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´╗┐Title: Report of Mr. Wood's Visit to the Choctaw and Cherokee Missions. 1855
Author: Wood, George W.
Language: English
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At the meeting of the Board held in Utica, New York, September,
1855, the Prudential Committee submitted a special communication in
reference to the Choctaw and Cherokee missions, in which they say:
"Since the last meeting of the Board, it has seemed desirable that
one of the Secretaries should visit the Indian missions in the South
West, for the purpose of conferring fully and freely with them in
reference to certain questions which have an important bearing upon
their work. Mr. Wood, therefore, was directed to perform this service;
which he did in the spring of the present year. After his return to
New York, he drew up a report of this visit, and presented the same
to the Prudential Committee. It is deemed proper that this document
should be laid before the Board at the earliest opportunity; and it is
herewith submitted. The results obtained by this conference are highly
satisfactory to the Committee."

The report of Mr. Wood is in the following language:

_To the Prudential Committee of the American Board of Commissioners
for Foreign Missions_:

I have to report a visit made by me to the Choctaw and Cherokee
missions, in obedience to instructions contained in the following
resolutions adopted by you, March 6, 1855:

     "_Resolved_, 1. That Mr. Wood be requested to repair to the
     Choctaw Nation, at his earliest convenience, with a view
     to a fraternal conference with the brethren in that field
     in respect to the difficulties and embarrassments which
     have grown out of the action of the Choctaw Council in the
     matter of the boarding schools, and also in respect to any
     other question which may seem to require his attention.

     "2. That, in case the spring meeting of the Choctaw mission
     shall not occur at a convenient time, he be authorized to
     call a meeting at such time and place as he shall designate.

     "3. That on his return from the Choctaw mission he be
     requested to confer with the brethren of the Cherokee
     mission, in regard to any matter that may appear to call
     for his consideration, and that he be authorized to call a
     meeting for this purpose.

     "4. That on arriving in New York he be instructed to
     prepare a report, suggesting such plans and measures for
     the adoption of the Committee in reference to either of
     these missions as he may be able to recommend."

Leaving New York, March 19, and proceeding by the way of the Ohio
and Mississippi rivers to Napoleon, thence up the White river,
across to Little Rock, and through Arkansas to the Choctaw country,
I arrived at Stockbridge, April 11. Including the portions of the
days occupied in passing from one station to another, I devoted three
days to Stockbridge, three to Wheelock, six to Pine Ridge, three to
Good-water, and three to Spencer; the latter a station of the mission
of the General Assembly's Board. Five days, with a call of a night
and half a day at Lenox, were occupied in the journey to the Cherokee
country, in which I spent two days at Dwight, and three at Park Hill;
my departure from which was on the 11th of May, just one month from my
arrival at Stockbridge. My return to New York was on May 31, ten and a
half weeks from the time of leaving it.

I should do injustice to my own feelings, and to the members of the
two missions, not to state that my reception was everywhere one
of the utmost cordiality. The Choctaw mission, when my coming was
announced, agreed to observe a daily concert of prayer that it might
be blessed to them and the end for which they were informed it was
designed. They met me in the spirit of prayer; our intercourse was
much a fellowship in prayer; and, through the favor of Him who heareth
prayer, its issue was one of mutual congratulation and thanksgiving.

The visit, although a short one, afforded considerable opportunity
(which was diligently improved) for acquainting myself with the
views, feelings, plans and labors of the brethren of the missions.
Their attachment to their work, and to the Board with which they
are connected, is unwavering. With fidelity they prosecute the
great object of their high calling; and in view of the spiritual
and temporal transformation taking place around them, as the result
of the faithful proclamation of the gospel, we are compelled to
exclaim, "What hath God wrought!" It was pleasant to meet them, as
with frankness and fraternal affection they did me, in consultation
for the removal of difficulties, and the adoption of measures for
the advancement of the one end desired equally by them and by the
Prudential Committee.

Several topics became subjects of conference, on some of which action
was taken by the missions; and on others recommendations will be
made by the Deputation, that need not be embraced in this report. In
respect to them all, there was entire harmony between the Deputation
and the missions.

In their first resolution, the Committee requested me to repair to
the Choctaw Nation, with special reference to the embarrassments
and difficulties which have grown out of the action of the Choctaw
Council in the matter of the boarding schools. A condensed statement
of the action of the Council, and of the missionaries and Prudential
Committee, previous to the sending of the Deputation, seems to be here
called for.

In the year 1842, the Choctaw Council, by law, placed four female
seminaries "under the direction and management of the American
Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions," subject only to "the
conditions, limitations, and restrictions rendered in the act." In
accordance with the act, a contract was entered into, by which the
schools were taken for a period of twenty years. The "conditions,
limitations and restrictions" specified in the act and contract, so
far as they bind the Board, are the following: 1. The superintendents
and teachers, with their families, shall board at the same table with
the pupils. 2. In addition to letters, the pupils shall be taught
housewifery and sewing. 3. One-tenth of the pupils are to be orphans,
should so many apply for admission. 4. The Board shall appropriate to
the schools a sum equal to one-sixth of the moneys appropriated by the
Choctaw Council. With these exceptions, the "direction and management"
of the schools were to be as exclusively with the Board, as of any
schools supported by the funds of the Board.

