TO THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES:
Gentlemen: --Considerable anxiety has been expressed in some quarters to know the position of this College on the question of Slavery. As you are the proper guardians of the Institution, and are responsible to the public for its administration, it is due to you that I should communicate to you freely on the subject.
The principle by which the Faculty are governed in discharge of their official duty is this: They consider that their proper business, as Professors of the College, is to teach the course of study and administer the discipline which you have prescribed, and not to be partizans or propagandists of any particular creed in politics or religion. As individuals we claim entire freedom of thought and opinion, and of expressing our opinions on all proper occasions. In our course of instruction we would not seek the discussion of vexed questions, whether in politics, morals, or religion, but if they come up naturally and properly, we could not, as honest men and faithful teachers, withhold the frank statement of our opinions, expressing them of course with deference to the opinions, and respect for the feelings of those who may differ from us. We would consider it, however, subversive of the objects of the Institution that such topics should be foisted in and our lecture rooms and halls made, in consequence, the arena for constant strife and agitation.
Such, I say, are our principles on this subject, and now we appeal to all who have been under our instructions, whether we have no acted up to them. Let the students of many various denominations who have been educated here, say whether, while we have endeavored to train them up to virtue and piety, we have sought to proselyte them to our particular branch of the Christian Church? Let those of different political parties, say whether, while we have tried to make them law-loving citizens and pure patriots, we have ever acted the part of political partizans. And as to the particular question which ahs elicited this communication, I appeal to the fact, that though the Professors, as well as the Students, are partly from the Free States and partly from the Slave-holding, their harmony has not, for the fourteen years which have elapsed since I first became connected with the Institution, been broken on this subject. And even amid the recent excitement, their relations to each other have continued, so far as I know, entirely pleasant.
The particular subject in question comes up properly in the department of Moral Philosophy; and is introduced, I believe, in every complete treatise on that science, so that we could not avoid, if we would, without expurgating our text books. That department is my own, and I am entirely ready to state to you the views which I hold and which I impart.— But I presume this is neither necessary nor expected.
As to Professor McCLINTOCK, whose name has been specially connected with this subject, believing as I do, that he has not violated the principle of official action above laid down, I could not claim the right to inquire into his private opinions, nor do I believe that the Board would. But having known him intimately for seventeen years, I may well be supposed to know his views on this as well as most other subjects. Without, therefore, pretending to give his opinion on all points, connected with this complicated subject, I take the liberty, upon my own responsibility, in saying in regard to the point most mooted, that if any reliance is placed on his explicit declarations, confirmed as they are by such long and familiar intercourse, then is Professor McCLINTOCK no abolitionist. And that none may suspect that an evasion is attempted under cover of a vague and ambiguous term. I say further, that I mean he does not hold, and never has held the following doctrines, viz: 1.That the United States government can interfere with slavery in the several States. 2. That the States can interfere with the policy of each other on the subject. 3. That all slaves should be immediately and unconditionally emancipated. 4. That slave holding is a sin under all circumstances. 5. That non-slave holding should be made a term of membership in the Christian Church.
If the Board think that these remarks will be of any service abroad, I have no objection to reduce them to writing and let you publish them. We have no anxiety about it as to the state of things within the Institution. The students understand each other too well, and their Professors too well, to be seriously affected by this subject. And conscious of our integrity—with the students true to us—and the Trustees acting out their honest convictions of the truth in the case, we have no fears but that any difficulties may arise from without will be overcome.