From The Liberator, vol. 5, no. 2, Jan. 10, 1835, pp. -6
DEFENCE OF THE STUDENTS.
Statement of the reasons which have induced the Students of Lane Seminary, to dissolve their connection with the Institution. Cincinnati: 1834.
The undersigned, recently members of Lane Seminary, having withdrawn from that Institution, desire to lay before the Christian public, the considerations which have influenced them; together with the circumstances which have mainly contributed to such a result.
Of those who have now severed their relationship with Lane Seminary, some attended its earliest recitations, and these, with a large number of the remainder, entered its first theological class in the fall of 1833.
The circumstances of our matriculation were peculiarly impressive. We were connected with an institution freighted with the spiritual interests of the West. We were numerous, without a precedent, in the beginnings of similar institutions. The Valley was our expected field; we assembled here, that we might the more accurately learn its character, catch the spirit of the gigantic enterprise, grow up into its genius, appreciate its peculiar wants, and be thus qualified by practical skill, no less than by theological erudition, to wield the weapons of truth.
But the responsibility of the post we providentially held, as the first class in a Theological Seminary, outweighed all other considerations in our estimate of duty. The friends of the new Institution expected of us, that we should be letters of commendation to the western churches, and that our scholarship, piety, and practical usefulness, would be the earnests of its future success.
Our probable influence over succeeding classes, was also a matter of deep solicitude, God, the church, the ministry, the wants of a sinking world, summoned us to such a course of holy living and self-denying action, as our successors might with safety imitate; to breathe a spirit which might well inspire them; and to leave behind us mantles which they might fitly wear.
We aimed, therefore, to make such a disposal of our influence, as would contribute to place Lane Seminary upon high moral ground, and thus greatly elevate the standard and augment the resources of ministerial efficiency.
As a primary step, we were led to adopt this principle, that free discussion, with correspondent effort, DUTY, and of course a RIGHT.
We proceed upon this principle, without molestation, in our studies, [of?] recitations and lectures.
We applied it to missions, at home and abroad; and we acted immediately through liberal contributions. We took up temperance. Discussion was needless, duty was plain, and we acted. We with the Sunday school cause, we proceeded in like manner. Next moral reform came up. We examined it in a series of adjourned meetings; light was elicited, principles were fixed, action followed.
With the same spirit of free inquiry, we discussed the question of slavery. We prayed much, heard facts, weighed arguments, kept our temper, and after the most patient pondering, in which we were sustained by the excitement of sympathy, not of anger, we decided that slavery was a sin, and as such, ought to be immediately renounced. In this case, too, we acted. We organized an anti-slavery society, and published facts, arguments, remonstrances and appeals.
We threw ourselves into the neglected mass of colored population in the city of Cincinnati, and that we might lead it up to the light of the sun, established Sabbath day and evening schools, lyceums, a circulating library, &c.; choosing rather to employ our leisure hours in offices of brotherhood to 'the lame, the halt, and the blind,' than to devote them to fashionable calls and ceremonial salutations.
We have outraged no man. We have scrupulously performed all Seminary duties, as our instructors will testify. We are not aware of having done any thing which could have been left undone, without a surrender of principle. On the contrary, we mourn that we have done so little, and suffered so little, for those who have lost every thing in the vortex of our rapacity, and now all manacled, trampled down and palsied, cannot help themselves.
The faculty have repeatedly, and to the last, assured us, that our demeanor toward them has been respectful, that our conduct in the whole tenor has been such as to sustain law and order, that there was nothing to prevent them from giving us upon our withdrawal certificates of regular standing, which they accordingly did. The ground of our secession from the Seminar is, that free discussion and correspondent action have been prohibited by law. We are commanded to discontinue anti-slavery society. We are prohibited from holding meetings among ourselves and from making statements and communications at table, or elsewhere, without permission. A committee of the board of trustees is set over us to exercise censorship, and vested with discretionary power to dismiss any student whenever they may deem it necessary so to do, without consultation with the faculty and without assigning reasons either to them, to the individual dismissed, or to the community.
These prohibitory enactments have driven us from our beloved institution. Sustaining relations to the church of Christ now rendered somewhat peculiar, duty to his cause demands from us an explicit of the grounds of our secession.
We believe free discussion to be the duty of every rational being. It is the acting out of the command 'prove all things.' It is inquiry after immutable truth, whether embodied in the word, or hid in the works of God, or branching out through the relations and duties of man. We bound to conduct this search, wherever it may lead, and to adopt the conclusions to which it may bring us. And, whereas, the single object of ascertaining truth is to learn how to act, we are bound to do at once whatever truth dictates to be done. This duty of discussion and action is not conferred by human authority, and we have no license to resign it upon entering into any association, literary or political. Free discussion being a duty, is consequently a right, and as such, is inherent and inalienable. It is our right. It was before we entered Lane Seminary: privileges we might and did relinquish; advantages might and did receive. But this right the institution 'could neither nor take away.' Theological Institutions must of course recognize this immutable principle. Proscription of free discussion is sacrilege! It is boring out the eyes of the soul. It is the robbery of mind. It is the burial of truth. If Institutions cannot stand upon this broad footing, let them fall. Better, infinitely better, that the mob demolish every building or the incendiary wrap them in flames; and the young men be sent home to ask their fathers 'what is truth?'— to question nature's million voices—her forests and her hoary mountains 'what is truth?' than that our theological seminary should become Bastilles, our theological students, thinkers by permission, and the right of free discussion tamed down into a soulless thing of gracious, condescending sufferance. But who can doubt the practicability of governing, especially theological, students consistently with these principles. Authority is not nullified. Faculties have their legitimate powers still. It is theirs to inform their pupils that free discussion is a paramount duty, and a right, which the faculty have neither power nor inclination to take away.
It is theirs to direct the inquiries of their students; but they must have a care to direct them wholly by principle. If they find the students disposed to shrink from the practical results of their discussions or to flee in panic when called ultraists, or to reverse their decision at the bidding of a mob, it is theirs, as faithful leaders, to inspire them with fresh courage and impel them forward. If a student should not submit to be directed by principle, it is conclusive evidence that he is not fit to search after principle: and in such a case the faculty have unquestioned power to discipline or dismiss.
If it be objected that such a system of government is liable to abuse by students, we answer, be it so. Moral agency is abused by every sinner. Liberty is liable to abuse, and so is religion. Heaven was abused by devils, and Paradise was prostituted by Adam. The best principles, as well as the best things, are most liable to abuse. But there is a remedy; the same that God adopted with the fallen angels and our first parent, —Expulsion. We know of no other. Inhibition of free discussion is ruin, not remedy.
