Tag Archives: Slavery
Arundel Plantation, Slave Cabin, Intersection of Routes 701 and 4, Georgetown, Georgetown County, SC. -- Jack E. Boucher, photographer.

Hopewell South Carolina’s 1836 Presbytery on Slavery

pres·by·tery noun \ˈprez-bə-ˌter-ē, ˈpres-, -bə-trē\ – A group of ministers and elders who are the leaders of the Presbyterian churches in a particular area.

William Lloyd Garrison’s The Liberator was a weekly abolitionist newspaper published in Boston. The paper held true to the founder’s ideals. Garrison was a journalistic crusader who advocated the immediate emancipation of all slaves and gained a national reputation for being one of the most radical of American abolitionists.


The Committee on ‘Instructions to Commissioners to General Assembly,’ made the following report, which was accepted and adopted.

Anticipating the discussion of various vitally important matters at the approaching session of the General Assembly, the Presbytery of Hopewell takes this opportunity to instruct its delegates to that body, concerning the course which we desire them to pursue on certain matters.

The last General Assembly appointed a Committee to report on the general subject of domestic slavery in these United States. And from the movements of certain ecclesiastical bodies in our church — from the course pursued by some of our political bodies — and from the known views of some members of the Committee referred to, we are induced to apprehend that abolition will be introduced through the report, or by the agency of other members. On the subject of domestic slavery, this Presbytery believe the following facts have been most incontrovertibly established, viz:

I. Slavery has existed in the Church of God from the time of Abraham to this day. Members of the church of God have held slaves bought with their money, and born in their houses; and this relation is not only recognized, but its duties are defined clearly, both in the Old and New Testaments.

II. Emancipation is not mentioned among the duties of the Master to his slave. While obedience ‘even to the froward’ Master is enjoined upon the slave.

III. No instance can be produced of an otherwise orderly Christian, being reproved much less ex-communicated from the church, for the single act of holding domestic slaves, from the days of Abraham down to the date of the modern Abolitionists.

IV. Slavery existed in the United States before our ecclesiastical body was organized. It is not condemned in our Confession of Faith, and has always existed in our Church without reproof or condemnation.

V. Slavery is a political institution, with which the Church has nothing to do, except to inculcate the duties of Master and Slave, and to use lawful, spiritual means to have all, both bond and free, to become one in Christ by faith.

Regarding these positions as undoubtedly true, our views of duty constrain us to adopt the following resolutions.

Resolved, That the political institution of domestic Slavery, as it exists in the South, is not a lawful or constitutional subject of discussion, much less of action by the General Assembly.

Resolved, That so soon as the General Assembly passes any ecclesiastical laws, or recommends any action, which shall interfere with this institution, this Presbytery will regard such laws and acts as tyrannical and odious– and from that moment will regard itself independent of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church.

Resolved, That our delegates to the approaching Assembly are hereby enjoined to use all Christian means to prevent the discussion of domestic slavery in the Assembly– to protest in our name against all acts that involve or approve abolition– and to withdraw from the Assembly and return home, if in spite of their efforts, acts of this character shall be passed.

The Liberator on June 11, 1836

Image Details: Arundel Plantation, Slave Cabin, Intersection of Routes 701 and 4, Georgetown, Georgetown County, SC. — Jack E. Boucher, photographer.

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Preventing Slave Escapes by Ship in South Carolina

This article on a new law in South Caroline appeared in National Anti-Slavery Standard on April 28, 1842.  National Anti-Slavery Standard was the official weekly newspaper of the American Anti-Slavery Society, an abolitionist society founded in 1833 by William Lloyd Garrison and Arthur Tappan to spread their movement across the nation with printed materials.

New Law in South Carolina

At the last session of the legislature an act was passed, “to prevent the citizens of New-York from carrying slaves, or persons held to service, out of the State, and to prevent the escape of persons charged with the commission of any crime.

This law is to take effect on the 1st of May next; unless New York repeals her law of 1840, granting the right of trial by jury to fugitive slaves. This act declares that no vessel of any size or description, owned in whole or in part, commanded or navigated, by any other person than an actual inhabitant of South Carolina, and destined to any port in the State of New York, shall be allowed to depart, until inspected by the proper officer. If any vessel depart without a certificate that no slave-criminal is on board, the captain or owner shall pay five-hundred dollars to whoever will sue for the same. The inspector is to receive ten dollars for his certificate, for the payment of which the vessel is liable.


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The Doctrine of the Irrepressible Conflict

Irrepressible Conflict, as a term, originated with William H. Seward in an 1858 speech predicting the collision of the socioeconomic institutions of the North and the South.

Seward maintained this collision would determine whether the nation would be dominated by a system of free labor or slave labor. In 1858 Abraham Lincoln proposed the same idea in his “House Divided” speech. At the time, the use of the phrase did not include the assumption that the “irrepressible conflict” would necessarily find expression in violence or armed conflict.

While the term “Irrepressible Conflict” is most connected to Seward, the actual ideas behind it can be traced back to Thomas Jefferson in 1821. The Vincennes Gazette included this article in the December 17, 1859 issue.

