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Charles A. Hammond to Frederick Douglass, May 18, 1852


Letter from Charles A. Hammond.

Dear Douglass:—I notice, in your paper among the proceedings of the late Cincinnati Convention, a resolution affirming that the "American Church and Clergy" are "permanently responsible" for "all the abominations" connected with slaveholding. I notice also that the words, "a great majority of," were, at the instance of some preachers, inserted. I notice, also, in your editorial notice of that Convention, that you were in favor, I believe, of the original resolution. Putting these facts together, I have a few words to say upon the matter.

It is, no doubt, true, lamentably true, shamefully true, that the sanction of professed preachers of the gospel, and professedly Christian churches, makes a powerful support to the "peculiar institution." If there be on hypocrite who deserves, pre-eminently, a place in the world's scorn here, and in the prison house of hell hereafter, it is he or they who "steal the livery of heaven to serve the devil in;" who change God's blessed Bible into an engine of oppression, and who attempt to throw the mantle of Christianity over deeds which devils might blush to own, as do the lying hypocrites who would fain increase American slavery, Fugitive Bill and all, in the heart of Christianity. Denunciation of such can hardly be too severe. Our mother tongue has hardly epithets too scathing and degrading to be applied to them.


And it is for this very reason that the [real] characters of such persons is so heaven-wide apart from the true Christian character: it is because the pro-slavery sects of the day are so vitally diverse from the true church of Jesus Christ in this world, that I wholly object to the method, which has been quite fashionable among a certain class of so-called reformers, of lamping off all the wrongs which wicked, human and fiendish intelligences have contrived to stir up in this revolted province of God's great empire, upon the only real enemies of those wrongs which exist in this world. Yes, I mean what I say, and will substantiate it from sound reason and the Bible: the church, the true church, the real church of God in this earth; and there is no other church of God on this world, there is no other true church, there is no other body or class of persons who should be called a church who are in reality a church, are the only real enemies of all these wrongs that this crime-defiled earth is blessed with. And more than this: the only true and fast, and [ ] friends of human liberty and rights, the only real reformers, the only real philanthropists, the only true and faithful friends of God and humanity, are the persons, and all the persons, and none but the persons who compose the church, the true, the real church of Christ upon this earth.—Do you ask what I mean by this? I mean that the church is a divine, and not a human institution; I mean that they, and only they, whose hearts are fixed upon the right and the God of right; I mean that they, and only they, who love righteousness and truth for their own sake. I mean that the truly noble


and good, and just, and upright, and only they; I mean that the true friends of God and man, and only they, (and these are always identical,) do really constitute the church—are really members of it. And it is as great a misnomer to call a corrupt, selfish, law [illegible], God defying, man-murdering, sectarian organization a Christian church, or a church at all, in any true and scriptural sense of that term, as it would be to call Frederick Douglass a slaveholder, because some lying imp of oppression said he was; or to affirm that Satan is an angel of light, because he sometimes palms off his Satan-ship upon mortals in that guise.

Why, whence come our ideas of a church. Why, from the Bible, the New Testament mainly. And what is the scriptural idea of the church? Why that it is, not merely ought to be the light of the world, the salt of the earth, a city set on a hill, &c. That it is, indeed, and in truth, an enlightening, preservative, saving, redeeming, reforming instrumentality. That it is the body of Christ, subject in reality, and not in name merely, to His laws, to but his spirit. That its membership is one of character, and not of creeds and forms alone. That a man becomes a member of it by becoming really a good and true, and just, and pure, and benevolent man.—By believing, from the heart, in Jesus of Nazareth, that greatest foe of oppression, and truest, and fastest, and faithfullest friend to humanity which she ever


had on this earth in human form; and, of course, he who really believes in Him will seek likeness, similation, to him. This I believe to be the only true idea, the only Bible idea, the only reasonable and common sense idea of the Church. Let us say, then, that the professed Church is not the true, because it neither possesses its character nor constitution: its spirit nor its practice.—Don't let us let the foes of God and man steal from us either the United States Constitution, the Bible, or the institutions of the Bible.

Yours for thetrue church,

Charles A. Hammond.

Scott, N.Y., May 18th, 1852.


Hammond, Charles A.




Charles A. Hammond to Frederick Douglass. PLSr: Frederick Douglass' Paper, 10 June 1852. Describes reasons for American churches’ defense of slavery.


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