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.

All images included in blog posts are from either Accessible Archives collections or out of copyright public sources unless otherwise noted. Common sources include the Library of Congress, The Flickr Commons, Wikimedia Commons, and other public archives.

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