Following their appearance in Kirkcaldy, Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison were rejoined in Dundee by George Thompson and the secretary of the Scottish Anti-Slavery Society, James Robertson. Garrison noted:
All the meeting-houses but one were closed against us, on account of my “infidelity”! We had a good attendance and a spirited meeting nevertheless.1
Only one church (and that not a large one) in the place could be obtained for us. ‘Garrison is an infidel,’ was the cry – ‘he does not believe in our holy Sabbath.’2
The abolitionists had originally been invited to speak at Ward Chapel, but the minister David Russell had blocked the request. However, it was unlikely to have been due to Garrison’s anti-sabbatarianism, as he had also blocked a similar invitation extended to Douglass and Buffum in March.3 Douglass alludes to David Russell, without naming him, in his vote of thanks to the managers of James’ Church, who provided an alternative venue for the meeting at short notice.
When rebuking the leaders of the Free Church of Scotland the abolitionists – as they did on previous visits to Dundee – singled out Rev. George Lewis, minister of St David’s Church, as he was a member of the controversial fund-raising delegation which visited the United States in 1844-45.
The report in the Courier makes only a passing reference to Douglass’ contribution; he is not even acknowledged in what appears to be an abridgement of it in the Edinburgh Evening News. The Advertiser provides a more detailed account of his speech. All three are reproduced below.
For an overview of Frederick Douglass’ activities in Dundee during the year see: Spotlight: Dundee.
On the evening of Friday last, a public meeting was held in James’ Chapel, Bell Street, to listen to addresses from George Thompson, Esq., and William Lloyd Garrison, Esq., on the subject of American Slavery, and on the present position of the Free Church, and the recent proceedings of the Evangelical Alliance on the Slavery question. The Rev. George Gilfillan was in the chair; and on the platform were the Rev. James Robertson, Edinburgh, Frederick Douglass, &c.
Mr Gilfillan shortly eulogised Mr Easson, the gentleman who had presided at the anti-slavery meetings for some time past. He (Mr G.) felt pleasure on many accounts in discharging the duties of Chairman this night. In the absence of one better fitted, he had a kind of prescriptive right. He took the chair himself on the first meeting of this kind connected with the recent agitation in Dundee, when Messrs Buffum and Douglas had literally no where to communicate the message which they brought from their three millions of constituents across the water, till the door of the School Wynd was opened to them; and it proved a great door, and an effectual, although then, as now, there were many adversaries.
His pleasure, however, in acting as Chairman arose from a far deeper source than this. He rejoiced in being permitted to introduce to their notice those distinguished gentlemen William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, and George Thompson – (great cheering) names which are known in every part of the civilised world – names which men in after ages will class with the names of Luther, and of Wilberforce, and of Clarkson – names which even now the inhabitants of vast burning zones are employed in blessing as their prospective deliverers, and as their most devoted and warmest friends. (Renewed cheering.)
Mr Garrison said, that when he had the privilege of appearing before a Dundee audience a short time ago, he said it was the first and probably would be the last time he ever should appear in this place. He should never forget that meeting, how hearty and unanimous those assembled at that time were in regard to the great cause of anti-slavery, and the means adopted for overthrowing slavery. He did not intend to take up much of their time this evening. He was rather there as a listener with themselves to hear a gentleman whose powers of persuasion, of rhetoric, and of argument, were unsurpassed by any man living – he meant George Thompson. (Applause.)
Since he arrived in the place he had learned with regret that the friends of anti-slavery had had some difficulty in obtaining a church for their meeting; and one reason assigned for this was, that his (Mr Garrison’s) views on a particular subject, aside from anti-slavery, were not palatable to the community. He lamented that such a spirit should appear in Dundee or anywhere. He would like to know what they had to do with his views, in an anti-slavery meeting, on any subject except the subject of slavery? (Hear, hear.)
He did not come to discuss any question any but slavery as an abolitionist, and it was for them to say whether he stuck to his text or not – whether he was true to the principles he professed or not. He had travelled a good deal since he was here before, and in every place he had been hedged up a good deal on account of his religious views. Now, in all honesty and fairness, why should this be? (Hear.)
He had made the cause of the slave his own – the cause of his wife, and the cause of his children; and he felt that if they were in bonds, he would rejoice at the co-operation of any one to assist in breaking their fetters and setting them free. He would feel so, and he was sure they would all feel so. On the anti-slavery platform on which he stood to-night, and everywhere, he desired the co-operation of all who were willing to labour for the immediate and total overthrow of slavery. He did not care what their other opinions were if they were hostile to slavery, and if they would make no compromise with oppressors. If they would demand the immediate abolition of the slave system, then he would join hands with them, however they might differ on other matters.
Some one had said that it was on account of his views on the Sabbath question that the house had not been granted. Why, the house was not asked for promulgating his views on the Sabbath – it was for an Anti-Slavery meeting. No! but say these gentlemen, ‘let the slaves perish! let women be sold on the auction-block! let babes be torn from their parents! – we care nothing for all these, because we do not like Mr Garrison’s views on some other question.’
If your town is on fire, for instance, and people rushing out, do you refuse to let a man put out the fire because you do not agree with him on the fourth commandment? (Laughter.) When a person is overboard, do you object to a man attempting to save him because you do not like his views on some particular point, and thereby let the person be drowned? The man who would act so would be a murderer, and in the first case an incendiary; and every man who will not come on the anti-slavery platform with those who want slavery put down are the friends of slavery (applause,) whatever they say to the contrary.
When he would stand aloof from any one because they did not agree on some other subject, be they Baptist or Presbyterian, when he would take that ground, then he was willing that the slave should rise up against him as an abettor of the cause of the slaveholder, and as one not actuated by the spirit of common humanity. He had not stopped to ask any man his opinions on any question but slavery, and why, then, was the same catholic spirit not manifested towards him as to others. (Great applause.)
True hearted Abolitionists did work together; and it was only those who loved something else than liberty – who loved something better than they loved man – it was only those who brought forward these things in order to break them up, and put down the agitation on the subject of slavery.
During the Anti-Corn Law movement had any person said that because Cobden held particular views on some religious subject they could not join the League – they could not go with such a man – would not the people have said that that man did not want the Corn Laws repealed? (Applause.)
And so with regard to this senseless hue and cry on this particular subject. His (Mr Garrison’s) views had been falsified by a spirit of pro-slavery, which was not indigenous to the soil. His views had been grossly libelled and caricatured; and when for the sake of that holy cause he represented here he ventured to represent these views, then he was accused of dragging in his religious sentiments on the Anti-Slavery platform.
He went to Belfast, where the Banner of Ulster and another paper misrepresented him, for the purpose of breaking up the meeting on the subject of slavery; and then when he did state what be believed on the particular question, they were the very men who denounced him for dragging in his views.
Really he had never seen impudence and audacity on the other side of the Atlantic – and he had seen a good deal in the United States – equal to this. Every effort was making to destroy his Anti-Slavery influence. They did not want to hear him on the subject of slavery. In regard to the hue and cry on the matter of the fourth commandment, his views were identical with those of Calvin – with those of Martin Luther – with those of Philip Melancthon; and he would call upon the admirers of these venerated persons not to cry out against him on account of his views on that question, while they continued to venerate their names.
He might mention, in addition, a great many luminaries in the religious world – men who are everywhere extolled – whose views were identical to his own. He never went, however, into an anti-slavery meeting to argue these views. He would take another time for that. He was not there to say that his views on the Sabbath were infallible or right; but he held no views which he was not willing to support by a reference to the Bible with any man or any body of men. He might be deceived as to the correctness of these views, but that had nothing to do with the anti-slavery movement; and the men who called them in question there did so for an evil purpose. They could not remember the slave as bound with him – they had no flesh in their hearts.