Thus the schools were carried forward until 1853. At the meeting
of the Council in that year, a new school law, containing several
provisions, (and sometimes spoken of in the plural as "laws,")
was enacted, bringing the Board, through its agents, under new
"conditions, restrictions and limitations." A Board of Trustees was
established, and a General Superintendent of schools provided for,
to discharge various specified duties, for the faithful performance
of which they are to give bonds in the sum of $5,000. The enactments
of this law, affecting the agents of the Board under the existing
contract, are the following:

     1. The Board of Trustees, convened by the General
     Superintendent, are to hear and determine difficulties
     between a trustee and any one connected with the schools;
     to judge of the fitness of teachers, etc., and request the
     Missionary Boards to remove any whose removal they may
     think called for; and, in case of neglect to comply with
     their wishes, to report the same to the Commissioner of
     Indian Affairs through the United States Agent. Section 5.

     2. The Trustees are to select the scholars from their
     several districts. Section 7.

     3. No slave or child of a slave is to be taught to read or
     write "_in_ or _at_ any school," etc., by any one connected
     in any capacity therewith, on pain of dismissal and
     expulsion from the nation. Section 8.

     4. Annual examinations are to take place at times
     designated by the General Superintendent. Section 10.

     5. The Trustees are empowered to suspend any school in case
     of sickness or epidemics. Section 11.

     6. It is made the duty of the General Superintendent and
     Trustees, promptly to remove, or report for removal, any
     and all persons connected with the public schools or
     academies known to be abolitionists, or who disseminate, or
     attempt to disseminate, directly or indirectly, abolition
     doctrines, or any other fanatical sentiments, which, in
     their opinion, are dangerous to the peace and safety of the
     Choctaw people. Section 13.

By a separate act, the Board of Trustees was authorized to propose to
the Missionary Boards, having schools under contract with the Nation,
the insertion of a clause providing for a termination of the contract
by either party on giving six months' notice.

       *       *       *       *       *

With respect to the question, "Shall we submit to the provisions
and restrictions imposed by this new legislation, as a condition
of continued connection with the national schools?" the views of
the Prudential Committee and the brethren of the mission have been
entirely in declared agreement. As stated in the last Annual Report to
the Board, (p. 166,) "the Committee decided at once that they could
not carry on the schools upon the new basis; and in the propriety
of this action the missionaries concur." The concurrence of the
missionaries in this view, viz., that they could not carry on the
schools with a change from the original basis to that of the new
law, may be seen clearly expressed in their correspondence with the
Secretary having charge of the Indian missions; particularly in the
following communications: From Messrs. Kingsbury and Byington, as the
committee of the mission, under dates of December 14 and 27, 1853; Mr.
Kingsbury, January 4, and April 25, 1854; Mr. C. C. Copeland, March
1, 1854; Mr. Stark, August 22, 1854; Mr. Edwards, July 13, 1854; Mr.
H. K. Copeland, May 16, 1854. See also letters from Mr. Chamberlain,
January 7, and June 20, 1854. In some of these, the declaration is
made, that, in the apprehension of the writers, the schools must be
relinquished, _if the law should not be repealed_; one specifying, as
justificatory reasons, the breach of contract made, and the increased
difficulty of obtaining teachers--reasons also assigned by others;
another stating that he "never could consent to take charge of a
school under such regulations;" a third testifying, not only for
himself, but for every other member of the mission, an unwillingness
to continue connection with the schools with subjection to the new
requirements; a fourth affirming his "feeling" to be "that a strong
remonstrance should be presented to the Council, and on the strength
of it let the mission lay down these schools;" which, he states, would
not involve "giving up the instruction of these children, but would be
simply changing the plan," inasmuch as, according to his and others'
understanding of the case, the new law not having application to other
than the national schools, "at every station it will be found an easy
matter to have as large, and in some cases even larger, than our
present boarding schools."

