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Ante-Bellum North Carolina: A Social History: Electronic Edition.

Johnson, Guion Griffis, 1900- 1989


Table of Contents



Page 434


           LONG BEFORE 1800, the little log meetinghouses which dotted rural North Carolina were the chief forces for order and decency in the social structure. The church as an institution was usually to be found on the side of law and order; its influence was for the preservation of the status quo. 1

Church members usually held it to be "their duty to obey magistrates, to pay their taxes, and to pray for all in authority." 2


           The first church services in North Carolina were held in the homes of settlers. When the settlers had more time to give to spiritual things, they built churches of logs as they had built their houses. These churches, which the people even until late in the ante-bellum period invariably called meetinghouses, were all much alike. Dean's Meeting House built on Stony Creek soon after the Revolution was typical. It was "very rudely constructed of logs with the bark on; a hole was cut near the stand for a window and another for a door, but no door or window was ever put in." 3

The pews were of split logs supported by other logs. Many of the first meetinghouses had no floors, and, when the buildings were ceiled with clapboards, the boards were more often held together with rocks and poles than with nails. 4

           Many of these first buildings served their congregations for a hundred years or more. As late as 1859 the worshipers at Barbecue,

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one of the oldest Presbyterian churches in the Cape Fear region, were still using the same building that had first been erected, despite the fact that it was "a desolate, comfortless, revolutionary relict, through whose chinks and crannies cold winds" came and went. 5

           When a new church was to be built, it was named for the largest donor, for the man who gave the land on which it was erected, or more frequently from its location. The early Baptist churches, for instance, were usually named for a creek, river, or other body of water near which they were built for convenience of baptizing; as, for example, Kehukee, Gum Swamp, Sandy Run, Falls of the Tar, Bear Creek. The work was in charge of a building committee which, in rural communities, not only supervised the erection of the house but did a great part of the work. Other members shared in the labor, hauling timber, making shingles, hewing clapboards and logs. After most of the materials had been assembled, the building committee would announce "spells" or "bees," as they were variously called, during which all the men in the community would lend a hand at putting up the building.

           In the first two decades of the nineteenth century, some churches were built with money raised by lotteries. For instance, in 1810 the General Assembly authorized the town commissioners of Hillsboro to raise $5,000 by lottery to build a church for the use of the village, and in 1820 the Legislature granted the Presbyterian congregation of Wilmington permission to raise $6,000 by lottery to complete its church. 6

By 1830, however, most of the religious denominations in the State had come to look upon lotteries as sinful. 7 After 1850 a few religious organizations began to realize the necessity of aiding local groups in the erection of their churches. In 1854 the Baptist State Convention organized the Baptist Church Extension Society for this purpose, and in 1856 Orange Presbytery appointed a standing committee on church extension. 8

           A few churches, even in colonial times, were built of brick, as for instance St. Paul's in Edenton. St. John's in Fayetteville was

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one of the most pretentious brick churches of the early ante-bellum period. It was built "something in the Gothic"; it had a fine organ, clock, and bell. Two gentlemen of the town gave "two branches for the pulpit, and two for the organ" and a chandelier of sixty candles, which "cost in Liverpool one hundred guineas." 9 The Methodist Church in Wilmington, completed in 1845, illustrates "the improving taste amongst the people with regard to church architecture" which the late ante-bellum period ushered into North Carolina. It was built of grove sandstone with "a stately colonade in front." It had a large basement, Sunday school and Bible-class rooms, and a preacher's office and library. 10

           But the average ante-bellum church, like the average home and the average school, was a humble building. Of the thirty-four Presbyterian church buildings within the bounds of Orange Presbytery in 1829, five were brick, twenty-four frame, and five log. Four of the buildings, those in Raleigh, New Bern, Washington, and Buffalo, cost $19,000, and the remaining thirty an average of a little more than $63 each. 11

In 1831 Elder John Armstrong, corresponding secretary of the Baptist State Convention, reported that most of the places of worship in the State were unsuitable for use in the winter, especially for gatherings of children, 12 and as late as 1859 the North Carolina Presbyterian lamented that many a church was a disgrace to the State. 13


           As in colonial North Carolina there was never a sufficient number of preachers to meet the religious demands of the Province, so in ante-bellum North Carolina there constantly arose a cry for more and better trained preachers. As early as 1809 a correspondent of the Raleigh Star urged the University of North Carolina to create a chair of theology, purchase a good divinity library, and establish a loan fund for ministerial students. "For believe me," he wrote, "you are not very likely to get many rich men's sons into your Pulpits, till times alter a little." 14

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           In 1794 there were only seven Episcopal ministers in North Carolina; 15

by the spring of 1816 there was not one to be found in the State. In 1828 Bishop Ravenscroft lamented "the difficulty of obtaining a supply of clergymen" for the fixed congregations, and he urged ministers to "magnify" their office by asserting its "high derivation" with the hope of attracting native sons into the clergy. 16 But the numbers whom the bishops received into deacon's orders and ordained into the priesthood were never at any time large. Other denominations also had difficulty in finding "laborers for the vineyard." In 1829 Orange Presbytery reported, "There is room in this Presbytery for every student which Princeton can probably furnish in the next six years"; and as late as 1852 a committee of the Presbyterian Synod stated, "Many vacant pulpits and destitute fields within our bounds loudly call for an increase in the number of those who preach the gospel of peace." 17 Methodists, alone, seemed to have had a sufficiently large clergy because of their system of licensing lay preachers. In 1855 there was one Methodist preacher in North Carolina for every 133 members. 18

           In North Carolina, as elsewhere in the United States, the ministry was a starving profession. A clerk or bookkeeper might receive as much as $500 a year, but fortunate, indeed, was the minister who had such a salary. 19

For the most part, clergymen were destined to poor health, obscurity, and poverty. If a minister gave all his time to his pastorate, he found himself unable to purchase books, educate his family, and pay his bills.

           In ante-bellum North Carolina as in colonial days clergymen were forced to supplement their salaries by other means. The Reverend Eli W. Caruthers, writing of the Presbyterian ministry in the early ante-bellum period, said, "All had to teach school, or work on the farm, or do both for a support." 20

It was said of Methodist circuit riders that they preached by day and plowed by night.