Mr Garrison then read an attack which had been made upon him in the Christian Witness by Dr Campbell of London, in which the Dr had denounced him as wishing the downfall of Christianity because he sat in the chair while the following resolution was adopted:–
RESOLVED, – That this Society rejoice in the present declining state of American religion, inasmuch as it voluntarily comes forth to baptize and sanctify Slavery, which Mahommedanism abolishes, and Catholicism condems [sic]; and that it will endeavour to warn the world, particularly the so-called heathen portion of it against its influence.4
Dr Campbell surely must be a very ignorant man, or he was desirous to lead away and deceive when he drew from that resolution that the Abolitionists rejoiced in the decline or wished the downfall of Christianity.
For his own part, he rejoiced most sincerely in the spread of Christianity, and he was glad that it was spreading in America. He rejoiced in the spread of true religion. American religion was, however, a different matter, and he rejoiced in its decline, and for the reason given, ‘inasmuch as it voluntarily comes forth to baptize and sanctify slavery.’ American religion is not Christianity, but the grossest libel on Christianity.
Mr Garrison then went on to show that slavery had lately been abolished by the Bey of Tunis; and that a bull of the late Pope of Rome called on all the faithful throughout the world to keep themselves free from slavery and the slave trade. The American religionists would take no warning.
They had sent out missionaries to the Kerims, who would not listen to them. They said they did not want to know anything more about Christianity. They had found out that in the land from whence the missionaries came human beings were bought and sold, and they brought against the missionaries the charge that they wanted to convert them in order to make them slaves. The missionaries had only to disclaim all that slaveholders have done in the name of Christianity, and join with the Abolitionists and the Anti-Slavery Society in denouncing the slaveholder. Christianity enslaves nobody. It never authorised one man to tyrannise over another.
The abolitionists of the United States are those who believe in Christ, by being willing to be of no reputation – to sacrifice all their worldly interests. They have been hunted by bloody men – their property destroyed – their persons thrown into prison, and in some cases put to death. The Abolitionists are the real Christians.
Mr Garrison then read the following extract from the Congregational Magazine in praise of the American Colonization Society:–
A few evenings after my arrival, I went to a meeting convened in Broadway tabernacle by the American Colonization Society, for the purpose of sending out supplies to 750 slaves who had been landed in their colony of Liberia, from a slaver captured by the United States ship of war, ‘Yorktown.’ The speeches, especially that of Dr Tyng, Episcopalian clergyman, were highly eloquent and creditable to the parties, giving me a very favourable idea of American oratory. The slightest political allusion, however, such as Mr Butler’s casual reference to ‘that great Kentuckian,’ (Henry Clay,) created visible excitement. The sentiment that the cause of humanity had been grievously injured by the conduct of the abolitionist party, was loudly applauded by a decided majority of those present, a circumstance with which I was exceedingly gratified. There never were a set of men whose views were more opposed to reason and common sense, than those who rejoice in that appellation. Had the religious public of America not refused to sanction their proceedings, the whole Union would, long ere this, have been the theatre of desolating civil war.5
The American Colonization Society had been more hostile to the anti-slavery movement in the United States than any other. It is a conspiracy on the part of slaveholders to expatriate the free people of colour out of the country to the coast of Africa, on the ground that it is dangerous to the slave population, who might be tempted to inquire why others of the same colour were free, and possibly to rise up against their masters. He exposed the scheme some 10 or 12 years ago, and he was happy to say that it was now without power.
The Colonization Society had adopted a resolution that coloured people should not live in the United States, that God made the coloured and white population so different that they could never live in the same place; that it was even beyond the power of Christianity to make them live peaceably under the same government; and that no slave should be emancipated unless he was sent out of the country into Africa.
As to what was said about Henry Clay, Who was he? Henry Clay was an incorrigible man thief; he had more than 60 human beings as property. He was opposed both to gradual and immediate abolition. He had done more to extend and perpetuate slavery and the slave trade than any other man in the United States. He is president of the Colonization Society, and he is well fitted to be the representative of that Society.
In regard to the charge that the Abolitionists are incendiaries, Mr Garrison showed from the history of slavery for 200 years back in America, that there had been insurrection after insurrection among the slaves until the rise of the Abolition Society; since which time the slaves had remained quiet, confiding in the efforts of the Society, and believing that the Abolitionists were using every exertion to set them free.
The anti-slavery party are the friends of peace. They have been tried in the fire and have not been found wanting.
Mr G. then concluded with a glowing eulogium on George Thompson.
Mr George Thompson regretted that the article to which Mr Garrison had referred had found its way into that otherwise respectable periodical – the Congregational Magazine; and he would feel it his duty in every meeting which he attended in Scotland to hold it up to ridicule and universal indignation. He regretted to hear that the article emanated from the pen of a son of a distinguished inhabitant of this town;; and he could only account for its having found its way into the Congregational Magazine from the fact of the writer being a son of an intimate friend of the editor. He entered his solemn protest against the sentiments in that article; and if that periodical continued to insert similar articles, like many others in Scotland, it would be ranked among the pro-slavery periodicals in the country.
He would also bear his testimony against the American Colonization Society. In 1833 Mr Garrison, who then paid his first visit to this country, showed the pro-slavery nature of that society; and on his return to America he carried back with him a solemn protest against it signed by William Wilberforce, and by other leading and venerated Abolitionists, after the most impartial consideration. That society is now notoriously repudiated by the coloured population. Now it is patronized by slaveholders at the south, and by those in the north who entertain prejudice against the coloured population; but by all the friends of justice and by all the friends of emancipation the society in question is everywhere loathed and everywhere condemned.
He had taken a conspicuous part in this controversy, and he was not ashamed of the part he had taken. He had felt it his duty to expose and oppose the Free Church of Scotland for her unhallowed league with the slaveholders of America, and for what is even worse – for corrupting the Christianity of this country – (applause) for advancing the notorious doctrine that God had placed men in circumstances in which it would be sinful to set their bondmen free.
Thus far the Free Church has remained incorrigible. From one Free Church magazine to another there have been paragraphs and articles on the subject of slavery, gradually becoming more and more reckless of truth – more and more insulting to the spirit of Christianity – more and more brutal in their attacks on the friends of the slave – uttering the most unmitigated falsehoods (as in the article to which his friend Mr Garrison had referred) declaring that to be true which the writers, ministers of religion though they may be, cannot know to be true, but must know to be false – calling Douglass and himself two hired itinerant orators, what they know to be false.
The spirit of Christianity cannot be in them, but rather the spirit of the father of lies. No Christian man can brand another Christian man with the epithet of a mob popularity hunter and other names unless he knows the motive of action, which he cannot know, and has other evidence. Would he be believed, or would these foul-mouthed slanderers be believed, when in his own behalf and on that of Frederick Douglass, he declared the assertion to be a falsehood – as atrocious a falsehood as ever was penned.
No party had set him on in this matter – no party had paid his expenses. The only reward he had received is that of having travelled at his own expense, and at the sacrifice of much time, convenience, domestic comfort, and neglect of other matters which would have been attended to. There is nothing about this controversy respecting the wicked league which has been formed with the slaveholders of America that is more lamentable than the falsehoods which he had heard uttered with his ears and read in the organs of their body. (Cheers.) The Free Church has sold itself to work all manner of wickedness. (Great applause and a few hisses.)
He liked a few hisses – they assisted him mightily. (Laughter.) They are somewhat unintelligible sounds (a laugh) – scarcely human. Hissers are but imitators of two creatures which do not belong to the human race (laughter) – one of which may be seen on the commons with a long neck, and the other crawls on its belly and licks the dust. (Applause and laughter.) He would not say to which of these two those who hiss tonight are to be likened – whether they possess the malignity of the one of the foolishness of the other, or are equally composed of both. He begged they would hiss; and he would do justice to these persons, seeing they were paying him the highest compliment, and hissing at the conduct of the Free Church which he was exposing.
The Free Church of Scotland had sold itself deliberately to work iniquity. (Applause.) He had proved in large assemblies that the very men who wrote these articles stood side by side with him 12 years ago and cheered him on. Then they were anti-voluntary. His speeches were then copied into the Church of Scotland Magazines, into the Scottish Guardians. Articles on articles were written adopting his views, and outheroding Herod. These men were the Cunninghams, the Candlishes, the Gibsons, the Lorimers, the Beggs, &c.