In certain other communications, the view which the Committee adopted,
is exhibited, together with the opinion that it would be better to
wait for a movement on the part of the Choctaw authorities before
giving up the schools. See letters from Mr. Byington, December 26,
1853; January 3 and 12, April 15, 1854; Mr. Kingsbury, February 1
and 21, 1854; Mr. Chamberlain, January 13, 1854; Mr. Stark, February
6, 1854. This view was also formally announced, as understood by the
Committee, in resolutions of the mission at its meeting in May, 1854,
embracing a recommendation of a course of procedure with the hope of
securing the repeal by the next Council of the obnoxious law. See
Minutes, and letters of Mr. C. C. Copeland, May 19, and June 9, 1854.
The Prudential Committee, in the exercise of their discretion, as
a principal party to the contract, preferred another method, viz.,
to address the Council directly, and sent a letter, under date of
August 1, 1854, to one of the missionaries for presentation. The
missionary, with the advice of his brethren given at their meeting
in September, (intelligence of which was received at the Missionary
House, October 20, thirty-five days subsequent to the meeting of
the Board at Hartford,) withheld the letter, on the ground that, in
their judgment, its presentation would defeat the object at which it
aimed, and be "disastrous to the churches, to the Choctaws, and to the
best interests of the colored race." In respect to this action for
obtaining the repeal of the school law, there was a difference between
the mission and the Committee. The missionaries desired delay, and
the leaving of the matter to their management. The decision of the
Committee, approved by the Board, "not to conduct the boarding schools
in the Choctaw Nation in conformity with the principles prescribed by
the recent legislation of the Choctaw Council,"[A] was in agreement
with the previously and subsequently expressed sentiments of all the
missionaries; the objection felt by some of them to this resolution
being, not to the position which it assumes, but to the declaration of
it at that time by the Board. This being a determined question, its
settlement formed no part of the object for which the Deputation was

[Footnote A: Resolution of the Board adopted at Hartford.]

Two other questions, however, required careful examination; and on
these free conference was had with the brethren at their stations, and
in a meeting of the mission held at Good-water, April 25 and 26, Mr.
Edwards, who was absent from the mission, and Dr. Hobbs, not being
present: 1. The law remaining unrepealed, is it practicable to carry
on the schools while refusing conformity to the new "conditions,
limitations and restrictions" imposed by it? 2. If so, is it expedient
to do it?

On the first of these questions, the opinion of the missionaries was
in the affirmative. No attempt has been made to carry out these new
provisions. The Trustees and General Superintendent have not given
the required bond. One of the Trustees informed me that he should not
give it, and that in his belief the law would remain a dead letter,
if not repealed, as it was his hope that it would be. The course of
the missionaries has been in no degree changed by it. The teaching of
slaves in these schools has never been practiced or contemplated. The
law was aimed at such teaching in their families and Sabbath schools.
So the missionaries and the people understand it. It is generally
known among the latter that the former are ready to give up these
schools, rather than retain them on condition of subjection to this
law. Our brethren are now carrying on the schools, and doing in all
other respects, just as they were before the new law was enacted; and
they have confidence that they may continue to do so.

The second question was one of more uncertainty to my own mind, and
in the minds of some of the mission. The maintenance of these schools
is a work of great difficulty. In the opinion of several of the
missionaries, it was at least doubtful whether the cost in health,
perplexity, trouble in obtaining teachers, time which might be devoted
to preaching, and money, was not too great for the results; and it
was suggested that an opportunity, afforded by divine Providence for
relieving us from a burden too heavy to sustain for nine years longer,
should be embraced. See letters from Mr. Hotchkin, March 21, 1854; Mr.
H. K. Copeland, January 23, and July 27, 1854; Mr. Lansing, December
22, 1853, and May 13, 1854. The fact and manner of the suspension
of the school at Good-water, in 1853, were portentous of increasing
embarrassment from other causes than the new school law; and grave
objections exist to the connection with civil government of any
department of missionary operations.

My observation of the schools, however, interested me much in their
behalf. They are doing a good work for the nation. Many of the pupils
become Christian wives, mothers and teachers. The people appreciate
them highly; and I was assured of a general desire that they should
remain in the hands of the mission, unsubjected to the inadmissible
new conditions of the recent legislation. In view of all the
relations, which after full consideration the subject seemed to have,
the following resolution, expressing the sentiment of the Deputation
and the mission, was cheerfully and unanimously adopted by the
mission; one of the older members, however, avowing some difficulty in
giving his assent to the latter part of it, viz:

     "_Resolved_, That while we should esteem it our duty to
     relinquish the female boarding schools at Pine Ridge,
     Wheelock and Stockbridge, rather than to carry them on
     under the provisions and restrictions of the late school
     law, yet regarding it as improbable that the requirement
     so to do will be enforced, we deem it important, in the
     present circumstances of the Choctaw Nation and mission, to
     continue our connection with them _on the original basis_,
     and carry them forward with new hope and energy."

Our hope of being allowed to maintain these schools as heretofore,
and make them increasingly useful, may be disappointed. Neither the
Prudential Committee nor the mission wish to retain them, if they for
whose benefit alone they have been taken, prefer that we should give
them up. The relinquishment of them would be a release from a weight
of labor, anxiety and care, that nothing but our love for the Choctaws
could induce us longer to bear. Our desire is only to do them good.