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           Bishop Ravenscroft pointed with regret in 1827 to "the small amount of salary which the congregations in general are able, or disposed, to pay." 21

In 1836 the Reverend Francis Hawley, agent in Eastern North Carolina for the Baptist denomination, said, "It is . . . a fact that scarcely a minister in the part of the State over which I have travelled, receives any thing like an adequate support." 22 At this time the Methodists were paying their unmarried preachers $100 and their married preachers $200 a year. 23 As late as 1851 the Presbyterian Synod of North Carolina reported: "A large number of our ministers are seriously crippled in their labors by the inadequacy of their support and the consequent necessity of giving attention to some other means for securing the maintenance of their families." Toward the close of the ante-bellum period congregations became somewhat more liberal, and in 1859 the North Carolina Presbyterian wrote happily, "In the last ten or twenty years there has been a marked improvement in the matter of ministerial support . . . though there are few congregations which can pretend to have reached the true standard." 24

           The Reverend William D. Paisley, a member of Orange Presbytery who died in 1860, was a picturesque type of the ante-bellum rural preacher. His life was one of constant hardship. Six days a week he toiled on his little farm; on the seventh he was up before daybreak, traveling by horseback to his appointment twenty miles away. Here he would preach two sermons, sometimes three. Bedtime found him home again, ready for another six days on the farm, interrupted by frequent calls to "marryings" and "buryings." 25

But his was a happy life. He was the sage and counselor of the neighborhood. No man who feared the Lord would think of making an important decision without first consulting Father Paisley.

           Frequently the preacher was the most learned and public spirited man in the community. The Reverend James Hall of Iredell County not only taught grammar to the young men of his congregation, but wrote and published a book of grammar for

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their use. He organized a circulating library and a debating society. His home was a "school of prophets" where he taught some of the leading ante-bellum Presbyterian ministers of the South. 26

           Many an ante-bellum preacher was not above participating in the prevailing social habits of the day. Preachers chewed tobacco, smoked, and frequently drank as hard as did members of their congregations. In 1810 the Reverend James Hall reported on the behavior of two drinking parsons: ". . . they and their parishioners, after worship, even on Sabbath evenings, repair to a house where spirits are sold, and spend the evening in drinking, and sometimes deal out such hard blows to each other, that not long since some of them were adjudged by court to pay $40 each, on one of these occasions." 27

These Presbyterian ministers were merely keeping alive in America a variant of the old custom of holding church ales, a practice which flourished in the British Isles with the approval of King James I. Church ales were gatherings of the people after afternoon church to drink ale and engage in morris dances and such sports as were on the King's approved list. But church ales were no longer approved in Great Britain and they would not be tolerated in America. Both ministers were dismissed from Orange Presbytery, but their congregations remained loyal to them and they continued to preach as before. Few ministers were criticized for taking a "refreshment" within the privacy of their own homes "to keep off the chills and fevers" or a glass for the sake of hospitality, but few congregations would tolerate a drinking parson. 28

           Occasionally church organizations found it necessary to discipline wayward preachers. For instance, in 1854 the preachers of Stokes Circuit recorded: ". . . a local preacher of this circuit having been accused of immorality under the specifications of gambling, swearing and drunkeness [sic] &c, and being notified according to discipline to appear at this Conference and answer to the charges [,] failed to attend but forwarded his License with a letter admitting substantially the truth of the charge. . . ." 29

           Usually, however, when there was trouble between a minister

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and his pastorate, the sins of the congregation were more frequently the cause of the issue than were those of the minister. A congregation in New Bern was especially difficult to deal with. In 1828, after the church had repeatedly changed pastors, Mrs. Ebenezer Pettigrew wrote from her plantation home to her sister in New Bern, "I suppose the Church is closed, a Minister calculated to please the people must be immaculate, he must be divested of his human nature, he must not have the sensibilities of other men, what a world we do inhabit." 30 In 1840 a Raleigh minister resigned because he and his congregation could not agree upon the propriety of attending "those worldly entertainments, commonly called dancing parties" and "those worldly amusements, such as Theatres, Circuses, and Balls." The members of the congregation stood out boldly for the forms of recreation which the pastor thought sinful and defended their position with Jeffersonian rather than religious principles: "We felt sure that no man had a right to demand uniformity of opinion or practice in matters not determined by Christianity; and that the relation of pastor and people did not involve the surrender on the part of the latter of all freedom of thought, and the adoption of any rule of conduct, merely because he deemed it proper and necessary to prescribe it." 31


           The Baptist and Methodist churches (the Quakers had no ordained ministers), were the only ones in the State at the opening of the nineteenth century which did not require some formal education of their clergy. But the difficulty of getting an education during the early ante-bellum period caused all denominations to relax their requirements. "I will not say that we have too many illiterate preachers," wrote a correspondent of the Raleigh Star in 1809, "but I will say that we have not enough who are learned."

           It fell to the lot of the ministers already in the field to train those who were to follow them in the work. "I knew a preacher of standing and influence," wrote the Reverend Eli W. Caruthers of conditions at the opening of the century, "who . . . gave the

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young men who studied for the ministry under him Edwards' History of Redemption to read and that was the only text book [they had] both for theology and church history." 32 This preacher had only fourteen volumes in his library and it was one of the best theological libraries in the State at that time. Caruthers thought that a careful student could learn in a "month's close and earnest study of the Bible" as much theology as most of the ministers of Orange Presbytery knew in the early days of the nineteenth century.

           As early as 1800, however, Orange Presbytery examined a young candidate "on the Greek Language, Geometry, Trigonometry, Algebra, Moral Philosophy and Criticism." 33

By 1830 the presbytery had four standing committees for the examination of candidates. The first committee examined the candidate on "the English, Latin, Greek, and Hebrew Languages, and on Rhetoric, Logic, Moral Philosophy, and Modern Geography"; the second committee on "Mathematics, Natural Philosophy, and Astronomy"; the third on "Jewish Antiquities, Ancient Geography, Chronology, Church History and Church Government"; and the fourth on "Didactic, Polemic and Pastoral Theology." 34 By 1860 most Presbyterian ministers in the State were graduates of a college or theological seminary. The Episcopal, Moravian, Lutheran, and German Reformed churches were also strict in the educational requirements which they made of their ministerial candidates, although the two latter denominations were frequently compelled to lower their standards because of the great difficulty in obtaining ministers. 35

           Bishop Atkinson thought one of the weaknesses of the Episcopal Church to be the very fact of its educated ministry. "I must announce my conviction," he said in 1855, "though to many persons it will seem a singular and objectionable one, that there are wide and important fields of labor in the Christian Ministry, in which education, in the common meaning of the word, is a hindrance rather than a help. To pass through the ordinary course

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of languages, sciences and theology, a man, if he ever belonged to the laboring classes, must be withdrawn from them." 36

