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A. R. Dempster to Frederick Douglass, September 6, 1852


Some time since, I wrote a communication
for your paper, containing a statement of
facts which have been called in question by
Oliver Johnson, of the Pennsylvania Free-
. When writing that article, I was very
careful to state nothing that any person ac-
quainted with our village would dare to call
in question: and endeavored to avoid every-
thing calculated to produce controversy.—
The article was read here by several of the
most prominent Garrisonians; and however
much they may have disliked to have a his-
tory of their proceedings given to the pub-
lic, they have not, at present, called in ques-
tion its truthfulness. I was greatly sur-
prised, indeed, when I read the very mod-
est comments of Oliver Johnson, in his vol-
unteer defense of his Garrisonian friends.—
Had he confined his remarks to what I did
say, instead of misrepresenting me, I should
not trouble you with this communication; but
that would not have answered his purpose[.]—
Mr. Johnson says that I allude to "Mr. Gar-
rison, and those associated with him, as a set
of 'infidels,' with whom those who esteem
the bible to be the revealed will of God can
never harmonize." Nowhere, in my article,
is Mr. Garrison alluded to at all. I said that
"Garrisonianism had been so mixed up with
infidelity here, that many have been driven
by it entirely away from the anti-slavery
cause." It is plain, then, that Mr. Johnson
wanted an excuse for attacking my article, in
order to ward off any influence it might ex-
ert in the hands of John Scoble, or any
other friend of the Bible, against the Ameri-
can Anti-Slavery Society. The reader will
observe that my remarks refer to Garriso-
nianism in Leesville, and not to Mr. Garrison.
Again: Mr. Johnson says that the Garrisoni-
ans who have visited Leesville as lecturers,
never said or intimated that to be true abo-
litionists it was necessary to repudiate the bi-
ble, government, and all church organiza-
tions, intimating that I had charged them
with language of that kind.

Now, sir, the quotation that he makes
from my article, and on which he bases his
comment, convicts him of direct misrepresen-
tation. My language was, that those who were
driven away from the anti-slavery cause
by the infidelity mixed up with Garrisonian-
ism here, that "they thought if to be true
abolitionists, was necessary to repudiate the
bible, government, and all church organiza-
tions; the sacrifice was too great, and, conse-
quently, abandoned the cause." Every reader
will at once see that my language refers to
the influence exerted here by the mixing up
of Garrisonism and infidelity. All infidels re-
pudiate the bible. The Garrisonians here, lec-
turers and all, have repudiated the bible,
more or less, according to their taste, and as
best suited for the accomplishment of their
object. No person could be a "Simon pure"
abolitionist outside of the Garrisonian fold;
their's were the only true principles, and
hence the conclusion.

Mr. Johnson says that he "knows some-
thing of the history of anti-slavery in Lees-
ville," an "affirms that the above language
is in the highest degree slanderous." We
happen to know that he has but a very sig-
nificant knowledge of that whereof he af-
firmed, and ought not to have volunteered so
grave a charge, without having the most in-
dubitable evidence to sustain it; and in do-
ing so, he has convicted himself of slander.


How does Mr. Johnson know what H. C. Wright, Parker Pillsbury, and J. W. Walker said in Leesville. That the last named persons are infidel to the bible, is well known; and that they have repeatedly made that infidelity a subject of declamation here, the whole community will testify; yet he says it is slanderous for me to say so.

He also says that we (the Wesleyans) "meanly tried to shut our meeting-hourse against those faithful friends of the cause." We never offered, or wished our meeting-house closed against any anti-slavery lecturer, but we were opposed to our house being used for the propagation of infidel principles; yet they have imposed their infidelity on this community, until many of our youth, and some older persons are poisoned with it. They have not made a convert here, who has not become more or less infidel to the bible. They have seldom ever held a meeting here, that infidelity was not a prominent theme of discussion; and Mr. Johnson has traveled out of his way, very far, and presumes too much upon his prerogative, when he has the temerity to deny it. - If they are not willing to take the responsibility of their own position, let them cease prostituting the anti-slavery platform to such unholy purposes. Until they do this, we shall continue to hold them up before the world as infidels of the most radical character. I regret very much to be compelled, in self-defense, to trouble your readers with anything further on this subject. My reputation as a man of truth has been assailed; and, therefore, it is made a necessity.