But perhaps it may be asked, 'were the laws in question really intended to have this bearing?' We answer: those of us who present at the beginning of the term, waited several times upon the faculty, to hear their exposition of the laws. We give them credit for the exertion of their utmost powers to exhibit the laws in a favorable light, but still we are compelled to say that we were only confirmed in our disapproval of the laws by these interviews. And we add with pain and grief, that all their communications upon the subject were not only unsatisfactory, but, according to our principles, radically defective. We looked in vain for that profound veneration for free inquiry which makes every consideration of popularity, gain and safety, bow before it. Discussion was recognized rather as a privilege which could be granted at the discretion of the faculty, than as a duty and a right above their bestowment.
We noticed, also, a little contrariety in their sentiments at different times, with regard to the laws in question; for though they stated in their written exposition that they saw 'nothing in these regulations which was not common law in all well regulated institutions,' yet afterwards they expressed their deep regret at the action of the trustees upon this matter, assuring us that they had labored hard to keep it out of their hands. The prominent defect, however, running throughout their expositions, we conceive to be, sanctioning the principle, that the exciting nature of any question, is good ground for forbidding its discussion, and that the unpopularity of moral action, warrants its total discontinuance. Here is the point of utter difference between us. The ground of our secession is thus fully conceded. We never supposed that we should be prohibited from discussing questions that have already fought their way to the throne of public opinion. And doubtless we could now return to the Seminary and teach our Sabbath schools and talk about missions and temperance— (steering clear of the wine question) the year round, without molestation. But this is a mere mockery of discussion, so long as a perverted public sentiment can say to us, 'hitherto shalt thou come, and no farther.' Whatever may have been the motive of the board of trustees, they have driven the ploughshare across the whole field of inquiry. There is not one subject of discussion, not one benevolent enterprise, that is not thus placed at the mercy of a capricious populace.
The time may yet come, when the prosecution of temperance will rouse the fiend in man; then temperance must be arrested and rolled back. The demon of mobs may yet denounce our peace societies, our moral reform, and our Sabbath cause, and they too must perish. He may menace our Sabbath schools, and they must be discontinued. Next he may mark our missionary operations with his imperial veto, and then in vain will the heathen cry t us for help, and point to their funeral pile, their bloody moloch, and their devouring Ganges. Like their idol gods, we shall have no ear hear, no arm to save. Emboldened by success, the demon may drag our ministers from the pulpit, strew our altars in desolation, and raize our sanctuaries to the ground. Who can tell? If we quail at his first feeble hiss, how long before he will roar out of Bashan and thunder Edom!
The folly and wickedness of making public sentiment the standard by which theological students are to determine duty, has already been presented to the public, by one of our number, in a letter addressed to the editor of the 'Western Monthly Magazine.'
We avail ourselves of an extract from that communication, the more readily because it was read to the president of Lane Seminary, at his request, previously to its publication. He gave to its sentiments his unqualified approbation, and it was published with his knowledge, and hearty approval.
'What! are our theological seminaries to be awed into silence upon the great questions of human duty? Are they to be bribed over to the interests of an unholy public sentiment by promises of patronage or threats of its withdrawal? Shall they be tutored into passivity and thrown to float like dead matter in the wake of the popular will, the satellite and the slave of its shifting vagaries? Are theological students to be put under a board of conservators, with special instructions to stifle all discussion, except on the popular side? In selecting topics for discussion, are the students to avoid those which of great public concernment, whose issues involve all human interest, and whose claims are as wide and deep, as right and wrong and weal and woe can make them? In taking sides upon such questions, the student must needs inquire not where is right and what is duty, not which side is worthy of support, not what will quicken the church, turn the nations from their idols, pioneer into being the glories of the millennium, and cause earth to bloom with the hues of heaven. Ah! such interrogatories are all out of place. The only questions becoming theological students are, which side are the question popular: which will be huzza'd and hosanna'd? Which will tickle the multitude and soak a sop for the Cerberus of popular favor?'
We say then, with Dr. Beecher, that theological students, in determining duty, are not to regard the obstacles which grow out of a hostile public sentiment. But how shall duty be determined? We answer by investigation and discussion. We introduce another extract from the same letter showing the importance of investigation and discussion, and their influence on the heart and intellect. 'Whom does it behoove to keep his heart in contact with the woes and guilt of a perishing world, if not the student who is preparing for the ministry? What fitter employment for such a one, than gathering facts, and analyzing principles; and tracing the practical relations of the prominent sins and evils and all-whelming sorrows of his own age; especially when all these heave up their mountain masses full upon his own vision, and at his own door—and, still more specially, when these accumulated wrongs and woes have been for ages unheeded? Is any thing better adapted to quicken sympathy and enlarge benevolence, than deep pondering of the miseries and the wrongs of oppressed humanity, and thorough discussion of the best means for alleviation and redress? It is false both in fact and philosophy, that any thing is lost to the student by engaging in such exercises. Instead of his progress being retarded in the appropriate studies of a theological course, (which should certainly be his main business,) it will be accelerated. Whenever intellect moves in the sublimity of power, the heart generates its momentum. It is when the deep tides of emotion well out from full fountains—that intellect is buoyed upward and borne onward in majesty and might. A subject so deeply freighted with human interests as that of slavery, cannot be investigated and discussed intelligently and thoroughly, without amplifying and expanding the intellect and increasing the power of its action upon all subjects. Let our institutions engage in discussing subjects of great practical moment; such as slavery, temperance, and moral reform; let them address themselves to the effort, let it be persevered in through an entire course, and they will introduce a new era in mind; the era of disposable power and practical accomplishment. But besides the general impulse given to thought and emotion by contact with subjects of vast practical moment, a large amount of definite knowledge upon such subjects must be acquired. The mind should have a household familiarity with all their principles and bearings; the interests affected, the wide relations to right and wrong, and the ultimate effect upon human joy and wo. This applies with tenfold force to theological students. He who preach in the nineteenth century, must know the nineteenth century. No matter how deeply read in the history of the past, if not versed in the records of his own day, he is not fit to preach the gospel. If he would bless the church now, he must know her now; where she is, and what her moral latitude; must scrutinize her condition—inspect her symptoms—ascertain the mode of previous treatment, and compare it with the prescriptions contained in the God's book of directions, where the case is described.
'Is a man prepared "rightly to divide the word of truth, giving to each his portion in due season," who is ignorant of prevailing sins and evils, the moral movements of the day, the spirit of the age, the causes of existing inefficiency, and the nature, position, and relative power of those counteracting causes, which defeat instrumentality, both human and divine, and roll the world away from the millennium? It is an axiom with universal mind, that discussion, discussion free as air, is the grand desideratum for eliciting truth. If our theological seminaries pursue any other course, they will fall behind the age. This kind of training is as important a part of the preparation for the ministry, as an acquaintance with the principles of interpretation, or a knowledge of didactic theology. In short, our theological seminaries will only mock the exigencies of the age, and the expectations of the church, unless they hold their students in contact with these exigencies, that when they have finished their preparation, and are thrown into the midst of them, they may know where they are, and feel at home.'