A book was published under their sanction, in which it was pointed out that the only way to get rid of slavery was to exclude every slaveholder from the Christian Church, no matter what were his other qualifications. The accredited organs of the Free Church are now filled with the vilest libels against himself and his colleagues. He could crush them under the weight of their own testimony twelve years ago.
After further showing the inconsistency of the party, Mr Thompson went on to say that he now found in the Witness and other papers letters not outdone by the vilest documents that he ever read emanating from the slaveholders of America; and what is worst of all – worst for the rising generation – these men band themselves to make Christ and his Apostles the great patrons of slavery throughout the world. (Cheers.)
Drs Candlish and Cunningham had said that Christ and his apostles would have welcomed slaveholders to the Lord’s Table, and that God had placed men in circumstances in which it would be a sin to emancipate their slaves. They should look well to themselves, whether they would follow men whose judgment had been blinded by a gift – whether they would look to the footsteps of our Saviour and walk in them, or walk in the footsteps of the Cunninghams and Candlishes of the present day.
The last ruse which they had adopted was to represent his friend Mr Garrison as an infidel; and the first symptoms of their returning to Christ would be their espousal of his sentiments on the subject of slavery. He is sitting in the chair to teach them that they are corrupting Christianity – that they are causing the stones to cry out against them – that they are causing the children to condemn them. However Doctors of Divinity may go astray and corrupt the law of the Lord, human nature will be true to itself, and they will not merely have to silence the thunders of Sinai – not merely to corrupt the preachings of Christ and his apostles, but to destroy the mind itself – to silence the witness which God has put in every man’s heart against the unutterable crime of slavery. (Cheers.)
Mr Thompson then went on to show the kind of men these Doctors of Divinity had entered into solemn league and covenant with; and in evidence of this referred to the New York Observer, in which a report of the proceedings of the General Assembly of the Old School Presbyterians (the party with whom the Free Church are in terms of communion) was published. From this report it appeared that at their meeting in May last, there came up a fraternal letter to that Assembly from the Presbyterian Church in Canada. The letter dealt faithfully with the subject of slavery, which so annoyed the Assembly that it was proposed not to read the whole of it. Several members spoke on the subject, boasting that they had excluded Abolitionists, and professing views clearly and decidedly in favour of slavery – views which they asserted to be also those of the Free Church. The letter was at last allowed to be read out; but so irritated were the Old School Assembly with the remonstrance of their brethren in Canada on the slavery question, that they determined to cease intercourse with them.
He had little doubt but that, if the Free Church sent out a faithful remonstrance, they would be treated in a similar manner.
Mr Thompson then narrated the various proceedings of the Evangelical Alliance previous to the introduction of the slavery question – the unanimity which prevailed among them. The question, however, whether a man who held his brother man as property should be admitted, was such a difficult one to decide that it set them by the ears. This which had been such a puzzling question to the Alliance, would have been set at rest at once by the youngest Sabbath school scholar. The law told them what to do: ‘Let the oppressed go free;’ ‘Break every yoke;’ ‘He that stealeth a man, or if he be found in his hands, he shall surely be put to death;’ ‘Bring no more vain oblations,’ &c.’ ‘I will have mercy,’ &c., &c. The Gospel would have told them what to do: ‘All things whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you do ye even so to them;’ ‘Remember them in bonds as bound with them;’ ‘Owe no man anything;’ ‘The labourer is worthy of his hire;’ and so forth.
After some discussion in the Alliance, the question was referred to a Committee on Friday the 28th August. The Committee were unable to decide this serious question; and, in order to arrive at a decision, they divided themselves into three sub-Committees, – the British party forming one, the Americans another, and the Continentals a third. Still they were unable to settle the matter; and, on the other members of the Alliance looking in on them hour after hour, and asking what had been done, the answer always was ‘Nothing.’
At last, late on Saturday evening, the sub-Committees met, and agreed to recommend to the Alliance the adoption of a resolution condemnatory of slavery as a system, but leaving a loophole for the admission of the slaveholder on account of the difficulty of his position. This was hastily adopted by the Alliance, as if happy to get rid of the matter.
Mr Thompson then went on to show the position in which the Alliance placed themselves by this resolution, the ridiculous nature of which he exposed by substituting adulterers, &c., for slaveholder.
He then refuted the statements advanced there, and by the Free Church, as to the difficulty of emancipating slaves. But even if there were any law forbidding emancipation, does it follow that men must continue to sin against God because human law says so? (Hear, hear.) The Free Church argues thus. Almost their sole argument in May last was the difficult position in which the slaveholders are placed. This is the argument of Drs Candlish and Cunningham, men who have set the civil law at defiance in their native country. (Applause.) These were the men who denied the supremacy of the civil magistrate, who upheld the religious duty of resisting all laws that interfered with conscience or their rights as ministers or people.
These men boast about an alliance with John Knox, and are raising up a monument to his memory.6 John Knox from his grave rebukes such recreants from principle. (Applause.) Such men talk about Knox; they would be the first to assail him, if living. Knox is among them in the person of every honest reformer who prefers principle to paltry gain. How do they treat a man when they see him, however humble, following Knox’s footsteps? Read the pages of their filthy organs, and you will find that they hate and persecute them, and say all manner of evil against them. They are like those of old who built the tombs of the prophets and garnished them, and of whom Christ said, ‘Ye build the tombs of the prophets, and would have slain the prophets had they lived in these times;’ and these very men who were thus garnishing the sepulchres of the prophets were hunting the Redeemer of the world to death.
The duty of the Free Church of Scotland, and of the Evangelical Alliance, was to bear their testimony against slavery. They had nothing to do with mitigating circumstances. These should be left to God. They had to do with the law of God as it stands.
Mr Thompson then went on to narrate that the resolution come to by the Alliance, though acquiesced in for the moment by the Americans, was considered by them, on reflection, one which they could not submit to; and early on Monday the whole question was opened up again, another Committee was appointed, and the Americans remained so firm that every word on the subject of slavery was expunged from the records of the Alliance.
After pointing out the disgrace which attached to the Alliance on this account, and mentioning that he had obtained the almost unanimous verdict of about 23,000 persons against them at meetings which had been held throughout the country, he read a letter of Dr Wardlaw‘s defending the proceedings of the Alliance on this subject, copied into the Warder of last week, and commented on it.7
First let him give Dr Wardlaw credit for speaking faithfully of American slavery. There was little comfort in his letter for the Free Church, and he hoped the friends in Dundee would make good use of it. The Doctor said, –
I must say, for myself, I will not yield in my abhorrence of the infernal system of slavery, to Garrison, to Thompson, or to any man breathing. It is one of those subjects on which I feel it no small trial of temper to speak or write with patience, and am strongly tempted to put violence among the virtues. American slavery in all its characteristics, its bearings, and its results, temporal, spiritual, and eternal. I regard as of all accursed things on the face of the earth one of the most accursed.
* * *
Nothing in their (the slaveholders’) condition can ever be an excuse for our implicating ourselves, more or less, directly or indirectly, in the evil, by any kind, or any measure, either of communion or of connivance. If they cannot keep their hands clean, that can be no reason why we should defile ours, why we should defile them even by clasping theirs. It is foolish to talk of any difference between the sin of slavery and the sin of slaveholding. Few things can be clearer, than that, were there no slaveholding, there would be no slaves. If, therefore, we are to have nothing to do with slavery, we must have nothing to do with slaveholding. They are not only in one category, they are one and the same thing.
The Free Church were strong in condemning the law, the custom, the institution; they call it criminal – they call it accursed – poor institution! (Laughter.) They may say or do what they like, as long as they keep merely to condemning the institution. What does the institution care? They resolve to condemn the system, what does the system care? They call for sentence on the wicked institution. The judge puts on his black cap, and condemns it to be hanged by the neck. The institution has no neck – no soul – (laughter) – but when they talk about the slaveholder – (cheers) – then Drs Candlish and Cunningham turn round.
They are full of love, and pity, and respect, and fraternal tenderness for the slaveholder, and all manner of wrath at William Lloyd Garrison. Yes, he is an infidel, away with him – a pestilent fellow – a nuisance. They have raised the cry of mad dog! (Applause.)
