John Leland: evolving views of slavery, 1789-1839: in 1789, the General Committee of Virginia Baptists turned to Massachusetts native John Leland to craft a statement concerning slavery.
Fifty years later, in 1839, Leland, then living in his home state of Massachusetts, called the institution of slavery "humane, just and benevolent," and argued for the rights of slave owners rather than the liberty of slaves. In addition, Leland declared that slavery was "not an article to be settled by legislation.... It belongs to the moral and religious department, and not to the legislative." (3)
Historiography of Leland's Views on Slavery
Held up as a foremost advocate of religious liberty among post-Revolutionary-era Baptists, Leland's writings on the subject of slavery have long claimed much less attention among scholars. When referenced, historians have tended to point only to Leland's early views on slavery.
Leland lived against the backdrop of changing evangelical views concerning slavery. In recent decades, historians have sought to interpret the evangelical transition from antislavery sentiment to proslavery views following the Revolutionary era. In In His Image, But ...: Racism in Southern Religion, 1780-1910, H. Shelton Smith argued that late eighteenth-and early nineteenth-century evangelical views of slavery were ultimately framed in light of underlying white supremacist views. (4) James D. Essig, in The Bonds of Wickedness: American Evangelicals Against Slavery, 1770-1808, concluded that marginalized, ascetic, Revolutionary-era evangelicals opposed slavery on grounds that it inhibited righteousness, whereas worldly success, the 1808 prohibition of slave trade, and the Second Great Awakening blunted opposition to slavery. (5) In Southern Cross: The Beginnings of the Bible Belt, Christine Heyrman argued that Baptists and Methodists embraced southern proslavery views as a means of establishing a viable presence in the South. (6) John R Daly, in When Slavery Was Called Freedom: Evangelicalism, Proslavery, and the Causes of the Civil War, concluded that both proslavery and antislavery evangelical views stemmed from biblical morality informed by individualism and the free market economy. (7)
Despite widespread acknowledgement of changing Baptist views on slavery, John Leland's evolving position on slavery has gone virtually unnoticed. Bill J. Leonard's recently published denominational history, Baptist Ways: A History, followed this pattern, briefly noting Leland's opposition to slavery as stated in his early years. (8) Likewise, Robert G. Torbet's A History of the Baptists referred only to Leland's early views on slavery. (9) Leon McBeth's The Baptist Heritage: Four Centuries of Baptist Witness made no mention of Leland's slavery sentiments. (10) The 1958 Encyclopedia of Southern Baptists noted that Leland was concerned about the "humanitarian aspects of slavery and manumission," (11) while Leonard's 1994 Dictionary of Baptists in America was silent on the subject. (12) Essig argued that the early Leland was a leading antislavery Baptist. (13) Smith briefly mentioned the early Leland's antislavery views. (14) Heyrman made note of Leland's suspicion of the ecstatic nature of the African-American religious experience, (15) while Daly failed to mention Leland altogether. Mechal Sobel, in his seminal Trabelin' On: The Slave Journey to an Afro-Baptist Faith, referred to Leland's early antislavery influence as "extensive," yet failed to explore Leland's later views on slavery. (16)
In the end, one must turn to Brad Creed's dissertation, John Leland: American Prophet of Religious Individualism, in order to engage Leland's larger views on slavery. Creed concluded that individualism, a product of the Great Awakening and the Enlightenment, was the defining, overarching framework in which Leland's religious and political beliefs must be understood. Within this context, Creed did not find a substantial change in Leland's views of slavery, as he asserted that Leland consistently hoped for abolition, yet steadfastly refused to be an abolitionist. Noting that Leland's political views of slavery changed over time, Creed argued that the change was the result of "extreme individualism," and did not negate Leland's lifetime opposition to slavery. (17) In short, Leland's views on slavery are both underappreciated and underdeveloped among historians.
