Evangelical Alliance in regard to the slavery question. Alexander Easson, Esq., was in the chair; and on the platform were the Rev. James Robertson, Edinburgh, Rev. George Gilfillan, Bailie Moyes, Messrs Malcolm M’Lean, John Durham, George Rough, William Halket, junior, &c. &c.

After a few appropriate introductory remarks by the Chairman,

Mr Garrison said that he had been announced to them through the Northern Warder, and he did not object to that form of introduction, but still he had another, and one that he liked a great deal better and that placed him in a far better position before the audience. It emanated from the coloured population of America, in regard to himself and his mission. He would call on Mr Robertson to read it.

Rev. Mr Robertson then read the document referred to. In it were expressed the deep gratitude of the coloured population of of America for the efforts of Mr Garrison in the anti-slavery cause, and their earnest prayer for the success of his mission. Mr Robertson then stated that he had purposely omitted the first resolution at the request of Mr Garrison, as it was couched in strong language; but still he would be inclined to express nearly similar sentiments himself, and he could not see why it should be omitted. (Cries of ‘Read, read.’) Mr R. then read as follows:–

Therefore resolved, that we regard it (the Free Church) in its present position as an anti-Christian Church, and its leaders as wolves in sheep’s clothing (cheers and a few hisses), its places of worship as not being the temples of the living God, but as dens of oppression and cruelty.

Mr Robertson had just to state that he had a copy of the remonstrance addressed to the Free Church deputation previous to their visiting the slave States: and if the Warder would insert it, he would be happy to afford them an opportunity.

Mr Garrison, after referring to the credentials in his favour which had just been read, took up an article in the Warder of last week, commenting on it as he went along, and rebutting the statements and insinuations contained in it; but from the late hour to which the meeting extended, we can do no more than allude to one or two of the points taken up.

On speaking of the Evangelical Alliance, he was declared to have said that its acts stamped it ‘as an un Christian rather than a Christian assembly;’ and if its opinions could be proved from the Bible, he would ‘put their Bible in the fire.’ God having made them in his own image, with faculties to hate slavery with a perfect abhorrence, all would shrink back with terror at the thought of the father, the mother, the child, the sister, the brother, or the friend of any of them being made into an article of merchandize. If a book were set before him, supporting that horrid system, he would put it in the fire.

But did he ever say or ever believe that the Bible was pro-slavery. (Mr Douglass, ‘Never.’) His friend had anticipated him. No, he entertained very different opinions. The Bible was the great armoury from which he had drawn his arguments for eighteen years, vindicating it from the foul aspersions of the American clergy. The Church of Christ is an anti-slavery, and not a pro-slavery Church; and though the ministers might be on the side of the oppressor, the Bible was always on the side of the oppressed. This was what he believed; this might be infidelity but he understood it to be primitive Christianity.

It was in the days of old that for a man to be called a Christian was to endure persecution and the loss of all things. In the present day the world was full of a profession of Christianity, but of a different description. Satan who seldom goes about like a roaring lion, assuming the appearance and the gloss of Christianity, assails those as fanatics who continue faithful. But let them try them by the standard of truth, for if a man say he love God and hateth his brother, the truth is not in him. It is quite easy to make a profession of Christianity, but not so easy to endure privations; but he thanked God that there were in America 7000 who had never bowed the knee to Baal.

To show that his views on this subject were in unison with those of the Rev. Dr Alexander, who surely could not be accused of infidelity, he read extracts from an article by that clergyman in the Scottish Congregational Magazine for September, from which we extract the following sentence:–

It would be well, then, if those who appeal so confidently to the Bible for a sanction of slavery, would pause and reflect on the position in which such an appeal places the sacred book. If slaveholding be an act of injustice and oppression – if it be contrary to all the dearest rights and most sacred immunities of man – if it involve, on the part of him who practises it, theft, cruelty, avarice, and tyranny – and if it bring in its train a whole host of evils, destructive of social morality, of human happiness, and of the bodies, no less than the souls of men – if it be all this (and where is the man who, in the present day, will use the language of Britain to tell us it is not?) then, to assert that such a system has ever received the sanction of the God of purity, the God of mercy, the God of love; or that of such a fruitful source of evil, the religion of God has ever been, or ever can be, the patroness or the apologist, is to affirm that the book in which that sanction appears or that religion is developed, is, if not altogether an imposture, at least fearfully interpolated with false and pernicious doctrines.6

In order to show that the Warder had misrepresented his views and durst not have published his speech, delivered at Exeter Hall, he read various extracts from it, exposing the mis-statements of the Warder, and pointing out the manner in which the Evangelical Alliance had been moulded like dough by the hands of the Free Church. He then took up the charges advanced against George Thompson, rebutting these, and pointing out the efforts Mr Thompson had made in the cause of the slave, and the assistance he had given to every good work, but that all the wealth of Croesus would not, he believed, tempt him to defend the Free Church in taking money from slaveholders, and fellowshipping with them. He also read a challenge to Mr Thompson which had appeared in a Free Church paper, couched in ridiculous terms, and concluding with ‘come on; I am your man; come on Macduff,’ and which was signed ‘D.T.’ D.T., he supposed, meaning, very appropriately, dirty tool of a party. (Applause.) In reference to the denial by the Warder that the Free Church ministers, had ever supported slavery from Scripture, he quoted from the speeches of Drs Candlish and Cunningham; and in regard to one part wherein it is stated that ‘a man may sometimes be a slaveholder without committing sin,’ &c., he substituted the word ‘robber’ – which was but one of the fruits of slavery – making the sentence read ‘a man may sometimes be a robber without committing sin,’ and so on throughout the entire passage. was not this shocking morality? They would not find anything more insane in Bedlam.

He then, after referring to the speech of Dr Duncan and his distinction betwixt slaveholding and slavehaving, spoke shortly on the epistle to Philemon, expressing his belief that Onesimus was never a slave; and that even though he had, he was sent back ‘not as a servant, but as a brother beloved.‘ The proposal of the Reverend Mr Macbeth to break off communion with the Slaveholding Churches could not get a seconder in the Free Church Assembly. Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in Ashkelon, that they could not find in the Free Assembly one person to second it.

Mr Garrison then read the decisions of the Pro Slavery Synod of Virginia and the Presbytery of Carolina on the slavery question, and showed that their deliverances and those of the Free Church were one in sentiment. He also read various extracts from different American divines, to show the sentiments they openly entertained; and among others the following by Dr Bond:–

One of our general rules forbids the buying and selling men, women, and children, with an intention to enslave them. But we cannot buy or sell slaves with an intention to enslave them. Whoever heard of enslaving a slave? It is only the free that can be enslaved. The rule was made by Mr Wesley against the African slave trade, in which free persons were bought to be made slaves of. It was among the general rules of the Methodist societies in this country before we became a Church. Yet it has never been construed to forbid the transfer of one slave from one owner to another.

He then went over various other points, exposing in pointed language the Free Church’s misdoings in the matter of slavers, and concluded by an eloquent appeal on behalf of the three millions of human beings who were held in bonds in America, and expressing his belief, that however the wicked might join hand in hand, the cause would be ultimately successful. (Mr Garrison sat down amidst loud cheering.)

Mr Douglass said, he was glad to be again in Dundee, and he was glad to find that the feeling on the subject of American slavery which pervaded the town six months ago had not departed from it – that they were here to cheer the heart of the anti-slavery advocate, and strike terror into the hearts of the pro-slavery portion of the community. Since he last addressed an assembly in this town, the subject of slavery had assumed a somewhat new phase. The General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland had held its session since that. The Evangelical Alliance has held meetings for a considerable length of time, and has dissolved and gone back to its original elements since that time. The subject of slavery has been presented in various forms to the people of England, Ireland, and Scotland since that time. The Synod of the Secession Church has declared ‘no union with slaveholders’ since that time. (Applause.) The Relief Synod has declared ‘no union with slaveholders’ since that time. (Applause.) The Presbyterian General Assembly in Ireland has declared ‘no union with slaveholders’ since that time. (Continued applause.)

He wished to direct attention for a moment to the proceedings of the Evangelical Alliance. That body met in London a few weeks ago, and one of its first acts, after having assembled, was to declare that it would not be prudent to let it be known what they were going to do or what they did. One of their first acts was to shut out the reporters. It was dangerous to admit them. What would the Protestant people of this country think if a body of Papists meeting together for supporting Popery, were, the very first thing they did, to shut out all reporters? The Evangelical Alliance come to gether for the support of pure and undefiled Christianity, yet they keep the world uninformed of what they are about to do.

Mr Douglass then shortly narrated the proceedings of the preliminary meeting of the Alliance at Birmingham, and the resolution proposed by Dr Candlish to exclude slaveholding ministers, and agreed to. That resolution was looked upon as an insult by the slaveholders in the United States, more especially as coming from one in the position of Dr Candlish; and they resisted it on the ground that the body who passed it had no right to decide what complexion the Alliance should be of.

He then mentioned that great numbers of American divines came over – men of talent and professors of theology, &c. – about 70 of them, and among the number Dr Smyth of South Carolina, a man who marries slaves and leaves out the most important part of the ceremony, ‘Whom God hath joined let no man put asunder.’ This man is now in this country, and preached in Edinburgh for Dr Chalmers. This miserable creature creeped into the Evangelical Alliance, and left the mark of his slime behind him. (Hear, hear.)

The first thing to be settled after the meeting was to determine the basis. They called together the Alliance, and when they met they found they were without a basis. (Laughter.) They were in an unhappy predicament. Dr Hinton then proposed that all assenting to the basis, not being slaveholders, should be admitted. Up to this time things had gone on delightfully. They had prayed – they had said how much they loved each other. The most unbounded love, in fact, was manifested towards each other; but the introduction of the proposal to exclude slaveholders raised a most exciting scene all at once. The proposal to keep out men-stealers from the Evangelical Alliance because they were men-stealers was a most important and difficult point. (Hear, hear.) Dr Wardlaw and Dr Hinton stood by the statement for a time, that there should be no Christian fellowship with slave-holders. Rev. Mr Pringle stood firm to the last. The Rev. Mr Nelson of Belfast, Mr Stanfield of Belfast, also stood up. The great number of the American delegation, stood up as strongly on the other side, and threatened the Alliance, that they who had come 3000 miles, such was their love, would abandon them if a resolution like that of Dr Hinton was agreed to. Such was their firmness that Dr Hinton’s resolution was withdrawn and the whole matter referred to a committee, who sat for a week, the subject was such a difficult one.

During this time the Rev. Dr Smyth, this violator of marriage, a man who has been guilty of the greatest slanders, according to his own confession, this Rev. gentleman very piously rose up, and proposed that they should engage in prayer, so difficult was it for the committee to arrive at a decision. Nay they even went without their breakfast. (Mr Robertson – ‘Dinner.’) They went without their dinner, so great was their anxiety about the committee coming to a decision. Think of that – what fasting. (Great laughter.) How often have the poor slaves not only gone without their dinners and their suppers, but been afterwards driven out to the field, without an expression of sympathy.

Mr Douglass then went on to narrate the farther proceedings of the Alliance on the slavery question – that even the resolution which they did adopt at one time had to be wiped off their books to please the American brethren. How could Dr Wardlaw, or the other English and Scotch divines who had expressed sound views, thus give up their judgment? He held that the decision to which the Alliance had come was the greatest support to Atheism. They had thunders against the Pope of Rome for discouraging the reading of the Bible by the laity; but they had not a word to say in regard to the three millions of human being who were denied the privilege of learning to read the name of their Creator. They sat in Christian fellowship with their oppressors.

Mr Douglass continued to animadvert for some time on the doings of the Alliance, exposing the glaring inconsistency of their conduct.

He then came to the doings of the Free Church Assembly, exciting much laughter by the admirable manner in which he imitated various of the leaders, and carrying the meeting along with him in his comments upon their speeches. On Dr Duncan’s distinction betwixt slave-holding and slave-having, he said he enjoyed the ingenuity of the thing, although he pitied the man. In America they had also fine distinctions. It was the ‘peculiar institution,’ the ‘domestic institution,’ the ‘social institution,’ more recently, ‘the impediment,’ more recently still, ‘unenlightened labour,’ and more recently still, Dr Duncan calls it ‘slave-having.’ What would they think if he was to say, concubine-having was not concubine-holding? How would that sound? Would it not sound as offensive to their sense of morality? There was great joy in the Assembly at the discovery of Dr Duncan – great clapping of hands when Brother Duncan made the notable discovery; Dr Candlish shook him warmly by the hand, and Dr Cunningham congratulated him on his success.

Mr Douglass then referred to Dr Cunningham’s speech. He was what he would call a straightforward man. He not only said that Christ and his apostles had held fellowship with slaveholders, but with slaveholders who had a right to kill their slaves; and Mr George Thompson, for crying hear, hear, to this, and drawing attention to it, was immediately surrounded by a number of the Free Church people: and a cry got up of ‘put him out.’

Mr Douglass then took up Dr Cunningham’s defence of slaveholders on the ground that if an Act of Parliament was passed declaring all servants slaves, their masters would be guiltless; and asked would the Free Church say so if polygamy, concubinage, or the worship of Juggernaut was thus enjoined, although he could not discover from Dr Cunningham’s speech that he would offer resistance? Was it not the duty of all parties to petition and protest against all iniquitous laws; and had the Americans ever done this? Were not the slaveholders the lawmakers themselves?

He then took up the defence that was set on the ground of the laws enjoining slavery, and said he would reply in the words of an eloquent statesman of the country (Lord Brougham) – ‘In vain, you tell me of the rights of the planters. I deny their rights. To the principles and feelings of our common nature I appeal. In vain you tell me of laws and statutes that sanction such a claim. There is a law above all the enactments of human codes – the same throughout the world – the same in all ages – such as it was before the daring genius of Columbus pierced the night of ages, and opened up to one world the sources of power, wealth, and knowledge, and to another all unutterable woes. It is the law written by the finger of God on the heart of man; and by that law, unchangeable and eternal, while men loathe rapine and abhor blood, they will reject with indignation the wild and guilty phantasy that man can hold property in man.’7 (Great cheering.)

Mr Douglass then referred to the sentiments he at one time entertained towards the Free Church, and how much these were changed since he knew the conduct of her leaders. He called on the party who had got up a movement within her on this subject to continue their exertions, and concluded by mentioning that an Anti-Slavery Society had been formed by some of her members, which showed they were in earnest. (He sat down amidst long continued cheering.)

Mr Easson then proposed that the meeting should form themselves into an Anti-Slavery Society, and read the rules proposed for the purpose, which were unanimously agreed to.

Mr Garrison mentioned that not only did the slaveholders govern the United States but they also made laws for British subjects. If a vessel with a coloured British subject was entering a port in the above states, that coloured man would be seized like a felon and lodged in jail; and if the expenses of his food and lodgings were not paid before the sailing of the vessel, he would be sold to defray these. This was a subject which they were entitled to bring before Parliament.

Mr Gilfillan then proposed votes of thanks to Mr Garrison, the father of the anti-slavery movement in America, one who had suffered much in the cause; to Mr Douglass; and to the Chairman and Committee. These were carried by acclamation. He then proposed a vote of disapprobation of the proceedings of the Evangelical Alliance in regard to the slavery question. He was ashamed of them. He was more especially ashamed that ministers belonging to his own denomination, the United Secession Church, who had taken part in the resolutions of their Synod on the subject, should have acquiesced in the proceedings of the Alliance. The vote was carried by a show of hands, only three being held up in favour of the Alliance.

The meeting then separated, the hall having been filled from the commencement of the proceedings until the close – about a quarter past eleven o’clock.

Dundee Courier, 29 September 1846


We are not sure that we are warranted by the importance of the subject, in again noticing the proceedings of Garrison, Douglass, and the other American ‘abolitionists.’ The aspect of their recently renewed campaign furnishes no equivocal indication that the force of the movement is about spent; and that during the indefinite period to which the wanderers have pledged themselves to continue their agitation, they must ‘plead the cause of humanity,’ as they term it, to audiences constantly diminishing in point of number, and sinking in point of respectability. Such an agitation is best replied to by silence. There are, however, one or two considerations which may be suggested to the few persons, accessible by reason, who are still in the train of Douglass and his party.

We have now had considerable experience of the method in which our American visitors ply the work of assailing slavery, and we are in circumstances to judge with tolerable correctness of its probably efficacy. What is the method which they have adopted? It consists almost exclusively of violent abuse against the Christian Churches of Britain and America.

Every man at all acquainted with the British Churches knows well that upon the subject of slavery not the slightest diversity of sentiment exists among them – that they all long earnestly for its abolition, and that they are ever ready to throw their influence into any movement which will hasten that desirable consummation.

The first duty, therefore, of a prudent abolitionist on visiting Britain must of course be, to secure the friendship and assistance of these powerful organizations. The Americans have not done so. We do not praise or blame either party here; we state the simple fact, that Douglass and his friends have done their little all to alienate the Christianity of Britain and of the world from the cause of the African slave. Had they been the hired agents of the slaveholder, they could not have acted more constantly for his interest than they have done. Arrogating to themselves the distinctive title of abolitionists, they have branded the Free Church, and (through the Evangelical Alliance) all the evangelical churches of the world, as being in secret, spite of their pretensions to the contrary, no friends to the slave – as being in fact hypocritical supporters of the system of slavery.

If it had been possible for any man to create a pro-slavery sentiment in the British churches, this is certain the most likely course. Happily that is not possible, and such insane efforts can be productive of no evil more serious than temporary annoyance. But let the fact be distinctly observed, that these men, who might have united all the churches of Britain in a powerful attack upon American slavery, have failed to do so; have never attempted to do so; nay, have in language as coarse as it was false, from the first, denounced these churches as the allies of the slave-holder. There may be honesty in this, but there is also madness.

Still farther, these men have to the extent of their power, given the American slaveholder the comfort and support of believing that the sympathies of Christendom are with him. We venture to say he never before looked upon the Christian Churches otherwise than as the deadly foes of slaveholding. But now, thanks to the unscrupulous assertions of our American philanthropists, he may actually have begun to think that slavery is countenanced by many of the purest Reformed Churches. We need not say how fatally such a belief must operate upon the cause of abolition.

These are some of the more prominent results  of an ‘abolitionist’ agitation technically so called. And now these gentlemen having removed from the field of their operations, the Christian churches and other auxiliaries, stand forward to fight single-handed the battle of the slave! The pretension is ridiculous, and yet it is surpassed in absurdity by the manner in which the doughty warriors apply themselves to their task.

We had one of these ‘battles of humanity’ fought in Dundee a night or two ago. After the skirmishers (the chairman and another) had withdrawn, Mr Garrison opened his fire. He took for a sort of text a short paper which appeared in our last, and favoured the meeting with his opinions regarding it, in the form of a running comment, restating and defending at great length the views he recently expressed in London. This done, he treated several of our cotemporaries [sic] of Edinburgh and America in similar fashion.

When Mr Garrisons two hours of desultory and tedious harangue came to an end, Mr Douglass presented himself. This gentleman employed his very considerable talents as a mimic in caricaturing the manners and personal appearance of Drs Candlish and Cunningham; talked of the ‘diabolism’ of the Free Church; and of the ‘unadulterated atheism and infidelity’ of the Evangelical Alliance. The conduct of the Alliance in regard to slavery was spoken of as ‘doubly  base, especially that of Dr Wardlaw,’ who was represented as sinning deliberately and against light, and the prayers offered by the Alliance were made the object of elaborate ridicule.

And this is what they call ‘fighting the battles of humanity’ – this loathsome mingling of buffoonery, profanity, and coarse abuse – this base slandering of the assembled representatives of Christianity, and of a venerable servant of Christ, who has long occupied a distinguished place in the Church and whose name is revered as widely as it is known!

The effrontery of the ‘abolitionists’ is a prominent feature of their character, and is very fully displayed in all their proceedings. We never heard of any act of men who had formed a more mistaken idea of their own value, and of the place they occupy in public estimation. Douglass – to quote but a single instance of this characteristic – stated the other evening, that when the Free Church Assembly learned the intention of his friends to be present at the debate on Slavery, they hastened to stop the issue of tickets; and that a cry of ‘Hear, hear!’ from George Thompson startled and confused Dr Cunningham in the midst of his address! The man stated these things with gravity, and yet it is incredible that he can believe them.

‘With every good-natured allowance for your Grace’s youth and inexperience,’ writes Junius to the Duke of Grafton, ‘there are some things which you cannot know.’ We make a great allowance for Mr Douglass’s exaggerated self-appreciation, and for the necessities of his position, as an orator bound to furnish an exciting pabulum to a not very refined audience. Yet surely ‘he cannot but know’ that Dr Cunningham and the Free Church look upon George Thompson and his party, with regret certainly in so far as the slave is concerned, but with utter indifference and contempt in so far as they themselves are concerned.

We observe that a local Anti-Slavery Society is about to be formed. If this society is to be really an Anti-Slavery one, we heartily wish it success, and shall gladly lend it any assistance in our power. If, however, it is merely intended to echo the cry of ‘Send back the money,’ and repeat the abuse which Garrison and the others heap upon Christian churches and ministers, we must be excused for regarding it with extreme contempt. Its cause is a bad one, and the means at its disposal ludicrously inadequate. The consultations of a few obscure local worthies are not very likely to effect a reversal of the deliberately-formed judgment of Christendom, – more especially as the proceedings of these worthies can scarcely, by any chance, be ever heard of by the parties whose sentiments are meant to be influenced.

Northern Warder, 1 October 1846


  1. William Lloyd Garrison to Richard D. Webb, Glasgow, 30 September; in The Letters of William Lloyd Garrison. Volume 3: No Union with Slave-Holders, edited by Walter M. Merrill (Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1973), p. 430; see also William Lloyd Garrison to Liberator, Belfast, 3 October 1846; in The Letters of William Lloyd Garrison. Volume 3, p. 433. The abolitionists were often forced to change venue at short notice: the meeting in Dundee on 10 March, for instance, was originally to have taken place at Ward Chapel, but, permission withdrawn, it was moved to Gilfillan’s Church on School Wynd.
  2. Report of the proceedings of a public meeting, held in the Steeple Church, Dundee, on the evening of Friday the 23d November 1832: for the purpose of forming and Anti-Slavery Society for the town and neighbourhood (Dundee: Dundee Anti-Slavery Society, 1832).
  3. Edward Young, The Complaint, and the Consolation; or, Night Thoughts (London: R. Nobble, 1797), p. 88.
  4. Garrison is referring to the scathing report of a meeting of the Anti-Slavery League at the Exeter Hall in London on 14 September 1846 entitled ‘Messrs Lloyd Garrison & Co, and the Evangelical Alliance,’ Northern Warder, 24 September 1846.
  5. D.T., ‘To Mr George Thompson,’ Northern Warder, 30 July 1846.
  6. W.L.A., ‘Was Abraham a Slaveholder?’ Scottish Congregational Magazine (September 1846), p. 434.
  7. Henry Lord Brougham, ‘Speech on Negro Slavery. Delivered in the House of Commons, July 13, 1830’ in Speeches of Henry Lord Brougham, Upon Questions Relating to Public Rights, Duties, and Interests, with Historical Introductions (Philadelphia: Lea and Blanchard, 1841), Vol 1, p. 438.

Edinburgh: 2 June 1846

Arthur's Seat from Calton Hill, engraving.
Arthur’s Seat from the Calton Hill. From J. B. Gillies, Edinburgh Past and Present (Edinburgh: Oliphant, Anderson & Ferrier, 1886), p. 52.

On Tuesday 2 June, the four abolitionists – Frederick Douglass, James Buffum, George Thompson and Henry Clarke Wright – appeared before a packed meeting at the Music Hall on George Street.  It was their first chance to give their impressions on the debate on slavery at the General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland, which they had attended on Saturday 30 May.

The topic was a controversial one. Ever since sending a deputation to the United States in 1843–44, and receiving donations from churches in the slave-holding states, the Free Church’s willingness to maintain relations with its American counterparts was much criticised, even by some ministers and congregations within the Free Church itself. The matter was discussed at the General Assembly of 1844, but rather than giving in to demands that it withdraw fellowship from the American churches, the leadership insisted that the Assembly should seek clarification of the position of their transatlantic colleagues. The matter was referred to a committee, which submitted an interim report in September 1844, and a copy was sent to the United States.

The compromise already conceded too much for some of the Southern Presbyterians, notably Dr Thomas Smyth of Charleston, South Carolina, who corresponded with Thomas Chalmers, berating him for hesitating to defend the slaveholding churches.  But the official response to the report did not arrive until May 1845, too late to be debated at the General Assembly that year.  And so the matter had to wait another twelve months before it could be debated again, after overtures on the subject of slavery were presented by the Synods of Sutherland and Caithness and of Angus and Mearns, as well as a petition from elders and other members of the Church in Dundee.

On 30 May 1846, Chalmers’ younger colleagues, Robert Candlish and William Cunningham, made it clear that they believed there were definite shortcomings in the attitude of the American Presbyterian Churches. However, they were not so serious as to warrant the Free Church severing all connection with them. The Free Church adopted the view that while slavery was a sin, being a slaveholder was not, and was content to urge its American counterparts to recognise that slaveholding carried with it a range of moral obligations.

Not surprisingly, the abolitionists were dismayed by the way this compromise succeeded in marginalising the critics within the Free Church such as James MacBeth, ‘who,’ as Douglass put it, ‘had the courage to stand forth and face the triumvirate’ of Chalmers, Candlish and Cunningham.  MacBeth and others would go on to form the Free Church Anti-Slavery Society, which would attempt to revive the discussion at the General Assembly in 1847, but with little success.1

For an overview of Douglass’s activities in Edinburgh during the year, see Spotlight: Edinburgh.


A public meeting was held in the Music Hall on Tuesday evening, for the purpose of hearing the Anti-Slavery deputation enter into a review of the proceedings of the Assembly of the Free Church on Saturday, in reference to communion with slaveholders. Councillor Stott occupied the chair, and the hall was densely crowded, many being unable to obtain admission.

The Chairman stated, that he had proceeded to the Free Assembly with the address which he had been voted at a previous meeting upon the subject of slavery, but that rev. body had declined to receive it.

Mr Buffum addressed the meeting at some length. He said, the leaders of the Free Church had attempted to make the people believe that the deputation held extreme and extravagant views; but the views they entertained were, that they believed that God had created all men equal, and endowed him with certain inalienable rights, and that immediate emancipation, without regard to circumstances, was the duty of the master, and the right of the slave. (Applause.) They had been charged with disturbing the peace of the Free Church, but they were not the aggressors. That body had sent out a deputation to the United States and when there they met them with earnest entreaties not to interfere in their endeavours to establish the principle that Christianity had nothing to do with slavery, and that the slaveholder should not be allowed to connect himself with it; but the Free Church disregarded their remonstrances, and came in and sanctioned the opposite principle.

Mr Douglass said, the tone of the speeches delivered in the Free Assembly was far more in favour of slavery than he had any idea they would be; and he had never heard, even in the United States, more open and palpable defences of slaveholding than those he listened to on Saturday. He never heard anything more calculated to steel the consciences of slaveholders than the remarks then made, and the spirit manifested on that occasion in favour of holding Christian communion with them; and the best way possible for maintaining slavery in the United States, was to make out a case of excellence of character for the slaveholders. He could not help remarking the manner in which the leaders of the Free Assembly treated those who differed from them, as was evinced in the case of Mr Macbeth, who had the courage to stand forth and face the triumvirate. (Applause.) They treated him as if he had been a dog; and when they rose to reply to him, they treated him in the most contemptible manner.