He thanked Dr Wardlaw for his testimony against slaveholders. It had been discovered by a learned philosopher that there was a difference between slaveholding and slavehaving. The thief might say, ‘I do not hold your watch, I only have it.’ The sheep stealer, ‘I am no sheep holder, but a sheep haver – a very respectable man.’ (Laughter and applause.)
He then quoted from Dr Wardlaw –
The American brethren, therefore, are upon their trial. No act of theirs can become the act of the Allinace, without the recognition of its other branches. If, therefore, they are found to introduct slaveholders into the communion of the Alliance, in their branch of it, we are neither answerable for the act, nor bound by it. The repudiation of the deed will then become our duty, and separation from those by whom the pollution has been wilfully contracted. It will be ours to say, with sorrow, but with firmness, ‘We are not responsbible for this act of yours. Your knew our mind. You have done what we cannot recognise and cannot tolerate – we part.’ I speak now for myself. I should mourn the day when that plague-spot should appear on the fair hand of our Alliance. That hand, which now I grasp with fond delight, I should fling indignantly from me; and yet, while with a loathing, not less with a reluctant and aching heart.
* * *
And if my British brethren were to discover a willingness still to keep their hold of the tainted hand, I should be constrained to part with them as well.
After commenting on this, and showing how strongly it condemned the Free Church, and bound down Dr Wardlaw to eschew connection with them – to refuse to sit in the same Alliance, as if he ever did so, he would falsify his own words, he went on to show that the Dr is in gross error in saying that ‘our American brethren who were with us (in the Alliance) are anti slavery men like ourselves.’
As an evidence of this he quoted from the speeches of Dr Olin, Dr Cox, Mr Clowes, Mr Clark, and many other of the American delegates to the Alliance, showing that they were strong pro-slavery men. Indeed, some of the sentiments expressed by them were so blasphemous and horrid as to excite deep shudders in the audience. Dr Wardlaw, if he was true to his word, could never sit down with these men.
After commenting farther upon the letter, Mr Thompson went on to say they had one of the guiltiest members (Mr Lewis) of the Free Church in their own town. They had a man who went to the United States, who landed at New York, who travelled from the Potomac to the Sabine – from cities on the Atlantic coast to cities on the upper waters of the Missouri and the Ohio. He had tracked him in his own book. That man was a recreant minister of Christ, who went over the length and breadth of the land, and never bore his testimony against slavery. He saw the auction block and the slave pen, and came home and bespattered the slaveholder with praise.
What then is the duty of the people of Dundee? Rise and purge yourselves from this corruption. (Applause.) The hour is coming for the Free Churchmen of Scotland to decide whether they will follow a corrupt priesthood. (Cheers.) The priests of old corrupted the law of the Lord, and they did it from the same motive – that they might hold together and increase their influence and gains. The priesthood of the Free Church are doing this at the present moment.
But who is this Mr Lewis? Nobody. He dare not say his soul is his own in the presence of the three great guns of the Assembly. (Applause, and a cry of ‘false.’) He could prove it. He utters falsehoods to please these men. (Cheers.) He (Mr T.) could tell them that the influence of the Free Church was waning. It had become a byeword on the other side of the Tweed. They understood there what was doing, and could get up as hearty a shout as here of ‘Send back the money.’
He advised them not to be drawn away by a nick name, by a cry of mad dog. Do men gather grapes of thorns?
He concluded by eulogising the labours of Mr Garrison, and warning the people not to be led away from the real subject at issue by any endeavour to draw them on a false scent.
Mr Frederick Douglass merely intended to propose a vote of thanks to the managers of the chapel, who had so cordially and unanimously granted them the use of the house. He thanked them in his own name, and in the name of his brethren, three millions of fellow-creatures in chains:–
What, ho! our countrymen in chains!
The whip on woman’s shrinking flesh!
Our soil still reddening with the stains
Caught from the scourging warm and fresh!
What! mothers from their children riven!
What! God’s own image bought and sold!
Americans to market driven,
And bartered, as the brutes, for gold!8
The conduct of the managers contrasted nobly with the mean and cowardly spirit of those who, from fear of offending the Free Church, withheld their countenance. (Great applause.)
The Rev. Mr Robertson of Edinburgh wished to mention one circumstance. A lady in Edinburgh, who was a member of the Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Society at the commencement of this agitation, was so offended at the exposure of the Free Church’s doings (she being a member of that body) that she then left the Anti-Slavery Society. She had since been so thoroughly convinced of the evil which the Free Church had done, that she had returned to the Society and given a donation of £50 to its funds. She had also, if he remembered right, expressed a wish to become one of the acting committee. The lady to whom he referred and her husband had subscribed £500 towards the Free Church Sustenation Fund; and her conduct now, and that of many similar cases, ought to be a warning to the Free Church.
A vote of thanks was then awarded to Mr Gilfillan for his conduct in the chair, and the meeting separated.
Dundee Courier, 27 October 1846
On Friday evening, a meeting was held in James’ Church, for the purpose of hearing Messrs George Thompson and Lloyd Garrison upon the conduct of the Evangelical Alliance and the Free Church of Scotland, in regard to American slavery, – the Reverend George Gilfillan in the chair.
In opening the business of the Meeting, the CHAIRMAN observed, that he had taken the chair with considerable pleasure, at the request of Mr Alexander Easson, a gentleman who usually presided at their meetings, and one who was always among the foremost to make his appearance when the course of right and justice had to be advocated. He (Mr Gilfillan) considered that he himself had a sort of prescriptive right to the chair; for, when the advocates of American [anti-]slavery came first to this town, the doors of the School Wynd chapel were thrown open to them, and he presided at their meetings.
He did so, as he considered them the advocates of three millions of their fellow-men who were held in bondage. He should this evening have the pleasure of introducing to them Messrs Lloyd Garrison and George Thompson, the former a person whose efforts in the abolition of slavery entitled him to take a place alongside of Wilberforce and Clarkson, the latter one who had proved himself the friend of the oppressed in every quarter of the World. Without detaining them longer, he begged to introduce Mr Garrison to their notice.
Mr GARRISON had great pleasure in again appearing before them. It had been urged against him by some that he ought not to be listened to on this question, or his statements believed, because he entertained peculiar views on Sabbath observance. In his opinion, these had nothing to do with the question at issue. He had never brought them forward at any anti-slavery meeting, and though some might condemn them, he was ready to prove their correctness from Scripture, and from that alone. His opinions were the same as those held by Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Philip Melancthon; and he thought it somewhat curious for his opponents to hold up these individuals as saints while they at the same time termed him an infidel for holding their opinions.
Though his opinions were wrong respecting the meaning of the fourth commandment, ought these to hinder the advocates for the abolition of slavery from cooperating with him? What would have been thought if a free trader had refused to assist Mr Cobden to procure a repeal of the corn laws upon the grounds that that gentleman and he did not agree upon some religious points?
In the United States almost all the Christian Churches were in favour of slavery – the Presbyterians, the Baptists, and the Methodists. Mr Garrison then referred to the failure of the missionary efforts by the American Churches, for, when the Heathen discovered that they were in favour of reducing men of Colour to a state of slavery, they very naturally concluded that the religion offered to them was not the true one. In fact, the views which the American Churches held on the question of slavery were not according to the principles of Christianity. Even the Mahommedans would repudiate such views. The Church of Rome had lifted up her testimony against slavery in the bull of the late Pope, in which the faithful throughout the World were called upon to keep aloof from slavery, as a practice contrary to revealed religion and offensive in the sight of Heaven. Yet that was the system practised by the Americans, countenanced by their clergy, and approved of by the priests of the Free Church in this country. He would advise them to judge men by their practice and not by their professions. Could they gather grapes from thorns or figs from thistles?