A second subject of conference, but the one first considered, was
the principles, particularly in relation to slavery, on which the
Prudential Committee, with the formally expressed approbation of the
Board, aim to conduct its missions. I found certain misapprehensions
existing in the minds of a portion of the mission in regard to the
origin and circumstances of the action of the Board at the last
annual meeting, which I was happy to correct. Several of the members,
including one of the two not present at this meeting of the mission,
have ever cordially approved the correspondence in which the views of
principles entertained by the Committee were stated. Others, being
with those just referred to a decided majority of the whole body as at
present constituted, have expressed their agreement with those views
as freely explained in personal intercourse, with an exhibition of
the intended meaning of his own written language, by the Secretary
who was the organ of the Committee in communicating them. Others have
supposed themselves to differ, in some degree, from these principles
when correctly apprehended. A full comparison of views, to their
mutual great satisfaction, showed much less difference than was
thought to exist between the members of the mission themselves, and
between a part of the mission and what the Deputation understands to
be the views of the Prudential Committee. A statement of principles
drawn up at Good-water, as being in the estimation of the Deputation
(distinctly and repeatedly so declared) those which the Committee had
set forth in their correspondence, particularly that had with the
mission in 1848, was unanimously adopted, as the brethren say, "for
the better and more harmonious prosecution of the great objects of
the Choctaw mission on the part of the Prudential Committee and the
members of the mission, and for the removal of any and all existing
difficulties which have grown out of public discussions and action on
the subject of slavery; it being understood that the sentiments now
approved are not in the estimation of the brethren of the mission new,
but such as for a long series of years have really been held by them."

The statement is given, with the appended resolution, in the following

     1. Slavery, as a system, and in its own proper nature, is
     what it is described to be, in the General Assembly's Act
     of 1818, and the Report of the American Board adopted at
     Brooklyn in 1845.

     2. Privation of liberty in holding slaves is, therefore,
     not to be ranked with things indifferent, but with
     those which, if not made right by special justificatory
     circumstances and the intention of the doer, are morally

     3. Those are to be admitted to the communion of the church,
     of whom the missionary and (in Presbyterian churches)
     his session have satisfactory evidence that they are in
     fellowship with Christ.

     4. The evidence, in one view of it, of fellowship with
     Christ, is a manifested desire and aim to be conformed, in
     all things, to the spirit and requirements of the word of

     5. Such desire and aim are to be looked for in reference
     to slavery, slaveholding, and dealing with slaves, as in
     regard to other matters; not less, not more.

     6. The missionary must, under a solemn sense of
     responsibility to Christ, act on his own judgment of that
     evidence when obtained, and on the manner of obtaining
     it. He is at liberty to pursue that course which he may
     deem most discreet in eliciting views and feelings as to
     slavery, as with respect to other things, right views and
     feelings concerning which he seeks as evidence of Christian

     7. The missionary is responsible, not for correct views
     and action on the part of his session and church members,
     but only for an honest and proper endeavor to secure
     correctness of views and action under the same obligations
     and limitations on this subject as on others. He is to go
     only to the extent of his rights and responsibilities as a
     minister of Christ.

     8. The missionary, in the exercise of a wise discretion
     as to time, place, manner and amount of instruction, is
     decidedly to discountenance indulgence in known sin and
     the neglect of known duty, and so to instruct his hearers
     that they may understand all Christian duty. With that
     wisdom which is profitable to direct, he is to exhibit the
     legitimate bearing of the gospel upon every moral evil, in
     order to its removal in the most desirable way; and upon
     slavery, as upon other moral evils. As a missionary, he
     has nothing to do with political questions and agitations.
     He is to deal alone, and as a Christian instructor and
     pastor, with what is morally wrong, that the people of God
     may separate themselves therefrom, and a right standard of
     moral action be held up before the world.

     9. While, as in war, there can be no shedding of blood
     without sin somewhere attached, and yet the individual
     soldier may not be guilty of it; so, while slavery is
     always sinful, we cannot esteem every one who is legally a
     slaveholder a wrong-doer for sustaining the legal relation.
     When it is made unavoidable by the laws of the State, the
     obligations of guardianship, or the demands of humanity,
     it is not to be deemed an offence against the rule of
     Christian right. Yet missionaries are carefully to guard,
     and in the proper way to warn others to guard, against
     unduly extending this plea of necessity or the good of the
     slave, against making it a cover for the love and practice
     of slavery, or a pretence for not using efforts that are
     lawful and practicable to extinguish this evil.

     10. Missionaries are to enjoin upon all masters and
     servants obedience to the directions specially addressed to
     them in the Holy Scriptures, and to explain and illustrate
     the precepts containing them.

     11. In the exercise of discipline in the churches, under
     the same obligations and limitations as in regard to other
     acts of wrong-doing, and which are recognized in the action
     of ministers with reference to other matters in evangelical
     churches where slavery does not exist, missionaries are
     to set their faces against all overt acts in relation
     to this subject, which are manifestly unchristian and
     sinful; such as the treatment of slaves with inhumanity and
     oppression; keeping from them the knowledge of God's holy
     will; disregarding the sanctity of the marriage relation;
     trifling with the affections of parents, and setting at
     naught the claims of children on their natural protectors;
     and regarding and treating human beings as articles of

     12. For various reasons, we agree in the inexpediency of
     our employing slave labor in other cases than those of
     manifest necessity; it being understood that the objection
     of the Prudential Committee to the employment of such labor
     is to that extent only.

