Messers. Editors—Will you allow me space in your columns for two or three short articles on the subject of slavery, especially in its relations to the Church? I have long intended to say a few things on the subject; but have refrained, partly from . . . of my capacity to meddle with so grave and difficult a question, and partly from a desire to wait until what I might say should be . . . with the authority of years and experience. I am more inclined to doubt the validity of these . . . . The first would hinder me even from preaching upon some of the weightiest topics of theology; and as for the other, I begin to feel, as good a man in another hemisphere once expressed himself, that “it is certain I shall die, and I may die today: but it is not certain that I shall ever be . . . . “ My testimony may be of little worth to others; but it is essential to my own peace of mind that it should be delivered.
And first, for confession. The abolition party, properly so . . . , may be said to be broken up; the division of Northern men into abolitionists and anti-abolitionists exists no longer. We have Garrisonians, Liberty men, Methodist . . . and Whig and Democratic Anti-slaverymen; and these, I think, embody the great . . . of the Northern people. The rest, at any rate, are hardly worth speaking of. The whole people, bating the insignificant fraction just attended to, are imbued with anti-slavery feeling; not the dormant, passive feeling which existed, we are told, years ago, although it gave no signs of life, but a living even an aggressive power, which not only refuses to strengthen the institution of slavery, but speaks ominously of its overthrow. In a word, the Conscience of the great Northern race is aroused, and even the “. . . . of the earth” do homage to it in Wilmot proviso, and the like, in that very city of Washington, where within a . . . . or two, they crouched, like spaniels, at the feet of Southern masters, and refused, at their bidding, even to hear the humble petitions of their free Northern constituents. Men who, ten years ago, walked softly, as on eggs, when they dared to approach the subject at all, and spoke gingerly about the “domestic institutions” of the South, have now learned to call things by their right names, and speak out, with refreshing boldness, of the “curse of slavery.”
Now how . . . this change been brought to pass? Let the confession come, Messers. Editors; the Abolitionists have done it. Political events have done their share; but politicians would have remained as they were, but for the . . . which public opinion received from the Abolitionists. Wrong they doubtless have been in many respects—headstrong, fanatical, abusive, . . . , if you please,--but they have done this thing. They have stirred up men’s minds to contemplate a great truth, no matter what evil passion they may have stirred up besides. Perhaps even the . . . .was necessary to give the impulses, the energy, the almost reckless daring, and the unflagging perseverance, . . . : were essential to so great an enterprise. The evils of the altruism were many; . . . they have passed. Or are rapidly passing, away; the . . . .and the perseverance remain, and may they remake until the work is done:
The confession is not quite complete. IT was formerly often said, and is . . .sometimes, that the anti-slavery agitation only tightened the bonds of the slave, diminished his privileges, and multiplied his grievances. Southern men, not seeing that they were proclaiming their own shame, said this so often, that they believed it themselves, and . . . many at the North to believe it too. I confess that I was among the number, having both spoken and written to this effect, in youthful ignorance; but I have since learned, (and could prove, if it were necessary,) that the condition of the slaves, taking the whole South together, has been vastly improved during this agitation. The tree of truth has sent for the from its mighty branches “its stirring and far . . . . . . , while waving in the storm” of this, as of all other great controversies. The slaveholders have learned that the eyes of the world are on them, and have walked accordingly. No less a man than William Capers unwittingly testifies to this, in the Southern Christian Advocate of Feb. 5, 1847. Writing about the salve missions, that, where seventeen years ago, the colored people had been time out of mind without the Gospel—(no preaching, no sacraments, no Bible instruction, no catechism, no Christian teaching, or training whatever; as, for instance, in the great rice-field swamps of Waccamaw, Santee, Pon Pon, and Combahee)—there, at the present time, they are more fully served than elsewhere in the country,” &c. Be it remembered that seventeen years is but a little over the period of the anti-slavery agitation. Dr. Capers might deny the inference; but he has . . . furnished one case out of many that might be adduced to sustain the point which I have made.
I never could be an Abolitionist proper; for I never could believe, (and never shall so long as facts that now exist remain,) that all slaveholders are sinners, and should be cut off from the fellowship of Christianity : yet I wish, with your permission, to record the foregoing statements in your columns. Many of the Abolitionists have done badly; and the Garrison section seem now to be actuated by the spirit of the devil rather than of Christ; but that is no reason why they should not have their due. This letter has been mainly personal to myself; those which follow will be devoted directly to the subject.
John McClintock, Jr.
Carlisle, Feb. 22, 1847