Mr Garrison then alluded to the effects of the American Colonization Society, and declared that its objects were the perpetuation of slavery in the United States, by removing the free Coloured population to Liberia in order that their appearance might not prove an eye-sore in the sight of those held in bondage and in chains. The slave, when he saw another of his own colour free, naturally wished to be placed in the same state. he of course desired to be treated as a man; and the slave-holders being conscious of that, were anxious to get the free Coloured population removed to the coast of Africa. Hence their scheme for the colonization of Liberia, and the support which it had received at their hands.
He had long ago opposed the Colonization Society, as he considered it an engine calculated to promote the continuance of slavery in America. In doing so, he had to encounter the opposition of the American clergy, and hence the hue and cry that had been raised against his religious principles by the man-stealers of America. He was glad however to say, that his opposition to the American Colonization Society had not been altogether unproductive of good effects, and that the eyes of the public were now opened as to its real intentions.
Mr Garrison, after a defence of his views, said that he should not detain the Meeting longer, but give place to Mr George Thompson, who had for years been the eloquent advocate of the West India slave, the defender of the oppressed in Hindostan, and three millions held in the bonds of slavery in the United States of America – one who took the whole World in his embrace, and raised his voice against his fellow-men being kept in bondage in whatever region or whatever clime. (Applause.)
Mr THOMPSON, on presenting himself, was received with loud and lengthened applause. In the commencement of his address he noticed in terms of condemnation an article which had recently appeared in the Congregational Magazine, understood to be from the pen of a son of an influential townsman of their own. He was sorry that such an article had been allowed to pollute the pages of that magazine, and that it should have been the production of an inhabitant of this town.
He had been opposed by the Free Church party, and it had been stated that he was the calumniator of the American Churches; but he might mention that, in 1833 he visited America, and gave his opinion on the state of religion in that country; and in the work which he published on the subject, he stated the views which he had held ever since; but mark the different reception which they then received from the parties composing the Free church from what they did now.
It was then in the heat of the Voluntary controversy, and his book was commended by all the Church Magazines, and in the columns of the Scottish Guardian. An impression of it was brought forward and sold by the same parties in a very short time. It was declared that he had given a far more impartial statement of the state of religion in the American Churches than Doctors Reid and Mathewson had done. He then merely stated what appeared to him to be the truth; but the parties who were so loud in his favour then were placed in a very different position from what they were now. That of itself might explain the difference in their views. His views at that time, which were the same as those held by his friend Mr Garrison, were approved of by the venerable Wilberforce and by all who were eminent for their maintenance of anti-slavery principles.
What had he done now but what he did then, except condemning the Free Church of Scotland for holding communion with the American slave-holders, and blaming the Evangelical Alliance for not taking a decided step, by lifting up their testimony against the accursed system of slavery in America? What was worse the part which the Free Church had taken upon this question had been the means of corrupting and lowering the sentiment of almost all the other religious bodies in the country. In fact, many of the religious bodies which were by no means friendly to the Free Church in many things, had been as it were overawed by her authority in this matter.
With his own ears he had heard within the last twelve months doctrines broached by evangelical clergymen in defence of slavery which formerly would have been held as anti-scriptural and sinful. Indeed, of late the Free Church ministers had become perfectly reckless in their assertions in vindication of slavery, and attempting to prove that that abominable system was countenanced by the doctrines of the New Testament, and by the practice of our Saviour and his Apostles. Such assertions were an insult to the spirit of Christianity, and it was shameful to witness them in the writings and the speeches of the ministers of religion. It was truly lamentable for one to be compelled to see with his eyes the doings of the Free Church regarding slavery, and to be compelled to hear with his ears the doctrines she had uttered upon the subject. In short, he might say that the Free Church of Scotland had sold herself to work all manner of wickedness. (Cheers and hisses.)
He was glad at hearing that hiss – such things inspirited him; and he could assure the individuals who uttered it that he was not the man to be dispirited by opposition of that sort. There were only two of the lower animals who gave vent to their feelings by such sounds as they had heard, – one of them was the long-necked gentleman which they saw upon the common, so remarkable for his stupidity – (laughter) – the other the reptile doomed to walk on his belly, and to lick the dust of the earth, and which was reckoned the emblem of all that was subtle and dangerous. (Cheers.)
What he had said respecting the Free Church did not arise from any malignant feeling. He was only declaring the truth. Did not the Free Church send to America and obtain money from the slave-holding Churches for the support of her schemes; and, had she not even since then been the advocate of slavery in all its horrors? He asserted that, clearly viewing these things, as had been said by his friend garrison in Edinburgh and Belfast, the Free Church had deliberately sold herself to work all manner of wickedness. (Cheers.)
He considered then that the assertion was completely proved. Twelve years ago he declared that the American Churches were the abettors of slavery. His speeches were inserted in all the Church Newspapers, and quoted and commented upon by the Chalmerses, the Candlishes, the Cunninghams, and the Beggs of that day. His speeches were by the efforts of these gentlemen scattered throughout the length and breadth of the land.
It had been said that he had entered upon this agitation for the sake of personal gain. That he denied in the most explicit terms. He had come from home at considerable sacrifice of time, and consequently of money. He did not look for any personal advantage, what he desired was the liberation of the slaves.
In reference to the sentiments of the Churches in America regarding slavery, he would read to them the reception of a Memorial sent by the Presbyterian body in Canada, a body in connexion with the Free Church, at the head of which was Dr Burns, to the old school, or true blue Presbyterians in the United States. The Memorial urged the old school Presbyterians to endeavour to effect an abolition of slavery in America. At first the Clerk pretended that he could not read it owing to the illegibility of the manuscript; when he had proceeded a certain length the Reverend Dr Brackinridge got up and declared that they could not listen to it any longer, as he did not consider that they should allow themselves to be insulted to their face. After some others had delivered themselves in this same style, it was proposed that intimation should be given to the Canadian Presbyterians that all correspondence with foreign churches should cease, should they send such Memorials as they had done. Several of the clergy were for the Assembly to take a decided part, and declared themselves in favour of ceasing to hold correspondence with such Churches; but it was feared a resolution of this nature would break up the intercourse between them and the Free Church of Scotland; the matter then dropped.
In 1834 the Secession Church of Scotland sent a remonstrance to the American Churches upon the question of slavery. That document of course could not be favourably received.
The Free Church also gave a deliverance in 1844 regarding the sin of slavery, and transmitted it to the United States. In a year after a stronger one was agreed to, but was never sent out though the clergy always appealed to it as an evidence of their abhorrence of that sinful traffic. The secret of its not being transmitted was known only to two or three of the Free Church leaders.
At length, in the middle of the nineteenth century – in the month of May, in the year of grace 1846 – a certain eminent clerical philosopher hied down to Canonmills, pregnant with the discovery of having found out the difference between slave-holding and slave-having. Oh! said he, slave-holding may be a sin, but slave-having was not, for a man may be so circumstanced that he cannot prevent himself from being a slave-haver. Upon this principle, the fellow who plundered your watch-pocket was not a thief, but merely a watch-haver. (Laughter and cheers.) It had been said by the same party, that a slave-haver ought not to be blamed for having slaves, as it often happened that he had received them as a legacy, and that the laws of the country prevented him from emancipating them. Though a son was left by his father a room full of stolen property, was that an excuse for his retaining it when he knew that it had not been honestly come by? Now, there was not a slave-holder or slave-haver, if they wished him to be so termed, who did not know that the property he held in his fellow-men was at first procured by theft, and by theft of the worse description With respect to the laws in the United States preventing the emancipation of the slaves, he might remark, that there was nothing to hinder any one who was willing to do so, provided he gave the necessary securities that the emancipated slave should not become burdensome to the Public, and that he would remove to another State. He confessed it was rather curious to perceive the parties who a year or two ago made it their boast that they would set at defiance the decisions of the Supreme Courts, and consequently the law of the land, rather than violate their consciences, now coming forward and defending the American slave-holders for living in open violation of the laws of God, which condemned the man-stealer in the most emphatic manner. (Cheers.)