They (the Garrisonians) have just closed an "anti-slavery fair and convention at Leesville." The speakers were H. C. Wright, Walker, and Barker. Mr. Barker commenced an anti-slavery address on Thursday evening, which was continued on Friday, at 2 o'clock, P.M. His remarks were pertinent and good on the first evening; so much so, that all that I have heard speak of them were highly pleased. As a speciment of what is made to pass for anti-slavery here, very often, I have written out Mr. Barker's speech on Friday, at 2 o'clock, as before referred to. Mr. Barker said, "I will confine myself to the immortal and growing nature of truth. - Truth is eternal, error is mortal. Error wears out, truth wears in. Both nature and history prove this to be the fact. According to [? ], in the beginning, the earth's suface was covered with plants of the [?] character]. The [ ] of vegetation appeared. Then the inferior birds, then the fishes, then the beasts, and finally man. The first man was very weak in body and mind, full of wonder, helpless, and unassisted. But man was the crowning glory of God's creations. Again, we are the development of truth in the history of our world. According to the oldest book, commonly called the bible, people used to have false, and very foolish notions of God, and how to please Him. They were so ignorant as to believe that it was pleasing to Him to inflict pain upon the most tender parts of the body; and hence, they practiced circumcision. Man has so far advanced now as to know that circumcision, or uncir[? ] nothing. So they thought it was pleasing to Him who gave life, to take life, and hence, the practice of killing beasts [for sacrifice]. At last, they got to know that


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the Lord did not eat meat, and the priests
ate the fleshy parts, and gave the fat to God,
and burned it, that the smoke might ascend
up and smell sweet in His nostrils. There
was but one religious ceremony among the
Jews that had any sense in it. That was
bathing or washing. It has been said that
cleanliness is next to godliness; but I say it
is godliness. Bathing ought to be attended
to daily. Among Christians, water is used in
naming a child, once in its life-time is con-
sidered sufficient, and a very little at that.—
They further, thought that Deity was in the
shape of a man, and that He was ignorant of
many things, so that when he heard bad re-
ports, He had to come down and travel to and
fro, to see if they were true. And, also,
they thought that God was full of jealousy,
and hence, would not allow man to worship
any other being; and that he did not know
the hearts of the children of men, and hence,
had to try them. Consequently, at one
time, he commanded a fellow to kill his son,
that he might know whether he was faithful
or not. Again; the world is improving with
regard to civil government. The father of
the family used to be king or ruler, and he
might get as many to serve him as he could
capture or buy. Joseph got all the people's
money; then their cattle and land; and finally
their souls and bodies. It was universally
believed, that to the victors had a right to
enslave, or slay the captured. These erro-
neous notions are fast flying before the ad-
vancement of truth. Again; great improve-
ment has been made in family government.
Men used to buy their wives. They were
considered their property. They could loan,
trade, or sell them. If a man wanted more
than one, and was able to buy them, he could
have two, ten, or seven hundred, and three
hundred concubines, or female bed-fellows.
Sometimes, according to the bible, they
would buy some of their wives from their
fathers, and God would give them some.—
David bought the daughter of Saul to wife;
and God gave the mother also. Now, we be-
lieve one wife, if she be a good one, is
enough to make a man happy; if she is a
bad one, it don't take two to make him mis-