           Holding with Bishop Atkinson that an education was often a hindrance rather than a help, the Baptist and Methodist denominations made no rigid educational requirements of their candidates. They placed more emphasis upon "the call" of the candidate and his "public gift" than upon his knowledge of grammar and rhetoric. After 1830, however, both denominations became more concerned over the question of raising up an educated ministry. In 1836 Professor John Armstrong of Wake Forest College said to the Baptist State Convention, "It cannot be expected that a pastor of a church can meet all the demands of his important station without the aids of education," and in 1848 the Convention proudly stated, "We are happy . . . to say, that in our own denomination, . . . the prejudices which have existed with regard to education, are now about to give way, . . ." 37


           In the early ante-bellum period a church service was frequently the only public gathering in the community for weeks at a time. The entire family went, from father to the youngest infant. In genteel families, the children remained at home with the Negro nurse in cold weather, for often the church had no means of being heated, but in warm weather nurse and children went along too and remained outside during the services. Even those who considered it fashionable to refer to religion "as the fit solace of old wives and mechanics," were willing to submit to the "tortures" of the service for the pleasure of mingling with the company afterward. Bishop Asbury wrote in his Journal after attending a meeting near Louisburg: "Preached at Green Hill's to about four hundred souls. . . . There are evils here; the meeting not solemn; the women appeared to be full of dress, the men full of news." 38

           In the towns there was usually preaching of some kind every Sunday. If the village had an academy, the principal was often the town pastor as well. In the country, however, church services seldom came more often than once or twice a month and sometimes

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as infrequently as once a quarter. It was customary for country churches to begin their services on Saturday with a conference for church business. The next day the pastor delivered a sermon in the morning, the early afternoon, and sometimes at candle-light. The entire countryside perhaps within a radius of twenty miles attended the Sunday meetings and had dinner on the grounds.

           In warm weather the people remained outside gossiping until the preacher arrived. In cold weather they were inside hovering about the open fire or the box-like stove, if the church had a means of being heated. When the preacher arrived, he went immediately to the pulpit, and, if he had come on horseback, he deposited his saddle bags at his feet. In most of the early meetinghouses, the pulpits were erected high above the audience, sometimes with a hood and a sounding board above. 39

The preachers reached them by climbing a steep and narrow stair.

           When the preacher had mounted the pulpit, a venerable church father would go to the door and announce solemnly, as, for instance, at Daniel's Lutheran Church in Lincoln County, "All de beople will now come in--de breaching is ready." Instantly conversation would cease and the congregation would file quietly inside, taking seats in their accustomed places. Even in some of the country churches, pews were rented as a means of helping pay the preacher's salary and of keeping the church building in repair. Throughout the ante-bellum period the Episcopal churches generally "sold" their pews, as did also some of the Presbyterian churches. 40

At Unity Presbyterian Church in Lincoln County, Captain John Reid and Captain Alexander Brevard, with their families, occupied the two pews nearest the pulpit. The pews faced the congregation and were hooded.

           When the congregation had settled comfortably, the "precentor," who was usually a deacon or an elder, arose to lead the singing.

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His task of reading out the verses and of announcing the time of the Psalm or hymn came to be known as "deaconing the lines." The introduction of hymns into the praise service, which formerly had consisted entirely of singing Psalms, divided churches and set communities against one another. Even in the late ante-bellum period, hymn books were scarce in the country churches and the precentor, who often taught a singing school for the young folk, frequently copied the hymns by hand for his pupils, giving each song three parts, "air, treble, and bass." 41 When the churches came to have organs and choirs, as some did before 1860, the congregation joined less and less in the singing. The organ and the choir were usually placed in the gallery facing the pulpit, unless the gallery had already been given over to the slaves of the congregation. In 1855, the editor of the Milton Chronicle, admitting to be "old fashioned in this day of progress," regretted that church singing had come to be done "by proxy, or the whole choir--we believe they call it." "We are democratic," he said, "we like to take a hand at singing ourself, sometimes, and we don't want to be excluded by the difficulty of the hymn." 42

           At last the preacher arose. Whether a country preacher or a town preacher, he usually spoke at great length, sometimes drawing out his sermon two hours, for to the people of the ante-bellum period the sermon was the heart of the church service. As the years passed, and the people in the towns and villages found other public gatherings to distract their attention, preachers tended to cut their sermons short. In 1859, for instance, the North Carolina Presbyterian quoted with approval an article urging "due brevity in the pulpit." 43

In the country churches, however, preaching continued to be an all-day affair.

           The pastors of the town churches frequently spoke on abstract subjects, such as piety, humiliation, fasting and prayer; on social reform, such as the temperance movement; or upon church doctrine. The country preachers, on the other hand, spoke more often upon "the unpardonable sin" and the terrors of hell. Having an opportunity to speak to their congregations only once or twice a month, they improved the time by giving the people as much of the Bible as they could. It became fashionable in the days of the

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Great Revival for preachers to "spiritualize." "He who could display the greatest ingenuity in giving what he conceived to be the spiritual meaning of a text," wrote Elder Purefoy in 1859, "was regarded by many as the greatest preacher." 44 On one occasion Elder Hezekiah Harman of Chatham County managed with great ingenuity the text from I Kings, 7:44: "And one sea, and twelve oxen under the sea."

           Frequently ministers waged battles of wit, for the ante-bellum period was a time of religious dispute. Throughout the period, leaders of the various denominations were constantly defending themselves against arguments of the other communions. They carried on their battles in the pulpit on Sunday, in the local newspapers, in pamphlets, and even on the debate platform. In 1832, for example, the Methodist and Baptist ministers in New Bern conducted an argument on the proper mode of baptism which finally resulted in ill-tempered abuse. Thomas Meredith carried on a lengthy debate with Alexander Campbell in the columns of the North Carolina Baptist Interpreter, later the Biblical Recorder. R. R. Michaux, a Methodist Protestant circuit rider in North Carolina, relates that when an "ecclesiastical bully" once challenged Charles F. Deems, editor of the Annals of Southern Methodism, to a debate, he replied, "I regret any act of my life which led you to believe that I could be made your scavenger." 45

           Throughout the ante-bellum period people in the country churches frequently transacted business before or after the church service. "Preaching" afforded many farmers their easiest means of obtaining new seeds or "swapping" horses. In 1809 a Baptist Association petitioned the Legislature for an act to prevent stud horses being shown on the church grounds, but the act which this petition obtained scarcely remedied the situation, for it only prevented studs being brought within three hundred yards of the meetinghouse. 46

In 1809 the Legislature also repealed the act of 1741 which required a sheriff to give information at each meeting house in his county of all runaway slaves committed to his care. 47