We heartily concur with Dr. Beecher in approval of these sentiments.
All the giant sins which have ever made havoc in society, have been tolerated and sanctioned by public sentiment. He that moves with the tide of this public sentiment, is a part of it, augments it, and cannot absolve himself from the responsibility of its effects. If it be wrong, it is not enough that he silently withdraw his original contribution, leaving the remainder to sweep on unresisted. It is not enough that he neither votes for inequity himself, nor solicits the votes of others. If he would be guiltless of blood, he must do his utmost to unite against it the suffrages of the world. A moral agent cannot determine duty by proxy. He must investigate for himself.
Perhaps it may be said, 'let the right and duty of investigation be conceded; but whence the obligation to discuss?' When interests are pending, all available aid is demanded. Discussion is the standard test for the detection of fallacies and the revelation of truth. It is the furnace where gold and alloy separate. It is the fan which drives the chaff and wheat asunder. It is the court of errors where the decisions of individual tribunals are reversed or confirmed. In the search after truth, can we dispense with such aid, when available, and be guitless?
The right of discussion stands on the same basis with that of conversation; the interchange of civilities; and social worship: all of which belong to us as social beings, and are in no sense lost by connection with a Theological Institution. What is discussion, but conversation regulated by rules for the purpose of facilitating an interchange and comparison of sentiments? And if the infringement in the one case is a palpable violation of natural rights, it is equally so in the other.
But, if the right of free discussion be allowed, it will abused; against the abuse there is no remedy. Students often engage in unprofitable conversation, and thus abuse the right. Shall conversation therefore be made contraband, and the selection of topics a tax upon the resources of the faculty? Shall theological students play the mute, except when the strings of their tongues are loosed by those in authority? On this subject, we introduce an extract from the 'Standard,' a religious periodical, published by the trustees of South Hanover College, and Theological Seminary, and edited by the professors of the same.
In commenting upon the laws, they say, 'If we were at liberty to speak freely on this subject, we should question the propriety of adopting any resolution forbidding free discussion among the students of a public seminary. This is a matter which we think must be left to the students themselves; and if any student should abuse this privilege, so as to injure the Institution, let him be cut off from all the privileges of the Institution. We think this is a much safer course than to attempt to regulate the discussions of students in any other way.'*
To the above sentiments we cordially subscribe. Let just retribution overtake the wrong doer; but let the guiltless pass unharmed. If there have been a wanton misapplication of time and talents, bring down the penalty, without sparing or pity; but only where it is deserved. Make not the crime of the guilty, a pretext for general seizure and confiscation of the rights of the innocent. Better that a generation of students should be expelled, than that discussion should for a moment wear a shackle.
By the right of free discussion, we do not mean that we have the right to employ, for that purpose, the time appropriated to other duties, nor that we have the right to occupy the public rooms without permission, nor to conduct the discussion otherwise than in the spirit of christian kindness, nor to suffer preparation for the exercise, to interfere with the regular duties of the Institution. But we do mean, that during hours expressly devoted to the subject, or during intervals of time unconsumed by other requisitions, we have the right to select, and investigate in concert, or discuss, subjects of our own choice.
That the following propositions, which we believe to be self-evident, embody our views.
Propositions. Every man has the right freely to investigate every subject submitted to his consideration. He has the same right to conduct this investigation in concert with others; provided it be done at such time and place, as not to encroach upon the rights of others. We believe that these rights are not derived from man, that they are inseparable from accountable agency, and inalienable, and, of course, are neither surrendered nor forfeited by membership in theological seminary. Furthermore, we believe, that to prohibit theological students peaceably assembling for the examination of great moral questions, in hours unappropriated to other duties, is an open violation of their rights.
The following rule, adopted by the board of trustees, contains such prohibition, viz.
'RULE IInd. The students shall not hold general meetings among themselves, other than those of a religious and devotional character, or for purposes associated with the course of studies; nor deliver public addresses, or lectures, at the Seminary or elsewhere, in term time, other than those connected with ordinary religious exercises; nor make public addresses, or communications, to the students when assembled at their meals, or on other ordinary occasions, nor be absent from the Seminary, in term time, without the approbation of the Faculty, or of such person as they shall designate for that purpose.'
That the design and full bearing of this rule may be seen, we annex principles and opinions expressed in the report of the Executive Committee—'The Committee are further of the opinion that no associations or societies among the students ought to be allowed in the Seminary; except such as have for their immediate object, improvement in the prescribed course of studies.' The board of trustees at the meeting at which they enacted this rule, 'approve and adopt' the sentiments of this report by a formal resolution, and thus afford an exposition of their design and intent in the enactment of the rule. Again, the report says—'The plan of instruction is intended to be so arranged as to occupy and as much of the time of the students as a due regard to their health, and other proper considerations, will permit.'
The reasons which the board assign for the above declarations, are the following—'Associations and discussions foreign to the course of instruction, distract the attention and retard improvement. If the topics are matter of public interest and popular excitement, the mischief is peculiarly aggravated.'
It will be seen that this rule, as expounded by the opinion and principles of the legislature which enacted it, forecloses all rational expectation that free discussion will be tolerated Seminary. What matters it whether free discussion be proscribed in its own name, or under some other designation? Whether itself be specified in the act of outlawry or some of its constituent parts and inseparable appendages? Take away the right of assembling, and of speaking when assembled, and he who, from the materials left, can construct free discussion, must be blessed with uncommon invention. But by this rule, free discussion is made to depend on a condition—'the approbation of the faculty.' The will of others is a peculiar tenure by which to hold inalienable rights!
But waiving all objection on this head, what rational ground is left for the hope that discussion will be unshackled? The faculty is the executive power of the Seminary, and as such, bound to execute faithfully its laws, according to the true intention of the legislative body enacting them. The principles contained in the above abstracts sufficiently instruct the faculty in the discharge of their duty. But the board are still more explicit. In the report already alluded to, they say, in regard to discussion on the subject of slavery, 'that every thing tending to keep alive a spirit of controversy on the subject in question, ought to be excluded from the Seminary.' In conformity with this sentiment, an order was passed for the discontinuance of the obnoxious society.
But to remove the possibility of error, the board, during the meeting at which the rules and orders were passed, and the report approved and adopted, further direct, that certain 'SUGGESTIONS be communicated to the faculty in explanation of their views relative to the regulations adopted.' In these 'suggestions' the following statement is made. 'On the subject of slavery, the board are of opinion, that public discussions ought to be excluded from the institution.' Now, we ask, will the faculty of Lane Seminary permit the subject of slavery to be discussed in the Institution, when the board of trustees formally declare their conviction that it ought to be excluded? To expect such permission from them, before discussions upon slavery become popular with the community, argues either ignorance of facts, or insensibility to evidence.
