Baptists, Slavery, and the Road to Civil War

Editor’s Note: This is part 2 of our Lyceum Disputation series considering how Baptists responded to American slavery. As with all our work, the London Lyceum publishes a range of viewpoints to encourage thinking.

After Harriet Beech­er Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin was published in 1852, it went through 120 editions in less than a year. So consequential was the book that upon meeting Stowe during the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln (who was raised a Baptist) allegedly called her “the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war.” Stowe had awakened the American conscience to the evils of slavery, but in the South, the book was anathema. How could a woman who had never lived in the South know so much about it? A year later, when Stowe published A Key to Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1853) to defend the veracity of her novel, she included a memorial from the Charles­ton Baptist Association to the South Carolina legislature in 1835 which stated, “The right of masters to dispose of the time of their slaves has been distinctly recognized by the Creator of all things, who is surely at liberty to vest the right of property over any object in whomsoever he pleases.”[1] For Stowe, the Charleston Baptists’ defense of slavery represented the worst kind of religious hypocrisy, the same kind her father Lyman had faced during the Presbyterian Schism of 1837. (Methodist bishop Francis Asbury called Charleston “the seat of Satan” for its cruelty toward slaves). Indeed, South Carolina Baptists had become some of the leading voices in the new Southern Baptist Convention (1845) and would also found the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (1859) in Greenville. Since 1823, when Charleston pastor Richard Furman defended the so-called “peculiar institution” on behalf of his newly formed South Carolina Baptist Convention, Baptists in the state had begun to see slavery less as an unfortunate evil and more as a “positive good,” in the words of South Carolina Senator John Calhoun. White Baptists in the Palmetto State were ostensibly of one mind on the issue of slavery, pushing the nation closer to Civil War, which, perhaps not surprisingly, began in Charleston.

But as historian Daniel Walker Howe has warned, “It is not easy to make generalizations about the Baptists.”[2] Just as Baptists disagreed on seemingly everything else, they did not view slavery in precisely the same way — even in South Carolina. All 293 delegates at the very first SBC in Augusta, Georgia in 1845 were united in their opposition to the idea that “slavery is, in all circumstances, sinful.”[3] They were also united in their belief that the Triennial Convention could not prohibit missionaries from owning slaves. But their exact positions on slavery in the years leading to 1845 were not monolithic. Labels like “pro-slavery” and “abolitionist” do not account for the variety of issues that Baptists faced in the antebellum period, from colonization to immediate emancipation to the question of the inherent evil of slavery itself. As Baptist historian David Benedict noted in 1813, “The Baptists are by no means uniform in their opinions of slavery.”[4] Even after 1845, Baptists held to a spectrum of views that should neither be simplified nor sanitized. This spectrum also included Northern Baptists, who were not always quick to condemn the institution just as Southern Baptists were not always quick to celebrate it. And black Baptists like missionary Lott Carey (free) and self-proclaimed prophet Nat Turner (slave), both from Virginia, opposed slavery in dramatically different ways.[5] On rare occasions, some African American and Native American Baptists owned slaves themselves.[6]

As historian C. C. Goen has shown, the split of the Triennial Convention, like the breaks in the Presbyterian and Methodist denominations (1837, 1844), was a prelude to the Civil War, cementing a national divide.[7] Thus a Baptist did not necessarily need to own slaves to support slaveholding or to pave the road to the Confederacy. In 1845, sixteen Southern Baptists in Augusta, Georgia held no slaves at all. However, one man alone held 162.[8] If Baptists today wish to avoid stereotypes and generalizations in their current discussions over sensitive social issues, it is helpful that they apply the same approach to their ancestors, who could be just as diverse, and their theological arguments just as complex, as their spiritual grandchildren. These nuances of Baptist history are very important. By acknowledging, rather than excusing, the range of views held by antebellum Baptists on slavery, perhaps we may learn to appreciate the nuances and subtleties that often emerge in our own conversations about race, the common good, and the witness of Christ.