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           Rowdies who were opposed to religion or who enjoyed a practical joke sometimes attempted to break up a church service by shooting pistols in the meetinghouse yard, giving cat calls under the windows, or even stoning the building. In 1801 the Rutherford County Court placed William Metcalf under a peace bond of £100 for "disorderly behaviour" at Bills Creek Meeting House. 48

In the issue of November 16, 1842, the North Carolina Standard warned "a parcel of young persons" who "had for some time indulged in the singular sport of disturbing the worshipping congregations" of cultured Raleigh that the aggrieved churches would be forced "to resort to the arm of the law," despite the respectable standing of the disturbers. In 1833 the Supreme Court had handed down a decision that "the disturbing of a congregation assembled for purposes of religious worship, by laughing and talking, and indecent acts and grimaces, during the performance of divine service" was a misdemeanor. 49


           All denominations held that the Sabbath should be "taken up the whole time in the public and private exercises of his [sic] worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy." 50

In colonial North Carolina many church members gave a liberal interpretation to the meaning of "the duties of necessity." After the Great Revival, however, an increasing number of church-goers considered it sinful to do work of any kind on Sunday. When the first Sunday paper appeared in New York in 1825, the Catawba Journal of Charlotte was horrified. If Sunday papers "are tolerated here," said the editor, "we may look next for the introduction of Sunday Theatres, and other fashionable vices of Europe. . . . it certainly appears to us, that a proper reverence for the sabbath,--is essential to good morals and good society, and consequently, that its open and wanton profanation is destructive to both." 51 The distribution of the mail on Sunday received a similar protest in North Carolina as did also the operation of the railroads on the Sabbath. 52

           The first law on "Sabbath breaking" in North Carolina was the act of 1741 "for the better observation and keeping of the Lord's

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Day, commonly called Sunday." It required that all persons "carefully apply themselves to the duties of religion and piety" and that "no tradesman, artificer, planter, [or] labourer" engage in any form of work or business or in any form of recreation, such as, "hunting, fishing, or fowling" or "use any game, sport, or play" on pain of being fined 10 shillings proclamation money. 53 This act also imposed a fine of five shillings for drunkenness on Sunday. 54 Despite many attempts to tighten the law, the act of 1741, with few changes, remained the law of the ante-bellum period. 55 From the first, the law was only a gesture. It is doubtful if there were ever many prosecutions under the act. On Saturday, December 20, 1806, when the General Assembly found that it could finish the business of the session in one more day, it met on Sunday to complete the work without, it is presumed, very many twinges of conscience. 56

           As early as 1819 a case on "Sabbath breaking" reached the Supreme Court, but the court arrested judgment on the ground that the charge was faulty. 57

In 1844 the Supreme Court handed down a decision that performing labor on Sunday was not indictable 58 and in 1845 that keeping an open shop and selling goods on Sunday was not indictable. 59 Profanation of Sunday was only a breach of religious duty, "punishable to the extent and in the manner pointed out by the Legislature."

           While there were seldom any flagrant violations of the Sabbath in North Carolina, it cannot be said that ante-bellum North Carolina observed Sunday after the fashion approved by the revival leaders of the period. In 1810 a resident of Edenton thought that a laudable occupation for every family on the Sabbath day would be a careful study of the Bible and the church catechism. "Would it not be more agreeable to reason," he asked, ". . . than spending this sacred day in visits, feasting, or in idle and frivolous amusements? Would it not be better and more honorable, at such a time, to be found in our dwellings, by our fire-sides, teaching our

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children their duty and practicing our own, than to be seen in sunny piazzas, and loitering about the public rooms of offices and taverns? And how much more becoming for young ladies to be thus piously and prudently engaged, than traversing the streets, wandering in flocks around the town or jumbled together in discordant and heterogeneous groups in places of fashionable or customary resort!" 60

           In 1825 a "Citizen" of Charlotte declared that the young people were "wont to make the sabbath a peculiar day of liberty . . . and to stroll about the streets regardless of both religious and parental authority." 61

The late ante-bellum period saw little change in Sunday behavior. In 1858 W. J. W. Crowder, general agent in North Carolina for the American Tract Society, reported that desecration of the Sabbath was common in almost every county he visited. People neglected public worship; they traveled, visited, cooked, feasted, cut wood, made and settled accounts, hunted, fished, and gambled. Children played ball and marbles. Crowder thought that at least half of the people in the State "habitually broke the Sabbath." 62


           The church set up an ideal standard of life for its members, and it attempted to induce them to conform to this standard. Every church, either in its own covenant or in that of the denomination of which it was a branch, published a list of rules for the guidance of its congregation. Infractions of these rules usually met with prompt "discipline." In the Episcopal Church the vestry handled the case; in the Moravian Church, the board of elders; in the Lutheran, the church council; in the Quaker, the monthly meeting; in the Presbyterian, the session; in the Methodist and Baptist churches, the church in conference or a committee appointed by the society. 63

All churches except the Baptist gave their members the right of appeal to a higher council.

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           The modes of conduct forbidden to members of the Moravian Church, as set forth in "the Brotherly Agreement" of 1727, are as follows:

           Other churches had similar standards, varying the details according to the peculiar tenets of the denomination. The Society of Friends, for instance, forbade its members bearing arms, owning or hiring slaves for profit, swearing an oath before a legal authority, or attending "stage plays, taverns, horse-races, music and dancing, or any such sports and pastimes." The Society also enjoined upon its members the duty of "moderation and plainness in gesture, speech, apparel and furniture of houses" upon pain of being disowned. 65

The Methodist Church also insisted upon simplicity of dress. 66 The General Conference of 1784 issued instructions to "give no ticket to any that wear calashes, high heads, or enormous bonnets, ruffles or rings," 67 and continued throughout the ante-bellum period to frown upon "superfluity of dress." Most of the ante-bellum churches, through their rules of conduct or through influence of their pastors, disapproved of dancing, "fiddling," theater-going, and "sports of pleasure." 68 In 1828, Bishop Ravenscroft wrote to the congregations of the diocese: "Excess of apparel, fashionable decoration, and profuse living, add nothing to our real comfort or respectability, my Christian brethren, while they take much from our means of doing good, are seriously hostile to the inculcation of Religious principle in the entertainment of the truth and sincerity of our Christian profession." 69

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           Most churches expressly forbade their members "going to law" with other members before taking "Gospel steps." The question of the settlement of a debt, for instance, might drag through every church conference for a period of three or four years until its final settlement. The church court was, indeed, often more effective than the legal court in settling disputes, for the legal court also had its delays in addition to its expense.

