On Saturday 25 April, Frederick Douglass and James Buffum made their seventh appearance in Paisley in less than six weeks. Alongside were George Thompson and Henry Clarke Wright, who had joined up with them in Glasgow a few days before.
As the report in the Renfrewshire Advertiser indicates, they had intended to hold one meeting at the High Church, Church Hill, but with the invitation apparently withdrawn, they held two separate meetings running concurrently. One at the West Relief Church, Canal Street, the other at the Secession Church, Abbey Close, the speakers shuttling between the two.
The meetings were also addressed by the Congregational Methodist minister Rev C.J. Kennedy, Rev. Patrick Brewster and Rev. Robert Cairns of the Secession Church on George Street, who would host a ‘Great Anti-Slavery Meeting’ featuring Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison in September.
Several speakers responded to recent disparaging and insulting remarks made by Paisley’s Free Church minister Rev. John Macnaughtan (of the High Church, Orr Square), not least Douglass himself, who was the personal target of them.
For an overview of Frederick Douglass’ activities in Paisley during the year see: Spotlight: Paisley.
THE FREE CHURCH AND AMERICAN SLAVERY
PUBLIC MEETINGS – PAISLEY
In consequence of a threatened interdict, the meeting advertised in our last, to take place in the High Church, was not held in that building. Two places of meeting were opened, namely the West Relief Church, and the Secession Church, Abbey Close, and it was arranged that the various speakers should address both meetings. The former place of meeting was crowded to overflowing. We shall give the speeches at length, as they were delivered in the Relief Church, and append a brief summary of the proceedings which took place in the Secession Church.
WEST RELIEF CHURCH
Rev. C.J. Kennedy, who was unanimously called to the chair, stated that he believed they were all aware that the object of the present meeting was to take into consideration the conduct of the Free Church of Scotland in accepting of money from slaveholders, and in holding communion with them. In consequence, he said, of a disappointment in regard to the High Church, they had to open two places of meeting; but it was arranged that all the speakers should address each audience. It was binding on them to do to others as they would that they should do to them, and in coming forward this evening in reference to the Free Church, they were acting on that principle.
That important and influential body had, in many particulars, acted nobly, and he trusted they would still do nobly in other particulars. Were they guilty of any mistake or error in their public conduct, it would be their duty to point it out and endeavour to reclaim them from it. Those who came forward risked in a manner their reputation. They would be acting a foolish part in reflecting on the conduct of persons who held such a great sway as they did, if they were not conscious of being in the right. He deemed it their duty to point out this error of the Free Church.
Two years ago, he had felt it his duty to speak against receiving the money before it went into the treasury. He felt that the Free Church was then under trial, and that it would come forth unscathed. Much did he regret that his expectations had been disappointed and that the Free Church party had proceeded to justify their conduct in the matter, and by doing so had committed a grievous wrong. They have been guilty of proceedings which may have an extensive influence for evil, for so long as the system of slavery is countenanced by such parties, so long had they reason to fear that the foul sin would be perpetrated. It was only by holding it up clearly and strongly, until it became disreputable, that they could expect to accomplish their end. As the best friends of the Free Church, they wished them to come forward and redeem their honour.
God forbid that he should feel malice towards any human being. It was only in the exercise of christian feeling that they came forward. They spoke the language of love when they said, they wished them to acknowledge the truth, and to act upon it, so as to secure their own peace, prosperity, and influence in the world. Mr Kennedy then proceeded to introduce Mr Wright, who was well known as an able friend of the cause of abolition.
Mr Henry C. Wright, of America, then came forward and said, that he appeared before them as the advocate and agent of three millions of slaves. These slaves were held in bondage in a land of bibles, a land of churches and ministers, and schools, and colleges – in a land, not of heathens, but of professed christian men. They were held in subjection by men who professed themselves to be followers of him who came to break the yoke and let the oppressed go free.
He appeared before them on account of these slaves, and every man who had a heart to feel, who had a soul to save, was bound to exert himself for the slave. He would ask, what is the condition of these three million of human beings? He would call their attention to facts which have never been denied, and never would be denied, so long as slavery existed in America. They found three millions of human beings, for whom Christ Jesus shed his precious blood, were held to all intents and purposes as property.
They were compelled to live without marriage, like sheep that wander over the mountains of Scotland. There were no such things as marriages among slaves, and the men who would seek to justify American slavery, were advocates of concubinage. He who threw around the slaveholders the garb of christianity, sought to identify adultery with the fruits of christianity, for every slaveholder in America lives in concubinage. The slaves have no more control over their young than the brute creation. Slaves seldom know a father – the children were compelled to follow the condition of the mother. His friend, Mr Douglass, never knew a father. Slaves were punished with stripes, imprisonment, and death, for teaching their children to read the bible. They were hunted with bloodhounds or shot, or perhaps hung up at the first tree, for attempting to change their ignorance into knowledge, their heathenism into christianity.