But suppose the faculty should grant permission to discuss subjects aside 'from the prescribed course,' and unpopular with the community, yet there is another power behind the throne, which overshadows it. We refer to the extraordinary powers granted to the executive committee, in the second order passed by the board of trustees. 'Ordered, that the executive committee, have power to dismiss any student from the Seminary when they shall think it necessary so to do.' Necessary for what? Has a law been broken? The faculty should discipline the offender, and if incorrigible, dismiss him. But what are the functions with which this order clothes the executive committee? Why, just what the order imports; to dismiss any student when they shall think it necessary so to do.' But why necessary? Were additional 'laws,' 'rules,' 'orders,' and 'suggestions' needed? then why not [supply?] the demand to the full? Or was this 'order' regarded as the abstract of all law? It surely contains the essence of all power—summary judgment for the student at least, if not justice. Laws, constitutions, charters, judges, juries, all form of trial, vexatious balancing of conflicting testimony, all intricacies of casuistry, with wear and tear of patience in nice adjustment of the scale of equity, all these are dispensed with; and the executive committee are authorized to dismiss any student when they 'think it necessary so to do'! No opportunity afforded the student to rebut charges, confront witnesses, meet an accuser face to face, plead a justification, or prove an alibi.
The faculty dismiss for misconduct; the executive committee 'when they think it necessary to do so!' Thus far the letter of the law. Let history testify to its practical operations, and be the commentator upon its spirit. As soon as the board had clothed the executive committee with this extraordinary power, a meeting was immediately to exercise it. A resolution was introduced for the dismissal of the member of the theological class; for dismissal, not trial. That individual had never been cited to answer to charges, and was accused of no conduct unworthy a christian or a man. The only allegation made was that he had introduced into the Seminary and propagated abolition sentiments. At the same meeting of the committee, another resolution was introduced for the dismission of another member of the theological class; the president of our anti-slavery society. These resolutions were not rejected as informal but pronounced in order, and adjourned over from meeting to meeting with other business, to await the return of Dr. Beecher. After his arrival, the resolutions were withdrawn. To be dismissed from a theological seminary for a sufficient cause is a stigma not easily effaced; and the sufficiency of the cause is always supposed, unless the contrary be shown. Who will hazard his reputation by joining a Seminary where he is liable every moment to a forcible out-thrust, branded with indelible disgrace, and that too, while strictly complying with every requirement of the Institution? Has any theological student the right thus to trifle with that 'immediate jewel of the soul,' that indispensable requisite to usefulness—'a good name?' Reputation, as well as intellect, is moral capital loaned by God to be invested for his glory, and he is a madman that trusts it to the convoy of chance on a sea of prejudice and passion. Such power lodged in such a body and thus exercised, is despotism full grown and to the life. The Pope excommunicates only when 'he thinks it necessary so to do.' The inquisition order to the rack only 'when they think it necessary so to do.' The Divan consigned to the bastinado and the bowstring only 'when they think it necessary so to do.' The Start Chamber and the Council of Ten tortured, banished, and brought to the block, only 'when they thought it necessary so to do.' Eighteen hundred thirty-four has nominated a new candidate for the catalogue, and added another start to the constellation. The executive committee of Lane Seminary thrust from the Institution 'any student when they think it necessary so to do.'
And is it in view this, that the faculty of Lane Seminary say in their 'declaration' to the public, dated Oct. 17, 'we approve of, and will always protect, and encourage, in this Institution, free inquiry, and thorough discussion?' Is free inquiry 'protected and encouraged' in an institution where students are liable to dismissal for such causes? Was it in view of this order, that the faculty said in their 'declaration,' 'we see nothing in these regulations which is not common law in all well regulated institutions, since they merely commit the whole management of the internal concerns of the Seminary to the discretion of the Faculty? After attempting to exercise the authority vested in them by this order, in the manner above mentioned, how could the executive committee 'concur' in this declaration of the faculty, 'as a correct exposition of the intentions of the board?' If they know this to be 'correct exposition of the intention of the board,' and if dismissing students belongs to the 'internal concerns of the Seminary,' then they, by attempting to exercise that power, have assumed authority which was contrary 'to the intentions of the board.' In their 'declaration,' the faculty say that they regard this order 'as simply vesting the executive committee with trustee power in certain cases.' Why the need of vesting this particular trustee power in the hands of the executive committee? Have not the faculty sufficient authority for the dismission of students? Or is it to secure the dismissal of students in 'certain cases,' without compelling the faculty to adopt 'for themselves severe or arbitrary regulations,'—and thus procure to be done by the executive committee what, from motives of policy, it is thought not best for the faculty to do. But we are not left to conjecture on this point, —the trustees have spoken so explicitly as to leave no room for doubt. In their 'suggestions' to the faculty, the board of trustees say, that in the government of students, 'there is little danger of too much restraint,'—that 'it is no objection to the rules now adopted, that in practice they may be sensibly felt by the pupils as a continued restraint on their movements.' They also say, their 'object is to secure to the faculty a more direct and certain influence over the conduct of the students, WITHOUT THE NECESSITY OF ADOPTING FOR THEMSELVES severe or arbitrary regulations.' We pass this without comment. We do not wonder that the president of the board begged as he did, that this extraordinary order might not be published to the world, and not a few members of the board, who voted for the 'order,' greatly desired to keep it secret, and voted against its publication.*
We have already expressed our dissent from the doctrine laid down by the trustees, that ‘no associations or societies ought to be allowed in the Seminary, except such, as have for their immediate object, improvement in the prescribed course of studies.’ Repudiating the doctrine, we refuse compliance with the ‘order’ based upon it, and quietly withdraw from the sphere of its action. The order is as follows: ‘Ordered that the students be required to discontinue those societies (the anti-slavery and colonization societies) in the Seminary.’ We cannot comply with the order, 1. Because it would be the surrender of a right. Upon this point we have already enlarged.—As members of the anti-slavery society, we cannot comply with the order, 2. Because we formed our society to operate against the system of slavery and all its allies: and until that system is abolished, and those allies retreat from the field, the considerations which called it into being, forbid its dissolution. Is this a time to destroy our society, when truth is fallen in the streets, and judgment turned away backward? When the pulpit is overawed, the press panders to power, conscience surrenders to expediency, discussion to proscription, and law to anarchy? When the heart of the slave is breaking with the anguish of hope deferred, and our free colored brethren are persecuted even unto strange cities?