           As the ante-bellum period progressed and the church began gradually to lose its control over its members, church courts naturally became less and less effective. As early as 1822 a group of thirty-three, led by Francis Owen of Mecklenburg County, petitioned the Legislature to authorize all "sects of Christians in this State to adopt rules and regulations (not contrary to the laws of this State)" which would be punishable in the law courts. 70

Even the Society of Friends, which probably exercised a greater control over its members than any other denomination in the State except the Moravian Church, began gradually to lose some of its authority. 71

           The Baptist church at Wheeley's 72

Meeting House in Person County tried 501 cases of discipline between July, 1791, and April, 1860, an average of more than seven cases a year. The cases may be summarized briefly as follows:



The Charge Number of Cases
Drunkenness 117
Disputing with a member 56
Neglecting Church service 48
Being "out of the way" 36
Immorality (sex) 33
Fighting 27

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Immorality (sex) of a Negro member 19
Becoming angry 18
Taking communion with other societies 18
Sabbath breaking 12
Bearing false witness 10
Using rough language 8
Disagreement over settling an estate 7
Swearing 7
Going to law with a brother 7
Backsliding 6
Keeping bad company 5
Defrauding 4
Attending prohibited preaching 4
Dancing 4
Theft 4
Gambling 3
Moving away and leaving a debt 3
Beating wife 3
Negro member preaching without license 3
Refusing to listen to the "voice of the church" 2
Miscellaneous 16
Not stated 21

           It is remarkable that a church with a membership varying from 129 in 1814 to 201 in 1828 should have been called upon to settle so few cases of breach of discipline over a period of sixty-nine years. The fact that the church tried 501 cases does not mean that this number of different individuals were brought before the court. Just as there were chronic law breakers so there were chronic breakers of church discipline. The same person, for instance, might be found guilty of drunkenness several times during the year. After repeatedly forgiving the offending member, the congregation might at last "give him up as a heathen man and publican."

           It is an interesting fact that 23 per cent of the cases arising in the church court were for drunkenness, 74

in a few instances drunkenness

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of women. It is also significant that only 13 per cent of the cases were offenses against the church, 75 and by far the greater proportion of these were for neglect of church services. It must be pointed out, however, that the church seldom called a member to account for his failure to attend services unless he repeatedly stayed away. In one instance a member came before the congregation and confessed "great anger," asking that his name be taken off the church roll "as he would seek revenge on his adversary." The church laid the case over until the next meeting and two months later heard "his Excuse for so doing and Excused him." 76

           The offense which created the second greatest number of trials was quarrelling, usually over debts and family affairs. Fifty-two cases were for sexual immorality, thirty-three of which were offenses by white members. The list of offenses for which the whites were tried included pregnancy in an unmarried girl, cohabitation before marriage, visiting a house of prostitution, "having a black child," and "keeping a woman." The Negroes were tried chiefly for pregnancy before marriage and for taking another mate while the first one was still living. 77

The charge of "being out of the way" covered a variety of cases of "disorderly behavior." For instance, the church accused a young girl of "being out of the way" and acting in "too familiar a manner with a certain young man." It was brought out in the trial that the girl had whispered with the young man during church. In two instances husbands complained to the church of the behavior of their wives, and the church smoothed out the differences between them. There is also evidence that the church court settled other family disputes amicably, and in some instances, no doubt, prevented a separation or a suit for divorce. The miscellaneous offenses included such charges as shooting a marked hog, taking a deer away from one's neighbor's dogs,

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bewitching cattle, turning hogs into a neighbor's field, harboring a grudge, and wrestling.

           When the cases are grouped into periods of ten years, one obtains a better idea of the frequency of church trials held at Wheeley's Meeting House.



Year Number Per Cent
1791-1800 48 9.6
1801-1810 105 21.0
1811-1820 84 16.8
1821-1830 93 18.6
1831-1840 104 20.7
1841-1850 58 11.6
1851-1860 9 1.7
Total 501 100.0

           The manuscript records which have been preserved begin soon after the organization of the church. 78

It seems that the church was slow to make use of its powers of discipline in the first ten-year period of its existence. From July, 1791, to January, 1792, the church tried only two cases, both for "joining with the wicked in Jumping." In the next ten-year period, however, the church tried more cases than at any other time during the period of sixty-nine and a half years. This was the period when the Great Revival was at its height and the control of the church over its members consequently most powerful. In the next two periods the number of cases fell off slightly, but rose again in the period from 1831 to 1840 to the same height, less one, of the period of the Great Revival. This rise can be accounted for by the fact that the congregation split in 1833. The party which withdrew yielded the church records and the church name to the conservative group. It was during this period that many of the offenses against the church occurred. In the period which followed, the number of cases dropped off appreciably, and in the last period to an almost negligible number.


           The social control which the denominations sought to exercise over their congregations extended itself to various reform movements

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of the period. The "moral society" was one means by which churches attempted to influence the people. These societies usually devoted themselves to agitation in behalf of some humanitarian reform such as peace or temperance. Pacificism had long been a cardinal tenet of the Society of Friends and of the Moravian Church. Early in the ante-bellum period preachers of other denominations were delivering sermons on world peace and attempting to create sentiment in favor of such a movement. In 1821 the Presbyterian Synod of North Carolina reported that in some congregations "Peace Societies have been instituted, and attended with success." 80

           The reform for which the churches worked with the most enthusiasm and perhaps with the least results was that of "temperance." Before the nineteenth century opened all denominations in the State had placed a ban upon drunkenness. "Do we disapprove of the practice of distilling grain into liquor?" queried the annual Conference of the Methodist Church in 1780. "Shall we disown our friends who will not renounce the practice?" The church gave an affirmative answer to both questions. Most denominations bore long and patiently with the drinking members of their congregations. A member usually had become a confirmed drunkard before he was excommunicated.

           The first victory for the churches in their fight against drinking was the act of 1800 preventing the sale of liquor "in church or meeting-house yards" between ten and four o'clock on days of divine worship under penalty of a £5 fine. 81

By 1809 the law had been tightened to prevent the sale of liquor, except in a licensed shop, within a mile of divine worship and to prevent the erection of booths for the sale of liquor within a half mile of a meeting-house yard. 82 In 1807 intoxication at church service became subject to a fine of £2.10. 83

           The Presbyterian Church was one of the first in the State to organize societies against "intemperate drinking." In 1815 the Synod, meeting in Fayetteville in July, drew up an address to the congregations under its care urging them to form "Moral Associations for the suppression of Vice and Immorality." It especially recommended that "the use of ardent spirits at funerals be

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entirely abolished." 84 Dr. James Hall, that indefatigable reformer, promptly had his presbytery appoint a committee to draw up a constitution for a moral association. In November he called a state-wide meeting at Center Church in Iredell County to organize the association and to promote the formation of auxiliary societies. 85 Except for the organization of a few moral associations in Presbyterian congregations, the attempt to create a state temperance society was abortive.