Slaves were never allowed to bear witness against their oppressors. Let the slaveholder do what he will, no slave could be brought forward in evidence against him. The slaves were fed, clothed, and disciplined, solely with a view to their being available in the market. They were even made members of churches in order that they might bring a higher price. He had seen young slaves sold as it were to prostitution. (Shame, shame.) He stated an instance of a church which required a new set of communion cups, and sold one of her own members to raise funds for purchasing it. Such was the character of the churches in America.
The abolitionists had started up, and were determined with their weapons of peace to overthrow this system – to root it out of the land. They were going on most successfully in the cause – they were enlisting the sympathies of many – their cause was taking deep root and working like leven throughout the country, when, in 1844, the deputation of the General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland came across their path. Christians, of various denominations throughout England, Scotland, and Ireland, had adopted the principle of no fellowship with slaveholders, and recently the committee of the Evangelical Alliance at Birmingham, had passed a vote, declaring that they would not invite any slaveholder to their alliance, and if they did come, they never would be allowed to join it.1
The Free Church of Scotland went to America by their delegation – Drs Cunningham and Burns, and Messrs Lewis and Chalmers, and two or three others.2 They went, however, and they gave the slaveholders their countenance. They had obtained from the slaveholders three thousand pounds. They came back and put it into the funds, and afterwards they sought to justify their guilty position. The Free Church of Scotland, during the past year, had denounced all and sundry as enemies to the Free Church who came before them to call them to repentance.
He asked if he was an enemy to the Free Church because he told the truth? The Rev. Dr Duncan said, had a Free Church anything to do with slavery? was every Free Church to have a slave stone in it? As for him, he could not eat a common meal with slaveholders, it would choke him. Rev. Henry Grey, Moderator of the Free Assembly, had said, have we separated ourselves from our moderate brethren to hold communion with men-stealers? They could not stay in the Establishment, their consciences were so tender – they had to come out in defence of the crown rights of the Redeemer. They could not act in a school committee or a bible society with them – their consciences were so tender, they could not do it at all. (Great laughter.)
Those very consciences which could not allow them to remain in the Establishment, could stretch away four thousand miles, and say to the men-stealers, come, dear brethren, to my arms. (Immense applause.) They talked of the crown rights of the Redeemer while their hands were dipped into the blood of the American slaves.
He wondered if ever the Free Church ministers preached repentance unto sinners at all. He had been called their bitter enemy because he preached repentance to the Free Church leaders, such as Chalmers and Candlish. He was an enemy to every man who held alliance with man-stealers. The time would come when those who endeavoured to get them to send back the money would be accounted their friends.
He held in his hand what report said had been stated by a Mr Macnaughtan. He said of his friend Mr Douglass – so report came to him – that he was a poor, ignorant, runaway slave, who had picked up a few sentences, which he was pleased to retail up and down the country; and he was surprised the people of Paisley paid a penny for it. Mr Douglass needed no advocation at all from him. They had already heard his burning words. (Great cheering.)
A poor, ignorant, runaway slave! Supposing it to be true, in the name of God who made him so? The very men whom the Free Church of Scotland are taking to their bosoms as Christians. The slaves have been stripped of their earnings; and Mr MacNaughty comes forward, and by his apology for the slaveholders, helps to keep them in that state. If Mr Macnaughtan ever made these remarks he ought to go on his knees and ask pardon of the man he has thus referred to, and then on his knees to God to seek his forgiveness. They talked about them being ignorant, and not caring so much about slavery as they did. It was a pity they did not know this Rev. gentleman. It was a pity they were not Scotsmen and Free Churchmen, too, wasn’t it? – (great applause) – They would speak out – they would thunder it over Scotland until the money was sent back. Scotland would yet be shaken until the money was shaken out of it. (Cheering.)
They wished the question settled at the ensuing General Assembly. They wanted to go back to their own country. He did not accuse the Free Church leaders of not speaking against slavery in this country. He had not said so many hard things himself against it as had been said by some of them. He here went on to show the inconsistency of those who denounced slavery, and at the same time held communion with slaveholders. How would it do to denounce theft, adultery, and then take the very men who were guilty of such things to your bosoms?
Supposing that Dr. Cunningham, for instance, were reduced to the unhappy condition of a slave, and put on the common stand, and sold for a thousand pounds for being strong, and a D.D. into the bargain. (Laughter.) Supposing it were brought to the building fund, and the question asked, where did you get it, and the answer to be, oh, it is the price of Dr. Cunningham! would they take it? They would not. If then they would not take the price of Dr. Cunningham, how dare they take the price of the poor imbruted African? What is Dr. C. better than the poor slave? They would not give the right hand of fellowship to the man who would sell him as a slave? How then dare they do it to those who enslave the African.
They say, ‘we got the money of the community – we applied to the community, and much of the money was given by slaves, and by those who were not slaveholders.’ Dr. Cunningham might as well say they got the money from the dogs, for no slave could own anything – all belonged to his master. They might as well say the horse owned the grass on which he was feeding. The slaveholders might give the slaves money to put into the box, but the slave had not a farthing which he could call his own.