     13. Agreeing thus in essential principles, missionaries
     associated in the same field should exercise charity
     towards each other, and have confidence in one another, in
     respect to differences which, from diversity of judgment,
     temperament, or other individual peculiarities, and from
     difference of circumstances in which they are placed, may
     arise among them in the practical carrying out of these
     principles; and we think that this should be done by others
     towards us as a missionary body.

     _Resolved_, That we agree in the foregoing as an expression
     of our views concerning our relations and duties as
     missionaries in regard to the subject treated of; and are
     happy to believe that, having this agreement with what we
     now understand to be the views of the Prudential Committee,
     we may have their confidence, as they have ours, in the
     continued prosecution together of the great work to which
     the great Head of the church has called us among this

The statement thus approved was read throughout, and was afterwards
considered in detail, each member of the mission expressing his views
upon it as fully, and keeping it under consideration as long, as he
desired to do. After the assent given to it, article by article, on
the day following it was again read, and the question was taken upon
it as a whole, with the appended resolution, each of the eight members
giving his vote in favor of its adoption. It is perhaps proper also
to mention that no change by way of emendation, addition or omission
of phraseology was found necessary to make it such as any member of
the mission would be willing to accept. It should farther be stated,
that while the first article was under consideration, the act of the
General Assembly of the Presbyterian church, adopted in 1818, was
read, and its strongest expressions duly weighed. The document thus
considered and referred to, is herewith submitted as a part of this

[Footnote B: "The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, having
taken into consideration the subject of slavery, think proper to make
known their sentiments upon it to the churches and people under their
care. We consider the voluntary enslaving of one part of the human
race by another, as a gross violation of the most precious and sacred
rights of human nature; as utterly inconsistent with the law of God,
which requires us to love our neighbor as ourselves, and as totally
irreconcilable with the spirit and principles of the gospel of Christ,
which enjoins that 'all things whatsoever ye would that men should do
to you, do ye even so to them.' Slavery creates a paradox in the moral
system; it exhibits rational, accountable and immortal beings in such
circumstances as scarcely to leave them the power of moral action. It
exhibits them as dependent on the will of others, whether they shall
receive religions instruction; whether they shall know and worship
the true God; whether they shall enjoy the ordinances of the Gospel;
whether they shall perform the duties and cherish the endearments
of husbands and wives, parents and children, neighbors and friends;
whether they shall preserve their chastity and purity, or regard the
dictates of justice and humanity. Such are some of the consequences
of slavery--consequences not imaginary, but which connect themselves
with its very existence. The evils to which the slave is always
exposed often take place in fact, and in their very worst degree and
form; and where all of them do not take place, as we rejoice to say in
many instances, through the influence of the principles of humanity
and religion on the mind of masters, they do not--still the slave is
deprived of his natural right, degraded as a human being, and exposed
to the danger of passing into the hands of a master who may inflict
upon him all the hardships and injuries which inhumanity and avarice
may suggest.

"From this view of the consequences resulting from the practice into
which Christian people have most inconsistently fallen, of enslaving
a portion of their brethren of mankind--for 'God hath made of one
blood all nations of men to dwell on the face of the earth'--it is
manifestly the duty of all Christians who enjoy the light of the
present day, when the inconsistency of slavery, both with the dictates
of humanity and religion, has been demonstrated, and is generally
seen and acknowledged, to use their honest, earnest, and unwearied
endeavors to correct the errors of former times, and as speedily as
possible to efface this blot on our holy religion, and to obtain the
complete abolition of slavery throughout Christendom, and if possible
throughout the world.

"We rejoice that the Church to which we belong commenced, as early
as any other in this country, the good work of endeavoring to put an
end to slavery, and that in the same work many of its members have
ever since been, and now are, among the most active, vigorous and
efficient laborers. We do, indeed, tenderly sympathize with those
portions of our Church and our country where the evil of slavery has
been entailed upon them; where a great, and the most virtuous part of
the community abhor slavery, and wish its extermination as sincerely
as any others--but where the number of slaves, their ignorance, and
their vicious habits generally, render an immediate and universal
emancipation inconsistent alike with the safety and happiness of the
master and the slave. With those who are thus circumstanced, we repeat
that we tenderly sympathize. At the same time we earnestly exhort them
to continue, and if possible to increase their exertions to effect a
total abolition of slavery. We exhort them to suffer no greater delay
to take place in this most interesting concern, than a regard to the
public welfare truly and indispensably demands.

"As our country has inflicted a most grievous injury on the unhappy
Africans, by bringing them into slavery, we cannot indeed urge that
we should add a second injury to the first, by emancipating them in
such manner as that they will be likely to destroy themselves or
others. But we do think, that our country ought to be governed in this
matter by no other consideration than an honest and impartial regard
to the happiness of the injured party, uninfluenced by the expense or
inconvenience which such a regard may involve. We, therefore, warn all
who belong to our denomination of Christians against unduly extending
this plea of necessity; against making it a cover for the love and
practice of slavery, or a pretence for not using efforts that are
lawful and practicable, to extinguish this evil.