           In 1817 two Baptist associations, the Flat River and the Sandy Creek, petitioned the Legislature for an act making it unlawful for political candidates to "treat" voters with "ardent spirits at or before elections." The committee to whom the House referred the petition observed that no such law could "be enacted by the General Assembly with a proper regard to the Constitution of our Country, . . . To the good sense & virtue of the People must be entrusted the correction of the evil." 86

           About 1822 a few temperance societies began to be organized, 87

but the movement was slow in gathering sentiment. Again in 1826 Presbyterians came forward with a movement for temperance societies. Within the bounds of Orange Presbytery they organized a Society for the Suppression of Intemperance which numbered among its members "several eminent divines, and some of the most respectable gentlemen in the State." Each member pledged himself "to abstain entirely from the use of ardent spirits, unless when needful for health." 88 In 1828 Bishop Ravenscroft called upon his congregations for "a more decided separation from the fashionable vanities" of polite drinking which "is matter of just reproach to us, especially in our commercial towns; and operates with great effect against us, not only in general opinion, but in actually undermining religious principles." 89

           The organization of the North Carolina Temperance Society in January, 1831, 90

seems to have crystallized the attitude of the

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churches on the subject. The Temperance Society appointed Thomas P. Hunt, a Presbyterian minister, as its agent to travel through the State to promote the cause by organizing local temperance societies. Most of the denominations joined in the movement. In 1833 the Baptist State Convention recommended that its brethren make "immediate efforts" to form societies "in all our churches and neighbourhoods, . . . to put a stop to the destructive practice of intemperance." 91 In the same year Methodist quarterly conferences were forming themselves into temperance societies and taking the pledge "to abstain from making, vending, or using ardent spirits." 92

           Congregations were beginning now to take the temperance movement seriously. In 1834 James Thomas, missionary for the Baptist State Convention, wrote from Tarboro, "Temperance now exerts a wonderful influence. . . . In many parts of this State where thousands of gallons of ardent spirits were once made and used, there now abounds a spirit of sobriety. The east end of the State, so far as I can judge, now suffers most from the ravages of this common enemy. . . . I have found but two villages west of the Roanoke, that have not a temperance society." 93

Two years later, however, the Convention's missionary sorrowfully reported, "There can be but little doubt . . . that the . . . Temperance cause is on the retrograde: many who once put their hands to the plow have looked back." 94 Ten years later Elder Mark Bennett, missionary in the territory of the Kehukee Association reported, "Many churches tolerate dram-drinking to that excess that half the number of white male members are given daily to intoxication." 95

           In 1845 the Quakers, who since colonial times had disapproved of the use of liquor, discussed "the improper use of spirituous liquors" at their Yearly Meeting and directed the quarterly meetings "to report to next Yearly Meeting, the number of adult members both male and female, who use the article otherwise than as a medicine,--also the number of those who use it medically." 96

In 1847 the Yearly Meeting found that, out of 1,636 adult members

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reported, 245 "used the article other than as a medicine." 97 The annual check which the Yearly Meeting made upon its members shows that the number of Quakers who used liquor habitually was gradually decreasing, from 245 in 1847 to 81 in 1860. 98

           In 1848 a correspondent of the Star, signing himself "H. Moore," called upon the churches of the State to join seriously in the fight against "ardent spirits." Ridiculing "the Ministers and Church Members . . . for contending that they alone are the only authorized agents to do this great and good work," he urged the denominations "to take a bold stand" against drinking and "unite their efforts . . . to arrest this vast tide of iniquity." 99

The following year the Flat River Baptist Association heard with approval the report of its committee on temperance: ". . . intemperance in the use of spirituous liquors, we believe to be the polluted source of most of the vices that degrade our country. Most of the crimes made punishable by our Statutes, are committed either mediately or immediately by its influence. . . . if we were to venture an opinion, this hydra of Intemperance will never be crushed, until it is done by the uniform action on the subject, by our Statesmen and Law-makers." 100 Thirty years before, the Flat River Association had wanted a law against giving away drinks on election day, and now the Association came out boldly in favor of placing liquor under legislative control.

           By the close of the ante-bellum period most of the denominations in the State had taken a stand on "the temperance question." In 1855 the Lutheran Synod requested "all our Pastors, Church Councils and members" to coöperate in suppressing "the great evil of drunkenness in our country and the world." 101

The following year the Presbyterian Synod resolved that intemperance was "a deadly evil, for which the only adequate remedy is to be found in the truth of the Gospel, and the administration of discipline." 102 In 1858 the North Carolina Classis, many of whose members habitually distilled their crops, passed a resolution that "the making or distillation for indiscriminate sale of intoxicating liquors, its use as

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a beverage, the practice of giving it to hands invited to log-rollings, huskings, raisings, etc., is immoral in its tendency, and justifies the exercise of discipline." 103

           The period of church temperance societies had passed. They had given place to the Sons of Temperance and the Daughters of Temperance, organizations formed without respect to religious principles. But it was still left to the churches to agitate for the movement and to discipline members for breach of the "temperance rule," for the movement was still new in North Carolina despite the forty-five years of agitation in its behalf.

           There were many in the churches who had never approved of the movement. Believing that drunkenness was immoral, they, nevertheless, contended that it was a violation of the rights of man to limit his drinking habits and a contamination of the "sphere of the church" to advocate political reform. In 1859 the North Carolina Presbyterian reprinted with approval an article from the Syracuse Journal which listed the temperance movement, along with abolition, women's rights, free love, and fanatical religious sects, among the "ultraisms of the day." 104


           This same argument of the rights of man, growing out of the political theory of the American Revolution, also led the denominations to ponder the question of slavery. In the early colonial period many planters refused to permit their slaves to be baptized because they thought that baptism would automatically set the slaves free. 105

The Society of Friends was the only denomination in North Carolina prior to the Revolution which openly opposed slaveholding. At first even Friends seemed to have had few scruples against slaveholding. In 1754 Samuel Fothergill, a visiting Quaker from England, wrote of Quakers in North Carolina, "Negro-purchasing comes more and more in use among them." 106 The philosophy of the Revolution, however, turned men's thoughts toward "the right of man to hold his fellow man in bondage."