He wished the Free Church to recede from its guilty position. Let Mr MacNaughty say what he pleased about them, would that justify him? He said they were strangers – send back the money, and they would talk about that. They were not of accredited characters – send back the money, and they would talk of that also. (Tremendous applause.) This Mr MacNaughty said, he was willing to discuss the question with any man who was a clergyman. He would not discuss it with a layman. He was told he was a logician – a man of talents. He was not afraid of him, however; and he would tell him, he was a minister in his own country. He would meet him at any place, in Glasgow or this town, after 1st May, Friday – he would be happy to meet him. (Loud cheers.) He would not have him shrink from this business, on the ground that he had no minister with whom to discuss it. If he wanted proof of his being a minister, he would give him plenty of it. (Cheers.)
He would call on him to vindicate the Free Church in its own position. He charged them with going to America and forming an alliance with slaveholding churches, and with taking their money with which to build their churches in Scotland. Dr Chalmers had declared, that on the keeping of the money depends the keeping of the fellowship. Of course, it would not be honest of them to keep the money and give up the fellowship, as it was on account of the fellowship the money was obtained. (Tremendous applause.) Send back the money – let that be the watchword. (Applause.)
If they cut loose the fellowship, they might go all over the south, but let them prepare themselves for a halter; for if they went there he believed they would be hung up at the first tree. They could not preach the gospel there. How could a man preach the gospel when his hand was interlocked with the man-stealer’s? (Loud applause.) He asked the Free Church leaders to come out and redeem their characters in the sight of the whole world. If they would only send it back with a kind affectionate letter, saying, that their ignorance led them astray, they might do something to redeem their lost characters.
A Relief Church minister, a short time ago, had offered to become responsible for a hundred pounds, if they would send it back. He felt that Scotland was implicated in this matter, because the Free Church pretends to represent the moral sentiment of the people of Scotland. Shall it go abroad over the world, that the Free Church did represent the public sentiment of the people of Scotland? (Cries of no, no.) They would not dare to say that Scotland was with them. They could not say that Paisley was with them. (Continued applause.) Their actions showed that they would not sit idle and see wrong inflicted on their brethren across the Atlantic.
The Free Church party said that the slaveholders were not to blame – that they found themselves unhappily in that condition, and that they could not get out of it. Why, the pickpocket might just as well say that he found himself unhappily in the condition of a pickpocket. The horse-stealer or the sheep-stealer might say in his dungeon, that he found himself unhappily in the condition of a robber. In order to get out of their difficulty, they said that slaveholding was not a sin which should exclude a man from church membership, but the holding of a man as property was. What was the difference? It would surpass all logic to show the difference. He was ashamed to see men to stultify themselves. Did they think to blind the eyes of the people of Scotland with their nice distinctions? (Great applause.) They wanted to get out of the predicament in which they found themselves placed, by a most miserable argument. They tried to make a hole in the wall, but it was not big enough to let them out. (Great laughter.) Was every Free Church to have a slave stone or stave, wet with the blood of the slave? (Applause.) If not, SEND BACK THE MONEY. (Immense cheering.)
At a place where he was lecturing lately, there was something discovered oozing out from the stones of the Free Church, and a person who was looking on very innocently, wondered if it was blood. Whenever they talked of their sufferings, their persecutions, tell them to SEND BACK THE MONEY. (Loud cheers.) Dr. Andrew Thomson of Edinburgh said, he scorned to argue the question with men who could search through the bible seeking for apologies for their foul transactions. He wished he could now see the men who should not sit in communion, or on a committee with ministers of the Establishment, and yet could hold fellowship with slaveholders.
Another argument which they had used was, that the laws make slaves, and that they are compelled to obey them. But who made the laws? It was the slaveholders and their abettors who made the laws, and then the Free Church came in and justified them on account of these laws. (Applause.) Burn all such laws at the stake, as Luther did the Pope’s bull. (Continued applause.) Let them plant themselves on the principles of eternal justice, and say to the slaveholder, ‘You are the despoiler of our brethren, and against you the respectability of the world shall close the door of admission.’ (Prolonged cheering.)
Let them, when they come to their shores, wander about as vagabonds. Let every denomination in Scotland take up this ground, and then the slaveholder will, as he ought to be, be an outcast, and will be obliged to stagger alone under the load of his guilt and infamy. (Cheers.)
He wished to call their attention to another point. They were told that slavery was an institution in America, and that we must blame the institution, and not the men. But who support the institution, if it be not the men? The Free Church party had all their hard words for the slaveholders. (Cheers.)
Mr Thompson here entered the meeting amidst a simultaneous burst of applause, on which Mr Wright said, that Mr Thompson had laboured faithfully in the cause of emancipation for fifteen years, and he would cheerfully leave the matter in such hands. Mr Wright then left the meeting, to proceed to the assemblage in the Abbey Close Secession Church.
Mr George Thompson came forward amidst tremendous cheering, and said, Mr Chairman, Ladies, and Gentlemen, you are aware that we were all taken by surprise. We thought that when there [were] so many of us, the duty devolving on each would be light; but on coming here, we found the interest so great as to demand two meetings, and I therefore had to open one meeting and continue to speak in another.