"And we, at the same time, exhort others to forbear harsh censures,
and uncharitable reflections on their brethren, who unhappily live
among slaves whom they cannot immediately set free; but who, at
the same time, are really using all their influence, and all their
endeavors, to bring them into a state of freedom, as soon as a door
for it can be safely opened.

"Having thus expressed our views of slavery, and of the duty
indispensably incumbent on all Christians to labor for its complete
extinction, we proceed to recommend--and we do it with all the
earnestness and solemnity which this momentous subject demands--a
particular attention to the following points.

"We recommend to all our people to patronize and encourage the Society
lately formed for colonizing in Africa, the land of their ancestors,
the free people of color in our country. We hope that much good may
result from the plans and efforts of this Society. And while we
exceedingly rejoice to have witnessed its origin and organization
among the holders of slaves, as giving an unequivocal pledge of their
desires to deliver themselves and their country from the calamity of
slavery; we hope that those portions of the American union, whose
inhabitants are by a gracious Providence more favorably circumstanced,
will cordially, and liberally, and earnestly co-operate with their
brethren, in bringing about the great end contemplated.

"We recommend to all the members of our religious denomination, not
only to permit, but to facilitate and encourage the instruction of
their slaves in the principles and duties of the Christian religion;
by granting them liberty to attend on the preaching of the gospel,
when they have opportunity; by favoring the instruction of them in the
Sabbath school, wherever those schools can be formed; and by giving
them all other proper advantages for acquiring a knowledge of their
duty both to God and to man. We are perfectly satisfied that it is
incumbent on all Christians to communicate religious instruction to
those who are under their authority; so that the doing of this in the
case before us, so far from operating, as some have apprehended that
it might, as an incitement to insubordination and insurrection, would,
on the contrary, operate as the most powerful means for the prevention
of those evils.

"We enjoin it on all church sessions and presbyteries, under the
care of this Assembly, to discountenance, and as far as possible to
prevent all cruelty of whatever kind in the treatment of slaves;
especially the cruelty of separating husband and wife, parents and
children, and that which consists in selling slaves to those who will
either themselves deprive these unhappy people of the blessings of
the gospel, or who will transport them to places where the gospel is
not proclaimed, or where it is forbidden to slaves to attend upon its
institutions. And if it shall ever happen that a Christian professor
in our communion shall sell a slave who is also in communion and good
standing with our church, contrary to his or her will and inclination,
it ought immediately to claim the particular attention of the proper
church judicature; and unless there be such peculiar circumstances
attending the case as can but seldom happen, it ought to be followed,
without delay, by a suspension of the offender from all the privileges
of the church, till he repent, and make all the reparation in his
power to the injured party." See Assembly's Digest, pp. 274-8.]

So also was adduced the abundant testimony contained in the Report of
the American Board adopted in 1845, as to what in its view slavery,
without qualification of place or time, and as it exists in the
United States and among the Indians, is: such as its classification
of slavery with war, polygamy, the castes of India, and other things
which it speaks of as "social and moral evils;" and such language as
the following: "The Committee do not deem it necessary to discuss the
general subject of slavery as it exists in these United States, or to
enlarge on the wickedness of the system, or on the disastrous moral
and social influences which slavery exerts upon the less enlightened
and less civilized communities where the missionaries of this Board
are laboring:" "The unrighteousness of the principles on which the
whole system is based, and the violation of the natural rights of
man, the debasement, wickedness and misery it involves, and which are
in fact witnessed to a greater or less extent wherever it exists,
must call forth the hearty condemnation of all possessed of Christian
feeling and sense of right, and make its removal an object of earnest
and prayerful desire to every friend of God and man:" "Strongly as
your committee are convinced of the wrongfulness and evil tendencies
of slaveholding, and ardently as they desire its speedy and universal
termination, still they cannot think that in all cases it involves
individual guilt in such a manner that every person implicated in it
can, on scriptural grounds, be excluded from Christian fellowship. In
the language of Dr. Chalmers, 'Distinction ought to be made between
the character of a _system_, and the character of the persons whom
circumstances have implicated therewith; nor would it always be just,
if all the recoil and horror wherewith the former is contemplated,
were visited in the form of condemnation and moral indignancy upon the
latter. Slavery we hold to be a _system_ chargeable with atrocities
and evils, often the most hideous and appalling which have either
afflicted or deformed our species; yet we must not, therefore, say of
every man born within its territory, who has grown up familiar with
its sickening spectacles, and not only by his habits been inured
to its transactions and sights, but who by inheritance is himself
the owner of slaves, that unless he make the resolute sacrifice, and
renounce his property in slaves, he is, therefore, not a Christian,
and should be treated as an outcast from all the distinctions
and privileges of Christian society.'" And the language (quoted
approvingly) unanimously uttered by the General Assembly of the Free
Church of Scotland: "Without being prepared to adopt the principle
that, in the circumstances in which they are placed, the churches in
America ought to consider slaveholding _per se_ an insuperable barrier
in the way of enjoying Christian privileges, or an offence to be
visited with excommunication, all must agree in holding that whatever
rights the civil law of the land may give a master over his slaves
as _chattels personal_, it cannot be but sin of the deepest dye to
regard and treat them as such; and whosoever commits that sin in any
sense, or deals otherwise than as a Christian man ought to deal with
his fellow-man, whatever power the law may give him over them, ought
to be held disqualified for Christian communion. Farther, it must be
the opinion of all, that it is the duty of Christians, when they find
themselves unhappily in the predicament of slaveholders, to aim, as
far as it may be practicable, at the manumission of their slaves; and
when that cannot be accomplished, to secure them in the enjoyment of
the domestic relations, and of the means of religious training and