The Early Republic

Before the age of Jackson, most rank-and-file Baptists in both the North and the South accepted or tolerated the practice of slavery. In South Carolina, for example, forty percent of Baptist preachers in the late eighteenth century owned slaves.[9] But the spirit of liberty combined with the general optimism of the age led many to envision a day when the institution would be no more. For example, in his speech to the Massachusetts constitutional convention in 1789, Isaac Backus expressed his hope that one day America would put an end to “the practice of making merchandise of slaves and souls of men.”[10] In a Thanksgiving Day sermon in 1795, pastor of Second Baptist Church of Boston Thomas Baldwin urged, “May the Day soon arrive, when not a difference of climate or features, nor of the color of the skin, when nothing but crimes shall consign any of the human race to slavery.”[11] Like most Americans, Baptists believed in the power of progress. Even in the South, most Baptists viewed slavery similar to the way that Thomas Jefferson did: as a social and even moral evil, but not necessarily sinful. Reflecting on his childhood in the 1810s, Jeremiah Bell Jeter recalled, “At that period there was a prevalent opinion in Virginia not that slavery was in all cases sinful, but that the system imposed great responsibilities, and was fraught with many evils, economic, social, political, moral, and should be as soon as possible abolished.”[12]

During this time, calls from New England to Georgia for emancipation began to spread, like the Shaftsbury Association in New York when it declared in 1792 its “detestation of the SLAVE TRADE.”[13] Unfortunately, Baptists in the early republic were far more hopeful than helpful. The North-South divide had already begun to widen, exacerbated by the pro-slavery agenda, the stigma of abolitionism, and the invention of the cotton gin in 1794. John Leland, who lived in both Virginia and New England and abhorred slavery, noted an interesting parallel when he observed, “As personal slavery exists chiefly in the southern states, so religious slavery abounds exclusively in three or four of the New England states.”[14] Ironically, by the 1790s, Baptist associations in Virginia had begun to wield the idea of religious freedom to defend slavery, insisting that the great southern evil was an issue best left to the “legislative body” and not the ecclesiastical.

But slavery also had its critics in the South. In 1798, Baptist David Barrow, convinced of the “iniquity” of slavery, left his congregation in Virginia and moved to Kentucky, where he eventually organized the Kentucky Abolition Society.[15] To Barrow, and other Baptists in the West like Carter Tarrant and John Mason Peck, slavery stood against the commandment to love thy neighbor as well as the spirit of republicanism. (Tarrant even cited Jefferson against slavery)[16] After being expelled from his local association for his views, Barrow led messengers from 9 churches to form the “Friends of Humanity.” In 1815, he even wrote a letter to former President Thomas Jefferson to advocate for abolition, appealing to the teachings of Jesus Christ.[17] In the West, especially in the Elkhorn Association, Baptists could be more divided on the issue than anywhere else in the infant nation. Indeed, even in the North, Baptists were not of one mind. In the 1780s, James Manning, the first president of Rhode Island College, joined the abolitionist efforts of Moses Brown, the former Baptist-turned-Quaker. Conversely, the Brown family, key patrons of the school, were involved in the business of shipping slaves.[18] Nevertheless, the spiritual equality of believer’s baptism offered slaves a church in which there was truly “neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free.” (Gal. 3:28) As a result, despite the “paradox” that existed between slavery and the egalitarian nature of credobaptism, Baptist churches in the infant nation often earned the reputation of being welcoming to blacks, even in South Carolina.[19] In 1803, largely due to Baptist petitions, a law was modified to allow that “religious assemblages with a majority of whites would not be disturbed by officers.”[20]

The Missouri Controversy (1820)

However, the events that transpired in the 1820s had a tremendous effect upon the way that individual Baptists responded to the so-called “negro question.” In 1819, when Rep. James Tallmadge (NY) proposed an amendment to prohibit slavery in the newly admitted state of Missouri, its adoption by the House and defeat in the Senate ended in a Compromise: While Missouri would enter as a “slave state,” Maine would be admitted as a “free state,” maintaining the balance in the Senate. The Louisiana Territory south of the 36 30’ line would remain open to slavery, while everything north would prohibit it. While the compromise preserved a tenuous union of states, it stoked a volatile fire of controversy across the nation about the hypocrisy of slaveholding and the precarious future of America. In Missouri, for instance, Baptists began to divide into “Princeton” and “Andover” camps, reflecting schools of Calvinism that stood either for or against slavery.[21] More importantly, according to Mark Noll, “Missouri was the lever that pushed the Bible-defense of slavery out of the ecclesiastical shadows into the glare of congressional scrutiny.” Noll adds, “establishment Charleston set out a full-blown proslavery biblicism that over the next four decades became increasingly influential throughout the nation.”[22] Pro-slavery Baptists no longer relied on culture to make their assumptions about slavery. They reached for their Bibles.