Is this a time to lay hands upon our mouths, when the ambassadors of Christ hold as merchandize, and sell for filthy lucre, the members of his own body; and with the price of blood in their hands, still break the sacramental bread? When the shepherds of God’s flock instead of carrying his lambs in their arms, tear them from the fold, and hurl them to be rent by wolves—and yet are caressed by the church, accounted faithful shepherds and worthy of all honor? No! —with heart, and soul, and mind, and strength, we answer, No! We cannot betray inviolable trusts; we cannot break our plighted faith; we cannot surrender inalienable rights; we will not shout hosanna in the train of arbitrary power, not plot treason against humanity, nor apostatize from God. No! God forbid that we should abandon a cause that strikes its roots so deep into the soil of human interests, and human rights, and throws its branches upward and abroad, so high and wide, into the sunlight of human hopes, and human well-being.
Having stated at length the main grounds of our withdrawal from the institution, we proceed to notice the reasons officially assigned by the board of trustees for their extraordinary movements.
The fundamental principle with which they start, is this: -- ‘No seminary of learning, especially no theological one, should stand before the public, as a partizan on any question upon which able men, and pious christians differ.’ This being the central point of their doctrines, whence all the rays diverge, it is no marvel that they terminate at last in practical quandary and absurdity.
‘Able men and pious christians, differ’ upon the subject of home, and foreign missions. Some believing that they should be conducted only by ecclesiastical associations: Others, that voluntary associations are preferable. Some believe that licentiousness should be discountenanced by organization in societies; Others deprecate such measures. Some would circulate the bible, without note or comment; Others, only with a prayer book. Some, suppose that camp meetings are one of the glorious instrumentalities of the church: Others, that they should by no means be tolerated. Some that contemporaneous preaching is vastly more useful than any other: Others, are horrified at such an idea, and aver that the reading of written sermons is destined to convert the world. Upon these and numerous points, ‘able men, and pious christians differ.’
If the doctrine laid down by the trustees, be correct, no society which takes any ground whatever upon such subjects, should be formed in theological seminaries. To express opinions, to unite in action, to form societies, on either side of such questions, is to act with a party—to be ‘partizan.’ Whether ‘corporations have no souls’ or otherwise;-- we have in this doctrine, testimony from a high source, that theological seminaries have none: -- or at least, that they have absolution from accountability and that the moral agency both of students and faculty, while they are connected with the institution, has, by special indulgence, leave of absence – on furlough. But an institution founded upon the principles laid down by the executive committee is an impossibility. Where shall we look for materials out of which to construct its faculty and students? Where can be found a sufficient quantity of neutrals, non-commitals, non-descripts, and nullities for such an emergency? Such commodities are not on sale in the western market, and we know the east too well to recommend importation from that quarter.
The particular reason assigned by the trustees in justification of
their action at this juncture is, ‘the proceedings among the students
on the SUBJECT of SLAVERY.”
Frequent allusion is made to these proceedings in the documents already referred to. The report alleges that discussions on this subject, ‘distract the attention and retard improvement.’ It speaks of ‘mischief,’ ‘party spirit,’ ‘heated torrents of unextinguishable rancor,’ ‘agitated minds,’ ‘whose judgments are not well settled:’ and it declares that ‘the government of the institution cannot, with due regard to its usefulness, longer delay to adopt decisive measures on the subject,’ and then gives ‘an outline of the regulations requisite to remedy the existing evils,’ –one of which regulations is the adopting of a rule, ‘providing for discouraging, and discountenancing, by all suitable means, such discussion and conduct among the students, as are calculated to divert their attention from their studies, excite party animosities, stir up evil passions among themselves, or in the community, or involve themselves in the political concerns of the country.’ The board ‘approve and adopt’ these charges, pass the regulations requisite, and give their ‘suggestions’ to the faculty. In these ‘suggestions,’ the board say that discussions on the subject of slavery ought not to be permitted because ‘so much of excitement and party animosity has already arisen from this source.’ They add, ‘It is evident to all who are accustomed to observe the signs of the times, that there is at present in our country among all classes and departments of community, a strong and growing propensity to insubordination – a disposition to set up individual notions or constructions in opposition to lawful authority, to justify resistance to law by private opinion against its policy or propriety. When such a spirit developes itself in midnight riots, or public rebellion against the laws of the land, we all regard it with horror; yet is by the workings of the same spirit which arrays the students of our colleges in hostility to the regulations established by their constituted rulers. If allowed thus in youth, it may become most pernicious in age. And if indulged at all among the reputable and the educated, what must we not expect among the profligate and ignorant? If students of a theological seminary are allowed thus unconsciously, but most efficiently to act in alliance with the rioters and nullifiers of the day, we may well despair of the republic.’ – Entertaining such views, the board have regarded it as no objection to the rules now adopted that they may be met with decided hostility by some indiscrete individual among the students, or that in practice they may be sensibly felt by the pupils as a continued restraint upon their movements.
The grave charges contained in these documents demand an examination. But we will first inquire what measures the trustees have taken to procure specific information as to the facts in the case.
In their report, the committee say ‘they have considered the subject referred to them, and collected such information as their opportunities have afforded.’ We regret that their intercourse with us, while members of the Institution, was such that they could not possibly have very extensive ‘information.’
There has been on the part of the trustees, who aided in the passage of those rules and orders, an almost total nonintercourse with all the students except those whose views were similar to their own. They have received vague rumors and acted upon them, without affording us an opportunity to refute or explain. They have made the false reports of those who have become hostile to us on account of our ‘proceedings on the subject of slavery,’ the ground of public accusation and of enactments deeply affecting our reputation and rights. As an illustration of these general statements, we give the particulars on a specific point. Not one of the board was present at the regular annual examination of the several classes in July last; although one of the charges brought against us is neglect of study and diversion of attention. Surely this was a favorable ‘opportunity’ to have acquired specific, ‘information’ on that point, inasmuch as the examination continued a week, and two thirds of the trustees and all the executive committee reside but two miles from the Seminary. Even the Examining Committee, though specifically invited to be present by letters from the Faculty, were all absent during the whole examination. Further; not a member of the board of trustees has been present at a single recitation of the students, since the discussion upon the subject of slavery last winter. The number in the board of trustees is twenty-five; of these, two-thirds reside in Cincinnati. We feel bound to add, that we are all known to three members of the board, who are also members of the executive committee. They are acquainted with us, and all our operations, intimately. Each of these gentlemen opposed the passage of the laws, both in committee and in the board: and they stood alone.
In an official communication from the board to the patrons of the Institution, it is affirmed that ‘the slavery question was becoming the primary object of attention, taking precedence, to the interest of the students, of the great purposes for which the Institution was charter.’
We are aware of no such disproportional interest, as is here spoken of. It is true that our pittance we have given to the cause of anti-slavery; but we have as individual members of the Anti-Slavery Society, contributed more than three-fold more to other causes. This plainly indicates our continued and unabated interest in the various benevolent operations; while our progress in the prescribed course of study, the faculty themselves being judges, proves that there has been no withdrawment of attention on this score.
