To the honorable the Senate and House of Representative of the United States, in Congress assembled -
The undersigned clergymen, of different denominations in New England hereby in the name of the Almighty God and in his presence, do solemnly protest against the passage of what is known as the Nebraska bill, or any repeal or modification of the existing legal prohibitions against slavery in that part of our national domain which it is proposed to organize into the Territories of Nebraska and Kansas. We protest against it as a great moral wrong - as a breach of faith eminently injurious to the moral principles of the community, and subversive of all confidence in national engagements - as a measure full of danger to the peace and even existence of our beloved Union and exposing us to the righteous judgments of the Almighty and your protestants as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Dated at Boston, this 1st day of March, A.D. 1854.
As one of the prominent signs of the times we copy the “Mammoth Memorial,” as it is called, of the three thousand New England clergymen, remonstrating against the passage of the Nebraska bill. Had this extraordinary document emanated from the Roman Catholics the three thousand persons would have sounded the tocsin from the Atlantic to the Rocky Mountains; but coming as it does from the Babylon of New England Theology, it is regarded by the Hon. Mr. Huston, and a few others in the Senate, as the voice of God himself, uttered by his vice gerents on the earth. We are told that all the clergy of New England excepting the Catholics, have signed this remonstrance. Why are they excepted? Certainly not because they reject, or disbelieve the idea that God has vice gerents to act for him on earth and in his name to:
“Deal damnation round the board,
To each they deem his foe.”
but the more probable cause is the feud which has also long existed between the Old Mother and her harlot daughters. The mother contending that the pope is the only vice gerent of Almight God, and her daughters claiming that their clergy are all that the Roman Pontiffs ever claimed to be. On this occasion the Catholics may use the fable of the wolf and the shepherd in which it is said that “A wolf passing a house occupied by a number of shepherds looked in and saw the shepherds feasting on mutton, on which he exclaimed, ‘Good Lord, what a fuss they would have made had they caught me thus engaged!”’
Why it should be thought less extravagant or wicked for the clergy to assume the name and attributes of the Almighty God and hurl the thunder of their anathemas against the Senate of the United States, or to dictate to them what laws they may enact and what they may repeal, than for the Pope of Rome to exercise the same authority over the kings of the earth, is hard for us to perceive.
With the political bearings of the Nebraska bill, and of all other bills before the Congress of the United States we do not design to meddle through our paper. We have higher and more sacred matters to dwell upon; matters which concern the kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. His kingdom is not of this world, and he has commanded the subjects of his kingdom to mark the distinction he has made between the church and the state: to render unto Caesar the things which belong to Caesar, and to God the things which belong to God. As citizens of this world we are commanded to be in subjection to the powers that be, because they are instituted of God. So far, therefore, as they do not infringe upon our inalienable rights of conscience, we are required by the authority of our Lord and master to be in subjection. In a representative government like our own, christians, including ministers of the gospel, in common with all other citizens have important interests at stake. To these they are to attend only as citizens of the world and fellow citizens with the children of men. They should never be known in their religious vocation, only in relation to the affairs of Zion.
Three thousand clergymen! What a swarm for little New England to muster! And do they think to intimidate the Senate and the Representatives of this great Republic by their blasphemous assumption of the name of the Almighty God? Will they alarm and terrify our Senators by threats of judgment and of the fiery indignation of the Lord? Who would have thought that so soon after the rebuke they received from the Senate a few years ago on the subject of the Sunday Mail they would again impose on that body the necessity of the repeating reproof?
It is perhaps well for the safety of our country that these religious aspirants have couched their remonstrance in as extravagant and insulting language as they have. “It will do more to open the eyes of the community in regard to their dictatorial spirit than volumes which might have been written.”
The castigation which they received from the undaunted Senators, Douglass, Mason, Butler, Pettit, and others may make them wince; but we hope it may do them good. Should the whole affair be so overruled as to lead the Senate and House of Representatives to abolish the chaplaincy, and so effectually sever these unnatural ligaments which now unite the church and state, we shall have cause for unfeigned thanks to God.
