Application of the Gag
Prof. M’Clintock [McClintock], of Dickinson College, has been publishing a series of articles in the New York Christian Advocate and Journal a series of articles on the subject of Slavery. To those who know the Professor we need not say that his communications, so far published, bear the impress of sound scholarship, independent thought, and a Christian temper. He avowed in plain but courteous language a thorough hostility to Slavery, and labored to show that it is the duty of the Christian Church in the United States to direct its influence, as a Church, for the extirpation of the system. In his opening article he confessed, although not himself an Abolitionist, that it was mainly owing to Abolition efforts that the public attention at the North had at last awakened and concentrated upon the subject. This was certainly creditable to his candour if not to his intelligence− to his heart, if not to his head.
The appearance of such a series of articles in the Advocate excited surprise in some quarters, in view of the well-known fact that the senior Editor was a Southerner and that the paper had been somewhat notorious for its advocacy of precisely opposite views. It was thought by many that the withdrawal by the South from the Methodist Church had worked a favorable change in the policy if not the principles of the Northern members, and that henceforth the subject of Slavery would be discussed with frankness and independence. The Advocate however, still circulates quite extensively at the South, and it now appears that in that part of the country the Professor’s articles, working on the ‘morbid sensibility’ of the people, have crated so much excitement and alarm that the Editors, in compliance with ‘earnest entreaties’ and ‘vehement remonstrances,’ have been ‘compelled by every consideration of duty to discontinue their publication.’ The assurance that the Editors do not agree in sentiment to Professor M’Clintock, but regard Abolitionism as wholly evil and mischievous, were not sufficient to quiet the agitated nerves of those over-sensitive apologists for Slavery; nothing would satisfy them short of a refusal to publish anything farther from his pen; and lo! the Editors, with becoming humility, have yielded to their imperious demands! Thus does Slavery crack its long whip over the heads of Northern Editors, exacting a servile compliance with its demands, in the same spirit with which it drives its black vassals to their unrequited toil.
We make no apology for the errors and extravagances of the Abolitionists, but the sensitivities of the South as thus exhibited goes far to convince us that the confessions of Prof. M’Clintock are felt to be true. Those who have demanded that a gag be put in his mouth could not have been so dreadfully frightened by a falsehood. We have read somewhere that it is those whose deeds are evil who love darkness rather than light, while the righteous are bold as a lion; and all experience teaches us that men conscious of rectitude in a good cause are never offended at seeing their opinions subjected to the ordeal of free discussion. Prof M’Clintock’s opinion that the Abolitionists, with all their faults, had been the instruments of arousing the conscience of the Nation, if unfounded, surely ought not to have made such a rumpus. Those who are accustomed to ascribe extreme sensitiveness of the South and her growing tenacity in behalf of Slavery merely to the untoward influence of Abolitionists in awakening jealousies of the which would otherwise have died out under the operation of natural causes, are extremely verdant, betraying a simplicity like that which discovered in ‘Tinderton steeple’ the cause of the ebb and flow of the tide.