The Strident Anti-Slavery Leland: 1789-1802
In the decade following Leland's 1789 pronouncement against slavery, Virginia Baptists on the local church, associational, and state levels struggled with the issue of slavery, against the backdrop of slavery becoming ever more instrumental in a cotton-based southern economy. (18) Leland, who lived in Orange County in north central Virginia during the turbulent 1780s, never owned slaves. (19) Nonetheless, slavery in Virginia made an indelible impression upon him. Following his return to the North in his later years, Leland insisted that anyone who desired to have an informed opinion on slavery should first live at least seven years in a slave state. (20)
Leland's 1789 Baptist General Committee anti-slavery resolution was consistent with his other slavery-related statements in the middle years of his life. In 1790, Leland wrote "The Virginia Chronicle," a brief history of religion in the state, particularly as related to Baptists. Nearly five pages of this relatively short document dealt expressly with the issue of slavery. As did most whites of his day, Leland viewed African Americans as an inferior race. His opposition to slavery, however, was clear and pointed. He judged the entire matter of slavery to be so vile that "the whole scene of slavery is pregnant with enormous evils. On the master's side, pride, haughtiness, domination, cruelty, deceit and indolence; and on the side of the slave, ignorance, servility, fraud, perfidy and despair." (21) Leland's observations led him to call for abolishing slavery. "The sweets of rural and social life will never be well enjoyed, until it [abolition] is the case." (22)
Leland was well aware that the sudden emancipation of slaves would wreck financial havoc. He also believed that abolishing slavery would destroy Virginian society, and was convinced that the prospect of disruption of social status alone ensured that Virginians would not liberate their slaves. (23) Nonetheless, Leland insisted that slavery must come to an end, and quickly. "It is a question, whether men had not better lose all their property, than deprive an individual of his birth-right blessing-freedom. If a political system is such, that common justice cannot be administered without innovation, the sooner such a system is destroyed, the better for the people." (24) Leland continued, "one thing is pretty certain ... [slaves] could [not] serve the whites worse than the whites now serve them. Something must be done! May Heaven point out that something, and may the people be obedient." (25) Prophetically, Leland declared, "If they [slaves] are not brought out of bondage, in mercy, with the consent of their masters, I think they will be, by judgment, against their [masters'] consent." (26)
One year later, in 1791, on the eve of his departure for New England, Leland wrote a "Letter of Valediction" to Virginia Baptists, in which he asserted: "I can never be reconciled to the keeping of them [slaves]; nor can I endure to see one man strip and whip another, as free by nature as himself ... slavery, in its best appearance, is a violent deprivation of the rights of nature, inconsistent with republican government, destructive of every humane and benevolent passion of the soul, and subversive to that liberty absolutely necessary to ennoble the human mind." (27) Leland longed for the day of freedom for slaves and employed powerful biblical imagery of liberation: "How would every benevolent heart rejoice to see the ... day appear ... when the poor slaves, with a Moses at their head, should hoist up the standard, and march out of bondage!" (28)
In his parting letter to Virginia Baptists, Leland reserved his final words for his "black brethren." He acknowledged that most slaves were dealt with harshly by their masters, and pointed out that the masters' souls were being punished for such evil. Yet, he admonished slaves to obey their masters until God sent his deliverance, and he expressed confidence that he would meet them again in heaven, "where your melodious voices, that have often enchanted my ears and warmed my heart, will be incessantly employed in the praise of our common Lord." (29)
Moving back to New England, Leland's attention for the next decade was consumed by other matters, of which religious liberty was foremost. In 1802, he again addressed the issue of slavery in a political speech delivered in Cheshire, Massachusetts. "Poor Creatures! is there no liberty for them? must they forever drag the galling chain of vassalage under their despotic masters? How would every benevolent heart rejoice to see them all emancipated from slavery, and enjoy that little pittance of freedom, by nature due to them. May heaven move on the minds of their masters, and open a way in Providence to bring them out of bondage, with the consent of their masters, and consistent with good policy." (30) Yet in the next breath, Leland shifted his focus from "personal slavery," a new designation he employed to refer to chattel slavery, to religious enslavement, referring to those under bondage of church-state alliances: "Oh! that the day ... may come, when the chains of personal slavery, and the manacles of religious despotism may be broken asunder, and freedom and religion pervade the whole earth." (31)
The Silent Leland: 1803-1830
Leland's 1802 dichotomy of physical and spiritual enslavement appears to be reflective of a larger shift in his views, as he largely ignored the issue of slavery from 1803 to 1830. (32) His silence regarding slavery took place at a time in which the issue became increasingly prominent in American life. During these years, Leland the Baptist gradually gave way to Leland the Jeffersonian politician, as the weight of his writings and speeches grew more political and less religious, although religious liberty remained his favored subject. (33)
The Ambivalent Leland: 1831-1836
