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and volumes, diffused by our own Colporteurs, under our own supervision, for the benefit of our own people, and to the extent of the utmost outlay of all the money we can raise, and even beyond it if needful?
In a Circular, published in June, and addressed as to "dear brethren in Christ," to "Evangelical christians, and especially to the Society's Colporteurs, Superintendents, and General Agents, and to the Editors of the religious press throughout our Southern and South-western States:" it is said
"The almost unanimous voice, not only of the Special Committee, but of the Society and of its friends and patrons in all parts of the country is decided, that the Society must carry out in good faith the sacred compact in its Constitution, and must convey the messages of salvation through a crucified Redeemer to every accessible immortal being, in all circumstances and conditions, throughout all our boundaries, in fulfillment of the great command to 'preach the gospel to every creature.'
"We most respectfully and in christian confidence ask our esteemed fathers and brethren in the ministry, and those who control the religious press, if they will not in kindness and courtesy, and from love to Christ, and to millions of destitute, perishing souls, refrain from prejudging the future action of their brethren of the Committee in whom they have hitherto gratefully confided.
"And in the name of our blessed Master we would call upon ourselves and all our brethren, general agents, superintendents and colporteurs, providentially engaged in this service, to go on in our work of faith and labor of love, undiverted by whatever may occur around us; to confide in God and his people; to do all we can to spread the gospel of our Redeemer; to trust in Him to order all events; to supplicate Him to remove prejudice and open the way before us, to give us love to souls, a spirit of peace and good will towards all men, and to make our poor endeavours effectual in winning souls to Him. And may we not confide in the great body of evangelical christians still cordially to co-operate in this blessed work?"
5. But it will be said, does not the report of the Committee of Fifteen, adopted at the last anniversary, including as it does extra-constitutional and most objectionable resolutions in reference to publishing on moral duties and evils connected with Slavery, render it impossible for Southern christians thus to co-operate with the Society? Now, in reply, let the following considerations be candidly dwelt upon, and taken as a whole: (1.) That Committee was the result, and appointed in the midst, of the political anti-slavery excitement, to which we have alluded, and had special reference to alleged pro-slavery proceedings in the past course of the Publishing Committee and other officers, and to alleged improprieties in their whole management of the Society.
(2.) The object, however, for which that Committee was in fact raised, was to inquire into and review the proceedings of the Society's Executive Committee, that is of some twenty officers composing all its Committees. No power was granted, and no report or resolutions authorized, on the subject of Slavery, or on the right or power of the Society to publish on that subject. Indeed, there is reason to believe, that a Committee for such a purpose, never could have been appointed. The appointment of any Committee of investigation was, we think, strenuously opposed, and the whole subject laid upon the table, by a vote declared by the President. The Executive Committee, however, having voted that “should it be the pleasure of the Society" to appoint such a Committee, they would "welcome and facilitate all their inquiries,” the matter was compromised, and the special Committee of Fifteen "appointed to inquire into and review the proceedings of the Executive Committee, and report."
(3.) The subject of publishing on Slavery appears to have been brought before that Committee by the paper of Dr. Wayland, and the consequent desire to say something which, while it would not offend their brethren at the South, would remove all objections founded upon the alleged pro-slavery character of some past proceedings.
(4.) What this Committee did report, was therefore merely an expression of their own judgment of what the Publishing Committee, in their wisdom, acting under the Constitution, and with many guards and cautions suggested by the Committee itself, should attempt to do. In going, even thus far, however, the Committee acted without any authority from the Society, in contrariety to another letter from the Rev. Dr. Anderson, a Baptist, and President of the University at Rochester; and against a paper addressed to them by a State Tract Society, bearing their distinct and earnest protest against the Society's violating the catholic pledges of the Constitution, by issuing Tracts which the South would not receive.
(5.) The Committee were led, therefore, to qualify and restrain what they did say by a very full and solemn enunciation of the constitutional object and principles of the Society, that is, to issue only what is "calculated to receive the approbation of all evangelical christians."
"We believe," say the Secretaries in the above card, "the tenor and aim of the Report of the Special Committee, taken as a whole, to be in full accordance with this view, and that it was so understood by the Society in adopting it. That report solemnly re-affirms, word for word, the fundamental and catholic article of the Society's Constitution; and as publications are issued only by the unanimous sanction of the Publishing Committee, consisting of six prominent clergymen from as many different evangelical communions, the Special Committee have, in the closing resolution, (which Dr. Ray Palmer himself offered,) enjoined on the Publishing Committee, 'that their action in carrying out the principles contained in the previous resolutions, will be such as will tend to promote the widest and best usefulness of the Society throughout our whole country.'