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           In 1780 the annual conference of the Methodist preachers queried: "Does this Conference acknowledge that slavery is contrary to the laws of God, man, and nature, and hurtful to society; contrary to the dictates of conscience and pure religion, and doing that which we would not others should do to us and ours? Do we pass our disapprobation on all our friends who keep slaves, and advise their freedom?" In the same year the church required all its traveling ministers who held slaves to promise to set them free. 107

At the organization of the Methodist Episcopal Church four years later, the Conference came forward with a definite plan calling for gradual emancipation. Members who did not wish to comply with the ruling of the church had "liberty quietly to withdraw," and the southern members might consider the plan for two years. 108 The pressure from the South was so great that the Conference of 1785 "suspended the execution of the minute on slavery." Eleven years later the church put into effect a modified form of emancipation which forbade members selling slaves and required those buying slaves to permit the slave to work out his purchase price. 109 In 1804 the church exempted southern members from this ruling and in 1812 it left the matter of buying and selling slaves to the regulation of each annual conference. 110

           In 1799 the Synod of the Carolinas of the Presbyterian Church considered "an overture for the purpose of commencing a correspondence with other religious denominations in the State about petitioning the legislature for the emancipation of the slaves, on the principle that all children of slaves born after a fixed time, shall be free." The committee which the Synod appointed to consider the overture reported the following year that "matters are not yet mature" for carrying forward emancipation and recommended that the Synod continue to instruct slaves "to prepare them the better for a state of freedom, when such shall be contemplated by the legislatures of our southern States." 111

           In 1776 the North Carolina Society of Friends took its first definite step toward emancipation. The Yearly Meeting advised its members to "cleanse their hands of slaves as soon as they possibly can" and resolved that "any member of this meeting who

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may hereafter buy, sell or clandestinely assign for hire any slave in such manner as may perpetuate or prolong their slavery" should be disowned. 112 Until the act of 1782, which made emancipation in North Carolina legal under certain conditions, even those Quakers who wished to liberate their slaves had difficulty in doing so. Between 1782 and the passage of the act of 1796 preventing emancipation except for meritorious service, most of the Quakers in the State liberated their slaves. 113 A few Quakers probably held some slaves throughout the ante-bellum period. In 1847, for instance, the Yearly Meeting reported: "Some complaint of hiring slaves of their masters in three quarters; one instance of holding slaves . . . a few hold in some of the quarters under peculiar circumstances." 114

           The peculiar circumstances under which Friends held slaves was the decision of the Yearly Meeting in 1808 to circumvent the rigid laws of the State against emancipation. In 1796 the Yearly Meeting had petitioned the Legislature for a law "to enable persons who are conscientiously scrupulous of holding slaves, to manumit such slaves under certain conditions." Again in 1808, 1810, 1815, and 1817 the Society petitioned for a special law on emancipation, but the Legislature turned a deaf ear to these pleas. 115

The Yearly Meeting appointed a committee to take under care the suffering cases of people of color, and it was this committee which hit upon the plan of authorizing certain persons to act as agents of the Society and to receive assignments of slaves from masters who wished to liberate them. After obtaining the advice of Judge William Gaston as to the legal procedure, the Society continued throughout the ante-bellum period to liberate slaves according to this plan. By 1814 the Society had assigned more than three hundred slaves to agents. The Society, of course, was entirely at the mercy of the agents. If an agent chose to violate his contract and keep or sell the slaves for his own use, the Society was without legal redress, for in 1827 the Supreme Court handed down the decision that "by a conveyance of slaves to . . . trustees for purposes forbidden by the policy of the law, nothing passes,

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and in an action brought in their name to recover such slaves against a stranger, he may, by parol, show the unlawful purpose in contradiction of the deed." 116

           The Yearly Meeting sent the Negroes liberated under this plan to Haiti, to Liberia, and to the free soil north of the Ohio River. In 1830 the Society had sent 652 Negroes out of North Carolina at an expense of $12,769 and it still had under care 402 slaves. 116a

After 1835 the Yearly Meeting became less and less active in the work of emancipation. Migration had greatly reduced the number of Quakers in the State, and the abolition movement had become so aggressive in the North as to alarm the entire State.

           By 1816 Quakers had begun forming manumission societies to create sentiment in behalf of emancipation, and in July of that year organized the General Association of the Manumission Society of North Carolina with Moses Swaim as president. It had four branch societies: Center, Caraway, Deep River, and New Garden, all in or near Guilford County, church communities which had come under the influence of Charles Osborn, a native of North Carolina who in August, 1817, published in Ohio the first number of the Philanthropist, a journal advocating unconditioned emancipation. 117

The manumission societies invited Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, and Moravians to join in the work. Occasionally the General Association assisted manumitted Negroes to remove to free soil and intervened in cases of kidnaping. It circulated anti-slavery tracts among its members, petitioned the State Legislature and Congress on the subject of slavery, and in general kept alive the subject of emancipation. By 1825 the North Carolina Manumission Society had twenty-eight branches and a membership of more than a thousand. 118 From 1828 the Society began to decline and in July, 1834, held its last meeting. When the North Carolina Standard called the Manumission Society to account in

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1840, the Greensborough Patriot truthfully replied, "No such Society is located in Guilford, nor any where else in the State." 119

           For a period of years, from 1818 to about 1831, the Yearly Meeting contributed to the support of the American Colonization Society. In 1826 Quakers contributed nearly $5,000 to the cause, and, acting under the advice of Benjamin Lundy and the Colonization Society, fitted out a vessel which sailed from Beaufort with a group of Negroes bound for Haiti. 120

Also in 1826 and again in 1827 Quakers and other friends of the Colonization Society sent a group of Negroes to Africa. 121 Others in North Carolina also contributed to the support of the American Colonization Society. As early as 1821 the North Carolina Synod reported that three or four congregations had organized societies auxiliary to the American Colonization Society. 122

           The Sandy Creek Baptist Association in 1815 and the Chowan Association in 1818 condemned the buying and selling of slaves for profit. 123

Many preachers, especially before 1830, lamented the existence of slavery. The early Methodist circuit riders frequently urged masters to emancipate their slaves. 124 The Reverend Eli W. Caruthers, a Presbyterian minister, was one who lifted his voice against slavery in the late ante-bellum period and even wrote a book, which was never published, on "The Evils of Slavery." 125 Other denominations in the State, while not advocating emancipation, instructed slaves in religious principles and admitted them into fellowship. 126

           Most of the churches held the view that it was not within their sphere of activity to attempt to alter a civil institution, such as slavery. 127

Indeed, such an attempt would be in violation of the command to "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God, the things that are God's." The jurisdiction of the church was confined entirely to the Bible, the interpretation of

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its principles, and the enforcement of its commands. Although it was not within the power of the church to alter the laws made by governments, the church could ameliorate the conditions surrounding those laws and make the enforcement of them less objectionable. This was the philosophy of the position which most of the southern churches took on slavery. When the North spoke of the evils of slavery the southern churches could point to the great amount of missionary work which they did among the slaves. They could truthfully say that slavery had Christianized a heathen race. Therein was sufficient justification for the institution.