Leland once again took up the subject of slavery in a speech delivered at North Adams, Massachusetts, in March 1831. By this point, slavery had become a prominent, and troubling, political issue in American life. Whereas in 1802 Leland had referred to African American bondage as "personal slavery," in 1831 he framed slavery in the context of "The Negro Question." (34) Freedom for slaves was still uppermost in Leland's mind. Some antislavery forces were working to establish a free colony for former slaves in Africa. (35) In 1831, he labeled colonization as "sacrilegious," for "America is the country they [slaves] know." (36) Many abolitionists and free blacks agreed with Leland. (37)
Leland endorsed a political plan for emancipation that called for the United States government to form states for freed slaves, in which freemen would sustain and educate themselves, (38) Yet, Leland realized that slave owners would have little financial incentive to relinquish voluntarily their slaves, and he called upon a restless generation of youth to rally around the cause of emancipation. "If any of the slave-holders will neither give nor sell their slaves, here will be a great door opened for missionary labors. The pious youth, who are waiting for a gap, will now have a loud call to go and preach to the hard-hearted masters, and flatter them to give, and threaten them if they will not." (39)
Five years later, in the midst of growing political turmoil, Leland again addressed the slavery issue, this time at great length. His words signaled ambivalence toward slavery, including the first indication of hostility toward abolitionists:
The abolitionists of late have come forward, and seem to demand the unconditional manumission of all of them [slaves], without prescribing any rational mode for their future subsistence. If these prophets can prove their commission, like Moses, or have any reason to believe that God will feed the liberated slaves with manna, it is hoped that the slaveholders will obey, and not harden their hearts: otherwise their exertions seem calculated to alienate the slave-holding states from the others, and make the condition of the slaves more miserable.., the measures of the abolitionists are reprobated by every friend to his country. (40)
Although Leland continued to advocate freedom for slaves, his enthusiasm for emancipating African Americans was more tempered than in earlier years. (41) Gone were the harsh words for slave owners and his previous view that most slave owners treated slaves brutally. Instead, he portrayed slave owners as rational, ordinary, and compassionate individuals who were victims of unpatriotic abolitionists. Many slaveholders, Leland was convinced, "in heart are opposed to slavery, and would gladly set their slaves free, if they could be provided for." (42)
In 1831, Leland had advocated abolitionist activities. In 1836, he denounced abolitionists as troublemakers. Leland long had insisted that the slavery issue, albeit complicated, should be resolved immediately for the good of the country. In 1836, he chided as foolish immediate efforts to end slavery. Decades earlier, he had spoken pointedly of the brutality of slave owners. In 1836, Leland cast slave owners as hapless victims of the seditious activities of abolitionists.
The Anti-Abolitionist Leland: 1839
Leland's pen was mostly silent during the years 1837 and 1838, although he did address some religious matters. In 1837, following several years of federal budget surpluses, Wall Street crashed. A great depression swept the country and lasted until 1843. (43) Against this backdrop, Leland addressed the issue of slavery one final time. In a speech delivered on August 16, 1839, he spoke of two things: the need for an independent treasury and slavery. The speech is remarkably represented a complete about-face from his petition to Virginia Baptists in 1789. In addition to dismissing the increasingly vocal calls for emancipation of slaves, the aging preacher-politician downplayed the plight of slaves and offered kind words to slave owners. Furthermore, Leland insisted that the federal government had no responsibility, nor should take any action, in regards to slavery. Instead, the fate of slavery should properly be determined by slaveholders:
The slave-holders are to be addressed: the power lies in them alone. It is not an article to be settled by legislation among us. It belongs to the moral and religious department, and not to the legislative. Three parties are concerned in the question, viz: God--the master-and the slave. As a friend to freedom and right, I earnestly recommend to masters to set their slaves at liberty as soon as their good, their choice, and the public safety concur. Until then, be good to them, remembering you have a Master in heaven, whose orders are, 'Whatsover you would that men should do unto you, do you even the same unto them.' Make their lives as happy as circumstances will admit of. If there is a condition for them to be in, better than their present state (where their masters are humane, just, and benevolent), I pray the Lord, and call upon men, to bestow it upon them. With all deference to the opinions of others, I would recommend to the abolition orators to serve an apprenticeship of seven years in a slave--holding state to qualify their minds to view the question in all its bearings. (44)
This position of government non-interference represented a complete reversal of Leland's previous stance of government intervention, a stance he maintained up to a mere three years earlier. The statement also reflected his altered view of slave owners, who went from being brutal to being "humane, just, and benevolent." With this final statement on slavery, nearly fifty years of antislavery sentiment were seemingly negated, even as Leland insisted that he remained a "friend to freedom and right."