Another point, he remarked, was their entire silence in regard to the money. They pretended that the money question was not connected with the discussion of the subject, but he maintained that it was, and he charged them anew with having gone to a slaveholding country and taken the price of human flesh, having in return given to slaveholders the right hand of Christian fellowship.

Mr Douglass then proceeded to combat the argument, that because slaveholding was recognised by the law, it extenuated the guilt of the slaveholder, and went on to remark that he was surprised at the power which the leaders of the Free Church Assembly exercised. He could easily see in Dr Candlish a degree of self-confidence, of self complacency, of pride, and a manifest spirit of domination over men, and a determination to lash every one who differed from him in reference to this question. His indignation was not only kindled against him for his conduct to the slave, but he was indignant to see such a measure of moral and religious intelligence as was presented on that occasion bowing submissively to the pontifical dictation of that gentleman.

He concluded by calling upon all other churches to decline communion with the Free Church unless she at once disavowed fellowship with the slaveholding churches of America. (Applause.)

Mr Wright said he wondered at the recklessness and impudence of the leaders of the Free Church in persisting in denying facts which have been repeatedly laid before the people of Scotland. It had been said that slavery existed only in a small portion of the United States. Now, there were fourteen slaveholding states, each of which is nearly as large as Great Britain, and in all of which the system of slavery exists in all its features. The political influence of those slaveholding states is so powerful, that they have always exercised a strong control over the Government; and as to their ecclesiastical influence, it was so powerful as to compel the repeal, in 1816, of an Act passed by the Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of America in 1794, declaring that every slaveholder was a man-stealer. With reference to the law of the state, and the argument attempted to be founded thereon, all he could was, that when God told him to do one thing, and the state another, he put his heel upon the state. There was a spirit of slavery lurking in the hearts of the leaders of the Free Church – they were linking the destiny of that Church with man-stealers, and they would assuredly meet the doom of man-stealers if they continued to hold connection with them. (Applause.)

Mr George Thompson was received with much applause. He said, the question before Scotland, before Great Britain, and before the Christian world at this moment was, the dogmas and doctrines of the Free Church of Scotland, versus the law of God, the spirit and prospects of Christianity, and the claims of universal humanity. He had been told that he had no right to interfere in this question; that it was one of intercommunion between church and church – and question of ecclesiastical polity and discipline. Had the Free Church not meddled with slavery, gone beyond the confines of this kingdom, quitted the shores of England, traversed the blue waves of the Atlantic, fraternized with the slaveholders the right hand of fellowship, called them Christians on the spot, and mingled with them around that table on which were placed the elements, the symbols of the Saviour’s passion, and of his universal love for men – had they not come home again, bringing with them the supplies which they had gathered in these States from slaveholders, and had they not on their return fellowshipped these men, treated them as Christians before the world, demanded for them admission into the churches of this country, and recognition there as standing types of Christ – and had they not by these acts injured the cause of humanity, libelled that gospel which he had been preaching (though not in the pulpit) for the last fifteen years, and a period of that time at the hazard of his life – had he not perceived the slaveholder elevated to the communion table of the Free Church, he never would have been there to review the conduct of that body. (Applause.)

Their object that night was to review the proceedings of that Church; they had now no other object. He was now done with masked and unmasked pamphleteers; and the one issued would never have been replied to by him, but that he might by doing so expose, by writing up the man, what sort of people his masters were. (Applause.) Their object was with the Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland – with those 300 or 400 men calling themselves ministers of Christ, the champions of independence, the opponents of Erastianism, the professed successors of John Knox, who cowered in the presence of Messrs Cunningham and Candlish, for there was not a Knox among them who had this courage in his soul for once to come forward and offer one word in reply. (Applause.)

They have done, then, with anonymous writers or any writers. Their course was this – and till that Assembly met again it would be their course – to denounce through the length and breadth of the land, the horrid, God-denying, man-enslaving theology which was preached to the Assembly on Saturday, and to which an assembly of 2000 persons said amen.

It was a vital question. He asked, for what purpose did the Free Church preach the Gospel? They maintained that the streams they sent forth throughout Scotland were pure and healthful; but if those streams were impure, they had to do with the Free Church of Scotland, for a man may not drink of those streams without injury to his morality, his Christianity, his humanity, and they should try to roll them back to their fountain, or stop up the fountain itself. (Applause.) He would ask if it was a just exposition of the law of Christ to teach the horrid doctrine that ‘God has placed men in circumstances in which it would be sin to give liberty to their captives,’ and that ‘the Apostles welcomed to the Lord’s table,’ and to the privileges and ordinances of religion, men whose hands were imbrued in the blood of their fellowmen? (Applause.)

That was the question; and when those men went to London, the walls of London should be covered with that specimen of their theology, as were those of this city.

They told him that he preached a new doctrine, a strange doctrine; when, they sat at his feet in 1836, and heard the doctrine and applauded it.

The Free Church leaders talked of a kind of slavery which had no existence, but they talked of slaveholders now living, they stated where they lived, how they became possessed of their slaves, and the manner in which they treated them. Mr Thompson then read copious extracts from decisions given in the courts of the United States in reference to the power of the master over the slave, in which it was laid down by the Judge, that the authority of the master could not be permitted to be discussed – that he must have absolute control over his slaves to extort obedience, and that there is no limitation to the punishment which a master may inflict upon his slave.

He then referred to the fact of his having placed a volume in the hands of Dr Cunningham some years ago on the subject of slavery in America; after perusing which the Reverend Doctor declared to him that it had placed that subject, and especially the slaveholding Churches of America, before his eyes in such a light that he was filled with indescribable horror, and recommended the circulation of the work throughout Scotland. That work recommended the excommunication of every slaveholder from the Church of Christ, to which the Rev. Doctor assented.2

He continued – If the Free Church had considered it neccesary to send a deputation to America, they might have visited the other states of the Union, where they would have received a warm sympathy; but they who, for twelve years, had been unceasingly pouring out their invectives upon the American slaveholders, kicking to the winds the remonstrances put into their hands against holding fellowship with the slave states, proceeded to the Southern States, and to the very churches whom they had been overwhelming with their anathemas.

Did they take a deliverance with them upon the subject of slavery? No; but they sent one when they got home. They ought to have proclaimed their creed when there. That they did not; for when they visited those states they became dumb, that they might win gold; they passed through the plantation where the slaves were toiling for their tyrants, and were dumb; they heard the cracking of the whip, and were dumb; passed the slave-pens and auction blocks and prison-houses, and were dumb; and they sat in the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of America, and were dumb. These successors of Knox were dumb. (Applause.) ‘We have stood in the presence of Kings,’ say they, ‘and have spoken out;’ but they stood in the presence of the slaveholder, and were dumb. They spoke out when their own liberties were attacked, and yet were dumb when three millions of helpless human beings appealed to them. (Applause.)

Not until Dr Candlish assumed a little more humility, until he ceased to ride rough-shod over the Assembly, he should very strongly suspect that if he lost his stipend, he gained what to him might be better than money – the gratification of his ambition. (Applause.)

He could not look without loathing upon the proceedings of that Assembly, previous to the meeting of which every man that was suspected was curry-combed in private; and if the secrets of the manoeuvres practised for the last twelve months, to bring about the result of Saturday last could be known, the people of Scotland would regard the people of that Church with pity, and overwhelm their leaders with scorn and indignation. (Great applause.) There were men in that Assembly who had stood on the same platform with him, and spoken against the accursed system of slavery and whose hearts, he was convinced, were burning to speak out on Saturday; and why did they not? He commended them for not quailing before these men; but the men who brought about that result, by whatever means, whether by motives of a temporal character, or threats of spiritual discipline, – the result was brought about, and he said and held that it was not done honestly, but dishonestly, and furtively, and tyrannically. (Immense applause.)

But he would proceed to the consideration of their proceedings. After the deputation came home from America, the Assembly in 1844 adopted a deliverance denouncing slavery in as mild a manner as possible, and which as sent out to America. In the following year they came to another deliverance upon the same subject, condemning it in sufficiently strong terms, yet it now turns out that it was never sent to America. Dr Candlish wrote it, he passed it through the Commission, and through the Assembly, and yet he stood upon and said, ‘I am not aware of its having been sent to America.’ He did not say that he did not know, but he was not aware – no other man but Dr Candlish would have used the expression. (Applause.)

Why was it not sent? Again, they said that they were compelled to state the sentiments they uttered, because men out of the Church have taken up an extravagant ground. You never would have said these things if you had not been driven to it! If it was the Gospel, why did you not preach it? I declared those views in 1836 in your hearing, and you did not contradict me – it is a gold pill that has so much enlightened you? (Applause.) Would it not be more honest to say, you have convicted us of these things, you call upon us to renounce these slaveholders and their money, but we will preach these doctrines rather than send back the money. (Applause.)

They had made us poor abolitionists responsible for the ebullition of feeling manifested for the slaveholder, and they sympathise with them because they themselves know what was the annoyance, irritation, and indignation occasioned by the treatment they had received at the hands of the abolitionists of Scotland. They urged them to leave the abolition of slavery to the silent, gradual, and almost imperceptible influence of Christianity – Christianity is to do it, but it is not to be pointed at – Christianity is to sweep slavery from the face of the earth, but Christianity and slavery are to be united together. That is their doctrine. Granting that slavery existed in the primitive Churches, he found that in two and a half centuries after the propagation of Christianity slavery had disappeared. Why does not Christianity in the present day sweep away slavery? Why is it found, 1600 years after the period spoken of, existing as an institution in America? Who planted the tree? – Christians, nominally; who waters the root of that tree from age to age – who prunes the branches and gives luxuriance to the fruit? – Christians; and yet Dr Candlish told them they were to leave it to Christianity to get rid of the system.

The Free Church professed to have a great interest in the Gaelic schools, and a ball was lately held, the surplus funds arising from which were offered to that body, but not one farthing would they take of it. No; they were as pure as the snow on the summit of Benlomond. ‘Know you not,’ said they, ‘we are the Free Church of Scotland, we may have to beg from door to door, but we shall not take money arising from balls.’ The ball took place in Edinburgh, and it might have brought a scandal upon the Church to take its proceeds; but they went to America and took money there, and that they might keep it, represented the slaveholder as a saint, while they denounced the beautiful girl dancing on the floor of the Assembly Rooms as a sinner whose contributions could not be received. (Applause.) ‘Ye hypocrites, ye strain at a gnat and swallow a camel.’

Mr Thompson then read a number of extracts from the constitution of the primitive churches in the third century, one part of which prohibited contributions being taken from those who used their domestics badly. He also showed that St Cyprian caused a collection to be made in order to purchase the freedom of some Numidian slaves in Alexandria.

He then proceeded – Be prepared for some new juggle. The deliverance adopted in 1845, and presented to Scotland as the opinion of the Free Church on American slavery, was never sent; an answer has been received to a former epistle, but it is not replied to. They have shirked the whole question – they never mentioned the money, nor spoke of slaveholding as a sin; and they misrepresented the extent of the system. Beware of a new juggle; as soon as this is exhausted, they will invent something else to deceive the people of Scotland. I put it to your consciences if you will accept of this theology? (Cries of ‘No.’)

Will you, upon Dr Cunningham’s dictum, that Philemon was a slaveholder, have fellowship with American slaveholders? You need not perplex yourself with the meaning of Greek words; you need not go beyond your own hearts to settle this question; and most sure am I, that you will reject every doctrine as impious and blasphemous that is most consistent with the mind of God, and opposed to the dictates of humanity. (Great applause.)

The large meeting then dispersed.

Edinburgh Evening Post, 6 June 1846

AMERICAN SLAVERY AND THE FREE CHURCH. – On Tuesday night another enthusiastic meeting was held in the Music Hall. It had been previously announced that ‘the Free Church theology, on the subject of American slavery, as propounded in the Free Assembly on Saturday last,’ would be handled. The crush was great – so much so, that one shilling was repeated offered for admission and refused. The speakers were Mr Buffum, Mr Douglass, Mr Wright, and Mr Thompson. All of them dwelt more or less on the reception they met with on Saturday at the Canonmills Hall, and on the ‘pro-slavery’ views advocated on that occasion.

Mr Douglass spoke at considerable length, and in very severe terms, of the conduct of the Free Church leaders. He had read the speeches of these leaders, but their exhibition on Saturday was far more pro-slavery than even he anticipated. Their whole soul, he asserted, seemed to be engrossed about the condition of the slaveholder, but never a syllable of sympathy in regard to the unhappy slave. Dr Cunningham had contended that slavery was the law of the land, and therefore those who held slaves could not be looked upon as sinners; but he (Mr Douglass) would say to Dr Cunningham, ‘Why not set the law at defiance?’ He had done so before, at the late disruption in the Establishment, but it did not suit his purpose to do it now. He (Mr Douglass) firmly believed that if polygamy was the law of the land, Dr Cunningham was the man who would countenance it; and had he been called on to fall down and worship the image at the sound of timbrel, sackbut, and psaltery, he would have done so.

At great length, Mr Douglas, and also Mr Thomson, who followed him, condemned what they called the ‘miserable sophistry and casuistry of Candlish, Cunningham, & Co;’ and that they were hoodwinking, cajoling, and playing the part of jugglers to their deluded followers.

It was announced there would be another meeting this week, and a soiree next week.

Caledonian Mercury, 4 June 1846

AMERICAN SLAVERY AND THE FREE CHURCH. – Another public meeting on this subject, specially to consider the speeches delivered by Drs Cunningham and Candlish in the Free Church Assembly on Saturday, was held in the Music Hall last night – Councillor Stott in the chair.Long before the commencement of the proceedings, the hall was crammed in every corner, and many hundreds surrounded the doors, unable to gain admittance.

The meeting was addressed in succession by Messrs Buffum, Douglas, Wright and Thompson, in speeches which elicited enthusiastic applause; but from the late hour at which the proceedings terminated, and the want of space, we cannot to-day attempt anything like a report. In the course of his speech, Mr Thompson stated, by way of showing the progress of the opinions he advocated, that Mr Begg, who had said that the agitation was ‘a nine-days’ wonder which would soon be put down,’ had had to bid good-bye to his elders, in consequence of the proceedings of the Assembly on Saturday. This announcement was received with immense applause; but we did not exactly catch whether Mr Thompson said elders or only elder.

Another meeting for the same purpose was announced to be held in the same place on the evening of Thursday.

Scotsman, 3 June 1846


  1. For an in-depth coverage, see Iain Whyte, ‘Send Back the Money!’: The Free Church of Scotland and American Slavery (Cambridge: James Clarke & Co., 2012); also Richard Blackett, Building an Anti-Slavery Wall: Black Americans in the Atlantic Abolitionist Movement, 1830–1860 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1983) and Alasdair Pettinger, Frederick Douglass and Scotland, 1846 (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2018), pp. 46–75.
  2. Thompson is referring here to A Picture of Slavery in the United States of America (Glasgow: University Press, 1835). The Preface to this Scottish edition was unsigned. At a speech in Paisley on 25 April, Thompson claimed that Cunningham wrote the Preface. However, according to a report of a meeting on Thursday 30 April at South College Street Church, Edinburgh, Thompson remarked that he had received a letter from Dr Cunningham which stated ‘that he was not the author of the preface to the book “A Picture of American Slavery,” which was republished in this country in 1835’: Scotsman, 2 May 1846.

Edinburgh: 1 May 1846

Thomas Hosmer Shepherd, ‘Assembly Rooms, George Street, Edinburgh’ (1828). National Galleries of Scotland.

May Day was a busy day for Frederick Douglass and his colleagues. With James Buffum, George Thompson and Henry Clarke Wright he addressed a Public Breakfast held in their honour at the Waterloo Rooms, followed by another meeting of the Edinburgh Ladies’ Emancipation Society in the same place. In the evening they spoke before an audience of 2000 at the Music Hall on George Street.

We reproduce below the account of all three meetings from the pamphlet Free Church Alliance with Manstealers, followed by a more detailed report of the Music Hall speeches in the Edinburgh Evening Post. A much briefer report of the same meeting in the Scotsman is appended.

For an overview of Douglass’s activities in Edinburgh during the year, see Spotlight: Edinburgh.



Friday Morning, May 1st.

At half-past eight, the Assembly Room was filled with a most respectable audience – JOHN WIGHAM, Junr. Esq. occupied the chair. On his right and left were the guests intimated to be honoured, and a large number of the well-known and most influential friends of the cause of abolition in Edinburgh. At the conclusion of the  breakfast,

The CHAIRMAN rose and said – We are met here this morning to pay a tribute of respect and love to those whom we have invited to this breakfast. (Cheers.) They are gentlemen of whom I may say the more see of them, the more we know of their [56] principles and actions, the more we esteem and love them. (Cheers.)

I am sure we all hail with delight the presence of our esteemed friend George Thompson (Loud applause.) We have all witnessed his labours in years that are past, and I do not hesitate to say that, under the guidance of Divine Providence, he has been one of the most efficient instruments in promoting the blessed cause of human freedom. He now appears once more among us in his old character. (Cheers.)

As a member of the Edinburgh Committee, I think we may say we have done what we could. We have sought to place this question of the slaveholders’ money in its true light. You have most of you seen our correspondence on the subject, and I trust have read the excellent pamphlet of my friend Dr. Greville. (Hear.)

At length my friend G. Thompson has come, whose powerful voice is like a six ton hammer. (Laughter and cheers.) He has only been here a few days, but a mighty sensation has been produced, and I doubt not the happiest effects will follow. (Cheers.) It must not be forgotten, that our dear friend is engaged in arduous labours in London, connected with India, especially in his attempts to place a most worthy prince upon his throne, from which he has been unjustly hurled by the East India Company; and I firmly believe that the uncompromising efforts of my friend will be successful.1(Cheers.)

He and our other friends who are from the United States will now address us. We meet for a friendly interchange of opinions, and to learn what we can do for the poor slave. It is my desire that we should welcome and support all who are engaged in the sacred cause of human rights, and prove to them that we have no prejudices which prevent us from cordially co-operating with those who are sincerely and disinterestedly labouring in this vineyard. Let us do what we can, and wish God-speed to all who are struggling for justice to the oppressed.

Interesting addresses were then delivered by Mr. Thompson and his companions.

Mr. Douglass especially enchained the attention of his audience, by the narration of a number of anecdotes relating to himself and other slaves, who had escaped from bondage. This gentleman exercises a wonderful power over the sympathies of his audience. He is alternately humorous and grave – argumentative and declamatory – lively and pathetic. While there is an entire absence of the appearance of any effort after effect, there is the most perfect identity of the speaker with the subject on which he is dwelling, and an extraordinary power of rousing corresponding feelings in the minds of those whom he addresses. This power was singularly manifested on this occasion, and none, we think, who heard him, will ever forget the impression produced upon themselves, or the effect produced upon others.

The entertainment evidently afforded the highest and purest satisfaction to all present. The audience retired at 12 o’clock.


Friday Morning, May the 1st

After the breakfast, the gentlemen who had been entertained, met the ladies and friends of this Society. One of the smaller [57] rooms was crowded to excess. Mr. Wigham again occupied the chair. Mr. Thompson and Mr. Douglass addressed the meeting. At the conclusion of their speeches a resolution was proposed, and carried unanimously, pledging the Society to renewed exertions, and expressive of earnest sympathy with the friends from America, and their co-adjutors on the other side of the Atlantic. A list of names was then taken down of ladies volunteering to furnish contributions to the next Bazaar to the Boston Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Society.


Friday Evening, May 1.

This noble and spacious building was crowded to overflowing with a most respectable audience. The admission was by tickets, sixpence each. About 2000 persons were present.

Mr. DOUGLASS delivered a long and eloquent address. The first part of his speech described the condition of the condition of the coloured population in the United States, and the treatment which those persons had received who had nobly sought to succour them. The last part of his address was a severe denunciation of those in this country, who had confederated with the slaveholders of America; and, to hide the obliquity and enormity of their act, had recently employed themselves in defaming, ridiculing, and stigmatising himself and his colleagues. None who heard the withering castigation bestowed by Mr. Douglass on the Rev. Mr. Macnaughtan of Paisley, who had branded him as ‘a miserable and ignorant fugitive slave,’ will ever forget it Poor Mr. Macnaughtan! was the cry of many, while listening to the biting satire and annihilating retorts of the ‘fugitive,’ who charged the reverend sneerer with taking from the sustenation fund, for his own benefit, that which ought to have been applied to the education of his coloured brethren.

Mr. BUFFUM made a short but effective speech.

Mr. THOMPSON followed, but as we understand that gentleman purposes to prepare his speech for the press, we shall not attempt so much as an outline of it Suffice it to say, it was an examination of the opinions of Dr. Chalmers, on the subject of slavery, at various periods during the last twenty years, and an irrefragable demonstration, that Dr. Chalmers is, on the showing of the deliverance of the Assembly last year, a sinner of the deepest dye; inasmuch as he has, throughout his writings, contended for the sacredness of slave property – a doctrine which the Assembly say none can entertain, without being guilty of a sin of the most heinous kind.

The feeling manifested by the audience on this occasion, exceeded that evinced at any of the previous meetings. The exhibition of the view of Dr. Chalmers, contained in his tract, entitled, ‘Thoughts on Slavery,’ and the contrast of these views with the principles laid down in the deliverance, seemed to transfix the audience, with what a person present described, as ‘mute horror. During this part of Mr. Thompson’s address, the emotions of those present were too deep for utterance. The unanimous burst of applause which followed the appeal to the audience, [58] to testify if the speaker had made out his case against the Doctor, proved that the conviction was universal, that such was the fact.

Mr H. C. WRIGHT then proposed the following resolutions, which were adopted by show of hands, not a hand being raised against them, and so far as could be seen, all voting for them.

1st. That the Free Church Deputation, in going to the slave states of America to form alliance with slave-holders, and to share their plunder, virtually rejected Christianity as a law of life; Christ, as a Redeemer from sin; and God, as the impartial governor of the universe – inasmuch as they pledged themselves and the Free Church, whose agents they were, to receive to their embrace as ‘respectable, honoured and evangelical Christians,’ men whose daily life is a denial of the existence of a just and impartial God, and a violation of the fundamental principles of Christianity; therefore, by our respect for man as the image of God, and as our equal brother; by our faith in Christ as our Redeemer; and by our belief in a just and impartial God; we pledge ourselves never to cease our efforts, until the Free Church shall send back the money obtained of slave-holders, and annul her covenant with death, and cease to hold up man-stealers as living epistles for Christ.

2d. That the members of the Free Church owe it as a duty to God and man to come out from her communion, if, after due admonition, her leaders, Drs. Chalmers, Cunningham, and Candlish, cease not to join hands with thieves, and to seek the fruits of their crimes and pollutions to build Free Churches – thus making themselves and all who concur with them accessories to the unutterable horrors of slave-breeding and slave-trading.

What must be the deep conviction, and stern resolution and powerful excitement of the public mind when such resolutions are adopted unanimously by such a meeting, after full and mature consideration? It was the settled conviction of the audience that every slave-holder is a standing type of infidelity and atheism; and that in their consenting to vouch for his Christianity, Drs. Chalmers, Cunningham, and Candlish, do virtually reject Christ as a Redeemer from sin, and deny the existence of a just and impartial God.

Mr. WRIGHT then proposed to adjourn to Tuesday evening, the 5th of May, to meet in the same place, to review the speeches and writing of Dr. Candlish on this great question. (Cheers.) Doctors Chalmers and Cunningham had been reviewed, their apologies for man-stealers fully answered, and their efforts to keep the people of the Free Church in loving communion with slave-breeders and slave-traders had received a merited rebuke. Dr. Candlish had made himself most conspicuous in this conspiracy against three millions of slaves, and in this attempt to introduce man-stealers to social respectability and Christian communion in Great Britain – Let us have one more meeting to consider Dr. Candlish. (Cheers.)

The proposition to adjourn the meeting was received with loud applause. The audience then slowly and quietly retired, as if deeply impressed with the solemnity and weight of what had been uttered.

Free Church Alliance with Manstealers. Send Back the money. Great Anti-Slavery Meeting in the City Hall, Glasgow, Containing Speeches Delivered by Messrs. Wright, Douglass, and Buffum, from America, and by George Thompson, Esq. of London; with a Summary Account of a Series of Meetings Held in Edinburgh by the Above Named Gentlemen (Glasgow: George Gallie, 1846), pp. 55-58.


A fourth meeting was held on Friday evening in the Music Hall, which was crowded to excess in every quarter.

Mr Thompson, in opening the proceedings, stated that arrangement had been entered into for the purpose of placing before the public, in a cheap form, a complete record of the proceedings of the Deputation in Edinburgh and Glasgow; and concluded by introducing to the meeting Mr Frederick Douglas, the runaway slave.

Mr Douglas was received with much applause. He said, that one of the greatest drawbacks to the progress of the Anti-slavery cause in the United States was the inveterate prejudices which existed against the coloured population. They were looked on in every place as beasts rather than men; and to be connected in any manner with a slave – or even with a coloured freeman, was considered as humbling and degrading. Among all ranks of society in that country, the poor outcast coloured man was not regarded as possessing a moral or intellectual sensibility, and all considered themselves entitled to insult and outrage his feelings with impunity. Thanks to the labours of the abolitionists, however, that feeling was now broken in upon, and was, to a certain extent, giving way; but the distinction is still as broad as to draw a visible line of demarcation between the two classes. If the coloured man went to church to worship God, he must occupy a certain place assigned for him; as if the coloured skin was designed to be the mark of an inferior mind, and subject the possessor to the contumely, insult, and disdain of many a white man, with a heart as black as the exterior of the despised negro. (Cheers.)


Mr Douglas then alluded to the case of Maddison Washington, an American slave, who with some others escaped from bondage, but was retaken, and put on board the brig Creole. They had not been more than seven or eight days at sea when Maddison resolved to make another effort to regain his lost freedom. He communicated to some of his fellow-captives his plan of operations; and in the night following carried them into effect. He got on deck, and seizing a handspike, struck down the captain and mate, secured the crew, and cheered on his associates in the cause of liberty; and in ten minutes was master of the ship. (Cheers.) The vessel was then taken to a British port (New Providence), and when there the crew applied to the British resident for aid against the mutineers. The Government refused – (cheers) – they refused to take all the men as prisoners; but they gave them this aid – they kept 19 as prisoners, on the ground of mutiny, and gave the remaining 130 their liberty. (Loud cheers.) They were free men the moment they put their foot on British soil, and their freedom was acknowledged by the judicature of the land. (Cheers.)

But this was not relished by brother Jonathan – he considered it as a grievous outrage – a national insult; and instructed Mr Webster, who was then Secretary of State, to demand compensation from the British Government for the injury done; and characterised the noble Maddison Washington as being a murderer, a tyrant, and a mutineer. And all this for the punishment of an act, which, according to all the doctrines ‘professed’ by Americans, ought to have been honoured and rewarded. (Cheers.) It was considered no crime for America, as a nation, to rise up and assert her freedom in the fields of fight; but when the poor African made a stroke for his liberty it was declared to be a crime, and he punished as a villain – what was an outrage on the part of the black man was an honour and a glory to the white; and in the Senate of that country – ‘the home of the brave and the land of the free’ – there were not wanting the Clays, the Prestons, and the Calhouns, to stand up and declare that it was a national insult to set the slaves at liberty, and demand reparation – these men who were at all times ready to weep tears of red hot iron – (cheers and laughter) – for the oppressed monarchical nations of Europe, now talked about being ready to go all lengths in defence of the national honour, and present an unbroken front to England’s might. (Loud cheers.)