In April 1821, in the aftermath of the Missouri Compromise, a young Basil Manly Sr. delivered a college speech on the issue of emancipation. Manly, who would soon help Richard Furman establish the South Carolina Baptist Convention and would even replace Furman at FBC Charleston, would come to own over forty slaves. Therefore, as one might expect, he defended the practice of slavery. However, the future plantation owner was surprisingly ambivalent in 1821. “Slavery seems to be utterly repugnant to the spirit of our republican institutions,” he admitted. Considering the framers of the Constitution, Manly added, “the inconsistency between slavery and a perfect equality and freedom can never be removed so long as those terms embrace the same ideas they do at present.” In a moment of national crisis, Manly was willing to concede more than were many of his South Carolina contemporaries. Manly was conflicted about the best course of action for whites and blacks. Contemplating whether the transportation of slaves to Africa was necessary and good, he concluded, “Emancipation can at least be defended on this principle (self-preservation). But justice demands it at our hands for that ill-fated people…The fault of our ancestors, or of the universe, cannot disavow the law of Heaven which brings all men into this world equally free.” That Manly publicized his internal struggle with slavery in these terms is somewhat remarkable. Still, he was a slaveowner, nonetheless. Like so many other liberty-loving Americans, Manly was willing to hope for emancipation, but not willing to manumit his own slaves. All Manly could do was hope “that in the progress of civilization, of liberty and religion” slavery would cease.[23] Ultimately, he believed that colonization was too difficult and too expensive to be considered a viable option. One might say that Manly embraced the optimism of American republicanism without the disinterestedness.

When Rep. James Tallmadge attempted to push his proposal through Congress in 1819, he pointed to the contrast between white Christians who support “moral institutions for Bible and Missionary Societies” and southern states “legislating to secure the ignorance and stupidity of slaves.” As the Vice President of the Charleston Bible Society, the former President of the Triennial Convention, and a slaveholder, Richard Furman must have taken great offense. Two years later, the slave plot of Denmark Vesey was discovered in Charleston, turning the state of South Carolina into a tinderbox of distrust and social unrest. It was in the wake of Vesey’s foiled plot that Furman issued his Exposition of the Views of the Baptists, Relative to the Coloured Population to the United States, in a Communication to the Governor of South Carolina (1823). In the treatise, Furman brandished a host of theological and biblical arguments for slavery — on behalf of the state convention mind you — that Southern Baptists would use for decades, insisting that “the right of holding slaves is clearly established in the Holy Scripture, both by precept and example.”[24] With the crisis of Missouri and now the threat of revolt, Baptists in the South were evolving from troubled acceptance of slavery to biblical justification. Meanwhile, in the North, anti-slavery sentiment was growing. As John Leland later declared in 1831, “The Negro Question, in one view of it, has been quiet ever since the admission of Missouri into the Union; but, in another view, it agitates the public mind.”[25] Leland, the Virginian-turned-New Englander, was rather outspoken in his disdain for slavery. Even still, as historian Eric Smith has recently shown, “though infused with evangelical theology, Leland’s position was virtually identical to Jefferson’s in substance.”[26] Relatively speaking, very few Baptists in the 1820s and 30s qualified as “abolitionist” in the Garrisonian sense. In Virginia, some anti-slavery Baptists like David Barrow moved to Kentucky. But in Kentucky, some like Grant County pastor William Conrad continued to own slaves even while agreeing that slavery was inherently evil. Like most Kentuckians, Conrad celebrated that “Mr. Clay saved the union” with his 1820 Compromise.[27] Others in Kentucky like Jesse Lynch Holman moved north to Indiana where he remained a “moderate abolitionist” and a member of the Indiana Colonization Society.[28] However, in 1836, when Holman’s appointment to a federal judgeship was opposed by pro-slavery Democrats, Holman traveled personally to Washington D.C. to meet with President Jackson, who absolved him of the “charge of abolition.” In the age of Jackson, even anti-slavery Baptists could be cautiously anti-abolitionist. And the issue of what to do about slavery remained a non-binary question.