Allow me, in the first place, to state the reasons which brought me before the people of Scotland at this time. I witnessed with extreme regret the conduct of the Free Church of Scotland. I found that they went to the southern states of America heedless of the remonstrance which met them on the shores of that country, and that there they held communion with slaveholders.3
My excellent, beloved brother, Frederick Douglass, has come to Scotland to get the stigma taken off your character, which has been brought on it by this party. When invited to join my American friends, I gladly made a considerable sacrifice. I was anxious to identify myself as far as possible with them in their labours in this country – not that I deem my testimony worth anything, but that it might serve to remove any suspicions with regard to the motives with which they are animated. I was anxious that I might united with them in their labours to get the Free Church to SEND BACK THE MONEY. (Great applause.)
I wish to guard against the imputation of being inimical to the Free Church of Scotland. Her position I have often regarded with admiration. I can have no uncharitable motive in coming here to run down the conduct of the deputation who went to America. Some of them I have known for years. I have no controversy with them save on public grounds. I assail not their character, but it appears to my mind that they have committed a fatal error, and that they ought to retrace their steps and SEND BACK THE MONEY. (Tremendous cheering.)
As you know I have traversed a large portion of Scotland, I have held intercourse with parties both in and out of the Establishment. I have appealed to them on behalf of the slave, but never until recently was there a minister to be found, either in or out of the Establishment, who would go to America and gather money from the slaveholders to support their church. (Cheers.)
I will relate to you a circumstance which happened several years ago. While lecturing on American slavery, I was gratified by having a requisition presented to me, signed by ministers of the Establishment, two Episcopalians, and others, requesting that I would give a lecture on the duties of American christians in regard to American slavery. I complied, and I found the place of meeting crowded from floor to ceiling. Most of the requisitionists were present. The whole scope and tendency of my discourse went to prove the criminality of the churches on the other side of the Atlantic, and the duty of christians in this country to hold no fellowship with them. Was I blamed for doing that? No; the prayer which commenced the proceedings breathed the same spirit. I showed how revolting was the spectacle of man supporting that system whose cry was for liberty. I called it a system which put out the eyes of the slave, withholding from them their individual responsibility in making another man’s will their guide, and in leaving them to grope in darkness to an unknown eternity beyond the grave. These sentiments were concurred in by all my friends. Judge of my surprise, therefore, when I found myself called upon to expose the conduct of the Free Church of Scotland. (Cheers.)
I shall relate another circumstance:– In 1833 I was presented in London with a small volume, entitled, ‘A Picture of American Slavery.’ It was written some years before, in America, by a gentleman who had been for nearly twenty years a christian clergyman in America, who felt it his duty to bring his influential testimony to bear against slavery. This book I presented to a friend in Edinburgh, who gave it to a minister of the Church of Scotland. He sent for me. I went and breakfasted with him. Our whole conversation turned on American slavery in connexion with the churches. This minister of the Church of Scotland told me, that of all the aspects of American slavery at which he had looked, no one of them was more horrible than its connection with the christianity of that country. He considered that those religious bodies who were connected with slavery ought not to be acknowledged by christians on this die of the Atlantic. Subsequently this book was published, with an addition by this clergyman. It was published in Glasgow, and he referred to it as an illustration of voluntaryism and republicanism.
I wonder whether the same clergyman would hold the same language now? The object of this work was to exhibit the real character of American slavery, and to suggest the only remedy for it. It asked how this desolating course of slavery could be effectually extirpated – what was necessary for its overthrow? It said that every slaveholder must be peremptorily, and without delay, excommunicated from the church – no matter what rank he might hold. If asked why excommunicate them? The answer ought to be – they are men-stealers, and therefore they cannot be christians, therefore it is an insult to the gospel to call them christians. (Great cheering.)
I pledge myself that for every expression which ever I used, or any of my friends, I will find something stronger in this little book, which was reprinted by this clergyman. He did more than reprint it. He wrote a preface to it, and he drew special attention to the fact of ministers of Christ holding communion with slaveholders. And what clergyman was this? He was one who went to America, slept in the bed of the slaveholder, partook of his dainties, rode in his carriage, and gathered up three thousand pounds, and came back again to apologise in the General Assembly of the Free Church for the slavery of the United States. Well, but who was this? It was not Dr Burns – it was not Mr Lewis – it was not Dr Chalmers – it was none of these. It was Dr Cunningham.4
Now, there is something abominable in such conduct – (great cheering) – and I would speak much stronger if he were before me, but I hope to see him in Edinburgh. – (continued applause.) There I shall speak to him of the dastardly conduct of endeavouring while in the Establishment to throw abuse on the dissenters; and then, when he is himself a dissenter, going to the very country from which he has drawn his illustrations, and holding fellowship with the men who he was glad to compare with the English voluntaries. (Applause.)