But the British Government, undismayed by the vapouring of the slave-holders, sent Lord Ashburton to tell them – just in a civil way – (laughter) – that they should have no compensation, and that the slaves should not be returned to them – (loud cheers) – thus giving practical effect to the great command – ‘Break the bonds, and let the oppressed go free.’ (Great cheering.)

He remembered himself, while travelling through the United States happening, to be the unknown companion of some gentleman inside of a coach. It was dark when he entered, and they had no opportunity of examining into his features; and during the night a spirited conversation was kept up – so much so that he absolutely for once began to think he was considered a man, and had a soul to be saved. (Cheers.) But morning came, and with it light – (laughter) – which enabled his companions to ascertain the colour of his skin, and there was an end to all their conversation. One of them stooped down, and looking under his hat, exclaimed to his neighbour ‘I say Jem, he’s a nigger,’ kick him out.’ (Cheers and laughter.) That was a specimen of the manner in which the outcast coloured man was treated in the land of freedom and liberty. (Cheers.)


Well, to the land where these things were practised, and practised openly, a Deputation from the Free Church of Scotland came, commissioned to go forth and lift up their voices, and ask aid in defence of religious liberty – the liberty of conscience. They visited the slave States; where they saw God’s image abused, defaced, flogged, driven as a brute beast, and suffered to pass from time to eternity without even an intimation that they had a soul to be saved, – they saw this, and lifted not their testimony against it – (cheers, and cries of ‘shame, shame’) – no comforting hand was held out to the crushed and broken spirit of the slave – (cheers) – but they cringingly preached only such doctrines as they knew would be acceptable to the slaveholder and the man stealer. (Loud cheers.)

He would rather suffer to exhibit on his hands the burning brand of ‘S.S.’ (slave stealer) which some of his abolition brethren could do, and suffer the persecutions and dangers to which they had bee subjected, than bear on his head the sin which lay at the door of that deputation – the moral responsibility which their acts involved, and the respectability which their implied sanction gave to the traffickers in human blood. (Immense cheering, – three distinct rounds of applause.)

The feeling of prejudice, however, against the slave was not altogether confined to the United States – (hear, hear, from Dr Ritchie), – there were men in this country, too, ministers of the Gospel of Christ, who could point the finger of scorn at the ‘fugitive slave.’ There was the Rev. Mr M’Naughton of Paisley – supported by such papers as the Northern Warder and the Witness – who did not hesitate to brand him (Mr Douglas) when he visited Paisley, as a poor, ignorant, miserable fugitive slave – (loud cries of shame, shame); and what more did he say? Did he say that he would ‘send back the money!?’ (Loud cheers and laughter.) No, no, that would have been humbling to him, and insulting to the gentlemen of the New States, for whom he said he had the highest regard. Oh yes, he had given so much ‘regard’ to the purse-proud slaveholder that he had none left to bestow on the poor degraded slave. (Loud cheers.)

Now, he (Mr Douglas) did not expect such things as these when he came to this country – he did not expect to hear them from a minister of the gospel, but least of all did he expect to hear them from the Rev. Mr M’Naughton – (hear, hear,) a minister of the Free Church – man who had loaded his altar with the gold which, produced by the labour of the ‘fugitive slave,’ should have been employed in his education, and yet turns round and calls him ignorant – (loud cheers) – who built his churches with the earnings of the slave – wrung from him amidst tears of blood and sounds of woe – and yet slanders him now as a miserable fugitive. (Immense cheering.) He (Mr D) would not say that to a dog, after having taking his earnings – after having robbed him; yes, it was a hard word, but it was nothing else than robbery, he cared not who took it. (Cheers.)

But when was the money to be sent back? He would tell them; when the people of this country, out of the pale of the Free Church, came to the conclusions he had just shown them – when the full tide of popular indignation – and it was fast flowing just now – (cheers) – will not be withstood by that Church, and when her members became fully alive to the odium and disgrace they are incurring for the sake of clutching the stained hand of the man stealer – then shall the money be sent back. (Loud cheers.)

The present moment was just the very time to consider this question of Free Church contamination. They must not lay all the charge, however, on the United States – the Free Church, as a body, has given a respectability to slavery in American which it never before enjoyed – (hear, hear) – and henceforth they must bear their share of the responsibility attaching to it – the responsibility of the tears, and the agony of the slave; and the crime – the deep, black, damning crime – of the blood polluted man-stealer. (Great cheering, and some hisses.) They might rail against the ‘system,’ but so long as they sanctioned the results of that system they helped to prop up the fabric itself. (Cheers.)

He would go to the next meeting of the Free Assembly, and he believed they would not turn a deaf ear to his complaints. As they had listened to the slave-holder, surely they would not refuse to hear the slave – the ‘fugitive slave.’ (Loud cheers.) As they had received the money of the slaves, surely they would permit him to show cause why they should return it. But whether he should he heard or not, he would be there – (cheers) – and he would take his seat in a place where there would be no danger of his being overlooked or mistaken – for once seen, there was no danger of again mistaking him – (laughter) – and if he was not heard within the walls, he would take care that he would be heard without them. (Cheers.)

There was one thing which he wished to be distinctly understood, namely, that he did not abuse the Free Church for taking the money because she was the Free Church. Had it been the Relief, the Secession, or the Reformed Presbyterian, or even the Established Church itself, he would have pursued towards it the same uncompromising hostility he now showed to the Free. (Loud cheers.) But even now, he began to see something of a right spirit developing itself. Dr Candlish had moved, at a late preliminary meeting of the Evangelical Alliance, that no slaveholder should be admitted as a member. 2 (Cheers.) Why, was it come to this now, that the Evangelical Alliance was to be a purer body than the Free Church of Scotland? Why should the slave-holding, slave-selling minister be allowed to hold ‘Christian fellowship’ with the Free Church, and not with the Evangelical Alliance? – holding him as a brother in Edinburgh, and despising him as a man in Manchester? (Loud cheers.) That was a question which the voice of popular opinion would answer if Dr Candlish would not. He trusted that when the Assembly met, the same reverend doctor would make a similar motion there – repudiate the connection so disgracefully entered into – and SEND BACK THE MONEY. (Loud and prolonged cheering.)

Mr Buffum next addressed the meeting at considerable length, and showed the unmitigated horrors attendant on the slave trade under the very walls of the United States’ Senate, crowned with the emblem of liberty and freedom to all mankind. When he came to Dundee he called on the editor of the Northern Warder, the organ of the Free Church party in that quarter, and endeavoured to reason with him on the subject; but the reasons avowed for taking the money were amongst the most fallacious he ever heard. Had the Free Church not taken the money, they would never have been put to the trouble of inventing such paltry excuses as the following in justification of the course they had pursued.

The extract he would now read them was from the pen of the gentleman to whom he had before alluded: –

So far as we are personally concerned, says he, we must say that few questions have throughout appeared to us more free from difficulty and perplexity. If we want all in a good cause, we shall accept it freely and unhesitatingly from all who tender it. Whatever their creed, or their character, or the origin of their gains, it would make no difference, and constitute no difficulty in our eye, provided that they gave what they gave frankly and unconditionally, and did not ask us to receive it as specially derived from an unlawful source, so as to win from us an implied approbation of that source. If for a good cause, we say, a sum of money were placed in our hands unconditionally and without explanations, we should accept it, whoever the donor, asking no questions, for conscience sake.

But he (the editor of the Warder) went even farther, for he declared that although he had reason to believe that the giver was erring and criminal in some particular part of his conduct, still he would have accepted it – ‘asking no questions for conscience sake.’ (Cheers and laughter.) The article from which he had just quoted concluded by saying, that if the Free Church was to blame in taking the money, the cotton-spinners of Glasgow and Manchester were equally guilty, for they also had at some period made use of money, part of which was subscribed in the Slave States of America. (Laughter.)

Driven from point to point, and from position to position, these upholders of the Free Church had now descended so low as to dispute for character and standing in morality with the cotton-spinners of Manchester and Glasgow. (Great applause.)

Daniel O’Connell, the head of the Repeal agitation, when he was offered the blood stained dollars of the slave-dealer to further his darling project, refused to admit them into his treasury. (Loud cheers.) No, said he, take your money; we will not allow our honest cause to be contaminated with the price of the bodies and souls of the fettered slave. (Cheers.) And he accordingly ‘sent back the money.’3 (Great applause.) Let the Free Church take a lesson from the Irish patriot, and incalculable good would be the result. When the news reached the United States that their money had been refused by the Irish, the Repeal Associations over the length and breadth of the land were smashed to atoms and the agitation completely paralysed, and if the Free Church only followed the example – if they only ‘sent back the money,’ it would go far to strengthen the hands of the Abolitionists and send American slavery reeling to an early grave. (Great applause.)

Mr Thomson said he had received a great number of letters since he came to this city, not only giving him advice how to proceed,  but holding out great hopes of his ultimate success. It was impssible that he could answer all these, he took this opportunity of returning his thanks to the writers, and he could assure them that he would endeavour, as far as possible, to carry out their suggestions. (Applause.)

A venerable father of the Free Church stated that if the money was to be sent back, it would not be done by yielding to clamour. Now, he (Mr Thompson) remembered well – it was not so long ago – (cheers) – when Dr Chalmers was as clamorous as any one – (cheers) – and did not hesitate to combine, and agitate, and clamour, through every city and town in Scotland, for the attainment of a great moral object. (Applause.) Let not the Free Church think to put down this agitation by any such means. He had been told that it was resolved on to try their strength on this point; and that they were prepared to say – ‘We won’t send back the money’ at the bidding of clamour, or at the bidding, or because of the unwarranted interference, of a third party. He was old enough to remember greater thanings than that being accomplished against as strong and powerful a body as that clerical triumvirate who were attempting to lord it over the public opinion of the people of Scotland. (Cheers.)

He remembered the time when Catholic Emancipation was carried by popular opinion – when the Test and Corporation Acts Repeal was carried against a majority of Churchmen – when the emancipation of the slaves was carried in the face of the West India interest – when the Reform Bill was passed triumphantly – and at the present moment they see almost abolished the whole system of the Corn laws. (Loud cheers.)

If the force of public opinion, therefore, was able to subdue to its mighty power, the influential party called the West India interest – the boroughmongers of the empire – and even the landed aristocracy of England, surely they need not despair of its influence being felt by Drs Chalmers, Cunningham, and Candlish. (Loud cheers.) Although they did attempt to stem the tide of opinion, he believed there was still as much manly spirit in the Free Church itself as would snap the manacles which this clerical triumvirate were fruitlessly endeavouring to impose on the minds of the adherents to their cause. (Loud cheers.)

Mr Thompson then proceeded, at great length to criticise the conduct of Dr Chalmers in regard to this matter; and contrasted his preface to his last pamphlet, – ‘The Economics of the Free Church,’ with certain opinions promulgated by him on a previous occasion.

At the close of his address, the meeting, which was a most enthusiastic one throughout, separated.

Edinburgh Evening Post, 6 May 1846; reprinted Caledonian Mercury, 7 May 1846

AMERICAN SLAVERY. – A fourth meeting was held on Friday evening in the Music Hall, which was crowded to excess in every quarter. Mr Thompson, in opening the proceedings, stated that arrangements had been entered into for the purpose of placing before the public, in a cheap form, a complete recording of the proceedings of the deputation in Edinburgh and Glasgow; and concluded by introducing to the meeting Mr Frederick Douglas, the run-away slave, who, in a long and eloquent address, pointed out the horrors of American slavery, and declared that if the Free Church were to send back the money, it would go far to strengthen the hands of the American abolitionists, and to send slavery reeling to its grave. Mr Thompson then shortly addressed the meeting; and said that although Drs Chalmers, Cunningham, and Candlish did attempt to stem the tide of public opinion on this subject, he believed that there was still as much manly spirit in the Free Church itself as would snap the manacles which this clerical triumvirate were fruitlessly endeavouring to impose on the minds of the adherents to their cause.

Scotsman, 6 May 1846


  1. On Thompson’s interest in India see, Zoë Laidlaw, ””Justice to India – Prosperity to England – Freedom to the Slave!”: Humanitarian and Moral Reform Campaigns on India, Aborigines and American Slavery’, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland 22.2 (2012): 299–324 (309–24); Michael Fisher, Counterflows to Colonialism: Indian Travellers and Settlers in Britain 1600–1857 (Delhi: Permanent Black, 2004), pp. 285–8; and Blair B. Kling, Partner in Empire: Dwarkanath Tagore and the Age of Enterprise in Eastern India (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976), pp. 167–78
  2. The resolution was approved at a meeting of the Aggregate Committee of the Evangelical Alliance in Birmingham in March 1846: see Whyte, ‘Send Back the Money!’, p.120; Richard Blackett, Building an Anti-Slavery Wall: Black Americans in the Atlantic Abolitionist Movement, 1830–1860 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1983), p. 97.
  3. In a notorious speech at a meeting of the Repeal Association in Dublin on 11 May 1843, Daniel O’Connell declared his intention to refuse ‘blood-stained money’ from pro-slavery Repeal groups in the United States. The speech was reported in the Liberator, 9 and 30 June 1843, and in the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Reporter, 9 August 1843.

Kilmarnock: 2 October 1846

Kilmarnock, engraved by David Octavius Hill. National Library of Scotland.

Following their lecture at City Hall in Glasgow on Wednesday 30th, Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison addressed several more meetings in the city – of which no newspaper report has been found – before leaving by train to Ardrossan on the morning of Friday 2nd October, in order to take the steamer to Belfast. However, there was just time to break their journey at Kilmarnock, where Douglass had lectured four times in the Spring. Here is Garrison’s account of those two days:

On Thursday, at noon, we addressed a full meeting of ladies, which seemed to give great saisfaction. In the evening, we held another meeting in the City Hall, which was equally cheering with the others, and terminated near midnight. Yesterday morning, about seventy ladies and gentlemen gave us a public breakfast at the Eagle Hotel, and I only regret that I have not time to tell you all about it. As a testmonial of affectionate regard to myself, it was overpowering to my feelings. At half past 11 o’clock, we bade farewell to Glasgow, (to the Patons, the Smeals and numerous other liberal friends,) and went to Kilmarnock, where we addressed several hundred persons, hastily summoned together, and received their benediction – and, after taking tea with a number of choice lovers of our good cause, we took the cars for Ardrossan, and at that place went on board a steamer for Belfast, making the passage in severn hours.1

We reproduce here the brief report of that ‘hastily summoned’ meeting, which appeared in the Ayr Advertiser the following week. The venue was not specified in the report.

Douglass would return to Scotland with Garrison three weeks later.

AMERICAN SLAVERY.– On Friday last, Kilmarnock was visited by the great leader of the abolitionists in America, – Mr Lloyd Garrison, and the self-liberated slave, Frederick Douglass. A meeting was held during the day, as the two gentlemen were on their way to Ireland, and had only, at the urgent request of friends, taken Kilmarnock in their route. The speech of Lloyd Garrison was on the general question of American slavery, and his remarks deprecating that horrid system were warmly responded to by his auditory. His friend Frederick Douglass also shortly addressed the meeting, which was numerous, considering that it was convened in a few hours.

Ayr Advertiser, 8 October 1846


  1. William Lloyd Garrison to Liberator, Belfast, 3 October 1846; in The Letters of William Lloyd Garrison. Volume 3: No Union with Slave-Holders, edited by Walter M. Merrill (Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1973), p. 434. The Glasgow farewells specified here relate to their hosts, Andrew Paton and his sister Catherine of Richmond Street (where Garrison stayed), and William and Robert Smeal, of Gallowgate (where Douglass probably stayed).

Bonhill: 31 March 1846

Bonhill Printfield in the 1830s, from Textile Industry in the Vale of Leven.

Following their meeting in Paisley on Monday 30 March, Frederick Douglass and James Buffum made their way to the home of John Murray who lived at the Customs House at Bowling Bay on the north bank of the Clyde. 

This was probably where Buffum usually stayed when he was in Glasgow, while Douglass enjoyed the hospitality of the other secretary of the Glasgow Emancipation Society, William Smeal, in the city itself.

On the Tuesday, in a letter to William Lloyd Garrison, editor of the Boston abolitionist newspaper The Liberator, Buffum wrote that Murray would accompany them that evening to a meeting in Bonhill, five miles to the north west, on the east bank of the River Leven.  Buffum elaborates:

We have held meetings in the west of Scotland – the towns of Ayr, Kilmarnock and Paisley, which have been the most satisfactory to us and the people. We have now commenced a series of meetings in the Vale of Leven, the place from which, as you will recollect, we had that thrilling remonstrance against our slave system in 1837, which, when it was unrolled in our annual meeting, caused such a thrill of joy to pass through all present. The people are still the same warm-hearted friends of the cause they were in 1837. They will again remonstrate in more earnest tones.1

Two ministers in the area who were involved in the anti-slavery agitation nine years before were Andrew Somerville, who helped to organise the petition, and John Robertson Swan.2 By the time Douglass and Buffum arrived, Somerville had left the United Secession church in Dumbarton in 1845 to take up a position in Edinburgh as Home and Foreign Mission Secretary, but Swan was still the minister of the Relief Church in Bonhill, and this was, almost certainly, where the meeting of Tuesday 31 March took place.3 

Map of Bonhill 1864 showing location of Relief Church.
Adapted from Dumbartonshire, Sheet XVIII (Ordnance Survey, 1864). National Library of Scotland.

Other meetings may have been held that week in Duntocher, Dumbarton and Helensburgh, but no newspaper reports of them have come to light.4

 All we have is a letter published in the Scottish Guardian from ‘Veritas’, the pseudonym, it is thought, of the Church of Scotland minister William Gregor.5 Gregor writes of seeing Douglass and Buffum in Bonhill ‘last evening’ (i.e. 1 April), possibly a slip for the evening before, unless they held two meetings there.

The letter does not give much of an idea of the proceedings, steeped as it is in visceral antipathy for Douglass and the antislavery cause, but it is a salutary reminder that not everyone gave him a warm welcome in Scotland.

Indeed, Douglass read out this letter before an audience in Paisley on 17 April, prefaced, according to the newspaper report, with the following remarks:

The Americans seemed to speak of a slave as if he were not a man … This feeling was not confined to the United States. Some of the people here were about as bad. He had that day seen an article about Buffum and himself in a Free Church paper. The writer seemed to be very much horrified at their expressions in regard to the Free Church of Scotland; and he goes on in the strain of a slaveholder. He even in an indirect way threatens to send me back. (Laughter.) The sly reptile, however, did not give his name. The letter was really a literary phenomenon. (Laughter.)6

We reproduce the letter as it appeared in the Scottish Guardian on 14 April.

To the Editor of the Scottish Guardian

SIR. – Happening to be in this town last evening, and to hear that the celebrated Douglas, ‘the self-liberated slave,’ and Mr. Buffum, were to lecture on the horrors of slavery, and that they had been successful in other places, I went for once to hear them.

I had frequently heard of the horrifying details they give, but they came full up to the mark, and doubtless conclude that their cause was triumphant.

My objects in writing you now are to request of all and sundry who hear these men to remember that there are generally two ways of stating every controversial subject; that the public here, and especially the working classes, should postpone their judgments and withhold their opinions until they shall have heard both sides. For my own part, having heard the subject discussed during eighteen months in the city of New York, and seen the moral and religious character of the proprietors of the Southern States, blackened by every means that self-interest and the vilest hypocrisy could devise, and after having been as well informed as I could be of the parts which these proprietors take in advocating the interests of the white labourers and mechanics of the Free States, I came to the conclusion that they have far the better side of the question. Yes sir, I have come to the conclusion, however unpopular it may be with those deluded by Douglas and his constituents, that the slave proprietors of the Southern States are incalculably more the friends of civilisation on these grounds than they are.

I have not time at present to bestow, but I hope to have, and I would advise the semi-savage Douglas to be somewhat more tender-hearted in the application of his three-toed thong to the back of Dr. Chalmers and others, lest he may yet find he is only renewing these applications to himself. ‘Send the money back,’ ‘send the money back,’ ‘send the money back,’ may yet, after all his pathos, be turned into ‘send Douglas back,’ ‘send Douglas back,’ ‘send Douglas back,’ to learn more correctness in his statements, and more justness in his conclusions.

Horrifying as his statements are, with all the lies he can muster, upon the sale of human flesh, &c., what will he say when demonstrated that he and his constituents are inducing a morality incalculably more immoral, savage, barbarous, bloody, and brutal than that which he affects so much to deplore.

I can proceed no further at present than to reiterate my warning to all parties here to take time, and to withhold their opinions until both sides are heard. – I am, &c.,


Bonhill, 2d April, 1846

P.S. – The Free Church delegation, in appealing to the proprietors of the Southern States, have acted with an impartiality, and upon principles of an enlightened philanthropy, for which all ages shall bless them, especially the toil-worn millions.

Scottish Guardian, 14 April 1846


  1. James N. Buffum to William Lloyd Garrison, Bowling Bay, 31 March 1846, repr. Liberator, 1 May 1846.  ‘While reading the Report, Mr. [Elizur] Wright presented the celebrated remonstrance from the people of Dunbarton [sic] and the Vale of Leven, in Scotland, which was unrolled and extended up and down the orchestra, disclosing upwards of 4,000 original signatures’: American Anti-Slavery Society, Abstract of Fourth Annual Report, repr. in Slavery in America No XIV (August 1837), p. 316.  ‘All abolitionists have heard of the Vale of Leven – and remember its remonstrance to the women of America, sent over here some four years ago, and unfurled over the heads of the thousands in Broadway Tabernacle at an anti-slavery anniversary. The four thousand Scottish women who signed it dwelt in the Vale of Leven. We saw John Summerville [sic], the minister who obtained their signatures. What would induce one of our clergy – with any “weight of influence,” to be seen going about for women’s signatures to an abolition petition!’ Nathaniel Rogers, Herald of Freedom, 30 April 1841, repr. in Collection from the Newspaper Writings of Nathaniel Peabody Rogers (Concord: John R. French, 1847), p. 129.
  2. See ‘Chartism in the Vale of Leven’ [pdf], p.20. Somerville was inspired by a speech given by George Thompson in Dumbarton. See William Graham (ed.), Andrew Somerville, D.D…: An Autobiography (Edinburgh: Macniven & Wallace, 1880), pp. 135-8. The speech of 2 February was reported in the Liberator, 21 April 1837, which also printed the text of the Remonstrance.  On antislavery activity more generally in 1837–8, most of which targeted the British government, calling for an end to the apprenticeship system in the West Indies, see Iain Whyte, Scotland and the Abolition of Black Slavery, 1756–1838 (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2006), pp. 233–43.
  3. On Swan’s term of office at the Relief Church, Bonhill see William Mackelvie, Annals and Statistics of the United Presbyterian Church (Edinburgh: Oliphant & Company, 1873), p.582.
  4. At a speech in Belfast on 16 June, Douglass refers to having spoken in ‘Helensburgh and Dumbarton’ among other towns in Scotland (Belfast News-Letter, 19 June, 1846) and in Paisley on 6 April he refers explicitly to having recently spoken in Duntocher (Renfrewshire Advertiser, 11 April, 1846). But note that Douglass and Buffum were in Kilmarnock on Friday 3 April, so these meetings must have taken place on Wednesday 1 and Thursday 2 April.
  5. Iain Whyte, ‘Send Back the Money’: The Free Church of Scotland and American Slavery (Cambridge: James Clarke & Co., 2012), p. 78.
  6. Frederick Douglass, Paisley, 17 April 1846, Renfrewshire Advertiser, 25 April 1846.


Paisley: 17 March 1846

Abbey of Paisley. Drawn and engraved by Joseph Swan. From Charles Mackie, Historical Description of the Abbey and Town of Paisley (Glasgow: Joseph Swan, 1835), between pp. 62 and 63

On 2 March in Aberdeen, outlining his plans for the next two weeks, Frederick Douglass told his Irish publisher, ‘I shall be in Glasgow on the fourteenth and shall remain there and in its vicinity several days’.1 He was anxious to take delivery of more copies of his autobiography to sell at his lectures.

On Tuesday 17 March he and James Buffum addressed the first of three meetings that week at the United Secession church in Abbey Close, adjacent to the rather more imposing Paisley Abbey.  The Abbey still dominates the town today, and still operates as a place of worship. Of Rev. Mr Nisbet’s church today all that remains are a few grave stones in an open area of grass beside the Town Hall.

We reproduce here the report in the Renfrewshire Advertiser, which covered all three meetings on 28 March.

For an overview of Frederick Douglass’ activities in Paisley during the year see: Spotlight: Paisley.


On Tuesday evening last week the eloquent American fugitive slave, Mr Frederick Douglas, and his friend James N. Buffum, addressed a large meeting in the Rev. Mr Nisbet’s church on slavery.

Mr Douglas on rising said – I experience great pleasure in addressing such a large audience, assembled for the purposes of hearing the wrongs inflicted upon my brethren across the Atlantic. The audience cannot be too small to interest me in speaking on such a subject, and if I had but one dozen of an audience I would feel pleasure in addressing them.

I am anxious that all people should understand, and I am come here to impart accurate information respecting the workings of American slavery. I am one of those who believe that slavery is to be abolished by revealing its outrages upon its victims, by exposing it to the gaze and indignation of the christian world. In order to accomplish this, it is necessary for us to leave our homes that correct information may be spread regarding this system of gross fraud, so that it may be swept from off the land. And will any person dispute my right of being here?

I have been asked, why not employ my talents to burst asunder the strong fetters by which you, the people of England, are bound? I am not the man to speak lightly of any wrongs existing in England, but the evils stalking abroad in this land are nothing like American slavery. If you have the slightest approach to slavery, I will do all in my power to crush it, but I utterly deny you have the least shadow of it.

What is slavery? There seems to be a great want of information regarding it. It is not a system whereby a man is compelled to work, it is not slavery to have one peculiar right struck down; if it is, all women, all minors, are slaves. I protest against the use of the term slavery being applied in such a manner – it is an awful misnomer. Slavery must be regarded as something different; it must be regarded as one man holding property in another, subjected to the destroying of all the higher qualities of his nature, deprived of his own body, his own soul. A slave is one who is to all intents and purposes a marketable commodity – common goods and chattels.

There are three millions such as I, within two weeks’ sail of your own shores, deprived of every right, sunk from the rank of humanity to the common level of the brute. God has given them powers of mind to glorify him, lavery flies in the face of God to supplant his place, and claims that homage which is due to Him alone. Slaveholders determine when a man shall marry, how long he shall continue married; they also claim the right of tearing the babe from the arms of the frantic mother. Conscience, which God has planted in the heart of man, all his religious aspirations, all his hopes, are subject to the will of him who dares to claim man as his property. They are forced to resort to all the unnatural means we have associated with slavery as its necessary concomitants, they are constantly devising new means to keep their slaves in subjection; for no one will willingly submit to deliver up his conscience, his body, his soul, his all, to any man.

Three millions of people are at this moment writhing under the tortures of the lash, weeping in bondage, clanking their chains, and calling upon Britons to aid them in their emancipation.

I have come here because slavery is such a gigantic system that one nation is not fit to cope with it – a system so deeply imbedded in the constitution of America, so firmly rooted in her churches, so entwined about the hearts of the whole people that it requires a moral force from without as well as within. I am anxious to have a remonstrance from Britain. America may boast of her abilities to build forts to stand the fire of her enemy, but she shall never be able to drive back that moral force which shall send slavery tottering to its grave.