He should now detain the a little by speaking on the conduct of the Evangelical Alliance, in regard to the question of American slavery. For himself, he had rather unexpectedly fallen into a controversy on this subject with Dr Wardlaw of Glasgow – a person at whose hands he had received every mark of Kindness, and one who he was sure had been directed in the course he had adopted by the best of motives. He entertained neither enmity to the Evangelical Alliance nor to any of its members, hundreds of whom had been his personal friends; and, had they done right on the slavery question, their proceedings would on most others met with his cordial approbation.
On the question of slavery he contended they had done wrong, and therefore their actions on it were deserving of censure. He should in a few words give them the history of that celebrated body, and the manner in which they treated the subject of American slavery.
When that body met in August last, nothing could for a time exceed the unanimity that prevailed among them. Shortly after, the important question of slavery was ‘mooted’ by one or two of their number. Immediately discord arose. The American delegates declared that the Alliance, making any testimony against slavery, was a breach of contract, being contrary to the letters of invitation. The Alliance then, to use their own words, sought counsel at the Lord by engaging in prayer. He believed there was not a Sunday school teacher or Sunday school pupil who now heard him but would have seen his way clearly upon the subject.
After some time the American delegates retired into an apartment by themselves, and, as they remained there a considerable time, a messenger was sent to see what they were about. He returned with an answer that they were engaged in prayer.
Next day a discussion arose on the subject, in which the American clergy strongly opposed anything being inserted on the Minutes condemnatory of the slave system. At length a proposition was agreed to, passing a very light condemnation of it indeed. The American delegates, on their way home, perceiving that they had so far gained their object by firmness, took counsel among themselves, and on the next day of meeting they proposed and ultimately succeeded in carrying a motion, that the former resolution should be rescinded, so that there remains nothing on the Alliance’s Minutes regarding the question of slavery in one shape or another. That the American Churches, whose delegates appeared at the Alliance, were favourable to slavery, was well known to the rest of the members, as was evident from their formerly declared opinions, and by the discussions and deliverances of the bodies with which they were connected.
Mr Thompson read several of them from a sort of scrap book, as he termed it, which he had collected of the opinions of American divines on the subject of slavery. One of them, who was a member of the Alliance, had attempted to prove that slavery was agreeable to the word of God, by the text of ‘Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s,’ forgetting however to quote the remainder of the verse. He (Mr Thompson) had no doubt but many of them would be surprised at such an attempt, as every Scotchman well knew that the text was applied by the Saviour to the duty of paying tribute to the State, without any reference to slavery. What said Christ on the subject? When some asked him whether it was proper to pay taxes to the Roman Government, he said, ‘Show me a penny.’ When they had done so, he asked, ‘Whose image and superscription is this?’ They answered, ‘Caesar’s.’ Then said he, ‘Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.’ Yes, he (Mr Thompson) would say, render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s – look at his image and superscription, and give him what is his own, but look at man, the declared image of his Maker, and render to God the things that are God’s.
Dr Wardlaw had addressed a letter to The Patriot on the question of the conduct of the Evangelical Alliance. The letter was copied into the last number of the Warder, but, as far as he could perceive, the reverend Doctor and he did not differ so far in opinion as one might at first sight imagine. The Doctor had declared that he would have no communion or fellowship with slave-holders; and he (Mr Thompson) would take him at his word. He intended to be in Glasgow in a few days, and he, besides calling upon the Doctor to answer certain questions, would ask him if he still adhered to his declaration?
He and his friends Garrison and Douglas had held meetings in various places, at which the conduct of the Alliance was discussed, and the proceedings of that body uniformly condemned. At Exeter Hall, London, a meeting of 6000 persons disapproved of these. They had held meetings in Newcastle, Bristol, Manchester, Liverpool, and Edinburgh. At these meetings about 23,000 people assembled, and at them the proceedings of the Alliance were condemned by all but seven individuals.
The Evangelical Alliance had exercised a discrimination in not admitting into their body the delegates of any one who were not considered to hold evangelical sentiments. In doing so they acted correctly, had they at the same time looked a little more closely after the proceedings of certain churches.
In speaking on this, he would remark that Bishop Meea, a Bishop of the Methodist Episcopalian church in America, a pastor who was not present at the Conference in person, but who sent an epistle to them approving of their proceedings, and who was therefore present by letter, had published a course of sermons in which he directed that they should be read to slaves by their masters at convenient times on Sundays, and recommended that the meeting should sing a hymn and engage in prayer. It must be understood that no person was by the law of the United States allowed to teach a Coloured person to read, and therefore the Bishop’s sermons were intended for the master to read to his slaves, and that they should be listeners.
Mr Thompson read portions from these discourses, in which it was recommended to the slaves to bear correction with patience. He would inform such of his audience as were ignorant of the fact, that correction among American slave-holders meant the application of the cow-skin, the thumb-screw, and all the paraphernalia of torture. Now, that was what was veiled under the gentle name of correction.
The Bishop went on to say that if they were corrected for a fault they ought not to complain; but, even should they be corrected for having done no fault at all, they must remember that they had done many others which had never been brought to light; and, though they ought to bear it with patience in this World, for their doing so would insure them a greater amount of glory in the next.
Another, a Dr Paton, left his charge in order to attend the meeting of the Evangelical Alliance. That gentleman, as a faithful shepherd, left a Mr Page to take charge of the flock in his absence, no doubt remembering the old saying, ‘Weel ken’s the mouse when the cat’s out o’ the house.’ This Mr Page having had some concerns to settle of his won, engaged for a Sabbath or two a notorious slave-holding preacher from the South. The matter was noticed in the Anti-Slavery Observer of New York, the editor of which like his friend Garrison had been described as one who was particularly versed in the science of giving offence.
After stating that Mr Page had hired a notorious slave-holding preacher to officiate for him in his absence, and in giving a description of the Church, he declared that it contained what was termed a Jim Crow gallery, for the accommodation of the Negroes and the Coloured people. Happily his audience were ignorant of what a Jim Crow loft meant, but he should attempt to give them an idea of it, taking the one in Dr Paton’s Church as an example. It was an erection placed several feet above the head, and generally on the right hand of the preacher, where the Coloured people were compelled to sit at worship, and to which they ascended by a separate entrance and by a separate stair. That was what was termed a Jim Crow gallery. An answer was attempted to what he had noticed in one of the American religious Newspapers; and certainly it was one of the most shocking pieces of blasphemy he had ever witnessed. With their indulgence, he should read it. The answer declared that the Negroes, so far from considering themselves degraded by being compelled to sit in the Jim Crow pews, ought to look upon themselves as occupying an elevated and honourable position, as they were by it placed above the heads of the Whites, at the preacher’s right hand, and nearest his heart; and that they occupied a place similar to that at which the Son of God himself was situated. (Cries of ‘Shame, shame!’)
Mr Thompson was glad at that expression of their detestation of the ultra disgusting blasphemy of this passage. It was likewise said, that Coloured people were admitted to the sacrament along with the Whites; but mark the distinction – the Blacks were compelled to communicate apart from the Whites. This Dr Paton, in whose church these things were transacted, was a member of the Evangelical Alliance; and he would again repeat that he would hold Dr Wardlaw to his word, that he could not give the right hand of fellowship to a slave-holder, and of course he must refuse it to such as men as Dr Paton.
Sir Culling Eardley Smith, the Chairman of the Alliance, and the lately defeated candidate for the city of Edinburgh, had attempted at Alyesburgh to defend the conduct of that body, but the question put, why they refused admission to the Quakers, while they admitted American slave-holders? was rather puzzling to the Baronet. The question was put to him in a Scotch manner; and he believed that the person who put it was a Scotchman. Such a man as the Baronet would have been a worthy representative of the Free Church. A young man who intended to come out as a missionary of the Free Church, was so disgusted at their conduct, after he had heard it properly explained at Alyesburgh, that he not only left their connexion, but declared that the name Free, as applied to them, stank in his nostrils whenever he heard it mentioned, and when he thought of their alliance with slave-holders.
Mr Thompson animadverted on the conduct of several other American delegates to the Evangelical Alliance, such as that of Doctors Cox and Smyth, the former of whom was preferred lately to the honour of preaching along with Dr Chalmers, although it was notorious that he was an open advocate of slavery.