The Freeman’ s Catechism Concerning the Irrepressible Conflict

Question: Who first promulgated the doctrine of the irrepressible conflict?
Answer: Thomas Jefferson.

Q: When and how did he promulgate it?
A: In a letter written to a friend in 1821.

Q: What did he say?
A:Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate than that these people (negro slaves) are to be free; nor is it less certain that the two forms of society cannot be perpetuated under the same government.

Q: Who next promulgated it?
A: Henry Clay.

Q: When and how did he promulgate it?
A: In a speech delivered before the American Colonization Society in 1827.

Q: What did he say?
A:Until universal darkness and despair shall prevail it will be impossible to repress the sympathies and the efforts of the freemen in behalf of the unhappy portion of our race who are doomed to bondage.

Q: Who endorsed Mr. Clays remarks?
A: Daniel Webster.

Q: Who says so?
A: Edward Everett.

Q: Who next promulgated it?
A: The Richmond Enquirer, a Democratic newspaper.

Q: When did it promulgate it?
A: In the Presidential campaign of 1856.

Q: What did it say?
A:Two opposite and conflicting forms of society cannot, among civilized men, coexist and endure. The one must give way and cease to exist – the other become universal. If free society be unnatural immoral and unchristian, it must fall and give way to slave society—a social system as old as the world, as universal as man.

Q: Who next re-stated the fact?
A: William H. Seward.

Q: When, where, and how?
A: In a speech delivered in Rochester in 1858.

Q: What did he say?
A: Whilst referring to the collision which had occurred between the two systems of labor in the United States, he said: “It (the collision) is an irrepressible conflict between opposing and enduring forces; and it means that the United States must and will, sooner or later, become either entirely a slaveholding nation or entirely a free labor nation.

Q: Did he intimate the process by which they will ultimately become so?
A: He did; he said: “Whilst I confidently believe and hope my country will yet become a land of universal Freedom, I do not expect that it will be made so otherwise than through the action of the several States co-operating with the Federal Government, and all acting in strict conformity with their respective Constitutions.

Q: Is there any treason in this?
A: Not unless Thomas Jefferson, Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, and the editor of the Richmond Enquirer were traitors.

Part I of our Civil War collection, A Newspaper Perspective, contains articles gleaned from over 2,500 issues of The New York Herald, The Charleston Mercury and the Richmond Enquirer, published between November 1, 1860 and April 15, 1865.


Collection: The Civil War
Publication: Vincennes Gazette
Date: December 17, 1859
Title: The Freeman’ s Catechism Concerning the Irrepressible Conflict.
Location: Vincennes, Ind.

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The Story of William Houston

This article from the London Times in 1852 was reprinted in America in Frederick Douglass Paper on April 15, 1852.  It relates the long and complicated path from freedom – through slavery – and back to freedom for William Houston.  Houston was a British seaman who was sold into slavery by his employer when the ship was in New Orleans.  There are references to the case in footnotes of some later editions of Solomon Northup’s Twelve Years a Slave.

The Horrible Adventures of a British Subject Sold into American Slavery

At the Thames police office one day last week, William Houston complained to the magistrate that he, a free born British subject, had been sold into slavery by a sea captain, with whom he had engaged as a steward for wages. He exhibited his register ticket as a “seaman,” No. 548,818, and stated that he was born in Gibraltar in the year 1810, his father a native of San Domingo, and his mother a London woman. About thirteen years ago, when settled in Liverpool, as steward, for $25 per month. The captain’s name was Joseph M’Coy.

On the arrival of the ship at New Orleans, the vessel was sold, and the captain took him on shore and sold him to an American, by whom he was taken to a place called Tricupo, in St. Matthew county, where he remained in bondage for five years.


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C is for Cotton

Lewis C. Gunn’s 1838 Address to Abolitionists

We are not about to tell you of the existence of slavery in our “land of the free,” or to inform you that nearly three millions of your countrymen are the victims of systematic and legalized robbery and oppression. This you know full well, and the knowledge has awakened your strong sympathy with the sufferers, and your soul-deep abhorrence of the system which crushes them.

We mean not to prove that this system is condemned by every principle of justice, every precept of the Divine law, and every attribute of the Divine character, — or that no man can innocently sustain to his fellow man the relation it has established. You already believe this proposition, and build upon it, as a fundamental doctrine, the whole superstructure of your anti-slavery creed and plan of operations. It is not our purpose to convince you that the slave, as your brother man, has a right to your compassion and assistance. You acknowledge his claim, and profess to be his fast and faithful friends. But we would propose to you a question of weight and serious import. Having settled your principles, in the clear light of truth, by fair and thorough investigation, do you practically carry them out in your daily life and conduct? To one point we would direct your attention. Do you, into whose hands this address has fallen, faithfully abstain from using the products of the slave’s extorted and unpaid labor ? If not, having read thus far, do not immediately throw aside this address with an exclamation of contempt or indifference, but read it through with candor.

Before entering upon a discussion of the question, whether our use of the products of slave-labor does not involve us in the guilt of slave-holding, we ask your attention to the two following propositions, viz.: The love of money is the root of the evil of slavery — and the products of slave-labor are stolen goods.

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