Colonization or Gradual Emancipation

In 1773, the Ashfield Baptists of Massachusetts had been the first and only Baptist congregation to officially denounce slavery before the Revolution. However, as the “spirit of 1776” indwelled Baptists more powerfully, calls for emancipation steadily grew louder and more numerous, particularly in the North. Eventually, turning points like the Missouri Crisis and the Denmark Vesey slave revolt plot widened the gap in America. In 1831, Nat Turner’s slave insurrection put the South on high alert and the slaveholding classes on war footing. 1831 was also the year that William Lloyd Garrison established the Liberator, demanding immediate abolition of slavery. In 1833, the American Anti-Slavery Society was founded. As these events unfolded, by the 1830s and 40s, Baptists had armed themselves with the Bible to justify human bondage. Virginia Baptist Thornton Stringfellow, one of the vice presidents under Basil Manly on the Domestic Missions Board in Augusta, appealed to the Bible to make his case that “the institution of slavery is full of mercy.”[29] The title of his 1841 treatise was A Brief Examination of Scripture Testimony on the Institution of Slavery.

Yet the divisions between Baptists went far beyond the Mason-Dixon line. The question of when and how to manumit slaves was a bit more complicated than it might appear to us today. For instance, as Aaron Menikoff has shown, Baptists in Virginia, where nearly half the nation’s slaves and free blacks resided, were far more prone to support colonization than were Baptists in the Deeper South (as demonstrated by Manly Sr.).[30] Moreover, as other historians have also shown, although the colonization effort was supported by many Baptists who genuinely (though somewhat ignorantly) desired to help their black brethren while avoiding Northern abolitionism, the movement was also steered by racist elites who believed that it was better for blacks to be cast away to Africa than to live freely among whites.[31] Colonization was a unifying initiative among Baptists because black Virginia ministers Colin Teague and Lott Carey were sent out as missionary colonists to West Africa by the Triennial Convention in 1821 in cooperation with the American Colonization Society (ACS). Although Baptist missions was unable to align itself with abolitionism due to the perceived threat of extremism, and although Primitive (anti-missionary) Baptists were no more abolitionist than their missionary counterparts, colonization proved a somewhat lukewarm alternative to the slavery issue in a divided nation.[32]

With the design of sending blacks to a distant land in which they had never lived, colonization was a rather awkward endeavor from the beginning. On one hand, it allowed free blacks like Lott Carey to leave a country that considered them more than slaves yet less than citizens. When a minister friend asked Carey why he, a free black, would leave the relative comfort of America to move to Africa, he replied, “I am an African, and in this country, however meritorious my conduct, and respectable my character, I cannot receive the credit due to either. I wish to go to a country where I shall be estimated by my merits, not by my complexion; and I feel bound to labor for my suffering race.”[33] On the other hand, colonization allowed a well-known pro-slavery Baptist like Richard Fuller, the third president of the SBC, to throw his support behind a seemingly benevolent cause for the African. Fuller was a member of the ACS and even preached in front of Henry Clay, one of its founders, in 1851. It comes as little surprise that Fuller, after leaving South Carolina and taking a pastorate in Baltimore in 1846, would become involved in a Chesapeake-led organization. Although Fuller is best known for his literary debate with Francis Wayland of Brown University over slavery in 1845 (the same year as the inaugural SBC), according to Mark Noll, the exchange was “one of the United States’ last serious one-on-one debates where advocates for and against slavery engaged each other directly, with reasonable restraint, and with evident intent to hear out the opponent to the extent possible.”[34] Although Fuller somewhat ambivalently endorsed the “Savannah Resolutions” which offered Southern Baptist support for the Confederacy, and he was once called “the most dangerous rebel in Maryland” by the Northern press, he was also accused by many Southerners of being “too moderate” in his defense of slavery.[35] (After the Civil War, Fuller was also criticized by fellow Southern Baptists for his desire to re-unite with his Northern counterparts.[36]) And while Fuller was staunchly and rather publicly pro-slavery against Wayland, he in fact saw himself as a peacemaker and was hesitant to preach on slavery from his own pulpit. Fuller was, one might say, a Northern Southern Baptist in a volatile border state, far from the plantations of South Carolina and the streets of Boston. As a result, he supported colonization when other Baptists on both sides of the debate would not.