I know you have done a great deal towards emancipation. I thank you most heartily. What you have done has had a good and glorious effect in rousing our people, in nerving the minds of the broken-hearted bondsmen, in calling attention to slavery, and causing the slaveholder to tremble.

But there is a great deal more to be done; speak out with a loud voice, such as ye never spake before; let them know that they live by plunder, that the term slaveholder is synonymous with murderer and robber – that they are committing robberies which tower above all others, robberies of the deepest die.

He now began to give a brief sketch of his life. He stated, it was now seven years since he escaped from bondage. Seven years since, a man claimed these hands as his own, but I thought they belonged to me, so I took a leg-bail and gave him the distance for security. I was an abolitionist, of course, born one, a friend to freedom, my own freedom; and while working on the wharfs after my escape, I thought these were the sweetest moments in all my life. Why? Because I was free, and got a dollar a day. Before, my master used to get my dollar – he thought I could not use it, he kept it for me, and used it for me, he did anything he pleased with it. I not only got free, but I got a wife free – the first matter a free man thinks of.

Previously, I had always looked upon the white people as enemies, taught to look upon them as masters. I was obliged to retreat from America after publishing my narrative, for there is no part of that boasted land of freedom and independence where a slave can be safe – the American eagle may pursue him on expanded wings to the far north, and clutch him with his talons, and carry him back in triumph to his blood-thirsty oppressors.

Let me tell you here, it does not cost much to be a respectable man in America; they make presidents, grave senators, holy divines, &c., of robbers, murderers, and now the greatest of all thieves – man-thieves.

And now, since I am among the free hills of old Scotland, treading upon British soil, I can appreciate and perceive the grandeur of the noble, the patriotic sentiments, uttered by Curran on universal emancipation.2 No matter in what language his doom may have been pronounced; no matter what complexion incompatible with freedom an Indian or an African sun may have burnt upon him; no matter in what disastrous liberties may have been cloven down; – no matter with what solemnities he may have been devoted upon the altar of slavery; the first moment he touches the sacred soil of Britain, the altar and the god sink together in the dust; his soul walks abroad in her own majesty, his body swells beyond the measure of his chains that burst from around him, and he stands redeemed, regenerated, and disenthralled, by the irresponsible genius of Universal Emancipation.

He concluded an interesting and most eloquent address, by introducing his friend and companion, Mr Buffum.

Mr Buffum, on rising, said, he felt weak in addressing such a large audience. He had not that power of utterance or flow of language which his friend, Mr Douglas, had, but he knew he had truth on his side, which caused him to feel strong. He stated, that he had come out from the American government several years since,  because he could not act conscientiously with a government which upheld such a base, cruel, and inhuman system as slavery – a government whose members had to take an oath to preserve slavery, and to return to his owner any fugitive slave which he happened to meet.

He read several interesting documents, exposing the horrible cruelties inflicted upon the poor slaves, and concluded by stating that he also wished a remonstrance from Scotland, a remonstrance which would make the slaveholders perceive their true character, and tremble with fear.

Renfrewshire Advertiser, 28 March 1846


  1. Frederick Douglass to Richard D Webb, Aberdeen, 2 March 1846.
  2. Douglass refers here to a speech by John Philipot Curran in defence of Archibald Hamilton Rowan at his trial for seditious libel in Dublin in 1784.  See The Speeches of the Right Honorable John Philpot Curran, ed. Thomas Davis (London: Henry G Bohn, 1845), p.182. Douglass cites this passage several times in speeches in Britain and Ireland in 1845-47, probably unaware that Curran misrepresented ‘British law’ on this occasion. Although abolitionists widely interpreted the decision of in the Somerset v Stewart case (1772) as guaranteeing the freedom of slaves once they touched English soil, Lord Mansfield’s judgement was limited in scope and did not resolve their status. While some slaves successfully petitioned English courts for their freedom in the years following, others failed. In Scotland, however, the Knight v Wedderburn case (1777) yielded a more expansive judgement.  See Edlie L Wong, Neither Fugitive Nor Free: Atlantic Slavery, Freedom Suits, and the Legal Culture of Travel (New York: New York University Press, 2009), pp. 21–48.

Dundee: 10 March 1846

Dundee: New Exchange & Shipping, from the West Dock Gate. From Charles Mackie, Historical Description of the Town of Dundee (Glasgow: Joseph Swan, 1836).

On Tuesday 3 March an announcement appeared in the Dundee Courier announcing an ‘Anti-Slavery Soiree’ in honour of Frederick Douglass, Henry Clarke Wright and James Buffum, to be held in George’s Chapel, School Wynd on the evening of Tuesday 10 March.

Douglass and Buffum had addressed meetings at the church at the end of January, although the invitation of its United Secession minister George Gilfillan had displeased some of his managers.1 According to one source, the Soiree was originally planned to be held in Ward Chapel, but while the deacons approved the request, its Independent minister David Russell advised against it.2

On 2 March the managers of School Wynd met to consider a request for a Soiree to be held there. The request was approved, although not unanimously. The Soiree duly took place – as did a later anti-slavery meeting in the autumn – but these events pushed eight managers to resign in February 1847.3

Clearly, there were some in the dissenting churches who were nervous, and unwilling to antagonise the Free Church of Scotland which was then in some turmoil in Dundee following a resolution put forward by Rev. Islay Burns of St Peter’s Free Church calling on its parent body to withdraw fellowship with the American churches ‘until they be brought to an acknowledgement and renunciation of their sin.’  No doubt the abolitionists took this as a sign that their earlier speeches in the town were beginning to have some effect.

The resolution was debated at a meeting of the Free Church Presbytery at St David’s Church on 11 February, the proceedings of which are referred to repeatedly at the Soiree – especially the contributions of Rev. George Lewis (St David’s Church) and Rev. John Roxburgh (St John’s Church), who spoke against the resolution.4 George Lewis was the particular target of remarks by Douglass and Buffum at the Soiree, not least because he was a member of the controversial fund-raising mission to the United States in 1844 and wrote a book-length account of his experiences.5

Of the three abolitionists honoured by the Soiree, Henry C. Wright was not present. He was on a speaking tour of the Borders, where he had  been since the beginning of March, and would remain there until the middle of April.6

The meeting appears to have been organised by Dundee Anti-Slavery Society. Not much is known about this organisation, which was formed in 1832, but it is evident that the chair of the Soiree, Alexander Easson, was an original committee member.7 Other speakers at the Soiree included George Gilfillan and Thomas Dick.

An extensive report of the Soiree was carried in the Courier on 17 March, although some of the speeches are only summarised. The newspaper published a full account in a separate booklet which appeared a week later later and is reproduced below, followed by the shorter review of proceedings in the Northern Warder, which was rather less impressed by the speakers’ denunciations of the Free Church.

For an overview of Frederick Douglass’ activities in Dundee during the year see: Spotlight: Dundee.


(In consequence of a very generally expressed desire to obtain a full report of the interesting proceedings at the Soiree held on the 10th March, in honour of Messrs. Douglass, Wright, and Buffum, and as a demonstration in favour of the abolition of American slavery, the following, which is believed to be a faithful account, is now published.)


On the evening of Tuesday the 10th March, a soiree in honour of Messrs Douglass, Wright, and Buffum, the advocates of the abolition of American Slavery, was held in George’s Chapel, School Wynd. The anxiety to obtain tickets for this demonstration was so great that the number issued were all disposed of on the previous day, and consequently the chapel was filled in every part at an early hour, upwards of 1200 being present. Alexander Easson, Esq., occupied the chair; and on the platform we observed the Rev. Dr Wood, Broughty Ferry, Mr Marshal, Lochee, and Mr Gilfillan, Dundee; Thomas Dick, LL.D., Bailie Moyes, Councillor Murdoch, Messrs John Laing, W. Christie, R. Christie, O.J. Rowland, George Rough, Thomas Saunders, John Whitton, William Halkett, jun., M. M’Lean, Alexander Leask, Dr Gray, Dr Mudie, &c. &c.

Dr Wood of Broughty Ferry asked a blessing on the proceedings of the evening; and after a service of tea and other refreshments, and the performance of a piece of music by the Dundee Harmonic Society,

Mr Easson said – Ladies and gentlemen, this meeting is held expressly for the purpose of showing that we approve of the object and labours of our friends Messrs Douglass and Buffum. I am sure that these gentlemen will be satisfied that the inhabitants of Dundee have manifested that they entirely approve of their labours and the object which they have in view. (Applause.)

These gentlemen profess that their object in appearing amongst us is to point out the evils of slavery, and particularly the evils of slavery as it exists in America; but, besides this, they have in view also to tell us of the error into which the Free Church of Scotland has fallen in going to America and seeking money for the Free Church, and having communion with slaveholding Churches. (Applause.) Their object is farther to ascertain whether the inhabitants of Scotland approve or no of the course taken by the Free Church. (Cries of ‘No! no!’)

Slavery as it exists in America appears in its very [4] worst form. In America the flag of liberty is hoisted everywhere, and in every place there is a profession of Christianity; but, notwithstanding the loud cry that Americans make for liberty, and notwithstanding the profession of Christianity that is made in that land, yet there we see slavery in its very worst form. Now, if slavery is a hateful thing under despotism, if it is a hateful thing where there is no profession of Christianity, it is much more so in a land where the inhabitants profess to be the foremost in calling out for liberty, and where they profess Christianity. It must be evident to every one that slavery is completely opposed both to the one and to the other.

Efforts have been made in America by a large number of citizens opposed to slavery for its suppression. A few ministers from the Free Church went out to that country, and went into the slaveholding States, and held fellowship with those who advocate the cause of slavery – thus indirectly supporting slavery, and at the same time injuring the cause of the abolitionists in that country. The object for which Messrs Douglass and Buffum have appeared amongst us is to endeavour to undo as far as possible what has been done for the support of slavery by the Free Church. (Applause.) While we lift up our protest against the Free Church for giving support to slavery to any extent, it should be shown by our whole conduct in reference to this matter that we entertain nothing like ill-will to the Free Church, but that we express our opinions on this subject with the view that we wish to be clear of guilt in regard to that support of slavery, and that we wish that the Free Church may come to a right mind on this subject – that she may be led to send back the money. (Applause.) It does appear to me that the shortest way to get out of the scrape is at once to admit they have done wrong – to declare that they will have no further fellowship with slave Churches, and to send back the money. (Cheers.)

Our friends Messrs Douglass and Buffum profess what they want to do is to stir up public opinion in Scotland, and bring about this result. They have had exceedingly successful and most excellent meetings already in Aberdeen and in Montrose, and are everywhere exciting the indignation of the people against slavery, and calling forth public opinion against what has been done by the Free Church. It is hoped their labours will have such an effect as to make the Free Church ashamed of what they have done, and join with others to do all they can for the suppression of American slavery.

I am exceedingly sorry that Dr Ritchie did not find it possible to be present. He was exceedingly anxious to attend, but by a letter received from him it appears that circumstances entirely unconnected with the subject of slavery, have made it impossible for him to do so. (Mr Easson read an extract from the Dr’s letter to the above effect, and sat down amid cheering.)

Dr Dick, after mentioning that he was not aware he had been expected to address the meeting until he saw the bills that day, said he would make a few remarks on the general subject.

He continued – Of all the evils that have ever afflicted humanity in any age of the world, I have considered the system of slavery to be the most execrable and abominable. It has a tendency to debase the image [5] of God in the soul of man, and to degrade rational and immortal beings even beneath the level of the beasts that perish; and in no nation or country whatever can the system of slavery be vindicated on any rational, humane, just, or religious principles. It appears, however, the most contradictory, the most inconsistent thing in the world, when supported by nations which boast of their liberties, and which consider themselves as advanced to a high degree of science and civilization.

In this point of view I consider the inhabitants of the Southern States of North America as the most inconsistent people who dwell on the face of the whole earth. (Applause.) In the front of their constitution stand the following words, – ‘We firmly  believe that all men are created equal – that God has given certain unalienable rights to every man – that among these rights are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’ The declaration of independence of which these words form the frontispiece, was signed on the 4th day of July 1776. There was engraven on the great bell of Philadelphia, at the time of its being subscribed by the delegates of the various States, ‘PROCLAIM LIBERTY TO ALL THE INHABITANTS OF THIS LAND;’ and on every coin which has ever been issued from the United States mint since that time, the word ‘LIBERTY’ has been engraved in capital letters, of which I could show a specimen at the present moment. (Applause.)

On the the 4th day of July every year there is a solemn and universal commemoration of this event, in which all the inhabitants seem to join with enthusiasm. yet, strange to tell, after seventy years have elapsed since that period, the system of slavery still exists in the Southern States of America with the same rigour and the same atrocity as it did at that time, or ever did in any nation under heaven. At this moment three millions of rational beings are subjected to the chains of slavery without the least hope of ever enjoing the privileges, rights, or liberties of human beings. Be astonished O ye heavens at this! I know not if an instance of this kind can be found in the history of any nation that ever dwelt on the face of the earth; or any nation that now exists, even the most barbarous and uncivilized. There are, indeed, certain tribes and nations which still give countenance to slavery, but I defy any man to select any one of these nations in the front of whose constitution are engraved these words, that ‘every man is born equal, and has an unalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness;’ and therefore, if the inhabitants of the Southern States of America were to be consistent with themselves, they would at once either abolish this atrocious and abominable system of slavery, or call a meeting of delegates from all the States of America, and eraze for ever these words from the front of the declaration of independence, or they must stand convicted in the eyes of all nations as liars, hypocrites, and deceivers. (Great cheering.)

I need not dwell on the details of the atrocities connected with slavery, as most of you will have read accounts respecting them. The details connected with slavery are apt to make the ears of every one who hears them tingle, and some of them could scarcely be exhibited to a public audience. There is flogging till the blood runs down in streams, and the flesh is torn and gashed by the infernal weapon [6] which inflicts the stripes. They chase the runaway slave with blood-hounds, when they are sometimes either worried or torn to pieces. There are fixing them in the stocks, and chaining them in dark apartments; and what is worst of all is what is called cat-hauling – that is, the claws of a live cat are fixed on the shoulders, and it is torn down by the tail to the lower parts of the body, till it  brings along with it the skin, flesh, and blood. (Sensation.)

These atrocities every one of three millions of human beings are liable to, at the will of an imperious master; and though they should die under the torture no notice is taken unless there happen accidentally to be white men present, for a slave is not considered a rational being, and cannot give evidence; although a hundred slaves were present and were to give their testimony it would not be taken. The laws respecting slavery are rather worthy of the most barbarous nation under heaven than one which  boasts of its civilization and its science. The slaves are held to be incapable of obeying the laws of conscience and of God. They are degraded below the ranks of rational creatures and numbered among chattels. Marriage and the family relations are virtually annihilated among them. The law takes no more notice of the marriage of slaves than of brutes; and as to the parental relation, a slave has no more right over his children than a cow has over her calf, and therefore children may be sold to the highest bidder, and the two different individuals – the parent and the child – may be taken 1000 miles distant from each other, where they will never have an opportunity of beholding one another’s face on earth.

But what is the worst of all and the most horrible is, that as the slave laws condemn the slave to misery on earth, so they interpose a barrier to his eternal happiness in the life to come, by debarring him from instruction and religious education, by debarring him from reading the Bible, which points out the knowledge of the true God, and shows to men the only way of salvation. These things only require to be stated to show you that the system of slavery, in every point of view, is one of wickedness, inhumanity, and irreligion. This system is attempted to be upheld by assertions that the negroes are a degraded race of men, who have faculties scarcely at all superior to the brutes.

In oppposition to this I could bring you manifold examples to prove that the negro race is capable of all the finest sympathies of our nature – that they possess all those intellectual faculties requisite for the pursuit of knowledge of every description, even the most abstruse. I need not perhaps go beyond the limits of these walls to prove this. (Applause.) I need only point out our talented friend who sits on the right hand of the Chairman – (renewed applause) – who has manifested himself a man endowed with high moral, Christian, and intellectual powers, that would be an honour to any race or any tribe of men. (Cheering.)

But, did time allow, I might tell you of some who, after being kidnapped in Africa, and having been slaves for some time, had attained their freedom and had been crowned with the honour of Doctor of Philosophy and Dr of Divinity – who had engaged in the most abstract metaphysical and mathematical studies. I might tell of one – Gustavus Vasa[7] who, having been kidnapped on the coast of Africa at the age of 33, afterwards went to London, wrote his adventures and published them in the form of letters, which went through a considerable number of editions, and were read by a great portion of the community. The son of this man was the librarian of the late Sir Joseph Banks, and secretary to a great number of societies.8 I might tell you of another – Mr Amo – who was brought to America, gained his liberty, and went over to Germany, attended the college of Wittemberg, was made a Doctor of Philosophy – delivered a course of lectures, made great progress in the knowledge of Greek and Hebrew, and was made at last a Professor of one of the most abstract departments of mathematical science.

There are many such instances; yet men such as these are considered in the southern states of America, by the planters, by preachers, by doctors of divinity, as unworthy to belong to the human species – are denominated chattels, sold by auction – whenever the masters please, bought and sold like cattle or sheep in the market, and afterwards degraded and subjected to the severest punishments. What then can we think of the Christianity of those men who hold the human species in the chains of slavery? Can we for a moment suppose that these men are the true and sincere followers of the meek and lowly Jesus, whose religion is a religion of benevolence?

It would be an insult upon the genius and spirit of that religion we profess, for a moment to entertain such a thought. What should we think if we were told of thieving Christians, of robbing Christians, of murdering Christians, of unjust Christians, of inhuman Christians, of Christians that would sell their own offspring to the highest bidders, for the sake of filthy lucre? Is there any society in this country that would admit of such Christians into their community? (Cheers.)

While men pretending to Christianity hold fast these abominations, and stand forth in a systematic course of prosecuting and vindicating them, what are we to think of those persons in this country who shall give them the least countenance? To such men I would say that so long as those parties whom they support are resolved to perpetuate slavery, they must be considered as giving at least indirect countenance to one of the most abominable systems that ever existed in our world. (Cheers.)

In saying this, I am far indeed from insinuating that the Free Church of Scotland, as a body, gives countenance to such men and to such practices. I am firmly convinced that they do not. So far from having an antipathy to that body, I always rejoiced in giving them that countenance which I considered consistent with the denomination to which I belong. I am fully convinced, from all the intercourse that I have had with the ministers and people of that church, that the great body of the Free Church will never rise up to vindicate any such conduct. (Applause.)

Sir, the continuation of slavery, either in the southern states of America or any other nation, has a tendency to retard the improvement and the moral regeneration of the world at large. While such a system of slavery continues, millions of our fellow-men will be held in a rank below that of the inferior animals, and will never be able to rise to the dignity of their moral and intellectual nature; but I trust slavery [8] will soon come to an end. It is decreed in the record of Heaven that slavery and all other abominations of unrighteousness shall ere long cease to exist; and I trust the period is rapidly approaching when slavery, with all its atrocities, will be for ever banished from the nations of the earth, notwithstanding all the efforts of its abettors to perpetuate it. Their violent dealing will come down upon their own heads; and when it does I have no doubt that a bloody retribution may be the punishment inflicted on its supporters by divine justice.

When slavery is once abolished, then wars will soon cease to the ends of the earth. (Who are the supporters of war in America at the present moment but chiefly the slaveholders?) Then we may expect the tribes of Africa and other nations will be led to live in harmony, in love, and peace, when no feuds are fomented among them for the purpose of acquiring slaves; and then these nations, so long involved in darkness and disorder, shall be visited with the day spring from on high, and the knowledge of salvations and ‘righteousness and praise will spring forth before all the nations.’ (Cheering.)

The Rev. Mr Gilfillan said, Sir, it is with great pleasure inded that I rise to take a part, however humble, in the proceedings of this interesting meeting; and I do so, Sir, with not the less pleasure that, along with my excellent brother Mr Marshall of Lochee, I stand in the character of a representative, – Mr Marshall and I representing what I believe to be the feeling of the Dundee Presbytery – what, I say, I sincerely believe to be the sentiments of the other members of the Dundee Presbytery; and who, although they be not here to-night, have, by the tacit language of their absence, elected Mr Marshall and me to represent them. (Cheers and laughter.)

Time was, to use the language of the immortal Shakespeare, that when the brains were out the man would die. (Applause.) Time was that when you had annihilated in argument or withered with sarcasm a bad cause, you were sure to hear no more of it for ever. That time, however, I am sorry to say, has gone by. There, for example, is the question of slavery. I thought in my simplicity that the question was dead and buried ten years ago. (Applause.) I thought it was not only killed, but killed thrice – that Lord Brougham had given it its mortal blow – that Dr Andrew Thomson had driven the blow home – that George Thompson had dug its grave – and that Dr Ritchie, whom I am sorry not to see here to-night, officiated with a dry eye as chief mourner at its funeral.9 (Great laughter and cheering.)

I thought in my simplicity that the old rhyme of, Who killed Cock Robin? (laughter) might be parodied, Who killed Slavery? I, said Lord Brougham. Who dug its grave? I, said Andrew Thomson. (Laughter.) Who wove its shroud (and a beautiful shroud it was)? I, said George Thompson. And who put it in its coffin, and walked after it to its grave? I, said Dr Ritchie. (Continued laughter.)

But, Sir, it seems in this I have been altogether mistaken. Slavery is alive still. Not only does the hideous thing exist in America still, but it is still defended, and defended too, forsooth, on Scriptural principles. (Applause.) Yes; slavery – driven long [9] ago off the ground of justice, of humanity, of policy – has taken refuge under the shield of Christianity (hear, hear), and is there trying, but trying in vain, to hide its hideous visage. (Cheers.) This connection, Sir, between slavery and Christianity – shall I call it rather this marriage between slavery and Christianity? – may I not, to use the language of Pitt on the coalition of Lord North and Fox, when he rose up in Parliament and said, ‘I forbid the bans:’ So in reference to this marriage between slavery and Christianity, may I not say, I forbid the bans? (Applause.)

This connection between Christianity and slavery has two aspects – first of all a bearing on slavery, and then a bearing on Christianity.

It has a bearing on slavery. Its object is to prop up the cause of slavery; but, Sir, it will not be able. Though I am no prophet or a prophet’s son, it will not be able to prop it long. No, Sir, it is not a few perverted texts of Scripture that are now able to support a system which the Providence of God himself is hurling down to the ground. It is not a few perversions of the letter of Scripture that are able to support a system which the spirit of Christianity has long doomed to destruction. But it is said, the object of this defence is not to perpetuate the existence of slavery, but to break its fall. Why, Sir, I think that if the thing deserves to fall, the sooner it falls the better; if it deserves to fall, the more violently it is cast to the ground the better. (Applause.) Or is it to consecrate and whitewash certain monies which have come over from the other side of the Atlantic that these texts are quoted? (Cheers.) Why, Sir, if this be the case, it won’t do. (Great cheering.) It is the old story of Lady Macbeth, who, trying to get the blood off her hands, cried ‘Out, horrible spot!’ but had to add, ‘All the perfumes of Arabia cannot sweeten this little hand.’ So they are saying, ‘Out, out, horrible spot!’ but they will have to add as well as she, ‘All the perfumes of Arabia cannot sweeten, Lewis, thy little hand.’ (Loud and long-continued cheering.) No, Sir; sophisticate as they please – pervert Scripture as they please – they will not be able by a single hour to protract the death or sweeten the death-bed of American slavery, which, in the language of Dr Chalmers, is the biggest, blackest outrage ever put upon man by man.

And now, Sir, what is the bearing of this connection between slavery and Christianity on Christianity itself? It is most pernicious. Look what a handle it gives to the enemies of Christianity – to the infidels, many of whom are saying this – If slavery and Christianity be identified, we identify ourselves with neither the one nor the other; if slavery and Christianity embark in the same boat, we will embark with neither. Look again to its effect on the minds of Christians, how it divides them; see how it has divided us already. Look how the frost of slavery has nipped the opening buds of Christian union in this country and in this town.

Who are to blame for this? Is it our eloquent guests who are to blame? No: they have come the disinterested advocates of freedom and enemies of slavery. They have come in that capacity, and who dares hinder them?

Who are to blame? Is it the Dissenters of Dundee? No: for even although they had rallied [10] more unitedly than they have done around this cause, who, I ask, had a right to hinder them? Who had a right from the Vatican of Small’s Wynd west the way10 to say to the ministers and managers of dissenting chapels – ye shan’t open your doors to these disinterested philanthropists – to these eloquent orators and advocates of one of the noblest causes on earth – not open your doors under the pain of my displeasure. (Applause.)

In my simplicity I did not know that this decree had gone forth, and therefore when these gentlemen called on me some weeks ago, without consulting my managers, without consulting anything but my hatred of slavery, I gave them the use of this place, and I stand here to bear in their stead the thunders of the Vatican of Small’s Wynd. I am not afraid of the wielder of them in the press, or the pulpit, or the platform, either in Small’s Wynd or School Wynd. (Cheers.)

Who is to blame for the disunion which has taken place in Dundee? Is it the Free Church people? No; the heart of the Free Church people is with us to a great extent upon this question. Is it the Sessions of the Free  Church who are to blame? No; a part at least of one Session is with us. Is it, then, the ministers of the Free Church who are to blame? No; I do not say that either; I want to give them their due, although they have made me the object of personal abuse, although I have seen sometimes a preternatural elongation of face, and sudden adverting of eye, and strange fits of absence and abstraction when they met me in the street, instead of the condescending smile and patronizing nod they were wont to bestow on me and my brethren since the disruption.

Who are to blame? Not so much the ministers as the leaders of the party, and not so much the leaders as the position which they hold; and not so much the position as the atrocious thing slavery, which poisons and pollutes whatever comes even in the remotest contact with it. Like Dr Dick, I am no enemy to the Free Church. I never was an enemy to the Free Church. I respect many of its members. While in Edinburgh two Sabbaths lately, I heard services twice in a Free Church, and I preached once, at the request of a number of Free Church gentlemen, to a society composed mostly of Free Church young men, in Dr Candlish‘s church.

Because I respect the Free Church highly, is that a reason why I should shut my mouth and become silent when I see her commit – I will not say commit – but when I see her participate in a most enormous crime under which earth groans, and the cry of which is gone up to God’s own throne. Because I respect a person highly, is that a reason, if I see him apply the poisoned cup to his lips – is that a reason I should not dash it down? The more I respect him the more I am bound to do him all the good in my power, although I should make him an enemy by telling the truth. I am not willing to disturb Christian union. Union is precious, but if it is to be had only at the price of the slave’s liberty – if blood money be the price of union, then say I for one, it may be bought too dear. (Applause.)

Remember the frogs in the fable, who, when the boys were pelting them with stones, cried out, it is sport to you but death to us. So the poor slaves may exclaim, ye Christians at home [11] are uniting, but your unity is purchased  by the robbery of our rights; ye are clasping each others hands, but your clasped hands are the knots of our bondage; ye are holding your friendly meetings together, this minister proposing this, and another seconding that, as if ye were a band of brothers, and all the while ye are celebrating this hollow truce over our massacred liberties. Oh! if ye will unite, unite in this way, unite in making one great effort to break our chains – one great general effort to discomfit our oppressors.

Sir, I had intended to say something on the difference between Jewish slavery and American slavery, but I refrain, and I will tell you why.

