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Albro S. Brown to Frederick Douglass, February 6, 1852



Friend Douglass:—

A large share of our northern ministers not only refuse to come out in opposition to American Slavery, but are inclined to render excuses for the existence of that foul blot and disgrace upon the name and character of this professedly Christian Nation. Now for ministers and laymen of the south, whose interests are identified with slavery, and who are, to a greater or less extent, trafficking in the souls and bodies of men and and women, to try to make out that slavery is a Bible institution and therefore right, is not so very strange. Indeed it is perfectly natural for an individual, when engaged in any kind of business that is wrong, and unjust, to use every means in his power, to make his occupation appear as plausible to the World as possible. So with the churches at the South; they well know that slavery is wrong, cruel and unjust; and that it does not possess one redeeming trait of character; and that God has no attributes that can take sides with it; and yet there are several hundred thousand slaves, owned by members belonging to the various evangelical churches of our land, who are objects of barter and sale, and are subject to all the untold horrors oft he accursed institution. Their oppressors, therefore resort to every means in their power, to render themselves, and their traffic in human flesh, honorable and just.— The strong arm of the law—the sanctity of the pulpit—and the garb of christianity—are all thrown around it as bulwarks of defense. The truths of God's word, are perverted and stretched so as to cover the whole iniquitous system of oppression. But for ministers and churches of the free States, who have no particular interest in the


existence and perpetuity of slavery, and possessing a knowledge, as they do, of the dark, deep, and blighting influences emanating from it, to stand up in the sanctuary of God, and endeavor to palliate that which Rev. John Wesley regarded as the "sum of all villainies," "the vilest that ever saw the sun," is too sacrilegious. But as sacrilegious as it may appear, it nevertheless is true, of some of our most eminent Divines of the North, that they preach obedience to the Fugitive Slave Law, and thereby perpetuate slavery with all its enormities. Others less bold, and not quite willing to return men and women to the sodom of slavery, think that slaveholders may be christians and they are willing to fellowship them as such. They thereby say to the oppressors, go on with your traffic in the souls and bodies of God's creatures; we nevertheless will regard you as christians.

The rules, sentiments, and maxims, put forth by ministers are usually followed by their people. And there lies the great difficulty of securing to the 3,000,000 of slaves in our land, the right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

Would our churches but take a proper stand upon this subject, and let their christians sympathies be exercised in behalf of the down trodden—their votes be cast for men who would rule in the fear of God,—and could also those who stand upon the


walls of Zion, "cry aloud, spare not, and lift up their voices like a trumpet," in showing the people of this land and nation, their transgression, I say could this be done, there would be such a wave of moral, religious, and politcal influence as to cause, (in my opinions,) the death knoll of slavery to be sounded, long before the close of the present century. I am happy to say, that there are some very honorable exceptions; for there is here and there a church that will have no fellowship with slavery. There are also some ministers, who take an exalted and responsible position in the anti-slavery reform; but the majority have not yet been emancipated from the slave power. For one I am not able to understand the principle by which a slaveholder (although a church member) can be regarded as a christian.

What is it to be a christian? Why it is simply to be like Christ; it is to follow in his footsteps, and to comply with all of the precepts and commands of God. I ask then how can the slaveholder be an acceptable follower of the Redeemer, when he violates daily his commands. "God says thou shalt not steal." Who does not know that the whole system of slavery is one of theft and robbery?

The master takes from the slave the avails of his labor, without rendering to the slave an equivalent. But says one; they do it according to law. Very well; supposing the State of New York should pass a law permitting men to steal, rob, and commit adultery, would the passage of such a law abrogate the commands of God, concerning such crimes? or would it in any way render the commission of those crimes right? Certainly not, for robbery, theft and adultery, are morally wrong, and therefore cannot be made right by legislative enactments.

Again, the Almighty pronounces a woe upon those who build their houses by unrighteousness, and who oppress the widow and the fatherless. "Thus saith the Lord of Hosts, I will be a swift witness against those who oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow and the fatherless; and that turn aside the stranger from his right." Now there are in this boasted land of liberty over 3,000,000 of human beings who are reduced to a level with the brute; and are whipped,


chained, branded, and sold in the market with the beasts that perish; and for whom there are no courts, legislatures, churches nor schools; neither wages, nor possessions. Their liberties and family connections are scattered to the four winds; they are bereft of everything that can make life desirable.—There is said to be owned by persons belonging to the Methodists, 219,563 slaves; by the Baptists 226,000; by the Episcopalians, 88,000; by the Presbyterians, 77,000; and there are owned by other denominations 30,000 making in all 660,563 human beings, created in the image of God, endowed with reason and understanding, who are reduced to chattelhood, and sunk to the lowest depths of degradation and misery, and that, too, by persons professing to be the followers of the meek and humble Redeemer!

I envy not the slaveholder his position; for fearful must be the account which he will have to render, on that great and terrible day of final adjudication when all the nations of the earth shall stand before God to [illegible] for the deeds done in the body. The slaveholder will doubtless knock for admittance at the New Jerusalem, saying, Lord, [illegible] unto us; but we have reason to fear that repentance will be, "depart, ye worker of [illegible]: for I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat, sick and in prison, and ye visited me not," &c.!

Then will the self-righteous applicants reply: when saw we thee hungry, sick and in prison, and did not administer unto thee? "Inasmuch as ye have not done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have not done it unto me. Therefore depart, ye workers of inquity for I never knew you." At any rate the Higher Law will prevail, and justice will be done to all classes, including both master and slave.


ELLINGTON Feb. 6th, 1852.


Brown, Albro S. (1820–1890)




Albro S. Brown to Frederick Douglass. PLSr: Frederick Douglass' Paper, 12 February 1852. Accuses American churches of proslavery attitudes.


This document was calendared in the published volume and has not been published in full before.


Frederick Douglass' Paper



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Frederick Douglass' Paper