Conversely, like the North itself, Northern Baptists were also a bit fractured. Until the Rubicon of the Fugitive Slave Law (1850), anti-slavery Baptists in the North were largely divided among immediate emancipationists and gradual emancipationists. Although Francis Wayland was the most reputable Baptist intellectual for his age and has become synonymous with abolitionism today due to his debate with Fuller, he was actually not in favor of immediate emancipation. In this he agreed with Fuller. Other Northern Baptists like Elon Galusha, president of the American Baptist Anti-Slavery Convention and vice president of the Triennial Board of Foreign Missions, advocated immediate emancipation. (Galusha’s anti-slavery declaration helped precipitate the events of 1845 which forged the SBC.)[37] In an age of “internal improvements” and “manifest destiny,” the United States was getting larger and smaller at the very same time, and just as Southerners like Fuller (who replaced Galusha as VP of the Board of Foreign Missions after he was voted out) conformed to the surrounding culture when they moved to the lower North, many Northerners did similarly when they moved to the upper South. For example, when the Landmarkist James L. Graves shared his reservations about slavery with another Baptist in Nashville, Tennessee in 1843, he was advised to move to a free state. Soon afterward Graves moved to Ohio — and then moved back. As James Patterson has noted, “he evidently imbibed some of the motifs of Jacksonian democracy, including its dubious defense of slavery. It remains something of an enigma how a Vermonter bred to resist tyranny and other threats of freedom could become a shameful apologist for the enslavement of a people based on their race.”[38] For better or for worse, antebellum Baptists were sculpted by their surroundings.

Choosing Sides

But not every Northern city had New England flavor. Indeed, the lower North was filled with Baptists who actually approved of slavery and sympathized with Southern interests, much like the “Copperheads” and “Peace Democrats” in the political realm. When Landmarkist James Pendleton left the South in the wake of the Civil War, he was denied a call to a church in Lebanon, Ohio due to his views on slavery.[39] As James M. McPherson has shown, the “Butternut” region of southern Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois was composed largely of Baptist churches, many of which were filled with transplants from the upper South. According to McPherson, “They remained rural, southern, and localist in their orientation, hostile toward ‘Yankees’ of New England heritage who settled the northern portions of these states made accessible by the Erie Canal after 1825.”[40] As far north as Philadelphia, Baptists like William T. Brantly Jr. preached publicly against the vilification of the South by Northerners. For instance, in a Thanksgiving sermon in 1860 entitled Our National Troubles, the pastor of FBC Philadelphia ridiculed Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin for its “gross fabrication” of slavery, claiming it contained “much that was false.”[41] (Apparently, he had not read Stowe’s Key) But Brantly Jr.’s contempt for Stowe was anything but surprising. His father, William T. Brantly Sr., had left the same post at FBC Philadelphia in 1837 to replace Basil Manly Sr. at, you guessed it, FBC Charleston. Brantly Jr. was a Northern pastor but a Southerner at heart. Less than a year after the sermon, he accepted a call as pastor of Second Baptist Church of Atlanta.

In the years leading to 1861, the Baptist denomination often appeared like a kaleidoscopic reflection of the nation itself. As a result, the variety of Baptist views on slavery naturally mirrored those across the United States. Baptists debated everything from the proper interpretation of the Greek word doulos to the authority of texts such as Deuteronomy 20:10–15.[42] The road to Civil War was not of two solid parallel lines, but of lines that sometimes blurred, crossed, and even overlapped before diverging with time and context. As sectional rivalries intensified and violent events like the Mexican War, “Bleeding Kansas,” and the raid on Harper’s Ferry ignited the country into open conflict, Baptists inevitably chose sides like the rest of the nation.