I have obtained what I am sure is an authentic report of a speech delivered in this town on Tuesday last. The speaker, a Mr Macnaughtan, seems to have been very full of his subject on that occasion. He had the subject of Popery given him on which to speak, but he chose to take up the subject of American slavery and vindicate the conduct of those who went to that country. He says that we are not called on to discriminate between the offerings of men – to look into the character of those who contribute to the support of the church. I grant him all that he contends for in this respect. He said that we were not to examine what people put into the plate, and therefore we had no right to cry out about the acceptance of money from America.
I contend that the cases are not parallel. If the slaveholders had sent their contributions to the Free Church unsolicited, and if the Free Church had accepted of them, they would have been more excusable, but not justifiable. What is the fact? These men went to America. They were met with a remonstrance from some of the best men in the country, and in the fact of this they set out to the slaveholders. They volunteered to receive their contributions, and then, when they come home, we are not to be anxious to discriminate between the contributions in the porch of the house of God. (Applause.)
You may not be aware of the fact, that these gentlemen closed their lips, and entered into a solemn compact, that if they gave them out of their riches they would be dumb in regard to the abominations of slavery. I say this deliberately and advisedly. Wilfully they did sell the truth for the purpose of obtaining contributions to the Free Church. (Loud cheers.)
They said they preached the gospel. What is the gospel for? It is to change the hearts of men. How did Paul preach the gospel? He preached it by applying it to those around him. The gospel could not be preached unless prevailing sins were rebuked. (Cheers.) In America, the delegation did deliberately suppress the truth in order to get the contributions. If they had said anything against slavery, they would have suffered for it. Modern times has not furnished us with a more flagrant piece of ministerial profligacy than the conduct of these men. They went across America, well knowing the feelings of Scotland in regard to the subject of slavery. The majority of the people would have received them back in rapture if they had set their faces strenuously against slavery. They knew this, but they went deliberately to the slaveholders and came home with three thousand pounds – the fruits of robbery. It was plundered from the negroes. (Great cheering.)
Candlish, Cunningham, and their colleagues, well know that the main prop of slavery in America is the corrupt christianity existing in the south. Dr Cunningham would have found a felon’s fate if he had preached the gospel in its purity there. I should like to know from what part of the bible they preached to those men-stealers, those woman-floggers. Did they ever take for their text – ‘thou shalt not steal?’ (Cheers.) Did they ever preach from the words, ‘I am come to preach deliverance to the captive,’ &c.? Did they ever discourse from the words ‘the labourer is worthy of his hire,’ or, ‘go to, now, ye rich men, weep and howl,’ &c.? No, not one of these texts did they ever choose. (Prolonged cheering.)
Can any thing present to your minds a more appalling state of things, than to reflect that four ministers, three of whom used their exertions with me in this country for the abolition of slavery, went to America, crossed the Potomac, and never uttered a sentence on the subject of American slavery? (Great cheering.) Was that a place for ministers of a Free Church? Was it a place for those who would not sit in a school committee with a minister who favoured Erastianism? The Free Church of Scotland has the fruits of robbery in her treasury. What is her duty? SEND BACK THE MONEY. (Cheers.)
Will you now help us to arouse this country, till an universal shout shall be heard from John o’ Groats to the Tweed, of – SEND BACK THE MONEY? (Great applause.)
Teach your children to lisp it in the streets when they see a black coat and a white cravat – SEND BACK THE MONEY. (Prolonged cheering.)
Why send it back? Because it is not yours. It belongs to the slave. (Cheers.) It is the price of blood – (loud cheers) – it is the price of the desecration of bodies and souls in the United States. (Continued applause.) If it remains, it is a canker-worm which will eat out the vitals of the church. Will you continue to build churches for the ministers of Scotland with money obtained from those who have robbed the poor of it – SEND BACK THE MONEY. (Loud applause.)
Let your very walls become preachers. Write on Knox’s monument – SEND BACK THE MONEY. (Continued applause.) Go to the Calton Hill and write on the pillar raised in memory of Nelson – SEND BACK THE MONEY. (Tremendous cheers.)
What have the Free Church ministers done? They have endeavoured to vindicate slavery by making it appear that the apostles countenanced it. Will they send back the money? (A voice, no.) Yes, they will. (Great cheering.) Why will they? Because the truth is omnipotent. I promise they shall have a yearly visit, so long as they keep it. (Cheers.) Forty-nine out of fifty of their church members will say – SEND IT BACK. They know, however, that their ministers are against them. When will they send it back? Just when there is enough of outward pressure. (Continued cheering.)
Now, we will apply this pressure. You who are Free Churchmen look at this matter? Many have said that they will not contribute to the support of the Church until it be sent back. SEND BACK THE MONEY, and don’t retard the progress of emancipation. (Applause.)
This money transaction has done more than all the slaveholders could do to rivet the chains of the slave. I feel as strongly for the slave as if I were still engaged pleading his cause in America. We are told that slaveholding is a sin, and the slaveholder ought to be dealt with as the sinner. The slaveholders are, however, living in open undisguised sin, and yet they are members of the southern churches. Some of them go so far as to exclude ardent spirits, theatres, and cards, while the sacrilegious monsters will sell their own children. We are told that the slaves would not have their liberty although they could get it, and one slaveholder brought forward a slave, pointing to him, as happy, and saying that he could not have his liberty although he could get it, he was so well off. He asked the slave if he would have his liberty. The slave said, ‘Will you try me, Massa?’ (Laughter.) The slaveholder was too good a judge to try him.