And we add that, though we have had repeated and urgent invitations to deliver public addresses on the subject of slavery in various places throughout this region of country, yet we have all uniformly declined these invitations, without an exception.
1. But we now proceed to ask what is the proof that our ‘proceedings upon the subject of slavery’ have diverted our attention from our studies and retarded our improvement?
Did the examination at the close of the year furnish such evidence? That was the touch-stone. Many witnessed its application; let them testify. Our professors have testified both at home and abroad to our proficiency in study, and our familiarity with the various subjects pursued during the year. Are they competent witnesses?
In addition to the faithful performance of the duties usual in a theological and literary seminary, the members of the theological class have had, during the whole year, a society the immediate object of which was improvement in the prescribed course of study. One hour each day, and, for a considerable portion of the year, one hour and a half, was devoted to theological investigation, criticism, and discussion. The time requisite for this purpose was taken from those hours not appropriate any Seminary duty. To the objects of this theological association alone, was devoted four-fold more time than was expended in discussion on the subject of slavery, and in efforts for the elevation of our colored brethren in the city. Our evening schools and Lyceum lectures among them were so managed, that, by rotation in labor, it was not necessary for each individual to devote more than one evening in five or six weeks to the business of instruction. Finally, we dismiss the charge by remarking, that if the trustees, or even one of them, had been present a single hour during the annual examination, or had attended one recitation in the Seminary during the year they would have gathered, by observation, some data for an opinion.
2. What is the proof that the Institution has been ‘in a state of anarchy,’ that we have been ‘at open war with the faculty,’ and that the ‘discipline of the Institution has been entirely prostrated?’ Professor Stowe, in a sermon preached in the chapel of the Institution after the close of the last term, expressly declared all such representations totally false. He vindicated the character of the students, asserted with their diligence in study, their respectful demeanor towards the faculty, their obedience to law, and their christian deportment. The public eulogies, pronounced by Dr. Beecher upon his pupils, during his recent tour, we need not press into our service. They were uttered in Boston, New-York, and other places, in the hearing of thousands, and are remembered. In a letter written by Dr. B. while on his return from the east, to one of our number, he speaks of the students as ‘a set of noble men whom I would not, as a venture, exchange for any others.’
It is a singular coincidence that the student to whom Dr. B. wrote the letter, from which the above is an extract, and to whom he says in conclusion, ‘I am as ever, with much respect and affection, yours,’ was, on the day in which the letter was written, accused before the executive committee as a disorganizer and dangerous member of the Institution, and a resolution introduced for his dismission. In conclusion, under this head, we assert without the fear of successful contradiction, that every law and requisition of Lane Seminary has been implicitly obeyed by us, and that the utmost harmony has existed between the students and the faculty. Difference of opinion upon the subject of slavery has never interfered with the reciprocal interchange of courtesy and affection.
3. We are accused of giving the Institution partizan character, and of committing against the American Colonization Society. Answer. Of the twenty-five trustees of the Seminary, at least twenty-one are decided Colonizationists, and universally known as such. All the professors also are in favor of the American Colonization Society, together with the superintendent, and the general agent and financial secretary. During a series of Colonization meetings got up last spring in the city, and intended, as is believed, to bear upon the interests of the Seminary, Dr. Beecher and Professor Stowe were the principal speakers. Their speeches were written out for the press and were published. These have been copied into newspapers, in all parts of the country.
Nor is this all. The pen of Professor Biggs has been brought into requisition for the support of the American Colonization Society. He has been employed during the vacation, in writing a series of essays upon the subject, which have been published in the Cincinnati Journal.
Surely, if the unwearied efforts of the trustees, and of the officers of the Institution, could give it a partizan character, it might be set down as the partizan of Colonization doctrines and measures.
But, further; some of the students, during the summer, after consulting with the President on the subject, and under his auspices organized a Colonization Society. True, the society never held any public meetings in the Seminary, and we were first apprised of its existence through the newspapers; — yet the Board informs us that it was organized 'mainly with a view to counteract the peculiar sentiments of their opponents.' Yet notwithstanding all this array of trustees, faculty, and students—authority, office and influence, and all these sanctioned by the public sentiment of the whole West—the Anti-Slavery Society among the students gave the Institution a partizan character!! There was no complaint that the Institution had a partizan character previous to the debate on slavery, and yet all the theological professors, twenty-four of the trustees and almost all the students were supporters of the Colonization Society.
4. It is alleged that we have injured the prosperity of the Seminary. Let facts answer the charge. We have the names of forty students who were intending to have entered the Junior Class of the theological department at the commencement of the present term; and three, who were intending to have entered the Middle Class. They all signified their intention after the results of our discussion on the subject of slavery were fully known to the public, and before the executive committee had published their report. We have the names of more than forty students who were intending to have entered the literary department in full view of our anti-slavery proceedings. The majority of them expressed their determination previously to any action on the part of the executive committee; and but one of them, to our knowledge, was influenced to this determination by the passage of the laws in question. For letters received by us, we know that many others whose names are not in our possession, had resolved to join the institution after ou, r proceedings were before the public, and prior to the doings of the executive committee.
We know that at least twenty-four of the theological students above-mentioned, have been deterred from entering, by the passage of the 'rules and orders;' and the literary department has been almost entirely prostrated by the extraordinary conduct of the trustees. We are not apprized of the reasons we have deterred the remainder from joining the Seminary, but can only say, that their minds have been changed since the proceedings of the executive committee, and of the trustees, were published.
We aver then, that the present dilapidated condition of the Seminary is not in consequence of 'the proceedings among the students on the subject of slavery;' but has been caused by 'the decisive measures' of the trustees, in their attempt to exclude free discussion from its halls.
The Cincinnati Journals recently asserted, that several students were known 'who had resolved to go to Princeton, N.J., unless the aspect of things could be thoroughly changed in our Seminary,' and that such students would know doubtless come to Lane. The term has been in operation six weeks; it is believe that every new accession this term, with a single exception, has been in spite of the laws. This is known to be the case with most of the new students.
5. As to the charge that our discussion and conduct on the subject of slavery, have excited among ourselves 'party animosities,' 'evil passions,' 'bitter party prejudices,' &c., we only say; not one of us, whose names are here unto subscribed can recall a single instance in which there has been any personal animosity between the members of the Anti-Slavery and Colonization Societies. It has been with us a constant source of gratitude to God, that in all the discussions in which we have been engaged, there has never been a descent to personalities. We state a fact which will illustrate the liberal bearing of the majority of the Seminary towards the minority. In the election of officers for societies, and in the making appointment of committees to responsible duties, a much larger number was selected from that portion of the school, whose sentiments on the subject of slavery differed from the majority, than they would have been entitled to by their relative proportion to the whole number. If these brethren possessed superior fitness for office, and the discharge of responsible duties, their appointment argues at least candor and good will, on the part of the majority. If they did not possess superior fitness, their appointment certainly evinces disposition in honor to prefer them.