Unfortunately, Leland's Writings do not provide a clear rationale for his reversal on the slave issue. I want to suggest four angles from which to address his evolving views of slavery. First, Leland's primary emphasis on religious liberty may have led him to place more emphasis on the liberty of the mind than physical liberty. In this scenario, 1802 may have been a defining moment, as he placed personal slavery and religious enslavement side by side. (45) In support of this possibility is the fact that in the three decades that followed, Leland had little to say about slavery, and much to say about religious liberty. Furthermore, his 1839 statement reflected a greater concern about the conscience of the slave owner than the physical bondage of the slave. Perhaps against the backdrop of championing religious liberty, the physical plight of the slave grew intellectually distant in Leland's mind. As such, this would have been an ironic consequence of his insistence upon religious liberty. Daly's argument that biblical morality, predicated on individualism, contributed to the proslavery position offered support for this position. (46) Likewise, C. C. Goen, in Broken Churches, Broken Nation, argued that American churches' focus on individualism led to a failure of leadership regarding the issue of slavery. (47)
A second possibility lies in political expediency born out of Leland's increasing political activity. Upon returning to New England after his sojourn in Virginia, Leland became increasingly involved in Jeffersonian politics, considering himself to be a champion of the people. His Writings contained much political commentary, especially from 1800 onward. Leland held political office and in one instance spoke before Congress at the request of Jefferson, an occasion during which he preached on the wisdom of Jefferson as being greater than that of Solomon. (48)
In short, Leland's heavy involvement in politics during the early nineteenth century, and his strong Jeffersonian views in particular, may well have led him to view the slavery issue from a standpoint of political expediency, rather than from a religious perspective. A reasonable conclusion is that Leland's late-1830s statements on slavery somewhat represented the growing political crisis resulting from the abolitionist movement and economic depression. Essig's assertion that the southern evangelical conversion to proslavery sentiment grew out of evangelical inroads into temporal structures offered insight into the influence of politics on the slavery issue in the latter part of Leland's life. (49) In addition, Creed's brief analysis of Leland's changing political views regarding slavery lends support to this view. (50) Finally, Daly's emphasis on a biblical morality informed by a free market economy adds impetus to this view.
A third possibility involves the internal nature of the changing views of slavery among the larger white Baptist population. By the time of Leland's death in 1841, Baptists in America were on the road to separation over the issue of slavery, as Baptists in the South, whether barometers or shapers of southern culture, increasingly insisted that slavery was not only acceptable, but was the very will of God, a position staked out by Richard Furman as early as 1822. (51) Leland's defaulting to the southern position on the slavery issue in 1839 may have been in part a desire to avoid further division among Baptists by supporting the status quo. (52)
A fourth angle is a logical extension of the previous possibility of Leland's concern about internal Baptist division, and was suggested by Smith's assertion that underlying white supremacy characterized late eighteenth--and early nineteenth-century evangelicals and created the context for religious proslavery sentiment. (53) Despite Leland's early strident declarations for the manumission of slaves, and occasional references to himself as a "friend" of slaves, his writings harbor a belief in racial inequality. As minister and politician, he lived in a white man's world, both in the South and North. Leland's Writings give no indication of a desire to change or overcome such a world.
In the final analysis, we may not know for certain the reason or reasons why Leland, a Baptist who never owned slaves, abandoned his early, strident antislavery views near the end of his life. However, his commitment to religious liberty informed by individualism, the demands of political expediency fostered by his strong affiliation with Jeffersonian politics, southern Baptist accommodation and/or reflection of southern culture, and inherent captivity to a philosophy of white supremacy offer possible insights into Leland's evolving views of slavery.