According to the old and new testaments,
the husband was lord of the wife, and she was
to obey him in all things. As God was the
head of Christ, and Christ the head of the
church, so the husband is the head of the
wife. Now, we believe in the equality of wo-
men, and some acknowledge their rights.—
Parents used to have power to take the lives
of their children; now, we believe they have
no better right to murder their own children,
than anybody's else's. The world is also ad-
vancing the question of freedom; once,
every person thought slavery right, and it ex-
isted everywhere. The Jews, who were, I
suppose, the most intelligent of their day,
thought it right. Moses and the bible say
nothing about the wrongfulness of Joseph's
buying the people for corn. The bible al-
lowed the Jews to enslave their brethren six
years; but they were not to treat them with
rigor. The bible allowed them to hold the
heathen forever; to treat them with rigor,
and kill them, if they saw cause. The bible
recognized them as their money, and they
could do as they pleased with their money.


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All those false and foolish notions, believed
by those who wrote the bible, are wearing
out. Another of their vile opinions, was,
the children were cursed for the sins of their
parents. The fathers have eaten sour
grapes, and the children's teeth are set on
edge. The Lord visited the sins of the ini-
quities of the fathers upon the children, to
the third and fourth generations. Finally,
they got to know better, that the soul that
sinneth it shall die.

The bible represents labor, the greatest
blessing, as a curse entailed upon man, on
account of the sin of one; and that all the
pains of child-birth suffered by the females
of the human family, was caused by the sin
of one woman. They also had monstrous
notions of the history of our race. That the
sons of God had intercourse with the daugh-
ters of men; that the result was, there were
giants in the land; that some of them had
many heads; that they carried some of their
heads under their arms, to take care of them.
The people used to think the [illegible - poor printing]
corners, and that the winds come from
these; that the firmament is a great frame,
with holes bored in it; that the stars and
moon were stuck in these; that the sun goes
around the earth; that this firmament has
windows in it, and a vast quantity of water
is above it and under the earth; that on one
occasion, these windows were left open nearly
half a year; and that there was so much wa
ter poured down that it rose above high
mountains, and drowned every living thing
on the face of the earth but four men and
four women, and two of a kind of some
beasts, and seven of all others; that all
these had been kept in an ark, which had but
one door and one window to let in fresh air;
and they were shut in there for a long time.
Many other such things people used to be-
lieve; but these false and foolish notions, and
erroneous systems have vanished, so must all
error and wrong of slavery with them
come to an end."

The foregoing is not a caricature of Mr.
Barker's speech, it is a faithful and honest
report of what he really said, as near as it
was possible to report his remarks under the

I was not fully prepared for the unquali-
fied manner which characterizes Mr. John-
son's denial of the facts set forth in my art-
icle, yet it was not a matter of astonishment,
acquainted as I am, with the reckless charac-
ter with which they have before denied their
infidelity. It is quite common for Parker
Pillsbury, H. C. Wright, and J. W. Walker
to belch forth the blackest infidelity; then
wipe their mouths, and claim to be pure and
holy Christians. It has been the common
practice at their conventions here, to have
H. C. Wright's "Anthropology," and Parker
Pillsbury's "[ ] Frauds" for sale, adver-
tise them beside [ ] and
[ ] them on the [Sabbath]. Yet, after
all this has been practiced here for years. Mr.
Oliver Johnson has the bold affrontery to af-
firm that it is highly slanderous for me to
say that [Garrisonianism//] has been mixed up
with infidelity. If Mr. Johnson thinks he
can sustain his charge of slander against me,
let him open the columns of his own paper to
this communication, make his comments, and
then permit me to introduce whatever evi-
dence I may be able to secure, in support of
my position. An open field, and a fair con-
test is all we claim. Humble as our preten-
sions are, we are not willing to be considered
a slanderer, and claim the privilege of vindi-
cating our character from any such charge.

Leesville, Carroll Co., Ohio,
Sept. 6, 1852.


Dempster, A. R.




A. R. Dempster to Frederick Douglass. PLSr: Frederick Douglass' Paper, 24 September 1852. Defends earlier letter against Garrisonian attacks.


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