First of all, the question is stale. It is been settled, and contemptuously settled, ten years ago. Oh had any unfortunate wight proposed this question in the presence of Dr Andrew Thomson in the year 1831, I can conceive what a withering frown that mighty man of valour would have cast on him, and what a torrent of inflamed invective and intellect he would have poured on his hapless head. He would have treated him in the same way as he did a good old seceder minister now dead, who stood up on behalf of circulating Bibles with the Apocrypha attached. Dr T. replied with such tremendous effect that the poor old body began to greet, and said to a man sitting beside him ‘If I had time and talents I think I could answer him yet.’ So I leave Mr Lewis with his time and Mr Roxburgh with his talents to answer this prophet of their own, who being dead, yet speaketh. I refrain from it because the Jewish system is a past system – in the words of Paul, a beggarly element; and a beggarly element never looks so beggarly as when raked up from the ashes of the dead past to support a great living iniquity.

I refrain from it once more because I take higher ground than even the ritual of ancient Israel. Slavery in a mitigated form was permitted by God, as was polygamy, as was assassination, as was massacre. Am I to defend assassination, or polygamy, or massacre, because in one or two cases they were permitted by the Most High? No. I say again, I appeal from these temporary permissions of God to God himself. I appeal to eternal justice. I appeal to the original feelings of humanity. I appeal to the dread tribunal of conscience. I appeal to the revealed will and law and love of God. Slavery is diametrically opposed to all these.

And I close by denouncing in the name of the British law, which decides that the rights of all men are equal – in the spirit of the British air, which silently dissolves the chains of the slave, and wreaths an unseen crown of liberty round his head whenever he touches the soil – in the name of the American declaration of rights, which decides that all men are equal – in the name of the Jewish law which condemns the man-stealer – in the name of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which declares that all men are sprung from one blood, and are brought by one blood – in the name of the very mother’s milk a hatred of slavery into British babes – in the name of eternal justice, and of God who cannot sin, and who will by no means clear the guilty – in the name of all these I denounce slavery in general and American slavery in particular.

I [12] brand it with the deepest abhorrence. I would hold it up as a mark, if I could, to the lightnings of God’s indignation. I denounce those Churches who wittingly, and with their eyes open, defend it – who wittingly, and with their eyes open, uphold its enormities and partake of its plunder. I say of such – of such, I say again, as wittingly and with their eyes open do this – ‘O my soul, come not thou into their secret; unto their assembly, mine honour, be not thou united.’ (Great and continued cheering.)

Mr O. J. Rowland said – My presence on this platform in the character in which I now appear has already been accounted for incidentally by the Chairman. It is occasioned by the absence of one whose absence no one regrets more than I do. I refer to Dr Ritchie. The subject on which he was to have addressed you, and which I need hardly observe he would have handled in his usual masterly style, now devolves upon me. That subject is no less important a one than a review of the speeches of the Free Presbytery of Dundee touching the matter of American Slavery.3 For the reasons now stated, I am not so fully prepared as I could wish. I must, therefore, claim the indulgence of this meeting if I make more copious use of my notes than what otherwise I would have occasion for.

The first speech of the Presbytery on the question in hand is that of Mr Burns; but as Mr Roxburgh has observed, and as I fully concur with him in the correctness of that observation, that his amiable  brother of St Peter’s did not touch the merits of the question, it is not necessary that I should occupy the time of this meeting with any comments on it. I shall therefore pass it by, with only the following remark, – that he has made more abundant use of such epithets as ‘mean,’ ‘unworthy,’ and ‘discreditable,’ as applicable to the present agitation, than any of his brethren.

Mr Lewis’ speech, though not next in order, shall now command our attention. The most prominent and prevailing feature in Mr Lewis’ speech, in my apprehension, is a vein of extreme self-complacency. The first sentence of his speech will fully bear me out in this statement. It is the following: ‘I understand, Moderator, that I stand before you to-day somewhat in the character of a criminal accused of two very bad things – of having kept bad company, the company of slaveholders; and taken  bad money, even money-stained with the guilt of slavery. Nay, Moderator, it is even reported that with this bad money St David’s Church, and I believe my brother’s church of St John’s, has been built.’

No one can fail to perceive that under this sentence there lies a sly chuckle – the chuckle of one who fancies that he has uttered something exceedingly sprightly and jocular. Without stopping to inquire whether such lightness of speech is altogether in good keeping with that gravity and seriousness of tone which we naturally expect to find pervading the discussions of so reverend an assembly, I cannot, considering the magnitude of the interests involved in the question in debate, but regard such levity as not only out of place but exceedingly offensive.

The friends of human freedom in America, and many on this side of the water believe – whether they be right or wrong in doing so is another question – that Mr Lewis has compromised the interests of [13] the slave population of that country in his intercourse with the Churches there. He may feel that he has a clear conscience in that matter. Be it so. I conceive, nevertheless, that in entering upon his defence, it is not the less due to himself as a Christian man and a Christian minister, to the Christian public of this country, and to that portion of it, at least, on the American continent who feel so strongly on the question of slavery, and above all, to the outraged feelings of that oppressed race who groan under the yoke of an intolerable bondage, without hope of relief or deliverance  but what is afforded them by the prospect of their final exit to that land of forgetfulness, where the wicked cease from troubling and the weary are at rest, he should abstain from all such flippancy of tone and expression as may have a tendency to weaken in the public mind that sense of loathing and abhorrence with which they now regard the system of American slavery.

Mr Lewis, however, has mis-stated the counts of his indictment. Without derogating in the least his repectability or importance, I shall venture to say that he does not bulk so much in the public eye as that they would concern themselves so much about him were he but merely charged with the petty delinquencies which he is pleased to allege.

I shall endeavour to state more correctly than he has done the substance of the charges brought against him. It is, that in his capacity of accredited agent from the Free Church of Scotland, he merged the identity of the character of that Church with that of the slaveholding Churches in America, on a paramount question in Christian morals; – it is, that he has strengthened the hands of the slaveholders of that continent, and, in consequence, helped to rivet faster the fetters of the slave by a course of action, the attempt to screen which has issued in the enlistment of the venerated name of Chalmers, and other worthies of the Free Church, into the ranks, if not of abettors, at least to that of apologists for American slavery.

These are the counts of his indictment. He is not one whit more happy in his handling of that other text, which has now so universally become a bye-word and a reproach – ‘Send back the money.’ (Applause.) Hear what he says – ‘To return these moneys were no hard matter for the Free Church in the way of sacrifice, but it were inflicting the deepest injury and insult on some of the best men and women in the Union, who mourn and pray in secret over the evils in the midst of which they have been born and bred.’

It is not, then, that formidable difficulty which would so naturally suggest itself to a superficial thinker, that lies in the way of the Free Church’s compliance with this all but universal demand of the Scottish people, but one entirely novel, and one, to my mind, as flimsy as it is novel. Would not such an explanation as the following in the form of extracts from the minutes of the Assembly, if transmitted along with the money, give ample satisfaction to the parties whom Mr Lewis is so fearful of offending for this seeming act of discourtesy? viz., that –

Whereas the Free Church of Scotland, in a season of pecuniary difficulty, having received contributions from slaveholders and others in the Southern States of America; and whereas their messengers to whose charge said contributions were entrusted did not specify [14] under distinct heads the amount received from slaveholders and non-slaveholders – from pro-slavery and anti-slavery contributors – the same became merged into one common sum; and whereas the Christian public of this country, conceiving that the reception by the Free Church of said contributions does implicate them in the guilt of slavery – the money being deemed to be a pledge of amity and good fellowship between them and the slaveholders of America, to the great detriment and scandal of the Free Church – and whereas, the Free Church, on mature reflection, concur that the retention by them of said money does in a measure countenance this wrong impression, – and whereas, the Free Church, willing to make any sacrifice rather than lie under the imputation of countenancing or seeming to countenance so hateful an outrage on the dearest rights of man, – and whereas, for reasons already alleged, it is impossible to distinguish the sums received from the abettors from the sums received from the repudiators of slavery, so as to retain the latter. It hereby resolved to return, and that forthwith, the whole of the money received from the slaveholding states whence it came. (Great cheering.) The Free Church do hereby enter their most solemn protest against that most hateful institution, which they cannot but regard as a standing insult to the Majesty of Heaven, in that it degrades to the lowest depths of brutish debasement, and keeps him there, the Creator’s chief handiwork – immortal man. The Free Church cherish the confidence that their transatlantic brethren in bondage, and whose friendly contributions are thus unwittingly returned, will, in the exercise of that charity which thinketh no ill, liberally construe this procedure of the Free Church, – and will believe that by so much as it is trying and painful for the Free Church thus to decline the tokens of their Christian affection, do they in the present instance afford the strongest proof which it is in their power to offer of the sincerity of their sympathy with them in their efforts to break the oppressors’ yoke.

I would feel very much disposed to doubt the faithfulness of Mr Lewis’ description of the parties in question, if they did not feel something more than satisfied with an act indicating such magnanimity and self-denial on the part of the Free Church. But what would it be to the slave? It would thrill his soul like a blast from the great trumpet of jubilee. (Cheers.)

There is but one other particular in Mr Lewis’ speech which I shall notice before I proceed to take up Mr Roxburgh’s speech, and I do so only  because it goes to confirm what I stated at the outset as to the tone of self-complacency which breathes through the whole of that speech. I refer to the use he makes of the vulgar expressions, John Bull and Jonathan, as symbolical of the English and American nations. We feel no difficulty in excusing the use of slang terms in the oration of a pot-house orator, but we naturally expect to hear something more dignified from the lips of a reverend Presbyter addressing his Church Court.

I shall now address myself to Mr Roxburgh’s speech. But before I take up any of his arguments in detail, I may perhaps be permitted to give a passing sketch of that speech, as to what appears to my mind to be its [15] leading feature. (Hear, hear.) Doing so, may be of service afterwards in enabling us in some measure to account for those palpable contradictions with which it abounds.

Mr Roxburgh’s speech then, I would say, is a regular slasher, which sets fairly at defiance all those cumbering restrictions which logicians have vainly sought to impose on the erratic sallies of excitable and impetuous temperaments. It is a speech intent only on one object, which it is determined to secure at all costs and all hazards.  Doubtless, its dashing impetuosity cannot fail to secure to Mr Roxburgh a reputation for magnanimous intrepidity, whatever may be said of his tact and discrimination as a debater. Mr Roxburgh boldly challenges any reasonable man who has read the deliverance of the General Assembly of the Free Church to say whether she has in one single iota compromised herself in the matter presently at issue.

I have read that deliverance once and again, and I am as bold to declare as what Mr Roxburgh is to challenge, even at the risk of being accounted by him an unreasonable man, that, independently of, and apart from other sources of information on this question, the mere perusal of that manifesto would leave me in considerable doubt whether to class the promulgators of it in the category of apologists or in that of Jesuitical abettors of slavery.

As that document will come under review afterwards, I shall reserve my remarks upon it till then. Meantime, I shall take up some of Mr Roxburgh’s own positions.

In relation to the position of the American Churches, touching the institution of slavery, he utters the following sentiment, – ‘What reasonable man, looking to the requirements of Scripture and common sense – looking to all the circumstances of the case – looking to the position of those American Churches, placed amid evils and difficulties of a social system which they had not originated, and for the existence and continuance of which they were not responsible.’  And, by way of confirming the soundness of his own views, he quotes several extracts from the Assembly’s deliverance, of which the following is one, – ‘This Church entertains a very decided conviction that the Churches in America are called upon, as Churches, to take a very serious view of the responsibilities lying upon them, in regard to the continuance of this national sin of slavery, with its accompanying abominations.’

To my apprehension, there is something that looks very much like a contradiction between the view of Mr Roxburgh and the views of the Assembly, in so far, at least, as those views are expressed in their deliverance, to which Mr Roxburgh appeals with so much confidence, touching the responsibility of the American slaveholding Churches, in regard to the continuance of the national sin of slavery. (Hear, hear, and cheers.)

‘Tis a pity the Assembly of the Free Church were so blind ‘to the requirements of Scripture and common sense’ when they penned, or sanctioned the penning of a sentence which contumaciously sets at nought such high and hallowed behests, and thereby occasion the scandal which must necessarily ensue from a reverend presbyter’s thus becoming the censor of his brethren. And ’tis a pity too, for the same reason, that Mr Roxburgh did not temper his impetuosity with a little more discreet moderation.

Regarding the institution of [16] slavery, Mr Roxburgh says, ‘It is evident from the whole tenor of the New Testament that the Apostles did not set themselves to agitate against the system of slavery. They did not employ the discipline of the Church as a means to accomplish such an end.’ The Free church, then, is manifestly in the wrong, as far as Apostolic example affords to later Christians a proper rule of action, in having gone so far as to issue a deliverance on the merits of an institution regarding which inspired Apostles preserved a becoming silence. And more especially in presuming so far as to hold out something like a threat to withhold Christian fellowship from those who shall persist in supporting a system which the Apostles ‘did not’ dare to ’employ the discipline of the Church as a means’ to subvert.

Surely Mr Roxburgh is less considerate towards his erring brethren of the Commission than Mr Lewis can find it in his heart to be towards the slaveholders of America; for even to them he (Mr Lewis) would administer only ‘that excellent oil of reproof which breaks no head.’ This, however, should awaken no surprise, when it is borne in mind the high estimation which Mr Lewis has formed of the moral worth and Christian benevolence of these modern patriarchs during his late sojourn amongst them; for their ruling passion and besetting sin, if indeed it be a sin, is in Mr Lewis’ apprehension only such a one as ‘God permitted unrebuked in the best of his Old Testament saints.’

Mr Lewis, therefore, declares that American slavery is identical with that form of servitude which obtained under the Jewish and Patriarchal dispensations; for if it be not the same, then it will follow that the fact of that form of servitude having been ‘permitted unrebuked by God in the best of his Old Testament saints’ has about as much to do with the question of American slavery as has the fact that Jubal Cain was the first hammerman. We have some light thrown on the system as it existed amongst the ancient worthies to whom Mr Lewis refers in Genesis xv. 3. In the case of this venerable character, we find that, failing issue of his own body, a slave born in his own house became heir of all his master’s possessions to the exclusions of a host of nephews. Under auspices, then, which admit the possibility of such a happy contingency, it cannot but appear to be a step of very doubtful policy on the part of Mr Douglass to forego such bright prospects to become a fugitive and a wanderer in a strange land. (Applause.)

But I have already spent too much time on Mr Lewis. I must now notice the means which Mr Roxburgh condescends to employ to lessen the credit of the Abolitionists of America with the people of this country; concerning which I would say (and I use the most modified form of expression that can indicate my meaning), that it is peculiarly un-English. Respecting the Abolitionists of America, Mr Roxburgh says, ‘It is said that their extreme views and violent measures have done incalculable injury to the cause which they profess to have at heart.’ Indeed! And by whom is it said, pray? It is a pity but Mr Roxburgh would condescend to name his authorities; for we all know that fame is a lying jade, and for ought that appears to the contrary, so far as Mr Roxburgh’s allegation is concerned, I suppose we are at liberty to assume tha[t] [17] she is at her old pranks again.

It is said, is it? Why, it has been said that Paul and his companions were pestilent fellows, who turned the world upside down. But do we therefore believe it? Does Mr Roxburgh therefore believe it? Sir, anonymous insinuations, as weapons either of defence or attack, are unworthy a noble and generou mind to employ. I do not stand up to deny the allegation that the American Abolitionists may have acted rashly and imprudently on many occasions. Neither do I appear to vindicate rashness or imprudence in any shape, or by any parties. This, then, I would only say, that other nations besides the American have, ere while, groaned under an incubus surcharged with such untold iniquities, that he who knowing the magnitude of the grievance could address himself to the task of its overthrow with that insipid equanimity which the Free Church so much admired in the merely sentimental Abolitionists of America, would prove himself to be either more or less than a man or a patriot.

There are men to be found at this time of day who believe that there was a very considerable spice of Vandalism in John Knox, of glorious memory; and that Pym, Hampden, and Sir Harry Vane, were very rude gentlemen indeed. What of it, then, if there should be found in America some zealous practical abolitionist, who, witnessing daily the tyranny and abominations of that accursed system, should feel his spirit stirred within him, and his Saxon or Celtic blood aroused to that pitch of excitement so that his judgment should for a time fail to control the impulses of his indignant scorn within the strict rules of conventional propriety. It would be an infirmity, ’tis true; but still an infirmity leaning to virtue’s side.

Mr Roxburgh is not prepared to stake the issue of this conflict on the heavy artillery of reasons; but he must needs employ those subtle weapons which lie concealed under imaginative similitudes. He says that the reception given to Messrs Buffum and Douglass by some of us Dissenters, reminded him of what he read in 2 Sam. xx. 9, about the treachery of Joab to Amasa. You all know the incident, so I need not repeat it. All I would wish to say in reply is, that the strange anomaly involved in the alliance of the Free Church of Scotland with American slaveholders, has a tendency to awaken old associations of imagery in other minds besides Mr Roxburgh’s. I am subject to such vagaries myself occasionally; and with your permission I shall state one of the similies which the perusal of that deliverance of the Free Church suggested to my mind. The incident is not so bloody, but I believe it to be fully as expressive and applicable as the one to which Mr Roxburgh refers.

It refers to a certain noble Lord, better known for his parsimonious habits than for his senatorial wisdom, who one morning met a little girl returning with a pitcher of milk from his own dairy. His Lordship was so struck with the interesting looks and graceful mien of his little protegé, that he condescendingly gave her a – kiss. But, lest his condescension should not be properly appreciated, he observed to her that, if she lived long enough, she would become a woman, perhaps a mother – if so, she would have it to tell her children, and they again to theirs, and so on for I know not how many generations, the mark of [18] distinction which had been bestowed on her, when a child, by the Earl of ___. ‘Ha,’ retorted the saucy little jade, ‘but you took the penny for the milk, though.’11

Now, so long as the Free Church retain ‘the money,’ which is so generally held to be the pledge of amity and good fellowship between them and the slaveholders of America, they must needs excuse us if we put the same value on their high-sounding denunciations of the national institution of American slavery, as the pert little maid in question put upon his Lordship’s condescension while he kept the penny for the milk.

I had intended to criticise at length the deliverance to which I have already referred. But time will not permit. I must therefore conclude by observing, that notwithstanding all the declamatory appeals of Mr Roxburgh and Mr Lewis and other magnets of the Free Church, there is a growing conviction in the public mind that they have erred in the matter of their alliance with the slave-holders of America. Do I state this to damage the fair fame of the Free Church? Far be it; my conscience acquits me of any such intention. I believe in common with others that they have erred. To err, however, is human. Peter, though an Apostle, under the pressure of a sudden difficulty, denied his Lord. Nevertheless, he evinced the integrity of his character by his subsequent repetence. And, though I believe that the Free Church have erred in this matter, I am not so uncharitable as to forget the trying position in which they were placed when they formed this alliance. Neither am I so presumptuous as to overlook the fact that I am myself also in the body, and compassed about with many infirmities. It is not then their original error that constitutes the gravamen of the charge, so much as their dogged and pertinacious vindication of it after its pernicious effects have been so forcibly and clearly pointed out.

Let the Free Church, then, ‘Send back the money,’ and let them boldly repudiate all further connection and cease from all further tampering with the abettors and upholders of an institution the most accursed that ever polluted God’s earth; then shall their path be as the shining light; and then shall posterity, under the benign influence of Millenial rule, when slavery shall be deemed the most odious invention of the ‘powers of darkness’ to wreak their infernal malice in desolating the heritage of God – not only justify the founders in claiming for their ‘Zion’ the appellation of ‘the Free Chuurch,’ but shall joyfully accord to her that still higher and still nobler patronymic, – ‘The Church of the Free.’ (Great applause.)

Dr Mudie read, in an animated manner, the following Address to the American gentlemen, which had been drawn up by himself and approved of by the Committee:–

In presenting this address, permit us first of all to express the high satisfaction which, in common with our countrymen, we feel at your presence among us. We hail you as the friends of our race – as pre-eminently the friends of the slave. The Soiree at which you are now entertained you will receive at our hands as the fruit of our attachment to your persons – of our admiration of your character – and as a pledge not only of our unqualified approval of the object of your mission, but also of our firm determination to sustain this righteous cause until the principles which you advocate shall finally triumph [19] in securing the total and unconditional emancipation of the entire slave population in the United States of America.

Though like you, gentlemen, we have not  been personal spectators of the horrors of slavery, nor has any of our number been the subjects of its thefts and cruelties such as actually occurred in the painful experience of one of the loftiest in intellect, at the same time one of the most intrepid and philanthropic of your number, viz., Frederick Douglass, of immortal memory – but yet, in the absence on our part of all such experimental demonstration, you may believe us when we say there is no language we can command sufficiently emphatic to convey a just sense of that loathing and utter detestation with which we have always regarded American slavery, and more especially since we know that slavery, as legalised and maintained in that country, is associated with and gives birth to an amount of all sorts of wickedness, impiety, and crime, which, whether for their number, their magnitude, or the lewdness of their enormities, never have been equally in any other slaveholding country, whether in ancient or modern times.

Entertaining the deep abhorrence now expressed, and believing that a desolating flood of immorality and vice ever has and ever musut be the inseparable concomitants of slavery, pampering the lusts, corrupting the principles, and brutalizing the mind of the slaveholder on the one hand, and on the other despoiling the slave of every just and legitimate privilege, both civil and sacred. Such being our estimate of the nature and fruits of slavery, it may at once be perceived that we look upon slaveholding, however it may be modified or by whomsoever defended, as intrinsically a sin of the deepest dye, involving the slaveholder in the guilt of blasphemy against the Almighty himself, since, by man holding property in man he necessarily claims and he exercises that sovereign and uncontrollable authority over his fellow-creature which belongs only to God – a sin so daringly presumptuous as to start the inquiry, whether it be possible for a slaveholder to inherit eternal life? We firmly maintain that when man holds property in man he voluntarily perpetrates the most grievous wrong which it is possible for one human being to inflict upon another – from that moment the heartless plunderer occupies the place of a condemned culprit caught in a crime which humanity scorns, reason repudiates, and the word of the living God condemns.

With you, gentlemen, we cordially agree, and would insist upon the fulfilment of that fundamental principle of the American government, so happily expressed, yet practically so foully abandoned, and which it is the object of your prayers and labours to realize, – namely, that ‘all men are created free, and have an unalienable right to liberty,’ for we are all the offspring of God, and he hath made of one blood of nations of men for to dwell upon the face of the earth. With you we also entertain the position that every slaveholder is guilty of the double sin of theft and robbery in the highest and most aggravated form in which it is possible for these sins to be committed, – sins which under the law of Moses subjected the transgressor to the penalty of death. But, besides many other precepts condemnatory of slavery, which the slaveholder expunges from the oracles of truth, – he directly tramples under foot, spurns, despises, and in the exercise of a haughty and unblushing contumely which the reprobate only are equal to, he expunges from the divine record, as being wholly inapplicable to the government of his conduct, the golden rule of our blessed Lord – ‘All things whatsoever ye would that men should do [20] unto you, do you even so to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.’

Holding these sentiments, and remembering the law of our God, how that by express commandment he hath enjoined us to ‘hold no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them that they may be ashamed,’ we are bound, in obedience to divine authority, the dictates of conscience, and with a view to the eternal well-being of the slaveholder himself, to renounce – all Christian fellowship and communion with individuals or Churches found guilty, whether directly or indirectly, of upholding or defending slavery, wherever these individuals or Churches may be found, whether in America, in Scotland, or in any other quarter.

Brethren beloved, for such we call you – by what other title is it possible for us to address you, since, though the baptism of that charity which descendeth from above, by an act of self-denial you have consecrated your energies ‘to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to break every yoke, that the oppressed may go free’ – from your lips, and we repose implicit confidence in your testimony, we have heard, with feeling of unmingled pleasure and of devoutest gratitude to God, of the progress which the principles of the Abolitionists are making throughout the States of America. In proportion as we hailed these blessful tidings so honouring to the patriotism and the Christianity of your country, we were startled with surprise, and roused to a feeling of indignation, on learning that certain parties from Scotland, who had recently perambulated the length and breadth of the land of your fathers soliciting the money, courting the fellowship, and forming an alliance with slaveholding seminaries and slaveholding churches, of whose doings Scotland knew nothing – whom she never recognised – whom she never delegated – to whom she gave no authority as the exponents of her principles: That this party, we say, had nevertheless assumed that importance and dignity which would necessarily belong to the representatives of Scotland’s feelings and principles on the question of slavery, thus hoodwinking the judgment and ministering to the delusions of the slaveholder, as if Scotland were not inimical to the diabolical abominations of slavery – as if she could tolerate, nay even embrace in the arms of her affection and Christian fellowship, slave breeders, baptised kidnappers, and sacramental traffickers in the bodies and souls of men. All this done, too, in the face of Britain’s renunciation of the horrid traffic – in the face, too, of the fact known and notorious, that a vast number, if not a decided majority of the immediate followers of these parties, reprobate the entire of their proceeedings in connection with American slavery; nor will they cease from that agitation which they have already so auspiciously commenced, until this covenant with death – this agreement with hell – shall be broken up, and the blood-stained dollars shall be wafted amid shouts of derision beyond the rolling Atlantic.

We are bold to pronounce that Scotland indignantly disowns all such representations. Her independence, her piety, her honour, never will be soiled by an alliance with manstealers. No; the voice that comes forth from her mountains, her glens, her villages, her cities, proclaims in accents loud as the roaring of seven thunders, that the blood-stained slaveholder shall never fill a place in her fellowship, nor find an avenue to her intercourse; that such are the unalterable sentiments of Scotland this great and enthusiastic assembly will [21] testify. Your own experience shall testify; your march through Scotland is being one of complete, of overwhelming triumph. Yes; let the slaveholder who clutches his victim hear it, that Scotland glories in your mission – she is touched with your story – she sighs over the poor, manacled, stricken, friendless slave – and she pants to plant her foot upon the neck of the oppressor.

In Dundee, comprising a population of seventy thousand souls, you have had five public meetings – all of them crowded with every sect and party of our community. Then and there, with that boldness which invariably distinguishes every worker of righteousness, did you arraign those parties who had promulgated in America that monstrous, but hitherto unheard of, heresy of Scotland’s connivances and friendship with slavery; you were cheered and sustained in the charge, by those great assemblies. You challenged their conduct – you unmasked their proceedings – you denounced their principles – you waited for their defence – their lips were closed – the silence of death overtook them – abashed, confounded, above all, unable to bear up under the frowns of an indignant and insulted auditory, they shrunk from your grapple.

At this stage of the address, we deem it but justice to ourselves in announcing that we utterly disclaim every feeling of party ambition or party jealousy; sectarian aggrandisement or sectarian discomfiture forms no element in our movement. We associate from other motives and for the accomplishment of other ends. We contend for principles not for parties. We ask that the men who peel with the whip and ulcerate with the fetters shall be denied the fellowship and placed beyond the pale of civilised society. In one word, we ask freedom for the slave – we ask no more. Let him walk in the liberty of a son of God, and the weapons of war shall perish from our hands. But till then Scotland, shall blow the trumpet, sound an alarm, keep her banners unfurled, her weapons unsheathed. And here all honour to our friends in the Church called Free, now buckling on their armour, collecting their energies, rushing forth as the bravest of the brave, in despite of the fetters wherewith priests have bound them, to the help of the Lord, to the help of the Lord [sic], to the slaughter of slavery. When that many-headed monster, already condemned, against which the axe of the Almighty is already uplifted, when the blow shall be struck which shall consign it to a tomb whence there is no resurrection, neither we, nor our friends in America, shall be found joining in the cry – rejoice over it thou heavens and ye holy apostles and prophets, and may we not add – ye millions of ransomed slaves, for God hath avenged your wrongs.