6. In the report of the committee, it is made ground of accusation that 'the Anti-Slavery Society of the Seminary, was organized without the consent of the trustees or the faculty; and the discussions with it were without the assent, and against the advice of the faculty.' We answer. There was no law or usage of the institution making it the duty of the students to procure the consent either of the faculty, or the trustees, to hold any discussion, or form any society in the Seminary; and it is not pretended that the discussion and organization forbidden by the faculty or trustees; although they knew of both. We had previously formed a society for Inquiry on Missions, a Society for Mutual Improvement, a Bible Society, a Foreign Mission Society, and a Society for Miscellaneous Discussion without asking their consent, and no exception had been taken. Besides, the preamble and constitution of the Anti-Slavery Society were read to Dr. Beecher, previous to publication, in compliance with his request, and, in its entire spirit and sentiments received his sanction. At least two members of the faculty applied for copies of the document which they distributed in different parts of the country, through the post office. All the professors, except one, attended parts of the debates. But 'the Anti-Slavery Society was organized without the consent of the trustees!' Indeed!
7. Another high-handed misdemeanor is charged against us. It has been industriously reported, that one of the students of Seminary boarded, for a time, in a colored family. The news of this outrage has caused so many ears to tingle, and excited such a fever heat in the community, that we yield to the entreaties of some of our friends in this vicinity, and state, the facts. 1st. It is not true that any individual, while a student at the Seminary, has boarded in a colored family. 2nd. It is true, that one who had previously taken a dismission from the Seminary for one year, did engage in teaching a colored school in Cincinnati, and a part of the time while thus engaged, did board in a highly respectable and worthy colored family. 3d. It is also true, that the individual took boarding in the colored family at his own suggestion, not only without the advice but without the knowledge of any of our number. 4th. It is also true that when we were informed of it, we were divided in opinion as to its expediency; some of us thinking it unwise, and others decidedly approving of it; believing that thus the teacher could secure more entirely the confidence and co-operation of the individuals to whose good he was devoting himself—could acquaint himself with far more ease, and to a vastly greater extent, with the influences exerted upon his pupils at home, together with the internal relations, the family management, and all their domestic habits, tempers and manners; and thus, far more intelligently and effectually promote the elevation of the deeply injured class whose improvement he was earnestly seeking.*
8. But this is not the climax of our grievous offending. We have, forsooth, ‘promenaded the streets with colored girls;’ ‘left our cards at their houses,’ &c. &c. As this is one of the sentimental tales of a light periodical, something must be pardoned to the spirit of poetry, and something to a propensity quite harmless for fancy sketches. We have only to say, all the information in our possession, touching this subject, was derived from the periodical above-mentioned. If that claims for itself such an exclusive monopoly of knowledge in these matters, as to constitute it authority, we presume not to dispute its prerogatives. Having propounded no category of grave questions to our brethren upon this weighty matter, we have not, of course, an authenticated list of answers. This much we say, if any member of the Seminary has, at any time, walked with a colored young lady, either in the city or out of it, no one of us had any knowledge of it. The only occasions ever given for such reports, to our knowledge, were the following. The brother spoken of above, who had previously discontinued his connection with the Seminary, did in two instances walk with colored women. Both of these women were married; were of middle age, and one of them, at least, the mother of full grown children. Further, both these women, were his own pupils; they had toiled out the prime of life in slavery, and were enjoying in his school the only opportunity they had ever had for learning to read. In one of these instances, he overtook the woman as she was going to obtain relief for a person in distress—she had never been at the place, and inquired the way of him. He went with her, and kindly pointed out the house. In the other case, he went with the mother of one of his scholars to a religious meeting, of a Sabbath evening. The woman had been but a short time in the city, and did not know the place of meeting. The same individual has, in two instances, walked to church with a young lady, whose complexion is such, that she has been admitted for years past into the female schools of the city, and has never, in any instance of which we have known, been suspected even of the crime of color.
We have gone into this minute detail for two reasons—1st, To give the facts of the case; and to show how little credit is to be given to vague rumors, when they pass through such a magnifying medium as common fame; and, 2dly, That we might have an opportunity of declaring that we are, and have always been, at an equal remove on the one hand, from that ostentatious display of superiority to opinion which would induce a vaporing bravado to strut before the public eye, saying, ‘come see my zeal for an equality of color;’ and on the other hand, from that compound of pride, prejudice, and scorn, which would either blush with shame or redden with rage, to sit at the same table, kneel at the same altar, occupy the same seat at church, or board in the same family, with worth, respectability, and virtue, ‘if guilty of a skin not colored like its own.’ While upon this point, we take pleasure in stating a fact, highly honorable to the president of Lane Seminary. At the close of the last term, Dr. Beecher invited the students of the Seminary to take tea with him, together with the professors and their families, and some gentlemen from the city. When the company were assembled, the Dr. expressed his regret to some of us and has frequently done it since, that our colored brother, James Bradley, was not present; and said, if he had dreamed of his being absent, he would have gone himself and insisted upon his coming.
[It may not be known to all, that this brother is a native of AFRICA; was stolen in childhood, and sold into slavery, in South Carolina. A year and a half ago, he purchased his own body, and joined this Institution. He now leaves it, unwilling to surrender , again, inalienable rights, or to aid in the destruction of a society of which he is a beloved member, and officer, and which he assisted in organizing, for the redemption of his poor perishing brethren.]
There are many other objections, insinuations, &c. which, through trifling in themselves, wear an extrinsic importance in the present excited state of the public mind, and contribute much to the prejudicial circumstances in which we stand. We would be glad to take them up, one by one, and settle them; but the space which has been already occupied with more essential matters utterly forbids.
In conclusion, we withdraw from Lane Seminary, not because the trustees and faculty claim the right to exercise a supervision over the students. This right we cordially recognize. Not because they are colonizationists and oppose the Anti-Slavery Society, nor because we are abolitionists. Not because our literary pursuits grew wearisome, for they were our delight. Not because labor was a drudgery, for we loved it. Not because we have been disappointed in any of our anti-slavery measures, for we hope throughout eternity to sing the praises of Him, who has so signally blessed and united us. But we leave, because the authorities above us have asserted the right to suspend free discussion upon their own arbitrary wills. Because they sanction the principle of prostration to public sentiment, corrupt and desperate as it is, by avowing the doctrine that discussion must be directed according to the popular will. Because they unwarrantly infringe upon our social privileges and rights, by interdicting such conversational statements and communications, with the publication of such interesting information ‘on ordinary occasions, at the table and elsewhere,’ as are indispensable to the social convenience and comfort, and contribute to the mutual affection and improvement of a band of brethren engaged in the same pursuits, and constituting one family. Because they will allow us no alternative but abandoning the cause of universal liberty and love, or withdrawing from Lane Seminary.