All this, and more, was immediately before the minds of the members
of the mission, and with so much of the connection as to give the
true sense, when they declared that slavery is what, in the documents
referred to, it is described to be, and made their own the statement
of principles above given, as those on which, as missionaries, they
should deal with this subject in the circumstances of their field of
labor, and when it is to them a practical missionary question.

The Cherokee mission in session at Park Hill, May 9, adopted a
resolution of concurrence with the Choctaw mission in approving this

Excluding two churches then connected with the mission of the Board,
and since transferred to another mission, there were in 1848, under
the care of the American Board, in the Choctaw Nation, six churches
with a total membership of 536 persons, of whom 25 were slaveholders,
and 64 were slaves. The churches are now 11 in number, containing
1,094 members; of whom, as nearly as I could ascertain, 20 are
slaveholders, (some of them being husband and wife, and generally
having but one or two slaves each,) and 60 are slaves. Six of the
churches have no slaveholder in them; two have but one each. Of the
slaveholders in these churches, four have been admitted since 1848;
one by transfer from another denomination, and three on profession
of their faith; none of the latter having been received since
1850. Statements were made to me respecting each of these latter
cases, which show that the principles assented to by the mission at
Good-water, as above presented, were practically carried out in regard
to them.

In the Cherokee mission, in 1848, there were five churches, having
237 members, of whom 24 were slaveholders, and 23 were slaves. In the
five churches now in that mission, there are 207 members, of whom 17
(there is uncertainty in regard to one of this number) are reported
as slaveholders. Three have been admitted since 1848 on profession of
their faith, and two by letter; one of the latter from a church in New
Hampshire. Of these the same remark may be made as above in respect to
similar cases among the Choctaws.

The Choctaw mission embraces eleven families and three large boarding
schools. Five slaves, hired at their own desire, are in the employment
of the missionaries. A less number are employed in the Cherokee
mission. Gladly would the missionaries dispense with these, could the
necessary amount of free labor for domestic service be obtained. Those
who employ this slave labor, allege that it is to them a matter of
painful necessity. They are known to resort to it unwillingly, and are
not regarded as thereby giving their sanction to slavery. Some thus
employed have been brought to a saving knowledge of divine truth.

The sentiments of these two missions as to the moral character of
slavery, and the principles on which they should act with regard to
it, are frankly and unequivocally avowed. We are bound to believe
them honest in the expression of these sentiments. It is their
expectation that the principles thus acknowledged as their own will
be those on which the missions will be conducted. The adjudication of
particular cases must be left to the missionary. That it be so left,
is his right; it is also unavoidable. The position of the missionaries
is one of great difficulty, and should be appreciated. That there
is such a diversity of judgment among them as men of independent
thought and differing mental characteristics, who agree in essential
principles, everywhere evince; and that they have, through a use of
phraseology leading sometimes to a mutual misunderstanding of each
other's views, supposed themselves to differ more widely than, in our
conferences, they found themselves really to do, has been intimated.
That none of them have sympathy with slavery; that, on the other hand,
their influence is directly and strongly adverse to its continuance,
while they are doing much in mitigation of its evils and to bless
both master and slave, in the judgment of the Deputation, is beyond
a doubt. By many they are denounced as abolitionists. Some of their
slave-holding church members have left their churches for another
connection on this account. Others have disconnected themselves from
a system which they have learned to dislike and disapprove. Strong in
the confidence and affection of many for whose salvation they have
toiled and suffered, by the supporters of slavery, in and out of the
nations, they undoubtedly are looked upon with growing suspicion.
Surely we should not be willing needlessly to embarrass them in their
blessed work. They are worthy of the confidence and warmest sympathy
of every friend of the red man and of the black man. God is with them.
In the Cherokee mission, the dispensation of his grace is not, indeed,
now as in times past; and we have some seriousness of apprehension
in regard to the progress of the gospel among that people. Still the
divine presence is not wanting. Among the Choctaws rapid advance is
making. Converts are multiplying; the fruits of the gospel abound.
Both missions need reinforcement. Men filled with the spirit of
Christ, able to endure hardness, of practical wisdom, which knows how
to do good, and not to do only harm when good is meant, men of faith,
energy, meekness and prayer, who will commend themselves to every
man's conscience in the sight of God as his servants, are required.
It gave me pleasure to assure the missions of the strong desire of
the Prudential Committee, and of my future personal endeavors, to
obtain such men for them. No philanthropist can behold the change
which has been wrought for these lately pagan, savage tribes, now
orderly christianized communities, advancing in civilization, to
take ere long, if they go on in their course, their place with those
whose Christian civilization is the growth of many centuries, without
admiration and delight. But there is much yet to be done for them.
"This nation," says the Choctaw mission in a published letter, "in
its improvements, schools, churches, and public spirit pertaining
to the great cause of benevolence, is but an _infant_." We must not
expect too much from these churches in which we glory. Much fostering
and training do they yet need; and there are many souls yet to be
enlightened and saved. Wonderful as are the renovation and elevation
which the gospel, taught in its simplicity by faithful men, has
already given to these communities, our only hope for them, and for
the colored race in the midst of them, is in the continued application
of the same power through the same instrumentality.