During the Civil War, just two years after publishing a sermon on the fruits of the Spirit, Georgia pastor Charles Dutton Mallary wrote emphatically, “If the Federals should get possession of my poor body, I shall tell them I am a rebel.”[43] Such a staggering declaration on the part of a seemingly pious Baptist pastor should leave us to consider two questions: First, would later Christians have chosen differently had they been ensconced in the same time and place? After the assassination of President Lincoln, Princeton theologian Charles Hodge was not entirely sure. In an article in the Princeton Review, Hodge conceded, “Slavery, as it existed in the South…is a great moral evil. And yet had we been born and educated under that system, we doubtless would either acquiesced in it or defended it.” He reasoned, “A man’s character, his opinions, his feelings, are determined in part by the inward principles of his nature, and largely by the external influences to which he is subject.”[44] Even after Lincoln’s death, Hodge, who possessed his own complex view of slavery, was not convinced that Northerners were somehow more inherently virtuous than Southerners. Such a sympathetic view no doubt led Hodge to engage rather well with Southerners like James P. Boyce, a Charlestonian educated at Princeton who eventually served in the Confederate army (1861–62), owned over two dozen slaves, and advised friends like John Broadus to invest in slaves.[45]

Secondly, wherever Southern Baptists fell along the spectrum of pro-slavery ideology, their individual views were shaped not just by their immediate context, but by decades of experiences and evolving thought on the issue. If a young Basil Manly Sr. was ambivalent about the ills of slavery in 1821, Richard Furman was decidedly less conflicted about the issue just two years later when he believed slaves were plotting to overthrow white society. As the nation changed, so did people, and vice versa. And extremes in the North slowly hardened Baptist consciences in the South. By the early 1840s, the old alliances of the early Triennial Convention had begun to weaken as Baptists in the South became convinced that unbelieving radicals were slowly changing the minds and attitudes of their Northern brethren against them. In Slavery, A Treatise, Showing that Slavery is Neither a Political, Moral, Nor Social Evil (1844), Georgia Baptist Patrick Hues Mell began with the following introduction: “For the last fifteen years, or more, the system of domestic servitude at the South has been assailed with the most bitter and systematic denunciation by the Abolitionists of this country and England.”[46] Mell listed several grievances against “the Northern Abolitionists,” including their anti-slavery societies, their petitions to Congress, their “hostility” to the Constitution, and their boasting in the Underground Railroad. Just a few decades earlier, many, if not a majority, of Baptists in the South had been willing to identify some form of “evil” commingled with the institution of slavery. However, when confronted with Northern (and British) abolitionism, the inveterate Mell would not concede any form of evil. Even North Carolina Baptist Thomas Meredith, who did not wish to “perpetuate the Institution of Slavery” and “would prefer to see it removed,” was so incited by Northern criticism that in 1847 he wrote a pamphlet entitled Christianity and Slavery in order to “repel those accusations of a defamatory nature which have been so liberally brought against Southern Christians…in most, or perhaps all, other anti-slavery productions of the Northern press.”[47] Baptists did not theologize in a vacuum. They were also defending their honor, their churches, their friends, and their way of life.

By 1860, John L. Dagg, who once pastored in Philadelphia decades earlier, authored an entire moral philosophy text entitled The Elements of Moral Science in order to offer a pro-slavery alternative to Francis Wayland’s text by the very same name. In many ways, this was the zenith of the evolution of the Baptist justification of slavery: from acceptance to biblical defense to codification into moral law.

Baptists were never monolithic on the issue of slavery, but as the inaugural SBC demonstrated in 1845, Southern Baptists were united in their mutual opposition to Northern Baptists determining what they should believe and how they should believe it. Although Southern Baptists today have acknowledged their origins on the issue of slavery, the idea that a common enemy is enough to unite a divided people is a myth that all Baptists have yet to completely overcome.