He was sorry to observe that, among the ministers of the Free Church who went to America, for the purpose of procuring money from the slave-holders, there should have been one from this town – the Reverend Mr Lewis. That individual might have pretensions to be something here, but when he went to Edinburgh he was as nothing when placed in front of the triumverate who governed the Free Church. (Cries of ‘Not true,’ and ‘Proof, proof.’) Mr Thompson said, some deny that, but he would repeat that Mr Lewis was nobody when placed before those individuals. (Cheers.)
He had traced that man’s travels by his book. He had followed him from the shore of the Atlantic to the banks of the Missouri and the Mississippi. He perceived that he had visited the principal towns in the United States. He preached at many places – took the American slave-holder’s money and then returned home and bespattered them with the most disgusting and fulsome flattery. That man must have witnessed the slave pen, the auction block, the cow-hide, and all the other paraphernalia of torture, but he uttered not a sentence in condemnation of the system. In fact, he spoke and wrote to please the individuals to whom he had referred – to the three great leaders of the Free Church. (Cheers.)
These would-be leaders of the people had proved themselves powerful for evil, but they on the other side of the Tweed understood them and their doings better than they imagined. It was the duty of the members of that Church to purge her from the stain which had thus been affixed to her. (Cheers.)
A cry had been raised against this agitation because Mr Garrison, who was said by its opponents to be an Infidel, had taken a part in it. They were perhaps aware that, when sportsmen wanted to puzzle the dogs, destroy the scent, and preserve the game, they trailed a red herring over the ground, and no sooner did the dogs come upon the scent of it than they forsook the track of an animal they were in pursuit of, and ran about bewildered after the scent of the herring. The people had started to hunt down slavery. Its friends had made Mr Lloyd Garrison’s so called Infidelity the red herring to puzzle them and make the lose the scent. Let them not however be allured away by such things as that, but consider if the agitation was just, and if they found it to be so let them join it irrespective of the theological opinions of some of the agitators. let them not be led away by such nicknames as had been used towards his friend, but when they heard them they should raise the cry, ‘Send back the money.’
It had been said that the abolitionists in America had retarded the empancipation [sic] of the slaves by their indiscretion, but he would remind them that before their agitation commenced insurrections of the slaves broke out every now and then which were not put down without the destruction of a vast amount of life and property. Since the abolitionists had commenced their present career, the slaves, instead of rising in wrath against their oppressors, had consented to wait with patience till their emancipation could be procured by peaceable means. The individuals who had persuaded them to do so could not in justice be said to have retarded the cause of emancipation.
Mr Thompson, in conclusion, observed that some might think that he had been rather severe upon the ministers of the Free Church and the slave-holding Churches in America, but they ought to remember that these men possessed a vast influence, and in proportion to its extent were they responsible for the right exercise of it. To what a degree some of them had abused that influence might be understood from what had been read in their hearing. Let them beware of taking their theology from such clergymen as those belonging to the Free Church, who had attempted to wrest the Scriptures of truth, with a view to vindicate the abominable system of American slavery. (Cries of ‘Hear, hear!’)
Let the friends of abolition pursue the course they had hitherto followed, and they would have the blessings of the slave, and of that God who heareth the cry of the oppressed, and who has said, whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you do ye also unto them. Mr Thompson sat down amidst loud and continued applause.
Mr FREDERICK DOUGLASS said, he was on this occasion so highly satisfied with the opinions delivered by Mr Thompson, that he should not say a word in support of them. He had come among them to-night not for the purpose of speaking but of listening. His reasons for now appearing before them were to move a vote of thanks to the Managers of James’ Church, who had, with one consent, given them the use of it when they were denied accommodation in other places. (Applause.) Here there was no majority of one to hinder them from access. The Managers, for acting as they had done, would have the blessings of the slave and the approbation of their own conscience.
The Free Church party had termed him the mere echo of Thompson and Garrison. He was contented to be called so as long as these gentlemen advocated the principles they did. He would tell them of a party to which he never had been and never would be the echo – the slave-holders of America. (Cheers.) What he demanded was the immediate and unconditional abolition of slavery in that country, and that the slave-master ought no longer to be allowed to carry on a trade in human flesh. Some might sneer at him, but, alas! while he was addressing them the whip was tearing the quivering flesh from the backs of women, slave-holders were dragging the husband from the wife, and the child from the parent.
He should be soon again in Dundee to tell them something about sending back the money – send back the money he would say to the Free Church folks. (Cheers.) Though a concise expression, there was music, poetry, and common sense in it. No argument had such an effect in puzzling or awakening the ire of the Free Churchmen like it. They were proof against the strongest arguments, and could listen to them without emotion, but no sooner were the words ‘Send back the money’ uttered than some began to look confusedly and scratch their heads in this manner (Mr Douglass here suiting the action to the word) – (laughter) – while others flew into a violent passion.
He should tell what happened lately in Edinburgh about sending back the money. When he was there at one time the words were to be seen chalked on every wall of this city. In his absence the rain had descended and the Free Church mops had been in active operation, and thus by the time he came back last almost all marks of the former sensation had been blotted out, but, the day after Mr Thompson had uttered the words send back the money, the phrase was to be seen chalked up in every place, to the great chagrin, no doubt, of the Free Church people. (Cheers.)
He should not detain them longer, except to propose a vote of thanks to the Managers of the church. (Applause.)
The Reverend Mr ROBERTSON, Secretary of the Anti-Slavery Society, Edinburgh, would state a fact which had lately come to his knowledge, and, were the Editor or Reporter of the Northern Warder present he would call upon him to give it a place in his Paper. A lady in Edinburgh, of considerable wealth and influence, who belonged to the Free Church, was likewise a member of the Ladies Anti-Slavery Association. She was much attached to the Free Church, and in consequence was led to blame the manner in which the agitation against slavery was carried on; she therefore withdrew from the Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Society; but a few weeks ago she called on the lady of the gentleman from whom he had the fact, and told her that she had been reflecting seriously upon the present position of the Free Church respecting slavery, and the result of her reflections was the belief that that body had been guilty of a great crime in the sight of God and man for the manner in which they had acted, and, as a proof of her repentance and change of mind, she had presented 50l. to the Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Society. He (Mr Robertson) had every confidence in the veracity of his informant, and had no doubt but what he told him was the truth. The lady to whom he alluded had been very liberal to the Free Church. He understood that she and her husband had contributed as large a sum as 500l. since the Disruption to the different Schemes of that body. The Free Church clergy might pretend that they had the universal support of their people on the anti-slavery question, but he had mentioned an instance in which they had not, and he had no doubt, from what he knew of the sentiments of many of his personal friends belonging to the Free Church, he was confident that many more Free Churchmen than was supposed were heartily ashamed and grieved at the actings of their ministers upon American slavery.
On the motion of Mr Garrison, a vote of thanks was awarded to the Chairman for his conduct in the chair, after which the Meeting was declared to be dissolved.
Dundee, Perth and Cupar Advertiser, 27 October 1846
AMERICAN SLAVERY AND THE FREE CHURCH
The agitation which the conduct of the leaders of the Free Church has excited, is far from being at an end, as those individuals openly boasted it would soon be, no doubt having the greatest interest in such a result. Messrs Douglass and George Thompson, aided by Mr Garrison from America, are [a]gain abroad, and their addresses appear to produce greater enthusiasm than ever, and their public meetings to draw even greater crowds than at first, when the agitation was a novelty. Amongst other important and impressive demonstrations in which these gentlemen have been engaged, we observe that they held a meeting in Dundee on Friday last, which was numerously attended. The various speakers appear to have been heard with the utmost attention and applause, in a town which has been long noted for the Free Church animus of a large proportion of its population.
The following character, which chiefly applies to the American churches, with which the Free Seceders and their Assembly are not fraternising, was given by Mr Garrison:–
For his own part, he rejoiced most sincerely in the spread of Christianity, and he was glad that it was spread in America. He rejoiced in the spread of true religion. American religion was, however, a different matter, and he rejoiced in its decline, and for the reasons given, ‘inasmuch as it voluntarily comes forth to baptize and to sanctify slavery.’ American religion is not Christianity, but the grossest libel on Christianity.
