Source Book and Bibliographical Guide for American Church History


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"CHRISTIAN BRETHREN:—In the name of our Holy Christianity, we address you in this form, respecting matters of great interest to us, which we believe deeply concern the cause of our Blessed Master, and to which we invoke your serious attention.

We speak not in the spirit of controversy, not by political inspiration, but as the servants of the Most High God, we speak the ’truth in love,’ concerning things which make for peace. . . .

We submit for your consideration as the first point of our testimony and ground of protest,—

That the war waged against our people, in principle and in fact, proposes to achieve that which, in the nature of the case, it is impossible to accomplish by violence. The war proposes the restoration of the Union.

We can rationally suppose a war for conquest, or to expel an invader, or to compel respect for stipulations of peace and international intercourse which have been violated; but how measures of violence can reunite independent States, restore their broken fellowship, re-establish equality of representatives’ rights, or coerce a people to brotherly kindness, unity, and devotion to each other, is utterly beyond our conception. . . .

Christian brethren, could the hand of violence win you to desire fellowship with a people while it destroyed your peace, polluted your sanctuaries, invaded the sacred precincts of your homes, robbed you of your property, slaughtered your noble sons, clothed your daughters in grief, filled your land with sorrow, and employed its utmost strength to reduce your country to the degradation of a subjugated province? Would it not rather animate you to prefer death—honorable death—the patriot’s alternative, the Christian’s martyrdom? . . .

No attempt has been made to overthrow the Government of the United States, unless by the fanatical party which now administers its affairs. The South never entertained such an idea. If that Government fall for lack of Southern support, let men discriminate between the downfall of an oppression when the oppressed have escaped, and a wanton effort to break up good government. So Pharoah fell, but not by the hand of Israel. . . .

The war is forced upon us. We have always desired peace. After a conflict of opinions between the North and the South in Church and State, of more than thirty years, growing more bitter and painful daily, we withdraw from them to secure peace—they send troops to compel us into reunion! Our proposition was peaceable separation, saying ’We are actually divided, our nominal union is only a platform of strife.’ The answer is a call for seventy-five thousand troops, to force submssion to a Government whose character, in the judgment of the South, had been sacrificed to sectionalism. . . .

The second general point which we submit for your Christian consideration is,—

The separation of the Southern States is universally regarded by our people as final, and the formation of the Confederate States’ Government as a fixed fact, promising in no respect, a restoration of the former Union.

Politically and ecclesiastically, the line has been drawn between North and South. It has been done distinctly, deliberately, finally, and in most solemn form. The Confederacy claims to possess all the conditions and essential characteristics of an independent Government. Our institutions, habits, tastes, pursuits, and religion, suggest no wish for reconstruction of the Union. We regard the Confederacy, in the wise providence of the Almighty, as the result of causes which render its independent existence a moral and political necessity, and its final and future independence of the United States not a matter that admits of the slightest doubt.

Among all the indefensible acts growing out of the inexcusable war waged against us, we will refer to one especially, in regard to which, for obvious reasons, we would speak, and as becometh us, plainly and earnestly:—The recent proclamation of the President of the United States, seeking the emancipation of the slaves of the South, is, in our judgment, a suitable occasion for solemn protest on the part of the people of God throughout the world.

First, upon the hypothesis that the proclamation could be carried out in its design, we have no language to describe the bloody tragedy that would appal humanity. Christian sensibilities recoil from the vision of a struggle that would inevitably lead to the slaughter of tens of thousands of poor deluded insurrectionists! Suppose their owners suffered; in the nature of things the slaves would suffer infinitely more. Make it absolutely necessary for the public safety that the slaves be slaughtered, and he who should write the history of that event would record the darkest chapter of human woe yet written.

But, secondly, suppose the proclamation—as indeed we esteem it in the South—a mere political document, devised to win favor among the most fanatical of the Northern people, uttering nothing that has not already been attempted, practically, but in vain, by the United States; suppose it to be worth no more than the paper upon which its bold iniquity is traced, nevertheless it is the avowal of a principle, the declaration of a wish, the deliberate attempt of the chief magistrate of a nation to do that which, as a measure of war, must be repugnant to civilisation, and which we calmly denounce as worthy of universal reprobation, and against which Christians in the name of humanity and religion ought to protest. . .

Let philanthropists observe, even according to its own terms, this measure is in no proper sense an act of mercy to the slave, but of malice toward the master. It provides for freeing only the slaves of those who fight against the United States. The effort is not to relieve that Government of slavery, where the philanthropy has full opportunity for displaying its generosity, and the power to exercise it in respect to slavery, if it exists at all, can be indulged; but the effort is simply to invoke slavery as an agent against the South, reckless of the consequences to the slaves themselves. . .