[1]Harriet Beecher Stowe, The Key to Uncle Tom’s Cabin (London: Clarke, Beeton, and Co., 1835), 385.

[2] Daniel Walker Howe, What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815–1848 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), 180.

[3] William B. Johnson, “Address of the Southern Baptist Convention,” in “Appendix C” of Hortense C. Woodson, Giant in the Land: The Life of William B. Johnson, First President of the Southern Baptist Convention (1845–1851) (Springfield: Particular Baptist Press, 2005), 18.

[4] David Benedict, A General History of the Baptist Denomination in America (Boston: Lincoln and Edmands, 1813), 2:207.

[5] For a history of the Nat Turner revolt, see Patrick H. Breen, The Land Shall Be Deluged in Blood: A New History of the Nat Turner Revolt (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015).

[6] Former slave Andrew Bryan of Savannah’s First African Baptist Church eventually owned eight slaves. He wrote in 1800, “By a kind Providence I am well provided for, as to worldly comforts, (tho’ I have had very little given me as a minister) having a house and lot in this city, besides the land on which several buildings stand, with all necessary buildings, four miles in the country, and eight slaves; for whose education and happiness, I am enabled thro’ mercy to provide.” (Andrew Bryan, “A Letter from the Negro Baptist Church in Savannah,” in African American Religious History: A Documentary Witness, ed. Milton C. Sernett (Durham: Duke University Press, 1999), 49–51.) Also in Georgia, Cherokee Baptist Jesse Bushyhead owned black slaves, some of which were Baptist. (William G. McLoughlin, The Cherokees and Christianity, 1794–1870: Essays on Acculturation and Cultural Persistence, ed. Walter H. Conser, Jr. [Athens: The University Georgia Press, 2008], 78.)

[7] See C. C. Goen, Broken Churches, Broken Nation: Denominational Schisms and the Coming of the Civil War (Macon: Mercer University Press, 1985).

[8] Robert G. Gardner, A Decade of Debate and Division: Georgia Baptists and the Formation of the Southern Baptist Convention (Macon: Mercer University Press, 1995), 29. For an analysis of the theological justification for the 1845 split, see Obbie Tyler Todd, “‘Forbidding Us to Speak unto the Gentiles’: The First Southern Baptist Convention (1845) in its Moral and Theological Context,” Baptist History & Heritage Vol. LV, No. 2 (2020): 50–72.

[9] Leah Townsend, South Carolina Baptists, 1670–1805 (Florence: The Florence Printing Company, 1935), 255.

[10] Jonathan Elliot, The Debates in the Several State Conventions, Vol. I (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1891), 149.

[11] Thomas Baldwin, A Sermon, Delivered February 19, 1795: Being the Day of Public Thanksgiving Throughout the United States (Boston: Manning & Loring, 1795), 22.

[12] Jeremiah Bell Jeter, The Recollections of a Long Life (Richmond: The Religious Herald Co., 1891), 69.

[13] Minutes of the Shaftesbury Association (Bennington, VT,1792), 11.

[14] John Leland, “An Oration, Delivered at Cheshire, July 5, 1802, on the Celebration of Independence,” in The Writings of the Late Elder John Leland, ed. L. F. Greene (New York: G. W. Wood, 1845), 268.

[15] See Carlos R. Allen, Jr., “David Barrow’s Circular Letter of 1798,” The William and Mary Quarterly 20 (1963) 440–51.

[16] Monica Najar, Evangelizing the South: A Social History of Church and State in Early America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 158.

[17] See Thomas Kidd, “A Baptist Abolitionist Appeals to Thomas Jefferson,” The Gospel Coalition (Februrary 20, 2019)

[18] Thomas S. Kidd and Barry Hankins, Baptists in America: A History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015), 99.

[19] Janet Moore Lindman, Bodies of Belief: Baptist Community in Early America (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008), 181.

[20] Kidd and Hankins, Baptists in America,100.

[21] Timothy Flint, Recollections of the last ten years, passed in occasional residences and journeyings in the valley of the Mississippi, from Pittsburg and the Missouri to the Gulf of Mexico, and the Florida to the Spanish frontier; in a series of letters to the Rev. James Flint, of Salem, Massachussetts (Boston: Cummings, Hilliard, and Company, 1826), 114.