           Southern theology would not admit that slavery was sinful. It was sanctioned by the Bible. Thomas Meredith, leader of the North Carolina Baptist State Convention and editor of the Biblical Recorder, in a pamphlet which he called Christianity and Slavery published in 1847, stated the reasoning by which the South denied the sinfulness of slavery:

           1. The apostles were bound, as honest men, not to say as infallible teachers, to denounce every relation known to exist in the Churches, which by them was considered heinously sinful. 2. But they did not denounce the relation of Slaveholding. 3. Therefore, either Slaveholding was not known to exist in the Churches, or by the apostles it was not considered as heinously sinful. 4. But Slaveholding was known to exist in the Churches. 5. Therefore, the relation was not considered by the apostles as heinously sinful. 128

Southern ministers could also point to the curse of Canaan 129 as a further justification of slavery and could argue from it that slavery was God's punishment and remedy for moral degradation.

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           Any argument, therefore, which contended that slavery was contrary to divine law was in itself a denial of the Bible. As a result, southern churches came to look upon abolitionists as rank infidels. A quarterly conference for the New Bern station of the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1835 resolved that abolitionists were "presumptiously tramping upon the express commands of Almighty God." 130

In the issue of March 17, 1860, the North Carolina Presbyterian, quoting an article from the Christian Intelligencer, expressed the same view. The anti-slavery agitation was an "anti-religious spirit," notwithstanding that it "garnished its utterances with the words of the Bible." Its paternity was "the infidelity of New England." It was as great an outrage against Christianity as spiritualism or free love. "We have wondered how long the deception and delusion was to last--how long the Christianity of New England would remain silent, and consent to be so misrepresented and vilified before the world," said the Intelligencer. Compare the brow-beaten Christianity of New England with that of the South, "so ardent, self-denying, and saintlike, watching beside the sick-bed of the slave, teaching him his duty to God, sympathizing with him, and endeavoring to alleviate the sorrows of his condition."

           An outgrowth of this argument was the pronouncement of southern theologians that slavery was a sacred institution. The Biblical form of slavery was the patriarchal. The relation of master and slave was the same as that of husband and wife and parent and child. Accordingly, the churches carefully outlined the duties of master to slave and of slave to master. The Reverend C. C. Jones's Catechism for the Oral Instruction of Coloured Persons, which was widely used by Presbyterian churches, cited as God's command to masters: "Masters give unto your Servants that which is just and equal: knowing that ye also have a Master in Heaven," and as God's command to servants, "Servants obey in all things your Masters according to the flesh, not with eye-service as men-pleasers, but in singleness of heart, fearing God." 131

The anti-slavery movement, therefore, was a threat "to sever bonds that are as sacred as those of the marriage relation, and as important as life." 132

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           So intense did the church's defense of slavery become that the Methodist and Baptist denominations split over the issue more than a decade before the nation's appeal to arms. The split in the Methodist Episcopal Church came in 1844. The immediate cause was a resolution of the General Conference censuring Bishop J. O. Andrew of Georgia who by marriage came into the possession of slaves. As soon as word of the dissension reached North Carolina, the members of the church in the Raleigh Station met and advised the North Carolina delegates to withdraw from the Conference. "We believe," states the resolution, "an IMMEDIATE division of the Methodist Episcopal Church is indispensable to the peace, prosperity, and honor of the Southern portion thereof, if not essential to her continued existence . . . independently of the action of the majority of the General Conference in relation to the case of Bishop Andrew, we regard the officious, and unwarranted interference of the Northern portion of the Church with the subject of slavery alone, a sufficient cause for a division of our Church." 133

The following year the southern churches organized the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, at a meeting in Louisville, Kentucky. It has already been pointed out that a group of members in Piedmont North Carolina withdrew from the Methodist Episcopal Church after the split and became affiliated with the Wesleyan Methodist Church which openly denounced slavery. The excitement which their preachers caused in the State will be related in Chapter XIX. The Baptist denomination split in 1845, the North Carolina State Convention "cordially approving" of the formation of the Southern Baptist Convention. 134

           Had it not been for adroit leadership among Old School Presbyterians, this denomination would also have organized a southern branch. Abolition made the slavery question an issue in 1835 and 1836. Although the subject never actually came to a head because of the withdrawal of the New School group in 1837, it constantly disturbed the peace of the General Assembly. 135


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was not until actual hostilities had begun that the North Carolina Synod withdrew from the General Assembly. The Episcopal and Lutheran churches also waited until the opening of war before separating from their national organizations.

           Although the churches in North Carolina were constantly reminding their members, especially during the late ante-bellum period that "a church . . . has other and more cherished work than fighting Political wars," it did not hesitate to abandon this theory whenever the occasion arose. For instance, the North Carolina Standard of May 9, 1855, accused "some ministers of the Gospel" of having connected themselves with Know-Nothingism, and declared, "That minister who publicly writes or speaks in favor of any political party degrades his sacred calling and lessens his influence over the souls of which he must give an account." It has already been pointed out that religious bodies in North Carolina frequently petitioned the General Assembly for the passage or alteration of specific laws of a political nature in direct contradiction of the philosophy which they maintained with respect to slavery.

           The position of the churches on the subject of lotteries is another interesting example of the reversal of opinion with respect to the code of morality during the ante-bellum period. From a direct approval of lotteries and the erection of church buildings by means of them, the denominations by 1830 had come to look upon them as an evil. 136

About the same time, note shaving, a common practice especially after the American Revolution, came under the ban of the churches. In 1830, for instance, Orange Presbytery instructed the church sessions under its care "to institute an inquiry as to the practice of the communicants . . . on this subject, and to

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proceed to such measures, as christian prudence may direct, to correct this evil." 137

           While maintaining their subserviance to the political government, most of the denominations held the churches to be the custodians of morality. This assumption, however, was largely theoretical, for the position of the churches on social reform usually corresponded to the prevailing attitude in the State. At first favorable to the gradual emancipation of slavery, the churches came to look upon slavery as a justifiable evil and diligently searched the Scriptures to find a defense for their position. Although sentencing the Negro to slavery, the denominations led in the movement for the amelioration of his unfortunate lot.

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