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We submit further: That the war against the Confederate States has achieved no good result, and we find nothing in the present state of the struggle that gives promise of the United States accomplishing any good by its continuance. . . . Nothing is therefore conquered—no part of the country is subdued; the civil jurisdiction of the United States, the real test of their success, has not been established by any force of arms. Where such civil jursidiction exists at all along the border, it had existed all the while, was not obtained by force, and is not the fruit of conquest. The fact is admitted by our enemies themselves. . .

The only change of opinion among our people since the beginning of the war, that is of material importance to the final issue, has been the change from all lingering attachment to the former Union, to a more sacred and reliable devotion to the Confederate Government. The sentiments of the people are not alterable in any other respects by force of arms. If the whole country were occupied by United States’ troops, it would merely exhibit a military despotism, against which the people would struggle in perpetual revolutionary effort, while any Southrons remained alive. Extermination of the inhabitants could alone realise civil possession of their soil. Subjugation is, therefore, clearly impossible. Is extermination desired by Christians?

The moral and religious interests of the South ought to be appreciated by Christians of all nations.

These interests have realised certainly no benefit from the war. We are aware that, in respect to the moral aspects of the question of slavery, we differ from those who conceive of emancipation as a measure of benevolence, and on that account we suffer much reproach which we are conscious of not deserving. With all the facts of the system of slavery in its practical operations before us, ’as eye-witnesses and ministers of the Word, having had perfect understanding of all things’ on this subject of which we speak, we may surely claim respect for our opinions and statements. Most of us have grown up from childhood among the slaves; all of us have preached to and taught them the word of life; have administered to them the ordinances of the Christian Church; sincerely love them as souls for whom Christ died; we go among them freely, and know them in health and sickness, in labor and rest, from infancy to old age. We are familiar with their physical and moral condition, and alive to all their interests; and we testify in the sight of God, that the relation of master and slave among us, however we may deplore abuses in this, as in other relations of mankind, is not incompatible with our holy Christianity, and that the presence of the Africans of our land is an occasion of gratitude on their behalf before God; seeing that thereby Divine Providence has brought them where missionaries of the Cross may freely proclaim to them the word of salvation, and the work is not interrupted by agitating fanaticism. The South has done more than any people on earth for the Christianization of the African race. The condition of slaves here is not wretched, as northern fictions would have men believe, but prosperous and happy, and would have been yet more so but for the mistaken zeal of the Abolitionists. Can emancipation obtain for them a better portion? The practicable plan for benefiting the African race must be the Providential plan—the Scriptural plan. We adopt that plan in the South; and while the State should seek by wholesome legislation to regard the interests of master and slave, we, as ministers, would preach the word to both as we are commanded of God. This war has not benefited the slaves. Those who have been encouraged or compelled to leave their masters have gone, and we aver can go, to no state of society that offers them any better things than they have at home, eiher in respect to their temporal or eternal welfare. We regard Abolitionism as an interference with the plans of Divine Providence. It has not the signs of the Lord’s blessing. . .

The Christians of the South, we claim, are pious, intelligent, and liberal. Their pastoral and missionary works have points of peculiar interest. There are hundreds of thousands here, both white and colored, who are not strangers to the blood that bought them. We rejoice that the great Head of the Church has not despised us. We desire as much as in us lieth to live peaceably with all men, and though reviled, to revile not again.

Much harm has been done to the religious enterprises of the Church, by the war; we will not tire you by enumerating particulars. We thank God for the patient faith and fortitude of our people during these days of trial.

Our soldiers were before the war our fellow-citizens, and many of them are of the household of faith, who have carried to the camp so much of the leaven of Christianity, that, amid all the demoralizing influences of army life, the good work of salvation has gone forward there.

Our President, some of our most influential statesmen, our commanding general, and an unusual proportion of the principal generals, as well as scores of other officers, are prominent, and we believe consistent members of the Church. Thousands of our soldiers are men of prayer. We regard our success in the war as due to Divine mercy, and our Government and people have recognized the hand of God in the formal and humble celebration of His goodness. We have no fear in regard to the future. If the war continue for years, we believe God’s grace sufficient for us.

In conclusion, we ask for ourselves, our churches, our country, the devout prayers of all God’s people—’the will of the Lord be done!’

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’Charity beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.’ We desire to ’follow after charity’; and ’as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.’

Signatures to the Address."

Text—McPherson: The Political History of the United States of America During the Great Rebellion, Appendix, pp. 517–520.


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Chicago: "Extracts," Source Book and Bibliographical Guide for American Church History in Source Book and Bibliographical Guide for American Church History 611–615. Original Sources, accessed March 24, 2019,

MLA: . "Extracts." Source Book and Bibliographical Guide for American Church History, in Source Book and Bibliographical Guide for American Church History, pp. 611–615. Original Sources. 24 Mar. 2019.

Harvard: , 'Extracts' in Source Book and Bibliographical Guide for American Church History. cited in , Source Book and Bibliographical Guide for American Church History, pp.611–615. Original Sources, retrieved 24 March 2019, from