Although chiefly remembered as a tireless champion of religious liberty, Leland's early views of slavery offer insight into southern Baptist and evangelical opposition to slavery in the late eighteenth century. In addition, his defense of slavery in his later years is indicative of growing militant support of slavery among Baptists and evangelicals in the South. Ultimately, Leland's evolving views of slavery served to reflect the changing views of Baptists in the South.
(1.) "Events in the Life of John Leland: Written by Himself," in L. E Green, The Writings of the Late Elder John Leland (New York: G. W. Wood, 1845), 9, 19-31. Leland is widely recognized by Baptists as one of two leading early Baptist champions of religious liberty (the other being Isaac Backus), although secular historians have exhibited minimal interest in Leland's views of religious liberty. Recent historiography of Leland's championing of religious liberty, in addition to works referenced elsewhere in this document, includes Edwin S. Gaustad, The Baptist Tradition of Religious Liberty in America (Waco, TX: Baylor University, 1995), and John White, Jr., Religion and the American Constitutional Experiment: Essential Rights and Liberties (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1999), as well as a handful of dissertations and theses.
(2.) "Further Sketches of the Life of John Leland," Writings, 51.
(3.) "Address Delivered at Bennington, Aug. 16, 1839," Writings, 698.
(4.) H. Shelton Smith, In His Image, But... : Racism in Southern Religion, 1780-1910 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1972).
(5.) James D. Essig, The Bonds of Wickedness: American Evangelicals Against Slavery, 1770-1808 (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1982).
(6.) Christine Heyrman, Southern Cross: The Beginnings of the Bible Belt (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997).
(7.) John R Daly, When Slavery Was Called Freedom: Evangelicalism, Proslavery, and the Causes of the Civil War (Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 2002).
(8.) Bill Leonard, Baptist Ways: A History (Valley Forge: Judson Press, 2003), 131,185-86.
(9.) Robert G. Torbet, A History of the Baptists (Valley Forge: Judson Press, 1950, 1963, 1973), 282-83.
(10.) H. Leon McBeth, The Baptist Heritage: Four Centuries of Baptist Witness (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1987).
(11.) Jack Manley, "Leland, John," Encyclopedia of Southern Baptists, vol. 2 (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1958), 783.
(12.) W. R. Estep, "Leland, John (1754-1841)," Dictionary of Baptists in America, ed. Bill J. Leonard (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1994), 171-72.
(13.) Essig, The Bonds of Wickedness, 62-72, 117.
(14.) Smith, In His Image, 47-48.
(15.) Heyrman, Southern Cross, 49-52, 67-68.
(16.) Mechal Sobel, Trabelin' On: The Slave Journey to an Afro-American Faith (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1979), 86-87.
(17.) Brad Creed, John Leland: American Prophet of Religious Individualism (Ann Arbor, Michigan: VMI Dissertation Services, 1998 (1986), 94-105. Greed's thesis is similar to Andrew M. Manis's assertion that the early Leland was influenced by enlightened doctrines of conscience, a product of the experiential religion horn of the Great Awakening. See Andrew M. Manis, "Regionalism and a Baptist Perspective on Separation of Church and State," American Baptist Quarterly 2, no. 3 (September 1983), 255 (as cited in Greed's dissertation).
