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ses to instruct the missionaries everywhere, and the missionary churches, that the mere possession of a master's authority over a slave, independent of all specific exercise of that authority, is to be visited with excommunication. Mr. Phelps' motion, then, . produced, and could produce, no effect on the course or progress of the debate, save as it may have helped to diminish the possibility of misunderstanding the demands of the Society which he represented.
It was my wish to finish all that I have to say respecting the late meeting of the Board at Brooklyn, in a single paper ; but I fear that in attempting to do so, I should occupy more space in the columns of the Evangelist, than would be consistent with the usual variety of matter in this widely read “folio of four pages.” At this point, then, I pause, like a Congress orator suddenly struck down at the expiration of his hour. The present article may be considered as a statement and explanation of the question on which the Board was to act. In another article, I propose to offer some considerations on the decision of the Board, and the position in which it stands in respect to the Anti-Slavery Society.
THE ACTION OF THE BOARD.
The precise question before the Board should be distinctly remembered. It was not a question respecting that political institution which we call sla
very. It was not a question whether acts of wrongdoing on the part of masters toward their servants, are inconsistent with Christian character and Christian communion. It was simply a question respecting the relation between a master and his slaves under the laws of a State which has incorporated the system of slavery among its political institutions; whether that relation, in itself, and without any specification of distinct acts of oppression committed by virtue of the power which the relation involves, is a crime for which the master should be cut off from communion with every, Christian church. This was the question which the report from the Committee answered in the negative, and which Mr. Phelps' motion for amendment answered in the affirmative.
After the discussion had been prolonged till near the close of the second day, another amendment was moved by the writer of these papers, as a substitute for that proposed by Mr. Phelps. It was in these words:
“In conclusion, it seems proper for the Board, on this occasion, to put upon record a distinct assertion of the principles contained in the following resolutions :
1. Resolved, That inasmuch as the system of domestic slavery, under every modification, is at war with the principles of Christianity, with natural justice, with industry and thrift, with habits of subjection to law, and with whatever tends to the advancement of civilization and the ascendency of the gospel, and inasmuch as it brings upon every community which establishes and upholds it, the righteous displeasure of God, and the reprobation of the civilized and Christian world, the existence of slavery in the Cherokee and Choctaw nations is deeply to be lamented by their friends, and particularly by this Board, as hav.
ing been, for more than a quarter of a century, engaged in labors tending to their moral, intellectual, and social advancement.
2. Resolved, That while the strongest language of reprobation is not too strong to be applied to the system of slavery, truth and justice require this Board to say that the mere relation of a master to one whom the constitution of society has made a slave, is not to be regarded as in all cases such a sin as to require the exclusion of the master, without further inquiry, from Christian ordinances.
3. Resolved, That the missionaries of this Board, everywhere, are expected to admit to Christian ordinances those, and only those, who give satisfactory evidence of having become new creatures in Christ.
4. Resolved, That the master who buys and sells human beings, as merchandise, for gain—who does not recognize in respect to his servants the divine sanctity of their relations as husbands and wives, and as parents and children-who permits them to live and die in ignorance of God and of God's Word who does not render to his servants that which is just and equal, or who refuses to recognize heartily and practically their dignity and worth, as reasonable and immortal beings, for whom Christ has died, does not give satisfactory evidence of being born of God, or having the spirit of Christ.”
The reason stated for moving this amendment was in effect, not that the report does not contain in some form of expression all that is contained in these resolutions, but that it seemed desirable to embody, in a formal series of propositions, or theses, a statement of what is and what is not to be condemned, making certain distinctions so definitely that all parties should see them, and, if possible, should be compelled to adopt them, or to dissent from them, without mystification. The first resolution, accordingly, speaks of slavery as a political institution, and laments its introduction into the
nascent civilization of the Cherokee and Choctaw nations; and thus it contradicts, on the one hand, those who defend and uphold the institution of slavery, which is done by many at the South, and which Dr. White was understood to do in that discussion and on the other hand, those who stigmatize the Board, as defending and upholding slavery. The second resolution denies peremptorily the peculiar dogma of the Anti-Slavery Society. The third denies a principle assumed by some who hold that a slave-owner may give undeniable evidence of Christian character notwithstanding his relation to his slaves; but who insist that even in that case he ought not to be admitted as a Christian to fellowship in Christian ordinances. The fourth points out the legitimate, and only legitimate application of church discipline against slavery, which is by censuring and excommunicating the sinner, not for having the power to do wrong, but for doing wrong -not for standing in a certain constituted relation toward his servants, but for his conduct toward them in that relation.
This motion to amend was heartily seconded. Nothing was said in opposition to it. But as the second day of the debate was then closing, and as the question before the house was becoming complicated with amendment upon amendment, it was judged best to recommit the whole subject; and accordingly the original report, and both the proposed amendments, were put into the hands of Chief Justice Williams and five other gentlemen, one of whom (Rev. John C. Webster) was himself one of the memorialists. That Committee, the next morn
ing, recommended the adoption of the original report without amendment. In the debate which followed there were some passages which I may be allowed to notice.
Immediately after the report had been made by Chief Justice Williams, with some explanations of the views of the Committee, the Rev. Dr. Tappan, who had served on both Committees, and who, I believe, not only claims the title of abolitionist, but has long been claimed by the Anti-Slavery Society as a patron, said, according to the summary of the debate given in the New-York Evangelist of that week,
“ That every individual of the Committee approved of the principles of Dr. Bacon's resolutions, but it was feared that to append them to the report would look too much like legislation, and might seem to ecclesiastical bodies as if the Board was trenching upon
their proper province. There are also other substantial reasons; and though the report was believed to contain every principle contained in the resolutions, it was unadvisable to state them in this formal manner.”
The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions combines in one system of operations the foreign missionary charities of the New England Congregationalists, and the Constitutional (or New School) Presbyterians, and a respectable minority in the Old School body, and of the Reformed Dutch Church. The ecclesiastical bodies of New England have no such jealousy as that referred to by Dr. Tappan. Had the resolutions been adopted, no Association, no Conference, no church or council of churches, from Madawasca to Horseneck, would