Before we close our remarks, we wish to say that in the church of the living God there are no such distinctions as that of clergy and laity. There is no aristocrisy in the spiritual kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ. The subjects of that spiritual kingdom are all one in Christ. They call no man on earth their master, or their father; for they have one Father which is God. He that is least among them is to be their minister; and he that is greatest among them is to be the servant of all. The ministers of the gospel of our Redeemer are not allowed to lord it over the church, much less are they to exercise authority over the state. None but the most corrupt pretenders, the most arrogant hypocrites would desire to usurp ecclesiastical authority over the secular affairs of the world. In the Senate Mr. Douglas said - Yet here we find a large body of preachers, perhaps three thousand following the lead of a circular which was calculated to mislead and deceive the public. They have here come forward with an atrocious falsehood and an atrocious calumny against this body, and prostituted the pulpit, prostituted the sacred desk to the miserable and corrupting influence of party politics. It matters not whether they have misled the whole of the people of New England, and drawn them unto their pool of dirty water. It matters not whether the misrepresentation has taken a broad scope, or been confined to a few - I hold it is our duty to expose the conduct of men who either from ignorance or willful false knowledge, will avail themselves of their sacred calling to arraign the conduct of Senators here in the discharge of their duties. I hold that this Senate is as capable of judging whether our action involves moral turpitude, whether it involves the subversion of morals, whether it subjects us to the judgment of the Almighty, as are these political preachers who do not understand the question. It is evident that these men know not what they are talking about. It is evident that they ought to be rebuked, and required to confine themselves to their vocation instead of neglecting their holy religion, violating its sacred principles of truth and honor, and getting up a document here which is offensive and which no gentleman can endorse without violating all the rules of courtesy, or propriety, and of honor. There seems to be an attempt to pile upon our table offensive documents - slander after slander, libel after libel in order that the abolition press may copy it as coming from the records of the Senate and go back and give it credit in the country.
Mr. Houston said - This memorial, signed by three thousand ministers of the Living God - his vice gerents on earth, was evidence that the people were deeply moved by it. Ministers of the gospel were men - they had the same political rights as other men. All citizens had a right to petition and that right could not be denied. By becoming ministers of the gospel the memorialists had lost none of their political rights. There was no longer any use in denying that the Nebraska bill had revived again excitement.
Mr. Mason said - The right of all citizens of the United States to petition Congress upon any subject properly before them was one which he hoped never to see denied. All such memorials should be received and treated with the respect due to them. He hoped never to see the day when the Senate would treat such petitions otherwise. The memorial, however, was of a character different from others. It came from a class of persons who laid aside the character of American citizens and address their petitions as ministers of the Gospel - they petition as ministers of the Gospel and not as citizens. As ministers of the Gospel they come here and denounce the action of the Senate in anticipation, or after it has taken place. They do not stop there. In their character as ministers, they have the temerity to threaten the Senate with the vengeance and judgments of the Almighty whom they profess to serve. Such language was not respectful, coming from any petitioners. Ministers of the Gospel, as such, were unknown to the constitution, or to our forms of government, and God forbid they should be known to it. It was the wise policy of our fathers, and it had been the universal desire of all the people, to keep all the ministers of the Gospel, as such, and the government as wide apart as possible, and the wisdom of that policy was made manifest today by the paper now lying on the table. The history of the world had shown the evils of recognizing ministers of the Gospel as forming any part of the government. In all countries and in all times, when vested with power, they proved to be the most arrogant of all others. On this occasion they come here and in the name of the Almighty God they invoke his vengeance upon us for our action on a political measure. Let three thousand citizens of New England, or three hundred thousand, or all of New England, come here and, as citizens of the United States, protest as is their right against any legislative action, and their protest will be treated respectfully. But these men do not come here as citizens; they come here as ministers of God - his vice gerents, as the Senator from Texas said, or vice-regents, as he probably meant - and as servants of their Divine Master, and in his name protest against a great moral wrong, which they as ministers of the Gospel declare to be committed by an act of this body. He objected to the receipt of a memorial couched in such terms, and professing to speak by any such authority. Without any disrespect for the cloth, which to say the least, they do not grace, he moved, as the proper course, that the memorial be not received.
Mr. Butler said he had always entertained the highest respect for the ministers of the Gospel. His respect was so high that he would almost submit to their rebuke for an act performed in his official capacity. But that respect was for them in their appropriate and sacred calling; and when they abandoned their duty and descended from their high position - when they forgot the religion of the Lamb, and mingled with the waters of the turbid pool of political strife, his respect no longer continued. These memorialists have quitted the pulpit and have taken their place in the political arena, and they speak as vice regents of God on earth and presume in His name solemnly to pronounce upon the Senate the judgment of the Almighty. He could no longer respect them when they themselves abandoned their sacred duties. When they had abandoned the religion which they professed - the religion which was typified by the meek and lowly Lamb and took up the character of the political lion, going round, seeking whom they might devour, they do violence to the gospel and the religion of our Savior. He knew not what more was to be done than that Senators should express their condemnation of this proceeding. He thought they deserved the censure of the Senate.