(18.) According to Christine Heyrman, Baptists in the early post-revolutionary American South began embracing slavery as a means to achieve cultural acceptance within the region. At the turn of the century, however, many Virginia Baptists remained opposed to slavery. Virginia had long harbored a high percentage of slaves in relation to the overall population. The Constitutional Convention of 1787 left slavery intact within the newly-founded United States of America. Many Baptists in Virginia, however, were seriously questioning the morality of "hereditary slavery." In 1785, the Virginia Baptist General Committee passed a resolution declaring hereditary slavery "contrary to the word of God." In 1790, the Roanoke Association determined that the question of slavery should be left to individual "conscience." In 1791, the General Committee reiterated its opposition to hereditary slavery, while the Strawberry Association resolved that the General Committee not interfere in regards to the slavery matter. The following year the General Committee dropped its opposition to slavery. The following year the General Committee dropped its opposition to slavery. In 1796, the Portsmouth Association declared slavery "contrary to the laws of God and nature," while the Ketocton Association declared slavery "an improper subject of investigation in a Baptist Association." The following year the Ketocton Association reversed its stance and declared slavery "a transgression of the Divine Law." In 1797, the Dover Association passed a resolution recommending that Baptists unite with "the abolition society" for the "gradual emancipation" of slaves. Against the backdrop of ambivalent institutional action, some individual Baptist slave owners became convinced of the evils of slavery and took action to free their slaves. Throughout the state, Baptist churches and associations thus struggled with the master-slave relationship, as well as the presence of free African Americans, within the church community. See Heyrman, Southern Cross, 8-9, 19, 64, 124-27; Reuben Edward Alley, A History of Baptists in Virginia (Richmond, VA: Virginia Baptist General Board, 1973), 127-31,138-40; Minutes, General Committee, 1791 and 1792 [Cited in Garnett Ryland, The Baptists of Virginia, 1699-1926 (Richmond: The Virginia Baptist Board of Missions and Education), 121, 122]. Minutes, Roanoke Association, 1790; Minutes, Portsmouth Association, 1796; Minutes, Ketocton Association, 1796; Minutes, Doyer Association, 1797 (Cited in Ryland, 151-54), In some instances, slaves and whites worshipped together. At least one white church called a free African American as pastor. In other situations, African Americans, whether slave or free, worshipped apart from whites. White Baptists sometimes purchased freedom for slaves. On the other hand, white Baptists were frequently perplexed with how to deal with heavy-handed slave owners, disobedient slaves, and the informality of marriage among slaves. The early nineteenth century, however, witnessed a transformation in the state. An economic depression and depleted soils severely diminished tobacco crops, while at the same time cotton became king in the deep South and the African slave trade faced more restrictions. In response, Virginia slave owners turned to raising slaves for the deep South, while becoming increasingly unresponsive to abolitionist arguments
(19.) "Further Sketches of the Life of John Leland," Writings, 51.
(20.) "Letter of Valediction, on Leaving Virginia, in 1791," Writings, 173.
(21.) Ibid., 96-97.
(22.) Ibid., 97.
(23.) Ibid. Leland estimated that an expenditure of 8.3 million pounds would be required in reparation for Virginia to free all of her 276,932 slaves, a sum "infinitely beyond" what the state could afford to pay.
(25.) Ibid., 97-98.
(26.) Ibid., 98.
(27.) "Letter of Valediction," Writings, 174.
(29.) Ibid., 174-175.
(30.) "An Oration, Delivered at Chesire, July 5, 1802, on the Celebration of Independence: Containing Seventeen Sketches, and Seventeen Wishes," Writings, 268. Leland's contributions to religious liberty in Virginia and the United States Constitution are summarized in Alley, A History of Baptists in Virgina, 8589, and Ryland, The Baptists of Virginia, 125-30.
(31.) Ibid., 268-69.
(32.) In the surviving manuscripts, Leland does not mention the issue of American slavery between 1803 and 1830. Although claiming to have preached nearly 8,000 sermons ("Events in the Life of John Leland," Writings, 35), very few have been preserved in writing.
(33.) Of the 744 pages that comprise Writings, all but 31 ("Further Sketches of the Life of John Leland," authored by compiler L. E Greene) were written by Leland. Of the remaining 713 pages, 340 pertain to Leland's life during the years 1803-1830. The weight of Leland's concerns during this period is decidedly political in nature. During this era, he served both as a Jeffersonian politician and a minister in Chesire. His Jeffersonian repulsion against aristocracy and affinity for the common man meshed with the ideal of religious liberty. Time and again, Leland returned to religious liberty as the juncture of his secular and ecclesiastical views.
(34.) "Address Delivered at North Adams, On the 4th of March, 1831," Writings, 612.
(35.) See R J. Staudenraus, African Colonization Movement, 1816-65 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1972); Early L. Fox, American Colonization Society, 1817-1840 (Baltimore: John Hopkins Press, 1919). Also, an overview of the Library of Congress' Holdings is available online at http://lcweb.loc.gov/ spcoll/007.html.
(36.) "Address," Writings, 612.