The Institution was endeared to us by associations as noble, and by hopes as sacred, as our hearts could cherish; but the great principles for which we contend, are dearer far. Nor can we be induced to compromise them, by selfish prospects however alluring, or by creature favor however fraught with honor andapplause.
We leave Lane Seminary with sentiments of grateful affection for the advantages which, during our membership, it so largely afforded us, and, apart from the grief we feel in being obliged to withdraw from these advantages, our heartfelt sorrow is, that in crushing the high and sacred principle of free inquiry, its ruling authorities have given a death blow to the spirit of its glory, and have dragged it down to a dishonored level with those institutions where mind becomes the crouching slave of prescription, and is stifled under the incubus of ipse dixit authority; --Institutions, where that which the vindication of God’s law demands, and the requirements of His love call for, is interdicted—Institutions where that which the necessities of mind require to gird it for the exigencies of an eventful age and the warrings of a ruined world, finds no toleration—in which the cries of liberty, prostrate and bleeding, and of truth, reviled and outlawed, are unheeded; but where all that fashion will countenance and public favor applaud, and patronage support, and power defend, find ready admission, a hearty welcome and bountiful reward, --where siding with the strong against the weak, with the doers against the sufferers of wrong, is the stipulated condition of membership, and the soul passport to favor.
Finally, we would respectfully remind the trustees, that men, though students of a theological seminary, should be treated as men,--that men, destined for the service of the world, need, above all things, in such an age as this, the pure and impartial, the disinterested and magnanimous, the uncompromising and fearless,--in combination with the gentle and tender spirit and example of Christ; not parleying it with wrong, but calling it to repentance; not flattering the proud, but pleading the cause of the poor. And we record the hope that the glorious stand taken upon the subject of discussion, and up to the close of the last session, maintained by the Institution, may be early resumed, that so the triumph of expediency over right may soon terminate, and Lane Seminary be again restored to the glory of its beginning.
Cincinnati, December 15, 1834
John J. Miter,
Joseph D. Gould,
James A. Thome,
John W. Alvord,
Russell J. Judd,
U. T. Chamberlain,
M. R. Robinson,
C. C. Cadwell,
Isaac H. Wright,
David S. Ingraham,
Lorenzo D. Butts,
John T. Pierce,
L. H. Parker,
S. W. Streeter,
Ezra A. Poole,
W. W. Caldwell,
A. M. Himrod,
I. S. Mattison,
Asa A. Stone,
W. T. Allen,
M. A. Gooding,
T. D. Weld,
S. H. Thompson,
E. N. Bartlett,
H. P. Thompson,
H. B. Stanton,
Charles P. Bush,
Joseph H. Payne.
*Mr. Butts desires to state, that he re-entered the Seminary at the commencement of the present term, and remained a member several weeks; but, upon reflection, having become satisfied that the new laws infringe upon inalienable rights, he now withdraws from the Institution. He fully subscribes to the principles set forth in this expose; but, having been absent a considerable part of the last term, he is ignorant as to many of the facts.
+Mr. Stone wishes it to be stated, that he did not return to the Seminary, until some time after the students had left, and after the faculty had published their exposition of the laws; but that he considered what they had done altogether insufficient, and therefore dissolved his connexion with the Seminary, and signed the above.
N.B. Several of our brethren, who coincide with us in sentiment, are not able to affix their names to this document, in consequence of being several hundred miles from the Seminary.
The above expose has been prepared more than five weeks; but at the earnest solicitation of certain individuals, we have consented to delay its publication until the present time.
* We cannot forbear introducing, in this connection, short extracts from able articles, published in the Ohio Observer, edited by two gentlemen, the one a teacher, the other a trustee of Western Reserve College; and from the Pittsburgh Friend, edited by Professor Nevin, of the Western Theological Seminary. They are decisive, as will be seen, in their reprobation of the laws in question.
We might multiply similar extracts from other journals, but these are sufficient. The Observer says, 'It is too late in the day to pass ex post facto laws or chain down literary, and especially theological students, exclusively to Hic hac hoc, and by force of law forbid their discussing any of the great questions of politics, morals, or religion, which agitate the world. Nor do we believe it consistent with the highest interests of the young gentlemen in our literary and theological seminaries to do this, if it were practicable. If the officers of an institution, when they know the will of the trustees, cannot, or will not regulate this business, by the power of moral influence, let the trustees remove them, and supply their places with those who will do it. But we disapprove of anything resembling a gag-law. And we fear not to hazard our reputation as true prophets, on the truth of the assertion, that both the trustees and faculty of Lane Seminary will yet rue the day, when they adopted and published the report from which the following resolution is extracted. For aught that we know, there may have been many things wrong among the students of the Seminary; if so, let the faculty correct the abuse by moral power, without an attempt, which, to say the least, looks like an effort to shut out the light of truth and exclude free discussion.'
Remarking upon the proceedings of the trustees, the Friend says, 'The time will come when such illustrations will be needed on the page of history, to convince the world of the reality of that strange monomania, by which in this age of enlightened and energetic philanthropy, a question so immeasurably and eternally momentous as that of slavery, can be treated by American freemen and christians, as no better than an impertinence or a visionary phantom. It is a moral abomination, of which good men ought to feel themselves ashamed in this day of liberality and light. If the students Lane Seminary are not capable of thinking and acting for themselves on a subject of this sort, with at least so much of the meekness and wisdom Christ, as is sufficient to shield them from bringing a reproach upon religion, they cannot be too soon remanded to their homes, as unfit altogether for the sacred office to which they aspire. If the young men who belong to our theological seminaries cannot be trusted to inquire and act freely in a case so deeply implicated with the great principles christian duty, we say, candidly, they are not fit for the place they occupy; and it were better these institutions should be emptied of them altogether, then that it should be found necessary to uphold their credit by means of a legislation so magisterial and intolerant as that which is now under consideration.'
* Our anticipations have been realized! Since our withdrawal from Lane Seminary, we have learned that the rules referred to in this paper, and which were alleged to be 'nothing but the common law in all well regulated institutions,' have been somewhat modified, and the power to prevent, or interfere with the discussion of the students, is committed solely to the faculty. While thus the rigor of the laws appears to be softened, their spirit remains essentially the same. Even now, the students of Lane Seminary have no more freedom than pertains to the press while under a censorship. Even now, in this particular, they have but the liberty of the Georgia slaves who may hold 'general meetings,' when their masters permit them to do so.
* Since writing the above, we have been reminded that one member of the Institution did board, two weeks, with a respectable colored family, during the vacation while engaged in gratuitous instruction of the colored people. This individual, be it known, had been a slaveholder, and having repented of his sin, and emancipated his slaves, proceeded to do works meet for repentance, by efforts to elevate a race in whose degradation he had he had personally aided.