Brethren, in concluding this address, we say – God speed your errand – confound your enemies – give you the blessing of Joseph, who, though the archers may sorely grieve you, hate you, shoot at you, your bows shall abide in their strength, and the arms of your hands be made strong by the mighty God of Jacob.

The Chairman having put the Address to the meeting, it was at once and warmly approved of. The Chairman then handed it to the honoured guests of the evening.

Mr Frederick Douglass, who was received with enthusiastic and long continued cheering, said – I have to express my gratitude, Mr President, to you, and to the gentlemen of the Committee, and to this large audience for the address you have done us the honour to present. I can truly say I am proud to stand on this platform. It [22] is to me a pleasure and a privilege. I am thrilled with the deepest emotions of gratitude: And, as an introduction to the few remarks I am about to make, allow me to express my gratitude to those excellent friends, the Committee of the Anti-Slavery Society in Dundee, through whose energy and perseverance I am, in connection with my friend, permitted to stand before this brilliant and intelligent audience. (Applause.)

I wish to express my warm and heartfelt thanks also to the ladies who have interested themselves in bringing together this brilliant assembly, for such I must continue to call it. I do this with the more freedom and the greater pleasure because long experience has confirmed me in the opinion that, however cold and indifferent to human suffering, however dead and stone-like, the heart of man may, under the influence of sordid avarice, become, the heart of woman is ever warm, tenderly alive, and throbs in deepest sympathy with the sorrows and sufferings of every class, colour, and clime, over the globe. She is the last to inflict injury and the first to repair it. If she is ever found in the ranks of the enemies of freedom, she is there at the bidding of man, and in open disobedience to her own noble nature.

I next, Sir, take great pleasure in expressing my thanks to those gentlemen on the platform – those distinguished gentlemen. From all I can learn their very presence here is an all-sufficient assurance to the people of Dundee that we have gathered together for a worthy purpose this evening. Permit me also to express my thanks to you, Sir, for the readiness with which you have brought to the support of our cause that overwhelming influence which must ever be exercised by superior intellect and honourable conduct in a righteous enterprise.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am thankful to you all here, I feel under the deepest obligations to you. The honour which you have conferred on my friend and me this evening is one which we did not expect – the pleasure is one we did not anticipate.

The circumstances in which we came among you forbade us to expect any such attention or present at your hand. We came here in no insinuating spirit, softening down our words to suit the temperature of Dundee. We came here without compromise and without concealment. We proclaimed on the very threshold of our labours that it was our intention to attack and expose the conduct – the hurtful conduct – of a large and respectable body of professing Christians in your midst. I expected that this bold announcement would awaken the most bitter prejudice, and array against us the strongest opposition of that body. I had no doubt but that they would attempt to defend themselves; and from what I had seen of the writings and statements of members of their body on the general question of slavery, I confess I expected little scrupulosity in their choice of means. As a general thing, when any body of men commit a single wrong act in the name of religion, they almost invariably commit more sins in defending that action than the original one itself.

I think this has been singularly the case in the present instance. I think I never saw it more prominently illustrated than in the attempted defence of the indefensible conduct of the Free Church of Scotland. The opposition which I expected has been urged. For the purpose of disparaging my [23] mission and invalidating my testimony, the grossest misrepresentations and the darkest insinuations have been resorted to on the part of the great defender of the Free Church, the Northern Warder. The editor of that paper has put forth the most desperate efforts – he has left no stone unturned to overthrow our mission. I expected all this, and I would not have uttered a single word of complaint, had he done his best in any honourable way to defeat our mission, if he believed it to be wrong; but I am bound to complain of a want of fair dealing on the part of the editor of that paper. – I wish to call attention to the fact that he has assailed our character, impeached our motives, perverted our arguments, and peremptorily refused to permit us a single word of reply.

In America, and I believe in this country, it is understood as being but common fairness, when either a single individual or a body of individuals are attacked in their opinions or conduct in the columns of a newspaper, that he or they have an opportunity of reply through the same columns, so that the cup containing the poison, or supposed poison, may also contain its antidote. This in America is established etiquette: it is also common fairness and common justice. It is only where this etiquette is established in a community that it can be said to have any of the advantages of a public press, that it becomes the palladium of liberty as well as of purity.

But let the opposite principle prevail, and it is a curse rather than a blessing. No man is safe. He may be pierced through with a thousand poisoned weapons, and be totally without the means of defence or redress. An adroit editor may keep within the letter of the law and break its spirit in every line. Such is the present case. We have not been allowed a single word of reply. The chief excellence of a newspaper is frequently found in the candour and magnanimity of its editor. Candour, even in the absence of high intellectual acquirements, always commands respect; but what, I ask, must be thought of an editor who is not only destitute of high intellectual attainments, but is also destitute of common candour and magnanimity. (Hear, hear.)

Sir, I make these statements here because I had not an opportunity of making them where I should have had. I will not pronounce on that individual or that editor. I will suffer the community who know his good qualities best (laughter) to do so. The defender of the Free Church’s present position seems to be aware of one thing – that he has a bad cause to defend – that he is playing a very desperate game. It is pretty well established from all their discussions, from all their speeches, and from all their writing, that, to use the language of one of your own poets, ‘the De’il has business on his hands.’ (Laughter and cheers.)

The articles in the Warder all show this, and show farther that there must be great wear and tear of conscience somewhere. In order to vindicate their conduct, they must first upset the plainest principles of morality, and disregard the clearest precepts of Christianity. I pass over these points, as I have but a few moments to speak, and it would be wrong to detain you. (Great cheering, and cries of ‘go on,’ ‘go on.’) I will go on. (Renewed cheering.) I say that the present position of the Free Church can only be defended by upsetting the [24] plainest principles of morality, and by disregarding the clearest and purest dictates of Christianity. Both of these the Warder seems resolved to do, in defiance of the dictates of conscience and of common sense. At least this is my opinion, and you cannot punish a man for his opinion. (Cheers and laughter.)

Sir, it appears to me that the editor of the Warder, to judge from his writings, would deliberately stand by and see your wife taken from your bosom and sold on the auction block, and would strike hands with the robber after he did it, with the view of getting part of the money. Why not, Sir? The wives of other men have been sold, and the proceeds of their warm blood have gone into the treasury of the Free Church of Scotland; and the Warder comes forward, vouching its intellect – I won’t say its intellect, I won’t dignify it by that name, but a sort of cunning peculiar to the individual who edits that paper – and defends the taking that money to build up churches and pay Free Church ministers. (Applause.)

Sir, Heaven frowns when men build up churches by fraud, and chambers by the wages of unrighteousness. But to return: I am not disappointed in the course which I supposed the Warder would pursue; but I am surprised and delighted that the Warder and all who feel with him have been so ably met by the able, the eloquent, the intrepid, and the talented editor of the Dundee Courier, as well as their insinuations rebuked by this brilliant and intelligent meeting. I feel under the greatest obligations to the editor of the Dundee Courier, and I wish in my own name and the name of my fellow-countrymen – of my brothers and sisters, who are held in bondage by those calling themselves Christians – I wish to return my heartfelt thanks for the noble and able manner in which he has exposed the sophistries and denounced the base insinuations of those who stepped forward to the defence of this bad cause.

This meeting is a sufficient answer to all of the Warder‘s indirect slander – the more slanderous and hateful because indirect. The snake in the grass is tenfold more dangerous than one in an open road. The rattlesnake is dangerous, but a viper is more so. While both are poisonous, one is less cowardly than the other, and on that account to be greatly preferred.

But a snake is a horrible reptile viewed in any way you please, and I gladly turn from the disgusting spectacle to perform a duty which will be as agreeable to you as it is pleasurable to me. I am exceedingly thankful to the Editor of the Dundee Courier. He has done for me and my cause that which neither I or my immediate friends could do. We are strangers: He is not. We might be denounced as irresponsible persons: he could not be so denounced. He knew the character of our assailants: We did not. He was acquainted with their peculiar mode of warfare, and well understood with what arms they were to be met. And, Sir, I will do him the justice to say I have never seen a triumph more complete than the one achieved by him in the present instance. He has followed the enemy through all their windings, tracing them into every hole and corner, and with his scourge of small cords driven them from every hiding place. He has tripped up their heels at every turn, or, if I may so express myself, he has upset their premises, blown their logic into fragments, and brought their conclusions to the dust. This is what he has done [25] to the Editor of the Warder, as well as the members of the Free Church Presbytery. The Courier will be read on the other side of the Atlantic with the warmest emotions of gratitude by the Abolitionists; and while the Warder may congratulate itself on the support it gains to the Free Church from human fleshmongers, a more satisfactory compensation will be afforded to my excellent friend the Editor of the Courier by the warmest gratitude of three millions of bondmen. (Applause.)

Sir, for my own part, I would not like a compliment from men-stealers. I would look on their praise as the strongest evidence of my unfaithfulness to the Anti-Slavery cause. The slaveholders never praise or bestow money on the Abolitionists. The children of the slaveholding generation are as wise as the children of mammon ever were; and I say to the Editor of the Dundee Courier, he need never expect any compliment from the Slaveholding States of America.

But, Sir, I had as lief be complimented by the Devil as be complimented by a slaveholder; for I regard the slaveholder as his agent on earth to work out the destruction of all that is good, pure, and holy among men. – Sir, there are certain charges I am anxious to have plainly set before you. Although they have been to some extent stated here this evening, and in other places, I wish the charges I prefer against the Free Church distinctly understood; and I am the more anxious for this because I intend to leave this vicinity for some time. I do not intend, however, to leave Scotland – I mean to agitate! agitate! agitate! (Great cheering.)

I hope my labours have not been in vain. I have an earnest of the good I have effected already in the present overwhelming audience. There has been an attempt on the part of Mr Lewis and others to treat with ridicule the charges we make against them, as if they were a light matter. When I discovered that spirit in the man on reading his speech, it appeared to me to indicate a hardness of heart, more especially after what he had seen – what he had seen done and what he did in the midst of the slave states.

I mean to state as many charges against the Free Church as there are laws in the decalogue; and each of these, if true, is sufficient to render that Church unworthy of the Christian regard of all those who love God and their fellow-men:–

1st, I charge the Free Church of Scotland with fellowshipping menstealers, as the type and standing representatives of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ on earth.

2d, I charge the Free Church of Scotland with accepting money from well-known thieves to build her churches and pay her ministers.

3d, I charge the Free Church of Scotland with sending a deputation into a community of well-known thieves to beg money which they had the best evidence was the result of the most foul plunder which has ever disgraced the human family.

4th, I charge the delegation of the Free Church of Scotland with going into a land where they saw three millions of immortal souls, for whom the Saviour poured out his blood on Calvary, reduced to the condition of slaves – robbed of their just and God-given rights – plundered of their hard earnings – changed from men into merchandize – ranked with the lowing ox or neighing horse – subject to the brutal control of rough overseers – herded together like brutes – raised like cattle for the market – without marriage – without learning – without God – without hope – groping their way from time to eternity in the [26] dark – left to be consumed of their own lusts  compelled to live in concubinage – punished with death, in some instances, for learning to read the word of God; and yet that delegation of professed ministers of the Gospel never whispered a single word of opposition to all this in the ear of the oppressor, or lifted up one prayer in the congregation for the deliverance of these wretched people from their galling fetters. The very idea is horrible, and ought to make every ear tingle and every heart quiver with terror.

5th, I charge the delegation of the Free Church of Scotland with having gone into the slave states and among men-stealers with a full understanding of the evils such a course must inflict on the Anti-Slavery movement, – they having been met and remonstrated with by the Committee of the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, and appealed to by them in the most Christian and fraternal manner, in the name of Christ and the perishing slave, not to go into the South – that such a course would inflict a great and lasting injury upon the cause of emancipation.12

6th, I charge the deputation of the Free Church of Scotland with having taken the counsel and followed the bidding of slaveholders and their guilty abettors, whilst they turned a deaf ear to the bleeding and whip scored slave, and to the counsel, prayers, and entreaties of those who are labouring the most arduous manner for the immediate emancipation of the slaves held in the United States.

7th, I charge the delegation of the Free Church of Scotland with refusing to preach the truth against slavery, because by such preaching they would have failed in getting the price of human flesh to build Free churches, and to pay Free Church ministers in Scotland.

8th, I charge the delegates of the Free Church of Scotland with preaching such sermons only, while in the slave states, as would win for themselves the cordial approbation of man-stealers and their guilty abettors.

9th, I charge the distinguished leaders of the Free Church with apologizing, excusing, and defending slavery and slaveholding – with an attempt to show that neither Christ nor his Apostles had any objection to Christians trading in the bodies and souls of their fellow-men, and leaving the inference to be drawn that Christians may innocently do so now.

10th, I charge them with having adopted the name of ‘Free Church’ while they are doing the work of a slave Church, and have thereby disappointed the hopes and expectations of the perishing slave.

Sir, when the slaves in the United States heard of the formation of the Free Church – a free Church – accustomed as they were to nothing but slave churches, to a slaveholding Gospel, and to slave-trading Churches – what must have been their feelings? I for one used to exclaim, in what was wont to be a stereotype expression in my speeches in New England, What shakes nature just now? – Freedom, freedom! What shakes England? – The unwearied progress of political freedom! What shakes Ireland? – The progress of freedom! What shakes Scotland? – The efforts of the Free Church! This is what I used to say to my coloured brethren.

But little better than twenty months ago it was said that a delegation from the Free Church was come to our land. Strange emotions were excited. The Free Church was a somewhat different name from masters’ Church. In the slave states we used to be afraid of using the word liberty, and we called it for safety pig’s-foot; and in this way we could speak of it even in our master’s presence, without their knowing that liberty was the subject of our discourse. So when it was heard that the Free Church deputation was come, many a slave would be saying, ‘Well, pig’s-foot come at last.’ (Laughter.)

Freedom’s come! But look at the unutterable disappointment, and what a [27] reverse of feeling, when they found this Free Church meant nothing more to them than freedom for the deputation to clasp the hand of the slaveholder as a brother, and to neglect the poor bondmen! No word of sympathy for them, who were left to be treated by men as brutes, with the knowledge of the Gospel hid from them, deprived of the knowledge of the word of God by law, and groping their way from time to eternity in darkness. The Free Church delegation behaved in the South as if they believed there was no God – like Atheists. Money! money! was the entire actuating motive of their hearts. (Applause.)

With what utterable loathing we must look on men who dare to turn off attention from this matter with a laugh! Mr Lewis, so far from making light of this matter, should go down on his knees, acknowledge his offence, and seek forgiveness of his God, of the poor slave, and of the Christian people of Scotland for daring to compromise their character by striking hands with slaveholders to the utter neglect of perishing bondmen.

Sir, I can almost imagine I see brother Lewis calling on the slaveholder. I can almost go down south, and see him, when I was a slave, calling on my old master, Mr Thomas Auld (who would  be a very likely party to call on), with his subscription paper. When  brother Lewis knocks at the door, I answer, and he asks, ‘Well, my lad, is your master in?’ (Laughter.) ‘Yes, Sir.’

Well, he walks into the house, sees my master, and introduces himself thus (for my ear would be at the keyhole immediately on the door being shut) – ‘My object in making this call this morning is to see if you would do something for the cause of religious freedom in Scotland. We have been labouring some time back, and have undergone severe struggles, for Gospel freedom in Scotland, and we have thought it right to call upon you, as a benevolent man and as having means to bestow, to see what you can do for us.’

My master would reply, ‘Brother Lewis, I deeply sympathize with your efforts; and as I see the cause recommended by Deacon such-a-one, I would like to have my name down with his. I’ll tell you what I will do. I have a fine young negro who is to be sold, and I will sell him to-morrow and give you a contribution to the cause of freedom. (Applause and laughter.) If you will call, brother Lewis, and take your breakfast with me, I will then see what I can do; and as the slave is to be sold at Easton, I will feel happy if you also take a ride so far with me, as you may not have seen the capital of the county. Come about nine o’clock, brother, and I will see what I can do for the cause of freedom in Scotland.’ (Laughter and cheering.)

The morning comes, and the breakfast hour, and brother Lewis also (I have a son named Lewis, but I think I’ll change his name.) (Applause.) The Bible is given to brother Lewis, and he reads, ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit – Blessed are they that give to the poor,’ and so on. All goes on delightfully. Brother L. prays, and after prayer sits down and partakes of the bounties produced by the blood of the half-famished negro. (Applause.)

Brother Auld orders the carriage to be brought round to the door – I am tied behind the carriage and taken away, as I have seen often [28] done: I am on the auction block, and the auctioneer is crying ‘Who bids for this comely stout young negro? He is accustomed to his work, and has an excellent trade on his hands.’

Well, 500 dollars are bid. Oh, how brother Lewis’ eyes twinkle! (Laughter.) The auctioneer continues – ‘This is not half the value of the negro; he is not sold for any bad quality. His master has no desire to get rid of him, but only wants to get a little money to aid the cause of religious freedom in Scotland.’ (Laughter.) Another flame of light from brother Lewis’ eyes. 600 dollars are bid. Once, twice, thrice, is said  by the auctioneer, and I am sold for 600 dollars.

Brother Lewis and the master and there together, and they go home to dinner; and after prayer, brother Lewis, who has always an eye to the main chance, take out the subscription list, and brother Auld gives him part of the price of the bones and the blood of his fellow-man. Not a word from brother Lewis as to the sin of the action.

They then devote the money thus obtained to building these Free Churches; and brother Lewis daringly stands up here in Scotland and makes light of it. (Tremendous cheering.)

That man must be hardened indeed that could do such a thing. Disgorge the plunder! (Cheering.) Disgorge the plunder! (Continued cheering.)

The cry shall  be heard throughout Scotland. I shall not he silenced by an attempt to make light of it. I shall not be hushed by an attempt to excite ridicule – or an attempt to stand up before the world and blacken my character by their base insinuations. I defy them to point a single black spot in my character. As to defending it, I have not time – it is not worth defending it against the attacks of men whose hands are dipped in the blood of their brother and sisters.

But let not the Free Church of Scotland, while she holds the price of the blood and the bones of American slaves, think to stop me in my course by their reproaches. Their condemnation I hold to be the highest eulogy that can be given. I felt a thrill of delight when I came to town, and knew that the ministers of the Free Presbytery had been moved to enter upon a defence. I felt, in the language of Rev. Mr Burns, that ‘circumstances more or less had compelled them to open up this question.’ They did not want to do it, I know. ‘He had hoped that the solemn deliverance of the highest ecclesiastical judicatory of their Church had settled the matter, but agitators from abroad have come here and compelled us to open it up.’

Oh, what a confession of weakness was here! What an evidence that they felt deeply the truths we had brought forward! (Cheers.)

Sir, I hope to be here again  before I return to America. It was but the other day I was in Aberdeen. There it appeared at first as if the hearts of the people were as hard as the granite of which their houses are built; but we had been there only two evenings before they flocked out to know what was the matter – to learn the head and front of the Free Church’s offending; and we have the pleasure of informing you that, before we left, there was not a house which would contain the numbers that came. They saw, when I had read my charges against the Free Church, that I had business among them; and, instead of attempting to silence me, a petition signed by a large [29] number of most respectable citizens, wanting to hear more on the subject, was put into our hands previous to our departure. Many of these petitioners were members of the Free Church, and they declared they never appointed Mr Lewis to do what he had done – they never gave him liberty to form an alliance with slaveholders – they never authorised Dr Chalmers to write a fraternal letter to a slaveholder in South Carolina.13 In Perth we have swelled two or three feet above the Free Church, and the cry is – Send back the money. (Great applause.)

When the Free Church says – Did not Abraham hold slaves? the reply should be, Send back that money! (Cheers.) When they ask did not Paul send back Onesimus? I answer, Send you back that money! (Great cheering.) That is the only answer which should be given to their sophistical arguments, and it is one which they cannot get over. (Great cheering.) In order to justify their conduct, the endeavour to forget that they are a Church, and speak as if they were a manufacturing corporation. They forget that a Church is not for making money, but for spreading the Gospel. We are guilty, say they, but these merchants are guilty, and some other parties are guilty also. I say, send back that money! (Cheering.) There is music in the sound. (Continued cheering.) There is poetry in it.

They are not only guilty of keeping bad company, but they are making themselves a party to its actions while they remain in such a guilty connection. Their members will lift up their voice against the connection, and when they do so all will cry Amen!

We mean to go round this country and we hope to get some good men to go round Scotland, sounding our war cry to the public. Let not the cry of Send back that money drop when we leave here, but let every man feel delegated by Douglass and by his love of humanity to raise up his voie and proclaim the cry. If the Free Church of Scotland would only send back that money, as I wish and hope sincerely they will yet do, the effect would be tremendous in behalf of our cause. Let that money go back, and slavery falls reeling to the ground as if struck by a voice from Heaven – as if by a mighty effort shaking off the burden of the heavy laden and letting the oppressed go free. (Cheering.)

Sir, this act of the Free Church is indefensible. I defy them to justify their conduct. They can only do so when the onward progress of the race from the chains and fetters of slavery is arrested – when all hopes of freedom have fled – when all moral distinctions are obliterated – when truth, justice, and humanity have sunk out of sight – when the angel of love, and of mercy has winged her way from the abodes of men – when all thoughts of a pure, just, and righteous God have been exterminated from the human heart – when universal darkness and despair prevail – then, and not till then, will the Free Church stand justified in fellowshipping manstealers as Christians and in taking the reward of plunder for the purpose of building up churches for the worship of the living God. (Mr Douglass sat down amid great cheering.)

Mr Buffum, who was received with great cheering, remarked that in consequence of the lateness of the hour (it being now nearly twelve [30] o’clock) he would say but a very few words. He believed that when he wrote the people at home, shortly after his arrival in Scotland, he mentioned that he was somewhat disappointed he did not find that warm and cordial reception which he had met with in Old Ireland; but he also said to them that perhaps on a little experience, circumstances would change, and he would be able to speak differently.

Circumstances had changed, and he had formed a very different opinion of the people of Scotland from what had been warranted by his first impression. (Cheers.) He had found them something like the coal of his own country – difficult to kindle, but once kindled emitting a strong and continued heat. (Applause.) This was sufficiently evident from the warm and cordial reception they had met from the people everywhere during the last few weeks – a reception which had cheered his heart, and caused it to glow with bright anticipations of the success of his mission. (Applause.)

After thanking the meeting for the expression of their kindness, as manifested in the address, he continued, – Mr Douglass has made some charges against the Northern Warder, and if I had time, I could bring forward many more against it. The editor of that paper, contrary to the plainest principles of justice, has refused to admit a single word of reply from us to the charges he makes against us; and although he has repeatedly attacked Mr Wright, he has ever peremptorily refused to put in a single line from that gentleman.

I have, however, a graver charge to prefer against that editor. I have to charge him with putting words in my mouth I never used – with deliberately misrepresenting what I have said, and then arguing upon these words as if I had really spoken them. In referring to what took place at a previous meeting in Dundee, it was stated in the Warder that I made no charge against Mr Lewis, but that I recommended his book to the people – that I had preferred no charge against him except that he thought in some instances slaveholders might be Christians. That was an entire misrepresentation of what I did say, and I believe the people who were then present will bear me out in stating that I said no such thing. (Applause.)

I said then, what I repeat now, that so far as I had read Mr Lewis’ book, and I had read the greater part of what bore upon the subject of slavery, that it fully corroborated all I had previously advanced. Instead of excusing him, I stated that I could prove from Mr Lewis’ own book, that his sin in going into the Southern States of America, and holding fellowship with slaveholders, was greater than what I had previously supposed, as it was plainly shown that he had gone there with his eyes open to the enormity of the evil. (Applause.) And when he comes home here, he tells a great many facts, which are as horrible as anything I ever brought against slavery. He tells of murders committed while he was in the Southern States, and of dreadful occurrences which had taken place, all directly arising from the monster slavery; and yet he can make light of his conduct in holding fellowship with the defenders and supporters of such a system. (Applause.)

I will not detain you longer on this point, but will just call your attention for a few minutes to a statement which has been made to me since I came here last, – that some members of the Free Church deputation [31] declare that they never heard of any remonstrance against their going to the Southern States. I happen to have here a copy of the remonstrance, which was at the time published in all the New York papers, and otherwise widely circulated. I may state, previous to reading this, that when the friends of abolition in New York waited upon the deputation, they found their remonstrance was altogether in vain. The Free Church delegation, although they knew the true state of matters, were fully determined to prosecute their intended journey.

(At the request of Mr Buffum, Mr Douglass read the remonstrance referred to. In it the evil effects which would inevitably result from the deputation of the Free Church going to the Southern States were fully pointed out, and that deputation earnestly and affectionately beseeched not to injure the sacred cause of liberty, and to roll back indefinitely the prospect of slave emancipation, by holding fellowship and interchanging communion with slaveholders.)

Mr Buffum then continued by clearly pointing out that every possible means had been taken to make the deputation fully aware of the state of matters. As an instance that the Free Church were well aware of the evils of slavery, he also mentioned the case of John L. Brown, in South Carolina, who, for aiding a young woman to escape from slavery, was sentenced to death by Judge O’Neil. The announcement of that excited a great sensation in this country. Public meetings on the subject were got up, by the Free Church party among others, and remonstrances from all parties, denouncing such an infamous perversion of justice, were agreed to, and their united words rolled across the Atlantic with a voice of thunder, and the iniquitous sentence was not carried out. This was also an evidence of the powerful influence the expressed opinion of this country possessed over the people of America, and of the good which might be effected by an expression of that opinion in the present instance.14

Mr Buffum then shortly referred to the conduct of the Rev. Mr Nixon, Free Church minister, Montrose, to whom he had been favoured with a letter of introduction;  but who, so far from aiding them, had in the public street, taken to task the minister of another body for granting them the use of his church. Mr Nixon was said to be the Lion of the North, and a person who was ready enough to advocate a cause, if there was any good grounds on which to offer a defence, but he had never come forward to meet them manfully, although he had endeavoured privately to injure their cause.

Mr Buffum then concluded by an eloquent appeal to the meeting to aid by their efforts the cause of freedom to the human race, and sat down amid great cheering.

Votes of thanks were then proposed to the speakers, to the managers of the School Wynd Chapel, to the Chairman, to the musicians, and to the Dundee Courier, all of which were carried with acclamation.

The Dundee Harmonic Society lent its effective aid to promote the happiness of the meeting. The refreshments furnished by Mr Lamb were excellent, and were served by the stewards with an expedition and attention, which, considering the very numerous assembly, is worthy of remark. [32]

As a whole this noble demonstration in favour of the cause in which the gentlemen from America are embarked cannot but be productive of the best effects, in opening the eyes of the community to the real merits of the question at issue, and greatly furthering the object of their mission – the inducing the Free Church to renounce its connection with the Slaveholding Churches; by which a mortal blow would be dealt to the continuance of that foul blot on the American constitution – the avowed support of slavery as an institution, and its ultimate overthrow greatly accelerated.

Anti-Slavery Soiree: Report of the Speeches Delivered at a Soiree in Honour of Messrs Douglass, Wright, & Buffum, Held in George’s Chapel, Dundee, on Tuesday the 10th March, 1846 (Dundee: D. Hill, 1846).