It was the privilege of the Deputation to spend a part of three days,
including a Sabbath, at Spencer Academy, an institution containing
one hundred male pupils, excellently managed under the charge of the
Board of the General Assembly; and to attend there a "big meeting,"
or a camp meeting, at which several hundreds were present. My
intercourse with brethren at that station, and the scenes in which
I there mingled; the fellowship in Christ with the heralds of his
cross, some of them bowed with the weight of many years of wearing
toil and affliction, and hastening to their glorious crown already
won by honored names, no longer with them, of our own mission; and
the interchange of sympathy with the disciples of Christ, whom God
has given them as the fruit of their labor, will ever live among the
pleasantest recollections of my life. I am constrained to repeat
my testimony to the fraternal and Christian spirit with which the
brethren met my endeavors to remove difficulties, strengthen the
ties that bind them and the Board together, and clear the way for
harmonious and more energetic prosecution of the great work in which
we are associated. To a good degree this object, we may hope, has
been gained. To Him, whose is their work and ours, and to whom the
interests involved are infinitely more precious than to any of us who
are connected with them, we commit the future keeping of this great

It is due to the Choctaw mission that I communicate to the Committee
the following resolution, presented by the Rev. Mr. Byington, and
adopted by the mission at the close of its meeting at Good-water:

     "_Resolved_, That the cordial thanks of the members of
     the mission be presented to the Rev. Geo. W. Wood, the
     Secretary of the A. B. C. F. M., who is with us as a
     Deputation from the Prudential Committee, for his kind,
     wise and successful efforts in our mission to remove the
     weight of anxiety which has long pressed down our hearts
     in connection with the subject of slavery. We now rejoice
     much in this mutual and kind interchange of thoughts and
     affections. We would pray for grace ever to walk in the
     path of life, and that blessings may attend him, while with
     us and on his way home, his family and brethren during his
     absence, as well as our mission and the American Board and
     all its officers. With peculiar sincerity of heart and
     gratitude to our Savior, we present to him this token of
     regard for our dear brother, and make this record of divine
     mercy toward our mission."

      All which is respectfully submitted,

            GEO. W. WOOD.

_Rooms of the A. B. C. F. M., New York, June_ 13, 1855.

This communication of the Prudential Committee was referred to a
special committee, consisting of Dr. Beman, Dr. Thomas De Witt, Dr.
Hawes, Chief Justice Williams, Doct. Lyndon A. Smith, Dr. J. A.
Stearns, and Hon. Linus Child, who subsequently made the following

     Your committee have endeavored to look at this paper in
     its intrinsic character and practical bearings, and they
     are happy to state their unanimous conviction, that this
     visit will mark an auspicious era in the history of these
     missions. The report of Mr. Wood is characterized by great
     clearness and precision; and it presents the whole matters
     pending between the Prudential Committee and these missions
     fully before us. The conferences of the Deputation with
     the missionaries appear to have been conducted in a truly
     Christian spirit; and the results which are set forth in
     the resolutions, adopted with much deliberation and after
     full discussion, are such as we may all hail with Christian

     It is the opinion of your committee that the great end
     which has been aimed at by the Prudential Committee in
     their correspondence with these missions, for several years
     past, and by the Board in their resolutions adopted at the
     last annual meeting, has been substantially accomplished.
     While your committee admit that there may be some
     incidental points on which an honest diversity of opinion
     may exist, yet they fully believe that this adjustment
     should be deemed satisfactory, and that further agitation
     is not called for. While your committee cannot take it
     upon themselves to predict what new developments, calling
     for new action hereafter, _may_ take place, they are
     unanimously of the opinion that the Prudential Committee,
     and these laborious and efficient missionaries on this
     field of Christian effort, may go forward, on the basis
     adopted, in perfect harmony in the prosecution of their
     future work.

     Your committee feel that the thanks of this Board are due
     to Mr. Wood and our missionary brethren, for the manner
     in which they have met, considered, and adjusted these
     difficult matters which have been long in debate; and at
     the same time they would not forget that God is the source
     of all true light in our deepest darkness, and that to him
     _all the glory is ever due_.

The foregoing report of the select committee was adopted by the Board.

       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber's Notes

The footnote locations and anchor symbols have been changed from the
original document.

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