Let any of these clerical slaveholders, who see lions in the way, call their slaves together, and they would find they were willing to encounter all the difficulties that lay in the way of their obtaining freedom. It has been said that there are laws to prevent emancipation. There is not a law in America to prevent this.
Mr Macnaughtan admits that slaveholding is a sin. Why, then, does he tamper with it? His excuse is that it is among those things which are to be progressively extirpated by the mild influence of the gospel. We don’t deal in this way with other sins. The argument has been answered a thousand times over, and it is lamentable to find a minister of the Free Church resorting to it.
I hope you will swell the cry, SEND BACK THE MONEY – (great applause) – and lest my friend should not tell you when he rises, I may say that in all parts of Scotland, wherever he and his brethren may have gone, they have found a hearty response. There is but one opinion among the people, and it is that the money should go back. The Evangelical Alliance has repudiated the slaveholders, and shall Scotland cling to the accursed thing! Forbid it, sons and daughters of Scotland!! (Great cheering.) Swell the cry – SEND BACK THE MONEY. (Vociferous cheers.)
We shall hold meetings on the subject in Edinburgh next week, to which we invite all Free Churchmen. I shall now however give place, as I want you to hear a piece of property speak. (Laughter.) He bears on his back the marks of the bloody scourge, but in the providence of God he has attained to the full measure and stature of a man. (Tremendous cheers.) He is a living refutation of the saying that there are three millions of human beings in America who dare not be trusted with their freedom – who, if left to themselves, would fall on their knees, and crave some grass like Nebuchadnezzar (Prolonged cheering.)
This (pointing to Mr Douglass) is one of those gems taken from the mine from which no precious ore was said to be extracted. (Great cheering.) Do not wonder though he should urge you to SEND BACK THE MONEY. (Great applause.) Welcome him, adopt him, and however others may denounce, let the people of Scotland ever cry, SEND BACK THE MONEY. (Loud and long-continued cheering.)
Mr James N. Buffum then rose and said, that it would ill become him to occupy any great portion of their time that evening. He would, however, be permitted to say a few words on this most interesting occasion. Of all the meetings at which he had been present, this, and the one from which he had just come, had been the most interesting. He said that he could breathe, as it were, more freely than usual. The people were beginning to look at the matter through the mystery which doctors of divinity had thrown around it, and were seeking with the understanding which God had given them.
He had thought at first that the people of Scotland were indifferent, but he had since learned that they were not indifferent to every thing which concerned the vital interests of humanity. When he came down this evening, Mr Douglass and himself were congratulating themselves that they would have an evening’s leisure. They found, however, when they came to town that the excitement was so great, that they would have two large meetings. The place from which he had come was crowded.
He had to express his gladness at the meetings which they had had in Paisley. When here last time, they had called upon all to come forward. They had said that if any one had a word to say in defence of the Free Church let him say it. A Mr Macnaughtan had since come forward, and had seen fit to brand his friend Douglass with ignorance. Suppose that he was so. He has been in the prison-house of slavery, and now Mr Macnaughtan comes forward and reviles him because he cannot see. (Great cheers.)
They had gone to Dundee, and the Free Church had used all their influence to get the churches closed against them. They had tried to injure their reputation, but he had told them that, although they succeeded in making them black, it would not make the Free Church white.
When in Greenock making our charges against Dr Macfarlane, we said that it he had anything to complain of, let him come out. An individual said if we want to match you, we will send out a dusty baker. He said he would rather run the risk of getting the flour off his coat, than the blood off Dr Macfarlane’s hands.
Mr Macnaughtan said he was astonished that the people of Paisley paid a penny to hear them. This meeting he considered was such as to establish the character of Paisley. (Cheers.) He said they had no enmity to the Free Church – they only wished them to SEND BACK THE MONEY. (Loud cheers.)
He sat down by expressing his satisfaction with the reception they had met with in Paisley.
Mr Frederick Douglass, who was received with loud and prolonged cheering, came forward and said, Ladies and Gentlemen, with my friend Buffum, I did not expect I would be required to say anything to-night. I have spoken in Paisley now seven times, and have managed to present some new facts on each occasion, and I am not at a loss for facts to-night, to warm your sympathies into love for the bondsman, to cheer you with the hope of ultimate success in this glorious enterprise.
A deed has been committed by a party in your land which has had the tendency to strengthen the hand of the tyrant, and to darken the prospects of the poor, down-trodden slave in the United States. (Cheers.) It has been committed by professing christians, and it has had the effect of spreading gloom over the prospects of the poor bondsman. We are here for the purpose of dispelling that gloom, and of brightening those prospects. (Cheers.)