On Tuesday evening last a Soiree was given in School Wynd Secession chapel to Messrs Douglas and Buffum, the persons who have been for some time perambulating the country delivering lectures upon Slavery. The church was crowded. Mr Alexander Easson,  manufacturer, occupied the chair, and on the platform were the Rev. Messrs Marshall of Lochee, Gilfillan of Dundee; Dr Wood and Dr Dick, Broughty Ferry; Bailie Moyes; Messrs John Laing, W. Christie, R. Christie, O.J. Rowland, William Neish, George Rough, John Whitton, William Halket, jun., Dr Mudie, &c.

Tea having been finished,

The CHAIRMAN stated that the object of the meeting was to show that they approved of the object and labours of Messrs Douglas and Buffum. (Applause.) Besides seeking the abolition of slavery, these gentlemen had in view to shew the error into which the Free Church had fallen in going to America and asking money for her support, and holding communion with the slaveholding churches there. (Applause.)

After descanting a little on the evils of slavery, and the labours of the abolitionists, Mr Easson went on to say that the ministers of the Free Church, by holding fellowship with these churches, had indirectly supported slavery, and at the same time done a great injury to the cause of abolition. The object of Messrs Douglas and Buffum was to undo what had been done by the Free Church to support slavery. (Great applause.) While, however, the meeting was to hold up a protest against the Free Church for giving its support to slavery, they should by their whole conduct shew that they had nothing like ill-will at the Free Church, but that they expressed their opinions to show that they wished to be clear of the guilt of supporting slavery, and were anxious that the Free church should return to her right mind, confess that she was wrong, and, as they saw upon the walls, should ‘send back the money.’ (Cheers.)

After a little more in the same strain, Mr Easson concluded by reading a letter from Dr Ritchie of Edinburgh, expressive of the Dr’s regret that he was unable to attend this ‘interesting soiree.’

Dr DICK then addresed the meeting, denouncing in animated and forcible terms the system of slavery. The Dr confined himself entirely to this subject, with the exception of a very brief reference to the Free Church. In this respect, his address bore a marked contrast to those of most of the other speakers, who permitted themselves to indulge in the lowest and most disgusting personalities.

Mr GILFILLAN, who was the next speaker, introduced Mr Marshall and himself as representing there what he sincerely believed to be the feeling and sentiment of the other members of the Dundee Presbytery. His address was a lengthened one, but one or two of the reverend gentleman’s fooleries will sufficiently indicate its temper as well as that of the meeting.

Mr Gilfillan said that he had thought in his simplicity that slavery was dead and buried. He had thought that the story of Cock-robin might be parodied with regard to it. ‘Who killed American slavery?’ ‘I,’ said Lord Brougham. ‘Who dug its grave?’ ‘I,’ said Dr Andrew Thomson. ‘Who wove its shroud?’ ‘I,’ said George Thomson. ‘Who trysted its coffin and walked after it to the grave?’ ‘I,’ said Dr John Ritchie. (Laughter.)

He had been mistaken, however. Not only did it still live, but it was even defended upon ‘scriptural principles.’ ‘Yes, slavery driven from every ground of justice, humanity, and policy, is trying to shield itself beneath the mantle of Christianity. (Cheers.) *** Why is it that these texts of Scripture are quoted? Is it to prop up slavery? or is it to consecrate and whitewash certain monies that have come from the other side of the Atlantic? (Cheers, and cries of ‘That’s it.’) It will not do. It will be the old story of Lady Macbeth over again. Lady Macbeth tried hard to get the blood mark off her hand, and she cried ‘Out, out, horrible spot!’ but she was forced to add, ‘All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand.’ So they are saying, ‘Out, out, horrible spot!’ but it will not do. They will have to add, ‘All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten, Lewis, thy little hand.’ (Laughter and rapturous applause.) Sophisticate as you please, pervert scripture as you please, you will not be able by one hour to protract the death or sweeten the deathbed of American slavery.

Referring, then, to the effects of the conduct of the Free Church upon Christianity, Mr Gilfillan remarked that it gave a handle to infidels. It also divided Christians. ‘It has divided us here. The frost of slavery has nipped the opening buds of Christian union in this country and in our own town. Who is to blame for this? Is it our eloquent guests? No. Is it the Dissenters of Dundee? No. Although they had rallied around our guests more unitedly than they have even done who had a right to hinder them? Who, from the vatican of Small’s Wynd west the way, has a right to say to the minister and managers of Dissenting chapels ‘You are not to open your doors to these disinterested and eloquent orators, under the pains and penalties of my displeasure?’ (Cheers.)

I did not know that this decree had gone forth from the vatican of Small’s Wynd, and three or four weeks ago, when these gentlemen called upon me, without consulting my managers or anything but the dictates of my own hatred of slavery, I granted them the use of my chapel; and I stand here in the stead of my managers to bear the utmost effects of the thunders of the vatican of Small’s Wynd, and to tell the man who wields these thunders that I am not afraid of him. I am not afraid of him in the press, or in the pulpit, or on the platform, either in Small’s Wynd, or School Wynd, or any where else. (Great applause.)

Who is to blame then? Is it the Free Church people? No; their heart is with us. Is it the kirk-sessions? No; part, at least of one session is with us. Is it the ministers of the Free Church? Not them either. I will give them their due, although they have heaped much personal abuse upon me – although I now remark a preternatural elongation of face, and a sudden averting of eye, and strange fits of absence and abstraction when they meet me on the street, instead of the condescending smile and the patronising nod with which they have honoured me since the disruption. (Laughter and cheers.)

Who then is to blame? Not so much the ministers as their leaders, and not so much the leaders as the position in which they stand, and not so much their position as that atrocious thing slavery, which poisons and pollutes whatever comes into the remotest contact with it.’ (Applause.)

Mr O.J. ROWLAND announced himself as having stood up to review the speeches lately made in the Free Church Presbytery. He would not make any remark upon Mr Burns’ speech, as the great orator himself had declared that it did not touch the merits of the question. He would proceed to Mr Lewis. Regarding his speech, Mr Rowland remarked that its most promiinent feature was extreme self-complacency. This he illustrated by reading the first sentence of the speech, the jocular tone of which he considered very improper.

He next remarked upon Mr Lewis’ statement, that to return the money would inflict a deep wound upon many of the best Christians in the States, who had no connection with slavery. To meet this, he would propose the simple expedient of accompanying the money with a minute of Assembly explaining that the Church could not consent to keep slave-holders’ money, and therefore as it could not be distinguished from the rest, they returned the whole. This would prevent them from taking any offence.

There was just one other particular in Mr Lewis’ speech worthy of notice. It was the use of certain vulgar expressions, such as ‘John Bull,’ ‘Jonathan,’ &c. Slang terms like these could only be excused in a pot-house orator.

He would now address himself shortly to the great speech, that of Mr Roxburgh. Its pervading feature was its palpable self-contradictions. It was a regular dasher, completely setting at defiance logical restrictions. He would notice, first, the assertion that every reasonable man, upon reading the deliverance of the Assembly, would be convinced that the Free Church did not countenance slavery. At the risk of being deemed unreasonable, he (Mr Rowland) must say, that when he read it he could scarcely tell whether it was promulgated by the apologists of the Jesuitical abettors of slavery. (Applause.)

It was his intention to criticise this deliverance, but time would not permit. Mr Roxburgh said that the Churches in the Southern States were not responsible for the origin or continuance of slavery. The Assembly, on the contrary, declared that the Churches ‘are called upon to take a more serious view of the responsibility lying upon them in regard to the continuance of this national sin.’ Here was a palpable contradiction. Again, he said that the Apostles did not assail slavery or any civil institution. If this was any use to the Free Church, it showed that she had done wrong in making such interference as she had already done.

Next, Mr Roxburgh endeavoured to lessen the credit of the abolitionists. ‘It is said they have done incalculable injury to the cause of abolition.’ Who says it? Fame is a lying jade, and she may have been at her old trade. In the absence of authorities, we must discard this assertion.

He would refer, finally, to what Mr Roxburgh said about the reception of these gentlemen by the Dissenters. In illustration of his opinion on this head, Mr Rowland told a silly story about a certain miserly nobleman, who met a little girl returning from the purchase of a penny-worth of milk at his dairy. He kissed her, and then sought to impress her with a sense of honour done her. The ‘saucy maiden’ replied, ‘Ah, but you have kept the penny for the milk.’ So Mr Roxburgh and the rest might say what they liked, but so long as they kept the money nobody would care.

This was the last of Mr Rowland’s observations. The latter portion of his very remarkable criticism seemed to be imperfectly committed, and notwithstanding frequent reference to his notes, was so obscure and verbose as to call forth very unequivocal expressions of disapprobation from the audience.

The next business was the reading of an address to Messrs Douglas and Buffum. This was done by Dr Mudie, who was himself the author. It was penned in a lofty style, representing Scotland as fully resolved ‘to blow the trumpet and keep the sword unsheathed’ till Slavery was extinct, and as ‘panting to set her foot upon the neck of the oppressors.’ It engaged the meeting to ‘renounce all fellowship and communion with any churches which directly or indirectly, in America or in Britain,’ gave any support to slavery. It awarded ‘all honour to those in the Church named Free, who had come to the help of the Lord against slavery,’ and its peroration was the prayer, ‘God speed your errand, confound your enemies, and give you the blessing of Joseph.’

This strange document read in Dr Mudie’s peculiarly forcible style of elocution, had an effect irresistibly ludicrous, and was greeted with an almost continuous roar of laughter. Having been unanimously adopted by the meeting, the address was duly presented by the Chairman to Mr Douglas.

Mr Douglas and Mr Buffum then successively addressed the meeting, treading, of course, in the old path of coarse and disgusting abuse of the Free Church. The former included the Warder, along with the Free Presbytery and the Church generally, in his denunciations.

The complimentary proceedings followed these addresses. Bailie Moyes proposed a vote of thanks to the speakers, remarking, while he did so that Mr Gilfillan did not represent the feeling of the Presbytery, for it was very much divided upon this question. Mr John Laing proposed a vote of thanks to the Chairman, Mr Gilfillan to the musicians, and a person in the body of the church to the Dundee Courier; all of which motions were carried with rapturous acclamation; and with cheers and shouts of ‘Send back the money’ this very remarkable scene closed.

Northern Warder, 12 March 1846.


  1. Aileen Black, Gilfillan of Dundee, 1813-1878: Interpreting Religion and Culture in Mid-Victorian Scotland (Dundee: Dundee University Pres, 2006), p. 50.
  2. Ian McCraw, Victorian Dundee at Worship (Dundee: Abertay Historical Society, 2002), p. 38. McCraw notes that Russell also blocked a lecture planned there by Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison in October later that year.
  3. Black, Gilfillan of Dundee, pp. 50-1; Management Committee Minutes, 2 March 1846, School Wynd United Secession Church, Dundee, 1836–47 (Dundee City Archives CH3/93/10).
  4. The Free Presbytery meeting was covered by the Dundee Courier, 17 February 1846. See also Free Church and Slavery; Being a Series of Papers and Reports in which the Free Church’s Union with the Slaveholding Churches of America, and its Guilt in Taking and Retaining the Slave-Money, are Exposed; and the Statements on these Subjects Made in the Free Presbytery of Dundee, on the 11th February, are Examined and Refuted (Edinbugh: Macphail, 1846).
  5. George Lewis, Impressions of America and the American Churches: From the Journal of the Rev. G. Lewis (Edinburgh: W.P. Kennedy, 1845).
  6. Henry C. Wright to William Lloyd Garrison, Selkirk, 15 April 1846 (Liberator, 8 May 1846).
  7. Report of the proceedings of a public meeting, held in the Steeple Church, Dundee, on the evening of Friday the 23d November 1832 : for the purpose of forming and Anti-Slavery Society for the town and neighbourhood (Dundee: Dundee Anti-Slavery Society, 1832).
  8. This claim was first made in Henri Grégoire, An Enquiry Concerning the Intellectual and Moral Faculties and Literature of Negroes …[1802], translated by D. B. Warden (Brooklyn:Thomas Kirk, 1810), pp226-27. It was widely repeated, for example in Maria Lydia Child, An Appeal in Favor of that Class of Americans Called Africans (Boston: Allen and Ticknor, 1833), p. 169. However, it seems that Grégoire confused Olaudah Equiano / Gustavus Vassa with Ignatius Sancho, whose son ‘William (Billy) … was later to work as assistant librarian to the great botanist, Sir Joseph Banks’: ‘Introduction’ to The Letters of Ignatius Sancho, edited by Paul Edwards and Polly Rewt (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1994), p.5.  Both Sancho and Equiano lived in London, but neither were ‘kidnapped on the coast of Africa at the age of 33’: Sancho was born on a slave ship; Equiano was enslaved as a child.
  9. See Iain Whyte, Scotland and the Abolition of Black Slavery, 1756–1838 (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2006) for the roles played by Henry Brougham (pp. 130–6, 237–8), Andrew Thomson (pp. 190-8), John Ritchie (pp. 226–8) and George Thompson (pp. 230, 236, 237) in the abolitionist campaigns of the 1830s.
  10. ‘The Vatican of Small’s Wynd’: a derogatory reference to Rev. John Roxburgh, who was minister of St John’s Church, Small’s Wynd, off Perth Road, Dundee.
  11. An anecdote with wide circulation. See, for example, [Robert Chambers], ‘Down-Takings’, Chambers’s Edinburgh Journal, 22 August 1840. 
  12. The remonstrance, dated ‘New York, April 2, 1844’ was addressed to the members of the Free Church delegation to the United States, and signed by the executive committee of the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, repr. Liberator, 26 April 1846 (from the New-York Commercial Advertiser) and published as Letter from the Executive Committee of the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society to the Commissioners of the Free Church of Scotland (Edinburgh: Myles Macphail, [1844]).
  13. Thomas Chalmers to Thomas Smyth, Edinburgh, 25 September 1844 (Witness, 18 December 1844; repr. Thomas Smyth, Autobiographical Notes, Letters and Reflections, ed. Louisa Cleves Stoney (Charleston: Walker, Evans & Cogswell Co., 1914), pp. 351–2.
  14. One such protest meeting took place in Edinburgh’s Music Hall on 29 March 1844 (reported in Scotsman, 30 March 1844 and Caledonian Mercury, 30 March 1844). Among the speakers was the Free Church minister Robert Candlish, who wrote a letter to the Witness newspaper about it (Witness, 30 March 1844). There is a short account of the case in Eliza Wigham, The Anti-Slavery Cause in America and its Martyrs (London: A. W. Bennett, 1863), pp. 60-1.

Perth: 12 March 1846

Image of Perth, Scotland, 1850s engraving
Adapted from Perth. Drawn and engraved by J. Rapkin [1854]. Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland.
Following their meeting in Dundee on Tuesday 10 March, Frederick Douglass and James N. Buffum made their second visit to Perth. On the afternoon of Thursday 12 March, according to a notice in the Perthshire Advertiser that day, Douglass was scheduled ‘to address the ladies of Perth … on the subject of American slavery.’  We have no record of his speech, but the ‘Anti-Slavery Soiree’ at the City Hall that evening attracted reporters from several newspapers.

It was announced as follows:

FREDERICK DOUGLASS, a fugitive slave from America, and JAMES N. BUFFUM, Esq. of Massachusetts, have accepted an invitation to be present at a SOCIAL ENTERTAINMENT, which is to be given in the CITY HALL, on THURSDAY (to-morrow) evening.

Chair to be taken at half-past seven o’clock. Ladies are respectfully invited to attend. Tickets one Shilling each, to be had of the Booksellers.1

As at the Soiree in Dundee two days earlier, Douglass and Buffum shared the platform with local speakers – generally sympathetic to their cause, but not always concurring with their outspoken criticisms of the Free Church of Scotland. On this occasion, the chairman, the Rev. Dr David Young (the United Secession Minister of Perth North Church) ‘begged leave to say that he did not wish to mix himself up in the controversy betwixt their guests and the Free Church’, according to the report in the Northern Warder. It would appear that he left the room before Douglass spoke, forcing Douglass to rebuke his timidity in absentia.

It is worth noting that Douglass reprised the dramatic set-piece he had first tried out in Dundee.  Impersonating the Free Church minister George Lewis and his own master Thomas Auld in Maryland, he invites his audience to imagine an encounter between them, witnessed by the young Frederick, who finds himself next day sold at a slave auction in order to raise funds to provide a donation to the cause Lewis had come to solicit.2  The Perthshire Constitutional indicates that the performance was met with much applause, laughter and cheering, but the Advertiser found the ‘mimicry … in very bad taste.’ The Northern Warder, which had for some weeks derided the visiting abolitionists, goes much further, taking the opportunity to mock them at some length, choosing to portray them as ‘strolling players’, attracting an audience of Church of Scotland ministers and town councillors a little the worse for drink, and ‘ladies’ – whose numerous presence alone would appear to condemn the proceedings to triviality.

ANTI-SLAVERY SOIREE.- A soiree, at which about 400 persons attended, was held in the City Hall last Thursday – at which Frederick Douglass, the self-emancipated slave, was the principal speaker. We have no room for a full report. The Rev. Dr. Young also spoke on the occasion, and in condemnation of the American system of Negro Slavery – but expressed regret that the Transatlantic deputation did not oppose that system upon its merits, and without mixing up the Free Church people so much with it. Mr. Douglas in noticing this point of the Rev. Doctor’s speech showed good reason why they should: The countenance and fellowship of the Free Church were a great encouragement to that system, whereas a repudiation and a resolution to ‘send back the money,’ would operate as the heaviest blow and severest discouragement to the system ever encountered. We can spare no space for any portion of Mr. Douglass’s address until next week.

Perthshire Constitutional 18 March 1846


The following is a part of Frederick Douglass‘s Address at the City Hall of Thursday week:-

There has been an attempt on the part of Mr. Lewis and others to treat with ridicule the charges we make against them, as if they were a light matter. When I discovered that spirit in the man on reading his speech, it appeared to me to indicate a hardness of heart, more especially after what he had seen – what he had seen done and what he did in the midst of the slave states.3 I mean to state as many charges against the Free Church as there are laws in the decalogue; and each of these, if true, is sufficient to render that Church unworthy of the Christian regard of all those who love God and their fellow-men:-

1st, I charge the Free Church of Scotland with fellowshipping men-stealers, as the type and standing representatives of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ on earth.

2d, I charge the Free Church of Scotland with accepting money from well-known thieves to build her churches to pay her ministers.

3d, I charge the Free Church of Scotland with sending a deputation into a community of well known thieves to beg money which they had the best evidence was the result of the most foul plunder which has ever disgraced the human family.

4th, I charge the delegation of the Free Church of Scotland with going into a land where they saw three millions of immortal souls, for whom the Saviour poured out his blood on Calvary, reduced to the condition of slaves – robbed of their just and God-given rights – plundered of their hard earnings – changed from men into merchandise – ranked with the lowing ox or neighing horse – subject to the brutal control of rough overseers – herded together like brutes – raised like cattle for the market – without marriage – without learning – without God – without hope – groping their way from time to eternity in the dark – left to be consumed of their own lusts – compelled to live in concubinage – punished with death, in some instances, for learning to read the word of God; and yet that delegation of professed ministers of the Gospel never whispered a single word of opposition to all this in the ear of the oppressor, or lifted up one prayer in the congregation for the deliverance of these wretched people from their galling fetters. The very idea is horrible, and ought to make every ear tingle and every heart quiver with terror.

5th, I charge the delegation of the Free Church of Scotland with having gone into the slave states and among men-stealers with a full understanding of the evil such a course must inflict on the Anti-Slavery movement. – they having been met and remonstrated with by the Committee of the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, and appealed to by them in the most Christian and fraternal manner, in the name of Christ and the perishing slave, not to go into the South – that such a course would inflict a great and lasting injury upon the cause of emancipation.4

6th, I charge the deputation of the Free Church of Scotland with having taken the counsel and followed the bidding of slaveholders and their guilty abettors, whilst they turned a deaf ear to the bleeding and whipscored slave, and to the counsel, prayers, and entreaties of those who are labouring in the most arduous manner for the immediate emancipation of the slaves held in the United States.

7th, I charge the delegation of the Free Church of Scotland with refusing to preach the truth against slavery, because by such preaching they would have failed in getting the price of human flesh to build Free churches, and to pay Free Church ministers in Scotland.

8th, I charge the delegates of the Free Church of Scotland with preaching such sermons only, while in the slave states, as would win for themselves the cordial approbation of man-stealers and their guilty abettors.

9th, I charge the distinguished leaders of the Free Church with apologising, excusing, and defending slavery and slaveholding – with an attempt to show that neither Christ nor his Apostles had any objection to Christians trading in the bodies and souls of their fellow men, and leaving the inference to be drawn that Christians may innocently do so now.

10th, I charge them with having adopted the name of ‘Free Church’ while they are doing the work of a slave Church, and have thereby disappointed the hopes and expectations of the perishing slave.

Sir, when the slaves in the United States heard of the formation of the Free Church – a free Church – accustomed as they were to nothing but slave Churches, to a slaveholding Gospel, and to slave-trading Churches – what must have been their feelings?

I for one used to exclaim, in what was wont to be a stereotype expression in my speeches in New England, What shakes nature just now? – Freedom, freedom! What shakes England? – The unwearied progress of freedom! What shakes Ireland? – The progress of freedom! What shakes Ireland? – The progress of freedom! What shakes Scotland? – The efforts of the Free Church! This is what I used to say to my coloured brethren.

But little better than twenty months ago it was said that a delegation from the Free Church was come to our land. – Strange emotions were excited. The Free Church was a somewhat different name from masters’ Church. In the slave states we used to be afraid of using the word liberty, and we called it for safety pig’s foot; and in this way we could speak of it even in our masters’ presence, without their knowing that liberty was the subject of our discourse. So when it was heard that the Free Church deputation was come, many a slave would be saying, ‘Well, pig’s-foot come at last.’ (Loud laughter.)

Freedom’s come! – But look at the unutterable disappointment, and what a reverse of feeling, when they found this Free Church meant nothing more to them than freedom for the deputation to clasp the hand of the slaveholder as a brother, and to neglect the poor bondmen! No word of sympathy for them, who were left to be treated by men as brutes, with the knowledge of the Gospel hid from them, deprived of the knowledge of the Word of God by law, and groping their way from time to eternity in darkness. The Free Church delegation behaved in the South as if they believed there was no God – like Atheists. Money! Money! was the entire actuating motive of their hearts. (Great applause.)

With what unutterable loathing must we look on men who dare to turn off attention from this matter with a laugh. Mr. Lewis, so far from making light of this matter, should go down on his knees, acknowledge his offence, and seek forgiveness of his God, of the poor slave, and of the Christian people of Scotland for daring to compromise their character by striking hands with slaveholders to the utter neglect of perishing bondmen.

Sir, I can almost imagine I see brother Lewis calling on the slaveholder. I can almost go down south, and see him, when I was a slave, calling on my old master, Mr. Thomas Auld (who would be a very likely party to call on), with his subscription paper. When brother Lewis knocks at the door, I answer, and he asks, ‘Well, my lad, is your master in? (Laughter.) ‘Yes, Sir.’

Well, he walks into the house, sees my master, and introduces himself thus (for my ear would be at the keyhole immediately on the door being shut) – ‘My object in making this call this morning is to see if you would do something for the cause of religious freedom in Scotland. We have been labouring some time back, and have undergone severe struggles for Gospel freedom in Scotland, and we have thought it right to call upon you, as a benevolent man and as having means to bestow, to see what you can do for us.’

My master would reply. ‘Brother Lewis, I deeply sympathise with your efforts; and as I see the cause recommended by Deacon such-a-one, I would like to have my name down with his. I’ll tell you what I will do. I have a fine young negro who is to be sold, and I will sell him to-morrow and give you a contribution to the cause of freedom. (Applause and laughter.) If you will call, brother Lewis, and take your breakfast with me, I will then see what I can do; and as the slave is to be sold at Easton, I will feel happy if you also take a ride so far with me, as you may not have seen the capital of the county. Come about nine o’clock, brother, and I will see what I can do for the cause of freedom in Scotland.’ (Laughter and cheering.)

The morning comes, and the breakfast hour, and brother Lewis also (I have a son named Lewis, but I think I’ll change his name.) (Applause.) The Bible is given to brother Lewis, and he reads. ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit. Blessed are they that give to the poor,’ and so on. All goes on delightfully. Brother Lewis prays, and after prayer sits down and partakes of the bounties produced by the blood of the slave, watered by the sweat and enriched by the blood of the half-famished negro. (Applause.)

Brother Auld orders the carriage to be brought round to the door – I am tied behind the carriage and taken away, as I have seen often done: I am on the auction block, and the auctioneer is crying ‘Who bids for this comely, stout, young negro? He is accustomed to his work, and has an excellent trade on his hands.’

Well, 500 dollars are bid. Oh, how brother Lewis’ eyes twinkle! (Laughter.)

The auctioneer continues – ‘This is not half the value of the negro; he is not sold for any bad quality. His master has no desire to get rid of him, but only wants to get a little money to aid the cause of religious freedom in Scotland.’ (Laughter.)

Another flame of light from brother Lewis’ eyes. 600 dollars are bid. Once, twice, thrice, is said by the auctioneer, and I am sold for 600 dollars.

Brother Lewis and the master are there together, and they go home to dinner; and after prayer, brother Lewis, who has always an eye to the main chance, takes out the subscription list, and brother Auld gives him part of the price of the bones and the blood of his fellow-man.

Not a word from brother Lewis as to the sin of the action. They then devote the money thus obtained to building these Free Churches; and brother Lewis daringly stands up here in Scotland and makes light of it. That man must be hardened indeed that could do such a thing. Disgorge the plunder! Disgorge the plunder! (Cheers.)

Perthshire Constitutional 25 March 1846

ANTI-SLAVERY SOIREE. – On the evening of Thursday last, a Soiree was held in the City-Hall, ostensibly of an anti-slavery character, but apparently more exclusively directed against the Free Church. Mr. William Taylor, flax-spinner, occupied the chair – and the meeting was severally addressed by Mr. James N. Buffum; Dr. Young; and Mr. Frederick Douglass, the fugitive slave from America. The address of Dr. Young was short, and confined to the professed object in view; but those of the others were rather lengthy, and were devoted principally to ‘show up’ the Free Church for having received, in the first blush of her difficulties, the contributions of American slaveowners. Mr. Douglass’s mimicry of the Rev. Mr. Lewis, Dundee, was in very bad taste. Mimicry, at all times say in a player, is contemptible; but when directed against a minister of the gospel, and indulged in by one in the prosecution of such a holy mission as Mr. Douglass, it is not only contemptible but disgusting, and is provocative of consequences quite different from those anticipated. The meeting was but thinly attended – below three hundred being present. We may add, that the proceedings of the evening were a good deal enlivened by the plaudits of some members of the Perth Presbytery.

Perthshire Advertiser, 19 March 1846


On Thursday evening last, a ‘social entertainment‘ was given in the City Hall here, to Frederick Douglass, a fugitive slave from America, and James N. Buffum, Esq., of Massachusetts. These gentlemen had previously accepted an invitation to the ENTERTAINMENT, as was announced by hand bills, and by advertisement in some newspapers, the editors of these papers lending a helping hand to the success of the soiree, by commending it to their readers.

During some months, these two individuals, along with Mr Wright, of peace-tract celebrity, have been exhibiting in a great many towns and villages throughout the country. Like other strolling performers, they announced their entertainments by hand bills, couched in as attractive form as possible, in order that audiences might be brought together. The staple topic of their placards was of a very attractive kind, setting forth the exposure and denunciation of slavery, as the great object of their patriotic exertions.

