Theological aspects

Debate over slavery

Decades before 1861, the Presbyterian church had divided over slavery. In 1838, the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. split into the Old School and New School factions partially over the issue of slavery and abolition. Sermons of the time ranged from extolling slavery as a divine right to condemning it as a moral sin.

In 1845, Presbyterian pastors, Rev. Jonathan Blanchard (1811-1892) and Rev. Nathan Rice (1807-1877), held a four-day debate on the question "Is Slavery Itself Sinful, and the Relation between Master and Slave, a Sinful Relation?" A member of the New School, Blanchard debated the affirmative.

"The noose of chattelism is around the neck of every slave, and brings back every fugitive to the most pious master, not as a man, but as an animal, a chattel a thing!"

"Thus slave holding is degrading men to the level of brutes as completely as the nature of the case will admit."

(Blanchard, A Debate on Slavery, 46)

Old School member Rice argued for the negative.

Rev. Nathan L. Rice

"The fact then is clearly established if language can establish it that God did recognize the relation of master and slave as under the circumstances, lawful, and did give express permission to the Jews to purchase slaves from the heathen, and hold them."

(Rice, A Debate on Slavery, 291)