(37.) The Anti-Slavery Picknick (Boston: H. W. Williams, 1842). Located on the Library of Congress website at http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/african/afam005.html. In New York in 1831, a convention of free blacks declared, "This is our home, and this is our country. Beneath its sod lie the bones of our fathers; for it some of them fought, bled and died. Here we were born, and here we will die."
(38.) "Address," Writings, 613.
(39.) Ibid. Two years later, in January of 1833, in a political speech lamenting the Nullification Crisis, Leland briefly referred to slavery when he noted, "my heart sickens with grief at the idea of having the fruitful fields of Carolina, which are covered every year with cotton, rice, indigo and corn, turned into slaughter pens for human victims. Yes, the anticipated groans of the dying, and lamentations of widows and orphans, are almost too much for my nerves to bear." ("Address Delivered at Chesire, On the Eighteenth Anniversary of the Battle of New Orleans, January 8, 1833," Writings, 631.) Yet, in another political speech two months later, Leland reiterated that he had spent his life championing for "the civil and religious rights of men," referring to religious liberty specifically, but making no direct reference to slavery. ("Address Delivered at Westfield, March 4, 1833," Writings, 637-38.)
(40.) "Free Thoughts on Times and Things," Published in 1836, Writings, 672. Prior to 1803, Leland had expressed concern in the details of emancipation, yet passionately insisted it must be done soon for the good of the country. Now he threw a note of caution across the entire endeavor. While admitting that simply setting the slaves free was the simplest solution, he noted that this "most rational solution may be fraught with serious consequences ... in such a state they would wonder in droves into all the states, seeking supplies for the calls of nature ... begging and stealing."
(41.) Ibid., 672.
(42.) Ibid., 672-73.
(43.) Leland had only glowing words for the Jackson Administration. See Writings, 740-41.
(44.) "Address Delivered at Bennington, Aug. 16, 1839," Writings, 698. Two years prior to Leland's final statement on slavery, John C. Calhoun delivered his famous "Slavery a Positive Good" speech (http://teachingamericanhistory. org/library/index.asp?document = 71).
(45.) "An Oration, Delivered at Chesire, July 5, 1802, on the Celebration of Independence: Containing Seventeen Sketches, and Seventeen Wishes," Writings, 268-69.
(46.) Daly, When Slavery Was Called Freedom.
(47.) C. C. Goen, Broken Churches, Broken Nation (Macon, GA: Mercer University, 1985).
(48.) On New Years Day, 1802, Leland delivered a giant cheese to the White House as a gift for Jefferson. In return, he was invited to address Congress two days later, on January 3. Leland spoke from the text, "Behold a greater than Solomon is here," in the presence of Jefferson. Manasseh Curler, Journal, 3 January 1802. Located on the Library of Congress Internet site at http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/religion/rel06-2.html.
(49.) Essig, The Bonds of Wickedness. As a politician, Leland was concerned about the developing sectionalism of the 1820s and 1830s. In a political speech on January 8, 1833, in which he addressed the Nullification Crisis, he closed with the popular slogan, "Jackson, the Constitution, and the Union of the States Forever. ("Address Delivered at Chesire, On the Eighteenth Anniversary of the Battle of New Orleans, January 8, 1833," Writings, 632.)
(50.) Creed, John Leland, 94-105.
(51.) Richard Furman, Exposition of The Views of Baptists, Relative to the Coloured Population in the United States, in a Communication to the Governor of South Carolina, 2nd ed. (Charleston, SC: A.E. Miller, 1838). Located on the Furman University Nineteenth Century Documents Project website at http://www.alpha.furman.edu/~benson/docs/rcd-fmnl .htm. Three decades prior to Furman's pronouncement, Leland had noted the divisiveness of the slavery issue, which he attributed to his own reluctance to speak against slavery. ("Letter of Valediction on Leaving Virginia," 1791, Writings, 173.)
(52.) See Goen, Broken Churches, Broken Nation. Goen examines the extent of religious division over slavery, arguing that by the 1840s, sectional sectarian strife made civil war inevitable.
(53.) See Smith, In His Image.
Bruce Gourley is the associate director of The Center for Baptist Studies at Mercer University, Macon, Georgia.
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|Date:||Jan 1, 2005|
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