Let us contemplate this system, holding as it does in its grasp, three millions of those for whom the Saviour died. In the midst of these there is no marriage. Wives, sisters, husbands, think of this in the midst of a people calling themselves christians, so many living without this ordinance, without bibles, denied the privilege of learning to read the word of God – driven like dumb cattle to the fields – robbed of their identity with the human family. This, my friends, is the condition of three millions of people within two weeks’ sail of this land.
A case occurs to my mind at present, where a husband and wife were brought to the auction mart. The wife was sold to one man and the husband to another, and the husband looked imploringly to the man who had bought his wife. But the wife was to go one way and he another. The husband asked to shake hands with the wife for the last time. He attempted to do it. He was struck on the head, and when let go, he fell down dead. His heart was broken!
Who is responsible for slavery? The Free Church of Scotland has made itself responsible for slavery, by regarding these men as the followers of the meek and lowly Jesus. Think of this, christian men and women of Scotland! (Great cheering.) This religious denomination, claiming the high and holy title of Free – to be the exponent of all that is good and holy in the moral and religious sentiments of Scotland, comes forward and holds up the slaveholder as being a christian, and then when I have thrown off my fetters, found my way here, and attempted to speak on behalf of my brethren, do they say welcome, bondsman, come let us see your wrongs and we are prepared to redress them.
No. Mr Macnaughtan brands me as being a poor, miserable, fugitive slave – ignorant, fugitive slave. I would not say anything of the origin of that gentleman – I will not call attention to his rise, progress, and present position. (Great laughter.) I presume, however, I should not trace him to any extraordinary ancestors. I esteem him nothing less a man on that account. I esteem him as much as though he stood in close relationship to Prince Albert – (great applause) – but there is a degree of audacity, such as I did not expect to witness on the part of any Free Church clergyman, in the case of Mr Macnaughtan calling me an ignorant, degraded, fugitive slave. (Great applause.)
Only let us look at it. The man whose pockets are lined with the gold with which I ought to have been educated, stands up charging me with ignorance and poverty. (Great applause.) The man who enjoys his share of the three thousand pounds taken from the slaveholder, and robbed from the slave, stands up to denounce me as being ignorant. (Continued cheering.) Shame on him. (Cheers.) I should like to see the inside of his breast; there cannot be a heart of flesh there. There must be a stone or a gizzard there. (Great cheering.) Let him launch out that gold and I shall undertake to educate a number of slaves, who will in a few years be able to stand by the side of Mr Macnaughtan. I do not feel at all chagrined by the notice he has taken of me. I rather feel a degree of pride from what he has said of me. (Cheers.) I do feel a thrill of grateful pleasure, more so than I would at the most glowing penegyric which my friend Mr Thompson could bestow. I will tell you why. Macnaughtan has linked himself with the slaveholder, and he cannot therefore have any sympathy with a slave. (Great applause.)
The interest of the one is antagonistic to the other. The slave runs and the slaveholder sets his dogs on him to catch him and bring him back. The slave works, and the slaveholder takes the produce of his labour. When a slave comes here to plead their cause, Macnaughtan calls him a poor, miserable, fugitive slave. (Cheers.) Macnaughtan wont get rid of us by any such statements. The Free church has got to SEND BACK THAT MONEY. (Applause.)
There is no mistake about it. They could not deny that the delegates went to America and preached only such doctrines as would be well received. They did not utter one word of sympathy for the slave, nor a sentence of condemnation of those who held them in that condition; but they clothed them in the garb of christianity. The Free Church must SEND BACK THE MONEY. Let this be the theme in every town in Scotland. If they say an ignorant man is not a fitting advocate of the anti-slavery cause, I say SEND BACK THE MONEY. (Applause.) There is music in the words, my friends. (Cheers and laughter.)
In Arbroath there was painted in blood red capitals, SEND BACK THE MONEY. A woman was sent to wash it, but the letters still remained visible, SEND BACK THE MONEY. (Great applause.) A mason was afterwards got to chisel it out, but there still was left in indelible characters, SEND BACK THE MONEY. (Cheers.)
I want men, women, and children to send forth this cry wherever they go. Let it be the talk around the fireside, in the street, and at the market-place – indeed, everywhere. It is a fitting subject even on the Sabbath-day. The Free Church is doing more for infidelity and atheism than all the infidels in Scotland combined. (Great applause.) For what says the infidel? ‘If Christ be not opposed to slavery it is the best reason in the world why we should not regard him as a divine being at all.’ (Cheers.) By opposing the Free Church you do a work of Christianity. You do something to hasten the spread of that gospel whose tendency will be to take the chains from off the limbs of three millions of people. If we don’t have that BLOOD-STAINED MONEY SENT BACK, one thing we shall have accomplished by holding these meetings – that the majority are with the oppressed and against the oppressor. (Loud cheers.)