Mr. Pettit of Ia., said he was in favor of the largest liberty to petition, provided they were respectful. His first objection to the memorial was that it was out of time and too late to affect any action on that bill, which had passed the Senate, in all probability never to return. The Senate had done the deed, and now deserved the righteous judgment of heaven. It would seem that this righteous judgment meant pains, torment, and punishments; but he expected it would be one full of approval for the deed. The Senator from South Carolina said he had great respect for clergymen so long as their robes were unspotted, and they did not dabble in polluted waters or the pool of politics. He would agree with the Senator if he thought the pool of politics was any more polluted than the stagnant waters of contradictory theology in which these clergymen lived. He believed the pool of politics far more pellucid, clear, healthy, and beneficial than the stagnant waters which surrounded the contradictory creeds and dogmas of these men, no two of whom could agree upon any particular point of theology. The Senate had an officer chosen for his ability and information, who was a brother clergyman, whose duty it was to expound divine law to the Senate, and he would therefore, if motion be in order, move to refer this memorial to the Rev. Henry Slicer, Chaplain of the Senate, with instructions to inquire and report to the Senate whether the Nebraska bill was a violation of the law of God, and whether the Senate was in danger of having invoked the judgment and condemnation of Heaven in passing it. (Loud laughter). If Mr. Slicer decided in the affirmative, he would be willing to revoke his action and would use his endeavors to induce the House to send the bill back to the Senate. Mr. Douglas said the abolition address put forth by members of Congress had called upon the ministers of the Gospel to rise and abuke this bill as a violation of plighted faith, etc., and clergymen, in obedience to that call, were engaged in getting up protests founded upon the false statements contained in that address. These memorialists says - ”We in the name of the Almighty God, protest”, etc. What was this assumption of the name and the power of the Almighty, but an attempt to establish in this country the doctrine that the clergy have the supreme right to determine and pronounce the will of God on all subjects; and particularly in relation to the political action of Congress? It was an attempt to set up a theocracy. It was an attempt to put the legislation of the country in the hands and under the control of the church. No bolder attempt than this was ever made by any church in the most despotic countries or in the darkest ages of the world, to enforce the doctrine that it was the privilege of the church to tell the people that, not only on religious subjects, but also upon all political ones, they must receive as the divine will whatever they received from the Church. If this pretention of the clergy be now sanctioned, all questions must be referred to the clergy for approval before Congress shall act. The memorial purports to speak in the name of the Almighty, and in that name protests against the bill. It tells Congress plainly that the gates of heaven are closed unless we obey the behests of the abolitionists. He had great respect for clergymen, and for their calling. He had no doubt but these memorialists were men of learning, intelligence, and respectability; but he was sure that there could not be found throughout the country any other body of men of equal number who had more ignorance upon this one subject upon which they now protested. How many of them had ever read the history of the act of 1820? Not one. How many of them had ever read the history and the votes of the Northern States repudiating at the time of the adoption of that very act? Not one. How many of them had ever read the votes and proceedings of the Act of 1850? Not one. Yet they profess to speak the will of God upon a subject in relation to which they are professionally ignorant. They speak of the sanctity of national engagements. Did any one of these three thousand preachers tell their people in 1850 when the fugitive slave law was resisted by force that it was their duty to obey it on the ground that it was a national engagement of the constitution of the United States? Not one. Did they tell their people that the Senate did right in passing that act, and in carrying out a national engagement? Not one. If it was part of the duty of these three thousand clergymen to speak about the sanctity of national engagements, where were they in 1850, when in Boston the law was openly resisted by force? They were silent. But now at the bidding of the abolition junta in Congress they come forward and arraign the Senate of the United States in the name of the Almighty. He cared nothing personally for this or many other insults caused by the addresses of abolition confederates. He could bide his time; the day would come when not a man could be found who would say he ever was opposed to the great American principle of self-government.
April 1, 1854
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 3
Pages 50 - 58