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  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  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  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 –  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  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  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  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  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  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  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  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  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  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]  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  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  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  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  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  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  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  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  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  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  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  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  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  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  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. 
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.
- Aileen Black, Gilfillan of Dundee, 1813-1878: Interpreting Religion and Culture in Mid-Victorian Scotland (Dundee: Dundee University Pres, 2006), p. 50.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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).
- George Lewis, Impressions of America and the American Churches: From the Journal of the Rev. G. Lewis (Edinburgh: W.P. Kennedy, 1845).
- Henry C. Wright to William Lloyd Garrison, Selkirk, 15 April 1846 (Liberator, 8 May 1846).
- 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).
- This claim was first made in Henri Grégoire, An Enquiry Concerning the Intellectual and Moral Faculties and Literature of Negroes …, 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.
- 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.
- ‘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.
- An anecdote with wide circulation. See, for example, [Robert Chambers], ‘Down-Takings’, Chambers’s Edinburgh Journal, 22 August 1840.
- 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, ).
- 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.
- 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.