Dr Chalmers has said that it would be most unjustifiable to deny the slaveholder christian fellowship. Scotland and the slaveholder at one! Shall it be so? (No, no.) The people are with us in Arbroath, Dundee, Aberdeen, Montrose, Greenock, Glasgow – and they will be with us in Edinburgh. (Loud applause.) We wish to have Scotland, England, Ireland, Canada, Mexico, and even the red Indians with us, and against slavery. We want to have the whole country surrounded with an anti-slavery wall, with the words legibly inscribed thereon, SEND BACK THE MONEY, SEND BACK THE MONEY. (Long and continued cheering.)
Mr Buffum offered a few further observations.
Mr Paton of Glasgow impressed on the Ladies of Paisley the propriety of sending contributions to the anti-slavery bazaar, which is held annually at Boston.
Mr George Thompson then said, that they had had a most delightful meeting. He believed Mr Macnaughtan had said Mr Douglass dealt in scattered sentences, and that those who came to hear him had been misled into the belief that he was indulging in eloquence. It would not have sounded like eloquence in the ears of so polished a gentleman as Mr Macnaughtan. They had heard so much pathos, argument, religious truth, and persuasive eloquence, that he was afraid they would all go away and commit the same error – (Cheers.) – that they would still say their friend was eloquent. If eloquence was that which could rouse the indignation of the people of Scotland against slavery, then his friend Douglass was the most eloquent man in the world.
Mr Thompson then read the following resolution, which he said he had written on the platform, for the adoption of the meeting.
That, regarding slavery as essentially sinful, and its practice under all circumstances as contrary to the commands of God and the spirit of the gospel, we are of opinion that there should be no christian fellowship with slaveholders, and that it is derogatory to the principles, and insulting to the character of Christianity to derive any pecuniary assistance from the gains of so guilty a system, knowing the source from which such gains have been obtained; and that, therefore, the Free Church of Scotland ought to send back the money obtained from the slaveholders of the United States. (Great applause.)
He had occupied their time for a few minutes before submitting the resolution to them, in order that they might have recovered from the eloquence of Mr Douglass. (Cheers.) He thought, however, that now they would be able to pronounce an impartial judgment.
He thought that Mr Douglass had deepened their impressions of the enormity of slavery, and they would be more than ever resolved to labour in the cause while they lived. They had a great work to do in Scotland; let them therefore go forward with renewed exertions. Let them not feel to do their duty. He entertained respect for Dr. Chalmers, but while he lived he would denounce the act of which the Free Church had been guilty. (Prolonged applause.) He hoped that the next time he saw them he would be congratulating them on the sending back of the money, and sending back the money meant disfellowshipping the slave-churches.
Mr Thompson sat down amidst great applause. The resolution was seconded by Mr James Waterson, and carried by acclamation.
A vote of thanks then closed the proceedings.
SECESSION CHURCH, ABBEY CLOSE.
Mr Andrew Nairn was called to the chair. The proceedings were commenced by
Mr George Thompson, in a speech of about an hour’s duration.
Mr Buffum followed, and Mr Thompson left the meeting to proceed to the Relief Church.
Mr Douglass next addresed the audience amidst great applause.
Mr Wright afterwards came forward, and Messrs. Buffum and Douglass retired to the other place of meeting. Mr Wright offered to discuss the subject with Mr Macnaughtan, and proposed that a committee be appointed by the present meeting to wait upon Mr Macnaughtan and inform him of the same.
Rev. Patrick Brewster said, that as Mr Macnaughtan might not admit Mr Wright was a minster, and as he was unwiling Mr Macnaughtan should have a loop-hole through which to escape, he, (Mr B.) would offer his services. (Great cheering.)
The following gentlemen were proposed as a deputation, viz., Rev. Robert Cairns, Mr Nairn, and Mr Masson.
Mr Cairns said he would rather some other person were appointed in his room, as it would be better not to have any minister in the deputation. He had come there that night because he had taken a deep interest in the cause; and he regretted that any minister belonging to this town should have uttered such unfeeling language regarding Mr Douglass as Mr Macnaughtan had done.
Mr Pinkerton was then appointed in place of Mr Cairns, and after a vote of thanks to the Chairman the meeting dismissed.
Renfrewshire Advertiser, 2 May 1846
- The resolution was approved at a meeting of the Aggregate Committee of the Evangelical Alliance in Birmingham in March 1846: see Iain Whyte, ‘Send Back the Money!’: The Free Church of Scotland and American Slavery (Cambridge: James Clarke & Co., 2012), p.120; Richard Blackett, Building an Anti-Slavery Wall: Black Americans in the Atlantic Abolitionist Movement, 1830–1860 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1983), p. 97.
- On the composition of the Free Church delegation to the United States, which also included Henry Ferguson, see Whyte, ‘Send Back the Money!’, p. 14.
- American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, 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, ). Reprinted in the Liberator, 26 April 1844.
- [George Bourne], Picture of Slavery in the United States of America (Glasgow: University Press, 1835). The Preface to this Scottish edition was unsigned. According to a report of a meeting on Thursday 30 April at South College Street Church, Edinburgh, George Thompson remarked that he had received a letter from Dr Cunningham which stated ‘that he was not the author of the preface to the book “A Picture of American Slavery,” which was republished in this country in 1835’: Scotsman, 2 May 1846.