Mr Garrison then went on to show that slavery had lately been abolished by the Bey of Tunis; and that a bull of the late Pope of Rome called on all the faithful throughout the world to keep themselves free from the slavery and the slave trade. The American religionists would take no warning.
They had sent out missionaries to the Kerims, who would not listen to them. They said they did not want to know anything more about Christianity. They had found out that in the land from whence the missionaries came human beings were bought and sold, and they brought against the missionaries the charge that they wanted to convert them in order to make them slaves. The missionaries asked what was to be done? He could tell them. The missionaries had only to disclaim all that slaveholders have done in the name of Christianity, and join with the Abolitionists and the Anti-Slavery Society in denouncing the slaveholder. Christianity enslaves nobody. It never authorised one man to tyrannise over another.
The Abolitionists of the United States are those who believe in Christ, by being willing to be of no reputation – to sacrifice all their worldly interests. They have been hunted by bloody men – their property destroyed – their persons thrown into prison, and in some cases put to death. The Abolitionists are the real Christians.
Mr George Thompson animadverted in his usual effective manner upon the dereliction of principle so shamelessly exhibited by the Free Church party. He and Mr Douglass had been libelled as itinerant orators, and he declared that assertion to be ‘an atrocious falsehood.’ Mr Thompson solemnly asserted on the contrary, that the only reward he had received is that of having travelled at his own expense, and at the sacrifice of much time, convenience, domestic comfort, and neglect of other matters which would have been attended to.
The Free Church of Scotland (he continued) had sold itself deliberately to work iniquity. He had proved in large assemblies that the very men who wrote these articles stood side by side with him twelve years ago and cheered him on. Then they were anti-voluntary. His speeches were then copied into the Church of Scotland Magazines, into the Scottish Guardians. Articles on articles were written adopting his views, and outheroding Herod. These men were the Cunninghams, the Candlishes, the Gibsons, the Lorimers, the Beggs, &c. A book was published under their sanction, in which it was pointed out that the only way to get rid of slavery was to exclude every slaveholder from the Christian church, no matter what were his other qualifications. The accredited organs of the Free Church are now filled with the vilest libels against himself and his colleagues. He could crush them under the weight of their own testimony twelve years ago.
After further showing the inconsistency of the party, Mr Thompson went on to say that he now found in the Witness and other papers letters not outdone by the vilest documents that he ever read emanating from the slaveholders of America; and what is worst of all – worst for the rising generation – these men band themselves to make Christ and his Apostles the great patrons of slavery throughout the world. (Cheers.)
Drs Candlish and Cunningham had said that Christ and his Apostles would have welcomed slaveholders to the Lord’s Table, and that God had placed men in circumstances in which it would be sin to emancipate their slaves. They should look well to themselves, whether they would follow men whose judgment had been blinded by a gift – whether they would look to the footsteps of our Saviour and walk in them, or walk in the footsteps of our Saviour and walk in them, or walk in the footsteps of the Cunninghams and Candlishes of the present day.
The Free Church argues thus. Almost their sole argument in May last was the difficult position in which the slaveholders are placed. This is the argument of Drs Candlish and Cunningham, men who have set the civil law at defiance in their native country. (Applause.) These were the men who denied the supremacy of the civil magistrate, who upheld the religious duty of resisting all laws that interfered with the conscience or their rights as ministers of people. These men boast about an alliance with John Knox, and are raising up a monument to his memory. John Knox from his grave rebukes such recreants from principle. (Applause.)
Such men talk about Knox; they would be the first to assail him, if living. Knox is among them in the person of every honest Reformer who prefers principle to paltry gain. How do they treat a man when they see him, however humble, following Knox’s footsteps? Read the pages of their filthy organs, and you will find that they hate and persecute them, and say all manner of evil against them. They are like those of old who built the tombs of the prophets and garnished them, and of whom Christ said, ‘Ye build the tombs of prophets[‘], and would have slain the prophets had they lived in these times; and these very men who were thus garnishing the sepulchres of the prophets were hunting the Redeemer of the world to death. The duty of the Free Church of Scotland, and of the Evangelical Alliance, was to bear testimony against slavery. They had nothing to do with mitigating circumstances. These should be left to God. They had to do with the law of God as it stands.
Mr Thompson expressed his decided disapprobation of the resolutions of the Evangelical Alliance on this subject; and concluded his address with the following pointed remarks:–
They had one of the guiltiest members (Mr Lewis) of the Free Church in their own town. They had a man who went to the United States, who landed at New York, who travelled from the Potomac to the Sabine – from cities on the Atlantic coast to cities on the upper waters of the Missouri and the Ohio. He had tracked him in his own book. That man was a recreant minister of Christ, who went over the length and breadth of the land, and never bore his testimony against slavery. He saw the auction block and slave pen, and came home and bespattered the slaveholder with praise.
What then is the duty of the people of Dundee? Rise and purge yourselves from this corruption. (Applause.) The hour is coming for the Free Churchmen of Scotland to decide whether they will follow a corrupt priesthood. (Cheers.) The priests of old corrupted the law of the Lord, and they did it from the same motive – that they might hold together and increase their influence and gains. The priesthood of the Free church are doing this at the present moment.
But who is this Mr Lewis? Nobody. He dare not say his soul is his own in the presence of the three great guns of the Assembly. (Applause, and a cry of ‘false.’) He could prove it. He utters falsehoods to please these men. (Cheers.) He (Mr T.) could tell them that the influence of the Free Church was waning. It had become a byword on the other side of the Tweed. They understood what was doing, and could get up as hearty a shout as here of ‘Send back the money!’
The following significant facts were stated by the Rev. James Robertson of Edinburgh, as a wind-up to the meeting:–
A lady in Edinburgh, who was a member of the Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Society, at the commencement of this agitation, was so offended at the exposure of the Free Church’s doings (she being a member of that body) that she then left the Anti-Slavery Society. She had since been so thoroughly convinced of the evil which the Free Church had done, that she had returned to the society and given a donation of L.50 to its funds. She had also, if he remembered right, expressed a wish to become one of the acting committee. The lady to whom he referred and her husband had subscribed L.500 towards the Free Church Sustentation Fund; and her conduct now, and that of many similar cases, ought to be a warning to the Free Church.
Such arguments, being addressed to the Exchequer of the Free Church, are likely to tell, if extensively applied, as we cannot doubt they will be, by the really honest and humane members of the Free Secession body.
Edinburgh Evening Post, 23 October 1846
- William Lloyd Garrison to Richard Davis Webb, Dundee, 24 October 1846, in The Letters of William Lloyd Garrison. Volume 3: No Union with Slave-Holders, edited by Walter M. Merrill (Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1973), p. 442.
- William Lloyd Garrison to Elizabeth Pease, Perth, 25 October 1846, in Letters, Vol 3, p.445.
- See Ian McCraw, Victorian Dundee at Worship (Dundee: Abertay Historical Society, 2002), p. 38, drawing on C.M. Falconer, A Hundred Years of Congregationalism: The Story of Ward Chapel. Volume 1: 1833-1883 (Dundee: privately printed, 1934), pp. 26-27. Falconer notes that notwithstanding this: ‘exactly a year after, the Chapel was granted to the Dundee Anti-Slavery Association for a course of lectures.’
- [John Campbell], ‘Slavery’, The Christian Witness (1 October 1846), p. 486.
- W. E. B., ‘Notes of an American Tour’, Scottish Congregational Magazine (October 1846), p. 482.
- The 1846 proposals did not come to fruition and the monument was not erected. See James Coleman, Remembering the Past in Nineteenth-Century Scotland: Commemoration, Nationality and Memory (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2014), p. 94.
- Ralph Wardlaw, ‘The Evangelical Alliance and Slavery’, London Patriot, 8 October 1846; reprinted Northern Warder, 22 October 1846.
- John G[reenleaf] Whittier, Poems Written During the Progress of the Abolition Question in the United States, Between the Years 1830 and 1838 (Boston: Isaac Knapp, 1837), p. 36.