But, like other itinerant entertainers of the public, they had two strings to their bow, at least, and we think it pretty clear they had three. The grand clap-traps about slavery were merely the filagree and tinsel employed to busk the dagger which was concealed behind. We have said that they had three strings to their bow, and in this respect these Yankees have fairly out-witted the itinerant demagogue of their fatherland. Strolling players and the mountebank performers at home, are well contented if they can manage to play so well upon one string, namely, the entertaining of the public, as to make the second vibrate to the necessities of their pockets; but the Yankees have additional strings, as well as additional keys. The first may be called the attractive, for gathering a gaping crowd; the second, the vindictive, for brutally assailing those who never injured them; and the third, the remunerative, by which the cash is attracted to their coffers. It is perfectly clear that these American gentry depended mostly upon their second string, as the chief feeder of their pockets.

Well enough did they know that the cause of freedom, and the emancipation of the slave, have, in numberless instances, been pled in this country, by men of reputation, in a style which certainly left nothing for them to do. But, laying hold of a practice which all religious and humane men abhor, they saw that no better screen could be employed, through which they might have a stab at THE FREE KIRK; and as this religious community has bulked somewhat largely in the public eye for two or three years back, an assault upon it might be gratifying to some, and remunerative to themselves.

Accordingly, the Free Church and Free Churchmen, have been the objects of the special vituperation and abuse of these American landloupers. This requires no confirmation. There is not an individual who knows any thing about their doings, and who has any regard for truth, who will deny that the blackguarding of the Free Church and Free Churchmen, has been the main and engrossing object of these transatlantic demagogues. It may then be a matter of curious and instructive inquiry, what has been their success and reward?

They have succeeded in calling forth a full explanation of all the dealings and intercourse of the Free Church with the Churches in the Slave States of America, which must satisfy every rational and sober thinking man, that the Free Church by that intercourse gave no encouragement to slavery; and that the aid she received from the American Churches had nothing to do with slavery, but was an indication of a certain amount of desire to do good, even in a land groaning under the sin of slavery.

These peace-making visitors have farther succeeded in being the occasion of a republication of THE TESTIMONY AGAINST SLAVERY, which has been borne by the Free Church; and which testimony is not only surpassed, but unequalled by any other Church on the face of the earth!

They have further succeeded in bringing out into overt acts, the latent feelings of hostility against the Free Church, which appear to have been lurking in the bosoms of some individuals, from whom other things might have been expected.

So much as to their success; now what has been their reward?

In a pecuniary point of view we cannot think that it has been very great. But then they have had a reward of honour both here and elsewhere, inasmuch as they have been invited to SOCIAL ENTERTAINMENTS!

We shall now attempt to give our readers such a description of the entertainment here as will enable them to form some notion of the value of this branch of the reward. We have already glanced at the mission and main object which the parties invited and to be entertained, namely, Douglass and Buffum, had in view. We shall now, that we may have both the entertained and the entertainers before us, give a specimen of the parties who entertained Douglass and Buffum in the City Hall last Thursday evening. We shall, of course, say nothing of the ladies, who formed two-thirds of the entertaining party.

There were present in all exactly 218. Amongst the gentlemen, there were, Mr William Taylor, millowner, chairman; Rev. Dr Young, Mr Thomas M’Pherson, Mr Reddie, Mr Morton, Mr Wm. Crichton, Mr James Whittet, Dr Halket, Mr David Turnbull, general agent. The latter gentleman deserves some credit, for he was heard to boast that by dint of activity he had been enabled to bring up sixteen ladies with him, large and small.

The CHAIRMAN rose and said that he had now the pleasure of exhibiting to them their two tried friends in the cause of freedom. He did not mean to say much to them; but he was very sorry to see such a thin meeting. He expected better things of Perth;  but he would just introduce to their notice Mr Buffum.

Mr BUFFUM rose and was proceeding to speak, when considerable noise was heard about the door. The meeting appeared to be all agitated, and a general rising took place to ascertain the cause of the noise, when the members of the Established Presbytery of Perth, along with some members of the Town Council, were seen entering the Hall. We understand they had been dining in a neighbouring tavern, and so anxious were they for freedom that they had left their potations, Jamaica rum and altogether, and had adjourned to the City Hall, that they might take a part in entertaining the illustrious strangers.

The most prominent members of the Establishment Presbytery whom we observed, were the Moderator, Mr Kirkwood, the Clerk, Mr Touch, Mr M’Lean, Kinfauns, Mr Murdoch, Middle Church, Mr Auld, Moneydie, Mr Black, Kilspindie. Along with them there were, Mr David Peacock, leader of the Psalmody in the East Church; Councillors Peter Imrie, Patrick Wallace, James Thomas, and Robert Macfarlane. These are specimens of the gentlemen who met to entertain the American revilers of the Free Church. The music was somewhat defective, as Mr Peacock was not in voice to sing the appropriate song which he printed in his paper the day before and announced as part of the entertainment.

After these gentlemen had been seated, Mr Buffum proceeded to lament the apathy which existed on this question, as exhibited by the thinness of the meeting, but there was enough to show him that there existed in Perth a hatred to slavery, and the abettors of it, the Free Church of Scotland. Mr Buffum seemed to be very much from home in the few rearks he made on the slavery question, but when he got at the Free Church he was quite in his element.

He commenced an attack upon the Northern Warder for certain articles which have appeared there, exposing the wanton and malicious attacks which he and his colleagues have been so indefatigably making upon the Free Church. This onslaught upon us was, of course, couched in his choicest slang, but it seemed to give great delight to Mr David Peacock, who, although unable to sing, was most active in making all the noise he was able to make with his stick on the floor. We are not a little gratified by the attention paid to us, and the bad names bestowed upon us by this high authority. It shows that our humble efforts have told upon him and his colleagues.

We do not know whether he attributed the thin meeting, which he bewailed, to any services of ours or no. But notwithstanding of all discouragements, he threatens not to leave the country until the Free Church gives back the money, and then very modestly adds, that he would go back in the same ship with it. Both conditions bid fair for a pretty long sojourn of Mr Buffum in this country. If he remains till the Free Church sends back the money, his stay will not be short, and if he waits till she send it back in the same ship with him, we should think his stay will be longer still.

Mr Buffum concluded by thanking the meeting for THEIR ENTERTAINMENT.

The Rev. Dr YOUNG said he had been requested to take a part in the business of the evening. He had not attended any of the previous meetings which had been held by their guests. He had read about them, and he begged leave to say that he did not wish to mix himself up in the controversy betwixt their guests and the Free Church. He came there merely to give his testimony against slavery along with the godly members of the Free Church, the State Church, the Secession Church, and all other churches. An opinion had got abroad that Scotland is in a state of apathy upon the question of slavery, but he did not think that was the case. He had intended to have brought forward a motion upon the subject in the Presbytery to which be belonged, but that he had been done by another member.

The Doctor then read a certificate of character from the Anti-slavery Society in Glasgow in favour of Messrs Douglass and Buffum, and so soon as he had finished he left the room.

FREDERICK DOUGLASS then came forward. He did not care a pin for the smallness of the meeting. The respectability of the meeting made up for the few that were present. (Tremendous cheers from the gentlemen to whom the compliment was paid, and waving of handkerchiefs by the ladies.)

He had no time that evening to enter on the question of slavery. It was the Free Church that he had to deal with – their conduct, and their conduct alone. Dr Young had said that he did not wish to mix himself up with them. What did he (Mr Douglas) care for that? Unless Dr Young and the seceders took a decided step against the Free Church, they were as bad as the members of it. (Loud applause.) Mr Douglass seemed to be very much displeased at Dr Young for his mild speech, and said that the Doctor and his Church were as much to blame as the Free Church if they did not renounce all fellowship with the Free Church; and that, if they went nearer to a Free Churchman than that they could touch him with a pair of tongs they were far too near him.

He had ten charges against the Free Church, amounting to this – that its members were men-stealers, blood-suckers, robbers, thieves, and a few such choice epithets, which appeared to put some of the members of Presbytery in a perfect extacy. The Rev. Messrs Murdoch and M’Lean vied with each other which of their stentorian voices should have the ascendancy. The Rev. David Black actually took his orange from his mouth that he might give a skirl; and the dominie brought up the chorus with his stick. The four sapient councillors were literally drowned in the uproar. The merriment was on two or three occasions directed towards the Rev. Mr Murdoch, who made himself exceedingly agreeable by his roars of laughter. Towards the close Mr Lewis and Mr Roxburgh of Dundee were brought in for a full share of abuse and impertinence; and at the conclusion

Friend FENWICK, jun., moved a vote of thanks to the two gentlemen of the deputation.

Mr BUFFUM came forward to read a letter, but the meeting seemed satiated, and broke up.

Sic transit gloria mundi.

There is but one incident connected with this ludicrous affair which is worthy of a serious observation, and it is this: how came Dr Young to be present at this ENTERTAINMENT? If he was not aware that it had been the chief business of the two individuals whom the meeting were entertaining to traduce the Free Church, that is wonderful. If he was aware of this fact, and attended the meeting to countenance them in their denunciations against slavery, which they used only as a stepping-stone to get at the Free Church, that is more wonderful still, for Dr Young does not require to be instructed as to the unwarrantabless of co-operating in even a good cause for a bad end. But the Doctor got his reward. Unless he goes the whole hog with Mr Douglass, he is as bad as the Free Church, and so there is an end of it. Dr Young’s appearance there is almost the only one we regret, and we dare say he may be somewhat of our mind before he is much older.

As to the entertainment itself, the thing was not so badly managed, for the benefit of the entertained. The price was a shilling a-head, excepting in the case of Mr Turnbull’s ladies; they would get in a fourteen to the dozen. For the shilling there was doled out at the door, upon entering, an orange, and a few almonds and raisins. The value of the fruits would not be more than threepence; so that there was threepence for fruit and ninepence for scandal. The ninepence would of course, go to the pockets of the scandalmongers, so that they would not be so badly entertained after all. But it is alleged that part of the fruit, at least, was slave produce, so that the liberty-loving divines, and liberal Councillors, may be called upon to ‘SEND BACK THAT FRUIT,’ a call which the reverend Mr Black of Kilspindie would have great difficulty in responding to.

Northern Warder, 19 March 1846


  1. Perthshire Constitutional, 11 March 1846.
  2. For a detailed consideration of this dramatic device, see Alasdair Pettinger, Frederick Douglass and Scotland, 1846: Living an Antislavery Life (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2009), pp. 56–60.
  3. Douglass is referring to a speech made by Rev. George Lewis at a meeting of the Free Church Presbytery at St David’s Church on 11 February, much discussed (along with the speech by Rev. John Roxburgh) at the Anti-Slavery Soiree in Dundee on 10 March.  For Lewis’ account of his visit to the United States as part of the Free Church fund-raising delegation see George Lewis, Impressions of America and the American Churches: From the Journal of the Rev. G. Lewis (Edinburgh: W.P. Kennedy, 1845).
  4. The remonstrance, dated ‘New York, April 2, 1844’ was addressed to the members of the Free Church delegation to the United States, and signed by the executive committee of the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, repr. Liberator, 26 April 1846 (from the New-York Commercial Advertiser) and published as Letter from the Executive Committee of the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society to the Commissioners of the Free Church of Scotland (Edinburgh: Myles Macphail, [1844]).


The work here has benefited from local history research about the places Douglass spoke at in Greenock and Fenwick. as well as the expert sleuthing of Amy Cools in her Ordinary Philosophy blog. I am indebted in particular to the outstanding research of

  • Hannah-Rose Murray, whose Frederick Douglass Map situates Douglass’ Scottish tour in a broader context, and
  • Celeste-Marie Bernier and her colleagues on the Our Bondage and Our Freedom project, especially their work with the National Library of Scotland in producing the interactive maps showing the locations where Douglass and other black abolitionists spoke in Scotland.

For their encouragement and support, many thanks.

I am also grateful for the assistance of the staff of the following libraries and resource centres:

  • National Library of Scotland
  • Mitchell Library, Glasgow
  • Glasgow University Library
  • Paisley Central Library
  • Dundee Central Library
  • A K Bell Library, Perth
  • Carnegie Library, Ayr
  • Arbroath Library
  • Montrose Library
  • Heritage Hub, Hawick
  • Burns Monument Centre, Kilmarnock

Hawick: 2 November 1846

Hawick. Engraving by W. Warwick. In The Works of the Ettrick Shepherd, Vol 1: Tales and Sketches (London: Blackie & Son, 1869), facing p.318.

The final engagement of the abolitionists in Edinburgh was a lecture by George Thompson on ‘British India’ on Friday 30th October.1 The following day he and William Lloyd Garrison headed south to Carlisle, on their way to Liverpool, from where Garrison was due to sail home on Wednesday 4th.2

Frederick Douglass, however, had other plans. He probably stayed in Edinburgh a little longer, for he – and James Robertson, the Secretary of the Scottish Anti-Slavery Society – addressed a meeting in Hawick on Monday 2nd November. Not for the first time, he found that the church they had planned to speak at was closed to them: a hastily-convened meeting of the Deacons of the Relief Church the day before had decided to rescind the invitation. Fortunately, the United Secession minister Andrew Rodgie was able to offer his West-End Chapel as a last-minute alternative.

John Wood, Plan of the Town and Environs of Hawick (Edinburgh: 1824). Detail. Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland.
Roxburghshire XXV.7 (Hawick). Ordnance Survey, 25 inch 1st edition (1857). Detail. Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland.

This was the only meeting addressed by Douglass in the Scottish Borders as far as we know.  He did not even take the opportunity to visit Abbotsford, the baronial mansion that Walter Scott had built on the banks of the Tweed, as many other Americans did.3 The same month Margaret Fuller, reporting for the New York Tribune, implied that her ‘pilgrimage to Abbotsford’ was practically obligatory, and claimed that during the previous year, ‘five hundred Americans inscribed their names in its porter’s book.’4

Garrison, along with other delegates to the World Anti-Slavery Convention in London in 1840, had made the trip.5 And so had Douglass’ fellow campaigner Henry Clarke Wright, during his speaking tour of the Borders in the Spring. He was also pleased to note the existence of a ‘glorious motto’ over the entrance to Dryburgh Abbey, where Scott was buried: ‘No American to be allowed to enter here, if he is a slaveholder.’6

At the meeting James Robertson delivered the news, first broken in Edinburgh, that negotiations had begun to purchase Douglass’s freedom, and invited the audience to contribute to the funds already raised.  Robertson spoke the next night too, but alone, as Douglass was already on his way to bid farewell to Garrison in Liverpool, having taken the morning coach south.

This was Douglass’ last appearance in Scotland for fourteen years. Although he wrote from Carlisle on 2 January, he probably did not cross the border as this was but a stage on a tour of the North of England that took in Newcastle, Sunderland, and Hexham.7


[Monday Meeting]

The Rev. Mr. Robertson, Secretary of the Anti-Slavery Society, Edinburgh, and Mr. Frederick Douglass, arrived in Hawick, per coach, on Monday afternoon, to address the people on the above interesting subjects. The barouche of Walter Wilson, Esq., was in waiting to convey them to Orchard, where they spent the evening. The meeting was first advertised to be held in the Relief Chapel, which was granted by the office-bearers authorized to let it, but, lo! on Sabbath afternoon, a conjoint meeting of the Session and Deacons was hurriedly, and no doubt irregularly, convened, at which, as will be seen from the following elegant document which is given verbatim, the deed of those appointed to this particular duty (viz., the Chairman, Treasurer, and Clerk to the congregation), was set aside, by a majority, we understand, of ten to eight, and the doors shut against the meeting, thus affording a direct insult to their own official servants, and also to the public generally:–

HAWICK, November 1, 1846.

SIR.– We are desired by the Elders and Managers of the Church to acquaint you, that the use of the Church cannot be granted for the meeting, as advertised to take place in the Church to-morrow evening in connection with American Slavery. The meeting conjointly regret the granting of the house by the sub-committee without the concurrence of the other managers. In future the elders and managers have agreed that the Meeting-House cannot be granted for any meeting unless previous notice by given, and the same be complied with.

We are, &c.,
Yours respectfully,

To Mr. John Cairns.

Fortunately there was one Church which was not shut against the fearless advocates of freedom to the slave. On the promoters of the meeting applying to the Rev. Mr. Rodgie, minister of the West-end Chapel, he most cheerfully consented, and even agreed to take the chair at the meeting. Notwithstanding the unfavourable circumstances above stated, by eight o’clock (the hour of the meeting) the Chapel was nearly filled with a most respectable audience. Among those present we observed the Rev. Mr. Thomson, Secession Minister, and his respected father, the Rev. Dr. Thomson of Coldstream, beside many of the most respectable and wealthy gentlemen of the place. The Rev. Mr. Rodgie, having been called to the chair, opened the proceedings by a few pertinent remarks on the evils of slavery, and passed a high eulogium on Mr. Frederick Douglas, whom he introduced to the meeting.

Mr. Douglas then came forward and spoke for nearly two hours, in a calm, cool, dignified, and impressive manner, that shewed him to be qualified above most men to command the attention of an audience, and to carry conviction in the minds of his hearers. The details he gave of the sufferings of his brethren the slaves of America, of which he was himself so long a witness and a sharer, were enough to arouse the just indignation of any man possessing common feelings, and were utterly repugnant to Christianity. From these harrowing details he passed on to the conduct of the Free Church in regard to the slave money: he spoke of the feelings of hope that came over him when he first heard that a deputation from a Free Church had arrived in America, and the bitter disappointment he was doomed to experience when he saw them enter the pulpits of slaveholding ministers, and there, with the image of God in chains before them, never utter a word of censure or rebuke for so horrid a crime against God and man. He pointed out the fallacious reasoning of Drs. Cunningham and Candlish in regard to the slave money and slave-holding in America, and succeeded in carrying conviction to his audience, that the worthy Drs., great though they may be, were kicking against the pricks. In the course of his address, Mr. Douglas took occasion to express his fears that the people of Scotland would fall away from the agitation which was now going on to abolish slavery. (‘Never, never,’ cried out several voices from different parts of the church.) Ah, said Mr. Douglas, look at your Relief Church, why are the doors of it shut against us; surely there is something wrong or this would not have been? During the course of his protracted address, Mr. Douglas was again and again cheered with an enthusiasm such as has rarely been witnessed here, and which shewed clearly that the very intelligent audience and he were at one on this most important subject.

The Rev. Mr. Robertson then addressed the meeting for nearly an hour. In the course of his address, he pointed to the Evangelical Alliance, on which he offered some strictures, but reserved himself to speak more fully on the subject on the following evening. Before retiring he submitted a resolution to the meeting, having reference to the subjects which had been introduced; this was seconded by a member of the Free Church. On suggestion, however, the resolution was not put, but was allowed to lie over till the following evening, so as to give an opportunity to the members of the Free Church to come forward and defend themselves if they choose. After the usual vote of thanks, the meeting broke up.

[Tuesday Meeting]

On Tuesday evening a second meeting was held in the West-end Chapel. The audience was addressed by the Rev. Mr Robertson, Mr Douglas having left for the south by the morning coach.

On this occasion Mr. Robertson dwelt at considerable length on the proceedings of the Free Church, or rather of its leaders, in regard to the slave money. He rebutted with much vigour and clearness the various arguments which, from time to time, have been brought forward by them to justify slavery in America, and their connection with man-stealers – pointed out the fallacy of a man being compelled to be a slaveholder, by throwing the blame on the Government – inquired if Dr. Cunningham himself would consent to be a slaveholder, were the Legislature of our country to pass a law condemning servants to slavery. He (Mr. Robertson) much doubted it, if we may judge from his conduct in regard to the Veto Act, which Government declared was opposed to the laws of the Church, but the Dr., rather than submit to these laws, left the Church. He then shewed that those who held communion with man-stealers might, with still more propriety, connect themselves with sheep-stealers and robbers. He produced evidence to shew that the slaveholding ministers of America and the Free Church of Scotland stood on the same footing in regard to the question of slavery. In speaking of the Evangelical Alliance, he clearly shewed where they had erred in admitting slaveholding ministers amongst them, but he hoped that body would yet be brought round, for he approved of union, though not with thieves and man-stealers.

At the conclusion of a most convincing speech, a resolution was submitted to the meeting, strongly disapproving of the conduct of the Free Church in their recent proceedings in connection with the slaveholding churches of America, and also of the Evangelical Alliance in receiving into their numbers ministers of slaveholding churches, and pledging the meeting never to cease agitating till the slaves were liberated, and the money sent back. On the resolution being put, it was carried without a single dissentient, though some time was allowed to elapse before asking for a shew of hands against it, but no amendment was forthcoming.

After the usual vote of thanks, a considerable number put down their names, with the view of forming an Anti-Slavery Society, and amongst them we noticed some most respectable gentlemen, who, if we may judge from the past, will act with determination and zeal whenever occasion requires it.

Kelso Chronicle, 6 November 1846

AMERICAN SLAVERY AND THE FREE CHURCH.– On Monday evening, a public meeting was held in the West End Meeting House, for the purpose of denouncing the intercourse of the Free Church of Scotland with the Slaveholding Churches of America. The house was well filled.

Mr Frederick Douglass, styled in the bills, ‘the eloquent and manly exponent of the wrongs of his suffering brethren in America,’ was the first to address the audience, which he did in a talented and eloquent speech, which occupied about two hours. He is a most excellent speaker, and an admirable mimic.

He was followed by the Rev. Mr Robertson* of Edinburgh, who blamed the deacons of the Relief Church for not granting them the use of their church after promising it. He went on to find fault with the Dundee Warder, the Edinburgh Witness, and the Border Watch newspapers, for hoodwinking their readers, and getting up a clamour about the Abolitionists being infidels, and holding peculiar views upon the Sabbath, all for the purpose of leading people away from the true facts of the case.

The meeting broke up about 11 o’clock; Mr Robertson stating that he would hold a meeting the following night, for the purpose of denouncing the Evangelical Alliance.

Mr Douglass’s speech was the same as he has delivered in Edinburgh, as reported in the papers. He was very severe upon Drs Candlish and Cunningham, but especially the former, holding him up to the ridicule of the audience, the majority of whom, we grieve to say, seemed to express ore hatred towards the Free Church than detestation of Slavery.

Mr R. lamented that a great number of the leaders of the Anti Slavery movement had drawn back and were no more seen upon the hustings at their meetings, – mentioning Drs Wardlaw and Alexander of the Independent body, and imputing it to the influence of the Free Church, forgetting that it was their own violence in this agitation that had made these men look cool upon them. Mr R. proposed a resolution, condemning the Free Church in holding Christian fellowship with slaveholders, and receiving blood-money from them, which was seconded; but he stated that as he intended addressing them upon the Evangelical Alliance, he would not divide the house then, but would do so on that occasion, so that if any belonging to the Free Church wished to make an amendment, they would have an opportunity of doing it then.

He likewise mentioned that he had a number of copies of Mr Douglas’s Life, written by himself, which he sold at half a crown each, and some copies of Messrs George Thomson & H. C. Wright’s addresses at Edinburgh, at 1s each.

A lady, he said, had written to Mr D’s late master in America, to see what he would give him his freedom for, and an answer had been returned, saying, that he could have it for L. 140. They had, accordingly, made a collection at a meeting in Edinburgh, which amounted to L. 4, 10s 312d; and if any felt inclined they might have an opportunity as they retired.

During the meeting, a person, holding infidel opinions, wished Mr Douglas to retract an expression he had used, to the effect that the Free Church leaders had acted as bad as infidels. The person said that infidels would not have taken the money. Mr Douglas said he had met some people holding infidel views who would have taken it, and others who would not.


On Tuesday evening, another meeting was held in the same place. There was but a very thin attendance, the church being not half filled. Mr Robertson commenced again upon the Free Church. His speech was almost a repetition of what was said the night before. He again recurred to the Dundee Warder, Witness, and Border Watch newspapers, which, he said, misled their readers by getting them to follow the trail of a red herring.

After a great deal of abuse, levelled principally against the latter newspaper, he proceeded to read a number of extracts from George Thomson’s speeches upon the Evangelical Alliance, and strongly condemned that body for compromising the Slave Question to please the American ministers who were at the conference.

He began upon the Free Church at 8 o’clock, and spoke till ten minutes past 9 upon it, and then  began to the Evangelical Alliance; but he returned to Dr Candlish, and gave him another quarter of an hour. Thus the Free Church had the lion’s share of the castigation. He said that the curse of God is resting upon the Free Church, and if the leaders do not immediately return the money no honest man can remain a member of it. He called upon all, having a regard for honesty and respectability, to leave it. In his opinion, there will soon be another disruption if they persisted in retaining the blood-money.

Before the meeting closed, he proposed a resolution, condemning the conduct of the Free Church and the Evangelical Alliance, and pledging those who voted for it to withdraw their support from the Free Church until they sent back the blood-money. No response being given, he put the resolution, when a good number of hands were held up. He then asked those who were opposed to it to hold up their hands, but as none did so, he declared the resolution carried.

He intimated that as they intended forming an Anti-Slavery Committee in Hawick, those feeling interested might stay after the meeting broke up. A vote of thanks was given to the minister and managers for the use of the church, and the meeting dismissed.

* Query. – Is this the Mr Robertson who figured so conspicuously at the meetings of the Total Abstinence Society in Edinburgh eight years ago, and who was the cause of so much strife and dissention among the members?

Border Watch and Galashiels Advertiser, 5 November 1846


    1. William Lloyd Garrison to Elizabeth Pease, Perth, 25 October 1846, in The Letters of William Lloyd Garrison. Volume 3: No Union with Slave-Holders, edited by Walter M. Merrill (Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1973), p.446. It is likely he and Douglass attended, but no newspaper of the lecture has been found.
    2. Ibid., p.446.
    3. At least his name does not appear in the house’s visitor book for the period. I am grateful for this information to Eve Morley, Collections and Engagement Assistant, The Abbotsford Trust (email, 25 March 2019).
    4. Margaret Fuller, At Home and Abroad; or Things and Thoughts in America and Europe (Boston: Brown, Taggard and Chase, 1860), ‘Letter VI’ (Paris, November 1846) p. 163; ‘Letter III’ (Edinburgh, 20 September 1846), p. 137.
    5. Nathaniel P. Rogers, ‘Ride into Edinburgh’, in A Collection from the Newspaper Writings of Nathaniel Peabody Rogers (Concord, MA: John R. French, 1847), pp. 113-15. See also James Mott, Three Months in Great Britain (Philadelphia: J. Miller M’KIm, 1841), p. 73; Mott, Slavery and ‘The Woman Question’: Lucretia Mott’s Diary of Her Visit to Great Britain to Attend the World’s Anti-Slavery Convention of 1840, ed. Frederick B. Tolles (Haverford, PA: Friends’ Historical Association, 1952), pp. 72–3.
    6. Henry Clarke Wright to William Lloyd Garrison, Melrose, 28 March 1846,  Liberator, 1 May 1846.  The notice must have been there some time: see ‘A Prohibition to Slaveholders,’ Illustrated London News, 18 January 1845; and G.A.S., Notes of Travel at Home: During a Month’s Tour in Scotland and England (London: Simpkin, Marshall & Co., 1846), p. 30.
    7. For further background see Alastair M. Redpath’s three articles on ‘Hawick and Slavery’, Hawick Paper, 1, 8 and 15 March, 2019.