[22] Mark A. Noll, “Missouri, Denmark Vesey, Biblical Proslavery, and a Crisis for Sola Scriptura,” in Every Leaf, Line, and Letter: Evangelicals and the Bible from the 1730s to the Present, ed. Timothy Larsen (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2021), 114, 118.

[23] Basil Manly Sr., “On the Emancipation of Slaves.” In Soldiers of Christ: Selections from the Writings of Basil Manly, Sr., and Basil Manly, Jr., ed. Michael A. G. Haykin, Roger D. Duke, and A. James Fuller (Cape Coral: Founders, 2009), 63–66.

[24] Richard Furman, Exposition of the Views of the Baptists, Relative to the Coloured Population of the United States, in a Communication to the Governor of South Carolina (Charleston: A. E. Miller, 1823), 7.

[25] John Leland, “Address Delivered at North Adams, on the 4th of March, 1831,” in The Writings of the Late Elder John Leland, ed. L. F. Greene (New York: G. W. Wood, 1845), 612.

[26] Eric C. Smith, John Leland: A Jeffersonian Baptist in Early America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2022), 201.

[27] James A. Ramage and Andrea S. Watkins, Kentucky Rising: Democracy, Slavery, and Culture from the Early Republic to the Civil War (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2011), 281.

[28] George I. Blake, “Jesse Lynch Holman: Pioneer Hoosier,” Indiana Magazine of History 39 (1943), 48–49.

[29] Thornton Stringfellow, A Brief Examination of Scripture Testimony on the Institution of Slavery (Richmond: Office of the Religious Herald, 1841), 27.

[30] Aaron Menikoff, Politics and Piety: Baptist Social Reform in America, 1770–1860 (Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2014), 73.

[31] Marie Tyler-McGraw, An African Republic: Black and White Virginians in the Making of Liberia (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2007), 4, 12, 14.

[32] For a brief look at Primitive Baptists and the sin of racism before and after 1865, see Joshua Guthman, Strangers Below: Primitive Baptists and American Culture (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2015), 90–99.

[33] J. B. Taylor, Biography of Elder Lott Carey (Baltimore: Armstrong & Berry, 1837), 16.

[34] Mark A. Noll, The Civil War as a Theological Crisis (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006), 36–37.

[35] J. M. Pendleton, Reminiscences of a Long Life (Louisville: Press Baptist Book Concern, 1891), 126.

[36] See Obbie Tyler Todd, “Southern Yankees: Southern Baptist Clergy in the Antebellum North (1812–1861),” Themelios 47 (2022): 116–29.

[37] Kidd and Hankins, Baptists in America, 126–27.

[38] James A. Patterson, James Robinson Graves: Staking the Boundaries of Baptist Identity (Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press, 2020), 20.

[39] James Madison Pendleton, Reminiscences of a Long Life (Louisville: Press Baptist Book Concern, 1891), 133.

[40] James M. McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988), 31.

[41] William T. Brantly, Our National Troubles: A Thanksgiving Sermon (Philadelphia: T. B. Peterson & Brothers, 1860), 25–26.

[42] Thornton Stringfellow, A Brief Examination of Scripture Testimony on the Institution of Slavery (Richmond: Office of the Religious Herald, 1841), 36.

[43] Samuel Boykin, History of the Baptist Denomination in Georgia (Atlanta: Jas. P. Harrison & Co., 1881), 2:355.

[44] Charles Hodge, “President Lincoln, Princeton Review (July 1865): 450–51.

[45] “Report on Slavery and Racism in the History of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary,” 10.

[46] P. H. Mell, Slavery, A Treatise, Showing that Slavery is Neither a Political, Moral, Nor Social Evil (Penfield: Benj. Brantly, 1844), 5.

[47] Thomas Meredith, Christianity and Slavery: Strictures on Rev. William Hague’s Review of Doctors Fuller and Wayland on Domestic Slavery (Boston: Gould, Kendall, and Lincoln, 1847), 4.


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