(6.) This view was taken by some Southern gentlemen present at the anniversary, and by many afterwards at the South, who nevertheless altogether disapprove of the objectionable resolutions, and protest against them as extra-constitutional, null and void. And that this was the real meaning of the Committee at large is evident from their throwing the whole responsibility upon the Publishing Committee and requiring them to act under their resolutions, ONLY so far as would be found expedient within the limits they defined, and which really destroyed their apparent force; and because some at least of that Committee have approved of the course taken by the Publishing Committee in refusing to publish.*
(7.) It is also important to bear in mind that the report and resolutions of the Committee were never submitted to, nor seen by, the officers until after its adoption; that as it related to them it was listened to in silence; and that if we deduct from the number of life-members who voted upon it, the fifteen of the Committee, and the twenty general officers, the number who adopted it would be reduced probably to less than one hundred out of the twelve thousand life-members on the list of the Society.
*The Hon. Mr. Frelinghuysen, when he was informed of the effects it had produced in embarrassing the operations of the Society over large portions of the country, he authorized a member of the Executive Committee to say from him, that if such was the effect, he, as an individual, thought the Publishing Committee were justified in pausing as they did.
(8.) The report of the Committee of Fifteen, embodying the report of a Special Committee appointed by it, and who gave laborious investigation into all the general, financial, and business operations of the Society, with every assistance from the officers that could be afforded them, and with results reported by them as highly satisfactory, and containing a great amount of information,--the whole report, we say, is extremely important, as it removes all possible ground for calumnious imputations, and confirms the public mind in its unbounded confidence in the wisdom as well as the integrity of the management of the Society.
(9.) It is our belief also, that this report will lead ultimately to great good to the Society. It is a climacteric. It is the development of long cherished purposes and plans of abolitionists. It is a demonstration of their feelings and of the feelings of evangelical christians throughout the whole country. It has led to the most thorough examination of the Constitution, the principles and the object of the Society. It has brought out the "opinions" of honored as well as honorable judges and journals in the extreme North, East and West, adverse to the interpretation given by the Committee and by Dr. Wayland. It has drawn forth on the same side, the able advocacy of our leading religious journals in the same regions of our country.
And it has consolidated the views of all denominations, of all Tract Societies, of all Journals political and religious, and of every individual christian, ("the good friends and patrons of the Society," as Dr. Ray Palmer so kindly terms them,) in the South and South-west, in one earnest protest against such an alteration of the Constitution and perversion of the Society.
(10.) And finally this Report has led to action on the part of the entire body of officers, composing in their united counsels, the Executive Committee; to action which the Committee of fifteen seem to have anticipated and provided for, by throwing upon them the responsibility of maintaining the constitutional principles, object, and past course of the Society, so as to secure its widest usefulness in all parts of our whole country. The publication of a small collection of discourses on the duties of masters, (by Southern Divines, and which had been published in the South,) was withheld; other works, to which objections had been made, were taken from the catalogue; and the impracticability under the constitution, of publishing any tracts or volumes on the subject of Slavery, clearly and repeatedly presented in Statements and Circulars, issued by officers of the Society. And all this has been the result of, and has been accomplished under the requirements and responsibilities which this Report itself created.
This Report, therefore, has developed and made evident, the general feeling of evangelical christians throughout our country, as being that of love for the Tract Society, as it was originally constituted, and as it has heretofore been carried on, that is, as a union of all evangelical christians who are willing to co-operate in diffusing the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, as the Saviour of sinners, and of vital godliness and sound morality. And it has shown conclusively to their brethren every where, that evangelical christians at the South, are one with them in this affection for the Society, both as it regards its principles and its object; that they are satisfied with it as its constitution makes it, as they were united in its formation, and as they have remained in co-operation with it ever since; and that as they have never interfered with any of its principles, either by asking more or less, so now they only ask, and do confidently expect that the Society will be preserved from all attempts to add to, or subtract from, its constitutional object and principle.
6. I will, therefore, still love the American Tract Society, because the officers have reinstated the Society in our confidence, by carrying out the catholic principles and evangelical spirit, and Christ-loving, and soul-saving character of its past labours; by doing every thing that as a Southern christian I could desire them to do; and because in doing this, they were sustained by the authority of the Society, as expressed by the Committee of fifteen itself.
I will love it, because I feel every confidence that in view of the universal protest of the South, and the very general protest from the North and elsewhere, against the course recommended in that Report—"if found consistent with the widest influence of the Society in all parts of our country,"—that the Society at its next anniversary, will justify the officers for not carrying it out, commend their wisdom in thus preventing final disruption, and that they will thus perfectly restore confidence, and increase and perpetuate the widest usefulness of the Society in all parts of the United States.